Today

Today was a good day.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I blasted straight up through the clouds, punching that little grinning cherub on the 9th before rocketing past cloud 10, 11, 15, 37, 100.

I found another winning lotto ticket after losing the first in a drunken blur. Then, sober and aware, I found the first ticket, crumpled in a pocket.

I can see straight and think in any direction I choose. This morning I looked at the mirror, smiled, and realized I wasn’t staring at a stranger but looking at a friend.

I stepped out of my mind, out of my house and strangers walked up to me, asking about my shirt, my tattoos, my hat. The mask hid my smile but my crows feet must have been tap dancing around my shimmering disco ball eyes.

I have a full deck. I am kind, I am genuine, I am determined, I am empathetic, I love and want to be loved. I have bad cards too, but I’ve got a royal flush and I’m all in.

I am grateful, bowing to that mystical, cosmic energy. On my knees, not from defeat but in recognition and relief of victory.

She wore the band t-shirt I gave her before COVID cancelled the concert. I wore the band shirt she gave me the night before I wouldn’t see her for weeks after.

We met and I’m just glad I got to see her. I’m glad she got to see me. I’m glad I’m starting to see myself.

So now I look up at the stars before I go to bed and the terrors grip me, gasping in my sleep. I know I’ll wake up and have a beautiful day. And if I die before I wake, I’ll have lived a good day today.

Homophones

Exploring homophones.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Have the cents to make a fortune.
Have the sense to make a fortune.

Dwell under the air of your discontent.
Dwell under the heir of your discontent.

Explore the aisle to find your food.
Explore the isle to find your food.

Shave the hair.
Shave the hare.

Let it be.
Let it bee.

I am mail in a box.
I am male in a box.

Too much waste.
Too much waist.

It is dark in the morning.
It is dark in the mourning.

Enjoy the suite.
Enjoy the sweet.

Find your piece.
Find your peace.

I don’t know.
I don’t, no.

And my youth is…

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And my youth
is running out
and your age
is coming
to an end
and our time
together
has been
short lived.

So when my time
comes
let it be
in the embrace
of a hug,
the verge
of a smile
or
that wave of
emotion
that crashes into
a new parent
when they hold
their child
for the first time.

Let it be
in the silent scream
of a shooting star.

It’s nice sometimes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Life can be so sweet. Where I find my mind challenged by the convoluted, my heart takes in the simple.

Friends sat on concrete laughing.

Picking olives from trees with my dad.

Seeing my sister through a screen from the other side of the world.

Sleeping with the rumbling lullabies of snoring dogs.

The shared excitement with mom of new cooking utensils.

The smiles pulled up my face by memories of the blonde haired girls I still love.

Watching pre-dawn races with cousins and my aunt.

Exploring the subconscious with paint, music, dance and words.

A full throat-ed laugh with a best friend.

A bike ride.

Stretching.

Pull-ups on the carport beams.

Waving to a neighbor.

Tea before the sun comes up.

Watching coyotes cross the street.

Learning something new.

A hug, especially nowadays.

Having just vacuumed.

Filling the fridge.

Cooking.

Ice in a sphere.

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.

Of grunting and groaning

Thoughts on politics, more specifically, the September 29, 2020 presidential debate.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Like a good American I am more concerned with what I’m having for dinner, playing with my dogs, checking to see who liked that picture of me on social media and protecting my right to leave the house freely and unencumbered. I wear a mask, of course, mostly to ward of judgement, but I do it. I’ve been keeping my distance from all of you all my life, so it’s great that everyone else knows to stay 6-feet away now as well.

A presidential debate, you say? Sure, I’ll watch. I care about the future of my backyard.

So it began.

I got up in the middle of the “debate” to roll back the sliding glass door to the back yard. My dogs ran out and sniffed for their spots in the dust patch I call a yard. The English Bulldog on left and the Boston Terrier on the right.

The bulldog scooted his hind legs underneath and pushed out his rear dumping a couple mocha jumbo-sized carrots. The terrier scooted her hind legs underneath and pushed out her rear, dumping a few dark-chocolate tootsie rolls. If I get up close to either one, I can hear them grunting.

They kicked up dust and ran back into the house.

The debate went on but I had a realization: That I could not watch my dogs take shits anymore. Why should I know so much about them as to describe the length, girth and color? All I can do as their owner, is pick up the shit and keep the yard clean and free from stench. I thought about a scenario in which I would no longer need to pick up after my dogs. When (and I hope this day is long in coming) I would have to put them BOTH down. I’d never want another dog again. A big change for sure, but a different life could be found afterwards. I could manage.

The debate ended and I thought about my grunting dogs and cleaning up their shit.

Ages 12 & Up

A short piece written in 2008.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

This is the age of dissonance and divide, of fuck-you’s at school and prayers at home. The age of staring at girls. The age of exploring with fingers and untimely boners. The age of fantasizing about teachers and noticing mothers. This is the age of anger, of threatening teachers aids with a baseball bat. Of starting a reputation of unsportsmanlike conduct and hot-blooded tantrums.

Was it emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual trauma? A combination of all or any of the aforementioned? I don’t know. I hardly have any child hood memories. I feel stunted, less mature to deal with different stages of life and only until I’ve moved on to a new era or age do I feel all at once adept and inadequate all over again. Walking around pretending. An actor who highlighted the wrong parts of the script. Always wondering what it is that I am lacking and what it is so obvious to everyone but me. A theory, a specific method, a grammatical rule, a particular pronunciation, an author, a book, a piece of music or art, a historic event, an historic figure, the latest news, a cooking method, a social cue. So anxious and apprehensive about impeding my progress by misquoting, declaring a stupidity. I speak to strangers in a series or pattern of jests and facts; the language of the unconfident, the vernacular of the low-self esteemed. Sticking to things that are only true or saying things that are so over the top no one could dispute their falsehood, which is another type of truth. Steering clear of conviction or opinion or belief or individual truth. That isn’t easy. That is an un-lubricated trajectory.

What is my identity? What is my heritage? My background? My culture? I was born in the hospital of a city that was built around it. A mecca for Seventh-day Adventists wealthy enough to afford private schools but connected enough to get a discount. Long lines of last names trail the university’s history. New faces same names. A thriving enterprise in the middle of a decaying county/city. The navel-gazing institution growing to the tune of its own demand.

It’s a part of the story but not yet.

My mother was born in Spain. Emigrated to California at eighteen because she met my father. My father the son of an American soldier/missionary and a converted ex-catholic. He lived in Spain, Kenya, the pacific peninsula, and Oakland, California. From what he tells me, Oakland was tougher on him than the African wild ever was. Being the only white boy in a predominantly black school is the wrong reason to stand out. I was born the son of a teacher and a part-time hustler. My father taught Spanish, physical education and history at a small Adventist school in Redlands, California. My sister, four years younger was born the daughter of an attorney and a part-time hustler. In the time between my arrival on earth and my sisters, my father had quit teaching, moved us all to Canoga Park, Los Angeles and finished a law degree in two years.

I’m not sure how confident people are in their memories but I am not. I don’t know whether my active imagination recreated images to go along with the stories I was told so many times or if they are actual memories. In either case, none are very vivid. Foggy glimpses more than anything else. I’m also not sure if it’s my focus on the present or moving forward that makes me apprehensive about remembering things. What I do remember are emotions and lessons as they relate to this idea I have of the big picture. How things fit into the grand scheme. Exactly what or whose scheme it is, I don’t know. But I feel that I am constantly trying to zoom out, to view things from a more global perspective. When in fact I envy those who wear their hearts on their sleeves and keep the truth on the tips of their tongues.

A healthy amount of anxiety should also accompany the sudden thought of a memory. I become anxious because I have doubts that things actually happened as I remember them. And of course their are those vivid moments of drunken times that are ironically remembered. The moments of clarity that are the most clear in all the fog of the mind. Which I believe have to do with the reason why I drank. To come to terms with the way things are, to deal with life, to know that I live with a certain amount of privilege unearned brings a sharp dissonance. I do not call it guilt bit it’s a feeling of being the teacher’s pet, of being chosen first, of winning the lottery. It makes me think that god has less than pure motives for me if I am the teachers pet. But god and all the infinitesimal constructs that keep his wobbly frame standing have one fault. A fault that I will never be able to get over, even on my most optimistic days. Knowing that belief is a leap between two cliffs of knowledge or more often a leap off a cliff. The very fact that the idea of god was planted early and everything that comes with it, both good and bad are man made. Everything is man made. Our narratives put humanity at the center of the plot. Adam and Eve were to take care of the animals and the earth. But who would take care of Adam and Eve? Save for our meddling, the animals seem to be getting along fine. I will never be able to move past the thought that men continue to be confident about god. I myself can be confident about love, anger, sadness, hatred, integrity, etcetera. But what does that have to do with god? If I create my own god who is serving whom? Because I wish not to drink alcohol anymore, there are some who say that a belief in a power greater than myself is the only thing that will save me. Again if I create my god, what is saving me? And another rickety construct is born and it climbs in a jagged fashion along with the rest of the thin, beams to support an idea. An idea we call god (or whatever name) with infinitesimal foundations.

I continue to struggle with these existential thoughts but then ironically Jesus comes to mind. He was mostly about people. There are people around me all the time and when this thought crosses my mind I get disgusted with myself for staring up at the sky and ignoring what’s around me. People in my family, the people I was born to and those who are in close proximity, the people who have similarities and empathize. The people who help me and the people who need help. So I help and then I notice all the people that need help. We are everywhere. The more I help the more I realize I need help. And because I was raised to love myself as I love my neighbor I stop helping others and turn the help inwards. Some people call this selfish. They can go fuck themselves. (Which we all do anyway but because no one likes to talk about it or even recognize that it’s a normal part of life, we are offended when someone says go fuck yourself).

My interpretation of the golden rule is a good example of the constructs. Someone might hear my belief and hold a similar belief, the pastor of a mega-church may share their belief and an entire congregation will send up thousands of supports to hold up their version of the vagaries we all seem to insist upon. While I might knock down some people’s constructs, some other constructs will rise in its place, directly as a result of my cutting others down. There is no action that adds without subtracting or subtracts without adding. The idea that one is good and the other is bad is simply another part of the same vagaries we all maintain. Every person in a giant sphere. Close, but no one exactly on the same plane. Each one of us with a slightly different perspective than the person next to them. Each perspective growing more and more different until you look up and see the person directly opposite you in the sphere. You will think he is above and you below. The problem, is he may think exactly the same thing about you. So we draw lines. Lines from person to person, creating understanding. Yet this mostly fails because each line has a motive, so in reality there are two parallel lines running from person to person rather than a two way exchange, back and forth. There is instead a line for one and a line for the other: while one person shows their perspective, the other person does the same, simultaneously. Neither one paying attention to the other.

