Thursday, May 9, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

SINGULARITIES Chapter One Sasha lived alone with three cats she didn’t much care for. She’d never been much of a cat person—or a care for another living person or thing too much for that matter—and so it stood to reason that the cats shared a similar lack of enthusiasm for Sasha. They were cats, after all. All they wanted was to be fed and stroked, usually in that order and both only as the mood struck them. That they weren’t even Sasha’s was a fact that made it all the more reasonable that none of the parties involved were overly invested in their relationship. Each morning, and throughout the better half of each night, the cats arrived to be fed or lounge about on the pillows, magazines, blankets, paperbacks and other tattered stacks of Sasha’s crapped apartment. This, cat-like, they pursued as was their fancy. At leisure they came and went through the open window of the fire escape, slipping between a slice in the screen that had been that way since Sasha had begun squatting earlier that year. Those had been the breezy if polluted days of spring with a man-child who had long since slipped out one night—a cat himself—leaving her to never return. She didn’t know any of the cats’ names. She’d toyed with a few monikers—Dingus, Asshole, and Pester—but after realizing that she was really talking to her ex and absent boyfriend and that the cats cared about as much for conversation as she did or he might have, Sasha let go and just referred to the four of them collectively as Cat. Twice of late Sasha had kept her window closed to keep them out. Neither of those rebellions had made it a full circuit of the kitchen clock’s hour hand. Once the lock-out had been discovered, the mewing was mad and persistent and in the end sounded like a nunnery of orphaned infants in pain. The young woman, defeated and slipping back to reality from the haze and stupor of another heroin plunge, opened the window to let them in like life itself. They were all she had. She almost admitted as much. Almost. Lighting another cigarette even as one already smoldered in the ashtray before her, Sasha resigned for the fourth time in so many days that come morning she would finally work up the nerve to visit the old woman next door. The old woman who shared the fire escape. The old woman to whom the cats truly belonged. The old woman whose name might have been Fitzgerald or McGuire. The old woman who had not made so much as a bump or cough in the past two months despite the detail that, prior to her recent silent running, she had been a habitually vulgar and persistently foul-mouthed human vodka filter of the ten a.m. to three a.m. variety. … The door looked ajar. It wasn’t. An old building in a bad neighborhood, the door frame had suffered numerous crowbar and cat’s-paws assaults. The man considering the door now, he had been responsible for a few of those previous intrusions himself. He felt the fool as he gripped the doorknob with a trickle of hope. Just a girl. Or so his too often truncated thoughts fought, eating one another in a cannibalism of preservation as he let the knob slip away without finding the courage to turn and test the lock. Just a girl. The notion, the excuse that had won-out to bring him this far repeated itself. She need looking after. Ain’t being a creep. A snoop. A pervert. Yes I am. Yes he was. He fell back into the stairwell where the overhead fluorescents flickered like distant lightning strikes on open water. Not that he’d ever fared the sea. Excuse my intrusion. There, pressed against the lime green wall that seemed to swell to meet him, he suddenly knew he had been found out. Or so he’d thought for half a held breath. But the couple was thick, ignorant of everything beyond their groins and mouths. A pair entwined to make one, too busy with tryst, humping in the stairwell corner as if the fate of mankind rested in the success of their fuck. And that last bit would be another case of authorial intrusion excepting for the fact that the man watching thought just that. That, and a few other filthier collages littered his mind as his hand crept to mate with his cock. On the landing below, where the two pressed as if to push themselves through one another, where the small of her damp back and flat of her taut belly smacked and sucked between the wall and her lover’s flesh, there the sound of their coupling echoed something like a blacksmith’s bellows working hard and mad to stoke the fire. They were neighbors. Married, but not to each other. The man watching from above leaned as far over the rail as he dared, stealing another glimpse of their commingling even as he closed his eyes. He wondered if their counterparts weren’t off someplace—the laundry room in the basement, maybe—taking advantage of their absence to also make the beast with two backs. Probably. He clenched himself harder at the thought. She opened her eyes briefly and gasped to catch him spying. Dumb as a child he threw himself back from the rail and clenched his eyes and teeth. But nothing followed. No litany of curses. No screamed accusations. She remained in the moment. What little that had escaped her, her partner assumed was merely the first of her climax. It hadn’t been, but then just as quickly was. The pair shuddered and finished as the blue jeans around the man’s thighs finally fell to his ankles when he let her slip from him, her feet finding the floor as well. “The Super,” she whispered hoarsely as she stooped quickly to retrieve her underwear from the tile. She shifted her hiked dress back into place while her lover pulled up his jeans. “Fuck him,” her partner growled, zipping his fly in flourish. He thought she was voicing concern that the man might be about, not that he most certainly was. Before thirty seconds more could pass, they were gone, two doors at opposing ends of the hall echoing shut behind them as they went their separate ways. The bank of lights continued fitzing and fritzing above the Super as the undeniable odor of their sexual congress