“All we do is sleep, and eat and lay around and make love. We’re like slugs. Slug-love, I call it.”
― Charles Bukowski, Women
Slug On My Stoop
There was a slug on my stoop
tonight there on the concrete as I walked to the car to drive to the club for some exercise.
Moving slowly in the Yellow porch light.
Some don’t like slugs but I don’t mind, mind their little heads lookin’ around for what? slugs don’t think about creativity the nature of art but I don’t mind slugs eyes on posts slug body soft undulate brown spotted
I think it is too cold too late for slugs
It was late and dark I spent too much time today lying on the couch resting, thinking, dreaming, the deadly black control remote in my hand the death of life, of thought.
Slugs like summer wet hot not cold rough concrete October stoop they like eating children’s lettuce going Duh Duh Duh
The little head eyes on poles what does it dream? of summer? Warm and wet? Children’s lettuce? I dream of wind waving cream colored fabric dappled sunlight dabs of sun dabs of green a dropping away a flower unfolding and blooming before me a lake through mesh gold minted coins
“Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?”
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
“Craig, there’s a bunch of kids with bikes on the front lawn calling for you.”
“Ok, Mom. I’ll go out the garage door.”
“I don’t know why they don’t come in. Why do they just stand there and yell. Now, don’t stay out too late, I’m cooking dinner.”
“Yes, Mom. OK, Mom.”
Craig went out through the kitchen and the door to the garage. He lifted up the heavy door and pushed his Sears Spaceliner bicycle out through the opening onto the apron, then turned and pulled the door down behind him.
“Hurry up slowpokes!” Bill Bradbury yelled out. “Let’s get going. They’re spraying for mosquitoes!” Spread out below him along the street were a half-dozen kids on bicycles, waiting for him. They all had spider bikes in a rainbow of colors with tiny wheels and big curved banana seats. The best bike was Bill Bradbury’s – a bright purple spider with sparkly metallic flakes embedded in the plastic of the seat and, best of all, a round car-style steering wheel instead of the usual high rise bars.
Craig hated his bike and wanted one of those spiders so bad. His dad had taken him to the big Sears store downtown and insisted on the gigantic, heavy Spaceliner. After only a few months the chrome was starting to rust, the paint starting to peel and the plastic buttons on the big dashboard that controlled the horn and built-in lights were broken and hanging out. Worst of all, the bike was way too big for him.
“Let’s get one plenty big, so you can grow into it and it’ll last a while,” his dad had said.
He had to push it to get it going, at least rolling down the slope from the garage to the street helped. After the wheels were turning fast enough, Craig had to climb up the side of the bike like it was a fence or something and haul himself over the top bar and onto the seat. Even then, at the bottom of each pedal stroke, the big, heavy pedals disappeared from under his PF Flyers and he’d have to fish for them as they came around and back up.
The thing was a heavy steel beast and hard as hell to pump up a hill but at least once it got going it was hard to stop and he tore through the gang of kids who whipped around on their little, light bikes to get going and catch up to him.
“Come on!” yelled Bill Bradbury as he passed Craig, standing and pumping furiously, hands gripping tight on the steering wheel (the thing looked cool but was a bitch to control, Craig knew), “The sprayer is this way!”
After a couple of blocks they heard the distinctive putt-putt-putt of the bug sprayer and then, around a corner, there it was. The City handyman, Stan Pencil, was driving a little Ford tractor down the street pulling the sprayer in a trailer behind. There was a small diesel motor on the trailer and a big tank full of chemicals feeding into the hot exhaust – leaving a thick blue cloud of oily smoke pouring out backward. This cloud spread out and drifted across the yards and driveways where is, supposedly, killed off all the disease carrying mosquitoes that were starting to swarm in the summer evenings. With a chorus of loud yells and whoops the kids swung into the street, riding right up behind the trailer into the thickest cloud of smoke.
“Dee Dee Tee Baby!” yelled Bill Bradbury as he stood on the pedals and sucked in as much as he could. “It smells so gooood!”
Craig couldn’t loop around like the others because of his huge bike, but he could keep up and ride in the smoke for a block or so before he’d have to peel off and come around again. He loved the smell of the smoke just like the others. Chasing after Stan Pencil, The Mosquito Man was the best thing in the summer evenings, especially after spending the day at the City Pool.
“Love this stuff!” Bill Bradbury was still yelling. “Breathe it deep enough and you’ll get drunk!”
“Hey! You kids! Get outta there! You’ll kill yourselves. Nobody can see you in all that smoke!”
