“This was the year that I fell in love with a tornado…”

Do stick figures dream of a third dimension? If they do, that dream springs forth from the creative mind-womb of Julian Porter in the form of his debut novella Hibakusha Don’t Eat Pop-tarts.

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On the surface, which is not completely what the heart of the story is about, Hibakusha is told from the point of view of Darla, a self-proclaimed “sad girl” with lots and lots of inner turmoil that she has either placed the blame of its own existence on “The Nothings”, an occasional meal-sized helping of intangible metaphysical/imaginary representation of narcissism, or has refused to confront altogether because that’s what young people do. There’s a lot of psychological art in this book, sometimes conveyed with moderately repetitive descriptions of woe and melodrama which only further illustrates Darla’s lack of experience with life outside of her Nothings-populated head-vault. There is a clear rising of intensity at play here, from the first pages in which we meet Darla, to the final chapter when it all comes to a painfully agonizing realization of apocalyptic “acceptance”. In the beginning, Darla’s hallucinations start off as a mere vehicle of confusion, and throughout the 80-some page novella, they rise in rank from a near jab to the lower ribs, all the way to questioning Darla’s reasoning for not having actually gone through with a suicide attempt. Hibakusha is a simple story laced with the complexity of the young human mind and presents the human condition as a testament to the world unwillingly revolving around it, and also, vice versa. Unlike many stories that detail the angst of teenage minds, Darla already accepts the world she has been thrown into. Her struggle has more to do with cultivating it into a form that makes sense, even if “The Nothings” would rather have her jump off a cliff or step out into rush hour traffic, because they know if Darla can both make sense of her world and move through it on her own terms, they will have no further reason to exist.
Before reading Hibakusha, there was a moment in which I told myself this is Porter’s first book, and as with anyone’s first full-fledged book, whether it’s a novel, a novella, a collection of poems, or anything really, there should be a predetermined understanding that it may not be very good. One would hope that glimmers of potential shine through the cracks that threaten the very foundation of the book’s soul. That being said, Hibakusha Don’t Eat Pop-tarts is not only good for a first book, it’s damn good for any book. Even with the aforementioned slight repetitiveness of some of the descriptions of Darla’s feelings and observations, Hibakusha offers one hell of a tour de force through the growing mind of a stagnant girl during her formative and perhaps most vulnerable years. When I was younger, I remember dating a few girls or even just hanging out with some, who I could liken to Darla. But when I was younger, I couldn’t fathom some of their behaviors, their decisions, or their dramatic mannerisms because, obviously I wasn’t literally inside their head. I may have even ignored them in a way that now I see as having been terribly disheartening. As I grew older, of course, I would learn through different mediums the art of understanding all manners of women, but I could only understand them up to a certain point because… I did not grow up the same way, and on an obvious physical level, I’m not a woman. There’s no way in hell I could empathize with someone like Darla. But in Porter’s novella, I am at least given an opportunity to imagine what it must have been like for her and other girls like her. Darla paints her world with colors and shapes and contortions in place of emotions, worries, and boring words, and with those inflictions, as a reader, a new level of understanding for the beginning stages of the evolving human heart is presented as the main course like a chopped up bleeding corpse on a silver platter at a dinner party I never thought I’d ever be invited to.

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Hibakusha is a short book, as novellas are, around ninety pages. But it is exactly as long as it needs to be. It can be read quickly in a single sitting if you’re a fast reader. I recommend taking your time with this one. Reading one chapter every few days was not just because I have a heavy work schedule and a writing schedule on my own, but because each chapter is psychologically and emotionally heavier than the one that came before it. Each one stacks above the other like a totem pole of despair and hopelessness, but I read more and more, and felt as though many of the ideas and scenes blended into one another in the same way the live action and hand-drawn animated segments of Pink Floyd’s The Wall conveyed its tropes and concepts. Hibakusha Don’t Eat Pop-tarts is Julian Porter’s presumption that breaking through the “wall” of a debut work of literature doesn’t have to be a half-assed attempt at being a writer because it’s something that sounds like fun and “anybody can do it”. Something very meticulous was put into motion with this book, and the end result is a cake with black blood frosting that tastes like caramel sauce-dipped powdered donuts. Every author should be proud of themselves for writing their first book, but not all of them should go ahead with publishing it. Julian Porter is among those who’ve fluked the expectations, his debut book is a declaration of war and brutal in its execution; there is nothing about this book that shouldn’t have been written. Hibakusha isn’t simply a launch pad for Porter’s hopeful future as a writer, it’s a starting point and one that should be remembered.

