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The Amazing Capt. of Wonders

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Elegy & Dollar Bill [Oct. 11th, 2009|11:19 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
Two poems I'm working on for poetry class.
I haven't really written poetry since I was 14 and terrible at it, so this is refreshing.
Tell me what you think?


Elegy

A man’s hands and a piano
Strike minor keys
Over cellophane static speakers

Buzzing electric grates
Empty florescent daybreak
Into a bumpy box

The paper siding peels
To reveal curled widows and ants
Dotted on rotted corkboard

All corners of the carpet
Have lifted in contempt
Of the molding machinery

This elevator will never quite reach
The floor you came from.



Dollar Bill

He glued her to the ground with
Peanut butter
To see who would peel her from the cement

Each man who passed lifted her in hopes of luck
From the seal-slick street side
Gutter

But

The left side of her face was ripped away
By the acid wash of chunky plaster

And she bent in half and half again
With the weight of rain-coat
Rain

Spent

So

They just laughed and put her back
For someone to find
Again
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The Countdown [Sep. 11th, 2009|12:44 am]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
11 days till school starts.

52 days till NaNoWriMo.

56 days till Wrockstock.

385 days till Holly's wedding.
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(no subject) [Sep. 11th, 2009|12:41 am]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
Occasionally life changes so fast that you hardly have the time to realize something's taking place.

Then again, there are those rare moments when you know that something is changing. Right then.

It just feels like things are rearranging themselves behind the curtain for the next act.

Tonight was one of those nights.
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You see, I had this dream... [Aug. 22nd, 2009|10:01 am]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
August 22nd, 2009
9:29 am

We were in an airport but I can’t remember where we were going. It was nighttime because I could see out of the windows and the sky was dark and there were stars. I don’t think we were going anywhere because all I can remember is that very distinct feeling of waiting.
I hate waiting.
Which is sort of a shame, because I guess life is just waiting. The whole thing. Waiting until it’s over and you get to see what happens next. I guess it’s the moments that you forget it’s waiting that you can be happy.
There were a few people I know surrounding me, but no one close. An ex boyfriend, a temporary roommate, no one that I loved.
Then it happened.
Suddenly people started getting possessed. I think it was only one or two, but my roommate was one of them. Here eyes went bad-Photoshop-yellow as she repeated to us that the world was going to end. And it wasn’t going to end peacefully. It was going to end in a fiery, burning mess of chaos. And that we were all going to die.
She also set a time limit on this, 4:30 Sunday. It was Friday night.
I immediately went through my head to remember if I was seeing my parents by then, but no, I was visiting after work Sunday night. I contemplated if this was a legitimate enough excuse to skip work and come home, but I never did.
There was a bit of pandemonium at the airport. People were running around and I was following. They wanted to get somewhere safe, but it was useless.
Eventually we left.
Later I asked her, my roommate, if she thought any of this was real. Was this a hallucination or a trick? She just responded: “No, you are all going to die.”
I had the strange idea that not everyone was going to die, just most of us, the way that she looked at each one like she knew some terrible secret. I couldn’t make eye contact.
Apparently a lot of people around the world had this exact same possession. Their eyes had gone yellow as they professed the end of the world. They were all changed as well, doomsayers, confident of everyone’s demise. And yet for some reason they were not worried for themselves.
There were cults that arose. Paper like tents popped up everywhere offering their own brand of salvation. But this was kept quiet, as the government was doing all they could to keep things down. Three quarters of the population didn’t know about the apocalyptic prophecy. The ones that did were huddled in churches or listening to quacks that thought they could make some money in the process.
I dumped everything I had from my pockets. I wasn’t sure whether I believed everything or not, but either way, who needed money.
The end time came quickly.
The funny thing is that I landed myself with people I hardly knew. I guess the wandering around constantly checking my watch had gotten me in some unfamiliar part of the city.
My friend said that a group was meeting in his apartment and that I should come along. I told him that it would be better if we gathered in the basement of a new building. He told me that it didn’t matter. Either the world was going to end or it wasn’t. Where we were for it was negligible.
People started filtering into the small room. It was on the third story and overlooked a good chunk of the city. We all sat around in a circle with the television taking one place. It was turned off and on top of it was a clock. The hands were getting dangerously close to reading 4:30.
I got up for a moment to call my parents. All I got was voicemail. I wondered if they had heard about the prophecy or not. I think I was absolutely too nervous to cry.
I was nervous, the light kind, that feeling in your stomach like the time between when you drop something and it shatters on the ground.
I hate that waiting time.
I sat back down and tried to breathe in and out.
For a while there was silence in the circle.
Then an older woman piped up. “Let’s guess all the ways we think it could happen.”
She was obviously of the opinion that it was going to happen. We all were.
“No,” I told her, anger lining my words, “No, we need to think about all the things we remember about living.” I said it like we were already dead. The minute hand was dangerously close to the half hour mark.
“We need to think about the color blue, broken book bindings, the smell of grass on a hillside…”
“I remember,” another old woman continued, “When I was a young girl and I used to wear dresses with sequins that moved in the light when I danced.”
And as everyone listed what it was like to be alive for them I got incredibly sad because life is full of all these little things that are absolutely wonderful that you will really miss when they’re gone forever.

I woke up before we ever got to 4:30.
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Mouse Guts, Scratch Tickets, and Ants [Aug. 10th, 2009|12:27 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
My final story for my fiction writing class.

Mouse Guts, Scratch Tickets, and Ants
Liz Leo

I brought seven dollars in nickels with me. Nickels are fucking worthless. To afford anything worth buying you have to have a lot of them. There was a labeled bag full of them stuffed in the back of a junk drawer in the laundry room. I figured I’d take one last thing before I left forever.

I was saving those seven dollars for something goddamn important. Not something like food, or hotel rooms, or gas. I had a card for all that useless shit. I was saving those coins for something that would really change my life.

I couldn’t call myself a runaway. People who run away usually have something that they’re running from. They have abusive fathers or secret pregnancies, drug problems or fights with their parents. I was just heading somewhere south in my beat up blue Chevy.

I was looking for anywhere that wasn’t the same as the place I had come from. You’d think that’d be easy, but you have no idea how exactly alike everything really is.

