Writings and Letters

A blog oeuvre… a "bloeuvre"

Tag: flash fiction

What’s the Title? Tittle? Title.

We got stuck out near the desert with a flat tire. I was staring off at the sun and wondering why they say: “Caught a flat.” Why is that a turn of phrase? Term of phrase? Can that be right? Can it? What’s the term of a phrase? Fuck. What’s a turn of one for that matter. This language makes no sense. Who’s idea was the English?

Next thing I knew Merle was cursing the, uh, the… “Hey.” “What?” “What d/ya call that thing? Spigot?” “Spigot?” “Yeah.” “Who you calling Spigot?” “No. That thing.” “This?” “Yesh.” “I’m using it.” “What’s it called, a spigot?” “What’s a spigot?” “That’s my point. What the hell is that thing called?” “Aw hells bells, this thing here? It’s a doobermeringue.” “You’re shitting me.” “Like… literally? No.” “Of course not, unless we’re talking literary-rally fictionally. Then yes.” “Ah, you mean metaphorically.” “Do I?” “How the hell am I supposed to know? Aw, dammit! I swear—by the Stallions of the Valkyries!—I will shoot you in your stupid iron-wrought face, you goddamned double-crossing criss-cross abomination!” “Me, or the spigot?” “What. In the hell. Is a spigot?” “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I don’t know what you’re working with over there. I think the actual name for it is ‘spigot.'” “What origin is that from?” “Huh?” “What human spit that out of their mouth when they saw whatever the hell a spigot is? Hounds of Love! this thing is really driving me nuts.” “Merle, you’re loosing me.” “You mean losing.” “Hmm… no I think I mean loosing.” “Huh?” “What?”

She went back to cursing at the metal apparatus… and I was trying to figure out if I was upset with her for having a man’s name. Was it her fault? She was a legal adult. She could change it if she wanted. What’s that saying: What’s in a name? Does that apply here, can I applicate it, is it applicatory to the application of… “Hey, Merle.” “What?” “What’s in a name?” “Letters, what else?”

Why did I say “legal adult”? As opposed to an illegal one? I suppose I don’t know what one would look like. A child? “Hey, what’s an illegal adult?” “I don’t know. What?” “No. It’s no joke. I’m asking.” “No joke? This goddamned tire is no joke.” “Of course, but what’s an illegal adult?” “A criminal. What else?” “Hmm… no I don’t think that’s what I’m getting at.” “Getting to. And we’re not getting anywhere if this abortus of a doobermeringue can’t help me take these goddamb niblets off the tire!” “Sure, sure, of course we agree, but I think my point is that—Wuthering Heights!—it’s too damm hott!! to think.” “You’ve got one too many consonants.” “Where?” “Right…     here ^” “Ah, I see. I was kinda going for an affect.” “You mean effect.” “I really don’t know. I’ve never known. They can both literally—like literary non-fiction, real deal Magillicutty—be the same thing.” “You mean mean the same thing.” “What’s the difference?” “Well… being and meaning are rather different aren’t they?” “Are they? Like if they are the same thing, then why would they mean different things? Like what does Heidegger have to say about all this?” “No, that’s Being. We’re talking about being.” “So many B/beings!” “Tell me about it. Hegel, too. Only with ‘negativity.’ The negativity of a negativity is a negativity with low-grade high-functioning anti-social attention-seeking personality disorder, but it always bends towards positivity.” “So says you.” “Yeah, it’s a flab-nasting wonder any of this gobbledygook has been able to pool into some sort of logical coagulum. Seriously, think about it… Diamond Dogs! I think I got it.”

I took a picture of her after she finished changing the tire. “I’ll post this. I’m so proud of you. I want to share this will all my friends.” “Oh yeah, post it where?” “Instachatty, TwertFace, they’re all the same… Booktwart…” “Very cool.”

Then we got the hell out of there.

Anyway, what was my point?

Infinite City: Kids Swimming (Outskirts of New Helm City Park)

42Kids

George Bellows

You came across a large group of kids playing about on and jumping off a derelict pier. You were walking along the path through the park as you do. The one that takes you along the outer reach of the park and exposes you to the ocean at times behind the thick vegetation. On days when the weather permits, like today, you prefer taking a slow walk up and down the path. You enjoy the songs of the finches and crossbills, and seeing the blues of male kingfishers in the sun. It helps you with your thoughts. Nature keeps you kind company as you wrestle internally with the eternal question. Today, you sat at your preferred bench. It proffers all the Flânerie the most-stunning view in the park to your mind. Yes, most like “Off Punk,” a point on the bayside of the park which gives the viewer a stunning look out at Hemlock Bay and the skyline of the city. Towards night is the best time to view. But everyone knows this. That is where the dilettantes and uninitiated visit and crowd around before park hours close. But here, on this nameless bench when the wind blows just so to push the cedar branches away, you can see down the slope at the brush below, which bleeds into the long beach shore that hugs the coast, and past it rise the crafted red and grey rock walls shaped by erosion of the vast blue ocean stretching out into the great beyond. Verily, there at dusk, no sight can best it. The rocks focus the eyes towards the horizon where, on certain days in the spring, the sun sets just so beautifully in line of your view. The daylight fades, triggering the colors in the sky to turn like leaves in autumn and reflect off the waters below. It all culminates to some unmeant telling moment, intensified by its transience. You capture this portrait for only a second or less at a time as the wind dies back down.

