Sunday, April 22, 2007


The Denny's-table's a smooth brown rectangle with dark and shiny wood-grain and the table-side's lined with a ridged metal-strip which is very cold so I touch the table-side's metal-strip and place my forearm against the table-side and feel the cold metal of the table-side until my arm feels cold and metallic.

"Aluminum," I say.

Erik yawns.

Aaron's eyes are small and watery and red. "I'm tired," Aaron says. "I could sleep here, under the table. I could shut off the lights, make everyone leave, and make a makeshift bed underneath this table and I'd sleep even with the dried gum, the dirty floor, and cockroaches crawling on me, maybe. Toast-crumbs. Egg-pieces. Whatever."

"Yeah," Erik says. "Tired."

Merna stands. "Be back."

"Where's she going?" Aaron says. "Did she say something? I feel deaf and alone."

"Bathroom," I say. "I'm tired too."

"You could sleep at my place," Erik says.

"It's my apartment," I say.


"My lungs feel sleepy. My lungs want to take a nap." Aaron leans against the window. "My lungs could stop breathing and be the happiest lungs ever. And my heart. My heart is napping. I'm turning pale. See." Aaron holds his hand up. "I'll run out of blood. It's okay. Bored of my blood anyway."

"Noah gave the dog morphine," I say.

"Who's Noah?" Erik asks.

"Merna's husband. The doctor."


"Noah's probably sleepy too," Aaron says. "Doctors get tired and don't sleep enough or sleep just a little in empty hospital-beds, but always ready to wake and so only sleeping a little probably, dreaming lightly and with awareness, so that the sleep's not restful. Correct though, I think. Sleeping's a waste. Never sleep again and be always tired. Efficient use of time."

I construct a narrow tower from single-serving jelly-containers. "Security is security," I say.

Aaron crosses his long thin arms over his wide belly. "I'm tired. Never been this tired before. Keep yawning and hurts to yawn, jaws aren't supposed to open that way. Have to work tomorrow. Conference-call meeting and going to be lethargic and slow-witted and get fired. Become homeless. Sleep in dumpsters."

"Tough being a security-guard murderer," I say. "Fate's against you."

"Should be beds everywhere. Communal communist beds. Sleeping-rooms with wide queen-sized beds and soft down-comforters, nine pillows."

Erik's hairy little fist knocks my tower down. "Wrecking crew," he says, laughing. "You need building permits. Using a licensed contractor? Didn't think so."

"Real live ducks," Aaron says. "Warm feathery ducks with amputated legs and wings and beaks and heads so that they are living warmth. Maybe food-bearing tubes built into the bed and introduced intravenously to chickens. Could sleep well in a pile of amputee-ducks."

Aaron and Erik are laughing together and Aaron and Erik's laughing-mouths open and close rapidly in sudden, violent motions, as though each laugh is accompanied by a solid, vicious bite and it seems, suddenly, that Aaron and Erik are menacing the air with their laughs and monopolizing the oxygen and siphoning the oxygen from the restaurant into an oxygen-tank or even transforming their lungs into twin oxygen-tanks so the restaurant-oxygen is their oxygen in their twin oxygen-tanks and so Merna and I and all the restaurant-customers must beg Aaron and Erik for oxygen until our lungs collapse and we collapse and our oxygen-less bodies lay quietly on the floor. I think, 'Aaron and Erik are greedy oxygen-dictators. Criminals,' I think. 'Thieves.'

"Careful," I whisper. "The air."

"What?" says Erik.


Aaron's laughing. "Put everyone to sleep. Naptime everyone. Everyone take a nap. Dictator declares naptime. First act. The nap-act."

"I have to piss," Erik says. He disappears.

"Naptime?" Aaron asks.

"I can't sleep here."

"But it’s the nap-act."

"You might suffocate me. You'd enjoy suffocating me with a pillow or with a sweater and you'd wrap your red sweater around my head and squeeze my neck with your hairy little fingers or even a plastic shopping-bag over my face and you tightly constrict the shopping-bag until I'm breathing plastic and my lungs are plastic because you're brutal."

"Never suffocate pretty girls."

"That's what I said."

"Dog lives?"


"Good. Won't suffocate dog today."

Our coffees arrive. I drink.

"Security-guard?" Aaron says.

I'm watching our reflections in the dark Denny's-window.

"Is a security-guard." Aaron says.

Merna and Erik return together. I reconstruct my single-serving jelly-tower. Aaron laughs quietly. Erik slumps in his seat. Merna touches my shoulder.

"Don't worry," Aaron says. "Only talked with the security-guard."

"I bet," I say. "We should call the police."

"Paid him," Erik says. "No police, money."

"Where's your phone Merna? Where's mine? Police is a good solution."

"Only gave him money. Everyone wants and/or needs money," Aaron says.

