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.

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