8 Eminently Likeable Characters Who Will Not Be Appearing Here

 

 

 

starXSmallThere’s Work To Do

People here, we keep to ourselves. We’re not showy; we’re not glad-handers. We keep our barns painted and our fences mended. The social life here can be found at 10am on Sunday morning at First Presbyterian. We keep our noses out of other people’s business.

And yet, when the Willard boy went missing, I knew, without having to place a single telephone call, that the women would be with Mrs. Willard and every able-bodied man would be waiting for me at the feed store.

My name is Grant. This star I’m wearing, I might pin it to my shirt two or three times in a year. I don’t draw a paycheck for it. Those men in the feed store, they’re waiting for me. I’m the law here, and there’s work to do.

 

Good Boy

“Who’s a good boy? Huh? Who’s a good boy?”

Woof! Woof!

“Oh yes you are! That’s right, you are! You are!”

Woof! Woof!

“What do I got? What do I got?”

Woof! Woof!

“A stick? A stick? Is it a stick, boy?”

Woof! Woof!

“Am I gonna throw it? Am I? Am I gonna throw it?”

Woof! Woof!

 

I Let Him In

He never calls ahead, never says how long he’ll be staying this time. Just shows up at my door, his shapeless cloth hat on his head, a rucksack slung easily over one shoulder. A wry, knowing half-smile on his face.

“Hey,” he says. Hey amounts to a speech from him.

And I let him in.

He always smells of boat fuel and brine. His skin is sticky with it for days. His hands are coarse and calloused from months of hauling nets. He has a careful way of moving, as if the very earth were a rolling deck that might sway out from under him at any moment. And, oh, his eyes. His eyes are the blue of the sea that’s calling to him already, even as he’s standing there on my porch.
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Who Will Dream Of Me When I Am Gone?

Dream 3

 

 

 

He hates this big-chain, budget haircut place, but he can’t think of anywhere else to go and wouldn’t want to pay any more than fifteen bucks for a haircut anyway. The staff here is young kids. Girls, some of them maybe not out of high school, accessorized with random facial piercings, rooster tails of day-glo hair, and bored expressions. This must be the bottom of the ladder in the haircut game.

He used to get his haircut at a place called Presidio’s, by the train station. A real barber’s kind of place, two chairs, combs in a big vial of blue liquid, a copy of the Daily News on a table by the front window. No waiting. He can’t remember ever talking to the barber, who could have been Presidio, in the seven, eight years he went there. One day he showed up for a haircut and the windows were papered over, a For Sale or Lease sign in the window. Continue reading

Netflix Profile, Your DVD Reviews (588)

 

John Travolta, GodMichael

 

 

I suppose this is a silly film and no one here likes it much, but I do. If I were one of God’s angels and I were a man, I would definitely be John Travolta and all the women would leave their boyfriends and dance around me. I can’t even remember the last time I danced with a man, even for one song in a club somewhere. Imagine in this day and age, going out on a date with dancing, instead of to some bar with the football game on TV. I cried when John Travolta saved the dog and I even cried when he danced. He’s such a lovely dancer.  My friend Evelyn says angels are all around us and I hope she’s right, though she also buys rosaries and mass cards blessed by the Pope on Amazon. John Travolta is so charming and graceful and has such nice eyes that of course he would have to be gay and have sex with men in steamrooms, as they say now.  Surprise, surprise, I say. There are no charming men in real life.

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The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Complete Second Season

 

 

This show is probably one of my first memories. It was always on Channel 2 on Sundays after All in the Family and my mother would cut up a quart of butter pecan ice cream into four slices with a knife she ran under hot water. Mary was so sweet and Lou so gruff and Ted so dumb and Murray always knew the perfect thing to say. My dad, this was the only show he ever laughed out loud at, this and the Carol Burnett Show. I guess I was six years old. My dad worked for 35 years in the same place as an engineer for GM, designing office spaces. (Imagine having such a job today, designing offices for your company!) Every year, there was a company picnic in July and a Christmas party in December, and my dad knew everyone and everyone knew him. There were softball games and bowling teams and on Thursday nights my mom went out with the other GM wives. “Generous Motors,” they called it, and they weren’t kidding. I always loved how Mary had her desk and Murray had his and Lou’s door was always open. You could tell that they all really loved each other and they loved coming to work. Where I work at the customer service center here in Wichita, no one eats together in the break room. No one talks to each other. Even just five years ago, you at least knew the other girls’ names. No more. Mr. Grant never timed Mary Richard’s trips to the ladies’ room on his watch, but the work still got done. Of course in the last season of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (spoiler alert!) everyone gets fired from the station, so the joke was already on us, I guess.

