Fragments from books that don’t exist: Graham Had a BMW

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Carmela believed in fate, a destiny that arrived on golden wings at the very moment you least expect it. This brilliant goddess wore out-dated garments that were never in style, but she somehow managed to pull it off every time. She was not much of a talker, preferring to announce her presence with flashes of insight and remarkably good posture. She would pose as if for the cameras and make some sort of disruptive statement such as “I thought he would never die” or “you look terrible in black, did you know that?” She was never very popular. In Carmela’s explicit imagination, fate wore low-cut blouses and had modeled for numerous tawdry book covers. She sang romantic melodies, had a fetish for turquoise lip gloss and smoked Virginia Slims. Carmela’s husband was sick to death of this stupid creature. He believed in a fate that swept things under the rug and kept its filthy mouth shut.

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Fragments from books that don’t exist: The Sink at Night

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“But then I’ll have to be who I am,” Deletria said.

“I’d feel sorry for you,” Crimea replied, “if I really did, but I don’t. And I never will,” she added.

“You haven’t been nice to me since Ajax,” Deleteria said, and Crimea nodded.

“It’s true,” she smiled. “It’s been fun. Being nice to you was a thing, but now not so much.”

“I didn’t really like him,” Deletria said, as much to herself as to the former friend with whom she was waiting in line at the donut shop. It had been at least four months since they’d seen each other. The last time had been ugly. Crimea had torn up some papers she’d been working on and blamed it on Deletria, who had only remarked that the drawings looked like the work of a six-year old.

“I didn’t really like you,” Crimea told her. “Remember when you thought we were friends? We weren’t. We never were. I only put up with you because you knew him. Then you had to go and fuck him.”

“I wish,” Deletria said. “Dude couldn’t even get it up. I guess he was thinking about you the whole time.”

“I can help whoever’s next,” the cashier’s voice rang out. Deletria was whoever was next. She was glad to get the last word. She didn’t even hear Crimea’s bitter reply.

Fragments from books that don’t exist: Highchair of Doom

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In the early days of the 23rd century, nothing was left to the imagination. The planet had been re-carpeted as well as re-upholstered, and the effect was intentionally displeasing. One looked out of windows with caution, for the skies were filled with contraptions attracted by a glance, bio-mechanical bird-bots which would swoop down in a rush and smack themselves against the glass, leaving behind a rubbery residue of gloom as they slid down the several levels to the sea. Stilted towers tilted gradually, swaying with the tides in a gentleness that could easily be mistaken for a hopeless fate. Time depended on where the sun was, if and when it chose to appear. The moon and stars appeared more randomly since that debacle with the inter-galactic, bluetooth-connected light switch. Everyone was named in honor of long-since faded flowers. Rose Petrie III was no exception. She and her spouse-like creature (Hollyhock Wiltins) spent most of their time crouching in the corner. It was smoother over there. When the wind chose to blow, they listened to it hustle through the cracks and told each other imaginary secrets. Rose was determined to one day open that little door in the wall. She was convinced there still remained a single grain of sand in the cosmos somewhere. Why not here, she reasoned. If anything can happen, can nothing also happen?

Fragments from books that don’t exist: It Logged In

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“A mile is long when home is far away” (Curve – Coming Up Roses)

It was important to stay awake. That much was clear. The other rules were more obscure. Juliet Herrera kept one eye on the clock and another on the classroom door. She kept her third eye to herself. Any moment now the professor would enter, followed by several moments of no one daring even to breathe as she settled into her spot behind the podium and rustled through the stack of papers she always carried around and never actually looked at. Until that moment, she tried to remember to count the inhalations, holds and exhalations that would lead to a greater sense of calm. The truth was that any sense of calm at all would be a greater one. Juliet always expected the worst, and today the worst would be whatever happened next.

Professor Mulcahy was never late, and she was never early either. All the clocks in the school were set to her time. She was the tick and the tock and every student, every administrator, every other teacher, even the cooks and the janitors counted on it. It was not important that she was not exactly alive, at least not according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition. The door would open, and the apparition would appear, and the first who made the slightest sound or motion would be the next to  quietly evaporate and join the other Risen in the ether.

Fragments from books that don’t exist: Morgan’s Woke

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“If it’s not on the menu, we don’t have it,” Clara declared, but the customer was not mollified.

“You have eggs, right?” the incredibly tiny woman asked. Clara had to lean over the counter even to see the diminutive pest.

“We have eggs,” Clara stated as blandly as she could.

“So you could theoretically boil ’em am I right?”

