Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Castle Donington

Last short story of the week. Taking a little break from reality. I will keep writing them and putting them on my Arrested Development page, which I will probably change the name of because I intend to complete them and not leave them unfinished. Actually I have completed everything I have started on that one, so the name is inappropriate anyways. This one is not intended to offend, only to tell a story about a middle aged dreamer named Paul.

He opens his closet to possibly the neatest wardrobe that had ever contained clothing. Black t-shirts pressed with deep creases on the short sleeves on one side. Black jeans hanging from the boot openings on the other. On the rack above is a clear Tupperware box filled with stacks and stacks of old concert tickets. On the floor beneath the clothing are 5 identical pairs of boots, each with a different color of shoelace, blue, red, green, yellow, and purple. Paul looks through the closet pointing at different outfit configurations, speaking silently, but focused intently. He starts playing air drums with his fingers as he closes his eyes getting lost in the music playing only in his head. He continues for a moment before smiling and grabbing a pair of black jeans from the closet, a black Skid Row t-shirt, and the pair of boots with the red laces to match the skid row emblem on the shirt. He moves over to the tower of speakers next to his bed and moves the wheel up in a clockwise direction, watching the the bars increase until the volume reaches 75%. The house seems to rumble as he thrashes around in his room, dancing and playing various air instruments with the music.

It was 1988. It was one year after "Appetite for Destruction" was released and it changed Paul's life.

Paul and his mom and dad sat in the kitchen decorated in late 70's wallpaper. The table was a dark brown oak with a leaf in the middle separating him from his parents. He had made a conscious effort to separate himself from his parents since he heard "Welcome to the Jungle" a few months prior. He would sit on the floor before sitting next to his parents on the huge plush wrap around couch in the living room. His parents knew he was reaching for some independence, so they didn't make too big of a deal about it. This morning they were having eggs, toast, and bacon. Paul sat tapping his fork to the plate, leaving his food untouched. His mom and dad sat staring at him, obviously annoyed. He opened up his eyes and looked back at them. He looked deep into their eyes and just continued to tap the plate. He had a look of fury on his face and was resolved not to compromise. "Paul," his dads says. Nothing, no reaction. "Paul!" Paul gets up suddenly, leaving the table and marching upstairs. He gets to his room and turns the volume knob all the way to 95% and plopped onto his bed, staring at his posters. On the ceiling, he has a new Gun's N Roses poster, with he symbol of the "Appetite" album art. "Welcome to the jungle baby, you're gonna die!" he says at the top of his voice.

"Paul? Paulie honey it's time to go." says mom. She grabs the handle of the door, but it won't turn. She knocks gently. It is quiet in his room. The tape ran out hours ago without any remedy to the absence of noise. He must be sleeping. She knocks harder and he bursts out the door. "Let's go! Late! Almost late!" He grabs his mom's sleeve and drags her down the stairs, almost pulling her to the floor. Indeed, it was time, and they were almost late. But for what? Only the most exciting thing to happen to Paul since the tape player was invented. It was Gun's N Roses day in Donington Castle. He had two tickets and had written this date on every calender he came in contact with, even the one on the church office last Sunday. His mom grabbed her purse from the table on their way out the door and climbed into the wooden paneled station wagon parked in front of their house. The entire ride to the concert, Paul told his mom random facts about Guns N Roses, whether she wanted to hear them or not. "Did you know Axl used to teach Sunday School?" He says. "I did not sweety," says mom. "Did you know Izzy is the only band member to graduate high school?" "Did you know Duff has 8 brothers and sisters?" "Did you know Gene Simmons tried to produce the Appetite album? Hmm, good thing he didn't. I hate KISS."

The light show was fantastic. The sound was perfect. The pyrotechnics blew his hair back, literally. He stood in the front next to the metal heads and rabble-rousers. He had no interest in their activities. How could they enjoy the show when they were slamming into each other and throwing punches. A couple of girls next to him even passed out. He understood this action perfectly, hoping that he wouldn't do the same. They got removed from the show. He looked up with amazement in his eyes as he watched Axl stand back to back with Slash during the guitar solo on "Mr. Brownstone." Paul was in another world. His mom wanted nothing of the front of the stage, so she awaited him at the general admission area in the back. The crowd was pushing forward. People were drunk and throwing punches. The place was in hysterics. This was the rebellion that Paul was looking for. "Welcome to the jungle baby, you're gonna die! Haha, WE"RE ALL GONNA DIE!" He shouts this over and over as the guitars shred through his ears. Next song up......"Sweet Child O Mine." The riff begins and the place erupted. Fans pushed even harder to the front and Paul found it difficult to keep his footing. "Move it retard!" is shouted in his face by a guy with no shirt on and a bloody nose. The guy pushes him aside and takes his place in front of the stage. More people follow suit, many of them laughing at him and asking what was wrong with his face. "She's got eyes of the bluest skies........." Paul looses his footing and falls to the muddy ground. This opens up a a hole in the crowd and the fans fill it in quickly, stepping on lumps and soft hills that seemed to crack when dug in on. Paul struggled to breath and pick himself up, but the current was too strong and he found himself face down in the mud with feet stepping on the back of his head.

