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April 30, 2007

Postcard from the Near Bank of the River Styx

Hi Greg,

Waiting for the ferry, thought I'd write a postcard. Lots to see here! This old guy with no penny says October is the nicest time to come, because not so many tourists. Tomorrow I cross into the afterlife and am looking forward to meeting Jane Austen.

How are you? I hear you got a little banged up, but I guess the alcohol dulled the pain, huh, Mr. High Margarita tolerance? Bet you didn't know that I'm going to have that piece of windshield embedded in my chest for eight hundred years unless I can afford surgery (and they don't take my health plan here).

Enjoy the living world. Wish you were here--instead of me, you bastard.


April 27, 2007

My Job

I don't mind telling you that I am great at what I do. All it takes is a little creativity and a seething hatred of the rich and powerful. I was born with an eye for composition, and I inherited a propensity for the second. My parents were French immigrants. As a child, my mother told stories of the Revolution that had been passed down to her by her mother, all the way back to France. She said Robespierre was the great, great grand uncle of her father's father. My childhood toy was a miniature guillotine. I held trials for my sister's dolls.

An uncle bought me a camera. I liked it better. Liked taking pictures of people at their worst. I was there when Jacko dangled that baby out of a balcony. I was there when Lady Di bought it in the limo. Got some great low-angle shots of that one. Someone offered me a job. I don't know who. The paychecks are deposited directly into my account. Anonymous email delivers my week's targets. I have my theories as to who my bosses are, but it doesn't matter, and I don't actually care.

They gave me a computer with the job. The computer has a database containing the contact information for everyone connected to the entertainment industry. Even people that are supposed to be dead. Yeah, even him.

Most celebrities are dull. They work long hours pretending to be someone else, so much that they don't even know why they are themselves. Not one of them has anything interesting to say that hasn't been written down for them.

Stupid primates, we are. We're conditioned to respect and admire the beautiful people. They're our alpha apes. That they're boring and shallow is what makes them dangerous. A clever bastard can manipulate celebrities, use them as pretty mouthpieces. The rest listen to what the pretty people say.

So? I destroy their respectability. Spread rumors. Upload sex tapes. The only rule is that I can't do anything to affect their profitability. I'm sure you've seen my work. The hamster story? Mine. That last sex tape? I leaked it. Gay rumors? Always true, but I'm responsible for you hearing about them. America is desperate for royalty, and it's my job to make sure nobody is suitable for the title.

And I fucking love my job.

April 26, 2007

Chop Chop

It's the broken hum after a hovercraft crash. The chrome-plated policemachine, with black helicopter blades chopping out its back, prints out a traffic violation from its mouth. The craft steersman jabs a thumb toward Pandora, rocking on her feet at the street-corner in her green, knee-length pleated skirt--pretty as a picture--as though she were a guileless fold-out child in a forbidden men's magazine. "Jail-bait," says the wild-haired man, panting, "enticing the weak-willed with illegal proclivities, crossing at a green light just as I'm supposed to stop at the red! A green skirt means go--go for it now!" The cop processes this, inhales his ticket, and chops over to the girl.

April 25, 2007

Robin's Egg Sky

"So he's all-powerful, he knows everything, he controls everything that happens, right?"

"We don't have time for your--"

"This is important! Omnipotent, omniscient, in control, right? Then why ask him for anything? Isn't he the one who set in motion the needs in the first place, and doesn't he already know everything we want?"

The wind drifted across the grassy meadow in waves, making the grass billow and almost shimmer.

"This is the old dead end about Fate. Just the act of asking--"

"Not Fate! Control! We'll do what he wants us to do, and we'll get what he wants us to get. Why ask?"

"Can't you stop questioning everything for one minute? Why can't you just ask like a normal person?"

"Because I don't like the higher power! I don't want to submit to something that seems fundamentally amoral to me. Something that goes around making people do what it wants. You hear me up there? I'm not kowtowing to you!"


"Please what? Please shut up, or he'll hear me? He already knows my thoughts! Please swallow my pride and just ask him for something like everyone else? Fine, I'll ask him for something. HEY WRITER! I WANT A PONY!"

And with no clear reason or mechanism, there was a pony, a shaggy pony the color of butterscotch with a white, silky mane and liquid eyes. A few moments later, like an afterthought, a saddle appeared in the grass beside it.

