Posts tagged fiction
Posts tagged fiction
“Mozart is the musical Christ.” - Pytor Ilych Tchaikovsky
The cry of an aged faucet, whistling like a boiled kettle, screaming like a boiling lobster, squealing from the ancient plumbing from behind the plaster, cloaked the world in a hair-raising shriek. Droplets of condensation formed on the cold stainless steel of the aerator as water, rushing past Kelvin’s fingertips, filled a pink balloon growing in his palm—A dangling pink teardrop expanding with explosive drenching-tension. A glint of mischief twinkled in Kelvin’s eye.
I was just around the corner from Kelvin’s building, strutting confidently in my new suit I’d just picked up at the Thrift Shop near my place. Although the sun shone brightly, and was warm when the wind wasn’t blowing, I felt a chill through all three layers of my jacket, shirt and undershirt, biting my fair skin. “Jesus, I thought, why is the wind so cold? It’s coming from the South. It’s supposed to be hot and tropical in the South. This is surely not an ‘equatorial’ wind.” Out of pure functionality, I had fastened all three buttons of my jacket to keep the wind out. I probably looked ridiculous but it was hard to argue with the frigid air blowing through my trousers, directly onto the tender skin of my penis. I watched the eyes of everyone I passed and was sure to say “Hello!” as I approached them in order to draw their gaze upwards: Thankfully, no one seemed to notice the third button.
The tail of the balloon snapped in Kelvin’s fingers as he tied the tiny knot which completed his mischievous little hydro-bomb. He cradled it ceremoniously in his palm like it was God’s holy teenaged breast and smiled a devilish grin. “Now that’s a beautiful Goddamned water balloon!” He started as his door-call buzzed long and abrasively. On his way to the intercom, he, mid-swagger, casually dropped the water balloon into a large basket beside his espresso-brown corduroy sofa. It gently bounced among the dozens of other apple-sized orbs which filled the basket to its rim. He cleared his throat to speak and was about to press the TALK button when, suddenly, he froze. He raised one eyebrow as he turned his beautiful head to look to his big basket of colourful balloons. He sucked his teeth: Devilish Grin.
I was standing before the call-box at the front door of Kelvin’s building. The glass, which he had broken through with his genius head, still had not been replaced, was still boarded up with half-inch plywood and CAUTION tape. I was worried about him. More so than usual, which was worrisome in itself. This was the third time in as many weeks that he’s blacked out drinking and nearly busted open the head which he—and, more importantly, I—cherished so much. The head which contained one of the most gifted and lovely minds of the last one hundred years. I swear it. What a shame to see it wasted on one fifth too many! The wind whistled loudly as it gained strength behind me, rushing thru the streets like traffic. The sun beamed thru a chink in the clouds, its rays warmed me as they gently fell upon me. I caught my reflection in the remaining glass: I was bound by friendship, and by love, to express to him, once again, my concern for his health, and his safety in general. The wind died down. It was eerily silent for one in the afternoon. There was no traffic. I think I would die without him, I thought, when, strangely, I heard a faint whistling, like from a Saturday morning cartoon. It was coming from above me. I looked up and.. everything.. went.. pink.
Nature has this funny way of blessing some of us with fine, handsome good looks and completely ignoring the rest of us. At times positively cruel she is, wantonly cursing the best of us with hideous disfigurements. Kelvin was one of the blessed ones: His face, an upended triangle, a distinguished cleft chin the tip. His hair was naturally wavy. Thick. And a rich auburn colour like the final days of Autumn. And his thin yet masculine nose could not have been a more perfect size and shape for his face. His sharp cheekbones, from poor diet, made him look exotic, imported, which added massive sex appeal. And I thank God everyday that Nature blessed me with enough charm to attract a man like him.
We are most certainly the Lucky Ones.
Though, today, as he stood there smiling smugly at my wet face, as a chlorine-scented drip ran off the tip of my nose and exploded into a dark spot on the brown suede of my shoe, I had an unstoppable desire to swing a right right at that stupid beautiful face on that occasionally moronic head. So swing, I did. But Kelvin, of course, twice the athlete I am, easily side stepped out of the path of my fury. I wound up flailing gimply towards him. “Whoa, buddy!” He said as he grabbed me by the arm and from behind my neck, and gazed deeply into my eyes. “Easy, lover,” he cooed with a coy smile, then kissed me. I kissed back, of course, but for only a second because I soon came to senses: I was still angry. He had just hit me in face with one of his wet bags of childhood joy. I gave him a quick shove away then drove my fist into his muscly shoulder. He saw it coming so he had braced for it, but I still got a knuckle in the there.
“Ouch!” He cried, which left me satisfied, but not much because he was laughing as he said it..
“You hit me in the face!” I bitched, as I pushed him into his living room and over the back of the couch. “I could be a bitch, too,” I thought. “You could have blinded me, fucker!” I shouted.
“You’re right. You’re right. I’m sorry,” he said, as he pulled himself back over the couch trying to hide a tiny smile, but I could see it there! “You’re okay though?”
“Well, I’m not blinded!” I dropped my satchel beside the door, next to the coat stand. He was staring at me, rubbing his shoulder, a grin cracking the side of his mouth. Whenever he knew I was upset with him, his eyes would grow magically, larger and larger, and he could shoot a gaze that would make it impossible—I don’t care who you are—to stay angry with him. This innocent and seductive look I both loved and loathed the same.
“C’mere,” I said, taking a step toward him. He reached out and took me by the small of my back. He pulled us together and we met at the hip with a gentle thud. He kissed me again. This time harder. And this time I kept kissing back.
The majority of Kelvin’s works were nudes. Men. And he painted only from life, so he hired models, but models are expensive, so he hired rent-boys from Downtown instead. Often, while he worked—when he worked—he would play Beethoven, roaring-loud on his surround-sound set-up. He had a bowl of earplugs set out for his ‘models’. Such a sweetheart.
Kelvin adored Beethoven’s music. So much so that it was more of a distraction than a soundtrack. Whether one of the Master’s symphonies, or one of his many sonatas for violin and piano, Kelvin would become moved with such emotion that he would lose himself completely in his head, and, with his brushes, begin madly conducting his invisible orchestra, humming and grunting along, leaping and sashaying about, spastic shaking his head, his arms flailing, adding the colour of the music all over his living room—with very expensive paint.