Mrs. Cunningham was out on her front porch yelling. She was always out there yelling. Craig looked over at her red face above the handkerchief she held over her mouth. The kids all laughed.
“Listen to me! To hell with you! All of you!” Mrs. Cunningham was really working herself up into a lather this time. Craig thought about splitting off and riding home, but he knew he had a little time before dinner, so he kept going.
He made it home in time for dinner, but just barely. After he wheeled his bike back into the garage and washed his hands and face, his mother was peeling the foil off his dinner. He was happy, it was his favorite – two pieces of fried chicken in the big compartment, peas, carrots, and corn on one one side, mashed potatoes on the other and some apple cobbler at the bottom for dessert. His little sister had a smaller, kid’s dinner with spaghetti and meat balls and his Mother had turkey. His father held his fork over a bigger foil rectangle – one of the Hungry Man’s Dinners. It had two oval grayish Salisbury Steaks swimming in a dark brown sea of gravy.
Craig’s father attacked the steaks like he was starving. He always ate that way. He said it was because he grew up on a farm with lots of hands and if you didn’t eat fast, “You didn’t eat enough.” Craig was only half finished, with still a chicken leg, a couple spoonsfull of potatoes and his dessert to go when his father pushed the empty foil rectangle away, lit a cigarette, and started to tap the ashes off into the remains of his dinner after each satisfied puff. He burned the cigarette down to a butt without stopping and stabbed out the hot end into his dinner. Then he lit another.
His mother was still eating, but when her husband lit his cigarette, so did she. She would puff, take a bite, then puff again. She used a little ceramic ashtray that Craig had made for her as a summer camp.
“Connie Cunningham called over here this evening,” she said and then looked at Craig with a raised eyebrow. He knew better than to answer, and stalled by putting a bit of cobbler into his mouth.
“She said all you boys were following the mosquito sprayer on your bikes again.”
Craig shrugged a shoulder.
“Don’t talk back to your mother!” his dad said, as he crushed his second cigarette and lit a third. Craig thought about retorting, “I didn’t talk back, I didn’t say anything!” but knew better. “She says that you follow too close and that the cars can’t see you in the smoke. She was pretty upset.”
“Now, I don’t want you doing that any more, you hear me,” his father added.
Craig glared at his little sister who was smirking at him.
“Ok, Ok. Now can I be excused?”
“Yes, take out the trash, please, and then go up to do your homework.”
Out by the alley with the trash bags Craig had to swat a half-dozen mosquitoes off his arm.
“Damn thing doesn’t even work,” he said as he trudged back inside.
“From the outer edge of his life, looking back, there was only one remorse, and that was only that he wished to go on living.”
― Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man
The Illustrated Woman
After work Craig drove off to the club to work out.
He didn’t exercise as an excuse to watch other people. He was serious about improving his fitness, he was working hard. But the first part of his program was to do a half hour on the stepper. There wasn’t much to do for thirty minutes except look around at the other folks working out.
He tried to do the stepper right. He would stand as upright as possible, keeping his weight on his feet, using his hands only for balance. A couple machines down some guy was flopped over forwards, resting his chest on the control panel, his arms on the handles. His entire weight was supported there, his blue spandex-covered butt stuck up in the back. Craig knew he didn’t get any real exercise that way and it must be killing his back.
In front of the steppers, past the always-busy treadmills was a warm-up area, where people do their stretching. This club was a serious place, not a lot of socializing, and although there is a wide variety of customers, a lot of serious bodybuilders hung out there.
Craig couldn’t help but notice one woman on the mat bending herself around, stretching. Tall and thin, almost gaunt, wearing wire-rim glasses and medium length blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore white shorts, a gray athletic bra-top, black workout shoes and weightlifting gloves. She must have had some Yoga training, those were serious stretches. She stood, feet far apart, and keeping her torso and legs straight and locked bent over and touched her cheek to the inside of each calf. Then she rolled around and tapped the back of her head on the padded floor between her feet.
What caught Craig’s eye wasn’t only her extraordinary flexibility, it was her tattoo. Not a small, ordinary tattoo, but a big design. She was illustrated. The illustration was a vine, he guessed a climbing wild rose. He could make out red blossoms and maybe even thorns among the thick green leaves. It started as a spiral tendril between her breasts and grew into an arc over her left shoulder. It continued down her back in undulating curves and finally ended… well,Craig couldn’t really tell exactly where it ended.
He was not a big fan of tattoos, but he liked this one. It looked like a real part of her, not some odd design picked out in a drunken haze and buzzed in on an ankle in a whim. Jeez, though, that must have hurt. A good two or three square feet of skin under that electric needle.
