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Friday, November 27, 2015

So... You're the Writer...

Yes, I am. A friend, who I'll call Fred, dropped by just the other day to introduce me to his girlfriend Mary. He talks about the woman all the time and I can see why. She's beautiful, smart, and engaging. After our introductions, she said to me, so... you're the writer...
After I acknowledged that, yes I was, she proceeded to tell me about one of my books she'd read a while back. I have a habit of ordering up a batch now and again, keeping them in the car, and handing them out to people I know and like. I'd given a copy of Apache Nation to Fred last year. Whether he read it or not, I have no idea. I never ask.
Apache Nation is one of my few books that might be considered family friendly fare as it has no fucks or shits or goddamns in it. Well, maybe one or two—and only when the narrator is under extreme duress—but who's counting? Right?
So, as I was saying... she says... so... you're the writer. Tell me... do you really walk into those mountains of southern New Mexico like you say you do in your book? I never know how to answer that question. Yes, I do. Oh... well then, I'm planning on my next vacation to go to New Mexico and do the same thing. No, I don't. So what you're saying is: basically your book is just a pack of lies?
Now, if she read the book, she would've seen right off that it is marked as a work of fiction. I make no bones about that. I write fiction. In other words, I make stuff up all the time. I even catch myself doing it in normal everyday conversations. Why? Because it's a better story, and that's what writing is all about.
But then again, I have in the past really wandered into those desolate mountain... walked the trails that I write about in Apache Nation. Would I recommend doing so to others? No. It is too far dangerous for the uninitiated to attempt such a feat. They'd die, probably after enduring horrid days or even weeks trapped in some of the most inaccessible territory in the world.
That I survived is a fluke, sort of like my writing. Though I started with the craft at a young age, I came back to it late. I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. I wrote a word, looked at it, and then wrote another... just as upon entering those mountains I took a step, looked around, and then took another.
I don’t go into those mountains on a lark, as if I am taking a vacation. My writing is the same. I obsess over it. People tell me, Dan... take a day off. Maybe two. Hell, take a week. That way you'll come back to it fresh. But writing isn’t work to me. It's fun. I can think of nothing I'd rather be doing. So why should I stop doing it just because someone tells me I should?
That's the reason I never let anyone know I'm going to the mountains. They'll advise me not to do it. Go to a resort, Dan... yeah... take a trip to Las Vegas. Gamble a little. Stay up late. Hit the whorehouses. You know, like every other red-blooded male does. Yet I can think of nowhere I'd rather go when I go than to those mountains.
So... you're the writer. Yes, I am. And there is a reason for that. I write. Obsessively. While everyone else is plunked down on the sofa stuffing their gullets with chips and popcorn and guzzling beer in front of the flickering television screen watching all the latest sit-coms or rom-coms or sports shows or Hallmark movies, I'm writing. I get lost in that shit. I'll sit down at 10pm, look up a moment later, and it's 3am. Huh? When did all that happen?
And sure... all my lies are laced with the truth. I suppose that's as good a way of putting as any I can think of. I never write about my own experiences and yet that is all I write about. What else is there? Still, I label it fiction. Maybe I want to fool the reader into believing no one can be as stupid as I am and yet live. Or perhaps I like to show off. Who knows. Either way, it is fiction.
I write to amuse the reader... that one reader who gets me. I'm sorta like that guy on the stage singing his heart out while staring right into the alabaster eyes of the prettiest girl in the house. I do it for her... I do it for him... I do it for that one reader who picks up my book and is enthralled by the words contained therein. Today, it's Mary. Tomorrow, someone else might discover these words. And like that singer upon the stage, I crave applause. But I never ask for it.
Yep. I'm the writer.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Big Shot

Hello, and thank you for all the kind responses I received from Stepping. This is another story from the collection entitled Streets, available for pre-order here.

Big Shot

A cold wind blows in off the Pacific and the sun hasn’t shined all day. I wake up itchy in the dunes not at all sure how I got here though I seem to remember riding in the back of a rusty van drinking cheap booze with the members of a hair band who are traveling north to do a gig. At least my ass doesn’t hurt so I'm pretty certain they weren’t queers.
