Here are a bunch of short stories or poems or prose poems or whatever you want to call them who gives a shit. I used to be preoccupied with like whether or not something was a Scottish whisky or a bourbon or a Canadian rye or whatever and now I just want it to get me drunk. Some of them have riffs from older Hell Worlds I recycled. Some of it is true but most of it is made up.
I’m just mailing this out to you paying subscribers but I’ll open it up for a bit if you like it and want to share. Thanks for reading as always.
Threat of Joy
You know if someone had gotten pregnant on the last night before lockdown the baby would be born by now I said and by the way she didn’t react I could tell I shouldn’t have brought up any shit like that. She was bent over the bright blue recycling bin digging around for things that didn’t belong in there and I said what are you doing but she just kept holding up various bits of evidence like a lawyer on TV submitting them to the court’s attention. Somewhere in the neighborhood a drummer was practicing solid snare thwacks like a heartbeat. I’m innocent I said but I was lying. How much money would you pay to go to a concert tonight I asked and she came back up for air and said well who is playing and I mentioned the famous band we both used to like when we both liked bands. Also there’s no Covid for one night only I said. How does that work she said and I said god floats down from the sky and says for the next four hours Covid isn’t real and she said $5,000 with so much confidence I thought she must’ve already been thinking about a scenario exactly like this. You can go out to dinner beforehand too I said. Then we both stood there watching two different versions of the imaginary concert in our minds for a minute drinking beer out of glasses with no poison in them. When this is all over they gotta make shows start at like 6 pm I said I can’t go back to late nights anymore and she said she agreed with that. What about a hotel for the night too she said and I said ok sure you can have whatever you want honey none of this is real.
Do I look taller you asked and I said actually you sort of do are you wearing lifts or something and you said you had grown almost an inch recently which is weird because you’re already tall and also forty two and I am pretty sure people aren’t supposed to get taller at that age. I noticed the tide outside of the clam shack was as low as it gets and the air stank of its muck and cooking oil and you said you were thinking you might have some kind of cancer. The kind people who grow abnormally tall have you said. I said I never thought about cancer making someone grow you would normally think it makes them very small.
I said I always sort of just took it as a given that I would be the first one to die among our friends so this news seemed like a betrayal of an unspoken contract we had all agreed to.
Someone joked that if it makes things bigger they hoped they got the cancer in their dick and we all laughed because penises are very funny to think about then everyone got quiet and went back to eating their fried fish and every time I looked away out toward where the water would be later one of your kids swooped in like a seagull to steal a french fry off my plate and so I finally got up and raised my arms to the sky like they were terrible wings and growled like an ogre. I’m going to eat your bones for my supper I said and they squealed and ran around in circles as if it was the scariest thing they could ever imagine.
If God should condemn us the way we do one another
So little moves inside here. He asked you for photographs that illustrate the concept of movement. It’s like living inside of a still life painting he wrote. It’s not living it’s existing. I’d like to see things moving he wrote. Perhaps traffic at night lights shining and the trails from lights whizzing past. Or water flowing from a stream. A waterfall or snow while it is falling he wrote in blue ink in a neat cursive hand that inched upward and to the right as if it were reaching forward toward something in the dark.
A really nice watercolor of an alligator
Apollonia said there were mice in my kitchen and she wasn’t coming back over again until I took care of it and I said that was fair and she said to go get some traps at the hardware store and I was already planning on that but I didn’t have any money set aside for it. We’d been dating for six months and my friends would still give me shit about her name sometimes like it was somehow my fault. My roommate Brad said is that Greek or something and I said I don’t know I guess her parents were big Prince fans and he said which prince? and I said you don’t have to be stupid all the time like that man. A guy called Brad can’t exactly be the name arbiter. She said the mice wouldn’t be a problem if I wasn’t allergic to cats which was supposed to be my fault too.
The next day I went to give some of my blood because I had more of it than I needed at the time but what I didn’t have was forty dollars and someone told me that’s what they would trade me for it. On the wall in the little room they have you go in someone had hung a really nice watercolor of an alligator and I wanted to tell the lady behind the sliding window I thought as much but she was busy doing computers. She probably walks by it every day and doesn’t even notice it anymore at this point.
