Sunday, March 27, 2011

Installment 7


I’m in a ditch by the side of a suburban street, on my stomach and vomiting into a puddle of puke that was already there. I’m only wearing underwear that it smells like I’ve soiled and I’m shivering in the morning cold and covered in dew. An attractive, clean-looking woman is holding a boy’s hand as they walk on the sidewalk at the top of the ditch, probably on their way to school.

The little boy points at me and says, “Look Mom, it’s one of those creeps.”

She says, “Don’t look at him. Just keep walking.”

I want to stand up and say, “I’m not a creep!” but realize I’m staring at the woman’s ass as she walks down the sidewalk—can’t seem to focus on anything else—and know she’s right.

I drag myself out of the ditch and try to orient myself. I’m only a couple of blocks from home. That’s good. Maybe I can get home and take a shower before I have to go to work. I don’t even know what day it is. I figure it’s a week day or why else would that woman be walking her kid to school but I don’t know that. They could have been going anywhere but, nevertheless, I feel a certainty that they were going to school. Pre-school or kindergarten. Something easy and not even a whole day. Then I think that kid’s a real loser. There’s no reason for a kid not to be in school at least 8 to 10 hours a day.

I’m still just standing there. I have to force myself to move. My whole body hurts. My stomach heaves again before I finally move on.


I’m walking up my porch steps and I see Brandon Henson standing with his back to the door staring out into space. At first I don’t realize it’s him because his hair is shoulder-length and orange and he kind of looks like Owen Wilson. I can’t remember if he looked like Owen Wilson in high school or not. But I didn’t know who Owen Wilson was in high school so that comparison would have been extremely prescient, if not impossible. I approach him for a hearty greeting and he backs away as much as he can until he realizes it’s me, or at least that who I am is mostly unclothed and totally unthreatening.

“Brandon Henson! Man, it’s been forever! Dude, you look just like Owen Wilson except your hair is longer and it’s orange! Where the hell ya been! You look so fucking European! Mainly because of the way you’re standing...and the cut of your jeans. Hardly anyone wears jeans like that here!”

He places a hand on my shoulder and says, “Calm down, man. How’s it going?”

“Great! Awesome! Totally battle axe!” But inside... I don’t know.

“Nice pentagram.”

I don’t know what he’s talking about but he’s pointing at my chest and at first I fight the urge to look down because I think maybe he’s just playing that trick where you get somebody to look at something you’ve spilled on your chest and then they... what is it they do? Hook your chin or something? But I’m not wearing a shirt and my chest really really hurts so I look down and see the bloody pentagram carved into the skin. Not knowing what else to say, I mutter, “Oh, thanks.”

“Where are your clothes, man? It’s kind of chilly. Not even summer yet.”

I have horrible flashbacks from the night before and don’t have any way of putting these things I saw and took part in into words. I break down. Brandon pats me on the back and says, “It’s okay, man. Let’s go inside. Let’s get you into the shower or something. Smells like maybe you’ve shit yourself. Do you care if I smoke some hash?”

I shake my head and we go into the house. The door isn’t locked and a pungent stink wafts out. But now that Brandon has pointed out my stink I can’t think of anything except showering. I go upstairs, Brandon right behind me. I notice Buddy is back in bed, wearing only a t-shirt that says: BILDRUNGSROMAN in gothic letters. Brandon follows me into the shower and I take off my underwear and he strips down and then says maybe he would rather take a bath so we run the water and smoke some hash while the tub fills.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Installment 6


Estelle’s standing at the end of my walk with a crowbar. I panic and throw my mug of coffee at her. It misses and smashes on the ground.

“Come here, you little shit,” she says. She looks really bad. Like she’s been up all night and even older than usual. I remember I’m still wearing her wig. I throw that at her too. It doesn’t even make it there. She comes toward me and bends down to pick up the wig. “Come on. I got something I need you to do for me.”

“You were very mean to me last night. I had to take a cab back.”

“You deserved it. You know you did. You don’t have the magic feet. You are a comatose lion.”

“I really thought we were developing something.”

She’s too close for me to stop her now and she moves around behind me and presses the crow bar against my throat. “Are you going to help me or not?”

“I’ll help you. What are we doing? I don’t know if I feel like killing anyone right now.”

“You haven’t killed anyone. We were just correcting the balance of things. Vacuuming up the dust, remember? Just a little housecleaning.”

“I don’t feel like cleaning right now.”

“This is something different.”

I follow Estelle. I think she’s walking to her car or another stolen car but she just keeps walking. Over two blocks and up to a house and I have exhilarating flashbacks from last night but she just opens the door and walks in and this house looks and smells just like an old person’s house. Not anything like that apartment that she had taken me too on the first night. The one with the burning carpet smells and the passed out old people everywhere. There’s part of me that wishes this is Estelle’s actual house.

Once inside she flops down in an armchair that looks at least sixty years old.

“Kyra will be here any minute.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I’d like you to go into the kitchen and talk to Don. Don’s my husband. He’s a maker of stars. He has strong hands.”

The doorbell rings. “But first you can get that, you little fucker.”

I open the door. A pretty young blond girl stands on the porch. She is holding a book. It isn’t Dick Swap.

“Is Estelle here?” she asks.

“Yes.” I turn to look behind me to make sure Estelle is still here. She makes a threatening gesture with her finger across her throat.

“I’m here to read to her.” The girl holds up a trashy paperback. It’s the really sleazy kind where the author has a completely fake name with an “X” in it. It’s called Passionate Frenzy. The girl notices the way I’m looking at the book and says, “It’s what she likes.”

I retreat into the kitchen. Don is in there.

