A Beginning. But where to go from here?

As tends to happen from time to time, I’ll be rummaging through some random folders on my computer when I’ll come across something I’d written a long time ago and done nothing with. Naturally, this is exactly what happened to me today. The beginning of a very incomplete story follows below. It was last saved to my hard drive on July 14, 2003. I remember writing it, but I have no recollection of where I was going with it. It’s a pretty good bet that I didn’t know where I was going.

So I’m calling to you, my readers, to help me out here. Between the six of you, I’m sure you can come up with a good suggestion for the direction to take this. Should it include supernatural elements? Is Bartleby really dead? Is it a dream? Are these characters metaphors for something else? What are your thoughts? Perhaps we should turn this into writer’s workshop of sorts. The forum is now open, please contribute.

With every passing second, Bartleby lost more and more money. He sat to the right of the dealer at a Las Vegas casino’s blackjack table. He started out with a bankroll exceeding $10,000. It was his wife’s inheritance. Her parents had recently been killed in a plane crash. Hard to believe that someone who started out with that kind of scratch could find themselves down to their last $200.

In a casino across the country in Atlantic City, Joseph made more money in three hours than he’d made in a month at his job. Joseph had started out with a bankroll of $200 and had so far won well over $10,000. It seemed he couldn’t lose. Joseph worked the graveyard shift at the Digger Steel Corporation. Bartleby worked as a digger at the Steelmount graveyard.

At exactly 7:06 am, both men stood from their tables. Bartleby rose from his chair slowly, looking a bit dazed. As he stretched, he shoved his hands into his pockets out of nervous habit. He was startled to find that he had one chip left. It was a $50.00 chip. For a split second Bartleby pondered how he could turn this $50 back into the $10,000 he had begun with. In a last minute decision, he flipped the chip to the dealer, thanked him for a lovely ass kicking, and walked out the front door.

Joseph stood up with his eyes wide and his smile wider. He raised his arms high above his head as he stretched. He had cashed all his chips for ten $1000 chips. As he reached into his pocket, he found an extra chip. It was worth $5.00. Joseph looked at the chip and mentioned to the dealer how it really was his lucky day, then he put the chip on the table and made another bet. Joseph lost after hitting on fifteen with the dealer showing a two. He glared at the dealer, turned and walked out the front door.

At 7:48 am, Bartleby was crossing a street a few blocks off the Vegas strip when a drunk driver lost control of his Chevy Suburban and slammed into Bartleby. Both the driver and Bartleby were killed instantly.

At the exact same moment, Joseph was crossing a street a few blocks off the Atlantic City Boardwalk when a drunk driver lost control of his Chevy Suburban and slammed into a tree that stood between the Suburban and Joseph. The driver was killed instantly. Joseph didn’t have a scratch on him.

Not dying that day was the worst thing to ever happen to Joseph.

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

I was glancing at some of my old columns for Negative Waves when I came across one that I’d forgotten about. The column had to do with finding inspiration for writing stories and such. But the column itself was bookended with this fictional story I’d thrown in there. Since I have nothing else to really write about today, I thought I’d go ahead and post the story portion of that column.

So the other day, as I’m talking to a girl in a bar, she interrupts me while giving me a strange once over look. She puts her hand on my shoulder, squeezes, then slides it down to my upper arm, and squeezes again. I felt a bit like Russell Crowe in Gladiator when the old gladiator is checking him out. Finally, this girl says to me, “Do you work out?”

“You bet,” I lied with a straight face.

“I can tell,” she smiled while staring me in the eyes.

It isn’t difficult to tell that I had this girl in the bag. It’s amazing what simple human intuitiveness can do for a person.

Our banter continued for several more minutes.

“I’m a dancer,” she told me. I could smell the coconut oil on her, so I didn’t doubt her.

“Is that right?” I said humoring her.

“Hmm, mmm,” she replied while her tongue suddenly slipped from her mouth and moistened her upper lip, leaving just the tiniest sheen.

“Where do you dance?” I asked, trying not to let my voice crack.

“Anywhere you want me to,” she said as she slid her arm around my torso. Her fingers pinched my nipple. I knocked my beer over on the bar.

In a moment of clarity, I looked at her as she looked at the spilt beer which was spreading across the bar. I placed my hand on her chin turning her head to look at me. Our eyes locked in a tractor beam gaze that sucked our faces closer and closer together. Before our lips touched, I pulled back, whispering, “I don’t have anything in my nose, do I?” It kind of felt like I had something in nose.

She took a quick look, then grabbed a beverage napkin from the bar, held it up to my nose and said, “Blow.”

I did.

She wiped underneath my nostrils with the expert hand of a pediatrician, flicked the used napkin over her shoulder, and grabbed my head with both hands as she planted a violent kiss square on my lips.