That’s a nice watercolor of an alligator I said anyway just to sort of knock the sentence out of my brain and someone across the room under the TV they had playing said it’s a crocodile actually and I said what’s the difference and she told me that when a crocodile’s mouth is shut the teeth still sort of jut out just so and it looks like it’s smiling like it knows something you don’t. One kind is from Florida I said. I know that much. Then I asked if she had come here before and she didn’t seem to think I meant it in the way it sounded which was fine even though I did kind of mean it that way and she said that she comes as much as they’ll let her to get the forty dollars I mentioned earlier. Any port in a storm she said and I said what.
Then we sat there dicking around on our respective phones for a minute to reset the atmosphere back to neutral. I scrolled through the headlines and saw one that said Water being distributed under police protection as crisis looms, and one that said Farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies are rising, and one that said Ariana Grande posted a video of her naturally curly hair in an iconic ponytail and even her fellow celebs are shook and another that said President “just kidding” about UFO evidence.
American blood is worth more the girl said. They can ship it all around the world because other countries don’t let you sell it. They sell more of it than all the corn and soy in the country combined now she said and I thought that can’t be right and I started to doubt she knew what she was talking about when it came to crocodiles now too. They have donation centers all on the American side of the border and people come from Mexico to make a few bucks off their blood she said and I said that’s pretty fucked up and meant it.
On the TV they had a story about how many American soldiers had died in Afghanistan since the war started which was 2,500. They didn’t say the number for the other side. They said over 20,000 Americans had been wounded over there and they were going to have a general on next to talk about it but before I could find out why it was all part of the plan and all worth it in the end they called me in and so I gave a little nod to the crocodile lady and she smiled a little and then they took me out back.
On the way through I saw this one guy I know called Carl coming out of the bathroom with a cup of piss in his hand like he didn’t know what to do with it like at a party when you want to put your drink down and I said oh hey Carl and he said it’s Karl actually and I said oh shit my bad hey Karl. Everything ok with the piss I said and he said yes it’s all normal and I said oh good mine is too and then felt really dumb about saying that.
Next thing they had me sit in a little chair with a desk arm that folded up like when you were in school. There was a different watercolor on the wall in there that seemed like it was by the same guy who I figured must be making a killing in the watercolor racket. This one was of a fox with a bird in its mouth running away from some hunters and the fox has a look on his face like oh shit and the bird has a look on its face like god dammit and frankly I thought it was just ok basically and nothing special like the other one of the crocodile.
The lady with the needle asked me a bunch of questions mostly trying to figure out what kind of dick headed stuff I had gotten up to vis a vis my blood and I didn’t have anything remarkable to mention believe it or not so she was like alright that’s just fine and she tied a blue elastic around my bicep and traced a gloved finger over one of my tattoos and said what does this mean and I said it’s from some book by an Irish guy and she said yes but what does it mean I said I honestly don’t know I never read it. Fail better she said and then the needle was biting into my arm and when she filled one vial she shook it a little out of habit like it was a little thing of tomato juice you get on a plane and I said how does the blood come out it’s like a vacuum or something and she said sort of like that and then it was over and she put a bandaid on and told me to take it easy for the rest of the day and I said you too.
I took my blood money over to the hardware store and bought some mouse traps and on the way back there were some cops with their guns out poking around the trash bins and I had to stop for a second to think about whether or not I had fucked up somehow and one of them saw me and said hey are you from here and I said yeah and nodded over to my building and they seemed to think that was acceptable. When I walked up the Caribbean lady downstairs was outside frolicking in the snow and I thought she’s a little old for that isn’t she but then I thought maybe she’s never seen snow before and I wondered if that was some kind of racist shit of me to think.
I went inside to the kitchen and I saw a quick blur dart across the floor out from under the refrigerator to under the cabinets and I made a noise that I didn’t recognize as something that would come from my own body so Brad came out and I said there was a mouse and he said was it the same one from before and I said how the hell would I know which mouse is which. I asked him if he thought it ever snowed in the Caribbean and he said no but he heard it snowed in Iraq once a couple years ago and I said that can’t be true. He asked me what kind of traps I got and I said I don’t know whatever they had and I showed him and he said oh no not the glue traps and I said what’s wrong with that and he said I guess we’ll find out and then we did.
