Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Atomic Octopus Song (Goodbye Jamie)

Beneath the sea
It came from beneath the sea
To say goodbye to Jamie

The Golden Gate
It tore down the Golden Gate
Trying to stop her leaving

(It didn’t work)

In this atomic age
We get our energy
From fracturing atoms

The monsters do their best
Ripping apart the world
To keep us together

But this atomic age
We must emit ourselves
To power the future

Beneath the sea
It came from beneath the sea
To say goodbye to Jamie

(Goodbye Jamie)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Scenes From “It Came From Beneath The Sea” – C


are seated at a quiet table. They are having
drinks and talking.

The Navy Guy:

Well, I guess that’s it. The sub has
been ordered on patrol. I’ll be on sea duty
for a few months. I’ll be seeing you, John.

The Scientist:

Soon, I hope.

The Navy Guy:

Will I be seeing you, Leslie?

The Girl:

You mean when I get back from Cairo?

The Navy Guy:

I mean, women can change, move away,
get married, have families.

The Girl:

Well, there is that possibility, but,
ummm, A, there isn’t time for that to
happen to me. B, I can be reached at
the school. And, C, how would you
like to collaborate with me on a
book, ‘How To Catch A Sea Beast?’

The NAVY GUY and the GIRL kiss.
The NAVY GUY lights a cigarette.

The Navy Guy:

Doctor, you were right about this
new breed of woman.

The GIRL silently congratulates herself
on the success of her catch-and-release
program with the NAVY GUY. She
looks at the SCIENTIST and dreamily
imagines the cool, Egyptian nights
she’ll be enjoying soon with him.


It Came From Beneath The Sea

Coming tomorrow: The Atomic Octopus Song (Goodbye Jamie)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Scenes From “It Came From Beneath The Sea” – B


The local SHERIFF armed with a rifle is patrolling the sand. The NAVY GUY, the GIRL and the SCIENTIST are standing next to their Jeep and talking.

The Navy Guy:

Maybe you can convince her she ought to beat it
and let the Navy have this job.

The Scientist:

Beat it? What does she say?

The Navy Guy:

What’s the difference?

The Scientist:

Look, Pete, you don’t see many women in the
sea-going Navy.

The Navy Guy:

Are you kidding?

The Scientist:

Oh, shore-side women, sure, but there’s a whole
new breed that feel they’re as smart and courageous
as men. And they are. They don’t like to be
over-protected or have their initiative taken away.

The Girl:

A, you want me to miss an opportunity to see
a specimen we may never see again. B, you’re
making up my mind for me. And, C, I not only
don’t like being pushed around, but you
under-estimate my ability to help in a crisis.

The Scientist:

My sympathies are entirely on her side.

The Navy Guy:

Didn’t take long for me to lose that
argument, did it?

The GIANT OCTOPUS surfaces. Its tentacles
squirm onto the beach. The GIANT OCTOPUS
pulls itself out of the water and crushes the SHERIFF.

The Girl:


The GIRL screams. She closes her eyes and
covers her face with both hands. The SCIENTIST
bundles the GIRL into the Jeep. The NAVY GUY,
deeply chagrinned that he’d under-estimated
the GIRL’S ability to help in a crisis, runs
around the Jeep, jumps behind the wheel and
drives them all to safety.

It Came From Beneath The Sea

Monday, June 26, 2006

Scenes From “It Came From Beneath The Sea” – A


The SCIENTIST and the GIRL are performing tests
at a large vat of water. The NAVY GUY is sleeping
at a desk.

Voice Over:

It was still too early for the world to know
what was going on behind that closed door.
Only a handful of men in high places heard
reports of progress made and waited
impatiently for the final conclusion.

A telephone rings on the desk where
the NAVY GUY is sleeping. He wakes
up and answers the phone.

The Navy Guy:

Mathews speaking. Oh, yes, Admiral. Hold on
a minute.

The NAVY GUY looks around and sees
the SCIENTIST and the GIRL doing
science stuff.