Every little interstate town has three diners, four gas stations, two grocery chains, a souvenir shop, and nobody looks like they actually live there. Every city has a new school and an auto shop and a Chinese restaurant and a movie theatre. Even when I was traveling forward it felt like I’d been everywhere already.

The highway was a hot pad of rippling waves above the asphalt.

My AC used to work until a mouse crawled into my engine and made itself a home. When I turned on the ignition there was a short squeal before bits of fur blasted through the vents. Ever since the whole system’s smelt like a mix between wet dog and barbeque.

I passed Greenley and Pueblo, Springer and Santa Fe. None were quite south enough.

I had a feeling that my gas tank was getting empty. I couldn’t tell for sure because last year for graduation we’d used my Chevy in our senior prank. We drove a bunch of cars through the loading dock and into the cafeteria so that when the underclassmen came down for lunch everything would be halted by engines revving and music blasting through stereos. One asshole freshmen thought it’d be funny to smash in my control panel with a lunch tray.

But no one runs away because of one asshole freshmen. No one drives aimlessly south with one extra change of clothes and seven dollars in nickels because mouse guts are singed onto every inside part of their car. Or because a skirt they bought last month doesn’t fit anymore. Because they’re always five minutes late to everything. Or because everyone else is always exactly on time.

There’s just something about the desert that helps you forget all the shit clogging up your life: the busted odometers and gas gauges, the sleazy boyfriends, the broken heels and runny mascara. In the desert everything is just gold and orange and purple. Everything is sewn together with dry heat and dust.

My tank had been full when I left home, but I’d been driving for hundreds of miles and I knew that soon I’d either run out of gas or hit the border. It was like a game to see which came first.

As I passed Los Lunas and Escondido I realized that the town names were starting to sound more and more like Mexico.
I didn’t want to have to go home. I didn’t want to have to admit that I was the one keeping myself back. It wasn’t all the little piles of shit back home that wouldn’t let me run as far as I could, it was me and my stupid seven dollars.

But you know how it is. How right when you think everything you’ve ever accumulated in your life is gathering in this random pile of useless puzzle pieces and just to get away from it all you’re ready to be the first person to actually try to sneak in to Mexico, some benevolent force reaches down from the clouds and hands you an answer on a silver platter.

A fluorescent green road sign told me that in three quarters of a mile I’d reach a town called Truth or Consequences. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I’m not fucking kidding you.

In an overheated daze I managed to pull off of the freeway. The off-ramp was short and it spit me out right in the middle of some prehistoric town. There were only a few filthy buildings, dirt piled up by the wind on the north side of each.
Most of my body was numb from lack of water and breathable air.

I parked at the first and only gas station. There weren’t any actual parking lines so I just swung my Chevy into the lot. As I pushed my car door open I sucked in a stale breath through my teeth. The air was the same outside as it was within the sticky leather of the cab. Heat and the flatness of the desert wrought watery mirages in the distance.

As I opened a heavy glass door peppered with missing person signs and ads for English lessons I was faced with a brick wall of rancid warmth, worse than the desert because inside the air was moist like the creases of your palm when you get nervous.

Everything inside looked like it hadn’t been touched in years. I recognized a stack of those visors with fans on the tips that had been sort of popular in the 90’s. The candy was covered in dust. Next to the sodas were pool toys and around the corner dog leashes hung on the same rack as canned beans. The prices were written on index cards in front of each item and attached to the shelving with yellow scotch tape. The hum of a low fan in the back circulated air that smelled a hell of a lot like a mouse had died in their system too. Yellow fluorescent bulbs illuminated a permanent haze of dust that hung about waist level across the store.

“We don’t have beer here,” a male voice, clear of any southern dialect, sounded from behind the counter. I walked forward because I couldn’t see anyone and I wanted to know who the hell was talking to me.

“Across the freeway and down a mile or two, they have beer over there if that’s what you’re looking for.”

The guy was slumped behind the counter in one of those swivel chairs, fully compressed so that he was as low to the ground as he could be. His hair was dark and stringy from not being washed and he kept it swept back from his face at an awkward angle like it was held there by the strength of the grease that plated it.

“I’m not,” I told him, taking another step forward. Something about this careless jumble of a man drew me closer. His shirt was a plaid mess stained with odd colors and textures. Cheeto fingerprints stripped his loose brown pants.

“The pumps don’t work either,” his bulbous lips spoke the words down at the black and white tiled floor. “And don’t ask for change.”

“I won’t.”

“What’re you here for then?” He was the worst salesperson I’d ever met.

I didn’t answer him right away because I didn’t want him to know that I was drawn to the town simply for its ironic namesake. Maybe they got a lot of soul searchers in Truth or Consequence and he’s used to confused people like me wandering the streets for some sort of answer. Maybe I wasn’t the first to come into his store and find myself imagining what life would be like if I stayed where I landed.

I stood at the counter and emptied my deep jean pockets of one hundred and forty goddamn nickels.

“What can I buy with seven dollars?”

He was completely unsurprised at my display. Instead he leaned into the back of his chair, his almond shaped, droopy lids closed. I couldn’t tell if he’d just nodded off or if he was actually thinking.

“Depends,” he finally lifted his posture back up and placed his ruddy elbows on the low counter.

“On what?”

“On how long you’re planning to stay here.”

I found my gaze perusing the Mars Bars, the dated maps of New Mexico, the lucky penny keychains.

“Dunno,” I said, absently running a hand across the counter.

“You could get three and a half scratch tickets.”

“You’ll sell me half a lottery ticket?”

“No,” he slipped farther back into his swivel chair, “But they cost two dollars each. I guess you could buy half of one but then you’ll never know if you’ve won.”

“I’d just have to find someone to buy the other half,” by then I was grinning.

The guy behind the counter just looked at me blankly.

“I’ll take three,” I pushed the mound of coins a few inches towards his side of the register. He gave them no more than a glance before standing up to unroll three cards from a dispenser to his right. He tore roughly at the perforated edges.

“You 18?” he split the row of three tickets up individually.

I nodded.

“Here,” he handed me the tickets.

Apparently he didn’t need to see I.D.

