Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Nothing," Joe replied, "that cop just shot the bus driver,"

Gordon's eyes went wide and he plastered his face against the window, "And I missed it?"

Joe sighed.

"Well it is the American dream, iddn't? To be gunned down in public, I mean? I think I'd like to get shot once or twice," Gordon said.

"You should visit L.A.," said the elderly man next to Joe, "I've shot a fair number of people there during the War of Angels. Best goddamn fighter ace the west coast had ever seen. I--"

"Shut the fuck up," Joe snapped. The man grumbled something about horses and glared at Joe. "Are you, per chance, suicidal Gordon?"

He shook his head and screwed his face up with concentration.

It isn't that I'm suicidal or anything. At least, I'm not interested in killing myself. That is for crazy people to do with themselves. But it is a past time here, being shot. In every John Wayne movie the Duke is either shot, shot at or shoots someone else. Clint Eastwood, the same. Stallone, the same. Bloody fucking everybody has either been shot, shot at or shot someone besides me. I've drank with cowboys and pissed on library stoops with the teeming masses. Since coming to visit you mates I've seen women satisfy fetishes I cannot even begin to describe and shot whiskey with bearded bikers. I've played chess with old men whose grandchildren sell pot only a few feet away. I've visited memorials, museums, churches, circus tents and colleges that I never would have seen back home. I just think that the one thing I'm missing in all this, the one thing I won't be able to go home without, is a little gun violence. Just a little shooting, even if I'm the one who gets shot. Is it really so much to ask in a place where there are so many guns to not miss out on what happened tonight? I really wish you would have woken me up to see that. I think that maybe it was my only opportunity to put a real capstone on my trip here. I'm really worried that now I'll go back to England only three-quarters done. Without it, maybe I just should never have come at all.

Gordon stared longingly out the window and Joe tried not to look at anything at all.

Sepia with Age


Banshee? Gordon pondered numbly before licking his lips and settling back into sleep.


Get behind me, Satan. Parker insisted, snoring beneath the dog-eared Bible draped across his face.


Someone move that fucking kettle off the stove, Casey demanded before nestling deeper into Mali's shoulder.


Did someone text me? Mali wondered, then sunk into realms far more lucid.


Sirens?! Joe woke with a start.

The bus came to a slow, jittering halt in the copper-colored dirt along the right shoulder of the road. The desert sun of mid morning warmed the air inside the vehicle, exciting nerves and flushing faces, and beyond the sallow windows, the landscape stretched vast and empty, shimmering with heat. Joe pulled himself from his seat, propped his torso against the headrest, and peered through the back windows. A lone police cruiser pulled in behind them.

"Wake up, kids. The bus driver got pulled over." Joe threw a half-empty bag of Cheetos at Gordon. The bag burst upon impact, showering the Brit in bright orange dust. He didn't seem to notice and continued to dream peacefully.

Frustrated with his sleeping comrades, Joe hoisted himself to his feet and made his way to the front of the bus.

"What's going on?" he asked the driver.

"Sit the fuck down, you cum-sucking shit," the driver said. He opened the door and was beckoned out by the officer. A slew of curses could be heard outside. Evidently, the driver knew the officer's mother.

Joe made his way back down the aisle. He noticed Gordon had propped his feet on his seat, so Joe decided to find a new place to sit. He surveyed his options and found them wanting, so he slid into an empty seat near the front, next to an elderly gentlemen who was lost somewhere inside his headphones.

"Hi," Joe said.

The old man either didn't hear him or ignored him outright.

Joe sighed and rested his head against the seatback, closing his eyes and wishing sleep would find him again.

"Hello," the old man said. Joe peered over and discovered the gentleman was now watching him with glossy, grey eyes. He removed his headphones and extended a withered, curled hand to Joe, which Joe shook instinctively. He smelled of whiskey and rotting produce.

"Hi. Sorry, someone took my seat, and --"

"That's alright, my boy. My name is Jeremiah Platesmith, and yours?"


