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It Figures #91
Raw Deal has a voice that could cut through gravel. He flogs us with it now, as we try to ignore him to concentrate on our jobs. We nod in agreement. We have to. How can you disagree with Raw Deal? “Raw, you are full of shit. You got what you earned. In fact you worked hard for it.” I can imagine someone saying that.
Instead we all let him think he is right. We stoke him even more, when all we want him to do is please shut up and let us work in peace.
It Figures #92
Outside the Box is unhappy.
(And damn, you’d think it would be enough to go through life as a cliché)
But Outside the Box wants to be
He haunches miserable
In the cold rain
What it must be like
A grand party.
Crystal chandeliers hanging
From steel arches.
Long tables laden with
Exotic hors d’oeuvres
And snooty waiters
In formal wear
To movies stars,
Athletes, and politicians.
He lies down
On the damp cardboard flap,
His head just below the stamp
MAX GROSS WT 45 kg.
It Figures #93
Corrective Action is sleeping at attention
Just inside the hall to our cube farm.
Is a thing he has perfected
Over the years,
Twenty-three of them.
He has been here longer
Than any of us,
Longer than any of us would want to be,
But I wouldn’t mention that to him,
If you know
What I mean.
His shoes are shined and
His uniform is neatly pressed,
And a couple of ribbons
Yesterday, he moved,
And we all froze in place,
But he was still sleeping.
He must have been dreaming.
It Figures #94
Flesh and Blood
Walks a sunny day
Wearing his new shirt,
Red, white, and blue stripes,
As he passes
You have a momentary vision
Of the Visible Man
With his intestines clearly
Visibly curled in his belly,
Muscles twisted behind his lips,
Eyeballs rolling in their orbs,
And bright blue and red
Veins and arteries
Running inside a clear plastic shell.
Surprised, you turn to look
But there is only
The red, white, and blue shirt
And Flesh and Blood’s
He smiles because he is proud of his new shirt.
It catches everyone’s eye.
It Figures #95
Running Ragged is having trouble keeping his balance. He was sure that he was in shape for the 3-mile run, and he felt fine at the start. But before finishing the first half-mile He began feeling faint. The street and crowd began to close in.
As he made the first turn at the ¾-mile mark he noticed the color washing out of buildings along the street. They were dimming, turning into line drawings, turning into pure white. That was when he noticed runners next to him also washing out into line drawings, and into white.
I am watching a pair of Downy Woodpeckers prowl the deck. Across the way, I can see a sprinkler on the lawn behind the condos, the silver slash swaying back and forth. There is sheen in the window, a spider web, and how many poems have been written about sprinklers and spider webs? It’s depressing.
Each strand of the web holds a tiny curved reproduction of the water sprinkler. I cannot see it, but it must be true. Each strand must be reflecting the sprinkler, the birds, and even a dim token of me, hidden in here, typing the day.
It Figures #96
Death Warmed Over hovers in the kitchen. It is the cooking smells that draw him. He hangs about in there, and because the place is rather small, we are constantly bumping into one another. Death is patient and considerate, always trying to move out of the road, but he has a way of shifting in the direction I intend to go.
His reactions are slow. So it is a dance in my kitchen of “Excuse me,” and “Oh I’m sorry,” and Death leaning back over the sink as I reach for a coffee cup in the morning.
The geese regularly cross the road in the middle of a figure-s curve here, moving from one pond to another. While the speed limit is only 25, you occasionally hear squealing tires as someone whips around the corner to encounter a score of them single filling across the road. It amazes me that none of them have been hit yet, but they seem to have their road-crossing act together. There is always an adult at the head of the column, waiting for an opening and another at the back to hurry things along. Once they start though, it’s their road.
It Figures #97
Tunnel Vision wears special classes. They have Popsicle sticks taped to the sides that extend forward about two inches. This, she explains, is what gives her the special visual powers she is famous for.
Recently, she offered to join the Fantastic Four to use her special powers to better humanity. They actually granted her an interview. She said she felt they were skeptical of the utility of her powers. They said they would call on her if they encountered any special situations where here unique qualities were needed. “What’s so special about a rubber man?” She wondered.
I give up on the Sudoku puzzles. I curse the puzzle book and throw it off the balcony. I change my computer settings so it will not let me go to the Sudoku site. The Sudoku is an evil conspiracy by an alien culture to distract our civilization while they take over. It is designed to drive the best minds crazy compulsively crunching endless streams of meaningless numbers.
There is a knock on my door. The apartment manager is standing there, holding my Sudoku book. “I brought this back up to you,” she says. “You dropped it off your balcony.”
