June 14, 2010 § 5 Comments
Today marks the twenty-sixth day that I’ve spent here in our great nation’s capital. I have fifty-three days left to enjoy here, but as you can probably imagine, counting down at the 1/3rd mark is not a sign of boundless joy and relish. I intended this post to be an omnibus update on how I’m doing here, but it’s turning into a multi-part series. My stay has had its ups and downs, but I’ll begin by bitching about what’s bothering me the most:
the Housing situation and why I hate it
When I decided to go to Boalt for law school, one of the first changes I made in my life was signing a lease for an apartment all my own. I figured if I was to spend three more years eating at the same restaurants, walking down the same streets, and dodging the same army of jealous boyfriends, then at least I should have my own place. That way, I could at least pretend that I was some new, mature grad student and not some stale seventh-year super senior. Over the last two years, my bachelor pad on Dwight and Telegraph has become my castle, a fortress that I could retreat to when I felt the need to escape, well, everything.
If my Berkeley apartment was a fortress, then my room here in DC is a clearance-rack-at-Wal-Mart camping tent assembled by a first-grader with ADHD. I live in the converted living room, and there are four other people that live in this house. Two of them are students here at American University, two are subletters, and three of the aforementioned four are French. Frankly, I can’t stand it here. The house is dirtier than The Future Garage is on a clean day, and I would rather lick a horse’s bottom than have to share a small bathroom with two female-strangers again. My 1980’s mattress is so damn lumpy that I need a topographical map to navigate it. And for crying out loud, can someone explain to me how white people can stand to wear their shoes in their own homes? It’s a vile practice that results in the floor of your most intimate place being no cleaner than a sidewalk or subway escalator. Disgusting.
April 17, 2009 § Leave a comment
He cracked open his closet. A ray of sunlight peeked between the closet doors, painting gold on the finely pressed white shirts and crumpled sweatpants alike. He pulled them open and peered into the sleepy darkness. How did he want to remember his first drive in his first new car? Did he want to relax into his favorite jeans and worn black t-shirt, so he could melt into the leather buckets as he gently nosed his new companion down wind-swept, ocean flanked roads? Or did he want to stroll into the Porsche dealership like he owned it, tie flapping lightly in the air conditioning as his slick leather shoes gently crushed the plush khaki carpet? Decisions…
The cab driver didn’t seem annoyed when he finally shut the front door of his house and strolled across the lawn. His slacks slid smoothly across the vinyl bench seat as he climbed in.
[Sky blue Porsche 356s I caught relaxing in a parking lot next to the bancroft hotel. I met this guy driving a 911 GT3 once. If you get a chance to ride in a rear-engine supercar, you should; there’s nothing like the feeling of the engine buzzing angrily behind the rear bulkhead. Second fastest car I’ve ever ridden in. He told me he owned 16 different porsches. The 356 was his favorite.]
December 1, 2008 § Leave a comment
This is a “matchbook” short story, which means it was hammered through in a couple hours with little to no pre-planning or post-editing. I wrote it in response a thread in which Jeff proposed we hunt down the pirates responsible for the recent attacks near the Suez canal, and a bunch of the core FKN crew decided to jump aboard and make humorous character profiles. It’s not supposed to be awesome literature; just a source of entertainment and amusement for my old Chicago crew. It’s like a fanfic for the forum guys.
Rendezvous Threat pt. I
Chris “Info” Helms stared up into the darkness, controlling his breathing and feeling the rhythmic hum of the engines running beneath him. Not having showered for over three days, his clothes were beginning to smell of stale sweat and sea salt; he was looking forward to getting back to base. His work today was far from done, but the promise of a warm shower, clean clothes, and a real bed fueled the fire of motivation that was slowly building up in his chest.
He thumbed his flashlight for one final check. The small array of LEDs cast a bright blueish-white light onto the corrugated metallic walls, revealing the inside of a long shipping container about eight feet wide, thirty feet long, and ten feet tall. The way the light struck the bends in the metal walls they formed alternating long dark shadows like bars of a prison, a prison that he would soon be rid of. He sat up on the small cotton mattress he had been laying on and surveyed his belongings. His ration boxes, now mostly empty, sat in orderly boxes along the wall next to their brethren water bottles. The excrement sacks were all the way in the far side of the container, barely illuminated by the light.
He set the flashlight down and began a final check. He reached down and drew his knife from the sheath on his right thigh, thumbing the lock that held it in place. Only slightly longer than a boy scout’s pocket knife, it felt light and familiar in his hands and he knew its custom ceramic coated blade would easily cut through anything from soft human flesh to small bones to thick mooring ropes. It slid effortlessly back into its sheath with a tiny click.
