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Dream: Bus to China




Along with dozens of other speculative fiction writers, I was on a bus for a trip to China.

I looked out the bus window at our guide. She was tiny next to the huge fuel dispenser, yelling and banging on its side with her purse. She was crying. “I’ve been planning this for years! And now, and now, I don’t know the fucking code to squeeze the juice from this can!”

Near the front of the bus, a particularly clever science fiction writer said, “I’m surprised I decided to go on this trip. I’m not a stupid person. I mean, we’re in Oklahoma. Somewhere in Oklahoma. The Bering Strait is even wider than it is on the maps. How are we going to get to China on a bus from Oklahoma without drowning?”

Several writers said:

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t know.”

“I HATE car racing!” said the fantasy writer sitting behind me. As I turned left to investigate this person, I noticed a flat screen television was mounted on the left side of the bus, playing a stock car race. VROOM, VROOM, VROOM, the cars went. VROOM.

I tried to turn completely around to talk to the writer, but I merely got a peripheral glimpse of her face before she pushed my head away.

“If you want to talk to me, keep looking at the screen.”

“Okay,” I said. “How come you hate this so much?”

“It’s boring and unrealistic.”

Even though I shared her negative opinion, I found myself defending the sport. “But they are so fast, and the wheels don’t last as long as most wheels. It takes concentration, ex domestic lager and lots of diet choke!”

“You’re full of shit, and the back of your head looks like a dead coconut. Damn! I want to get there!”

This hurt my feelings, so I pushed my head against the glass. Our guide was on her hands and knees, scraping her nose against the petroleum-stained cement. A horror writer I didn’t know had exited the bus and was examining the dispenser. A handle emerged from the right side of the dispenser, out of the reach of our small guide. He pulled it and the construct clucked like a chicken. A narrow bar appeared on the front, displaying rolling symbols like those on a slot machine. The rollers stopped on three dying panda bears. Something unlocked.

Our guide stood up, smiling at the writer through tears and blood. Her nose was halfway gone, and I noticed that she kept her nose clean.

“You did it!” she said. “Now we can start our journey!”

I looked at the front of the bus and waited.

Dream Over











No, I'm Not Your Mascot

No, I’m Not Your Mascot



Walking is a vital part of my life. It’s a source of exercise, hope, mental rejuvenation, and the act itself is inextricably entwined with my identity as a person and a writer. I was born with mild Cerebral Palsy and my parents were told by doctors that I would never walk. They were wrong, but I didn’t begin to walk until I was four years old. I was eventually sponsored by a Shriner, and received free operations and treatment at Shriner’s Hospital for Children until I was 21.

The subject of walking appeared in the first piece of writing for which I was paid at age 11. It was for a contest held by the local newspaper on Mother’s Day, titled I Love My Mom Because. I won first place and my letter was a giant print centered among the other entries. I don’t think I won necessarily because of my skill in writing, rather, like a savvy little skid mark, I exploited my problems with CP in the letter, and how my Mother persisted in finding me help until I could walk.

However, I wasn’t being manipulative, but honest. And it was an early lesson on the power of honesty in writing. Still, I think I had an edge that the other children did not, and to the editors who magnified my letter on that full page, I was probably an INSPIRATION. And this type of response to my presence, especially while walking, has occurred in my childhood and adult life often and often (not countless, I’m not a vampire). In the case of the contest, I’m glad I won, and I think it was fair because the letter to my Mother was unusual.

But comments from strangers that sound like Hallmark memes copied so many times the letters are wasting away like frogs in the Sahara have become an annoyance that stirs in me some quiet anger. I understand that most people are just being nice, but it gets old being a repository for banal observations which seem new and fresh within their incandescent bubble. Many people do not have sluice gates between their questionable brains and the yawning expanse of their mouths.

For instance: a few years ago I joined the Cooper River Bridge Run/Walk where I live in Charleston, SC. As I crested the slope of the bridge, a man in his sixties broke away from his wife and walked beside me for a few moments. He said, “You know, you’re an inspiration to all of us.” I think I grunted. I wanted to sound like the lower-level troll he imagined was straining against nature to join the normals in their normal pursuits. He smiled and went back to his wife; they both walked faster than I. Maybe I have a bad attitude, but I don’t want to be his inspiration. If he wants to fly higher than an eagle, then get on an airplane, or ask Bette Midler to switch places.

