Learn To Like It

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

–Pain is discovery. Pain is the meditation of insanity. Of the consciousness candle set on fire. Look here at how these men writhe in their beds, the lurid light of Sirius pelting like sleet upon their feeble and sorrow-soaked brains, calling out to blind night for their long dead mommas and their divorced wives who sulk away in fashionable mansions, their mold-infested pussies hiding all the keys to their hearts. Look at all the little girls in chaps and black-velvet riding caps weeping for their dead horses, having been flogged to death by a single roving gang of defrocked, denuded, deflated priests. Look at the grayed-over eyes of the horse-faced couple under perfect rows of japanese maple, holding hands, grazing for hay, already reducing a particular sunset to the glorious retirement of sunsets, the myopia of senile aesthetics. They are perfect fodder for this cosmic diet coke commercial: passing cold cans out from the back of the silver and red streaked van to the homeless lined up for miles to strangle the city, jonesing out of their minds for an aspartame fix. The shrieking orchestra of stabbing suicides filling the night streets, waking up all the old ladies who instinctively reach for their canes and stab at nothing real as it turns out, nothing real at all or ever, just the mocking images created from pure pain-drenched music.

–The bums on calabray street were licking up the horse shit faster than the horses could drop it. That created a problem for the bums, so they had a meeting in the alley between the Diet Coke Building and the 55-story Blue Heron Twin Towers and it was decided by direct democracy that eating horseshit, while still a fun and rewarding thing to do in moderation, was inhibiting their long-term mental and economic well-being at their time-honored rate of consumption. It was then they decided to adopt a diet that was exclusively dog star turds and diet coke. A parade ensued.

–One day, some bright day with Sirius shining down on my life, with horses dropping out of the sky, and diet coke rivers bubbling over with aspartame dreams– shit, this isn’t going anywhere, fuck it.

–Pain creeps up on you like a clever cop, calculating your felonious downfall one little misdemeanor step at a time. Takes you down like a hungry greco-roman wrestler, all hairy and sweating and stinking of feta cheese and cheap semen cologne. Pins you to the donkey moon, and your life is a child’s tale, told generation after generation, even your name lost to the changeable winds of language.

Push-ups With Perry Price!

Perry Price first got interested in push-ups when he was five years old. He remembered the day like it was sixty-five years ago. He was outside playing with matches during the first long hot drought of his life, burning scorpions and stradivarius violins with equal gusto, when he noticed his dad lying on the ground. But instead of lying still his body was going up and down. “What are you doing, papa?” “I’m fucking the grass, son, what else do you think I’m doing?”

A few years later, when he was enrolled against his will for full contact rugby, he saw all the other kids doing that same up and down business he saw his father doing when he was a smaller kid. Perry Price walked up to the coach, introduced himself, and asked the man if he too should drop down and ‘fuck the grass’. He learned two lessons that day: one, coaches are violent-tempered sadistic assholes, and two, that his father was a fucking smartass. He learned something else too (which made three things), that he wanted to do push-ups more than anything else in his short life, and that included becoming the fifth member of the rock group, KISS.

And so at age eight, Perry Price’s obssession with push-ups began. In no time he worked up to several thousand a day, in numerous settings and positions, sometimes with friends atop his back, even making the local news once in between a story on the rise of crack cocaine in the inner cities and the weather forecast calling for another three years of drought.

As an adult his passion for push-ups didn’t fade one bit. It became his life, and eventually, his career. He was given an early morning spot at a local tv station as some sort of alternative exercise guru, in an attempt to counter the other stations’ reliance on bimbo aerobics instructors. Apparently in addition to a shortage of rain, there had been a pretty bad shortage on bimbo aerobics instructors. In that gap of supply, Perry Price found his chance for success. His show was called, “Push-ups With Perry Price!” It was all very straightforward, predictable, just thirty minutes of a young, barrel-chested Perry Price doing push-ups while various gangster rap tracks played in the background. In those early days his stage presence left something to be desired, and after one season he was cancelled. Perry Price was at a loss for what to do for money, but his conviction that doing push-ups continuously, or at least as often as was possible, for the rest of his life, was not shaken one bit. Even when he slept, he dreamed of push-ups.

