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Aug 20, 2014



Aug 20, 2014

"A man lives, loves, loses, and regains his family while touring the Mediterranean Sea."

When you can read the world

I couldn’t see the kids for ten minutes and that was pretty good. My pink skin hurt like hell and the youngest one had kept slapping my arms where the red was worst. I told him to stop, but that’s kids. They ran off when they realized I wasn’t going to fight back. I closed my eyes, stretched my legs, and pretended like I was on an island.

“Excuse me?”

I looked up, squinting through my sunglasses. Fanny-pack, wrinkles, light blue button-down shirt, khaki shorts. English accent. “Yeah?”

“I think your children just took off.” She pointed toward the beach.

I looked around. “poo poo.”

She was concerned, maybe pushy, but it was easy to ignore. I got up from the bench and started in that direction, ignoring her protests, ready to strangle the lot of them. Part of me wouldn’t mind a drowned brood. It would make for a good story.


The first time I came to Italy, I was drunk. It was study abroad and I didn’t care about the classics. I liked this American bar with loud music, but nobody else did. That was fine; my roommates were assholes, Business majors, but I wasn’t much better. Anthropology and English. I thought I was Claude Levi-Strauss, but really I was a tourist with a student visa.

It was my third night there when I spotted her. Long brown hair, low cut top, seemed to be alone. Four bottles of Peroni later and I’m sidling up next to her like I’d ever approached a girl in a bar before.

“Hey, I’m John.”

“Hi John.” Thick Italian accent and big brown eyes.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

She paused, and then gave me this shy smile I’d remember until I died. “Okay, sure.”

I caught the bartender, who gave me a look, but in the thrill of the moment I was too dumb to notice it.

It took twenty minutes and three more drinks. We spoke in clipped English. I tried out some Italian, but she mostly laughed and shook her head. I wanted to know more, like what she was doing alone, but she was only interested in laughing too loudly and asking me about American pop culture.

Rhianna and Chris Brown, I told her, are in an open relationship with Prince. Paul McCartney planned to donate his body to science. Ke$ha dropped the dollar sign, said it was too expensive. She was delighted.

“It’s getting late,” she said, looking at the door.

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

“Maybe you will walk me home?”

I took the hint. “Of course.”

Out in the night then. She smiled at me as we rounded a corner. I followed her through the tiny streets, no clue where I was after just a few minutes. I tried to grab her hand and hold it but she shrugged me off in a way that left it open to interpretation.

We turned right down another street. “It’s here,” she said.

I felt like I was going to pass out. “You live here?”

Half way down the tiny alley, every door boarded shut, she turned to me.

“Sorry, John.”

I cocked my head. That’s when the big guy hit me, or at least I think he was big. Everything was fuzzy afterward. There was a flash in my vision, the cartoonish “seeing stars” thing, and I hit the ground. I felt hands all around me, rifling through my pockets, but I could only slur and mumble. The girl was long gone. I couldn’t remember her name.


The sand was hot so I left my shoes on. I looked right then left but couldn’t see the kids anywhere. I knew panic was only a few minutes away, but I was keeping it off my face. There were only older tourists and a few locals trying to sell cheap crap trudging along the waves. I craned my head around a low stone wall, probably built by Julius Ceasar, but couldn’t catch sight of them.

I began to walk. It was better than doing nothing, and the sun felt good on my skin.

That was a bad sign.

Up ahead, as the beach bent out toward the coast, I caught sight of an old carousel. That was a good sign. If I knew my kids, and I really didn’t, but if I did they’d probably head right toward it.

I stepped onto the concrete and looked at the paint-chipped thing, the lights hardly still hung, the mirrors splintered and spiderwebbed. The operator was a young guy in tight white pants leaning against an electrical box.

“Excuse me,” I said.

He looked up.

“Did you see some kids come through here?”

He shrugged and looked back down at his phone.

I pulled out some cash and held it up. He took it and shrugged. “I see many kids.”

“There are three of them, two boys and a girl. Americans. They sorta look like miniature versions of me.”

He squinted at me. “Yes, I saw.”

“Where’d they go?”

He pointed further down the beach. “There.”

I walked back onto the sand. I could feel the guy’s gaze linger as I wandered down along the beach, and I wondered if parents lost their kids all the time. Maybe they do, and for different reasons. My reason was negligence. On the list, that’s not too bad.


Staring up at the sky, I thought my ribs were broken. I flexed my toes and fingers and felt relieved that I wasn’t paralyzed. I dabbed at my skin along my ribs and thighs, as if I could feel the break in a bone.

My first thought was, I hope that girl is okay. My second thought was, I’m definitely in love.

