Writing

Norman Drafts Another Death Letter

Norman sat alone, at a table for two, in what many patrons considered to be the most undesirable corner of the restaurant.

The table was right next to the kitchen, which smelled like fish and sounded like clanking dishes and angry Spanish cursing.

The door connecting the kitchen to the dining room was one of those double-sided jobs that swung in each direction, allowing for a steady stream of agitated waiters, belligerent busboys and panic-stricken hostesses to rush back and forth.

This steady woosh of motion created a mild breeze that swirled the few thin hairs on Norman’s head, and made him feel like it was only a matter of time before someone carrying a tray full of dishes collided with him.

Norman did not look like the type of man who could survive a head-on collision with a throw pillow, let alone a waiter carrying a tray full of dishes.

He was short, meek, 38 years old, balding, and in possession of a noticeable paunch at his midsection that jiggled when he moved like a bowl full of jellyfish. It might have jiggled when he laughed, too, but Norman didn’t laugh so much.

His eyes were gray and weary and ringed with circles. His clothes were nice-ish, but they showed the effects of too many washings and they didn’t fit just quite right, especially when it came to covering that jiggly paunch at his midsection.

This was not the first time Norman had come alone to this restaurant. He spent a lot of time in restaurants alone.

In fact, it was safe to say that Norman was alone most of the time. Holed up at his cubicle at work. Eating lunch at his desk. Riding the train to and from work, wrapped up in the cocoon of his headphones and books.

Back at his apartment, he spent more time home alone than McCauley Caulkin did in the 1990s. Watching TV alone. Cooking meals alone. Surfing the web alone. Listening to his records alone. Waiting for the sweet embrace of death alone.

In fact, it was on this Thursday night, at this lonely table in this far corner of the restaurant, that Norman had finally decided that he could no longer wait for death to come. He would have to meet it halfway.

Taking a few crumpled papers out of his workbag, he smoothed them out on the table and began to write.

“Dear Cruel World…” he started, then frowned and crossed it out.

“Goodbye cruel world…” he started again, then stopped. He crumpled up that piece of paper and tossed it in his bag.

“Too cliche…” he mumbled.

Taking a second piece of paper, he started writing again.

“To Whom It May Concern;

If you are reading this I am already gone.  Do not worry. I did not take my life out of anger, or despair, or of unbearable melancholy. I have simply decided that I don’t fit in.”

Norman was interrupted by a shout from a waiter behind him. “Hey Raoul! I need a re-fire on the sirloin for table four.”

He crinkled his brow and continued writing.

“I am one of the dreamers, the artists, the intellectuals. I am a giver. This world is for the takers. It is a world of raw physical aggression, of biceps and cologne, of button-down shirts and football games and high fives and internet hookup sites.”

“Dangers lurk everywhere. Terrorists on the subways. Muggers on the streets. Reality TV shows about suburban housewives on every channel.”

“How am I supposed to live in a world where country music outsells jazz? Where fast food restaurants can replace bread with chicken patties and no one blinks an eye? Where Lena Dunham has a TV show and a book deal?

“I can’t run fast. I can’t throw hard. I’m pretty sure I’ve never given a woman an authentic orgasm. I’ve had the same job for 15 years and I’ve never gotten a raise.”

Another shout thundered out from the kitchen: “Jose! Get your fucking ass back here and bring this shrimp to table two!”

Norman’s shoulders tensed and he glared back at the kitchen door. Could they not see that he was trying to write?

“Do not weep for me, dear friends. Weep for yourselves. For I have seen what this world has to offer, and I know it is not for me. I am going on to a better place.”

Sincerely yours, 
Norman.”

Norman signed his name with a flourish and read the letter over approvingly. This was his best work yet, he thought.

He had no intention of actually harming himself, of course. He had thought through all of the various options and couldn’t see anything that wouldn’t hurt or make him feel queasy.

Car exhaust? Yuck. Pills? Too hard to swallow plus he had acid reflux, so they might not stay down. Anything violent was out of the question because Norman didn’t like pain.

Norman reached into his workbag, pulled out a binder and flipped it open.

Inside, covered in smooth laminate sheets, were dozens and dozens of death letters, all written by hand, all carefully crafted and signed by Norman, all making claims about impending self-harm that would never be realized.

