A Slippery Slope

anarchy

D and I sat on the couch binge-watching Sons of Anarchy. I looked over at the fridge. It sat, mocking.

“Mehh!” I groaned, longingly, fingers outstretched toward the refrigerator.

D nodded, sleepily. He batted the air in the direction of the fridge.

“I think we deserve superpowers,” D decided.

I curled up further into the corner of the couch. “Mhm.”

“Because,” he continued, “we wouldn’t abuse it, you know.”

I nodded.

He flicked his finger at the refrigerator. “You know, I’d just open that fridge and make a beer come to me, that’s it. I wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

The thought of beer made my stomach turn on itself.

“I’m too hungover for beer.”

D sighed. “Well, we could use it for water too, that wouldn’t be an abuse of power?”

Someone just shot someone in Sons of Anarchy. I watched, unblinking. “Mhm, but it’s a slippery slope. First water, then” I waved at the TV, “murder and stuff.”

D groaned, lit a cigarette.

“Well,” he said, “what about just liquids?”

For some reason the word liquid made my hangover hate itself even more. I closed my eyes.

“Even blood?”

“Hm,” D thought for a moment. “Okay, well I wouldn’t use it for blood.”

“Me either,” I agreed, almost asleep.

The episode ended. The screen went black, a message appeared: PLAY NEXT EPISODE?

I looked around. The remote sat beside the TV. I waved my hand at it. I looked over at D, he was nodding slowly.

“A slippery slope,” he mumbled. We both closed our eyes, resigned.

Something To Do With Sitting at the Bar

pink_drink

Sitting at the bar is no different from sitting at home. Sitting at the bar is no different from sitting at home, but drunk. Sitting at the bar is no different than sitting at home, but with people. Sitting at the bar is no different than sitting at home.

There is another person sitting at home, at the bar, on the end, she is crying. I watch her, curious. She is crying into something pink. She doesn’t look like the type to drink something pink; doesn’t look like the type to cry.

She turns.

She dries.

She walks towards me. I look ahead.

“Do you want to fuck me?” she asks, close enough for me to hear.

She left her drink where it was.

I look at her then down at her hands. Her nail polish is white–chipped.

“No, I tell her chipped nail polish.

“Then what are you looking at?” she accuses me.

I shrug. “You were crying,” I say. I wait, she doesn’t respond. “I felt bad,” I add.

I don’t know what her face looks like in the moment, I don’t check. I just hear her say, “that’s worse.”

“That’s worse,” she says, again.

Then, she leaves. I look over at her pink left drink. I don’t know if she paid or not. I don’t know where the bartender is. I walk over and drink it in one. No one else in the bar seems to care. I shuffle back to my seat, the bartender still hasn’t come out.

I finish my own drink and go home.

 

 

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The President of Massachusetts

corn

We stop at a gas station at the western-most end of west Texas. Everything is in Spanish. It is hot, dry–the kind of heat that never moves except to breathe with you. I stand outside the convenience store looking up at these great towering cylinders and have a cigarette.

“Can I?” Someone asks.

I turn. A short man with half-broken teeth has his fingers to his lips. I pass him a cigarette.

“Where are you from?” the man asks, he is tan, his eyes are tan, his teeth are tan–all dry and pruned. His face looks like something that might soon blow away in the wind, if there were any wind.

“Massachusetts,” I tell him.

He smiles, it breaks apart his lips. It looks painful. He looks thoughtful.

“Who is the president of Massachusetts?” he asks.

“Uh,” I manage, embarrassed, trying to remember the governor of Massachusetts. “Dunno,” I add, turning away and pretending to admire the great towering cylinders. My brother steps out of the convenience store.

“Shit, it’s hot,” he says, coming up beside me. The tan man smiles, flakes of tan skin crack off beneath his eyes.

“Who is the president of Massachusetts?” he asks my brother.

“Uh,” I think, it’s “Frank–No, George…no idea,” he turns to me, “do you remember the governor of Massachusetts?”

I shake my head. “Nope, I tried.”

