I'm creating a space where most of the tendrils of my virtual presence will be assembled for dastardly long-range planning and eventual world domination. And movies and words and pictures of stuff. And swearing.
IF is still available at the wordpress location (as are all the others, if you have the roadside map that was available after a short print run).
These short stories were written in 2010 and 2011 on the IF blog as part of a group "Zombie Walk" of posts across a number of blogs.
Anyone makes fun of my awesome video and they get a boot to the head!
I woke up in pain. All over. It had been a very rough night. My brain felt too big for my skull. There were nails driving at my temples and my eyeballs felt like they might pop. Basically, your typical Sunday morning.
I had drunk more than usual. I drink more than most people. So for me, drinking more than usual is the type of thing you need a full-function calculator and a working knowledge of higher math to tabulate.
I had the type of evening that lasted from daylight to daylight. It felt like afternoon now, but I couldn’t be sure. The loft’s harsh overhead lights were blazing. I was sprawled out on the couch fully clothed.
The light hurt my eyes terribly. I screwed them shut and buried my head into the back of the couch. Down between the cushions. It smelled rank, but I couldn't be bothered to care just now.
A horrid heartburn sensation woke me. My stomach gurgled uneasily. Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to disgorge the contents of my stomach simply from some funky aroma buried in the recesses of the sofa. No, that would be too easy. That would provide too much relief from the wrenching feeling in my gut and the bubble of acid that had formed up under my chest.
I had a vague recollection of eating very late in the evening. We had ended up in the back of the swank new BBQ joint with the hostess. She was raving about the meat.
It wasn’t even real. It was some lab created substitute. Something she had called a “humanely produced organic biomass.” This restaurant was going to be the very first to offer it in the city.
It smelled worse than the dark soul of this sofa. Not rancid exactly, more like an old, wet, stank leather boot. Elements of foot odor, cow sweat, dirt and burnt rubber. It looked like a child’s plush version of a steak.
I had eaten a “raw” cut. She had assured me that it would be fine. That the term “raw” didn’t even apply. The young, exotic-looking, dark-haired woman had rattled off some science-y mumbo jumbo that she clearly didn’t understand. As such, she could hardly impart anything meaningful to anyone else…even if I had any affinity for chemistry or biology, which I don’t.
It didn’t matter. I would have eaten it regardless of what was said. Whatever that “steak” looked or smelled like. In my inebriated condition, I thought it would grease the wheels with the hostess. I didn’t want to argue with her. I didn’t want to spoil any chance I had to get closer to her straight, silky hair and her dusky, dark skin.
It didn’t work. I don’t really recall what transpired after our illicit taste test. More drinking and a little good-natured carousing, I’m sure. However, I woke up alone. That was not in dispute.
At this point, I didn’t give a fuck. My world was tilted, I had sore spots that ached and aches that were sore. I would have paid money to have my head removed, just to have it stop pounding.
There was something else. An irritating itch.
I reached down to my stomach to scratch. To find some measure of relief amidst all this agony. I felt the tiny bumps all over my stomach. Some kind of rash or allergic reaction, was my first thought.
I rolled over on the couch and lifted my shirt. My stomach looked slightly distended. My abdomen was reddened and sore to the touch. Worse, there were a number of small dark bumps in the area around my navel.
I rose from the couch in a mild panic. Thoughts of a sexually transmitted disease received from a conquest I didn’t even recall racing through my brain.
Such sudden movement drove a spike through my skull. After a pause to collect myself, I came to my senses. This was something else. I was being irrational and foolish. Liquor addled thinking wildly careening off the tracks.
I went into the bathroom and turned on the blinding lights above the mirror. The pustules were small, like pimples, with a whitish center. Like a cyst or an abscess. Looking all the world like ingrown hairs. I thought it likely that I had come in contact with something. A poison ivy; or perhaps some kind of chemical.
