Pastoral Genocide


It Don’t Let Up
January 28, 2009, 6:40 am
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , ,

My son is twenty seven years old and stands three feet, eight inches tall. He is a little person. His name is Dick. My name is Dick, too.

When Dick came along, we were overjoyed. I was twenty nine, she was twenty six and he was our first kid. Turned out, our only kid. We wanted a couple more but it just wasn’t in the cards.

When Dick was four, she died in her sleep. The doc said she had an irregular heartbeat. Her name was Mary and I’d known her since I was fifteen years old. I met her at the county fair. She was showing chickens and I was showing hogs. That was the year I sold a pig to the Centreville IGA for 75 dollars.

Fast forward seventeen years and she’s dead and I’ve got a dwarf for a kid.

Life is harder for short folks. They can’t reach into the cupboard for a juice glass. They can’t re-adjust the showerhead and they can’t sit at a normal sized table in a normal sized chair. Sure, we all got our problems, but little people, they gotta carry theirs around with them wherever they go. It just don’t ever let up.

One good thing about Dickie being so short is that I’ve only ever had to buy him one bed. He still sleeps on the mattress we bought him when he was a baby. I told him once, “Dickie, it don’t make no sense to buy you a new bed. It just don’t.” I’ve always felt a little bad about that. But the fact of the matter is that change comes with consequences and there ain’t a point in dealing with it unless you really have to.

It’s always embarrassed me to have a little person for a son. I mean, fuck. I played football and baseball in high school. I looked good without a shirt on. I remember it being midsummer and evening and I was standing in the dark. We were in the field, me and a couple of other boys. It was humid. We’d been at it all day and we were all tired but we knew we had to finish. My arms were scratched up from the bales and they felt like jelly, but I saw the goal and I was young and strong. Point is, I always imagined I’d have a son who would live a life like the one I lived. Thought maybe my tradition would become his. Didn’t happen that way, though.

Now, Dickie and I live together. He’s a short man and I’m an old man and we get along alright. Maybe we need each other or maybe we’ve just grown accustomed to being around each other.

The other day, we were talking. And Dickie told me that he was a virgin. I said to him, “what?” I guess I suspected it. I been around him his whole life and the only time girls would give him the time of day was when they was making fun of him. And it got me thinking that what the hell, no one wants to die a virgin. So I bought him a hooker out of the phone book. I got myself one, too. The man on the phone said it was cheaper that way. They showed up at our doorstep wearing fake fur coats. One was tall and black and the other was a little shorter, a white girl that looked like she had a methamphetamine problem.

I let Dickie have the shorter one on account of him also being so short. After it was done, I asked the ladies to stay for coffee. But they said they had somewhere else to be and that they had to be on their way.

Later, Dickie and I took a walk. We went down to the creek and looked at the leaves floating in the water. It was late November and cold and starting to rain a little. The raindrops mottled the water quietly and we just stood there and watched our breath form little clouds of fog in the air.

I said to him, “Dickie, things don’t always turn out like you want them to. That’s just how life goes. But you always gotta believe that tomorrow is going to be better than today. That’s all we got and, goddamnit, that’s all we deserve.”

After I’d said my piece, we turned around and walked up the hill towards the house. I said that maybe we’d cook up some steaks for dinner and he said that he’d be alright with that.

[Ed. Note: A similar version of this story appeared on the Wolverine Liberation Army]

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The Kennedy Snuff
November 14, 2008, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Writing | Tags: ,

Richard Glascock was doing it. Really doing it. Everything felt right. He was laying the ball down on the ground and watching it roll and listening to the thundering crack of the pins as they burst out of formation. It felt right from his first roll and he was now on his eighth and he knew it, he knew that this was it.

Richard Gloscock had pursued this moment for his entire life. Well, most of his life. He’d been a bowler since he was seven years old. He went with his dad, at first. Then his dad went to the penitentiary and he went by himself. All in all, though, he’d been bowling for 58 years. 58 years is a long ass time. A whole lot of shit had happened in 58 years.

Richard lined up for the ninth frame. He dried the sweat from his palms. He took a swig of beer and a drag from his cigarette. He coughed, once. He exhaled and selected his ball from the return. He placed his right foot on the center most dot and his left foot two dots down. It felt right. He exhaled and took three steps forward. One. Two. Three. Release. It felt right. He watched his ball turn over and gently hook from right to left. The pins separated violently. The only thing that separated him from perfection was one frame and three rolls. He took the last drag from his smoldering cigarette and pressed it out in the ashtray. He parsed over his situation and took a deep sip from his beer. It was cold and good and it calmed him down.

He had to piss. He was nervous and his head was foggy and he took a short walk. He was bowling with three other people. Three guys he worked with. Bud, Chris, Joe Demmers. Joe Demmers was a real son of a bitch. He was the night mechanic and a lousy asshole.