Buy the book on amazon:

To keep tabs on Mr. Porter, you can find him at the links below:
Instagram: julianporterx
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48054158-hibakusha-don-t-eat-pop-tarts

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Mercy Mercy Me

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I recently started up a side project Insta account called theindiereadspeakeasy, to promote the wonderful works of fellow independent authors as well as to discuss what mainstream reads I’m currently piling through.

Here is my review of Mercy, by Dave Matthes. It’s a genius modern take on the Western literary genre and I adored every single second of it:

[I don’t know where to begin with Dave. He’s a modest man who seeks no praise in his wide variety of works, but there’s so much to be said about this tiny, powerhouse novella. First thing’s first, it’s an amazing piece of literature. Beautifully written, well edited, it’s the type of book you’d find on any store’s shelf, whether mega conglomerate chain or Mom n’ Pop, and thank the starry eyed heavens that you took a leap of faith in choosing a book you didn’t know much about. Because…

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Poetry Review-“Coping Circles” by Glen Binger: A Bittersweet Romp Across Gallows, Through Open Windows, Over Bridge Railings, and Along the Edge of a Razor Blade

Glen Binger, Jersey poet and author of “Thing’s You Don’t Know”, “ENJoy: Stories by the Sea”, and others, slams readers in the face and in the gut with a handful-sized helping of poetry this time in the form of semi-autobiographical splurge “Coping Circles”.

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“Coping Circles” is a hand-sized booklet of twenty-one  single-page or two-page length poems, each one depicting an episode of death, loss, grief, or as the title suggests “coping”. They can be read from the perspective of one person’s mind, or each poem coming from a tragic tale of woe belonging to one individual random wanderluster.

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Glen’s theme this time around is much different than what he usually sifts out into the world; it’s darker and heavy, and consequentially is sometimes hard to get through. That’s not to say his words aren’t good, they are VERY good. Poetry is supposed to invoke emotion, and it doesn’t always have to be happy, sunny, uplifting, or optimistic. I read this little book in one sitting, because I felt that I should, not just because I wanted to. Something pulled me to the end, despite each of the poem’s own daggers sticking itself in me with each turn of a page. They dug in and twisted, reminding me of all the things I’ve taken for granted over the years, whether it be family members, woman I’ve fallen in love with, including my fiancé, pets I’ve taken care of and every single material possession I’ve pocketed along the way in life thus far. I don’t count myself as being ungrateful for anything in life, but the poems in “Coping Circles” reinforced my love and my need to hold on to everyone I keep close. Reading “Coping Circles” eventually began to feel trance-like, as if I were meditating in deep thought. I was reminded of a walking-simulator game called Dear Esther that I fell in love with years ago, that I played a hundred times just to hear the voice of the narrator while listening to the haunting morose, perfect score of the soundtrack. I began to read each of these poems in the voice of that narrator, and had to take a breather several times just to remind myself I wasn’t reading the thoughts of twenty-one cursed, depressed and burdened-by-loss people. But by the end, I was supremely grateful for the journey taken. It’ll probably be a long time before I open this book again, it’s one of those “one and done” deals, but in the best of ways. The poems inside all bring home a reminder of humility, letting you know that if you haven’t already lost someone or something close to your heart, the time will eventually come and you’ll have to find a way to deal with that loss, but also if you do find a way to cope, there’s a stronger chance that you’ll always find a way to cope.

Buy the book:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1797052225/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Glen can be found here:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bingbangbooks/
LinkTree: https://linktr.ee/bingbangbooks

 

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Poetry Review- Scott Laudati’s “Camp Winapooka”: A Nostalgiamageddon of Honest Stitchery and Confluence

My reading relationship with Scott Laudiati is still of a fairly young age; I’ve read Bone House while staying in downtrodden motels for work trips and fell in some kind of love I can’t yet describe. So like any curious wanderer through fields and forests of words, I dug deeper into the literary arsenal of Laudati with “Camp Winapooka”.

