July 26, 2017

I think that I’m mentally in a weird place right now– well, weirder than normal I should say.

I posted this up on facebook earlier today: last night I had a really vivid dream about parasites exiting face. I remember standing in the bathroom and popping a pimple and then a few off-white worms were hanging from my cheeks and brows, squirming. There were more biting bugs involved, but really I just remember the worms. My grandmother was there too– she seemed mildly alarmed by the parasites.

Then my alarm went off.

Normally I don’t remember any of my dreams, so the fact that I was able to remember this one in the slightest was…curious.

My very helpful friends suggested a few explanations.

  • I was being consumed by my own ideas.
  • I was ugly on the inside– but let’s be honest I’m pretty damn ugly on the outside too.
  • I was shedding a part of me that I didn’t want.
  • I was losing a certain aspect of my 20’s
  • I missed my friend Tom. (Thanks Tom for that insight)

I think, after some consideration, that stress is the culprit. Oh sure STRESS is blamed for most things in life, gaining weight, losing weight, smoking cigarettes, nervous breakdowns, acute gastrointestinal stress etc. etc. But, some stress is good.

Some stress is a kick in the ass to make us do shit that we don’t want to do. Hell, if I wasn’t stressed about where my next meal is coming from, I wouldn’t feel the need to go to work. If I wasn’t stressed about my thinning hair, I wouldn’t be #baldandbeautiful now. STRESS can be good in moderation.

Parasites coming out of your face, maybe, might be too much STRESS. Why am I stressed? I just bought a car. Not outright with cash like my other car, but signing papers, contracts, and dreaded LOANS.

A quick sidebar: Only my sophomore-year roommates know this, but at the beginning of the year, Clark informed me on move in day that I wouldn’t be coming back to school because I didn’t have enough $$$. Luckily, family came to my rescue. The next day I threw up a dozen times, anxious that I wouldn’t be able to afford the next semester or the next or the next or the next or the next. Between heaving I laid on my bed and held on for dear life– I felt like I was going to rocket through the four stories above me in the Maywood dorms. Financial stress is not a new concept.

On top of rent, food, electricity, student loans, I’ve now piled on a car payment every month. Yay. gag

Rationally, I know that I can handle the payment and that a car will help in the future job hunt. Irrationally though, parasites, vomit, and oddly enough the color scarlet.

That’s largely been my week. Very relaxing. Wouldn’t have my vacation any other way. Oh, and I’ve been listening to Flower Boy a lot. It’s good. Check it out. The first chords of the second track are like audible nostalgia.

 

Edit 1: Also one friend offered that I’ve started the process of losing my mind. But, I will have some professional success soon. I think this one sounds the most likely. I’ve always known somewhere deep down that I was destined to be insane

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

These Peanut Butter and Jelly muffins are fantastic if you’re not looking for anything too, too sweet. They don’t have that much added sugar, just half a cup for a batch. And you’ll be adding peanuts and oats in there to give it an extra oomph. But, if you’re anything like me and love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, than this is the muffin for you.

Dry Bowl:

  • 1 1/4 cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cups of Ready Oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 cup of Shelled Peanuts

 

Wet bowl:

  • 1/2 cup of White or Brown Sugar.
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup of Creamy Peanut Butter.
  • 1 1/4 cup of Whole Milk.

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. In the wet bowl, first mix the milk and peanut butter until smooth. Add the egg and then finally the sugar.
  3. Combine the ingredients in the dry bowl, save the nuts for now.
  4. Add the dry bowl to the wet bowl and mix in the peanuts near the end.
  5. Bake for 16-19 minutes, or until the tops are golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

You may be wondering: where’s the Jelly for the Peanut butter and JELLY muffins? Well in my version, it’s a topping really. If you stop now you have a wonderfully tasty peanut butter oatmeal muffin.

To make the “Jelly”

  • 1 cup of White Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Corn Starch
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 cup of Diced Fruit of your choice (I like strawberries or blueberries, but feel free to get creative)
  1. Blend the water and the fruit until the small chunks of fruit are gone.
  2. Add to a sauce pan with sugar and cornstarch and stir over medium-high heat.
  3. Let the jelly come to a boil and let it boil for 30 seconds
  4. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes before adding to muffins.

I was like you, once…. Or, how Evan, Jim, and Jack fucked my life up.

The two 20-something lovers watched ducks screw as they held one another on the park bench. They’d run out of bread hours ago, and were content to drink the warmth of the setting sun.

It’d been a perfect day so far; the kind that goes down in one’s memory to draw upon during turbulent times. Better yet, days like these are usually capped off with proposals– as this one almost was.

