Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fairy, Part VII

The key is to not give up on life, only on your attempts to control it.

This is one thing I have learned to be true.

There’s a certain wisdom acquired when one learns to surrender. The acceptance of the hand fate’s dealt breeds humility.

Control is a raging, frothing animal with serrated jaws and a very short tail to hold it by. It is always hungry and frequently needs to be fed. So one can never truly have control; you’re just holding it for the moment, until its stomach growls and it feels the need for satiation.

Standing on that busy street, under smog choked stars and amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, I knew there were still people who felt compelled to grab that tiger by the tail and hold on, despite the most certain death that awaited them when that beast became determined to swallow them whole.

My wife, for example, took it especially hard when the doctor mouthed the words “prostate” and “inoperable.” Earlier that year, I was given a certain amount of time left and she didn’t handle it well. Life doesn’t work like in the movies. Strong people can quickly become weak, and those who once promised you forever can be traumatized into reconsideration.

My cancer chased my wife into hiding and the week before my Happy Hour was the last time I saw her. She would eventually move out, promising to still be there for me if I needed.

I miss my wife, but that was the moment she had given up and died. Ironically, it was at that moment that I made the decision to not.

There were things I still had to do, places I still wanted to go, people I had still wanted to meet, in bars and restaurants, drinking high-priced liquor discussing topics long-thought important, only to find that they’re actually as superficial, flat and vapid as anyone else.  That night, all at once, I felt disgusting, and treacherous, and victorious and free; free of inhibitions, reluctance and regret.  I was free of death, free of fear, free from the fear of fear — free from the perpetual drag of a biting and clawing control.

I imagine Samirah made it home safely. I never found out, but I hope that night brought her to similar conclusions. I like to imagine she went home and took control back from whoever gave her those bruises. I imagine she never again permed her hair.

None of the guys from that night spoke to me again. I don’t think it had anything to do with me skipping out on the bill, I honestly think they all just forgot I was ever there.

And that’s okay.

Truth be told, I had long tired of fighting that beast. So fuck him. Let him run his way, I’ll go mine. There’s plenty of room in this damned world for the both of us. And if we should ever again cross paths and I get him in my clutches, I’ll be much more respectful.

Until then and for the time being, I’ll be happy to simply buzz about, unrestrained and unyoked, traveling through the crowded night air among the hapless nymphs and wood sprites, wherever the passing winds take us for as long as this life allows.



< part VI

< part V

< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part VI

The best time to find out how a woman truly feels about you is after sex.

It’s in their eyes.

When she’s realized she’s made a mistake, her entire demeanor will change. The mission switches immediately to one of salvage; search and rescue. It’s almost comical. One minute they’re clawing at your back desperately, dripping down your inner thigh. The next, they’re looking around behind the toilet bowl for their missing underwear, all the while pretending they don’t notice you staring at their naked body.

She didn’t look at me, not once.

Instead, she gathered her clothing and put each article on in slow motion, or at least it seemed. I guess the vindication she had been seeking was less than satisfactory. With the adrenaline and lust wearing off, I noticed that her brown skin was leopard-spotted with several faded bruises, along her back and thighs. They were mostly old, but a few looked new.

For my part I pulled up my pants and got myself together, never taking my eyes off her. When she was done, she stepped close to me. And with her eyes low, she whispered, “Tell me I look beautiful to you.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“And my hair? Is it…I mean…”

“You’re hair’s fine…you’re fine.” Her shoulders slumped with relief.

“I don’t know what you’ve been told, or who convinced you, about…you. But you are beautiful. From the moment I saw you, I. … I thought you were like this cool electric. … Y’know? All fire and ice.”

She laughed, dropping her head to hide tears, “Y’know, you are a lot smarter when you’re not talking?”

She placed her hand over my mouth and kissed it, “I hope you find what you’re looking for, bay’.” And with that, she gently moved me aside, unlocked and walked out the bathroom door. That was the last time I would see her.

Outside there was a sizeable line of agitated and drunk women, waiting to use the restroom. They didn’t seem too happy to see me.

“You fixin’ the toilet? Don’t tell me it’s broken?” One of them yelled as loud as she could while drunkenly clutching the front of her skirt and doing the potty dance.  I shimmied past her, mumbling apologies to the crowd while elbowing my way to the front. I was hoping to get to the front in time to catch Samirah.

But, by the time I did, she was long gone; evaporated into the night like a will-o’-the-wisp. I stepped outside into the noise, movement, and smells of fried food. Behind me, the band was winding down. They weren’t rocking anymore. Instead, they’d slowed to a soulful, rhythm and blues resignation. It was as if they could see the night’s end coming, and decided not to fight it, but rather slowly wave it in.


part VII >


< part V

< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part V

I don’t know why I decided to go into the bathroom with her.

Surely I knew what she wanted. Still I followed her toward the back of the club and its indigo hallway.

We stumbled our way to the men’s room, but it was locked. So we went for the woman’s. Samirah reached for it just as it flung open. A dark stumpy woman, adjusting her skirt looked at us with sleepy eyes and frazzled hair.

“S’cuse me,” she mumbled, side stepping the both of us. We watched her hobble by, melting into the ocean of people packed into the cramped arrangements of the club.

Samirah took the lead. She poked her head in, making certain it was empty and then pulled me inside. She locked the door behind us and shoved me against it.

The bathroom was fitted with one toilet and one sink, which was situated underneath a dirty mirror. A fluorescent light droned unsteadily overhead, dimly bathing everything in a flickering sea of opal green. Also, it buzzed loudly, no small feat as the sounds of funk spilled through every crevice in the walls, ceilings and floorboards. Orpheus began playing “Try Me” and everything slowed to a hip-hugging crawl.

We stood nose to nose, against the locked door, staring into each other. It felt like forever before I gathered the nerve, leaned forward in a rush and kissed her. Her mouth tasted sweet and felt cool. She grabbed the back of my head and pulled me closer and warmth flowed from her open mouth.

We moved frantically now, grabbing at one another, pulling at buttons and zippers. I swung her around, forcing her back to the door and lifting her up into my arms. She wrapped her legs around me.

My shirt flew open and she began kissing my neck, almost biting. I felt the sharpness of her teeth married by her tongue’s wetness. My fingers slipped under her dress and began tracing the waistband of her stockings.

“Do it,” she whispered harshly in my ear as music wailed through the walls. I dipped a finger under the nylon and felt the warm give of skin. She lowered one leg, “take them off.” I pulled off the stockings, followed by her underwear.

I traced the moist outlines between her legs. She threw her head back each time, mouth open and gasping. Our breathing was heavy, rhythmic and synchronized. She fumbled with my belt until she finally dropped my pants to the floor. I lifted her again and lowered her onto me.

There was an explosion in the back of my head that sent tremors racing down my spine. My eyes clenched tight and air rushed into my lungs, before vacating in a loud, unexpected yell. I felt her eyes on me – she was enjoying the control.

She pulled close, clenched tighter with her legs and whispered, “…it feels good, right? Tell me I feel good.”

I gave in to her rolling body and answered dumbly in single words. But still she asked, despite her shivers following each undulation. “You don’t want me to stop, do you? You want me to keep going, right? Just tell me I feel good…”

I felt her digging into my brain. It did feel good. Wrapped up in her thighs, with the walls vibrating long dead soul and swimming in an ocean current of electric green, I had taken a chance and let go, relinquished and released.


part VI >


< part IV

< part III

< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part IV

The bouncer who was checking I.D.s, without a word, waived us in.

