Friday, August 10, 2018

The Hammock District... Of Our Minds

Jonah was hiding from Jeff.

"He's giving me a headache," Jonah said, peering around the wall. "Why does he persist in talking to me?"

"You have a soft, smiling face," I said. "Get hard, like me."

"He's like a cross between Kramer and Gary Busey," Jonah rasped softly. "Is he still out there?"

"Who wants to talk about random topics? COME ON"

Being the leader of our squadron, I marched to the beachhead to do battle. Jeff stood chest-out before the circulation desk, his fluffy paper hair fluffing out from his soiled Antarctic Winter Over 2001 cap, his gray chest hair fluffing out from his button-down shirt. But wait, there's more: his jowls were lathered in white grease, his whole body stank of garlic and other natural herbs and spices, and his gravestone teeth clattered in his unshaven blue mandible as if pulled by some hidden marionette string. And he talked and talked. I pretended to listen, as per usual. But I couldn't stop staring at the geisha makeup on his face.

"Why are you in mime?" I finally said. "Are you busking?"

"What?"

I helpfully pointed out to him how ridiculous he looked. He wildly swiped at his face, rubbing away the white to reveal white skin. Much better!

"I'm going to tell Whole Foods this stuff doesn't work. I mean..." Jeff opened his mouth, extended his arms, shook his head. "This sunscreen is supposed to be organic, it's supposed to be the best... Did I get it all?"

I almost said a word.

"You know, I'm hoping I'm three percent Neanderthal. Have you heard about this? We all have a certain percentage of Neanderthal. The Italians have more than any group in Europe. You heard about that? I might be two. Maybe three. Hey, maybe when the ice age comes again, I'll be ready! Hey, what about the Broncos receiving situation? Jordan Taylor might not make the team. Patrick, this kid, he's phenomenal! And did you see about Levon James telling Trump off? You gotta love that. You heard of this jazz band called The Rippingtons? Great jazz. You like smooth jazz? Hey, I'm writing a movie that'll star Harry Connick Junior and Christina Aguilera. It's about South America. You know, I was down in El Salvador back in the eighties and I met with a lady down there." His voice dropped to a sexy octave; he looked around. "Let me tell you, there are some really sexy ladies down there. You know? You give 'em a little cash, and they'll be your friend. You know? Anyway, the craziest thing. I was in Guatemala buying a thousand hammocks and I ran into her! I had been doing translation work during the war, for both sides. And there she was! A year later. I couldn't believe it." Jeff extended his arms, gestured with his large Neanderthal hands. "It was amazing. Anyway, life is funny that way. Yeah. So. What else? What else is going on?"

I knew I'd regret it, but I had to ask: "Why were you buying a thousand hammocks? Were they having a hammock sale?"

"I was buying the hammocks wholesale. When I got back to the States I sold them on the Sixteenth Mall. I sold them all! Most of them had colors. Red. Green. Blue. Yellow. You know, the colors. And I sold them at a good profit."

"The ol' hammock racket, huh. You probably got in before organized crime did."

"Oh! There's Jonah!" Jeff pointed as Jonah had tried to slip pass the circulation desk. "Hey, one minute, Jonah. Just a sec. You said you get headaches, right?"

"Yes," Jonah said dully.

"I've got something for you! Wait, I'll be right back. And I'll bring the hammock I still have."

"Are we still saying the word hammock?"

"You'll be here? Okay, catch you in a few." Jeff pointed at us as he turned and bow-leggedly went for the exit.

"Jesus," Jonah said. "That guy is..."

"Shh. He's back."

"What!"

"Gentlemen! I have just what you need. 'Erbs and 'ammocks!"

He thrust a dimebag of sage on Jonah. He insisted that Jonah take long lungfuls.

"Breathe in, hold it thirty minutes, and then release."

"Minutes?"

"Seconds! Whatever, you know what I mean!"

Remember: never get high on your own supply

Jonah took a few hits. "Actually, this is helping." He took a few more deep snoots. "Aw yeah..."

