Archive for the ‘Bad Prose’ Category
I’ll never forget finding it there on the barn floor. It wasn’t but a month old, so young that you couldn’t hear it scream unless you held it up close to your ear. I guess you could call it a scream. It took me a little while to figure out why it couldn’t move. How did it get up there? I guess they don’t always land on their feet when they are that small. That tiny. I didn’t get help right away, I just stared in its panicky little eyes and soaked it in my tears like I was doing it a favor. I wanted it to see me mourn, to know that someone cared I guess. I wanted to connect. I wanted to love it, but felt guilty because I couldn’t figure out how to make myself. I didnt understand why we couldn’t help, why he never even tried. Straight for the shovel. Just like that. The first one didn’t work, I could see a little piece of its brain and its screams became audible even from a few feet away. So did my weeping. He looked at me, expressionless, but I knew what he was thinking. I felt guilty again. The second one did the trick. No more screams. One scoop was all it took to make the hole. We went inside and made grilled cheese and I watched the Rocky movie that had Mr. T in it and cried ocassionaly until I fell asleep.
I ran over an armadillo on accident last week. The girl I was with put her hands over her mouth and shrieked. I made a joke about armadillo heaven to calm her down and she giggled a little. I wish I liked her more.
As Nurse Keyes opened the door, Tom quickly hopped back onto the examination table.
“Your mother is on her way,” Nurse Keys said.
Tom forced himself to cough so hard he lost his breath.
“Poor thing,” Nurse Keyes sighed, “This blizzard is getting everyone sick.”
Tom watched as she walked out of the room, shutting the door behind her. After waiting for a moment, he hopped off the table. He crouched down and grabbed the heating pad he had hid a few moments earlier. He brought it to his forehead and quickly worked it around his face, all the while keeping his eyes locked on the door.
The heating pad belonged to Tom’s father, who used it on his shoulders after getting off his shift at the warehouse. Sometimes late at night, Tom would sneak out of bed and hide in the shadows by the staircase. He’d watch his father sit crouched in the fluorescent light of the refrigerator, drinking Budweiser and rotating the heating pad around his shoulders. Sometimes when Tom woke up in the morning, he’d find his father asleep at the kitchen table, surrounded by empty bottles, the heating pad resting on the back of his neck.
Tom stuffed the heating pad into his backpack. He sat back on the examination table, looking at the laminated posters of gorillas and spaceships hanging on the beige walls. He wondered if all the other chumps in Mrs. Driskell’s class were still taking that math test. Tom reclined back on the table, thinking about what movies he’d watch when he got home.
Muffled voices bounced off the other side of the wall, followed by footsteps. The door opened and Tom heard Nurse Keyes saying, “He’s right in here.”
Tom’s father stepped into the room. He was wearing his charcoal grey work uniform. An unexpected chill ran through Tom. He had never seen his father wearing his uniform by daylight. He felt like he didn’t know the man standing in front of him.
Tom meant to ask him why he wasn’t at work, but it came out as, “Where’s mom?”
His father looked him up and down, his face stoic. Then he crossed the room and grabbed Tom’s backpack and said, “Let’s go.”
Sitting in the backseat of his father’s Buick, Tom rubbed away the frost from the window. Had his father discovered that the heating pad was missing? Was he in trouble? Tom tried to focus on the rumble of the old engine and the snow crunching beneath the tires. He didn’t ask about the red suitcase with the broken handle that was sitting next to him.
“So you’re sick?” Tom’s father asked, his white knuckles grasping the steering wheel. “You don’t look sick.”
“Nurse Keyes said I have the flu,” Tom said.
His father’s eyes darted in the rear view mirror, looking at Tom as he pulled the Buick into their snow-lined driveway. He threw the Buick into park and stepped out, keeping the keys in the ignition. The idling engine continued to rumble.
Tom got out of the car, following behind his father to their back door. He noticed that their garage door was open, and a man he had never seen before was sitting there, shivering on a fold old lawn chair. He wore a tweed blazer with no shirt on underneath. A dark circle covered his left eye. When he saw Tom’s father approaching, he stood up.
