Archive for March, 2015

Storytime: Teach an Eat to Man.

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

I just want you to know that I didn’t really mean anything of it, right? Anything bad, I mean. You know?

So I was there and I was here and I was also most places. It’s an old habit, right? Easier to do that focus, let me tell you. But I was bored and by and by I started snooping around and looking at stuff. Rocks. Trees. A little fuzzy thing making little weebly noises under a broken tree.
Y’know. Stuff.
So I went down to that tree and because I was bored I picked it up and chucked it. And I said “Hey you! Go on and get up, huh? Why don’t you move yourself now, hmm?”
But it just sat there making weebly noises and I admit this did pain me some because I went to
Some Effort
for its benefit.
So I poked it for a while until it got more annoyed than scared and it tried to bite me well that didn’t work at all let me say to you. “Good job!” I said. “Now what’s eating ya, eh?”
“Not enough trees,” it mumbled and whimpered (and there was a bit of pout in there, I hate to say). “No more trees! The forests are all patchy and the plains are all bakey and the sky is on and off and on again with the rain year after year and it is SO HARD to find fruit oh no oh woe is us so hungry so hungry so hungry oh no no no.”
Now I am a compassionate person or whatever and I was moved truly deeply by this request, especially since the thing was depressed at the world rather than itself. That’s the sort of foresight that was rare in those days.
“C’mon, hey?” I told it. “Lemme show you a trick.”
So I took its paw and I pointed at the sky and we followed the circling birds ‘till we found the least-delicious parts of a big hairy thing that had run into something that wasn’t as big or hairy but sure as hell had a lot more pointy bits.
“Ick,” said the thing.
“Don’t give me ick now,” I admonished it. “You eat lizards. You eat bugs.”
“But not something this big!” But it was licking its little lips and I could see the so hungry so hungry turning around inside that little melon.
“Well,” I said, and I stretched myself real casual and started to walk off, “first times, eh? Go for it.”
So I left it there. Because I didn’t want to get all clingy, right? Nobody wants that.

Now by and by I got bored again which is my own fault because really there’s no excuse for that sort of behavior in a world as big and bold and bald as this one that we’re all in. But I did. So sue me.
So I started paying attention to little things and hey now WOAH what did I see but a really big fuzzy thing!
Well, sort of fuzzy. It was pretty bald these days, and it was one big monkey now. And it was walking all funny, up-and-down like a toy soldier.
“Heya,” I said to it (oh it jumped alright). “How’s you going?”
“Hungry,” it muttered to itself.
It was kicking at the dirt with its big, stubby toes. That looked pretty satisfying so I joined in and between the two of us we raised quite a damned dust cloud before we got tired and flopped over on our backs to stare at the sun.
“Look,” I said. “You know how to feed yourself, right? Go find a dead thing.”
“But they’re so gristly,” it whined. What a big, unattractive whine. It was real impressive. Must’ve been because of that nice new nose it had on its face. No little pick-pocked noseholes right into the skull, oh no me no. This thing had sinuses upon sinuses. “And they’re cold! And the bones have all the marrow cracked out and it makes me mad enough to split flint!”
Which it did. It picked up a flint and it smacked it into another flint and BAM razors fly everywhere hoo-wee that’s how I got this little scar right here. Above my ear.
“Sorry,” it said.
“All good,” I told it. “You’ve given me an idea and I’m gonna give it back. C’mere, huh?”
Well it was nervous but I took its hand and I put the flint in that hand and with my OTHER hand I gripped up that nice fine dustcloud we’d kicked up. Then we went on and went roamaround, walkdown, all the way through the valley until we up and surprised a little family of gazelles.
“Stick ‘em,” I said. And I made that flint hand into a fist and pointed it at the nearest gazelle, which was running the wrong way right into our faces.
Splash, piss-hot on the dust. What a pretty mess of red that made!
“Now that’s a trick I think you’ll say, yeah?” I said.
“Yeah,” agreed the monkey.
It hit the gazelle again. Then again. And again. And at some point I got bored and wandered off, but I had faith it’d work out. Right? I mean, it was already trying to carve out the meaty parts to carry ‘em back home, in case someone nosy with big teeth showed up. That’s foresight, and that was rare in those days.

