Category Archives: Shorter Works

Bugs, Nose, Faulkner

A short story for Halloween

Mature themes not intended for everyone

Bugs on the keys again. It always starts this way. I hate the damn things, always crawling under my fingers, getting caught beneath the tips, squirting their guts out across my plastic keypad. I love plastic. It’s so smoothe, not like bug guts which are slippery. They never give me a new keyboard when the old one is covered with bug slime. I learned that at my old job. I would call the help desk and they would send somebody over, but they stopped. My old boss told me to quit bothering the nice people at the help desk. I told him about the bug guts and then I had to find a new job.

Now, when the bugs come, I put the keyboard in the top drawer of my desk and sit back and stare out my window. When I open my drawer up again, the bugs are gone. I think they live in the back of the drawer, but I am too afraid to look. I think the janitor cleans them out once a week, but he does not understand that they come back every night.

I am going to call the help desk anyway, but I will not tell them what is wrong.

Everyone is all excited in Judy’s cube. She was full of bugs last night. I could tell just by looking at her that they were the long squirmy kind, like lampreys. I saw a picture of a lamprey once. It looked like a penis before the bugs come and bite off the tip. Bugs, buggy, buggering Bugs Bunny. I love rabbits, George.

Old movies are great, don’t you think? I have watched a million of them. They used to show them every Friday night in the big hall where they fed us. I think they put bugs in the food and waited to see when they would crawl out of us. I closed my eyes when I ate because I was afraid to look at the food.

The nice people at the help desk say they will send someone over to fix my keyboard. I told them the keys do not work.

Have you ever heard of John Steinbeck? He knew about the bugs, I could tell. Martha read to me from some words he wrote. She was the first person I ever told about the bugs. She said some guy named Burroughs knew about the bugs, but I got afraid when she tried to tell me about him. I saw his picture on the back of the book she was holding and he looked like a mean old man. But he knew about the bugs.

Martha has such soft hands. I remember her fingers curling around the edges of the book. Her thin, colored nails scampering along the sides of the pages. Sometimes her nails sprouted legs and popped off her hands and ran about on the carpet. She would scream at first, but later we would laugh and laugh. I love Martha.

A spider swings from a thread outside my window. It looks like a needle on the end of a tube after you have taken it out of your arm even though they do not want you to.

Lampreys look a lot like worms. Worms squirm beneath the epiderm. I once ate a worm. It didn’t taste anything like chicken like Jose said it would. I never talked to him again. He didn’t know anything about bugs or worms or anything, anyway. He said he did, but he lied. People who lie get bugs coming out of their mouths. Have you ever seen the inside of a person? Lies sound like bugs and worms crawling across your tongue. My mommy could make the bugs and worms go away.

I miss her a lot sometimes. Martha says everyone misses their mother sometimes, but you have to get over it. Martha’s very smart that way, don’t you think? I do not think she knows about Judy, though. I never tell her about any of the other girls because I do not want to upset her. Sometimes she asks if there is anyone else, but I tell her no. Then I have to run out of the room because of the bugs.

I have a big window because I am important. I type all day whatever they tell me to type and they pay me and I like my job. I have my own cubicle with cloth walls and a little desk. I have two file drawers!

I watch the spider outside my window as he swings back and forth like he’s on a trapeze.

I really, really like going to the circus. I once saw somebody fall from the trapeze. Her partner didn’t catch her and she fell and fell until she went splat and blew up all over the ground.

Something is crawling across my tongue. I can feel its little legs stepping so softly as its wings beat against the roof of my mouth. I hate when this happens. If I try to cough it out, then it just grabs hold tighter and tighter until my tongue turns purple. I can open my mouth and hope it leaves. I wish it would just fly away, but it’s crawling up my cheek out of my mouth. It’s big, too big, and it looks like a praying mantis. I really hate when this happens.

I lied about the magnificent girl on the flying trapeze. She didn’t die even though I thought she would. She fell in a net, but, really, she should have been dead. I think nets are like lying. Bugs on the girl, bugs big as a cat, bugs on the girl because she didn’t go splat.

William Faulkner is a funny man. Martha loved to read his stories. I buy his books whenever I see them at garage sales. I ask the owners why they’re selling them and they always say the same thing, “My daughter brought it home from college and left it when she got married.”

Martha does not approve of college girls. They do not like her too much either. They have to go to the little girls’ room and be sick after they meet her.

Sometimes I try to write because I think Martha has read everything by William Faulkner and she might want to read something else. With bugs in it. Everything I write has bugs in it.