Memories

A short piece written in 2005.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I don’t have clear memories. Ask what I did yesterday and I sound like a slacking student during a pop oral exam. The ‘um’s’ and uhs start to stumble out. Luckily there is a script for moments like this, one word of dialogue, “nothing.” Which translates into nothing worth telling you about or nothing I would like to share with you. That is my answer to the question of what I did yesterday, so my childhood is a black hallway with shapes, noises and the odd flash of light on a moment. I’m not sure how other peoples memories function. Mine seems to flash on and off like hitting a flashlight with corroding batteries against my palm. But why? I’ve watched too many TV shows, films and read too many stories about children and the experiences they suppress. I’m afraid to explore for fear I may find I’ve been poked and prodded by aliens or worse, someone I know. The feeling is almost relieving. The feeling is eerily giddy, like snuggling under the covers during a storm. The feeling surrounds the thought that I may have an excuse. If what I, think is true then I’ve found my despair, the muse of all writers with lasting work and something to say. I have a reason to be miserable and pretend to enjoy other peoples company. If what I think is true then ill have a cigarette, hell ill have a black and mild and suck it back until it melts the plastic or burns the wood. Depending on who did what ever it is I think might have been done, I may have a drink. Hell, I may even go on a week-long binge because everything I know is a lie, the mirror I’ve been staring at has shattered before my eyes. If what I think happened actually happened. where do I start? Ask my mom if her only son may have been treated like a flesh-light? Will I honestly be traumatized? No doubt if such a thing is true I will be shocked if I discover who it was. However I’m not convinced that the trauma of the discovery will out-weigh my excitement about the possibilities of a reaction. Do I somehow wish that I was a kiddie who was diddled simply to justify a drink? Yes and who would blame me? Any reaction other than a drunk binge would seem strange. If I don’t remember what difference does it make to me if someone tells me its true? Reliving a memory is not the same as repeating a fact. The difference is between standing in the shallow end and thrashing in the deep end.

Is who I am the result of this possible event? My skepticism blurring with cynicism, my tight lipped nature, my apprehension at physical touch, the duality of my personality split between my family and myself. The truth is an open festering wound but with enough morphine…what’s on TV?

Orion’s Belt

A short piece written about my grandfather in 2017.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

My grandfather was a mechanic. I remember the bar of soap he used to clean off his hands. A dry bar with deep black and grey grooves. I wasn’t sure which was doing the cleaning; his hands or the bar. At the dinner table I distinctly remember how clean his hands appeared. The smell of his shirt a mixture of sweat and grease. It was a comforting smell. A smell I wanted to emit when I became a man. Before every meal I would hold hands with my grandparents while my grandpa blessed the food. After dinner he would read his bible, old and worn with nearly every page highlighted, underlined or dog-eared. His favorite book was Revelation. He always talked about Jesus coming back and taking us home. How he couldn’t wait for the day Jesus came back. How it wouldn’t be long now before Jesus came home. He pointed out all of the signs in Revelation and said how we were living in end times.

I remember the things he said. At the time they didn’t mean very much but now thinking about him they make me sad. My grandfather isn’t alive anymore but before he died in his nineties he tried to end his life in his seventies.

Entering my grandfathers garage from inside the house I was met with the heavy smell of grease mixing with my grandfathers body odor. After walking My grandfathers garage was a monument to tools and craftsmanship.

Looking back now the things I wish he would have taught me like how to change the oil in a car, change the brakes, check the fluids, take apart and re-build an engine, all of those things he always stopped when I got to his house. Instead he taught me about the bible and about Jesus. I think I’ve gotten past deconstructing everything he told me. Now I’m at the point where I am reconstructing Jesus, the bible and my cultural/religious upbringing for myself.

From what I’ve gathered, everyone, upon reaching adulthood does some relearning and reconstructing of things they were taught as children. Well this has been the most painful, slow remodel of all the constructs so far. The way life goes, the reconstructing will probably never end.

When I was four years old my grandfathers white Chevrolet station wagon broke down on the 5 interstate on our way from Oakland to Redlands, CA. I was in the back seat by myself, my grandma in the front passenger seat and my grandpa driving. I only know this because my grandma doesn’t drive. The rest of the story I’m not sure if I remember or if I’ve heard so many times that I’ve mixed it in with my memories. I’ve filled in a few details. It doesn’t matter.

The Chevy breaks down, grandpa grumbles and grunts out of the drivers seat and lifts the hood of the car. Grandma’s jet black beehive hair turns around and she smiles showing the wide gap in her front teeth. She gets out of her seat, grabs some blankets from the trunk and sits with me in the back. Grandpa walks back from using the call box and gets in the back seat on the other side. It’s a cold night and I’m snuggled between grandpa and grandma while we wait for the highway patrol to show up. We’d been waiting for a couple of hours. While we sit their Grandpa points out the stars through the sun roof.

I have a vivid memory of his finger dotting the sky, leaving tiny bright lights in ancient shapes. My grandfather did this on more than one occasion. I remember my grandpa telling me where Jesus would come from when he came back to earth.

“You see that star right in the middle of Orion’s belt? That’s where Jesus is right now. That’s where He (capital H) is going to come from to take us home. That’s where heaven is.”

Presumably where Jesus cleansed the temple, leaving many disappointed millerites and thus a new cell of religions virus split off and they called it Seventh-Day Adventism.

After my grandpa said this, they tell me that I sat their staring at the middle star in Orion’s belt . They tell me that I looked like I was thinking. Then, they tell me I said this, “Is Jesus going to come before the police do?”

They did. The police came and drove us to a motel 6. And that’s it.

At the hotel, they tell me I was so restless I jumped from bed to bed before crashing. A couple of hours later my aunt came and drove us the rest of the way home.

But when they tell me, they stop after what I said. And while they are laughing and smacking the table I think about that little kid and everything he saw after that night. Everything I remember.

11 years later, when I was 15. My grandparents now living in Redlands, a few minutes away from my house. My grandfather started his car, closed the garage, and breathed in the exhaust from a hose he pinched in the driver’s side window that ran into the exhaust pipe. He sat and waited for Jesus to come.

But again, the cops came before Jesus could. My grandma found him in the garage and dialed 911 just in time.

Then I ran. I ran from everything, including my roots in the Adventist church, a part of my culture. I denied any affiliation with Adventists and hated the fact that I knew what Nuteena and stripples were. That I knew what the blood of the lamb was supposed to mean even though I didn’t really understand it. I hated the fact that I felt guilty about listening to music that made my head bob and felt guilty about smoking and drinking. So I drank more and thought about a god that let my grandpa down. If jesus couldn’t save my devout grandfather, what chance did I have?

But I never blamed my grandpa. In fact for many years I defended him saying that suicide is taking matters into your own hands. I would tell myself that he was like Hunter S. Thompson and went out on his own terms, knowing that he always would. I was kidding myself.

I don’t know about a moral to these stories.

The questions of god, purpose and existence zip around in an infinite loop in my head. I do know this, the pedestal I built for my grandfather no longer exists but the love I feel for him is still alive. I remember giving him a hug at the behavioral medical clinic where they took him on a 5150 after his suicide attempt. He was wearing a gown, his eyes glassed over from the cup-o-pills, and his few remaining hairs tousled. he gave me a dopey smile and a big hug.

I experienced my own great disappointment and it was my grandpa that disappointed me. He clung to the church like a lush grips their liquor. And now he’s a husk of what I remember. If spirituality is the ocean and religion is the vessel my grandfather never learned how to swim. And when the storms came, the foundation he clung to didn’t hold up. The great disappointment wasn’t a singular event, my grandpa relives it every single day.

Parental Advice Versus the advertising industry

A short piece written in 2011.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Advice. The combination of advertisements and vice. The persuasion of vice on the platforms of advertisements. Blond, full-lipped women felating glass bottles of fizzy brown sugar water. A smooth skin-chiseled man with Greek statue muscles grips a hamburger between perfect fingers. Ketchup, mustard, relish and a slice of tomato fall onto his chest after a monstrous bite. His hand swiping a golden starch-stick to wipe up the burger ejaculate.


“Son, what you need is a good woman. I don’t necessarily mean a good looking woman, because you can be attracted to a lot of women. By a good woman, I mean a woman you can talk to. A woman that you can be around after you’ve gotten over your urges. The truth is they all have vaginas, so what you really want to look for is what’s on the inside. Because after a while you won’t be young any more, you’ll get older and you’ll hopefully grow a little wiser, which means you’ll have more depth and when you get to that point, looks won’t be the most important thing anymore, especially if you’re with a really good woman. The type of woman you get along with, you can talk to, laugh with, tease, fight with. The type of woman who is her own person and who isn’t concerned with the way she looks before being concerned with the way she feels. That’s the kind of woman you want son. They all have vaginas so don’t get distracted by that. Look for a woman you can talk to.”

Advice. The warning label on a pack of cigarettes is no substitute for experience. The unwritten hacking, scratchy-throated, black-lunged history of the losers destined to repeat itself. Maybe a gap in generations but bloody sputum just the same because the apple doesn’t rot far from the tree.

Golf

A short piece written in 2008.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

When I was around eleven years old, my dad got me a set of golf clubs. There were five clubs. A driver, a putter, a 5-iron, a pitching wedge and a sand wedge. All the clubs needed to start and finish a hole. My dad’s not a golfer. Neither am I, but we both have clubs.


Dad and I used to play once every year at my high schools tournament. We played with another father and son who were as equally skilled and practiced as we were. The tournament rules were that each team played the best ball hit; meaning all four of us would hit our dimpled balls, then select which shot was best for the next shot. We never won. Our highest achievement was second to last, which was a change of pace from our usual dead last position. Our foursome had the most fun guaranteed.


When the tournaments ended all the teams headed to the closing ceremony. While all the other teams were asking around, checking their scores against everyone else, we waltzed in thinking only of food and the memories of the day. When my dad sent a drive skidding along the grass just short of the ladies tees. When my buddy and his dad drove too fast in the cart and spun out on the slope of a hill. When all four of us spent 10 minutes searching for ALL of our balls in grass up to our knees. We remembered the collective nervousness of being forced to drive in front of other teams as we slowed the pace of the tournament, (spending 10 minutes a hole looking for little white balls adds up).