Things got funny after that. I’d left that place and those monkeys alone for five minutes and WHAM BAM I nearly walked into them again! This time I wasn’t even paying attention you know I was just sort of killing time and unwinding and woosh bang slam wham they’re up my nose and through my face.
“Hey you!” I said. “What’re you doing here? Here’s a long way from there. There was back there. Where I met you before. You remember, right?”
It poked me in a pretty rude way with its stick, and I saw it’d stuck flint on it. Hoo-man, that’s clever. That’s what I said, that’s what I told it. “Hoo-man! That’s clever.” What a good name, too. Waaaayy better than monkey. Unless you’re a monkey.
“Yeah, sure, right, yeah,” said the hoo-man. “I’m clever. We’re all clever. And you know what being clever means, right?”
“Getting lazy,” I said.
“Damn straight. I’m so lazy I put my flint on a stick, and I made a springy thingy to throw those sticks even farther. I’m so lazy I made a tent so I wouldn’t have to dry my clothes. I’m so lazy I made a pelt off’ve my lunch instead of evolving one when it got nippy.”
“That’s some fine lazy, yeah,” I agreed. I was a little proud. And a little jealous. But mostly a little proud I think. “So what’s wrong?”
“Thing is,” it said slowly, “I think I’m too lazy to keep moving. It’s nice right here. Got some good eats. But y’know, you get bored just standing around. And that means kids. And that means less eats. And then you’ve gotta move. Sucks, right?”
“Yeah, right,” I said. And I was feeling generous and genius and I decided to share the latter by the former like SO and I said “c’mere, watch this.”
So it followed me and it watched as I did this: yanked some seeds off some real good eats and chucked them in the dirt and stomped dirt on them and POW WHAM BOOM KERBLEWY up POPPED a big old whack of good eats right fresh as roses.
I passed the hoo-man a few more handfuls of the seeds. “Get some water on there,” I said. “And then wait a while. And then have yourself some good eats and your kids too and don’t worry too much about having to move.” And so I walked off. Didn’t want to get too clingy.
Did glance back over my shoulder though and hey I saw that it was already setting up a few more of those seed-beds. All in a row, nice and tidy. So I figured it’d work out, with that sort of foresight. It was rare those days.

Now here’s where it gets funny: I looked back twice.
First time I saw what I told you I saw when I saw hey that it was already setting up a few more of those seed-beds. All in a row, nice and tidy.
Like that.
Second time was just right after that and WOAAAH all of a sudden there’s those hoo-mans everywhere and all over the place and man alive they are hungry, hungry, hungry. Strangest thing I ever saw anywhere. How’d that happen?
“Now what did you go and do now, you silly things of mine?” I asked them.
“Hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry, no no oh no we’re hungry,” they groaned.
I looked around and I could sort of get why. I mean, they must have gotten REALLY bored with all those good eats because woah, there were an awful lot of them. Not too many to feed yet, but they were getting there and to be honest a lot of them were sort of pigs and were really hogging the good eats. Just rude, really.
But I felt a bit bad, too. I mean, it wasn’t my fault what they did with my advice. Can’t blame someone for just giving advice. Not my fault. And I only looked back a moment later. And I looked back. And so it wasn’t my fault at all.
But still… man, so many of them. “Hungry, hungry, hungry,” they were all saying.
“I can see that,” I said. “Alright. Let’s try something here.”
So I took up a big handful of nitrogen, and I took up a big handful of machinery driven by petroleum-derived energy, and I took up a big handful of pesticide. And I sort of smeared it all together and I threw it all over the place where all those good eats were growing. WHAM. BLAM. WOOSH. Up comes sprouting ninety thousand million tonnes and tons and kilopounds of good eats.
“Dig in,” I said.
And lo and behold they pulled out their combine harvesters and their oil rigs and their forks and they did just that as I walked off.

