Empties

13Jul11

Recently liberated from the Save-Easy two streets over, the shopping cart has been put to a nobler calling, rolling true on new casters, freed from a life of produce and foodstuff serfdom. A redemption, if you will. Breathing deeply in the damp morning air, the cart’s saviour feels pride in his newly aquired assistant, exploring the shiny new plastic of its handle with his calloused hands while the streetlights flicker and die across the exurb. Early still and, already, the fog is no friend as the million pin pricks of a fresh sweat make their presence felt along the backs of his legs and the small of his back, adding something of desperation to his already jagged gait. Desperate in the knowledge that this will be the best part of a long day ahead, the man always tries to make the most of it.

Eyes dart back and forth down the street as he makes his way house by house. The residents of the sleepy little street are rousing themselves, taking their weekly bags of garbage to the curb before retreating inside again to steel themselves against the bleakness of coming day with coffee and microwavia. They know it’s out there, waiting. Spreadsheets and email. Headaches. Lower back pain. Higher blood pressure.

The good things in life.

Most of them ignore the man with the cart, avoiding his eyes as they would a swarm of angry bees. They spin around from the street, ducking and fairly running back towards their hovels of vinyl and MDF.

“Got any empties?”

Nothing.

“Sir, any empties?”

Fleeting eye contact, then a shrug.

“Bottles? Got any empties?”

This one shakes his head, then raises his eyebrows in a show of what he must think of as sympathy.

“What?”

“Oh, uh, sorry,” he stammers, “I mean I, uh, don’t have any bottles.”

“Really. None at all?”

“Yeah, uh, I mean, uh, no. I don’t have any. Sorry.”

“Do you think you’re better than me?”

Caught offguard and still half awake, the sympathetic man is inching towards his house, half turned towards the man with the cart who stands eying him up and down, grinning.

“I’m just kiddin. I only been pickin for a week, ya know. Yeh, that’s the truth alright. Worked at a fast food joint before that, and before that I was a salesman — used cars, but then one day everyone stopped buyin them.”

“Huh, well that’s the way things are going lately.”

“I mean, look at me, do I look like a bottle picker?”

The man in the housecoat wants desperately to get away to his coffee and wife, but he takes a hard look at the man leaning against the shiny shopping cart. A misshapen Moosehead Pale Ale ballcap stained to something beyond offwhite sits perched on the top of the man’s head, his face a patchwork of stubble and dirt over well-tanned leather framed in stringy, grey hair making a run for his shoulders. Grey eyes return the subdivided man’s stare, a fitting complement to the greying teeth which lie beyond thin, sneering lips.

He does look like a bottle picker.

“Uh, no. I didn’t know bottle pickers had a uniform.”

“No no, you know what I mean. Do I look like a scumbag? A bottom feeder?”

“Of course not. Listen, I gotta go… the wife and all that.”

“Sure sure, go ahead.”


The Iron Corset

13Jul11

please tell me I’m not the only one who is shocked beyond belief! I feel numb I’m so upset. This can’t be real!! How can you guys say this won’t change anything? This changes EVERYTHING. I don’t even know what to think right now.

image

– Holmes24

~

Bad things sometimes happen to good people. This is one of the few things I believe in, but that’s not pertinent. Now, I’ve never been one for the celebrity gossip rags or that fake smiling shit of the likes of Mary Hart but so, by god, this one hit hard. Pouring my cereal this morning, radio says something about Clay coming out of a closet. A closet? What’s that supposed to mean? Then Marie comes charging in, looking all smart like she knows something she shouldn’t, taking jabs at me. Talking about him. Saying bad things. I tell her to shut up and fix me a sandwich, so she gets to it. We may be living well now, but I still love a good sandwich. Meat between the bread and so on. Bit of mayonaise. I start defending him, saying he must have faced some awful hardships growing up looking the way he does and who cares anyways and shut up. Then I say it. I just let it out. I love him. Months of agony and it came to that. You should have seen her face. Didn’t like that, not one bit. Who the hell do you think you are and so on. The usual questions. I answer with wet garbage. Put that sandwich in the lunchbox. She does. She accepts my love for him. Knows it means nothing between me and her. She gives me unconditional support, my little iron corset does, cinching up the flabby bits of life to make me more appealing. More ready. Or at least that’s what I tell her as I head out the door, spinning at the last second to throw the sandwich in the trash. I don’t eat that shit anymore.

