10.12.2008

What's Your Problem, Anyway?

“So, Randy, what’s your problem, anyway”, sinews the slightly sociopathic calm words as sirens approach increasing in volume entering my ears and subsequently driving at G force speed into the depth of my neural networks. Havoc spreading unendingly as roadblocks are built and smashed nano-moment by nano-moment, lights dance into the room, reactive joy in the depth of hatred, parental hands reaching from their untended graves only to veer off at the final second, attributed only to the sweet toothed frenzy of neurotic sleeplessness. I look at her, my wrists obviously bleed as they had been certainly slashed by me almost as it happens, “I guess…this?” Drama screeches to a halt, loosened by bashing, I fall to one knee and look into her recently affected guilt ridden face, “do you think I’m for real now?” an incongruent chuckle ferrets its way out of my mouth as the other knee falters. Inside the chuckle vibrates pure hatred, a way out unseen prior, and a full body release in the knowledge that I won the battle and the war and everything up for grabs in this relationship, except, of course, my life. I hear the echo of my step-father’s voice rattle through the sirens fade, ‘If you’re not going to play to win, get the fuck out of the game!’ In this case, getting out of the fucking game is the only way to win, so there you go.
Two years earlier, I sat sinking into the college rotten couch, hungry, dried up, bored, nerves twitching, and no one to play with. I was no longer a local rock socialite goon searching every hole for footing and wondering how I look through their eyes. I was absolutely sure that everyone looked at me and saw no one, nothing. Paid no attention, lost and sinking, and worst of all no one laughed at me. They didn’t get it. I wasn’t funny. The socially stained sidewalk that gassed my feet had been transformed into a culture-shocking desert that I couldn’t suck a blasted drop of liquid out of, or at least not anything to save me from myself. My empty hands waved frantically as my empty head searched the void for answers that never came. I made the call from a single bed that belonged in a sleazy hotel room and smelled of pounds of flesh unknown to each other, yet now shared the same skin. I heard my voice change gears in a hurry as the sound of adoration was returned to me, a needle filled with liquid derived from human confidence, unawareness, and ego rocket fuel. Churning recapitulation of recently lost narcissistic euphoria came galloping back on a hoarse horse ridden by a borderline neurotic bi-plaster necromancer, guns blazing, tazzer attached. The party was over almost before it started. Several weeks of regenerating fake limbs, sucking down fortuneteller fantasy, until the money ran out. Then the real fun began as primal social brain trauma spread like vines only faster, gripping my head like an animated viral fist. Homemaker from hell with no budget and a musician for a breadwinner made quick work of twisted happiness, or at least what I had traded happiness in for. Gas tank long overdrawn and pushing the car up the mountain of Sisyphus for months now, the only respite came in the form of an epileptic Labrador named Johnson.
The door slams. I flinch. Peeping through the dusty blinds, the scene outside unfolds into a wrinkled mess, letters scrambled, alcohol infused with rage, a man swinging freely at his own door as if freedom means complete loss of control. The woman on the other side of the door screams and curses pretending to defend herself, knowing full well that she has no knowledge of her true intent as the solution sits in the spaces between the sounds. The brutal dance, endless in nature, engages each in the pornographic pleasure of each other’s demise. My eyes suck in, avoiding and dodging my own spaces between as I dial 911. Pats on the back like knife stabs, my vision rests wearily on the projector screen, unable to see myself in the nearer than anyone would like future. Obvious key modulation alludes time and space as I pound my root note into writers block until unbearable boredom forces me to develop a disconnected coda, creating the see through illusion of deeper meaning.
How could anyone get to such a depraved state? We agree with each other infusing an us vs. them cough suppressant. That guy is definitely an alcoholic who needs help. We agree again, reaffirming our own tenuous health. We sure are glad we are not using anymore and can watch this instead of living it. We rub menthol cigarettes into each other’s backs, eyes closing as red lights flash and race across the walls and ceiling. I wonder if they will be ok, as I get back to my book on the hero within feeling over confident as usual.
Morning breaks through the bedroom, she is already up. I smell coffee. Depression mixed with a tidy sum of anxiety and eggs, the new day spawns alien roaches in my head. As I fight the infestation, heat is produced causing the bugs to flee in every direction spreading the sickness at warp speed. Oven mind fired up and revved to full, leaving a usual emptiness that can only be filled by artistic expression currently unavailable to me due to the afore mentioned emptiness. Her unwillingness and inability to rescue me leads to unrequited resentment. Her insidious hatred based on hallucinating the past as present and my simply refusing to help out, out of spite. The unthinkable thought, the unbearable likeness blinks momentarily undeflected, we are the same and we are headed toward the mental destruction seen the night before, our own flavor, of course.
Johnson barks relentlessly. Red lights flash across the room revealing a blood soaked rug and paint that hides years of heavy smoking. She sits at the kitchen table not three feet from where I lay unconscious: smoking, hammer in hand. The shadow figures have gone and her flat stare goes on forever. Her elbow covering the small sections of the artwork we spent hours and hours working on together, her last contribution drips from the tip of the hammer barely held in her comatose hand. Bags packed again.


