Chapter 7

•28 September 2008 • 1 Comment

Word Count: 777

Characters (no spaces): 3515

Flann had no answers.

When asking questions

Flann had no answers

When asked a question

Flann wished he’d died of cancer

When asked in elementary school what he wanted to be when he grew up, Flann did not respond.  The other children turned and stared at him, the teacher stood, waiting patiently.  His feet burned.  His seat itched and he longed to run.  Effluent sweat slicked his palms.  Tears welled up in his eyes like earthworms after a rain.  Flann had never thought of growing old.

Blank face, Blank face have you any sense?

If you had three pence

For all your silence

You could afford an answer

Flann did grow old.  However, he finished elementary school first.  Flann had an insatiable appetite for books.  He read in the afternoons and before going to sleep.  He read in waiting rooms.  He read the cereal box as he ate his cereal.  He read the newspaper.  He read the funnies.  Sometimes his parents suggested he not read so much, but they didn’t want to push the matter as they felt it was better to read too much than to not read at all.  Flann went to a nice elementary school and many of the other kids were also avid readers.  Upon completing elementary school, he went on to middle school.  In middle school he made rather different sorts of friends, friends of the type which he had previously not known existed.  They asked: “Why do you read so much?”  Flann stopped reading.

Flann loved apple pie very much

If you love it so, you should marry it

He wondered that he had no reason not to, and as such

Flann was uncertain why he did not propose

One weekend Flann decided to go rock climbing.  Flann was upbeat.  The sun shone and a cool breeze licked the heat away.  The air was fresh and crisp with autumn, leaves dazzled in their new clothes, swirling about to see and be seen.  He was accompanied by his girlfriend who had never looked more lovely with her hair gleaming irridescent in the light and by their mutual friend, a rugged outdoorsman and lumberjack in a former life.  They hiked a winding path replete with streams and waterfalls and vistas and wildlife and joy.  The birds sang their hearts out and squirrels threw nuts against rocks in percussive accompaniment.  They picknicked at a mountain stream, fondly splashing at each other and squeezing life from every moment.  Upon reaching the rock which they desired to climb, they buckled up tight and double checked all safety precautions.  Lumberjack up first, girlfriend up second, Flann bringing up the rear.  They were all experienced climbers and the rock was steep one so that they might revel in the exertion.  About midway up Flann brought his pick up with his right hand, preparing to make a grove for his hand where he could not find one, having veered slightly away from the path of his friends.  As he struck down, the rock under his left hand crumbled and he fell towards his now unsupported side.  This changed the angle of his strike and he hit his safety rope square on, severing it.  Flann tumbled down, bouncing off a bush growing out of the rock and launching into a grove of trees.  The boughs and branches cut at him as they slowed his momentum and he landed in the middle of the mountain spring.  His friends rappelled down to him as fast as they could.  They met up with him just as he pulled himself out of the spring.  His girlfriend threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.  He was sore and scraped, but otherwise unharmed.  His friend gaped: “Dude, how are you even alive?!”  Flann glassy-eyed the distance, tight lipped, and became afraid of heights.

Flann awoke and screamed

What is it, she asked

But Flann had no reply

He did not know if it was what it seemed

Flann met a friend in the streets.

“Hey, I heard you and your girlfriend broke up, what happened?”

“I don’t know.”

Flann didn’t know.

Flann was babysitting his niece

“Why is the sky blue?”

Flann looked down and without reply

Began to study his shoe

Flann went to church and they asked: Do you know why you’re here?  He turned and walked back out.  Again out on the streets he began searching, searching for the place where they asked no questions, searching for where they had only answers, searching for where they expected nothing of him.

Flann had his own headstone engraved

Out of desperate fear

That should another do it

It would read “Who lies here?”


Chaptr 6

•27 September 2008 • Leave a Comment

Word Count: 1629

Characters (no spaces): 7354

Prior to his emotionally damaging, life altering, and generally utterly, utterly crippling relationship fiasco, Benoit was quite the conquistador.  Night after night he went out on the prowl, stalking women like a hyena after its meal.  Which is to say, he kept an eye out for drunk women alone and isolated in a bar full of people.

For example.

She sat alone in a corner booth.  The light was as poor as she was and only half lit her table.  Her option was to sit in the dark facing the bar or sit in the light obscured by the top of the booth.  Initially she chose the latter, but after the third couple came by thinking the booth empty she switched positions.  Still, the only company she had received was from a transvestite who mistook her for a newly come out transvestite hiding in the dark to avoid being recognized as a man.  She came over and offered sympathy and camaraderie until they both recognized the other for what she was and the tranny left amicably, pretending to have noticed a friend across the bar.  She ordered a double and tossed back her sorrows, running her hand through what had become a bird’s nest.  As the table began to take on properties of water and the catsup bottle began the process of high tide, Benoit finished analyzing the situation and made his move.  Armed with a pitcher and a spare glass, he asked kindly, was anyone sitting here?  Her face still bore marks from her shirt as she pulled herself out of her elbow.  Would you like a drink?  She clobbered at the glass with a sledgehammer and dragged it towards her an ass pulling a plow.  Up righting the glass and herself fill it up, to the top, none of that head nonsense.  Of course, never in public.  Laughter followed his waggishness and she gained a rosiness in her cheeks that had nothing to do with the Asian glow.  He introduced himself as Benoit but quickly clarified the only French I know involves the tongue and/or potatoes.  She laughs so hard she nearly falls from her perch in the booth.  He catches her from across the table and helps upright her once more.  He downs the pitcher along the way, he finds her more and more lovely as she slouches down with splayed legs and arms strewn haphazardly about her sides.  She is nameless and nearly faceless, just a few more drinks will do.  Does she come here often?  That’s the spot, that’s the right level of pissed, of blottered, of plastered, of sloppy, of bombed, of plowed, of three sheets to the wind, of sloshed, of hammered, of trashed, of drunk.  Such shameless tripe could not project itself forth from his hiccupping larynx otherwise.  The footsie under the table bore more resemblance to kickboxing than flirting, but it was the only way either of them could feel the advances.  They would wonder at the bruises in the morning.  She stood up to urinate and in walking past toppled over upon him.  He caught her and the made googly eyes for a bit before he encouraged her to continue on her mission, less his trousers should regret it.  She came back and they went out, back to her place, just round the corner.  They stumbled the sidewalk, they stumbled the stairs, they stumbled the doorway, they stumbled the bedroom, they stumbled the sex.  He left early and she never called.

For example.

