Friday, March 23, 2018

Presume And Concede

     Sarah wished that she hadn’t been completely broken when she met Chris. If only he’d come into her life seven or eight years earlier, he would have seen her at her best, at her peak. Well, what she was certain now had been her final peak. Now she was sliding into decrepitude at an alarming rate, much faster than she’d feared – and she’d feared something awful. Every day a new part of her body ached, while all the previous aches remained, and some even worsened. Also, her skin seemed to be loosening, as if preparing to make room for more bones or muscles, when she knew quite well there would be no new bones or muscles. Perhaps she was becoming a giant change purse. She had a sudden image of herself walking up and down the city streets, kindly feeding the meters for strangers from her many pockets of flab, annoying and disgusting the parking enforcement officials who rushed to get ahead of her. At least her life would have some purpose after Chris left her. For certainly he would leave her. What use could he have for an aging, aching mound of flab? If only I’d met him when I was twenty-six, she thought. That was a good year for me. Of course, then he was only fourteen, but we would have managed somehow. I could have picked him up from school and helped him with his algebra.
     It wasn’t simply that Sarah believed she had physically become something of a mess – a collection of aches vaguely resembling human form – but emotionally she’d been drained, emptied, and had nothing to give. Chris surely could see that. Right? Too many shitty relationships, too many shitty jobs, too many parking tickets, too many nights crying had left her numb (on her best days) or distraught (all the other days), and she was now beyond faking it, at least for more than a few hours at a time.
     She had been able to fake it the night she met Chris. It was a Thursday, and she was out drinking by herself, something she said she rarely did, but something she did every single Thursday. Her favorite bar, The Ragged Turtle, had a Thursday evening special, and the drinks were half off. And it wasn’t the alcohol that gave her an exaggerated sense of confidence, for she’d only just arrived (maybe one drink in) when she saw Chris. Or, rather, when Chris bumped into her. Okay, no, she corrected, she must have been two drinks in, because she was getting up to pee when they met. And no, he didn’t bump into her, truth be told, she bumped into him as she struggled off her bar stool in the direction of the toilet. Something she needed to do after one drink, but always waited until she’d had two, because the bathroom was less than pleasant and she did her best to limit the number of trips she took. So when she had to go, she really had to go. And when she bumped into him, she did not say “Excuse me” or “Pardon” or “Sorry.” She said “Cocksucker.”
     Still, she must have been doing something right, projecting an air of confidence, for he introduced himself when she returned from the bathroom. Had he been waiting for her? He’d taken the stool beside the one where her next drink waited for her, a drink she didn’t recall ordering. Had he ordered it for her? Damn presumptuous, and damn nice of him, she thought. And she brought him home with her. That is, after two or three more drinks, and then some water and conversation to give her time to sober up and to learn whether he was just a pretty face or if he’d be someone worth waking up next to. He held the door open for her when they left the bar. That was a good sign. But now she felt he’ll soon be closing the door on her. It had been two weeks, and she was sure that any bit of fun she could claim to be must have worn out by then. He must see the real me now, the me that is not intriguing or mysterious, the me that burps and farts and whines and changes lanes without signaling, the me that forgets to pay bills on time, the me that dyes her hair not quite often enough to hide hints of grey, the me that wants to run over pedestrians who don’t cross the street quickly enough, the me that once did hit a bicyclist – just nicked him, really, but still. He’s going to find a younger version of me, which of course he should, and I’ll be upset for a month and will age more in that time, and will have to settle for a sad old married man who wants a fling with a slightly younger, slightly sadder woman, and that’s what I deserve because I hit that bicyclist and I’m a hideous crone with a temper. The problem was that Sarah really liked Chris. He was different from the other men she’d met at the bar, in as much as when she found him in her bed that first morning, she was happy. She didn’t rush him out the door with a dozen excuses and empty talk of a future encounter. Sarah wanted to stay in that bed with him for weeks, and actually called in sick to work, and didn’t even mind or worry that he didn’t need to do the same, but simply stayed there with her without notifying anyone. Sure, the thought crossed her mind that he was an unemployed drunk, but it also crossed her mind that he was independently wealthy – independent of work, a man without attachment, hers for the taking. For a brief moment she felt young and beautiful and exciting and just the sort of woman that this man had been searching all the bars of the city for. They fucked all morning.
     It wasn’t long before her brain reminded her that she’s broken and fated to die alone at a bus stop (even though she rarely took public transportation). Her head was full of doom and gloom, which she recognized as Reality. Everything would be over soon enough, and maybe already was.