“You can keep the change,” I said, “except for one.”

I grabbed a nickel and began scratching off the sticky black gunk that covered the prizes. This card was a slot machine, each window obscured until you took an edge to it.

I caught that he was watching me as I stood there, his eyes focused on the motion of my hands.

“You know,” he mentioned, sitting back down in the low chair, “You have more of a chance of dying on your way to pick up a lottery ticket than you do of winning.”

Under the first space was a cherry.

“Well,” I continued to scratch, “Since I’m already here I don’t have much to lose.”

Behind the second there was also a cherry.

I heard the squeak of his chair swiveling back and forth absently.

As the top layer was scratched away a final cherry was revealed.

I set the nickel back on the counter next to the others as I held the scratch card in one hand.

“I won,” I let him know, laying the card face up on the counter. He didn’t even look at it.

“Congratulations,” his muted tone was animatronic.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d won something. My head was a little light and there was a tingling sensation in my fingers like I got once when I accidentally touched the prongs plugging in a lamp. I sort of liked the feeling.

Under another little bit that I scratched away it told me that my prize was one hundred bucks. That could be a couple tanks of gas. That could be Vegas, or LA, or home. But the glamour of each destination faded as I looked out the tinted station window at my rusty car swung sideways into a parking spot.

“We can’t refund customer prize money through this store,” he sounded like he was reciting some company policy. “We can supply an envelope and stamp so that you can mail your card to the lottery headquarters of New Mexico who will send you an authorized check for your winnings.”

After finishing his memorized speech he reached below the counter and drew out a preaddressed envelope, the type that didn’t need any postage. I noticed that his nails were grimy little stubs.

“I can mail it if you want,” he held an expecting palm out towards me. I had no idea how the hell any of this would work, but I knew that if I gave him that ticket then I’d have to wait around a bit until the money came back to the station.

“There a hotel around here?”

“A Super 8 on the other side of the free way.”

There was nothing telling behind his heavily lidded eyes. Rough patches of stubble ran along the underside of his chin and outlined the arch of his lips. His body was doughy and yet his fingers were thin and lithe. Pronounced veins wrapped across his hairless arms. For someone who lived in the desert he was certainly pale. I imagined his breath smelled absolutely terrible. I wondered why I was imagining myself close enough to tell.

“Yeah, sure,” I said, handing him the card.

Sliding the ticket into the envelope he held it for a moment in his outstretched hand, contemplating its weight before unfolding the top and running an artificially orange tongue across the length of the paper to seal it shut.

And then, without any control, an inundation of images polluted my mind. I envisioned his fingers climbing carefully up the naked skin of my back, his swollen lips brushing my shoulder as I undid each button of his plaid shirt.

“Thank you,” I said, setting my hands palm down against the cool counter surface to keep them from trembling.

“Are you going to scratch the other ones?” He tucked the envelope in his back pocket.

I shook my head. There’s just something about luck that you don’t want to fuck with. I abandoned the other two scratch cards on the counter next to the large pile of nickels. I hadn’t been looking for money. I’d been looking for a sign.

I gazed out of the store window at the empty landscape, devoid of any possible customers. It couldn’t be too hard for him to close up.

“D’you know this town then?” I asked him, pressing my palms down harder against the counter. I was stuck there for a while, in Truth or Consequences.

“Yeah,” he scratched what looked like a bug bite on the top of his left forearm.

“Well then,” I shifted my weight so that I would be a few more inches closer to him, “I wouldn’t mind a tour.”


His name was Anderson and he’d worked at the gas station for the last eight years. I figured that put him in his early 20’s, but I’d always been bad at guessing ages. Anderson’s father had owned the station and their family home, one of the blurry looking buildings I’d spotted when I first entered town. When Anderson’s father died the old man left all of his worldly possessions to his wife. Anderson didn’t get a dime.

The walking tour didn’t take very long and most of it consisted of him pointing and explaining in mumbles the various broken down heaps of buildings that lined the way to his house. Nothing gained a distinct description besides his house and the station. It was like all the places in-between were mirages that he chose not to look at.

His home was on a plot of desert dirt surrounded by broken thistle bushes about a mile from the station. It was a ranch style house, something that’d probably been built in the seventies. It looked out of place only because in the middle of the desert everything looks out of place.

Once inside I was met with the unexpected view of a model showroom. The wooden floors were polished to reflect the pink light that shown behind wall sconces attached onto the red paint above white bead board. Everything was dusted, shined, waxed, and looked completely uninhabitable.

“My mom left when I was four,” Anderson said as we skirted around the clean floors to a door on the other end of the immaculate kitchen. I didn’t understand why that was relevant until he opened it and led me down a narrow stairway into a one-roomed basement.

It was quickly apparent that Anderson hadn’t lived upstairs in years. Cleaned, perhaps, scrubbed and buffed, but not lived.

Across the cement floor was a mess of hapless items, things that had once come from a place that they belonged in, but by some chance ended up stuck in his room.

On a dresser along one wall sat a bronze bust of his great great grandfather. I knew it was his great great grandfather because he told me. Albert Sinclair. He must have done something illustrious to be made into a bust, but I didn’t ask. Next to the statue was a neat pile of unread “Home and Country” magazines. In the farthest left hand corner a calendar of New Mexico sunsets had each day marked off with a heavy handed sharpie ‘X’. In the adjacent corner he kept a large pile of orange packets of tang and top ramen in a laundry basket.

“I like noodles,” he explained absently as I passed his stock, careful to step around the dirty laundry scattered across the ground, “and tang.”

In the very middle of the room was a big mattress set on the floor, wound in off-white sheets. The surrounding carpet was yellow shag. One bulb dipped from a socket to emit a buzzing dim light.

Also Anderson liked ants.

Not even liked. Loved. I think it’d be safe to say that Anderson really loved ants.

The rest of the basement was filled with tanks, terrariums, farms, all plastic, glass, wood and metal. Inside were contrived ecosystems of water, dirt, and grass. And if you looked closely, stuck your nose up against the temperate glass, you could see little antennae staring back at you.

