Original Short Peices by Chris Prioleau

Original Short Peices by Chris Prioleau
The purpose of this blog is two-fold.
A) It's for me to churn out a really short piece as often as I can
and B) for you to shut up and read it.
Any questions should be forwarded and forwarded until you can't forward them anymore.

01 December 2010

A Cure for Soul Crushing Loneliness

by Chris Prioleau

As a child, Ronnie Bueller had been one of those special boys, the kind you find in crowded rooms, on their hands and knees, snarling at unseen shadows on the wall. You know the type: stubby arms pounding on the linoleum with each movement, the sound a betrayal to parents who – t-shirt and shorts balled in their hands – disowned this feral child with their posture. Ronnie wasn't an imbalanced or particularity misbehaved kid, these acts not the onset of any life-long mental ticks or illnesses. Nothing diagnosable anyway. The poor boy's only real issue was the same one that would quietly afflict him his entire life, making each day arduous, every relationship confounding, a fine life unlivable. And he had to do it alone, there was never any other choice. After all, how could someone even try to have a healthy relationship when they know that they relate more with werewolves than they do with other people? No one would ever understand.

Oh Werewolves...

On the surface they seemed just like any other drowsy, boring old paleface but underneath, lurking in the shadows, was something that made them better than you and I: the wild life. Nights of tragic romance, chasing rabbits, mauling lovers, howling in the face of the procreating moon. This was the life little Ronnie Bueller had always felt he was destined for, the sort of one that – 35 years later – had still eluded him.

At 41, Ron was the assistant manager of sandwich production at Bigguns Soulfood & Sandwiches. He was mortally single and spent most of his time – when he wasn't placing orders with butcheries or slinking off to the bathroom to maul a glob of sliced meats like a wolf on a flockless sheep – at home, watching old horror films on DVR, and dreaming of how to lift the inextricable burden of his loneliness. Naturally, one day, he turned to the internet.

On an particularity gelid Saturday, his DVR queue gone cold, Ron Googled “The cure for soul crushing loneliness” and was disappointed to find that it was the name of a once moderately successful pop act out of the United Kingdom. In the mid 90s, they'd made a pretty big stink across the pond with a single called “Just Try Going Out More (in 1994)”; Ron had never heard of it. The group had been on the verge of international stardom when the American Boyband Boom hit and, suddenly, no one had room in their hearts or wallets for the oddly named English foursome. According to their Wikipedia page the group had reunited in 2010 to “awfully little fanfare”.

Ron took a look at the recent press photo on the right side of their page. The redhead was balding, sepulchral freckles entombing themselves down his timeworn face. The twins were both now plagued with thick glasses and very English teeth. In the forefront was the obvious star of the gang: dark hair, charming eyes, a natural grin all softened under a mound of ruddy flesh; the hottest teen sensation of the Major Administration now a portly arcane joke. They looked like four dads tricked into taking a group photo at the DMV.

As much as Ron pitied them he couldn't help but wonder if somewhere inside – somewhere unseen – the same young lads who'd once set their side of the world on fire were in there, lying dormant, waiting for a decennial full moon.

Next he Googled “mail order bride”. And, well. In spite of the fact that Zialaxana did seem to have a certain, frosty, charm, it would cost him months, maybe even years of Soulfood & Sandwich money to have her shipped over. Plus once she did arrive she'd probably find his life just as desolate as whatever Eastern European backwater she'd came from. This was just a patch up. He needed to find a way to turn his life around from the inside out, and fast!

Then it hit him. It felt like waking up to a slap on the face from a Siamese twin you didn't know you had. Werewolves. Werewolves were the answer.

Immediately he logged onto Craigslist and checked under the “Occult” listings. He had to navigate through two whole pages of amateur exorcists and computer savvy zombies in need of sustenance (z4b) to find what he'd been looking for his entire life: “$500 My wolf wife will bite ya!” the listing read. The transcript is as follows:

$500 / My wolf wife will bite ya! (transformations)

Your unhappy? My wife is a damm werewolf.....u pay me...she can make u one too...come on afternoon of full moon...get SAME DAY RESULTS...call 925-555-4087 ask for yuri

Ron was so excited his fingers were tingling. His hair stood on end and his tongue salivated in torrents; it was like he'd already begun his ascent into wolfdom. Resisting the urge to do so on all fours, he rushed to the other wall of his studio apartment and dialed Yuri's number.

It rang only once, the second interrupted by a cacophony of loud canine barks through the receiver. GRUFF GRUFF GRUFF, GRUFF GRUFF GRUFF GRUFF It went on like that for a long, barbarous moment. Ron was about to ask the dog-person if Yuri was available when a heavily accented human voice blared in.

“Who's this?” It demanded over the incessant mongrel noise.

