Dec 21 2015 11:24 pm
Frank drove down the road like a ghost. The remote interstate in central New York rolled ponderously through the hills, swinging broadly around nonexistent corners and along the outskirts of small towns with small churches. A line of storms had moved through quickly and the thunderheads were still over the landscape to the south, grey and ten thousand feet tall. Frank craned his head to get his eyes underneath the door frame to look up at them and it gave him vertigo and the car drifted onto the rumble strips.
The sky was bright blue behind the storm and most of the leaves on the trees were still turned around from the wind and showing their gray undersides. The road was barely wet and the sun was dropping lower in the sky as Frank drove west.
Frank thought of all the words he knew for big fish: pig, chunk, chunker, duker, slab, slaunch, beast, toad, walter, tank, bruiser. Shark? Did he know anyone who called big fish “sharks”? He couldn’t recall. What about “whale”? That would kind of make sense but he didn’t think anybody actually used that term to describe big fish.
It was almost dark when Frank hit Erie. He’d been driving for more than four hours, but he wanted to get to Traverse City by 7am. He’d stop if he had to, pull off into a rest stop, lay back in his seat and sleep for a few minutes, but he would fight it. He tried singing along with the radio, keeping the windows open, blasting the air conditioning, slapping himself in the face, but he kept nodding off.
He was just in Binghamton for work. He was a technician that traveled to factories all over the northeast to service big machines. The job in Binghamton was over in a day, which meant Frank and Cliff could leave early. Cliff was a sales rep from Charlotte who was there to smooth over the problems caused by the machine breaking down. Cliff was a tall, thick guy in his fifties with heavily styled thinning salt and pepper hair. He always wore a black leather jacket and silver chain bracelet. Cliff liked to push Frank around and make fun of him in front of the factory guys. He’d tell guys that Frank took it in the ass from all the sales reps at the yearly meeting and one time a random factory guy actually said “fag” under his breath when Frank walked by.
When Cliff left the factory he was excited, talking rapidly, saying goodbye, shaking hands with a big smile on his face. The plant manager didn’t want to go out for dinner and Cliff’s flight back to Charlotte didn’t leave for four more hours, which meant he had time to hit one of his favorite adult video arcades on the east coast. This particular “theater” had three different booths with glory holes, wall to wall mirrors, and no one cared at all what went on back there. Cliff was actually pretty versatile. He liked sucking dick as much as he liked getting his dick sucked, and he camped out in that place until the last possible minute.
As he stood in line at the gate in the airport and shuffled down the boarding ramp one or two small steps at a time, shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the flight, he kept his face down and smiled and thought about the glorious three hours he spent at the theater and how he stands like a Minotaur when he cums.
Cliff got home late and his wife was already in bed. He drank beer and smoked cigarettes as he thumbed through some mail and then got on the internet for a while. The dog stayed in the corner keeping one eye on him the whole time.
The dog’s whining woke Cliff and his wife up in the early morning and she said that the dog had diarrhea in the house earlier and that she’d get up and let him out. Cliff said no and said that he’d shut the dog up and if that dog shit in the house with him at home it’d be the last time he’d shit anywhere.
Cliff walked right into the puddle of shit and yelled out “goddamn this stupid fucking dog.” Then Cliff’s wife could hear the dog wheezing and whining through Cliff’s hand that was clenched tightly around its mouth, the dog’s nails frantically scraping the linoleum floor in the kitchen as it was dragged towards the side door. The sound from the .22 came more quickly and quietly than she expected. The side door banged shut. She could hear Cliff cleaning up. He climbed back into bed and said, “I left him layin’ there. I’ll bury him in the morning.”
His wife said, “you will get your ass up and you will bury that stupid fucking dog right now.”
Jul 27 2014 7:47 pm
For the rapid removal of material, for rough shaping and forming of wood, plastic, and soft metals, good for truing the battery hole on your jet jon. I like the way your hand soap smells, very feminine. Everything you eat could be poison. An aspirin could be deadly, concentrated poison. That bottle of beer could contain deadly, cyanide poison. What faith we put in food, what epistemic blindness, what nonchalance about life and death.
Be so courageous. Be so strong. Walk into the room like you own it. Speak loudly when you speak. Make sure everyone knows that you know you’re elite. Punch a stranger. Show everyone who’s boss. Shoulder them out of the way. Spear them in the heart. Eat their liver. Eat their organs. Literally feast on their soft parts.