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With lines like “because they knew the flag only flew for them now, and the rest of us were just guests long ago uninvited”, Laudati perfectly illustrates american patriotism, and you can decipher the meaning in any number of ways depending on your perception of America and “freedom”. In the poem “beautiful things”, it wrenches loose the rusted, crusted, and tightened-by-adolescence bolts and nuts keeping my emotions imprisoned inside my brain so easily that everything I’ve ever felt as a teenager is suddenly and without prejudice released out in the open forcing me to remember all the good times and the hilariously awkward times and all the times I was introduced to pain, horror, tragedy, and regret, experienced while growing up. In another poem, one of my absolute, unquestionable favorite lines of poetry ever, now, “you were a dream I’d been saving since my first life”, makes me want to be that person to get poetry tattooed on my inner thigh to remind all those who go down on me just how serene and reflective I can be.

This book is a soulwork of honest stitchery, something rare and unexpected in the world of self-published authors. To modify an internet meme I’ve seen written about the show “The Office”: To think I could have lived a thousand lives during any number of eras throughout time and somehow I am existing in the same existence as Scott Laudati and his poetry. That pretty much sums up how I’ve felt about these words thus far. Can’t wait to read more from this poetic obelisk.

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Scott Laudati is the author of books “Camp Winapooka”, “Bone House”, and more, and is apparently a very sporting fan of shucking oysters. I wonder what Freud would make of that.

Get your copy of Camp Winapooka HERE
Follow Scott on Instagram

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People Wilderness: The Spices and Love Juices of Cold, Frigid February

Ron arrived just three and one-half hours after I’d made the phone call, when they said he’d only be an hour, maybe two. Through the falling snow flakes, he looked like a round, purple, oblong-shaped Eskimo, because he wore a one-piece jumpsuit that was entirely purple, bright purple, like an Easter egg, hood drawn up over his perfectly spherical head. He was only outside for about three or four minutes and already there were clumps of snow embedded in his stringy beard. While he worked the socket wrench over the lug nuts, he whistled and hummed a song that sounded like something a sailor might sing. Ron didn’t seem bothered by the snow, or the slush, or the cold at all. He swung a massive sledge hammer against the tire, trying to break the wheel free from the wheel studs. He kicked the top of the tire with his big boot and then swung the hammer down at the bottom of the tire. He sang and he breathed heavily, alternating between kicking and swinging. People in the parking lot walked passed pushing their shopping carts, some stopping to look for a moment, to gaze in awe at the singing, purple Eskimo swinging a sledge hammer that was longer than he was tall.
            “You don’t talk much,” he said.
            “Honestly I’m not very talkative, but I’m not sure what I would talk about in this kind of situation, no offence to you, of course.”
            “No offence taken. It’s just, I dunno, I’m generally around people who like to talk.”
            “What sort of stuff do people usually talk about when you’re out here?”
            “My hammer.”
            “Hmm?”
            “My hammer,” he held out his giant sledge hammer. “People go nuts over this thing. They say they’ve never seen one like this before. And I tell them, well that’s because it’s a very special, particular hammer used specifically for this type of work.”
            “Just looks like any old sledge hammer to me,” I said.
            “Take a closer look at the head. See that flat peace of metal? That’s actually tri-fabricated, temper-ionized Kevlar. It’s the strongest material on the face of the whole fucking earth. This shit will stop a rhino at full charge. They used to use this out east in the war, battle armor. But it got too expensive to order in bulk. But, ordered once, for instance for this hammer… and you have an only slightly-more expensive, but much more effective sledge hammer that I’m willing to bet my year’s salary no one else has.”
            “Oh,” I tried to sound interested. Part of me was, most of me wasn’t. I didn’t know what Kevlar had to do with changing a tire.    
            “This yours?” He held up a small, two-feet in length bungee cord with a rusty, curved hook on one end.
            “No, that was what was in the tire,” I told him.
            “Where’s the other hook?” He asked.
            “I don’t know. It only had one hook when I pulled over to see what was making all the noise,” I said.
            “Well,” he said, “wherever it is, I’m surprised this was the thing that got ya. These tires are in shit condition, but they’re still thick. And this hook son of a bitch went right through the entire raised part of the tread and dug deep into the tire. Crazy. They tell ya stuff like this happens but it’s rare. I never thought I’d ever see anything like it.”
            “I guess to you this is like running into bigfoot in the wild, huh.”
            “No,” he said blankly. I’m not sure if he realized I was just being funny. I thought I was being funny.
            I signed the papers and gave him the company info, because the company I worked for had an account with them, and he just needed a confirmation number.
            “Be careful out on the road, and I don’t just mean about those bungee cords. Snow is making the road real wet and there’s a lotta hostile drivers out there driving like maniacs.”
            “Thanks, man,” I said, climbing back into the front of the truck. I turned the heat up until the blower fan whistled. I looked at the time. Just after two in the afternoon. I heard Ron’s service vehicle drive off and I called the boss to let him know the tire was changed successfully. The boss said okay, good, now get back to work.
            “We lost nearly five hours waiting for that tire to get changed,” he said, “that’s almost half a day’s work.”
            I told him yea, I’m just as upset about it too, and drove back onto the highway.

