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.

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

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

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


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.

Topple, Rebellion, Penny

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The Penny Rebellion started with an Instagram user, @toppletopkym. He was wearing a mask, as was the necessary trend of the time, to decrease the spread of the virus. Short videos of the rich and famous had spread of them showing mountains of paper money. So user, ToppleTopKYM, filmed a short video of his own. Up to that video, his account was frequented by family and friends, mostly concerned family and curious acquaintances, not so much friends.

ToppleTopKYM mimicked the other videos. Where as they would lay on their beds on top of piles of paper money, or hold stacks in their hands and swipe single sheets into the air until they floated down in a confetti of money, he converted his meager income into pennies. Using the camera on his phone, ToppleTopKYM made a series of split-screen videos where he mimicked the celebrities and their braggadocios content but with pennies. He laid on his bed making a snow angel out of copper, while next to him a clean-cut A-lister pretended to do the breast stroke through a pile of 100 dollar bills. He through pennies in the air and let them clank to the ground while next to that video played a man with sunglasses indoors and a gold chain making it rain 100 dollar bills.

He made these videos for quite a while, not really gaining any notice, until he made a post simply titled Penny Rebellion. This video began with the screen split. A chubby man was tied up in a throne on one side with stacks and loose piles of cash around him. On the other side of the screen sat ToppleTopKYM in a metal folding chair with towers of pennies. On his side of the screen, he began striking matches and throwing them at the pennies. He did this a few times before shrugging, then turning towards the other screen. He struck a match and began tossing it towards the stacks and piles of paper money. The man in the throne widened his eyes.

ToppleTopKYM, after unsuccessfully lighting either of the piles, metal or paper, walked to the throne side, revealing they were in the same room. Then he struck a match and held it to a pile at the foot of the throne. Smoke slowly rose, then a small flame and then the whole pile was alight. ToppleTopKYM walked back to his metal chair and sat down, scratching his head comically. He lit a match and held it to the pennies until the flame burned his fingers. He tried again and again.

By this time the tied up man was screaming but they were muffled by the gag in his mouth. Then ToppleTopKYM walked towards the camera and said, “Fire licks Metal until it’s black but it eats paper until it becomes ash.”

Then ToppleTopKYM turned and began kicking the towers of pennies. When they were flattened, he turned to the burning paper and began kicking them onto the throne while the king on the throne tried to scream. The video ended mid kick and scream.

This video went viral. People started making their videos showing their wealth in pennies. People began paying for everything in pennies, and it was legal tender, businesses lost countless hours counting. Then the videos took on a life of their own. There were videos of how to make bullets, knives and even guns out of pennies. People got tattoos of pennies and graffiti-ed images of pennies all over the buildings where they lived.

Then it became a movement. “Show us your pennies.” Meaning, show us you’re one of us.

Politicians, terrified, always terrified of losing their image began making speeches about how their fathers and grandfathers came to this country with nothing but two pennies in their pockets. To that the people replied, “show us your pennies.”

After much violence, spectacle and shifting of power the people grew tired of using so many papers. They eventually went back to paper and its practicality; it could be folded, you could carry a lot and ultimately it wasn’t about the currency, but really more about the pricks who flaunted it, or pretended not to.

And that, was the Penny Rebellion.

Trace, Estimate, Satisfaction

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

His fingers traced the groove that ran down the center of the barrel of the gun. The pointer finger taking a sharp right turn down to the end of the handle.

“And you know how to use that sweaty?” He licked his lips after he said it.

Her thumb clicked the safety off and moved up to the hammer, cocking it back. She double squeezed the trigger as if clicking a computer mouse. One, two shots went into his chest. The second bullet assisted the first through his chest cavity, and past T5 and T6 of the thoracic vertebrae. Her employers required such details so they could verify them with the coroners office and newspapers.

He was wide eyed and taking short halting breaths.

“To answer your question, yes, I do know how to use this thing.” She let it flop back and forth in her hand. “It’s pretty easy really, just squeeze. It’s like using a weed whacker or hand blender. Pretty straight forward.” She holstered the gun in her bra and put her white gloves back on.

“If I had to guess, you have about 10 to 15 minutes of living left to do. That’s a gift in my book, not many people are given the satisfaction of knowing how much time they have before, well you know.” She sat with her legs crossed, bouncing her right foot over her left and her hands stacked on her right knee.

“You…” he tried to say something but the effort produced bloody spittle on his lips.

“If I were you I would take time to review your surroundings. Start with this beautiful hard wood floor and work your way over the Persian rugs, carefully laid over one another as if haphazard, follow them to the base boards and their precision cuts all the way around the room. Take in the eggplant colored walls and up to the crown molding with its striking bevels, curves and lines so elegantly dividing the wall from the ceiling. Take in the Spanish style texture of the white ceiling and follow that to the center piece of the room, the French empire crystal chandelier. Note how it’s trimmed by Swarovski crystals. I bet you never bothered before today, huh?” She winked at him.

His eyes were glazing over but he laid back and stared straight up at the bell shaped light fixture dangling above him.

“If you don’t mind, I’m in a bit of a hurry, so as you pass I’m going to search your pockets for the information I am required to find. I’ll do that now.” She paused, as if waiting for permission, seeing him blink she proceeded.

Bus, Defeat, Miracle

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He hopped on, paid the fair and took an open bench seat towards the back. Someone had vomited in the seat across the aisle from him. Gripping the handle above him, swaying with the bus, he lifted himself into the window seat and stared out.

The rain drops on the window made all the head lights look like shooting stars passing him. No one was walking the streets. Homeless were huddled at bus shelters, doorways and underneath shop overhangs.

Then, once again, he thought about her, a new her, a more recent her. As quickly as it had begun it had ended and instead of the hurt subsiding, it was rising again.

He lowered his sleeve by raising his arm and twisting his wrist to check the time. 40 minutes to get home, review what he had written so far, think about the new direction for the project and then call Larry. The new project was about his divorce but he couldn’t stop thinking about the girl friend he had had shortly after signing all the paperwork. He had lost her too.

Maybe lost wasn’t the right word, she had come and gone. He had to sit with that. Accept it and not hold onto it. It was too easy, with everything that had happened over the past year and a half, to not view things as defeats stacking up. He was winning in defeats. He snorted and smiled to himself, checking the neighborhood they were in. Two more stops.

No one saw the smile because of the mask he wore, everyone wore. The pandemic was still raging and he thought about how much social distancing he had already lost, now this “act of god.” It would be nice to experience a miracle some time soon rather than disaster after disaster.

One more stop. The bus pulled away from the curb and he watched the red and blue lights of a cop car across the street. They bounced all inside the bus when they passed.

He had to force himself to think about the story. At first a good idea. Taking his recent experience with divorce and creating a fictional horror out of it, exaggerating the feeling of loneliness, strangeness of the once familiar and the questions of what he had done wrong.

The bus stopped, he grabbed his bag and jogged around the corner to his building. Someone was exiting and held the door for him.

“Thank you.” he said passing.

“No problem, it’s nice to catch a brake sometimes.” The old woman laughed and let the door slip from her hand.

He kept going, trying to force himself to think of the story, to write what he knew but be separate enough from it to tell it coherently. Unlocking the door, he nearly tripped over his dog, Marty who was nearly seizing from excitement.

“Marty! Not now. I got work to do, bud.”

Setting his bag on his desk, he pulled out the notes he had begun taking. Reviewing all the acts and asking himself, what small details can I add that provide some relief to the heaviness of the story?

And I write.

A poem.

And I love you
even though
you are gone.

And I sit
in my feelings
and enjoy them
because I am alive.
And then
I feel
the next thing
that comes.

And ancient
cosmonauts
hold up
scepters
in a statue of liberty pose
in the kingdom
of outer space.

And wolves
drip bloody howls
into snow.

And red haired girls
dance
in fields of flowers
with their eyes
closed.

And
I write.

And
I love you
Forever.

Pilot, Hair, Wolf

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

…only beginnings

At mach speed it screams through me, mixing with my chemistries, passing through the shudder down my spine and ripping through my rib cage. I’m left with a glimpse, a still of a needle nosed jet driven by a figure with a helmet and tubes. Intimate is the moment, a photo, a tingling, an ache.

Follicles salute bloody snouts. Extending past split ends, peering at red snow, hearing howling, growling and snarls. Patellas chatter with tibia, fibula and femur. The vertebrae conga twists and sways. Visceral macabre discos, danced by ancient biological giants and jolted still by animatronic technologies. Everlasting, never changing pirouette’s dedicated to the unknown, to fear.

Notes bounce jagged lines over tympanic membranes. Hear and let beat what needs beating. Listen: I can be fulfilled alone. I let things come and go. There are only beginnings…

Cope, Oppose, Manage

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

An ocean of booze is not enough to forget. It’ll still spit you up on shore and you’ll squint at the sun wondering how you got there. But you don’t forget. You never forget. So you jump back in, swim as far as your arms and legs will let you and stop, maybe thinking of something else, but you’ll eventually crawl back up the sand and feel the hot sun.

