imitation game

this is a new theory of mine:

the lyme disease theory.

to start,

you may already know that

lyme disease is caused by ticks;

little parasitic arachnids

adept at

drinking the blood

of their hosts.

this is fairly well-known.

did you also know that

lyme disease is sometimes called

‘the great imitator’?

it is an extremely difficult disease

to properly diagnose.

it often mimics the

nightmare maladies:

fibromyalgia,

multiple-sclerosis,

ALS,

parkinson’s and

alzheimer’s.

a person close to a person close

has lived with an

alzheimer’s diagnosis

for the past three years.

turns out she actually has

lyme disease.

now that they know,

doctors think

they can cure her.

isn’t that crazy?

from the prolonged, sorrowful descent

into the incurable fog of alzheimer’s,

she may yet return.

thank heavens!

(so be watchful for ticks.)

now getting back to the theory:

it seems our sick world is

hurtling towards

annihilation.

we’re looking

pretty bad.

but,

perhaps neither our nation

nor od has

actually gone mad.

suppose we are living with

an unchecked and untreated form

of lyme disease which

is imitating everything we fear

in order to survive within us.

perhaps it is the same culprit:

parasitic ticks.

the ticks descended upon us

only god knows when.

i postulate they’ve been

feeding from us for a while,

as our tragic symptoms

are well-advanced.

also, as ticks feed their

bodies swell.

the ticks we carry

should probably carry us

they’re so damn big.

they’ve taken purchase

on our aorta to ensure

they get all the blood

they need.

at first we were frustrated

that they needed such

necessary blood.

yet the ticks

are very

convincing.

and so we acquiesced.

“there is enough for all,”

we said.

“we’ll always have enough,”

we thought.

but as they drank and

fattened themselves,

they poisoned

our blood and

they’ve poisoned

our life.

now our limbs flail madly

and rip at our own flesh

trying to end the pain in

our poisoned nerves.

now our brain

is deluded and not working

quite right because

we can’t recall

who we are.

now we live with a

craving for death, as

we see the future holds but

more and more pain

to endure.

and there will be more pain

unless we fight

this disease.

right now the ticks

are attempting

to swallow us

whole.

“your blood is no longer

good enough,”

they say,

“plus you owe us for

our service, so

we’ll just take

the rest.”

now the ticks tell us

“we are america.”

wasn’t that

our name?

the ticks tell us,

“we are in charge.”

the host is now

the guest.

the ticks tell us,

“you need us.”

don’t you

need us?

for so long

we’ve listened.

we even dutifully listened to

their medical advice.

but we are the body.

and a body near death

has astounding resilience.

before death

a moment of clarity will

come through the cloud,

a tunnel of light will

extend before us

and

a voice will erupt in our minds:

you are the body

that pumps the  blood.

you are the body

that moves the hand.

you are the body

that controls the voice.

you are the body

who listens to conscience.

you are the body

who bears all the fruits

of their pain.

you are a body

worth saving.

the tick says it was him who spoke those words.

but the voice wasn’t like him at all.

motherfucking bullshit anthropocene

oh fuck. dude! fuck!

what’s your fucking deal, dude?

dude, fucking everything’s going fucking extinct!

no fucking way, dude.

i’m not fucking joking, dude. i’m reading about it right fucking now. fucking three-quarters of all species on earth are gonna fucking die off forever.

fuck you.

i’m fucking serious. fucking cheetahs, fucking apes, fucking bees and frogs and tons of other fucking shit.

that’s fucked. what the fuck are we doing about it?

not a fucking thing. 

well that fucking sucks.

fucking right.

fuck…

i don’t know though, humans are pretty fucking smart.

what the fuck is that supposed to mean?

maybe they can fucking figure it out before everything is fucking dead.

fat fucking chance.

maybe build a fucking generator that cleans all the fucking pollution out of the air and fucking cleans the oceans and shit. fucking elon musk this shit.

no fucking way.

why you gotta be so fucking negative, dude?

cause it’s fucking humans that fucking caused this fucking thing in the first fucking place.

maybe now that we know we’re fucking killing every fucking thing on earth, maybe we can fucking do something about it.

yeah, i fucking hope so.

fuck… why you gotta talk about that shit? now i’m all fucking depressed.

you think it makes me fucking happy? i feel like shit now.

dude, let’s go get some fucking food.

good fuckin’ idea, dude.

oh, did i tell you i fucking lost my fantasy football league? got fucking second to fucking hosk’s fucking girlfriend.

dude, that fucking sucks.

i fucking know, dude. fucking sucked major.

