Monday, October 17, 2011

And now, a humorous comment, made in a suburban bathroom...

"This must be where the Jolly Green Giant comes to take a piss."
--me, at Lamplighters in Palatine

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Epilepsy walk-a-thon draws local band, volunteers, ass-kicking

The Third Annual Geriatrics Run for Epilepsy 5K began at 8 a.m. and in an hour and a half, I've already managed to lap the two runners in front of me. I take deep gulps of air and pump my arms harder, feeling the cold fall breeze burn my lungs and send my sluggish blood pumping like through my veins like Tom Sizemore through a Vegas brothel. I come up right behind my rivals. They look tough, but I could take them.

"Lovely morning, isn't it?" one middle-aged mother of three croons at me.

I compress my lips together and shove my shoulder towards her, sending her flailing into the underbrush, screaming a dwindling "What the hellllllllll..." Her partner, another middle-aged mother of three with a t-shirt bearing a scanned picture of her two-year-old astride the family dog, flings her hands up in front of her.

"Don't hit me!" she screams. "I don't have insurance!"

I take the opportunity to fake her out and double around, leaving her to scrabble after her friend and yell for the First Aid patrol (who, I might add, are one hundred yards behind us, at the starting tent, doing early-morning lemon drop shots). Excellent. Two down. One hundred sixty-five to go.

That prize is mine.

Actually, I'm not quite sure what the prize is. While the announcer was giving his speech about all the proceeds being donated for research into epilepsy, I was lacing up my spikes and whispering veiled threats to anyone nearby.

"I just feel so good to be doing something that makes a difference," one walker commented to another.

"I feel good that I'll be feasting on your remains when this is all over, you dried up sack of dirt," I whispered hoarsely. He turned and glanced at me curiously, obviously cowed by my grizzled demeanor and hard-as-nails countenance. It's called a "psych out." And it works. I should know. My students do it to me every morning before class begins. Sends me screaming to the nurse's office every time.

"Might want to get some hot tea for that cold, buddy," he tossed at me, doing some deep knee bends and hamstring stretches.

"Well you might want to take off your mother’s girdle,” I retorted.

He rolled his eyes and walked away.

“Because you’re really a girl,” I yelled after him. "And gay!"

Look, I need every advantage I can grab. The crew of runners/walkers (both with and without motorized wheelchairs) doesn't look threatening, but looks can be deceiving. Beneath the facade of flaccid skin, neon shorts, bottled water and excessive camaraderie, they're all athletes. They want the prize as much as I do. So I can spare no one. I can take no prisoners. And I can leave no mothers-of-three unaccosted. Into the ditch they must go.

"That bastard back there tried to muscle me
off the course! Luckily he hits like a girl."

As I pump my arms and increase my power-walking speed to a cool 3.5 miles an hour, I realize that there are a couple more sixty-somethings coming up in front of me, chatting about what sounds like Sunday brunch with a son's future in-laws, which I immediately take for smack talk. Emitting my most bloodcurdling scream, I shoulder in between them, head-butt one into a nearby chainlink fence and set a pick that sends the other tumbling ass over end into a nearby ditch. Four for four. God I'm awesome.

The surge of adrenaline gives me the energy to round the path at about 3.3 miles per hour, where, in the distance, I see the Love of My Life standing on a stage with several other musicians surrounding her, staring at me. Her expression is fifty percent "look at this stud" and seventy-five percent "God but I'd like to jump him right now." As I pass, I give her a cavalier wave and wait to hear some shouted term of encouragement, or perhaps catch a pair of her thrown panties.

"You asshole!" she yells. “They were going to help me pack up my drums!”


Perhaps I should explain.

First of all, I don’t want to give the impression Kim can’t get me to help her lug her drums around. She can. But there are conditions that must be met, and frankly, this isn’t the place to talk about them. (Ok, it is. It involves a steak dinner and plentiful references to me as Long-o-san.)