Let’s plumb the depths of our collective shame. Reach down deep into the weirdest, shameful shit you’ve got. Grab it. Own it. Think about it all the time until your blushing burns out. Racial shit. Sexual shit. Whatever you’ve got, don’t tell me about it. Just dwell on it. Focus on it. Examine it from all the angles and be sure you know why it’s shameful. Be sure you know why you have it.
Houses that need painted are a good indicator of poverty. The houses look scaly, like they have siding eczema. The once-landscaped beds are weedy and the tops of the weeds aren’t uniform and they scraggle and reach towards the crooked porch.
Last weekend there was an F150 from the mid-nineties up on those sketchy metal ramps in the front yard. She was sitting on the top step of the front porch, leaning over her knees, smoking a cigarette, the weeds scraggling, the paint peeling, the porch leaning, the kids running around everywhere. She was definitely the same woman I saw the week before, at the DMV.
She was sitting on the bank of hard plastic chairs next to my bank of hard plastic chairs. We were both holding small pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. She slurred, “Yer like a bear. You need, like, all those chairs.”
I laughed a little and said, “Yeah, at least I have this side all to myself, imagine if I was sitting next to you.”
“Oh, we’d have a good time, you and me, we’d have a great time. This fucking guy, he’s doing homework or something.” She looked over at the kid sitting next to her and gestured at him with a lazy finger.
I said, “Well, we can’t all have tattoos of a naked woman riding a tiger on our legs.”
This made her blush and she crossed her legs at her knees trying to hide the tattoo on her left calf, sinking down into her seat a little bit. “Now I’m embarrassed.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I think it’s a pretty badass tattoo, actually.”
“I have a bunch of stupid tattoos,” she said like a child sulking.
She was skinny and pale with dark, shoulder length hair and had black low-top Chuck Taylors on, no socks, short jean shorts, a black tank top, and big silver earrings. She had a lot of tattoos. They were randomly arranged and mostly incomplete, single color drawings. I could smell the booze on her breath across the aisle between the chairs and she was high on something too. She had a pock marked face, but she was young enough that if she stopped now, she’d probably be OK, but it wasn’t going great, so far.
She pulled her heels up onto the lip of her chair and hugged her knees and I looked at the back of her thighs and stared at her ass and thought about fucking her.
Feb 19 2014 9:01 pm
Everybody always says “follow your dream.” My dream is to be independently wealthy and travel the world and fish for everything everywhere and do a lot of drinking and when I got sick of all that I’d retreat to a beach house in the Keys or a big apartment near the Blind Tiger or a cabin in the Ridge and Valley and write about it and I’d make beautiful things and everyone would buy my books and I’d drink nothing but fresh, hand-pulled mild and half liters of dunkel lager and have a really responsible, sustainable opiate habit and then when I got sick of being cooped up I’d head out to Kamchatka or Bolivia or probably both and I’d have a wife that loved to do what I loved to do and we never got sick of each other and we had all sorts of weird sex that was completely fulfilling forever.
I guess I tend to think that the “follow your dream” advice does more harm than good. I hate clichés as much as anybody and probably more than most, and both of these perspectives are equally clichéd, but I do take pleasure in going to a real job everyday and being part of making things that people want and the routine that comes with it. I take pleasure in making things better and trying hard and seeing things work out in the end for the effort. But it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for this. And it turns out I really need deadlines to actually get anything written either way.
I’ve been weird lately. Some things are going great: promotion, job satisfaction, really hitting my daily drinking stride after a few years of practice, self abuse peaking in the morning, tapering off never, constant thoughts of small city strippers and what they’d do for fifty bucks. Tramadol Thursdays have been a highlight. Having actual responsibility in a fast paced production environment is stressful and maybe not quite as rewarding as I thought it’d be, but at least I’m appropriately self-medicating.
I’m mad at fly fishing not because I don’t like fly fishing but because I’m kind of generally mad at everything these days. I’m about to buy a jet boat which is what happens when you get a promotion and don’t have kids, I guess, but I’m pretty sure I’ll just rip around the river being a dickhead and only throw giant perch husky jerks and put all three trebles in the face of whatever shows up: big browns, smallmouth, pike, deer, canoers.
Don’t look at me the wrong way because I will wake your canoe. Even if you have children in it. You are going down. Don’t cross me.
