The Odd Spy

writing exercise,

fiction by Jason Edwards

A man dressed in khaki chinos and white cotton chambray work shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his forearms sits in front of a rickety desk, in a tiny room in a tall building in old San Juan, Puerto Rico. On the desk, a typewriter hulks and a half-drunk Cuba Libra sweats. The air is still. Cigarette smoke hangs. The man gazes out at the Bajo Tablazo, one elbow on the desk, hand up, two fingers up, cigarette contributing to the entropy of the universe in orange embers and a subtle hint of vanilla off the filter. He slides the cigarette into his mouth, closes one eye against the smoke, turns to the typewriter, and fills the room with clacking and clicking.

The page fills with words. It’s the sentence “Look at the frog,” over and over again. Look at the frog. Look at the frog. Look at the frog. His typing pace is a mother and son running in broken gaits across a desert trying to avoid monstrous sand worms. He stops. Typo. Look at the fog. There’s sweat on his forehead, sweat in his armpits, a drop rolls down his back slow enough to give him a chill. A hot, smothering chill. He looks guiltily out the window, then back inside, at the wall opposite.

He picks up the Cuba Libre, brings it to his lips, sets it back down in precisely the same position. There’s no perceptible loss of liquid. The man unrolls the page in the typewrite a bit, glares at that word. Fog. God damn it. God damn it all to hell. In a fit he rips out the page, crumples it, cocks his hand back to throw the wad at the wall opposite the window. Considers the implications. Sighs, and drops the wad at his side.

A fresh piece of paper. He rolls it into the typewriter, twisting it up and down in a complicated rhythm, getting it just right. Gazes out the window again. Ashes his cigarette. He’s avoiding that wall now. He waits.

The view from the window is not exclusively the Bajo. There’s another building, an older one, the top three floors missing. Graffiti, water damage, exposed rebar, grit and dust. Two men in trench coats. Honest to god trench coats. How often does it rain in Old San Juan? How often is it dark? Is it ever cold?

They’re trying to stick to shadows. The man in the room can’t see them, wouldn’t look at them if he could. An old legend that when clipper ships came to the New World, they were so alien the natives literally could not seem them. The man has been in Puerto Rico for about a year, and wouldn’t know a trenchcoat from a suit of armor.

They whisper at each other. Code words and secret phrases. Each has been sent under the impression that the other is a fake spy and will surely know all of the secret words and code phrases. Proof, like a witch who doesn’t drown, of guilt. And then there will be an inspired chase scene. But who is chasing whom.

The man finds a pack of cigarettes in his pants pocket, a lighter worn smooth from a practiced thumb. Lights up. Inhales deeply. Exhales and fills the room with blue. Ashes, puts the cigarette in his mouth, squints, starts typing. Look at the frog, look at the frog. His rhythm is a drunk kung-fu master defeating ruffians.

Guns are drawn. A Mexican stand-off. A common misunderstanding. Puerto Rico is Spanish, not Mexican. The difference is the difference when asking a napkin in America and asking for one in Great Britain. A cruise ship blows her mighty horn, telling her passengers to come back and bring along their touristy knick-knacks and doo-dads. One of the spies is distracted by the sound, enough for the other spy to try and make a break for it. And shoot the other spy too. Neither plan works. And like a thousand music stands ,dropped off a tall building in a performance by a Julliard music student for his senior thesis, will, by mistake in the random cacophony include a spate that sounds too much like a snippet from Beethoven’s Fifth, earning the senor a D-, the spies manage to start an erstwhile and earnest chase through the now rapidly darkening streets of Old San Juan. Why keep the lights on when the tourists are gone.

The man finishes a page of Look at the frogs and starts another one with a practiced and repetitive rhythm of inserting a new blank page. Behind that wall opposite the window, a parabolic mike linked to a sophisticated tape recorder and computer interpret the rhythms of his typing. Ostensibly, they were recording the two spies on the broken rooftop.

The man knows better. Look at the fog almost started World War III.

Fahrenheit 145

fiction by Jason Edwards

Halberd Donson spent January on Gulliver Street, pork-chopping his way through every restaurant between 123rd and 198th. Most of them served pork chops, and when they didn’t, he brought his own. In a little baggie, in his jacket pocket. Sometimes it was a few days old if he’d had a good run. Only one place had had a problem with this.

Halberd walked in, was greeted by the hostess, a chubby little number in a red dress that had been tight before she’d been dumped and found a new boyfriend called carrot marble  ice-cream cake. She handed him the menu, told him his server would be right with him, and put a little wiggle in her impressive back-side as she sashayed away. Halberd was not impressed, but not displeased: in another world, another month, different street, he’d have merrily grabbed a handful of that derriere and wished it a happy life the next morning.

