Death in a Graveyard

 

Death walked amongst the tombstones in no particular hurry. His cloven feet had been specially fitted only a week ago, but now his shoes were rubbing. He should have broken them in. No use in whining about it now.

 

He looked down at his legs. As it turned out, duct tape did not fix everything. His flesh was still strung together haphazardly, with the bones exposed and shinning a bright white here and there. No matter how many times a day he ate, no matter how many plates of Burrito Supremes with extra beans he put down, no matter how much he lie around and took whole weeks off at a time (in which no one on Earth died, not that anyone noticed) he was still skin and bones. Literally. Still, after hanging out with Famine for a few days last spring, he couldn’t really complain. He was a pot-bellied pig compared to Famine.

 

Reaching his boney hands into a small, black sackcloth, Death grabbed a vial. It was about the size of a baby turtle minus the shell. Never seen a turtle without its shell? Never mind, it’s a little underwhelming anyway. To better explain, it was about the size of an Argentinian, three toed sloth in its twelfth week of gestation. Give or take a few ounces.

 

As Death glided silently through the dew-ridden grass and past numerous fake flower arrangements, he uncorked the vial. Maybe that’s a misnomer. It wasn’t a cork that was holding things inside the vial; it was actually the souls of one thousand and four Billy goats born on a summer’s solstice. Cork, you see, is slightly porous over millennia, and the souls of Billy goats are not.

 

The nubby carpals held slightly over the opening while those souls scattered in all directions with a panic that was devoid of any real purpose. Every so often, one of the souls would come across a train or screaming child and the goat soul would suddenly go stiff and fall over. This is because they were fainting goats in their past lives. Old habits die hard. At any rate, no one living noticed, and after a few seconds the goat souls hopped back up and continued on with their panicked travels.

 

There were only four million, seven hundred forty six thousand, nine hundred eighty eight drops, so he would have to choose carefully. It sounds like plenty, but there are a huge, huge amount of dead people all over the planet. Like billions. Probably a lot more than that, but I don’t want to sound braggy or pretentious by spouting off arbitrarily large numbers. Fine, I don’t really know the number, but it is really, really more than you could imagine without thinking about it for an amount of time that would also be so huge you really wouldn’t want to take the time to think about it, and then, well you see where that could end up going.

 

When Death chose a plot, he tipped the vial and let one drop of viscous, glowing purple liquid fall from the its open mouth. There was a moment of silence as time stopped and the lavender droplet fell through a vacuum of anticipation. When it finally passed through the Earth’s epidermis, there was a sound akin to a miniature, clown’s motorbike slamming its brakes on. A parade squelch of tiny rubber tires finding purchase on a summer Main Street in a small, Midwestern town. It was quite counterintuitive and very unnerving. He wasn’t sure of the physics involved, but was certain that said substance had no actual mass in this plane of existence and should therefore not make a sound at all. So the fact that it did made him question the one who had sold him the concoction. But that was a few thousand years ago and to tell the truth, he wasn’t certain if he still had the receipt, having kept it in a corked vial.

 

Death wondered to himself what the sound should sound like. What kind of ring it would have to have to please the ears or, at least, make sense based on the drop’s apparent liquidity and the grounds limestone mix. Like a heavy rain drop slapping some mud? A small, seedless grape being hit with a tennis racket? And if it didn’t have to make sense, as apparently it did not, then why not something more fanciful? Something like a woman’s quick, orgasmic moan, or the mischievous laughter of three dead children? Or for that fact, what about something you could actually listen two over and over again, millions of times, without getting bored out of your mind with it, like John Lennon’s Mind Games. And wouldn’t that be appropriate and fitting?

 

Another teardrop of magenta lightening passed from the chilly graveyard air to the casket below. Squelch!

 

“Fucking seriously, then!” Death raised his voice, and then quietened, looking around and feeling at once embarrassed with his outburst.