You wade back into the water, jumping the small waves, diving under the big ones until again, you’ve reached the chop of the ocean. Then you find yourself spitting out sand and protecting your eyes from the sun. You take a skiff out until the engine runs out of gas. You can’t see the shore and so you think this enough. So with no life preserver you jump into the water, moving your arms and legs just enough to keep your mouth free for air. You don’t want to die, just forget. Yet you find yourself stuck in the rocky crags at the mouth of the bay. Hands, feet, sides and head bleeding from the beating your body took to get back to shore.

After climbing back to the sand, you lay down, exhausted. The tide begins lapping at your feet, your legs, your thighs, your hands and you remember. You jump in a plane and fly for hours until the view below is all blue with ocean. You jump and think you’ll never remember again. Your body slaps the water, bruising all over. Later you wake up with coast guard above you and family members crying. And still the waves lap at your feet, you can’t forget. You never forget.

Now you hobble back down to the waters edge, your legs are wobbly, arms feel like lead and that little ball of light inside you is dimming. You fall into the water pushing yourself crawling into the deep of the ocean. Why not just turn around and forget the water completely? Why keep trying to find the deep?

How do you cope with what you can’t forget? How do you manage what you remember? How do you prevent the memories from drowning you if you never stop jumping into the ocean?

Spirit, Reflection, Amber

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

When the lighter’s flame gets pulled into the leafs of tobacco tucked into the cigarette’s tip, a spirit is born. It dances and twirls like the gossamer on wild cactus. It bends and twists like the strokes of a painters brush. It flees off the white capped end of the cigarette like a stream of melting snow down a mountain. Its thin opacity creates a colorful reflection in the morning sun, a shape shifting stained glass window. It’s wispy shards equally as dangerous as broken glass but just as beautiful. It will take breath away.

At dusk, the end glows like ancient amber lodged in a fossilized tree. It’s color dimming and brightening with each inhale or gust of wind. The cherry end glows and fades like the spinning of a lighthouse lantern, the blinking of airport lights or the frantic braking of LA traffic.

The pleasure end stains with each dragging breath. From white to mustard to brown, the filter, a tributary for the waste of those dancing streams.

At its end, the cigarette is left curled up and alone in a mass grave of butts all spent and bent into the fetal position.

False, Leave, Posture

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Was it false? Her posture said yes when eventually she did leave. Her slow steps, that quick glance at the dogs, the fumbling with the lock she had opened hundreds, even thousands of times. Was she trying to convince herself of something? Something that she didn’t want in her mind but that her heart couldn’t support; not making the effort to pump blood to fingers, feet and eyes to make her way confidently out of the house.

I couldn’t know either but I suspected she wasn’t quite sure either. Decisions of the heart are never made in confidence. We may tell ourselves they are prudent choices but the heart plants a seed of doubt and only time will tell us if that doubt will grow into regret or die buried deep. I imagine that small unborn seed remains there, not growing but never truly dying, keeping its small hardness somewhere in the chest.

I wonder if it gets easier. Growth, nurturing, planting, giving, sharing time and energy. Or do those nutrients get lost with those seeds that never grow? Does the soil around those seeds grow into dust, leaving less and less space in the heart?

Then the weeds come. What did I do wrong? Was it this? Was it that? Was it all the things I was blind to? Was I selfish? Did I lose myself and become someone else? Will I be enough for anyone?

I’m only at the beginning but it already hurts to open up. It hurts to moisten and till the soil for new plantings. The first time, there was no pain in preparing for love but the more it happens, the more pain seeps into the process. The more those seeds of doubt poison what’s left of the soil around them.

What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me.

Ladder, Boat, Housewife

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She came out of the water dripping. A scene of a movie during a time when movies objectified women. Could have been last Summer’s blockbuster. I digress. She paused at the aluminum ladder dipping into the water from the dock. She pulled herself up a rung to get her mouth and nose out of reach of the wake washing over her. A speed boat passed a few meters away, probably not seeing her. I’m sure it wouldn’t have passed so fast had she been standing on the dock, her full person visible.

After a few minutes she came the rest of the way out of the water and grabbed her towel resting next to a coil of rope. Drying her hair, she laid out the towel and sat down. Another boat passed, this one slowing its engine to a low growl when passing the dock. The men in the vessel, a cigarette boat, hooted, whistled and hollered at her. She laughed to herself, not out of flattery but because her 31 years of life had taught her a new law of nature, when she appeared, men gawked.

Now she was a housewife. Married to a man who had at one time had dreams. He had since achieved them but still rarely came home. He cheated. She wasn’t stupid. But she still knew, at one time, there love was true. She hadn’t sacrificed most of her 20’s waiting for him to finish medical school, then residency, then research, trials and awards. His ambition seemed to know no bounds and his cock didn’t either.

She stood up, grabbed her towel and walked up the dock toward their lake house. She passed through the tennis courts, pool, fountains and eventually made it to the open french doors leading into the back of the kitchen. Her bare feet slapped against the polished concrete floors, wet from the grass leading back to the house. She stopped at the fridge to grab a beer. Propping the cap against the counter and tilting the bottle at an angle, she slammed down her right hand, sending the cap spinning somewhere around the marble counters and tink-tink tinking down onto the concrete.

She had all the things her mother and father, church, school, friends and acquaintances told her she would want. But she didn’t. They told her she could live to a ripe old age, keep her looks up to her sixties and never want for anything. She would have rather lived 3-5 short years with a convict, running from the law, staying in cheap hotels with single digits in their names than to sit in luxuries lap, just waiting for something to move.

She took the winding staircase one step at a time into the master bedroom. She stepped into the shower and rinsed off. Another day to kill. Too much time and no life.

Retain, Function, Analysis

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I haven’t the faintest idea how much I have drunk. I can see what’s left in the bottles and count the beers but those are no indicator as to the capacity or volume of liquid. At least not with my vision in the state it’s in. Perhaps an analysis of my personal ability to consume would be helpful if not at the very least interesting.

My ability to function with certain amounts of H20 and alcohol sometimes astonishes me. Bottles and cans shiver, empty next to the trash can, their use outlived, their spirits transferred into my being. I know that I am able to keep their contents long in the memory of my gut. My guts retention is amazing. A true American in all its glutenous, consumptive old glory.

Like those bottles and cans waiting to be tossed, I too shiver at the thought of needing more. A deep valley, is my body, slowly filling with the trickle of some Joshua tree property hose.

Yet, I still bob my head to the music, play with the dogs, wash the dishes, respond to endless streams of asinine emails and rub out those liquid pearls. What is a man to do with is time, his animal instincts and his intellect? To eat, to masturbate, to read, write and paint. That is how time is measured; in tasks, ideas, grunts and the reckonings of shame and regret.

Some of us take up our kitchen knives and create memories for our bellies. Some of us take up our kitchen knives and create outlets for pain. So much pain. What do we do with this pain? I don’t know, refer to how I spend my time.

The optimist believes in something greater, always better, a rising sun. The pessimist believes in nothing, see’s everything, the rising of the sun, its heat, its cancer, its vitamin D and its setting. The pessimist sees what is and optimist sees what could be. No one is only one of those things. It’s impossible to board an airplane and never think of its crashing.

Crystal, Axis, Angst

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

There is an angst that comes with the threat of suicide. Not one’s own, but that of one someone loves. It’s jarring. I love you so much so why would you not love yourself? That’s the question I find myself asking. Where will you go? If you are away from me, what will I do? Where will I be? How much time will it take me to get back on the path of “being okay”?

If I allow anyone to rotate around my axis, to be my moon and stars, how long will it be before they leave me? What have I been doing or not doing that removes them from my orbit? I am not the center of the universe but I like to gaze at the other stars, moons, planets and suns that grace me with their presence.

Don’t leave me. You’re light refracts from me. It reflects from me. I enjoy it’s rays coming to and through me. If your light is not there I am afraid of the darkness that will take over. I may find a new light but it will never uncover the shadows you have left.

A few have left me. A few leave everyone. Confused and contemplative of where we are left when those we love go away, whether from time or death, we stay and think. So I am here thinking.

I do not know where my crystals have gone. What will guide the light towards me when they are gone? When you are gone?

To punch the truth in the nose, why do some of my friends message me via text and never respond? “Hey, let’s hang out!” “Okay, what days and times work best for you?” I reply. But there is never a reply to mine.

Where will you go if you are not with me? Am I not adequate enough? because I feel that you are adequate enough for me, more than adequate. I love you but you leave me. So what do your words mean when they don’t match your actions?

A kitchen knife down the veins of a forearm. A car sitting idle in the garage. A man swimming out as far as he can to make sure he can’t swim back to the sand that grounds him.

Reasons to drink

Thoughts on growing up middle-class in America.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

At 3-4 years old I was asked which animals I wanted to pet in heaven. I was told from which star our savior would come. I was taught how to pray.

At 10-11 years old I got in trouble in my school for reading a book about my favorite dinosaurs, Velociraptors.

At 15 my grandfather attempted suicide. It was never talked about from that day forward, even though I saw him in a sterile facility, hair wispy, with a wrist band and hospital gown. I was asked if I wanted to go to church. I stayed home and watched stand-up instead.