A man is made out of his experiences, so such musings where not to be dismissed, but he was in Buck’s Diner for a different reason, and there was no pork chop on the menu. He understood there not being pork chops on the menu in a Chinese, or a Mexico, or one of the places that serve the small plates that end up costing you more somehow. But a diner that didn’t have pork chops on the menu? Maybe the tuna melt was something to write home about and regulars didn’t bother with the chop.

Fine. The waitress stopped by and he ordered a salad and an extra plate. The table had ketchup and mustard bottles, but not sauce– he asked if they had sauce. She explained that the salad came with dressing, and he knew he was in for a night of trouble.

Herself, the waitress, world-weary and willing to show it. Bottle-brassy hair, curly like she meant business, set of shoulders on her from humping plates for twenty years. Her pantyhose were industrial strength, her shoes were sensible, her husband was okay if they managed to not spend too much time together, and her kid was making decent grades and paying his own way through city college. Had an earring, but what are you going to do. She had a tattoo, so who was she to judge.

Halberd decided not to prevaricate. He hauled his spare chop out of his pocket and showed it to her. It’s for this, he said. The sauce.

The waitress frowned. You can’t bring that in here, she said.

Halberd nodded. Look, I won’t stiff you on the tip. You can even up-charge me on the salad, if you want. Better yet, I’ll have a tuna melt, to go. How’s that?

She bit her bottom lip, chewed on it mostly. She’d been late to her shift, not her fault, the god damned busses in this town. And the night manager giving her attitude. She’d been here longer than him, could do his job if she wanted to. Not that she did. Not that the owner would let her. A woman restaurant manager. Think of it.

So she was in no mood. Look pal. It’s a health-code violation. You don’t like it? Take it up with city hall. And then stared at him, stared at the chop, willing it to go back into his pocket.

He probably shouldn’t have, but he did: Halberd stared right back at her, right in her eyes. Tired eyes, crows feet, seen a thing or two. (Who’s? Both of ’em.) He pulled the chop out of the baggie, held it delicately, pinkie in the air, and never breaking his gaze on her, took a bite.

The flush that came to her cheeks. The sour that built up in her stomach. The streak of hot lead that shot up and down her spine. She probably shouldn’t have, but she did: the waitress slapped the chop out his hand. It went flying, landed on an empty table.

Halberd wasn’t shocked or anything. Just a little sad. He knew she didn’t mean nothin’ by it. He knew she was probably just having a day. He only had himself to blame; he should have prevaricated. Should have just eaten the chop furtively, in his hand, hiding it in his jacket between bites.

Still, there were plenty of waitressing jobs. Maybe he was doing her a favor. Maybe she’d move on to something better. Then again, maybe not. But Halberd couldn’t let that change things. He had a goal: to eat a pork chop on every restaurant on Gulliver street between 123rd and 198th. He got up and left.

To her credit, the waitress let him go. She didn’t bother telling anyone about it. The busboy, who spoke about as much English as the president ate fried pickle sandwiches (none, in case you don’t know who the president is) picked up the chop when he bussed a few other tables and didn’t think a thing about it.

At about 2 AM, Halberd made sure no one was in there when he set the fire. He was not a cruel man.

High School Violence

fiction by Jason Edwards

The fattest girl in our high school was Lori Eastman, and the second fattest girl was Gloria Beastman. Now what I want to know is, what kind of asshole keeps the name Beastman? How did he think it was going to go for his kid? And could he not see, at some point, that she was getting kind of large? Surely, by the time she hit Junior High, Gloria was not petite. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the same kind of myopia that lets dads forget that their daughters get periods and have sex. Well, girls other than that tub of lard Beastman.

That’s cruel but she brought it on herself. Maybe she was just the victim of a life time of abuse, with the name and the fat and all. But I’m here to tell you she was not a nice person. She was cynical and sarcastic and maybe she was smart but not smart enough to justify treating people like crap.

There was this one time when the teacher was calling roll and goes “Larry?” and even though he was sitting right here, he didn’t say anything. And the teacher was one of those insufferable types who insisted on doing things one certain way. So even though she can see him, she expects him to say “here.” I mean, for crying out loud, she had exactly 30 kids in her class, the chairs were arranged in a perfect five by six square, all she had to do was see there were no empty seats and, voila, roll call is done. No absences.

But not this teacher. How is a teacher like that going to teach English, anyway. Sure, there’s rules and such, grammar and APA style I guess, but anything other than spelling is open to interpretation. And that includes whatever the hell Hemingway meant when he wrote “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” I mean, there’s a comma splice right there.

Finally the teacher goes “I can see you, Larry, are you here.” And he goes “My name isn’t Larry. It’s Lawrence.”

I mean, fair enough. You get to an age where you want to define yourself, want to be your own person, why not start with your name? It’s given to you, forced on you I suppose, so why not own it however you can, insist people call you what you want to be called. Like if a guy decided to put on a dress and go by the name of Brunhilda, were supposed to go along with it, right? Let him drain the lizard in the girl’s restroom, even, I mean, there’s laws in Congress about that. If Larry wants to be Lawrence he can be Lawrence.

