New Essays and Art from Ben & Nikita

Nikita and I have both been working hard since Flash-365 ended. In recent months I’ve written some humorous personal essays about my health with art by Nikita. Check them out:

It took until my late twenties for all of my excessive bad habits to catch up to me. And, it was two years after that before I started (trying) to improve my health in different ways; LASIK, Yoga, trying (and failing) to quit smoking.

 

These four essays reflect milestones in this process and they were published over the past six months in Human Parts. I hope you enjoy them.

 

That Time I got Illegal Butt Surgery in Russia

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I was working as a journalist in Saint Petersburg when the butt pain started. The doctor’s heavy Russian accent made me believe I had “gemroids,” which sounded like asteroids made of gemstones, which seemed a lot better than what I actually had: hemorrhoids. More than a month later, it had all gotten much, much worse.

 

Read the full essay for free here.

 


 

The Art of Staying Sober

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A D.A.R.E. officer visited my high school and told us, “Young people think they’re invincible. This isn’t true!” I sat in the back of the room with my hands under my bum. A voice in the back of my head said, “But I am, though.”

 

After graduating high school, I spent the next 10 years unable to sleep, socialize, or exist past 5 p.m. without excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs. We called the drugs “cheat codes.” Want to sleep? Drink this or take that. Want to have fun? Drink that or take this. Want to socialize? Want to not be bored?

 

All of this drinking resulted in three years of on-and-off debilitating digestive issues, the pain of which I masked with (you guessed it) alcohol. It took months of blood and pain, ending in emergency surgery, before I finally thought, “Okay, maybe that D.A.R.E. guy was on to something.”

 

Read the full essay for free here.

 


 

That Time I got LASIK in South Korea

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A typhoon tore through the city that weekend. In Seoul, South Korea, that means dark clouds, 30-plus mph winds, sideways rain, and falling skies. Survival involves dodging branches, skirting garbage, bracing for hail, and a whole lot of running. A typhoon is like pulling a fire alarm in the great outdoors. Think: friendly fire from God, a biochemical attack, and a weapon that targets a population’s umbrella supply.

 

You can imagine the locals’ surprise at seeing me strolling through this mess in drenched clothes and sunglasses with a world-class, dumb-fuck smile tucked under my nose. Why? Simple: A handful of Korean doctors had just shot laser beams into my eyes.

 

My watch alarm buzzed. I dodged a falling branch, skirted a flurry of garbage, braced myself against the hail, and ran into a semi-covered alley between two buildings. I lifted my sunglasses and squirted a generous stream of fake tears into my still-healing eyes. I blinked, looked ahead, and saw an old lady, stopped dead, staring at me. As my brand-spanking-new perfect vision cleared, I smiled. For the first time in my life, without contact lenses, without glasses, without squinting, I could clearly see the look on her face.

 

It said: “You are a fucking idiot.”

 

Read the full essay for free here.

 


 

The Art of Failing to Quit Smoking

 

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Dr. Lee is a startling woman. If I stood in the middle of a field with my mother on one end (a smile and open arms) and Dr. Lee on the other (rolled-up newspapers in each hand), and they both said, “Come here, boy,” without a second’s delay I’d bound my way over to Dr. Lee. Not for safety, not for comfort or health, and certainly not for a good ear-scratching. I’d do it out of pure, primal fucking fear. So when she told me it was time for me to quit smoking, I had a horrible realization: I was going to have to ghost my doctor.

 

Read the full essay for free here.

Invasion of the Fundiks

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A small man stood in my driveway. He was waiting for me. He pointed. He had eyes like flying saucers and no nose.

He said,

“I AM KLUBBIT!”

He had a French accent. I walked outside. The sun pounded on the poor little man.

“What do you want?” I asked. “I have to get to work.”

He spoke:

“I am Klubbit! I am an emissary from Fundiks. We have come to destroy planet earth! You have become a bad society, destroying your resources and warring. YOU! You are chosen to speak for your planet. Tell us! Why should we spare you?”

He had odd-looking knees. I think they might’ve bent outward.

I said, “yeah — alright.”

He stared at me a moment and then said, “What?”

“I said, yeah — alright. Now can I get to work?”

He looked lost for a moment, then said, “You must speak on behalf of your people.”

“Yeah…yeah — your name is what?”

“Klubbit.”

“And your people are fun dicks?”

Fundiks

“Brilliant — yeah, no I think that is a pretty decent end to us, you guys go ahead.”

“But — ”

“Can I go now? I really will be late to work, you know.”

I turned to get in my car.

“Wait!”

“What?”

Klubbit crouched down. His knees did bend outward. He struggled to find words.

“You — I can’t — I can’t go back. This has never happened before, you can say anything, we only need a single reason, any reason.”

He looked up.

I shrugged. “Yeah. oh. well.”

