Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Camouflage and Defense

Camouflage and Defense

Edgar is small. He is five foot one and scrawny. Skin and bones. Held in normal fashion, his lunch tray is often at the same level of the ass of the inmate in front of him. It has not been a good life.

Edgar was small time. He never grew. Pre-pubescent Edgar was the same height as all the other boys. Then all the other boys lifted off, and left Edgar behind. It transformed him from a relatively well-liked boy into a highly coveted victim. It made him angry, mean, petty. He enjoyed what retribution he could find. He made sure that Pam saw Steven kiss Mary. He slashed tires. Made teachers aware of cheats, passed notes, chewed gum. He tried to remain inconspicuous, to remain as invisible as they seemed to want him, but it never worked. It just resulted in more torment, but he took what he could get. As he grew older, the tormenting continued, he became more sophisticated in his schemes. When the rest of his class went off to college or the army, he remained behind and started small time cons. He went to the library, learned about famous cons, would modify them to maximum effect, and would swindle suckers in the neighborhood.

Things progressed, he left his neighborhood, wound up in the big city and started running slightly more complex cons. He worked under dozens of aliases and told people in the know to call him "The Oak", and people did to his face and referred to him as "The Runt" to his back. He moved too quickly and got in too deep, mixed with the wrong crowd. And soon enough he was being conned by a fellow grifter. He spent a little time on the run. His wanted poster read "Edgar 'The Runt' Sherman".

He was in the process of hustling a watch from an old man when he was tackled and arrested. They had to lower the camera to take his mug shot. His eye was black and blue, his brow was red and bloody. They enjoyed arresting him. It was his first time in prison and he was frightened. He did not like other people, he had heard stories of prison, that it was fraternal, it kept its own order. Just like school. He was to be here for eight years. He hoped to be killed.

Edgar had worked with another con man once, a few years ago, who told him that the only way a man like Edgar could survive in prison was, on the first day, convince the entire prison that he was crazy, or kill someone with his bare hands. The latter seemed impossible. Maybe he could make a knife from something. Maybe something heavy in a sock. He was turning in his clothes now, getting an orange jumpsuit. He could possibly kill the lady handing out the jumpsuits. But she had a stick. But, there was a pen on the counter. Maybe her neck. But he was a coward. And she was pretty.

The new detainees were led into the common area. The other prisoners were at the doors to the cells. They were yelling, throwing things. Edgar made a choice, and he ran with it.

Edgar screamed "No", broke from the line, put his head down and ran as fast as he could at the locked door behind them. He hit his head with as much force as he could muster and woke up in the infirmary. He was released three days later and was guided back through the same common room under sedation. He was too woozy for leg shackles. The nurse had given him enough sedatives to last him through the night. It was in this way surprising when he again broke from the line, turned around with his head down, and ran into the door. Everyone laughed, people talked about it for days.

When he was returned, he was strapped to a wheelchair, his head was bandaged and people cheered. He was put in bed under heavy sedation and when he woke up a few days later, he wrapped a towel around his head and spent five hours staring into the corner of the room. It was painfully boring, but convincing. It took a few more weeks of calculated strangeness to convince his felow captives that he was indeed crazy. There were a few instances where some of the inmates roughed him up. But it wasn't too bad. When it happened, he would curl up and start talking to his mother or to an unknown person named Stevie. Stevie, he explained was his pet pigeons father, and was coming to kill us all. Stevie's son Buford lived in the courtyard and had a gnarled right foot.

Edgar had his own lunch table. After a week of singing sea shanties "It's the only thing that will keep Stevie in space!" His cell mate was moved to another cell, and Edgar would refuse to leave for weeks at a time, he had his own space, he could hide behind the bars and forget his act. By law, he is required to have excercize time in the yard, but the guards were all too happy to leave him behind. Edgar was never particularly fond of showering, and showering with other men was unapealing, his excercize time just made him smell worse. The guards figured he was faking, the councilor said she knew he was faking, but either way, best to leave him be.