It Figures #98
Goes Around Is having a wonderful day skipping through the office smacking people upside the head. Whap! Wherever You Go sloshes hot coffee into her keyboard. Whap! And They Never Listen drops a slew of binders across the hallway. He was carrying too many anyway. Whap! The attack trained secretary drops her phone. Whap! Nose to the Grindstone shoves a pencil through his form.
He slides around a corner cackling and takes aim on a petite brown head. Goes Around freezes suddenly as the head turns to show him a pretty smile. Oh No! It’s Comes Around.
It Figures #99
Fast Food speeds away from the pickup window in his Bear Hell 4000, bright red, top down, and slides into traffic in a four-wheel drift sipping on his Taco Bell cola. He’s into traffic and slipping under a yellow light just as he makes the shift into second just below red line on the tach.
A napkin slides gracefully into the slipstream as he hits the freeway entrance accelerating to 105 mph, steering with his knees taking a bite of his Taco Supreme. You don’t have to look behind you when you merge at 105, he figures.
It Figures #100
All in All has a round face and a round body. It seems the same thoughts keep circling that round head and the same anxieties keep circling that round body. He lives by himself in a room downtown, a block from the convenience store. Everything he needs is in his room or available at the store. He is, of course, an introvert. Those who say he has his head up his ass don’t understand this about him. True, he is self-centered, but it isn’t something he can help, because he was made that way. Genetics, he reasons.
I have finished my 100 “it Figures”. Obviously. Now I have to decide what project to undertake next. I have a couple ideas. I’ve thought about still life’s. Photographs are interesting too. And there are two ways to do a series of photographs. One way is with actual photographs. The other way is to become the camera. I have thought for a long time to do a series of people. But now that I am into this thing, I think the way to go is a series of short stories. Very short stories. I wonder how this will work out.
It’s not enough to just do a hundred short stories, each of a hundred words. They are going to have to be linked somehow. And I need to think about this thing. When I go to work on a set of 100 things, I am working on a project that lasts over three months, so I should set the thing up to work for me. How do I do this? A hundred people walk into a bar? The first person is me? Or do I use fewer people and cycle through them? I could add one person at each cycle.
A wooden fish hovers in the air, two feet below the ceiling. A boombox in the corner fills two-thirds of the room with Hank Crawford’s Four Five Six. Fathead is playing on tenor on this one. Darla is tap dancing on a sheet of 4x8 plywood in the middle of the floor. The plywood covers a badly cracked cement floor. She is sweating and feels ridiculous in the pink tights.
After 2 minutes she gives up and sits down with her purse, taking out a pack of cigarettes. Sitting cross-legged, she lights one and smokes it, listening to the music.
Stewart was returning from a walk. As he approached his apartment building, key in hand, he heard the sound of Hank Crawford’s saxophone drifting from an open window in the unit next to his. Pausing at the door, he listened a moment. He didn’t recognize the track, but realized Jimmy Cliff wasn’t playing with Hank. Most of Stewart’s recordings of Hank included Jimmy’s organ. It was not clear who was accompanying whom in these sessions. Opening the door, Stewart had a sudden pang for a cigarette. That was odd. He had thought he was over that. He went upstairs.
Darla heard the beep as someone locked their car door outside. She walked to the window just in time to see the man duck into the apartment in the next unit. She wondered which car was his. Maybe the white Monte Carlo that was so well taken care of. She turned into the echo of her new apartment. Perhaps talking them into letting her move in before they had the carpet down was not such a good idea. All her living room furniture was still at her old place They wanted to charge her an extra month’s rent now.
Stewart looked up from his blue book and out the window at the carpet company van that had pulled up outside. It wasn’t just normal rain. It was raining. It was like a car wash out there. He could make out the shape of the van, but couldn’t see the two men inside. He knew there were two. There were always two. They were staying in the van, waiting for the rain to clear. Stewart returned to his computer. He was toying with the idea of buying the Roksan, but he knew the pricing on resale would be iffy.
She was hiding in her bedroom while the carpet guys worked in the living room. She would be glad to get her furniture. She knew she would have to put up with some odors, but that was the cost of almost anything, solvent odor. Darla opened her laptop and checked on the amplifier she had for sale on eBay. It was a wonderful piece, but the sound just hadn’t been what she had been looking for. No one was bidding on it yet. It was turning out to be a disappointing piece in more ways than she had expected.
