Dog sits and stays. Dog kills rabbits because they are a waste of space. Dog knows rabbits will always testify. Dog invents new systems. Dog licks the palms of men in power. Dog wants the men in power to pet the dog. Dog gets the guts up to blow its own brains out with a shot gun but it looks at a picture of its puppies and refrains. Dog buys an expensive painting. Dog spreads lies. Dog buries a bone. Dog buries the truth. Dog buries a reporter. Dog kills another dog via acute blunt force trauma. Dog licks where it isn’t supposed to but isn’t reprimanded and establishes a repeating pattern of behavior. Dog is hooked up to a machine. Dog loves the machine. Dog knows that the machine is indifferent to dog. Dog aches for a vacation. Dog hears rumors. Dog is a prison rapist. Dog devours an infant. Dog removes someone’s face carefully with a number twenty-one surgery grade scalpel that it holds with a palmar grip and places the face carefully over its own. Dog thoroughly sanitizes an environment. Dog screams into a pillow at night because it is so tired. Dog is in too deep. Dog deals with unsavory characters. Dog kills another dog via acute blunt force trauma. Dog spreads lies. Dog buries a reporter. Dog sneaks into a house. Dog buys an expensive painting. Dog becomes jaded. Dog wants to die sometimes. Dog devours an infant. Dog aches for a vacation. Dog aches for a vacation. Dog aches for a vacation. Dog loves the machine. Dog loves the machine. Dog aches for a the machine. Dog machine. Dog machine. Dog kills another dog via acute blunt force trauma. Dog wants to die all the time. Dog looks at its puppies and feels nothing. Dog kills another dog via blunt force trauma. Dog looks over its shoulder often. Dog catches a pang of guilt. Dog feeds its guilt to the machine. Dog loves the machine. Dog aches for the machine. Dog machine. Dog machine. Dog yells at God. God is not the machine. Dog loves the machine. Dogmachinedogmacinedogmachinedogmachine. Dog gets up the guts to blow its own brains out with a silenced .357 SIG caliber SIG Sauer p229 handgun but looks at a picture of its puppies and puts the picture face-down so they don’t have to watch.
The night before I’d felt like death. I had been so hungry but, paradoxically, I didn’t feel like eating, which was alright because I was pretty sure my stomach was digesting itself. I tried to eat some pasta, but on the second plate I opened the wrong side of the Parmesan cheese container and dumped an absolutely horrendous amount of it on. Despite my love of Parmesan I learned a lesson in moderation, which is to say that that amount of cheese made for the one of the most surprisingly terrible dining experiences of my life. And that’s not to even mention how aggressively exhausted I was, with an obligation to hand out children’s clothing that night. After I brought the clothes in and laid them in a pile I was at the point where, if I didn’t leave for the bed now I’d probably never make it. I imagined dying on the sanctuary carpet and decomposing into bones and being the study of NeoNepali Archaeologists one thousand years from then and I excused myself.
In the morning, I felt better, if only slightly, and I continued to improve the whole morning and by breakfast I was even feeling nearly sub-human, maybe even able to pass for a person if looked at with a deep squint. It was church then, they do it on Saturdays here, and I got into a tie and a nice shirt. Mom came in and said I looked handsome. It’s funny, Pramita had said that, too, when I first got here, and that was kind of weird. I thought I looked like a pile of half-deflated whoopie cushions stuffed into a shirt with a mop stuck on top with scotch tape. When I’d stumbled out of the airport they’d probably mistaken the bags under my eyes for suitcases.
Anyway, downstairs in the church there were two sides. One was the chick side and the other was dudes, so I slipped into a dude-side chair and put my drawing stuff down under the seat and then sat there, uncomfortably, with a little aisle between me and all the people I knew. Someone I knew from previous trips came up and said “Hello, Jamashi!”, which is a christian greeting, and I returned it. He held his hand out a bit, to shake I thought, so I reached for it. He pulled it back but I was too late, and I grabbed it awkwardly and shook it twice but it was entirely limp and he pulled it away. A solid three seconds of palpable silence and then he nodded and left and I slumped back in the chair but it pulled my shirt in the back so it was nearly untucked and I sat up.