“Are all of your race so empty?”

“If they’re full, they’re full of shit.”

I winked at him in the hopes it might make him feel better but he began to leak something gross out of the skin where his nose should have been and so I got in my car. As I backed slowly out, he placed a hand on the hood and gave me a lost look. I waved.

I got Dunkin’s on the way to work.

I was only five minutes late. Inside the office, I noticed that no one was in their cubicles. There was a noise of bodies coming from the breakroom. I looked and found all of my co-workers crammed in around the small corner television where a bald man stood on a stage in his underwear and a white tank-top surrounded by Fundiks. The President was placing a medal around his neck.

One of my co-workers, Hal — the kind of guy who wears an Irish Yoga T-Shirt on weekends and still says, “well aren’t you cool,” when you tell him about your day — nudged me.

“This dude just saved the human race. I guess these little alien fuckers were gonna blow us up, but this guy talked ’em out of it.”

“Oh, gre — ”

“Shut up,” Hal cut me off.

Everyone leaned in as the man in his underwear took the microphone and began to speak,

“These aliens here have agreed to spare America!”

The crowd went wild. People in the breakroom gasped and clapped. I noticed Klubbit hovering behind the man.

Cheater, I thought.

The man, our savior, spoke again:

“Now that I have saved America, we need to wake up and start solving the problems that have been plaguing the world by removing all of the trash that is poisoning our societies, I’m talkin’ bout the illegals, the homosexuals, the Muslims, the baby-killin’ whores, the — ”

Someone clicked off the television. We stood and stank in the silence that followed.

I turned to Hal and whispered, “one of those Fundik guys came to my house this morning.”

“Well aren’t you fuckin’ cool,” he said.

***

 

This story was originally published in The Moss on Medium

Killing Chickens

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As a kid my mother used to make a joke when the McDonald’s drive-thru took too long. This was before they took credit cards.

She’d say, “what, are they killing the chickens or something?”

My brother and I always laughed, or rolled our eyes or both.

We got older, yet still we laughed, rolled our eyes, or both. We started dating. My brother had long-term, strong, targeted relationships. I dated like shotgun pellets in a tree full of birds.

Once, I was dating a girl named Fern; her real name was Kate, but people called her Fern. She didn’t like McDonalds.

We were on our way to the train–it was late. My mother asked if we’d like to stop for McDonalds. I said, “yes.” Fern said nothing, but ordered a milkshake. The line was slow, long.

“What, are they killing the chickens or something?” my mother said.

I didn’t laugh as hard as I usually would have; it was cut short. Fern was bristling, I could feel her heat.

“McDonalds tortures birds,” she muttered to me.

I rolled my eyes. “I know, please, not now,” I tried.

So, she addressed my mother. She went on for a while. I’d heard it before; “it’s barely real meat anyways, they keep them in cages, poison them”–I’d seen the documentary with her.

Fern was practically in tears by the time she finished educating my mother from the backseat. It took so long that we had made it to the window before she finished–out of breath and wet-eyed.

I put my arm around her and sighed. I couldn’t see my mother’s face. The drive-thru window opened. It was a young girl, two nose piercings.

“What, were you killing the chickens?” my mother asked the girl.

They both had a good laugh. Fern took the train alone.

 

Sexy Seat Heat

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I don’t like to listen to people who speak at tables next to mine.

That is a lie.

Well, I don’t try to listen to people who speak at tables next to mine.

Wait–no, that is also a lie.

At the very least, I have a bad memory. But, some conversations I hear and they just can’t help but stick around; a mosquito in my bedroom as I try to sleep.

“It is wrong,” the man said.

The woman sitting beside him held his arm. She said something too soft for me to hear. She was wearing a nice dress. They were both older, both had thick accents.

“If a woman sits on a seat and then gets up, it is warm,” the man continued. “So, a man should not sit on that seat. He should wait ten minutes.”

It was at this moment, I knew I was not going to stop listening. I leaned closer.

“Why?” the woman cooed.

“Well, because he can feel the woman’s heat. From her body. That is sexual, far too sexual.”

I openly stared at this point, neither seemed concerned with anything but each other. The woman stroked the man’s arm, a big hairy one.

“So, he broke the rules,” the man said, with authority.

I waited. Nothing followed. They pet each other and drank wine. Finally, I stood up.

“What?” I cried. “I’m sorry, but–what!”

They looked up at me, wide eyed. The woman held the man tighter. He stood up. I backed away a little, he was a big man. He held out his hand to the woman, she stood, looking back at her warm seat, worried.

The man patted her hand and said “it’s no bother, no bother.”

He led her away. As they went she kept looking back from me to her warm, sexual seat, over and over till they rounded a bend.

 

 

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Robot Nipples

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We’ve been standing at the window of the hotel for fifteen minutes.

“Those two towers over there look like boobs.”