And before the teacher could say anything (I mean, stickler for rules, maybe she would have been into it, maybe she would have approved, maybe she would have given Larry a gold star for the day) Gloria Beastman goes “Oh please, you little weasel.”

Half the class laughed. I think they laughed because it caught them off guard. No one liked Gloria, not at all, and so the other half managed to not laugh because they had that not-like fresh in their minds. Or it wasn’t that funny. Or they didn’t hear because they were busy scrambling to get next periods homework done.

And then Larry goes “Whatever, Beats-men.” And nobody laughed. Larry was the skinny little shit, you see. I mean, born premature or didn’t get enough protein or hadn’t hit puberty yet, something along those lines. But he was an okay fellow more or less, no Napoleon complex that I was aware of. And Gloria had this reputation. That tiny little Larry would take on Gloria like that– it was easily the bravest thing any of us had ever witnessed.

Gloria turned red. I mean bright red. I mean, you have to understand, that as awful as she was, and as scary as she was, she was not safe from getting picked on by the popular kids and the assholes. So it’s not like she hadn’t been called every name in the book. But the names were all around how fat she was and how she was, you know, a “beast.” I have no idea where Larry got “Beats-men,” and no idea why none of us thought of it before.

She launched herself out of her desk. Across two rows, screaming this loud, high-pitched snarl that, since she was so damned huge, reverberated on a subliminal level too and made everyone’s spine quiver. She landed right on top of Larry and went to town. Holy shit.

I mean, he called her “beats-men” and the she beat him. I mean, it’s poetic or something. It took two jocks to get her off of him, and when they did she just thrashed around and let loose with the most vile, disgusting tirade I’d ever heard in my life. Racist stuff, anti-Semitic, coprophagic, demonic. It was amazing. We all cowered in the corner, Larry crushed beneath us and forgotten, while she tore the room apart. A couple other jocks went and got the football coach, and they all hauled her out of there.

She sued the school for that. Got a settlement. We never saw her again. Lawrence went to the hospital but he was more or less okay. Was a kind of celebrity for a while, but then it died down and the school went back to being just another bunch of assholes.

The third fattest girl in our school was Calliope Winthrop. We dated for a while. She was a sweetheart. Sort of smelled like peaches.

Little Red, Riding

Daily Writing Exercise,

Fiction by Jason Edwards

She keeps thinking she’s forgotten something, and then she remembers that what she’s forgotten is to remember that she hasn’t forgotten anything this time. And she’s usually so forgetful. Then she tries not to think about it because the light turns green and she doesn’t want to kill anyone by accident.

Not by accident.

In her red car. The dealer had said “Red? You know the cops pull over drivers in red cars more often.” She’d replied with something about red hiding the blood. He’d laughed. She’d kept him in the trunk for a week before she’d remembered.

She’s killed a lot. A lot a lot. So much that she’s lost count, it’s beyond counting, way beyond there ever having been a first one or a first time. Might as well recall the first time one saw a tree. Sure, in the desert, your first tree must be a sight to behold. But in a forest? Its only trees.

Pointless to talk about. She just does it. Drives to a motel, goes to the front desk, asks for a room, takes the key, kills the woman behind the desk, stuffs her into a closet. Goes to bed and goes to sleep. Wakes up. Something about checking out?

Or: drives to a hotel. Goes to the front desks, asks for a room, takes the key card. Goes to bed, wakes up, call downs for fresh towels. When the maid arrives, kills her, stuffs her into a closet. Takes a shower. Uses, like, every towel on the cart.

DNA? Please. This is real life, not an episode of a television show.

Another red light, so she remembers to stop. Is that what she forgot? To stop at the last red light? That time in Ann Arbor. Ran a stop light, got pulled over. The police officer had said, do you know why I pulled you over? She’d said something about the color red, and when he’d walked back to his cruiser, she’d ran over him. Stuffed him in his own trunk. Had to go back a few hours later because she’d forgotten about the camera mounted on his dashboard.

A hoot and a holler. An actual wolf whistle. Two guys in the car next to her. It’s a black car, filthy. Black cars always get dirtier than white ones. “Where you headed, little girl?” The one shouts. The driver’s leering at her too. She says something about Grandma’s house. They laugh. She laughs. The light turns green. They accelerate, she accelerates, she clips their bumper, speeds up and passes them. They give chase. They drive deep into the forest of the city.

It’s not always this easy. Sometimes it’s everything she can do to lure someone to a secluded area. Not that it has to be secluded. She’s forgotten how many people she’s put a knife into, in restaurants, fast food joints, convenience stores. But those places sometimes don’t have closets or trunks. At least in this alley, when she’s done with them, she can stuff them into their own trunk.