I wonder what time it is, not that any of that matters. From the waning daylight I judge I must have slept the day away here. Maybe it's morning but no... the light is dying, a lot like me. I'm prone to binges these days so it's entirely possible I've been here for a night and a day or maybe even longer. Once I get started drinking I don’t like to stop.
My lips are dry and as coarse as sandpaper. When I moisten them with my tongue I taste the salt congealing upon them from the fine mist blowing over me. I shiver involuntarily as I stand up and the westerly wind hits me full force. Apparently I must have stumbled into a little grotto last night which protects me from the chilly sea breeze blowing incessantly. I notice all the trees are bent to the east from its force.
I try to remember what I'm doing here but between my head aching and my needing a drink it doesn’t seem worthwhile to worry about it too much. I'm here. I thought I'd be in Mexico though what I was doing there escapes me just now as well. I suppose I must have overstayed my welcome. That's become a routine of mine lately and one I'm not proud of but a habit I own nonetheless.
I have no jacket and my clothes are damp from the ocean fog. One doesn’t require accouterments as coats and such in the land of Mexico. In fact, not much is required of a man at all in that laid-back country though its citizens are working little mother fuckers to be sure. Me, I like work too but I'd rather watch it than to actually perform it.
The senoritas are fine and the tequila is cheap but the drug dealers are completely out of hand what with cutting off heads and blowing up tourists. Used to be Mexico was all about siestas and fiestas and having a fine time but these days us gringos are all too often seen as unnecessary evils in the land of the good... or is that the other way around? My mind doesn’t seem to model reality into a sensible equation as it once did. I tend to get things all turned around ass backwards and can never seem to set them right again.
Maybe that's my problem. Four wives—or has it been five now?—and eight or nine bambinos later, here I am all alone again wandering the wasteland like a wooly mammoth, a vagrant, like the kid I was forty years ago. It isn’t that I feel much different than I did back then. Of course the senoritas were easier to pick up and the jobs more plentiful and the liquor a lot quicker. All that's changed now... and then there's the goddamned mirror.
Mirrors don’t lie. Sometimes I wish they would... damn, even if they just sort of fudged the truth a little it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It's hell waking up to this grizzled old mug of mine day after day. In fact sometimes it's downright scary.
I see buildings not too distant from where I stand. It's probably a town, at least I hope so. These days there are clumps of houses sprouting up everywhere. The problem is that when a tramp like me shows up at their door, I'm likely as not told to hit the road and not to return lest they call the police. I suppose I am more than a little frightening. Towns are better. A bum like me can be more anonymous there.
My luck is good today. A sign on the outskirts proclaims I am about to enter Little River. I wonder what state I've landed in, or what country for that matter... it seems like there ought to be a law that signage should specify not only the name of the town but also the state and the country. I guess most folk take it for granted that everyone knows things like that, but I don't.
Walking past the single story brick post office in town I see another sign that tells me I am in the great state of California. Somehow I always thought California would be warmer. I've begun to shiver uncontrollably but I'm unsure if it's from the cold, from the alcohol withdrawal, or both. I decide both are the most likely answers. Luckily the streets are deserted. I wonder if some grand calamity has descended upon Little River leaving me the only swinging dick left alive but I'm certain my luck isn’t that good.
There's a neon red and blue Goodwill box sitting on the corner of the post office parking lot and since no one is around I dive inside through the trap door to find myself something warm to wear... a sweater, a couple more shirts... anything that might provide a bit of warmth. Here it is the middle of summer and you'd think I was in Gnome. But then again I could be wrong about the season. Time has a habit of moving past me way too quickly these days. It could well be winter for all I know. It would explain a lot.
I wish they had Goodwill boxes for unwanted liquor too. I need a drink worse than I care to admit. My hands are shaking and my eyes are starting to cross the way they do when the tremors start. There are no clothes my size... everything is too small. I feel like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians as I finally discover an old blanket and hauling both it and myself out I wrap it around me like an old squaw woman might. The damned thing's probably tainted with smallpox or the plague but I figure I gotta die of something and it might as well be that as anything.
