Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why We're Here

"Blessed fuckin' be," Gordon whistled to the neon sign reading: OPEN.

He sauntered past the scratched oak door, it slamming behind him with a groan of age and use. The inside of the pub smelt of cigar smoke and vice, the acrid stench invading his nostrils and filling his veins with a familiar electricity. A few of the dead-eyed patrons offered him a disinterested look as he entered before quickly returning their gaze to the bottom of their pints. He, in turn, offered them a curt grin before pushing his way past a barmaid, seeking out the brilliant luminescence of the bar's inventory beyond.

He found a vacant stool situated between two other patrons. To his left sat a bear of a man, clad in flannel and the stench of long hauls, the pale and pimpled crack of his ass bursting from the seams of his worn, weathered blue jeans. To his right, a petite girl sat nursing a mug of ale, her face obscured by the hood of her navy blue sweater, her shaking ebony fingers clutching the handle of her drink with unyielding resolve. He thought it best to bother neither and instead took his attention to the bartender.

"Barman! What's the drip?"

The bartender stared at him, pitching his soiled rag across his shoulder like an archetype from the film noir period and studying Gordon with the curiosity possessed by children at the zoo.

Gordon sighed as he crept unto his stool, folding his hands in front of him on the counter.

"Ok, what you got on tap, paht-nurr?" he inquired, manipulating his lips and tongue to imitate an American accent as best he could.

"Bud," the bartender responded with indifference. "And Pabst."

"Guinness?" Gordon offered.

"No," the bartender said.

"Bud it is," Gordon rescinded.

The bartender snatched a clean mug from his sink and held it beneath the tap. Whether a credit to his inexperience or simply a gesture of distaste for his latest customer, he didn't seem to mind as the mug filled with foam in the place of drink. He placed the mug in front of Gordon with a jerk, foam spilling over the side and further greasing the already-greased bar top.

"You're not from around here, are you?" the bartender asked, quirking an eyebrow and surveying Gordon closely as he took his first drink of the froth.

His throat cooled, Gordon rubbed the sore spot on his chin (Thanks Mali, ya cunt, he thought to himself) and offered the bartender a shrug.

"No. Me and mine, we've found ourselves stuck in Utah a little longer than we would have liked." He caught himself upon realized the offended look creeping onto the barkeep's face and quickly continued, "Not that it isn't a fine state, ser. Just that we've got places to be."

"What's keeping you?"

"Had ourselves a spat, of sorts."

The bear-man to his left gave him a look of contempt, grunted once, and took his leave. As he ambled away, Gordon could faintly detect a murmur escaping him to the effect of, "Fuckin' Brit faggots."

Gordon shrugged and offered his mug to the girl to his right in a cheer. She obliged and clinked her glass against his without a look.

"What sort of spat?" the bartender asked. His interest, soaked and saturated in an expression of indifference, seemed motivated by a means to pass the time, rather than a genuine concern for Gordon's troubles. Gordon didn't mind.

We set out from sunny California a few weeks back. Several weeks back, fact is. The troupe of us, storytellers all, set our sights on seeing America and giving our talents a go on the road; each of us in for our own reasons - but you might say we're united in a common purpose, if you want to spread cheese on the cracker.

That purpose, of course, being to tell stories.

And hear a few, too, strangers permitting.

Among our ranks was the man you see before you. I transferred to UCLA from the Merry Ol' last year, but found California wanting in what you Republican-types call "traditional American values". I spied with my little eye an advertisement posted on the commons board, calling for a band of storytellers interested in traveling the country and trying our talents against the rigors of such a venture. You can imagine my excitement.

I've got to admit to you, ser, in my travels so far, I've been left a little let down. I haven't pitched a baseball nor eaten apple pie, and me' mum is still a short, mean woman sending me care packages of shortbread and anxious letters from home.

The others don't seem to be having much better luck.

There's Mali, a techno-savvy gadget-bearing gidget who, as my face recently discovered, is quite adept with a left hook. A sweet girl, lest you bring up communal utopia. We sat through a meeting of Future Socialists of America earlier this evening and, ser, I've never seen in my twenty-two years a creature of five feet knock more backsides to the dirt.

At her heels is Parker, who I'd think is someone you'd get along with just fine. Dear boy was raised in the ways of the Lord, the Good Word thick on his tongue and stuck like gelatin in his mind. He'll keel over before the rest of us, I'd think, for all his secrets, though; you ever get the feeling someone is keeping something from you? Bottle that in an altar boy and you've got yourself a Parker.

