Tag Archive 'story'

Jun 30 2016

Interview with George Nikolopoulos

Published by under Interview,Uncategorized

Part of a series of interviews with the writers for the upcoming speculative fiction anthology, Clash of the Titles. the anthology is the brain child of Glen Bavel, who conceived of an endearing conceit: he provides a list of titles and the members of his Facebook workshop, Writing the Short (SF) Story, use it as a starting point for a short speculative fiction story.

George Nikolopoulos claims to have been writing since ‘forever.’ That might not be an exaggeration, but more of philosophical edge, his Greek heritage shining through. A Greek native, George Nikolopoulos (Γιώργος Νικολόπουλος) has won over 50 Greek and international awards, his most prestigious being a children’s fantasy novel published in Cyprus. He’s been writing in English since 2012, and has been published over fourteen times in magazines such as Unsung Stories, Bards & Sages Quarterly and SciPhi Journal. I recently discussed with George about his writing, and, in particular, his story, “An Itinerant in Carcosa” which he wrote for the Clash of the Titles anthology.

So, first question, why Speculative Fiction?

That’s what I always ever wanted. I read hundreds of literary novels from primary school to high school, but the ones I loved the best had fantastical elements even though they weren’t classified as genre fiction. And when I started reading speculative fiction I never looked back.

Who’s your favorite writer?

Only one?

So give me a short list of your favorites.

It would be impossible to choose. Let’s say GRR Martin, Robert Jordan, Ursula LeGuin, Tanith Lee, Roger Zelazny, Douglas Adams, Michael Moorcock, Orson Scott Card, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Anatole France… OK, I could go on forever.

Let’s talk about the anthology. How did you find out about the Clash of the Titles?

Deborah Walker mentioned she’d be in the anthology with a poem with a very cool (and Greek-sounding title), so I had to check it out. I owe a lot of my story sales to Deborah, because she’s very often published in markets I didn’t know about.

What made you want to submit to it? Would you do it again?

I liked the concept of title-picking and the idea of the anthology, so I decided to try it out. It worked out. I’d definitely do it again.

How did you come up with your story? What made you choose that title?

There were a lot of titles to choose, but Carcosa… I just had to have that one. It’s a name associated with a lot of very prominent authors.

How is your story for the anthology the same and/or different from your other works?

I’d never written Mythos before and I rarely write horror. But then again, most of my works are very different from most of my other works.

What do you think is the most important thing that readers know about Clash of the Titles?

That it’s great! Seriously, there are a lot of very good writers participating and the “pick-a-title” concept is very intriguing.


It’s said that the editor will make an anthology every year. Even if the “I pick the titles, you write the story” conceit isn’t used again, would you work with the editor again?

I sure would! It would be a great challenge to see if I could make him like my next story as much as this one.

Would you recommend the process to other writers; how did you find working with this editor to be compared to others?

I haven’t “worked” with many editors, they usually just reject (or accept) my stories and that’s that, so I can’t compare. Working with Gil, however, was really interesting and very useful and I’d definitely recommend it to others.


What excites you most about the process, and the anthology in general?

Being part of a groundbreaking concept is great, and being included in such a great anthology is a very rewarding experience.


Did your story grow in ways you didn’t expect due to the workshop nature of the process? How?

In fact, it did. Gil never pushed me to change things, but he did make a great many very intriguing suggestions, and trying to follow them made the story branch out into new places. My story doubled in size from my original submission in the end.

What other projects are you working on, besides Clash of the Titles?

I’m writing and revising a bunch of short stories, as much as I can. The hardest challenge is finding the time to do it.

Geroge Nikolopoulos’s story for the anthology, “An Itinerant in Carcosa,” follows Hoseib the Wanderer who finds himself in the ancient city of Carcosa, accompanied by Cassilda and Camilla, the gorgeous Devil Twins. Seeking The King in Yellow, they become enmeshed in the mysterious city. Soon reality gives way, and Hoseib finds he must desperately cling his humanity and remember his origins – before everything becomes lost.

You can learn more about George Nikolopoulos by visiting his blog, or his Amazon author page or you can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or at Goodreads.

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Jun 02 2016

Interview with Deborah Walker (and Kedra Crich)

Published by under Interview

Deborah Walker

Today, we have an interview with two people — at least to incarnations of the same individual. A little over six years ago, Deborah Walker decided to throw sensible advice to the wind, quit her day job, and, as she puts it, “give this writing malarkey a try.” She hasn’t look back since. Translated into more than a dozen languages, her stories have graced the pages of a number of prominent magazines, journals and anthologies, such as Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Nature’s Futures, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and The Year’s Best S. 

Kelda Crich sprung from the mind of Deborah Walker and is now out in the open lurking through the streets of London, exploring strange things in the city’s medical museums. Kelda’s poems have appeared in Nameless, Cthulhu Haiku II, Transitions and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Both writers were gracious enough to discuss with me their work, and their thoughts about writing in general.

So, taking that leap, quitting your day job and plunging into a career as a writer must have been daunting for you. What made you decide to do that?

I’d vaguely thought before that it might be something that I’d be good at, but every time I tried to write something my first draft was very weak. I didn’t realize that was often the case. But, I decided I wanted to have a real stab at it. At the time I remember thinking that if I managed to get one thing published in the first year, I’d be quite pleased. I managed to get something published, and I’m still at it.

Why Speculative Fiction?

Because I love the strange and offbeat. Because that’s the way my mind turns. Because I’m not sure how non spec writers actually do it.

Who’s your favorite writer?

For short stories: Philip K. Dick, D.H. Lawrence, H.P. Lovecraft, Ursula K. le Guin, Tanith Lee, Al Reynolds, Robert Silverberg, Liz Williams, Scott Wolven, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Eudora Welty.