"Well, Joe, it's a pleasure to have the company. These transistor radios aren't much for good conversation, you know."

"Can you pick up police scanners on that thing? Do you know why we got pulled over?"

The old man laughed from somewhere deep within his bloated gut. "It seems Johnny Law is searching for someone - a murderer, at that. Isn't that exciting?"

"I guess," Joe agreed.

"They seem to think he's on this very bus."

"It's not you, is it?" Joe inquired.

The old man laughed his deep-bellied laugh again and shook his head. "I might ask you the very same question, my boy. What brings you to the middle of the desert?"

"The sleeping circus near the back and I are traveling across the country, telling stories and asking to hear stories in return." He considered his next words carefully, then conceded upon realizing they weren't going anywhere for quite some time. "Do you have any stories?"

"Well," the old man began.

It was a few months after the end of Roosevelts's war. I had returned from overseas and married the girl of my dreams, a sweet girl from Kansas named Mary Anne Flowers. Because of an injury I sustained from a Kraut in Berlin, I couldn't do manual labor and took a job from Mary's father at his pizzeria. 

Now, we didn't have cars in those days, so I rode a horse on my deliveries. If you've never seen Kansas, well my boy, you ain't seen mountains. That's God's country, I tell you, sloped and carved with the most magnificent Purple Mountains Majesty you could ever imagine. If only there weren't so many Spics.

But like I was saying, I worked as a lawyer during Carter's administration, pushing paper for the big wigs on Wall Street. This was around the time Martin Luther King was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, so we had a lot of civil rights issues passing through our hands. We worked day and night to ensure the Berlin Wall fell and blacks and whites could drink from the same fountains peacefully once again.

I got tired of the trade, though. My wife and me, and the kids - all twelve of them, most mine - we packed up and took off for California. I ain't seen some of my kids in a while, you understand? One of them's in a movie all you kids like - whassit called, Citizen Kane? Citizen Kane, that's it. You've seen it, ain't ya? Well, ain't ya?

You know they put ant shit in M&Ms? I know, because I invented them. Preserves the color. Originally we just had black and white M&Ms, but the kids didn't go for it, so we colored them. Kind of like how it was after the Berlin Wall fell: coloreds, everywhere.

It was around this time the first computers were invented, sold to us by the Soviets so they could keep making rockets to send to Mars, and I got a job at a call center in downtown Houston helping people learn to use them. I ain't never used one a day in my life, no sir. Best I could ever tell them was to unplug the fucking thing when they're done, seems to solve the problem right quick.

Like I was saying, that beautiful wife of mine, the wonderful and cheery Miss Sarah Burkington, oh, she's a peach I tell you. Then one day I caught her in bed with another man. Broke my heart, I tell you.

Worst of it was? I could have forgiven her for sleeping with a respectable man - but Jimmy Fucking Carter? Fucking whore.

"Sir?" Joe asked.

"What?" the old man responded, irritated at being interrupted.

"You're absolutely fucking crazy, aren't you?"

"Not as crazy as our resident murderer, son," the old man said, indicating with a gesture the scene outside. The bus driver, red-faced and swollen with alcohol, was charging the police officer, having produced a switchblade from the pocket of his grease-stained trousers. The officer compelled him to halt only once before putting a bullet in his head.

Joe retreated to his comrades, who were waking with the noise of the disturbance outside.

"What the hell 'appened?" Gordon asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


In the din of Casey's smoke melting with the moonlight peering through the tar-stained drapes, Joe is reminded of an over-dramatization of a war-ridden Middle Ages tale. He sits for a second, reminding himself of the tale and not concentrating on the watering of his eyes. Menthol just isn't his thing.

He chuckles, subtly, and commences speech.

"In light of speaking of past ignorance, had you ever heard about chemical warfare from the dark ages?"

"Not so much, I kind of just figured the plague hit...people died... end of story."

"Common misconception, love."


"Well, similar things happened with the Native Americans and something to do with small pox blankets and some shit, don't exactly remember what went down with that but something similar but drastically superceding in its brutality happened in the mid ages."