“Um” Ron said “Is this Yuri?”

“This Yuri!”

“Oh, uh, well--”

“Hello? Speak up! I'm a terrible man!”

“It's, um, it's about your ad, your Craigslist ad.”

“You want my wife?”

“Well, uh, yes, though I wouldn't necessarily say it that--”

“Get her now! Come now! 1377 Budden. It's fool moon! Come now!” Yuri slammed the phone down, leaving Ron on the other end, disconnected.

Mt. Budden Road was a sprawling four mile trek that began in the dregs of suburbia and twisted through the black heart of unincorporated Budden before bleeding itself dry on the base of its unimpressive namesake. If there was indeed a supernatural underbelly in his humdrum little town, it was undoubtedly in the woods surrounding that mountain. So, to Ron, turning his 94 Audi onto Budden from Garvis felt like the first right turn in a long and oracular journey. At 4 PM the moon was already visible in the gridelin sky, faint but full and blooming with promise from behind the shadows of the clouds.

His mystical bubble, however, was punctured a mere three blocks from Garvis when he spotted 1377 just past Amber Ln, straddling the perineum between light and dark. Well, hey. It wasn't all bad, he told himself. The lawn was full of holes! There were dreamcatchers hanging from the front gate! Plus every house on this side of town had a big back yard; perfect for a werewolf to run around in! Still he wrung his hands over the steering wheel as he parked his grumbling old Audi, pedestrially, against the curb. The mailbox read: Yuri & Peaches.

It was a wide house, one story and encircled by a low brick fence with a clattering, rusted gate. Spindly trees had lurched over the perimeter and wilted their little brown cadavers onto the lawn. The roof was, while yes too covered in leaves, more noticeably littered with dented cans of Milwaukee's Best as well as a menagerie of expensive looking vodka bottles. Well, werewolves should know how to party, Ron told himself as he nudged open the creaking gate and furtively approached the door. He balled his dark, tepid hands into a fist and almost knocked. Then he sighed. Reconsidered. Then reconsidered again. He was 41, broken down by a life's worth of mediocrity and here the internet was giving him a second chance. Tonight he would be dodging silver bullets and taking lupine lovers, tomorrow drinking himself into a stupor and festooning his house with the evidence. Neighbors be dammed, this is what werewolves do. Ron knocked on the door, closed his eyes, and listened to the beads of the dreamcatcher tap against the house.

After a soothing amount of taps, the door swung open wildly. Ron opened his eyes to see a slight, hairy man standing at the threshold. The man's surprisingly amiable smile was bisected diagonally – as was the rest of his face – by a grotesque, three pronged scar the color of a dark eggplant. He wore a checkered track suit, full of gashes and holes.

“Are you him?” the accented man asked, seeming genuinely surprised to see a stranger at his door after inviting one over not a half hour before. “I am Yuri,” he said.

“Yes, I-uh, I'm Ron. I'm responding to the ad.”

Yuri clapped his palms together loudly and licked his lips. He stepped backwards from Ron, opening his home while never taking his gleeful little eyes off of him. “Good! My wife! I'll go get her! She's in back yard! I'll go get her! You stay! Stay now! Stay!” He backed around a corner, out of site, eyes ever fixed on Ron. There was a pungent, salty smell in the home of Yuri & Peaches. To Ron it smelt like roasted meats.

The inside was large and spacious, with red curtains drawn in every window draping the air with a vivid, sanguinary hue. A large white brick fireplace was the centerpiece and axis of the home, around which everything else seemed to pivot and accord. Ron was facing the backside of it, adorned – as was every other visible surface – with framed pictures of Yuri and a big blonde dog with silver eyes, a Labrador. Some of the photos had obviously been taken before Yuri's facial mishap, man sans scar with dog at beach; some had obviously been taken shortly afterwards, man with wrapped face and dog outside Parthenon. There were pictures of them in Paris, in Rome, on the summits of snowy mountains, under deep green canopies. Nowhere was there evidence of a human female presence, anthropomorphic or otherwise.

“This my wife! Peaches!”

Yuri sauntered back into the room with the same mangled yet ingenuous smile though now trailing behind him was a beautiful blonde labrador: Peaches, from the pictures.

She trotted from behind Yuri, long nails cheerily tapping the linoleum with each movement. She wore virtually the same expression as her owner (husband?), nativity with a snip of hungered longing. Her mouth hung agape, exposing black gums and a pink slabbery tongue into the red room. She looked over the perplexed Ron, tap dancing on her claws as she circled him, sized him up, sniffed his crotch.

