Chapter 3: Uncultured

Read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 first.

February 12th, 2017

So, TV today.

Something on the History Channel, the aliens show with the guy with the crazy hair. Either the Aboriginal Australians are aliens, or we’re all aliens, but descended, not from Africa and Olduvai Gorge, but by way of Alice Springs.

Wasn’t paying attention, not sure. Key points is that Ayers Rock (sic) is an Aboriginal/Alien standing stone thingy, and the 33rd Southern parallel connects directly to the center of the galaxy, and is thus the anchor point for the stargate.

Also something about the Matrix.

But it sucked me in with the claim that the Aborigines (is that an OK term? Sorry if I’ve given offense, none intended) are the oldest living culture on Earth.

Skeptical of anything that claims that Uluru is an alien radio, but there have got to be some facts in there somewhere.

Fast forward an hour or two, and I see that my cable movie channel is running all three Godfather movies back to back.

Y’know how much of Godfather II is in Italian? Y’know how hard it is to understand that if you don’t speak Italian or read Japanese very well?

But anyway, towards the end of Part III, I started to think about mourning cultures. I know the Godfather is all Hollywood bullshit, but when I think of people who know how to mourn, Italians and Jews pop to the top of my head.

Don’t read too much into that, just keep reading.

And then I realized that I have no culture.

My wife can, by the law of the land, trace her family back….. shit, several many generations. Japan has a “family registry” system, which is more or less a legally required family tree. When Japanese people hear that I don’t know the names of my great-grandparents, their minds boggle almost as much as when I tell them that I know I’m pretty much German and Scottish.

‘Cuz they’re all Japanese.

All.

All the way.

But but but but…..

I come from the culture of Velveeta and Wonder Bread.

Scratch that, my parents were pretty liberal. Velveeta and Roman Meal. Holy shit my sister and I were amazed when the folks discovered wheat bread.

But anyway, I’m penciled-in for mourning soon. On the plus side, the family dog died some time ago, and they opted for a fairly traditional cremation and service.

So I know how to pick apart the bones with chopsticks and put them in the urn.

Dog bones.

And I come from a culture outside of mourning. A culture outside of culture.

Right, I’ve lost the thread in here somewhere, so I’m just going to hit “post”.

Chapter 2: Final Destination – Holding Pattern

If you haven’t read Chapter 1: The Presence of Absence, start there.

January 15th, 2017

She was diagnosed last spring when she suddenly went aphasic. They found cancer in her brain and abdomen; the two cancers were, surprisingly, not related. Cancer rarely forms in the brains of adults on its own, it’s generally metastasized from somewhere else.

Operable. A tumor the size of a baseball came out of her head, and two liters came out of her abdomen.

I looked at a baseball after the surgery. Held in up next to my head in the mirror. How is this possible?

A two liter bottle next to my body. She’s not a large woman, in height or in girth.

But it got better, it gets better, it always gets better, right? Nausea wasn’t an issue, but her appetite never really came back. Just didn’t want to eat.

Slept a lot.

Lost weight.

And then my wife told me she was getting worse, so she went back home to help take care of her mom, and then I got sick; the doc says it’s not influenza, but I’ve never been flattened for two days by a common cold before.

You don’t put someone like me in the same room with someone who is weakened and immunocompromised. I can’t make her better, but I won’t make her worse.

Haven’t seen my wife for a week and a half. I wake up whenever the coughing starts, take some medicine, eat a bit, check my messages.

And go back to sleep. There’s nothing I have to do, there’s no dinner to be prepared, my work is only part time at the moment, and I’m too sick to go anywhere.

Seen everything on cable.

So I just wait. Prepped the black formal suit, found the black tie, polished down the shoes because spitshines aren’t appropriate at times like these.

I hope she gets better, but sooner or later the captain is going to ask her to put her seat in its upright and locked position, and to stow her tray table.

And today the ambulance took her to the emergency room. Was that the announcement chime?

