book for sale

41wUsxvEqVL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

first,

thanks to everyone who has been reading throughout the years

second,

i’ve published a book of stuff from this site here.

(don’t worry. i left out all the really shitty stuff.)

please support the Benevolent Economy that we all hold so dear, and buy this book.

i am 30 years old, and although i have always dreamed of writing a book, i don’t know that i ever thought it would actually happen.

to be fair, i took the easy way out and self-published.

but whatever.

my words are in print, and i am happy about it.

so thank you very much for reading.

cheers to a better world someday… or right now.

whichever is fine.

sincerely,

image

your shameless author

Advertisements

war chest

just park that jet on grandma.

put the tank in the library.

let’s store these grenades in that school.

drive that humvee over to the junk heap.

there’s a pond for that naval vessel.

this prison will go great with our dog pen.

course you can fly your drones where you’d like.

barbed wire? there’s more back in the baby’s crib,

she don’t mind. she’s little.

 

 

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 often seems that our

sick world is hurtling

towards

annihilation.

 

at the least,

we’re looking

pretty bad.

 

but,

perhaps neither our nation

nor world 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 lives.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

conventional wisdom

 

a note to readers:

i wrote this story as a sophomore in college (2006 or 2007) back when i was starting to lose faith in our democracy and still capitalizing letters. this is why some of the once futuristic dates already live in the past. still, it feels like an appropriate post for today given the season. hope you enjoy and, as always, god bless america.

-merk

 

America the Fucking Beautful

Debacle & Enlightenment

In the years and months leading up to the election of 2024 a single, hairy issue dominated the nation’s collective conscience. And it wasn’t war and it wasn’t education. It was none of the issues that so often dominated American politics throughout the Second Dark Age. After the Great Election Debacle of 2012 and the subsequent Enlightenment during the twelve years that followed it, the issues most Americans formerly considered “hot-­button” found themselves swept under the rug.

The Great Electoral Debacle, the sole incident that led to a total reformation of the electoral system, was simple really. Regina Millson was the early Democratic front­runner and to many Americans, she really was the perfect candidate. She had no blotches on her personal or public record and she had spent years in the Senate collecting both domestic and foreign policy experience. Yet it was then that her rival, a lesser respected candidate, Terry Rockland, Republican Governor of Mississippi, ferociously struck down any, and all of her political aspirations with one clean blow.

Some three weeks before the election, Rockland somehow came into possession of a series of super-­secret photos. All of them featured Mrs. Millson simply being herself. However, one of the photos pictured Mrs. Millson’s whole self. That is to say, it left far too little to America’s imagination. The photo which has been, and will be printed in every history book from the moment it was taken until eternity, is Mrs. Millson laughing as she steps out of her limousine while her mangy pubic hair had somehow managed to find itself freed from the dark recesses of her skirt, and out into the light of day.

Literally the second after the photo was first published (the leak had been handled with the utmost efficiency to ensure the most damage to Millson’s campaign) the entire world was getting its first glimpse of Mrs. Millson’s muff. Many were shocked, some were turned on, but one thing was certain: America was never going to be the same.

In the days after the Debacle, Rockland took a commanding lead. As a man, he wasn’t under the same scrutiny as Millson. After all, during the Second Dark Age men rarely worried about their curlies enough to warrant more than a bi­monthly trim­job. Yet, somehow, Millson’s camp had like­wise obtained a picture of Rockland’s wildly out of control bush. With nothing left to lose, Millson leaked the picture herself. She was eager to end Rockland’s career as quickly as he’d ended hers.

It worked. Within two minutes Rockland had lost his biggest supporters, not to mention his lead in the polls, in the middle of the pubic hair hysteria he’d helped create. The pundits went wild, the public was captivated, and all of America had been engulfed in the pubic hair hoopla.

Both candidates had seemed to be locks for their party’s nominations, yet now, three weeks later, their respective conventions were frenzied, scrambling to settle upon an agreeable nomination. After all, choosing a candidate that a whole nation could envision itself unifying behind has generally been a game rife with near hits or misses, and anything a candidate did could sway a close election. So there they were, massive conventions of public officials wondering what the hell they could do to win a spot in the White House. It was then that Representative Jerry Vernon spoke up to his cohorts.