But today, you didn’t have the time to sit and wait, and it wasn’t spring. You only sat to catch your breath. It became a tiring walk up the incline towards that perch. As you rested with your thoughts, you heard noises. At first, it was curious, for you could not locate the familiarity. You looked around, but saw not another faces. It was communal like the birds. Sounds of distant play. But it was all too human. You got up from the bench and followed the calls. You realized they were coming from off and below the path, down towards the shoreline. You reached a certain point and left the trail, pushed your way through the shrubbery and came near the cliff’s edge. And there, to the east, you saw them. The children at play.

You counted thirty or forty so. They collected around the ruins of the abandoned pier as bees around an exposed nest. A great hive of spirit at play before your eyes. Some dove into the waters splashing those already in. Two of the bigger ones were swinging little ones in sequence. The Heaved swam back to the broken pier and pulled themselves up. A dark trail of saturated water formed on the deck stretching from the point of their reentry all the way back to the two Heavers. It was a whole organized state of affairs. An unspoken competition of frolic at work to see who could be flung the highest and farthest. Some lounged on the discolored boards, whose remnants of green paint withered to the edges and corners where agency and time had not yet effected them; their skin grew pink or darker in the sun. One relieved himself on a section of the pier where the boards had been removed exposing the ocean below. Another smoked a cigarette. Some were clothed. Others were not. Others more were transforming from one state to the next, or the latter to the former. A mix of fully-formed and maturing adolescents acting as it came to them on a sunny day in summer. This boho leisure class enjoying their current state, appearing to have slipped the bounds ever so briefly, to have escaped the atmosphere and felt the great beyond before retrograde clasped on and pulled back hard. To do so, though, is illusory. For appearance is all that there is. But it was quite beautiful to view, you know, perhaps (though not only) because it was so fleeting.

City Map 

CityMap

Berserks:

  1. Gorgon’s Alley
  2. Greenland
  3. Bloomland
  4. Oldsland
  5. Koossen
  6. Bayland
  7. Midland
  8. Renaissance (Ghettoland)
  9. Beauté (Booty, Bay-B)
  10. Hearts
  11. Parkland
  12. New Strip
  13. Deebs
  14. Oceanland (Ass End)
  15. Bergland
  16. Subland (the Sprawl)
  17. Riverland
  18. Coastland
  19. Charles
  20. Paladin Heights
  21. Links Island (Posh Town)
  22. Tri-Island (Posh-Annex) with Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Washington Islands

Major Parks and Islands, etc.:

  • A) Ludwig City Island Park
  • B) Hans-Johanns City Island Park
  • C) Chinnemuuk City Island Park
  • D) Othahathaway City Island Park
  • E) Bay City Park
  • F) Pearl Coast City Park
  • G) Founders City Park
  • H) Rutherford Chauncey Horthwright Welcoming Island Park
  • “NE” – North Eye Island
  • “SE” – South Eye Island
  • “NP” – Mond River Park, North (North Park)
  • “SP” – Mond River Park, South (South Park)
  • “WEB” – W.E.B. Du Bois Park
  • “PP” – Charles Prick Park (the Prick)
  • “NHP” – New Helm City Park
  • “OP” – Olympia Park
  • “KTMRP” – King Thelonius Mountain Range Park
  • “AP” – Arcadia Park
  • “R” – Roosevelt Island
  • “L” – Lincoln Island
  • “W” – Washington Island

The Lost Footage of ‘The Secret Life of Arabia’ (Or… Making Shit Up to David Bowie Music)

A footnote from David Bowie’s upcoming biography:

One of the more remarkable tidbits from this time was what Bowie stumbled upon at a run-down bookstore in Neukolln. In the bookstore, Brian Eno recalled was named “Schau und Kauf” next to a hookah bar the two frequented, Bowie came across a film can tucked underneath a dilapidated book shelf and a mound of novels about the adventures of tax attorneys, and a collection of medical studies on methamphetamine. The can contained a large quantity of captured film. On the label, in faded blue pen, the title read: “Das Geheime Leben von Arabien

Bowie brought it back to his apartment to watch and soon realized the film contained unfinished scenes from a silent era German film. He went to the local West Berlin library and found the film was supposed to be the masterpiece of Walram von Kleistpark, who started his career as Fritz Lang’s cinematographer before directing several successful German films. It turns out the movie was a total fiasco, which lost its funding fairly soon into production, and stopped completely after Kleistpark went mad.

SecretLifeofArabia

Believed to be the original movie poster for the film, Das Geheime Leben von Arabien.

 

Fascinated by the scenes, Bowie was inspired to write a song in the film and director’s honor. After two days in the studio, and some argument with Eno, the song was finished and officially ended the album.

“I loved the song. I just wasn’t sure it fit with what we were doing on ‘Heroes‘ but David was convinced. He was obsessed with the song because of the movie. He loved that movie. About twenty minutes of barely-coherent scenes, but I remember him taking it everywhere. He thought it was a sign. I saw it as a cry of desperation. Anything to take his mind off the withdrawals. Plus, he was heavily into shamanism at the time. Who wasn’t?” Eno remembered. “In hindsight, I think he was right. It counterbalanced the darker elements and tones of the album. It gave it a hopeful ending, which was ironic and fun because the film—from what I remember—ended badly.”

Bowie had given the footage to Nicolas Roeg with the intention of having it edited and used as the music video for the song. However, soon word reach the Kleistpark Estate which promptly sued Bowie and RCA for copyright infringement. In an out-of-court settlement, the footage and edited video were handed over to the Estate; in exchange, the song could remain on the album provided it was not released as a single. The Researcher was able to visit the Estate’s archives and view the taboo music video. It is a wonderful tribute to Kleistpark’s vision and enhances Bowie’s work tenfold. It is a shame that, like the unfinished masterpiece, the video will never see the light of day.

