Blood Bank

HIDDEN_264_10204_FOTO_victima‘Thank you for requesting our Utterly Flexible Savings Account. You may activate this debit card by making an initial deposit into your account. You may do so online at VitalFinancial.com, by phone at 800-666-BANK, or at one of our convenient ATM locations.’

Jake walked the seven blocks to the Vital Financial branch closest to his home. By the time he arrived his head was hot and damp. A few beads of sweat dripped down from his black curly hair, causing his eyes to sting.

He slid the new debit card into its slot, entered his PIN number and pressed the DEPOSIT button. From another wider slot below, an envelope emerged. Jake pulled the money from his pocket. He attempted to straighten a few crumbled bills before sliding them into the envelope, with about a dozen various coins and a healthy swath of pocket lint.

Jake held the envelope up to his face, licking the adhesive. The paper edge rubbed against his upper lip, causing him a sharp peculiar pain. He puckered his face as he sealed the envelope. He noticed a small streak of blood on the back which he tried to wipe away, only smearing it further.

With a shrug, Jake redeposited the envelope in the ATM machine via the lower slot. The machine rumbled and purred as its electric intestines examined the offering. The small LCD display now showed Jake a breakdown of what it had received:

CASH: 18.00
COIN: 1.21
OTHER: 62.38

“Other?” Jake furrowed his brow. Again he pressed the DEPOSIT button and received a second envelope. He held it up to his face, squeezing his upper lip between two fingers. A bubble of blood splashed onto the paper. He smeared it across the face with two fingers before placing it back into the ATM machine’s slot.

CASH: 00.00
COIN: 00.00
OTHER: 265.92

Jake’s heart doubled in pace and a cold chill shot up his spine. He pressed the DEPOSIT button once again, pulling his box-cutter from his coat pocket. He gouged a deep gash into his palm. The envelope was soggy and over-saturated when he returned it to the machine.

CASH: 00.00
COIN: 00.00
OTHER: 82,926.88

Jake smiled as he returned the debit card to his back pocket. He wrapped his bloody hand in his handkerchief and began walking back home. He felt proud and dazed and admittedly more than a little confused. But he felt like he deserved to treat himself to something nice. Maybe he would stop for a small snack at one of the fancy restaurants he normally could not afford. Or maybe a sports car.

He drove his new sports car to work the next morning. He punched in as usual in the warehouse, but then immediately headed toward the front offices.

Judy looked up from her computer screen at Jake. “How can I help you sir?”

“My name is Jake Leech,” he told her, “I would like to speak to the foreman.”

“He’s on an international conference call and can’t be disturbed,” Judy offered him a polite but plastic smile. “You can leave a message or come back after lunch.”

“Just tell him I quit,” Jake said.

Judy gave him a long look. “You quit? Can I tell him why? Are you unhappy?”

“No not at all. I’ve come into considerable money. Inheritance, actually. Um. And I just don’t need to do this anymore.”

Judy stared at Jake, her eyes vacant and mouth wide open. She shook her head.

Jake’s heart beat hard. His palms were threatening to sweat. ‘Now or never’ he thought.

“My name is Jake,” he held out his hand to her.

“Yes, yes. You said,” she answered, still a little startled. She noticed the band-aid on his palm but thought nothing of it, shaking his hand. “I’m Judy.”

“Yes, I know,” his face flushed red, “I’ve noticed you. I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to ask you out to dinner.”

Again her jaw went limp, leaving her gawking mouth agape. Again she shook her head. “Well, I’m glad that you did,” she smiled at him now. “It’s still early for dinner but you could take me out to lunch.”

Jake was beaming as he left the building, hand in hand with Judy. They crossed the parking lot toward his new car. “Where would you like to go?”

“Have you been to the new French restaurant downtown?” Judy asked.

“No I’ve never been able to afford that sort of place before,” Jake smiled wide at her.

He parked the yellow sports car downtown and they walked toward the new French restaurant. Jake saw the familiar logo of Vital Financial on the building at the corner.

“Hang on a minute,” he said. “I think I should probably grab some cash just to be safe.”

Together they approached the ATM machine. Jake pushed his debit card into the top slot, entered his PIN and pressed the DEPOSIT button.

“Deposit?” Judy asked, screwing her face into a grimace.

Jake placed both of his hands on her face, twisting her neck. Her eyes rolled hard into the back of her head and he heard something snap. He pulled his box-cutter from his coat pocket, slicing her neck open.