She thinks about stuffing the good looking one, the one who wasn’t driving, into her own trunk. Then she has a bad moment- has she forgotten that there’s someone in there already? She could go check. She’s covered in their blood, a little of her own. If there’s already someone in there, she’ll be very disappointed in herself. For having forgotten.

She decides she won’t check. She stuffs them into their own trunk, along with her bloody clothes. Fetches distilled water out of her back seat, has a nice shadow bath there in the alley. Gets dressed in fresh underwear, jeans, a t-shirt with a gas-station logo on it. That poor old man, who had smiled at her sweetly when she’d gone in to pay for gas, saw the shirts, knew she’d need a pile, put a knife through him, stuffed him into a supply closet. After a while, you can really tell the difference between different brands of disinfectant, in jars and bottles and cans.

Back in her red car, she drives around the city, towards suburbs, towards Grandma’s house. That part was true. But then she remembers: she’s always told the truth. Always. Because why not. A lie takes effort, energy, invention, fabrication, creation. She has no interest in creating anything. That one guy in Texas. Those hands. The bruises on her ribs when she’d been on top of him, choking him. And then nausea and sore breasts and clean underwear. And utter depression.

They don’t do abortions in Texas. But she does.

Space Aliens Have Landed In The American Midwest

fiction by Jason Edwards

Space aliens have landed in the American Midwest and taken on the form of indigenous peoples of the region from 10,000 years ago. Despite hailing from a star system several million light years away, these bioforms now look and act like Indians. “But don’t call us that,” says X!3gkrk Twofeather, one of their leaders. “The forms we have now predate such nomenclature.”

“Even travelling faster than the speed of light,” Twofeather explains, “it took us several thousand years to get here. We took readings with worm-hole scanners to find a form we could shape ourselves to and in that way blend in. We chose what was, at the time, one of the most stable, long-lived forms. We used a controlled evolutionary process, which took as many years. What we were before was, basically, sentient rocks. The switch from silicone to carbon was itself a few millenia.”

Astride his horse, wearing a war bonnet and gazing regally out at the plains, Twofeather is utterly unmistakable from an authentic Native American– at least our modern sense of one. “We didn’t expect your planet to change so rapidly. But here we are. And we’re adapting as quickly as we can. This horse, for example. The bioforms who dwelled her ten thousand years ago didn’t have horses. We’re just catching up.”

As expected, the arrival of foreign bodies has stirred up protest. Hundreds have gathered at the edges of the designated encampments to expression their displeasure with the new visitors. “Go back where you came from!” reads more than one sign.

Zk*tp7r Lurking Bear tries to engage some of them in conversation. “I’ll go back where I came from if you do, brother,” he says.

“I was born here, ya martian,” shouts his fellow interlocutor.

Lurking Bears eyes flash a dark green, as he performs a retinal DNA-residue scan on the protestor. “No you weren’t. You were formed in the back of internal-combustion powered vehicle some several thousand miles from here. I, however, was in vat of forming proteins until five days ago. I was “born” 200 hundred feet from this spot.”

“You know what I mean! Go back to your mother ship, asshole.”

Nearby, actual Native Americans are in conference, deciding how to approach these doppelgangers. Max Brandt, one-eight Sioux, explains: “On the one hand, it’s hilarious to see white people tell natives to ;go back home.’ On the other hand, these advanced beings are not us. They’ve appropriated our culture.”

Presented with this opinion, Twofeather shakes his head. “We have not appropriated their culture. We have appropriated the culture of their ancestors, and have adapted to modern expectations. Indeed, technically, it’s Mr. Brandt and his kind of who appropriated our culture. But we aren’t going to complain. Our understanding is that complaining about cultural appropriation is the purview of so-called Social Justice Workers, and we don’t want to steal their raison d’etre.”

Molly Waldring, a survivor of the Tumblr revolution who identifies as a bi-straight penguin kintype with homo-normative kanga (non-roo) tripolarity, has presented the New (Old) Natives with a manifesto, detailing grievances of the Uncis Nation. “And using phrases like ‘raison d’etre’ ranks right up there; stealing the linguistic heritage of French-born multikins, no matter what they’re self-designated geospatial centering coordinates are, is tantamount to brain-slavery,” s(h)e[it-they] explains while having bandages applied to stress fractures from rapid typing. “We won’t stand for it!”

Waldring’s colleauge, ex-Olympic bronze medalist sprinter Kart Mittering, who identifies as a quadraplegic snailkin with snake-formative sex-prey commercial-unbranding, scoffs. “Stand for it? Enabling shit-lord.”

Back in his intersteller neutron punch-drive wigwam, Twofeather goes over his people’s  seven-point plan for assimilating and thriving on planet Earth. “We’ve already contacted the heads of state around the world, and provided them with information as it pertains to cancer, infectious disease, super-bug suppression, improved forms of non-animal nutrition distribution, the ozone layer, global warming, the roles of women and minorities in the motion picture industry, reducing head trauma in contact sports, and inoculations against Boy Bands and Top 40 Radio. Of course, we sent them this information some 50 years ago, before we arrived, so we’re not sure why they’ve taken so long to implement our solutions.”

