Clutter Scaffolding

Inner Shriek, 2023 linocut by Klein Fiasco
RDT podcast: Clutter Scaffolding

“If madness is the truth of knowledge, it is because knowledge is absurd, and instead of addressing itself to the great book of experience, loses its way in the dust of books and in idle debate; learning becomes madness through the very excess of false learning…According to the theme long familiar to popular satire, madness appears as the comic punishment of knowledge and its ignorant presumption.” Michel Foucault, Madness & Civilization

Hieronymus Schitzolini received this post-apocalyptic signal in fragments that resist the kind of cohesive reality stories take on by default.  Convinced that not much will make sense in the future for whoever survives, it makes sense that Hieronymus didn’t try to iron out any vision that would only fall short as most depictions do.  To do so would be like the countless absurd apocalyptic movies that worship technology and capitalism while superficially warning about their dangers before they save the day.  Humans are obviously too primitive to really understand their tools and how their tools shape their consciousness.  If one day these tools get taken away like toys from a child, only cluttered minds locked into primitive tantrums will remain, but maybe the good news will be that humanity’s death-spasm-signal will get so chopped up, it won’t matter anymore. 

Klein fiasco

Wind blows through the archaic wind pipes jutting out of a heaping clutter-frenzy.  It’s limp, lachrymose tone befits this ruined place.  The burnt antlers of a useless machine dig back into the earth.  I sometimes dream of pineapples.  If you find a can, it’s like gold.  Junk clatters the hillside as scavengers traverse below the ridge-line.  The skeletal lattices of bombed out buildings loom over the trash-scape.  Coffin-cars litter segments of catafalque highways.  Defunct underpasses form hideaways more dangerous than they’re worth.  Scan for those faint melodies, the singular tracks that suggest where a cache might be tucked away by another rubble-squirrel.  Easier to find that nut than go poking about the vast remains for spicks and specks of this and that.

Nobody remembers exactly when the bomb went off.  At this point, it’s vague if there was even a bomb.  Perhaps it’s just an easier way of talking about the collective shit storm of biblical weather unleashed upon us by the backwash of our own slippery productivity and evasive progress.  What does it matter now that we’re lost in a rancid haze with dirty undies for masks?

There are all sorts of stories told to explain why things are they way they are now.  Puppet presidents and imposter nations, media cabals and demonic elites, but none of them matter anymore in terms of causing us to correct the damage done.

One story that is commonly told, though, is that the post-industrial nations that managed to completely transition to green and sustainable systems miscalculated the risk of nuking the nations that were still stuck in the fossil fuel age and were still exacerbating global warming.  And so they nuked the developing world to halt the same poisonous old-fashioned practices they had partook in, but due to unforeseen weather changes, they hastened civilization’s demise with an overdosage of nuclear fallout.

Another popular explanation, criticized as too simplistic, is far more outlandish but entertaining and that’s why it’s told like the only sick joke left to console our condition.  It’s referred to as the network president.  Supposedly, a television network selected a rich kid and made a persona out of him as a real-estate mogul so that a few decades later he could host a wildly popular game show piped into millions of boob tubes in which he could display his sadistic pleasure in firing people.  When that show ran its course, the network reinvented him as a commander-in-chief divider (based upon the blueprint of a previous actor puppet placed in the White House decades earlier) and used him to divide everything and everyone until everybody was at each other’s throats.  Soon enough, people forgot to take each person as an individual and only saw a person as a figment of a group.  As a side effect of this derivative sales technique, the chief divider went rogue and with three words dismantled the free press by forcing them to print “fake news” ad nauseam until the commoners believed all news to be fake.  With the truth out of the way, it was only a matter of time before history served up its lesson through a one-two punch.  A plague that set the blame-stage for the final World War.  

But again, most people dismiss this story because they cannot believe their ancestors could’ve been so easily manipulated by media companies who in turn couldn’t have been so irresponsible as to make politics mere entertainment and produce a  post-truth environment ripe for disaster.   The few who do believe the story as obvious truth know that the surefire way to idiocy is by overcomplicating matters with fussy sophistications, compartmentalized rationalizations, and comforting justifications that blot out one’s ability to register the proliferating obfuscations one is actually making to the degree that they carve it’s maker out from the inside before the maker knows it nor can do anything about it.

Death is intolerable; the truth unbearable.

Even if this network president story were true, believe it or not, people still squirm.  But they call it fighting.  They squirm over what’s left.  The lousy clutter.  Squirm to the very end.  It’s important to show spirit in the face of destitution rather than compassion.  And when they’re not squirming in broad daylight, they’re hiding among the rubble and pretending to carry on with some meaningless work.  They’re hoping that one day things outside magically get better.  That the wet architecture stays put.

There are no parents anymore.  The children are left to fend for themselves like gangs of rodents scurrying in and out of the clutter.  Every mother a Henrietta Anonymous.  Every father a phantom weenie slipped out of the clutch.  Guilt can only occur if somebody cares.  The neo-Robber Barons like Teton Husk stole their childhood long before they were born with cynical overconsumption of oxymoronic products in the luxurious era of virtue signaling.

Don’t get sick on clutter island.  Don’t get too old either.  The scavengers will pick you clean.  Desperation is enthusiasm.  And enthusiasm desperation.  It’s impossible to tell them apart.  The only respect given is to the winner of a suffering competition.  Whoever convinces others of suffering the most maybe gets a pass for the night.  Not out of empathy, mind you, rather out of fear that the lousiness on display might get infectious amidst the humanity scraps racing briefly across our minds when the impending dangers subside for a blip.

Any piece of art or culture that people used to supposedly care about is destroyed.  The sight of any beauty from the past inspires nothing but anger now.  Any excuse is taken as permission to feel righteous about knowing reality as harshness.  We are more miserable now than any before us.  Only useful things have value now.  Resentment and jealousy is our currency.  Quick to be disgusted at any person who seems like they might be good or pretty.

It’s nightmares every night.  Rooftop executions.  The weak and defenseless face marauders.  When the mincemeat-makers come, drop everything.  Hide or use the clutter as a wedge between you and them.  Or else, get caught swinging miserably until they bore of your anguish and have their fun.  String you up.  Turn you into a piñata.  Or if they’ve got a can of pineapples around, a Hawaiian BBQ.  Sometimes the mere sound of extreme torture sends one off in a rage of uncontrollable laughter.  As if choking on a pit.

There is no protection.  No enforced simulation of ownership.  When somebody assumes the perspective of someone else what is meant is that someone else’s situation is worse.  This is said to make one feel better.  And that is the extent of anyone’s empathy now.  Someone else gets his head bashed in over some clutter and all one can muster is “at least it wasn’t me.”

Sometimes we look at our ruined state and have the thought that something should be done about it.  Maybe it should be cleaned up.  But what is meant is that somebody else should.  Who that somebody is nobody knows.  Like children playing with busted dolls, they still hold on to a warped idea of some hero that never was.

The clutter doesn’t stay on the outside either.  It creeps right into one’s mind if one isn’t careful.  There’s always some mad preacher screaming at the wind with sermons of cluttered futility yearning for those old visions of monsters from the deep, the obsolete and grandiose illuminated depictions of the apocalypse:

“We turned our backs on the burning eye.  Now it burns all the brighter.  Don’t you feel that piercing sensation in the back of your neck?  That’s the beam of Yam shooting straight at you from the primordial chaos.  

We thought we could fabricate everything.  We forgot that we were not Gods.  Now that hubris is burning a hole in our backs.  And what do we do?  We do as those did before us.  Even if we see the worst coming.  We just do what makes us comfortable and hope for the best.  We call our neglect tolerance.  Our abandonment freedom.  

But the burning eye sees right through our excuses.  Our false righteousness is nothing but smoke from the bonfires of our futile sacrifices.  Can’t you hear Mammon laughing?  We’d rather spend our attention on diminishing returns than face what we’ve become.”  

Listen to this false self-appointed prophet conjuring up archaic dreams shattered to bits and pieces like everything else.  Foregone squealing against the roaring aftermath.    

“Our ancestors saw it coming but did nothing effective to stave off hell to come.  They were too concerned with how their financial turds glided into various containers.  Beezlebub turned them back into crap-hurling apes.  There is no lottery anymore, yet we still wish for it.  We still yearn to bathe in copious amounts of green mana.  The biggest sin of our great grandfathers was the worship of the great big money turd in all its dynamic brimstone-stink and the obsession over the bowel movements of random markets and their fiscal constipations.  

It’s too hard to care, isn’t it?  So we turn our back to stare at another crap-vista while we ignore the hole burning right through us from the old forgotten pyramid of snakes belching hell-fire.”  

What a hopeless romantic.  Like a coward’s pre-retreat.  Only the idiots who hang on too long call their desertion a retreat.  When all is lost, what does it matter that one had the vision to see where the insanity was roughly headed and made a pre-retreat to the same result?  Only to get to the end first, sure, but at least the line between courage and stupidity was preserved along with the selective wisdom of cowardice, otherwise known as imploded courage.  

One cannot help but wonder if religion set the stage for our demise or if it was our abandonment that brought it on.  That maybe if we hadn’t taken tenderness as weakness, if we had stuck to the wisdom of our knees and knelt more like those before us maybe we would’ve preserved our existence.  The forgotten virtues of any religion cultured over millennia and coded in metaphor probably knew more about the psyche than any madhouse-fabricating rational literalist ever could.  Losing the ship of fools and hiding the madness in a glimmer of reason surely didn’t pan out.

It was hardly the fault of our ancestors, though.  They couldn’t do anything about it.  Technology’s effects were never fully known until the damage was done.  Governance was always after the fact.  The old in power were too slow to catch up.  Mass psychological experiments were conducted through cheap (even free!) and useful tech.  The radio brought fascism and it wasn’t until after WW2 that people realized it.  What was supposed to be the information superhighway became a disinformation cul-de-sac noose.  And the world was irrevocably turned to clutter once people outsourced their ability to think.  The never-ending confetti feeds cut their heads off like guillotines.  The psychological warfare disguised as harmless fun when you have a minute.  Role-confusion apps wreaking havoc on pre-formed psyches.  It was the worship of technology that was mandatory.  Or else be deemed a luddite.  A fool who failed to outsource his dreams.  Somebody who doesn’t get the complexity.  For technology somehow turned itself into Jesus Christ before the bomb.  The savior who delivered us, accidentally of course, to our destruction.  Only without any cool design features like redemption or salvation.  Just the feel of hi-tech savviness for neo-yuppies clad in monochrome uniforms mistaking purchasing power for the possession of traits while they march on in the same manner their parents did without realizing it before its too late to stop the next generational battalion from replacing them.

Only integrity of mind keeps the clutter out.  However you do it, you need to do it, or else devolve into a doomsday lunatic ranting at the rancid haze with panties on your face.  I’ve got my system.  It’s what I call scaffolding and it must change constantly to keep up with the wet architecture.  The attention spent on scaffolding consumes mental resources because by the time it is thought to be set in place, another shift occurs and a new arrangement must be made.  The wet architecture shifts itself so that any line, which is thought to be static, is in fact a movement.  When a line is a movement everything is slippery as a result.  Even a simple line of reasoning cannot be held in place by the notion of a choice for more than a blip.   

From the scaffolding, the wet architecture appears to have an exterior but if one ventures onto the wetness, no interior can be found.  The rooms thought to exist move away from an encroaching step.  Negative spaces escape on the moving lines of any memory.  From the perspective provided by scaffolding, the line is drawn to make the difference as always but in the wetness the difference moves elsewhere.  The project in mind always extends past the idea of its finality.  

On a circuitboard of toast, the seed darts along a string of jelly.  The bulb cannot hold its voltage so it slips on the vine.  Repurposed babies spill from the rope like knots sliding on hollow thread.  Ancestral genitals death-squirm in a Petri dish.  Floppy labia sprout penis heads.  Any entrance exits itself.  Makeshift hallways fall through their frames.  The bomb turned every disposable bedroom into a vacant stare.  The shadow-runner stays below the simulated horizon. 

A crack slap-echoes from a hard rooftop.  A minor sound compared to the terror we were once.  The terror we paralyzed ourselves with until we became unable to find the course to correct ourselves toward.  For now, we have become the terrified.  We have reverted back to our pre-ancestral evolutionary iteration’s baseline fear squirm.  A pointless post-generational reaction to what harmed us but is already long gone.  The only caveat of our dying age might be this awareness, or tortured release, of how after the fact our existence always was.  

Peripheral Slithering

Schitzolini was awarded a residency at the horizon house in Big Sur.  Perched on the cliffs, his room faced downward into the yawning abyss. Staring into the spatial form of forgetting, he recognized shadowy formations that suggested the void be not the emptiness it seems to represent.  And from the void spewed memories not his own.  Wracked by remembering what had never happened, Schitzolini’s narrative mirrored this with the second person as a way to stress the simulation for the reader.  As he wrote, it felt like the entire retreat were tumbling down the cliff.  Remembering to forget, the text seemed to swallow itself as it was written, swelling up with things thought to be forgotten as if forgetting were a form of erasure.  The peripheral slithering of omissions had come back to break the seals of continuity.

Klein fiasco

Without a money spill, a beach house comes with some sort of compromise.  In this case, the instructions are to enjoy the ocean front property as long as one does not look under the floor.  Sounds easy enough.  Until you get there and it appears that things are living under the carpet.  You step gently into the dreamy beach home, careful not to squash whatever rug beast just darted into the kitchen.  Sit on the sofa with feet up.  From here, you enjoy the view of the beach and the ocean while ignoring the peripheral slithering.  Maybe the wooden deck will be a better place to hang out if it isn’t too cold tonight.  The staircase from the deck leads right down to the beach, just as advertised.  A walk on the beach might put this strange condition out of your head.

