September 15, 2010

This month I'm doing a series of stories inspired by the lyrics from a more-or-less arbitrarily selected song ("Growin' Up" by Bruce Springsteen) one line at a time.

Today's lyric is I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said “sit down” I stood up

Today's story is called I THINK YOUR NAME WAS KATIE




I’m not sure where I got off thinking you were rebellious, other than it was sixth grade and you were a girl who had a plaid long-sleeved shirt tied around her waist and you always had your hair back in a ponytail and there were always five or six strands of hair falling down into your face. You were pretty. I am probably supposed to practice retroactive continuity and say you were pretty in spite of the boyish clothes but A) it was a bad and baggy time for clothing for all ages so it wasn’t like it was your fault and B) there was nothing to be at fault for. It wasn’t in spite of or because of. You were just pretty.




You liked bands. You liked Green Day. This is several Green Days ago. It would be years before I was cool enough to like them and years still before I was cool enough to dislike them. You were so cool I am assuming you stopped liking them while I still knew you in the sixth grade and started liking them again ironically in the seventh, before that was a thing anyone did.




It was impossible for me to imagine the same universe containing both you and my parents so when my dad came to pick me up one day from after-school and you and I were standing near each other I braced for some unknown disaster. You were polite. Endgame.




One time you called me on the phone. All little kids are aliens to each other when they’re outside of school but this was particularly exciting. I simultaneously wanted to get off the phone right away and stay on the phone forever. This phone call would have been the best thing that had happened in my life up to that point even if you had just called to say the alphabet backwards and forwards over and over into the phone, but what made it maybe the best thing that will ever happen to me was, you asked me if I wanted to join a band. It was a band that didn’t exist yet but you were going to play guitar and sing in it once it did and our mutual friend Shawn was going to drum. You asked me if I would play bass. This was the call. I was getting the call. After we hung up I ran for the newspaper and looked in the classified ads for used bass guitars. I found a few. I wondered where I would get the money but I knew that I would. I told my parents I was going to take up the bass. A few weeks went by without you mentioning the band. You never called me on the phone again. You ended up going to a different school for seventh grade.

This is many many years ago but I kind of feel like if I were to really finally pick up a bass guitar, I would be eleven again. Like everything else that’s happened since then has just been a TV show that played while you waited for me to learn the bass like I said I would.




I have a lot of computer-based ways to look you up and see where you are and what you’re doing now, and I guess I won’t because I don’t want to know if something sad has happened to you, but to be honest, I also can’t look you up, because I don’t remember your full name. There’s no good reason I don’t. The people that meant what you meant to me when you’re the age I was then, you’re supposed to remember their first and last name and middle initial. And A) I just don’t remember for no good reason and B) I have known you by a bunch of different names over the years. I don’t mean, like, every girl I’ve ever dated. You and me never even kissed. I just mean, there are some girls, and you were the first one. Some girls come in shooting.

Posted by DC at 02:26 AM | Comments (94)

September 10, 2010

This month I'm doing a series of stories inspired by the lyrics from a more-or-less arbitrarily selected song ("Growin' Up" by Bruce Springsteen) one line at a time.

Today's lyric is I strolled all alone through a fallout zone and came out with my soul untouched

Today's story is called STEPHANIE THE THIEF OF SOULS HAS COMPUTER TROUBLE IN A ROOM THAT SMELLS LIKE POT

She thought about what the Native Americans had supposedly believed about photography, which was that the camera would steal your soul. She thought, if that were true, then everyone she knew was soulless, and everyone all over the world, with the exception of indigenous peoples still somehow hiding out in the rainforest, and maybe some weird Appalachian hill people. Everything with a soul that had ever had its picture taken. All the puppies in sunglasses. All the tuxedo cats.


Even if the belief had been that every picture only stole a little bit of your soul, everyone she knew wouldn’t have one at all. They would have stolen their own soul and the souls of all their friends a million times over. They had all had their souls chipped away little by little and replaced it all with a shattery mosaic of each other’s little soul-chips. She wondered if it was the camera that took possession of the soul or if it was the photographer. She didn’t like the idea of an iPhone full of souls. She did like the idea of the photographer as a kind of soul-thief. Especially in the old days, the days she idealized, the days when to be a Girl With A Camera was something unique, not like now, when to be a Girl With A Camera was standard, and to be a Girl Without A Camera would actually be the most surprising thing.