The Navy Guy:

They’re still making tests, sir. There’s nothing
conclusive to tell you. I’ll call you the minute
anything happens. Yes, sir. Good night, sir.

The NAVY GUY lights a cigarette and
walks to where the SCIENTIST and the
GIRL are working.

The Navy Guy:

You people work hard.

The Girl:

It’s our job.

The Navy Guy:

I didn’t realize how hard.

The Girl:

Are you trying to apologize?

The Navy Guy:

In a way.

The Girl:

It’s not necessary.

The Navy Guy:

I think it is.

The Girl:

Let me explain something to you. A, I have
been privileged to classify an unknown sea
specimen. B, I have the honor of working
with the great John Carter of Harvard, the
inventor of analytical biology. And, C, my
mind just isn’t attuned to discuss things on
your level, commander.

The Navy Guy:

I don’t think you’re being entirely fair,
Miss Joyce.

The Girl:

Look, I have been working for almost two
weeks now without a decent night’s sleep.
I’m tired.

The Navy Guy:

I read your book on marine biology and
your plankton theory in tracing surface
currents. Strictly in the line of duty, of

The Girl:

I’m sorry, commander.

The Navy Guy:

Well, I’ll forgive you if you call me Pete.

The Girl:

All right, Pete. But you have to let me
get back to my work.

The Navy Guy:

Why don’t you take a break. I have
a reason.

The Girl:

The Navy always has a reason?

The Navy Guy:

That’s right.

The Girl:

All right. Maybe you’re right . . .

The NAVY GUY and the GIRL walk off to find
a quiet corner of the laboratory while the
SCIENTIST continues running tests and the
impatiently for the final conclusion . . .

It Came From Beneath The Sea

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #2

Anime Girl

Oh, Sasquatch, last night when I was putting away my telescope, I dropped the tripod. It fell down a flight of stairs. One of the steel legs became bent.


Don’t worry, Anime Girl! I can unbend any piece of steel as easily as you unbend a paperclip.

Anime Girl

Oh, Sasquatch, you have all the strength of the wild forests in your limbs yet when you pick me up and put me on your shoulder you’re as gentle as the wind lifting a willow branch. I love you, Sasquatch.


And I love you, Anime Girl. And I love you.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Unpolished And Uncut Stones From “Rocks On Rocks” – #3

I felt like putting my head
on a big rock and letting some

giant pick up a boulder
and smash it down against my skull,

splattering my brain
between the stones and scattering my thoughts,

literally, to the waves and wind,
gulls and fish, flies and crabs.

Looking at the waves, then,
I saw each wave as a word. I saw

the shoreline as a crazy sentence.
And I saw the water

stretching away to the horizon
and breaking back toward shore

as some kind of chant or drone
or chorus of insanity.

I felt the thoughts, the cold water,
rising around me. I felt

the cold drawing heat out of me.
I felt myself stopping, cold,

freezing, turning to some kind
of crazy thought-iceberg, floating

in some kind of bright, unfreezing liquid,
bobbing one-third free,

two-thirds hidden
in this cold stuff of death, dying and the dead.

I sat by the water.
I felt like a bombed-out church. Inside

me, instead of alters, pews
and stained glass, I felt only space

and open spaces inside,
space and open spaces outside.

No priests hung around crying.
No peasants talked of rebuilding.

It occurred to me, however,
that this church inside of me

didn’t depend on priests
or peasants. If I did the crying

then maybe I could handle
the rebuilding, as well. If I

play the priest in me
then I could play the peasant in me, too.


Five thousand years ago
struggling people dying young endured

unimaginable hardships
to arrange choice, giant rocks

on top of other rocks.
Did these people know, believe, that life

meant only an opportunity to do art?
That art meant

just putting together something
that fenced away the nothing?


Deborah spoke, summarizing things,
then read the pages of my

rough draft. She asked me about
this stone business. About rocks on

rocks. About standing stones.
About five thousands years, more, of stones.

“All over the world,” I said, “early man
set stones on end and

set stones on other stones.
Some carved, like the Easter Island stone

faces. Some in significant positions,
like Stonehenge where

an upright slab marks sunrise
on the first day of Midsummer.