For instance: one day I was walking along the side road that leads to my apartment. A man in a truck called out to me as he was leaving the driveway of an office building. I went over and spoke with him for a few minutes. It was an odd exchange; I felt like I was being interviewed by a nervous fan. What’s your name? What do you do? Do you walk every day? He told me that everyone in his office sees me walking each day. He said that his eyes were bad and at night when he was leaving work, his colleagues told him, “Watch out and don’t hit the dude with the bad leg.” He said that everyone who worked at his software company thought of me as their mascot.

This guy was friendly and sincere, and I didn’t grunt. He drove away and I continued walking, musing on the encounter. In middle school, since I had always been a hopeless athlete where every sports-related instance of my life was another strata in the compounded mountain of humiliation, I tried to belong by becoming a manager for the football team and later the basketball team. Part of it was pressure from my parents to join a school-related activity. Everyone was nice to me, but I quickly felt a tool. I didn’t do anything, really, but hand out water and watch from the sidelines two sports that cultivated no interest or passion within me. When I “managed” the football team, at home games the announcer would blare my name and position with extra gusto, and I recall feeling embarrassed by this, knowing that it was really just empty horseshit. Perhaps well-meaning to boost my esteem, but I wasn’t a dumbass. I knew I was on the sidelines; I knew that, in that position, I was a marginal who didn’t care about the game and didn’t matter to the process other than to be there to make most everyone feel comfortable that I was not left out. I was a mascot. But I didn’t stay a manager long.

Because despite how my persistent walking within this body that lopes in a limp to the left fills you with an inspiration to do your best and rise and shine with King Kong thumps to the chest and a Willy Wonka twinkle in your eye . . .

I’m not your fucking mascot.

Daddy Poison

Daddy Poison


For a very short season, I had a friend in high school who gave me one of my first real-life glimpses into the bone deep reach of daddy poison.
I had just changed schools, and making friends was (and still is) difficult for me. He was a nice guy who befriended me in English class, funny, both of us shared a love for books, especially works by Stephen King. It was one of those friendships in which the dissolution was so gradual, I don’t remember exactly when we stopped communicating, but I remember some two or three years later seeing him in an arcade and recognizing the fierce dislike of me in his eyes.
About a couple of months after we had become friends, he started saying things that really bothered me. He had an older brother who had recently graduated from the school, and it was obvious that he worshipped him. From his stories and the collective gossip of other students, the brother had an unsavory reputation of being a proud racist. It was in the recollection of these stories that my friend began to say n****r, as if it was an accepted word on which we bonded. I saw something different in this new friend of mine; it was like a layer of cellophane pressing down on a genuinely kind young man, a layer that, when he delved into these brother narratives, dissolved into his skin and altered who he really was. It was mean and unthinking hatred that surprised me, confused me.
One story that will probably never drift away from my brain involved his brother and a teacher whom the brother hated. This teacher was a woman in her sixties whom doctors would describe as morbidly obese. The brother somehow procured keys to the high school and her classroom, and in the middle of the night, broke into her classroom and defiled all her walls with obscene references to her weight problem. My friend finished the story by laughing and telling me how the poor woman, when she entered the next day, broke down and blubbered. He grinned as he told me this, saying, “Isn’t that cool?”
I don’t remember what I said to him. I remember being shocked and silent and thinking HOLY SHIT THAT’S NOT COOL THAT’S FUCKING MEAN YOUR BROTHER IS A FUCKING ASSHOLE AND SO ARE YOU FOR LAUGHING ABOUT IT.
Another story involved his brother’s humiliation of a young black student at the school.The student was a young woman whom I thought was EXCEEDINGLY attractive, and it was through other friends I had made that he found out my attraction to her. He asked me about it; he was visibly pissed. I told him, yes, that I thought she was hot. It was after this that we went our separate ways. Luckily, I didn’t have any more classes with him after that. (My English teacher the following year was the one abused by his evil brother, and she was excellent.)
At some point during our brief friendship, I visited his home one afternoon, and discovered the origin of Evil Brother and gathering clouds forming over the kindness of my friend. Earlier that day, he had found one of those wallets with a long chain that attaches to a belt. His father returned home from work a few minutes after we got there. He introduced me to his Dad; I shook his hand, his Dad glanced at the chain wallet that his son wore and said, “Take that damn thing off. You look like a n****r.”
My friend tried to defend the wallet, and I distinctly remember the look on his face. He loved his Dad, but he was also embarrassed and ashamed. I saw that struggle - a young, shy and good-natured man fighting the daddy poison.
I can’t say if he ultimately lost the struggle, but he was certainly overwhelmed by it during that short season.
One fallacy shining in the loving eyes of sons is that Daddy is Super, Daddy is God.
But Daddy is not God. At best, Daddy is a loving, but flawed man, like everyone else, awash in the uncertainty of life. And at worst, Daddy is an ignorant asshole whose words are poison, poison, poison.