Shame rose from behind Ron's cheeks. How could he be so stupid? He'd ventured out of his shadows to find his kind of people, the wild kin spirits that been eluding him his entire life and what did Craigslist give him? A crazy foreign sex pervert. He didn't know what kinds of things went on here, but they were assuredly more depraved then secretly disemboweling deli meats on company time. “You're telling me this is your wife?” He took time with his words, chose them carefully. “And that she's a werewolf--”

“Yes! Damn werewolf! Every full moon!” Yuri growled, grimaced, and curled his hands into a claw shape. Ron understood that this was supposed to be a joke – a pantomimed werewolf – but with Yuri's scar, the room's red glow, and the present circumstances, the little man's shtick really did scare the crap out of him. He looked like an axe murderer. Peaches, perhaps smelling Ron's apprehension, barked at Yuri while trying to balance on her hind legs.

“What?” Yuri yelled. “That's how you look! Don't start with me!” Peaches growled back at him, an interspecies lover's tiff. “Oh she like you! You like her?”

Peaches opened her mouth and looked up at Ron in a panting little doggie smile. She really was a gorgeous animal. With her golden coat and striking silver eyes she looked like the canine embodiment of fortune. The way she stood, high and lean on her slender legs, reminded Ron of a fashion model or a greyhound. Her most beguiling feature however, in Ron's eternally humble opinion, were her ears: small, thick, and oddly pointed. They stood out on her torpedo shaped head as if they'd been lifted from another animal, a cat, a wolf. Yes, Ron would like her, a whole pack of her. To wreak havoc with, to shred his banality with her claws, to run her teeth through his triteness and his sandwiches.

“She's...a beautiful dog. But she's just a dog. You told me she was your wife. Why would I pay five hundred dollars to be bitten by a dog?”

Yuri furrowed his brow and held his chin in his right hand. A hairy, stubby version of Rodin's Thinker seriously contemplating an issue of which he had not been aware. “Dog?” he said after a moment. “Yes. Sometimes she's woman, sometimes she's dog, sometimes she's wolf. I don't know with her anymore. You should take her. Five hundred dollars.”

Ron sighed: his latest in a long line, heralding a lifetime of mild, soul-crushing disappointments. “Ok.” he said “I'll buy the dog.”

“This had better work.”

Ron was back at his apartment and had just finished rubbing a can and a half of Brainy Dan's Can Gravy onto his arms and chest, as per Yuri's suggestion. Initially, the hairy little man had taken Ron's money with all the inelegant glee of a first time con artist surprised at his good fortune. He counted the cash slowly, having to start over several times in order to curb a caustic belly laugh or to occasionally slap Ron hard on the back. Ron watched him, saying nothing, a cold lump rising up in his throat like a full moon. When Yuri left the room to fetch Peaches' leash, Ron's body begun to quake with wretched, silent sobs. Peaches gruffed at him, hopped up onto her hind legs, and pawed at his pants leg pleading for attention or forgiveness or another doggie emotion before Ron took his heel and shoved it into her face, pushing her away, transforming himself back into the anti-social little boy he'd been years ago.

When he came back from around the fireplace, Yuri had transformed too. He seemed even smaller than before, dwarfish and hunched over, his happy little eyes now heavy and tired. “Cover yourself on gravy Ron. Brainy Dan's. Then she will make you wolf” he said. He held the leash out, his face turned towards the floor. The leash was a loud silver glittered with tiny hearts. In pink gaudy letters across the throat it read 'PEACHES'.

Ron sniffled. “Thank you” he said.

“Leave now. Moon is soon.”

Peaches whimpered as Ron put on her leash, and that was the last that any of them said for time. It felt like a terrible shadow had risen over them and now they each had to sift through it, awkwardly in the dark. That was how they left Yuri, stewing in his own haze, man sans dog in empty red home.

It was getting dark now, the last traces of sunset seeping out through the blinds, preparing to leave Ron in his room of shadows, awaiting the bold glow of moonlight. He'd locked Peaches in the bathroom. She hadn't said much on the ride home merely stared out of the Audi's passenger window, pearly eyes looking out over the darkening suburban landscape. Even now she was silent enough that Ron could easily pretend that he hadn't just flushed five hundred dollars down the drain, that he wasn't embarking on his worst disappointment yet, that he was rubbing gravy over his flabby chest just for fun. A single guy has got to get his kicks somehow! The air was cold and smelled badly of meats.

The bathroom's doorknob squished and slished through his hands as he turned it. Inside, it was pitch black and shrouded in an unnatural chill. He couldn't make out nothing, not even the porcelian glow off a counter top or commode.

“Peaches?” he called into the dark, a wisp of his own breath drifting through the air.

