Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dear Tepid Talent-Hack

Your life is a dance of failure.

Why not use it to create something better?

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing

Open and Shut

The case was open and shut; he had exploded. Well, combusted, really. On December 22nd at approximately 10:30 PM, under the overpass formed by the junction of Interstates 46 and 445, Jonathan Reed sat down in a dusty and discarded faux leather chair and, according to eyewitnesses, spontaneously ceased to be.
James Edgar had been one in a group standing over a makeshift fire when he noticed Mr. Reed walk over to the chair and sit down. “It was like he knew somethin bad was gonna happen. Don’t nobody walk off by themselves in that kind of cold. We was all pokin our hands into the fire barrel and I seen John kickin around that chair and before I knew it he was just gone; nothin left but them new shoes of his.”
Jonathon was well-known among the beggars and panhandlers of downtown Philadelphia; just the mention of his name bringing a smile to many of the faces of homeless and hopeless people. And everyone had a story about him. “It’s a real shame what happened to Jon,” they’d all. “I remember one time he and I were havin soup in the church basement and he snuck some extra rolls,” said Molly Carter, a resident of the Philadelphia YMCA for the past three years. “He stuck em in the folds of his jacket while that big ol bitch – the one with the pin-curled red hair and a big, hairy mole on her chin – wasn’t lookin at the basket. She waddled around askin everybody who took extra, but Jon was already gone. We ate on those rolls all week long.”
According to those who could be interviewed Jonathan Reed lived his entire on the streets and though none claimed to know him well, all acquaintances would vouch that he was the bravest, smartest, and nicest man they’d ever met. “Not without a temper, though,” said Carl Davers, an out-of-work mechanic living outside the area soup kitchen. “We was down by the bus stop once when some kids started throwin half-drunk cans of coke at us. They was yellin at me and him to git out, so I picked up my bag and took off up the street, but Jon had had enough. He pushed one of the kids to the ground and kicked him in the head til he blacked out. The cops asked all over for Jon, but not a soul would turn him in; he was one of us, and the best of us at that.”
On December 21st, the day before Jonathan Reed vanished into thin air, he had been spotted in the park by Jeff Calbert, a recently homeless man who, in an unfortunate string of events, was fired from a local convenience store on the same day he lost everything in an apartment fire. “I was real cold, so I was sitting out of the wind underneath one of the bridges in the park. Jon was walking through on his way across town and he stopped and talked with me for awhile. He was as cold as I was and he told me so. He said he was sick and tired of it and that he was going to go make things right. He went running into the park and came back a half-hour later with a coat, scarf, and shoes for me. He said he got them from a friend. The coat and scarf fit fine, but the shoes were too small to fit my feet into, so Jon took them. ‘What about you?’ I asked, but he just shook his head and smiled. He told me that the shoes ‘would have to do for now.’” Curiously, the items of clothing allegedly 'donated by a friend' and given to Mr. Calbert had actually been stolen in a mugging in the park that afternoon. Upon hearing the news Mr. Calbert was shocked. “I don’t know anything about that. Jonathan Reed was a good man and it’s a real shame what happened to him.”
Upon further investigation, every story or anecdote concerning Jonathan Reed was often found to be connected to a story of suspicious or illicit activity, from petty theft to, in some cases, triple homicide. His name was written in the margins of hundreds of case files in Philadelphia’s police departments, referenced so often that the detectives had begun to use his name in place of the ubiquitous John Doe, and any warrants for his arrest had long since been abandoned by judges too familiar with the phantom-like quality of the mysterious Mr. Reed.
When asked for a physical description of Jonathan Reed most of those who claimed to be witnesses of his daring deeds suffered from a spotty memory. From the testimonies given he was a tall man, though shorter than most, and bald with thick, reddish, brownish, black hair. In addition, his sudden combustion on December 22nd was not the first. In fact, Jonathan Reed had spontaneously combusted eight times, fallen into the Delaware River nine times, and left town on twenty-four separate occasions. In the greater Philadelphia area no department of any kind, apart from the authorities, has ever had a record fitting the descriptions given for Jonathan Reed. However, if asked, the destitute of Philadelphia will not only confirm his existence, but will also tell you about his recent, questionable activities; so great is the influence of Mr. Jonathan Reed.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dear Sequestered Simpleton

I see you've cleaned your throne room:

Now perhaps you'll consider cleaning up the mess between your ears.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Thursday, October 29, 2009


They say you always remember your first time.

Why do you suppose they say that? Aren't we prone to remembering our first everything? It's a phrase that we could do without entirely, I think. I would very much like to throw the next person that utters it into the sun, but, as my mother used to say, that's my solution for everything.

To their credit, though, I do remember my first time. I wish I didn't. I knew a girl in college who didn't remember her first time having sex. She mentioned it in a way that suggested a sad kind of satisfaction, as if she was sad she couldn't remember, but satisfied that the potentially horrible experience was absent from her memory. It was the worst feeling I think I've ever seen. Imagine, to accept, even express some sick form of gratefulness, towards some horrible event, not because it was narrowly avoided, or that it would never happen again, or that you were somehow vindicated, but simply that you couldn't remember it happening to you. That look on her face sent chills through me that have yet to be rivaled, and I've been to space. I suppose that was another first time for me: the first time I knew what I was to do with my life.

Which brings us to the first time I was alluding to from the very beginning. You know, the whole event was really rather droll, especially for me. There was a bank, some guns, some hostages, and me, stuck in a cliche. I suppose it could have been worse. I hear as near as 20 years ago people in my profession were still wearing fabric around our necks and colors that don't occur in nature, and the opposition was joining right in. No, I was fortunate enough to be able to work in jeans and my favorite suede jacket. He wore a suit, but there was, well, here, take a look at this picture. See?

You know, we have what you might call company parties. Christmas, well, I guess it's Winter Holiday now. Force of habit. Anyway, Winter Holiday, President's Day, Veteran's Day is a big one, and of course, Capes Day. I've heard Capes day was cooked up by the greeting card companies, or the Martian Colony Separatists, or by the capes themselves. The one explanation I actually think might lend itself most to the truth is that a bunch of collectible companies came up with the holiday so they could push out t-shirts and knick-knacks with the likenesses of people who never age and never die. Whatever the case, it's nice to have a day where we can get together and reminisce about the job.

On Capes Day there's a few of us that get together to really take in why we got into this business, congratulate each other on our triumphs, lament over our failures, drink to our fallen brothers and sisters, and imagine, as we imagined when we first started, the better world we're creating down the line. Anyway, one of our traditions is to show, on a projector mind you, the photo of our first collar.

There are a total of 254 members of the Justice Legionnaires. They represent a total of 54 countries, 39 planets spread out across 3 galaxies, 2 alternate futures, and 7 parallel dimensions. I am the most gifted of all of them. The strongest, fastest, most endurable, and I have to show them Cleetus here, and they love it. They laugh and cheer and, well, the one from planet Qxitl bubbles, but we're all pretty sure it's the same thing. I have surpassed the speed of light. I have destroyed rocks twice the size of earth and touched the core of a neutron star. Meanwhile, the Grey Wolf over there hasn't even left New Jersey and can't even lift a car and his first catch was a tyrannical despot guilty of genocide.

I always turn red. I can't even help it. I mean, just look at him!

The hair!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dear Mole-Chasing Carpetbagger

It's not an exact likeness,

but I'm sure the context is familiar to you.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing


Vernon Cable squinted his eyes against the bright morning sky.
“Fucking Christ,” he mumbled as he stood on the sidewalk in front of his apartment building. Vernon quickly shielded his vision in the crook of his elbow, blinking furiously to make the light more bearable. As he stood paralyzed on the street side, a familiar buzzing sound rattled from his pocket paired with a startling vibration that shook down his left thigh. Vernon pulled the phone from his pocket and mashed a spread of buttons to identify the source of the buzzing.
‘hey i found sum glasses 4 cheap 12 and lincoln’
An hour later the train spit Vernon out in a crowd of business. Men in suits walking with heads down, their eyes covered by dark sunglasses. Nervous wanderers with bloodshot eyes shuffling absently down the street. Vendors working the crowds, picking on the occasional passersby. “New Frames! Low Prices! Hey, you, come look! Come back!”
Vernon wound smoothly out of the bazaar, walking two blocks over through the city. Jerome was standing under a thick metal pole that supported an unwieldy, red clock. His hair stuck out in strange angles and he wore black sunglasses that flashed and flickered in no discernable patterns. Two signs stuck out from the under the clock above him, displaying the cross streets prominently. 12th and Lincoln.
“Hey man,” said Jerome as Vernon crossed the street towards him.
“Tell me,” said Vernon, “I’ve got work in, like, five minutes.”
“Oh, well, okay, um, like I said, I saw some glasses that I think you’ll like. Last night I was over here with Bev and all her shitty friends and we were walkin to this bar somewhere and, actually, I should have called you. What were you doing last night?”
“Jerome, focus. Five minutes.”
“Oh, yeah, anyway, I, um, was walking by that place over there, just out of my mind man!” said Jerome, lolling his head back and pointing to a small shop across the street, “and I looked inside and I was like, ‘man, these glasses are hot!’ and I thought of you and I’m sorry I didn’t call you then, but…”
“It’s fine,” said Vernon, cutting off Jerome before he got started, “Quit talking. Just answer the rest of my questions by shaking your head. Are they cheap?”
Head nod yes.
“Can I get connected?”
Head nod yes.
“Alright, thanks. I gotta go.”
Vernon rushed over to the shop that was set into the ground floor of the skyscraper. It had a faded green awning and a glass door that was cracked down the middle, held together by gray tape.
“Perfect,” mumbled Vernon as he pushed the door open, prompting a small bell to ring. A man with a check-mark smile appeared from around the corner.
“How can I help you?” he said, sliding behind the counter, “No, wait, I think I know. By the look in your eye you’re a man who needs some frames.”
Vernon shook his head in the affirmative.
“Well we’ve got all kinds. Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?”
“The cheapest,” said Vernon, reaching for a card in his wallet, “with texting.”
“No problem,” said the salesman, nodding to his associate at the back of the store, “George will be right out with them. Hey, if you don’t mind my asking, what are you working on now?”
Vernon pulled out his phone and dropped it on the counter with a clunk.
“Wow, this is a relic,” said the salesman, “they’re like tiny typewriters. It’s about time you went hands-free.”
“Yeah,” said Vernon, his eyes darting around the store, “well, I was on another set of glasses for a while, but I had to take some time off. You know, just had trouble sleeping and stuff.”
“Say no more,” said the salesman as his helper came from the backroom with a small plastic box, “I had a customer once who swore when he closed his eyes he could still see the screen. Isn’t that wild? It all goes away after a while though.”
The salesman opened the small box and pulled out a small set of black sunglasses and a silver rod the length and shape of a pencil.
“You ready?” asked the salesman, holding the rod up to Vernon’s head.
He shook his head yes, his eyes open wide with anticipation. The salesman nodded back and held the rod up to the bridge of Vernon’s nose, just between his eyes. Electrical sparks shot out from the rod, surging into his pupils. Vernon gripped the countertop, smearing the glassy exterior. The sparks flared wildly and were gone.
“Alright, here’s your glasses,” said the salesman as he took the card from Vernon’s hands. Vernon stood dazed as his information was run. After all his effects were returned to him he stumbled out the door, holding the glasses in his hands. As Vernon stood on the sidewalk his face was absent of expression. He slowly brought the glasses to his eyes and slipped them on. Everything went black.

And then, all at once, he saw the entire world.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dear Sedentary Stooge

Evil technology and worldly ways:

Lost all their futuristic luster when you started using them.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess


There is so much here that can kill me. I know that. I think about it constantly.

That little purple slug with the florescent orange spikes? Yeah, deadly poison.

That fish over there that looks real pretty with the pointy fins? Deadly poison.

Those barracuda that have been following me for the last mile or so because they're attracted to the silver of my watch? Teeth.

I swear if I see anything bigger than those fucking barracuda I'm going to freak out and firebomb the whole ocean. Yeah, I know how silly it sounds to say firebomb and ocean in the same sentence. Yeah I know I don't have any feasible way to actually firebomb anything.

But I'll fucking do it.

When I swim up to the top and float on my back I start thinking that some giant toothy beast is going to think I'm food and rip me to shreds, or that gulls are going to think I'm dead in the water and try to tear out my entrails with their beaks and I'll scream and thrash as I watch the blood and sinew and intestines and a myriad of things I never even knew I had get ripped out of my body and devoured, and my blood will all leak out and it wouldn't count for more than a speck compared to the rest of the ocean. Thinking about that, though, calms me somehow, and I'm able to look at the sky and see shapes in the only three clouds in the sky and as the terrier collides with the fire truck and merges into an amorphous blob I see something else and call "amoeba" out towards the sun.

I'm letting the tide take me in; I watch the island come to me and the waves wash over me. One gets under and carries me like a magic carpet on roller coaster tracks, fluid but jostling, and I roll in the wave and the surf and the sand without cause for concern.

I forget to breathe for about thirty seconds until my lungs begin to throw a little pain my way to let me know I should. I push my head up out of the wet sand and take a deep breath and feel life enter my body.

It's staring at me when I finally open my eyes. It's looking at me with its claws up in a defensive pose, or, I guess, what I imagine its defensive pose to be. The fuck do I know about crustacean behavior, anyway? Anyway, it's frozen in place, by, fear if the creature could actually feel something like fear. It doesn't know what to do. I stay still as it does and just look at it. I relax my face and try to give it one of those Bodhisattva stares, as if that would tell the thing that I have no designs to harm it, as if it would understand. It scuttles away so who the hell knows. Still, I realized that it was something of a kindred spirit, alone in an environment where everything can kill it, where it is out of place, even with the legs. I always used to believe they came from space, building tiny empires in the sand and coral of an adopted home, but I suppose everything finds itself alien sometime or another.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dear Woe-Heavy Wighead

Look. Study.

Post with substantive value.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing

Winds of the Desert

You don’t know why these west winds blow. They just do. They shift the face of the desert in wicked ways, turning up the paths she and I once traveled together. They tear up the roots of bushes and splinter the limbs of trees, push over dry stones and dry up deep wells. But you, you’re a sailor of the wind. You glide on its zephyrs, carried to distant places by the unseen force; invisible, but for the sting felt by those too heavy to be carried away on its waves.

I remember seeing you last, many years ago. You floated with your brethren over the tide of prosperity, of green leaves and warm rain. You traveled with many, but I named you then as I do now. Your feathers longer, your gaze more terrible than any other. You danced through the sunlight like a ray bouncing across the water’s shiny surface. I was happy then and the earth gave itself to me freely and you and I celebrated the great days of living on the earth.

But I grew restless in my fielding, complacent in the boughs of an everlasting spring. I asked more from an infinite gift and it was given me through her. She appeared to me and I saw nothing else. When she sat in my field I did not look beyond her and I lost sight of all those things I’d named before. I imagine you were there then, watching me, whiling myself away in the hours of love too impossible to count. I did not see you then, but I did not forget. You must believe me now; I remember the glory that we had together, partners in bliss at the dawn of the world.

What is your meaning here now? Have you designs to take us out of this wretched place? Are you come to deliver a fresh oasis?

She wards me away from you, not content to trust again, suspicious and betrayed. She wasn’t prepared for his subtle tricks. He smoothed her with his words and spoke of wonders and splendor she’d never known. He wrapped himself around her tight, the robber of choice. She would never be the same for it and only brought this knowledge to me because she knew no other way to be.

I fell in an instant, fixed in the tragedy that would undo the greatest of all works.

The fury was terrible and swift. She and I had no warning for the terrors of this arid desert. The chill of the nights consumed us and the gnashing of creatures once friendly echoed in every familiar place. We were beaten and battered by the winds in the early days. The shuttering gales blew the seeds from the ground and all the food from our hands. We wrapped ourselves tight against the onslaught of this foe. We wandered alone across the sandy mountains and beat the grounds with sticks, no longer afraid of any ravenous pursuer.

We have tamed the wilderness despite its ferocity. Do you come to celebrate it with us? Do you bring any hope of return?

Answer me or be gone!

I cannot suffer the sight of you here, an image of a life once lived. I must go now. The winds pick up again and we will move. We will gather our possessions and pack them away. We will cover ourselves in thick cloth and hide away from the elements. I must go, Eve is waiting. You go with the wind and take it with you. We are bound to this walk and we will survive though the world press against us.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dear Pedantic Plebe

I met my spirit animal recently:

I tried to find yours, but unfortunately there were no slugs anywhere to be found.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess


I wiped down all the counters and the bar with a towel stained with god knows what, but it just came from the dishwasher so I guess it was fine. Pretty sure it wasn't blood. The bar is scratched and splinters snag the bar rag and the stray threads would make those equally tiny snapping noises; those tiny pops that I could only hear because nothing else was moving. I sent the barback home. The other bartender asked me to cover the rest of the shift because he wanted to take home a girl several years his junior. I may be the boss, but I'm no tyrant, and I opened this damn bar to encourage vice.

Plus, and I don't mean to sound like a prick here, but it gives me a chance to see if I can't find a filly of my own.