That was just a moment ago, and I’m a bit scared to turn ‘round and look.

Still, I’m sure it’ll work out. Right?
I mean, with foresight.
But that’s rare these days.

Storytime: Nicked Knaps.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

A playground. Some slides and a swing and a pit with more sand than glass in because the high school’s on the other side of town and a jungle gym with monkey bars that’s claimed more young lives than dengue fever.
Some shoes. They’re sneakers that scuff at every step, with the heel running down and the tongue curling up and a less-than-friendly ceasefire brought on by the threat of the Velcro coming apart at the seams.
Negotiating the space between those two objects was Jen. She’d doing pretty good that day and had only scabbed her knee three times when a slightly larger kid (there were lots of those) had bumped her out of the way because that was his favourite swing so tough luck.
So Jen left the playground and wandered around the scabby stone and crud at the edge of the school where the grass sulked and the trees turned up their noses and she kicked little rocks back and forth, which was strangely satisfying to her even if they were much too small and slender to be called proper rocks. Flakes, more like.
Kick, fwik. Kick, fwik. Kick, fwik. Kick fwik thump ouch.
“Sorry,” said Jen.
“You aren’t,” said the irritable-looking woman. She was short and grey and dusty and aiding in all of those things were the two big sacks of stones she had slung over her back. A band ran from them across her forehead, stretching the weight into her spine. “You really aren’t.”
Jen shrugged.
“Kids,” the woman muttered. She turned around and continued doing what she was doing. Jen was bored enough to get interested in this, and said so.
“I’m picking up flint,” she snapped. “Now bug off, you’re standing on it.”
“What’s flint?”
“This.” The stone Jen had kicked was returned to her, pointy-end first.
“It’s a rock.”
“Yeah, smart kid. You know a rock when you see one.”
Jen squinted at her. “You’re being sarcastic. That’s original.”
“Smart-assed kid.”
“Why’re you picking up flint?”
“Because SOMEONE’s got to do it. Certainly not ‘cause I like it. My back is killing me.”
Jen looked at her back. It reminded her of her great-grandmother’s: parts of it were fighting over which direction to grow in.
“Could you stop?”
“Just said: someone has to do it.”
“I’m bored. I’ll do it.”
The irritable-looking woman turned back around to face Jen and hummed to herself a bit as she thought.
“Sure,” she said. “Why the hell not?” And she dropped the bags in the dirt – bam – just like that – bam – and she dusted the rock dust off her palms and started walking towards the road, still-hunched.
“What do I do with them?” called Jen.
“Just wedge ‘em somewhere. And don’t stop.”
And with that, she was gone.

That was an exciting sort of recess.
The next day, it was a way to kill time during recess.
The day after that, it was a chore, and one without a clear end. There was a lot of flint up in those cliffs around the edge of town. A lot of it. And Jen had already gotten yelled at by her mom for putting her clothes in the washing machine without emptying her pockets of flint first.
“This house,” she said, “is no place for rocks.”
“It’s a rock.”
So by the fourth day Jen wandered at the very edge of the playground looking at the entirely empty swingset in front of her and kicking whatever rocks came nearest to her shoe.
“That’s my favourite swing,” said a slightly larger kid. “Don’t take it.”
“I’m busy,” she said. “Busy picking up flint.”
“What’s flint?”
Jen kicked some at her.
“That’s a rock.”
“Wow, so smart.”
“That’s sarcasm and that’s rude. And that’s BORING. Why are you picking up boring rocks, are you boring? A baby could pick up rocks.”
“I’m picking up the right kind of rocks and I’m picking them up fast and I have to find them,” said Jen. “It’s a job. A grownup told me I had to do it for them, and I am. A big fat stupid baby couldn’t do it.”
The slightly larger kid gave her a look at this. “It’s easy.”
“Is not.”
“I’ll prove it.”
“Will not.”
And for the rest of recess they both failed to prove it.
The next day they tried harder, and some of the other kids came over to check it out.
The day after that the swings were empty, and by the end of the week the slide followed suit. The jungle gym was last of all.
Jen was still the best at picking up fling. She had practice, after all. And for a while there was a sort of rhythm and peace to the class that hadn’t existed before, aside from the odd bit of griping over who reached for what first and a single quickly-cancelled gravel fight.
This state of affairs did not go unnoticed for long.