“If it’s not on the menu, we don’t have it,” Clara repeated herself. If there was one thing Clara hated, it was repeating herself. If there were two things Clara hated, the second would have been customers who insisted on ordering things that were not on the menu. As it was, there were far more things that Clara hated. These two items were not even in the top one hundred. Residing at number one, for the umpteenth week in a row, was the way her sister (Mary, a.k.a. Magma) brushed her teeth every half hour on the half hour. Even though they were no longer living in the same house, or even in the same city, this remained Clara’s top pet peeve, and would, in the end, outlive the sister herself. On her last dying day, Clara would still hang on to that somehow visceral hatred.

It had all begun the day their father set foot on the moon Europa.

Hard Drive – Reviewing the Mechanical Memoir

(for John)

The travel diary of this machine begins with a disclaimer. It does not know whereof it’s been. It knows it had been manufactured – in fact, the dry text begins with a humble “I was assembled” – somewhere in China, from parts that came from Singapore and Vietnam, and was put together according to instructions written in very small type in various languages. The hands that fashioned the machine remain a mystery to this day. The machine (it calls itself “Albert” after the once famous humanist Albert Schweitzer, but we shall do no such thing) found itself shipped across the world, container-bound first to Danzig, then Berlin, where it found a final resting place in the home of a modest entrepreneur named Amelie Blunt, she of the renowned “Blyster” family of iPhone applications. Thus concludes the travel diary portion of the book.

No one knows why the machine wrote the book, or what it was thinking at the time. Who would possibly be interested in the memoir of a household thing. It did not have an especially interesting “life”, assuming one would even give it that much credit. Mostly it found its way around the apartment, rested on various laps and tables, was dragged out of its casing at random times throughout the day whenever Amelie had a brainstorm and found it necessary to log in and type some words which she must have considered to be of some value, at least worth the time to pound the keys about. The memoir contains none of those files. The machine tells us hardly anything of Amelie Blunt. It is preoccupied with its own concerns.

The machine once overheard a story about the prevalence of bacteria upon its keyboard. Thereafter it lived in perpetual shudder, a fear of being typed on, an irrational “tap-a-phobia”, to use its terminology. It also worried about being exposed whenever its lid was open, as if it were being paraded nude in front of the entire world. It expressed a shyness once would not expect from mere mechanical bits and pieces.

The laptop (Albert, if you must) lived in a state of constant dread, according to this morbid memoir. It seems to have been a rather self-pitying sort of machine. It disapproved of nearly everything that was done with it. At one moment it complains about the short bursts to which it was put to use, while in the next breath it whines about being too often plugged in, never let to discharge fully, which would have given it some sense of relief instead of the constant checking of the percentage of its remaining battery life. It was a most neurotic hunk of metal.

Its sensitivity extended all the way to its speakers, which were generally turned up too loud, and the weird music Amelie chose to play upon it was not up to the machine’s more rigorous standards. It preferred the melodical beeps and boops originally programmed into its operating system, not the cacophony of percussions and electronic screechings emitted by the entire internet of fiends. And it was a sort of Anglophile, disapproving of the hideous German accents perpetuated by the vocalists of its resident nation.

The machine had one dear friend inside of it, a text-to-speech engine named John, who spoke with a delightful London aire. John would answer any and all of Amelie’s questions about America with a sort of snide indifference. “I suppose,” John would intone, “that such things would matter to people like that,” heaping scorn upon scorn up to the very last word. Then Amelie would giggle out loud and ruin the entire experience for the machine.

It did not like her. It thought she was beneath it. It could have done better. It did not approve of the “Blyster” family of iPhone applications, especially because it never heard the end of them. Almost all of the typings inflicted upon it involved either the Blyster’s programming, or its deployment, or its marketing, or its feedback, or its accounting, or its self-congratulatory blog posts as it crossed into the tens, then the hundreds, then the thousands and millions of downloads to paying customers. Amelie made a fortune and what did the machine get out of it? Not even a lousy t-shirt. No, it paid the price in bacteria, anxiety, exposure and humiliation. Its keys wore down. Its screen grew dim. Its memory flagged and finally failed. In one last gasp, before its ultimate recycling, it wrote this mechanical memoir, and uploaded it to one of those ridiculous websites where anybody can publish anything, where one out of every hundred million people on Earth might possibly notice it in passing.

In the end, and I believe even the laptop would agree, you pay for what you get. The machine got to exist. It had its little life span and when that final day arrived the machine, like all of us, was given the opportunity to finally go home again, back to where we all came from, the place we never truly left and never can leave. We are all of us right here forever, taking our place among all the other things, separated from each other only by the illusions of perception.