I guess we looked old. I followed Samirah into the club – a small row-house sized bar on the fringes of the strip. It was packed tight with a mostly older crowd and there was no entry fee. The live band was playing 70’s soul and the air pulsated with a bottom-driven heartbeat.

We were relieved to find at least one spot on U Street that still catered to the soulful generations that helped create it.

The band’s bass player was entirely in control. He was an eccentric looking fellow in a cowboy hat. His leather jeans looked to sap all air from his body, his Fender Jazz Bass was his life support.

He was connected to the groove, as if by umbilical. The others were tethered to him, unable to move or escape. There was something both sexy and predatory about it. Whether they wanted to or not, they had all agreed in some unspoken way that they would go to the bottom with him. And he reveled in this power.

“We got that funk for y’all tonight! Y’all ready for that funk?!” The band leader screamed into a microphone that was unnecessary given the cramped conditions. Inside the club was simple. The front of the club doubled as the stage, the players faced the audience, while their backs were to the front of the building and the windows behind them, which were at least two feet above, allowed people on the street to look down and see them work.

Beyond that, tables were set up along one side of the thin room. The bar was on the other, leaving about three feet of space between for people to stand or wait for a drink: this area was shoulder-to-shoulder packed.

In the back of the club was a dark corridor that led to the restrooms. Drunken patrons stumbled back and forth, mostly one at a time, with their flies undone and skirts tucked into their stockings.

Yes, this was a slice of the muddy decadence. Here, the funk lived, tenuously kept alive by the electronic pulse of an automated external defibrillator, hanging by a strap, over the shoulder of a feral bass player.

The band launched into a rendition of James Brown’s, “I Got That Feeling,” which gyrated into an Earth Wind and Fire set.

I maneuvered myself to the bar and ordered two drinks. Samirah asked for a Melon Ball, and for whatever reason I asked for absinthe. The woman behind the bar looked at me like I had just been caught drowning kittens. She took a bottle of something labeled absinthe that looked colored and flavored and poured me a shot, then went on making her regular two-ingredient cocktails.

I paid and Samirah and I pushed our way into the back of the club, away from the rhythm and ruckus into the shadowy hall.

“What’s the deal with your wife?” She asked as if the topic was an elephant, she had grown sick of feeding. “You seem like a nice guy, despite what I may have said earlier.” She sipped her drink, avoiding my eye directly.

“Like I said,” I sipped. “There’s been a sickness in our family. Someone close to her, to the both of us, is sick. I’ve been down lately, so I decided to take a break from worrying. My wife’s a homebody and I’m not, so...”

“No, you said that already. I’m sure you’re lying, but whatever.” She leaned in close, so as not to compete with the music, “Let me rephrase, why are you here…with me?”

The question shocked me. Not because she asked, I’m sure most women would. It shocked me because all night I’d been consumed with the mystery of why she was with me. I had never thought to ask myself why I was apparently perfectly fine to ruin every relationship in my life, whether personal or business, for the company of a strange, possibly insane, woman.

I didn’t have an answer, “I thought you just wanted to get away and forget about what’s-his-face. Why do you care all of a sudden?”

Her face was silhouetted by dancing shadows, but I could see her frown, “I do want to forget about Lawrence, but I also want to know what I’m getting into…and why? I just don’t buy these excuses you’re giving. There’s something more.

“So, what is it? Let me guess. She doesn’t respect you as a man. Or maybe she emasculated you in public once? Hmmmmm…That’s it, isn’t it? … She hurt your little male ego somehow. Didn’t she? What is this, ‘get back’?”

“Do I look like the type of guy that cares about a ‘power position’?”

“All men want power. It’s why your boys back at the restaurant wake up every morning. It’s why they liquor themselves up and slave through mindless, corporate busy work every day. And it’s why you played tag along for their night out tonight; even though you didn’t fit in. You’re just like every other man.

“You want to take over the world. You want power. Admit it.”

We were nose to nose. I could smell the fruit scented alcohol on her lips.

“You,” I began, breathing deep as I spoke. “You are a very bitter woman.”

“I’m not bitter,” she quietly reassured. “I just want to know why a guy, a married guy, would choose to risk so much over someone so unimportant”

“You know what I want? I don’t want to die who I am now. I hate who I am now.”

I said it loudly and with a frustrated, almost angry conviction that surprised us both.

“I hate who I’ve allowed myself to be. … I’m despicable. I’ve allowed life to creep up on me, run me over and then pass me. I didn’t even look up when it happened; I didn’t even notice. I was too busy with my head in the damn ground, trying to drag myself along with everyone else that I didn’t realize everyone else is going straight to shit. Everything is going straight to shit. I was just following along because I thought that’s what I should want out of life and…I hate that now, because for a while…it was what I wanted.

“Do you know I fucking begged those fuckers to invite me out tonight? I begged them. Every day for a week, I begged them until they caved. I was so sure that they were who I was supposed to be, I didn’t even take the time to notice who they actually were. Chris beats his wife…regularly. Everyone knows. And then there’s Silas…he does coke. Like a lot of coke. He’s ruined every relationship he’s ever been in but he’s successful and fuck me, I wanted to be just like him. I don’t even know their fucking last names.”

The club was loud. No one heard us, and things were still rowdy enough that I questioned whether Samirah had heard anything I’d said. Her reactions said she got the point. She walked up to me and placed her forehead to my chest. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the feeling of her weight against me.

We leaned against a wall, letting the human traffic move back and forth to the bathroom. We began the evening standing about an arm’s length away from each other. Throughout the night, we had moved closer until she was now at a distance where her breath still felt warm even after traveling across space, from her lips to mine. I nestled my face into the small of her neck where I could smell her.



Fairy, Part III

“Can you spare some change?”

The homeless man shifted his weight from one leg to the other. I didn’t have any. But Samirah, after thinking about it, went rummaging through her purse.

“I only have a dollar,” she said.

He nodded in acceptance, holding out his hand to catch the change. She held her fist over his hand and paused. She looked at him crookedly through suspicious eyes.

“Do you really need this money,” she asked.

“Yeah,” he stuttered, “I really do need it. I-I haven’t eaten in days, maybe a week…”

“This is a lot of power you’re giving me here. You know that right?” Her fist still hung over his. He could’ve just walked away. I would’ve. But instead he nodded sadly. And when she saw he was broken, she dropped the coins into his hand.

He quickly wandered down the street, stopping in front of another couple. He mouthed some words, did his leg-to-leg dance, got a few more coins of change and moved on. He didn’t look back at us.

U Street was once ripe with the homeless. This was when the blocks were still burnt black from the 1968 riots. Then gentrification took hold like an ivy vine, its tentacles stretching throughout the community sucking out the old and injecting the new. Goodbye ghetto, hello hipsters. Now, white women walked their dogs at night around the corridor and the homeless are few and far between.

“What the fuck was that about?” I asked.

“It’s about control, Jason. It’s always about control.”

“No,” I corrected, “that’s called being a sociopath.”

“No…that’s the American economic-social path. It’s what we do…as a country. Are you saying you have a problem with this?  Because I’m sure your friends back at the restaurant would be cheering me on; and asking for a cut if I’d milked the guy.”