Next he reached across his chest and drew his Beretta from its shoulder holster. Over the last day he had slept with it resting in his hand, just in case the crew had decided they wanted to get a head start on divvying up the goods and open his container. It was more or less futile; even if every bullet found its fatal mark before they turned him into swiss cheese, he didn’t have enough bullets with him to kill the entire crew. If he could get all headshots.
Finally he pulled his phone out from his pocket. The advent of high tech civilian telecommunications devices meant that mercs rarely had to purchase military electronics these days. He could send text messages, access the Internet anywhere in the world, take photographs quickly and discreetly and receive GPS information on the fly. It wasn’t as rugged as the military stuff, but it was a hell of a lot cheaper and could be modified more easily to suit their needs. He looked at the time: 5:28 AM. A few taps of his thumbs, and his message was sent:
NEXT RADIO CHECK AT 0540. BE HERE BY 0600 OR WELL BE FUCKED.
He put the phone in his pocket, got up, and reached for the door of the container.
Jeff “The Accountant” Kimball sat quietly at the table in the bridge. The plans for the SIRIUS STAR were laid out on top of it, and he was staring at them, going over the routes one more time. He didn’t have to; he knew every single checkpoint and action node by heart. His phone vibrated in his hand and he flicked his phone open immediately. He squinted at the message, closed the phone, took a deep breath, then quietly gave the order,
“Alright Chinaman, we’re green. You got about 15 minutes.”
Tian replied only with his hand, grabbing the throttle and pulling it down towards the floorboards. The engines instantly went from idling softly to a powerful, savage roar that immediately gave way to a disturbing grinding sound as the boat lurched forward then stopped dead. Jeff jumped out of his seat and shouted towards the front of the boat where the rest of the crew was waiting.
Hit the jump to continue reading.
July 8, 2008 § Leave a comment
Continued from chapter 2.5:
“Limping through the back door, he dipped into his supply of courage and found but a few drops. Suddenly, in a flash of brightly colored cloth, black hair, and silver metal, a frying pan flew in an arc towards him. It caught Rex on the left temple, and he instantly saw the room rotate and move upwards to meet him. There stood the pretty girl that had been sitting behind him, wielding the pan triumphantly. As he was descending it occurred to him briefly that in the instants before it happened, he had been groaning, limping, and covered in smeared blood, mud, and black bile…”
blink. blink blink.
Blink Blink. Turn.
Blue and red.
Rex squinted his eyes to try to gain focus. Is that the hazmat symbol? He squinted his eyes further, and barely made out the scythe-like pincers of the hazardous materials logo on the box to his right. Rex was laying on his right side, curled up on a cot, surrounded by a tent made of blue tarp-like material. The portable tent was about the size of a bedroom, with various medical and containment devices standing about lifelessly.
“Finally.” Rex heard a voice over his left shoulder. Groaning, he rolled over onto his left to see a tired policeman standing up from where he’d been sitting on a folding chair. His utility belt creaked slightly as he rose to his feet.
“Quick, say something coherent so that I know your brain hasn’t turned to mush from that zombie juice,” he said, peering down at Rex and sticking his thumbs in his belt.
Rex looked for words, furrowing his eyebrow as he tried to think of something profound that would sum up his entire humanity, something that would prove that every sector of his brain was working fine.
“uhh…I think I’m good.” Well, so much for that, he thought.
“Yeah, looks like you’ll be just fine.” The policeman replied.
“Where am I?” Rex croaked, sitting up in the cot. His body felt like it’d been thrown into a cement mixer and dropped on itself for about twenty minutes.
“Temporary medical and hazardous materials tent. Patients with interactions with the undead are never admitted to hospitals for fear of cross contamination, so this is SOP. Doc outside says you’re good to go.” He said, matter of factly. He gestured towards Rex’s things in the corner of the room: backpack, books, motorcycle jacket and boots. “Unfortunately, we had to burn your clothes, but we did manage to save the boots.”
Rex stared at his things, thinking about what happened. The last thing he could recall was a bright flash of color before getting dropped by a kitchen utensil. He reached up to his left temple, and smarted as his finger brushed up against the patch of black and blue. He smiled to himself weakly, recalling that he’d been mistaken for a zombie himself. Saved a man’s life, defeated two zombies mostly unscathed, and this was all that he had to show for it. He wondered if perhaps she’d take him out to dinner or something for his troubles.
“Where’s that girl?” He asked the officer, who seemed to be waiting for Rex to get up so that he could leave.
