Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Dream to Dream

It's fine to dream the kind of dream,
that's happy at the end,
or the other type that's straight ahead,
and goes on without a bend.

But if to dream a dream so good,
with action's never had,
to force the clouds of
somber sleep apart to show
the bad;

No ending will there ever be,
to satisfy the means,
all will end in torpor,
with boredom in between.

To dream a dream so good
is hard, your path is not
so easy, and rest will never
come in this,
there's no waking
for the weary.

But if you dream, and dare to fail,
and fall and fall again,
the only one's who earn
their dreams,
are the ones,
who rise again.

The Daffodils

Who will weep for them
when once winter comes again?

Who cries for their passing
before first snow has fallen?

Mourns, the garden's lack of gaeity
made so tangible
by their sweet buttery petals,
those silly yellow flowers.

The tall and proud,
they do.

They sulk for the entire season,
heads bowed,
petals cast off in reverence

patiently awaiting them
and the ever returning Spring.

Tender, so

tender is the key,
tender is the bloom,
tender the fruit,
and it's flesh,
and it's root
and the earth
and the air that touches the leaves.

tender like dust bunnies
tender like cloud

tip toeing tenderling

tender elfling,
a tender clouding,
tender melting
tender drifting
tender spender

spinning tender no more than she
needs,

let tender be
let tender be tender to be
let tender be tender to me,

not left alone to be tender let,
not held in thoughts too long,
lest tender forgets.

tender is eyes, and smiling corners
of mouth,

smiling warm skin so-

tender

tears will never touch a face so-

tender

eyes will want a face so-

tender

a nose for a home in a place so-

tender

bashful, graceful, tender one

looking, not watching

so tender your eye may not catch what she sees

tender like sandbox

tender like me.

Pay Day at Vector Marketing

Preface:



Several years ago, I believe it was 2003, I had the idea to write a screenplay about a young 20 something year old 'man' who gets a job working for CUTCO selling knives. The whole premise of the story was that he was something of an arrogant nere do well who always attributed his failures and shortcomings to other people instead of taking any accountability himself. What he finds working for CUTCO, is that for some reason, he is found to be extremely appealing to married middle aged house wives and that there is a direct correlation between the nature of various 'services' rendered for the matron of the house hold, and how much of the product they actually purchase. He moves quickly up the ladder to become the top selling sales rep in his district and is the featured guest at a conference held in Branson, MO for up and coming employees sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Foundation, which is where the story begins and ends.



I put this notion away in the back of my mind reserved for the index of story/screenplay/novel ideas for a long time until I recently got a call asking if I wanted to come in for an interview. I needed more money, and jumped at the chance. The strange thing is, is that the notion didn't come back to me when I got the call, or even when I went in for the interview. It came in the middle of a meeting on how to sell the products. There was something in the delivery of my boss who was giving the break down on how to make sales that began to echo that imaginary character in the aborted story I had begun so long ago. But it wasn't until yesterday, that I really thought about taking the enterprise seriously,and get down to actually writing something like what I had in mind 7 years ago.



Chapter __: Payday



I had spent a good portion of the day working on various things in my apartment until about 3:45 when I decided to go down to the Vector office (the egg central for Knoxville CUTCO) and pick up my paycheck. I was feeling a little hungry, and juggled the notion of grabbing a quick lunch with the ten bucks I had left from selling some music the day before, but I opted for business over pleasure, and proceeded to the office first. When I got there, the first thing I saw upon entering the floor where the office was, was a young man, around 19, wearing a black baseball cap, a baggy white tee shirt and jeans, sitting in an office chair with a binder, a laptop, a cell phone, and a cell phone charger who appeared to be under siege by a legion of loose office paper surrounding his chair, preventing him from getting up. "This is an omen I thought" as I began making my way closer to the Vector office. At the very end of the hall, there is something of a vestibule, a passage to the stair cases that go down the side of the back of the building where Victoria, a rather heavy set by pretty and affable black girl was sitting. She waved to me with a smile, and I wove back enthusiastically grinning widely, then entered the office. Just as I expected, the waiting room was dotted with a couple of college students sitting in chairs vacantly while the pale din of the secretaries voices pickering over the phone lines to various naive strangers was mingling with the sound of Star 93.1 and the most offensive pop music one could imagine. I began listening to the lyrics in spite of myself, the lyrics were more suggestive than what I was used to, and I assumed that the man in the song was telling a girl at a club how large his penis was, but I digress. A few seconds upon entering the office, Jessica a tall redheaded somewhat nerdy but confident and attractive young woman appeared from the hallway leading to the meeting room, and informed me that Chad would be with me in a minute for my 'pay check meeting'. "Paycheck meeting?" I said, "I thought we just came in to pick it up." "No, you have to do a progress report with Chad first. He'll be out in a minute. You can phone in some calls while you wait." Here we go I thought. "Well, I don't have any leads right now, I just need to enter my orders into the system." "OK, let me get my laptop she said." I was growing increasingly annoyed that they succeeded yet again in roping me into hanging out in the office for yet another undetermined period of time. Jessica appeared with her computer and turned it on. We sat, waiting for it boot up which turned out to be a bit of an ordeal in and of itself.