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Waffles

 

Sandy Hook, Proving Ground, Military Ordinance, stroke, morningMoments before my first stroke, the first bad one, I was overcome by the smell of waffles and hot syrup, a real olfactory wallop, that starchy essence of seared batter and the sharp carbon zing of scalded sugar. I was sitting at my desk doing nothing special after the Tuesday morning staff meeting, and, bang, there it was. Waffles. And syrup.

I probably haven’t eaten a waffle in forty years. Fifty. Pancakes, either. I never ate like that. Even as a kid, I was a careful eater. I’d eat a bowl of Wheaties or an apple. My father would make waffles, that was his thing, he had about forty minutes of fatherhood a week in him, and he used it up on Sunday mornings, making waffles. He left us when I was eight. My daughter’s like me, a poached egg would be a big deal. Most days, especially toward the end, after Marjorie and me finally called it quits, I got by on a cup of coffee, black, and a Power Bar. Now, of course, it’s a mouthful of juice from one of these devious single-serving containers the nurse has to peel open for me, and a spoonful or two of creamed wheat.

But that smell of waffles, it was so intense; it was like two poles connected by an electrical current over a vast distance, the air cleared by a powerful crackling charge, and then I was on my knees, wedged sideways between desk and chair, stunned and shivering, seeing so suddenly and clearly all the years that have passed while I haven’t done a thing.

Related: Topics For Further Discussion

Related: It’s Your Top Ten Hit Parade From The Summer of 1980

The Bail Bondsman’s Guide to Birds of the American Northeast

 

American Goldfinch

You can’t trust a finch. It’s a songbird. A master of the bait-and-switch. Everything they say is a lie. Always there’s the hidden agenda, the shit they think you don’t know about. If there’s one part of this job that tires me out, it’s the people who come in here thinking they’re smarter than I am. Like I ain’t seen it all. The stop payments. The car in the sister’s name. The guy they know who knows a guy in the prosecutor’s office. Stolen credit cards. A lot of people, they’re better off in a cell. Keeps ’em out of trouble. I run a mostly cash business. It’s easier that way.

Snowy Egret, Birds of the Northeast, migratory, flight riskSnowy Egret

Always a flight risk. Anything migratory like this, anything that calls two places home, it just raises questions. Also, a bird like this, there’s temperament to factor in. A high-strung bird is an unpredictable bird. Unpredictable is anathema in my business. Yeah, anathema. Sometimes I get straight arrows in here, guys just walked into their first heap of shit in their lives. Maybe somebody got hurt in a DWI. Or a shady investment went bad. These people, they got cash, they got collateral up the ass, but they got mobility. Worse, they have no knowledge of the system. They’re subject to irrational fear. Like I said, they’re a flight risk. They’re a boom-or-bust proposition. Most of ’em, if they do flee, they ain’t too hard to find. Life ain’t like the movies. It’s hard for an amateur to hide.

Osprey, predator, bounty hunter, birds of the northeastOsprey

Now we’re talking. The osprey. The fish hawk. The eye in the fucking sky. In nature, you got your prey and you got your predator. An osprey won’t eat squirrels or rats or voles. It just eats fish. It’s specialized. It’s half a mile up and it sees the fish in the sea. Nothing is invisible to it. It’s nature’s bounty hunter. I got two people I work with. Two of the best. They’re like night and day. Dmitry is Russian, he’s got the big arms, the tattoos, the voice like a megaphone. He’s so big, he doesn’t have to worry about fights. Nobody wants to get into it with him. He’s armed like a fucking Transformer. One on the hip, one in the boot, that I know about. Smash and grab. Georgy is a Romanian. He looks like an accountant, like any guy off the street. No muss, no fuss. No scene. He’s on you before you know it; he’s in your head. He’s like a cobra. One second you’re on a log, thinking your mousy thoughts, the next second you’re in the cobra’s belly, wondering what the hell happened. Good guys, Dmitry and Georgy. I tell people, don’t bother doing anything dumb. You don’t want any Dmitry and Georgy trouble. Almost always, they listen. Continue reading

Elevator Pitches of the Damned

 

Elevator Pitches, Book Proposals, Hollywood, Literary Agents, fiction

Your host, in his unfortunate “Inspector Clouseau Period”

 