In college she’d had a poster up of a female photographer from the 70’s, one of her heroes. The photographer had been wearing a white button-down men’s shirt and there was a camera around her neck and she was lifting it up to shoot and the photograph was black and white but you could tell the woman had light-colored hair and she always imagined there was just a little bit of grey in it, and in her head ever since that’s kind of how she had pictured The Photographer, the kind she wanted to be. She thought about that kind of Photographer wearing an invisible necklace of souls. She thought about the days when just a couple of professional soul-thieves wandered the world without a whole lot of amateurs cluttering up the works. Back then, the amateurs just took pictures of their kids and national monuments and maybe, maybe they worked their way up to birds. Now everyone took pictures of everything and because microchips automatically made each picture contain lots and lots and lots of pixels, everyone thought their pictures looked pretty good, actually, and wondered what the big deal had ever been about photographers with a capital P. “Look at this one. We look like we’re in a movie in this one.” They thought it was about equipment and just about everybody had good enough equipment. Amateurs.


Then again, it was not like anyone was paying her to do this, so she wasn’t sure where she got off thinking of herself as one of the professionals, aside from an immovable thing inside of her that said she saw differently and was doing it for different reasons and the actual output was different than just any Girl With A Camera, even if not everybody’s mom could see the difference. And she felt it was the field of amateurs who from the outside appeared to be just like her but whom she knew to actually be nothing like her that kept her from being a professional. They had apps on their phones that would make their pictures look like Polaroids or pictures from the Old West, or they had the exact same camera she had except they had no idea how to use it, but that didn’t bother them, because they looked at the millions of pixels and thought, this picture I just took must be good, there’s just so much of it. It was really hard to describe what she felt she brought to photographs that they didn’t bring, and never could bring, for all the hardware and software in the world. She was kind of glad she couldn’t describe it because if it could be described it could be programmed into a setting on your camera, and if she had to try to describe it she just wouldn’t try, because she was afraid she would end up describing it as, ha ha ha ha, soul.


Her camera wouldn’t recognize the computer. Or the computer wouldn’t recognize her camera. Or something. She was sure somewhere across town some girl her age was having no trouble getting photos that were already treated because of the application she had on her phone onto her computer and posting them to her blog and getting noticed by someone who could pay that girl to take pictures of things, while here in her room she still labored to get her computer to recognize her actual camera, and by the time she got the pictures onto the computer to work on them a little bit, not to give them any kind of clever retouching but just to make them look more like how the things in them had actually looked, which she had always thought was supposed to be the point, the only people who would notice them by the time she ever got them out there she would only get the kind of recognition she had already gotten, that is, maybe a couple of people would repost a few of her pictures somewhere else without crediting her, because things on the Internet just bubbled up out of nowhere, without authorship or intent or lasting anything. She knew that the girl she was imagining was not actually across town and was probably in Seattle or Boulder or South Korea, but it was always fun to imagine your imaginary rival as being across town.


Her bedroom smelled like pot, but she didn’t have any pot.


If the Native Americans thought cameras stole your soul, that meant they thought that your outward appearance was you soul, and that was pretty shallow. Or maybe there was something to it. Something about peoples’ outward appearance better have something to do with their souls, she thought, or else I’ll be out of a job. Not that I actually have a job. Not doing this, anyway.


The computer finally made a “ding” noise as the camera connected to it. She clicked “yes” a couple times and “not right now” once and the pictures came rushing through. They flashed by one at a time and it was kind of neat because you could watch the light change as photographs from different times of the day went by, the morning pictures into the afternoon pictures into the evening pictures into the night ones.


The real photographers can steal your soul, she decided. The really good ones. That will be what separates us from the wannabes from now on. And you’ll never know it, but we will.

Posted by DC at 03:51 PM | Comments (66)

September 03, 2010

This month I'm doing a series of stories inspired by the lyrics from a more-or-less arbitrarily selected song ("Growin' Up" by Bruce Springsteen) one line at a time.