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            It’s not often I cross paths with someone in management who is shorter than me. Most times they’re taller, or much taller. They usually played football in college. Or had their fraternity letters tattooed on their foreheads. Their faces were clean shaven, and sometimes worked out an arrangement that allowed them to work from home on Friday’s. I would keep it civil by asking them questions like “how’s it goin’” or “how’re the numbers?” because moreoften than not, I worked an odd schedule preventing me from ever seeing them in the flesh, so when we finally did happen to run into each other, the event felt more like an awkward reunion with someone you’d rather not carry a conversation to its fruition with.
            I was at a remodel site for a location in one of the more massive burger joint chains we serviced and did other work for. The instructions were to place the oil tanks we had installed last week onto a set of tank stands that would raise them higher off the ground by about a foot. There happened to be a miscommunication, however, as the location of said tanks had apparently changed without my knowing.
            Enter Roland (I don’t remember his last name), one of the managers, district or regional- whichever was bigger and more impressive, for the burger joint chain. He wore his hair like a gangster, like Ray Spigotta in that gangster movie from the 80’s… Swell Fellas… Good Guys… I dunno. But he looked just like him. The thing that defeated his stance, however, was quite literally his stance. Ray… I’m sorry, Roland, was about three inches shorter than me. Which was great for me because that made it a pure joy to say “no” to him, or to school him on the technical requirements of OSHA, or to illustrate to him with my words that if I positioned the tanks the way he wanted, our techs wouldn’t have any access to the tops of them, should we be required to come in for a service call.
            “We got this guy Rico, real big son of a bitch,” I said,  “huge, even. Kind of useless, actually. Not sure why they hired him. You can bet your ass that if he’s the one that gets the service call for this joint, he’d quit before climbing a ladder to the top just to climb on top of these tanks. You’re outta your mind.”
            Before Roland could keep goin’ with his demands, this other, much older guy walked in like he owned the place.
            “I’m Larry Mole,” he said, holding out his hand for me to shake, “I own the place.” 
            “I’m Dave Matthes,” I said. We shook hands. He had a good grip. Better than Roland’s.
            “So, what’s the problem here? What’s the story with these tanks?”
            “Well Larry I’ll tell ya,” I started, “I’ll install em however ya want, but I’ve just gotta go over this with ya because if I do it Roland’s way, there’s a possibility OSHA could get involved if they swing by for one their surprise inspections. See if we move the tanks horizontally, we’d have to move the grease funnel to the other side of the tanks. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the oil line would now cross over one of your drains. Now, again, I’ll put the tanks here. But god forbid there’s a leak-”
            “Why would there be a leak?” Roland asked.
            “Nothing is built to last, kid,” Larry told him, answering for me.
            “Larry’s right,” I said, “a little bit of waste oil leaking down a drain isn’t bad. But if it’s a lot, you all could be fucked.”
            They decided to go with my way. Larry Mole shook my hand, thanking me for my insight. Roland said thanks but didn’t sound sincere. In fact he looked like he hated me.