Are you sure we can’t re-route to a different airport, captain? Just for a while?

Chapter 1: The Presence of Absence

This is the first installment in a new series that I wrote about a year ago. The series will update on Mondays.

It is not a work of fiction.

January 9th, 2017

So I’ve been having fun.

Due to a combination of national holidays and related events that she has and I don’t, Mrs. A is visiting her family for the weekend.

You know what that means… Time to get crazy.

Like Friday, when I went to see “Sausage Party”. She wouldn’t have liked that film, and it was the late show, in the city. We don’t go into the city often, the train ride there and back is just a pain in the neck, but what the hell, she was otherwise occupied, it’s me time.

And then Saturday morning work, back downtown, but after confirming that she’d still be away that evening, I went nuts.

Ordered a small pizza for myself.

And paid for it from the grocery fund!

Then I went to my local bar and discussed the possible geopolitical ramifications of the upcoming Trump presidency with the owner/bartender.

In Japanese.

We didn’t agree on everything, but who knows how much of that was a result of the language barrier or not.

Rainy day today.

I thought about doing something.

I thought about exercising, but rain.

I thought about dieting, but decided to make hamburg steak (chopped steak, whatever) with red wine/homemade bacon/mushroom gravy for dinner instead, then got drunk-ish and watched both Wayne’s World movies on cable.

Took the trash out.

She’s visiting her family because her mom’s recovery is going….

I don’t know.

She didn’t join the 2016 toll, so that’s something.

But I’ve got a black suit that I’ve yet to wear, but I think that’ll change soon, and then her dad will be spending the rest of his days partying just like I have for the last three.

The title of this post is a taken from a quote from Michael Berenbaum, former project director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Hit Somebody

So I wanna fucking hit somebody get hit get beatdown lose a fight to someone who is in the wrong and I don’t even know why.

Overworked?

Oh, yeah, shit, I was on the clock for three and a half hours today.

Extenuating circumstances of twelve hours out of the house don’t count, nor do fucking lazy ass shithead boo fucking hoo the hours I spend between jobs or on public transport I just want to hit somebody get hit shit in a hole in the dirt club my dinner alpha’s dinner to death before I get it stolen sleep outside the warmth of the fire watch the engines flame out toss a hand grenade into cargo class from the fucking cargo bay we were born to be slaves, we have always been slaves we deserve to be slaves my bucket list what keeps me alive is the watching the release of nuclear weapons on a civilian population on the BBC or even better from the rooftop bedtime good night fuckit.

Covers

A song is not a dress nor a necklace nor a bracelet, not a bangle or a bauble or even a well made suit.

Some are.

Some are, it’s true. Some songwriters put the same love and care and soul into their work that a Cambodian slave-child making a pair of Nike shoes that will retail in New York or Chicago or Shanghai for a greater sum than Mother received the day they took Older Sister away.

She won’t be coming back.

Some songwriters, many songwriters, most songwriters are churning out a product to be served to the masses, a product that will go viral perhaps, a song that will have a special place in your heart because, and only because, it was the soundtrack to your first kiss, your first fuck, the last time you saw her before the drunk driver came across the centerline…

But no more. No meaning beyond what it means to you, which can be explained but never conveyed except by allegory because we all have those songs in our head, could be Madonna, could be Lady Gaga, could even be Stacey Q. It’s there, in your head, not on merits, but on the experience.

So there’s the Top 40, Trending Now on YouTube, You May Like…

They’re in my head too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But there are the other songs, the ones the writers thought and fought for, the ones that can take a moment like the one you remember Stacy Q because of and push that moment, that experience, that life straight into your consciousness like you lived it yourself, that can show, in two or three hundred words, in three or four minutes, the whole who and where and what and why, or as much of it as you need know, burn it right into your memory even though you weren’t there, you weren’t here, you weren’t, not yet, you didn’t even exist, and you’ve got no frame of reference but what was laid out on that page of a notebook, laid down in that studio, so many years before.