“Oh that sweet thing?” He replied, smiling knowingly, “She left about 10 minutes ago. Left you a note though, I think she put it in your jacket. The gentleman was still a little too shocked to write.”
Five minutes later, Rex climbed onto his motorcycle wearing only his helmet, gloves, jacket, boots, and hospital gown. The sky was getting dark, and he knew that it’d be a cold ride home. Remember the note, he took his gloves off and fished a folded piece of paper out from his pocket. In nice, flowing handwriting was the following:
“I’m so sorry about hitting you! Not exactly the best way to thank you for saving my boyfriend’s life. We’ll buy you a very nice dinner sometime, we are forever in your debt. Josie and Frank.” Her phone number was scrawled underneath.
“Eh.” Rex said underneath his helmet. Not only was the dude he saved her boyfriend, but a nice dinner? No, “we owe you a life debt, now here’s a new motorcycle/ferrari?” Or “Mr. Frank, I’m leaving you because you can’t defend yourself from zombies, and Mr. Rex, allow me to kiss the massive head wound that I inflicted all better?”
Rex just smiled to himself and shrugged. So it goes.
July 8, 2008 § Leave a comment
Earlier this chapter…
“As the zombie fell, Rex fell with it, facedown, with his kicking leg near its head and the zombie’s rotted, unmanacured toes growing larger in his vision. It briefly occured to him that those toes were quite large, and that they were connected to very large feet that were connected to a very large zombie. Like, the zombie of a two hundred lb. dude. Like, the zombie of a two hundred lb. dude that he was about to be wrestling with. Briefly he thought that it’d be nice if Duke were there to football kick the zombie in the head, just as he’d done to the jabroni that tackled and tried to choke out Rex at that last party…”
Rex placed his arms in front of him in a proper falling triangle, but given the speed of the descent still managed to bash his nose against his assailant’s right shin. Reeling in pain, he repeatedly tried to yank his left leg free of the zombie’s grip. Don’t bite my foot don’t bite my foot don’t bite my foot. His mind raced as he tried to figure out what to do.
“HWRAAAAR!” The zombie screamed as it bit down onto the side of his left foot.
Nothing. The zombie’s blackened and cracked teeth were no match for his leather racing boot. Sensing another opportunity, he yanked his left leg once more. Disembodied teeth flew forth chased by a geyser of black blood. Without time to gag, Rex quickly pulled his legs up to his body, and sat on the zombie’s thigh, straddling the leg. Hoping that joint locks worked on the undead, he reached forward, grabbed the top of the foot with his left hand, snaked his right arm under the leg and grabbed his left wrist with his right hand and torqued the figure-four lock as hard as he could. The ankle gave way with a sickening snap, and the zombie screamed once more, this time with more anguish.
Rex pushed off of his legs and into a roll, rising onto his feet and facing the rising zombie. It stood up to about chest level before putting too much weight on his broken ankle, and falling forward. As he fell, Rex launched his right up as hard and fast as he could, catching the zombie square in the nose, caving in the front of its face and snapping its head back hard enough to break its neck. It fell once more, defeated, and laid completely motionless. Rex knew it was done…contrary to popular belief, zombies are too stupid to play dead.
Groaning, he stumbled up towards the patio, his right knee smarting as he placed weight on it. Must have been bruised on the zombie’s face. It was alright, Rex just had to chill out until the calvary arrive. Just as he made it past where he was sitting, he heard a tremendous crashing sound coming from behind the counter inside the cafe.
“Fuuuuuuuuck…” he said groaned slowly and loudly, wondering how he’d continue fighting with his busted knee. He didn’t have long to decide, the crashing sounds seemed to be getting more hurried. Limping through the back door, he dipped into his supply of courage and found but a few drops. Suddenly, in a flash of brightly colored cloth, black hair, and silver metal, a frying pan flew in an arc towards him. It caught Rex on the left temple, and he instantly saw the room rotate and move upwards to meet him. There stood the pretty girl that had been sitting behind him, wielding the pan triumphantly. As he was descending it occurred to him briefly that in the instants before it happened, he had been groaning, limping, and covered in smeared blood, mud, and black bile…
TO BE CONTINUED….