How did you come up with your stories?

My process is quite usual I think, I do a lot of research. My usual process of creation begins with the initial idea, the seed.  Then, I then copied swathes of Wikipedia about the initial idea: changelings in this case, into my working document.

Without any idea of the story I just start to write, reading the research as I go and deleting it as I read.

The research leads me onto more ideas for the story. I always add a new element. In the case on one of my recent stories, it was worm biology and Mythos and nuns, which led to more research being copied into the working document, and sparked off new ideas.

I love, love, love Wikipedia. For instance, before I started writing I didn’t know much about changelings but Wikipedia has over 4000 words on them.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m always working on shorts stories. I’m on a bit of a competition binge at the moment, looking for short story competitions that are free to enter. I like the challenge of a prompt. I’ve also got a novella on the back burner, but I keep getting distracted by the allure short stories.

You can check out Deborah Walker’s blog and extensive bibliography here.

For Kelda Krich’s Horror blog go here (if you dare).

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Sep 04 2014

Cracks in the Ceiling

Published by under story,Uncategorized

I lie here staring up at the cracks in the ceiling.  Most people don’t notice them, but they’re there.

Most people don’t notice them, but then again, most people don’t notice too much.  They also don’t have too much time.

Not like me.  I don’t have much of anything else, but time.  I don’t have too much to do, except lie here and stare at the thin spidery cracks in the ceiling.  Actually, there’s quite a lot of them.

I imagine myself slipping through them, floating up to them and they stretch open to accept me into their web of lines. They don’t have to expand too much.  You see, there’s not that much left of me to get stuck. Most people don’t realize that a web is also a cocoon.  It not only traps; it also protects. Most people don’t know that.

I’m not most people, you see.  Oh, it’s not like I’m something special or anything.  I’m not.  I’m probably just the opposite. Most people are special in their own way, you see.  Most people are.

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May 06 2012

Elisha sends Yonah to anoint Yehu – An Imagination of Kings 9:1-2

Published by under short story,story

The stone room hummed.  The walls seemed to radiate with energy.  A dozen men formed a circle, squatting on the floor,  their enwrapped bodies folded with their head between their knees, their hands extend to the heavens.      In an instant the humming stopped.  One of the men lowered his arms and lifted his head.  “Yonah,” he called.  His voice was soft, almost musical.  “Come here my son.”

One of the other men lifted his head, and lowered the shawl from his brow to rest on his shoulders.   He shook out his long black hair and slowly rose to his feet.  His eyes shone with dark intensity, as he approached his master.

When Yonah’s eyes met the prophet’s, Elisha’s own eyes widened.  He resisted an urge to pull away.  Their dark intensity frightened him.  An aura of blood red fire danced around Yonah’s countenance.  Elisha hesitated.  Maybe it was a mistake to send Yonah.  Maybe he should be the one to deliver this message after all.  Those eyes reminded him so much of Eliyahu’s.  Had it made a difference when Elisha anointed the king of Aram?  Had his tears mitigated the judgment?  No, probably not.  Elisha still saw the same vision of destruction.  But there would be tears just the same.  Not for Yehu.  And not from him either.  Yehu could be cold and cruel when he wanted to be.  That is why the Almighty chose him for this task.  And Yonah.  Elisha doubted that Yonah would shed a tear, would feel remorse at the necessity of his role, and the blood that would be spilt as a result.  Elisha watched the flames of blood dancing around Yonah’s face.  No, there wouldn’t be any remorse.  And maybe that is the way it was supposed to be.

Elisha looked up into the waiting face of his disciple, and smiled.  The smile only barely touched his eyes.  “Yonah, my son, gird up your loins, and take this vial of oil.”  Elisha removed a small ceramic flask from the folds of his robes.  “Go to Ramoth Gil`ad, to the army there.  And when you are there find Yehu the son of Yehoshephat the son of Nimshi.  Take him aside, and bring him to an inner chamber.”  Elisha paused.  He read Yonah’s face again and suppressed a shudder.  He didn’t need to tell the young disciple anything.  The youth already knew, the way only a youth can know.

Elisha continued just the same.  “When you have him alone, take this flask of oil and  pour it over his head and say, ‘Thus says the Almighty:  I have annoited you king over Yisrael.’  Then, my son, open the door and flee.  Do not hesitate.  Do not wait.”

Yonah slowly took the flask. Elisha thought that the youth’s eyes burned even brighter, if that wer at all possible.  “Yes, my father.  I will do as you have instructed.  He opend the leather cord around the flask and hung it around his neck.  Then Yonah tied up the edges of his salmah and darted from the room.  Elisha’s heart went with him.

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Nov 04 2011

Gum on My Shoe; Egg on My Face – Introducing Jake Balins, PI

Published by under short story,Uncategorized

The name is Jake Balins.  True, my birth certificate says differently:  Jacob Balinsky.  But no one ever called me Jacob, except maybe my rabbi, and I lost parking privileges at the synagogue, shortly after my Bar Mitzvah.  My teachers all called me “Jack,” and my mother calls me “her little Jackie.”  But that doesn’t fly so well in my business, nor does it fit so neatly on business cards.  Neither does Balinsky.  On top of that, they charge by the letter when they stencil your name on the office door.  So it’s Jake Balins, understand?  My business?  I’m a private detective.  Yeah, not the kind of business where you’d expect to find a nice Jewish boy, but only my mother thinks I’m nice, and she tells all her friends at the bridge club that I’m training to be lawyer.

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, late August, but the muggy Cleveland summer was already competing with the blustering winds of autumn.  I was wearing my gray suit with a shirt that used to be white, its collar unbuttoned, and a blue striped tie dangling loosely around my neck.  I was crumpled, stale, and almost sober, and I was hoping that no one would notice.