However, the Researcher was allowed to take and publish notes from the viewing party. If you listen to the song, these transcripts match well with it…

0:00 – 0:18 Open on a vast ocean of sand, the camera slowly pans down to see our hero (Buckaroo) as a spec riding across the desert plain. It pushes in on him and as he grows we watch a trail of dust climb to the sky behind him. As the guitar trickles eight seconds in we cut to his face: determined, heartbroken, angered: he strikes his cyborg camel (Anstrum) and a fat cloud of sand kicks up behind them as his one-humped steed bursts into hyperdrive. The drums make a fill. Cut to: a older man in all black (Arabia) sitting at a bank teller’s desk. His feet kicked up on the table and he is slicing into a large apple with a larger hunting knife. Signs of violence surround him: bullet holes in the wall, possible blood spatter, papers everywhere. We see the juice from the fruit bleed onto his black glove. Meanwhile, three men stand in the middle of an abandoned dirt street in apparent anticipation of our hero.

0:19 – 0:28 A montage of images: a close-up of Arabia, his scarred face with a smile; Buckaroo looking off in the distance, stoic, handsome; the young heroine (Nova) hiding herself underneath an umbrella, it looks like concave rose, silk ruffles environ the rim of the florally decorated canopy, it shields her pearlescent skin, which glows slightly throughout the monochromatic film; large bags of money; a snake slithers through a human skull on the dirt.

0:29 – 0:55 Buckaroo walks through a crowded bar. Heavy drinking. Harlots laugh and seduce their clients. Opium plumes in the foreground. Two cowboys choke each other in the corner. A man clings to a chandelier. Slowly people make note of him. He’s infamous. Whispers go around. A knife is pulled and man leaps out at his back. He catches sights of the assailant in the bar mirror and shoots the man without ever fully turning around. The man slowly drops to the floor. Buckaroo then locks eyes with Nova as Bowie sings: “Then I saw your eyes at the cross fades.” Quickly cutting to Arabia’s eyes as he watches from his table above. He’s intrigued by the newcomer.

0:56 – 1:40 Another montage: Buckaroo and Nova sit underneath a palm tree at an oasis; he tries to show her how to shoot, she seems to be very clumsy with his gun, but then she surprises him twice: revealing she has a pocket pistol, and she’s a very good shot; Nova introduces Buckaroo to Arabia; a budding friendship between Buckaroo and Arabia on camelback and arm wrestling while the chorus of Bowie moans/bellows: “The Secret Life of Arabia”; a train heist; Nova confesses something to Buckaroo; the camera pans across a group of native-looking mole people on their knees, terror on their faces; Arabia pulls Nova in closely and kisses her hard on the mouth, we see her hand reach for her pocket pistol only to be halted by Arabia’s hunting knife that comes into frame tapping her hand still; Buckaroo is double-crossed by some of Arabia’s goons, the edit cuts back and forth between his eyes and theirs, and again we hear: “The Secret Life of Arabia”.

1:41 – 1:57 We return to the oasis where we saw Buckaroo and Nova fall in love. He leaps from Anstrum and rushes toward Nova. As he gets closer, his steps slow. We see her laying near the spring water. Her back is to us. She seems to be asleep. We witness his fear as he reaches out for her. His hand on her shoulder, he turns her over. She is lifeless. Dark rings around her neck. We close in on Buckaroo and Nova from above and he lifts his head to the us and cries along with Bowie: “Arabia!” Cut to—

1:58 – 2:57 Buckaroo races through the desert. The next moments are inter-spliced between past and present as Bowie continues to call out “Arabia!” met with his whispers of “secret, secret.” Two riders from Arabia’s gang catch up to Buckaroo on their mechanical camels, guns drawn//Arabia and Buckaroo are standing at the base of a waterfall of oil//amidst gunfire, Buckaroo slides underneath Anstrum and takes out both riders//small children with pipes stretching out of their backs work in some kind of jewel field//the three men from earlier have readied themselves behind overturned wagons//a bank teller sits with his hands up as a silhouette consumes him//a sniper shot takes out one of Anstrum’s front legs crashing the beast head first to the sand, propelling Buckaroo through the air, but it is to his advantage as he shoots the three men hiding behind the makeshift barricade while passing over them//Arabia’s black glove is removed and rests near a grotesque skeletal hand, meat and machine construct the dorsal exterior of the hand and small ribbed tubing runs along and around the raw bone fingers that tap on the hardwood//Buckaroo crashes to the dirt and rolls, just missing another bullet from the sniper; he lies still for a moment until he catches a glimmer from the sniper’s rifle and fires; we see a man fall from the water tower in the distance.

2:58 – 3:45 With the music at full tilt, the camera tracks Buckaroo as he walks solely through the dead street. Bowie mimics his calls for “Arabia!” He beckons him to come out and fight. We are behind him as he stands in front of a building from the street, a sign reads “BANC,” it is torn from the hinges and lays upside-down, bullet holes mark the front of the building. Then Buckaroo suddenly, inexplicably jolts forward and falls over himself. In confusion, we follow the camera as it slowly turns revealing Arabia standing on the veranda behind Buckaroo, smoke rising from his gun. He smiles. He walks slowly down the stairs and the camera steps back and away. The music comes to a breakdown and we hear Bowie hushing our protests. All we can do is watch in helpless horror. Our hearts cling to every frame as we recall the old German proverb: “Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt.” We see our hero crawling on the ground reaching for his gun. Arabia walks calmly up to Buckaroo and kicks the gun further away. He turns Buckaroo on his back, then stands above him. The images edit back and forth between our two characters as Bowie reminds us the true moral of Kleistpark’s fable: “Never hear, never seen; secret life, ever green.” Their faces grow larger and larger in the frame. Buckaroo’s in great pain and anger. Arabia’s still at first, but we see for a moment a look of sorrow before a smile breaks out as the blurred image of his pistol comes into view. Then fade to black.

