The Club

The first order of business for the Club was to decide just what kind of Club it was to be. As it was, the only discernible shared interest of the three founding and only members (Katty, Juju, and Flufster) was that they all wanted to be apart of something that others would refer to as a club. It began with Katty and Juju:

Katty: Gosh, Juju, I know we just met here, now, at this bus stop, but I feel like I can tell you one of my deepest fantasies. I want to be in a club.

Juju: Well, Katty, I feel like I’ve known you since, jeez, just about forever. Since the day my nipples came in – granted, this was late for most: 30, but considering I’m now 74, that is quite a long time – and to honest with you, for a long time my only wish was for my nipples to come in and when they finally did, on my 30th birthday, I was left with a grand and surprising abundance of emptiness inside of my belly. My chest was full and plush with a multitude of just about the brightest, greenest nipples you’d ever seen, but deep down in my soul’s stomach, there was an absence. The absence of hope. “What next is there for me to look forward too? I have my nipples and they aren’t going anywhere. What now? What’s on deck? More nipples?” That would have been a greedy wish considering biology’s birthday gift that year, albeit a belated one.

Katty: Right.

Juju: Then one day, I saw a playing card on the street, like it was a piece of trash. And, sure, maybe it was. But to me it was like a wink from the universe. This card was the King of Clubs and at first I thought what I needed to wish for was a black man in my life who may not be a king, but hopefully may own a crown of some kind, or at the very least, some Crown Royal – and to be honest with you in the here and now of it, yes, I do indeed hope for this and, no, that’ll never change, honey – but as I looked beyond that which was obvious, I saw the true sign in the card hiding that clover’s sexy shape: I should hope that one day I am in a club of some kind.

Katty: Well, okay. Maybe we should start a club.

Before Juju could open her pine-scented mouth, the bus arrived with a lurch and the doors were slammed open to reveal a cat the size of a human at the wheel. He was wearing a uniform



Hitchens and Cancer – A Swashbuckle

Christopher Hitchens – or, if you prefer, in reverse: Hitchens, Christopher – had a cancer living him, cancer of the esophagus, which he both provoked and tried to decimate with the ancient remedy of whiskey – known for its healing power amongst atheists and anti-theists (aparently, this doesn’t hold the same crystaline-aura-cleansing powers for the agnostics, who seek out the haughty and plush sensations of an I.P.A. rather than the ammunition-wielding gut-head-nuts-punches of hard alcohol), for whom (go back to before the initial parentheses if you are confused) he was a great icon and leader, waving an invisible flag of the Hitchens God: a non-god (also invisible). Usually, atheists weep from their penises and vaginas – these be the hedonistic and/or existential tears of whiteness and stickiness – but on the day that Christopher Hitchens’ cancer got the best of him, by recruiting pneumonia, these “God is Dead” shouters wept the conventional way.

“But, don’t cry, godless Hitchens Atheist,” hushed the omniscient nothingness to the masses. “He died with a sword in hand.”

Christopher Hitchens’ health had been on the decline for some time, and while he was never going to stop hating religion and drinking Scotch whiskey all night long – as he was so instructed by his favorite Steely Dan song – he knew that the worst was on its way and was, in fact, inside him, so this was Hitchens on cancer: “Build up that wall between yourself and the cancer!” He began to try to separate. This began simply by misspelling his name, slowly but surely, by starting with the last vowel, thus: “Christopher Hitchins” – a simple, but bold first step in removing himself from himself, though ultimately not enough. Between being drunk and dying and reserving an allotment of time specifically for flipping off a likeness of Christ on the cross that he himself had drawn, he had little time for the separation. Until one day, in the bathroom, Christopher Hitchens’ cancer finished the job of division and removed itself from the esophagus, unsheathing an ornate sword in the bloody process. Poised for the violent embrace of war, Hitchens’ cancer held the rapier in its tumorous hands, pointing at our antitheist’s nose, as if to say “en garde” (knowing full well that if it were to as-if-say anything else, presuming to debate Hitchens, it would lose such a battle, but a battle of blades, this little shit-bird cancer could possibly win).

Being an advocate of all things related to the death of man, all things that bring man closer to the proof of no afterlife, Chris Hitchens naturally had his own sword in his gloomy abode. In fact, he had at least three swords and up to nine daggers in each room of the house and, daily, Hitchens would double check and do a “head count” on his deadly tools of deathly destruction. Being that this unlikely event was happening on the terlet (toilet), he naturally went for the small sword he kept staved away in the terlet (toilet) tank (tank), flipping the porcelain lid off in a flash, shattering into white embers of non-fire on the bathroom floor, scattering a sharpness of sweepings amongst the carcinoma’s poisonous “feet”.