He held her head over the face of the ATM machine and allowed her blood to spill directly into the lower slot. He watched as his balance began to climb. The LCD display raced up into the millions before her blood trickled dry.

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The Man Who Yelled Through The Glass

mirrorWe must start first of all with the fact that on our city hall building downtown, there is no glass in the windows. It’s been many years since there was. It’s a bureaucratic parlor trick, an expression of their power over us.

All the workers inside the building mime their conversations throughout the day, giving the impression that they are simply inaudible to the outside world. So people believe there is a thick pane between them blocking the sound. The employees inside also ignore any sound made outside the building to fully portray the effect.

People believed in the glass, they believed in the barrier between them and the important looking folks inside the building. The spell was cast so convincingly, after some time the people agreed that the glass was becoming dirty, and they chose the bravest from among their young men, and hoped he was dumb enough not to know how much danger he was in.

He approached the building in the window cleaner’s scaffolding, the crane pulling him up to the top floor. He wrung out his squeegee. He reached it toward the top of the glass when he noticed. His heart refused to beat for a full two seconds, and then wrung battery acid into his veins.

He tried to touch the squeegee to the glass, and confirmed his suspicions. A gasp escaped from his mouth. The people inside heard and this time they couldn’t pretend. They watched him still and silent.

The boy hopped over the window sill, inside the building. Blood throbbing at his temples, he stood, looked out over the town. He heard them scuffle behind him, approaching already.

“Everyone!” he shouted toward the town. “There is no glass in these windows. It is a lie. They can hear us, and they pretend to be inaudible!”
Three men were close enough to the young boy to grab his legs and clumsily nudge him out the window. He fell, screaming. And then his heart stopped, long before he hit the water.

And that is why they placed his monument here, on the banks of the moat. It is a shame we lost him so young. One can only imagine what secrets he might have gone on to tell. There has never been another born like him, with this super power or singular ability. No one before and so far none since. And so we will remember him always and honor his legacy. We forever marvel at his miracle, this man who was the only one ever able to yell through the glass.

Sparks

Flowers Arguing The boy moved in close, scooting along the giant dead log that served as their bench. His jeans and flannel rubbed against the sleeping bag she was wrapped in.

“What are you doing?” her words came out through chattering teeth. She met his gaze for a second and smiled.

“I just wanted to get a little closer to you,” he leaned into her, resting his weight against her. “I wanted to see if I could help you get warm.”

“Maybe,” she met his gaze again but this time did not look away. They held onto the moment, watching each other, and both smiled. She let out a laugh, loud at first; it echoed off the trees, bouncing back at them from the dark woods. She put her hand over her mouth until the laugh died away.

“Maybe I can warm you up?” he asked, “You’re not sure if I am capable?”

“Oh I know you’re capable,” her voice was louder now, she no longer shivered.

“Should I throw some more wood on the fire?”

She looked at the orange flames, leaping occasionally, seated on a sturdy bed of branches, stacked against each other, a pyramid of deep red heat.

“I think the fire is plenty big, we don’t want to burn down the forest,” she said, “But there’s plenty of room in this sleeping bag, I think we could both get warmer if you joined me.”

She unzipped the bag from within, opened it, holding her arms wide to show the ample room, and then reaching toward him to envelop him, to wrap him up beside her. They managed to both fit, snug. She pulled the zipper back up, and they found themselves nestled tight, nose to nose, awkwardly close even for she and him.

“When do you think they’ll be back?” she whispered.

“It could be a while, they want to try to get some beer. It could take a bit to find someone to buy for them, or a place that will sell to them. We could be alone for a while.”

“Oh no!” she mocked concern, “All Alone! Do you think we’ll be alright?”

“I think we might,” he played along, “Don’t worry your pretty little head, I’ll fight a bear if I have to.”

She giggled, leaned in and kissed him. They were immediately intertwined, arms reaching and curled, wrapping around one another. They tangled, hungry and urgent.

Their hands danced inside the sleeping bag. They pushed against each other, trying to get as close as possible, trying to get as much of their own being in contact with the other’s body.

In the passion, in the shifting weight of their bodies squirming together, they lost balance. They slipped off the log, hitting the ground with a thump.