By Randy Seals

10.11.2008

Sanitation

Sanitation

Midwest in June is unfriendly hot and especially unwelcome considering the direction I take my bike at the time of day best described by a seventeen year old as bullshit. The throbbing in my head must be visible considering the intensity, which only vibrates at a higher frequency when mixed like cookie brownie bars with inhuman human fecal matter churning and bubbling and churning and bubbling. My nose is always surprised, as I seem to pass through a force field for stink: from smooth jazz to screamo.
‘What a summer job!’ fills my head sarcastically. The sarcasm only shields me from the nightmare that punctuates my junior and senior year of high school briefly. I paint railings to prevent people from falling to their unfathomably noxious demise into giant vats of churning gurgling poo. The Urbana, Illinois sanitation plant pays me 4 dollars and 35 cents an hour, or minimum wage, for this honor. This combined with the enticing benefit and pleasure of co-workers, at least the year round employees that are lovely specimens of human evolution.
After arriving bleak and late, nerves stressed to the limit from a painfully hung over bike ride on a contraption lacking proper care for far too long, I am greeted by a stout puff-bellied man who appears at first glance to be a redneck. Actually, his appearance doesn’t change on second or third glances, or future glances. He is also one of those bible-thumping freaks that believe when any two same minded bible-thumpers pray for a heathen like me, my soul will be saved. ‘Good luck to ya!’ I hear a voice in my head say. ‘Can’t hurt’, I think and then unsure ‘Well, maybe it can…’. Anyway, I strap on my harness that attaches to the inside of the circular railing, and I wonder what allows me to trust this contraption with my life. It sort of calls into question many such devices that I trust explicitly, including my superhero complex. Getting on a bus or plane, or even in my car or bike per say, it never occurs to me that these potential death traps may be just the thing to release me from this worldly body to reckon with the unknown. After all the hemming and hawing over depression and pain and injustice and fighting off the chains of mommy and daddy (somewhat) and on and on, without a second thought I trust a bike made by somebody getting paid the same wage I am making. I think about how little I care about my job. To further aggravate, I feel silly for even considering such possibilities like a whinny kid or something. I even pat myself on the back for my senselessness as I clamp on to the shitty guard rails and begin the life draining, soul crushing task of painting, my nose full of fumes so far from pleasant or flowery, I wonder how I got here. Eight miserable hours a day of boiling crap and piss looming below me like a bad joke or an affirmation of my self-worth.
Groans emanate from the stall next door and I hear the other summer employee say something about a quart of Jack Daniels and a supposedly hip band I’ll never hear of again. Home from college in Minneapolis, he describes a familiar all night fiasco of over indulgence unrecognized, talent cast aside, brain cells not needed, and relationships foregone for more immediate release. It turns out he and I run in similar circles, his a bit more worn though. Every weary guttural utterance like a wounded beaver sends me back to the night before and before. Blisters form over time becoming calluses on my hands and other places ordinarily reserved for accomplishment and self-worship. I look to Chris, that’s his name, as a hero and a champion of my fate, which at this moment is so thoroughly glued to my skin it’s as if I were born into rock star slavery and never questioned whether that was what I wanted. He looked at me with eyes that burned cigarettes to the butt and knew instantly, as all rock warriors do, he has a disciple. I was, apparently, not his first as I sensed a bittersweet glint to his acquisition that I took to be a process of judging my credentials for this position.
As the summer wore on, I began to suspect my interpretation of the situation with Chris was off like a New York taxi finding a free lane. As more days together accumulated, the initial attraction, the unconscious premonition of his life becoming mine, was undeniable. Ego throbbing, dad’s voice screaming, the race to personal deception and adopted skin was well underway, my nose having taken ill choosing to stay home, I still haven’t decided whether or not to pay.
Forrest green paint, a color so deprived of life the name robs trees of their vitality. Industrial sized containers wait for me to spread its’ disease throughout the plant. Like Dutch Elm Disease for the color palate or Kudzu, forest green is a plague to interest and contributes to the dulling of my senses as I force myself to block it’s unpleasantness. It seems I have lost my sight as well as smell. What next? Taste, you see, has no chance in this place. I challenge you to enjoy even the beautiful simplicity of a P, B, and J when all you see and smell is oppressive green, city works buildings, poo boiling in the sun, paint fumes, and depressed Christian rednecks. I can tell you this, when bathroom breaks seem to be the only refuge, it’s not worth any amount of money, especially not 4.35 an hour.