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Bangor, Pennsylvania.
People have come to this town from all walks of life. And unlike the steam-rolled fakes walking the streets of the big cities back south, Philadelphia, DC, and New York City up north, everyone here is different. It seems they have each been created uniquely, whereas people from elsewhere look so alike and behave so alike they could have been shat out of the cunt of the same goddamn woman. Everyone in Bangor, Pennsylvania is their own person wearing their own colors and walking a stride with their own special twist attached.
            Take Mary, for instance, the manager at “Flacco’s Shakes, Burgers, and Wings (BEST CRAZY FRIES IN NORTHHAMPTON COUNTY)”, only had one hand. That’s right, she was missing her left hand. She had a whole left arm, and it looked exactly like her right arm, except it ended at the wrist and rolled into two folds of skin. Damn thing looked like a sock puppet. While all the other employees screamed and shouted their orders and discontentments with life, Mary still knew how to smile. And even when I gave her the bad news that myself and another tech would have to come back with all new equipment, new oil lines, and a new oil tank, she still found a way to feel good about it.
            Outside Flacco’s the roads broke away into an offbeat array of directions and one-lane roads cutting through the small, old town. Each building was colored a darker shade of some worn-out texture rather than an actual color; bricks were missing from the corners of many of them, giving the buildings an appearance that warned of impending collapse. All the window glass was faded, some cracked, some missing entirely and covered over with dull blue and beige tarps, their corners flapping in the breeze.
            Each road was lined with one to two feet of snow, not plowed but rather pushed to the side by anyone or anything that had to get through, and the people left behind after the winter storm who couldn’t dig their cars or trucks out were forced to walk everywhere if they wanted something or had to be somewhere.
            I stood outside for a moment before climbing back into my truck. I thought maybe I should come back here. Something about the place felt comforting. Comfort food, like comfort food is to the stomach and the soul and activities like breathing and thinking and absorption. This broken town, where winter apparently comes to stay, was a nice little surprise find.
            The rest of the day was shitty, though. As I was summoned by the boss to go help out the new guy who couldn’t figure out why the customer’s fryers weren’t adding fresh oil from the tanks. When I got there, though, I spent an hour and a half confused myself. The oil in the tank looked like whipped cream, and all I could do was shrug and tell the kitchen manager the unfortunate truth.
            “I just came from a place where I had to tell them the same thing,” I said to the new guy.
            “What?”
            “That all this equipment has to be replaced.”
            “Happen a lot?”
            “No, just a shitty day I guess.”
            “Get a lot of those?”
            “In the grand scheme of things? Sure. But it’s a pretty grand scheme so there’s the offshoot of good days too.”
            “What are those like?”
            “For me? Long drives and few service calls. Cold days and no one else on the road.”
            “I hate driving.”
            “You picked the wrong job, pal.”
            “Yea, maybe. I dunno. I think my wife might hate me.”
            “What in the hell does that have to do with what we were just talking about?”
            “Well she doesn’t see me much now that I work. She says it makes her feel useless. I can’t complain. The more I’m away from her the more useful I feel, if that sounds strange. I might not like this job too much but it keeps me away from her.”
            “Sounds like you got it all figured out,” I said.
            “Yea, sometimes I think maybe I do.”
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In peeling back the skin on the monster, beneath the lizard scales she’s got perfect, silicone-free breasts, but when her mouth opens all I hear is: “NIGHTWORK”. I don’t want to like her, but I don’t want her to hate me either.

The adjustment is the real killer.

Going from a daytime routine to picking up the wrenches and climbing behind the wheel of the truck, driving into the night so you can blast some holes in walls and maybe get something done to appease the chums in charge. But that’s later, when you’re on the clock. Right now, laying in bed, it’s all about posture and how much light gets into the bedroom. How loud the shit neighbors downstairs decide to scream at and beat their shit kids. I swear she must literally strangle that little tadpole any time he gets just a little bit annoying. Usually she just blasts her music for the entire apartment building to hear and ignores her ugly little spawn.

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The landlord is supposed to be around at some unannounced time to replace the toilet and I hope it’s today so I can tell her to fuck off. Not in a rude way, but in a nice pleasant way. I’m a nice, pleasant guy, after all. I did develop some semblance of manners since my formative years. I’ll answer the door completely naked. That’ll scare her the socks off her gnarled, decomposed feet for sure. But Sarah is going to work now so who is gonna rub me down until I fall asleep (if I fall asleep)? Hank sure won’t. He’ll only scream and yell at me because he’s the one who tells me when it’s time for him to eat. Hell, maybe I’ll just put on some music. Miles Davis has a hell of a horn and it’s a swell thing to hear any time of the day.

In the mirror I can see my tired eyes, but that’s okay. I’ve got this job that pays somewhat decently, at least on the weekends. It hurts every part of my body but that’s okay too; I know a lot of people who can’t feel anything at all, or at least people who claim to (it’s a side-effect from having a silver spoon shoved up their ass their whole life). They say they’ve become numb to the world and that may be true for some of them. I don’t know for sure but I don’t think anyone is truly numb. Even dead people feel something sometimes; you can hear them in this part of town, screaming and groaning in the night. There’s a romantic quality to being stuck, I guess. To feeling like you’ve seen it all to the point that you could be stricken blind and you wouldn’t care, because you’ve seen it all. People romanticize being downtrodden and burnt up too much, being perpetually drunk and depressed and misunderstood. No matter what anyone tells ya, it’s not a pleasant experience. It hurts every day. The joints first, then the muscles, sometimes both at the same time. And then your courage is afflicted, until you look in the mirror and start to think it’s all just part of growing older. And then you’re really stuck. You’ll say you can’t live any other way, but if given the chance you would.