But, mostly, around the globe,
just scattered remnants of many

millennia gone by, and all the people gone,
stones stand on end

from Canada to Argentina,
from the South Pacific

to Scotland. Not stone tools,
although many of the peoples who

made standing stones used stone tools.
And not representational,

although many of the peoples who
created standing stones

also created cave paintings.
But in these times, these peoples –

Paleolithic, Neolithic and later –
these peoples

put up stones for reasons
beyond everything but the tall stones.”


Deborah fell asleep on me
and I thought of us like Stonehenge.

I wondered what we pointed to,
what we aligned with, why we

formed the pattern we did.
I felt three or four thousand years old.

I thought of the space around us,
indeterminate in all

directions. Space, and the things in it.
The arrangement of things.


Then, for some reason, I found myself
thinking of thin, green vines.

Vines that creep upward and outward
and all over some large stone.

Vines that flower and seed
and insinuate tendrils into

cracks. Tendrils that pulse and grow in their cracks,
crumbling timeless stone.

* * *

(to be continued)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Unpolished And Uncut Stones From “Rocks On Rocks” – #2

If you figure that science
deals with thought and understanding

and religion
deals with the spirit and morality, then

only art adds something hard,
some tangible reality

to these issues. I mean,
along with their emotions, artists

worry about their canvas
and film stock and manuscripts and

marble quality
and acoustics – hands-on art issues – while

other frameworks
for understanding life limit themselves to

heady thinking and hot air talk.
These issues in the framework

of art embody themselves
in a nuts-and-bolts kind of way.

Real art – not socialite art
or fill-in-the-blanks commercial

art – lays down a kind of
yellow brick road. Only this yellow

brick road doesn’t end
at some fantasy green city. Art lays

down a yellow brick road
that goes from the person’s self through all

the dark woods and misadventures
that lead to reality.


Plants grow upward, and, less obviously,
plants grow toward a light.

Differentiated cells of a plant,
each doing its own

business, more or less alone,
perform this phototropism.

The tissuey cellulose
of human events grows, too, and

history grows in its own direction,
to its own tropic.

We differentiated ones
muddle through our business, more

or less alone,
living this less-than-obvious tropism.

History – this milkweed,
this beanstalk – germinates, grows, seeds, dies.

* * *

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Unpolished And Uncut Stones From “Rocks On Rocks” – #1

People grow up in places.
Places grow up, too, in their place.

Chicago grew up next to a big lake.
Lake Michigan. Named

from an Indian phrase
meaning “a very big lake,” this lake

provides Chicago with
an unbroken eastern horizon.

That flat, green-blue horizon
(sometimes touched by white – waves or clouds)

offers an infinity of escapes
to Chicagoans.

And drinking water.
Growing up next to a useful distance

so great creates overhangs
and protrusions – growth out into

the space and the open spaces
brought on by all that distance.


Overhangs and protrusions.
Space and open spaces. The lake

and the city. This place
and these people in it. Life and death.


Overhangs and protrusions.
My mind into reality.

Reality into my mind.
My raised-Chicagoan mind.

The minds of all raised-Chicagoans
with the lake always east.

Lake Michigan, that “very big lake,”
that useful distance, east.

Space and open spaces.
Distance. Overhands and protrusions.


I stand looking out
my apartment window fifteen stories

up and facing east. Outside, moving east,
buildings as tall or

taller rise high between my eyes
and Lake Michigan. Between

these tall buildings – seventeen stories here,
twenty, fifteen and

twelve nearer the lake – smaller buildings
of one, two or three floors

make up the low middle ground
between the height and the sidewalk

and street and small lawn ground.
Staggered north and south by blocks, these tall

buildings lead to the lake
with two and three blocks between them. My

building, measured straight,
measures six blocks from the water. Eastward,

I see space
between these buildings – open space over the lake.

This dichotomy of space
seduces me and defies me.

A thing protruding
into an open space creates spaces.

Space in front and space behind
and space above and space below,

in every direction, every which way.
Space to think about.