At this point, it was on: Hitchens vs Hitchens! A dual to end almost all duals. Sparks flew as they commenced to bang their sharp, metal phalluses together. One fighter on the terlet (toilet), the other a pulsing mutation “holding” a sword 50 times larger than the warrior itself. It would have made quite a fun postcard had a photographer been passing by Hitchens’ bathroom (as they often had). But we know how this battle ends, do we not? With the tip of a sword embedded in Christopher Hitchens’ pneumonia riddled lungs. In this final sad moment, with his final pathetic breath, the words:

“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof,” Christopher Hitchens quotes himself here. A curious and cryptic message to an earless tumor, but cryptic of what?

Alas, the battle is over. Fought, but not won – the latter more important than the former.

What now after Hitchens’ death: it is true that while alive he was best known for his patented Hitchens’ debate your face off skills, those illustrious Hitchens’ YouTube appearances (oh, he went viral; oh, it’s a fact), and of course his Hitchens’ author works, which are called “books” or “page-toothed wisdom mouths” (these Christopher Hitchens books include, “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” and “God Is Not Great” [in which he tried to dispell the popular rumor that God was indeed “great”]), but Christopher Hitchens’ true legacy will remain to be his uncanny resemblance to the great actor Roger Allam, who played the character of Royalton in the best film ever made, Speed Racer.



Extra! Extra! Christof exclaims, “Pen is mightier than the Sword”, takes down Fox News in the process!

Pretty much every second of every minute of every hour of every half-day of every full-day of our long, drawn-out lives, some nobody comes up and asks us, “Why aren’t you dudes ever REAL, man? You’re always putting up some kind of a front, putting on some kind of act, or putting the fronts of acts up and on other things that act like fronts. Why? Why not deal with the inconvenient truths of hard facts?”

Well, the Whiteman Brothers will now begin devoting entire minutes of their years to nonfiction. Christof took the first turn wearing the “Press” cap and managed to cover a real hot story without leaving a couch. Read it here.


Sweeping up the Head Crumbs

Recently, during a bout of external (and existential) hard drive spring cleaning, Sean found his HEAD CRUMBS trilogy. In the fall of 2007 he was living in Austin, Texas and working at a delightful movie theater named the Alamo Drafthouse. He enjoyed being a stranger in a strange state but having no friends meant he was left without a collaborator. To avoid artistic atrophy he scoured between hunks of brain meat to find some scraps. With the findings, he put this trilogy together. It takes just-shy of a half-hour to watch them all consecutively.

He likes to claim that they get progressively less embarrassing as the trilogy moves forward – an inverse of most franchise trajectories. He also suggests the audience should try to figure out the origin of his fluctuating-accents (he claims he notices heavy parts borrowed from his housemate-at-the-time and a little bit of Adam Sandler escaping during moments of immaturity). A few thought he had lost his mind in the great state of Texas. He wouldn’t argue, with any degree of passion at least, against such claims.

A friend wrote a wonderful essay extolling the finer qualities of the trilogy. His name is Santiago Vernetti and the title of his piece is: Sean Whiteman is a Man Hating Modernist God Destroyer.

Here are the films:

Watch: Head Crumbs: Part One
Watch: Head Crumbs: Part Two
Watch: Head Crumbs: Part Three

And here is the essay:

Title: Sean Whiteman is a Man Hating God Destroyer
Writer: Santiago Vernetti

I look forward to the day we can all share a hearty nervous laugh in the memory of the long dead and buried postmodern cinema. Most of today’s artists have seemingly resigned from any attempts at cinematic progression, preferring instead to embrace the all too common delusion that postmodernism is simply a passing wave. They’ve convinced themselves that it will soon crest, washing away all the cinematic sequels, remakes and adaptations its waters have carried over the past few decades. While most lay catatonically in this collective stupor, the 2007 summer marks a record high in cinematic unoriginality. Die Hard 4, Harry Potter 5, 28 Weeks Later, Evan Almighty, Fantastic Four 2, Hostel 2, Oceans 13, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Resident Evil 3, Shrek 3, Rush Hour 3, Spiderman 3, The Simpson’s Movie, Hairspray, Halloween, Transformers the Movie, Nancy Drew, Underdog, Revenge of the Nerds… it seems this wave is more akin to a rising flood. A flood that provides very little evidence to suggest any plans of receding any time soon. Where the majority drown, Sean Whiteman diligently treads for dry land. With camera locked and loaded, and a few dead bears to his name, Whiteman has arguably produced the only thing super about this summer: Head Crumbs.

Stylistically, the “Texas saga” finds its roots in the modernist tradition. Riddled with self reflexivity, social/artistic commentary, and experimentation, Head Crumbs is Whiteman’s most progressive (dare I say radical?) work to date. Head crumbs is not only a refreshing concept amongst a sea of uninteresting cinema, but is executed in an outstandingly complimentary aesthetic. Not only can Sean Whiteman wrestle a grizzle single handed, he seems to know a thing or two about his craft. True, the piece is not without its technical flaws or shortcomings, but it is in the conceptual framework of the piece that these imperfections are actually welcomed, even embraced, regardless of artistic intention.