 

 

 

 

 

holding

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly.”

who is this bitch? if i could find the lady who said these words, i’d rip her voice box right out.

“please stay on the line. you are currently–” she said, and then another voice, a male’s, said, “eighty-first” and then her again, “in line.” the music starts.

i can’t sit in one place when i’m on the phone. i have to get up and wander. i also pick things up and put them back down without any purpose. rolls of tape. scissors. keys. pens. whatever is around. it really doesn’t matter. it drives my wife nuts.

when i told her i was calling the water guys again, she took her laptop down the street to get some coffee. she had to go to the bathroom anyway. she said, “i’ll check in on you at noon.” she left at nine. i look at the clock and it says, “11:12.”

they know us down there. thankfully we can still sometimes afford coffees out, because otherwise i don’t know where we’d go. i guess there’s always the street like everybody else seems to like doing.

personally, i’ve pissed in the sink or outside and shat in the trashcan plenty of times before. mostly at night when we’re stuck waiting on them for water, and nothing close is open. she has too, but only a few times. and we don’t speak of those.

the coffee shop doesn’t have the same water troubles most residents do. i’m sure it’s because they got the business package. from what i understand, the business package is the same as the residential package except it costs about twenty times more, and they get priority when it comes to maintenance and service calls. pam jokes that it’s worth the extra cost because the toilet is her best seller.

pam owns the coffee shop down there. she is a real nice lady, and she’s had the shop for years. when we first moved here we were going to her shop to use the internet while we applied for jobs. it was only a few years ago now, 2021 or 2022, i can’t remember exactly when. but we liked it there and got to know pam and have kept going back.

looking back it’s crazy because coffee, real coffee, was only $2.25 a cup. of course that’s all different. now it’s $6.20 for a cup of the good substitute. and to think that not long ago one could buy a real banana and a cup of real coffee for under $5!

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly. please stay on the line. you are currently–”

“eightieth”

“–in line.”

still pacing, i go open the bathroom door, but a wave of curdling shit smell hits me fast and i slam the door back shut. it’s been six days now since we were last able to flush. the first thing we always do when the water comes back is flush. in between times when there’s water, all i really want to do is flush that damn putrid toilet.

we try to hold out on using the toilet when there’s no water, but like i said, she’s not particularly fond of the trashcan and at night she sometimes sneaks away to the throne to do her business. i used to get mad at her for doing this, because she always does it in spite of knowing the consequences. but i don’t anymore. it’s not her fault.

we have a bucket which we can fill with water and pour down the drain, which does the job. it’s usually kept filled in the corner behind the toilet with the toilet brush and plunger. i meant to fill the bucket so we could have at least one emergency flush, but we didn’t even have time to fill our jugs of drinking water before the water stopped again.

it was so soon after the repair guy had left our place that i ran outside thinking he’d still be putting his tools into his van, or fighting off our neighbors. but he’d already disappeared. he doesn’t stick around any longer than he has to.

there’ve been reports of vandals targeting repairmen like him over the past couple months. it’s not exactly their fault either, but people are furious and the repairmen wear the uniform.

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly. please stay on the line. you are currently–”

“seventy-ninth”

“–in line.”

i look at the clock and it’s 11:38. when she gets back i should tell her to just turn right around and head on back. or maybe she can take over on the phone and i can go down and take a break. my ear is getting sore from holding the phone to it anyway.

she always tells me to put them on speaker, but i am superstitious about using speakerphone. i once did and had them on speaker all day, which really was nice, but when they answered they said they couldn’t hear me, and hung up right after i’d got them.

waiting to talk to these people about giving us our damn water is like a full-time job. only over the past couple of months it’s like they’ve decided that i should put in some overtime.

yesterday i called the main service line. that was a ten hour trial. about 7 pm, i got on the line with an associate. her voice was brusque. “name?”

i told her in my nicest voice.

