Readings: A Guide

By | March 26, 2014 | 3 Comments

empty roomSo, as mentioned in my other post, I did a reading the other night at KGB Bar in New York. Great bar, great venue, and the event was run very well by local MWA honcho Richie Narvaez. I’d rate my performance an “A” for the evening, because I was reasonably well-practiced, excited, and articulate, and I think I chose my material well (a chapter from Chum). My reading performances are generally all over the place; I’ve stammered and stumbled through them, and I’ve rocked them. This was one of the Rocked ones.

Still, readings are awful, aren’t they?

Writers are interior people, as a rule. That doesn’t mean we’re socially inept or incapable, it just means that we tend to be people who like to sit and tinker with words and get them right, and public performance as a rule isn’t our specialty. Some of us are better than others, of course, and you can learn a bit about public speaking to get better at it. Few of us do. IN fact, it’s rare that I’ve ever seen authors – even fairly successful ones – bring more than a few intimates to a venue.

So here’s a typical author performance at a reading: Head down, staring at a sheaf of papers. Reading in a monotone with very little inflection or variety. Stumbling over the occasional word, speaking too quickly, and diving in media res into a work – published or not – with insufficient back story for people unfamiliar with your work. In other words, who in their right minds thinks this is entertaining?

There are ways. Here’s my quick Idiot’s Guide to Readings, for both the idiots who attend them expecting entertainment and the idiots (like me!) who give them, expecting to sell books.

THE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO READINGS
  1. BE DRUNK. This goes for both audience and reader. Holding literary events in bars is the best idea anyone will ever have, and both audience and performing monkey should definitely get drunk. If the reading ends with everyone singing along to The Leaving of Liverpool then you have won.
  2. PRINT IT OUT. The moment I see a nervous author cracking open their own paperback, a part of me dies. The paperback is a great tool for reading on a train, and a terrible one for reading at a reading. Print that sucker out. A Kindle or similar device is okay as well – but isolate the section you’re reading, and
  3. EDIT. I don’t care if you revised that section 1,057 times already. Read it out loud a few times and edit – remove things that don’t sound well spoken, and make sure it flows as a performed piece. No one will ever notice, or care, that you edited it from the published version unless you are famous and studied, in which case you are not giving a reading at a bar in Brooklyn on a Wednesday night.
  4. PRACTICE. Sweet lord, if I have to hear another author stumble over their own damn words I will set the place on fire with my mind bullets, I swear. Once you’ve chosen your reading material, read it out loud at least three or four times. And, see #3 and edit any areas that don’t lend themselves to your velvety voice.
  5. KISS. Keep It Short, Stupid. Five minutes is an eternity for people listening to you monotone your way through a short story. Ten minutes is the absolute high end. Get in, get out, keep drinking.
  6. EXPECT NOTHING. As an audience member, don’t expect your author friend to have any performance skills. Laugh at their lame jokes and stroke their egos a bit – unless you want to see a grown adult cry.
  7. AT LEAST PRETEND TO BUY A BOOK. Sometimes there are books for sale at the reading – the least you can do is feint at one, then realize you forgot your wallet. If you can’t even pretend to buy a book, fuck you.
  8. DON’T HECKLE. One downside to reading in bars is the drunken heckling you get from people pissed off that they can’t play 27 Rush songs in a row while getting shitfaced. Don’t do this, authors will burst into penniless tears at the drop of a hat. Although -
  9. IF YOU ARE HECKLED, HECKLE BACK. If you get some lout calling you names, stop reading and lace into them. Ignoring them won’t work. Get the crowd behind you. If that doesn’t work, smash a small bottle of gasoline on the floor and toss a match, shrieking expletives.
  10. IDENTIFY YOURSELF. You’re not humiliating yourself in public for fun. Show the cover of one of your books, state your name and the title, and urge people to buy a copy or at least visit your web site. If you don’t do this you are basically the same as homeless people who recite the bible in the street.

There.

The Inner Swine Guide to Ignorance

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments
Brutarian Quarterly #46

Brutarian Quarterly #46

(This originally appeared in Brutarian Quarterly #46 (2006); for a while I wrote a column there about ignorance in general and my ignorance in specific. It was a lot of fun and I figure I’ll post them here now and again.)