Today's lyric is I was open to pain and crossed by the rain and I walked on a crooked crutch

Today's story is called WELCOME TO THE REFUGE FOR DEPOSED HALF-INSANE MONARCHS




WELCOME TO THE REFUGE FOR DEPOSED HALF-INSANE MONARCHS WANDERING THE HEATH, LASHED BY STORMS INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL, PINING FOR THEIR LOST KINGDOMS AND SHATTERED DIGNITY

THIS SHELTER IS FUNDED IN PART BY FRIENDS OF DEPOSED HALF-INSANE MONARCHS, THE ONES WHO HAVE NOT BETRAYED YOU SECRETLY THROUGHOUT YOUR LONG REIGN AND WHOSE SMILES MIGHT AS WELL HAVE SHOWN THEIR MOUTHS TO HOUSE SERPENT-TEETH

IF YOU HAVE A FEW DUCATS REMAINING, CONSIDER PLACING THEM IN THE DROP-BOX TO YOUR LEFT TO ASSIST US WITH MAINTENANCE OF THIS DEPOSED MONARCH REFUGE, OR CONSIDER FLINGING THEM OUT INTO THE STORM-SWEPT NIGHT, SHOUTING, “PAH! WORTHLESS CORRUPTER! BE GONE FROM ME!”


TO YOUR LEFT, PLEASE FIND AN ARRAY OF FLAXEN-HAIRED DOLLS AND VARIOUS HEAD-SHAPED ITEMS. FEEL FREE TO USE THESE TO STOKE FEVER-DREAMS OR WAKING NIGHTMARES IN WHICH THEY MAY SERVE AS STAND-INS FOR THE DAUGHTERS YOU LEFT YOUR KINGDOM TO IN EQUAL PARTS WHILE YOU WERE STILL LIVING, WHOSE RESULTING SINS OF AMBITION AND INGRATITUDE DROVE YOU TO THIS LOWLY STATE. YOU WILL FIND THE DOLLS ARE QUITE CONVINCING AS YOUNGER, INNOCENT DAUGHTERS YOU ARE STILL FOND OF AND THEIR HAIR IS PLEASING TO STROKE AS YOU WEEP BITTER TEARS. TO STAND IN FOR THE SKULLS OF YOUR MORE VIPEROUS DAUGHTERS WHICH YOU SECRETLY, IN YOUR SAVAGE HEART OF HEARTS, LONG TO SMASH, ROTTEN MELONS ARE PROVIDED. WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO BECOME ENTIRELY CONFUSED AS TO WHAT IS REAL AND WHAT IS MOCKERY, DUMBSHOW, AND SHADOWPLAY! YOU ARE OUR GUEST, AFTER ALL.


FOR YOUR COMFORT WHILE LAMENTING UNLIMITED TREACHERY, THIS REFUGE FEATURES A NUMBER OF WELL-APPOINTED LAMENTING CORNERS. SINCE THE HEATH IS ADJACENT TO SEVERAL KINGDOMS, AND GIVEN THE RECENT POPULARITY OF COCK-EYED KINGDOM-DIVISION SCHEMES, YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF SHARING THE REFUGE WITH ONE OR MORE OTHER DEPOSED HALF-INSANE MONARCHS. PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL OF OTHER MONARCHS’ LAMENTATIONS, ESPECIALLY SHOULD YOU CHOSE TO HOWL, SOIL YOURSELF TO PROVE YOU ARE NO BETTER THAN A BEAST, OR CRUDELY SELF-CASTRATE SO NO MORE UNGRATEFUL CHILD-DEMONS MAY SPRING FROM YOUR ACCURSED LOINS.

IF YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED A FOOL ON THE ROAD AND WISH TO HEAR HIM MUSE ON UNIVERSAL TRUTHS WHILE YOU NOTE THE SORRY STATE OF THE WORLD THAT SUCH THINGS ONLY BE SPOKE BY FOOLS, PLEASE ADJOURN TO THE MUSING LOUNGE. IF HE WISHES TO STAY WHILE YOU MAKE FULL USE OF THE REST OF OUR FACILITIES, WE ASK THAT HE HANG HIS FOOL’S CAP UP QUIETLY, WITH A MINIMUM OF BELL-JANGLING, AS OTHER FOOLS MAY BE RESTING, OR SAYING LONG RHYMING SOLILOQUIES FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE AUDIENCE


