28 October 2014

THE PHONE CALL



Sometime in the night. Phone rings. Interrupts a dream.

In the dream my Centaur friend Barry and I are playing mini-putt against Friedrich Nietzsche and his Theory of Eternal Recurrence. Nietzsche breaks a lot of putters. He has a problem getting the ball through the Windmill. But the Theory putts like Ben Crenshaw in his prime. And the outcome is always the same. We lose by three strokes.  And Nietzsche's moustache spikes the ball. Every. Single. Time.

I answer the phone.

"Hello." 

A woman speaks.

"It's over, okay?” She says.  “Done. Finished. Don't call me. Don't text me. Don't Facebook me. I told you-. Very simple. I told you-. All I wanted-. Between you and me. Me and you. All I wanted. Sex. You know. Bend me over and make me take the Lord's name in vain repeatedly sex. Simple, right? Instead. In-stead. You ask about my feelings. With such punishing patience and empathy.  How are you feeling? You wanna know how I'm feeling? Pissed. Because you keep asking me how I'm feeling. Do I ask you how you're feeling? No. They're your feelings. Just like my feelings are my feelings. You can do whatever you want with your feelings. Whatever you want. My feelings. I keep them in a safe place. Somewhere nobody can get at them. I mean nobody. Not even me.

"Uh,” I say.  

"I'm not finished,” she says. “Which, by the way, are words I wanted to hear from you a lot. And again. And a lot. I'm not finished. As you ride me like a racehorse. Instead you say things like I read that poem you gave me. It's really good. Keep writing. How incredibly condescending. Who are you? Yanni? The only reason I gave you the poem was to get you off my back. And onto my front. So you could plough me like a potato field.

"But-"

"Let me finish you tyrannically sensitive, crushingly supportive a-hole. You really crossed the line when you wanted to cuddle. I. Don't. Cuddle. I thought the notarized letter from my attorney made that clear. If that wasn't enough how about when I bent back your middle finger until it snapped. Or when I bit into your arm and drew blood so that you had to go to the hospital and get stitches. Most guys would've gotten the message. You. You write on your Facebook wall. Why do I love my girlfriend so much? She keeps me in stitches. Your optimism is like a North Korean labour camp. Oppressive."

"Excuse me," I say.

"What!?"

"You've got the wrong number."

Long pause.

"When you answered you said hello. Brandon usually says hi so…" she says. 

"I'm going back to sleep," I say.

"Can I ask you something?" 

"Okay."

"How was that? What I said. How did it seem?"

"Bit harsh.”

“Yeah, I didn’t want him to think I didn’t care.”

 Long pause.

“Yeah, I can see that. But not really. I have to go back to sleep,” I say. And hang up.

I get back into bed. Close my eyes. 

And wonder what people mean when they say what they mean. 

I also wonder where I put my Abe Maslow decoder ring.

29 September 2014

THE APPLE


“Here, the loveliest most beautiful apple you’ll ever have,” Steve says.

Steve is an aquaintance. I know him enough to know him enough.  

“You didn’t say the tastiest,” I say.

“If you don’t want it.”

“Hold on.”

I couldn’t refuse. I hadn’t eaten in four months. And I was in the middle of a massive field in the middle of county Nowhere.

It looks…so…beautiful. If there were a Fruit Hall of Fame this apple would hang in the Delicious Wing. It’s almost to good to eat. But then there’s this thing about the four months of no food. So I take a bite. Not a big one. Not a small one. A just right one. The just right one isn’t always the best choice. But it is always just right.

“Heyyy, that is a tasty tasty apple. Sweet and juicy. Not too sweet. Not too juicy. Good call.”

“Told ya.”

“That you did, my acquaintance.”

I take another bite. Yum. Yum. I am looking forward to spending a lot of quality time with this apple.

A third bite. Can this get any better?

A fourth. It just did.

A fifth. Ow! Ow! Ow! OW! What was that?! Something’s coming out of my mouth and it’s not saliva. A finger touch reveals…blood!