So by the time we arrived at the club house, we had no idea how many strokes we shared. The math would have been far too complicated and unnecessary. There was no talk of mulligans or handicaps. The other teams, upon arriving at the table at which we were already stuffing our faces, would begin to smile before even asking, “what was your score?” I can’t speak for all four of us but I know what I saw in each of their eyes. My father, ever the diplomat, would smile and say something to the affect of, “Oh, we didn’t keep score. We just play for fun.” It was true. In those moments however, when those men came with the full knowledge that we had not come close to anyone in the tournament, I wanted to play to win. Fuck fun, I wanted murder.


At age 30, I began playing golf again. By this time my father had bought me a few more clubs. I also borrowed quiet a few of his clubs. Between the days of playing golf with my dad and our friends much had transpired. I developed a tooth, much like those teeth given the “sweet” nomenclature. My tooth, teeth, tongue had developed a liking for alcohol. I went to rehab, struggled with the idea of Alcoholics Anonymous and with sponsors but those are experiences for another chapter. One virtue I learned from those experiences was discipline. Golf takes an incredible amount of discipline and patience. Not typically the virtues of young men and definitely not my forte.

Blackout Drinking

A short piece written in 2005.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The first time I reached zombie state. My body was still moving but my mind was gone. Bumping into people and things full of alcohol, hops and vomit jostling around after every step. I don’t think I ever felt better in my life. I had on a button up shirt and some jeans, I mumbled something unintelligible through shiny lips and heavy eyes. I saw someone smoking a cigarette that I would have never imagined. My threshold for surprise is changing right before my eyes, which are going blind. Oh god pull over now. Jesus. Ive never felt worse in my life.


BLACK
BLACK
BLACK
BLACK
BLACK

Night writing

A paragraph written in 2010.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s another night when my eyes close and open slowly. The ink oozes out of the pen from lazy twists of my wrist. A lonely moonlit bassoon plays discordant notes in my mind. Sympathy bangs the timpani and I scowl. Just a quiet solo and some time to listen until the moonlit bassoonist runs out of breath and the mood music stops. A thousand miles of empty desert in all directions is more company than the shadow over my eyes.

Telling Dad I drink too much

A short experience written in 2008.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Hey dad, I think I drink too much. I’ve had alcohol at parties but I’m starting to find that I’m drinking or having more drinks outside of parties than I do when I am at them. I drink to do homework or stay in my room and drink. I’ve even gone to a few classes after drinking. I’m not sure what to do and I know sometimes for some things, they get worse before they get better and I wanted to nip this in the bud just in case this was one of those things. Well, thanks for listening.


“Hello. Yes my father sent me over here to talk about, well I think I’m drinking too much. I drink all the time. Do I think I’m an alcoholic? Well I don’t know. I’m not always red faced and waddling around. I mean I keep a little stubble on my face and my hair isn’t really styled but I don’t drink out of a paper bag and live under a bridge, I’m in college and I’m doing well, academically.”


“Whiskey mostly. I drink beer too, 40 ounces at a time when I do but most of the time whiskey because it gets me to the feeling quicker and to be honest I don’t feel as heavy when I drink it. Yeah, that’s true all of the people I know drink, it seems normal at my age. You’re probably right. College is a unique experience. I’m sure it’s just a phase too, you’re right. Thank you, I feel better. Oh well, and you seem to be doing alright. So I think I’ll be fine. Thank you for your time, how much will that be? Okay, do you take cheques? Perfect. Thanks again. Oh and thank you for the copy of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

A lunch from a long time ago

A short piece written in 2011 or 2012

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

My aunt pregnant for the first time loses her baby. I am sad but I am too young to understand the impact a tragedy of that magnitude has on the person closest to it.
My aunt is a strong woman, full of love, confidence and wit. Perhaps a judgmental, albeit human, eye with a warm hug regardless of how she see’s you.
I make a habit of pushing myself into the spotlight of my mind but cuing the music to cut myself off early on the stage of life. My thoughts consume my relation to everything and everyone. I have learned that I need not waste time on people now if I will see them in heaven. What am I saying, there is no heaven. Childhood teachings are really sticky.
My narcissism is making me sick but I can’t stop thinking about me. The earth revolves around the sun, not the son of Christofer and Ester Chapman.

A lunch with my Aunt in which I cannot clearly remember if I was intoxicated or not. I remember itching for a cigarette as soon as I wolfed down the turkey salad on rye. I remember shaking my head and repeating “I’m fine, no, I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m okay.” The first lie we tell ourselves to convince the mirror that it will never shatter. My aunt relayed an observation about my 5-year-old self that has lingered and wriggled around in the back of my mind like a severed lizards tail.

Something changed when I was 5 years old. I can’t remember my childhood. It is as fuzzy as a booze fueled night on the town (or in my apartment). What happened to me? My heart races. Perhaps, this will be the tragic excuse of molestation. A victim of pedophilia turned poet. A writer who has been in the gutter and can paint it in a perfect-bound, hard cover copy of his first novel. How can I use this for immortality? I want to live forever. That narcissism can’t pull its gaze from the reflection.

My aunt lost a baby, maybe even two and I’m left wondering if I’ve ever been touched inappropriately or left in a toxic environment. Where do I get off feeling sorry for myself? Nothing has ever happened to me that I cannot handle. And there it is again that me word. Its all about me. Not you or him or her or them or it. Its all about me and yet I put myself in the lowest category of the last file in the dustiest, rustiest cabinet of life and all humanity but I insist to myself that everything is about me. Every hug, kiss, smile, squeeze, laugh, smirk, giggle, round of applause, slap on the back, is all about me. I am narcissistic and I don’t even think very highly of myself. Am I truly this selfish or do I indulge for the namesake of these pages? Both are scary prospects for an obsession that runs circles around my attention to anything else.

I have an excuse but you are simply stupid. I made a mistake but you have ruined my life. I forgot but you are careless. I am sick but you are lazy. I was wronged but you don’t stand up for yourself. I had a bad day but you have a bad attitude. I may gossip but you should get a life. I am frustrated but you simply don’t know what to do. I am not perfect but you think you’re better than me. I have an excuse but you are just stupid.

What is really going on here? The words follow the emotion, which rushes in after an experience. I feel less like a swan and more like a parrot. Obsessed with my own image and copying the noises closest to me. To be clawing through the same self absorbed drivel, session after writing session is enough to make me want to rip out my own heart and feed it to my brain just to get a taste of pure emotion. I am supposed to write for myself not about myself. This constant cycle of narcissistic thought is welling up in my chest I want to scratch out every letter “I”, “m”, “e” and hyper drive into some god like perspective. An uninvolved point of view. Place myself on the objective alter and slit my throat letting the Deus ex Machina of my psyche take over. To sever and shatter the ego from the self. Who am I supposed to be? Don’t follow me. We’re getting back into those dark slimy corners of the mind again. So deep down that I must slowly return like a deep sea diver coming up for air. Too fast and the chaos never leaves. Attempting never to dwell in the past I move ever forward so fast that the hair is being ripped off the front of my head and sticking to my back. Time whips past me and the closest I’ve ever come to the truth is a question. Does anyone get this right?

Shitstorm

A short fictional piece from a long time ago.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“You’re a good writer.”

Lucy always told me that after I mentioned a new piece I was working on. I never believed her. I never believed anyone unless they told me they didn’t like it. I have no confidence in my writing. I think that’s why I keep doing it. Once I stood up on a surfboard I called it quits. I had done it.

That’s the problem with me, I need reassurance. I keep track of dates, remember peoples birthdays, show up at the same place at the same time every day until we apologetically call in with a raspy voice in between vomits to tell our bosses we can’t come in today (I’m not a fan of run on sentences, they never seem to end).

I guess it’s all a cruel joke. I write because my head fills up. Like a gray cloud and when it rains it pours. A class four hurricane is less chaotic. A confident writer is like a four-eyed teen on his first date. I try to believe it but I’ll always know the truth.

If I could just have it all; confidence, whit, humility, a fresh perspective, a unique point of view without any pretension. I might be happy. I might be able to participate in my own existence rather than simply write about it.

Lucy thinks I should let loose. I’m neither up nor down and unless I’m interested, nothing sticks. My interests are excessively fickle for any promises. I drink to have conversations, to care, to show concern and consideration (Next I’ll try expressing myself with words that begin with the letter D).

It takes everything I have to be sincere. being drunk simply makes the spinning slow down for a while. Or maybe the spinning speeds up so fast I don’t notice that I can’t concentrate. Blackout. Either way alcohol nurtures society but absolutely obliterates the individual. I choose not to be a martyr for booze. I don’t believe I ever had the courage to live absolutely on the fringe. Yet I have just enough disdain to keep the television off.

You or me

A short piece, September 16, 2020

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It is far riskier to live than to be dead. I will die, so I may as well behave as if I never will. Life is made miserable by the well-intended and mal-intended alike. Both similar in their impositions on life, though one may have the self in mind while the other follows their ego.

In the quest for all our somethings, we choose to be seen by what we do for ourselves or by what we do for others. I want to consider the other but not at the expense of self. I want to consider the self but not at the expense of the other.

Existentialism lacking altruism or altruism lacking existentialism. A panacea for existence does not exist.

And so, remember, I wrote this under a yellow porch light, slapping at mosquitoes, coughing up smoke from wild fires and thinking of me or you, or me.

The Fool’s Pleading

A short piece. I don’t know.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The panting dogma of nuns, “O God, God, wherefore art thou God?”

A burlesque bureaucracy.

Earthen gates whisper of conspiracy. They have no plans other than “hold on tight, stick to the script.” Creativity be banished, taken down into the fires of hell where they will be forged with the devil’s brand. Rising as dead souls battling the young. A past that has already traveled and seen fighting against a speeding future. And the present whispering into the ear of tomorrow, “full steam ahead, cowboy.”

The mulling query of Darwins, “O Truth, Truth, wherefore art thou Truth?”

An algorithmic disco.

Where am I to derive the juices flowing from the nut in my skull, its fruit spilling viscous memory and fantasy in the same drop? What’s in my head? Will I be the breath of tomorrow’s baby or the mustard gas of victory’s soldier? Standing in a smoky battlefield, squinting through tears to find a shape like mine. Whom will I become?

The pandering memes of Narcissus, “O Me, Me, wherefore art thou Me?”

A tango of mirrors.

Follow me and I shall follow me. That is the golden rule. Achievement of the cracking of the nut, opening to a seed of nothing. Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you only lies. Traveling through the haze maze, the last marine on the beach. The spirit testing my muscle with its fluttering.

Watch the temple crumble in its own skin folding under the coat of gravity. Destruction by the hands fumbling in the dark relying only on memory. Is it where we be or where we are from that twists and pulls at our subconscious minds? Shaping us through the heavy bars of past and future tense, our hands only need to reach out and grasp the memory of cold metal, that taste of iron on the tongue, our memories and all the agony as useless as our blood. Never present.