Despite my impersonation of Columbo’s stunt double, I was feeling pretty good until I got within a few feet of my office.  Then all the alarms went off.  You know the buzzing in the back of your head, that sixth sense you get when you’ve been on the job long enough.  There was no denying it.  I knew what was coming.

As I approached the door, I was assaulted by the mixed fragrance of Ben-Gay and Vick’s Vapor Rub.  Either the Senior Citizen’s Center had relocated their Bingo Parlor, or my mother had a piece of gossip that couldn’t wait till my parole hearing.

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Jun 25 2010

All About Me, Chapter 3.5

Published by under All About Me



There was a knock on the hotel door room, and everyone jumped. It wasn’t a really loud knock or anything. But, you know how it is when everyone is focused on one thing, and then something else happens, kind of unexpected. Everyone’s attention suddenly gets shocked out its orbit. For me it was no big deal. I get distracted a lot, if you haven’t noticed. I have this A.D.D., thing, remember? But, anyway, when that knock came, even they looked at the door as if it might explode or something. It didn’t. Of course, Leon became hysterical anyway. “Oh my God,” he shrieked, “Who’s that?”


No one seems to pay much attention to his panic attack. Even the rabbi didn’t seem to pay much attention to it, which was kind of surprising to me. I mean, Bobby and I were used to it, having lived with him all these years, but most strangers seem to take his drama seriously. I know you’re probably wondering who this rabbi was and what he was doing there in the hotel room with Leon, Bobby and me. I mean, that is, aside from filling out a great opening for the joke. I wish I could tell you. The truth is, I had no idea myself.


Actually, truth is, there were actually a lot of rabbis in the hotel. We, that is the terrorist and I, had taken over this whole convention of rabbis as a protest against all the inhumane and horrible things that were going on over in Palestine. Of course, unfortunately no did nay research as to what kind of rabbinical conference it was, which was a bit of a problem because this particular convention was a conference of rabbis who were against Zionism.


It took us all a bit by surprise, actually. We never expected a bunch of rabbis to be against themselves. I mean, the rabbi that was trapped in the room with me told me that Zionism was a part of Judaism from the time of the Bible. Which kinda makes sense to me. Not that I know anything about it.


By the way, it was Mustafa’s idea, actually; the takeover of the hotel, not that rabbi should be stuck in that hotel room with me. You see, this particular rabbi had nothing to do with the convention, or the takeover for that matter. Well, that is except that he was there now, so I guess he was one of the hostages. He certainly wasn’t one of the terrorists. Though, he didn’t seem to act much like a hostage to me. Then again, I was having a hard time in my role as a terrorist, so I guess we were even. For some reason, he came with my parents. They were outsiders too. I mean, they were insiders, now, I guess. I mean you’re not really allowed to take your parents hostage, are you? Isn’t that part of the Geneva Convention, or something?


Does anybody really understand that thing anyway? I mean, whose idea was that anyway? What bunch of people sat down and tried to figure out rules for killing each other? I mean, wouldn’t it have been a better idea to work out a bunch of rules for getting along, or at least tolerating each other? And, it’s really kind of silly idea, too, if you think about it. Like there’ll be some referee walking around the battlefield throwing little yellow flags, every time someone violates a rule? “No, sorry France, you’ve violated rule 16a. You’ll have to withdraw your troops from that city you just conquered, give the other side a chance to regroup, and then try and take it again, according to the rules.” I don’t really remember reading anything like that happening in the history books. It seems that the only people that ever violated the Geneva Convention were the ones that lost the war. Kind of funny the history works, huh?


Anyway, I made the mistake of calling Bobby before we actually took over the hotel. To tell you the truth, I was kinda nervous. As, I might have mentioned, I’ve never really ever done anything to feel guilty about. You might consider this to be a pretty big exception. I thought I might die or something, and wanted to give a final farewell to my loved ones. I think I may have inherited some of my father’s drama.


Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I told her we were taking over a hotel or anything. I’m not that big of a loser. I didn’t call her up and say, “Hey, Bobby, guess what I’m doing this afternoon.” But, you know how mothers are. Or is it fathers? I don’t really have a good point of reference to tell you the truth. Anyway, parents always seem to be able to figure out what’s going on, even when you think you’re hiding it pretty well. Growing up, I was convinced my mother worked for the CIA or something.


I remember one winter. I think I was in second or third grade. I came home and Bobby asked me why I didn’t wear my coat during recess. How did she know about that? I wondered. It spooked me out, to tell you the truth. I mean, how could she have possibly known? The next few days I was always on the lookout for cameras hidden in the trees of the playground. You know like the stuff you see on television, where the camera cuts to some hidden camera in the knot of a tree that the hero didn’t know about as he was infiltrating the enemy base. I figured my mom probably contracted out to some secret spy organization or something to keep an eye on me at school. As I’m sure you figured out, I never took my coat off again during recess.


Anyway, as I was saying there was this knock on the door. We all stared at the door. And then, there was a second knock. No one moved. Finally the rabbi said, “Maybe you should see who it is?”


I looked at him for a moment like he was speaking Swahili. Is that a real language? “Why me?” I asked.


He made one of those faces that most people make when I tell them my name, and said, “You’re the one with the gun. That tends to make you in charge.”


“Oh, yeah,” I said. He had a point. He really did. So, I took a deep breath, unlocked and opened the door a crack and peeked outside. It was Steve, a fellow member of S.TO.O.P.I.D. I released a deep breath. I didn’t even know I was holding it.


”It’s okay,” I said to the rest of the people in the room. “He’s one of us.” I looked at the others in the room. “Well, I mean, he’s one of me.” Bobby gave me one of those looks that made me feel like I was eight years old and had just lost her favorite fishing rod. I try to offer her a smile, but it didn’t melt any of the ice, even with the million degree heat. I let Steve into the room.