“Dude, blood is flowing from your mouth,” says Steve.

“Thank you Captain Obvious.”

I check out the apple. No razor blade just a really sharp piece of pulp. Do I take another bite?  The blood is pouring from my mouth and it’s sore like a son-of-a-bitch. Hmmm. How can I condemn an entire apple over one painful bite? It’s a complicated apple. It’s got dimension.

Big bite. Yuch! Ugh! Pugh! The worst taste ever. It’s like I bit into a rotting corpse. I look down at the apple and see a couple of maggots crawl out. Disgusting! Just yech disgusting! It looked so beautiful!

Need to take another bite to confirm. Yech! Peh! I spit out a couple of maggots.

Okay, one more. I mean, it was such a beautiful apple. I can still see it’s perfect shape, vivid colour, captivating stem.

I chomp down. Yechhhh! Ugh!!!!

Another bite. Uch! The worst! Although you kinda get used to the maggots. They’re like squirrely Nibs.

I keep eating. My teeth fall out. My gums redden and rot. It's such a lovely and beautiful apple. How can this be? The pain must be some kind of illusion. The sweet and juicy taste will return on the next bite. I'm sure of it. So I continue eating.

Along the way I make friends with one of the maggots. He sits on my shoulder. I call him Mark. He calls me Adam. The little guy has difficulty with the letter 'l'.

03 June 2014

THE SCRAMBLER

I need to clear my head.

I've been working on a script for hours and the words aren't coming. Maybe they had a prior engagement. I don't take it personal. Okay, maybe a little. They could've texted, or e-mailed, facebooked, tweeted, ninged. Matter of courtesy. How long have we known each other? Shared laughs, tears. I mean I was at 'bris's' bris. What does it take to ning? Really.

I even put out potpourri. What word doesn't love potpourri? They don't love potpourri. Really? Then who would've tipped them off? Why?  Something Nicole Richie once said  summed up my thought at that very moment: “It's hard to tell who has your back, from who has it long enough just to stab you in it....” I'm looking in your direction hardwood floor.

So after having consumed a pot and a half of coffee and chewed on about a dozen chocolate covered espresso beans, give or take a dozen, I go down to the local amusement park. To clear my head. I wander. Until. I come across...The Scrambler. 'To clear, one must first scramble.' I'm sure I heard Deepak Chopra  utter those words. Or was it Wavy Gravy? Doesn't matter.

For the uninitiated, The Scrambler is an amusement ride with three long arms which revolve around a central post. At the end of each arm hangs a group of seats which revolve in a circle. When the ride starts up, the arms spin, the seats spin...there's a lot of spinning, in all directions.

A schematic:


I'm standing by the ride in progress and see an eight year old girl whipping around, laughing, waving at her friends, having fun. Fun. I can have fun. Fun is fun. Fun is nuf spelled backwards. I must get on that ride to scramble and clear and save the script. Beads of sweat convene on my forehead. My right leg shakes like I'm doing an Elvis impersonation. Teeth grind. It's not the coffee. Don't blame the coffee. Did I have too much? NO! You didn't have enough. Who are you? I'm your coffee conscience. I know Juan Valdez. We're not close. Fresh mountain grown coffee from the hills of Colombia. Buy a ticket.

I hand the operator a bunch of money and tell him to give the change to support concussion research on the Mole in Whack-A-Mole. He laughs. "I'm serious, man," I say.

There are two seats available. One is beside a really fat kid eating an ice cream cone. Who lets a fat kid with an ice cream cone on a ride? Ice cream can become airborne. The other seat is next to... a vision of beauty in the form of a woman who looks like she stepped out of the pages of Vogue, after stepping out of the pages of Mother Earth, the New Yorker, American Heritage of Invention and Technology, and Die Freundin. She had silky dirty blonde hair, wore cat's eye glasses and had on a flowery light 70s dress. Her face radiated glowing luminosity. Not sure if I just broke some kind of law using all those words together. I'll accept the consequences. I have in my back pocket a copy of Viktor Frankel's 'Man's Search for Meaning' just in case I'm imprisoned. No need to flip a coin on this one.

