Saturday, March 28, 2009

if you leave me a hundred times, a hundred times i'll take you back

in missouri that summer
the boy went crawdading
with his family. his little brother
got his finger cut by one
and the crawdads hid
in a pink watery shroud.

the girl said
i feel like i'm increasingly
defined by the things i hate
and the boy nods thoughtfully
tearing his beer's label into tiny bits.

hackneyed as it is,
the first time the boy ate
mushrooms he knew what
things were inevitable.

the boy listened to that song
over and over again
until he felt pathetic.

magnetism was never an issue,
although he tried many times.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

warm feet

When he woke up he was happy because he saw that it was 10 45 in the morning. He made some noodles and put them on a plate and sat on his couch. He ate the noodles with the plate balanced on his knees and thought about girls and poetry. He thought about how they were both alike in many ways. He thought about writing a poem or writing a poem about a girl or writing a letter to a girl or writing a poem about a girl and sending it to a girl via letter.

He rolled a cigarette and smoked it and ashed on the plate because he couldn't find his ashtray. The night before he had done ecstasy with some friends and he reflected on the fun times they had. He felt a bit sad because real life wasn't as fun as life on ecstasy and naturally he missed the fun. He put out the cigarette on the plate and thought about bringing the plate to the kitchen but instead he laid down on the couch.

The sun wasn't at its peak yet but his apartment was on the sixth floor clear of all other buildings and the sunlight came in unfettered. His feet felt warm and he felt a lot of feelings and shit.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


That night Katarzyna and me were the only ones closing up the store. Usually one of the managers would have to be there, but Pat asked me to close for him. He was taking his son to a monster truck rally and he'd already used up all his days. I didn't mind, Pat is a cool guy who lets us smoke pot in the back by the dumpster and buys us limp cold pizzas from the Buona Beef by the store. But even if it was a douchebag manager like Dan who asked me (which he never would because he's a secret faggot and I saw him beating off in the backroom to the cover of Home Alone II, so he hates my guts, but respects me because I have power over him now) I would anyways, because it would finally give me the chance to tell Katarzyna I love her. She knows I do, but she thinks I'm just a stupid kid with no future, no 'prospects', no nothing. That's fine though, I have something that will show her how serious I am, that I'm dedicated to her.

Pat left the store around 9 pm. Before he went he kept going over the closing procedure like I hadn't been working there since I was sixteen, like I was some newbie to the world of video rentals.

"Make sure all these videos are rewound, that will probably take a good hour to do, so make sure you do those before you do anything else. Actually, have Katarzyna do those, I want you to shelve then make the return calls, you can't have a woman doing those, people won't take it seriously."

The return calls were Pat's specialty, and a lot of times it seemed like they were the only things that kept him going. He calls the overdue video holders and leaves them threatening messages. If they pick up he just hangs up and calls them again a half-hour later. A lot of times he gets pretty creative and acts like a character from the movie that's overdue. Nevermind that most of our revenue comes from overdue movies, it's the principle that matters to him.

"These motherfuckers, what do they think they're the only person in the world we wants to see Judge Dredd? That's what the world is Steven, the world is just full of people who take and take. And the givers? They're fucked!"

Pat was going through a pretty savage divorce, so he was a bit intense at times. He hocked a loogie and remembering he was inside he swallowed it.

"You're a good kid Steven. Stay in school, get the hell out of here. You've got to become one of the screwers, don't become one of the screwed." He put on his jacket and his Cleveland Indians cap. He was bald and when he wasn't in the store he always wore a cap.

"Don't forget to throw out all that Batman shit. Goodnight Katarzyna."

He touched the bill of his cap to her and left. Finally, it was just me and Katarzyna.