Second of all, Kim's band, Get Real, is performing at the walk-a-thon as an accompanying benefit concert. The idea is to pump some tunes into the atmosphere to get the crowd of suburbanite geriatrics cum casual athletes a bit of extra juice to complete the course. Kim explained the idea to me a few weeks ago: the band plays music, the walk-a-thon goes on, and a refreshment tent serves libations and cheese Danish.

“What?” I asked irritably, craning my neck around her to try and see the TV. “That sounds stupid.”

“They raised almost a hundred grand last year,” Kim said, shutting the afternoon movie off. “And with a drummer this time, they could up that. It could help a lot of people.”

“What do I care about people?”

“We’ll be playing heavy metal mostly.”

Well, once I heard that, I was sold. Personally, I think epileptics should be allowed to marry and have child visitation rights, or whatever the whole debate is about, but let’s face it: good music is good music.

Still, when Kim told me I’d be there and would have to compete, I knew enough to get pumped. I've been undergoing an insane workout regimen of red meat, tight t-shirts and the occasional sit-up. The day before, I prepared for the race by watching a bunch of Rocky montages where he's hitting the bag, running through the streets of Philadelphia, all the while accompanied by appropriate eighties music and montages of his previous fights. Inspiring stuff. It could work for me too, I reasoned. So I synced up my iPod with the appropriate playlist and made sure televisions were stationed all around my house and back yard while I motored from room to room, blaring "It's Raining Men" on my headphones and reliving footage of myself getting jeered at by teenagers in my classroom. If manliness were a drink, I'd be blowing a .93.

Which brings me to the race’s end: Get Bent is pumping out “More Human Than Human” and there’s only one more senior citizen in front of me. If I were a Terminator, he’d be in the middle of a big red digital circle with the word “Eliminate” emblazoned beneath him. My spikes are coated with venom, and I scent his desperation in the air.

And there’s Kim, at the drum set, glaring at me with one eye as she keeps pace with the bassist with her other.

Tempting thought: leave the geezer alone, let him help pack her gear up, not have to lift a finger during set breakdown. I pause. Then I decide, What the hell. I was never going to help them anyway. I move in for the kill…

“Last call for free bagels!” blares the loudspeaker. “All competitors, you did a great job today walking for progress! Now if you want a free bagel, come on down to the table before they’re gone!”

Wuh-oh. Free? Bagels?

“You got lucky, old man,” I growl at him, throw my gear down and stalk off for some hard-earned food that somebody else paid for. Just barely out of the corner of my eye, I see him sneer at me in toothless contempt. Fuck him. I’ll get him next year.

Still, all things considered, it was a productive morning. According to my pedometer, I’ve walked 3.1 miles, falcon-punched sixteen people over the age of forty and burned three calories. Plus, Get a Job has played 24 songs and booked a benefit concert for third world eating disorders. Sweet. Time to throw in a piece of pie too. And as I head for the buffet table, I can hear the band warbling White Zombie’s famous lines:
Yeah, I am the jigsaw man, I turn the world around
With a skeleton hand say
I am electric head, A cannibal core
A television said, yeah...
So in closing, dear reader, I urge you to not be the jigsaw man with the skeleton hand. Or the electric head. Or a cannibal or television. Apparently all those are bad things to be, and I wholeheartedly endorse Rob Zombie’s words, whatever the hell they’re about.

What you want to be instead is generous and giving. And the best way to do that: pledge my next Walk for Autism. One dollar per person I knee in the crotch and force onto the sidelines.

Speaking of which, you'll have to excuse me. The children's one-mile is about to begin. And this year, I've got some stiff competition.

"Now kids, you know the rules. Baseball bats to the
kneecaps are fair, as long as the judges don't see it."

