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You Know, There’s an Easier Way to Do That
You know, there’s an easier way to do that.
“Men only need two things,” his eyes looked like tired sand dollars, “beer and something naked to look at.” Raucous laughter rapped against the rafters of the hardware store. Chests bent over knees, tears sneaked out of wincing eyelids. Near the caulk guns, across from a leering crow statue, I imagined a woman with— with long blonde hair, a deaf woman, glancing furtively in our direction, imagined her imagining that we were all being shot. It really looked like we were all being shot. I’ve always wanted to look at myself from someone else, except I always worry that I’ll see something that I don’t like; that I’ve had some vision of myself all this time and then when I become someone else to see myself I realize that I’m some conceited ass that is so self immersed that he—I can’t be someone else anyway. “And it doesn’t matter which order they come in!” At this point the deaf woman with long blonde hair would have thought that the communists had just barged down the door and machine-gunned us till we were rolling around the scarred linoleum like ground ridden seals. I have nothing against communists though. His sand dollars crumbled and sprinkled the floor with a sheen powder. He had us now. I hope I’m like him someday because look, I’m someone else looking at him and I don’t see some self-absorbed ass. Unless his jokes are a way of diverting our attention away from his ass-like qualities. Well, s***.
This is a new character.
Today, I ate my fortune cookie. Yes my fortune cookie. Anyway I started eating my cookie, right, and—well it’s bad luck to not have eaten the cookie before reading the fortune. Not kosher. Not that I’m superstitious, I’m just paranoid. Except I feel like if I were paranoid I would think about being paranoid more but I really try to avoid the subject. Just sometimes you know I’m— I’m— say I’m at Safeway right? And I move my cart down the aisle to get more cleaning supplies, ya know bleach and Windex and that s***— I used to use Fantastik but I’m convinced it gave me mono— and I move my cart past this woman, at least I think it was a woman. She had on these bizarre earrings that made me think aliens had probed her and attached these things to her head. I hope that never happens to me, or at least if it did that someone would tell me about the f***in’ antennae sticking out of me for Christ’s sake. Anyway she kinda gives me a dirty look, right, and it throws me off for the rest of the day. What did I do to this women? I don’t deserve this. And so I’m thinking well could it just be ya know that time of the month and— s*** back to the fortune cookie. So my girlfriend comes home she opens up a fortune cookie. Guess what it says. I don’t know why people say that I mean who has any f***in’ clue what to say when someone says that they just say “what” back to you and you go on with the story. Here, don’t guess, this is what it says: You have a yearning for perfection 06 10 09 31 22 49. That was my goddamn fortune. Even the same goddamn numbers. Those are my lucky numbers. And I’m not superstitious even, she is. She ate the cookie after she read the fortune. The nerve. The f***in’ nerve. Anyway so I explode, who can blame me, right, she stole my fortune I mean you can’t have two fortunes out there or it ruins the thought of the whole thing, and she gets all in a fluster—and I’m thinking well it could just be that time of the month, ya know what I mean?
And then she walks out the door.
All this over a f***in’ fortune, I mean really the nerve. The f***in’ nerve. Of course, maybe it wasn’t just that she was jealous that I got the fortune first so mine is the only one that really counts. Maybe she left because of that time that I forgot to feed her cat for three days but c’mon a person forgets I mean I’m human I don’t have antennae sticking out of my goddamn neck at least I’m not some psycho, right. Or this morning she was talking about f***in’ vogue and she wasn’t even reading vogue it was some tabloid magazine a psycho would read. Yeah take—uh—no so yesterday I’m walking down the street and out of nowhere a fly shoots like Haley’s f***in’ comet into my mouth. The nerve, the f***in’…
Morning materialized in a languorous lapse of divine decision. Mornings always feel like an accident. Against the wall the mirror lurks suspiciously. I see and am seen. Shards of sunlight slice through, distorting the image. The rays disperse and silhouettes imprint the ceiling with fleeting determination like stars, dark stars, against the morning sky. When I see the billions of stars above, see how obsolete I am in the grand scheme of things, it comforts me. No one would want to live with some grand cosmic responsibility. That’s why I’m convinced that there’s either no God or hundreds of Gods because if it were just one guy he would’ve quit awhile ago. Or maybe there was and maybe he has. I don’t understand this fascination with the future. Why are human’s so insecure that they need their life so—so explained. Oh well.