Marie says she loves it when I give her unappealing nicknames.

We’re both terrible liars. Terrible as in, we lie a whole lot, not we lie, but poorly. Sorry, I like to instruct. I don’t like to think of it as teaching because to teach is to imbue the act of instruction with some sense of neutered dignity and institutionalized false respect. Or at least that’s the way I see it. I simply tell people what to do and they do it. If they know what’s good for them, that is.

At least that’s how it used to be. Now I’m a simple vendor. The tools of my trade? A trenchcoat, one hundred percent vegan snacks packaged individually in ziplock baggies, and a boom box for the slow times. It’s not a boom box so much as it’s a portable radio with a cassette deck, but it has given new life to my mix tapes of old. Turns out my taste was just as bad then as it is now. Still, it lends a lifelike appearance to my daily ritual.

I head downtown to the health food store and set up in the parking lot. I’ve learned a few things about people over the years and I’ve learned a few things about myself. One of them is that I often forget what I’m thinking halfway through.


Frumious

06Feb10

Young Elizabeth moved lithely through the lecherous limbs of the smelly forest, zigging this way, zagging that, mindful of the dangers which lay ahead, trying her best to ignore the smell of decay which had leached its way into every fibre of her being. The jubjub bird had proven easily enough avoided, but to successfully shun a frumious bandersnatch was something else altogether; the former could be heard a mile off, squawking and screeching its way along, but the bandersnatch? The bandersnatch, friends, the bandersnatch gives no warning. Down it might come crashing at any moment through the limbs from on high, or with a rumbling of the earth come bursting hence from the firmament and swallow you whole without uttering the most fleeting of sighs.

Why am I doing this? What is the point? Is it really worth it? These are the things young Elizabeth asked herself as she brushed away leaves and tore scraggly branches from her flowing locks which had been so well-managed just twenty minutes hence. She had risen extra early that morning and took special care in the shower, using the exact amount of conditioner as prescribed by its sagely, cylindrical plastic conveyance. She had rinsed vigorously, but not too vigorously. She had taken extra care with her new ceramic flat iron, made sure not to singe, made certain not to break a single strand in service to the gods of straight hair. But it was all for naught.

For here she was, running like a madwoman through the pointless woods with thoughts of extraordinary things racing through her normal sized head. It was too much to bear!

</indulgent authorial intrusion>

…actually, this is too much to bear. What the hell am I doing here? Who is this silly bimbo? Do I care? Do you? Probably not. You’re probably here because you searched for ‘nazi sex’ or ‘dane cook cock’ and ended up stuck with a bunch of words staring you in the face. Sorry. But who am I kidding? You haven’t made it this far anyway. Or maybe you have and you’re confused as to what’s going on now, as to what an authorial intrusion is, as to what a bandersnatch might be. Maybe you’re waiting for our heroine to be ravished by the bandersnatch? Well tough. Not gonna happen — if this was porn – nay, erotica – you’d know it by now. What this is is (man, I hate putting two ‘is”s side by side, but sometimes you just gotta do it, accept the writerly ego hit and move on) some random dude (i.e. myself) trying to work through his lifelong writer’s block by sullying the reputation of Lewis Carroll, realizing what he’s done and then making a vain attempt at covering his pathetic tracks with an attempt at being post-modern… but failing miserably. Or have I? Maybe this is brilliant and I don’t even realize it. For how can one fail at post-modernism? How can one fail at something that is, basically, whatever they want it to be as long as it doesn’t adhere to the prevailing norms of modernism? (Whatever that is… I can’t remember and I certainly can’t be bothered with unearthing my dust-covered Little Brown Handbook. I know what modernism is in regards to architecture — function over form to the utmost logical end, lots of squares and glass and concrete, so I suppose modern literature is the same — minimalistic, spare prose with a functional bent. As well [crutch? yes.] I realize that because post-modernism has an academic definition, whatever point[less] I have is moot, so fuck off Mr./Ms. book-philosopher) What was the point of trapping the preceding sentence in parentheses? I don’t know, but it’s not modernistic, that’s for sure. (If I say it isn’t, then it’s true as far as I’m concerned — and what else matters?) What is the point of this entire so-called authorial intrusion (for this entire collection is an intrusion upon the reader’s sense of textual decency)? It has none! And that is precisely the point. What is the point of anything, for that matter? I don’t know; the point is whatever you want or will it to be.