There must have been thousands of them in that one room, the damn crawling insects, so many that collectively they made noise, sounds of scurrying and the clicking of millions of little jaws. He had every kind: black, red, carpenter, fire, some with wings, some with extra jaws. Each farm had a queen as well, one big fat female ant, bursting with the goo of harvested green, popping out babies to increase the count of Anderson’s collection.

I didn’t know whether I was really impressed or going to be completely sick.

“Where’d you get them all?” I stepped forward to peer into one brightly lit tank. Little fire ants the size of my fingernail swarmed dry branches and rocks in tightly formatted lines.

“I only started with a few of each kind,” Anderson seemed unimpressed with my curiosity. I held my stomach with one hand as I peered beyond the glass at a case filled with ants with frail looking wings. There was a thin wire mesh covering the tank but none were in flight.

“What do they eat?” I turned towards him, wondering for a moment if he’d only brought me down there so he could chop me up into little pieces and feed me to his minions.

“Anything really,” he answered, tapping on the particularly thick glass siding of one farm. At the moment he seemed more interested in me than in his collection.

“So this is what you do?” I circled his lone mattress, staring into the terrariums that surrounded the bed.

“When I’m not at the station,” he continued to tap, tap, tap on the glass. It echoed through the tank then across the concrete walls and ceiling.

“What else is there to do here?” I gave up looking at the little creatures and decided to sit on the edge of the low mattress.

He chose to sit down next to me. I heard the crumple of my envelope still in his back pocket.

“Nothing really.” He started to pick the dirt from under the nail of his left thumb.

“I didn’t really mean to come here.” It was too hot for our bodies to be so close, even in the temperate confines of an underground basement. Sweat outlined the place where his hair turned into his forehead. His face was now close enough to mine to see little blackheads speckled over his nose and cheeks, dirty pores fighting with a random growth of stubble against his damp, pale skin. His breath smelled like processed orange flavoring.

“Why did you?” His irises were so dark that they blended into his black pupils creating one continuous circle.

I didn’t want to say it out loud. Millions of little eyes were watching us from within the tanks. Antennae bobbed up and down along the edges of the fake landscapes. They bumped against the glass with little ‘tink’ sounds in order to get a better view. Who stops in a town just because of its name?

“I just don’t get it,” I kicked carelessly at the shag carpet with one sandal, “You only get one or the other? You can only get the truth or the consequences?”

I heard a noise escape Anderson’s nose, like compressed air being released from a bicycle tire.

“What?” I didn’t understand if he was just realizing something or sighing at me. Probably a little of both.

“In the 50’s,” he continued to clean the nails of one hand with the nails of the other, “there was this radio show called Truth or Consequences. There was a contest where the first town that named itself after the game would have the show aired there. Truth or Consequences. Doesn’t make much sense does it.”

I gritted my teeth at his explanation. It made some divine happenstance of mine seem like a tacky trivia card. I still just couldn’t get it through my brain. Usually with truth came consequences. I couldn’t see them being mutually exclusive.

“Don’t worry too much about it,” he told me, and I smelled the synthetic orange grove on his tongue. For a second it looked like he was going to say something more but then decided not to.

I just couldn’t get around the fucking purposelessness of it all. There was nothing to try to make sense of anymore. No truth. No consequences. Just a lonely boy in a concrete basement with thousands upon thousands of ants.

He leaned in, his left hand sinking more into the mattress, and chanced to meet his lips with mine. It was a mismatched movement and he only managed an awkward, grazing kiss. Then again, even to think about it as a kiss seemed wrong. It was a careless move, one I was too oblivious to reciprocate.

We sat there and for a moment the only sound was our humid breathing and the clicking of the little voyeur’s jaws.

He looked ahead, maybe at the marked off calendar against the wall. I heard a rustle of cheap sheets and then clammy fingers trying to slide between my own. I loosened my tense grip and let them.


I woke up the next morning in complete darkness. Anderson was breathing heavily in sleep behind me. We were both fully clothed and he was under the sheets while I was sprawled on top.

Ants never sleep so all through the night I could hear their scurrying and clicking.

I yawned and turned over onto my stomach. It was easy to fall back asleep again.

The next time I awoke the buzzing light bulb was on and Anderson was sitting on the edge of the mattress, something clasped between his fingers.

“I have a gallon or two of gas in some containers behind the station. You really should go.”

I crawled forwards across a tangle of bed sheets. My winning scratch ticket was being folded down the center, open and closed in twitchy little motions. I kept on blinking away whatever sleep was in my eyes but it didn’t help anything become clearer.

“These tickets are old,” he told me, suddenly ripping mine in half.

I wondered why he was telling me now in front of his audience of ants. I wondered why it mattered until I realized that I wouldn’t get the money.

“There’s a date on the back. Can’t claim prizes after 1989.”

That was before I was even born.

“You knew this then, yesterday?” I got up from my knees, feeling my joints crack as I stood and stretched away a bit of the sleepiness. I tried to keep my voice from trembling. What was it about him that made everything converge and then disperse so quickly?

I noticed that on the ground next to the mattress the envelope had been torn into many different sized pieces the way someone nervous would handle it. As I stepped forward they scattered slightly. I could see a piece of the return address scribbled with large loopy letters. I was surprised his handwriting was even legible. Legible enough to tell that the address held no traces of the town Truth or Consequences.

Anderson kicked the pieces out of the way with a yellowish sock before I could read anymore.

“Where am I exactly?”

His face was still for a moment besides the thoughtful grinding of his teeth.

“People get off at the wrong exit all the time,” he slumped his shoulders in some sort of explanatory shrug.

“What’s this place called?” I had to know. Meaning and significance drained from everything that I’d been trying to hold on to.

“Nothing. It’s not called anything,” he pushed his sweaty palms into the pockets of the same stained brown pants he probably wore every day. “We’re not even on the map.”

I felt a sick feeling twist my stomach again, the same as when I was looking at all of those damn ants. It was like a collapsing sensation at the walls of my stomach. A black hole sucking all my guts into one final destination. I imagined it was a lot like how that mouse felt the exact moment before being blown up inside my car.

“Yeah,” my voice sounded full of breathiness because I was trying to keep from letting any sort of emotion show. Mostly because I didn’t know exactly what I was feeling. All I could think about was the mouse guts and the ants and his orangey bad breath. “I’ll take that gas.”