We all shrug. “Wasn’t George Washington buried in Massachusetts?” he asks.

I look at my brother, my brother looks up at the great towering cylinders, he squints.

“Huh, maybe?”

“Honestly, we don’t know,” I tell the man, confused and embarrassed.

“Huh,” he says.

I nod. “Huh,” I add, for the sake of agreeing on something.

“Bet you haven’t seen those before,” he says, pointing up at the towering cylinders.

“Nope,” both my brother and I say, grateful to no longer have to wonder about the President of Massachusetts.

“They are elevators,” he tells us.

We stand, staring up at them, backs turned to the man.

“Cool.”

“For corn,” he adds.

“Cool.”

There is movement behind us. I turn, slowly. The tanned man is in the front seat of his car. It is an old car.

He lights his cigarette, drives away.

 

 

 

 

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Any Port in a Storm

port.png

Any port in a storm, is what my Aunt used to say. I didn’t understand. She wasn’t a sailor. My Grandfather, who was a sailor, used to sing songs. One of them was about the captain’s daughter–oh that’s right.

What do you do with the captains daughter…

what do you do with the captain’s daughter…

what do you do with the captain’s daughter…

early in the morning.

Well, on the boat, my grandfather was the captain; his daughter, my mother. So, mostly in the mornings I’d just ask about breakfast.

I haven’t seen a sail boat in over a decade, my grandfather in two. My aunt still says any port in a storm even though I’m sure it’s been much longer since she’s been sailing.

When my Grandfather wasn’t singing about my mother he’d give advice. He’d say that sun-tan lotion is bad, doctors are crooks and death is just someone you haven’t seen in a while.

The internet killed him.

The internet killed a lot of things, like songs about sailors; captains, daughters and otherwise. I looked for my grandfather’s song the other day. I found it. It was a woman in a tight wenches outfit, she sang while thick-necked sailors beat-boxed dubstep.

I listened. It was like finding the nose of someone you love on a stranger’s face. I listened right through, wondering the whole time what “any port in a storm” means.

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The Thousandth Time

lizard

Robert walked the main hall of his house; a cape style, blue. Something caught his eye. A picture from his best friend’s bachelor party, years back. He frowned at it, took it off the wall.

“What the hell?” He asked the picture. It only continued, stoically, to celebrate. He brought the picture into the kitchen then, hesitantly, picked up the phone.

The ringing stopped with a click, “Bob?”

“Yeah, hey Greg,” Robert tried to think of how to phrase his question.

“Everything alright Bob?”

Robert looked at the picture again. “Hm, yeah, I’ve just been looking at this old picture of us.”

“Which one is that?”

“Your bachelor party, the one they took before we headed out.”

There was a pause on the other end.

“Greg?”

A shuffling answered.

“Greg?”

“Yeah, got it right here. That was a good day.”

“Mhm,” Robert agreed, “well, this is going to sound a bit strange but, I mean, I know we’ve known each other a long time, and I know I must have looked at this picture close to a thousand times, but I just kind of noticed something.”

Greg didn’t respond. Robert continued.

“Are you a lizard, Greg?”

Through the phone, Greg sighed.

“Greg?”

“Yeah Bob.”

“Well?”

“Yeah, Bob, I’m a lizard.”

“Oh,” Robert felt uncomfortable, he pushed the photo away. He sat down, suddenly feeling guilty.

“You know, it doesn’t matter man. I just kind of noticed. We’ve known each other a long time and I just never realized it. Sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“It’s fine, Bob.”

“No, sorry, it was stupid.”

“Really, it’s fine.”

Robert didn’t push it. He felt stupid.

“Does–does Susan know?”

Greg made a noise, a frustrated noise, like the click of a lock.

“Does my wife know I’m a lizard?” he said, softly.

“Ye–”

“Yeah Bob, she knows.”

“Of course, of course.”

“Yeah, of course.” It sounded like eyes rolling.

Robert stood up. “Look Greg, it doesn’t matter to me. You know, sometimes I can just be in my own head. I guess it just never registered. But, it’s all good.”