They stared at the pony. Then they looked up into the clear, empty, robin's egg sky.

April 24, 2007

A Morning Slidewalk Scene

This guy comes up the block in a silver jumpsuit, and he's thinking, I could move to one of those LaGrange orbitals. Plenty of jobs up there, and all kinds of relocation bonuses...

Another guy, older, coming the other way in a plaid jacket that totally clashes with the tattoo on his face, is remembering the cliffhanger ending from last night's episode of /Urges/, playing it over and over in his mind. He seems to be more interested in the cutting remark that Lola just made to Charles, and less in the way the elevator is falling out of control.

A woman on the expresswalk is going over what she needs to do to clinch the Callazon deal -- if she drops the renewal price by 3% and moves the upgrade window from five months to four... Biv in sales owes her a favor anyway. And if she lands this one, Robertson will have to promote her. He'll have to, no matter what he thinks about clones -- the bigot.

There's silver jumpsuit guy again, going the other way, thinking: ...or one of the undersea domes, lots of jobs there, too. And they have great schools -- now that I'm pregnant, I can't just think about myself. I'm sure I'll get used to the damp eventually. They say it doesn't feel as claustrophobic as it really is...

A woman passes by, wondering if she should stop off at this coffee shop or wait and just grab a cup from the machine in the lobby at the office, which tastes as good, but the foam's always a little flat. She doesn't stop.

A man with one of those biofeedback jackets glides by, mellow and smug. He's thinking, yeah, it was expensive, but it looks just like my own hair, and with the foil lining, I don't have to worry about those damn headhoppers anymore. My thoughts are my own!

Latte nearly comes out of my nose at that one. Like anyone cares what he gets up to when he goes virtual, even if he is stealing company linktime to do it. And I hope his real hair didn't look like that.

You're right, we should move on; we've been here like forty-five minutes. Even though nobody's noticed, they might.

Wait -- here comes that guy in the jumpsuit again.

April 23, 2007

Benjo Fails to Connect

His last appeal exhausted, Benjamin Josiah Temple sits on death row and talks pop culture with God.

"I prefer to reveal Myself to those who have a true appreciation for Green Acres," says God. "Of course, Lisa represents chaos to Oliver's flawed manifestation of order. Happiness for one is shopping where happiness for the other is starting a farm. Without either, there would be no marriage, no true happiness, no television show. Talk about your Odd Couples!"

"You gonna break me out of here?" Benjo hears the thud of approaching shoes, guards are on their way. "I'll watch any show you want, you get me gone."

"Certainly not." God adopts a reproving tone. "You're like Hogan, always looking for the tunnel to freedom, when all the time it is within you."

"In me? Is that what you're trying to teach me? Is this some kinda zen thing? Dammit, God, come clean, wouldja?"

"Now you mention it, Schultz saying 'I see nothing' is very zen." Two guards and a priest stop outside Benjo's cell. God whispers in his ear, "I think Steve Buscemi would be wonderful playing you."

One guard steps right on the remains of Benjo's last supper as he reaches to haul the convict to his feet. Benjo looks wildly around. "Are you still there, God? Don't let me die!"

"God is with you always," the priest intones, yawning just a bit.

"I'll be seeing you, son," God says too softly for anyone to hear, just as he has said the other times, the other millions of times. A series of doors open for the prisoner, and close, just like on Get Smart.

April 20, 2007

Overheard in the courtyard of a very ancient apartment block in Cairo

"Hassan, change your sister back right this minute. I mean it."

"But Mama,--"

"Hassan Ibn Sina, change your sister back or I will make you sorry you ever came out of the womb, so help me Almighty. Don't give me that look."

"But Mama, she likes being a butterfly."

"I don't care whether she wants to be a butterfly for the rest of her life. You change her back this instant, do you hear? She can be a butterfly all she wants when she's old enough to do it herself. For now, she has to be a little girl and eat her supper. And you, you will not get any supper at all if you do not do as I say. What, do you want me to change you too? Because I guarantee you, I'm angry enough right now, I'll change you into a dog turd in the street."