I reached up and touched my face. My fingers came back with blood, but I wasn’t dizzy. I sat up and looked around. The place was deserted.

That’s what happens when you think you can read the world. In retrospect, which is only when this stuff makes sense, there were signs. She was way too interested in me, for one. Another, the look the bartender gave me, like, you don’t know what you’re doing, kid. Then there was the way she walked.

“What happened to your face, man?” my roommate said when I finally got home.

It took two taxis and the rest of my money.

“I fell in love tonight.”

He shook his head. “loving Anthropology majors.”

My room was small and my bed was hard but it wasn’t so bad. I pretended that I was in the galley of a huge ship heading out to the Congo. I would write my travel memoirs, and she would play a role. I wasn’t sure which.

It was a month before I saw her again. Same American bar, same pop music two years too late. She sat in the same seat and gave me the same look, like she didn’t recognize me. The swelling had gone down by then.

He might have lied or he might have been wrong. I couldn’t catch sight of them. I was starting to care. There was a last time for everything.

More lazy tourists, annoyed locals. I adjusted my sunglasses, felt light on my feet. The sand would have burned, if I had let it. I kept marching because I was a dad and that’s what you did for your lost kids.

Then I heard them before I saw them. Loud and tan, like their mother. Big brown eyes and dark hair. They were digging a ditch, or a hole, or whatever they thought it was. Maybe a tunnel. But it was deep. The bottom was wet and smooth.

The youngest one stood inside smiling up at me. “See what we did?”

“I see it. Let’s go back.”

I herded them in single file. For once, they didn’t complain.


I told her that Jay Z and Beyoncé were thinking about going into politics. I told her the Spice Girls were reuniting, but only in failed Soviet states. I told her about the feud between Pit Bull and Bow Wow. I told her it’s impossible to hear a Lil Wayne song backwards.

I told her that Britney Spears was trying to start a new fashion trend when she shaved her head. I told her love songs by Justin Timberlake were actually magic spells, and they worked.

When she stood up and asked me to walk her home, the bartender didn’t give me a look. I didn’t even try.

I shook my head and said no thanks.

“John, are you gentleman?”

“I guess not.”

She looked pissed. “You rear end in a top hat, John.”

I offered her another drink. She left a half hour later with a red-faced tourist in a baseball T-shirt.

Aug 20, 2014

in and flash me please

Aug 20, 2014

The rear end of the universe
1996 words

If you’re going to bother with a transfiguration, you either go big or you go home. I bunched up my robes and looked down at the canyon full of yellow school busses.

“You don’t have to do this.”

“Shut up, Marney.”

I raised my hands and felt the ether dip around me. The energy was thick and I rolled it up into my palm, roped it around my arms, and began to do the thing. It snaked down along my skin and began to gather in the tip of my simple plastic wand.

That was the stuff. The sort of universe-tapping rush every wizard lived for.

“I love you.”

I looked over at her. She crossed her arms like a mantis.

“Love you too.”

I hoped my beard made it through.


“Magic isn’t about changing the world. It’s about figuring out how the world is meant to be, and getting it there.”

I had no clue what he meant. “I get that.”

“It’s about feeling the loving veil of the world, son. It’s about letting that poo poo dip over and take control of you.”

“Language—“ my mom warned.

He looked at her then back at me. He crouched down. Up close, his robes were patched and thin and he smelled like an old milkshake. His beard had dirt crushed between the hairs. I was about ten years old. We had just watched him change a rabbit into a truck and back again without breaking a sweat. People clapped, but people saw street magicians all the time.

“You want to do what I do, son?”

I nodded.

“Then you need to study. And listen to your mom. And don’t be afraid to reach your fist up the rear end of the universe and grab on until it screams.”

“And we’re done,” mom said, steering me away.

He laughed and laughed. Mom didn’t mention him again for five years.


Marney didn’t care about magic.

That was part of the draw. She ignored it. She said flying gave her vertigo, teleportation made her puke, and simple housework charms made her lazy. I could harness it all, wrap it up in a bow, and she would just stare at me.

On our first date, I brought her flowers. She answered the door on the second buzz. She was all angles and bones and too-wide eyes. Her dress suggested something. I held out the bouquet, and just before she took them I changed the bunch into a rabbit. She pulled her hand back and stared at it.

“What am I supposed to do with that?” she asked.

“It can be anything you want. Doesn’t have to be a rabbit.”

“I wanted the flowers.”


Eventually, mom had to do something about all the rogue magic I kept spewing from my face. I was fifteen, pubescent, pimpled, gangly, and way too powerful for anyone’s good. She dragged me by my Metallica T-shirt, shoved me into a bus, and told me not to come back until I learned something.

