Hastily created during/inspired by a text conversation with Thomas last month. Try making your own!
“A job worth doing is worth doing. Right?” –George Meyer
“Wow, I have way more money than I thought I did!” I thought to myself, after looking up the balance of my checking account online.
I opened my “finances” moleskine to the most recently written-on page:
Olympia, So Far
$12 writing supplies.
$4000 hotel rooms
It didn’t add up. Subtracting those expenses from the amount my father placed in my shirt pocket, trustingly, when I left home, I should definitely have been broke.
But who knows I thought to myself. I’m no good at math. I always did better in the easier classes. In wood shop, for example, I got a B-.
I guess I’m what you would call an “idiot savant.” I’m incompetent at a lot of things– social interaction, sports, personal hygiene, painting, English, physics, origami, symphony writing–but uncommonly good at other things, like tying my shoes. They were on real tight today.
(My secret is I use both techniques: loop, swoop, and pull, AND bunny ears. That way, if one fails, you’ve still got the other one.)
Anyway, there I was. Top floor of the Governor’s Hotel, with a bank account full of unearned money. I turned up the music on my iPod.
100 grand on my wrist, yeah life sucks….
Someone on one of the floors below me was smoking pot. I could smell it.
“Hey!” I called out the window.
I tried to cowboy-spit onto the ground below, but I was pretty dehydrated. It sprayed out of my mouth like weak buckshot and disappeared before it hit the ground.
On the train tracks below, I noticed, a hobo stopped pushing his shopping cart for a minute to pee in some bushes. It made me have to pee. It also made me oddly philosophical.
You know that old trippy theory about how the beating of a butterfly’s wings in China can cause a hurricane in America? This thing with me and the hobo I thought to myself, is like the beating of a butterfly’s wings in China causing the beating of another butterfly’s wings in China. I wrote that down in my “artistic and humorous thoughts” moleskine. Maybe that’s what that theory was originally about. Something simpler, like this. An observation about a butterfly, over time, becomes an observation about a hurricane.
It didn’t look as good on paper.
(But you already know that.)
I started to make my way over to the bathroom. As I was walking, the cord on my headphones got snagged on a drawer knob, and yanked the headphones off of my head.
I chuckled to myself, tensely, to suppress the rage.
As I was peeing, I looked at myself in the mirror, and tried out a couple different facial expressions. Aroused, mildly surprised, disgusted. Then I realized I actually was disgusted. If you’re like me, looking in the mirror can have that effect on you.
It’s not that my face is insanely ugly. The problem is that it’s soft, and forgettable. A real “bitch face.”
In a lot of ways, I felt like the Invisible Man in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.And also, to some degree, like the Invisible Man in H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.
Somehow that had to change.
Conveniently, right then, I got a call from my friend Donald.
Donald’s the one who convinced me to move to Olympia. I’d slept on his floor for about a week and a half, before I upgraded myself to staying in hotels. (It was taking me a long time to find an apartment.) He’s a weird guy. He wears those goofy outdoors-y pants that zip off into shorts, but he never goes outside, or zips them off into shorts. He works at a UPS warehouse, and everyone hates him there.
“Hey, what’s good?” said Donald.
“Nothing” I said, nihilisticly.
“You in Olympia?”
“Yeah” I said. “Top floor of the–”
“Come over to the coffee shop. I have an important question to ask you.”
I started to say something hesitant, to mock his dramatic-ness. But I didn’t.
In that moment, I realized I needed more drama in my life. I’d gotten fat and content, and it was time to suck it up and do something crazy. “Seize the bull by the horns.” It was like…
I’m not usually into metaphors, but let me give you a quick metaphor:
My friend Lamar, who’s from Texas, once told me about this intersection between two long, boring roads near his hometown. (“Near” in this case meaning about 90 miles away.) It’s in an ultra-flat, ultra brown, ultra bumblefucky part of Texas. And there’s a stoplight at the intersection. You can see it from miles away, because it’s so flat. (“You haven’t seen the middle of nowhere until you’ve see this intersection” is how my friend Lamar put it, in typical cinematic Texas fashion.) So you finally come to this stoplight, after you’ve been driving for miles through nothingness, and you have to stop there, because it’s red. That’s the joke. One of the guys from Lamar’s hometown set it up, as a prank. The stoplight is always red. It never changes. So you just sit there and sit there and sit there, all alone, in the middle of the prairie, waiting for the light to change. And there’s a camera set up on the light, so the guy can watch you, if he feels like it, and time how long it takes before you say “fuck this” and run the light. It’s an interesting test of character. The more of a sissy you are, the longer you wait.