It started with a late breakfast, brunch really just sans-mimosas. Ed had gotten the number four: two eggs, cinnamon raisin toast, and three strips of bacon and Em, a bowl of oatmeal topped with cinnamon and fresh strawberries. The owner of the diner, Jenny, threw in an extra side of hashbrowns– the two had been so cute together that she wanted to do a lil’ something extra for them. They appreciated it, and showed it too– with a big tip left under Ed’s plate.

Full, the two walked through the park past the pond where they would later sit. Ed surprised Em with twin manni-petti’s. Ed had never had one before, but quickly came to like it. Em was in heaven. Pampered, hand in intertwined hand with her love. Later, at the bodega two doors down from the salon Em had the idea to relax a bit at the park. So the two bought some apples and a loaf of day-old bread and set back out to the pond.

Hours, two apples, and a loaf of bread later, they were still as stone feeling each other’s warmth, giggling about kinky things to do to one another later. Ed shifted in his seat a bit to adjust his pants when Tommy walked by.

Tommy, twice the age of both Ed and Em, saw the two lovers and briefly felt a spark of hope in his hollowed chest. Another sip of Evan Williams extinguished it quick enough. Evan said it was time to imbue some wisdom upon the youth– in Tommy’s eyes a charitable service. He stumbled over two left feet on his way to the couple’s bench.

“You two look so in love,” Tommy said, his face redder than the sunset sky. He wiped his mouth and burped silently. “It warms an ol’ man’s heart.”

Em looked to Ed, smiling. Ed squeezed her hand and looked at Tommy. “Thanks.” E said,  hoping that this strange drunk would move on.

“You remind me of me,” Tommy said, stepping closer. His shadow cut into the couple’s setting sun. A stench of piss and liquor wafted by. “I used to be in love once.” Tommy burped. “I was like you, once. Me and Jenny, but I fucked it up. Fucked it up bad.”

Tommy took another step closer. Ed tensed up and turned to whisper in Em’s ear. She nodded and the two stood up.

“Wait,” Tommy said, embarrassed. He felt the beginnings of tears push on the back of his eyes. “Don’t you two want to know what happened?”

Ed and Em hustled down the path, doing their best to ignore the drunk. Ed threw an arm around Em, half in lust, half in protection.

Tommy cursed them under his breath and sat down in Ed’s spot. Still warm he thought. He reached into his jacket for his flask and pulled long and hard on the bottle, his face contorting in hot relief when he was done. “I happened.” He sighed again and laid his head down where Em had sat and smiled. Still warm, he giggled.

The first stars started to twinkle as Tommy finished the last pull on the flask. Soon he was asleep, and across the city, Ed decided to make dinner reservations to propose to Em.

 

Prompt: “I was like you, once”

Bryan the Barista

Glass shattered and Bryan looked up from his latte art, outwardly unmoved. His tight man-bun allowed for no emotion. If possible, his eyebrows would have raised as the vascular six-foot mass of meat and mucus stepped over thousand glittering shards of what used to be the door on his way to the counter.

Bryan waited until it was at the register to look back down to finish the detailing on his foam cat. It saw and started to shuffle around the register, shifting it’s weight around three tree-trunk legs.

Bryan exhaled audibly and glanced at his ticket. “Marie?” He reached the mug over the counter to a sickly-looking woman.

“Th-the- thanks.” She said, taking the mug with shaking hands, ruining Bryan’s foam art.

Fucking customers, Bryan’s eyes rolled internally. He wiped down the espresso machine’s wand and the counter before turning to it. “Hi, how can I h–”

“Ack! You call this service?” It said in a strangely germanic accent, slamming a single purple mass that could have been a fist on the counter. “I am Ziltoid, Duke of the 18th sector. I demand your finest cup of coffee.”

Bryan pushed his glasses off the tip of his nose. “Okay, large, medium, or small?”

“Large. Of course.”

“Light roast, dark roast, French?”

“I’m not French. I’m from Ragornik II.”

Bryan sighed and punched the Light roast button. “Okay, hot or iced?”

“Actually I’d like it iced. I’ve heard that you can really taste the subtitles in cold coffee.” Ziltoid said shifting it’s weight to the left.

“Okay,” Bryan said looking up from his screen into the abyss of Ziltoid’s jet black eyes. “And, is that going to be it for you today?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“That’ll be $2.30 then”

Ziltoid’s features twisted in confusion, then comprehension. It started to gag into its hand. After three regurgitations, he spit what looked to be six fish eyes into its hand. He stared at the glistening pile a moment and slammed five down on the counter and bit the last in half, before tossing it in the pile.