He finished his time on the stepper and walked some laps to cool down before he started working on the weight machines. Down on one end of the club was the free weight area where the serious bodybuilders worked. One woman was sitting, doing concentration curls with a dumbbell. The biceps on her arm literally popped out like a hank of thick cords, you could almost see every muscle strand. She was like a sculptor in flesh. The sculptor and the sculpture too. Slow carving with sweat and plates of steel.
For the most part, the men down there had unmarked skin. He had never noticed before that all the women had large complex tattoos. Abstract patterns across their bellies. One had a tiger looking out of its lair drawn across her shoulder blades.
He thought back to something he heard on TV as a child, during the Olympics, Craig thought about it and decided it was the 1968 games in Mexico City. The announcer was talking about the East German women’s swimming team. She said something like, “The Communist Bloc girls have a big advantage over the American women because they have a weight lifting program. American women won’t lift weights because they are afraid they will look too manly .”
Thirty years ago before then… over half a century has passed now. A lot of water under the bridge. It’s odd that he remembered that from so long ago; he had no idea why it made such an impression. Things have changed a bit since then, though, haven’t they?
For weeks, at work, Craig was seized with an odd obsession. He thought constantly about sneaking away in the afternoon and seeing a movie. It had been unbelievably hot – though it was a typical summer. Thirty-plus days in a row of triple digit temperatures. Coming up on two months without a drop of rain. This day after day of baking was affecting Craig’s brain – broiling his thoughts.
He thought of the multiplex down the street from his work. He thought of the cool darkness. The isolation and peaceful quiet, interrupted only by the cacophony of the film soundtrack itself. The crankle of ice cubes in a big paper cup, the swoosh of a straw, the smell of popcorn.
He dreamed of the time when he could lean back and close his eyes and feel the cushioned seat that jiggles a little, modern stadium seating, plenty of legroom. A modern bastion of entertainment, a pantheon to air conditioning. Cool whispers, dust filters. His fingers would feel the little paper stub in a pocket, a ticket to ride, escape.
It didn’t matter what the feature is… as a matter of fact, the more banal, the better. Some teen comedy maybe, or modern special effects smash hit mindless electric drivel. Escapism, is what they call it.
In his imagination he tells the girl at the front desk of the office, “I have an off site afternoon meeting,” and strolls out to the parking lot. It is only a five minute drive to the gigaplex; He sees himself locking his cellphone in the glove box of his car. The ticket seller, the ticket ripper, the concession slogger are all bored, the afternoon weekday crowd is light.
The worn carpet, the signs over the doors, the posters (coming soon)… He could see it all when he closed his eyes.
He didn’t do it though… He couldn’t do it. He worked in a factory, He was a critical cog in the machine. The oiled parts, hot and constantly moving, never know when his attention is needed.
So he took a hurried lunch, drove past the theater on his way back. The best he could do is to lean back a little between phone calls or emails, when nobody was standing in front of his desk with some question.
Lean back and close his eyes, try to smell the popcorn, hear the roar of the coming attractions.
“Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” ― Clint Eastwood
Craig went back to work today. On the drive home, he thought, ” Hectic day, plenty ‘o stress. Quiet panic, nothing big, little things. Hey! Hey! it’s about to be a new year! All that’ll change, Right? Yeah, and monkeys will fly out of my butt.”
When he made it home his wife had broken out the overhead light panel in the kitchen. So it was off to Home Depot for him, mister home repair handyman dude. As he left the house in the minvan it looked hazy, some ground fog, very humid. It happened as he was driving, supersaturated air, more water vapor than it can hold, gas wanting to condense to liquid, giving up the day’s solar heat, the sun gone, over past the west coast, traveling across the Pacific. Polluted urban air, dust particles, stirred up by car tires, car exhaust (“I’ll get it tuned up next week”) jagged microscopic particles of carbon, every facet a condensation seed, a point for the liquid water crystals to begin forming, the molecules to line up along the surface. Oxygen, each with its hydrogen couplet, randomly spinning, vibrating, doin’ the Brownian jig, not enough energy to stay aloft, random movements bring the trio alongside the dust mote where millions of millions (Avogrado’s number is really fuckin’ big ya know) of its twin brothers now sit, lined up. He joins the line, relieved to be out of the air, safety in numbers, condensation, droplets, driplits, lets see where y’all feel like goin’, hitch a ride on a mote. This dance, this lining up, bringing into focus, making a little sphere, a little lens, refraction machine, forming of millions of millions, is itself repeated millions of millions of times across the city, plenty of dust to go around, no shortage of seeds so. WHAM!
