Thursday, December 1, 2011

Start something that means something

Yes, I've not posted on here in some time. Reasons are myriad, but mostly have to do with too much college, too much work, too much pressure to talk about things I knew I'd feel compelled to address, after so long.

I'm at the end of my first semester at MSU; three more, at least, to go before moving on to grad school at god-knows-where. Iowa, hopefully, Wash U. a strong runner up in hopefulness. Syracuse, Cornell; I aim high.

Lots of things learned this semester. Did some of the best work of my literary career, short and punctuated by unproductive, awkward silences though it may be. Met some amazing people in the move to Springfield. Lost some amazing people in the move to Springfield. Lost the girl I thought was going to be my future and first it was all right because I thought I understood, but then I didn't and it was a monstrous hurt. Suffered through black periods that drained the very color and sound from the world, it seemed. Halloween and my birthday passed in a curious, almost guilty silence. I just remember early, gray darkness. Did things that make me question my essential decency as a person (Amanda, I'm sorry: things should've been different from the beginning) and discovered things, thoughts, books, and people that lit the world back up, reignited the countless noise-machines that joyously keep me up at night. I knew and know still what it's like to have, literally, no money. I'm both okay and not okay with it. I'm the 99%, bitches.

My future is entirely realigned, and it looks beautiful. I'm no longer chagrined, as long as I get it right, this time. I think I will.

I still miss the ocean. I still feel empty on certain levels. Am I still confused? Fuck yes, I am. But things are looking better. Two more years and perhaps I can leave the sorrowful Midwest. See that ocean again, and let it wash my bones anew.

Love, love, love,


Saturday, August 6, 2011


Werewolf novels, good ones anyway, are pretty few and far between. I can think of, let's see. . . Cycle of the Werewolf, by Stephen King. David Wellington's adequate but wanting Frostbite trilogy. (I really shouldn't leave out Toby Barlow's epic poem Sharp Teeth, incredibly beautiful as it is.) Ben Percy's werewolf novel Red Moon is slated for release next fall, and looks promising, based the strength of his past work. But as a whole, people typically have trouble writing about werewolves, or they're written about but tragically misrepresented; I can think of those dubious books about the female werewolf mechanic w/ tattoos. (I've never read them, but they look awful; if I'm wrong, by all means, set me straight,) and werewolves-lite of Twilight. Maybe, as a genre, the werewolf story works best in a visual medium; werewolf movies outnumber novels by surely an impressive ratio, and even SK's Cycle would lose about 50% of its charm/power if one were to toss out Bernie Wrightson's chill-inducing illustrations. Maybe the werewolf concept works best as a metaphor; King as pointed out pretty efficiently that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is more or less a werewolf story. So is the history of Nazi Germany, the Salem Witch trials, etc. (the werewolf being the symbol of the unleashed, uninhibited beast-within.) Perhaps with such potent examples of vile transformations in human history, most writers feel it is unnecessary to rewrite the tale, so to speak.

For whatever reason, werewolves are somewhat neglected fodder for horror writers. Which is a shame really, as they can be terrifying and tragic all at once, and if that isn't a recipe for drama, I don't know what is. People are perhaps drawn to them for this reason. Lon Chaney was a victim more than a villain, etc. My own fascination with werewolves probably stems from the hand that Fate plays in their appearance on the scene. They seem to simply occur. Out on a foggy moor, or across a shadow-strewn lawn, etc., without apparent design. They're waiting out there, a metaphorical catastrophe when we least expect or are prepared for them. This is sort of the spirit of my own werewolf story (see A horror story, the blog I posted last February, a few posts down.)

Anyway, a new book that creates some interesting new perspectives on werewolves was published a few weeks ago. It's called The Last Werewolf, and it's written by a gent named Glen Duncan. It's basically a thriller, a hardcover thing meant to be peddled from the best-seller racks from major retailers. But it's also incredibly well-written; it's literate yet thrilling in a way that only certain British books can be. The protagonist is a 200-year-old werewolf by the name of Jacob Marlowe, a well-read, cool in a Ricky Gervais sort of way, philosophizing, tired guy who's killed hundreds of people over his, er. . . career. He's the last of his kind, etc. after an international paranormal police organization has killed of every other werewolf. So now he's in the cross-hairs. There are the usual conflicts; firstly, he's tired of life and would more-or-less turn himself in as a soon as not. Then later, after goings-on, he decides he'd like to live. Even later, that he'd really like to live. There are vampires, who of course are the werewolves arch-nemesis. Yet, the vampires want him alive for their own purposes (werewolves apparently hold the secret to allowing vampires to strut around in daylight.) The plot is as tightly-wound and as expertly constructed as any you'll come across. The differentiating thing is the writing and the moral issues raised. The writing, as I said, is as intelligent and irony-tinged as it comes. It's entertainment literature of the highest caliber. Jake is also a terrible hedonist; some of the most carefully detailed scenes involve anal sex with prostitutes. (Also, the most irritating error on the part of Duncan is an ill-advised description of werewolf vagina. I just didn't want to hear about it.) But Jake makes things interesting with his too-cool sense of humor and by waxing poetic about the meaning, or lack thereof, of it all. As in life, moral implications of killing and devouring people, etc. I wish I had some passages to illustrate here, but I'm too lazy to dig them up (also, I didn't use a highlighter on the book as per usual; the book is just too pretty, and I couldn't bring myself to besmirch the pages. You'll just have to buy it, gentle reader. [Oh wait, I do remember something: Jake is captured at one point, and is left in a cage, in wolf-form, with a "snack" provided by his captors. The snack, of course, is a bound man who's shitting himself in diarrhea-inducing terror. Jake, in an effort to appear nonchalant to his captors, tries his darndest to abstain from slaughtering the poor man. The chapter ends. The next begins, simply, with, "Reader, I ate him." Dry, cool wit, etc.]) All in all, it's a cheap, predictable book that's super smart and as fun as anything you'll ever read.