I found him standing on a corner wearing his favorite cape. He was still busking, still changing animals into trucks and back again, still reading palms and tea leaves and skull shapes, still playing up to the crowd like they were his best friends.

A lot of people could do magic. But not a lot of people could make it seem fun.

Afterward, when the people dispersed and he was alone counting his change, I approached him. He didn’t recognize me.

“I’m Linda’s kid.”

“Linda’s kid? That makes you, what?”


“That’s not what I meant.”

I worked up the courage. “Will you teach me?”

He paused. I watched him for about five minutes and almost left. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and spoke.

“Buy me a beer first.”

I said okay.


Marney had boyfriends before me. Everyone had boyfriends before me. I was never first or last at anything, but always a middle.

Early on, she told me about Biff. She said he was old money but didn’t act that way. She said he wore Polo shirts like they were his own skin and talked about boating like it was the most natural thing in the world. She said he never mentioned magic but he knew a few spells.

I found out later that he was being modest.

We kept moving forward, Marney and me. I forgot all about Biff when, four months into dating, Marney asked me to move in. I said why not, because I was broke.

“No more charms or transmutations or whatever else you do,” she said as I carried my trunk full of wizarding poo poo up the stairs.

“Why not?”

“This is a no-magic house. This is a boring, normal house.”

“Did your landlord say that?”

She stared at me. “No magic.”

“Okay, okay. No magic in the house.”

She let me unpack.


It was slow at first. Most of the time, he used me as a prop in his street shows. He sawed me in half and changed my hair different colors. I was the straight man. I had to pretend to be upset. And, most of the time, I really was. He never rehearsed and he never asked for my permission.

That was one rule all wizards followed: you always asked for permission before using magic on someone else. It was just polite.

But not him. On any given day, I’d be changed into a newt and back again fifty different times before getting any sort of lesson.

And they tended toward the esoteric.

“You have to feel it, you hear? Grab onto it, grab it between your balls and ride it.”

“Ride what?”

“The ether, the magic. You know, the source.”


“You feel the source, right? You feel it right here.”

He jabbed his dirty fingernails into my sternum. I nodded.

“Good, you got to feel it. Else you’ll never be a real wizard.”

“Are you going to teach me any spells?”

He smiled and shook his head. “Just give it time, kid.”

That’s what he always said, just give it time, kid.


I spent my afternoons busking like my dad once did, trying to make enough to keep us in rent and food. It usually didn’t work. But Marney never pressured, never pushed, just let me do my thing. That was her way, I guess. When she wanted something to change, she stayed as far away from it as possible, gave it as much distance as she could, and hoped that the thing would try and grow in the right way toward her.

I knew a few good spells at that point. But that was pretty much it.

“You can’t just let the magic do the talking, kid,” he used to say to me.

My magic was mute. That was my problem. I was all flash and dazzle, capes and smiles. There was no substance to my incantations, no whizz or bang or zazzle or song. When he chanted, he brought the whole house down, and made a show of it. I always made a show of nothing.

Marney never came to watch.

Then, one afternoon, about two years in, she got a call.

I sat on the couch experimenting in my head with a new trick as her whole body went ashen and stiff. That got my attention. When she hung the phone up, I acted as casual as I could.

“Who was that on the phone?”

“That was Biff.”

“Biff? Who’s that?”

“My ex-boyfriend. I told you about him.”

“Is everything okay?”

“He wants to have dinner. With the two of us, I guess.”


“He’s in town. Wants to catch up.”

“I thought you two weren’t that serious.”

“Well, we weren’t.” She paused. “But we did date for three years.”


My first cast was embarrassing. I worked my arms in a frenzy, said the words as best I could, and it came out like a potato. I was trying to conjure fire, but could only manage a slight breeze. He laughed and laughed and called it a dud. He told me to try again.

I tried for weeks. I tried and tried and he barely helped. He just kept turning me into a newt when I failed.

Finally, I hit the cadence just right. I knew it as soon as I started. I slipped my fingers into their positions, I said the words, and I felt the pinch in my sternum grow up.
I made fire.

It lit up my whole head ablaze.

My clothes smelled like burnt hair for days.

“But it loving worked, didn’t it?” he said. “It loving worked, more or less.”


It was the most expensive place I’d ever been inside of. And it was all on Biff, of course. He shone like a raygun. His teeth were too white. His clothes fit like an afterthought. He kept smiling at Marney and making small talk and complimenting me on my tie. Like he even cared.

In short, he was charming.

Just the one dinner, Marney had said. No more than an hour, she said.

