Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Stillness in the Watercolor

“That’s...nice,” Ryan said focusing in on the painting hanging directly above the plasma television on the other side of the room.

Without looking, Nick plopped into an Eames lounge chair and corrected him, “That’s my art.”

The art in question was a large gaudy gold-framed watercolor pinched to a screw on the wall of Nick’s corner apartment. Ryan had been distracted by the piece of colorful decor for most of the night but had been unable to find the right moment to engage his host with any amount of ribbing. But, now that the hyper-violent motorcycle melodrama they had made a point to watch was rattling toward a close, there was a lull long enough to make his curiosity known.

“Your art, huh?” Ryan fished. 

He did not particularly care about the watercolor, instead, he was hooked by the sheer size of the piece.  He estimated it had out-grown the wall by a full foot, even encroaching on the window on the left side.  Ryan considered the purpose for a window that cannot be accessed, while trying to remember an article he read about a Japanese art-form where the negative space was actually the focal point. He was certain the remaining wall space with which this painting clung would be a perfect example of this. 

Moving from the remaining wall space not eclipsed by Nick’s “art”, Ryan’s eyes crawled down the thin visibly taut piece of twine that the painting cartoonishly dangled from. At the knots of the twine he noticed the faux-precision carpentry, and how the care that was taken to make the cuts in the gilded wood gave the appearance of braided rope.  The ends of the carved rope met at the bottom of the frame, and there they held a red wooden plaque, with single word written in dripped black paint.

It read: BRUCE

Bruce. The floating mechanical Frankenstein from the film “Jaws”. He…she…it…Bruce…was grinning an air tank grin and beached on the bow of the splintered “Orca”.  And while Nick’s version was more Spielgelman than Speilberg, it still pitted its audience with an eerie feeling – albeit falling well short of keeping you from staying out of the water

After a few seconds Nick responded, “Red Bank. Street fair. Never had a chance. We were heading out for day drinking…maybe watch the Jets game,” he stopped to swing his beer, “From Red Bank then to Asbury.” 

Turning to Ryan, “It was gunna be tits.”

Nick took a few gulps of Guinness and sighed. Ryan read the pause as a point of emphasis and listened closer…

Nick continued, “There had to be 1000 people. I didn’t see the first tent until half an hour after I got to the Dublin House. Thirteen footer. That was the size of the tent that drew me in.”
He lifted himself from his chair and bobbed over to the painting. Talking to both Ryan and Bruce he continued, “You see when you’re day drinking or having a good time you can tell the size of the tent in relation to the rooftops.”

Nick stared directly at Bruce and continued just barely louder than a whisper, “At first we didn’t anyone notice anyone go missing. One by one. Each pulled away by the promise of sea glass, a 50/50 raffle, or the siren song of Brian Kirk and Jirks.” 

He spun around waving his stout emphatically. “For me it was my art. BRUCE. He spoke to me – SPEAKS to me!” 

Silence. Nick, obviously distressed and having trouble finding his sea-legs, went back to his seat to find some composure.

Calmer he turned to Ryan and spoke in an almost guttural rhythm, “Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes…black eyes…like a doll's eye. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin' and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin' they all come in and rip you to pieces.”

After a moment, Nick found his voice and shattered the heaviness lingering the room, “Annnnnd three hours later a big fatty and her friends came down and started to pick us up.”

Nick chuckled and bottomed off his beer. “But…you know…that was the time I was most frightened. Waiting for my turn…There had to be 1000 people there that day. All came out of there with chachkies, ornaments, blankets, and photos. I came out with Bruce…this shark. Those vultures took the rest.”

Ryan sat speechless.

He took his first sip of the now lukewarm beer he had been clenching for the entirety of the monologue.  He let the suds soak-in as a smile rose to the surface of his face, the wispy color-splashed image of Bruce smiled back as if to agree with what Ryan was thinking.

“Nick, I think you are going to need a bigger wall.”

Monday, November 3, 2014

King of Chicago

Looking down on the city of Chicago from a downtown hotel room, Joe took in this new world:

“Chicago. Land of the free and home of the Liberty Bell. The town that made Michael Jordan, Pizza,  and the origin city of
Wall Street and the Majestic Taurus.”

A Taurus himself, he took this as a sign...

...he was home.

“The water is really green – it’s not just on St. Patrick’s day,” Joe thought to himself while musing over his favorite Harrison Ford film. “…and that must be Big Ben,” he considered while taking in the skyline, “It just looks like a dumb clock! I guess I will head over there to check out this Roethlisberger thing everyone is always talking about…it’s probably in the lobby.”

