I, Glornak, Have Slain the Evil Rubber Band!

DeBuke – IA

I, Glornak, author of one of the best-selling motivational books of all time, creator of two highly succesful hot dog stands, and current Republican presidential primary front-runner, have slain the evil Rubber Band, and freed our country from its power.

Hey look, for too long Americans have watched as other nations surpassed us in military power, international prestige, wealth, and hot dog stands. This country, eight years ago, in a moment of national idiocy, we allowed the Rubber Band into the White House, and what did we get? It’s a disaster.

Last night, I finally decided I’d had enough. As I sat in my hotel room eating fried chicken, I saw the Rubber Band’s face on the television, and I thought, what a stupid, incompetent moron. What a lightweight.

I would never wrap a hot dog with a rubber band like that. I would never use a rubber band like that to tightly bundle my sagging testicles to my left leg, to avoid smushing them when I walk.

No! That’s not what you get from Glornak! That’s not how I do things!

So, I got on the plane, and I put on my hair, and bundled my nuts, and I went over there, and I just slaid him! Probably. Almost certainly.

I just really had to slay that stupid, ridiculous Rubber Band because it had to be done, and none of these other guys have the bundled nuts to do it.

Maybe? It’s possible. I don’t know. It’s sad. Most likely I did slay him, but I don’t know, I can’t remember. I did, probably, slay him. Let’s see how they do with that.

Alright.

 

 

 

 

Expose yourself

Write what nobody hears. Fill the page and turn it black. Fill a void, yourself, ambition, vanity, self-consciousness.

Pick up a pen do it. Have a notebook write it. Watch people. Note gender, size, age, hair color. Write it down.

Eavesdrop. Quote it. Don’t trust yourself to remember, you will not.

Expose yourself. Expose others. Observe and report.

Don’t swing at the ball. Swing where it will be. As if it’s not there. Discover that, indeed, it was. That is a home run, baby. A hole-in-one, nothin’-but-net, buzzer-beating crosscourt winner.

The truth is you don’t trust yourself. You want to transcend but hate to scrape and toil for it.

You fell in love with a cold chill, spine-descending, sleep drubbing, soul numbing. Paralyzed amputated imagination.

Throw up the windows now, the night is cool. The city hums. The whole ecstatic vibrating mess of it running out of steam. Moonless birdless cloudless only the flaccid post-rush-hour highway traffic tumbling from a distance. And the faucet drips and the refrigerator snaps to life, oh coils coils coils freon.

Being in the Rain

I come home and her mom and brother are both sleeping. I find her in the bedroom, alone on a rainy Friday with curtains half-drawn and her bedside lamp casting quiet yellow light. Wearing a pink play apron; completely absorbed in a make-believe world. She doesn’t notice me.

She takes the news about the museum better than I expected, happily accepting the substitute of a walk in the rain to her grandmother’s house for hot chocolate and sunny-side-up eggs. To be honest I’m winging it at this point, just wanting to get out of the house so other two can sleep.

The rain is steady, but she’s unfazed and I have this gigantic blue-and-white umbrella I stole-borrowed from my first and last corporate job years ago. I think of changing shoes but … then I don’t.

Outside she tries to find a way to hold my hand and her umbrella at the same time.

I try to find a way to hold her hand and her umbrella at the same time. It’s not really possible.

We love each other and want to hold hands, but umbrellas are keeping us apart.

Those are vines, I tell her, through raindrops. They are little now but will grow big over summer, when you’ll be four and a half. But what are they called? she asks. The plants?

Vines I say. Just vines growing on the side of a retaining wall.

She stands in a puddle in pink boots and eroded dirt swirls across the sidewalk. I’m concerned about my suede shoes getting soaked around the toes despite attempts to better position the umbrellas. Two teenaged girls are walking home from school across the street, umbrellaless and barefoot, and it makes me feel very not-young and un-spontaneous.

So I make a conscious effort to not care about my suede shoes getting wet and ruined. Instead I do a poorly executed puddle jump, but even jumping now makes me feel old and heavy.

I’m distracted by a million different things, most involving dollar signs or e-mail attachments. But I’m able to recognize the beautiful serendipity of a random afternoon walk in the rain with my daughter. This was meant to be a special ‘date’ complete with a museum trip and thirteen other stops I can’t remember, but I was replacing a light switch. And it took forty-five minutes longer than I expected.

We take cover in a bus shelter. I slump against one wall and she runs back and forth. The rain falls harder and a bus approaches but I waive it off, embarrassed. She’ll happily stay here for hours, I realize, playing house or running a pretend ice-cream parlor. This is the miracle of childhood, and if there’s any shred of my youth left I should grab hold of it in my white-knuckled fists.