Wells. That's all I have to say about that. Let me know what you think, if you read the book. Give me suggestions for other books or just input on werewolves in general. (BTW, for another excellent genre-mashing book, I really recommend DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers, a super-unique take on the western. It's recently been nominated for the Man Booker, which is incredible.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I'm huddled in a fetal position 87% of the time.

Perhaps if you were to see me lately, you would ask the question that would be answered by a blog titled what this blog is titled.

Lord. Here it is, late late July. No apartment for sure. Haven't contacted other Wal-Mart yet, out of fear of jinxing our apartment-getting chances by offering cruel fate an opportunity for mischief. I'm covered in stress-related hives all the time and have about $80 to my name. If I had more money I'd be less worried, or equally worried but with the alcohol to deal with it.

I've been trying to escape from this potential killing-spree-inducing stress by voiding my emotional bowels and entering into a kind of psychic purgatory. Or lavatory. No, no, it's purgatory. I've also escaped into literature.

In the past week I've read three entire books. Not bad, considering I've been stuck on The Four Fingers of Death and The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris since their respective release dates. For those of you who don't keep up with such things, it's been a while. Anyway, I thought a decent way to further distract myself is to write about what I read:
  • This Monday, I needed to get cash out of my account, so instead of going to the bank or ATM, I figured I'd help the economy a bit and buy something and then get cash back with the purchase. So I went to Wal-Mart and bought a seven dollar paperback copy of The Hunger Games. The reason I needed cash soon dissolved, so I was stuck with nothing to do for the whole day. So I read the book. It's surprisingly quite decent; thrilling, even, in a not-put-down-able way. There's something about YA books: namely, they remind me of my young adulthood, but also, they're refreshingly well-plotted. Plot is something not marketable to adult-adults, so they throw 'em in with the YA crowd. I myself have always been a reluctant (some might say; defective) plotter of stories, so I felt The Hunger Games was a healthy read. Recommended, if you have a free day. 
  • Thrilled that I actually not only finished something I started, but all in one day, I looked for other short books to read in, similarly, one day; this is my new high. So I plucked Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone from my overburdened shelves and speed-read away. I'd read the novel years before, and it left quite an impression on me, but I ended up forgetting 90% of the action. E.i., when I saw the incredible movie version, it was more or less like a totally unfamiliar story line. I figured it had to have been highly modified, but the reread corrected me: the movie's pretty much word-for-word. I just don't remember too good sometimes. But anyway, a near-perfect book, full of whiskey-drenched poetry and winter inimical. PS: Bit o' trivia, recently discovered that Jennifer Lawrence of Winter's Bone film fame is playing the lead in the movie version of The Hunger Games. Crazy how dat shit works eh?
  • Wednesday afternoon I received Hill/Rodriguez's Locke & Key v. 4. If you've never read or heard of this comic series, hang your head in shame. Then log onto some indie-cred-bearing online bookseller and buy all four volumes. It's the best thing you'll ever have linked to your name. I'll devote an entire single blog to it soon, so I won't give to much away, except to say that the series is better-written than 97% of all literature written between 10,987 BC and now. 
Other than that, I've recently discovered Spotify, and am diligently using the bitch for all it's worth. Two words: Wye Oak!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homeschooled Twi-tards unite!!!

Well, I'm not proud to say it, but on the last two consecutive evenings, I've--willingly, non-regrettingly, even,-- set myself down in an easy chair, popped the top on a ginger ale, and hit play on a Twilight Saga DVD. Please, let me explain.

Pop Culture Phenomena have always held a certain fascination for me. As much as I can't stomach most of them, I hold a respect for them that seems to be lacking in most of my irony-drooling peers. Surely, by their very nature, PCP's tell us something about ourselves, our culture, our standing at this point in history, etc. Many times, what they indicate about the masses is somewhat discouraging-- Kesha, say. Other times, they represent reality in a skull-numbing way that higher art would never even begin to imagine representing, because it's so disappointingly unromantic (I'm thinking of The Bachelor/ette, here. As David Shields points out in Reality Hunger, this show "tells us more about the state of unions than any romantic comedy could ever dream of.")Anyway, close attention to PCP's can give one a glimpse at various profundities in play within the current zeitgeist.

Anyway, Twilight, certainly falling into the PCP category, has always particularly held a sort of intrigue for me, an appeal that I've never been able to verbalize in any satisfying way. I've mentioned this before, always in an offhand, defensive kind of way. The other person, hitherto more or less thinking me mentally competent, struggle to keep a straight face or else tsks openly concerning my feeble failing at life, never really understands what I mean.

I found myself recently with time and an inclination to rewatch the movies. Brittany and her family are vacationing, and I'm serving as their (quasi-) house-sitter for a week-ish period of time. I spend a couple to four hours at their house daily, feeding the animals and keeping them company, taking messages, getting mail, fending off intruders, etc. The work doesn't really require my being there for more than like half an hour, but I get to where I like the quiet and the aloneness. Then I start missing Brittany terribly, her absence apparent everywhere. As I lay on her couch the other day, I suddenly started jonesing (yes, actual, factual, jonesing) for Twilight, which up until that point I'd only seen in her company. It'd be a way of connecting with her from afar, and also, I came to realize, an oppurtunity to sit in an environment without walk-in awkwardness-potential, with a notebook, and finally figure out the mysterious pull the film has for me.