I hear the girl say, “Who was that?”

“That’s my grandson.”

“Why doesn’t he read to you?”

“He’s retarded, honey.”

I suppose this could offend me but I’m distracted by Don and trying to fight the urge to either scream or vomit. If it is Don. I’ve never met Don. It could probably be anyone. There are a lot of bones clogging the kitchen sink and strips of skin hanging from the ceiling. Blood drips slowly from the skin and this makes me feel a little better. If it were partially rotting, I don’t think I could help but puke. I look for an exit but the one door in the kitchen and all the windows have been boarded up. So I stand there horrified and unable to do anything. I can hear the girl reading from the book. The book is really really filthy. Exactly the kind of thing I can imagine Estelle liking except I wonder why she isn’t reading herself. I’ve seen her drive so I know she’s not blind. Maybe she’s just really farsighted or has some cataracts or something. Maybe she’s just letting this girl read to her as some type of community service. But that doesn’t really seem like Estelle at all.

After about a half an hour, the girl stops reading and says, “Well, that’s the end of the chapter. Might as well stop there. Do men really like to put their... things there?”

“All the time, honey. All the time. But it’s good for a girl too. You won’t get pregnant for one thing and if you still believe in saving yourself for marriage you can consider yourself saved ‘cause they’re really just talking about the pussy.”

“Oh. So, you said you’d bake some more of those brownies for me if I came back.”

“Was that all I said?”

“No. I’ve got it right here.”

I go to the door to see if I can tell what the girl is talking about. I’m hoping Estelle isn’t trading sexual favors for reading. But the girl is giving her money.

“Boy!” Estelle shouts. “Bring that plate of brownies in here.”

I bring the brownies out. The girl grabs one and devours it. Then she grabs another one. Her pupils grow very large and she slumps back onto the couch. She stares ahead of her with her mouth partially open.

“Now Kyra. Do you think your friends would like some of these treats?”

“Oh yeah.” Her speech is slurred.

I start to say something and Estelle makes that threatening gesture at me again.

“I’ll give you these treats and you can give them to your friends. How does that sound?”

“Sounds wild. I bet it’ll cost a lot.”

“I’ll let you take this plate of treats for free. But the next time you want some treats, you’ll have to pay me a little something for them. How does that sound?”

“I’ll pay whatever.”

“Well, you won’t have to pay quite as much as you’ve been paying but if any of your friends want any, you should charge them what I’ve been charging you. That’s called making a profit. How does that sound?”

“That sounds beautiful.”

“My grandson loves my treats, don’t you?”

I don’t really feel like being drugged but before I can say no, she’s threatening me again and saying: “He likes to sit right on my lap and let me feed them to him.” She pats her lap and I’m sitting in it, careful to avoid sitting on her breasts, and she’s raising a brownie in one gnarled hand that still smells like gasoline and shoving it into my mouth and then another one and then another one and then I know it’s going to be another insane night and I’ll be lucky to remember any of it.

Installment 5


I awake mid-morning to the sound of a chainsaw. Buddy is on the far side of the bed. The sad cheerleader lies in between us, staring at the ceiling. Her thick eyeliner has run down over her cheeks like she’s been crying or sweating. My head is full of many negative thoughts. Last night did not go well at all. I think I hate Estelle. Or maybe I’m just afraid of her. There’s probably a big difference. I get out of bed. I’m still wearing the wig, although it’s slightly askew, and I apparently never managed to find a shirt. I don’t know why the cab stopped at all. Maybe it was stopped for somebody else. I look down at the sad cheerleader but she doesn’t make eye contact, just blinks slowly, her arms crossed over the skull on the front of her top. I walk over to the window to see what all the racket outside is. Not surprisingly it’s a man with a chainsaw. He’s dressed like a lumberjack and sawing at one of the remaining trees on the street. It creaks and then crashes into a neighboring house. The lumberjack looks at it and nods. I expect somebody to come out. Admittedly, there’s a part of me that wants to watch the impending conflict but none of that happens. The lumberjack wanders down to the end of the street and disappears around the house on the corner.

I look at the sad cheerleader and say, “I’m going to go down and make some coffee. It will be black and strong and you’re welcome to have some. I’ll probably also eat a bagel.”

Still staring at the ceiling, she says, “No one talks like that.”

I want to respond but I can’t think of anything. Something feels screwed up in my head. I notice that Buddy is lying in a pool of blood and the sight is horrifying. What if something really bad is happening to him? But... maybe that’s the sad cheerleader’s problem.

“First I’m going to find a shirt.”

I walk to the closet and grab the first t-shirt I can find. Every t-shirt I own is black. This one is too tight but I’m too lazy to take it off and find one that fits. I think my gut is sticking out of the bottom of it. Probably repulsive. I go downstairs to do what I told the sad cheerleader I was going to do.

I’m not sure if I have to go to work today or not. I pick up the telephone but it doesn’t make any kind of sound. It’s possible it’s been disconnected. Agatha always paid the bills. She had it fixed so we never got anything in the mail. She did it all over the Internet but I never bothered with it so I figured I would just stay in the house while everything slowly shut down around me and then I would probably have to move. Or find somebody else who knew how to do things. Estelle seems like somebody who knows how to do things but she’s also really old and maybe not my type.

I go into the kitchen and put some coffee on. It smells really good. While it brews, I fetch my laptop. Maybe Agatha has sent me an email detailing the bill situation. I imagine her sitting in a library somewhere, bulky and confined beneath all the coats, trying to maneuver her arms over a computer keyboard. Impossible.

