Tag Archives: Fiction

Customer Service

* For a brief explanation about this project, please click here.

Good to see you again sir.

Again? Have we…have we met before?

No sir, I just remember you from your photograph.

Oh. The uh-right, you’ve seen my picture because of the, okay. I get it.

Yes. And how can I help you?

I’m here to collect those photographs actually. Jennifer Cross.

 

And you are?

Her boyfriend.

John. Correct?

No.

Oh… Steven?

Darren.

 

Darren! Almost got it. How was your vacation Darren?

Uhh…fine…

Hawaii?

Yes. How did you-

I love Hawaii.

Okay, this is a little strange. You shouldn’t, uh, you shouldn’t really be looking at our photographs.

 

But how can I determine if they’ve been suitably processed?

No, I get that, but you shouldn’t be looking at them.

How can I avoid looking at them sir?

You just can. I don’t know. Just don’t look at them. Don’t interpret the photographs.

Sir, I see a photograph and instinctually contextualize it. Like words. I cannot not read a word.

No. No. This isn’t cool. I’m not okay with you investigating my life.

 

A photograph is a memory. A citation. A bookmark placed on a point of significance during one’s life.

A photograph is a personal memory man. It belongs to me. Not you.

Well, that’s where our opinions differ sir. You handed this memory to me. And I made it so.

What? What are you talking about?

My machine and I brought your memory into the physical world Darren. And in doing so it became my memory too. Such are the consequences. These are our photographs. Our memories.

I want to speak to your manager. This is just completely inappropriate.

 

How is Jennifer?

Don’t ask about her. Don’t even mention her. You don’t know her.

I’m afraid I do. She likes olive oil on her bread and she’s learning the Ukulele. Correct? Of course I am.

Give me my photographs you fucking creep!

They’re my photographs too. Haven’t you been listening?

I’m calling the police, man. This is fucked.

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The Whiskey Wagon and the Wild Women

 

The young cadet that skipped town.

The young cadet that skipped town.

* For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

That hazy blurred photograph was all I had to go on. I’d come all the way up, deep into the Valley, onto that vague carpet of suburbia some hack town planner blindly kicked off into the distance, just to get this photograph. I hate it up here. Awful little fauxdobe terracotta topped building blocks as far as the eye can bear to see all lined up waiting for the Big One to come and spare them the shame of their own crass form. Inside these cubes lies a community that all suddenly decided to tune in, get fat, find God, and sit in front of the tube allowing their bodies to congeal and wilt, and their brains to pickle and stew. They want to prune their little lawns and protect them with obnoxious sprinklers that spray onto the sidewalk preventing you from passing. Like they’ve hired some huge drunken dick to piss through a sieve. Going into the San Fernando Valley was like wading up to your knees in the Mid West.

The photograph in question was an amateur portrait of some soldier. Some handsome young military buck who probably knocked up some young thing and left Pasadena under the mask of the evening, leaving his poor old lady behind to fend for herself. Part of me doesn’t blame him. I couldn’t allow myself to recede like a dying house cat into this tragic gorge, and the tone of voice on the message his old lady left me was pretty God damn irritating. Nasal. I can’t stand a nasal woman, particularly when she’s getting on my wick about something. But the other part of me says that you don’t sneak out like some piece of shit coward. You go out like a man, and take whatever scorn she throws at you on your chin.

She’d left a message around 2am last night. I was snuggly incubated by a near quart of some cheap blushed rye that had left a thick film on my tongue and rasp in my throat. I was out. I might’ve appeared dead from ten feet had it not been for the pungent scent of a good, hard second-hand drunk that filled the air. I woke up at 10:15. My mouth tasted like brined old leather and my head felt like it’d been tumble dried with an ashtray full of loose change. After months of little tastes here and there, the odd stumble and slur, there was now a solid case to convict me of falling haplessly from the wagon.