</end indulgent authorial intrusion>

It was too much to bear, but she kept her dewy eyes on the prize. She kept her nose to the grindstone. She kept on task. She shunned that mofo’ing bandersnatch, she forged onward through the scraggly brush, through the hard-hacks, thorns and alders, through the sort of vegetation no painter would bother capturing with their pathetic hairy sticks and coloured slime, the sort of vegetation no poet would bother waxing multisyllabic over. She forged onward. She screamed obscenities, she screamed at her parents, at her dog. And she finally emerged, taking a few minutes to regain her considerable composure, smooth her hair, remove the twigs, wipe the spittle from her cheeks and erase the memories of anything unpleasant that might have transpired in those lawless woods. Then she moved.

She moved with purpose. Young Elizabeth parted the glass doors of the monolithic monument to consumption like a hot knife through human flesh. She moved lithely past the food court, past the stores for fat, middle-aged women. Past the stores for pimple-faced adolescents and pseudo-adolescents. Past the stores for yuppies, white trash, ‘intellectuals’, caffeine addicts and club whores. She moved past all of it, basking in the fluorescent magnificence of it all, splashing around in the superficiality, dipping her toes in the uselessness of it all and finding the temperature quite to her liking.

She moved with purpose into the store of her choice, the one whose latest marketing campaign most appealed to her demographic, picked out a pair of jeans virtually identical to the thirty other pairs hanging in her closet at home, moved to the checkout, tossed her prize on the scratched surface of the glass-topped counter and fumbled through her purse. She turned over receipts, rifled through empty packs of former chewing gum as the cashier looked on with a blank stare and a slack jaw. It was then tat the horrible reality of her situation made itself apparent to young Elizabeth and the hair stood up on the back of her neck and she felt sick to her stomach. A cold sweat broke forth on her brow and the downy small of her back. No!

She had forgotten her wallet at home.


Words

16Jan10

George Carlin once said that there are no ‘bad’ words, just combinations of letters which we assign meaning to – or something like that; linguistics is a field which I’ve always meant to check out but, being a lazy, depressive sort, have never really got around to it. Stand-up comedy on the other hand (and I hesitate to use such a base term in reference to a celestial being of the late Mr. Carlin’s stature), has always been my bag. You see, I don’t care so much about individual letters and the rules of attraction in how they come to form words but, rather, the myriad combinations of words and the wildly differing effects they can have on the receiver thereof. I suppose you can’t have words without letters, nor sentences without words, but so be it — I’m the one stringing these ones together so I’ll massage the meaning to my liking; words are never as self-serving as sentences and it’s pretty much impossible to state the obvious with a single letter. In the same vein, single words are rarely as effective as a glorious string of them all laid out in a row, all structured and sexy, but a single word is rarely as harsh a mistress as a sentence, phrase or statement. Sure, we can all probably remember the first time we got in shit (word #1 that you cannot say on TV) for uttering a curse word. I said ‘fuck’ or ‘fuckin’ this or that in a completely nonsensical way, not having any idea what the word actually meant outside its status as a ‘bad’ word. I don’t even remember where I first heard the oath, but I was bored with The Smurfs and thought I’d try it out on the focus group of my little brother just to see what might happen. Well, what happened was the little shit went running upstairs to my parents’ bedroom to promptly rat me out. Tough room or what? I have no idea what my brother told the angry, younger version of my father, but I was dragged bodily from underneath the dining room table and subjected to a good old-fashioned disciplinary tanning of ye olde hide. My father was pissed. ‘It must really be a bad word’, thought I and so began a love affair that lasts to this day — and not just with that word, but with all of them. The thing is, when you’re a kid you have no agency, no real control over any aspect of your life, so when you discover something that can arouse that dramatic a response without resorting to crime or violence, it certainly makes an impression on a young mind.

Of course, not wanting my arse beaten again, I stored that word away for future use on a more appreciative crowd. Words became my thing. I started reading voraciously. I started flipping through the dictionary for fun, through the thesaurus for laughs. I didn’t have many friends. Shocking, no? But I didn’t need them. I could live in books, could imagine entire worlds free from the bounds of teachers, parents and clergymen. Eventually I discovered that I could make people laugh with words instead of just pissing them off and, once I gained confidence that such would be the outcome rather than a beating – figurative or literal – I would let fly at all times, opportune and inopportune alike. Making my classmates laugh or, at the very least pay some sort of passing attention to me, was an adrenaline rush. I couldn’t get enough.