“account number?”

i rattled it off to her. as this is about my 36th or 37th time through this process, i remember the 18 digits by heart.

“address?”

“2311 sycamore ct. apartment 306.”

“problem?”

this question is always the biggest test. by this juncture, every cell in my body desires to verbally assault the person on the other end for having the nerve to ask such a stupid fucking question. everyone has the same problem, and everyone knows it. everyone has had the same problem since we switched to getting water this way, and everyone knows that too!

however, as i’ve learned from previous experiences, this is the wrong move. one: because it’s not really her fault that i don’t have water, and two: because i am now quite certain that this question is employed as a screen.

getting people to blow up early helps to weed out anyone less than grateful for the operator’s help. at first this quick screen process allowed the hold-queue move quickly. now the public has gotten wise, and we all wait an eternity for the assistance of someone who is essentially a gatekeeper.

who are these souls waiting to answer calls? best as i can figure it’s someone who settles for minimum wage pay in exchange for the ability to wield a ruthless power over everyone they speak with.

“your guy just came to fix our water, but it’s out again.”

“what do you mean, ‘it’s out’?”

“i mean i don’t have any water again. it’s like it’s turned off again or something.”

“but you just said he came to fix it.”

i ran my hand through my greasy hair. it’d been how long since a shower?

“yeah, your guy–i think his name was Nick–was here just a few days ago. he came and turned the water back on, and we were good, but within maybe 20 minutes it was off again.”

“i see that he’s marked the job as complete.”

“yeah, like i said, he was here and he, i guess you could say that he fixed it, but i have no water now.”

“did you try it during non-peak hours? as you know service can be interrupted when everyone in an area is trying to use their water at the same time.”

“i don’t think it’s that. i’ve tried it pretty much non-stop since it went out, and nothing.”

“so you’re wanting to file another service request?”

“well, couldn’t you just send him back over here to help us out again?”

“i thought you said he didn’t help you out the last time?”

“well he did, but it didn’t last i guess.”

“but you want him to come back to fix your water again?”

“yeah, you know, just like as a follow-up.”

“well, sir, i can transfer you over to customer service if you’re unhappy with the service our technician provided.”

“no, no, no, no, please!” experience has also taught me that transferring is never the answer. “can’t you just set me up with an appointment for someone to come over here and get our water working again?”

“i can do that, but i will have to have you call tomorrow to talk to one of our servicers to better describe the problem. if what we’re doing is not working, then we’ll have to have you tell them what’s wrong with your water quality.”

this was new.

“there’s nothing wrong with my water quality,” i said, “there’s something wrong with the fact that i have no water. plus i’m not a plumber, i don’t know how that stuff works. wouldn’t it be easier to have one of your professionals come out here and see for themselves? wouldn’t that be easier?”

“sir, please control your attitude.”

“i am, i am, sorry! so sorry!” i picked up a pillow from the sofa and threw it at the wall across the room. “i apologize.”

“it’s alright, but i’m just here trying to help you get this all sorted out. if you’re unhappy with me, maybe you can try calling back tomorrow or i can transfer you to another one of our wonderful customer service associates.”

“no, no! you’re doing great! you’ve been so helpful, already, i just…”

“just what?”

“i just… pay you guys $160 bucks every month for water…  you know… but i don’t have any water in my house… and i can’t take a shower, or do laundry or flush the fucking toilet when i take a fucking dump! so…”

“ok sir, why don’t you calm down this evening and call back tomorrow?”

“no, please! i’m sorry!”

“apology accepted. call back tomorrow. thank you for choosing comcast utilities. have a nice day.”

and then she hung up. i threw down the phone and screamed.

the clock says 12:00 and sure enough she peaks her head back in. she kneads her brow and gives a thumbs up with an inquisitive face. i give her a thumbs down. she makes a frown and then i notice that she’s keeping a hand behind her back.

she walks over keeping her hand hidden. i take the phone from my ear long enough to hear her say, “i’m sorry.”

