43. Vade Mecum

How do I keep the smoking back to a minimum? So I show the guys the yellow post-it that Gatorbitez left behind for me – may his anti-soul be resting. His guide to life. It’s simple, but profound because of that. How it reads:


every 5 hrs with no smoke


one line of coke

What no one in the gang can understand is that the equalizer sign (the double horizon in between, in the middle) is like trash and treasure. Or, no, it’s all treasure, but the point is: perspective. How I read that shit:


Permission lies within.


For each five hour period with no smoke, I allow myself to steal one purse. It’s called balance. Look it up. And while you’re looking around, go ahead and look inside yourself, too – to see what code courses through your blood tubes, dude.


Backward <> Forward

42. Catercorner



`”Before your mother left me…”

~”Left us, dad…”

`”No, girls. Believe me: she only left me…”

*”Really, daddy? Reason I ask is cuz: wouldn’t that mean we’d have a mommy?”



`”No! No – I meant, the only reason she left is because of me — you were the reason she stayed around as long as she did. … I didn’t mean to imply that it only hurts me and neither of you angels.”

~”It’s okay, dad. She’s just confused.”

*”What’s confooshun mean?”



`”At this age? She’s still getting confused? Should I be concerned, Becka?”

~”What do you mean?”

`”Oh, lord: No! Not you too? I’d just die if you were suffering from confusion too. Everyone here seems to come down with confusion more and more. I’m afraid confusion might run in your mother’s side of the family.”

*”Mommy’s sick daddy?”



`”No, of course not, child. :;

:.: Oh, garsh. I hope that No, of course not, child. didn’t sound like I meant you should already know that information. I meant, like: don’t worry. She’s healthy. Know what I mean? Healthy instead of not healthy. Do you see the difference, babies? Lines of Communication are on the fritz everywhere you look. Sometimes we try to repair a given line by using something special; It’s called inflection; However, :.;

:..: this same thing can take some lines completely down altogether, rendering them utterly useless. Just as any tool made or used by man, it is also a weapon. //

/ If I had to pick a specific tool that represents the intangible one, I’d say it’s the boat for your words when you let them sail out of your mouths. How are you feeling? Hungry? Anybody? Pizza bagelers to the rescue?”

~”Dad, we’re fine. How are you holding up?”

*”Inflexum? The S.S. Inflexum!”



`”That’s right, honey. Good work. /

// Wait, :;

:.: I was telling a story. A moment ago: Wasn’t I? :.;

:..: Or was I? Was I? Hmm? :..;

:…: Wait..? Hmm. Hmm hmm-hmm.

~”You were telling us the story about seeing her for the first time, in the far corner, straight away and across the room, diagonal-sy from the corner you were in. Corner kitties, you’d say. No – kitty corner from each other.”


*”Diametrec oppozishun, daddy?”



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41. Ludic

Once upon a time there was the King of Farts, who was so sad and lonely in his smelly castle. No one wanted to be his buddy, because he tooted almost all day long. He tooted when he pooped, when he ate, when he read, when he looked at the clouds, when he opened things like jars and bananas, when he fell asleep, when he woke up, when he danced, when he burped, when he sneezed, when he fell down, when he had thoughts about birds, when he had thoughts about graham crackers, when he had thoughts about the circus — pretty much all the good thoughts there are — and he even tooted when he cried. And he cried a lot.

One day he was tooting and crying on his throne. He wanted to play with a coloring book, but his butt blew all the crayons away with his stinky butt wind. They flew right out the window and landed in a bird’s nest. If he knew they landed in a bird’s nest, he would have farted again, because then he’d be thinking about birds, and that makes him toot, like I said before.

More than cake or remote controlled cars, he wanted a friend to play with him, but do you know any friends who like the smell of farts? I didn’t think so. So he wanted a buddy, but that wasn’t gonna happen, so he figured he’d settle for coloring in the coloring book, but without crayons he couldn’t even do that. It made him sad, which made him fart all over again.

“Wait! I have an idea,” he said and then popped a stinker. “If I dress up like someone who doesn’t cut the cheese no one will know I cut the cheese! Then I can go into town and buy all the crayons I can carry!”

