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We had been chasing frogs down the stream at the back of town. Chasing just one felt like bullying and we had learned not to do that anymore - not learned why, except that it felt bad. Disciplined against it. Now there was a whole mess of them, and all black, and all hopping away. Someone had been kind to us. All of us ran and whooped and yelled-out our inside jokes as we bolted.
Sam kept doing these dumb frog noises. You want to it now, once every few years. Sometimes, if you've got some stress in your life.
After the day I'd had, I had nothing left inside my head except 'tomorrow will be different'. New day. New dawn. New new.
My dream was all anxiety: another day that was just as horrible as the last one, where nothing had changed while I was asleep. In the dream I kept seeing things: the juicer left out, the car radio still on the wrong station, the dog lying in the same spot and whinnying and me still not knowing what to do for the best. When my sadistic unconscious had run out of scenarios, of course it looped.
He 'wakes up' in shame after he's indulged and it always feels the same. And that just makes him angry.
That's why he keeps getting pissed in the first place. He wants to do it so much that he masters it, and it becomes his, and he'll start waking up in something other than a big, pissy, leaky damp spot. He'll grow accustomed to it.
And then he'll be able to deal with it properly. That's why. He'll be able to really climb up out of this shame pisshole. Feel its depths. Breathe it. Learn how to build the ladder.
Rob had a wispy, burned-auburn cocoon of irradiated hair all over his body. It looked like you could brush it away. You could not.
I liked his wide-eyed look, which he never dropped, even when alone. His look made it clear how that expression, 'wide-eyed', had come to be. He would looked at an object with a sense of unassuming, slightly afraid curiosity, no matter how used to it he was. He would smile politely and keep his thoughts to himself.
They were like pools of chocolate, his eyes, albeit chocolate that was surrounded by human eyeballs.
She woke up immediately on the alarm and laughed instead of yelped when she tripped trying to get to the button.
This seemed like it was going to be a good day! This must be what they feel like. It felt like a safe bet, since she was energetic and appraising things positively.
All the time she was in the shower, she was scared that it wouldn't last. She looked up at the nozzle to avoid her body and wondered about how she might spoil it. Not that she felt she'd be responsible, though. She'd just never known the rules.
They started things again in a car park at the entrance to a dog-walker's woods. The row got louder and louder until one of them got too loud too fast and they both started to worry that people walking their dogs could hear. They gave each other a look, stopped for a second, and both turned down their volume for a while.
They had finished everything in a car park for a posh people cocktail bar where they were trying to gouge and break louder than one another, until again it got too loud and they both jumped down.
One eye on the laptop monitor, one eye on the camera looking at her own uvula. This is a video for uvula fetishists. That fact isn't funny to Megan; she has been shocked and grossed-out by the fetishes people have before, laughed and mocked them, made videos mocking them in the hope that someone would get off on the humiliation, then caved and filmed them, made good scratch, and shrugged. This has happened before. There are good people out there who want uvula vids.
Leaning backwards too much, thinking abou-
Camera dropping. Light.
FUCK. Fuck this. She's usually elegant.
The Gods gave us the choice of how we'd like our Paradise, but it had to be consensus. A petition on the internet argued for all the dead rock stars to come to life (we had lost a lot of them that year) and for them to give us a one-night-only show of their best stuff for free. People giggled as they voted for it, not thinking it would ever actually win. They did devil horns on Facebook.
When it really happened, and we heard it, a few of us knew it was the right choice for everyone.
Give me the bag, he said. He was grabbing at it. Did he want me to give it to him or let him take it? Those are not the same thing. I pointed this out.
Give me the fucking bag. If I did not give him the bag, he said, he would take it. It seemed like he was explaining this too late as we had already reached the 'take it' stage of his demands.
He wasn't going to take the bag. I was going to keep holding it.
Because you see - what he didn't realise - it was my bag.
Sandra loved to travel so much that she remained a tourist even when she was back home. Without access to their countries, she'd take the ethnicities of the people she'd paid to host her and stroll through those.
She said her Irish side was calling to her. Irish side, I said. She painted a clover into a glass of Guinness and smiled like she had just performed the secret handshake. It's not a fucking club, I told her. We fought again.
I don't like where I live either, I said. I don't know why she thinks it's better in Europe.
"Rick, you know we can't do that". We absolutely could. "We both know it would never work." One of us thought maybe it wouldn't work, is the best I can say for that statement. "Rick, look. I love you." Obviously not.