Bryan watched indifferently, clicked $3 on his screen, and slammed the cash drawer shut. “You can grab your drink over here,” Bryan said, waving on Duke of the 18th sector.

The purple mass lumbered past the register, past terrified customers, to drink pick up. Bryan felt his bun bobble as he shook his head and cursed the blob, like he did all customers. One cup of ice and a quick pour later, Bryan glanced at the ticket and held up the coffee. “Er, Zoidberg?”

The blob shook. “It’s Ziltoid,” It said, sending spittle onto Bryan’s counter.

“Sorry sir, have a nice day.” Bryan said flatly.

He watched behind nonprescription glasses as the beastly Ziltoid left, cursing everything about him, as he wiped away fish eyes from the counter.

 

Prompt: An egocentric alien named Ziltoid comes to Earth demanding our universe’s best cup of coffee.

Frank Rooney (Again)

Frank Rooney had been the manager of the Shop & Save for thirty eight years and wasn’t retiring anytime soon. His reason: money. Just like everyone else. Too many people wanted it from Frank and he couldn’t seem to hold on to his.

 

Let’s see, there was the mortgage every month, electricity, heating, water, gas, his premiums, prescriptions  (he only took half the amounts he was supposed to in order to make them last longer), the vet bills for their ol’ dog Charlie, parent loans, car insurance– well you get the point.

 

Frank arrived on his doorstep to a mailbox full of bills. Their red “overdue” stamps glaring in his direction. He decided to shove them to the back of his consciousness as he hummed the Katy Perry song he’d heard a dozen times that day. Inside he untied his smock, hung it and his hat on the hooks to the right of the door. Comfortable, out of work mode, as he liked to think, he reached a hand out the front door and clawed the bills into the house.

 

Frank turned and closed the door with a swinging foot. “Clare? I’m home,” Frank called, shuffling the bills, sorting them based on urgency. “Clare?”

 

“I’m in here Frank.” Claire’s voice carried from the kitchen on whiffs of sweet simmering red sauce and italian sausage. “Dinner’s almost ready.”

 

“Mhmm. Smells good.” He said, distantly, frowning at the stack of envelopes still in hand.

 

“Why don’t you come in here and sit down?” Clare called. “You need to take your pills before dinner anyway.”

 

Frank looked up, through the living room and embraced the heat from the kitchen. Steam mingled from the pasta pot and the sauce. Frank was back in his mother’s kitchen, his troubles melting away.

 

“How was your day?” Carol asked, searching through cabinets as Frank turned the corner.

 

Frank tossed the stack of bills on the table and his face eased a bit. “Oh. Fine. How about your day? What did you do?”

 

Carol pulled a strainer out of the lazy susan to the right of the sink. “Oh, uh, it was good. I called Toby and we chatted for a bit. Then me and the girls went and got lunch at Eddie’s. Y’know their banana cream pie is just to die for.”

 

Frank smiled. “Yeah, and the crab cakes. I know. You get them every time.”

 

Carol stopped and looked over from the sink. A sad smile was faint on her lips. “And the crab cakes. You’re right. They were out of that today though. I got the muscles instead.”

 

“Oh. How were they?”

 

“Good. Not as good as the crab cakes.”

 

Frank pulled out a chair and watched his wife of 40 years drain the pasta, saving a cup of the starchy water to mix in with the sauce. It was the way his mother had shown Carol the first time Frank took her home to meet his parents. She’d never done it differently after that. Frank didn’t know if it was out of respect, or just because she hadn’t known any other way, but he didn’t ask. He was content, and at this point, it didn’t matter. It was habit now.

 

“Frank?”

 

He looked up from her hands, “Hmm?”

 

“Do you want one piece of garlic bread or two?”

 

“Two, please.”

 

She opened the oven door and the heavy garlic smell spread through the room. His stomach audibly rumbled. Then a crash. Garlic bread tumbled to the floor and Carol stood above the mess cursing, her face twisted in pain as she clawed up the mess onto the hot pan. “Shit. Shit.”

 

Frank looked up. “What happened. You okay?” He watched his wife pound a fist into her chest.

 

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Carol said. “Just bad acid reflux since lunch. I think it might have been the mus–” Carol fell to a knee still clutching at her chest. Her face folded in pain and turned a deep red. Frank threw his chair back and hurried to his wife’s side throwing her arm around his shoulder as he lifted her to a seat. He turned around and fumbled with the corded phone on the wall.