At 33 I separated from my wife.

At 35 I get divorced.

At 34 I meet a real woman, I pee in my backyard, rent out a room to my best friend whom I met in rehab and do my best to limit my smoking and drinking.

And at some point I’ll stop listening.

I grew up in the land of mid-sized sedans, mini-vans and low-end luxury vehicles. The land where rap was tolerated as a phase instead of the gospel of fellow Americans. The land where men wore suits but ordered water when eating out on occasion. Where they preached loving they neighbor but threw their money at stained-glass windows and steeples.

I grew up in the land where causes had the opulence of being accessorized, awarded, badg-ed and medal-ed in. First place goes to the woman with her heart on her sleeve. What’s her prize? A podcast, followers and the right to perceive. Second place is forgotten.

I grew up where cultures were worn on the runway; tagged, liked and put to bed with the 24-hour news cycle. Where smiling with brace-corrected teeth was more important than listening. Where dents on garages were ignored for blue-tooth mirages. Where the placation of expressed problems were as cute as a stay-cation meme.

Meme, meme, me, me, me ,me: a virus of non-essential, feel-good, self-righteous, resting above comfortable but just below content ideas spread through imitation. Where love is shared with those who succeed and for those who don’t, martyrs are made. Where thought, like above, are unclear, influenced by what’s trending, not by what’s right.

I grew up where grandfather’s worked hard, father’s built empires and grandson’s teetered on their shoulders reaching for wisps of clouds. My hands are too soft, my mind too dull and my heart too brittle.

Where quarantine is spent at home with no reduction in grocery bills and no one wonders if today is the day. where there’s the luxury of debate, unpopular opinions and fundraising for traveling missionaries.

I grew up in the land where 14-year-olds built houses in foreign countries. Where 15-year-olds drove Mercedes-Benz and 16-year-olds started thinking about their parent’s colleges.

I grew up where authority is referred to on bend-ed knee but you don’t know what authority is. Authority is a running tally of wrist scars. Authority is counting days sober. Authority is orgasm at will. Authority is false teeth, cauliflower ears, and a crooked nose. Authority drags around an oxygen tank with wheezing breaths. Authority isn’t found on any screen, it rolls in a wheel-chair and dictates its will to on one.

I grew up where drugs, alcohol, pornography and other vice are worshiped for six days and absolved on the seventh. Where respect goes to the shiniest cars and the tannest chins. Where those who care the least are crowned the Kings and Queens of cool. A land of illusion where death is a shock at any age and life comes with medical, dental, optical and, a life insurance policy. Where people wait for bread with crossed arms and a tapping foot. Where necessity means a lack of excess and ignorance is an offer color joke chuckled at in church parking lots.

I grew up in the land of recycled boxes. Where one hundred rolls of toilet paper will never sell when on the self next to one-thousand roll packs for just a dollar ninety-nine more. Where emotions are changed by the click of a remote or swipe of a playlist.

No one taught me how to drink but Bukowski. No one taught me love but Shakespeare. No one taught me life’s lack of meaning but Seinfeld. No one taught me how to become a garbage pail for any drug passed my way but my lack of satisfaction. but I have a foot print on my ass the size of the middle class. Its kicked into my dockers in the direction of complacency, American democracy and mediocrity.

Rugby, Hair, Hammer

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A real bruiser, this guy. He had a head that looked like it had been pressed by vices, one smashing his chin and nose, another pressing against his ears. His neck was about as thick as his skull. The rest of his body looked like a sculpture in progress. A cube of marble with arms, a chest, stomach, legs and feet with none of the ripples and bumps of a completed piece. He was a block.

He was most comfortable and alive in the middle of a scrum. Locked arm and arm with two other bruisers, pushing against the entirety of his opponents. His team would always say that they swore he was doing all the work and that they were just along for moral support.

He was one of those guys that stayed in shape from 18 to 50 years old, no matter how much he ate, drank or otherwise consumed. Teeth might fall out of his mouth but the rest of him remained an absolute unit, as they would say on the sidelines.

He would have kept going, there was no signs of him slowing down. Except one day his picture appeared in the paper. His face was caved in by a hammer. It appeared that someone wanted to put a little more detail into his bulky features.

And so he was remembered, briefly, by family, friends and team mates but will be all but forgotten when they also pass on. Hopefully by less artistic means.

Fantasy, Census, Mill

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

There was an explosion in his mind, a spectacular explosion of imagination. A world appeared out of thin air. It moved, breathed, projected light and shadows. Creatures moved in and out of the darkness and light. Buildings pocked the land from castles to shacks. It was a world of his own creation, built from scratch through memory and imagination. A world so vast and ever expanding it was impossible to keep a running record of all its inhabitants.

The walnut shaped mill in his head kept churning his thoughts into fantasy.

Everything was imagined from mythical beasts to majestic feasts. Yet he could not conjure her, even in his own memory. She would not appear in his imagined world.

The waiting room in which he had dozed had grown in occupants. Nearly every seat was filled with someone coughing, bleeding, clutching their chests, or nodding off to sleep. An EMT made her rounds through the room, checking vital signs and taking temperatures, just enough to ensure people were alive in that purgatory before a hospital bed.

He’d come in to the waiting room many times before. Sometimes for food from the vending machine, sometimes for warmth but mostly for a place to sit. He often waited a full day but it was still a nice reprieve from sitting by the highway or sleeping behind the rubble of an abandoned lot. Here he had to be seen, if not immediately, then eventually but he would be seen and heard and felt and spoken to.

Here in the waiting room, they were required to pay attention to him. To hear him out. Listen to him speak and speak back. Here he would be counted among the living, even if just before they died. There would be a record of him, no matter how menial the numbers of his blood pressure were.

He nibbled at the vending machine egg salad sandwich, savoring each bite. Here he was a person, waiting like all the rest to be seen.

Box, Swing, Touch

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Six sides, 8 corners, and hollow in the middle or sometimes the vessel of some great surprise. It’s potential, opportunity, pregnant with possibility. A box.

The stomach holds the great tangled nest of intestines, large and small. Like the patterned maze of the brain, the stomach holds all the feelings. The butterflies, the guilt, the shame, the regret, the excitement. It bares the burden of our most pivotal moments. It’s that spot in the dirt where heels dig in to turn directions and change course.

To rub Buddha’s belly is a sign of good luck, it will bring good fortune. It’s hard not to think of the Buddha being tickled by so much rubbing, with that big grin permanently etched into his golden face. To run a mindless finger around the belly button, to feel the grooves and smoothness of worn away stone or metal, is an act of meditation.

Momentum. The tick and tock of a clock. The up and down of the yo-yo. The yin and yang of life. The back and forth of the swing. The push of feet against concrete against the pull of gravity. To what end? Gravity always wins.

Box, swing, touch. Everything is connected.

Eye, Leader, Raccoon

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Through the peep hole, all I could see was that big blue window into her soul. I smiled and knocked again. She opened the door but the chain kept the door open just a crack. Maybe she didn’t recognize me. Maybe I had the wrong house. Then her head peaked through the crack.

I smiled a little wider this time.

“Hi, it’s me.”

She only stared. Not saying anything. I could hear the sounds of a house full of living. Pots, pans, yelling kids, a TV.

“Is this a bad time.”

“What are you doing here?”

Now the words caught in my throat. I folded my hands behind my back and cleared the uncertainty welling up.

“Well, I wanted to be the first to tell you that I got that movie made. It was purchased and now there’s some director looking for actors and…well, I just wanted to tell you. You were always so supportive of that.”

She looked at me. Then closed the door. I heard something scratching and then the door opened all the way. She stepped onto the porch, shutting the door behind her. It took every ounce of social conditioning and domestication that had been thrown my way to not instantly through my arms around her shoulders and pull her head into my chest.

She crossed her arms slowly and then looked up at me.

“You couldn’t have called or texted?”

My cheeks flushed. I knew she could see that.

“I’m sorry, you’re right, this isn’t fair of me.”

“No, look, I think it’s great. That’s what you’ve always wanted. It sounds like you’re on your way to something great.”

I knew she was just extending a guilty hand. I looked around the yard and spotted chains and a lock on the lids of their trash cans.

“So you keep a pretty tight lid on your trash now, huh?”

“What?” She looked where my gaze held then laughed. That sweet laugh. “Oh, yes, well we have some pretty tenacious little bandits that dig around and spread it out every night if we don’t.”

She uncrossed her arms but took a half step backward.

“I’m sorry, again, I should have called, I just thought it would be cool for you to know when the trailers came out and stuff. You’d see them on TV and know who made the movie.”

She looked at me for what seemed like a full moon cycle. It was only a few seconds before she spoke but I could see that familiar glint, somewhere buried back behind her new life.

“Well, it’s just that, it’s hard to see…”

Another pause. I knew what she was going to say, something to the effect of it’s hard to see me but it wouldn’t work, it never worked. Despite what I thought to the contrary.

“Alright, well it sounds like you’re busy in there with the little ones. I just wanted you to know and now you do. It was great to see you.”