“I, uh, well I have an idea. It’s a solution so simple I don’t know why we didn’t think of it earlier.”

Everyone in the room raised a ruckus at the very sound of Jerry Vernon’s voice. He’d never done more than provide the party with a warm ­body in the House. His simpleminded antics were well documented and even the party’s chairman wouldn’t go on the record to endorse him as anything more than, “A well ­meaning fellow.” Yet, here in crunch time, no one could resist the temptation to at least hear Jerry out. What the hell could it hurt?

“Well, after all this ruckus over a few stray hairs here and there, I’d say it’s pretty clear that the pube issue is a pretty important one to the American people.”

He paused for a second to make sure that people were still listening.

They were.

“So, uh, I… I just don’t see why we don’t get someone with a good lookin’ shrub.”

A silence loomed over the convention. Jerry stood uneasily waiting for some sort of response, but there was hardly a sound. Everyone in the room was intrigued, if not captivated. Could this seemingly brainless idea work? Was pube ­appeal really that important to America? Was there any other option?

A man in the back of the room stood up and started to clap, slowly and quietly at first. Then a little faster; a little louder. Jerry saw him, but couldn’t make out who he was, or what his exact motives for applauding were. Jerry continued to stand uneasily, his political future, for what it was worth, seemed to be hanging in the balance. The applause grew, and grew, and got louder,and louder, until Jerry stood at the front of a fervor.

Jerry just smirked a little at first, blushing. As the applause reached its pinnacle, Jerry made a conscious decision to enjoy this, his first moment in the party’s spot­light.

“YOU LIKE ME!!! YOU REALLY LIKE ME!!!” He yelled.

They did only somewhat, really, but they figured, “What the heck?” He’d provided an answer.

Throughout the night, the men of Jerry’s convention voted on Jerry’s idea. It passed. The “Pretty-­Pubes Platform” approach to nominating a presidential candidate, as it was dubbed that evening, was voted into party policy.

This approach was a good one in theory, but there was an element of this plan they’d somehow overlooked. Who there had pretty pubes? What does America want in a Presidential pubic area? These concerns were voiced to the party chair. He didn’t know either, that or he didn’t want to say. Either way, every man in the room was silently coming to one conclusion.

“I guess, well, I guess we’ll just have to single out those with the best looking bushes.”

Again, it was a simple solution. So that’s what they did.

The members of the convention first asked if there were any present with, what they considered, a visually pleasing region. The hands came up slowly at first. It was awkward at first, but hey, this is the presidency. Why shouldn’t they expose themselves for a chance to become the most powerful man in the world?

The field started large but shrank quickly, for apparently there weren’t too many members of the party who paid special attention to such things. The parade of possible candidates passed across the stage, in front of all of their colleagues, dropped their pants, and waited to hear if they had a shot at the nomination. So it went, old Congressmen examining other old Congress men’s nether ­regions in all their glory into the early hours of the morning.

Finally, a decision was made. It was Jerry Vernon. His pubes were regarded by his colleagues as nothing short of immaculate: well-­shaped, clean­-cut, All­-American. With a little grooming, the party thought, they could turn this good ­looking bush into the face of a nation.

They did. Jerry Vernon was President for four years, and his pubes served him well while in office. He had changed the nation, not to mention the free­ world. It wasn’t long before everyone who held free ­elections began to follow in America’s footsteps. The Second Dark Age as it came to be known, was over. The Enlightenment had come by way of the legendary Jerry Vernon.

American politics would never be the same.

Epilogue

The election of 2024 was fast approaching. The two party system was still intact, yet the parties had changed with the times as they’ve often done throughout history. The election’s front ­runner was J.R. Fuzz of People for Unsightly Bush Elimination, or P.U.B.E. for short.

He’d been a political superstar since he unveiled his immaculately smooth pubic region. It glistened in the lights of the conventions and all of America was sure that he was going to become America’s next president.

