Monday, June 30, 2014

Hello Ladies!

We were sitting at our favorite bar: The Hill, chomping on some chips and house made salsa. He nursed a beer, while I enjoyed my usual gin & tonic.

“Alright man, it’s been awhile,” I said with some trepidation. “I’m ready to try and hit the dating scene, or whatever people who aren’t in Rom-Coms call it.”

“Don’t worry about what they call it (not ‘dating scene’ by the way).  What’s important is getting you some action ASAP. How long has it been?”

“…..” I said, scratching my chin in thought. ‘Ummm. Well, you know. Maybe around…”

“Jesus man! That long? Josh. My dude. In that case, when was the last time you engaged in some self-love? You know, rubbed one out?”

“Hey man, that’s kinda personal. Not really relevant to the topic.”

“Oh yeah ‘tis,” he replied, shaking his head in what seemed to me to either be disgust or pity. Was I really that bad? Sure it’s been a while since…whatever, but I’ve had my share of debauchery. Some might even say more than my share.

“Listen,” I said, trying to defend myself and get this conversation back on track. “It’s just a little dry spell. All I need is a quick refresher course and I’ll be back to accidentally getting girls pregnant and/or paying for my half of abortions in no time.”

“This is not a dry spell.” He put his hand on my shoulder as if he was about to tell me that he accidentally ran over my dog. Or baby. Those two things are about equal, right? “This is the equivalent of crawling through the Gobi desert while dragging your tongue through the sand and then spending a week in the Sahara, gargling a different type sand, then heading over to Death Valley to brush your teeth with yet a third kind of…”

“Okay, I get it. Long time, no chick. So tell me, oh sage Yoda of the vaj. Where do I go to meet women?”

“The current operating procedure of the day dictates a few certain places to go when attempting to meet ‘nice girls,’” explained Mr. Brooks. “But in truth, funk dat. Don’t worry where to meet chicks. They’re everywhere. Fallin’ out of trees, crossing streets, ordering french fries fried in duck fat at the latest hipster, organic, locally grown and sourced food truck. Everywhere. The key is the approach and what to say.”

“Good, that’s the stuff I need help with. People think I’m outgoing, but honestly, I’m pretty shy and I end up tripping over myself trying to get words out of my awkward mouth.”

“It’s simple. Imagine that your balls are so huge that they won’t fit in your pants, so you carry them around in a satchel. This will get you pumped. The key is to always present yourself as confident. You’re the lion and this is your jungle. And even if you’re not confident, fake it ‘till you make it. Then you walk straight over to her, introduce yourself and then grab one of her boobs. Make sure all exits are clear and your escape routes are preplanned, because you’ll probably need to make a quick getaway.”

“That almost sounds like a good plan, Mr. Brooks,” I said with a touch of skepticism, (satchel?). “But what about humor? I’ve heard that women enjoy a funny guy with a good sense of humor.”

“That may be true, but to be honest Josh (and I’m saying this as your comrade) most of your jokes are cruel, insensitive and at the expense of others. Face it, you do and say things for an audience of one: yourself.”

“Hey now. I already have a shrink and one’s enough. Stay on topic. So, I should stay away from being funny. Got it. Just man up and go introduce myself. Sounds simple, but not easy. I’ll have to work on that. Practice or something. What’s next? I’m terrible at conversations. Starting them and maintaining them, and then I just end up talking about movies, or my Japanese porn shoes,” I said.

“You are (were) a journalist, right?”


“And what is it that journalists do?”

“Drink heavily and put some kind of spin on whatever they write?”

“Okay, not the answer I was looking for, but probably true.” He took a sip of his beer and looked around for the bartender. After signaling for another drink, he turned and looked at me. He eyes, were a bit glassy, but I could tell that he was trying to draw out the moment and milk it for all it was worth. Guess he was about to get into the important, insightful shit.