“What?” my brother asks.

I look away, “nothing,” I mumble.

“You’re twenty-eight.”

“I know.”

“Really.”

I sigh. “I miss my girlfriend.”

He shakes his head, “no excuse.”

I take out an electronic cigarette, puff away. We continue looking out the window; Ohio. Even the sky looks bored. My brother points.

“Those two buildings over there.”

“Where?”

“There,” he points again.

I nod, “ah. what about them.”

“They look like robot nipples,” he says.

I frown, “what?”

“Robot nipples.”

“But–” I start.

“It’s robot nipples,” he says, firmly.

“So?”

“So, it’s different.”

I tug extra hard on the e-cigarette.

“How?”

He shrugs.

The bathroom door opens, “What are you guys doing?”

“Nothing.”

Our mother comes over and stands at the window with us.

“Those two buildings over there look like boobs,” she says.

We nod. My brother points, “and robot nipples.”

Our mother squints out at them, “Huh, you’re right.”

She turns to me, “did you see what the continental breakfast is?”

I nod, “hard-boiled eggs and white bread.”

She groans, the sky groans with her. “Let’s get the fuck out of Ohio.”

 

**My sincere apology to those from Ohio, it’s just–hm, yeah.

There is No Such Thing as a Grown Up

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We stop in Ohio at what claims to be the largest antique mall in America. Though, in America, anything claiming to be the largest of anything should be taken with the largest grain of salt.

My brother and I finish perusing and loiter around the check-out counter while the woman wraps up a deck of cards for me. There are two big-old buffalo heads mounted to the wall above.

My brother looks up at one of the buffalo, it is a serious looking buffalo–grim, even.

“I–uh, I am sorry sir,” he says in a deep doctoral tone, “you have herpes.”

I look up at the other buffalo, it’s mouth wide open. I gasp, “Oh no!” Then I look to the deer head hanging beside him, she looks stunned, horrified, for some reason. In a girly voice I add, “It was your secretary!”

I gasp, my brother gasps.

The woman behind the counter finishes wrapping up my cards.

“Thank you very much,” I tell her.

She looks from me to my brother. “Mhm,” she says, toneless, limp-eyed. Our mother comes up behind us.

“What’d you get?” she asks.

I hope up my package. “cards.”

My brother points up at Doctor Buffalo, “Look, Ma, Doctor Buffalo just told gasping Buffalo that he has herpes.”

“And Deer-wife is surprised,” I point.

“It was the secretary,” my brother adds. Our mother looks from buffalo, to buffalo, to deer. She bursts out laughing, catching her breath as she places some antique sign onto the counter.

The limp-eyed check-out girl looks at the sign. She looks from my brother, to me, and finally back at our mother.

“Mhm,” she says.

I look over my Mother’s shoulder at the sign she bought. It is yellow.

“There is no such thing as a grown-up,” it says.

Man, did we get a kick out of that. The limp-eyed check-out girl was not impressed.

 

**Just for laughs:

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“Sir, you have herpes.”

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*GASP!*

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“It was your secretary!”

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Photo Credit: MOREBLUEBERRIES (My brother)

Check out more of his photography by clicking HERE

The Second Coming of Christ’s First Day on the Job

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Before THE END TIMES, before the election, before THE PR TEAM got ahold of him, The Second Coming of Christ was born.

Ten minutes before that, Doctor Rosedale-Grosse sped down ROUTE 23. The disgraced Doctor, who gained notoriety for his book “301 Disorders You Knew Existed but Couldn’t Quite Put Your Finger On,” and infamy for his book, “The View From The window of Your Mother’s Vagina,” was not a notoriously good driver.

What is worse, he wore thick white make-up; it kept dripping down his face, making the driving twice the hassle and sweating, twice the hindrance. He was in a rush, and did not stop despite the police taking notice of his driving skills and deciding to see where they went, lights flashing.

The disgraced doctor did not stop. He was on a mission. This mission came from The Maidens of The Soft Red Cloth, who, upon reading his infamous book, sought his help. His book’s message was simple: the first thing a child sees upon coming into the world will dictate his, or her temperament.

The mission was simple: be there to greet The Second Coming of Christ with all the joy in the world.

So, before THE INCIDENT, before The rapture and subsequent fall, two minutes before The Second Coming of Christ was born, the disgraced doctor arrived at the hospital. He ran, fake orange hair–thick and matted with makeup, bouncy red nose, half off, balloons in one hand, flowers in the other.

The police came in tow, four of them. The room was prophesized, the route cleared.