NOTE: THE MUSING LOUNGE IS NOT FOR THE STAGING OF SKITS OR PLAYS WHICH APPEAR INNOCENT AND AMUSING BUT ARE ACTUALLY META-THEATRICAL COMMENTARY


IF YOU ARE A HERMIT, HIGHWAYMAN, OR MADPERSON OF NON-ROYAL EXTRACTION, THIS REFUGE IS NOT FOR YOU. YOU MAY, HOWEVER, SEEK SHELTER NINETY PACES NORTH IN THE THICKET OF BRAMBLES THAT IS OFTEN USED AS A TEMPORARY RESIDENCE BY DRUNKEN TINKERS AND THEIR ONE-EYED DOGS

PLEBIANS MAY ALSO SIGN UP FOR OUR IRONIC IDENTITY-EXCHANGE PROGRAM. OFTENTIMES A DEPOSED HALF-INSANE MONARCH WILL FIND IT PRUDENT TO TRADE GUISES WITH A MAN OF LOW STATURE SUCH AS YOURSELF, SO THAT HE MAY SET OUT TO HAVE IRONIC INTERACTIONS WITH FORMER SUBJECTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS IN WHICH THEY DO NOT REALIZE HE IS ACTUALLY AN EX-KING. IF THIS IS APPEALING TO YOU, SIGN UP ON THE WAITING LIST BELOW, OR AS YOU ARE LIKELY NOT LETTERED, SIMPLY MAKE AN X. IF YOUR NAME IS SELECTED, YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED BY CROW

IF YOU HAVE NOTED THE IRONY OF US WRITING A PORTION OF THIS PLAQUE TO THOSE WE PRESUME WILL BE ILLITERATE, YOU MAY WANT TO REPEAT THIS OBSERVATION TO A NEARBY MONARCH, PERHAPS IN THE FORM OF A BAWDY COUPLET. HE MAY TAKE YOU FOR A FOOL, IN WHICH CASE YOU MAY MAKE FULL USE OF THE MUSING LOUNGE


ONCE AGAIN, TO THE MONARCHS: WE KNOW YOU HAVE A CHOICE IN CRAZED HEATH-BORN ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING THE EVER-TEMPTING “BEMOANING THE WRETCHED ESSENTIAL NATURE OF MAN IN HIS BASIC FORM BEFORE FLINGING YOUR NAKED BODY INTO A CREVASSE,” AND WE THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING OUR REFUGE

THESE INSTRUCTIONS ARE REPRINTED BELOW IN BRAILLE IF YOU HAVE ALREADY DASHED OUT YOUR EYES

Posted by DC at 03:51 PM | Comments (1)

September 02, 2010

This month I'm doing a series of stories inspired by the lyrics from a more-or-less arbitrarily selected song ("Growin' Up" by Bruce Springsteen) one line at a time.

Today's lyric is I combed my hair till it was just right and commanded the night brigade

Today's story is called THIS WAS JUST ONE PART OF THE JOB




I don’t know why, but I always wanted to look good goin’ up there.

The place was technically known as Thompson’s Pass. It woulda been on maps and things, maybe still is. Protected scenic lookout, just off of State Route 8. About eight cars, nine cars could park up there. Nowadays you could probably get ten sedans across parked comfortably with enough room to open their doors and not hit each other, but remember, cars was bigger. Kids called it Lovers’ Lane. Or I guess it was, grown-ups called it Lovers’ Lane when they were talkin' about kids going up there to neck. I don’t know what the kids called it. One time, talkin’ to this kid about this unrelated thing, a vandalism thing, I mentioned it. Lovers’ Lane, I said, and he laughed himself stupid there sitting on the curb. I dunno if it was from hearing a grown-up say it or because they didn’t call it that. I think it’s cause they didn’t call it that. I don’t know what they called it. You know sometimes when you’re a kid you’ll have something and you never say its name out loud and that kinda makes it more special. I think that’s what it was.