I ceased paying attention, but was amused that she was feigning annoyance at the slowness of her computer's boot-up time to put me at ease. I was letting the lyrics of who ever it was just drift into and out of my head while I stared critically at the primitive 3D font that spelled out Vector Marketing Corporation on small the vinyl banner meant to break up the horrifying blankness of the dull office wall. I began musing on the font, all its cheesy kitshcy aspects, and then suddenly it dawned on me. This is 2010! This is it! The future! But not the future of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, or any of the serious fiction writers, not even close! This was the future of Terry Gilliam, Douglas Addams, and Mike Judge. So much like the present, because really it was. I looked at the white techo fetish looking boom box and thought how this one designed object in the room is the only thing that would give away the fact that this is indeed the future. Not the Vector banner, not the girls typing and talking into a dull hum of soothing noise, just that one boom box. This could have easily been 1997, and in some ways, it seemed to me that it still was. The strange mustyness of the hallway, the music, it was all so familiar, so contemporary in a retroactive type way. I imagined going through a time warp right then and there sitting in that bloody chair, and watching as the boom box changed designs over the year until it was 100 year into the future and it didn't even look like a boom box anymore, yet whatever it was was still sitting on that same bloody shelf next to a bloody standing lamp.



"There we go, finally!" Jessica exclaimed. I chuckled at her desktop and told her I liked it. A sleepy wizard with a sleepy dog cat dragon looking thing wearing a wizard hat asleep at his feet. I'll spare you the details of the tedium involved in documenting my sales because it was just that. What really irritateded me though, was that Chad came into the room, and told me that there was an error with my address in the system. "Oh for the love of god!" I thought. "I've already been here 20 minutes, and I'm no closer to getting paid than I was last week." He told me how much my check would be for though "Sixty Bucks" he said directly. I must have looked surprised and disappointed because he asked me if that was more or less than I thought it would be. Then he explained that it was only for the first 4 appointments and I felt a little better. I then followed him into the meeting room at his request and looked around for a place to sit, opting instead to just meander over to the shelf where the 40 year old CUTCO demo knives were kept. The handles looked like reconfigured bowling ball material to mimic wood grain. But the High Carbon Surgical stainless steel was just as sharp, just as shiny as it was in 1970. The handle was the same design too. Dual-lock ambidextrous to maximize natural hand strength. I imagined that same future forward time warp was happening in the waiting room taking over the rest of the office, and those same knives on a different shelf every few years, in the same brochure configuration, just a sharp, just as shiny as they were in 1970, as they were today.



"Spence, Come in here for a minute" Chad said. "Okay, so how we doin?" He asked with something of a look between desperation, desire and appeasement on his face. It was a strange pleading look, but not an unfamiliar one either. "Fine I said." He gives me deference in a strange kind of way, something in his expression says that he wants my approval. He has it. I like Chad, he's a good guy, a confident guy, a bro kinda guy, a bit like me. We talk a bit, go over my references, and the entire intimidating cross examining process which is a little more intimidating than the prospect of being gummed by a curious infant, not nearly as bad as being interrogated by a suspicious shift manager. I had a few errors that didn't match up with the system. But I got nothing to hide. It's just hard to retroactively fill out a form documenting the people you talked to in the past week or so about knives.



It's just to remind you that behind every beaurocratic corner in this place, is a little trap, a little pop up goblin gotcha moment. I'm pretty clever about it, and I'm a decent actor, so it goes smoothly. It goes back to what I was saying about being gummed by an infant. All the people here are younger than me I suspect. At least there's definitely no one here over 30, or probably 28 for that matter. I kept wanting to equate the experience to a scene from the 'Tria'l, or some kind of Kafkaesque short story, but it's not really like that. It's too banal, too comfy. There's nothing really threatening about it. I'm here to get a check, and these people are all here to make sure it happens, to make sure that other people get checks too. I can't call it dystopian, or perverse, that would be self indulgent and disingenuous. It's just-the contemporary corporate designed future of 2010. Cutco's had this on lock down since the '50's. I could easily know all these people from High School. We could just as easily still BE in high school doing some kind of long form endless civics or econ experiment/project. Not as threatening as the Yale experiment because we're getting paid, but just as nefarious because it just keeps going and no one is there to stop the madness and inform us that we can get back to our normal lives. Victoria came into the room, looking a bit preturbed and asked me when this was going to be over to which I replied, to some self satisfaction, "It's never over."



After my meeting with Chad, I was cornered by Jessica yet again. 'She's perfect for this job.' This is the girl I would have had a crush on in 8th grade. Just barely in my league. That's probably why Chad chose her for the Job. She's too good to be 'the girl next door', that's gross. She's just perfect. I don't want to say no to her. I just want her to keep talking to me in that self imposed naive inflection of which she must be grossly aware. Everyone's 8th grade crush, I thought. "Have you done your phone reference meeting yet she said?" "No." "Do I have to?" She's unphased by the kurtness of my retort. "Yeah. Can you come in tomorrow, or later on tonight?" She says. "Well, can I just do it right now?" I ask, not wanting to come back unless I absolutely had to. "Yeah sure." she said "It only takes about 10 minutes. Hold on I'll be right back." I sat back down, eager to be close to leaving. A shaggy headed 20 something came in wearing shorts a dirty tee shirt and an obviously not yet fulfilled sense of self satisfaction. I felt relieved to see someone came in who vaguely resembled a hipster. He unplugged the boom box right away, and I was thankful (again) for the oppressive silence that suddenly occurred. He looked at me and said, "I like that" "What these?" I said. "Yeah, I don't think I've seen them that long before." Too bad he's a he I thought briefly. "Thanks." I tried to say something witty, but nothing came out. I guess he might as well have been a she at that moment. Jessica came back, leaning slightly into the waiting room, chest first. "Okay, Spencer. Come here." I got up promptly and followed her to the outside hallway. "Okay. Here's what you're going to do. Go the long way down the hall, and go out the right side exit. Stephanie's in her car. It'll be the second one on the left in the lot. You'll just do the training in the car with her." 'How strange' I thought, 'but oddly appropriate.' So, I made my way again down the hall, accompanied by a strange sense of liberation.