 

Death continued into the night. In his wake, no pun intended, the grounds began to loosen in places as the dead clawed their way from their claustrophobic, little resting places. And if you thought about like that, it was more of a rescue really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cold Pasta


How does dead skin taste
I repeated back
laughter muffled
like the smothered homeless
to officer shiny pants.
His partner, vomit-ridden
with us both
for illusory discrepancies
crimes against humanity
omnivorous and blatant
on the green porcelain plate.

Like cold rigatoni
I said
and it turned out to be
too simple a metaphor
too easily grasped
and the shiny pants smile
quizzical, indifferent, numb

transmogrified

because now . . .
now
now
they tasted that rigor mortis pasta
like I did.

And just like that
significant others will wonder
what’s wrong with their simple Italian dishes.

The Clock

My troubles all started 15 minutes ago
when the clocked ticked a stop and ran really slow.

All the people I loved who didn’t love me back
all seems now, rather matter of fact.
The luxurious items that I could not afford
all the cars that I drove that I did so adore.
But the gold and the jackets estate sales did claim
and the Porsche and the Lexus are all but a name.
And the plasma I watched from the living room wall
and the front load washer standing seven feet tall
are in someone else’s house or in someone else’s hall.
The trophy wife I landed with my TV and my car
Is reading life insurance papers at the local bar.
The estate in which I lived, with movie room and pool
was my kingdom here on Earth which I can no longer rule.
And as I float above my body and the surgeon tries his best
there is one last thing to you that I really must confess.
I’ve had it all wrong from the very, very start
for all these things I mention lie nowhere near the heart.
As they call the time of death I take a moment to reflect
and see my life, like my car, was a crumple of a wreck.
I made myself an island, accomplished well and spent
credit cards galore, and loved every cent.
But it’s people I have missed, that necessary part
more precious than the original, Italian works of art.
Some people take with them the heartache and the sorrows
from the loved ones and the kin who weep for all their morrows.
And dreary though it is this brokenness, a gift
we can carry with us here, far and wide across the rift.
But today no one weeps, no tears for me to keep
as I travel my last path through the far and wide and deep.
I didn’t see my time here as painful until now
I wish to set things straight, but cannot figure how.

So I say these words to you, embrace well others there
and for material things, do not give a care.
For at some point in time, which you will not know
the clock will tick a stop and run really slow.

Uniform

the dead soldiers’ Uniforms are dusty

muddy and

shrapnel bitten,

chewed by the grenade

bayonet, puncture wounded

and dyed crimson, signed in the color of a setting sun

by an unwilling author.
bloated gray bellies

distend the carefully sewn cotton

they are camouflaged

but visible just the same

i snap the picture for posterity

and think of scratch-n-sniff ads

and methane putrefaction

and wonder if a mom or dad

will point at the picture in the paper

with prideful recognition like they did when

their son of three made the post for halloween.
the family will look upon a mouth sewn shut

eyes closed

body smooth and painted

and wrapped in his sunday’s best,

but I have seen the blender,

eyes wide with horror

mouth agape, twisted.

add soldiers, pulse for 20 seconds, cloths on, spread gently on the grass.
war is not a Three Piece Suit.

Kurt Russell

Rook_perched_on_telegraph_pole_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1350129

 

 

You’re driving down the highway minding your own business when someone swerves in front of you. Your reaction is to cut left, and you do, right into oncoming traffic. You see headlights, and then nothing. Muffled voices awaken you and you see two paramedics through a haze of pain. They are working feverishly on someone next to you and you see one of them motioning toward you. They’re coming around, they say. No, help me with this one, the other one says, we can save him, maybe. The other one’s a goner.

 

You’re angry at this dismissiveness until you look down at what’s left of you and realize the paramedic is right. You have maybe 10 or 20 seconds, maybe. You can still speak. You look up at the one that was paying attention to you and say . . .

 

What? What do you say? Quick, you only have 10 seconds. I’ll wait . . .

