Storytime: In the Bog.

October 19th, 2016

“Hello there.”
“What are you doing?”
“Well, I can see that. But d’you mind telling me how that happened?”
“Oh come on, I won’t make fun. It’s just the two of us here.”
“Fine, fine. Have it your way. I won’t make a fuss. It’s YOUR funeral. Your bog. Your bog-ridden, slow-sinking funeral.”
“Thank you.”
“Oh, don’t mention it. No stranger to that myself. D’you know, half my siblings died in bogs?”
“Yes! They saw a mammoth stuck in one and they ran in after it and got stuck too and it sunk the lot of ‘em before you could say ‘saber-toothed.’”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you.”
“Soon, mineralization will become me. I don’t really care what you say.”
“Oh PLEASE. We all die sooner or later, and we all know it. What makes THIS moment so special that you’re going to discard all society and manners so you can…wallow in it?”
“I’m dying.”
“You were doing that this morning and I’m sure you were positively lovely company then. It’s just more obvious now, that’s all.”
“What do you WANT?”
“You know you can’t eat me, and you’re not trying to. You know you can’t help me, and I know you’re not trying to. All you’re doing is sitting there on the edge of the bog and chattering like a bald glyptodont in a snowstorm. Shouldn’t you be snoozing under a tree somewhere, waiting for dusk so you can murder something fuzzy and harmless in its sleep?”
“You know, I don’t HAVE to eat and sleep all day.”
“Are you sure you’re a predator?”
“Of course I am. See these teeth? Look at these incisors?”
“I’m looking.”
“They’re bigger than bananas, aren’t they?”
“Sure. What are bananas?”
“Search me. In contrast, compare your own set of gnashers.”
“Flat. Broad. Ridged.”
“Yes. Good for mashing things with tough husks, not stabbing big soft flabby hunks of meat. More like cobblestones.”
“Right. What are cobblestones?”
“Who knows? And besides that, if you compare our bodies-”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
“-IF you compare our bodies, you can see that I’m fairly short and stubby and tight around the tum. I don’t need a big intestine, see, because what I’m eating is pretty well packaged for digestion already. “
“Yay for you.”
“By way of contrast, you’ve got a great big barrel-belly, sort of a mobile fermentation factory for all those plants you’re gobbling up all day.”
“Thank you oh so very much.”
“You are quite welcome.”
“And you said I was being sarcastic.”
“Well, you’re contagious. And fair play is fair play.”
“What kind of play? You never did tell me why you’re still here.”
“I’m bored and you look like you could use the company.”
“I’m dying.”
“Again, this is not a new problem for any of us. And who wants to die alone?”
“If you’re so in love with the idea of sociable death why didn’t you play follow-the-leader with all your siblings and leave me in peace?”
“…you know, that was a very heartless thing to say.”
“Can’t be; my heart’s the size of your torso. And I put my heart into it, believe me. Hey, where you going? Did I touch a nerve? Did I twiddle your whiskers?”

“Well, good.”

“About time.”

“This is better.

“Hello again.”
“Hello. Again.”
“I’ve decided to forgive you for your interminable snappishness once more.”
“Once more?”
“It’s been an ongoing process.”
“Oh boo-hoo for you. I’m sure it’s an absolute martyrdom.”
“Well, as you’ve pointed out, I COULD be spending all day napping. Unlike some people I have to work for my meals, and outsmart them.”
“You call an hour’s work every three days work?”
“You call chewing as you walk work?”
“Herbivore. Agree to disagree?”
“If it gets you to stop talking.”
“About this, yes.”
“Fine. And you still haven’t told me why you won’t go away.”
“Well, you still haven’t told me how you ended up in there. Fair’s fair.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Shut up. And if you laugh, I’m not saying another word. Got it?”
“There was a tree.”
“Well, there are an awful lot of those around here.”
“Shut up. There are gradients. This was a good tree. A nice little sapling with plenty of fresh shoots. It was like candy.”
“What’s candy?”
“Shut up. And I had to rear up, just a little, to reach the upper branches, to drag it down, and…”
“The whole thing tipped over and you stumbled and tripped and rolled right in?”
“Shut UP! Why can’t you SHUT UP? Why’d you even ask me to say anything if everything I say is just going to be drowned out and blanketed by and covered with you NOT SHUTTING UP!?”
“Well, I could see the sapling sticking out of the bog already, so I’d sort of guessed myself. I just thought it might be healthy if you could bring yourself to talk about it.”
“Healthy? I’m dying. In ten minutes you’ll be talking to a few bubbles and you’ll be able to babble until your lips fall off.”
“Yes indeed. It’s healthy not to dwell on that sort of thing.”
“You’re practically dwelling in my face. Either tell me why you haven’t gone away or jam your head in the deep end.”
“If you really must know-”
“-it’s a nice day, and I had a good meal last night, and-”
“Who was it?”
“-some little squeaky thing that was trying to run up a tree – and as I was looking for a nice place to lie down and sleep –”
“KNEW it-”
“-I saw someone who looked very lonely and tired and decided to give them some company.”
“Because they reminded me of my siblings, and how sad it would’ve been if they’d each been alone.”

“Do you know, I think you’re sinking faster now.”
“It’s cumulative.”
“I suppose.”
“Oh, very well if you insist. Here, budge over.”
“Are you sure?”
“Please. I was dying this morning anyways. D’you know, that little squeaky thing had FOAM dripping out of its mouth? Should’ve known.”
“Thank you.”
“It’s no problem at all. Now, let’s watch the bubbles.”

Jen’s Bog predator trap:
A classic fossil site in the mode of the famous La Brea Tar Pits; Jen’s Bog has given up the remains of dozens of trapped animals since initial excavation began in 1923. Many, such as this Smilodon, were lured in by the prospect of easy food, only to become ensnared and face death alongside their prospective meals; in this case a giant ground sloth. Predator and prey died side by side.

Storytime: Family Business.

October 12th, 2016

What? A good morning?
A GOOD morning?!
Well let me tell you, this is a BAD morning! A lousy morning! This morning is trash from a dumpster! A dumpster on FIRE!
What? NO! Nothing’s wrong with me! I’m fine, it’s this lousy, low-rent morning that’s of no account.
But let me tell you about the mornings we had back in my day, and maybe you’ll understand…

Back in my day, a dawn was six seconds long. Back in my day, we all woke up early and stayed woke all day. Back in my day, sunset was as quick as a lick of your palm.
It was all because of one man, the big man, the tallest man we’d ever met. His name was…
You know, I don’t remember rightly what his name was. We’ll call him Ed Pool.
But it didn’t matter! It didn’t matter at all because of what his job was, and how clever he was at it.
Every morning of every day – no, no! – BEFORE every morning of every day, Ed Pool would sit up in his bed and do forty stretches.
Then Ed Pool would walk out into his kitchen and make some coffee. While it brewed, he would do eighty stretches.
Then Ed Pool would walk out into his garden and do one hundred and sixty stretches and on the one-hundred-and-sixtieth stretch he would LEAP high into the air and SWING his arm out and THROW the sun into the sky like a shot!
Like a SHOT!
And the sun would rise so high and so fast that dawn would be over in six seconds and all the birds woke up at once and everyone went to work and ate breakfast and things were as fine as could be as fast as you please.
Just like that!
And when the time for night came after the sun had hung in the sky all day long, Ed Pool would be holding his arm out when the sun came sizzling back down, and he would catch it in his big mitt. WHAM. Lights out. No fuss.

