Flash Fiction: Welcome to the Postmodern World

Names. Names are important. Maybe your name is Jill or Jim or Debbie or Gustav. Remember your name. Other things that are important: hygiene, alarm clocks, speaking (not necessary but recommended), how trees breathe, the latter-day history of the Roman Empire, the daily motions of survival (eating, drinking, sleeping, fighting off deadly viruses with a mouthful of vitamin C tablets and mental fortitude).
These will all be explained in full, later, in Appendix A-5: Hierarchy of Important Stuff for Important People.

Shower. This is part of hygiene. Wash in order: face, behind your ears, the nape of the neck, shoulders, that mole on your chest, belly button, nether-erotics, legs, between your toes, the whole buttock. But feel no need to explain what you do or do not wash. What happens in the shower is between you and God (Concept of Supernatural Higher Powers That May Smite You to be discussed, later, in the Index of Reasons for Living/Dying).

Dress. This is part of alarm clocks. Underwear, shirt (no, not that one… yes, neutral colors), pants*, a gold-studded leather belt with your astrological sign, grey socks, brown boat shoes for that nautical aristocratic touch. Human society values pants* above all else. When animals start wearing trousers, we’ll have to rethink our identity. Pants* conceal your nether-erotics and allow for storage of house keys, wallet, pack of mint chewing gum, short list of famous quotations from Groucho Marx and/or actual Marxists, cellphone, spare coins from countries you’d like to visit. A pat check for these essentials should be performed before you exit into the world outside.

Welcome to the Postmodern World.

That glowing ball of fire in the sky is the sun, rises and then falls at day’s end, hits a trampoline behind the horizon line and bounces up again in the morning. There are shops where you buy things, restaurants where you eat with people or eat alone, and bars where you meet people for drinks or drink alone. There are offices where you work, usually divided into smaller offices and cubicles with up to but no more than three desks.

You will be assigned a desk. Here you will work. Desks are organized surface for thought. This has something to do with the mystical power of rectangles. Any other shaped desk is confusing and may affect your work. It’s scientifically proven.

Time at your desk = money. Money is the currency for survival, exchanged for edible foodstuffs, clothes, entertainment (flashing electro-images, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll). Keep paper money in your wallet with no less than $5 and no more than $100 at all times. Unless you’re really rich, in which case you should carry a platinum billfold brimming with hundred-dollar bills, freshly soaked in formaldehyde. According to Robert’s Rules of Affluence, you should always laugh maniacally like a super villain when handing over money, smell the bills suspiciously when you receive your change.

When encountering people you know, make eye contact and say “hello!” Otherwise avoid eye contact. When introducing yourself to people you don’t know, say “hello, I am…” followed by your name. If you have trouble remembering your name, say “excuse me,” run quickly home, lock the door, weep in the potted petunias by the windowsill for your failures, and practice this interaction in the mirror before another trial run out into the postmodern world. Forgetting your name can be cause for public embarrassment.

Other public embarrassments: pouring things on yourself, getting stuck in revolving doors, losing your pants*.

If you enjoy the personal interaction, smile and continue eye contact. If you don’t, make a displeased face and refuse to look the person in the eye again. If you are touched, reciprocate. Be careful with this. This may spiral out of control and get you arrested and/or fired from your desk. Without your organized surface for thought, you will most certainly go mad and ended up a raving loon on the destitute streets of endless hunger. A simple rectangular sidewalk tile should suffice to reorient yourself, so that you can return to the good graces of functioning society.

Things you want: sex, money, power… prestige.

– Douglas A. Wright

Artwork by Andrew Breitenberg, originally published in Exit Strata: Print! No.1.

Flash Fiction: Donald Trump Rides An Elephant

Donald rides an elephant. He is the best rider. He has the best riding method with his gold stir-up boots astride the grey weathered armor of the old elephant. His yuge hands grip its ears, screaming into its cavernous eardrum that it’s fat, dumb, and ugly.

He has the best riding stance. Confident, regal like a king, like a winner. Million-dollar suit and a soviet red tie, the scalps of fallen Republicans stuffed in his breast pocket. He is charming. He is handsome. His hair is a perfect, wind-swept golden coif that flutters gracefully in the breeze, like a dead ferret on a flagpole.

Riding alongside on a donkey is Pedro the Kid, his most loyal friend (whose actually name is Miguel and he’s Ecuadorian, not Mexican as Donald insists, and he’s unsure how he ended up the riding companion of this orangutan con-man in an ill-fitted suit, but it’s a job and he doesn’t have much choice in the matter since Donald is holding onto his immigration papers for safe keeping until his 18th birthday).

Donald orders Pedro to whip the elephant into action. He feels a tremendous erotic power as the leather switch smacks its rump and excites the tired old beast into a stampede. The elephant is frantic, charging in no particular direction. Donald doesn’t even like riding the damn elephant. He rides for country. He rides for freedom. He rides to make America great again.

He tramples across the country from Ohio to Florida, gathering a pitchfork army of patriots with a folksy understanding of the world circa 1953. Leave It to Beaver and the Atom Bomb. You can tell how much they love America by their apparel. Hats, shirts, underwear in stars and stripes. Everything branded red, white, and blue.

He wraps his big mouth around the megaphone. The best mouth, the best tongue, the best words. He tells his followers that the country is bankrupt and corrupt. A dystopian hellscape of crime and poverty. It’s the fault of the liberals, the feminists, the illegals, the dangerous others. Build a wall and kick them all out.

There’s no room for freeloaders in his America, no room for any citizen who won’t pull themselves up from his bootstraps. He is proof of the American dream. He made his fortune the old fashioned way with a $10 million-dollar trust-fund from his father, carefully invested in casinos, cocaine, and gilded hotels emblazoned with his name.