I hate the daughters who forget about William Faulkner. They think they’re better than Martha and they’re wrong. I know this because I talk to their daughters. I meet them in clubs and in libraries and at work. I look for them, but I will never marry them because they’re married already. That’s what their parents tell me, anyway.

This job is easy as long as the bugs stay away. When they first started, I thought maybe it was because I ate at my desk so I always ate my lunch in the cafeteria. I never even sipped water at my desk, even when I was so dry that my lips cracked and my eyes itched. Then the bugs came and I gave up. I still do not eat at my desk, but that’s because I watch my figure. I need to stay trim so Martha will always love me. A trim limb is a good limb. Martha likes my lamprey.

I remember staying in the house with many beds. Father said I had to go and mommy did not love me enough to stop him.

I had a fat neighbor named Mr. Nose once, but he does not live next to me anymore. All my neighbors are thin now. I like them better that way. Fat people are always getting in the way and they always tell you what they think when you ride with them on the elevator. They complain because they think you are making the building stink. Mr. Nose even called the police, but they did not smell anything. I bought stuff you plug into the wall and stuff you pump and stuff you spray and the cop said it smelled like a whorehouse, but there was not anything they could do about it. Nose knows nothing.

I went to the circus every night after the girl fell from the trapeze. She had thick, strong legs and never fell again. I was a little disappointed, but she was not supposed to fall every night. She fell for me on my first night. I watched her hands wherever she held on as she swung. I loved her strong hands and thick legs. When the ringmaster announced that the circus was leaving town, I stayed after the show and talked to the girl.

We walked by the creek. She liked my nice, big hands. Hers were not as big as mine. There was a lamprey in the creek, but she said it looked more like a crawdad. She liked movies, too, she said, but I think she lied. I do not know when she started lying, but bugs started coming out of her mouth. More and more, they raced out of her, but I could not help her. Stream screams, we all scream for ice cream.

I followed Mr. Nose home from work one night because I wanted to know what he thought he smelled. Do not tilt your head back, a bloody Nose needs pinching. Streams of blood and bugs. Ice cream! With worms.

William Faulkner eats bugs!

Judy’s parents sold me her copy of Absalom, Absalom. She had signed her name on the inside front cover and I found her in the telephone book. A, B, C, easy as you please. D, E, F, how many more are left? Judy has very nice parents, but I hear her talking with her mother all the time. She sounds like a little girl, even littler than the magnificent girl on the flying trapeze. Judy is married, but I do not care.

How do spiders get up so high? I am on the eighteenth floor. If he is swinging outside my window, then he must be coming down from somewhere. Do you think he climbed all the way to the top just to swing all the way down to the bottom?

Sometimes I hug my window. I kneel on the ledge in front of it and spread out my arms as wide as I can. I press my cheek against the glass and breathe in and out. I can see down out of the corner of my eye. I am not afraid to fall if the spider isn’t. I leave a breath stain when my boss makes me pull away from the window. She always tells me it is not as hard as I might think to replace me, but I do not care. I can leave my job now.

I once ate a spider. What goes in must come out. Jose taught me to tear the legs off it first. The trick is not to taste it, just swallow real fast. Over the lips and past the gums, watch out stomach, here it comes. Without the legs. The magnificent girl on the flying trapeze had thick legs. Martha has thin legs. Judy’s legs are just right.

My monitor is a bug like I have never seen before. A hand is grabbing me. It feels like my father’s hand. I type all day and stare at the monitor. The hand is telling me to type. Press the keys.

The spider has blown away to I know not where. That’s where my father said I live — I know not where. And I never went back. I wonder what the spider thinks of his thread. I wonder what the thread thinks of the spider. I wonder what I think. I wonder what I thread. Ding, dong, the witch is dead.

The receptionist is passing out a notice about Judy, but I already know what it says. Judy will not be in to work today. She has a bug. I never call in sick, but that is a point of pride with me. My father taught me right. You won’t be on a team if you’re not there when they’re picking sides. Judy’s parents are nice, but they did not teach her right.

Judy never saw a lamprey before, so I told her that I had one.

I wonder what a lamprey eats. I should know, but I do not. I love books, but I never have time to read. I buy books for Martha. She likes old books, dusty books, yellow books. The smelly ones do not bother her.

Judy stayed late last night. So did I.

I open the notice about Judy with my nose and hold it really close to my face. I like to read this way. The police are here and want to talk to us. They must want to hear about the bugs. I hear them talking to her friends, but I try to ignore them. The police always take the side of the fat people. Copper, flatfoot, pig. My house smells better than your house. I better pick up more room deodorizer on my way home.