We survive as animals but live as more. Begetters impossibly tasked with protecting fresh souls. Those tenacious in their duties receiving only resentment as thanks. Push them, gripping at the bars, to the signs ahead. God is the time we have here. Love it. Nourish it. Worship it. Find another life and share it with them, living one and living an others’ vicariously.

The collapsing heart of the writer, “O Wall, Wall, wherefore art thou Wall?”

A decaying waltz.

The lonely freedom of a star in the sun’s sky.

To become un-tethered from the darkness of all we think we know, only to find we’re suspended in a vast emptiness, alone on that island of confidence. Peering over the edge, tilting that careful balance of assurance and sending the mind spiraling down again. Sit in the middle. Creating tethers. Battling the force of emotion, so fast and fickle with its betrayal of memory. The force of wounded spirits capable of wounding. The blind lead the blind, those that can see, stop and look. We cannot help, we can only hope to carry each other. To feel the weight of another is to realize it’s heavier than our own. To love.

I want to cage that spirit living within, but I must sit in the middle.

The echoes of rejoicing muted by the island’s sands. Drowned by waves of realization that we are sound itself reverberating off of infinity’s pretzel-ed pipe.

The muted programming of Eve, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Would that we could hold hands, screaming forever, licking the juices of that forbidden fruit.

Social Security

A short poem, 2013.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A little boy sat on a bench in a park,
watching old men play their game. 

One moved his piece,
they frowned and they slouched,
then the other accomplished the same. 

The castles moved straight,
the horses made hooks
as the black and white shapes met their fate. 

The boy slightly shifted,
his gaze never lifted,
as the sun slowly made her escape.

The men’s eyes creased wrinkles
as moves spotted became twinkles
and their hands became part of the pieces. 

The boy closed his eyes,
looked up to the skies
and asked god why this game never ceases. 

God gave its reply
in the form of a sigh
but the men and their game stayed the same. 

The boy shook with cold,
looked back at the old
and decided that he would proclaim:

“I know I’m too young
for all of your fun
but it’s getting quite cold you see. 

My mother is waiting
but I’m still debating
if this is the game for me. 

I wanted to know
before I did grow
who would be left with his king. 

So I’m asking quite nicely
if you’ll play concisely
and finish this game before spring.”

The men gave a chuckle,
one grabbed his buckle,
as the boy cocked his head to the side. 

The old men gave advice,
hoping that would suffice
but the boy sauntered right up beside. 

Without making a scene,
he reached for the Queen
and moved in a line that was straight. 

The old eyes got wide,
the boy swelled with pride
as the man on the right cried,
“Checkmate!”

My first song after choosing to be sober

A short story, 2019, draft.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I shimmy through a sea of arms and shoulders. Eyes watering from clouds of cologne. My angel grabs tight to my fingers, pulling us through. I am in the pub. Tonight will show me what life is like with everything in sharp focus.


Our party is already seated. The walk to our table seems straight forward. First, we need to pass the thirsty bar-stoolers, fingers tapping lazily on the bar for their next hit. The smell of wet oats and alcohol hits me. I shake my head to stay focused.


Next obstacle; stairs. Hang on to the railing and hope the next step rises to the occasion. I hope my knees can take it. Good, the ground is exactly where it should be. My angel lifts her hand and moves it side to side, gaining the attention of the beings we are meeting. She stops in front of an empty chair.


Quick! While I’m distracted, step onto the floor! I land with both feet on the same plane. So far everything is as I perceive it to be.


The table is covered in cloth and surrounded by chairs. The other patrons seem to be seated comfortably. I keep myself steady with one hand on my angel’s back, under the guise of
rubbing her wings. On closer inspection of the table, I see a plate aligned with a chair along with a rolled-up cloth. I reach out and grab it. Something inside, silverware, or so my instincts (what’s left of them) tell me.


I press a corner of the napkin between two fingers and let the other digits loose. CLANK! As I suspect, a fork, butter knife and a spoon collapse and lay still. I look around the table. The other patrons, I presume my fellow dinner mates, begin rolling their napkins on their laps. I grab the fork before pulling out the chair my ass will be occupying for the evening.


I notice the lighting. No sun. Only lamps. Again, as it should be or at least as I’ve perceived it before. Strings of bulbs on wires hang from bare wood jutting out of a concrete ceiling. The wood, slats of brown, knotted, un-sanded 2×4’s or 4×8’s or 8×16’s or 16×32’s or whatever. For a split second my arm stretches to the ceiling, my hand drops the fork and rubs against the beam. Splinters press into the skin of my fingers, bulging under the fingernails and squeezing into the palms. The chair squeaks and the splinters pull out of the hand as the arm collapses back into its socket. I take my seat.


I look around at the others seated at the table. I don’t know yet if they’re people. I haven’t even figured out if I am to be human for the evening. I search their faces for a clue, a cue to mirror their behavior, but careful not to mock.


The smell of the room seemed to be a mixture of cooking, alcohol, cigarettes, perfumes and lotions. Smells I was familiar with, the smells of death. I began to feel as if I belonged. My neck loosened and I looked around the room. Steaming dishes balanced on the extended fingers and outstretched arms of the runners. The runners wear small square hats with a wire running down to the corners of their mouths keeping them in a smile. A small trough extends from their belts and collects the drool sliding down their chins. The runners shuffle quickly from table to table nodding, taking, placing and scribbling in notebooks with final stage Parkinson ferocity.


A runner waddles up to our table, she wipes saliva from her notebook and asks, “How are we all doing this evening.” The collective response transports me to a farmyard with a herd of lowing cattle, indecipherable mumbling and grunting. We remain rather porcine, no matter the sophistication and setting of the trough. I cluck, feeling a string pull one side of my mouth upwards, or at least away from my chin.


The runner seems either satisfied or uninterested in our bovine reaction and continues, “What are we having to drink tonight? What are we having to drink tonight?” the voice lowers six octaves, “What are we having to drink tonight?” The voice now lisps. “What are we having to drink tonight?” The voice slips behind my eyes and massages some dusty grey matter. Perhaps I have been here before, perhaps this is something I know, but the voices are different. The faces different. It is the experience that is familiar. “I’ll have a water.” The feeling of familiarity stops. The runner scribbles furiously as the heads around the table call out their orders.


I watch, admiring the confidence related to their vices.


The runner shuffles off, leaving a string of drool on one of the face painted long haired beings. They call it she and they call me he. She doesn’t notice and her unassisted smile is my hint to stay quiet. Across from me the angel glows. Next to me the being is morphing. He morphs. A loose shape whose ghost I catch glimpses of with each flicker of his movements. It is, I suspect, the man’s shell. The ghost living just outside of the man’s conscience. It lags just long enough for me to catch the eye of his self. He turns to me and smiles. My subconscious smiles back and we release the grip on our Freudian handshake.


The runner returns, alcohol hoisted proudly on a silver platter, like the head of John the Baptist. The runner shuffles around the table, she sets down my water and I notice a muscle on her cheek struggling under the pull of the wire. The runner catches my eye and winks. “Are we ready to order?”
The table produces an audible lowing but the being next to me manages to force out their words, “Yes.” I point and nod at the menu. The runner’s wrist scribbles furiously, as if possessed by each order. The runner smiles and continues around the table.


Three men walk into the room carrying instruments. One a drummer, one a bass guitarist and one a pianist. The lull of voices, clink of glasses, steps of runners, coughing, laughing, and chewing continue around the room. The three men walk past me. I turn my head and pull my upper body around to look, bracing myself with one hand on the chair.


The pianist carefully pulls out a seat tucked under the piano. He sits and peels back the upper lip of the piano, revealing yellow and black teeth. The pianist scratches his beard, losing his fingers in the red and grey mat. White flakes drift onto his lap. Having escaped his beard, his fingers now press together, crushing each other with audible “pops” and “cracks”. Then the pianist flicks the pianos teeth.


The chatter in the room continues; the runners take orders and carry edibles on platters. The sounds of laughter, eating and drinking fill the room. The guitarist sits on a chair designed to furnish potluck halls and meeting rooms of whatever Anonymous. He flips the latch of his case and unsheathes a white bass guitar. A glint makes my eyes jump to a spot on its edge.


It leads my eye down aluminum strings to a spot where the bassist places his hand. He begins thumping the fat belly of the guitar.


I look up to see the bassist’s face and catch the end of his glance. Either his eyes are rolled back in his head or he is blind. He looks down at a little black box with the whites of his eyes and inserts a card. A deep hum and vibrating buzz creep into my ears and for a moment, meld with my own neural connections. As the guitarist begins to strum faster, I look over at the drummer.


I hear the taps of the snare lock as he pulls a hand free from under the drum. His left foot presses the peddle into the flesh of the biggest drum. He picks up sticks with his right hand and runs his thumb along the edge of a cymbal. His hand jerks back and he sucks it, closing his eyes. I crane my neck to see what happened. He pulls his thumb away from his mouth and puts a drumstick in each hand. He starts tapping on the overstretched skins below him. Red trickles down the neck of the rightmost drumstick.
The mouths around the room continue expelling their contents. The runners move from table to table, smiling and drooling. Glasses and silverware clink, clank and chip dishes. I turn my back to the musicians. My angel smiles and begins eating. I look down and notice my own food below me. I reach for a utensil but stop short. The dissonant, sometimes melodic growling of the bass guitar jerks my head back towards the three men and their instruments.


The growl is met with the screams and howls of the piano. But it is the steady panting and pawing of the drums that paralyzes me. It rips away my attention and leaves me with just enough breath to continue using my eyes. I no longer feel my body against the chair. Am I beginning to float?


A hot brand sizzles in my back, twists me around and sends my eyes spinning in all directions, looking for the person who said my name. I stifle rage. I know how unsightly raw emotion can be to those without drink. I pull the square box from my pocket. I place it on my head and extend the two wires that end with small hooks, sharp hooks. I stretch the corners of my mouth up to each hook and hang them there. The pain cranks open a valve and the rage steams out. With what I know to be a smile on my face, I reply, “Yes, what was that?”


“What do you do?” I tap the box on my head, the wires pull my lips up and dig their hooks in deeper. “I work in a place doing things.”


“Oh, really, that’s neat. Do you like it?”


“Yes, very much. What do you do?” I tap the box on my head, my right eye is beginning to water. While they reply, I dab the tear away with the back of my finger.


“I work in a place doing things. I like it.” I nod and look around at the others catching lines from the script. “He said something, she didn’t like it, they got mad and now I’ll tell you my opinion.”


“Well, I was born, then I learned, now I spend time doing something.”