…Conquista Todo

El Hombre Que Cavó las Tumbas

 

The sun crawled toward the horizon causing the sky to turn a hideous cerise. As was unlike the occasion for the season, the wind could barely be detected in the treetops of the adjacent forest. Storm clouds held off in the periphery leaving the farmland exposed in the light, saturated red. The heat from the day was held captive in the thick moisture of summer air. The atmosphere was held in heated suspension above the fray. The chorus of the chicharras ran through the small village, whose emptied and silenced dirt streets echoed the haunting call. Now was the time of day when the sounds and smells of a tiny community entered its crepuscular stage. Instead, what was heard was the lamentations of women, the crepitation of conflict, and the scant laughter of men.

Junior Teniente Coronel Antonio Luis Roman stood atop an M1 Abrams, one of many gifts from El Padre to the military. The hunter green and black striped mechanical juggernaut sat humming amongst the crops, the words: EL QUE TRAE LÁGRIMAS: hand-painted in white, the letters quickly applied and thence inchoate, giving way to an impression that they were melting in the tropical fever. JT Coronel Roman observed the landscape; his paunch looked ready to burst through his olive green shirt darkened by sweat. The top half of the shirt was unbuttoned (against protocol) exposing his browned skin and dark wiry chest hair. A pearl neckerchief found itself wrapped loosely around his glutted throat. It had small lines of roses diagonally printed across it. Antonio’s mother gave it to him before he went off to war.

Sargento Solos walked up to the feet of EL QUE TRAE LÁGRIMAS with a man in tow, held at gunpoint. He stood at attention and saluted. “Report,” the JT Coronel said. “Eighty to our fifteen currently. Most have fled into the trees. The rest are being handled.” JT Coronel Roman nodded. He then acknowledged the stranger standing next to Solos. The man wore an old t-shirt and shorts. He wore one flip-flop. His clothes were filthy, covered in dirt and a small trace of blood. He had a cut above his left brow; the blood coagulated into black crust along his rough, wrinkled eggplant face. JT Coronel Roman observed his cut. The man would not take his eyes from the earth. He was one of these outback bastards of the old world. The roots of his blood dug much deeper into the soil of the country than Antonio’s.  Heart of the jaguar. Soul of the raptor. The rest of the nationalist claptrap that was well familiar to him. The enchanted history El Padre invokes so often in his speeches. He came across so few of them in person. They regulated themselves mostly to the pastoral regions of the state, not urban locations like the capital where Antonio grew up. Though there was Chacha. She was part of his boyhood. She was half nativo.

The sergeant spoke: “This was the man you requested.”
JT Coronel Roman asked the man. “Hablas mi idioma?”
“Si.”

“Good. What is your name?” The man was silent. JT Coronel Roman looked to Sargento Solos. Solos asked the man in his natural tongue. Still silence. Solos grew enraged. He got in the man’s dark face, pressing his finger into his soiled shirt. He pointed back to JT Coronel Roman and flailed his hand about some more. The man remained mute. Antonio held up his hand to pause the sergeant. “You do not have to give me your name. But you do understand what I am trying to do here, don’t you?” The man stood still and remained focused on the ground. Antonio continued: “We have been given very explicit orders from the President himself that this area is to return to the order of the state once and for all, and to remove any belligerents in the process with the utmost hostility. Allies are to be pardoned and returned to the capital.

“On the one hand, you have assisted us in the duty of disposing of the traitors’ carcasses as well as leading us to the sites where our fallen brothers lay. For that, I could see to your absolution. On the other hand, Sargento Solos and his men here inform me you were seen burying soldiers of the state, while the terrorists stood idly by. It appeared you were operating in conjunction with the enemies of the state. This is punishable by death. So now you see the predicament I am in, no?” Silence. Antonio sighed. “You do not have to speak, but I will have to assume the worst as a precaution.”

The sun began to sink behind the tops of the trees turning them a dark green and casting the men in pale light. JT Coronel Roman watched what little of the man’s face he could witness appear to struggle with thought, or transforming such thoughts to words. Perhaps he did not know enough of the state’s language to translate his consciousness. JT Coronel Roman signaled to Sargento Solos who roughly translated to the man in his old tongue. The flamethrowers walked up to the tank. One of them said they were ready. The colonel approved their mission and they turned toward the village.

“I did what you asked,” said the man in the language Antonio understood.
JT Coronel Roman shared a look with Solos. The man’s gaze still did not break with the dirt beneath him, but his body implied a tremor. Sweat passed along his face; his hands clenched the sides of his shirt.
“Yes. You did. But you also aided the enemy. You see, don’t you?”
“I did what you asked.”

He wasn’t saying it as a question but JT Coronel Roman wondered if he meant to. It would have been understandable. It may have been all the JT Coronel was capable of repeating, too, if… well… but that was not the case. For only one was holding the gun, and in that moment history was on his side.

“If you were in my position, what would you do? Would you let a potential enemy of yours escape? If so, how would you explain that to those you answered to?”
Silence.
“I see.”
“I did what you asked.”
“Indeed. But one good act does not undo a bad one. If you have supported the terrorists up to this point, one afternoon of assistance does not change this. You agree, no?”
“I never hurt anyone.”
“That does not matter here. You did not kill these men. No. That is probably true. But you did dispose of them as if in alliance with the terrorists. And if you are not responsible for it well then, who is, hmm? This did not start because of you, yet here you are, in the middle of it. You are a participant. You may not be responsible, but you are guilty. And although the punishment for the guilty and the responsible should be different, here, now, it is not. We have orders after all. I believe you understand. I will promise you this, I will have them make it quick.”