His closest competitor was Nina Von Deutcsh. She wasn’t really European as her name would suggest, but she had the world’s greatest landing strip. Anyone who saw it was literally entranced. Some say she insured her strip for 10 million dollars. Others said it was more like 100 million. Either way, Nina, like J.R. had become a phenom after her and her pubes were spotted at the Las Vegas strip­club where she was working.

Nina represented A.S.S. or Americans Standing for Shrubs. Coming into the conventions, there was little doubt about what the future held for American politics. J.R. Fuzz seemed to have a stranglehold on the nomination and the Presidency. But then he had a mishap.

Upon revealing his bald and beautiful pubic region, J.R.’s pants accidentally slipped all the way down around his ankles. Hurriedly he covered his crotch, or the little amount of his crotch that America hadn’t seen. He quickly turned around and bent to grab his trousers when the crowd behind him let out a collective groan of disgust.

J.R. Fuzz’s asshole, a brown­eye in all it’s glory, was staring the American public in the face. Someone in the crowd turned to the person sitting next to them and said, “You know? It kind of looks like a dirty balloon ­knot.”

#105/2-5-2015

the true artist

‘i know,’ he said. ‘you’re right. i’ve been a worthless piece of shit lately.’

‘lately?’

‘ok. always. i’ve always been that way.’

‘you’re goddam right you have. and if you don’t put something on my desk soon–and by soon i mean TOMORROW–you can find yourself another knucklehead to peddle your garbage.’

‘oh come off it. so my latest cartoons have been a little–‘

‘a little what?’

‘well, they’ve… you know. they’ve lacked a certain…’

‘sense of decency?’

‘well i was going to say ‘spark,’ but.’

‘i can’t see how you look yourself in the mirror after writing yet another miserable cartoon about that stupid cat.’

‘i don’t like it anymore than you do. but he’s an institution by now. people look forward to him. he’s still got better distribution than other strips.’

‘well… hey, what’ve i always told you?’

‘what?’

‘you know.’

‘oh that? not now.’

‘yes, now.’

‘i’m not saying it.’

‘but you know it’s true.’

‘i was drawing him back in high-school and people loved him then.’

‘yeah. then you got to college, and who got you into the papers?’

‘we did.’

‘yeah. you drew him on every damn napkin you used to wipe your slobbering mouth and i got him in papers all across the country.’

‘he’s my character.’

‘he’s our property. remember? or have you been drinking again?’

‘you know what? i’m going to write a brilliant one tomorrow. i just got an idea.’

‘lemme guess: the cat is sleeping when, suddenly, he smells a lasagna!’

‘whose idea was the lasagna anyway? yours! and i never even liked the lasagna!’

‘the lasagna made him! without the lasagna, he’s just another stupid cat.’

‘tomorrow is gonna be gold. i feel inspired.’

‘you’re welcome.’

‘i’m not thanking you.’

‘well if you come up with something–anything–that exudes a pulse, you may as well thank me. how long has it been since you did anything worthwhile?’

‘there was the one about 9/11. the commemorative one where he woke up from his nap and saluted the flag? remember how he started crying when jon found out his coworker in the north tower?’

‘that wasn’t worthwhile. that was pandering. shameless pandering. and how the hell did an apathetic cat get so choked up over his owner’s co-worker?’

‘it was all patriotism.’

‘oh, please.’

‘you gotta at least admit i’ve had some moments.’

‘you’d better have more. otherwise they’re cutting you.’

‘what?’

‘i just got the call.’

‘how many?’

‘it’d be about a fourth of your circulation.’

‘jesus.’

‘that’s why i’ve been on you like i have today. i don’t want it to happen like that.’

‘well damn.’

‘that’s right. so go home. drink some coffee. and come up with something. and for chrissake, stay off the junk.’

‘what are you talking about?’

‘i know you been speed-balling again.’

‘i haven’t–

‘i hired a private investigator.’

‘i can explain.’

