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When It’s Good, It’s Good, When It’s BAD, It’s Better…

New Short Fiction: Professional Confessional

Some times justice is perverted.  What would seem like a slam dunk court case turns on its head because a group of twelve adults too stupid to get out of jury duty can’t see the obvious and a monster goes free.  There’s the usual community uproar, the victims crying foul, the judge simply shrugging his shoulders as he allows a man he knows has committed terrible, unmentionable crimes waltz right out of his court room.

At times like these, I can’t help but smile.  I customer is born through the rape of Justice.

My phone rings.  It’s an old fashioned ring, not a digital twerping but a mechanical ring that resonates even after I pick up the heavy plastic receiver.  The base of the phone is chipped and worn, an old phone that’s been sitting on my desk for the last decade.  There’s even a perfectly square patch of clean desk under the base.

I put the phone to my ear, exhale a little cigarette smoke and ask who’s calling.  2928447805_dc77e99c4a

There’s always that pause; an uncertainty as my client makes that all important decision to cross over the threshold of justice and revenge.  He wonders to himself in a matter of split seconds if what he’s doing is right or wrong.  If his request will send him to Hell in the end.  But they always come through for me, every time.  They cross that line ten out of every ten times, because in the end, it’s the face of a loved one that crosses their mind’s eye.  It’s their last memory of that person that pushes them to make a commitment to me.

The voice comes through a little tinny and scratched, a heavy heart that nearly bleeds all over my ear as they give me a few special details about their particular case.  I jot a note or two, particularly addresses, names.  I give a quote on how much all of this is going to cost and ask if their comfortable with my bid.

They are.  They always are.  Because I don’t give my clients a choice.

I set the wheels in motion at that point.  By the time my old cracked receiver with its tangled jumble of phone chord hits the crème-colored base, I’m already on the move.  There’s no use dawdling, as the information I’ve obtained from my client tends to vary as time rolls on.  If I don’t act now there might not be a chance to act in the future.

That’s one thing I ask the client, straight up:  How good is your information?  I can tell through the phone if they’re wishy-washy or not, it’s a confidence thing.  If there’s a pause or stutters or waffling, I won’t take the case.  I’ll hang up.  It’s absolutely no good to me if I show up at the wrong place at the wrong time and a whole shit storm unravels in my lap.  I’m a professional, not some junkie with too much time on his hands and not enough crack rock in his bloodstream.

I make a very careful selection on what tools I’ll bring to the job.  I base this selection on the information and what I already know.  Without them knowing it, I know a lot more about my clients than they’d care for me to know, but it’s through no fault of my own.  Their lives, problems, soul crushing defeats are played out in newspapers and tv for me every morning and night.  When I get the call, I know about 99% of the time exactly who I’m dealing with and what they need from me, right down to what they want to appear in the headlines.

Sometimes it’s a quiet-type of thing, other times, it’s a messy-type of thing.  Like a chef, I cook to order.

I pack up my things and take a drive over to where ever I need to be.  I sit and wait and watch like an owl over a barn.  I have endless amounts of time to spend just watching where I’m supposed to be watching.  No one notices me, no one cares about some guy in a busted up jalopy with out of state tags.aws_20080225_5003_c

My ride might look like a piece of shit, but trust me, she doesn’t ride like one.

I’ve spent probably a year in total time ensuring that my vehicle performs expertly, because as a pro I demand that my equipment operate flawlessly at all times.  What may look like a heap on the side of the road to the casual passerby is really a supped up Lincoln, complete with a V8 and enough low-end torque to throw the 800 dollar set of rear tires off their rims into the living room of the house at the end of the block.

So I wait, with the radio on low.  Some old Led Zeppelin song is playing.

Around ten I see the client; not the guy who called me, but whom he called about.  I stalk, never allowing myself to get trapped with tunnel vision or over exuberance.  Doing this for as long as I have, I’ve developed a sense of slowing my heart rate down to maybe just fifty beats a minute.  I can always feel my skin turn cold, and watch as the colors wash out of everything.