“Mhm,” Greg intoned.

“So, uh, how are things going with Susan anyways?” Robert tried.

“I’ve got to go Bob.”

“Right, of course. Sorry Greg.”

“Yeah, it’s alright.”

“We should catch up soon?”

“Sure, Bob, sure.”

Intrusive Thoughts

thoughts

I reach for a cigarette, almost burning myself on my already lit cigarette. I am bored. With murderous frustration, I snuff out the lit one and stand up.

“I’m going to get a coffee!” I call to N.

“You just got back from getting a coffee,” he reminds me.

I pretend not to hear him. The shop isn’t far. I smoke half a cigarette on the way. The sun is bitchy today. I forgot my sunglasses. The shop is small. A woman–no, girl–is the only one in line. I wait. The barista chats away to her as she swirls cappuccino foam artfully atop a bit of harsh coffee.

I scratch one finger with another.

Finally, the coffee is placed in front of the not-woman. She says thank you. I open my mouth in preparation. Only to find, they are still chatting. The not-woman is opening a packet of sugar with sloth-like determination. An image flashes in my mind. I reach up, grab her head and snap it quickly to the left, in Van Damme style.

I shake my head, cowering from the thought. Yet, again I watch her open a second packet of sugar, like a scientist, underwater.

I picture taking a match to the back of her skirt. Then ordering my coffee as she runs, screaming, aflame, into the road where a bus runs her down; sticky with melted sugar.

“Ah–” I find myself crying out. The barista frowns at me. I shake my head apologetically. The not-woman doesn’t notice. She is saying something about her dog, hand sighing gently toward the bowl of sugar packets.

Unable to stop it, my mind starts playing a movie, she is the star. There is a bear, a number of weapons. I shut my eyes, hard.

“I’m a terrible person,” I whisper. “What is wrong with me!”

The not-woman turns now. Both her and the barista are staring at me, annoyed looks across their faces.

“Sorry,” I mutter, then flee. The sun heats the back of my neck. I make it back home, lock the door. N is in his room, drawing.

“Hey,” I say, flopping down on the couch. “You know, you’re the best friend in the world. And really an amazing artist.”

He turns, frowning. “Had thoughts about irrationally murdering someone over something petty?”

I look at him, wide eyed. “How’d you know?”

He turns back to drawing. “You always say things like that just before trying to have a conversation about intrusive thoughts. So, you know, two and two.”

I sigh. “Ah, right. Well, do you have intrusive thoughts?”

N shrugs. “I, well, some–”

My phone rings. I hold up a hand.

“It’s my mother.”

N nods. I pick up my phone and head into the other room.

“Hey Ma, what’s up?”

“Oh,” she says, “nothing really. Just wanted to call and say you’re such a good son and I really miss you.”

 

Free Beer

babushkas

In Moscow it is January. It is cold.

V looks up at me from the grocery cart. Her tail is flopped over the side. She’s started using a heavy-duty trash bag so the water won’t leak out. She is staring at the bags of frozen fish.

“Do you know matryoshka dolls?” she asks me.

I nod.

“Do you ever feel like the smallest matryoshka doll?”

I nod again, “insignificant?”

She shakes her head.

“No. Empty.”

I push us faster, past the seafood section.

“Do we need anything else?” I ask.

She looks down at her lap full of beer.

“No.”

We head for the check-out. I can feel something wrong before we get close. A change in the wind, but not. V feels it, too. She is looking toward the check out. We approach, cautious. There is a crunching sound. People are fleeing. My heart stops. Two babushkas stand, head-to-head. Their grocery carts banging into each other.

The cashier is stricken, backed into the liquor shelf. The Babushkas are screeching at one another.

One, in a floral bonnet, lifts her cart and smashes it over the head of the other. Boxes of table wine explode. The cart turns to a heap of metal twigs. Then, they are on each other. Their faces close, noses kissing. They are hollering. It is so loud, my ears hurt. Bags of chips and candy bars rain to the floor around them, blown to bits.