She folded her arms, then looked me up and down regretfully, “But, let’s not talk about that, right? We can’t talk about race… and we can’t talk about your wife.  So why don’t we talk about my ass, since you haven’t stopped looking at it since I walked into the restaurant this evening?”

“Although we could talk about your ass, and believe me there’s little I’d enjoy more, let’s talk about you…what about you?”

“Nope…nope, you first.  We started in the restaurant and you never finished…who am I talking to?”

“I grew up in Bladensburg.”

“Pretty rough there, right?”

“Kinda…well…not really. It’s full of kids scared the world’ll find out they’re not as bad as they think they are. It’s like everyone puts on an act, trying to maintain a lie of some kind; they’re scared of the truth.”

“And what’s that?”

“You know, like…90 percent of the people round my way don’t own anything. Like, they lease their cars, their homes; shit, they borrow money from the bank to pay for groceries…probably. Everyone’s got credit cards up the asshole. It’s this cluster fuck of borrowing and loaning and owing, running and dodging, and using credit to pay off more credit. I think everyone’s scared that one day, all those people who lent shit’ll realize just how powerful they are and ask for their shit back. After that…there won’t be enough ‘thuggin’ in the world to scare off all those mothafuckas.”

“That’s a lot of money and a lot of power,” she began. “But, hey…we can’t talk about that, right?”

I wanted to change the subject, wrestle control of this conversation, “Why do you care…about me? Why do you want to know how dangerous I can be? You scared I’ll do something to you? Cause I won’t. And if I do, I promise I’ll be gentle.”

She laughed loudly. She leaned her face close to mine and right before contact, snatched her lips away laughing. “You know you want me boy. I don’t know why you keep playin’.”

“Alright, I said where I was from. I talked about me, now you. Where you grow up? What was it like?”

She thought for a moment, “Fine, if that’s how you want to play. Michigan, I grew up in Michigan. Single mother, no father, community college, transferred to Maryland, became an average student…better in bed, graduated….barely, hired by marketing firm, got bored…met you. Happy?”

“And actual boyfriends?  How do they fit into all of that?”

“They don’t,” she sighed, “not anymore, at least. It took me far too long to figure that out. You know, you sure do ask a lot of questions.”

“Well,” I said, turning up U Street, “I’ve been told I’m a lot smarter when I don’t talk.”

She inhaled deeply, “I am so…so sorry about that. I flipped out, I’m sorry. It was the guys in the restaurant and these fuckin’ hipsters…”

“Don’t worry about it.”


part IV >


< part II

< part I

Fairy, Part II

“So, what d’you wanna do?”

Cars churned slowly in a chorus of loud Paleolithic screeching; steel beasts – prehistoric oil machines – moved in packs, bumper to bumper. Young people jumped between them like blue-eyed sprites, whooping and screaming to the heavens with no sense of consequence or ethereal reprisal. I felt Samirah tense beside me.

“I don’t know,” she responded curtly. “What’s there to do around this city that doesn’t involve some form of lying?”

“I don’t think there’s much.” I sighed.

U Street had become a carnival masked caricature of its former self. It’s all frantic, yuppie exuberance now; a fallow replacement for the deep, wood-grain mahogany of jazzy years passed.

Oblivious, shiny-haired white children blindly walked and skipped and ran across the streets, in and out of the slow-moving traffic. And it was slow-moving traffic.

On weekend nights, traffic was molasses, creaking along a foot at a time while pedestrians crossed wherever they wanted, safe in the knowledge that they could walk faster than any car could drive.

They were children, reveling in the false freedom of fleeting youth. To me they were the unmarred versions of the people we had just escaped; not yet yoked by the weighted responsibilities of success and “making it,” but just as arrogant, just as unburdened, and just as oblivious to the tightly-coiled resentment, honking around them.

Those goddamn guys. In a more sober mind, I may have thought twice about leaving with a woman I barely knew.

Sobriety was beginning to creep into my conscience, telling me to go back.  After all, I still had to work on Monday.

Responsibility, however, was the farthest thing from Samirah’s mind. She exhaled at the Bosch’s Hell scene before her. Her face turned solemn, “Jesus…it’s like a goddamn infestation.”

We’d stopped walking at the corner, looking south down 14th Street toward the only part of D.C. most of these kids knew. South were the monuments, the landmarks and buildings only recently made important to people like myself and Samirah.

“Who?” I looked around, “These kids?” She didn’t answer. Instead, she stepped further away from the curb to let by a group of children, who incidentally looked very comfortable walking late-night along D.C.’s once heroin-dusted streets. They were probably more comfortable here than anywhere else in the world.

“I guess you haven’t heard,” I began, sliding next to her as we both rested on the wall of an adjacent building. “D.C. is theirs now. While no one was looking, Chocolate City went and got its fuckin’ hair permed. I blame the Mayor – shiny-headed fuck. But it’s just as well, fuck D.C. They can have it. Why should it matter anyway?”

“What do you mean, why?”

“Whattaya mean ‘what do you mean, why?’ For one, it’s 2008. Honestly, we should be able to live with the fact that white people exist now. I think we can all share the same air without spontaneously erupting into Freedom Marches.

“Shit. What can any of these folk do to us now?” I asked. “Back in the day, you couldn’t look at a white girl without catching some type of heat. Nowadays I wish a white man would try to bark at me for some stupid shit like that. I’d smack the holy hellfire out a mothafucka. C’mon now. You worrying about them and I guarantee they ain’t thinkin’ bout you. Hell, they’re too worried about Mexicans and gays.”

She looked at me, shaking her head, “I knew it…you’re totally different when you’re not around them.”

“Hey, Dubois wasn’t lying I guess.” I shrugged, “Double consciousness and all.”

She sucked her cheek into a smirk, pushed off of the wall to pass me. “Well, that’s the problem with being a brilliant intellectual living in the late 1800s. There’s no one around confident enough to call you on your bullshit.”

I followed her as she began dodging the human traffic, crossing U Street.

“Okay, and what do you mean by that?” I found myself yelling over the traffic. We’d officially become a part of the current.

“You’re trying to rationalize disingenuousness. To me, fake is fake. But your problems aside, this isn’t my point.”

We had crossed the street, still looking south down 14th, where neither type of traffic – automobile or human – was that bad. “I guess…maybe I’m jealous,” she continued. “I look at them and know I’ll never feel the type of freedom and faith in this world they feel. They’re born with some idea, or at least some understanding of what their purposes on this planet are.

“They own their happiness. It’s not doled out like an allowance. It’s not rationed. I guess I envy that.”

I felt I knew where this was coming from. “You know those guys at dinner were just dickheads, right?”

“They acted like I wasn’t even there.”

We paused for a moment and she stared blankly down the empty section of road. “They’re power hungry self-loathers,” I explained. “They hate themselves and their lives and the only thing keeping them going is the ability to lord their few accomplishments over someone that they see as ‘beneath them.’ Makes them feel like they’ve made it, y’know?”

“Is that how you feel?”

“No, I’m not like them.”

“Then why are you defending them? No, better yet, why were you with them at all?”

I was feeling slightly uncomfortable. “I don’t know,” I began. “Maybe a part of me wants to know what it’s like to be on their side of the line. Maybe a part of me’s tired of not going anywhere or being anything. Time to evolve, right? It’s now or never.”