I open my laptop. No legitimate emails. Spam for dick enlargement, pills, and things bordering on child pornography. I decide to check my Amazon ranking for Dick Swap. It’s ranked really low. That’s really bad. Then I check my Facebook page and notice I have a friend request from Chuck Barrymore. I recognize his profile picture. It’s the homeless guy from last night. He’s used the picture he took for his profile. I feel briefly flattered and think “Fuck yes” before accepting the request. I close up the laptop, pull my many copies of Dick Swap off the bookcase and lie on them until the coffee maker beeps. Dick Swap is currently the only book in the house because I had to sell all of my other books to finance the publication and purchase of so many copies. I thought at least people at work would buy them before realizing I was too embarrassed to try and sell them something called Dick Swap.

I pour a cup of coffee, grab a bagel from the bag, and take them into the living room. Sitting down makes my stomach bulge against the shirt, makes it feel even tighter. I turn on the TV. There’s a sweeping panoramic view of the Grand Canyon and my stomach lurches, my head swoons, and I almost black out. Overlaid on the sweeping vista is the word FREEDOM. I change the channel as fast as possible, scrolling through until I land on Dan Banal. Dan Banal is a sitcom about a man named Dan Banal. The show is just starting. There’s nothing exciting about this show at all, except lots of people watch it. I don’t watch a lot of TV but, admittedly, I enjoy Dan Banal. The opening credits are not set to any music. They’re just words over a slowly panning shot of Dan Banal that starts at his brown tasseled loafers, taking in his baggy pleated khaki pants, brown leather braided belt, blue button-down shirt, completely plain face, and modestly styled hair. He wears the exact same thing in most of the shows unless it is set on the weekend. Then everything is the same except his hair is slightly messier and he wears an untucked red and black flannel shirt.

The show opens with Dan bringing in a cardboard box from the front porch. He places it on the table where his wife, Lori, sits reading a newspaper.

“We got a package,” Dan says.

“I wonder if that’s the printer,” Lori says.

“Let’s see.”

Dan goes into the kitchen and opens a drawer, pulling out a box cutter. He opens the package at the seams, walks back into the kitchen, puts the box cutter away, and comes back to the package. He opens the box.

“It’s the printer,” he says.

“Oh good,” Lori says.

He lifts the printer out of the box and sets it on the table. Then he goes back into the kitchen to get the box cutter again, opens the bottom of the box, and puts the box cutter away. He flattens the box and walks it out to the recycling bin. He comes back to the table and stares at the printer. He grimaces.

“Where do you think we should put it?”

“Probably near the computer. It’s a printer.”

“This is a wireless printer. We could put this printer anywhere. Anywhere there’s room.”


“A wireless printer.”

“Does it have batteries?”

“Doesn’t need them. You plug it into the wall. This printer runs off electricity.”

“That’s hardly wireless.”

“What it means is it doesn’t need to be attached to the computer.”

“But it has to be plugged into the wall... with a wire.”

“That still allows us a lot more freedom.”

Dan reaches out and runs a finger along the surface of the printer.

The sad cheerleader comes downstairs and says, “Jesus, I hate this fucking show.”

“No. It’s pretty good. It’s just like real life. Real life on TV is great.” I take the first bite of the stale bagel but now that the sad cheerleader is in the room, I feel fat and self conscious. I put the bagel between the couch cushions.

She stands there for a minute staring at the TV before crossing the room and turning it off. Looking at the sad cheerleader, I realize she’s actually a lot more fun to look at than the TV. So I stare at her. She doesn’t look necessarily clean but she is young and attractive. Black hair cut in an experimental fashion. The cheerleading outfit is something I’m not really into but it’s black and white and has a skull on it, so it’s okay. And the skirt reveals a lot of thin leg and kneecaps. She’s not wearing any shoes and her feet are not hideous.

“Like what you see?” she asks, maybe sarcastically, before adding, “Jesus.”

“You turned the TV off.”

“I told you I hate that show.”

“There are probably other things on.”

“I hate TV.”

“Okay. There’s coffee in the kitchen. I don’t think there are any more clean cups. You’ll have to drink it out of the pot.”

“I hate coffee.”


Awkward silence. She looks really sad. Almost ready to cry.

“I’m worried about Buddy.”

“Me too.”

“The only reason I come over here is so he can fuck me.”

I sip my coffee. She’s really open. I don’t say anything.

“He wasn’t even able to do that this morning.”

“I’m... sorry?”

“You should be. Would you mind fucking me?”

I don’t really have to think about this. “Now?”

“Yeah, I’m going to have to catch the bus soon.”

“Okay.” I put my cup of coffee down on the floor.

She gets down on her knees and bends over the couch. I undo my pants. I haven’t even washed since having sex with Estelle. It doesn’t look like the sad cheerleader’s offering oral sex so I guess it doesn’t really matter anyway. I get down on my knees behind her and slide her black underwear down to her knees. She’s already wet and my penis isn’t very large so I slide right in and quickly build to a good rhythm. It doesn’t take long before I’m tired but I can feel myself building to a climax and the sad cheerleader seems to be moderately enjoying herself so I keep going.

There’s a noise upstairs. It sounds like Buddy has rolled out of bed and is now dragging himself across the floor. This kills the orgasm I was building to but I’m still slightly hard so I keep going. I can hear him thumping down the steps now.

The sad cheerleader says, “Faster. Faster.”

I go faster and the orgasm is back. It sounds like Buddy has become lodged halfway down the stairs. I pull out and pump my cock, unleashing a small amount of come onto the sad cheerleader’s ass. She pulls up her underwear and sits on the couch. She’s crying.

“That was really nice,” she says.

“Thanks. I thought so too.”