When Lamar my friend told me this story, I’d realized what a sissy I was. I’d probably wait at that light for upwards of 10 minutes. And that’s what I was doing with my life, basically: waiting at the light. It was time for me to say fuck it and move on.
So I offered to meet Donald at the coffee shop.
“Whatever it is, I’m in” I said.
Before I left, I looked up my bank account balance again. You never know with these things. Maybe the person who mysteriously put the money in had mysteriously taken it back out.
Sure enough, I had -4 dollars.
There was a 20-something year old girl working the counter at the coffee place. She was pretty, in a youthful kind of way, but I didn’t like the cut of her jib. She had this annoying little smile, and her eyes were too twinkly. I like a woman with cold, angry eyes. There was a woman like that at my old coffee shop, back in Northern California, where I lived before I moved to Olympia. Slightly overweight, black hair, cold, angry eyes. My dream woman. I left her tips a lot but never really got into an interesting conversation with her. I was too aroused and intimidated.
This girl at the Olympia coffee shop didn’t intimidate me at all.
I strolled up to the counter and ordered a regular coffee with whipped cream.
She laughed a little, at my order. It made me feel pretty good, I have to admit. Maybe she wasn’t that bad after all. I can turn around pretty fast on people.
“So…are you pretty into the COUNTER culture here?” I asked.
She didn’t like that one, for some reason.
“No” she said.
She handed me the coffee, and I paid in quarters and sat down, without leaving a tip.
After about 5 minutes, Donald strolled in.
“What’s up” he said.
“Drinking a little coffee” I said. “What’s up with you?”
“Well” he said, “let me cut right to the chase.”
“Ok” I said. “Let’s get down to brass tacks here.”
Donald and I both love speaking in clichés. It’s a little game we play when we hang out together.
Donald sat down and rolled up his sleeves.
“Well” he said. “You know what an African grey parrot is?”
“What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?”
Here was the deal. I was as shocked as you’re about to be:
Donald had an old, miserly aunt named Cathy. Apparently, she was a lot like the Cathy in the funny pages, from the comic strip “Cathy.” Lonely, overweight, perpetually annoyed. Lesbian. And she had an African grey parrot, which is a super-smart (supposedly) type of parrot that you can train to say words and stuff. But there’s a huge downside to having this type of parrot (aside from the fact that it’s a parrot), which is this: They live for, like, 100 years. They’ll live longer than you. So if you get one, you’re in for life. No matter how much you start to hate it, you have to hang onto it. And no one’s going to want to take it off your hands. Especially this particular parrot, which was apparently kind of retarded. It could say words still, but it was like, depressed and shit. It was always having screeching fits in the middle of the night and tearing its own feathers out.
Cathy was getting really tired of the parrot.
So Donald, in his infinite wisdom, came up with a plan to relieve Cathy of her misery. He felt sorry for her, and her birthday was coming up, and he wanted to do this for her, as a unique, anonymous gift.
I bet you’re ahead of me, now.
He wanted me to kill the parrot. He said he’d give me $2000. Showed me the money in an envelope.
“It’s like when people have stuff in storage” said Donald. “Like old baby cribs, children’s artwork, their grandpa’s old tap dancing shoes…stuff like that. They don’t want the stuff anymore, and they wouldn’t really mind if it was gone, but guilt keeps them from throwing it away. So I was smoking a little weed, the other day, which you know I don’t do that much, and I got a brilliant thought. I had the thought that the best thing you could do for one of those people would be to burn down their storage locker. So they could be rid of that stuff, without having to deal with the guilt of throwing it away. They’d pretend to be sad that all their stuff was gone, but secretly they’d be happy. And that’s what gave me this idea.”
He looked into my eyes, to gauge what I was thought of his idea. I didn’t know what to say.
“Jesus, Donald” I said. “Why don’t you just burn down her storage locker then?”