July 8, 2008 § Leave a comment
I was going to release these over the course of the next week, but I realized that Chapter 2 is much, much more interesting and better suited to enticing you to read my blog, so here it begins:
Tahitian vanilla chai. Rex had no idea where Tahiti is, but he silently thanked all of its founders and residents for the hard work and innovation they put into making the beautiful drink that was sitting in the yellow mug in front of him. Tea, sugar, cream, and love all mixed together into a blissful concoction that comforted him in the slightly chilly lakefront breeze. Wonderful. He breathed in through his nose, and back out through the mouth, looking for the slight head rush that always came with deep breaths of cool air. Nothing like a weekend getaway to get some work done and enjoy the tranquil outdoor patio of a quiet lakeside coffeeshop.
His was one of four tables assembled in a circle on the patio, and he sat sideways so that he could see the lake out of the left side of his eye. There was one unoccupied table between him and the water, and two more behind him. Thumbing the wheel on his music player, he cued up some gentle blues to enhance the mood even more. Two hours of work down, maybe one more before jumping on the bike and heading home, he thought. Slightly squinting his eyes, he arched his back forward to crack it, then moved his neck side by side to relieve some tension there as well. As he turned across his left shoulder, he caught a glimpse of a pretty young lady with long black hair and thin, sharp eyebrows, who had sat down in the same direction as him in the table behind him, and was looking attentively at what looked like some schoolwork. He briefly entertained the thought of going to talk to her, but as he did, she looked up and caught his eye. He snapped back around with a jerk, and pretended to be very interested in the next song on his mp3 player. Nice, round eyes, he thought, as he grinned to himself sheepishly and went back to his work. But not today. Don’t spoil the mood now. Don’t be an idiot now. Work now.
About five minutes later, he was startled as the long-haired girl brushed past his arm and into his table, knocking his chai over. Undaunted, she scrambled around the table and ran inside the café.
“Excuse me miss,” Rex called digsustedly as he stood up and waved his hand at his spilt chai. “You knocked over my ch-”
“AHHHHHH!” His call for beverage justice was interrupted by a scream at the waterfront. Rex snapped his head to the left quickly, and was stunned by what he saw.
“What the fuck-?” he said out loud, his voice quivering as he felt the need to shiver, cower, and vomit all at once. There on the waterfront, about 15 yards from where he now stood, was a man in his 30’s. He was wearing a red flannel shirt, and below that shirt there were a pair of rolled up khakis. Below the khakis were his muddy legs and a pair of arms. Attached to the arms was just about the ugliest goddamn thing Rex’d ever seen. Its skin was a ghastly grey with blotches of green and blue-purple, and it had boils and sores all over. Also, where one of its eyes were there was a festering wound and a hole that looked like a golf ball had been driven into its head. It wasn’t the first zombie he’d seen in person, but Rex was almost certain it was the ugliest. It was trying its hardest to pull the poor man into the water, and the man was holding on desperately to a small root and clawing at the sand and dirt to save himself from certain doom.
Rex snapped his head to the left and right to see if there was any help. Finding that there was no nobody, he sensed the moral imperative and sprinted towards the man. He briefly considered the tradeoff of the heavy motorcycle boots he was wearing. They would protect his foot from the hardest kick he could deliver, but their limited range of motion would also prevent him from being able to deliver the hardest kick he could. Oh well, he thought, just as he reached the lakeside, planted his left foot, and fired a right roundhouse kick into the zombie’s head. To his great surprise, it exploded like a rotting cantelope, its pieces ploping into the water.
“Did you know that zombies, because they don’t have to breathe, can wander around underwater? The water speeds up the decomposition, but occasionally they’ve been known to go up on the shore and attack humans.” Something in the water must’ve softened the bone, he thought, as he remembered the words of his friend Duke just as the arms went limp and the man sprinted back up to the patio. Rex looked down at his right boot, which was now covered in water, water-softened bone and grey flesh. Just was he was doing this, a black shape wandered across the right side of his vision and a cold, clamy hand attempted to grab the right side of his face. It just barely grazed his right eye as he flinched to the left and turned out of the way, running up towards the patio. The second zombie stumbled towards him, letting out a fearsome but waterlogged roar.
Rex quickly surveyed the patio, looking for a weapon, with his right eye squinted in pain. Seeing nothing obvious, he grabbed a chair, spun around, and hurled it at the zombie, where it hit its legs, bounced off, and fell. The gray mass of undead stupidity looked down at the chair that was now sitting in its path. Any other time, this may have looked comical, but all Rex saw was an opportunity. He ran towards the stationary opponent. Left leg first. Then right leg. Left leg. Right leg. Left leg bend, and launch, right leg up. As he flew and twisted over the fallen chair, he thrusted out with a left back kick, catching the zombie square in the chest with a satisfying thud. The zombie fell backwards, but as he did Rex noticed that it had grabbed his leg firmly. As the zombie fell, Rex fell with it, facedown, with his kicking leg near its head and the zombie’s rotted, unmanacured toes growing larger in his vision. It briefly occured to him that those toes were quite large, and that they were connected to very large feet that were connected to a very large zombie. Like, the zombie of a two hundred lb. dude. Like, the zombie of a two hundred lb. dude that he was about to be wrestling with. Briefly he thought that it’d be nice if Duke were there to football kick the zombie in the head, just as he’d done to the jabroni that tackled and tried to choke out Rex at that last party…
TO BE CONTINUED.