Our fearless leader - and I say that in jest, mate, because the ruddy fucker would jump clean out of his skin at the slightest suggestion - is Joe. He's the one who posted the advertisement in the first place, the one with this big, Kerouac idea of seeing the world and getting by on the charms of his tales. To his credit, he's a good man, but I'm not so convinced he in't making it up as he goes.

The last of us is Casey, a lovely girl who seems to have taken a liking to Joe. And when I say "liking", I mean they snog like bunnies on ecstasy. She's our den mother of sorts, picking up after our uncleanly selves when we vacate a hotel room and keeping the tethers of this whole trip together. But I tell you, for a maternal figure, she sure does fuck a lot.

In all, we're a bit of a bunch, ain't we? But we've made it as far as Utah, so that's got to be good for something. Sure, it hasn't all been kitten giggles and kumbayahs. We've argued and we've spat, and in the case of this evening, it's even come to blows. I even had to read poetry to a group of latte-sipping environmentalists! It's too bad I couldn't make a rhyme of "Drill, baby, drill!"

But I believe in it, you know? I think we all do. We wouldn't be here otherwise.

This is the prime shit that every starry-eyed collegiate wants to do. We're living it.

We are the road.

Now if we could just turn tail and get the hell out of this God-blessed state.

Gordon finished and realized the bartender had ceased paying him any mind for some time. He shrugged to his mug and took a long swig of the lukewarm foam, settling in against the rail of the bar for a long night of drinks.

"Gordon?" inquired the girl next to him.

He turned and discovered Casey's face peering out at him from under her hood. She was crying.

"Casey?! Bleeding hell, kitten, how fucking long were you going to sit there and let me ramble to the bar taps?"

Casey lunged at him. Still in the throws of Mali's courtesy beating earlier, Gordon reflexively recoiled. Casey caught him, though, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She buried her face in his chest, squeezing him in a drunken embrace. Gordon returned the gesture and held her as best he could, balancing their weight against the rickety bar stool.

Casey sniffed and broke her hold on him. "Can we get out of here? I need to talk to Joe."

"Okay, lamb," Gordon nodded. "I think Hops McBarkeep over here is bored with my talking anyway." He produced a few tattered bills from his pocket and placed them on the countertop. "Let's bounce, love."


Joe sat on an unmarked bench wholly incapable of acknowledging his inability to cope. Crumpled newspapers tumbled across the vacant street and as the breeze shifted, the dated news sources were forced to retreat into an open sewer drain. Joe wanted to be that newspaper.

Rather than dwelling on the matter, Joe decided to embrace the most traditional of calming acts: walking.

After about fifteen minutes, Joe found himself staring at a pole replete with clutter. Everything from bake sales to restaurant ads covered the poll. Most were out of date, even more were disfigured by the elements, but the one that caught Joe's attention was new, bright red and headlined with the phrase "ATTENTION CORPORATE TEAT SUCKING CONSUMERISTAS! Turn around, walk ten paces and listen to the world you live in."

Curious, Joe pursued the matter, unhindered by the fact that he did not know the official length of a pace. After a brief jaunt, he examined his surroundings at a distance he felt comfortable with and eventually arrived at a point of curiosity: a tape recorder was imbedded in a wall. Covered in duct tape and wires, a single button protruded with the word "Play" scrawled below it. Joe pressed it and listened.

My name is Mark Gentric but you will know me as your messiah, your destroyer. The world we know is not as it once was.

Manufacturing, business, products, all these things have accumulated. Storage spaces are currently a premium and centers such as the Goodwill and Salvation Army str overflowing with your filth. I've worked in the redistribution Center for far too long. Watching your shit pass through our doors, day in and day out. Your useless knock knacks, your pop culture icons, your outdated electronics, it makes me sick. why do you need those decorative wooden rooster to fill your house? What purpose does having a shitty fucking theme serve? Why do you have to buy your kids every fucking piece of merchandise slathered with the image of a slutty pop star your daughter shouldn't be looking up to, or athlete that ends up roided out and useless?

You don't need that shit, you don't. The genre of kitsch shouldn't fucking exist. Why the fuck is stamping a hobby? You spend hundreds of dollars on wooden blocks with images carved in them, for what? To waste more paper on your trivial decorative nonsense that inevitably finds itself in the trash? A wasted industry and I will have it no longer. The poor will not take your caste offs any longer, they have had their fill.

The skies overhead buzz to the sound of planes transporting your uselessness elsewhere, so other countries can enjoy your castoffs.