She sat alone in a corner booth. The light was as poor as she was and only half lit her table. Her option was to sit in the dark facing the bar or sit in the light obscured by the top of the booth. Initially she chose the latter, but after the third couple came by thinking the booth empty she switched positions. Still, the only company she had received was from a transvestite who mistook her for a newly come out transvestite hiding in the dark to avoid being recognized as a man. She came over and offered sympathy and camaraderie until they both recognized the other for what she was and the tranny left amicably, pretending to have noticed a friend across the bar. He left early and she never called. She ordered her sorrows and tossed back a double, running a bird’s nest through what had become her hand. As the table began to take on properties of catsup and the water bottle began the process of high tide, Benoit finished analyzing the situation and made his move. Armed with a glass and a spare pitcher, he asked kindly, Does she come here often? Her face still bore marks from her elbow as she pulled herself out of her shirt. Would you like a drink? She dragged at the glass with a sledgehammer and clobbered it towards her an ass pulling a plow. Up righting the glass and herself fill it up, to the top, none of that head nonsense. never Of course, in public. Laughter followed his waggishness and she gained a glow in her cheeks that had nothing to do with the Asian rosiness. He introduced himself as Benoit but quickly clarified the only French I know involves the potatoes and/or tongue. She laughs so hard she nearly falls from her booth in the perch. He catches once more her from across the table and helps upright her. He downs the pitcher along the way, he finds her more and more lovely as she with splayed legs slouches down and strewn haphazardly arms about her sides. She is faceless and nearly nameless, just a few more drinks will do. was anyone sitting here? That’s the spot, that’s the right level of drunk, of blottered, of plastered, of sloppy, of bombed, of plowed, of three sheets to the wind, of sloshed, of hammered, of trashed, of pissed. Such shameless tripe could not project itself forth from his hiccupping larynx otherwise. The footsie under the table bore more resemblance to kickboxing than flirting, but it was the only way either of them could feel the advances. They would wonder at the bruises in the morning. She stood up to in walking past toppled over upon him and urinate. He caught her and the made eyes googly for a bit before he encouraged her to continue on his trousers, less her mission should regret it. She came back and they went out, back to her place, just round the corner. they stumbled the sex, they stumbled the stairs, they stumbled the doorway, they stumbled the bedroom, They stumbled the sidewalk.

For example.

She a tranny. He a corner booth. The light clobbered the poor, obscured thinking stumbled as she mistook sympathy for a friend. Initially she switched positions and was half lit chose her table in the dark to sit bar facing the light. Still, the only company she had received left early and she never called. Would you come here often? Does she like a drink? She came over and over and Benoit finished. Laughter followed in camaraderie the booth and public came in a transvestite only the latter made urinate on his trousers until they both recognized the properties of catsup. Her option was Benoit. She left the top of a bird’s nest in the bedroom they stumbled by the third couple who offered the booth amicably to avoid being recognized as the table across bar. Her empty was a double hiding her sorrows the other man involves potatoes and/or tongue running through her dark hand, newly come out the transvestite. As the French sit back pretending she noticed a spare pitcher but he made his move analyzing the situation after she pulled herself out of her ass as a sledgehammer falls splayed by the spot. Armed to the top, just a few more drinks will do, bombed hammered plowed more kickboxing than flirting and she gained resemblance to three sheets of bruises less her waggishness should regret it or become what she was and know nothing to do with the Asian mission for googly eyes. Of course, what they had dragged from the doorway stumbled upon him and tossed her faceless across the table. She laughs so sloppy, he asked kindly of the stairs, could feel the advances of rosiness, of a plow pulling blottered cheeks. Up began to take on pissed water of a face that quickly clarified otherwise in the morning. He introduced himself the tripe of trashed wonder, she stumbled, stood up, shameless of the level of sex just round the corner. They stumbled of, of the perch, they came back the sidewalk, footsie under the bottle encouraged her to continue. Such was high tide, with a glass plastered alone. I began. That’s from her elbow, the process and an upright glass drunk. The wind sloshed towards and ordered and was still and bore anyone walking. She went about the pitcher but catches have glass sitting here. He marks with a glow. She and it and the bit bore. He righting herself downs the table. She was the only way. He before She. They, nameless, at her booth, his place, fill her up, her shirt of nonsense, her larynx slouches and he caught her head, she down more and more lovely, had his in her, along the way none of that never once more could not project itself forth in her legs hiccupping and hard, it haphazardly finds the right to but it toppled as they back out, her arms from the past nearly, as the only helps from the sides, that’s the from her to nearly and as with the strewn at and of a sat in for they to in to is, would either of them?

Chapter 5

•1 August 2008 • Leave a Comment

Word Count: 2964

Characters (no spaces): 13140

I shall now take the time to tell you of the Thought-Maker, the finest of fine gentlemen, the cream of the cream, and may the gods look down with pleasure upon my tale.

Taller than most short men, grander than mediocre, He Who Gives Birth to Cerebration stands proud. His doe eyes are a deep, penetrating brown, dark as bilirubin rich excrement, shrouded in eyelashes the length of bony fingers and the color of endless abysses. A voluminous nose slopes as a tear drop off his large, intelligent forehead to suck up the fragrance of roses like a vacuum of olfaction. High, robust cheekbones burst forth from his face like a model of high-fashion. Bulbous lips give way to teeth so strong they grind bones like popcorn without kernels and a tongue that could lick up a frenzy. His chin is said to have been cleft when his father unsuccessfully tried to abort him with at hatchet as a gift for having lived to see the age of one. His sinewy jaw and ruddy cheeks are coated in a thick mat of wires that could etch wood, a dense black like the heart of a politician, well matched to the shoulder length dreadlocks hanging like mangled rebar from his scaly scalp. Saucer-sized ears protrude from between the bars and are capable of hearing a pin fall in a haystack. His neck, oh, his neck! After the fall Adam fell out again and had a watermelon to bring about the protuberance to be found found on his neck. Broad shouldered with a back taut as a condom on the leg of an elephant, he is well capable of performing manual labor. His legs laugh pityingly at a mile run.

In his youth he lived in a basement that was utterly unglamorous. Small, cramped, nearly windowless. But cheap. Room enough for a desk, a chair, a twin size bed, and a chest of drawers, more minimalist than LaMonte Young. The only window was of the sort that lies with its base nearly level to the ground, black rimmed, sideways sliding, and only big enough for a cat to slip through, should it be able to get up to that height. However, the window had its perks. As it was the only window on that side of the house, the neighbors were less than adamant about shutting their blinds. The master bedroom was at just such an angle as to be well visible from the basement. Dull evenings could be spent watching the heedless neighbors clean up for bed or go about each other. Often the Origin of Ideas would gaze up at them even as they slept in the faint light of the moon. Feral cats on the prowl skulk past the window as spiders spin their glistening webs across the window in hopes of catching the moths prone to fluttering about when the Ideogenetic read in the fading light of evening. When he had his fill of silent window pane framed life, he lay down and slept deeply as soon as his head hit the pillow. His dreams were numerous and wonderful and taught him much of the mysteries he sought to solve. In the morning they slipped away from his mind as readily as the covers from his body.