After that, Perry Price sank into poverty, lost his home, and took to the streets. But still, even in those garbage filled alleys with bums sleeping off mouthwash hangovers and pasty-faced rotten-mouthed hookers sucking off their clientele with a distractingly noisy vigor, Perry continued to do push-ups.

*

One day a little girl saw a bum on her front lawn in an exclusive neighborhood filled with geometrically complex mcmansions, and he was lying on his belly, going up and down. She walked up to him. “What are you doing mister?” It was Perry doing push-ups. “I’m doing push-ups, not fucking the grass. Want to join me?” And so she did.

The little girl’s father–taking a break from planting tropical plants in his garden– noticed the stranger’s impeccable push-ups and his daughter inept mimicry. He smiled, both impressed by the bum, and innocuously annoyed by his daughter’s poor technique.

“Found a friend, huh, darling?”

“Yeah daddy, his name is Perry Price. He’s not fucking the grass.” Her attempts at push-ups were pathetic. Both her knees were firmly planted in the grass, and her skinny pale arms were shaking violently at the elbows.

“Hahahaha, of course not. It’s a push-up, the greatest damn upper body exercise the world’s ever known. Honey, you’re not doing them right. Mr. Price?”

While performing alternating one handed push-ups and snapping his fingers each time, nowhere close to breathless, Perry said, “Yes indeed they are. Fine fine exercise. I love them. I can help your daughter improve her technique. If you like. I’m a bit of an expert, not to brag or anything.”

“I would consider it an honor sir. And, you know, I must confess, even though you have a beard longer than Billy Gibbons, and smell worse than a landfill worker in São Paulo, I recognized you immediately. I was a big fan of your show. Too bad they took it off. It was scintillating. Of course, I’d be most privileged if I could hire you to teach my daughter. Howsabout 60k a year, free internet and a bed in the back of my air conditioned garage? There’s even a humidifier, since it’s been so dry lately. Also, a record player and everything ZZ Top put out between 1969 and 1985.”

“I’ll take it.”

So Perry Price slowly built up a nice bankroll working for this rich man who himself was obssessed with ZZ Top, almost as much as he was the push-up. After a few years unfortunately, it became painfully clear that Alice (which was the little girl’s name) pretty much sucked at doing push-ups. She seemed enthusiastic enough, that wasn’t the problem, just no matter what routine he put her on, no matter how much creatine and protein powder his forced her to eat with her oatmeal, nothing would increase her upper body strength needed to do proper push-ups. And then, the worst thing possible happened, she sprouted tits. At that point it was all over for Alice’s push-up career. He broke the news as gently as possible to her father, “Alice sucks at push-ups. She’s a pretty fine specimen of young budding sexuality however.”

When Perry woke up, his felt his jaw throbbing painfully, the sky above him an impossible puzzle of gray birds and blue skin. Perry was in considerably better shape than Alice’s father, but he was no fighter, the product of a fitness trainer being overspecialized in one narrow field of exercise, though spectacularly adept as he was at it.

He went to the mountains and lived as a hermit, and push-ups became his meditation. It took several years to come to this enlightened realization: his push-ups, while performed with stellar stamina, and in various and interesting modes with obssessive abandon and intensity, just weren’t creative enough. He had been stuck in an imaginative rut from day one. After this epiphany, he didn’t perform a single push-up for two years. He moved back in with his parents, got a job delivering pizzas, even managed to get a girlfriend. But she dumped him when he wouldn’t shut up about the number of push-ups he’d performed in his life, but when she asked him to do some he always made some excuse not to. And also refused to have sex with her.

*

It was a stroke of luck really that saved Perry’s career. He came across Alice again while he was trolling the local university dorms (Alice was in college by then) and she took pity on him, remembering his dedication to teaching her something she really didn’t give a fuck about, finding that somehow appealing and pathetically cute. She offered to help him make a website to promote his pushups on the internet (her major was graphic design), if and only if, he let her lick his pecs. He considered and said, “Why, I suppose that would be ok. They are pretty impressive pecs I guess.”

His website was an immediate success. He used his initial profits and donations to make training dvds, but what sold the best were his increasingly daring displays of extravagant push-up feats. People didn’t really give a shit about quantity of push-ups, what they wanted was to see Perry do push-ups on the rooves of cars speeding down the highway, or doing push-ups at the zoo while surrounded by horny gorillas, things like that. Alice was his co-host, his business manager, the author of most of his tricks, and eventually, his wife. She licked his pecs, he licked her clit, they were a perfect match in the bedroom.