But one night before morning, Ed Pool was a bit distracted.
Maybe he was thinking about breakfast.
Maybe he was thinking about lunch.
Maybe he was thinking about his friends.
Maybe he was thinking about a girl he used to know.
Whatever it was, we don’t blame him for it. He was a busy man who did a lot for us. And if he once miscounted his stretches by Just. One. Stretch.
Well, who can hate a man for that?

But Ed Pool did his one-hundred-and-fifty-nine stretches and he LEAPT into the air and he SWUNG out his arm and he FELL down in his garden and held his back yelping like a coyote with a squirrel up its wrong end.
“DAMN. OW. MORE WORDS,” he said. “I’m bedridden! I’m stuck! Oh shit, now the sun’s stuck down here until my lazy, worthless, shiftless, no-account, no-good, altogether-rotten son gets here to fix things! MAN I hate that!”
So it was already a pretty late night by the time Ed Pool’s lazy, worthless, shiftless, no-account, no-good, altogether-rotten son answered the phone, listened to his father, drove over, and attended an earnest lecture on the principles of sun-management.
“Well how hard could it be?” he said. And he picked up the sun and burnt his fingers and yelped and CHUCKED that sun.
Well, morning was three seconds long that day. And the day was a week. The sun fell onto the roof of the sky and rolled into a gutter, and it wasn’t until the moon spent a week poking it with a stick that it came loose enough to roll out and fall back down, where Ed Pool’s lazy, worthless, shiftless, no-account, no-good, altogether-rotten son failed to catch it and it nearly fell into the ocean.
“Whoops,” he said. “Well, I’ll know better in the morning.”
And he went to bed. And so did everyone else, who was pretty tired because nobody expects to wait a week for bedtime.

Didn’t expect to wake up to midnight, either.
The birds woke up. The stores opened up. The kettles whistled and pans sizzled.
And they did it in pitch black because it was time for morning and morning wasn’t there at all. Folks burned their hands making bacon in the dead of night; they drove their cars past stop signs, they walked to school in total confusion because all the birds couldn’t remember what kind of bird they were and were making up new calls pretty much at random.
It was a MESS.
And it kept on being a mess for two weeks until Ed Pool’s ten thousandth phone call’s ring finally roused his lazy, worthless, shiftless, no-account, no-good, altogether-rotten son from his slumber.
“I thought it wasn’t morning yet,” he said, and Ed Pool reminded him forcibly that morning was his damned job and it wasn’t finished.
“Whoops,” he said. So he walked out into the garden and stretched once or twice and picked up the sun and burnt his fingers again and yelped and dropped it into the ocean.

By the time the sun got fished out it was dimmed down to a dull red, which matched the colour of Ed Pool’s lazy, worthless, shiftless, no-account, no-good, altogether-rotten son’s backside at that particular time, grown man or no. But Ed Pool got a mite carried away, and wouldn’t you know it his wrist got a crinkle in the doing that stopped him from ever throwing anything again.
Nowadays it’s all done with ropes pulleys and stuff. And sure, it’s reliable. And sure, it’s modern. And sure, that half-dead sun does make a pretty sky while it’s being dragged up there.
But damnit! There was a time when breakfast was ready in six seconds!

Storytime: Doodle.

October 5th, 2016

It was homework, the dreariest of all possible works, that brought such trouble to Melanie.
And to top it all off, her pencil was a stub. She hated pencils; they always did this, no matter how promising they started.
So she went looking for a pen. And to be fair to Melanie, she looked in the kitchen drawer first; and she looked in her room second; and she looked under the couch third, and THEN she did the thing she knew she shouldn’t do and she walked into her mother’s study.
Melanie’s mother was a magician and had told her never to do this many times very sternly. But that had been a long time ago, and besides Melanie just wanted a pen, which she found sitting on the desk and immediately took.
Now THIS was better than a pencil. A firm, stern blue line, unwavering with usage and wear. Her answers made no more sense to her, but they were so much surer in their stance. In fact, it was almost a waste to see them used on such trifling things as homework, and inch by inch, bit by bit, Melanie began to doodle.
She drew their house; a big old apartment building half-missing from when Melanie’s mother had learned their landlord was sucking out his tenants’ happiness with a demon; and she drew her class – herself and a bunch of other people of some kind – and she drew a dinosaur.
She didn’t intend to. It began with an eye, which flowed into a snout, which poured into a body, and dribbled away into a long slim tail. It was a modern dinosaur, and so she gave it a thick tight coat of feathers to warm it and cool it and colour its (ink-blue) sides. But the part Melanie was most proud of were the eyes, which she shaded so especially well that they shone with luster. She could almost see them blink, which made her almost perversely disappointed when they did.
They blinked again.
Then the whole dinosaur stretched – a big-cat stretch – and it yawned and it turned its head to peer at her. Its breath was soft and strong between its teeth, and it smelled of old meat and fresh dew on ferns.
The front door creaked. Melanie’s mother was home, and already calling for help with the groceries. And by the time Melanie turned back to her workbook, it was empty except for a few half-chewed shreds of numbers scattering the bottom of the page.

School the next morning was a dreary thing. A rainy day, a morning scolding over the state of her homework, and a breakfast that was mostly apples. By the time math class began, Melanie was thoroughly disgruntled. Division! Before lunch! And her with only a borrowed pencil to work with and a longing for her mother’s pen, which was safe at home tucked under her bed. But she swallowed her angst with stoic grace, and she began to math.
A number started. A framework of complicated bits surrounded it. And bit by bit, it was peeled away to reveal a fresh new shining product.
It would have been satisfying if it wasn’t one of ten and it wasn’t dull and it wasn’t long and it didn’t make Melanie’s head hurt.
But she persisted, and she focused, and then, halfway down the page, she felt warm breath against her wrist.
She pulled her hand back with a start, just before the long, narrow snout of her dinosaur poked it across the edge of the page, sniffing quietly. The rest of it followed on silent three-clawed feet.
Its eyes were even brighter than she remembered. And they were looking right at it.
It stepped towards the edge of the page – the near edge – and Melanie grabbed the sheet and stuffed it in her desk and stifled her own shriek all at once before she remembered she was surrounded by her fellow students and the teacher was looking right at her.