I forgot to mention the reason for getting this hellacious job in the first place. Pretty simple really, I owed my parents money and needed a job to pay them back and to have my own money. That’s more the reason for getting a job, but this job was found and promoted by none other than the master of disaster, Robert. Since I was too apathetic to get a better job, I stepped off the cliff and fell into the sewer. The 175$ that were owed for this and that would be dealt with in the first few weeks, and if my calculations were correct, I would accumulate cash for new drum set to replace the rag tag used kit I started on. 38 buck a day before taxes would make quick work of my financial despair, or so I reasoned. A crucial detail to consider as it pertains to the relative success or failure of this plan rested upon a seemingly unimportant factor: my first bankcard. Granted, I had a history of poor money management, yet all involved considered my steady income sufficient to resolve this deficit in skill. Kindly, I provided them more reason to doubt not only their reasoning, but also confidence in their parenting skills. You know, I used that cash card to its’ full potential and beyond almost everyday. And by the end of the summer, I had not paid back a dime and actually owed the bank 50 dollars for over drafting my account, which they were obligated to pay. Where did that 38 dollars a day, five days a week for 12 weeks go, you ask? Funny, that’s the exact same question my parents asked as they unsheathed a pair of well kept shinny scissors cutting my well worn bank card into 6 equal pieces. All that, 5 times 12 times 38, 2280 dollars (before taxes I reminded them to no avail) went straight into, well invested mind you: drinks, pot, and a recently developed interest in overpriced ego blast off powder.
“You’re a liar, a big fat liar.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah. You know what I do to liars?”
“No.”
“I’ll show you.”
I walk quietly into the living room where she sits watching My Own Private Idaho. She leans forward sitting on the edge of the worn formerly turquoise couch as I sneak up behind to spank her sensitive bottom. She squeals and shoots an incredulous look as I stare back unflinchingly, “That’s right, that’s what you get!” The cat is upset, tail twitches vigorously. It’s tongue slightly sticking out, cracking her knuckles like a heroine addict, the tail floats back and forth blurring with every move creating an illusion of transformation. A giant blue wool hair trench coat covers my eyes and I cannot see the cat. Something lurks behind, bumping, growing, knuckles crack again and hairs splinter. I smile trustingly. All appears well except for the throbbing mass behind the ocean of coat hidden from my sight. At this point, it seems unlikely that my previous comfort with this formidable creature was unwise.
If it remained a cat, a gruesome sight it would be. A familiar tightness presented itself in areas of my body no massage could ever seem to sooth, like forgiving oneself for betrayal. My hands moved from side to side forgetting their charter as heat penetrated my eyelids and my eyeballs flitted. “Hey!” yelled an unfriendly voice. Startled, my eyes flew open blinded by the flood of light my eyes were now drowning in. Looking around, dazed slightly, my weary gaze landed on my boss standing several feet away staring at me intently. Meanness, like a parent, stung me and I posed as a coward attempting to stall for time and pull myself together. “What are you doing?!” I looked down at my hands to see paint all over my pants and arms, now green like the frog from Fractured Fairy Tales. “Um…sorry” I mumbled in dog language that says I just royally screwed up and am now subservient again. “Pay attention!” he said turning to walk away head shaking in disapproval. ‘Yeah, whatever dickhead’ I wish I could say to his face instead of in my head to rumble around for hours to come. A chuckle from across the cauldron of crap floated my way and I look over my shoulder to see Chris laughing at me. We exchange knowing looks and return to work.
A few minutes later, I unfasten the safety harness and make my way as sluggishly and time consuming as possible to the air-conditioned bathroom respite. I don’t have to go, I just can’t take another second of this increasingly unbearable job. I sit on the toilet wondering if there is any meaning to my life and grasp hold of anything, however flimsy, that will produce a reason not to jump into the gurgling ending it all. A potential hook up at the bar that evening fills my tank to just above empty. Boredom, more frightening than the torture that waits outside, is the only thing that motivates me to exit the stall. I find myself looking down at my alien hands and arms, once again on task like a good boy as a strange smirk crosses my face.