Episode One: JUST PEANUTS TO SPACE

FOLKS, this is the tale of truly breathtaking ignorance. My ignorance. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Jeff, how can a hip zine publisher around whom at least four known cargo cults have formed be ignorant? The answer, friends, is simple: I simply haven’t been paying attention.

People have tried to educate me. They’ve tried to inform me. Wise men and women have occasionally taken me aside and tried to impart some wisdom to me. Failing that, they’ve tried to beat some sense into me. In each case, I have nodded politely and placed a serious, dour expression my face[1], thanked them for their interest, and forgotten whatever it was they had to say within moments of skipping away, probably in search of beer. Time after time, my would-be educators have failed, leaving me just as dull and ignorant as ever; perhaps more so, depending on the quality of their company and how dubious their wisdom was.

The great thing about modern society—or at least modern American society, which is the only society I am even slightly qualified to comment on—is that it is designed to be more or less idiot-proof. Ignorance will not kill you, usually, in modern day America, which staves off the claws of evolution long enough for someone like me to mature into an adult and wreak havoc. In prior eras, I would have been killed and consumed by wild animals within years of my birth, most probably running towards the killer beasts with a smile on my face, completely ignorant of the potential dangers. Thanks to society having formed around me like a protective chrysalis, however, I remain alive, despite knowing virtually nothing worth knowing.

Too many writers and columnists use their soapbox to try and look smart. It’s easy, after all; you can do research and feign all sorts of knowledge[2]. I could have made the subject of this column String Theory, and spent a few months reading up on it—or, to be honest, a few hours cutting and pasting from web pages—and made it seem that I was knowledgeable and well-read. It’s entirely possible that every columnist and writer in the world is a moron like me, faking it. So I have come to a decision: This column will be about ignorance. I will be unflinching in my exploration of my own stupidity. I will be the one columnist in the world who flaunts his ignorance, who says, “Yes! I am sadly uninformed, frequently drunk, and often at a loss as to the location of my pants!”[3]

First, I think it’s important to take a quick tour of the knowledge I do possess, so we can dispose of the subject and get on with the major work of covering everything I don’t know.

JEFF’S KNOWLEDGE
  • How much liquor I can drink on an empty stomach without throwing up.
  • Approximately twelve guitar chords.
  • One chess opening.
  • Enough French to mispronounce about six sentences.
  • Every lyric to every Iron Maiden and AC/DC song ever.[4]

And that’s about it. Not very impressive, you’ll agree, and not very useful—is it any wonder I drink myself senseless every night? It’s the shame, I tell you.[5]

How did this happen? I had a decent education.[6] I had caring teachers who sometimes noticed me sitting there with the vaguely anxious expression I am known for on my face and tried to inflict knowledge on me. The schools I attended had good facilities and valued academic performance. My parents, beleaguered as they were by my tendency to get trapped down wells and lured away by strangers on the street offering to sign me to multiyear recording contracts, encouraged me—indeed, my brother Yan[7] is so smart he is often impossible to talk to, his vocabulary apparently including several words that won’t be invented for years.[8] So how did I manage to squeak into adulthood with a working knowledge of almost nothing except several elaborate and detailed imaginary worlds, of which I am invariably king?

The simple answer is, we live in a world where you pretty much don’t need to know anything. Or at least a world where middle-class people in first-world countries don’t need to know anything. There was probably a time where a lack of knowledge—whether of your environs, your past, or your neighbors—resulted in your immediate painful death, but those times are gone, at least for people like me living in New Jersey in 2005. You simply don’t need to know anything in order to survive—all the sharp edges and pointy things have been covered up by a thick protective layer of government and social services.[9] You can easily coast from birth to natural death in this world with nothing more than basic speech skills and a winning smile. And I sure do have a winning smile.