She was standing behind the counter putting the returned videos in alphabetical order organized by genre. I remember the first time I saw her, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. That's the key word, woman. It was a year ago, and I was coming from the back after smoking a joint. Pat was with her and he was showing her the Horror/Cult section.
Even in the employee uniform, which was purple and for some reason you had to wear an apron thing, when I saw her, I suddenly understood why anyone would kill over a woman. Strange feelings started up in me, twisting around in my stomach like worms were wrestling in there. She had big generous eyes and generous breasts. Her hair was dyed a dark red that I'd only seen on video game characters. She was older, a lot older. Later I found out she was widowed. Her husband and her met at their Polish church here. He was a construction worker, and he slipped and leaked his brains out all over a fire hydrant. When Pat introduced me to her, and we shook hands, she had the coldest hands I'd ever touched. I knew I was in love with her right then and there.

I would watch her organize those videos for hours if I had the choice. She would pick one up, and study the cover like it was the first time she'd seen it. She'd even turn it over and read the back summary and quotes about it. You could tell she really cared, I mean you could tell she really cared about living, even with her fucked up life and shit. She had a ten year old daughter, Monica, who was retarded. I've never seen her before, but Katarzyna had pictures of her she'd show me and she'd tell me all about her, how she loved animals and looking at pictures of them. Katarzyna told me she had probably dozens of picture books about animals, and how she spent at least a quarter of her paycheck on them, but she wasn't complaining. She never complained, she was just saying how it was.

I went into the counter area and leaned against the bag drawers behind Katarzyna and watched her organize movies.

"So looks like its just me and you closing up tonight." She had the most sexy accent, it reminded me of the chick from Goldeneye, the one that killed through humping.

"You know I care about you right Katy?"

"Of course Stevie, and I care about you too. You're such a funny guy. But." She stopped stacking videos and turned around and faced me. "You get too ahead of yourself. You overthink and I think you get disappointed as a result." She smiled, and I knew the smile was supposed to be a big sisterly smile, but still I felt my face redden like a thermometer.

"I wish you wouldn't call me Stevie. It makes it seem like I'm a kid."

"You are a kid. Steven."

I went up to her and wanted so bad to kiss her. She kept smiling that sister smile and didn't move at all. She smelled good, I want to say like lilacs, but I'm not sure what those are, but they seem right. My heart sped up and I imagined a hamster in my chest in its wheel, running harder and harder going round and round. I closed my eyes and bent towards her, waiting for it, what I've been waiting eighteen years for without knowing it.

After a few seconds and no contact, I opened my eyes. Katarzyna was checking out some videos for a customer, who was looking at me.

"What?" I asked. When he turned away I sighed and let my head rest on a stack of videos. On top was The Graduate, ha ha.

It was stupid of me to think she'd just upright and kiss me the first chance we were alone. After all I'd been trying for a year to get her to go out with me, why would she let me kiss her tonight of all nights? Well luckily I had my secret weapon, which I'd left in the glove compartment of my car.

"Katy, I'm going out for a smoke. Be right back."

"Okay Steven. I love this movie, it's so funny. Enjoy!" She bagged the videos for the guy and I waited for him to exit and I followed him out.

My car back then was a shitty '95 Corolla which my drunk mom let me buy from her when she stopped going places. It was fine for now, but I had big plans ahead of me. I got into the car and opened the glove compartment. I took out a tiny square case and opened it. Inside the case was a ring, with a big blue rock, an opal, Katarzyna's birth stone. It cost me six hundred bucks and I had to give up weed and fast food but those were just impediments. Besides, having to give up weed showed me how great DXM is.

Not only is drinking cough syrup much cheaper than weed, but gets you way more messed up. People think it's the alcohol in it that gets you buzzed, but they're idiots. It's a chemical called dextromethorphan, or DXM. I loved the stuff, even though it was like trying to drink a warm sludge, once you got it down you were set. I took out the bottle that I'd bought earlier and gulped it down. I lit a cigarette to get rid of my cherry breath. I closed my eyes for a minute.