“Well, a.), I don’t think she has a storage locker” he said. “And b.), even if she did, I think it’d be too sketchy to do in real life. They’d be suspicious of insurance fraud and stuff.”
“And killing a parrot isn’t sketchy?!?”
“Well, not really. Not if you don’t know the person. And you don’t even have an address in town yet. Plus, no one’s really going to investigate a pet murder. That’s the beauty of it.”
“Cathy might investigate.” I said. At this point in the conversation, it was clear that I was going to do it.
(I CAN EXPLAIN!)
“What’s Cathy going to find out?” said Donald. “She’s a fat old lesbian, not a gritty detective. And she’s going to be happy, remember?”
It seemed like a good time to be quiet for a minute, so I didn’t respond. We sat in silence for a while.
“I have to pay my hotel bill tomorrow, and the deposit on my new apartment, too” I said. “I had $1200 this morning, for some reason, and now I have -4 dollars.”
“Perfect” said Donald. “So you’ll do it?”
“Yeah” I said. “But you have to pay for my coffee.”
Here’s some more justification:
I knew, at this point in my life, I needed to start living up to my ideals. And my ideals said it was OK to kill a parrot.
Actually, they required me to kill a parrot. Required me to kill something. If you’re going to eat meat, you need to be OK with killing something. Everyone knows that. If you’re a man, and you eat meat, and you’re too sissy to kill something, you’re really nothing at all.
And I hate birds.
Somehow, Donald had sensed this.
The aunt, I guess, was out of town for the day. And Donald had a key. (I don’t know how, exactly…I don’t have a key to MY aunt’s house. Maybe he stole her key somehow, and made a copy.)
I walked around the block a couple times, to psych myself up. Said all the things to myself I just said to you. Thought about how blessed my life had been.
Finally I walked up to the door and opened it.
I was kind of expecting it to smell horrible in there, but if I would’ve known how horrible it was actually going to be I would’ve bought one of those painters masks.
I retched a little, but didn’t throw up. I barely ever throw up.
Then I saw the parrot. Threw up in my mouth a little.
His eyes were like the eyes of the girl in the coffee shop.
But the thing that put me off the most, for some reason, was the nose. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bird (and, in case I haven’t made it clear, you shouldn’t—the moral of this story, even more that “don’t murder people’s birds,” is “don’t get a bird in the first place”) but they have these weird little nostrils at the base of their beak. They look fake, and deeply unsettling
I took one step closer, then stopped again.
Then, I shit you not:
The most demonic, sinister voice I’ve ever heard.
I threw up on the rug and ran outside.
I’d had a feeling that was going to happen. I walked around the block again. Went to my car, where I’d prepared an emergency kit:
A pillowcase and a 40 of Steel Reserve.
The pillowcase was to cover the parrot’s face. My original “plan a” had been to open the cage, reach in, grab the parrot, and snap it’s neck over my head, like a man.
My plan b was to trap it in a pillowcase and smash it against a wall.
I drank the 40 as fast as I could.
When I was a boy, I had a pet lizard, named George, that I was afraid to pick up with my hands. He was pretty small, so it wasn’t like I was afraid he would hurt me, but…
He’d be sitting really still in his cage, and when I picked him up he’d start thrashing around, in the way only animals can. A life and death thrash. It was a truly horrifying. I had nightmares about it. Id dream I’d pick him up, and his limbs would start falling off. Stuff like that.
Also, there was this really weird goop he’d secrete out of his anus when he was scared. I guess it was one of his defense mechanisms. It made me think his insides were getting squeezed out.
Obviously, the bird was a little suspicious of me. I know I would’ve been, if I was a parrot. But Donald’s Aunt Cathy, sort of depressingly, had taught it to say “I love you.” So that’s what it said when I opened the door for the second time.
You can’t make this stuff up!
I slapped myself in the face. Shut up I thought to myself.
“Shut up” I said to the parrot.
“I love you.”
I ran over to the bird and grabbed it around the neck.
My pet lizard George had nothing on this parrot.
I started screaming, involuntarily. Probably because the parrot was screaming. Somehow I got it in the pillow case.
Muffled squawks. Fragments of creepy sentences.
I started smashing the sack against the wall. It wasn’t doing the trick.