However it happened, here I am, fully grown and suddenly vaguely alarmed at the whistling emptiness in my data banks. I can do one of two things in response to this epiphany. One, I could attempt to educate myself and pull myself out of this chasm of darkness. Two, I could wallow in my ignorance for the entertainment value my dimwitted adventures afford you, the good people of The Earth. I believe this is really not a choice at all, that the only possible way forward is the latter, because the Universe is just too big.

I’ll never be able to learn about everything there is in the universe. I’ll never even manage to learn about everything in the universe that my fellow men—brighter and more energetic than me—have cataloged and explored, which is a deplorably small data set in itself. As the saying goes, the universe is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.[10] There might have been a time in history when a man might aspire to being a Renaissance Man, back when the list of human knowledge was much smaller and simply being able to perform simple algebraic equations made you a mathematical genius—but those days, sadly, have passed[11], and I for one barely passed pre-calculus in high school, so no Nobel Prizes in mathematics for me.[12] Since any feeble attempt by me to learn about it is doomed from the start, I have no choice but to choose the road more traveled, and simply try to eke out some minor entertainment value from my ignorance, which I will do here in this space. Since I can throw a dart at any encyclopedia and hit something I know nothing about, I shouldn’t lack for material.

Until next time then, consider your own ignorance—the things you use every day whose inner workings, origin, and manufacture are complete mysteries to you, the places and people in the world whose motives, language, and bizarre appearance fill you with worry and dismay, the mystery of where the food you’re eating actually comes from and what has to happen to it before you can pop it in your mouth and hum in satisfaction. Then, come back to read my next column, and I’ll dance for you. . .even though you can’t really see me dancing.

————————————————————————

FOOTNOTES

[1] Actually the same expression I use for pants-wetting fear, which gets me into no end of trouble.

[2] I do this every day. It’s how I’ve remained employed for more than a decade.

[3] This is an overused in-joke from my zine. It will be over-used here as well, until you decide it’s funny from sheer  insane repetition. I am a genius.

[4] This means I also know the lyrics to every Hayseed Dixie song ever, as well. 

[5] And, of course, the shakes.

[6] Including daily beatings by Jesuit priests in high school.

[7] Not his real name. People always get upset when I use their real names in my writing, so I make up ridiculous ones like “Yan” instead.

[8] It’s possible that this should really read “words that I won’t learn for years” but determining whether words actually  exist or not would require soul-numbing research, so let’s assume Yan is using words he learns when he time-travels to  the future and then back again.

[9] Unless, of course, a Hurricane hits your city, in which case you are fucked.

[10] Stolen shamelessly from Douglas Adams, of course, who sadly is no longer in any position to challenge me.

[11] Unless you live in Kansas, in which case just knowing that something called algebra exists makes you a Super Genius.

[12] My ignorance is so deep I am not even sure if there is actually a Nobel Prize in “mathematics” or if it goes under  some other name, perhaps “Nobel Prize in Numerology” or “Nobel Prize in Rain Manology” or something. I could go to the library. . .so far away. . .or type something into Google and check. . .so sleepy. . .

The Poet Laureate of Hoboken

By | March 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Here’s something I stumbled across, written probably more than ten years ago. AND STILL HILARIOUS.

Dear People of Hoboken,

jeffsezAs one of Hoboken’s literati, I have been scanning the pages of the local papers for my name on what can only be described as an obsessive basis ever since an interview with me appeared in the local newspaper, the “Current” last March. Unfortunately, there have been no other mentions of me since then. This distresses me. Although I am sure the local Hoboken papers are not causing me this distress on purpose, it remains a fact that the Hoboken free press teased me with a week of interest in my existence and then, just when I thought they were serious, dropped me like a hot potato for the next “flavor of the week“. I think you people owe me something, especially when you consider how much money I spend in the local bars, which is a lot, unless I can convince someone else to buy me drinks. Which isn’t easy when your face isn’t on the front page of the local newspapers, dig? So we come back to the central point: how can the Good People of Hoboken help a guy out and get him some free cocktails?

