Slide that glass down the bar to me, Tavern Keeper. My day has been long, as has my week, my year, my marriage, my divorce, my melancholy and life. Slide that hand-filling vessel of liquid salvation my way, so that it may whisper softly to me that all will be well once I consume it. It will light a comforting fire in my gullet as it soaks into my body, and caress my mind with satin fog as it soaks into my thoughts. Slide that glass of surrender and escape to my waiting palm, even though I realize it is merely shackles and sorrow in disguise. I will hold you blameless for the shame I will wake to, and the disappointment of my loved ones. Slide me that perfect, precious potion, and look on me no more. Perhaps if no one is watching, it will wash me away along with my senses, reason, and pain.
Billy came home from school on Monday and decided to take over the world. He didn’t like how grownups were always telling him what to do. Grownups were stupid. And he didn’t want goulash for dinner anymore. Goulash was icky. If he took over the world he could make pizza with peanut butter on it the only supper ever. Pizza with peanut butter on it was the best.
All the bullies at school would be the slave people. They’d cut down the trees and make bricks and stuff, then they’d make buildings with them. And Billy’s friends would all be the Presidents. They wouldn’t be able to do anything important, though, because he would be Super King President. But he wasn’t gonna tell them that until after he took over the world. That’s when his parents, and all the rest of the grownups, would find out that the only thing they get to do is make pizza with peanut butter on it, forever.
Billy came home from school on Monday, took off his backpack, and ran upstairs to his room to get the Powertron from under his bed. A space caterpillar had talked to him on Wednesday and asked for a glass of water. When Billy asked why, the space caterpillar said his cosmoship used water for fuel, and he had run out of water near Earth. He missed the lake over by the golf course and landed in Billy’s yard instead. Billy thought that was good, because golf courses were stupid. The space caterpillar was named HsimreuEck, but Billy said that was a dumb name, and that his new name was Bacon Fart. Bacon Fart offered to shrink Billy and show him around his cosmoship in trade for some fuel water. Billy thought that would be awesome, and said yes. Bacon Fart used his Molecular Compression Pulse Generator to bring Billy down to his size. Billy didn’t know what that meant, so he called the machine Shrinker. Bacon Fart brought Billy inside his ship, which had landed under Mom’s lilac bush. It was a small ship about the size of a soda can, so even after shrinking, Billy felt cramped inside it. This was annoying to Billy, because he was expecting something like the Enterprise or Galactica. Instead, he got the escape pod from A New Hope. Billy asked if he could push some buttons, but Bacon Fart said something about “there isn’t enough power” and “ship will never start again” but Billy had already stopped listening after the word “no.” This shrinking tour was a total letdown. When Bacon Fart showed Billy the Powertron, he got excited again. It was a blue glowing crystal on a strap, to be worn like a headband. It made it so Bacon Fart could control the cosmoship with his mind. Speed, steering, weapons, everything did what the pilot wanted, just by thinking about it. The ship could even change shape, fix damage, and add new parts to itself with the Powertron. Billy took a big, deep breath and said “I HAVE TO GO POTTY! UNSHRINK ME!” Bacon Fart got scared when Billy yelled like that, and ran to the Molecular Decom…Unshrinker, to return Billy to his normal size. He was so scared, in fact, that he didn’t notice Billy putting the Powertron in his pocket. Once Billy was back to regular boy size, he started running toward the house.
As Billy’s foot was descending upon Bacon Fart, the space caterpillar thought; “Oh no! He doesn’t realize I am under his foot. My mission to save the solar ostriches of Berricon Theta 7 will go unfinished, and those poor animals will become extinct. Without them, the Berricon system will be vaporized in the upcoming Hypernova. And yet, in this moment I can only hope that when Billy realizes his folly, he will someday be able to forgive himself for my death. In the short moments we knew each other, I had come to value his friendship.”
As Billy’s foot was descending upon Bacon Fart, the 8 year old was thinking a variety of thoughts at one time, as young boys often do. They roughly translated to; “WOO! I got a Powertron! Bacon Fart is stupid. His ship is stupid. I’m gonna make him die with my shoe.” Amidst those thoughts, pizza with peanut butter came up several times.