“No man, they ask questions. You need to bombard her with mad questions. The only thing chicks love more than spending your money and setting your car on fire is talking. About themselves especially. But make sure to keep the questions simple and appropriate. ‘What do you do? Where are you from? What do you think about the weather? What are you drinking? Where’s Waldo?’ Shit like that.” He gestured with his hands to accentuate each question. “Don’t ask her about her bra size, how many penises she’s seen in her life, or anything specific that could be construed as being stalkerish.” He fell silent as his beer arrived and he started gulping it down.

I pondered his words. Mr. Brooks was known for saying weird and often times irrelevant things, but if you got just the right amount of alcohol in him, sometimes some knowledge came through. Like those rare times when Alzheimer’s patients are lucid.

He wasn’t saying stuff I haven’t already heard a thousand times, but I guess Mr. Brooks saying it kind of cemented it. I was hoping that there was some sort of shortcut, or trick to meeting women, but I guess it was just a matter of being straight forward and having confidence.  And then grabbing the occasional titty or something.

I looked over to Mr. Brooks to see if I had gotten it all, or if he had more knowledge to impart, but he was face down on the bar. So I dragged him outside and got a cab. Class was over for the day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Please Inquire in Spain (or, Nobody Expects it!)

Seville, Spain, 1579

Even in the early hours of the day the people could tell that the day would bring sweltering heat, thanks to the lazy, late summer sun. The people did their best to escape the sky’s light. But deep down in the castle’s dungeon, the stone blocks that made up the slightly moist walls kept the atmosphere cool.

Two figures walked along the cramped quarters of the sepultural corridors. One was short and carried a sheath of papers. The other was tall and foreboding, dressed in red garments as deep as blood. The figure in red began to speak.

“Okay Bruce, what do we have going on today?”

“Well sir, we have the usual poor, deluded souls to force to confess…”

“Convince, Bruce. We convince. Don’t use the ‘f’ word anymore. PR was really insistent on that. Turns out we’re giving the wrong impression about what we do down here. Lord knows it matters. Haaa! *Ahem* Carry on Bruce.”

“Yes sir, besides the usual amount of…eager converts, Eduardo the Extra Holy is supposed to be stopping by to inspect the iron maidens. You know, the same old thing. Checking if the hinges are properly oiled and the blood collection trays are empty and clean.”

“Ughhh. Eduardo. I hate that guy! He acts all holier-than-thou…”

“Well sir, it is kind of in his name,” Bruce ventured.

“We all went to the same seminary and we all learned how to ‘convince’ Jews and Muslims to confess their sins the same way.” Bishop Carocchio said with a sideway glance. “I don’t get how he got a promotion nickname before I did! Alright Bruce, get the slaves, or whatever we call the minions these days, to clean everything. But not too clean, because then it’ll look like we don’t use any of the equipment, (like the annual budget isn’t small enough). Knock the dents out of the thumb screws, make sure the ropes on the racks are taut and throw a new layer of straw on the floor to soak up the excess blood.”

“Yes master.”

“Anything else I should know about?”

“Ummm, oh, today is Antonio’s birthday, we’re going to have fortified wine and some bread in the break chamber, and it’s also Mauricio’s last day.”

“Wow. No shit. Already? Seems like Mauricio came to us just the other month, dewy-eyed and eager to put the hurtin’ on some heathen Jews.”

“It was just the other month sir. Turns out that he stubbed his toe on one of the dissection tables and managed to get a nice workers’ comp deal.”

“I swear, these new workplace rules are killing me! I remember the days were you’d go home with an accidentally severed arm and you were grateful! These days, a novice gets a hangnail and he goes home with a fat sack of doubloons.

Alright, we’ll celebrate the birthday and the retirement at the same time. Give Mauricio the cheapest hourglass we have as a farewell gift.”

Suddenly, a man runs up to Bishop Carocchio, out of breath and panting heavily. After a few moments, he catches his breath.

“Your semi-holiness! There’s been a…”

“Ah, ah, ah. Try it again and say it correctly this time, lowly swine,” Carocchio said, rolling his eyes.

“Yes sir. Sorry. Oh Bishop Carocchio, He-Who-Has-God’s-Ear (and a God-sized dong), The Scourge of Barcelona, Monsignor of Mayhem, Mr. Brooks…”

“I’m still not entirely sold on that last one,” the Bishop said hesitantly.