Space to think about, talk about,
make all kinds of fuss about.

Space to judge near, big, crowded, wet,
cold, light, quiet or perfumed.

Space to judge far, small, empty, dry,
hot, dark, loud or odorless.

But open space, a wilder thing all together,
defies thought.

A cloudless sky straight up.
Waves on water to the horizon.

Unresolvable stars
against the blackness surrounding them.

Open space encompasses too much thinking,
too many thoughts –

far and near, empty and crowded,
hot and cold, loud and quiet.

This: The comprehensible
set against the overwhelming.

Me, say, moving among
all the people moving around me.

My thinking
set against the thinking of everybody else.

Any one person
overhung into the mass of others.

For that matter, any thought
held against a day of thinking.

A desire
within a body and mind bloody with passion.

Space and open spaces
and consciousness and everything else.

* * *

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #1

Anime Girl

Oh, Sasquatch, the soccer boys say they are going to rape me and steal my collection of autographed tennis balls!


Do not be afraid, Anime Girl! Those kick-ball guys know that if they bother you I will crush them flatter than an American car in an Autobahn pile-up.

Anime Girl

Oh, Sasquatch, you are an animal and have no respect for human law, but I love you!


I love you, too, Anime Girl. I love you, too.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Five Songs: #5 – Lonesome Cowboy

Dreamed I was
A lonesome cowboy
Riding herd
On a wide prairie
Miss my girl
Miss the city
Miss my home
In Baltimore

And when I look
At the wide horizon
I know this ride
Will be my last
Won’t see my girl
Won’t see the city
Won’t see my home
In Baltimore

But when I look
At the blue horizon
I see a city
Of steel and glass
In the glass
Of that distant city
I see a face
That smiles at me

In the glass
Of that distant city
I see a face
That smiles at me

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Five Songs: #4 – Pudgy Suburban Girls

Pudgy suburban girls are cool
Pudgy suburban girls rule

Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –

Pudgy suburban girls are warm
Dressed in their pudgy suburban uniforms
Sun dresses that hang
On date night, short black skirts

Pudgy suburban girls are cool
Pudgy suburban girls rule

Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –

On her back
Pudgy legs in the air
Pudgy fingers
You know where
Give her a tickle
Tug on her hair
Pudgy feet start spinning around
Man, I wish I was there right now –

Pudgy suburban girls are cool
Pudgy suburban girls rule

Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –

Pudgy suburban girls are nice
Giving each other suburban advice
“Just hold down the hair . . .”
“If it’s too big, spit down there . . .”

Pudgy suburban girls are cool
Pudgy suburban girls rule

Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –

Got to talking last night
The theology of Pascal
“Don’t give me that,” she told me, “Karl Popper said it all!”
“But objective truth—” I began. She interrupted me.
“Nothing’s true or false,” she said. “Some things are just

Pudgy suburban girls are cool
Pudgy suburban girls rule

Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –

Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –
Pudgy suburban girls –

They’re cool

They rule

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Five Songs: #3 – Shadows

Shadow of a tree on the wall
Shadow of a man in the hall
Shadow of a twisted life
Shadow of a knife

Shadow of a cactus in a pot
Shadow of a girl getting hot
Shadow of a twisted fist
Shadow of a kiss

Shadow of a flower bent
Shadow of two lovers spent
Shadow of a twisted soul
Shadow of rock and roll

Shadow of rock and roll
Shadow of rock and roll
Shadow of rock and roll
Shadow of rock and roll

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Five Songs: #2 – Hidden Agenda

These days to make it
You need a plan
A hidden agenda
If you want to rule this land
I’ve got mine figured out
Now it’s time to make my stand
Young girls and handguns
That’s my plan

Young girls and handguns
That’s my economic plan
They speak the language
We all understand
Young girls and handguns
That’s for me
I’ll be Charlie-In-Command

Young girls and handguns
They do tricks
Ask Gerald Ford
Who put in the fix
Squeaky and Sara
They made the throw
Hey, girls, is it true you know . . .
(“Who?”) Ross Perot? (“What? No way!”)