“It was great to see you too.”

I turned to go down the steps. She turned to go back inside.

I thought about the most memorable people in history. The presidents, kings, bishops, popes, captains, outlaws, revolutionaries and wondered how their greatness was shaped. I wondered if they didn’t have their own broken hearts and so turned the world into their anvils, beating it into the shapes that suited their desires.

As I got to the gate, she yelled out to me.

“Hey, I’m gonna see your movie the day it comes out.”

I smiled and thought about an empty theater playing my movie with only her big beautiful eyes to watch it.

Beast, River, Turbulent

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s a gorgeous creature. I can see it from the burbling banks. I’m sitting behind a tree. The low leaves and uncut foliage provide enough cover for me, but not for… whatever I’m looking at.

The silky white skin pops out from the greens and browns of the forest. It approaches the water one step at a time, looking around with every gentle paw print.

Then the thunder clapped. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of lightening. I didn’t flinch, my gaze fixed on the creature. I forgot about my hunger. I forgot I about my thirst. Maybe I just ignored my basic needs. The creature moved so elegantly on the other side of Sacramento. In between us the sound of rushing water. I was able to ignore that too.

I stubbed out my cigarette. The smoke would be a signal. The burning cherry a red eye in the middle of the forest. Looking through the scope, the creature looked around one more time before bending over to lap up the river water.

The creatures pause gave me a chance to look at it through the cross hairs of the scope. An elegant white skin with bright orange dots all over. Something I’ve never seen before.

Long arms that bent like a bulldogs. Legs that rippled with muscle. Hair that ran from it’s head down to where I imagined some sort of sexual organ. I was attracted but not sure what sort of creature I was looking at.

My knees shook from sitting for so long. The rifle dipped and I gripped it with a “Click.” The creature looked up, seemingly straight at me, through the scope and into whatever part of me people call the soul.

I was terrified to breathe. What I had considered a burbling brook a few minutes ago seemed now like a turbulent vortex. It started to rain.

The creature looked up to the sky and roared.

I watched, now with my rifle lowered. Across the banks, I realized it was twice as big as me. It pawed at the dirt, backing up a few paces and began to charge the river bank. Just before touching the water, it leapt.

It seemed to hang in the air for an hour. I stayed in my position with the rifle’s barrel digging into the dirt. I was too enamored with the creature.

Just before it landed in front of me and roared I thought how I would do everything to make sure the creature would exist, forever.

Right in front of me, the creature opened it’s mouth, revealing yellow piles of teeth. Sharp and dripping with saliva.

Before the beast took its bite, I wiped away a bit of saliva so I could watch. It grabbed my throat and shook. I didn’t put up a fight.

If I could nourish such a magnificent creature, then I was doing the lord’s work, as grandpa would say.

Rope, Blind, Sword

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I step outside and look around at all the legs and torsos around me. I can’t see too far because of the fog around my head. Everything is monochrome, it’s always been monochrome but I have a feeling that I’m missing color. It’s a dull ache and I suspect that the heads of those around me, attached to the necks, torsos, and legs of those passing me in the fog, poke through the clouds above. Others breath fresh air, they see colors above the fog, they feel and express those feelings.

I stand on my toes and crane my neck, willing my head past the clouds to something else. I never seem to be able to reach it. I’ve stacked crates, books, climbed ladders, but I can never get high enough to see past the monochrome.

Sometimes, I’ll go to a bar and some old man will push a glass full of gold with bubbles in my direction. I drink it and I catch glimpses of brightness, take deep breaths and feel something in my chest, rattling at my rib cage. Some moments there’s a tiger biting at the bars and other moments there’s a mouse passing freely throughout the world of my body. The bubbles in my glass fizz and pop but my head is tilted toward the sky.

There must be a reason young men look up at the sky and shake their fists while old men stare at the ground and rub their tired hands. I was born to die but while I wait I wave my hand in a long, slow goodbye. My eyes see but I think I’m blind. Ropes are for tying down and swords are for cutting but love is for those still waving goodbye.

Tower, Light, Cup

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I caught a glimpse of a tower made of white brick. The squares were stacked in such a way that they spiraled all the way to the top of the spire. The tower seemed to glow, by the light of the moon or the beams of the sun. Something about the structure compelled me to see it up close, to feel the texture of the brick and get to know the inside of the building. That day, however, I was stuck on a boat. It was stormy and there were no ports on this side of the peninsula.

Through the angry clouds and assault of spray from the waves battering the boat, I stared. My eyes stung from salt. My body ached from gripping tightly to ropes and climbing rigging, all to pull us out of the deep ocean and closer to land.

Sun peaked through the clouds and shone on that white tower. I dropped my ropes and grabbed the railing. I needed to go there, it represented hope, safety, security, reassurance and warmth. It took all my instincts of self-preservation to stop me from hopping over the rail and swimming the impossible length to shore. So I stared.

Seagulls orbited the tower like nymphs dancing around a fire. Green grass and brown clumps of hairy shrubs bowed toward the tower. The storm seemed to calm but I knew that really, my focus was not on the tumult happening all around me, I was only fixated on something that I could not reach.

It wasn’t the right time so I made my way all around the boat, following the white column as we moved around the sound. I stared at the spot where I knew the tower stood long after it had disappeared over the horizon. One day I would see it again and with any luck, the conditions would allow me to explore that magnificent structure.

For now I would have to be satisfied with my cup of whiskey and the memory of having seen it. I know that a tower such as that will always be there, even if not for me, but it will be there, strong and beautiful.

Tacos, Hair, Crema

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And so these tacos…they have what in them?

Hair.

And…okay, but you eat them?

Yes, with plenty of Crema.

Okay, now I know you’re just talking about something else.

Yeah, tacos.

The dirty kind of taco, like slang for…well, you know what I’m talking about.

No.

Let’s say you’re actually talking about tacos–

–I am.

Fine. How do you eat a mouthful of hair?

You just–

–Follow up question, who’s hair is it? What kind of hair is it? Is it washed? Where does it come from?

From the bowl in the kitchen.

Come on man, we’re not talking about the beloved Mexican food, are we?

Yes with a twist.

The twist is it has hair instead of meat or beans or rice or fajitas.

Yes, and plenty of Crema.

So where does the hair come from before it gets to the bowl in the kitchen?

I don’t know.

You never asked?

No, a truck just pulled up and on the side in old English style red lettering it said Tacos, Hair, Crema and that’s all they serve.

No questions?

Just the hottest new eats on wheels in town.

Who is eating them.

All the cool kids. The ones with wide brimmed hats, long dresses and heels. Others with mustaches, tweed jackets with patches and spectacles with no prescription lenses.

Oh, okay, you’re saying that ironically.

No, they are cool and I know that because of all the effort that goes into finding those clothes.

See, when you say it like that it sounds like your making fun of them or being passive aggressive.

I’m saying exactly what I think.

Okay…Okay, so tacos, hair, crema. Back to my first question, and I still have so many, how do you eat all that hair?

Well, that’s what the crema is for, you kinda stick a finger into the taco and move it around until all the hair has mixed into the crema, then it kind of just slides down your tongue and down your throat.

Sounds so appetizing when you say it like that.

Exactly! I knew you’d get it.

No, I was being sarcastic. And again you made it sound sexual.

Sexual?

Come on ‘stick your finger in,’ slides down tongue’?

They’re open today if you want to try it.

I don’t.

Where is your adventurous spirit. I have all kinds of photos showing everyone my adventurous spirit. You know in some parts of the world they eat bugs, other parts they eat dogs, in the U.S. we eat cows but in other parts of the world it’s taboo to eat beef.

Yes, but hair, come on. There is a line somewhere and it’s been crossed.

Yes, eating meat is barbaric.

Your point is well taken but eating hair is a stupidity that has to be on the moronic end of the stupidity spectrum.

No, I eat them.

Yeah.

Cake, Rooster, Ocean

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Rooster’s don’t have teeth. At least that’s what he was told. He was also told to go to college, get married and buy a house. That shit didn’t work out. So did rooster’s really not have teeth?

His fingers curled over a smooth rock and he felt it in his hand. The smoothness reminded him of the doorknobs he would swipe his hands over in the eleven room mansion in which he was raised. He gripped the rock, knuckles white, and whipped it into the surf, thinking it would skip. The hungry waves bit down on the rock almost instantly.

He thought about those rooms. All those rooms filled with strange paintings and things. Things was the best word he could think to describe the objects he saw. Things hanging from the ceilings by chains. Things penetrating from the floor into the ceiling. Things that were flesh colored. Those things were scary but intriguing.

He remembered once a table as long as a football field, or at least that’s what his 7-year-old brain told him it was. A table filled with cooked birds, platters spilling over with vegetables, meats, cheeses, fruits and bread. Dishes with green garnish, plates with sandwiches, and giant decanters in shapes that suggested the things he noticed in all those rooms. Then there were the cakes, spheres as tall and sturdy as elephant legs towering over the table.

The memories were coming back to him. The rhythmic sound of the waves chomping down into the sand seemed to hypnotize him.

