Archive for August, 2009

The Cages (a short story)

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

A little over a week ago, Tim challenged me to write a short story.  He said it should be about 1,000 words long and contain a zombie or two, a heroine in a blue dress, the word “undulate”, love, a car chase, and the realization of some great life lesson.  After a lot of editing, it came to 1,175 words.  One of the hardest parts was deciding what to name it.  For now, I’m calling it “The Cages”.  It’s posted below.

Jon’s bottom lip along with most of the skin below it had been bitten off after Molly’s third visit to the cages. Since then Molly had been back every day for a week, so she was getting used to the sight of his bloody teeth and exposed gums. It was a very skeletal look. Some days she would imagine he was fine and that a simple flesh-eating bacteria had consumed the bottom portion of his face. Only in reality Jon’s problem hadn’t been bacteria, it was zombies.

Fortunately for Molly’s obsession with Jon, PETZ had been founded before anyone had put a bullet in his head. PETZ, People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies, consisted of a bunch of bleeding heart humanitarians who decided that the undead had a right to life. Molly considered these people to be fucking bat-shit crazy (to say the least), but as she stared into Jon’s dull, lifeless eyes that she loved so much, she decided to keep her opinions to herself. She was not a stupid girl – she even recognized her own insanity every night when she squeezed her size five hips through the rear window of the warehouse holding the cages.

In fact, she also noted how deranged she was for telling the walking corpse that she was in love with him, something she could never do when he was alive. Molly never knew how Jon felt about her, but she was certain there had been chemistry between them. They gravitated towards each other. “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” was the cliché that repeated in her head. (Of course, this was preferable to the time she worked at a corporate office and the stalls in the ladies’ room proudly displayed signs that read “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be neat and clean the seat.” She hated those signs, and she hated that for months after she quit, every time she used a restroom the words came to mind. As if she wouldn’t clean her own piss off the toilet seat if it found it’s way there while she squatted.)

Following three weeks of routine secret zombie visiting, Molly was shocked when after her entrance through window she ran into another living human. They encountered each other in the hallway leading up to the cages.

“Uh, can I help you?” he asked.

“No, I, uh…” Think! she told herself. What’s a good excuse for being in the PETZ warehouse after dark when no one else is usually there? Fuck.

“Nice dress,” he commented.

She was wearing her favorite blue dress. She liked to look nice for Jon. Just like when he was alive, she always liked to look nice for him. “Thanks,” she replied. “I’m just here visiting, um, an old friend. I just…”

To her relief, he interrupted her. “I’m Matt,” he said.

He’s cute, she thought, very cute. Not cute like Jon, but in a different way. Taller for sure, and those eyes… She felt like she could trust Matt’s eyes. She never felt that way about Jon’s eyes. Maybe that’s why she never told him how she felt when he was alive. How her heart would undulate in her chest every time she saw him. How she wanted to make him happy. How she was a different person when he smiled at her. That she would carry the world on her back for him at his request, and that she would wage war on anyone who hurt him.

“…so it really makes no difference to me,” Matt was saying. She had missed everything he said while lost in thought. “You just do your thing, and I’ll –“

Right then a bottle of wine that she had smuggled in fell from its ripped paper bag and shattered on the ground between them.

“Shit shit shit!” she burst out as she reached down to pick up the glass. “Fuck! I cut myself.” Blood dripped down her forearm from the palm of her hand.

He took her uninjured hand in his. It was warm. “Come on,” he instructed her as he led her to the first aid kit.

Molly didn’t see Jon that night. It turned out that Matt had a bottle of Jameson stashed in his office, and although the first three shots were meant to dull the pain of the cut on her hand, the rest of the bottle went down easily for both of them. They found that they shared a love of Irish whiskey, among other things. So many other things that they talked until the sun came up.

This became Molly’s new nightly tradition. Matt was hired as the night watchman for Jon’s PETZ location. It seems the daytime staff starting suspecting nighttime intruders after finding two empty bottles of wine in the break room garbage can one morning and a tube of red lipstick by the cages another morning.

Four weeks went by before Matt told Molly that he was in love with her. She felt the same way, and so she told him. She never thought she could feel that way and actually have those feelings reciprocated so effortlessly.