Some asshole tagged the bathroom with a sharpie. The smell of chemicals still lingers in the air like a passing bad memory, and just what is it that makes some drunk sonofabitch think that every misspelled, rambling nonsense they affix to a wall is fucking William Blake? Ah well, just a bunch of damn kids anyway. I remember a time when I thought I was prolific.

Christ, if I stare at it long enough it just sort of happens. The walls start to melt and all the graffiti and chipped paint fade and the bathroom stops smelling like vomit and the bar is new and varnished and it's opening night again. A couple of college boys are desperately trying to pick up some girls I used to babysit and that I know are jailbait. Yeah, I let 'em in. Better I can look after of them. You and I were both that age. You know what we did. I'd rather be able to identify the guys they make mistakes with so I can kick their deserving asses next time they try to come in. Some sad drunk bastard twice my age is at the other end pounding beers, but he's nursing his Maker's neat-- makes me think he knows what he's doing. A bachelorette party staggers in, looks appalled, and almost cuts right out but the bride to be gives me that fucking look and I know it's going to be a fun night.

When I close up it's a lot like it is tonight, but the bar rag is pure white, and it glides over everything like it was glass. The paint on the walls shines so bright if it weren't for the low lighting I'd go blind. The place smells like, well I can't fucking remember what it smelled like, but it was a lot better than vomit that's for damn sure. And I'll tell you what. That bothered the hell out of me. It was too damn clean! I never liked any of those sterile joints and I would be damned if I would own one.

You know what happened then? Same damn thing that's happening now. The bar melted away and the varnish and the paint and the shine of everything was replaced by dust. It was the first time I ever saw the place. The realtor was telling me that it was some kind of stable. I guess they used to wash horses here or something, but I saw booths built between the wooden partitions. I saw a bar on the other side stocked with some of the best and shittiest booze I could get my hands on. I saw beautiful, trashy women, and not a blazer or necktie in sight. It looked like it does tonight, with maybe less piss on the toilet seat. I fucking hate that.

It's funny how it took me turning a rundown old shithole into a classy-looking establishment, only so it could get that kind of character that a bar can only get over the years by slowly turning into a shithole.

I pour myself a beer, lay a pillow on the bar, and get ready to hit the hay. Do this every damn year. Happy anniversary you run-down piece of shit! I hope you never fucking change.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Fidgeting Fiddlestick

I always know that after a night of heavy drinking...

...I'll find you in here.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing

Sailboat Story

I’ve got to tell you about Peter. My new assistant. Peter. Did you know that the name Peter means something like ‘rock’ or something like that. I think it’s Greek. Ha! All Greek to me, at least! Anyway, this boat is fabulous Royce and it’s what reminded me of this story. You see, I was in the office the other day putting something down on paper about someone I can’t really talk about…Rita Sanders Dillon…when Peter came in. It was right after the weekend, I think. It might have been a Tuesday, but I’ve been having such long weekends lately it’s hard to keep track of anything. Ha! More wine, if you have a chance, Marshall. So, Peter comes in to make me coffee or whatever the publishing house sent him to do and he’s walking with a bit of a limp. Now, I would never pry into anyone’s business, but I’m concerned. So I go over to him and I ask, “Peter, what’s wrong?” and the poor boy bursts into tears. I mean, he’s crying all over his desk, and this is a big boy. He’s like a Brazilian-Russian-Philipino-whatever, six foot three and built like an ox. Now imagine this man is just weeping in front of you. I didn’t know what to do. What would you do? Well, I know what you’d do Nancy, but I would never tell Royce. Oh, you know I’m just kidding. So he’s crying and sobbing and finally he starts to get out what‘s bothering him so much. It seems that he had been visiting some friends from college down on the coast of New Hampshire for the weekend. A house full of mid-twenties coeds; wouldn’t you just love to have been a fly on the wall? Anyway, on Sunday afternoon they all went out sunning on a sailboat just. like. this one. They found some lonely cove somewhere, dropped sail, and laid out. So, a few beers later somebody gets brave enough to start skinny-dipping and soon enough they’re all in. At this point in the story, I had to go get a drink of water. Ha! I mean, wouldn’t you? So, they’re all native in the water when Peter decides he’s going to go show off. Not that he’d need to after dropping his shorts I think, but it’s not my story. Thank you, Marshall. This wine is great, Royce. So, apparently he climbs up to whatever this hook thing is here on the mast and, being of super sound mind, jumps off, catching his ankle on the rail on the way down! He showed me the bruise. It was as big as my fist! So everybody swims toward him, rushes him back on deck, people are crying, it was very dramatic. They’re all so concerned about Peter that they haven’t noticed that no one ever dropped anchor and so they drift out of the cove and off to sea. Now by the time anyone has got any idea of what’s going on another girl at the back of the boat passes out and hits her head! So now half the people on the boat stay to help Peter while the other half run down to make sure this girl’s okay and nobody’s in charge of the boat! At this point I don’t know what I would have down if I were there. Probably sit and watch the naked kids run up and down the boat. Ha! So, Peter, after being fawned over by nearly-naked, post-college, hot cakes, pulls himself together enough to notice that the girl at the back of the boat is not doing well. Apparently she was an epileptic and had a pretty nasty seizure after the fall. By the time they got back to land it was too late; she had died! Peter was just heartbroken! He said he knew the family and had been involved with the girl and it was just devastating! Can you imagine? How horrible for everyone! So I asked Peter, I said, “What can I do? Is there anything I can do?” because what else can you say? At first he couldn’t think of anything, but he finally got up the courage to ask me for a few days off at the end of the week, for the funeral. I told him to take the rest of the week off, but he wouldn’t leave. He said it would be too much time for him to sit around and think about what had happened. Can you believe that? I was just blown away! You never think tragedy, real tragedy is going to happen to people you know, but there it was, just inches from my desk. So, anyway, that’s my sailboat story.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dear Decrepit Layabout

Please take a good hard look at these boats.

Now take a look at the squalor in which you reside.

Just one more way that I have a more vibrant life than you do.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Valid Question

Where is, well, I expected you to ask where. I mean why wouldn't you?

Let me try to explain:

I look at you and I see danger and excitement. I stare into your eyes and I want for more, and I'm a guy who's never wanted much of anything other than a decently made sandwich now and then.

I want to do things with you that I have never even considered doing--things so far-fetched that they seem practically fictitious. I want to explore the world with you. I want to go to the Netherlands and hang out by some windmills. I want to take you to Italy and take one of those goofy-looking photos where we're standing in front of the Tower of Pisa and we're leaning with it at the same angle. I always found those so irritating, but when I think of you I somehow find it a necessity to my life's completion. I want to go to the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels, and maybe you'll try to steal one of the furry hats that the guards wear while I cause a diversion, and we'll meet at a pub afterward and take turns trying it on. I want to head to the middle of the Colosseum in Rome and have an epic tickle fight.

I want to ride elephants with you through India, and pretend that we're in The Temple of Doom the whole way. I'll even wear the bomber jacket and hat.

I want to find one of those ancient, overgrown temples in southeast Asia, like, one of those places in Cambodia that the jungle has been retaking for the last thousand years, and I want to sit next to a tree as the tiny arrows of light shine on us through the dense canopy of vegetation and we feel those little spots of warmth, and if we line it up just right we can have our lips meet inside of one and have our kiss seem that much more supernatural. I want to wake up seeing the stars of the Southern Hemisphere through the trees. Have you ever seen the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere? It's totally foreign! It's really amazing how these infinitesimal blips of light form these, I don't know, unnoticed patterns that we would never realize make up what we consider home until we look up and they're entirely reconfigured. But I digress, I want to play with monkeys on the temple steps and you'll comment on how they could be like our children and I'll roll my eyes, but I'll really be thinking one of those "maybe someday..." thoughts. I want to track our way back to civilization alone through the jungle and I want to save you from some kind of great beast, like a tiger or a panther or something.

I want to take you to the movies and miss half of it because we can't keep our hands off each other. I want to walk the streets of this town in the middle of the night in a heavy summer downpour and push you up against the security gate of some closed-down storefront and kiss you as the water slides our cheeks and those drops hang on our noses, refusing to fall and tickling intensely. I want to have lazy evenings with you where we cook dinner and talk about our days. We'll team up washing the dishes; I'll wash and you'll dry and we'll leave the water running and the sink half-full to run into the bedroom where we'll stay until we find it difficult to walk.

That's what I want. All of it, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, and I understand that might seem strange to you. I know I just met you, so all of that probably seems way out of left field, but the way you were looking at me at the end of the bar, well, I was hoping you'd feel the same way. I want all this to happen, but none of this, not one bit of it, will ever take place if you don't get out of here with me right now. There's no rain-checks, or exchange of phone numbers or falsely serendipitous encounters at the same damn bar some other night. So when I asked you if you wanted to go somewhere and you asked "where?" I understood that you might have expected me to suggest another bar or a park or some equally asinine nonsense, but the only real answer I have is "Everywhere, to do everything." Does it really matter where we start?