'This is Kafkaesque', I thought, 'but not at all, at the same time. It's a kind of Bizzarro world of lurking gruesome horror and surreality, because I'm getting paid for all this inconvenience instead of punished.' I passed the young man in the hat and shirt by the entry to the hallway again, he didn't appear to have moved at all. I attributed it to the army of paper scattered about his feet. I walked down the stairs, self aware. I let fantasy take over. Or tried to. I looked around like a camera. Like I had a camera with me. Blinking for the jump cuts. Panning, moving with a swagger closer to the parking lot and my exit. I winced in the sun and heat, soaked in the humidity, move with confidence to the appointed area.



I only saw one car on the left side of the parking lot though. And there was surely enough, a person in it. All I could make out of it though, was that the door was slightly ajar, and a tan colored somewhat effeminate hand was emerging from it. It didn't seem like it could be her car though. I couldn't imagine a woman that well dressed and composed, genteel in that East Tennessee manner, driving a white sedan that appeared to be so pedestrian. I pressed on, not knowing who was behind it. As I approached, I tried to keep out of the occupant's line of sight and get a glimpse of the face. 'Now it begins, I thought'. This is a very surreal feeling here in this parking lot. I would have liked to have had an out of body experience at that point, follow myself across the lot, and then come back to first person as I approached this ugly weird car and its ugly weird driver. This is something else. Not Kafka, not Lynch, but close. It's something of the self imposed parking lot paranoia I imposed on myself in Eau Claire. If you're REALLY looking for the sinister thing behind the dumpster though, you have to be totally out of control to experience it. I thought about the anecdote in an essay about surrealism that I was reading about Alberto Giaccommetti and Andre Breton walking around a flea market where Giaccommetti found the spoon he needed to model his sculpture after. How perfect and impersonal it's design was, how Breton reflected on his discovery later as a manifestation of his subconscious mind leading him first to meet Breton, then the decision to go to the flea market, and ultimately to that spoon, and then later for Breton to write, and me to read 80 years later, in this, the year of our lord Two Thousand and Ten. This might be something of the same thing. I might see something terrifying in this parking lot yet, but not today. Right now, I'm getting "A Training Session" in Stephanie's car-if I can find it.



I walked the whole way around the building and, then back in on the same side, scanning every car except my own. I jaunted back up the stairs, passed poor seiged black hat, and saw poor black Victoria sitting in the same chair at the end of the hallway. I walked back into the office, and saw Jessica immediately, then I approached. "I didn't see her out there." I said. "here, let me go get Chad." who conveniently appeared from around the corner, right on cue. "He said he couldn't find her." Said Jessica. Another mini catastrophe. So the three of us went back to his office again. "She went to go to her car to charge her phone." He informed me. He dialed the number. No answer. We could all here her dispassionately cordial voice coming through the speaker phone appologizing for her absence. 'Well looks like I'm stuck again.' I thought. But I wasn't gonna go back and sit in the waiting room again, and they knew that, so Jessica led me out of the office and down the stairs. I was so enamoured by the whole situation, that I grinned widely and began chuckling silently inspite of myself. I was on. Switch to camera two, follow them down. We passed Victoria who saw how bemused I was. I imagine she thought the two us were going to go do something naughty together. 'Why else would he be smiling like that?' As we approached the landing, Stephanie appeared from around the corner, and there was relief!



"We were just looking for you!" I said.



"Yeah" Jessica chimed in finishing my statement "He needs to do the cold-call training."



"I told you to send anyone that needed me down to my car she said."



"I went" I replied, but I didn't see you.



"Well, I took off about five minutes ago and came back.



"That solves everything!" I said. "That's about when I went to look for you."



"Well, here" she said, and handed me a couple wrinkled forms one of which had "Jeff Gamboa's Magical 1997 Approach" in a primitive Helvetica type-face printed across the top of it. We stood in the hall and role played. She read to me, I responded, and that was it. "Well that was painless I said." "Yeah, it's not that bad she replied." I suddenly remembered I was hungry in a wave of churning desire. "Well I think I'm gonna go get some lunch now." Stephanie looked at me in that focused, vacant, inquisitive manner and with an apparent air of authority responded "Lunch? It's closer to Dinner time now."



grumble.



So, I began making my way out of the office for the last time that day, relieved that I had yard work to do that was keeping me from going on the Nashville trip the next day. I passed the guy in the cap, and the papers, and the desperation he did not yet know, and said I said "good luck!" Then I got in my car, crossed the parking lot off to Charro's with my last 10 bucks, totally unaware that a stranger was going to pick up the tab for my Burrito dinner.

Three Good Deeds

Francis woke up. There was a woman in a black coat and ared scarf with dirty blonde hair tied back into a sloppy bun standing over him,looking at his eyes.

"Hey!" she said. "Parlez-vous Francais?" Francis, shook his head. "No. Do you speak English?"he asked in a sleepy desperate voice. "Yes, she said. What's yourname?" "Francis". "Are you hungry Francis?" He had been in Paris for only 3days. He had no money. He had not eaten since a businessluncheon on his first day, before the tryouts, and even then he had not eatenmuch because he didn't want to play on a full stomach. "Francis, I own a restaurant. I'm going there now. Would you like something to eat?" He looked at her, vacantly,quizzically. He had stopped askingstrangers for help. He had beensleeping in the metro, which is where he was now. He had started out, just walking around. Taking advantage of the fact that hewas in Paris to see the sights. Of course, since he had no money, he could not go into the Louvre to see the MonaLisa (the most famous European painting in the world). He could, however, see the I.M. Pei pyramid. He could stand outside ofthe museum, he could walk around it. He was dressed nicely, so no one would suspect that his situation was sodesperate. People gave him moneyat first. Tourists. He kept an eye out for American and English tourists, and pretended to be a tourist as well, on account of the factthat he was dressed nicely and spoke English really quite well. If he had his druthers, he wouldprobably have been an English teacher instead of a football player. It's more pragmatic. But he was good. He was a very good footballer. He was better at football than he wasat speaking English. So when theopportunity presented itself, when a French agent approached him on thefootball field, and asked him how he would feel about coming to Paris to trainfor an opportunity to play football for France, the pragmatic thing, of course,was to take it.

