Tag Archives: prose

Underneath the Hedges

Hakk-Saul sat down on the bench to tie his shoes.  His throat was sore from a fit of screaming that took place on the drive down to the stadium.  Ordinarily, he went to home games by himself because he liked to clear his head while driving (and listen to music he wasn’t ready to let anyone know he liked).  Today was different; Hakk-Saul did a favor for the defensive coach and gave the team photographer a ride.  There were car troubles and the photographer was on the way.

Hakk-Saul took the usual route of surface streets, an access road, and more surface streets.  Afternoon traffic was beginning to bulge but he was used to it and wasn’t bothered by waiting.  He wasn’t bothered at all until the pine green bread cart of a car sped in front of him and into the turning lane where he was already queuing.  The head coach had been urging Hakk-Saul for half the season to let the anger flow, to let all the rage gush out like lava from an erupted volcano, and to burn everything in its path — he had to protect the quarterback.  Hakk-Saul didn’t like summoning that kind of energy because it seemed insincere.  Besides, he’d forgotten how it felt to be angry.

Seeing that green car behaving in such a ludicrous manner bit into Hakk-Saul’s psyche, though.  There was no room for him to follow the four cars who’d turned before him and yet here was this idiot zipping by as if it was going to make traffic move any faster.  Hakk-Saul waited twenty seconds before turning onto the on-ramp, occupying the space to the right of the green car.  At that point, he’d forgotten the photographer was in the back seat.  Hakk-Saul’s attention was focused solely on that idiot car.  He turned and stared into the childish, grinning face of its passenger and merged into the ramp behind it.

Creeping down the on-ramp half a car-length every couple of minutes, Hakk-Saul changed the music from progressive house to melodies with vocal screeching, heavy percussion, and shrieking guitars.  With dark brown sunglasses resting on his sweaty face, Hakk-Saul glared into the green car’s side mirrors.  He dropped his lower jaw like a draw bridge, bared his teeth, and growled.  In a matter of seconds, his raspy exhalations became a crescendo of an unholy, guttural orchestra.

His hands shook, his face trembled, his heart rate spiked and for the next quarter of a mile, Hakk-Saul thought of nothing but ramming into that car, its occupants tossed around like fish by giants, heads crashing into stone, faces lacerated by cenobites, and limbs torn asunder by enormous spider crabs.  All the while, the photographer was sitting in the back as still and quiet as paint drying on a wall, neither seen nor heard…just barely smelled.

Hakk-Saul’s fury passed on through a few minutes later and he felt calm.  He was still sweaty and annoyed, but all the destructive imagery in his mind’s eye had faded.  He changed lanes as quickly as he could and shot past that green fool at the first opportunity.  And then he shifted his mind onto the team he’d be playing against as well as whether or not he’d be able to tap into that slide-show of physiological combustion when it mattered.

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Today’s post was inspired by true events.

Horse Meat Owens

They called him Horse Meat Owens because when he was a few hits away from knocking out his opponent, his eyes would bulge and his lips would draw back like a frightened horse.  His muscles would tense and blood vessels would rise like ropes underneath his skin.  When Horse Meat Owens came at you with his match-ending fists, you’d best drop before he could hit you.

Not because you wouldn’t be able to get back up or that it would hurt a lot…it’s just that sometimes he didn’t know when to stop.  His body knew the fight was over but his brain wasn’t satiated.  If he was having a bad week, Horse Meat Owens would pound your face in so hard and so fast, you’d be lucky to have a structurally sound nose before the referee could pull him away.

It was just last night that Horse Meat Owens’s opponent didn’t fall quickly enough.  Had he preemptively hit the floor of the ring, his chances at keeping a pretty face would’ve been quite high.  Horse Meat Owens didn’t like to beat excessively guys that knew when to surrender.  If he had been in the military, he would take a peaceful surrender.  Some believe there is no honor in it, but Horse Meat Owens saw no point in wasting bullets or life or limb on principle.  By the time he was done bashing in Hamstring Greyz’s face, there was hardly a nose left to reconstruct.

The referee and the trainers for both fighters pulled Horse Meat Owens off of Hamstring Greyz.  I watched all of it happen from a slit beneath the announcers’ booth.  The scent of sweat, musk, and iron wafted through the air like a misted air freshener.  I didn’t like what I was seeing but I couldn’t stop watching.  There was such determination in the downward whooshing of his gloves — in a different context, he could have been chopping firewood or demolishing drywall.

I was supposed to interview Horse Meat Owens before the match during the press conference but my iguana wouldn’t eat her dinner and then wouldn’t get back into her enclosure so I had to pick her up (which meant two scrapes to my hand that had to be disinfected).  By the time I got to the coliseum, the press conference was over and I found myself underneath the announcers’ booth.

I am not discounting the talents and skills required to be an effective boxer, but where does the inspiration come from?  What reservoir of rage must exist to guide the movements and focus of a successful boxer?  Horse Meat Owens has been on the amateur circuit for just under three years and he hasn’t lost once.  Who pissed him off in a past life that could sustain that kind of intense energy?

And can he teach me how to wield mine?

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The above is entirely fictional.  I felt like writing and the name “Horse Meat Owens” came to me.

The Last Word

Today was Marguerite’s 37th birthday.  She celebrated it alone at the Friar Rose cafe as she’d done each of the last six years.  Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” was playing over the speakers when she paid for her almond latte and blueberry muffin.  It was fitting, bittersweet to hear her first love’s young adult anthem at that moment.  It was ten years ago to the day, New Year’s Eve, that Marguerite had asked Catalina to marry her at the cafe — Catalina said no.

