Category Archives: Short Stories

ghosts

It’s a bad idea to become close to a writer because it hurts to know the truth about yourself. Your heart will be pierced. It becomes suffocating. At the age of eight, in the summer-time, I would swim at a swimming pool with the day-camp group my grandma paid for me to be a part of. Paid for me to get out of the house, interact with others my own age, gain useful life-lessons from the high school-aged counselors managing the camp. In the pool, the older boys would often swim up behind me, putting one hand on my head and the other around my shoulders, and dunk me. Every time felt like death. So sudden. I’d be gasping for air for a full minute after. The way other people speak about you when they don’t realize you are listening. The way other people see you. The words feel suffocating.

I stand in the mirror wearing a t-shirt and underwear, pinching my thighs in different directions. Change my mind every half-second, fat, thin, fat. Turn around, examine ass. Girl at tea-shop near work: I gotta stay away from your work, too dangerous, gotta watch my figure. Tell her I can feel my double-chin growing every day. She tells me to shut up. You’re just a little thing. Clench butt, examine cellulite. Turn around, push chin into neck, observe ease of double-chin. Lay down on bed feeling heavy. Always heavy.

At work, I’ve learned they don’t care a whole lot about who I am as a human being. They don’t need human beings, they need efficiency machines. I am improving as an efficiency machine. Feet hurt less than they used to. Co-workers joke they fantasize about breaking $30 bottles of olive oil, throwing hunks of prosciutto into glass windows, destroying everything. Co-workers bug me for slacking off during a slow period. Co-workers get promoted to managers. Managers bug me for slacking off during slow periods. Managers throw knives angrily into the sink.

Co-worker begs me not to quit because then he won’t have any bros left at work. All his bros have either quit or been promoted. Can’t be bros with a manager. I push my chin into my neck in the bathroom later, double chin, feel like a bro.

Feel my loneliest on the crowded subway after work, feet aching as I stand near pretty young student girl using her backpack to block anyone from sitting next to her. Feel my loneliest on my lunch break, scrolling through my phone contacts, terrified of each and every person’s name. Feel my loneliest scanning the room at a party, a few minutes after the person I was talking to told me they’d ‘be right back,’ seeing them engaged in animated conversation with another person, seeing them leave the room, seeing nobody else I know, seeing my own quivering hands holding a clear plastic cup of cheap red wine.

Beneath glowing green plastic stars, I can’t sleep much anymore. Dreams have become so mundane they blend with my waking life. I take the subway. I buy a coffee. I make sandwiches for ten hours. I have conversations about nothing. The people at my work become like little ghosts. Snapshots of lives. This is how a person shops for food. This is how somebody helps a customer. This is how somebody orders a shitty cup of lukewarm drip coffee. With milk, they say. My manager tells me to give them the whole milk container so they can pour it themselves. It is illegal, she says, for us to pour it for them. My manager has seen me drink alcohol before but has never seen me ingest drugs or skip the subway fare. The glass between us is tangible.

I spread my arms and legs out laying on the bare mattress in my one-room apartment. My thighs are liquid, spilling everywhere. Open a beer. Check email. Check bank account balance–double digits. Look at photos of my co-workers doing things together on their days off. They stopped inviting me out after maybe the third or fourth time I flaked. It’s depressing to spend all your time with the people you work with. Smiling in photos holding $10 glasses of wine. I live my life separately from these people.

Imagine becoming lifelong friends with someone. Imagine dying alone.

I pass so many people as a ghost, so closely but invisible. You can hug a person you don’t know. Say congratulations on your engagement, or I’m so sorry for your loss. This is just what you do. Words don’t need meaning. Words don’t have meaning. I speak less the more time I spend around someone. Throttle the words at the esophagus and hold them in the stomach. Only the necessary things. Enjoy your days off. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good luck on your date. The sunset filters through the brown curtains that came with my apartment. My thighs jiggle as I sit up to check my phone. I want someone to call and say they miss me. Then maybe I could feel weightless.