“I had my eyes open and saw a picture of a man telling me to buy food here, so I told other people what the man told me and now we’re here.”


The beast with three bodies paws and snorts behind me, drowning out the sets of clacking teeth in front of me. I catch the face of my angel smiling. Out of habit I glance at the top of her head already knowing that she does not need a box to pull her mouth away from her chin. Her smile indicates that all is normal.


The beast screeches behind me. I turn. The bass guitar roars and stamps at the ground, pounding its blunt hooves in through the sides of my head. Each flick of the finger against the steel strings threatens to rip open my rib cage. The drums boom and thud against my chest. Each attacking wave threatens to steal the beating of my heart and replace it with its own. Or still my heart forever.


Through the roaring and the pounding, the pianist keeps my hair at attention. His vibrations travel under my skin, leaving bumps up and down the lengths of my arms and legs.


The corners of the pianist’s mouth begin pulling up, wrinkling his eyes and changing the shape of his beard. My eyes catch a drop of red splashing next to the pianist’s foot.


The pianist’s hands contort, twist and convulse. Some element is being exorcised from those hands. They bounce off of the piano’s teeth. Another drop of red splashes onto the floor, this time adding to the percussive flurry banging my ear drums. A third drop falls and before the slow-motion crown of liquid impact can rest, a fourth red drop breaks it.


In a distant, foggy memory I can hear clinking glass, silverware scraping on ceramic, idle chatter and clacking teeth. The beast in front of me abducts my senses and possesses my body. I convulse back and forth in time with its movements.


I close my eyes, but darkness does not greet me. My mind splayed and folded, projects out onto the skin of my closed eyes. The stuff of dreams, ideas and memories pool together, and the beast pushes me into the deep end. I rock back and forth in furious rhythm while my head sways side to side.


The box on my head tilts backwards and pulls my cheeks up to my ears leaving my mouth wide. Deep red lines curve up the sides of my cheeks. Red drips from the corners of my mouth. I watch it pool around my feet and soak into my lap.


The pianist seems to enjoy his plight. Blood from his hands ooze from the piano’s teeth and waterfalls down to the floor. As the musicians grow uglier and closer to death, the music they play grows sweeter. More mesmerizing. The musicians cling to their instruments, or try as much as possible to hang on while their bodies deteriorate.


Blood makes its way from where the musicians play to the steps I earlier descended. No one else seems to notice. The runners splash through the rising stream. Blood soaks up their pant legs and the occasional chunk of gore sticks to their uniforms.


A patron at the bar slumps off his stool and falls face first into the now raging river. Blood drips from his hands and off of his eyelids. He slaps one bloody hand on the bar stool and the other grips the edge of the bar. He sits up and reaches for his drink. As he drinks, blood from his hand falls down the glass and collects around his lips. In the corners, the blood mixes with the alcohol in his mouth. He doesn’t seem to notice.


Staring at the intoxicated barfly, I notice a ringing in my ears, the same ringing that occurs when one speaks out loud and hears the echoes of his own words in his mind but nothing banging on his eardrums.


The blood now up to my neck I stand up and turn to see the musicians slumped over their instruments, nearly submerged. The diners around me continue their droning, utensils and glasses now pinging like radar from a submarine. A few of the listeners attempt to clap but the amount of blood in the room only allows for splashy, muffled thuds that sent red flecks on their faces.


Cool and calm the entire evening, my eyes begin darting around the room. Every one of my senses are plugged into the buzzing amp of the bass guitar. I wade through the blood toward the barfly; I know the way out is just beyond him. Pulling myself in his direction, I catch a glimpse of the light from fluorescent streetlamps peeking through the windows. My foot slams against something hard. I lose my balance and am instantly submerged in the blood.


My arms flail frantically, my hands create whirlpools of blood as they grab at nothing. A hand touches my back, and another grabs my hand. Panic leaves and my feet touch solid ground. I emerge, wiping blood from my face and turning to look at my rescuer. It is my angel who parts the red sea and seems untouched by the clotting blood. Her hand still grips mine; we move to the door; the blood seems to have drained.


We pass the barfly, now covered in a brownish cracking paste, still guzzling his beer. Cold air blasts me and I turn to see my angel pushing the door open. I blink and my senses return. I can hear myself breathing. I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol, instead I swam in the bloodbath.

Kids

A short story, 2018.

By Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I stepped out of the Vault.  I could only stomach so many drinks on open mic night.  I lit a cigarette and closed my eyes for the first inhale.  The pure puff.  I didn’t need a reason to drink but the first cigarette after wetting my throat was as good as any.  I could feel the smoke coating all the way down to my esophagus.  I held for a second then let the smoke waft out of my mouth.

I had gone out by myself.  The feeling was exhilarating because I knew how others looked at the lonely guy at the bar.  Going to parties or out with friends was predictable.  Sure, I would laugh and make others laugh but there were so many other emotions.  I flicked my cigarette and headed for the underground bar located two blocks away.  I had only been there twice before.  The crowd out front usually consisted of sun burnt felons with purchase stickers on their flipped-up baseball caps.  The thought and the alcohol made my blood angry.  I lit another cigarette to relieve the unwanted stress.  Rounding a corner, I looked across the street at the entrance.  A kid about 7 years old stood out front squatting down, tilting back and forth.  After crossing the street, I saw it was a little girl.  I was curious.

     “What are you doing out here?”

She didn’t look up but responded cheerily.

     “Waiting for my mommy.”

It was nearly midnight.

     “Where is she?”

I became conscious of my cigarette.

     “She’s downstairs.”

     “In the bar?”

I flicked my cigarette away from her.

     “Yeah.”

I thought about being noble and telling her mom off but decided that getting rid of my cancer stick was enough.

     “Okay, well be careful up here.”

     “Okay.”

     “And don’t talk to strangers.”

     “Okay.”

It wouldn’t ruin my evening because nothing beats the excitement of entering a bar.  It feels like waiting for the ball to drop at the roulette table.  Except the odds are always in my favor.  I walked up to the bar and placed my bet.

     “A jack and coke, please and a pint of whatever.”

I pushed the chair next to me a few inches further away.  I always got too restless at the counter.  The barkeep came back with my drinks and grabbed the money I put on the table.  I was a winner.  What I did with my winnings was unpredictable.  Often, I never knew how an evening would end.  I finished off the jack and coke in three gulps.  There was more beer, so it took a few more swigs.  It was time for a cigarette.  The trip upstairs was a little more cautious than the jog down.  I had plenty of time to pad my fresh pack, rip the plastic, tear the paper and flip a fag up with my thumb.  I pulled the cigarette out with my lips and stepped outside.  A couple were doubled over laughing and trying to say…something.  I smiled and raised my eyebrows as I fished for my lighter. 

The boyfriend made his way to me.

     “Dude, dude, dude.”

     “What’s up?”  I chuckled to be polite, but his laughter was contagious.

     “We just saw this homeless man.”

This sent them both into a guffaw.  I sent out an amused snort, realizing I was trapped, at least until he got to the punchline.  The girlfriend composed herself.

     “We saw this homeless guy walk by and his pants were sagging all the way down PAST his ass.”

The boyfriend picked it up from there.

     “And he was pushing his cart in front of him and shuffling like Frankenstein.”

The two lost it again and I thought about correcting the boyfriend.  Doctor Frankenstein was the creator of the creature.  The creature had no name.  A device probably used to further the creatures struggle with its identity.  I realized I was boring myself and didn’t think the couple would give a shit about what I had gleaned from my literary criticism class.

     The couple’s laughter died down and we talked.

     “I’m Charlie, Cigarette?”  I offered.

I don’t remember their names, but we talked.  Where you from?  What do you do?  How long have you lived there?  They were nearing the fork in the conversation where strangers either become friends or never see each other again.  Then the boyfriend said something that really impressed me.

     “Well now that the bullshit is out of the way, how about some weed?”

I thought about it for a few cigarette drags.

     “I appreciate the offer, but I had an experience with a demon in a bathroom the last time I mixed.”

     “Oh shit, you trip out?”

     “You could say that.”

     “I’m sorry bro.”

     “No worries, now I mainly stick to spirits.”

     “Then let’s get a drink!”

We hoofed downstairs and livened up the near empty underground bar.  We ordered drinks.  The couple would talk.  I would talk then we would all laugh.  Nothing would be remembered in the morning.  We all spoke freely. The girl sat down while the boyfriend and I laughed and patted each other on the back.

The boyfriend was getting horny.

     “Babe, you tired?  You want to leave?”

     “No let’s just get out of here.”

     “She’s right.”  I said, “This place is dead.  Let’s go to the Vault.  It’s a bar just a couple blocks away.  I want a cigarette anyway.”

We started our final trek up the stairs and the boyfriend shouted out.

     “Fuck this place!”

I laughed and high-fived him while his girlfriend looked mortified. 

I was drunk.  I handed out cigarettes and cut across the street toward the Vault.  By this time all the amateurs would be gone.  It was time to do some drinking.  The boyfriend ordered us three beers.  I was extremely grateful, but I ordered another jack and coke.  I didn’t like to take chances. 

We bullshit some more.  The couple danced.  I can never remember names.  Then the girl danced alone.  I was towing the line between drunk and insanity.  I sat quietly responding on auto-pilot.  The girl stopped dancing and the boy went to the bathroom.  She sat across from me and stared into my eyes.  She bit her lip.  Leaning on one arm she slid her finger up and down her bra strap. 

I watched the tip of her finger from the top of her shoulder to the top of her breast.  Her leg touched mine and mimicked the motion of her finger.  I looked toward the bathroom.  I stood up somber and put a cigarette in my mouth.

     “Cigarette?”  I offered.

She didn’t take the bait and continued lusting.  I looked toward the bathroom.

     “I think I’m going to take off.  Where did your boyfriend go?  What was his name?”

     “Why don’t you stick around.  He’ll be in there for a while.  He’s sick.”

     “Oh, well I’ll give him a cigarette when he comes out and call it a night.”

I was intently staring at the bathroom and looked up.  I wanted to get the fuck out of there.

     “Here, why don’t you give him the cigarette.  I’m in and out of consciousness.”

I handed her the cigarette.  She continued to stare. I could feel her horny, cheating eyes following me out the door. I stepped out of the Vault and lit a cigarette.  I closed my eyes, feeling the smoke coat my throat, esophagus and lungs.  I exhaled.  Alone again.

