Die, Mug, Silence

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The waitress eyed his mug like a Black Friday shopper eyeing the father who just grabbed the last Tickle-Me-Elmo. His knuckles white from keeping a tight grip through the handle around the sphere of the terracotta cup. His eyes glancing at the waitress and back at the coffee, half full and still steaming in his hand. The waitresses grip on the coffee pot equally as tight, a white band appearing where her choke hold on the handle, pressed against her wedding band and drained the blood around that finger.

He watched as she delivered a plate of egg whites to an older man two tables away. Then she walked over to his table.

“How is everything?” her question a distraction to her real intention. A rope-a-dope as her coffee pot hand darted forward across the table toward his mug.

“Everything is great, thank you.” He said, taking a sip from his coffee and bringing closer to his being, away from the hovering mother ship of coffee.

“Great, I’ll be back to check on you.” She wavered eyeing the mug, her hand beginning to shake from the extension of the nearly full pot in her hand. The moment passed and she retreated, moving on to the next table, where their mugs were exposed, and she filled to the brim each one with steaming coffee.

His mind was quiet. Eating alone, he’d become accustomed to the silence in his immediate vicinity. The conversations and cacophony of forks, knives and cups clattering spilled over into his space, but that was to be expected.

The waitress stopped at the coffee maker and began reloading her pot. She glanced back at his table; the mug still locked in his hand. She nearly spilled the coffee but there was more than enough in the chamber to cock back and fire more coffee into his cup, no matter how full it may have been.

She walked straight back to his table. “Refill?” The pot hovering inches from his mug-holding hand.

“No thank you,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” She insisted, pushing the pot closer to him until they nearly made a toast.

“Yes, I’m quite satisfied with the amount I have, one cup is enough.”

“Well, refills are free, sir, don’t be shy.” She was on the attack. He still stayed on the polite defense.

“That’s a great policy but I think I’ll have had my fill with just this one cup, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be back to make sure.” She fired back. This shot wiped out his front line and civility became the casualty.

“Ma’am, no need to come back. I only want one cup of coffee.” The smile on his face turned a few degrees to a thin line.

“Okay, we’ll I’ll be back in a few minutes to make sure. People change their minds.” She threatened to leave but her smile faded, and she stayed, her arm shaking from holding the full pot out in front of her.

“Do not come back. I have finished my meal and once I finish this very cup of coffee, this single cup of coffee, I will pay my bill and leave. Should you continue insisting, I will be forced to leave only a 10% gratuity.”

“Sir, are you not happy with our service?” Her brow furrowed and the line became a frown. His brow furrowed and the thin line became a frown.

“Your service is excellent, perhaps a bit too much. It could be said that there is too much service. And if there should be too much of something, it is still inadequate.”

“I will refill that mug.” She pushed the pot against his mug, threatening to tilt its spout into his mug.

“You will not.” He pulled the mug away.

“I will provide this service as per our policy.”

“Policy be damned, I would rather die than accept your refill.”

Strap, Navy, Onion

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Wiping away the tears under an orange sky. A peach-orange hue mixed with fog, chemicals and city lights. The knife pushed into the onions sending up its own natural recipe of tear gas. One wrinkled hand picked up the cutting board and another used the knife to slide the chopped pieces into a pot.

Sizzling and hissing, the onions surrendered with a delicious smell.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. The hands dropped the knife. The ships guns were starting their one-way messages. Boom. Boom. Boom. This time more distant, another ship in the fleet reiterating the firsts statement.

Picking up a potato, the hands deftly maneuvered the root vegetable into little starch squares. After each one, the hands picked up the cutting board and slid the pieces into the pot, adding to the onions smell.

After the potatoes came the carrots. The hands cut little circles, roughly the size of the squares and dropped them into the pot. Halfway through, a message from the enemy came through and rocked the ship back and forth. The hands dropped everything and grabbed a leather strap fastened to a steal handle on the kitchen wall.

The hands and strap swayed with the movement of the ship, both attempting to stay upright. It was only water that had been disturbed but the waves let the ship know it wasn’t pleased. The hands grabbed at the knife and carrot, now working slower, a little shakier.

A bead of sweat dropped onto the cutting board, a reminder. The hands grabbed a shaker of salt and sprinkled it into the pot.

Another message was sent from the enemy on shore, this time a BOOM. The ship’s lights turned red and the hands, fumbling for the strap, found themselves grasping for something as they slid on the floor, back and forth. Steadier, the hands pushed of the ground and shaking, attempted to pick up the knife. Realization. The knife set down, the hands grabbed the salt and a wooden spoon, stirring in salt with the other vegetables.

One hand fumbled for something inside a shirt. A necklace made of wooden beads all cascading down on a fishing line that ended in a lower case “t”. The other hand wiped sweat from a brow and scratched a temple.

“Who had cooked the last supper? Were they aware of the impending doom forecasted for later that evening? Were their signs?”

The pot steamed and the hands relaxed, back to their work.

Twin, Undertake, Continental

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I weaved my way through jumping, sweaty people. Lights of all colors illuminating the room in a series of flashbulb photographs. My mind filling in the gaps where empty spaces had appeared a millisecond before. I touched my ear and in a flash of blue light saw some liquid on my hand, blood. The thudding continued. The sweat was making the hair on the back of my head stick to my neck at every swivel. Where was the bathroom?

I couldn’t know when this acid and bile was going to erupt from my stomach, but a mission to the find the bathroom was what I had to undertake.

To my right, a lizard tongue flickered from the scaly snout of a human sized reptile. No. I looked again. It was gone. I could see the sign with the naked human signifying my vomit sanctuary. The other wore a triangle.