Let's get some things straight firstly, though. I do not think the Twilight films are great, or even very good, movies. They're full of cheese. Aching, anus-clinching dialogue. The action scenes (especially in the first movie) are somewhere around made-for-TV-caliber, and the scenes featuring the acting of T. Lautner will give you a horrifying skin condition. Close-ups for actresses not prepared or conditioned for close-ups. First takes that needed retook. Etc. I'm indubitably not infatuated with the films.

But, how bad are the films, really? Take them away from the malls-full of shrieking 12-45-year-old women. Keep in mind that unconditionally hating the films means being sucked into the same mindless cultural blackhole as obsessing over the films. You might see that they hold their own, honestly. They're unique. The cinematography is staggeringly great the vast majority of the time. Immediately recognizable. The sets are beautiful; the scenery is occasionally jaw-dropping. The movie makes me want to live in coastal Washington, in its gloom and snaking black, lonesome highways and moody sea and beaches and people coping with, interacting with, and loving even, all the above. Little scenes with regular people can be touching and subtle. Aesthetics. Just needs better dialogue and much fewer close-ups.

What maybe appeals to me the most is the small-town high-school interactions. It's something that I, being homeschooled but raised in a surely similar-to-Forks, WA- small town, with the Regular Folk and football games and conservative values, missed out on but was basically close enough to taste. High school with all of the bullshit and drama and aches and loves that linger the rest of your life that I'll never really know and can only construct in some weird, misconstrued facsimile. The thing with Twilight is that the high school and teenager stuff seems so artificial, so lacking in something key, yet beautiful in its misunderstanding. It's something similar to the images that play in my own head. It's a representation that I need to be real, so as to feel that maybe I didn't miss out on so much and didn't need the experience. Don't say Hey, Matt, trust me buddy, feel lucky you missed that bullshit, because if you say that, you've missed the point. Because what I construct is sort of beautiful and miserable and I kind of need it. Twilight nails it to the little details, even. For example, no one in the movies texts or ever logs onto a social networking site. Not once. How beautiful is that? When someone wants something from someone else, they call them or go see them. It's just great.

So, there it is. I knew I'd understand it better when I got to writing about it. Whew.


Monday, June 27, 2011

I was never meant to be an adequate human being and other things.

Despite all odds, step 2 of the Big Move has been completed; I have a car. (The first step, by the way, was registering for classes. That stress lasted for a single day. The car stress was week-long and is not entirely over.) The whole ordeal was long, delay-ridden, embarrassing, and expensive. I ended up learning a lot about myself, though, either directly through the experience or in some dazed perspective mode induced by it. To wit:
  • I get depressed by things that wouldn't probably depress most people. I realized this when I began the stages of getting the car, and I realized that dealing with salespeople depresses the very fuck out of me. That most people are frustrated by the salespeople-interaction phase of car-buying seems obvious, but for me, it was emotionally bleak and filled me with mind-numbing, exhausting despair. Looking at my phone flashing the number of the dealer and suddenly I was half in love with easeful Death. My dealer (that sounds unseemly) was a decent enough guy. Waiting (in vain as it more or less turned out) for the bank to call, the dealer and I sat outside and shot the shit. Here, he adopted a more down-home persona, littering his speech the dread eff-word to show how much he related to me and telling stories about work intended to achieve the same: "I'm loving this Droid X. I can download porn like so much fuckin' faster than my friend; we had like a duel with it." "Oh." "And, like, there it fuckin' was, some chick gettin' the dick right there on the screen while his phone was still loadin' up." "Yeah." And also telling me about how the whole financial enterprise in the US was pretty fucked. He was basically a good guy, though. Anyway, after the encounter was when I realized how depressed the whole thing made me, and how that depression wasn't the result of spending so much money on a vehicle with 144,000 miles on it but rather it had something to do with the interaction and proximity to Salespeople (not necessarily that one salesperson who was really an all-right guy but Salespeople as a species) having to do with some really existential soul-scrambling that I can't fully intellectualize but that I certainly can feel like almost spiritually. Philosophically. It's so low-level and mysterious that I may not have even caught it if I hadn't been slightly caffeinated and in a certain state of mind anyway. This all lead me to realize that many mundane things depress me, mysteriously.
  • Such as: the aforementioned Salespeople; shopping alone in Vintage Stock-type stores (but not with other people); shopping with other people in bookstores (but not alone); driving north-south routes (but not east-west); attending concerts; attending, actually, anything spectator-type event; watching music videos. There's more, but this pretty well gives you a gist of what I mean. I wasn't able or inclined to meditate on why any of this should be, though I'm sure I will in the future. I just realized all this sort of at once and was interested in listing the weird things that depress me. 
  • In looking at the east-west thing, I also realized that I gravitate towards towns that run on an east-west axis. Like, arguably, Monett. Wheaton. Pierce City. These towns are just as staid and quotidian as any other town in SW Mo, but I always have fond memories of them that are somewhat vague and apropos of nothing. When I run, it's the north-south routes that give me the most trouble; I catch my second wind on the east-west roads. This is just really weird to me and like even more low-level and subliminal than the depression things, and I was sort of proud of myself for even catching this.And I have no idea why this should be.
So, none of this is the slightest bit useful or interesting to anyone but me, but it's certainly odd stuff that I don't know how to think about.