“Give it time sir,” said Bruce. “You’ll warm up to it. The guys in marketing said that it’s really testing well in Toledo.”

“Toledo? What a Godforsaken shithole. I can think of no worse place to inhabit or visit in all of Spain!”   

“…may I continue sir?”


“The prisoners are attempting to revolt and escape sir! They mean to win Wimbledon!”

“Not entirely sure what that means, but this is bad timing. Besides today’s inspection, Torquemada is in town. If he hears about this, we’re all screwed! Deploy the guards! Get them some pikes and swords and shit! Stab whatever they can, then hide the bodies in one of the rear cells before the inspection! Go man! Go!”

The Bishop shakes his head as the little man runs away to follow out his orders. “These people wouldn’t know how to tighten their bodkins without me. Also, Bruce, can you check to make sure that bodkins is a chronologically correct reference?”

“I’m sure it is your holy-ish. You make nary a mistake.”

“True. True.” He said with an authoritative nod. “By the way, where are with this month’s quota of converts?”

“We have reached 84% of the expected converts and 134% of the confessors/corpses.”

“Oh dear, sounds like the ‘convincing artists’ (honestly, who in PR comes up with this stuff?) are getting a little feisty again. Go out into the back alleys and hire a few of the vagrants and wastrels to stand in as converts for the afternoon. Offer them some bread and a few alms. Then just chuck their dead bodies into the river after Eduardo leaves.”

“Of course master.”

“Alright. Looks like things are good to go out here. I’m going to retire to my chambers to fast and pray to the Lord, our God….Just kidding! I’m going to molest some young boys and make an offering to Ba’al. The floor’s all yours Bruce!”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Reasonably Attractive Game

“Josh! Eight years of writing this blog nonsense and barely a word about soccer? But it’s your favorite sport! What’s the deal?” people constantly say to me (as far as you know.)

Favorite sport? I don’t know about that, though it certainly is in the top five, along with ping-pong, laser tag, duck, duck goose and “speed staring” (a small but fast growing sport, jump on the bandwagon now). I have been playing it since I was in first grade, (three hundred years ago) so it has always held a special place in my heart. And considering that it’s that time of year when Americans want to pretend like they care about soccer, what better moment to chime in with my two cents? (Never is also an acceptable answer).

Let me begin with that classic topic: soccer vs football. Actually, no. Let me not address at all because it’s a bullshit waste of time. Call it Ball-Kickers if you want. Hell, it makes sense and sounds more bad-ass than soccer or football. Or, let’s all just call it Greg.

“Hey, who wants to go out and play some Greg?”

“No thanks. We have too much self-respect. Time for some Mario Kart.”

Maybe that’s not such a great idea.

Anyway, I was introduced to soccer at a young age. First I tried basketball, but the concept of running around while bouncing a ball seemed odd to me. I was too distracted by how goofy that looked to be an effective player. Next I tried baseball, but instantly saw the disadvantages of standing in one place while a person you may not know or trust throws a small, heavy sphere straight at your head. Later as a kid, I was fortunate to hear what it sounds like when a bat connects with a person’s head, when swung at a high velocity. I was hundreds of feet away. It was both loud and blood-curdling.

I enjoyed playing football as well, when I was young, but didn’t feel that it required the same amount of skill. Being bigger than other kids didn’t involve special training. Soccer on the other hand needed speed, skills, strength, stamina and sexy thighs. All things I had in abundance. Well, maybe not the skill portion, but I’d like to think I made up for it with spunk. And steroids.

I’ve played on many teams in my day, including a few club teams, (like The Silver Spring Express) school teams (Blazers) and other various (The Sticky Palms*).

One of the highlights of my soccer career was back in 2003 when I was part of a group of American soldiers who played a game against a group of Iraqi soldiers. They beat the shit out of us. Half of them weren’t wearing shoes. There are never any IEDs when you need them.