April 19, 2007

The Bug-A-Boo Bear

The brokers of the pawnshop heard a burly growl before Pandora lugged the weighty chest inside and lifted out the fearsome heart of papier-mâché. Unlatching the catch in back, she emptied it upon the counter. Bats flew out, tarantulas crept, black widows scuttled, killer bees buzzed, and a praying mantis mantraed. A small, discolored, ugly pearl rolled off the counter and under the paw of the tallest pawnbroker who shook his furry head with sad regret. The other brokers laid upon the heart a heavy club to crush the papier-mâché. The brutish girl had got what she deserved.

April 18, 2007

Shadow and Glimmer

The old Lightcrafter shifted his wands moodily, propelling the illusion of a pirouetting girl back and forth across a weathered stone by the river. Young Cvoa shifted his own wands, although nothing additional appeared in front of them.

"It's all worthless," murmured the old man. "You should give up lightcrafting and find an honest trade. Shadow and glimmer, lies and the hollow promises, that's all it is."

"Please, not this again," said Cvoa. "Teach me something new."

The old man didn't seem to hear. "When I was your age, I thought the illusions were just the beginning. That's the way it feels, eh? Just a prelude to something marvelous around the corner. Well, there is no corner, boy. Just a wandering path that ends in a desert."

Cvoa finally gave up. When the old man started in like this he would sometimes go on for hours. Cvoa stared off into the broken bits of sunlight that shimmered on the surface of the river and let his wands drop--making the old man disappear.

April 17, 2007

Report to the General

To: General William Knight


In the six months since you assigned me to liaison with Israel Defense Force (IDF) minesweeping operations, I have fully apprised myself with their equipment, procedures, and operational readiness. I repeat my preliminary finding that US forces will be able to adapt Israeli materiel and processes for domestic and international use.


IDF standard operating procedure has been to demolish the houses of bombers and snipers with bulldozers. With the growing use of landmines by dissidents, a new way of clearing ground needed to be implemented. Designed to be used in both urban and suburban settings, the Gimel Mark IV has proved to be a versatile and effective tool in the arsenal against terrorism. There has been limited testing of the Mark IV outside cities, but IDF plans more testing in the future. Israel's terrain consists mainly of hills, mountains, valleys, deserts and beaches, while only six percent of the country is covered with forests and woodlands. As Allied Forces intend use mainly in urban, suburban, or desert conditions, this does not pose a problem.

Dissimilarities from Standard Operating Procedure:

First: due to the ambulatory nature of the Gimel unit, it is capable of maneuvering in tighter spaces than US units.

Second: it obeys simple verbal commands, robotically moving to left or right, up or down inclines and stairs, without the need for close operator control. Due to the semi-autonomous nature of their command and control, a 3-man team can manage an array of six Gimels at once. I have watched a team of twelve Gimels clear a twelve-acre field in under an hour, losing only three units in the process.

Third: Gimel units are simple to construct, from inexpensive raw materials.


I endorse the acquisition of a prototype array of Gimels, with training teams, to include intra-force transfer of religious personnel (Rabbis) as needed. As they will insist on using the traditional name for these units, I suggest we follow their example and call the units 'Golems'.

Full report to follow.
Captain Craig Lancer

April 16, 2007


"This is naughty," Kinky678 linked me to a porn web page, "this is naughtier, and this is horrible." With each chat ping, another naked woman materialized in my kitchen.

"Whoa there," I said, pissed that she hadn't asked if I found porn acceptable. The pay per view holograms began to cajole me for money. I erased them with a sigh.

I'd only met her a couple of weeks ago, and she teased incessantly, but I kept coming back for more. She had sass, and made wry comments about my genitals (which she hadn't seen) as other women comment on clothes. She kept sending me pictures of herself, a foot, a wrist, a fluorescent tattooed navel. Nothing that would help me recognize her if I met her on the street, but enough to set my mind aflame. She insisted I call her Kinky.

"Let's meet in person," I asked again. She laughed me off.

"Are you sure this girl is cool?" asked Joanna at lunch-break. "She could be a drug dealer, or a minor. Have you thought of that?"

I winced. Kinky did sound young sometimes and I had considered that possibility, but I hadn't asked because I didn't really want to know. I was smitten. I looked imploringly at Joanna, but she glared back.

"Promise me you'll ask her age. And don't have another off-color conversation until you know she's legal."

I promised. Joanna was right. I wondered if I wasn't already in trouble.

When I got home, I popped the question.

"16," she answered.