They made a fortune, but the years passed, and even though Perry never smoked, drank or had a shitty diet, he aged, got man-tits to a degree, even, quite out of the blue, had a mild heart attack. Though still, he pushupped goddamnit. But he couldn’t do as many as before, or as spectacularly. And Alice, who was over twenty years younger, and more enterprising, decided she wanted a divorce. She’d met ‘a guy’, he was a world famous writer of absurdist fiction, an amazing genius. She too wanted to write. God don’t they always–

*

At seventy, Perry Price decided it was time to die. Alice was long gone. He fought against his push-up retirement as hard as he could. He only did brief morning and evening sessions of push-ups, about 500 total. Now, he could physically lick his own tits. During the rest of the day he tried to write poetry, or lick his flabby man-breasts. It didn’t take long to realize he had to do this, if not for himself, then for some budding push-up genius still young and unsure of his path in life, how to get there.

One final spectacle, one last push-up.

Perry used the last of his retirement savings t0 rent an airplane and pay for a pilot who wouldn’t ask too many questions. One last plunge, one last thrust up. The ups and downs, always ending on an up. Life is up, always up.

At 12,ooo feet he got the pilot to slow the plane and out he went, sans parachute, fighting with every fiber to maintain a prone push-up position as he fell. When he hit earth he would be ready.

How To Scare Children: An Instruction Manual

It’s been so quiet since grandma left, so quiet now you can hear the house talk, in the prattling of pipes and somber groans of wood, the unnerving incoherence of a drugged and mumbling schizophrenic. The loss, the abandonment, is palpable. The leaves outside are sick-yellow, charred red, sifting through the soft sunlight of late October. But it’s also a kind of relief as well. Like the calm and mysterious aftermath of a murder scene, after all the bodies have been removed.

Grandma’s rocking chair, with it’s precarious lean to the left, sits in unmoving bereavement on the front porch, or maybe rocks ever so slightly in the breeze. It’s a chill gray day, cool but not cold, with little cyclones of dead leaves skittering across the yard under the fat, moss-trunked oaks. These oaks have been here long before the house itself, back before the two great wars, saplings from the turn of the 20th century. They all lean towards the house, which is built on the side of a ridge, and year by year grow heavier with time, aching with a century’s growth, perhaps only one more big storm away from crashing down. But it’s an empty house now.

They had to take grandma away because she’d lost her mind finally, her blood choking through a decaying brain, a dementia like a flickering dying bulb. She kept falling too, and no one could stop her from walking down the steps to the basement, where she thought some strange woman had moved in. She was convinced. She said this woman was the devil’s whore, but was sometimes nice and came upstairs to have coffee and chat. But at the drop of a hat, the coarse-skinned woman would turn on her, shout obscenities, then laugh, threaten her with kitchen knives, long razors, shards of broken tiffany glass. When asked what the woman’s name was, she could not remember, grew angry at anyone who questioned her veracity. But she was covered in bruises, shallow slow-healing cuts on many places on her body. All self-inflicted, according to her doctor, either from accident, or delusional violence. When your mind goes, the first available victim for revenge is the body.

*

Looks like the rain will hold off for this final October evening. Dusk is approaching and already a costumed cluster of various sized children are meandering from one house to another. Our porch light is on. Old habits. The smallest one is hard to contain, dressed as some blood-lusting fairy-like being (no doubt some accidently morbid homespun creation). She keeps whirlwinding off towards the street, or suddenly stops and bends over to examine some anonymous and now exposed insect or floral specimen. The way she abruptly just stomps on ants is hardly menacing, quite cute in fact. An older one, holding a wild-bristled broom and wearing a deformed black witches hat, shouts her name fiercely each time, and this seems to reel her in a bit, yet within minutes she’s wandering off again, crushing the dead leaves with cruel and innocent curiosity, or eyeing grandma’s rocker, or past that, something in the window perhaps. At us? If she could but see. Two or three times she looks over, the young are so perceptive, sad that she will lose it all in a year or two. That special awareness.