If I was there, and Kelvin was working, I would sit sunken in the sofa, also enjoying whichever of Beethoven’s whatevers, and looking silly with tissue hanging out of my ears. Sometimes I watched—watched he didn’t fuck his models—and sometimes I was the model. In which case, mixing business and pleasure was mandatory.
Some would look at Kelvin’s life and assume it was full of serenity and meditation: Days of thoughtful reflection and study, afternoons spent lounging in a chaise-longue, smoking his pipe, in salmon-coloured trousers, Johannes Brahms gently sweeping over the sound system: He might take a phone call, maybe write a short story, have a drink. Or he might just put on some of Haydn’s praised chamber music and sink into his chesterfield in a state of happiest melancholy.
Haydn, himself, had a melancholic streak. Probably residual from his hard mid-18th century upbringing, where boys were men and beating the hell out of your kids was called tender, loving care. Some historians have noted that his childhood was miserable. Born into a home where food was scarce and a child was a burden. And once his exceptional musical abilities were recognised, he was sent to train in music with a vicious disciplinarian named Johann Matthias Frankh. Frankh filled young Haydn’s days with rigid and ruthless coaching on the violin and the harpsichord; and in harmony and composition—when he wasn’t completing his daily workload of household chores.
Kelvin’s favourite of Haydn’s concertos, D major (Op. 21), begins first with a sensitive melody in the strings, lightly singing together. They are then joined by the entire orchestra. The melody gets louder. It intensifies. Then an additional delicate violin joins the melody, along with some hollow-sounding woodwinds. A harpsichord joins in, then takes over, taking the theme into the second movement where it is joined again by the singing violins. The power of the theme ebbs and flows until the seething rhythms of the final movement forge the orchestra into a single voice, but retains the elements and character of each lone instrument. By the end, the power settles as delicately as a honeybee on a flower petal.
In Kelvin, you could see the entirety of his being enter into a state of deep inner exultation as the violin sang out its first notes. Even during the angry prestos, in which the piano and violins would crash together on a melody, he would appear as calm and serene as a lake still yet undiscovered by humankind—and in this serene undiscovered land, Kelvin was king. In a world of pure chaos, Kelvin was stone.
But was the incomparable Mozart who really got the gooseflesh raising on Kelvin’s skin: The immensely successful The Magic Flute, in particular—whimsical in every note, majestic in every chord—fascinated Kelvin to the point of obsession: Cloaked in mystery, historic allegory, secretive rituals and symbolism of Freemasonry, of God and Man, each delightful dialogue, each brilliant contrapuntal melody, each gracious minuet, each word in the prose, each phrase in each movement, enthralled him to no end.
Mozart was a man Kelvin idolised and yearned to imitate in both his art and in his life, not unlike Mozart’s ferocious love for Haydn’s talented and undying genius. Haydn was the only person whom Mozart loved more than Mozart.
Personally, I could never get the hang of video games—I haven’t the thumbs for it. It was Kelvin who was fascinated with technology, gizmos, games and graphics. As well-matched as we were, we had a different ideas of what exactly Home Entertainment was all about.
We sunk into the sofa, both of us with our feet on the coffee table, our fingers were clickety-clacking on the X-box controllers. Kelvin had put on some Bach or other and our movements seemed as graceful. Like a dance, gliding and flitting about whilst ninja soldiers were being blown apart or cut in half by our gunfire on the flashing Flatscreen, split in two so that we each had our own separate point of view. We kept ourselves shielded behind some crates of random camouflaged tank parts. There seemed to be a lot of excitement up ahead: We had reached The Boss. He, or It, rather—for I swear I saw breasts—stood seventeen feet tall with rippling, veiny muscles. He had a frightening, fiery-orange mohawk and his eyes and mouth spat crystal-blue fire.
“We have to think fast,” I said without realising.
“Having fun?” I heard Kelvin speak. I used what I knew about persuasive speech engineering and ignored his question completely. There was no time to listen to him relish in anything like gloating over the fact that I seemed to be enjoying myself. We had too much to deal with in the game other than discussing how stupid the game, itself, actually was. We had to devise a new strategy as quickly as possible which would enable us to cause some severe damage without taking much damage ourselves: Kelvin’s life-meter was already less than half due to an ambush we fought thru earlier in the game. And I think I might have shot him a couple of times.
Strategy. Game plan.
I was assigned to picking off the assault-rifle-toting ninjas as they leapt at us, whilst Kelvin concentrated on throwing grenades and shooting rockets at The Boss. And the rockets The Boss was firing. I tried to cover us best I could, and Kelvin was doing incredibly well, but the problem was that the better Kelvin did—the more The Boss’ Life-meter went down—the more frequent the ninja attacks became. When his Life-meter reached the halfway mark, a door burst open on either side the warehouse and from each emerged a six-armed demon with two-foot, ebony horns, screaming like a banshee and throwing endless chainsaws. I couldn’t help noting to myself how corny this situation had become, but still I felt my blood pressure rise. I had better things to do but, at the time, there was nothing more important than the game. The strategy had to change, and fast. Without a single word, we switched to Plan B: Cover your own arse. I sprayed shots from my enormous, futuristic machine gun. Flames burst from my hands like a cannon. I felt sweat form under my arms.
“Oh my God!” I shouted in actual fear—Real excitement.
Kelvin drew his fire from The Boss and focussed on the demon on his side of the screen.
“Come on, bitches!” He shouted as a ninja leapt at him from behind an ammunition crate. Kelvin, himself, leapt up from the sofa at the same time and unloaded several rounds of explosive bullets into the stomach of his would-be attacker, blowing him into several pieces, distorting his view with blood and body parts. I looked to Kelvin and was a little surprised to see that he was sporting a pretty serious erection. I felt what—I’ll admit only now—was jealousy at that box of wires and circuit boards which, in some demented way, made me feel a cuckold.
As the blood and body parts dropped to the ground and Kelvin’s view cleared, a chainsaw came whipping, butt-over-blade straight into what would have been his face. What seemed like litres of blood sprayed all over his side of the screen and his Life-meter was reduced, again, by half.
“Fucker!” He screamed, and dropped his controller on the floor, “I ducked! I totally ducked!”
Instinctively, I paused the game as he scooped up two of his water balloons and pitched one out the balcony doors. “You see that? Damn it! I ducked!” And he whipped the other one. “That should have gone right over me!”