* * *
Billy pulled the cosmoship out from under the lilac bush and dropped it in a bowl of water. He put on the Powertron and thought “start working again!” It worked, and the ship started bubbling and lighting up. Billy set the bowl on the floor in front of his TV and his video game system, the Y-Bag 180. The Powertron worked by sensing the intent of the person wearing it and carrying out whatever action was needed to accomplish what the person desired. That’s how it knew what to do when Billy brain-shouted “Be totally awesome!”
The technological abomination created by the fusion of television, game console, cosmoship, and an old Discman Billy found in his dresser, slowly started walking downstairs. Pretty soon it was absorbing the big TV, the cable box, Blu-Ray player, and stereo. Billy starting jumping up and down when they got to the kitchen.
“Keep getting awesomer!” Billy thought-yelled at the machine. As it went to work on the dishwasher, he had a way cool idea. By the time the microwave, toaster, and coffeemaker were swept into the beast, Billy had removed the racks and was nestled snugly inside the oven. He had figured out what to do. He would use the Powertron to build a World Dominatortron. And once he had a World Dominatortron, it would be pizza with peanut butter on it from here on out. The World Dominatortron, or SweetBot, installed the oven as a chest and body, making it larger and converting the inside into a cockpit for Billy. In order to factor in the last appliance, the refrigerator, SweetBot needed more room. Billy did this by telling SweetBot to knock down the kitchen wall. Once the dust and debris settled, Billy looked through the hole in the wall and saw what Mom always called “Daddy’s attempt to be a teenager again.” Daddy called it “The Hummer.” After several seconds of speechless, ecstatic shaking, Billy shouted out loud, “AW SHIT, DUDE!” Then, after covering his mouth and looking around to see if anyone was nearby to hear that, he scrunched down in his ovenpit and whispered intensely, “…..aaawww shit, dude”
Two weeks later, after Billy had replaced the oven with the front half of a stealth bomber, the feet made of Hummers with feet made of train cars, and using two 83-inch TVs for SweetBot’s eyes, the World Dominatortron was standing in front of the White House. Billy had made his friends Presidents of all the other continents, and used the Powertron to turn all the army vehicles and bombs and guns that people attacked them with to build smaller Dominatortrons, called CoolBots. Each CoolBot had pizza-making machines and pizza ovens built into them. All the ingredients, plus the peanut butter, were brought to the CoolBots and SweetBot by the slave bullies, everyday. Billy’s friend, President Carl, didn’t like peanut butter on his pizza. He liked pickles on it instead. But President Carl was stupid. That’s why he was President of Antarctica. Antarctica is stupid.
When Billy died at age 11 of a massive heart attack due to a diet consisting of nothing but pizza and Vanilla Coke, he thought about the day he murdered that little space caterpillar, Bacon Fart, in order to steal the technology that allowed him to take over the world. His last words; “SO worth it.”
She turned her face toward mine, instantly finding my eyes with her own, and softly asked me “If you could do anything, absolutely anything, right at this moment, what would you do?”
I would wrestle the sun from out the sky, and plunge it into the great ocean, watching its steam drift away to the horizon. Grasping the moon, now lost in the dark with no light upon its face, I would fling it across the heavens to lose itself in the firmament. Then, with a massive breath, I would blow out the stars, like so many candles across eternity.
“Sweetheart, why would you do all that?”
Because then, in the forever darkness, this perfect night with you would never end. I would wipe clean the skies to be here with you forever.
DID YOU KNOW…
…that if you pour a gallon of gasoline out onto Lincoln’s head, you will gain the ability to start any Lincoln Navigator with your mind?
…that if you cover George Washington’s face with peanut butter, it will transform into the face of George Washington Carver?
…that brushing an Angel feather across Roosevelt’s nose will cause every teddy bear in the world to sneeze simultaneously?
…that playing a Jefferson Airplane song while standing on Jefferson’s head will allow you access to the secret single airplane hangar located behind his forehead?
…that if you cover George Washington Carver’s face with cherry pie filling, it will transform back into the face of George Washington?
…that playing a Jefferson Starship song while standing on Jefferson’s head will allow you access to the sentient alien scout ship housed in his mouth?
…that burning the original U.S. flag atop Mt. Rushmore will activate the Presidential Mega-Zords?