“I guess I should check on Buddy.”

“Maybe. I should probably...” But I don’t really know what I should probably do. Maybe go for a walk. “So what school do you cheer for?”

“I don’t cheer for a school. I’m an independent cheerleader.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“It means I’m not confined. It means I’m free.”

“Free to...”

“Cheer wherever the fuck I want. Malls. Jails. Restaurants. Funerals.”

“You cheer at funerals?”

“Most of them need a good cheerleader.”

“All right. Hey, do you want a copy of Dick Swap?”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a book. I wrote it.”

“Sure. Whatever. You can give me one but I probably won’t read it.”

“That’s okay. Nobody else has.”

I stand up and walk into the other room. The books are still on the floor. I pick one up and toss it to her. She’s not looking at me so it just hits her in the chest. She cries harder. I can hear Buddy moving again. I feel really guilty. I think the sad cheerleader was his girlfriend or something. I grab my cup of coffee and walk outside.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Installment 4


Estelle blares the horn and I start climbing into the Jeep when she tells me I have to sit in the back because Clarence is in the passenger seat. I don’t see anyone but I do what she says. She seems really on edge. I sit in the back and wonder why the top has been removed from the Jeep and really wish for the millionth time that I had a coat. She rips through the side yard and bounces into the alley. We drive through a series of alleys. I never realized Dayton had so many alleys but it seems like a half an hour before we’re on any type of main road. And then it’s only to bound up onto 35. My arms are wrapped around myself and my teeth are chattering and the speed of the highway isn’t helping at all. By the time we reach 75 South my blood is finally pumping and I’m starting to feel less like a corpse.

“Where are we going?” I ask, knowing I should just enjoy the ride but, given my past experiences with Estelle, I know that wherever we’re going could lead to savagery and horror. I think I’m okay with this.

“Clarence has a cane!” she yells. Spit mists out of her mouth and spritzes my face. It smells like Listerine and death.


“Clarence! Has! A! Cane!”


“And it has a skull on it!”

“Clarence sounds like a badass!”


I repeat myself but it doesn’t elicit any response. The rearview mirror frames Estelle’s wild eyes. We’re in the fast lane and doing well over a hundred. There are very few other cars on the highway. She stops and tells me I have to drive.

“I don’t want to drive.”

“The arthritis in my knees is really fucking with me. Get behind that fucking wheel or I’ll cut your face.”

She slides over into the passenger seat.

“What about Clarence?”

“Clarence got out a half hour ago. He’s a limp dicked mother fucker. By that I mean he’s my son and I have had sex with him.”

“Therefore you know all about his erectile dysfunction and his penchant for relations with mothers.”

“The next time I hear fancy talk like that I’m biting your ear off. Get this bitch moving. It’s stolen.”

I slam on the gas. Eventually we pass a stadium-sized church with the skeleton of what used to be a giant Jesus until it got struck by lightning in front of it. Estelle stands up and rips off her top. She’s not wearing a bra and she bounces around. “Look at these, Jesus!” she shouts. It’s just like Mardi Gras.

“Drive faster!” she says. She’s still standing up, her breasts and loose skin flapping in the wind. I try to turn on the heat and she karate chops my hand away.

We pull off an exit somewhere in Cincinnati. She spits directions at me and I robotically maneuver the Jeep until we’re in front of a dilapidated Victorian house. It’s the only house with any lights on.

Great! Maybe she’s taking me along to another one of her parties. I really wish Buddy were here. Estelle hops out of the Jeep and winces. She buttons up her floral-patterned polyester church dress and I realize how conservatively she’s dressed. She goes around to the back of the Jeep and grabs a couple five-gallon cans of gasoline.

“Grab those.” She points at a couple of road side flares.

“What are we doing?”

“We’re having fun. We’re making the night glow. We’re aging and regressing.” Then she growls at me and lashes out at my cheek with a claw. It hurts. I think it’s bleeding but I’m holding these flares and too preoccupied to check. We walk up onto the porch. She sets down the gas cans and tries the door. It’s locked. She tells me to kick it in. Says it’ll be a blast, a really big time, a fiesta, arena rock.

I kick the door several times. I can’t kick it open. I’m chubby and weak and not a master of kicking open doors. The door opens anyway and an old man stands on the other side.

“Why the banging?” he says.

Before he can say anything else, Estelle throws herself on him like a wild cat, gouging his eyes, kneeing him in the groin.

“Grab the gas! Splash it around!” she says.

And the next few seconds are filled with people screaming and running from the house and I’m splashing the gas all around the perimeter of the room I’m standing in, the fumes enveloping me, and I’m having a really good time and immediately want to move to another house and do it again. I look back at Estelle and she’s continuing to rip at the poor old guy’s face and when he seems immobilized she grabs one of the flares and sparks it up and tosses it into the room. I run through the open door and head for the Jeep. Estelle’s limping along behind me, silhouetted in the hell orange glow of the house. I sit in the passenger seat. My hands are shaking. My nerves are shot. I can’t possibly drive. And I begin to wonder if what I just had, what I just experienced was, in fact, fun. Or was it just something I felt and I’m confusing that for fun? Or did I just do whatever Estelle wanted me to do?

Estelle gets behind the wheel and we swing through another series of alleys and then we’re at a parking garage and we’re driving to the top of it and then we’re out of the Jeep and standing against the concrete barrier and Estelle is pointing at the burning house and mouthing the word, “Beautiful.”

I think of the mutilated man inside, rolling around on the floor and screaming.

Estelle moves a hand with knuckles the size of walnuts over my cock. It’s unresponsive. She reaches into her giant purse and pulls out some pills and tells me to take them so she doesn’t have to rip out my tongue and I do it.