So many things still remain, but it’s only been a few weeks since grandma left us. Most of the furniture is here still. The dogpiss sofa, the television set, the white ceramic cat with the coal eyes, which you had begun to think alive, and feared it would scratch you to death in your sleep. Eat your blind eye.  That owl-shaped clock is still ticking away, slacking off long seconds, drunk on your sudden dissappearance. It’s not really owl-shaped, not sure why I thought of it that way. It’s pretty plain actually, 1950s era, manual, wind-up. It’s all as if we were expecting you back.

*

The young witch is calling the little girl’s name, pitched with fear, incipient hysteria. Apparently the little girl has run off. For a brief moment the sky was streaks of black and orange light, halloween colors, a false break in the gloom before night fell. Now it’s night and the streetlights form amphitheatres of dull orange-green in the trees behind the houses. Our yard’s trees are filled with moonglow leaves, flickering sliver.  Somnolent crickets chirp a post-summer lament, a lassitude of notes, melancholy memory crumbling, dissolving into sedate eternity. She’s becoming more and more frantic, looking behind every shrub or fat oak trunk, in the narrow corners between houses, in the piles of brown leaves. Why just minutes ago she was just over there… The young witch is crying, swirling in chaotic spirals, as if she were no longer in control of her own motion and now possessed by some dervish presence. The neighbors have come out on their porches, watch with bleak half-concern. Feeling the tug of televisions perhaps, or dinner growing cold. It’s Halloween you know, and people have been known to cut loose. She screams the name of the child once more, and then dissappears down the hill, looking elsewhere. The door to our house is cracked open, if she had only been more attentive. Perhaps the child wandered in after all.

*

Ah, here she is. Down in the basement, sitting calmly in the old schoolhouse chair, the desktop still covered in scales of yellow paint. Playing a little cruel Halloween game of hide and seek from her older sister. Her left hand has a long sharpened pencil poised over what looks like a crumpled sheet of workbook paper. She hasn’t moved from that position in what seems years, doll-like, waiting for some playful child to come and move her limbs with imaginative purpose. Like we all feel like sometimes, puppets with absconded masters, gathering mold and dust, all grandmas gone now in the echo of centuries down an endless corridor of faceless timeless photographs. Family to no one.

I should say they’ll find her eventually. I certainly hope so. I’m just playing with you, you know. This really is just a doll, a little raggedy ann number from the 1930s, one of our grandma’s toys she’d keep all these years. In the end, before they took her from us, she was once again that little girl, only this time haunted with rage and satanic visions, fear of great gaps opening up with no notice, playing violently with her dolls. Tearing them into shreds, ripping their limbs off with red-eyed tears one minute, sadistic laughter the next. That’s the grandma we miss.

In the dim yellow light of the basement (the source coming from a single overhead bulb somewhere deep in the cold clutter, the detritus of our shattered family) that crumpled piece of paper looks more like the stained cloth face of the doll has come clean from the head. A flimsy mask to scare your little sister with. Didn’t she die in her sleep and you grew up thinking it was your fault somehow?Did she come back, in your senile awareness of the supernatural, and laugh at your disease, at nature’s cruel revenge? Of course it was just us– we can be little devils you know. This empty house of decaying memories, and left-behind photographs of dead time: your brain, our home.

*

We hear the creaking of footsteps above, in the middle floor of the house, the one that opens out onto the porch and out to the driveway, see the flashing blue lights coming through a small grime-covered window way off in the jaundiced distance. My eyes are ticking like an owl clock.

Maybe grandma’s come back–

The Trinity Tree

He came out of the dark water, weakened by his baptismal and ritual flogging, and fell to the ground, shivering on a slab of fallen limestone. Watery blood smudges resurfaced all over his thorn-tormented body. He lay there stiff and contorted through the long night, the talls pines and oaks staring away in all directions with noble indifference. The pool where they left him to die shimmered silver-black, soaking in the soft, almost metallic, moonlight. He’s curled up and whimpering death song madness, croaking frog dirges, derangements of the blind owl. Meditations of the murdering crow,whose avatar was a living child…

Gray morning, gray mind, found him staggering down a dusty forest path, wrapped in a tattered fold of canvass he found half-buried in the woods. Soon he came to a small village of loggers, beggars, thieves, leftovers from some nomadic tribe. He could not recall if he hailed from here or somewhere else. Yet the memory persisted of a hellish-lit sky of floating steel thorns, speckled with millions of galactic lights, an impossible city in the unbounded sky. He dreamed of this glittering city of madness all night in his agonized sleep, a dejected drifter beneath the cold branches of unfeeling trees. Then it dawned on him, along with the sun rising misty-bright through coal-colored trees to the east, that this town was his town. And the villagers were his villagers. And that forgotten long-gone tribe was his tribe.