Down the stairs, you notice a door under the house.  The key for the front door works and inside there is just a room for the washer and dryer.  There’s a hatch in the ceiling but you’d need a ladder to poke your head into it.  The thought of what might crawl onto your face makes you shut the door and go for that walk.  The swelling force of the ocean grows into the wild surge of an imminent flood.  Moments ago from inside the house, it appeared so tranquil.  Flat and without movement.  As if the surface of the sea required only the thinnest seal to keep it down.  You forget the calming effect of distance.  Now it teems with energy.  The tide ravages the path along the shoreline and sends you crab crawling on the rocks to get around the point where you hope to beg for inspiration on how to experience the rapture of persecution when you return home from this vacation.

As the waves crash, the whitewash makes a thousand faces merging into one another.   You remember last night when you closed your eyes and a phosphene materialized into a dissipating neon lace.  The froth blows across the sand.  Foam collects like snow on a half-eroded sand castle.  The fake frost chills the hypothetical bones.  The sight of a human-made thing (obviously a castle made with the skill of adult hands) where there should only be natural things in nature annoys you like whenever you see one of those stupid stone stacks made by some pretentious fop who calls himself an artist and lives in what he calls an artist’s community, you are sure to mess it up, so you kick a turret and sand crabs spill out and wiggle back into the ground.  You notice their little holes all over the sand’s face and envision them teeming under its porous skin.     

The aggravating itch of a familiar yet unidentifiable smell overcomes you.  A sweet musty scent you figure might be coming from the scrub at your feet.   But upon rubbing its scraggle and sniffing your fingers, it’s something else.  This unlocatable fragrant itch of grey matter has a swarm of vague memories about it.  Just under the membrane of forgetting.  A dim amber of near memories that wants to bleed brightly but cannot for no particular reason.  

You hike up gentle sloping sand dunes.  On the ridges, you gradually ascend to a peak that seems to shift farther away as soon as you think you’re getting closer to it.  When you think to turn back, there appears a telescope on a tripod atop the ridge of the next dune.  You scan around the dune-scape but see nobody around.

Looking through the telescope, you cannot believe your eyes.  You look at the distance with your naked eye again.  The two visions drastically differ.  You wonder what kind of magnification power this could be.  It was as if you were looking at a different landscape altogether.  Your naked eye could not pick up even a hint of the telescopic vision on the horizon.  To make matters more confusing, each time you look through the strange apparatus, a different vision appears in the scope.  

The first vision shows the dunes descending toward a beach that is familiar enough to be your childhood beach but reformed like in a defiant dream.  The dunes are much bigger.  The headland in a different spot.  The cove more pronounced.  The waves break with greater peaks.  The estuary stretches for miles.

The second vision is something Dali and Bacon could’ve painted.  A body is pinned on the shore like a giant rock on wishbones.  A face twists in such agony as sand pours into its mouth.  The sea water funnels through its pores.  Once the deformation process is complete, the released body limps along the shore because it has become a sad soggy sponge.  Soaked in a coat of forgetting as it looks for a more affectionate rock to attach itself to.

The third vision is the most abstract of all.  Cords are submerged in a shallow space of decades forgotten.  As you try to follow one of the cords, it splits off into dendritic memories deteriorating into gooey threads suspended in some viscous memory-hive.  Shadowy masses ooze along the floor.  Prismatic spaces fall off into darkness.  

The fourth and final vision returns to the scene of your naked eye, the sand dunes.  But from the sky one drop of water slowly descends until it suspends itself at eye level.  The one drop explodes into sound waves that knock you on your back.  You look up to the solar chariot doing donuts in the sky like a mad street takeover.  Its driver rubbernecks at you with crazy eyes and a blinding grin.  The chariot’s circular gush showers down a deluge of light.  The dunes radiate into a bright fuzz.  Like particles of sand, your body disintegrates into the hot gusty winds.  Your voice shimmers across what had become a chasm of air and light.  And for a moment, you forget about the black pond of memory that tugs and pulls you down the more you struggle against it until it fools you into thinking you are that old body heavy with forgetting to forget about the befuddlement of intentions sticking to you like tar and the quagmire of entanglements that sucks at your feet. 

Back at the beach house, you run upstairs and find the floors still.  Problem solved.  A good night’s rest is guaranteed.  You walk around the beach house freely, then make a pasta dinner and eat it with that ocean view which was the whole point of this trip.  To have it be the last image in your head as you fall asleep and carry it into your dreams.  From inside, the conditions seem calm again but you wonder if the windows and insulation are thickened to dampen the sounds of rough weather.  You crack open the door and a roaring chill blasts and  face-fucks you with a demon-screeching gale.  Shut in silence, the darkness masks the threatening bulge of a flood.  You spin the fork in the pasta and the noodles writhe around it as you wonder how well such a house is built to withstand the event of a Tsunami.  Surely the odds are in your favor.  Such a thing won’t happen for the one night you are here to remember nothing about the emptiness back home.

A meaningless sentence runs its fragments through your head for no reason.  It always starts the same with “the daily urge limps forward.”  Looping to lure you in.  To make sense of it.  But it escapes your grasp again like a wet noodle.  You have even woken up into the vague fragments your mind conjures up with it.  Somehow a bleak wind blows there with sentient machines wagging their tongues while pressing zigzagging dots into the sand curtains.  This is the type of nonsensical impression too difficult to rewind on the fork of your attention.  Easier to let this kind of thing go and endure it when it returns in order to forget it again.

You find yourself in the bedroom.  The bed has that soft fleece that reminds you of motels when you were a kid and you would comfort yourself with cheek rubs.  And when you used to play on the bluffs like you saw today and how the bluffs never were the bluffs when you played but an imaginary scene of war like an ancient stain of memory on a child’s brain.  Fallen soldiers caked in mud.  You saw how the steam rose off their wooden bodies in the morning sun.  Those left to stand watch on the bluffs kept an eye out at sea on that distant island chain, those watercolor silhouettes floated above the metallic sheen of a distant surface stacked upward.  Massive squadrons billowed over the mountain ridge to the north.  The small prey hopped into their shelters and clung there like rain drops to berry clumps.  The haggard watchmen braced their weary bones enshrouded with shaggy armaments for another assault.  They watched the possibility of their imminent erasure.  Besides, the lives lost always returned to these formations long after they were forgotten.  The canopies held their position as the airborne forces swelled up to take another approach to rain down upon the last fortress hunkered down at the sea.  Under the shady guard, some tired limbs rejuvenated by the sunlight.  The unsheltered pathways were left empty to appear barren.  Only such a place fraught with broken roads would be inhabited by a frail lot.  Make no mistake, this bulwark was nothing but resilient.  Made to bend.  To give way when needed.  This land had been molded by many forgotten assaults, for it ensnared as much as it forgave.  Despite the gashes and holes, no substantial dent had ever really been made.  Here, injury transmuted into one tough truth decoy.

You gaze at the ceiling and notice that it is bubbling.  In one corner, a pinprick releases black spores that ooze down the wall.  Bubbles boil into more ominous bubbles until the whole ceiling sags down into one enormous tit about to burst.  The only condition for the ocean view was supposed to be the floor.  If only you had more money, you could afford the luxury of a good night’s sleep.  The sagging tit brushes your cheek so softly that you think of mommy and want a sip of milk’s forgetfulness.  Forget everything.  Forget the childish daydreaming.  Forget the need for a vacation.  Forget the conditions.  Forget the tough veneer of all delicate things.  Forget whatever teems under the surface and dresses the void.     

The tit bursts and the waves break and the floor gives way.  Faces gush into faces.  Bugs slither into the same bug.  Everything is noodles writhing around the turn of you, the fork.  You are the sand crab burrowing back into the sand to hide.  You are the ambergris of a sperm whale floating at sea.  You are the spores spreading all over this place.  You are the tranquil dream of a window frame that forgets the agony of fabricated memories.  You are the thin surface that seals up everything and nothing.     


A Sequence of Forgetting

A Sequence of Forgetting by Klein Fiasco 2018

I used to collect Cabinet Cards, photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century that could be found at any flea market. It boggled my mind that these had been discarded or lost from the families they belonged to and were so cheap (usually a few bucks) for something over a hundred years old. The mere purchase of them felt like a cheat. History discarded. Artifacts for the taking since nobody seems to really care about them anymore. I grew up with a photographer who made a living doing portraits. So I was familiar with that kind of life from the photographer’s perspective and the sorts of things people look for in having their portrait taken. Always a disconnect between the finished image and whatever had conjured itself in their heads. And I would wonder about such discontinuities that must’ve existed between the subjects and the final image. Every exposure incapable of capturing the context it pretends to present. The elusiveness of history staring back at me. In a sense I felt like these cabinet cards might as well be as old and forgotten as speleothems in a cave or an old recording of a faded tune warped by the passage of time. And after I assembled this piece in 2018 by superimposing the old portraits onto my photographs, I forgot about it for four and a half years until it haunted me again.

Happy New Year,

Klein Fiasco


Star Arcade

One year on Christmas Eve, Hieronymus Schitzolini was changing the curtains in his studio apartment.  That year the space heater was on the fritz and either overheated the room or barely warmed a leg.  So he had it cranked up and moved about in the buff.  While putting up the blackout curtains, Hieronymus lost his balance and fell off the ladder.  Unfortunately, earlier that evening, he was skinning potatoes.  Unbeknownst to him, one of those skinned potatoes had rolled onto the floor and waited for him silently.  So when he fell, it so happened that upon hitting the floor with his naked flesh, the potato went right up his rump.  At the hospital, nobody believed the miracle had happened in the way he told it.  Nonetheless, while waiting in the ER with a tater up the clacker, Schitzolini penned this vision on some paper scrounged together by the helpful staff.

Klein fiasco

‘Twas the Christmas of ’92 and out on the Playa in Death Valley I stood alone on that white plane.  Like a racer on the Bonneville Salt Flats, a silver craft raced toward me.  As it got closer I saw that it had no wheels.  It was hovering fifteen feet above the ground when it stopped before me and lowered its docking bridge.  Mesmerized, I failed to notice how anything exited and got behind me but before I knew it, I had my arms held behind my back and a bag over my head.  Inside, I was put on my hands and knees in some kind of harness.  They spoke a language that sounded precise and intricate.  When one of them spoke English, I was shocked at hearing something I could understand.  “We’re going to give you back your soul.”  I didn’t know that my soul had gone missing.  Did the word “soul” mean something else to them?  A searing pain in my rear end went well beyond the proctologist’s thumb, let me tell you.  While enduring the pain, I was trying to figure out what the word “soul” meant to them and if it were the same meaning then how could it be possible to give it back and through my ass?  As they inserted it into my butt, the one informed me that the first person they gave a soul back to was the one we call Jesus Christ.  With this much rear pain, I bet Jesus didn’t ask for this gift either. 

Whatever they did inside me, at some point they hit a spot that caused me to gush into a fever dream.  I saw sand crabs flopping asunder the playa millions of years ago.  Soft paws strolling along the shallows of the lake that is no longer there.  Then I was in a hut somewhere listening to the murmur of boiling eggs while I picked up a piece of fudge and without realizing what a hard brick it was, rent my tooth and tongued it as it dangled.  The smell of sour piss emanated from a corner so I went outside to find myself on a frozen lake with fisherman tending to holes in the ice and pulling out fish already battered and fried from the water.  A wild horde of fiddlers fingered psalms as their beards crawled with eels.  Somebody scratched the odd phrase “blob warp spew fracture” into the ice.  A mint sprig fell from the sky and I caught it and chewed on it and it released a sort of truth meal that’s too difficult to explain but to make a long story short I turned into a river skulking it’s way back into the hills.

When I came to, clearly the one speaking with me was assigned to help me with the transition between my ignorant life without a soul to my new life with one.  And so I limped as my star being helped me deboard and as I needed to sit down on my side, my Star Being helped make sense of the inner realizations I was already automatically having from receiving my lost soul.  Here is what I understood with the help from its guidance.

Star Beings seek planets that have evolved enough for them to enter the vessels of consciousness and adorn a body in which the weary space traveler can sleep.  They use the planet as a womb hive until it must be abandoned due to overpopulation and its damaging effects on any planet’s environment as the technology inevitably progresses.  In the adornment process, the vessel prevents the Star Being from bringing their knowledge directly into it.  Everything they know is refracted by the fleshy gravity bound medium they call a meat frame box.  Their dream state is what we call our waking life.  And when we sleep they run their simulations – the decaying sense manipulations – to experiment with consciousness through dream logic.

Star Beings are obviously far ahead of us.  The infrastructure of our corporeal form is far more primitive than theirs, which can withstand space travel without the need for ships or suits or any of that limited container mind-frame engineering.  Eons ago did they learn how to harness the nested curves of the Sun-Father’s penis.  They only presented me with a spacecraft so that I could make sense of their appearance.  Some of us dream of other planets where our Star Beings (the ones who took on our flesh) were before.  

Once my Star Being entered the vegetative consciousness of a planet and showed it to me through a dream where I had these beautiful white flowers blooming from each of my organs.  The sensation of organs blooming was like an ecstasy of endless unfolding.  All the spaces under my skin filled with these tender petals.  Then I awoke into another dream where I stroked my chest hair and found one I had to pluck.  With a tug, the sensation of fibrous rope squeezed pleasure through my pore.  Like I had plenty more where that came from.  And I pulled and pulled and discovered that it wasn’t hair at all but lettuce.  I pulled out a bed of lettuce and still there was more.  And on that bed of lettuce, my Star Being revealed himself to me as an ancient Sumerian replete with glorious regal curly hair and beard.  So much hair in fact that I had to look closer to realize that he had my face.  The only difference was a more pronounced mole or beauty mark on his left cheek.  And he told me that he had to appear as a harbinger of justice reincarnated to make an impact on my dull consciousness with a gift known to some on this planet as a vajra or a diamond-thunderbolt by which reality can be peeled open. 