     Chris wished he could have waited a year or two before meeting Sarah, for surely he’d have his shit together by then. Full-time employment was waiting for him just around the corner, he was certain of that, and within a year – maybe two, three at the most – he’d have paid off all his bills, have plenty of money in his savings account, be living in his own place, and be (not just appear to be) a stable individual. Then things would have a real chance of working out. As it was, Chris felt, it was only a matter of time before Sarah realized what a complete loser he was, that he was staying with a friend in a one-bedroom apartment, sleeping on his couch (the arrangement being that he had to be out of the apartment at least ten hours a day or start chipping in more for rent and utilities). She would find out that he hadn’t put his college degree to any sort of use, that he had put his dreams on hold for so long that they now seemed like the dreams of someone else, that he’d never managed to maintain a relationship longer than a few months (and that he’d never really wanted to), and that he might never become the person everyone had promised him he would be, and she would move on. There was no way a woman this beautiful, this funny, this exciting was going to remain with him. I’m not prepared for her, he thought, and she’s going to see that as soon as she’s sober.
     That’s not what he thought when he met her, however, but the next night. When he met her, though he had just arrived at the bar, he was already a bit tipsy. The Ragged Turtle was only a few blocks from where he was staying, and it was cheaper to drink at home, so he had begun his drinking there. But the one thing he was allowing himself these days was a bit of music on Wednesday nights. That was country night at the bar, and the local bands that played were actually pretty good. And, more importantly, the women who went out for country night were eager for physical contact, eager to dance, eager to be found attractive. But when he entered the place, he heard a pop song on the jukebox, and there was no band on the small stage, not even any equipment that held the promise of a band playing soon. Chris made his way to the bar, to ask the bartender if the venue was no longer doing country night, when a woman knocked into him and called him a cocksucker, and he fell for her instantly. Here’s a girl who was not trying to make an impression, a girl who was not eager to be told she was attractive, a woman with confidence. He sat down on the stool next to the one she vacated, assuming she’d return soon, as she headed toward the bathrooms in the back. He ordered a drink, and when it arrived and he found the drink cost half as much as usual, and asked the bartender what the woman had been drinking, and ordered another for her. If she doesn’t come back, fuck it, I’ll drink it myself, he reasoned. And for several moments he thought that in fact she wasn’t coming back, that she had left through the back door and was stumbling outside, bumping into things and swearing at them. I hope she’s not driving, he thought. He had a sudden image of her bumping her car into things like telephone poles and storefronts and saying “Cocksucker.” But then there she was, beside him, staring at her drink and clearly wondering if she’d ordered it. She then turned to him and said, “You’re cute.” When was the last time a woman had called him cute? When was the last time a woman had given him any compliments at all? And when was the last time he felt he deserved such a compliment? “My name is Chris,” he told her.
     Chris was not one of those drunks who believes himself to be charming and witty and eloquent, but he must have managed to bring off at least a verisimilitude of those qualities, for Sarah, as she introduced herself, remained by his side for the span of two more drinks. He had to call it a night after that, for even with the drinks being half-priced he couldn’t afford to buy any more. Sarah agreed that they should switch to water to sober up before hitting the road, and then something rather shocking occurred – Sarah asked him to come home with her. His brain had been hard at work on solving the puzzle of how he could continue the night without money and without taking her to his place, which wasn’t even his place, the sight of which would have counteracted any progress he’d made, eliminated any interest she might have in him. “We have to fuck quietly here on the couch because my roommate has to be up early for work” is not a sentence that is going to make a grown woman swoon. He had taken other women there, and did utter similar lines to them, but there was something special about this one, and he felt he needed to offer a bit more. But what? But how? While he struggled to find an answer, she solved the problem for him with her astounding and glorious suggestion that he go home with her. She didn’t even ask where his car was (which was good, as he didn’t have one at the moment), and maybe that was because he held the door for her as they exited the bar. She seemed pleased, and he wanted to do that again with the door to her car, but of course she was driving, and his chivalry was met with pleasant laughter.
     In the morning, he was shocked to find himself still in her bed. She hadn’t kicked him out, and she seemed in no hurry to do so now. In fact, she called her office and said she wouldn’t be in, and then turned and kissed him. That morning, she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen or even hoped to see. What had he done to deserve this amazing woman? Nothing. Nothing at all, he realized. And she’s going to realize that herself soon enough, and so Chris suggested they open a bottle of wine. I have to keep her drunk, Chris decided. It’s the only way she’ll continue to find me interesting. The trick will be keeping her drunk for a year or two, the time I need to really pull myself together and be the man her inebriation has caused her to believe I am.
     I am going to fail. There was no way to achieve what was needed, and he recognized it. His brain told him as much. Even drunk, his brain continued to maintain its sad grasp on Reality. I am going to lose her. Everything would be over soon enough, and maybe already was.