As the beer that had been spilled on the bar began to trickle to the floor like a leaky faucet, our lips were locked in a kiss so passionate, the mariachi band playing that night was blushing. Her hands still gripped the side of my head as I wrapped my arms around her.

Without warning, she released my head and pulled her lips from mine.

Then she slugged me.

She gave me a right-cross to the chin that put me on the floor. I looked up and saw a hazy shadow I assumed to be the girl that had made me see stars both with her kiss and her fist. I wasn’t sure, but I think I was in love.

I was stunned, to say the least.

As I slowly came around I could see she had begun to cry. I was still laying on the ground. I propped myself up onto one elbow and rubbed my chin. The beer that had been trickling from the bar was now dripping onto my head. I pulled myself to my feet with the help of a couple bar stools. The girl leapt at me. I flinched in panic only to have her wrap her arms and legs around me in a solid embrace. She whispered in my ear, “I only hit the one I love.”

I could understand that. Or could I? I wasn’t sure anymore, what with the sore jaw and all. As I stood at the bar with this beautiful stranger wrapped around me like an odd fur coat, I reached to the bar and picked up my beer. I took a pull and downed half the bottle. It was clear to me that this night was just getting started.

“What’s your name, Doll,” I asked the girl.

“I can’t tell you, if I tell you, you’ll kill me,” she replied.

Hardly the response I was expecting, but I accepted it.

“You don’t have a man’s name, do you? I mean, you’re not a man, or were at any time a man, were you?” I inquired.

“No, darling, nothing like that,” she said. I finished the rest of my beer.

I hadn’t even been at the bar for more than 20 minutes and already I’d kissed a strange woman with more fire than a four-alarm blaze, spilled a beer on my head, been clocked in the face by the same girl I’d kissed, and now I stood with that girl attached to me like a cartoon starfish on the face of Bugs Bunny. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, but apparently the sound of her name would make me want to kill her.

Little did I know how right she was. And little did I know just how young the night was.

A Short Story

Just Wanted a Drink

It’s not that I didn’t like to be pelted with garbage, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it that day. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’d lost my wallet, I also managed to lose my sanity. A wallet can be replaced. Credit cards can be canceled. A new library card obtained. But sanity? That’s a little tougher to replace.

It started when I walked into that bar after band practice. I guess I didn’t really feel like going home that day, so I stopped at a bar I’d never noticed before. It was called “The Mirage.” Sure, a blatant slap-in-the-face warning that something wasn’t right, but sometimes people just want to ignore the signs. Especially a guy like me, who doesn’t believe in signs unless they tell me which door to go through if I have to piss.

At first everything was normal. I ordered a bourbon. I sat and drank, lit a cigarette and stared at myself in the mirror behind the bar. Why do they put mirrors behind bars anyway? Is it to make the place look bigger? Or is it so that the bar patron who bellies up can stare at themselves in a drunken stupor while they get lost in their own image. Who is that person? What has that person let themselves become? Why does that person keep staring at me? Stop it! Stop staring!

“Sir,” came a voice from above me, “I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to stop yelling at your reflection in the mirror. You’re scaring the regulars.”

I looked around to see that the place was empty.

“Regulars?” I said. “But there’s no one here.”

“See,” said the bartender. “You scared ‘em away.”

“But wait a second,” a shiver passed through me as I spoke. “I wasn’t even talking out loud.”

“You don’t need to speak out loud to disturb our regulars,” the bartender said as he disappeared into a back room.

Being left alone in the bar made me painfully aware of how quiet it was. I stood to play some music in the jukebox. As I took a step away from my stool, I suddenly became aware that I didn’t have my wallet. I had a little over a buck in change in my front pocket, but I didn’t have anything else. How was I going to pay for this drink, let alone play any music?

Damn. I really wanted to hear some music, too.

I stepped back up to the bar.

“’Scuze me,” I yelled out, hoping the bartender would come back. I assume he had gone to stock some beer or something. But I got no response.

My reflection stared back at me from the behind the bar as I thought about what I should do.

“What are you looking at?” I yelled at the reflection.

I downed the rest of my drink and yelled for the bartender again. No answer. I guess I could just leave. I don’t have any money anyway. Now would be my chance to skate without worrying about it.

The problem was, I really wanted another drink.

I hopped down from my stool again, feeling a little lightheaded as I walked to the end of the bar. The door the bartender had disappeared through was closed. I tried to listen for bottles being shuffled, or cases of beer being moved, but I heard nothing.

I went to the door and opened it.

“Can I help you?” said the man standing there. This was not my bartender.

“Um, I was looking for the bartender,” I said.