Guns N Roses completed their set and the ground cleared as people filed out of the castle. Once the smoke cleared, there was only Paul lying flat in the front and his mom standing anxiously in the back. She recognized his red shoe laces and ran to the front to help him up. It was 6 songs too late. Paul was dead. He was one of three dead at the front of the stage. Sadly, only two were reported and advertised in the media. Despite numerous suggestions by Slash for the crowd to calm down, their rebellion extended even to their heroes.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, July 9, 2012


It was the autumn of 1975. I was swinging on the swing-set in my back yard watching all of the people talk to each other. The metal hinges needed oil. They sang a terrible song. There were so many people at my house. My uncle Bobby stood by the old maple tree holding a glass of light brown liquid. He would touch it to his lips every minute or two and pucker like a kiss, then sneer like he was fake smiling for a camera. He was wearing a plaid suit and pretending to listen to my aunt Mary as she spoke to him. She kept talking and talking even though he never made any eye contact. Between sips of the bitter fluid, he would just spin the glass around and watch the fluid race all around the ice cubes, spilling it twice and licking it off of his fingers. People seemed to be speaking so quietly to each other as if they didn't want anyone to hear, especially when they saw me near. They would look at me and the women you cry and hug me as their husbands would pat their backs and walk them away. I have no idea what is going on. I got up this morning and my mom put these church clothes on me and I went downstairs to all of these people. My dad was away on business and my mom looked tired, so I did everything she asked me to. I usually do the opposite. People think I am a bad kid. I like that a little.

My aunt Phyllis keeps a wad of tissue in her hands and keeps blowing her nose. I have always thought she was really gross, but today she is outdoing herself. It'd be great if she would dry her hands. She touches people on the arms and face when she speaks to them and her hands are always wet. Her lipstick is always on her teeth and smeared almost up to her nose. Her hair is a formed heap of muck plastered with some sort of fishing net. She wears big, loud bangles that alert you that she is coming. This I didn't mind so much. She always caught me doing good things this way. Uncle Bobby and aunt Phyllis never speak to each other. Uncle Bobby told me it was because aunt Phyllis was a vegetarian and they eat sponges and soap and makes them crazy inside. She told me uncle Bobby had too much to drink and tried to kiss her. They both love my dad though. They tell me I have his cleft chin. Uncle Bobby calls it face cleavage.

It's not like my mom to keep such a messy back yard. There are leaves everywhere and the trash is still on the side of the garage. People keep taking the serving tray from her and scolding her. For once, I am a little angry with them telling her what to do. We may shout at each other a lot, but you should never do what other people tell you to do. She should decapitate them with that tray. I actually picture this scene for a moment with all the blood and screaming. It reminds me of when I faked a seizure in science class with an Alka Seltzer tablet. I fell to the ground and started shaking and foaming. I even soiled my pants for the effect. Kids were screaming and no one wanted to touch me because I was so gross. I got to go home, but Mrs. Dixon found my tablets in my desk later and I my mother was phoned. My dad laughed for a split second when my mom told him as he returned from work. He covered his mouth, but I saw it. She must have too because she didn't speak at dinner.

I get off the swing and walk over to this ugly woman with the tray...this bossy ogre and trip her. She fell hard with the entire tray of lemon aid. I quickly wipe my nose with my hand and extend it to her and help her up. Boom bam. That's what it would have looked like in a Batman comic. The trip, then the snot. I feel better now. I look to my mom and for a split second, I see her grin. Wait till I tell my dad about this one. Her grin reminded me of his for a moment. Maybe there was a real person in there somewhere. Maybe she is more than just some woman who always takes orders and tries to give them to me.

Meanwhile, uncle Bobby is sleeping in the sandbox. Aunt Phyllis comes over to him and sits down on the grass next to him and wipes the hair from his face. She is the oldest and uncle Bobby is the youngest. He opens his eyes and she reaches over and closes them with her hands, then just continues to rub his hair. This family is really strange. Stranger today than yesterday. I would ask my mom what is going on if I could find her now. I sweep the yard to no avail. I survey the house and find her in the basement alone next to an old trunk my dad brought back from the war. She is looking at old pictures. Some are my dad in his uniform, some are the two of them in front of theaters with the marquee lights illuminating the background. There is one of the two of them riding a horse. She is facing forward and he is facing backward on the same horse. I walk over to her and sit down next to the trunk. I don't say anything and neither does she. She just strokes my dads hair in the photograph like it were really there. Whatever is going on outside is obviously annoying her too, so we just sit in the basement together quietly for a little while.

