Friday, June 25, 2010

Turbinado

Turbinado points a gun at me, says, bang bang, you’re dead, you’re ground beef. This might sound vicious and violent, and sometimes we had to be, but Turbinado and I went way back. Business partners, friends, drinking buddies, now we’d gotten into the business of being hitmen. He went by the name Turbinado though his real name was Charles. I hadn’t picked up a cool handle yet. I was still Chris. I considered making that Krist, give me a little bit of European or hipster flavor, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Turbinado holds that gun at me, loaded with a full clip, makes like he’s going to kill me, and we laugh. I pick up my gun, point at him, say, I’m going to kill you, and he says, c’mon man, put that thing away before someone gets hurt.

I look at Turbinado and he’s wearing a black leather blazer, grey t-shirt, and Schwarzenegger-type Gargoyles. Me, I got on some too-tight blue jeans, $5 shades from Wal-Mart, and a tattered grey jacket from the Old Navy clearance aisle. Just a Turbinado wannabe. We hop into his tricked out gold ’74 Chevy Nova. Weapons in the trunk. Off to our hit where I’ll play backup and hang outside, I’ll play second fiddle, I’ll just be Chris.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Real Fugitive

This was my 22nd day of being a Real Fugitive game show contestant. The ads screamed for you to watch as real people were chased like fugitives, all for big money. I won the honor for the latest match by correctly answering 15 questions about the 60’s show, The Fugitive. I decided to triple my possible earnings by letting the hunters use live ammunition.

The day before, I had reached a new plateau. No matter what happened, I was guaranteed $300,000 if I threw out the provided white flag and surrendered. Six more days and I’d be up to $450,000. If I made it through eight weeks, I would walk away with the grand prize: $6,000,000. Paid in installments over the next 20 years.

The last three weeks, I’d been sleeping on the sides of highways, in barns, even under a bridge. I’d been using the meager $1,000 in cash they gave me to buy Twinkies, Big Macs and Mountain Dew. But, as the show had gained popularity, it became harder to do. Three days ago, I had to bolt from a 7-11 after a stoned clerk recognized me as the “Real Fugitive” and picked up his phone. To make this game even harder, they were offering an undisclosed reward for my capture.

I no longer went to convenience stores. Hunger burned at my stomach, pleading for me to give up.

To top it off, I had twisted my ankle on day 17 ducking behind a Burger King dumpster. It was three o’clock in the morning. Two shots had been fired at me. I sat there for ten minutes, biting my lower lip, listening. Five days later, I’m thinking less about the shots and more about the dumpster smells of cheeseburgers and fries. That dumpster must have held the mother lode of discarded deep-fried food.

You may ask, why would someone do this to himself? Don’t I have a job, a sense of self-respect, a will to live? Nope. In my life, I’ve flunked out of a state college, alienated my parents and both of my brothers, and lost six decent-paying jobs because I can’t seem to get to work on time. This show was my ticket to escape from future failures.

I was too young. Life was too long. I needed to go all the way by any means necessary.

On day 21, I decided to spend my remaining cash on a gun. I kept my Real Fugitive contract folded in my wallet and there was nothing in there about doing this, only something about being prosecuted for any crimes I committed. I ventured into the city and limped up to men on street corners who wore baggy pants and backwards caps. I assumed they could sell me weapons. I was wrong the first eight times. The ninth time, I was able to score a .38 revolver and ammo for $350.

I figured that, eventually, they would rather kill me then pay me. One clause of the contract: winnings were not transferable to anyone else upon my death.

If they wanted to kill me, they were getting a fight.

On the show’s first day, they made a big ceremony out of my initial run. The announcer guy, with stiff graying news anchor hair and matching gray suit and tie, said, “From this moment on, you are a Real Fugitive!” and he pulled his arm from around my shoulder. I had to run after he said that line. It was in my contract to do so.

I was alone out here, in the American fugitive land. Before I used to hear about people on the run. The FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. America’s Most Wanted with John Walsh. It seemed like half of America was on the run. Where are they now? Isn’t there a support network? Or is it just every man for himself?

There was a rush to being a fugitive. I savored it in the dead of night, when I was hidden and all was quiet. When this ends, I return to life as the loser I am, no matter what I win. They don’t make shows about that. On The Fugitive television show, I always wondered what Richard Kimble did after his name was cleared. How could he go back to being a doctor, drinking wine and eating cheese with his doctor friends, sleeping peaceful sleep?

It was late at night. I was behind a Wal-Mart dumpster, clutching my gun, ready to fire at anything.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How I Used to Ponder Stars

Every December ten of us gather to watch the Star Wars Holiday Special, drink eggnog, ridicule cult film dreck. Jack's bootleg, flea market purchased tape has vintage commercials: No Nonsense pantyhose, The Wiz in theaters, sitcom Alice Sundays on CBS. The movie has baby Wookiee Lumpy, Jefferson Starship singing “Light the Sky on Fire,” Art Carney and Bea Arthur sleepwalking along with the original film cast. It sucks—even Lucas disavows it. Watching grainy, static-lined footage from 1978 can be painful. But it's always been about camaraderie.