In the center of town a short but sprawling leafless tree– a judas tree– stood in lieu of the town’s commemorative statue. Black scars wound their way up the main trunk, like a supernatural coil of lightning had struck it. Severed heads hung in the smaller limbs like christmas ornaments. A little girl in a dirty and torn gray smock whacked a lazy stick at one of the heads, hoping half-heartedly for some magical pinata effect. And he also realized that the villagers were watching him too, from shadowed corners between slanted wooden buildings, from smoke-black windows, from the doors just perceptibly cracked.

Girl, whose heads are these? He watched her slug-gray eyes sparkle briefly with a glint of knowing, then all was lost again to that everpresent thoughtless myopia this riff-raff town suffered from, punctuated by their strange and violent rites.

The girl only smiled surreptitiously, then ran away cackling like a wounded virginal.

The hanging upside-down faces began to look familar. Then all at once, he remembered. These were his tormenters from the previous night, chosen from his passionate followers. He was more than a leader, a mayor, a town-protector, he was their savior, their god. At least in their minds perhaps.

Was it always like this? The not remembering, then slowly, more slowly, each time, remembering? The entropy of repeated cycles. It must be that way. And how long has this ritual been taking place? How many times has he enlisted townsmen to flog himself to near death then toss his semi-conscious body into the water? 

He decided he would not go on with this ruse-ritual any longer. As certain as the realization this ritual had once been important to him, perhaps even more than to the villagers themselves it was designed for, he was now just as certain it was utter folly, a con act with no real purpose. He decided then, while a centipede flitted inside and out of one of the upside-down mouths, that he would simply leave town, without explanation, as soon as he could peel away all the eyes hanging on him like leeches.

No one spoke to him, but still they watched, throughout the day. Only the heat and a dirty dog kept him company as he shambled about town, eating from the same refuse piles as the dog. Finally, growing hot and tired,  he found an empty shed with a hay floor and termite-ridden walls. Sunlight stabbed through many of the cracks between the wood slats. The dog, having sensed something to his liking far across town, had since abandoned him. He would wait till sundown to make his move.

He was sweating profusely and dehydrated from the long hours of sleepless waiting, when dusk finally came. He slipped quietly out to a back alley and crept along the deepest shadows until he again reached the center of town. He looked down a long alley and saw the trinity tree, as he had remembered it was known. He was stunned by what he saw:

The trinity tree was swaying around as if being ravaged by a tornado, although there was no wind to speak of on this muggy evening. And the little girl was flogging away, more vicious than before, at the three heads now laying on the ground. He had to venture closer, something in the ferocity of her manner both frightened and intrigued him.

When he came within ten feet of her she turned to face him, and he saw her eyes like two compounded suns, emitting searing laser light. Light from that divine city in his dreams, where he longed now to be, but felt, dismally, he could never get there.

Divide, now! the girl commanded.

These words confused him a moment, unsure if they were directed at him or someone else, even perhaps herself. Then he felt the first tremor deep within, rising up as if from a deep abyss in his solar plexus. As if he was the source of all madness, forgetfulness, untruth. He looked down at his abdomen and saw his flesh began to ripple, the undulations growing increasingly chaotic. Wrenching pain hit him then and he was too shocked to notice that the villagers had gathered by the trinity tree to watch this new ritual unfold. The Ritual of the Division. They were wearing black robes, monk habits, with the hoods covering their heads. Nothing could be seen of their faces, if they even had faces.

Finally he dropped to the ground, the pain too intense now, and his abdomen cracked open, spurting out gobs of thick black blood, black as crude oil. A head covered in intestinal gore finally broke through, smaller than a normal man’s head, then another, and another. Pieces of torso broke off, like torn papier-mâché, as the three forms, now human forms, rose out of what was once a human gut.