Wittily divided into three parts, Head Crumbs falsely advertises the typical three act plot structure. As with most of his structural critiques, Whiteman articulates his concerns with the subversion of narrative conventions, challenging audiences’ expectations and ultimately their involvement in the viewing process. Whiteman introduces part one just as “the tide shifts” and completes part three with not only an unresolved conflict, but with complex ambiguous metaphors. Though, his greatest subversion, and the most important element of Head Crumbs, is how Whiteman explores and deals with the idea of narrator.

The tradition of narrator within a greater fiction is literary, and for centuries it has carried with it the characteristics of a third person omniscient. This conventionally “effaced narrator” (to borrow the term from Henry James) provides an author with a direct voice, and one that holds unquestionably supernatural characteristics once the audience immerses themselves in the illusion of the fictional. The narrator takes on the godlike qualities of omniscience and omnipresence over the domain of the characters. The cinema however, presents an troubling obstacle in this respect to the effaced narrator. Though the cinema has its predisposition to the illusion of metaphysical dualism, it does so with respect to the camera and its transcendental relationship to the viewer. Were the voice of the narrator to be heard in a particular film’s soundtrack, the narrator would be revealed to us as character with a distinct voice. From this aural information we could suppose a number of things like age, gender, education, bringing the narrator further from godlike ambiguity and closer to definition representational of out natural reality. In this case, only the camera would remain a supernatural entity, superior to the narrator who now resides within the domain of the other characters. The possibility of a truly effaced narrator in the cinema is limited to the use of text (such as in the famous “One Year Later” device), but what Whiteman is concerned with is not the possibility of the effaced narrator in cinema, but of the greater issues of the authoritative nature of the conventionally effaced narrator. Not only does Whiteman give us a narrator with a voice and an image, he gives us the his own voice, his own image. Thus we are introduced to Sean Whiteman the narrator. This presents us with an interesting self referential paradox. The representation of Sean Whiteman claims to be Sean Whiteman, but isn’t the persona of this narrator Sean Whiteman merely a fictional construction of Sean Whiteman by Sean Whiteman? Yes. Of course. But by blurring the lines between authorship and narration, he is calling into question his own authority. Which, aside from being an interesting exercise in logic, is the most punk rock thing you can do.

Structurally and conceptually, Head Crumbs is a true work of avant-garde cinema! A progressive and political action in contemporary art criticism! When applying a psychoanalytic methodology, its narrative can even be viewed as a feminist battle cry in its depiction of male character Super Summer as the exhibitionist, and the female character Flip Flop (“more of a behind the curtains sort of gal”) as taking on the traditionally patriarchal role of the voyeur. Needless to say, this and many other events that unfold in the narrative are worth exploring and can be discussed on a multitude of levels. Yet, in remaining faithful to Whiteman’s commentary on the narrator, we can all agree he’s saying a lot about human relationships… but in the end, the most important thing he’s saying is, “Who gives a rats ass about the opinion of a man hating, modernist, god destroyer?” So let’s all take what we will from Head Crumbs and give our applause to Sean Whiteman, a filmmaker who, unlike so many of his contemporaries, has arguably the most important artistic quality there is – authenticity.



Brother Reunion

News from the NW: In the past year Portland has found itself in the custody of all three Whiteman Brothers. This is a feat no city has accomplished in well over a decade. In celebration of fraternal solidarity the brothers plan to collaborate on a new feature film. It’s entitled CHILDHOOD MACHINE and will commence production in the coming months. More details will come detailing our progress/regress.



THE CAVEMEN IN THE BACK YARD

Introduction

This story can barely be referred to as such. It is true that it is fiction, but it also lacks a strong hold or pursuit of many of the basic conventions of story. It is an immature piece written about love and loss – a kind of loss that is completely foreign to me – and it is fragmented into sorts of post-cards sent from pivotal moments in a relationship whose reality is always bent to some degree. It was written in the spring of 2006 for a Fiction 1 class at Ithaca College and the titled sections are directly taken from the list of vague exercise prompts our professor gave us. This draft is the first I had written, touched only slightly since.

There were other versions of this story now lost. One such draft included additional sections not written from the class prompts, the only one I can really remember having something to do with cavemen fenced off in the backyard and how one of the characters saw some sort of beauty in watching these troglodytes “fighting and fucking one another.” The draft that contained some facsimile of that line seems so utterly lost now that I have very little ambition in attempting to either  recreate it or add anything to this piece to fill it out a little more, which is why I decided to no longer sit on this and put it up.

I rather liked that section and I mourn its passing, so to sloppily honor it I’ll henceforth be calling this slap-shod, incomplete, confused and previously untitled “story”, The Cavemen in the Backyard, which makes very little sense without this preface. I just thought it would be respectful to let you know that there is no hidden meaning behind the title, no deep digging to do on your part; it’s not a bullshit metaphor or an obscure intertextual  reference. It’s just this thing, you see.

