Short Stories

— here’s three short stories —

On a Day of the Llord

Jolly a day to the south of Manhattan. Let’s go there.
Now to the halls through which the trains go. Let’s look at them.

And now we are looking and we see grey (gravel) beneath dark rusty tracks and a concrete colored concrete with the break up of vertical beams to keep the halls halls. And if we turn left 90º and slant a little, you can see something silver with a kind of early ‘00s circular red pattern coming forward, most notably there are two bright bright lights on this the IRT train in Southern Manhattan on a Sunday.

And we can skip. We skip, seemingly to the east, where the early ‘00s circular red pattern is much less relevant, where the rats will laugh at you for being so dated. And we find that there’re new anachronisms like we are taught to spot from a young age. There is the name of something on the side of the train, in petite orange lights. A glowing name. Some people thought about this name and cried, but others saw no problem keeping it on there. It being a destination.

You’re sitting down on a blue bench underground in Jamaica and then with a whip from back to front, a release, you’re at a destination. A cruel thing for the city to impose on you, to have to go somewhere.

But heck, it’s not your legs. The glory of the underground.

This island is not the correct island most of the time, but for now it’s a way station, and in that it excels. You are standing there. That is the island doing its job. You have come from somewhere and you’d like to be somewhere else.

So it is with the nail on your left thumb. It has come from inside of you, inside your knuckles and bloods and such, and now it’s part of the border with you and you’d like it to be less. Well you’ve hired a nice tool to help, it’s made of metal, and while it felt odd to do work on the train, now you’re standing on the concrete on top of the bedrock of an island where there hasn’t been natural growth for a few centuries, so you’re kind of outside, kind of on the ground, but in a fine place to clip a nail or two.

And you’re a person who uses the kind of clipping device that’s a lever with a curved and lightly sharpened part.

And fortunately the undesirable part of your nail comes off and flies to the ground without an annoying amount of effort, because you want to stay cool, stay loose. It’s Sunday, and on Sundays you’re allow to cut your loose nails in Southern Manhattan. The buffaloes don’t sic themselves on you for this affront. Maybe on a Monday, they’d step off the Bowling Green, away from the Customs House, and charge up Broadway, turn left near the church and find you by the fence, and they’d be protecting you or a building or I’m not sure maybe Century 21 a few blocks away. Tourists, probably protecting the tourists from errant buffaloes. But the unions and the laws protect the buffaloes a lot from tourists and locals too. They protect them very hard so that they can be good buffaloes for themselves as well as for the sake and pride of the whole city, living there down south by the Bowling Green. Having grass to be on. Where if they found your nails on a Monday, first they’d eat the nails with a big slurp and then they’d ticket you and put their eye up close to yours – one eye at a time – and glare at you without moving and snort and make you think about your dear mother. Always sideways they’d look at you.

But the Llord has blessed the Sundays in this part of town so that you can do it. Just go for it, c’mon cut the nail already.

And now you look at the halls with the buildings, or the halls left in between the buildings, wider and taller if there’s such a thing as tall than the underground hallways. And there’s nails and pigeons and short fat bald men in green sweaters with brown zig zags and shaggy hair in the back of the bald just blowing casually back and forth in these hallways because it’s a blessed Sunday. A time for people to drive down a hill, if they have access to a nice hill, and not notice that the food available is reheated for hours on end under lamps and purchase a special black cherry soda from the only place around that sells them or maybe a square pizza slice from a place with green siding on the walls and roofing tiles on the counter or heavens yes a white bakery, a bakery that’s white on the inside where they sell baked things for special people and most of them are totally dry if we’re people of taste but we’re not and we can’t really tell one food from the other. So we’ll go to the part of the strip mall downtown where the road curves so that we’re on the part of the sidewalk that juts out the most west in the whole downtown to the bakery that’s white inside and they never play music and order a white bag of very dry and very whole-making cookies.

Not a tray mind you a bag. Not to get full. Not to make up for the lost weight in nail clipping, it’s more than that.

Well anyway the buffaloes have a lab where they can measure the weight and density of the two things the nails and the cookies. And the pigeons have a little ledge of their own for making the cookies less dry. And the little bald men have good senses of humor about the whole thing. They have their sweaters.

So when it’s a holiday time and they fly the little bald men up a few stories on strings so the people in from out of town can see them from below near the fence or from a pedestrian bridge or coming up out of New Jersey for the first time, the little bald men in their green sweaters are just happy to make people happy and get a smile and a nod from the pigeons and the beefaloes on their Llord’s day prancing and stepping on grass and in water instead of sideways glaring and getting real close to things. They’re not ever that happy, they just know how to chill out.

So let’s give them some credit.

And you wonder if your nail ever catches the wind just right so that it floats up into the middle of the dome of the hallway. Or you wonder if it’s more likely it goes down into the hallway where the colors suck more. The sucky hallway is sucky because it’s harder to describe the colors I think. The rats seem okay with it.