In good news, I'm writing a couple stories (including a new Gnawingly) that have a certain potential, if I could just find the time to finish them. I've read a few books that blew my mind (The Good and the Ghastly; The Sisters Brothers; Lighthead) and listened to an album that beat every one of my expectations (Bon Iver's new one) for a change. It's been escapismy and nice to dive into. Well then, tally-ho


Monday, May 23, 2011

Joplin Misery

So the most familiar twenty-five or so percent of Joplin, Missouri, has been flattened by tornadic storms and it happened while I was eating hot dogs and baked beans. By the end of the evening I was sitting at my girlfriend's parent's house watching images from somewhere I'd surely never been, and the sky in the northwest had this look like a spent light bulb. Beauty of after-storm calms, et al.

I've read poems about Joplin, poems by someone from Joplin, and have heard it mentioned passing in song. "Route 66." Joplin a place for passing through, is the gist.

I'm trying to find, maybe, what Joplin meant to me. Which is pointless. What it means to me has nothing to do with what happened there last night. Yet part of me won't accept it because the relationship to me is unclear; what damage is there until I quantify it by what it means to me? This makes me feel shitty and weird. Thousands of peoples' tragedy becomes fodder for my solipsistic musing.

At least one hundred dead, they say now. Nothing looks familiar and breezes are free to toss about in the homes still standing.

"...atomic bomb went off..." etc.

"...war-zone..." etc.

Monday, February 28, 2011

28 February 2011 (Poem for Highway 12)

The farthest I've ever been out to sea or from home

involved being suspended meters above water on

a bridge that looked like a centipede

that had collapsed and been reconstructed

mere years before. I was listening to carefully

considered music (months of planning, thought-

experimenting, to find that one song to hear

as the ocean cleared the horizon) laughing

nervously through the construction zone (whistling

through the cemetery)

and holding Brittany's hand when in the home


Then we were there.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

27 February 2011 (Where is my Mind?)

I awoke with a massive stress-induced (what else could've induced it?) headache and an empty feeling and a small feeling, and these feelings were strong enough I felt they merited a day off work. I called in, vague and tacit as possible about my symptoms, as though they were nebulous even to me. Which is not inaccurate. I don't feel a need really to justify my absentee, other than I've just been too angsty and over-fucking-whelmed with life to even contemplate another day in existential denial at WalMart.

My headache isn't actual so much as imminent. It keeps peeking at me from under my prefrontal cortex. I feel doomed. Maybe my headache is more spiritual or emotional. An existential headache, literally.

God fuck.

I want to go on a walk except I never have time. Something slow and nice with a breeze that smells seminal and my feet and joints don't scream at be from overuse and I know what direction I'm going in, one of four or a combination of adjacents. To know in what direction you're going: that's a hell of an underrated sensation.

Things so easily could be easier, but that would be too easy, right?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A horror story

I wrote this, oh. About four years ago. I'd just gotten this laptop, and, toying around with the idea of becoming a writer, I hammered this story out over a couple October nights. I changed it a bit, before posting it here. Mostly fixing punctuation errors and the like. The story itself is untouched, and not half bad, I think. I wanted to be a writer because I wanted to describe moods to people. Not plots or characters; just a mood. I think I captured the mood I wanted to, here. So it's a success, basically. It's quite long, especially for a blog-story (comes to about 15 pages on paper). But tell me what you think if you read it.


     Document found in a manila envelope in a nook in the wall of an upstairs room in a two-story home on the outskirts of Keeley, Missouri.

I wonder what you’ll make of this, whoever finds this. This is a record of something that happened to me and my friend and roommate Lisa D___ late last year. Last November. I have never told anyone about it; in fact, the thought of doing that is terrifying. To actually sit down in front of someone and let it out? To their face? Impossible. But this here doesn’t really qualify as telling, just remembering and typing, just like those what-I-did-during-summer-vacation essays in middle school. I do hope someone will eventually read this, though. What good does this do? Alleviate the confusion, I hope. Maybe I’ll find out soon. And this way I don’t have to look anyone in the eye. This is one of those things that doesn’t happen. Everyone knows this and so I can’t really tell this to most people. Not in person. Not if I want to make a friend.
   Lisa and I had this kind of ritual. This kind of thing you do because you did it once under innocent, beguiled circumstances, and then through nostalgia and aura and whatever you do it again and again, until it becomes a ritual, a habit that holds some kind of magic to break the monotony of life despite the paradox that habits and rituals are supposed to be monotonous.
     Anyway, our ritual was to simply walk through the town. That’s all. After we’d get home from our jobs on Wednesday, sometime around 7, we would walk from the house we were renting, Lisa and I, in lazy, roundabout fashion, through our little town and eventually end up at the unfortunately-named Gas & Dine convenience store down close to the highway. This is a ritual we started  a little more year ago; almost exactly, actually, a year before this event that I’ve been aching to describe actually happened. But anyway, it’s just that one evening after work we started to have a rather serious conversation. We had been rooming in this smallish house in town near the railroad tracks for a few months by then, and it seemed appropriate to take this conversation along for a walk. It was a warm November that year, and we went to the park at first, we sat down at the table and there was a bunch of kids playing nearby. Lisa was having boyfriend problems, that was the thing. She talked about this, and I just listened and made consolatory noises and didn’t say much, because I’ve never been a good advice giver. The park became too noisy after more kids joined the initial bunch, so we left again. We walked along the railroad tracks for a bit, then got thirsty and decided to head to the Gas & Dine. It was pretty innocent, you see. We talked about our love experiences at first, then we talked about the varying shittiness-levels of our jobs, we talked about our individual plans for the future. We walked down, it was somewhat twilit by then, down the lonely stretch of blacktop, past the decades-closed steel mill, black and utterly massive, and came to the diner/store/gas station. We went in and looked around at our options and got some candy bars and sodas and sat down at the first little booth thing by the window and talked and laughed a bit. The window offered a nice view of the sunset and the highway and even the factory across the highway was beautiful and everything felt still for a moment, which was nice. Then after maybe twenty minutes we walked back to the house in relative silence.
   Thus our ritual. Usually Wednesday evening. Usually, not always, with a quick stop at the park before the serious walking begins. Sometimes we’d stop at the park after we left the store. But the thing of it, that sense of stillness, a pause, and a feeling of mutual comfort, this was the magic that the ritual conjured.