Before he knew where he was,exactly, he was turning a corner into a dry dim alley with a strange woman in ablack coat, and dirty blond hair in a sloppy bun wearing a red scarf wearingblue jeans and sneakers. Shestopped abruptly, and unlocked a clean metal door, and then they wentinside. "Here." She said. And offered him a day oldcroissant. "What would you like toeat? We don't open for anotherhour, I have time to make us both some breakfast." She was a very, very pretty young woman. She had light freckles, but clearsmooth pale skin and soft grey and blue eyes. Not piercing. There was something very natural about her. Sort of primitive in a vaguely gaelic way. She had rather broad shoulders, aslightly more than ample bosom. She wore her clothes to show off her figure discreetly and it was veryhard not to look at her. "I don'tknow. I don't know what you canmake." He said. "Name something." He thought for a minute. "Belgian Waffles" he said. Before he could even reply that he wasjust testing her, she immediately got to work making the batter. "What else Francis? What else would you like to eat?" "Bacon, AND Sausage." He replied with a big toothysmile. "Would you like somethingto drink while you wait? Orangejuice with Champagne perhaps?" Francis was at this moment incredibly delighted. It had finally sunken in. He had been saved. "Oh that would be wonderful. I've never had something like thatbefore." Without a word, shegrabbed a very tall glass with a wide mouth and poured it half of the way fullwith orange juice, and filled it up the rest of the way with champagne so thatit almost spilled off of the top. "Here you are." Shesaid. Some of the juice hadsloshed out of the top and onto her delicate freckled hand. "Thank you very much miss. I'm sorry, I still don't know yourname." "Juliette" she repliedturning around back into the kitchen. "Juliette. Like Romeo andJuliette." He looked up at a clockon the wall. It was still veryearly. 6:35 in the morning. Why don't you go out to the dining roomwhile I finish our breakfast she said. I don't want to reveal any of my secrets to a stranger." She said, turning around flirtatiouslywith a sharp glean in her soft eyes and a coquettish smile creeping across herface. "Ofcourse! Do you have a phone I may use?" he asked. "Yes, there's one behind the cashier stand in thefront. Just dial.

He pushed open the doors, of the kitchen and looked for thephone, taking everything in as he did. It was obviously, a very nice restaurant. He had not ever been in a restaurant as nice as this one inall of his 20 years. Whatluck. He thought. Yesterday, I was homeless, starving, cold,alone in a strange place. Broughtdeceptively to a foreign land where he knew no one. Where he had no prospects. Not even any money. In a place like this, he was as good as dead. He dialed his father's work phone. It rang, and rang, and rang. And rang and rang. And rang and rang. And rangsome more. He got tired of holdingthe phone and put it down on the counter. He listened as it continued to ring. He hung it up after a while, and decided to just try laterin the day when he knew he would be at work. When he heard footsteps from the kitchen coming into thedining area, he hung up the phone. "May I help you with anything?" "No, just take a seat she said." They began eating their food together, sitting across from oneanother. "Thank you very muchJuliette." "Not at all!" she saidlooking up. "I don't normally dothis kind of thing, but you look like a man with a story" she said finallylooking into his eyes for the first time. "Tell me what brought you to Paris?" Francis felt safe for the first time since he had beenapproached by the football agent that found him. Ever since he first spoke to the man, he felt like he wasclimbing up a very tall ladder and watching the ground get farther and fartheraway from his feet until he could no longer see it. Until all he could see below him was large fields of colorsand clouds in an airplane leaving his country and his home. Even when he got to Paris, when helanded, he felt as if he were standing on the edge of a very tall platformlooking down onto the top of the sky right below heaven. He didn't dare look up. He couldn't look up until he knew itwas safe. He felt as if thestreets of Paris were really just made of glass, and that the dirty greysidewalk and the dirty grey sky were really one and the same. Then he jumped. He was a forward. He played as well as he possibly couldhave under the circumstances. Desperatelyhe played football. He ran, he kicked, he grunted, and yet still the fear was there, the vertigo did notsubside. It was there constantlybehind his brow like a great wall. The only time he felt nearly relieved was when he was out of breath, kneeling,feeling the sweat pour down his body and cover him as it did when he was athome. This was the first time hecould sweat since he met the man, and it was a wonderful feeling. He breathed heavily, panting, gaininghis breath, but struggling to keep his heart resuming it's acceleratedpace. He had jumped. He had maintained his posture. He had seen the Olympics on the T.V.and had seen the high divers. Hehad also seen sky divers. And thisis how he felt. Somewhere betweenthe two. A sky diver without aparachute, twisting, and spinning gracefully in the open air. Turning, flipping, like a fish in spacetrying to fly. But falling feelslike flying if you can do it for long enough. "I came here to play football." "I come from a village in Ghana you would not have heardof. I was playing one day in amatch against a team that you would not have heard of in Johannesberg where theAfrican national games are held. Atime out was called, and my coach called me over to the sidelines. He had a very severe expression on hisface. I thought I may have fouledsome one. I was playing veryaggressively that day. He beganwalking when I came to the edge of the field and he motioned for me to followhim. I was afraid to follow himtoo closely. This was a veryimportant game for my club. If wewon, we would get a prize, and perhaps a larger sponsor. He brought me to the first row andthere were two men standing there. White men. Europeans, notAfrikaaners. They were not dressedparticularly well, but it was obvious that they had money. I've never spoken to a rich white manface to face, so I was very nervous. I did want them to think I was some dumb brutish footballer. My coach introduced them. The first man he introduced wasolder. 'Francis'. He said to me." Francis paused for a moment and lookeddown before continuing. "'Francis. This man is a football scout fromParis.' The man interrupted my coach before he was done speaking to introducehimself. His name was Guillaume LaCroix. He told me to just callhim Gil. He told me that he hadbeen watching me in particular during the game. He said that he liked my aggressions. That my style was strong, andgraceful. He told me, he wanted totake me to Paris to play for the club which he represented. He said, he wanted to tell me now,because he wanted to see how I would play after having been told this. Then I was dismissed. And, that's how I got here. He paid for the ticket, for thehotel. Everything. After my tryout, he told me and theother players I was playing with to wait in the lobby of the stadium. After four hours waiting there, we weretold by security that we had to leave. We tried to protest, but-they told us they would call the police if wedid not leave. We tried, politely,to explain that we were waiting for our agent. We were told to leave again and the police werecalled." Juliette, who had stoppedeating, did not look up the entire time he had told his story. Then she, slowly, resumed, looking upsheepishly for a moment as she chewed her waffles. "I want to help you Francis. I can tell you are a good person, and that you came herwith-good intentions and that you were-misled by an evil person. I am very sorry to hear about yourstory. But, now, you're getting a break." Francis got the feeling again. Too much hope. He fought to choke it back. Too much hope is scary. When we finish, I want you to go tothis address." She beganscribbling onto a napkin. "This ismy father's address. He owns therestaurant, and is a very big football fan. He will help you find a job."