Chad’s wife’s brother was seventeen and he wrecked his truck last week. He was speeding between Panama and Clymer, heading south towards the PA line doing seventy when he grabbed some loose gravel on the shoulder and lost control of the truck and rolled it into the ditch and he was thrown around the cab because he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and probably died then but the truck caught fire and burned him up and his cousin, the lesbian embalmer, was the one who cremated his body.
She was close with him, so it kind of surprised everyone that she wanted to do it, but that also probably explains why she wanted to do it. The thing that was most amazing was the way Chad told this story, clearly excited to share a story like this, close enough to partake in some sort of narrative authority, but far enough away to detach himself from the emotions and just spit it out with macabre fascination, hawking it to us on a Monday afternoon like something we’re supposed to buy.
Aug 13 2013 8:23 pm
1. I fished next to him several times before he grunted at me in salutation one random weekday evening. He wasn’t very friendly. He had the wiper fishing dialed in pretty good and I don’t think he liked seeing all the college town transients fishing his water.
I like to think he approved of my struggling in the wind with a fly rod every day and not catching anything when a lot of other guys were throwing gear. He usually had a fly rod and a hard plastic stripping basket and he was a very good caster. He would make three false casts and shoot all his line. Then he’d tuck his rod under his arm, and with one hand after the other, strip small lengths of line into the stripping basket. The way he did it kind of reminded me of a crab feeding itself slowly.
He was a media coordinator or something like that for NASCAR. He traveled a lot for the races and I suppose it made sense to be based in southern Indiana: Crossroads of America and all that. He had a long, Greek last name. He had dark hair and a serious face. He was maybe in his forties. There were only a couple places to fly fish for wiper without a boat. Whenever I was fishing where he was fishing I thought I did a good job even if I didn’t catch anything.
I saw him using a spinning rod a few times. He was always throwing a Zara Spook. He could huck that thing at least two hundred feet and he’d walk it back slowly and patiently. I never actually saw him hook a fish on it, but just the way the Zara Spook walked was enough to stick in my mind as worthwhile.
I was in Walmart the other day and they had some small white Zara Spooks in the discount bin, $1.50 each. I bought all nine of them. I’m thinking of giving up the fly rod to fish Zara Spooks exclusively.
2. This town in north central Pennsylvania was mainly poor people. Not the working poor, but the actual poor, the Social Security Disability Insurance poor, the extremely skinny and the extremely fat, the people that grocery shop at gas stations. The people that stare unabashedly into your vehicle as you drive down their street and have lots of dogs and cats usually.
The one guy was a clean cut, well built Asian man about forty years old in a new white baseball cap and white golf shirt and khaki shorts putting gas in a clean, white, late model Dodge four-door pick up. A white guy with bad acne scars on his face, a patchy five day gray and black beard, torn up discount white high top sneakers, dirty jeans, dirty shirt, dirty baseball hat stepped out of the gas station, put a cigarette in his mouth, threw his right foot up on the bumper of the truck and retied his shoe lace. And he wasn’t dirty because he had been working all day. He was just dirty.
These two men knew each other and obviously arrived together in the truck and were going to leave together in the truck. The white dude put his foot back on the ground and lit the cigarette and got about two drags in before a tall, skinny, mid-twenties, brown complexioned clerk in a tight blue polo shirt, tight jeans, and European sneakers came out of the station and said in a thick accent seriously, “Hey boss, no smoking, OK? No smoking around the pumps, boss. Thanks, boss.” The clerk had a mustache and a truly majestic pompadour of thick, jet black hair.
3. Hippyman Jeff was a craps dealer in Atlantic City for a while. Every Wednesday night I used to go over to his house and roll dice so he could practice his payouts. We’d sit around his little rinky-dink kitchen table with aluminum legs and those tiny pink and yellow boomerangs all over the top of it and drink cheap wine out of small water glasses and talk about the girls that worked at the diner and wax pseudo-philosophical about random psychological and historical facts.
One night we were sitting there and Jeff said, “Did you know that the cardinal directions were once referred to by color, black for north and red for south? In the northern hemisphere, I’m assuming.”
“I did not know that,” I replied, as I scooped up the dice and shook them in my hand slowly and rhythmically, squinting through the cigaret smoke and privately marveling at how we’re all so good and truly fucked.
Jul 24 2013 6:09 pm
Pulp Fly Volume Two was released last month. It's an ebook and you can buy it for Amazon Kindle here or for Barnes and Noble Nook here. Maybe some other places too. You can learn about Pulp Fly Volume One here.