‘listen, i know you’ve got a lot going on. and you’re famous. i know celebrities are always getting into what they shouldn’t be. just don’t let yourself become one of them. i need you to keep pushing yourself to create the greatest comics you can. you know?

‘i can do that.’

‘i know you can. i remember your early strips. it was like reading tolstoy for the first time. i was blown away. but you got complacent.’

‘i know.’

‘you can’t get complacent. not in this business. you know what happens. just look at beetle bailey. hagar. blondie. worst of all, imagine yourself writing the family circus day after day.’

‘if that were to ever happen, you’d be finding me in my boxers hanging from a ceiling fan.’

‘don’t say that.’

‘it’s true. i’m not just a cartoonist. at least i don’t see myself that way.’

‘i know you don’t. you’re capable of so much more.’

‘fuck it. call everyone who’s thinking about dropping me and tell them i’ve got a dynamite new run planned.’

‘what should i tell them it’s about?’

‘just tell them i’ll send them some mock-ups by next week. it’s time to get back to work.’

‘jim. i love your enthusiasm, but you gotta tell me what to tell them it’s about.’

‘tell them it’s going to blow their fucking minds and that if they don’t like it, then they can suck my dick.’

‘if you think you can make it happen.’

‘fuck. i know i can. i’m jim davis, goddammit. and i’m the greatest cartoonist on the planet.’

#92/1-22-2015

laissez-faire heroics

help! anyone please!
help me! somebody!
superman help!

right, where’s superman?! somebody
find him!

he ain’t coming.

sure he is, clark.

nah, lois, he’s not.

can’t you do something?

oh now you expect ME to pay for HER
mistakes?

but that woman
is going to fall.

that’s right. she
is.

won’t superman save her?

help me, superman!

i hear superman gave it all up.

what? but he’s a hero.

to some. or maybe he has only been
delaying the inevitable.

what’s that supposed to mean?

superman can defeat villains. but he can’t
defeat nature. in nature and in life
it’s the rule of the jungle. only the strong
survive. maybe it’s just her time.

competition is for the jungle. this is
metropolis! shouldn’t we cooperate? shouldn’t
we help one another? can’t we save her!?

but at what cost to me?

how much could it cost you to save her?
and wouldn’t it be worth it?

how do you expect to pay for all these
miracles?

superman used to watch over us because he was
good.

maybe he got tired of offering his services
for free. maybe he was looking for some
incentives to be good.

oh my god, clark, she’s going to fall!

i’m slipping! please help me!

she’s gotta die sometime.

oh shut up. we’ll find someone for you ma’am!
just hold on!

no one is coming to help you!

shut up. what the hell?!

she doesn’t deserve help.

be reasonable.

i’m being perfectly reasonable.

ma’am, we’ll help you. please,
just don’t let go!

i can’t hold on much longer!

just don’t let go!

ma’am, if you want to live,
you will have to save yourself!

i’m trying!

then do it!

don’t you think she’d
have done it already if she could!?

i’m not sure she really wants
to live.

please help me!

sounds like she does to me.

if she can’t pull herself up on her own,
i don’t see what good she is anyway.

you’re sick.

i’m just being practical.

where’s your compassion?

if she were able to earn my respect
by saving herself, she’d earn
my compassion.

clark, what has gotten into you?
you’ve never been like this.

i just found this book by ayn rand.
it’s really shaken things up for me and
opened my eyes to some things.

i can’t hold on. i’m– AAAAH!

oh my god. she’s falling!
that poor woman.

lois, it’s ok. it’s merely
natural selection.

that’s horrible.

lois, if somebody saved her
how would she have ever learned her lesson?
trust me. it’ll be ok.

don’t touch me. and why will it be ok?
because when i’m hanging from a ledge
you’ll tell me to pull myself up or die?

i’m only trying to encourage you to be
your best.

clark, maybe you’re right. perhaps
it is pointless to wait for a hero.
i’m probably wrong in that regard.
but at least i didn’t rationalize
her death before she’d even
fallen. you didn’t even want
her to live.

i just don’t want her to live with the idea
that her choices don’t have consequences.

well, she’s learned.

indeed.

so have i.
goodbye, clark.

where are you going?

i said goodbye.

i don’t understand.

i don’t imagine you will.