The other highlight was once in high school when my friend Alex and I somehow conned our way into the announcer’s booth during a home game and went completely off script with the color commentary. We claimed one of the players on our team was Wyclef and his newest album would be dropping soon. We were quickly chased away and asked to never return to any future games. Whatever. They sucked anyway.

I was never as good of a player as I thought in my head, but I had fun. Most of the time. My favorite position was defender because I was fast and wanted to be more involved in the letting-people-come-to-me aspect of soccer, instead of the run-around-like-a-crazy-person aspect of the game. Because that shit sounded exhausting.

My fondest memory is when our team got to represent our country and the big tournament final was against Germany. Our coach, Mr. Brooks, mad us use our special play called the “triple deek” to… no, wait, that was The Mighty Ducks. Gee, maybe I don’t have any fond memories. That seems like a shame.

Oh wait. Soccer chicks. Soccer chicks are a great memory. Hooray for me. And hooray for the American team playing in the World Cup, (thought I forgot all about the World Cup, didn’t you?**)

*Contrary to how ridiculous those names are, I was not in charge of the naming process and cannot be blamed.

**I totally forgot to mention the World Cup. Maybe the topic will come around again in another eight years.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Schnietz Marphis

There it was. Right there on the curb. Who would abandon such a beautiful thing? It was all black and about six feet long. The cushions cradled your buttocks as you sank into a position of pure, unparalleled comfort and optimum television watching.

It was the couch of couches, and his name was Schnietz Marphis.

He called to me that bleak October morning. As I walked to classes (Physics of Ren & Stimpy 204) I felt a pull, a force drawing me to an alley. I didn’t know it then, but I know now. It was the presence of Schnietz, compelling me.

Thoughts of attending class immediately vanished from my mind. There was only The Couch. With infinite care, I managed to drag, pull, carry it back to my apartment. The going was easy, The Couch wanted me to take it. It needed a home, a host, a vessel. I would be the caretaker of The Couch I and I alone was worthy to own and sit in such majesty.

Once we reached my abode, I quickly pushed aside all other furniture. My old, unworthy couch was tossed out the window in haste. It landed unceremoniously on the lawn, where it disintegrated onto pieces. My apartment was on the tenth floor, it was quite a fall.

I sat down in an ordinary, nameless chair across from my new acquisition and studied it. Who knew what adventures it had encountered? What lives it had changed? What mysteries were woven within the threads of the seat cushions? I could hardly contain my excitement at the thought of what my new relationship with Schnietz.

A knock on the door drew me away from my flights of imagination. It turns out that it was my friend Frost asking where I had been for the last three days. I looked down and realized he was right. I was still wearing the same clothes I’d been wearing when I first met Schnietz Marphis.

He asked me who that was and I pointed to The Couch. Frost looked appalled. He asked me where I got it and expressed disgust at its condition.

I was shocked by his questions and observations. Who was he to cast aspersions at my dear new friend? And why did he want to know where I got it? Was he jealous? He must be! He wanted a couch for himself, to show off. No, even worse. He wanted mine! He was going to steal my beloved and keep it for himself. 

I eyed him wearily. His facial expression betrayed his intentions. I knew his schemes now, there was no hiding them. And for Frost, there could be no escape.

Wait. Who said that? Was that my idea? Frost was my friend, he had no use for a new couch. Why would I think otherwise?

Then Frost’s eyes grew wide. I followed his gaze and saw that The Couch was pulsating with a deep black glow. It was a shade of black I had never seen before. A shade I’m sure nobody had seen before. It was too black. It hurt my eyes and I began to feel nauseous looking at it. The glow bore into my skull and my brain throbbed with an incredible pain. But I was trapped, unable to look away. I doubled over and started to retch. Near to me, I could hear Frost doing the same thing. Then my legs buckled. I collapsed on the floor. Dead to the world.

I woke up sometime later, not entirely sure where I was. Then I felt the fabric beneath me and immediately knew where I was. I jumped up with a shock and fell to the floor. At Schnietz’s base. I had no idea how I had ended up on The Couch, or where Frost was.