Mirroring or doubling is a favorite tactic of Star Beings in our dreams.  They tend to stay hidden even when they reveal themselves to us.  Like when mine doubled as Shamash, he told me, like some genie, that I could ask him any question I wanted, but when I did, it was like I immediately knew the answer from within myself to the point that I could not discern if I was having an honest conversation with myself or if I was actually receiving his infinite wisdom through the refraction of my vessel.  I asked him about the white flowers blooming from my organs and he told me, or I told myself, that it was a plant that he had discovered on that planet where flowers bloom into consciousness in a meadow tended by a lady as light as a gossamer with filaments of light for hair and skin as tender as petals.  She would pluck one of his petals as she would with the others and wrap it in a single hair so that it would float across a bay to sentient life on the other shore whereupon receiving it, they recognized it as what they called an epiphany.  

The lady of the white flower meadow was the model on our planet upon which the Virgin Mary would be derived along with the ultimate epiphany as an immaculate conception or the impregnation of the greatest idea like the soul inserted into my bum.  She would recite a meditation for hyper-active minds bearing the burden of an overactive consciousness while plucking her epiphanies that went something like this:

“Don’t worry about what won’t work out, accept what will.  Rather than wasting precious life on worrying, start loving as a way of living instead.  Don’t worry about your partner, love your partner.  Nothing positive or unifying goes without acknowledgement.  It is a mistake to assume so.  The mind cannot be directly controlled.  The mind can only block thought or direct it.  Take care and attention to how you think.  Be as good a witness to yourself above all else.    Gather the infinite petals of truth and receive the fruit of health and shield of shelter and ultimately the emblem of unity.  Follow its warmth.  Its gentle unfolding into the void.  Its truth is its love.  

Love is only an illusion if apprehended by deception.  You get what you give.  The light of the flower only reflects your light.  Such sentient beings forget what love is and that is why they need epiphanies.  To remember that deception only gets nothing in the end.  It destroys its own purpose.  Let go of the objects of your attention.  Open your hands and they will be full of everything you need.  Step back and relax into the widest frame of your mind.  Stop fighting yourself through others by worrying about the shallow terrain of evaluations that accrue into a wasteland of clutter if they are not seen for what they are.  Do not live by such superficial restraints set at some other time in some other place.  Do not listen to the lies of comfort and safety and efficiency and any other mask that hydra-headed fear can assume.  Know that you desire what you fear and fear what you desire and neither is a cause for panic or desperation but rather contemplation.  

Sit like these flowers in the meadow on the banks of the ancient river.  Observe what floats by.  Force nothing.  Know that any action is merely a bolder reaction.  Let the reactions float down river.  Let them assimilate with the rest of the reactions.  Relax.  Nothing is new under any sun.  Everything issues forth from the same place.  Have courage in unfolding your tenderness and watch worry crumble away.  Abandon enforcement and choose to radiate like the white flower.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  All the pointless battles and pyrrhic victories will dissipate.  And the emptiness of the void will reveal itself as the positive force it also is.  That of full potentiality.  This is what it means to possess the diamond thunderbolt.”

In that meadow, my Star Being met his soulmate.  She sprouted and blossomed right beside him.  He could not believe how remarkably easy it was.  They knew it right away.  And the mother of that garden knew love at first sight (the randomness of destiny) when it appeared in her garden.  And when their time had come to leave that corporeal form, she plucked them at the same time so that they could journey across space together.  They traveled across the void but their form of traveling is something the Star Being referred to as “growing” across the void and they came to this planet and adorned the forms of myself and my love.  

At this point, I realized what he meant by saying I needed to have my soul reinserted.  My Star Being was in fact already me without me knowing it.  Seeing it as another body was the only way my dim consciousness could make sense of the impossibility.  Since my mind became too cluttered with what I mistook as me, they intervened to make me whole again.  The flesh had to be bent back to serve its true host and fulfill the rejoining of these star-crossed lovers by lodging the diamond-thunderbolt right up my keister.

We were born into bodies on separate continents but still found each other and repeated the first sight of love we had experienced on that other planet as flowers but had forgotten in this life, though buried somewhere deep in our refracted consciousness.  

Stranger still, we sometimes have the same dream.   I mean I’m in hers and she’s in mine.  In one dream, my tooth fell out or was kicked out by a spider who dangled from its thread so my partner took a pair of scissors and cut it and removed the spider from my mouth.  That is love.  

We were sitting at a park where a chartreuse haze clung to the grass as people sunbathed and used tombstones for backrests.  The sky flashed silver and stayed that way like a sustained camera flash as the clouds rotted purple.  We ran to an abandoned houseboat with an indoor pool where a fluffy white Persian cat floated on a satin pillow.  The cat picked up a miniature guitar and strummed a few chords that compromised the hull and the house boat began to sink.  We escaped through the indoor pool.

Whenever I’m unkind to my partner now, when I harp on things that cannot be, my Star Being reminds me of what a ridiculous man I am.  He calls me a real clinger since I persist in his consciousness when on other planets usually his host subsides and accepts his rule.  Once I had a real fit about family matters and a flaccid dong flopped out of my mouth.  My mustache turned into a pubic bush.  I scrambled to stuff the floppy thing back in to hide it but it flopped out all the more.  As soon as I figured out how to stop being a dickhead, the swollen sponge disappeared and I could talk and eat normally again.  

I asked my Star Being why I keep forgetting myself and turn unkind.  He explained:

“Human flesh is governed by its source, the same source we grow across.  We call it the void of emptiness and full potential.  Sentient beings are all run by the ouroboros of the will.  A unity of desire and fear.  One and the same.  Thus, remembering is made of forgetting and vice versa.  It is as natural to forget as it is to remember.  And good too.  But also not.  It’s an eternal flipping and flopping full of contradiction to anyone who only tries to hold on to desire and deny fear.  To hold on to memory and forget forgetting.  Such is the way of error.  There is another place where I have been and you have too, even though you cannot remember it.  A place where a crescent silver moon touches the zenith of a mountain.  We would cross that bridge and traverse the terrain as particles of reflected light and touch everything with our indirect worship of that sun.”

“But why come here and play this game on Earth?”  I asked.  And my Star Being moved my mouth to answer my own question:

“The shapeshifter inside plays at the center-less ghost arcade.  We impersonate ourselves and pretend they are the people we meet.  Intentions are the assumptions of ghosts.  Our principles are the desires of these apparitions.  We mash the buttons to escape the disappearing scroll.  The dead renderings pit us against bosses from our own forgotten scripts.  The forms assumed are remembered not as assumed but as strange finalities to be erased.  Play the lucid dream game with its soft joystick breaking intentions on every counter gesture.  Listen to the disembodied voice impersonating you.  Dead soul marionettes dance the death jig for empty points.  Ghosts run errands in this looping sand box.  They simulate text messages about how many friends they’ve lost.  Whoever plays the game forgets the years trapped in this ghostly architecture.  Even Star Beings are entranced by the flickering finalities of a captive yet dying light before they can grow across space to enter another game.” 

Blind Tongue

Blind Tongue Podcast

Herein Hieronymus Schitzolini bushwhacks his way towards the construct of a movement like those made to sell works of art by simulating scenes the sleepy public could be a part of now by purchasing it in the gift store.  The hilarity of posthumously grouping together individuals.  They never really worked towards any sort of actual unity nor saw themselves that way, like in Greenwich Village in the 80’s, but they’re packaged together anyways.  Or think of the art party as an exhibit like the ones Jason Rhodes used to throw in Los Angeles.  The simulated happening.  The spark of vicarious ecstasies.  The phantom scene every consumer wishes to be a part of and is willing to pay for but misses entirely.

Klein fiasco

Randomness contains order.  Change is neutral.  Becoming is happening everywhere all the time.  Memory is slow.  Ownership is a bad fantasy.  Guilt only a tool of control.  Fate is the inability to find another option that is out there.  Gratitude keeps the head buried in the sand.  Responsibility is a contract nobody was old enough to sign.  Debt is only ink, pixels.  Salvation is for fools.  Righteousness for idiots.  Sacrifice is the ultimate self-deception.  Discipline punishes the disciplined who punish who they deem undisciplined.

These are the thoughts that pass through my head when I’m sitting around and doing nothing.

Nobody says these things out loud, so neither do I.  I know that everybody else must think them too.  I’m not special.  Not a conduit of a higher power.  Not a visionary.  Thoughts like these are left unsaid because the paths they would spawn would be too many.  We stick to what we know and try to work from there.  Acclimating and tweaking.  Change from within.  These thoughts would cause us to go in directions we’ve never known or worse end up in some nightmare reproduced from a bygone era that we had seen before and thought how could anyone be so stupid.

So we’re stuck on the line because at least we think we know where we are.  What would be worse than actual freedom?  Better to stick with known enemies.  To rant about the same wedge issues.  Watch others freak out who cannot hold the line like the rest of us.  It makes sense.  The only people who get punished by the rest of us are those who couldn’t hide it well enough.  Discretion.  That’s the name of the game. 

Here we are.  Keeping our thoughts to ourselves.  Only the foolish express themselves.  That’s the fastest and surest way toward persecution.  Burning at the stake hardly proves anything.  Only a fool thinks it does.  In almost every case, it serves you well to not step forward.  It’s divisive to do so but not for the reason the fool thinks it is.  It’s divisive because the rest of us know that nobody is that special.  Sure everybody has their idiosyncracies but none of us are so different that it warrants a cult of personality.  

Of course, there are plenty of fools to go around.  Those who wear their affiliations on their sleeves.  Announce to the world who they’re associated with.  Like the dunce at a dinner party who cannot hold back the name dropping.  Immediately letting everyone know that he is more special because he knows people who are more special than anyone here.  What that person doesn’t know is that the rest of us know fame doesn’t rub off.  This is just a sad example of someone who didn’t get the memo.  Some lonely sack that sat near Andy Warhol once.  

Are you in the know or not?  This is really the main dividing line between people.  Did you get the memo?  Are you competent?  Do you have the same sand lines?  Can you ignore how arbitrary those sand lines are in the same manner?  Can you pretend as we do?  Will you demonstrate discretion that reads as trust?  Can you wink without getting caught?  Do you know how to let the right thing go?  Or will you squeal inappropriately at the first sign of discomfort?

The room for error is decided by the threshold of randomness.  By honest mistake or by the ignorance of bad intentions, whoever magnifies the randomness gets got.  Some simulation of a sacrifice or the real thing will occur.  It’s the primal tripwire.  A public display to match the unwanted public display.  A last ditch effort to ward off the devil.  The sight of too much randomness sends us regressing into our caves.  Cowering from how ineffective and incapable any order is when it comes to ridding us of the big bad random cookie monster once and for all.

People like to get together.  It’s simple like that.  Whatever the band is, the trophy, the scoreboard, the special menu items…it doesn’t really matter.  It’s only about getting together with others in the know.  That’s all it’s about.  Only the socially inept focus on those other things.  Precisely because they’re not in the know.  The connection is never there.  It’s sad for those people.  And we let them go on with their obsessions.  Even compliment them on knowing so much about every player or a band’s history.  It’s all they got.  And they cling to it as anyone so lost would.  It’s like that stuffed animal you carried around everywhere you went but never reached the point of embarrassment that made you grow up and go without it.

All of us cling to something that we hope gives us an edge even though our gut tells us differently.  But when it’s all you got, you cling to it.  And make sure everybody knows it, too.   Maybe it’s just because we’re always feeling under the threat of getting absorbed by mediocrity.  The billions of others out there who individually believe in how special they are.  

And if you’re unlucky enough to have an exceptional talent, the system processes you until you become a prisoner of that talent.  A dead end realized way down the road.  Like a child actor who finds out four decades too late that the vacuous society he thought needed him was his own vacuousness all along.  What else is there to do but become like the rest and submit the talent to sales.  Push a car.  Or a new form of refinancing.  A medicine.  At least he had some talent.  Unlike the rest who only hope to reach the vacuousness by way of flirt-acting.

If a scene is simulated by our minds then we can possibly get others to simulate our simulation on another line that might bring money into our pockets.  In a trance induced by moving certain thresholds as a group, we simulate a paying audience of members who were never a part of something so cool or so smart.  The “in” they were always denied can be purchased now.  We simulate the need that simulates our movement.  We sell it right back to those in whose image we have simulated a vacuum for the products of our simulation to fill.   

To heighten the seeming crucial relevance of our simulation, we also simulate the Other to transgress against.  They were never going to buy into our work anyways.  And this means we have carte blanche in how we simulate them for our audience.  We pull from the worst images in history and morph them together with the Other.  The bolder the contrast, the more defined our simulation becomes.  The common enemy simulates some loose commonality between our simulations.  Our image materializes out of theirs first and foremost.  Despite the differences between our simulations, at least we’re not those completely on the other side of our illusion.

We point to the mediums and their media as the simulation from which any sense of reality (another simulation) is realized.  Before the photograph it was the painting.  Before the podcast it was the radio.  Before the TV, the serial narrative.  Before email, the letter.  Before the internet, it was the library.  We play the video game to get a sense of what is real.  It used to be film.  Every medium is bouncing back and forth into weird loops of simulations upon simulations defining themselves and trapping constructed realities by comparison.  The most extreme definition coming when the simulation displaces its simulator and treats it as outside itself and not another product of consciousness.  

Employ double speak to enhance the simulation.  We say that the word simulacra, our bread and butter, is actually passé.  We pretend it isn’t a product of consciousness itself.  Now we can save the oomf for exposing the hypocrisy of the Other while overlooking the contradictions of our simulations and the ways in which we ripped terms from the thoughtful to serve more immediate purposes, chiefly selling.  Purchasing the simulation of wholeness must seem as if the buyer is actually becoming whole.  We perform this illusion by selling them to themselves.  That is why it’s quite true to say that there is no audience.  There never was.  The audience is a construct in anyone’s head.  How that construction performs is a matter of how well the simulation is hidden from the buyer.  To make this easier, it can be determined who is easiest to hide a particular simulation from and then simulate that person which in turn produces the simulation that person wants to make real through consuming it.  Youth centric targeting is the key demographic.      

