Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fun Size

Jessica Hurley is stretched out on the sofa, cradling a glass of red wine. A black-and-white horror movie from the 50s -- The Thing from Somewhere, Attack of the 50-Foot Ants, who knows or cares, because now the Valium is starting to kick in -- is on the television.

Between sips from her 2015 convenience-store vintage, she fishes out and munches on, from a crystal-cut bowl, a handful of M&Ms and other confectionery detritus that have, boo-hoo, failed to have been given to trick-or-treaters on this cold Halloween night. Minus 15 Celcius. For late October, that's pretty scary.

It's 8:15, and all of the kids have gone, if not to bed, then to gorge themselves on sugar and chocolate. Thank god Halloween is on a Saturday this year, she thinks. No teaching tomorrow.

Then the doorbell rings.

"Damn it," she sighs, brushing candy bar wrappers and cellophane wrapping off her chest and the sofa. She mutes the TV, parks her wine glass on the coffee table, and gets up to open the door.

Probably a bunch of teenagers with pillow cases for bags.Instead, she finds a little boy, probably five or six years old. And he's not wearing a costume. He's wearing a light-blue snowsuit with red striping down the sides.

"Trit or treat," he says sullenly, staring at his shoes.

"Are your parents nearby?" Jessica asks. "It's a bit late now for trick-or-treating. If you're lost, I can call someone to get you home."

"Trit-uh-uh treat?" the boy sobs.

"What's your name? Where do you live?"

The boy only cries harder, balling up his fists and pressing them into his eyes.

"Alright, get in here. It's too cold outdoors," Jessica says as she steps onto the porch and scoops up the little man. You'll freeze to death."


Jessica puts the boy on the sofa and -- redundantly, since the kid is already wearing a snowsuit -- wraps him up in a bathroom towel. Just to be sure. Because it's colder than a devil's curse.

A few minutes later, the kid is sound asleep -- snoring, in fact -- and now it's time to find some identification.

Parents are probably junkies.

In one of his pocket she finds a driver's license. The name is James Willmore. The photo on the card shows a man, probably in his late 60s or early 70s, with a weatherworn face and greasy, slicked-back, gray hair. His lip is curled up on the right side, suggesting I know something you don't.

The boy stirs. Jessica jumps.

"Christ, you scared me!"

"Can I have a glass of water?" the boy asks.

"Sure, honey," Jessica says.

She fills a juice glass from the tap in the kitchen and sits back down next to the boy.


The boy sits up, takes the glass and has several sips.

"Where do you keep your candy?" he says.

"Um, there's some stuff left over from tonight, but if you're hungry I can get you something."

"Where do you keep your candy?" This time not in a child's voice, or in a human one.

"I don't know what you mean."

"You don't have to say it. I'll find it anyway. And after I find it, I'll invite my friends over here, and they'll find your candy, too."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Sweet Infinity: (Manitoba)

Does anything interesting happen in Manitoba?

That was the question I asked myself when I was moving there in November of 2009.

The answer, I discovered, is yes, Manitoba is interesting. But only if you can redefine your definition of "interesting" to include dark and macabre shit.

What follows account.

Mine alone.


I don't like Winnipeg already. Part, or most, of this initial sentiment isn't Winnipeg's fault. Probably.We drove by the company building first, like the partners were trying to show it off, but it's just a brick building that looks like a brick, or a lonely, discarded piece of LEGO. Then we ate shitty pizza and drank bad beer.

I arrived at my apartment late last night and crashed on the wood floor of my company-funded living room (because there is no bed, no pillows, no blankets), tired, upset, and hungry. When I woke up at five, I realized that, if I wanted to take a shower, I would have to walk several kilometers to a drug store to buy shampoo, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, I'm forgetting something. That tends to happen.

I threw on a pair of Levi's and a hoodie, laced my Pumas, and made the trek to buy the necessary toiletries. The wind was cold, slapping my cheeks like a harsh memory.