 

On the fringes Carol’s attention she heard “…is your emergency?” She kept pounding a fist into her chest trying to beat the pain away. The lights around flickered as she gaped for air, feeling like a fish with no water. Frank was there. Fear had gripped him. She saw in his eyes a worry that she’d only seen once before. The night Charlie seized for the first time. Now she could only smell garlic.  

 

Carol awoke in a white bed, in a white johnny, facing a white wall of monitors all hooked up to her. Frank was there too, asleep on the chair next to the bed. Carol adjusted in bed and Frank’s eyes fluttered a moment and opened. He sat up, wiping away drool and smiled. His smile quickly gave way to tears. Carol reached for him and he took her hand and pressed it to his cheek.

 

“Hi,” Carol uttered, meekly.

 

Frank inhaled to unclog his nose. “Hi,” he paused. “How are you feeling?”

 

“A little woozy.” Carol said studying the devices on her arm. “What happened Frank? All I remember is not being able to breath,” Tears began to roll down Carol’s cheeks, mirroring Frank. “Then nothing.”

 

“You had a heart attack dear.” Frank said. “Actually the doctor said that you’d had several yesterday. Remember your acid problem? The doctor said that those were heart attacks. You were lucky to–” Frank choked back tears.

 

Carol covered her mouth with her free hand and sobbed. “But I. But. I don’t smoke. I go on walks. Frank, I’m healthy. We’re healthy. We go on walks. I’m only 61. I don’t understand.”

 

Franks head fell. “I don’t know Carol, dear. The doctor asked me if anyone else in your family had had heart attacks or had a history. I told him to talk to you when you woke up.” Frank looked up now, more grim than before. “He mentioned surgery.”

 

Carol put her head back. “Surgery?” she moaned. “Can you call the doctor? Now. Please?”

 

Frank shook his head and pushed his chair back. He stood and pushed past the curtain and returned a few moments later with the young bleary-eyed doctor. Frank took his seat while the doctor began reviewing the clipboard at Carol’s feet.

 

“How are you feeling today Mrs. Rooney? Any chest pains, or pain in your jaw or back?” The doctor said flipping through papers.

 

“No.”

“Any tightness in your chest?”

 

“No.” She looked at Frank now, and tried to smile.

 

“Any dizziness or lightheadedness?”

 

“Er, no.”

 

Frank frowned at Carol. He turned to the doctor “Actually, uh, she said that she felt woozy when she woke up.”

 

The doctor looked up from the clipboard and stared at Carol. “Mrs. Rooney, I need you to tell me exactly what you’re feeling. Now, can you describe this woozy feeling?”

 

“Er, no, just a bit,” Carol paused, tapping her index finger and thumb together. “Out of sorts.”

 

The doctor removed his stethoscope and walked around the side of the bed opposite Frank. “I see,” he said. He put the cold metal up to Carol’s johnny and looked away. A few seconds later he turned back around and stood up from the bed, pursing his lips. He sighed, and Frank cringed. “Well Mrs. Rooney, I’d like to run some more tests soon as we get a chance. I’d also like to get a better grip on your family history, so I’ll have one of the nurses come and talk to you about that soon. But, for now, just take it easy, and if you feel anything out of the ordinary you can reach us with this button,” the doctor pointed at a red call button next to the heart monitor.

 

Carol nodded, too upset to think of any questions she wanted to ask. The doctor flashed a melancholic look to the older couple, and whisked himself away to another patient.

 

Silence descended on the room. Frank held Carol’s hand as she steadied her breathing.

“Frank,” she finally said.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“I’m scared.”

 

“Me too.”

 

The couple fell asleep like that, waking a few hours later to slants of sunlight pouring into the room. Somewhere far away a stampede of shoes thundered through the hall. The two discussed Frank calling out of work, and decided that he should go. If there was to be a surgery and more tests, that meant money. Frank, nearly asleep, blinked away his fatigue and left Carol alone in her white johnny in her white bed.

 

Frank stopped home to grab his work clothes. The house smelled of garlic when he entered sending small waves of panic up Franks tired spine. He hurried to the kitchen to put everything in the fridge, sauce, pasta, garlic bread. It didn’t matter that it would never be eaten, he just needed their house to regain some normalcy.

 

The stack of unopened bills still lay on the table. Frank shuttered when he saw them. A popping feeling shot through his neck. Too much to deal with, he thought, averting his eyes. He tried to distract himself with the answering machine’s one new message.

 

“Hello there, this is craig from credit services,” the message began.