I have also noted, in a not-totally-unrelated-although-it-might-seem-so-at-first matter, that Hoboken does not seem to have a Poet Laureate. This really stuns me, as most class-act municipalities and nations have one. I had to go look up who the Poet Laureate of the United States is, and it’s Billy Collins, which is startling because, when you think about it, everyone’s first reaction to that is probably “Who in the world is Billy Collins?” No relation to Phil Collins, Billy, according to the Library of Congress’ web site, “…is Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past 30 years. He is also a writer-in-residence at Sarah Lawrence College and served as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library.” Which basically translates to: A man who has not left a college campus in almost his entire life, and probably has forgotten what other human beings look like. Likely Mr. Collins peers out from his darkened lair with his fishbelly pale eyes stinging from the direct sunlight, and then he composes haunting poetry about how he hates all the Normals who mock his Phantom of the College existence, which he then mails off to the President. Who doesn’t read them, because our President can’t read.

Which brings me back to my point: I would like to be named Poet Laureate of Hoboken. There are many reasons for this. One, I would be a lot more charismatic and interesting to talk to (especially over a few gratis rounds of Killian’s Irish Red at, say, Stinky Sullivans, on you) than a freakish shadow-monster like Billy Collins. Two, I live in Hoboken and am the first person, apparently, to think of the idea. Three, I have crippling bar debts that threaten to force me into sobriety, and I could really use some sort of stipend from the government. Four, I think it would be very cool if I could introduce myself at parties by whipping out a striking business card that read, simply, JEFF SOMERS, POET LAUREATE OF HOBOKEN. Finally, I have actually written poetry, and while none of it specifically mentions Hoboken, quite a few deal with the horrors of hangovers, and that could arguably be symbolic of Hoboken. Here’s a sample Haiku:

“A DTs morning,

rats in red smoking jackets!

why do you mock me?”

I would appreciate the Good People of Hoboken‘s help in bringing the “Somers for Poet Laureate” movement to the attention of our mayor, whoever that is, and the other illuminati who run this city. It’s the least you can do after I helped you sell all those papers back in March 2001 without so much as a thank you.

Categories: Bullshit

MWA @ KGB

By | March 19, 2014 | 0 Comments
BUY ME

BUY ME

So, last night I read at the KGB Bar in NYC as part of the MWA Reading Series. Organized and hosted by the great Richie Narvaez, this was a blast. All readings should be held in bars because this allows me to get drunk in a socially acceptable way as opposed to my typical socially unacceptable ways. It’s better for all involved, believe me.

Here are some awful, terrible photos of the event I took. I mean, awful. I obviously have no idea how to use modern technology and may be some sort of time traveler from the 19th Century pretending to be a modern man in service of some evil witchcraft, based on the these photos. I mean, have I ever even seen a camera before? Doubtful.

Here’s the Rogue’s Gallery:

Scott Adlerberg kicked us off with a work in progress, which takes balls – but he rocked it.

Scott Adlerberg

My wife was super excited to see Kimberly McCreight read:

Kimberly McCreight

Next up, Anthony Rainone:

Anthony Rainone

There was a short break during which I attempted to drink five shots of whiskey and wound up, as usual, pantsless in the bathroom. The Duchess and my Fearless Agent had to pull me together, dumps a bucket of cold water on me, and walk me back to the bar in time to see the great Alex Segura read:

Alex Segura

Then it was my turn. I read a chapter from CHUM. I took a photo of the crowd at KGB so I would remember where I was last night:

crowd

And, last but certainly not least, Albert Tucher read from one of his Diana Andrews stories:

Albert Tucher

A good time. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Formality and Haircuts

By | March 13, 2014 | 2 Comments
TWO BITS ... Get it?

TWO BITS … Get it?

So, today I had a religious experience: I got my hair cut without once speaking to the barber aside from my initial instructions and the final, murmured approval. In the words of Ice Cube, today was a good day. I went in with enough hair to stuff a pillow (out of laziness; over the summer between High School and Freshman Year of college I let my hair grow and then didn’t get it cut until the next year, and all I can say about having hair that long is never again) and came out looking like Don Draper, if you squint. And ignore the sallow jaundice of a boozehound and the physical fitness of Bluto from Popeye fame. Or Bluto from Animal House, either works.