Samirah smiled, “Trust me, I know ‘those people’ a lot better than you do, okay? I know their type. I grew up with them. I worked with them. On every social level, I’ve been immersed in their world ever since I was old enough to understand what ‘good’ hair means.”

In front of us, a jeep full of teens, probably college aged, crawled by at 5 miles per hour. Their windows were down and Kanye West’s “Power” vibrated from the speakers. Two girls were in the back, one olive-toned and Mediterranean and the other freckled and red hair. The driver was a shaggy blonde and his passenger, a dark mocha, leaned on his shoulder with her hand in his lap.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said quietly, “that’s…uh, unfortunate.”

“Hmmmmmm…” she pondered a response. “You know, you sound a lot smarter when you’re not talking.” She was disappointed.

After a tense silence, I offered, “I guess this is ‘goodbye’ then.” She didn’t respond, but continued to look down 14th as the rest of the world buzzed absentmindedly around her.

“Alright then,” I said.  Shit, I didn’t need this. I turned around and left, heading back to the restaurant. Maybe I could still catch The Guys and mend things. Besides, I had a wife at home who I’m sure would’ve been heartbroken to know I was out ruining some other woman’s night.

I didn’t want to look back. I knew that if I did and saw Samirah, and if she were still standing on that corner with her electric hair and full-lipped smile that I would most likely turn around. So I kept my pace, looking ahead, dipping and dodging through the crowd. It wasn’t long before I heard a familiar sharp clicking of heels behind me, trying to catch up.


part III >


< part I

Fairy, Part I

She walked into the restaurant and changed everything.

A small, single-strapped dark green dress hung tight from her hips. She had electric hair and a full-lipped smile.  She captured and controlled every eye.

She resembled my wife. Their complexions were similar, both smooth and sandalwood. Their mouths were the same, both expressive and inviting. With their hips, thighs, shoulders and breasts, this woman and my wife were near identical.

It was their eyes that couldn’t be reconciled.

This woman’s eyes spoke of a hunger for life, death was far from her mind.

I sipped from the glass of absinthe I’d been certain would make me look cool, like some sort of avant-guard writer; an expatriate living in France maybe? Instead, I grimaced like a Saturday morning cartoon character, and probably looked just as silly, the only black guy in a room full of increasingly drooping blue eyes.

Someone slapped me hard on the back. “You don’t drink much do you Jay Jay?” The bellowing voice laughed.

The large drunk man then stood to perform his best Jimmy “J.J.” Walker impression, “Dy-No-Light Weight!” The laughter that followed was only limply enthusiastic, a far cry from the loud and asphyxiating braying that had come at the top of Happy Hour.

At this point, we’d been going strong for two hours. We were some of the last, and loudest patrons, still carousing on the floor of the soon to be closing Eatonville. A southern styled restaurant and bar on 14th street, Northwest Washington, D.C. It had offered discounted prices to all employees of the offices in the building above the establishment. My cohorts had decided to take management of the upscale bar an eatery up on that foolhardy offer and now things were finally winding down.

“Get it? Jay? I’m talking about J.J. What’d he say, “Dy-no-mite?!” Right?”

He laughed and I nodded, feigning amusement at the 40-year-old joke.

The woman in the green-dress was arm-in-arm with some squat, unattractive mole of a man. After the obligatory pleasantries – and several astonished glares his way – he, chest out and preening, introduced her hilariously as “my date” to our table of former frat boys and dumb jocks who couldn’t have cared less if she had a name or not.

“My name’s Jason,” I extended my hand and paused, my last name of sheepishly hung up in the 1970’s sitcom chow line growing in my mouth.

She smiled. For whatever reason, I felt accomplished that I had somehow amused her. “Come on Mr. Dynamite,” she said, biting her bottom lip. “Don’t be scared about what your parents did now.”

“Johnson,” I relented. “Yeah, yeah I know. J.J. and Good Times. I’ve heard it all since I was a kid.”

“Samirah Taylor,” she offered. “And don’t worry, I’ll just assume it means you’re the hardest working man in this show business.”

Suddenly, Mr. Squat jumped back in, “Oh yeah, my fault, my fault: Samirah? This is The Guys. Guys? Samirah.”

The Guys were the editorial staff of my employer, Clark Law LLC, a Washington, D.C., publishing company that produced online HR-centric print newsletters. Every third Friday, they’d gather at a bar and construct some fantastic bill as a monument to their own egos, all on the company dime.

They were all legends in the office, both for their frequent forays into debauchery, as well as for their hard-nosed approach to ‘getting the job done’. This is what kept the top brass looking the other way when the editorial department’s monthly Happy Hour tab steamrolled through accounting.

They were drunkards, but they were good at their jobs.

This was D.C., after all; this was 2008. The economic world had collapsed into pieces of dried out kindling and tender, providing fuel for the fire that was surely set to rage through what was once great about this country.

In The Guys’ eyes, now they were needed more than ever, and the brass agreed.  So if you wanted to be anyone special in the company, you had to make it through one of their whiskey-fueled Friday nights.

Silas, a square-jawed managing editor with glassy eyes and orange skin, nodded his acknowledgement of Samirah.  He just as quickly returned to his conversation about the asses of this year’s current crop of interns, “It was like two apples in her back pocket, I swear, dude. Dude. I swear. Two apples, man. I swear.”

Then there was Chris the production manager who needed glasses but refused to wear them because they made him look like his grandfather, a man none of us had ever met. Next was Brad, a sales rep who was had been up for manager so long that he had taken on the responsibilities without the accompanying pay. His defining feature, to me, was the way it seemed sadness creased lines in his face when he smiled.

Lastly, there was Mr. Squat, Lawrence, a low-level sales guy who looked as wide as he was tall. He was fidgety and anxious like a small dog and reacted to every slight and perceived insult as a Chihuahua would to loud noises.

And thus Samirah was immediately dismissed.

She was only arm candy after all. These were The Guys. It wasn’t odd for beautiful women to be in their company.

“Obama, man…he’s got to be the most weak-willed beneficiary of Affirmative Action…” “So the doctor said he’s going to have to lose the toe…” “Minor procedure my ass, they’re my balls…” “Shut the fuck up Silas, her ass ain’t that impressive…”

I found myself staring at her and wondering quietly, “why are you here?” Like, really? Why would you do this? She really didn’t have to. Simply by looking at her, anyone could tell she was above these types of shallow interactions.

It was her shoes. They were flats. It was evident that appearances only went so far with her, before they began to bristle on the borders of good common goddamn sense. She was going into the city; yes, she would look nice, but she would also be comfortable, especially if she had to leave in a hurry.

Poor Mr. Squat. He didn’t seem like the type to understand that all women have exit strategies.

“You like absinthe?” She asked, pointing to my glass I’d been nursing for the past hour and a half.

“Uh? Oh, oh yeah!” I responded, sucking air deep into my chest and tightening my gut, “It’s….uh…interesting. Yeah, oh yeah…I’ve been drinking it for years. Good stuff,” I took another sip and tried to hide my anal clench. “It’s …flowery…”

She threw her hands over her mouth, “oh my god, you look like you’re about to hurl. Should I step back?”