It was the perfect idea! He was so happy he thought of it. He got so happy he let one rip on purpose: a celebratory fart like odor confetti. He put on the clothes that he found somewhere and it made him look like he was a different guy and he looked in the mirror and didn’t know it was a mirror and he didn’t look like himself and he got scared and tooted and then he realized he was looking at himself and then he got excited and tooted because he knew the plan would work and he was ready and that was that.

The King of Farts walked out of his castle and jumped his butt right on the ground and tooted himself down the hill to the town below. He would toot himself up in the air and land on the ground again, and he’d toot it again, and it kept happening because that was more fun than walking. He stood up at the bottom of the hill and said, “Time for my crayons!”

He went to the street in the town. You know the kind. It was a bunch of people and they all looked pretty poor, but at least they smelled nice, and they were selling each other potatoes and DVDs.

The King of Farts said, “Who wants to sell me crayons for this gold stuff?”

Everybody wanted gold stuff so they ran up and said, “Me! Me! Me!”

Then the King farted and everybody said, “Pee-ew! You smell like the King of Farts!” And they ran away, holding their noses.

The King of Farts cried and tooted. It was sad. Then a lady came up with a handful of crayons and said, “I will share these crayons with you, because I like drawing too!” The King’s butt yelled a happy yell of farts.

“Take this gold stuff and give me the crayons!” He said to the lady.

“No, we are gonna share the crayons and draw together. I don’t like gold. It’s stupid. Drawing is not stupid. Do you have a coloring book?”

“Yes, let’s go!” He was so happy he farted 100 times and held her hand and ran to the castle and they lived happily ever after.

And she had no nose, and that’s why the toots didn’t hurt her.


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40. Adulation

It went like this – the college professor lovingly nurtured a facade that his priorities in this world went as follows:


1. The Pursuit of Knowledge

2. Teaching Others of this Knowledge

3. Love from a Good Woman


But it goes like this – in an earnest reality that the professor kept secret, the itemized list would read as follows:


1. Absorbing his Students’ Adulation

2. Feigned Ignorance of his Students’ Adulation

3. Oral Sex from any Number of Female Students


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39. Prescind

The afterlife lasts for about 10 minutes, but inside each minute is its own eternity.

I had been spending too much time focusing on work, my marriage, the kids, and the seemingly endless number of channels that came with our digital cable package. An excess of time spent being selfishly selfless inevitably splits a person in two – the individual with obligations and the individual without obligations, the latter of which exists, in the scenario, only in a theoretical realm, one that taunts the world of the former until it is time for the active half to shut out the inactive dream, or build a bridge to it.

Once, I had heard something from TV, or from an uncle, or from a mourner, or – unlikely – but there’s a chance I read it in a book. And though my mind – reeling from senescence, atrophying from improper function – could not recall their source, or even a probable context for the words themselves, they had been locked in some healthy synapse for years: Suicide is the most selfish act one can commit.

Out of all the statements I’ve read, heard and uttered that seem to be lost in the fire forever, it was difficult for me to figure out why this particular one was sticking around. Never really deemed it a gem, myself. Wasn’t even really sure if I agreed with it on any level. But when the gap between myselves had begun its ever-widening growth that prodded me into some form of action, these words continued to haunt me. And I felt I understood what selfish could mean, what potential there was outside of the inherently negative manner in which the words were intended when I first chanced upon them.

It was time to be selflessly selfish and give attention to the self I had wanted to explore before obligations began sprouting from every branch in my emerging family tree. My thoughts had never really been devoted to merely themselves, and I this felt a pity. I began doing research on death and found two items of particular interest. First, there is a natural chemical released in each human at birth and once again when approaching death, which can slowly trickle out of the mind when long periods of time are dedicated to honest darkness, but in the bookends of existence there seemed to be a flood of it. But more importantly, after every other part of the body fails, or dies, the brain remains active for 6 to 12 minutes, what I will affectionately refer to as “me time”.

