So I wanted the kid to sleep. As any parent knows, the car is a powerful tool for soothing the beast that is your child. We were already in the car, so… it’s not bad parenting if you took a little longer than usual to drive from point A to B (never mind if you traverse the entire alphabet twice before finally arriving at B).

Tooling down the street, curling around roundabouts, I found myself settling into the routes of my childhood like a wheel locking into a well-worn rut. Not the exact routes, mind ya, because that would finish quite badly, with chain link wrapped around my fender, along with various bits of backyard paraphernalia which might or might not include bits of bloody dog hair.

My old stomping grounds were illuminated, long dormant neural pathways superimposing the subdivisions, the shards of maze-like suburbia with memory’s clarity. There the cornfield I was afraid to go too far into, content to pitter and patter at its edge; bright constellation of activity there—a nail punctured rubber sole to flesh sole causing me to limp home. Across the street there was the cauldron of Osage orange trees surrounding the recessed foundation of a silo. There was no light pollution.

Then the bicycle dashes across the cracked sidewalks, the destination often suspect. The squeak of wheel, the fading pink paint of my sister’s “borrowed” bike so my friend could take mine. Hot and cold, your hands burned, your face burned. Forcibly forgetting the brakes down the town’s steep rolling hills. Cooling down at the local Dillon’s, twenty five cent generic sodas from the machine outside and stolen candy whose wrappers were hidden between the folds of magazines. VHS tapes from the video department. The movies were so great back then. A Family Circusesque montage stipples our routes across town, which are just as circuitous.

The heat wave making waves across the concrete. My grandparents were in town and everyone was off to the City of Fountains but I elected to stay behind. I don’t know why, but there I was, with some pocket change and not enough water in my body, walking the couple miles to the local comic book store where I woke on the floor surrounded by concerned faces right after buying a candy bar at the 7-11 (which has long since been converted to a pawn shop and its barricaded windows, to add an element of seediness). When I got home I found that the candy bar had melted in my pocket, and the packaging made a teardrop shape as all the chocolate rushed to the bottom.

Turning the car down a forgotten street, the flash in the mirror showing the kid’s nodding off, but not at the finish line. The pond slides past. Me and a friend on a bench, my shoulder blades perched on the 2 by 4 backing, tripping balls off on sticks of honey sunken amanita muscaria. Benevolent columns of cloud in the blistering blue sky, twirling to pause and cast bashful smiles before twirling the opposite way. His trip something else, but the muscles in our face were drawn up. The water, like Joyce put it, millioncandled. Then we went down behind the hill to the runoff pool which used to be a fish hatchery to smoke a joint or two.

Park after park, clandestine conventions of illegality, slouched on armatures belonging the children of the day (I imagine if we could hear, the ghosts of these whoops and cries linger on the wind)—during the night, a different sort of child comes sneaking out of back doors, across low wet grass, footprinting the asphalt until they reach the pre-arranged destination, eyes glittering, hands snaking into pockets to grasp moist leafy fragrances.

Then somewhere between that and now, things happened. Some things got better, some good things got lost, and some things hit the fan. It’s hard to reconcile the kid with the large wire-frame glasses pervasive in the 90’s  to a tall father sodden with exhaustion myself. Illusions were shattered, of course, and along with the pieces fell the innocent versatility of naivete, belief. Now a cynic cashing in doubts, the trip fades (wire-frame unrendering of memory) to leave behind mellow nostalgia but not the despair of the absent. It is a gift, something we should give to ourselves once in a while, to remember our origins, to remember it wasn’t always like this. We can reacquire the pieces of self that made us in thrall of the world, if only indefinitely. A fine vintage to be enjoyed on special occasions.

I look in the mirror. Out like a light.