      This happened  last November. About four months ago. The thing, I mean. This will sound melodramatic I imagine, but the thing just pretty much made me a mental wreck,  I just want to say how odd it is that a person can experience this one day and still go to work and function correctly the next day. I think that that’s not the case with , for example, the death of a loved one or something like that. But like I said, things like this don’t happen, so maybe that means we can ignore them easier, to lie to ourselves about hallucinations and weary minds. Yet it’s also life-affirming. I can’t really explain what I mean by this, except that I almost wish that you could’ve experienced this for yourself so you can understand.  But at the same time, it terrifies me. I know, this all sounds fucking incoherent and it is, maybe the best thing to say is that it pretty much fucks you up for awhile and you hide it pretty well and convince yourself you just went crazy for a second and then you get better and you feel better and yet you’re still scared shitless. And you’re still hiding it. These things aren’t supposed to happen and we all know this. I’m trying to keep this casual.
  Okay, like I said, it happened in November. It was a Wednesday early in the month and I had stayed home. I called in sick, not because I was sick but because I felt an unrelenting need to not be at work. I felt too good to go to work. This is the only reason I ever call in sick. I sat and wrote and watched TV all day. This makes me feel better. There was a fire in that place, as my Grandma says, and I was so comfortable and content in my pajamas all day. I prepared a nice meal for me and Lisa that afternoon, and she came in at 6:30 I think it was. She was a bit early anyway. This made me happy. I truly like Lisa, who’s pretty and smart and kind of sad and who I love to make laugh.  But anyway Lisa was early and I love her company and so I felt pretty much even more content.
  She told me about her day at work and I told her about my day at home. I let her read what I had written, a funny bar story, Bukowski-ish , and she laughed and said she loves it and that I am so talented and this made me feel even better. We sat down to the meal and chatted a bit. We have a small table in the small kitchen and this is where we sat, and as it grew darker outside the weak yellow kitchen light grew more significant to the mood and pretty soon we were done. I asked, “ Walk?”, for this was a part of the ritual too, we never just went, we had to ask, and she said “Yeah!” Like I‘d just offered her a beer after a shitty day at work. We quietly pulled on our shoes and  heavy coats, turned off all the lights but the porch, and away we went. Most of the houses we passed still had Halloween decorations and appurtenances out, not out of laziness I think but because of the way that moods seem to linger in small towns like this one. Jack-o’-Lanterns’ grins and sneers had begun to rot. It was just beginning to get noticeably dark now, and it was somewhat windy. This is tornado season in Missouri and there had been watches and advisories issued.  The sky hung low and  heavy, but there were patches where you could see stars just starting to be visible. You could also see the moon. It was full, and just rising over the trees to the east.
    Lisa and I had just begun our conversation when we hit the park. We made various observations about the people we worked with, talked about maybe going to the movies on a double-date with our significant others sometime in the near future. We only sat for a minute though. A rest only. Then we were off to the railroad tracks. The intersection  where we hit the tracks is right on the end off town. On the left, the tracks lead into a more rural area, with fields on both sides, and the tracks are lined with trees, starting about twenty feet from the tracks themselves. On the right the tracks cut through town. This is the route we’ve always taken. We usually follow this for about half a mile and then hit the asphalt again at another intersection, then on to the Gas & Dine. This time however I was drawn to the other side, the side me and Lis have always said we should explore someday. I told her we should try this way tonight, and she didn’t argue. So we turned left. A ways down the line the town-sounds kind of faded, except for the engine noises of the occasional vehicle stopping and then proceeding at the intersection. There’re no sounds now, not even crickets, this late in the season. It was pretty cold, just shy of uncomfortable. As I walked on the ties I looked down. I could see the white bits of gravel stuck down in the hollow parts of the ties; they stood out in the darkness like little impish smiles. I could smell the oilish odor of the tracks. Really I don’t know why I’m telling you this part; it’s just that it seems necessary. Not important, but it seems to play a part, and maybe it did, under the fabric of things. I don’t know. This entire incident has taken on this special viewing lens in my memory; that may be an illustrative way of saying it. Through this lens every incident of the walk-- everything I saw and smelled that night, everything we said, -- it all seems to be linked and all important. I think about it late at night and it’s like I can almost grasp this underlying pattern, this hidden, tacit ritual whose requirements were filled inadvertently. Something I’m not supposed to sense but for some gap or tear, reality-fabric-wise. But then, this sort of thing never happens, really.     ( I keep hitting these interludes; the annoying ones were I go, “These things just don’t happen.” It’s sort of a tic I have. And I think it’s kind of a survival mechanism, too. Either way, both ways, I apologize and will struggle to stay on topic. But here we go again; these things don’t happen. Maybe it didn’t happen, I think sometimes. But then I’ll look over at Lisa, and see something in her eyes. A thing that must also be in my eyes. It did happen.)
       So I’m not going to describe every fucking thing, but some of it needs to be told I think. For my own sake, please bear with me. At one point me and Lis came across this long narrow body of water, not a pond, not a puddle, running parallel to the tracks. So we sat down on the rail and looked at it for while, in silence. It was thick, with a skin of scum on top. We threw rocks into it for a while, being amused at the way this skin broke under impact and eventually rejoined. I think we laughed at it. Here’s something; when Lis and I stood up to get on our way, we heard this sound, at first we both thought it was a train whistle, a bit unnerving (despite our many walks along the rails, a train’s never actually gone by on our walks, as they seem to mostly run early in the morning) but harmless. We got off the tracks and walked as far from the tracks as possible, when we realized that the sound was organic, that some animal was making that sound-- god it seemed impossible-- but yes, at one point the noise began to take on this quality, this pain. It’s weird trying to describe this; it was a howl, a deep strange howl. It touched me to my soul. And not in the way being in love, or viewing a beautiful piece of art touches one’s soul; this twisted sound, it wrung my soul dry.