“Nevertheless, we’re hopeful,” he goes on to say. “We’ve encoded information on large squares of fabric by precision-cutting them to a ratio that, when measured to the appropriate decimal point, will contain information on all of the secrets of the universe. We’ve taken these “blanks” and sliced them into holographic portions, and distributed them around the world. And, we made sure each of this “blank-ettes” is appropriately coated with self-replicating copies of our original DNA. Kind of like your so-called earth ‘viruses’ but much more hearty.”

Twofeather smiles. “We’ve been reading up on your theories of Manifest Destiny. We think it’s a really great theory.”

Electric Cab Opener

fiction by Jason Edwards

I’ve never been the sort of person who just goes out and buys something if I can get my design team to make it for me, but I made a spelling error in the req and now I’ve got myself an electric cab opener.

And let’s be frank, this things is completely useless. Nevertheless, I’m not about to let all that R&D go to waste. So I went downtown to do some shopping. I put on my three-piece suit, the sharkskin one with a hint of salmon, a black silk shirt, a tie the board gave me as a thank you for 2012. 2012 was a great year!

I looked good for a guy in his late fifties, shaped like a butterball, going bald. I love it when people underestimate me. That’s how I get ’em. No one was going to underestimate me in my sharkskin and silk, though. I had my driver drop me at West and 144th, and walked a block to Jazeray’s. Think Bed Bath & Beyond but everything costs about as much as a decent family-sized home in the mid west.

I mean, can you imagine. Standing there, trying to decide between a blender and a split-level ranch in Nicoma Park, Oklahoma? And don’t tell me none of the houses in Nicoma Park are split-level ranches, or I’ll go there, build one just to make this illustration work, and then jack the price up to a queen bed-sheet set or even one of them “art prints” they got hanging in droves at the front of the store. Talk about overpriced. Tell me shag carpeting and popcorn stucco ceilings are worth 5 year’s salary and I’ll call the loony bin on ya myself.

Where was I. Oh yeah, West and 145th, since I walked a block from 144th. That was fun, walking on the street like a regular person. I went into Jazeray’s, bought about a dozen ice cream scoops, some refills for my Soda Stream, a throw blanket with a sport team logo on it– I forget which one. I was into sports in 2011, when me and the boys from the club where buying and selling shares in each other’s franchises. It was like a game- pun intended- to see who could own the most shares of the most winning teams. Kind of like fantasy football, but all that money shuffling put a couple thousand people out of work. Don’t worry, we got ’em all dream jobs scattered around the country. One guys piloting a desk and getting paid to answer the phone once an hour. I’ve called himself a few times. Nice fella. Knows a lot of movie trivia.

Went outside with my purchases, hailed a hack. You look like I do, you don’t wait long for a taxi. Tried out the electric cab opener– had it on the wrong setting. All four doors, hood, trunk, glove compartment, poor guy’s lunchbox. Woops. He started apologizing all over the place. I guess he didn’t know it was my doing. I didn’t set him straight. Apologetic’s less stress than anger on the ticker, and he looked about as old as me but without the room full of doctors sitting around playing Canasta in case I get a papercut or throw a clot.

He asked me where to and for a second there I forget my three assistants hadn’t faxed him my whole day’s itinerary that same morning while he was having his daily monkey-butt coffee. You know, that coffee where they give the beans to a monkey and his gastric juices break it down so when he craps it out it’s ready for roasting. My driver has expensive tastes. He used to be a Fortune 500 CEO with his own island in the Caymans. But I talked him into the job after a heart-to-heart about what corporate life was doing to his kidneys. Pour guy was on his fifth and sixth ones, respectively, and the AKF was flush and didn’t need any more charity.

Oh, and those rumors? That I started the American Kidney Foundation, the first non-profit to earn the equivalent of the GDP of half the countries in Scandinavia, just to put this guy in a position to need us and then need me? Not true. I mean, I’m on the board, but that’s coincidence. I don’t get off on having billionaires drive for me. Not at all. He’s just a fantastic driver.

Finally came to my senses and told the cabbie to drive me home. On the way I handed him an improved meter. It was way better than the one he had. He was reluctant at first, but I told him to keep it and I’d pay both meters. He wised up when he realized that while his meter said seventy-six bucks, mine said Tuition for All Your Kids.

And I paid both, too, even tipped him on the seventy-six. But not on the Tuition. I’m not an asshole.