When I opened them I could already feel the effects of the syrup. It's hard to explain, like any sort of high is. But I guess you could say it's like you're floating, or stepping on invisible clouds, all the while there's a great courage brewing inside you, as if the DXM were more of a reminder than a drug, it reminds you of what could be, will be. It didn't matter that I was for now stuck here in this miserable parking lot of a town, that my mom was drinking herself to death, that my dad was smoking meth or dead, because I knew, with Katarzyna, I would escape all this shit, that there was crazy wonderful stuff out there that I didn't even know about, and I would find out about it, me and her.

This wasn't all just all a stoned fantasy either, I had a plan. The community college had a truck driving program, and I was going to drop out of school and go into it. Once I graduated me and Katarzyna and Monica would travel the country in my truck, we'd sleep in motels and when there weren't motels we could all sleep together in the sleeper cabin in the back. I'd teach Monica how to read and write, and the names of all the animals, big and small, and we'd all eat delicious truck stop food, chicken fried steak in gravy, coleslaw for Monica because she didn't eat meat. Eventually we'd get to California, and see those palm trees on the beach and hear the waves and the three of us would each write our names in the sand and laugh and hug and laugh.

I put the ring box in a bag along with a picture book I bought for Monica. It was called Manatees! and on the cover was a picture of a huge manatee, floating amongst seaweed, his sad dopey eyes staring at me.

I was just about done with my cigarette when I saw someone walking towards me. He was raggedy looking, like he'd just been running through a forest. He was wearing dirty overalls, and was carrying something in his hand, it looked like a briefcase, or more likely, a case of beers. I finished my cigarette and got out my car. He was headed in a straight line for me, and when I saw that what he was holding was one of those plastic gas cans, I knew he was a methhead.

"Excuse me sir, excuse me sir."

I tried to ignore him and locked my car. When I turned around he was standing about a yard away from me.

"I'm sorry sir, I don't mean to alarm you, but, my car, my car is over there," He gestured at Katarzyna's car, which was parked right in front of the store. "and it's out of gas. I'm trying to get back to Chicago, and I lost my wallet, my cards, and could you help me out please? I need to get back to Chicago, my kids are waiting for me, please help me out sir."

"I'm sorry man, I can't help you out." My belly was starting to gurgle, the syrup was wrecking linings and making crazy gases down there. My chest felt weak, and my eyes started tearing. "I'm really sorry man, I'd love to, but I can't."

The methhead came up closer, and an unbearable odor of piss and shit surrounded us. He was shivering and his outline wiggled crazily like Squigglevision. He held out the gas can towards me and it started to glow and change colors, from red to yellow to red. I started getting a little freaked out, and I threw him my pack of cigarettes and ran back to the store.

Katarzyna had been watching from the window and she was concerned.

"Are you okay? Did that man scare you?"

Goddamnit, I thought.

"No, he's just some methhead, I gave him my cigarettes, I mean I felt bad, but hell, like I'm giving him more money to go buy bleach or something. He smelled terrible though, I just wanted to get away."

I felt like I was shaking uncontrollably, and I couldn't tell if I was or not. I put the bag under the counter and I told Katarzyna that I was going to go throw out the Batman stuff. She looked at the bag but didn't say anything and went back to tape stacking.

There was a whole bunch of promotional shit that Warner Brothers sent us for the video release of Batman and Robin, cardboard figures and movie posters. I knew I was tripping really hard when I touched the Mr. Freeze cutout and it was cold. He was staring right at me and a little speech bubble that came from his mouth said "Ice to meet you".

"Ice to meet you too. Sorry Arnie, but you gotta go." I put him under one arm and the Poison Ivy cutout under the other and started for the back. All videos on the shelves started to alternate between big and small and I looked down at my shoes which looked like they were miles away. My mind was folding in and out of itself and I kept thinking stupid thoughts about how strange it was my fingers obeyed me, even though they were the best part of my body. My mom had always said they were so pretty, so long and thin like a pianist's fingers. Of course I never took piano lessons, those were for people with money and an interest in things like music. The only thing my mom was interested in was booze and yelling at me, throwing shit at me, punching holes in the wall and pouring bleach on my bed at night while I'm sleeping. Once I woke up with burns all over my body and she'd been sitting there burning me with her cigarettes. What could I do, I couldn't hit her, she was my mom. I put her in a headlock and backed her into the bathroom and she passed out in the bathtub. When I slammed the door a picture fell off the wall and it was a picture of her in high school. I picked it up and looked at it. She was wearing her school uniform, she had gone to an all girl's private school, and she looked so clean and new and young and that was the last time I remember crying.