My stomach is hollering at me the way it does when I haven’t eaten for a week. Food always deadens my buzz so when I'm drinking I shy away from it. I'm certain if I had a little booze to swill I'd feel a lot better but I don’t and as far as I can tell I'm not going to acquire any in the near future. Food is easier. There's always something to eat in the garbage.
Stopping by the Dumpster out back of the SevenEleven next to the post office yields a cache of pizza bones, though I have to pry them away from the stray cats that got there first. Most of my molars are broken off but I can still gum them long enough to soften up the crust as so I can swallow it. A drink to wash them down would be in order but sadly my pockets are as empty as the promise of tomorrow,
A squad car rolls by, going slow and two sets of eyes looking my way. That's all I need... to be busted for stealing a moth-eaten blanket from a Goodwill box and scrounging pizza out of the garbage. The hills have eyes and some of them fuckers probably saw me climbing into that box or out of that Dumpster and called it in. Jesus Christ... you'd think people would have better things to do than watch out for hobos stealing blankets and pizza bones.
I keep my head down, drop the pizza, and start walking. I figure as long as it looks like I'm going somewhere and I don’t have any evidence on me maybe the bastards will leave me be. Of course I probably seem a tad out of place what with a pink blanket wrapped around me and looking a tad too much like old Charlie Manson. The squad matches my speed staying just behind me. Yeah... I'm in for it. I watch out of the corner of my eye as it pulls up next to me and the lights come on the same time the passenger window rolls down.
"Hey, fella... what'cha doing out here?"
I look up for the first time. The voice is female but she looks like a dude... close-cropped ginger hair, surly attitude, just a hint of a moustache... all the attributes of a true police officer protecting and serving the populous. I figure I ought to answer her though it takes me a few seconds to summon my voice. Apparently I haven’t spoken for some time as my throat is sore and dry and goddamn but I need a drink.
"Just passing through, officer... ain't causing any trouble."
It sounds suspiciously like a croak. Did I say passing or pissing? Can't be sure now. I clear my throat and think about trying again but then decide better of it. Enunciation has never been my strong suit and the more I drink the bigger my tongue seems to grow and the goddamned thing tends to get wrapped around what few teeth I have left leaving me to sound like a bumbling idiot. Did I mention it's hell growing old?
The car stops and the doors both open at once. That's never a good sign. Her partner is a big galoot and she looks more like a dude than he does. I think of Selma and Louise but I am confused as to which one is which. Maybe they take turns. They both are wearing black body armor, night sticks, and enormous guns on their hips. They look way too serious.
"Just hold up there a minute, partner... we need to ask you a few questions."
They saunter my way with that practiced swagger they must teach special at the academy. Or maybe it's a prerequisite for being a cop. Either way, it's the same old bullshit routine... do you have any identification? No? What's your name... where've you been... where are you going... do you live nearby? I answer the best I can hoping to placate the assholes all the while knowing they're going to run me in anyhow.
"We've had reports of someone matching your description ringing doorbells in the area."
"Huh?"
That’s a new one. I thought I'd heard it all but I guess not. Doorbells? Why the fuck would I be ringing doorbells? I want to ask the dyke that question but suddenly she turns to the squawking bird mounted on her shoulder and speaks to it. For some reason I'm thinking the goddamned thing is a parrot. But no... once my eyes come uncrossed I see it's most definitively a radio. I can't quite hear what she's saying to it but I imagine it has a lot to do with me.
"Do you have anything in your pockets you want to tell me about?"
The big fairy is speaking again. At first I think he's talking to his partner because he's looking her way but no... he's asking me the question. Makes sense in a weird sort of way.
"Ummm... some sand, maybe... that's about it. If you find any money I'll split it with you."
He's not laughing. That's a bad sign. Hell, he isn’t even grinning. There's nothing wrong with a little impromptu humor but apparently my luck is rapidly turning ill today. The dyke keeps talking to the bird on her shoulder while simultaneously watching me with a kind of wrinkled-nose disgust that I've grown used to seeing whenever anyone comes too close to me. Yeah... that's what happens when you don’t take a bath for a few months.
"So if I reach my hand inside your pocket I'm not going to get stuck with a needle?"
"God... I hope not, officer..."