     Gil opened The Ragged Turtle nearly four years before Sarah and Chris met, and in that time hadn’t earned enough money that he could stop taking bartending shifts himself. Besides, he liked it, tending bar, no matter how much he complained to his wife about it. And she liked the stories he’d tell her of the customers, no matter how much she complained about her lonely evenings. “Tell me again about that goofy couple that met there,” she asked him, in part because she knew the request would please him, and partly because Gil often got excited himself when he talked about other people hooking up and she was working herself up to a mood.
     “I didn’t think those two would ever meet,” he began, the way he always began this one. “He came in on Wednesdays, for country night. And she came on Thursdays, for cheap drink night. But one week he got his days mixed up.” His wife put her arms around him and kissed his neck, and Gil decided he could finish his story later.

(Copyright 2018 Michael Doherty)

(Note: I wrote the first section of this story while at work on March 20th, as well as notes for the second and last sections. A crew member had banged his head that day, and I was sent to the hospital with him and wrote most of that section in the waiting room. I then started working on the second and third sections on the 21st, and finished the story today.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Brief Love Story

     When Troy met the love of his life, he was fifteen minutes too late. He walked to the convenience store, love being the farthest thing from his mind. A package of mints was foremost in his thoughts. Also, basketball scores and a variation on Tic Tac Toe that he’d been developing for some time. But when he stepped through the doorway into the harsh fluorescent lighting, his right shoe slipped, and when he landed on the floor, he found himself face to face with Elise, whose wide-open, mystified eyes met his gaze and held it. He had never seen anyone or anything so beautiful. She didn’t speak a word, but just looked at him, and – Troy felt – really saw him. Saw him and knew him. His faults, his errors, his imperfections, his shortcomings. Saw it all and did not judge or criticize. Just looked and accepted. Accepted him completely. And Troy knew he’d met an extraordinary woman.
     If only she’d not been shot multiple times just fifteen minutes earlier. It was her blood on the floor that his right foot had slipped in. She had been in the way when two nervous thieves tried to make a hasty exit from the store with $63.75 and two six-packs of cheap domestic beer. Troy’s face would be the last thing she ever saw, and that only for the briefest of moments. She was dead by the time Troy realized he loved her. She never even told him her name, though he’d learn it later from the local news reports. Their relationship was one left unsullied by such common details.
     Troy remained on the floor until police and paramedics separated him from his love. From their questions, it became clear to him that they at first believed he’d been shot too. Then they thought he was in shock, and the police mistakenly counted him as an eye witness to the crime. Over the next few days he did his best to answer their questions in the hope that he would be able to see Elise at least one more time. But soon their questions stopped, and he was forgotten, his request to see Elise ignored.
     For the rest of his life, Troy would continue loving Elise, thinking about her whenever he needed a mint or slipped on some blood, and especially when he tried to get close to someone new and couldn’t find that complete acceptance in the woman’s face. The disappointment he felt each time he looked for love and found only doubt and judgment led him back to the memory of Elise. On those nights, he would excuse himself from the date, drive out to a playground at the edge of town and play his special variation of Tic Tac Toe with a young vagabond named Zippy. No one ever won, and he gave Zippy a dollar for the attention.