Sabbath Mourning

A short piece, 2012.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I used to be such a good boy. Making promises to my mother about keeping all my senses away from trouble. Every sight, sound, smell, flavor and texture was a blessing from God. Back when tattooed men were frightening and loud talking women made me angry. When skunks didn’t remind me of smoking and mint was just for candy. When a quarter was more valuable in my piggy bank than in my pocket. Back in the days when guns were made of plastic, bullets out of foam and soda was not a mixer. Back when I only had one face. Now here I am on the other side of the coin. And having seen both ends I know that you need both sides to buy a soda.

Vitriol

A short piece, September 10, 2020.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

You might read this and you might know me, or at least think that you do, but only those close right now know what I’m up to. I’m not the past, I’m not my experiences, or my family. Those may inform my choices but I am really only what I choose to do right now. So fuck you.

I sharpen my pencil when the letters get fatter on the page. Like a drop of blood sucked into the syringe of an addicts needle, you turn away your attention when my words bleed into your idea of me, just before plunging in your comfortable narrative.

Me? What a crazy concept. A ball of indie movies and music with arms and feet. A scarecrow mixed with contrarianism and a middle finger.

If you want it, chances are I don’t. if you’re talking about it, chances are I haven’t heard it. If you photograph it, chances are it’s not worth remembering.

This piece of vitriol brought to you by truth. Truth discovered by waving a machete through the dank foliage of your hashtags, peace signs, fake idealism and fear masked by makeup and dancing. Hacking at your need to defend yourself when no on is attacking.

My tips getting fat, it needs to sharpen again. It reminds me of you, I think you should get sharper too. Stop talking about what they tell you to talk about and start talking about why they tell you anything in the first place.

If you’re really against “flaming hot cheetos” that run “democracies” (your word, not mine) like dictators, then either put a bullet in his head or give your jabbering jaw a little slack. I know at least my ears will stop ringing from all your white noise, and it is white noise in more ways than one.

I am a man

A short poem, 2013.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I cry
I curl up under blankets with my hands between my knees and feel safe
I squeal and feel my heart bouncing when I see my dog or baby cousin
My body is beautiful with all its hair
I admire my tattoo’s
I take time to do my hair
I enjoy compliments
I have a hot temper
I am confident in changing a tire
I tremble when jumping a car battery
I struggle with expressing emotion
I feign humbleness when receiving a compliment
I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner
I am a man

I was a lover

A short piece from 2013.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I was a lover before this war and don’t tell me that mental pictures created by TV on the Radio don’t have the power to change chemistries. I am weary, sick and scarred from too many battles in the war of who could care less. When Uncle Ben Folds Five times and still doesn’t learn that the house of the Rising Sun never loses. We know then for whom the bell tolls. A sickening ring that continues its echo, repeating its cold brass answer.

It tolls for thee, for me, for she, and for he. And I refuse to continue wincing at questions of christianity (lowercase, improper noun) or other. It’s not as simple as loving my brother. So I shrug my shoulders at religion, at theology, and democracy, my politics apply only to me. I shrug at the dividing notions of this versus that because I wish to see through he and through she before I get to me.

I walk barefoot on the sand to feel the process of my steps. In the sun or in front of the stars. I open my eyes to fill my mind with everything the light reflects. My ears are open to fill something inside that can’t be described. To write is the most frustrating thing because there are emotions and experiences that will never exist in words. The contrast between black shapes on white space.

I was a lover before this war and I already know the ending. The question of my last breath is either sober or whiskey soaked. The continuous monologue in my mind reaches the end of its reel. I am not making sense but its my senses that make me. I don’t wish to Confucius you but the way of the tao (lowercase, improper noun) is better paved than that of christianity (lowercase, improper noun). If christ (lowercase, improper noun) was the way then that way was tao (you know).

Delirium Tremens

A short piece about the experience of alcohol consumption from 2014.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Fade up on a moment of clarity. Enter SELF.

SELF
It occurs to me the faith I will
need as one by one my brain cells
are killed in action. How many
neural connections do I require
before I divorce completely from
all logic and reason?


A shadow is cast over self. Enter EGO.

EGO
Will I transform into a carnivorous
vegetable reminiscent of a 1950’s
horror film: eating only everything
that comes close to my drooling
mouth?
(beat)
It’s only fitting that a man with
the caliber of a water pistol be
the recipient of a horrible, slow,
embarrassing death.

SELF
Is it actually dying or more of a
shift in existence?

Stars bounce around the periphery, disappearing before the
eyes rack focus. I, we cough.

SELF (CONT’D)
Sober now, my eyes, ears, nose,
tongue, and nerve endings sharpen
focus. I sense the rawness of
reality manifesting on my lower
legs. A bought of eczema, just
begging a handful of jagged
fingernails to claw, scratch, and
tear it off.
(Down on knees)
Just a minuscule drop of relief. A
small taste please.

I, we wheeze.

EGO
Sobriety, the stoic’s drunkenness.
It all still feels fake.

BACK TO:

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
I am visiting the set of my favorite TV show for the first
time. The dissected apartment disillusions me. A RED GLOW
bounces off my face in harmony with the electronic HUM and
CLICK of flashing signs marked ‘applause.’

3 OMITTED
thru
1346


1347 INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT (CONTINUOUS)
I wake up rubbing my temple. GOD, an octogenarian with a full
head of white hair, exits the building. However, its
SCREECHING echoes still crash around my head.

GOD
(Sniveling)
My son did not commit suicide. You
killed him.

I step out into the light. Blinking like an old projector, I
take in the images at increasing frame rates.

24 FRAMES PER SECOND
I lick my lips.

30 FRAMES PER SECOND
The corners of my mouth defy gravity.

60 FRAMES PER SECOND
Through cracked lips, an unfamiliar voice squeezes out a
SUBTITLE:

ID
(Submerged)
I’m out in society.

Familiar voices respond.

SELF
Is this me?

EGO
Or some other beast entirely?

I wipe SMOKE out of my eyes. The angst making a meal of my
LIVER, LUNGS, SPINE, and ever more fragile GREY MATTER.

SELF
The only advice I have been willing
to flood me has been vice.
Acceptance needs to seep in.
Drained dry and clean of my old mentor.

SELF (CONT’D)
It has to.

The echoes of my ego still reverberate in the walls of my
skull. Spiraling down my spine, giving us CHILLS, SPASMS,
and NAUSEA while gripping a toilet bowl.

I, we stick to the script.

ID
I’m okay.

The new mantra begins to sink in like an unused snip of 8MM FILM in a tar pit (slowly).

EGO
I’m okay.

ZOOM IN
One thousand raised pink SLASHES from wrist to armpit.

SELF
I’m okay.

FLASHBACK
BLOOD drips, spelling out a phrase on the floor:
“Blood: I”M OKAY.”

An ellipsis SPLATTERS on the linoleum behind the mantra:
“BLOOD: …”
I inhale.

INT. EMPTY SHELL OF A MAN – QUITTING TIME
The partiers arrive. The bouncer lifts the rope, introducing
4,000 queer chemicals to the pulmonary party. They work the
room and make acquaintances with the rest of the body.

Reluctant to leave at last call, the SMOKE stumbles out
leaving sticky SCUFF-MARKS on the dance floor.
(On judgement day I’ll
still most likely say…)

GOD
I’m okay.

SELF
I’m okay.

CUT TO:

Teetering

By Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Maybe I wasn’t there. Maybe I was but I’m a different person. Maybe I was there learning, adapting, and changing. Maybe not at your pace or your style but maybe I was there. Maybe the next one will be.

Maybe you didn’t know what you had. Maybe you built an excuse. God knows I’ve built my own: teetering Derrick’s pumping crude bullshit into my brain.

Maybe I didn’t say hi. Maybe I needed more time. God knows you do.

Maybe life is understood teetering on the middle of a maybe.

Fake dog

By Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I have a fake dog, it’s made out of plastic. Everyday I forget him but he is always excited when I come home. He eats twice a day but I never give him any food. He sleeps on the couch but I only have a bed. He is a chick magnet but there are never any chicks. He’s a good fake boy.

Where are my teeth?

A short piece of prose, or something.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

You get so up in your head that you want to flash back to your BMX with the two pegs to ride down the street and back as fast as you can.

Weeks go by. Years go by.

You get so far into your projections. You want to change.

Years go by. Decades go by.

You see your family the same but they’ve all changed but they haven’t stayed the same. You make the same mistakes but with bigger consequences. All around you the t-shirts change, the science changes, sensitivity changes but it’s all still the same.

The body ages but the mind grows chaotic: A frantic camper in the rain racing to drive down stakes into mud. Stuck to stories growing mold, fuzzy but always staying the same.

The sandman doesn’t sprinkle you with dust. St. Nick can’t give you what you want. Christ could be relatable if only he’d made mistakes. You bought the world’s spirits, elixirs and potions but snake oils only erase time for nothing in return. The tooth fairy took all your teeth but I think she also has your innocence, and you never saw a dime.

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup. Too many voices in your head spoil the creativity. You can spend time but you can never buy it.

The only option is to drive down stakes into moments you never want to let slip.

Tonight

August 23, 2020

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I bounce my legs to keep the flies, gnats and mosquitoes from biting my feet. My elbows jump out to shoo them away. It’s still 90 degrees out, whatever that means. There is a breeze and the sun is blocked by a neighbors trees three houses west of mine. The wall unit is buzzing. A pool has formed from the steady drip of water, soaking the mat on the back porch. The dogs are splayed on the linoleum inside.

Saul’s visiting his kid. His bed is still in the living room. With only the wall unit to cool the house, we sleep in the living room, me on the couch, Saul drags out his mattress. Tonight he’s sleeping at his kid’s grandparents house.

I got a tattoo on Friday, wearing a mask the whole time. It’s a small piece, a couple of words, “live deliciously.” The implications are of pursuing a Bacchanalian existence. An almost ironic statement given the amount of societal distancing lately and, possibly for the foreseeable future.

I can hear the parrots that roost nearby in the Summer. Not native to Southern California but escaped from a local pet shop and thriving in their own gurgling, trilling, whistling and squawking bacchanal. I envy them tonight, and many nights lately.

I let baby girl out. She’s sitting at my feet, panting. I look down at her when the neighbor’s dogs bark but she doesn’t seem interested.

In a few minutes I’ll head inside to paint but I don’t feel like I can abandon my writing before landing on some deeper meaning, some understanding for the day. Today, perhaps, I must be satisfied with simply writing about the present.

What it’s like to meet a wonderful woman in the midst of divorce.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s like washing up on shore after shipwreck and a two-day storm. You need time to figure out what happened, where you are but you still get down on your knees and kiss the sand.

It’s like wandering through the desert for 28 days. You’re thirsty, hungry, lips cracked, skin red and aching but you’re grateful for the water at the oasis. However, you’re still wondering what happened, where you are.