#86/1-16-2015

in the principal’s office

‘your son, he’s very… imaginative.’

‘he sure is. just like his mama.’

‘ha. well. i mean that he’s imaginative enough to bend the truth. and he does it a little too well. that’s my concern.’

‘i’m not so sure i know what you’re talking about. you’re calling my son a liar?’

‘no, i’m not. i’m just saying he has a capable mind. he also possesses the awareness to create convincing fictions that could in some minds pass as reality.’

‘whose minds?’

‘well other students. substitutes. me, the principal.’

‘isn’t it your fault that you’re stupider than my second grader?’

‘sir, if you’re saying that your son is only capable of fooling fools, well he’s probably… all i’m saying is this: the boy is very bright. i really do mean that. i’m just becoming concerned with the way he’s using that knowledge.’

‘and exactly what is he doing that’s so wrong?’

‘well to be honest he’s been telling all the kids about how all muslims want to kill all the americans. last week he wrote a story in class that was called, ‘isis ninjas.’ i’ve got it here. as you can see it’s about the isis ninjas who kill all the americans in their sleep. obviously it’s a violent read. that’s captain america, there. he’s the hero.’

‘yeah he loves captain america. and that’s a good drawing too. he’s a real artist ain’t he?’

‘yes. well, i suppose. anyway he’s been telling all the children that his story is real. that he only wrote down what he saw on the news.’

‘i mean, i could see it happening.’

‘yes. i guess it’s not impossible.’

‘that’s right. sure ain’t. could be happening right now. never know.’

‘your son has also been using his recess voice indoors. and has aggressively targeted the kids who say things he doesn’t agree with. last week he called other kids dumb or stupid over ten times. and that’s just not acceptable. the classroom should be a safe space for everyone. that’s why i wanted to have this meeting with you. so that we could discuss ways to maybe relax him a little bit.’

‘ok. i’ll be happy to discuss all this if you’ll admit that there’s a good possibility those other kids were being dumb or stupid.’

‘excuse me. the children are learning they are not stupid.’

‘look i don’t know if things changed that much, but i remember kids eating paste and stuff back when i was in second grade. shoving crayons in their noses. i mean all that’s pretty stupid.’

‘sir, it is about teaching kids to not call the people around them names.’

‘lady, that’s great. but isn’t he learning to identify certain stuff? bugs and trees and patterns and shit? if he sees a kid being dumb, why can’t he just call the kid dumb? isn’t that just part of a healthy development?’

‘because, sir, it just doesn’t work that way. unfortunate as that is in some instances. plus, who are any of us to call another person stupid? we’re all guilty of being imperfect.’

‘speak for yourself.’

‘you’re very funny. but to treat others like he does, that’s just breaking the golden rule.’

‘golden rule, huh? yeah i heard of it. never saw much sense in it.’

‘can you tell me one respectful habit you practice within your own home?’

‘hmm. well i’m the father. so i make sure i get the respect a father deserves from his wife and children.’

‘but how do you teach your children about respect?’

‘i teach them about respect like i was taught about respect. do what you’re told or else.’

‘or else what?’

‘i ain’t saying anything else. what’re you gonna do. report me to the dhs?’

‘please. i’m only trying to assess what it is in your son’s life that is causing him to act with such disruptive and disrespectful behavior.’

‘are you serious?’

‘what?’

‘you are fucking serious.’

‘language, please.’

‘well excuse me! me being so disrespectful and all i can’t help it.’

‘i did not say you are disrespectful. and i am not trying to intimate that to you at all. i’m just trying to understand.’

‘you are too. and how dare you, you fucking whore. i cannot even believe you right now. you bring me in here. call my son a liar. tell me he’s mean. i’m sitting here trying to help you out. you know, trying to find solutions to stuff with you and you then start telling me i’m disrespectful?!’

‘that’s absolutely not what this is.’