He had courteous relations with the family which housed him. He took meal with them on occasion and was prompt with his rent. He never held raucous parties (not that he could, given the tight confines of his allotted living space) and never complained. Surely at this point you are thinking to yourself, “What use is this story? The Father of Brainwork has leapt out as a lively beast with a striking face, to what end? He is dull as a housewife and twice as common.” True, every word of it. But great men are not made overnight without a catalyst and the stage must be set before describing the stimulus that brought forth eminence, though it shall now be depicted:

The basement had been his home for some time when his twenty-second birthday arrived. It arrived without pomp and passed much as days are want to do. However, the following day the neighbors put their house on the market. Though he briefly lamented their going, people are always moving and it is the ones sitting still who are the anomalies. He bore them no ill-will. Thursday week the house was sold (it was a seller’s market in those days and a fine price was fetched). The next day a new couple moved in (they had relatively few positions and the house came fully furnished). The basement was unoccupied as its inhabitant was off in Culver, Alabama, listening to lectures and furrowing his brow. It is the day of his return that is the focus of the story at hand.

The Inducer of Rumination stares with intense curiosity out of his world portal and waits to see his new actor and actress. Hours pass and he has seen nothing. They are going to bed too late, or have already retired and have been missed. Moderately disappointed, he lies down to a restless sleep. It will not be the last time his sleep cycle is disturbed by his neighbors.

Various events conspire to prevent the nigh-time observation and a full week is fruitlessly spent before the neighbors are spied and the Cause of Cogitation was caught with his guard down. His neighbors are two in number, one of the male gender and one of the female. From what can be discerned, they are in some variation of an intimate relationship. The she of the two walks casually from the bathroom adjacent to the bedroom without a thread of clothing about her. Her hips are ripe for bearing children and sway fro and to hypnotically. Startled by her seemingly sudden and shameless entrance into the bedroom the Constructor of Contemplation jumps slightly back and topples over his chair. Recovering his composure, he returns to the window. She has been joined by her lover and they do as lovers do. The earth may not have moved, the mountains stood still, but as the two fell asleep in each other’s arms a lingering smile graced their respective faces and gave a quiet beauty to the scene.

Across the pair of kempt lawns and below the ground in the basement bedroom, no sleep was to be had. Attempting to pace and increasingly frustrated by the now maddeningly small room with its lack of floor space, our man thought of her. Though she had been less than easily visible due to the distance, lighting, and various obstructions, she had been seen and had left an impression like a crop circle on his emotional corn field. Large, complex, inexplicable, he longed to decipher her existence. She pierces him like an iron maiden and likewise keeps him on his feet unable to embrace the comforts of sleep. As day breaks he stands haggard and frazzled.

Weeks drift by where days move like glaciers and nights like flash floods as every glance he catches of her washes over him like so many droplets. The hazy way she appears at the other end of the distance gives her a quality not unlike the mirage of an oasis in the desert and he longs to drink her up and satiate the pangs of dehydration. Tonight, as he pines up at her, he sees the other him don a suit and kiss her cheek as he dashes out the door, somehow able to think of other engagements even as she stands naked in the bedroom and slightly recumbent against the foot board, the weight of her body balanced by her hand on the bed. Hatred and envy raged out from the basement at the man capable of leaving such a sight. Animosity, however, gave way to exultation as she wandered over to her own window and gazed out. Awe-stricken, he gazes up at her for several moments before throwing himself to the ground and pressing his back against the wall beneath the window to avoid detection. A practical woman, she loves the sky but knows that the infinities of space are matched by the infinities beneath the sky and gazes at both. It is when she looks down that she notices the basement window and the face pressed firmly against it with glassy eyes. Bemused, she smiles with closed lips and winks. When he composes himself finally the next morning, she is no longer at the window, as could be expected, given the length of time passed.

Eating lunch with his hosts he finds that they, with the inclusion of himself, have been invited to dine with the new neighbors so that they may come to know each other. The hosts have accepted on their behalf and his and his paltry attempts at excusing himself from the encounter are brushed aside like peasants before a king.

The day was spent in terror and he was barely able to dress and clean himself as to be presentable. He sweated his first collared shirt into the hamper as it went from white to grey. Finally, the hour arrives and he accompanies his hosts down the driveway, along the sidewalk, and up the neighboring walk to meet his fate.

He ate without knowing what he ate. He had the vague conception that the meal was green, brown, and yellow in various places on his plate. To his misfortune, he was placed at the end of the table opposite her and consequentially attempts to conduct himself without ever looking up. When he feels it prudent he steals glances at her like a petty thief, but she somehow manages to always be looking at him without drawing attention to herself and while talking casually and with ease to the rest of the company. He manages to gradual form an image of her. She is older than he expected, he estimates her age to be roughly thirty-one. Her hair is tied up behind her head with a few loose strands of dark auburn on either side of her face. She does not appear to wear makeup and her nails are unpainted. She is wearing a plain black dress which clings to her like wallpaper to a wall. She is of average proportion, neither rotund nor scrawny. She wears no jewelry and her ears are unpierced. Through catching phrases of conversation he learns that they have been dating for a year and that she is a writer. This last tidbit of information caused him to gag on his forkful as it was immediately followed by his hosts declaring it such a coincidence as their charge was an editor. Excitedly she requested his help with an article she was currently working as she felt it needed a cleaning up, was he free this Saturday? So it went and he became engaged to assist her with her writing.

Time passed, time passed. The Beginning of Deliberation found Saturday knocking down his door and forcing itself upon him in a most undesirable fashion. Stricken, he scraped his feet along the cement and rapped the knocker against her door, noticing that her boyfriend’s car was absent from the garage.

She greeted him with the usual pleasantries–would he like a drink? hungry? make himself at home–and he took a seat near the table clearly designated for work. She went over the basics of the article and he gradually overcame his fear as the essay took hold of him. The subject was rarefied and his intellectualism got the best of him. Discussion spilled forth and debate raged. The topic was not novel to him and he approached it from all angles and she was likewise caught up in a storm of ideas. He made her work so fresh and vivid she couldn’t find paper fast enough to scribble down all the new contemplations he elicited from her. In their ravenous academia they lost track of time and soon the boyfriend arrived home. His appearance startled them both and he laughed at how worked up they are over what is to him a rather mundane topic. He reminds her of their plans for the evening and meanders away. She turns to the Root of Reflection and admits that they will have to postpone the continuation of their conversation, though there is still much to say and do, tonight is not the night.