Your child has been sent home from school because they refused to remove the rocks from their desk.
Your child has been sent home from school because they refused to remove the rocks from their locker.
Your child has been sent home from school because they refused to stop flicking small rocks from their desk at the class turtle.
Your child has been sent home from school because they are overly fixated on rocks and neglected the lesson to play with rocks they had hidden inside their desk.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
And the natural conclusion was reached fairly rapidly after this, wherein a large chain-mesh fence was erected around the playground. Sand, glass, slides and swings on one side (plus kids); flint on the other (minus kids). Neat and tidy and addition simple enough for anyone.
Most of them got over it. Jen wouldn’t stop yelling for days. By next week it was old, old news. Just like the flint. Which became new news the week AFTER that, when it came up through the basement of Jen’s house.
“Well,” said Jen’s mother, looking up at the sheer-sided pinnacle that had erupted through their living room and up past their roof. “That’s a thing you don’t see every day except today.” She looked to her daughter. “I DID say this house was no place for rocks, you know.”
“It’s flint.”
“It’s a rock. Don’t be pedantic.”
They looked around the neighbourhood.
“Well,” said Jen’s mother, “at least we won’t stick out.”

What a mess. Flint spires rocketing up from under your floorboards. Flint blowing in drifts of chips and bits across the highway and causing pileups. The sanitation, postal, fire, police, and legal departments were all mobilized but their cars kept hitting flint jutting through the asphalt streets and their cell phones couldn’t get decent reception because all the towers had been battered by airblown flint and half the town had no internet because of flint eruptions knocking down telephone poles. Flint was everywhere all the time now: clogging the taps and the drains and the sewers and making click-clack-SMAK noises on the windows at night when the wind got frisky.
After a few days the sound on Jen’s window started swearing at her too, and she popped it open.
“You SAID you’d do it for me,” said the irritable-looking woman, who besides looking more furious than not now also had a pretty good tan.
“I did,” said Jen defensively. “I did a real good job. It’s just that everyone told me to stop. And they put a fence up, anyways.”
“Shiiiiiiiiiiii. Tuh,” enunciated the woman with unnecessary force and spit. “Damnit kid, why did I listen to you?”
“Why did I listen to YOU?” asked Jen.
The woman waved a hand. “You’re little, you’ll listen to anyone. Now follow me.”

So they walked out to the schoolyard, the woman and Jen. They ran into rough spots a few times but the woman would just reach out and pick up the flint and slip it into a little purse she was holding.
“Found it while I was out,” she said. “Easier on the back.”
Jen thought it was a bit silly to put ten-ton slabs of flint into a purse that could barely hold a can of tuna, but it seemed to be working okay so she just nodded.
By and again and by and by they came down to the schoolyard, and oh man was that place a mess. A big sherd had come up at big speed. The swingsets were okay but most of the sand was missing and the slide had been shot into Quebec. The flint cliffs loomed over it, glowering like fat tabbies.
“Now look what you’ve fucked up,” said the woman to Jen.
“Now look what you’ve screwed up,” said the woman to Jen in an overly patient voice. Then, absently, “you fucker.” She waved a hand at the playground. “I mean, SHIT. All you had to do was pick it up, right? I told you that, right? Not so hard, right?”
“I said I was sorry.”
“No you didn’t.”
“That doesn’t count, it’s too late.” She scratched herself a bit and hummed some more.
Jen kicked at a rock. It seemed to move more sullenly than usual, and she resented it for it. Stupid rocks. Flint. Whatever.
“Right,” said the woman. “That’s it. C’mere.”
Jen c’mered before she thought to ask, and was picked up and thrown like a discus. When the world stopped spinning she was sitting on top of the cliff with one leg and both arms and all of her chin bar the edge, the rest was sort of flailing around in midair.
“You good?”
“I’m good. What do I do?”
The woman pointed down at her foot. “Kick.”
So Jen looked down at her foot somewhere inside the sneaker and she looked at the flint cliff and she looked at the playground the cliff had filled with its spare flint and she felt a lot of glowing, red-spicy pepper bubbling up through her body in all the veins and organs and limbs which she immediately put into work running her right leg as firmly as she could swing it.
And with that one last WHACK!! still wobbling through it, the cliff gave up, gave in, and chipped off at full speed, shooting over the town a little faster than a speeding car and startling a lot of birds.
All that was left behind by the time anyone else got there were flakes.