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The boss (my old boss, he’s been fired for over a month now, yea you got what you deserved you fucking piece of shit) says to me: “this will probably be another two-nighter,” and he says it proudly like it was his decision, or maybe he wants me to think he’s being empathetic and we share some inside joke about work pains. “You can handle it I’m sure.”

I imagine what it’s like to be him. To go home to his ugly wife (if you ever saw this guy you’d know for certain that there’s no way in hell he’s married to anyone with a membership in the upper echelon of “physically attractive”, by law, by common sense, she has to be hideous, absolutely atrocious), and she’s got a wrinkly neck and a mole on her temple the size of a quarter. He’ll climb out of his perfectly-ironed office clothes and slip into those button down matching pajamas. He probably reads before bed, using a gilded bookmark he picked up at Barnes and Noble in the stationary section. The kind with the stupid yellow tassel. He gets up in the morning at just a minute or two after six, after sleeping all the way through the night(because of the ambien, most likely), turns on his phone and sees my text: a great big cartoonish middle finger. But he just laughs because he thinks I’m kidding with him. He thinks we’re on that level. He turns to his ugly wife with the wrinkly cunt neck and oversized head mole and says: “Oh that Matthes, he’s one of the real funny ones.”

I get back to the shop after the install just as he’s pulling in and he asks me how I got so dirty. I tell him this is what happens when you really work, when you work for real and he just laughs. He asks if everything got done and I say fuck no, we’re going back tonight. It was just as he suspected: a two-nighter. He says: “I knew I picked the right man for the job.” And throws me a thumbs up.

He falls into his leather swivel desk chair and hits the ignore button on his ringing phone. He says: “They never stop calling. They call when I’m asleep sometimes, do you believe that? Don’t they have any common sense? I’m about to quit my job.”
I don’t have to hope anymore, because like I said earlier, the motherfucker was fired.

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They’re hard-pressed by their own superiors, they’ll say. And maybe they are. Maybe their hate comes from somewhere else.

My boss (the one who was fired) says: “Let me know when you’re going to work so we can document it, let me know when you want to work harder. Not a lot of the guys around here do that willingly, so we need to document it when it happens, so the higher-ups know. They need to know where their money is going.”

They need to document everything.
They didn’t agree with the bootlaces I bought the other day because they’re afraid they’ll snap too easily. Suddenly they care about my well-being because of a bootlace. That’s what it always comes down to: bootlaces, and they still haven’t ordered my new work pants. They keep saying me getting fatter around the waist isn’t their responsibility.

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The People Are Crazy, Out Here in the Dives

BENEDICTION/MALEDICTION

“Everyone
is a turd waiting to get flushed;
not everyone can be a floater,
bottom down, top up, basking under the sun.

The unfortunate truth
of this
is that we all came from some giant stinking asshole,
functioning perfectly the way every asshole should,
we were pushed from the darkness
as a baby bird is pushed from the nest,

except we will never fly.

We will never see a great
open,
blue,
beautiful sky.”

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I was born on August 22nd, 1986, during the tail end of what my mother remembers as being the hottest summer in recent memory. My mother said I slid out without a hitch. I didn’t even cry. When it came time to take me home, she said I was happiest when I was left alone, and I only showed signs of tears whenever I wasn’t left alone for too long a time.

I didn’t fall in love with the open road until late 2014, sometime in the fall when I’d just been hired at my now current job. I’d seen plenty of the road to last at least half a lifetime, particularly with the drive I took across the country out to Sedona, Arizona to ferry my then spiritually marooned and societally impaled mother to her new hopeful place of habitat and patch of grass (or in this case sand) on which she would write her life’s epilogue. But that’s a story for another day.