It was a Tuesday when he told her that he loved her. It was on this same Tuesday that she was wearing her favorite blue dress, the one she wore the night they met. It was also this same Tuesday when the old, rusted lock on Jon’s cage fell to the floor.

All Molly remembers of that fateful night is feeling Matt tense up as she kissed him. As she opened her eyes she saw that Matt’s eyes were wide with shock, and she felt a warm liquid soak her hand that was affectionately placed on his neck, just below his left ear. Blood.

As Matt’s body collapsed in front of her, she saw Jon. His bottom teeth and exposed gums were covered with Matt’s blood. Jon immediately knelt at Matt’s side and bit into his neck. Molly screamed and scanned the room for a weapon. It seemed that only a second went by when she looked back down at the horrific scene to see Matt’s neck had been completely devoured, his head separated from his body.

She ran out of the front door. Her car was parked on the street. Another car sped by followed by a police car with its lights flashing. She was disoriented. She had Matt’s blood on her hands, and some on her blue dress.

Somehow she managed to get into her car and start the engine. As she drove away she saw Jon’s undead body stumble out of the warehouse. She was off-track, she was falling, and she was confused. And then the thought came – “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all”. At that moment she realized the inaccuracy of the saying. It was a half-truth. She knew it was better to have loved and been loved back and lost than to have never loved at all.

Tabun, Sarin, & Mickey Mouse

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Gas masks, along with children, can be incredibly creepy. Horror movies confirm this statement. Some films depict murderers donning gas masks with no threat of a chemical attack, while others show herds of creepy children murdering countless adults with sickles and machetes.

Therefore, putting a gas mask on a child would intensify his/her creepiness.  There is no horror movie to confirm this statement, but one can easily Google “World War 2 children gas masks” for proof.  As if putting the traditional gas mask on a child wasn’t enough, in 1942 the Mickey Mouse Gas Mask for children was manufactured.  The design was intended to be fun for children.  This way, if there was a gas attack on civilian population, children would react as if it were a game.

Luckily (for the survival of the children and the parents’ potential nightmares), the Mickey Mouse Gas Mask never had to be used for its intended purpose.  No matter how fun these masks were made to look, I think children would quickly realize that tabun was not a game when the leak in Daddy’s mask caused a runny nose and trouble breathing to escalate into convulsions and loss of bladder control.  Or maybe the fun of sarin would have worn off when Mommy couldn’t get her mask on fast enough and she lost control of her bodily functions causing her to vomit, defecate, and urinate on herself before suffocating in a series of uncontrollable spasms.

See, that Mickey Mouse Gas Mask doesn’t seem so fun anymore.

mickey_mouse_mask1

Mickey Mouse Gas Mask (above), children in gas masks during WW2 (below)

childrenww2

The Rev. (& Love)

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

“Going to Union Pool with three girls is like bringing sand to the beach,” Chris said.

We were on our way to see Reverend Vince Anderson and His Love Choir.  I hadn’t been since their Monday night residency changed from the now non-existent Black Betty to Union Pool.  Mitchell and I used to go every Monday, and I mean every Monday.  For us, the Rev.’s Monday night shows (which most of the regulars refer to as “church”) are enjoyable for many reasons.  The quality of the music, the dancing, the stories that the Rev. tells, the genuine message of positivity and… love.

Last night while the Rev. was playing “I Had a Ring in My Pocket, She Had Leaving on Her Mind”, Mitch and I drunkenly slow danced. This is common for us during that song and the Rev.’s cover of “Dancing Queen” (one of my favorites).  We proceeded to have a booze-induced conversation about our possible marriage to one another.  It’s not too bad of a plan – we both have the same priorities when it comes to the gift registry (sandwich press, daiquiri machine, and deep fryer).  We both take pleasure in drinking, dancing, and Tori.  And we love each other.  Even last night Mitch told me, “You are an asshole, but I love you.”