Judy did not want to meet Martha, but I knew she was lying because I saw the bugs coming out of her face. First, a little grasshopper stuck its tiny head out of her nose and looked around. Then, a big old beetle crawled out of her ear and down her cheek. I slapped it to get it off but that only made her mad. I am supposed to count when I get mad. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. When I reach ten, I can do whatever I want. Bugs, rugs, slugs. Girl twirls. Skin like paper in an old book. Blood like bugs. Spiders like needles. Love like death. Faulkner likes me.

I miss Judy already. Martha says it is only natural. Martha does not care though. She is glad Judy is gone. So is William Faulkner.

Here comes the man. Hear his footsteps. It’s the nice man from the help desk to make the bugs go away. He says he passed police on their way out. I wonder if my next job will be as nice. I went to a garage sale on Saturday and bought a copy of The Sound and the Fury.

(1994)

Radio Play Snippet

Sometimes you start writing and then you stop. Sometimes that’s a good thing. This radio play snippet probably could be fixed and expanded. I count one, maybe two, chuckles.

(Intro. music)

(SFX-Newspaper being opened, looked through.)

MEL: Hmmm… hmm. Apartments for rent? (pause-more rustling) Here we go… . Eastside. (to himself) “Easy commuting distance to Downtown. Near Youngstown.” Nope, don’t think so. … “One bedroom in large house. One hundred and fifty per month. ” Good rent. Probably doesn’t include utilities. All right. (picks up phone-dials as he reads the number) 555-6666. That’s easy to remember.

(Phone rings on the other end and answering machine picks up.)

OTHER END: (Deep voice.) Greetings.

MEL: Hello, I’m interested in… .

OTHER END: You have reached 666-1313. (Mel groans to himself.) We’re unavailable right now, but we usually are. We’d love to call you back, though. We usually do. Please leave your name and phone number like a good soul. Thank you.

MEL: Yes, I’m…

OTHER END: Please wait for the beep. (Pause) Beep.

MEL: Yes! I’m looking for… I mean I’m interested in the apartment advertised in the paper. My name’s Mel. I can be reached at 555-4753. I suppose I can answer any questions when you call.

OTHER END: Or you answer them now.

MEL: I could, but this is only an answering machine and… . (Pause) Wait a second!

OTHER END: Yes?

MEL: This isn’t an answering machine.

OTHER END: That would seem to be obvious.

MEL: But it said it was.

OTHER END: I lied, apparently. It’s been known to happen.

MEL: Oh. (Pause) I was calling about the apartment…

OTHER END: I remember.

MEL: Ummm… . Is it still available?

OTHER END: When can you move in?

MEL: I asked…

OTHER END: When can you move in?

MEL: I suppose next Saturday.

OTHER END: Saturday’s bad. How about Friday?

MEL: I could do that.

OTHER END: Fine, then it’s settled.

MEL: No, I want to see it first. I can’t just commit myself.

OTHER END: Why not? You’ll see it when you move in. You can rely on my judgement until then. It’s a very unique opportunity to leave in a very unique environment.

MEL: I don’t know if that’s what I’m looking for.

OTHER END: Of course it is. The address is in the paper. We’re just off East Thirteenth. (Hangs up)

MEL: But what about the utilities?

(Music up and out)

(SFX-Mel pulling up in the driveway of the house.)

MEL: Sure is big enough. Awfully black, but it doesn’t look too bad in the sunlight. Probably disappears completely at night.

(SFX-Mel gets out of his car and walks up the steps to the front door of the house. He rings the doorbell which plays a bit from the “Volga Boatman.” Heavy footsteps are heard and the large wooden door creaks open.)

BUTLER: (Little voice) Good afternoon. May I help you.

MEL: I think so. I’m here to move into the apartment.

BUTLER: You must be Mel. We’ve been expecting you. Please come in.

(Door swings wide.)

ALL: Greetings, Mel!

(Mel screams and faints.)

BUTLER: Oooo. He fainted.

VLAD: (Voice from the OTHER END. Sound of him walking forward-long train dragging behind.) Quickly- get some water and smelling salts. (Scurrying feet with things dragging.)

JASMINE: Here, Vlad, honey.

(1995?)

The Paradox of Zeno and Adolescence

Around 2004, I sat down to write some thoughts about my high school years. This is as far as I got at the time.

Adolescence, like a pothole, looks best in the rear-view mirror.

By stopping there, I probably proved the falsity of that statement. I don’t know if it ever looks better or worse than it was. But it is over and done.

Six years later, I cleverly started a teen-age zombie novel, in order to cash in on the waning interest on such a thing. I rather like the words, but this has been abandoned… perhaps abandoned like the corpse of a friend in a zombie flick… seen in the rear-view mirror…

The Paradox of Zeno

 Tap.  Pitter.  Tap-tap.  Tat-tap. TAP!