I saw the answer machine blinking its red light at me through a gap in my fingers. I rolled over and slapped the buttons hoping I didn’t hit delete again. Her nasal voice started up like a tiny little leaf blower. I’ll spare you the peas and carrots and get to the meat and potatoes. Her husband was gone and she needed someone to find him. She looked in the phonebook and that ad I told those pig fuckers to remove caught her eye. She called me crying, scared, and explained what she needed me to do.

So here we are. Driving back from her ghastly place with nothing to go on but this blurred image she left for me in an envelope under the plant pot on her porch. No sign of nothing else. I decided to stop in at the liquor store and buy another quart of that rye. I thought it best to go home at once, wonder at the blurred image of this young cadet while I throw out a towel, kick back and marinade in the petri at the base of this here bottle of sweet, sweet rye.

Ahhh, to be back.

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A Money Hole, Stupid

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* For a brief explanation of this weird project please click here.

What do you think it is?

Uhhh….a money hole.

A money hole? That’s stupid.

You’re stupid, stupid.

I’m not stupid, stupid. You’re a stupid stupid face.

……..No I’m not.

 

Let’s get a stick.

Where?

From a tree dummy.

Stop being mean to me!

Okay, I’m sorry. Go get a stick.

What’s the magic word?

 

Thank you.

If you find any money then it’s mine since I was the one who said it was a money hole.

That’s not how it works.

How does it works then?

I keep the money because I found it. You get the stick.

If you find money and don’t give it to me I’m telling.

 

I think I feel something!

Lemme see!

No!

Hey! I’m telling! Let me see!

You’re too little, stupid face.

Shut up! I wish you were dead.

 

Hey, come back. I’m sorry. Tyler I’m sorry.

No you’re not. You’re a big fat stupid meanie.

If you stop crying and don’t say anything to mom, I’ll give you half.

Half of what?

Half of all the money we find.

Promise?

 

Okay, I think I hooked something! It’s probably a tweny or fifty!!

Quickly quickly pull it out!!

Oh….

What is that?

I don’t know, it’s…it smells like…ewwwwww!

That’s it! I’m telling! Mom!!!

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A Bit of the Ol’ Feng Shoo-ee, like

The fuckin' hoose.

The fuckin’ hoose.

* Warning, written entirely in Scots.  For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

Me and big Debs pure hud it out the other day. Jesus man. Like throwin’ fuckin fire baws at wan another. I hud tae get hur telt tae calm doon else some cunt wid ring the polis, then that’d be me, parole gubbed and an away fir the wee man’s Christmas again. Anyway, the dippit wee coo was tryin’ tae tell me that the hoose needed fixin’, and than everyhin was aw in the wrang order an that. I takes this as a personal dig like, given that this cunt wis the cunt that hoisted aw the fuckin’ furniture in.

‘We need a change’ she says, ‘Ah’ve been thinkin’ that we’ve goat fuck all ay that Feng shoo-ee like,’ she says.

Well, Christ in a fuckin’ Cosworth. Feng Shoo-ee she says!? We live in fuckin’ Kirky, nae Bay-jing like.

I says, ‘You’re fuckin’ wrang love, take a wee peep in the bin, I had Feng Shoo-ee fried rice a couple a nights ago! Fuckin’ magic by the way!’

She goes, ‘Ho you! That’s fuckin’ racist, and goes well against ma new frame ah mind by the way. I’m a changed woman.’

Fuckin’ changed woman she says?! She thinks I think she doesnae take a pish in the shower. I know hur inside fuckin’ oot. And she’s packed full a shite.

‘Whit fuckin’ programs have you bin watchin’? Givin’ it aww that fuckin’ feng shoo-ee shite.’

‘Actually ah went tae see a spiritualist yesterday, and he telt that ma chi was aw gammy an aff tae fuck, an that it was probably on account ay the sofa bein’ in the rang place or sumthin.’

Ah wis fuckin’ speechless. Ah just, ah didnae know wit tae say. Here’s me just tryin’ tae watch a bit a Jeremy Kyle and she’s tellin’ me I need swap the TV wi the fridge and drag the fuckin’ bed oot ontae the landin’. No chance.