 

Frank’s arm spasmed as he reached for the stop button. He missed. A swing this time, The plastic casing of the receiver exploded into pieces, some falling on the floor. One particularly sharp piece jutted out of the meat below the thumb.
“Shit,” he cursed. With his other hand he gripped the piece– the size of nail clippers, and pulled. Blood ran on the carpet. It never ends, he thought, it will never end. Frank felt like screaming. He felt like smashing something. Anything. Fuck it all, he thought. A quick glance at the clock, drained Frank of the newfound passion. He hurried to the door, tied his apron, put on his shoes and hat, and locked the door behind him. He could afford to be late, not now, not ever. There was too much to do. Always too much.

 

Prompt: Frank Rooney had been the manager of the Shop & Save for thirty eight years and wasn’t retiring anytime soon.

Entry Level Oxymoron

Her smile is devoid of warmth and humanity.

“So in the online job description we specifically requested candidates with one to three years experience. I’m not really seeing that on your resume. Is there any other experience that would be relevant to working in social media?”

My face twitches at her emphasis. I had no real experience to speak of– but then the posting clearly said “entry-level.” How can you simultaneously request relevant experience and call a position entry-level? It’s both tragically funny and an unfortunate oxymoron.

“I, er, use social media everyday. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, my blog.” I say.

The fake smiling persists. “I’m talking about business use. We reach a large audiences and use SEO– do you know what that stands for?”

I laugh. Not because I find her funny, but to cut the tension and condescension now hanging in the room like a dark cloud.  “Yes. Search engine optimization. I’m familiar with the term. In regards to your other question, my personal posts reach a good-sized audience though not the scale that I’m sure you’re talking about.”

She frowns and sticks out her bottom lip a touch. “Oh, okay then. Let’s move on.” She says, picking up my resume and cover letter. “What would you say your greatest strength is?”

I would say that my greatest strength is my patience, but that would be a lie because it was running out on you, wretched bitch. I wonder where she had even gotten her questions, she sounds like an intern who they had just happen to shovel shit on today. “Hmm,” I begin. ‘Avoid cliche’s’ pops into my head. “I would say that my biggest strength is working with others effectively. I’ve been in a lot of group situations where one or two people don’t want to carry their own weight and I try to find ways to inspire them or help them succeed.” I laugh. “It’s in all of our best interests, right?” I chuckle nervously.

“Right.” She chuckles back.  Her eyes fall back onto my paper. She’s produced a red pen and is taking notes on my resume.

And, the fake smile is back. Put that shit away, bitch I think. The thought nearly materializes itself on my lips.

“And what would you say,” She begins.

I swear to christ if this cunt says ‘ is your greatest weakness’ I might explode.  

“… is your greatest weakness?”

“Excuse me,” I say before coughing violently into my elbow, drawing it out. “Uh, my greatest weakness,” I say. Is my lack of willpower. If I had any, I’d follow through and rip your fucking lips off so you could never smile at me like that ever again you goddamn robot. “Is my ability to concentrate. With so much technology and,” I laugh, “social media, there’s so many things that demand your attention.”

This makes her nod thoughtfully, perhaps the only real emotion that I’ve seen from her.

“I’ve recently taken up meditation as a way to improve my ability to be in the moment and focus though.” I continue.

She looks up from scribbling nonsense on my resume. “Huh, meditation, really? I’ve always wanted to try that.” She says, brushing back a strand of renegade hair.

A warm spark touches my cooling heart. Maybe I won’t end up strangling this idiot.

“Unfortunately,” She says, sighing. “Your resume is a little light for this position.”

A block of ice sinks in my chest.

“As I mentioned we’re looking for candidates that have one or more years of experience. We’ll still give your resume a thorough review. But,” She shrugs. “I just wanted to tell you ahead of time that this may not be the position for you.”

The smile drops from my lips. My face feels all the better for it. “Okay. Thanks for the heads up, I suppose. But why did you contact me for the position if you had my resume and knew that I wasn’t qualified?” The annoyance is thick in my voice.

“Well,” she says brightening up. “We do have other positions we’re looking to fill here. One is a six month temp to perm sales position. And the other is a digital media internship.”

I cock an eyebrow looking to salvage something from this train wreck. “Is this internship…paid?”

She frowns. “No. It’s unpaid, but we offer college credit.”

At which point I push off my chair and up onto the table. I unleash a whirlwind of profanities: stupid cunt this and stunted pig-fucker that. That fake smile is back taunting me. It’s swallowed her nose and eyes, to take up her entire face. I deliver a swift kick and knock out two teeth. And again. And again. It’s fun– the most I’ve had since starting the job hunt.

“College credit?” I say, standing and shouldering my tattered book bag. “I’m 26, and have a degree.”

“Oh,” she says dumb stricken. “I saw the backpack and assumed.”