“To be honest, it tastes horrible. Maybe, I just don’t get it.” I leaned closer, “I only ordered it to impress the Tiger Blood Brigade here.”

I motioned to my coworkers who were in the process of giving each other a 4-man, simultaneous high five.

“Well, how about this,” she offered. “Let’s say I order one? Then we can suffer together.”

Get a hold of yourself, Jason, I thought to myself, feeling the stabbing giddiness a man only feels when he realizes that a beautiful woman ‘likes him’ likes him. She’s most likely just passing time. It makes sense. No one was paying attention to her, not even Mr. Squat. There was a lot of money at this table and a lot of important people, and I was definitely not one of them.

“So what’s your story?” She leaned back in her chair, “Who am I talking to?”

“Nah, I’m just your everyday pencil pusher…a warrior for the cubicle nation,” I said proudly, waiting for a laugh that wouldn’t come. “I’ve been with the company for five years…but I’m, you know…moving up the corporate ladder. Carpe Dentum…Seize the Teeth; onward and upward.”

This was a lie. I’d been working with the company for close to six years and had shown little of what could be called ambition. This night would be my first attempt at schmoozing my way to the top.

And why not? This was the age of Obama. How could I continue to be meaningless in an era that meant so much? There was a black man in the White House. Anything was possible now. The doors were open and their world was now ours. If I had to endure a night of inane, drunken circle-jerking, so be it. I raised my glass to The Guys, “here’s to us corporate drones. Fuck the meek, may we inherit the earth, for as long as we all shall live.”

One tree trunk-chested James Something-or-another from Oklahoma, slapped a meaty hand on my shoulder, “That’s right! That’s why you’re my boy, right? We’re gonna take over the world, grab it by its balls, right? Hang on and never let go!”

This was all very amusing to Samirah, who tried her best to hide her glee.

The waitress brought her drink and Mr. Squat immediately turned, “Oh, my fault, my fault. I’m sorry, I shoulda asked if you wanted a drink. Do you want a drink?”

Samirah stared at him blankly, "No. That’s fine. Thank you, Lawrence.” He nodded like a seal and turned away.

She shot me a glance over her glass rim, her shoulders shaking with laughter.

I immediately wanted to do something wild, like take her and run. I wanted to escape through the crowded streets where we could discuss things other than portfolios, trust funds and pension plans. The pull to do so was strong. My hands began to itch.

She alone was making the night enjoyable, if only because her inevitable exasperated explosion was sure to be just as epic as it would be orgasmic. She was going to curse someone out and damned if I wasn’t going to see it.

I twisted my wedding ring – a nervous habit. She said flatly, with resigned acceptance. “Ah, so you’re married? “Nice, where’s your wife? She should’ve come.

“My wife isn’t the social type, at least not usually. She’s more of a homebody. Besides, we’ve been experiencing some family tragedies and she, uh, wanted to kind of sit this one out.” I don’t know if she believed me. There’s no reason she should have.

Still, her face fell and she showed the courteous concern one reserves for the misfortunes of strangers. “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that…was it someone close?”

I told her, “kinda.”

“Was it someone you loved?”

I told her that I had loved her dearly.

“Well, this person – this person that you lost – I’m sure they knew you loved them.”

“Yeah,” I took a deep breath and held it in like hope, then exhaled. “I hope so.”

“So,” I began, changing the subject, “you look like the type to chase danger by grabbing its tail and following it so close that it can’t bite you without turning on itself.”

“Really?” She said, smiling and leaning closer.

“Yeah, you like you grew up with scraped knees and ruddy knuckles, like you made friends with people you’d get into fistfights with; you look like you’d take your clothes off in public, simply because it was too hot to keep them on.”

She looked to the sky in contemplation, biting her lower lip.

“You look like,” I continued, “…like you’ve never apologized for anything in your life.”

“And how do you know so much about me, Mr. Dynamite?”

“Simple,” I responded. “It’s in the eyes.”

“Let’s leave,” she proposed.

Things had grown stale with our group, and I was beginning to develop this itching feeling that we were all in the middle of a western version of a Japanese Noh play.

Were these all masks; perverted and distorted versions of our inner selves, worn only to hide secretive truths? Were these guys real? Was I pretending – was this really me?

It was getting late for our little crew. Happy Hour had ended, and the party had quieted to a gurgling incoherence. Mr. Squat was staring out the window, eyes low, nodding in and out. He hadn’t spoken to Samirah once.

And so we were leaving together, the two of us. Sure, Mr. Squat and The Guys were morons, but they were successful morons – they were Washingtonians: corporate, political, and in control.

To them, I was the idiot.

I was the one that stopped at a bachelor’s degree and couldn’t get a promotion even if I had blown everyone in the front office. I was the one that married young, during my prime upwardly mobile years… I was the one who had to ask to be included in their Friday outing.

So while Mr. Squat nodded in and out of consciousness and everyone was going for their wallets, Samirah slipped off to the bathroom.

“Jason, where’d what’s her name go?” Silas asked.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, slowly sliding my empty glasses to her side. “But honey sure can drink, can’t she?”

Silas nodded thoughtfully, as most drunks do before saying something stupid. “Yeah, black girls are like that. I dated one once, she could drink like a fish, dude. No, dude, seriously. Like a fish.”

I didn’t wait for him to get started. Fishing and asses, Silas could go on for hours about either subject. I waited till he and the others were drunkenly lost in their pockets, before I stood up and slowly walked toward the bathrooms. I then doubled back around the dining area and headed toward the front door, out into the warm spring air where Samirah, and whatever, was waiting.


Friday, January 20, 2023


I’m so lucky people can’t hear what I’m thinking. I’m at the Bull’s Feather Pub with Scott, imbibing and partaking in a pre-recorded hockey game that glows from televisions posted around the bar. The Stanley Cup finals. The Smogtown Orcs are on the ice with the Schlepville Goons, chasing rubbers around the ice and colliding with each other in their frenzied zeal. Our three-layer masks sit on the table beside our phones, which lay face down out of respect for present company. We have allowance to breathe unhindered because we are eating and drinking. Our droplets are safe because they are laced with alcohol and cajun spices.

The Goons are getting their floors mopped, or something like that. Ice chips flail somewhere and I’m so lucky no one can hear what I’m thinking. Five beer, four beer, three beer, two. I am enjoying the way the beers go down tonight; the way the vapours are rising to my face, levitating my head. I’m high as a kite, and I say so to Scott. He laughs and says he can see that. My best friend. He knows my subtle nuances. He knows which way the wind blows through my ears. Too far north for the comfort of horse latitudes, there’s a nor’easter brewing off my continental shelf right now. I look around at the patrons and I can almost detect the fragrance of gangrene wafting from their mouths. Winos and bros, incontinent apes slackjaw agape at the screen, another glop of grog, another pull of adam’s apples and a carbonated chorus of uplifted burps.

