Archive | August, 2009

Ghost Mall

Where is the Black River?

Where is the Black River?

I took the bus into the city on Saturdays in the autumn of my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t want to be home when the kids I played Dungeons and Dragons came around to ask if I could play. The thing about dungeon master was that I had to pay careful attention for hours a time and I ended up the basement where I paid careful attention. I paid attention until the dice smelled blue and the soda tasted furry. In the bus, no one talked to me. I listened to the velvet murmur like a glove on my face. I dozed and looked Lake Washington out of Interstate 405s window. The water was flat like a record playing the same note over and over again, a droning groove. The bus provided a kind of drum line as it wobbled on the pavement pitted from weekday traffic. This is how my mother came home from Everett where they moved her recently, and now she was gone all of the time, and I spent most of my time in the basement of neighborhood boys tending to the fantasy life.

At the University District, I got off the bus and walked into the University Bookstore that smelled like coffee. I checked their fantasy section for any new books. It was coming up to the end the summer and their kids section was festooned with autumn leaves and spiders, and sounded like a boiled egg taken from the fridge felt in our hand after you’ve peeled the skin off. The whiteness of the walls was so white that you thought you could see through the paint to the cinderblock underneath. I checked out the hardbound copy of the Hobbit. I didn’t own the book. I had read the hobbit in sixth grade after reading the Lord of the Rings, and I liked The Hobbit more than the obsessive, trudge of Lord of the Rings. I liked the maps better and the overall adventure. It seemed contained in a way and liked the grey overtones that were in the other books.

I wish I could walk around without shoes on like a Hobbit. I hate shoes. I cut my foot one summer when I wouldn’t wear any shoes. I cut my foot wandering in the fountain in the Renton Mall. The mall is not there, and I think it is probably not a large loss. I am the only one I know who laments the disappearance of that mall.

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Forecast: Chapter 13 (Shya Scanlon)

Forecast (Shy Scanlon)

Forecast is being serialized semiweekly across 42 web sites. For a full list of participants and links to live chapters, visit www.shyascanlon.com/forecast.

Chapter 13

Joan’s car sped along the interstate while Helen napped.  Troubled, lower case z’s.  She tossed and turned, waking Rocket by uttering abrupt, garbled, dream-state complaints, and would have woken herself had her stomach not been so verbal as well, but the internal noise coalesced with the external, and together they created an auditory equilibrium insulating her from potential sleep disruption.  This insulation was not shared, however.  The dog up front was disturbed, mistaking the gut-rumbles for early signs of an earthquake and growing skittish, whining.  Rocket, understanding the source, empathized, but was nonetheless disgruntled and showed it, issuing short snarls loud enough to cause the driver, unfamiliar with Rocket’s voice, to grow nervous, giving his own mutt sideways glances – a delegation of responsibility should there be an outburst.

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The Film I Saw

A blockbuster.

A blockbuster.

Early in the film, just as the plot begins to set, the young man back from the war leans in to kiss his brother’s wife. The young man back from the war is very young. He has a long beard with split ends, but his skin is ruddy and his lips are red and his teeth are thick and strong. His brother and wife are even younger and in the parlance of Hollywood, you wonder how young they can be? Are they still teenagers. We don’t know the actors in this film. The young man kisses his brother’s wife while his brother is having a tantrum in the forest. The car broke down and rather than fix it and get back to civilization they continue into the forest as planned. The clean-shaven younger brother is beset by responsibility and yells at his wife and yells at his brother. “You don’t care about the what is real out here. We have a broken car and I have to get back to the grill in a week.” They laugh at him. A week! Who knows what will be in a weeks a time. He stamps into the forest. As they watch him go they are still laughing and the laughter is in the dark trees, in the moss. The older brother kisses the wife and she draws back and shakes her head. “Too late, my friend. You snooze you lose.” She wears a white dress and hiking boots, and so the white fabric is nearly glowing in the dark shadows of the spruce and maple trees. She stands in the grey leafy darkness, a glowing shape, and then walks rapidly after her husband who is still hollering in the distance. It is difficult to hear what he is saying – but the sound is harsh. For some time a xylophone has been playing a single note and the note grows a bit louder and then we watch them in three minutes of quick cuts cross flowing rivers of water silver and black, pass through dark green, black, and grey stands of trees, sit on a blanket in a crowded thicket of brilliant white birch trees with black scabs and long spirals of peeling bark and then at long last they arrive at a cabin on top of a mountain overlooking a wild valley with a massive mountain and white, glittering glaciers. Wild flowers crowd the meadow in front of the cabin, tiny fluttering red moths dance in the sunlight. “Maybe we never need to go back,” the young man says. In the bright light the three of them stand together regarding each other. That night the young man has noisy sex with his wife. The older, bearded brother goes outside to smoke a cigarette and listens to them still, and the sound of the river.

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Board Game of Obsession for My Woman

Checkers, chess, Battleship, and love.