reached him. Or maybe the building just always stinks that way. He looked back down the hall to Sasha’s door. Just a girl. Feeling his breakfast returning in a bad way, and suddenly needing to purge his lungs as well, he turned away and climbed the stairs far more quickly than usual, desperately seeking out the roof and rain. … The piano in the apartment upstairs from Sasha’s usually came to life twice daily. In the mornings it began around ten and then resumed again about the same time in the PM. Both sessions tended to run an hour or so and consisted first of scales and a few other drills for fifteen to twenty minutes before the unknown pianist dove into music. Sadly, this was without exception merely the same three melodies played over and over again with very little variation except for the misplaced note here and there as he or she struggled to improve. Sasha didn’t recognize the music and judged by the less than catchy merits of all three that they might be the pianist’s own compositions. It was just after ten in the evening. Sasha was awake. Restless and swollen-eyed, she sat at the window, one haunch propped on the sill as she smoked, braless in a ragged t-shirt and panties, gazing blankly out into the gloom, thinking of nothing, being nothing. The piano upstairs began as if on cue. Within a few minutes the plinking was obscured by the growing approach of sirens. A police cruiser arrived first, the strobe of its emergency lights painting Sasha’s pale scrunched face red and blue, red and blue. The wail of sirens followed, arriving with the pair of fire trucks fast on the cruiser’s tail. The piano went silent. Footsteps crossed the ceiling and stopped directly above Sasha. The window above ground open as the person there spoke. Whether what was said was meant for another or merely a lonely aside, Sasha couldn’t say. The words, garbled and unclear and muddled by the sirens’ continued caterwaul, went unanswered or unheard by Sasha. It was an androgynous voice, she caught that much; an effeminate man or a masculine woman. As the silhouette of her neighbor wavered along the rails of the fire escape overhead, Sasha leaned back to conceal herself. Into the shadows of my hovel. Like a mouse, she thought, moving her cigarette to conceal it as well behind her bare thigh. Or a rat. She let slip a silent exhalation of smoke. It was late in the year and the one tree outside Sasha’s window looked like a piece of scenery, a lie of the eye made by stagehands too lazy to festoon it with leaves. This will do, they’d said. It’ll pass from the third row back, she mused, looking past the bare spindly branches to study the men below as they clambered down from their rigs and made preparations to do whatever it was they were going to do. The tree was dead. Not that the season mattered; the tree had been dead for three years gone by now. For that matter it was about as much as a stage piece. The last bird she’d seen had made purchase there two years into a past that felt as alien as a stranger’s dreams. The feathered husk was nestled in the crook of the trunk’s roots come morning. Sasha had even made the discovery. Dead tree and dead bird. Evolution winding down. Time eroding like soap under a hot tap. What she would have given for a warm bath. The stranger above went back to the piano and began a tinny, wandering refrain. Finally, something new. Thank god for inspired fool. She lingered at the window, playing witness as dead as the tree between them as the men set charges to drop the now clearly burning building—how had she not noticed the fire before—imploding it to contain its fiery contagion. She was impressed that they worked with very little conversation. She finally, slowly, almost regrettably, abandoned the window to seek the cover and comfort of blanket and bare mattress just as she knew at last she must. Nestling and thinking herself that dead little bird, she wondered if her windows would shatter with the blast. They did. The city burns by rote.   Chapter Two The cityscape was a wasteland. The work of long dead architects without so much as an apprentice to carry on. It was a study in decay. From the residents’ ruined language—a mishmash of English as diseased, rotted, and dying as mouths that produced it—to the refuse piled and spilling at every turn between so many crumbling walls that seemed now to serve no other purpose than to showcase scrawling scripts of graffito indecipherable. The people reeked--both the living and the steady stream of corpses that swelled and burst in the light of each new day. The light that the rats no longer feared. Another fortnight or two of carpet-bombings would be an improvement; do it some good; would be heaven-sent, Sasha thought as she picked her way home through the gauntlet of unyielding shoulders. At sidewalk level nearly every window was broken behind rusted security bars. At some point along each block—sometimes twice or even three times and on both sides of the street—husks of what once were automobiles sat on blocks or rims, their remnants stripped bare and what remained usually torched for whatever reason. Certainly not to conceal any crime. No authority existed any longer to bother with such mundane concerns. And so they sat rusting ubiquitous and permanent enough to serve as landmarks now. Which worked out well enough, since street signs, for the most part, were no longer to be found, as well. “Take a left at the burned-out red Toyota and go three blocks until you see the pile of wrecked pick-ups and the overturned flower van. I’m just across the street. Apartment 5G. Fifth floor. But the G is missing. And don’t bother with the buzzer—doesn’t work. Then again, neither does the lock in the lobby so it doesn’t matter.” All this Sasha would have explained if ever she had a reason. She hadn’t. As an afterthought, she might have added, “Don’t even so much as whisper on the stairwell around the second and third floors. You do and you’ll set the dogs off.” Tossing in yet another, deeper aside, “I hate those goddamned animals. And I hate their dogs, too.”