Sitting there in blessed silence, I was able to contemplate the barber experience and the unnecessary formality forced on us. When I was a kid, there was one thing you did at the barber’s – got your damn hair cut. Later it dawned on me that you could also get a shave, which involved hot lather and a straight razor, so no thank you, psychopath. Now I know there are a lot of intricate things that go on at the barber shop. Shampooing. Neck scrapes. All sorts of fancy hair styling. And the slightly creepy hot towel and shoulder massage they always give you – again, no thank you, psychopath.

Of course, I’ve always been afraid of and intimidated by formality. When The Duchess and I first started dating she insisted we eat at real, actual restaurants. Places that had wine lists. I almost shit my pants, and entered the first few terrified that I would do something to mark me as a Jersey City Rube and be laughed out of the place. This was reinforced on our honeymoon when we entered a fancy restaurant and I was wearing shorts – this was Hawaii, people – and the hostess nearly had a stroke. After a hushed consultation with others she allowed us to be seated, but insisted I drape a napkin decorously over my hideous bare legs.

That didn’t help me get comfortable with formality.

Slowly, I’ve learned to not care so much. Luckily we live in informal times, and luckily most places are much more concerned with your ability to pay the bill after four bottles of wine and six generous whiskies. This is good, because I get itchy in formal wear. Suits never feel right on me, even when tailored. I still don’t know how to properly tie a necktie – no, seriously, I just make up a knot. Who has time for these things? I once started to read an essay on how to choose a suit and almost made it through the second paragraph, which discussed something about the width of the lapel in relation to … oh my god, who cares, you psychopath?!?

I’m a person who is exhausted at the end of every episode of Downton Abbey because of the formal clothing rules those people followed. Sweet Jebus.

So, the barber. I could get all sorts of grooming tasks done there and emerge the best version of myself – well, the best version of myself at this dilapidated age, that is. But who has time for shit like that? Not to mention the opportunity for conversation that sort of lingering would open up. If I never have another conversation with a barber about how I work from home and can get my hair cut any time I want, it will be fine by me.

FERAL 1970s CHILDREN BURN JERSEY CITY TO THE GROUND

By | March 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 17, Issue 1/2, Summer 2011.

Growing Up Somewhat Unsupervised
by Jeff Somers

IN 2008, newspaper columnist Lenore Skenazy wrote a column about letting her nine-year old son take the New York City Subway alone, without an adult. I don’t recall the details—where the damn kid was going—and can’t be bothered to research them. I do recall that it was a bit of a kerfluffle, because apparently in this sad modern age that’s insane, because as we all know the streets of New York (any major city, really) are lined with perverts and slave traders looking to either sell your child to Africa or engage in some CSI-style murderin’ with them.

This has since evolved into a ‘movement’ called Free Range Kids, which advocates letting kids organize their own free time and minimizing parental supervision and intervention in their lives. The idea being that this will cause kids to grow up super self-reliant and confident. Assuming they are not murdered or sold into slavery, of course. Although I’d like to imagine that some of the kids sold into slavery emerge years later as criminal masterminds on par with Keyser Soze or as Black Pirate Roberts types, hijacking cargo ships off the coast of Somalia.

I don’t have kids, and I don’t presume to tell parents how to raise their children. If you think your kid needs to be supervised constantly and should never be allowed to be alone, even in the bathroom, even while they sleep, until they’re approximately 24 years old, that’s fine. I have nothing to say, and heck, maybe you’re right. Maybe this kind of supervision will make your kid feel loved and safe and ensure they survive to the age of 24 without being, you know, murdered or kidnapped. Who knows? On the other hand, Free Ranging it feels better to me, because it’s closer to my own childhood.

(more…)

Saturday is Guitar Day

By | March 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Epiphone Les Paul CustomThere are things in this life which make no sense: The Designated Hitter. The Bachelor. How I am not a millionaire many times over. And, of course, the greatest mystery of them all: Why I insist on not only recording my ‘songs’ but on posting them here. Let me know when you figure it out.

Here, songs:

Song619
Song620
Song621
Song622
Song623
Song627
Song629
Song630
Song632

There: Congratulations on another job … done.