When I got home -- this is what I have to call home now -- I remembered what I forgot: toilet paper.

And back out we go.

The black ice was bad on the sidewalks. I slipped a few times, but -- thankfully -- didn't capsize. Go ass-up, as my uncle Freddie used to say. I returned to the drug store, bought a 24-pack of 2-ply bathroom tissue, and again ventured "home."

The sleet started falling, and I stepped into a few slush puddles. After you've figured out your most basic requirements by doing mental math with your fingers, get a pair of galoshes, idiot. And a pair of gloves.
A car bounded down a hill in my direction. Fast. It slipped and slided, like a shitty figure skater. The car's headlights were on me, then away from me, then on, away, on, away...

Jesus fuck. It's spinning. It's terrifying and beautiful at the same time. This hulk of metal and machinery careening out of control. I want to scream in terror and clap like a NASCAR fan. It's coming straight at me. I'm going to die.

The car crashes sideways into an oak tree on the opposite side of the road. I drop my toilet paper and rush across the road.

"Hey, guy, roll down your window," I implore.


"Please, roll down your fucking window. Can you speak? Do you understand what I'm saying? I can't call for 911 because my phone is dead."

The driver-side power window rolls down.


A hitched breath. Then another.

"Cocaine in the tru-uh-unk. Don't cuh-call the police. It's not mine. In suitcases."

"What's your name?"


"Wendell, I'm Adam. Let's get you out of your car and figure out our next step."

"Huh-okay. But it's not my car."

"Who's is it then?"

"The drug dealers I stole it from."


I don't like Winnipeg already. Part, or most, of this initial sentiment isn't Winnipeg's fault.


Sunday, October 18, 2015


There are small eggs planted under my scalp. They hatch at night, when I'm asleep. Tiny black monsters crawl all over my face. They molt, and I often find the remnants of their exoskeletons in my nostrils, my ears, occasionally on my lips.

When I was nine years old I was hit by lightning. I was hiking the Appalachian Trail with my father. In New Hampshire. A storm rolled in and we were out in the open. I ran when Dad ran, but I wasn't fast enough. I got hit by a bolt. I can never call it a strike, because that's what happens in baseball when a batter misses, and that didn't miss.

I fell down beside a tree. Nine weeks later, I left the hospital with a brain full of soupy memories and a left thigh with a scar that looks like someone rubbed a chunk of charcoal over it.

Everything has been hard to figure out since then. My dad died when I was thirteen, but from what I'm not sure. My aunts said he had a heart attack at work, but my uncle Morey said he put a gun in his mouth and painted the off-white wallpaper of our living room red.

I was on the news. For surviving the lightning bolt. They asked me how I felt, and I said I felt okay.

There is a shadow slowly creeping onto this table. The sun is going down, and now is the time for sinister activity. They will find me. They have been searching, and they will find me.

Two. Two of them. Glowing indigo eyes. Four, eight. Jesus, they're all around me.

This isn't happening...My imagination is running amok...I go into the bathroom to calm myself down. I fish a handful of Xanax from the medicine cabinet and swallow them dry. Then I sit down on the toilet.

Now what?

A centipede slips under the door. It's as long as an index finger. There are miniature warriors on its back, holding spears and other weaponry.

"Fuck off!" I shout.

That seems to work. They go away. So do I.


And then he said, 'Stop,' and I listened. He made a place to get away. No machines, no boundaries. How is that?  Do you have any code names? Are any of your ancestors pine cones? What does dolphin meat taste like? Can leather fuck leather?

Can leather fuck leather?

I don't know, man!

I have been questioned for eight-hundred years. Their medicine has kept me alive that long. I have no intelligence to provide this alien star ship, so now I have been defiant, insisting that they go back to Earth and put a basketball team back in Seattle.