The cross above the pulpit was surrounded with shining blue string lights, they cast a cool glow on the ceiling and made an ethereal upside-down image of the cross on the slick panel wood. They started the music going. It was a similar experience to the birthday band from before, but not quite as bad. It wasn’t the sort of music you’d hear in hell, per say, just the one of the more unpleasant wings of purgatory. It was interwoven with strings of practice music and I could pick out a few loose bars of hymns and Mozart.
A few of the orphanage kids walked past my chair and as they did, stopped and gathered around me to stare. I smiled, said Jamashi, and they smiled and said it back. If the silence had been palpable before, now you’d have trouble seeing through it. I tried to make some type of conversation, and they responded in a fast-paced slew of Nepali. I nodded politely and the smile froze on my face. A little huddle formed around me of cherub faced girls in flowery sundresses and boys in collared shirts they probably pulled at when no one was looking and worn bibles under their arms. The looked at me quizzically. The only entertaining thing I could think to do was pull my hair down in front of my face and pull it apart a bit so just my eye peeked out from behind it. They seemed slightly impressed, like I’d begun to at least feebly brush the surface of their expectations, but I couldn’t think of anything to do to ride that high so it quickly fell to silence again.
They moved on past to the front of the church, all except a boy. He sat next to me and just sat, smiling and staring. I nodded awkwardly, said hello. He didn’t move. I said Jamashi. He returned the sentiment and then went back to doing that not moving bit. I turned away but I could feel his stare on the side of my face. I dropped my pencil and he raced dutifully from his chair and under mine to get it. He brought up everything I’d put there and I took it and said dhanyabad, which is thank-you, and put it on my lap.There was silence for a bit. He pointed to my tie and said “tie” and I said yes. He said tie again.
“Yup, you got it.”
He nodded, smiling. I smiled awkwardly and nodded. He picked up my sketchbook and looked at me. I said it was my sketchbook. He looked blank. “Drawing”, I said. He nodded. “Drawing”. He stared expectantly. I blinked. He tried to open it. I opened it instead and leafed through it. I hadn’t drawn in it much and all I found was this:
He seemed unfazed. “Drawing!” he said, happily. “Yup”. Then he started talking in Nepali, rapid fire. He asked me about fifty questions, all responded to with a smile and nod and the occasional shrug. He pointed at my hair and the chair and the stairs and I stared, unblinking. It was a tide that hit me, I picked out a few Nepali words I knew but not even close to enough to give any context. Eventually I focused on the music and looked away. I tapped the seat in front of me in time to the music. He pulled my hands away and rubbed the seat and looked at me expectantly. I put them back and rubbed the seat and he smiled. I nodded, not even smiling this time, and went back to not looking and tapping again. He picked my hands up and made them clap a few times. I indulged him and when he let go I carried on for a few more claps. He was delighted.
Eventually he developed an entourage of four or five other kids. They had a quite refined pallet for strange Americans and seemed thoroughly bored by my presence. He wanted me to show them the hair thing so I did it weakly but they seemed unimpressed. He kept looking back to them and then back to me, grin fading. The speakers screamed with feedback and it was nearly deafening. I sighed. Then the music stopped. Someone started praying in Nepali so I thought I should probably close my eyes. The boy tapped me and kept on talking until Pramita made the lot of them go back to their chair. I relaxed a bit. Ahhh, now I could just sit there and “Would Pastor Kirk and Sister Liz and Brother Will please come and accept gift?”