The law was on their side, their families were supportive, their friends ecstatic, but Catalina had never been one for meeting externally suggested expectations.  If Marguerite had waited one more day, Catalina would have proposed.  This contrary characteristic initially attracted Marguerite to her.  Catalina’s family thought she would go to university and study chemistry; instead, Catalina went to university and majored in comparative religion.

Marguerite spent most of her life surrounded by unwavering rule-followers no matter the irrationality of the rules.  Catalina was a blast of fresh air and water in comparison.  Over time, though, the insistence on going her own way turned into an unwillingness to empathize, to take one for the duo, and just irrational as the followers of old.

Marguerite drank from the mug of latte as she acknowledged fully to herself that Catalina’s refusal was probably for the better.  At that very instant, a customer approached her and asked if he could join her for a few minutes.

“It won’t be long, and I realize this is strange,” the man began. “But, do you see those people over there trying not to look obvious with their cameras and phones?”

Marguerite nodded and realized why this man had asked to sit with her. “You’re Patterson Chen…your fans want to know if it was you in that car the police found in the ravine and you still won’t confirm or deny.”

Patterson nodded.

Marguerite told him he could stay as long as he wished, confessing that she was more of a hockey and college football kind of gal so she wouldn’t be making small talk about America’s national pastime.  Patterson didn’t mind at all, he rather liked sitting quietly with someone who didn’t want anything from him.

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Adjacent Topic: Campfire Interlude

The man’s rifle leaned against the side of the china cabinet.  It was a family heirloom (not his family, but that of the homeowners) that survived two world wars, an ideological dictatorship and incompetent shipping methods. After all these years, wrapped and unwrapped, hoisted and positioned, it began to smell like every family member who housed it and took on the countenance of an old woman.  Creased door frames, drooping circular knobs, and lavender-hued streaks appeared in the wood.

The man had put his rifle not in a closet or underneath a bed, rather he placed it against the cabinet because it belonged next to something as old as he was starting to feel.  He’d partially died several years ago, and it took a curious girl with an untamed spirit to help him fully die, so that he wouldn’t have to be trapped in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  The rifle was an icon of that old world, the one he’d left after submerging into the vastness of death.

In his new incarnation, he didn’t need a rifle for the pen was his tool of choice now.  He discovered he could bring things to life and into being with the written word.  He’d made a football team win in the final minutes of the fourth quarter because he had scribbled on a bar napkin, “just get another touchdown and keep your defense in the game.”  They got another touchdown.  He wondered what he could do with more time, paper, and pens.  Did different color inks bring about different results?  What if he used erasable ink?

What would happen if he drew and wrote?  Could he make the curious girl with an appetite for flesh appear if he drew her?  It’d been two years since he last saw her in his previous life…or half-life.  As each day passed, his memories of her shifted into dreams.  He found himself sketching argyle patterns whenever he wasn’t experimenting with conjuring exotic animals, food dishes, or sports scores.

The man thought he saw the girl one day when he was gazing at the window display of a furniture store.  He was looking for a new hammock for his back porch, something he could erect between two pillars for a more comfortable view of the night sky.  Standing grew tiring too quickly.  The man noticed the reflection of a girl with dark brown hair and wild eyes.  She was watching him too, but before he could turn to speak to her, she had gone.

The man left the furniture store in search of an art supplies shop.  He also needed a six pack of root beer.

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This entry is inspired by characters from The Campfire Tales and the preseason game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cleveland Browns.  Falcons won 24 to 13.  Good times.

Two-Minute Dimness

Timmie had the ball secure between the crook of his arm and his side.  Lennie passed the ball to him at the thirty yard line.  Timmie was fewer than ten yards away from the end zone and dodged quite remarkably four defensive linebackers before he was tackled by a fifth.  He was three yards from the end zone.  Though he didn’t remember the moment of impact, Timmie saw it before it happened.  He had cleared number 93 and was about to hop over one of his own teammates when number 97 barreled into his peripheral vision.

Timmie was down and had lost possession of the ball.  He couldn’t feel his knees or his toes.  He could smell the quarterback above his head (cloves and nutmeg, a distinct aroma) and hear one of the assistant coaches shouting towards the sidelines.  Timmie opened his eyes, expecting to see officials, players from his team and the opposing team, and, of course, the multitude of stadiums lights shining down upon him.

But, when Timmie opened his eyes, he saw none of those things.  Instead of sweaty men and bright lights, he saw a chino-uniformed female and dim, red lights.  He was still down, lying down, but rather than astroturf, he was on a table.  Timmie tried to turn his head from side to side but a mere inch in either direction sent waves of pain through his neck and the base of his skull.  Even breathing deeply was uncomfortable.  At least he could feel his knees and toes.

The woman walked over to the table and approached Timmie’s feet.  She took her hands out from her coat pockets and placed them on his ankles.  Timmie let out a yelp.

“Sorry,” the woman said.  “I know my hands are cold.”

Timmie tried to sit up; he could not.  Two wide straps, one near his thighs and the other around his elbows, kept him from doing much more than a half-assed crunch.  Timmie shut his eyes tight and concentrated on the football field.  He must’ve suffered a concussion and any minute he’d be back on the turf.

He opened his eyes after counting to 50.  He was still in the dim, red-lit room, still strapped to a table.  Timmie’s breathing quickened as he watched her come closer to his head.  She looked like she hadn’t eaten in days.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said.  “I can’t let you leave.”

The woman pressed a black button on a column just behind the table.  Moments later, a door beyond Timmie’s line of sight clanked open and three hooded figures entered.  The tallest one was holding an ax.  The one with the broadest shoulders was holding a pail.  The one with glow-in-the-dark glasses was holding a length of rope.

Timmie clenched his fists, shut his eyes again, and tried to remember exactly when 97 tackled him.  But all he could see in his mind was a woman towering above him, dim, red light, and hands tying rope around his ankles.
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The above story is loosely inspired on real events as related to me.