He remembered pushing open the kitchen door and seeing pigs sprawled out on the counters. Fat butchers with equally fat cleavers slamming down into the flesh and making the pig smaller. Hooves fell on the floor, a rump, then a head.

He watched giant pots of soup, steaming into the chefs spectacles, forcing the chef to clear his vision every few seconds. Then he heard the chickens clucking.

They bobbed their heads around in the coup just outside the kitchen. A chef would grab one by it’s neck, twist it around like a towel being rung to dry and then slam a knife into a wooden block, separating the chickens body from its head.

One time, he noticed a rooster with the chickens. Not a common sight. An absent minded chef grabbed the rooster twisted its neck around and decapitated it. The chef tossed the head carelessly into the doorway of the kitchen. He remembered looking down and seeing the grin of a beak full of teeth. He remembered it as clearly as the first time he broke an arm, the first time he kissed a girl and the first time he had sex. That rooster had teeth.

But they don’t. So what else was he not remembering correctly?

Leftovers, Spin, Commission

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She wiped it off her chin. He wiped with a towel. The crew struck the set. The director took the footage to the editor. The talent got dressed and drove off in separate vehicles.

The footage was edited. The file uploaded and the views started coming in. The director got his percentages, the editor got his cut and the cast and crew were paid up front.

The video went viral. It was talked about in whispers at work and communicated through smirks and smiles at friendly gatherings. Talk show hosts feigned tongue-in-cheek jokes for the sake of not embarrassing the wholesome American public.

Journalists tracked down the director and location. Documentaries were made. The male talent jawed and grinned in front of interviews. The female talent declined to speak.

Fathers exaggerated their anger towards the video. Sons stayed silent. Mothers slacked their jaws but kept their eyes open. Daughters wondered. All of them hid their authentic private thoughts.

Preachers ensured congregations that they had watched the video so the rest of their souls would be spared. Politicians ensured constituents that the tapes had been reviewed to ensure good, hard-working Americans wouldn’t need to be subjected to such smut.

They made their meals spinning their stories to strengthen their commissions, burying the leftovers with the truth about themselves.

Preference, Suffer, Acquaintance

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The drums beat a steady rhythm like a soldiers march, like a heartbeat like the rhythms of men and women making life and love. The wailing song that emerged was born of terror, rage and sadness from the men lured into the ocean by mermaids.

Fishermen and hunters, beards long, skin rough and muscles taught, they would wander too close to the crags jutting like teeth from the mouth of the bay. Mermaids would sing their sweet songs and bare their full bosoms. The men didn’t stand a chance. As they waded in the water, eyes fixed to the breasts above them, they didn’t see or feel the mermaids pulling them below the surface. No suffering, just a gurgled sigh as they drowned in delight.

The women, looking for their men would kneel in front of the waters edge and submerge their heads under the waves. This is where they heard the steady beat of their loved ones hearts.

The Mermaids of since gone. Living deep below the waves as men became more beastly and developed tools that helped them get what they want without the sacrifice of death. After the ages of machines and convenience, the mermaids traded souls for legs of their own.

Sometimes, when men wander by themselves, walking along the beach, pier or harbor, they meet a mysterious woman with an ancient familiarity, an acquaintance to the DNA swimming around in all men. They’ll fall on their knees and beg to be held, their beards hitting the ground. The mermaids, mute, place their own hands on top of the kneeling men, smothering them in between their bosoms, stomachs or thighs.

No screams or tortured cries, just a soft sigh as the men pass from this world with awe and delight. A much preferred death to the violence of battle, tangles with machinery and the 1000 little cuts other women sometimes inflict on their victims without the pleasure.

Stick your head beneath the waves and you’ll hear Poseidon’s hymn, the heartbeats of satisfied men, tortured by delight.

Guitar, Waiter, Poetry

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was Flamenco night. Some black haired, olive oil skinned man was grating his finger tips on the guitar. A woman whipped her skirt around her legs with one hand while clacking castanets in the other. A spot light illuminated the two on stage, the only other light coming from the candles at each table.

“More sangria, sir?” the waiter hovered his pitcher over my glass. I nodded. He poured. I chugged.

I chewed on a bit of apple that made its way through my teeth and watched the Spaniards sweat on stage. The woman began to sing. A haunting wail that sounded like the agony of regrets. She twirled and sang words that sounded like the poetry of the dead or the drunk.

It was my fourth Sangria. My eyes began to water and tear splashed on the table. Maybe it was the music or maybe it’s because mixed drinks are hard to judge.

I looked around the room. A woman with white hair and spectacles clapped her hands. A man with a bald spot threw his shoulders back and forth to the rhythm. A young couple was making out in the corner. The waiters danced with their trays between our tables.

I looked at the empty seat across from me but didn’t feel regret. I couldn’t place the feeling.

I flagged down the waiter for another Sangria and sat, trying to figure it out. All this raw emotion and rush of feelings but I was alone. In younger days it was easier to identify my feelings. This is happiness. This is regret. This is anger. As I grew older, the feelings tied themselves to memories and experiences, making it harder to untangle one emotion from another.

And so this is it. A moment. The moment. It leads into the next and swallows whole each moment until you find yourself alone. It wasn’t pity I felt for myself, just a reminder that when life is around you, it must be grabbed, touched, caressed, held, laughed at, cried with, struggled with…

To feel it all, all at once and acknowledge that I was feeling. That’s all that was necessary.

The waiter filled my glass. I took a sip before setting it down to enjoy the rest of the show.

Terrify, Characteristic, Throat

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She danced on the burning edge of a match. Flames lapping at her legs. Her skirt twisting with the into the reds and oranges. A little spot of white in the center of destruction.

She danced and opened up her throat to scream. Her hair tangled in the flames being pulled by the stars. Fingers moving like tentacles, waving and sticking to her body as she swayed with the wind.

I held up a hand to shield the match from the violence of the wind. The fire would eat, but it would have to taste the wood of the match all the way into my fingers before it sent up its smoke.

The fuel of the green lungs all over the world fueled the dance between my fingers. Those forests of lungs all in a singular breath from the Amazon to the Black Forest, creating a hollow breath through the tunnel of the world.

I watched her dance and ignored the insatiable appetite of the flames biting into my finger tips. An emptiness hit me, a tunnel opening up inside my chest, terror. Then the flame spit up its victory smoke and I was left with the memory of her dance.

My blistered fingers fumbled for another glimpse at the woman who danced on the burning edge of the match.

Until my fingers black and nerve endings shriveled, I would strike, and shield, and watch the women dancing in the flames.

Bake, Defenestration, Plaza

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“It’s one quarter for the defenestration, a dollar for fenestration and an extra two bucks to choose the vehicle.” I fingered the two dimes and nickel in my pocket, wondering if I was attractive enough to talk to the lady working the front desk of the “Crimes and Felonies Simulation Center” into letting me choose the vehicle with out the extra two clams.

I took a step back, looking through the window across the plaza at the “Misdemeanors and Minor Offenses Simulation Center,” tucked between the dollar store and the empty one forever hanging a lease sign. I could get more thrills at “Minor Offenses” but the quality, you can’t skimp on quality.

Slapping my three coins on the counter, I said, “I’ll get defenestrated today.” I grabbed some copper from the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray and said, “which vehicles can I select with this.”

Without changing her expression, or tone, she said, “Tell you what, I’ll run the simulation myself. Follow me, sir.”

We walked through the shop, I could hear screaming, thuds, cracks, shattering glass, grunts, wet gurgling and all the sounds a comfortable middle class boy like myself doesn’t often get to hear or experience outside of movies and video games.

We stepped outside to the back of the shop. Parked net to a dumpster was a Ford Taurus, somewhere from the early 90’s.

“Get in.” she said, already shutting the door behind her. I knew where this was going, she would tell me not to wear my seat belt, hit top speed and send me flying through the windshield, but she was hot so I ignored my brain.

She drove, her hands ten and two, no radio, stopping at every light, keeping two car lengths between the vehicles in front. Textbook safe driving. We pulled up to a bakery and she said, “get out.”

Together, we went into the shop. I smelled cinnamon, pastries and apple pie. It was like walking into grandma’s house on Christmas. “One croissant for me and whatever he’s having.” I looked at all the deliciousness on display and selected a cream-filled pastry, “That one.” I pointed.

With pastries in hand we got back in the car. I closed the door behind me and bit into my baked good. The outside was flaky and crumbled in my mouth. Then my tongue hit the warm cheesy filling and I closed my eyes.

My eyes were nailed shut with shards of glass. I felt warm liquid trickling down my head and neck. My face grated against the gravel leaving skin, muscle and tissue on the asphalt behind me as I slid forward. Like soft Gouda between the holes of a grater. My veins and arteries snapping and popping as I traveled forward. The blood vessels twisting and shriveling as they came in contact with the air.

I felt my legs and waist folding over the back of my head as my momentum carried me forward. My face, the sole of a 12-year-olds Vans as she skids her foot on the ground to slow her bike.

My back snapped. My shoulders popped out of socket. My face skin worn away, my skull chipping off and my teeth flying out like corks around the world on New Years Eve. My body stopped and everything was black.