Why should I not want to stay here for hours living in our shared imagination? For the bills that need paying? For my spam-clogged, habit-forming inbox? Because there’s laundry to fold?

Holy shit that is depressing! Someone go find the 15-year-old me and tell him in just one lifetime’s doubling his world will dim to a boring, perfunctory shade of gray. And that when stray shafts of light manage to cut through the fog, his first impulse will be to push them away and return to his hamster wheel.

She wants to leave the bus shelter now. “This is boring,” she says.

She’s right. It was kind of boring. We flap open our umbrellas again, spraying droplets of water against the glass walls of the shelter.

We hold hands and walk off, crossing the street in search of adventure.

 

All My Quarrels

1. Age seven, opposite two playground boys playing keep-away with my balled-up socks. Of whom, one, I punched.

2. Fifth grade, a Tony-named boy slammed my head in a desk. His revenge for my pushing him into an emergency exit door. I cried in the principal’s office. He did not.

3. Walking to basketball practice; 10 years old. A teen-aged person I had never seen before walked up and, introduction-less, did a flying, spinning karate kick to my head. He had mistaken me for someone else.

4. At my friend Jamie’s house, eighth grade, with my friend Sid, who punched me on the top of the head after an absurdly long game of Risk. Wait, actually I’m not sure this one is real.

5. Freshman year, soccer practice. An older kid kept pushing me and finally I swung at his face without warning. I earned myself a tough reputation and gave him a bloody lip. Both quickly reverted to their prior conditions.

6. Also freshman year. I pulled down the pants and underpants of a math classmate in front of several girls to whom, I’m sure, he would have preferred, under improved circumstances, to reveal his pubescent penis. He claimed the right under an obscure legal statute to punch me on the left shoulder for two weeks, and availed himself fully of it.

7. Senior year; not a fight, but I mouthed off to a man-child whose poofy hair scraped the hallway ceilings while we bumped shoulders. For this he rewarded me with a thorough choking. During which I noticed he had a tear tattooed on his cheek. I believe he was later expelled.

8. College; practice field for the ultimate frisbee team. After some retrospectively amicable bullying, I threatened my (much, much larger) opponent with unspecified harm. This inspired not fear, but curiosity, which I finally indulged by landing a single punch into his shoulder. In my underweight, eighteen-year-old mind, this should have been enough to knock him right over, Goliath-like. Instead it nearly knocked him (and several onlookers) over with laughter.

Falling Asleep

A late April snowstorm has melted in the sun and what’s left is freezing with the moonrise. The gravel alley is pocked and mudslick despite the steady dripping of a drainpipe grate. It makes that sound whether you’re standing over it, motionless, or not.

I look down past my feet and think, well that would be a bad place to die.

Two ducks touch wings and swoop, silent, overhead. You follow them into a blur of red and white car lights at the intersection – the one you crossed when, at age seven, you were first sent on your own to buy milk at the gas station.

Someone appears in front of a house wearing a neon cycling vest backed by a flashing red light. He’s on the phone promising his dad he’ll return for dinner next week. He does this while directing the bike with one hand toward a steep hill, in dim light. I stand aside.

I walk home. Beside the front walk there are two dozen neat miniature bootprints in the snow. You can image a line of little girls in rain boots standing there, saluting you, perhaps. In fact they are all my daughter, who knows nothing of salutes.

Inside I’m told she has requested a goodnight kiss, so I shake off my coat and scarf and pad softly into her room. If I snuggle her, she says, she knows she will be able to sleep right away, so can I just snuggle her for a minute?

Who could refuse this sort of question?

Her bed is pink and narrow and short, because it’s for kids, and although I hang off of it in several directions, I find it the most comfortable place in the house. She tells me she tried to keep her eyes closed but she just can’t, and I tell her that’s ok, you can just leave them open.

I tell her that the minutes before you fall asleep – before your eyelids get too heavy – those are the best part of the day. When you can think about how everything works and just look at the ceiling. You have nothing to do, and nothing you can do, really, except wait for sleep to come. And watch the dark fill up.

I tell her I’ll always protect her and help her, no matter what happens or where she goes. I tell her I think she’s amazing. I stroke her forehead and say I can’t wait to find out what will happen in her life; what she’ll learn, who she’ll meet, where she’ll end up, how she’ll get there.

This is my daughter, lying here beneath my right arm, breathing evenly, listening to me clumsily explain how much I love her.

This is my daughter falling asleep.

Night Duty

Ayla’s feet tucked under her upside-down-heart-shaped butt while she kneels in the bathtub in front of the faucet, lapping up water from the cold trickle I’ve left running for her.

I ignore her for part of the bath, playing games on my phone, variously feeling guilty and justified with my behavior. I’ve been with her all day, so a break for tongue-lolling-out time is deserved. On the other hand, it’s not the first time I’ve ignored her today, for video games or other reasons.