He'd, obviously, used this bathroom thousands of times before and, unless you counted the nights that he'd taken home the Jalepeno Chilli Openface Sandwhich from work, there was nothing spooky about it. Yet here he was, fearful of the sight of his own breath fading into the shadows, disappearing into the darkness that housed his sink, his shower, and possibly an anthropomorphic beast from hellfires of Craigslist. The hairs on his arms would have stood on end had their pores not been clogged with canned gravy.

He was reaching his hand in, trying to turn on the light switch, when he heard the growl.

Hurrrrrrrrgggggghhhh. Loud and low.

Ron let out a sad and frustrated moan and backed away; of course it would end like this. Peaches's silver eyes materialized amidst the shadows, cut through them to chill Ron's gravy flavored bones. Certain death was imminent he felt the onset of a feeling he could only describe as a tremendous shame mixed with total sadness and understood that to mean that his life was flashing before his eyes. He shut them tight, hoping to block away the rerun: weird boy sans companions for 41 years, drifting underneath life's radar in every way imaginable, dreaming that he was something far more than the talentless schlock he was, wanting to reclaim something that was lost prenatal.

Still stumbling backwards he tripped and landed on his couch with a squish. In his shock he opened his eyes and saw Peaches in the moonlight. She was the most gorgeous animal he'd ever laid eyes on, human, werewolf or otherwise, shining like good fortune. She was approaching him, singing a complex series of howls, and hopping off her front legs like she was trying to rid herself of them. Her eyes looked practically ghastly in the moonlight.

“Be a good girl, Peaches” Ron said, backing into his couch. “Please be a good girl.”

She had wild luck in her eyes as she sucked the meat smell out of the air with her nostrils. Ron watched in horror as she advanced on his hand, placing her chin on the couch. She opened her mouth wind and licked his fingers with her long pink tongue. It felt nice. Ron closed his eyes and Peaches commenced in lapping up the meat particles between his fingers. She stopped for a moment and he could feel her weight as she leapt onto the couch, creaking the springs and then settling. Then she went to work, vigorously stripping the gravy from his arms, his chest. Ron kept his eyes closed and laid back, a pleasant buzz forming behind his ears, her tongue was stupefying, therapeutic. It felt like that gravy had been caked on for decades and finally someone was taking the care to rid him of it. Before he drifted off to sleep he felt her teeth run lightly against the blade of his shoulder.

Ron dreamed vaguely of being in a large, circular shaped room filled with water. He was on the outside, facing the walls, which were the same shade of vermilion as Yuri's home only covered in blue vines, which swelled and constricted like they were breathing. Ron was shirtless and holding a Bigguns Creole Supreme Sandwhich, extra shrimp. In the center of the room there, wading in the water, was A Cure For Heartbreaking Loneliness. Their shirts were off too and the twins were tenderly petting each other's hair. Ron felt odd or shamed or excited: 5 flabby men shirtless in their 40s, treading water in a vauge circular room.

“Yoooooou swiiiiiiim to uuuuuus” the lead one sang. Ron felt unsure. The others howled

“Swiiim to us nowwwwww, wild one.” he sang again, this time with a wink. The others howled.

When he awoke Peaches was asleep on the couch next to him, her head in his lap. His body was slick and cold with dog spittle; it felt strange but nice. He pet her softly and she made a distant gruffing noise that sounded as if it came from miles away, from the depths of some doggie dream. He wondered what she could possibly dream about as they lay like that for some time, the moon kissing them from the dark and lonely sky above.

04 October 2010

Netflix : Lost Products Division

Disc 1

by Chris Prioleau

I've been tracking down red sleeves for these people for over 11 years, damn near since the beginning. Been up and down this country from Tallahasse to Chickaloon, sea to shining sea. Pirates and dead beats as far as the eye can wander.

I was invited to go golfing with Reed Hastings – Mr. Netflix himself – once. Nice guy. You know the first thing he did? Soon as we was introduced he looked me dead in the eye, took my hand solid and firm like he was milking a cow, and said: “You're doing a hell of a job Mike.” My name's Mitch. It's okay though. I don't do this for him.

There was this kid a couple years ago, Haitian kid couldn't be more than twenty five, we caught him on 8th avenue New York City selling stolen discs at a stand outside an Olive Garden. He wasn't even trying to hide it, out in broad daylight with most of the discs still rubber banded to the sleeves and big ol' sign saying “$5 NETFLIX SURPLUS! COME SEE! COME SEE!” Dumbass said he had a deal with us going, something like he gets the extra DVDs that we don't need. Can you believe that? I chased that kid six blocks; and these weren't your typical Bumfuck, Iowa blocks neither. These were six Big Apple cattle and commerce blocks. So here I am shoving normal people, good renters, to the ground just to get ahold of this two-bit bootlegger and when I finally do collar him, guess what? He's laughing. Some little girl in Hell's Kitchen has to wait until Wednesday to watch The Incredibles because this scumbag has been taking envelopes from her mama's mailbox and here he is, laughing in her face, asking: “what's the big deal?” Christ.