The room the man was standing in didn’t belong in a bar. It was small in size, but the ceiling had to be fifty feet in the air. The walls were lined with books. Hundreds of volumes of books. Not one of the books had a name on its spine. There was no way of reaching the books higher up on the shelves. No ladders. No nothing.

“Aren’t we all?” said the man. “Can I interest you in a gas station attendant instead?”

“A what?” I was starting to think that someone was fucking with me. “I don’t think so.”

“In that case, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave,” he said. Then he pushed me. I fell backwards through the doorway and landed flat on my ass. As I looked up the door slammed shut, only to open back up immediately. The bartender stepped out carrying a case of beer and two bottles of spiced rum. Stairs behind him led to a basement.

“Everything alright?” he asked as he stared at me laying on the floor at the end of his bar.

“I think I need another drink,” I said.

“Well, I tend to have a policy against serving drinks to patrons who order while on the ground,” he said with a smile. “But I’ll make an exception.”

“I don’t have money,” I blurted out. “Lost my wallet.”

“I know,” was all he said as he filled my glass. “Now sit down and enjoy your drink. I’ve thrown some credits on the jukebox. Why don’t you play a few songs?”

“Thanks,” was all I could manage. How’d he know I didn’t have any money? How’d he know I lost my wallet? And what the hell was in that room?

I lit another cigarette, not sure if I ever even finished my first one. It tasted like the greatest thing ever. I closed my eyes as the subtle burn of the smoke was sucked down my throat and attacked the tissue of my lungs. I exhaled and watched the smoke linger around my head like a cartoon thought bubble.

Pulling myself from my reverie, I sauntered to the jukebox and played a song. All that came out over the speakers, though, was a woman’s voice. “Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve.”

“Soft serve,” I said. What’s going on here? I turned to the bartender, “I think your jukebox is messed up.”

But the bartender wasn’t there. In fact, the whole bar wasn’t there. I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror that was now behind a row of ice-cream machines. Soft-serve ice cream machines. This wasn’t right.

“Sundae?” said a voice behind me. I nearly jumped out of my skin, and stumbled to get away from the voice. In my haste, I tripped over myself and once again, landed on my ass.

“What?” I said. “Who are you? Where did you come from?”

“I’m Lacy,” she said. “Where I come from isn’t important. What’s important is that you get your sundae. I know how you like hot caramel, strawberries, and Rice Krispies over your ice cream. I’ve got that right here.”

“Actually, I don’t like ice cream at all,” I said.

“LIAR!” screamed the woman. “LIAR!”

And she threw the sundae at me. I closed my eyes waiting for it to hit me square in the face.

Nothing.

I opened my eyes slowly to find myself sitting at the bar. Once again I was looking at myself in the mirror behind the bar. The bartender stood at the other end of the bar, quietly humming as he wiped down some bar glasses.

“I think I’m gonna get going,” I said to him. “Thanks for the drinks.”

“Anytime, partner,” he said to me. “Travel safe.”

“Sorry I can’t pay you,” I said. “I’ll stop in again and make up for it.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said without changing his expression. “Travel safe.”

Not sure what to say, I just nodded, turned and walked out the front door. What a day, I thought to myself. My brain seemed to twinge slightly as the bells attached to the front door chimed. The door slammed behind me as I stared at my feet. I took a deep breath, ready to forget about the last two hours of my life when something slapped me upside the head. A rolled up magazine fell between my feet.

As I looked up, I was greeted by a wall of flying tomatoes, banana peels, crumpled up newspapers, empty soda cans, and all other sorts of garbage. It hit me like a barrage of punches. In the face, stomach, legs, back of the head, every part of my body was stinging as I was assaulted.

I realized then that not only was I not in the mood to be pelted with garbage, but I also didn’t like it very much. I didn’t like it very much at all.

Next – A Written Art Piece

In May of 2004 a group of people from my office organized a company wide art show. Being as we’re in the publishing business and surrounded by scores of talented artists and writers, the chance for all these people to display their talents was just a great, logical idea. The theme of the show was “Rebirth.” It consisted mostly of art pieces, but there were a few of us that submitted writing pieces. I think all the writing was poetry, with the exception of mine, which was this:

Next

He’d been waiting in this line for so long, he wasn’t sure how much longer he could take it. He looked at his watch. Yep. Just as he thought, he’d been in line for 32 days. That explained the beard.

Aquarius Burley was a patient man. But his patience was reaching critical mass. Plus, he wasn’t wearing the right shoes for this. Fortunately, the pain in his legs gave way to numbness. He had to glance down occasionally to make sure his lower extremities were, in fact, still there.

At some point during his wait, Aquarius noticed a floor tile with a crack in it that resembled the western border of the state of California. He was sure there was some sort of significance in this, but he’d be damned if he could figure out what it was. He did find it a little disturbing that he had the time to stare at the floor for so long. But what he found even more disturbing was the fact that he’d actually moved backwards, away from the California crack. What kind of line moves backwards, he wondered.