"Hey, let me have some of that," I said.

"It's mine. Get away!"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, there's plenty for everyone! And then you can rest in my hammock here. We can string it up. Who wants first?"

White hammock for white people

Jeff finally left. Jonah lowered the bag from his nose.

"He's the worst," he said, pinching his left nostril, and then his right. "But this shit? It gets me nicely high."

"Right on."

Jeff: Both the giver and the solution to all of life's headaches. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Patty Cake

I stopped Pat in mid-babble.

"Wait, sorry. Who is Cody?"

Pat turned from the stove. He was wearing an apron and flipping me some flapjacks. I was in the kitchen of his parents' house, on Latin assignment. My Latin textbook was beside my syrup, orange juice, coffee cake and utensils. We'd get to those declensions at some point.

"Cody is the dog I was going to shoot."

"Oh, right."

A few weeks ago Pat had taken me to his bedroom to show me his two rifles, and the sighting on each. Yes, they would do magnificently for dog murder.

"So Cody is gone. I don't know what they did with him, but he's gone."

"Okay." I tried not to get crumbs on Cicero. "Which means...?"

"I talked to my neighbor through the fence," Pat said. He set a plate before me stacked with warm griddlecake. "I told her I was sorry about Cody. But that dog was vicious. He tore up that little dog. Its guts were all over the alley. I slipped in it when I put out my trash."

I nodded over my forkful of flap. "I hate it when I slip in dog guts."

"Anyway, that lady is crazy. She started yelling at me that she could hear me talking 'shit' about her, that I was spreading rumors about her in the neighborhood. Which is crazy, since I haven't been at my house in weeks. Not to mention she claims she can hear me somehow through the walls."

"Mm." I helped myself to more Jemima.

"I think she's the one who killed my bird. She sprayed something through the screen and killed Simon with some kind of poison. And now she hates me because I got her dog shipped off somewhere."

"Right."

"Now I have neighbors flipping me off. I'm out in my yard and people are driving by and flipping me off, people I don't know at all. And what's the common cause of all this? It has to be her! So I talked to her through the fence, I was sorry I had triggered some sort of psychotic episode in her, but she was impossible. So now I need you to meet with my social worker and civil rights attorney."

I raised my eyebrows, cheeks packed with jack. "Social... civil... whu?"

"Yes, can you? I have an appointment with both of them this Thursday, and you're off on Thursdays, right? So can you?"

I looked down at my golden griddle. I looked up at Pat as if he were a funny, funny riddle. He grinned in his weirdly creepy way.

"Uh... sure. This Thursday? I should be able to."

"Great! I want to talk to the social worker about going around the neighborhood and talking to people about these rumors. That lady has been getting on the message board on the internet and spreading rumors about me. I want to sue her for libel, but as usual my dad shoots me down and says it's not really libel. But what else would it be? Why else would all these strangers be flipping me off?"

"Message board? Internet? More pancake, please."

"Yes, there's a neighborhood website and the message board has all these rumors and gossip. You know how it is. But I don't want to move to California and have people Google my name and see all these lies about me."

I belched in my hand. "Of course."

A few days ago Pat had been walking his dog at dawn when he had a seizure because of a leaf blower. He lost his vision and as he sat under a tree in someone's yard a car stopped. A lady asked if he was all right, but he couldn't talk, and so she called 911. Pat managed to escape before the police got there.

"So you still want to move to California?"

"Yes. There's a judo master there, in San Jose. I just need to make sure they have the right accommodations."

"Hm! Anyway, let us dive into our passive periphrastics, and..."

Pat sighed loudly and opened his Latin book. Then he looked at me. "Do you think we can get the social worker to go around the neighborhood and tell people not to believe those things about me?"

I had a vision of a woman going door-to-door, asking whoever came to the door to stop putting lies on the internet about their obscure neighbor who lived down the block. She might have more luck trying to sell vacuums.

"My civil rights attorney says she can get me the accommodations in San Jose, but I just need to get my penis surgery first, and then..."