And so, before The Demon’s Rise, before THE MARRIAGE, before The Soft Red Cloth fell, thirty seconds before The Second Coming of Christ was born, the disgraced doctor burst into the delivery room. He checked aside the obstetrician and shoved the bouquet of flowers in between the legs of the mother of The Second Coming of Christ. As he did, the police burst into the room; night-sticks in hand, they beat the disgraced doctor back to the tune of screams and cries. The nurse on hand remained just level headed enough to catch The Second Coming of Christ as he came into the world as a bloodied Doctor Rosedale-Grosse lost consciousness and his balloons fell to the ceiling.

The obstetrician stood, nursing his elbow as the doctor was dragged from the room.

“I fuckin’ hate clowns,” one of the officers said as the doctor’s foot caught on the door jam.

The room quieted. The nurse placed The Second Coming of Christ into his mother’s arms, she was sweating, crying.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” his mother asked.

The obstetrician smiled, reassuring, “Of course, of course,” he said, “babies can’t remember anything from this point.”

Everyone let out a sigh of relief.

The Meaning of Life on the Inside of a Dark Chocolate Wrapper

 

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**A friend asked me if I ever write erotica. I said no, but decided to give it my best shot anyways…

Samantha sat over a cup of soft coffee, pondering the meaning of life; there were charts, tables, graphs, quotes, poems, and even the wrapper for a bar of dark chocolate.

Samantha sighed. She turned. A man stood in her door. Half of her breath took a walk.

He was big in every way you want a man to be big, and not in any way you don’t. His name was Steve, because sometimes big guys are named Steve.

“I’m Steve,” Steve said, his voice sounding and resounding as the Liberty Bell might have.

“…” Samantha said.

Steve smiled; it was the first and last smile ever created by God–the rest were made in China. Steve stepped forward, he wore only pants and oil. Samantha could feel his heat before he was half-way to her.

“Wha–” she began. But Steve’s smile ate the rest of her words. He bent down and picked her up in one arm. Samantha pressed a hand into his chest; it reminded her of the first time she touched a horse. His heart beat–hers ran.

“Wait,” she whispered.

Steve kissed her neck.

“For what,” he whispered to every cell in her body. Samantha took a breath. “I need to know the meaning of life first,” she managed. Steve understood, because just as some men named Steve are big, some big men are understanding.

Steve placed Samantha down.

They both turned to the charts, tables, poems and quotes. Steve reached out and ran his finger over the wrapper of dark chocolate. Then, from somewhere Samantha would find out about later, Steve pulled a pair of glasses.

As it turned out, Steve was a genius, because just as some men are understanding, some understanding men are also geniuses.

Within ten-minutes Samantha and Steve discovered the meaning of life. Then, without waiting to say it aloud, Samantha took off Steve’s pants. When she did, she was startled by a childhood memory; her and her friend Helen had found a thick log by the river. They had dragged it out into the current and laid on it, drifting along with the sun; it was big enough to keep them both afloat.

Samantha smiled, it was a good memory.

Then, with one small finger, two teeth and a tongue, Steve removed Samantha’s clothes. He held her close.

“Put your sexy mouth on my mouth,” he cooed–the most manly of coos.

And, of course, Samantha did.

 

Some Days, the Shoe Fits

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N and I sit on the couch. He is skyping V. I am smoking. He says something in Russian, I catch all but a word.

“Poetry?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “Dress.”

“You’re telling people I like wearing dresses?”

He nods.

“Hey. Dresses are comfortable and everyone looks good in a dress,” I say, defensively.

“I know,” he says, patting my shoulder. “I know.”

I grumble over a few drags of my cigarette. “Everyone is a bunch of prudes,” I mumble to myself. I can here V giggling.

My phone rings. It is my boss. N takes his skype to the other side of the room.

“Hey boss, what’s up?”

“Hey, got a minute?”

I step out of the room, into the kitchen.

“Yeah, yeah. What’s up?”

“Hey, so do you have a picture? I have this company that might want you to work for them and they want to see your picture.”

I try to think.

“Yeah, I should.”

“Okay, good. Cause the only picture I have of you is on WhatsApp.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I don’t think it’s one they’d like to see.”

I set up WhatsApp years ago. I’ve been using it a lot lately for professional contacts. I try to think.

“It’s a bad one, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” he says.

“Is it me in a dress?”

“It’s you in a dress.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah, so maybe you should think about changing that?”

I sigh. “Uh, yeah. Sorry, I was young. It was just a joke.”

“Right, well, I’ve got to get these guys a picture so?”

“Yeah, I’ll send you a decent picture.”

“Good. And uh–”

“Yeah boss, I’ll change the WhatsApp photo, too.”

“Yeah. Good. Send me a picture okay?”

“Mhm.”

“Not in a–”

“Yeah, got it.”

“Alright.”

He hangs up. I finish my cigarette in the kitchen window, trying to count the number of clients I communicate with solely through WhatsApp. I walk back into my room. N has finished skype, he sits there, sipping away at a cup of tea.

“What was that about?” he asks.

“Nothing,” I say, taking off my dress.