JT Coronel Roman waved his hand. Soldiers grabbed the man and brought him to his knees.

“You will be cursed,” the man said. He looked up at Antonio. His eyes were beautiful, and filled with pity.
Junior Teniente Coronel Antonio Luis Roman laughed. He pointed to the horizon.”When the sun rises again, there will be nothing here to remember. Just crops and ashes. People will come and know there was a story to be told, but no one will know where to start it, just that they came after the end. And in one-hundred years time, I and all my deeds will suffer the same fate. So, we are all cursed, my friend.”

The sun was nowhere to be seen, but its light still fought back the darkening sky. The heat remained unbearable. A single crack split the air and then disappeared into the homogeneous sound of the chicharras’ chorus that enveloped the land.

… Conquista Todo

El Pueblo

Once during the war, what my people now call La Agitación Civil, there was a small farming village unfortunately located in an important part of our country. The village was situated in the Valle del Universo, the cultural and historical birthplace of the nation, where the farmers tended the valuable soybean crop. It was also strategically located near the edge of the forest where the government believed a majority of the EEP guerrillas lived and operated.

Due to the soybean crop, the nation’s primary agricultural export, the land was of immense importance to the government. It was estimated that prior to and during the war, the soybean was almost as valuable as the country’s oil and iron ore, approximately responsible for three-fourths of all agricultural exports. (Not until the Great Chinese Panic would it lose its value.) As such, the EEP would perform small attacks to either steal harvested crops, or set fire to large sections of the farmland, often killing off many of the National Army (EN) soldiers in the operations. Since the Villalba-Peña government was fighting factions in practically every region of the country, the EN was not as effective in eradicating any of the factions. By the time the war reached its second year, and all sides realized the end was nowhere near its point, the EEP changed its tactics slightly. It focused on the export business, too, and stopped burning the lucrative crop.

It planned mostly successful missions to kill off EN soldiers and leach large quantities of the soybean crop through the blackmarket, which in turn funded its resistance. Due to the unorganized, chaotic command of the EN (by the President himself), it took sometimes as long as a month before new troops could return to the area and reclaim control of the land. This way, the village changed hands on a regular basis throughout the war. On one or more occasions, the EN would overrun the guerrillas and lay claim to the territory in the morning, only to lose it again that very night.

This carried on for some time.

President Villalba-Peña was convinced the reason for his army’s consistent failures and constant back-and-forth was because the villagers were assisting the EEP. The truth behind this was a little different and more difficult to determine. Setting aside strategy and just focusing on the relationship between the guerrillas and villagers, the complexities reveal themselves through the horrible poetry of this conflict. We will never know exactly how these farmers viewed the fighters on either side, or the war that pitted them in the center of a maelstrom.

In truth, they were most likely relieved when the EEP stopped burning the crops, which drove them into further debt with Monsanto and threatened to destroy their homes and livelihood; but this did not mean a majority of the villagers favored the guerrillas, especially to the point of becoming militarily involved. No, some were likely sympathetic to the revolutionaries while others were nationalists. At least one or two sons must have been drafted to protect the government, while others (including daughters) ran into the forest to join the resistance. More so, they were almost certainly concerned whether the drought would extend into its eighth year, or if those goddamned langostas would make their way further west through the valley towards their crop. They probably hoped that year would be a little less hard than the previous one, fully expecting the opposite.

They existed in the world at a time that was much like the rest: cruel and indifferent about it: and their lives ended in much of the same way as all the other nameless faces positioned out in that vacuum of the empty past. They suffered at the hands of the human struggle and their voices were never heard. Their stories will only be remembered through the conjuration of history.

And yet, this does not make their lives any less real, or what happened to them any less wrong.

Hollywood in the 24th Century… a report by TMZ

cruise-pitt-lrg

03/05/2329

Both “Tom Cruise 3000” presented by Dynamic Cybernetics® and Johnny Pitt were arrested late last night after the two created mass chaos on the streets of New Sunset Blvd.

The two got into a scuffle outside the Hustler’s Cafe restaurant when they both drunkenly confused each other’s date (Taylor Swift clones) for their own. It seems the centuries-old feud between the two Mega-Level-A-List celebs finally reached its boiling point on the sidewalk outside when ALLEGEDLY “Tom Cruise 3000” presented by Dynamic Cybernetics® chased after Johnny Pitt and accused him of unlawful possession of his girlfriend. Johnny Pitt is then said to have told “Tom Cruise 3000” presented by Dynamic Cybernetics® that he was mistaken, just like his decision to star in the 264th reboot of the Spider-Man franchise (which was re-rebooted8.045 the year before, starring Johnny Pitt)–zinger!

The two have been bitter rivals ever since Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt genetically spliced their DNA together to make one super-human actor. According to his doctors, and generals at the Pentagon, Johnny Pitt: “has super-human abilities, anti-aging qualities, teeth that can bite through steal, bullet-proof skin, etc.; he also is 60% more handsome, 19% better at acting, and 35% less likely to throw a phone at his wife.” Regrettably, they added: “One downside was we couldn’t reduce his child abuse statistics. An unfortunate side-effect is that those attributes were enhanced.” In fact, Johnny Pitt is known to have an insatiable bloodlust for his offspring.