The Drunks

When we were nine Billy Jacobs told us that someone was living in the woods behind his house. He claimed a man with red hair would wave to him and disappear into the green like Bigfoot.

Five of us got together after school to find him. I brought along my kid brother Jared, who in those days was a nervous, neurotic child: a boy threatening to become a sulky teen, a loser-ish man. My dad told me to challenge him and make him uncomfortable; he said Jared would thank me one day.

We walked past the stream and the abandoned housing development and arrived in a big shaggy field. A man lay there with frizzy red hair, parted in the center, surrounded by trash and bottles. His face was scorched and lumpy with plump whiteheads that resembled useless, half-formed eyes. He grinned as we stood over him.

“You found me,” he slurred, the smell of vodka rising to our noses.

He sat up and reached into the grass. He pulled out a magazine and tore five pages from it, one for each of us.

My page was greasy and veiny with wrinkles. It showed a pale blond in a white room, pinning her genitals open with lurid red fingernails. It looked like she was trying to show us something hidden there. That part of her shined strangely, I remember. I wondered about that light a long time.

As we walked back, Jared stared at his page. I took it from him, crushed it, and threw it into the woods. “Don’t count on getting something for nothing,” I said. “Plus you’re too young.”

We went back a month later, twelve this time, all wanting a page.

The man and his things were gone.

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Some things I did and thought about and observed on my way to and from the sex toy store

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Walked down a busy street running through several towns, passed a building painted yellow, orange, purple, with something written above the door in gothic script. I really wanted it to be a spiritual or joyous message because of the exclamation point at the end and the birthday cake paintjob of the building but when I got closer I saw that it just said ‘The Sink Factory!’ which would normally be satisfying but I have been feeling like I’m on a pilgrimage of sorts, searching for purity or something, and I was looking for inspiration in gothic script.

Wanted to smoke the last half of a spliff I started earlier at home. I walked quickly and got in front of this Berkeley hippie looking dude in a ‘no fear’ tshirt and waited until there was enough distance between us and lit it, but by this time the untrodden area I was walking in had become strip malls and Thai food places and I passed by a family with two kids getting into their car parked in the parking lot I was passing by and hid the spliff in my hand until I had passed them.

Passed an old white man with white hair and a white mustache wearing a Members Only jacket and a black ball cap with the word ‘Compton’ spelled out in the same letters as the sign above the door of the place I had wished was a church.

Used my phone to get directions on how to get to the sex toy store but as I got close and figured out where I was I exited out so that the weird voice on my phone didn’t say ‘you have reached your destination’ before I walked into the store, notifying everyone passing outside that I needed to googlemap to get a vibrator.

Got carded at the sex toy store by a lady putting away dildos. She told me that I have a young face, then told me to let her know if I have any questions. I said thank you to both things. When I went to the counter to pay for the vibrator the same lady checked me out at the counter, like she took my money for my purchase. Told her I didn’t need a bag and put the vibrator box in my purse.

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A chaotic summary of the week in eight acts.

the-sick-roseYou were a royal swan once,
and now you have become mute.
Lal Ded

I’m a mystic, but only of the body.
My soul is simple and does not think.
Fernando Pessoa

One. Everything is happening so much faster than I had thought, the blood is here, quick, like summer. We wear sandals and denim jackets. If clothes are confusing, feelings are even more so. It’s monday, we talk religion. I buy myself a notebook because I’ve been eating alone.

Two. I detest the smell of the market at night, as much as I detest the words inheritance, mortuary, orphanhood. I detest having to suffer rhythm, appearing empty, belonging to someone. I love, without limit, the promenades of Pueblo Seco. We discover ourselves in small sullen spaces throughout the city. You go out for a run and I buy myself a carpet. I want to fly away with it. I want to understand this rhythm. I want to belong to you.

Three. Gonzalo is going to New York, he says, and I yearn for February. How good everything was in February, I think. How selfishly good everything was in February. It’s been two months since we’ve last seen Gonzalo. His laugh is still soothing. There is now a vast distance we have learned to solve with alcohol. Beer, white wine, pearls of sake. If it weren’t for the fruit, my stomach would be burning.

