Tuesday, June 26, 2007


"Can you take me home?" I ask.

"Can you take me home?" the voice repeats.

The car moves along the road very slowly and I can hear the thin packing of snow. My seat feels soft and I'm soft and the air's warm and thick and as I breathe the warm thick air my lungs expand and contract and my lungs process air and oxygen and push warm thick oxygen-molecules through my blood. I think about my blood and imagine my blood and all at once feel that blood and oxygen's pointless and machine-like and painful and imagine my blood slowly drained from my body or pumped and suctioned with straws and then bottled and labeled and refrigerated. 'What would that blood do?' I think.

"So you're here," the voice says. "Car number-two. Nice, huh? My car. Clean it two, three times a day. Vacuum. Wipe down the seats. Feel clean to you? Do you like it?"

"It's nice."

"Just nice?"

"It's nice."

"Fucking perfect."


"Listen to this stereo-system."

I listen.

"Plays cds, mp3s, the radio and really anything. Like satellite-radio. Dvds. I have a sun-roof. Can talk on my cell-phone through the steering-wheel. Call anyone from here without dialing. Watch this: call 'mirror-head', that's my code-name for home. Clever, huh?"

There's a ringing followed by an answering-machine.

"See," the voice says. "Digital-quality sound. Fucking perfect. Car could be a home or I think of it as my mobile-fortress. Stop. Set up anywhere. New home. Maybe take over, find the mayor and kill the mayor. Become the mayor."

"What would you do if my arm fell off?" I imagine my arm falling off.

"This car, fucking perfect."

"If right now my head sort of fell off and rolled on the floor and there was blood everywhere and maybe outside tiny boys and girls were pointing and screaming and the blood was on the windshield so you couldn't see, and maybe blood pooling on the seat and floor? What would you do then? Call an ambulance? Panic?"

"Huh? Did I show you the drink-holder?" The voice pushes a button. From the center-console drink-holders slowly unfold. "Do you have a drink, to put in the drink-holder so I can show you? Or even something round?"

"No." I imagine the drink-holder full of blood. "What about the blood?" I ask.

Outside an elderly man's laying calmly in the snow, blocking the sidewalk. I think, 'He must be very cold or very tired or very tired and cold and hibernating or conserving energy.' I imagine the man in a cave and then next to a lake and then vacationing in Hawaii. In each place the man's laying quietly on the ground, blocking the sidewalk. Passersby step over the man and the man doesn't move but maybe he's smiling and each passerby steps carefully over him and doesn't brush him with feet or parcels or even long overcoats. The man's untouchable maybe or protected by a force-field and it's this kind of force-field I want. "Force-field," I say.

"You like the drink-holder right? I mean it's a clever device. Imagine the time and engineering that went into it. Probably a team of like six engineers. Eighty-thousand dollars a year and testing high-density plastics and hydraulic-devices or I don't know, pneumatic or something."

"It's very nice."

"Very nice?" the voice repeats, quietly. "Very nice."

I think about energy-conservation. 'Would it be better to remain motionless, to find a cozy, unimportant space and remain there, unmovable?'

"Very nice…" the voice says.

I picture myself in a dark closed-off corner or crawlspace and maybe buried in a box with a flashlight. "I could be that cup-holder," I say. I stare at the voice. "That cup-holder's very well-designed and superior because of how it remains out of sight and invisible and energy-efficient. People should be that way. Out of sight, invisible, and energy-efficient."

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"I mean, isn't it evil or sinful to move around like people do and to take up so much space and keep other people and animals and plants from using that space? Like space-monopoly? And then using energy and eating food and burning things like fuels and calories or stopping rivers or splitting atoms or whatever. It's like saying we're better and more important and worth of resource control. I want a little cocoon instead and I could stay in the cocoon sort of fetal-positioned and quietly remain there until I die."


"Everyone could have a personal-cocoon, a small licensed space to remain within and then people could be stacked maybe all together on one island like Cuba or underwater or even in a deep hole somewhere like Chernobyl maybe. Lisbon. Somewhere"

"I don't know."

I close my eyes.

"I'm glad you came in my car. It's almost new, and I waxed it today. This morning actually. Couldn't sleep so went directly to the garage and waxed and waxed and vacuumed the car."

"You're taking me home right?"

"Of course." The voice concentrates on the road. The voice's hands are at ten o'clock and two o'clock and the hands are pudgy and pale and the fingernails are dirty and long and the dirty-fingernails tap the steering-wheel rhythmically but in a frighteningly un-patterned way. "Listen," the voice says. "You respect me right. I mean, are you worried about before and at Denny's and stuff? The dog. Just a silly joke, you know?"