 

Your last words. They’re kind of important, don’t you think? I mean, you don’t want your wife or boyfriend hearing from the paramedic that your last words were Horsely shiiiiiit, wherthafus my legs? If your last words are mediocre at best, no one will remember them. If they’re catchy, wise, or mysterious, you’ll be remembered for a long time. But the worst case scenario, worse than not being remembered, is saying something memorable that is completely stupid. It wouldn’t matter how awesome your life was up to that point. It would be like landing a thousand free-throws in a row, and then missing the basket completely before walking off the court.

 

So you need to prepare. Come up with your last words now. Or better yet, a set of unique last words for a few different situations. You wouldn’t use the same set of last words for dying after being struck by lightning as you would if you got shot while doing a hooker. Or maybe you would. I’m only saying think ahead. That way you don’t get struck by lightning and tell your golf buddies I never get my money’s worth. It won’t have the same punch if you get them mixed up.

 

And practice. Ever had some asswipe say something so rude and left-field to you that you couldn’t immediately think of what to say back? Then you walk away wide-eyed and fuming, only thinking of something that would have put them in their place about twenty minutes later. Too late, though. You lost your chance. It’s the same with your last words. There’s a window and then it’s gone forever. But you have less a chance for screwing it up if you practice every day. Take one of my lines, for instance.

 

When I go, I’m going to pick out one person close to me that I want to freak out, get a far-away look as I stare through them, and say with a slight, knowing smirk, I’ll see you shortly. Doesn’t seem like much at first, but it’ll stick. It will. And when that car swerves over into their lane a little, it won’t be just some incident that needed a horn to correct. That was almost it, they’ll think, as my last words echo in their paranoid mind. Popcorn went down the wrong way for a second in the theatre. An NDE for sure. Death will be lurking in every corner for at least six months, trailing off slowly after that. And even better, if they do kick-off in a few months, then you’ve got your name stirred into the concrete foundation of a new urban myth. Did you hear about that guy in Huntsville that told that nurse he’d see her shortly, and then Boom! someone broke into her house and locked her in her freezer. True story, bro.

 

So I practice my last words every day. Like on the person at the drive through.

 

Will that be all, sir?

 

Yes, I say, staring malevolently at the speaker, and I’ll see you shortly.

 

Um . . . Yes, sir. Please, pull to the window.

 

Or after my children tell me goodnight. It’s okay if they don’t understand the big picture, or what I say makes them lock their bedroom doors at night. The main thing is that I’m ready when the time comes.

 

So as we start off this bright and shiny Summer, remember that death is waiting for you around every corner. Be prepared, and practice often.

 

I’ll see you shortly.

 

 

Creative Writing Exercise #1

 

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to get up in the middle of a book store and just stab someone repeatedly in the windpipe? No? Well, never mind. Back to what I was saying.

My name is Chris. That’s not my real name. I could tell you my real name, but then I would have to kill you. That’s not cliché. It’s the truth. That’s kind of what I do. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s sanctioned where I come from. The land of Id. The land of blood and daisies. Of tricky window Saturdays.

What? You’ve never heard of – that’s right, never mind. I forgot for a second. You guys think this is all made up? Right? Fine, whatever. You asked. I’m telling. You want the whole thing at once or do you want to pull off at a rest stop?

Okay. Then. Tricky window Saturdays. There’s the crews, all colors, all brands, you know, and they take the hoppers to the burnouts and – hoppers? There the fidgety ones wanna hop from place to place. They always think the grass is greener, you know? But borders are borders for a reason, right? So they – oh, yeah the crews. They’re the ones with the most guns or the most food or the most water, depending on where you are. Course, most guns usually equals most food, you know?

The burnouts? Buildings man. Just buildings that are burned out. Black with death and plague and soot and canker and you name it and there it is, cluttering the floor with human detritus, draped over the bombed out remains of walls like a Louisiana coffee house, smoldering like a dead turkey on thanksgiving. Bad, bad mojo. Gotta watch the stairs in burnouts. One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five- One-two-three-four-five One-two – boom! You’re a beauty-school drop-out. Five stories to the wet floor. Maybe a Wiley Coyote brick on your head to boot.