While the operator locks us in...

"Um, hey, hi...Alan," I say.

"Cali, I have a cousin named Alan. Are you ready?" she says. And smiles.

I break my 100 year ban on the use of the letters OMG together in succession.

OMG!

After the ride I must get her number. Who knew the Scrambler was the place to meet beautiful women?

"Me? I was born ready," I say.

Turns out I was not born ready.

The ride starts up. Our car whips around, gathers speed and heads straight for the fence. We are heading straight for the fence, my coffee conscience says. HOLY SHIT! We are headed for the fence. We will hit the fence. We will go through the fence. We will topple. And nosedive. And plunge. Our heads will bang the ground repeatedly. I won't be able to eat pudding without assistance for many years. 

It might be instructive at this point to interject my experience on amusement rides. When I was a kid I ventured on the merry-go-round once. Two words: death trap. The horse behind me was always this close to taking a nip from my back. I had to continually spur my horse to stay out of reach. The ride's flashing lights and blaring organ music was, no doubt,  a disorienting technique the ride owner  picked up from the CIA. Rides were really not my amusement park thing. I preferred the bench. 

"We're gonna die!"

"Isn't this fun?"

I close my eyes and pray to every deity I ever read about including the Norse Goddess Frigg. What the frig, Frigg? WHAT THE FRIG?!

"Noooooooo!"

Cali  LAUGHS.  LAUGHS MORE.

Her laugh echoes like she's a mile away. I'm feeling stretch and squash. Arms rubbery. I get panicky. What's happening?! Be cool, Coffee Conscience says. Coffee Conscience sounds a lot like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

After a time I open my eyes. I'm still alive. However. Everything looks different. The lights shine bright and swirl and twist. We're moving slow. I look over at Cali. She's standing on the seat with her arms outstretched. "I'm Queen of the Scrambler," she says.  I feel so light like I could fly away.  Chocolate covered espresso beans appear. Float in the air. I grab and stuff my face, offer a few to Cali. She's pre-occupied... reinventing the wheel. Literally. She has a wheel in her lap and a toolkit beside her. She's a dream. This is when I notice them. Small elvish characters. Purple skin. Stripped to the waist. They all look like James Franco. They're taking apart the mechanics of the ride. "Not cool, mini James Francos," I say. "Write another self-critically acclaimed novel!" They don't listen. Parts of the ride fly past. My heart beats faster and faster like Hummingbird wings. "We're gonna die! Again!" I shut my eyes and pray mini Seth Rogens will show up and talk some sense into mini-James Francos.

Time stretches.

"Open your eyes. You're missing all the fun." It's Cali's voice.

I open my eyes. WHOOSH! SNAP! Back in the present. Just in time to catch another car whipping at us. At the last second it turns away. If I survive I promise to devote my life to the lepers of the world...actresses over 40 in Hollywood.

RATTLE.

"The safety bar's loose. I'm sliding out!"

Cali laughs and LAUGHS.

"Wheeeee!"

I shut my eyes again and like Brontes the Cyclops who loses his contact and has shown up at Lenscrafter 15 minutes before it opens I must hold on and wait.

And. Wait. Wait.

"Hey Alan. Alan. You can open your eyes now. Ride's over."

I open my eyes and see Cali's radiant face. It's all good, Coffee Conscience says. You're comin' down.  It's like the space capsule has been opened and I'm stepping out. Then the embarrassment washes over me. I lost my sh#t in front of a beautiful woman.

"That was fun. I'd do it again," I say. "I mean, not now, but, you know, another time."

She hands me a card. "Call me." Leaves with a small wave.

The card reads:

Dr. Calliope Wallop
Proctologist
416-87C-OLON

'No Fear'


Perfect. Because. I am. A no fear kinda guy.



02 June 2013

MAGICAL MOMENTS

 
A woman is at my door. She is not happy.

"Return it now or I will rip your balls out with a flush cutter and use them as gel pads in my Mizuno Wave Riders," she says.