Young girls and handguns
They’ll make your day
They’ve got you covered
Put your guns away
Young girls and handguns
They’re still at large
I want to be Charles—
Can I be Charles—
I am Charles-In-Charge

Monday, June 12, 2006

Five Songs: #1 – Zombie Dog

Used to be dead
Now I’m alive
Used to chase sticks
Now I draw flies
Used to be cuddly
Now I’m kind of ugly
I’m your zombie dog
Please tell me you still love me

Zombie dog, I’ll always love you
You're a friend of mine
Together we’ll face your life anew
Zombie dog, it’s true
Zombie dog, I do
I love you

Milla Jovovich wants to kick me
George Romero wants to film me
David Hockney wants to paint me
Giselle wants to wear me
Ted Nugent wants to hunt me
Jerry Falwell wants to save me
I’m your zombie dog
Just tell me you still love me

Zombie dog, I’ll always love you
You're a friend of mine
Together we’ll face your life anew
Zombie dog, it’s true
Zombie dog, I do
I love you

(Zombie Dog howls . . .)
(and howls…)
(and howls…)
(and howls…)
(and howls…)
(and howls…)
I’m your zombie dog
Won’t you tell me you still love me

Zombie dog, I’ll always love you
You're a friend of mine
Together we’ll face your life anew
Zombie dog, it’s true
Zombie dog, I do
I love you

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mrs. Blandings And The Tissue Horror (Part Three)

Mrs. Blandings didn’t wait for a new tissue to emerge. She dived forward and plunged her hand through the slot and into the tissue box. Inside the tissue box, Mrs. Blandings felt tissues squirming around her fingers. Strange energies sparked hot and cold against her skin. The box felt oddly deep, somehow bottomless.

Mrs. Blandings braced both knees against the box to hold it down, then tightened her grip on the twisting snakes of tissue inside the box. She pulled with all her might, arching backward at the waist, and ripped a handful of tissues from the box. She threw the tissues into the air behind her, and immediately shoved her other hand through the slot far into the strange depths of the tissue box. Handful after handful of tissues flew into the air around Mrs. Blandings. The tissues twitched but went flat and soft in the air, falling like a tissue fog through the hotel room.

The tissue box convulsed under Mrs. Blandings’ knees. It pulsed, bulging on one side and shrinking on the other, trying to force itself sideways and out from under Mrs. Blandings, trying to free itself from her relentless penetrations. But Mrs. Blandings was focused on the tissue box and her attack with all of her mind and all of her muscle.

As more and more tissues settled to the carpet around her, Mrs. Blandings felt the tissue box changing under her knees. The hard edges were softening. The convulsions were weakening. The box itself was losing shape, losing depth, becoming flat.

Then, throwing a handful of tissues into the air with one hand, Mrs. Blandings pushed her other hand into the box and felt only bottom. Her fingers pressed against only cardboard. Around her fingers she felt only air.

Mrs. Blandings reached down with her other hand and ripped. The slot at the top of the tissue box gave way. The box tore down the middle. Mrs. Blandings pulled the box in two. She flung the pieces left and right across the hotel room.

Surrounded, then, by flat, lifeless tissues, Mrs. Blandings sat back against her feet. Her breathing was heavy, but slowing. Her eyes surveyed the room, but saw no motion. With a long sigh, Mrs. Blandings tossed back her hair, then reached up to move a strand of hair thick with perspiration out of her eyes. Looking at all the tissues around her, Mrs. Blandings smiled. She reached down, grabbed a handful of tissues, and wiped the sweat from her face.

Standing up, Mrs. Blandings tossed the wet tissue into the trash basket.

Mrs. Blandings looked at herself in the mirror.

Grimacing, she grabbed a comb and began brushing out her hair. In the mirror, she looked again at all the tissues on the floor behind her. And she saw her reflection silhouetted against the white of the tissues. She stopped combing and studied herself in the mirror.