(Copyright 2018 Michael Doherty)

(Note: I wrote this story while at work on February 13th, and made a few small changes today, Valentine’s Day.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mistress Boobilicious Returns

Mistress Boobilicious has returned from the mountain with a new fur and a strange green concoction that, if taken orally, would incapacitate a giant for the duration of a football game. She is now an inch taller and carries a pouch of human ashes which she has promised to deliver to a woman in Seattle. Upon news of her return, celebrations broke out in bars and mental wards across the nation.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Selves And Dogs

     Risa West was an occasional visitor to her own life, but it didn’t interest her all that much. Most of her time she spent living the life of Samantha Arden, a woman who disappeared often – sometimes mid-sentence – in order to jump out of planes or rescue abused puppies, or – on a good day – both. Then Risa would step in, finishing the sentence, getting a glass of whiskey and collecting a small check for her efforts.
     Samantha Arden had rescued forty-three dogs, and planned to find good homes for them. So far, she’d found no better home than her own, which now carried a distinct odor, an odor that announced to anyone approaching the house that the dogs were more important than any people who might dwell within. Very few people ever approached the house. Samantha, however, had a loyal and somewhat hungry following among the sexually inadequate. Her picture greeted many a frustrated and lonely man when he turned on his computer each morning. These men would undoubtedly say that Samantha was the most important being in the kennel her home had become.
     Lester, one of Samantha’s most eager and sympathetic admirers, had on his computer a rather unusual Samantha photo, with a more bemused, slightly mischievous look to her eyes. The first twenty minutes of each day he dedicated to studying that photo. It made him feel less alone, and so took away that need to get close enough to someone to strangle him or her. And so he could happily go about his day, driving his route, retrieving recyclable materials from the bins that line up along the curbside, with little fear of murdering anyone. Lester had not tried to strangle anyone for more than three weeks now, and felt it was time to get a dog.
     Samantha was being interviewed about her rescue efforts by a local news team, as a special interest story (this station was known for its special interest stories, and covered little else), when she picked up a signal on the wind that a golden retriever was in trouble. Within seconds she disappeared, and half a moment later Risa was there to finish up the interview.
     As she stepped into the alley, Samantha knew she was close. She could hear the dog whimpering, trying to call out to her, straining to find his voice. “I’m here,” Samantha said to the dog, as she pulled out the nightstick given to her by an admirer who had been on the police force, ready to do battle. There was a sharp thud behind two recycling bins, and Samantha quickly and silently stepped over to them. “Comfortable, soft-soled shoes are key,” Risa told the interviewer. Samantha kicked aside one of the bins, startling Lester, who had his hands around the dog’s throat.
     “Who are you?” Lester asked, letting go of the dog.
     “I am Samantha Arden,” Samantha answered, as the dog ran to her.
     “You look different,” Lester said, confused and disappointed, just before Samantha brought the nightstick down on his head.
     When the interview was over, Risa decided it was time to check in on her own life. It was dull, but it needed tending from time to time, and there was no one else to do it, no one else to feed it, trim it, take it out to run its engine. While Risa was running her life around the block a few times, a man stumbled out of an alley in front of her. She glanced at him, and stepped around him, perhaps a wider arc than was necessary. And Lester saw her in that moment, and though his brain had been shaken by the nightstick, he was still able to draw the connection to the photo he knew so well. “Samantha,” he called to her, but the woman continued walking and did not look back.
     “You’re going to like it here, Comet,” Samantha told the golden retriever. She then introduced Comet to the other forty-three dogs, before taking a much-needed rest.

(Copyright 2018 Michael Doherty)

(Note: I wrote this story on January 9th, while at work, and made just a few slight changes on January 16th, while at home.)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Kicked Off Twitter When It Is Donald Trump Who Should Be Removed

As you might know, Donald Trump has used Twitter to harass, threaten and insult people, as well as to spread lies and promote himself. Recently, he even threatened to start a nuclear war, basically threatening every living being on the planet. Several people – myself included – reported his behavior to Twitter, for certainly this sort of thing violated the site’s rules. Twitter’s response was that threatening to kill everyone is okay. So I began posting responses on Twitter.  Here are a few of my posts:
  • So, Twitter, if it's okay to threaten everyone on the planet with nuclear war, then it absolutely has to be okay for me to say something like "I want to fucking kill Donald Trump." Right?
  • So, Twitter, if it's okay to threaten the word with nuclear war, then it absolutely must be okay for me to type something like "Donald Trump must die immediately." Right?
  • (to Twitter) So, Twitter, if it's okay for someone to threaten the world with nuclear war, then it must absolutely be okay for me to type something like "Donald Trump should be slaughtered this weekend." Right?
  • (to Donald) Wow, you are so fucking delusional, so fucking narcissistic. You are too dangerous to be allowed to continue living. I hope someone kills you today (and Twitter, that's okay to type, since it's okay to threaten the world with nuclear war).
  • Donald Trump should not be allowed to continue. He is dangerous, delusional, stupid and crazy. Please, someone, put an end to this fucking menace. (And Twitter, if it's okay to threaten the world with nuclear war, then it must be okay for me to type this.)
Well, soon enough, I was locked out of my Twitter account. The reason? Well, let’s let Twitter explain. This is the message that I received from the site:

“Hi Michael Doherty,
Your account, @MDMusicLog has been locked for violating the Twitter Rules.
Specifically for:
Violating our rules against abusive behavior.
You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.”

And they included the post they considered in violation of their rules. That post is this one, a direct response to Donald Trump:

“Wow, you are so fucking delusional, so fucking narcissistic. You are too dangerous to be allowed to continue living. I hope someone kills you today (and Twitter, that's okay to type, since it's okay to threaten the world with nuclear war).”

Obviously, Twitter is choosing which users are subjected to their rules and which ones aren't. So I sent Twitter several messages in response throughout the day. Here they are:
  • That's not abusive. You can't allow one guy to threaten the entire world with nuclear war, and then not let someone else post something like that. Restore my account now. And quit asking for my phone number. I've already told you I don't give that out.
  • You can't let one person threaten the entire planet, and then not let me say that that person should be killed. Donald Trump is a dangerous, disturbed lunatic. Kick him off your site, or restore my account now.
  • Unlock my account now. Donald Trump threatened me and everyone else on the planet with nuclear war. You, Twitter, said that was okay. So then you cannot say that my threat to him - which isn't even a threat, actually - is against your rules. You have to make up your minds. Is threatening wrong or is it okay? If it's wrong, then you must kick Donald Trump off your site. If you allow him to stay, then you cannot silence my voice. If you have rules, they must apply to everyone. Unlock my account now or kick Donald Trump off now.
  • Donald Trump is threatening and scaring everyone. I merely said that I hope someone kills him, to put a stop to the terror. You can't let one person threaten the entire population and then not let another man say he hopes that person is killed. Make up your minds. Unlock my account, or kick Donald Trump off. He is a dangerous lunatic.
  • Unlock my account now. I am happy to follow your rules, provided that you require everyone to follow them. If Donald Trump is exempt, then you have to get rid of the rules. I expect a reply soon.
  • You people just sent me an email telling me to check out 5 new notifications on Twitter. So I tried to do as you suggested, but found I am still locked out of my account. How am I to check these notifications if you won't let me into the account? Tell me. I am curious.
Yeah, about that last one, Twitter actually sent me an email, letting me know that I had five new notifications, and telling me to check them out. The site was apparently nervous that I hadn’t visited it in five or six hours. Ridiculous. 

At this point, more than ten hours have passed since I've been able to access my account. The right-wing bastards at Twitter have not responded to any of my messages. But what unfortunately seems to be the case is that Donald Trump is above the rules, the very thing he brags about regularly. Twitter has a set of guidelines and rules, but then allows one user – Donald Trump – to violate them again and again. Perhaps it is time for everyone to boycott Twitter. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Alternative Fact: January 3, 2018

Today's alternative fact (to help you get through the day): Having had quite enough, the Founding Fathers of the United States finally rose from their graves early this morning and attacked Donald Trump, chewing on his rubbery, hideous flesh and eventually devouring his bloated body until only bones and his wig remained.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Message To All Good And Sane People

As we venture into 2018, remember, Trump supporters don't mind being cheated or lied to. In fact, they love it! So everyone should try to cheat them out of as much as possible, and don't ever tell them the truth about any subject. Bartenders, water down their drinks and charge them double. Cooks, give them half the portions that you give to everyone else. (They could stand to lose a little weight anyway.) Used car dealers, promise them you'll sell them your best car, but then deliver the biggest lemon you've got. Taxi drivers, take them far from their desired destinations and leave them there after assuring them they are at the location they specified. Doctors, make up an incurable illness and tell them they have it. Then sell them pain medication at triple the normal cost. Trump supporters will love this. After all, they love being lied to.