They meet in this fashion for a full week without discussing anything else. His nightly watches do not end but he does not make eye contact with her anymore. Saturday night arrives again and he notices her standing nude and framed once again by the window. She stares dreamily outward and her lover slips up behind her. He kisses the nape of her neck, hugs her around the waste and talking to her collarbone gestures with his eyes outward, probably to the effect that the neighbors might see. Her teeth flash and she turns into his kiss. She leaps into his arms and they make love with her back against the window. Midway through they rotate and now his back is against the window. She takes this opportunity to stare down into the basement window with a knowing smile on the ellipsis of her mouth and torments his mind like a mole in the clutches of a cat.

They have another meeting scheduled for the next day and he arrives on time. The boyfriend is conveniently absent.

“I… I no longer wish to be employed as your editor.”

“You’ve been incredibly helpful, why the change of heart?” she mockingly coos.

“I… I have lost interest in the project, it has dragged on far longer than I expected, and I have other projects I’m working on.”

“Oh? Such as?”

“I… That’s confidential.”

“Ha!” she snorts, “You love this article, you have poured much of your soul into it and brought ideas out in me which I did not imagine possible. You are full of it. What is the real reason?” she retorts teasingly.

“I… I think you know full well. I am unable to continue this in a professional manner and if you have no further questions I will take my leave.”

Fire leapt into her eyes. “What do you mean by ‘in a professional manner?’ I thought we were friends, it does not seem fair of you to cut ties like this.”

He snapped. “You know damned well I’ve been watching you from my window, small though it is. You taunt me and seem to thrive on the voyeurism of it all, likely unbeknownst to your boyfriend who certainly would not continue to treat me so congenially nor permit us to continue working alone without his oversight. You have stirred great passion in me and not just for the work at hand, and I cannot sit here for hours within reach of you and impotent to do more than work.”

He had meant to continue but she had flung herself into his lap and seemed to be attempting to suck his soul straight out from his throat, such was the kiss. With her legs on the outside of his and his thighs in the crook of her knee, he was unable to escape, though his desire to do so was very brief indeed. Where words had previously flowed forth from him now love and passion exhaled from his every pore. An endless hour they passed in the embrace of each other and as the lay upon each other the glow on her face was such that, were it not midday, it would have lit the room.

Having already established a pattern whereby he spent numerous hours at her house working, it was hardly difficult to carry on the affair. Indeed, as long as she continued to have more articles it could continue indefinitely. Having filled her head with new ideas of topics and her heart with new ideas of love, she deeply craved him. Having experienced the fullness of life and finally managed to live in the world and escape the confines of basement intellectualism, he needed her. Within four days of their affair commencing, he initiated a bit of pillow talk:

“Though it has not gone on for long, it can go on no longer. In my boundless selfishness and insecurity I cannot bare to share you. You are all I care for and all I want. We are three now and if we cannot be as one I shall certainly perish. Indeed, we do great injustice to your boyfriend as well and the situation is no good (you know what I mean) for anyone involved. Either stay with him or come away with me tomorrow and let us stake out a new life in a new town.”

“I am not so young as you, such hasty decisions are no longer in my nature. I shall need some time to think it through.”

“Not so young! What a vile excuse! Age is but a number and numbers are made up. Should you have been born on a leap day you would not even be 8 years old. Stop denying yourself the ability to live based on societal assertions as to youth.”

Though she felt it a strange compliment and was vaguely offended, his enthusiasm won her over. She agreed to his every consent. She had not been especially happy in her current relationship anyways and was looking for an exit even before the affair started.

He won the girl of his dreams. He absconds with her and starts a life of fantasy. He escapes the excessive confines of the basement and vows to sleep only in rooms with true windows. He feels alive.

He is Franz.

Chapter 4

•22 July 2008 • Leave a Comment

Word Count: 1822

Characters (no spaces): 8992

On bright and sunny days, Albert took the subway. On wet and rainy days, Albert took the bus.

On bright and sunny days, the sun shone brightly, dilating Albert’s pupils and encouraging him to squint his way along the streets. He received great thrills entering the subway. Shuffling his feet down the stairs echoes reverberated off the walls, magnifying his presence. The experience made him feel as though he were some nameless Victorian archaeologist entering a deep cave in search of great wonders. The cool dampness gave off an earthy feel despite outward signs of industry and synthetics.

On wet and rainy days, Albert found nothing more soothing than the pitter patter of rain against windows and roofs. He had a tin roof installed above his bed in order to best enjoy the acoustics provided by striking droplets of water. Should he be forced to venture out on rainy days, or should he find himself already to have ventured out before the rain began, Albert would take the bus, glassy-eyed staring out the window as wind and water sloshed and drizzled, whipped and slid about the glass and metal. A light watering provided a chilly yet refreshing sensation during the scarce few steps requisite to leave a building and enter a bus stop. The bus womb was warm and safe and few things surpassed seeing his locale damp and dampening in terms of sheer pleasantness as far as Albert was concerned.

Musicians in the subway were deemed more pleasant. Polkas from accordion laden men and women were preferred, followed in a close second by fiddlers, but Albert was in general a great fan of all who sat about on the concrete and created repositories for idle change weighing down the pockets of would be passengers waiting for their train of choice to whisk them off to their destination of choice. Even the spoken word music of street preachers on the train were a pleasantry. Albert has always found music to be a blessing and anyone breaking up the monotony of crowds had his approval.

Despite the great joy he derived from subway musicians, Albert was a bit tone deaf and musically challenged and had only vague notions of the quality of the music. Besides, there was only so much individual musicians could do in terms of sound, as they are limited by the range of timbres and sounds they can produce with their selection of instruments and their voices. For these reasons, Albert’s ultimate pleasure came from graffiti.

Albert did not enjoy graffiti for the sake of it. Unless there was an image or legible words, Albert simply passed it by, lamenting the wasted opportunity to create something wondrous. He appreciated the rebelliousness of said graffiti, but without focus and thought the graffiti was mostly just vandalism and an excuse for tax monies to be squandered and pollution incurred in the cleansing of the defiled surface. Though, certainly, Albert appreciated the post-modern irony of sorts derived from the act of arting the signature instead of signing the art or of claiming walls and medians as the work of art and garnishing them with signatures. However, this could only be justified so many times before being reduced to the status of hackneyed.

What Albert enjoyed about graffiti was the life innate in it. Graffiti was never static. At the very least, the building would decay or be replaced, leaving the graffiti in a constant state of decay (though perhaps gradual). More immediately, the graffiti would likely be cleansed or, better yet, altered. As soon as one artist marked up the wall, another could come behind and transform it. The transformation did not have to be mind boggling or dramatic; something as simple as adding genitals by the mouth of a spray paint Mona Lisa would suffice. Indeed, turning the once pristine walls into treasure troves of obscenity and vulgarity seemed to Albert a quite desirable goal. Above all, Albert appreciated artistic alterations of advertisements. Albert harbored a deep disdain for consumer culture and materialism. Useless clutter had gathered dust in his childhood home as he walked to school past legions of the downtrodden and he could not help but develop the sentiment that making a healthful sandwich and giving it to a street sleeper in exchange for life stories was a much better use of disposable income. He especially loathed posters for cosmetics. Destroying positive body images in order to cajole people into donning carcinogens in the name of profits left a bad taste in Albert’s mouth. Needless to say, arbitrary profanities splattered across such ads always put a smile on his face. Even better were the creative remixes of the original message. Albert’s personal favorite: “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s silicone.”