A word when people start to listen.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ow: The Movie (Original Motion Sickness Soundtrack)

Things That are Easy to Do with a Broken Rib:

- Watching 8+ hours of the final day of The 2015 President's Cup while lying in bed

Things That Range from Really Hard to Fucking Impossible to Do with a Broken Rib:

Everything else. Including:

- Stopping a playful Dachshund from jumping all over your torso

- Not saying the word "fuck" fewer than 1800 times in the span of an hour

- Laughing, coughing, crying, clearing your throat, blowing your nose, trying to take a shit (high price, small reward), being able to grab your phone when it's *just* out of reach and trying to use the Force like Luke Skywalker in the wampa's cave rather than vociferating the above item an additional 354 times

- Sleeping. I've always envied people who can sleep on their back, and never so much as these past two days. How do you do that? I can only sleep on my right side, in one position, for a few minutes at a time.

- Speaking more. Than two. Words. At a. Time.

(You should see the other guy, though. Fists like concrete, but he was covered in blood by the time I got off of him. A sidewalk learned its lesson that night.

Aim for the bushes.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Water Closet

I don't use the men's office bathroom at work. Because it's right next to the (tiny) office kitchen and the coffee maker, where you can bet someone is surely milling about at all hours of the work day.

Sure, it's fine for a...No. 1? A piss? How euphemistic do we have to be about this?

Your mileage may vary, but I'm going to dispense with the pleasantries forthright and talk like an adult, or a reasonable, hand-drawn facsimile thereof. Just pretend we're two friends talking in a bar or a salon. It makes my exposition easier, and it's more honest when discussing the subject: shit.

Children, cover your ears.


In my thirty-seven years, I have never liked using public bathrooms, for various reasons. People tend to be, by and large, completely disgusting, for one. It's easier to be rude to a stranger than to a friend, but while I've seen absolute horrors left in public bathrooms, I've also held get-togethers at my home where people have pissed, indiscriminately, all over my toilet seat. In fact, this happens, too, at my office. And the floor I work on isn't staffed by many male employees, so I know, when I go to take a leak, who the culprit is. I could be the inter-office Eric Snowden, disclosing who hawked a loogie on the bathroom floor, who sprayed piss all over the place...but it goes to the top. So, instead, I'll close my pretty mouth.

Because I want to talk about shit.

(Somewhat thematically, perhaps, when trying -- multiple times -- to provide a link to The Atlantic's article "The Private Lives of Public Bathrooms," I keep getting 502 Bad Gateway. Feels appropriate.)


I'm gun shy. I prefer home-court advantage.

And now I'm using euphemisms, so screw (fuck) it, here's the deal: I can't take a shit anywhere that is not my home. Oh, desperate times -- bowels clenching, knees shaking -- call for desperate measures, and any toilet will serve in a pinch*, but 99 times out of 100 I can't shit comfortably when I'm not at home. I physically cannot. The gates of Mordor are closed to me dropping the One Ring into Mount Doom.

It's weird, right? I won't take a shit in the office bathroom, but when I feel the need to make, I take the elevator down to the -- appropriately titled -- 2nd floor. There are two men's stalls there, but even then, dropping trou in a quiet environment, I rarely complete the mission.


The women in our office have a slightly better bathroom setup (it's not next to the kitchen and the coffee maker), but it's also not ideal. It's a single room -- or so I suppose; I've never been in there. Yet.

The office is relatively quiet, so I'm assuming that they feel the same way about taking a dump as the men do. It's embarrassing and kind of stressful -- while also being completely irrational, given that we all have to take shits every day** -- to do something so private while being in such a close proximity to people you have to see every day. Working in an office environment is not conductive to regular bowel movements.

The women, however, have recently taken to turning on their bathroom sink at full blast whenever one of them needs to take a shit. Reliably, after lunch, my female coworkers will head to the bathroom, one after another, and turn on the faucet to max strength to cover up the sounds that they are scared they might make.

And I get that it's not easy to poop. And I get that something so normal is so hard to feel free about.

But what a fucking waste of water.

 * roll with it

** and if you don't, step up your fiber game, bro