The booth is ornate, dazzles. Gold and red and yellow. And black. Black that consumes the rest like a hungry tornado, but hides. Hides right there in the open. Hides so that once you realize everything has been consumed by its maw, gnashing in Gold and red and yellow, the future is all you have left. So what if this— this fortune teller tells me: “Lucky for you bub, you’re going to be a tall and a dark and a handsome lawyer.” Well s***, let’s all clap for me. If a fortune teller told me that I would do everything in my power to avoid becoming a lawyer. I would torch law schools with a vengeance. I would work my way up to the president of Merriam-Webster and set fire to every dictionary with the word lawyer in it. The year is 2046. Dogs dance on their hind legs. Dishwashers speak English. Charlie Sheen is still a champion. And there are no lawyers. Let’s all clap for me. I have nothing against lawyers though. Sometimes I just say things. I need to go to the hardware store with my Dad later. Let’s see what the future holds. For me.
She’s new too.
This one time, I remember it was Monday because Mondays I always go and walk My mom’s dog, I— saw— well that wasn’t the best way to start the story. So it’s a Monday. And I’m walking my dog— My mom’s dog. Oh, right right, she says to me before I go to watch for javelina and I haven’t seen a javelina for awhile around here. And mom— well, sometimes I don’t know. So I’m walking and it’s a Monday and I’m going down this hill and I see this silhouette at the crest of the hill in front of me. These hills are soft and slow and dead, we’re not talking about mountains here. Well this silhouette it moves maybe six feet forward and it looks like a javelina and I get scared because the dog we’re talking about is more cake frosting than dog, my dad says that all the time, and it starts running. The javelina does.
Then I realize it’s a dog running after a rabbit.
Javelina’s don’t look like dogs. The owner really shouldn’t have let the dog off leash. Thinking about it I think something about how the coloring of its fur aligned looked like a snout. But maybe I was expecting it after what mom said. mom— poor Dad.
“You know, there’s an easier way to do that.” Breakfast belches. Squelching chews. Chewing squelches.
“I want to do it this way.”
“Have you read the comics today?”
“No c’mon tell me.”
“Did you read the comics?”
“No. The newspaper is depressing. A killing here a psycho there and where does it leave me huh? No. I’m fine in my world.”
“The comics are fun though.”
“Yeah okay so let me read something that I could never create and am not funny enough to even f***in’—f***ing conceive.” Real scintillating conversation love. “Why are you still doing that?”
“It’s in vogue.”
“In vogue my ass,” my voice scuttled through the air like a cherub playing the flute.
“It is in vogue. Vogue magazine.”
“Now that has to be bullshit.”
“Do you read Vogue?” I feel like when people say the word vogue they can’t help but sound so— uh s*** what’s the word starts with an f— or or a d or some s***. Aw hell never mind.
“I’ve never seen even an issue of vogue all I know is that there isn’t a special fold out about ‘how to eat breakfast like a psycho.’”
“You should really read an issue. It’s quite— quite breathtaking.”
“You won’t read it.”
“The December issue was divine.” I think the Cardinals lost yesterday.
“All I know is that whatever you’re reading isn’t vogue, and whatever the hell you’re doing is— is uh preposterous.” Pretentious, s*** there it is.
“Sometimes a challenge is good for the soul. Lets you engage your awareness beyond,” squelch squelch squelch squelch, “beyond your own thoughts. You should really read it.” That sounds Vague not vogue.
“Good.” Chew chew chew chew.
“You’re eating cereal with a knife though.”
“I know honey.”
You know, there seems to be precipitation in the air.
5:47 PM and 48 seconds
“I think it’s raining.” Fluorescent white light.
“No s*** it’s raining.” Lank hair.
“Don’t talk to him like that.” Gruff and aged.
“It’s okay Stan, I don’t mind.” Ten feet on the ground.
“You better damn well mind.” Aged and gruff.
“Don’t talk to him like that.” The lank hair slid like a shower curtain, sarcasm consumed the words like a swelling flame. The sliding glass doors framed a torn sky. Clouds, puffed with hope, yet stifling. Quintessential blue had been bullied behind a drape of smutty grey. The sparsely populated, sparsely green, trees leaned away from the sky like ragged beggars. Beggars who had conquered the heat. Beggars who had survived many a monsoon. Beggars who, today, were scared. Despite their victories existence had always been a fragile balance between luck and determination. These faces stared stoically at the broiling storm.