“it’s alright,” i say. “it’s not your fault.”

“i got you something.”

“what?”

she holds out her hand and there in her palm is a red strawberry in a small plastic box. a real one. the kind i grew up eating.

“are you serious!?”

she smiles at me. “pam got her hands on a case of 24.”

i look at her, “how much?”

“just eat it. enjoy it! i know you love them.”

“two-hundred?”

she shakes her head.

“one-fifty?”

“don’t worry about it.”

“we don’t have that kind of money, baby.”

“it wasn’t as bad as you’re thinking. just eat it.”

“how much?”

 

“eat it.”

“let’s split it.”

“it’s yours!”

“you’re crazy,” i say.

“i love you,” she says.

“i love you, too.”

i kiss her and hold her close to me.

i hear the music screeching from my ear piece stop.

“thank you for your patience. your call is very important to us. our next available associate will be with you shortly. please stay on the line. you are currently–”

“seventy-eighth”

“–in line.”

she pulls away and opens the box of the strawberry and hands the small berry to me.

i hold it gently. i feel it’s seedy sides. the green leaves sort of tickle my skin, even just sitting there. i take the tiniest bite i can from the luscious fruit. the sweetness is overwhelming.

she smiles and takes the phone and leaves me in the living room. i hear her put it on speaker.

i take another bite. and another. and the berry is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fuck this seriously

welcome to

post-truth,

god-money,

buy buy buy world.

where

the vortex of our collective ignorance

is swirling in the pit of our guts.

together

we’ve broken ourselves apart.

 

striving towards a store bought life.

a gate to keep out guilty thoughts of privilige

and poor people.

existing because economy.

 

fake-news land.

real vs. fake as in:

the russians are coming!

pizza-pedos hide in plain sight!

this election was a battle between two sides!

it all becomes real because

no one knows what is

fake.

 

schools flushed down the toilet.

left vs. right forever.

this hollow land

viewed through a screen

is suffocating in its complete lack

of ambition and kindness and

purpose.

 

there is no other purpose

for everything or

anything other

than money.

bills on a pallet,

numbers in a numbered account

that no one wants you

to know about.

 

blood of the kids?

our greatest treasure.

humongous footprints of evil

that look like craters on a dead planet.

we are ants in the shadows of

cthulu.

bring me the head of terror and

i know it will be a

white man.

 

shuffle the papers,

say ‘i don’t recall,’

win the game with lawyers.

don’t forget to take

their curtains. i know

the baby is screaming in

his dead mother’s bleeding arms

but there’s a market

for tragic collectibles.

 

there’s no fighting this monster

which is us.

the invisible hand guides us in relation

to one another, but

maybe we were supposed to be alone.

there is purity in the humble self.

peace in meditation, introspection,

silence

 

or we could just share,

give, awaken ourselves

to our own evil.

we could give relentlessly

to fight away our greed.

 

my dad has a poster,

“teamwork: none of us is as dumb

as all of us.”

we will destroy this planet.

hubris is what tells us

we’ll survive. that we’re

resillient enough.

we are the unsinkable

species. nevermind

the rest.

 

if you need me, i’ll be

reading books to kids in an

elementary school bunker

that is everyday closer to

being taken away.

 

and the kids,

all born since this war was 8,

well,

fuck them, right?

 

we will use them later

to die for our

what-have-you…

peace of mind?

 

 

this infinity sandwich

pi is the

perpindicular needle

which threads together

pages and pages

and pages

and pages

of dimensions.

 

(consider the toothpick’s role

in a turkey club.)

 

it pierces the parallel spaces

where we do

or don’t

exist.

 

(not every layer

in the turkey club

is bacon.)

 

it governs the laws across all

physical dimensions.

 

(you can’t make a

sandwich with

nothing.)

 

to find the end of pi

is to find god.

 

(eating the sandwich

will be

everything.)

 

to find god is to

love and pity

our human nature.