Four. Friendships are strange, they never stop surprising me. I tell you that I just want to be quiet. That all I like to do is to eat with Mai and talk of how to climb the mountains inside us. I think of our vacations. Are we really going to Oporto? And to Paris? And to Saint Petersburg? With what money? I know I should be kinder. I know I should not be as bad as I am. I know I should be more affectionate. But I detest the smell of the market. I loathe it.

Five. I slowly write two or three pieces a day. And when I talk of what I want, I recover confidence in my profession. Last Friday I noticed how one small phrase thrilled a friend. That’s what I expect from literature. You ask me if there is conflict in being a journalist, a publisher, and a poet. They only conflict, I think, when you don’t like one of them. But I like them all. Communication is a necessity. A loving obligation.

Six. This computer is missing the 6 key. Instead I write . Look: . This is a . A six. A . . . This computer, that was once yours and is now mine, does not know how to write out the day I was born. Let’s say I was not born. Let’s imagine the evaporation of a generation of poets.

Seven. But nothing has evaporated because the news is good and the shirts are new. I wear a floral print shirt to celebrate the letter I received today. I pray (even if I never pray) for my beautiful sister from Mexico to come with us. If everything works out, she’ll come. If everything works out, we’ll hug you. If everything works out, long tribute. All my life. Long tribute.

Eight. Lal, Lalla, Lalishiri. Even if I never pray, I speak to you. Your voice is of a mermaid who only knew the desert. Lal, Lalla, Lalishiri. How many generations have ignored you? If you were a man, everyone would love you. But since you are a woman, I find you among the heavy geometry books, ripped, heavy, heavy, a meditative testosterone for the soul. Lal, Lalla, Lalishiri. You married at twelve and divorced at twenty-four. At that age I’ll be a mother, I promise you, Lal, Lalla, Lalishiri. I promise you, miswriting your name, that at that age I will not be divorced but that I will be married to my embarrassments and to my abandoned flowers. Lal, Lalla, Lalishiri. You say that the dead do not exist. What can I give you as tribute?

 

Translated from the Spanish by Luis Silva

actually the correct term is Frankenstein’s Monster, u smugly say as they pull the lever

u wake up due to loud construction happening somewhere nearby, in her bed with ur arm around her.  she is still asleep and u move with her sleep motions.  thirty minutes later she wakes up and u kiss her.

“what are u thinking about?” she asks.

u wrinkle ur forehead “um i’m wondering if the construction workers outside are in love, or if they feel scorned or hurt or apathetic.  is there love going into the building they are working on?  has one of them carved someone’s name on a supporting beam?”

she crosses her eyes at u and walks into the bathroom and brushes her teeth.

u walk out to the living room and see that ur friend has left, putting the pull-out bed back together as he left.

she walks out of the bathroom, “where’s ur friend?”

“it looks like he left.”

u walk outside with her and sit on the porch steps as she lights a cigarette.  she offers u a puff and u shake ur head.

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I Played CS 1.6 All Night And Then Things Got Interesting

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If you ever forget what it’s like to feel alive, just wake up one morning after getting no sleep and then drink a lot of coffee. That uncomfortable feeling, the one that feels like you have to pee and poop and also something else you’re not sure exactly yet, and it feels like everyone else is also feeling that same feeling, that is what it’s like to feel alive.

Hi, my name is krapz. It’s 4AM, and I live in the year 2004. I just found out, only a couple of hours ago, that George Washington was reelected.

“do u mean george bush,” says ReIgnitioN on CS 1.6. Then he says, “i am recording a frag vid right now,” and if it’s anything like his other videos, it’ll probably be edited together with that Sandstorm song. ReIgnitioN has a lot of respect in the community for having the most headshots in his frag vids.

“yes i mean george w bush fuck him,” i say and get killed by ReIgnitioN.

“thats going in the frag vid,” he says.