“It’s definitely raining now.” A clock peered down like a giddy gargoyle from the far wall. Its thin red tongue ticked slowly and quickly. Meticulous, methodical, measured. Thirty three times it inched its way closer, closer to the place it had started. The meticulous and methodical and measured ticks enveloped the seething silence. Never is it true silence. Humans perceive silence as a lack of speaking, but there are always noises. Noises slithering beneath the floor, flapping above the ceiling. Noises pelting the parking space to the left of Mona’s Danish Bakery, to the right of a cracked light post, and in front of ACE hardware store.
“So why isn’t your dad here today?” Fingers brushed white stubble subconsciously.
“He— he let me get the stuff myself. Today.” Hands came together in a gesture of discomfort, fingers grasping the other hand’s thumb.
“You’re driving now?”
“Well,” synapses sought the answer “no.”
“Hah that f***in’ sucks.” Robert Langford (his Mother’s maiden name) Radlinski laced fingers through his limp hair and brushed it aside, to which it promptly returned to its original position. His name is Robert Langford Radlinski, but people like to call him Rad. Robert Langford Radlinski is the only one who calls him Rad.
“Don’t talk to him like that.” Old and rough.
“Well, it does suck.” Fingers kept grip of thumb.
“Well, I have to get home to my lady,” Rad leaned over the cash register and grabbed his ACE bag. The plastic underbelly dragged across the stagnant conveyor belt.
“You don’t want to be driving when the weather’s like this, you know that Robert.”
“Well, my lady will get antsy if I’m not home.” Rad winked like a drunk parrot.
“That’s the second time you’ve said that.” The thumb escaped its prison.
“What do you mean.”
“Not even sleazy assholes like you are that insecure that they have to announce like that to the entire room. Look at what you have in that bag. You bought tape. No one drives to ACE to get some piece of s*** scotch tape and then stays here for another thirty minutes after they buy the— the damn thing.” His tongue retracted rapidly like a tape measure.
“He has a point. And you don’t want to be driving when the weather’s like this.”
He left. The sliding glass doors that framed a torn sky slid wearily in a gesture of resigned servitude. There was something about this sky. Something about the stubborn flora and the prickly fauna. A quality easily blurred by sunlight and sweat streaks. Humans are the alien life form and it is hard to avoid that realization and because of that the aliens try not to alienate one another. There are just as many assholes and just as many murderers and just as many rapists and just as many people who drive and talk on their cellphones. But the aliens know that they need each other.
“You think he’ll come back?” Liam Radcliffe (his Mother’s Father’s name) Lester discreetly checked his appearance in the sliding glass doors that framed a torn sky.
“Do you ever think about the future Stan?”
“Not as much. Sometimes it’s better to just take one day at a time. You can’t know, and if you think about it too much you become some delusional— you become like Rad there.”
“He was better.”
“I can’t really picture him any other way.”
“I can’t anymore either.” Whimpers. Liam tentatively peered around the counter, an explorer expecting The Beast in the Jungle. “Don’t worry she’s more cake frosting than dog,” Stan peered back to view the effect of his wit. As if to emphasize this assertion, Sheba plopped unceremoniously into sight. “I have a funny story about her you know so—” Rad strode into ACE hardware store. Their heads swiveled like security cameras. Four meticulous and methodical and measured ticks.
“There was thunder— well lightning.” Rad.
“Anyway so my wife well she—” Stan.
“That’s it?” Rad.
“What is?” Liam’s fingers fiddled with a plastic divider.
“That’s it? No psychoanalyzing me?”
“Well, you didn’t seem like you would—” Stan rose from his stool.
“The nerve. The f***in’ nerve.”
“You remind me of this book I read.” Liam’s fingers were still not convinced that the conversation was more interesting than the divider.
“Here we go.” Rad.
“Well—” Liam stared at the clock “I read this book by William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying. And you’re like it.”
“Wait what about your girlfriend? Isn’t she—” Liam.
“She left.” The gargoyle restrained his swishing tongue.
“Well you remind me of As I Lay Dying because— well— this book I mean I could tell you the plot in thirty seconds. It’s about its style, and there doesn’t seem to be much else going on but the confusing bullshit. Like you. You strut around and say f*** You and f*** That just because there isn’t anything else there. Or doesn’t seem to be. But along with style the book it—conveyed a message, it told you something about life. The plot made a difference, but was more symbolic than exciting. Some people would just throw the book down after ten sentences, but you have to learn something from it and think about it not just dismiss it.”
“Stan tell your f***in’ story.” Rad stared at the clock.
“Well, okay. So my wife—” Trees leaned away from the sky like ragged beggars.