"Anyway it's just guys and boredom and girls." The voice stares at me.

"My grandfather died."

"And it was weird anyway because I like dogs actually. And I like Todd a lot. And you too. And Merna. I like people and animals actually."

"I'm going home to help with the funeral or something."

"Lisbon's a good place right? No fighting in Lisbon? No dogs, probably."

I don't answer and gradually the car becomes thin and shadowy so that I must squint and I lean against the window which is cold and smooth. 'But it's not really smooth,' I think. 'Everywhere there are miniature imperfections and craters even and especially on my face and skin and glass and glass's a liquid probably and skin and face are liquids probably also and all these liquids are moving and uncontrollable and really everything in the universe and every molecule or atom or smaller than that even like every electron or gluon, or every constituent of everything's alone and random and operating only in its best interest which is unpredictable and everything's the same and people are just a trillion-billion-billion pieces of something else.'

"Why aren't you here yet?"

"I'm coming." Outside the car the sky's dark and gray. I hold my hand over my phone and whisper to the driver, "Where are we?"

"Somewhere," the voice answers.

"I'm almost there," I say into the phone. "I'm somewhere."

"This isn't fucking funny."

"I know," I say. 'But it is funny,' I think. "I'm in a car and the car's moving and the car will move to the house and I'll get out of the car and help. I promise. Because you're my sister and sisters help sisters and I want to help you and it's like when I was ten and we were watching television."

"We were watching television?"

"Yes, television, in the basement and it was very late and we were very tired."

"We helped each other?"

"Of course. We were alone and in the basement and the television played television-shows and it was very dark and cold and outside it was also dark and cold and there was no person anywhere except you and me in the basement watching the television-shows."

"What did we do?"

"I don't know."

Merna's silent for a moment. "I mean how did we help each other?"

"We were very alone but we were together when it was cold probably."

"How did that help?"

"After that we lived with our grandparents. Before, with the television, we were somewhere else and alone and logic probably would tell us that we should split up to survive or something. I was ten after all, or twelve, I don't know. I should've gone to look for berries or video-game-arcades or something and you were older and calm and you might've gone to a friend's house and left me in the basement with the television and I would've been alone and with no friends and would have stayed there until I starved probably."

"Are you sure? I think I did leave."

"No, you didn't leave."

"I could've left. Maybe you forgot. Maybe I intended to leave. Maybe I was outside and left a mannequin or pillows or something, a pretend-me, on the couch."

"No, you stayed and we went to the grocery-store and together we stole candy-bars and chocolate-milk and bananas and then outside behind the grocery-store we ate what we stole and we sat awhile."

"I don't remember that at all."

I'm silent and Merna's silent.

The car moves slowly and I think about the car moving and I wonder if the car's pushing my body or pulling my body or even carrying my body and if my body's willing to be pushed or pulled or carried and I wonder if my body controls my body or my brain.

"You done talking?" the voice says. "There're other car-features I want to show you. Trunk-release-lever, keyless-locks, power-windows, other things. Electric-seat-recliner. ABS breaks." The voice taps the breaks. "I love power-windows most. Very clever. Important. Engineered and crafted and human-made. Only humans could make power-windows."

I don't answer.

"Are you there?" Merna asks. "Are you still coming?"


"For example, a bear or monkey or dog, couldn't make power-windows."

"Because Noah can't come and grandma's crying and lying on the floor now and she won't move or eat or drink. I tried to give her water and she only stared at the ceiling."

"I mean, give your average mammal power-tools and it'll probably just mutilate itself."

"I don't know what to do," I say.

"She could dehydrate. How do you tell if someone's dehydrating?"

"I don't know."

"Bloody fur or claws, antlers or something. Give a deer power-tools. A duck!"

"I think I remember now," Merna says.

"Cartoons are ridiculous with bears flying airplanes or driving. Or with guns."

"What?" I feel confused and tired.

"It wasn't the basement and there was no television. We were on a boat. On the deck and you were maybe thirteen or fourteen and we were near the stern, near the gunwale and it was dark and the waves were very tall."

"I'm not sure," I say.

"The waves were very tall and dark and with foam."

"Sort of immoral. Builds up expectations for animals. Then you go to the zoo."

"If you say so," I say.

"There was a boat and other boats and a bay and we were on the boat on top of a dark wave with foam."

"I," I say. I don't know what to say. "Can people dehydrate in the sea?"

"You don't remember the wave?"

"Monkey'd crash an airplane in two seconds. Bear'd probably fly into a mountain. Kill crew and passengers. Explosion."

"I don't know," I answer

"We were frightened and the boat was moving, I think."

I try to remember but I don't know how to remember or even how to try to remember.