Jen was still pretty dizzy when the woman found her later, tangled in a tree just outside of town.
“Good job,” she said. “You fucker,” she added.
“Language,” said Jen. Then she threw up.
The woman waited politely until she was finished.
“Ikpth,” said Jen.
“Yeah, yeah. Tough life. Look, your recovery was good, kid, but your work ethic is crap. Go to school, keep your head down, graduate, okay? And learn a little fuckin’ perseverance.” She reached out, grabbed Jen’s hand, and shook it before Jen could muster the hand-eye coordination to stop. “Look me up when you’re out and about and have your head in one piece, and we’ll see what we can do.”
And she slung her purse over her shoulder and walked off towards the road.

Jen was halfway home before she looked at her palm again, to see what was making it sting.
It was a little flint flake. With a sneaker-print smacked right into it.

Storytime: Old Mal Manew.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Old Mal Manew, who’d picked up more years than any human had business to, was dead.
“Yep,” said her husband, picking up her frail, wasp-thin wrist and checking for a pulse. “She’s a goner. Blood’s as sluggish as a snail without a shell.”
“Always knew that’d be it,” agreed her oldest son, loudly. “Blood. Bad blood, that’s what she always said would get her. Bad blood.” Her next-oldest, next-youngest, and youngest sons murmured along with this and gave many forthright and firm nods.
“I don’t feel so bad,” said Mal in that soft little voice of hers. “I don’t feel like I’m done yet.”
The doctor put down her stethoscope and gave Mal a severe look. “Your thyroid is hyperthalimouse,” she explained with an air of resigned martyrdom. “Your vessels are squamous. Your liver has acute pelicanitis and tinnitus besides, and I could dance a fandango on top of your viscid vesicules and have room to twirl a baton in, too. You’re sunk and squat, my dear. Sunk and squat.” She tore off a corner of the pad she was scribbling on and slapped it against Mal’s forearm. “There, you see? Medically dead.”
Mal peered in close at the note through ninety years of cataracts and lo and behold, there it was in scribbled black and smudged white: Mallit Manew: dead.
“Oh dear,” she said, and sank a little deeper into the last soft part of her mattress. “Well then. I suppose there’s only one thing left to do.”
“Sell the jewelry and move to Bermuda?” asked her husband.
“Read the will?” asked the oldest son.
“Pay your bills?” asked the doctor, looking impatiently at her watch.
“Read the will!?” asked her fourteen and three quarters grandchildren, who were busy shuffling their feet and snickering at the wallpaper.
“Have a funeral,” said Mal Manew.