The ABC Wizard Duel

“Arpleeweepoo!” he shouted. But nothing happened. Carson the Supremely Magic magician walked back and forth on the edge of the rooftop, while a scattering of fans watched from 12 stories below. Disappointed, he looked across the street to the adjacent building, where his competitor and rival, Moosejuice Slingbad, laughed and danced on the top of the structure’s water tower. Every one of Slingbad’s fans were embedded in the windows of his building, their eyes turned to him in awe and adoration, but since he was out of sight, their eyes were rolled back in their heads. For the third time, Carson flourished his hands in the air, and tried another magic phrase, “Groping candylops!” Generelda, his number one encourager from Outer Space, slowly began to rise from the street like a bird with one wing. Her lovely form floated to the level of the roof, and Carson stared into her black eyes and winked. “I feel funny,” she said, then she opened her mouth and vomited a spray of bile into Carson’s face. Just then, dual apparitions of Slingbad appeared, one beside Carson, which wiped the vomit off his face with a violet hanky, and another in the air aside Generelda. Kissing and embracing her, Slingbad’s Other said, “I love you so much, even the taste of your vomit doesn’t bother me. You should be mine, deary.” Laying her head on Moosejuice’s shoulder, she stuck her tongue out at Carson. Moosejuice’s Other cackled, and squeezing her tight, they flew off, landing on his roof entwined. “Never, never try to best me, Carson,” said Slingbad’s Other Other. “Only I can command the forces that make the ladies shudder into butter. You’re as powerful as a Grandma’s eyelash. Maybe you should try cooking. I heard you’re good at that.”
Putting his hands together, the Other threw his hanky at Carson and vanished. “Quit?” Carson said. “Remember, Moosejuice, you’re an indolent talent, a lion in a hammock. Nobody loves magic as much as I.” Standing erect with his back to the sun, he pulled a magnifying glass from his pocket and directed a small beam of concentrated sunlight onto Slingbad’s vomit-soaked handkerchief. The circle of light quickly began to smoke, and soon a vine of black smoke twisted up from Moosejuice Slingbad, who grunted, then shrieked in agony as sunbeams of fire pricked out of his body in dozens. “Understand, Slingbad,” said Carson. “I am not a short-order cook, I mean, I am not to be mocked.” “Vote for me!” Slingbad yelled, before his body was consumed in a sphere of yellow fire, which promptly shrank to the size of an eyeball and rotated beside Generelda, who remained unscathed and still floating. Waves of applause came from his fans below, causing Carson to preen his hair and offer another magical flourish, causing Slingbad’s embedded fans to melt into butter and slide down the building. “Xenophobia is what inspired me to learn all of these tricks, master them, multiply them, and then kill everybody,” said Generelda. “You first,” she said to Carson, and the shining orb disappeared into her eye; she glared at Carson the now-Supremely Beshitted Magic Magician and a ragged line of lemon fire punched through his head, burned through the fans, raged through the world. Zero people survived, but all the domestic animals were spared, because Generelda loved cats.

Two Disassociates on the Blue Capped Internet Thought Tosser


"There is a backyard in my forest and the animals don't shit there."
"Like."
"My Mother sang a song to the robins and they watched her, wormless."
"Like."
"We never have time to crack walnuts on the freeway, and the radiovoice mocks us for it."
"Like."
"I will eat alien plants."
"Like."
"Uncle Lorry bought an el Camino and drove it through the preschool cafe. Nobody was in there."
" . . . "
"Nobody ever responds here. This place is nothing, like gathering nourishment from an O2 gel drip."
"Like."

Brief Dream: Death in a Handbag

Dream 16 August 2013


Had a strange, horrifying nightmare, part of which took place at a party. Somebody I know was at the party, standing in the corner with a handbag which contained a gun. She threatened to take her own life. Her mother stood on the other side of the room, and she motioned to me. She whispered to me, "Just let her do it."

I said, "What?"

"Just let her do it. She's been carrying that gun around like a sundress, and I always knew that someday she'd wear that sundress.”

Her callousness traumatized my heart.

“Fuck that and fuck you, you open sore.”

I walked to the woman in the corner and embraced her, told her she was smart and funny and beautiful, that everyone loved her. She trembled in my arms and wept, and dropped the gun.