He was still alive however, already beginning to heal from these catastrophic wounds. He saw with both terror and pride, a blended emotion that seemed all his own, that he had given birth to three blood and tissue smeared replicas of himself. Thinking yes, this has all happened before, in fact has gone on for untold millenia, perhaps an eternity, and perhaps would continue for another eternity, an eternity of entwined eternities, like a crown of thorns. It had been this way in other villages, in other times, the tribe going back and back with no cause or beginning.He thought briefly if only he could remember this later the cycle could be broken, this infinity of executions and resurrections, but he was resigned he never would.

Soon, once again, the replicas’ heads would be hanging on the trinity tree. This solitary tree conscious only of the sky and the thirst for rain, indifferent to the rest of this planet of unending ritual pain and cleansing.

Maggot Therapy

A gaping wound as far as the eye can see. Putrid exudate bubbling within like albino lava. Floating in naturally like dandelion petals, writhing cylindrical forms by the thousands land and attach to the necrotized fields, begin to liquidate the black fetid earth. Feed. Writhing in the wound for days under the neverending hot sun. Planet of awesome stillness and ragged rust terrain. Striving to exist, transform, with no intention to heal, beings bereft of intention, but healing nonetheless. Fattening up and finally, hatching into human form. Naked blind squirming gelatinous bodies of thousands of men. Crying because they can’t see. Motherless and helpless, utterly alone. Can’t fly away into the bleeding, burning sun, yet that’s all they yearn for now. Born on dead tissue. Healing their host.

The massive host rises, head distorted by the massive red sun. Thousands of men freefall hundreds of feet and burst on the ground in pustular and sanguine explosions. It reaches down and plucks out the fledgling humans remaining lodged in its wound and pops them in its mouth, bursting their plump screaming flailing bodies, consuming that which had cleansed its wound. It is time to return to battle. He is healed.

One survivor, half-maggot, half-man,  clings to a hair high up on the now moving host. With each thudding stride, his grip weakens, but still he holds on. He can’t for the life of him think of why.

Mirror Virus

She drove through the night, sleepdriving on highways of crushed centipedes, the soft crunching death ooze scarcely pacifying her fevered brain. Sometimes the stars fell like luminous hail on her windshield, sometimes the sky was a crushing lavender void through long stretches of moon-hushed night desert. Sometimes the road wound through perfidian nightmare forests choked by black leering trees, a cruel disdain for any mechanical sound interupting their endless solitude reaching the fevered pitch of a mad composer whose brain was rotting with syphilis and liver from drinking turpentine. Yet through all this, she blasted through, blithe, deranged.  Radio blaring static at a deafening jet-engine volume. Her mind like knives in a school playground, renting random red gashes without cause or concern, every insight a senseless murder. Laughing as the radio static wooed her with the love songs of leperous schizophrenics and drooling homicidal lunatics.

Finally coming to a stop. Walking now along a razor-strewn path, her feet swollen and bloody, with nude and bloodied forms entwined in baffling hilarious contortions dotting the periphery, coma-perverse and emitting a putrid fragrance, the scent of deathflower on the side of the crushed cicada driveway. Not tempted to join them just yet, she pressed on like Marie Antoinette shitting cake for her peons and grinning disciples. Farmhouse just up ahead coming into focus between the gaps in the thick trees, mourning their incapability for vengeance, illuminated by haunt-blue ground lights, shining up and leaving the highest level of the house in black gothic shadow, like the graphite sketch of a blind man with a raging glioblastoma.

Home.

But once inside nothing was familiar: an amphitheater of self-replicating mirrors and screaming. Mirrors of a multitude of shapes and sizes, irrational, anarchic, impossible, to the simplest geometric forms, endless both up and down. She dared not to move, fearing she might fall through a gap in the glass flooring, falling through an abyss of mirrors that would sever her body into a million pieces of bloody meat, gravity’s blender in a matter of seconds. She watched stunned as the amphitheater of mirrors echoed her every mood or gesture, a cacophony of screaming murder victims, frenzied yet frozen in glass house reality. And then she touched herself, and realized she was also made of mirror. Not of flesh anymore, had she ever been? All screaming and nothing but glass. Hitting herself harder and harder, finally shattering, a ruptured aneurysm of need, bloodlust and release; all reflections at once, each of her infinite versions taking up shards to slice away, a macabre bloodbath that would never end.