Stewart mused over the amplifier. It had sat on eBay for 3 days with no notice, no bids, and the owner hadn’t put a reserve on it. He knew he could get five hundred for it. He decided to watch it, and slip a bid in at the last minute in hopes of not attracting any other attention. The bidders were funny that way. They often weren’t interested if they thought someone else wanted a piece, but once someone bid on something, it started looking better to others. That frenzy was part of what shill bidding was all about.
Darla’s noticed her cell phone ringing over the hammering in the next room. She got up from her bed and walked to the window sill, but not quickly enough. Checking the recently dialed numbers, she found it was her boyfriend trying to call, her ex-boyfriend. Again. Her very ex-boyfriend. Darla frowned. As she was putting down the phone, it rang again. It was her daughter this time, calling from State. Safe to answer.
“I love you.”
“Going out of town. Need someone to take care of Lexington.”
Lexington, the Golden Retriever.
“Of course. How long would it be?”
Stewart was surprised at the Arizona bid of $575 on the amplifier. “Well,” he thought. “I didn’t need the distraction anyway.” He got up from his chair and walked to the front window. The blonde from the next building was walking a Golden Retriever. Well she was not actually walking it. She was standing at the end of the leash while it squatted. Stewart wondered if she would police the area when she was done. She didn’t seem to have any baggies with her. He remembered it was Wednesday. It was the day he had lunch with his son.
Darla wasn’t sure how Lexington had gotten to the fish, but they were lying all over the new carpeting, chewed to bits. She had kept her wooden fish for a long time. She thought about them as she picked the pieces up and put them into the garbage. Lexington sat in the corner watching her. She looked for signs of guilt on his face. But he just seemed mildly interested, as if he had nothing to do with the chips of wood and mangled carvings on the floor. “Don’t act like you don’t know what happened here,” she said.
Stewart had a handful of garbage or he would have tried to help the woman struggling with the box. By the time he dumped the bag, she had gotten into her car and was pulling out of the lot. She was driving a car just like his; same color, make and model. It must have been a newer model though. The tail lights were different. He preferred this newer model. He was about to close the dumpster when something colorful caught his eye. Reaching in, he pulled out a carved wooden fish with a large wing on one side.
Thirty-five dollars it cost to ship the amplifier to Arizona. She wished she could have come to terms with the thing, but she didn’t care for the sound, and she
let it break in well beyond the point required. Some of these new amplifiers were getting ridiculous about the time required for break-in. Or was she getting used to the sound after all? Darla was tired of worrying about it. She just wished that the local bidder had been a little more persistent so she would not have had to lug it down to Staples for UPS shipping.
Stewart’s first impulse was to look back into the dumpster for the other wing. He did, but it was dark and deep, and the only thing he could find were some splinters of wood and a few other wooden fish that looked like they had been chewed, probably by a puppy, he thought. The fish he had rescued was in good shape though. It had a nick in the paint in the tail, and one wing was missing. An eye hook was screwed into its back. Stewart was familiar with that arrangement from building model planes while a boy.
I find myself doing something with the computer here, but I’ve forgotten what. This has been my experience for as long as I can remember. I’ve been told it is a kind of seizure. I become aware that I am doing something or have gone somewhere. It can be day or night. I might be at work or at home. It is like waking from a dream, and like a dream, I forget what I was doing or how I got to where I was. I’m left in mid-something to find my way back to where I meant to be.
It was Thursday, garage sailing day for Darla. She had found a soapstone chess set, board included for seventy-five cents and a wooden cat for ten dollars. She had also purchased an older book on crocheting. It had all those horrible patterns from the fifties that you couldn’t find anywhere anymore. She was at her last sale and had found an old Austin Power’s tie tucked into a corner. Some man had pulled it out, but had become distracted by something else. He looked familiar. She wasn’t sure, but she thought he might live in her new apartment building.
Stewart dropped the Austin Power’s tie when he saw the model airplane sticking out from beneath a pair of jeans. He pulled it out. It was huge. It was beautiful: a assembled Revel model of a B-26 Marauder. He must have built several of these when he was a kid. The prop was missing on the right side, but it was the left side he needed. The left side the fish was missing its wing. He thought a moment about symmetry and considered making two new wings, but no, this was perfect. The fish would get one new wing.
Lexington was happy to see Darla back at the car. She had left the motor running with the air conditioning on. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do, and wished she had gotten more instructions from her daughter. This dog keeping was turning out to be more of a chore than she had realized. It had been different before. There had always been either Darla or the male unit to take care of the dog. There was a back yard and a woods. Now the back yard was gone. Darla was gone. The male unit was gone.
The Tip Jar