Much to the chagrin of my teachers.

Turns out such behaviour is considered ‘disruptive’ in the school system and eventually I had these urges hectored from me by one mean-spirited, underpaid and under-appreciated instructor or another. Can’t blame them really. You can’t have some asshole disrupting your class every five minutes with whatever outburst they’ve decided is just too brilliant not to share with everyone within a fifty foot radius. It’s just not on.

So my spirit was crushed, ground into the institutional grey flooring of one classroom or another, sent packing along with my self-esteem to the big storage closet of conformity in the sky. But! I could write instead and the joy of writing was that it could be anonymous. I could say all kinds of terrible and seemingly hilarious things about whoever I wanted, teachers and classmates alike, and not be found out. Most of the time, anyway.

When I was in grade nine, myself and two of my friends decided to rewrite ‘Mary, Mary’ by Run-DMC into a rather nasty, juvenile screed against an unwitting, slightly dimwitted but always well-meaning classmate. Oh, we were pretty funny, or so we thought, until our teacher — and the bane of my existence that year (who, come to think of it, was probably the teacher most responsible for crushing me into a misshapen shadow of my former self, the teacher who once gave me detention for uttering ‘frig’ in class, the teacher who had chronic halitosis, the teacher whose last name rhymed with Crackwhore) found the handwritten copy of our master work. Well, he was not pleased. He was pissed. But this was not the same sort of pissed-offedness as displayed by my father on that fateful Saturday morning of yore. No, no. Crackwhore was out for blood. He hated me. Hated my constant smartass comments, hated my nihilism, hated my smirking mug staring back at him all day, every day. If he could have dragged me bodily from under a piece of furniture and tanned my hide, I’m sure he would have. Fortunately, legal boundaries dictated that he would have lost his job — which he vacated anyway at the end of that year, thanks to our class (I was not his only headache among our crew, not by a long shot) — so he had to make my life a living hell through more civilized means. The jig was up when he caught me showing off  the manuscript to a couple of my friends just outside his classroom at the end of noon hour one day. He grabbed the worn piece of looseleaf from my hands before I could react and scanned the page as I looked on in horror, my friends stifling their laughter, poorly. Crackwhore’s  face fell and he looked up at me, eyebrows arched in disbelief. ‘Did you write this?’ No, of course not. Shit, I wasn’t going to give in that easily. Then the bell rang and we returned to class.

So began the great inquisition of winter, 1992.

I thought maybe it would be okay, maybe everything would blow over. Crackwhore would give up, throw the evidence in the trash bin and make out like everything was peachy. Didn’t happen. Turns out old Cracky was gay and, I’m not proud to say, our little ditty was outrageously and graphically homophobic in nature. I don’t mean it was violent or anything, just a shining example of grotesquely childish sodomy ‘humour’. What can I say? I was a kid. I had no idea how hurtful something like that could be and I didn’t care. Needless to say, Crackwhore wasn’t going to let up until someone was swinging from the rafters and he appeared to be fitting my neck for the noose. Luckily though, we wrote the thing out in separate pieces, with three of us sharing penmanship duties. If we all kept out mouths shut, we’d be in the clear. Unfortunately, Crackwhore was a devious sort and decided to root around in our book bags while we were on lunch break the next day, finding samples of our handwriting amongst our personal belongings with which he could compare against the evidence. He confronted us one by one until we cracked in the face of incontrovertible guilt. He loved it too. I will always remember the look on his face when I owned up. He was the happiest, smuggest Crackwhore in the history of the Crackwhore clan.

My punishment? I had to take a copy of my tour de farce home for my parents to read and sign. It was the worst thing in the world. I knew what was in that letter and I would have rather had my fingernails pulled out one by one with needle-nose pliers while being smacked in the face with a dead cat than have my mother read that filth knowing her beloved boy was the author. But what could I do? Here was my crossroads. I had danced with the lexicon devil, had spewed forth venom with no thought given to consequence and I had a choice to make. Do I give in to the Crackwhores of the world, accept the justice that was being meted out, take the letter home and face parental pissed-offedness the likes of which I had heretofore only felt in nightmares or do I push back? Do I move from the realm of textual delinquency into something more tangible, something more sinister? Do I turn my back on respectable society, on the possibility of someday marrying a woman with all her teeth?