One severe talk later, class was over and gym began.
Melanie did not like gym. There was a rope she had to climb, and a ball she had to throw. Neither liked her, either.
She stood on the ground, watching as Lizzie climbed like a monkey, and she seethed with a dull-bladed envy that nearly made her stomach stop churning. The dinosaur had been gone when she gave the homework to the teacher. But then again, the dinosaur had been gone yesterday, when her mother came home.
The rope called, and the teacher called her name.
Up went Melanie, hand over hand, higher than any kite she’d ever managed to fly, which she hadn’t. Up towards the big glowing sky above that was the gym lights, which made her squint a little no matter how dim and fuzzy and in need of cleaning their screen was. It was like a little forest of mould and fuzzy lint and dirt in there; a jungle in miniature. Not THAT miniature, mind you. It was nearly as big as she was. It was nearly big enough to fit her whole dinosaur, which was there all along, watching her again.
It opened its mouth and hissed at her, and Melanie did the sensible thing and let go.

There was another talk. It was more serious. Notes were produced, exchanged, and sent home with Melanie, who found her dinner devoid of dessert and with a side of lecture instead.
She went up to her room with a stomach screaming for thwarted sugar and a head dancing with nerves. Twice, now. Twice. And the second time not even on paper. She never should have taken that pen. What if it was lost? What if it was missing? She’d have to tell her mother and she’d have to run away from her own dinosaur all her life.
Trembling, fearing which might happen, cringing at the invisible teeth that MUST be about to close on her fingertips, Melanie reached underneath her bed and up against the mattress and sagged under the weight of ten thousand tons of relief.
Yes, the pen was still there.
Tomorrow morning she would get up early before her mother – an easy job – and put it back on her desk and everything would be fine. And by saying this to herself, it was already fine.
For the first time that day, Melanie felt safe and calm. Her room was soft and warm and filled in the glow of her lamp. VERY filled. She couldn’t remember the last time it had shone like this; had her mother changed the bulb? It was as lustrous as an electric pearl.
Her lamp blinked.
And, in that very slow way that happens all at once and quickly, Melanie saw that her room’s walls were feathers and its ceiling was a mouth and floor was claws and its eyes, its beautiful eyes, were on her.
If Melanie had taken any time at all to think, things might have gotten very bad indeed. But instead, all that came out was a scream: “MOOOOMMMY!”
The eyes flinched and there was a crash and a bang and Melanie’s mother was in the room before the door finished opening. But her magic had come in before she had, and it made her ten feet tall. The air crackled like rice cereal with too much milk and the dinosaur hesitated just for a moment in the way Melanie hadn’t and by then it was much too late for it.
“Come down to the kitchen,” said Melanie’s mother. The pen was smoking in her hand like an old cigarette. “Now.”
So they did.

The first thing that happened was Melanie’s mother put her pen away.
The second thing that happened was Melanie’s mother brought out cookies.
And the third thing that happened was a lecture.
“Melanie, I am severely disappointed,” said her mother. “You should have come to me immediately and ‘fessed up and this whole thing would’ve been over in ten minutes. Remember the time you told me you didn’t know who ate the whole box of cookies?”
Melanie flinched.
“Yes, they’re the same thing. Magic is, after all, nothing more than an organized sort of lying. And you have done a very good job of it for an amateur.”
“The pen is a pen, little fidget. A nice pen that you shouldn’t have borrowed without permission, but a pen. Until you took it and let your imagination wander away, that is. Now this is going in my safe, and YOU are going to have to learn magic properly. The safe way.” Melanie’s mother pinched her nose and shook her head. “But we’ll do that tomorrow. Once you’ve finished your math.”
And that was how Melanie’s troubles truly began, for now her homework was twice as long.

Storytime: Bad Wind.

September 28th, 2016

Holy shit holy shit holy shit holy
Oh good. It hasn’t hit yet; it isn’t here; you’ve got time.
Listen you’ve got to earnestly pardon my French, German, English, Croatian, and Proto-Indo-European because this is no time nor place for polite language there’s a bad fucking wind coming.

It’s just over the hill, the rise, the country. It’s sweeping the nation from coast to coast and it’s going to take away one of them and give us a new one.
Here, grab this cardboard. Nail it over the insides of your windows. Here, grab these bars. Hammer them over the outsides of your windows.
Do you have any trees? Write your names on them with this waterproof marker so they can be returned to you at a later date.
Fuck this is bad. A very bad wind.

We should’ve listened to the scientists, I’m sure they warned us and I’m sure they underestimated the odds and I’m sure we didn’t listen. I can’t cite any of this, I don’t know my APA or my Chicago or any other styles, I have no styles.
But look at that sky! It’s lime and lemon and black and blue and is that… yellow and purple? Sweet fuck of mine it’s clashing.
They said we could’ve avoided this if we used clean energy. We could’ve stopped it with basic impersonal hygiene. Rinsed before the morning was over, double-scrubbed at evening before we went to bed.
And now. And now look at us!
This is it, you know. It very well could be it. This bad wind coming in.

The bad wind is rolling closer, we haven’t got much more than none.
You can hear the howl of the wind lifting away small untethered pets and dirty magazines from your teens’ bedrooms.
It could be worse and soon it will be. Just one hundred miles away there are upside-down tornados with the wide ends on the ground and the little tails up in the sky. They’re much worse that way.
Pray you’re not on the coast; there’s hurricanes out there. Big fat fuckers that sprawl like a fat man on a subway seat, and they’re spinning counter-counter-counter-clockwise. Oscillating like ocelots. Fish are being sucked up by rainstorms and spat out by waterspouts. Dirty words are being written on walls using bits from other walls.
There is no respect in this, no sort of two-way communication, no search for mutual understanding. It’s such a bad goddamned wind.

Cover the storm drains, open the windows. Get in your heaviest and most sinkable trucks. Batten every hatch, bar every door, belay the masthead and swab the anchor. Say goodbye to your old coastlines and hello to the new old inland seas. We could very well end up with mosasaurs by the end of all this.
Do you have sixteen months worth of rations and preservable vitals in your basement? No? Yes? Maybe? How about sixteen years? Six centuries? Sixty-five million years?
Useless useless USELESS.
Surely we must use our monkey brains for some sort of foresight, some kind of understanding! There’s got to be synergy here somewhere.
Listen. Storms are large and bulbuous and funny-coloured.
That makes them very nearly fruit.
So, if we all get together and try very very hard and close our eyes maybe we can just pick the sto
No no no that’s a dumb idea.
What if we climbed up a tree, a really big tree, and we screamed at
Let’s form a complex social hierarchy at

It’s too late now.
It’s here. It’s all over. It’s bad to the bones and it has no bones don’t ask me how it managed this; damned thing has eaten the horizon from all sides and now it’s draining out of our sun and dribbling drizzle across the carpet of our countryside.
I’ve done what I could. Let’s do what we usually do and tell our kids it’s their problem now. That trick usually works.