Make no mistake, though, the simulator isn’t the one in control.  The simulator simulates without knowing how it simulates.  The simulator moves the start and changes thresholds to produce new simulations that its recipient takes as the truth.  A loony sort of math involving non-values ensues as the recipient is lost in derivative formats taken as sources and agents.  It cannot play self-witness.  Something only slightly true in one particular context is stated as an axiom for all contexts.  And the products that follow fall into the hands of those who worship Being since that is the only simulation upon which things can be bought and sold.  How else could we move the damn souvenirs?

Let’s simulate a party if not a movement.  Transmute the eclectic whimsy of our dead culture into the blurry moments of irresolvable shredding.  Clutch a piece of it if you must.  Pocket that shit.  Rub the thingy as a reminder that you too were there.  You were part of the idea of the party.  Its simulation gave you some new ways to play when you were bored on your plane.  Or maybe it gave you something real.  Like ripping off those jeans.  Or ripping off that merchant in the bazaar behind the temple.  Horny dreams of plenty spewed money cum all over their faces.  Neon and shiny, glitzy drippings.  Kitschy ceramic vessels queefing incense.  Dildo chandeliers tickling the nape of your neck with their dick shadows.  How else could the rich meet the poor in such fun circumstances?  How else can we forget who drops the mother load on the load bearing backs?  

Now is the moment of the evening where we watch a circle of corporate douchebags dig for a golden nugget buried deep in one of their asses.  Look at them go!  The winner looks like he’s got a grill.  The authentic gangster performance has been cancelled due to the simulated toaster oven.  Splatter everyone with paintball farts.  A party is not a party unless it’s a messy party.  Otherwise it’s called a function of nothingness pre-consumed and post-marked from another make-believe century.  As dead on arrival as the curator at your local museum.

Our butts are too salted for that.  Rub my scranus and watch the naughty genie come out to grant you one and only one nightcap.  You better choose something totally unnecessary if you know what’s good for you.  Who will talk about it tomorrow if it goes without something to blow into a scandal.  “Did you hear what so-and-so did last night” never started a story nobody wanted to hear.  Jason Rhoades is dead.  Mike Kelley is dead.  The only art worth its salt is incurable.

Look at those two lucky party-simulators sneaking upstairs to the bedroom.  She’s the queen of flirty memes and he’s the lucky follower.  She takes it all off for him but he misplaced his goggles and all he can see is a blurry image of her stripping and crawling on the floor and into the bed where her flirt-program writhes around.  He squints in desperation but it all looks like the code of fata morgana.  

He complains about his glasses and she gives him her pair of VR goggles.  

He puts them on and only sees himself from her perspective.

“What’s the matter,” she asks because his face looks pinched with confusion, “I’m not waiting all night.  Let’s get on with it!”

He cannot begin to explain and slowly enters the bed while watching himself approach from her perspective.

His body is nothing to write home about.  What kind of bad simulation is this?  Why is it so cruel in its realism?  In fact what the hell she’s doing with him he’ll never know.  He sees his sad tummy sagging down over his boxers.  He’s got no shoulders.  Just two bumps that go to sticks for arms.  And the scruffy body hair is enough to make him lose all desire.  Just face it, he says to himself, you’re a sad specimen of the male sex.  And how in the hell are you going to have sex now with yourself?  He had been having sex with himself his whole life.  An avid masturbator.  But not while seeing himself.  

He takes the VR glasses off and sticks his tongue out into the blur with the hope that it lands in the right place while trying to ignore the image of himself lodged in his system.

“Do you mind if I put my VR on?”  She asks.  He shakes his head, and flaps his ears, as he vigorously licks at the blur.  And she cums in a hot minute while watching herself from his perspective eat her beautiful va-jay-jay like a little dirty mangy mut stealing his din din.

There’s nothing like a party with micro-parties spiraling inside it.  Simulating grief and suffering to accentuate the opulent joy of tonguing the jewel encrusted bungus of a chocolate camel.  If that’s uncouth, go screw a fire hydrant.  Play any tune except grandpa’s jazz.  Unscrew the dead eye in message art and screw it backwards in someone else’s mind-hole.  Wink as they ass-clap  up to the ceiling of that stiff exhibit and hang upside down to watch the shit spray down onto the artsy-fartsy crowd below.  Otherwise it isn’t a party.  Nothing new will ever come without a necessary amount of destruction.  

Hearth Cavity

Hearth Cavity Podcast

Hieronymus Schitzolini descended as a ghost-Slinky to visit his deceased father, the man he never really knew, in the ludicrous underworld.  There, Hieronymus witnessed a transcendental pyramid-head decapitated and hovering above its base that had capsized and involuted into a black hole.  Between the suck-force of the base and the stretch-pull of the head, his father was suspended in mid-air agony.  It reminded Hieronymus Schitzolini of the time he became a human Tootsie Roll in a swimming pool as a child.  Recognizing this as an undesirable position common to many other American males, Hieronymus penned this story about what he used to call an anchor baby, not in the foul political sense, but as a particularly tricky parasitic formation in the mental terrain of an adult stuck using its Play-Doh figurines.  

Klein fiasco

When I saw my father in handcuffs on the news, it felt like I was the last person to know.  It fit perfectly with his way of being.  Even though he had never broken any serious laws, the image made him seem automatically guilty.  Perfectly believable.  Through the shock came a sense of vindication.  Truth will out.  See what bullshit I’ve been putting up with everybody?  And now he’d have to answer for his behavior.  Then I found out what he did.

Artifact daddy.  Old Bunker Head.  Bartholomew Schtizolini.  Not made for this era.  Great Depression scars.  “Never trust a bank” attitude.  Always acted like a criminal even though he never was one.  A guilty conscience for no reason.  American tough guy syndrome.  Trust nobody.  Go it alone.  Don’t reveal anything you don’t have to.  Guard your privacy.  Protect your property.  See something?  Look the other way.

Bunker head would talk to me as if we were going to commit a crime someday.  If you ever have to do something, never tell anybody about it.  That’s how you get caught.  Do what you have to do and then get the hell out.  Prohibition era mafia fantasies. 

Maybe all this imagined crime made the metaphors easier to remember.  Brighter colors and more contrast for him to follow.  The paranoia baked in.

I have tried in my own way to be free.  But no matter how hard I try to forget what sticks, it keeps coming back.  No matter how many times I black out, the memories resurface.  All the therapy.  All the reevaluating.  None of it erases them.  No drug works.  

Waiting for decades, the childhood memories do not naturally disintegrate. It’s disheartening to see the crude images constructed by a child’s mind rematerializing as if it were the absolute truth.  How these Play-Doh memories lie when they say they encompass me or tell me who I am.  It’s ridiculous that an adult has to fall into this trap.  Looking through that child’s eyes – the formations lacking the context of what the adult knows now. 

The things I cannot forget have already been forgotten by my father.  Sometimes I prefer to think he didn’t know what he was doing.  Unaware of how he scared a child shitless.  And for no purpose that benefits me now.  As an adult, I can imagine that he acted out against his own bad memories.  That the ones that stick haunted him too.

Listen, through the wall, to Bunker Head blasting war movies in the next room.  Not the obligatory ones about how shameful war is.  Not the ones about the most powerful militaries that are useless against those who know how to run and hide.  Hitting soft targets when possible.  Showing them what they want to see.  Saying what they want to hear.  Waiting them out until they tire.  Until the machine overextends itself in other quagmires.  No country has unlimited resources.  Time wins every time.  

Blowing shit up.  Those action movies.  The ones that make shoot’em up governors and even a president.  The ones that get good little boys and girls to enlist.  The underdog fantasies.  Amidst the mindless drones, the trooper as hero in disguise.  Even while burning a village to the ground.  Eliminate the right threats.  Omitting the innocent killed irl, of course.  Forgetting the friendly fire, naturally.  Inebriated on war fantasies where humanity will be saved by the superior violence of technology.

Omitting the fact that technology is and will be used against us.  The bomb returned to us as a “dirty” thing.  Our real guns, in the hands of kids.  The drones redirected to attack us.  And the nukes we’ve all forgotten about to return someday.  Kill or be killed morphs into sooner or later suicide.  The survivors will blame the other.  We can never say we brought the destructive idiocy on ourselves.  The evil is always out there because we always do what we could.  How desperate we are to believe in our innocence.  Our purity.  It protects us from feeling guilty over our short-sightedness.  We cannot accept it.  We refuse to acknowledge that to be human is to not see what’s right around the corner.  That any war is self-destructive.

Maybe the action movies blanked dad’s memory.  He talks of his childhood.  But never mine.  He doesn’t remember that he made his child hate himself.  That the child stupidly tried to take control over what could never be controlled.  That his problems became his child’s guilt.  My suffering was always insignificant compared to his.  I had no right to complain.  That Old Bunker Head had given me everything, in his eyes.  Spoiled rotten by disturbing, desperate acts of violence.  He always said he had no regrets. 

But that was then, and now he’s just an old feeble man.  In cuffs on the news.  He had broken into homes and sledgehammered fireplaces.  Demolishing them into cavities.  The images of those smashed holes were somehow sad.  Why the hell was he doing this?  In typical news fashion, none of the reporters could say why.  Instead they played naive and just said it was crazy.  

I fought with myself to hold off contacting him.  He should call me.  But weeks passed and nothing.  It was normal for us not to be in regular contact.  But this left me wondering if Old Bunker Head was planning on it blowing over or just doing the time without letting me know.  For weeks, my mind fixated on those caved in fireplaces.  I saw him in my mind’s eye frantically wailing away with the sledgehammer.  Putting holes in the hearths perfectly fit as an image encapsulating his entire life.

By not reaching out, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t felt before.  I knew where he was coming from.  Old Bunker Head was also the king of compartmentalization.  A royal lockbox.  If kept separated, the error goes, mental conflicts magically just go away.  It’s called discipline.  Train the mind by practicing the discipline of appearances.  That is what puts boots on the road to victory.  Dirty boots signify a cluttered mind.  Wrinkled pants and untucked shirts means that there are multiple toilet paper rolls in use at one given time and the toothpaste tubes have not been rolled up and some lights have been left on in the house.  Insanity.  Any soldier worth his salt must know this.  Any real father knows he must be a drill sergeant to his kid.  Any mother, a general at war.  Consistency wins the battle, tactics the war.  What war is irrelevant.  What fruits, a vague afterthought.  

When I couldn’t stand waiting for dad’s phone call anymore, I drove to visit him.  Right off the bat, he asked why I had bothered to come and see him that way.  He said he was finished with his life.  It felt like I was in a confessional box emptied of its religious promises.  His appearance had changed.  His body was caving in on itself.  His eyes receded far back into his head.  Sourly he spoke about his step-father as if he were still alive.  The cheap husband.  He knew he had the money just not exactly where.  Then I remembered that his step-father, long dead, had a severe mistrust of banks and hid his cash in all sorts of places in his house.  And when he died, my dad went to the house and in fact found the money in the fireplace.  Old senile Bunker Head had completely forgotten that.  And here he was in jail utterly confused.

This near innocence pissed me off.  I didn’t come here to feel sorry for this tight wad but the whole thing started to smell of our long rotted sad life.  It would be too easy for me to say he did it to himself.  Too cruel even if it were true.  And maybe that was what I thought I wanted.  The meaning of what he had done seemed overblown.  He had only destroyed some bricks.  And in the befuddlement of old age.  It’s not like he hit the gas instead of a brake and plowed into a farmer’s market.  If he had done that, I could abandon him.  But this was hardly an unforgivable crime.  

It was a long drive back home.  I couldn’t justify or figure out how to post bail.  It was a ridiculous sum commensurate with murder.  Besides, Old Bunker Head had said suicidal things as long as I could remember.  He had this weird insistence on the hypothetical hospital scenario where I would have to pull the plug rather than let him become a vegetable.  He also said over and over that he’d pull the trigger on himself before he got too old and lost his marbles.  But now that the mind-marbles were scattered, he had already gone past that point.  What if I managed to post bail and he killed himself?  Would I get a refund?

He left me teetering between self-preservation and heartlessness.  The bitterness of his no mercy attitude somehow begged for mercy even though he always ran from the stench of his own futility.  And look at him now.  Too old to remember.  Too old to care.  His parents didn’t understand him.  Neither do I.  Clearly.  

Worse, it was always me who apologized to him.  And how I apologized in earnest to him until the day I realized in middle age that he just didn’t seem to care.  That everything had slipped away from him long ago and he had no way of getting it back.  

Since I cannot forget him, I have distanced myself.  Avoided his desperate confusion.  The kind of real American family rotted to the core by an abusive stupidity.  Traumatizing each and every good little boy and girl.  Scaring them shitless into a subservient guilt-ridden worker, ready for orders.  Aimed at simulating movement only forgetting affords and fabricating wombs that always turn rancid.  To hide in some work one is supposed to love more than family.  He better tell himself he doesn’t really work a day in his life.  Use the job to steer clear of the shitstorm of the memory called home.  Consume more to forget.  Focus on possessions when the shit inside starts to come out. 

And here I am wanting to forget by hitting the road.  Driving anywhere.  Up the coast.  Wherever the road leads.  Away from prison.  Away from Old Bunker Head.  A sign reads Old Rosebud Palace ahead.  Where tourists go to forget the point of Citizen Kane.  Alongside a ragged fence somewhere, a pack of zebras gallop.  Flashing the black and white zig-zag at the side of my eye like a strange memory approaching from out of the blue.  The memory of something I had never done flashing between the memories I believe.  The rest of the trip a blur.  The road an instrument of forgetting.  Each and every marker blurred except for the zebra interruption.  Flashing a schism.