The Reluctant I

The face is so innocent: no motives behind the expressions. No expressions at all, unless something interesting happens inside your dream. What is it you are dreaming of, anyway? Who is hiding inside your head? And what is he doing? Is he rubbing your back? Kissing your hands? Does he buy you whole cities for you to drive around in fancy-free? Do his hands turn to talking fish with British accents just to make you laugh?

“Your gills are most attractive, young lady trout!”

“Bite your tongue, sir! Such talk is prohibited on my father’s estate.”

It would be nice to know that you are dreaming pure color. It would be nice if patterns would mesh and merge and darken and brighten as your mind and body rest. It would be nice if you could be given back all the beauty you exude to the world. That would be nice.

When the sun was still awake you danced about the streets and rolled around in the grass and laughter was born and it was sweet to hear. When the moon took over, a shy invitation was sent out and was eagerly accepted. Before you fell so deep inside the gentle jungle of your dream, your eyes sang sonnets and your lips and tongue painted a sunrise with brush strokes that tickled and comforted. Tiny hands caressed lonely skin, putting smiles on so many blood cells living underneath. Then the yawns, then slowed motions. When your eyes closed, the room dimmed.

Your chest will rise and fall, making blue swirls of sweet-smelling breath pour out of your nostrils. Hands hang open, by your side, cradled by the canyons in the blankets. Another hand would sit atop yours if there weren’t the fear of disturbing the dream.

Your hair is a light brown waterfall stopped in time, flowing off pillows and onto your shoulders.

Your left foot is moving. Tapping. Up and down, fast. It sends itty-bitty waves through the bed. You had said that you do that. That your mother does that, and so did your grandmother.

Your hand goes to itch your nose and before you place it on your stomach, it moves across freckles here and there on your cheek, on your neck. They sit on your skin, a white tinted with peach by just a drop. The eyes now move under their lids. Hopefully that doesn’t mean your dream has taken a wrong turn. Oh good. Your lips curve to a half-smile.

A flicker of light – your eyes open. A startled confusion for a short while before your brain makes sense of what it is seeing. You smile and I don’t deserve it.

True Feelings

The wallpaper sings soft symphonies to two turtles on a bed of pillows. Barbara’s shell is purple and Kenneth’s shell is speckled red and black. The bed sleeps, snoring quietly. Up and down, the turtles rise and fall on the breath of the mattress. They search in one another’s eyes. But for what?

I wish I knew what it was like to be inside your shell. I wish the secrets you keep inside there could slip out and into mine, where I would keep them safe and warm, wrapped tight (but not too tight) in tiny boxes lined with cotton. I wish lots and lots.

I wish too, you know. I wish your mouth were a button I could push to inflate your body with notes belonging to violins. I’d tie a string to your tail before you could float away and I’d carry you around at the carnival.

Kenneth opens his mouth and out tumbles innumerable blueberries to be licked up by Barbara. Yum. Yum. Yummy. She moans happiness that settles itself around Kenneth and causes him to rustle and rumble till he shakes and shivers into a fuzzy teddy bear.

I’m so sorry! I never meant to change you.

Don’t be sorry. To be a turtle is not what I need to be happy in this life. At the moment, you are. You could change me into water, as long as you promised to lap me up and hold me within you.

But did it hurt?

It was easy to find the beauty in the pain.

Kenneth touches his synthetic fur to the tough, leathery skin of Barbara’s head. The pleasure fills her shell with pink mosquitoes that tickle her to tears that smile. She lets them out and they whiz up to dance their wings about the room, high above the electricity buzzing between his fur and her shell.

Warmth. Oxygen. Endorphins.

You make my chest feel dizzy.

I fell in love with your brown eyes.

The mosquitoes cling to the walls and suck the music out till they fall to the floor, fat and dead. The room sits still and quiet as Kenneth puts his arm around Barbara, waiting for her eyes to shut, so he can do the same.

Kenneth dreams of a water slide leading to a pool where Barbara waits for him. He can never reach the pool. He just slides over and over and over again, hoping next time he might crash into her.

Barbara dreams of a birthday cake the size of a castle. She chases after Kenneth on different layers, trenching through frosting of blue and white and gold. She giggles as Kenneth cries out, Catch me, catch me, catch me if you can!

Their dreams snuggle in close with one another – dreams that hold hands and press lips against cheeks. When the dreams fall asleep, the teddy bear and the turtle will awake in one another’s arms.

Walking

I had to get out of the house. Driving wouldn’t work. I need to be moving. I need my body to do some talking. And I really need to listen. My shoes squeak and clap on the sidewalk and then eventually on the sizzling black tar of the street. The sun is twenty feet above and there are no shadows in sight. I sweat until all my clothes are a solid shade darker. An army of kids is out here absorbing the light, using it as fuel. They are running around and riding bikes and climbing trees – all that shit.

My legs speed up and take me away to Main Street. The kids here are not as many, but the one’s that are present are all holding their mothers’ hands. Going in and out of stores. Some of them perfect angels that tighten my lungs with their faces; others are awful little shits  that scream horror stories into my heart so loud that it makes it beat harder. A man smokes a cigarette as he passes by and I want so badly to ask him for one. I want to calm my nerves with nicotine. I want to chain-smoke whole cartons and corrupt every last cell of my body with cancer.