Storytime: Big Eater.

September 21st, 2016

The kitchen was compact without being cramped, well-stocked, well-cleaned, well-loved, and well-used. The tiles glowed under the soft moonlight; the counters glistened with illusory moisture.
Detective Newman couldn’t help but admire the kitchen on a level far deeper than any training, any words of wisdom from his grandparents onward. It was TIDY. He liked things tidy.
It was what made the horde of bloodthirsty cutlery roving around the floorboards beneath him so very difficult to bear.

It had been a difficult time, this morning. He hadn’t been put off his donut for years, but the crime scene had done it. It was returned to its cellophane nest in his coat pocket untouched, unblemished by even the ghost of his breath.
It wasn’t the body – god no. Char-broiled, thinly sliced, mashed, chilled…he’d seen people end up in any number of ways. It was the abstract complication that this particular one had been thoroughly eaten.
He had consulted with Theresa, the wrinkled gnome who ruled forensics with extreme stoicism.
“Dead twelve hours,” she told him.
Newman nodded. “Right. Right. And how much of him’s been eaten?”
“Seventy-three percent soft tissue total including internal organs” she answered promptly.
“Nobody’s that hungry.”
“So, how many people were in this room?”
She shrugged. “There were a lot of different forks. Knives.”
“No footprints.”
“No fingerprints.”
“How many different forks and knives.”
She tapped the side of her head. “Fifteen forks and twenty-four knives; sixteen butter and eight steak.”
Newman turned around and touched the stove with one hand. Then he stretched a little and, with great strain, made it to the kitchen sink with his free hand.
“Not spacious,” he said.
“A very small and also very tidy horde of cannibals, seeing as they loaded up the dishwasher before they left.”
She nodded.
“Nothing else?”
Theresa tapped her chin for a moment.
“You need to eat better,” she said. “Donuts are not a good breakfast.”

Thank you, Theresa. Thank you. At least the donuts wouldn’t be what did him in; god she’d have been insufferable at the funeral. Although she’d probably be the one checking his pockets in eight hours, so she’d get the satisfaction of knowing he hadn’t managed one last bite.
A tinkle from the kitchen floor dragged his attention to the notion of more unpleasant bites. God, where had this stuff come from? If it was a factory or something making them they had to find out fast; the world had enough regular hazards without having to worry about your silverware turning on you.
Newman had always been embarrassed by his reaction to fear. He hopped. Just a little start, but always straight upwards. This evening – this stupid, stupid, totally unnecessary evening, WHY had he come back to the crime scene? – it had saved his life. Despite being voracious, the parade of murderous utensils didn’t seem possessed of particularly good senses. As long as he was quiet on top of the kitchen counter, they were hunting for a ghost.
Then again, there were an awful lot of them. What if they could climb? What if they could FLY? Such things were not what you expected from a humble fork, but neither were voracious teeth.

Mother Newman had been very firm about what you did to avoid this sort of thing.
“Clean your dishes,” she told him. “Clear your plate, then clean it.”
And reluctantly, eventually, he had done as he was told. First at familial gunpoint, then habit, then inclination.
There was something uniquely appalling about an uncleaned dish. He wondered if that was what had set off this batch.
Had it been left in the sink one hour too long? Scraped too casually of a crust of melted cheese? Tolerated low-grade soap one load too many?

There was a rattle from the cupboard above his head.
Newman’s body froze while Newman’s mind ran in circles screaming to itself.
What had been in the dishwasher that morning?
Cutlery. A lot of it.
And cups.
Slowly, slowly, creakingly slowly, the latch above his head undid.
He wasn’t even going to be killed by sharp objects.

“One plate, one cup is all you need,” his scoutmaster had told him. If more people had listened to that advice, he wouldn’t be in this fix.
“Eat from it, clean it, repeat it. One plate, one cup is all you need.”
The man had been earnest in his advice, despite his constantly wavering gaze. It was a wonder he ever managed to count the troop correctly; he must have been seeing them in triplicate for years.

There was a light thump as the first mug dropped out from the cupboard above his head. It didn’t shatter, against all rhyme and reason. The movements were all wrong; it was like watching a ceramic ferret. Mugs should bumble and bustle; he felt very strongly on that based on several Disney movies he recalled from his childhood.
It sniffed at the air.
Newman held his breath.
Slowly, slowly the mug relaxed. Then it slid to the edge of the counter and slipped over it, joining the cutlery on the floor.
Newman relaxed. And then, from above, another thump.
Around fifteen place settings.
Around fifteen mugs and cups?
Around… twenty minutes, on and off, of trying to hold his breath and remain absolutely still.
He was going to die. He was going to take a big breath and wheeze and he was going to be beaten to death by carnivorous tableware.
It was just like his grandmother had always said…
Newman tried to finish that thought. His grandmother had said an awful lot of things.
“Don’t go outside when it’s raining, you’ll catch cold.”
“Don’t fish in the offseason; the fines are fierce and you can’t bribe the officials like you did back when your daddy was little.”
“Don’t chew that gum and walk at the same time or you’ll fall over and break your nose.”
“Don’t live like a pig. Clean up after yourself.”
…which was thoroughly useless advice at the moment if he’d ever seen it, because the carnivorous cutlery hadn’t cleaned up after itself at all. Christ the crime scene had been a MESS. A macerated corpse, a dried ketchup-madhouse of blood covering half the floor. About the only concession to neatness was the fully loaded dishwasher-
Detective Newman did not move for thirty seconds.
Seven of those were spent realizing the import of his thoughts. Thirteen were spent in nerve-biting hysterical certainty of doom. And the last ten were simply the word ‘maybe’ over and over again at increasing volume.
Slowly, slowly, at the speed of a single hair’s growth, he reached into his pocket and extracted the old, old donut from this morning.
The cellophane crinkled.
The movement from the floor halted.
And in that one, long, slow-moving moment, Newman threw caution to the wind and the donut to the floor.

It was grisly.

Some time later, Newman took his fingers out of his ears and listened.
Rustlings. Clinkings.
But no longer aimless, no longer fruitless.
There was a destination.
The soft groans and creaks of the dishwasher’s drawer were music to his ears. The soft shish-shish-shhhhs of the soap. The groan of over-loaded racks.
The sweet, sweet click of the lock.
Newman waited for four minutes, listening, and waiting. Then he slid off the counter, rolled across the floor – coating himself in donut residue – and twisted the dial around seven times.
A long load. A very, very long load.
Now. First things first, phone for backup.
Second, get a donut.
Third, throw out all his damned tableware. Paper plates seemed very appealing right now.