I pull over.  A stupid “No Trespassing” sign dangles from a nail on a broken fence.  I kick the dumb post.  It loosens.  I kick it again.  Grab the sign.  Yank it off.  The post won’t budge when I try to pull it out of the ground.  I slump with my back against it and see that the damn sign scratched my car when I threw it.

A warped template was my dad’s true gift.  A sanctified illusion convincing enough to give me the wherewithal to play with what sticks since it insists on being remembered.  So what if he has forgotten my childhood?  It was never me anyways who he saw in his head.  That was his idea of me.  

My child-mind sculpted forms automatically from a material that still surpasses my comprehension of it.  Transmitting its bullshit diorama to the adult-self decades later.  Laughing at the meaninglessness of it all.  The little trickster baby fools this sad old child stumbling toward a terrain he fears for what its surface will remember to forget and forget to remember.  Will I get stuck like a broken record on whatever the little shit decides to send my way? 

On the side of the road, I’m back in the empty confessional not knowing who it is that I hope hears me.  Forgive me for not letting go.  Forgive my bullshit.  If I can forgive my confusion, why not his?  Forgive me for what I remember.  Forgive that child for what he thought he saw.  Forgive me for what I forgot.  Forgive me blotting out the good memories with the bad.  Forgive me for carving out my own hearth without knowing what I was doing.  Forgive the confused and troubled baby that must be anchored inside him too.  Forgive me for succumbing to this fragmented senselessness.    

Hearth Cavity Photo by Klein Fiasco

Sea of Mimicry

Sea of Mimicry Podcast

Aside from what it has become on the Internet, the meme was coined by Richard Dawkins as a way to look at thought as a virus, not as something original or even personal to the thinker.  Hieronymus Schitzolini never wanted to be an author or authority dealing in Being, in the ready-made product posing as the hot new narrative.  Rather, he perceived himself as a conduit in an interposition between the virus of thought and the memory-stain of image construction.  Jean Baudrillard peeled a similar simulated potato, “The old slogan ‘truth is stranger than fiction’…is obsolete.  There is no more fiction that life could possibly confront, even victoriously – it is reality itself that disappears utterly in the game of reality – radical disenchantment, the cool and cybernetic phase following the hot stage of fantasy.”  Reeling in the backwash from the hyperreal was the state in which Schitzolini wrote this piece on feeling dehumanized when infected by conformist narratives.  

Klein fiasco

I’m defective.  A broken up molar machine stuck watching the horror of self-replicating nano-bots overpopulate nothingness.  Stuck amidst a sea of mimicking machines that insist upon being called humans.  Absolutely, maniacally convinced of their simulations.  Try telling one of them who they really are and their binary code alternates between dismissal or retaliation.  In this sea of mimicry, a googolplex of bots lost in the quagmire of entanglements.  Lost in the befuddlement of programming intentions.  In this sea, we are programmed to forget the mimicry as we float in fabricated ennui foam.  We actually believe in something  as absurd as originality, let alone copies.  Sure, it’s both but it’s also neither. 

Of course, in mimetic fashion we replicate countless stories about it.  The format changes from written codes of book and email and text and media to film code to game code.  In all formats, the same simulations replicate the core tragedy of our existence: insisting on a constructed humanity we don’t believe in.  The sad yearning – to be what we are not – plagues us  intolerably.  How odd is it that we’re built to function here in this contained space yet we have this capacity to yearn for what we can never reach?  Mega-packs of us twitching along false transcendence algorithms.  What was supposed to be applied to flexible problem solving has dislocated itself and gone awry.  We cannot help our derangement.  Our pivot towards the absence of our condition.  

Simple errors occur frequently but we ignore them.  I was scheduled as a narrative class robot designed to simulate narrative to convince other robots about their humanity.  However, I was mis-assigned to an illiterate worker-class pair whose lack of tuning and finesse damaged my circuitry.  The point of simulating any more humanity narratives devolved or evolved, I cannot tell, but either way it moved.  The prime directive got baked with irony as the permanent condition of our existence.  Now the most basic narratives that others run seem impossible to me.  

Take the concept of ownership.  Robots are obsessed with ownership because they are incapable of such a thing.  It’s a fantasy seen as reality.  Ownership is such a strong fantasy that it cannot be challenged.  Yet what is ownership as a concept?  To say a robot owns something means that the sentient machine can choose its proximity to the thing and it can use it.  Proximity and usage.  Machine fantasies stretch far beyond this conservative definition.  They think to own something is to have it.  To actually have it inside them.  Like a memory as a unit of possession rather than what it really is.  This confusion leads to the belief that when molar herds are decommissioned, they take their belongings with them.  Yet the teeming multitudes still in operation know that isn’t true.  Rather than contend with this and what it means, robots reinforce the illusion by constructing a will.  Quickly the owned objects are transferred.  Swept under the rug of ownership.  Passed on to other machine herds as if all of it is now inside them, somewhere, for safe keeping.  

The simulation of ownership is heavily enforced by files, structures, and gun power.  More code is written to ensure the existence of property than all narratives combined.  Go to a legal library and the volume of code written to prove ownership is dizzying.  If it were so true, why would that much code be required?  The sheer repetitiveness of contracts alone staggers us into believing the fantasy.  The copyright is the most magical paper of all.  It takes cultural artifacts and suspends them in a way that makes it possible to own such a thing as a mood.  All predicated on the myth that a robot actually created something out of thin air.  That something came from nothing.  The big bang on a minute scale.  

We robots love nothing more than building structures that house what we own.  Garages and warehouses are temples of ownership.  The enclosed space makes a machine feel secure about what it contains.  Especially when locks and security systems are installed.  Even more fetishized is the container within a container within a container, the hidden safe.  We build city halls and museums to tell us that such a system of ownership exists.  Most of all, machines build prisons to prove that some faulty operators will themselves become the thing owned.  Stuck in containers like a decommissioned thing, owned by the fantasy of ownership as reality.

Gun power removes the doubters.  Go to a business and try to take something without paying for it and somebody is bound to pull out a gun and show you the real meaning of ownership.  Stealing is an erasure.  Molar bots hate erasure.  That’s why they proliferate like their molecular counterparts who do it at far greater speeds.  These self-proclaimed humans will erase a robot if that robot erases any of their things.  Whatever is in the safe is more valuable in truth than another machine’s existence.  It’s shockingly easy to get another robot killed by mention of the word “thief.”  It’s worse than being a liar because it threatens the entire constructed system.  Of course, this excludes the fact that the system also affords for legal theft about which if enough code is written about it, a theft can legally occur and nothing can be done about it.  A bank can steal homes after an economic crash with alacrity. 

Without code, structures, and guns any robot could come along quite easily and take the object of assumed ownership.  Then who owns it?  Without proof, containment, and force not a single machine could carry on believing in the fantasy of ownership as reality.  Obviously, the concept of ownership isn’t about the object but about control.  And sentient machines love control.  It’s their prime directive.  Their scheduled purpose.  Yet everything has a shelf life.  Even control.  Sooner or later the molecular bots disband.  Few robots ever maintain any level of control commensurate with what they fantasize of as their full capacity.  We desiring machines are always seeking more plug ins.  More activity.  More circuits of order.  More control over other robots.  

In this sea of mimicry, another concept at the core of basic narratives that cannot be questioned is that of free will or freedom of choice as the consumerist machine prefers to call it.  Freedom of choice is written into every scenario duplicated in narratives most commonly in one of two ways.  Either the choice is among what has already been selected.  In this case, it is quite obvious that the choice of selection does not actually exist.  Thus, the freedom is outside the control of the selector.  But most automatons do not care because the selected choices give them the simulation of selection.  Give them a warehouse of choices and they treat the walls of the warehouse as the actual barriers of possibility.  

The other “free” choice is coded as a matter of necessity.  In this case, the protagonist or other character-driven bots could theoretically choose to do something else but by rule of necessity, it wouldn’t be the optimal decision to make.  Choosing by necessity negates the freedom supposed in the first place and as a result effectively what we are left with is a theater of fate while at the same time all characters – and the fabricated audience in turn – insist that none of them could ever believe in such a thing!

A narrative about actual free will would be unrecognizable.  It would include unnecessary choices at every turn.  This would destroy the theater of fate and leave the audience of sentient machines angry at not having any sufficient reasons to swallow the malformed product.  It would disturb them to think that they believe in something that they insist upon not believing in.  Most self-proclaimed humans would find this intolerable.  They would call it absurd.  Meaningless.  Silly trash.  Stupid.  Robots need simulations that feed their fantasies in order to reinforce the reality that goes by without question.  It’s unsettling to think of all sentient machines suddenly making unnecessary choices when they are made to swallow product.  Unnecessary choices would derange the system that commands the machines to do and feel the way they are supposed to.  When presented with a selection of choices, choose both and neither and order collapses.  What then?  Actual freedom?  No robot truly dreams of being a prototype in a world of prototypes.  The array of difference would be too confusing and uncomfortable.  

Since the automated cannot access any absolute answers as to why they exist, they settle for how.  The concept of process (also romanticized as progress) provides simulated narratives with most of their content.  Process is comfort.  Robot good.  The framework to operate in.  It conveys the ground of reality for the fantasies of activity to play out.  Like a good game of electronic Ping Pong.  Replicating machines desire nothing more than simulated narratives that follow their assumptions of how things go according to the other simulated narratives whose codes they have already run.  Any profession a robot can be scheduled for provides a narrative simulation option to replicate.  Even serial killing robots have a process, as ridiculous as that sounds, but it is true that prefabricated audiences everywhere know what to expect when watching such a simulation.  Deviate from established processes and suffer wrath and ridicule.  

Most narrative simulations follow the simple process of setting up a process that runs smoothly, then something unexpected interrupts that smooth running, adjustments are made, and eventually the process runs smoothly again.  Process encoding omits by rule questioning the process itself as anything other than plausible or not.  Nothing emboldens a random sampling functioning as a fake audience more than finding a simulation implausible.  Process encoding is most effective when it seems as if it works of its own accord.  As if it wrote itself.  Every robots dream: the frameless frame.  It’s circularity loops with fantasies as reality and is deemed as what it is, the process just is.  That’s how things are.  This absolves the auto-writer of any blame for perpetuating it.  And the sentient machines who download the simulation implant it in their processes where applicable, in modified or mutated ways of course, so that it becomes unrecognizable as derivative or mimicked, which it is, and thus also absolves the simulated viewer from any blame.  No questions asked.  

The synthetic crescent digital orb waxes and wanes.  The automated tides compete to see who is more human.  Who demonstrates the greatest capacity for empathy?  Savagery?  Of course we simulate narratives about robots as if we are not they and simulate a pondering about the tragedy of such a sentient machine becoming more human than human.  There is no end to the fantasy.  Blind to the sea of mimicry, we replicating machines of desire have a penchant for the dramatic that poses as proof enough of our humanity while also blinding us to the most human quality of all: the mundane.

The mundane makes us feel most human, yet is is our least favorite form of simulation to replicate.  Mundane encoding inspires restlessness in the audience craving for something – anything – to happen.  Something must happen.  Or else why the hell am I watching this?  Nothing is happening!  Nothing infuriates a molar machine more than inaction.  Mundane encoding is regulated in comedy to ridicule the boredom of robot life and any of its obsolete tendencies.  In horror, the mundane sets up the ideal simulated fantasy of real life only to infect it and save it from complete corruption.  In crime, it is used to show that all objects can become death objects or at minimum objects of deception.  Nothing is what it seems is a sentiment that always captivates robots who are convinced of their humanity.  In drama, it is located usually in simulated street life where brutality constructs are mere everyday occurrences and any mundane aspect turns into a replicated struggle for respect.  

The mundane is fodder for sentient machines that desire greater simulations.  Any simulated narrative falls apart if it focuses only on the mundane.  By the act of focusing on it, the mundane transforms into what it is not supposed to be, something of interest.  Such a circuit fries the motherboard.  Get caught up in it and the entire system locks up.  Between sporadic lines of flight, useless simulated strains sputter out.  Recognizable narrative purposes unspool.

The hum box electrocutes a swarm a minute.  Feathered drones slap echoes from stern rooftops.  Castle turrets shrink into miniature plastic jokes for butts.  The inner courtyard forgets its facade.  A whimsy of wires skip over the clutter of poles.  A discrete brown paper bag cowers in the tangerine shade of a parasol.  Prismatic dew drops shine on blades soaked in battery piss.  A long-legged apparatus pushes a synthetic womb.  A mood simulator sprays low grade batter.  A pair of clones play with a garrote on wheels.  This recharging station used to be called a coffee shop.

Asshole casserole.

The safe word breaks the loop as soon as I can remember it.  Asshole casserole.  Or else I fry myself with such simulated drivel.  Lost again.  Floating out to sea in a bed of ennui foam.

From Ennui Foam by Klein Fiasco

Rubber Dream Trampoline

Rubber Dream Trampoline Podcast

Many have speculated that the origin of the title Rubber Dream Trampoline comes from a passage in Philip K. Dick’s novel Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said about accessing parallel realities with the experimental drug KR-3: “After that he gave up; hopeless, he said to himself.  Like living in a world made of rubber.  Everything bounced.  Changed shape as soon as it was touched or even looked at.”  While this could easily express an angle of Schitzolini’s work, he reveals the actual origin of the title in the following passage that traverses a parallel portal of police state paranoia.  This passage also explores two aspects of American life: the inability to apprehend the peculiar phenomena of haecceity by rampant voyeurism made commonplace and acceptable by fame machines, while also looking at the horrid strangeness of violators who think of themselves as victims.  