I had learnt not to disagree with him when he was blaming the game. It only made him angrier. So I said, “I know, I know.” There was a second of silence, then we heard the first water balloon hit the ground:
“Jesus,” I said, “Stop getting so angry. Your gonna give yourself an aneurysm.”
“An aneurysm? Ha! An aneurysm wouldn’t dare try me! I’d give him a headache that would split him from his forehead to the back of his miserable ass!”
He sat back down in a huff and took up the dented controller. He leaned back coolly, dropped his heels on the coffee table, sighed, then looked to me. I said: “I love you,” and I laid my hand gently on his thigh.
“Me, too,” he said quickly, “now watch for those fucking chainsaws,” and he winked at me.
“Yes, sir,” I replied like a good soldier and snuggled my butt into my cushion. I put on my best “concentrating” face and said, “Let’s do it!” I felt my face redden as I blushed. I smiled to my lover. And I winked back.
Bullets, flames, sparks, grenades—all whizzing past our heads. The sounds of crushing metal and hydraulic sighs were deafening on the surround sound. Black, poisonous smoke was billowing from numerous tire fires and our blazing guns. (I have to mention here that the graphics in this game were so real that I the smoke was actually making it hard for me to breath.) Grenades, flying chainsaws—We jumped and dove out of their way, unloading rounds into The Boss’ soft spot at any given opportunity. I felt the adrenaline surging into my hands as if straight from the action of the game itself. Juicing me up. Filling me with raw energy as tangible as my lover’s sex.
I could get quite graphic—nay perverted—in describing how magical Kelvin’s fingers were, as he toyed and molested the sweaty controller, sliding about its frame, thumbing its pads and fingering its triggers, pressing four buttons at once and manipulating the joystick—but I’ll leave all that to your imagination. Though, his talents were, indeed, exceptional. With a single jiggle and a click his avatar would crouch, roll, let off some rounds, then pop up and throw a grenade, leaving a bloody mess of tentacles and mechanical body parts strewn behind him, whilst I did my best not to get killed, hiding behind overturned cars and crates, and even Kelvin. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would react if the whole thing were happening for real. Would I stand up and fight? Would I let the love of my life risk his own? Would I actually take a bullet for him? I hope I never need find out.
After a solid hour of virtual-carnage, my steam had run out. “I think it’s time we go outside,” I said, “for some fresh air.”
“Come on, we’re just starting to make some progress,” he pleaded. But his pleading was in vain. For, suddenly, from out of nowhere, a chainsaw flew directly at him, buzzing like an angry wasp, and sunk into his throat. The saw blade was enormous on the screen as it buzzed and vibrated violently thru Kelvin’s neck, leaving his avatar decapitated, with a fountain of blood spraying from his digitally-rendered arterial veins. His half of the screen went bright red, and it stayed bright red, signifying that he was dead: KIA: Killed in action. My poor little soldier.
“Fuck my life!” He cried like a teenager, sending his controller sailing toward the TV, narrowly missing it, ricocheting off the wall just below it, and bouncing straight back toward him. It hit him smack dab in centre of the kneecap. It made a sound like tock, or dock, or lock, or clock, or.. you know.
Kelvin made a sound like “Ahh-unghpff-kkk-FAHK!”
He stomped across the room like a big baby taking his first steps and gripped the console firmly with both hands, squeezing and twisting it as if trying to tear it in half. It made a few gruesome cracking sounds and spat thin shards of bone-white plastic from his splitting seams, raining down at his feet. Then, with a fatal yank, he tore the plug from the wall. The television went *Pop!* and its screen turned bright sky-blue so that it matched with the view out the balcony doors. Jules marched toward the balcony, clutching the lifeless console which had caused him so much grief. As he stepped out the doors, he raised it above his head so that it hung between his white bulging biceps, and heaved it through the door. The gray and white console flew over the railing and into the blue sky, soaring like gull, its black wires whipping behind it, and then dropped out of sight.
“God that feels fucking good!” He shouted triumphantly as he swaggered toward me like a cowboy who had just wrassled down a calf. The bulge of his maleness looked bigger. Throbbing. It looked as if it had grown larger. As if it had absorbed the energy from the now destroyed X-box like Highlander. Embarrassed by his reaction I dropped my head and pressed my fingers to my forehead to cover my face, then:
I live with my big brother, John. I love John so. Such a loyal brother is John. But my big brother, John, though not lazy a man, has never, himself, been much of a bread winner. A paycheque to John is like sobriety to Courtney Love: Ever elusive.
Don’t get me wrong, John is highly intelligent—a clever sort—but he just can’t seem to hold down a job. Which leaves me the responsibility of keeping our flat amply stocked with supplies: Food, drink, soap, light bulbs, glass cleaner, cigarettes, coffee, toilet paper, chewing gum, balloons, hand/arm lotion, reading material: Things that men generally need. I can’t say it doesn’t bother me that these days I’m footing the bill for John’s sustenance while he swings from employment to termination like a purgative, peripatetic pendulum. But it’s impossible be angry with him. Like I said, he’s not lazy. He does, indeed, try. Only—and this I say with the utmost sensitivity—it’s been nearly a year since he lost his last job, and he hasn’t got much in view on the horizon of his career.
Career. His previous position, from which he was quite swiftly ejected, was in the Shipping/Receiving department of the A.G. & Phelps Marbles factory. He packed the orders. He was a Packer of Orders. My humble brother, John, at the A.G. & Phelps Marbles factory, was what is known as, a “Packer”. Not an entirely clever title in the least. Nor is it a very dignified titled. It inspires thoughts of all the parts of the human body we all try so hard to ignore. Unfortunately, he was subject to immediate termination. All because he couldn’t keep his humble hands off the boss’s balls. (Yes, his marbles. And, yes, charges were laid: Phelps takes his game real serious.) Hopefully, at his next job, he can keep his mind on his work, and his hands to himself.
Before the marble factory, John worked hard spreading peanut butter on white, vitamin-enriched toast at a snobby country club for Vancouver’s most white and enriched assholes. My brother John, though, he had to quit because, as it turns out, he’s deathly allergic. Not to peanut butter. To assholes.