The DJ booth was right in front of me, blocking the quickest route. I turned left. Something licked my right ear. I looked. A yellow eye blinked and the head in which it was housed pulled back its forked tongue.

The bathroom was right around a speaker, I grabbed the back of the speaker and propelled myself forward, through the swinging door of the bathroom. Straight through the swinging door of the first stall. The sides of the bowl caked in dried shit and the pieces of half-digested food of others. Grabbing the bowl of the toilet, my mouth opened and sprayed its own contents into what I realized was the mouth of some sort of lizard. Its tongue lapping at my sick.

Twins? That was my first thought. Not ‘what the fuck?’ or ‘is this really happening?’ My first thought, looking back was relatively rationale and progressive. Was this lizard a twin or a triplet? Not even, how the fuck was this huge lizard coming through the small toilet? I might as well have thought ‘from which part of the continental United States does this lizard hail?’ Jesus.

I pulled my head back and in that blur of a second, I was looking up at the stall door, the ceiling and lapping up sick from a familiar head opening its human mouth back at me. The lizard was gone but now I was looking out from the toilet.

A roar pierced through the thudding of the music. Water rushed all around my head and I began to spin. Faster. Faster. Faster until everything in view blended into shapes and colors. The shapes disappeared and all I could see was black.

The thudding crept back into my ear drums. A thousand little drummer boys in each ear banging to the same beat. I looked up and through the color tinted photographs saw the whole dance floor, the DJ booth, the bar and the signs for the bathroom at the other end of the room.

“Yo, are you alright?” a voice yelled in my ear. I looked up, it was human.

What? I said with my eyes.

“You threw up all over yourself.” The human yelled back.

I wiped at my chin, feeling wet from my beard. The table covered in yellow, bits of hotdog, and red ketchup. At least I hope it was ketchup.

Just a trip, that’s all. I leaned my head back and relaxed. It was over. Then I flicked out my tongue, cloven at the end, and lapped up the vomit.

Offspring, Forward, Tin

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was a simple bike. A red one with a single gear. She loved it. With the exception of a few flat tires, the bike never gave her problems. Not like her previous cycles with their rows of teeth continually biting into the chain and causing it to slip with every hill climb, slope or flat. The red bike simply went, not backward, always in the same direction.

When her mind wandered, she would allow the bike and her legs to carry her body wandering as well. When she felt the pressures of all that is external tightening her body, she would let the curves, slopes and speed of a ride loosen her up. When her heart ached, the two wheels and single frame were as sturdy a companion as any. Though at times she did feel, out of want and not necessity, that a companion would be nice.

She thought about someone with whom she could share her joys, fears, triumphs and failures. Not out of necessity but simply of want, a desire not to be lonely. Perhaps even one day to share the lessons the two of them would learn about their joys, fears, triumphs and failures with little versions of themselves. To create life would be yet another adventure.

Pedaling every day for the same reason yet spurred by different emotions, she thought about her past attempts at love. As she mulled each relationship over in her mind like beads on an abacus, she considered the weight of each person she had loved or nearly loved.  The sum total of which lead her to a question, are there any good men left?

Climbing up a hill, she leaned off the seat and pedaled with her head down. Some of those men had been thieves, stealing her time, attention and love by not completely sharing themselves. Or in some cases, sharing much but not exclusively.

At the peak of the hill, she sat back down and slowed her feet. She thought of the men who had tried to stifle her, to prevent her from being herself and only being for them. Those relationships were shorter.

At the crest of the hill, she stopped pedaling and let the physics of the slope and the wheels do the work. She thought of one more lover and friend. He was none of those things yet he could not take care of himself.

She coasted into her driveway and into the garage. Perhaps someday, he would be ready to come home. Until then, she would protect her heart, protected by dented tin, nevertheless protected.

Is Jesus coming before the Police?

A short piece written about a loved one’s suicide attempt. 2003.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“Is jesus going to come before the police do?” a stampede of swine grunting, squealing and snorting away from the long splinter-scarred finger of gods only child run whole-heartedly off the edge of a cliff. The creator of everything Ferrero Rocher and pneumonia, sits behind the belt-buckle tightened around Orion’s waist. The long wrinkled finger of a guilt infected old man leads a boys gullible gaze to the twinkling stars, winking and nudging the darkness. One finger towards god but four curled back to underline the butt of his cosmic joke. A shitty Korean car idles in a closed garage. A special snorkel from exhaust to cracked window helps the old man understand the punchline. The swine fall through the roof before the chicken can get to the other side. The stars wink and nudge the darkness. “Is jesus going to come before the police do?”

Birth and Illness as a Child

A short piece written in 2009.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Images of incubators, IV drips, tubes and a wrist band. Memories conjured up by repetitive whispering echoes. Stories on repeat for the benefit of the teller. Any deviation from the script might yield a moment of truth. The voices chant visions of a baby with chicken pox, red bumps, itching and bloody. Collective sighs of relief ease out of the peanut gallery. The boy is catching the right diseases at the right time. Praise god, thank you father and continue to bless us. A telling symptom for the diseases of the soul, an unquestioning heart and a reluctance to embrace the shit. While the doctors poke and prod, the peanut gallery; the gloria-inexchelsis-deo-gawkers destroy their knee caps and hold sweaty palms together. Oh what a friend we have in jesus. Indeed, while the doctor stabilizes gods little pin cushion, grabs a cup of coffee and announces to the gawkers as they rise from their diligence, “the babe will be fine.” The doctor takes a bow. The peanut gallery once again takes a knee and as they look up to god, the angels hook the doctor by the neck and pull him off stage. The illusion practically flawless; as solid as a slice of Swiss cheese.