Are you coming?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Tedious Vagrant,

The roots of the tree are deep.

Your words are not. Be the tree.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing


A stocky man in a beige trench coat and a dark Stetson hat smokes a cigarette on a metal bench on the side of the road.

‘You should never make fun of anything that you don’t understand.’

I always thought I understood those words, but no matter how many years I cling to this flailing dirt ball of a planet I still manage to find my foot in a far-too-familiar place, lodged securely between my tongue and my teeth. In my line of work there is plenty I don’t understand. I have seen and done things that are squarely impossible. The trick is to never let anyone else know that you don’t know what they’re talking about and the best way to do that is to keep your mouth shut. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to master that concept either. That’s why I’m at this bus stop; waiting for a ride that’s two hours late and wondering why I ever even left my apartment. But I know why. Deep down we all know the reason for the things we do, even if we don’t want to admit it. A woman goes shopping for expensive pearls because she doesn’t know if she can be pretty without them. A man kills a younger girl because he’s terrified she’ll never notice him. And me, I’m just curious. It’s not a sense of civic duty or a generosity of spirit or any of that blah blah blah, but a need, a burning desire to know. How else would these crazies get me out for this crap? Dr. Lombard would have been up the creek but for fate or karma or whatever lousy god you believe in that threw him up on my door, and here we are.
He walked in like a shadow afraid of the sun, pale as white marble and fidgeting to beat the band.
“Detective Harrison? Detective…Harrison?”
“It’s Lou,” I said. I hate it when people think they’re doing you a favor by spelling out your whole name. “What do you want?”
“Oh. Yes. Right. Well, I’m actually here because I was referred to you by a colleague. A Dr. James West…”
“James Westner, I remember,” I do remember. That damn doctor had me running all over South America looking for lost Incan gold. “We never did find much gold, but I hear that the Incan library we turned up is keeping him plenty busy.”
“Yes, quite. It is actually on his recommendation that I’m…”
“Curious though, I read in the paper that the doctor found that library all by himself. I could have sworn I was there with him, but what do I know? The paper never lies.”
“Oh…well…I, uh…” Dr. Lombard turned whiter, if possible, and nearly split down the middle before I offered him a seat. It took him a few minutes to calm down, but after a snifter of brandy he unloaded his whole suitcase of problems. It sounded complicated, but it boiled out that somebody somewhere found a real old scroll that everybody else thought never existed. It was by a guy named Hesiod and it says that the Titans, not the ones from Tennessee, but the things that made the earth, never left. It says they just lied down on the ground and became cities. Dr. Lombard thinks they’re about to wake up, starting with San Francisco. Now, I’ve been at this a long time, but this one took the cake.
“So, you want me to go to California and make sure that the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t stand up and start walking around? How did you get a PhD?”
The doctor stood up from his chair in a prissy huff and started gathering his things. “So I guess you won’t go then?”
“Oh no, I never said that. You got the green, I got the steam. And I would love to ride one of those cable cars again.”
So here I am; waiting at a bus stop for a greyhound to take me out to the “Golden State” of fine wine and Rice-A-Roni. I don’t imagine much will turn up, but a paid trip’s a paid trip and I know some people out there who can tell me if this is a spool worth unwinding. So, I wait...

A newspaper blows by the stocky man on the bench with the headline ‘EARTHQUAKES RATTLE SAN FRANCISCO: TURBULENT TREMORS LARGEST ON RECORD’.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear Useless Twit,

You should imagine yourself Here:

Awfully high up, isn't it? Now imagine, dream, if you will, stepping to the edge, and plunging below. Open your eyes.

Live the dream.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Monday, July 27, 2009

On Absurdity

So I've heard that when they made Rocky III that the film company made this huge bronze statue of Stallone as Rocky Balboa. They didn't make some kind of fucking plaster cast and paint it. They made a solid bronze heavy-as-fuck statue, and when they were done filming they just left the damn thing in Philly. It's still fucking there, can you believe that?

I think about that a lot. I went to the world's biggest skillet, I met a man who wore the most t-shirts at one time, and I've seen a house-- a couple's fucking house-- that was built as a giant cat toy.

The thing that I've realized in all my travels is that people are goddamn ridiculous. I mean, one could argue that it's some kind of art. I mean, there was that Colossus in Rhodes. There's something to be said for creating something that's a big "fuck you" to everyone else, but let's face it, is there anyone alive that's jealous of the world's biggest skillet? Could anyone be anything other than mildly amused? I swear, it's the most bizarre form of cultural masturbation that's ever been created.

My folks used to take me to all these damnable things on these big endless road trips to nowhere. I suppose you could say that's how this all really started. We'd go cross-country and we'd stop at every single one of these fucking items and it was summer in the great plains and a billion degrees outside and the station wagon would overheat so we had to blast the heat instead of the AC and I'd sweat for two thousand miles straight.

I've moved on, but some memories last a lifetime. Last year I was driving out to LA when my car broke down somewhere in Kansas. The heat radiated off the asphalt and I thought about all that wasted time and the fucking station wagon and the big fucking skillet and I just lost it. I walked fifty miles to the world's biggest ball of twine and at 3:00AM I set the fucking thing ablaze. I watched the thing turn to ash and I literally felt the ghosts of wasted hours released like a thousand souls from hell escaping the lake of fire. Next I took an arc welder to that goddamn frying pan. I took a hammer to the world's largest thermometer. You know they had a foam replica of Stonehenge in Virginia? It took me all night to hack that down with a machete.

Actually, there's also the world's heaviest ball of twine, largest built by one person, largest built by a community. Well, there were. Fucking twine!

So then I find out about this latest one. They've got it in some airplane hangar and there's engineers working around the clock on it. Fucking engineers! People who spent years in college learning math that would make our heads explode, and they're using it for shit like this! They have National Guard on patrol around the hangar. There's millions invested into this project. The funny thing is, though, try as I might, I couldn't think of a way to destroy it, so late at night I dressed up all in black, cut the fence, evaded the guards and entered the hangar. Fucking thing was massive. I saw my reflection in it, distorted by its curvature, or maybe I was looking at my soul, distorted by my past torment, or my destruction of childhood memories or any other of the myriad of possibilities in regards to my recent vendetta. I was past the point of no return, though, and began cutting through the support beams. As it tore its way out of the hangar anarchy overtook the place and I went out the same way I came in, totally satisfied that I had marred the greatest yet of all these spectacles.

You're giving me a look like you're wondering why I'm telling you all of this. At first, well, at first I didn't think you'd understand, or that you'd try to stop me from going this time or have me committed. I believed that when I left last week, but now I'm hoping I was wrong. Darling, I love you. You've made me about as happy as I've ever been in my life and it's only getting better, and I want you to know I'm done. I knocked loose the world's largest ball-bearing and watched it roll into a lake. It was the largest, most useless thing in the history of mankind, and I sent it to the bottom of a lake, and now the world's biggest sandwich or pancake or whatever isn't going to make a bit of difference to me. I'm cured, don't you see?

Please, please don't leave me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dear You Filthy Filthmonger,

Look inside...

Try to find something relevant.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing


I’m here today because I think I’m about to lose my job. I’ve worked as a nurse in the downtown hospital for the last five years. It’s a great job. I like seeing people and helping people and even when they’re bitchy and pushy I just love all the interaction. And they like me. I’m really good at my job. Anyway, I started dating this girl recently and I don’t really have time for work anymore. Her name is Vicky and she’s really great. We met at a grocery store three blocks from where I live. She goes there every Wednesday at three in the afternoon after she gets off from work. We were both looking for avocados and I asked her if she knew how to tell if they were ripe. She wasn’t familiar so I told her how to hold it and squeeze it for firmness and she laughed and said that if it was a pick-up line it was working. We went on a date two nights later and had sex for hours after that. We’ve been seeing each other for the last three weeks. I really like her. She’s got a way with people. Kind of like me at my job, but different somehow. Better. Like she’s happy to see you and genuinely interested in everything you say, like she’s hearing everything for the first time. It’s kind of intimidating. A lot of the time I don’t feel as interesting as she thinks I am. I think sometimes that she’s pretending I’m interesting and really I’m not and that maybe she does this with everybody. Maybe she doesn’t think anybody’s interesting at all. Or maybe it’s just me that’s not interesting and she’s miserable and trying to get away. I don’t know. Anyway, like I said, I’m worried about my job. I haven’t really been in the last few days, but I’ve had a lot of things I had to do. Two weeks ago Thursday Vicky said that she was going to be at work until five and then downtown at the gym until six-thirty, but when I was walking home from downtown at four I saw her sitting at a cafĂ© with a few girls I didn’t know. I can’t figure out why she would lie about what she was doing. If I can’t trust her about what she says she’s going to do then what else is she lying about? She’s such a great person and I’m so happy and I don’t want anything to wreck it, so I called into work the next day and faked a cough. They don’t really care; there’s tons of nurses. I knew her schedule and waited a few minutes after she left before I followed her. I was just going to make sure that she was actually going to work like she said, but since she didn’t lie about work before I decided to wait around to see if she also went to Yoga after. She always does Yoga on Fridays after work because she says it helps her entire weekend remain focused. That all happened right on schedule, but instead of coming home right away she stopped and talked with the instructor for fifteen minutes after class. They were laughing and I just knew it was about me. About my job or the way I dress or how my penis doesn’t quite measure up to what she’s had before. I couldn’t believe they were talking about me like that, and laughing. When she came to my place later I was so angry I could barely stand to be in the same room with her, but I couldn’t leave because I didn’t trust her to be alone. We barely spoke that night. I apologized the next morning. Told her it was something I ate. That I’d had too much coffee and that my patients at work were dying left and right. She smiled and hugged me and we kissed. I love her so much. She’s perfect in every way. When she left for work I was as happy as the first time we’d met. But I had to know. I followed her again. And the next day. I gradually quit calling into work. I just didn’t go. I had to make sure we were always happy. I watched her yesterday at a bus stop while she waited. She sat next to an old man with a cane who kept looking down the street in the direction the bus would come. They weren’t talking, but I’m sure he was thinking that this girl deserves a better boyfriend than whatever she’s got right now. What in the hell would make him think something like that? Anyway, I guess I haven’t talked much about what I came here for today. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna lose my job. Anybody have any advice?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dear Crust-Covered Neerdowell

I almost mistook this man for you:

But on a second glance, I realized he was far more healthy and vibrant.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess


He wakes up with the sun. He does his morning exercises and wipes the sweat off his brow with a clean towel. He showers, and washes his face. The water is lukewarm, but manages to steam the mirror. He dries off and walks past it without looking. He cleans the floors of his temple, first sweeping, and then wiping the wood down with a towel. He prepares his rice porridge, and sits down to eat. Finishing that, he returns to the temple, unrolls a bamboo mat, and begins his meditation.

Life is suffering
Suffering is caused by desire

He stares at the wall, at the white rectangle where the television used to hang. He does not try to remember the black square, or the bright, flashing images it used to display. He is sitting in between scratches on the floor, where he tried to move a couch too heavy for him into position. He does not think about the way the leather stuck to his skin on a hot day, or the weight of the thing, or the way the corners dug into his fingers as he struggled to get it into place.

Life is suffering
Suffering is caused by desire
There is a cessation to desire
This cessation can be reached by the Eight-Fold Path

There is no dust on the white walls of his temple, only white spots where items used to hang. He notices a stray hair lying in front of him; a tiny coarse reminder that he has neglected his personal appearance. He reaches to his face but is stopped by the wild, tangled underbrush hanging from his chin. He remembers that he last shaved almost a year ago. He remembers that he has given up the use of the mirror. He remembers the thing that lies behind it.

Life is suffering
Suffering is caused by desire

It's still there when he opens up the medicine cabinet. The metal spoon is dull and tarnished, and is marred with a black cross-hatching at the bottom. The lighter is still fueled and begs to be transformed into mad, dancing flame. The baggie sits there, untouched but still promising that which he swore he had abandoned. The needle promises pain and pleasure.

Suffering is caused by desire

The powder melts into the spoon and is absorbed. The needle stings and the veins in his arm burn like whiskey on the throat. The machines are only a couple molecules thick, but they think; they know. They travel with the current of his life essence and into the capillaries of his brain. When they release their small electric charges. He is no longer in his temple, but in the memories they are designed to resurrect.

He is sitting on the couch with her, stroking her long, black hair. The television paints her in a pale, unearthly glow, and makes her seem as something entirely supernatural. He pulls her close against him and kisses the nape of her neck. She leans into it and quietly moans. They enter the bedroom. She pushes him onto the mattress and slowly pulls his shirt over his head. She grabs the back of his neck and pulls him into a kiss. Her tongue slides into his mouth, and her grip is inescapable.

An hour later she is lying in his arms. Her sweat smells sweet and inviting. She says she wants to stay like this forever. He says he never wants to let her go.

Bright light envelops his world. He wakes up on the floor. The couch is gone. The television is gone. The bed is gone. Only shapes remain; ghosts of a better time. She is gone, and has left nothing. He weeps, and his tears fall hard on the freshly cleaned floor, and he screams out the Four Noble Truths.

Life is Suffering
Life is Suffering
Life is Suffering
Life is Suffering

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dear Dust-Covered Vagabond,

I know this looks a bit foreign,

but as you are already a monk you should know others that could give you a hand in identifying it.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing

Looks Like

“Why are you so sad, Naomi?” asked Robert as he stood in the doorway of their bedroom.
“I’m not sad,” she said, “I’m just thinking.”
Naomi had been lying back on the bed, but now sat up to continue strapping on her faux leather sandals. Robert entered the room and crossed to the dresser where he sifted through a large pile of change spread across the top. He stood with a hunch as he fidgeted through the coins, picking out each quarter like a prize and putting it in his pocket. Naomi stood up from the bed and walked into the closet next to the dresser. She began pulling the hanging clothes across their support bar, spending a moment to inspect each one before sliding it behind her.
“Just because I’m not talking doesn’t mean I’m sad, you know,” said Naomi between the metallic scratch of sliding hangers.
“I know, I know,” said Robert, his fingers milling absently through the shiny metal pile, “I don’t think I meant that, I mean, I don’t think…well, I think I meant that you looked a little sad.”
Naomi continued sliding the hangers across the bar, each sound followed by a moment’s hesitation.
“I’m almost ready to go,” said Robert as he checked himself in the mirror above the dresser, “are you…what are you doing in there?”
“I’m looking for something to where on top of this,” said Naomi, “but I don’t know what.”
“Alright,” said Robert, “well, I’m ready to go, so whenever you’re ready.”
“I thought you said you were almost ready to go,” replied Naomi, “I thought I had a second.”
“You still do, I’m just telling you that I’m ready,” said Robert as he walked out into the hallway.
Robert walked to the front door and sat down to put on his scuffy, brown loafers. He tied each one tightly, securing each with a double knot. Naomi walked out of the bedroom just as he was finishing.
“What do you think?” she asked as she twirled in front of him in a green cotton cardigan.
“You look wonderful, “he said pulling her in tightly.
“I feel wonderful.”
“Hey, I got it right this time!”
Naomi pushed him away playfully. “You just don’t know all my faces yet. If you’re not sure don’t guess, just ask.”
“Okay,” he said, chuckling, “are we ready?”
She nodded and they swept out into the night air. The streets were bright from the cascade of recent rainfall. The weather had passed, but the residue remained. The pavement glimmered under the street lamps as they passed through the city’s empty avenue. Heavy iron grates had been pulled over the skinny storefronts, each plastered with the night’s entertainment. Dim lights flickered over doorways nestled deep in dark alcoves. Lights flickered on an off on third and fourth floors, life buzzing above the dormant belly of the street.
They took rights and lefts and covered crosswalks and waited on stoplights. They looked in store windows and laughed at mannequins and expensive jewelry. They walked past theaters and discos and boarded-up buildings until they finally came to a stop. Robert held the door for Naomi as they entered Obo’s China House Buffet. They waited in line behind several customers and smelled the sweet air wafting over from the buffet. Robert pointed to a hanging on the wall beside the clerk and the cash register ahead of them.
“Look, see that? That’s what you looked like! Just like that! Don’t you think she looks a little sad?”
Naomi stopped and stared. Her eyebrows furrowed over a serious gaze and her lips pursed neatly together.
“No, that’s not a sad face. She’s just thinking about something. Thinking about some man or some woman who’s going to change her life forever. She’s waiting for that person to ask her if she’s ready and when they do she’ll get herself together and they’ll go out and they’ll make it. She's excited.”
The clerk tapped his finger against the counter at Naomi and Robert.
“Are you two ready?”

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dear Spectacular Failure,

More things that your empire lacks that I enjoy:

Turns out I have knowledge of some things that you don't.

Spitefully yours,
~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Lab

I had called my friends for drinks because I was just coming off a strange day. It wasn't a bad day, mind you, but rather a very good day that left me with nothing but questions. Needless to say, they all revolved around a woman.

Mark and Jason met me right on time. I had arrived early, though, so I was finishing up beer number two when they arrived. Jason gave me a knowing look, but I'm sure he assumed I was well past three drinks at that point. Jason has always thought of me as more of a child of vice than I am. I think most people do, actually. If they only knew that my nights at home were spent sober and alone with a home-cooked meal and a video game controller. Actually, I hope they never know that.