“You,” Tom’s father said, pointing at the man in the garage, “You stay put.”
The man raised his hands up, taking a step back. He looked at Tom for a moment, and then looked away.
Tom walked through the backdoor into the kitchen, where his mother was crying at the kitchen table. She walked over and hugged him, letting him know that there was hot tea and Advil waiting for him in his bedroom. Tom’s father hovered above the kitchen sink, his back to them.
When Tom got to his bedroom, he closed his door and threw his backpack onto the floor. He could hear his mother and father downstairs, their voices growing fiercer with every passing moment. A glass broke. A chair screeched across the kitchen floor. A door slammed. They knew that he had taken the heating pad. They knew that he wasn’t sick.
Tom crept over to his bedroom window. Squinting past the blinding white of the snow, he saw his mother talking with the man in the garage. She was still crying, and she touched the man’s left eye. He pulled away from her.
Tom got into his bed and pulled the covers up past his head. He curled his body up, trying to make himself as small as possible. He wished he that he was back at school, sitting in Mrs. Driskell’s class and taking that math test. From downstairs, Tom could hear his father screaming.
Around the time of his eighteenth birthday, he gave up on trying to figure out the universe. Space was too big for him to wrap his head around. He didn’t understand the science behind black holes, the mathematics behind relativity, or the physics of multi-verses. What he did understand was how much money he had in his bank account, and how many hours he’d have to work at Franklin’s Paint Shop before he could afford a down payment on that Honda CB750 parked on the front lawn of the Lipka’s place. He understood that God would forgive his sins, and how many unchecked boxes were left on the refrigerator calendar before he shipped off to basic training.
While his friends took long trips to distant mountains and gathered around bonfires to recite the latest cosmic musings from last week’s scientific journal, he thought about kissing pretty girls and running his fingers through Montana wheatgrass.
He liked the way that bourbon burned his throat, and how Chrissy McClyde looked in her smock when they were in art class. He liked the way that his grandma’s house smelled on Sunday afternoons, and the way that “Kind Woman” by Buffalo Springfield sounded after he’d smoked a joint. He could feel these moments. They occurred and expired right before him. These moments were tangible and earthly and corporeal and they were his to ponder and decipher.
Sometimes his friends would rag on him, and they’d say, “Who cares about Chrissy McClyde or the smell of your grandmas house? What about your place in the universe, man?” And he didn’t know what to say, because he didn’t know his place in the universe.
He knew that he didn’t want to be sad, and that he didn’t want to die alone. He knew that everyone who was older than him told him to enjoy it while it lasts, but never told him what “it” was. He often felt guilty that he didn’t understand space the way that his friends did. Maybe they had it all figured out. They knew that it took a photon 170,000 years to travel from the core of the sun to the surface, and that the furthest galaxies are spreading away from us at more than 90% of the speed of light.
Around the time of his fortieth birthday, he gave up on trying to figure out why his wife left him. He didn’t understand why his daughter wore such heavy eye shadow, or how his credit had gotten so bad. And on some ancient desert nights he’d stand eclipsed in the fluorescent light of his trailer, looking up at all the stars that had burnt out thousands of years ago. He remembered his friends from back home telling him that every atom in his body was a billion years old. And while he understood this, he also understood that atoms are mostly made up of empty space.
His body jolted from sleep, fragments of dreams dissolving all around him. As his vision came into focus he could make out her arthritic hand reaching across him, pointing out the rectangular window. “Right down there,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he said, clearing his throat.
She pointed out the window again, saying, “I was telling you that’s where I live. Right down there – little town called Clover. That’s where I live.”
He nodded his head, looking out the window through buttered popcorn clouds, gazing down at the brown and tan squares below, silent and still.
“Got a two and a half hour drive ahead of me tonight from the airport, can you believe that?” she continued, shifting in her seat, “Course I could have flown into Cincinnati – it’s much closer to Clover. But it’s so much cheaper to fly into Columbus.”
She reached into her floral print purse and pulled out a wallet-sized photo of a young girl with blonde pigtails and buckteeth.