It's them I do this for you know. The latchkeys, sticky faces and sad eyes, innocence hinged on the belief in a timely red envelope, brimming with the promise of joy and escape, like Santa's bag of treats.

In the future there'll be more like us, believe me, all you gotta do is turn on the TV. They'll try to lie to you, try to hide the inner workings of the great machine, but if you watch close enough you'll see us in the margins. We are the black boxes in your widescreen, making your picture safer.

You wanna know what I'm talking about? Just the other day President Obama himself (never met the guy but I've taken a look at his queue and it holds way too many foreign films for my liking) ambled onto your TV screen and, with the repose of a film star, told you that we were out of Iraq. Now I've never been one to not give the devil his due, the man was half way right. You are out of Iraq. You don't have to waste another half-second wondering if Auntie Sew-&-So is gonna get blown to high hell in front of some Karbalan palace of rubble. We, on the other hand, are still there. We are men without country, guardians of industry, and we're just the beginning.

Ships in just one business day.

02 September 2010

We Are Not Of Their World

by Chris Prioleau

It was August, his first in California, and Dean had never seen the sun so angry. Outside of his shady niche it reigned, small and high in the sky like the lone eye of wrath. It had eaten a pilot a few days ago. The news said that he'd taken off from the airport and simply never came back, but it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that this wasn't the whole truth. The poor bastard had been scorched up out of the sky! Him, his plane, and whatever leftover aspirations a man who can fly holds onto: burnt up like Icarus' wings.

And here was Dean's mom still telling him to get into the water! Hell no he wasn't getting into the water.

She faced him from the bank of Lake Temescal, amongst the hordes of splashing Negro children, looking absurdly pale in her cream colored two piece. “Deany Schmitt you get out from underneath that tree and get into this water like you got some sense!” She yelled in her thick Indianan, deaf to how it made their little monkey faces look up at her – giggling – look over at him – expectant. He opened his mouth to say something but the whites of their eyes convinced him otherwise.

She shook her head and took a long drag of the ass end of her cigarette. Dean could see that in her mind she was still the Bridget Bardot of Amboy, Indiana. Here in the East Bay sun though, against a backdrop of animated, robust women the color of soil, she resembled something made from clay, a golem imitating life. “Suit yerself” she said, taking a last, frustrated, puff before dropping the butt into the water and wading in.

The lake itself was murky and full of older kids – most were blacks but there were some whites too – the adults largely stuck to the sand, supervising their little ones as they splashed underneath a thin haze of steam and tobacco smoke. His mother was by far the whitest and oldest woman in the water.

Dissillusioned, Dean stewed in his sweat under the oak trees and thought of how impossible it was that he had come from her body. He didn't even understand her body. They were hardly the same species.

He decided then, in a patch of dead grass overlooking the lake, the sounds of cars whooshing by on the freshly renamed highway above, that the lady he called mom was not really his mother after all. He looked inside of himself with the obvious question and the answer came instantly, as brilliant as the rays of the sun: Charles Ogle. The dead pilot. Charles Ogle was his mother.

He imagined his Charles mother squeezing his way out of a whole in the tiny sun, a great and mighty man burned blacker than night. His eyes were deep and dark with the promise of the unknown and though his skin was crisp black it glittered with the glowing yellows of starlight. His sheer size would block out the sun, leaving all of Oakland in a cooling darkness.

“Worry not son, for we are not of their world” his true mother would say.

And at this the Negroes would cheer, thinking that their envoy had finally come. And his skin mother would cry as she always cried over the inarguable unfairness of her life. And J. Hoover and President Johnson would come down from the old world on horseback with cries for immigration reform and allegations of ties to the Viet Cong.

“You should have come in Deany, it's something else in there” his mother said, adjusting her bathing suit bottoms.

“No. It was too crowded” Dean said.

On the way back to grandma's they got stuck in traffic. The ride was hot, stagnant, and mostly silent as their Studebaker trudged along under a haze of exhaust and cigarette smoke. As they were nearing their exit a car full of rowdy teens in bad Beatles haircuts cut them off in a red Oldsmobile. Dean's mother honked the horn hard but she spoke very softly.

“Come on” she said, “you're not the only one with somewhere else they need to be.”

18 August 2010

The Haggards and the Hagg Nots

by Chris Prioleau

When I started to tell people that I was finally stepping out of my cove of sunny beaches, comfy couches, and slow marijuana soaked afternoons – that I was leaving Santa Cruz for The Bay – most assumed that I'd be moving into San Francisco.