"Hi. I’m Alan and you would be…"

"My name is the burning sensation you'll feel when I shove my fist up your ass and practice my carpal tunnel exercises in your lower colon."

"I’ll call you Jenny," I say.

"Give back that magical moment you stole from Jeffrey," she says. 

Jeffrey steps out from behind his girlfriend, waves. I nod. I met Jeffrey two hours ago outside a Starbucks. He was begging like a homeless person...begging for people to take some of his life's magical moments. Thought I'd do him a favour. Looked like he could use one. Then take those moments and give them to a worthy cause. What charitable organization couldn't use a man's magical moments? Unless the man were, say, Hitler.

"You mean bought," I say.

"For a subway token. Barry Bond's scrotum of a subway token. That magical moment was our 2nd anniversary dinner. Twelve courses of gastrorgasmic rapture at WD-50 in New York. A bottle of ‘Millsesime Grand Cru’ Brut Pierre Paillard 2002. On a winter night that was like out of an Andreas Feininger photo."

"No need to go all Travis Bickle on me. You can have it back. And you can keep the token. You can also have the other magical moments Jeffrey unloaded on me," I say.

"Other moments?" 

"Yes, here..." 

“…antiquing on a warm July Saturday in Prince Edward County…you sold that moment?” She stares at Jeffrey.

“I like antiques. But I’m not crazy about them like you,” Jeffrey says

“…the first time we kissed?”

"It was great except...you bit my lip."

“…the early autumn night on the dock of my brother’s country home on Lake Rosseau where we stared up at the stars and talked of our future together. You sold him that moment? That moment!”

“…you pushed me in the lake after, don’t you remember? I couldn’t swim. I nearly died. Your brother had to pull me out and give me mouth-to-mouth. At least he didn’t bite my lip.”

'Jenny' isn't moving. This can't be good. I fear she will pull out a shank and this will turn into a scene from OZ.

"Jeffrey?" Her voice goes soft.

Jeffrey scratches the back of his neck, eyeballs the floor. She raises his chin until they are at eye level. He gently pushes her fingers away. She doesn’t resist.

"Those moments. Those were-. Those were your moments more than my moments," he says.

"They’re both of ours."

"No. You-. You step on my moments. I want magical moments…that are my moments. Mine." He sounds like the Elephant Man when he declares he's not an elephant but a human being. 

She continues looking into Jeffrey’s eyes like she's looking for a lost button.

"Okay," she says. Her hands slide up and down Jeffrey's arms. “A magical moment that's all yours.”

He nods. 

Her hands travel down his arms. She leans in and whispers in his ear. I can’t make it out. For the first time he smiles. She lowers to her knees. Now, I’m no Dan Savage but I know when a guy is about to get...“Nice meeting you,” I say, close the door, rush to the radio and turn it up. 

Then it occurs to me...my ‘Welcome’ mat is in the line of fire. I hunt around for matches, lighter fluid and my winter gloves. Goretex. My search is interrupted by loud knocks. Please be Jehovah’s Witnesses? I open the door to reveal a grinning ‘Jenny’ and Jeffrey. 
  
“We're wondering if you can do us a favour...” Jeffrey says. The two giggle.

“We don’t have enough for a taxi. But we do have a magical moment you might be interested in,” she says. They giggle again. That was one giggle too many.

I quickly shut the door and reach for the Goretex gloves.

14 April 2013

FOLLOWING

I am being followed.

Which is not the same as I have a following. If it were, the words would match.

They don't.

I am being followed.

By a cat.

A tabby. A mackerel tabby.

It boarded the same downtown subway car as me and exited at the same station seven stops later, followed me up the stairs, outside. Could be a coincidence. But it seems too coincidental to be a coincidence.

Why is a cat following me? For questions like these I call my neighbour Lora (see My Neighbour Lora). She's a poet. She traffics in the unknowable.

"Hey Lora, why am I being followed by a cat?" I ask.