From sometime in 2012 to the fall of 2014 I’d been experiencing a lull in work. After being fired from my overnight baking job, I tried everything I could find just to make a buck, all while attempting to keep the flow of words onto the blank page. I lived with various people. Couches, beds, attics, occasionally women. And then it happened. I met Sarah. Somewhere along the way she harnessed the info I’d been waiting for. This job, while paying a measly $16.50 an hour to start, was the highest paying job I’d ever had. It was described to me as simple: drive from restaurant to restaurant answering service calls for the bulk cooking oil filtering and recycling system the company had designed and implemented on fryers all around the country. Real high tech stuff that it wouldn’t be a stretch to say not a fucking soul has ever heard of. I was assigned to the Philadelphia Depot, which covers the eastern half of Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey, all of Delaware, and a few corners of sloppy, swampy Hell in Maryland. I took the job, saying I had experience with tools but it’d been a while. I’d turned a few wrenches in my day but mostly I’d done everything else. My interviewer assured me that training would be aplenty, and that he was sure that if I knew how to turn a wrench at all, I could figure out any of the hundreds of problems we get calls about each day.

My first assignment was to help out on an install up at Blue Mountain, one of the ski resorts where there was remodel construction going on. I was sent just to assist, to see how the install process went down, and to run to grab tools the already seasoned techs would need. The GPS routed me there, saying it would take around three hours, maybe more with current traffic and weather conditions.

And then it happened.
I’ll never forget it.
The sun was just beginning to set. The highway stretched out in front of me. Those little yellow strips of paint on the road to divide each lane looked bored, but to me, they were new friends. And as the engine of the boxtruck came to life and I accelerated and gained speed along the top of the concrete, I met them all dozens a second at a time. The trees on either side of the road tried to keep up, they all wanted to meet me. Even the barriers on the sides of the highway, the dents and the mangled metal from constant accidents, cars and trucks smashing into them like meteors, the brains and the blood and the bones and the insides of mindless drivers staining their concrete skin… they all welcomed me to the flight. I was 28, so of course I’d seen the highway, I’d seen a great deal of what the road had to offer, but something was different about that night. I don’t want to use the word “rebirth”- I know that in writing this there will already come with it a certain overflow of unavoidable pretentiousness- but there was in fact something very spiritual about merging onto that highway for the first time, the first job assignment. I was getting paid to press down on the gas pedal. I was getting paid to meditate, one hand on the top of the wheel, the other wherever it wanted to be.

This November, I’ll have held this job for five years. I make an okay amount regularly during the week, and two dollars an hour extra on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. I know a thousand times more about the job than I did five years ago, and they’ve made me the lead tech and lead installer on many of the projects during the last two years. And still, no woman, no anything or anyone has ever felt as warm, as inviting as that moment when I first merge onto the road. The suspension in the work truck bounces and bumps as though any tiny, uneven surface might destroy the whole undercarriage. But I love it all. I hit a pothole and it could be a woman telling me I bought the wrong toilet paper. I spill a little gasoline on the toe of my boot, and it could be the radio going static during one of my favorite songs. I pull over on the side of some desolate highway winding along a mountainside and…
…there is nothing quite like it.

There is no god that can’t be explained away or disproven by science or experience, but this experience I have, this emotion that comes with knowing I’m in motion, rubber tires on concrete pavement or dirt or rubble or mud or wooden single-lane bridges… I can’t explain it.

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At just after dawn they come out, sometimes before. They open their little eyes and moisten those retinas with those eye drops that make everything look cloudy and obscure. And then they get into their cars and let their left arms hang out the window. They snarl and blow smoke from their noses, they press down hard on the gas and run over children if they get in their way. The people of the morning are not human, they are barely even alive, but somehow they breathe life onto the road like virus cells parading through arteries. They have horns by noon, and by three o’clock they have a political agenda that has very little to do with peace and harmony. By dinner time, they’ll have reached into the cunts of all the pregnant women at the nearest grocery store, pulled out the unborn corpse, and have gotten home just in time to toss it into a boiling pot of oil and seasoning before it spoils. They use paprika, but they also squeeze in some cumin, and the whole damn house smells like a rehab lodge in the middle of a forest. And when they take that first bite, the juices roll down their chins and they catch it in little mason jars. Tomorrow, they’ll use the juices as a base for their midweek stew, and everyone will wonder how he got it to taste so good.

At five a.m. my eye sockets feel like hollowed-out glass cornucopias that could collapse on themselves at less than a moment’s notice. I feel bad for the tiny capillaries and the pupils and the retinas that all have to work so hard, harder than most of the rest of me. I can feel their emotions, and their need to be shut off from the world, but then I tell them: “one day, those eyelids you love so much are going to come down and there won’t be a single science in the whole world that can make them lift back up again”. And so my eyes reluctantly stay open and let all the repugnant light in.

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