When I got out in the back by the dumpster I was flying, I couldn't shelve movies if the Pope asked me to. I stood up Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy in front of me and tried to sit down on the ground. The concrete seemed to surge up towards me and I landed on my ass hard. I reached in my pockets for my cigarettes, but I suddenly remembered that I gave them to that man, that terrible frightening shit stained man. I sighed and looked at my hands, which were trembling and weird jellyfish-like ghost things were floating through them, weaving in and out between my fingers. I stared at these for a while.

Suddenly a female voice interrupted my ghostly little show.

"Don't you hate that?"

I stood up as quick as I could, which wasn't that quick, and dazed I looked around me. Dumpster, crates, garbage, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, beyond them, the huge parking lot, people coming and going.

"I said, don't you hate that?"

I looked at the Poison Ivy figure and realized that it was her who had spoken. Now I've tripped hard before, but I'd never had promotional cardboard talk to me, and I felt the prickling maybes of insanity that always comes up your spine at least a dozen times while you're high as fuck.

"Uhm, hate what?"

I felt stupid asking it, but what was I supposed to do? I couldn't go back in the store in this condition, it was hardly the state of mind I wanted to be in while trying to convince Katarzyna that I loved her.

"Uncomfortable silences. Why do we always have to talk about so much bullshit to feel comfortable?"

The voice wasn't coming from the Poison Ivy. It was like there was someone, namely Uma Thurman, in my head, talking to me by whispering into certain nerves, her voice traveling through all those electrical channels and finding that spot in my brain where words happen.

"I don't know Uma. I really don't know."

"You seem distressed Stevie, what's wrong?"

I could hear rats and raccoons and other animals romping around in the dumpster, I could see them having a rowdy party in there, eating stale popcorn and expired candy, getting M&M's stuck in their fur and having their girlfriends eat it off them.

"I'm just too fucked up right now. I want to go see Katy, but I can't my mind, it's just..."

"You're too high. You shouldn't have drank that cough syrup Stevie. Remember when I did coke in Pulp Fiction? How that turned out? Drugs are bad. They're inhibitors Stevie, takers not givers."

"Ja, Stevie."


"It is me, Terminator. Stevie, you cannot do this anymore. Look at your parents, they loved only the easy things, drugs, alcohol. You cannot be like them."

"Thanks Arnold. But I do love something, someone. It's Katy, she's in there right now organizing videos, oh god, I love her. How do I tell her though...I bought her this ring, and this book for her daughter...I mean, man..."

I could see the animals in the dumpster start to morph, growing arms out of their backs that clutched at the garbage and shoved them into newly formed gaping mouths that bristled with teeth and hair. The air started to smell like shit and piss and I was sweating.

"Stevie, we are just movie stars. We can't help you with these things. But we're here to support you, love you."

"Aw man, thanks Uma. You know, I love you guys too. You've always been there for me..."

The animals were now all conjoined into a freakish tentacled thing. I could see its eye, it was compounded like a fly's, and it stared at me, it's tentacles whipping the sides of the dumpster furiously, clamouring, trying to get out.

"I have a headache..."

"Maybe it's a tumor."

"It's not a tumor!" I laughed, I was happy. I was with my friends, out here in the night. I was about to tell the woman I adored that I loved her, I was on the brink of a new exciting life. The air felt cool on my skin and despite the smell of piss and garbage I felt like I could fall asleep right then and there, my new friends watching over and protecting me.

Suddenly I heard a scream come from inside. It was Katarzyna.

"Shit, guys I have to go. Katy's in trouble."