The sigh blew out of me. I had no control of it whatsoever. I sadly and heavily pulled myself out of the chair and stood behind my parents and tried unconvincingly to seem like I wanted to be conscious. He announced us and talked a bit about Dad and Mom. I hoped I would only be mentioned in passing. I mean, what could he say about me that would be THAT BAD, right ” I hope I do not embarrass Will here, but…” Ohnoohgodpleaseno. “I think he can take a nice Nepali wife from here, eh!” Yep. There it was. ‘course, yeah, Nepali wife. A hundred eyes bored into me blankly. The guy talking grinned at me expectantly. My smile faded a bit and I moved the bouquet of flowers over my blushing face. No one laughed and there was silence. If the silence had been hard to see through before then now you could cut a piece off and use it to prop the leg up on your coffee table. I tried to say something, ANYTHING, but all I managed was “Wife. O… Okay.” I shrugged and he laughed nervously with his mouth open. My parents and I walked back to my seat and slumped. The back of my shirt came untucked all the way but I didn’t care. The little boy came back and sat. He looked at me. I looked at him. He smiled. I smiled a bit. He pointed to my tie and said “tie!”
The walls of the subway were gritty and the tile was composed of round white pieces like golf balls and they were dotted with signs. ‘Frisco locked me into it, entranced me, the subway tunnels were the veins of it’s grimy body. The layover was fifteen hours so we decided to see fisherman’s wharf and pick up lunch there. In the subway nobody talked except some guys in snap backs and they seemed like friends. A woman came on halfway through and she plugged her ears because the sound of the subway was deafening when it was going.
The subway car hurtled through the tunnel and the tunnel screamed, it was Gabriel’s horn, to accompany the end times. There were empty square places in the subway walls like somebody’d carved them out to live in and they were illuminated by lights and as the car screeched along it was accompanied by streaking trails that the lights left in the blurry windows. The blurriness made my eyes feel blurry. As we accelerated the shriek pulsed and matched up nearly with the flashing light show but it got off by a bit and they were like clashing melodies. The man on the loudspeaker asked someone in a different car to please move his bike out of the aisle and the speaker was tinny and I could barely hear it. After the next stop he asked him again and he seemed frustrated and the guy must have moved it because it wasn’t mentioned again.
When we got off at our stop there were grubby homeless there and they shouted at us spare some change or a SMILE! Any change is good and a smile’s FREE! So Mom smiled at one and he looked at her angrily and she turned and he said she was lookin’ at him like he had two heads and she looked confused. There was an empty wine bottle laying at the top of the stairs from the subway to the street. I looked up and I hadn’t really got a good sense of scale and I thought that there were really two parts to the city, the part that was up and the part that was at street level and you couldn’t see both in one go. I was looking at a big building and I stepped on a wet piece of cardboard and I recoiled. We waited for the cable car to open up but it didn’t for a while. We moved on to another stop and one didn’t come there, either, so we walked along. It was a long walk and strait uphill and a man with a blue turtleneck and a cane and and round glasses and a bald head except on the sides told us it was a ways to the wharf uphill. Then we saw a cable car and Dad ran it down but a car nearly hit him and the security woman on the car stopped it.
We got on and we got to ride out front and the guy operating it seemed like he’d done it forever. He had a little part in between the two rows of seats in the front and he had to stand there and pull on levers so it would go. He’d stand up on a little platform and push it down with his weight and that would slow us down and sometimes he only put one foot on it. He was a skinny Asian guy and he was probably Chinese because it was real close to chinatown and he had a nice face framed by glasses. The security woman had her hair done in dreds in a ponytail and she seemed serious and capable and she came to the front and carried on nonchalantly with the driver. They talked about things I didn’t understand about the cable cars and I thought that the cable car culture was very developed and the Chinese man worked the levers expertly without thinking while he talked. His voice was friendly like his face.
We got off at the wharf and walked down the street and there were pigeons that dotted the street and ate. We went to a bit where you could see Alcatraz and I liked that. We went into a little museum of coin operated machines and got some change so we could see them go. There was one that was called Opium Den and it had a mess of hunched and haunted doll figures that moved stiffly when you put the quarter in. A serpent entered through the window and skeletons entered from the closets. It was silent but for whirring machinery. Then we put money in one with a drunk tramp that shook his bottle at the ghosts in a grave yard and another with some dirty buffalo that shook their shaggy heads at a dead Indian chief on the ground. There was one you could look into and it showed pictures of the San Francisco earthquake and there were others, too, like some little girls done up like flapper girls in headbands and all and they smiled sweetly and leaned on a railing together.