With no warning (but to be fair, what kind of a warning can a couch give?) one of the seat cushions raised up and a limp arm partly fell out. Crawling over, I looked under the cushion and there was Frost, staring back up at me. I say at me, but it was more like through me. Lifelessly. Whereas I had been passed out, Frost had not been as lucky.

I stood up on shaky legs and leaned over to pull Frost’s body out of the couch and figure out exactly what had happened. Maybe he was still alive and I could get him to a hospital.

That’s when the cushion snapped down, severing Frost’s arm. It fell to the floor, blood lazily seeping out. A little club soda would take care of that stain, I thought. With a bit of a manic giggle. I couldn’t believe I was making jokes while my friend’s arm lay on the floor, his body lodged somewhere in the bowels of a piece of furniture.

I tried raising the cushions. They lifted easily. I was scared to look inside, but I had to see. With my eyes half-closed I warily looked in. It was empty, save for a few pennies and a cheeto (which tasted extra stale). There was no Frost.

Out of nowhere the front door burst open in a cloud of splinters. A man ran into the room yelling at me and brandishing some kind of gun in his hand. He kicked me away from The Couch and aimed his weapon at it. A flame shot out and engulfed (such an overused word when paired with fire and flames, in my opinion) Schnietz completely. Still yelling, the man dropped the weapon and began to awkwardly drag me out of the apartment. I got to my feet and ran out of the door as the fire spread around the room. Everything was burning, even my copy of Requiem for a Dream, starring Jennifer Connelly. I could swear that I could hear a high-pitched scream coming from within. With a last look, I saw The Couch shake and twist in ways that were physically impossible, almost as if it were bending in and out of this reality. And then my view was obscured by smoke and I was outside, coughing my lungs out.

I felt a sharp pain in my left arm. Looking over, I saw that the man had stabbed me with a needle. That’s when I passed out. Again.

I (again) woke up woozily. I looked around and saw that I was back in my apartment. Or at least a duplicate of it. Standing over me was the man who had randomly burned down my place. Or so I had thought at the time. He was standing over me with a smile. He identified himself simply as Chester and helped me to sit up.

My confusion over what had just happened kind of had most of my attention. I tried to ask what was going on, but my mouth was dry, full of smoke and useless. Seeing my trouble with words, Chester decided to speak. He told me that he worked for a man named Mr. Brooks. He said that they had been tracking The Couch for months in an attempt to destroy it. With a straight face, he told me that it was possessed by a being known as Roseus, who enslaved and killed men. She seemed to really have a thing against people born with penises. He also said that once The Couch has been consumed (there, that’s much better than engulfed, right?) by the fire, it was gone, along with all the damage done to my place. Unfortunately, Frost had not reappeared.

With that, Chester left and I was on my own. Everything back to the way it was, minus two couches and a best friend. Also, I had missed a week of classes as well as showers. I was failing and smelly. I sat on the floor and wondered if I’d ever see things normally again.

It’s been five months and shit is not normal. I swear that Schnietz keeps showing up in random places. And I don’t mean that I’m seeing it out of the corner of my eye (although I have), but places it shouldn’t be, like TV shows, movies, (including movies that came out decades ago) books, magazines and even blogs. I have no idea when or where I’ll see it. But the sightings are becoming more and more frequent. It’s only a matter of time. See, Schnietz Marphis is still in my head, like a comfortable seat with plush cushions. And I can just feel my mind sinking deeper and deeper. I have a new sofa. I think I’ll go take a nap now.

Monday, June 09, 2014

A Brand New Day

The first thing I was aware of was a general feeling of numbness. It was all over my body, so engulfing that it felt like I didn’t have a body at all. I wondered if I was laying down, or floating. And if I was laying down, where was I?

I opened my eyes. The only difference was that instead of everything being the usual black hues a person sees when their eyes are closed, everything was a foggy white. Am I blind, I thought? And if so, are my other senses enhanced? Because I’m all about being a superhero.

“Hello? Sir, are you awake?” said a female voice, somewhere in the haze.

I tried to answer, (assuming she was talking to me) but it seems that I’d left my mouth in my other pants (is that even a saying anymore?) and all I could get out was a string of drool and random vowels.