"Bear massacre. Bear destruction? Animal annihilation?"

"There was a boat," Merna says. Merna's voice's long and raw and certain and I want my voice to sound certain and raw but it never will.

"I'm coming," I say. "I'm almost home."

"Want to see the cup-holder again?" the voice says.

I shake my head.


We're near the ice-arena and the snow's thick. I think about the dog and ice-skates and the zamboni and smooth wet ice and driving the zamboni through a wall or car or driving the car through the ice-arena windows and out onto the ice and then bouncing from wall to wall like bumper-cars or something.

"What about the bears and monkeys? You think about them?"


"Bears and monkeys? Maybe armed. Plastic-explosives. Terrorist animals, at the mall."

"I don't know."

"Can they fly airplanes? Can they stab dogs? Can they eviscerate cashiers?"

I don't answer

"Don't you wonder? Like, animal apocalypse. Why no revolt? This is important. You need to answer. Are humans better? Are we at war with the animal kingdom? Should we go to the zoo and murder like bears or penguins? Stab the penguins and then the monkeys and maybe pile the zoo-animal corpses somewhere and roast them or something. Or does it matter or what?"

"Okay," I say. "That's all fine."

"What do you mean? Are you for or against animal-slaughter and barbeque? I couldn't sleep last night and I thought about this a lot. It's the cartoons, I think. It's a war or something. So what the fuck do you mean?"

"All of it," I say. "It's fine. It doesn't matter. Animals or no animals. It's exactly the same."

"What's to stop me from killing everything that moves? Shouldn't I?"

The voice turns the car and the car moves slowly around a broad corner and up a low hill.

"Where are you going?" I ask.

"Just need a second."

"I'm supposed to go home."

"I know," the voice says. "Have to stop a second. An errand. Think about the animals and this war thing I was talking about."

We're in the ice-arena parking-lot. The car stops.

"What now?" I say.

"Get out."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I take his picture

I take his picture in the basement of an old mansion.

There are no lights.

The floor's dirty.

Later, I'll create a folder on my laptop and place the picture in the folder. There will be other pictures, but no other folders.

The boy's dead but not bleeding. I'm very careful.

"Good-bye," I say to the boy. I put my camera away. "I'd like to say it was an accident but it wasn't so I won't say that because it would cheapen your picture probably and I might have to delete it sometime or feel guilty or something and you wouldn't want that, now, anyway." Sometimes I talk to comfort people.

My cell-phone rings. "Good job," Bronson says. "Did it go exactly as planned?"

"Of course." I open the basement door which is low and sloping and step outside. It's morning. The sun's low on the horizon and hovering quietly away. "Do you have the package?"

"I have the package."

"Okay, then."

I put my cell-phone away.

I lied about the folder. I have many folders and many pictures on many laptops in many apartments. The apartments are all mine, as are the pictures.

I pull my jacket tight to my body and walk along the highway. There are no people. Tall streetlamps line the highway. The gravel makes noises. Ahead is my car. I get in the passenger side.

"You're ready?" Lemmy asks.


"No evidence?"

I don't answer.

"Then we're ready for phase two."

"Yes," I say.

"Good." Lemmy starts the car.

Lemmy's my little brother. I slowly pull my gun from my pocket. "I'm sorry," I say.

Lemmy turns.

I shoot Lemmy in the face.

There's blood and other things, parts, and I scoop the parts and wipe the parts and gather parts into Lemmy's shirt. I drag Lemmy out of my car and lay him on the ground. I shoot Lemmy's mouth and destroy Lemmy's mouth. I shoot Lemmy's hands and feet and I shoot Lemmy's face again and now when I look at little Lemmy and the pieces of Lemmy I don't know him and I know that no one else will know him either.

I take a picture.

My car's running. I sit in the driver's seat.

I drive. This is phase two.

My car's a mess. There are blood streaks in the windows and Lemmy-parts I missed. I step on the gas. My car moves quickly and I wheel it around corners and change lanes. My hands are sweaty. My cell-phone rings.


"You're coming," Bronson says.


"You destroyed him."

"Of course."

"Okay, then."

At Bronson's house I set my car on fire.

Earlier we dug a pit. I drove the car into the pit, and now the fire. Bronson's waiting on his front porch in a thick white bathrobe and I imagine myself in a matching bathrobe, very soft and comfortable and sitting quietly at home, watching television with the lights off.

"You're bloody," Bronson says.

"You should hug me."

"Maybe after you shower."

"If I shower I won't want to be hugged. I'll want to be alone."

Bronson steps down the porch-stairs and walks slowly to his backhoe-loader. There's a lot of smoke now. He starts the backhoe-loader. "Move," Bronson says. "You're in the way."