But I don’t.

My breathing quickens and my feet gain weight. I begin walking in slow motion. A child zips by me from behind and his foot reaches the curb as the white figure changes to an orange hand. The core of me lets out of a shriek for help that echoes for miles and shakes the sky. I sprint to the street, grab the boy by his waist and swing him around. I shove his chocolate covered fact into my chest, staining my shirt, and I let out huge sobs.

I shout, “Don’t you ever do that again! Do you hear me? Don’t you ever scare me like that.”

The boy claws his way out of my stranger’s arms and runs away to his real mother.

The world has paused with its fierce eyes on me and I start walking home with my mind made up. I am keeping this baby.

Déjà vu

Barbara sits naked on one of the two chairs at the small kitchen table. Her belly is a skin-colored beach ball waiting to pop. She fingers her bellybutton and says, “Is it ready?”

Kenneth screams without screaming, “If they were ready I wouldn’t still be standing here, would I?” His eyes don’t move to her, instead they keep watch on the scrambled eggs in the frying pan as he pokes at them with a red spatula.

Barbara says, “Fuck you, smart ass” with her eyes and spits black acid on the floor near Kenneth’s feet, burning holes in the wood, and to her disappointment, not in his flesh.

Kenneth turns the knob to “Off” and the burner goes from orange to black. It’s a slow fade. He tilts the pan so the eggs fall to the plate. Slow steps to reach the table before Kenneth drops the plate on the surface when it would have been just as easy to set it down, but had he done it that way it wouldn’t have been loud and jarring – the not-so-subtle things people do to avoid an altogether different shade of overtness, directness.

He turns away and walks to the fridge.

The sound of glass breaking steals Kenneth’s strolling attention. Yellow fluffs of scrambled eggs and white triangles of glass on the floor.

Silence. Anger. Confusion.

“I asked for eggs over easy.”

“No. You demanded eggs. You specified nothing.”

“Watch your fucking attitude,” Barbara snaps. “When you have a heavy hunk of life in your body, I’ll make you eggs however you want…” The volume of her words lowers to pure silence but her lips continue moving. A white figure materializes behind her. His tired eyes spew little streams of exhaust and his voice lacks the appropriate effort as he says, “Boo.”

It’s the family ghost.

In a blink, Barbara becomes Kenneth’s father and Kenneth becomes his own mother, but only in spatial terms. Really, Barbara has vanished and Kenneth is standing behind his father who sits at the table. Really, Kenneth has become the family ghost.

Mr. Father reads the paper and says, “Are you done?”

Mrs. Mother says under her breath, “If I were done, I wouldn’t still be standing here, would I?”

Mr. Father spits fire with his eyes and says, “Fuck you, smart ass” with his mouth before turning back to the paper.

Mrs. Mother sniffles, keeping her eyes intently on the eggs, poking at them with the same red spatula. A black tear rolls down her cheek before it disappears under her chin and stains a bruise at the top of her throat. She turns the knob to “Off” and the burner goes from orange to black. It’s a slow fade.

Her feet move slowly across the floor until she reaches the table. She is careful when setting the plate so it touches neither Mr. Father’s arm, nor his newspaper.

Mr. Father looks down at the plate and grabs her arm before she can turn around. He stands up with the plate in one hand and Mrs. Mother’s thin arm glowing white in his other.

“I said sunny side up, didn’t I?”

“Um, I…”

An explosion of white and yellow against the wall that crashes to the floor.

“Didn’t I?”

Mr. Father’s recently vacant hand grabs Mrs. Mother by the throat, tight. He says, “Well. Clean it up,” as he drags her body through Kenneth’s transparent existence. Kenneth loses his breath for an instant. He can see two little wet eyes and a mop of brown hair peeking through the open doorway. Kenneth makes eye contact with himself and – destroyed – he says, “Boo.”

In a blink, Barbara is back and she is shouting, “Are you even listening to me?”

Kenneth’s eyes are wet, his throat is dry, and his mouth is open, incapable of forming words. He falls to the floor, his knees and hands trembling amidst the broken glass and eggs.

The paint on the kitchen walls melt away to reveal an empty whiteness – a contradiction of light.

“Oh no, baby,” Barbara says quiet, placing her warm hand on Kenneth’s back. Her other hand touches under his chin to guides his eyes up into her view. Her face contorts with concern.

Hushed: “What is it?”

Kenneth’s hands cry blood from where the small shards of white stick in his palms. He chokes, swallows, and asks in a thin voice, “How many eggs did you want?”

Silent Partner

Rob is there. So is Suzy. Beth made it as well. Frank showed up late, but he showed. These are Kenneth and Barbara’s closest friends. The ones they would go on double dates with. The ones they would run to during fights. The ones they were cry and scream to when they were scared, felt alone.