How I did it is not important at this point – whether I dressed my self up or stripped down bare, where and when I chose to do it, what my note read or if I left any words behind at all – and honestly, all of that is quite fuzzy at the moment. Because, after the firefall’s descent and the birth of wings, after the 99 snakes that took me only so far, after the experiments of danger and release, after witnessing all of the colors that the visible spectrum doesn’t want us to know about, I found my way to the mouth of the cave. And the only details and words that matter now are the ones I scroll along these walls in crystal clear blood for no one to see.


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38. Cacography

2 whome it may consern

i dunno y spellin n grammer is so importent 2 ppl. its like spl chk is their 4 a reasen so y waist time on sumthin thatll b takin care of w/ tech. n it drive me cray n makes me : ( when ppl like mrs jonsn is like “mispellins r gunna have fx on yr grade” like srsly?! jus cuz i spel sum stuff bad dsnt mean im not good writer. i try jus as much as ne1 in class n shes jus holdin on 2 the past 2 hard. times r changin n its free cuntry so i can do my hw on my phone if i wanna. cuz don tell me how 2 run my life n i wont tell u how 2 do yrs. ok may b i shoudlve use spl chk on it b4 i turnd it in, but othrr then mispells i think my thisis paper wuz grate n it shld recieve A+ bassed on wrtin n than drop it 2 B+ 4 mispslelings b/c i wrkd 2 hard 2 b stuk w/ a F. not fare.

pls spk 2 yr stalf esp mrs jonsin reguardin changin my grade n ill wrk on tryn 2 improv the quallity of my per4mnce as a spellor. thx 4 yr time.




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37. Propinquity

As his only two sons, they had to finally meet at the reading of the will.

“Hey. Are you the… I mean: you must be Richard, right?”

“Yep. You Derick?”

Derick nodded. A rush of anxiety disturbed his skin as he extended a well-groomed hand to Richard, who put sighed as he put his cigarette out to oblige the gesture, squeezing the hand firm with his calloused fingers, which bore nails that were dark with grime and soil. Derick wanted to wipe his hand on something but refused to compromise the integrity of his suit. As a secondary thought, he realized this would also be rude. Richard had the same thought, and carried out this action on his denim jacket.

“Well,” said Derick. “When your mother arrives, we can all head inside and get this over with.

“She won’t be makin’ it today.”

“Oh, why’s that?”

“She’s dead.”

“Oh… none of us had realized that.”

“I noticed that in the letter.”

Silence seemed to raise the volume of the sounds of the street.

“I’m sorry to hear of her passing,” Derick felt obligated to say.

“Don’t sweat it. Your mama still kickin’?” Richard snorted and spit in the street.

“Yes. Thankfully, she hasn’t gone to Heaven yet.”

Richard smirked and said, “If my old lady’s in Heaven, she’s raising hell.”

Derick tried to smile, but his face looked pained.

“Uh, shall we..?” Derick opened the door for Richard.

“Thank god,” Richard said, as he walked through the door. “For a second there, I thought you were gonna ask me to dance.”

Inside the board room were a number of seats all filled with facsimiles of Derick, making Richard the obvious sore thumb. Derick introduced Richard to his mother and few other relatives, who all smiled and shook his hand, employing extreme hesitance every second of the interaction. Derick eventually gestured to an open seat, hoping Richard would sit, meaning the proceedings could start.

“Prefer to stand.” Richard moseyed over to the far wall and leaned against it, folding his arms.

“Thank you all for coming,” an elder gentleman behind the only desk in the room placed ovular reading glasses on the bridge of his nose and began to read from a large stack of papers. Many items and deeds were issued over the course of an hour. “Finally, the controlling interest of Brickman Industries will be left to his first son, Richard.”

Gasps filled the room. Derick clenched his teeth as his heart made their beats known, and he looked to Richard, who was cocking an eyebrow, mouth agape.

“There is, of course, a stipulation to this. Should, over the course of the next year, the company’s stock fall enough to break the company’s record low of the last five years, controlling interest shall be revoked and awarded to Derick.”

Another round of gasps came – more gentle, relieved ones.

Richard and Derick shared a bitter line of eye contact, and the fact of the situation came to light: they would finally know brotherly rivalry.

The elder gentleman cleared his throat with intention and the attention of the room returned to him. “Additionally: once this trial period is over, Richard and Derick shall share the movie rights for this ridiculous premise, should they choose to sell.”