Pat talked for another hour. For the final five minutes we translated a sentence. I left, and when I got home I charged Pat's dad for the lesson. That's right, folks. I'm being paid to eat pancakes AND I have a bed in the shape of a race car!! WINNING

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Maltese Horse

Jonah came into my office. Shadows cut across his face. He looked grim under his fedora.

"Uh-oh," I said. "Did Todd ask you to help him color in his coloring book?"

"It's about color, yes," Jonah said. He narrowed his eyes meaningfully. "But... a different kind of color."

"Ah?"

I peered through the Venetian blinds. It was another hot, sticky, sweaty day at the library. The stacks gleamed with the sticky stink of broken hearts and sweaty dead bodies. Outside the rain came down like spent bullets. I scratched myself and sighed. Would this descriptive paragraph ever end?

Jonah looked around. He was dressed to the nines in his Hegel tee and basketball slacks.

"I need you to see a movie," he said. "And then report back to me."

"Yeah?" I riposted.

He slid two pieces of paper across the desk. I took them up eagerly, having fallen thirty years behind in my rent. But they were just architectural doodles. I flung them away.

"What the hell is this?!"

"You remember that taquito you bought me? Now we're even. Also, I need you to spy on Justkidding."

My heart sank. Justkidding? I wasn't sure I wanted to get involved. I mean, Justkidding was a powerful black woman and I was just a sniveling quisling of vermiculate, the white kind. While Jonah concurred with my self-description, he insisted I go see a movie called Sorry to Bother You playing at an arthouse in a seedy part of town where the dames were book-smart and the men owe each other for taquitos. My mission, should I have accepted it, was to scope out the scene and gather intelligence on possible subversive activity. Also, spy on Justkidding.

"Just remember to break all the rules," Jonah said. Then he and Hegel shook their heads, adding grimly, "Don't break any of the rules."

I went to the theater. First order of business: park across three handicap spaces. Whistling something annoying by The Fixx, I hung my mom's handicapped placard on the rearview mirror. Then I got out of my beat-up Impala and limped more-or-less convincingly to the theater entrance. In the lobby I conceived the idea of purchasing a hot dog. My stomach rumbled like a burst appendix in a dirty old bum. I was hungry.


As I stood at the counter waiting for the hot dog guy to give me my hot dog, I heard laughter--loud, familiar laughter--behind me. I didn't want my target to know I was there at the theater. This was top secret work, after all. But first I wanted to eat a hot dog. When were they going to get me my hot dog?

"Excuse me, is my hot dog...?"

"They're getting it in the back," said the dame, not looking up from her book.

I roamed the small lobby, shooting furtive glances out the theater window. Justkidding was outside, taking pictures of herself and acting as her own paparazzo. Rats, I said to myself. I can't let her see me!

I hurried back to the counter. They had my hot dog! I paid and, not wanting to risk possibly being seen by getting condiments, immediately plunged into the gloom of the theater. I went to the front. There were two rows with RESERVED taped to the seats. I assumed this was where Justkidding would be holding court. But there was still plenty of time before the talkie began, so I sat hunched down in my seat with my beautiful, beautiful...


Just then a laugh rang out. It was Justkidding! I ducked down further into my seat, gripping my warm hot dog. The laughter came closer. No, I told myself. This wouldn't do. I couldn't let her see me!

Crouching, serpentining, I made my way for the exit. I got out into the alleyway, panting, sweating, beat down by the lights of a city without pity etc.

Then, stealthy as a debutante's fart, I rounded the building and sidled my way back to the lobby. This time I sat in the rear of the theater. The lights came down and the previews came on and I nestled into my seat like a raccoon in a pile of baby puke.

Once the indifferent entertainment finished, the lights came on and the director, some guy by the name of Bootsy Collins(?), talked about his process and his feeling for horses. Then the floor was opened for questions.