Damn. I hesitated on the verge of continuing the conversation. No, I couldn't. I wondered if, deep down, I hadn't known all along. I hated myself for it.

"Nice talking to you, Kinky, but you need to find someone your own age." She wouldn't like this. The screen flickered and I wondered if something was wrong with the computer. Then Kinky's personalized chat slides disappeared and were replaced by a message:

Kinky678 is a program operating under Anti-Minor Abuse Law 278. You have not committed a crime. No charges will be brought against you. In accordance with New Jersey citizen privacy laws, Kinky678 is an artificial persona. There were no human operatives monitoring your conversations.

I stared at the screen. I already missed her. I thought for a while, and then I bought the latest dating software. I couldn't have Kinky, but her older sisters were fair game.

April 13, 2007


To: dmerwyn@caustic.net
From: genie@wishes.com
Subject: 3 wishes
Dear D. Merwyn:
Congratulations! You have been selected to receive three wishes! To claim your wishes, simply hit the reply button and state your request.

To: genie@wishes.com
From: Dan Merwyn
Subject: Re: 3 wishes
Please do not send any more spam to this address.

To: dmerwyn@caustic.net
From: genie@wishes.com
Subject: Re: 3 wishes
Dear Dan:
Congratulations! You have won three wishes. To claim your wishes, simply hit the reply button and state your request.

To: genie@wishes.com
From: Dan Merwyn
Subject: Re: 3 wishes
Stop sending me this stuff. I get too much spam and I'm certainly not going to buy your stupid product!!

To: dmerwyn@caustic.net
From: genie@wishes.com
Subject: Re: 3 wishes
Dear Dan:
We are not selling anything. You have won three wishes. To claim your wishes, simply hit the reply button and tell us what you want.

To: genie@wishes.com
From: Dan Merwyn
Subject: Re: 3 wishes
Stop bothering me!! Can't you tell I have work to do?! Telemarketers and junk mail are bad enough, do I have to suffer through this as well? Please, please, please leave me alone!!!!!!!!!!

To: dmerwyn@caustic.net
From: genie@wishes.com
Subject: Re: 3 wishes
Dear Dan:
Telemarketers? Can you express that in the form of a wish?

To: genie@wishes.com
From: Dan Merwyn
Subject: Re: 3 wishes
I get more spam than real e-mail. In fact, most days all I get is spam. Will I never have peace?! Oh, God, I wish the internet had never been invented!!!!!!!!


I. M. Genie
Wishes, Inc.
321 Desire Dr.
Fulfillment ND

Dear Sir or Madam:
Congratulations! You have been selected to receive two valuable wishes! Do not throw away this letter. Simply reply to the address above to claim your wishes. Please state your wishes unambiguously.


I. M. Genie,
Field Agent

April 12, 2007

I Live on Despair

     I live on despair. It is my meat and depression my air.
     You look past me, a simple trunk sitting in the corner of the dayroom, dust-shrouded and ancient. A faded chintz throw covers my top, a battered secondhand lamp with a too-weak bulb weighing it down. Reading glasses might be left here one night, dentures the next.
     You don't open me, you don't think to. You're just here to visit relatives, to jolly them along. Wearing happiness like a shroud over misery, over impatience, over gloom, you breathe leaden air and play checkers or talk in low tones with those left to die.
     And if some of them die before they should? And if some of them take ill more often? And if some of them have unfortunate accidents? That draws you here to fill me with your raw emotion.
     So despair. Cry and wail and stare. Give me your darkness that I might thrive.
     Your children come with you, but do not understand. Some day they will--some day when you are here to stay.
     I love you all. Make me smile.

April 11, 2007

A Brief History of Automatic Fiction

Buenos Aires, dawn; streets quiet. A little cafe on the Calle Magdalena. Languages he doesn't know -- Spanish, English, Russian -- conspire at other tables. At his: oversweet frothy coffee and a stained notepad.

He lets the notepad jot.

Automatic Fiction is the most useless of the arts; that's part of its charm. A cloud of words on the page, caravan of sentences that almost seem to be getting somewhere, then don't. Paragraph after paragraph absorbs the mind like music on edge of hearing. Forgotten as soon as read, leaving behind only a vague afterimage. Emotional pentimento.

AutoFictioneers rig algorithms to discourse, and they go. Plots unspool and branch. Characters multiply, recombine scene by scene. Detail and dialogue are elaborated by automata run on simple rules over vast numbers of iterations. The machine generates a new tale for every reader, every reading.