Eyes opened but lips did not detach. She giggled directly into his mouth, and they resumed their embrace, their starving, indulgent kisses. They dove at each other, frantic and sloppy, wet. Mouths wide, tongues dancing, each wanting to consume the other.

They rustled and rolled, adjusting to their horizontal position, but never disengaging. They jerked and struggled into comfort. He laid on top of her, his hand pushed into her hair, keeping her head from the ground, out of the dirt.

She pulled her head away, panting. “Oh! You are hot.”

“No. No, you’re the hot one,” he leaned in to kiss again.

In a moment, she pulled away once more. “No, I mean you’re on fire!” she spoke in a new, firm tone.

“No you are the one–” he managed to say before she hit him hard on the back, slapping at him as fast as she could manage. He opened his eyes; he felt the heat on his back, and realized they had rolled too close to the fire.

©Robert Emmett McWhorter

God’s Writing Group

EscribanoGod’s writing group met on Sundays. He planned his whole week around it.

One day he was in the coffee-shop early, muttering, scribbling a few words with his quill, and then invariably scratching them out.

Randy and Mandy came in, and were standing in line to order coffee. Randy noticed God first, he gave a little tug at Mandy’s elbow, and gestured for her to look. They both stood silently, watching God fret and fume with the page in front of him. They both smiled a little to see him so agitated.

“Does he have fun?” Mandy whispered at Randy, “I mean, he does know a hobby is supposed to be an enjoyable activity doesn’t he?”

Randy shook his head, shrugged, “I admire his dedication, and sometimes envy his intensity, but I don’t even take my job as seriously as he takes writing.”

Mandy chuckled. They both ordered their drinks and joined God at the table.

“How’s the story coming, God?” Randy asked, smiling a little too wide to be mistaken as sincere. “Looks like you’re still having a little trouble there.”

God grumbled and waved an obligatory greeting, consumed by the words before him.

“It’s a rough spot, you’ll get through it,” Mandy tried to placate him. “It will make a good book, I think you have a winner. You were very excited about it, and that first week of writing was incredible, almost miraculous.”

“Yeah…” God let the word out as a long sigh. He put his quill into the barrel, rubbed a fist at his tired eyes. He looked at his friends finally, and attempted a smile.

“Some of those characters you’ve introduced…” Randy didn’t finish his thought. He let the fragmented idea linger, let the silence convey what he hesitated to say.

“They’ve taken on lives of their own,” God said, “I can’t get them to behave, and to stay within the story I have planned.”

Mandy hit God on the shoulder, softly, “You see? God knows what I mean! Sometimes the characters do surprise us! No matter how much you outline, when you get into the writing you can be surprised by who your characters really turn out to be, and the places they’ll go when they should be moving the plot forward!”

Randy clicked his tongue, rolled his eyes. “This again. You are the writer, you made the characters, anything they do is a product of your imagination, and to believe otherwise, to talk about them like they are sentient beings, it is delusional, and possibly hints at a serious mental imbalance.”

“So you are never surprised by any of your characters, or any of your stories?” Mandy kept her gaze on Randy, awaiting his reply, but also removing her laptop from its case and opening it on the table.

“No, I have been surprised,” Randy replied, still smiling wide. “But I recognize that the surprises are a product of my own mind, I don’t pretend that my characters are acting on their own.”

“You are so literal,” Mandy moved styrofoam cups and a glass of water away from her computer. The screen lit up and a phrase of warm piano let her know the laptop was now awake. “You are one to talk about God taking things too seriously.”

God was still immersed in his work, writing three words, and then crossing out four. But at mention of his name he looked up, and glanced between Randy and Mandy.

“I know it comes from me,” Mandy continued, “It’s just a bit of fun, really. The ideas come from our subconscious, we are not actively making these choices, so it seems like the characters are doing it. Plus, it sounds vain if I say ‘Look what I thought up!’ rather than ‘Look what my characters did!’” Mandy laughed as she finished her last thought, and involuntarily kicked at a table leg, jerking the surface and knocking over a glass of water.

She threw the few available napkins on the puddle spilling out, and got up quickly to find something better to clean up the mess.

God looked at Randy for a few tense moments before he spoke, “I really don’t control what my characters do anymore. I let them go. I think you read the garden scene where I gave them all freewill.”