My client tonight is a recently acquitted child molester and murderer.  He has a conviction rap sheet longer than a giraffe’s neck.  The jury acquitted him due to a technicality brought to their attention by a righteous defense lawyer which blind sided the state’s attorney.  The prosecution requested a recess to discuss the technicality with their star witness – a 20 year career detective who made the arrest – but the damage had already been done.  The judge ruled that the technicality be admitted into evidence and the jury was made aware.  After two days of deliberations, they set the man free.

What could they do?  It was the state who fucked up their own case.

Now this guy is walking free, to do as he pleases like any other tax paying citizen.  That’s when I got the call.

The victim’s father- wrought with grief I imagine- called.  He said he got the number from a friend who suggested me.  I have a feeling I know who that person is, but that’s a story for another time.  The man on the phone asked if I could do this job and of course I said yes, I’d be happy to.  I gave him the price for my services and he agreed to my terms by leaving the backpack at the disclosed location with the proper amount of money inside of it.

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That brings us to now, where I’m strolling across the dimly lit street to a small house at the end of a shady side street.  My client, the man I’m supposed to dispose of, just closed and I assume, locked his door.  Without losing my stride I plant my plastic covered boot against the door, on the hinge side, because the bolts holding the hinges are weaker than the bolt in the lock.

The door twists inward, almost coming completely clean out of the frame.  Across the living room, into the eat in kitchen some twenty feet away is my client standing by the fridge, holding a carton of milk with a dumb looking, albeit surprised, look on his face.  He’s shirtless, whiskered, pants sagging down his skinny butt, pushed down by his bulging beer belly.

The first round hits him in the hip, because I want to sit his ass down.

He let’s out a surprised yelp because he never heard the round leave my gun.  There’s blood and milk all over the floor making things slick.  The yellow light being cast from the still open refrigerator cuts across his body, illuminating his good half.

I put the heavy door of the fridge between us, just in case he’s holding.

I know my caller-client wants my kill-client to suffer for as long as possible.  I can do that, however I’m not a torturer, I’m an executioner.

He squirms, kicking, trying to push himself away from me, leaving a wide streak of pale-lit pink back towards some cupboards.

I put another round in his leg, and he screams, clutching his thigh.  My heart rate has yet to go above 65 bpm.10125678

I watch him writher around on the floor and all I can think about is the mess that’s being made.  I’m not worried about leaving behind any evidence; my boots are wrapped in plastic bags, I’m wearing a tight knit beanie, latex gloves, and my gun doesn’t discharge spent casings.

He starts to plea with me, asking me to let him go.  He learned his lesson he says.  He holds up his hand in defense, his palm facing me, all five fingers outstretched.

I put a round through the meat of his hand and he screams, clutching the bloody stump.

I glance at the counter and see a Zipper lighter.  It’s brushed steel, a little pitted from use.  I flick it open and it lights instantly from so much use.

I close the cover, clicking it in my hand as I watch the client cry.  I notice the stove has gas burners.  I turn one on.

With one breath I blow out the tiny flame and then crank the dial all the way open.  I light the Zippo again and set the lighter down on the counter so the flame is flickering around the room.

I turn and leave, letting the man sit in his filth.

The next morning the papers ran an interesting story about an acquitted sex offender and murderer dying in a freak gasoline explosion.  And I’m open for business again.

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October 3, 2009 Posted by | Written Works | , | Leave a comment

The Fading Art

To talk about my handwriting, particularly on my own blog which is online – where things are typed obviously, makes little sense.  But then again, here in the last few innings of 2009, talking about handwriting altogether seems a tad peculiar.

Handwriting is the fastest fading art in the modern world.  No longer is it being taught in schools past the second or maybe third grade.  And why should it be?  Most kids between the ages of say 6 and up can readily navigate a computer and probably type faster than most 50+ year olds, especially on a phone or other portable device.

So why handwriting?  Why do I care?

Because my handwriting sucks, and so does everyone else’s.