As an adventurer, Joe felt he was more than capable. Though he knew some would argue otherwise, he felt he had all of the necessary qualities to seize any situation: hunting, gathering, clothes, the gift of gab…

“I will own this town,” he said closing the curtains to his disposable weekend home and reaching for the breakfast sandwich he had captured on his first expedition into the foreign streets.

He bit into a 7-eleven Bacon Egg and Cheese, took a gulp from his Coke, and instinctively wiped his mouth on his sleeve. Squinting toward the mirror across the room and swallowing, he confidently repeated the words again, “I WILL own this town.”

With one last scan of the room he made the decision: breakfast sandwiches are unquestionably better here than the ones back in New Jersey. Then he tossed on his coat and blissfully marched pass his room key, and the sock he was looking for. There was no time to settle unmatched feet…Joe was stepping out to greet the morning – the first morning to what undoubtedly would be an epic weekend.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


“It was only 26 dollars,” Kyle sighed in disbelief, "...tweeeeenty-six...tweeeenty-five."
Familiar in the art of savings and champion of the rainy day, Kyle, was typically more accustomed to being frugal with how he spent…or not spent…his money. So when he found himself sitting at the press-board IKEA desk where he usually practiced patience, preparation, and guitar, a part of him wished that the late night commitment, from twelve hours earlier, was never made.

When his fiancée, Lisa, asked what he was intently mulling over, he owned his wasted expenditure, like a vandal with an empty spray can and a brand new mural.
"What is it, Kyle?"
"I won something on an online auction," he paused to grin embarrassingly, "...and I don't really need it."
"Well how much was it?" she gently responded.
"Twenty-six dollars and twenty-five cents," he said shamefully.
"Oh Kyle, that’s fine. But get some new pants next time; the ones you’re wearing have holes in them!", with that she spun out of the room.
She meant every word of what she said to him. With Kyle she always embraced any sign of spontaneity...within reason, but equally loved the way he looks in a fresh pair of Jeans. And truthfully, Lisa would be first to internalize that if it makes Kyle happy, then it is a necessary expense, even if she was the third, or fourth, to admit it.

"Twenty-six dollars and twenty-five cents," Kyle grumbled to himself.
It was a recent toe dipping into the Rabbit Hole of vinyl that had led to the loosening of his wallet, and subsequent spending spree. What started with a gifting of a limited edition copy of his favorite Streetlight Manifesto album, quickly spiraled into a once-a-week habit only satisfied by acoustic solo artists and the promise of a better sound. Soon, he was splurging on Craigslist lots of Post-Hardcore 7-inch collections for ten…twenty…thirty dollars at a time, tracking down the classics at flea markets on Sunday afternoons, and eventually finding hidden gems at online auction.

"Twenty-six...twenty-five", Kyle repeated while rubbing the red into his eyes.

Four fingers of Old Fashioned was all it took to nudge Kyle toward clicking the "see more like this" button. It was an additional four fingers of Maker's Mark that made him just uninhibited enough to bid outside of his comfort zone. The resulting morning was a 70-proof hangover and his winning...or

So with the flavor of whiskey and bitters still biting the back of his tongue he reviewed his recent transgression. The posting read:

You are bidding on one “The Internet”. This is not a joke. Through a series of stumbles and chance meetings I was introduced to the original owner who gave me the opportunity to purchase the internet for 15 American dollars in 1991. I am now providing you with the chance to purchase the internet for the same price I was given nearly 25 years ago...with inflation of course.
Upon payment I will relinquish ownership of the internet directly to the winning bidder. What you do with the internet is completely up to you. The only request I make is that you do not make any profit on the resale of the internet. All sales are final.

Letting the description sink in Kyle yelled to Lisa, "Hey Lees, what do you think the inflation rate is between 1991 and 2014?"

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Tower Creaked

About two years ago an X-box controller had gone missing - a group of friends joked about what had happened to it. This is the first Freelance Fable.

Tristan keeled forward, throwing his hand across the rows of muted electronics, scanning for balance. Sliding his fingers from twelve to five across a bunched Power-Pad he could feel the spire begin to tilt. The danger of collapse was a mere occupational hazard - which he gladly accepted.

This was no longer a hobby, it was a mission. A mission that he had been tasked the hero to accomplish. Like any playable character, in any R.P.G, he was destined to collect the weapons, level up, and save the day.

Scanning the muddled rows of systems, games, and wires - his eyes locked on an empty space.

"It'll fit right there," he exposed his plan to the empty room, and eased his weight off a stack of warped copies of Tomb Raider and the monolith Jenga-d back into place.