Backward <> Forward

36. Circumvent

Previously On

The Bright-Line Kid walked into his father’s office at 5:50 post meridian.

The heads of animals were littered about the walls, each one wearing a medal around it’s neck.

“Champions of death,” said Mr. Hobb, the elder, noticing his son’s sunglass-covered eyes were probably looking at these new additions to the decor.

“Just like I’m a champion of bright-line cases,” said The Kid, smiling like a celebrity and snapping gum like a metronome.

Their voices echoed in the room, standing a great distance apart.

“You next case,” said Mr. Hobbs as he patted his aged fingers on a file and avoided eye contact with his son, who was now approaching.

The Kid snatched the folder off the desk and thumbed through it, occasionally laughing by way of nasal exhalations.

“Hmm? Seem easy, does it?”

“Nah, it’s just these people have funny names.”

“You’ll be meeting with them tomorrow, so it is advisable that you never let that thought exit your brain again.”

“You’re the boss… for now!”

They shared a hearty laugh, though the reasons behind their actions were dissimilar.

“Familiarize yourself with them, my boy, and we’ll discuss this more on the morrow.”

“Hell yeah, I love that bar.”

On the morrow, not at The Morrow.”

“I didn’t know they had seating on the roof.”

“Decadent Moses, just show up here tomorrow.”

As The Kid left through the double-doors, which were suitable for a giant’s stature, Mr. Hobbs picked up his phone.

“You’ve reached the office of The Bright-Li”

“Am I bad father?”

“Oh, hello Mr. Hobb,” said Abigail, both relieved and excited.

“Well, am I?”

“Of course, not.”

“Then why do I feel like I’ve wasted his life while I should have spent more time sacrificing my own in his name?”

“You have a difficult son.”

“Tonight, then?”

“Of course, sir.”

“I think I can smell your perfume through the phone.”

Abigail blushed as she said, “Yes, sir, I’ll have everything you want all laid out on your desk by closing time.”

“Mmm,” moaned Mr. Hobbs, his pants growing more restricting by the second.

“And so you know, sir, I think you are doing the right thing.”

“Oh, thank you, I guess,” he said, feeling his pants fitting better again.

“Don’t doubt this decision for a second, sir.”

“I’ll try. Just make sure the actors are here on time.”

“Yes, sir, I sent the briefs to The Bright-Line Kid’s new ‘clients’ as soon as I received them.”

When the phone was hung up, each party was left with a longing: Abigail longed to still be speaking with Mr. Hobb, who longed to respect his own son.


To Be Continued…

Backward <> Forward


35. Lymphatic

Since the diagnosis, he made the couch into a home. His testicles would be removed as a rare result of the lymphoma, and the figurative connotations of the procedure were so strong that he was numbed from practical desire. Television offered a continuous gift of temporary distraction. His anti-quest left him in state of bipolar transitioning between contentedness and dis-contentedness, which he likened to a yo-yo in perpetual slow motion. He still craved physical numbness.

A ring of the bell led him to whisper, “Come in” without realizing he had done so – an involuntary and half-hearted response that no one (including himself) had heard. A few moments later, the door opened. A glance shifted from the faces of Huxtables to the face of a friend, who entered the home, set a crumpled up brown paper bag on the coffee table, and as he turned to leave he turned to leaves – his body now a pile in need of raking on the floor.

Inside the bag was a nondescript vial with an eye-dropper cap and a folded note that read:

organic painkiller syrup made from a rare sap – go wild to get mild

Two bitter drops in his mouth, one stinging drop in each eye, and his body was relocated to the comfortable confines of magical clothes. This was the place. No other location existed. These cottons and silks were a new universe, inside of which was a man who had found his new home.


Backward <> Forward

34. Gam

And she’s late, of course.

It’s been a million years and she kept bugging me to hang out. She sits down with a fancy espresso drink.

“You’re late.” I’m not looking at her.

“Technically, I’m not, because I said I would be here-”

“At four.”