I put it on the ground and started stomping.
I can still feel the crack of the beak beneath my shoe.
I’d been speed-walking in no particular direction for about 10 minutes when I got a text message from Donald:
“did you poison the bird yet?”
Weirdly, killing the parrot did do everything I wanted it to. It altered me, irreversibly, in a way that made me feel very much like an adult.
I was finally, after 31 long years of waiting, a man.
Now, if I could just lose my virginity…
THE B*LL*D OF TESSE WOLFSON
(A short story that never uses the letter A.)
(humbly dedic8ted to Webster’s word-finding book, which comes up with the synonyms.)
“Life goes on, bruh.”
-the liverpool 4
My story begins during the big South Berkeley thunderstorm of 2013, with me (of course) fighting with my “fuck-enemy” Wendy, who I now miss very much.
We were dining together in the Dessert Workshop™ (R.I.P.), which is somewhere I did not enjoy going, even on unlimited mollusk/$0.20 shots night. Things were getting tense.
“Motherfuckin‘ popcorn shrimp here looks like shit,” I grumbled.
The server shot me her best “don’t do this” look, but I didn’t stress it.
“You think so?” questioned Wendy. She looked upset.
“Yes,” I replied. Her feelings were of no concern to me. Her, the server….everyone in the whole western US could suck my little white penis if they didn’t like my style of living.
(They didn’t like my style of living.)
So Wendy dove right into some loud girly bullshit RE: us upsetting other people in public (incredible, right?!) then noticed me perusing the New Yorker on my iphone, which convinced her to knock over her expensive berry/lemon drink right onto the ground.
The other diners got very quiet.
“Cut it out” I yell/whispered. “Discontinue this hissy fit right this second or I’ll…I’ll shoot you.”
“Seriously?” (She pronounced it “see-wee-uss-lee,” since her mouth is deformed.)
“Of course,” I replied.
“Do it then,” she urged me. She knew I wouldn’t do it.
“I will,” I insisted. “I’ll plug you one right in the fucking mouth.”
“It wouldn’t be the worst thing you’ve ever done to me.”
“I think it might be,” I pointed out. It honestly would’ve been, I’m sure.
“Do it, then!” she cried. “Show me you’ve got some fucking testicles for once!!!”
“No…I’m not going to shoot you.”
“Then I guess this is goodbye, Tesse.”
“So long, then,” I sighed, trying to sound dismissive. “Send me my copy of Elements of Style if you ever find it.”
She never did.
Then I [ ]ed OUT out for quite some time.
The clock chimed 4:30 the second I got to my office (/home). My body told me to poop, but not very loudly. Not loudly enough.
(Looks like you’re foreshitowing something there! -’N-thony, my foulmouthed nephew/vice-copyeditor.)
Like every other night, I looked to my “BEFORE BED…” list for instructions.
This is the list:
pre-emptively” put on “hungover” mix* (*UGK’s Ridin’ Dirty with five “3 in the Mornin”’s)
drink 2 milk jugs of h2o
sit on the toilet flipping through old fusco brothers collections + violently peeing/shitting out $1
cheeseburgers for 2 hours, to ensure you don’t wet or (God forbid) shit the bed.
put on King of the Hill DVD
[END OF LIST]
lock the door
extinguish visible fires
strip off clothes, “PJ up”
idly fumble w/ cock + testicles, philosophize to self until overcome by the dope, non-stressful oblivion of
the non-preoccupied mind.*
(*Long winded, I know. I’m not good with brevity.)
(‘cept when it comes to sexin’! -N’Tony)
So those’re the lists.
99% of the time, I do like they tell me.
BUT THIS NIGHT I FELT 1%-ey.
(PS: I’d been drinking.)
I went to sleep with my clothes on.
Then, 45 (or 67?) short minutes l8er*…BOOM! (*I’m typing this on my iphone, so I need to ‘brevi8 sometimes.) Someone knocked on my door, loudly enough to stir me from my slumber. I’d shit the bed.
“SHIT!” I whisper-yelled to myself, uninspired-ly.
*”KNOCKKNOCKKNOCKKNOCK” went the door.
“Hey!” went the guy knocking the door.
“Hey!” I volleyed.
“Is this Mr. Wolfson’s office?”