Still, I don’t really understand being in love.  I’ve seen it on television shows and movies, and it appears pretty delightful and at times even exciting.  Enough movies have taught me that if I just walk around the city with a stack of papers, a gorgeous man is sure to bump into me and knock the papers out of my hand.  He’ll help me pick them up, and then as we both awkwardly stand and look into each others’ eyes, BAM! we’re in love.  Cue the music and the montage of scenes depicting a lifetime of happiness together.  It’s obviously my fault that I’m not in love since I could surely find the time to walk around with a stack of papers, but I don’t.  Maybe I just want it to be easier than that.  Don’t get me wrong – it should not lack intensity and occasional ferment.  The random storm causes an inspiring disquiet; it reminds me that I’m human.

So, in an effort to know love, I looked it up on Dictionary.com.  There are a LOT of definitions.  Here are a few:

- a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
- sexual passion or desire.
- a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
- to have love or affection for another person; be in love.
- in love: infused with or feeling deep affection or passion
- in love with: feeling deep affection or passion for a person

I’m still confused.  It’d be better defined as “undefinable”.  In my mind, words are not capable of doing such a thing justice.  I know that I really like someone when I can’t explain why, but I don’t think I have ever been in love.  Maybe for there to really be love there has to be reciprocation.  Otherwise isn’t it just one person longing for another?  And what if it is reciprocated but never spoken – does it exist?  It seems like that would just revert to pining, since neither person knows how the other feels unless they say it.  Sure either half can interpret the other half’s actions as love, but that could be a case of straight self-deception.  Being “in love” to me implies that you are being loved back.  If this is the case, because we cannot read minds and because so many of us refrain from verbalizing our feelings, we could be in love right now and not even know it.

I find it all very, very puzzling.

Phobias and Superscripts

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

I used to be chorophobic1. Good friends were shocked when I overcame this fear. I remember telling Devin that I never danced because I wasn’t happy. Or maybe it simply had to do with gelotophobia2.

During my teenage years, I developed a strong glossophobia3. The apprehension is still very powerful, and I long to get over it. It goes hand in hand with my ophthalmophobia4. When people stare at me, my face tends to blush. Because of my ereuthrophobia5, this situation is most uncomfortable. I’m not sure why this happens. Maybe it stemmed from my cacophobia6. Growing up, I hated how I looked, but I wasn’t exactly eisoptrophobic7. That could be because I was always trying to make myself pretty with a variety of hairstyles and makeup products. Some may label this superficial, like my obesophobia8.

The majority of teenagers today make me ephebiphobic9. Funny that we can fear what we once were. It probably happens more often than we realize.

Recently, I wrote about my entomophobia10. I have also touched on my pedophobia11. Never mentioned, but quite prevalent in my life is my dentophobia12. Those who knew me last fall when I had my wisdom teeth removed witnessed my concern over having someone rip four teeth from my head. To say that I was terrified is an understatement.

Around that same time in my life, I met someone. When I start to think back, I get slightly mnemophobic13. I suppose my philophobia14 will perpetually affect my ability to be with someone. I can be very zelophobic15 – the fear being that I will feel this way, not necessarily that the other person will. With many people, more often than not this has to do with insecurities. Closely associated to my relationship insecurities is athazagoraphobia16. I clearly recall times when I have told boys not to “forget me”. One of them said he never could.

Lately, I have been getting over my decidophobia17. Obviously, I have made many decisions instigating changes in my life. My chronophobia18 doesn’t have to do with gerontophobia19, but more a fear of running out of time to do everything that I want to do. I have a tendency to step back and look at the big picture, and then the cliché invades my mind: Life is short. It’s true, especially when comparing it to the actuality of everything.

A final phobia worth mentioning is quite the double-entendre, but I find that both interpretations are applicable to my foreboding: scelerophobia20. Yet all of these trepidations considered, and at the risk of quoting two overused phrases in one blog, I must agree that the only thing we really have to fear is fear itself.

1. Afraid of dancing.
2. Fear of being laughed at.
3. Fear of speaking in public or trying to speak.
4. Fear of being stared at.
5. Fear of blushing.
6. Fear of ugliness.
7. Afraid of seeing oneself in a mirror.
8. Fear of gaining weight.
9. Afraid of teenagers.
10. Fear of insects.
11. Fear of children.
12. Fear of dentists.
13. Afraid of memories.
14. Fear of falling in love or being in love.
15. Afraid of jealousy.
16. Fear or being forgotten or ignored or forgetting.
17. Fear of making decisions.
18. Fear of time.
19. Fear of old people or growing old.
20. Fear of bad men, burglars.