I move.

Bronson uses the backhoe-loader to push dirty into the pit. He covers the car with dirt and smoothes the dirt and parks the backhoe-loader. Now we lay fresh sod over the bare dirt. I remove my shoes and walk barefoot in the sod which is very green and comfortable. I start to sit.

"No no," Bronson says. "Take off your clothes. We'll destroy those also."

"Of course," I say. "But first you take a picture." I hand Bronson my camera.

"Will you pose?" Bronson asks. "Think about Lemmy," Bronson says. "Think about me."

I try not to laugh but I can't help it.

"Good," Bronson says. "Sexy. Now roll in the grass. Roll in the sod."

I take off my clothes.

Bronson takes more pictures.

I carefully fold my clothes and set them on the backhoe-loader. I'm naked and posing and Bronson's taking pictures and I imagine taking the pictures of myself so that I'm Bronson and I'm watching me and my breasts are floppy probably and blood-covered and there are little bits of Lemmy on my nipple and neck and little boy-bits stuck to my toes and in my naval. "What do you see Bronson?" I ask. I don't listen to the answer. I imagine Bronson's naked body and shooting Bronson's naked body and I think that if I were to shoot Bronson I would shoot his belly-button first. When I touch my belly-button I think about knots and I imagine untying my belly-button and my liver and lungs and pancreas flopping out in front of my, or maybe intestines and stomach, and piling there while I watch. "What do you think about belly-buttons?" I ask Bronson.

"They're okay."

"Could you untie one?"

"Is that possible?

"Could you untie mine?"

"I don't think so."

"Good," I say as I grab my gun. "It's time." I aim the gun and Bronson looks suddenly very tired. "Take off your robe."


"Just take it off."

Bronson takes off his robe. "This isn't very funny," he says.

I aim my gun.

I shoot.

Monday, June 18, 2007


There's a mini-van in Montana.

Montana's in Lisbon, somewhere.

There's a tall white house on the highway in Montana/Lisbon and in the tall white house there's a basement and in this basement are three stained-couches, a large wood-framed television, and a tall thin man standing quietly in the corner, his hands resting on perpendicular walls.

I am nowhere and not there but I say this anyway: "Who are you?"

"I am," the man says, "this." He turns his head slightly and his head's wide and pasty and expressionless.


"I'm hungry, maybe. That's all."

I consider this. I consider his mouth and his mouth's wide and toothy and there are too many teeth and the teeth are narrow and white and packed tightly together inside the mouth.

"I haven't eaten. Need to clip my fingernails." I watch the man's hands and the man's hands have no fingernails. "I need something probably."

"You need food?"

"I have to piss and shit for while. And my stomach hurts a little. I'm pale and weak and my hands don't work right anymore." He shows me his hands. He tries to make a fist. "They're vein-y and with tendonitis or inflammations, I think. I want my hands to do things but I can't control my hands and my hands do other things."

I sit softly on the old stained-couch and sink into the couch and my body's solid and wide and couch-like and I feel soft everywhere.

"Don't you understand?" the man says. "This." He shows me his hand and his hand's very thin with long thin fingers and a very narrow unlined palm.

I lay on the couch and the couch's a shopping-cart and I'm moving but I'm here on the stained-couch and very soft. I feel tired. I listen to the sounds but there are no sounds and I wonder where the sounds are.

"You're boring," I say.

The man strangles me for a while.

"Don't do that." I feel tired and calm.

The man stares in a sad way. His hands are thin and cold and I watch his hands as they encircle my neck. "I won't, okay," the man says. "Keep quiet for a while, okay?" He strangles me and I watch as he strangles me and behind him the television plays a bar-soap commercial. A woman with thin blonde hair lathers her pale body with thick white soap-foam and I imagine the bar-soap and the thick white soap-foam in my hands and what I'd do with the bar-soap and who I'd give the bar-soap to because I'd give the bar-soap to every person and every person would strangle me for a while until I wake and walk naked along the highway with handfuls and handfuls of knives.

I'm standing in the café. I'm standing near the wall and I touch the wall and the wall's dark and cold and somehow rough and I imagine feeling individual wall-atoms and I imagine the wall-atoms interacting with my fingers and moving and changing until the wall-atoms are different wall-atoms.

The barista says, "What was that about?" The barista's the only person in the café.

"I don't know."


The barista leans against the counter in a tired way and sighs through thin half-parted lips. The barista's face's lined and worn and as the barista leans against the counter each part of the barista's body hangs slackly and I feel suddenly like a barista-part might fall from the barista-body and lay motionless on the floor.