"Go save her! Good luck, you don't need it though!"

"Thanks. And can you guys take care of that monster in the dumpster? Pat asked me to take care of the place, and I don't think he'd like that."

"No problem, Stevie. Now go, she needs you!"

The brightness of the store when I first burst in was startling. I squinted my eyes and felt my way through the backroom. I could hear stuff crashing to the ground in the main room, and I ran, or ran as well as I could under the circumstances.

When I entered the video gallery, I couldn't see Katarzyna. The methhead from the parking lot was standing over a shelf of videos he'd just knocked over, and he was growling and his gas can was pulsating menacingly.

It was the first time in my life that I did something instinctual, without thinking it out first. Despite my DXM infused brain, or maybe because of it, my body knew exactly what needed to be done. My fists tightened and I inhaled deeply and the air seemed charged with inevitability, as if the world had undergone a change, it was simpler, more to the point.

Embarassingly, I roared as loud as I could. This got the methhead's attention, and he turned and looked at me. He laughed, a terrible gasping laugh, a sound like air coming out of a corpse. I charged him, not caring about getting hurt, not caring about anything but Katy and hurting the person who may have hurt her, hell, even scared her.

The impact was an awkward one, not a graceful violence like in the movies. I had crossed my arms over my chest like a mummy and my head hit him first squarely in his shoulder and as my head recoiled back my torso followed through and the brunt of that impact knocked him back. My eyes were closed so I only heard him fall and I heard a crack, which I thought was his bones, but was actually video cassettes. I landed on my face and a corner of a cassette cut my forehead so when I opened my eyes I saw a copy of Twins slightly battered and bloody. Thanks Arnie, I said to myself and propped myself up.

The methhead was lying on his back, his gas can leaking gasoline over the carpet and videos. He was sobbing and his chest rose slowly and dropped and he was wheezing and muttering nonsense.

I looked around and I saw Katarzyna rise up slowly from behind the counter. I know it was the DXM and the adrenaline of the fight, but she had a halo, she was radiating a painfully wonderful light, and I'd never felt happier in my whole fucking miserable life.

"Stevie? Are you okay?"

She ran towards me, I felt my knees weaken and I put my hands on them and vomited a pale cherry red that mixed with the gasoline and swirled around the videos like little houses being flooded. I looked up and I saw Kataryzna coming towards me and the next thing I know I see the ceiling and all the shelves full of videos receding away from me and its black and when I wake up I'm in a clean white hospital bed clutching a small box in my right hand and my mom is in a chair by the bed reading a book called Manatees! and she is crying as she flips the pages.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

getting this out of my system

I got a phone call from a dear friend yesterday. She was upset, boy troubles. 

"This unhappiness you feel now, it's just a symptom of the limitations of your body, the crass demands of the physical on the mental. Being mired in perspective causes this sadness, but, oh, it's so hard to transcend these things."

"Are you high?" 

No, I told her. I lied.

I wanted very much to cheer her up. Having failed to do so with words, I decided to do the next best (better?) thing; buy her a present.

On the way to Reckless Records, I saw a crowd of people gathered around some thing. I shifted myself through the crowd, braying 'excuse meeee' in a low pitched voice to suggest something was wrong with me, but not exaggerated enough for someone to call bullshit. 

Sitting there on the sidewalk was a sad looking gypsy woman, next to her a sign that said 'ASK ME ONE QUESTION' and under that '10¢', next to '5¢'. I felt a drop of sweat travel from my armpit to my waistline, slow and steady. The day felt oppressive, as if the sky had concaved towards us, and the sun hung mere yards above that Chipotle across the street. 

A bloated woman with an eyepatch sat sobbing by the gypsy woman, the gypsy woman holding her hand and patting it. Each time her hand came down on the bloated woman's hand it seemed to say "There, there, hush now baby." I wondered if this gypsy woman had some sort of hotline or e-mail address that I could refer my dear friend to. I wondered if the bloated woman's eyepatched eye/hole/nothingness was crying too. I know very little about the anatomy of tear ducts.