We were there for at least two, and I was getting sick of it.

“The boat, it’s good, you know? I keep it clean and scrub it all down by hand. No magic for me. It takes a lot of work but it feels good to get something done.”

“I know what you mean,” Marney said.

“I like to take it out onto the water. I like to take it far. And once I’m out there, with nobody else around, that’s when I’ll practice some of my spells. Just alone, out there.”

He looked at me. He looked right at me with his white teeth and big smile and charming haircut. “Marney says you practice some,” he said.

I nodded. “I do.”

“What sort? Illusions? Chemical? Charms?”

“Transfigurations, mainly.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Tough stuff. That’s my thing, too.”

“I learned it from my dad. He was the best transfigurist in the world.”

“What was his name?”

“You wouldn’t have heard of him.”

He nodded. “Probably not.”

I clenched my jaw. “He once turned twenty school busses into caterpillars and back.”

“That’s not possible.”

“It is possible. I watched him do it, and he taught me how.”

Biff leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. His smile spread up toward his ears. We both knew he had me. He didn’t have to say it.

But he said it anyway.


I looked at him in the hospital bed, my broken dad, his beard singed off, his skinny arms covered in casts and bandages, and I balked. I balked at saying the things that I wanted to say.

Because despite all that magic, he still had a body. That’s what confused me the most.

“What were you thinking?” my mom asked him.

“It almost worked.”

“You weren’t even close,” I said.

He looked right at me. He looked right through me. I’d never forget it.

“You haven’t figured it out yet, have you? The only thing that’s worth our time is the magic. You get out there and you create something that’s more than just your stupid self. That’s the only thing worth our time. Bus or caterpillar, doesn’t matter. You go and you make it real.”

But he was wrong. I had figured it out.

I just hated greatness, and I hated hospitals.


The wind whipped my robes.

Down in the canyon, the busses began to shrink.

I left them their color and shifted their mass into the ground.

It quaked but took it.

I felt myself being torn in every direction.

Marney stepped way back.

I roped that magic bigger than ever before.

It was happening, down in the canyon.

Biff was over near his truck, watching.

I shoved my arm up the rear end of the universe, grabbed on, and yanked as hard as I could.

Aug 20, 2014


Hocus Pocus posted:

the brotherly phl
The rear end of the universe
A gentleman wizards' wager.

I could have sworn the prompt was 2k words max because I'm dumb. Thanks for the crit anyway! Aiming to be less dumb next time.

Aug 20, 2014

In and please hit me with a verse

Aug 20, 2014

My staff has murdered giants
My bag a long knife carries
To cut mince pies from children's thighs
For which to feed the fairies.

The Murder of Camper Lee
WC: 1310

gently caress your mom you stupid noob, get the gently caress off this server rear end in a top hat.

Lee leaned back in his lumbar-support chair and cracked open another Coke. His face scratched from shaving and his legs ached from sitting. It was his tenth flame-war of the night, and Lee was starting to wonder if camping for the last hour with a P-90 was maybe a bad idea.

But no, he wouldn’t back down. Lee had a mission, and it was to master his craft.

Next round. Lee felt himself begin to sweat as his computer’s fan shifted into overdrive, blowing heat across his shins. The door to his bedroom stayed shut and locked ever since his stepdad got too drunk and told him the devil was going to make pies from his fat lard rear end down in hell. His stepdad wasn’t a religious man and Lee still had no clue where that came from. But with his door shut, there was no air circulation, and Lee had to gut it out in his sweltering gaming cave.

Lee was patient. Not like his mother, who wanted him to finish his degree and move out of her house. Lee could stay motionless, every nerve excited by the wait, mouse held in his palm like a sacrament, nerves poised to click. There was a skill in camping, a skill not many people had.

Two minutes in, three people left, Lee caught sight of a twitchy black body slip into his cursor’s view. Lee clicked, spraying bullets.

One guy down.

You loving pussy. I’m going to rape your corpse in hell. CatatonicKillingSpree was not amused.

They were one on one, and Lee wasn’t going to budge.

It’s just a game, Lee typed back.

gently caress you and gently caress your poo poo bitch.

Still just a game.

It’s not just a game, you gay rear end twat. I’m going to make pie from your fat rear end.

Suddenly, the sound of bullets. Lee was startled, jumped in his seat. The other guy had ambushed him, ending the round.

Lee read and re-read CatatonicKillingSpree’s message. Those words, that threat, it was so similar to what his stepdad had said. Strangely similar, and it wasn’t exactly a common saying.

It had to be a strange coincidence. Before he could ask, CatatonicKillingSpree disappeared, connection reset by peer.

