Friday, May 31, 2013

Tag & Pete

Seen on the Brown Line to the Loop at about 10:15 p.m., May 30th, 2013

The walk up the stairs was a tangle of tripping limbs, beer sloshing over the tops of the plastic mugs that we weren’t supposed to have. The CTA attendant scolded us (“Boys, alcohol isn’t allowed on the—”) but what did we care? We were young and tipsy and wild, just as people our age should be. We were no longer in school, but the rusted hooks of adulthood had not yet dragged us down.

We were laughing, talking, shouting—I don’t remember what about. It doesn’t matter. The point is, a train was pulling into the station. Tag wiped the foam off his lips, tossed his cup to the ground, and slammed himself against the still-moving train.

“What the fuck, bro?” I tried to grab him, but he slipped away and did it again, giggling like a child. Like a maniac, even. His body made a sick slapping sound against the side of the car. I started sweating.

Finally, the train stopped and I pulled Tag inside. “You trying to kill yourself?” I asked. He looked at me, his eyes dark and shining at the same time. “I’m gonna have bruises in the morning,” he said.

How could I have known that the next week he’d throw himself down a little sooner? I hope the third rail got to him first.

Back to normal stories. Only got three requests for the Memorial Day Challenge. My friend Matt is coming from Ohio this weekend! Who doesn't love catching up with old friends?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The End of a Beer Is Like

The third story from my Memorial Day Weekend Challenge! Twittizen @TigerBeatP RT’d PTKY this weekend, and in exchange I promised to write a story about “the end of something.” Here it is:

The end of a beer is warm and skunky. It makes my stomach hurt. All I want to do is crack open a new one, fresh and freezing and crisp, but that is simply unacceptable until I have forced the last few stale drops to slither down my throat. And no matter how many times I tip the bottle back, I never seem to get any closer to the bottom.

The end of a beer is like a first date. A first date is sweaty and awkward. The smiling gives me a headache. All I want to do is go home and message new people on OkCupid, funnier people, more eloquent people, people with better pictures, but that is simply unacceptable until I have spent the evening pretending to care about what he says and indulging his clumsy advances. And no matter how long it feels, the date never seems to end.

The end of a beer is like my job. My job is dull and pointless. A five-year-old could do it. All I want to do is apply for a new one, challenging and captivating and important, but that is simply unacceptable until I spend (waste?) a few years of my life here, gaining experience and garnering good references. And no matter what work I’m given, it never seems like the right time to leave.

The end of a beer is like motherhood. Motherhood is tense and exhausting. It makes me cry. All I want is for things to be the way they were before, free and fast and selfish, but that is simply unacceptable until I have sacrificed so much for my child that I have faded away. And no matter how old she gets, your child will always need you.

The end of a beer is like a nursing home. A nursing home is sad and musty. It makes my bones hurt. All I want to do is die, soft and serene and relieving, but that is simply unacceptable until I have played bingo with the ladies and have sent ten-dollar bills to my grandchildren on their birthdays. And no matter how old I get, I never seem to get any closer to the end.

Well that was depressing. Sorry, @TigerBeatP. Hope you liked it anyway.

Last night I was going to do yoga and write. Instead I ended up eating pizza, drinking beer, and watching the Blackhawks win. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I make excellent life decisions. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Haunting Prospect

Story #2 from my Memorial Day Weekend challenge! I told you that if you somehow shared PTKY over social media, I’d write a story about whatever you wanted. My dear friend Leta picked a subject that she knows I like to write about—ghosts.

What if ghosts didn’t wander the earth, howling in haunted houses and looking in on the living with sad gray eyes? What if these restless souls were trapped where their bodies fell, hopelessly attached to their remains?

A murder victim sprawls inside a dumpster, waiting for anyone to find her, unable to escape the stench, unable to kick away the rats that feed upon what was once her flesh. She can remember what the bites might feel like. If she could cry, she would.

Amelia Earhart, the passengers on the Titanic, once-proud pirates—they bob on the ocean floor, shifting slightly with the current. Their lungs are eternally filled with water, a constant suffocation, though they cannot die again.

The cremated cannot scream when they are burned along with their bodies, nor can they say goodbye when their souls, ground down into millions of ashes, are scattered by the breeze.