"Would you like some coffee or something or a croissant or blueberry-muffin? I have pastries you know." The barista gestures toward a glass-case. "You could have anything you wanted. Like coffee-cake or something. Sorry about before with that guy. He's always sort of dramatic but usually doesn't hurt people, and leaves good tips."

"Usually doesn't hurt people?"

"Yeah, usually." The barista smiles. "Only once. Anyway, I can give you free coffee and pastries. It's in my 'discretionary budget.'" The barista stands upright and is very tall. "Come here for awhile. What's your name and stuff? Don't you like coffee and pastries?"

"Who's the person who usually doesn't hurt people? What's its name?"

"You should try some milk-foam. Sit with me in back. I'm taking a break anyway." The barista edges past me and locks the front door. "Come with me, back here. I have these cheese-curds I got from a cheese-factory and they're very good, and free coffee. We'll share or something. I like you, I think."

I follow the barista down a narrow hallway. There are evenly spaced doors on the hallway-walls but we pass the doors and turn left at a fork and then right at the next fork. Here the hallway becomes very bright with exposed halogen-light-bulbs and along the ceiling are long gray pipes of varying diameter and shape. Sometimes a pipe disappears into the ceiling only to reappear a few feet further down the hallway. There are many knobs and levers and I want to turn the knobs and pull the levers but I hold my hands quietly at my side.

"Back here," the barista says. The barista pulls a thin curtain aside and steps into a dirty rectangular room. Centered in the room is a dirty card-table and a dirty refrigerator. There are no chairs. The ceiling's lined with pipes and valves and levers and knobs. The barista opens the refrigerator. The barista's holding a package of cheese-curds. "They're very good."

"This customer," I say, brushing the cheese-curds aside. "Who'd it hurt?"

"Some woman, it's not important."

"What happened?"

"I said it's not important." The barista puts the cheese-curds away and crosses its arms. "I'm trying to give you free coffee and stuff. Don't you want free things?"

"Did the customer use a knife or a gun? Or just fists or hands or feet, or something?"

"I told you it's not important." The barista walks back into the hallway. "Come on. You have to leave now."

"What about the cheese-curds? Coffee?" I sit carefully on the edge of the dirty card-table. I feel strange and warm and I want terribly to know everything about this customer because my brain's confused and concerned and in my brain everything I know is suddenly interrelated. The customer, Merna, my grandfather, the tall dark man, Anastasia, my parents, me, my grandfather and we're sitting cross-legged on a blanket and picnicking and sharing grapes and bread and water. A dog's barking and a boat's floating somewhere in the distance and there's a tall hill or mountain and we're there, in the parking lot and a little fire's burning quietly. I want to explain this to the barista but the barista's in the hallway and slowly tapping its foot. "Sit with me for a moment so I can think of something to say."

"My break's over." The barista moves a little down the hallway. "Come with me. You can't stay here."


"Safety and insurance. Law-suits."

"I don't understand." I move toward the door. There are many shadows in the room and the shadows are long and angular.

"Just come with me, now." The barista leads me through a network of hallways. We turn left, then right, then right, then right again. The doors aren't so evenly spaced here and as we walk the barista mutters quietly to itself in what sounds like a foreign language. I shiver a little and focus my brain on containing my shivering and holding it solidly inside. There are no pipes here. "Go," the barista says. It points to a door at the end of the hallway.

I start to go. "Thanks," I say. "I mean that customer thing." I watch the barista over my shoulder. "Where's this door go?"

"I have to go back to work now. Please go, okay?"

I open the door.

I step outside.

There's a narrow street and low dirty cars and clusters of slow-moving people. I'm on a sidewalk.

My cell-phone ring-tone plays a little song. "Hello," I say.

"Don't you want something? Isn't that why you called? Money or something?" my grandfather said.

I was at college. I pulled my blankets tightly as I thought about the question. "No." My bedroom was dark and cold and a thin breeze filtered through the open window. Outside was dark and clear.

"No? Called for no reason then?"

The voice's thin and static-y and each word, I knew, was a series of beginnings and endings with interruptions and what was missing were the middle-sounds and these middle-sounds were the sounds I wanted to here and why I listened so carefully then. 'A voice is a something,' I thought but the thought wouldn't go anywhere and I abandoned it. I wanted suddenly to touch and hold the voice and choke the voice for a while until the voice became something else. "You're wrong," I said.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be," I said. "Talk about something."



"Are you eating healthy?" There's a short pause. "Have you rescued any squirrels?"

"No and No. I eat squirrels. I roast them after I catch them with thin little strings."

"You tie them down?"

"Of course," I said. "That's how I torture them."

"With toothpicks?"