Aquarius felt his head start to swim. His brain began to feel like it had been squeezed into a tupperware container – one meant for a couple cheese slices, or half a hot dog, but not a brain. Aquarius felt himself withering. He was certain he was near the end.

Just in front of him, a fresh-faced woman said, “You don’t mind if I just jump in front of you do you?�? Aquarius had lost the capacity to speak about seven days ago. In his mind he screamed, “Of course I mind, you self serving trollop!�? But his voice was paralyzed.

The only thing Aquarius could do was stare at the ground. He noticed that someone must’ve spilled some water in front of him, as there was a small puddle at his feet. It was only when the person behind him bumped him that Aquarius realized that the waterfall of drool cascading down his chin was the source of the puddle.

Where was that California coastline?

In a last ditch effort to reclaim himself, Aquarius mustered all the energy he could. He tried to flex his atrophied muscles. He tried to remember a time when he was able-bodied. For his effort, all he got was a soft PPFFFTT. Aquarius’s digestive tract betrayed him, and the trollop in front of him began to regret her decision to jump ahead in line.

The only one of Aquarius’s five senses that still seemed to be functioning was his sight. But then again, maybe that was failing as well, as he could not see anyone in front of him. This must be it, he thought. This must be the end. He’d lived a good life, he thought. Then he remembered the time he got his thumb stuck in that revolving door at that one hotel. That hurt. He tried to avoid those things.

The room began to spin before it started to go dark. He could feel himself slumping to the ground. Suddenly, in the darkness he could see a bright light. He wanted to follow it. It looked so peaceful.

Before he could begin his journey into the unknown, Aquarius Burley heard a voice. It was his salvation speaking. That voice became his strength.

“NEXT!�? the voice bellowed.

Aquarius leapt to his feet. His faculties regained.

“Box of Marlboro Mediums, please,�? he said.

And suddenly, all was right with the world.

The Road Less Traveled Is Closed For Repairs

I was rummaging through some old writing folders and came across this. I’m really not sure why I started writing it. Likewise, I have no idea what to do with it. So I thought I’d just post it here. It’s an interesting piece which I’d enjoy reading some reaction to.

If the Road Less Traveled Is Closed For Repairs

It was sad, really, to think about how little had been accomplished in such a long period of time. She had dreams, sure. But everyone had dreams. She had ambition, too, though. Not everyone had that. But what she didn’t have was direction. No, she had none of that. No one told her what her potential was. No one told her how to go about something.

She didn’t think to ask.

It was sad, really, to think about how much she had sacrificed in such a short period of time. How was it possible to have lost so much? How was it possible to have gained so little? She knew that she’d have a challenge in front of her. She knew that in order to succeed, she’d have to try again.

She didn’t hesitate.

It wasn’t really a question of sadness, it was more a question of madness. She’d been on this path for so long, she forgot what her destination was. She hadn’t even seen a map in ages. Her sense of direction, though historically keen, was disabled. Her only hope was her persistence.

She pressed on.

She was glad, really, that she chose this direction. It would lead her somewhere. Of course, she had long passed her original target. But she didn’t care. Hell, she didn’t even know. She just wanted to see what happened next. And it was what happened next that took away all that she’d wanted.

The road ended.

It didn’t matter, really, that this was the end. The journey was complete. She had gained so much along the way that she didn’t honestly think she could take in much more. All that knowledge to comprehend had left her head in a spin. She didn’t want to travel any further.

She felt relief.

Then it happened, then it clicked. She didn’t know that it would be this easy to understand, to see it, to regain all that she thought she’d lost. She never knew what it meant to be lost until she was found. But even that wasn’t enough. She had to be the one to find herself. She was all that mattered. She was the one. She was the only one.

She stood.

A quick spin, a glance to the sky, and a hearty bellow from that spot in the body that everyone forgets about. Everyone except for her. She’s always known it was there, she just needed a reason to dig down and find it. She just needed a reason to look for a new path. She just needed a reason to ask, to not hesitate, to press on, to find a new path. She just needed a reason to stand up. Now, she needed a reason not to continue.

She had no reason.

It was done. Like the smell of a reupholstered easy chair, she permeated the atmosphere with her multi-colored bursts of beauty. How she was able to project these auras was unclear.

One thing was clear.

She had discovered a new path. It was new hope. It was new ideas. It was new scenery. It was all new. And new was good. New was so very good that it almost made her laugh out loud. How would she express what she’s feeling right now to those who would never understand where she had been? That didn’t matter. It wasn’t important to express it to others. All that was important was that she knew where she had been. And all that was important after that came down to one thing.

She would never give up.