Stolen Wallpaper

Words but a whisper, deafness a shout

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Location: Zeeland, Michigan, United States

Hi. I wish I had a job selling squirrels. They're so furry, and give you toothy grins. Unless they're rabid, in which case they will eat your face off and then find the rest of your family. That's not so good, I guess.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Random Flashes near a 33rd Birthday

He was four. He asked who sang that song on the radio. Frankie Valli. "What was he....born between two mountains?" Way more laughter than the joke warranted.

He was driving to school. Siblings in the back seat, fighting. He turned around, dad-style, to give them a whack, lost control of the wheel on the snow-slick road, and did a complete 360 in the middle of a busy intersection...and kept movin'. Upside: he never had to drive the siblings anywhere after that.

He was walking in the woods behind the Homans'. He turned left, and stopped dead, heart leaping into chest: a giant bear, looming over the path. Unmoving. Made of fiberglass, full of pellet holes. A target. New gun club. Better not walk back here any more. Or, worse, ride the horse. "Good eatin' but kinda stringy."

He was running, in tiny shorts, the worst member of the track team, but this time he was doing all right, running third. He crossed the line and slowed down, panting heavily. But everyone passed him, and kept going. His heart sank into his shoes. This was supposed to be two laps. He quit the team the next day.

The church youth group was tripping to Chicago. It was taking a long time to check into the hotel, so he went wandering. He rode the elevator to the 23rd floor, and stepped out onto the fire escape, just to see what the city looked like from that high with no glass between him and the sky. Click. The door had shut behind him, and there was no handle on the outside.

Gas station bathroom. Dire emergency, requiring a trepidacious dismissal of questionable hygiene. He leaned forward too far. The tip of his penis touched the fetid porcelain. He freaked the hell right out, but made note in the back of his mind that he'd just discovered the worst feeling in the entire world.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Phantom Lighthouses

He drove. A lazy Sunday, the day of rest. Snow fell in fat lazy flakes that stuck to the trees, forgiving a multitude of sins. Even though he had $34 in his pocket and another $16 in the bank, he was coming from the Sunday buffet at the Zeeland Pizza Hut; he had been hungry, dammit, so shut up already. He idly cruised now, checking out this town, the town he'd grown up in, the town he had no real connection to even though he hadn't really left so much as oozed sideways. Zeeland Floral and Zeeland Jewelry were vacant. There was a massage therapist--massage! In frickin' Zeeland!--occupying Quality Furniture. Something called Eco Reef was in the old tax service building. A chiropractor had insinuated himself behind De Vries. Van Raalte's was gone, replaced by a butt-ugly church-youth pole barn. The high school was now Cityside Middle School, possibly the worst name for a school this side of Sphincter Elementary. Fleetwood was vacant; Hubbell was gone, a ten year vacant lot on a prime corner. The economy had finally landed on Zeeland with both feet after years of immunity. Herman Miller was still there, sure, but they sold thousand-dollar chairs to smug nonfat bastards, like his brother, who sold services back and forth to each other for fun and profit but never actually MADE anything. Nobody created anything anymore; they just passed the dregs back and forth in a frantic effort to siphon off as much as they could before it all evaporated into a big acidic raincloud of nationwide failure. His dad milked cows. Can't get much more tangible than cows. It was an incredibly honorable profession. So of course it was worth about as much as the cows' nocturnal emissions.

His drive took him on, through north Holland's stripmall hell and thence to the beach. Massive "cottages" stood high on the dunes, boarded up against the swirling snowdrifts, silent testaments to the day when people took the money made from MAKING something, even if it was over the dead bodies of the proletariat, and using it to build for the ages. The people who owned these houses now sold stocks, and ran hedge funds, and applied orthodontics, and injected botulism toxin into the lips of aging women. They were the beneficiaries of largesse flown downhill, and they were hanging on tight, investing wisely, keeping the riffraff out---well, mostly. Maybe in the future it would change, but for now you could still drive down through the manses in your mostly broken used Dodge, park your car at the public beach, and walk out onto the frozen lake, out out about fifty feet from the shore, stand atop a wave that froze into place a month ago, nature tamed by nature alone, and look out across the pale pale blue horizon, free for a few moments and awake to the limitlessness of the world. Then you gotta get back in the car and go to Walgreens for a Red Bull. He drove up Lake Shore Avenue, torn between envy and contempt for the captains of past industry who seized up all this land. He passed a sign at the end of a long long driveway through the trees to a grand pile: "4277 Life Is Good." Well, bully for you. Over at 11476, it's a whole other story.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Live Like Everyone's Watching

He drove. Too fast for conditions: slippery, freezy rainy. Late for work again; someday perhaps he'd learn the difference between AM and PM settings on the alarm clock. The pell-mell merge at the west end of Allendale, where two lanes of traffic have to cram into one in about fifteen feet. He was stuck behind a white ark going 47 down a state highway; posted speed was 55, customary speed was 65. This was ridiculous. He could barely see ahead of him, but he couldn't lose a cent of pay to this old goat in the Town Car. By now a line of ten or more cars was stacked behind him like 747s over O'Hare, waiting for the main chance. Finally he saw an opening, and floored it, squeezing by, flying a middle finger at the slow-ass bitch.

He turned to look. He saw a surprised white-haired elderly lady. It was his own grandmother.