‘i don’t know what kind of house you grew up in, but my daddy taught me to never hit a woman. though right now i think it’d feel pretty goddam good.’

‘sir, please. let’s be adults. and you should know that any threat you make against me is enough to place you in serious trouble.’

‘i don’t remember any threat being made but that’s beside the point. the two of us, we don’t like each other. so i’ll tell you what. i’m gonna be the bigger man here and i’m just gonna go home. alright? i’m done with you. we’ll forget this whole thing ever happened how about that?’

‘maybe we should talk this over in a week. i can bring in some extra help to better assess the situation we’re in. how about that?’

‘ok, well in the meantime, i’m talking to your superintendent. what’s his number?’

‘her number is on this card. you just take that. or we can both call her together. i’ll be happy to put her on speaker.’

‘no thanks, sister. i’ll talk to her myself. let her know what a cunt she’s got working for her.’

‘ok, well i think you need to leave my office. we can discuss anything you’d like at another time. but i’ve got a school to run.’

‘at least today you do.’

‘right, off you go. bye-bye.’

‘seriously. i’m gonna get you fired. just watch. you’ll see. let a black woman try and tell me my son is disrespectful.’

——————————————————————————————-

‘are you alright?’

‘i’m alright.’

‘i heard part of what he said. what an asshole. seriously. i’ll totally stand up for you.’

‘i don’t think it’ll get to that. but thanks. he’s talking to cynthia right now. she’ll understand.’

‘yeah. she won’t let him–‘

‘no.’

‘well, i know this is a bad time, but i just had to tell you something.’

‘what is it?’

‘nina lux’s father just called. he’s on his way. i guess she had her phone taken away. he sounded mad.’

‘oh.’

‘i know, right? fun!’

‘yeah. yippee.’

#84/1-14-2015

the dung beetle

the dung beetle loved eating poop. he loved it so much, he wasn’t very old before he realized that he couldn’t eat as much poop as he wanted. there was never enough for his appetite.

he’d eat his first serving and ask for more. getting that, he’d ask for a second. then a third. then a fourth. but his family kept growing. he was no longer the only one who needed to be fed.

his mother would say, ‘son, only eat as much poop as you need. there must be enough for everyone.’ and he would say, ‘but i need more, mother.’ and she would tell him, ‘but there isn’t any more.’

his father had died. he had been the one to collect the food. she was now collecting all the food herself and trying to take care of all her babies. still, she refused assistance from everyone.

the day she changed her mind was the day when her son had been playing with the younger beetles in a drying cow pie. he saw his mother was working to ball up and preserve what she could. she stumbled while trying to push her ball up and out of the poop. he caught the ball and pushed it over for her. then when he helped her up, he saw that he was now bigger and stronger than her.

he said, ‘let me handle this, mother. i can work.’

she said, ‘well, i guess you’re old enough to help.’ and so they worked together and helped each other roll their shit up the hill to their home.

for a season, the two worked together so well that everyone in the family was able to eat until they were full. the oldest was happy. for a while.

quietly he grew aggravated. he worked so hard for the family, but he was always only allowed to be as full as everyone else.

he told his mother, ‘mother, i’m sick of this. i’m the one who gathers all the food with you, but i only get to eat as much as everyone else. it’s unfair.’

his mother laughed and said, ‘but son, when you eat at dinner, are you allowed to eat until you are full?’

‘yes, i am. AS I SHOULD BE!’

his mother said, ‘relax, my son. you are correct. you have worked hard. you should be allowed to eat as much as would make you full. i would not want you to go hungry. not ever again, if i can help it. but how can you complain that you are not being fed properly because you are being allowed to eat as much as you’d like until you are full?

she continued, ‘the same goes for everyone. everyone gets all they would like to eat. if you are full, then you are full. how much more food do you need to be full? and how can one be fuller than full? if you can tell me that, then i will understand how much more you need and i will make sure that you will have as much as you need. as your mother, i promise that. just tell me, son. how much?’

the oldest dung beetle thought a moment. his mother was wise, but he was angry. he thought of all the hours he’d worked to feed his younger brothers and sisters. he saw months and months of collected poop being shoveled into the mouths of his family.