Storytime: Garbagemen.

September 14th, 2016

First stop, first stop, let’s see what kind of slop…
Hey Murray, check this shit out!
HD TV! The highest-damned-def! And not a scratch on ‘er! Fuck only knows why they’re tossing it, but hah, more luck for me!
Haha, c’mon man. You know the rules. The can man gets first pick, the driver gets second. Says so right on the dashboard.
Hell of a way to start the route, eh? Helluva way.

Now, let’s see what’s behind trash number… oh.
Oh man! Look at this!
A whole fridge, man! Yeah, we’re taking this. Here, get out, give me a hand. Look, it’s the least you can do, you’re guaranteed a 50/50 shot at this thing after all.
Huff. Puff.
Man that IS heavy. Hey, wait a minute…
Paydirt! It’s full! Nice insulation too; still cold in here. Awwww damn is that a defrosting steak? Nice. Nice! Hey you might get that TV after all Murray; I barely watch the stuff anyways.

Good day so far though. A good day.
Woah, woah, woah. Stop stop stop look.
Yeah, they did put it out. It was behind the caoh my goodness fucking gracious.
They’re junking the car!
They’re junking the car, Murray!
Look at this thing! Can’t be more than a month old! Still has the dealer’s smell on it, greasy and woolly! The keys are in the ignition.
Let’s just yank those and come back after the day’s done, okay? ‘Cause MAN. Man.

Aww look. A perfectly normal trash can. Well, three out of a street ain’t bad, right? And one’s yours, ol’ buddy ol’ pal. One’s yours.
Little light. Rattley, but light. More feels floppy, actually. Shit, there better not be a dead raccoon in here.
Holy shit!
Holy shit!
Great, right?
Hahaha man, I heard stories about this but I never thought I’d get to see one! Holy fuck I wonder whose leg this is?
Damn right we’re keeping this. I’ve got a big dog at home, Murray, a big dog. That dog’s a guard dog, Murray, but he ain’t ever tasted the flesh of man. How’m I supposed to get a good guard dog without feeding him someone? This is manna, Murray. Oldschool mana-from-fuckin’-heaven we’re witnessing.

Light again.
No, no, nothing good. Whole can’s full of little cards that say ‘HELP’ on them.
Yeah, let’s leave ‘em. Stupid fucks can’t put their recycling in the right bin, they can keep it.

No can here. Let’s move on – oh, wow!
Hey, lean over here! Check this out!
No, I don’t even know how they got ‘em to stack that good, that’s ART that is! Wow!
Yeah, we’ll take ‘em. They’re compost, right? If chicken bones count, so do skulls. And y’know what, let’s set aside this big sucker right here. I got a nephew, Murray; you ever meet him? He’s a cool guy. He’d like a cool skull, got no doubt.

Aw, shit.
Man, I don’t think we can take this one. They put the house in it.
Yeah, see down there at the bottom? Look, you can even see the bodies in the bedroom.
Nah, I got no idea how it fit in there, but it feels just about as heavy as the real thing. No Bueno, buddy.
Guess you’re right. A demolition company, maybe? Whatever, not our problem, that’s up to management.

Dum de dum.
Dum de dum de dum.
Hey, why aren’t we stopping?
Yeah, right.
Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah OKAY FINE I get it, I never pay any attention to what’s around me when I’m not the driver. NOW you happy?
Sure, I guess. Not much point in keeping going when you put it that way.
No, I’ve got no idea. I mean, what, do I look like I’m a rocket scientist or something? How’m I supposed to know what they did with the rest of the neighborhood? I don’t have any test tubes on me, mister science, I can’t just slap my dipstick on that oozing green shit over here and say ‘hmmm yess this is clearly radium-calcium-capsized suburban material no doubt grant now please.’
Nah, I made that up. But shit, does look radioactive, don’t it?
Short shift’s nothing to sneeze at, anyhow.

What’ll I pick?
…Maybe I’ll take that old TV after all. It’s been a while since I checked the news.

Storytime: Modern-Day Faeries.

September 7th, 2016

Before you read on, you should know that they are very shy, even in these days. Their rural kin and kith may have faded, their own fortunes may have flourished, but latter-day faeries are still rather like chameleons. Most of them are uncomfortable when they are being watched, and content when they are watchers.

They are the most common, and the least-noticed. Walk down a street without seeing it; drive home from work without even looking at the stoplights; stare out the window and forget dinner is on the stove. Hazies are everywhere. They swarm under every brow, behind every eye. In small doses they feed on absent-mindedness and brain farts. In clumps they emit small clouds of daydreams. When over-fed, they secrete lucid mindlessness, a walking sleep that shrugs out thought, emotion, or the senses.
Treasure them for the stories they show you; much can be done with them if you’ve the knack for it, or the work ethic, or the urge. Fear them for the consequences. Too much nothing is not a good thing, although there may seem to be many somethings that are so very worse indeed.

Most things have felt the touch of affection, save for the most automated and remote – an anonymous plastic toy. A scrap of continental bedrock. A fresh puff of Pacific cloud.
Fewer things are cherished. A particularly well-sewn teddy bear. A crib the last four generations of children lay in. A tacky souvenir from a departed grandparent, the ‘made in’ sticker still intact.
And some, a very, very slim some, are loved well and loved long. And it is in these places, around these things, that the slow, old, never-yet-common Yesterlongs converge.
Yesterlongs are patient, which is good because without that they would never get anywhere, or go mad. They linger by nature and love by instinct, and you can tell them by their soft paws and damp noses. A Yesterlong feeds off its home, and feeds back double. What is loved becomes moreso with time, and as its affection grows so too does the faerie. They can be bigger than mountains, they can be bigger than worlds. And at every size, they can fit inside a heart, no matter how small.
Wince when you see nostalgia fade. As it goes, so too must they. And the trip to the next home can be long, it can be hard.
But do not cry. There will always be something new.

If you’ve ever walked on a springtime riverback, you have seen the rushes grow.
And if you’ve ever driven on a weekday morning, you have seen the Rushes dance.
Go! Traffic!
Go! Lunchtime!
Go! Release date!
Go! Weekend!
They are furious in flight but they always move too slowly; they are ravenously hungry but they never manage to eat a thing; they are timeless but always hurried.
Go! Go! Go!
You can feel them in your pulse, in your sweat, in the tightened skin around your widened eyes. Suck in breath through your flared nostrils and smell their bitter acridity. Taste their iron on your tongue.
Without them, things would still get done. But my, we would be less worried about it.