Edgars walls would crumble in year four. He was up for parole in year five. He electrocuted himself on purpose and then told everyone that it had warped his mind back to shape, that he was cured. Edgar had been used to getting his own way, and used to the influence he seemed to weild over everyone, he could bend his reality as he chose and it would work as it had. They were dumb, he thought. They believed that he believed in Stevie, which is absurd as his believing in Stevie. And now, suddenly, his hair was combed, he was trying to cover how nervous he was with casual conversation. He molted. Tried to become normal in time for the hearing. Convicts, it turns out, do not like being tricked.

The day of the hearing he'd arrived bruised and bloody. They'd spent the last few months tormenting him for tormenting them. They insisted that he wear that sheet of his around his head, denied him showers and someone killed Buford and then they took turns throwing Buford at him.

The parole hearing did not go well. They did not like that he conned his way into a single occupancy cell. They blamed his bruises on his 'game'. Maybe next year they said. Three more years. But, there was a pen on the table.

Elephant and Cigar

"Did they take everything?"
"Just about."
"Is there much time?"
"Some. The wind is blowing this way, though."
"Is everyone gone?"
"Just about."
"How bad is it?"
"We should hurry along."
"Give me a few minutes."

It was empty. The dawn was coming in sideways and catching the dust. It was quiet. The mornings were quiet for years, but most everything was gone now, and his steps were echoing around him. They'd taken nearly everything. There were a few tables and chairs, but by and large, it was gone. The door to his office was off the hinges, the desk was overturned, the paintings off the wall and broken. Now his footsteps crunch on the broken glass from a shattered cabinet. He's glad of it, the fallen cabinet hid the safe.

There was a loose floorboard. He'd removed a part of it to make a storage space. A few dollars, keepsakes, a personal bottle of whiskey from when his wife chided him for drinking too much and had removed all the bottles from his office. A small personal space. Such spaces are sacred and better left hidden. He'd never sullied or justified it by filling it with any real secrets. Just personal effects and vices. His whiskey. Some cash. A cigar. He'd forget about it for weeks at a time and only occasionally ferret through after a difficult day, for when something upsetting happened. On the days when he'd think about failing or leaving or dying, on the days when he felt trapped or stupid or worthless. There were things here that would buoy his spirits.

He'd always kept things. Mementos. His wife teased him about his sentimentality when she noticed it. It was straight faced and quiet, all his trinkets were small enough to palm and pocket unnoticed. But she was clever, she noticed sometimes. She saw him steal a spoon on the night he'd proposed. She asked him about it later, but he denied it. She'd never see it again. It lived under the floorboards now, in his private collection. He had gone to his house after his parents were gone and stolen the doorknob to the front door. He kept cards and letters, the keys to every place he'd ever lived, stones from beaches, good moments.

The cigar was a gift from his father when he opened the restaurant. He said not to smoke it until the business had been open for one year. It was a typical gift from his father. He had never kept gifts from his father, they always seem to suggest that he did not work hard enough, that he was not smart enough. Books, pen sets, an abacus, a globe. He assumed that his father thought he'd smoke it in a few months, when the building had been boarded up. It was open for several years and only closed when the town collapsed. His father's petty gift could now be enjoyed.

It was hard to let go. Eve his family had left months ago. He was the only person who'd remained behind to look over things. Under the floor was the flier announcing the emergency town hall meeting that he'd folded and worked over nervously and had offered it to his wife as a fan. The mine had failed. The next day, parts of the mine collapsed, men died. After the mine was gone, the mill was useless, so the mill folded. And it didn't take long for it to ruin the town.

A few weeks ago he walked through the town. He was almost the last person remaining. Some were even more stubborn, those that had lived there longer or were too old to move. They had enough preserves to last the winter, he didn't know what they would do after that. He assumed this fire would now force them out. He'd taken a day and walked through the town. Several places had been burgled, or at least evacuated quickly. He didn't know who would be doing it, there were so few people remaining. Scavengers in the night. Evil. The walk took him across town, he stopped at the mill and the mine. Empty, surely haunted places. He did not linger long, just enough to collect something from his time there. He kept a wood chip from the mill, a loose bolt from a mangled mine car.

"We don't have much time."

It pulled him from his hiding space.

"I'll be there soon."

He hadn't had a customer in three months. The girls were complaining by the end, they were scared. He sent them to her mothers. He saw this as his failure, not the mine, not the mill. He'd chosen this place.