"For the eyes. And with salt and old razor-blades. You know, like in grade-school."

"Of course."

I chuckled a little and my grandfather chuckled and we chuckled together. "Thanks," I said.

"Go to the grocery-store."


"Tomorrow morning," my grandfather said. "Go to the grocery-store, for groceries. It's important."

"What? Why?"

"Toothpicks. You'll need more of them. And charcoal."

"Oh." I laughed.

"Sometimes toothpicks are the only way to survive. Trust me. I lived off them, in Borneo. I manufactured them in Lisbon. There were squirrels everywhere."

"Pin the eyes back?" I asked.

"Pin them back properly," he answered. "Light the little fuckers on fire."

"Hello," I say into my cell-phone.

"Where are you?" It's Merna.


"I need you. Planning. There's a wake and a funeral and stuff and how can we plan these things without you?"

"I don't understand." I begin to walk. My feet slide a little in the snow and ice.

"I need your help, right now. Grandma's not helping. She's crying and napping and won't leave the bedroom or anything. I don't know what to do. Noah's working so I need you here and the wake has to be today, or the funeral. I don't know about these things."


"So you're coming?"

I think about the question and imagine my body moving and imagine my moving body from above as a map with highlighted routes and with dark red lines and little gray shortcuts and I follow the lines and shortcuts but the lines don't connect or progress and instead move only in curves and at angles. "I'll try," I say.

"Please come. Please come now."

I put my cell-phone away. I'm walking. 'I'm here,' I think. I think it again. The sky's gray and very nearby so that I can imagine my head piercing the sky if were walking on a tall hill or mountain or even camped on a parking-lot on a mountain-peak with a little round fire and blankets. I try to imagine Merna's face but Merna's face's not a face.

"Watch where you're going," a person says. The person's face's long and wide and mostly an open mouth that's moving.


"Aren't we all?"

"Yes," I say.

There's a low gray car. "Do you need a ride?" a voice says.

"Okay," I say.

There's a body and the body's wide and fat. "Get in," the voice says.

A door opens.

I step in.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I'm in my bedroom.

It's morning.

My bedroom's cold and quiet and when I exhale a thin white fog appears and I watch the fog and the fog's formless and wet. I watch my hands and my hands open and close. I sit on my bed. I stand. I sit on my bed again. My bed's cold and unmade and narrow and the mattress's lumpy and cold and boring and I don't want this mattress or to sit or even to lay or sleep on this mattress. I'm yawning.

I stand and walk. "Where am I walking?" I say aloud.

Nobody answers.

I'm outside. I'm in my neighborhood. There are trees and houses and the houses are white and formless and I watch and compare the houses and each house is the same house with the same three floors, foyer, narrow kitchen-islands, picture-windows, and white-wood-shutters.

"Something, something," I say to myself.

The sky's gray and grainy and back-lighted distantly. I'm on a hilltop. I'm near an empty Honda. There's a stoplight. I stop. A dirty pickup pulls up. Inside the pickup a boy yawns. The boy's face is dark and wet and hairy and the face-hair's curled and dirty and the boy's face's wide and smiling.

"Why are you smiling?" I say. I move toward the pickup.

The boy mouths the word, "What?"

"Roll down your window," I say. I mimic roll-down motions with my hand.

The boy rolls down his window.

"Why's your face smiling?"

"Don't know," the boy says. He touches his face. "My face?"

"It's cold here."

"It is."

"Then why smile?" I feel angry. The boy's face is smiling without reason or logic and to smile when the air's cold is wrong and stupid probably. "Why? Don't you consider the cold? Or that other people might be cold and uncomfortable?"

"The snow's very beautiful today," the boy says. He touches the snow on the roof of his car. "I like it."

I watch the boy's face and the boy's face still smiles but the smile's now confused and strange and I want to wear this smile and mimic this smile so I move my mouth experimentally to copy the smile but there's no mirror and I feel nervous and hideous and self-aware.

The boy drums on the pickup-door. "I have to go now, okay." The boy drives.

I follow but slowly and the car disappears over a distant hill.

I'm in a strip-mall. I'm near an AM/PM. I go in the AM/PM.

"Hello," the AM/PM clerk says.

"Hello." I want to call Erik. "Can I use your phone?"

"Who do you want to call?"

"I don't know but I feel like I should call someone."

"Do you ever think about telephones?" The bald clerk leans over the counter. "Personally, I don't use telephones because who knows how they're changing our bodies and who wants to talk so much anyway? It's immoral. Personally, I hate talking and would destroy telephone-technology if I could."

"Isn't talking to people good? You could talk to someone in Portugal probably."