Richard pushed open the restroom door and nearly knocked Morty Stevens to the floor. Morty was coming out and he was coming in. They looked at each other awkwardly and Richard said, I’m sorry Morty. And Morty looked at him and said, it’s no problem Dick. How you rolling them tonight? And Richard, afraid of the jinx, said not too bad, Mort, not too bad. He walked to the urinal and unzipped. His penis felt soft in his hands and he managed a slow, meaningless dribble onto the pink urinal cake. He waited for something, perhaps, more substantial to leak out. But nothing did. Pathetic. The damndest thing about getting old was that nothing worked right anymore.

On his way back to the lane, Richard thought about his ex-wife. Shirley. What a royal cunt. The mother of his children, nonetheless. If he rolled a 300 today, he made up his mind that he’d call that bitch and let her know a thing or two.

By the time he made his way back over to the guys, they were irritated. What the hell were you doing in there, Bud asked. Pulling your goddamn pud? We’ve been waiting here for ten goddamn minutes. Bud knew full well that Richard Glasock hadn’t had a feasible erection in over five years. He was a silly, stupid old man but right now he felt on top of the fucking world. He felt like he was 19 and ready to take the world by storm, like he felt before the war and like he felt again when walked off those docks and into New York City and threw his cap into the storm sewer. Life is really something.

He prepped. The overhead lights dappled the glossy, waxed lanes with bright orbs. He focused and blurred everything else out. This was it. He dried his hands. He took a deep breath. He grabbed his ball from the ball return and lined himself up. He threw the ball down the lane. He felt the strike before it was a strike. He had that feeling in his stomach, like he was on the precipice. A gentle pause before a great leap. He waited for the pins to be reset. He waited for his ball. He heard Joe Demmers say, don’t fuck this up now you old coot. He thought about what a fucking prick Joe Demmers was. Who says something like that? A fucking asshole, that’s who.

Richard Glascock dried his hands. He took a deep breath. He took the ball from the ball return. He lined up, his right foot on the center dot and his left foot two dots down. He took a deep breath and thought about his throw. He walked towards the fault line. One. Two. Three.He threw. The pins cracked and spun and fell down. He turned and looked at Bud and Chris and that cocksucking son of a bitch Joe Demmers. They said, atta boy, Dick, you did it. You fucking did it. Atta boy. Joe Demmers said, I knew you were going to do it. I just knew it.

Richard Glascock thought about what he had done. He basked in it, he felt proud. The alley was smoky and it rose to the ceiling and pooled like a cloud. To clouds and to tornados, he thought. He felt a knot tie and untie itself in his stomach. His chest cramped. He breathed out, exhaled hard. He balled his fists and tried to steady himself. He felt dizzy. He fell to the floor and felt whitecaps of static pour over him.



The Only Bad Part about Flying is Landing
September 13, 2008, 6:15 am
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , ,

She’s telling me about her dream while we’re sitting at the kitchen table. It’s early in the day, not quite light yet. I’m tired and yawn while I hand her a cup of coffee. She’s got a look on her face, a distant and quixotic look. She sighs like she’s been somewhere and, now, she’s glad to be back. She says to me, “It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t breathe; at first, there was everything and then there was nothing and it didn’t matter to me, either way. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

Her recollection of her dream is foggy and inconclusive. It has a non-linear plot and it’s hard to follow. I try, though. I like hearing her dreams. They’re a slice of her, a piece of something meaningful. It’s a personal thing, sharing your dreams. I don’t often remember my dreams. We’ve been married eight years and only recently has she started telling me about where she goes when she falls asleep.

Anyway, she’s saying that it started slowly. Her dream. She was walking to work like she always walks to work. “I didn’t know it was a dream, at first,” she says. “It was bright day, a blue day. It was beautiful and I remember thinking that this was kind of day that makes you feel good to be alive.” I know about those kinds of days so I nod my head.

She continues, “Everything changed, though. I got closer to the shop and the air seemed heavier, like a cold front was moving in. But there was no wind, nothing. The day looked the same but it felt, um, different. And then I noticed that there was no sound, anywhere. It was quiet and I felt so alone. But I wasn’t scared. I was just there and I was walking to the shop, counting my steps.”

She’s been trying to get into shape, lately. So she counts her steps. She told me that she tries to walk seven miles a day and figures that one of her steps is equal to two feet. That way, according to her, one mile is equal to two thousand and ten steps and seven miles is equal to eighteen thousand and four hundred steps. I don’t know how she keeps track of it all. To me, her schematics seem neither worthwhile nor efficient. But that’s how she is. It’s endearing.

So, she’s counting her steps and almost to work when it starts to rain. “It was the weirdest thing, she says. “It was raining but it was sunny and the rain was coming down in big, fat drops. It wasn’t making any sound. Everything was quiet, but I could smell the rain. It was waterlogged and heavy, you know, but it also smelled good. Comfortable, like everything was different but that was okay. And the drops were hitting me but I wasn’t getting wet.”

She says she gets to the shop and unlocks the door, like she does every morning. She steps inside and she notices it smells like coffee. “It smelled fresh and new and it was, you know, a good thing. Like, I’ve always loved the smell of coffee, maybe more than I like to drink it. I think a lot of people are like that. I am.” And I think about it for a second and I agree. She’s right, coffee is about anticipation, about gentle pauses and the logistics of inhalation.