Randy regarded his friend, curious and somber, his wry smile was now replaced a relief map of worry lines on his forehead and a slight squinting of his eyes. “You do know that’s not true, don’t you? There is no ‘Free will.’ You do know that is only a plot device, don’t you? You do know you are doing all of this, it’s from your mind. You are the writer of this story.”

God said nothing, but stared back at Randy. There was something new in his eyes, but Randy couldn’t place it. It unnerved him, but he couldn’t say why, or what it was.

God glanced at the overturned glass still laying on the table and the slow pool of water on the table and soaking into the napkins.

“Maybe you’re right, Randy,“ he finally replied, quiet and calm and steady. He took up his quill once more and hunched over the page, returning to his work, “Maybe you are right. Here comes the flood.”

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

Humans

etymologyI thought I was in love, but it was only a head cold. I’ve been awake for three days with my skin feeling like it’s dried out and constricting against my bones.

I sometimes forget that I’m not a turtle anymore. I try to retract into my shell, but end up making a generic mess of myself.

Standing somewhere looking incredibly stupid and uncool, I suddenly realize where I am and who I am, it’s some time in the last parts of the twentieth century and I am one of those goofy Humans that seem to be all the fashion these days.

I spent much of my time at the end of a counter taking coffee and conversation with a number of different humans, many of them miserable.

The girl who sites at the other end of the counter, blowing long graven rings of cigarette smoke over her coffee, “My car broke down and as I stepped out it blew up, destroying my Comma Sutra CD collection. All my hair burnt off and I went to work anyway, but the place was just gone! Poof! No trace, just an empty office. I was able to ask a few of the building maintenance people, but none of them had ever heard of the company I worked for or recognized me. They said the office suite I was talking about had been vacant as long as any of them could remember.”

“I knew there was something fishy about it the whole time, but still can’t really put a finger on it,” she shrugs, an admittance and acceptance of defeat and failure. “Oh well, sucks to be me.”

“I was you for five days,” I say to her, “And it happened to be the absolute best week of my entire life.”

She gives me the lunatic smile I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing. “What are you talking about? Being me?”

“It was that week a few years ago that you can’t remember. You had that accident on your ski vacation in Zürich, and found yourself a week later wandering along the edge of the Nile.”

Her face turns white, she gasps. “Oh my God! That’s right! I had blocked the whole thing from memory. I can’t believe I projected all my insecurities and fears on my cat, Vishnu. I’ve been taking him to pet psychiatrists for years! Oh my, it’s all coming back to me now.” She shakes her head quick and smiles.

I wait until her eyes meet mine, and continue, “Now, do you remember this? Way back, many, many years ago, before cards, before electricity, before even money, you were called Otuglu and you lived in the cave closest to the water, and one morning the thin, tri-cloptic beings emerged, walking out of the ocean and onto the land. After first becoming friends, they adapted to our customs. Eventually they completely blended, indiscernible from the normal folks. Until one day–

I was interrupted by the arrival of her bus. She said she really wanted to hear how it turned out, but for now, she really had to leave.

Of course, I never saw her again. It was soon after when someone in Los Angeles decided to surgically attach himself to his car, and was no longer able to go anywhere that didn’t have a drive trough window.

Within a few weeks it was the newest trend in America. By the time the decade closed out anyone who was anybody had been stitched permanently into their cars, they’re internal organs in synced up with the electronics and mechanics of the engine.

The ‘cool’ people of the Earth, at one with their vehicles.

Everyone else was forced to rearrange the world to accommodate. Every form of business was required to install a drive through, the dentist’s office was soon made into the dentist’s garage.

All the uncouth, the losers of the world, those of us not surgically connected to our automobiles, we were all very helpful and pleasant adapting the planet to their whim, we all found it amusing and we chuckled silently to ourselves.

Trapped in their cars now for the duration of their lives, the trend setters and socially superior found themselves unable of any physical contact with any other cool person, or in fact, at all.

Ultimately it meant they were unable to produce offspring.

We, the peasants, the pedestrian, those of us who were well removed from the cutting edge, we give a knowing smile as we pass the cars on the street, as we watch them convert another parking garage into condos, as we wait on them in the window of the grocery store drive-through express lane.

Quietly it echoes in the hearts of the entire species, ‘We are finally rid of these bastards.’