Before the genetic merger, “Tom Cruise 3000” presented by Dynamic Cybernetics® was the only authentically enhanced actor in Hollywood. Most actors from the 20th/21st Century who can still be seen in the hard or soft rebooted mega-films of today live on through copyrighted CGI ownership. We all know about the recent Sony hack scandal (now believed ALLEGEDLY perpetrated by Warner Bros.) and their loss of over 250 copyrighted celebrities (including all of Johnny Pitt’s ex-wives). Or the Great Disney-20th Century Fox War of 2323 that claimed the lives of over 250,000 interns, the bloodiest studio war in this nation’s history.

“Tom Cruise 3000″ presented by Dynamic Cybernetics® was unique because he was actually not dead. Turns out audiences love not-dead actors from the 20th/21st Century. With the body of a Dynamic Cybernetics® VK-450 (powered by Ford Motor’s Thermal-Nuclear power) and synthetic skin, the only organic part of his body is his head—making him legally, technically still a person. And with Dynamic Cybernetics® patented skin rejuvenation grafting**,”Tom Cruise 3000” presented by Dynamic Cybernetics® will always look like that fresh-faced twenty three year old of the Top Gun years. Though according to eye-witnesses last night, his latest grafting session ALLEGEDLY didn’t go so well—somebody should get their money back!

Needless to say, when Johnny Pitt came on the scene, he immediately became “Tom Cruise 3000” presented by Dynamic Cybernetics®’s main competition and the two have been bitter rivals ever since.

Apparently, the world of Hollywood is not big enough for these two global superstars, and that played out on New Sunset Blvd., which might have to be called New New Sunset after the reconstruction that will be necessary to fix what the two celebs destroyed.

The city is estimating roughly $4 billion dollars in damages and a death toll that keeps climbing.

No one could be reached for comment except the generals at the Pentagon. “We’re monitoring the situation very closely, but overall we’re pleased with the results.”

 


** The patented skin rejuvenation grafting technic takes skin cells and grows a whole new face in a petri dish until cultivated to look like the younger desired self. Then the old face skin is removed and the “rejuvenated” face skin is grafted onto the skull. A surgery to replace deteriorating skin has to happen about every six to twelve months to maintain proper facial continuity.

Mr. Drompf Heads to Swampland, USA

Mr. Drompf was furious. The United States of Animals had become rather curious. And only he could save it. He told all the animals so. Atop a mahogany podium, with his best suit and finest bleached rat’s nest, he told them in a voice strained and low:

mr_drompf2

“You see, and we all know this folks, I’m the only one who can fix Swampland, Swampland, it’s sad to say, is terrible, just terr-i-ble! look at it, it smells, it’s hot, nothing gets done because you have all that brackish water and lily pads, don’t get me started with those lily pads, folks, they can’t support your weight, you get wet, it’s disgusting, I can’t stand it, we deserve better and I’m going to get you better, trust me, you know it, or my name ain’t Tummy Jeronimous Drompf, you know me, you know what I’m capable of, these swamp dwellers, they don’t care, they love it, but we need better and I’m going to get you better, I’m a toad, I don’t live in the swamp, I live on dry land, that means I can fix it, we’re going to do it, folks, send me in, I’m ready, because, and we all know it, we all know it, it’s gonna be great, simply fabulous, I’ve got the best folks in mind to handle it, you got me, the best, you can picture it right now I’m sure, it’s gonna be beautiful after I’m done with it, I know beauty, I’m a toad, vote for me: Tummy Jeronimous Drompf!”

And so on the day, the animal kingdom gathered in the Great Election Hall to begin shouting out the name of the candidate they preferred. Of course, it was not their voices that mattered as much as those of The Chosen Few—a much smaller hand-picked herd. The Chosen Few would ultimately elect the next leader. In truth, this was an antiquated system. One that should have been replaced long ago, but no one had apparently thought to do so. Instead the animals began to yell the name of their candidate, and although most of the animals did not want Mr. Drompf, his supporters were the most adamant. They locked arms and with a gurgling howl began to chant the “Call of the Drompf”…

“DROMPF! … … … DROMPF! … … … Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf: DROMPF! DROMPF!

Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf: DROMPF! DROMPF!”

The chant was simple enough to cut through the clutter and it grabbed the attention of enough of The Chose Few. Soon they began to chant along with the crowd, too:

“Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf, Drompf: DROMPF! DROMPF!”

The animal kingdom was a bit stunned, including Mr. Drompf himself. But he pulled up his sleeves and began to work hard indeed:

“I have the greatest plans, the best, you’ll see,” he claimed via tweeting bird. “No one knows what I know, no one but me!”

And soon the animal kingdom began to see what Mr. Drompf had in mind:

He hired Mr. V. Russ Mosquito to run the National Blood Bank, the Big Bad Wolf to oversee Housing, a Mr. I.M. Öblverius K. Ostrich as head of the EPA, the seasoned General Kiddo Warhawk as head of the Cabinet for Peace, a Giant Turd for Sanitation Director, and a crypto-fascist pile of nuclear waste as his Chief Strategist. In fact, all of the members of his cabinet were of this merit.

But his genius was not stopped there, though it was all some could bear. For being the great builder that he claimed, he hired construction crews to drain the Swampland he so shamed—using Drompf family-owned bulldozers and Drompf Premium Hosers of course. He drove back the brackish waters and the not-to-be-spoken-of lily pad. Everyone was pleased, and even his critics thought: “He might be all that bad.” He built a giant levee (made of solid gold) to keep it all behind… but only for a short period of time.

By the next day, even more construction workers were brought in to lend a helping hand. Much to the confusion of many, even Mr. Drompf, they started laying pipes that stretched far into dry land. Many animals became uneasy anew, save Mr. Drompf’s supporters who were few. For they mostly lived in silos that insulated them from the outside world.