Albert’s love of graffiti extended beyond the subway. He frequently voiced the opinion that all surfaces should be decorated with graffiti and upon waking each morning checked the facades of his residence for graffiti, though he was always disappointed (his neighborhood being a bit nice). His only reservation, indeed, was that he feared the environmental consequences of spray paint and was rather unsure as to whether suitable alternatives existed. For this reason, Albert tended to favor graffiti etched on picnic tables and in bathrooms as it seemed lower impact. Additionally, the medium allowed for easy additions and emendations. Nearly all of the interesting ones were to be found in academic institutions, though. Standard public bathrooms were nearly uniform in their racism, homophobia, and profanities. Intellectuals make for interesting vandals. Albert’s favorite had two authors, one adding to the other:

Fight the systm!

Stp th vwls!

During his 19th year of life graffiti changed Albert. Having completed his high school education, he grew weary of structured intellectualism and began charting his own course of learning while supporting himself through the noble profession of plumbing. His first intended learning outcome was to decipher the nature of the graffiti artist.

The problem was simple. The problem was straightforward. The problem was in no way difficult to understand: Albert did not know any graffiti artists. The difficulty in comprehension came from Albert’s inability to figure out how he had managed to live so sheltered a life as to never befriend a member of the artistic movement he so cherished. Albert straightaway vowed to spend all of his waking hours attempting contact with his apparently elusive idols.

Albert’s original plan was to simply wait in a bathroom stall until he heard the etchings of graffiti being made. However, he soon realized that this was not only unlikely to produce any results (graffiti artists preferring to do their work in solitude in order to avoid retribution), but additionally ran him the risk of garnering a sex crime for his resume. Riding the subway all day proved equally fruitless.

Plan B: enter the subway after the last run has been completed and sit in a corner, waiting for the sound of spray paint.

Albert rearranged his weekend sleeping hours to better suit his scheme. Unfortunately, several weeks passed with naught to show for it. Still, Albert prevailed.

One night, on the border of sleep with his knees hugged to his chest, Albert was stirred to alertness by the his of pressurized paint. Glancing quickly around, he spotted the artist in progress a scant ten meters from his position. Quickly and quietly, perhaps a bit too quietly, Albert approached the artist.

“Excuse me my good Sir–”

Albert was cut short as the hooded artist swung around, sprayed his eyes with the paint, gave him a quick kick in the groin, and darted off down the subway tunnel. Albert collapsed on the ground screaming and moaning and desperately trying to stop the burning sensation in his eyes.

He would probably have remained there indefinitely, pathetically squealing and squawking and thrashing about, had the artist not taken pity on him.

“Stand up,” she said.

“Please, please don’t hurt me anymore,” he groveled.

“Stand up,” she repeated.

Winded and crying, he obeyed. She dragged him by the arm to a nearby water fountain and helped him flush out the paint. Fortunately, not too much had gotten in and by the next morning he would be better.

“Thank you for helping me,” he panted.

“You shouldn’t be sneaking up on people, especially in a subway after dark. You’re lucky I don’t carry a knife or you’d have a handful of stomach right now,” she growled.

“I… I didn’t mean nothing by it. I have… a love for graffiti and was seeking to meet an artist. I didn’t mean… to startle you,” he stammered.

“Ha! An ‘artist,'” she mocked condescendingly, “what a load of crap. What is this, some kind of suburbanite joke? Did your friends dare you to spend a night in a haunted house as well?”

“No, I’m sincere. I’ve always greatly enjoyed graffiti and felt it would be nice to meet a graffiti artist,” he replied.

Albert went on to explain how he lived around the corner and had been spending nights here in hopes of meeting an artist, how he’d been unsuccessful until now, how he had plenty of questions concerning the craft. She remained suspicious and skeptical, but gradually was swayed to the notion of returning to his house for a few pints and a bit of chatter.

Gradually she warmed up to him and they spent the rest of the early morning discussing the intricacies of graffiti, her personal agenda, and their lives in general. Should you like to know the particulars, I recommend you follow your own Plan B, though learn the lesson of this story and make a bit more noise.

Having talked with her well into daylight, Albert felt a bit of a connection with the strapping young graffiti artist. After she took her leave, Albert decided to continue his regimen of haunting the underground on weekend evenings. At first he continued to encounter her only intermittently, but soon she was frequenting the subway as often as he was. Indeed, they had to make arrangements to visit other sections of the subway as the spray painting became so prolific and omnipresent that it caused a minor scandaled and caught the attention of the local newspaper.

Though she was a few years his elder, they found much in common and eventually began meeting during the day over tea. Then in the evenings over a nice dinner. Then for movies and popcorn. Then for a glass of wine in the evenings. Then, as lovers.

A jovial and good natured man already, Albert became walking bliss. His friends and family noticed, even his clients made note of his increased geniality. The sun never shone so bright, unclogging toilets never satisfied so. Albert slept soundly each night while dreaming of endless niceties. He lived in an opiate haze without needles or any of the other bothers. Albert was, deeply, profoundly, inextricably, happy.

It would not last.


•8 July 2008 • 2 Comments

Word Count: 1337

Characters (no spaces): 6178


Benoit has had a very exciting week. The highlight of his week came on Wednesday at Adam’s Bar & Boo-gie. A post-renaissance band was playing, their name has probably never vibrated your organ of Corti so I won’t bother you with the particulars, but needless to say they were superbly and utterly amazing. Well, that was his assumption anyways. Adam is apparently a bit hard of hearing and the sound system was set at 11. Benoit heard little, with the exception of ferocious feedback screeching inside his head as his auditory system was overloaded. Needless to say, he got very, very, very, very, very Bolsheviked, blacked out, and made a bed of bile at a local curb with cheap rates and plenty of vacancy. Really, they’re a good studio band, but the albums don’t compare to the live shows!

Benoit is fond of saying, “The last person I remember kissing,” at which point he briefly pauses, giggles, wiggles his eyebrows, and generally uses body language to insinuate a history of binge drinking, blacking out, and, presumably, making out, “is, unfortunately, my ex-girlfriend, that cheating, two-timing, you know what! She always plastered on her makeup like a trollop, dumping her was the best thing I ever did!”