Take for a second, and think about the last paper check you signed.  For me it was for this month’s rent and as I look thru my check register at all my passed written checks, I notice how terribly juvenile my handwriting looks.  This observation comes just before the realization that some bank teller somewhere is looking at my check and trying to figure out if I wrote the amount for 875 or 813?  This makes me very self conscience.IMG_0169

It used to be that handwriting was a staple in school curriculum up until you reached high school.  Ask your parents and they’ll tell you that penmanship was something they probably stressed out over in the same way kids stress out about algebra and school shooters today.  Penmanship and handwriting were studied and practiced, and a person was often judged by their hand written words.

But with the advent of technology, especially in the classrooms, little emphasis remains on proper handwriting.  It was reported in an article in Slate that teachers spend as little as ten minutes a day with third graders on their penmanship.  Often, teachers will give handwriting workbooks to students and let them go it alone, not either taking or having the time to go into how to make a proper uppercase cursive “S”.

I wish I spent more time on my handwriting growing up; I never had good penmanship and was often frustrated by the sight of my over-large, shaky script.  As I grew older I became more accustom to typing, being able to type over 20 wpm by the time I was 11 or 12.  The biggest hang up for me, as a kid, was the lack of being able to get the pen or pencil to move fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

I’d be leaned over a sheet of paper, the kind with three sets of lines: two bold lines that marked the top and bottom of the “train tracks” you were supposed to follow, with the dotted center line that told you where to keep your lower case letters from being confused as upper case, and drag the tip of my ever-dulling lead pencil in jagged rough print, and then eventually into fake-feeling, albeit faster loopy script.

I never liked how it looked and was embarrassed about presenting hand written narratives to teachers, even though I loved to write and was desperate for some sort of feedback from those who read my stuff (this explains why I blog).  What made matters worse was how easily my hand would cramp up after extended hours of writing.  How many of us sat at our kitchen tables shaking out our wrists as we plunged headlong into another hour of a “Treasure Island” book report?

As I got older and as school curriculum changed, less emphasis was put on book reports.  I noticed also that I took less guff from teachers for my handwritten work (up until my freshman year of high school, my “grade” in handwriting was my lowest grade ever earned, at “C-“) as I’m sure more and more students were like me with their terrible penmanship that teachers grew to tolerate.

“Can’t fight the technological tide,” I’m sure they said to themselves as more middle school-level book and science reports were turned in neatly typed.

My penmanship slowly atrophied into what it is today: a smooshed block-print and cursive hybrid.  When I write longhand, half my words are written in a chicken scratch slashing, letters at the beginnings of words usually standing alone printed, taller, bigger than the rest of the letters in the word, which tend to be smaller, crunched together in a squiggily scribbled text.

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If I write something down and come back to it later, I seldom can read it word for word, it’s mostly like some sort of alien shorthand or place holders.  I’ll recognize a few letters and get the gist of what I meant.

This is especially frustrating for my wife, who’s left scratching her head at the personal note I left her regarding a need for milk, bread and dog food from the store.

My own signature is something that leaves more to be desired.  I often scribbled out my name on important documents with a kind of bloated confidence and dismissive attitude.  Big “J” with an over-sized loop, scribble-scribble-scribble, big “C” with a stab for a dot, followed by two loops and a long left to right streak which is supposed to look like an “N” and the rest of the spelling of my last name, which is only five letters long.  The end result is nothing to be proud of and a piss-poor representation of my father’s name.

Yet, both my parents’ signatures are easily identifiable and easy to read, letter for letter.

One of my wishes (along with a billion dollars, my own Iron Man suit, and a fully outfitted gymnasium for my exclusivity) is to relearn penmanship and become less dependent on typing.  I wish schools taught handwriting more completely and with greater emphasis on correct form.

Hell, I don’t even think kids today know how to read in cursive anymore.  I sure as hell have a hard time with it.  Before she died, my Memere would send me the occasional hand written letter, in cursive, and I had to guess at what half or more of it said.  In return I would email my mom a letter to Memere and have her deliver it in hand.  But then I realized that was kind of insulting and drawn out, and decided to just call Memere instead.

