Friday, February 16, 2007

The Coin of the Realm

This was the part of the job he hated. All week he enjoyed the early rise, the long quiet bike ride with the heavy bag full of papers, the small signs of stirring, the late night stragglers struggling with house keys. But then the serenity of routine would shift come Sunday and people had to pay him for his services.

Yeah, he got paid, but all it meant to him was he had to deal with these people. They weren't asleep today, they had to pay up. You'd think he was coming to collect the vig from a late lowlife in a scummy Italian restaurant, instead of picking up a few extra bucks to be able to buy pizza after school got out.

To make matters worse, he had a new customer. He'd not met her yet, but she lived in an apartment building, house really, that was filled with angry septegenarians. As bad as making regular visits was, the first visit was always the worst for him. His normal bike-ride sweat would be layered over with a nervous sheen, an anti-social coat of perspiration. All of a sudden he'd be far more aware of what he was wearing, the sound of his voice, the way he walked, all of that shit.

The apartment complex was a big old Colonial house really, one he'd stood at the front door of many times. Someone would come trudging down the hall on a walker, or roll out in a scooter. He'd never had a customer on the second floor, which he'd not noted before this morning. He rang her buzzer. Just a second, she said, and buzzed him in.

Disoriented by the invitation, he hesitantly stepped through the door. Standing in the lobby he felt like an explorer. His bag of papers seemed to gain shape and weight, but somehow became more pleasant to carry. A door opened out of sight above him and heels clicked on hardwood. His blood picked up.

A brunette with wet hair and a purse over her shoulder approached the top of the steps. She asked him what she owed him but he didn't hear her. As she sat on the highest step and began to rummage through her purse, her bare knees clung together to repel his eyes. They almost totally succeeded.

Somehow he made her laugh; maybe about the huge sum she owed him, maybe a self-deprecation about his timeliness or lack thereof. Either way, that sound was to be the last sound he heard as a child. By the time her laugh had tapered off, he was thinking like a man.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


There was nowhere to hide. If nothing changed and quick, they were more than toast. They were some coyote's bread and butter.

The hike had started early and was peppered with recreational drug use, junk food, and not enough water. By the time they hit the small expanse of grassland that tucked up against the towering facade they aimed to climb, they were dehydrated, stoned, hungry, sugar crashed, and exhausted.

That was before the strange electronic bubble enveloped their little camp. It was like something out of an early MTV video...mildly menacing and slightly sexy, fakely real and velveeta cheese-y.

Daphne was the first to panic and try to break through. Since there wasn't more than three feet of space between the entrance to their tent and the inner edge of the wacky dome, her charred remains wound up smoking and smelling mighty nasty.

Cricket, who had dated Daphne on and off ever since he started dealing pot a year and a half ago, was horrified at the carnage but some small flame of relief turned on and he realized that he'd never loved her. He wisely kept this from Sandi, Daphne's best friend and his best customer. She'd freak out even more if she found out that he wasn't really sorry to see Daph go.

So, none of this was very reassuring, but then things got worse. The pressure of the lava lamp invader quickly rendered them incapable of moving. They could feel impulses racing to their appendages, attempting to deliver the message, and feeling like many sad adolescent teenage boys used to feel before call-waiting changed the world.

They all writhed under the shifting lights that raced through the membrane that surrounded them. The sun went down and shortly after that, the kooky cage simply disappeared. But they still could not move.

Many miles away, a pack of desperate wolves picked up their scent. Normally they wouldn't have anything to do with man, but something told them this would be like an all you can eat buffet. And that, as they say, was that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Discovery and Stupidity

The young god was very far from home. His mom was going to be upset with him later on and would probably only let him eat one or two solar systems before going to sleep for millenia. But that was for later, when he returned to Mt. Crackitybang where all the gods lived. He was supposed to be meeting his Uncle Prism who was going to show him all about forging stars and blowing them up, but he took a detour to earth before his lesson began.

He inched over the mountain, shining his giant mag-lite all around. He didn't see the structure that tripped him up, but before he knew it he was face first in the ocean, bleeding from his lip. He was really going to catch hell now, because his star-garment was creased and wet.

He ripped a giant swath of sod from the slope of the mountain and began to dab at the stain. Little beings dropped from it and they looked funny. The little noises they made stopped when he stomped on them. They didn't taste so good.

The impromptu dab only spread the seawater around. HE WAS GOING TO BE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE. He hated it when his mom yelled; watching galaxies get sucked into her screaming vortex made his tummy feel bad. This stress made him think he couldn't find his way home. Oh boy, did he begin to cry.

By the time he was done crying, the teeny bad-tasting things were shooting things at him and arguing over what he meant in the grand scheme of things. He just made it in time for the star tutorial with Uncle Prizm, who promised that he could keep a secret.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Precursors and Lectures

It had not been a good morning for Professor Simmons. His automatic coffee maker had shorted out sometime during the night so he had to wait bleary eyed and weary for each little damn brown drop to plop. European presses are too kitschy to wake up to and this offended his faux Proletariat facade.

When he was younger, the whole cravat/tweed pretense read more like eccentricity. Now, it was like a cursor beeping at the end of a list of errors in judgement. Deep in his heart he heard every muttered derision, every passing car transported a soul that saw him and scoffed. His every moment was suffused with acceptance of his failure; and yet, like a late evacuee in a flood, there his head bobbed, there he denied the swirling fate that enveloped him.

He didn't have a bad wig, but he might as well have.

His first seminar of the day was in a bland hall tucked away behind the Biology monstrosity. The desks in the drably lit room were so like elementary school that he half expected Jimmy Travis to jump on him and pull his pants down in front of that girl he liked. His students shambled in like the suckers they use to fill out police lineups, innocent but just barely.

Without greeting them formally, Simmons began. Coffee lids, powdered pastry in plastic wrap, zippers on backpacks, earplugs coming out, all these sounds fought him until he was just far enough into the lecture so that he couldn't start over. The collective lack of interest in the room was enough to put pre WWII Germany to shame.

Suddenly, without provocation, to the surprise of all present, most of all himself, Professor Alton Simmons began to laugh at it all. And once he did this, something even more surprising happened. His hair began to grow at an alarming rate. By the middle of the seminar he almost tripped over it while staggering into the corner in a fit of giggling. Surprisingly, none of the students called 911...