‘So who was this fuckin’ spiritualist then?’

‘You don’t know him.’

‘How don’t ah know him?’

‘Coz he’s a pal ah Leslie-Ann’s.’

‘Leslie-Ann aye? You ridin’ him?’

‘Ah um tae fuck ya cheeky basturt!’

‘Awright awright! Sorry love, just, I wis just fuckin’ askin’! Awright? So, where am I stickin’ the fuckin’ couch then?’

She looked aroon the room and I knew she hadnae a fuckin’ clue whit she was bangin’ oan about. You kin fuck off wi your fuckin’ chinky feng shoo-ee shite. This is fuckin’ Scotland. In this country the couch faces the telly, and everyhin’ else just gets fuckin’ dumped somewhere aroon it.

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The Tree

The Tree

Myself, and The Tree and the deeds to The Tree.

* For an explanation as to what this project is all about please click here.

I bought The Tree in May of 1959. A Wednesday it was. I recall there being an oppressive, sweltering heat pressing down from above, but it was soothed, consoled, by a delicate ocean breeze that smelled so faintly of a final moment in bloom. It was the perfect weather to cut the ceremonial red tape of a successful agriculture transaction.

The Tree in question was my first, and indeed my last, business venture. I’d been on the market for one like it for several months. I’d been a perfect horticultural pervert about the whole affair. I’d peer through hedges, scale fences under moonlight, consult district planning records and frequent the ghostly corridors of the grand Central library, searching earnestly for the barky creature I so desired.

I came within a half whisker of finding what I needed on several occasions. I would locate a handsome tree, thoroughly scrutinize its potential under the cloak of night, and deem it a good tree. But the problem came when I would attempt to badger the owner into parting with the frivolously bushy accessory to their land.

‘I’m not going to do anything seedy with it,’ I would say, ‘If you’d be so gracious as to allow me that pun.’

That was my line. It would never fail to arouse at least a residual snigger, or a short, nodding nose breath. However they would then stare at me with arms tightly locked and a hard-boiled look of suspicion etched all over their faces. And then they would inevitably ask:

‘Why?’

Of course I couldn’t possibly divulge. They wouldn’t sell me their tree if they knew its darkest secrets. No, no. I would explain that I simply really liked trees, but that I lived in a condo. I would then lie and say that I’d tried discharging my sapling lust with a bonsai tree, but that it was far too small to climb. I never did think of a bonsai tree pun.

The lady that eventually sold me The Tree was an old crow who was more than a tad senile. And in truth, I wondered if I might be guilty of committing a lewd act of shady commerce on her. She explained that she was very fond of The Tree indeed, but that it had cats in it. She said that I was more than welcome to buy the tree for $30 if I took the cats away. We spat the viscous bond of American agreement onto our palms and duly sealed the deal.

Two blissful weeks after this transaction the old lady died of time, and The Tree, allegedly part of the property on which it sat, was taken from me and given to the unsuspecting mailman referenced in her will. I tried to make a terrible stink, but was swiftly informed that a verbal agreement and a spit-moistened handshake between two parties is not recognized as contractually binding in the state of California, and particularly not when one or both of the parties are certified as mentally handicapped. And just like that, my days as a rag and bone and tree man were brought to an abrupt yet poignant conclusion.

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Research – Warm-up

 

Research

 

* For an explanation of this project click here

‘Huh, I feel like I’m being interviewed on television,’ he said, sinking back in the chair. He allowed his shoulders to kneed around the back of the chair for a comfortable space. ‘So what exactly are you going to ask me Julie?’

I smiled at him. He glanced at the notebook in my hands, and then shuffled his shoulders around again against the back of the chair. He crossed his legs, and then uncrossed them again. I glanced at the question written at the top of the otherwise blank page. I dragged a finger down the page, over the lines. I watched his fingers drumming nervously on the padded arms of the chair.

I leant over to the tape deck beside the fireplace and pressed the red record button. I relaxed back in my chair.

‘This is Julie Roth, interviewing Douglas….’

‘O’Hara’ said Doug.