And so on.

But you worry that the nail-at-the-dome would scratch one of the fat little bald men too hard and everyone would be just all worried and the skateboarders would have to stop their hard work and look up, even the old ones over East of City Hall and the buffalo captains planning how to restructure buffalo precincts and patrols and grazing formations would notice the looking up of the skateboarders and look up themselves. Just from a nail scratch.

While you worry, a pigeon has another pigeon.

So you put the little nail tool back into a pouch, and you find the nail part, and you try to take it over to a waste basket. Which is a place it seems like it could live. Even though you know it’s not immune to gusts of wind and junk like that so it could go up into the dome of the hallway anyway. It’s not that important. You just make it so you can put your mind on something else, like the fence, or the people from other countries whose shoes are falling apart who need to get shoes at the Century 21. And looking over at Century 21 in your memory everything looks like it’s eight years ago and the reds aren’t a realistic shade of red anymore and Mark McLemore if probably still playing somewhere at least coaching and you don’t know bus routes at all and the red circles on the IRT look suddenly pretty cool by you now.

Llord, bless all the people and their vacation shoes. May these ones not give out as easily as the home shoes did when applied to a vacation. Strength, Llord. Strength.

Seeing things is really difficult. The people from all over the city try to get you to see things but you’re, like, an individual and stuff.

There was a sign underground that told you you might want to go somewhere and there were letters on the sign and a particular typeset and yeah you were thinking about the nail and the sign was just so darn confusing or it didn’t holographically spell it out for you so it’s just not really a big deal you’ll figure it out cause it’s Southern Manhattan: A big place.

And you’d like to get to the train to New Jersey. Where you have people who you like to see. And you suspect there exist hard shell tacos in that state.

Oh but you’re tired.

So you’ve got this belt on and you’ve walked up stairs and didn’t see signs and past buffaloes and cut your nails, legally, and saw the fat men in sweaters and fences and heard a young couple walking towards you speak what must have been Bengali and they were talking about cactuses, but probably not the kind your butt accidentally touches in cartoons and you get needles sticking out.

And there’s a really cool part to when you walk, it’s like the world is housed on two cameras, one on a left ski, one on a right ski, and it feels like your head is just swiveling from side to side, one ski moves then the other, and your body isn’t moving, just your head swiveling, but you go forward anyway. Someone else might interpret it as dancing through this hallway with a fence on the left and a building on the right but you don’t dance like that. It’s mostly perception anyway. You’re probably walking forward. Maybe a slight lurch as if you were cool in certain cities. Maybe you turn your head a little extra. Eh.


Some of the pigeons on the building side of the hallway worked together and got most of a mushroom pizza up to their landing spot without having to pay for it. And since it’s Sunday, the Albanian pizza cash register guy with the mustache just chuckled and breathed out through his mouth and thought it for the best. His store is white, and glass. And the pigeons, when they get it up there, don’t use their whole wings to support the slices from underneath but still they eat it more like humans do than they would if they were eating it on the street.

It’s like you’re supposed to go into a cave or something, where the train lives, and there’s overabundance in the cave, which is embarrassing-feeling to you. Not for yourself, for the people who put the cave in, who work there, who use the cave.

And the cave is mostly blue. Some whites.

There are a lot of people in the cave, not people but men, who are interested in how women who come into the cave from the Southern Manhattan side look. Less so the other way around. Geographically. And when you see a person, a woman in this case, wearing red and blue and a vest and more blue, and she’s behind a glass and a microphone, and you’re thinking that she looks like she enjoys being at home and smiling. Owning a chair. And you’d like to give her something with jam on it, maybe she puts jam in her tea you wonder about it.

But if you asked her, she’d be unconcerned about the repetition of things inside the cave. The buffaloes can answer to that a little bit. Cause they look funny when they all try to go down the escalators, all of them with the same expression going down escalators together. Posed three quarters. It’s hard for anyone else to be in there, the smell and the sight and the lowing and the glaring sideways eyes and a few red rubber balls bouncing around, bouncing down further into the cave. People say Oh Llord get me outta here and either go down even further to a train or back into the tall hallway with no top.

And let’s hear it for the machines, many many repeating machines at the bottom of all the escalators! Just a buffalo or two watching them, brown fur hide, wearing a belt and a holster and a patrol cap. Grazing on a patch of nice sodden turf that a nice person put down at the bottom of the things. It’s Sunday.

From the pigeons, there’s always a team of scouts in the cave. To pass the time in between pizzas. The pigeons know there’s something greater about a bird that is found in a cave than most other kinds of birds. Ocean birds too. They keep an eye on the big-belted buffaloes and the men who watch the ladies, not worrying about anything in particular but just worrying.

Next to the tool to cut the nails and that there’s a tool to make the turnstile go around. So why not get it out, it’s time for that to happen now. Shove shove shove right through the turnstile.