If schools have to lump penmanship in with arts classes then so be it!  It is an art form, a dying one at that.  With more children learning how to text on a Qwerty keyboard on their little flip-phones, hand writing is wasting away faster than Glen Beck’s grip on reality.

It’s too late for me as I’ve grown past the point of refining my fine motor skills- those dexterous muscles at the tips of my fingers that allow for perfect penmanship.  With age those muscles tend to wear away in favor of major muscle groups that do the grabbing, squeezing and slapping.  But it’s not too late for your kids, if you have them.  Sit them down for an hour every night after they finish their homework and Lima beans and have them write out a page in a book long hand.  When they start to complain that their hand hurts and that hand writing is pointless – everything is typed now-a-days – encourage them and at the same time explain that you’re not teaching them a skill to get ahead, you’re teaching them a vanishing form of artisan ship.

I wish someone had done that for me in fourth grade.

September 19, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Shameless Self Promotion, Written Works | , , | Leave a comment

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My brain feels fidgety, which makes my whole body kinda numb, but panicked at the same time.

I think I’ve run out of things to do, to say.

But at the same time, it feels like my mind is swimming in gasoline, like it itches and I can’t scratch at it.

I need something else to occupy my hands, my attention, that sort of thing.

I feel bitter, like this beer in my mouth, this stupid lemon wedge the smiley face I don’t want.

I pretend it’s ok, because life is all about appearances.

Don’t let on that things are spinning out of control,

or that you’re unhappy.

Everything’s fine, really.

Turn up the radio, listen to the news.

Sip.

Listen to the sounds of your organs churning inside of you, your teeth gnashing, your muscles quaking.

Crack your fingers, sit down in front of the screen, stare.

Wait for it to come to you.

Backspace, backspace, backspace, start over.

Running head start.  Jump in.

Your eyes sting, your brow weeps, you look like a lost sailor.

You wish someone would see how hurt you really are.

You wish one person would see how hurt you are.

Fuck it, carry it like a load evenly distributed across your chest.

One step, two step, march.

Everything looks cheap and tastes cheaper.  You can’t get around the feeling that everything is set up to fall under your weight.

You get the sense that… despair is a better alternative.

But you fight against it.

You have plans, at least.

August 7, 2009 Posted by | The Great Indoors, Written Works | , | 1 Comment

Why I Hate Nepotism

Warning:  The following article is grossly filled with statements about how awesome I am, and how I’m getting a raw deal for no reason.  If you don’t want to hear me complain, move on to the next blog on your Google Reader or blogroll or whatever.  Please refrain however, from leaving me snide comments about how I have it “so tough.”  I mean you, Angela.

That said, I was just reading an article in the NY Observer about this 24 year old kid just got signed to a major publisher.  Turns out he’s also the son of a quasi-famous columnist for both The New York Times and Redbook.  That in of itself is like, boarderline piss-me-off material.  What allows this fucking story to cross over into The United States of Anger is the fact that the publisher is like, best friends with this kid’s mom.

If you read the article, it explains how this “metalhead” has previously had two books, marketed towards teens (see “Twilight” series) and is now moving into adult mainstream fiction publishing.  The plot for his upcoming book (which he reported on his own Twitter page, was worth “fat greenbacks”, awesome) deals with some conventional, albeit, controversial issues that honestly sound interesting.  But I’ve come up with better, to be truthful.  I’ve come up with similar plot ideas and plodded out some twists and characters and … I’ve thought of better while laying in bed not being able to sleep, and he gets a fucking book deal.

I’m currently working on some fiction, but it’s dragging.  It’s dragging in a good way where I’m not rushing just to write about the good parts.  I’m developing, and yeah, there’s some fucking hiccups, but it’s a good story with a lot of drama and theatrics involved.  So what if I don’t take a controversial issue and make it into fodder for business-types stuck on a layover from their flight from Minneapolis to Chicago?  And who the fuck cares about being a NY Times “Best Seller.”  EVERYONE IS A GODDAMN NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER!  GOD!

