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Is hate natural? Does it derive from emotion? Jana concluded that hate is conditioned&a state originating in our base feelings& vestigial responses rooted in the primordial brain. Jana didn't hate anybody. Except for June Smart&that bitch. June&the obstacle to Jana's self-actualization. But was it hate? Could Jana take pleasure in June's demise, or would she be indifferent to it? Or, would she actually be willing to be complicit? Maybe it was just a case of schadenfreude. Yes, that's it, Jana thought. I need to see June suffer in order for me to feel good about myself. What's wrong with that?
What the hell is it? Three men in reflective vests stood at the rear of the garbage truck. They faced the bed of trash in silence. To an observer it might have looked like the one in the middle was peeing into the back of the truck, while the other two watched his technique. He had found something protruding from one the white plastic bags. In unison they realized what it was. One wanted to keep it. One wanted to leave it in the truck and forget about it. The third thought they should inform the resident of the house.
Cleveland mixed concrete and water in the wash tub that sat in the boat. The sun was setting. He removed his shoes. Kinda silly to take 'em off, he thought, but the grey mud felt good, making slurpy sounds as he slipped in his feet. It was dark. He rowed to the middle of the pond. Second thoughts&self-preservation mechanism. He tried removing his feet from the tub. Time to pull the plug on the boat. Twenty minutes later, the boat sank, resting on the pond's bed. Cleveland sat, waist deep in water. He'd wait till daylight to yell for help.
Why do you continually recruit me for the Seminary, John? asked Robert. I'm the one who is always busting your balls in class&questioning everything you, or I should say the Church teaches. Father John Ryan released a snake of grey smoke, curling above their heads in his comfortable office. He then spoke in his signature jazz DJ voice, That's exactly why, Rob: You question. You're crazy. I don't even believe half the shit. As long as you believe half&that's a start. Besides, those who question are usually the best priests. There's the whole chastity thing&.not a big incentive&for me anyway.
The Best of Elmo was over. Little Leeza walked over to her dad, who was snoring loudly on the couch. She grabbed a handful of Cheerios, and with surgical focus, dropped the crunchy, little tubes, into her father's inviting mouth. In mid-snore, his eyes closed tight, he wheezed, gagged, and a fountain of dried breakfast food erupted into the air. Leeza's bellylaugh filled the room. Bill coughed and looked at what he considered for a moment to be a patricidal little demon. He wiped away tears of asphyxiation. Daddy, Elmo's over. Okay, sweetie. Next time can you tap my shoulder?
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Look at us, Reggie, we're all standin' here sweatin' our asses off in dark suits and dresses because you thought swallowin' a live perch would be funny as hell. I guess wherever you are, you're lookin' at us havin' a good laugh now. I kinda figured your demise would involve some news-of-the-weird or Darwin award scenario. At least it brought together your love of fishin', eatin', and showing off. It also brought some of us together who haven't seen each other since our ten year class reunion. So, here's to you, Reg. I hope they're serving fish at the reception.
I want that damned clown outta the house now.
Sweetheart, we paid fifty dollars for him and kids love him. I'm not going to kick him out.
He grabbed your ass&in front of the kids.
That was part of his trick. He didn't mean anything by it.
I want that grab-ass out.
Settle down. I'm sure he was just in character.
I don't give a rat's ass whose character he's in. He just groped my wife in my house. And I think he's been drinking.
Yeah, he and I had a glass of wine.
I saved you some.
Freighted with his father's singular indiscretion, he bore the burden of a history at which he was not present, to which he was not welcomed, but for which he would atone until he decided, that's it, no more, I'm done. Not content simply to slough off the past; it would be necessary to create a new perception of him, an expression of his self eradicating any association with the Still clan. Yet which path toward manufacturing that perception: Dionysian or Apollonian? The choice between these two dichotomies was at essence. Details would be outlined in time. And what of morality?
Delmar's cast tangled his lure on branches eight feet over the water. The thin, dry trunk listed fifty degrees from the bank. He would have simply cut line...kept fishing&but this was from the Lauri Rapala 100th anniversary series...his first cast with it...the first cast of the day. He sighed, rowed to shore, and shinnied up the tree. Reaching to grab the lure, his hand slipped, one of the hooks stuck the fleshy base of his thumb. The Yellow Jackets he obliviously disturbed started stinging. Hanging on with the pierced hand, he swatted the raging sortie. The branch broke. Splash!
I love Jamaica; Suzy and I spent two weeks there.
We love Jamaica, too, said Polly.
I also love Belize. Jill and I vacationed there.
Why do you do that, Stan?
You've mentioned two trips and used your exes as references.
Julie, your girlfriend, is standing here. Why can't you just say when I went to Jamaica, or when I went to Belize. Why do you always have to define your experiences by the woman you happened to be with?
Yeah, said Julie, you do.
Yeah, you do, said Todd.
Stan never mentioned another woman again.