‘i’ll tell you what i’m full of,’ he said. ‘i’m full up to here with you making me work and giving me only as much as everyone else!’

‘but you are such a tremendous help. you do, you feed everyone. doesn’t that make you proud, son? to know that i couldn’t do it without you? that none of us could?’

he looked behind his mother and saw his brothers and sisters. he looked all around him. they had heard everything. they were all staring at him. the next oldest beetle said, ‘we will help you.’

the oldest felt foolish and said, ‘please, everyone. forgive me. i have grown bitter, but mother is right– i am full. i have what i want with you all. i am full of love. and as for the food, don’t worry about it. i can do it. you all must go to school and study. i am proud to feed you all. you are my family.’

he said all these words. he only believed half. he looked at his mother and saw her staring at him with a raised eyebrow and a narrowed eye. his brothers and sisters cheered him. he acted normal and let the days go by and he stopped talking to his mother.

pretty soon the days became weeks. then months. he spent the time growing the family food supplies.

she didn’t let anyone know, but she was growing very ill. one day she was felt so ill that she collapsed while handing out the breakfast poop. all the younger beetles screamed.

the oldest abandoned the ball of poop he was pushing up the hill when he heard all the younger beetles yelling. he ran as fast as he could. he didn’t see what happened, but as he scuttled up the path he knew what he was to find.

he hadn’t seen her for six months but there she was laying dead in the kitchen. the younger beetles were screaming. immediately he sent for every member of the family to tell them all what had happened to their mother. of course everyone was sad, and so he openly grieved with them.

when the funeral feast of goat poo was over the oldest called for a reading of the will. a firefly who was the attorney read the will. it said, ‘all my property and assets i entrust to my family, in care of my oldest son. he may call my possessions his property so long as the family is fed.’

the oldest stood. ‘so it is settled. you all may now leave my property.’

one of his brothers said, ‘but brother. the will! you have heard what mother said.’

‘i have,’ said the oldest. ‘and her wish will be granted. you all will eat. you will eat the food you buy from me with the money you earn from your jobs that you got with the education that i gave you.’

‘but brother we are not earning money.’

‘you have all gone to school, have you not?’

‘we have. but we have no jobs.’

‘so you may work for me then,’ said the oldest. ‘i will pay you a wage to work for me. you can use what you earn to buy food. how does that sound?’

‘it sounds shitty,’ someone said.

‘but mother’s will!’ someone else cried.

the sibling beetles started rah-ing around the table. the oldest quieted them by flashing his powerful wings. he stood at the head of the table and took up his chalice of goat urine. he raised it over the table of his dead mother, and said calmly, ‘you heard it all as well as i,’

looking to the firefly at the table, the oldest says, ‘mr. firefly if you would, please shed some light on this matter for us and read that last part again.’

the firefly cleared his throat, ‘he may call my possessions his property so long as the family is fed.’

‘there,’ said the oldest. ‘you see? her property is mine. i will pay you to work and you will pay me to eat. you don’t like it, get another job!’

‘but how will we continue our research?’ said another. ‘all the time you spare us by feeding us we use to research our family’s next great achievement.’

‘bologna,’ said the oldest. ‘i know you all aren’t doing squat worth mentioning. probably you spend all your time drinking piss and getting drunk. a bunch of no good moochers is all you are!’

‘when do you see us except for when we are eating?’ someone asked.

the oldest had to think, ‘i see you when… you’re in your rooms at night sleeping.’

‘what about during the day?’

‘i don’t. but it is of no matter to me.’

‘perhaps it isn’t,’ said the youngest beetle. ‘if you want to hog all the dung, you are welcome to it. as you say, we will work for our food. it will not be easy, but i know that we can do what is needed for us all to survive.’

‘but sister, we cannot let ourselves give up on our dreams of–‘

‘our dreams still live, brother. we will make them a reality. have no doubt about that.’

‘but you said–‘

‘i said we will work.’