"You've got my attention."

"Well, as the stories go, during war times of the bubonic plague, or black death, or whatever you want to call it, as a form of chemical warfare they would throw plague ridden corpses over fences and walls as a means of infecting the people on the other side."

"Jesus christ!"

(Parker wakes) "Jesus, huh?"

"Nevermind dude."

(Parker nods back off)

"Anyway, I was reading some book a while back and it claims using references from old journals from the literates of the time that some of these so called 'corpses' actually weren't corpses at all."

"How do you mean?"

"Live people, love. Whithering, sickly, live people. Dying from the plague."

"Morbid much?"

"A little, but let me get to the good shit. So anyways, some of these bodies they would throw to infect others were alive, brutal, much, disgusting, yes; one man, though, by some fucking miracle lived. Survived the impact, survived the disease, it was truly a marvel. So, obviously, he lived to tell the tale."

"And what did he have to say about the matter?"

"Well, aside from the psychological implications that were obviously posed after the incident, he decided that he could learn to write and be able to tell the tale about what happened to him."

"Does this story have a point?"

"Don't fucking worry, I'm getting to it."

"Blah fuckety blah."

"Woman! Let me speak!"

"Hah, I'm just playin. Continue, please."

"Finally. Anyway, by being the first individual to write about such a horrible matter, he spread awareness about what happened to him and about the evils of war in general. Not that everybody at the time was pro-war or anything, but the majority of intellectuals who were literate were those of established stature, therefore they were the people in charge of the fighting, the war, the barbaric violence and corpse throwing."

"Well how 'bout that."

"I know, right? An awful, terrible incident that supposedly happened to the kid led him off to write about it, to tell his tale, and to essentially be the first anti-war writer recorded."

"To be honest, I think the thing's balogna. But even so, it's a valid tale of something terrible morphing into something good and I think you should run with it."

"I'm not making it up, I promise!"

(Casey blows smoke into Joe's eyes)


"Ha ha, well although I enjoy this exchange of bullshit we should call it a night."

"Agreed. We've got a big day tomorrow."

"Yep. Fare thee well in sleep and slumber dear, and let tomorrow be a bold new day."

Monday, September 15, 2008


The bus arrived at their destination, a hostel located in Irvine. Joe thought it would be nice to head downward, then over, having San Diego followed by Arizona in mind. That should cover some curious domain he mused, sauntering towards their place of rest. The hostel itself wasn't nearly as despicable as anticipated. Mali and Casey prepped the bed for the nights endeavors while Gordon, Parker and Joe went through their nightly rituals. Gordon pulled a can of Budweiser out of his pack and drained it before Parker had a chance to preach on the matter. He simply shook his head and went on reciting his nightly prayers. "Come on everyone, let's thank God for everything he's given us." Casey shook her head, Mali peered down at her laptop, refraining from answering on the matter for six different reasons she surmised, and Gordon chuckled. Joe was the one to break the silence. "Parker, it is more than obvious that you're a spiritual person. We get it. The idea of this trip is to broaden your horizons a little. To show us new avenues to make us better writers. Why don't you give it a try instead of taking God and inserting him in our every orifice." Parker was taken aback for an instant, but with a little prayer, thought of what God would want. "Alright Joe, but if anyone is ever interested in talking about God, I will always be here. My stories can be about God an stuff too right?" Joe contemplated for a second and came to a conclusion. "Yeah Parker, but try to be more original about it. Hide God in an analogy or two, savvy?" Parker nodded happily, grinning ear to ear. Gordon was already down and out, ready to accept the sandman's gift. Mali had since shut her laptop and changed into pajamas adorned with various cute versions of common animals. she sat for awhile in a pose of meditation before laying herself down, all the while reciting the phrase "without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born." Casey quietly stroked Mali's hair, listening and staring out the window. She amused herself with the thought of Gordon attempting to explain the meaning behind Mali's chant. As she gazed intently at the starry sky, Joe sat, pen in hand, attempting to create something wonderful. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep in a seated position, an act he would regret later.