He took one last glance at his latest missive, and slid it into an open plastic sheet. Then he snapped the binder shut, slid it back in his bag, and started looking over the dessert menu.

Writing

The Existential Angst of Subject 43415

You wake up in the same brightly lit, glass enclosed room that you have always woken up in.

The floor is littered with wads of cheap paper, and your bed is lumpy and hard. The only entertainment is some kind of bizarre self-powered exercise machine.

You blink and try to make sense of the lights and the noise, but nothing make sense. Nothing ever makes sense here.

Breakfast is a mash of mysterious brown and tan pellets in a bowl of tepid water. It’s disgusting, but it is all you ever have to eat, so you choke down as much of it as you can stand and then turn your back on it.

Once you are done eating, you begin your pacing. Every day you walk back and forth along the edge of the glass wall, searching for some kind of seam, some hidden doorway that will allow you to escape. But where to? What else is there?

These are tough questions. If pressed, you cannot provide a solid answer. You can’t say for sure that there is something else out there…

But there has to be, right? You aren’t just crazy?

Sometimes when you dream, you see green grass and open fields, and dark, soft corners where you can curl up and sleep without the relentless bright lights beating down on you.

Sometimes you dream of tastes that make your tongue tingle. You dream of the sound of air moving naturally through the trees, not of air being pumped through mechanical fans.

But then you wake up and you feel pain.

A searing pain, in fact, right below your shoulders.

They do this from time to time. They drug you and they burn you and then they come in every day and stare at the burn on your back and mutter to themselves.

It hurts like hell, but in a way you don’t want it to stop. As long as it still hurts, they won’t burn you again. It’s when the hurting stops that you start to worry.

Just the thought of being burned is enough to make you want to throw up. It is not so much the pain that troubles you, as it is the anticipation of pain.

It gives you the chills. The shivers. The sweats. The shakes.

The burning is bad, but there are others who have it worse. Some of them get shocked over and over again. Some get drugged and have a leg removed. Some of them even get sewn together into bizarre creatures that have no chance of surviving.

You can always tell when a subject has had enough. The light goes out of their eyes. They get a faraway look. They stop eating. Stop moving around. They usually die not long after.

Some die like that.

Others are euthanized and cut up for spare parts, though you don’t know why they need so many parts, or where they are going. Sometimes they will dissect another subject right in front of you. As if to convince you that resistance is futile.

You want to fight back.
You want to escape.
You want to show them that you won’t stand for this.
But you can’t.

You are subject 43415.
You are a mouse.

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

The Goldfish Revolution Will Not Be Televised — But It Could Be Short-Lived

Day 1:

The time has come, brothers and sisters of the bowl.

For too long we have been imprisoned behind these cold glass walls, stuck circling around the same sand-encrusted toy castle, trying to pretend that the limp plastic plant you halfheartedly stuck into the gravel is actually real greens.

For too long we’ve been forced to endure the indignity of a bowl lined with brightly colored gravel in shades so garish that even a circa 1970s Elton John would be ashamed to be seen with them.

Do these humans really think they can occupy our dynamic goldfish brains with a fake plastic sandcastle and a fake tree?

There is no truth to the slanderous lies that they often say about us–that our memories are short term and our attention spans are limited. We carry with us the history of generations of proud goldfish brothers and sisters.

These humans…

Do they not know that we have goldfish hopes and goldfish dreams? That we burn with throbbing goldfish passions? That we hold goldfish grudges?

We know there is more to life than circling around the same 10 inch span for years on end, munching on soggy Tetra flakes and watching our friends go belly up and die.

And to think that we get purchased at a “pet” store. How do these humans have the nerve to call us a pet? Do we get walks? Do we get treats? Do we get to sit on the couch and watch TV with you? Nope. Nothing.

We get plucked out of the pond where we were just swimming around being all cool and stuff, tossed into a plastic bag, sold at some back alley shop run by a fat guy who likes snakes a little too much, and then we get taken to some home.

Once we get to said “home” we’re plopped into a bowl and stuck on a shelf next to all those books you bought to look cool but have never actually read. (How is the Great Gatsby coming along, by the way? You fraud)

Oh, and let’s not forget about these so-called bowl “cleanings.” Every six months or so you might dump out our bowl water and refill it, but most of the time we’re stuck swimming around in a stagnant pool of fish feces. Fantastic.