By Randy Seals

10.10.2008

when justice is a four letter word

When Justice Is A Four Letter Word

Embedded in the spine of America, guilt ridden and super delegated, the screen plays movies of alien abduction for thrills and spills. Distraction, the national pastime, fills holes with hungry ghosts. Who would have thought that we could get lazier than baseball? The band-aid known as deception comes pre-packaged and FDA approved, handed down by your family doc (him convinced he isn’t getting paid off). My pen makes its’ living off critiquing all our devastating magnificent failure and trails off into the distance, a van disappearing into the desert. Throwing words from on top of a mountain as they crash like bombs all around, water balloons spewing unanswered prayers and lists of unending jobs never to be completed. I stumble into the ice cream parlor after years of forever isolation and eyes peer through magic drug riddles about my life of mystery and projected pain. Visions of myself slam against visions of myself through external eyes, ‘I know who I am’ I hear myself say. The words, solid at first, seem to lose weight as they are swatted at like irritating flies. I repeat my epitaph, ‘I know who I am’ like a Christian soldier longing to believe what he knows is not true. Transparency increases by 30 percent and the eyes strain to differentiate my form from the surroundings. Panic grips my body as I feel the slide into nothingness. The sheet I pull over my head becomes a ridiculous gesture of defense and I chuckle to myself inappropriately as I enter the world of justice.
All refreshing air is sucked from the hallucinated courtroom as luminous machines pump in toxic air infused with a drug causing extreme repression of all types. Most authorities are rumored to be promoting this drug/air for all criminals and children alike and well-known lobbyists are moving in on Washington at this moment for the big push, otherwise known as “ the kill”. Vultures with white lab coats whisk prisoners in and out of the chamber of horrors, while each perforated sheep in the holding pen hold terror in their eyes with every opening and closing of the door. Piles of trash collect outside the building as every bit of humanity is stripped from the interior. I slip behind the mask of the un-hallucinated hallucinators. You know, the ones who continue to drink the Kool Aid (forced down the first several times, now gulping as much as they can get their mutated paws on). My teeth grind and my I force my jaw sideways leaving me unable to chew or aggress without pain as my new eyes peer through slits at the fleshy pink walls all others interpret as industrial mauve. Unsuspecting and contained as they are, minds loaded down with unearthly Lily derived pacifiers, they cannot see the blood stained walls smoothed out with paint rollers waiting for the next victim. Criminal and judge hold hands as they walk into the crematorium unaware of each step, each forced breath, taking them nearer to the end of their ultra bland unlived lives.
Pink Floyd’s hammer sings its’ deafening dismal song of smashed dreams as the nails are driven forever and ever underground. Tucked away, shoved in the corner to fester until the percolating pimple erupts spewing immortal immoral socially derived puss on the rest of us “good” citizens to send back to the hammer in the white coats to disembowel more humanity. These poor wretched imbecilic bastards, hamburger-ized and pasteurized, are put on probational agreements to stay good boys and girls.
In walks another 13 year old with a giant Band-Aid wrapped around his head. He bumps into walls and trips over himself as he violently struggles to contain his justifiable hatred of his treatment and unjustifiable hatred of himself. How he breathes with the fabricated cloth part of the Band-Aid completely devouring his face is unexplainable. Only gills developed through spontaneous evolution, like a pathetic Kevin Costner environmentalist movie could conjure, comes close to this fantastic occurrence.
Twisted logic, wire fire hair, squished pointy features form Ostrich laser blasts designed to improve the band-aid head from a fearful fornicating materialist to a proper upstanding materialist. Maybe he won’t worry us then. Savage words lacerate the air as they speed with precision at the heart of the matter, excepting it’s the matter of her own making that she so prudishly promotes and is enslaved by. Enlarged verbal shame-fest bloats the misguided self-righteous into a labyrinth of self-deception. The high backed leather chair swivels. Eyes pinched nearly shut with the laser beams on full slicing every object in their path, judgment day arrives once again and this time the small former feminine knife is weld deftly by the old south where justice is color blind. It only sees black and white. The grand charade is set to music like a Coney Island shooting gallery. The DA proclaims the next actor and the charges assigned, while the Carney hangs one of hundreds of doomed signs around the accused over exposed neck. “Step right up,” suggests the hopeless middle-aged man who derives every bit of his self-confidence from experiencing people treated even worse than him day in and day out. He wonders backwardly whose neck he has hung the sign on like blood that won’t come off the hands of a soldier, and the witch-hunt continues.