 

(we just had

the opportunity

to actually eat

a sandwich,

but

are we  grateful?)

 

which is why

we won’t find it.

 

(we are complaining

to the waiter about

the bill.)

 

i don’t mean to

overstate the significance

of humanity.

 

(we are just a glob of mayo

on one of many,

many layers.)

 

but if we could

pierce our hearts

on pi,

we might actually see

elsewheres which

exist on other

pages.

 

(as mayo we inspect

the toothpick and notice

that outside of

what we know

there is also bread,

lettuce, tomato,

etc.)

 

or maybe i’m just hungry and

am tired of being

mayonnaise

 

men

*wrote this sometime in 2012 or 2013.

 

“It’s been an hour since I dropped her back at her house and she hasn’t sent me a text.” He said, “She must be pretty mad.”

“You said you dumped her?”

He swigged his beer. I drank my coffee. We were on the porch and it was early daytime.

“Yeah, man. I dumped her.”

I said, “I figure she must be upset.”

“Shit.” He said, and nodded.

I looked out across the lawn, across the street, and to the other side. An old man stood on his porch in dark blue coveralls and he wore a red hat. From afar, I could only see his egg white skin and blue eyes that I figured must be almost dead up close. He cracked a beer and drank from the can. He kept an eye towards us.

Johnny started kinda giggling next to me. He wasn’t looking out, but in, and he said, “Yeah, she was pretty mad. You wanna hear something?”

“Sure.”

“Ok, so we were in bed and I was tired, you know. I’m layin there and I’m trying to fall asleep, because I’d only woken up when she got up to take a shit or something. And I’m still all comfortable in bed when she comes back in, you know, after crappin’ her brains out, well, THEN she starts being frisky. Don’t get me wrong, I love to do her. But I wasn’t so tired I hadn’t pictured her crappin’ out all those lentils she eats. I mean I know what that shit does to me.”

I stopped listening. I stopped nodding my head. I lit another cigarette and looked into my empty mug. His words slipped past me. The old man was in his garage then. He seemed to move about carrying the weight of hopeless burdens. He scuffed his boots on the pavement. He put on his work gloves.

“After everything, we’re all cuddled up and I’m definitely trying to sleep now. Thing is, it’s her hair, you know it’s so goddam curly and after getting pulled on a bit, it’s just a fucking mane. It gets everywhere and I’m laying there and it gets in my mouth and I’m like, ‘Fuck!’ You know?”

I was a beat late on this cue.

“Shit, man, you there? Oh, you out of coffee, you fuckin’ pussy faggot?” He said, “If you’re going in there, grab me another one.”

I went in and was back out when I saw the old timer across the way. He had two black trash-cans out in the driveway, and he was tying heavy black bags into each. I handed Johnny the beer.

“Man, I shoulda said, ‘Grab me two,’ but I guess this is alright.”

“Just shut up and drink it.” I said, “And you’re welcome.”

We drank our liquids and watched the old man perform. He looked methodical, solemn and only semi-lucid as he enacted this boring brand of magic. Slowly he made his way behind his house and disappeared.

“Still nothin’.”

“Nothing?”

“Yeah, she still hasn’t sent me anything.”

I said, “You’re joking.”

“I’m tellin ya, she must be on her period or something.”

“Women,” I said.

Johnny drank his beer and looked at his phone. We heard a large engine start up. Pretty soon, the old man was pulling around the corner of his house in a John Deere. It was bright green and it was rigged for mulching with nylon pouches, but he only had a small lawn. From afar, I figured the soft old bastard must like riding a fancy mower better than dying behind an old, heavy push.

“Honestly dude,” he said, “I’m kinda getting worried.”

“What could have happened?”

“I don’t know. I’m sure she’s just crying or sleeping or something, it’s just that the other times I dumped her, it wasn’t but fifteen or twenty minutes before she’d send me something.”

“Maybe she…”

“Oh my God, and those were always the best messages to get from her, too! She’d get like wild. I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss those texts.”

“Well.”