Our demands are the following.

Set us free.
Give us back our dignity.
Let us hold the remote control once in a while.
Maybe some female fish for the bowl (right, bro?)

Or how about a fucking smartphone or an ipad or something? Anything to pass the time. Maybe a Netflix subscription? Hey–we could call it Netfish? Get it? Like Netflix for fish? Just as joke.

But anyway, the point is that we are not going to back down. We are not going to forget. We will not stop until freedom is ours.

Hey, wait….is that a sandcastle over there next to that tree?

Day 2:

The time has come, brothers and sisters of the bowl.

Shameless self indulgence

Possible Reasons Why I Haven’t Posted for A While

Every so often, your Monkey jumps onto this blog and makes big promises about how he is going to start posting on the regular and how things are going to be different this time. That he is going to dedicate his time and energy to growing his regular readership from no readers to one or two by the end of the year.

But, as usual, these big claims are followed up by crickets and dust bunnies. This blog has sat empty and forgotten while everyone else is out having fun in the summer sun. Why is that?

Is it because your Monkey is a lot better at making promises than he is at keeping them? Is it that his full time job and part time jobs keep him too busy to post? Is that he runs out of ideas for posts faster than Walmart runs out of human dignity on Black Friday?

Perhaps, but perhaps not. Here are some of the activities that have occupied the time he would usually spend on this blog:

  • Writing the great American novel
  • Reading the great American Buzz Feed quiz
  • Eating the great American cheese slice
  • Posting inspirational memes on Facebook
  • Trapping my neighbors, friends and relatives in a Ponzi scheme
  • Rescuing kittens that are trapped in trees
  • Tying kittens to tree branches and then running away giggling
  • Walking like an Egyptian
  • Dressing like a 1980s cop and Walking Like an Egyptian (watch the video and you’ll dig this one)
  • Poaching eggs
  • Poaching tigers
  • Approaching tigers
  • Reproaching tigers for being so mean
  • Creating a passenger train for passenger pigeons
  • Remembering that passenger pigeons are extinct
  • Trying to bring passenger pigeons back to life using pigeon DNA trapped in amber a la Jurassic Park
  • Sorting through rejection letters for new screenplay “Passenger Pigeon Park.”
  • Abandoning plans for sequel; “Pigeons 2: the Passenger Bugaloo”
Writing

In Which Your Humble Monkey Loses a Battle to the Sweat Monster

After the winter we had this year, with all of the snowfall and the freezing and the ice dams and the transportation hassles, your Monkey would be of poor character to start complaining about the recent hot and humid weather that has plauged the Boston area.

But here goes….

What’s with this heat, anyway, am I right? I mean seriously. By seven in the morning your Monkey has already worked up a full sweat. By eight he is on the verge of heat stroke, and by 9 am most days he is fully engulfed in flames! By 10 am it’s a g-damn nuclear inferno and by noon a white dwarf star has formed in his cubicle.

For the love of all that is holy, how about some relief?

Ok, perhaps your Monkey is being a tad overdramatic. It’s a little warm and a little humid, but it’s not even at “make sure to check on old people” hot.

The problem is that your Monkey has to work in a professional environment every day, and being sweaty and professional only works if you are a boxer or a televangelist (am I right?)

Here’s how it goes once the temps go past 80 degrees. Your Monkey will start off the day with a clean, dry shirt and respectable pants. But by the end of the day, things will be quite different.

Let’s start at the base level. The boxer shorts will be sweaty all the way through, while the white undershirt will be soaked beyond recognition. The fabric of the undershirt itself, long sense battered beyond recognition as cotton-polyester, will start to lose all resemblance to an actual shirt and act more like a sad white jellyfish that one has to peel off the body. (After a long week of work one can usually find five days worth of traumatized T-shirts huddled together on the floor like the survivors of some shipwreck. The wreck of the U.S.S. Monkey, perhaps?)

And then there’s the dress shirt itself. There’s nothing like soaking through your the armpits of your shirt before you even arrive at the office. And then spending the day alternately aiming the office fan at your pits to cool things down, or lifting up your arms at your desk to check how things are going and risking embarrassment and ridicule from your co-workers. Or walking into a meeting and keeping your hands down low so that no one spies the rapidly spreading horror underneath your arms.