“You're moving to the The City?” they said, eyes gleaming like the Golden Gate. They were proud, of me for making the change, of themselves for putting the puzzle together. The pieces fit so well, me, crowded street car, light drizzle from the late morning fog, European scarf around my neck. In a few short months I'd be parallel parking like Steve McQueen and starting my sentences with “When you've lived out here for a while you realize...” but no, that was never the idea.

“Naw man, I'm moving to The Town. Oakland. Much cheaper.” And that would pretty much settle it, money being maybe the only practical reason to move to a place with over 120 murders a year. The practical reasons are the easiest ones to get other people to understand. The deep rooted ones, the ones that are so mixed in with who you are that you can't even look in a mirror without seeing them staring back at you, those ones are more difficult to explain. My haggardness is such a reason. I'll put it concisely. I'm far too haggard to ever be allowed to live in San Francisco. It's just not in the cards, I know it as clearly as I know that I'll never memorize the periodic table of elements or that I'll never perform fellatio on any of the twelve apostles. It's weird that those were the first two things that popped into my head.

To be a haggard isn't just to be accident prone or unlucky or a fuck up; it's a lifestyle. And it's not a choice. I was born a haggard: seven days late and with a rare disease that ballooned my head so big that I looked like one of those cartoon character sherbet treats you used to get from the ice cream truck, the ones with the gumball nose that would always fall on the ground before I had the chance to eat it. I was born a haggard and I'll be a haggard until the day I die (the most likely causes: water intoxication or a mishap involving a ladder, anything equally preventable and ridiculous).

I'm not 100% positive of the causes of haggardness but if I had to take a figurative stab in the dark – because a haggard should never take a literal one – I'd say that it's genetic. My dad spends 90% of his free time in his underwear and always keeps his refrigerator stocked with an array of expired mayonnaises. My mom enjoys making Popsicles for her dogs. Of course these were the people who made me.

As far as I know they were only a couple for around two years and having appraised them over the course of my life I can honestly say that I cant picture them having ever been together under their own volition. It's easier for me to see them as pawns, vessels of a celestial syzygy meant to bring haggards into the world. I'm sure Mercury was in retrograde on the day they met. It's easier to for me to imagine three bodies bumbling together the night I was conceived, Mom, Dad, and Cassiopeia all inverted, basking in the glow of the moon.

I was in San Francisco last weekend spending time with Alex, a friend of mine from school. Her family was in town and and though they aren't from there, it was easy to see them as city people. Her mom took us out for lunch in Union Square and all during the meal I studied the way they'd interact with one another; everybody seemed so competent and poised. I thought back to the lunch I'd had with my parents in Oakland the week before and how my dad had spent ten minutes berating me for eating part of a jar of olives out of his refrigerator.

“Those were expensive olives Chris, they were from Whole Foods. You know that place? You should get a job there, you'd probably get free olives. Then you could replace mine that you stole.” As he said this, a white glob of cream sauce was beginning to cake itself into his beard.

But this lunch wasn't like that, this lunch was nice. No one was threatening anybody with violence, nobody was bursting into tears or even looked like they were about to. It was just people enjoying one anothers company. There were moments when I'd get caught up in it, the smiling and the actually listening to each other speak; there were moments when I'd feel like this is where I always belonged, like there was some sort of prenatal mix-up and I was supposed to be one of these people, networking, talking about my clients, being employed at all, that was the life for me.

There were other moments though – quieter ones – that would pull me out of it: sitting in Union Square, watching all those sweaty tourists gathered around the Dewey Monument and losing myself for a second, forgetting who I was and where I was and thinking that I was one of them – a tourist – all alone in a strange city with nothing to keep you from drifting away.

I think my favorite part of the day was being in Niketown and playing with Alex's younger sister, she's like five (I think she's five?) and we were just rampaging through the store, screaming, laughing, bullshitting, all the things that I wish it were still okay for me to do in public. I was really thankful for her presence. Half the fun of it, unexpectedly, were the looks that random shoppers and workers would give me as I passed them by. They weren't the usual “hey look at that hairy black man chasing that little girl” looks that I've been getting from store employees my entire life, looks of shock or aversion. They were looks of respect. I could almost hear their thoughts: “What a responsible young adult!” “Look at that non-haggard humoring that small child, how estimable!” The sheer fact that I was with Bella made me appear like a responsible, highly functioning member of society even though my behavior was still disruptive and essentially haggard. I was starting to believe it myself.

And I did believe it until the next morning when I, foolishly thinking that I was leaving my haggardness in San Francisco for good, proceeded to get lost in traffic for two and a half hours. I hadn't even left their company for ten minutes and there I was, lost as all hell, my phone's dead, my shoes are in the trunk, stopping at gas stations for directions barefoot like a runaway slave. Some day I'm going to stop doing things like that. Some day I'm going to have a job that pays me enough so that I can live the sort of life I want to live. Some day I'm probably going to be some one's parent and feel overcome with joy when they look up at me with their needy little eyes and say “I love you dad. Take me home.” But then I'll say, “I love you too future child, but we're going to have to wait for the space tow because I've locked my keys in the car again.” Those things are in the cards for me, I'm a haggard. Just keep me the hell away from San Francisco.