In a few minutes I’m rock hard.

She crawls up onto the hood up the Jeep, hikes up her skirt, and slides down a huge pair of underwear.

She says, “I’ll let you wear my wig.”

She says, “You’ll have to get the lube out of my purse. You’ll need a lot.”

She says, “Yeah, that’s it.”

She says, “Yeah, just like it’s 1939. I’m the magic paper bag.”

She says, “Fill me while the world burns.”

She says, “Faster. Harder. You need to lose some weight or you’re going to break my hips.”

She says, “Come on my tits. Spray ’em with that shit.”

And I’m doing everything she says and I’m looking at a lighted sign beyond the Jeep that says ROOF and has an arrow pointing up and the light is blinking and then it’s going dark and then we’re lying in a puddle of grease covered with a crocheted blanket that smells like mothballs and gasoline and I ask, “Who was that man?”


I’m still wearing the wig, but my shirt is off and my pants are down around my ankles. She lights one of those long cigarettes and hands it to me before lighting another one for herself.

“Don’t ask me questions like that.”

“And the guy from last night—”

She presses her cigarette into my thigh and I bark out in pain. She exhales a languorous blue plume.

“Besides,” she says, “you only want to know about them to make yourself feel better. You think if I had a good reason to do what I did then you could feel like they deserved it and then you would feel less guilty. Let me tell you some things. I’m a product of the Depression. Everyone my age is a product of the Depression. We grew up with nothing but when we became adults we had the opportunity to give our children almost everything they wanted and we did that. Mostly material things because those were exactly what we didn’t have. And then they grew up with everything and wanted more and more and gave their children—people like you—everything. But you wanted more. You wanted to feel important and special so they had to give something else to their kids. Attention. But a parent’s attention is never enough so they had to make you feel like everyone else paid attention to you too. Like anyone cared. No one cares. They’ve never cared. We are all just a speck of cosmic dust.”

Preachy, I think. And then say, “But why kill other people? If we’re all just specks of dust, why not just leave people alone?”

“Because some dust needs vacuumed up.”

“You’re so nihilistic.”

“I am nothing. Yours is the generation that wants to be labeled. But you’re all just consumers, really.”

I take a drag from the cigarette. “I’m just fat and sad and.. cold.”

She stands up. “You’re bumming me out. You can get your own ride home.”

She snaps up the afghan and before I can even stand up and pull up my pants, she’s in the Jeep and speeding away and I wonder if I’ll ever see her again.


She forgot to take the wig so I leave it on for warmth. I can’t find my shirt anywhere. I wish I had a cell phone. Agatha has a cell phone. I need a pay phone. I wonder if pay phones even exist anymore. I wonder what I said that set Estelle off. She seemed bitter. She’s probably the angriest, most bitter person I’ve ever met.

I begin walking down the ramp of the parking garage. I’m really far up. I find a staircase and take it, thinking an attendant who sees me on the ramp might have some questions or something. I don’t think it’s a crime to wander through a parking garage. I’m pretty sure it’s a crime to light houses and people on fire. I’m also pretty sure I still smell like gas.

The stairwell is brightly lighted but it has a really odd smell to it. A few stories down I come across a man bundled into a sleeping bag. I stand over him for a second. There is an atrocious smell wafting up from him. I wish it was Buddy. Maybe this homeless person could be my friend. Maybe he’s not really homeless at all. Maybe he just likes sleeping in parking garages. I just had sex with a really old person in a parking garage. People do stranger things. I prefer to think that’s what this guy’s doing. It’s just an experiment. He has a warm home and a loving family to go back to and he doesn’t have any mental problems or addictions or anything.

I nudge him with my foot.

He pulls down the sleeping bag and tells me he thinks he’s going blind. Then he becomes defensive and asks me what the fuck I want.

“Do you have a phone?”

“Yeah, I gotta phone,” he says. “Do you need to call the President?”

“No, I don’t think so. I need to call someone to give me a ride back to Dayton.” Then I think maybe this isn’t really true. I don’t really know many people and those I do know don’t drive.

“You wanna take a ride in my sleeping bag?”

“Are you inviting me to have sex with you because, if you are, I have to decline. I just had sex up there and then she left me. That’s why I need a ride.”

“Damn bitch.”

“That’s a misogynistic statement and a really derogatory term.”

He mocks me and pulls out his phone. I’m glad “phone” wasn’t code for something else like drugs or his shoe.

He says, “Let me update my Facebook page first.” He stands up and wraps a smelly arm around my shoulders and we both smile into the phone and he takes a picture but it doesn’t flash because it’s already so bright in the stairwell. Then he types in something and hands me the phone.

“What’d you type?” I ask.

“New friends. LOL.”


“Who you callin’?”

“Well, first I’m going to try my wife or my ex-wife or my former roommate and then I’m going to call my BFF Buddy. He’s a standup guy but he has a chemical dependency problem and he might even be dying of cancer so I’m not sure he’ll be up for the drive. He sleeps a lot.”

“Good luck. I’m gonna take a piss.”

“All right.”

The guy pulls down his filthy pants and begins urinating onto his sleeping bag.