The first trap I inspected the next morning looked empty at first but when I got closer I saw a tiny little mouse leg attached to the glue like the mouse must have chewed its own leg off to get away and I felt pretty shitty about that. The second one worked a little too well I guess because it had three separate mice all piled on top of one another. The largest mouse had its face half submerged in the glue and one eye starting up at me like it knew me from before or something like we had had a disagreement and then two smaller ones that seemed like they must’ve gotten caught trying to help or something and Brad came over and gave me a look like see I told you and I said alright Mr. Exterminator what do I do now because they were all still alive and clearly having a very bad time of things in the glue there. He said you have to kill them and I said how and he said smash their heads in but I didn’t want to do that so I filled up the one pasta pot we have with water from the bathtub and carried it outside with the mice in my other hand like a bouquet and I saw the neighbor playing in the snow again this time with her son and the cops were still poking around the bins and I thought that doesn’t seem right and the boy came over and asked me what I was doing and I said I was setting them free so they didn’t have to suffer anymore and I dropped the trap with the three mice into the water and a little steam came off their bodies and they sunk and it was over pretty quickly all things considered. I took out my phone to take a picture and thought about sending it to Apollonia so she would come over but then thought better of it.
I stood there with the boy real quiet for a few minutes and watched a bird sort of slipping down the icy roof of the house next door where the lady who yells at the little dog lives. I said did you know all the roofs here are slanted because that way the snow will slide off and not pile up and crush us all to death because I don’t ever know what to say to kids and the boy said no. So I was like look that bird is gonna fall off the roof and it was all happening in slow motion now but it wasn’t actually in any danger because before it reached the edge it simply flew up and away and I was like oh right.
They have the largest eyes
I’ve never seen a dead horse in person. I read recently that when you see a living horse you’re supposed to yell out horse! and if you don’t it’s a character flaw of some kind. I have seen a lot of pictures of horse skeletons however which are still beautiful even half in the dirt. They still seem like they’re moving like they have some other bone place to be even now.
On the TV they were impeaching the president and they said it was like the crucifixion at Golgotha. As bad as that like.
In Honolulu a cop admitted that he had forced a man to lick a urinal if he wanted to avoid getting arrested as like a funny little cop joke. The man was an addict who had been in and out of jail for years his family told the news and he was in a documentary one time where he was checking himself into rehab saying he was going to turn things around this time and things like that the things you say and you hope are true when you say them. I thought for some reason for a minute that it was weird that the cops in Hawaii do the same shit they do everywhere else and that is obviously naive because cops are the same everywhere even on islands.
I don’t know anything at all about Hawaii to be honest I’ve never seen it and I most likely never will. Here’s one thing I know now: There were no horses or many land mammals of any kind on Hawaii originally they all had to be brought there by people.
Years ago I told you I liked to look at pictures of horses fighting sometimes and you thought that was a weird thing to say and I said it had never occurred to me as long as I had lived for some reason that horses would fight each other but now that I know they do it’s made me look at things differently. Horses mainly but also everything. Standing back on their hind legs punching out wildly like that. You loved me for a little while after that but not for long enough. Another time and another you told me you had an imaginary horse as a pet when you were young and I loved you for that but not for long enough.
Sometime I get it into my mind that I could fight an animal like a bear or angry dog and I know that’s stupid but I think it anyway because it’s free to fantasize about anything you want. I wouldn't know where to start with a horse though.
In Kentucky someone slaughtered fifteen horses with a gun. There were dozens of them that would roam around this particular area running around fucking each other and slooshing out horse babies and doing other horse type of business and sometimes people would go out and feed them in the winter when finding food to eat was difficult for the horses. It looked like a battlefield for horses the local sheriff said and a woman who works in animal rescue said that although she’s been around and seen some terrible things in her career this was different she said it was an act of evil for lack of a better term. She said that the horses were very friendly and you could walk right up to them sometimes and touch them when they were still alive and I suppose you could feel the skeleton underneath and you could love a horse like that for a long time but not for long enough.