Benoit’s last relationship is a sensitive issue, as the above anecdote suggests. Despite the mean things said and the suggestion that he dumped her, she really broke his heart and he hasn’t quite recovered. Not one to date on the rebound, Benoit has been taking it slow and doesn’t want to move too fast. He is respectful of women and not looking for any cheap one nighters, “At least none that I can remember!” he yells, profusely nudging everyone within reach. Anyways, he’s been “living it up!” as a bachelor for about seven years now. Seven years and five months. Roughly. Seven years, five months, 13 days. Give or take. As of 3PM.

The last thing (alcoholic or otherwise) that Benoit drank was a fifth of Aristocrat to “Get the par-tay started!”

The last time Benoit had something to drink was 11AM this morning.

Benoit, indeed, suffers from a chronic illness, “or two!” “I’ve got a bad case of Tourette’s. That f#%!^*% c(%^ is such a s*#%-brained mongoose-f%&# and she ruined my piss-stained life!” Additionally, accusations of alcoholism are arbitrarily aimed at Benoit. “Doctor’s are all quacks! I’m just a fun machine, it’s not a disease it’s a party!”

“My favorite book is the Phantom Tollbooth. It is the greatest book ever written. Seriously, I’m not even drunk. You have a hole in your life if you have not read it. I’m not kidding. No, SERIOUSLY! A compelling story and unbelievably well crafted. A thicket of puns, word plays, and references, each read produces something new and increases the enjoyment of the book. Read it.”

“Call me sinister, but I’m left handed.”

Benoit is an only child, something he does not regret. He feels that everyone should own all of their parents’ attention and be lavished and spoilt. Though, when pressed, he will admit that it has been somewhat unfortunate that the rest of the world is not as fawning as his parents. “I’m just asking for a few dozen fan-boys and girls. Like 60 tops. I feel that’s reasonable.”

Benoit’s eye color changes with the season. In fall they are a lovely hazel. In winter, a steely grey. In spring a blossoming blood shot red. In summer, lily pad green. “I was hard up for some brew, so I traded them to science for a sixer and four pairs of glass eyes. I live life with no regrets man, no regrets.”

Benoit has several hates: racism, bigoted people, prejudice, inequality, and BBW. “No fat chicks.”

Benoit has several likes: love, peace, animals, tea, travel, sunshine, and anti-immigration legislation. “Unlike your average anti-immigration xenophobe, I actually work as a day laborer, in agriculture, busing tables, and washing dishes; they actually are taking my crappy, low wage, jobs. Gotta look out for number one, kna’ mean?”

Benoit is an anti-smoker. “I don’t have the self-control to avoid cigs, so I feel they should just be outlawed. Plus I want to be able to go wherever I want and not have to deal with that smokey aroma. Smokers should only be allowed within 15 feet of buildings I want to be in, which I estimate to be roughly the middle of the street where they can get hit by cars. Why should I be punished just because I like the hole in the wall charm of a dingy, smokey bar where I can drink and it feels more like a speak easy than a sterile, commercial wasteland? It’s not like there are plenty of places that cater to non-smokers that I can go to.”

Benoit double majored in subtlety and English with a concentration in satire.

Benoit’s favorite subjects in school are lunch and recess! If those aren’t options, then P.E. If that’s not an option then study hall. If that’s not an option then the bus ride. If that’s not an option then this class I took on Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow. “School is cool!”

“My bigest petpeeve be spelling and grammer. If im on the internet and i sea people typing things that are less then perfect, i get super anoyed. i canot count the number of times i had corrected people for misusing “there, their, and they’re!” let alone “your and you’re!” you can be 36-24-36 and if you ain’t no when to use “affect” vs “effect” you can stand on someone elses’s corner! not having all of you’re letters present is a sure way to lose an agrument. once time some kid said that i “mispelled” “the” as “teh” cause i was sozzled and my typin skills are uneven and my right hand goes faster, go figure, and the kid has the audacity to say maybe i shouldnt be correcting everyones grammar and spelling while making mistakes myself. so i said to him “your wrong! nobody whom doesnt know that misspell has a second s could never be write about anything! learn to spell next time, donkey arms!” anyways, i one that round. you getting this down ok? sure? i can edit it for you if you want… alright.”

“Plumbing would deffo be my dream job. A lot of people look down on plumbers, but sooner or later you eat too much and clog the sucker up and then who do you call? A plumber. When your sink is leaking all over your floor, who do you call? A plumber. When you’ve got ectoplasm dripping from your ceiling and onto your furniture who do you call? Well, probably the Ghostbusters would be a good shot, I don’t really have expertise in that area. But if that ectoplasm turns out to be excrement cause your toilet pipe broke somewhere in the walls, you bet your britches a plumber’s gonna be on your line soon enough. I would love to be able to just fix toilets for the rest of my life. You get to meet people from all walks of life. You meet the very wealthy (even billionaires poop) to the very poor. It’s egalitarian like that. Plus you can help out in schools and institutions without having any special learning beyond the mechanics of toilets. I don’t know anything about the French Revolution but if you’re in a private school and it’s got a bidet, be darned sure I can come in and fix that and let you get back to learning with a freshly rinses bum.”

Benoit is known as a musical connoisseur, as he puts it, his musical tastes are “everything!” Despite this, his CD collection consists nearly entirely of post-punk from the United Kingdom circa the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the notable exception of The Philosophy of the World by the Shaggs. “And, of course, I hate country. And rap. I mean really, who listens to that stuff? Ditto for classical. Talk about snoozefest.”

Chapter 2

•2 July 2008 • 1 Comment

Word Count: 1518

Characters (no spaces): 7657

Franz was not alone in his struggles against the world. His older brother, Albert, existed as well.

Albert has green eyes.

Albert believes that a conspiracy exists whereby deer are covertly taking actions with the intended result of the enslavement and/or extermination of the race we categorize as “human.”

Albert did not always hold these beliefs.

Albert, along with Franz of course (from here on please take for granted that discussions of childhood and growing up with respect to Albert parallel in the obvious respects the developments of Franz in so far as they are brothers. Further mention of Franz in this capacity will be minimal to none), grew up in Suburbia, Virginia. (In his later years, attempting to recapture his youth, Albert attempted to locate Suburbia and his former residence, but was unable to locate it on any map and could not remember his parents referring to it by any other nomenclature and found locals to be incredibly unhelpful in his search, always responding by spreading their arms out, twisting slightly at the hips with a forth and back motion, saying “Just look around,” in total disregard for the irrefutable fact that Albert had never been to this or that location and thus could not possibly recognize it as his home, no matter how hard he looked.) In Suburbia, sprawling fields of grass and acre-sized houses built with the blood of sub-prime mortgages had long displaced predators of any size or consequence. Deer meat, which does not come from cows and is consequentially unfit for consumption by any human with even the measliest quark of dignity, was unpopular. Though animal rights activists had failed to convince anyone that wearing fur was inhumane, fashionistas were able to convince everyone that it was a faux-pas to wear white after Labor Day or deer skins after the Maslenitsa of 1100 C.E. As a result, deer populations flourished.