Now he’s worth billions in debt. A shrewd (albeit braggadocious) businessman who makes deals and breaks deals and declares bankruptcy four times, leaving his stupid investors and his short-sighted contractors with a bill of empty promises. A self-made man. A true American.

I am what America needs, he tells Pedro. The logic is infallible. Only the most corrupt businessman in America can fight corruption in Washington. He’s like Bruce Wayne with better hair. He knows the game. Lobbyists and loopholes and corporate welfare for the rich and powerful. It’s a game he wins every time. He is the ultimate winner.

Except when he’s losing. Because he knows deep down that America is a casino and the voters are suckers pulling the slots, playing a rigged game. Once he’s declared king of these great United States, he will fix American Democracy for his faithful supporters, just like he fixed Atlantic City.

He commands Pedro to strike the elephant harder, faster, against its protests. And so Donald charges toward the windmill of Election Day. Dauntless, mendacious, and full of self-righteous pride.

Life in a Box – The Offbeat

Life in a Box, a short story about the claustrophobia of cubicle life, was published last month in The Offbeat Literary Magazine. Unfortunately, The Offbeat is strictly a print magazine so there’s no online link. But I did perform an early version of the short story back in the day at Goodbye Blue Mondays with friend/jazz guitarist Chris Conly and his ever-changing trio. Amazing group of musicians. I just walked into the studio, riffed off the theme that was in my head while writing the story, and the band immediately started playing the tune on the spot.

Here’s the audio link to live performance of Life in a Box.

Photo Credit: Matchbox by Allard Architecture

Flash Fiction: The History of All Things

Hello blog-o-sphere,

It’s been a long while since I’ve contributed to this writer’s blog, so hello again! The kind folks at Apocrypha & Abstractions published this weird little flash fiction of mine among some great writers in their August issue and I’ve just gotten around to posting it.

“We belong to the history of all things,” he said and then he put down the hammer, the grooves in the steel deep and narrow, a clockwork of concentric rings spiraling to the black tooth, how we marveled at the craft, the magic of it, so effortless with fire tongs and burning blade in such old wise hands, we the blood refugees of a forgotten time, we the slaves of the shadow glass, nameless orphans in the iron belly of the great machine…”

Read More at:

Cool online magazine of all things flash, definitely worth checking out.

Happy Fall!

Plain Jane – Jazz Noir

This is the live performance of Plain Jane, a jazz noir experiment a few years back at the Roger Smith Gallery in New York for John Mclane’s Shotgun Project. All music composed by Mike MacAllister, with exception of the Plain Jane theme (which I wrote for the piece). Jazz trio is Gerad O’Shea on tenor sax, Jamie Bishop on upright bass, and Mike MacAllister on electric guitar.

Part 1. “Rude Awakening”

Part 2. “Coffee & Jam”

Part 3. “Motel Room #19”

Part 4. “Dirty Laundry”

Part 5. “Morning Paper”

Negotiating with Tigers: Safe Practices

When negotiating with tigers, remember… keep your distance.

Talk softly, slowly, no sudden movements, and remember to freshen up with a mint beforehand.

Always say you’ll give in to its demands for a) a barge of elk or b) to release all the tigers from the park zoo, but DON’T because 1) elk are hard to come by nowadays and 2) tigers don’t play well with children.

Be on guard, though. Tigers are tricky.

Try to talk it down, because that Venetian lamp isn’t worth fifty bucks. Look, it’s scratched. You call that Murano glass? Although the tiger may look like it’s upset, start gnashing its teeth and salivating in a manner that can only be interpreted as predatory (or the onset of an aneurysm), don’t be fooled. The furry bastards love to haggle.

Tell it in a calm voice to 1) quit bitching about the rent, you get paid on Friday 2) it’s not your mother and you’ll come home at whatever hour you please 3) stop leaving dirty pots and pans on your bed, you’ll do the dishes in the morning.

Don’t be afraid to face off in a tête-à-tête and assert that you deserve a raise for your nine months of hard work, and no, you won’t work on Sundays, and that it’s ridiculous you can’t get health insurance just because you missed the one-month window to apply with Aetna. What’s up with that? But keep your distance as this should prevent a) relentless mauling b) getting fired.

If the tiger looks hungry, feed it… quickly. No explanation needed really, but here’s a fail-safe recipe for ragu bolognese in case you don’t have one on hand: one box of rigatoni, cook al dente, mix in sauce and minced meat, fresh plum tomato, sautéed garlic in olive oil. Oregano, pepper, salt. Garnish with basil. But make sure that the sauce is thick. Tigers may love pasta, but if the sauce is too soupy, and without the right amount of fresh pepper, you can say goodbye to your leg.

Pull over, be polite, apologize for not having your registration card and explain: No, you have no idea how fast you were driving, but you’re sure it was below the speed limit… Stop sign?… One beer, you know the law.

Feel free to argue that the tiger doesn’t exist and that it’s impossible to negotiate with something that doesn’t exist, but avoid a) Wittgenstein b) Descartes c) allusions to apriori knowledge of the universe. Pre-Socratics, also ineffective.

Be sure to explain to the tiger: That it’s not it, it’s you. You’re not emotionally ready for a relationship right now. You’re in a strange place in your life and you need to figure things out on your own. And, although it may be difficult, that you want to negotiate with other tigers.

If you find yourself at an impasse, briefly debate the relativity of truth and hide behind a large rock. This almost always works.

But if all else should fail, shoot it with a tranquillizer gun and run. Because the sad truth is, nine times out of ten, you can’t negotiate with tigers. They are tricky.

Click here for the audio track of Negotiating with Tigers