I couldn’t resist squeezing one. An opaque discharge oozed out before a thin, black hair protruded just the tiniest bit from the center. Something between curiosity and compulsion took hold of me.
I pulled open the drawer to my right and grabbed my tweezers. With two fingers pinching the cyst-like, darkened node, I tweezed the hair in its center and yanked.
It hurt like a motherfucker. A quick, sharp, electric jolt with an accompanying burning sensation that I felt to my core. Like the hair was rooted somewhere far deeper than it should have been. I managed to pull the thin hair a mere few centimeters out, but the pain was unbearable.
My head throbbed. I felt like puking. I couldn’t focus my eyes on the task for very long without glossing over. I felt a bone-deep ache and the desire to pass out. To slump onto the tile floor and forget about it.
I heard the tweezers clink on the floor at my feet before I even realized I had lost hold of them. I looked down at the hair that I had just released. It undulated slightly. Then it slithered its way back out of sight. Back into my abdomen.
I vomited in the sink.
What splattered into the sink caused overwhelming panic. Amid a pile of half-gnawed, sponge-like, ruby red organic material were hundreds of tiny, wire-thin, wriggling…things.
I sit here often during the lunch rush. I am never actually in a rush. I like to watch people going about their business and look at the boats in the harbor while sitting on a bench. Sometimes I might grab a bite. From the deli I pass on the drive over to the park or something quick from the grocery. On rare occasions, a fat, bacon cheeseburger or loaded hotdog from the dive hot dog joint a few blocks over. Often, though, I just sit with a notebook and a camera. Capturing fleeting moments on film, or the digital equivalent, and on paper. I still opt for ink and paper. Thoughts and scenes - musings about everything and anything that caught my fancy. Forcing myself to slow down for a brief time. To really, truly think and see the world around me.
I heard her before I saw her. An angry, miffed sort of growl. The kind of exasperated sound we've all made. Pure and unfettered. An emotion made audible. Released almost completely unconsciously. It rang in my ears above the rest of the afternoon ruckus. Feminine, but strong and almost guttural. Like a distant thunder heard over the jingling of wind chimes.
I looked behind me to see a youngish woman fussing determinedly, yet unsuccessfully, with a bicycle lock. She was hunkered down in front of a sunshine yellow cruiser bike. The kind that mimicked the style of older machines, but was bright and polished and relatively new. Gleaming chrome and thick, white-walled tires.
Her dirty-blonde hair tumbled in a sweaty, tangled mess all around her shoulders and down her back, half hiding the logo of some obscure local shop on the back of her saturated T-shirt. I was staring at it in fascination, trying to read the address through her curly mop. Listening to a torrent of inventive cuss words issue from her as she continued to fiddle with that lock.
I was caught off guard when her head jerked up and swiveled in my direction. There was a glint in her smoldering, smoky-grey eyes. I didn't look away. Couldn't look away.
That split second had passed when politeness dictates strangers do not stare, and I hadn't stopped peering directly into those eyes. I didn’t turn my head away quickly. I did not feign disinterest.
She returned my gaze defiantly.
"What the fuck are you staring at?"
I laughed; caught dead to rights. Musing over the mundane hassles of some stranger, I responded with the only words which came to mind...the truth.
"I was staring at you."
She stood up, flipping her hair back out of her face with the quick swipe of a hand. Five foot seven or eight, not quite as tall as I, she was a luxurious, full-bodied woman. Maybe in her early thirties, but difficult to tell. Though sweat-dampened and dirt-smudged, her face had an unmistakable glow. Flushed from exertion and showing a rare intensity.
The girl stood with a hand on her jeans-covered hip, just a flash of white skin visible where her powder blue T-shirt had inched up over the curve of her waist. I was suddenly aware that she was now staring at me.
" I would offer you some help, but somehow I think you can manage. Besides, I'm really enjoying your masterful use of the F word."
Her reply was quick and sharp. "I could direct a few choice words your way if it'll make you happy, buster!”