I eventually break from the phone’s magnetic hold, like a junked car breaking away from the giant magnet that spells its doom/new-life. And I watch her talking to her rubber baby bath toy, telling it to sit and saying other things that make little sense to me.

When common sense and the clock tell me it’s time to empty the bath and get the most important human being in the world to bed, I flick down the drain switch and sing the clean up song. She doesn’t notice (or doesn’t care), and keeps on playing long after the water’s gone. Adults never hang out in empty bathtubs. Only children.

Then I hoist her up on my lap in a towel and comb her ridiculously beautiful hair for a long time, being pointlessly thorough. I enjoy looking at her, even at the back of her head, and she’s not squirming.

We read several books several times, and then I catch her stubbornly rubbing her eyes. She knows she’s tired but tries to hide it. So I scoop her up and place her in bed with three pacifiers surrounding her. She samples each one, rotating (I think) to get the freshest. I pat her back, her legs extended long behind her as she lies on her stomach, toes pointed slightly inward, her right heel swaying rhythmically.

“Song?” She says, pushing up on her forearms. It’s late August; the sun is going down earlier and earlier, leaving something like dream-light coming through the sheer white curtains. I sing until she falls asleep.

Rubellus, Castaneus & Terrestris – A Short Odyssey

Three brown worms, soaked and bloated, writhed half-dead on the sleet-covered sidewalk. What would become of those worms? What chance, frankly, did they have?

Are there daring stories of worm survival? Homeric tales of chaotic spring floods and tortuous hours squirming on concrete deserts, searching for the way home to roots and dark earth and subterranean safety?

On this frigid spring day, as I hunched and grimaced toward my weekly tennis match, I thought, probably not. “These three worms are dead meat,” I thought.

The deaths of worms seem gruesome at first; smeared by sneakers, bisected by beaks, or simply drowned in pathetic puddles mere fractions of a centimeter deep. And then, when the weather passes and everyone is out enjoying the first warm hours of spring, baked by the sun into brittle mummification.

But our deaths are gruesome, too. And prolonged, usually, by modern medicine. And indoors, most likely, away from the light and the fresh air, however brisk this late in April.

Are there daring stories of human survival? Homeric or otherwise? Surely.

Every human story is one of daring survival, from first breath to last. Though our puddles are deeper and we are less prone to smearing.

Perhaps I underestimated them. Those worms. Maybe one would bravely bear hours of freezing drizzle while I slapped and scampered at tennis balls (for naught: I lost) and live to see the clouds break. Maybe a dozen sidewalk-goers’ random walks would miraculously eschew her. And then, spongy and addled (though brainless), she would blindly vermiculate in the lucky direction of the grass, not the street.

There she would rest a moment, marveling, tasting once more her native soil, before taking renewed strength in thoughts of loved ones, and burrowing down into the dirt.

Except I didn’t. Underestimate them. Because I came out of my match two hours later, sweaty and defeated, and saw the three of them right where I left them. Super dead. Seriously.

I took the loss better than usual, as you might imagine, since I was in a mental state of picturing deaths worse than my own. Any defeat is quite bearable, actually, compared to those sad, drowned, frozen worms.

Somehow just the possibility of their heroism – though not realized that day, still entirely plausible – buoyed me. Maybe it was the sunshine, but I got back in my car thinking not of my seven double-faults, but of resilience and determination and stoic bravery. And of loved ones

All those things and more standing between me and my own native soil, which I, too, will someday taste.

Pooja, SEO Consultant

By six fifteen I have awake, dressed, and fed. I have one cup of dark tea with three lumps sugar and a bowl of rice with condensed milk. Hari sleeps until seven, and after that everyone will be swarming like moths so I find some peaceful time for myself.

We live here, nine people. One: my mother and father. Two: uncle Ravi. Three: his mother-in-law. Four: my brothers, Hari (older) and Ashwin (younger). Five: Aarti, my sister, who is four. And Six: Falguni, an old woman who is not our grandmother.

When I move to Riverside, CA, I will have an apartment with two private toilets and six flat screen plasma televisions. I will have an automatic coffee-maker with an alarm set to five-forty-five so I can become awakened by the smell of fresh coffee, and also a Playstation! The apartment will face the beach and I will observe the surfing and American lifeguards from my balcony.

Riverside is the sister city of Hyderabad. Here I share a toilet with Falguni, who has no shame despite her many years and drooping skin. Falguni walks from the bathroom to the bedroom she shares with Ravi’s mother-in-law wearing silk underpanties. Falguni moves her bowels regularly and produces a smell that is at first enticing, like curry or my mother frying onions, and then terrible, terrible.

Ravi is my mother’s second younger brother. His beard is white and he lost his left leg when he was sixteen stealing a rickshaw. His wife was a large woman with moles on her hands but she has died when I was in primary school.