"I don't speak Portuguese."


"Don't buy stuff from this store."

"What?" I watch the telephone and the telephone's boxy and wide with a long silver antenna.

"It's the movement I started, the 'don't buy stuff here' movement which I pursue mostly on weekends and when my boss's on break. Listen: ever think about where this shit comes from? Like, I haven't researched it or anything, but probably this shit's imported from communist and fascist regimes whose primary focus, I'm sure, is to prevent the free-flow of ideas on television and to keep prime-time American broadcasting away from their brain-washed citizens."


"A purchase at AM/PM is unpatriotic and sinful, which is basically the same thing." The clerk's face contorts strangely and the clerk's mouth is round and jagged. "All proceeds go to support fascist/communist global-terrorism."

I watch the clerk's face and am unsure of what to say.

"You can buy beer though. Beer is one-hundred percent American."

"But what about telephones?"

"What do you mean?" The clerk's face becomes very loose and tired-looking and the clerk sits carefully on a tall round stool.

"If people shouldn't talk and not on telephones, then how can you be against regimes that prevent television which is full of talking?

"I don't understand."

"Also we're talking now."

"Are you going to buy some beer or not?"

"Isn't a fascist/communist conspiracy sort of mutually exclusive?"

"Maybe you're a fascist. Maybe that's why you won't buy the beer, fascist."

I sit on the AM/PM-floor and think about this. 'Am I a fascist?' I think. 'Or a communist?' I watch my hands for clues.

"You can't just sit there, commie. Buy something or go." The clerk crosses his arms in front of his chest and his forearms seem very large and menacing and the clerk's arm-hairs are soft and blond and almost invisible. "I could call the police to arrest you for stealing because you're stealing and you'd be arrested and put in a little cell and you'd stay there for like forty years which is what fascist/communists deserve. No trial by peers. Nothing. We'd get shit done if I ran things. No more coddling hippies."

I stand. I go to the cooler and select a can of beer and return.

"Good choice," the clerk says. "Domestic." He takes my money

I go outside. I drink my beer. There's sun and clouds.

I'm walking and as I walk my legs and feet feel energetic and warm and I feel wind on my face and I'm moving very fast and there are other people walking but I'm passing them and the other people are slow-moving and red and mired in the ankle-deep snow. More cars appear and a snow-plow. There's a soft crunching sound everywhere I go. The snow becomes dirty and warm and slushy and my feet are wet through my shoes.

I'm at Wal-Mart. I carefully set my beer-can next to the sliding-door. I go inside.

It's warm and there are thousands of people and each person's moving comfortably and pushing full shopping-carts with potatoes and plastic-trucks and beef-jerky. An old man holds a bathing-suit. A girl rolls around on the cold white tile while her mother browses the bras. I stand near the televisions which come in one-hundred sizes and shapes and each television's playing the same movie with the same deer grazing the same patch of brown grass and the deer's eyes are wide and motionless and the deer's eyes are vacant probably and focused on the brown grass. Somewhere there's a hunter.

"Welcome to Wal-Mart," a voice says. "In the market for a new television," the voice continues, "because, let me tell you, we have the most comprehensive variety of televisions in the western hemisphere."

"That sounds like a lie," I say to the voice.

"Let me level with you," the voice says. "It is a lie but I thought if I said it with energy you'd accept it as truth and want a television and you wouldn't care that I was lying because everyone knows that sales-people are supposed to lie and make the sale and win sales-competitions and stuff like Olympic-sprinters."


"You know Olympic-sprinters probably all cheat with human-growth-hormone or blood-transfusions because they want to win gold-medals and be the fastest person which isn't as fast as a car but pretty fast for a person."

"And you want to win?"

"Maybe. Maybe I'm bored." The voice adjusts its red vest. "They don't give gold-medals for television-sales," the voice whispers.

"I want a television," I say.


"I want to destroy the television."

"Oh. Okay. Cool." The voice's red vest is dirty and in the vest's pockets are dozens of thin black pens.

I open my mouth but don't speak.

The voice walks away.

'I should call people,' I think. 'I should call Merna and force Merna to come to Wal-Mart because there's something at Wal-Mart or maybe about Wal-Mart that's very important and comforting and Wal-Mart could comfort Merna and maybe my grandmother and humans generally.' I see a swinging-door. I walk through the door and I'm in a warehouse.

"Hey," a voice says. "You can't be here."