‘Douglas O’Hara. Okay Doug, we’ll start with your earliest childhood memory. Can you tell me about that?’ I said.

Doug looked up to the light and narrowed his eyes to slits. I’d started to notice that people looked to light bulbs for answers deep in their past. Perhaps there was something about the bright light that could expose these dormant memories from the dark corners in which they sat. Doug seemed to squish his face up, even clasp his jaw little, and I could tell that the exertion the recollection of this memory was taking was pushing Doug somewhere he hadn’t been for a while.

‘I was about three, or four maybe-‘

‘Which was it Doug? Three or four?’

‘Eh, three.’

‘You’re sure?’ I said.

‘Yes.’

‘Okay, so what happened Doug? Don’t worry, you’re doing great.’

I gave him a quick smile to reassure him. He was still rolling his shoulders around, doing things with his legs, desperate to find the seated equivalent of crossing his arms.

‘I remember being outside, sitting the empty driveway, in fall.’

‘Whose driveway?’

‘Our driveway.’

‘How did you know it was fall?’

‘There were leaves everywhere. Brown, orange, fall leaves.’

He leant forward and took a drink of water. I could see him shaking a little. He sat back in his chair and looked again to the light.

‘And who was there with you Doug?’

Doug kept looking to the light. He squinted at it again before pinching his nose and ruffling his brow.

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Doug, who was there with you?’

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Try harder.’

‘I, I…don’t….I can’t remember who was there, I can’t. But, but there was, someone.’

I looked down to my notebook and quickly scribbled my thoughts. I kept my exterior completely stoic, but inside I beamed.

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Where’s that accent from?

Based on the same conversation I have every single day about my f**king accent.

*

What can I get for you?

Can I get a…wait. Hold up. Where’s that accent from?

Same place I’m from.

Funny. Where’s that?

Guess.

Oooh. Okay.

 

Australia? No. Do I sound Australian?

I guess, a little. I don’t know. Just foreign.

Again.

New Zealand?

What?! That’s almost the same accent as Australia. No. Way off. Culturally, physically, and aurally.

South Africa maybe?

 

I’m Northern European. Look at me. I’m really, really white. I’m from the source.

God, I don’t know. Ireland maybe?

Scotland. I’m from Scotland. It’s a Scottish accent.

Scotland! That was my next guess. Wow. Scotland eh?

Yeah.

My friend’s been to Ireland.

 

It is the same.

Shut up, no it isn’t. They’re different countries. I’m just being a stupid American.

Honestly. Alcoholism, depression, recession, Anti-English sentiment. It’s the same place.

I think the UK sounds awesome. Old buildings and like the history and stuff. Culture, you know?

I think you’re mostly thinking of London.

Maybe. But Scotland is probably dope too right? Like castles and nature and stuff right?

 

I mean, you should always have a return ticket though.

I think I’m like one eighth…Scotch? Scottish?

Scottish.

Scottish. And then like there’s some Dutch, a little German, and maybe like a sixteenth Native American.

Really? That’s an interesting mix. I’m just Scottish.

Well, I think that’s better. You get the accent and stuff. I just get this.

 

You do have one. This is what you sound like. You sound like this.

Oh my god! Shut the f**k up. That’s freaky. You actually sound American.

I am. I have an audition tomorrow. I’m actually from Fresno.

Oh my God! Shut the f**k up right now! I actually believed you were from f**king Scotland!

I’m joking. I am actually from Scotland.

Okay, now I’m confused. Anyway listen, what’s a good Scottish cocktail?

 

 

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I read this today-

-and it arranged my emotional clutter into a precise line.

‘I felt like a cloud in someone else’s dream’ – from ‘I Love Bocce‘ by Sean Lovelace

x

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Mental Breakdown #4 – Actress

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Date: 3/14/2013

To whom it may concern,

I took money from a guy I slept with a few days ago. I still have it all. It’s sitting in a drawer next to me. I thought about throwing it away. But I couldn’t.