“This is my Lizzy May. She’s my granddaughter. She Lives in Clover too. I picked up some souvenirs for her at the airport in Vegas. Nothing fancy – just a magnet with her name on it and some sunglasses, but I’ll have to wait to give them to her till tomorrow. Suppose by the time I get back tonight she’ll already be asleep. Oh well, price you pay by flying into Columbus, am I right?”
She chuckled to herself and sat back in her seat. He looked at the tray table in front of him, littered with tiny plastic bottles of Bombay.
For a few moments they sat in silence, the sound of recycled air swirling around them, occasionally interrupted by muffled coughs that ping-ponged around the cabin. He checked his phone, scrolling through a text conversation with his dad about his last AA meeting. Re-reading it, he felt ashamed that he wasn’t more honest.
“You know,” she whispered, as if to not disturb him, “Las Vegas sure ain’t the same without my Teddy. We use to go on this trip every year together. Teddy loved blackjack. He once won $2500 at The Bellagio – can you believe that? Course after he passed I had a hard time taking the trip on my own. But that was years and years ago – way before little Lizzy was born. I’m much better now. Hell, sometimes I go to Vegas two – three times a year!”
She smoothed out her tan slacks and smiled. “Sometimes I wish Lizzy could’ve met her grandpa. Teddy was such a wonderful man.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said.
“Oh please, honey,” she exclaimed, “It was eons and eons ago…funny thing, getting old. You don’t start to realize it till you start realizing everything that you’ve let go. Letting go of things that use to be so important to you, people and places that you use to care about. You don’t even realize it, but you start letting them all go. But you have to I guess. If you held onto everything and everyone life would hurt too bad.”
The plane landed in Columbus fifteen minutes early. He followed the old lady out to the arrival gate, watching her wander around and squint at the signs and monitors around her. He felt like he should help her – to point her in the direction of Clover, Ohio, wherever that may be – but before he got to her she turned a corner and was swept away into a crowd of briefcases, screaming children, and bustling overcoats.
His sister picked him up from the airport. She looked much older than the last time her saw her, but he told her, “You look great.” She could smell the alcohol on his breath, but didn’t say anything.
“We’re only a few minutes from the hotel, and the funeral home is right next store,” she said, throwing his suitcase into the trunk. “Mom wants us to be ready to go in the lobby by 8am.”
A few minutes later they were in the Days Inn parking lot, and his sister was crying and saying she wished she could have done more. He told her that she did all she could and that everything was going to be okay, even though he knew that was a lie.
When he went to bed that night he thought of the little old lady from Clover. On the stained stucco ceiling of his hotel room, he envisioned a mosaic of her driving down a desolate highway in a rented sedan, all by herself. He hoped she got home okay. Nothing else in the world mattered more to him.
Standing in the lobby, he wondered what the hell he was doing. He felt ridiculous. Embarrassed. How did things get so bad?
He could never tell his family about this. Or his friends for that matter. What would they say if they saw him here – wearing a cheap suit in a cheap hotel, soaking wet and twirling his wedding ring around his sweaty palms.
He could see her from where he stood. She was sitting alone at a round cocktail table, framed by the oak door that lead to the hotel bar. He thought she looked pretty, thoughtlessly stirring a red straw around the edge of her cocktail glass. The feeling of discomfiture that overcastted his thoughts suddenly faded. Without realizing it, he had already passed through the bar door, walking towards her.
She looked up at him as he arrived at the table. Up close, he could see that she had put a considerable amount of time sculpting herself for the evening: meticulously applied rouge to highlight her narrow cheekbones, dark charcoal eye shadow – soft and bridal. Her skin was translucent, her lips the shade of strawberries. Realizing that he had already been standing above her in lumbering silence for quite some time, he said the first thing that came to him: “Hello.”
“Hello,” she said, her voice soft and cool, with a hint of a European accent he couldn’t quite place.
“My name is Michael.”
“Nice to meet you Michael,” she said, extending a manicured hand, “I’m Sofia. Please, sit down. Did you forget your umbrella at home?”