06 August 2010

My Baby Loves Her Gravy

by Chris Prioleau

This story isn't about the beginning; it's not even about me honestly. It's about this weird gravy freak chick I met in Vegas. It was the night Chris got VD from this redheaded zipper at The Mirage and I had seen this other girl, this brunette walking on her lonesome, away from the strip, and I decided to follow her. You can already kind of see why I haven't told this to anyone. I'd say like 35% of it had to do with the fact that my friends had just ditched me for these two zippers. (“Don't act all shocked man. Plus you said in the car that you weren't gonna CB. You said!” – Will a half hour before, leering like he was gonna fuck me too). Maybe 20% of it could be blamed on the Vodka Tonics I'd been steadily slurping since before we'd left the room. But most of it, honestly a fair 60% of it had to do with her hips, her pants, just the way she held herself man: oak brown hair tamed back in a tight pony tail, shoulders leading a confident dance with the curve of her spine, hips full, ass swaying back and forth like an apple shaped pendulum in black denim; I was hypnotized. It was like there was a secret in those jeans and if I let it just strut off the strip like this than it would damn me for the rest of my lonesome days. So yes, I followed her. I know it's weird. This is a ghost story.

She was carrying this white binder in her arms – heavy duty like a contractor's – and she had one thumb keeping place between the pages while she kept it mostly closed, opening it every few blocks before she'd turn left or right. It was shut besides that though; white reflecting the strip lights fuzzy and strange. This went on for a while, me following her around crowds of late night partiers – inebriety decorating their faces like clown paint – until her binder led us farther away from the strip. I remember thinking that the further we got, the more whatever fucked up magic that place held seemed to just peel away; it was like Vegas had spread itself open and let me in to see what was really inside. And what was in there, man? Shadows. The same cookie cutter drunks and fast food joints you'd see in any city at 2 in the morning. It was enough to make a guy feel like crap; and honestly I would have turned around and walked the however miles back to the strip had it not been for her. As weird as it sounds I felt attached to her in whatever way; in a lot of ways to be honest.

Really I had no idea how long I'd been walking after her when she finally stopped in front of Hurley's Big Hawaiian BBQ but it had been long enough to where my drunk was all but completely gone and I was starting to feel a little stupid. I was back about 15 yards, she was reading something out of her binder, and yes her ass looked really hot – the synthetic orange from the sign practically gave it a halo (yes, it looked fantastic) – but why was I there in the first place? I knew I'd always been the proverbial 3rd wheel; I was too wiry, my nose was too big and my eyes too milky for anyone to look at me and see something anyone would call “beautiful” but this was really a new low. What the hell kind of guy goes all the way to Las Vegas to walk after some random zipper with a Spam & Noodles fetish? A sign in the window read: Every Meal Comes With Macaroni Salad! No Substitutions, No Excuses, No Mercy!

I was considering calling a cab back to the room when she walked inside – ha-ching, ha-ching – taking her swinging pocket watch of an ass with her. Desperate I turned towards the heavens for guidance and, seeing only a fat neon man holding a coconut and guitar case, I followed her inside – stalk-er, ha-ching.

The joint was mostly empty. There was a table with about four kids, wasted. One of them was passed out or was dead or something and the rest were putting on a little show acting out the three stages of drunken grief: delirious laughter, embarrassed anger, bored acceptance. At the counter a little old man sat alone, his body was so small and his glasses so thick that he looked like something you might order out of a Precious Moments catalog: Lil Ol' Gwampa Swoop Sipper. And then there was her: head buried in the menu so all I could see was the top of her ponytail, the base of my yo-yo string. She was at a great big booth by her lonesome; the sign in front said “Please Seat Yourself”.

“So you're him for tonight huh?” she said once I'd sat down on the other end of the booth. She didn't look up from her menu and at once I felt like the biggest perv on the planet.

“Hold on, all this time and you're a....”

“A prostitute?” she said laughing, “That's new...” she finally puts the menu down and I can see her face for the first time. Her jaw is too square and her eyes too dull a brown to be anything close to the angel I'd imagined, but that only endeared her to me more; we'd both had a tough time of things. “No I'm not a hooker...though I could be a type of one if you think about it.”

The fuck do I say to that?

“I'm Robert.” Like an idiot.