It’s like crawling for hundreds of miles on your elbows and knees and someone, suddenly, helps you to stand. You are grateful and relieved but also feeling tired and looking down at your bloody joints.

It’s like buying a plot of land, planting one thousand seeds, watering, weeding and watching the plants grow, for years, until at the point of harvest, they bear fruit and someone comes at gun point to take it from you. You wander off the property and are suddenly given land that is double the size with fruit ready to be picked. You wonder how, why, where you are and what happened but you’re all at once grateful, excited and ready to move on. At the same time, you’re wondering what happened, always wondering what happened.

It is getting divorced and finding, on the same day, a girl, a woman, who touches your arm and says, “hi.” Six months later, you’re in love but, you’re wondering where you are and what happened. You’re grateful, excited and ready to move on but at the same time you’re wondering what happened, always wondering what happened, so that you’re not doomed to repeat your mistakes with the unicorn who touched your arm and said hello.

Hall, Light, Doctor

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

In the hall, where transitions take place. Shuffling from one idea to another. On my way to eat over there. On my way to shit over here. On my way to paint in the room next door. On my way to sleep in that room.

Always on my way to something but never appreciating the place in which I make the transitions. A cheap whore is the hallway, used to and fro without a thought or care. In the middle of my house but never the center of my attention.

The light in the hall has two switches, never pointing in the same direction. One is always up. One is always down. Neither ever looking in the same direction. One is off. One is on but the light always changes when one looks the opposite way.

Where do I go from here? The hallway leads to all areas of my home. Where I sleep. Where I eat. Where I shit. Where I shower. Where I work. Where I fuck. Where I watch TV. Where I stare at the painting and think about all the things of which I need to think.

I’m 34. I’ve been to the doctor more times than I wish. They don’t know shit but what you tell them. They are hallways, clueless unless you already have a direction in your mind. They speak with authority, are necessary evils but really don’t know anything unless you have an idea in your head.

So here’s to the hallways which we all traverse, mindlessly, thinking about what’s ahead, never thinking about the journey.

April 28, 2020

Evening on the patio.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Living alone is survival. Life is being in a relationship. Life is a relationship. it’s strapping into a roller coaster with someone else and taking the ride. It’s seeing that person as the moment.

I wish I had taken more photos and videos of our time together. There is no poetry in that last sentence, only a cold realization. I have only memories and those fade and morph into abstract shapes. Blurry lines that only just begin to provoke a feeling. A photograph shakes the rest of the memory awake, giving that moment a life in the mind.

I was mistaken. The moment to be lived was not the place where we were or the thing we were doing. The moment was her. It was her reaction to the view, her laughter during the show, her smile after dessert. That was the moment and I missed it. I missed them and now they’re fading, leaving me with only lines and abstract shapes.

I came outside, after sobbing in bed, to write. Pincher pugs crawl everywhere and, though I don’t see them, crickets chirp.

I happened to pause and look up at the night sky, exactly at the moment that a shooting star entered the atmosphere and disappeared milliseconds later. That has happened to me more times than I can remember.

It was told to me, or maybe I read it somewhere, that to see a shooting star is an extremely rare occurrence. Not for me.

My instinct is to ask what it means. What everything means. What does it mean that I seem to see an unusual amount of shooting stars? If it is, in fact, unusual.

I’ve learned to stop myself, however, from asking those unanswerable questions of meaning. Rather than appreciate a thing for what it is, my mind moves to construct some larger, overarching truth that must apply to me. A virus that attaches to my brain and distracts me from what is, by pushing my mind to think about what must be. It manifests itself in religion, ideologies, and philosophies by feeding me thoughts that reaffirm or justify my actions. A virus that blinds me to the simple truths directly in front of me by forcing my mind to interpret instead what I wish to see.

The first step is admitting to myself that I am infected by the virus of meaning. I must admit to myself that everything I see, hear, smell, taste or touch does not necessarily bare itself into some greater truth. the virus, like a giant rolling ball of tar, picks up those things and tells me they are all related to the never-ending monologue in my mind.

That everything has meaning to me or that there lies somewhere in the depths of the ocean a cosmic truth that is false.

The next step I take will be in the wrong direction. I’m flickering. I’m not receiving any signals. The channels are fuzzy and the batteries in the remote are dead. I have nothing but the buzz of static to keep me company. No regularly scheduled programs, no advertisements, just a fork in the road and no information in my head. The glow of my screen the only source of light. A television with nothing to show. A television with no shows.

Then I met the girl that showed me the stars, that showed me her scars and the channel switched and the show changed. I changed. I can see something new, something new. Something better.

April 27, 2020

Evening on the patio.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I’m beginning to understand how kings of old grew fat and angry. Staying in their castles with only pleasure to occupy the mind. The mind, my mind, needs a challenge, something to which it can lend itself.

I’m growing fat and lazy, less ambitious. Hungry only for scraps. There is a sort of deterioration that occurs in the mind during a depression. A deconstruction, that for a writer leads to excessive personal pronouns; I, me. A narrowing of walls that somehow the rest of the words squeeze through leaving me with all the “I’s” alone.

My own

April 26, 2020 – Evening on the patio, thinking about all things.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Jesus loves you, marriage is between a man and woman, dinosaurs aren’t real, win big with McDonald’s Monopoly, doubts lead to temptation, houses are a tax relief; a few things I was told, among others, that turned out to be lies.

This is the part where it ends and where there is peace, you know I will not be.

I don’t want to be alone. The glorious comfort of a star within Orion’s Belt being the home of Jesus does not comfort me. Lying to grandpa on his deathbed was a kindness, a little white lie. I do not know if there is or is not a heaven.

He lied to me so I repeated grandpa’s lies back to him.

These are the truths I hold as self-evident; I have the urge to fuck, to dance, to write those words that combine themselves into a sort of truth. The rest I was told by others, like a trash can spilling its contents, I’m full of shit.

April 26, 2020

Evening on the patio.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A smoke and a tall boy on the back patio. The smell of orange blossoms wafting, every so often in the breeze. Deakan and Baby Girl sniffing at the weeds, chasing crickets and staring off into the yard where Edison does not reach.

I need a new mask, the strap broke on my old one. Too much stretching on and off for every trip to buy necessities, convenience and what-the-hells. Money is on the mind but so is pleasure.

The tall boy’s are sweating. The Black & Mild is sweet. Tears don’t come but I can feel them howling, getting closer like coyotes trekking through the desert, chasing a mirage, feeling the ache of relief but never reaching it.

It wasn’t yesterday or the day before, I don’t remember the date but it was a Friday when we agreed to get divorced.

The études of Philip Glass keep me company as I try to figure out what happened yesterday. Not yesterday, but some time long before it.

I do drink but no bars are open, no restaurants and no parties. The alcohol mixes with sadness. I don’t have a good reason but are things, all choices, justified?

Maybe, like a virus killing off percentages of human potential there is some thing out there pursuing balance. The wild dances of the flame are paid for with the price of a match stick.

In a maze of metaphors I lose my train of thought. I am too easily distracted by the loftiness of deeper meanings of life and its choices.

The magic of a marriage is not in the illusion of happiness but in the preparation and repetition of the illusion itself. The little things that go unnoticed so the grandeur of the illusion is preserved for its audience of one. My time would have been better spent on those little things. Those little things that would have made the whole experience so much more magical.

Smelling candles, trying on clothes, perusing all the aisles of a Target “just to see what they have,” pretending on the occasions when it was important to preserve her excitement, making her lunch, stopping whatever thing I was doing just to say hello, hugging her when I couldn’t fix “it,” hugging her when I didn’t understand her, never interrupting, kissing her goodnight, kissing her good morning, being as excited about my birthday as she was, pushing aside my gripes about buying Christmas gifts and getting lost in her excitement of finding something each person would like, waiting on line and making her smile instead of dismissing it as “too long,” not putting up a fight about the little house things she buys, losing myself in the thought of her excitement when I chose to focus instead on my beliefs about religious holidays, never rolling my eyes in annoyance, never making her wants my observable burdens, expressing my authentic sexual nature to her, getting those tattoos, not telling her to be independent but standing next to her and watching her be it, telling her she’s strong, telling her she’s one-of-a-kind, sharing my doubts, sitting with her while she does something, treating her as equal but also showing that I care, showing her she’s important and not just anyone else.

I know, I have a feeling at least, that there will be more things I think of for years to come.

The difficulty for me is not in all the sudden changes to my external life. The difficulty is in finding the truth in the swirl of thoughts, emotions and new choices without her.

Maybe its not finding truth or not simply finding truth. Maybe it’s something else, one of those words we use to underline our circumstances; a reason, a catalyst, a problem, an answer, etc. I don’t know. There is a piece in all this that is missing. Maybe it’s her. Maybe this is that time between flames when only smoke and charred wood remain, when the next match is scraped against the bottom of a shoe, just before a new fire bursts into existence.

Cart, Applied, Pop

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Sometimes I feel crazy

the thought of
what makes something
normal
tells me so

Is crazy that light
bleeding into sepia prints?
Does crazy cart around sanity
like a 5-pound sack of corn meal?

A lust
for love is
a corvette
at 96 MPH
swerving
in zones
marked 25 MPH

Forever
is the theory
of love
applied science need
not apply

Crazy in life
crazy in love
shaken
soda pop
unopened
crazy

Block, Oral, Solve

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Oral?

Yes.

Oral, as in…

Yes.

As in the type of examination?

Oh. Yes, that too.

Okay, I’ll have to perform orally. Actually I’m more comfortable with the term verbally if that’s alright with you?

*I prefer oral…

What was that?

Nothing, yes, perform verbally.

And I just stand here on my blocking?

Right where you are standing, that’s fine.

On the black tape X, correct?

Yes, where you are standing is fine.

I’ve read through the monologue, I think I understand who the character is but I’m not sure what his motivation is. What problem is he solving in this scene?

*Jesus Christ.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.

Your character is ordering fast food at a drive-thru. He’s solving his problem of hunger.

Okay, I did think of that but then I thought, well is my character really starving or is he high? Is he just stress eating? Does he have a high metabolism? Or does this meal represent his first meal after going nearly 3 days without food?

Why don’t you go with your instinct and we’ll have you say your two lines, then I’ll see if it works or not with the director’s vision.

Okay.

I’ll start reading all the other parts, you read your characters.

Okay.

Exterior, Billy’s Burgers, night. one car pulls up to the drive thru and begins to order. Our main character, Sally, listens, slightly annoyed. Sally – Welcome to Billy’s, what will you be munching on this evening?

I’ll have the billy cheeseburger, fries and a pepsi.

Will that complete you’re order?

