Monday, May 19, 2014

The Process

Okay. The computer is on. I know it’s on because the light is blinking. The light is blinking because the computer is on and I’m sitting in front of it, ready to write. So what should I write?

Hmmm, the saying goes “write what you something, something, bananas”. That doesn’t sound right. Maybe kumquats are involved? I’m hungry, time for a snack.

Alight, I’m back. The first step is to set the scene and invite the reader into my carefully crafted world.

Even nighttime was no refuge from the summer swelter on St. Johns. The residual heat from the day mingled with that radiating from the bodies of the dancing crowd, which surged and pulsated like the pristine waters that surrounded the island. The multicolored array of lights, strung overhead, flickered and followed the beat of the music, reflected in the glistening sweat of the people, like iridescent dance partners.

Okay. I guess that’s not too bad. Got a whole bunch of imagery up in there. Used some SAT words. What’s next? Let’s introduce a protagonist.

Clark (do I like the name Clark? I hope it’s not too Supermanish) made his way through the crowd, trying to reach the edge of the dance floor. Hours of dancing to the rhythmic, hypnotic island music, by the band Brookside, had wiped him out. He had probably lost at least five pounds through sweating alone. He needed a break and to rehydrate with a Red Stripe beer, (dude, a Red Stripe? Come on man, you can do better than that.) for a rum and coke. During his stay on the island, Clark had developed quite the taste for Cruzan, the local spirit.

Hmmmm, kind of lame, but it’s a start. Time to introduce some conflict!

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a score of ninjas jumped into the crowd! Blood squirted everywhere as the moonlight glinted off of the polished metal of the shurikin and sword blades that buried themselves into the soft flesh of the necks and torsos of the vict… (Nope! Not even close. Let’s try that again.)

It was true that Clark was tired from dancing, but even more so, he was determined. He had just spent the last half hour dancing with a gorgeous stranger. He didn’t know who she was, (No shit. You already established that she’s a stranger.) but she could move better than any other girl on the dance floor. As usual, Clark had gotten lost in the music and had closed his eyes. When he opened them again, she was nowhere to be seen. So he left the dance floor, on a mission.

Meh. It’s something. Kind of got sidetracked with the ninjas, though. Geez, what is it with you and ninjas? So how about describing this mystery girl?

Clark scanned the crowd for her. He’d never forget the way her lithe body moved with the music. Every movement was economical, yet uninhibited. She would twirl and wind both gracefully and intimately seductive, (I meant describe what she looks like.) When she looked at him, her eyes danced with the spirit of the music. They were the same deep brown as her exposed skin. She was wearing a simple, sheer, white dress that probably reached her knees, but Clark couldn’t be sure since she was never still long enough for the dress to settle. And as she twirled, her hair followed along, framing her exotic face perfectly.

God. You’re just full of clichés. Try it again.

Clark scanned the crowd for his dance partner. He knew she’d be easy to spot. She had these really huge boobs that would hit him in the face when she danced. And her ass was so fat that you could use it as a tabl… (Nevermind. We’ll use the first one. What’s next?)
There she was! He spotted her by a food stand and made his way over. She looked up from her food and saw him approach. As he got nearer, she slowly got up from the black couch (Why a black couch? That’s pretty random.) where she was sitting and walked to him. Her beautiful smile was like a beacon, an oasis in the night. Everything else fell away from his vision. The distance between them shrank and his heart pounded as they closed in.

Alright, now bring it on home.

Then she pulled a katana sword out of nothingness and stabbed him through the chest, piercing his heart. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Dammit! Forget it, I’m going to the bar to get drunk.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Time Out From the World

The sunlight hit his resting eyelids and woke him up. He was a big fan of waking up naturally. There was no better way to start your day than with the natural light of the sun burning through your eyelids, he always said. It was refreshing and invigorating. Of course it didn’t really let you know what time it was, but that didn’t matter. He didn’t have much use for watches these days. Sure it meant that he woke up earlier in the summer and later in the winter, but he didn’t care. Felt like getting back to nature.

He sat up and stretched. His bed was super comfortable and he was loath to leave its embrace, but he had a full day ahead of him. He scratched his beard. Wow, it’s really coming in, he thought. Have to shave one of these days before people confuse me with a wino. Do people even say wino anymore? He didn’t know and didn’t care.