Lee’s fan continued to whirr, sweat oozing down his body, as the next round began.


Hours later, a new server, but the same tricks. Lee bought quick and hid in the shadows. While he waited, another memory: his stepdad, sitting at the kitchen table. Lee emerged briefly to refuel and dump wastes.

“Little bitch, get your rear end in here.”

Lee crept around the corner. His stepdad finished his mug of Old Crow.

“You know what I think?” Lee just stared at him, knowing that anything he said would only make things worse. “I think you’re a little loving child, and I’m a big loving giant. Do you get that?”

Lee shifted his weight. He didn’t get it.

His stepdad poured another drink. “If you tell your mom,” he said softly, gently, grossly, “what I done, I’ll loving murder you, you fat little fairy. Got it?”

Lee stood there, staring, staring, until his stepdad knocked back another mug, and Lee took it as permission to leave.

That was a few days ago. Back in the present, Lee’s heavily trained fast-twitch muscles reacted just in time to get another kill. Complaints flooded in through chat, though Lee couldn’t see them. He was alive and they were dead, and that was all that mattered. The round dragged on, an excruciating one versus one, until time ran out and the cycle restarted.

loving human being, brokenveneer said. Stop camping like a pussy.

The next round, Lee killed him. The next, he killed ReduceReusedRecycle and Rob_Burgundy1. The next, b0b_d0le, PlacentaMilkshake, and sp3d. He died the next four rounds in a row without a kill, ruining his ratio.

It was almost time. The server was turning against him, hunting him down specially, and taking real pleasure in his demise. Lee hated when that happened, but it always happened, every time. He readied himself for his last round.

Camping again, little fairy? I’m still going to murder you. I’m a loving giant.

Lee could feel the heat swirling around his crotch as he checked the name. It was CatatonicKillingSpree again, though Lee hadn’t seen him in hours.

It’s just a game, Lee typed back.

It’s more than just a game, little child, loving bitch.

Why are you so angry? It’s just a game.

Lee liked to deal with flamers reasonably and kindly.

I’m angry because little fat children like you can slay giants like me by acting like a little bitch coward. But now I’m going to slaughter you, little boy.

Then gunshots, and Lee was dead. The round was over. CatatonicKillingSpree disconnected from the server, connection reset by peer.

Lee was shaken. He took a deep breath, chugged his soda, and then restarted his computer. It was the only thing he could think of, the only thing that could possibly purge whatever weird spirit had gotten inside his box, hopefully send it out down through the wires back to hell. Maybe starving it of electricity could kill it dead.

As the boot sequence finished, and Lee typed in his password, there was a loud banging at his door.

“What?” Lee grunted, annoyed. He checked the time. It was nearly two in the morning.

“Open up, little bitch.”

His stepdad’s voice, mumbled, slurred. Lee began to breathe deep, the sweat drenching the long of his back. His computer’s booting continued, his programs loading, his startup disk unspooling. The fan remained dormant, letting the heat in the room sit thick around Lee’s shoulders.

“Go away.”

“Now, bitch.” His stepdad banged some more, and loudly.

Lee wondered where his mother was, but figured she was working. Or at least on her way home from her gross shift.

He turned back to his computer and started up Steam. “Not tonight,” he said more to himself, but Lee knew he had to choose. If he left the door shut, his stepdad would keep banging, and maybe even break the thing down. Then Lee’s life would be much, much worse. But if he opened it, then his stepdad would berate him for a few minutes, until he got bored and left again. It was the same cycle, repeated endlessly.

Lee sighed, getting up from his chair. His knees hurt as he crossed the room, careful not to step in the trash.

He unlocked the door.

His stepdad threw it open. “There you are, bitch boy.”

Lee stepped back as the man lurched forward. His eyes were milk-white, glassy and disturbed. “What’s wrong with you, Marty?” Lee managed to say.

His stepdad’s face was twisted. His lips were curled back in rage, more rage than Lee had ever seen. He stumbled further back, almost slipping on a loose bag of Doritos.

“Big mistake.” His stepdad closed the distance between them and wrapped his hands around Lee’s throat. The breath was choked from his chest. His stepdad was a large man, and his hands were strong from working.

“Ack urgh,” Lee said, weakly trying to move his head.

His stepdad would let go. He had to let go. Lee was choking.

His stepdad’s face, twisted in a mask of rage and horror, his eyes still pool cue white, was inches from Lee’s nose. “This is how a bitch camper dies.”

Fear flooded Lee’s legs and he began to thrash, but it did nothing. His stepdad didn’t flinch, not from a single blow Lee landed. Lee felt the world began to tip, then wobble. He heard a noise from his computer’s speakers.