He ordered her a drink, surprised when she requested Stoli on the rocks with extra olives. He watched her lips move as she told him about herself (grew up in Denmark, favorite actor is John Wayne, avid swimmer, never got her drivers license). As she spoke, he couldn’t help but let his thoughts travel far away to someplace darker – someplace deprecating.
He began to recognize his distaste for himself, for her, for the hotel, and for everything that had lead the both of them to this fraudulent moment. He ordered them another round of drinks.
After all the chairs had been stacked up on the tables around him, he asked her, “Would you like to come up to my room?” She nodded.
A part of him wished that she had said no – that this whole thing could have ended right then and there. He was drunk, tired, and didn’t have the energy to continue this charade.
It was in the elevator when he asked, “When did you start drinking Stoli on the rocks?”
After a few brief moments of silence, she began sobbing uncontrollably. He turned to look at her, mascara running down her cheeks, pressed up against the elevator mirror.
“I’m sorry, Kate,” he said as the elevator doors opened.
“It’s Sofia, not Kate,” she whimpered, walking past him and down the hallway.
He debated whether or not he should stay in the elevator, letting the doors close around him, watching her walk away. He stepped out and followed behind her.
“You know, you could have at least tried,” she said in her thick Southern accent, pacing towards the room at the end of the hall, “You didn’t even take off your ring.”
She opened the door to the room, silhouetted by pink and green neon lights filtering in through the open window. It was still raining outside.
He closed the door behind him as she threw herself down on the bed.
“Kate, I’m sorry. It just didn’t feel right to me. The whole thing didn’t feel-“
“It wasn’t suppose to feel right,” she said, gazing out the glowing neon window, “It was suppose to feel new. It was suppose to feel exciting, like how it was when we first met.”
He stood there silently looking down at the carpet, his hands in his pockets. “It’s over, isn’t it, Will?” she said, looking up at him.
Their eyes locked in a moment of earnestness that neither had felt in years. He wanted to embrace her, but was unable to find the strength to do so.
Even before what happened, everybody knew that they were evil girls. Weird girls. They never washed their hair people said and they always wore the same thing and they smelled like wet paper. Corby Fletcher said he saw Sadie once at four in the morning on the football field lighting candles naked and touching herself on the fifty yard line. They used to cut their wrists I heard. And worship the devil. Once in gym class, Francine bled in the pool and they had to close it down for a week.
My brother was a great man — a brave man and he went to high school with those girls. He said he smiled at them in the hallway because he felt sorry for them and didn’t think that they were so bad. He said one of them was even pretty and that once she had passed him a flirtatious note in study hall but that he got nervous and didn’t respond and the next day she ignored him in the hall and that was that. He said things like that happened in high school all the time and that when I was older I’d understand.
People called them the devils or the spooks or the weirdos but my brother never did.
They killed 18 people and wrote fuck on the lockers with blood and then put three bullets in their heads. Bang bang bang. Someone wrote a song about in the eighties and it was a hit. They made a movie about them too but it was a cheesy one with bad stuff and corny dialogue. It was called Teen-Age Sacrifice. It played on Lifetime. Phoebe Cates was Sadie and Mia Sara was Piper and Claudia Wells was Francine. My brother was played by Judd Nelson. In the scene where he dies, my mom cried. I remember. She said Mr. Nelson got Phil down perfect. So handsome, she said. Sometimes in my memories of Phil, I see Judd Nelson. There are only a few thing that I remember, but they are all warm and good things.
There’s a plaque up at the school now. It has all 21 names — including the killers. This was controversial at the time, but now I see it’s only fair. They were just poor babies too.
I am writing you from Camp Lake Mini-Ha-Ha. I need to get out of here. My appendix exploded and I am bedridden in the nurse’s station. They say that I am fine. BUT I am smarter then these camp counselors. They run around here with their heads up their asses. Can’t even put together a decent ball game. I’ve seen brown-recluse spiders that were more coordinated than these scoundrels.
I don’t think any of them know shit about baseball. If I had the money, I’d buy them all Toronto Blue Jay Jerseys. They’d all fall for that. Especially Mickey. Mickey is an idiot. Mickey is trying to get me out of this bed. Mickey is trying to make me play ball. He has a crush on Laura, another counselor; she is hot. He turns the color of a baboon’s ass every time she comes around. I’ve never seen a bigger wimp. She hangs out with him though. I don’t get it.