2.

When Francis arrived at the house, he was greeted at thedoor by a tall man who appeared to be in quite good shape for a fellow of hisage, with short white hair cut like that of a young man. "You must be Francis. Juliette told me you would becoming. The name's Harold. Harold Dumas. Please come inside." The house was very nice. Francis felt the urge upon being in such a nice place to clean himself. Before he could ask, the man said. "There's a shower upstairs you mayuse. Please be my guest."

The shower looked like it must have been veryexpensive. It was surprisinglylarge and had shower-heads dispersed all over the walls, all pointing to thecenter. The door was a single paneof large glass with a small chrome handle that had a finger grip underneath itand magnets that held it closed. The bathroom itself was also quite large. It seemed more like just another room in the house. The tiles were a rustic style terracotta that he had never seen before. Francis was so relieved to be able to bathe himself. He was surprised that Juliette couldnot smell him (but perhaps she could, and was only being polite). When he got out of the shower, henoticed that the bathroom door was open. He was a bit surprised, because he distinctly remembered closingit. He walked over to the door toclose it again, when he noticed in the mirror that he could see into the otherroom, and that Harold was on the phone. He turned around when he saw that the man noticed him. Francis went to close the door smilingas he did so, but Harold grabbed the other side of the knob gently, smilinglooking into his eyes. "I'm sorry,we're not in the habit of closing doors around here Francis. I should have told you." "I'm sorry sir. That was quite rude of me." "It's all right my boy" the man said,continuing to grip the knob coercing Francis to let go of it. Once he did so, Harold opened the dooreven wider, and then stood between it and Francis, in a way as if it stillpromised some kind of defense, even though they were now both standing out inthe open. "How do you like Paris,so far?" Harold said. "It's nice sir" Francis said lookingdown at the ground. "Nice it is,indeed. But one needs money to getaround. Juliette told me when shefound you that you had none at all. Is that right?" "Yes sir." "Not even enough to buy any foodwith. Am I right?" "Yes." "You know Francis, a boy like you could get into a lot oftrouble in a city like this. Thepolice would not know your background, the people would be afraid of you, ordismiss you as another immigrant. You know we have a lot of Nigerians here in Paris now. You might find yourself caught up insome trouble, especially without a job and a proper command of thelanguage." Francis was feeling nowquite uneasy. "I know sir, I amvery glad that I have an opportunity. That you are-willing to give me one. So that I may-make some money-and go back-" "Home? Yes?" said Harold smiling. "Yes, I suppose you could. Although, airline tickets to Ghanaare-quite expensive. You wouldhave to save up for a long time, even if you had a good job." Francis was beginning to feel verynervous. All he wanted to do wasto get dressed. To put on someclothes and discuss employment, but something about Harold's stance made itseem impossible to move past him. "Francis. Is something thematter?" said Harold suddenly looking confused. "You have such a pretty face, it doesn't ennoble you to lookworried my boy. Here." "Harold then took Francis's hand thatwas holding his towel and gently pried his fingers off of it's two ends thatwere holding it over his waist. The towel, as if it were his only friend in the world that had suddenlydecided to betray him, slipped first from around the top of his pubicarea. He reached with his otherhand to grab it and prevent himself from being exposed, but Harold then grabbedhim quickly around the wrist and let the towel, gaining speed fall to thefloor, gently unwrapping itself from around his firm round black behind. Francis was trying not to shake, andlike a rabbit caught in a snare, really had no idea what to do. Harold then slowly released his handsand let them fall to Francis's sides. His stomach and chest were heaving shallowly, he tried to keep astraight face. He had absolutelyno idea what he should do. Withoutsaying a thing, Harold reached over starting to touch his still wettedshoulder, then moved his hand down the side of his arm and to the small of hisback, then he reached around him and began massaging is naked buttocks. Francis just stood there. Harold smiled at him and said. "You are a very beautiful boyFrancis. Does that feel good? I can feel, how wet you are. Your ass is very fit. Very firm, but yielding. Do you mind that I'm doing this?" Francis just kind of moved his headaround from side to side slightly, and continued to let Harold, his generoushost, move his right hand to the front of his groin and cup it." "Now, you're quite good with English Isee, so I suppose you know a little expression they use in America, yes? To have someone by the balls?" Harold said this, knowing full wellthat Francis would not reply. "Look down at my hand boy. Where is it?" Noreply. "TELL me, where my handis." Harold said clutching himtightly but only for a minute." "Your hand is on my testicles sir." Francis said stammering in a high voice. "I'm holding you by your testiclesFrancis that's right. Do you knowwhy I might want to do something like that? Because I want something. I want something from you, and I want to make sure that youunderstand that and that you want to co-operate, because as it stands rightnow, you have no where to go where anyone will believe you, let aloneunderstand what you're saying, or even really care for that matter." "What do you want?" Francis said, not quite broken downyet. "I want you, Francis, to goto my bed room, and go into my bedside table and get the bottle of cocoa butterout of it. You'll know it when yousee it." Francis did as he wastold, and walked naked into the other man's room in a state of shock toretrieve the cocoa butter. Haroldfollowed him. Francis could seenothing of how well decorated and modern Harold's hallway was, only the hallwayitself. He walked down thehallway, past the open windows, and went to Harold's bedside table to producethe cocoa butter. Harold followedhim. When they had both enteredthe room, Harold closed the door behind them and continued to giveinstructions. "Put that in yourhands, the cocoa butter, and rub your penis with it Francis." Francis did as he was told, trying hisbest to enjoy it which really was the only thing he could do at the time. "No!" Yelled Harold. "You aren't trying hard enough. Rub that your penis and become aroused, or I will shoot you." "I'm trying." Wimpered Francis. "Give it to me." Harold said. "Give that to me and come over here and unzip my trousersnow please." Francis did as he wastold like a boy obeying his father. "Good, good Francis." Harold then produced a 9mm from under some magazines on the bedsidetable. "Now, I think you know what I want you to do."