Fog so thick you could cut it with a knife. Pea soup. Clouds on the ground at night, no white fluffy furry “hey it looks like Zanzibar” cloud this, but clingy hot and yet cold, “who selected the blend tool?” green blinding scary fog-cloud. It’s a big electric Texas city so the cloud glows from within. The fog captures oncoming cars, streetlights, leftover Christmas displays, store neons, RedGreenYellow traffic indicators, all give their light to the fog. The fog gives it back as a glow, as a hint, “There’s something there, but damn it if I can tell what it is” luminescence in the distance – actually not the distance, a lot closer than is comfortable. Car lights are tungsten white, Town East Mall Lights glow mercury vapor blue or sodium yellow, Christmas lights are -well you know what color they are.
Craig drove slow, careful, of course this is Texas so everyone else is driving like bats out of hell – who are these people? why are they always in such a hurry? there’s nowhere to go nowhere to hide a good song on the radio so why not take your time, slow down and smell the diesel exhaust. Craig wouldn’t mind if a few took the whole pipe in for awhile, they scared the shit out of him. Someone even creeped out into the foggy intersection… maybe to get a better look at an oncoming pickup before they get smacked on the passenger side door.
But Craig got there all right, picked out his transcucent panel, he had a small piece of the broken one in his pocket so he was sure that the new one matched. Home Depot at night, a guy in front of him was buying an entire cart of broken odds and ends of wood, no piece whole, no piece straight, they gave him a good deal on it, he also buys four tubes of caulk. His hands were covered with white dust, cement or wallboard-sandings maybe, so Craig figured he must know what he’s doing.
When Craig left the Depot, the fog was even thicker. He crept home, put up the panel. When they built the kitchen they made the light fixture a tiny bit too big so the panels barely fit in the frame. Every now and then one pop’s out. Craig thought, “Maybe I’ll add it to my things-to-do-list somehow shim the damn thing so they don’t fall. Maybe I’ll use duct tape, hoo boy, that’ll piss her off. Duct tape on the ceiling, might as well put a big sign out front – –White Trash, come on in, eat some Ding Dongs, we buy Mrs. Baird’s Pecan fried pies and to heat ’em we fry ’em again . Wash it down with Mountain Doo if yure under age, or Meister Brau if yure old enough, or some peppermint schnapps if yure cold and yure heart needs some healin’. Never mind the cars in the yard, they don’t run anyway, have a sit in the ARVEE out back – put a tape in the boombox we got both kinds – country and western. We’ll play some Yatzee and then UNO when we get too drunk to roll dice. Then it’s movie time, we got Rambo, we got Anyway but Loose (love that Orangutan), but that’s it, hard to get them Beta tapes nowadays.– – On second thought better put the duct tape away and cut some wooden pieces, finish them up real nice.”
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” ― Rumi
The Zen of the Washateria
Craig always struggled with the door to the laundromat – holding the basket and pile of hangers while he pulled the door was tough. He knew most of the other customers of the “Wash It Proudly” washateria walked in and pushed the metal cart out to their cars, but he never did that – he didn’t think his weekly washing was enough. But once he was inside and the familiar heat, humidity, and Mexican radio pouring out of the speakers washed over him, he grabbed one of the metal carts with the high bar for hangers. How every one of them could have a wonky wheel was something he never could understand, but he had mastered the technique of using the bar risers as handles and pushing the cart to the washer he wanted.
There were three dollar washers, bigger four dollar washers, and giant nine-fifty washers – used by professional clothes washers and folks with giant families. His load looked a tiny bit bigger than usual, but he had only been able to scrounge up twelve quarters at home so he had to cram it in a three dollar washer. Who used quarters anymore? All week he kept an eye out for spare change – looking in the return slots of vending machines, paying with cash, calculating the change so he would get quarters. Clerks always looked at him strange when he would give them two dimes and a nickel and ask for a quarter – but it was what it was. There were some change machines down at the end, and a few of the washers took credit cards… but this felt like cheating to Craig.
All the women at the laundromat were carefully sorting their wash – whites, cottons, synthetics… but this was too confusing to Craig. He threw it all in and pushed cold. Simple. Who cared if his gym socks weren’t the whitest in the world. Polo shirts and jeans – they were easy to wash and never needed to be ironed. The washer did its work quickly – a digital timer counted down.