Words follow words while he watches pedestrians, trees, traffic.

Student loan venture funds want dividends. He wants to make useless words. In rising economies, the newly comfortable see individuality as status, and want to be and to have what's unique. Each their own story. In fading economies, midling classes want to stay ahead by keeping up, and want their own stories, too. Demand.

Vulture funds want to commodify his elusive and unrepeatable words. They've bet he'll profit them, so he's gone and will go -- Niigata, Des Moines, Buenos Aires, Kinshasa, Adelaide, Urumchi, anywhere that's somewhere else. Where he can do his work and be useless.

Fund managers, or their subcontractors, approach -- his preprogrammed proximity agents sing warning -- he snaps the notebook shut and stands to go -- and the words are gone.

And so is he.

April 10, 2007

A Is for Authority

The letter SH paused in the anteroom of A's antebellum mansion. She felt cold in the antiseptic air among alabaster statues of aardvarks and A. A. Milne as the butler's shoes went trap, trap, fading into the interior. SH fingered the reassuringly comfortable handle of her shiv, tucked into a sheath under her shawl. It had been a hard life so far, with no place in the alphabet to live, seldom even recognized as a unit, a shadow of a letter. No more.

The letter A finally appeared, alone, her almond-shaped eyes surveying SH airily. "And what do you want?" she asked. "I thought you were off shirking your responsibilities with Æ and schwa and your other little friends. Surely the homes of respectable letters are not your proper place?" She smiled, a smile absent of any affection. She knew how much SH hated the word "surely."

"I'm here for my share of the alphabet!" SH shouted. She always shouted: she couldn't help herself. "I'm a phoneme, I begin words. I want what's mine!"

"Talk to your parents," A said absently, brushing an ant off her arm. "I'm sure Lady S will be happy to give up some of her words."

SH shoved A into an alcove and pressed the point of the shiv against A's abdomen. "Everyone knows you're the head of the alphabet," she said shakily. "All I need is a chance. Give me my shot."

"You ass," said A. "There's no room for you in my alphabet."

"Shithead," said SH, pressing the shiv harder. "I'll make room."

"At your leisure, Alfred," A said, arching an eyebrow, and SH froze at the sound of a throat clearing behind her. She turned her head. A's butler stood in the archway, an antique arquebus angled at SH's appendix.

"I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to absent the area," Alfred said crisply.

SH thought about using the shiv anyway, taking A with her, but A suddenly grabbed and twisted SH's arm, aborting any possibility of attack and forcing the shiv to fall to the floor.

"Au revoir," A announced.

SH shuffled out the door and toward the front gate, defeated. In the distance she could hear A's attack dogs. She shivered.

April 9, 2007

she is where she is or Why She Boarded the Shuttle for the Station at Lagrange Point Seven

She is unhappy with herself because she is two months pregnant with his child, she is two months pregnant with his child because he didn't wear a condom, he didn't wear a condom because he was too horny to think straight, he was too horny to think straight because she had really turned him on, she had really turned him on because virginity embarrassed her, virginity embarrassed her because her mother had laughed when she'd asked what a penis felt like, her mother had laughed when she'd asked what a penis felt like because her mother's mother had slapped her mother when her mother had asked her mother's mother the same question, her mother's mother had slapped her mother when her mother had asked her mother's mother the same question because her mother's mother had felt only one penis which was her mother's father's who had gotten her mother's mother drunk off a whole mason jar of moonshine and left her mother's mother two months later when her mother's father heard her mother's mother was pregnant with her mother's father's child.

April 6, 2007

Whether Gauge

Rain fell in buckets. Laura watched from the safety of TexBank's reinforced windows, glad she'd stepped in to cash her paycheck.

The smallest buckets were barely larger than thimbles, and bounced high when they hit the pavement. Larger ones, some as big as wine casks, split and splashed water for yards around.

Shop windows shattered, cars were crushed, and people were struck down. Laura gasped as a pedestrian running for the bank was hit by a bucket the size of a coffee cup. The man went down, dazed, then scrambled to his feet and dove for the entrance. An immense vat cannoned into the sidewalk behind him as the security guard yanked him into the air-conditioned bank.