“Where’ve you been, man?” Steve asked.


Steve’s not so swift, really. For some reason he had trouble realizing the obvious. Couldn’t he connect the fact that he knocked on the door, and that I was the one to let him in? I know what you’re thinking, but no, it wasn’t him that came up with the name for the organization.


Anyway, to help him out, I tried to answer him as directly as possible. “I’ve been here,” I said.


It didn’t help much. “No,” he said, “Like, where’ve you been?”


I gave him “the look,” which is now becoming quite popular and Steve said, “Everybody’s like wondering what happened to you man. Mustafa sent me to check all the rooms.”


To tell you the truth, I wasn’t so concerned that Mustafa wanted to know where I was. He can manage just fine without me.


But then Steve said, “Alisa’s worried about you too.”


Have I mentioned this thing I have for Alisa Copper before? “Really?” I asked Steve. It wasn’t that I thought that he was lying or anything, but sometimes the truth is difficult to believe. You need to hear it at least twice.


“Yeah,” Steve confirmed. He noted my expression, I was getting a little excited, and then thought about it a second. “More like concerned, really,” he said. He knew I felt about her and didn’t want to give me any false hopes.


He succeeded. “Oh,” I answered.


“Yeah, man, so like, are you coming or what?” Steve asked.


I took a deep breath. “My parents showed up.” I nodded in their direction. Steve looked up and suddenly noticed that there were other people in the room.


“Oh wow,” Steve said, “What a drag. It’s kind of like you’re mommy driving you on your first date.” He then looked towards them and said, “Hello, nice to meet you.”


“Nice to meet you too,” everyone responded.


“Finally, we get to meet one of your friends,” Leon added.


“Yeah, anyway,” I said to Steve, “So tell Mustafa, and Alisa, where I am, and tell them I’ll join you guys in a minute. I got to finish up with my parents, ok?”


“He’s going to be pissed,” Steve said. “He’s counting on you.”


“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said, and pushed him towards the door. “I got it under control.” Of course, you know that was a bald faced lie, but what else could I say. I don’t think I’ve ever had it under control. Even if I was the one holding the gun.


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Jun 17 2010

All About Me, chapter 3

Published by under All About Me



So, I don’t want to bore you with all the details of my trip out to the airport. It wasn’t all that exciting really. Of course, the whole time, as you can imagine, I’m thinking about Alisa Cooper, and how I got to come up with a real cool opening line when I see her at the reception. I mean, she’ll be busy with all that reception stuff – no, I don’t really know what that means, either – but I would need to make sure that when I do get a chance to say something that it’s more profound than “Hey, how you doing?” Of course, then it occurred to me that I could even mess that up. I mean, what if I totally freeze, like I saw this guy do on television once. This guy; like there was only one, right? It seems half the sitcoms play out that scenario, right? Well, they wouldn’t do that if it didn’t happen all the time in real life, right? I mean what is art but an imitation of life, right? Or, is it the other way around? Is life an imitation of art? I mean, maybe all these weird things happen to people because they saw them on television and it kind of created this self-fulfilling prophecy thing. Then I’d really be doomed, considering all the television I’ve watched. Maybe I gotta watch different material, or something. I mean, cause I’ve seen the geek freeze like a million times when trying to talk to the girl. And, I mean a million times.


I don’t know. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it’s already programmed into my being or something. That would be great, wouldn’t it? Then I’d look like a total dork, for sure, and Mustafa would end up riding off into the sunset with Alisa Cooper. Who am I kidding anyway? They’ve probably been an item since she joined the organization. In fact, she probably joined simply so she could get closer to this Mustafa guy. I haven’t got a chance, really.


I was really beginning to hate Mustafa, you know. So, then I started imaging all these weird accidents and things that might happen to him. Just by chance of course, I wouldn’t do anything to him. I haven’t the guts to tell you the truth. I wouldn’t want to be involved or anything, just an accident or something to knock him out of the competition, so that I’d have a shot at dating Alisa Cooper.


Then it occurred to me that if something did happen, like a really horrible accident or something, then Alisa Cooper might be so overcome with grief that she wouldn’t want to do anything that would diminish her recollection of him or anything and she’d keep herself chaste or whatever for the honor of his memory.


So, then I figured that maybe he could just get sick or injured, but nothing too serious, something that would just sideline him or something. But, I decide that that wouldn’t work out either, cause then I figured, Alisa Cooper being the compassionate type and all, that, even if she wasn’t interested in him, she end up feeling compelled to nurse him back to health, and then, for all that, they’d create this special healer – patient bond, and I’d be sunk again.


I just couldn’t win with this guy. He was really starting to get on my nerves.


Anyway, that was more or less what I ended up doing for most of the trip out to the Cincinnati Airport, which is where the speaker was supposed to be landing. By the way, the truth is, it’s kind of a ridiculous name for the airport, if you want to know the truth. It’s not even in Cincinnati, really. Actually, it’s not even in the same state. That’s a bit crazy if you ask me. I mean, if you’re going to build an airport and call it the Greater Cincinnati Airport, you’d at least think that they’d put it in the same state as the city it’s named after. But, no, you got to cross the whole Ohio River, go through a border crossing and customs and stuff, and drive through half the state of Kentucky before you even get there. That’s like building a monument for some crazy war and calling it a Peace Memorial, or getting married so you can date other people, or having a coup, and calling the deposed leader, the Former President For Life or, building a dressing room for strippers, or … Well, you get the point, I guess. I mean, I understand the current fashion of stripping our language of any real meaning – I mean didn’t someone once say that language prevents communication, – but, I don’t know, it seems the whole Cincinnati Airport thing might be taking things a bit too far, if you ask me.