Bruno, listen: I am not telling you all this because of to wasting your time. I know you are proabbly very busy with many other prior emails…. but now I have sent you six prior emails and I know you have opened these because I have hidden a tracking pixel inside each. I am Pooja, SEO Consultant, and I have found your websight after a Google search for “10 Ways to Re-Purpose Coffee Filters”.

Did you see my six prior emails? Bruno?

Last week in Moosapet we had no water supply two days running. I stayed at the office to sleep there because in Madhapur they don’t curtail the water for silly reasons. I have had to convince Anish to let me work very later both evenings and then I hided in the bathroom until everyone has left. It was very unpleasant but I cannot begin to imagine for you how much more unpleasant would be my shared toilet with Falguni after there is no water for two whole days.

The building where I work is called the Cyber Gateway. It looks like the separated legs of a giant metal baby squatting to have a movement of his bowels. My company is called RVInfoService. My supervisor is Anish. His supervisor is Raghavendra, or Ragi, although we are not allowed to called him that. My job is customer service for a large Dutch telecommunications company called Ziggo. For Ziggo I am helping the Dutch restart their cable modems, restart their laptops, restart their browsers. And to clear their cookies.

Bruno, have you spent any time in the Netherlands? Their people are very polite. They do not wish for any more confrontations. But I feel they are only patronizing me when I help them to restart their many devices. I feel, perhaps, they have already restart their laptops and their cable modems, and still they have no internet, and that is why they are calling me.

But Bruno, I am not really an telecommunications customer support passionate expert! My work passion is as SEO Consultant, and I worry how I am WASTING MY TIME WITH THESE DUTCH! That is why I have sent you six prior e-mails. I am contacting you after looking at your websight to make you understand: I will be glad to assist you with offering our services. Very, very glad. Please let me know your interest!

Please, Bruno. Let me know your interest. I have been successful SEO Consultant for many prior customers. I have been working in mornings and evenings and while Anish and Ragi eat lunch and babble about cricket matches. I am passionate for this work and confident I can obtain 100000+ manually built links for you in the future 1 year.

Thanks,

Pooja Sharma

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Note: To unsubscribe from future mails (i.e., ensure that we do not contact you again for this matter), please send a blank mail to email with NO as Subject.

But Bruno, please. Do not unsubscribe.

 

June, July, and August

The smell of humid dryer-air as I bolted from the laundry room where my mother was folding clothes. The cool rasp of galvanized steel as I hung from the crossbar of the clothesline pipes.

The grinding quarter turn of my sneakered heel in the sandy grass that was home plate, midway through a fully wild swing at an innocent, floating softball. The leather laces of my baseball glove, wet and chewy in my mouth, vaguely hoping for a pop fly.

The not-quite-painful metal barb of bicycle pedals on bare feet as we raced around in circles with whirring tires on parched sidewalks. Straddling the bike with the front wheel clenched between my thighs and yanking the handlebars back into alignment.

We twirled in the late evening air with clear-skied stars streaking above us and cool, damp grass and earth beneath. We waited for the lunar eclipse and got dizzy in thickening blue twilight.

My face pressed against the screen-window’s mesh, feeling the breath of mid-day moving in and out in hot languid waves, watching for kids to come out and play. Picking grains of sand from my skinned knee striped fleshy white and blood red.

The electric buzz of a light outside the kitchen table window way past bedtime learning to play chess with my father.

The instant drying bake of July-roasted cement beside the public pool’s shallow end, and the wet shadows of our bodies melting outward, sending rivulets back into the water. We vanished in shimmering heat.

My head double-weighted, hair pulled taut, laying too far back in the swing as trees and clouds and planes at thirty thousand feet flipped back and forth in brazen defiance of physics and reason.

Released from the summer-school bus at the top of the hill on crackling dry August grass and hearing the folding doors swoomp shut behind me. The belly rumble of the diesel engine; a few remaining kids framed by rectangular windows. Not quite the last stop.

String cheese, turkey sandwich, cool grapes, Doritos. Cereal with milk and sugar. Bomb pops.

Watching traffic backed up outside the fairground’s main gate; short-sleeved policemen with their thumbs squarely into belt loops tucked. Sunburned men in tank tops and fanny packs and families with strollers of sleeping, shrieking children.

Climbed the sledding hill to a spot where through branches I could see and barely hear fireworks above a spinning sliver of the Ferris Wheel’s lights. The mad random jubilant chaos of the midway just after dark.

Dinnertime. The sun is down. On the scratchy blue carpet in my bedroom the backpack’s neatly packed; still short two notebooks and a protractor.

Crickets. The light is off. Fifth grade tomorrow and for the first time in memory I can’t fall asleep.

The last day of summer.