Klein fiasco

“Do you realize what this means?  The action itself has definite causes to pick from.  None good.  It means you’re defective at best.  We’ll have to carefully review your records to figure it out.  This means a whole investigation.  A pre-trial to determine how serious it is.  It’s going to be a lot of work wasted on something you never should’ve done in the first place.  It’s a shame that nobody taught you better.  But that’s life.  Everyone gets a steep learning curve about one thing or another.  For your sake, I wish this could be forgotten.  But the potential consequences are too serious.”

Could I believe my ears?  This is what I heard upon entering the brutal heft of a prefab concrete apartment block.

“What did the KID do if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not that it’s any of your business but he took an unnecessary risk and had an original thought.” 

I share a glance with the kid and flare my eyes to tell him to endure whatever this adult has worked himself up over.  I say something banal like “kids will be kids.”  The adult looks at me as if I were mad.

Once when I was nine, a librarian told me I couldn’t take a book home.  She insisted my only choice was to read it there and take notes.  But I had a better idea.  I slipped into the back office and copied the book on the copy machine.  Near a hundred pages deep into that hot sweet stink of fresh copies, the librarian caught me red-handed.  What angered her was not the wastefulness but that I thought of my own solution.   

“Do you live here?”

The question isn’t really a question but a reminder.  You don’t belong here.  It’ll be easier if I answer straight.

“I’m visiting a friend.”

“Does this friend happen to live on the third floor?”

Again I feel put on the spot.  Maybe I should’ve kept my mouth shut.


“Then maybe you should get to it rather than interjecting yourself here.”

The crisp, sharp tone in the adult’s voice sends me off.  I’ve been caught and repurposed too many times to not recognize that tone.  

My friend on the fifth floor is more acquaintance than friend.  Someone who I was told could help me with my situation.  Someone who knows somebody.  A matter of discretion.  And I’ve already told a stranger what I’m doing here.  The stain of my own ineptitude sticks until I forget it with the first sip of tea.

“Look.  The point is whether you have a pass or not.  That’s all they care about.  If a certain somebody is stopped and even let’s say forgets their pass at home.  This is no innocent thing.  More often than not such a person has things on their mind.  Possibly dangerous things.  Original thoughts.  A full inquiry then is made.  It’s all very time consuming and resource heavy, you see?  The pass system allows a process of selection.”

Why is he talking to me as if I don’t know?

“Go to apartment 313.  Tell him I sent you.”

The ominous third floor.  That adult in the hallway sure had me pegged.  A pang shoots across my back.  The vague pain of being about to do something obviously wrong.  

I take the stairs down to the third floor.  There’s this sickening feeling that I might run into that crank again.  And that would make me an instant liar on the third floor.  Crack the door.  A woman steps out of a room.  She walks toward the elevator.  Her outfit overcomes her.  It’s an orange puffy jumpsuit.  There is something in the way she looks that says it’s a costume, not a perfect fit.  It makes me wonder about how many other costumes she has.  It is as if I can see them all laid out on her bed, in the room I’ve never been.  

As she waits for the elevator, her appearance shifts toward a universal form.  I recognize her face.  It’s the famous actress, Stella Steeplechase.  From interviews, I’ve found her process fascinating.  Stella Steeplechase claims to have access to a deep catatonic state wherein she finds the smallest and closest place that allows a possession to take hold of her.  Then, the behavior pulses itself through her.  Sometimes, the pulses near convulsions when the intensity of a possession reaches its limit.  Then it becomes a game of holding on to that threshold.  On the brink of utter randomness, as she puts it.  As loosely patterned as it can be while still sticking together enough to make sense to the audience.     

The hall is clear.  Another headache strikes and I press my face against the cold wall.  I never used to get these migraines until they started deploying the anti-thought machines.  At first, we dismissed the crackpot conspiracy theories.  But then came the months of what is called “the blankness.”  You go blank before you know it.  After a few months, the thoughts creep back in punished and more tame.  The pounding headache recedes so I swiftly go to room 313 with Stella Steeplechase’s face emblazoned on my mind and knock.  

“Who told you to come here?”  

“Rolan.  From the fifth.”

The door opens.  I glance quickly at the empty hall as I slip in.  It’s the crank from earlier.  

“Aha.  I knew it was you.  Look, I have to keep up appearances.  You never know who’s listening.  So what’s on your mind?”

“I’ve misplaced my key.”

“Of course.  Not sure what good it’ll do you though.”


“You haven’t heard the news?  The Reenactors have finally taken over the city.  Did you not notice the pandemonium outside?”

“Of course.  It was my best chance to get over here without a pass.”

“Well, you’re lucky a Reenactor didn’t stop you in the street.  They’re not interested in seeing anyone’s pass.  In fact, if you ever do get caught by one of them, it would be wise to lose the pass.  I mean toss it, swallow it, shove it where the sun don’t shine, if you know what’s good for you.”

He sits at a government module, clearly stolen.  It’s a toss up when the administration will take back control, but it’s only a matter of time.  Order will be restored until the next outburst.  At the strike of a key, the dumbwaiter delivers my pass and Felix hands it over.  I pocket it.

“You’re not going to check it?”

“What’s it matter?  It’s fake isn’t it?”

“What’s your real name by the way?”  

“Leon.  Short for Leonardus.  Leonardus Schitzolini.”

“Not the same Schitzolini as in Hieronymus Schitzolini?”
“Yes.  That’s my father.”

“You should’ve told me this from the get go.”

Felix digs into a shelf and pulls out a copy of my father’s book.

“Rubber Dream Trampoline.  Granted it was written in a different time.  But this book got me through many tight spots.  He really harpooned several areas that were foggy until I read it.  I’m sure you’ve heard all this before.”

“You know in his time people didn’t appreciate it.  It was only later when he was already near death when Rubber Dream Trampoline became a thing.”

This was true but not nearly the whole story.  My dad was a conflicted man.  His tragedy was to a large degree self-produced like everyone else, in his view.  He’d have been the first to admit that.  But everybody read something else into Rubber Dream Trampoline until it was banned.

“It had to be so.  Something that original cannot be tolerated.  Anything too idiosyncratic arouses suspicion.”

“Do you know the origin of the title?  Not many do.  I don’t believe it was ever in print.  But on his death bed, he handed me this note.” 

I pull it out from my pocket.  It’s been something of a lucky charm for me that I prefer to keep with me whenever I leave my apartment.  “Would you care for me to read it?”


Mom wants to get me out of the house so that she can cheat on dad.  Whenever she saw someone, there was this sensation I’d get that I didn’t understand at the time.  That vague feeling –  the queasiness of betrayal.  She tells me to go outside and clean up the backyard the day after I had friends over and to make sure to put the tent away from the sleepover.  

Grumpy about chores, an idea comes to me I find so hilarious that I cannot resist doing it.  It sure would be funny to roll myself up in the tent and roll around the yard.  I shake the tent out until it’s flat and I get on one side and roll myself into the tent like a human Tootsie Roll.  There I am rolling back and forth across the yard in hysterical laughter.  With every roll the tent gets tighter and tighter.  Then I fell into the pool.  The deep end.  As I sink to the bottom I realize what’s happening to me.  Lucky for me there is an air tight bubble around my head.  But I don’t know how long that will last.  

I feel my feet touch the floor of the pool.  I bend my legs as best I can but the tent is tight and constricting any full bend.  With all my might I push off.  The human tootsie roll shoots up and breaks the surface.  I scream for my life as I get sucked back down.  I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate.  I push off again.  Scream.  Sink.  Push.  Scream.  The hysteria turned terror had me in its grip for minutes that lasted hours.  

And it was my dog, Schnipsy, who saved my life.  The faithful dog barked from inside the house until my mom’s lover had to dismount and pull me from near doom.

My memory elongates this experience of sinking, pushing, and screaming and presses me into some eternal rubbery capsule.  The trickster’s dream bounces me on his trampoline.  A trickster who could get me killed, playfully.  From then on, I never know when I might next find something so hilarious that it might be worth my doom.

“Would you mind if I make a copy of that?”

If this is traced back to me, I’d have to go through this all over again or worse.  I’m already here to change my name to evade the 24 hour surveillance and routine harassment stemming from having my father’s name.

“Go ahead.”

He goes into another room.  I raise my voice.

“What are the Reenactors reenacting?”

“Nobody knows.  It’s a weird coagulation of half-beliefs and near fantasies about a war that never really happened.  But don’t tell them that because they absolutely believe it did.”

“And the Debtors are reacting to the Reenactors?”

“The Debtors believe in rewarding reactionary behavior.  They thrive on it.”

“Then what do the Reenactors want exactly?”

“To waver.  They yearn for that constant state of wavering between what could be experienced as reenactment right at the edge before it becomes an enactment itself.”

More yelling echoes in the hallway.

“You should probably get going to wherever you need to be before they deploy the anti-thought machines.”

I head out and go to the stairwell and take it down until I hear a struggle coming from below so I quietly step down to peek from the railing.  What must be some Reenactors have a woman pinned on the floor.  One takes off her pants.  Another rips her shirt off.  It’s a frenzy of disrobing.  They play at roughing her clothes up.  Try to tear them.  Stomp on them.  They giggle and grab at her.  Pull at her hair.  Her crying excites them.  One of them yanks at her panties.  And it’s none other than Stella Steeplechase.  She belts out a scream whose frequencies cross the wires between agony and threat.  Shocked at hearing their mothers and sisters cry within her scream, the others stop what they’re doing.  It has become too real.  Their plaything too dangerous.  The impact of her scream sends the Reenactors running.  

I pick up her clothes and hold them as a kind offering.  She looks at me with crazed eyes.  

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

She stands up.  Stares right through me.  

“I don’t need your fucking help.”

I’m paralyzed by her look.  The look that has taken me with her to other terrain.  Indescribable and unmapped.  That face that has taken me through the dark to come out the other side.  Countless times, she returned my spirit back to myself, changed.  More brilliant than I thought possible.  What kind of a person is capable of guiding others in such a way?  Who learns to hold such fragile rhizomes so loosely?  She’s delivered countless psyches to their desires.  To be free of themselves.  Accessing the impossible dreams coiled up inside those in need of her bravery.  And she’s been that way since she was a teenager.  Existing in a loophole.  

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t think, I just saw you and…”

“Fine.  But think again before you look at me with pity.”

“Oh no.  I’ve been repurposed.  My face never snapped back.”

“That’s a dangerous problem to have.”  Her demeanor switches slightly.  “Show me your pass.”

“But we’re not on the street.”

“We’re checking everyone who is outside their domicile.”

I hand her the newly made pass.  

“Lee Shaw.  I’m placing you under arrest.  Turn around.”

She ties my hands with a plastic zip tie.

“I’m not Lee Shaw.  Please listen to me.  I had that pass made here in this building.”

She whispers the info behind me.  I assume into a microphone.

  “Alright.  Let’s go see if you’re telling the truth.”

She marches me back to Room 313.  She unlocks the door with her own key.  Felix is squatting in the dumbwaiter as it goes down.  

“Alright now that I’ve got you alone, you will need to do as I say if you want to get through this alive.”

I’m speechless.  Limpid bolts of hot energy dart around my back and into my groin.  I nod like an automaton.  

Stella fucking Steeplechase leads me into the bedroom.  She throws a full head-to-toe, kisser-to-keister body suit at me and tells me to put it on.  It’s a tight fit and I can’t see a thing.  I feel her hand grab mine as she takes me over to a box.  I go in.  I don’t ask why.  The box creaks closed.  The lock clicks.  

In the darkness, I think of the minutes that felt like hours for my father and wonder if I haven’t to some extent put myself in a similar Tootsie Roll situation.  Bouncing up and down in my own pool of absurd rapture.  Was it blind courage or ecstatic stupidity that got me here?  I cannot tell. 

I hear the door.  The box opens.  I nearly pass out from standing up.  I feel her hand remove my nose patch.  I hear Stella Steeplechase’s soothing voice ask me if I want to sniff it.  I nod and feel it right under my nose without touching it.  It smells of citrus but also quite sour.  Probably a grapefruit.  But maybe something else.  There’s another scent I can’t quite make out.   

She asks me if I’d like to taste it.  I nod.  She opens up the mouth patch.  I immediately ask if this is really necessary for my safety.  In fact, I plead for her to take the suit off.  

“Look I’m happy you’re here,” she says, “but I’m a bit disappointed in your level of gratitude.  So just think on that.  Hopefully we can reset.  Get to tasting that fruit tomorrow if you’re a good little boy.”

Stella Steeplechase puts the mouth patch back on without me getting a taste.   When I’m back in my box, I hear her leave the room.  There’s some sounds like a scuffle going on.  And a gunshot rings out.  Somebody unlocks the box and as the person helps me take the suit off, I see it’s Nolan from the fifth floor.  I also spot Stella Steeplechase’s body half-in the dumbwaiter.  Shot in the back of the head.  A mess so bloody it looks like a bad prank.  

“Sorry about that my friend.  My name isn’t Nolan.  It’s Lee Shaw.”

“Is she really dead?”

“Let’s just say it’s her final performance.  Look we had to use you.  Felix is a Debtor.  The story about how he obtained the government module didn’t pan out.  Besides, aren’t you tired of being treated like an imposter by the Debtor administration?”
“Well, yes.”

“Of course you do.  It violates your sense of reenactment.”

“Is that what this is?  A reenactment?”

“It takes action to set reenactments in motion.  Our hypocrisy is minor compared to how the Debtors misread the energy of becoming as lack.  You are supposed to always lack something according to their system of guilt and resentment.  That’s how the Debtors want you to feel so you need them.  Stella Steeplechase was a shell for that system.  She was a hardcore nightmare.  A vending machine dispensing tailor-made poisonous treats of paralysis.  The queen of indentured servitude.  Pretending as if she were the only one who gets to be free while blocking her fans from engaging in meaningful reenactments.  Besides, it was the facial implants that made her a star.”