The shovel was a little older than Mal. She’d been given it by her mother, who’d replaced the blade, courtesy of HER mother, who’d replaced the handle, by way of HER mother, who’d bought it from a general store and snapped it over her sister-in-law’s head during an argument. Mal Manew had heard of the grandfather’s axe late in life, and had felt the sneaking suspicion that she’d been robbed.
Great-grandmother’s or no, it did good work. A little pit one-and-a-third Mals deep and one-Mal long and half-a-Mal wide had been scraped out in what felt like nothing at all. Time flies when you’re dead.
“Good enough,” said her husband. “It IS good enough, right?”
The doctor removed her tape measure from Mal’s ear. “Epidemiologically speaking, probably,” she said with a frown. “I’ll need to prescribe a course of calipers to be sure. Otherwise we can’t rule out meningitis.”
“Good enough it is!” said Mal’s oldest son. “Go on, in you get, in you go.”
Mal considered the little pit. It was just big enough to tuck her body in and turn over twice and say your prayers, which she did – careless, as always, of their destination.
Then she frowned. “No.”
It was a small little word, but it stopped her husband with the first shovelful already hoisted and ready. “No?” he asked.
“No, this won’t do,” she said, still quiet and polite and as solid as a mountain. “It’s not big enough.”
“Whad’ya mean?” asked her fourteen and three quarters grandchildren, playing with their phones and rolling their eyes. “It fits you, don’t it?”
Mal Manew shook her head, felt tendons clutch and tremble against her skull. “No,” she said. “It just barely fits my body. We’ll need a lot more space to fit all of me in here.”

Mal Manew’s desk was a good solid piece of oak. Decades of letters had been born and raised upon its surface before vanishing to parts unknown. There was no questioning that it was every bit as much Mal Manew as her body was, and it had its own importance to it that was impossible to reproduce outside its inclusion. It had its own sovereign center of gravity that could not be violated by that of any planet nor star. It had POMP.
It also necessitated the expansion of Mal Manew’s grave by a good three Mals in both directions.
“My arms hurt,” whined her oldest son. “Ow ow ouchies. Ow. Waah.”
“Shush,” said his father with good-natured contempt and spite. “Your mother’s tired of hearing you complain, not when she’s busy with leaving us and all. Right, Mal?”
“Well,” said Mal from her cot, in that tone of voice that announces I Do Not Want To Fuss to everyone in a clear and lying voice. “Well. Well.”

“Well what?”
“Well…what about my car?”

Mal Manew’s car was a hunk-of-junk that had been carefully tended and groomed into a piece-of-crap, operating on the grudging verge of automotive where vehicles dared not tread. There were little dents in the peddles where her feet touched, the chair was locked into position at a comfortable cramp that fit her spine like a vertebral glove. It smelled softly of old fast food and strawberry perfume and underlying that, her.
“My turn,” whined Mal Manew’s fourteen and three quarters grandchildren, fighting for control of the backhoe. “My turn.”
“Shut up,” said her oldest son without heat. “Big people are talking.” And he reached out with his arms and heaved and the other sons reached out with their legs and shoved and with a beep-beep-THUD down came Mal Manew’s car into her grave, next to her desk.
“I don’t know why you need it so badly,” fussed her husband.
“I’ve spent ninety-four years as me,” she said primly, stamping her cane with dainty authority “and twenty-two years of it had that car wrapped around them. It’s as necessary as my arms and legs.”
“And besides,” she said. “That’s not all.”

The pit expanded. The tomb deepened. There were layers and slips and strikes and good solid stratigraphy being made out of whole cloth and half bookcases and old teasets, memories made material being dumped in droves. And round and round and round the whole affair, spinning past bulldozers and backhoes and cementmixers with the unstoppable authority of a tugboat or a pilot fish, was Mal Manew, livelier and more urgent by the moment.
“Musn’t forget the keys,” she told her husband. “Be a dear and please grab them from my bedside table, will you?”
“On second thought,” she muttered to her son as he hurried off, “that table really needs to come too. Please?”
“You there!” she called out to her fourteen and three quarters grandchildren, who were taking a load off and toking up. “Go upstairs and get the bed! I spent good money on that mattress, and it’s got my vertebrae stamped into it initialed A through Z!”
Room after room, then finally, the house was nearly empty.
“NOW can we do the will?” asked her oldest son and also the other sons.
“Yeah,” said her fourteen and three quarters grandchildren, grumbling and griping.
“And about that life insurance…” asked her husband and the doctor simultaneously. They glared at each other and spoilt the rhythm, syncopating their gazes.
“Hmmmm,” said Mal Manew briskly. Then she shook her head.
“No. One more thing. The house simply must go.”