And they take ‘em in the buildings and light some fires at midnight and everybody stands down on the streets and looks down the blocks and waits. Yeah. They just wait. And then they hand out guns, sometimes one, sometimes 50, and they cock ‘em and wait. There’s these cooking grills, grated little splices of crisscross metal, rusted and clamped to the underside of the window. Got the wood underneath and burning white. The grill’s all red. The people are silent. Guns raised.

And then they make you wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

I seen people piss themselves without moving the gun an inch. Didn’t want to miss, you know. And then out of the blue, they shoot out from the windows like flying fish. Hands always tied behind their backs, and the guns fire away, concrete chunks flying, embers disintegrating, Hoppers flailing or going limp, the crews shooting off fireworks and the music bumping, sometimes country or something jazzy for contrast, and a few always make it, landing on the molten grate, skin sticking to it, with their teeth clamping down wildly on a bone or flank and reeling all awkward to their knees before launching backward, food in jowls, to disappear and fall back inside the burnout’s window.

Can I have a glass of water? What are they after? Food, dude. There’s not a lot of it, you know? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you really don’t. What year did you say it was? Huh. Yeah, right. Right. Are you with Chris? Yeah, the Church of Chris. I don’t think so brother. The crews speak the word and the word is. I’m not letting a letter take me down. Right?

Thanks. I’m really thirsty. Holy Chris, this is clear. Where’d you get this? Really? What year did you say it was again? Wow. Okay. So what else, man. Wait a minute, you guys ain’t crew. That just hit me, man. You guys can’t be crew. Crew knows everything about everybody. Scourge of the data. You guys, you guys look confused, man.

Hey. Is it really 2015? Oh. Okay. What?

Yeah. I’ll state it as clear as I did the first time. My name is not Chris and I’m a carrier in the Hot Zone.

The year? Yeah . . . 8256.

I already told you. Carrier’s carry. Pestilence incarnate. We deal in specific deaths. Mine is unique.

Can’t say, less you want me kill you two and everybody listening? Then it wouldn’t do much good to know, now would it? Yes, sir. Even the ones behind the listening glass. Say, you ever just wonder what it would be like to drive head on into a car on the other side of the lane? No? Well, okay, where were we?

The Hot Zone is where everything’s on fire. No reference points. Boiling, scattering, flaying, Napoleons.

How are you losing me? We’ve been over this already. Are the recorders not working? Do you people have those? Okay.

About here and now? All the books were rewritten by Chris in 6000. So not much. Just a little worrisome though. What? Well . . . suppose you’re telling me the truth? And? And it’s been about 6000 years since now in my Now. And it don’t seem like a lot has changed, that’s all. Just more fire and less green. Something doesn’t seem right with it. And how’d you say you found me again? Passed out in a church? On fire, yeah, that’s right, on fire. No, I didn’t set it. I’m not a Burner. Carrier. I told you already. Fire is not my specialty. Are you serious? I don’t think you really want to do this. I know your partner’s outside the room and behind the window, but that doesn’t mean he’s safe. All witnesses go, it spreads like that. You observe it and the wave function – it spreads, non-local, distance means nothing.

Locked up? Why? I didn’t set it on fire. What? For how long?

This is bullshit. Okay then. What’s the chain cycle? I mean you’re watching me, here, now, and whoever’s watching us on the other side of the window, that’s second level, and then whoever’s watching them, like a tree you see? Where does the tree stop? So that’s it? Three of you? Fine.