“You have a message, pussy,” his stepdad whispered.

Lee looked over.

It was from CatatonicKillingSpree.

Game over, bitch.

Lee tried to scream.

Aug 20, 2014


Aug 20, 2014

The Shovel Warrior
WC: 1,480

“It’s early today,” Walnut said, looking out toward Ward 9.

“More aggressive, too.”

Wal watched orange-red explosions reflect off CherryC’s iris. Sometimes, the view from their Jobicile roof made him dizzy, and other times it made him want to jump. Now, it just made him tired.

“Who’s sponsoring this one?” he asked her.

“I’m not sure. I think somebody said it was a fashion brand. Maybe Dolce JCrew Gap Gabana?”

“Huh.” He watched the monster disappear behind a group of buildings before looking back at Cher. She was sitting on the edge of her folding chair, expression beatific as another building toppled in the distance. A rush of hot air billowed past followed by the smell of steel shavings.

Suddenly, Cher pointed. Wal barely spotted the five figures moving in formation across the sky, vapor trails swirling out behind their armored bodies in multicolored patterns. Camera drones buzzed all around them.

Concussive shwooms reverberated over the city. The bulk of the destruction was happening behind The GE Comcast Apple Building, which meant they had to watch the action on a nearby screen.

“Incredible,” Cher whispered.

Wal agreed, but didn’t say so out loud. Everyone thought the Warriors were amazing; it was hard not to, when every week they fought in the show for their Company’s honor and prestige. Many of them died, but many more of them were catapulted to fame and glory.

Ever since he was a kid, Wal wanted to be just like them. As he grew older, he realized that poor dickheads from Ward 32 ended up shoveling entrails, not creating them. He was born on the fringes of the city, on the shifting sands with the other poors, not on the clean, straight tarmac of the center people.

Ten minutes after the Warriors appeared, the monster was dead. Advertisements lit up the sky as drones zipped through the streets playing back the highlights and selling merchandise.

Cher stood up, shouldering her VaccuumPack. “Time to go.”

Wal grunted in response.


The stench in Eko Atlantic City wasn’t too bad. The day was hot, but the air pollution level was unusually high, and so the smog was masking the smell of rotting monster mass.

Wal dipped, slipped his Shovel down, and heaved a huge clotted mess of red and grey monster guts up into the air.

“Let her down!” Beef yelled. Wal dumped the contents of his Shovel into the back of Beef’s truck. “You make it look so easy, kid.”

Walnut shrugged and switched off his suit. “It’s the ShovelSuit. Not me.”

“Sure. Whatever.” Beef hit a switch and the truck began to grind the entrails into biopulp. Wal didn’t want to know what the Gov Men did with that stuff.

“By the way,” Beef called down, “you hear they’re adding extra shows next month?”

“How? We can’t keep cleaning and rebuilding all this poo poo.”

“They’re expanding the lotto and adding to the workforce. Fingers crossed for 26!”

Walnut powered his suit back on, but his heart wasn’t in the cleanup anymore. Across the street, CherryC sucked a huge clump of hair through her VacPack. Wal imagined what he would do with the money if his new home, Ward 17, ever won the DestroLotto and they got that sweet Gov credit for their displacement.

Better not to think about it, he figured. Wal started back up, scraping bits and pieces of the slain beast’s gore into Beef’s truck for grinding and repurposing.

As he worked, Walnut daydreamed. In his mind, the monster from earlier appeared. Fast, squat, and lizard-faced, it menaced the Ward, smashing buildings and breathing an acid fog. Only a year earlier, people favored ape-type monsters, but apparently now lizards were all the rage.

In his dream, Wal was wrapped in a power suit. The armor gleamed bright. He worked in perfect tandem with the other Warriors, zipping in and out, avoiding the monster’s reach but also the annoying camera drones. Once weakened, Wal zoomed in alone, driving home the killing blow.
He’d be a hero. A hero born from the sands of Ward 32.

Wal smiled to himself as he plopped another bit of monster goo into the truck.


“Got your stupid goggles?” Cher asked.

“Got them.”

They were lined up with everyone else, carrying only what was necessary for the next twenty-four hours. Up ahead, Gov Men were handing out credits, payment for everyone’s lost time. Afterward, they’d scan the building top to bottom to make sure nobody was left behind, but also to allow the rebuilders to replicate the place exactly. It would be like they never left.

“I still can’t believe this,” Cher said.

“I know. Who would have thought?”

“17, the center of an event! Amazing!”

Walnut couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. “I know. It’s unreal.”

They were approaching the front of the line, and Wal knew that now was his chance. “Hey, Cher, I forgot something,” he said, stepping out of line.

