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Posts published in “Fiction”

36 – My Country for a Cookie

Samantha fought a losing war against her god damn, cheap ass, piece of shit stove that burnt everything she put on or in it no matter how vigilant she was with it.  Its temperature markings were wildly inaccurate, its range jumped from super high directly to medium-low with zero gradation between, its heat would be different at the same marking depending if she was raising or lowering it, its pilot light went out on a whim, and no matter how methodical she was with the nightmare it misbehaved.  These cookies weren’t just going to make themselves and this motherfucking stove was standing in her way.  Must it be so difficult to satisfy her craving for fucking chocolate chip cookies?  She worked hard.  Did she not deserve a chocolate chip cookie or fourteen once in a while?  Why must this stove stand in her way?  And it was new.  Her mind boggled at how bad the stoves in the apartments of the people who had lived in the building for 30 years must be.  Her landlord refused to do repairs on apartments people were only paying 150 dollars a month for, and she could understand that, but she paid market value and she thought it fucking sucked to be stuck with a bum stove.  Fuckers.  Can’t just buy a stove that isn’t a piece of trash.

Tonight, desperately needing cookies, the dough made, the first sheet dotted with mostly round balls of potential cookie, she wanted to kick the stove when it refused to heat.  The pilot was on, but it decided that, tonight, it was already too warm and did not really feel like getting hot.  

She opened a beer and contemplated just eating the whole bowl of dough.  She decided against it, though, not because of the raw egg, whatever, but because she would probably eat the whole thing and it would make her feel sick, completely defeating the purpose of cookies in the first place.  She considered putting the bowl in the fridge and trying again the next day, but she felt the urge too hard.  The need was too strong.  If she could not have cookies tonight, she would probably die.  Her life depended on eating at least 4 cookies with the milk she had picked up on the way home from work for expressly that purpose.  She hated when plans got derailed.  

Then she thought of that weirdo across the hall, what was his name, Jacob or something?  He would probably let her use his oven in exchange for a few cookies.  Giving away some of the cookies would be smart too since Yu Lee was God knows where tonight and if she had the whole batch, she would start tomorrow with no cookies.  Better to remove the temptation to gorge on delicious, buttery chocolate chip cookies up front where it can’t hurt her as much.  

Samantha knocked on the door across the hall, but got no answer.  Determined, she knocked again, more vigorously, after a moment.  

She heard heavy footsteps and grumbling approach from within the apartment and then the little spy window open.  Through it she saw a bloodshot eyeball that suddenly went wide.  The window shut again and she heard a chain being fiddled with and the deadbolt being thrown.  The door opened a sliver and Jacob poked his head into it.  

“Yeah?” he said.

“Uh, hi, I’m Samantha, from across the hall?”

“Yeah yeah, I remember you,” he said and opened the door all the way.  He was wearing paint spattered pants and a wife beater t-shirt that needed to be thrown out.  “What can old Jacob do for you, young lady?”

She hated being called young lady.  “My stove isn’t working and…”

“You want me to take a look at it for you?”

“No, it’s done this before.  It usually fixes itself after a while.  I’m over here to ask if I can use yours for a little while.”

“Oh sure, sure.  No problem.  Mine works just fine, I guess.  I ain’t used it in who knows, but it worked fine once right?”  He laughed at what she could not tell was a joke.  “What’re you making?”

“Cookies.  I’ll be glad to give you some.  For helping me out.”

“Cookies.  Wow.  We got a regular Mrs. Fields over there.  What kind of cookies?”

“Chocolate chip.”

“You got any milk?”


“Well well, I’ll leave my door open then, and you can just come in and out as you want, ok?  I’m not doing a whole lot in there, just watchin’ a movie on the TV,” he said while adjusting his pants.  He needed a belt.

“Ah, yeah, ok.  I’ll be right back,” Samantha said and went back into her apartment.  She closed the door behind her and tried to shake off the skeeved out feeling she had.  God, his teeth were bad.  Then she looked at the cookie sheet waiting to be put into a 375 degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown at the edges.  She grit her teeth and sheet in hand, crossed the hall.