The Old Ladies and Their Beloved Children

(Originally appeared in Alienskin Magazine)



July on the water was hot, except for the occasional icy wind that blew through Captain Montgomery’s floating loo. The old ladies living on the cuffs of his denim parka raised their wet sheets in that wind to freeze, so their children, who lived behind his ears, would not burn in the heat.
Captain Montgomery was not a bad man. He was a good sailor, but rarely washed. He thought the children were pimples, and when they moved, he scratched with squid-encrusted fingernails. The children made no sound of complaint, as a quarter of their number was crushed into a pulp which Montgomery smeared onto his painter’s paints.
“Ohhhhh,” wailed the old ladies. “You foul beast! Murderer of children!”
Half of them went to comfort the survivors, while the other half made their journey down into his underpants to seek their revenge. They bit him and bit him, and Captain Montgomery’s eyes watered until he scratched and killed them all.
The remaining old ladies soothed the smouldering children behind his ears by wrapping the frozen sheets around them. These children were embedded in skin up to their knees, so their only significant movement was a waving of their arms that enthralled them. The old ladies cooed to the children, and because so many old ladies had perished so far below, new children began to emerge like Easter lilies in the retreating shadow of winter.
The new children opened cognizant eyes that sought the north and their kin. The captain’s scratching fingers decimated this second generation as they scaled his belly and chest and neck. When they finally reached their kin behind the ears, they were still many, and the old ladies rejoiced by embracing and kissing every single one of them. The older children doffed the sheets and waved their arms, beckoning the travelers from the south to do the same.
They did without hesitation.
Soon the flesh behind Montgomery’s ears bristled with children up to their knees and writhing their arms. Up to this point the children had been silent, but the old ladies began to nod their heads, encouraging the sweet children to speak. Mouths opening in unison, the whispers were light and lovely:
“You are a fish, Captain. It is so hot and dry on the surface. It is time for you to swim to the cold bottom and look for something to eat.”
The captain abruptly rose to his feet. The oatcake he had been munching on fell and broke on the toe of his boot. Leaving the wheel, he stepped around the American tourist in the blue jacket. The boat veered off to the right and the tourist shouted and grabbed the wheel. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I am a fish,” he replied, and weaved around Chinese and German tourists to ascend the bow.
“He certainly smells like a fish,” said a tourist.
The old ladies kissed their beloved children while Captain Montgomery peered down at the peat-darkened waters. The tourists yelled and he dove. He swam deep, deep, encouraged by the ceaseless whispering of the children. The water was dark and cold. Montgomery’s belly rumbled and shook with a hunger that ignored the oatcake. He kept his eyes open, yet was unable to see anything beyond the occasional ripple of the Drumnadrochit sunshine moving through the water. His head passed into a liquid glacier, causing the old ladies and the children to shriek in ecstacy. Lungs thumping from no air, nails in his ears from the pressure, Montgomery happened upon a many-legged small thing darker than the lake around him. Its tentacles looked like fingers, beckoning him deeper, closer.
“That’s what fish like to eat,” said the children. “Open your mouth and take a bite.”
With one last side-to-side thrust from his legs, Captain Montgomery closed his lips around the treat, and a sharp taste bit deep into his soft pate. His body was jerked farther into the abyss, while the passing water made the arms of the little children flap like flags in a furious wind. The captain emerged into a velvet fog that warmed his freezing skin. He landed on a spongy deck with two-foot slits every ten feet; crimson light burst from the slits, rising upward through the fog to illuminate the underbellies of giant, underwater ducks. The ducks swam around and through strange stars. A behemoth jellyfish oozed its way across the alien heavens, its sides were pregnant as cellophane enclosing a waterfall.
A shadow came and ripped the treat from Captain Montgomery’s mouth, leaving a gaping, wet hole. “Aaaam a pheesh,” he slobbered, then began to flop on the deck as he thought a proper fish should. One of the giant ducks poked a paddle-like fin into the jellyfish, causing it to bust. Transparent drops the size of Captain Montgomery’s favorite bobber plummeted out from the wound, slapping down against the deck. One drop landed on his face and washed the old ladies and their beloved children clean away from behind his ears. They flowed down a stream into one of the crimson slits. Each old lady clasped as many little children as she was able. No children were left behind as they squirmed into the dark waters like eager little sperm. Eager, eager, eager, to make more fish.
Captain Montgomery flapped just as well as any fish, but the sound his body made against the deck was foreign and horrible to his own ears. Nevertheless, he continued flapping, until the shadow overtook him.
END