This year, I sit near Vince, old college buddy, thinning hair, two-marriage veteran. Cartoon Boba Fett appears on screen. Beth's pregnant, I say, life's changing fast. Congratulations, he replies in monotone, finishing his eggnog. Vince's second wife cheated on him, peddled his comic collection to buy heroin.

Beth never comes but she indulges me. Five years ago, pre-Beth, I told newcomer Rose, it's trippy, like doing acid. Her face crinkled below her pink-blond hair like I'd farted. She walked away. The following year, no Rose. By then, I was engaged to Beth.

The night ends. We exchange goodbyes, Merry Christmases, Happy New Years. Outside, crisp cold air. My head twinkles with eggnog. Car doors slam, engines fire. Quickly, there's silence. I look skyward, remember how I used to ponder stars, what worlds orbited them. Whenever I asked Beth, what if Star Wars was real somewhere, she'd reply, the Empire's dead, babe. I drive home, think about Beth and the baby, our new world.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pardon the Dust

Blogger provides new designs, I say why not?  Show me the sizzle, Google/Blogger!

This site may change designs on an irregular basis until I'm content with a new look. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Where Car Shells Dwell

I live where car shells, black eye houses dwell. Can’t remember your face. The world’s splinters of data. I don’t answer knocks at the door.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fata Morgana

Note: Pieces of this story have appeared separately. Section 2 was published at Six Sentences (see link at right), and sections 1, 3, and 4 have appeared at this blog.

1
Driving on the Arctic ice, he sees a city on the horizon where one shouldn’t be. He emerges from the vehicle, bitter air and silent moonscape, to admire the sight. Twinkling lights, bustling streets, a parade of flower-covered floats. Don’t look too close, he thinks, else the illusion will be destroyed; instead maintain a favorable myopia, a likeable distortion. The rest of the world below him—he’s buried its false promises, its broken streets, its burnt dusted graves. He thinks of a corresponding soul standing on the same longitude, looking north toward the same point, dreaming of a new life.

2
In the Saharan desert, all mouths salted with sand and heat, he films mirages in the vast wasteland of beauty. It’s a documentary filmed by aliens from the Andromeda Galaxy, he says, an inscription for a future plaque, his face framed in metal framed goggles, his eyes hidden behind black hole lenses. In the distance, there are always voices singing in Arabic, reciting tales of paradise, the voices never coming closer. The crew rides along, often seeing the Atlantic Ocean coming into view. But it’s just more endless desert. They look at him. His face reveals nothing, forever looking forward.

3
The Fay has lived many lives, from times of long dead languages to the present. Sent to a convent as a child. Cast out of brother Arthur’s court. Plotted against Guinevere, his not-so-faithful queen, seduced Lancelot, her not-so-pure knight. After Arthur’s death, she resided with sirens, lured na├»ve sailors to their doom, made grand castles float in the air. Now she looks into mirrors wondering, who is this being, what’s her story these days. She ignores a ringing phone. She walks onto a city street. The people—cuckolds and marks, adulterers and charlatans. The possibilities. The world remains the same.

4
A boy, caked in dust with a mangy black dog by his side, stands outside the village, watches the approaching vehicle, the lazy dust devil it’s created a looming shadow. His parents regard him as a dreamer, his dead stares and wild stories the symptoms of some desert sickness. The vehicle slows down. He can see inside: foreigners with cameras, focusing on him, as he, unmoving, locks gazes with their machinery. The vehicle accelerates upon passing, trailed by the dust cloud, disappearing into the horizon. He’ll tell his parents about this. They’ll look at each other, not smiling, saying nothing.

5
She lives in Canberra’s outskirts, confined to a wheelchair, in a town known for its athletes. Local legend says the dams upriver release holy waters dripping with nutrients. She finds the legend cruel, fate’s knife twist on her condition. The legend has it that the released waters create waves so powerful that surfers could ride them downstream, arrive like extraterrestrials, dressed in bright-colored wetsuits, sun-kissed skin. On a hot day she could look north, see a false image of a tall wave. She imagines someone riding this wave, his hand the healing touch that would lift her from her chair.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

He Comes As No Surprise

Christian Bell comes as no surprise. He is neither here nor there. He can neither confirm nor deny. He counts his lucky stars. He gives it his all. He bends over backward. He gives the shirt right off his back. He puts in a good word. He gives his regards. He will say a few remarks, and then allow time for Q&A. He holds all calls. He is thankful for the opportunity to be here. He takes one step forward, two steps back, unless he takes two steps forward, one step back. He can sense that something is not quite right. He feels this place is going to the dogs. He thinks some things are better left unsaid.