I call home. It rings and rings. Maybe Buddy is still sleeping. Maybe Buddy is having sex with that sad cheerleader I saw him with this morning. Maybe Buddy is dissolving a person in acid in the bath tub. Jesus. Buddy wouldn’t do a thing like that. The voice mail prompt comes on and I say, “Hey Buddy, this is Andy. I’m in the Nati and need a ride back to Dayton. If you can help me out in a couple seconds give me a call at this number. Otherwise maybe just, I don’t know, drive down I-75 or something. Man, fuck it, I don’t want to be a pain in the ass. Just forget about it.” I press END and call Agatha. It rings and rings. I imagine her phone in the bottom most layer of coats and give her a while to get it. It doesn’t go to voice mail or anything. Just rings and rings. I hand the phone back to the possibly homeless guy and say, “Thanks.” I search in my pockets until I find a dollar and hand that to him too.

“Thanks, man. God bless you.”

“Yeah, right.”

I wander around town until I come to a bar called Aluminum Can Drinks. There is a cab in front of it. Why didn’t I think of calling a cab? I walk to the cab and hop in the back.

“I need a ride to Dayton.”

“That’s far away.”

“I know.”

“I can do it.”


He pulls away from the curb. The ride is completely uneventful. The cab is warm. I sleep all the way home. When I get home it’s just before dawn and I go upstairs and get in bed next to Buddy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Installment 3


But it is good. In fact, it’s great.

“Andy, dude, come in and have a seat.” Mr. Elevator says things like dude to make himself sound younger. He also does things like flash me the hang loose sign when we pass each other. No one does that anymore. It’s either refreshing or terrifying.

I inspect the expensive leather chair for droppings before sitting down and crossing my legs. I try not to stare at the piles of shit on the floor or the half-empty bottle of scotch resting on the corner of his desk which explains both the looseness of his stool and the especially cloying vapors filling the office. He sits on his desk in front of me. He has a lot of pubic hair. He stares at me with his mouth open.

“What’s up?” I ask.

“In the world of elevators, everything is up... And then down.”

“Of course.”

He takes a slug from his bottle of scotch, misses the desk on the return, and it shatters on the floor. He waves a dismissive hand.

“You ever heard of Dubai?” he says.

“Yes.” I think I have.

“Well we’ve got really good news.” He’s practically shouting. “They’re building a hotel that goes up into space and they want us to provide the elevator. They’re paying us in gold. That means a raise for everybody!”

I smile and say, “That’s great news, sir.”

“As you can see I’ve been shitting in my office.” He motions to the nearest pile of shit. “And... I think that has something to do with you but... why are you here?”

“Candy said you wanted to see me.”

“To tell you about the raise, my man!”

“I’m very appreciative. My wife left me. This will help with the mortgage or rent or, well, I haven’t got that figured out yet. She handled everything—”

He’s just staring at me and nodding and I decide to quit talking. I stand up and leave thinking eventually he’ll remember why he called me in there and that it probably has something to do with the piles of shit and I don’t really feel like dealing with it.

Back in the office I take a phone call because I see Candy staring at me from her desk and know she’s probably going to want me to do something horrible and answering the phone, even though it means talking to someone who probably has a really stupid problem, seems like the lesser of two evils. It’s a person calling from somewhere overseas. I can’t really understand them. I get the gist of it. Someone is stuck in one of their elevators. One of our elevators. And apparently has been for a couple of days. I tell him we just build and install them and ask if they’ve notified any sort of emergency services. He tells me that it’s our name on the elevator and therefore we must deal with it. I tell him we will and hang up. I’m not going to do anything. I breathe deeply, trying to center myself, and stand up to go outside and take a break. Candy is standing right behind me. She’s stealthy even though she looks like someone who should squeak when she walks.

“What’d Mr. El want?”

“Oh, you know, he just wanted to chat.”

“You’re full of shit.”

“Bowels.” I don’t know what else to say.

“Speaking of shit... Have you visited the restrooms lately?”

“Of course. I clean them like every day.”

“The ladies’ restroom is awash in menstrual blood. I don’t even want to know what the guys’ restroom looks like.”

“Spotless.” This is probably a lie. Thirty guys use the same restroom. It has one toilet, one urinal, and one sink. I stopped going in there roughly a week after I stopped cleaning it. That was about three weeks ago. I imagine what it must look like. Pubic hair and man splatter everywhere.

“I can smell it all the way out here.”

“That’s something else.”

“It’s your job. It’s like the only thing you do.”

“I was getting ready to go on break. I’ll take care of it.”

She trundles back to her desk. I go outside. One of the guys from the back is squatting down in the grassy area behind the parking lot. He’s holding a newspaper and there’s a roll of toilet paper to his right. I get in my car and drive home. I’ll tell them I got sick if they ask. Eventually someone else will clean the restroom. On the way home I notice a billboard that usually carries an advertisement for The Super Slutty Teen Show now bears only one word:


The rest of the drive home, I wonder what I’m going to do about Buddy. I decide I’m going to act like we’re best friends.


I’m so excited by this revelation I don’t even bother shutting the front door. Buddy isn’t downstairs so I rush up to the bedroom. He’s still in bed. The towels are all thrown off him and he’s wearing only his white briefs. I don’t want to make him feel weird so I strip down to my boxer briefs and jump beside him on the bed, playfully prodding him.

“Hey, bro, wake up!” I say.

He rolls over. He’s really groggy. I notice he has a mustache for perhaps the first time. I grab a pillow and hit him with it, not too hard.


“Yeah, bro, it’s time to get up. Wanna go downstairs and watch Man vs. Food?” I hit him with the pillow again.

“Brush teeth.”

“Yeah, man, we’ll brush our fucking teeth together.”

I rush off to the bathroom, grab all the toothbrushes and toothpaste and a glass of water, and for the next few minutes we are putting toothpaste on toothbrushes and some of it is spilling on the bed and we’re both smiling and brushing the holy fuck out of our teeth and there’s water everywhere and I feel like we’ve established some kind of bond that will make our coexistence something peaceful and long lasting.