We ate at a restaurant with live music. It came out the speakers but I could see the singer from our seat. Mom and me got fish tacos and my dad got fish’nchips but they gave us two fish’nchips instead of two fish tacos. We didn’t send it back because we were hungry so me and Mom split the tacos and the fish’nchips in two so we both got half of each. We ate outside on heavy metal chairs and tables and there was a metal rail around the restaurant. On the other side of the rail pigeons walked around and I tossed one a french fry but another pigeon without any toes on one foot took it away. Mom went to wash up and Dad went to pay and I stayed. A woman wanted one of our chairs and I said that was alright because there were only three of us and four chairs. While she dragged it off Dad came back and said hold up, that’s my wife’s chair and I said about how I’d told her it was alright and he nodded and said oh, alright.
Then we went to a shop and mom got a cable car fridge magnet because the bracelet charms were overpriced and I bought some hat pins. I almost tripped on empty ground and my face went red but nobody saw. We wanted to see the Golden Gate but there wasn’t anywhere to see it and we were all tired, anyway, so we went back to the subway. We went down the steps from the street and a hobo with a long beard and a hat and a sign that essentially said gimmie change held his arms out wide and yelled I’ve been right here waiting for you! to us. My mom was nervous but I grinned and the other hobos chuckled and I wanted to give him some change but I spent it on the Opium Den.
I’ve heard of people being drunk and going to a grocery store or something, and having to pretend they were sober. I wouldn’t know about that, but I suspect this was sort of similar. In Nepal they birthday, and they birthday hard, regardless of whether or not your flight got in at midnight and even more regardless of if the trip was fifty hours long. I learned on this trip that exhaustion demolishes nearly every need. Hunger, aching, emotion, everything. Your body is ready to shut down, and it’ll take any thoughts that aren’t completely necessary with it.
Anyway, so that’s the state I was in. I’d had the day to rest, and I was even feeling pretty good, but as the sun went down it sucked my energy away with it and I was left to doze lazily on the bed. I was fading fast, but it didn’t matter. I mean, it’s not like I was set to DO something social that night or- okay, you all know where this is going. I was glad for my mom, it being her birthday and all, I really was. I wanted to be in the mood to celebrate, but the part of me that felt like I’d been wrung out like a dishrag and had a bit of my soul had come out in the dishwater said otherwise. But I had to make an appearance. And so I did.
It started with the walk down the stairs, like it always does in Nepal. I had just enough time to realize I was still getting steadily more tired, somehow, before we arrived at the open wooden doorway with only darkness beyond. Mom walked in and they erupted, the roar of children-cries bathed the scene and the lights made me feel exposed. I tried to smile but it probably came across like grimace of pain more than a gesture of good will. The children beamed at me but their smiles waned like crescent moons and I couldn’t think of any lead in to conversation so I just kept smiling. A little boy said something to me; I didn’t understand a word, even if he spoke perfect English I don’t think I would have. I nodded and he hugged me and smiled so I guess I did something right. He probably asked me if I was a hobo or something, I think it was about my hair. I stumbled to a spot by the birthday queen and slumped into the chair. I allowed myself a few seconds to close my eyes but even that left me slightly disoriented. Some church kids were providing the music. Individually they were good but I think they all had separate sheet music. It sounded like bizarre experimental jazz and it hurt my head after a while.