Harvey Bernstein was returning home from his Reluctant Writer’s workshop, staring at a rainbow and daydreaming he was in Sunny Florida!, in the sand and in the heat, sipping at a pina colada, ocean spray cooling his hot tan skin, when he perchance met a beautiful, black-haired woman whom he instantly felt was the woman he had always been waiting for: his Soulmate. They had been walking directly toward each other one fair afternoon, marching along the pavement, each lost in the pages of a novel, when they both looked up from their books just in time to avoid crashing into the other. Their eyes met deeply and Bernstein was enamoured instantly by her green eyes and sultry dark complexion. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the love-struckt Bernstein, this particular woman was none other than the Devil incarnate.
Bernstein, who up to this point had dated less women than he has fingers on one hand, courted the Devil like a perfect gentleman: Always getting the door, and only cursing when absolutely necessary. And the two soon fell in love. He moved into Her lair at Her request and, by all appearances, seemed to be perfectly compatible roommates: She detested doing laundry, he found it relaxing; he hated washing the dishes, She was meticulous about it. It seemed to Bernstein that everything was going his way. Things seemed to be going, as Bernstein remarked, “As if God has finally answered my prayers and sent me one of His angels to save me from my perpetual loneliness!”
His first suspicions that something was amiss arose upon the windswept couple’s first visit to the beach that Summer. They were walking arm-in-arm, barefoot, when Bernstein noted that his feet were pleasantly warm in the sand. His Earthly Angel swiftly answered him with a kiss on the cheek and he felt like nothing could be better. Bernstein felt as though he had died and gone to a Heaven strictly for him and other Lucky-bastards. In a romantic flight, Bernstein looked back to take a glance at the footprints he and his Love were leaving side-by-side in the sand. A tender peek at what signified a new path towards a truly charmed life. And it was at that moment that he saw this unsettling sight: The tracks being left side-by-next to his, those ones belonging to his new and precious Love, were not the tiny, diminutive footprints of a lady which he had expected to see. And he could not, rightly, deny his own eyes. What he saw were not footprints at all. They were, quite unmistakably, hoofprints.
Bernstein chose to ignore this first occurrence to keep from “rocking the boat” and risk ruining his seemingly perfect relationship with a beauty unlike any he had ever seen before in person, with a heart bigger than anyone in the whole of the Underworld. But the second occurrence was harder to ignore: One evening, as Bernstein sat content in his straight-back chair at the supper table, across from his Sweet and Benevolent Love, something happened which would change his life - and his afterlife – forever. One evening, Bernstein had prepared for supper his signature Lemon Pepper Chicken but was a bit heavy-handed on the pepper. The spice tickled the Devil’s nose which made Her sneeze an adorable ladylike sneeze—Ladylike except for one thing: as She sneezed, a small wisp of flame leapt from Her lips and singed Bernstein’s eyebrows. He had always had a bit of a unibrow until then, but ever since he’s been a duo. A change he fashioned quite well and took as a blessing in disguise.
Fire Breathing was a hint he couldn’t ignore and Bernstein accepted that his True and Tender Love was in fact a Demon from a world much lower than his. And he worked in the Mailroom at The Sun. But the fear of being old and alone outweighed the risks involved in wedding this Lady of the Damned. And after She had given him the lowdown of what exactly was involved in ruling Hell, Bernstein realized that the whole arrangement would actually be a tremendous boost for him professionally. And so a few years passed by in which Bernstein had time to reflect and think upon the gravity of his relationship: Here he was, in a serious marital affair, with none other than Satan Herself, and the situation had grown worse than ever: Not only were their assets now tied up together, but Bernstein had grown accustomed to the perks that come with a marriage cast in Hellfire: There’s the ruling of Hell beside his Sexpot Queen of Darkness; the army of minions at his every command; the Eternal Life (if he even wanted it); and he was in no shortage of hot weather. As it turned out, Bernstein made quite the little devil himself. Although wallowing in Evil and Gluttonous Misanthropy may have been something Bernstein had shown a natural talent for, he knew deep down inside his human heart that Evil just wasn’t in his blood. And that is what is so important: That it be in one’s blood. Guilt built up inside of him until, one day, Bernstein was reborn and decided once and for all that he could no longer live with himself if he continued with his lustful and demonic marital affair. And so one night he decided to break the news to Satan. Gently. Bernstein stood diminutively at the bedroom door as Satan was applying her make-up. He cleared his throat and spoke wimpily: “Ahem.. S-Satan?”
“Oh, there you are, Darling! Please, could you draw the curtains? I’m having a real Hell of a time rouging in these shadows. I don’t want to put too much and end up looking like a bloody clown. No one respects a clown. At least no one down here. And they bloody well better not!” Bernstein started as She slammed Her open hand on her vanity. Her skin was veiny and reptilian, looked cold to touch, and Her claws were long and green and sharp. She turned to Bernstein with fire in Her eyes.
“H-honey!” He cried in panic, trying to remain calm. “No one respects the clowns. Relax.”
“They’re not up to any of their little tricks are they? Water Squirting Flowers, or cramming themselves into tiny cars?”
“N-no. They’re all having their make-up burned off, and then their skin burned off, and, after that, you know, they’re sent to Art School to learn real comedy.” Bernstein was worried. He could tell the Devil was in a foul mood. He had to be extra-sensitive in his delivery. A virtue in which, poor Bernstein, very much to his detriment, was lacking tremendously. He continued: “Honey. Listen. This whole thing here, the two of us, it’s, uh, well, to be honest, it’s just not workin’ out for me anymore.” The Devil looked down to the floor for a brief moment, which felt, to the mortal Bernstein, like an eternity, then calmly straightened Her posture, leaning slightly back, and looked coldly down her nose at the mortal Bernstein.
“It’s not working out for you anymore?” She asked plainly.
“No. I think we should, ahem, separate. I think we should get a Divorce.”
“I mean, it’s not that I don’t like it down here. I mean, I’ve been to Hell, I’ve been to Earth, and anyone who thinks Earth is better is out of their mind. But listen. What I’m trying to say is: I’ve grown tired of the Evil. I’m sick of all the torture, the boiling of sinners, the screaming at night. You know I’m a light sleeper. And I can’t wear earplugs. I swear my auricle canals are abnormally small.” He watched Her hand trembling lightly on her vanity.
“Mhmm. And when did all this come about?”