Sorry, Lacey

Daily Writing Exercise,

“Fiction” (?) by Jason Edwards

I as much as I am sitting here trying to write my daily words, I’m afraid that by saying exactly that I am sending myself down a rabbit hole where that’s all I can talk about, and there will be nothing inventive or creative. This self-analysis stuff is boring, Boring for me, boring for the reader. Look at her, poor girl, sitting there, reading this. She’s just come from the car wash. Her little Prius. Nice day outside for a change, so she grabbed a stack of quarters that had been gathering dust since the days she bought the washer/dryer combo and no longer needed to go to the laundromat. Old creepers there anyway. What had she been thinking? She’d been thinking about college, Duds n Suds, and all the cute guys. She’s better than that, she doesn’t need men to define her, but what’s wrong with a little eye candy? The only candy at the laundromat had been the kind leftover in a bowl at your aunt’s house, all stuck together and is that an actual mouse turd there on the side?

But it had been colder outside than what shined through the window promised, so instead of going to the wash-it-yourself she went to the automatic one, where you pull up and ask for the basic and the kid tries to hard-sell you the Premium. How many takers does he get? Does he get some kind of commission? Does he get up in the morning and log onto the internet and go to Amazon and gaze lovingly at some piece of just-out-of-reach desiderata, and think to himself “just five more premiums and I can finally get Call of Duty 16” or whatever one they’re on now.

Like she has any room to talk, the way she pined for that Prius. “Tell me about yourself” a guy she met through J-Date said to her. “I’m going to get me a purple Prius,” she’d replied, and before “I’m” was even out of her mouth his eyes were glazed. Not that she was ugly or anything. Maybe not stunning, but stunning’s never permanent, is it. Still, he’d obviously picked up from somewhere to ask girls questions, he just hadn’t bothered thinking beyond that part of it.

At the end of the date, which had been, well, a way to spend an hour, she insisted on splitting the check, which he took as a sign, which she didn’t intend but was glad it happened that way, and as they left, he’d said “Good luck with that Prius.” The way he said Prius.

Yes, most Prius drivers are assholes, it’s true. Either because they think, because they’re driving a Prius, they’ve contributed somehow and are now entitled. Or, because there’s, like, almost no visibility out the back, or on the sides, and they figure, if I can’t see them, they’d better do the seeing. She, on the other hand, is a very conscientious Prius driver. She’d taken a class. Read a book. Her brother wrote a paper on “Geo-Spatial Awareness in Top Athletes” which she had helped him research. He’d gotten a B but that wasn’t the point.

The point was that she knew that there’s an ability to see where everything is, see how it’s moving, and be able to keep track of all of it for a few seconds or even longer. She paid attention when she drived, damn it, and for hell’s sake she’s driving one of the few purple cars on the road, so how is it you didn’t notice me and then decided to honk your horn you BMW driving jerk?

Which is what had happened, coming back from the car wash. Like, the car is clean and shiny any bright, and it’s a nice day, no matter what the temperature is, she’s not going to take the long way home, on the highway? That new Carly Rae Jepsen on the radio, singing along, you don’t have to know the words, and then HONK!

Out of nowhere. He must have come on from the last entrance ramp and swerved over, like, five lanes, sat in her blind spot. Who cares if it’s the biggest blind spot on the highway, it’s still a blind spot, and he should know that. But BMW drivers are all jerks.

Which is what’s she’s searching for, now, to make herself feel better about what happened. She’s used Google and found my blog for some reason and wants to know why BMW drivers are such assholes. Instead she gets me just talking about how I need to write something. Sorry, Lacey.

Staying Sexy Takes Imagination

daily writing exercise,

People often say to me, “Jason, how is that you are able to maintain such a fit physique? You hardly ever exercise, you eat like crap, and your genetic background is not exactly conducive to having such a smokin’ hot body, at least not at your age– or, if we’re being frank, any age, really.” Well, I have two secrets, actually, and I’ll tell them both to you right now.

The first secret is how I take off my shirt, if I’m going for a shower, or perhaps a quick change because the baby spit-up all down the back of what I was wearing. You see, most slobs will grab the collar of the shirt, and yank up, pulling it over the back of their head like some kind of Neanderthal. “But Jason, correct us, if we’re wrong, but Neanderthals didn’t wear shirts.” You are right. However, give the right collection of anthropologists the right mix of cocktails, and the truth emerges: if Neanderthals had worn shirts, this is how they would have taken them off. Like pigs. “But Jason, pigs don’t-” oh shut up.

My method, the extra-sexy method, is to cross my arms in front of me, and grab the bottom of the shirt. I then pull up, uncrossing my arms as I go. You’ll realize this is the way male models, attractive actors, and strippers “do the deed” as it were. And in that moment, when the belly is exposed, I am, indeed, a male model, an attractive actor, a sort-of stripper. There’s some kind of magic there, having to do with confidence. For example, even though my head goes through the neck-hole, somehow my face is never obscured during this process. How is this so? Magic, as I said.

It really is that simple, and as a result of this magic I don’t really have to exercise, eat right, or be incarnated as the offspring of air-brushed, photo-shopped parents. I can sit in front of my computer all day, playing video games and surfing the internet, and so long as I’m wearing a shirt that I can later take off, the sexiness remains.