He stood up, threw on some clothes and headed outside. Seemed like a good day to hit the beach. Luckily, he lived within walking distance (Location! Location! Location!).

He opened his patio door and trotted down the wooden steps to the sand. The surf was still cold as it washed over his feet. Now that’ll wake you up! Diving in the bracing cold, he enjoyed the sensation of gliding under the waves, like a sea creature trying to break the force of the rip tide and swim out to freedom. A cool sea creature, maybe one with laser eyes or something.

After his swim, he went back to his home for a morning bite. What will it be this morning? Nothing wrong with a little fish. He did live by the ocean after all. Seafood was plentiful. He headed to the kitchen and sautéed up some sea bass on his Viking brand cooktop. Very modern. A bit pricey, but it was more than enough for his simple needs. He then fed some organic lettuce that he had bought from the hippy grocery store down the street to his pet turtle, Mr. Brooks. If only you were a mutant ninja, he thought, then we could talk about all of the radical and tubular stuff they could think of.

Feeling a bit bored, he plopped down on his couch (damn expensive, and the Swedish give their furniture such weird names, what does Schnietz Marphis even mean?) to watch tv to check the news of the day. Sadly, when he turned on his 72-inch flatscreen, we was treated only to static. Cable must be on the fritz still. Seems like the television never works. If he cared more about what was going on outside of a mile range of his house, he might be a little more proactive in haranguing the cable company. But to be honest, he was quite content with letting the outside world do its thing.

He decided to call up his friend Doug to see what he was up to this morning. But when he called, he got no answer. So instead, he decided to go out on the beach, light a bonfire and amuse himself. After all, he could be his own best friend. Fewer arguments and disagreements that way.

He gathered as much driftwood as he could find and set it up to make a fire. Pulling out his favorite beach chair from the garage, he settled himself in, in front of the warm of the fire and just enjoyed the serenity and beauty of the ocean. The silver sparkles of the waves’ crests as they crashed down into the water. The reflectiveness of the ocean’s surface as it glinted in the sunlight. The sound of the tide was its own music, its own rhythm, as it beat upon the shore. Soon, the hypnotic pulsating beat of the waves gently lulled him to sleep. This is the perfect life, he thought. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The sunlight hit his eyelids, dragging him back to the world of the living. He barely got any sleep. The rock he used as a pillow left indentations on the side of his head. The palm fronds he vainly attempted to use as blankets had abandoned him in the night, blown to the far side of the cave by heavy winds during the night. He was freezing and miserable.

He stumbled outside to the desolate beach he’d woken up to see every morning for the last 198 days. He gazed out into the ocean’s distance. Nobody to be seen. Nothing to be seen except water.

Still alone, he thought to himself. The lonely king of nothingness.

Mr. Brooks, his pet rock, silently agreed.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Breakfast of the Dammed

Sunday, 5:30 am

I’m here at IHOP for breakfast. I’m dining alone (like a bawse). The hostess shows me to an empty booth. Looking around, I see that the place is mostly empty, which makes sense. Too early for the old people/church crowd, too late for the Saturday night crowd and their post alcohol-fueled nighttime adventures.

Over to my left I see a middle-aged man greedily downing what looks like a Paul Bunyan-sized stack of flapjacks. The guy looks too thin to get the job done, but it isn’t stopping him from shoving that food in his mouth faster than a prison inmate would. Heck, maybe he was recently released from the joint. Maybe he escaped. Seven Locks prison is just a few miles away after all. Who am I kidding? The Birdman of Alcatraz he is not.

Three booths to his right is a couple, sitting side-by-side in a booth. I’ve never understood that. I get that looking at your partner chewing mouthfuls of whatever can be gross, but isn’t being repeatedly jabbed in your ribs by your lover’s elbow just a bit more annoying? Besides, now you’re both looking at an empty side of a booth? I fail to see the fun in that. No chance of an accidental nip-slip there.

The waitress comes by to take my order. She’s a woman in her late forties or early fifties. It’s hard to tell. By her posture and behavior, I can tell that she’s been doing this job for a while. And dealing with idiot customers has a way of aging you quickly. She’s just over five feet and quite rotund. I can tell by her demeanor that this is either near the end of her shift and she’s very tired, or this is the beginning of her shift and she just woke up and is tired. Either way, she doesn’t look like she’s going to take any shit. I’d best tread carefully.