The Hopesmiths have not been mentioned so far, not because of their importance but because of their detestability.
Hopes and dreams are fragile and snap and crack under the inflexible weight and pressure reality puts on them. Left to their own devices, they will sink and simmer and smelt down into the world again, ready to become fresh inspiration, to be mined again by new mines of new miens.
But the Hopesmiths are watching, and the Hopesmiths are hungry, and they are very small and fast, the fastest of all faeries. A working hope is far too strong for their frail bodies and slim hands, but a broken hope, a crippled dream – these are the tools they need. They will swarm an injured hope like carnivorous flies, stripping it for parts from the outside in and burrowing down to its ragged core.
There they dine, and there they forge, not out of necessity now but purest delight. Frankenstein with malice in his heart; a pernicious Yahweh.
The new-forged hopes that rise up from these ashes are hollow cinders: light, airy, and if one should ever brush a hand, burning and instantly-extinguished. But most remain forever just out of arm’s-length, wafting on the breeze and forever taunting those unfortunate enough to listen, singing the song of Somedays.
Someday I will be rich
Someday I will be famous
Someday my numbers will come up
Someday they’ll call me back
Someday I will be happy
The song has no end. Its only cure is to realize there is no beginning.

The last are the shyest. And they are the strangest.
They will not look for you. They will never find you.
Unlike every other faery, they must be found.
Stand up. Go for a walk.
Look without seeing – not outside, but in. Drop into yourself and fall down a hole without a bottom, turn off the world and shut out the lights. Dim the sounds and quench the people, the so many people you know and don’t know and will know and when it’s all too much, when you’ve gone down as far as you can be.
There they are, fleeting and motionless. The Little Lonelies. A flickering light, down here in the dark at the base of the brain, hiding inside plain sight.
You can dwell on them, these Little Lonelies. You can watch their wings flicker in circles. Hear their tiny, sad songs. Smell the soft scent of their aches and bruises and tiny slow desperations.
It’s not fun, but it’s easy, and it’s distracting. So much safer than the world. So much calmer. So much easier to deal with than people or places or being a person.
You can dwell on them, these Little Lonelies. But you should not stay for long.
They will not take you away. But you may do that yourself.

Storytime: Graveyard.

August 31st, 2016

The nice thing about a graveyard is that any description of it tends to be good for a long time.
The quiet.
The shade.
The stones.
Even the specifics – who’s under what rock where and when – don’t change very quickly. Time is quarantined here, kept under tight control to prevent any sudden moves or rash decompositions.
No, not much changes in a graveyard.
Until now.

The tree was a stately one, lending the outer plots shade in the summer and keeping its roots to itself on its own side of the fence, out of everyone else’s business and graves.
Slowly, it began to shake and shiver. Fevered.
And from somewhere just a little distant came the shouts and roars.
The fence was very high. The dead like their privacy, and the living like the dead having their privacy too. But the clambering climber was a fast one, practiced and panicked, and she made it just before the mob swarmed the base of the tree, rolling over the iron spikes and down onto the soft green grass that grew just a little too high to be tamed.
The climber lay there for a moment in the shade and the shouting, cursing a string of small and helpless gods under her breath. She was all limbs and harsh angles, and whiffed sharply of sedition. The main gate rattled and her jaw clenched with a throbbing cowardice but it was well-locked and well-secured, and the creaking, clashing metal grew no louder.
“Hello,” said the dead.
She looked around wildly. But she was still alone.
“Hello again,” said the dead. “We are beneath you. We are around you. Why are you in our house?”
The climber looked back up at the tree, but the branches were far too high to grasp, and anyways the dead people were being polite. “Mob,” she said.
“That’s not good. Mobs are ruckus and rattle and roars. They make it hard to sleep. Will you tell them not to make so much noise for us?”
“The mob is after me. They want to hang me by my elbows and ankles until there’s nothing left.”
“That’s not good either. What did you do, to make them so cross and wilful?”
The climber clawed at her hair for a moment, then shrugged. “I am a vandal and a thief and have no friends or family and I have broken clockwork and not paid for it in proper ways. I am altogether unsuitable to live.”
The dead laughed. It’s not as terrible a sound as it seems at first, once the chill’s been scrubbed out of your ears and the shivers from your skull. It doesn’t sound joyful at all, no, but there’s a tired acceptance in it, a been-there-before camaraderie. “Go to the gate. The key is under the smallest rock. We will be with you.”
The climber looked up at the tree again, even let a little practice hop come out of her knees for a moment.

It was a nice, orderly, well-dressed sort of mob.
The clothes were immaculate. The hair was well-combed, well-washed. Hats were firmly affixed to skulls and every crude club picked up was from someone’s garage; no loose branches left to lie about THIS neighborhood! Not a blazing torch in sight, either; electricity had reduced the old fire hazards to fireplaces in a flash.
The faces, though, were timeless. There’s something in the eyes, and something more in the mouth. The furious gnashing, spoken or not.
The cemetery gates swung open despite everything the rust did to prevent it. Vocally.
The climber stood there, face to faces.
“Go home,” she said.
The mob disputed this.
“Go home, please,” she said.
The mob was not pleased.
“Go home, please, the dead are tired and wish not to be disturbed.”
And at this the mob hushed itself for a moment, and in that one moment its always-fragile self-esteem crumbled and guttered and fell away leaving no mob at all but some thirty-two acquaintances, neighbors, and peripheral friends wondering what they were doing out at one in the morning on a weekday. It didn’t disband, it dismembered.
The climber looked down the street after the trailing moblets, watching them shuffle towards their ticking, clicking houses, and saw them look up the street back at her.
“There is work,” the dead said to her in their earth-soft, dirt-tempered voices. “If you would like it.”
And the climber became the digger, more or less.

It wasn’t so bad, working for the graveyard.
The old trees grew small and sour fruit, but there were a lot of them.
The family crypts were cool in the summer and kept heat in the winter.
And the dead were, if not the chattiest company, then very civil and enormously accepting. Nothing brings people together like having something in common. Nobody had more in common than the dead.
All that was required in return was, well, maintenance. Plucking the more obnoxious weeds. Removing old, old flowers. Picking up sticks. Shooing away gophers, which now and then supplemented the fruits.
And then, about a year into the digger’s tenancy in the graveyard, the gates creaked and banged from a force that wasn’t a wind.
“Go home, please,” said the digger through the bars. It was a small mob, with downcast eyes and darkened clothing. They clutched a hidden mass in their midst.
“Let them in,” said the dead from behind. “Let them in.”
The gate was more rusted than ever, but the digger had strong arms. The mob filed in without so much as a word of thanks, a word at all, and after placing their cargo on the ground and standing in silence for some half-hour they simply turned around and left.
The digger tested the lid. It was sealed shut.
“Please,” said the dead – from inside the box, a fine trick – “bury me.”
The digger had no shovel. The digger had no map. But the dead told her where there was space, and the dead told her how far to dig, and her fingers were strong and her palms were broad.
“The first this year,” the dead sighed as she began to push the dirt on top of it. “The first this year. Of how many this decade?”
“Four,” said the other dead. “Four.”
“No time for that sort of thing,” said the new dead, voice already fading into the earth. “No time at all.”
And the digger thought how true that was, but she kept her thoughts about that sort of thing to herself because she was not sure if they would approve.