God knows what her problem was. Jesus Christ. So I just sat there listening to her make up alternate versions of what had happened to our relationship and just throw them at the wall to see if they stuck.
Eventually one of them would, and I'd stop this, and agree for long enough for her to get away.
The vet who administered the injections was a beautiful woman. Her lips happened, by a coincidence neither fortunate nor unfortunate, to look like the beginning of a kiss that would soon happen, which seemed like it was for you when she looked at you with her mouth closed. Her hair happened to perfectly compliment her skin, which happened to look very healthy, which all together made the hair look like it wasn't real, like it was some kind of shiny metal or liquid. Whichever you happened to like best.
You wanted to pull at her eyelids to find a vein.
We got so deep we didn't know if we were swimming up or down. When we found the tip of it, or the side of it, or its fin, we clung on. It pulled us without knowing we were there.
Sam said it was a shark as big as a country, and we were hauling ourselves toward its head. To swim was to fall off, so we grabbed handfuls and hauled. The mass felt like leather and might have been grey. We would only be able to breathe for so long, so we accepted the big thing's direction without judgement.
When those things walked right passed us and stared at you, Marrtha called it a miracle. You ever heard her get religious? Even to swear? She doesn't talk about it.
The birds aren't where they're supposed to be in the sky. They get low and close and then they're up at the edge of the fucking ozone layer. Is that normal to you? Do you always experience this? I keep shoving my finger up my nose trying to get things out because the smells are so strong. It wasn't like this, ever. Do things usually smell this strong to you?
I didn't let my right foot drop until I had made my resolution and banished all doubts: I was going to walk until I was so tired, so pained, breathing so hard, that I could grimace - hard - and not feel silly.
I wanted to make that face and for it to be unquestionably justified. I had made the face before and then felt stupid, apologised, been laughed at. I was going to walk so hard that the face was right and even I wouldn't get in its way.
I'd go in circles until I could bring the face home.
With the hypothermia setting in, the experience switched. It wasn't about cold or breathing anymore. It was all about making my arms move: trying to convince them not to stiffen all premature, before my brain was even dead.
Not that it was at its best. I was doing the Inception thing. Struggling to rebel against the cramp led to struggling to remember the word 'rebel'. Then it was memory loss. Was I good with words? And I was dreaming a school spelling bee.
I'd summoned enough rebel spirit to get half of a foetal position going on before she arrived.
Taking all the pills, and not being sick, and not calling anyone, is like cutting off your own arm. You can't do it.
Too many nerve endings. You can't physically do it. You can cut up anything you actually like, though.
Now you're being a drama queen.
Going to bed now. Don't respond.
You're hunched up on the floor when you drop to sleep, with your face flat on the coffee table and your legs folded over so that your two sets of toes overlap each other. Your keys are still in the pocket of your jeans, you keep thinking.
Of all the dreams about sprouting wings, Liqin dreamed the worst. She couldn't see a thing, first off, just feel it, all behind her. The slow-build tightness always created phantom pains at her coccyx, lasting until she gave way and bent double, letting the Christ stance go. The eruption would come with a sharp, deep breath, spurting and zit-like. Her hands would clap backwards involuntarily, locking her elbows in their place. Ruddy muscles and knitting needle bones fell down from the arms and flapped onto her back. She had to wait and let the the feathers throb out.
"Some straight white men," she said, "cast themselves as kings who have been given the throne against their will and have to make the best of their lot, trying to be benevolent to everyone, suffering in silence. Like put-upon dads who will never be appreciated."
"Some," I said. "Not all. Don't say we're all the same."
"Very good. Five not-an-arse points!"
She was joking but I still asked, "Out of how many?"
"Out of six!"
Heh. I didn't ask how I'd lost one. I was fairly sure it was a test. I wanted her to be happy.
"I mean this probably isn't what you want to hear at this point, but I really am extremely flattered. That's not relevant though. That's just for me."
None of that was what I had wanted to hear but it all made me laugh and lean toward him, swaying as though off balance. I wondered at the time what my subconscious was trying to accomplish there: 'Let him steady you, make him feel powerful. Flatter his ability to right objects in motion.' He steadied me anyway. My upper arm. That touch was enough to frighten me off, and I came home.
When Steve told me about his drinking, it was because I had seen the bottles through the window before he'd had time to move them, and our eyes had met. He told me begrudgingly. This was exactly like when our Rob told me he was gay. I had guessed it and he had shrugged and had nothing to say except to confirm it.
He told me he had been drinking like this for a year, because I asked. I briefly fantasised about him bursting into tears, or confessing that this had been a cry for help. He washed his face.
