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.

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.