35 – Curtis Wonders

Curtis sat alone at the counter a diner hunched over a bowl of soup that was too salty.  Steam from his soup warmed his face, still half numb from the walk over.  He was not hungry, but he did not want to stand in the cold, so he had ordered the soup.  He had no intention of eating it.  His spoon had not left the counter.  Instead of staring at the chocolate cakes sweating under their glass domes and empty porcelain mugs waiting to be filled with coffee, his head was turned all the way to the right so he could gaze out the front window at the people passing in the street.  They all seemed so happy, laughing, holding hands, having animated discussions he could not make out.  Children scampered, playfully tossing hunks of newly fallen snow at each other, screaming joyfully upon impact, their parents taking all the mischief in good stride.  A man rushed by talking into his cell phone holding a brightly papered box under his arm.  A young couple passed with a Christmas tree.  Curtis wondered if it was their first.

Curtis stirred the onions from the bottom of his soup and made careful, slow whirlpools in the bowl.  He thought about the last Christmas tree he’d bought and about decorating it.  It felt like so long ago.  It was so long ago.  He loved the smell of a tree when it was first brought home.  Something about the contrast between his dismal inner city life and the rich green freshness of the tree made him feel as if everything was ok for the time being.  The smell of the tree was the smell of the holidays.  It was, for him, to the holidays what the smell of coffee was to the morning.  Just as his day could not begin until he had a cup of coffee, the holidays could not begin without the pleasantly overwhelming scent of tree in his house.  When he realized that his tree metric would mean that the holidays had not begun for him in nearly 15 years, he turned his face away from the crowds on the other side of the glass, living a life he had long since lost.

He pulled his old, barely functional phone from the one pocket in his jacket it wouldn’t fall out of and placed it beside his glass of water on the counter.  He flipped it open to see if he has missed any calls.  He had not.  No one ever called.  He thought about just getting rid of the phone all together, but while she was still out there, there was potential for her to call.  She wouldn’t, he knew, but something had to keep him alive from day to day.  Something had to make all the emptiness worth it.

After stirring his soup for two hours, he finally worked up enough hunger to actually eat it.  It was cold, but he felt like he deserved nothing better.  At least this diner was open, as he sat alone on yet another Christmas Eve.  There was a lot of night left.  He ordered another bowl of soup.

34 – Benny Rides The Train

Benny stood on the subway platform picking corn kernels from his teeth with his fingernail.  Unsuccessfully.  He sucked and he prodded, but the little bastards would not come out.  He regretted even more stopping at the street fair to get the corn on the cob, the delay of which had caused him to narrowly miss the previous train, leaving him to wait what felt like an eternity with something obnoxious stuck between his teeth.  He half thought about knocking one of his molars out on one of the steel girders sticking out of the platform.

The station housed only one train, but there was another side, lit, seemingly abandoned, unused, separated from the functional platform by a wall which had small openings he could see through if he ducked his head a little.  The tracks had been pulled up and there was no obvious way to enter, yet the city kept the lights on for some reason.  Stairs led to the other platform, but they were gated and locked off.  He tried to imagine where they led, but could not figure it out.  He had often wondered about the other side of the station.  It called to him.  He thought about exploring it every time he was down there, waiting for the train, typically on his way to do something bad to someone.  Its mysteries were attractive, wrought with potential magic, danger, and glory, but Benny had never summoned the dogged buttheadedness to jump the tracks and explore.

To his right, he heard the growing roar of the train hurtling up the tunnel toward him followed by the reflections of its lights on the tracks.  He looked back through the openings in the wall and only just caught a hint of movement on the other side.  Being a New Yorker he had seen his fair share of subway rats, and whatever just moved behind the wall was no rat.  His interest was piqued.  He looked back up the tunnel again to judge whether or not he had time to cross the tracks before the train pulled in.  When his eyes were blown shut by the rush of oncoming displaced tunnel air, he decided that it was best to wait.