This will not stand!

I will return to you what is yours. From dust you came and to dust you shall return.

A new voice began to play, much deeper and more narrative lending credence to the message painted above the recorder"Orson Welles did it right."

With his last remark, the transmission ended and the sky erupted, each plane transforming into a fountain, reigning debris over every major city, engulfing the whole of America in flames. Through every house, through every window, a used teddy bear, discarded pieces of Armoire, a bobbing bird, all of it decorated the landscape, much to the alarm of those home. They had witnessed a conflagration unlike any other, a bullet with everyone's name on it. There weren't enough firemen to even attempt to negotiate priorities. After witnessing the results yielded, Mark sat back in his seat and uttered with satisfaction:

"Now we begin anew."

Joe stepped back, bewildered more so by the fact that he just heard a story from a brick wall, than the elements themselves.

"Utah is a fucked up place."

As he retreated back to his bench, the onset of everything that plagued him came rushing back and with it, a tear.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What The @$#& ?

"Something's going on with her, I know it," said Parker, to Mali post vigor.

"How do you mean? I haven't noticed shit."

"Oh, really? Our typical chain smoking, vulgar mouthed Casey just throws out the pack and secludes into herself? The girl has something to say about everything and have you heard a peep from her in the last bit? No. The answer's no."

"Well what do you want me to do? Start analyzing everyone's every move? This whole trip I've been too concerned with stepping on egg shells trying to keep the peace and I'm fucking tired of it, Parker. I'm too busy thinking about everyone else to think of myself and it just all came pouring out."

"I know this, Mali and I'm sorry. I really, really am. But I think we should reasonably be concerned. Something fishy's going on and I think we need to get to the bottom of it. Seriously, something is really really wrong."

"I guess you're right. She's our friend by chance, and a friend by chance is a good enough excuse for me to be concerned. Should we talk to Joe?"

"I think so, but something tells me he's just as messed up as she is right now."

"You think something happened between the two of them?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe something with the family? I really don't know, but whatever it is I want to help."

So the two marched onward to discuss things with Joe, who they finally found sitting lonesome against an abandoned building looking desolate as ever. The flickering streetlamp lent slight illumination to his face, a single tear dripping past his jawbone to leave one small salted stain on his gray t-shirt.

"Hey man," said Parker, reluctant at speech due to the awkward situation, "want some company?"

"No, not really, but I suppose you're going to have a seat anyways."

"Well, you're right," said Mali, "and we're not leaving until we get some answers."

Joe rolled his eyes at the notion of talking to the two of them, but what choice did he have? He was sitting in a place he didn't know, all by himself, all the while shedding tears regarding an ailment unbeknownst to the rest of the group. Everyone but Casey, whose life was unravelling before her very eyes.

"I think Casey's heading out," said Joe, "I think she's done with me. Done with the two of you. Done with Gordon. And done with this trip."

Mali and Parker exchanged bewildered glances and continued prodding Joe for the answers.

"So, why? Was it something we said? Is she pissed at us? Is there something going on back at home?"

As Mali prodded, Joe failed to make eye contact paying mind to a single inquiry. He just responded simply, "Us."

"Us?" questioned Parker, "Us? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, I'm sure you guys are going to find out sooner or later," said Parker while fishing through his tattered jeans to find his smokes, a habit that grew more intensive since the breaking of the news, "Casey's pregnant. It's mine. And we're freaking out."

"Woah, woah woah," said Parker, "a child of sin? A bastard? You should be ashamed of yourself."

"Not the reaction I was going for, but thanks anyway, prick."

"I'm sorry, I ill reacted. What are you going to do?"

"Well, I want her to carry it and consider adoption. The other 'a' word is just too intense for me to handle, at least in my current state. She's going to do what she's going to do but before she takes any action I would like to know. It is, you know, half my fault as well."

"Can I have one of those?" asked Mali, motioning toward Joe's smokes. He extends his pack out and Mali lights one, coughing a little, and then inhaling the sweet smoke offered from the fragile cylander, all the while Parker looking at her with disgust.

"Oh for fuck sake, Mali, since when are you typical trash?"

"Not the time, Parker, there are other matters at hand," said Mali, "Well, should we find Gordon, let him know what's up?"

"I suppose so. Casey will come around when she wants to. She's taking her time to deal which I understand. That's precisely what I was doin' when you lowly fucks came to my rescue."

"Oh, thanks a lot," said Parker.

"I'm fucking with you," said Joe, "Let's find the lad."