She pauses. A long pause. A pause that feels like the pause had paused to consider the pause. I eyeball the cat six feet away. It's rubbing up against an elderly man's leg. The elderly man smiles, pets the cat. Don't be fooled elderly man. That cat isn't the cat it wants you to believe it is.

"Lora? Still there?"

"Alan, you're not the one being followed. The cat is. So stop following him." Lora says and hangs up.

Whoaa. What?

I'm following the cat? This was a formulation I had not considered. I sat down beside the elderly man on the bench. Watched the cat roll on its back.

"Just because you're losing, doesn't mean you're lost," the elderly man says. To me. Not to me. I don't know. He wasn't looking at me when he said it. He takes out a linen handkerchief and blows his nose.

"Did you just quote a Coldplay song?" I say.

"I heard it at the hospital. I'm getting chemo for my brain. Tumour size of a grapefruit up there. The five for two dollar grapefruit. He's right. The singer. Just because I'm losing doesn't mean I'm lost."

"Right," I say.

How can Lora say I was following the cat? I was in front of the cat. The cat was behind me. If I were following the cat, I'd be following what's behind me.

"Hey, who did you see first come out of the subway? The cat or me? I think that cat's following me. My friend Lora thinks I've been following the cat," I say to the elderly man.

"Your friend is wrong. You haven't been following the cat..."

"Phew. Good to know."

"...you've been following me. Just like the cat," he says.

Whoaa. What?

"Why would I follow someone who quotes Coldplay lyrics?"

"Why does anybody do anything?" The elderly man says.

"What kind of answer is that?" I say.

"What kind of question is that?" He says.

The cat licks its paw, stops, looks up at me, looks over at the elderly man, pauses, goes back to licking its paw.

I feel like I'm in a Harold Pinter play.

I should leave before the elderly man so he doesn't think I'm following him. Too late. The elderly man gets up from the bench and walks away. Seconds later, the cat follows.

They must expect I'll do the same. Not a chance. I'm staying right here. He's wrong. Lora's wrong. I'm not the one doing the following.

After about a half hour a woman sits down beside me. She's tall and slim, short auburn hair, translucent skin, a face that would've caused Plato to reconsider the form of Beauty. I want to make her spinach lentil stew.

"Excuse me. But-. You are so beautiful I'd like to make you spinach lentil stew," I say.

"That's nice. I have a message from my grandfather. He's the elderly man who was here."

"Okay." I should want to crawl into a hole after that exchange. Yet-. Her face. She seems to know.

"Stop waiting 'til the shine wears off," she says.

"That's the message?"

"That's the message," she says.

I lean back. Close my eyes. Take a big breath.

What is the world coming to when elderly men quote Coldplay lyrics?


24 January 2013

THE SNOWMAN COMETH

I am watching a snowman attempt suicide. And it's not going well.

He lights stick matches. Tosses them at his body. The flames die quick against the wind and snow.

It's early evening. Dark. Cold. I'm on my way back from food shopping, weighted down with bags. Of food. Home with heat is near. A snowman is in distress. Can I turn my back?

***************************************

I'm 6 years old. I build a snowman in front of my house. Takes me all afternoon. It's not perfect. It's got lumps. And looks a little like the Elephant Man. But it is borne of my sweat. And, of course, the snow on the ground. And it is good. To complete my creation I reach up and christen its' nose with a stubby carrot. Just as I let go of the carrot my creation shivers and topples on me. Snow gets in my mouth, eyes, nose. I'm crushed. And crushed. Why? I ask the snow at my feet formerly known as The Snowman. Why? I never made another snowman that winter or any winter since.

****************************************

I call 911. "What's your emergency?" "A snowman is committing suicide," I say. There is a long pause. "I'll send the Easter Bunny out right away," the dispatcher says and hangs up. The Easter Bunny? The snowman doesn't need eggs. He needs help. I could inform the family upon whose lawn the snowman sits. What if the kid sees his creation in such deep despair and becomes traumatized?  I don't want that on my conscience. Only one thing to do.

"Hey," I say.