A shrill voice exploded. Justkidding rose with her bullhorn and, overcoming all others like a Viking Haitian, yelled her rambling question. I dutifully recorded what she said, assuming this would go into a government file somewhere. She finally finished, crying, "Power to the People!"

I snuck out as the Q and A continued. Waiting by my transgressive vehicle was a dark shadowy figure. Was I getting a well-deserved ticket? The figure turned in the shadows. With an irritable gesture, Jonah ripped off his fedora.

"Well?" he said.

"Oh! Uh... well, I have what she did on tape."

He listened to my recording. Hatless, Hegelian, he was less than pleased.

"Oh well," I said. In my fist I gripped my cold hot dog. "At least I have my hot dog, which I haven't started to eat yet. Man, I can't wait to take a bit of my--"


Jonah slapped it out of my hands. The dog and bun flew to the pavement like a sad hot dog being slapped from a hungry person's mouth who was me.

"No," Jonah said. He shook his head. "Just, no."

"I thought you wanted me to spy on Justkidding!" I whined. "I did what you asked!"

Jonah walked away. "I was... wait for it... just kidding."

I was left with the silence of the dead, the rainy streets, and mediocre prose. I pulled my jacket tight around me. The moon shone. I went off to find the nearest taquito dealer in this crazy pitiless city.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Library Coping Skills

I'm frequently not asked by people, "What, pray, does it take to work at the library?" And, "Why is your hand in my soda?" By way of explanation, the full-color photo below tells the story: you are  taken to a detention center where you are forced to wear a festive hat and be at least as tall as Peter Garrett. Then you hold up some book you've pretended you've read--and voila, a new worker is ready for the hive!

"Have I been chemically castrated yet??"

Then begins the slow mental decline. Todd, for instance, spends hours coloring pointlessly obscure cartoons. Does a customer need help? Uh, do you mind? I'm coloring WAKE-O's, part of a baffling cartoon! 

The dripping blood is a nice touch.

Everything seemed to be under/out of control. I went over to Jonah. Hunched at his desk with SEE CLERK AT NEXT STATION taped to his station, he was busy with his architectural rendering of a... salad shop? As far as I could tell from his crude sketch, they repair salads there. I nodded, and after careful consideration, gave it partial credit.

"It's Le Corbusier meets Waffle House!" 

I continued my patronizing stroll through the library. Ah, what's this? There's actually a book on our shelves! I seized it, intending to have it weeded immediately--but then I saw this was something we really should keep. Besides, it's like having three books! Sizzling ones!

"Thank God it's uncensored. I'm sick of
the damn government taking out all my sounding scenes!"

I opened the tome. Inside was an inscription. How nice when customers tell us how much they enjoy our literature. Or at least how much they, uh, plan to enjoy it.....?

"I have got to meet this Robert fellow.
He's a hottie! (It says so right in the book!)"

Finally, I finished my tour in the workroom. Here Justron was busy doing his own drawing, because, hey, everyone else was! Poor fool. And what a drawing. The guy's only been at the library for a few months and looks like we already have a freshly broken brain. But at least his toy boat has a really cool... uh, thing on it.

"I'm not finished! Don't take it! Aww...." 

Okay, that's it. I climbed into my work basket and sat between Bertrand Russell and my feline fishin' buddy. Is that really how I'm going to end this post?

Yep.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Picture Prefecture

Jonah came over to me and spoke some dialogue. "When is Karen coming back?"

I ground my glutes into my purple cushion, leaned back in my chair, and gave Jonah a studied look, the kind a Tibetan mystagogue gives to a devotee who hasn't finished their custard.

"Huh?"

"You hear voices in your head, too? Anyway, Karen won't be back until next week, so everything is on hold. And because of that, I guess we'll have to fill this blog space with funny pictures."

"Please don't."

"Aw, go finish your custard already."

"Huh?"


"Mommy, why is that house raping that car?"


"Mommy, why is that man raping those horses?"


World's first mass gay marriage/basketball tournament.


The sad effects of the panty hose shortage.


Really, gentlemen, this is what you think will get you a wife?