Yes, thanks.

Customer #2 drives around to the window…and that’s the scene. Thank you. That was great. We’ll let you know–

–Well, that was my take with my character driving through with the munchies.

Okay.

I’d like to try again but this time my character is simply stress eating, not hungry.

Fine. We’ll take it from your line.

Actually, could you read the line before mine, it helps so I can react.

Sally – Welcome to Billy’s, what will you be munching on this evening?

I’ll…have…the billy cheeseburger (long pause) and…fries…and a pepsi.

And scene. Great, that was different. Thank you for–

–Okay just one more but this time.

No, I’ve seen enough to make a decision. I’ll call you with the directors decision.

What about the verbal part? I mean the oral part.

We can skip that today.

No, I want to do this right. If nothing else I need the experience auditioning.

No need, you did fine.

Please, I insist. I’m new to acting and even just getting auditions and going through those is helpful.

We don’t always do the oral, um, examination.

Well, could you do it today?

It’s a little unorthodox, but this is Wollyhood, you understand? It’s a different town, we do our own thing out here.

Yeah, sure, I can go with the punches.

The test is really more about seeing if an actor has what it takes to perform under pressure.

Okay.

We like to see that under the most stressful, uncomfortable conditions, an actor can take art to the next level.

Okay.

That by passing the oral exam, they show us just how committed and confident they are.

So what’s the test.

Kneel down and suck my cock.

Exemption, Marine, Slot

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was a losing combination but they met at cherry, grapes and seven. She was a marine, he was a truck driver. She was killing some time away from the barracks, not looking but maybe looking for something different. He was playing the slots like he was filling out paperwork for a 401K and life insurance policy all in one. Gripping the black stick he pulled it down, putting the machine into gear and starting its flashing lights, beeps, and boops.

She was adjusting her camo cap and looking at the roulette tables across the casino, to her right. She bumped into him. They looked at each other and then at the combo that stopped on the screen; cherry, grapes, seven. He chuckled to himself then stood up, “excuse me ma’am.” and gave a limp salute.

She smiled, “At ease, I bumped into you. Let me buy you a drink.”

“That isn’t necessary, ma’am. I’ve already got my security blanket here.” He twirled his glass so that the ice clinked.

“Well, if you change your mind I’ll be at the bar putting on my dancing shoes.” She smiled and looked him up and down.

He smirked and looked down at her tan boots. “I bet you could cut up a rug with those standard issue’s.”

“What’s your name, soldier?” she asked.

“Tom.”

“Staff Sergeant, Mary Maline.”

“Mary, it’s a pleasure to meet you. If your offer still stands, perhaps I’ll slip on some dancing shoes at the bar as well.”

The two made their way to the bar in silence, glancing at each other every so often. He looked down at his drink and around the flashing lights and sounds. She adjusted her cap and looked around at the flashing lights and sounds.

They reached the bar and she ordered. “Two Bulleit whiskey’s, neat.”

He raised his glass to her and finished off his drink, setting it on the bar with a clink.

“Where might two people move their legs and bodies around in a show of complete tom foolery?” he asked.

“I don’t believe the club is open, but there is music playing at the food court, if your up for dancing with complete exemption of social norms.” She answered.

The bar tender set their drinks on the bar. She paid. They toasted to warm casino nights. She grabbed his hand and they zig zagged through the smoke, illusions of grandeur, lights and sound of the casino toward the food court.

There was some contemporary pop playing, they rested their drinks on a deserted table with discarded Chinese food. Then they danced.

Race, Cry, Item

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Starter pistols tuned
to octaves heard by few
rabbits sprint ahead
tortoise’ lumber through

furs blur
cotton tails fly
shells drag
Heads stir

Cataloging status
caterwauling malice
hare dares to stop
tortoise keeps his clop

quickly darting all positions
Slowly, slowly moving on
rabbit rests
tortoise tests

tortoise never rests
rabbit seems to test
finish line in view
rabbit stops for stew

cracking feet
steady beat
tortoise seize
the rat-race cheese

springing feet
halting beat
rabbit freeze
its cocky knees

line is crossed
rabbit lost
rabbit cries
tortoise never stops

Qualify, Screen, Reaction

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Entitled by deed
Entitled by greed
Entitled to feed
Entitled to breed
Entitled to bleed
Entitled to stand on one’s own screed.

Begging for chances
Begging for advances
Begging at feet
Begging to eat
Begging for meat
Begging for the right to one’s own dances.

Burn up the screens
Burn up the scenes
Burn up the teens
Burn up the jeans
Burn for the queens
Burn to find out what everything means.

Tear down the bricks
Tear up the flix
Tear down the walls
Tear up the dolls
Tear down the malls
Tear of the curtain to see all the tricks.

Build up your scheme
Build up your cream
Build up your steam
Build up your dream
Build up your stream
Build to make the status quo scream.

Follow no man
Follow no plan
Follow no klan
Follow no fan
Follow no ban
Follow the instinct that tells you, “you can.”

Go up
Go down
Go left
Go right
Go in
Go out
Go

Presence, Genuine, Recommendation

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Haunting impressions of weight all around
Hairs raise, spine tingles, eyes dart
Feelings unnoticed when presence is visible

Not seen, indescribable
Not truly what something is said to be
disingenuous

Authority proposes, recommends, imposes
Impotent listen
all are blind

All have a key, a few have influence
Some listen, some give orders
balance

Chaos, agent of too many free thinkers
Order, agent of few thinkers
chaos is order with none of the rules and all of the consequences

I think
I drink
I think
I drink
I

Projection, Obstacle, Hour

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

His mind projected to him what he wanted to see. Perhaps not what he would ever consciously want, what his ego would want, but what his id was subconsciously saying to him. A figure with a beard down past his knees. Gaunt cheeks yellowed with jaundice, as was the rest of his naked skin. His ribs showed and the skin between his collar bones sagged enough to hold a shot of whiskey on both sides.

What he faced now was the inevitable state of his future, if he kept at his current pace, actions and emotions. Somewhere within him, it felt only an hour away. The future he now saw in the mirror.

The only obstacle to this vision of fury, wasted away was that constant voice of societal pressure, pounded into his head since childhood that one must keep up appearances, maintain a stiff upper lip, keeping up decorum triumphs over weakness of the spirit. To see a well groomed, well-maintained, well-dressed figure in front of him would, should and could keep him within the acceptable realm of sanity.

He wanted to be in sanity. Completely doused in rubbing alcohol, clean and pure. Free of the germs of doubt, low self-esteem and decay. Though he secretly felt that what modern psychologists labeled as deficiencies of the mind, were really just the variables that made up a persons character and personality. The stamps of an original individual.

Why should his sanity ever be in question when it swam in the same pool of saturated judgements and opinions as those who were insane and those who labeled others insane. It was all the same doggie paddle, just different ends of the pool.

The difference, he thought, was that some very few felt comfortable swimming completely naked, while most felt the need to cover themselves with that seasons flavor of bathing suit. They were all naked, and sex assured that everyone viewed the clothed and unclothed alike, as naked or potentially naked. And so that question of sanity ran down the same track.

He smiled and wondered just how far into the deep end he could swim. How far he could dive before needing to come up for air. How long he could last before feeling the need to cover his nakedness in front of those who pretended not to be naked behind their trunks, one pieces and bikinis.

What was the point of the bathing suit if everyone already knew the truth underneath?

Sex, Win, Deposit

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Nose lost in cascading curls of hair
tongue tapping ear drums
flesh taught with bumps

Torso writhing
slipping on sweat beaded skin
sweet sweat

Adventurous fingers
traversing dunes, peaks and valleys
pushing in territorial flags

Allied conquistadors
Friendly foe
Choreographed wrestling

Negotiating deposits
Salivary transactions
biting lips, grabbing hips

Incan, Aztec, Roman, Egyptian
Games played ancient
always two winners


Factor, Attic, Fill

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Fill what’s empty
plenty
one to twenty

space unrecognized
sized
brain disguised

Addict’s eyes
compromise
Attic’s rise

March backwards
hcram
stuffed clam

Time to rhyme
Logic and
Reason be damned

Not a factor
Nonsense
wheal-less tractor



Cover, Relation, Hilarious

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Crown me King
I am at
the center.
You may be
sister
cousin
father
mother
brother
but I
am king.

An empire of
foxtails
dust
rotted fence posts
chipping paint

My loyal subjects
crickets
spiders
roaches
ants

My closest relations
anger
acrylic paint
sadness
drink
loneliness
my right hand
anxiety
my bicycle

The crown is
light
The scepter is
missing
The freedom is
looking out
through hard
plastic
packaging,
my case
my cover
molds
to me.

I am king and queen
prince
and princess.
I am jester
jester
Jester

I am dungeon master
and
shackled prisoner.

I am lord and lady
in waiting.
I am peasant
pageboy
Knight
and horse.

I am king
and you
are alien.

I am king
and you
are nothing.

I am jester
and I point
and laugh
at the king.

I am king
and I
am nothing.

Grass, Thin, Theft

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Seas of blades
giants run, jump
make love and
sleep

Collapsing thuds
checkered cloths damp
with dew

Wrapped in wind
Robinhood thieves
pick-pocket hearts

Twisting chiffon
Spring steps
blades bend

Love is Molasses
Care is water
The thick and thin
of thieves.


Beam, Appeal, Oven

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I cry hard, like something is forcing itself out of me. Its wrinkled hands prying my jaws open from the inside, sending out a beam of aching sound, like wind chopped by the blades of a mill. Grunts and groans, the acoustics of pain are beautiful.

Plea’s to higher powers only expand the shadow over me. Nothing comes down, nothing hugs me, nothing screams in my ear the comfort of an existence lived any other way than alone. Let us look up, in the holy scripture, the book of 2nd bullshit and find out what lies lick our ears and send us life preservers with no rope attached to dry land.

Half-baked illusions equate to disillusions. Heaping helpings of please and thank you’s, excuse me’s and handshakes do not replace a single realization that we are and will always be entirely alone. Living in ovens, separated from the rest of the kitchen, getting weaker and weaker until we finally fall asleep in the warmth of wires glowing red. To become a meal, an example for some fresh batch of lives, popped into the oven.

Belief, Obese, Death

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Stars, sun and moon pattern canvases of purples and blues.

Bloated fingers stuffed through rings dab foreheads, stomachs and shoulders.

White hairs spill from Mitres jabbing at the sky.

Oceans of pink pressed hands squeezed white.

Fire licks spit roasted gluttons.

Salivating teeth taste smoke.

Souls peep morning skies through dewy windows.

Stars stab sun.

Moon kill sky.

Sun kill moon.