"After the ass-kicking," Erik says.

"Yes, after the ass-kicking."

"Police will help," I say to Merna.

"Thought you wanted to be a terrorist," Erik says.

"Money and ass-kicking's the winning negotiation technique. Security-guard's okay. Happy. Satisfied. Asked him if he's satisfied, this was before I kicked his face, and he said he was satisfied and that he was going to take a nap. See, nap-act. Security-guard wants a nap just as all people want naps. Naps should be mandated, I think. Siestas. Nap-revolution. I'm really tired. Are you? Like I haven't slept in days."

"Wasn't much blood," Erik says. "Thought there'd be more blood."

Our food arrives in steaming papered baskets.

"Hungry," Aaron says. "Really hungry." Aaron stuffs french-fries and patty-melt into Aaron's mouth and slowly, mechanically, chews, and while Aaron chews mechanically, Aaron grunts softly and Aaron's little eyes slowly close. "Good food," Aaron says.

"Part of the negotiation," Erik says. "Wanted the ass-kicking. More believable police-report."

"What?" I feel distracted and tired and my coffee's warm and bitter so I hold the coffee in my mouth and imagine the security-guard sitting at our Denny's-table ordering coffee and a slice of blueberry-pie and when the security-guard says, "blueberry-pie" the waitress slaps him and says, "I'll remove your brain," which make no sense. I think, 'Security-guard's normal-looking and man-like and large with warm sleepy eyes and short white hairs and the security-guard moves powerfully forward and sideways, crab-like at angles with firm steps and firm feet. Security-guard firmly demands blueberry-pie and firmly chews blueberry-pie until there's no more blueberry-pie. Security-guard's always uniformed and solid and speaks very little but communicates directly and violently with eyes and hands so when Security-guard demands blueberry-pie the waitress or waiter's suddenly fearful and cold and each nearby person moves incrementally away from Security-guard's position except me because I have nothing to fear. Security-guard should be my security-guard and I'd have a remote-control and I'd speak directly and violently with Security-guard's eyes and hands and I'd remain speechless for years maybe and lie in bed cocoon-like and immobile.'

"Cocoon-terrorism," I say. "Caterpillar-death." I don't mean what I say.

Nobody answers.

"Let's be anarchists?" I say. "Let's be fascists or something."

"You're my little anarchist," my grandfather said. "Know what that means?"

I shook my head. I was fifteen years old. It was September.

"Means you've got personality. You're clever. You know. Anarchist! Surprising word, has a little punch and gumption, probably. Something you can tell police when you get pulled over for speeding. You stare at the cop's eyes and say, 'I've got anarchism in my heart,' and the cop's surprised and a little scared and you say, 'but not the way you think,' then smile a little smile and you'll never get a ticket. You've got anarchism, I think."

"I also have caterpillars," I said.

"Caterpillars are interesting too," my grandfather said. "Insects with hair. Make cocoons. Metamorphose into big winged butterflies or moths or something and flitter around prettily. Humankind could learn something from caterpillars but I'm not sure what. Maybe something about embracing nature and I don't just mean plants and trees and stuff but maybe embrace instincts, things like that, building mud huts, farming, subjugating and dominating animals and plants or maybe how to design stylish clothing."

We were at the zoo watching the penguins swim around.

"Penguins are good too. Very stylish. Life of the party."

"Penguin," I said.

"Are you hungry?"

"Can't eat penguins. Penguin-steaks are probably illegal or something," I said.

"Correct. No penguin eating. But there's ice-cream around here somewhere."


"With waffle-cones and strawberries and other things."

"I don't know," I said. "Ice-cream's sort of evil, isn't it? Made from milk and sugar and other things but isn't it evil to steal cows-milk from milk-cows and to then change it, unnaturally, and to filter in sugars and preservatives and berries and chocolate and waffles. It's a little like playing god."

"Milk-cows make milk and wouldn't exist otherwise. You must eat ice-cream and drink milk, otherwise those milk cows are redundant and pointless and would have to be slaughtered which would be disgusting and bloody."

"We could save the cows, couldn't we? Together? We could invade cow-farms with semi-trucks and steal the cows and drive the cows to Alaska or Canada. Some place safe and unexpected. Belize?"

"It'd take a lifetime."

"Important work though. We'd design and build cow-saving submarines and transport the cows to uninhabited desert islands and recruit teenagers and college-students. It could be the 'bovine-underground.'"

"You draw up the plans. I'll get the ice-cream."


"Ice-cream's over there," my grandfather said. "I see the umbrella. Be back shortly."