"Please place your hands on the hood of the car and spread your legs, sir."
I'm really hoping he's talking to someone else but as near as I can see I'm the only sir around. At least he's polite. He pulls on blue rubber gloves that match his uniform before he pulls back my blanket, pats me down, turns my pockets out, and finds nothing. I feel like fucking Superman with his red cape furling in the wind.
"Where'd you get the blanket, sir?"
"Ummm... I found it?"
"You don't sound too sure of yourself."
"Ummm... I found it."
Yes... that's better. Funny how just a little slipup can change the whole course of a conversation. Just a little sunshine... some cheap whiskey... something to warm me... that's all I need... that and...
"Anything?"
He's looking at me. Interrupted in the middle of a thought I have no idea what he means by that until the dyke answers. Obviously I've mistaken the object of his words. The shakes have set in now in earnest. I'm hoping I don’t start drooling. That'll only encourage them... the rats that are climbing my legs. I feel their teeny tiny claws digging into my flesh as they make their way up my body. They're inside my pants, the bastards. Pretty soon they'll be after my sack and the screaming will start.
"No... as near as I can tell he's clean. No wants, no warrants... do you think we should run him in anyhow? Could be a false name he's given us."
The big fairy looks at me. I figure he must be some kind of Houdini... a mind reader... a soothsayer, doubtlessly a gypsy in a former life. I stand up as straight as I can manage and wrap the blanket a little closer around me hoping to hide the tremors. I stomp my feet ever so slightly to try and shake off the rats... gotta hold it together for just a few more seconds. These fuckers don’t want any more paperwork than necessary. Running my sorry smelly ass in will cause them more trouble than it's worth and this guy knows that I know it too.
"Nah... let's cut him loose. He's just another down and outer. Take my advice, buddy... move on down the coast. If we see you loitering around this area, next time you won't be so lucky."
"Yes sir, officer... that's just what I'll do. Thank you, sir."
I start to walk away when the dyke surprises me by reaching into a pocket hauling out a five dollar bill.
"Here... take this and buy yourself something to eat... if I see that you've spent it on booze I'll be disappointed."
She hands me the money, turns, and climbs into the cruiser. The big fairy is still standing there staring at me like I have something on my face. Or maybe he knows about the rats. It's a disconcerting thought... that they might actually be real.
"Nell's got a good heart. Don't let her down, buddy. I hope not to see you around again. Remember... you're getting a break."
"Yes sir... I'll remember, sir. Thank you again, sir."
I sound way too obsequious but apparently the big fairy is appeased with my response. He scowls, climbs behind the wheel, and a few seconds later I'm left alone again listening to the ocean beating itself to death against the shoreline and the whine of early streetlamps just waking up.
Since the SevenEleven doesn’t sell what I need I walk down to the nearest gas station and buy a half pint of rotgut whiskey. The girl behind the counter graciously puts it into a brown paper sack which I slip under the blanket so no one can see what I have when I walk out. There is three cents change left over. She is way too pretty to be doing this for long. Big tits, nice smile. Someone will come by and scoop her up, make a porn star out of her. It just won't be me is all.
"Keep the change."
Yeah... I'm a big shot.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stepping

Hello, and thank you all for your continued support. Today I'd like to share a short story from the new collection I've been working. Without further adieu...

Stepping

It's something to do with the way I want you. There's got to be something wrong with that shit. I try to block you out. The thought. I swear I do. And alas, I always fucking fail. You're so deep inside of me. I can't get you out. There've been times when I start... digging.
Old bones I thought I buried... they have a habit of pushing up out of the ground right when I least expect it... where I never anticipate you. I thought you might save me. I really did. None of that matters any longer, or so I tell myself. Fuck it.
I remember a time among myriad others... I'm riding the #20 west to Pulaski. Madison bus. I got on at LaSalle and sat in the back. All I could think, as the bus continued past Ashland was, fuck. So many goddamned weirdoes. Look at these people. I mean, Jesus. What do they do all day? This crazy bitch, her hair - cranberry red - all tangled in that God awful weave of knots, dust, fuzz and crumbs - her fat ass micro-waving something awful in that deep, moist crack. She bent forward, chasing her bag of Cool Ranch Doritos on the muddled floor, and as she pinched it between two fat fingers painted pink at the end, a thin stretched-to-the-gills green thong bubbled up and got sucked back into the void after she sat back with a grunt.