The artist has made his life a part of yours, but that doesn’t mean you own it, no matter how much you tell yourself that you’re a fellow worker in song, it’s not something that you can slip into because you think it will set off your voice nicely, the gender discongruity isn’t a clever little twist, you weren’t there, it wasn’t you, stop kidding yourself just fucking push play and enjoy.

An Ugly Vibe

There’s a weird vibe on the boards lately, something in the wind that doesn’t feel right.

Not ugly.

Not yet.

Not sure where it’s going, but snark and sass seem to be the order of the day. Offenders? Dunno, nobody, everybody, somebody, somebody not new, somebody just new. Little things getting picked at, the edges of the scabs running a tad raw and everyone’s out of that grease that Gramma carried in her purse, combination lip balm scrape lotion thread loosener hinge oiler spice, none left, tube’s dry and the bits are starting to squeak where they rub up against each other, but the squeaks are turning from metal against metal to metal versus metal, small shavings falling off between the hinge plates and the pin.

Grooves, and not the groovy kind.

Is this just a phase, is this just part of the normal ebb and flow, the combined breathing and pulse and circulation of fifty thousand mostly quiescent minds bumping against each other in this little corner of the the vast consensual hallucination that Mr. Gibson and DARPA bequeathed us, or is it a sign of something larger, the growing lack of incivility that Horace noted so recently? Or is it just a figment of my imagination, is the break already starting to chafe? I need to be at work in a few hours, but here I am, tapping away, man was made for work and toil and strife, not electric light and heat and instantaneous connection with the outside world across the seas and continents, for most of our history we were prey, and then we were slaves, which amounts to the same thing but the master doesn’t kill you cleanly, he eats you day by day over decades, we aren’t cut out for this, not for freedom, not for choice, we were born to fear and lacking that fear, we grow to fear everything, which is as it should be, is that a stick or a snake, are you hungry enough to eat those new berries, was that the wind in the grass or a lion?

The Spartan helots were mandated a certain number of beatings every year, whether or not they behaved, so they didn’t forget their place.

Circular Extinction

Battlestar Galactica: The Rebootening was actually a pretty good series, but reflecting back on it, I realize that the parts that I liked best were the beginning and the end.

 

Not just the beginning showing us that an interplanetary civilization can (and will, if we get to that point) be taken down by lust, but that moment-

 

-that wonderful moment-

 

-when a hostile actor decides that things will start and end
with vernichtung.

 

 

The Cylons were pretty much carpetnuking Caprica when the traitor (Traitor? He never did run that test on himself, did he?) Gaius Baltar escaped. When the humans offered unconditional surrender, they were met with…

 

…silence, and more bombs.

 

The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth… They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth.
 
The perfect end to an imperfect story, but not the ending we got.

 

Five or eight or seven seasons later, after squirming like an earthworm on the sidewalk under the magnifying-glass focused Cylon sun, the remaining colonists… colonize, finding another new planet to replace the scorched Earth.

 

And we know what happens when the colonizers come calling, don’t we?

 

St. Iain (not me you fucking dolt, the author. No, I’m just a writer, and not a very good one at that. Try and focus, will you?) tells us that:
An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop.

 

After the death of (acting) President (Education Secretary or some unlikely shit) Palin, Commander William “Hüsker Dü” Adama spends the rest of his short life jumping in and out of a lake that thinks it’s a gin and tonic. The rest of the doughty crew and survivors of the S.S. (spaceship) Minnow, who, despite having lost all their guns when the sole surviving professional athlete in the universe stole the fleet and set the controls for the heart of the sun, are still able to use their ignorance of germs and knowledge of steel to exterminate the local “missing link” autochthones, save for a raped few whose partial DNA survived long enough to confuse things for future genealogists.

 

And so it ends, with a race escaping genocide perpetrating genocide.