Head begins to droop. Visible contorted dejection penetrates his band-aid encrusted stain as loveless fascination infuses with his soul. Cat and mouse turmoil sits impatiently with morose boredom relieved only by the re-traumatizing hands of a thief. Face cupped in hands, head all the way down, the transformation has been integrated and I watch the slasher movie as the horror grips my soul. If only it was a movie, and not the itchy prose of a witness, this injustice would not stand. Real anger and fear grip the afore mentioned witness, otherwise known as me, and I frantically flip through different masks to avoid the all seeing eye actually seeing me. As the questions are hurled with the skill of a baboon picking fleas off his brother, I shape shift violently desperate to answer and shield. My genitals have never been so far from my mind and the other sheep sense my loosing hold. A compassionate gesture by the blackest boldest son I’ve witnessed comes in the form of a quick talking paper work professional named Mrs. Washington. Her ability to appear humble and completely on top of protocol at the same time would be inspirational to me if I couldn’t see the jewel encrusted dagger in her back engraved with the words ‘give me my money’. Thankful non-the-less, I shrink in my seat just barely holding back uncontrollable shaking. My eye catches band-aid boy face down at the table; pools of saliva and blood become obvious. I fear he will not wake out of this paper crane alive. My mistake, most likely, to think he was lead into the fool’s labyrinth alone. Twittering failure clouds the view of the all-seeing-eye as it is lulled to sleep taking her eye off the prize. Postponed nail removal by means of nearby pliers sounds like words from Gandhi at this point and we try not to run out of the courtroom as to give away our position or wake the drugged beast who continues to suck down false assurances that she is making a difference in a world she finds completely and utterly reprehensible. Like cotton candy crack or methampheta-frosting, the overbearing undersized woman, Judge Jackass nods out behind her pulpit.
‘This kid is a future criminal’ she thinks she thinks privately to herself. The look on her face and the vibrations that emanate from her give her thoughts away to the finely tuned and casual observer. She imagines, based on experience she believes, that she can see into the future. Her crystal ball tells all. The crystal shows not only band-aid boy’s future, but her future as well as a miserably failed social adjuster. Another scene materializes. A little girl stands grasping her sturdy father’s leg as she feels safe from the dangers of the world and at the same time petrified of his abandoning her to face the world alone. She shutters and grabs on to the leg more tightly. His voice booms from above like her vision of God and he shakes her from her hold walking stone like toward the established white A-Frame house. Screaming at her father to come back, to save her from the terrible fear that now immobilizes her, she compulsively curls up in a ball in the middle class yard and shakes violently. Her mother’s voice breaks through her sobbing, not producing comfort, and she hears her mother shouting, spewing venom at her father. Words aimed in one direction split off unintended striking two targets: father and daughter. Words designed to protect her from pain produce misguided seeds that grow into reenacting her fear on countless band-aided youth she will cross paths with as an adult.
Refocusing her eyes on the accused after pretending to look over paperwork that will guide her judgment of the doomed, she proceeds with cold professionalism as she casts her spell on the courtroom. Her voice echoes through the stifled air carrying multiple levels of meaning, her judgment holds finality that was known to her and her alone from before the beginning of time. The frail angry woman mutates slowly into a freight train careening out of control off the rail, placing the passed buck onto the heads of the neutered social work deceptors; one last chance for band-aid kid to redeem his sin of being born on the wrong side of the tracks. Two short months to prove his metal against unbeatable odds and peel the band-aid off exposing his deepest unsupported pain and fear for all his accusers to see. One more useless attempt to make opposing sides feel better. And if he fails…

By Randy Seals