The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

Categories: Bullshit, gee-tar

House of Cards and the Shakespeare Fakeout

By | February 25, 2014 | 0 Comments
Indeed.

Indeed.

Okey – I like House of Cards, largely because Kevin Spacey’s facial expressions in this NetFlix original are fucking-A priceless. The show itself is fucking-A ridiculous, and suffers from one fatal flaw that makes it almost – almost – an effort to watch. That flaw is simple: Frank never loses. Not only does he never lose, he never convincingly doubts the outcome, ever. Oh, the script pays homage to doubt. It walks doubt through a warm room and buys it a few drinks, flirting, but it never takes doubt home. Spacey’s performance, even when he’s reacting in rage or doubt, always hints that it’s just for show. And the writers always offer up a solution right away – a solution that is always exactly right.

So, you can be entertained by a show like that, but never really affected by it. Frank is a monster, and he always wins. If the final episode of this show in 2033 or whatever shows Frank in an old-age home, hallucinating that he once became President of the United States, that would not surprise me.

Richard the IV

Much has been made of House of Cards and its relationship to Shakespeare, notably its use of the aside as a narrative device and the parallels between several plays, such as Richard III, Macbeth, and Othello. The problem with these discussions is the fact that the plays being cited were tragedies, and while the protagonists did terrible things and often did so with black wit and a saucy lack of guilt, they generally could be said to have suffered for their hubris and power grabs.

Frank Underwood doesn’t suffer much. Now, maybe the next season will be all about Frank’s fall into disgrace and punishment (Ed: LORD I HOPE SO) but so far Frank is simply the smartest man in the room, and his mean-spirited and largely joyless attitude is justified by the fact that his superpower is always being right and never losing. He may be the least Shakespearean character in the modern tradition of using Shakespeare to imbue your characters with classic weight and gravitas.

No Scrubs

And that’s the problem. Frank’s relentless success is fucking boring. The cycle the show goes through roughly every forty minutes is this:

  1. Frank reveals sick, twisted plan to manipulate the shit out of everyone. Sneers at camera.
  2. Unbelievably complex plan that relies on people doing the stupidest thing possible because Frank planted a hint in their ear about it five minutes of screen time previously succeeds completely.
  3. Frank sneers at camera.

The details of the insane scheme are often entertaining, and Spacey is basically having the time of his life playing this character – it’s like going to the Zoo at feeding time to watch some lions devour raw meat in their enclosure. But there are no stakes. Because Frank is going to win, and you know that going in.

Now, plenty of shows require their protagonist to always win – because in TV land we must always have a main character to hang the next season of the show around. So, no points off for Frank actually always winning – but a setback would be nice. A believable threat. Maybe a solid half hour of screen time when it actually seems like Frank might be in actual, real trouble? And then some clever writing. That last bit is the tricky part.

Because, House of Cards is okay at a lot of things. Dialogue. Kevin Spacey Bitchface. Painting everyone in the universe as a sexual pervert and potential serial killer. One thing it is not okay at is plot. It treats plots like a box of feral cats it found on the street which keeps scratching its arms and puking on its feet. Everyone does what Frank wants because it’s the only way the writers on this show can think to keep the plot moving.

In the end, it doesn’t matter: The purpose of the show is to get you to pay Netflix $8 a month, and as far as that goes it works just fine. And there’s always the possibility that in Season 3, Frank will go full on Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone on us, having a threesome with his wife, his secret service agent, and the dead dog from Chapter 1 while he gleefully pounds the LAUNCH button, staring unblinkingly into the camera.

I’d pay to see that.

 

The Disappeared

By | February 19, 2014 | 1 Comments
Your Face Here, Probably

Your Face Here, Probably

As a writer, I have a serious problem: I have the memory of brain-damaged potato.

This manifests in a variety of different ways. Have I walked out of the house without keys, wallet, or identification? Of course I have, and the end result is me on several Terror Watch Lists. Have I promised my wife The Duchess I would perform certain chores for her during the day without fail and then totally failed to even momentarily think about them? Yes, I have, and have the literal scars to show for it. Have I forgotten appointments, commitments, occasionally to show up to jobs?

Yup.