The snowman doesn't answer. Just continues striking matches and tossing them at his body.

"What're you doing?" I say.

"I'm sequencing DNA. What the fuck d'ya think?" he says.

"You're trying to kill yourself," I say.

"Move to the top of the class, Einstein," he says.

"Any reason?"

"None. My life is great. I sit out here all day getting whipped by the wind, smacked by snowballs from spoiled little brats, and pissed on by dogs. I've never heard a Mozart concerto, seen anything by Van Gogh, or..." 

"What?"

"...felt the cold touch of a snowwoman." The snowman's head slumps forward. I catch it and put it back on.

"You have no genitalia."

"Really sensitive. Genitalia does not define gender. They're there. You just have to dig."

"I'll take your word for it," I say.

"In a few days some local brat'll knock me down. My life will be over. Maybe-. Maybe you can help," he says.

"This isn't what I'm thinking is it?"

The snowman looks at me with those big button eyes.

"Geezus." I start pacing. "You want me to pimp for you."

"Think of it as matchmaking."

"You want me to build a snowwoman."

"Right up against me. So I can feel every lump," he says.

"You don't understand. The last time I did this-" I say.

"I know."

"How?"

"Snowmen talk," he says. "Listen, however she turns out she will be beautiful. And she will be loved."

"Geezus, Maroon 5?"

"That's all the mother plays," he says.

 "I really don't think I can do it."

"You can. You must. For both of us."

"Hey, Deepak Chopra. I need time."

"Not too long. Sunrise is coming."

I walk. End up at Aroma in Forest Hill Village. Warm up inside. 'She Will Be Loved' by Maroon 5 comes on. Tap on my window knock on my door/I want to make you feel beautiful. Isn't this all the  snowman wants aside from snowsex? To make the other feel beautiful? To know the feeling of making the other feel beautiful? To give. With love. Even if it's snowlove. I slip on my gloves. It'll be a long night.

****************************************
A few days later I walked by the house. Even though the cold weather hadn't changed, the snowman and snowwoman were no longer standing. They had somehow melted into a frozen puddle on the ground.

07 January 2013

ASLEEP AWAKE, AWAKE

A few hours ago I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was still asleep.

This is a problem.

I need to do laundry. If I'm asleep, how will I know two socks aren't balled into one before I toss them in the washer?

So here's what I'm thinking. I go back to sleep, wake up, everything will be the way it should. Thing is, I'm already asleep. Not sure how I will get back to sleep when I'm already asleep. I could stay up asleep, and hope that I fall asleep from being asleep, so that when I wake up I won't be asleep. Yeah, that's worth a try.

On my back. On my bed. Eyes closed. Fence. Sheep. Jump-.

This won't work.

Light is seeping through my eyelids. I need something to block out the light. Something like a sleep mask. I have a sleep mask. A production company included one in a bag of swag at the launch of their fall line-up one year. Given the quality of their shows, including the mask now seems prescient.

On my back. On my bed. Mask on. Fence. Sheep-.

It's dark. Too dark. Way too dark.

I feel like Clarice Starling at the end of Silence of the Lambs when she's in the psycho killer's lair stumbling around in blackness, while he stalks her sporting night vision goggles. What if somebody is outside my mask, in my room, sporting night vision goggles. They can see me. I can't see them. Because I'm in the dark. Because I'm wearing a sleep mask. Because I'm asleep awake and I'm trying to get to sleep so I can wake up.

I can lie here paralyzed with fear. I can lie here paralyzed with more fear. Or, I can take my chances and run.

I run. Jump up. Scream. Flail. Smack into the door. Fall back. Take off the sleep mask. Rush out. Close the bedroom door behind me.

In the hallway, my heart pounding, I determine I must go back in so I'll know. I swing the door open, make a quick check under the bed, in the closet, under the bed, in the closet, under the bed. No creature sporting night vision goggles or otherwise.

Every inch of my body tingles.

And then I realize...I am not asleep awake anymore.

I am awake.

I make a note to send my fear a gift basket.



31 December 2012

...ALIVE

"I'm dying."