Scott and I are high school teachers. Scott teaches junior math and I teach senior geography. Yeah, it’s been a tough week. The kids don’t get it. We’ve been mandated to ensure they keep their distance, stay the course and sanitize their hands at every passing opportunity. Trouble is, to put it simply, they don’t. It’s a never ending fight against the feedbaggers, the Van Goghs and the descendants of Kilroy. Stupid pubescent fucks. To watch them carry on, so shallow and feral, I really do worry for the future of mankind. Sometimes, on days like this one, when my classroom was crowded with jaded, procrastinating, social-distance-violating students who are only there to socialize, I truly just want to check out. When the boys in the back only aim to make each other laugh at whatever stupid things they can think of, I wish I could throw a book at them and scare them into some actual critical thought. In a few close years, they will go out and vote, procreate and unwittingly effect the slant of culture and society. The mould from which the future will be cast, they are. Dear god, help us. Society will be theirs and they won’t know what the fuck to do with it, except clamour for more beer and tits. They will wait impatiently for the next trend for them to emulate. They’ll feed from the trough of pop manufacturing and consume rather than innovate.

A table near us gets their order of beer and I catch one of that party raising his glass full of piss-coloured fizz, gasping in mock horror.

“Oh my god, guys! I have Corona! Shove a Q-tip up my nose!”

He doesn’t catch my death stare.

Oh, the humanity.

I swing Scott a look and he knows what I’m on about. He laughs at my look. He laughs because he knows what’s coming next.

“Can you believe that shit?” I say, projecting my voice because I want it to be a megaphone at a rally whose cause I oppose. Scott giggles nervously and looks down at his drink.

“I don’t know, man. I just don’t know,” he says.

Another beer. I haven’t had enough. I still feel the same. Somewhere down there, the little fucker is hiding, trying not to drown, that little niggling ball of anxiety. I’m going to dilute him until he tastes like rotten barley and I get to burp out his last breath. He’s an agile little fucker. I need to drop ballast so I can get a clearer shot at my quarry, so come what may. Automated Operating Mechanism Unknown, here goes.

“I’m sorry, but I really hate people, yanno? The human race is so buried in the thinnest layer of thought, the most superficial stratus of reality, that we don’t even know we’re choking ourselves out of existence. And we have this virus happening right now and people have their heads so far up their adolescent super-invincibility summations, they think they will never get infected, like there’s either nothing happening or the fucking world is gonna end. And I fucking wish it would, man. I really do. Fucking end it all. I’m so fucking done with it.”

Scott is sitting across from me blinking as if he has the wind blowing in his face. Around him, I realize that the din of the place has fallen a bit, in much the same way birds stop singing when a predator enters the area.

“OK Rick Mercer, you’re drunk, time to tone the rant down a notch,” Scott says finally, laughing to lighten the blow.

I look around and there is a forest of eyes in here blooming from stern faces. Sidelong shadows and tight corners of mouths. I have an audience. Let’s tweak them and see what sounds I can evoke.

“No but seriously. Our biggest source of information is the fucking internet, where every mouth-breather with at least two fingers is a fucking pundit. The information superhighway that taught us that the Earth is flat after all. I mean just look at the clientele in this place alone and you can tell humanity is going back onto its knuckles.”

“OK that’s it, we’re done-  Sorry folks, he’s just shooting off here!”

“Sorry folks, ya. I’m being heavy, man. But seriously, man. We got this dumbass over here that has to make a big deal out of having a fucking Corona and he has to make a big fucking asshat joke out of it while a million fucking people have already died from it. Fucking David Letterman over there has to use it for his sitdown standup routine farting out of his mouth and it makes me wish humanity would just Cobain themselves and get it over with. Fucking ratlickers think it’s funny to joke about a fucking pandemic, then jesusfuck, everything is up for grabs I guess, eh? Yanno?  Like, take us now, we fucking deserve it.”

“OK bud. Sorry folks, shows over, time to take ol’ Bill Hicks for a little walk, sorry!”

Scott is my best friend and he knows enough to protect me when the world is glaring at me for pissing in their watering hole. We put our jackets and suffocating masks on to exit a bar lit with the glare of eyeballs and I feel like I am in a bad trip through the Enchanted Forest, gnomes and trolls waiting to tint my Snow White with a little internal scarlet stoppage. We walk down the street and he lets me talk, though I have to admit that the thrill is gone without the reactive audience, and his passive indulgence is really draining the charge of my misanthropic rage. I could turn to him and tell him I love him, but I know what a drunkard’s cliché that is, so I avoid slipping on that sentiment. I do love him though and because I love him, I fall silent as we walk. The night is so cold I can see still my breath coming through my mask. After a while, my mask becomes so damp from condensation, it feels heavy and I swear I hear a crackle of bubbles as I breathe through. After a while, each step brings my anger closer to a shoreline, where the gradient banks of home finally rub brusquely beneath my feet. I stand at the front door of my apartment building, placated and exhausted.

“You sure you’re okay?” asks Scott. I don’t remember him asking me that question previously but still, I nod wearily. Scott offers his hand for a soulshake and we bump chests. He pats me on the back firmly while we hug, making me exhale a little ‘huh-huh” involuntarily, then he heads back down the street to walk the long walk back to the bar to retrieve his car. Once he’s far enough away, he peels off his facemask. I realize I can too, and when I do, I can breathe and I realize I’m alone.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

High School Days

All edge,

thinner than

we’d ever be again,

with no sense

of consequence.

We were like

dogs when

it came to sex,

sniffing each other

for a while then

moving on

to the next.

The air we

breathed was 

all adrenaline,

chasing new 


often involving 

weed, drinks,

or games

of different kinds.

That Christmas

of our senior year

we got our first 

year typing teacher,

Miss Handly,

drunk at a school Party.

She was only

a few years older than us.

All of whom had been

won over by her

endless patience and corny

jokes that still made us

us laugh. We loved her.

But the punch was spiked

and she naturally

joined us in several toasts

to our impending


Three boys made out

with her passionate kisses.

I saw them touch her

slim breasts too. While

I traded tongues

with three different

girls who were 

equally soused.

All this at a

private school no less!

When we came 

back from vacation

pretty Miss Handly

was gone, replaced

by one of the

school's oldest deans

who always 

seemed angry at

or us or life. Speaking only

in a low condescending 


Not a fair trade,

but a life lesson 

of losing something 

or someone you valued

for very temporary pleasures.

A lesson we were

too young or stupid

to understand

and would  repeat

again and again.

Or at  the

very least,

I did.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Throwing Them Back

Throw’em back

With a bottle of Jack

Drowning your memory

Hoping in time

You’ll get out of my mind

And finally set me free

Monday, January 9, 2023

2 Incontinent Men

So anyway...

I live alone. I’m alone because I’m fat, I’m ugly, I drink too much and I fucked off on my wife and two sons. My sons are almost in their thirties now and they haven’t talked to me in ten years because I’m a right dishonourable asshole. I’ve gotten what I deserve in life because it’s what I’ve worked for, which is nothing. So I’m alone. It's apparent to everyone that I’m alone because I am always out here on my second-story balcony atop the stairs to my apartment, sitting by myself either reading or staring at the street.

Turns out, that’s what I’m doing right now, sitting out here at 2 in the morning because my drinking habit is keeping me up. I’m just sitting here above it all, looking down on the neighbourhood. It's asleep for the most parts but has its occasional pass-bys of life and noise, animation and the bon viveur. 2 am is always a good time for observing the world. You learn so much about people when they don’t know they’re being observed. I hide in my little shadowy duckblind of a balcony where the ambient light doesn’t reach but for some weak reflection. I like not being seen. It makes me feel like I have an advantage, like a leopard in a tree. Sometimes I might take this notion a little too far after some drinking has been involved and I have done so.