‘good!’ said the oldest. ‘and yes. you will work. i will watch you work. i’ll kick anyone out who doesn’t work. and you all will collect more poop for me than has ever been collected. i want to see everyone roll three balls up the hill. starting now.’

‘but our mother’s just been buried!’

‘she has. and if you want to eat on the day after your mother was buried, i suggest you get moving.’

‘you evil–‘ said an angry brother.

‘hush,’ said the youngest to the angered beetle.

‘i like your attitude,’ said the oldest. ‘you keep everyone in line. maybe you can be my vice-president, if you do your job well.’

‘no thank you,’ said the youngest.

‘ha. i couldn’t trust a beetle who doesn’t want more than he has, anyhow. you really are stupid, aren’t you?’

‘no, i am not. you should know that since you were the one who paid for my education. don’t you remember?’

the oldest paused, ‘i don’t. come to think of it, i don’t even know who you are.’

‘that’s funny. you have always been my hero. at least you were until today.’

‘but i–‘

‘you listen,’ said the youngest. ‘today we will work for you. we will bring all you’ve demanded up the hill. but after that, we will go our separate ways. you keep what you want. we’ll keep what we want.’

‘perfect. though i see no sense in lobbying to keep all that you own, which is nothing.’

‘you will see, brother. we are so much richer than that.’

the youngest said these words and then turned to the rest of the family. ‘alright, let’s work!’

the oldest watched as the family formed a chain up the path. then, the beetle at the bottom passed a turd to his brother behind him who passed it to the beetle behind him and so on. every beetle passed poop up the path to the spot the oldest had specified. they did this until three turds for every beetle had been delivered. within an hour the task was complete. a mountain had formed.

the oldest was jealous. he’d always spent an entire week doing what his family had just taken an hour to do.

‘here is what you wanted,’ said the youngest to his stunned older brother. ‘and you can keep our wages.’

the oldest tried to hide his astonishment as he said, ‘good. well, you did alright i suppose. for a bunch of worthless bugs. and you hardly earned anything anyway, so it’s probably best you didn’t worry about it.’

‘just remember our deal tomorrow,’ said the youngest.

‘oh i will. but first i will eat!’

the youngest said, ‘dig in, brother. you’ve earned it, haven’t you!’

the other beetles left their shameful older brother to his supper. he ate and he ate and he ate. he ate as much as he could. he sat atop the mountain and imagined himself eating his way all the way down to the ground.

but he’d eaten only half of a ball of poop by the time he was full. he was so full he was almost ill. he looked down at the mountain and it almost made him sick. he almost puked up his poop. he fell asleep on top of his turd mountain.

that night he dreamt of all the boats he would own. all the sexy dung beetles he’d fuck. all the cocaine he’d rail. he saw himself on forbeetle’s magazine. time’s beetle of the year. sharing a turd with dignitaries from across the globe.

he slept like a king.

the next morning, he woke and felt the ground shaking. his mountain was crumbling beneath him. he dropped to his knees and screamed, ‘help! help me brothers! help me sisters!’

no one came. he looked back towards his home to see if anyone was coming.

still no one came, but from the hole he saw a bright light and heard a loud roar. the ground’s rumbling grew stronger. the mountain collapsed and the beetle fell with it. he screamed, but no one was listening and if they were he couldn’t have been heard over the incredible sound.

on the ground he lay on his squashed back staring up at the clear blue sky. his thorax and four of his legs were pinned or crushed by dung balls. his antennae had snapped. he laughed at the irony and then he felt his life slipping away.

the last thing he knew was the staring at the cloud and feeling the ground cease its rumbling. the roaring noise faded. all of a sudden, a spaceship blasted across the sky like a flaming arrow. then its light shone deep into his dead black eyes.

the ship shot into space at over 20,000 miles per hour. the youngest dung beetle looked down at the earth from the fringes of space. he thought he could make out his home and the spot where his oldest brother had made the family pile up the crap, but he couldn’t be sure.

then he was weightless. he spun and saw his family all weightless and smiling. it was quite something for them to get used to.

the end.