“I’m also broke.” I say, offering a limp handshake before walking out of the room.

She follows me out, probably to make sure I don’t steal anything. I take all the pens at the sign out book just to spite her. Fucking entry-level job my ass.

Pretty Girl at the Bar.

We sat at the booth eyeing girls walking in– checking out their asses. I’m not that particular, just make it big enough to sink my teeth into and I’m all set. There was this one girl, latina maybe or white, came in and hoo boy, I felt my heart skip a beat. Fuck an hourglass, this girl was a pear on two legs. Up top was this gorgeous head of dark wavy hair and those nose rings that I love so much.

Hey man, why don’t you go talk to her, my boy says. I eye him. I don’t think so, I say, half laughing, my heart creeping up my throat.  

My face grew hot. My tongue ties itself into a double, no, triple knot. C’mon, he teased, it’s just a girl– they’re people too y’know. He cocked his head to the left and played with his eyebrows. Deflect. God dammit deflect, my inner voice screeched. You sure about that, I ask. I thought they were just pussies with feelings. He chuckles. A wave of relief passes through my shoulders.

He sips his two dollar beer and I gulp mine. The nerve train has left the station as I feel myself sinking in my seat, getting smaller– feeling out of control.

Bro, he says, still eyeing that hottie across the bar. Just go say hi. I shake my head smiling, filling with dread. C’mon, he says, I’ll go with you and talk to her friend. You just have to say hi, he councils, then the conversation will just, he shrugs, happen.

But I know that’s a lie. Conversation just doesn’t ‘happen.’ Not with me at least. The first twenty seconds after an introduction my brain says whoa hold on there buddy, why is this person interested in talking to you. What do they want. Are there any secret motives. All the while I’m trying to think about what to say and how to do it in a timely fashion that I usually follow up with something in a shaky voice, trying desperately not to choke on small talk. And now I’m hoping the bar catches on fire or something so that I can get the fuck out of here.

He stands up and stretches out a bit while walking around to my chair. Let’s go bro, he says, pulling on my arm. I pull back, frustrated. This mother fucker can’t seem to take a hint. Finally after more prodding I stand but I take a hard right to the bathroom. He puts his hands on my shoulders and I turn, pissed. Yo, I say, get off of me. I’m taking a leak. Alright fine, he tells me as I walk away, I’m going over there and talking to her then. Fine, I yell back adding a fuck you under my breath.

I can’t even piss in the bathroom I’m so tense. A couple of drops, but no stream. Another guy walks in and takes the only other urinal right next to mine. Shake a leg. Zip. I walk out without looking up from the floor. Right back to my seat and my nearly empty beer. I look to my left, and the motherfucker is chatting up the girl and her friend and they’re laughing. Admiration and hatred mix together in my stomach and I wonder how he does it. How do you just walk up to strangers and make friends, let alone flirt? If magic existed in this world, that would be it.

I upend the beer and leave, no goodbye, no wave, no nothing. The walk home is brief, but because I’m feeling some extra self-loathing tonight, I chain two cigarettes instead sticking with one. Fuck it, I think, maybe these can give me cancer and I can finally leave.

The apartment is quiet and dark when I get home. My room is still a mess and I have the sudden, very powerful urge to clean. Too late for that I tell myself. Tomorrow.

But I can’t sleep because it’s not clean. And, I’m a little light headed from the smokes and the beers and growing extra-potent no-good feeling of self-loathing. After a few minutes of staring at streetlights outside my windows I consider that maybe, just maybe, the room being messy isn’t the reason I can’t fall asleep. Numbers start sprouting in my head: student loan debt, rent, my paycheck, and on and on.

Soon its people. To relationships I should mend maybe. Dad? No. Maybe I should text my ex and tell her no hard feelings and I wish her well. No. Please no. I should’ve just went and said hello to that pear at the bar. Maybe she would’ve like me, maybe not. I’ll never know now. How did he do it. Charisma super powers. Fuck man, I think, maybe I’m socially retarded. Is it anxiety? Do I need pills for that? No. I don’t want to be on medications. And on. And on. At some point the stream of conscience thought gives way to sleep. Somewhere. It’s so light I wake up twice in the night to check the time. No, not late for work.

And the cycle continues.

Wendy’s four for $4

Oh Wendy

The four for $4 deal leaves me weak in the knees

And my wallet full and mighty

Shall I count how I love thee?

 

One magnificent patty between warm buns

Two hands full of crispy hot fries

Three full-brimmed cups of cherry cream soda

And four juicy nuggets,

All under five bucks.