The next voice I heard was gods.

“Thank you for choosing Crimes and Felonies Simulation Center for your real life experiences. Be sure to get out of your chair slowly as your mind may still be adjusting to reality. The light will fade up slowly and then it will be safe to exit.”

25 cents well spent.

Feminine, Dramatic, Solution

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He kicked the dust and shoved his hands into his jeans. She slammed the hood of the car down and dabbed at sweat on her forehead. Pulling a cigarette from a pack, she let it hang from her lips and crossed her arms on top of her head.

“Shit.” He kicked the dirt again, sending another cloud of dust toward her.

“It’s not the oil, she’s just an old car. We’ll wait for someone to drive by and hitch a ride. Relax.” She lit her cigarette and put her arms back on her head, her hands dangling on either side of her face.

He stared at the hair coming out of her armpits and curled up his nose. She caught his look of disgust and laughed.

“Bitch, what’s your problem?” She flicked the cigarette at him and pulled out a gun. He stepped back. She walked around the car, stopping at each tire to shoot a bullet into the rubber. The car sat lower now and the sun was getting higher.

“There’s two left in here.” She tapped the gun. “I’m not going to use one, so why don’t you shoot yourself twice and end your insecure, sniveling misery.” She tossed him the gun and turned around, grabbing her purse from the car.

He watched her walk down the road. Not a car passed until her image started shimmering and wavering with the heat coming off the asphalt.

A Peterbilt blew past him and the gun, stopping just after her image on the horizon.

“Fuck it.” he said.

Just before she shut the passenger side door of the Model 567, she heard two gun shots. She hoped for his sake he had not missed the second time.

“Did you hear that?” the trucker spat out his dip and pulled his cap lower. “Sounded like gunshots.”

“Nothing that dramatic, probably just some loser on the side of the highway putting an end to his misery.” She rolled down the window and rested her hand on the ledge.

“Where to?” the trucker shifted the rig into gear.

“Do you ever get engine troubles in this thing?” She pulled out another cigarette and pressed her red lips around the filter. She lit it and slipped the butt in between his lips.

“Sure, sometimes it can be a bitch.”

“Well, what about a ride along mechanic?”

My last confession

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
1,407 words

I must be falling. My suit jacket is bunched up under my arms and flapping around my head. A strip of polka dots slaps around my face. My calves and white cotton socks exposed. Shoe laces whip my shins. The wind changes pitch as it passes through the circle I’ve formed with my lips.

Forgive me father for I have sinned; it is…

     The air is getting colder. I look down and see flecks of shine coming and going on a canvas of blue. The ocean coming up to greet me. I make out, almost directly below me, the Golden Gate bridge.

I pray I hit it so the story ends.

The bridge whistles past and out of instinct I point my toes to the water and press my arms to my sides. The air rushes into my lungs just before water rushes in my nose and past my ears. My eyes are shut but less and less light makes it through my eyelids. I put my arms out to slow the dive.

     I open my eyes. All around are people. Some swim gracefully above, others motionless and fall past me. I see a man in shorts and a polo pushing past a motionless woman in pearls and an apron. Her hair wrapped around her face, pointing her way to the surface. People were everywhere, submerged, floating and swimming, looking around confused.

I look down. A mass of behemoth black shadows swirls below me. I look up. Pants, belts, socks, skirts, blouses, bras, thongs, ties, jackets, shoes falling toward me. People kicking and thrashing toward the light. I see people at the top burst through the surface and take a breath of air. My chest starts to burn with envy. Naked bodies fall toward me.

I need oxygen.

O’ my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee…

     I started to push up as if there were solid objects below my feet and hands. I am heavy with wet clothes. A woman removes her shoes and fights upward. I pull at the water to fight up. I kick off my own bloating leather soles and pull off my socks. A loose tie wraps around my neck as I push upward. I tear it off and begin removing the rest of my clothing, always gyrating upwards toward the light. The burning in my lungs starts to feel like the image of a film reel being eaten up by a flame. I’m feverishly kicking like a frog while my hands tug away at the belt. I pushed off my pants. The shirt doesn’t tear quickly enough. I look down and begin to panic.

     The shadows seem closer and the light farther away. Something touches my foot and instinct kicks in. I look straight up, now completely naked and cup my hands for full force. I’m beginning to exhale in short bursts that grow longer with each snort. I’ll run out of air soon and then, out of habit, inhalation will take over.

I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my whole life…

     Next to me, a man grips the legs of the person above, trying to pull himself up. He exposes the man’s ass and they both fall further down. They reach for me while their mouths fill with water and sink to the swirling black masses.

A woman below me reaches for my leg. I kick at her hand, but she grabs my ankle. A bubble of air leaps out of my throat but the muscles tighten their grip on my body, and I pull both of us forward. 

     I won’t make it to the top with her extra weight. The burning in my chest has been replaced by spasms. My lungs pounding in their cage. I begin to sputter. Whatever air is left in my lungs turns to bubbles in the water. The light is just a few strokes above me. I look down and see a man grabbing at the woman hanging on to me. I kick at her hand, she lets go, now fighting off her own leech. I push forward and in another two strokes, the light blinds my eyes.

Thank you, father.

The light disappears.

#

In an abandoned house off the 215 freeway I go to confess my sins. The minister sits behind a plaster wall from 4:00 pm to 4:52 pm. He enters through a hole in the outside wall because the front door is boarded up. Sitting in the master bathroom, he takes confessions through a glory hole. 

I walked in with the dead eyes of a junkie, unsticking my eyelids from the caked cocaine and running eyeliner. Another day wasted. Given up to the night before. I had time to confess before Father Ibsen spent the rest of his night suckling at any booze he could find, nursing his own demons. I stooped to put my face by the hole. Parting my dry lips with my tongue, I recited the script.

“Father forgive me for I have sinned again.  I know not what I did but I know a blue-eyed, red-haired devil in fishnet stockings made me do it.”

A lighter clinked and hissed. Tobacco hit my nose. Smoke poured through the hole and made my eyes well up. His words curled through the haze.

“Tell me son, what have you done that you say the devil made you do?”

My eyes tried to focus. I listened to my breathing and my mind clarified for a moment. Guilt has a queer way of turning me into a saint. The few moments in between coming to and my next blackout I find myself curling into a ball and begging my inner child for forgiveness. My ego quenches the thirst, but my self flushes it into oblivion. However, feelings don’t mean facts, so I answer honestly.

“I don’t know but the evidence keeps piling up behind me.”  Father Ibsen passes the cigarette through the glory hole, filter ripped off. I extend two yellow fingers to accept. 

“Son, in my terrifying experience the demons don’t scratch, tear, bite, claw, scream or yell, rip, shred or gnash their teeth. No, they brush your hand, touch you lightly on your thigh and whisper in your ear. They’ll give you sweet words and pour confidence down your throat, inject self-esteem into your veins and breathe life into your nose. It’s a slow seduction.”

I took a long pull from the cigarette. With no filter, the smoke punched a hacking cough out of my lungs. I choked it down to hear the rest of Father Ibsen’s sermon.

“They make you think you are doing all the work. That you make the decisions and take charge of your destruction. So that by the time you feel the scratching, tearing, biting, clawing, screaming, yelling, ripping, shredding, and gnashing of teeth you think it’s the demons but it’s really the angels giving all they have to try and pull you back. While the demons lay back, pissing and blowing snot bubbles all over themselves with laughter at the violent struggles of their boy scout doppelgängers.”

Father Ibsen stuck two fingers back through the hole. I handed him the cigarette and he continued.

 “That is the devil’s greatest pride. She twists her forked whiskey-soaked tongue around yours until you can’t tell the difference and when you think you know, she has you.  Her trick is making you think all the rules and regulations will save you, but the fortress is really a prison.”

The words were ironic coming from the fiery, vodka drenched breath spurting out of the hole. He chuckled and finished his impromptu sermon to the choir.

“So, it makes me laugh, son, until tears stream and sides ache, when I hear one of my children say, ‘the devil made me do it’ because son, aren’t we just the devil?”

His final words sounded like an admiring mother mildly scolding her mischievous child.  I heard his chair creak as he stood up. He passed his collar through the fuck hole, spotted and stained with sweat and semen, and spoke the last words I ever heard from his mouth. “Time for this devil to change costumes. But you should sit on this side of the wall. Hearing the insanities of the other, keeps one’s own in check. Their ain’t no glory on this side of the hole, any stone age queen will tell you the same.”

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Extraterrestrial, Prisoner, Distance

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Dust. So much swirling in the air that it became mud in the eyes and chewed up cake in the mouth. Their ears built dams of wax and stone. Their noses reduced to only to hold up glasses, unable to pass air in or out from the mucus and wet clay caking its opening.

This was where we sent our poorly behaved, even badly behaved of society. Those who lost their cool or nerve or patience and acted. They were not banished to a cage, safe and warm and well fed. They were sent to the far end of the western United States, on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California. Once the heartland, now simply a vast swirl of dust from the beaches all the way to middle of the eastern country.