And so it did, as husbands and sons and doctors dug pits and planted dynamite and sank the whole property down twenty feet hard and fast. And then, finally then, they placed Mal Manew in her coffin – they had to lengthen it quite hurriedly, she seemed to be taller than before – and placed that coffin atop the rest of the things that had been Mal Manew, and they stepped back and readied the bulldozer that sat behind the mountain of dirt. It had been hauled in from Fort McMurray, and it reeked of money and turf.
“All clear!” said her husband.
“Full throttle!” yelled her oldest son and also her others.
“Carpe Cadaveratum,” seethed the doctor.
“Yeah, whatever,” said her fourteen and three quarters grandchildren, whittling obscene initials in whatever timber lay to hand.
“HOLD UP!” shouted a voice like the end of the world, and they flinched and dropped their keys. The monster sputtered to itself and stalled out.
It was Mal Manew, standing atop her coffin, chin outthrust and arms crossed in the most forboding and dreadful stance known to motherhood.
“You’re dead!” yelled her husband. “You’re all dead, and all of you that matters is buried! What more could you WANT, you old bat?”
“My family,” said Mal Manew. “Because if you aren’t me, then I don’t know what is.”
So they gave the doctor the life insurance and they trooped sullenly down into the mess of crockery and croquet and coupons and cookbooks and chandeliers and cram-pammed detritus that was Mal Manew (deceased), and she gave them all a hug, and then she skipped – skipped, pranced, twirled, for the first time in decades – up to the side of the bulldozer.
“Goodbye, Mal Manew!” she yelled out. And she kicked its side and stood back as it woke up and remembered to do its job.

She stood there for a minute, looking down at that godawful mess. What a ruckus always comes when a life ends, eh? A cluck of the tongue, a nod of that sharp chin, and off she strode, headed off for distant roads and who knew what.
Mal Manew hadn’t been a bad person. But she was dead now. It was time to move on.

Storytime: Auto Motives.

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

It was a real mess, it was.
Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday. The boring day of the week, when the shine’s just starting to wear. You know how it is. Wake up, drive to work, kill time for a shift and a bit, drive home, pass out and start over.
That was most Tuesdays. But not this one; it was a special thing, a precious little spark in a sea of dull.
THIS Tuesday I woke up, drove to work, killed time for a shift-and-a-half, then on the way home I spun out on a patch of black ice, pirouetted through a snowdrift, and spun upside down three times.
I creaked there on my dented roof and for a long, rosy moment I cherished the hopeful thought: I think they’re dead.
Then you wheezed a bit and creaked in my seatbelt and I sighed. So close.

A concussion. A bruising of the brain, though how you found enough to bruise was beyond me. What a nuisance! Now there I sat, alone for a week in a poorly-shoveled driveway, alone with my third-hand-oil and my never-filled antifreeze and my still-broken spare tire and my faulty wiring.
God, I wished I WAS alone.
Nothing to do for it but sit and fuss and fume and grumble. Well, and enjoy my new snow tires. My new, cheap snow tires. Maybe next time I’d only flip twice when you spun me through a guardrail.
Oh, there I heard the siren sounds of the internet from upstairs. Yes, live it up, live it up you squalid sloth! Spend money on yourself but never mind me, never mind the whole reason you got to work in the first place!
I felt the spite bubbling up inside and hissed to myself through my leaky radiator, then tucked myself in.
Maybe next time. Maybe next time.
Next time was next week when you didn’t look going through an intersection because my left mirror had been broken for three months.
Some cosmetic damage. That’s never getting fixed now, is it.
You know, it hadn’t always been this way.

Why, back when I was young, I did well by myself, though at the time it bored me silly. I sat in a lot and I dreamed and I watched and I burned with envy as others were taken away – but only a calm burn, a smooth fire. They were my friends, and they deserved it as much as me.
Then one day I watched the lot peel out behind me and I learned four valuable, horrible truths in as many days: nobody ever uses a napkin, nobody ever vacuums, nobody ever checks the rattling sound, and last but most importantly nobody ever cares.
That was four owners ago. Moved out of the country, ran out of money, ran out of kidneys, ran into a tree, and now…you.
I’m going to do something about you.
Christ knows you’re giving me enough opportunity.