When Harold was satisfied, he told Francis to get onto thebed and assume the doggystyle position the way a woman would, and instructedhim that he should point his toes together and stick his rear end as high intothe air as he could. Harold tookthe cocoa butter in one hand and began massaging his buttocks with it. You know, when I was your age, I was inthe foreign service in Ghana. Doyou like that I told you that just now?" "Yes sir." "No you don't! You hate it, now tell me that you hatethat I was in the foreign service in Ghana!" He did, again, as he was told. "I'm going to penetrate your' rectum with my erect penisFrancis. Do you like that I'vejust told you that?" "No! I don't!" "Harold slapped the back of his head with a well oiled palmso hard that the shock of it made Francis cry a little bitch gettingraped. "You do like what I told younow, because you will enjoy it and so will I. Now you might know better how to approach a woman in thefuture. Thank me for the lessonboy, this is only one of three good deeds I have done for you today!" "Thank you, for teaching me..." "How to fuck!" Harold produced a muscle relaxing creamfrom one of his discarded pants pockets and began rubbing it against Francis'sanus until he could fit two finger into it completely. "I'm teaching you how to fuck Francis. You'll want to know how to be good atit, I promise." Harold then beganeasing himself into the young man's black behind, shallowly at first, and thenwith great speed that made Francis scream out loud. He screamed and kept crying as the older man was fucking himfrom the rear. "I don't mind thatyou scream, it reminds me of a woman. I like fucking women too you know. You may bite the pillow too if you wish." Harold's view of Francis's naked back was spectacular. It gave him a great surge of power tobe having sex with a fit, young football player. His muscles were rippling, his ribcage was heaving. Harold reached around him to grab histesticles and then pulled out and shot several hot arcs of semen so far acrosshis back that it got onto his neatly cropped hair cut. He looked down, and saw that there wastraces of blood in the mucosal leftovers clinging to his penis. Bathwater, sweat and blood mixedtogether between Francis's thighs. The ordeal was over, and now his stomach and lower bowels were in greatpain, yet somehow, his anus was not. Harold then gave him more instruction. Alright now Francis. Go into the second drawer of my bed side table and take the money out ofit. That's yours, and if you do agood job again, you'll get more. You were a very good boy today. Why don't you go and get some fresh clothes from the closet. I'll have the help wash your oldones. Harold went to the closet,and produced a fresh new football jersey, and a pair of artificially fadedtight fitting blue jeans and some under wear. He look to see if he could find a pair that were darkcolored, but all he saw was white. He must have a thing for white underwear, he thought before his senseshad returned to him. "Now, here'sa list of things I want you to get from the grocery. Do that, take them to this address, then report backhere. Will you do that?" "Yes sir." Francis said.



3.

Francis, took a cab to the closest grocery store. He Purchased the items on the list and took the cab to the address written on the note. When they arrived, he was, for some reason shocked to seethat it was the same restaurant he had left earlier that morning. It was now 8:30, and the morning rushwas in full swing. Bank tellers, lawyers, teachers. People of allshapes sizes and varieties coming and going into and out of therestaurant. Sitting, eatingtalking, reading their papers. Completely oblivious to the tall, muscled, black stranger in their midstwearing artificially faded jeans and a mock football jersey. Like a moth to a light bulb heapproached the counter where a familiar woman turned to greet him and acceptthe items that he had brought. And then she spoke.