I'm at a Starbucks. It's deserted. New Years Eve. She sits at a table beside mine. She's beautiful. Like a child's poem.

"Don't take this wrong but you are the most beautiful woman I've ever met who is dying," I say. She moves over to my table.

"Here." She takes my fingers, puts them on her jugular and holds them there.

"Strong pulse."

"No, feel." She moves my fingers slow along her neck.

"Still...you know...strong..."

"Do you feel? I'm dying."

"Keep my fingers on your neck any longer I'll be dying."

She pulls them away, doesn't let go of my hand.

"Will you come with me?"

"Maybe...where?"

"Doesn't matter. Just come. It'll be perfect." For the first time her face brightens.

"You're dying," I say.

She takes my hand and puts it up to my jugular. "What are you?"

"Beatrice, come on. We're all waiting." It's a guy in a sleek, fitted, sharkskin suit.

Beatrice gets up, kisses my forehead, brushes her lips against mine. I feel her breath enter my mouth. I am...

16 December 2012

MY NOSE MY SELF

I woke up this morning without a nose. 

Just a blank piece of skin. Not attractive. I have meetings today. If I show up without a nose a producer will notice. They're trained like that. Just so you know, this has never happened before. No part of my body has ever left without my knowledge.

I do a grid search of the apartment. No nose. I check the fridge door magnets. No note. I consult the neighbours. They haven't heard from or seen my nose apart from my face. The thing has vanished.

A tear runs down my cheek. I have to sit. Already I miss my nose. It wasn't perfect. It had a little bump near the front. Maybe it was a bit too wide. I never said anything. Just accepted all that it was in the way that it was. What will I do without it? Besides, it held my face together.

The phone rings. It's Polk, my accountant. Polk doesn't usually call in the mornings.

"I'm being audited." I say.

"Hi to you. Too Alan. You. Are not being audited. No." He says.

"So..." 

"Are you missing. Your nose?" Polk says.

"Uh...maybe," I say.

"It. Is here." He says. 

"You have my nose," I say.

"It. Is here."

Can you put it on?" I say.

"Just. A second," Polk says.

Long pause.

"Your nose does not. Want to. Talk to you," Polk says.

"Oh," This hurts. We've been together for a long time. "Can you tell my nose I miss it very much and...well, just that."

Long pause.

"Your nose misses. You too." Polk says

"So why did it run?"

"It says. You do not. Listen to it," Polk says.

"I listen. I'm listening right now."

"Now. You listen. Out of fear. That you will. Lose it. Not. Out of love. For all it. Gives you," Polk says.

I am knocked back. My nose shows a depth of understanding I had previously not known. But then. Maybe I haven't been listening.

"Your. Nose. Wants me to remind. You of Thai Gardens." Polk says.

"I remember..." I say.

"You. Ordered the ginger chicken. In a cream sauce. With hot red peppers."

"That was what I ordered," I say.

"The dish. Smelled bad. Your nose told you. It told you. The dish would hurt you. If you ate it. For days and. Days. You would be. In pain. You. Did not listen." Polk says.

I got so sick after eating that Ginger Chicken. Took a long time to get over. My nose is right. It smelled bad. I didn't listen.

"I listened." I say.

Long pause.

"Alan. Please." Polk says.

"Okay, I didn't listen. My nose is right. Polk, I want it back. I'll do anything." I say.

Long Pause.

"Here's what your. Nose says. You. Must promise to trust. When it sniffs. You must. Promise to surprise it. Everyday." Polk says.

"Okay, I will," I say.

"It wants to. Hear you say. It." Polk says. I hear a rustling. A sniff. Does my nose miss me? Or is it the allergies?

"Okay, so, I'm sorry for not listening to you about the Ginger Chicken. Really. I mean it. If I had listened to you I wouldn't have gone through all that pain. From now on, I will be attentive. And... surprises. Definitely. Every day." More rustling. Polk gets back on the line.

"Your nose. Is satisfied. But it. Has one last. Request." Polk says.