She had been sneaking out, late at night.
The tree was jumpable, after all. And the dead, although often spry to note anything new, seemed readily ignorant of anything old. She was there, so they assumed she was there. And after a month cooped up, and a month without fear, she felt well enough again to go on the prowl.
The streets were just as she remembered them; spread out in well-planned cogs. Houses ticking along like watches, shops that glittered like glass. The whole city, wheels in wheels and wheels outside of wheels all spinning at different speeds to keep up the same pace.
How could she not want to smash it?

The bounty of those expeditions were stashed all over the graveyard; in gopher holes; under rocks; at the back of crypts tucked behind old coffins.
The dead didn’t think of it, though they thought less and less these days. The living didn’t come looking for it, though they looked for little at all these days.
Really, nobody came looking for anything here. She was the digger, but in three years she dug two graves. The dead wondered, in that idle, decomposing way of theirs, but she knew, or thought she might, or theorized she may one day.
She found them, tucked on mantelpieces and under beds and in cupboards and over fireplaces.
Little boxes, with intricate locks and embellished writing and many promises.
With so few left to run the gears and grind the grist of the city, why would you leave to rot what you might someday use?

One year a tree fell down, across the fence. The digger hauled it over entire, bit by bit, and she spent some time learned to make gravestones that weren’t stone at all but wood.
Some of the dead helped, the few that were left. So did a sharp rock. So did the digger’s fingers.
They really were quite strong by now.

She broke more than she stole nowadays. Smashed the little boxes and scattered the remnants on the careful carpets; shattered the storefronts and left them to fall apart empty. Fresh rainwater soaking into old floors and staining the dust.
Wasteful, but what else was there to do but bury, and who did bury? The freshest dead were over a decade old; the eldest thirty years and fading fast. The graveyard was hushing around her. It frightened her to hear the silence sometimes, but she didn’t dare disturb it.
Sometimes she stood close to the gate and wished she hadn’t let the rust grasp it so rigidly, so that it could still creak. And she pressed an ear to the bars and listened for the ticking of the city.

It was broad daylight.
The city seemed so much smaller in broad daylight. Clearer, but dirtier. All the little flaws that had hidden away under the dark dragged out into exacting detail. A distracting display, but she had no time for it. She was following her ear.
Right down main street, right to the fountain. It was crusted-over, engulfed in a friendly tide of algae and mould. The liveliest sight she’d seen.
A pair of boots sat next to it. And next to the boots, a little box, palm-sized at best, plain and without writing.
The digger held it to her ear, just in time to hear the last tick.

When she got back that evening, she was just in time to hear the last of the dead too.

She stood beneath the tree and considered.
Or the road?
The grave was old; even just-dug, it smelt of tired worms and dying soil.
The road was gone; ruts within ruts within buckled asphalt.
It was lonely, but it was home.
It was long, but it was strange.
She wished she had a mob. Mobs were good at making decisions for you. They chopped off choices until it was simple.
So instead she sat down besides the grave, looking up at the branches of the tree, and she rested. For a while.

Storytime: Seed Money.

August 22nd, 2016

Teacher En was out of money again. This was unfortunate, especially since she was in a bar, and doubly so, because she had just drunk it.
“Pay with your wallet or with your kneecaps,” the barkeep kindly informed her.
“A fair offer,” she said. “But I’ve got a better one.”
“A better one what?”
“I’ve just told you that,” said Teacher En, a little irritated. “A bet. I’ll bet you I can take this old bar nut from the deepest crevice of your floorboards and grow it into a tree that soars higher than any may have ever imagined anywhere.”
The barkeep was interested despite herself – it had been years and years since there’d been a tree to shade the front stoop and cool away the fierce noons – but she was wary of old weird wanderers and deadbeats besides. “I accept your bet,” she said, “but on one condition: me and my sons get to do whatever we can to stop you short of uprooting the thing and throwing it away.”
“This is fair,” said Teacher En, and they shook hands and right then and there Teacher En stepped out the front door one two three four strides and moved some dirt with her thumb and plonked down the old bar nut. Just as she moved to sweep it back over, she paused for a second and leaned close to the little hole.
“Get a move on,” she whispered. And it was buried.
“Now it’s my turn,” said the barkeep. And she called her sons, her three big and variously fat sons, and all of them unzipped their pants and turned the little dimple in the soil into an (extremely acid) latrine.
“A good bet,” the barkeep told Teacher En, “but maybe not a wise one. Tell you what: you can do the washing-up tonight, if you’d like. If you’re good at it and keep going for the rest of the week, you can pay with that instead of your kneecaps.
The old woman smiled. “Kind of you. It’s been too long since I’ve dealt with a good dish anyways.”

The next day the barkeep woke up early from the shouts and hoots outside. She emerged with an itch in one hand and a scratch in the other and had to blink for a good five minutes before the sight in front of her made any sense: look at that, a whole seedling had sprung up out of the soil. A foot tall and stretching for the sun.
“Now how’d it live through that?” she asked, and asked, and asked, but nobody had an answer until they leaned down close and saw the waxy coating of its form, sealing outside from in.
“Well, you’re a cleverer person than you look,” she said to Teacher En, who’d just finished last night’s dishes and was setting the washcloths out to dry on the railing. “But it’s my turn now.” And she and her three big and variously fat sons went over that seedling with tweezers and peeled and plucked every single strip of bark from it until it was as soft and naked as a newborn.
“Nice try,” the barkeep told Teacher En. “Your turn.”
The old woman squatted down next to the seedling and turned over its biggest leaf and carefully put her mouth to it.
“Hurry up now,” she muttered, and let it be again.
A shout from indoors came; the morning had begun, and there were new dishes to be washed.

The next day the barkeep woke up late, hung-over from a round of self-congratulation. She staggered outdoors with an ache in her pants and her head and hurt her nose pretty badly on the sapling, which was now ten feet tall and covered in thorny barbs on a layer of bark that could’ve been used as a warship’s hull.
“How’d you do that?” she demanded of Teacher En, storming back inside. “Do you have people out there switching trees on me every evening?”
“I travel by myself with myself only,” said Teacher En, who was shoulder-deep inside a particularly stubborn mug. “And sometimes I leave myself behind to get some peace and quiet. Feel free to stay up and keep watching, but if you’ll look at the soil, you’ll see nobody’s been digging out there all week.”
“After today we won’t need to check,” vowed the barkeep. And her three big and variously fat sons fetched her stepladder and she went up there and plucked every single leaf from the crown of the sapling, and snapped off many of the smaller green twigs.
Then they went in before rush hour started, and only just made it. Teacher En had to help wait tables to keep up. But that evening she walked down to the sapling, and she bent down to the nearest knothole.
“Rush it up,” she scolded. And was done.