“im so mad,” I say, “where r u john kerry when the country really needs u”

“im owning,” says ReIgnitioN. Next round, I spawn terrorist side, De_Dust.

“this noob is hacking,” says 666.butane, whose k/d ratio is the top of the server.

“u talking to me?” ReIgnitioN says.

“ya”

“roflcopter i see u using wallhacks,” ReIgnitioN says.

“fucking noobs always in this server,” 666.butane says.

“ur the top player in a 24/7 de_dust server go kill yourself.” ReIgnitioN kills 666.butane. “say hello to all my fans noob hahaha”

“john kerry lost because he is a waffle eating rich boy from massachusetts,” 666.butane says before leaving the server.

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the secret to the perfect something

it was during the reading when i saw dug and nini sneaking out back that i realized they’re both two living, independent people, like two big balls, two big energy balls filled with gravity and science. they didn’t just seem like old people, actually they were the opposite of old people, they were stupid, and funny to watch. in the hall, everyone was drinking beer, i went to dug and said ‘im getting fucked up!’ and laughed, and he laughed too but he didn’t do it in his self-aware, stylish way. it was just like a raw laugh, like a youtube video laugh. jesus, it seemed unbelievable. he asked how i liked the reading, and i said, ‘the ending was the best,’ and he looked uncomfortable. but that’s ok, i’m used to making friends uncomfortable. ‘i’m just kidding, it was all awful like always’ i said, and started laughing for him. dug kept looking around the room. i said, ‘you’re not paying any attention to me,’ and sighed and told him that i saw her go outside. dug made a funny face and gave me a hug, like we were real friends, like sitcom friends, the best kind of friends. i walk towards antony. ‘love is in the airrrrr,’ i said.

he tells me that they’re gross then siz walks by us and we both hold our breath until he passes, and we look at each other like it’s funny, and we both make hissy noises in unison. and later, i’ll be talking to my 3yr old niece, and she’ll say, ‘what’s that?’ while pointing to my armpit, and i’ll say, ‘yeah, you’ll get hair there when u grow up.’

‘when i grow up!’ she says, ‘when i grow up i’ll be just like u!’

‘yeah, yeah you can totally do that, you can be like anyone else too, or i mean, you don’t have to be me, you can be anyone, you can be yourself i mean, you can be totally different, you know, be yourself, yeah.’

and she kept trying to get up but her face was on the floor and she couldn’t really stabilize her lower body, and life sometimes feels like a photo album if you think about how things were and how they are now, like a big photo album, nothing really happening, chuckle at a funny face, look at an interesting sculpture, be confused by who exactly everyone is, like a big happy photo album.

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Carl Stanley will touchdown in beautiful, wonderful Dubai for the 2024 Save Earth Convention. Every year, the world’s most ambitious programmers travel to Dubai for a chance to be a part of Save Earth Inc., the largest nonprofit in the world. “Good luck, baby. I love you so much!” Carl’s girlfriend messages him on Kik. In the hotel lobby, Marty Stillgood, who Carl Stanley has read about online, approaches him. Carl feels like he is being approached by a celebrity, but not really. It actually sort of feels like he is seeing an old friend who he doesn’t like or know anything about.

“Carl Stanley,” Marty says, “Do you know the workers here make less than a dollar a week?”

“They deserve more,” Carl says.

“What was your app for again? Parking meters? Do you really think you are capable of achieving anything in your small, miniscule life?”

Carl talks to his girlfriend on Skype, and he wonders what it takes to get close to another human being. Carl believes that there is a system to it. If you do certain things in a certain order, there will be results. How often can you tell someone something before they feel similarly to you. When Carl Stanley is sad, his girlfriend will be sad. It doesn’t matter if they’re in different countries. Carl thinks that there are powerful frequencies that leave the body and alter the lives of others. These frequencies can cause ripples throughout the universe.

Stanley Marty is floating in the pool when Carl sneaks behind him and splashes water in his face.

“Yo! Cut it out!” says Stanley.