What are you afraid of? I said, what are you afraid of? Mice? You’re lying. I bit my tongue. Why? To get the blood, you need blood for everything. No, really. Mizion Seuzye paktche. Huh? Just a key. Like encryption stuff. Bloriddin pluragrir. You guys encrypt things here? Code? What’s that? Noriem jzestifer munhywella. It’s really not that funny. Krystoun vhallestia. That’s okay. See, I knew you were lying. I can tell by now just from talking to most people for a few minutes. Yeah. They’re real to you guys. Ever see snakes that fast? Spiders that small? Can’t stop it, not now. No. I just can’t. So, shoot me. Try to shoot all of them. Won’t do any good. If you’ll stop panicking, you might can get to the door. They’re not biting me because they came from me. You don’t bite the hand – no, begging is just – you’re just feeding it by begging and whatever you do, don’t pray. Do that and they find the path inside your head and file in. they’ll close it up and you’ll never get there.

Chris, this is boring. Chained to a desk 6000 years ago. No one around but Deads.

What happened? You’re all dead now. Yes you are. Look at your skin. Screaming won’t help. Well, I told you it wasn’t that funny. Fix it? I don’t know. We could go back to where you found me and see if we can get back in? In the Hot Zone. I must have slipped out somehow. Well, you can walk around dead here or walk around dead there, doesn’t matter to me.

Okay. Let’s go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Stations

There’s a guy in the car next to us

surfing the stations

and I decide to surf mine.

I press the four buttons and skip

the missing one

and then hit SCAN.

I look up

at a green light and take my foot

off of the brake

moving it quickly to the gas.

I need to move quickly today because

I am behind on everything.

Money.

Gas.

Loose belts.

Novel editing.

Kickstarter T’s.

January’s rent payment.

Stores that carry ‘92 Nissan pickup belts.

So I have to move fast because life is a race

and it’s so easy to finish the race

with nothing accomplished

and your children following in your footsteps.

I’m turning left to go to Wal-Mart

before heading to Governor’s where they carry the A\C belt

because I have to get                                              .

 

 

GlassMetalCruchingPain.

 

 

 

Not mine, but I can feel it.

I turn to my wife who is ‘Oh my Godding’ and

tell her to “come sit where I am and get our car out of the road.”

Some one is dead.

Of that I am sure.

A tan SUV never hit the brakes

and so it flipped and landed

uncatlike on its side while the guy in the TBone

is angled down into the culvert

and is sliding, with much less blood than one would imagine,

out of his crumpled door like a lazy fried egg,

thrashing in pain as if covered in ants and blind

and holding his chest and looking nowhere.

 

I look over at the SUV and a colorful fat lady is climbing down through the windshield.

 

People come from all sides to the huddle,

a few calling plays –

turn his car off

don’t move, don’t let him move

Memorial and _________, and yes it’s bad!  We need an ambulance now!

My wife leans over and stops him from moving,

talks to him

tells him what happens

each time he asks,

gives him a focal point.

He stops moving around

and I see blood in his eye

as I look for embedded glass

and lean in his car to find the radio is still playing.

I turn the car off and

lean into the door, scrunching it back against metal

so it won’t open on the guy.

His wallet is under him and

I pick it up and hold it with his keys and

give them to a busy paramedic.

 

I look over at the fat lady and chubbyyounggirl who are standing in the median.

They are dressed from one of those stores that rich men’s wives open in strip centers because they are bored.

The kind that sell gaudy blandishments for ridiculous prices.

The girl jumps straight up and down and whines for her daddy.

Neither plump is visibly hurt.

Neither plump has walked over to check on the man in limbo.

 

I wonder if she was on the phone and have a sudden urge to grab her

by her fatblondehead and drag her across glass and metal

punching her in the face along the way

over to the man whose life/song she interrupted

and make her –

 

“Can you drive a stick shift?”

A strange question in the now.

A lady left her truck in the turning lane.

A five speed.

I make my way across four lanes

very carefully

and move it,

then

very carefully

back

then

I am

handing over a stranger’s keys for the second time this day.

 

I want to remember what song was playing on his radio.

And on mine.

So I can cross reference them and pour my metaphysics

into them when I think of

paths and milliseconds and God.