       We couldn’t tell where the sound came from, only that it was mercifully  far away. Lisa looked at me, her eyes so big, our faces were mutually drained of blood. We started back towards town immediately, our ancient rusty survival instincts having been fired up. We were panicked and scared, quite simply put. Once we were back in the glow of the streetlights, we apparently felt safe enough to talk again. Under a guise of rationality we talked of the possibilities, of coyotes and stray dogs, and minds addled by the somewhat inherent spookiness of the night. There was a fog settling in, Lisa said, fog can distort sounds, has strange acoustic qualities. The wind was getting stronger. And the wind howls. Have you ever heard a tornado? I asked her, They make these horrible sounds. We both knew it was not a tornado, however. It wasn’t that windy, and you could still see the stars at certain places. We were both uneasy, still. Haunted a bit.
   For some reason, we both decided to continue on the Gas & Dine. By then it was quite dark, the streetlights really making themselves known. The moon was huge and bright even behind the clouds. Suddenly we became excited and happy, out of terror. It’s another one of those weird things, how be scared for a bit makes you open up and really get excited (when said terror becomes retrospect). We joked and laughed and howled, but kind of softly. We got to the spooky old steel mill and we ran past it screaming. (After we pass the mill there’s this really tiny house before we get to the store. Just this real box of a house. It’s tiny enough to make us speculate about the psychological inclinations of the person, a single person, within. Me and Lis make up stories about this person. Like that his bathroom is wallpapered with newspaper clippings of obituaries and murders, or pages of the Book of Revelations or something. Or that he was abducted by aliens. That man has had many exciting adventures.  His door was opened when we passed this time, making the place seem all the more odd to us. So we ran by howling.) Then we came to the fuel towers of the gas station.  It was something like 8:20 at this point, the place closes at nine, and there were actually a few cars pulled up to the building, and one at the pumps. I always feel this nervousness at this point, because I feel like we’re going to walk into a hold-up or something. Which of course isn’t what happened. 
   But the people that hung out there were nonetheless a somewhat dusky people, small town white trash. I’ve never minded this, not really. There’s something that can almost be called reassuring about the bromides of that kind of culture. But anyway.
   I held the door for Lis. Then I followed her in. There’s a handful of tables in the place, but it’s still first and foremost a gas station/convenience store. Racks of junk food, soda, diapers, and toilet paper. The actual diner food can be called Trucker’s Gourmet maybe. I imagine it comes in a can upon which is an image of a disgruntled, scruffy man giving the thumbs up. It’s all soaked in grease and is the root of the vast majority of heart attacks and erectile dysfunction in America today. We find some iced cappuccino and order some potato wedges from the desk clerk and sit at our table by the window. On the store side of the table is a rack of general automotive items like spark plugs and taillight bulbs. There’s a person buying a six-pack, and two older grease-filled-looking guys at the table in the far corner. The workers (there’re no waiters/waitresses, just employees) are doing their closing chores.
   We’re still in that odd mood where everything strikes us as hilarious. We giggle at our little table and the guys over in the corner glare at us like a couple of old bulldogs and we laugh harder. It feels like if we stop laughing, stop being this way I mean, it feels like if we calm down, the animal, the monster we heard will get us and gobble us up. This is our talisman. I think about this and I laugh and I tell Lisa this and she laughs.
   But we stop.
   We stop when the old man in the red truck pulls up to the station. He’d pulled in doing maybe like sixty and hits his brakes and the tires squeal. I realize that I’ve never really heard tires squeal up close before and that it sounds just like it does in the movies. This is really the beginning of the story. I’ll get to it now. Maybe you can see, if not now then later, why it took so long to get here. This guy pulls up right in front of the door and flings the door open and I think, what the fuck is this, and the guy kind of swings out with the door and falls out on his knees and stands up. I know right away that this man isn’t drunk, as he certainly looks, but that he is terrified. He is The Messenger. We are the herd. He has a Message. We have something to be had or lost.  I seem to understand all of this immediately. I look at Lisa and see amusement draining from her eyes, and then seeing something wary filling them.
   The man runs to the door, a terror grimace on his face. When he opens the door he shouts, “It’s kilt me! Don’t let it kill me!” We see now that he is bleeding, quite profusely, from a wound on the left side of his torso. I’m thinking simultaneously about all that blood and that the guy actually said “kilt” instead of killed. I think I was still smiling a little. This guy had everyone’s attention, but still, no one moved. We were all just cemented to where we sat or stood. I think about this a lot. How no one moved at first.
   Nothing seems to move until the next thing happens, which was…well, this growl came from the dark outside. There is no other sound suddenly. The old guy is very still, and this metallic whining creeps out of his throat. I look outside and see no animal, but I realize that  the old guy’s red truck has a shattered windshield and long like, claw marks down the side. I look back at the man and he’s still just standing there wide-eyed, like a rabbit that just gives up because it knows it’s been kilt. I consider how he’s not like a messenger after all, he was just a terrified hunted man that saw light and needed that light because the light’s a safe place. The growl, which is a low deep sound and hasn’t stopped, gets closer and I’m still staring at this old man’s eyes so it’s Lisa that sees it first and she screams. I jump then, snap out of it, and look outside.