DID YOU KNOW…
…that dealing a hand of poker in Stonehenge will guarantee the dealer one (1) royal flush in every casino he ever visits?
…that being killed in Stonehenge while singing will cause you to reincarnate in the body of a former American Idol champion?
…that if a man achieves an erection while in Stonehenge he gains the ability to climax at will for the rest of his life?
…that five (5) Thalidomide Babies riding five (5) unicorns into Stonehenge will reboot the Earth?
…that Clay Aiken can often be found in Stonehenge singing requests for people to murder him?
…that burying the ashes of Gene Roddenberry in Stonehenge will turn all the triptychs into Guardians of Forever? (not a Star Trek fan? Look it up.)
…that five (5) Thalidomide Babies riding five (5) griffons into Stonehenge will reverse the direction of Earth’s rotation?
…that if a survivor of Hiroshima rides a pegasus into Stonehenge, then kills himself, Stonehenge will supply unlimited energy to the planet forever?
…that burying the frozen head of Walt Disney in Stonehenge will cause every nation’s capital to collapse into dust, and a Disney Magical Kingdom to rise from the rubble?
DID YOU KNOW…
…that pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa to lean the other direction will turn all the water in the oceans into Hawaiian Punch?
…that inserting the Eiffel Tower into the ground at the Terrestrial South Pole will awaken the army of Abominable Snowmen sleeping below the ice?
…that Old Faithful is really just the end of a tube that Satan farts into as a joke?
…that the Bermuda Triangle is the alternate entrance to Narnia?
…that the Roman Colosseum is the Hue Adjustment dial for the sky?
…that inserting the Washington Monument into the sands beneath the Great Sphinx of Giza will awaken the hordes of Behemoth Demon Scorpions, who serve as our only defense against the Abominable Snowmen?
…that the Grand Canyon is Earth’s vagina?
You don’t recognize me. I can tell. You see something that rings a bell, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t place it. Only when you look beneath the surface, under the skin, will you start to put it together. Let’s pull back the curtain together and take a look. You just sit right there, and I’ll walk you through the process step by step.
Are the chains too tight? Yes? Good.
We can start with the smile. Right now, seeing you trapped as you are, my smile is real. But behind it, you can see a few others. The nervous smile, the fake smile, the smile eager for acceptance, all the smiles that one wears to cover up the trembling lip that comes before the tears. You and your kind forced me to wear it every day. For over a decade I carried those fake smiles with me everywhere I went. Not to protect me from the names you called me, or the taunting comments. There is no protection from that. But they hid my true reactions, and that saved me from the additional mocking that would have ensued. And it denied you the pleasure of seeing me break.
Keep struggling if you want. You’ll only hurt yourself, and I am fine with that.
Let’s look at the eyes next. I know it’s hard to see them now, being cold and dark like they are. But behind them, you can see there used to be ambition, and hope, and light. Can you tell what kind of light? Would you even know? Of course you wouldn’t. That light comes from kindness and compassion. Your kind aren’t really known for that. You’re better known for making people like me think that the person in the mirror is less than worthless. That we’re too fat, or too skinny, or weak, or ugly, or awkward for you to waste your time on, regardless of the fact that you spent quite a lot of time focusing on us in order to do it. You gambled on us being so distraught by your torture that we would believe there was something wrong with us, and not notice that you were doing it for no other reason than for the perverted fun of it. And you were right. We did. For a while.
You’re sweating. Are you figuring it out? Are you realizing who I am? I assume you are, considering how pale you just became.
Still, I saved the best for last. Behind everything else, behind the smiles and the eyes and the years and the growing, look at the soul.
I said LOOK, you coward!
Look at the scar tissue. Look at the missing pieces. Look at the wreckage left behind from your “harmless fun.” Sure, it’s still alive. It still works. But not the way it could. Like the way a car never quite runs properly after surviving an accident. It’s crippled now. You saw to that. Every time you pushed us aside to get through the door first. Every time you called our talents “gay” because you didn’t like them or share them. Every time you insulted the best clothes we could afford because they weren’t as cool or expensive as yours, you stabbed us. You stabbed into our souls. We were singers and band members, actors and artists, readers and poets, gamers and fanboys, but it would never and could never be enough to buy us out of that Hell, because we were also the kind ones, which is why we could never be like you. Cruel, selfish, and unkind. At least, not back then. See, these days we are all adults now, and since we learned back then what it was like to live with pain, fear, and derision every day we have a better appreciation for decency. We also learned a few things about how to make people feel like they’d rather die than wake up in the morning and do it over again, and again, and again, and oh dear God please just let it stop for one moment, just one quiet moment of peace and happiness!