“Check your texts. I said ‘four-ish.’ And it’s eight after four, for crying out loud. Christ, Lydia, are you just determined to have a shitty time all the time? Or is it that you just want everyone else to think so?”

“I’m just being myself.”

“Oh, well, yeah, of course, you are, but, c’mon, no, you’re not.”


“Nice. How’s mothering other people’s precious babies going? Are you putting all the 14 year-olds out of business while still managing to not earn enough for rent? This…” – she motions to our drinks – “… is on me, by the way.”

“I already paid for my coffee. How’s being a total bitch these days?”

“I’m sorry. Was I eave’s dropping on a conversation between you and yourself?”

“Good one. I guess.” I take a sip even though my leg is already rattling under the table.

“Hey,” she says, smiling. “Ask me again.”


“Ask me about being a bitch again?”

“No. Why? Just so you can deliver a revised zinger?”

“Trust me.”

After a moment, her face tilts, letting me know she’s not going to stop bothering me about it until I ask her again. So I do, saying the words in a cunty monotone. Amy reacts theatrically with a gasp, then settles and says in a hyperbole of a mall-going-teen’s voice, “Oh-my-gawd, like, don’t even start with me until I’ve had my coffee!”

We both laugh. A little. My leg calms, settles. She asks me about babysitting again. I tell her. I ask her about copy editing. She tells me. The sun falls enough to blind us through the window. We move to another table.

“I want a baby,” I say after a refill.

“Obviously. Any luck finding a sperm donor?”

“I haven’t really looked into that yet.”

Amy’s smile creeps into being so, and then she chortles.

“Oh,” I say, annoyed. “I get it.”

“Is Steve still in the picture?”

“No, but I let him fuck me last month.”

“How generous of you. What happened?”

“He texted ‘sup?’ And I-”

“No, the actual relationship part.”

“Oh. Right. He’s an asshole. Or maybe I am. I forget. You? Any penises in your life?


The word lowers the temperature in the room, and there’s nothing to say, so I say with a shrug in my voice: “Okay.”

“Okay, so, I was seeing this older guy – late-thirties. He wasn’t very attractive, but he wrote beautiful poetry, poetry that I wished I could write, but…”

“But… his literary voice wasn’t sexually transmitted?”

“But he cheated on me.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Something snaps silently in the air.

“But you aren’t really sorry, are you? Or else you might have graced that apology with an ‘I’m’ before it.”

“Hey, I didn’t cheat on you.”

“But you’ve cheated on people before.”

“So? Do you think that means we’re in a club together? That every Tuesday night we all get together for drinks and talk about how awesome it feels to betray trust? Fuck you.”

We trade overtly audible exhalations for some time. The sun is gone and the coffee shop is turning into a bar. Menus are retrieved and replaced by the waitstaff. Amy orders us drinks that I can’t afford. I reluctantly thank her. She orders us another round. And then another.

“Sometimes… you must trick yourself into concrete belief of something intangible – something illusory - just so the reality doesn’t slit your wrists for you.” Amy says this with wide eyes that evaluate the nothing of the table top while an almost idle hand plays with the straw in her cocktail.



“In what universe is that an acceptable elavoration?”

“Wait, what?”

“What what?”

“What are you even saying, Lydia. Are you talking about elevators or something?

“No, I said… never mind.” Now my leg is gently knocking on the table from below.

“Say it.” She’s fucking grinning.

“I… I just think you are being really mean and weird, and you act like saying the word ‘deception’ is a proper explanation of that stuff you said, which was completely out of the blue, by the way.”

“But explanation is not what you said.”

“Fine. I said, ‘elavoration’. I asked you to elavorate. Happy?”

Amy holds her hand over her mouth, making it seem like she thinks it’s so funny that she should be embarrassed by her response, but really, I think she can’t laugh as hard as she wants to, so now she’s making a bigger deal out of covering it up to compensate. She’ll say, ‘I’m sorry, but…'”

“I’m so sorry, but…”

Close enough.

“…it’s pronounced: elaborate. Buh – with a B.”