But I digress; they sat down at the bar on either side of me and ordered a drink from the bartender we all continually salivated over night after night in this shithole we spent more time at than most everywhere else. None of us had counted the hours spent here versus our own apartments, and I think we were scared to in the end since the result would favor the bar. Mark started with the obviously crass question I always loved him for asking, "So I can see it's a girl this time. You fuck her yet?"

"No Mark, no I didn't. It might surprise you to learn that I didn't fuck her because I actually like this one."

Jason, of course, seemed skeptical about my statement and retorted, "What, like, dinner and a movie shit? You gonna buy her flowers and cook her dinners and go for walks in the park? Oh shit, are you gonna pack a picnic lunch? Come on, man, you and I both know that ain't you."

"We only met after I became single again. That was three years ago, but let's all just accept that you don't know what I'm like when I'm actually smitten with someone, OK? Alright, yeah, I hate that dinner and a movie shit, but I do cook. A lot, and I think it makes a great date."

"You just said smitten," Mark pointed out.

"Ah, hell, I did, didn't I?"

"It's official; we have to take your balls now," Mark joked, "but, if it's like that then what's the problem? I mean, I somehow doubt you'd ask us to go get shitfaced if you just met a girl with promise."

I stirred a finger in the head of my fourth beer and watched the foam retreat away from the salt on my finger. I thought about the last few days and how to explain it in a way they could understand when I barely understood it myself. "We've been on a couple dates. She's beautiful, she's fantastic, and she likes cartoons, you know? It's just that it's really hard to get a hold of her and then we make out for a couple hours at the end of the night, and then she's gone and I never knew how much of it was the liquor. Still, this last time we were both sober so I know it's not that, but then what is it, and I'm thinking it's-"

"Boyfriend?" Jason asked.

"Yeah, that's what I thought too, but it's definitely not. I went out with a few of her friends. I asked. She's totally single."

"OK," Mark said looking up from his drink, "Here's what we know: She's single, flaky, but is attracted to you. She obviously likes spending time with you otherwise she wouldn't. Furthermore, we know that she's not really using you for sex, because, you know, you haven't, because you're a sucker. So she might have like, a horrible STD. More likely is that she just works a lot. Most likely, sadly, is that she's dating around. She knows that you're not gonna work out long-term, but there's just something about you that keeps her coming back. Jason?"

Jason took a long pull off his beer that one could only call contemplative. He straightened up and looked dead at me. "Concurred."

"Well fuck. Anything further gentlemen?"

"Meh," Mark shrugged, "all isn't lost. I'd tell you not to wait around for her or anything, but if you like spending time with her there's no reason to stop. Just keep your hopes and shit in check. She likes you, so maybe she'll change her mind."

"Especially if you fuck her," Jason added.

I looked at the lot of us in the bar mirror. We had our drinks in hand and everyone had such a serious and thoughtful look on their face. I started laughing in the kind of boisterous laugh that makes the whole bar look around and try to piece together what was so damn funny.

"Look at us! We're the scientists down in the fucking lab! We're the world leaders in the fallout shelter trying to figure out whether to drop the bomb!"

Jason began laughing about as hysterically as I was. Mark chuckled a bit and said "La fin du Monde."

"What the fuck does that even mean?" Jason asked in his own little, 'the hell are you not speaking American?' type of indignant tone.

"For starters, it's the name of the beer I'm drinking. It's French for 'the end of the world.' Funny thing, though, is that it's in the feminine form of speech, so it's kinda saying the end of the world will be because of a woman."

I looked down at what was now the end of my 6th beer. "Fuckin' A," I responded, "Hell with it. Let's get wrecked."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dear You Thunderous Know-Nothing

Knowledge is power.

Please try to acquire some and then write.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing

Telling the Gods

“It is the risk of carrying the stone, to lose yourself, but the gods must know that the dead are coming.”
It was important to honor the gods. Hopa was only nine, but even she knew the life of the tribe depended on obedience to a higher power. The gods were fickle and they demanded attention.
“You will take the stone there, Hopa,” the smoky old priest had told her as they sat cross-legged in front of an amber fire, “The gods will need to know that someone has died. They will not accept your brother on his journey if they do not know he is dead. This is the way.”
Hopa knew about the way. This was not the first time her family had carried the stone. Her mother had died two years before and her father carried the stone then. He never came back. Scout Pilo had told Hopa that he had seen her father wandering the woods. His hair was wild and his feet were mangled and he was wrapped in the bloody carcass of an animal. He was calling for the tribe, yelling familiar names and screaming for Hopa, but he would never find them. He had lost himself and was no longer welcome.
“It is the risk of carrying the stone, to lose yourself,” the priest had muttered staring into the fire, “but the gods must know that the dead are coming.”
Hopa had traveled several days in her journey to the gods, but could see no end. There was no path, no way to measure any progress. The priest had been very cryptic in describing the task. “Follow the sun as it rises and the shadows as they fall. Move quickly and the tribe will be waiting for you.”
She had been quick. She ran across the land, lapping speedily at streams and ripping plants away from the soil for food. She knew what was good and, more importantly, what would make her sick. Her brother taught her. He had been a hunter for the tribe and would spend weeks away at a time, living only on what he could find. He knew about the way the water flowed and where the animals were and how to trick them. He knew how to move quickly and throw a spear and how to become invisible in an instant. He knew about Hopa and how she liked the sun after rain and how she was afraid of the warrior dances under the moon. He knew her and he had been the only one left.
“It is the risk of carrying the stone, to lose yourself, but the gods must know that the dead are coming.”
Hopa gripped the stone tightly in her hand and ran faster than she already had, faster than she thought she could. She jumped over the hills and skipped around the rocks, pushing her legs farther than they’d ever been before. Her chest tightened and her eyes watered and her muscles screamed until she stopped in a tremor of heaving and gasping. She tried to continue, but, with vision blurred, she stumbled, falling forcefully down on the thick, brown earth. Her body throbbed against the land and she let out a long and stricken wail, drawing out the dark feelings from deep inside. She lay on the cool, wet ground sinking in a treacherous grief.
But she did not drown. The tremors stopped and the wailing ceased and when she raised her head she had arrived at the valley where the gods waited and watched. They stood in a circle in large, pointed hats with great, long arms that rolled into the land and snowy, white beards that remained resolutely still despite the cold winds that rushed about them. The air at the feet of the gods was calm and crisp as Hopa approached the stone pile that had been visited so many times before; by her tribe, by her father, and now by she herself. With tenderness and humility she placed her stone on top, glad that, whatever the cost, the door was now open for her brother’s final journey. The sounds of her tribe whistled on the wind and as she turned from the stones she saw them in the distance, waving, and smiling, and calling her back home.
“It is the risk of carrying the stone, to lose yourself, but the gods must know that the dead are coming.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear Cantankerous Curr,

I have discovered a topographical image of your psyche:

Desolate and bereft of all sources of life, just like your pathetic empire.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


"Don't get me wrong," Ben said as he adjusted himself in the saddle, "it's not that I don't really enjoy this, but what if someone sees us?"
"Why would that be such a big deal?" Mary asked while running a hand through her hair and letting the wind take it and blow it right into Ben's face. It tickled his nose, like when he slept next to her, and he scratched it constantly.
"Well, Mary, let's see. You're married, we're having an adulterous relationship, and we're in plain sight. Oh, right, you also picked me up on a fucking dragon!"

The great beast growled almost in recognition and sounded the way a tiger would if it were several times bigger. Ben had to grab Mary around the waist to avoid being shook off by the intense vibration. Down below the people looked like little more than ants, or maybe the Brownies from that movie with the midget wizard and the baby Ben had liked so much as a child, but he swore he could see every face staring, judging, damning him for his sins.

"Seriously Mary, there could be paparazzi everywhere! What if we end up on the tabloids?"
"Ben just shut up and relax," Mary rebuked with only the slightest of irksome tones, "odds are we're too high up to see, no one would ever recognize you dressed like that, and do you have any idea how long I've been on the waiting list for him? Desmond gave it to me as an engagement gift. We were fucking engaged for 4 years before we got married, which was ten years ago I might add. Please just let me enjoy this with someone I enjoy without too much whiny fearful bullshit!"
"I still don't see why you didn't go with the Pegasus, or even the roc. Why did you have to insist on fucking Tiamat here?"
"OK, first, Pegasus is a proper noun. It's a winged horse, and their flying sucks, and don't get me started on those giant eagles; Chester O'Mally's bit his arm clean off while he was trying to feed it. Third, her name is Sparkles, and she has a pretty good grasp on the English language, so I'd watch your mouth mister!"