Anyway, I left really early, because I was worried about getting there on time, considering the distance and all, and the fact that my car isn’t exactly straight off the lot, if you know what I mean. It’s still a pretty cool car, though. I got a ’92 Chevy Cavalier with over 250,000 miles on it. It gets really good gas mileage downhill. I don’t know what color you’d call the car now, though. It’s pretty rusted out, with a lot of Bondo, duct tape and a few other unidentifiable things holding it together. I’m afraid to wash it, to tell you the truth. I think it used to be red once, but that was long before I bought it. It only cost me $480, which I figured was a pretty good deal, even though it takes like three hours to warm up and there’s this really lousy smell when you run the heater. I mean, that is, when it works. Which fortunately, because I’m sensitive to smells, isn’t too often. The roof leaks a lot too, but only when the top is up. It’s a convertible, you see, which really attracted me. I thought would be a fun and all to drive around with the top down.


Except that I forgot that I live in Ohio, and twelve months out of the year it’s either raining or snowing. Actually, that’s not entirely true, and the day I bought the car, it was a nice sunny day, so the top was down. The guy I bought it from was pretty cool, but he was in a hurry and didn’t think to explain anything to me, and I didn’t think to ask. That night it started raining and I spent three hours trying to figure out how to close the top. By the time I did get it closed, the seat cushions had floated into the trunk. It took me three weeks to dry the car out. It still has this musty smell to it that never seems to go away. When the heater’s running, the two smells kind of compete with each other. It’s hard to tell which smell is worse, really.


I have three different air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror, all of them made in China by the way, but they don’t seem to help too much. That is unless you stick your nose right next to them and inhale deeply. The last time I did that at a traffic light, some cop on a motorcycle gave me a weird look and pulled me over. He didn’t give me a ticket or anything, but he told me never to do anything like that again, or he’d cite me just for being weird. Even if he was a Class – A Jerk about it, I don’t need something like that on my record. I have enough trouble as it is. So, I no longer sniff my air fresheners in public.


Then I started thinking about the smell, and that I had to pick up this special speaker with this whole medley of smells going on in the car. I started worrying about whether this woman would notice the smell, and if it would bother her. Of course, considering she’s some Palestinian refugee, or whatever, I figured it wouldn’t matter too much. She’s probably had to deal with a lot worse smells all that time living in a bombed out building, without electricity or indoor plumbing or anything. I mean, I started thinking that my car would probably smell good to her, comparatively. Well, maybe not.


Then I started thinking about this poor old woman growing up without a decent home or anything, and how horrible it must be really. Of course, I actually know a lot of people who like to go without electricity and indoor plumbing sometimes. Well, not a lot of people, really. Maybe just a few. Actually, the truth is, just this one crazy old couple, which lived way out in the Pennsylvania woods. Bobby, my mom, and I used to go camping near their log cabin every summer. We would rough it for one week out of the year, with just a tent and a backpack. Bobby would say that it was nice to get away from the corporate wilderness, once in awhile, just to remind you of who you were. I never really know what she means when she says stuff like that. I don’t think my mom grew up in the outback or anything. I mean, as far as I know, she grew up in some apartment in the suburbs of Cleveland. Well in any case, I liked going on these trips a lot – even though we didn’t have any television for a week. I brought my Game Boy and a case of batteries to keep me busy during any lulls in our outdoor adventure. There were a lot actually. It could get so quiet out there, that sometimes you could hear yourself think. Something I try and avoid as much as possible, as I’ve mentioned. It could get quite scary sometimes, but I survived. We used to go out there every year, till I was about fifteen.


I’m not exactly sure why we stopped going, to tell you the truth. We had a lot of fun, really. My mom would have made a great boy scout, except of course, that she wasn’t a boy. I think they have rules about stuff like that. I don’t know much about it. I only got as far as Weebloes, myself. Our pack leader got arrested for child molestation and that kind of ended any chance of me ever participating in any type of group youth organization ever again. Leon, my dad, cried for three weeks over that incident. He would just look at me and then burst into tears. And I wasn’t even involved. In fact, nobody I even knew was ever involved. I later heard that our pack leader’s ex had simply made up the accusations. Something about her trying to get custody of their kids. If it was true, then it seems like it was a pretty low thing to do, if you ask me. But, you never know. Some people simply go crazy and forget to be human sometimes. Or, maybe they forget to not be human. I don’t know. They get desperate and do really stupid and evil things, anyway.


Later they might regret it, but they’ll never do anything about it, except maybe feel guilty. I once saw this guy on television talking about how everyone really likes to feel guilty, because they think that the guilty feelings they feel absolves them of their sins. Like, if they feel bad about it, then it means they’re really not such bad people. I don’t know. Seems pretty backwards, if you ask me. I feel guilty all the time and I don’t like it at all. It feels like crap, actually. And I don’t even know why I feel guilty. I never seem to have enough guts to do anything to feel guilty about, really. Just once, I’d like to finally do something that’s worth feeling guilty about. You know what I mean?


Anyway, this couple out in the woods seemed to manage just fine out there with no electricity or plumbing. I guess they were a pretty weird couple though. They said their names were Adam and Eve. To me it seems like a helluva coincidence for a couple with names like that to get together, right? I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’d have thought that if I were named Adam, I wouldn’t even think about hooking up with a girl named Eve. That would be too weird, right? I mean, I’d at least make her change her name, or I’d change mine, or something. It’s just too weird.