Then, very suddenly one day, a great roar could be heard. It was no call of the wild; it was not caused by dog, horse, or bird. Someone had released the levee and all the dark putrid waters came rushing through. The swampy water ran down the pipelines with ease, and the horrible roaring sound grew and grew.

Finally, with a great burst! the waters soaked all the animal kingdom, quenching an unwanted thrust.

Infinite City: Blue Vandas (Dorcho’s on 139th and N. Vorschein)

I’m sitting at the counter in Dorcho’s on 139th and N Vorschein. It’s been around since the late 20s. The decor clings to the epoch when diners “mattered” (something an arthouse punk I know said to me), which might make it post-war 1950s. The brown floral linoleum peels at the edges, reminiscent of a dried lakebed, or withering bouquet. The entropy is most visible near the entrance, around corners of the booths, and beneath the door to the bathroom, exposing the burgundy-painted concrete lying beneath. The walls are covered in a crude wood panelling, sections of which have warped around the ventilation system of the exposed kitchen. At night, when the room is colored in tungsten, the walls nearest to the storefront windows show how faded they have become from UV radiation. The two-tone quality accentuates the aesthetic binary of the diner, the counter to the front, the booths to the back.

Dead-center, the kitchen consists of one large blackened griddle with sundry knobs and compartments housing various thawing meats and variations of starchy sides. The decades of grease, dirt, fluids, anything transmitted through the conduit of ill-washed hands have formed a thin coagulum. It gives off a certain blue-collar sheen, or in other words: filthy luster. The health inspector’s grade “Q-” hangs alongside the framed pictures of the past: headlines from local newspapers spanning the centuries next to photos of past store owners as they age, their families, a collage of human continuum.

Blue vandas perch on the windowsill facing the street, and on rainy days (like this one) they produce an exquisite sadness, looking almost longingly out at the rain drops as they hit the glass and fall in sporadic patterns. They are well-cared for, the flowers. Their petals environ the white plastic vases that hold them forming a purple canopy (dark blue in the shade of thunderclouds) with starlight pistils at the centers. Their beauty invokes an emotional, intellectual response, some natural provocation similar to staring into flame.

My waitress, Madonna, tells me they’re the current owner’s favorite. She has a garden of them atop the building. “Cuts ’em every Sunday or so and puts new ones down.” That’s a lot of flowers. “You better believe it.” Madonna tells me some other things, opening up as women do once we realize the other isn’t a threat. This impromptu civility transforms from blue vandas, to awful weather, to my order, to Madonna complimenting me on my glasses and necklace, to a brief conversation about cervicoplasty, and then a historical account of the place: It opened the week the market crashed. It changed hands a few times, from one relative to another, but has been under the ownership of this little ole grandma named Barney for the past fifty years. Her father had a heart attack at the griddle and she inherited the business at nineteen.  Flash forward a few decades, add a couple of kids and ex-husbands later, she now spends most of her days sitting in one of the few booths towards the back speaking Portuguese to the Angolan immigrants who live around the area.

Madonna motions and I turn to notice Barney sitting in the back speaking with an Angolan? as she sips on her coffee? tea? from her skylight blue mug.

“A Love Bizarre” by Sheila E. plays. I know now because Madonna tells me—it’s her iPhone playlist.

I steal looks over at the old owner of Dorcho’s. Her eyes are fixed on her interlocutor. Her lips move calmly as she explains? argues? jokes? with the other person. Her face and hands hint to at least four? five? decades of labor. The word “velleity” pops into mind, though I can’t quite imagine why. Then I look back at the photographs and newspaper clippings over the years, all spread across the wall behind me. Customers conversing, eating, ignoring the captured past hanging muted above them. I look at the stories of the pictures and headlines, I follow them from the door, flitting from framed image to article and other, children growing old, interchangeable men and fashions from one frame to the next, “Best Diner” “Best Burger” “Dorcho’s Fights Back” “75 Years and Counting” “Local Diner Does OK”, all the way to the back where Barney sits.

I follow the points and I counter-reference them with Barney. And I wonder about the in-between moments, all the pluses and minuses that make the sum, the production not the product, those ignored or forgotten moments that are almost as important if not more than the important ones. And for a moment, I start to pull away from myself, staring deep into Barney’s sad beauty, overcome and alive, and start to understand something until Madonna sets my meal down in front of me.

“Surf’s up!”

Barbershop off Main St.

For those who had even the most inchoate appreciation of spatial properties and crudest admiration for aesthetics, the barbershop was an offense to such attuned faculties. The locomotive design impacted all the contents of the room together into this long, strained hallway, without any of the pleasantries afforded by riding transit: mainly a sense of adventure: instead, what remained was the strong feeling of claustrophobia and decorative constipation. Checkerboard tiles spread out across the floor fading off into a blur, some optical deception, as the eyes hit the horizon. When buffered, which was rare, the floor glared back the light reflecting off it, day or night, to suggest a demur attitude towards cleanliness, preferring the soot-rich scrubbing of a years-old mop to crest its battered surface and expose blemishes in the dried remains of dirty water; most often, random marauding tuffets of clipped hair were noticed roaming across the barren plains searching for crevasses to hide in or shoes to fix under. Undusted frames of mass-produced prints hung scattered on the halogen-colored walls: Stuart’s unfinished Athenaeum, a detailed lithograph of Connecticut, bad Impressionists and Sargent’s divisive Gassed, ugly illustrations from obliged school children, a few covers of the Saturday Evening Post ripped straight from the magazine: their selection and level of skilled placement reinforced the banal eclecticism of Main Street. An overused broom and its mop companion leaned in a corner. To stare into the local parlor was similar to falling in it. One could not fight its gravitational pull.