"Now, I have one question I desperately need to ask you while we're up here," Mary said while hoisting her legs over the side of the great beast and spinning around to face him.
"OK, shoot."
"Have you ever had sex in a cloud bank?"
"Yes. With you. In the Smoky Mountains."
"Christ, you're impossible. Have you ever had sex in a cloud bank while flying on a giant lizard?

Coming back down watching Mary glow and holding her in arms he knew weren't at all strong enough, Ben found himself thinking depressing thoughts. He dropped his shoe while being hoisted into the sky by the great reptile. He had to have it back at the costume store by tomorrow. It wasn't that he'd have to look for it, or even that he'd have to pay should he not find it. The fact that he was thinking of it at all, while in the presence of the loveliest woman he had ever met, who seemed to love him so much despite the ring on her finger, saddened him more than he could describe. Still, something occurred to him and in an instant he was laughing that boisterous laugh that initially attracted her to him; the laugh that suggested gigantic mirth.

"What's so damn funny?"
"I was just thinking. I actually hope they do get us on film."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"Can you imagine the headlines? Heiress Caught Riding the Dragon with Elvis."
"The costume is very fitting."
"Seriously, though, we need to go back and find the other shoe. I don't want to have to pay for it at the costume shop."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dear Free-Loading Boot-Licker

I was thinking about you the other day.

But I'm sure, like most maladies, that I'll get over it.


The Dusty Emperor of Nothing.


They told me to ration. “Ration everything out,” Colonel Jameson would shriek, “You’re gonna be all alone and food on Mars don’t grow on trees…yet!” It was an ambitious project. Send a man to Mars. Build a biosphere. We knew how to do it, but it was still a big puzzle. All the pieces were there, but everything had to be just so. Everything had to be just perfect or I would die. That’s what they always laid down as the bottom line for me. “George Wurster, if you don’t fully understand the schematics of this re-circulating carbon filter you could die!” “Do you want to grow crops in Martian soil, Captain Wurster? Do you? Or do you want to die of starvation cause you didn’t regulate the nitrogen levels in your garden?” Death was what I was taught to fear. Death was coming and it would only take one mistake, one slip-up, and I would open the door for death. So they taught me prevention. They taught me precautionary measures. They taught me to ration. Ration food and ration water. Ration exercise and ration sleep. Ration on-time and ration down-time. It was a complex equation, but we worked it all out. We found all the solutions. And when it was perfect they sent me off. Four years on a shuttle the size of two houses. I slept all the way there. And while I was sleeping everything happened, just like we’d planned it. The ship landed and the foundations shot deep. Each section of the ship unfolded like a flower onto the Martian surface, covering an area that amounted to a full city block. The tarps were laid out and the plants began to grow. I woke up a week later and everything was already on its way. I took my time. I went through every procedure, checked every mechanism as I’d been taught to. It was all humming right along. But the puzzle wasn’t complete. Something had gone wrong. Halfway between the Earth and Mars we’d lost communication. It’s something they hadn’t expected and there was no contingency, no precautionary measure. As far as they knew I never made it to Mars. They wouldn’t send a recovery vessel. They couldn’t. Too many variables. But I was safe. Everything worked. I wouldn’t die and that was my bottom line. I didn’t have to do much to keep everything working; it just hummed right along, the part of the puzzle that fit into place just right. I’d landed on the wall of a crater that was two clicks off of my original landing site. It was a site of frequent dust storms leaving me virtually invisible to anyone looking for signs of life on the red planet. I did what they told me. I rationed everything. Exercise, food, rest. But there were other considerations now. The communication I was supposed to have with Earth was gone. All my work was contingent on collaboration from home. I had many idle hours. I did what they told me. I rationed everything. Thoughts, moods, feelings. There isn’t much of a night life on Mars. I had a few books and a little music on a data box. Most of the supplies were intended for my work. Blank paper, chemicals and dyes, pencils and a graphing board. Not too interesting. I rationed the information. Read only a little each day. Kept it interesting. Picked a different song each week. This week’s song is pretty. I heard it in a bar once and couldn’t get it out of my head. I suck in every moment of it knowing it’s the only thing I’ll hear for a week. The singer is melancholy, but his words are important. Everyone is a burning sun. Our love is all of God’s money. Each star is a setting sun. I think it’s talking about Jesus, but that doesn’t matter. There’s a lot there to think about and I’m happy for it. The song ends quietly, like it began. Space is quiet. So is being the total population of your own planet. I don’t think we got it quite right. The puzzle’s not wrong; it’s just a different picture. The bottom line isn't death. It’s loneliness.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Dearest Charlatan,

I am upping the stakes.

Deal with it.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


It was old and it was falling apart. Rips appeared on just about every corner, the wood was scratched, and stains adorned the cushions, but it was the only place he had ever been able to comfortably sleep. He had a bed, of course, made up with hospital corners and untouched since the last time he brought a girl home three months ago.

He remembers buying the thing at a flea market off of Houston, and how it was the one item that he needed and could afford, but not the one he wanted. He wanted the big Cigar Indian or the big plastic chair shaped like a hand or the myriad of subway signs or the cage holding a plastic Bruce Lee dressed up like he was in Game of Death. He needed the couch. He bought the couch. He longed for space and disposable income.

There are four near-equal length tears along the left arm from a girl far too young for him clawing whatever she could reach in the throes of passion. He got it far worse than the couch. An alternate trashcan, complete with bag, sits to the side of the right arm; placed there after a night of too much bourbon and not enough food and left there as both a reminder and a precaution. It sits equidistant from the television and the bathroom in the perfect setting for putting on a movie or taking a piss.

His girlfriend hated the couch. She sat on it once and sidled up next to him; she put her arm around him like it was home, but it never was. She sat in chairs after that, and he always noticed. When they fucked on the couch she was always on top and complained about the way the upholstery always made those kinds of marks on her legs where it pressed into her and made indentations. He had them all down his back almost every day and always appreciated them. When he slept there for several nights in a row they would make a full pattern on his back that he found more beautiful for words. "Who needs a fucking tattoo?" he would ask his next girlfriend while staring at the patterns in the mirror. This was the girl who always suggested he get some ink, and always looked longingly at the boys who had sleeves. She left him for one of those boys some months later.

When he enters the apartment he doesn't see any of that. He sees a ghost of a time past. He sees a girl he used to know at a time that was anything other than ideal. He uttered the most sincere apology of his life, entered his room, and closed the door. When he comes home drunk and alone he puts on a movie about which he cares nothing, sits, and drifts off into dreams, knowing he is in a place where he has done the right thing at least once in his life, and it comforts him more than any bed he has ever known.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dear Soft-Toothed Braggart

Here's hoping you're not feeling well...

...and that this will make it worse.

The Dusty Emperor of Nothing

Set in Stone

Father knew the story about the statues on the edge of the garden.
He would tell it if my brother and I swept out the shop and repeated our times tables through eight. I was never very good at math, so the process was agonizing. Though, on those lucky nights when the shop was clean and eight times nine actually came to seventy-two we would have the story. We sat on the floor after dinner and wrapped into a blanket at our father’s feet as he smoked his evening pipe. He would never tell any story until he had finished his smoking, so we would invariably have to wait. The smoke would roll out of his mouth in grand and buoyant clouds that filled the air with a sweet and oaken perfume. The thickness of the blanket coupled with our natural heat kept us tightly coated in warmth. The combination of conditions was a seductive invitation to sleep and it was at this moment, just when we were about to nod off, that he would begin.
It always began the same way. “This is a true story,” he would say, “but more importantly it is one from your grandfather. It was told to him as he told to it to me as I now tell it to you. Listen closely.” We would nod solemnly and lean closer, almost touching his knees. “When time was new and the sun was young your grandfather’s grandfather was a stone worker for the emperor of a corrupt land. His job was to carve likenesses of the royal guard out of thick, gray stone which were to be placed at every intersection in the city. The street crossings had become the most corrupt areas in the city and the statues were to serve as a reminder of imperial power. His hours were many and the work was slow, but the statues were unmatched in quality. As the figures were dispersed citizens began to report less and less wrongdoing and the city began to shed its crooked stigma. Word of the statues success spread so far as to even reach the dears of the emperor.”
“One day the stone worker was called to the palace for an audience with the emperor. Acknowledging the stone worker’s skill in his craft, the emperor told him of another problem he was desperate to solve. His two sons were vying for the hand of the same girl, each so enamored that they were attempting to kill each other in order to secure their own future with her. The emperor feared the loss of a son and, more importantly, a viable heir, sure that with the success of either son the survivor would no longer be of a high enough moral capacity to rule. The emperor beseeched the stone worker to stop his sons warring just as he had stopped the crime in the imperial city before.
“’Quickly, set them in stone before they destroy themselves and any future I have built for them,’” hissed my father in the hushed and wheezy voice he used when portraying the aged emperor.
“So your great grandfather set to work on his charge. He chose the stone and had it placed on the edge of his garden. He worked every day, chiseling and buffing and hammering until there was no more sunlight left to guide his hands. He worked this way for many months until he finally completed his task. The statues were of the two young sons, each with his sword unsheathed, one coming towards the other from above, and both frozen before either was able to deal a fatal blow. Happy with the outcome, he invited the emperor to view his commission. The emperor, very rarely venturing out from the palace, came to the garden and was pleased with the product of the work.”
It was at this point in the story that father always shifted in his seat and changed his speech and tempo to a more sobering pitch.
“It was unfortunate then that while the emperor had been gone to view his new statues the older of the two brothers had stabbed the younger in his sleep, only secure in his attack with the knowledge that his father would be out for the afternoon. It was also unfortunate that on the way back to the palace the emperor’s caravan was attacked and the emperor himself struck down by raiders who in their previous lives had been less organized criminals living in the city before being forced out. Though, it is perhaps most unfortunate that the statues of the royal guard were never the true deterrents to crime in the city, but were instead a convenient place for the guards to mill about, thus placing a consistent lawful presence in the center of what was previously an arena for corruption and greed.”
Father would always over enunciate those last three words, nearly spitting them out at my brother and me. His words became sharp and ominous, sending shivers down my spine.
“The emperor learned a lesson that day, and so did your great-grandfather. Nothing is ever set in stone. And that’s why we tell the story.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dear Unwashed Failure,