Anyway, even though they were a little weird, they were a really cool couple – grungy, but cool. This guy, Adam, could hunt and fish better than Daniel Boone. He even tried to teach me to shoot and hunt. I did okay, I guess. I mean, I’m an okay shot, but when we were hunting, I keep getting distracted all the time. Like I said, I’ve got this A.D.D. thing going. It was the same thing with fishing; I even lost my pole once. I had waded into this stream about halfway up to my neck, and I saw this crazy log floating downstream. I swear it looked like this huge alligator or something. I mean, I know there aren’t too many alligators in Pennsylvania, but I don’t know. I thought maybe it was one of those pet alligators that some kid in Brooklyn flushed down their toilet or something. I mean, you never know. It could have found its way from New York, right? But, then, in another moment, it looked like something else. So. I got kind of curious about it. The truth is, I don’t know what happened to my pole. The next thing I know, it’s no longer in my hands. My mom was pretty upset, to tell you the truth. It was this expensive Sage Graphite III RPL Fly Rod, with an Orvis reel. It was Bobby’s favorite, actually. She didn’t even really buy the story about the alligator so much. I don’t think she ever got over it, really.


Now that I think about it, I must’ve been fifteen when that happened.


I think it was about the same time that Adam and Eve got raided by the Feds. I’m sure you heard about it. It was on both CNN and FOX and everything. I’m not sure really what it was all about. He was wanted by the cops for like a zillion years. I’m not sure, but I think he was involved in some sort of radical stuff back in the sixties, or something. I guess that’s why he was living in a log cabin in the middle of the Pennsylvania woods, without electricity and stuff.


Then again, the cops couldn’t have been looking too hard. I mean, it sure took them a long time to find him. I mean, we knew where he was, and visited him every year. It wasn’t like he was on some deserted island or something. I think that was also the same time those guys from the ATF or the FBI or whatever initials they were using that week, came to our home late one night to talk to Bobby. They were all decked out in these super dark suits that absorbed light or something and these crazy ear pieces with a wire running into their pocket like they were plugged into the Matrix or something. They spent over three hours talking to her in her office. At least they didn’t take her to a little room in the basement of some government dungeon or something. I don’t know much about it, to tell you the truth, except that for three months afterwards, Leon kept fretting that someone was following him or hiding in the bushes or something. I don’t think my dad ever met Adam or Eve. Though I think he would have gotten along with Eve pretty much. Except that Eve was a lot less nervous, even with her being a fugitive and all.


Eve had this organic vegetable and herb garden. She was always cooking and cleaning, fidgeting over this and that. Eve really did remind me a lot of Leon, to tell you the truth. Like I said, I don’t think the two of them ever met though. Leon said that he couldn’t survive without all his creams and cosmetics and stuff. My dad can’t stand to be filthy or dirty or anything. He’s always in the bathroom freshening up. He spends a lot of time in the bathroom. Except, I don’t really notice that much of a difference between when he goes in and when he comes out. Okay, maybe they’re not so much alike, after all. I don’t think he’d survive too long as a fugitive, or a refugee either, if you know what I mean. Not unless the U.N. has a special camps for divas.


Anyway, before they were busted, my mom and me would stop by and visit Adam and Eve a couple of times almost every day while we were camping. As you can imagine, my mom got a long great with Adam. They would sit and drink and smoke cigars just like they were old army buddies or something. I don’t know from where my mom knew them, but I always got a kick out of visiting them. Their place always smelled really good too, like fresh cut pine, or something. Nothing like the stupid little “Made in China” cutouts of pine trees hanging from my mirror.


So like I said, I was thinking about this poor Palestinian refugee woman, and everything. Then, suddenly I realized that I would be picking up this poor Palestinian refugee from the airport. And then I thought that picking up some poor Palestinian woman from the airport might be a bit controversial, especially with me parading around with this crazy sign with her name on it, broadcasting to the world that I was associating with some Palestinian woman. Suddenly, I started to picture those guys in the dark suits and wires climbing out their ears dragging me off to a little room to ask me a few questions. I mean, picking up strange refugees at an airport has got to be more suspicious than sniffing car air fresheners at a traffic light, right?


Then I thought, that maybe it would be a good thing if I did get arrested. Then maybe Alisa Cooper would come and visit me in jail, and we can start one of those prison romances or something. She’d feel responsible and use all her resources to fight for my freedom and she’d write me everyday promising to wait for me until I’m free. Then again, by that time, Mustafa would have his car fixed and she’d get him to bring her to visit me in prison, and then they’d end up spending all this time together and by the time I got out they’d be married with a hundred kids already. Oh man, I did not want to get busted before I even get a chance to ask Alisa Cooper out on a date. That would be horrible.  I worried about it the rest of the way to the airport.

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Jun 03 2010

All About Me – The Novel

Published by under All About Me



You want to hear a joke? Okay, a transvestite, a bull dyke and a rabbi are all trapped in a hotel room. So far so good, right? I mean that’s a pretty good opening for a joke, right? The only problem is, so far, that’s all I got. I don’t know the punch line yet. To tell you the truth, I was never very good at telling jokes. It’s not that I don’t have a sense of humor, or anything. I come up with a lot of great one-liners and witticisms all the time. Well, at least I think them, anyway. They sound great in my head, you know. But, for some reason, the minute they leave my brain, they seem to trip over my tongue and crash into my teeth, long before they ever get a chance to leave my mouth.


Anyway, this joke – the one about the transvestite, the dyke and the rabbi – the truth is, it was actually my life. No, really. See, aside from the three of them, I was also trapped in that room. Of course, I didn’t have a label like they did. I’m not an easy kind of guy to label, you see. Really. I was never good at those, “describe yourself in fifty words or less” things either. The other day I got on Facebook, and it asked me what was on my mind. But, it only gave me a few hundred characters before it cut me off. I need a few hundred pages just to get warmed up. Then again, maybe there’s really nothing on my mind, and I just keep the chatter up to convince myself otherwise. That would be scary. I hope it’s not true.