After a handful of hours, Joe awoke rather abruptly. After a stretch and a yawn, he perused the bodies of his compatriots to see their status. All of them were in a deep slumber, except Casey. She was still riveted on the moon, taping her hand on the bed. Realizing she had an admirer, Casey smiled at Joe, happy to finally relieve some thoughts. "Look any longer and you might burn a hole through me." Joe's face turned flush, and even without light, Casey was aware. " Don't worry, I know you didn't mean anything by it. I just had some trouble sleeping so I started thinking about things that would amuse me. I even rolled the dice ahead to try to piece a story together. I'm sick of these somber stories, hell even I'm responsible for perpetuating it I know, but really, there's a lot more to the world than just the fucked up parts. And even those parts have a funny side. Care to hear what I've got?" Joe nodded, excited at the prospect of enjoying something between just her and him.

So I'm laying there in the store, this textile place on 5th and Washington called Saxons. I'm not terribly old mind you, just shipped from the factory probably a week prior, it's difficult telling dates given the fact that I don't exactly see day and night pass except when the move around the displays. Anyway, it's a hot day, I can tell because every woman that's walked into this place complained of the heat before any other conversation could be started. So I'm watching these mothers fingering each cloth, deciding what would make a nice dress, or pillow or slipper or whatever else they can fashion, knowing full well that I'm probably going to go on being ignored since nobody wants plain white anymore when in comes this obese, disheveled woman, looking like she's ready to arm wrestle someone or chew some tobacco. She walks right over to me and my kind, ignoring all the flowery patterns and decorate designs that populate the rest of the store, and grabs a hold of me. She tells the shop owner, Nancy, that she wants as much of me as she can get. Well lady, if I can even call you that, there is plenty of me to go around. So I get bundled up, thrown on her shoulder and carried to her cozy little trashole nestled in with several other trasholes. She pulls me out of the bag and I can see quite a number of males, all Caucasian, standing around drinking and discussing what I can only decipher as politics as it sounds like nothing but bitching, even though I can make out about every third word. Something about niggers and something something getting in the way something something know their place and I grew bored quickly. What is a nigger anyway, is that some kind of job? Well if you don't like your job, find a new one. What struck me as odd was the phrase "white power." The uttered it a number of time, often starting sentences, ending sentences or making entire statements comprised of the phrase. I'm the only white here, are they worshipping me? I doubt it since that chubby woman has taken to fancying me into something useful. I've never been a deity before, I wonder what it's like.

After carving me into a conical position, fashioning two holes while making a separate robe out of my lower half I couldn't help but wonder what kind of event I was being fashioned for. Some kind of formal ceremony I imagine, there being a stack of my brethren on the floor, ready to be celebrated in,at least I hope. All those beer drinking, bitching men started putting on my brothers and sisters with pride, high-fiving one another, shouting and hollering, I just knew it was a celebration! This big bearded fellow, replete with black leather and studs, slides me over his head and shouts some incoherent babble, ending his sentence with that infamous phrase, igniting a roar in the crowd. Oh! there we go, now I see, those were eyeholes. We started walking through the woods when we arrived at this opening with this huge lower case t. What do they have against one of the best letters in the alphabet? I mean really, it's everywhere, can you imagine a book without it? Hell my last sentence would barely make sense. They're all over the place too, dancing and chanting with fire, the smell of beer everywhere, what kind of party is this? I thought with the robes it would be something a little more formal, but wrong again. By the end of the night, the whole lot of them ended up staining their nice robes and falling asleep in the woods. Some found love, others rest and by the morning my bearer had woke up, packed me off and repeated the same trivial dance. Not a very productive lot I know. This went on for years, them getting louder and louder, then quieter and quieter until I end up hanging up in some antique shop in the midwest with a price tag pinned on me. I don't mind, at least the people in this store have a lot more interesting things to talk about.