In a word, no.

I took the letter home, handed the envelope to my mother and the rest is a blur of yelling, threats of therapy and the general crumbling of what remained of my status as a child. Some people grow up when they experience death or sex for the first time, others when the crushing blow of failure or defeat rains down unfamiliar. For me, it was the realization that writing is never anonymous and that words can have as much impact as a kick in the teeth. Of course, I still have a tendency to run my mouth and keyboard sometimes and, like most everyone, I have let my inner jackass get the better of me at various points in my life since the ‘Mary, Mary’ fiasco. I once called my cousin ‘human garbage’, purely in jest. I mean, come on, how could anyone take such a term seriously? Right? It was too outrageously mean-spirited to be taken seriously. Well, he still talks about it to this day and I still regret saying it.

That’s the thing with words — they’re easy to spew forth and easy to erase, but so very hard to forget, for better or worse. So choose them wisely, friends. Choose them wisely.



My Buddy Chad

07Nov09

Chaddy

When my purely fictional editor came to me with the chance to conduct a fake interview with Chad Kroeger — Nickelback frontman, noted pants-around-your-feet enthusiast and unapologetic photo-op horn-thrower – I jumped at it like a chicken on a dough dish. It was all set. We were to meet at a location within two square kilometers of my then-current position as determined by his record company in concert with a GPS and a microchip tracking device which had been implanted at the base of my neck 48 hours hence. I would receive a call on my fake cellphone telling me where to go.

It rings.

I pick up.

Mr. Williams? says the digitally obscured voice on the other end.

‘Yes, speaking.’

Please proceed directly to the American Eagle at the Pleasantview Mall. Mr. Kroeger will be browsing the sale rack. In the men’s section.

So off I tear, practicing my ‘proper dude’ behaviour on the way. Remember: ‘chicks’ not ‘women’, ‘fag’ not ‘individual whose sexual preference, perceived or actual, threatens my prevailing sense of self.’ What was I so worried about? How hard could it be to get along with, arguably, one of the coolest dudes on the face of the earth? Shit man, just keep it light, I told myself. Talk about how much you love the Light variants of Bud and Coors or how hard you laugh at the doggedly lazy, overextended-to-the-point-of-exhaustion, PCRH (pop culture referencing humour) of Seth MacFarlane. If neither of those work, just ramble on for an uncomfortably long period of time about how much you appreciate a borderline underage ‘chick’ who shows a lot of cleavage.

‘Big, bouncing jailbait boobies are awesome. The way they look under the stress lines of a tight t-shirt. The way they swing to and fro, the way those pesky little nipples protrude at the most inappropriate of times.’

It was all Chad Kroeger could talk about the first five minutes of our acquaintance and he was downright poetic.

‘Dude,’ he said, flipping from one pair of clearance-priced pre-stressed jeans to the next, ‘you know why I wanted to meet here? Shit man, take a look around — but be subtle. Sure, sure. Take it all in. There you go — yeah, you know what I’m talking about: tits and ass, son. T and A. And I know they’re not playing it up because they haven’t even noticed me yet. Right now they’re probably just thinking I’m just some trailer trash wannabe Chad Kroeger, and you know what? That’s just what I want. This way, I can check them out when their shirts sag open when they’re busy picking up the clothes I knock down — like this.’

He drops a pair of jeans, quickly scans for detection, then moves to the full-priced jeans wall with the agility of a cat, motioning me along behind him with a spastic hand of nicotine-stained fingers.

‘Honestly dude, I’d take this sort of tail over your average stripper any day of the week and twice on Wednesday — know what I mean?’

He laughs the hyperactive trill of an over-sugared eight-year-old, feigning interest in the premium pre-holed denims hanging prostate in front of his leering lips, licking fiendishly and snorting through his nose like a butane addict.

He’s crazy, this Chad Kroeger — crazy for the poon-tang.

‘Shit man,’ he says, ‘I’m just crazy for the poon-tang. Ya know?’

I do, and nod agreement in my best ‘dude’ nod of assent.