I guess, what it really is, is that I’m never really focused enough for a label. You see I’m a little A.D.D. If anything, I spend a lot of time and effort trying hard not to define who I am “in fifty words or less.” Anytime the urge towards self-reflection does pop into my head, I’m always able to find a good distraction. Thank God for television, right? I’m kind of a T.V. addict. If I get in front of a television, I just lose myself, even when it’s a program I’ve already seen; even when it’s a really crappy show. There’s a lot of crap on television, as I’m sure you know. There really is.

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The television in this hotel room wasn’t working. Nothing was actually. It seemed that the police had cut off power to the hotel, in order to force the terrorists to surrender. I guess I forget to mention the terrorists, right? Oh yeah, well, sorry. As you can imagine, I’m a little preoccupied here. And, on top of everything else, as I mentioned, there’s no television, so I’m nervous to start with. So yeah, there’re terrorists, too. I forgot to mention the terrorists. See, little details like that can be really important, when you’re telling a joke, or describing life. Same thing really. It’s why I have so much difficulty with both of them.

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The terrorists; that’s how we all got stuck in this room together, without television, without air conditioning, in the middle of a hot and humid summer heat wave; a regular dog’s day afternoon, if you’ll pardon the expression. So there we were, all sitting in the room together; the dyke was sweating, the transvestite was perspiring and the rabbi was schvitzing. Schvitzing is Jewish for sweating. I learned that from watching television. You can learn a lot of neat words from the tube, so it can’t be all that bad. I mean there’s some educational value to watching it, right? Anyway, I don’t know what the terrorists were doing. They weren’t in the room.

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That is, except for me. Oh yeah, another point I may have forgotten to mention. I happened to be with the terrorists. Did I mention I ‘m A.D.D.? Yeah, sorry, about that. So, some might say that this whole joke was really all my fault. It might be true, really. They have a point anyway. Then again, I’m not so sure.


Anyway, so you can picture it, I’m standing against the door, with a very large Chinese AK-47 pointed at the other three people in the room. It even had “Made in China” stamped on the black metal. The gun, I mean, not the people. There weren’t any Chinese people in the room, and even if there were, I doubt they’d be stamped with a label. That would be a kick, wouldn’t it, if everyone went around with a label on their head, telling everyone what they were made of. I wonder what mine would say.


It’s funny, you know, most of the things I own are made in China. I’ve never been to China. Actually, I’ve never been out of the United States. Well, I did go to Canada once. I don’t know. Does that count? I know Canadians get all upset when you suggest that Canada is just like the U.S., but to tell you the truth, I didn’t notice that much of a difference. I don’t mean any offense by it, or anything. When I was there, though, I bought this really cool souvenir: a model of a Canadian Mounty. It must be cool to be a Mounty, except I’m kind of scared of horses, so I probably wouldn’t be so hot at the job. The only thing is, when I got it home and looked on the bottom of this thing, it said, “Made in China.” If I ever get to China, I bet they’ll have a million souvenirs, with “Made in Mexico,” stamped on them, or something like that. I don’t know, maybe not.


Anyway, I don’t really consider myself a terrorist – not a real one, anyway. Yeah, I got the gun and all but it’s not so simple. It takes more than a gun to make someone a terrorist, right?

Actually, this whole thing really started about a year ago. And, it had nothing to do with politics or war or peace or any of those things. It’s really all about love. That, and a girl named Alisa Cooper. I know what you’re thinking. She’s got one of those names that make you think you must know her from somewhere. But, I doubt it. She doesn’t get around that much.


I met Alisa Cooper as I was crossing the quad on campus. She had long brown hair pulled tight into a bun that clung to the nape of her neck. She was wearing a snug white t-shirt with red lettering – from the angle I couldn’t make them out, and a pair of Levis, that while not exactly tight, didn’t hide her figure at all. To tell the truth, I get distracted a lot walking around campus. There are so many … I don’t know what the word is, “opportunities,” maybe. Yeah, I know that sounds sexist and all, but I don’t mean it that way. I’m not this sex crazed fiend or anything. I just really like to talk to women, and be around them, even though I’ll never understand them in a million years. Of course, they aren’t all real opportunities anyway. Most of them, actually, aren’t even close. In fact, none of them have ever really panned out for me at all, so far. But, like a kid staring at the display window of a candy shop, the fantasy of possibilities is always very exciting.


The truth is, if you knew anything about me, you’d probably think I’m the least sexist guy in the world, considering my upbringing and all. I guess just being a guy makes me an automatic sexual suspect these days. I once signed up for this feminist class about “Women and Language.” I was the only guy that had ever signed up for the course in the whole history of the school. You’d a thought that people would appreciate that, right? You know, kind of give you the benefit of the doubt? However, the first day of class, two of the women wanted to have a vote to see if I could stay. They claimed I would ruin the dynamic. They didn’t even know me. I hadn’t even opened my mouth yet, or anything. I was just sitting there at the table, doodling in my notebook. There were only about a dozen of us in the class, anyway. No one would speak to me at all, though. They just all stared at me; wouldn’t say a word. It was like the “cat got their tongue,” as my mother would say.


Thankfully, the professor, her name was Ellen James, wouldn’t hear of it. I think that put everyone on edge with her for the rest of the course, to tell you the truth. She kind of made things even more tense when about halfway though the semester she went and got married. It was to this really nice guy, a professor in the Anthropology Department. I mean he was probably a bigger feminist than John Stoltenberg or Michael Kimmel or one of those other male feminist guys. It didn’t matter though. Half of the women in the class acted as if she was the biggest traitor in the world for getting married to a guy. Despite what they say, I don’t think they were the most open-minded bunch of people in the world, to tell you the truth.