The train he had been waiting for pulled into the station and everyone got on.  Everyone except Benny.  The Chink can wait, he thought.  A woman who had just boarded the train looked at him, surprise on her face, as if to say, “There’s only one train.  Why aren’t you getting on?” but she said nothing.  Benny, acknowledging the passing connection they had made tipped his hat to her.  The train doors closed and took her from Benny’s life forever.  

When the train was safely gone, he scanned both side of the platform for subway staff.  Satisfied that no one would see him cross, he hopped down onto the tracks and crossed through the not-quite-man-height gap, careful to avoid the third rail, into the abandoned half of the station.  

Disappointingly, it looked basically the same as the other half—central platform lined by tracks, stairs every so often, garbage cans, rats, trash, syringes.  Normal subway features and detritus.  The only real differences were the profusion of tags on the walls and the heavy layer of dust over everything.  Not the black grit from the train’s brakes that typically covers a subway station, but the more common greyish-brown dust that covers a dead, unused place.  He climbed up onto the platform to see if there was anything interesting on the opposite tracks.  He found only more of the same old nothing.  A train bed with the tracks ripped up.  He wondered what train used to run here.  

A sound on the edge of hearing echoed through the dead cathedral of transportation.  Benny stopped cold in his tracks, standing still, not even breathing, trying to get a better idea of what the sound was.  He could not make it out.  Ever cautious when dealing with other bad men, Benny ran and hid behind a dumpster on the far end of the platform.  He squatted there, listening.  The sound was becoming louder.  Footsteps.  Footsteps from down the tunnel, growing louder, more clear.  And not just one man.  Two, maybe three all walking together down the tunnel.  From his hiding spot, he could see clearly down the tunnel was coming from.  And suddenly, like the birth of a star in a distant galaxy poking a hole in the night sky, lights appeared in the tunnel, bobbing, weaving.  Flashlights.

Behind him he heard a new set of footsteps approach from another tunnel.  He shifted around the dumpster to be out of sight of whoever was coming through the tunnel.  Benny had spent enough of his life involved with nefarious sorts of characters to know that anyone meeting in an abandoned subway station was probably up to no good and that it would benefit Benny’s longevity to stay the hell out of their sight.  He thought about making a run for the passage way back to the other platform, but it was too far away now and he did not want to risk being seen by whoever these guys were.  He was in enough trouble already.  He didn’t want any more.

33 – Benny Makes Friends

Benny was not excited about what he knew he needed to do the Chink this afternoon.  He was a stand-up sort of fellow, most of the time, and Benny had no problem with him.  It really got his goat that Spiegelman had told him to do the Chink, but who was he to argue with the Jew?  Benny knew his place.  He was muscle, brawn.  He was the intimidation factor that would make certain business deals more amenable for the party he stood next to.  He knew that.  Mostly, he was happy with the situation.  It gave him a real rush to see how some people got the fear in their eyes when he stepped into a room.  Not weaklings either.  Real, hard men.  Benny would step into a room where a moment before those fellows had been the kings of the world, then they would see him and start quivering in their boots.  It made Benny feel powerful.  More powerful than just his physical stature.  Powerful in that abstract way people used when talking about mafia bosses.  The kind of power that made another man feel dread.  Not too bad for a kid from the South Bronx who could barely read and never finished the sixth grade.  And Benny took pride in his work.

But he liked the Chink.  Except that he liked to cheat at cards, he never bothered Benny.  He figured he’d only stab him in the throat three times.  Either it would kill him quickly, or he would survive.  A man who had been stabbed three times in the throat and lived deserved it.  Benny liked the idea of giving his friend a fighting chance.  But first he would have to find the greasy, yellow son of a bitch and that was not going to be a simple matter.  