Mrs. Blandings considered the lines of her body under her blouse. The fabric, clinging slightly from perspiration and static electricity, accentuated her shape. Under her blouse, her breasts looked shapely and firm.

Mrs. Blandings smiled. She said to her reflection, “Screw the tissue. Who needs tissue?”


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mrs. Blandings And The Tissue Horror (Part Two)

Mrs. Blandings thought, It doesn’t have to wait for me to be knocked down. It’s going for my neck right now!

Mrs. Blandings ducked. She side-stepped to her left. The tissue box shifted in the air, spinning to keep its tissue facing Mrs. Blandings. The tissue grasped at her neck, just out of reach.

But the tissue wasn’t out of reach of Mrs. Blandings.

As the box flew past, Mrs. Blandings swung up her still throbbing right hand and grabbed the tissue. The tissue box continued its motion, tugging against her grip. She reached up with her left hand and closed her fingers around her right hand. Twisting her shoulders and bending back at her knees, she tugged downward. The tissue pulled free from the box.

Out of the box, the tissue immediately softened and became still. Mrs. Blandings dropped it. It floated to the floor.

The tissue box arced down and fell to the carpet. It twisted, orienting itself with one of its long sides toward Mrs. Blandings. The box bulged and twitched. Its clear strip puffed open, and another tissue started to poke up.

But Mrs. Blandings was waiting.

She had dived to the floor, and then lay with her chin pressed to the carpet, her eyes level with the top of the tissue box. Mrs. Blandings was waiting to attack. When the tip of a new tissue emerged from the slot on top of the box, Mrs. Blandings grabbed the tissue and ripped it out.

Mrs. Blandings crouched next to the tissue box, hand raised, ready, waiting to pounce again.

The tissue box bulged again, flexed and flattened in the middle. Its edges bent up, then quickly down and it leaped into the air, jumping clear of Mrs. Blandings’ hand. She straightened up just in time to see the tissue box fall to the carpet and disappear under the bed.

Mrs. Blandings hurried to the foot of the bed, then dropped down to one knee. She could see both sides of the bed. “You’ve got to come out some time,” Mrs. Blandings said. “I’ve got your number now. Now I’m ready for you.” She waited, crouching, arms out-stretched, hands low, fingers bent and ready to grab.

Then Mrs. Blandings sat back against her heel. She thought, Am I nuts? I can just make a run for the door!

Mrs. Blandings stood, but hesitated. Her eyes moved from the bed to the door and back. She thought, I can run, but do I need to be afraid of a tissue box?

Screw it,” Mrs. Blandings said. “The maid can deal with the tissue box.” Mrs. Blandings started for the door.

The instant Mrs. Blandings turned her back to the bed, the tissue box made its move. It darted from under the bed. A new sheet of tissue waved in the air as the box launched itself upward toward Mrs. Blandings’ ankle. The tissue wrapped around her leg, and the box swiveled around her thigh, tripping up her free leg in mid-step.

Mrs. Blandings fell heavily to the floor, the fingers of one hand scrapping helplessly against the door.

The tissue box raised itself onto a narrow side, then tipped backward against its edge. It pulled Mrs. Blandings away from the door. Rocking from side to side, corner to corner, the tissue box dragged Mrs. Blandings deeper into the hotel room.

Rolling onto her back, Mrs. Blandings kicked at the tissue box with her free foot, but the tissue maintained its hold and the box just twisted around her ankle to avoid her blows. She felt her foot growing cold, saw her skin turning white as blood was cut off at her ankle. She tried to swing her captured ankle to knock the tissue box against the television, but the box shifted again and Mrs. Blandings only banged her own leg against the set.

The cold pain in her bloodless foot and the hot pain in her lower leg energized Mrs. Blandings’ thinking. She swung her leg and the tissue box upward, in a circular motion, as if again to attempt to slam the box against the television. At the same time, she cocked her free leg, bringing her knee against her chest as if ready to kick the tissue box with all her might.

The tissue box reacted to Mrs. Blandings’ movements. It swiveled first around her ankle to avoid possible impact with the television. Then it tucked itself against the outside of her thigh to use her own leg to shield it from her free foot.