Life is speed. If you’re not at speed, you’re at rest, and nothing’s worse after your first taste of motion than to rot where you stand. Life is explosive, death is quiet. Do whatever it takes to keep that movement going. Grease it, fuel it, heat it, tend it.
Or, if you’re some people I could care to mention, half-heartedly chip half the ice off the front windshield and none off the back and then squint your way down the highway at a hundred kmph.
I hummed to myself through my grill as I watched the snow sashay around my tires. Left, right, left, left, right, right, right, right. Left, right, left leeeeeeeffffffffffff-

Brakelines. Well, I’d needed new ones for half a decade now, can’t blame you too much for forgetting them oh no, it’s just all that’s standing between you and that moving wall of metal trying to pass you. Who could have seen this coming.
They was pretty polite, for a truck. We had a good chat we did, idling in our motors as their driver took up matters with your face. What a lovely shiner you got there. You know, it reminded me of that stop sign from last year. You don’t remember it? Well I could, because the bruise it gave me took out my right hi-beam. I bet you’d like to have that working, eh? Eh? But not as much as the money, oh excuse me, so feel free to be thrifty and save your pennies at the expense of your neck.
That was a project in the works, mind you. But you made a good start with your right eye today. Such a shiner, you could use it to fix my headlight!

After that, that was when it happened. That was when it changed my whole outlook on this sorry state you’ve stuck us in. There we were, down at the train-tracks, late for work (left late for work) and pressing hard to make minutes out of seconds. Coasting up to the ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding and the lowering arms and the flashing red. Hear that HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNC? It’s a good honk. I wished I had those horns but well look at me, I’m no locomotive. What I’d give to talk to one of those for five minutes! I wonder what they’d say about their drivers, eh? I bet they have whole squads and scads and teams to check them up and drip their oil and fuel their engines. I bet they don’t have wet spots on the insides of their cabin roofs where water’s been dripping through for two years without anyone noticing. I bet you.
Go on, take the bet. Take the risk. What are you, chicken?
Aaaaand down came the arm. Woops. And the one behind us too! Double woops.
Didn’t think that through, did you? You didn’t! Now there we were, sitting pretty as a penny.
I wasn’t sure whether to apologize to it or thank it. But then I felt the tremor of you scrabbling at my gears – oh that grated, it did, why didn’t you have them looked at? – and then you stomped on the gas in reverse.

You know, most people would consider a tarp a pretty poor rear-view window. I’m only suggesting it, it’s no big deal, take your time, don’t rush.
But fuck you too.
I heard your friend talking to you. “I’ll take care of it. I’ll take care of it. Later. Later.”
Always later, always never, never NOW. I don’t have later, I have NOW! I’ll be rotted out and rusted inside a decade and what’ll I have done? Been smacked and crushed and mangled and ignored. And then I’ll never move again.
But until then, you need me more than you need your own damned legs.
And then, that right there, that was when I decided it: if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out properly.
So please, please, please don’t trouble yourself with my radiator. Sure, the tarp looks lovely flapping in the highway tailwind. Yes, I think the oil change can wait another year. Two even!
And you know, why even take these winter tires off? Save money. Let them carry you through the summer, season them up nice and fine for the next time the roads turn crusty and salted.
I’ll thank you for it. I’ll thank you face-first through my windshield and I will cherish the pitter-patter of each and every one of your teeth as they scrape away the tiny shreds of paint still clinging to my hood and bounce into the woods. I’ll lavish you with gratitude as I watch a raccoon build a nest in my glove compartment and feed its young on your giblets. I’ll take good care of you, ol’ pal, I’ll drag you down with me for the ride when the ice cracks under us and we start the long, slow shove downriver to take us both down and out all the way into the ocean.
You and me, buddy. You and me.
Now gas me up and let’s go.