Thursday, January 19, 2006: I Can See Your Face

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

hold on tight, let’s play a game of make believe.  we are both beautiful.  we live in a castle.  the gods walk with us, on the same streets, they eat at our table.  everything lasts forever.  our bodies never grow old.  it’s never too late.  true love is easy to find.  no one wants anything from us.  everything smells and tastes and feels like the first time, every time.  there is always enough time.  there is no such thing as time.  and we sit back and watch from high up in our castle at the world we created, and we look in each others eyes, and we smile.  it feels so good to smile.

Comment
why are you so totally gay?
Posted by Matt Harrington on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 – 5:58 PM

“Seems I keep getting this story twisted…”

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

I have a full day of work tomorrow, and then my exit interview is Friday morning. After that, I will come to work and finish packing up my office. My job walking the cutest Dachshund puppy in the world (named Gherkin) officially starts on August 31st.

In other news, Tim challenged me to write a short story. “A story, not an essay. Fiction,” he said.

“I have trouble believing anything is 100% fiction,” I told him.

“Very true,” he replied. “So write a story; that’s my challenge. Something short…” and he began to list the requirements. They were as follows: 1,000 words, a zombie or two, a heroine in a blue dress, the word “undulate”, love, a car chase, and the realization of some great life lesson.

I finished it today. It came to 1,176 words. After some editing, I may post it.

So, things are going quite well. I’m trying not to let it make me nervous.

Self-deception, Self-fulfilling prophecies, and Reverse Wishful Thinking

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

It has been suggested that people talented in self-deception can survive better than others.  This is justified by the idea that if a person can believe his/her own lie, then consequently he/she will convince others that it is the truth.

Consider a person who is deceiving others.  He/she will begin to reveal signs pointing to this insincerity.  Self-deception allows someone to believe his/her own deceit.  As a result, he/she will not show signs of being dishonest.  He/she will appear to be telling the truth.

Often people mislead themselves into believing something that they do not want to be true.  Alfred Mele called this “twisted” self-deception.  It can be very destructive, and it could become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Imagine a person who believes he/she is going to fail.  That person may begin to fear this failure.  These fears will give rise to actions in the person that might actually cause him/her to fail.

Robert Merton wrote that the “self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come ‘true’. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.”

Also related is reverse wishful thinking.  This is when a person believes that because something is bad, it is likely to happen.  (One could reduce this to pessimism.)  The person anticipates the worst possible outcome.  He/she prepares for it, waits for it, and oftentimes fears it.  Much like twisted self-deception begetting a self-fulfilling prophesy, reverse wishful thinking can have devastating results.

Some will argue that self-deception proves that humanity is superior to other living creatures because we actually have the ability to lie to ourselves.  The act is an abstraction or cogitation.  The process of creating fiction can only occur in creatures with brains intricate enough to permit this kind of thinking.

Yet when I see a house-cat free from duties and responsibilities, lethargically spending hours on a windowsill without the threat of betrayal or the capacity for dejection, I begin to wonder which of us really is the more admirable species.

Snails, Slugs, and Bugs

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

A snail’s body is made up mostly of water. The body alone, without the shell, is called a slug.

Salt on the other hand, is very dry.

If someone pours salt onto a slug, the water in its body quickly moves out to make up for the difference in concentration. It dehydrates them, and they die. I expect that if a snail can feel, this would be most painful. It’s comparable to putting salt on an open wound – the salt takes out all of the moisture and it burns terribly. Now, imagine if your entire body was an open wound.

When I was younger, I used to pour salt onto slugs and watch them shrivel up and die. I certainly didn’t want to hurt them, I just found it interesting to watch them expire in such a way.

Long behind me are my slug murdering days, though it is now mandatory that any bug crossing my path be slaughtered. If possible, I demand the task be handled by whoever else is in the room. To implore him/her to handle the massacre, I use a combination of screams, panic, and physical displays of intense fear causing distraction from any other matter at hand. I imagine that I am quite annoying and somewhat humorous in this situation.