   This is what it was; There is a werewolf out there. It walks like a man, on two legs, except it is hunched over enough to maybe use its terribly long arms if it were in a hurry. It lumbers into the lighted area under the gas pumps, it limps a little. I suddenly realize that I’m really seeing this and I’m propelled suddenly up off of my seat and I think maybe I scream a little too. The thing is kind of hurrying-- a weird, too-quick, arm-swinging gait-- over to the door, so I grab Lis by the arm and pull her towards the back of the store. When I look back the wolf had gotten to the old guy and was proceeding to pull him apart, doing so in an almost playful manner, making these sounds, like he was curious, a kid dewinging a fly. The workers and the six-pack guy are imitating me and Lis, pulling themselves as far back from the gruesome spectacle as possible. I see the little old desk clerk over behind the soda machine, sneering and gagging, as if trying to force a scream that became stuck. We are people seeing a thing we know is impossible. The two guys at the table are still sitting, unbelievably, staring at the thing as if it were a trivial curiosity. The old man is screaming silently. The wolf is twisting his arm around in the socket, again and again, the way you can keep twisting a wire or something to get it to break in two. Finally the arm gives and breaks loose, and the wolf gives out this victorious yap sound, extremely loud and sharp. He starts pummeling the poor old guy, who seems to be in some kind of understandable shock, with his own detached arm, tail wagging. The door, wall, and window are sprayed with little droplets of blood with each swing of the arm.
   In the light I can see the wolf better. If it stood up straight instead of hunched it would probably be over eight feet tall, as it was it came to about the height of an average man. It was covered in thick grey fur everywhere except it’s chest and stomach area, which is somewhat more sparsely furred. I can see its somewhat blotched flesh through it. The torso is thin and, well, dog-like, even if it is a massive dog. The legs are thick and powerful-looking though, the arms long and wiry and obviously terribly strong. The head is difficult to describe; it is obviously a wolf’s head, yet there are characteristics that are un-wolf-like. Maybe you’re thinking more human-looking, but that’s not quite right. In fact, there’s very little to suggest any relation to the human race in this thing, other than its bipedal stance. But there’s actually something almost cat-, or maybe even snake-like in it’s face, the way it moves and looks around, its expressions. I think it would be safe to say that maybe what I saw that night had never been a man, thus not an actual werewolf, but that’s entirely speculation, and I would no more claim to know this definitely than I would claim to know the hour of my death. It was simply a demon, from Hell’s heart or Man’s I pray I’ll never know.
   The thing is done with the old man now, so he bends down and bites his throat, ripping out a large chunk. There’s not much arterial spray, because of the already substantial blood loss I imagine. The wolf looks up suddenly, at me and Lis, and I feel warm fluid soaking my crotch and pant leg. There’s a long moment in a short one; it feels like we, me and the wolf, lock eyes for an hour. Its eyes are an amber color. I see sadness there, maybe another thing which suggests humanity in the thing. But actually, this is something that occurs to me in retrospect, and maybe it’s not true at all.
   I see the wound blossom on the beast’s stomach before I actually hear the gun shot. It yelps and sneers at the source of the shot, one of the corner guys. The guy was apparently packing heat, a fairly large handgun of some type. I don’t know guns. The wolf repositions itself to pounce on the guy and I can see the muscles tense up in its legs. At this moment I feel Lisa grab me, I look and see that we’re right next to the hallway that leads to the restrooms and storeroom, and Lis is indicating that we should run. I realize, later once again, that I was somewhat dazed. Understandably. So Lis kind of leads me down this way. There are horrible sounds, screams and gunshots and ripping sounds, but me and Lis break through the storeroom and find a small loading dock with a roll-up door. It isn’t locked but the latch is stuck so Lis kicks at it and I follow her example and finally it screeches open and we’re free. There’re still screams coming from inside and I actually am thankful for this, it means the wolf is distracted and that there’s a chance for escape. This is survival instinct and not inhumanity I believe, or want to, and anyway what the fuck could we do but try to live?
   We run so fast. We hit the road and this gives us a view of the front of the store but we don’t look back until we hear the screams dwindle down to a scream, a woman’s,  and then finally stop all together. We stop and turn. At this point we’re maybe three hundred yards from the place-- we’ve passed the little box house anyway-- and we just stare wide-eyed at the Gas & Dine. It looks so still. Then a howl breaks the silence, that odd warbled sound from before, but a little different maybe. The wolf never appears though, for as long as we look. We turn and run.
   We didn’t stop for help at any house, even though, in retrospect, this would have been a smart thing to do. We just ran straight for home. Tromping along, in that miasmal terror, all I remember seeing are streetlights, house lights, how all these glowing orbs came together in that blur. I remember the moon.
   We came to our house and paused on the porch steps in the glow of the bare light bulb above the door. It hadn’t followed us it seemed, and we felt safe then, there at our little house. Surely a false feeling, not a mile from the attack, but oddly powerful. Lisa and I embraced like rediscovered friends. For a long while I simply kept my eyes closed. When I opened them the first thing I saw was the jack-o’-lantern on our steps, the only Halloween decoration we’d put out. It was crushed, its guts violently strewn around. I look at the neighbors’ lawns and see the same thing on their porch steps. Some kids I guess.
   Like I said somewhere up there, that was about four months ago. It’s odd how my mind will treat this whole thing when I reflect on it. It’s like being in a constant state of denial about the color of your eyes or something, how I just wish I had dreamed it or imagined it. Lis and I…how we just dance around the thing, even when we talk about it. We can’t say anything about it. Maybe there’s nothing to say. We don’t really walk anymore, of course, except to the park occasionally. In daylight. Around people and smiles. The Gas & Dine is closed; there was an investigation, they say it was a robbery gone wrong, no survivors. No leads, the videotapes for the security cameras being stolen, they say. Oh I wonder what the cops thought when they saw those videos. But then, surely this thing has attacked before. It scares me sometimes, thinking about how some people surely know. Thinking about missing children, missing animals. Not long after the incident I heard about a few cows in the fields a mile or so north of here, the direction from which we heard that initial howl that night, being found mutilated and partially eaten.
   The paper described those killed at the Gas & Dine as being murdered with a firearm. Gunshot victims all. Their guts on the inside and uneaten. I know different. Another thing, I know mine and Lisa’s faces had to be on those surveillance recordings, yet we’ve received no contact from authorities. No threats or bribes for silence even. This puzzles me. But there are lots of puzzled people around. 
   We can’t stay here. Lis has made plans to move back with her family up north  in the city.  I need to go back to school. And city life has found a recent appeal to me. The moon doesn’t shine so bright there. The gunshot victims are gunshot victims, thankfully. Ha ha.