The next day the barkeep woke up early because it was so quiet. Deathly quiet. The air was still and creaking.
She tiptoed downstairs past arrays of – surprisingly well-cleaned – mugs and bottles and over a freshly-scrubbed floor and stepped out into a small crowd of morning regulars, each and every single one of which was staring up dead-eyed at the tree.
It was big, but hard to measure. Over a hundred feet tall everything looks the same. The fresh green leaves waved mockingly.
“Right,” she said. “That’s it. Bring me the pitch.”
It took many, many buckets and the three tallest ladders in town, but by evening’s dimming the barkeep and her three big and variously fat sons had coated every inch of the tree they could reach with pitch. As the sun set, fire spat and clawed its way up its sides like hungry cats.
“You’ve been a good employee,” the barkeep told Teacher En, as she took over the shift in the dying light. “But I think you’ve got a poor knack for gambling.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice,” said Teacher En. And she took her break there, which she spent sitting next to the blazing trunk and warming her hands. As she sat up to head back in for the dishes, she leaned in close to the embers and the roots.
“Walk it off, finish up,” she sighed.

The barkeep woke up at her accustomed hour. She walked downstairs and nothing was unusual. She was so on edge that she nearly jumped out of her skin twice over, and it came as a great relief when she looked out the window and saw the largest tree she’d ever dreamed in front of her building, blotting out half the sun and waving cheerfully in the breeze.
She sighed, half-disappointed, half-relieved, and she and her three large and variously fat and entirely confused sons walked over to the till where Teacher Enn was counting out the cash and told her the bet was won.
“Yes,” said Teacher En with a grimace. “I did bite off more than I could chew, didn’t I? Well, I’m half-done the week already, so I suppose I can pay you through that rather than with my kneecaps.”
“But how have you failed, teacher?” they asked her. “Your seedling has grown all out of recognition and sense in every way.”
“Yes,” she said. “But it has completely failed to fly.”

Storytime: Passing By.

August 17th, 2016

As I was sitting at home one day, which is what I do, I shook my head and then myself.
The world’s too pretty to spend it cooped up in a box, I decided. I was going for a walk.
So I walked
to the docks, where there was a little boat with a big catch. Huge nets were rolling up on its deck, thousands of feet long, and fish were spilling everywhere. But they were throwing most of them overboard.
“Sharks,” the captain told me. “Who wants a shark? Not me. Not most people. They taste bad, they look ugly, and they can tear your children apart just like that –” and here he twisted his hand a little just like that “- you ask me, preserving them’s brainless. Nothing but mindless eating machines, living to fill their bellies. You know anyone like that?”
And I didn’t know anyone like that, no; I didn’t know anyone like that.

The docks were meant to be bracing, I’d heard, but the air was so bracing it was trying to knock me over. Full of sea salt and fish guts and drying paint and crusted oil. Very aggressive.
So I walked
to the brush, where there was a white flock of fluffy round things with simple, stupid faces and kind little eyes. I skritched one behind the ears and it baa’d at me.
“Those are my sheep,” said a suspicious voice. I looked over and saw it came from a suspicious sort of man and was nothing personal. In his right hand was a gun and in his left hand was a scruffy, mangy sort of beigey animal with brown stripes on its back and too much jaw.
“Tasmanian wolf,” he informed me, with a sweep of his arm. “Tasmanian tiger. Thylacine. You name it, I’ve killed it. Hopefully this is the last one. You’ve got to kill them, you know. For the sake of the sheep. If you don’t kill them they kill the sheep and then we can’t kill the sheep either. Blood-suckers they are, blood-suckers with parasitic inclinations scavenging off our hard work. You know anyone like that?”
And I didn’t know anyone like that, no; I didn’t know anyone like that.

The brush was meant to be mysterious and wild, I’d heard, but the air was full of fleece and dung and I was starting to sneeze.
So instead I walked
to the plains, where there was wide open spaces and a big blue sky and a whole field of dead, dead, dead animals, each bigger and hairier than I was and deeply impressive in their appearance of grump, even after death.
“That’s my trophy get your own,” said a man who was also bigger and hairier than I was. He crawled out from behind one of the animals, brandishing a severed and half-bloodied skull. “Beautiful, eh? Something for the fireplace. These here are buffalo and if anyone calls them ‘bison’ I will punch them. You’ve got to shoot buffalo. They’re in the way. They’re useless, nobody decent uses them for anything important. We could put a cow here you know, if there weren’t any buffalo. A cow and maybe a man and maybe a mall. What do you think about that? You’d like it, I’d hope, because these are useless animals that live to eat and to make more of themselves and spread around their own manure. Know anyone like that?”
And I didn’t know anyone like that, no; I didn’t know anyone like that.

The plains were meant to be beautiful and airy but they smelled like blood and even more manure than I’d ever imagined, so I picked up my feet again and walked
to the park, where things were quiet if they knew what was good for them and I could get plenty of brochures. I sat down on a log next to a scenic trail and a scenic trail signpost and I felt pretty happy until BANG a gunshot went off to my ear. A man walked up to me, dragging a wolf.
“You with the park?” he asked me. I wasn’t, no.
“Damnit,” he said. “Shoot. Shucks. Shit. I’ve got to give this thing back to the park. It wandered off and it looked at my sheep, it did. That’s how it starts, the looking. Then comes the biting. Then comes the eating. Hard times, it is, when a merciless predator is given better housing and care then most of us. An ungrateful bastard in your own house making free with your possessions at your expense and you can’t do anything about it. You ever known anyone like that?”
And I didn’t know anyone like that, no; I didn’t know anyone like that.

The park was a little tense for my tastes, and the air was a little hazy with gunsmoke, and most importantly I’ve got to be honest with you: my feet were starting to ache something fierce.
So I walked. I walked back through the park and the plains and the brush and the dock and I walked
And I walked up to the door and I opened it and there was a man there, tapping his foot and frowning with his whole body.
“About time you showed up,” he said, and stuffed a sheet of paper into my palm. “You’re being evicted. You spend too much time paying too much attention to too many things that don’t matter and not enough to anything that does. You’ve got your head in the clouds and your butt on the ground, and now your feet’ll be out the door so you can have a matched set.” He shook his head despairingly. “Looking at things that aren’t even real, eh? Where would we be if everyone did that? You know anyone else who does that?”
And he walked out the door and was gone.
I was really tired, but since I was evicted I sat down on the stoop and not my bed. And as I sat there, I waited for someone to come across me and get me moving. To move in. To yell at me to get a job. To put out their garbage. To pass by on the other side of the street, doing something, going somewhere.

I waited all day long and all night and more.
But I didn’t see anyone like that, no.
I didn’t see anyone like that.