Fuck.

I understand too, that this is where I “put up or shut up” and tell you some of my ideas.  Well, my ideas are my intellectual property and are somewhat trade secrets, so fuck that.  They’re mine.  Just believe me when I say I’ve got ideas too, … I just wish MY MOM WORKED FOR A HUGE NEWSPAPER AND MAGAZINE!

Just saying.

I’ve never been lucky enough to have nepotism work for me.  My parents were humble, hard working people.  The only cool thing I’ve gotten from my parents, as far as publicity is concerned, was I followed my mom to work one day for “bring your kid (daughter) to work” day, and a reporter came out to my mom’s work and did a story on us.  I got my picture on the front page of the shitty little paper.

I also looked like a huge tool, but I was in middle school and it was like 199-something.

But that’s it.  And I’m really sick of people just being handed shit while other people are working their asses off for it.  In this day and age, with electronic media so fucking abundant, the competition to get published by a major publisher is incredibly deep.  There are millions of blogs out there, and there’s no discernible way for me to stand out in the crowd.  I try to update as often as I can, but… my daily traffic hovers in the 20s, with the occassional spike to the fifties if I post something really awesome.  I try to blog surf on other people’s blogs, leaving thoughtful comments and suggestions on their pages in their article threads, but it gets me nothing.  Hell, one of the shitty little blogs I added to my blogroll a while back hasn’t fucking updated since I visited and left a comment, almost a month ago.

Jesus.

I understand that like any art, writing is mostly talent-driven.  Like sports, not everyone is born with a beautiful swing or the ability to throw a curve ball that breaks three feet from the plate.  A lot of “artists” are starving.  It’s hard to picked up notoriety while you’re still able to enjoy fame.

But I’m not in this for the fame.  I’m in this to have a voice that people hear and respond to.  I guess you say I’m in it for the power that the written word will bring me, and ultimately bring others.  It’s just a shame that my voice gets drowned out by all the other voices talking over it, without mommy to hold a bullhorn to my face.

July 8, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, Shameless Self Promotion, Written Works | , , , , | 5 Comments

Of Mothers and Sons

You birthed us.

You fed us.

You tried to make us into men in a way that was different from dad’s arm’s-distance approach.

You had to force yourself to push us away from your apron strings.

You taught us how to respect women.

You went to bat for us when no one else would.

You know we can do no wrong, no matter what.

You went gray after we moved away, probably out of worry.

You are always there for us, no matter how old we get or how high the bail.

You make it easy for us to come to you with broken bones, broken hearts, or broken promises.

We love you, because we know it took a real woman to make a real man.

May 10, 2009 Posted by | People I Love, Written Works | , | 2 Comments

A Snippet of What I’ve Been Working On

Been a busy week here at the BAD.  More news on that to come shortly.  While you wait, why not take a gander at 1000 or so words of the short fiction I’ve been working on after hours…

***

He packed lightly, bringing with him three books, toiletries, some clothes, two pistols, another ceramic knife, one hundred thousand dollars in bundled cash, sunglasses, SIM cards for cell phones, a pair of running shoes, and his iPod.

He had called Katie to see if she wanted to drop by and she said she was actually in the neighborhood, and she was going to pop over unexpected anyway.  Dreamer sat on his couch and watched tv until his door buzzed.

He keyed the speaker, she identified herself and he buzzed her in.  He popped the door to his apartment and got out two beers and set one on the counter top while he sipped the other.  A few moments passed and Katie walked in the door wrapped in a short pea coat, her eyes behind square rimmed glasses, her face beaming.

“This for me?”  She motioned for the beer.

“No, it’s for your sister,” Dreamer said with mock sarcasm.  She lifted an eyebrow and picked up the beer from her side of the counter and took a pull from the bottle neck.  She took off her coat, revealing her thin-but-curvy body, and pressed herself up against Dreamer who was leaning against the stove in the tiny kitchenette.