I was grinning now. Enjoying the strange and unexpected interaction. "It just might."
She laughed and her posture relaxed. It was the most wonderful laugh. Sweet and lilting, with a devilish finish. It was full-bodied and relaxed. I fell into it; I was enchanted.
"Oooh! What kinda camera you got there?" she suddenly blurted.
So began our first conversation.
It wasn't a flash of brilliance. No brilliant lightning strike. It didn't happen in an instant. What occurred was more akin to a spring storm. It came suddenly, before you could run for shelter. Despite its leisurely passage overhead, you didn’t care that were getting wet. It was comfortable and made you want to look up and face it.
And just as quickly, the storm will end. But everything has changed. The atmosphere has become fresh and the world feels renewed.
This woman was trouble...and I didn't care one tiny bit. I was already all in.
[A bit of flash fiction for today based on the prompt "You don't scare me," as given at Writing.com]
I say it, but I don’t believe it; not really. I just hope it sounds convincing. I’m not sure it matters, but it might.
The thing in my closet never reacts. Still, I know It hears me. I know that It watches.
So I try to sound confident. Angry, even. I try to walk slowly across the plush carpet, past the closet door and over to my bed.
It doesn’t make any noise. It doesn’t move. Nevertheless, I can see the shadow through the gap in the closet door, left carelessly ajar this morning.
If I don’t act bravely and tell It that I am not afraid, It will come for me. That’s what my brother told me. He’s older. He knows about these things. After all, It never came for him.
I look down, concentrating on the feel of the beige carpet between my toes, making each stride purposeful. Mimicking how I see soldiers marching in the movies I’m not supposed to watch. Head erect, shoulders back. Strong and courageous.
I think my voice cracked just a bit as I said the words this time, “You don’t scare me!”
I strode forward a little less confident than usual, hoping It didn’t notice. If It hadn’t come before, It surely could be fooled. I said the words and I walked the walk, but I was pretending. Acting, because It did scare me.
Then I heard the shuffling. The door creaked slightly. I’m sure of it. I didn’t dare look back. What if It was coming this time?
Without another thought, I bolted toward the bed and dove onto it, pulling the covers up over my head in a panic. My heart beat a million miles a minute, but I was safe now.
Wasn’t I? For one more night at least.
What does a restaurant owner do on his very first evening in his new, old Italian joint? When the fanfare and fun fade away?
He delivers pizza.
The daily, dirty work waits for noone.
So began my adventure as a restauranteur.
You would think delivering one pizza wouldn't result in much drama. How hard can being a delivery driver be? This is a question I wish the fates had never given me the answer to.
I may have a Master's Degree, a fair amount of worldly experience and enough common sense to call it uncommon, but I was woefully ill-equipped for such an endeavour.
I was (and still am) challenged when it comes to street names in my own city. I did not yet own a GPS system (something I would rectify in short order). My cellular phone at the time was not-quite-smart, though it had some map functionality.
I was, in short, lost before I even started. However, I felt like I could manage. I'm resourceful. I would take a look at the map on the wall, which would give me enough to work with, and hope for the best. Besides, I could always call either the restaurant or the customer if things went sideways.
Such optimism was greatly misplaced.
Chicago streets are laid out in a grid system. Even lost people can manage this grid. If they don't panic. However, there are a few diagonal streets. Mistake one was starting off an a diagonal.
There is also the small matter of the Chicago River. This impacts next to nobody. You might cross over a bridge, but otherwise, it is a nonfactor. Unless you need to use one of the few streets that deadend on one side of the river, only to pick back up in the same general area somewhere on the far side of the river. Mistake two was not knowing that I was heading out to just such a street.
Now, we all know that the general population is batshit crazy. Just how crazy they are was something I had never really counted on. Mistake three.
And off I went. Happy as pizza pie. Oh, how naive I was...
Stay tuned for the full, crazy account of my indoctrination into the life of a delivery driver.