"What strength. But don't forget there are many guys like you all over the world."
That's what they all said. One after the other, all of them bruising and panting and then just saying it, deadpan, as though it was off the cuff. Every one of them was either a terrific actor, or else this was a cosmic coincidence.
Ryu had to wonder what guys they were talking about. He certainly didn't know any. Precisely how many colour-coded gi-wearing, fireball throwing, dragon punch mastering, wandering professional karate experts could there be in the world?
Aside from Ken, obviously.
I know I WANTED it to be love at first sight. I've spent so much time, in so many states of mind, trying to work that out.
I said her eyes and boobs were pretty. Her nose, when I was more creative.
The beauty of her wasn't in any kind of asset that she possessed, but in the way they had been put together. And the way she held them together, stretching it all when she smiled as though she didn't know how finespun and special it all was. I came up with that a couple of years ago.
When they lay together, he could feel her breath. He was certain she could feel his erection, too. All of this pinned him, silently, in an odd moment. He couldn't sleep.
It wasn't night, because his limbs were perpetually tense, chalking their hands. Half his head was racing with plans for the day, the other half looping 'Walking on Sunshine'. His life had just begun.
But it wasn't morning. Morning would mean lifting himself away from her hair and the warm, otherworldly breast that nonchalantly made contact with his stomach and elbow. It felt like everything he had ever wanted.
"See that little star there?" Newton dribbled, pointing unhelpfully at the sky. "That one is fifteen hundred light-years away."
He still had the grin but it was meaningless now. Just fixed on.
"That means that the light you're seeing took fifteen hundred years to get here."
"The light that star was screaming out, trying to find a sympathetic eye, was screamed in Bible times. It's too late." The battle distracted him. "The message was late. We have to see it every night..." He got up, muttering, "...and there's absolutely nothing we could ever have done about it."
He lay in his little hospital bed in his ugly white private room like it was his throne. He told me, whispering agonisingly through a dry mouth, how great it was that he had survived this long without ever 'ending things'. To him, he said, amongst the circles of friends that he happened to have shared his life with, this was a rarity. Few of the people who had been special to him had died by any hand other than their own. For them, the distinguishing factor was what method they'd finally given in to, not what illness they'd contracted.
Dad was watching the news. Something on it had made him angry. I wanted to take that excuse to put this off, but somehow I didn't.
"Dad," I said, voice hurting me, "I'm a lesbian." I made myself look at whatever his first reaction might be.
It was excitement. Fun. Like when he-
"Hello Alesbian," he said, holding back a smile. "I'm Dad."
He stared at me, waiting for me to laugh, knowing he had a good shot. Even though it would only be from relief. That laugh was so much more important to him than what I'd said.
I kept resenting how much of a 'fresh start' it felt like. The call to my sister was the first call AFTER what he'd done. The clothes she gave me were the first clothes I'd worn AFTER. It was like a new year.
I didn't want the attack to be the beginning of anything. It didn't feel right that it was.
The sun was small and red at the end of the train tracks. It didn't cast a blanket of light over the scene, just lay there. There was a petulant, cold wind that kept whipping me back and forth.
She had showed up at the inauguration with a new placard. It felt heavier than usual - at this point she shouldn't require one. This land was theirs now. But they had to defend it. From immigrants and from cowards and from well-meaning fools who were part of the conspiracy.
Her eyes scanned the crowds for reporters, upset liberals, foreigners, gays. There weren't any in sight, but she didn't let slip the face she was holding. She called it her 'we won' face. Because they had won. There would be a new fight starting now, thank God. Any time now.
My first girlfriend hated Mondays. She reminded me of Garfield. She was warm and relaxing despite her harshness. She was gentle and perpetually sleepy-eyed.
Whenever I thought of her, for some reason I imagined her with the voice of Bill Murray, even though she sounded more like Lorenzo Music.
She loved lasagne, too. I'm not making this up! She loved it so much she would just lean her neck back and literally hurl handfuls of it into her gaping mouth, unable to see the food or even its trajectory for the sheer extent of her hinged, dislocated jaw.
Sam has to clear out some of the black frogs to make room to sit on. It's a low step on a marble staircase. The marble looks like it's filthy but when Sam puts his hand against it, it's cold and smooth.
There are people who talk in riddles about getting up to the roof of the old frog mansion and climbing out of this whole place. Sometimes they go on about a monster following them. People seem excited or frightened, one or the other. Exhilarated.
Sam likes the frogs. He's been here a long time. He likes that too.
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