The bloated eyepatchioed woman got up thanking that gypsy woman, breathlessly, like a mantra, "Thank you so much thank you so much thank you so much"

"You think that's bad, you shoulda seen her before the surgery!" I shouted, having thought that I had just thought it in my mind. This is a terrible thing I do, I do not know why it happens. It starts as a fierce tingle at the bottom of my spine, and it zips up to the base of my skull where it rests, gathering force, and charges it way around my jaws and tongue and lips and emits itself as a horrible utterance. It's as if my body must forcibly eject these statements, usually really embarrassing or rude, as if my body, if it were, was too full of bullshit and stupidity, and to contain it a moment longer would be to risk a total meltdown. I wish though, it would choose more opportune times for these forced ejaculations. 

The crowd was positively tittering, down right pissed at my ungentlemanly behavior. Luckily, the gypsy woman saw through me, I guess. She waved her hand in a queenly manner and beckoned me towards her. 

"You look like you have some things on your mind. I am not a very smart person, but I have a skill that very few people have, something that allows me to truly know sadness and happiness. I can read minds."

I kinda laughed at this, and she winked at me. Then she tapped her little basket which had dollars and coins. I took out a dollar and dropped it in. 

"I only have one question, you can keep the dollar."

She was much different up close, vaguely familiar, like a grade school teacher I had once.

"What is it honey?" 

She closed her eyes, looking like some stupid New Age lady.

"Well, I have a dear friend, and she's very upset. I'm going to go buy her a present, and I'm not sure what to get her. What should I get her?"

The reflexity of her answer was disappointing, anticlimatic. I'm not sure what I was expecting, her hair to start floating and sparks shooting from her fingers, her eyes open dramatically and they are stark white, and she states her prophecy in cadence, like a sibyl, no it wasn't that. But still, I wanted my dollar's worth, I wanted a show.

She opened her eyes, which were the same hazel as before, and she said unto to me:

"At the store you're going to, there will be a Smokey Robinson and the Miracles vinyl album. It will be under the 'New Arrival' section, but it will be out of order. It will be between two Tom Petty albums. Buy this Smokey Robinson album for her. All women love Motown. It reminds them of being a little girl."

"Ha ha ha, really?"

"Really. Now get out of here you fine swine you, there's a line." She slapped my buttocks, not hard, but enthusiastically. I thanked her and left.

Well, sure enough it was there, right where she said it would be. I bought it and wrapped it and sent it to my dear friend, with a little note. I know what you are thinking, you are wondering if I feel different since then, suddenly conscious but uncomprehending of powers that operate outside of human understanding, that maybe the way I saw the world was limited, and that maybe miracles can happen, and we can never truly get everything, if I am religious now, if I am happier or more doubting or more forgiving or if I learned some valuable lesson about life. Well, the answer is nah, not really.

Monday, March 9, 2009

memories & a prediction

Claudia realized at lunch that she had been living life on some kind of mental auto-pilot for the past semester. When she tried to remember what she did a few days ago, she could only recollect seemingly pointless things. She remembered walking with Ashley and they saw a dead squirrel laying in a garden. Ashley screamed, and Claudia felt a pointed annoyance peak in her mind and push out all other thoughts. She stared down at her lunch, a Greek salad she had been pushing around with her fork in its plastic container. The feta cheese pissed her off slightly, sitting there in limpid clumps. She had been trying to break them apart, split them continually until, she guessed, they were tiny and unseeable. Ashley sat across from her, texting someone on her phone, probably Matt. In front of her, a plastic basket of chips and a little cup of guacamole untouched save for a small triangular crater in the middle, where Ashley had hesitantly marked with the corner of a chip. There were chunks of avocado marbled in the dip, which was rippled like a dune. The apartment smelled like stale white bread.

"Do you remember what we were talking about when we saw that dead squirrel?" Claudia smooshed a big cluster of cheese, and stabbed the bottom of her salad, bits of feta flying off from the gaps of the fork's prongs.