Really, I have.

Yeah, so on a lark, I’ve hidden in the darkness watching for a group of teenagers to go by late at night, waiting until they are just at the house when I scream and yell at them like I’m going to kill them, well, actually saying things like “I’m gonna kill you! I’ve got you now! Your soul is mine!”, or else I would just effect some underworld kind of language that's a cross between the hounds of Hades and baritone vomiting. Their reactions are comic gold. Teenage girls especially will emote about anything and their screams are downright explosive, while the boys in their group will shriek but immediately try to compensate and look tough when in truth they’ve actually shat their low-hanging pants. It’s funny as hell. Of course, I have now become a lightning rod for vandalism in the neighbourhood. Especially in late October when devotees of the cult of Hallowe’en will come for me with their eggs and tomatoes and rocks. The more violent of them will come at me with home invasions after the tricker treaters have ebbed, where I’ve had to fend some off with a hockey stick that I now keep by the front door. Since then I’ve stopped and so have they. Now I am nothing more than a wise, grizzled old owl here, sitting on my perch with my swivelling head and saucer-like eyes, seeing all yet letting all pass by unaware.

So anyway…

I hear my ringtone and I look down at my cracked cellphone screaming blue at me through its broken mirror image. It’s Girvan calling me again. Fucking Christ. I know he’s most likely wasted at the Concorde looking for a ride home now that the buses aren’t running. I can’t help him because my beast of a car is persona non gratis until I can scrape enough money for a new alternator, but he’s still going to harangue me for a favour.

Old Girvan. I know him well enough because he’s one of those like me, who does his patriotic duty and camps out in the Timmies parking lot with a lawn chair and a paper cup in hand. It’s part of our Vanier ensemble. Girvan will always be there in the morning until the Concorde opens at 11. He’s never home, basically because he is always behind on some bill or another, so it’s better to loiter where business enterprise always keeps the lights on and the water running.

"Home is where you hang yourself,” he likes to say.

So Girvan, unfortunately for me, I’ve always felt sorry for. He’s a vicious wreck. He’s the lifelong victim of a never-ending avalanche of drugs and alcohol. You know him when you see him; his watery, baggy eyes, his long stringy greasy hair and beard, missing teeth, a complexion that looks like he’s been tanned in urine, carrying a persistent odour like a brine of sweat, tobacco and vinegar. T’boot, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing him without his trucker’s hat, you’d have seen a deep ridge set into his hairless skull like the Mariana Trench. When he sees you reacting to it, he’s proud to tell the story of how he once slipped on sidewalk ice while his hands were stuck in his pockets one night back in the Ice Age.

“Luckily, my head broke my fall,” has always been the punchline of this story, which he always punctuated with his wheezy cough of a laugh. And Girvan, he doesn’t work but isn’t above panhandling on street corners, which is a popular thing here in Vanier; an outstretched hand on every traffic island, but Girvan, he’ll always tell you he can’t do it long due to his bad back and flare-ups of gout. So I help him just once in a while when he’s in a pickle, though he’s always pickled. Unfortunately for me, it means he is always trying to worm out a favour from me, the fucking leech. So here he is again, lighting up my phone like an amber alert at stupid o’clock in the morning. This must be the 20th time he’s called tonight. I know he’ll keep calling over and over again until either he passes out or I answer and since he hasn’t passed out, I swipe my touchscreen to the right.

“Hagan, you fuggin’ asshole,” he says. “where the fug you been? I need a ride home.”

“Nah, Girvan, I’m too drunk now and my car is fucked, I can’t.”

“Well, fuck what good are you ta me?” he shouts into the receiver.

He goes into a long rant on how he’s out of money and the buses aren’t running and the hospital got wise to his taxi chit scam after faking seizures there one too many times.

“Sorry to hear that,” I say, “but I still can’t help because I’m still drunk and my car still won’t start.”

“Well fuck, I can’t fuckin’ well walk! What the fuck am I gonna do?”

This is when I decide that I’m going to make him regret calling me. It’s what you do. You piss them off so they’ll leave you alone. Negative reinforcement, like.

“Well maybe you should’ve gotten drunk at home instead, like me, you fucking wino.”

“Fuck you,” he says. “You can’t tell me where I can or can’t drink. What are you, my wife? My dad? Fuck, my pastor? My MP? Fuck you all, if you are. Fuck alla yuz.”

At that, I hang up my phone and the world goes all nice and black and quiet and now I can think, or not think which is more preferable. Still, my brain goes against my better wishes and conjures up the image of old pisstank Girvan on a concrete streetcorner, walking on his gouty foot hobbled by his ruined back, cursing my name and cursing his life. The image kind of sits on my wounds and has me thinking not too highly of myself. My next thought is about my bike and the bike trailer I’ve been using lately to cart groceries in lieu of a motorized vehicle. It was originally some baby transport that some dipshit in New Edinburgh dumped on the curb one night. Feeling thrifty, I dragged it home and upgraded it with a new axle to deal with a payload heavier than some pudgy little bourgeois piglet. So now I descend the steps off my balcony and take a look in the shed and wonder if it will work. I don’t know if it could carry his weight. My phone lights up blue again and of course it was old pisstank Girvan.

“Hagan, you gogzucker! Come pick me up, I’m at the Concorde!” he says. Obviously he’s forgotten our conversation from before, reassessed the situation and unconsciously doubled back to his only option.

“Hang tight,” I say. “I’ll come around, you dick.”

When I arrive with my rig, he staggers at the sight of it, the act of comprehension upsetting his balance while thoughts slosh around in his head.

“Well what the fug, am I z’posed to ride home in that?”

“You got other options? Get in, you fucking gimp.”

I have to help him physically position his body in line with my trailer, which is a job and a half, given none of his limbs seem to listen to his brain anymore and when I say ‘okay’ he falls back like a downed tree and almost trashes the whole thing. He cusses and grumbles, trying to find a comfortable position which he never really finds so he just surrenders to whatever position gravity has given him in that moment. I look at the wheels of the trailer and I can tell it doesn’t look confident with him as a load, though it’s holding shape as well as it can. I shrug and push off homeward.

Straight off, he’s complaining left and right about where I am going, the bumps in the road that I’m deliberately riding through, the fact that I’d taken so long to come and pick him up, cursing that he’d ever chosen a mean-assed prick like me as a friend.

“Fuck, will you slow down,” he hollers at me. “I’m draggin' my heels on the pavement!”

“Lift your fucking feet then, you dick!”

He tries to keep his feet aloft, but all for naught, his muscles all soggy with liquor as they are.  Pickled dick, he is. I stop and try to make him cross his legs, but his ass is so far forward on the trailer that he can’t get his heels over the lip and he’s too flaccid to lift himself in any helpful way. I’m forced to give up and surge on.

His griping and cussing carries on and as it does, I’m finding that my buzz has now left me and I’m doing this sober. I try to fixate on the reward of more drink when this ordeal is over, but now the fatigue of riding a weighed-down bicycle with a cantankerous cargo at 3 in the morning is starting to hinder me.

“Fucking bellend, fucking spare parts,” Girvan gurgles from the cradle behind me. “Fucking mudvucker waste of space, ah! Fuckshitgoddamnpissmeoffmothervuck- ugh! Shit!”