Speaking of wimps… how are your beloved cubs doing? You guys need to get rid of Mark Grace. Make him retire. Hang up the bat. Is Sosa still leading the league in strikeouts? There is no TV here. I don’t know what’s going on out there. I kind of like it though. That’s why I’m writing you this letter, no TV! All they have in this room is a bunch of paper and a stack of National Geographics. I read all 20 of them. Its like one page is about Greenland and everyone is killing themselves there and the next page is African titties. My favorite page was about cloning. Ever hear about cloning? It’s when they take some part of you and make a new you. Many of you, if it works. Wouldn’t that be something? Imagine seeing yourself? Talking to yourself? I’d clone 18 of me. That would be a decent ball game.
I think 18 would be the limit though. Anymore and things might get violent. You know how I am with ball. Then Laura wouldn’t come. She doesn’t like violence. All girls don’t, but you know how all girls like to keep clean? She doesn’t. She’s got knots in her hair. She’s always saying she’s got a knot. I like her knots. She is cool.
Mickey doesn’t like the knots. He is always trying to get her into the water. He wants her to have clean hair. You can’t have knots in the water. It undos them. Mickey is all about rules and hygiene. He comes from a big house. He is a pussy. He made me fetch his things once cause I refused to stick my finger up my ass in right field. Look at what I found in his binder of torture.
Her smile is warm enough to turn fall to summer, bright enough to turn winter to spring. She is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. She dwarfs the importance of the worlds biggest obsessions, time & money, and by doing so effortlessly, her value cannot be measured. If everything happens to you before you turn 25, she will be the only thing I remember.
Oh my god fagg-ola.
I’ll be seeing you soon… hopefully. They say I can call my parents this weekend and get out of here. I need a new appendix. Have you guys been egging Patel’s house?
Dear Mr. O’Keefe,
This is [NAME WITHHELD] of [NAME WITHHELD], your trusted financial institution. I am writing to inform you that there is a current balance of $2,000 dollars remaining in your account. This is a dangerously low sum. Do you have monies coming in from your various projects? Are you currently writing something that will result in a financial gain? Let’s discuss. You still owe your parents [AMOUNT WITHHELD] from the last time this happened.
Hope Hollywood is treating you well.
Your finical advisor at [NAME WITHHELD]
Dear [NAME WITHHELD],
I received your letter. Bummer about the 2K. I hope I get the remaining sum of what I’m owed for X, Y and Z soon. Once I can, I will pay back my mom and dad.
It’s funny you should ask, because as a matter of fact, yes, I am writing something new. That being said, I doubt it will result in an immediate financial gain. It’s — well, it’s hard to describe and I suppose it can come off as a bit pretentious if not illustrated delicately. To be honest I don’t like saying too much about it at this early stage. However, since you’re my financial advisor and you should be privy, I’ll explain.
Its tentative title is [WITHHELD] and it’s the unflinching story of a common American man coming to terms with his place in the Universe in the 21st century. A man wrestling with the meaning of life. And it’s about . . . well it’s about this man’s joys and pleasures and heartbreaks — his love and loss. It’s about his boundless dreams and his modest accomplishments and the discrepancy between the man he wants to be and the one he actually is.
And it’s about the small moments in his life too — a memory as a boy (the yellow raincoat; a dead deer in the woods; the smell of a toy). But it’ll have the big stuff as well, you know, the trailer moments, as they say. First kisses, graduations, deaths, births, mushroom trips, etc. I have this real zinger of a moment where his car flips over on the way to prom. Just wait until you see it (hint: it’s the other guy’s fault).
Here’s the kicker: what really makes this movie special is that it’s all gonna happen in real time. It’s gonna be a 75 year long movie and it’s gonna take 75 years to make. And once it’s done, you can just go in and out of the theater at your own leisure. Like a church you can visit when you need to. I’m already talking to theater chains about building specialized venues to project it. Oh and at the end, the very end — when he’s dying (hint: cancer) — the screen fades to white for three whole days. 72 hours of a slow fade to white. And then credits roll silently. It’s going to be great.