I looked out the window at the gray dying world, and thought: who the fuck is eating that shit? Somebody. Somebody nasty. I mean - someone out there - they eat that ass. Fucking go down there and eat that shit, on purpose. I know that for a fact because she was talking to him on the phone. Yelling. She was pissed as fuck. He hadn't—done something.
How many time I gotta tell yo azz, nigga?
When I say...
What, you ask? Well, I don't know everything. If so, I wouldn't be riding the #20 west, hoping to buy smack from a bunch of uneducated street niggers, would I? Again I gaze through the glass, and past Western now, the city is starting to appear more desperate. More unreal, surreal. And then - that's when I started digging.
I keep one nail sharp. I file that fucker to a point. When I'm tweaking—when the creepers are out—I start to dig. When I'm nervous and think I might not be able to score, I start to dig. I looked at that fat black bitch—listened to her cunting voice grinding my nerves to shreds—and I started in on my wrist, just slightly, right at the spot before it meets the palm of my hand. I moved quick and firm, like I have some bitch in heat on the edge, some Arab virgin vegan whore who, deep down, fears that if she lets a Catholic prick like me get her off she'll be thrown deep into some dry sandy pit, stoned to severe injury before being set on fire in front of her grandparents and maybe that favorite uncle she blows on the side. So I fucking work it. I rip that goddamned hijab off her muzzled little raghead as I go in quick and firm. She looks at me and begs me to stop and I go faster. I hold her neck tight, squeeze, and as her muscles spasm and those dark eyes bulge—you Muslim slut—tell me you don't want this shit you fucking whore—she shakes her head like she's begging for mercy and I send her over the edge. I feel her warmth trickling down my finger and I look down to see the blood pouring from my wrist as somebody tugs the draw string and we pull over.
3400 west. Kimball stop.
I pull a glove out of my pocket to hold over my bleeding wrist and think: if we crashed into some unseen abyss, would anybody miss them? Miss me? All these people? Any of us? Hell. They're not so bad. They're probably pretty nice, most of them. I feel gentle now. Now that I've bled. Now that I bleed. I take a deep breath, let my arm hang down, and squeeze. I loosen the glove and feel that hot red shit running down sticky into the palm of my clenched fist and I smile.
Six more blocks. I pull the cord and thank the driver on my way out. He says nothing. Doesn’t even grimace. Looks dead west toward some unknown fucking destiny. Some fucking thought. Some lurid lucid dream. Some putrid addiction. Some lame fucking pussy at the end of a long day driving, perhaps. Or maybe some touchy family time. Perhaps not everyone is as deranged as I. I hope he's one who knows. Fuck what I hope, anyway.
I step off and the air is cold and sharp. Glittering. The corner of Madison and Pulaski is fucking crazy. You get off right at an empty lot cratered in filth and littered with thousands of artifacts of failure and a beat ass furniture store huffing fumes of diesel through a brown paper sack of a canopy. Everyone out here is on some fucking hustle, even the cops. Especially the fucking cops. I step off in the same suit I was wearing when I got on in the Loop. I fit in there. Now, everyone's looking at me. I'm getting eyed-up. They're ready to kill for me. To do anything I ask if I have the right stuff... that green shit. It won't take much. True entrepreneurs. The fresh client. All these niggers, trying to build some dynasty out here. You know what I'm here for, you fuckers. Who's got that name brand?
There's too many cops around. I hate cops. I start twitching. Involuntarily. Like that fucking dog... Pavlov, that perverted pussy-hating mother fucker. I start stepping. I meet eyes with a black face playing the low keys in some cut about a block farther west. The sidewalk is crumbled, the buildings lining the street vacant and defeated, windows broken like old women's teeth, doors agape. I walk slowly, and a little way down, I stop.
You five-O?"
I shake no. Imperceptibly. Little more than a jerk.
"You some snitch, nigga?"
I repeat the shake. I'm twitching again.