My grandfather walked toward the ice-cream stand. I sat on a nearby bench. There was a slight breeze so I hugged my shoulders and thought about my grandfather's over-the-calf black-and yellow argyle birthday-socks about which that morning my grandfather had said, "When I wear these with shorts I'm visible to drunk-drivers and spy-satellites." I touched my socks and watched my grandfather's socks and thought about how our socks were different socks though often my socks and my grandfather's socks intermingled in the washer and later in the drier and that our socks shared static-electricity sometimes. Then, momentarily, I couldn't see my grandfather's over-the-calf black-and-yellow argyle birthday-socks so I stood and moved toward the umbrella which was white and green and concentrated on the umbrella and the little black ice-cream bar symbol stitched into the umbrella and I wanted suddenly to be beneath that ice-cream stand umbrella so I moved quickly and recklessly toward the umbrella. My shoulder smashed an old woman wearing a rain-bonnet who said, "Excuse you, bitch." I nearly trampled a small girl in denim overalls. My hands moved in front of me and opened and closed as though my hands wanted to grab something, but I didn't know what my hands wanted to grab.

I stood beneath the ice-cream stand umbrella.

I remained very still.

I could see my grandfather's argyle socks.

"Here," my grandfather said. My grandfather's hand was wrinkled and spotted and shaky. The hand held my ice-cream.

I took my ice-cream. "Thank you," I said. I held the ice-cream and watched the ice-cream and the ice-cream didn't move. The ice-cream didn't disappear.

"Anarchy and fascism are dumb ideas," I say. "Ignore me, I'm sleepy. We should be pacifists or something. We should live in diners. I want to go home."

Aaron and Erik chew with closed eyes. Merna rests her head against my shoulder.

"Don't worry," Merna says. "We're already pacifists and omnivores and that's more than enough for most people."

We pay the waitress for our food and coffee.

In the Denny's-parking-lot, Aaron's smoking.

"Smoking's cliché," I say.


Merna laughs and covers her mouth with her small delicate hand. Merna's laugh is warm and wet sounding and I want Merna's laugh to be my laugh or for Merna and I to laugh simultaneously with the same pitch and rhythm and with our heads at the same angle and our mouths open at the same width and with the same surprising and gentle curve of lips.

"You're cliché," Aaron says.

"I'm just sleepy."

"Just sleepy," Aaron repeats.

"We're all sleepy," Erik says. "I think everyone wants to sleep, maybe forever." Erik softly places his hand on Aaron's back. "Communist beds, right?" he says.

"Don't touch me."

Erik moves his hand. "Calm down okay."

"I'm calm. I only said, 'don't touch me' because I don't want to be touched and really only people I want to touch me are allowed to touch me and, if you must know, I never allow guys to touch me so you, Erik, will never touch me again."

"I'm not Erik."

"Who fucking cares?"

Merna and I walk to Merna's car and sit inside Merna's car. From the passenger-side window, I can see Aaron and Erik pushing one another.

"I can touch anything," Erik says.

"Let's go home," I say. "Let's go to sleep."

Merna turns the key in her ignition and backs the car out of its parking-space. "It's late."

"I know."

"I'll eat your arm," Erik says.

"You know about grandpa?"

"I know."

Merna nods.

"Eat this," Aaron says.

As we turn out onto the Interstate, Erik's hand forms a fist and Erik's fist cocks and punches Aaron's face. Aaron's hands reach and Aaron and Erik are clutching each other tightly and toppling slowly toward me until, finally, they are on the ground grappling and embracing in the darkness. The car is moving swiftly now and Aaron and Erik are distant and shadowy and invisible in the darkness and I think about what Aaron and Erik must be thinking as Aaron and Erik grapple in the concrete Denny's-parking-lot. I think, 'They are thinking about love and men and embracing, or they aren’t thinking at all, which is more likely, probably, or they are imagining mirror-reflections of each other, cold rooms, hamburgers, and sports-cars.'

"Fighting," I say. "It's weird."

Merna doesn't answer.

"Should we wake grandpa when we get home?"

"Probably not."

"I sort of want to talk to him." I lean my head against the window.

"He needs his rest."

"Granpa's very insightful and comforting. We could make coffee and bring him in the kitchen and talk about life or something. Talk about important things we don't usually talk about like on television-shows."

Merna clucks her tongue. "Grandpa needs his sleep."


"Just let him sleep."

"Fine." I suddenly want something and I feel the want in my stomach and my intestines and my brain, but this thing that I want, I don't know what it is, so I try to picture it with my brain and then my eyes and my brain fails me and my eyes fail me. I stare at my fingernails and think at them, 'Fingernails, what do I want?' but my fingernails don't answer. I think at the car-window, 'What do I want?' and the car-window doesn't answer. 'I'm doomed,' I think, 'to want things that aren't things.' The car-window is cold and my cheek is cold and outside is dark and frozen.


amber said...

This is very good. Particularly the ending.

MadisonGlass said...

Much better. Made me cry.