Behind the station he poured a gallon or two into my tank. It wouldn’t get me to Las Vegas or LA or anywhere else interesting. It wouldn’t even get me to Santa Fe. Either way it’d let me loose from this stupid place I’d ended up in.

“You could come with me, I guess,” I mentioned bitterly as he screwed the gas cap back on. I don’t even know why I said it. I didn’t mean it and I wasn’t trying to be polite.

His greasy hair swung across his eyes as he shook his head.

“The station.”

I pretended to sympathize with his reasoning, but he didn’t have to keep the place open. His gas station didn’t even sell gas anymore. I didn’t particularly want him to come but his reasons were like sharp pieces of gravel stuck inside the sole of my shoe; I had to remove them.

“And the ants,” he added.

Those fucking ants.

Everything was just an excuse to stay behind in the ruts he made for himself, that his parents, his great great grandfather had created. Dust his mother’s showroom, feed his horde of disgusting little ants, sell nonexistent gas to nonexistent customers in a fucking nonexistent town.

But I just nodded and Anderson set the can of gas aside before heading back into his store. I could see him through the glass just sitting back down on his chair, swiveling listlessly back and forth like I’d never even happened.

My hand was clenched tightly around my keys. Why wouldn’t he come with me? If he did then maybe I would’ve just kept going south across the border. We could’ve sold the car and started a business growing chilies or selling sombreros, or whatever you do in Mexico. We could’ve been happy.

Swelling with defeat I found myself being pulled back by my restraints, back to the place I had started from. Even here in the most remote desert shit hole you can think of I was chained.


I was about to pull back onto the freeway before I caught sight of Anderson’s home.

Pulling up along a road constructed of nothing more than dust I parked a couple feet from the door. It was unlocked and I made my way inside directly across the reflective wooden floor and down into the basement.

The house, those ants, were the leash that held him the way that every little crappy piece of my puzzle had kept me in one place for so long.

I pushed my nose up against the warm glass of one of the tanks, looking in at the insects toiling in their fake little ecosystem. They were headed back and forth between a branch in the corner and a hole in the sand, carrying heavy leaves on their back.

I imagined them, the little bugs, using their jaws to collectively tear at the silk cushions up above. They would crawl onto every surface, into every crack and crease, repopulating the world up above with grime and nature until they grew bored and scattered off into the heated desert sand.

The tank was heavier than I expected it to be, but anything’s easy enough to disrupt if you try. I got behind it and pushed. The table it sat on fell over as the tank upended right onto Anderson’s mattress. A mess of bed sheets, sand, and ants occupied the center of the room.

I tore off the top off the tanks that I couldn’t lift, but the ones I could I threw down to the cold concrete floor, shattering the thick glass.

His ants swarmed the ground, crawling across my sandals and around each other with the frenzy of settlers in a brand new colony. A couple pinched the exposed skin on my feet but I couldn’t think of the feeling as pain.

I saved the last few small farms, the childhood plastic kind, to empty along the stairs in hope that the little bug army would find their way up and into the showroom.

I left the jungle below completely satisfied. Wings fluttered as a few bugs caught themselves in my hair. I shook them out as I walked across the polished showroom floor, the prints of squished ants from the underneath of my sandals sullying the shine.

I had brushed off all the ants I could find before getting back in my car but the itchy ghost of their many feet still clung to my skin. I breathed in and out heavily because I had just discovered the magic trick to creation through destruction.

The old gas made my car whine but it was good enough to get me out of the nameless town and back onto the freeway. This time I was driving north.

I imagined him coming home to his mother’s showroom and seeing it covered in his precious collection. I imagined him being released, freed. I never told him where I lived or where I was going, but I still imagined him trying to find me. I never even told him my name.

The heat began to get to me again because as I passed car after car, SUV after pick up truck after Mustang, I began to get that pulling feeling in my stomach like I’d gotten when he ripped up my ticket. Like what I was doing was so incredibly wrong I should turn back and undo it.

For a little bit I pictured every car I passed covered completely in a dark mass of ants. There were so many of them scratching the paint jobs and destroying the leather, crawling through the insides of the cars and consuming the people within. After a while I couldn’t tell the difference between my imagination and what might have been a hallucination.

I began to think about every other person on the road with me. The family taking a road trip in the Ford Explorer, the lonely trucker in his heavy rig. I felt this welling sadness from that same spot in my stomach, this immense dark substance that was growing because I couldn’t know them. Each car that I passed was someone, some person with their infinite life that I would never meet. Some person with their great great grandfather’s bust, or with their calendar marking down the days till some absent event, or with their tanks full of thousands and thousands of ants.

The next exit I saw I took, turning around at a cross street to merge back on to the southbound freeway.

I knew, then, that I wanted to be there to see the look on Anderson’s face as he opened the door.
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(no subject) [Jul. 7th, 2009|08:18 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
This is my third writing expansion. Sort of came up with it randomly. I think I may work on it for my large final story, although it will be changed a lot, and involved bugs.



I brought seven dollars in nickels with me. Nickels are fucking worthless, but I found them inside the junk drawer before I left my laundry room for the last time. I was saving those seven dollars for something goddamn important. Not something like food, or hotel rooms, or gas. I was saving it for something that would really change my life.

I wasn’t really a runaway because I didn’t have anything to run from. I was just heading somewhere south in my beat up blue Chevy. I passed Greenley and Pueblo, Springer and Santa Fe. None were quite south enough. When the next town was Las Cruces and the names on the blurry exit signs were starting to sound more and more like Mexico I decided that maybe I was going to hit the edge of my containment, bump up against the wall pathetically and return to somewhere that wasn’t the middle of the desert.

But you know how it is. How right when you think there’s nothing that makes any goddamn sense and you’re ready to accept the universe as some random bitch that has you in its death grip you pull off the heated highway and discover a town called Truth and Consequences.

Truth and Consequences, New Mexico. I’m not fucking kidding you.

I pulled up to a gas station.

I didn’t need gas but I figured I’d stop because my skull was spinning from the long drive. Straight desert roads can really get into your head.