Even though the house is freezing, neither one of us bothers putting on any clothes. Buddy takes a bunch of pills that are in the nightstand and I go around the house opening all the blinds, letting the sunlight in. It’s early afternoon and school must be letting out because there are yellow school buses everywhere and dog faced children running down the sidewalks, laughing and tackling each other, throwing cell phones like footballs, texting wildly, clothes either so tight they might as well not be wearing any or so large they’re flapping in the breeze and encumbering movement. And they’re all saying “fuck” and “shit” and “pussy” as loudly as they possibly can. I think to myself that civilization has ten years, tops. But I still feel good. I got a raise. I have a new best friend. The sun is out.

I turn on the TV and the closing frame of what I’m pretty sure is a snuff film flickers across it before the word “DANGER” appears in red block letters on a yellow background. I click the TV off. I’m covered in goose bumps and remember that I forgot to close the door. I notice a folded piece of paper lying on the floor just in front of the frame. I unfold it. It says, in palsied handwriting: “I had a really great time last night.” And it’s signed “Estelle” with a phone number under it and at the bottom is either a lipstick kiss or a dirty anus mark.

I’m not sure I want to pursue this thing with Estelle. She seems aggressive. I wish Buddy would come downstairs so we could eat bagels, drink beer, and give each other fist bumps.

I go to the bottom of the stairs and shout “Buddy!” repeatedly. Then I feel stupid. He probably thinks I’m retarded. Then I remember something Agatha said about retarded people only being here for people to laugh at. She was very cruel. I wonder where she is now with all those coats. Probably Alaska. I wish I lived inside of a bear.


Buddy comes downstairs. He’s wearing his underwear and a t-shirt that says: PROGRESSIVELY DUMBER.

“Hey, cool shirt. Is that a band or something?”

He stares at me. Buddy really rocks the mustache. I think about growing one but I think my mouth is too small. My father always had a mustache. I never saw him without one. It made me distrust him. He eventually drowned himself in protest of children.

“What took you so long? I’m afraid Man vs. Food isn’t on anymore. I would have DVRed it but I couldn’t find the remote control.”

“Blood mouth.”

“Aw, man, did we brush our teeth too hard?”

He points into his mouth. I get up close and look in, stick the tip of my index finger against his mustache. He has a giant sore on his tongue. It’s bloody.

“That looks bad,” I say. “It almost looks like cancer. Do you want to go to the doctor?”

“I will just sit down.” He moves over to the couch and sits down. I fight the urge to sit on his lap.

“Yeah, just sit down there on that comfortable old couch.”

I move to sit down next to him but he quickly sprawls out, taking up the whole couch. He stares at the ceiling.

“I know it’s rough as fuck being terminally ill and shit. I’ll go to the store and get some beer. I’ll buy a six pack and make them put each can in a paper bag. That way we’ll have six paper bags. And then I’ll come back and we’ll drink the fuck out of that beer. But first I need to put on some clothes because it’s cold outside and I’m only wearing my underwear.” I’m talking really loud now. Holding my hands away from my hips, palms out. Possibly just talking to hear myself talk but it feels like my ears are clogged up and there is a ringing somewhere deep inside my head and I imagine my brain lined with the same kind of sores as the one on Buddy’s tongue but I feel really energized and I just want to go outside and run around the block in my underwear until I can’t run anymore. I put on my clothes and try to fist bump Buddy on my way out but he’s already asleep so I just bump my other fist and then do that thing where you open up your hand and waggle your fingers to simulate an explosion.


I can’t buy beer from the first place I go into because there are like fifty people inside and I think they’re having a tea party convention because they all have camouflage faces and are wearing Sarah Palin t-shirts and brandishing Bibles and talking about why no one should buy anything from terrorists and that Mexicans are taking all of our jobs and everything they say seems really nasty and self-interested and the Indian clerk looks afraid and it all just seems too heavy.

The next place I go to is better. The woman cashier gives me bags for all the cans and when I ask if I can have bags for my hands, she gives me those too and even calls me “Hon.”

I rush home to Buddy, surprised to find him awake. He’s watching a documentary about the Grand Canyon and looks terrified. I tell him maybe we should change the channel. He changes it to static, which was something I hadn’t seen in a while.

“I got some brewskies!” I shout because the static is up very loud. I take all the beers out of the bags and throw the bags around the room. I crack open a can and hand it to Buddy. “Let’s pound the shit out of these!”

He’s trying to choke down the first one but it’s probably really hurting that sore in his mouth. I’m on my third one before he’s even half-finished with his. He says, “Agatha,” and looks sad and I realize I don’t know how to respond to that. After all, she’s my wife. Maybe. Then he says, “Bed,” and I tell him it’s not even dark out but he’s going up the stairs and I pound two more beers and think about finishing his but I imagine that it’s full of gross tongue sore germs and I just leave it because I don’t want to catch his cancer but now the static on the TV is really loud and I feel like doing something, I feel like exploding, so I pick up the phone and call Estelle and just as I’m saying, “I really want to see you,” the static on the TV fades and is replaced by a commercial for guilt.

Estelle tells me we’ll burn down the world and I wonder if that’s what I want and ten minutes later when she rips through the front yard in a Jeep with vanity plates that say “2DEEP” I realize I might not have a choice.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Installment 2


The blue dawn slants through the window and the sound of birds is everywhere. I’m lying on the floor. My skin feels crusted over and it’s very cold. I struggle to stand up. Old people are lying passed out all around me. The stench of something like burning carpet stings my nostrils. I have to get out. My chest feels tight. I feel like I’ve done something horrible. I look for Estelle. She’s in the corner, slumped against the wall, her shoes off and her lingerie twisted around her. Her false teeth are jutting from her mouth, a string of drool connecting them to her wrinkled chest. I nudge her with my foot. She snaps awake.