"Just a client. Maybe."
I say it low. No more than a whisper. A whimper, yeah, that's what it is. My throat is closing up. I feel like I've been stung by a billion bees and that venom is working its shit on me. I shift back and forth on my feet to keep the Jones at bay. But he knows.
He looks me over. He's hard. Stone fucking hard. Forty, maybe younger. They age fast out here. Standing out here he's seen some shit. More than I can dream. A human lie detector. A pusher. A killer, maybe. No one to fuck with. He has his way with women. Those who give themselves to him—they're his property. It's just the way it is.
He looks in my eyes and knows I don't give a fuck. Not about anything.
"Okay, word."
He tilts his head, wipes his nose with his sleeve, and:
"You don't wanna fuck wit dem niggas back there. They on tha' fluff. Tha' Nixon shi'. Mos' ma'fuckin' sleepwalkers come through here ain' even know differen'. Fuck wit 'em and you finna get a bad bundle. I got tha' ma'fuckin' tecata, nigga. The beast. Hit me here, and then walk behind the building. It'll be under a red brick by the fence. By the address. I'm out here, nigga. Come see me. 4157 all day. So whachu wan'?"
You know what I fucking want? I want to kill you, to be honest. I want to murder your fucking black ass. Slow and gentle. Not because it's racial or anything. It's just because I need you. That and you're just too fucking loud. Your volume. Your style. Everything. But I respect that. You don't give a fuck, either.
I slide him a bill and walk off without speaking. Worst comes to worst, it won't be there. But I know it will be. It might be short, but it'll be there. He's smart. They all are. Repeat business, that's the goal for all of us. I walk around the back in my fucking suit, and nobody fucks with me. I pick up the brick, take my shit, and place the bag in my black leather glove. That plastic burns where I fingernailed the gash. I walk east to Pulaski, cut north, and wait for the bus. The whole world knows I'm carrying. And what does it matter? Nothing. Not a fucking thing.
I get in the back of the bus and ride back to the Loop, feeling so released after dipping my finger in the bag and taking just a baby bump. An old lady sitting by me in the back, she saw me do it. She gives me that look, my mother's look. I turn my head, shamefully. But fuck, I feel good.
Twenty some minutes and I'm back to the hustle and bustle, back in the flow. Back to the game. I walk into my building. Bopping now. How's the market doing, someone asks me. Fuck the market, bitch.
"Those bulls are running loose today, baby!"
I yell, like I give a fuck. He gets all excited, pisses himself, a grown ass man, like it means anything. Your death certificate is already written, son. That money. That feeling. That power. It's all fake. I look at these little pencil-neck dweebs running around, chasing dreams over phone calls and emails. Funny how it's the same bullshit with different players. All the costumes. All the jargon. So meaningless.
I think of those boot lip mother fuckers back in the hood, the hustle, the death crowding in all around their black fucking faces and eyes of knowing, and damned if I don't feel alive. I dive into cesspools and come out clean. I'm the man they all hate yet they don't dare fuck with me. I just don’t give a fuck and they know that shit.
I walk into my private bathroom with my silver spoon and needle. I lock the door. I scoop a little mound and light my Montecristo Signature Series Lighter. A friend gave it to me, back in college. It's an epic, superb, a-quality lighter, made for one job. As the white magically melts into an impeccable, clear liquid of impossible purity and strength, I reflect on old times. Life is slipping away for me, I think. I smile as those way past reflections with old friends hold that timeless, photographic quality in one's head, and I'm glad we didn't all have smart phones back in the day to actually capture so much of what was. There is elegance in mystery.
I accrue all that remains in my silver spoon into my 24 karat, gold plated syringe, drop my pants and send that hot shot into my body in a quivering blue vein, right where the inside of my leg meets my torso. I fall back, aghast and awed. I walk out of my office, and tell my secretary to hold all calls. I'm going to busy, working on things, per se, for the next several hours. I feel it.
"In fact, Kate, why don't you go home early today? Your work has been exceptional lately."
"Really?"
"Yes."
"Well, you're the boss!"
Indeed.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed Stepping please watch for the release of my book, Streets, due out shortly. You may pre-order it here.