Someone had lit the mine. The gas that had ruined it burned completely. It exploded in the night. The town would burn behind them.

He put the cash in his pocket, and brought the whiskey for the ride. He would attempt to enjoy the journey north to her mothers. His friend would leave him there and continue east to his family. There would only be one cigar. He would keep the ring for a memento, it featured a small white elephant on a bright red background. He'd keep it in his next home, under the floorboards and hope that he'd kept enough from this life to move on safely to the next.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Dan Hits A Grand Slam

Dan Hits A Grand Slam

Home to First:

Get out. Go. Please go. Go go. Go go go go go go. Oh thank god.

Ok - head down, run, don't dog it. Don't be a dick. Head down. Make sure you tag first, it'd be embarrassing. Don't trip. Don't trip. Don't do that stutter step. Just hit the bag. Don't trip. Did they just set off fireworks? That's embarrassing. The wind took it, I barely hit the thing. Wind is screwing up the fireworks. What if they landed on someone? Could I get sued? I couldn't get sued, right. Are they done? Hopefully there are more. Everybody look at the fireworks. Eyes to the sky. Keep your head down. Just tag the bag. Don't trip.

First to Second:

Where are my hands? I'm running weird. Why do I always run so weird? Shoulders back. That guy's an asshole. Don't go too wide. Hit the bag. Don't trip. Head down. This is so weird. So loud. Do I always run like this? I feel like I don't always run like this. Are my hands like this? I'm doing the weird straight hand thing. I hate that, close your fists. It's not nineteen oh you weirdo I can't believe you were doing the wind-resistance hands like a weirdo. Oh man that's going to be on ESPN, someone's circling that with technology. Technology? Someone's circling it with technology? You dope. Head down. Head down. Everybody's looking, they're going to call you Wind-hands. Dummy. Tag the bag, Wind-Hands.

Second to Third:

This is the worst. That lady in the third row can see my helmet is rattling. I think I grabbed the wrong helmet. Can't get a good helmet to fit my weirdo head. Wind-Head. That'd be a better name. Wind-Head. They shouldn't make you play the field after you hit a grand slam. You should get an inning off. That should be a rule. There's so many rules, that should be one too. I should be able to sit down and forget about it for a bit. Go take a shower or something. My legs are kicking up too high, this looks so gay. Why do I always look so weird. I should quit. Oh man, why is the third base coach clapping. I hate that guy. Such an asshole. That's so clearly a sarcastic clap. Don't think I can't recognize a sarcastic clap when I see it. Not my fault the game passed you by. I missed one practice. I was depressed. Not my fault. Insensitive old "Thanks coach." What a piece of shit that guy is. I wonder how many toilets this place has, probably more than you'd think, probably if I set a number it'd probably be way higher no matter what number. Unless you were being a dick about it and said way too many. Tag the bag. Tag the bag. It's almost over.

Third to Home:

Oh Fuck. All the dumb handshakes. I hate this. Ramirez is forearm bash, then handshake then helmet sm-- no no no. Albertson is helmet smack. Rameriez is the forearm bash, then slide down to the handshake. Albertson is helmet smack shoulder pat. Or wait. Is it shoulder pat and then helmet smack? But if he's shoulder pat then who's headbutt? Christ. Was Olsen Headbutt? I think Olsen is headbutt. No wait Olsen Headbutts Albertson. That's their thing. Because of that thing with that chick. I know Stevenson is thumb wrestle handshake, bro hug. That's easy. Olsen should be more like Stevenson. I think the third baseline is crooked. Christ, they're all there. They're all going to beat me up. They think it's celebrating, but I'm just in a circle getting shoved around by cavemen. No self control. It's just abuse. I just hit a grand slam for fuck sake. I should get to call the celebration. I should get a cup of tea and then an inning off and nobody talks to me for three hours. That should be the celebration. Fuck Albertson has his forearm up. What if I slid. What if I slid to be a dick. That would be funny, right? No. That's not funny. But I'd be on the ground, which would be nice. Nobody would know what to do, I could avoid the whole thing. Slide and then get up and run to the dugout. Why is everyone hopping up and down? What's that do. What if someone got injured doing that. Oh man, what if I fake an injury. Grab your thigh. Limp. Two weeks paid vacation.