Growing up, Albert had no fear of deer. Albert saw them prance about his garden in the evenings on occasion and quietly mourned their suicides along highway corridors. Sometimes Albert dreamed of riding them stark nude, unshaven, hair dreadlocked, in an attempt to reconvene with nature or perhaps satisfy some Freudian part of his mind.

Albert became a fine plumber, well respected in the community, hard working, honest, always a smile upon his face. During this time his relationship with deer remained constant, though his connection to nature grew fainter and he dreamt less frequently. At the age of 25, this chapter of Albert’s life came to a close.

Albert had a great aunt. She was really swell. Upon her death, she gave him all of her money. This was a highly substantial quantity, as she had been an immensely successful gold digger. She frequented hospitals for the rich and famous and arranged to be wed to and included in the wills of dozens of millionaires who had already asked for the plug to be pulled and often wanted little more than a buxom blonde to stand by the bed and greet the celebrities rotating in and out of the room paying their condolences. A philanthropist at heart, she frequently paid for plastic surgeries when up-and-coming gold diggers couldn’t bear their natural beauty any longer and opted for the polythene aesthetic.

Albert had little contact with her during her lifetime. Indeed, Albert had never met her. However, Albert was the oldest living male in the family and, having earned her fortune from men, she felt it was appropriate to return her fortune to men. Or, at least, a man.

Albert had heard rumors that money changes a man. Albert decided to substantiate these rumors.

Upon receiving his large lump sum, Albert cut ties with his family. Consequentially, Albert’s story is uncolored by Franz’s trigger finger.

Albert then went round to the abodes of his clientele. Albert handed them, each in turn, a plastic bag of the sort found on the person of a dog walker and dictated, in an understated manner, “Please clean up after yourself from now on.”

Then the deer took over.

Water shortages were becoming increasing problems. Yet, Albert noted, the deer seemed just as complacent as ever, seemingly untouched by thirst. Of course it was obvious. Deer were responsible for making dryers; the water drained from clothes went into their underground reservoirs where they drank to their hearts content while humans struggled to conserve water. Albert immediately destroyed his dryer and hung a clothesline in his yard.

Friends complimented Albert on his new, environmentally friendly ways. “Good to see the wealth hasn’t gone to your head. You’re conserving now more than ever, instead of making lavish purchases.”

Albert promptly corrected them as to his intentions. However, upon realizing that people would rather be slaves to the deer than face the truth–indeed, they rebuked Albert as “absolutely absurd” and other such alliteration–Albert began giving knowing smiles and feigned agreement and chuckled at their “green washing” puns.

Albert began exclusively using the metro as his form of transportation. The vast wastelands of asphalt and the underground tunnels were the right amount of protection from deer. With previously unimagined amounts of leisure time now available, Albert had taken to watching television and had become well aware of just how nefarious deer were. Albert watched transfixed as hunters stepped between a doe and her fawns, isolating the children for a late term abortion, when, unprovoked, the doe reared up and began vehemently kicking the hunter in the face and stomping him. Albert decided it was best not to enter the woods or any other area where plants could grow, as it seemed unwise to challenge the deer on their own turf.

Albert was a skilled pianist, having won accolades for composing the piano accompaniment to John Cage’s 4’33” which Albert frequently played for guests. Now Albert only wrote songs about deer. He went so far as to self-release an album entitled, “Nevermind the Bollocks, Deer are Coming!” Turn magazine raved “Better than the Beatles!” while Stationary Rock gave it a tentative three stars adding the disclaimer that, should it turn out to be a massive success, they would review it again in ten years and give it five stars. Nonetheless, nobody seemed to catch on to the serious politics espoused on the album.

Albert, still willing to warn humanity of its impending doom, began inundating the internet with conspiracy theories concerning how deer would most likely continue their war and what their possible motives could be. By spamming forums, blogs, and various comment sections, Albert began gaining notice for his videos and blogs. In particular, many began to give serious consideration to Albert’s assertion that deer were, despite conflicting claims elsewhere on the internet, responsible for 9/11.

Albert was actually rather baffled that nobody had made the connection before. What got blown up? The World Trade Center. What does trade need to function? Big trucks. What do big trucks need? Asphalt. What do deer hate? Asphalt. Bam. The whole plot was blown wide open.

Albert assumed that when international borders opened up people from the Middle East had moved to the United States of God Bless America. Here they discovered deer. Albert assumed that deer did not live elsewhere in the world because, hell, why would they? America is the greatest nation on earth. Bewildered by these strange creatures, the recent immigrants were fooled into believing every lie they told. However, the story has earlier origins.

In the 1970s C.E. deer made their first attempt to extinguish the human race. They were frequent cavorters with a man named Samson who fell under their influence. They convinced Samson to begin killing people to make way for the promised land. Should he be caught, Samson was instructed to name dogs as his co-conspirators in order to protect deer from suspicion. Samson was caught within a few years, having hardly reduced the human population at all. The deer were greatly distressed.

With the immigrants, the deer used a different tactic. The deer told the immigrants that they, the deer, had once been from the Middle East too. But the evil leaders of America had turned them into animals for not working hard enough for small enough pay. They used a magic spell, code named “freedom,” and freedom had to be taken away and the government destroyed before the deer could return to their normal form. The deer told the immigrants to warn their relatives and friends in their home countries of the great injustices and sorcery going on. As a word of parting, the deer instructed the immigrants not to attempt further contact with the deer and, not wanting to reuse their previous instructions but not being particularly creative, the deer insisted that the immigrants should name gods as their co-conspirators.

On top of all this, Albert insinuated a global cover-up. Side effects of this cover-up included global warming, high gas prices, inflation, restricted civil liberties, sweat shops, drug use, and a general decline in morality.

Shortly after publishing this theory, Albert went missing and is believed to be a detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

Chapter 1

•30 June 2008 • 4 Comments

Word Count: 1531

Character Count (without spaces): 7577

On several occasions during an ill defined periodic time frame Franz fell victim to calamitous and unbearable panic attacks. You see (to state the obvious), his fight or flight was a tad william-nilliam. For some reason his mind had a rather strange aversion to the Babelian skyscrapers, endless petroleum driveways cuckolded by concrete walkways, darkness of night that never comes, and the ability to meet 30,000 people in a quick, one squared mile jaunt. Despite orating articulate and well enunciated treatises, essays, and syllogisms towards the grey matter in question, all of which tended towards verbose permutations of “everyone else is going on just fine, so let’s just be lemmings about it and stop this bother,” Franz found himself unable to overcome these rather plaguy maladies.