“Who needs to know?”
“WHO NEEDS TO KNOW?”
“Well, me of course.” He sounded weirdly benevolent. I didn’t know how to respond to it. “Your girl Wendy’s the one who sent me, though.”
“Shit…OK. Give me five minutes.”
I liked this guy. I liked his polite, unorthodox style of yelling @ doors. (Wow, rly? Why not just bust out the &’s too, while we’re “@” it? Fucking phony -N’-thony) (Just you weight, fuckboy. Just you weight. -Tesse )
So I decided to let him in. Soon.
Things were moving much too quickly for me. Plus I’d lost my phone. (Not the phone I’m typing this on. My old phone.)
I smoked 1/2 of some loosie I found on my bookshelf, to buy time.
“YOU GOOD TO GO?” yelled the guy outside.
“20 more minutes,” I lied.
When my soiled sheets were in the closet, my soiled clothes were in the sink, + (<–huge cop-out #200. -’N-thony) 2 of my most well-used pistols were securely tucked into the butt of my old swim trunks, I opened the door.
Turned out to be just some hippie. (Surprise of surprises….he’s the first hippie I ever met who knocked on the door without using the “bum buttuh bum bum, bum bum!” knock 90% of hippies use for knocking on doors.) The sticker on his shirt divulged to me his moniker: “Mr. Suds”
“Hey!” went Mr. Suds, offering me his big, bejeweled mitt. I shook it. “Nice to meet you.”
Then, checking out my digs:
You seem pretty chill, for someone in this type of business.”
“ ‘Preci8* it,” I muttered [*iPhone, remember?]. But I’m not very chill. My office is just messy.”
“You going to let me inside?”
I hesit8ed. Then:
“Ok. But you should know I’m very on edge right now. I like your style but you worry me too. You seem to be mighty….mighty on top of things, for—
“For someone dressed domepiece-to-docker-slippers in hippie duds?” he offered. It sounded polished.
“Well…[whispering:] I’m in disguise.”
Of course. I let him in.
“You’re in lots of trouble,” he informed me when I shut the door. Then he looked directly into my eyes. “Is it cool if I smoke in here?”
“Go for it.” I replied. “I’m going to smoke one too, though. One of yours.”
We smoked in silence for 30 seconds. The ciggies were wet. (Remember, this whole story is set during the big South Berkeley Thunderstorm.) I broke the silence with this little gem:
“Is it, like, police trouble I’m in, or girl trouble, or friend trouble or thugs trying to hunt me down trouble? Or money.”
“Pretty much everything.”
He sniffed me.
“Did you [ ] out tonight?”
My chronology felt very messed up.
“Yes” I told him, sort of truthfully.
“Do you remember the stuff you did to the Dessert Workshop™?” (R.I.P. -’N-thony)
I didn’t like his use of the word “to” there. It seemed….well thought out.
“I got into it with Wendy there.”
He sighed, deeply.
“Here’s one more ciggie. This is going to get weird.”
“(II)?” I offered, frightened.
Long story short (shout out to Colin Quinn. Best comedy DVD of 2011. -‘N-thony), I found out I’d burnt down the Dessert Workshop™. (R.I.P. -’N-thony.) (‘N-thony: Shut the fuck up. -Tesse) Like, with fire. (It’s very serious, crime-wise.) No one knew my motive, but everyone except me (Mr. Suds, Wendy) felt 100% sure I’d done it.
“Hmmmm,” I went, trying to sound detective-y. “You think I could get one more of your turkish golds?”
Mr. Suds shrugged, then offered one to me.
“Why did Wendy send you?” I inquired, softly.
“She’s spooked the cops’ll bring her into this whole thing. Sent me to go get you since I’m nice, plus I’m sort of trying to fuck her, no offense. It seems like things’r pretty much over for you two.”
“Not U2!” I joked, since I joke when I’m nervous or upset.
“OK, fine. I thought you’d be like this. I’m going to go.”
He moved for the the door.
“Not so quick, buddy,” I told him, removing one of my guns from my swim trunks. “Where’s Wendy?”
“She’s with her niece,” he told me, sort of blithely. I pistol-whipped him, since it felt like the right thing to do. “DO YOU KNOW HOW TO GET THERE?” I questioned, loudly, feeling more detective-y by the minute. (Creepy Confession: My dick got erect.)