“Wow.” Bernstein thought. “She seems to be taking this well.” He could see she was angry but he thought maybe, just maybe, she was going to be civil about the whole business. “I mean, She’s still got her looks. She’s accomplished. So why should She care so much? I’m the one losing out in the whole deal.” The Devil was staring at him coolly, tapping Her unhuman claws on Her vanity. Bernstein made it plain. “Look, Honey, you’re a great kid. We just want different things. You know? I thought I was ready for all this but, as it turns out, I’m just.. I’m just too much an Earthling, with an empathetic, compassionate, human heart. I’m not made for all this Evil. I-I really should go back to Earth. I don’t want anything. You can keep it all. I’ll just take what I had when I came. And—” Bernstein had never seen the Devil’s face more red. His palms grew clammy and he felt a little more than nervous, and he nearly had a bowel movement in fright when She shouted.
“You son of a bitch!” She slammed a fist down on her vanity, careful not to break a claw. Bernstein jumped.
“Shut! up, you ungrateful mother-fucker! You think we should separate? You son of a bitch! I’ll separate you!” She leapt to Her feet and swung at Bernstein. Her claw flashing past Bernstein’s face.
“Jesus! Honey! Careful with those things!”
“Minions! Minions!” She shouted, reaching Her evil fist in the air, with flames licking out of Her mouth, and smoke coming out of Her ears. Fear rushed through Bernstein’s veins. Suddenly a dozen winged demons burst through every door, window and wall. Bernstein was surrounded by bulging muscles, razor sharp claws, and translucent, fleshy wings. “Seize him!” She shouted, and the demons descended upon poor Bernstein. “Drag him down to the Hell where they do you-know-what to his you-know-what!”
“What?! Honey, please!” Bernstein pleaded. To which the Devil let out a diabolical laugh.
“It ain’t your honey anymore, mortal! Ahahahahaha! Take him away this instant!” They began to drag Bernstein away when he threw up his hands and shouted.
“Wait! Guys! We’re still married! I’m still Her husband! We haven’t had a divorce! I still Rule down here! In fact, if I remember Hell’s Constitution correctly, I Rule superior because I’m her husband! Because I’m the male!” The Demons all stopped dragging Bernstein away, their interests now piqued.
“Why, that’s absolutely ridiculous!” Satan shouted.
“Hey. They’re your rules, baby.” Bernstein nudged and winked at the minion who seemed like the leader of the pack and said: “What do you say? Bros before hoes? I promise to let all you guys have free reign over the next batch of Lawyers we get sent down here. Huh? Huh?” The demons all looked to each other and shrugged.
“Wait just a minute here!” Satan demanded. “What in the Hell? You aren’t actually listening to him are you? To this drivel?! I’m the Devil! I’m Satan! Who in the Hell do you think rules down here?!” The Demon who seemed like the leader said:
“Well.. you do. But if them’s the rules, then them’s the rules. And he said it, they’re your rules. And you haven’t exactly been.. you know.. you’re not exactly a nice person.”
“Of course I haven’t been a nice person, you fool! I’m the Devil, for Christ’s sake!”
The “Leader” looked to the other Demons who each responded by closing their eyes, pursing their lips, and shrugging their shoulders. He then looked to Bernstein who looked tenderly to Satan, his wife. A look of guilt washed over Bernstein’s face for nearly a second, then he turned back to the leader of the pack, shrugged his shoulders, and pursed his lips. “Take her away.” Bernstein’s minions turned on Satan, descended upon her, beat her mercilessly, thrashed and gnashed her, leaving her bloodied and shackled on the bedroom floor.
“Now what do you want us to do to with her?” Asked the Leader obediently.
“Well, what else do you do to Devil, the Queen of All Suffering and the Mother of All Sin, who is guilty of committing unmentionable atrocities upon literally countless human souls, when you finally have her subject to her own evil devices?” She lifted her head and shot a feeble, pleading look to her husband. He continued: “Send her to have you-know-what done to her you-know-what.”
“No! No! Harvey! Please! Anything but that!” She fought hard against her mutinous minions as they dragged her away.
“And lashings. Plenty of lashings.” Bernstein added. “And, um.. O, what am I saying? You guys know what you’re doing! As a matter of fact, know what? You guys can have the whole damned thing. I’m going home. The whole Hell and.. The whole thing. G’head. It’s yours. G’head.”
“Thank you, sir!” Praised the “Leader”.
“That is most generous of you!”
“Okay. Okay. Forget about it.” Bernstein threw up his humble hands. ”Don’t make a big thing about it. And enough with the ‘sir’ stuff. Call me Harvey, will ya? Eh!”
Then Bernstein gave a big double thumbs-up and everyone erupted into joyous laughter and brotherly bellows of fraternal acclamation and cheer.
Everyone but Satan, that is. (Ouch!)
The afternoon Sun drenched the brick of centuries in gold. It streamed down windows and soaked the Piazza della Rotonda in a flood of gilded water. The Pantheon shone majestically, reflecting the sunlight, it beamed in every direction and splashed through every ancient street, like the fires of the looting of 1527. The city, still today, was burning. Sun washed over the cobblestone and over the pavement, over the tourists, and over two particular women whom, although dear and close friends, could not be more unalike.
The coolness of Autumn had come early in the season, bringing with it a slight chill in the August wind. Miranda, whose shoulders were left exposed in her new Chanel, wore her fur coat pulled casually over her shoulders and noticed that Anna was again dressed all in black and wearing her black, worn-to-death combat boots. Her dirty-blond hair, tied back in a lazy ponytail, was dry and damaged from over-washing, for, although Anna looked like an unbathed and beastly artist, she actually led an obsessive life of ritualistic grooming and washing up.
Miranda took up the spear from her martini and let the gin drip from her olive. She looked to Anna through her large yet unexaggerated, black-rimmed sunglasses, which she wore because she loved facing West into the Sun.—Or was it the other way around? She had commented more than once that she felt Anna resembled a type of genderless German Post-modernist from before the wall came down. She took a bite of her olive and continued while chewing: “Really, I mean, you know what I going to say, just look at yourself: You look like a Genderless—”
“A Genderless German Post-modernist from before the wall came down. Yes. Thank you again, Mimi,” Anna stuck her tongue into her cheek and bit down until she felt a tiny pain, “and tell me, in what other ways have I failed you? How else am I coming up short in my life?”
Miranda put down her martini, but kept the olive-spear. “O, please, don’t be so melodramatic, darling. Don’t start with the Tortured Artist defences. We’re too ‘grown-up’ for that, don’t you think?” She took a nibble of her olive and dipped it in her martini. Anna didn’t answer her, the question blatantly rhetorical. Miranda shook off the excess gin and tapped the spear on the rim of the glass. The dinging made the air between them more awkward. Anna’s patience dropped as her irritability rose; There was nothing that infuriated her more about Miranda than her childish passive-aggressiveness.