He spent all afternoon wandering the sea of Chinamen downtown but never found the Chink.  They all looked more or less the same to him anyway, and all the spitting made him sick.  Their dried squid and starfish and octopus was the stuff of nightmares.  He didn’t know what they did with it.  They certainly didn’t eat that filth.  He towered over everyone in the whole neighborhood by a good two feet, but it didn’t stop the old ladies from bumping into him with their shopping bags and umbrellas.  The first time he got an umbrella spoke in the face he looked up to check for potential rain, saw only blue, and gave up searching for the day.  He knew he had a few days at least to take care of this business for Spiegelman, so he felt confident that this was a good time to call it quits for the day.  Besides, the Chink had a way of showing up in the damnedest of times and places and Benny’s nerves were a little frayed.  He needed a beer.  

Dodging a flock of brightly dressed Asian women, Benny ducked into a tavern.  Smokey fog enveloped him and pulled him into the dimly lit, lightly populated room.  He removed his hat and coat, hung them by the door, and took a seat at the bar, leaving a stool or two on either side between him and the other men at the bar at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday.  

The barman walked over to him, cigar in mouth, and nodded.

“Beer,” Benny said.

“Light or dark?”

“Light,” and the barman walked to the tap.  

A familiar voice popped up behind him and said, “I hear you’re looking for me?”

Benny spun around on his barstool to see his quarry standing there.  The barman set the beer in front of Benny on the bar.  He took it and drank.  “You’re right.  I am.”

32 – One Sunny Day

Stress glowed hot on his forehead, veins bulging, sweat slick speed-bumps on the ruddy terrain of his face.  His eyes glistened with barely restrained emotion.  Food littered his beard like plastic cola bottles on the highway, unsightly, embarrassing, filthy.  His yellowed teeth bared, his hair wild, his clothing in disarray.  He screamed prophesy and admonishments at an unwilling public on the flower-lined promenade in the park filled on a hot, clear summer day.  But today was no ordinary day for Argo Thistleblack, Lord High Chancellor of The Twelve Moons of Rhygosia IX, Mandate of Heaven’s Armies, Crowned Ruler of the Nineteen Layers of Civilization, for today was the day, he knew, that the world as we knew it would end.

“My brothers, my sisters!  My loyal subjects!  You must know what I know for the world is coming to an end!  The tides of time space have been interrupted by the power pyramid and a great eye has opened up to swallow our reality!  Be careful, for everything we know will soon cease to be!” he yelled, hoping to get through the New Yorkers’ natural standoffishness.  He did not blame them for it was often a difficult city to live in, as he could attest.  He had given up the splendor of his crystalline palace in the Oort clouds off the arm of the Big Dipper to live under the boardwalk at the place these humans called Coney Island.  He had picked it because of all the places to sleep, he felt most at home there with its myriad folk whose variety and peculiarity reminded him most of the great ports of call on his native planet.  That and he was often sheltered from the wind by the wooden boardwalk.

A small group of onlookers gathered around Argo, patiently enjoying what they took to be a bit of street theatre sponsored by Bellevue Hospital.  “A sphinx has come to me in a dream and led me down the path of enlightenment!  He told me that soon a handmaid’s bath would wash over us all!”

“Maybe you need to take a bath, buddy!” yelled a thickset man in a Knicks jersey.

“Yeah, you stink!” yelled his cohort, a man of equal girth in a similar shirt.

“Do not listen to these men,” Argo said to his growing crowd, “they seek only to lead you astray!  Know that I, Argo Thistleblack, your Chancellor to the Great Assembly of Rhygosia IX, come bearing tidings of the worst kind!”

“You got fucking hot dog in your beard, old man!” yelled a voice from the crowd.

“I got your fucking Rolaidsia right here!” yelled another.

The crowd burst into laughter.

“You would deny my gift of foresight!?  I bring you echos of the future, and you spit at me?  Call me names?”

“You can’t have echos of things that haven’t happened yet!” a particularly lucid voice called.