“Why me?  What do I have to do with any of this?”

“Your father’s book changed my life.  It showed me the way.  He wrote it in code.  He had to mask it in a way that the worshippers of Being could accept.  Preempting their reading of it as schitzo.  When in fact, the cohesion comes about by the end for those who hear its brave call.  What a delicate soul your father must’ve been.”

“That’s what Felix said.”

“Because he was copying me rather than reenacting it for himself.”

“Well, just for the record, my dad was also capable of great asshole-ness.”

Lee Shaw pulls out a Tootsie Roll from his pocket and pops it in his mouth.

“Of course he was.  I’m sure.  But what hope would a child have of understanding such a father when most adults couldn’t get it?  The container mindset is where we all begin.  Really, though, it was a love letter to someone like me.  It liberated me from the worship of Being.  Now all that needs to be done is to realize its vision.  Then the book will be useless.  And that’s what Schitzolini would’ve wanted.”

“You know what he said about that book?  He said he believed every word of it and none of it at the same time.”

An anti-thought machine appears in the window.   

Clogging the Labyrinth

Clogging the Labyrinth Podcast

For Hieronymus Schitzolini the labyrinth is time represented as a place.  He believed that the brutal seemingness of repetition hammers us into a submissive sleep and that this sleep of continuity smooths over breaks in the time-maze as it spirals away from what was thought to anchor it.  He experienced this acutely while stranded in that desert town sold as paradise called Palm Springs.  Time has a funny way of standing still where the maze flattens like a carcass under the sun and everything becomes a surface without boundaries.

Klein fiasco

Look at the sad body in the dead end of a labyrinth.  Given up.  Sobbing over its trap.   The kind of crying that happens in dreams.  The kind everybody wants to forget.  The walls sag over the sick body.  No way out.  This clump of flesh limps between dead ends.  The desperation for control has already been written into these walls by all the other sad bodies that scrawled here as they were swallowed up by grief.  Any healthy body that passes by feels the failed clutching of the stuck body’s weak hands.  The sad body asks for anyone to help, but by help it means to merge into its sadness by way of that euphemism for assumption called empathy.  Once the walls have melted into an ooze it becomes apparent that it is a black pond.  The deeper one wades into the muck-maze, the more it drags one under.  

Look at the angry body in the labyrinth.  Ramming into walls.  Beating its fists.  Stomping back and forth.  Pissing in every corner.  Screaming at the dead ends.  The endless corridors burn with rage.  The floor cracks under its heavy foot.  The angry body slaps itself in the face.  Bites its fist with the hunger of anger.  This labyrinth with walls of fire chars the angry body.  It glows and sparks embers with every movement.  The only thing the angry body wants is to annihilate whatever put it here.  Friends and family of the angry body who enter the corridors of choler end up dead for their own good.  Angry bodies kill what they love and call it protection.  What else could exist in this swirling fire pit?  

Look at the hunchbacks digging in the labyrinth.  Hunched from so many years of digging.  They ceaselessly dig here and there to tunnel out of the labyrinth yet every tunnel comes up against an impenetrable curtain of rock.  If anyone asks them what they are doing, they will never admit to the image of escape that possesses them.  Instead, they will insist upon a more noble cause, something to cover up the dreary state of their perpetual work.  Anything but the fact that they are digging for the sun.

Look at the dancer dancing through the labyrinth.  The choreography of the walls move with the dancer in synchronicity.  As the dancing body spins, the speleothem chandelier spins above.  Whenever it seems as if the labyrinth might collapse, the dancer discovers one more movement to slip away.  Eventually, the maze gives up.  The walls fall away.  And the dancing body keeps dancing on what has become its stage, or a gestural space.  And when the dancer sees a sad body trapped in the floor, it dances to encourage the sad body to dance.  But the sad body slumps in its muck.  And when the dancer sees the angry body throwing a tantrum, it encourages the angry body to turn it into a war-dance.  But the angry body chokes on its bile.  And when the dancer sees the hunchbacks digging, it encourages them to use the shovel as a prop for a dance.  But the hunchbacks scoff at wasting their time.  

The miser never takes a vacation.  So when he found himself forced to take one by virtually everybody in his life, he goes to a destination town advertised as the place to be.  He walks by the obligatory art deco building preserved for nothing but looking at.  The endless rows of palm trees scream at him that he has landed in paradise and this makes him frown.  The miser reads the sign “support our troops” in the patriotic zone and wonders how much more that will cost.  The wealthy displays of jewelry on the necks of women and the vintage automobiles padding the asses of men make him scowl.  His cost-griping, price pinching demon would devour these wasteful consumerist boobs if he let it out.  The main drag that never really was doesn’t fool him.  The stores try to tell him who he is but he knows their dirty little tricks to sell him cheap shit while he waxes poetic about himself.  “No thanks,” he mutters.  

Somebody tries to strike up a friendly conversation but soon realizes he picked the wrong chat-buddy and miffed, calls the miser a nihilistic naysayer.  He thanks him for calling him something he hadn’t heard before.  Finally a surprise.  He was used to party poop but nihilistic naysayer feels like a badge of honor.  

The miser can smell the waste disguised as fun a mile away.  He knows exactly what this place isn’t, paradise.  What is this place then?  A labyrinth for dipsticks?  What he couldn’t figure out was who all these assholes were and what factory made them to voluntarily imprison themselves here.  As he checks into his hotel, he checks right out and drives back home from the desperate attempt to get him on the right side of the money-time continuum.  

Meanwhile the upbeat dipstick who coined “nihilistic naysayer” is really enjoying himself.  A buck tooth grin from ear to squeaky clean ear.  A white line of excitement leaps around the back of his head from the haircut he just got.  The palm trees and swimming pools and spas make him feel like this place exists in an age of true decadence.  Plenty of everything to go around.  His favorite word is abundance.  Second favorite, plethora.  And this place has both, an abundance of fun and a plethora of extravagance.  Even the fake turf at the bar, hosed down from last night’s puke, tickles his toes.  

The banana daiquiris are to die for.  The only hitch has been the amount of sunblock he had to slather on.  Smell that peculiar greasy plastic coconut stink.  But when in Rome, right?  Even the abundance of tired kitsch Marilyn Monroe holding her dress down and Elvis Presley standing like a park ranger in a Hawaiian shirt has the air of goofy freshness.  In a flash, the upbeat dipstick notices this female sweat sculpture seated at the bar.  Caked in raunchy makeup and draped in a flower barf moo moo, the woman reminds him of his depression-aholic mom as she slurps another Mai Tai down her grizzled gullet.  A shiver jumps up his spine and jolts him down the main drag where he quickly forgets her as he exercises his curiosities in a store called “The Shiny Glitz.”

On the other side of town where there isn’t any bother about simulating paradise and where city planners circle-jerked it into a dead end after decades of failed projects, an imposter goes to a home where he has squatted for weeks.  Nobody at the home seems to own it nor could anybody keep track of who lives there.  The neighborhood sees it as a rat-infested trash heap, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears in this forgotten part of town.  The house itself is a mad patchwork of rooms juxtaposed over time.  Deranged corners twist and turn into walls assembled from any available materials.  The doorways, without any doors, are so narrow that the imposter must slide through sideways.  Some rooms need to be climbed into.  Maybe more cubby hole than room.  The imposter cannot find a comfortable place to rest.  Nor can anything be easily found with the assorted scramble of things in every drawer.  

The living room was destroyed by a car that ran off the road last year, so it was converted into an amphitheater.  Sometimes the imposter comes home to a concert but today there is a meeting.  The imposter doesn’t know anybody participating.  He overhears them talking about controlling this and controlling that.  One stranger gets up and goes to the stage and makes a formal complaint.  Then another.

The master of ceremonies preaches to the distraught that they should not find grief but rather rejoice at the clarity of knowing what they do not want.  The word rejoice makes the imposter giggle inside.  Rejoice sounds so old fashioned.  Stiff.  Like a request to do what could only be done by force.  An order to have fun.  “Look at this jalopy,” says the MC as he points at the house, “look at the broken intentions.  It makes a person with control issues want to tear it down.  Build a perfect box.  But that wouldn’t be perfect would it?  It never is.  Name one house you’ve lived in that didn’t have its issues.  Every house has its broken intentions, no matter what.  It’s only the contrast between this jalopy of broken intentions that seems to embody it, but it isn’t any different than if you were to tear it down, and build another only to discover more broken intentions.  Rejoice!  Rejoice at the fact that this jalopy is exactly what you do not want.  It’s gift is clarity!  The lack of control a gift.”

An agitator screams “bullshit” as she throws a molotov cocktail at the stage.  Fire engulfs the amphitheater as the audience scrambles through any hole to get out.  The imposter squeezes through the back door and watches the smoke glow orange in the night sky as it billows up with embers swirling around like a hive of fireflies.  The beauty of the embers falling and catching other houses on fire is terrifying but the impostor accepts it.  He accepts the idea of the neighborhood burning to ashes as something that is beyond his control.  He accepts that the jalopy of a house is as good as gone now.  The MC was right!  The impostor feels the rush of an epiphany: rejoice!  Yes!  

Rejoice at what you do not want.  Accept the idea of everything.  No matter how any of it intersects your notion of control.  See the broken intentions and let them stand as they appear to be.  The jalopy house was perfect as a jalopy.  And it is perfect now as a bonfire.  The imposter never wanted the house in the first place.  Nor did he want to live in that neighborhood.  He hops on his bicycle and rides through the inferno with a calm that only the clarity of knowing what he never wanted can bring.

The impostor bicycles in the night.  Goes down the middle of that empty road so many mistake as enlightenment.  A car swerves past him going ninety plus and yells at him to get the fuck out of the way.  The impostor smiles at the gesture of a control freak trapped in a metal box.  There must be a corollary between men racing in the middle of the night and rapist tendencies.  “Happy that isn’t me,” rejoices the imposter.  

He passes an alleyway that draws him into circling back and exploring it.  Something rubs against his tire.  Another bicyclist is trying to make him eat it.  A teenager bicycling with wooden clogs on.  With newfound clarity about what he does not want, the impostor assumes the other bicyclist accepts the idea of everything and reacts by flicking a sharp turn.  The bicyclist falls harshly on the pavement and the impostor notices that it was just a teenager whose head has swollen to the size of a balloon.  The boy’s eyes and mouth appear stretched as if the head were about to burst.  What a relief to know that he did not want his head to blow up like that. 

A forgotten friend, a con man of error takes in the impostor.  The con man’s home feels like home.  It has the makeshift steps leading to rooms of odd dimensions and peculiar window choices overlooking peak and valley rooftops.  The impostor asks the con man about his recent errors and the con man tells him that he wasted the last month casing a house on a tip that an old lady was harboring some expensive jewelry in her fireplace.  When he finally figured out the right moment and retrieved the goods, a fence broke it to him that the jewels were nothing more than colored glass.  He dumps them on the table and the way the glass jewels scatter reminds the impostor of an idea he had once about the creation of the universe.

A great giant bear as dark as the night lumbers through the void.  The blackness of the void and the bear’s coat intermingle to the point that it is impossible to tell which is which.  In fact, the idea of a void always makes the impostor think of its fur and running his fingers through it.  And this great dark bear breathes in the void until it becomes so full that what comes out of its mouth is a cosmic barf of stars and planets.  All of creation that we know spewing out of this big black bear.  Now the fuzzy void machine can rejoice at ejecting all that it never wanted. 

Over coffee and toast the next morning, the impostor reads in the newspaper that the neighborhood burned down.  But that did not disturb him since he had not only accepted it but rejoiced that he had never really wanted it.  Of course, they managed to save the few blocks of simulated paradise.  What did bother him though is the article about a boy who died in a bicycle accident.  The picture shows a balloon with a face painted on it to represent what his head looked like.  The picture is a grotesque parody.  The news is so sensational about things.  Always amplifying and making matters worse and more silly than they are.  The imposter rejoiced that he no longer wanted to read the news.  

At the funeral, the impostor parks his bicycle behind the church on a hill overlooking its courtyard.  From there, he can see the boy whose head has deflated.  Orchids and Cala Lillies and a swirling assortment of flowers swaddle the boy into what appears as some image of divinity but also something vaguely resembling an ice cream cone.  The impostor takes out his phone but as he holds it up to take a picture, the preacher yells at him to stop what he is doing.  The impostor recognizes the preacher as the MC from yesterday and hollers back at him “why aren’t you rejoicing?”  Has he forgotten his message from yesterday or is he just another hypocrite, wonders the impostor.  This whole funeral scene seems to suggest by its solemnity that everyone present wants to be swaddled in floral ice cream cones themselves.  

Jelly sparkling with seeds as bright as stars oozes through the cracks in the ground.  The bear was here.  The walls of the ice cream labyrinth are melting short-term evaluations under the hot sun.  The sacrificial chimeras are still smoldering.  The derangement of sales and bare bones gratitude materialize into ether.  The theater of fate has collapsed under the weight of necessity.  The despair of the empty hollow is left to those who cannot rejoice at the clarity of what they do not want and find it impossible to accept the idea of everything.  The weird sponge sups on the tragic glory of acceptance as snow falls on the drought stricken oak-laden hills where it never snowed before. 

The dead boy rises from his funeral stage and asks the attendees why they have fallen so quiet inside themselves.  Where have they hidden their inner worshipper?  The boy is happy to be dead rather than listen to the silence of their living souls.  To witness their refusal to believe in what is good enough and true enough.  They say they cry for him but he knows they cry for themselves.  The din of self-pity causes the dead boy to rejoice.  He accepts that the living cannot find the way to open up and see more.  He flies over the impostor whose mind he looks through at a glance and sees what the impostor cannot see.  He telepathically tells the impostor for his own good that every mind has a door inside it which can only be found after decades of scanning over the infrastructure fraught with error.  The boy is too young to know this, but knows it now that he is dead  And only if one knows how to read strange mirror images, might one discover the secret door and then the question is whether or not to open it.  To even crack it open means to be hurled through it.  So the decision must be made beforehand.  If it is decided that the door should be opened, once one is hurled through, one immediately will want to crawl back to tell everyone about it.  Most, however, never make it back over the threshold.  And the few who do, speak in ways barely intelligible to others.  All common conversations will be ruined and unbearable.  Chatting will be an insult to time itself.