When dad gets home, he's gonna be sore at the mess.


Thanks for reading...Z


It takes real rhythm to make a hula hoop go round and round. And why try anyway? Why is it fun? These are the thoughts that occupy my mind from my thoughts. These are the things that save my life from day to day. Above me, there is a dull hum of an air conditioner window unit. It's a strange place to put such a heavy and obviously dangerous piece of equipment. I bet if the wind blew just right, that thing would careen directly through my face and sink into the pillow beneath my head. My hair is wet. Why is it wet? Because someone put an air conditioner over the bed and it has been dripping for who knows how long until it's bitter mildew taste reached my lips, then my tongue. There is a velvet painting of a deer looking at me in some meadow...just staring down the hack artist who painted it. I bet it isn't worth $5. I bet he was so excited to receive that $1 that Walmart gave him as royalties 15 years ago when this motel opened. The pool isn't empty, but the kids don't dare go in it. The water is green and it looks like plants are actually growing on the surface of it. How did I get here? I vaguely remember something about being in the back of a truck and tossing all around as the thing swerved, and a very panicked look of an immigrant as he dropped me onto, I guess this bed. Which reminds me that my head hurts. It hurts on the surface of both the front and back. I am wearing a whitish tee-shirt. It's torn and has various stains on it. One stain I recognize. I dropped my beer on the side of my plate and it catapulted spaghetti up at me bringing a barrage of curses. The rest are new and very red. Possibly related to my head hurting? I am afraid to look. I won't. It wouldn't matter anyway, the phone doesn't even work. I can already see the line has been cut. I raise my arms out in front of me as I lay on my back and do so also with my legs. I am assessing my physical function. I wonder if I am going to die or have died already. This headache is bad. Not a hangover. After 20 years of drinking, I don't get those anymore. This is more crippling than that. This is the feeling of actually having a split open head. This may be the very situation the guy that coined the term "Splitting headache" was in. I can imagine it now. So I do. I imagine it for 15 minutes to pass the time. To keep my mind from wandering to somewhere I don't want to be. But then I'm there.

I'm in an ice cream truck. I was a very young man...just recently suited up with a driver's license. It was a very hot day that day. I knew it immediately when I woke up. It felt like it feels when you wake up a little too late inside of a tent under the sun. I knew today was the day to make some money. It had rained for a week or so and I was worried about being able to pay for prom. This girl was too pretty to let her down. Kids were lining up at every stop a few blocks apart. Some kids wanted the WWF Superstars cookie bars, some wanted the snow cones with the gumball at the bottom, but most kids wanted the Rocket pop. It was always the favorite on the hot days. None of the kids seemed to own any shoes, and very few were wearing shirts. An assortment of various races and skin tones, some missing teeth, some with temporary tattoos, some that seemed to have armpit hair already. Those kids always ordered the slushes or the candy whistles.

At noon, I had to pee. There was no holding it a moment longer. I parked the ice cream truck beside the old railroad tracks that had been long abandoned. The rails were tossed all along the road and the steel was all rusted out. I popped out of the truck and into the field beyond the tracks for privacy. I remember whistling Hulk Hogan's ring entrance music while fertilizing the weeds in front of me. It seemed like forever I was going. I got all finished up and headed back to my truck and hopped in to the driver's seat. I remember thinking it wasn't such a great idea for an ice cream truck driver to expose himself in public, even if he did think he was hidden. Next time, I would stop at McDonalds. The air conditioning worked well in my truck and I just sat back and closed my eyes for a moment enjoying the silence, until the freezer door slammed shut. I jumped from the seat and spun around to find one of those hairy armpitted ones with his face covered in chocolate like some guilty raccoon in the night. He was holding a push pop, a candy whistle, and a slush from the machine. He looked at me much like the deer is looking at me now in this horrible velvet painting. He dropped the treats and made way for the door beside me. I wasn't going to chase. I let him dash past me as he leaped through the door next to the cash register.