An open robe works too, but that’s more of an advanced technique- one I wouldn’t suggest you try just yet. Stick with the shirt thing for now. Give it a couple of tries. Practice slow, try it fast a few times, and think about the post-off shirt-throw that can, in the right moment, add a real touch of fire.

That’s basically it. My other secret is that I make up people in my head who ask me questions about how I stay so sexy. I then answer those questions in a rather convincing manner, and most of the time, the people believe me. And what’s wonderful about this method is that, since I made those people up, that they believe me means only that I told them the truth. For them, taking off my shirt from the bottom up really does make me a sexy person.

Now, if that’s all of the questions for the time being, I do, in fact, need to go take a shower. I’ve been on the computer all day, playing video games and surfing the internet, and I’m exhausted. “But Jason,” and there is a pause. “Go ahead,” I say. “Um… we didn’t really have a question this time. Unless you want to make one up for us? Since you made us up anyway?” Very well then. The shower can wait.

Why don’t you ask me how I’m able to somehow defy the rules of sexiness by taking off my pants before my socks, and somehow not suffer the consequences of such a violation. “Yes, that,” you say. Go ahead then. “You want us to say what you just said?” Yes I do. I may have made you up, and I may have made up the question, but I’m doing my daily writing exercise, and I need the word count.

“Sigh. Okay. How is that you’re able to somehow defy the rules of sexiness by taking off your pants before your socks, and somehow not suffer the consequences of such a violation?” I’m glad you asked. “Will this have something to do with ancient races of human beings?” No. I mean, not directly.

Because the answer this time is genetics. I have enormous calves. Socks on me look like graffiti on a mighty pillar holding up a gigantic, sexy building. In fact, some, and yes I do mean people I’ve made up, would even say that such calves are at risk of distracting any erstwhile observers from the sexiness thing when I take off my shirt the way I do.

“Really?” Yes, really. And we’ve hit our word-count, so that’s all for this exercise.

Unable House

daily writing exercise,

fiction by Jason Edwards

There is neither rhyme nor reason in the arrangement of the forks found in the cutlery drawer of Able House, in Eastern Pigback, Montana. A veritable miasma of disorganizational styles. For to call it merely disorganized would be a disservice, akin to the insult applied to those erstwhile lexinauts wandering The Library of Babel as described by Jorge Luis Borges. Rather, the forks as they lay are purposefully chaotic, an oxymoron of placement, intent, and silverware.

Legend has it that a hobo found himself lost in Eastern Pigback, no mean feat, as he had never been in Montana in his life. He came upon Able House and entered. Inside he found anything and everything he might need: cans of beans, sticks for making bindles, extra large king-sized beds, matches, decks of cards with only a few missing, foreign coins, a bidet, small shiny bottles for trading, hand-built folding knives. But the cutlery drawer drew him. Called to him and seduced him. He opened it, saw the forks there, all higgledy-piggeldy, and went mad. His ghost still haunts Able House, they say.

That the hobo had never been to Montana in his life but was there for all of his death was the very character of Able House and the cutlery drawer. Put Fate on trial, for all the good it would do. And as legends go, the story of the hobo is especially troubling since no one has ever visited Able House and lived. So where do the stories come from?

A man sits on a bench on a train platform waiting for the number seven at 5:30. Another man walks past him, and the first man only realizes later that this man is now sitting on the bench as well. Minutes go by, as does the number 7, and 5:30. The man has a moment of self-realization, self-awareness, occupies a temporary duality as he watches himself listening to the other man tell stories of Able House. The cutlery drawer of madness. The upstairs bedroom dresser drawer of socks and madness. The door in the pantry the once led to a small garden but now only leads to madness.

The man puts a spoon into his mouth, blinks a few times, tastes soup. He looks around himself. He is at home, in his kitchen. His wife is there, telling him about the price of beef. He’s been home for a while, having taken that train, having picked up his car, having pulled into the driveway, entered his house, changed his jacket for a sweater, shoes for slippers. The soup is mediocre. His wife is mediocre. His life is mediocre. He resolves, over a stiff drink, to leave it all behind and find Montana. Later, he reads the evening paper, fornicates, sleeps, and the next day goes to work for the rest of his life.

He never tells anyone the stories he heard about Able House, but whenever his brain detects connotations and permutations of memory pointers that drift towards the places where the stories are sequestered in his head, he recalls them. He’s at a mediocre dinner party, a man named James waves his fork around for emphasis as he relates his distaste for government and mass murder, and the man recalls Able House, understands for a moment that there’s more to mass murder than mere madness, goes back to his cutlet. It tastes of sand, but then everything does.