"Name it." I say.

******************

The meeting goes well. I'm just ecstatic to have my nose back. I guess I hadn't noticed that I was focusing on it. "You're touching your nose like it's your dick," a producer says.

After the meeting I fulfill my nose's request: a three hour facial at a spa in Yorkville. I tell the attendant before she touches my face, "Be gentle with my nose...it knows."

02 December 2012

AFTERNOON IN THE PARK

A small dog walks up to me in the park. I'm on a bench cartoon hopping through the latest New Yorker. The early afternoon is cool and cloudy. The dog says,"Listen to me."

"You're a dog talking," I say.

"You're a human stating the obvious. Listen to me." The Dog looks over my shoulder.

"Can't make out the accent."

"It's dog with a hint of dog. What does it matter? Listen to me. Don't look back."

I look back.

"What did I say?" He says.

"Don't look back."

"You look back."

"I look back because you said don't look back. You need to learn more about human behaviour. I didn't see anything."

"You saw enough."

"Really? Like what?" I turn around. "There's a shrub. A tree. A garbage can. It's the shrub, right?" The dog shakes his head and walks away. "Bark once if it's the shrub. Was that a bark?" Out of view.

I return to the New Yorker but thoughts of the shrub distract me. Something about it. I turn around and stare at it. The shrub's maybe four feet high, gangly and unruly, dotted with symmetrical branches of vibrant green. I can't turn away from it like a sexual oddity in a traveling freak show.

My phone rings. It's Jason. "Where the fuck're you?" I tell him I'm in the park. "Everybody's here. We've been waiting for, like, 15 minutes. The producer's not happy," he says.

"Start without me," I say. "I'll be there soon."

"Soon when?" He says.

"Soon."

"Sometime today soon? It's your script. The fuck ya doing at the park?"

"Staring at a shrub," I say.

"Seriously. A shrub?"

"It has properties. Can't look away." 

"You've fuckin' lost it. Producer backs out you are-" he says.

"Jason, gotta get back to the shrub, bye," I say and hang up.

The more I look at the shrub, the more I can't stop looking at the shrub. Each branch makes me think of some past relationship or life incident. I want to both cry and laugh. So I do both. Which makes me come across as a crazy person. I should really get up and walk away. I should. But I'm not able.

"You okay, mister." It's a kid no more than eight with a dog...the talking dog!

"Hey, it's your dog. He speaks in English you know. Say something?" The dog barks. "No, in English." The dog barks again.

"He told me not to look back, I did and now I'm stuck here staring at that shrub."

"Mister, you remind me of my mom before she went to the hospital for a month," the kid says. He leaves. The dog looks back at me with an expression I can't make out. I told you so? Maybe. Anyway I don't have time to figure it out. I've gotta get back to the shrub.

The sun lowers in the sky. Evening creeps up. I'm feeling chilled. My phone rings maybe four times. I don't answer. It'll just take away from my shrub time.

"Alan...Alan..."

"Yes?" I turn and see an unfamiliar woman. "Who are you?"

"I was sent by a mutual friend...a concerned mutual friend." She's in her early forties with light brown hair, big brown eyes and an expression of warmth.

"Jason?" She shakes her head. "Polk, my accountant? Rachel? Emma?"

"None of the above. Here..." She holds out her hand. "We have to go...now...you're in danger."

"I can't leave the shrub. There's too much still...I have to decipher."

"How about this? We walk over to the swings. You'll still be able to see the shrub."

"Well..."

She looks up in the sky. "We have to go." She grabs my hand.

"Is it going to rain?" She yanks me up from the bench. "Ow."

"Lets go...you have to get away from here NOW."

"Okay, fine..." I take her hand.  She leads me over to the swings. I sit down and swing back and forth. "I don't understand why you had to pull me away so quick-.

CRASH! From out of the sky drops what looks like a tank on the park bench totally crushing it.

I'm stunned. I look over at her mouth open. "Lets go home," she says.

I take her hand and we walk away, past the swings, out of the park.

I don't look back.