  I went for a walk last night. It’s only recently begun to be bearable jacketless weather in the evening. Lisa was out and I was feeling a restless pull. So after staring blankly at the TV and seeing and hearing nothing and feeling suffocated by my own walls I left the house. Everything was dark or lit up yellow-orange by porch- and streetlights, and I walked to the intersection there where we’d turned left instead of right like we always did. Sometimes I get this idea that our walk really was a ritual, one used to chase away our daylight troubles before bedtime to let us sleep easier. But this turn was a bad ingredient, a deviation that brought this horror into existence. I know this is wrong. But maybe I walked last night to hunt a piece of something I left there by the tracks lined by trees. Maybe I chased after it; I know I must’ve looked like a man haunted by loss as I hurried down the street. Loss of precious banality. Of the quotidian. Every thought I’ve thought since that night is like a form of mental babbling, at best a kind of mumbling. There’s a lack of foundation on which to make a thought into a certainty, it’s like. So I walked until I got out of the town’s earshot and I found the swampy little pool by the tracks, this time of the year devoid of scum and just a black little glassy space. I sat in front of it and nothing came to me and I started to feel foolish. I sat and chewed the inside of my cheeks for a bit. The moon was waning gibbous. I stood and spit in the water and walked back. When I came to the house I paused in front of the door and pretended that this was the first time I’d been there. I opened the door and stepped into the warmth. I went to my room, God how comfortable the house, even the musty people-smell of it, sat on my bed for a bit, and decided to write the whole thing down. I’ll put the thing on paper and see what it becomes. It hasn’t become easier, I can tell you. I’ll put these pages in a manila envelope and I’ll leave it in some room in the house when I leave; not hidden, but not conspicuous. I don’t want my land lord to see it. I hope someone from out of town finds it. Maybe someone who knows what to do. Because I sure as hell don’t.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

4 Jan 2011

First week of the New Year. So much looms ahead of me: this year, I'm moving to a much bigger city, attending a much bigger school, driving in much more frightening traffic, making choices that will affect the rest of my life. Family members and holidays and birthdays will be missed. Relationships strained. Self-doubt eminent. Resolves will be tested and anxieties will run amok. It's exciting and frightening simultaneously, all this inevitable difference. So much is at stake, too.
      I'm fine about it, mostly. Except at night when I find myself fading into sleep and suddenly my mind's eye is freight-trained by all the questions and realizations, all balled up because I can't face them individually, when I'm fully awake. Can I afford to live on my own? Have I grown complacent here in my parents' house in this little tiny town? Do I have what it takes? This last w/r/t writing, school, driving, socializing, determining a career, making a living, supporting my future hypothetical family, "Making It." Et al. All this comes at me, just as my body sleep-limps and my breathing becomes deeper. This anvil of anxiety. Then I get up. Shake it off. Read for half an hour. Then I'm okay. I know my family loves me, and so does Brittany. I know nothing can ever come between Brittany and me. I know this will give me strength. And then I sleep.