The giant dryers were all free. A big sign said “IF YOU DIDN’T WASH IT HERE, YOU CAN’T DRY IT HERE.” It took a half hour to dry, which gave Craig time to watch the other customers go about their routines or to simply stare hypnotized at the rows of rotating drums full of colorful tumbling clothing. When his load was dry he hung up his shirts and pants on the overhead bar and tossed the rest in the basket. The door opened outward so it was easier to go out with the basket than it was to get in.
Craig always parked his BMW Series 7 Sedan around the corner from the “Wash It Proudly.” It was a bit of a walk past all the faded worn out cars of the other patrons, but he didn’t want to be judged by his expensive ride. The basket went into the back and he used the hooks on both sides to hang his shirts and pants. He was more solemn on the drive home than he was in the trip to the laundromat – he was a bit sad – in many ways this trip was the high point of his week. He always dreaded the last bit of the trip up the long driveway across the front acreage of his estate. He tensed as he saw Maria in her trim uniform standing outside the front portico – waiting for him.
“Mister Vandermeer, why do you do this?” she scolded him as he climbed out of the BMW. “You know that is my job!”
“I know Maria… it’s just… it’s just… Well I can’t explain it. I want to do my own laundry.”
“But sir, we have a large laundry room here. It’s as good as any commercial laundry.”
“I know Maria.”
She pulled out the hangers from the car and handed the bundles to two other housekeepers that suddenly appeared. Maria then hauled out the basket herself.
“Mister Vandermeer! You didn’t even sort your laundry. I’ll bet you didn’t even use bleach or hot water on the whites!”
“Maria, I think my clothes last longer if I wash them in cold.”
“Last longer? You should throw these away. You should always wear new clothes.”
Maria turned, spun and went into the house carrying the basket. Craig Vandermeer followed inside, then turned into the media room on the right. There was a heavy glass, a container full of large custom ice cubes, and a two hundred dollar bottle of single malt Scotch sitting on the counter, waiting for him.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he said and poured himself a drink.
“A little muzhik was working on the railroad, mumbling in his beard.
And the candle by which she had read the book that was filled with fears, with deceptions, with anguish, and with evil, flared up with greater brightness than she had ever known, revealing to her all that before was in darkness, then flickered, grew faint, and went out forever.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
the wind bottle
The candle wax drips down the wine bottle wine and spaghetti fuel lighted matches spent, still smoke on the tabletop
The smell Grandma and her doilies light and fire hot “Watch the kid burn himself“
I blow and watch the smoke the darkness stringing streaming out
“You love me. You ignore me. You save my life, then you cook my mother into soap.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Complex salts and surfactants change the surface tension make the water smoother One end loves water the other oil The molecules line up, sticking one end in the other out. billions and billions in line to make one tiny bubble one unit of foam.
I know too much that there isn’t much difference a chain here a conjugated double bond a COOH group there between lilac (bath soap) and the stench of death
“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
War of the Carpet
There is a war occurring on the carpet tonight. An army of Batmans and Gargoyles are advancing from their living room headquarters around the shelving unit and down the hall. Opposing this formidable armed force is an equally menacing horde of Spidermans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Their base is the guest bathroom which they have fortified with overturned plastic tubs, their former abodes. The generals of the two forces are two giants, each hundreds of feet tall in the measurement of these miniature fighters. The two deadly opponents, brothers, provide the strategy, tactics, rules of engagement, motive force, and most important, sound effects. Their parent assumes the role of Florence Nightingale, because every couple of minutes they are brought some wounded soldier whose missing part must be reattached.
The vehicles of these battling hordes are a motley collection. Eighteen wheelers, plastic airplanes, horses, cows, dinosaurs, conveyances of all ages, and of unmatched scales. Even a little space shuttle does its wartime duty. The generals are now calling for the “Secret Weapons” – yelling and running as the big guns are brought out of their hiding places under the couch and behind the toilet. The Batmobile advances toward the Gotterdammerung occurring in the hallway as a model police car leaves the bathroom, some sort of CHIP chip inside is yelling “Call 911” as the miniature siren wails and the LED’s flash.
“Time for SECRET WEAPON NUMBER TWO” comes the new call. Two more giant plastic tubs are overturned revealing two plastic F-14’s – one for each army, one red, one blue. The slaughter is witnessed by a giant dog, who sits in the corner with his slobbery tennis ball, forlornly staring at the generals, trying to get them to play fetch with him (don’t feel bad for the dog, the generals played with him for half an hour earlier, he’d play fetch 24 hours a day if he could).
Suddenly, a break in the carnage! The generals negotiate a sudden truce. After a bribe of bagels and chocolate milk the warriors retire to watch television.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we stayed this way. All we would have to do in Ukraine is send over some Hershey’s and the newest Disney release.