I parked, not bothering to lock my car after climbing out. If someone actually wanted to put in the effort steal the heap of metal then perhaps they needed it more than I did.

The inside of the station wasn’t cool at all. I don’t know what I’d been expecting out in a crappy middle of nowhere place like this, but that heat still hit me hard as I opened a heavy glass door peppered with taped on missing person signs and adds for English lessons.

Everything inside looked like it hadn’t been touched in years. I recognized a stack of those visors with fans on the tips that had been remotely popular in the 1990’s. The candy was covered in dust. The air smelled like the low fan in the back was just circulating rancid odors around each aisle. I probably would have left the place if it hadn’t been the first stop in Truth and Consequences.

“We don’t have beer here,” a male voice, clear of any southern dialect, sounded from behind the counter. I walked forward because I couldn’t see anyone and I wanted to know who the hell was talking to me.

“Across town, on Date Street, they have beer over there if that’s what you’re looking for.”

The guy was slumped behind the counter in one of those swivel chairs, fully compressed so that he was as low to the ground as he could be. His hair looked like it hadn’t been washed since the opening of the establishment and he kept it swept back from his face at an awkward angle like it was held there by the mere strength of the grease that plated it.

“I’m not,” I told him, taking another step forward. Something about this careless jumble of a man just seemed so remarkable to me. His shirt was a loose plaid mess stained with odd colors and cheeto handprints stripped his pants.

“The pumps don’t work either,” his puffy lips spoke the words down at the black and white tiled floor. “And don’t ask for change.”

“I won’t.”

“What’re you here for then?” He was the worst salesperson I’d ever met, and I was still finding myself hung up on every sneered word.

I couldn’t answer him because I had no idea. Maybe they get a lot of soul searchers in Truth and Consequence and he’s used to fucked up people like me wandering the streets for some sort of answer. Maybe I wasn’t the first to come into his store and find myself imagining what life would be liked if I staid where I landed.

I stood at the counter and emptied my deep jean pockets of seven dollars in loose coins. 140 goddamn nickels.

“ I dunno. But I have enough change as it is.”
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(no subject) [Jul. 7th, 2009|07:23 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
Some more random writing exercises done in class. Woot.

This one we had to look at a picture and describe it from a second person POV. The pictures were all boring. This one was of a girl looking over a snowy bridge like thing across a river.

You thought you were alone that empty afternoon. Perhaps I was not close enough to reach out my hand and steady your tempered flesh, or even near enough to see your shaky form against the stone; but I was there. I was there to know your ears were devoured by the deafening plunge of subzero water pushing through a canal of rocks and falling down the stream.
Your burning palms melted calm snow as you grasped at the boundaries of your frame. What could you see down in that carved gorge that held you so rapt and stiff? I could only be there with you within the bright air of that sharp grey afternoon. I could not rest in your downturned eyes. What did you see, of let me know, that made you sure enough to jump?


These three I really don't like. Five minutes each we had to write about our surroundings, but with a different mindset for each.

Heartbroken
The drilling is busting my head. Such a nasty, heated sound. It’s crawling in the space between my ears and laying little eggs that will one day hatch into a new deafening ring. It’s nestling in there and making me forget that Alan just died. I don’t want to be here waiting on the dusty brick. I don’t want that chilly wind to rob me of remembering.

Just got good news
Do you ever notice the sky when it’s white? I only ever hear people say ‘that sky is so clear and blue, it’s beautiful!’ But I never hear anyone mention anything about a perfectly pleasant white sky. The news told me it would snow tomorrow, and now I can’t help but look up at that goddamn wonderful white sky. I can’t help but laugh as that cool breeze brings goose pimples to my skin. My butt is freezing against this muted brick, but I don’t give a shit. Bless that white sky, and bless that promise of snow.

Hiding something
I put myself adjacent to the trashcan so I could make sure no one would notice what was inside. Sure, I was obvious about it, but who gives a damn? A pudgy kid in a white sweatshirt walked by and he didn’t care. A girl with long auburn hair didn’t give me a second glance. They were all wrapped up in their own little universes. Someone I knew passed me and hardly recognized my face. That trash was safe from everyone except myself.


In this one we watched a scene from Revolutionary Road and had to capture the way Frank and April argued. These are two new, random characters full of some pent up negative energy.

“It’s nice out. Like that August two years ago when we went to go visit your aunt whatshername.”

“Violet.”

“Violet. It’s like it was on that dock. We should remember this little place. Come back alone sometime.”

He nodded towards the aquamarine lake waters as a hand stroked the white sand between them.

“She gave us our house,” her voice was a low rasp.

“What?”

“Aunt Violet paid for our house Henry, the least you can do is remember her name.”

“I’m paying her back,” his hand dropped a tablespoon of sand back to the ground where a gentle breeze carried the granules an inch.

She groaned softly and laid her head back on the top of her beach chair. Her eyes were closed. His rested on her sun burnt face.

“It’s taking time Laura, it’s taking time, but I’m getting her the money.”

“She’ll die before you write the first check.”


For the next two we had to draw random story aspects from a hat.


Character: Alcoholic fireman
POV: Second Person
Setting: In a record store
Motivation: Will the money come through (I ignore this part)


You walk in because it’s a store and there may be some vents with cool air. There is no other reason for you to enter. All you notice is the humid air clogging your nostrils as the temperature rises. All you care about is that nice, cool vent. The sign is almost unreadable because your eyes are dry and filtered through the light of cheap whiskey. You think you can make out the word “record”, but then again you don’t give a damn. You just want that cool vent.
You’ve been right in the middle of raging fires. Goddamn fires, ad you’ve never felt so slathered in sweat.
But inside, inside is like heaven rolled into a corner store. Inside is a blue wave from the calmest of damn oceans; inside are puppy dogs, fairies, and unicorns.
You take in that first clear breath. With a couple of zig-zag steps you realize that a gentle, mournful music is coming from somewhere.
You assume the song originated inside your aching head, and suddenly that aching is deafening. You try to cover your ears but the sound just wont leave you.