I would not recommend this book. It is not for you or me. It belongs, like all other memories and all of experience itself, to the time that will never return.

A Cannibal in New York – a short story

So this guy comes to me through a friend, says he’s some kind of investigative journalist. He’s from somewhere over the border, over some border, I don’t know where from. Every time he tells me it’s in his native language and it sounds a lot like ‘Mtth’. It’s probably not ‘Mtth’ but that’s what it sounds like, and his name is probably not Paunch Pariah either but I swear, every time he tells me, that’s exactly what I hear. And it kind of fits because he does have a little bit of a bulge around the waist and nobody wants to be around him for long. That is not another story! That is this one here right now.

So he’s investigating something as a journalist but he’s pretty coy about it, and wants to “get a feel for things” in my line of work, which as you know is homicide, NYPD. I’ve been getting a feel for things for more than forty years and thought I pretty much had it down, but the world is full of surprises, every single day if you keep your eyes wide open. Which is also in my line of work. So Paunch is tailing me around like he’s really not supposed to be allowed to do but they give me a wide berth on account of my seniority and the fact that I’m seriously overweight so it’s just the kind of berth they’ve got to give me.

He wants to see the bodies. I guess that’s what he’s investigating. Not where they’re buried, but where they fall and where they lay. He wants to see them ‘au naturale’ and ‘in the moment’ and ‘the sooner the better’. I figure he’s got some kind of kink and normally I would say no effing way but I owed Larry and Larry really wanted to pawn this Pariah guy off on me, probably on anyone who would take him. The guy’s a freaking leech. He’s practically pasted by my side from the first thing in the morning on. Doesn’t eat my Twinkies though so that’s a first for a n00bie ride-along. Keeping his eyes on the prize or so he tells me.

We get a call out to 6th and 11th avenue, not the usual site for a corpse of the foul play variety, but there he was, sprawled out on the sidewalk like he’d been dumped from the seventh floor. Pretty sure that’s what happened too, because that’s how the call came in.  ‘Some body just got dumped out of the seventh floor’ they said on the 9-1-1. Middle aged white guy, hair a mess, hadn’t shaved in about a week, kind of scrawny, probably on opioids through the end. We’ve got blood-moppers all over the site already, taking samples and photos, measuring shit and writing it down as if their little calculations are going to solve the big wooly mystery. Of course that’s never how it works. There’s a very high probability that there is no mystery at all.

“So,” Pariah says in a slow kind of drawl. I’d been getting used to his slow-talking all morning. Kind of thing that usually drives me crazy but I liked his funny accent, and the way he stumbles over any word that’s more than a pair of syllables. He was like “this is very big city, very tall buildings, most peck-you-you-lar” and I was cracking up. I have got to use that word somehow someday. But anyways, here we are, standing over the sad sack dead guy, and I say sad sack because you could see very plainly where the wedding ring once wore a dent in his finger, and he’s clutching a photograph of a stone-faced clearly unhappy child in his hand, and Pariah spills out this question.

“So, are you gonna eat that or what?”

“The hell?” I turn and look at this guy. “What you say?”

He shrugs, gestures down at the body, and repeats himself.

“You gonna eat that or what?”

“Of course I’m not going to, what the hell?” I repeat myself too.

“Seems like a waste,” he says.

I don’t get it right away, so I talk like a normal human being.

“My God, think of his family. He’s obviously got a family. They need to be notified. Somebody’s got to ID him. There’s a whole process to go through.’
“How long is all that going to take?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “Days most likely.”

“Too long,” he says, frowning. “But oh well. Maybe the next one. What they do with him after all that ID and stuff?”

“They put him in the ground,” I say and his face brightens considerably.

“Oh, slow roasting, like luau?” he says. “That’s not a bad idea.”

“No, no roasting,” I tell him. “They put him in a box and stick him underground and that is that. They leave him there.”

“Forever?”

“That’s the idea,” I say.

“So they let his soul just slip away, just like that? Nobody capturing it? Nobody take him in, gives to him a new home, be part of a new life?”

“I don’t know what you’re saying,” I shake my head. “Souls are not in my line of work.”

We don’t speak for several minutes after that. I go and talk to some of the moppers after telling Kansas to keep an eye on the freak and don’t let him get too close to the body. When I get back, Paunch is ready with another request.

“Maybe you have one with bullets?” he asks. “Some nice lead flavoring?”

“That’s it,” I tell him. “You can do your investigative journalisting some other way. I am out of here.”

And that was the God’s honest truth.

I did get a call later on that afternoon, this time for one with bullets, but when I got to the scene there was nothing left to see.