Wanda stood robotically, desperately culling a Kathy Lee smile from somewhere in her repertoire of sales success. For sixteen years she gave the same spiel, just press play, she would joke. The products changed, but not the pitch. Here she was again at a booth in who-knows which hotel in Vegas...again. But her mind wasn't on the thirty-two new insect-imbued products offered by Fright Foods, Inc. This was the first time she had attended the conference alone. She and Chip split up three months earlier. It was for the best, they rationalized. She was free. It didn't feel like it.
Mr. Furtwengler, please, tell us about yourself. We have to ask you, however, to refrain from talking about your age, your sexual orientation, what religious beliefs you might espouse, if you are a member of a particular political party or if and how you voted in the last election, why you are wearing that earring, if you have any strategically placed tattoos, how many time you have been married, or how many children you currently have or would like to have. But can you tell us why you applied for this position and if you've been convicted of any felonies?
A hotel in West Virginia, six guys in a room, four in the beds, two on the floor. On a search and destroy recording mission. Six songs in twenty four hours. Almost retarded. They'll be beat to shit. Five can't sleep because of the snoring. The snorer, who's sleeping on his back in bed, has the sheet up to his neck. What to do? One of the guys on the floor has a remedy: Slowly pull said sheet to choke him every time he snores. The only flaw is that the choker doesn't get any sleep. Life on the road.
I found an apartment and a girlfriend on Craigslist. Neither would have lasted a year, but I was obligated to the apartment. Unfortunately, the girlfriend was the landlord. We had originally met at the apartment so she could show it. I signed. Then, for two weeks, we corresponded with each other not realizing with whom we were e-mailing back and forth. Then we met at a trendy cafÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â© in the neighborhood...somewhat awkward. To our surprise, our relationship worked...for a while. Now the plumbing is out. Gotta call my landlord/ex-girlfriend. If I had half a sack, I'd learn basic house repair.
Hey, guess what I'm pregnant.
No, way? Congratulations! That's great. You're gonna love it. Can I talk to Bill, please?
Hey, Bill, congratulations! Everyone is going to tell you that your life is going to change. Forget that shit. What you need to worry about is the change in my sister. There are going to be times when you'll think she's absolutely insane, or that she isn't the person that you thought you knew. Just keep your mouth shut and do what she says. Don't try to rationalize it. Be wrong and let it go.
Thursday, August 17, 2206. I didn't realize the media attention that would come with marrying the last natural blonde woman on earth. How she has tolerated the lack of privacy all these years, I'll never know. And that's the least of it. She's had death threats and her body guards have thwarted eight kidnapping attempts. Her parents have been poked and prodded and offered money for their sperm and ova...big money. She understands that it's improbable that our kids, if we choose to have any, will be blonde. Sometimes I wonder how it came to be that she chose me.
This was the first Friday she could remember that she wished her work day would drag on. God, what are the chances he'll cancel meeting for drinks. Not likely. Damned. Why did she make those plans? Oh, yeah, she was drinking then. She could always cancel. She had a rolodex of excuses. Fuck it, it's just a drink. Besides, there have to be others there they'll both know. Or just pound a few and nothing will matter after that. "Hey, Liza." "Yeah?" "It's dead. Why don't you go ahead and take off. Have a great weekend." "Thanks, boss. You, too."
At the music festival, Darren drunkenly fell asleep on the hillside. He rolled over and ended up rolling down the hill. He woke in mid-roll but couldn't stop himself. Unfortunate for him that he came to rest in the path of the Gibson Guitars bus. It wasn't pretty. But the funeral home was able to provide an open-casket wake. Because we were traumatized by the whole incident, which was ruled an accident, Gibson gave the other five of us who were at the concert new guitars, whether or not we could play. Actually, Darren was the only guitarist among us.
"When are you going to finally find a good woman and settle down, Sweetheart?" said Aunt Phyllis. "You're not getting any younger, you know." Mac still had not come across, encountered any woman with Eve's presence---the way she carried herself---the way she would sit, legs up on a chair, smoking her cigarette as she read Styron. She had a sensual grace---genuine and languid. It was a blessing and curse he could not, or would not exorcise. "I don't know," he said, "I'm good with being alone." "You know it's better for your health to married," she said.
To: Food Service
From: Felton Gelgut, Payroll
Re: Alfalfa Sprouts
Being agoraphobic, I usually bring meals. I set up my office so I only go home on weekends. Sometimes, however, I must get lunch from the company cafeteria. Would it be possible for your staff to separate the alfalfa sprouts in the salad bar into manageable clumps? I have been separating the nest by hand and replacing the unused portion. As I don't have access to plastic gloves, this is probably not the most hygienic way to do this. It defeats the purpose of our sneeze guard, wouldn't you say?