‘Fuckin’ A, son! Fuckin’ A. That’s what it’s all about. You know that line ‘I love your pants around your feet’? Man, that shit is autobiographical! You know, about me. I really do love chicks’ pants around their feet. That wasn’t just a line, eh. You know why? Cause when they’re around their feet, they’re not between me and the poon-tang. Am I right or am I right? Fuckin’ A, son!’

He drops another pair of jeans then slides to his right, doing a spin move that would make one think ‘Karl Malone who?’ to bring himself in line with the non-pants clearance rack. This guy has got serious moves on the low post of passive sexual harassment and he’s his own John Stockton. He thrusts his pelvis against the garish pastel uniformity of the knit garments, knocking several to the floor, leans back and shakes his mane with the proficiency of a fifth-year MacDonald’s fry cook before straightening up to let out a beastly bellow.

“Aiiiiooow!”

He might have just blown his cover, but he keeps at it, stutter-stepping towards the out-of-season clearance rack.

‘You’ve got to switch between the new shit and the sale stuff, man. Gets them moving through the aisles, plus it seems more, as the French say – naturale, to spread it around randomly. I’ve got it down to a science.’

The sales associates are starting to whisper among themselves, giggling and pointing in our direction.

I’m a bit star-struck — unexpectedly so, as I’ve let Kroeger control the interview to this point. Hell, I haven’t even asked a question, so this technically isn’t even an interview. So far, I’m just an accomplice to a voyeuristic pervert with a fetish for teenage flesh. We may need a change of venue, so I strike:

‘Uh, Mr. Kroeger, I think they may be on to us.’

He looks up, alarmed.

‘Shit dude, we gotta run. It may be all fun and games now, but this shit can get ugly. Let’s go! And call me Chad.’

He grabs me by the arm and we make haste towards the door, leaving a trail of downed merchandise and slack-jawed idiots in our wake. Chad’s mood seems to have taken a turn for the worse, though, as he puts the hood up on his garish Ed Hardy hoodie and burrows deep into the pockets of his stylist-approved leather jacket, hunching his shoulders and clearing his throat repeatedly.

“Fuck man, I need a huff.”

“You mean a puff?”

“Nah dude, huff. Gas or, as the French say, l’essence. It’s the essence alright — the essence of my fucking life force, son! Come on, this way. And fucking hurry.”

We turn down a corridor leading into the administrative bowels of the mall, passing beneath a sign emblazoned with bathroom symbols and past a security guard, to whom Chad gives a knowing wink. Stopping in front of the family washroom, Chad takes a furtive glance up the hall to make sure the coast is clear, then in we slip. He locks the door, regains his bearings, opens his jacket, pulls down the table normally used for the changing of diapers and produces a swollen, red hot water bottle from beneath his arm pit. Ingenious, this Chad Kroeger.

“Grab that garbage can.”

I do.

“Put it on the table.”

I do.

Marry me.

I would.

At this point he’s in full control, this Chad Kroeger, but I need an interview. My non-paying, imaginary job depends on it, but he’s busy pouring the contents of his hot water bottle into the waste basket. Gas fumes fill the room. His grin is back.

‘Aw yeah, that’s what it’s all about right there. Unleaded. Premium. Shit yeah! And you know, old school huffers are always going on about the good old days, leaded gas and all that horseshit, but you know what? Don’t believe it. I’ve tried both and there’s no difference at all. Both get you fucked the fuck up, son!’

He licks his lips, shakes his head then runs a quick lap around the room, almost knocking me over. Then he leans over the waste basket, pulling the edges of his hood down to form a crude seal and breathes deep, his back and shoulders heaving with exertion, pleasure, or both. After five or six pulls, he lifts his head and stumbles backward, slamming into the cinder block wall in a splash of leather and testosterone against institutional white. His eyes are glazed, the grin of the easily amused and freshly lobotomized splashed across his face.

‘Doooood… awwwwyah. Dooood…’

He slumps to the floor and starts giggling, gradually working his way into hysterics. Now is the time! I strike:

‘So Chad, where do you find inspiration for your words?’

‘…Dooood… Aye-ah find id in, uh, plaisches. Like uh… like uh.. in a gaz stayshun. Ride-uh?’

‘Right. Gas station. Got it. And how do you feel about critics who say you’re a misogynist?’

‘Mizzz… odge… in itso… that, uh, riiiice, uh?’

His gas-addled brain does not know the difference between a hater of women and an Italian rice dish. They’re not even remotely similar, really.