How the Decadent Die

Fingering nervously the sentient buttons of his redingote the aristocrat of Beldam engages in banal conversation with Pomerannean princesses sprinkling the air with false, girlish laughter. Kreshniks and sultans and dukes and lords and tyrants and barmy barons and sons of black queens and the daughters of devil despots and  kuningas  and viscounts and chevaliers and epicanthal shishaku and czars and their royal concubines,  gleefully abandoned by the transport chopper, mill about in the wide open plain. A bastard baron plucks a black tune on his bassinet.

A wall of wind it comes. A single breath of confused silicia and mica dust, the several kilometre wide force of nature, oblivious to the sudden panic of  the shallow royalty, roars on to uproot trees, flatten hills, overturn lakes. “Derecho,” an awed lip flutters at its approach. A sheer cliff face of condensation crackling with electricity, it engulfs the party and throws about bodies against each other like so many macabre rag dolls. In the deepening sky, a satellite twinkles.

Flesh vats hum as the doll flesh of clones stir in turgid viscosity. Eyelids flutter open and the flesh vats are drained and opened. Dripping with amniotic fluid, the decadent emerge naked from  stainless steel and plexiglass wombs.  Against a vast window to the stars, the jewelled planet of Gale sinking slowly from view, a horde of servants scramble to clothe their masters in fineries. The rich laugh amongst themselves.

“Oh, that was wonderful!”

“We must do it again!”

“Let’s! It was just as good as drowning in chocolate.”

Deus Ex Machina

She walked in the middle of the road, trying to know her own name.

Her world was slathered with broad strokes, with just enough detail to expose a bare minimum of information. She felt unfinished, like a badly developed photograph, as if, when her story ended, everything else would be sucked into her wake and just disappear.

She was a genie in a bottle.

A thunderstorm crashed the air above with alarming rapidity. Lightning flung their light among the green eaves of the oak-lined street. Hail raced across the asphalt. She turned and ran, determined not to scream like a  b-movie extra. The tattoo of her frantic steps led her up the drive of a house she knew to be hers. The world had melted into a strobe of shadows. She pushed through the front door and rushed into the livingroom and  threw herself onto the green velvet couch. Why wasn’t it so strange that the room and the house, but for the lamp on stand and the couch, was bare? She huddled in horror on the green leather couch. She imagined cackling deities straddling the electric arcs of thunderbolts swarming into her life like so many hornets. How wrong she was!

There was only one god and he watched her in his mind as he crafted her story. He hadn’t decided whether she would be a blonde or a brunette. She clutched at the cycling hues of her hair and sobbed, “What is happening?!” Perhaps it didn’t matter. Was she plump, or is anorexia her way of life? She knocked the lamp over in her panicked oscillations of mass. Haphazard silhouettes camped and leered across the livingroom wall in a precession of devils. She collapsed in a heap on the lush carpeting and, as soon she saw her skin shifting through the ethnicities, sobbed some more. She felt like a flesh-colored prism, no—did she really think that? “Stop it!” she screamed, knowing she wouldn’t be heard, but told. “Stop it…”

She slept the ragged sleep of exhaustion that those teetering at the brink of death or madness welcome. She awoke on a floor smooth as marble and lay for some time in a bare and cold cone of light. She could see nothing in the absolute darkness ahead. Tears sprang from her eyes and pooled on the floor. Her livingroom flickered into existence, then a local pub with regulars laughing through foam flecked lips, then the house of the parents escaping fluid memory, and it was quickly like a rolodex thumbed through at an incredible speed whirring through scenario after scenario until she started screaming.

A river of obscenities churned through her larynx like a niagara, pummeling her own eardrums. Did he want her to say that? Did he hate her—no, himself—so much? He felt uncanny pity for the figment. He soothed her tears, closed her eyes, and when she came to she was seated in front of a warm fire. A mug of hot chocolate steamed on the coffee table and a novel lay splayed on her lap.

“I must have fallen asleep,” she murmured to herself as she watched through a window the snow whitewash the land.

He smiled and clicked save. He would leave it at that.