Miranda continued, having taken no notice of Anna. “All I’m saying is, darling, it wouldn’t kill you to have a little fun and spend a little money on some clothes once in a while. Something with a little colour.”
“O? And who does it kill?” Anna picked up her glass and used it to motion towards Miranda’s coat. “Do you know how many chinchillas or whatever-that-is, died for that coat?”
Miranda responded calmly: “Darling, a chinchilla is a rodent. I hate them. I’m terrified of them. If one came scuttling up to you on the street you’d faint of terror! They’re disgusting!” Her face brightened as she grabbed a handful of fur and snuggled it into her neck like it was an adorable pet. “But their fur is so, so soft.”
Anna continued where she had left off, unimpressed by Miranda’s dramatised callousness, and lacking in any real conviction: “Thousands of animals are killed by humans every—”
“Do you know how many people are killed by Deers every year, Anna? Do you? Hundreds of thousands in America alone, darling! They’re trained killers!”
Anna stared off across the piazza, through the crowds of tourists, and toward the Pantheon. She sipped her wine, still unimpressed by Miranda, who was normally much more proficient at holding her gin. To keep the conversation from turning sour, she thought it wise she might change the subject to something more neutral. A word she loved to use: Neutral. She used it often when describing her painting. It meant balanced; even. She decided to ask Miranda about the Magazine, of which she was the editor.
“Mimi, how are things—”
“O! how did we get on to this morose subject? All I wanted to say was it wouldn’t hurt for you to put on a dress once in a while; Something with a bit of colour. You’re an artist for God’s sake; You’re supposed to appreciate colour, darling. Beauty and C—!” She was interrupted by a piece of olive that had caught itself in her throat. She coughed to no avail, then snatched up her martini like a pint of mead. A mouthful of gin leapt onto the furry sleeve of her coat. “Shit,” she said, breathlessly thru her choking. She downed what remained of her martini in one swallow, washing away the choking hazard, and continued as if nothing had happened. “Colour! Colour is the essence of the artist, darling. An artist sees shapes with her eyes, but Colour.. Colour she sees with her heart.”
Anna replied that she immersed herself in the beauties of Colour thru her art and, so, she would leave the tarting up to the tarts. “I’m not a model, Mimi,” she said. “I paint models.”
“But, of course, you’re a model, darling! Just look around you. This entire city is a catwalk. Look at these people walking past. Not a single one is even looking up at the Pantheon. The Pantheon, for Christ’s sake. Right there at the top, in massive letters, it reads: Marcus Agrippa, Lucii filius, consul tertium fecit. Ask anyone if they recognise those words. I’ll wager not a single one. Say fecit to anybody around here and they’ll think you said you’d just had a poo! No one cares. People don’t come to Rome for these elderly, crumbling buildings, they come here for the Versace. They come here for the Dolce & Gabbana, the Missoni, La Perla. The Past is history, Fashion is the future.”
“And the future of what, Mimi? What could the future possibly hold for us in the name of Vainglorious Gluttony?”
“O, darling,” Miranda replied, almost sympathetically, “I meant that Fashion is indicative of the future.”
“In that case we should all be wearing nuclear fallout suits. We could call it: Radioactive Chic.”
“Cynicism. That’s all that is. Fear-driven Cynicism. We fear what we don’t understand and you try to mask it in cynicism. It spills over into your whole life—”
“I do not ‘fear’ life, Miranda.”
“But of course you do, darling! Why else would you pack up an entire life in London and move..” with her empty martini glass, and an air of contempt, she motioned to the ancient city which surrounded them and continued, “..here? It’s quite plainly obvious, darling, that once your life began to get, um, how shall I put this? ‘complicated’, you quite simply jumped on a plane and..”
“You’re not suggesting that I’m running from my problems?”
“..came to Rome.”
“Miranda, I may make the worst possible decision in any given situation concerning my life, but I am not running from my—.”
“But why Rome, darling?” Miranda interrupted, and was then, herself, interrupted by another bruised martini landing in front of her. “O! Mille grazie, bello!” She thanked the handsome Roman waiter. He smiled at both women, said nothing, and turned around to serve the table next to them. Miranda, in her lubricated state, stared directly at his behind. “I love how all these Roman boys wear women’s jeans,” she said too loud. “I don’t know who thought of it, but thank heavens for them!” The women raised their glasses and laughed. Miranda swallowed a healthy mouthful of her martini. “O! I mean, sure, the shopping here is fantastic, not that you care, I know. And, sure, the buildings are old and ‘antique-y’, but, darling, the only city in this country filthier than this one is Venice, with their intricate rivers of garbage, and, to be quite frank, the Tiber isn’t far behind.”
“Rome is home to the most beautiful art in human history. Why wouldn’t I want to live here?”
“I think for the Art World you are looking for,” Miranda began with smile, “you should have moved to Berlin, darling! Haha!”
This time Anna didn’t join in the laugh so much as she sucked her teeth and cast an ironic smile at Miranda. “I love you, Mimi,” she said.
“O, I love, too, Annie,” Miranda put her elbow on the table and leaned towards Anna, gazing thru crossed-eyes. “So very much so.”
“Ha!” Anna laughed to herself. “You are truly Alta Moda, my dear.” She emptied her glass and quickly refilled it.
Miranda, paying no mind to her friend, took a lazy look around her, “this dreadful place. People everywhere. Tourists all of them. Ha! And so overpriced even I have something to say about it. How much was your wine, for example?”
“For this? 50.”
“50 Euros? For lunch, darling? Ha! You are class gone mad.”
“It’s the cheapest bottle they had.”
“Jesus. I loathe to think what this martini cost.” Miranda snatched up the menu card and examined it closely. Anna watched a small, elderly woman, cradling a loaf of bread like a rugby ball, walking thru the piazza with painful, yet determined steps. She kicked a pigeon which had tried to cross her path, scowling and hissed at it like a devil.
“How lovely,” Anna thought, and she pulled a Diana from the pack on the table.
Miranda continued: “Can you believe a cappuccino is 9 Euros? 9 Euros for hot milk! If you think the fashion industry is bullshit, darling, you should take a look at the coffee business.”