‘No, that’s risotto. A misogynist hates women. Do you hate women, Chad?’

‘No, uh, way…. man! I fuggin loves them. Or… I loves to fugg them, I mean. Fuggin A, sun!’

He laughs hysterically at this, triggering a coughing fit, gasping for breath, flailing his legs around like a demented puppet and slapping the industrial tile floor like your drunk uncle telling an off-colour joke at the family reunion. Chad struggles to his feet, straightens his jacket up and brushes off his jeans, regaining some semblance of normality before again leaning against the changing table, hovering over the waste basket, staring intently into its depths like a sex tourist through a coin-operated sex telescope.

‘I mean, really though. I love chicks. Ya know? And it burns my ass when these fucking assholes talk shit like that about me. Listen, I love chicks. I’ve gone out of my way to learn the names of almost every one I’ve banged over the past three weeks. This is the new Chad, son! I don’t write those ballads to get laid. Do you think I’d need to? Come on! I write them because that’s how I feel about stuff. You know? Like how I feel about, like, kids and family shit like that. Shit that matters.’

With this he leans into the waste basket again and draws heavily, sucking those fumes deep into the black, tar flecked recesses of his lungs. Then, a knock at the door. Chad looks up, fighting the blissful urge of crumbling oblivion, legs shaking, hands clawing at the changing table.

‘Dude’ he whispers, “what the fuck?”

‘I don’t know man, I don’t know who –

‘SECURITY! OPEN UP!’

‘Aw shit dude! Or as the French say, merde!

Chad’s eyes are wild, he stumbles back from the table, produces a lighter from his jacket and… whoosh. Everything goes black.

I wake up in a field with second degree burns and the taste of gasoline in my mouth, feeling as though I’ve been violated somehow. But it was all worth it. Aw yeah, dude. It was alll worth it!


Tackiness Incarnate

1. A herd of stray dogs are brought in off the street and force-fed a diet of Appetite For Destruction album art chased with cans of Budweiser, Big Macs and several bags of sequins.

2. The animals are funneled like pigs to the slaughter into a room the size of a small warehouse whose floor is covered with pre-fab handbags, bargain-bin hoodies, knock-off Chuck Taylors and various and sundry fabric swatches in every colour you could possibly think of… if all you can think of is black and white.

3. Interns armed with cattle prods then herd the dogs onto a giant carousel in the middle of the room and lock them into place with (extremely humane) restraints before retreating to the safety of the splatter shield.

4. A giant red switch marked ‘creativity’ is flipped and the dogs begin to spin… and spin and spin and spin, faster and faster, trying desperately to stay upright, slamming into one another, trying desperately to keep their meals down, but legs buckle, eyes widen and the tell-tale heaving of design™ begins in earnest.

5. The lead intern sees this and, being a trained professional with a fashion design diploma from an online ‘university’, slows the carousel down to the proper speed for maximum dispersion. This has been determined by someone smart by using math and stuff.

6. The dogs, spewing forth a glittery torrent of suburban parking-lot couture, earn their hypothetical paycheques, coating the textile tripe with that look so desired by the thirteen-year-old in us all. Or the small-town coke dealer in us all. Or the mid-life crisis, extreme sports poser in us all. Or the d-list celebrity in us all. Or the… well, I could go on for days, couldn’t I?

7. Their job done, the dogs are euthanized by being dropped one by one from an invisible sky hook into an (extremely humane) wood chipper as the fresh designs are dried by a jet engine running on the blood of innocents and the ground-up bones of former sweatshop kids before being swept into an adjacent room by a squad of spritely street urchins whistling a jaunty tune.

8. The merch is then pushed by a bulldozer into a string of shipping containers bound for the mythical land of retail and freedom where it will be marked up by ∞% and sold to you by some fashionably lazy, smarmy know-nothing hairdo with a television accent and more chemicals in their system than Lake Ontario.


Billy Mays

Having produced a cut-off drinking straw from the pocket of his crisp blue shirt, Billy Mays smiles broadly at me through that insanely well-groomed beard, his pearly whites lending an otherworldly glow to the confines of the storage closet, throwing the mops, buckets and various cleaning products into a dignified relief normally reserved for furniture covered in velvet. Or leather. Or torn vinyl. How did it come to this? Five minutes previous, he had been bent over a pocket-sized mirror cutting a portion of his considerable stash into six decent sized lines, the smell of Oxi-Clean still heavy in the stuffy, damp air. I had watched in rapt awe as he sprayed a liberal amount of the wonder cleaner onto the surface of his mirror then polished it to a high sheen with a pocket-sized Zorbie, all the while lecturing me in booming tones on the superiority of Oxi-Clean in comparison to the sundry products scattered at my feet.