The bulk movement of air
We dragged the tree inside from the cold like it owed us money and set a bowl of water out for it like a stray so it could drink and pretend it was still alive for a little while longer pretend it had a future and then a few days passed and we couldn’t find the goddamned box of lights in the basement so it stood there in the corner in its nakedness. Looking up from your phone you said an acre of Christmas trees provides enough oxygen for eighteen people and they say that young trees grow very rapidly and have a higher rate of photosynthesis than older trees which is the opposite of what I would have thought. I thought being old was where it’s at in the tree game. You read to me that for a short while if it’s well fed with light and water the tree will continue to produce oxygen even after it’s cut down but before long the needles will dry and begin to fall off.
Later in the summer when I’m gone you might find some needles lingering in a strange corner of the house or under the flap of the rug and you will think how did this get in here and if you’ve remembered to buy a broom by then you’ll sweep them back out into the out there out where the wind is.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Two planes plummeted from the sky killing everyone aboard and they dragged the president of the plane company in front of a panel to ask what had happened and he said the computer was basically fucked and after that they let him go and retire and collect millions of dollars in benefits he was owed which is called a golden parachute although I never liked that term. If you tried to jump out of plane with a parachute made of gold you would fall so much faster than normal as gold is famously very heavy that’s like one thing about gold we all know.
I’m not sure if physics technically works like that.
Two policemen in Alabama posed for a photo with a bunch of cardboard signs they had stolen from a person living on the street and in the photo they are grinning real big like a policeman grins with his whole body like a nothing bad will ever happen to me type of grin. All the signs they had taken say the same thing which is need help thank you god bless and they’re holding the signs with those big arms that cops have now like rocks in a loose sock the cop muscles which seem unnecessary to me because you don’t have to be particularly strong to shoot someone in the back while they’re running away.
At least twenty five people are dead after a boat fire off the coast of California and at least five people are dead after a hurricane pummeled the Bahamas and seven people are dead and twenty two more are wounded after a shooting in Texas no not that one a new one and you can turn on your tv right now and watch them all being talked about one after the other if you want just flip back and forth from one channel to the next and it’s like a scene in a disaster movie where the person is watching TV in the background to let you know things are going to all hell. They flip channel by channel and weirdly even now in movies they still do this as like a stylistic choice they make it so the channel changing has that old percussive chunking sound where you’d hear a bit of static in the spaces in between but TVs don’t do that anymore they don’t make that sound anymore the toggling between the tragedies is a lot more seamless and streamlined now.
Someone was frying meat in the kitchen attached to the waiting room and so it smelled like fried meat. I paged through an old issue of an old beauty magazine that was old enough that the people inside maybe weren’t even beautiful anymore at this point and I sat there silently with six of you suffering in your own way and waiting to take your chances with a stint in the needle machine. I put down the magazine and scrolled through my phone and read a story about how the government is using dental exams to ascertain the real age of immigrants they apprehend at the border. One boy from Bangladesh said he was sixteen when they caught him but they didn’t believe him so they sent him for what he thought was a routine dental exam but instead what they did was check his teeth like you would if you were sizing up a race horse or like when you cut down a tree and open it up dig around inside its tree meat to find out how many rings it has.
There are only two things most of us know for sure if we are lucky our birthdays and our names but we’ve long taken even those away from people in this country. Even now we promote children of color into adults through the power of bureaucratic transubstantiation and that is because you can treat them worse after that you just magically rob them of a few years of assumed innocence and then it’s like whatever.
I didn’t want it to but the meat was starting to make me hungry and then a crying woman was carried into the room by her sons and it looked like her leg was in real bad shape and we all shut the fuck up as she tried to settle in and find a place to situate herself in the pain waiting room on the bad pain waiting room chairs and I thought it’s weird how the presence of someone else in serious distress can make an already silent room more so as if coughing or even breathing out loud would be impolite to the person in question but also the concept of pain itself.
When real pain enters the room you have to respect it and hope you don’t catch its eye like it’s a bear you spot just off in the distance in the woods. So you don’t make too much noise or any sudden movements and you back away very slowly and later you think you really pulled something off there and you tell the story about how you outsmarted a bear to your friends but you didn’t it just wasn’t interested in you at that particular juncture.