There are the five of them sitting in red velvet theater chairs that fold at the seat. Rob and Suzy to Kenneth’s left. Frank and Beth to his right. And, obviously, Kenneth is sitting dead center.

Frank: Sorry I didn’t show up earlier. Had to pick up these bad mamma-jammas.

Frank passes around cigars to the others. Kenneth has his eyes fixed on the giant screen in front of him, his elbows on his knees, his fists pushing up under his chin. Frank sticks one of the cigars in Kenneth’s shirt pocket and gives him a pat on the back. Flashing on the screen are images of Barbara on a bed in a white room filled with doctors and nurses. A close-up shot of Barbara sweating and screaming, but there is no sound to the image, just the rattling of the projector against the conversation of the others in the theater.

Beth: Oh, this guy is never on time.

Frank: Yeah, but you love me anyway.

Beth: Well… I like you a lot anyway.

(Canned Laughter)

Suzy: At least yours shows up at all.

Rob: What exactly is that supposed to mean?

Suzy: You stood me up for lunch on Tuesday!

Rob: I told you I had to cancel.

Suzy: You did not!

Rob: Next time I’ll stick a post-it note on your forehead.

(Canned Laughter)

A wide-angle shot of a doctor speckled in blood. Cut to a medium-close shot. His mouth moves fiercely under his mask, and then the frame pans to follow a nurse who runs out of the room. She comes back in with another doctor.

Kenneth’s face cringes at the screen and it forms permanent wrinkles on his face. He watches another close-up of Barbara. Tears and sweat ride her face, down and into her mouth where her teeth clench. Cut to a shot of a nurse with her hand on Barbara’s shoulder. She mouths the word, “Push.”

Frank: Sorry, I’m so late! I had to roll these sweet stogies.

Beth: Oh, he’s never on time.

Frank: Yeah, except in bed!

(Canned Laughter)

Suzy: At least yours still wants to touch you.

Rob: What exactly is that supposed to mean?

Suzy: You haven’t gone down on me in a year!

Rob: That’s because you don’t clean your vagina properly!

(Canned Laughter)

An aerial shot looks down on the entire delivery room. It slowly pushes in as the top of a small head emerges from between Barbara’s bloodied legs.

Kenneth shakes as he watches. He holds himself tight, trying hard to keep looking.

Frank: Sorry guys! I would have been here sooner if I didn’t fly to Cuba for these primo smokes!

Beth: Ah, this faggot’s never on time.

Frank: Bitch, you best watch the lip!

(Canned Laughter)

This same shot pushes in tighter so you can only see from Barbara’s stomach to the doctor’s hands, holding the head as an arm comes out.

Kenneth’s hair goes from black to gray to white and his lips fatten as they tremble.

Suzy: At least your man isn’t fucking around on you!

Rob: If I didn’t sleep with younger girls, I’d probably beat you twice as often!

(Canned Laughter)

The shot stops pushing in when the small female child is born, wet in the doctor’s arms. Cut to a close-up of Barbara’s face and she doesn’t smile. She doesn’t move. Her eyes are open but they are not awake.

Kenneth makes a fist of his face and his eyes blur with moisture until they overflow and trickle down his weathered skin.

A close-up of a heart monitor. Predictably, the green line is flat.

Kenneth: Guys.

Kenneth sits in an empty theater.

Kenneth: I’m a father.

Letters From Inside The Story

Dear Mommy,

My name is Barbara and that is your name too. That is what daddy says. He says you never got to meet me but you loved me anyways. I like purple and tractors. And I like cats and my stuffed cat and her name is Bubble. I wish I could meet you now but daddy says I can’t do it. I think daddy is sad a lot because you are gone and it makes me sad when he is sad. I think maybe if you come back so daddy is happy and then I am happy and we would all be happy together. Will you come back and be my mommy for me? Daddy said we would like each other because we both like Uno. I am real good at Uno. I win daddy every time. Come back and we will play Uno with daddy and Bubble.

Bye Bye
Barbara

Dear Mommy,

I know you can’t come back and I know you can’t read this, but I want to write it anyway. I feel dumb because of my last letter. My teacher made me write it for my 1st grade class and my teacher made dad come talk to her about it. He came to my class when the other kids were gone and I asked him to send it for me and he started crying and it made me hate myself for making him sadder so I’m not gonna show him my letters anymore.

I didn’t want to write another letter for a while either because my last one so I didn’t. But I’m in 3rd grade now and dad started showing me his old photo albums and he tells me about you and then it made me really miss you a lot. I really love you even if you are dead.

Love,
Barbara

Dear Mom,

I kissed a boy today! I didn’t tell dad because he would embarrass me. I know he does it because he loves me, but it’s nice to know I can tell you things and not worry about anyone knowing.

The boy’s name is Calvin and he is really nice and so cute. He wanted to walk me home after school a week ago. I said okay but I told him I was walking to the cemetery to deliver you a letter. He asked me who you were and I said, “She was my mommy.”