There’s no real story per se — just vignettes and images and music and life and stuff. Reflections of truth. No lies like all the other movies. Just truth. Even if it’s scary and ugly sometimes. I just want to write something real, you know? While I’m on this Earth and still can. Something big and important and full of magic. Something special. Uncompromising. That’s the goal anyway. Maybe it’s too ambitious. Maybe it’s egomaniacal. I go back and forth. In the meantime I’m always looking for babysitter slasher rewrites. Fingers crossed.
The Dar-Lettes, Jerry Reid, Maurice & Marianne, The Charmelles, Beverly McCay, Ronny Butler & The Nitehawks, Jackie Ross, Maxine Cannon – no joke, everyone was at The Crystale that night. And when I say everyone, you best believe I mean everyone: Tab Vaughn, Lou Ballad, Clarence & Tammi Parker, Art Lester & The Ex-Cel’s, uh, Chico Robin, The Del-Laces, Little Freddy – every last single one of them, drinking like fishes, dancing like maniacs till the sky turned black to gold.
Gloria Blossom from The Blossoms wrote “Cryin’ All Over” in the Crystale lobby that night after she caught Roscoe Bell leaving in a cab with The Permamatic sisters. Sidney Stewart met Mamie Rhone for the first time at the coat-check, who’d he later marry and, as you probably know, murder on Easter morning. Supposedly, Claudine King drank so much gin that it took all of The Velphonics to carry her back up to her hotel room, where it is rumored an all-night orgy occurred. Now I can’t account for that. I saw Claudine earlier in the night, and truth be told – her eyes were a bit glassy.
Barry Sands rang up a tab well over a grand that night, which Prince Moore wound up having to pay for after he lost a game of poker to Barry. Cindy Summers threw up all over Chico Robin’s brand new Stollata suit, which he had tailored earlier in the day for the occasion. None of the men wore lapels on their blazers and none of the girl’s eyelashes were real.
Curtis Rodney broke his leg that night trying to do the splits for Maxine Cannon’s bassist, who told him “Man, you’re too damn short to be that flexible” and wagered a king sized bet against Rodney, resulting in the loss of his beloved pink Caddy. Dennis The Cyclone signed on to produce The Spectrums that night, which would result in the one-hit wonder, “He Wants Her (But She Wants Somebody Else).”
You probably think I’m shittin’ you, but no lie, no lie – it was all happening at The Crystale that night. Hey, I’m just lucky that I got to be there. Funny thinking about it now ‘cause originally my girl wanted me to stay home that night; she was making lasagna from scratch. But at the time I was trying to nail in some session work for Chico, so I told her, “Baby, I love your lasagna, you know I do. But I really got to go to The Crystale tonight.” And boy, oh boy, she was madder than hell, but I grabbed my houndstooth and hitched a taxi ‘cross-town to The Crystale and the rest is history.
Yes sir, I was there when Angie Fey slapped Pete Hooker in the face for letting Darlene Kelly sing on her tracks. I was even there when Parker Wilson crashed his Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria into the Crystales fountain. Oh lord, what a mess! And such a beautiful automobile – pink and black with a brand new chrome job. I was out on the balcony with Lee Dempt having a smoke – you know Lee Dempt, right? Played sax on “Ain’t The Girl Something?” Beautiful musician – so I’m on the balcony with Lee having a smoke, when alls a sudden I hear Parker hootin’ and hollerin’ from below and VRROOOOM VRROOOM VROOOM! Next thing you know, Parker’s bottoms up in The Crystale fountain.
The road manager from The Bonnies told me that Dakota Young introduced Little Freddy to heroin that night. Supposedly he was in back booth of the bar when Freddy took his first hit. You know the rest of that story.
Kinda sad, you know? Thinking about that night at The Crystale, and all those people. Everyone was so young, so talented. They’re all dead now. And what do we got? A few tunes that everyone can sing along to and some old man remembering nights that once were. And what good is it really? But now I’ve gone off on a tangent. I’m sorry, kid, what was your question again?