The next few milli-moments are the subject of a lot of torment for the next many years. He flew through the air as he leaped from the truck and was intercepted by something bigger than I had ever seen. The blow took him immediately from my sight as I watched the the endless streak of dull colors pass in front of me. Then it was gone. The kid was gone. I got out and looked for him and he wasn't anywhere. No blood. No sign of a train. The rails were still in shambles as I inspected the ground. He was as gone as never having been there at all. I turned back toward the truck. Was this real? I was never the kid to take drugs or alcohol, so I suspected I wasn't high. I walked in the truck hoping the floor was clean and clear. I may have fallen asleep whistling that Hulk Hogan song and not realized it. I walked in with my eyes closed and stood there. I was too afraid to open them, a feeling very similar to the one I have now with my splitting headache. I mustered the courage and opened them and found a quickly melting pile of treats on the floor of the truck. I pictured for a moment, the kid with the hairy pits stuck to the front of a speeding train like the coyote would when being hit chasing the Road Runner. But this was not a cartoon. Whatever this was, it wasn't a cartoon.

That kid was announced missing the next day. He was never found. I never said a word. A train was never again seen on those tracks. There was no record of anything traveling on them for 15 years.

I am tired of these thoughts so in an attempt to forget them, I reach for my head. I start at my chin and my hands crawl up past my lips to my nose. There is something sticky there, but once I feel my nose intact, I continue on without panic. I reach the bones that make up my orbital socket. One is bent in a smidge, but nothing to be too concerned with, this isn't where I feel the pain. I almost resigned myself to the notion of minor injuries when my knuckles hit it. It was large. It felt otherworldly. It didn't seem to have a sensation of it's own. It was like the feeling of your tongue under the influence of novacane. I ran my fingers around it's circular circumference and back again. My fingers made way across my scalp and through my hardened hair to the back of my head. I didn't need to feel it to know it was there. It's point, both sharp and dull protruding from the back of my head. There was no doubt what it was. It was the culmination of everything I was trying to forget about. It was the doom I had expected 20 years ago. He had returned. That kid had returned. This railroad spike was for me. I deserved it. There is so much that needs to be remembered, but I fear this spike has removed them from my mind. I fear these stains are actually the particles of my brain that knew what happened last night. I suppose I will live then if I have made it this long and can move my appendages. I guess so.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just a Story and Nothing Else

I woke to tiny flickering flames scattered around me. I can't believe I made it. There was all this fire and there was me in the middle of it, covering his head from the disaster. I guess it didn't end up reaching me after all. After all the pleading and wailing about not wanting to die. I guess by sheer coincidence, everyone died but me. This wasn't the fire of movies where people would run around silently and fall into the fetal position. This was real fire and I was surrounded. People were covered in it's flames and screaming for help and I would just hit them with this branch to keep them from setting me a blaze. They didn't seem to have the peace that those guys in the Life magazine seemed to have when covered in flames.  I hid underneath the branches, beneath the snow, buried in the bodies of the dead. Some were not yet dead, but I ignored that and remained quiet. I listened to a night full of screaming and bullets and the sound of dirt being rocked from it's resting place and spitting all around me. The sound of gunpowder doing what it was always meant to do. I closed my eyes and for the first time in my life, I fell completely asleep. There was nothing to keep me awake. There was no worry. All was lost around me and soon I would be too. There was comfort in that. Realizing that, even though it is terrible to die, it is amazing to be able to glance at your life's itinerary and laugh, ripping out the pages.

I opened my eyes. I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but the sound I was sure of. It was birds chirping as if it were any other morning. They seemed to be in unison. They seemed to speak poetry as the sun infiltrated my eyes and what seemed like a dream became reality. There was blood. There were smoldering bundles of things resembling camouflage. There was an inhuman silence that shrieked louder than the screams of my dreams. There was the reality that everyone was gone. Worse than that....I hid through everything. I hit my burning friends with a stick to keep them from me. I guess this is my life. I guess I always keep people from me, especially when they need me. "No matter now," I say as I brush off all memory and bad thoughts. I return to base and tell a story entirely different than the one I remember. Wives feel better. I feel better. Kids feel better. Instead of screaming for his mom, he jumped in front of a bullet to save me. This story sits better. It really doesn't matter what I say does it? I can say whatever I want about it, it won't give them back the guy that had to eagerly wait for the letter announcing his son's birth while in the infirmary, but dying just prior to receiving that letter. It won't do anything.

I am a coward mom. I could not have been quieter in that hole. I heard noises and footsteps so close to me and willed my body to be still. I should have waited until they got past me and stood up and killed at least 5 of them. I didn't. I waited and shook like some woman after an earthquake. I acted like a victim.

I don't know if you will get this. Word is the neighborhoods are under attack and losing, but I refuse to think of those consequences right now. I am alone. I cannot come out of this hole. I just can't. People told me Halifax was gone. I won't believe it. You have to be reading this right now. You just have to. It's all I have left. I am gonna close my eyes now. I'm gonna dream of you on purpose and when I wake up, you will be there right? You will be there?  


Thanks for reading...Z