“Hi there hun, my name is Mary, can I get you something to drink?”

“Sure, can I get some coffee please? And I’m ready to order,” I reply.

“Okay. What can I get cha?”

“Lemme get the Brooks BLT platter, but instead of mayo (which is gross and should be banned from this planet) can I get mustard please? Along with a side of hashbrowns.”

It was a gamble. First I’m asking for a non-breakfast food for breakfast (like a bawse). Second, I’m asking for a substitution, the bane of all food service workers everywhere. If anything it’s the second leading cause food-tampering by cooks. The first being…well, I can’t give away all of their devious secrets. After all, I used to be a grill jockey, I can’t betray their code. Also, if you knew, you’d never go to a restaurant again (especially with what comes next).

“Alright hun, let’s see what we can do,” she says.

Whew, I think I passed. Thanks to my killer smile, ridiculously good looks and under-the-radar sexy personality, I won Mary over. I open my book and begin to read. It’s the novelization of the movie “Dark City” starring Jennifer Connely. A powerful read.

I got up to wash my hands in preparation of my upcoming delicious meal, (damn, couldn’t even write that with a straight face). As I entered the bathroom, the first thing I couldn’t help but notice was that most of the kitchen staff was in there. The second thing I couldn’t help but notice is that a couple of them were shirtless and using the bathroom sinks to bathe. I stood there for a moment and let it all sink in. One of the guys looked up at me. Our eyes locked in mutual horror and embarrassment. The moment lasted forever and a day. The rest of the guys continued with their business, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I felt like Jacques Cousteau, discovering a rare fish in its natural habitat. Slowly, as if the floor was full of landmines, I gently tiptoed to an available sink and washed my hands. I then backed out of the bathroom, the way one would back away from a bear they accidentally stumbled across going through their trash, (people who live in cities know what I’m talking about, just substitute homeless guy for bear, it’s the same thing).

Back at my table, my BLT was waiting for me. As I sat down, Mary came up to me.

“Is everything okay?”

I looked down at the plate full of food, untouched by me. Then I looked up at her. Is she blind or something? Am I being pranked here? Obviously I have yet to eat, I couldn’t possibly know if things are okay or not. This could be another test. You’d better get this right Josh!

“I don’t know yet, but it all looks good and I’m sure it’ll taste good,” I said with my incomparable smile. She smiled back as she walked away.

I turned back to my plate and the bottle of mustard they provided (I guess union rules prevent them from putting anything but mayo on the BLTs? And yet they can still wash their bodies in the bathroom sink, what a funny old world.) As if on cue, “How Bizarre” by OMC (remember them? Of course you don’t. Nobody does.) started playing on the PA. How completely appropriate and a bit creepy that a random one-hit wonder from the 90s just appeared out of the blue at the exact right time.

I did my best to put the song out of my head and focused on my food. I slathered that sandwich with so much mustard, it looked like the money shot from a bukkake video (I want you to go to bed with that image in your dreams tonight.)

That’s when the old woman walked in with the little kid. He couldn’t be older than three or four. Three things instantly struck me. First was that I wondered what such a young kid was doing up at such an early hour. Then I wondered why he was dressed like Robin. Even more curious is that the old woman was dressed as slutty Batman, low cleavage visible on her sagging breasts, obvious varicose veins beneath her fishnet stockings and flabby arm skin dangling and everything. It wasn’t Halloween. What is was was an appetite suppressant.

Wait a minute, I thought to myself, I’ve seen dead, burnt, exploded bodies, surely a slutty grandma can’t put me off breakfast. Which was true. Until she pulled out her teeth and started gumming her pancakes, the syrup escaping out the sides of her mouth, only to be caught by her old, frail tongue, which constantly protruded from her mouth and made circular sweeps, like a damp sentry. For the syrup that got stuck in her wispy mustache, she used a napkin.

Sadly, we both went up to the register to pay at the same time. Batman and Robin were in front of me. As she pulled her hand out her purse, a couple of packets of condoms fell out, raising even more questions. Shocked into silence, I retreated to my happy place, where I stayed as I paid, got into my car and drove away.

Moral: IHOPs in Toledo really from the Twilight Zone.