The Sun washed over the Piazza della Rotonda. Its light beamed thru the café, over Anna’s shoulder, and straight into Miranda’s martini. It split into smaller beams and shone on the spaghetti con calamaretti of the tourists at the table behind the two friends.
Well, now, this is an absolutely remarkable tin I am in! Brilliant, to say the least. Magnificent in its every way, flawless in its each detail—This would have taken thousands of man hours to invent! Let alone to build. Sciences within sciences, mind-boggling wizardry, masterful engineering, formulae beyond any rational perception of my understanding. A beautiful piece of craftsmanship, I must say. Though, unfortunately, I have not the intelligence to explain exactly what everything does, nor what anything even is, for that matter, but one thing I do know for certain: There is no way out.
I seem to be strapped to my chair in a way that I may sit or lay down in the chair, or I may look about, but I may not leave the chair, and for some reason I am thankful for this. It may be difficult to imagine but I feel as though I am constantly falling. As though some invisible force is trying to gently pull me out of my chair. Like the feeling one experiences when looking over a cliff’s edge, how gravity seems to be pulling you to the bottom-most point of your field of vision, like water to its path of least resistance.
Outside everything seems so serene. Thru those transparent panels all is calm, all seems still and silent. But in here I feel like, had I not been strapped in, I may be tossed all about the room like a toy. The trip up here was especially bumpy. Frightening, to say the least. The diamonds in the sky, which used to come to life for only a short time each night, are now twinkling all of the time. And they are just breathtaking.
Also, inside are plenty of colourful lights blinking and flashing rhythmically, and odd sounds, completely new to my ears, humming and sighing, and whooshing quietly. It really is quite relaxing.
My one serious grievance with whatever-is-going-on-here is that it seems the men and women who put me in here have forgotten to leave me any food or water. Obviously, I cannot tell you how long it has been since I last ate, or drank something, but I can tell you that, just before I began this story, I had been dreaming of a big bowl of whatever-it-was they had been feeding me. And it was absolutely delicious! Such a vivid dream it was, I felt I could actually taste the food. And it seemed that no matter how much I ate, there was more and more and more. But then I woke up. And this is when I noticed something strange. The dream was so vivid that I guess it had caused me to salivate quite heavily in my sleep, and when I awoke, it is no surprise, I proceeded to drool fiercely. But today, and this is the strange part, the drool did something quite different. Instead of running down my face and into a long stream to the floor, it leapt in all directions from my maw, and as I lapped and chomped at it, it broke apart into thousands of tiny droplets, and floated away into a fine mist. It mostly went behind me, so what has become of it, I cannot say.
There is another thing which I have found quite interesting, if not unnerving. Before she left, one of the white coated people who had found me, given me shelter, and had been feeding me, pointed to a big, red, glowing rectangle which was labelled “O2”. She spoke directly to me as she pointed, likely explaining something of tremendous importance but, stupid me, I can only understand a handful of commands and salutations, so I have no idea what she was saying. And before she closed and locked the door, she stopped and gazed at me with a serious, pensive look. Melancholy, even. Almost sad. And I am more worried still because the big, red, glowing rectangle she had pointed to has been gradually shrinking. First, it had shrunk to a square, and then to a rectangle again, only much smaller than the first one, and then a smaller rectangle still, and it continued to shrink until it was but a tiny, red, hair glowing beneath the cold “O2”. Now it seems to have disappeared altogether and is yelping incessantly. I wish I had understood what it was the woman in white had said. I am worried there is something she had wanted me to do. That’s probably why she seemed sad. She knew I’d forget. Well, what did she expect? I haven’t a mind like hers.
This whole experience has been so confusing. So very confusing indeed. And stranger still: I am beginning to feel a touch light-headed, a bit dizzy and short-of-breath. Perhaps I might lay down for a spell, for a moment of shut-eye.
Dream about more of that food.
This is a story about a wee Jewish lamb who belonged to a hardworking Protestant family in the quiet and green land of Ireland.
Lamb, one summer afternoon, was standing upon a green and grassy knoll, in the shade, beneath the tree he was tied to. Lamb, who was, upon that particular day, entering into his Thirteenth year was looking down at the bustling farmhouse at the foot of the knoll. They are preparing for a party! He could see them through the kitchen window preparing for a feast. Could they be preparing for his Bar Mitzvah?! “And I’m not even a part o’ the fambly,” he said. “Hell, I’m not even human! Such trouble they must be going to, and all for a simple Jewish lamb. Surely these are a truly selfless people. For not only have they reared and loved me as their own, but they have also remembered and honoured my Faith. And they aren’t even Jews themselves! Such selfless people. A truly giving fambly. Myself, I haven’t contributed a single thing to this farm. Being only a little lamb, there isn’t really much I can do: I hop about and kick up dust, I cry out to the children and seem to make them laugh. Oh! and I keep the grass short short short! How dearly I wish I could repay these saintly beings, this family truly made in God’s own image. Oh! What’s this? Why, here they come now. Ma and Pa, and Son and Daughter. I bet they’re coming to bring me into the party. The food must be ready. Thank goodness I’ve been practising the Torah.”
“Greetings, Lamb,” said Pa, a cold look on his face, “I’m afraid it’s time.”
“Terribly sorry, Lamb,” added Ma, “but it’s Christmas. You understand?”
“Understand?” thought Lamb. “O, of course! They feel bad that we’re only going to celebrate Christmas and not Hannukah. They are too kind. Too, too kind indeed.”
“Y’ been a good sport, Lamb,” said Pa, kneeling to thick green grass, “a real joy around the farm. Almost a shame to see you go, it is.”
“Go?” thought Lamb. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Oh, do we ‘ave to, Pa?!” Daughter cried out. “He’s so much fun!”
To which Ma replied: “And then what do you suppose we eat for our Christmas Roast this eve, Daughter?
“Wh-what?!” Lamb shouted in his head
“And ain’t it always the ways, eh, Ma?” Pa said. “It’s near as hard to skin a cat alive as it is to get these chilluns to eat their root vegetables. What else do you chilluns expeck to eat instead of wee Lamb here?”
“But Pa!” shouted Son
“But nothin’! Back inna the house wit you if you cannot a-keep yr whistle wound. I don’t want no yelpin’ while I’m bringin’ the knife down on the fella.”
“The knife! But.. but.. my good Christians! You.. you want to eat me?”