The cutlery drawer, the sock drawer, the door from the pantry to the garden. These are only a few of the elements that make Able House one of the most evil places in Easter Pigback. Eastern Pigback is one of the most evil places in Montana. Montana itself is evil, as is the United States. And so is the Earth, and our Solar System, our galaxy. Scientists have more or less proven that our galaxy is but one of billions in a cluster of galaxies, each separated from the other by vast reaches of empty, cold, indifferent, and hostile space. The only thing that makes such large empty regions fathomable is that this cluster of galaxies is itself within a wall of clusters, and the empty regions separating these clusters is nearly but not quite infinitely larger. And then there are other walls of clusters of galaxies, and the space between them is madness.

Are these walls of clusters of galaxies themselves grouped in some sort of collection of walls? But what is a collection of walls? Let us call it a house. Able House is a collection of walls, of clusters, of galaxies, of stars, of planets, of countries, of counties, of vast acreages, of places where hobos find themselves lost, are driven mad by willfull chaos, and in death live only inside the entropy-making minds of tired old men who hate their wives but hate them gently.

Bananas! Zombies!

Daily writing exercise,

fiction by Jason Edwards

Hello everyone, my name is Bananas Sunday. Thank you all for coming out tonight. I think there are still some chairs in the front, for those of you standing in the back. Don’t be shy! I don’t bite, not at these rates, anyway. My little joke.

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: yes, that’s my name. Bananas, as the fruit, although technically it’s an herb, and Sunday as in the day of the week, not the ice cream dessert. So no jokes or nicknames like Parfait, or Split. If you must know, it is a family name. We think it might have been Bananas on Sunday, once, but we know for certain that it was never Bananas on a Sunday, or for that matter, on a Sundae. Alright?

Oh, and my last name is Smith-Wopington. Bananas Sunday Smith-Wopington. When I was in infants we used to joke about how difficult it would be to put my name on the back of a football jersey. Not to mention the color commentator on the radio fumbling over my name every time I put one through to Brainless, our striker.

Which might as well act as a segue, since we’re all here to talk about the Zombie situation. I’m sure we could spend the entire evening on my name, but let’s not let ourselves be distracted any further. It’s just a name, and I do appreciate your using the whole name when addressing me. I’ve chose not to answer to “Bananas” or “Bans” or even “Smith-Wopington.” Reminds me of Army.

Now of course if I was loitering on a street corner smoking a dog-end and pawing through an American stroke book and you were to shout “Bananas! Zombie!” and one of them was behind me, I’d have no choice but to respond, wouldn’t I? But, for example, when we dined at Chez Egal, they always said “Mr. and Mrs. Bananas Sunday Smith-Wopington, right this way please.” Or at least they used to before, well, the incident.

That’s why I’m here, you see. The zombies. They’ve touched me personally. My wife, Elephant in the Room, was taken from me. And that large sigh from me was as much sadness as it is frustration that I have to explain her name as well. I mean really, we have zombies to talk about. But if that’s what you want.

When my late wife’s mother was with child with her, no one would talk about it, except that when they did it was always after using the phrase The Elephant in the Room. And so when she was born, her mother, in her delivery delirium, named her that, leaving off the word The, of course. That we both have and had unique names is entirely coincidental. It has nothing to do with how we met. I’m telling you because people always ask.

I met Elephant in the Room Smith-Dentist at a Catholic mixer. The romantic part about it is that neither of us were Catholic. I’m a God fearing protestant and my sweet Ellie was raised Zoroastrian. We were crashing. We met, lied about our names because we were young and foolish, fell in love, finally revealed our true selves, and the rest, as they say, is history.

A history snuffed out by zombies, which is the point, so if you’d let me get back to the matter at hand, that would be delightful. I mean, it’s what you paid me to discuss, isn’t it?

I mean, really, we usually wait for questions until after, and they’re usually on the topic of zombies. I have no siblings. Neither did my wife. We did not have children. Not that it’s any of your business, but we didn’t believe in the sort of activities that one would do that would eventually lead one to having children. I’m not talking about sex, you filthy perverts. We went at it like rabbits. I’m talking about reading the books, timing one’s copulation with the moon, preparing the house with gates on the steps and little plastic safety covers in the outlets.

Listen to me, I know what I’m talking about. You think fornication creates offspring, but then you thought zombies were a kind of fiction, too. And now here you are, huddled in a small auditorium and paying me to give you some insight and instruction. Is it my fault you can’t get past my name? Do you think I owe you something for my fee, some duty to change my name so it doesn’t distract? Well, I’m sorry, that’s not the contract I signed.

See? You see? There they are, at the doors, all this time wasted on my name and now they’re here, and you all packed in like sardines, an apt metaphor as they’re about to eat you were you stand. And to think some of you had the opportunity to move up here closer to the front. Always the first to go.

If anyone owes anyone anything it’s these damned zombies who owe me thanks because I always seem to be giving these lectures to what amounts to future dinner morsels. I’ve already cashed the cheque, so I’ll leave now.