“I need to go,” I say.

“You can take my car. Keys are in the purse.” She waves her hand toward a gigantic orange purse.


I rifle through the purse until I come up with the keys. This smell is really bad. It makes me think there might be a fire somewhere in the house or apartment or wherever. I cross what I think is the living room but end up in another room almost exactly like it except there aren’t so many people on the floor. There is only a man in a wheelchair laughing and pointing at a small television. The only thing on the screen of the television is something in block letters that says:

I open the door to this room and it leads to the outside and a wooden landing that begins a steep and rickety set of stairs. It’s even colder outside and I wish I had a jacket. I forget exactly what Estelle’s car looks like and all the cars parked on the curb are huge. Most of them are unlocked. Some of them are filled with horrible things and stains and smells that come from some kind of insane underworld.

I finally find Estelle’s car and fire the engine. There is a blood stain on the windshield and I remember the man we hit in the parking lot last night. I wonder who he was. Before pulling away, I get out of the car and remove the license plates with a survival knife I find in the glove compartment.

I head for what I hope is home. Last night is hazy. I’m not exactly sure where I am. I’m not at all sure of what happened last night. We went back to Estelle’s place and she reached into her gigantic purse and pulled out a bunch of pills and said, “Here take these,” and I did and then I kind of blacked out. I think I remember chanting at one point in the evening. There may or may not have been a man there wearing horns. It might have actually been the Devil. I don’t believe in the Devil. But there was chanting and an orange strobe light and there might have been a sacrifice.

I’m shivering in the car. I turn on the heater. I turn on the windshield washers to try and get some of the blood off. I can never remember a time when cars were this large. Maybe when I was a very small boy. But that might have only been because I was so small and everything seemed larger.

Some memory suddenly washes over me and I remember being in high school, sitting in the passenger seat of Brandon’s car and two amazingly beautiful and absolutely ripe girls sat in the back seat and we were all smoking cigarettes laced with marijuana and laughing and the world seemed absolutely alive and open and stretched out before us. And I wonder what happened to that feeling. I wonder what happened to my best friend. I’m on the verge of crying so I turn on the radio. It’s an episode of Fresh Air and Terry Gross is interviewing cancer and I think that doesn’t really help very much.

Maybe I should go home and get my car before going to work. Maybe I should ditch this car.

A block away from my house I pull Estelle’s car into an abandoned house’s driveway, cautiously look around to make sure no one is watching me, and get out, leaving the keys in the ignition. I walk home with my hands in my pockets.


I get close to the house and see Buddy standing in the front yard in his underwear, his breath pluming out from the side of his mouth. There is a girl dressed in a black and white cheerleader’s outfit in front of him. She is crying and he is stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. She’s holding one black pom pom down by her knees. He kisses her on the forehead and she walks away, stopping to shove the pom pom into the sewer before catching a bus that stops at the corner. Buddy waves as she gets on.

He looks at me and says, “It is cold.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him speak before. He sounds robotic.

“Agatha took all the coats,” I say. “Who was that?”


“What’s her name?”

Buddy stares at me and doesn’t answer. He turns and goes into the house. I follow him. I need to grab my keys. I go upstairs, thinking maybe I’ll take a shower to try and get this crust off me. Buddy is already in bed. There’s a trail of blood leading into the bathroom. I weigh myself, sigh, and hop in the shower. When I get out there is no towel. I let the steam out of the bathroom and walk through the freezing upstairs. I can’t find a towel anywhere. I use a t-shirt to dry off and then get dressed. I glance over at Buddy one last time and realize he is using all of the towels to cover himself. I wonder how I can get Buddy out of the house.


Someone has broken all of the windows in my car. The stereo has already been stolen so they took the passenger seat and replaced it with a mutilated raccoon. I open the passenger side door, grab one of the many fast food bags on the floor, and remove the raccoon. I think about shoving it down into the sewer but decide not to. I imagine the raccoon’s family coming along and finding it and deciding to give it a proper burial or perhaps a cremation.

The drive to the elevator factory where I work is freezing. I stop at McDonald’s on the way because I’m really hungry but also kind of sick and think McDonald’s will either fill me up or make me vomit. I once ate at McDonald’s every day for a month, trying to win their Monopoly sweepstakes. I really need a million dollars. I need to stop working at the elevator factory. I need to start playing the lottery. A few years ago I self-published a book called Dick Swap about two guys who ritualistically trade penises but, when one of the penises goes missing, an absurd bromance of epic proportions ensues. So far it’s only sold twelve copies and I haven’t written anything else. It’s not making me a millionaire. I haven’t even recovered the amount it cost to publish it in the first place.

I order the number two and eat it on the way to the elevator factory. I take a deep breath and go inside. I’m only an hour late today. I feel good about things.


The elevator factory towers fifty stories into the air. There is only one floor at ground level. The height is just an elevator shaft. There’s a warehouse part where blue collar men assemble the elevators. The rest of my coworkers are just people of various weights who take the elevator to the top and then ride it back down. Occasionally there are fatalities. My job is mostly to answer the phones and also clean the restrooms, which I don’t like to do and haven’t done for a very long time. When I go inside, the office manager is waiting for me. Her name is Candy. She looks like a man in drag. She tells me the boss would like to see me. I go back to his office and he opens the door and he’s not wearing any pants and his office smells like shit and I see actual piles of shit on his floor and I know it isn’t going to be good.