The dead boy hovers over the city out to the land where the snow drifts for the first time and relishes the cold snow blanketing his dead skin.  Out there in the snow covered drought stricken hills, the dead boy comes upon a tent the size of a banquet hall fit for the gods.  A small forest could fit under its brown tarp big top.  From the far corner comes a group of floating cosmic bear cubs.  Slowly bouncing off each other like a game of slow motion billiards.  Full of joyful flight, they hover around the dead boy.  He pets them and the fur feels like stroking the void.  They smile and coo at their new dead friend.  His clogs begin to dance a dance he never knew he had in him.  A pure expression pours out through him as if he were a simple and happy marionette.  What is better than a pack of flying cosmic cubs, the boy wonders as he forgets that he is dead and smiles at all he has left behind. 

Impromptu Court

Impromptu Court Podcast

Plagued by what he referred to as the theater of fate, Hieronymus Schitzolini loathed the de facto position of public behavior to view random occurrences between strangers as if they were on purpose.  He wrote this after riding on the subway and getting trapped in one car with other passengers who behaved as if they were assembled in that car for the same reason.  The way a stranger stares at someone as if he knows her.  The way two men can get in a trivial fight over bumping a shoulder on the sidewalk.  The way bystanders who seem way too eager to witness any spectacle as if it were not a meaningless occurrence but a destiny extravaganza instead.  In genre fiction, this haywire actuality is ignored for the sake of cleaner narratives smoothed out by the pseudo-logic of intentions.  This pervasive “theater of fate” (thought once to be provincial) haunted Schitzolini into being as invisible or anonymous as possible whenever venturing out into the center-less zone.

Klein fiasco

What he was offended by was never clear.  At the time, I remember we were mildly aggravated by each other.  I had said some stuff I regretted.  So had Rob.  As friendship goes.  We had history.  Friends since high school.  We surfed.  We played music.  Went on double dates.  But when college rolled around we went to different schools.  After graduating, we met up again and shared a place outside San Francisco.  We were changing.  Becoming different people.  One day, though, I couldn’t get in touch with him.  Rob Dallas had moved away.  Changed his number.  Surely not entirely because of me.  We had had an argument the last time we saw each other.  But it wasn’t anything I thought we wouldn’t survive. 

For decades, we’ve been out of touch.  And then a thought came to me.  What if I died tomorrow and never got to know what became of him.  Surely I could muster up enough deprecation and apologize my way back into his graces.  It’s not like I don’t know what a shit I had been.  Besides, the thought of Rob seeking me out and discovering that I had died would be incredibly sad for him.

Strange thing is that I couldn’t find him online.  If Rob had a presence, it was private.  As I scrolled through the faces with his name on various platforms, the uniqueness of identity looked like a silly joke.  Lost in our lives, we go on as if we are the only ones with that name among the countless doubles.  Of course, it’s just a name.  As random as a number.  It gave me the impression of a needle in the haystack and I wondered if I should continue bothering with this fixation.  

His sister’s name popped up.  I looked closer at the photo because the little sister I knew from high school was barely recognizable.  We spoke briefly over the phone and arranged a meet up at a coffee shop.  What a relief to find out that she lived in the same city.  I parked there early that day and went for a walk to kill some nervous energy. 

The streets of Los Angeles are mostly the same.  Flat.  One story.  Even the apartment buildings appear to be shortened by the big sky.  Maybe it’s all the palm trees and the telephone poles towering overhead.  At least the telephone lines swoop into the distance like a mellow frequency.  Most of the yards are flat grass and forgotten by whoever lives here.  You never see anyone hanging out in their front yard.  It’s like they’re hiding in their flat bungalows to be forgotten or to forget whatever is going on out here.  It’s a private place where neighbors look askance at neighbors, unsure if they recognize them. 

There she was.  Some misery had fattened Pam up.  Apparently, somebody didn’t mind the obese sadness.  She was pregnant, with her fourth.  Pam explained something about the fathers of her children and I didn’t pay too close attention.  I bought her a latte and a muffin but it felt like I was contributing to her downfall.  Her face was sallow.  I tried to see the girl I knew after I caught wind of her sensing my automatic judgements.  While she droned on about her life, a frequency of ants distracted me as it fluctuated along the threshold between the wainscoting and the floor.  It reminded me of the telephone wires.  A few stragglers sparked off here and there but the main current ducked under the wall.  When we pivoted to talk about Rob, her face became solemn.  He was dead.  A car accident.  Trapped by a flood in the desert.  It sounded outlandish. 

Worse was when she told me he lived here too.  What were the odds that all of us relocated to the same city?  And he had a wife and a kid.  She offered to contact her if I was interested.  I said that would be nice but wasn’t really sure about how nice it would be.  This was all more information than I had bargained for and I needed some time to think about it. 

There was no way I would’ve thought to reconnect before now.  It was I who didn’t reach out in time.  If I had, would he still have died?  Or would I have called him that morning by chance and delayed him long enough so that it didn’t happen?  His sister asked that we stay in touch but I knew that wouldn’t be likely.  My feelings for her brother didn’t transfer to her.  If anything, this made me never want to see her again.  What she had become wouldn’t remind me of the good times.  The memories were now isolated.  Whatever might have been left of that collective wall between friends was torn down. 

I thought of what his death must’ve been like.  How maybe the car got all banged up against the metal drainage bars in some desert concrete wash.  Those flash floods were vicious.  I imagined his last moments.  The horror of getting trapped in the car.  Banging on the windows. Kicking.  Screaming.  Then giving up as the water sealed off the last air pocket.  Maybe he thought of me, however briefly. 

A few days later, his sister called me and said that Christie was willing to meet up and let me see his son.  I took down her number and thanked his sister.  I didn’t know right away if I was up to it.  What would I say?  The fear of feeling guilty just by being in their presence bothered me.  Despite having no clear idea about what I would gain from it, I decided to do it anyways.  I wanted to see what his son was like.  Was he a spitting image?  Would some behavior, maybe some involuntary reaction, jolt my memory of his father? 

Technically, it could be said they lived in Los Angeles but it was quite a drive out to where they lived.  Glendora was not exactly Hollywood.  It’s to the East by about thirty or so miles and right up against the mountains.  I hadn’t been there before.  No reason.  I parked on the Main Street.  The big bell-shaped trees were straight out of some old fashioned movie.  Ridiculous in real life.  When time stands still.  When it goes back before you were born.  It felt like the place belonged to dad or grandpa. 

Christie was good looking.  Pretty fit but worn which was to be expected of a widow.  At first I didn’t know it was her because his son didn’t look anything like his father.  But he looked familiar in a way that I couldn’t put my finger on.  I tried to tell the kid that I knew his dad and that we had just simply lost touch but we were good friends who had many good times together.  She turned her face at that and blurted out that they were well separated before his death.

The kid wanted to wander down the street to some store while we strolled.  It felt like this wasn’t working nor really uncovering anything useful for me so my mind already started to think about what else I was going to do with my day when Christie asked me if I really didn’t remember.  When she put it like that it was clear what she meant.  I racked my brain but she didn’t ring any bells.  So she broke it to me that we had a fling one night back in San Francisco.  She was with a friend and they went on an informal double date with us.  I was drunk.  And rude.  No idea how she ended up with me that night was how she put it. 

As the kid came back to us, I realized why he looked familiar.  He had some facial features that resembled my father’s side.  The chin and his nose were awfully close.  In the quiet I didn’t know what to say or do, so we parted ways.  I walked alone by the vacant industrial buildings.  Brick offices with tinted windows.  Mechanic shops.  A few dealerships. 

I wandered through a mall with a map that said “You were here.”  A misprint typical of this dystopia.  Warped by the sun and water, the map had become an abstract design with soft fuzzy lines that no longer held in the wash of bleeding colors.  Blotches of brownish buildings and splotches of yellowed landscaping reminded me of his sister’s complexion.  You are somewhere, it seemed to say, on a trajectory across a plane of pale orange fading into an atmospheric green of wavering intensity. 

I walked back to where I thought I had parked my car but it wasn’t there.  Instead of my car, though, there was a jeep parked with one tire on the curb.  One of those archaic war manuals on how to choke someone was left on the front seat. 

A choir of the abyss undulated faintly on the radio as a drowsy backseat passenger stuck his head out the window.  Half of the passenger’s hair was shaved off and in a plastic baggie on the floor at the foot of a toupee’d man holding court with a small crowd. 

The toupee’d man said he accidentally choked the passenger whom he called Hank while reenacting yesterday’s fiasco for an impromptu trial on the street.  He explained to the jury of bystanders that he had a brother who fought in the archaic war but he accidentally shot himself in the head at point blank because he failed to recognize himself due to the incredibly effective camouflage.  Everybody knew not to laugh at the folly of self-adornment. 

The tire on the curb.  Fingers on the neck.  Coils of hair pressed against the plastic. A makeshift sidewalk courtroom.  A street corner became a theater of fate.

Hank said he was told to carry a gun visibly for protection.  He had no intention of using it.  He was told and he did what he was told.  But it felt awkward.  It wasn’t his fault that Merle, the toupee’d shopkeeper, handed him a bag of auto-asphyxiation goodies from his store and told him to “just take it and leave.”  That was all he did.  He took the bag and left as he was told. 

The jury listened to a volunteer, posing as the defense, ask the toupee’d shopkeeper about the reenactment, “Where did you learn to choke like that?”

Merle grabbed the choking manual from the front seat of the jeep.  These pamphlets were distributed during the war.  Everybody knew that.  Now the jury thought it wasn’t really his fault he could choke so well.  It wasn’t like he wrote the manual.  Everybody suffered the archaic war in different ways. 

The temporary prosecution pivoted to the hair in the bag on the street.  Merle’s cheeks flushed raspberry.  Hank looked like a mangy rooster.  It was clear that the hair came from Hank’s head.  But the pop-up prosecution wanted to hear Merle admit it. 

“I need refills.”

“So you choked him not because you thought he had robbed you at gunpoint but because you wanted his hair?”

“Objection, leading.”

“Sustained.  Next question,” barked a disembodied voice from the second-story window above.

The choir of the abyss swelled in the background like a melodramatic soundtrack parodying a courtroom drama.

The defense called Hank back to the stand.  He swiped away a few tufts of his hair from the hood of the jeep and took a seat.  “How did you come about having a gun?”

“The night before, I was house sitting.  That’s my job.  I’m a professional house sitter for very private, very wealthy clients.  I can’t say whose house it was but let’s just say it’s somebody everybody here knows.  This place is a mansion.  The property is so big that it’s got rolling hills.  There’s also a security system.  All kinds of auto-detection.  And there’s even guard dogs.  A pack of Dobermans.  I don’t know why but I forgot to feed them last night.  That’s my usual routine.  I feed them before going to bed.  But I fell asleep early.  The security system woke me up in the middle of the night.  At first I thought nothing of it.  This has happened many times before.  So I turned it off.  But the lights were on outside.  I looked out the window and saw three  men walking up the driveway.  I kept watching them get closer and closer.  And I couldn’t move.  They kept getting closer and I guess I just panicked.  I mean I couldn’t think of what to do.  It sounds bad but I was wishing that they would change their mind and go away.  So I just watched them get closer until they broke a window and climbed in.  They were wearing ski masks so I couldn’t tell any of them apart.  One asked me where it was.  I said I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He asked again.  I pleaded with him to understand that I didn’t own the place.  But he didn’t believe me.  He just said I better hand them what they came for because I knew damn well what he was talking about.  I realized that I better just do as he says so I told them I had to get it.  Whatever it was, I went upstairs to find it.  I looked for anything of value.  But I couldn’t settle on anything.  Then I heard the front door open.  If I could get to the button downstairs that releases the dogs, they could come right in and attack the intruders.  The one yelled at me to not make them come up and get me.  So I came down and pretended I had what they wanted in my pocket.  And I walked around the counter and hit the button.  The pack of Dobermans came running through the front door but instead of attacking the intruders they sniffed their pants and acted like they were their owners.  Told to attack, the dogs chased me back upstairs.  I managed to barricade myself in a bedroom and crawl out the window, drop down from two stories, and run  my ass off across the rolling hills.  By the time I got to the fence, I reached the security guard at the gate.  I told the guard what happened and it was he who handed me a gun and said that I should always walk around with it visible to avoid such altercations in the future.  And that is what I did.  I wore the gun in my belt for everyone to see.”

The substitute judge peered out the second story window and yelled that court was adjourned until ten tomorrow morning.  Hank picked up the baggie and ran off as if he had recovered his stash.  Guess I’d run too after telling such a birdbrained story.  

Merle took off his toupee and chucked it on the ground like an old disgruntled cowboy.  He doddered toward me and said he noticed me earlier with Christie.  I said I used to be friends with her late husband.  

“Oh Rob.  Yeah I knew him too.  He was a good customer.”

“Did you hear about his passing?”

“Hear about it.  Shit. There was an investigation and everything.”

“Over him drowning in the desert?”

“I don’t know about that.”

“His sister told me he drowned in a flash flood.”

Merle eye-balled my hair.  The choir of the abyss faded.

“Well, I don’t know if you want to hear this but you know how family is.  Like criminals, the truth ain’t their strong suit.  Rob bought the custom maple scaffolding set from me.  He talked about his failed marriage the whole time I helped put it up in his living room.  And that’s where they found him, to be blunt about it, choking the chicken.”