Graveyards are the worst. You can feel it as you walk through them, thousands of desperate, jealous fingers clawing at your feet.

Hope you enjoyed it, Leets!

Yesterday we had writing group. It was a good one. Very productive. Lots of editing to do. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


This is the first story from my 2nd Annual Memorial Day Weekend Challenge! I told you that if you somehow shared PTKY via social media, I’d write a story about a subject of your choosing. My good friend Pat, who I have known for many years, asked me to write a story about a solo golfer. Here it is:

These are the things Jeb thinks about on the golf course: 
  •  How he can attend his daughter’s parent-teacher meeting without his wife noticing how attractive he finds Miss Elmer to be.
  • How his swing has steadily improved over the last year.
  • How shitty it’s going to feel to go back to work tomorrow.
  • How he shouldn’t be thinking about the office at all right now. This is supposed to be his escape.
  • How he never used to be a big Fox News guy, but lately it’s been making a lot of sense. This country is going downhill, and Barack Hussein Obama certainly isn’t helping.
  • How golfing alone can be more pleasant than golfing with a group.
  • How he wishes he could hold as much liquor as Ed could.
  • How he’s glad he can’t hold as much liquor as Ed could, or else he might be dead, too.
  • How it’s strange that the police will let you keep a murder weapon, how it’s strange that you’ll keep using that murder weapon, just because it’s comfortable, and you’re used to it, and you don’t want to buy another one because your swing has steadily improved over the last year.
  • How it’s not murder, remember? Ed was drunk, he stepped too close.
  • How it’s messed up that a good whack to one little spot on the head can kill a guy, especially a big guy like Ed.
  • How it was an accident. Not murder.
  • How much he likes this set of clubs. This particular set.
  • How he shouldn’t be thinking about Ed. This used to be his escape.
  • How the golf course is the best place in the world.
  • How the golf course is the worst place in the world.
Hope you liked it, Pat!

My Memorial Day weekend was fun. I went to see JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound on Saturday night and Chance the Rapper on Sunday night. I also went to see The Great Gatsby (acting, music, and cinematography were all good, but Baz Luhrmann apparently thinks we're all very stupid). Yesterday my friends and I grabbed burgers at Burger Bar, went to Barnes & Noble (I bought Swamplandia! and The Marriage Plot), had a drink at Drinkingbird, and watched the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Overall it was a lovely weekend. Hope yours was, too.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Seen in St. Augustine, Florida at about 1 p.m., Monday, May 20th, 2013

My family came to St. Augustine years and years ago, when Florida was older than Old Florida and the shore was choked with plants that looked like they had clawed their way up from the floor of the ocean. The buildings hadn’t been repainted or opened to tourists. It was humid like it is now, but not so clean. Back then the air was heavy with the musk of salty seawater and rotting fish and disease. The people at that time, my ancestors, were no strangers to death—after all, they lived on Matanzas Bay.

I am the first one in my family to renounce the Catholic religion. Mama was furious—ripped my grandmother’s gold cross chain right off my neck. But giving up your faith does little good in this town; the whole place is built on it. Magnificent old churches everywhere you turn. The great cross rising above the bay that marks the location of the first Mass in the New World. The crumbling stone fort, which bolstered my ancestors’ faith that the city would stand. Lincolnville, formed from faith in the idea that black men should and would live free.

And, of course, there’s the Fountain of Youth. Maybe that’s what really kept my family here all these years. Maybe that’s what keeps me here now. I think there’s a faith flowing through my veins, a faith I can’t escape. Whether I want to or not, I have faith that that if I stay here and drink the waters, the same waters that my ancestors consumed, I will stay healthy and live forever.

Ok, that will be the last story from Florida, I think. Back to the CTA next week. Actually, now that I look in my archives, I am reminded that last year I did a Memorial Day Weekend challenge, which was lots of fun. So I think I'll do it again! Here's the deal: if you share PTKY through social media--a retweet, a reblog, a facebook post, etc.--I will write a flash fiction piece about WHATEVER YOU WANT. That's right. You come up with the idea, I write a story about it. All for a little internet love. Sounds like a good deal to me.