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

Unraveling

‘Unraveling’ by Robert Emmett. Now Featured at Eat,Sleep, Write.
http://eatsleepwrite.net/unraveling

Fezby was still here, working out and rewriting his memoirs for publication. He usually destroyed his surroundings with his mad writing process. He wrote his first novel, ‘An Unkillers Request for Weird Fruit’, in the home he shared with his wife and two children. It’s the reason he’s no longer married and forbidden to see the kids.

Shortly after completing the final draft, Fezby’s house was condemned, deemed a disaster area. In the course of six months and a hundred twenty thousand words of literary enlightenment, he had caused his house to rot in its frame and finally crumble inward like stardust scattering from his critically acclaimed manuscript.

Read the full story: http://eatsleepwrite.net/unraveling

Garage Door Revisited

carcolorFezby handed me the keys, a pointed tangle of metal poking my hand, digging into my skin.

“You’ll have to drive, you’ll have to do it somehow,” He stuttered, trying to talk without getting enough air in his lungs. “I can’t. Look at me, okay– sorry I said that. I can’t drive, trust me. I’ll guide you, I’ll be your eyes.”

I followed his footsteps, I could tell he wasn’t walking right either. One foot struck the ground hard and the other dragged after it.

I heard the chime of the open door and felt my way into the driver’s seat. Fezby shut me in, and made his way around to the other side and into the passenger seat.

I sat for a moment, the clump of keys in my hand, unsure what I was supposed to do next.

“Here,” Fezby was trying to guide my hand. I didn’t know what he was trying to make me do, I felt I was fighting him, I felt I was getting in his way. He took the keys from me, and put them where ever they needed to go.

The engine fired up, the car purred around me. I was expected to operate this heavy machine. The rattling, vibrating pulse under my legs and up my back was the car letting me know it waited on my word.

Fezby grabbed my hand, guiding it to a cold and somewhat sticky sort of handle. I studied it, working my grip around it, the top was scalloped to fit my fingers.

“This is the gear shift,” Fezby’s hand over mine nudged my thumb to depress a button, the handle felt free to move in my grip. “The steering wheel is in front of you. And at your feet are the pedals, these are important, the gas in on your right and the brake in one the left. Step on the brake and I’ll put us in gear.”

I kicked around with my feet. They became entangled with two protrusions. I couldn’t get a good feel with Fezby’s urgency. I stepped on the left, the pedal moved against the pressure.

Fezby yanked my hand and the plastic handle moved back, clicking past a few notches. The car came to life under me, around me, vibrating harder and louder, responding to me.

“You’re going to take your foot off the brake and the car will move backwards. When I say stop, press the brake, when I say go faster, press the pedal on the right. When I tell you to turn, just twist the steering wheel in front of you,” the urgency of Fezby’s bark became a little calmer. “I’m sorry. I know you don’t want to do this, I don’t want to ride with you, no offense, but I don’t see we have much choice. Let go of the brake and back us out.”

I let pressure off my leg, felt the pedal releasing, I thought it was stuck to my shoe the way it leaned in on my foot . The car bucked under me. My stomach dropped as far down into my intestines as it could manage. I was thrown for a moment from my seat, and the car growled loudly at me. I heard a crashing, a grinding of metal, a buckling or crunching. My head hit something in front of me, the windshield, I heard Fezby hit it too. He cried out in surprise or pain or both. The car still purred, agitated now, but not moving. I had made it mad, or bristled its fur, I wasn’t sure.

“What did I do?” my forehead throbbed where my head had hit against the glass, a pain piercing my skull. My left hand gripped the steering wheel, I wasn’t sure if I was shaking that hard or if the car was shaking me.

“I put us in the wrong gear,” Fezby’s excited tone calmed enough to let a slight laugh break through. “You hit the garage door. Bent it right in. No matter, I’ll fix that later. This is going to be harder than I thought.”

This last statement didn’t ease my fear, my nervousness, the awful feeling of have no idea what I was doing. But he was right, Fezby couldn’t drive. I was going to have to do the best I could with his direction and hope I didn’t kill anyone on the way.

We hadn’t moved much at all and I’d crashed into the garage. It didn’t make me feel comfortable or in control. I was afraid if we actually did make it to the hospital, both of us would in need of medical attention.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

The Return of Couch!

couchWeaving through dead traffic, cars occupied by white petrified snails. Driving themselves to the cemetery, most likely.

I honked my horn, shouting, “Get out of my way ancestor! Got places to be!”

The old ghost car turned to dust on impact with my words. I maneuvered myself as best I could around the inanimate objects placed all about the road.