Mrs. Blandings moved quickly. She continued the circular motion of her leg, completely through a full circle and then stopped with her foot just below the bottom of the television. She forced her foot up against the set, wedging the tissue box against the bottom. With her free leg, Mrs. Blandings then swung in another circular motion, this time completing a full circle and then kicked herself, driving the top of her free foot hard against the heel of her captured foot.

The kick forced her captured foot up and away from the television. The tissue box was still pressed tightly against the bottom of the set. The tissue wrapped firmly around Mrs. Blandings’ ankle was tugged free from the blocked tissue box.

The tissue uncoiled and fluttered to the floor. The box fell to the floor. It landed with its top up, and immediately began to ex pand and contract, its top slot puffing at the edges to make way for a new tissue to pop up.

Mrs. Blandings rolled upright and kneeled to face the box. She shouted, “Ten years of Pilates does a girl good!

The white tip of a fresh tissue pushed up through the slot in the box.

(Mrs. Blandings And The Tissue Horror concludes tomorrow)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mrs. Blandings And The Tissue Horror (Part One)

Mrs. Blandings studied her reflection in the hotel room mirror. She turned to the side, and squared her shoulders. She sighed. Her chest, she thought, was more of a gentle curve than an eye-catching upward arc. Today I feel like some oomph, she thought. Today, she thought, I’ll need a little help.

Mrs. Blandings reached for the tissue box on the table by the mirror.

The tissue box slid away from her.

Mrs. Blandings stared. The tissue sticking out from the top of the box swayed, like a cobra.

Mrs. Blandings thought, What the hell?

Then the tissue box attacked.

The tissue box leaped off the table. It lunged for Mrs. Blandings, and the protruding tissue wrapped around Mrs. Blandings’ right wrist. The soft tissue felt hard as metal. Around her wrist, the tissue constricted like a steel tourniquet pulled tight by a demon.

What the hell? Mrs. Blandings thought, again, trying desperately to squeeze the fingers of her free left hand under the tissue. Her right hand was already white, already throbbing as its circulation was cut off at her wrist.

Mrs. Blandings staggered back against the television set. She pounded the tissue box against the heavy television. The box just flexed slightly and shifted itself around on her wrist, keeping her wrist between itself and the television. The grip of the tissue remained excruciating.

Her right hand felt like ice. Her fingers were pale, bloodless.

Mrs. Blandings thought, If I faint, would the tissue box attack my throat? If it’s this tight around my wrist, around my neck it would kill me.

Dazed by the attack, disoriented by the loss of feeling in her hand, Mrs. Blandings punched at the tissue box with her right hand. The cardboard box, however, was strangely hard, almost rock-solid. Although it had shifted away from the blows against the television, it reacted not at all to her punches.

Mrs. Blandings thought, I can’t hurt it. It’s just cardboard. Cardboard and paper tissues. But I can’t hurt it. What the hell. When I think of all the tissues I’ve crumpled up and thrown away...

The mental image of throwing away tissues sparked an idea in Mrs. Blandings’ mind. She thought, Before you throw away a tissue, first you pull it out of the box.

Mrs. Blandings bent her right arm and clutched the tissue box against her chest. Instead of attacking it, she hugged the box with her left arm as tightly as she could. She tensed all the muscles in her right arm as best she could, then swung out with her right arm, straightening her right elbow, pushing away as if she were forcing open a stuck door.

The tissue around her right wrist jerked free from the tissue box.

The box, still clutched to Mrs. Blandings’ chest, began to twitch violently, expanding and contracting in her grip. She threw it to the floor. It tumbled end over end and rolled under the bed.

Suddenly, Mrs. Blandings’ right hand felt on fire. She looked down, and saw that her skin was now flushed, deep red and puffy, as blood returned to her fingers. The tissue had gone limp and soft outside the box. The tissue uncoiled and fluttered gently to the floor.

Mrs. Blandings kicked at the tissue with her toe. It crumpled under the simple pressure.

Mrs. Blandings thought, I was attacked by that?