I nod. "No," I say. "You're correct." I run. I'm near a shelf. I'm behind the shelf and between large brown boxes and on the boxes are neat rows of letters and numbers and the box's brown and musty and I'm musty and I'm the box and I'm inside the box because I'm what the box holds. I think about miniature-people in a miniature-warehouse in miniature-Wal-Mart with concessions-stands and cash-registers and a deep dark vault for five tons of rolled-coins and I imagine standing in the vault and taking the rolled-coins and destroying the rolled-coins and melting the coins and sculpting the coins until the rolled-coins become a narrow penguin standing on a narrow man in the dark corner of my grandparent's basement.

The voice with the red vest returns. "What are you doing here?" it asks.

"Thinking," I say.

The voice sits next to me. "Are you thinking about televisions? Like plasma, or LCD, screen-in-screen, DVR, or whatever?"


"Neither was I."

"Are you on break?"

"No. I mean, sort of."


"Here," the voice says. It hands me a pen. "Write slogans on these boxes, like 'eat me and support Canadian apartheid' or 'Jesus something something video-games.'"

I watch the voice.

"It's what I do most of the time." The voice begins to write slogans.

"Erik," another voice says.

I make myself small.

"Erik," the new-voice says again. "Mr. Burmeister's looking for you." The new-voice moves its head side to side in a nervous way then shuffles quickly out the double-doors.

I watch the original-voice and the original-voice's very concentrated and hunched-over boxes and writing slogans on boxes darkly and repeatedly and re-tracing and re-designing the slogans until the slogans are permanent and jagged and eye-catching. I read a slogan and the slogan says, 'Cannibalism is the only reasonable alternative to fossil-fuel.' I read another slogan and it says, 'Robot-people are robot-people too, probably.'

I stand and walk.

Above me are rows of fluorescent light-bulbs.

Behind me the original-voice's still writing slogans on boxes and the original-voice's body is bent perpendicularly and awkwardly and the original-voice's hands move quickly and strangely and the face's concentrated and hard but blank and worn and I touch my own face and my own face's blank and formless. I watch the original-voice's hands and the hands are tight and solid and each hand-movement's jerky and sudden and as the hand forms letters the hand becomes red and tight and the hand's knuckles are white. I touch my face and my face's blank and I feel suddenly very sleepy and cold.

I walk for a while. I'm on the highway.

There's a human. The human's very wide and the human's head's very small and the human's arms are very thin and this human's walking carefully and calmly and I think for a moment that the human's Aaron but Aaron's at the airport and even if this human looks like Aaron it's not Aaron. I follow the not-Aaron human.

'If the human were Aaron,' I think, 'I'd probably stab it.'

The not-Aaron human moves into a café. I follow. The café's warm and dark with small red tables and plush worn armchairs. I sit. The human orders coffee. 'Should I order coffee?' I don't know. I watch the not-Aaron human and it's not Aaron. Its face's narrow and tall and its neck's very thin and sinuous and the head wobbles as it walks. It sits at my table.

"Are you following me?"

"No," I say. I feel tight and ball-like.

"I think you are following me."

"I'm just out for a walk because I like to walk," I say.

"Did someone hire you, the cops?" The human drinks from its coffee. "I didn't kill it okay. It was like that when I found it."

"I'm out for a walk," I say. "I'm relaxing in a café."

"It was a joke," the human says. "A practical-joke. A small one. I made breathing-holes in the plastic-bag. I tested it. I bought the ice-cream. The ice-cream's a kind of proof. I showed the receipt and the cops have the receipt."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"It was mint-chocolate-chip."

The human's face's very red and lined with puffed-cheeks and thick round eyeballs that bulge a little and sit in the face, motionless.

"It'd be the same for anyone. I needed to eat." The human's wide round stomach bumps the table. "It was already dead anyway and I found it that way."

I think about Merna and Anastasia. I think about my grandfather and Aaron and Erik. I imagine them in a mini-van and driving and I'm in the back on top of a pile of blankets and jackets and I'm watching the empty freeway and Aaron and Erik and Anastasia and Merna and my grandparents are talking loudly but I can't understand them and I'm touching my ears because my ears are scrambled and warm.

The human stands and points. "You can't judge me."

"Murderer," I say. "You did it because you wanted to and because you're evil and fat and destructive and it's your nature to be evil and fat and destructive and you'd eat me too if you could eat me and even now you're thinking about eating me."

"You don't know what you're talking about."

The barista's watching us. The barista's face's flat and bored.

I push the table at the human. I stand. "You're evil." My face's blank and tense and my body's cold and calm. I feel terrible and sad and I don't know what 'evil' means and I wonder why I said the word 'evil' or why I say anything. I imagine the mini-van and sleeping in the mini-van and the mini-van's in Montana or Lisbon or some place where there are only streets and trees and wide spaces of grass and concrete and I lay awake and asleep and watching out the window and the landscape's blank and flat and cold.