I don’t know if this is a confession, or just some way that I can push everything I have away from me and breathe, but I need this. I need you to listen to me and I need to pretend that you understand, and that the same problem befell you, or someone you know. I need to think that this landed in the hands of someone that at one time felt like they needed something as badly as I need you. When I got home I opened this bottle of wine, sobbed in bed and looked through my entire phone book for someone to talk to. I hadn’t a single a name that would be able to hear me without judging me. Scores of acquaintances, taking and giving, but no friends that I can share with. That made me feel like I’d completely wasted the last ten years of my life.

I met the guy about a month ago. He came in one night when I was cocktailing. We got to chatting and he said he was a producer for some reality show. I said I was out here doing my thing. He asked how it was going. I looked at him before I answered. I could see he wasn’t judging me. He understood. He saw me, and my dreams, and not the tray with his drink on it. I said it was going well. He smiled, and said ‘Good, I’m pleased’. But we all knew it could have been better. In the eight years I’ve been here I’ve realized that LA loves nothing more than reminding most of us of that very fact.

We exchanged numbers. He said he would introduce me to a few people that could help me. He tipped me really well, like 40%, and that was that. I texted him that night and thanked him. The texts kept going back and forth casually for a few weeks before we found time to go out.

The night out itself was really nice. We had a great meal in West Hollywood then went to a bar nearby, before going back to his place downtown. All night he’d been talking about his job, telling stories, name dropping. He talked about how he would make some calls and get me some parts. I just listened, taking it all in. At his place we talked over Jazz and stayed up drinking and taking blow, and eventually started making out on his couch.

When I came out of his bedroom the next morning there was this little pile of hundred dollar bills sitting on the kitchen work surface. There was a note on top of it.

“I had fun! Text me.”

I heard him in the shower, whistling. I looked behind, out of the huge windows at the tops of the bank buildings, and the hills behind them in the distance. I’d never seen the city from that height before. I looked back at the money. I put my hand down slowly on the bills, and took it off again as soon as I felt them. I counted them. Ten fresh hundred dollar bills.

It was like the air rushed from the elevator as it started to drop. I felt disorientated. My organs thumped inside my body, and I felt them working like they were dying. As soon as the doors opened I wanted to press the 35th floor button and go straight back up and leave the money where I’d left it. But I couldn’t. I walked quickly through the lobby and felt the cunt hostess at the front door eyeing me up and down, like I was someone else’s stain. I was dragged along, trailing, pulled by every negative emotion I could feel.

Truth is, I’ve been partying really hard over the last year. It’s gotten to be something that I no longer do because I’m happy. I wouldn’t have been in the situation I was in were it not for the fact that I’m deep in debt, deeply depressed and almost certainly an addict. In the last few months I’ve been dating a lot of guys, not because I want a relationship, but because I need to have someone to pay for me to drink, and then fall in love with me, for that night at least. And reading back over that I really feel like the sad, pathetic little Hollywood casualty I never wanted to become. But I’m scared now, because I don’t know who to call, and aside from the ten fresh hundred dollar bills in my drawer, I’m completely broke, lost and miserable.

Please, I need help. I need you to understand that I’m not a bad person. I’m just going through some stuff.

Kindest regards,

 

 

 

Anonymous

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Mental Breakdown #3 – Student

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Date: 03/14/2013

Dear whoever you are,

It’s 3:45 in the morning and I’m upset and tired and alone and drunk in LA. I tried to get some sleep but between my own crying and the echo of those little boys screaming in my head I couldn’t catch a moment. That awful, awful noise has been going round and round for hours and hours. I can still hear them crying, and that woman shouting, and Donny sounding so scary, all threatening. Its kept me awake all night, torturing me.

I feel so awful. I had no idea who they were. I thought she was just another crazy person. I mean, this is downtown LA, and we were outside Ralph’s. But she just started screaming, dragging her crying kids towards us. “Look at us you bastard! Look at your family!”. At first I laughed and shook my head, thinking she was someone else’s problem. But when I looked to Donny to say something about her I saw his jaw clenched shut and felt him go all stiff next to me. I fell down a big hole. I just ran away.