The world's first trisexual marriage/Evel Knievel tribute

Todd came over. "What are you up to, hooker?"

"Smirking at some shit."

"Yeah? Well, I found a sign to put up at the library..."


"That sounds about right."

Jonah came over. "Karen's back. Looks like you'll have to write an actual blog post."

"Screw that," I smirked, and downloaded another photo.

After Senstrom put out the fire, he was penalized two minutes for high-sticking.

"IT WAS WORTH IT!!" I yelled.

"Huh?"

Friday, July 6, 2018

Oompa Loompa Library

"Oh fuck me, Jesus."

Sheryl had just passed by me. I was shelving holds, and she was, as usual, talking to herself. I felt the need to stop her.

"Jesus won't fuck you, Sheryl. It's against his religion."

Sheryl looked at me blankly. Then she went on, muttering about a funky chicken. Sheryl has worked at Ruby Creek for thirty years. Thirty long, jesus-fucking years.

Justkidding came by. She wanted to know what was going on. And if Sheryl was mad at her.

"No, she's just mad at the world. And Jesus, I guess."

"I'd be mad, too, if I had to work here as long as her."

"Who knows, maybe you'll be eighty and still working here."

"Oh, no, I'll be dead by then." Justkidding looked at her phone.

"Don't be so sure. By then we'll all have robot parts. In fact, they'll probably just download you into your phone. There you'll be, looking out from your screen, screaming in a tiny voice, trapped forever in your phone."

Just then two little people toddled around us and sang.


"What do you get when you live on your phone?
Glued to social media until you look like Cindy Scone?
Why care how your number of Twitter followers grew? 
When it looks like the internet just downloaded-- You!!" 

They continued singing and toddled away in a fade. Justkidding looked after them.

"Are those the new shelvers?"

"I think," I said. "It helps with our diversity, yes?"

Justkidding frowned at her phone, walking away. She had just lost another follower: me.

It was Coraline's last day. She was curled with her notepad, writing her mystery novel. The new shelvers looked at her, and then began a merry song.


"What do you get when a person doesn't do their job?
What do you have when a person has the personality of a doorknob?
While it's fine to write the same chapter for your who-
Dun-it but, fuck, someday you have to start chapter two!

Todd came over. He had fliers for the new Kanopy streaming service. He looked down at the chair where Coraline had been sitting.

"What's this doorknob doing here?"

"The new shelvers turned her into a doorknob. You know, to teach us all a lesson."

"Good for them! It's about time the shelvers did something around here."

Then they toddled around Todd and sang.


"What do you get when someone is more beard than man?
Doesn't sound like a very good plan!
Who do you blame when someone eroticizes hemp?
Take it from fellow glove wearers: your time on earth is only as a temp!

Jonah came over. 

"Don't tell me. The new shelvers turned Todd into a big wad of plastic to teach him a lesson. Of some sort."

"No, that was just there. They turned Todd into a creature of pure light. See, there he is, softly glowing by the DVDs and encouraging people not to check out plastic."

The shelvers waddled over to Jonah. And sang.


"What do you get when a man looks like Martin Starr?
It doesn't seem he'll get very far!
While it's fine to parse a dialectic,
People get sick of your tired shtick!

I shook my head over the smoking copy of Hegel. Poor Jonah. He finally got what he wanted--and yet it was so ironic! Just then Sheryl came by having an animated discussion with herself about Jesus fucking and funky chickens. I turned to the new shelvers.

"Did you...?"

They shook their heads. Shrugged.

I guess she's just like that.

Doopety da!

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Library -- The Movie -- Copyright

FADE IN:

INT. RUBY CREEK LIBRARY  -  CHILDREN'S AREA - DAY

JUSTKIDDING, 29, an alluring Haitian goddess with mansoneyes, watches over children in the children's area.

She sees GREG, 52, who could be a game show host, politician, actor, news anchor or jackass, come her way. He is with JUSTRON, 28, a David Blaine wannabe and depraved dishwasher wrecker. As they come closer, she hides behind the puppet show.