“Aaaaaeeeeeoo?” I responded casually.

“It’s alright if you can’t talk sir. One of the side effects of the medication is dry mouth. Here, have some water,” the voice said. “Wait a minute, let’s get your eyes clear first.”

I felt a cloth rubbed across my eyes and my vision cleared. I looked around to get my bearings. I was on a bed in a white room, surrounded by white things. White walls, white towels, white curtains and white uniforms. The only things that weren’t white were the IV bags and the tubes going into my arms. One bag-tube combination was a very bright, dark red. Blood. I was in a hospital.

I slowly turned my head to my right. There was my family. I instantly felt depressed and embarrassed.

My mother took a step forward and pushed the IV stand to the side so she could put her hand on mine. Her cheeks were wet.

“Hello son. How are you feeling?”

“Head hurtsh,” I managed to say.

“No shit,” I vaguely heard my father say. “You banged the crap out of your head on the floor. You have no idea how much blood I had to clean.”

“Hush Lloyd,” my mother turned her head to admonish my father. “He really doesn’t need to hear that right now. Go buy a soda or something from the cafeteria.” She turned back to me and gave me the saddest smile I had ever seen. It broke what was left of my heart. My father muttered under his breath as he left the room.

“So why did you do it son?” Mom asked me.

I turned away. Partly out of disgust that I had failed, partly because I didn’t know how to explain it to her. I wasn’t sure I understood it myself.

“Please son, I want to know what I can do to help you.”

Leave it to a mom. They carry you (unbidden, I’d like to point out) for nine months, in their bodies and they think they own you. They’re always proud of your accomplishments, always there to make you feel better when you’re sick, damn, stupid supportive of you in the choices you make in life. It’s enough to make you… well, not do what I did, but it sure makes you wonder if you tell her you love her enough. It’s that crazy combination of love and guilt that helps form us into whatever we are as adults. And today I felt as if I’ve failed her.

 “I dunno,” I mumbled.

“Ma’am,” the voice of the nurse on my left returned. “He’s still recovering. It may be best to let him rest a little while longer.”

My mom nodded weakly and gave me that damn pitiful smile again. Then she turned and took my little brother’s arm and began to walk out of the room. My brother broke free and ran over to my bed. Great, just what I need. What do I say to him? Not only does he look up to me, I’m not entirely sure he gets what happened.

Instead, all he does is punch me in the arm, tells me scars are cool, shows me his scar from falling off his bike last fall, and then runs out of the room. What a relief. The drugs do their work and I go back to sleep.

When I wake up again, the lights are off. It must be nighttime.

“Good evening,” says a deep, masculine voice to my right. The voice has some kind of accent, but I can’t tell what it is. It’s oddly continental, as if the voice’s owner had been everywhere and absorbed a bit of every place he’s been.

I looked to my right and saw a man, dressed in a black suit, sitting on a black couch and looking at me with curious, amused eyes. He looked as if he was ready to offer his hand to shake, but saw the tubes and decided not to. Instead, he introduced himself as Mr. Brooks and said he has an offer for me.

“I know why you’re here son,” he says, without a trace of pretentiousness. “Tell me, what’s her name?”

“Roseus,” I say weakly.

“Ahhh,” he nods in affirmation. “I thought as much. She does manage to make the rounds. Oh, no offense son.” He said with a slight chuckle.

I know I should be pissed off, but I can tell that he doesn’t mean it as an insult. Besides, I’m in no condition to do anything about it.

“Tell me, what if you could forget all about her? Erase her from your thoughts and go on to lead the rest of your life any way you see fit, with nary a passing memory of her to burden you ever again?”

I must be dreaming. Hooray for drugs!

“No, you’re not dreaming. I’m very real and I’m here with a one-time offer.”

Wait, did I say that thing about dreaming? Or think it?

“It doesn’t matter,” he offered. “So what do you think?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Brooks, I really have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Let’s talk hypothetically. Let’s say that there are two doors in front of you. One door leads to the rest of your current life, the eternal agony of memories of “her” and all the shame that comes when you leave the hospital. Not to mention who knows how many more…um attempts?” He waved generally over my injured body and the room I was in.