It’d be pretty naive of me to say that I didn’t suspect that he might have been married. I mean, he’s like forty years old! Maybe it was just the way he was, all youthful and free-spirited. More like a renaissance, less like a crisis. It honestly felt like we met somewhere between nineteen and forty. He didn’t look like he’d had kids. You know that way sometimes you can just tell. It’s not a physical trait, more the way they view the world. But maybe I saw all of that but didn’t want to acknowledge it. Maybe I figured that I was in love with him, so why jeopardize this over something like that? Or maybe I saw it and didn’t care because I’m a terrible person like that.

When I got home I took the bottle of vodka in the refrigerator into my room, flopped onto my bed and cried. I text him, maybe seven, eight times. Phoned him twice but on the first time he cancelled the call, and the next time it went straight to his voicemail. I heard him saying his ‘Hi it’s Donald Elrich, I’m sorry I can’t take your call-’ thing. I hadn’t thought about what to say, so I just said a few sobbing words asking him to call me asap, then deleted it. I broke down. I mean, every single bit of me just fell apart as I hit the bottom of the big hole. I felt like the loneliest, stupidest little girl in the world. I couldn’t do anything but lie there and cry into my pillow.

The crying has stopped for now at least, but in a way I always felt that crying was good because I always saw tears as baggage. But cried tonight about who I’ve lost, not about the lives I’ve ruined. I can’t seem to shed a single tear over of the shame I feel. I’m trying to cry, but the tears are all blocked up. They’re in a big lump in my stomach. I’ve been sitting here for the last two hours watching the ice cubes melt in my drink and thinking about all of the people that I’ve been horrible to in my life. All the way from the mom that gave birth to me to the mom that was screaming at me. I’d never done a comprehensive overview of the casualties of my selfish behavior. Maybe if I had I would have been so ashamed with myself that I wouldn’t be here today. Because that’s how I feel right now. Not like some people who think like, ‘No one would even notice me if I was dead!’ I feel that people would notice me being dead, and they would be happier. ‘That bitch?’ they’d say, ‘Thank God for that! The air around me is that little bit fresher.’

Brandi is the only person I want to speak to. The friends I text earlier still haven’t gotten back to me, and I don’t even really want them to. Because I don’t know what I’d say to them. I want to speak to Brandi. But I really fucked that up. She’s like my best friend and my roommate, but since we moved to LA together I’ve become an even bigger bitch and we’ve grated against each other. She took school seriously, and I constantly made fun of her for it. Like bailing on class and wasting my father’s money and my own time was cool. Ugh. Anyway, we had a massive falling out a week ago and haven’t spoken since. But I feel ready to apologize for the way I’ve always treated her. I’ve kind of come to realize that I’ve always sort of bullied her. Like she was almost beneath me, in a way. I pulled myself out of bed and knocked on her door, but there was no answer. She must have been with that guy she’s been seeing. I thought about calling. But I couldn’t. I didn’t even know where to starting knowing what to say. In the end I just sent her a text saying, “I think I see it now. You’re right. I’m so sorry gurl. I love you x”. I still haven’t heard back from her yet. I hope she forgives me. I need her.

I’ve been sitting with the knife close by for about an hour and I’m thinking about it. I am. I closed my eyes put it on my forearm and felt it, all cold and straight. Maybe it’s just a childish cry for help, but why not? I need help, and I’ve proved time and time again that I’m a child. I mean, I feel like I deserve it. No one wants me. Yesterday it felt like everyone wanted to be me. Like I had one of those lives. The kind that I thought I would have when I came to Los Angeles. And today I’m toxic. No one wants to be around me. I think I love Donny but what does that even mean? To him, to me. I’m a child, and he already has two of them apparently. I thought about calling dad, but I can’t tell him about any of this. I’m his baby girl. His baby girl that thinks she’s a full-grown woman, stumbling in these big heels, crying for attention when she falls.

Someone help, please. This really hurts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anonymous

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