Carl originally helped Stanley develop an app that was able to determine if your coffee was decaf or not. Stanley is otherkin. He believes that he is, in some way, not entirely human. He prefers to be identified as a fox. Carl Stanley finds this kind of thinking to be exciting and uplifting.

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The Hippies Arrived

the hippies arrived

By Manuel Abreu Adorno (1978)
Translated by Manuel Arturo Abreu (2014)

Don’t ask me why it happened. I don’t have the slightest idea why they celebrated it there in the first place. Neither do I remember exactly when they began to arrive like hordes from the north. They came in groups, of five or six, sometimes more. They arrived in the morning, noon, and night. They arrived to stay the three days the festival lasted. They arrived with their bookbags and tents. They arrived with manes and in blue jeans. They arrived with hash and kief. They arrived with flutes and guitars. They arrived hitchhiking on the highway. They’ve arrived, the braless chicks and shirtless dudes. They arrived barefoot and with flowers in their hair. They arrived carrying the most recent Jerry Rubin tucked under their arms. They arrived making the peace sign with their fingers in a V. They arrived with the words Peace and Love on their lips. They arrived tall and short, fat and thin, blond and dark. The hippies arrived to Vega Baja.

I arrived the same Friday it began. I arrived to the stay the three days the festival lasted. I arrived with my mane and my blue jeans. I arrived without a bookbag or tent. I arrived without hash or kief. I arrived with money to buy LSD. I arrived without flute or guitar. I arrived on a bus from San Juan. I arrived with a long-sleeved blue shirt. I arrived in leather sandals. I arrived with a wine-filled Spanish boot hanging on my arm. I arrived waiting to catch a good position near the scene. I arrived smiling at the blond chicks. I arrived at six pm to Vega Baja.

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Fran.

There is nothing more unsettling than seeing someone walking alone with a smile on their face. I’m not referring to your regular ‘life is nice’ type smile, but a big one, a smile with teeth. It makes the person look psychotic and makes those around them uncomfortable.

Fran always walked around with a big smile, a smile with teeth. It made her look psychotic. She wasn’t psychotic though. Her mind was relatively dull actually. She was entirely self-absorbed and this naturally made her boring to other people.  Fran didn’t think she was boring though.

Fran liked having conversations in her head. Conversations with other people were boring; conversations with herself however were of constant amusement. I suppose they weren’t really conversations, rather she imagined a voice talking in her head, about herself. The voice was a choice; she didn’t believe the voice was there of its own accord. It was just a way to pass time whilst walking to and from work at the sock shop. She sold socks. She wasn’t passionate about it and she didn’t get paid well.

Fran was 22 and bored. She hated socks, she didn’t wear them anymore. As a result she had to throw out a lot of her shoes. She had a boyfriend, Jerry. She didn’t like him but he was good looking. She wasn’t depressed, she liked herself a lot.

Fran imagined she was a famous tambourine player and the voice in her head was that of a critic, or of many critics. She didn’t imagine herself as being overly famous but thought of herself as an underground favorite. A darling of the intellectual music lovers.

“Fran is the best thing to happen to music since Bob Dylan went electric. She is the perfect combination of experimental fun and astute social commentary. Her work is extremely ahead of its time and has a real urgency to it; I haven’t heard something this exciting in a long time. The shakes of her tambourine reveal a lot about the postmodern condition. Fran might just change the world.”

Having a voice in her head saying these things to her is what caused Fran to smile with teeth whilst walking alone on the street. For some reason she didn’t feel inclined to pick up a tambourine though. She had never picked up a tambourine. She had never played any instrument on stage. She had never been on a stage. She thought that if she did go on stage with a tambourine that is the type of thing people would say though. Fran didn’t not pick up a tambourine as some sort of nihilistic protest to deny the world her talents. She genuinely just couldn’t be bothered picking up a tambourine. Fran was satisfied with the voice in her head knowing how amazing she was.

“Fran turned the New York music scene on its head last night with a performance that can’t be described accurately with words. The crowd was enthralled. It was as though Fran was showing us the future. She is the future, Fran and her tambourine.”

Fran was a bit of a narcissist.