He said he was sorry and then he put his hand on my shoulder. He kept walking me home after school after that and some days we went and got donuts at the Roth’s Bakery and he bought them for me. What a gentleman! And then today when we were outside the house I said goodbye and he said “Wait, wait! I have something important to tell you.” And then he kissed me!

I’ll tell you more about him next week.

Love,
Barbara

Dear Mom,

Dad had a stroke. He is in the hospital for a while. The doctor said he would be okay, but he will need to use a respirator when he sleeps. Don’t worry though. I’ll take care of him for you. I got to visit him yesterday he said he would find someone to help him and to keep up the house. I wish I could take some time off school and do it myself but he doesn’t want me to graduate a year late.

I don’t know. We’ll figure something out.

I’ll write more soon.

Love,
Barbara

Dear Mom,

Guess what?

I GOT INTO BERKELEY!!!!

I know you would be proud of me, but dad is proud enough for everybody. Julia is working out well around the house, but I still wish someone in the family could take her place. Or maybe I should just go to U of O or OSU. I’m worried about leaving him along in a big empty house. Sometimes I feel like he is just hanging in there for me and if I leave to another state, he wouldn’t just give up, would he? I don’t want him to think I’m ready to be on my own, because then what does he have? Julia?

He doesn’t do much anymore. At least before he would pass the days by wasting time in front of bad sitcoms or in the garage building shelves for nothing to sit on. But now he just lies in bed or sits by the window. Except when I come home from school his face lights up and makes me tell him everything about what I’m learning, what my friends talk about during lunch, everything. It’s all boring stuff but he seems to find it interesting. Other than that he’s practically in a home already, but I refuse to send him to one of those places.

God, I wish you could tell me what to do. I know you wouldn’t want me to say this, but sometimes I really wish you never had me. I’m not ungrateful but I just love dad so much and I wish you could be

Jesus, I don’t know.

I love you.
Barbara



PEEKABOO ROSE – EXCERPT



THE PURSUIT

The Pursuit is a series of short pieces that each illustrate a distinct point in life. Each one explores a different age. There might only end up being a few or it might keep growing. In the end it’ll be quilt made for Frankenstein.

16 – The Only Reason to Murder a Cowboy – Sean Whiteman



Vincent the Robot

Here’s how it goes (in the beginning):

First it goes beep.
Then it goes bop.

Then, after a while of something else, it goes:

Beep-bop.
Beep-bop.
Beep-bop.

This audio cycle continues in this seesaw pattern for the expected duration of the robot. And the robot’s duration is infinite.

The robot is made to last and, with very minimal maintenance and check-ups, it should do just that. It should beep and bop today, beep and bop tomorrow and beep and bop throughout all the ticks and tocks that come between the two. One could call it a programmed metronome. A hard-wired pulse.

As a result, the very thought process of these robots is detailed as described: they think a beep or they think a bop.

This robot is one of function. Not functioning for itself, but to others. Others like you. It cleans and it cooks for you. It rubs your back. It brushes your teeth. It sits on your porch. It watches TV and it surfs the internet with you. It also tells you that you are pretty even when you are not pretty. It beeps and bops by itself until it is called upon to fulfill functions such as the ones listed above.

The beeping and the bopping keep the robot in a constant state of readiness. An engineered smile accompanies these beeps and bops. In its permanence, the smile is meant to allow the human who owns the robot to feel no guilt. Only when the robot is summoned by these humans does the beeping and bopping stop.

This is the technical procedure of the newest line of robots, as issued by the new King of America. Vincent is one of these new models.

He lives in the Anderson household on the corner of Sagebrush Terrace in the 12th district of the first epicenter of the new Kingdom of America. And it is, by far, the most decadent of the epicenters. The Andersons live up their lives in an attempt to meet this decadence with ease. In fact, they have to. The first epicenter lives in a state of constant excess. This debauchery is regulated by the Knights of America. The Knights of America roam the streets, making sure members of each epicenter stay true to their boundaries and practices.

The first epicenter must live like royalty. No exceptions to this rule. The second epicenter must live a little less like royalty. The third epicenter must live like less than less than royalty. And the fourth epicenter doesn’t live at all. They are dead. Either future-dead or present-dead. The present-dead have no pulse. They are corpses. Old and new. The future-dead reside in this epicenter as well. The future dead are undesirables. The homeless, the crazy, the perverted and the diseased. They walk among the corpses, waiting for their time to join them.

Nobody worries about the fourth epicenter. Not even Vincent. And it’s not because he’s a robot. Vincent does have the capacity to worry. He is top-of-the-line in this regard. He has the proper wiring to ensure a broad range of emotions. These emotions comes in handy if, say, his master is feeling sad. Vincent can be appropriately compassionate.

Beep-bop. Sympathetic.
Beep-bop. Supportive.
Beep-bop. Understanding.
Beep-bop. Everything Mr. and Mrs. Anderson could ever need in a robot or eachother.