May 28, 2008 § Leave a comment
The lights glide up and over the curves and valleys, flying across crevices and flowing over the slick orange paint before sailing up and over the windshield. Each one reaches down from the lamps overhead, caresses the Z-car’s hood hood, then disappears behind us, like strangers passing by on the street, quickly seen and quickly forgotten. Underneath this current of light, the robust ford 302 powerplant hums along lazily, sipping on the cool summer air and awaiting the order to launch the car and the driver towards the horizon. With my left arm resting on the open window sill, I can feel the car’s heartbeat through my arm, assuring me. Cradling me.
The black tarmac stretches out in front of us, straight and flat as an airport conveyor belt, whisking us away from the diner and towards soft sheets, covered and secure parking, and if the time is right (and it’s always right), a couple more drinks to polish off the evening.
This particular night, the 302, the Z-car, and I are joined by one more. I glance over to the right. Her head is turned out the window, and from my seat I can see her eyes tracing the buildings and signs as they go by. Even in the dark I can see her slender and beautiful neck line, interrupted only by the thin, silk scarf fluttering gently in the breeze. As the FM radio fades out of its serenade and into a more lively track, I watch gravity lose its grip on the corner of her mouth ever so slightly. Grinning, I wake up the engine a bit with my right foot and it roars to life, adding inertia to the list of physical laws to falter. With a twinkle in her blessed eyes, she looks over at me and parts her beautiful red lips to grace me with her words.
“Stop showing off.”
“You heard the woman,” I said towards the steering wheel, allowing a bit of mischief to creep into my smile.
Of course, the Z-car would have none of it. With a downshift and a quick flick of the wheel, we were nosed into a narrow two-lane road. The street lamps quickly give way to dark leafy trees and with a healthy dose of throttle, we launched headlong into their embrace. Massaging the suspension, I traced the edge of the road with my peripheral vision and peering ahead into the darkness to anticipate the next set of curves. My arms and legs reached out to touch and move in rhythm with the controls, the two of us locked in a serene dance up the side of the mountain.
Rev upon rev, corner upon corner, the needle of the tachometer continued to sprint up towards the red, only to fall back down for another pass, over and over again. The tree cover began to thin out, and like a benevolent goddess inspecting her handiwork, the moon peered through the branches, wondering if the little orange flame licking at the night sky was any child of hers. Down below, the mountain god had already passed his judgement. The road began to turn narrow and rough, and the edges of the road became more and more precipitous. Smooth, clean pavement gave way to spidery cracks and strewn gravel, tempting the four of us to explore the guardrails. Following his lead, the moon joined in the fray, ducking behind the mountain and shrouding the night with darkness.
Tonight though, this orange flame had the Devil’s own resolve. We pushed ever harder, exploring the front end traction a little and the rear end traction a lot. Tires squealed and double clutch downshifts rocked the night in proud rebellion. The white hot headlamps sliced through the darkness like a soldier’s lance, guiding our ascent up the Tower of Babylon.
Suddenly, as we rounded a blind corner, the mountain revealed his last card. The road ended abruptly, and in an instant, all that was separating us and the valley below was a gravel summit clearing. Eyes widened as I stepped hard on the brakes, but in the slippery gravel the rear wheels began to outrun the front. Left, right, left, right, left, I yoked the wheel back and forth, trying to keep the car pointed forward, begging Yvonne to communicated the proper braking pressure to me. Our dance gave way to a deathly embrace. The crunching sound of the gravel screamed in my ears as we slid towards the edge of the cliff. Joining the menacing mountain below, the moon beamed victoriously. There the Z said. Right there. Trusting her, I released some of the pressure under my right foot . The chasis relaxed, the tires dug into the ground, and the roar of gravel gave way to the whirr of brake disks. We came to a stop mere feet from the edge.
Immediately, I jumped out of the car, ran four steps and hopped up onto one of the large rocks on the edge. I stood up tall and looked down at the mountain. The mountain lay silent.
I turned to look at the moon, and the moon looked up at me.