Licking his lips at the precision required to complete this feat he reached for the clumsy object barely wedged in his back pocket. The controller was caked in years of abuse and bitter rivalry its handle shined where friction cleaned it in his left rear pocket. But the stain could wait - this was his ark, his idol, his holy grail. And like "Temple" he only need to fill the empty space, grab, release, and the doors will open.

He could feel the controller was being drawn to this resting place. In a way he knew it had always been drawn here; far too important to waste away in a drawer at Zach's house waiting for the stimulation of a fevered midnight game of MVP.

Reflecting on this thought he spoke aloud, "When they see...everyone will understand...this means something." And with this final Richard Dreyfuss-like consideration, he reached his hand in; thrusting the missing piece toward completion of his masterpiece.

The years of boardgames prepared him for this moment. A game of operation in reverse, the controller: the heart, and the buzzer walls: a CalecoVision and a Virtual Boy.

Tristan smile.

The tower creaked.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Peace of Cake

“Vanilla”, Kyle responded, providing the desired flavor for the icing on his birthday cake.

From beyond the bedroom he could hear his girlfriend repeating the response into a phone, “…yes…vanilla icing – My name? L-I-Z ...” He let her voice fade into the background as he raised the volume on the ALT-J cassette he recently purchased, and took a deep breath.

Recently, a typically composed Kyle, found that he had trouble collecting himself on the high holidays. Christmas…Urban Outfitters sidewalk sales…and now his birthday...all seemed to cause a welling feeling in his gut that began percolating days prior to the anticipated event. A mix of excitement, eagerness, and anxiety began rattling at his knees and tickling the back of his neck like an ill-advised leap into a pool of Rook iced coffee.

Today was particularly chilling.
He mulled over the bubbling belly brew, once again trying to shake the carbonation as he had so often in the past few months. However, it would seem time was his only remedy. 

So Kyle busied himself with preparation for the days festivities, cultivating his look, like a scientist growing a culture;  bringing together fabrics he would spawn technicolor life, and therefore, purpose. The mirror served as a microscope, where he analyzed his Petr-dish and his practiced "confused look". The resulting cellular growth responded equally perplexed.

The frozen wave ebbed back. Trying to quell the building panic, Kyle turned his focus back to his wardrobe.

The clothing was a net made of charcoal, capturing the butterflies swarming in his stomach. He caught himself running his hand across the kaleidoscoping sleeves of freshly laundered flannel spaced in his closet. His fingertips moving like taste buds, rolling the sugar coating off of a Tums.  

He repeated to himself, "Look good...feel good..." 

From the bowels of their apartment, just under the gentle hum of his mantra and the electronic rhythm of Minus the Bear, he could hear Liz belt out, “Don't wear a hat!”

Everything buzzed into focus. He caught his reflection once again, this time tricking it into submission. Kyle smiled and took off his knit beanie.

The rest of the day would be a piece of cake.

“Piece of cake,” Kyle thought, “How meta...”

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stormy Whether?

I really don't understand.
Why people?
Where sunglasses?
It's raining.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

Quantum Chicken Fingers for Two

When Kyle purchased the time machine he knew there would be one person he would want to share it with...

"'re awesome," Kyle smirked.
" are," Kyle shot-back.

Their coy grins gave the impression of a Shel Silverstein story that had just begun. And together they this diner amongst the napkins and the remnants of a lost music scene they...he...we...had found happiness.

Like a shaken bottle of Jones Cola they could no longer stay silent...they blurted unison, "The chicken fingers are on both of us!!"

Their laughter was heard all the way to Asbury.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Halloween Alliance

When the battle lines over Halloween were drawn, Zach and Joe knew where their allegiance lie. Was there ever any question? Huckleberry and Spidercross knew that if Joplin was right about freedom, than together they had nothing left to lose.

The forking miles littered with bumpy early back-to-school Labor Day sales and  forbidden Thanksgiving-time Christmas oasis' led them here. They knew these cosmetic sirens were nothing more than mirage, roadside burlesques meant to entice the foolish and weak minded into accepting the madness. And the madness of fools is all they saw.

"No no my friend", the obstinate one thought, "we will this crusade only the penitent man will pass."

And the sigh from his strange bedfellow seemed to say, "I rather rule in David's hell than serve anywhere unnoticed."

So gather round...lay witness...
To these holiday Constantine's chests
 full of bitter and minds ready in retort. 

The last hope to us and the sanctity of the most holiest of days. Protecting us from those who wish to plan ahead, and armed with the only thing left to guard these brave soldiers in there journey: their cavernous cliff-deep Thelma and Louise friendship and a lit fuse Billy Joel attitude, ready to car wreck the maybes of tomorrow...