Frank Rooney

Frank Rooney had been the manager of the Shop & Save for thirty-eight years, and he wasn’t retiring anytime soon.

 

For thirty-eight years Frank had unlocked the sliding doors every Monday morning at 7 a.m. For thirty-eight years Frank had seen employees come, had watched them grow, and applauded as they moved on to bigger and better things. For thirty-eight years Frank had called his little red brick store, tucked away between the state liquor outlet and the nail salon, home.

 

Frank turned right into the Shop & Save’s parking lot and let the engine hum for a moment. With his left hand Frank sipped his Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and shook Sara awake with his right.

 

“Hey,” Frank whispered. “Rise and shine.”

 

Sara woke with a start and looked around the cab. Her blonde hair spilled out of her hoodie as she pulled it back, dazed. “I’m up. I’m up.” Sara said, yawning. Her arms shot out in a stretch and nearly knocked Franks coffee.

 

“Easy, killer.” Frank said, killing the engine. The old pickup ticked away in the cold November air as Frank and Sara stepped out. Leaves blew against Frank’s boots as he stretched, smiling to himself, glad that it wasn’t snow. The New England winters were getting harder and harder for Frank, not that he felt the cold. He was sure every year that his pickup wouldn’t make it through another cold spell, but she did… somehow. Still, he thought, this year might be it.  

 

Sara followed Frank to the sliding door, arms crossed over her chest to fend off the nip in the air. “Getting there, Frank. Betcha we’ll see a couple of snowflakes next week.” Sara said, watching the cloud escape her mouth. “Oh, and thanks for the ride.”

 

Frank shrugged and unlocked the Shop & Save’s doors. “Don’t mention it Sara. I’ll have my buddy Brian look at it. From what you were telling me it sounds like a wheel bearing.” They stopped next the light switches. Frank flicked them on all at once and smiled. “He’ll have your car right as rain, and he won’t charge you out the ear for it.”

 

Sara smiled and yawned. “Thanks Frank.” She reached in her bag and pulled out her red work vest. “I’m gonna go get my drawer.”

 

Frank nodded. He was technically supposed to be present to get retrieve drawers, but after four years of tireless work, Sara had earned his trust. She was an honest kind of person. Not always the most organized, but honest.

 

After sorting out his office, Frank paced around the produce section. There was another hour until the store opened and Frank liked to linger near the front to greet the employees, his employees. The first in was Todd, then Sally, Anthony, Bradley, Stephen, Jessica, and finally his new hire Addison. Each greeted Frank warmly, save Addison. The teen was still shy, but that would change with time, Frank knew.

 

Little through lunchtime required Frank’s attention, so he spent most of his time working on inventory, and showing Addison this in’s and out’s of back end work. Stocking, rotating, the price gun. The two were in the middle of rotating apples when the PA sounded.

 

Frank to Register 3. Frank to Register 3, please.

 

Frank turned on his knee and reached out a hand to Addison. “A hand, wouldya?” The teenager reached and gradually lifted the 62 year old from the floor. “Thanks.” Frank used his work vest to wipe away the dirt on his hands. He waved Addison on. “Follow me, eh? How about a lesson in dealing with people?” He chuckled softly and Addison smirked nervously.

 

Register 3 was the only drawer with no line. The woman standing in front of Sara had her arms crossed and huge blonde hair that would make Dolly Parton jealous. Frank snuck past two carts in the next line over to Sara’s side. “Hello ma’am,” Frank offered, smiling. “How can I help you today?”

 

The woman huffed. “Your cashier here,” she said, waving a manicured hand, “won’t take my coupons. It took me two hours to cut them yesterday and this, this girl won’t accept them.”

 

Sara handed Frank a stack of clippings and he shuffled through them, frowning. “First off Ms. er…”

 

“Wasilla.”

 

“First off Ms. Wasilla, Sara here is my most qualified cashier and I hope you aren’t insinuating that she can’t do her job because of her gender.” He looked up and smirked. Ms. Wasilla’s face turned from indignation to embarrassment.  

 

“I would never.”

 

“–And second of all Ms. Wasilla, these coupons are for Stop & Shop. This is Shop & Save; We mistaken for them all the time. That being said, I don’t think I’ve seen you around this store before, so I’m going to honor these coupons and give you the benefit of the doubt.” Frank stuck out a hand. Ms. Wasilla took it and shook. “I’m Frank Rooney, the manager, and I’d like to see you back.” He smiled and nodded at Sara to continue the transaction.

 

“Addison,” Frank said, turning to the teen at the end of the belt, “can you go ahead and bag Ms. Wasilla’s groceries for her?”