Time in the Fog: The Farm

(Previously)

THE FARM

 

The dying Virginian summer held on to its intensity in the idiosyncratic fashion of a Southern drawl, languidly carrying on towards fall. The heat hung in the air along with the thick moisture August provides. As the seconds dragged closer to midnight, the temperature still dawdled in the low-nineties. It had been this way for some weeks now, at least ten days. It was hard to keep track of time when each moment was just as oppressively hot as the next, and no degree of vegetation could shield one from the immeasurable radiation pouring down, trapped by the vapors in the air. Day transitioned into night and back again. The weather stayed the same. It became another obstacle for Agent Robins’s re-initiation.

The “field trips” ran some twelve to sixteen hours long for however many days until the mission was completed. The team might have to cover anywhere from eight to twelve miles a day through the heavy terrain. It had been almost fifteen years since she first stepped foot on the Farm to begin her training. Though she still maintained good physical conditioning on her own, returning to the field was a different matter all together. It required not only a special degree of corporeal attention, but cognitive as well.  

Her training returned within the first few hours of her inaugural day, though: how to spot markers of roaming enemies and avoid tripwires or makeshift landmines, the best field techniques for keeping the body temperature low and feet dry, how to stay agile and silent with fifty-pound equipment (most of it unnecessary in the real field, but added in training to antagonize trainees) and sift through the forest’s white noise to tune in on footsteps, and mostly, she remembered the importance of battlefield equanimity.

It was a simple mission: track a group of ELN fighters, maybe six to ten strong, and eliminate them. But the days were cruel. One of the recruits suffered a bad sunburn on his arms and neck, he never slept well as a result. Most were exhausted by the continuous deluge of thick heat and traveling up steep hills and back down into valleys. They never complained, to their credit, but they were too slow. They would never catch the target at their current pace, and they risked being spotted if they moved too slowly—there were always more. Agent Robins knew by the trail size (which also gave away the formation), and few bits of trash left behind, the enemy’s numbers were fluctuating wildly anywhere from ten to twenty or more. The new recruits did not notice. Outnumbered, they would have to use the environment to their advantage.

That night, she encouraged the team leader to press on. Brady Copeland, graduated from Stanford with degrees in International Politics and Botany, former wrestler, admirable IQ, considers himself a gentleman, the typical red-meat All-American attributes that get selected for the agency. “Genetically-Modified Boy Scouts,” her mentor used to say.

 

“But how?” he looked up at her. He was laying down, seconds from sleep.

“We’ll track by moonlight, and perform night raids.”

He thought about it. He looked over to the other team members, some already sleeping. It had been an especially long day, and even though the index was still pushing into the high-eighties, most fell asleep from pure exhaustion. He shook his head. “It’s against the mission guidelines.”’

“There are no guidelines. We need to move. Now. We’re too slow. The rebels heavily outnumber us. If they’re smart, they are routinely splitting up and sending out scouts to ensure they aren’t walking into something or being followed. Based off the trails, they are smart. So, the longer it takes for us to find them is more time we are in the dark, and that increases our vulnerability and likelihood of mission failure.”

That struck a chord. It usually did with types like Brady. She watched his eyes as his brain tried to process the hypothetical scenario of failing, then cross examine the ramifications with breaking protocol and heading out in the middle of the night with a team already depleted of rest and stamina, but his eyelids kept fluttering. He could not focus. He let out a sigh. “I disagree, Agent Robins. Get some sleep.”

 

The following day, over thirty ELN insurgents ambushed the team of five at dusk. She and another recruit, Kerr, were able to stay alive long enough and use the cover of darkness to slip away through a hole in the attack. For the next six days, she pursued the ELN squad. There was a main core of fifteen that would swell upwards to forty and then disband. She kept track of the main group with Kerr until the sixth night when they shrunk to only eight. She had Kerr stationed just on the outskirts of the camp with explicit instructions: “Don’t move.”

Slithering through the ground, she came upon the scout who was keeping watch. His name was Church, but for the purposes of the drill he smeared dark green paint on his face and was a firm believer in focalism. His black ski mask was pulled up on his head and he wore a boonie atop. He was comfortable. It was his mistake.

She snuck up on him and drew her knife. The blade made the lightest breath as it released from its sheath, the killing spirant. He was on his feet taking slow steps around the bivouac. He did not notice his boot almost kissed her knee. She rose behind him and in one muted glimmer had her hand on his mouth and knife on his throat. She whispered: “You’re dead.”

She then woke up the remaining seven in a similar fashion. The last was the team leader, Gibson. She tapped his boots for him. When he woke, he saw the other members of his team sitting around the fire. His combatant stood above.

 

“Evening, Robins,” he stretched out of his waterproof blanket.

“Evening, sir.”

He rolled his eyes as he sat up. He looked at his men. “I assume I’m dead?”

“That would be correct.”

“You all, too?” he asked aloud. The team nodded. He shook his head. “Goddamnit, Church.”

Church said nothing.

Gibson looked at Robins. “Knife?”

“Yes.”

He nodded. “Good work. What about Kerr?”

“He’s securing the perimeter.”

“How is he?”

“Smart enough to stick with me.”

“You cocky bitch.”

“Easy, sir,” Church said. “That’s a real knife she’s wielding.”

The men laughed.

“All right,” Gibson said. “This op is over. I want to thank you, Myra. I was beginning to miss my bed.”

 

The next mission used a mixture of al Qaeda techniques and various tactics from sub-Saharan guerrilla outfits. She was the team leader. The initial testing was over. Now she was being prepared for what was to come.