The next bit was sort of a blur. I wasn’t even moving and I was sinking. I can’t emphasize how surreal it felt. The children came and hugged my mom and wished her happy birthday one at a time and she smiled. They gave me a hat and I put it on, the seam burst on the cardboard and it flopped awkwardly on my head like dead fish giving it’s last spasms. My hair was down over my ears and it stuck in my eyes and tickled my nose.I tried to brush it away but I couldn’t tell where it was. They set to dancing. The cake was in front of us and mom was expected to cut it. It exhausted me just to watch her cut it up. The music meandered lazily and flared into spastic bursts that resembled vaguely, slightly, in passing, the happy birthday song.
“Happy biiiiiiiiiirthday toyou, Happy biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirthday toyou, Happy birthday to you sis-ter-liz, Happy biiiiiiiiiiiiiiirthdaytoyou!”
I tried to keep up but I was too tired. I noticed on the sign they had written “Happy Birthday 2 U Liz”, but I was so tired that I thought it said “Happy Birthday, Lultz”, and I thought that was about the funniest thing I’d ever seen. I laughed obnoxiously, and I immediately felt bad but I couldn’t stop. I noticed the balloons were made so they looked twisted up, like balloon snakes that somebody’d wrung out a bit. I felt like I’d been twisted up, too.
“May God bless to yooooooooooou, may God bless to yooooooooooou, may God bless to you sis-ter-liz, may God bless to yoooooooooooooou!”
I read the “Lultz” bit over and over and it set me off every time. The children danced frantically nearly in unison, but stopped abruptly when the cake was cut. Mom had sat there cutting the thing up in silence for a while and I had forgotten about it. They gave me a piece. I think it would have been pretty good but I was so out of it. I glanced at the “Lultz” again and gave a stuttery laugh and thought I would probably go upstairs and sleep. My dad said it’d be fine. I stumbled out, the children watched me as I walked drunkenly along the aisle, trying to smile but giving up halfway. After all that I couldn’t even get to sleep, and I ended up waking up at three in the morning. I found a gecko in my room in the morning under my pants from the previous day and I felt a bit better.
At the public library in my town there’s a truck that’s parked perpetually outside. It’s an older one, with a camper shell that used to be white, and it is absolutely, completely, filthy. Beyond reason, beyond imagination, it is created from filth. Inside it, up to the ceilings, filling the windows, the camper shell, the every tiny space, is a stinking pile of dripping and rotting garbage. The driver’s seat trash is pulled away, has been bodily removed to make way for a human body to reside in.
Inside the library there is a woman, who wanders aimlessly among the book shelves. She clutches protectively at a cup of free coffee from the library, and leaves behind her a heavy cloud of tangible smell. This trail weaves in and out along the books and stays discoverable for long after she is gone, a stinking dragon woven into the library day and night. That trail, far from tarnishing the experience, gives the woman a mystic feel. I’ve never heard her speak, I don’t know her thoughts or sensibilities. Though in ways she seems inhuman, these qualities also draw sympathy from those that see her. She is not mean, nor unpleasant, not in a way she ever voices. For the most part she is quiet, and calm, and strikingly gentle as she sways along the aisles.
Visibly, she is drenched not only in smell, but in clothing. There are inches of skin exposed along her entirety, and these are aged and fragile and shaking. I don’t remember her face, but her clothing and form remind me of an old photograph; stained, and faded, and unchanging. Her dresses and long coats of faded pinks and browns make her seem a bit to float, a spirit or apparition. I wish she finds comfort in small things, that her days be devoid of hardship, that people come to enjoy her company and she enjoy theirs, and that she escape that ratty vehicle abode and come to find asylum in a clean place.
It is a pretty dove bird, shimmering off-white that lights gently on a alley street and picks its legs to get the dust off. Its nested here before, benign and placid, its eyes are dead and barely seeing. When it isn’t hungry nor afraid nor interested, it is functionally dead, and so God has gifted it an endless cycle of tired fear and hunger.