Sucking it up, Franz went on with his life, pausing infrequently during the waxing moon to further cajole and entreaty his stubborn noodle into placidity, unsuccessfully. It was not long after one such pleading when Franz found himself taking a vacation.

Leaving the city on a rare excursion, Franz journeyed inward to Niagara Falls. He briefly considered leaving the country altogether and spending time in Canada, but his fondness for bacon with his brekkers and his complete contempt and disgust for ham quickly stifled this notion. Additionally, the thought of clean cities and friendly citizens riled him to the core and gave him quite severe cardialgia.

During his trip he was confronted with quite a weighty quandary. As noted, he was prone to confronting his synapses on the issue of their altogether abuse of him on several occasions during an ill defined periodic time frame only during the waxing moon. A strong creature of habit, he had absolutely no desire to complicate matters by dealing with this vexation at other times. However, during the waning of the moon a curious conception wiggled and waggled its way into his thoughts. The ideogenetic mechanism proved to be a trash television show hosted on a mangy vulpine. Between commercials contestants confronted their fears in an appallingly sensational manner in hopes of finally overcoming their lifelong handicaps which ranged from acrophobia to xenophobia. The usual result was a significant quantity of screaming and pant wetting coupled with tenuous and amorphous speculation that perhaps they had finally found a remedy for their lifelong aversion to this and/or that. Presumably the characters on the show returned home after their lovely stay in fantabulous LA promoting the glories of carcinogen bronzed skins and after meal purgations nonetheless still completely petrified of this and/or that, perhaps even more so now that they had come face to face, tête-à-tête with the sheer horror inducing mass of this and/or that. Despite this presumption, made with something approaching the upper limit of absolute certainty, Franz felt that this could likely be the way to finally conquer his undesirable state.

“Logic is fail, it has served me naught. Now is the time to unroll the red carpet and usher in the new dawn of mass media, mob rule, fallacious thinking, conmen, hacks, false advertisement, and generally asinine thinking!” Franz shouted belligerently at his hotel wall with its hotel lamp and hotel pictures and hotel patterns.

Now is an opportune time to mention that the walls and ceilings of his own home did not resemble in the slightest those of the hotel he was currently situated in. Franz’s ailment arose from a deep-seated claustrophobia. This affected his life thusly: he refused to take the subway or taxis, taxis being too confined and the subway being too enclosed by the underground which enveloped it. He opted instead for the bus with its fairly spacious, above ground routes. Though, never during the busy hours of the day, indeed, that would be quite unbearable. Secondly, he had his rooms painted with a great deal of perspective. His ceiling resembled the sky and his walls resembled great expanses of rooms and gardens. His hallways were wallpapered with mirrors to create infinite space. A strange world, but his guests quite enjoyed the novelty of it all and praised him for his curiously good taste.

Having resolved to absurdify his approach to the irksome problem of confined spaces, Franz placed his faith in the great plastic box of crystals which had already shown him the way in a vivid red green blue spectrum of insight. He pressed a predetermined numerical code into the remote control. Nearly instantly Eraserhead appeared on the screen. Ravenous to receive the answer to his problems, Franz held on to the edge of his seat and anticipated.

The conclusion of the film left Franz in a tizzy.

“Surely, that was a fine piece of experimental film work which pushed the boundaries of cinema in ways previously unachieved. However, I haven’t the slightest what solutions to my life have been provided! Not only that, I am further uncertain as to whether or not I even understood the movie. I have no Josef to interpret this for me and am beginning to lose faith in televised augurs.”

Despairing, he absentmindedly changed the channel. The television went unwatched for quite some time, blurred out of focus by barely withheld tears pushing the boundaries of surface tension upon bloodshot eyes. Gradually Franz became aware that something new was to be seen: a local documentary on the history of Niagara Falls in popular conception. He observed landscape painters create sublime portraits and tightrope walkers precariously cross above it. Finally, the moment all had been waiting for, barrels. Not just any barrels of course, barrels of people. That is, people in barrels who had the ingenious idea to launch themselves over the falls contained in barrels. Initially, just the sight of such close quarters tightened his chest and made rapid his breathing, but, soon, Franz came to the realization that his faith had not been misplaced, that he had been given the answer to his worries and that should he so choose them, there were blue skies and sunshine to be had.

The next morning Franz set about procuring a barrel, which turned out to be somewhat of a difficult task, as barrels had become rather obsolete and archaic by the epoch in which he existed. Finally, he managed to obtain one from a local junkyard.

Upon reaching the top of the falls, he became stingingly aware that he wasn’t quite sure how to keep the lid on the barrel as he went over the falls. It seemed quite transparent that he should have the lid on in order to maximize the confinement and fully face down his fears. Lamenting, he went back down into the town and puzzled. He settled on a contraption whereby a hole was drilled in the center of the lid and a rope was knotted at one end and the other end was passed through the hole and into the barrel. This way Franz would be able to grasp the rope, keeping it taught and securing the lid. He marched back to the top of the falls.

By now it was mid-morning and he began to fret that tourists would overwhelm the falls and prevent him the privacy he required to complete his quest. He quickly waded out into the water and climbed into the barrel.

Needless to say, it was fortunate that Niagara Falls has a plethora of water, as this properly washed out the barrel which Franz had filled with screams and excrement nearly immediately upon entering. Miraculously, he suffered only minor scrapes and bruises, along with a good dousing.

Franz doggy-paddled over to the shore, exhausted and damp, collapsing on the rocks. After lying there for upward of twenty-three minutes, Franz recovered his senses and began to take stock of the world around him.

He was incredibly relieved to be free of that dreadful barrel.

“Truly, nothing could possibly have been more constraining and terrifying! After that experience, taxi cabs will certainly feel like walking along the prairie!”

Then it hit him. There was space all around him. Six inches to the nearest rock. Ten feet to the water’s edge. Two miles to his hotel. Hundreds of miles to Washington, D.C. Thousands of miles to Prague. Millions of miles to the sun. Light years upon light years to other solar systems. Infinite distance to the edge of the universe. Too. Much. Space.

Franz panicked. He grabbed his chest. He sucked in air. He covered his face. Nothing helped. He ran. He ran and ran and ran. In town he found a bank and withdrew several hundred dollars. He found the nearest pawnshop, not near enough for his tastes. Under the table, he bought the biggest caliber gun available. The caliber was unwieldy in its magnitude. Whole forests stood petrified with mind numbing terror when faced with the barrel of the gun. Franz returned hastily to his hotel room, ripping everything off the wall. Laid bare, the canvas awaited.

Meticulously, Franz organized his synapses upon the wall in a manner recalling fractal geometry with a quick squeeze upon the firing mechanism and a loud booming which would have deafened him had the sound traveled fast enough to reach his ears while they were still properly working.

The fear ceased.