"You know, if we don't sleep tonight, we'll have nineteen hours to film this thing, edit it, burn it, and turn it in." Ashley sighed, her eyes and fingers still occupied with her phone. "You really are a bad roommate sometimes."

"It wasn't my idea to go to Chinatown yesterday, or to that stupid bar the day before."

"We only did those things because you wanted to shroom on
Thursday. And you wanted to relax the other two days. I really shouldn't have done that, my whole schedule is awry."

"You're fucking awry." Claudia had forgotten they had taken shrooms. Understandably, this worried her somewhat. She stopped her cheese pogrom and put down her fork.

"I've been thinking about going back to my therapist. I can't remember things, like things I should be remembering."

"What? Like what?" Ashley set down her phone and stared
at Claudia.

Claudia averted her eyes towards her salad. When they'd met freshman year, she had always been slightly intimidated by Ashley, mostly because of her stare. She had a high forehead which she hid with straight bangs (she'd told her once that in high school people had called her fivehead behind her back) and large eyes that Claudia had always thought of as brimming. Hers didn't seek like most peoples, they were eyes of a person content. Claudia had at first, as did most people, mostly guys, mistaken this happiness for naiveté. It was hard for her to keep eye contact with Ashley.
"Just regular things, like stuff we've talk about, when assignments are due. I mean, like...I don't know."

"I mean, do you think it's serious? Maybe you're not getting enough sleep, or maybe, oh god. Oh god, what if it was the mushrooms? Maybe you should go to a doctor, like a real doctor."

"Dr. Harrington is a real doctor."

"Oh come on, Claudia. If this is something wrong with your brain, like your physical brain, you can't talk yourself into being cured. Promise me you'll go to a doctor, or at least a nurse or something."

She tried to imagine herself in the examination room, trying to tell him what exactly was wrong with her. She would tell him about the mental fog that crept through her mind whenever she sat down and tried to concentrate on something, how for the past few months she had to silently mouth the words of whatever she was reading, which she always hated seeing other people do. Each morning she woke up it seemed like her room was messier than the day before, bras and hoodies undergoing nocturnal mitosis. She found bottles of wine and beer she didn't remember drinking. Once she found a receipt for six cans of smoked oysters, which she definitely did not recall ever purchasing, let alone eating. She imagined telling the doctor all that. He would stroke his beard (she always pictured authoritative men with beards for some reason), and ask her the requisite questions, diet, sleep patterns, exercise, stress and of course, drug use. Oh just some psychedelic mushrooms once in a while. He would hmmm and check off a box next to DRUG ADDICT, advise her in a non-judgmental tone of voice, neutral as his white doctor coat, that perhaps it would be in her best interests to cease further use of any hallucinogenics and to limit her alcohol consumption to one to two drinks an hour, two nights a week, in the meantime he will prescribe her a fungicidal cream, which she must apply three times a day to her forehead, it will fight the degenerative spores of the mushrooms she had eaten, they were sprouting through her mind, fibrous and deceptive.

"Hey, are you okay? Your salad's getting cold."

Claudia looked up at Ashley. She seemed genuinely concerned, and Claudia felt an intense devotion to her.
"Ha ha. I'll go to the doctor, I promise. But I'll only do it if you do one thing for me."


"Tell me what we were talking about when we saw that dead squirrel, do you remember?"

Ashley spread out her hands palm down on the table. Her nails were painted a yellowish green that in certain lighting reminded Claudia of spring, but right now matched the color of the guacamole.

"We were talking about Jessica Martinson and her summer internship at S.P.C., and how we hate her for it."

"That's right, I remember. We do hate her for it. I'll make an appointment right after lunch."

Ashley smiled and took a chip and wiggled it in the guacamole and brought it to her mouth and bit into it, her other hand under her chin. Suddenly, her cellphone shook and vibrated, and Claudia picked up her fork, unable to stand it's rattling on the table.