Justice League of Hollywood

By day they ply their exalted trade as thespians on the world stage, embodying the hopes and dreams of their legions of fans. But when the sound stages go dark and the catering packs up, a select few of the Hollywood elite, endowed with otherworldly powers beyond the ken of common folk, take to the night streets of Hollywood and Beverly Hills (or around the world, as location shooting permits), righting wrongs and battling the forces of evil. George Clooney is Synergio, master of the ancient art of strategic personal branding and wielder of the Knowing Smirk. Gwyneth Paltrow is Hype, able to raise or lower the Q rating of any person on earth, using only the super-kinetic powers of her mind. Taylor Kitsch is Unsealio, capable of opening all manner of  balky condiment jars, child-safe prescription containers and molded plastic anti-theft packaging, with only his bare hands. Blake Lively is Beardra, who, with her all-powerful Penumbra of Femininity, is able to provide even the most transparently gay action-movie hunks with plausible heterosexual romantic cover. Together with Zooey Deschanel as Sophistra, Elf Queen of the Elegant #Humblebrag, this alliance of A-list celebrity superstars faces its greatest challenge when an Iranian terrorist splinter cell, financed by the Saudi royal family, attempts to hijack the western world’s stockpiles of Botox and human growth hormone. Will the Justice League of Hollywood triumph? Or will the world’s unrealistic standards of beauty be compromised?

 

A Race Against Time

See, there’s this guy, he’s a physicist, but way out there on the cosmological fringe, tinkering with theories of special and general relativity, gravitational singularities and such, I won’t get into it except to say it’s totally possible and involves theories of space-time dilation, but anyway, he invents a Time Machine. But the thing is, it turns out that the world’s history is basically hundreds and hundreds of millions of years of not that much, you know? I mean, virtually all of it is inaccessible to the Time Traveler because the atmosphere is mostly CO2, or there’s inland seas or glaciers popping up everywhere. Even if you get a patch of land going, a frigging passing dragonfly is the major event of the week. Human history is a fraction of an eyeblink in time, and even most of that is pretty much empty grass fields of nothing, with occasionally a couple of people sitting on a log, smoking stinky pipes and complaining about the food. It doesn’t take the physicist long to discover that all of human civilization on earth amounts to about 6,000 years, give or take, then a rapid die-off followed by umpteen million years of more seas and glaciers, a handful of inconsequential rodents, then a long, gradually increasing aridity and increase of temperature until the earth is engulfed by the dying sun. So anyway, the physicist eventually moves the Time Machine out to the garage, puts a tarp over it, and takes a tenured job in the physics department at UC Santa Barbara. Continue reading

Exercises For Extra Credit

extra credit, college life, exams, Is Anyone Up?, testsTime permitting within the test period, the following exercises may be completed and submitted for extra credit (1 point each).

1. Sally has 3 apples, Shawna has an organically grown grapefruit, Molly has a new Powerpuff Girls pencil case, and Madison’s dad is in substance abuse rehab for the 3rd time in two years. If we assume that your former best-friend Riley has not invited you to her 12th-birthday party (at which, just, everyone else is invited) and you drop Drama Club in favor of getting high with your boyfriend Jayden for most of high school junior year, calculate the rate of change (z) in the encroachment of despair, given that (x) is an essentially useless $200,000 degree in art history from UPenn and (y) is a long-standing and undiagnosed eating disorder.

2. Arrange the following elements according to atomic weight, from smallest to greatest:

a) Radium
b) Helium
c) The inadvisability of mixing Adderall, Ecstasy, and 2 glasses of chardonnay
d) Fluorine
e) The chances of that asshole Kevin posting that photo of you to Is Anyone Up?
f) Germanium
g) The fact that Leah is fucking the Iranian TA in exchange for an A in this class
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Topics For Further Discussion

 

Seaside Heights, Aztec, God, Literary, OxyContinLeft-Handed Hummingbird God of War

Largely forgotten amidst the grandiose narrative of the destruction and plunder of the Aztec Empire by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez in the early 16th century are the stories of those invading Spaniards who, upon first encountering the religion of the Aztec people, grew enamored of the indigenous peoples’ pantheon of gods and goddesses, and enthusiastically converted to the Aztecs’ religion. Today, savvy tourists can still seek out the Mexican storefront churches and street-corner shrines where the ancient rites of the polytheistic Aztec religion are observed, albeit infrequently, according to the Aztec calendar. It is said that Huitzilopochtli, the Left-Handed Hummingbird God of War and Sacrifice, lives modestly and plainly in a small apartment in Mazatlan, where he is sometimes visited by his old friend Quetzalcoatl, The Feathered Serpent. The once revered deities are said to enjoy watching American baseball on pirated Direct TV, bowls of nuts and sweaty cans of Tecate on a TV tray between them.

Night Out

If not for the fact that I sleep poorly most nights, I would have remained blissfully unaware of these facts. On certain clear nights in the early spring, the shadows beneath the elms on my estate rotate on fixed axes across the lawn until they bear no congruent relation to any sources of light (the moon, a single halogen streetlamp) in the vicinity. When the moon reaches its apex, a single cab, its roof light extinguished, rolls slowly up to the curb and the shadows depart, en masse, for a night out on the town. Much later, in a still hour before dawn, the same cab returns and the shadows resume their stations at the bases of the trees, correctly aligned.
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