But here is where we leave you. You’ve gotten in, gotten through, and there’s one more patch of down you have to go before the gravel and concrete supports and maps and people in Swedish and what.

But I can’t see that far, for me, it’s like a 3D tunnel effect. If you back up I can see everything, but if you go down farther there, I start to lose you. I could press forward with you and go to the stairs but I wouldn’t be able to see anything. Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do, go down there with you. But it’s just really not

it’s not for me now
it’s not that I can’t
or even don’t want to
I just
really it’s too hard
and I’m not ready for that
I want to be
and this is a bad excuse
but I can’t do it with you
I can’t and I’m sorry
so sorry
and I want to know what happens to you down there but

DAR 10/2/12
for Paul

ham hots (May 2007)

We see: a guy playing a zheng with a beautiful, brown mullet, down past his shoulders. [Tight shot] He sweeps his hair behind his right shoulder and keeps playing, revealing [pulling back] a full Gamelan, players in Javanese formal wear, mid-song. They don’t play together, or separately, but God works the 1 & 2s, mixing them completely in or completely out – zheng, Gamelan, zheng, Gamelan.

The zheng player dyes his hair red and puts on a track suit – bright red with a yellow band around the tummy.

We zoom out and pan left [East], towards the river valley, with a purple gel over everything.

The valley is eating ham hots and its hands have some shit on them from the last time the valley defecated. The combination of shit and ham hots doesn’t bother the valley, but eventually, the valley will vomit. The tongue of the valley abuts railroad tracks, which coincidentally are along the river and across from the end of a ski slope, which the zheng player once saw on vacation.

The zheng player is getting ever more energy now, he’s sawing and saying things to himself, he’s contacted a koto player about rectifying some mistakes, and the valley sidles over to him.

“Pretty tune.”

The zheng player turns and responds, but his response is lost to history because God has faded him down.

“Okay.” says the valley. The valley goes back to eating some organic shredded wheat with a really large spoon. The milk is bluish-purple, and the zheng player thinks about bleaching or dying his hair again.

All is quiet and precious in the valley once again. The valley relaxes and thinks ahead to its next meal.

You Know You’re the Best When (2007)

I never thought I would know it, but I just found out:
I’m the best rapper.
Some people rhyme quick, and some people rhyme quicker, but I’ve eaten my just desserts.
Best rapper in the world.

I never thought it could happen to me. I worked so long though, and I worked so neat.
It’s me.
I did it.
Now it’s mine.

What do I do, now that I’m the best rapper?
I’m the best rapper:
I’ll be the best rapper.
It’s funny now, cause for a few seconds, I’ve been the best rapper. Try that one on for size. Swallow that one with a glass of nice, cold milk. Munching on it as if it were a cookie. Know how that cookie’s gonna taste with the milk, the cold milk.

Maybe if this rapper gets tired, he could fix himself a glass of warm milk, and that will help him go to bed more quicker. Maybe this rapper is up at 3 AM wearing some footies, some jammies, and a big old sleeping cap, pacing around, wondering how to go to sleep and what to rap about. Maybe this rapper knows that rapping after dinner makes it hard to fall asleep right then and there. Maybe this rapper rolls over at 4:30 AM, desperate for anything to help him through, and pulls out his trusty 808, trying out a few of those weird hand claps to get him in a more reflective mood, a more deliberative, sleepy mood. Maybe he dusts off the echoplex at 5:15 AM, when the cat is just waking up, and tries out a new sound for that chorus in his growly singing voice, doing it sotto voce so as not to annoy the people in the next apartment over. Maybe at 7:30 AM, having gotten a composite three hours of sleep, the best rapper is alone, in a bathrobe, listening to LPs with headphones on, going from the Original Dub Warriors to King Branwyck and finally on to Bert Slicks.

This rapper knows that he’s a masculine rapper, he’s aware of the alternatives.
This rapper knows about alliterating. In fact, he’s been called a “dude of literature” by MC Walt Whitman.

This, the best rapper, does not accept checks, because this is 2009, ya heard?

I am the best rapper when I am flipping open my telephone, scanning down the list of people I know to see if there’s any of them that I might call. At this hour. With something to say. Done with the night’s texting, on to the business (calling) of the day. Informing people that I am the best rapper, getting their feedback on it and making the critical “best-rapper” adjustments that only I can make to keep my game the freshest out of all of the everybody. Doing what it takes to stay on top. With making my phone calls. No coffee yet. Just records, PJs, rapping, being the best and baddest. Stone cold baddest rapper, like snatching things out of the air that weren’t meant for me. Like Britons intercepting German communiqués with the Mexicans in 1918. Like Ike Taylor crossed with Asante Samuel. Like Lewis Hyde. Like rapping. Big bad rapper guy. That’s me. Who to call…
No one to call.

Yup. King of raps. The roy of this rhyming stuff. The rex of rejistrah…