She gave him a look. “What’s the matter?”

“Forgot my mask.”

“Go grab it, you dumbass. It’s choke-a-baby bad out there right now.”

“Sure, see you outside.” He waved as he moved back toward his cube.

The idea had come to him slowly and in pieces. The night after the DestroLotto results, Wal played a videogame that replicated the sensation of flying. The next night, he spent hours reading Warrior stats. The next day, he tested the limits of his ShovelSuit, picking up massive teeth and tossing them down the street.

When Wal got home that day, he knew what he needed to do.

Everything was in place and ready to go. He had planned for weeks, rehearsing his steps over and over. He tossed his ‘Suit into a pack and slung it over his shoulder, moving back toward the emergency staircase. Nobody would bother using the stars, since the Gov Men were giving out credits up near the elevators.

Walnut climbed, heading up toward the roof.


He got lucky.

The Gov Men were either lazy or incompetent, but either way they hadn’t bothered to scan the roof for people. Wal stretched out in his chair, his ShovelSuit halfway ready.

The entire Ward was empty, and had been for the past few hours. It was strange at first, being the only person in the whole area, but Wal started to like it.

He was above the world. He was powerful.

And then the cannons fired, signaling the start of the event. Wal finished putting on his suit, nerves spooling up.

Up ahead, near the ocean, he heard the groaning roar. Out from the water climbed a massive monster, half ape and half lizard, all hair and scales and teeth.

Wal knew it was his moment. He knew it was time. He turned on his suit, letting the gears and the steel augment his shape.

The monster began its trek, smashing as it went. It breathed fire from his nostrils, though that was more for show. Wal waved his arms and screamed, trying to get its attention. The camera drones spotted him immediately and began to buzz around his body.

The monster was doing a pretty good job. Wal wondered vaguely who was sponsoring. It was huge, easily bigger than his Jobicile, bigger than anything Wal had ever seen. He knew monsters were enormous, but he had only ever seen them on screens and from a distance.

Up close, it was terrifying.

“Don’t piss yourself,” Wal mumbled to himself.

The beast drew ever nearer. Wal backed up, giving himself a runway. He was shaking.

In the distance, he spotted something glittering in the sky. The Warriors were coming early, probably because of him.

They weren’t stealing his glory. Not Warrior Walnut’s, not today. With the strength of the ShovelSuit coursing through him, he began to run.

The monster was half a block away and gaining with each massive step. Its mouth hung open, its tongue a pulsating mass of red and blue veins. Wal’s Shovel aimed directly for its eyes.

He could feel its breath, the heavy stink, the shaking in his muscles, the fear spiking higher, and the heat from the monster’s flames.

Walnut hit the edge. He threw himself into the air.


“What the hell were you doing up there?”

Cher sat next to his hospital bed, hands folded. Wal turned his head and looked out the window. Across the street, projected twenty-stories high, was the replay of the day before. Wal saw his own face, contorted in fear, dropping through the air.

“And what were you saying?” Cher asked, following his gaze. “The drones didn’t get it.”

“Nothing,” Wal said.

Cher continued talking, but Wal spaced out. He still remembered those moments as he fell, the wind whipping up through his suit, the power lacing through his limbs, the roar of the monster, the scream of the crumbling building.

Aug 20, 2014



Aug 20, 2014

S19E129: Parking lot frustration results in assault and a dental bill. A man sues his ex for false arrest, stealing and damaging his property.

Mister Rogers

WC: 1196

It wasn’t love or lust or fun. It was boredom. It was a warm body next to mine on the couch while we scrolled through Netflix shows, sometimes stopping, sometimes watching, but always passing through and through for hours. We scoured the minor genres until there was nothing left.

There was always something better. We were determined to find it.

When we finally watched, we sat and stared for hours, never talking, hardly touching, but that was the most comfortable I had ever felt. He was the perfect presence, the absolute body, the correct cadence of breath in and out but nothing more. He was lack, and that was what I wanted.


Later, he stole my bird.

Things sour, like they always do, even when you try to gut it out and deal with it. One day, I came home, saw his dirty shirts still sticking out from the laundry basket and thought to myself, yes. I packed and moved in with my friend Gwen.

“Roger stays with me,” he said, weeks later.

“You barely took care of him. Why would you get to keep him?”

“Roger stays with me.”

I looked over my coffee at our agreed-upon public place and wanted to strangle him for his calmness.

“I named him. I fed him. He’s my bird.”

He stood up, looking at me with that strange mix of pity and boredom he always had. “Roger stays with me.”

I watched him walk out and thought, this is the most attracted to him I’ve ever been.