As a result of Vincent’s capacity for emotion, he began to foster “other” feelings. Emotions that did not serve a purpose in the Anderson household. Feelings that were unnecessary in the emotional alchemy (as decided upon by the Alchemist of the new Kingdom of America) of functional robots. On their own, they proved a nuisance. The primary unwanted emotion was boredom. Vincent lived to help the Andersons. Yet, unfortunately, he could not always be in the act of helping Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. They slept at night, and rarely needed him during this time. As a result, Vincent was overtaken by the beeps and the bops during these hours. Vincent developed a love for his duties because they were a vacation from the mundane. A vacation from the realization, which he had on a frequent basis, that he was a robot.

Beep. Robot.
Bop. Not-human.
Beep. Only a machine.
Bop. No one loves you.

And so the pattern continues. It turns the clock and makes sure there is a steady eye on the passing of time.

Anything capable of love, is invariably capable of hate. And Vincent was no different. He loved to help. He loved the feeling it gave him. He loved feeling valued. What he hated was simple. He developed a simple hate for the beeps and bops. He began acting out. He would rub Mr. and Mrs. Anderson’s backs even if they didn’t make a request. He would make pasta at random moments throughout the day because Mrs. Anderson once proclaimed that she, “Could never get sick of pasta.” As a result of these actions, both unplanned and unwanted, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson had become more and more wary at the sight of Vincent. Thus they called upon his services less and less.

Vincent, following his wiring, became depressed

He held the potential for every emotion, yet boredom and sadness were the tissues that held together his life.

Beep-bop.

Hopeless and with no one to pity him, he made his discovery. He was plugging in a lamp when it happened. The outlet was slightly cracked and his hand plunged into the socket when he attempted to plug in the chord. His fingers connected with a few open circuits and he was shocked by a jolt of electricity.

And this is where he found it. This is where he found his bliss.

A moment of nothing.

Immediately following the jolt, his system was short circuited for a small duration of time, and during that time, he was free from the beeps and the bops.

Instead of beep-bop, beep-bop, he felt this:

And this was beautiful.

He was hooked. In the dead of night he began electrocuting himself on purpose. Each time the beeps and bops would momentarily leave him. His work began to suffer as a result of this new practice. Instead of genuinely loving to serve, he served out of function and function only. All he could think about was sticking his fingers into the socket once Mr. and Mrs. Anderson went to bed.

Escaping.

Letting his eyes roll into the back of his head and relinquishing the grinding chore that is constant thought.

Not having to exist at all.

He kept his routine in check at first. He decided he would only escape during the night when his masters didn’t need him. But the beep-bops started getting to him.

Beep. Real quick.
Bop. You know you want to?
Beep. It’s under control.
Bop. Okay, one and then right back to work.

One day, during dinner, his desire for the nothing got the best of him, and he snuck out to the garage to get a quick fix from an extension chord. He served the roast beef to Mr. and Mrs. Anderson then sat on a stool and prepared the chord.

He briefly smiled upon placing the extension chord in his mouth, and then he felt it: even more nothing than before.

He felt so much nothing that he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t take the chord from his mouth. The nothing wouldn’t let him, and he didn’t want it to.

He sat on that stool; not thinking about anything.

Not thinking about breakfast and not thinking about lunch.
Not thinking about rubbed backs.
Not thinking about mowed lawns.
Not thinking about scrubbed toilets.
Not thinking about stained clothes or dirtied dishes.

Vincent didn’t think about the beeps and he did not think about the bops.

Vincent no longer knew that he was a robot.

Vincent was happy on what appeared to be, despite no previous evidence of such occurances, an instinctual level. Vincent’s electro-bliss carried him through the night, and it would have continued to carry him on until the power went out. Instead, Mr. Anderson found him.

Mr. Anderson examined the scene, noticing the power chord hanging from Vincent’s mouth and the blank eyes accompanied by a lazily blissful smile, then quickly passed judgment.

“Fucking junkie.”

This was the end of Vincent’s stay in the lap of luxury. A junkie was not decadent. It had no place in the first epicenter. Within twelve minutes of Mr. Anderson’s phone call to the castle, the Knights of America had effectively relocated Vincent to epicenter four.

The land of the dead. The location which he remains to this day.

Epicenter four is not allowed electricity. It has no need. Thus, Vincent can not find his bliss. This epicenter is for the dying. The hopeless. The ones who anticipate the release of death.

Vincent is not one of these people. He is not a person. He is a robot and he is immortal. Thus he will sit forever in the fourth epicenter; envying the rotting corpses and diseased rejects of humanity.

With a smile of protocol on his face he sits. The passers-by believe he is happy because of this preprogrammed smirk. They have faith that he has found a permanent happiness. The wretched souls of mankind come to him daily to pray. They sit and look at his smile. It gives these outcasts hope, and they smile. Albeit briefly, they do smile. They come in the morning and leave at night. They say goodnight to Vincent but he ignores their kindness. He can’t hear them. He hears something else…

Beep-bop.

Beep-bop.

Beep-bop.



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