The injured man collapsed into a seat near Laura. He regarded the downpour. "I hear a weatherman's to blame," he said. "Two weeks ago it was 'raining cats and dogs', then last week we had 'pea soup fog'. Now this."

"Those poor people," said Laura. "Flattened by figures of speech."

A sudden wind pulled at the bank's front door. The security guard hauled at it. "What's next?" he said. "Pennies from heaven?"

The window bowed out, and Laura put a palm to it. It was getting colder by the second. She looked up.

Lightning split the sky open.

April 5, 2007


The changeling girl held a bazooka out of the window of the house and waited for the leprechaun to try to steal her stash. Leprechauns were the only beings in magical creation too dense to understand that fairy gold wasn't real, just glamorized bits of leaves and dust, and they spent half their time trying to steal it and then wondering why it disappeared the next day.

Last night the leprechaun had made a dash for her gold Barbie doll. Sharon bit her lip. She'd had it. It might not be a real gold gold Barbie, but it was her gold Barbie and nobody was going to take it away from her. Just let them try.

Her arms hurt from pulling back the string of the sling that she'd glamorized to look like a bazooka. She wondered if the stones would hurt more if she changed it into a missile, but realized that they probably wouldn't. Her only hope was that the sight would scare the leprechaun off and that he wouldn't dare come back. Keeping this farce up was too stressful and Sharon had nobody to help her.

Nobody understood her. Life was hard on a changeling fairy trying to fit in among humans. She wondered how her human mother would react if she ever found out, and the bazooka trembled in her hand.

"Mom, Dad, you guys don't know it, but I'm adopted. Your real child is in fairyland being forced to work for their bread or something." Didn't sound right.

Frustration welled inside and she wanted to cry. Why me? She thought. Why my Barbie doll?

"Sharon? Come down to dinner, darling. Now." The girl hesitated. Nobody cared about her. Why should she even bother going down to dinner? Why should she bother eating? Why not just waste away and leave a pretty corpse? She bit back her tears.

"Honey?" her mother was climbing the stairs. "Honey, I want you downstairs right now. Don't make me come up and get you."

The changeling dropped the bazooka, grabbed the Barbie and hid it under her clothes. Then she put on her best slouch, opened the door and went downstairs to join Humanity

April 4, 2007

Proust1: A Primer, which the Author Painstakingly Annotated to Allow How Not to Read about a Lout Whose Crimes Spouted against Humanity Are Not in Doubt2

Squatting on the bottom library step, the mousy, elfin-framed man named Arthur4 dusted his snake5-skin suit, glanced at his watch6, then adjusted his horned1-rims to watch an old woman6 wheeze and labor7 up the steps with a dolly that held his titanic8 stack of manuscript pages. She paused to catch her breath and pushed long tresses of gray hair out of her face.

"Cease wool-gathering, Miss Mykoytress." His eyelids hooded to slits. "We haven't words enough and time9 before I present my doctoral thesis."

"Did you reproduce this thesis and read three-thousand pages of Remembrances?"

Art raised himself, as if slowly uncoiling his legs. "That facsimile records the achievements of the all-time greatest novel."

"I read the first fifty before I realized I hadn't read the first."

He hissed, ready to strike.

"I reread it, realizing he taught himself to write on my time. I don't have much left."

Scenting the proverbial lost sheep's weakness, Art flicked his forked-tongue7 and slithered7 up the steps to make the intellectual kill. "He had strapping male companions, one of whom Proust bought an airplane which the companion promptly crashed into the ocean. Proust never regained the time lost from the loss."

"I prefer Of Mice and Men." The tresses of her hair writhed and turned him to stone.

1 Pronounce Proust like Faust2 jousting it out with the metamorphosing Mephistopheles, whose elfin frame housed a Machiavellian mind that deluded the most casually espoused Marlowean/Goethean readers of Chairman Mao's social policies.
2 The author uses assonance3 to demonstrate artfully4 the proper pronunciation.
3 The auctorial3 terms "ass-onance" and "pomp-ass" resonate like pans9 of Teflon-coated Freudian slips for the propensity to use overly erudite3 and pompous3 terms like "auctorial" in a flagrant flaunt of critical authority.10
4 The "author" impishly misdirects the reader with "Arthur" to obfuscate his identity slipping a devilishly deceptive "author" into the title.
5 The wise old woman archetype tempted into servitude by the wise old serpent male archetype.
6 Sly injection of the symbol of time.
7 Scathing indictment of the bourgeois laissez faire.
8 Double entendre alluding to the recyclable Greek myths and the ship that lost a thousand faces9. Note the juxtaposed conflation of a child's and a man's play toys: a doll-y and a ship (with phallic suggestion)--let alone the bio-ethical reproductive dilemma of cloning inherent in a "dolly."
9 Marvel at the coy allusion to Andrew Marvell's poem.
10 Never trust auctorial3 critical authority.