Here I am, about to ‘blow lines’ — as he calls it — with my hero, TV pitchman Billy Mays.

He puts the straw to his left nostril, bends to the mirror and hoovers up a line, then switches the straw to his right nostril and makes another disappear. Rubbing his nose and snuffling, he lifts his head, shaking it like a dog shedding water, then grabs me by the shoulders and screams,

“Hi! Billy Mays here with benzoylmethyl ecognine! It sounds classier when you call it by its chemical name!”

I grin and shrug, trying to look impressed.

“Here, do some. It’s good shit, man!”

He hands me the straw and grabs me by the back of the head. This is not what I had in mind when he asked me if I wanted to ‘party.’ I thought we were going to smoke a joint, but I guess that isn’t Billy’s style. I pry his hand away and take a step back from the battered card table. He’s grinning like a madman now, rubbing his face and chanting ‘Oxi-Clean, Oxi-Clean, OXI-CLEAN!’

“Okay, okay. Just calm down Billy-boy. I can do it myself.”

I’m going to have to if I plan on sticking around here and not committing murder. So, I bend to the mirror and do the deed. Billy is pleased. He celebrates with two more lines. Then the talk begins and Billy’s a natural. We cover everything from Voltaire’s anti-Turkism to whether the ’27 Yankees are the most overrated team in baseball history to the merits of the female buttocks in a pair of tight jeans vs. a tight skirt. It goes well until I bring up Vince Offer. Billy bristles. His eyes redden a deeper shade of scarlet and he gnashes his teeth, grabbing me by the shoulders again.

“What did you just say!?”

“I said, what do you think of Vince Offer?”

I shrug his hands off and step back, but he comes at me again, grabbing at my shoulders, his hot, garlic breath forcing it’s way up my clogged nostrils. He’s pissed.

“You mean Vince ‘Heywood Jablowme’ Schlomi? That’s his real name, you know. Fucker. That little weasel. Thinks he can beat me at my own game. Me! I’m Billy fucking Mays! Who the hell is he? No one. Some limp-dicked hooker beater with shitty kitchen appliances and too much goddam hair product! Fuck Vince Schlomi! That’s what I think of Vince motherfucking Offer. Fuck him with a fucking Sham-wow wrapped in sandpaper!”

I shove him back and jump into a defensive stance, fists raised, ready for some Billy Mays action. Sure, he looks tough, but I’ve got a year and a half of kick-boxing under my belt and a headful of cocaine. So does he, but he’s 50 years-old. Maybe I should go easy on him. Maybe we should talk it out. God knows we’re both in a talking mood.

“Listen man, just calm down, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just curious. I mean, he’s the only other salesman anywhere near you as far as popularity goes. I mean, you guys are celebrities. Right? It wasn’t a value-based statement. I mean, it wasn’t judgmental. Hell, Billy, you’re my hero — not Vince Offer. I own a Zorbie, not a fucking Sham-wow. Okay? And when my oak toilet sheet loses its sheen, I’m reaching for the Orange-Glo. Right?”

He relaxes somewhat and the grin returns.

“Yeah man, I know, I know. Shit. Are you trying to wind me up? Cuz it’s working. But listen, me and Vince, right? We’re people, right? I’ve got fucking feelings, man. So does he. Probably. I didn’t ask to be no goddam celebrity, I just work hard at what I do. Which is really the only thing I know how to do. And I’m not a real celebrity. I’m not even on par with Octo-Mom. Listen, the most press I’ll ever get is when I fucking die or if I get caught with kiddie porn. That’s just how it is for a b-lister. Hell, I’m a c-lister on a good day. But you know what? Who cares? I’m filthy rich, I’ve got a huge house, a beautiful wife and more drugs than I could ever need. What else could anyone possibly want? Huh!? Tell me!”

I return his grin, wipe my brow and collapse to the bare cement floor, content in the fact that I’ve just had the one conversation I wanted to have before I die.

“Nothing Billy, nothing at all.”




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