I sing of the Riverbrown, mercurialpushing outwardextending the boundaries we set. Who do we think we are? I wonder, watching the newsfive feet over flood stageten feet overthe National Guard was orderedsome residents refuse to leave. We were going to contain the River? In places it gushes and in others seeps like a watery angel of death, moribund, profuse. Homes and businesses in the flood plain all house first-born sons and no one has marked their threshold. The waterdark, deceptiveconsumes the land, like a snake its prey, in barely perceptible increments.
Annette Jean Furtwengler, mother; Harold C. Meyer, grandfather; Rose Furtwengler, grandmother; Uncle Charlie, Uncle Cliff, Uncle Ollie, Aunt Olivia, Uncle Emerson, Aunt Emma; Chris Schrage, classmate; Stan Segner, roommate; Scott Smith, friend; Robert Guthrie, mentor and friend; Paul Simon, inspirer; Jack Brown, teacher; Dave Shelton, friend; Charles Bukowski, writer; Hunter S. Thompson, journalist; William S. Burroughs, writer; D. Boon, musician; Renee DeCicco, student; Mark Ingham, friend. This list gets longer but it does not diminish how much I miss them. One day, too, I shall be part of someone's list. Until then, I want to have a damned good run.
"I will determine your utility presently, Mister Wirtz. Until I make that determination, I would expect you to comport yourself in a manner befitting your station and, I wish to add, with the discretion I believe you should afford our relationship. Now, please excuse me while I try to enjoy my meal."
Wirtz listened as Laidlaw lay down his knife and fork, and drank the rich burgundy. How much longer would it be until his utility was determined? Had he not proved his industry as invaluable to Laidlaw's ventures? The 'fuck you' remained behind the gate of his teeth...for now.
"It's pronounced NataLIE," she announced cheerfully, even though she was correcting me, as she stepped into my car, emphasizing the last syllable. "Where can I take you, NataLIE?" I volleyed back. "Anywhere north of here." Here being Highway 51 just outside of Hammond, Louisiana. I live on 51 in Illinois. Elvis lived on 51 in Memphis. 51 once was the route to New Orleans from Illinois. The City of New Orleans would ball the jack along side. "That's where I'm heading." "I'll just ride with you till it's a good place to stop, if that's cool with you." "De nada."
I've traveled 51 dozens of times. This time the congestion of cars, on the road and shoulder, is overwhelming. Cars, trucks, SUVs, and mini-vans, pregnant with what remnants residents could grab and stuff, jam the road and punctuate the gravel shoulder. You can't hitchhike on the interstate, so "evacuees" hoof it up 51 once they reach the north shore of Pontchartrain. The dazed looks on their faces elicit compassion. The exodus includes members of every social strata. Natalie looks ahead without saying a word. I drive, trying to appear relaxed, redirecting my attention from the individuals stranded on the roadside.
I was in New Orleans for only a few days. I had a job interview in Thibodaux and Katrina hit a day later. Being a flatlander my whole life, I had never experienced a hurricane. I was fortunate. I stayed in Thibodaux when the storm hit, having stayed in the Quarter three days prior. I didn't think I was going to be able to leave the Thibodaux area because of traffic and damage to the roads, but I was able to find a route to Hammond, where friends Blake and Jessica live. I wanted to make sure they were okay.
I had NPR on the radio and thought it would be better to find some music. I assumed we both may need a break from the news and other reports. We were outta there and that's what currently mattered. I decided to break the heavy silence.
"Are you originally from New Orleans?"
"I'm from Illinois."
"Yeah, I saw your plates."
"Do you have family there?"
I didn't know how to respond to her last answer. Her curt replies told me she wasn't in the mood to give up much information. Maybe one more:
"Did you lose anybody?"
As I was about to ask the question, I was struck with an abdominal cramp that almost made me double over. I didn't know if I was going fart or shit myself, or just have to deal with a little gastro-intestinal pain. What a great way to get to know each other.
"You okay?" she asked.
"I don't know. I may have to pull over here soon. Maybe if we could look for a gas station or restaurant or something."
I tried to remember what I had eaten. Maybe it was something I drank. Hell, it could have been anything.
It didn't matter. I had to get off the road and into a fetal position. Natalie pointed to a gas station. It was packed with vehicles and sad, scared, and angry people. I stood in line for the john, leaning over with my ass against the wall, hands on knees.
"You, okay, brutha?" a voice above me asked.
"I don't know, man. My gut is killing me."
I straightened up. The guy in front was the source of the query. "Why don't you go ahead of me? I ain't in no hurry.
Body odor, from everyone, hung in the hall.
In the stall, I broke out in the clichÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©d cold sweat. That was the extent of it. The cramps subsided; I got my business together and went to wash my hands. The guy who had let me ahead of him was at the sink. On one leg, unbalanced and precarious, he washed his left food. I could see a gash; next to the sink lay a bloody, muddy sock.
"You didn't have to let me ahead. I didn't know you were injured."
"No problem, brutha. A couple minutes aren't gonna make a difference now. Either it's infected or it ain't."
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