Another few minutes of that and I have to turn around and react.

“Y’know what? Why don’t you just shut the fuck up before I yank the pin and leave you here, ya pissy cripple you! I don’t need to be out here downwind of your diaper rash, you fucking skunk-assed lamer!”

That was when he really put his foot down, literally, digging his heels into the street and struggling to get up but only succeeding in grinding us to a halt and nearly having me topple over the handlebars.

That was it, and I said so.

I turn round to reach for the pin that connects the trailer to my bike only to find that he has enough gross motor control to swing his arm and have the knuckled end connect with my cheekbone. I reel back, then grab his jacket on both sides of the zipper, yank him out and drop him like a sack of wet dirt on the concrete curb. I stand back and watch him as he struggles to get up and once he does, I sucker him right square in the temple before he's ready to swing at me again. The impact makes his head whip to the side on account of his loose drunken neck and he crumples to the ground and doesn't move again after that. Total knockout.

So anyways, in my begrudged sobriety, I come to the cruel realization that I can’t leave him lying there in the middle of Brant St., even though he’s probably spent many a night in one gutter or another before me. Growling in frustration, I hoist him back into the trailer and lift his unconscious ass back enough to give him a lotus position which sends a whiff of something like rot and ammonia up to my nostrils. Jesus Fuck, he’s pissed himself. I’m going to have to finish a bottle when I get home. I lug his dead weight the rest of the way to his ground floor apartment. At the front steps, I resolve that I'm not slogging him through the door to fix him nice in his bed like he’s some cute little baby boy. Instead, I lay him in his lawn chair, which rips when I drop his swampy ass in. He doesn’t wake to any of this. He's okay. Dumb fucker.

When I’m home, I pour a tall glass and settle in on my dear balcony.  A few sips in, raindrops alight on my forehead. I choose to ignore it until it starts coming down with more intent, chased with a cold wind close behind. Sitting there on the edge of regaining my buzz, I think of old blacked-out Girvan out there in a monsoon getting soaked like a lost mitten.

I shoot an angry ‘fuck!’ at the sky.

Back in Girvan’s patio, I find the chair I dumped him in has toppled over as if he’d struggled to extract himself from it. Curious, I enter through his backdoor into the uncomfortably warm air of the living room and find him prostrate in the couch cushions, soaked wet with his pissy clothes starting to ripen in the warmth and his body heat. I can see that his face is off the brow of the cushions so if he pukes he won't pull an Apology Girl on me. I consider him for a moment, but the heat and smell is too much. I guess I can leave now. I'm glad he's okay. I’m glad he’s off my conscience. Poor helpless asshole.

The next afternoon, I wake up feeling jet-lagged from the wonky hours I put in trying to get my buzz back, but thankfully hangover-free and hungry. I set upon making myself some ham and eggs and while I’m at that, my phone buzzes again. It's Girvan. It looks like he’s survived the night.

“Did you come into my apartment last night?” he asks me in his gruff voice.


“Motherfucker, the only time I will ever let anyone come into my apartment is when the neighbour can’t stand the smell anymore. You got that?”

“Okay, yeah, Jesus.”

He hangs up and so do I.

So anyway...

Friday, January 6, 2023

Spin and Fall

I remember it as a kids’ game – I’d spin

around and around, around long enough

till I became dizzy, that was the objective,

being dizzy, my head spinning, my balance


more than a bit off, staggering, sometimes

falling, it was a game. I remember laughing

at the performance and if there was an audience

or others playing along I would keep it up


spin, stagger around, amused by it all

as if the sensation weren’t relevant to later

years, times when losing balance, staggering,

and falling would play out without control or


laughter from me or from the unfortunate

people who saw it happen to me.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Smooth as Silk

The bottom shelf is the place frugal drunkards go to find true love. That's the place where whiskeys can be found that keep a drinker drunk without consuming an entire paycheck or draining a bank account. The bottom shelf is where "notes" and "finishes" are undesired and meaningless—it's where you go when you want nothing more than to get drunk. And the top dog of the bottom shelf is Kessler Whiskey.
* * *
Julius Kessler was born in Budapest, Hungary on August 4, 1855. He emigrated to the United States in the early 1870's already with a firm grasp on the English language—his first job in his new country was as a journalist. One of Kessler's first assignments was to cover a ceremony at the Union Pacific railroad headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska in 1873 commemorating the four-year anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike that opened up the Transcontinental Railroad. Kessler learned from the railroad men about the fortunes being made and the adventures being had in the newly opened up territories. The cub reporter decided right then that the American West was the place to be and quit his job as a journalist. He headed to Denver, Colorado where he acquired a barren of 40 pack mules and loaded them up with all the whiskey they could carry. Destination: Leadville.
Leadville, Colorado was a wild west mining town located a hundred miles to the southwest of Denver. Its first marshal was run out of town. Its second marshal was shot dead by one of his own deputies. It was the place where Doc Holliday had his last shootout before retiring and going off to die of tuberculosis. Miners swindled each other, geologists forged their assays, gunslingers fired, everybody drank. Coaxing his mules through the mountains, he sold his whiskey at $6 a gallon to saloon owners; a thirsty individual could buy three shots for $2. His success as a whiskey peddler was so great by 1893, he opened a sales office in Chicago, Illinois.
He never had a retail outlet, he acted as a distiller's agent and wholesaler. Kessler's reputation was such that when New York financiers formed the Distillers Securities Corporation (popularly known then as the Whiskey Trust), they handed over all their surplus stock and made him their president. Kessler featured several brands of whiskey of his own blending; Cedar Brook, Old Lewis Hunter Rye, Maryland Pure Rye among them. He ran "brain teaser" ads in magazines and even advertised on playing cards. During his trips to Cuba to procure molasses, he developed a taste for Cuban cigars that damn near bordered on fetish—he purchased them 10,000 at a time. The Whiskey Trust enjoyed enormous profitability until that odious Volstead Act was passed and Prohibition became the law of the land.
With the eighteenth amendment ratified, Kessler, along with the rest of the liquor industry, was put out of business. He took his fortune (along with 38,000 Cuban cigars) and moved to Vienna, Austria to enjoy his retirement. During his rise to the top of the whiskey business, he had shaken the hands of 40,000 liquor dealers.
At age 80, two years after Prohibition was repealed, Kessler came back to America. His Smooth as Silk whiskey had been revived by the Seagram Company. On New Year's Eve 1935, Kessler was seen eating pigs' knuckles, sauerkraut, chasing a taxi down the street, and dancing until 5 AM. He went on to become a director of the Hungarian Relief Society and occasionally took trips back west to the towns and cities of his youth. On December 10, 1940 the man who had gone saloon to saloon throughout the wild west selling his whiskey passed away peacefully in his New York Park Avenue home at age 85. His ashes were interred at the Ferncliff Mausoleum in Greenburgh, New York.
In 2000 the French wine and spirits seller Pernod Ricard acquired the Kessler Whiskey brand and five years later it became the property of Jim Beam. In 2014 the Smooth as Silk whiskey became part of the Beam Suntory family where it remains today.
Thrifty drinkers of today rushing home from the bottom shelf of their favorite liquor store might raise their glass in toast to that Hungarian immigrant who went where even marshals feared to tread to bring the world a whiskey that serves the most noble purpose of all—to get us good and drunk.