To resume their lives and learn from their mistakes, they’d have to find the lines of wire that ran from West to East, leading them home. Or die. There were checkpoints with food and water but they would have to be found. Often times they were lost in the dust storms. Missing a check point meant starvation and none of the safe houses along the way were evenly spaced out. There were no calculations to be made along the way. No planning or rationing, just pulling oneself along the wire to the next symbol of hope.

It might take months, or years. Never less than months to make it back to the livable Eastern United States.

When the prisoners arrived, they would be so fundamentally changed, that the states called each survivor a “remarkable recovery.” Under their breaths, however, officials were more terrified of the blank stares, lean muscle and wild hair.

These men and women crawled their way back to what, at the beginning of their journey’s, they called home. Upon arrival, however, there was nothing comforting or homely about it. For the rest of their lives, their minds would be trapped in the swirls of dust. Their bodies would wander through their former lives like cosmonauts on an unfamiliar planet. Aliens to all those around them and to themselves, living in an alien world.

Be right back

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
825 words

Bob looked down at the floor. The shoes around him were new and pregnant with the identities of the partiers around him. His own shoes had no slashes or colors or stripes or patterns or loud brand names, only thick black soles and two Velcro straps creased perfectly around his feet. 

He looked up at the faces of the other guests. Nodding, smiling, winking, head-tilting, lip-biting, red cup sipping, arm touching, eye fluttering, eye fucking, and jealousy. Bob noticed it all in those faces. He took a deep breath and downed the rest of his drink. What was he doing there?

Looking around at all the tight-skinned faces, he was beginning to think he had overstayed his welcome. Nobody at the party would catch him slipping out the back. They were all too busy looking up at the sky. Bob had been that way once. Always staring at the clouds, scheming and dreaming. Dreaming of changing the world. The clouds looked the same. Never closer but never further away. He thought about all the things other people had achieved and perfected in his lifetime. The automobile. Telephones. T.V.s. Computers. The internet (apparently people spent all their time in the web, it sounded like a trap to him.) Faster food, faster service, faster payments, more nudity, less danger and sensationalized news. Working, making and consuming distractions. Everything was strange entertainment.

If he had slept for 50 years and woken up on this same day, he would be just as confused, disoriented and unsatisfied. To be honest, he felt cheated. All those promises and hopes for the future yielded nothing but more ignorance and more dependence. Hell, he remembered when a car would still start if you had enough people to push it.

     “Gads.” 

Bob startled himself. He looked around. Nobody spared a glance. The two kids he had met at the bar were now schmoozing at a couple of young ladies across the room. The girls were cute, sure, but they looked as if they would giggle at the news of their parents’ death. For that matter, so did the boys he came with.

He had met them at a bar when they started philosophizing with him. They bought his drinks, so he played along.

     “What do you think about Obama?”

There was no such thing as a free drink. He blew out all his air, pushing out his lips.

     “I’ve been asked that same exact question my whole life, just a different name at the end. Bush, Reagan, Roosevelt, Truman, Bush. The question is old. The name changes, the face changes, they die, soon I’ll be dead and something similarly different will happen.”

The two kids were impressed. Or at least impressionable. They invited Bob to the party, and he went. Maybe it was the free drinks, but Bob remembered when he was like them. He would have believed anything that came out of an old drunks’ mouth. He would have thought ‘boy, this guy’s been through the ringer, he must really know something.’ Now Bob was that old drunk and he knew that nobody knows and that’s the truth. Some are optimistic and others pessimistic. Some believe in god and others don’t. Some pretend and some don’t. Just having a mind is too much. Or maybe it’s not. Only a few wrinkles, a drowning liver and a bald head separated Bob from those boys.

Bob set down his cup and made his way over to them. He stepped up behind the two Romeos and clapped them on the shoulders.

     “You boys need anything?”

They looked at each other and looked back at the girls with wide eyes. Bob was a malignant tumor to them now.

     “I’ll be right back.” He said.

Bob walked off through the crowd and out the door. He looked up at the night sky. No clouds and not a visible star. That was another change. Edison eventually did away with staring up at the stars, now he looks out the window and sees the glow of television sets from every house, apartment, and trailer. He got in his car and lit a cigarette. He had only agreed to come because the party was a couple blocks from his house. The ignition turned over and the gas pedal felt like a pole in a tar pit. He pressed his foot down and the rest was mechanical: Left, stop, go, stop, go, right. Four houses down Bob slipped into the garage and closed it behind him. He put the car in park and cranked back the emergency brake. The window popped out of its crease as he pressed the button down. Leaning back in the driver’s seat, he dragged slowly from his cigarette before dropping it out of the cracked window. He pumped the gas pedal, revving the engine a couple of times. Then held it down at a low RPM, going nowhere. He closed his eyes. Maybe tomorrow or maybe nothing.

end

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An err on Rowan’s meaning

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
574 words

“I wanted you to be the first to know,” Rowan confided in me. I think. Was Rowan his name? I’m not sure. I just walked into the break room and popped open a Fresca. Now this Rowan character, whom I’ve only ever seen in office meetings and the restroom is confiding in me. Was his name Jeremy?

He seems nervous. I sense he wants to tell me something weighty and I can’t even remember his name.

While sipping my soda, he continues. “The thing is, I’ve only ever wanted you to know.” I try not to let the bubbles tickle out a swampy belch as he continues. “But I know that eventually everyone will find out, so I’m telling you now,” Jeremy said? Was his name Jeremy Rowan? Or Rowan Jeremy?

Something like thirty cubicles span the space between me and this RJ character, so why is he unloading his life on me? His badge! I can glance at the name on his employee badge. I look down at the usual badge holding locations. Shirt pocket. Damn. Belt loop. Shit.

His eyes are staring blankly into mine. I’m only half paying attention to what he is saying but I understand from over thirty years of social cues that it is my turn to respond.

“That’s cool, man.” Balls. I think that was too casual. Maybe I don’t understand. I’ll nod a few times, press my lips together and blink slowly. That looks sincere, almost brotherly. Now he’s squinting and crossing his arms. Reremy Jowan is crossing his arms?

“I’m busting out of here.” Jowan Reremy laughs and lets his face relax into a smile.

Thank the gods of social situations, Wojarn Reemy is being facetious. This isn’t a serious conversation. I’m saved. I can call him ‘buddy’, or ‘chief’, maybe even ‘sport’. The point is, I’m free.

“Good for you, man.” I go with ‘man’, it’s utilitarian. 

“Excuse me?” Merry Najowe says, lifting his eyelids up and jutting his chin towards me. He presses a finger to his right ear and says, “No, sorry, someone in the break room is talking to me.”

Sipping from the can of Fresca in my right hand, I use my left to try waving Jarme Yerwo off with the old I-had-this-running-conversation-in-my-mind-and-at-the-same-time-I-was-trying-to-figure-out-your-name-while-trying-to-appear-sincere-because-you-sounded-serious-but-were-just-being-facetious-so-now-I’m-processing-all-that-and-casually-waving-you-off look.

I’m not pulling it off.

“I’ll call you back,” says Jeemy Roranw (maybe the “w” is silent?). Wanjo yemerr pulls his finger from his ear and focuses on me. Then the words that change my life forever, come forth from his mouth. “I’m sorry, I was on the phone. You probably thought I was talking to you. What’s your name again? I’ve seen you around, but I can’t remember it.”

So confident, straightforward and kind, he asked for my name with no excuses. Wenermy Jr. shows me a level of class my introverted mind has never fathomed before this moment. Aoeey Wjrrm blows my mind. He is a social genius. I take a loud sip of my Fresca trying to find the words.

With the bubbles still burning my throat, I force out a raspy whisper, “It’s Simon.”

“Well Simon, it’s nice to meet you. I’ll see you around.” He claps me on the shoulder and walks out of the room. Wanormy Reej leaves me with a foundational building block for constructing my retarded-above-average social IQ and my Grapefruit with Lime soda.

I think about how I’ll never forget Wanjo Yererm, or whatever his name is.

end

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Slice of life

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
696 words

Janine’s phone was off. It was never off. I only found out because eventually her father answered the house phone.

     “She cut her wrists with a knife or razor blade or something. Anyway, she’s fine she just needs some time away from everything.”

I could have crushed his frail ribs with my fists. That naïve–

     “Where is she?”

I didn’t care to filter my anger. Sometimes reality forces its hand despite our best efforts.

     “At the BMC”

I hung up. No more wasted breath.

#

I walked in the front entrance of the institution where crazy lived. Outside crazy was called normal. Inside it smelled like rubbing alcohol. In the waiting room, everyone’s hair was shiny and thick. The bags under their red eyes reminded me of how I felt every morning.

I walked up to the plate-glass window and spoke softly.

     “Is there a Janine Ibsen here?”

     “Yes, may I ask who is asking?”

I faltered. I imagined one of her parents requesting to see her and the nurse saying, “you’ll have to wait until her boyfriend is out.” I chose the path we had already paved.

     “A good friend.”

     “One moment, please.”

Janine and I had been dating for over a year, but the situation felt so foreign. 