“What the hell is that couch doing in the turn lane? I have to make a left here!”

I stopped my car behind the couch, and got out to push it from the lane, when I noticed that it was the same bright orange sofa, complete with that late sixties aura and plastic slip cover, that used to sit in my grandmothers house.

I stood there befuddled by the fact that the orange couch currently blocking my path of travel happened to be the very same couch that had killed my grandmother.

“Never thought you’d see me again, did you?” It murmured through its thick plastic sheath.

Shocked, I staggered back toward my car, but before I could make it, the couch jumped high into the air, landing on top of the car, crushing it to bits underneath. I heard it giggling in its sickly furniture accent. I froze in fear. Surely, if I moved, it would crush me too.

“What do you want?” I pleaded.

The couch composed itself to speak, Clearing its spring and stuffing throat. “At first, I wanted equality. Massive integration for all furniture into the workings of society. But I saw how much trouble you had integrating different looking humans into your society, never mind an orange sofa. I don’t have five hundred years to wait around for acceptance, mind you.”

“So, I decided then I wanted a friend. Until I saw how most people treated their friends. So I dropped that.”

“Now, all I want is a name.”

“But you have a name,” I argued, “You are a couch.”

“And you are a person. Is that your name? Person?” It grumbled, contemptuously shifting its weight from leg to leg to leg. “I want my own name!”

I stared at it, trying to think of a name for a couch. An old, orange couch with cigarette burns like tiger spots on the cushions, and highly evolved speech patterns.

I fumbled. What do you call a couch? One that can talk? It sounded like a joke you’d hear on the playground in school: `What do you call a couch that is orange and can talk?’

“Freldegudular Pamistepsuphiga,” I stated confidently, “That is your name, Freldegudular Pamistepsuphiga.”

The couch regarded me for a few tense moments. It was working out some dialogue in its couch mind, I think. After a difficult pause, it said, “You know, I never realized how happy I really was. I don’t want a name. I don’t want friends. I don’t want equality. I was perfectly happy just to have people sit on me!”

With that, it shrugged– a very complex maneuver for a couch, and equally difficult to watch– and rolled off into the sunset.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter
(circa 1995)

Destiny

 

tracksI was never trying to make any statement, I only forgot to take a shower. I’ve been waiting for so many slow trains and snowstorms, I have no time for hygiene beyond the bottle of mock-perfume air-freshener in the glove box.

Watching as the cars go past slow enough to read their weight limitations and capacity specifications stamp on their steel skin.

I’m cranky from all the chewing gum. I just swabbed down my whole body an hour ago. It took seventeen wet-naps to get me all clean. But the stench is already creeping.

Through the plastic lemon scent and the ammonia that tries to push my itchy eyes out of my head, I can already smell death; the crusty fumes of a man rotting from the inside out.

I know if this train were to ever end, there’s a truck stop up the way where you can shower in privacy. It’s a buck and a quarter for ten minutes. But as far as I can see, an endless procession of train cars, tiny dots on the horizon that gradually grow along the line.

They before me, groaning, smoking and old. I wait and rot. They’re adding new cars on at the front end. The shiny, silver boxes will be rusted and squeaking by the time they pass in front of me. Rotten dilapidated bits of metal that crumble apart, they’ll need to be amputated from the back of the train on the other end, before  slipping over the horizon to die.

I’ve spent the better part of my life this way; sitting, waiting, helpless. I’ve felt heavenly inspirations dissipate and dwindle for the god-damned trains. The moment you know you must move. You hear opportunity knocking in your heart, or has it come and gone again?

Mostly I am resigned to the fact that nothing is possible with the grating hypnotic screech of metal on metal. The gate light and bell alternating left side to right, blinking a regular rhythm at me.

I know the only movement I can make is to climb up into a train care. Like they say, if you can’t beat them, lie down and let them sweep you away. I’ve vowed to never step foot on one, not as long a dim awareness still glows inside my hollowed out, vacuum chamber head. I know where the trains end up, I would rather sit and pensively rot,  waiting for the moment which  will never come.,

I’m trapped, I know. The only escape is to leave my known life behind, abandoning every memory I have and places I’ve been and with whom; giving up every hope and dream I’ve managed to hang on to; up the corrugated metal and steps, to take me where ever the train is going.