“This one time, I fucked her at her parent’s house. I guess that was the first time we fucked. She made me wear a condom, which sucked, but it was still pretty awesome fucking her. Anyway, she said she had heard of some new vaginal condom or diaphragm or something that she was gonna get. She said it was gonna be just for me, cause she knew I hate condoms and I told her I wanted to cum in her.”

The old man was making quick work with his mower. The blade cut clean through his Bermuda without tearing it. He nudged up against the flower bed too, and he got it good enough that he wouldn’t need a weed-eater. He smirked, and I know I saw that.

“So about three days before my twenty-first, I’m thinking about who I’m gonna fuck, and I got a couple of options. You know, none are really superstars or anything. Nothing I couldn’t live without, but, anyway I’m sensin’ that this ‘Her-and-I’ thing is just gonna fuck me up on what should be the funnest day of my life. So I just ditched her cause I wanted to sleep with Shannon because Shannon’s got such big tits. Well, it gets time to meet up with my girl and I’m drunk so I call her. I told her that her pussy is too loose and that I don’t want her busted ass anymore. Oh man, she went nuts.”

“Makes sense,” I said.

“Yeah, well that night Shannon’s friends are like cock-blocking the shit out of me, and then all those bitches run home early because they got a test or some shit the next morning. So I call her back, and she’s not happy, but I get her to talk to me and I get her to let me come over.

“It was funny, man, it was fucking funny when I showed up because she opens the door and she’s still got on her dress and her make-up is all washed out. And she was so damn mad! I couldn’t believe it, but I got her back into bed. I don’t know how, man, I was fucking drunk as shit, but I did, and I fucked her until I puked.”

“What?”

“Yeah.” He smiled.

“You twisted son of a…”

“Haha, exactly! I puked all over the side of her bed, dude!”

“Jesus,” I said. “Then what?”

“I dumped her for real.” He said, “I busted my nut, barfed and went home. She texted me later, but not because she was mad, but because she wanted me back.

“She was sending me shit like, ‘Oh Johnny, please take me back!’ you know, but then she’d say stuff like, ‘I want you to cum in my pussy cause I just found my diaphragm I’d been telling you about. I’ll let you fuck me all night Johnny, I swear. Just come pick me up, Baby. Please. Please Johnny, come back and let me have it!’

“I mean I was blown away by that shit. All the time though, it was stuff like that.”

“Just like that?”

He said, “Well, you know. Just crazy shit.”

“Well maybe she’ll text you.”

“Yeah.” He said, “Maybe I’ll text her, you know? I mean, just to make sure she’s ok.”

I looked at the old man who was shutting off his mower. Slowly, with aged joints, he moved off the mower’s saddle and moved to dump the clippings in the cans. He dragged the just full cans to the curb. He put out the sprinkler.

Johnny started stirring and it was hot outside so I started moving to head back inside.

“I don’t know dude,” I said. “I think you gotta make it a rule, and the rule has gotta say you gotta fuck another girl before you can go back to one you already fucked. Otherwise dude, she owns you. You know what I’m saying? You gotta prove to yourself that she isn’t the only bitch you can get. I say you find that Shannon girl and smack those tits around just because you can. Then, maybe, think about goin’ back to the ‘same-old, same-old’ bitch who apparently fucking loves you for some stupid fucking reason.”

“Damn dude, that’s truth right there. That’s truth.”

“Let the big dog eat,” I said.

Johnny laughed hard and said real loud and deep, “LET THE BIG DOG EAT! ARF! ARF!”

We laughed and high-fived before Johnny went in checking his phone for numbers. I heard him inside saying, “Yo Shannon, how you doin’, girl?”

I flicked a dead cigarette butt into my yard, and then saw the old man staring at me. Even from over here on my porch, I could see he looked disappointed.

He turned away and started into his house. The door was open as he slowly crossed the threshold and I heard what must’ve been his wife playing piano. A happy grandma-laugh burst as her song was abruptly halted. I heard her laugh again, then play and sing some bars of “For He’s a Jolly-Good Fellow.”

The old man in his work-suit danced the rest of the way past the door. She kept playing, then the door closed and their laughter went hidden.