Character: Vampire
POV: First person full of intense violence
Setting: Bank Vault
Motivation: Trying to find a stolen car


My first thought, when the bullet hit me was: “that wasn’t so bad.” My second thought was: “holy shit that bitch hurts.” The second bullet was a little worse, the third I could barely feel by then.
There wasn’t any blood, thankfully, but that just came with my calling. But there certainly were screams. Loud, B-movie screams.
Most of them, I’m sure, were not because I was shot three times in the chest by a brave pack of policemen, but because I hadn’t quite managed to die yet.
A crowd had gathered outside the vault door; two uniformed men held back a couple of troubled tellers, and from the look of it instead of calling a surgeon they had brought in a priest.
I felt little like a poor, defenseless animal surrounded by such savage eyes, discounting the fact that I had survived three fatal shots and was standing there before them with a fanged grimace clutching handfuls of bundles cash.
You’d think I had the upper hand in the situation, and immortal creature facing a confused bunch of humans.
But under the pain of three bullets, the rough yells and siren screeches, under the thousands of dollars and bank vaults, and guns, all I could think about was: “who the hell stole my car?”
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(no subject) [Jul. 7th, 2009|07:21 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
I worked on another expansion a while ago, playing off of the person with the other worldly aspect.


Ella had been sitting next to Albert for a good three minutes, staring in absolute concentration, before deciding to force some wonder from her lips.

“That can’t be natural.”

In reply his downturned gaze faithfully scanned the glossy detail of the new wooden bench as he scooted a careful inch away from her eager frame. He hadn’t meant for anyone to notice him, let alone the defect that was painstakingly consuming his flesh.

“I mean, I’m sorry, but that’s just got to hurt or something. Does it hurt? It has to hurt.”

His silence was only accompanied by the blatant tweak of a muscle above his lip.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve never seen anyone like you before and I’m just thinking, I’m thinking that whatever it is you have you can’t have been born with it. No one’s born with something like that.”

Albert pulled his muddy colored cap further down his wide forehead, lightly obscuring his face as he chanced a look at the young lady by his side. She was Technicolor bright, brimming with pomegranate hair and widened bluebell eyes. A blinding yellow frock flattered her agile figure, dipping no lower than the knee and framing her ripe peach skin between light cotton fabric and banana hued flats. She seemed pleased that he suddenly couldn’t look away.

“So when’d it happen then?” she questioned now that his attention was fastened on that simple lipstick smile.

He took a longer moment to speak now, enraptured by her constant attentiveness.

“Last May,” he told her, letting his eyes fall momentarily to check that his dark gloves still covered his bony knuckles. They were securely fastened. “It’ll be two months tomorrow,” he let slip. Who cared if she knew he was counting?

“I’m sorry,” Ella told him, her slender brows gathering in a remarkable display of pity.

Albert imagined that if she wanted she could easily pass as an actress.

“It doesn’t hurt,” he assured her, checking the time on a silver watch kept hidden between his long cuffs and tanned gloves. “It’s sort of numb, actually,” Albert admitted. “Like when your foot falls asleep and you get pins and needles. Sort of like that.”

“Sounds like a pain,” she guessed, letting her posture relax for a moment as she leaned against the back of the bench. “Enough to make me leave too. Then again, I’m not sure if you’re coming or going. I’m going.”

The train station was relatively empty for such a vivid summer morning. But Albert hadn’t minded. The fewer eyes on his wretched form the easier it was for his lungs to take in air. The easier it was for him to slowly take in the living picture by his side.

“I’m going,” as he spoke he took in a quick, unexpected breath, like a hiccup but much more quiet. Patting his chest gently he steadied his rhythm of breathing. “Trains aren’t that fast anymore, but they’re reliable.”

“You must really want to be leave then,” she mused, placing her fine fingers in a polite weave in her lap. The nails were bit down past the little white bits, but they were scrubbed clean and clear.

Albert nodded.

“My right foot’s gone. So is a lot of my hair. I can’t feel those bits really, but my left hand, it feels so odd as it’s leaving. And sometimes I wonder if I’m just turning invisible or if instead of like everyone else I’m dying one little bit at a time.”

Ella closed her eyes for one private moment before returning to Albert. Perhaps behind those dusky lids she was imagining what it would be like if one morning she woke up and parts of her just decided to take off.

“Where’re you going then?” she asked, pursing her lips gently at the question.

“Just bought any old ticket,” he told her. “Doesn’t matter.”

“I hope you’re headed the same way I’m headed,” Ella offered him the kind of smile that whispered at his senses: ‘Don’t forget me.’

As he took a moment to develop her Polaroid image in his mind Albert flexed his left wrist, letting the fingers wriggle lithely within the confines of his glove. Yet within the leather they responded sluggishly to his urge. Even though only days before he had used them to slice into a thick steak or pound on piano keys Albert was already finding the sensation of owning that hand a dimming memory.
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(no subject) [Jun. 25th, 2009|10:44 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
We had to expand on one of our previous exercises. I chose the previous one entitled 'sloppy'.


I watched my mother fix my breakfast from behind lazy half closed lids, hung heavily like weighted blinds masking her wilted movements. She took no care in the process, slapping batter and spewing syrup in every which direction. Her weathered, bony hands poured juice from a pitcher so that once reaching the top it overflowed from the cup to spill plentifully across the counter and onto the dusty floor. Smoke billowed from the pan as she listlessly stirred tar black eggs into an indistinguishable heap. I sat at the round kitchen table, cold lapping at my uncovered appendages while my numb fingers tapped softly on faded checkered cloth. A deep, humid breath tasted of ashes and pancakes.

She was such a pitiful lump of expired flesh. I looked on, frozen, as the back of her frazzled nightcap bobbed sloppily up and down with each step between the refrigerator and the sink. Her lips, moving in a slow pulse as if to the rhythm of my tapping, spoke a raspy muttered song. A once perfect pitch was soured through age, as piano strings loosen by dust and wear. Each haunting note staggered from her tightened lips like hobbled knees dragging awkward, useless feet. It was the type of melody I’d last heard her sing at a cradle, or perhaps a grave.

“Hal is comin’ in the back porch. Gonna fix the window,” she muttered nonsense to the faucet once her song had come to an end. She wasn’t talking to me. She was telling the walls, the spoons and forks, the broken clock, but she wasn’t telling me.