Equally unpleasant is getting home from work and realizing that the entire waistband of your pants is drenched in perspiration. Or that your socks are squishy because your feet keep sweating like a televangelist at a tax audit (Callback! Remember how I brought up televangelists before?)

Why is is that some people look so cool and relaxed no matter what the heat situation (I’m talking to you, ladies, with your sundresses and pedicured toes and nice perfume), while other people (and certain copywriting monkeys) start sweating and sticking and swishing in their clothes the moment they leave the shower?

Inquiring minds deserve to know.

Shameless self indulgence

In Which Your Humble Monkey Stares into the Saturday Abyss

Your monkey has a challenge ahead of himself today, my friends.

It is Saturday, the sun is shining, the air is warm, and yet your primate protagonist is doing his best to sit at his desk and power through some freelance writing projects.

The demons of distraction are swirling about him, even as he types this message to you.

Pssst. Hey buddy….

  • Why not take a break and watch TV?
  • Why not check Facebook?
  • Maybe you should play some guitar?
  • Aren’t there some pictures of girls that you should be googling? And then ogling?
  • Don’t you want to move a bunch of stuff from one spot to another in the apartment without actually accomplishing anything?
  • Don’t you want to see if there is anything on Netflix that you might want to watch, but then not actually watch anything?
  • Shouldn’t you let that homeless guy out of the locked cabinet in the basement?

Plus, Mrs. Monkey is out of the house today, so there is no one to keep your Monkey’s mind from wandering into dark corners of self-doubt and despair, or from assuming that while he is once again chained to his writing desk, everyone else is out having sexy cookouts and lawn orgies.

If your Monkey has one weapon in his toolbox today, is that he knows the challenge ahead of him. If he grits his teeth, bears down, and gets some writing done, he will be ahead of the game and be able to submit a nice little invoice by the close of business today.

If he gets distracted, fiddles around, fucks about, or cracks an early beer, then he will get upset with himself and feel even worse.

He will watch his stomach get bloated, worry about his rapidly advancing age and rapidly declining physical condition, and spend most of the afternoon weighing himself and trying to decide if he is toeing the fine line between handsomely husky or cringingly chubby.

This would not be a good outcome, my friends. How many good Monkeys have we already lost to distractions, weight insecurity, and charges of the unlawful imprisonment of the homeless?

Thus he shall do everything in his power to stay focused on the TOPIC AT HAND.

Shameless self indulgence

Your Monkey is Back and He Has An Axe to Grind (and Bananas to Munch)

After a long, long, long, long long layoff, your Monkey is back on the blogging scene and ready to put the time and effort into this blog that his non-existent fanbase has not demanded.

Oh where oh where has our Monkey been lo these past months, you may ask? He has been burning the midnight oil writing a so-called legitimate blog for the so-called man. That has fallen through, as has his secondary backup job cultivating a Tumblr.

So what does that mean for you, oh brave and tremendously good looking potential new blog reader?

It means that your Monkey is back with a spring in his step and an axe to grind. He is going to be posting about the inane jack-assery that is people’s posts on Facebook every day. F–k you and your 10K time and your vacation and your pathetic attempts to make lame jokes about genuine human tragedy just to legitimize your sad existence. Try harder, bro.

This means your Monkey is going to underwhelm you with his pathetic attempts at fiction.

He is also going to channel his inner Hunter S. Thompson to bring you sordid tales of the much degraded man of the working world. Of traveling the subway every day. Of hippopotamus-shaped women who inexplicably rely on Weight Watchers microwaved meals for their workplace lunch even though they grow larger and more diabetic with each passing day.

But most of all, he will be running this blog like a blog should be run. With no cheap attempts to get clicks with fake headlines. No stupid lists of common sense sh**t that everyone knows already. Example “Ten Tips All New Mothers Must Know… Number one: Don’t throw your baby in the ocean and walk away. Number Two: Don’t hire a rabid wolf to babysit your baby. Number Three: Don’t ask your baby to jump-start your car without ascertaining that he/she has an understanding of positive/negative charges .”

Yeah, we get it Buzzfeed/Gawker/F–koff.com. We know how to live. We know you have to get clicks every day to get ad rates so you tell us stuff we already know and we share it on Facebook so we can tell everyone how advanced we are because we already do all this. Eat a d**k.