“Yes.” (Crying.) You don’t need to pistol-whip me.”
CUT TO OUTSIDE. We’re both yelling. The thunderstorm is getting very intense. (Enough with the thunderstorm reminders! Right? -’N-thony)
“You drive,” I told Mr. Suds.
“I took the bus here,” he replied.
“Drive my vehicle,” I responded to his reply, pretending this’d been my scheme the whole time.
“Is it stick?”
“I don’t know how to drive stick.”
“Seriously? I thought everyone knew how to drive stick.”
“Seriously? It’s 2013”
“Well, you must know, like, the principles of how it works, right? Just go into 1st 1st, then upshift when I tell you to.”
Mr. Suds couldn’t drive for shit.
So I needed to drive (stick, don’t forget) while I held my gun to his temple. (In The Big South Berkeley Thunderstorm, don’t forget. -’N-thony) I did pretty good considering the conditions. We hit some ducks but we didn’t die.
Right when we got to the spot I peeped Wendy exiting the front door. I spied on her. She got on the city bus. Rode it for 15 minutes while I followed.
She got off in front of my house.
When she opened my front door I dove onto her. We hit the floor loudly. Mr. Suds booked it. Then I noticed the cops in the room. Two of them.
“OK, OK, knock it off,” went the littler of the cops.
“Sorry,” I told him.
“Don’t worry,” he replied. “Here’s one of my ciggies. This is going to get weird.”
“I’m not coming onto you. I’m just trying to tell you th—”
“We know you think we think you burned down the Dessert Workshop™, but we don’t think you did” interrupted the bigger cop. (Which surprised me, since honestly, by this point, I sort of did remember burning down the Dessert Workshop™. Or my mind just felt convinced of it. I don’t know. I [ ] out pretty frequently. I’m like…I don’t remember the term. The Untrustworthy Storyteller? Like, you don’t trust their stories since they lie 95% of the time? Whu’evs.‘Ooo give uh fuck? (Side note: did I mention I’m British?) I don’t know. But whichever technique you use to slice it, (wow, you’re 100% dog shit with your
cliches right now. -’N-thony) I didn’t deserve to get off scott free.)
“Who burnt down the Dessert Workshop™?” I inquired.
“Your girlfriend here.”
“Cool. So I’m pretty much 100% off the hook?”
Wendy: “Why me?”
“Hehe. If I got 5¢ for every “why me?” I get ,I’d be richer n’ Richie Rich. But I’ll tell you why…”
He told her why. (Guess they’d been following her most of the morning…)
Then everyone left.
(Cool story bruh. -’N-thony)
Here’s MY solution (the correct-est solution) to the “how things went down in the Dessert Workshop™/why Wendy is currently in women’s prison” riddle:
I sort of remember the night now.
Post-Workshop™, we (Wendy, I) discovered we were both too drunk to drive/possessed 5 DUI’s between us, so we decided to get drunk-er in the stern of Wendy’s mother’s mother’s Chrysler. Wendy woke up ‘round 3:30, tried to drive, destroyed the vehicle/most of the Dessert Workshop™ within 12 seconds, then booked it. (rightfully so) Then I woke up, improv-built something which I thought looked like those Molotov thingymuhjigs you see in movies (used the ol’ 1/2 my shirt + 1/2 full bottle of liquor recipe), lit it, threw it into the whip, booked it myself. (Fuck you, it worked. For me.)
Our like-mindedness in times of emergency is sort of touching, in my opinion.
But…Wendy got indicted for some pretty serious terrorism stuff.
(Credits music: “Follow You (Remix)”)
I’m doing fine. Missing Wendy, but fine nonetheless.
Mr. Suds is “Eh-wol” (<–term I invented to describe people like him who I don’t like very much who’re missing.)
(Hehe. “Who’re.” -‘N-thony)
Wendy is not enjoying women’s prison.
Would I do shit differently if I could re-do it? Yep. You bet you. But I’m not too upset with myself.
If I were to score myself with letters, like they used to score you with in school before the hippies took over in December of 2012 (just like the Eskimos prophecized! -’N-thony)…
I’d give myself a B+.