“The other door leads you to a life that is yet to be discovered. You have no idea what will or won’t happen. All you know is that you’ll never remember her or anything about her ever again. So again, hypothetically, if you could choose one door, which one would it be?”

I’m no dummy, I’m proud to say. Well, taking into account my current situation, I guess I’m a dummy twice over. Anyway, I know my Monkey’s Paw type situation when I hear it. “What’s the catch?”

“The catch is a simple one. It all depends on how far you’re willing to go. You might find that you don’t want to get rid of some memories. You might find that some memories are intrinsically connected to others. It all depends on the person and the depth and length of the memories. And, it all depends on how well you choose to navigate your own mind and memories.” He stood and walked over to me. Well, I want to say walk, but as far as I can tell (maybe it’s the drugs again) it looks like he’s gliding. “It’s really a small price to pay to be rid of “her” and all memories, good or bad. No need to feel that pain again. No need to put your heart though such torment. It’s a Brand New Day for you son. What do you say?” He smiled, somewhat hypnotically.

The possibilities are more than I can imagine right now, but I know that if I could have erased my memories earlier, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t hurt so much, physically or emotionally. I wouldn’t have made my mother cry or disappointed my dad. I can think of only one question. “What is it?”

His answer is one, enigmatic word.


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Josh vs Death (round 1)

It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday.
The regular crowd shuffles in.
But I’m sitting at home in my underwear
playing with my navel again.

Suddenly, I hear a noise from the kitchen. The loud clattering of pots and pans, followed by muffled cursing under somebody’s breath.

As far as I knew, I was home alone, so I was a little confused about who was in my kitchen at this time of night and whether this intruder was polite enough to have made me a sandwich. So I slowly got up (still only in boxers, to potentially scare the intruder with my impressive physique) and made my way to the kitchen, where an odd sight awaited me.

Sprawled out on the floor was a large figure, completely covered by an extremely dark, hooded cloak. Looking closer, I noticed that the cloak wasn’t black, it was much darker and richer, almost like if you looked at it too long, it’d suck up your soul. Next to the figure was an old school scythe. As far as I know, only one person wanders around in a black cloak with a scythe.

“Oh great,” I said. “How’d I die? Poke my bellybutton too much? It’s not my fault, that place is like an archaeological dig!”

“Shut up, you’re not dead. Not yet, at least. But you should be for this damn unevenly-tiled floor. I stubbed my toe!”

“What do you care, you’re dead anyway.”

“I may be dead, but I still have feelings,” he said with a pout.

“Okay,” I said, rolling my eyes. “So what can I do for you… Death?”
“Just turn around so I can make a proper entrance and muster what remaining dignity I have, please.”

I rolled my eyes again, “drama queen” I mumbled. Then I turned around. Suddenly, I felt the static electricity of lightening and heard the crash of thunder. Inky smoke curled around my feet and ankles, like a cat who just heard a food can being opened. A deep and echoing voice boomed at me, reaching to the marrow of my bones. I turned back and saw an eight-foot-tall skeleton, shrouded in black, floating in the air in front of me.

“Joshua! Son of James and James before him. You have led a slothful, wasted and evil life…”

“Well, I don’t know about evil,” I said in meekish defense.

“Silence! You have been judged and found wanting. You drown in your sins!”


“But there is still a chance to redeem yourself. You must best Death in a challenge of your choosing.”

“Wait, so I pick a challenge and if I win, I get to live?”

In a flash, the theatrics, including the reverb, vanished.

“Yes,” he sighed, his shoulders drooping. “Any challenge, competition or game. Geez, why doesn’t anybody ever get that? It’s pretty straightforward. You just ruined the moment and took the wind out of my sails. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I even bother with this job.”

“Relax, relax. Okay, so I get to choose. Hmmm… How about Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Best of three, five-minute rounds, no cheating or using”

He looked at me nonplussed, in that way that only a talking skull can. “Well, I’ve heard stupider, but not since that extremely pale guy who smelled like fish wanted to play me in chess. Very well, let us proceed.”