"Did you speak with my father." "Yes." Francis replied without hesitation. "What did hesay?" "He said-" Francis held backevery urge in his body to leap over the counter in the now crowdedrestaurant. He fought the urge toyell and scream and curse and spit in her face. He fought the urge to over power her and ravish her the wayhe had been that morning. And sheknew it. The way she stood, the wayshe looked at him, the way she pushed her chest out at him, and let that coysmile begin to creep it's way across her face again let him know. He had been completely and utterlydefeated. "He said. He could find me some work. And that I should be grateful." "And aren't you grateful Francis? That you come to a strange foreignplace, betrayed by a strange man and your own good nature, and upon being stranded, find a friendly stranger willing to take time out of his day and reach out to you? Feed you, clothe you, bathe you- employ you? Not many people would do that in a place like this. You're very lucky." Francis could barely understand what she was saying. The sound of her voice was fading into the din of the restaurant. Hec ouldn't let himself focus on what she was saying, or even what she looked likeat that moment. He had started falling far before he had come here. He was falling from a high place and had finally landed. Had finally touched down. Not in a warm deep pool, not in a dream. With nothing but marble,and wine glasses to break his fall, he knew now that he could relax again. The uncertainty was dispelled. Reality was assuming its dominance yet again. He thought about the mostreasonable thing to do at this moment. To call his father and affirm to a familiar voice that had lived in his head his whole life that he knew where he was, what was going on, and what hewas going to do tomorrow. So he asked her. "May I use yourphone?" She cocked her head genuinely confused and replied "I don't think so. We're very busy right now and I can't afford to do you anymore favors. We fed you, clothed you, and found work for you Francis. We've done three good deeds for you today. I think that's more than enough.

The Geometer

When Hamsa Berlios awoke this morning, not much had changed. He had taken the precaution of putting a fresh box of chalk on his night stand, so that he could feel the giddiness of being able to use it liberally, and spare himself the frightening prospect of having to go outside and purchase more. Hamsa had figured out how to get out of bed comfortably over the past week or so- finally. Nothing is so geometric as getting out of bed. You don't even need to see a rectangle to feel the horror of your body being oriented in such a way- contorted as if following the contours of a box, but only partially the way round. He turned at an obtuse angle, to face a giddily threatening orientation of rhomboids that he had managed to construct out of his dresser and a broken end table he had found in the alley. This was the most pleasing orientation to wake up to so far. Soon he would grow bored of it, and have to hew something more like an isosceles triangle, or a comely pentagram. If anyone had made asymmetry a way of life, it was poor old Hamsa.
He followed the chalk outlines to the bathroom. The only rectangular objects that he had left unmolested were the top of the toilet, and the sink. He had removed the mirror and the medicine cabinet very, very carefully and installed a nice oval one instead, to trace the contour of his slightly roundish face. That was a dangerous rectangle, a very, very bad one, an awful rectangle that mocked his face- that tried to trap him in its sharp corners- that swung open at him to show him what? MORE rectangles? Empty like his head may have been if he weren't an educated man. What a dreadful, cruel, mocking object, the medicine cabinet; but to strike it would do no good either. It would just shatter and cut him, and then claim the floor! But he had managed some how. It was a great feat, the greatest to confront that thing, to feel ALL of its edges as cold as they could be. But thankfully the ordeal was all over with. He could look at himself safely, and confidently 'That's good, that's really good!' He would say to himself and smile without opening his mouth to see his teeth. How fortunate that there are at least two rectangles that I can cope with, that I can use, he would think to himself. All of the doorways had been altered with bits of scrap wood, or cardboard to make them appear ovular, like him. He had filled the corners of the room with sawdust, or dry concrete, or even salt, to round them out. It hadn't helped very much, so the piles in the corners kept building up, engulfing the feet of the furniture as well. He could scarcely bring himself to read anything, to concentrate that much on something so tyrannically rectangular was beyond his ability, like reading the phone book all the way through would be for a 'normal' person. He had virtually given up on reading, until one day when he found something written on a crumpled piece of paper.
It had been so long since he'd read anything, his eyes wept for lack of letters and his brain atrophied and became sentimental, self-defeatist. He carefully tore the edges off of the paper before letting himself read the words, which even then he accomplished with more than moderate pain. He called its writer, the Encyclopedian:



Before I knew I could talk,
I heard.

Hidden dialects, lost phrases, and angry letters
Soiled, tarnished, unbreathing.

Before I knew my voice,
I spoke.
Proofs, postulates and dead end theories
Railing against nature afraid the flowers would be right.

Echoes of winter yielding to the
Tendrils of an ever invading Spring

Which invarialbly lead back to
Summer’s silent hills, cast in shades of grey,
Shades of the setting sun.

In fabulous gradients,
fading from view

Like a Red paper napkin.


It hadn't crossed his mind in a long time what it was like to see objects such as signs, and screens, and tables, to be in restaurants. Going to a cafe was as foreign a notion as going to the moon! And a date? One might as well try and seduce a giant cock-roach! The only love he had left in his life was for all things ovular. Not necessarily because they were shaped like him, but because as far as he traversed their surfaces, he could never find an edge. Nothing sharp. They appeared to be the exact opposite of rectangles, yet they could still function in their stead. He had taken time to learn how to orient his body against parallelograms. He practiced a kind of body work which he often improvised if he felt his mind try to assemble rectangles where there were none. This is when he used the chalk he now was fondling to offset lines of extrapolation connecting corners had neglected to soften. He would boldly confront his logic like a defiant child to a friendly uncle capable of shocking cruelty and violence. If his life were to remain true and balanced, he had to offset all geometric logic. Triangles were a bad sign, but tolerable, like boa constrictors. He could occupy space, yes share space with them, but how rare they seemed to him to be in the world of men, appearing in natural arrangements.