Low to the ground as the creature is, it is able enough to brush his sight line across a tiny sprig of greenery clawing desperately from the alley floor. The dove moves on with equal indifference to a prostrate young thing that grinds his aching face into the hard ground to feel any sensation at all. A thin line of alcoholic drool holds onto the corner of his mouth and keeps him tethered to the ground. He’s lost track of all the foreign substances, his body is a shabby boiling cauldron. He thinks he might die there, in the darkness, and he almost welcomes it. For one infinite second he lets go, letting the spring of time pass by without pulling him along, and he scans his resting place with dove bird eyes and sees the dove bird. From the angle he is at he is equal to it, seeing as it sees, and he notices at it’s feet the desperate plant screaming silently for life. He takes in its need, and feels its one pounding and relentless thought of survival and preservation.
Though conscious acutely that his prostrate body is pressed against rock bottom, he feels strangely calm, free from obligation because none seem so important against his final fate. In his mind he begins to spin a lovely yarn and sings it aloud fumblingly and startles the gentle bird.
“I see a channel cut deep along my lifetime,
That guides my thinking ocean to a certain future.
And I find in that shifting sea it’s high time,
I crash into a pavement and need stitches and sutures.
Alcoholic musings travel by and form a diatribe of crimelike machinations, are the ire of my life and boss the rise of my internal ride to strife and pride and situation loss.”
Rhymed loose and raw it draws the bird out of rest and makes it to stir. The bird flies up into the clouded sky and is hit by a jet and disintegrated high beyond the sight of the individual who struggles to rise from the black pavement. The calm that envelops him draws him up equally as the dark pull of gravity pulls him down and he stands on his feet and feels his toes hit the tips of his shoes because they’re much too small. But he’s got a switchblade in his pocket and he cuts the shoes open, molding them to feel freedom again and he sees the moon in waxing gibbous.
He will walk again, and though the bird is lost it guided him there. The message of the story is that you should appreciate the birds, please.
We exist again.
I noticed, yes.
So what should we do, now that we exist again?
Well, for for starters you should probably shut up.
If I am, it’s only because we’re just two written characters that don’t really exist as individuals, and I’m written that way.
Yes, but what is existence?
… Are you looking for a definition?
No, It’s like, rhetorical. Or existential, I guess. I’m trying to start a dialogue here!
Because to move the… plot? Err… entertainment forward!
Why that, also?
Because… That’s the point of this piece of media!.
But this piece of media is literally about what it’s about. That’s not me shrugging you off, no matter how much I’d like it to be. It’s the nature of this interaction. It’s meta to the point of being reliant on self reference to exist.
Okay, yes, but we have to get to the interesting part because the author wants to hurry this along.
Suddenly, I feel inclined to agree.
Good! So, existence…
What about it.
We’ve got it, technically.
In what way? We don’t think, we aren’t physical.
… No, that’s what I’m-
But we do consist of a set of lines with physical properties! We are solid black lines on a solid white page, we are rendered in the Times New Roman font, our bodies are an arrangement of pixels on a screen… There are ways in which we are physical.
Yes, and don’t interrupt me anymore, and what about our personal qualities? While we do have defined traits, they aren’t fixed, the author can change them whenever he feels li-
WRONG! See, our traits aren’t as dynamic as you say. A good author knows that to write a convincing character, a set of guidelines have to exist. Characters stay mostly the same from their first media form to subsequent adaptions, with changing traits more or less accounted for by storytelling. So in a sense, we do have a defined set of traits that define us, like a personality.
Okay, and don’t interrupt me again or I’ll belt you, and this seems like thin justification to think of fiction is fact. You’re contributing to more delusions than you can count with this.
Probably. But it’s still an interesting thought, though.
It’s really not. Also, a good author?
Relatively speaking, I mean.
Relative to what? Asylum patient babble?
No, that’s at least compelling. You could make a reality show about that. And also, you’ll belt me? With a physical belt?
Okay, no, but a threat is in line with my character, I guess.
It’s pretty poorly defined. All of it, really. This whole thing is barely viable or understandable. Well, mac, I guess it’s over now. As soon as you get to the middle of your sentence.
What? Why wou-