“Funny, I didn’t know my sister was in town this week,” and she kissed him lightly on the lips.  Dreamer kissed back a little, his mind someplace else for the time being.  The conversation with his handler still lingered in his psyche and it was readily apparent to his girlfriend from the bookstore.

The two of them had been dating regularly for the last month or so, enough to the point where Dreamer considered her to be his girlfriend exclusively.  That is, he didn’t really have much time to go out and see anyone else, but nor did he want to.  They had sex, and sometimes she would crash at his place.  Seldom did they ever really go out, maybe to the occasional bar or night club, once to a comedy club in Manhattan, but most nights were spent in eating take-out Sushi or Tex-Mex.

Once, Katie cooked an actual home-made meal for Dreamer, which Jimmy thought was comparable to his own mother’s home cooking.  It was then that she sealed it for him.

“What’s the matter?”  She asked, which brought Dreamer back to Earth.  He cleared his throat and set his beer down between the gas burners on the stove.

“I gotta go away for a while, and I don’t know how long,” he said evenly, with the cold efficiency he had developed through much practice in front of a mirror and victims.  She hesitated as her hipster-thin body became stark and rigid.

“Huh?”

“It’s business related.  My company is uh, relocating me for an unspecified amount of time to do some work up in Canada I guess. Montreal.  So uh, I gotta leave tonight, by train.”  She pushed back off of him and leaned against the opposite L in the counter.

“Well, how long are you going to be gone for?”

“I dunno, but I guess I’ll be coming back, eventually,” Dreamer shrugged.

“That’s fucked up- they didn’t even tell you how long you’d be gone for?”  She asked.

“No,”

“Not even a ballpark?”

“No.”  She swallowed this.

“That’s fucked up,” she repeated.  “I was just starting to kinda like you too.”

“I know, me too Katie.  It’s not fair, but it was better than the alternative, I guess,” and Dreamer realized he was thinking out loud more than talking to his girlfriend.

“What was the alternative?”  He knew she was going to ask so he had an answered prepared.

“They were going to let me go,” he said and sucked on his beer bottle.  She nodded and scratched her chin a little.

“Can I come and visit you?”

“Eventually, after I get things sorta established, you know?”  She nodded and closed the distance between the two of them.

“Ok, just, you know, be safe, that sort of shit.  Given with what you read, I’m sure that won’t be a problem for you though, you know?”  She referenced the copy of Complete Hand Combat Vol. 9, and a beaten copy of Famous Small Arms Review 2001 on the coffee table in the other room.  Dreamer smiled a little and gave her rear a squeeze.

“Sure.  But listen, I gotta finish packing up, I gotta catch a seven o clock train, so,” and he trailed off.  She leaned up and kissed him softly, and touched his face.

“Just be safe ok?  I worry about you sometimes.  You tend to get very serious out of no where and it’s just…”

“Yeah I know, it’s just my job, you know?”

“Yeah,” and she broke away.  She picked up her coat, took another swig of the beer and let him walk her to the door to his apartment.

“Give me a call when you get in, ok?”

“It’ll probably be early, like, five-ish,”

“I don’t care, I’ll probably be up with worry, you know?”  Dreamer rolled his eyes.

“I have a mother, you know,”

“Really?  I thought you were hatched,”

“Such a smart ass.”

“You love me”

“Maybe.”

“Bye, James.”

“Bye Katie, walk safe, ok?  Oh here,” he dug into his wallet and produced a yellow Metro Card.  “I still have like, two weeks on this Unlimited, you want it?  I’m taking a cab into The City so…” She snatched it from his outstretched fingers.

“I’ll give it back to you when I see you again,” and she smiled.  They said their good byes again, and he shut the door after her.

Although he was already packed and it was only five in the evening, Dreamer wanted some alone time and decided to take a shower, since he was probably going to be stuck on a train for up to fifteen hours.  He undressed in his bedroom, took a towel from his linen closet and padded into the shower.

***

April 26, 2009 Posted by | Not Enough Time, Shameless Self Promotion, Written Works | , , | Leave a comment