I have a piece in Pulp Fly Volume Two. I don't think it's the best thing I've ever writte, but it's OK. I was reading a lot of Raymond Chandler when I wrote it and wanted to spell 'cigarette' the way he does, 'cigaret', but apparently that didn't survive the editorial process. Not that this is the reason my piece isn't the greatest thing I've ever written, but I feel compelled to mention it.
And to give you a better idea about what Pulp Fly Volume Two is like, I've taken the liberty of excerpting my favorite quotes from each piece in the volume, in order of their appearance in said volume. The number or length of quotes excerpted does not necessarily represent my opinion of a piece, but probably rather something like their quotability. And if I found one quote really striking, that's the only one I grabbed. Though I should say that Sarah H. Grigg's "Eddy Speaks" and Pete McDonald's "Taxidermy" are definitely my favorites.
Erin Block: "I walk to the far end of the lake towards the inlet, where a stream flows down from the smaller lake in the next cirque up like a magnified series of pocket water plunge pools. As I rig, greenback cutthroats cruise around sipping caddis emergers, and I worry it will all be gone before I’m ready. Poof. Before I can get in the game."
Tom Reed: "He thought it was a shame to leave a good animal like her standing in a pasture, pot-bellied, rank —a baby factory. No, she was too good for that. So he rode her, rode her often, enjoying her ground-eat-way-of-go."
Matt Smythe: "Looking down he could see blood soaking through both his pant-legs at mid-shin. Both were at odd angles. Compound. He knew a friend in high school who busted both of his legs just above his ski boots one winter break. The thought came and went."
Michael Gracie: "'Explicitly voice your curiosity. Don’t hold back.'"
Matt Dunn: "There was a cardinal that threw itself against the east facing window until Frank shot it with his snake gun."
Sarah Griggs: "But always the optimistic mythbuilder, I interpreted the exchange as an Omen, the Universe guiding me along my Path through the vessel of this corsair."
"He thought I was an angel on a pedestal. I knew that I was as wretchedly human as the next person; I knew I’d rather be honest than pleasant. Besides, I was just passing through. But once people make up their minds about a person, when they hear the intoxicating Siren choir chant, the Projection often trumps the Truth."
"Here we found a mass of kokanee, tangerine backs lashing through the water like the neural refractors of a concussion. We squealed like Mennonites on a Ferris wheel and rigged up a combination invented by Erik the Red, “The Battle Axe,” ready to ambush the unsuspecting bacchanalia. Before we could launch the goods, a fish bounded across the surface. Compared to the arabesque whip of a trout, the kokanee’s leap resembled a blood orange pontoon plane coming in hot for a landing, flopping into the tourmaline water with a quasi-ridiculous, but joyous kerplop."
"The display triggered a searing instinct, in the same way the sight of a mewing, gangly-legged elk calf running for its life prods a grizzly to truck down the dainty, spotted ass and devour it."
Tosh Brown: "'No. I'll give you that one, and the others you caught before lunch. That's when I got sick of watching you catch fish, right about noon.'"
Chris Hunt: "He hadn’t seen any sign of the bear since it shoplifted his salmon, and with a bellyful of fresh coho himself, he didn’t much mind that his first catch went to feed one of his new neighbors."
Will Rice: "The bottle of Sunny Caribbee Yellow Hot Sauce was jammed between the Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce (Ingredients: select red habanero peppers, fresh carrots, onions, key lime juice, vinegar, garlic and salt) and D’VANYA’S Original Hot Pepper Sauce (Ingredients: Water, Hot Peppers, Approved Starch, Spices, Diluted Acetic Acid, Citric Acid and Sodium Benzoate - straight from the Island of Nassau in The Bahamas)."
Pete McDonald: "For some reason when he killed the fish he recalled this place. He had gone to Lake Placid with Laura once and he’d driven past it and wanted to stop there but she said no. That was it and it shouldn’t have been a thing that even mattered."
"It didn’t feel like a fish anymore. He had ruined it in death and he tried to think about what it all was even supposed to mean and he couldn’t."
Alex Landeen: "The pleasantness was almost embarrassing."
Bob White: "An hour or two further on they came upon the berry pickers, made their camp with them, and spent the night." [I have to use this quote because Hemingway and Traver were effectively and charmingly berry picked by Bob White.]