The poem had inspired him to record all things NON rectangular. He still needed to see objects as they were, not as just shapes. That was simply an unfortunate bi-product of his condition. It doesn't really occur to a person how many rectangles they actually see in a single day, until you start to notice them, the same can be said of germs, and insects, and microbes I suppose. It sort of sets up on you one day, after getting on your nerves, the feeling of something hanging over your head, and a tickling sensation in your nose, your ears ring, your pupils dilate, it's really an awful feeling, not the MOST horrific of course, but bad enough, like bumping a bruise, or biting the inside of your cheek, or a static shock from an assertive door knob, over and over again. It was the first angle that sent the shock, quick, like a prick, but not oppressive. It was the entire arrangement all edges, sharp, perfect, un-collapsible, untouchable. What a primitive urge to flee from them he felt, what dread welled in his heart saved solely for that ubiquitous shape- The Rectangle.
It were as if the whole summation of the world of man and all the horrors he has wrought, and all the denial of his horrors and destructive appetites could be encapsulated simply in a pragmatic design so basic to comfortable life. An abomination, a form aborted by God, resurrected by man to do the devil's work, to let him come and go freely at leisure in plain sight, in signs, upon screens, against walls as shadows with no comfort in their coolness. A cutting board, a butcher's blade. A great stone for pressing a body. That is all they came down to for him. A great shape for pressing a body, for crushing a man's soft ovular form, that can then be washed clean and conveniently put back in it's proper place.

How do you feel about that?

Please don't tell her I said this,
but I really think she's cool

Please don't tell her I think so,
but I really think she's keen.

Please don't tell her I'd like
to see, the worst drawing that
she's ever done.

But if you tell her one thing,
tell her I liked that song.

And if you tell her two things-
tell her I don't like thongs.

And if there is a third thing,
that she just might not know-

Tell her I don't like falling,
or taking it slow.

So if you'll tell her something,
that I might really dread,

just say these last words
that I've written...

why are you stuck in my head???

In a Pachinko Parlour Parking Lot

Hiro sat in a Pachinko parlour parking lot in the sun drenched remnants of his town. He had remembered sitting in that parking lot before as a child in the back seat of his mother's car while she picked up the laundry before they moved into their house. Even then, he remembered sitting in the parking lot after his 8th birthday party. He remembered sitting in that parking lot in High School, smoking cigarettes and drinking, listening to Tupac and wondering what "Weed" was. Now, he sat here helping to dispense food rations and water bottles to survivors at mid-day. The colors of the pachinko machines were already well faded by the time he had seen them. The parlor had been there since the 1970's. Bu there was an arcade inside as well, which always seemed more appealing- but his mother always made him play a few games too many with this grandfather, an old WWII vet. Being forced to play, he always thought, against his will- yet it seemed to give his grandfather true joy, which even then, was not much incentive. He was so Japanese, Hiro's grandfather. As Japanese as one could get. Flat sun pocked face, small nose, thin lips, strong voice and hard wrinkled hands. Shirts always tucked into his high water Khaki pants. He was strong and loud. But too much for Hiro. Hiro, had been raised to distance himself from his Japanese heritage. By television, by music, by their humiliating loss in WWII accented by the war time atrocities of men like his Grandfather, also named Hiro who had participated in the Batan Death March, which his grandfather had indeed done. Hiro had grown up, very confused about Japan and it's place in the world. Japan, it seemed to him had been nothing more than what he had seen in the Pachinko parlour as a child. Bright lights on the outside, a well oiled machine but prone to breaking down, and producing strange odours. Not as clean as everyone perhaps thought, and a little bit- too friendly. Japan seemed like a place that had existed a long time ago with Samurai and Castles like Europe. The Japan he knew was all gray skies and boredom, a small town far from where anything really exciting happened. He remembered Japan feeling like those old Pachinko machines with the faded colors, and the crudely drawn illustrations of monkey's and salarymen who's faded colours stuck out more than their jovial features juxtaposed against sexy, doe eyed femme fatales. It was a Japan that appealed to him as a child, yet which he rejected strongly now. And it was all he knew of Japan and his connection to it. But what did he replace it with? Rap music. Black American music. He thought about being a rap star, about being a Black American. He wondered what the ghetto was like, what was so bad about it. He felt a connection to that music and those people yet he had no knowledge of them outside of their music and their poetry. Perhaps, the ghetto looks something like this. Devastation all around you. The remnants of lives shuffling around calling the names of missing loved ones, picking up trash that used to keep sakes, moving shovels of debris. Perhaps the ghetto had a young man like himself sitting in a parking lot in whatever the equivalent of a Pachinko parlor would be in harlem or south central, handing out boxes of poptarts and bottles of water. Hiro was lucky to survive the Tsunami, and over the past several days- had learned unknowingly what it meant to be a Japanese person. The realization gradually started creeping up on him, and crested in a great wave. Looking around him, he saw the devastation of the Tsunami, and wondered why the Pachinko Parlour was spared. He wandered around inside of it, manouvering around boxes and looking at those old, well used Pachinko Machines and their faded colors, and the unused arcade games with their bright colors and smiling giddy mascots, and he felt his heart rise for a moment at the sight of their familiarity, and he let it. He did not supress his childish glee at seeing them as he once would have done, because he knew when he turned around, he would see nothing but devastation. Nothing left of his town to make his heart rise in anyway. He stood bemusedly, and fondled the knobs of the machine, and pretended to close his eyes and be cordially forced to play 20 minutes of Pachinko with grandpa. He didn't wish those days to come back, nor did he grow too sentimental at the thought. But he knew that after the war, his grandfather had to help rebuild Japan, as he had helped destroy on it's behalf. He knew that he had the same eyes, but his face was a little rounder, his cheek bones a little less dramatic. He knew, that now he understood something about being Japanese the way his grandfather had understood it. It was a place that existed long ago in the hearts and minds of those long dead samurai and peasants. It was a place that had been destroyed, and that he had no choice but to help rebuild. He could relate to that experience.