Check it out you useless bag of bones!

It's us in another age.

~The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Monday, May 11, 2009


About the Author:

Francis McFadden is 28 years old and the return address from his manuscript reads "Bumblefuck, Nebraska." While not giving his legitimate address, his 200-page cover-letter/autobiography states that he began living in a cabin in "the sticks" at the age of 19 after being compelled to write by tiny creatures living underneath his fingernails who send suggestions to him via a throbbing in his hand in Morse code.

He did not go to college. He had poor marks in school. He was considered, by all intents and purposes, borderline illiterate. He was a cart pusher at a local supermarket until August 15th, 2000, whereupon he simply walked off the parking lot and never came back. His possessions at the cabin include a fishing pole, a large hunting knife, some assorted cookware, and a very old typewriter which he explains the creatures much prefer to pen and paper. It is easily the most technologically advanced device in a 10-mile radius.

The manuscript, along with the autobiography, were typed on a type of homemade paper akin to papyrus, and Francis explains that after taking the better part of 6 months to construct his home himself with stolen tools and wood from the surrounding forest, that he has lived entirely off the land at the creatures' request.

In his free time, he likes to fish, swim in the pond a mile from his house, and play with Bandit, a fox he trapped outside his home.

Francis' favorite song is "Stand By Me," by Ben E. King, but he hasn't heard it in 10 years. His favorite books include stolen copies of Catch 22, The Proud Highway, Jesus' Son, and Lord of the Flies.

At the time of printing of this second edition, Where the Fuck is Now? has spent a total of 35 weeks on the New York Times' Bestseller List, and has sold fifty million copies worldwide. According to Francis it is his twenty-fifth novel, but it is unknown if he intends to share any others with the world.

Anyone having any information on contacting Francis, or how we can deliver a check for his book is advised to contact Penguin Publishing at the address listed in the copyright information of this book.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dear Gluttonous Half-wit

Who has two legs and is better than you?

Answer: Everyone.

Faithfully Yours,
The Dusty Emperor of Nothing


Jonesy couldn’t see the point. It was a house in the middle of endless wheat fields. Why put a fence around it? Half of the walls were caving in, and, though barely standing, it functioned more like a graveyard than a threat. Why station a perfectly able police officer to guard it for half the night?
Jonesy picked up a rock and threw it over the fence. It sailed through one of the empty window blocks, hitting something that echoed inside with a deep and hollow thud. It was the only sound for miles and the only one he’d heard all night. He turned his back on the house and leaned against the pliant chain-link fence.
He had four more hours. Four more hours of watching nothing, doing nothing. Jonesy had been put on a lot of bullshit details before, but this one irked him in a way that even he couldn’t quite come to grips with. Who the hell even builds a house a half an hour away from anything? Jonesy knew who. Thickheaded assholes. Thickheaded assholes build huge houses in the middle of nowhere and then abandon them. Thickheaded assholes let their property fall to shit. Then other thickheaded assholes kick down their doors and use the place for drugs and sex and all the other kinds of bullshit that puts Jonesy out guarding a ghost house at two o’clock in the morning.
Jonesy turned and threw another rock over the fence. It hit the overhang of the door, chipping off a corner. Jonesy smirked.
He liked hurting the house.
A dry wind whipped over the fields around the lonely domicile.
Jonesy thought about all the places he’d seen this house before. In the middle of "Great Expectations" when that old rich woman was walking around her mansion in her dusty wedding dress. In that Edgar Allen Poe story where the house sinks into the bog after a crazy guy gets scared to death when he sees his undead sister coming at him. And two blocks down from where he grew up in Oxford, Illinois. The Crouse family. They stood out like a sore thumb; a run-down lot right in the middle of a story-book neighborhood. The family was rude and standoff-ish, and their son, Jeremy; he was the nastiest. He was the one who smoked and offered Jonesy’s brother a cigarette. He was the one who broke the church windows. He was the one who landed in jail after getting caught trying to rob the Lutheran school. Another thickheaded asshole and his family made him that way. But maybe there was more to it than that. Maybe it was the house.
Jonesy turned and stared at the empty stone building.
Maybe it was the house that made that rich woman walk around in her wedding dress. Maybe it was the house that scared that guy to death. Maybe it was the house that made the Crouses the nasty people they were. Jonesy’s suspicion was tingling through his senses. If houses had done all that, what had this house done?
Jonesy picked up a rock and threw it. Then another. And another. He threw a rock for the crazy lady and the dead guy. He threw a rock for Jeremy and the Crouses. He threw a rock for how this house made him feel and all the anger boiling inside him. He threw as many as he could find and as the last rock left his fingers he gave a slight sigh of relief. The last rock flew through the same window as the first and made the same hollow sound as it landed. The sound echoed as a terrible voice erupted from inside.
Jonesy froze. Fresh sweat glistened at the nape of his neck and his hair stood on end. His breath drew quick and close as every heart beat jumped farther up his neck. He drew his gun and cocked the trigger. He slowly walked over to the gate and opened the rusty latch. The wind from the fields eased the flimsy door open. Jonesy, with eyes wide open, took one step forward.
He was going to kill whatever made that sound.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dear Delusional Wretch

Look what I found!

It's a dusty old ruin, just like you.

Cordially Yours,
The Red-Haired Monk of Excess

Monday, April 27, 2009


I knew it was out there somewhere, beyond the horizon, with its towers of glass and steel and the masses and all that bullshit. I suppose I'll always know it's there. I miss it most days, but it ain't half bad out here. Blue skies, greenery, wildlife. Sure the raccoons get into the trash all the damn time and I go days sometimes without seeing another damn soul, but you get to appreciate all the nature being out there.

I still think about her. She had a pink flower in her hair and a dragon tattoo winding its way down her right leg. She came up to my table in the back of the cavernous bar, her silhouette slowly appearing behind the cigarette smoke like a ghost. Just seeing her outline I knew she was beautiful. When she cut through the smoke and I got a good look at her all I could do was try to devise a way to break the ice, but she walked right over to me and set her drink down.

Christ, how long ago was it? We lived the life in those days. There was the cash, the cars, the getaways, and the gang. We had our stupid little hideouts that were sure to be raided by the police not even a week after we found them. We always had to move around, but we always had the money to do it. There was that time when Joey, our vault guy, got his hand stuck in the car door and messed it up but good. We had to scrape by for a month before he could open those safes again. Still, no matter who we split the take with it was always just me and her in the end heading out to the bars with a big sack of cash and the will to spend every last cent.

She wanted to settle down, do things right with an alter and a priest. Hell, I didn't even know she was raised Catholic. We were gonna buy a place. I was gonna open a bar like I was planning to do the night she met me and we stole our first car together; before we started living that crazy life. We were going to go legit; we were going to do it right.

We were gonna-

I pulled her out of the bank and put her in the car ready to rush her to the doc. She told me to drive. She said to keep driving until the engine dropped out of the damn car and that we'd start over wherever that would be.

She outlived the car by three days. It's sitting out there a rusted-out heap in the grass with her underneath it.

So yeah, I miss the city and the old crew and the hustle and bustle and cash and the long nights out on the town. I miss it every day, but the best thing the city ever gave me is under that car, and I'm never going to leave her side.