 

Perfect.

Last Run

It was a tough run, but we made it, we finally made it. With five minutes to spare, but time runs funny up here.

The boss promised me that this would be my final one, take one last load of Unbelievers up North and I’d be out, with a new identity and a fat bank account. Half a mile more and I’d be done.

As the train passed slowly through the city, the kids yammered on about elves. Elves and the Big Guy, all they ever thought they wanted to see.

They didn’t know.

I felt bad about what was going to happen to them, but that was the price of Unbelief. I knew all about that, I’d paid it myself. To look at me, I was in my fifties, but on the calendar, I wasn’t even seventeen. Heck, by Easter these kids will be in their early thirties. How else do you think the Man in Red can make all those presents in a single year?

“Ellllvesss!” For a moment I hoped that the kid had just seen some of the loaders. Older workers looked a bit like elves; decades of hard labor and a diet of nothing but reindeer meat and hot cocoa did funny things to the body. Elves, on the other hand, were bad news. I’d seen one once; it had gotten in through the sewers when I was about forty. They finally captured it, but at a cost. At the next roll call we all had to watch as it literally shredded seven of the flightless culls before being hosed down with napalm. And that was after it had been de-fanged. That demonstration had ended any talk of escape.

For obvious reasons, Mrs. C (yeah, she handled the dirty work. Surprised?) always gassed the sleigh loaders last, but these weren’t redshirts, these were Elves, real Elves, a mob of them boiling up one of the side streets. Must have breached the Wall. I heard a reassuring thump from overhead, and knew that my partner had seen them too. “You: four-eyes!” I barked.

“My name’s not four-eyes, it’s –“

Don’t care. You know who Ma Deuce is?”

His eyes lit up behind his glasses. “Yes, sir! The M2 Browning fifty caliber machine gun is a heavy –“

Thought you would. Ghost is setting one up on the roof. Now get on up there, he’ll tell you what to do. Pigtails! You’re pretty smart, think you’re smart enough to work a flamethrower?” She stared, uncomprehending. “It’s like one of those super soaky squirt guns, but it shoots fire. There’s one in the last car. Get to the platform on the back and hose down anything that gets close.” She gaped again. “For the love of Mike, GO!”

Who else? The kid from Edbrooke was already toast, curled up on the floor in a puddle of his own piss, but where was the other one, the troublemaker?

Smart kid, he was right behind me. “Listen, young man,” I said, taking one of the M4 carbines down from the concealed overhead rack, “we’re in some serious jelly, but we’ve got to protect this train. This,” showing him the gun, “kills Elves. Help is on the way, and if we’re lucky, we’ll live to see it.”

Of course, if the Elves didn’t get him, the little Unbeliever would spend the next decades of his year-long life in the Workshop, but the least I could do was give him the chance of a painless death. “If not, don’t try to be a hero, boy. Those things out there will make you wish you’d never heard of Christmas. If they get on board, save the last one,” I ejected a single round and dropped it into the pocket of his robe, “for yourself.”

Me? I locked myself in the cleaning closet. Didn’t get out of the Workshop and into the Conductor job through self-sacrifice now, did I?

Lake Vostok

The waters of the lake are cold and deep, and the sunlight never makes it through the ice.

 

 

Succession

A little tidbit to kick off the Holy Month of Halloween. I’m going to try and make a point of posting more often this month.

If it kills me.

 

The old King had fallen, beheaded by a terrified concubine who’d somehow managed to pull one of the ornamental axes from the wall. The palace guard, alerted, had managed to head off the Crown Prince’s escape attempt. Strapped to the throne, he was anointed by one of the Brothers of St. Lazarus, who, hooded, chained, and groaning, had been brought from their underground monastery to administer the sacramental Bite.

A scant quarter-hour later, the Lord Chamberlain appeared on the balcony. “The King,” he said, excitement shining in his eyes, “is Dead!”

“Long live the King!”