I stand up and stomp all the way to the bathroom where I scream and wash my hands. When I’m about to leave, I realize I actually do need to pee, so I go into a stall and slap myself in the face while I pee. I don’t wash my hands a second time. Stomping back to the table, I chug the rest of my drink, slam it down on the table, and say, “Listen. So. God, you drive me insane. And you make me feel like shit. And you’re always correcting me and saying stuff like ‘well, technically’ and it makes me want to flick your eyeballs. It doesn’t make me feel any stupider than I already know I am, but it does make me feel shittier than I already feel. And it makes me hate you. And I think you want me to feel shitty because I refused to clap and praise you for, like, saying obscure, ill-fitting, poetic nonsense that you said like it was a passing thought even though I know that it’s just something you wrote and memorized and want spontaneous, interactive feedback on. Well, here’s my feedback: fuck you, Amy!”

I sit down, folding my arms and looking unnaturally to the left, as far as my neck will swivel. Amy gets up and comes back with two shots of dark liquor. We take them in silence. Minutes later she says, “I hate myself.” She leaves again and returns again with two more shots. I feel sick when she pushes one of them in front of me, close enough to smell. We take them.

“I’m just a bitch,” I say, spitting the words at her, negating any possible interpretation of an apology.

“No,” she says. “I correct you because it’s my job to correct people, you know? People’s writing, I mean. People’s fucking blog posts, mostly. And I need to think that I’m better than everyone, at least while I’m around them, which is probably the worst place and time to need to think that. I want to be in love. And I want to be a poet. And neither is happening. Neither is possible. Telling people they’re wrong in someway is always a possibility if you look hard enough.”

We’re both about to cry. There’s a great warmth in my chest, and it’s spreading, making all my blood comfy, and I didn’t even realize that my leg has relaxed itself.

“I’m the bitch for making you feel like a bitch.” My lips tremble as the words drip out. “I love you. And some hot guy is going to love you, too. I promise.”

“That’s so sweet, but it doesn’t work like that.”

“And you’re poetry’s great.”

“You’ve never read it.”

“I just know it. In my heart.”

We both giggle and cry a little. My phone vibrates twice. She starts to say something about love being a fortune cookie, and I nod while checking my texts.

I interrupt her: “Steve just texted me.”

“No! No-no-no. Girls’ night! Tell that fucker he’s a fuck. Here, let me tell him. Please? What’cha gonna do?”

“I don’t know if I want to see him.”

“You don’t!”

I do.

Amy’s waving her arms in the air, trying to emphasize some aspect of what she’s saying. “He can’t do that to you! You aren’t his whore? Delete his number. Right now! Do it!”

“No. I can’t.”

“Aw!” Amy squeals, a different person. “You’re in love.”

“No! No way.”

“But why? He loves you.”

“No. He doesn’t. He loves orgasms. And I love… I don’t. I don’t love.”

“Nuh-uh! You love kids and babies and that yoga thing and, uh, that actor guy, that “-burp-exits-nose-” Christian Slater. That’s worth a lot, you know.”

“I’m the worst, Amy.” I try to spit into the empty shot glass. I wipe up my spit from the table with a drink napkin. I settle.

“You’re the best, Lydia. You are so strong and pretty.”

“Awful. Horrid. Shitty. The number one worst. I want him for the dumbest reason. I stopped using birth control as a weight control. But I let him cum inside me anyway. And then I hope I miss my period. I have blue-sky dreams about missing my period. It’s not… I don’t want to guilt him into being a father, or anything like that. I’m not trying to fuck his life up. I don’t even, like, want the baby. I do want a baby, but not now. I just want to know I’m pregnant, I guess. So years later, if I never get pregnant again, I can have an abortion in my past, you know? I just want to at least have that regret to hang onto. I don’t know. I don’t… I think it will be easier to put all the blame on myself if there’s one single, clear choice that I made that can anchor it, instead of trying to figure out all the billions of little, foggy choices and fuck-ups and whatevers that spiderweb altogether all the time. The big picture lets you off the hook, and the little one beats the shit out of you. I just don’t ever want to be content with my discontent. Or maybe that… is that what I want? It doesn’t matter.”

“Oh my god. Lydia. Can I… Can you… I mean, will you let me write that? In a poem?”

I stand up and leave, almost dropping my phone when I pull it out to start texting.


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