“Well, surely, not in your primitive 4 dimensional understanding of the….” Argo said, but was cut off by a pair of burly young policemen wading through the crowd.

“Ok, folks,” the smarter of the two cops said, “get outta here.  Nothing to see.”

“Be forewarned!  The world will soon split in two as the great rhino emerges from its den!”

“Hey, gramps,” the cop said to Argo, “why don’t you get down from there and stop bothering these people, huh?”

“But officer, I just seek to warn them about the impending….”

“Sure you do, buddy.  Now, why don’t you take a hike, huh?”

31 – Don’t Eat The Sandwich

“Well, you know, if you had, like, fuck man, if you had fucking told me that I was going to, like, explode, I probably wouldn’t have done it, you know?”

“I did tell you.”

“Yeah, but you told me I was going to explode, not that I was going to explode.  I thought you were being, like, figurative or some shit.  Metaphorical, you know?”

“I’m not entirely sure what you misunderstood when I told you, ‘Billy, if you eat that sandwich on the table, you are going to explode.’  I think that was pretty clear.”

“But sandwiches don’t make people fucking explode!”

“That one does.”

“Fuck!  I thought you just didn’t want me to eat it!”

“I didn’t.  Because I knew it would make you explode.”

“Oh man, fuck, is there any way to stop it?”

“If I knew that, you think I’d be holding out on you?”

“I don’t know!  You’re some sort of sick sadistic fuck with an exploding sandwich, maybe you would!  I’m, like, freaking out right now, man.”

“Oh, I can empathize.”


“I can empathize.  It means….”

“I know what it fucking, like, means, dude.  What I’m saying is how could you possible, like, know or something what I’m going through right now?”

“Well, I suppose I’m just imagining how I would feel if I had a bomb ready to go off in my stomach and I didn’t know how long it would be before I blew.”

“How does a fucking turkey sandwich make someone explode anyway!”

“The universe is filled with many mysteries.”

“Oh fuck off.  Fuck you.  Fuck you and your fucking bullshit exploding sandwich.”

“Now you’re just being mean.”

“You know what I think, huh?  I think this is some bullshit or something.  I think you’re fucking with me.  I think you’re fucking with me because when we were in high school I made the soccer team and you were fucking fat, dude.  I think you’re, like, bitter.”

“You don’t really think that I made that sandwich explosive, do you?”

“I don’t think I’m going to explode at all.  I think it’s going to be, like, totally fine.”

“Ok, ok.  I’m not the one that’s about to pop.”

“Fuck you!  Fuck you!  Fuck you!”

“Do you want me to make you some tea?  Maybe it will calm you down?”

“What am I going to do?  I can’t explode.  I can’t fucking explode, man.  I’ve got too many things to do.  What about all the, like, hot pussy and shit I didn’t get?”

“Life is filled with loss.”

“Oh my god.  I can’t believe this.  I can’t believe you killed me with your fucking exploding sandwich.  I fucking can’t believe this shit.”

“It wasn’t my sandwich.  I just saw the note on the table that said if someone ate it they would explode.  I was just trying to help you out.”

“You never tried to help me.  You fucking like wanted me to explode.  You’re bitter.”

“Billy, calm down.  Maybe the note was just a joke?”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s it the note was just….” and Billy suddenly vanished in a burst of red mist.  

30 – Court Is Such A Drag

Court is such a drag.  It’s just like blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.  The guy over there is talking about some crazy crap and the other guy is yelling, “Objection!” every once in a while and then there’s a bunch of dudes over there listening and some crap and I’m just sitting here bored to death, doodling on my little pad of paper.  I wish I was outside.  Look.  Out there.  See?  It’s fucking hella nice today, dude.  It’s like, the nicest day of the year or some shit.  I bet there’s like a hundred dudes out playing golf today.  I wish I was, four beer buzz, tearing ass around in the golf cart.  I love that shit, man.  Oh man.  I love the smell of the grass and knocking the bits of dirt and crap from your spikes.  I love the sunshine and the trees and when I kick the shit out of the dudes I’m playing with by like 1000 strokes.  Fuck those guys, seriously.  I’m such a better golfer than them it’s not even funny.  But I like to have them around for funny and whatever.  It’s way funner than sitting here in court.  Ugh, such a bummer.