They circle each other. The cashier sees her moment. She tries to run. One of the babushkas turns. Her screech hits the cashier. The cashier explodes, becoming indecipherable from the blanket of red wine. A finger lands in the cart next to V.

The Babushka’s continue their manic dance of death.

“We need to go,” V says. I pick her up. We go back through the entry-way. It beeps, V is still holding the beer. We get outside just in time. The roof of the grocery store caves in. I run. We make it back to V’s apartment. I’m out of breath.

“What the shit was that about!”

V rolls her eyes.

“The one in the floral bonnet was trying to pay her whole bill with one ruble coins.”

She opens a beer. Hands me one. “But,” she smiles, “free beer.”

I take it, open it.

“Okay, then.”

The Day my Therapist Dumped Me

therapist

I sat on the street outside my therapist’s office smoking a cigarette. The door was locked so I assumed her to be running a bit late.

We had seen each other four times. Talked of parents and childhood and sexual repression.

The whole shah-bang. Making progress, I suppose. I waited – five past, ten past – a car makes a sharp U-turn and pulls up right in front of me.

“Excuse me. Do you know how to get back to the highway?”

“Straight that way. Hang a right at the stop sign then go through the lights and the entrance will be on your right.”

“Thank you”

“No problem”

I sit back against the wall. Cigarette number three or four come along as we reach twenty past. Door still locked. Somebody yells at me from across the street.

“Excuse me. How do we get to the theatre from here?”

So I stand up and yell back.

“Take a left at this light, go up three blocks and you’ll see it on your left. Parking around the back!”

“Thank you!”

“No problem!” The light turns green and they speed off.

By the time my appointment is over I’ve gone through half a pack of cigarettes and finally decide to head home, the door deciding to remain adamantly unmoved.

I try to call a few times and leave a few voicemails, but never did hear back from my therapist.

I wonder if those people ever made it to their destinations.

Three Locks and a Dirty Pink Glove

pink_glove

Why are there three locks on the bathroom door, I wonder, wetting the tips of my fingers so that anyone listening will think I washed my hands.

N is sitting, working.

“Cigarette?” I ask.

He nods. We head outside. It is raining. I look up.

“What the hell is this. It has hailed twice, the sun has come out three times, it’s rained four times and now it is sunny, and raining.”

N shrugs. “It’s St. Petersburg.”

“It’s bullshit,” I grumble, lighting my cigarette. N is staring at a glove sitting on the table, wet. It is pink, a child’s glove.

“That’s been here for a week,” he muses. I look at the glove, it is dirty.

“Why do they have three locks on their bathroom door?” I ask. N looks at the glove, then at me.

“Why can’t we solve my mystery before yours?” He asks.

I look at the glove.

“Maybe she was kidnapped,” I say. N frowns.

“That’s dark.”

“Yeah, so about the bathroom door. I–”

“What if some kid left it as a cry for help?”

I look at the glove. It stops raining. N goes over and pokes it.

“Is it pointing anywhere in particular?” I ask, walking up beside him.

He shakes his head.

“Okay, so it’s just a glove. Now, the door.”

He looks at me and rolls his eyes. “Russians don’t knock, they just open.”

I shudder. “I know that all too well. But I haven’t experienced a habit of kicking in doors.”

N snubs out his cigarette.

“Do you ever think we might ask the wrong questions about life?”

I think about it. I look at the glove.

“No.”

I flick my cigarette on the ground. N rolls his eyes. We go inside. Back to work. A bit later the bartender brings us some chips. N asks her a few things in Russian. They chat. She nods and leaves. I pull out my headphones. He is frowning.

“What?”

“Hm, well, you had me thinking. I asked about the bathroom door.”

I move to the edge of my seat.

“And?”

“I guess some kid was in there and some guy came and broke the door down. Took her out and dragged her from the bar.”

“No shit? Dude, we live in a story, or play, I just know it.”

N gives me a long look. He laughs.

“No. I just ordered another beer,” he says, not bothering to suppress a grin.

I glare at him. “You’re a bad man.”

He shrugs and goes back to work.