 

“Sure.”

 

After Ms. Wasilla paid and Addison had bagged her groceries, Frank took two bags in each arm and offered to carry them out. She blushed and said that would be just fine. The two walked together to the parking lot, occasionally slowing as Ms. Wasilla wanted to walk next to instead of in front of Frank, leaving him guessing the direction. They eventually stopped behind a large white SUV and she fobbed the trunk open.

 

“Just anywhere is good.” Ms. Wasilla giggled. “And thank you so much Frank. Tell er, what was that cashier’s name again?”

 

“Sara.”

 

“Tell Sara that I appologize for my behavior. Sometimes I just get so carried away. And, this week especially has got me all wound up.”

 

“Ms. Wasilla,”

 

“Oh call me Miriam.”

 

“Miriam,” Frank said. “Say no more. I’ll tell Sara what you said, and you don’t have to worry about it. We all have those weeks sometime.” Frank put the last of the bags snuggly in the trunk and closed it. He stood and wiped his hands on his vest. “I hope you have a lovely rest of the week Ms. Wasilla, and I hope to see you again soon.”

 

“And I you.” She said, smiling.

 

Miriam walked around to her door and climbed into the SUV. Frank turned back to his store to see Sara and Addison grinning in the window. Back inside from the cold, Sara began to rib him.

 

“New lady friend Frank?” Sara asked. Addison chuckled.

 

“No. Nothing like that. Just making friends.” Frank said.

 

“Uh-huh.” Sara said arching an eyebrow, as she walked back to her register.

 

The rest of the day was uneventful. One jar of tomato sauce fell from the shelves; Frank cleaned it himself. Frank looked at his watch after storing the mop. Closing time already? He thought.

 

Frank approached Sara and Todd lingering by the automatic doors. “Sara do you need a ride home?”

 

She re-shouldered her bag. “No. But thank you Frank. Todd’s going to drive me home. He just lives a mile down the road from me in the Evergreen Apartments.”

 

Frank smiled and looked at Todd. “Well that’s very kind of you, Todd. Thank you.” Frank waved as he turned. “You two drive safe. And have a good night.”

 

“You too,” they both called out.

 

When he returned a minute later, both had left. The store was empty, save for himself. He looked at his watch. 7:08. Just in time to get home and watch catch an episode of Law and Order, he thought. Frank headed to the frozen section and grabbed a Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese dinner from the darkened cooler.

The drive home for Frank was quite. He hardly listened to the radio these days– preferring to gather his thoughts, while his body took over the mechanics. Tonight, his thoughts revolved around Ms. Wasilla and that big hairdo. He half hoped he would see her again, but what would he say? The thought gave him the jitters.

 

After running a few scenarios in his head, Frank pulled into his driveway. His two bedroom house stood quiet. Frank keyed in, took his boots off, and headed straight to the microwave with his dinner. A few beeps later, Frank headed back into the living room, where he found his old phone book. He gave the cover a blow and opened the whitepages to “W”.

 

“Wasilla. Wasilla.” He said fingering the page. “Wasik. No. Wasilky. No.” Frank scanned the page over again. Still nothing. He sighed and closed the phonebook softly and tossed it to the coffee table. Frank rose to a ding from the kitchen. He pulled his tray from the microwave and ate at the counter– hardly breathing as he went. Ten bites later, the tray was clean and Frank felt the day creep up on him, weighing his limbs down until he collapsed into his living room chair.

 

A ring from his telephone woke him some time later. He waited for the tone to pick it up– half hoping, maybe irrationally, that it’d be Miriam.

 

“Hey Frank, it’s Sara. Just wondering if you could give me another ride in tomorrow. I called your guy, Brian, but he’s not free ‘till Friday. Just call me in the morning to let me know if you can or not. Have a good night.”

 

At the click, Frank settled again into his armchair. He resigned to get up an extra 20 minutes early again. Sara needed him, so he would be there. Then the thought hit him: another week would make it thirty-nine years even. He chuckled sadly and closed his eyes.

 

 

Prompt: Frank Rooney had been the manager of the Shop & Save for thirty-eight years, and he wasn’t retiring anytime soon.

LSD SUPER SOAKER

We started to panic at the word

A devious drugging had occurred

Our super soakers filled with something tainted

Neil over there almost fainted

We ran to the hose and washed it off our skin

Fearing we might turn to raisins

Jamie was the only one not worried

About the Lysergic acid diethylamide

We waited and waited

Our breath bated

Turns out someone wasted their blotter.

LSD breaks down in water

 

Prompt: You and your friends are having a water-gun fight. All the water is laced with LSD.