Sunday, October 02, 2011

NPR's Fiction Contest, Take 7--A Western

This month, some author I never heard of gave the marching orders: "You want to enter the contest? Get your little story published? Oh, how cute! Of course you can give it a shot! And maybe you'll win! And maybe I'll quit writing and go back to busing tables! Anyway, send your putrid attempt at creativity to NPR before the end of September. The rules: Your 600-word story has to begin with someone coming into town, and end with someone leaving town. Got it? Good. Don't screw it up."

To me, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for a Western. So...

"He Came for a Drink...of Death!"

a pulp Western by professional pulp Western writer Tripton Duncan (Western writer of pulps)

“I’m looking for a killer.”

Christian encyclopedia salesman Skinny Muler spurted rancid beer out of his mouth and turned to gape at the tall, weather-beaten stranger who’d just sauntered into the Drunken Horse Saloon. His face was grizzled, his eyes a perpetual squint and his expression was that of a man who killed as easy as some men breathed. Good. Maybe he’d be in the market for a new set of encyclopedias.

“Mister,” he began, reaching for his satchel, “if it’s global warming you’re looking to disprove, I’ve got just the—"

"He was riding a horse," the stranger continued. "He's wearing a cowboy hat."

Larry Diddlesman, town barber and closet horse molester, sputtered a mouthful of whiskey onto his table. "Horse?" he stammered. "Hat? Why that sounds like Bellybutton Lint Leroy Baines!"

The stranger nodded. "That's him. Where is he?"

Pigtrough McWithers, one of Larry’s necrophilic drinking companions, sputtered the mouthful of turpentine he’d been drinking and bolted out the door. Larry shot a glance desperately to the side. "Bellybutton? Never heard of him."

"How come they call him Bellybutton Lint?" Skinny wondered. "Because he's got lint in his bellybutton?"

"No." The stranger rolled a homemade manure cigarette and lit it. "Because he's really tall. Now where is he?"

"I told you I ain't seen him," said Larry. Meanwhile, Johnson Nopenis at the other end of the saloon sputtered ranch dressing out of his mouth and ran out the door. 

"Then how did you know he was in town?" the stranger asked casually. "And how did you know he's going to the train station, to catch the 4:10 to Columbus?"

"I never said that," stammered Larry, sputtering whiskey and outhouse water. "Besides, he's going to El Paso!"

"Uh huh," the stranger drawled, plucking a piece of cowshit from his lip. "On the 4:10."

"He's getting on the 6:30!" spat Larry. He stood up, noticing an attractive foal mare outside (which sputtered its drinking water all over the porch in terror) and began running towards the door. "At the station by the post office. And I don’t even know him!"

“Go hump your horse,” the stranger said mildly. Outside, a terrified whinney erupted. Meanwhile, to the rest of the bar, the stranger announced, “If Baines comes back, tell him Bart Johnson’s in town, and he's coming to kill him for--"

"Say!" Skinny gaped, drool running down his chin. “Bart Johnson! Why you’re that poet from San Francisco!”

“What?” The stranger paused, then grabbed a drink of whiskey off the bar so he could sputter it out of his mouth. “Er, no. No, I’m the psycho killer from out Wichita Way, the one who shot—"

“You’re the one who wrote ‘Love is Like a Limp-Wristed Flower?’” Bartender Skunk Cassidy, busy cleaning up all the sputtered whiskey, beamed. “Why, that poem makes me sob like an Englishman!”

“I tell you, mister,” Skinny proclaimed, “your sonnets about how small testicles are a sign of a loyal heart are what gave me the guts to start beating my wife.”

“That ain’t me,” the stranger protested, careful to enunciate his bad grammar. “I, uh, I be Bart Johnson, meanest sonofabitch in the west.”

“The Bart Johnson who wrote an ode to President Garfield in otto rima?” Skunk wondered. “And the Bart Johnson who was caught having sexual relations with a maple tree? Say, did you know there’s one of those by the train station?”

Everyone waited. The stranger appeared to be doing some figuring.

“By the post office, right?” he asked Skunk, heading for the door.

Outside, the maple tree sputtered its whiskey.