You’ve figured it out, haven’t you? I know who you are. You are the High and Mighty; the Jocks, the Style-makers, the Rich, and the Popular. But what about me? I am the rest of us. I am the Outcasts; the Drama Club kids, the Choir Geeks, the Band Geeks, the Comic Book Nerds, the Goths, the Emo Kids, the Poor, and the Lonely.
You act like you never ruined our childhoods. We have never forgotten. You think you’ve done nothing wrong. We do not forgive you. You trapped us in Hell during our most vulnerable years, and We are finally free of you. Between us? A bonfire, burning with every painful word, every heartache, every dismissive look You tortured us with.
You are bound by chains and locks, and We have the key.
Come on and take it from us.
I was born here.
The door creaks and moans its protest as I enter. The floorboards cough dust upon my bare feet with every step. I lay my hands on the old furniture, still covered in the yellowing bed sheets, looking like so many corpses, and wonder why I bothered protecting sofas and chairs that I thought never again would receive guests.
I was born here.
I pull the curtains back from the dirt-coated windows and turn to see the now illuminated living room and, for a fleeting moment, it looks as it did once upon a time. The cat stretches on the new carpet, the Christmas tree blinks and shines in the corner, my family gathers around the television, my nephew thumps across the floor in search of new adventure. When I bat my eyes the years reassert themselves, and the cold clenches down upon the house once again. It takes me several seconds to realize that my mouth was open and my breath was drawn, ready to speak to these old ghosts. A loneliness the world has never known settles into my chest.
I was born here.
I light the candles. I remove the sheets. I clean the windows and the floor. I make everything come to life again. I sit down in the old recliner, preparing the stories I will tell. The door creaks and moans its protest as you enter. Come in. Sit down.
I have so much to tell you.
Mom painted the living room wall again. Of course she painted the entire room, but she always starts with that wall. She keeps coming up with reasons. Nicotine stains were getting bad, a new color will make the room look bigger, a new décor for the new millennium. Each time she does it, I watch her. It gets easier after the first wall. But I can see the pain in her face as she moves the roller up and down that side of the room. She pushes harder, adds an extra coat that she doesn’t need. It is because in her mind she still sees what was there before. So do I. But I’ve learned to control it.
We see Dad, sitting on the floor. The blood on the wall, almost dry, paints a trail from his head up to the six foot high smattering of holes in the wall, made by the household shotgun he used to keep in the hall closet. Self-defense, the police decided. Dad attacked her after she discovered obvious stains on their bed. The white stains were from him. The red stains were not. She defended herself and, at the same time, got her revenge.
I like the new wall color.
You people make me sick! I mean it. If ever there was a group of people so pathetic as to make a man break his jaw rather than speak to them, it is YOU! How your kind could ever survive without daily bludgeoning is beyond me. If it were up to me you would all somehow become dead before leaving this room; slowly, excruciatingly dispatched in a manner that makes continental drift seem like a brisk pace. Mind you, while this is happening, I will smile and grope my biblical erection.
Honestly, of all the depraved and unconscionable things a person could do you people have taken the cake and, sickeningly, eaten it too! What’s this?!? Do I hear a sniffle? Two sniffles? Come on now, I expected more from you. Considering why you’re here I would have thought it would take more to bring you to tears. Like, perhaps, visiting a righteous and unparalleled act of mutilating violence upon your collective genitals, to such a degree that God himself would wonder why he even created such a thing as genitals in the first place! Perhaps then you will have the vaguest idea of what it feels like to be a victim of child molestation!!!
This isn’t the lecture to convicted child-rapists?
Then where the hell am I? …oh
Uhh, hello. Well, my name is Simon, and I am an alcoholic. Tomorrow I’ll have 281 days. Thank you.