April 3, 2007

This Is the Tie

This is the tie that makes me invisible. Other people have shoes that fly or t-shirts that let you see the future, but I have this tie. I found it in my father's closet after he died. He was 57. I don't know if he bought it before or after my mom passed.

When I'm not wearing the tie, you can see it has yellow and burgundy stripes. It's from a time when most cars didn't have air conditioning, when there were four TV channels. Maybe he bought it new. Maybe he bought it new and never told her. Maybe he bought it before they were married and spied on her.

I've spent happy afternoons in women's locker rooms. I've stolen more than six thousand dollars worth of household electronics. I went to a Willie Nelson concert for free once and went backstage and sat two feet from Willie after the show. He was tired and had to wait a long time while somebody brought him a burrito. We just sat there for fifteen or twenty minutes, me and Willie, not saying anything, like old friends. I got up and left when the guy came with Willie's burrito.

Tomorrow I'm going to meet Benny's sister Rachel. Benny works with me at the bakery. I saw his sister Rachel once when Benny's car was in the shop and she had to pick him up. She has brown hair down to her shoulder blades that tumbles like sweet cereal falling out of a box. I could go to her house right now, wearing this tie, and she'd never see me. I could watch her take her clothes off for bed or stand a foot away, barely breathing, as she brushed her hair. Tomorrow I'm supposed to meet her the regular way, the way where she can see me.

This is the tie that makes me invisible.

I'm thinking of selling it.

April 2, 2007

Freshman Cosmology

So the TriDee says, "The natives believed their dance was the only thing preventing the ultimate dissolution of everything. It's like those monks who were recording the 9 Billion Names of God. Or the other monks who were playing a 64 stack of Arky Malarkey and when they finished the universe would end. This powerful image repeats in various forms in religions throughout known space."

"How could even ignorant natives have believed that?! It's the biggest load of BS..."

"Can it, James. You are so dismissive of other people. I find it disgusting." Elaine tossed the chip stack on the coffee table. "I don't understand why you watch that talk-TriDee anyway. A bunch of know-nothings grinding axes." She left. It was weird seeing her ass leave the room without her ex-boyfriend following it. Hadn't seen him since they broke up.

"Anyway," James continued, running his hands through his hair, "they are gone, extinct, disappeared, guantanamowed, couldn't hack it in the new ecology, square-pegged out, finished, finito, finis, etcetera ad nauseam ... and the universe is still here. So they were wrong."

"Maybe not," I replied, "you know how every decision creates at least one new universe. When the last native died the universe split. We're in the one that survived their extinction. So what do you think he sees in her anyway?"

James laughed. "What do you care? You interested? We are living in the world in which the natives died," he said. "Period. The local sophonts have been completely exterminated. It's not what you or I would have done, but it happened. If their unsophisticated religious beliefs were correct, this world would have ceased to exist, and you can't split what has already been destroyed. The world in which we made sure at least a few of them survived in a zoo would have continued."

"Well, if this were a science fiction story," I said, "either the world would now disappear, or it would turn out the homegrown primitives were not extinct." Maybe both, I thought. "Nah, I just find her irritating."

"Me too, but I don't care what she does in bed," said James. "If they were still here we would see them. With modern technology without question we would know. You know how hard the Authority looked for them during the Readjustment. They are gone."

Outside the station, a trio of indigenes shuffle-stomped upslope. The little one lagged behind, and one of the others hoisted it onto her shoulders. They passed a meter behind one of the observation robots. The robot rose to its feet and did a leisurely 360 with its observation turret. About halfway through the rotation it hesitated, cycled through detection modes, clickety-clacked weapon-tube covers off and on, off and on. It finished its sweep and returned to passive mode. A human might have shrugged. By then, the aborigines were gone, soft-shoeing their way into The World That Is.