Instantly a bag appeared next to him. “Pick a name out of this sack and let the first round begin!”

 “Alright, first name is Mel Gibson.”

We sat there in utter silence, for the next five minutes. By the way, what’s the opposite of utter? Unutter? Nontter? Otter? Before I knew it, five minutes had passed and I was still trying to figure out an antonym to utter. Curse you ADD!

“The five minutes are up. I can connect Mel Gibson to Kevin Bacon in two moves,” Death said. “Mel Gibson to William Devane in Payback and Devane to Bacon in Hollowman.”

“Alright Death. I got it in two moves as well. Gibson to Gary Senise in Ransom, and Senise to Bacon in Apollo 13.”

“The first round is a draw. The game continues. The next actor is…” he stuck his decrepit, bony hand into the bag. “…Shirley Temple?”
Death and I awkwardly stared at each other for a few seconds, (I mean, I was staring awkwardly, Death could have been constipated, as far as I know.) Then, the slip of paper just caught fire and fell to the floor.

“Oops,” Death said. “Ummm, there seems to have been a technical error, let’s try that again.” He pulled out another slip of paper (or were those pieces of human skin? Best not to think about it.) 

“Jonathon Lipnicki. Start now!”

I shut my eyes in concentration, determined to not be distracted. But for real, were those pieces of human flesh? Unsavory. Anyway…

“The five minutes are up. I can connect the actors in five moves. Jonathon Lipnicki to Geena Davis in Stuart Little, Davis to Madonna on A League of Their Own, Madonna to Piece Brosnan in Die Another Day, Brosnan to Denise Richards in The World is not Enough and Richards to Bacon in Wild Things.”

“Wow Death, seems like there should be an easier way to do that. Oh wait, there is. Lipnicki to Beau Bridges in Jerry Macguire, Beau Bridges to Jeff Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys and Bridges to Bacon in (and I hate to admit that I saw this) R.I.P.D.

Death became deathly(?) silent. “After two rounds, the advantage is you, with one tie,” he said. “Let us begin round three.”

“Woah, woah, woah Death. Hold on a minute. We might be here for a little while. Why don’t we get comfortable? We can have a drink or two and I’ll go put on some clothes,” I said.

He ruminated and scratched his chin. “I suppose that’s not a bad idea. Especially the part about you putting on clothes. Your body is so sad that it made me want to kill myself. And that’s saying something. But I can’t stay too long, I’m supposed to meet up with Mr. Brooks later for a night on the town.”

I returned to the living room a few minutes later. Death was splayed out on the couch, with his feet on the coffee table and a highball in his hand.

“This wasn’t a bad idea,” he said. “I rarely get to mix pleasure and business.”

“Yeah, about that. You don’t seem to be too into this whole playing mortals for their souls thing. How’d you get into this gig?”

“That’s actually a funny story. It used to be my uncle’s job, but he was fired after he was arrested for inappropriately fondling the corpse of a sheep. Both my father and my brother were in the family business of glass-blowing and were unable to take over the mantle, so the task fell to me.”

“That doesn’t sound fair,” I said. “Is being the Grim Reaper what you wanted to be when you grew up?” (Do skeletons grow up? The whole concept was breaking my brain.)

“Do you really want to know? Promise not to tell anybody?”

“Hell man, with my luck, you’ll be leaving here with my soul and I’ll never tell anybody. Go for it.”

“I always wanted to style the fur of poodles and wiener dogs.”
“Josh don’t judge. In fact, let’s toast to that! We can always pick up the game in a bit.”

“Ehhhhh,” Death said hesitantly. “I dunno…”

“Dude! Reapmiester! It’s time to do some shots bro!”


Three hours and two bottles of tequila later, the Grim Reaper was totally passed out on my couch. Dead to the world. So I soaked my house in gasoline, set Schnietz Marphis on fire and drove away to a place where Death would never find me. The Bermuda Triangle of the Midwest.