Movement caught Mrs. Blandings’ eyes from across the room.

The tissue box slid out from under the bed. The clear, flexible plastic slot at the top of the box sucked in, then blew out. The box pulsed. Another sheet of tissue puffed up. The tissue bent toward Mrs. Blandings, as if there were some kind of exotic lines-of-force connecting the tissue to her. The tissue uncurled, waving slightly as if reacting to Mrs. Blandings’ terrified breathing. Then the box began to move again, straight toward Mrs. Blandings.

The tissue box flexed in the middle. Its sides seemed to reach up.

Mrs. Blandings thought, It looks like it’s trying to stretch out to me.

Then the sides of the box snapped down, hard and fast. The motion launched the box upward into the air directly at Mrs. Blandings. The tissue sticking out of the box curved in the air, shaping itself to encircle Mrs. Blandings’ neck.

(Mrs. Blandings And The Tissue Horror continues tomorrow)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Economy Travel Package Horror

The last time I went to New York, I had so little money that I told my travel agent not to worry about ups and extras and just book me the cheapest travel package he could put together.

When I got to New York and found the little hotel my agent booked me into, I checked in and took the elevator up to my room. I opened the door, took a look inside and was horrified at what I saw.

I went back down to the front desk and talked to the manager. I told him that when I looked into my room it looked as small as a closet, the bed was unmade, there were beer cans on the floor and I’d thought I’d seen a mouse scurrying for cover. I told him I’d wanted something cheap, but not something that cheap. I asked him if he could upgrade me to a more deluxe package.

The manager asked me if a gang of thugs had beaten me up and stolen all my things when I was in the elevator. I told him no. The manager said, “Apparently, sir, you’re already getting our deluxe package.”

(Coming tomorrow: Mrs. Blandings And The Tissue Horror)

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Railroad Yard Horror

It’s a standard lament. You’ve probably heard it a hundred times before . . .

One night, about two-thirty or three in the morning, I was standing in a dilapidated railroad yard practicing my trumpet. A beautiful woman stepped out of the shadows and into the circle of light cast by a dim bulb across some rusty railroad tracks. She started playing her own trumpet.

We played together for a while, but then she stopped. She walked over to me and pointed behind me. She said she noticed I had a couple of jugs of vaginal juices. She asked if she could borrow a cup.

So I killed her.

Later, after the police came and the detectives were taking me away, the lead investigator asked me why I’d killed the woman.

I said, “Hell, I don’t mind sharing my vaginal juices with another horn player. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to split them with someone who can make her own.”

Friday, June 02, 2006

Three Clouds Overhead Started Shouting At Me

Three clouds overhead
started shouting at me.

They shouted something
about an obscure philosopher

named “Nicholas of Cusa.”
Before I could figure out

what the clouds wanted me to know
the wind blew them

too far for me to hear.
Then some clouds just arriving

overhead began to shout
about States’ rights, saying teachers

should teach the Civil War
as a revolutionary conflict

and not as a battle against slavery.
Then another cloud

shouted louder than these clouds
and said television canalizes

neural pathways in the brain,
creating zombies just as cocaine

created zombies in China
in the nineteenth century.

Still another cloud shouted something
I could not make out,

but I definitely
heard the name, “Gloria Steinem.”

It started raining right about then.
I opened my umbrella,

but I could still hear all the shouting.
Someone passing me

pointed upward under his umbrella.
He yelled in my ear.

“Damn these
Sony electric clouds!” he yelled.

I nodded. “In Tokyo,” I said,
“the raindrops

leave little logos
on the sidewalk where they fall.”

The man nodded, too.
We walked past each other.

The wind around us
whistled little jingles.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Conquest Of Space

Ashley tugged

rearranging her big-screen television

as the screen flickered

showing ground-control Houston’s celebration.

The camera zoomed-in to a man with a glass.

Ashley stepped back to appraise her taste.

“Gentlemen,” the man said, “a toast –

To the successful conquest of space.”

“Yes,” Ashley said, “just right –

Everything in its proper place.”