“But.. but.. but of course, Lamb!” Pa answered, standing up and breaking out into bellowing laughter. He added: “Why in God’s name do you think we’ve taken such good care of you all these years?!”
“Why do you think we kept you fed as for two? Cos we’re so kind?!” He wheezed in a laughed, slapping his thigh. “You think we’re made o’ gold?!”
“I thought you.. loved me.”
Pa bent over and took Lamb gently by the chin and eyed him with a scrutinizing eye. “Yr a plump feller by now, ain’t ya?”
Daughter cried: “Pa! Please cain’t we keep ‘im?”
“Ma, take the young’ns indoors.. They’re abowt to make me turn the knife on their necks!” Pa said, with a devilish grin.
Ma gathered the children. “Come, my sweets. Let us leave Pa. Let us go and prepare the spices.” She led the whimpering children down the grassy knoll to the farmhouse. They protested and once turned to look back at Pa who mischievously held up his knife to catch the sun, and flash an eerie glint of light into his children’s eyes.
“A-ha-ha-ha! I’m only a-jestin’ ya, chilluns. Buck up, eh! Ha-ha-ha!”
And when the children had finally made their way inside the house, Pa picked up Lamb by the back of his neck and slammed him on the black-blood stained Killing Stump.
“Agh. Fool children. Don’t yet understand the workin’s of God’s plan. Don’t you agree, Lamb?”
“Agree? Of course not! I don’t agree at all! Oh, how foolish I am! How kind I believed you to be! And how I mistook you’re industrious feedings and care as familial love!” He let out a sigh and a tear.
“Well, I know the chilluns had grown to feel as you’re a part of the fambly, so it does hurt them in a way. But it’s God’s way. You do understand, Lamb?
Lamb stared at the knife with his blue-gray eyes. “Please don’t kill me, Pa.”
“Goodbye, Lamb.” Pa slid the knife across Lamb’s throat. Within an instant all of his blood made a rush for his severed veins. Crimson splashed over the blackened Killing Stump and ran down its black bark into the green, green grass of Erin.
A fact which has baffled me for quite some time is how Vancouver’s public transit system continues to win awards and gain recognition for its efficiency and superior design when, in fact, the entire system is like an alternate dimension where everyone both smells terrible and has an extra-keen sense of smell. Busses always crammed to capacity, you enter the system, and you immediately experience everyone else’s mood. Like Purgatory: Not quite Hell, on the way to Hell: Grumpy trains and cranky buses. Each stop is a hot spot, each station is a ghetto.
And if you think riding the bus is bad, you should try driving one.
Yes. That is correct. I am a Bus Driver. I know the title doesn’t sound as exciting as Sky Diver or Storm Chaser but believe me, it’s just as risky: What with the Tough-guys, the Crazies, the Terrible-drivers, the Teenagers, the Angry-moms with the Angry-babies and in their stupid strollers. My life is literally on the line every shift. Every time I step onto that Godforsaken Bus. And I have to sit in the most dangerous seat.
However, it is a union job, with benefits, so it affords me the luxury of living right Downtown, in Yaletown to be specific. I have a beautiful two-bedroom loft with walnut flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows, modern appliances out the wazoo, and it’s southwest facing for gorgeous sunsets on the balcony. We usually stay out there until the sunset becomes a crimson red—the colour of blood—when it matches our wine.
Yes, altogether, I suppose I’m quite a lucky guy.
Now, with all of these attributes: the secure employment, the great salary, the elegant piece of prime real estate; Also, I’m well-read, cultured, and I have been graced with both height and a handsome visage: A square jaw, a strong nose, charming eyes and healthy, manageable hair: I am sure you would be hard pressed to believe that I had an absolutely hell of a time finding a mate. You see, I am what is commonly referred to in folklore as a Werewolf. And the problem is, as you would have probably guessed, there aren’t exactly packs of my kind running around Vancouver in heat. In fact, the only ones I had known of, other than myself, were my parents. And I wasn’t about to pull an Oedipus Rex.
Life was rough back then. You see, it is impossible that I ever get along with a woman. Though interspecies relationships are not unheard of, at the very least the whole Immortality issue could be a thing: Think of how many human wives a Werewolf would go through in his lifetime. He would overtake Mickey Rooney with ease.
I must admit I have dated the fairer species. Sometimes I even thought it could work: There were some passionate times, and glorious, magical love affairs but, of course, for a few days each month, things would get complicated. O those mysterious days which have baffled mortals for centuries. The cursed conundrum!—Running on a cycle which you can see from miles away, that you know is coming directly for you, hurtling at you like an iron wrench, but you are unable to move to avoid it. You follow me, don’t you?: A day or two before and after a Full Moon, like all Lycanthropes, I become quite a handful: I become cranky, irritable, aggressive, I develop an insatiable appetite, sexual frustration, nausea, and not to mention the bloating! Much like a woman on her period. But less irrational. Anyone who knows so will tell you: There is a tremendous difference between an actual Wowolf transforming into a giant flesh-eating beast by the power of the Moon, and a human woman suffering from a menstrual clinical psycho-lycanthropy.
No. It would never have worked with a woman. So, I am lucky beyond all rational thinking that I ever found Cinead. She was, and still is of course, a beautiful and scholarly Wo-wolf. Her family hails from Ireland, descendents of Broccan the 12th century Lycaeon King, 1135-1583. Something of a rebel, Broccan had feuded with Dracula for centuries. So, not only is Cinead smart, beautiful, and a bit of a firecracker, but she comes from money. Old money.
So, you see the problems I have faced in the Love department. And I can’t place the blame anywhere but on myself. Myself and what is naturally inside of me. My blood. This curse called Lycanthropy.
I am positive that you already have a general understanding of my kind and of our relationship to the Moon, so I’ll save you the biology lesson, but rest assured, it is real. My monthly cyclical “outbursts” are simply not compatible with women. Especially if it coincides with her menstrual cycle. Then all pure shit hits the fan—only it smells like cheap potpourri. No. Werewolves and women do not mix well.
But now everything is virtually picture perfect—A Werewolf needs his Wowolf, and vice versa. Why fight nature? At least we can relate to each other on the same level: We can be human form at the same time, and we can metamorph into night prowling, bloodthirsty carnivores at the same time. God wouldn’t have it any other way—It’s one of the first Commandments: Don’t play with your food.