Anyways, that was the job. Go up there and break ‘em up and send ‘em home. That wasn’t the whole job, obviously, that wasn’t even one tenth of one Friday night, even in a small town like it was then. Some guys liked pullin’ that detail, liked it way too much and out loud at roll call. Some other guys you could tell hated it, were scared they were gonna run into their daughter or something up there, their wife up there, God forbid. You heard stories. I tried to be real even-keeled about it, like I tried to be about everything, especially early on. You remember when you were real small and the first couple teachers you had, you were pretty sure they were angels? I mean it helps that the girls they get to teach kindergarten and on up is oftentimes young and pretty and they ain’t lost the spark for it yet, but those first few teachers, boy, you thought the sun rose and set at their command, and it wasn’t until you got a real bad teacher, you realized they were all just people, some good, some bad, but even the good ones you’d had were just people, you realized? That’s the kind of cop I wanted to be, the kind from when you first knew what a cop was.

So I didn’t whistle at roll call and I didn’t whistle when we were up there going from car to car, and I didn’t shine my flashlight anyplace I didn’t have cause to, and I didn’t let it linger any longer than absolutely necessary. I’m not just inventin’ things I didn’t do up there, that was pretty much standard for a lot of guys. Kids knew the routine so as soon as you all pulled up they’d start getting themselves together to get outta there, so some guys would either creep up, no lights no sirens, and try to surprise ‘em, or else they would hot-dog in and race outta the car to try to get looks in, have a laugh. Again, this is just what they did.

I was real sure not to do any of that, not to even joke about it in the car on the way up there or the way back, but what I would do, and this is silly, but I always tried to look nice. I mean, I tried to look nice anyway, you wanted to have a certain pride in your appearance as an officer of the law, but this was different, like, get the assignment then take a comb to the squadroom bathroom, wet it, run it through my hair a few times, make sure I didn’t have nothin’ in my teeth.

I want to say…Well, hell, I want to say it wasn’t, and then say a thing that it wasn’t, me doin’ that, because I can’t tell you what it was or why I did it, but the more I think about the reason I thought of that it definitely wasn’t the more I think that’s the thing that it was. And it’s silly. But I think, gosh it’s silly, but I think, and this is not to say I thought I was just going to get to jump in or anything like that, or that that’s even something I wanted, but I think I thought some night, gosh, listen to me…I think I thought some night I was gonna go up there, and I don’t know where my partner is in all of this but for some reason when I think about it it’s just me, and I’m up there, and I don’t sneak in and I don’t come hot-dogging in either, just by the book, so everyone starts takin’ off at their own pace, guys peelin’ out around me, dust flyin’ up, knowin’ I’m really just interested in them getting outta there and I’m not gonna chase ‘em or anything. I see me at that age, in the dark, dust going everywhere and headlights going every which way while everybody hightails it outta there, and my red and blue lights are there too, of course, I had ‘em on like I was supposed to. And there’s one car left and the guy in it, he just jumps out the back window, rolls in the dirt, and starts off down the mountain. I mean, runnin’. And there’s a girl still in there.

I’d kinda have to be in her mind, know what she was like, know that the fella had been giving her no end of trouble, that he was real pushy and mean when it was just him and a defenseless girl but a coward when other men entered into it, know that she wasn’t just… I mean, let’s say we were to do what I think we end up doin', it wouldn’t be something she did all the time, with just anybody. And maybe it isn’t even that we do that. Better that it isn’t. Better we just talk, Evenin’ miss, Evenin’ officer, You alright? That kind of thing. But it ain’t the standard chat, it’s special. It ain’t indecent, but it’s special. No matter what we end up doing or not doing, it ain’t indecent, even if it is. You know what I mean?

Anyway, the whole thing’s ridiculous, and even the parts of it are ridiculous. The guy jumpin’ out of the car. It’s probably his car! His or his fathers or his buddy’s. He ain’t leavin’. And there wasn’t a kid up there who hadn’t been there before, or hadn’t had an older brother or something tell ‘em how it went, so they knew we were just gonna send ‘em on home. The guy just plain chickenshit and the girl happy he’s gone, happy to see me. Not on your life. But I think that’s what it was.

And I never thought about it in no leering kind of way. She always had all her clothes on, whoever she was. I think it was more just that we were alone. Alone and it didn’t seem wrong to either one of us. The car radio’s still playing, kinda quiet. Can’t tell you what it’s playing. All that stuff all sounded like noise to me, even though I was just a little older than most of ‘em. I guess I’ve always been old.

Posted by DC at 03:29 AM | Comments (148)