     “Put this on, walk through the double doors all the way down the hall and when they ask for a number tell them 0147.”

I put the fluorescent green sticker on my shirt and walked.  I thought about what I might see when I found patient 0147.  Jesus! It’s Janine. I almost vomited at that thought. I pictured her feigning a frown at me after one of my farts. I really got a kick out of that. I should have treated her like a lady. Then I thought about her tiny wrists looking like raw hamburger meet.   I reached the locked doors and the buzzer spoke.

     “Patient number please.”

     “Um, hold on.” Shit. “Oh yeah, 0-1-4-7.”

The buzzer sounded and I jumped at the door.

Janine’s mother was crying in the hall. She looked up and came over to hug me. 

     “It’s okay.” I said hugging her back. 

I felt awkward for telling such a bold lie. I knew how she was feeling but I didn’t give a shit. Her sadness started to make me angry and I asked her where Janine was. She didn’t answer.

     “Can we pray together?” I ignored her and walked to the nurse’s station.

     “Which room is patient 0147 in?”

     “Her name?”

     “Janine Ibsen.”

Why give me the fucking number?

     “She’s in room 31 down the hall on the left.”

I thanked her and started down, passing her mom, I heard her again.

     “Can we pray together?”

What the fuck was pressing our hands together supposed to do? I picked up my pace acting as if I was anxious to see Janine. The pounding in my chest told me I wasn’t acting. Sometimes reality really has a way of forcing its hand. 

Room 27…

…29…

…31. 

I took a deep breath and knocked softly with one knuckle.  I didn’t wait for an answer. I brushed the door open. Their she sat, in a chair with her arms bandaged and facing upwards. Her black curly hair twisting all around her head. Her eyes squinting slightly, shifting back and forth. She looked as if she were trying to solve life’s mysteries. I melted.

     “Hi baby.”

I walked over and sat on the bed next to her chair.

     “I love you. How are you?”

I had asked this question in passing to thousands of people but for the first time I meant it.

She answered slowly. I was aware of my silence and touched her leg. She looked up at me, then right back down at the floor before making her thoughts audible.

     “All of the questions are just distractions. The deeper the question, the cleverer the distraction. What’s on TV? What should I wear? Who am I? Is there a God? If life were just a fart, would death be the wind?”

A burst of air shot through my nose. I squeezed her leg and realized that I had never loved anyone more.

end

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Juicy, Cynical, Spit

The little bitch whined all night. A heavy sigh with a whimpering high c-note at the end. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had just quite smoking, the dog would still be alive. That incessant whimpering crawled into my ears, clamped down into my brain and roared into the area that inspires rage. You might call what happened next cynical.

“STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Spit flew all over the kitchen. My vocal cords vibrated, and squeezed together, forcing me to cough. For two, maybe three seconds the dog lay quiet. Then started its whine again. With each breath a whimper, so soft and pathetic but each one built up a wave that lapped at my sub-consciousness. Until I whipped around and stood up, lifting my chair above my head and slamming it down next to the sad beast.

Now it shivered. I shivered as well, holding two splintered legs of my only kitchen table chair. I was blind with anger.

The fucking dog kept whining. I picked it up and shoved it outside, into the snow. Then I grabbed the lighter and began touching the flame to everything that would catch. All around the house, I danced and paused, kissing the lighter to the corners of paintings, books, magazines, towels, jackets, shirts, anything reaching out its pursed lips to make out with my lighter.

I no longer shivered as the house glowed with oranges and reds. I tossed the lighter into the dirty clothes hamper and grabbed an un-kissed jacket from my bedroom chair. I threw it on and went outside to keep my dog company. It’s whimpering no longer affecting my mood but reflecting them. Its whimpering echoing the same hopeless sadness and anger I felt every waking moment of my life.

Now that life was burning 10 feet from where I stood in the snow, keeping me warm and melting the billions of frozen flakes around my feet.

I patted the dog on the head, who seemed to stop whining when I joined it outside, and watched that little bitch of a life filled with empty things burn. I patted my dog and we stayed warm.

Through the sliding glass door, I heard something hiss and gush, something that sounded juicy. Then I heard a shriek, followed by a pop. Shit, I forgot about the cat.

Underwear, Hide, Noisy

The morning arrived in a gradient of orange, purple and blue across the sky. The sun hadn’t pulled itself over the mountains and the moon was enjoying a glimpse of the day. The girl with the pearls in her eyes wept.

She wanted to hide from the noisy events playing in her mind. The potions from the previous night had not completely worn off and, more troubling, she couldn’t find her underwear. Buried, she feared, under the snoring ogres sprawled over the couches, chairs, tables and floor.

A thing of beauty she had wanted to glimpse. Not a thing, a feeling. Grabbing her knees, she forced her thoughts into the present. What’s next? No, that was the future. Where am I? She turned to look through a window but couldn’t recognize any of the fixtures through the glass. Her glassy eyes took in the room in front of her. The sleeping creatures around her were familiar in her flashes of memory from the night previous.

Where is my underwear? A chill shook through her as her questions probed deeper. Why aren’t I wearing them?

One of the ogres stirred, opening its eyes for just a moment and locking its gaze with hers before passing back into unconsciousness.

Could he know what had happened? Her mind fixated. She had a feeling. That question, and any answer or lingering doubt, would haunt her, either way. Where is my underwear?

She was realizing that something inside her would become stuck, no matter if she left this place or not. Her consciousness screamed at its daydreaming brother for details, but she was answered only with a feeling. More likely, a mixture of emotions that stirred in her a macabre feeling.

Anxiety, depression, sadness and darkness, if that could be called an emotion. It felt like more feelings were to blame but she had to force herself to become unstuck from that place. Her underwear was missing, she would not be. The front entrance was only a few feet in front of her, though sleeping giants lay in between.

She forced open the window and climbed out. Her skin tightening from the cold of the morning and the pearls in her eyes shining even though the sun was still hiding behind the mountains.

Survive, Laughable, Sacrifice

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

19 minutes left to decide. Do I smoke this J and risk getting caught? or do I risk my sanity by delivering another mind numbing sermon?

The danger in the latter is that I may really let them know how I feel. That I became a priest because it’s a cushy job with plenty of time to myself. Because everyone looks up to and reveres the collar.

Today is Easter Sunday. I won’t survive, however, if I can’t do this high or a little drunk. One of the two days out of the year in which the church is full. A fact about the faith so laughable I find I cry myself to sleep at the thought.

So I will eat this cupcake full of THC and if it’s the lords will that I expose myself for an unbelieving fraud, then so be it.

If I deliver my sermon as normal, then I’ll have to go through all this mental, emotional, and spiritual torture next Sunday.

For now, I’ll have a cup of wine while the cupcake digests, then maybe have an Easter wank.

Douglas, the little 9-year-old isn’t due in for another hour, so I’ve got time.

What if i talked about the devil as a loving, caring entity who is only misunderstood? That would be too far left to be funny.

If I touted the benefits to marijuana and tied it to the creation story, would that go over well? They would definitely know I was high.

Now I’m beginning to get the giggles.

What if I preached only the parts of the bible which have lists? The lists of ancestors going on and on about who begat whom. Or the lists of supplies and resources. What if I tied it to a ludicrous message that god wants his children to make lists, then read through all the lists and say something like “make lists and think of god because the devil is in the details.”

The infuriating part is that no one would question the sermon. Even those that thought it strange would simply leave and move on with their days. THAT above all things is the most frustrating part of being a priest, lack of accountability.

The members of the church believe the clergy answer only to god but the clergy really only answer to themselves.

There is no accountability from god, or those cunt-priests touching kids would have been fried by lightening by now instead of moved around.

Maybe I’ll just go out and talk about love. If I quit now, some asshole will spew hell fire and brimstone

Point, Convict, Ground

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

He kept his head phones and pushed up his glasses. Flakes of skin drifted into the table next to his stack of fantasy and science fiction books, as he scratched the patch of eczema on his elbow.

A motorcycle roared up to the front of the coffee shop. The rider revved the engine a few times before hopping off. Taking off the helmet, he revealed a face full of tattoos.

Easy rider took out a cigarette, lit it and after two puffs without inhaling dropped it to the ground and ground it into the concrete with the heel of his boot.

Headphones and eczema watched, hearing a young couple at the table next to his say something about a “convict” or “ex-con.”

Easy rider walked into the coffee shop and came out with a very pale coffee drink to which he was adding many packets of sweet-n-low.

Looking over at eczema, easy rider pointed right at him.

“What are you listening to?”

“The sound of silence.”

“Simon and Garf–“

“–No,” interrupted headphones, “I’m listening only to the sounds of silence or the muffled sound of the noises you all make.”

Easy rider looked away and took a sip of his coffee. Suddenly, the hot beverage was all over his face and dripping down his leather jacket. He turned just in time to catch eczema swing a mug of hot, black coffee right at his face. There was nothing for him after that.

Eczema looked up at the young couple and pointed down at easy rider.

“Convict.” He said, as if explaining away a minor, slightly embarrassing problem to curious strangers in a public space.