Checkers, chess, Battleship, and love.

I am a timid person I suppose in a way that makes it difficult to feel passion for me. There isn’t a great deal of passion that anyone feels about me, and I suppose this is okay. I am suitable for a life without a great deal of passion one-way or the other. I am a technical writer. Technical writers are (to generalize) completely dispassionate. Writers I believe are almost all angry people, but anger is hardly passion, at least in the way you would think about it. I don’t mean to imply that writers are the type who would load an AK47 and visit the local mall, but I suspect most of the people who do such things aspire to be writers one day. The only thing that defines me is my passion for my woman. I love her more than anyone has loved another person in the history of the world. It sounds grand and silly to say this — because how does a person measure something like “love”? There isn’t really any sensible way to calibrate love, really, although I’ve measured my love for my woman and it is off the charts. Love can be measured by the resting heart rate and how quickly it picks up if you think that your woman is in danger. Love can be measured by creating a baseline of how much weight you can lift while thinking of something that you don’t really feel one way the other about — a night’s sleep, a glass of water, an apple, and then thinking about your woman and lifting weight. The difference was fifteen pounds. I could lift fifteen ponds MORE weight when thinking about my woman then before, and this was a three percent increase. My heart rate increased from 60 beats a minute to 98 beats a minute while thinking about my woman. I cannot draw her because my hand shakes so much. I am sure you think that whomever you love or whomever you think you love or have loved if you are not currently “in” love with someone that the emotion that you felt was probably the same emotion that I feel. You would be sadly wrong. I like things, too. I like a good hamburger and salty fries and a cool drink of soda. I like to draw the soda out of the cup through the straw and stare at the ceiling until the fluid snaps and gurgles in the straw and all I have in the paper cup is ice and a film of soda bits. My stomach feels satisfied with that motion. I am no longer hungry at that point. I am no longer thirsty at that point. And for you that is probably love. Your gut telling you that you have what you need and you have no more needs. You might wrap it around some kind emotional term, such as love, but when I am talking about love, I am talking about falling asleep at night dreaming about what I can do to give her a moment of pleasure. I thought about making her a board game, for instance, of our life together. It I would get the board printed at the Professional Copy and Print and the pieces molded from plastic from someone who knows how to do that kind of work. I would even but a bar code on it, so she wouldn’t get freaked out by my having made it. I would say, Look what I found, and then only later that I had made this board game for her so she could understand my obsession, how deeply I loved her. I’m sure it would be a very special thing for her.

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Literary Death Match: Seattle

Prose to the death.

Prose to the death.

I am going to be competing in Opium Mag’s Literary Death Match this Thursday. I hope you can come. Here is the description from the site:

Literary Death Match: Seattle
Thursday, August 13; doors at 7:30, show at 8 p.m. (sharp)
Jewelbox Theater, 2322 2nd Ave, Seattle, $10
All proceeds support Opium Magazine.

The very first Literary Death Match in the northwest will feature readers Ryan Boudinot (The Littlest Hitler), Matthew Simmons (A Jello Horse), Peter Gajdics (Opium8’s 250-word contest winner), and Matt Briggs (Shoot the Buffalo), all judged by a cast of all-stars, including the sagacious Mary Guterson (Gone to the Dogs), Lindy West (from The Stranger), and Luke Smith (a game designer at Bungie and former 1UP.com editor). Hosted by Todd Zuniga. Co-produced by Julia Minkin.

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Newspaper Dream

Neat, tidy, work-obsessed.

Neat, tidy, work-obsessed.

I went outside to fetch the paper from the lawn where the newspaper boy threw it in the early morning. I usually don’t wear socks to bed and when I don’t have socks on, I don’t put on shoes. I had a pair of old slippers but they’ve been long lost. I remember reaching in the closet to find them like I almost always do and then the old things along with the other shoes in the house hopped out of the closet. I had disturbed a den of rabbits and they quickly moved down the hallway and then huddled in a clump at the foot of the stairs to twitch their noses and regard me, brown, pink, blue, and black rabbits. A thin layer of dew coated the stoop. The sun rose in the east sending scattered pink and yellow light through the scrim of early morning frost clouds. The cool grass bit my feet and when I pulled up the paper I found that it was just a sheet of paper swaddling an infant. The baby had been crying, only I didn’t realize it. I turned it off. I’d been holding my phone in my hand and then clicked off the buzzer. I got out of bed already whatever I’d been thinking about faded away. I glanced out the window and could see that the clouds had left a dew during the night. The grass looked like a sheet of blue and white razor sharp pins. I dug around in the closet for my old moccasins and scattered my wife’s blue and black shoes, my daughter’s pink pumps on the floor, and then figured I’d just get the paper. I started to wake then when the cool blades of grass bit into my feet. I grabbed the paper. Thinner and thinner every day with more and more circulars and brought it inside and before I could finish my coffee and sit down with the newsprint, I was reading the London Times online and checking the same story in the New York Times. These were the times.

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