Karen opened one eye.  Her alarm would go off any minute.

Tap-tap.

Click.

Talking to myself and feeling old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around, nothing to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Karen stared at her iHome alarm clock.  Everything was better with Karen C. in the room.  She didn’t need to set it on the weekend, but she hated getting out of her routine.  Repetition proved that she could rely on herself.  Even so, that didn’t mean that she had to be a slave to the alarm.  On weekends, she woke to the Carpenters, which was on her list of facts about herself that could never be discussed.

Things that Karen never discusses

  • She liked the Carpenters.
  • Her mother was all right.
  • She wanted to go to college more than she wanted to be around boys.
  • Zombies really suck.

The first three were too private and the last one seemed like a generally agreed upon thing that nobody ever said.

Something was tapping on the window in the other room.  It was very annoying.

Karen dragged herself across her bedroom and plopped before her computer, jostling the screensaver away.  Facebook came up on the screen.  She scanned it quickly.  Nobody’s status had changed overnight.  She stared at one icon for a little longer—still no update from Stacy.  It had been two weeks.

Karen scratched her belly.  She grabbed the BB gun from beside her bed.  She could come back for the shotgun if she needed it.  The tapping came from her parents’ bedroom.  She nudged the door open, thinking how they only closed it when they were groping one another.  There they were, sound asleep.  Her father snored like a sick cat.

The curtains were drawn, but the tapping continued on their window.  Padding softly across the room, Karen nudged the curtain open.  It took her a minute to see through the chicken wire on the other side of the glass.  She flinched when there was another tap, but it only confirmed her suspicions.  There was another one up in the tree outside.

She went through the hall to the bathroom where she could open the window and it was not so close to the old oak tree in the yard.  Her dad had modified the window so that there was a small, hinged area that a gun could fit through.  That was months ago.  Karen opened the portal.  She could see the zombie perched on the branch.  It was tossing stones and acorns at the house.  A couple others wandered through the Bensons’ old home up the street, but that was all the activity outside.

Karen pumped the BB gun and aimed carefully.  It was loaded with metal ball bearings.  She fired twice.  The zombie groaned and tumbled from the tree.  After a few moments, it struggled to its feet and staggered away.  Its head and right arm had twisted out of symmetry.

Karen latched the window and leaned the gun against the toilet.  Staring into the mirror, she said, “You have got to get some sun.”

Hesitating at the head of the stairs, Karen threw the light switch for the first floor.  She listened carefully for any sounds—nothing.  She headed down to the kitchen.  The gloom of the first floor enveloped her.  Her parents had never gotten around to completely evacuating the lower floors.  Her parents had reinforced the walls and boarded over the windows.  The neighbors had caused a stink about linking up with Karen’s house, but that ended once the Bensons’ stopped having a vote.  Besides, that had been a year ago when they had the only Hummer on the block.

She pulled a box of Captain Crunch from the shelf.  She had been way into Cheerios when she was on the swim team, but that had fallen by the wayside, along with the swim team.  Also, she preferred Captain Crunch dry, what with milk being a rarity—just another thing to be grateful for.

How It Happened

Glad you asked.  Old news, but here goes– Haiti had an earthquake.  The President made a very public speech about how bad it was and how bad he felt and how we needed to do something.  What he meant was that people should give all their spare change to the Red Cross and he would send the Vice-President down there to shake hands and hug some babies.  Everybody knew that the Vice-President wasn’t going to run for President, so it wasn’t like sending the heir apparent, but the President was busy with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the Haitians should be happy with what they could get.

Well, maybe they weren’t.

Next thing you know, the Vice President disappeared.  It seems that Haiti post-earthquake defied the ability of the U.S. Secret Service to maintain a decent caravan.  Or maybe they realized that it was only the Veep and they had an off day.  So, the “Prince of the Senate” disappears for two days without a word.  The whole nation starts wringing its hands.  Then, video starts cropping up on YouTube and other places showing some crazy guy who looks like the Veep.  The only problem is that he seems to be a zombie, only nobody is saying that he’s a zombie because nobody believes in zombies.  So, the Secret Service sends in the cavalry to rescue the wayward charge.  Who knows how many agents were lost, but they got him back on Air Force Two and on the way home.

More videos from the hospital show a very disgusting site.  More and more medical staff go into quarantine.  Various politicians follow them, though not before infecting their fellow Congressmen, Senators,… and President.  It turns out that country takes a week or two to notice that it’s being run by zombies.