“Then, a lesson for you Robert.” And I'm full on expecting her to bust out with something like 'If you're gonna go around following zippers' or something like that but instead she busts out with: “The ancient Egyptians invented gravy, not the French. They would just shoot it straight, with dinner, entire sauce boats of it like it was nothing. And sure we can look back on that now and say 'yeah that's dangerous those people might have had a problem' but they really knew how to get down back then.” She looked around with those big standard issue eyes, leaned in conspiratorially, and whispered “I have it on pretty good info that King Tut himself was nothing but a sauce head, Robert. And when he died at the ripe old age of 18 it was no assassination. It was G.O.D., the first ever case.”


She leaned back in her seat, smug. “Smart boy.”

The waiter came then, a bored looking dark kid with big gauges and an arm full of tattoos. His name tag called him “Ron”.

“You ready?” Ron asked with a sigh.

She pushed the menu into his hands. “I'm going to have your Gravy Golden Katsu Plate and a large avocado shake.”

“All-right gold-en-gra-vy, and-you?” he took her order just like that, in these automatic, clich├ęd, sing-songy bursts that – on top of everything else, as you might understand – really threw me off.

“Um. Spam.” I said. “Spam & Noodles. You guys have that here right? Like...it's Hawaiian?”

“Like a roasted apple up a pig's ass.” Ron said, jerking the menu from my dumb little fingers and stalking off. “It'll be just a minute.”

She looked at me. “Spam?”

“Yeah well. I heard it's what killed Churchill.” I said – recovery. She gave me a little smirk -- congratulations. “Man, so, what a night huh?” -- idiot. “I was at The Palm earlier with my friends and that was cool you know, we had some drinks, we had a good time but then they found these trashy girls and they just totally ditched me as always.”

She nods all pseudo-polite and starts going through her fucking binder right there at the table, which – you know – hurt, honestly.

“I don't know what I expected to get out of this.” I admit, though I'm not exactly sure how far back that statement goes. “Viva Las Vegas. Deep is the abyss.”

She's still looking at the binder and I'm thinking again about getting up and leaving when she says, “You've heard of Plato's caves right?”

“Is that off the strip?”

“Mmmm-mmnnn. Not off, on. In Plato's caves all of humanity are just chained to these walls watching shadows flicker and calling that real life. Meanwhile there's this entire other world out there outside the caves full of actual, perfect things, not just bullshit copies. Plato says that once you find these things, only then have you found truth.”

“I like that.” I said. “It's like once you've found that right one thing for yourself that's when you can finally start to live life.”

She shook her head, suddenly, in these tight little gestures. “No Robert. You're not getting me. That's not what he's saying at all.”

And it feels like a hard shove. My neck jerks, I'm taken aback, just far back enough for Ron to slip in with our plates. “You have everything you need?” He asks and she lets out this abrupt, dismissive snort that – for some reason – makes Ron grin like a god damn Cheshire Cat.

“I certainly hope so” she says and he looks at her like he speaks her language, like he's inside of her and I'm that 3rd wheel once again: spinning my own axle, slowing everybody down.

He leaves, thankfully, without her so much as glancing back at him. She's too busy with her plate: a mound of reddish brown gravy slathered over these poor slabs of katsu like there's been an accident, like we're going to have to call in the search and rescue. And she's just glaring at it, man. There's a fire in her eyes that wasn't there before, like the Chef got mixed up and accidentally served her a serial rapist instead of her chicken and gravy.

“It's going to be too salty” she says.

I almost say, "well then send it the fuck back" but by then she'd already cut half a slab of it and put it between her lips. I sat there watching her chew for a good half minute before I realized that my own food was just sitting there getting cold right in front of my face. Honestly!

I reached for my fork and she sat up. “This isn't it at all.” She opened her binder, impatient, flustered, and not at all like the girl with the self-assured spine that I'd seen back on the strip. She pulled a tenner from a fold in the inner cover and slapped it onto the table.

“Wait, where are you going? You didn't even tell me your name.”

“Sorry Robert I don't have time for footsie. I have 2 more stops to make tonight.”

“Wait!” She went to pick up her binder and I leaned over and slammed my hand down on it. She looked up at me, her eyes dulled again, her lips pursed tight. Somewhere, I heard Ron clear his throat.

“Let me go with you.”

She closed her eyes and laughed a bit through her teeth. “Poor bloodhound. You smell the gravy on me and you think it's love. You're better than most but you've got it all mixed up. Listen to me plainly: once you find truth, that's when you start to die. It's about deliverance. That's what he meant.” Having gotten her composure back she grabbed her away and slipped back off into the abyss. Ha-ching ha-ching.

I sat there, by myself, listening to Ron roll his mop bucket around the floor for as long as I could stand. Then I figured 'fuck it' and finished both the plates. The gravy was a little too salty. The Spam was pretty good.