Anyway, she was my type, this Alisa Cooper, not the women in the class. Not that there was anything wrong with them or anything, but I think I would prefer to date a girl that didn’t think my gender was just “an annoyance of evolutionary biology.” I don’t thinking I’m setting my sights to high to want more than that in a relationship, if you know what I mean.


Anyway, Alisa Cooper was who, or is it whom – I’m never very good at that. I was talking about her, Alisa Cooper, when I mentioned she was my type. She was very pretty in a rough, casual sort of way, but that’s not what attracted me to her. Well, to be honest, not only. I mean if she looked like a double for Jabba the Hut, I don’t think I’d be attracted to her no matter how glowing her personality was. Maybe that does make me a little sexist, but I got to be honest, right? What got me though, really, was her earnest, her energy. She was like this big electromagnet pulling me into her gravitational field. She was passing out flyers for some organization. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of her little makeshift stand, reading the large lettering on the white and red banner overhead:


Student-Teacher Organization Opposing Palestinian Indignation and Discrimination


Someone else might have laughed. But not me. I have a certain sensitivity for silly names. Even so, the name probably didn’t do much for their cause. I told her as much.


           “Yeah, no one paid much attention to the acronym when we formed the group,” she revealed. “And by the time anyone noticed, we were already tax-exempt and everything. You know how hard it is to change a registered organization’s name?” Her confession immediately endeared me to her forever. At the same time, I questioned, not for the first time, what I was doing at a university where such things were regular occurrences. What was it that they were supposed to be teaching me? How to be a clueless idiot? Where was the faculty advisor for this group anyway? Anyway, I didn’t blame Alisa Cooper, for the group’s name. I’m sure she wasn’t the one that picked it out. And even if she did, well, she pretty much had a free pass with me at that moment.


She handed me one of her pamphlets. As she turned, I saw the acronym emblazoned across her chest: S.T.O.O.P.I.D.. It takes a lot of courage, or commitment I guess, to wear a shirt like that on a campus full of drunken college students. “You probably aren’t interested, right?” she said accusingly. “You’re probably a big supporter of those fascist Israelis, right?”


“Why do you say that?” I immediately became defensive.


“Well, you’re Jewish, right?” It was more a statement than a question.


“No,” I answered, though not so surprised. For some reason, people were always thinking I was Jewish.


“Oh, sorry.” She apologized. “It’s just you look it, you know.”


I shrugged.


“Not like I’m anti-Semitic or anything,” she offered quickly. “It’s just most Jews tend to not be so interested in our group.”


I nodded. I was buying whatever she wanted to sell, truthfully.


“Anyway, we’re having this rally on Sunday afternoon. There’ll be a speaker. You want to come?” She asked.


She probably asked everyone who passed, but to me, it sounded like she was asking me out on a date. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.


“You want to sign our petition,” she asked, noting my excitement. Of course, I would have agreed to take up arms for the cause, at that point. She had me hooked. I nodded enthusiastically.


“Cool. What’s your name?” she asked, grabbing a clipboard off of her table.


I hesitated. This is where I always crash and burn. “America,” I answered, hesitantly.


She made a face. One of those, “get real,” expressions. She obviously thought I was making fun of her, or at the very least, giving her a phony name. “It wasn’t even a very good joke,” I could hear her thinking.


“No, really,” I said, already fishing in my pocket for my campus I.D.


As I said, I’m sensitive to strange sounding names. You can only imagine some of my experiences in school. The teachers were never very sympathetic. Most of them were just out of jail for marching against Vietnam, and stuff. So, they always thought that my parents must have been these super right wing reactionary neo-fascists or something. On the other hand, those teachers who had just gotten back from killing babies and stuff in the war, always assumed my parents were these big peace and love, pot-smoking hippies. The funny thing is, if you knew my parents, you’d realize how ridiculous both of those assumptions were.


The truth is, my parents named me America, because, as they tell it, I was conceived during the song, “A Horse with No Name;” play time: four minutes and eight seconds. Thank God they weren’t listening to “Another One Bites the Dust” or “Girls on Film.” It probably wasn’t the most brilliant thing they ever did. And, the thing is, it took me many years before I understood how perverse it was that my folks knew exactly which song was playing when I was conceived. Think about it.


I don’t have a last name either. My parents didn’t believe in them.


I thrust my I.D. at her, like and old lady with the winning card at Church Bingo. Can you tell me what the hell “Bingo” means, anyway? And why is gambling only okay in a church? Yeah, I’m digressing again, huh? Sorry about that. It’s my A.D.D. thing.


So I offered her my I.D. In today’s world, of course, who we are is defined by all those two and a half by three and a half inch plastic rectangles. She didn’t take it, not wanting to make a commitment, but she did turn her head to read it. Then she looked at me. Her face asked, “Is that for real?”


“Yeah, well.” I started. I had to be careful. You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I was thinking if things go any further with this girl, I didn’t want to turn her off my parents, her future in-laws, too quickly. “My folks are a little different,” I offered.


“I know what you mean,” she replied, in a gesture of shared camaraderie, fellow generation travelers, whose parents couldn’t relate.


Of course, she had no idea what I meant. I was purposefully vague, but I wasn’t going to set her straight. Not yet, anyway.


‘Why do you have to point that filthy thing in this direction?” The transvestite shrieked hysterically. “What’s going to happen to us?”


“Oh relax, Leon,” I said. “Don’t get all hysterical on me.”


“Don’t talk that way to your father!” shouted the Dyke.


Oh yeah, I may have forgotten to mention that the dyke and the transvestite were my parents. Sorry, about that. Did I mention I’m a little A.D.D.?


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