I am drawing such an awesome dragon right now.  It’s flying crazy high above a mountain and I’m riding on it with a super hot chick with ginormous tits and I’ve got this sweet sword and the dragon is spitting fire on this lawguy who is just blah blah blahing over there, giving me a headache.  I wish I had some water.  Man, this drawing is so killer.  The guys at the country club later are going to dig this shit, man.  I wish I had some colored pencils or something right now too because I’d really like to color in the flames and put some blood all over homeboy for giving me such a bad headache so early on such a beautiful day.

I wonder what I’ll eat for lunch.  I had pastrami yesterday and that was pretty good.  I could probably eat it again but my wife would totally bust my balls for it.  Nah, fuck it.  I’ll get the pastrami and just tell her I ate a salad or some crazy bullshit.  She’ll buy it.

Oh dude, seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever drawn anything this sweet before.  I completely nailed the likeness of the guy with his bald head and stupid gay ass glasses and big fat belly.  I’m not good at drawing hands though, so I drew him wearing oven mitts.  I don’t know why.  They’re just a lot easier to draw, I guess.

I bet there’s all sorts of killer hotties at the country club right now.  Man, I could really go for a quick 9 and then tie one on something fierce at the clubhouse and maybe eat some buffalo wings. Fuck, man!  This shit sucks!  I got to get out of here.

“Your honor!” homeboy screams.

I look at him and say, “Uh, yeah?  Like, what?”

29 – A Draught of Madness

My finger tips are blackened with frostbite and I am not sure how much time I have left to recount to you the tale of the horrors that have brought me here to this remote outpost on the edge of the arctic circle where surely death will take me as it has already taken the intrepid members of my party who so bravely sought to understand the great hidden terrors which now wish to see me dead.  Or worse.

My tale begins at a waterfront tavern in the lower portion of New York City.  It was the type of place frequented by the sailors and longshoremen who plied their trade of loading and unloading various merchant vessels in the myriad ports serving New York’s thriving economic backbone.  Normally this sort of place was too coarse for a man of my learned stature, but I found something thrilling in the rough shod banter of these men, their saltiness, the way they embraced life and its mysteries without too much of preoccupation with propriety.  I found the company stirring, if a little bawdy at times, but what could one expect from men who spent so much time working with their hands?  As you often do with men from so many different places, strange tales would trickle into the tavern bouncing between the men.  Many times the tales were of strange beasts at sea thought to have wreaked some havoc on a ship which narrowly escaped.  Sometimes the tales were about tremendous storms that nearly blew intrepid captains off their courses, but which ended with the cargo being delivered safely to port.  Still other tales were of ghosts and demons who haunted the waters, dragging unwitting sailors to a watery grave in the embrace of Poseidon.

One autumn day I was sitting in the tavern enjoying a pint of their house lager with a colleague, indeed I might call him a friend, when a sailor darkly came through the door and sat at a table in the corner without ordering a drink.  My spirits were high with the briskness of the day and of the drink, and I made an offer to this man to provide him with a drink should he deign to entertain us with a tale of his times on the sea.  My friend encouraged this notion with no amount of restraint, but we received only dour looks from the man whose only response was to pull down his hat’s brim and light his pipe.  The barman then leant in and told us that the man came from uncertain stock and that we, being refined gentlemen and educated, should steer well clear of him.

Well, dear reader, you can no doubt imagine that this only encouraged us to hear this man out more.  We purchased a glass of whiskey to endear ourselves with the man in the corner and joined him at his table.  We placed the glass of whiskey in front of him and remained silent, for we both thought the best way to get him to talk to us was to wait him out.