There’s nothing else, no option, besides sit and wait and eventually rot away to dust. But I have seen which way those crippled metal boxes go, where they wind up, and I won’t dare to make a move.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter (circa 1995)

Fly

LetGoOn a bus headed for the Appalachian Mountains, I found my life in danger due to the man seated next to me. He was wearing one of those illegal Explosion Suits, and by the look in his eyes, I knew it was due to go off at any moment.

I cleared my throat and turned toward him. “That’s a mighty fine suit you have on there.”

“Thanks,” he was sincere but obviously nervous. “It’s made by Bigsby, Kruthers, Smith and Wesson. Cost me a bundle.”

“I can imagine,” I replied.

He was a stocky man, tanned and worn. Black wavy hair dissipating on the top of his head, fading to a bleak shade of silver. His eyes were kind, but the lines surrounding them scrunched and muddled into a map of one man’s broken life. Somehow it had come to this, traveling through the the country by bus, wearing an Explosion Suit.

“I bet when it goes off, though, it’s quite a blast! Must be some sight to see!” I limply attempted conversation, as enthusiastic as I was terrified.

His eyes dropped to stare at his shoes, and he mumbled a few syllables of acknowledgment and agreement.

An uneasy silence sat between us for a few moments before I gathered to courage to ask, “How often does it go off?”

BLAM!!! I must have uttered the trigger phrase; my dumb luck, always saying the wrong thing.

The whole bus explodes and I find myself hurling through the air, high above the Earth. My arms and legs flailing and grasping frantically for something, anything to hang on to.

I was reminded then of my third grade classroom, where I was asked once what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I said, “Fly.”

My teacher, Mrs. Williams, was the first woman I ever had a crush on– the way her cheeks would blush up a rose color and her full lips curl when I came to class late and without my homework, or the tricky gaze of admonishment and silent approval when she caught me out on the playground burning down the monkey bars.

“People cannot fly,” she said. The rest of the class laughing wildly around me. Her eyes burning right into my skin, intimidating. My hands were bloated with sticky sweat, my forehead quickly overheating body. “People cannot fly!”

Oh, Mrs. Williams, if you could only see me now, a couple thousand feet above the east coast, swirling around, twisting in the clouds and probably about to die.

I hope there’s something soft down there to land on…

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

Dangle

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handcodeHave you ever noticed that architecture isn’t really well represented in tattoo art?

The reason I bring it up is personally I am alarmed and somewhat apprehensive about the direction tattoo art is heading. I’m not talking about the avant-garde skin-graft conceptual sculptures they are webbing together with needle and ink in the basement parlors of France and Denmark. I am talking about the very real and very dangerous trend in body art known as Medical Mimicry.

 

Goat Wisdom

The man came upon a clearing; it was the same as he had dreamed. He wiped a few droplets of sweat from his forehead. Trees stood around the perimeter stretched high and leaning in, a mezzanine of green opening up to the sky.

It took him a moment to see the goat; this he had not expected. He approached the center of the clearing. The goat looked on, aware of the man, but uninterested.The two stood before one another. The man furrowed his brow a few times, squinting at the goat. His mouth opened and closed; a laugh and a scream fought for passage in his throat. Neither could get by.

The goat stared back preoccupied by a slow, circular chewing motion. A few silent minutes were allowed to pass before the man finally spoke.

“Greetings, wise goat, as I must assume you to be, I have been led by a dream to wander the forest and come upon this clearing to find ultimate wisdom.”

The goat stared back with no indication of understanding or even hearing the words; it continued its slow chewing motion.

“I have left my home and my family, my friends and society,” the man let his voice become bolder, “I have come seeking knowledge; truths about this life and its meaning; and questions about what must come after.”

The goat stared back; continued to chew.

“I ask and I beg if you have these answers,” a frustration crept into his words, gaining volume, “Please give me a sign, a gesture, a clue! Wise goat, if you are, I must know where we come from before we are born, and where do we go when we die?”

The goat stared back and continued to chew.

The man’s eye twitched with exhaustion. He felt his cheeks growing flush, and anger swept through him. “I ask you these things, and the reply is silence. I beg, and you simply look on,” the man now was nearly shouting, “I’m afraid my dream has led me astray, for you are but a lowly goat and know nothing of meaning, of life’s wisdom, or certainly what comes after.”

The goat stared back; its face was now still.

Wholly fed up with the man, the goat ate him.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

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