JUSTRON
It's over here. Someone told me a kid peed here.

GREG
(smirking)
Do I look like the goddamn pee police?

LIBRARY PATRONS look around, gasp, hats fly off heads.

GREG
(CONT'D)
(beat)
Nothing to see here, folks. The HVAC people will 
be fixing the A/C any day now.

(he rubs an ice cube in his armpit)

A three-year-old CHILD, 3, in a diaper and bonnet screams.

JUSTRON
(flails about like the Nutty Shelver (coming soon))
That's it! The pee thing!

GREG
All right, let's bring it in for questioning...

Beat. Just then JUSTKIDDING appears from behind the puppet show. She vamps and scowls and makes many unnecessary gestures.

JUSTKIDDING
That's no way to treat your child, Greg! It's time for you to
learn a lesson!

GREG
(whirls around, flashes his perfect teeth, gorgeous body)
What? My child?

JUSTKIDDING
Isn't that your kid?

GREG
No! Wait, is it?

JUSTKIDDING
Now I will put a voodoo curse on you!

She closes her eyes and busts at the seems in her overly tight librarian dress as she folds a picture of Greg and the child together, melding them origami-style, as learned in Mark Booger's twice weekly class, into one symbol - two arrows intersecting each other and curving to point in the same direction.

JUSTKIDDING
(CONT'D)
(continues chanting in thick Creole)
What must now pass, will pass
If it is gas, oh well...

Electricity shoots out from all the sockets and the laptops of the homeless and wraps GREG and PEE CHILD in a cocoon of hideous writing and glowing voodoo magic. When the smoke clears, GREG is now the CHILD, and the CHILD is now GREG.

TALKING PIE
(cooling)
I'm going back in time. For some reason!

JUSTKIDDING watches gleefully as anarchy breaks out. LIBRARY PATRONS run around, BOOKS flap pages and poop on screaming CHILDREN and chase scenes happen.

GREG
(beat. looks at hands in amazement)
Oh, no! Now I'm fwee years old!
And now I know what it's like to be someone else!
I FUCKING GET IT!!

PEE CHILD
(confused)
No, dummy, I'm Greg. You're the little kid, 
but in a man's body. Come on. Let's stay focused.
Writing is hard, I know, but...

GREG
(sees JUSTKIDDING)
Hey! You did this! Come on! Give me my body back!

JUSTKIDDING
Sorry, it's a Haitian curse! Which means it will wear
off only if you learn a lesson about being nice and stuff!

PEE CHILD
Line!

GREG
(pees)
Uh-oh. Donovan isn't going to like this...

TODD,47, bearded and JONAH, 28, Hegelian come into the scene. JONAH has pie filling on his face.

JONAH
(eating)
Mmm! Has anyone tried the talking pie? It's delicious!
And talkative!

PEE CHILD
Jonah! Todd! You two have to listen to me! I'm under the
curse of an alluring Haitian woman.

TODD
(wears gloves)
What do you want my beard to do about it?

Just then ZANI, 67, copper haired Medusa comes into the scene. She holds out her long, bony, cold fingers for TODD, trying to run them through his beard.

TODD
(CONT'D)
Whoa, whoa, woman! Are you 
sexually attracted to me, or what?

ZANI
Sorry! You look like Chairman Mao with
that big beard! Right, everyone?

LIBRARY PATRONS
(boo lustily)
BOO!

EVERYONE stops to look at GREG who is sitting in a corner, chewing his thumb, holding his pee area and softly weeping.

JUSTRON
Be careful, everyone. That's not Greg!
It's really a child because of the voodoo!

GREG
(confused)
What? No, Justkidding changed me back a
few minutes ago. I just needed a break. And I
like to hold my pee area.

JUSTRON
Well? Did you learn lessons, and stuff?

GREG
Ehn.

EVERYONE looks at JUSTKIDDING. She shrugs.

JUSTKIDDING
I was just kidding! 

FADE OUT.

(RECOMMEND!)