“He came last Sunday to mend the pipes. Tomorrow he’ll paint the shutters.” The whispers tumbled from her like little broken histories. “Hal’s got that big straw hat. Keeps out the sun.” Her movements grew faster with rapid twitches and tweaks. Her stubby fingers were strung firmly around one glass as she raised her eyes up towards the tattered window. There the pane was broken and through the lax filter of a screen gusts of chilled wind blew inside.

“I think tomorrow he’ll be by for dinner. Delia, can you put on a pan?”
Her grip tightened across the cup as her protruding eyes probed the hole in that window, grasping at the dull grey sky.

It’d been seven years since she’d made me breakfast, or even seen my face, and I was almost pleased to find that she’d decayed as much as our rancid little house.

“Hal’s dead,” I told her before she could shatter the glass. Her muscles may have appeared too weak for the task, but I knew fierce little embers still smoldered behind those slackened cataracts.

There was a stretch of time in which she didn’t move at all, and for once we were matched in unison. We became frozen kitschy statues that finally coordinated with the décor of such a broken home.

“Delia’s dead too,” I added as if to throw more fuel on the heap of trash I was preparing to burn.
In answer the stark clank of glass dropping against porcelain sounded as her vein-ridden hands were thrown into the air, fingers tense and widespread as if she were praising the heavens. Then, in a series of mechanical like motions, she turned to face me.

“You might as well be dead,” she spat, fine specks of curdled phlegm flying from between twisted teeth. Those words, this time, were meant just for me. “The others are all in the ground,” her bulging eyes narrowed on the swollen scar that ran from the base of my thumb across my forearm and up along my shoulder. “Join them,” she taunted with a flick of both gaunt wrists. “Feed the worms.”

She had once been a viper; a stellar vessel of beauty, wit, and charm. Now I was sure she had gradually been carved out like a pumpkin, the innards thrown away year by year until she was totally empty.

“They get little pieces of me every so often,” I held up a hand to offer her the small consolation of a missing ring finger.

As I expected her thin lips parted in the disturbing wraith of a smile.

“Why’d you come back?” she chewed on her words as she spoke them. Each one felt laborious. “Thought I’d be gone? Thought you’d get this house?”

I shook my downturned head for a moment before rising to see one edge of that grin falter with the spasm of a muscle.

“Thought maybe you’d finally killed this heart of mine?” she continued, her voice growing hoarse with gravelly breaths. For a moment I thought that a hint of a laugh might be bubbling in her throat, but instead a harsh cough emerged from the depths of her chest. A hand clasped claw-like across her right shoulder until the episode ceased. When her eyes reopened there was a new layer of mist across each muddy pupil.

“You know me,” it was my turn to chance a careful grin. “I’ve never been that lucky.”
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(no subject) [Jun. 24th, 2009|01:52 pm]
The Amazing Capt. of Wonders
Daily Writing Practice:

Look at an ad cut out of a newspaper and write from a point of view involved with the ad.
I had a 265 dollar paternity test ad entitled:


"ATTENTION PARENTS"

Low Price.
They say low price because once you've screwed up like this you'll pay anything to set it right.
Then again the 265 dollars is the easy part. The 265 dollars is a simple little stash in my back pocket. The person, the actual saliva, strands of hair, flesh, bones, and DNA is the hard part.
He left me last Tuesday, and ever since Wednesday I've spent each hour of the miserably long day looking for him.
Not him. No, not his whole self, all the parts in accumulation, but perhaps just one of those pieces.
Did he leave the print of a kiss on a once foggy bathroom mirror? Was there a shot glass still sticky from his spit hidden in the unwashed pile of dishes? Underneath the bed I found fragments of ripped clothing.
None were his.
I wondered, eventually, if I even managed to find that lone cigarette bud mashed in the shag carpet, an artifact he used to hold gently between two lips, would they even be able to extract some code of life?
When exactly do the things you've left behind die?
I'm two weeks pregnant and they tell me 'low price'.


Next I had to choose from a short list a character type which we had to flesh out. I of course chose:
A person with an otherworldly quality (think magical realism)

Albert was slowly turning invisible.
The thing that bothered him most, of course, was that he had never, in his wildest dreams, ever wished for this fate. He had never had a particularly dreary moment in which he thought "I wish I was invisible" the way that so many people do. In fact, he felt sorry, in a way, for inadvertently being handed their greatest escape.
Albert had always adored his straight, sturdy nose and deep set eyes. He also hardly minded that the ladies of his youth had never missed an opportunity to giggle girlishly when he passed them a winsome wink.
Now his left eye had completely vanished.
He had his father's wide shoulders and long back, a spine that melded with narrow hips. Once defined muscles were now fading into the ether around him.
His small pinky finger was completely gone, and his ring finger was quickly following.
A golden wedding band could be seen setting on a translucent mist of flesh, cloud-like in nature, and to Albert disturbing as hell.


Then I had to choose from a short list of situations to put Albert in. I chose:
A person trying to get out of town

A placid voice rang across the cavernous lobby. His train would be leaving in seven and a quarter minutes.
In ritualistic movements Albert pulled muddy toned gloves over his knuckles and shamefully made sure a bandaged patch was secure across his eye.
The heavy hat atop his head hid strands of hair that had started to fade, and dense boots kept at bay his growing revelation that a whole foot had ceased to be opaque.
Staggering in a muddled way, the type of step Albert had never taken before, he hobbled across the marble station floor, eyes cast downwards across spiraling tiled patterns.


Then I had to switch to second person and keep somehow with the same story idea.

You were fading from me even before you started becoming invisible.
That's right, you thought I had no idea, but then again you've always been more transparent to me than to anyone else.
You left that cold November morning and all I could think about, before any tears or anger or regret, was how I was utterly unsurprised.
Maybe I'd expected it from you every morning, and every time I'd woken up to your heavy breathing and hot pulse next to my side there was a little tension that built up within me, like the winding of a mechanical trap. One day I knew I'd open my eyes and your place beside me would be silent.
Snap.
And then would flow that odd relief, that insufferable adrenaline you get from knowing that you were right all along.
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