“He’s keeping the bird?” Gwen asked, running a razor over her legs.

I watched while she pruned and the water turned cold.

“He’s keeping the bird,” I said.

“But Roger is yours.”

I nodded gravely. “I know.”

I could remember the day we bought him. Lonely suburbs, light rain. Its face was huge and I thought it looked like Mr. Rogers. Eventually, he looked over at me and croaked.

Back then I worked from home. Every morning I made coffee, fed Roger, and talked. Roger never talked back, but that was fine. The apartment was comfortable that way, with a man that hardly existed, and a bird that only wanted food.

“Get it back,” Gwen said. Her smooth skin sunk lines into the soapy water.


She looked up at me like I was an idiot. “You know how.”


Two days later, I watched him walk into the grocery store. We hunkered down, keeping out of sight. Following a person was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

“Okay,” Gwen said from the passenger seat, “this is your chance.”

“My chance?”

“For the bird. We’re going to free him.”

“I thought we were just playing detective.”

She lit up a cigarette. I didn’t know she smoked. “We’re doing that, too.”

I rolled down the windows, but Gwen did things. “Fine, but what if he changed the locks?”

“Then we’ll think of something else.”

“Fine.” I put the car into gear and backed out of the spot. As I crossed the lot, closer toward the store, he stepped out. I saw him stare as we passed. Gwen flicked her cigarette toward him and he made that face, that passive stare.

I felt a thump and a scrape.

“gently caress!” Gwen yelled. I slammed on the brakes.

A shopping cart careened away from our front bumper, spinning wildly. It lost momentum as it hopped the curb.

I watched as it knocked into an older man, sending him sprawling.

“poo poo!” Gwen screamed.

I was out of the car and standing over the man. He was grey and sweatered. He looked up at me. “Did you loving do this?”

I felt my body start to vibrate. The old man’s voice sounded gummy, slurry. He began searching around frantically. After a second, I realized that his dentures were lying on the concrete, the fake teeth chipped. He must have spit them out as he fell.

“I’m so sorry! It was the cart! Are you okay?”

He found his teeth and stared at them. “You’re paying for these loving things.”

Gwen stood nearby, shaking her head.

He walked by but didn’t say a word.


I remembered feeding Roger seeds from my palm. His slimy tongue lolled out.

It was horrifying. Its eyes were nearly life-like, nearly understanding. Like it somehow knew that it could send the spiking jeebies through my stomach by taking its sweet time licking up the leftovers from my hand.

Roger was more like a decoration than a pet.

“We’re doing this right,” Gwen said as we crept up the sidewalk toward his apartment two weeks after the grocery store incident.

I was still hurting from that dental bill. But the old man was fine otherwise.

“I just want to finish this,” I whispered.

It was late. The yellow lights buzzed along the street as we moved up through the parking lot. I still had the key, and everything hinged on it working.

I slid it into the lock and turned. “Success,” Gwen whispered as we walked into the building

It didn’t feel like success. We moved down the carpeted hall toward his door. Toward Roger and liberation.

“Last chance,” Gwen said in a way that meant we’re doing it.

“The loving bird,” I said, and slipped the key into the lock.

For a second, I felt nostalgia for something I didn’t want anymore. We walked into the living room and toward the kitchen. It felt like I belonged, except I didn’t.

Roger was in his cage. He began to move as soon as I touched him. “Hurry up,” Gwen whispered.

I went to take Roger and his cage down from the pedestal. As soon as it began to swing free, Roger started screaming.

“gently caress! Shut it up!” Gwen screeched.

It was like slow motion, but it wasn’t. The kitchen light switched on and he stood there, staring at us, his face completely blank.

“Roger stays here,” he said.

“The bird is mine, rear end in a top hat.” I pushed past him and Gwen was right behind me.


The cops came faster than I expected. We were trying to get Roger situated in the bathroom, Gwen running the tub’s water, when they pounded on her door.

“It’s my bird,” I said as soon as I saw them.

But what did they care? All they knew was someone had broken into an apartment and abducted an animal.

I gave up. I put out my hands, ready to be cuffed.

But just as I began to leave with them, Gwen started talking. Her eyes bugged out, on the verge of tears, as she explained all about him. She said, Roger was our bird and we were afraid for it. She said, he abused Roger, never fed him. Please, Gwen begged, you’re taking the wrong person. He’s a monster. He’s starving Roger to death.

Well, that seemed to work. One of them must have been an animal lover.

They left, and ten minutes later I was watching Gwen shave while Roger ate grapes from my hand. She cackled, the bird squawked, and I wondered if he even noticed the cops hauling him off to jail.

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