But worst of all, worst by far is the simple fact that I forget my own life. I forget things I’ve done, places I’ve been, and people I’ve known. I literally forget people so thoroughly I sometimes can’t even remember them when I reminded. Based on a recent experience, let’s call this the LinkedIn Rabbit Hole Hell.

The LinkedIn Rabbit Hole Hell

A few years ago when I lost a job I joined LinkedIn, like everyone who loses a job does. In fact, the moment someone shows up on LinkedIn you can assume they have lost a job, hate their job, or suspect they will lose/hate their jobs very soon. It’s kind of amusing, when you yourself aren’t looking for a job, to see everyone wash up on LinkedIn’s shores like unemployed cosmic flotsam, furiously network for a few months, and then suddenly disappear once they’re employed again and all this networking rubbish is too much work again.

So, the other day I was “invited” to link in with a former co-worker. Since I do nothing with LinkedIn these days, I have applied my usual policy when it comes to social networks, which is to say I accept every invitation and request sent my way. Why not? I never go to LinkedIn and rarely read my Facebook Wall, so what the hell do I care if I have 200 friends I couldn’t pick out of a police lineup?

Anyways, this person I did actually remember and while we were far from friends, I popped over to LinkedIn to accept their invite and promptly fell down the Rabbit Hole of LinkedIn’s algorithms, as it reminded me of a million people I used to work with. Including one name that didn’t ring a bell. But the dates matched up: I had once worked with this person for a year in an office of five people.

I had zero memory of them.

None. Nada. Bupkus. I have every email I’ve ever sent or received since 1996, and I have emails from and to this person. We interacted on the physical plane. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about them. I have no visual memory of them, or any other memory.

It’s fucking creepy, sometimes.

Writer Skills: Activate!

For my writing career, there are two possibilities here. On the one hand, my terrible memory might be a super power, as it forces me to invent details constantly, keeping my alcohol-softened brain functioning and limber. On the other, having zero memory of things and people might mean I’m missing out on formative memories that I could be using to create my prose. Obviously I prefer to imagine the former.

Or maybe it has no effect at all. And it’s not like I don’t remember everyone: I can remember and reliably (I think) picture friends and teachers from Grammar School. But there are these oddball holes. Maybe they’re just folks who didn’t make much of an impression on me (in fact, it generally is these folks) but it’s still disconcerting. I lived those moments. I earned those memories. And I’ve been robbed.

Kiss Them for Me

By | February 15, 2014 | 0 Comments
This story originally appeared in “Bare Bone #3″ edited by Kevin L. Donihe, in 2000.

“They want you to tuck them in. Read a story.”

I tried not to flinch. I swallowed the last of my drink and stood up, wobbling a little.

“Okay.”

Her eyes were on me, disapproving.

“Jesus, Hal, you know I don’t like you drunk around the boys.”

I nodded, my fists clenched. I couldn’t turn to face her. “I know. Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.”

After a few moments of silence, I made myself start walking, through the living room, down the hall to the boys’ room–decorated just five years before with such love and hope. I’d painted the walls and varnished the cribs myself. I didn’t understand how it was that I’d been rewarded with children like these. Now I pushed the door inward reluctantly. Stood framed in the light of the hall for a moment, hearing their little bodies squirming around.

“Daddy’s come,” one of them whispered.

“Under the covers.” I croaked.

I could hear compliance. They were obedient children.

“Daddy’s drunk again,” the other whispered.

Shuffling into the cool, dark room, I was suddenly aware of my liquor fumes, my unshaven beard, the stink of another day on me. Unlocking my fists, I went to one bed, leaned down, and brushed my dry lips against a smooth, calm forehead.
“Good night. Sleep tight.” I cawed into the dark, a rough whisper.

“Good night, Daddy.” came the tiny boy’s voice, followed by giggles. I shivered, but forced myself to turn and leaned down to my other son. I pushed my whiskers into another small cheek, and more soft giggles appeared in the hidden air.

“Daddy,” the second small voice drifted up, hot and close to my ear. “I’m going to kill you, when I get big enough.”

(more…)

Categories: Free Short Stories

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