Frankly, I do not like bugs. The ceiling in my bedroom is a small graveyard for those who mistakenly thought it a safe path to their destination. The bugs’ lives are quickly ended by the wrath of my flip-flop. I loathe them so very much that I can’t even bring myself to wipe their crushed and broken bodies off of my ceiling. They remain as a cautioning to their friends.

Still, some bugs choose not to heed this warning, and so they end up a lifeless smear on my cold white canopy. I feel minimal remorse for this butchery, although the blood on my shoes does irritate me.

“I dream of touring like Duke Ellington – in my own railroad car.”

Friday, August 14th, 2009

In the 1930′s, America was racially divided.  Many towns in the South denied service to black men and women.  It was nearly impossible for them to get a hotel room, and equally as difficult for them to get a meal in a restaurant.

Around this time, Edward “Duke” Ellington and his band were touring through the segregated Southern towns.  To avoid the injustices and insults that they were sure to encounter, Ellington rented two private railroad cars.    The trains provided a place for the band to eat, sleep, and store their equipment.  Staying true to the form of a musician, Ellington and his crew would also throw parties on the rail cars.

“That was the way the President traveled,” Ellington said.

Racial segregation is clearly asinine.  It began for the same reason racism still exists – because of inane, imbecilic people who let unfounded fears control their ignorant minds.

However, there is something beautiful about the simple fact that Ellington and his band mates toured in their own railroad cars.  I don’t think I’d mind traveling the country, playing packed ballrooms every night before returning to my train car for good times with friends.

All would be aboard for the next city and the next show.  And together, we would watch the world go by.

The Story of the USS Indianapolis

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

The USS Indianapolis was a naval warship designed for high speed.  It is for this reason, along with her location, that the ship was chosen to deliver crucial parts for the first atomic bomb.  The delivery was made on July 26th, 1945, to Tinian, one of several islands occupied by the U.S. from which bombing raids were conducted.

Following the delivery of the secret cargo, the USS Indianapolis received new orders to sail to the East Coast of the Philippines.  There she would join with another battleship, the Idaho, for a few days of training and gunnery practice.  A single message was sent in code to the Idaho advising its crew of Indianapolis’ orders.  But the message was distorted at the receiving end and Idaho didn’t ask for a repeat of the transmission.  They never even knew that the Indianapolis was on her way.  The project to develop the first atomic bomb, The Manhattan Project, was so secret that when the Indianapolis did not confirm its arrival, she was not listed as overdue.

Just after midnight on Monday, July 30th, 1945, a Japanese submarine fired its first torpedo at the Indianapolis, annihilating the front of the ship.  Because her speed through the water continued during the attack, thousands of tons of seawater began collapsing the ship’s walls.  Shortly after a second torpedo hit and knocked out all electrical power.  The Indianapolis was going down, and the officers ordered all hands to abandon ship.  She sank in only 12 minutes.

There were almost 2,000 men aboard the Indianapolis.  About 300 went down with the ship, and the remaining 900, many burned and wounded, were left floating in the shark infested waters.

Shark attacks began around daylight.  For the next four and a half days, screams filled the air as men were picked off one at a time by the sharks.  The sea water was now a mixture of blood and fuel.  Survivors say that the sharks were always there, hundreds of them feeding on the men at the predators’ convenience.  By the third day it is estimated that only 400 men were still alive.  Half-eaten bodies littered the sea alongside the remaining men who were slowly going mad from terror, starvation, and dehydration.

Shortly after 10am on Thursday morning, a Navy airplane was flying on routine submarine patrol.  On the fateful flight, the pilot spotted what was left of the crew from the USS Indianapolis.  Another plane was dispatched, and as it began dropping rafts and supplies from 100 feet above the water, the workers informed the pilot that they could see the men in the water being eaten alive by sharks.

Although at this point the company aboard the plane had no idea who these men in the water were, they ignored standing orders that banned landing in open seas.  As they began to take survivors on board, some of the men in the water died from removing their life jackets to try and swim to the plane.  They were simply too weak.

The plane was packed with survivors and unable to fly.  Once it was clear who the men were, a ship was sent to their location.  It wasn’t until Friday morning that all of the 317 surviving men were out of the water.

The wreckage from the USS Indianapolis has never been found.  Her story remains the largest single disaster at sea ever suffered by the U.S. Navy.

uss indy

uss indy crew