Monday, December 31, 2012

Petition the White House... Act on Gun Laws. More so and more so, it seems it is the fearful and madmen who most vocally argue the right to bear arms. The longer the debate goes on, I am beginning to find a sickening irony in my beloved nation’s claim of being a melting pot. We are becoming a stew of mad fear…a meal of no nutritional value in this regard. I can see the side of those who do not want to change the gun laws in the US. Further, I can concede understanding how gun advocates see our most recent tragedy’s outrage as knee-jerk and reactionary. It is a sad day in our grand experiment when the actions of a solitary madman can lead us to throw away the very rights and privileges that helped found our nation. I see and appreciate that. I’m the last who wants liberty to give way to fear, to wake to find us falling overs ourselves in some panicked dash from potential danger, and this so much so that we trip blindly from the independent spirit that saved us once from tyranny only to flip headlong into the unknown arms of legislation that could be nothing more than another briar patch of oppression. At the same turn, I am too broken, too angry now, to idly watch on as fools arm themselves to the teeth against threats imagined. I will not remain silent as my flesh and blood may be falling deeper into harm’s way as a result of a neighbor’s fear and delusion. I will not trust John Q. Public next door over my elected government. Dysfunctional as that government may be at times, it is not nearly as capable of being as damaged as a single man, a man such as the one who just an hour from my home killed all those children the same age as my own boy who was enjoying his day in kindergarten that morning as were those sons and daughters at Sandy Hook. This single event, this solitary madman, he has struck now one time too many. In this hour I know who I fear more and who I trust more. I fear the fool with an arsenal. I trust my government. Or, at least, I’m trying to. I want to see us, as a nation, find a compromise. Legal and reasonable gun ownership for those citizens that prove they are worthy and capable of holding that power and privilege.

Monday, December 17, 2012

KIRKUS REVIEWS did me the honor of naming my novel Cicada among their "Best Indie Books of 2012." So of course I'm going to mention where you can find it on Amazon: CICADA

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fellow author and friend of the blog, Winston Emerson, who I can't praise and recommend highly enough, is running a Kickstarter campaign to...well, just read for yourself here. Please do check it out and throw some support if you can. He's a helluva talent and the new project, The Object, is exceptional.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Murder, sex, magic, and ancient Rome. A serial killer preys upon those who are truly the most dangerous game…the gladiators. As the killer collects macabre trophies, it falls to the Prefect of the Night Watch to end the madness. But this is Rome, where blood spills like wine, and dreams…they are all too often nightmares. Available here and also on Kindle. Edited by Dan Hauer