“And then, it everything turned upside down,” she says, her face curdling into a frown. She’s concerned about her dream and even now that she’s awake, it’s following her. “I heard this siren, like a tornado siren. It was close and I could tell the megaphone was circulating. It was loud and then it would sort of slink into the distance and then it would get loud again. I didn’t know what to do so I just stood there. It started to get hot, like really hot and the siren was still going off and from the window I could see that the sky was still distant and blue and I’ve never been so confused before.”

She stops for a second, to take a sip of coffee. She spills some on her shirt and says “goddamnit.” She grabs for a napkin and tries to wipe it off. But her shirt is cotton and the coffee has soaked in. She looks at me and continues onward. She’s talking fast, like she’ll forget it if she doesn’t get everything, absolutely everything, out right away.

“I go outside and then I see a formation of planes flying over my head. They’re dropping things, black specks that look like aspirin pills, out of their bellies and it takes me a minute to realize that these are bombs and they’re dropping them right on top of me, they’re floating down from above. I’m scared, you know. I’m scared that I’m going to die and that these bombs are going to kill me. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do so I run inside and sit under the front desk. I try to remember what we learned when we were in school and we had to practice against the Russians coming and dropping bombs on us. So I grab a thick book and I’m cowering there.”

“Then, I hear a boom and everything shakes. It just like what I expected it would be like. It was so loud and I was scared and all I could think about was those poor people in Iraq and how their lives must be so hard. Everything went fuzzy and white and then I wake up. But I don’t really wake up; it’s just part of the dream. I’m lying in bed and you’re gone. There’s a depression in the sheets but it’s cold and you’re gone and I don’t know where you are. I feel so alone, I want you to be next to me and you aren’t and I don’t know what to do.“

She looks shaken. She’s always been a very beautiful woman. Her face is perfect and there’s not a single thing about it I would change. Right now, it’s draped with a look of childish concern that makes me want to hug her. But I don’t. We just sit there and then she starts talking again.

“I get out of bed and I look for you and I find you in the garage. You’re pouring gasoline into the lawnmower and I try to get your attention. I say ‘John,’ really loudly, but you don’t look up. I walk over to you and I touch you but you don’t notice. All I want is for you to notice me but you don’t. I’m not there but I am and it’s so confusing that I go back into the house and sit on the couch and think about things. I’m trying to make sense of everything but I can’t and suddenly I feel so sleepy. It’s a good sleepy, a comfortable sleepy and I sort of fall into it, you know, start to fade in and out and I feel so warm and happy. But I don’t know why I feel happy, I just do. That’s the last thing I remember.”

And then she gets up. She clears the coffee cups from the table and places them in the sink and goes upstairs. I hear the water turn on and I know that she’s stepping into the shower. I’m still in the kitchen, alone and thinking about her dream.



Iowa
September 8, 2008, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Writing | Tags: ,

Everybody got fucked, in way or another. My dad went to jail for a couple years. My sister caught a meth addiction. My mom ran off with a biker hick named Johnny Watson. I got into a car accident and had my left arm amputated.

So, it went from bad to really bad to intolerably bad. The bottom fell out. My parents always drank. It got worse, like all these things always do. They started drinking more and hitting each other. It’s hard to hold either one more accountable than the other. I know that sounds weird to say. Men shouldn’t hit women, I agree with that. But she started it as much as he did. They’re both to blame and there’s no way around it.

I’m not sure why they stayed married, really. If you no longer love someone, you no longer love them. In the bigger scheme of things, that’s ok. It happens. The personality is not a static thing. It changes and reinvents itself. But these people, my parents, they aren’t practical people, rational people. They are near-sighted reactionaries of the classic sort. They deal with bad things by drinking harder and longer and screaming terrible things at each other.

The night it happened was miserable. Everything about it. The day had dragged itself along like a dying animal, humid and endless. It was hard to breathe, everything seemed so goddamn sticky. They started drinking early because it was Saturday. By dinner time, there had been yelling. My dad threatened to hit her. That was always a bad sign, a harbinger of a soon to arrive certainty.

By eight o’clock, the sun was gone and the moon had roosted like a blood orange in the early September night. They were going at it, hard. She was slurring something and he was slurring something and none of it, really, made any sense. She threw a knife at him and he threw a left hook at her. She missed; he didn’t. The neighbors called the cops and they showed up to find her sitting on the floor with her three front teeth in her hand. She was pretty bloody and mad as hell. He locked himself in the bathroom and the cops had to break the door down to get at him.

I thought, eventually, she would calm down and ask for his release. She didn’t. She pressed charges, took it to trial. She told the County that he raped her and hit her on the regular and was the kind of guy that needed to be locked up. I don’t disagree with her.

They gave him three years, two of them suspended. They sent him to a real jail, not County. He was a repeat offender and they did what they said they would do after the last time he got arrested. Two weeks after my dad got to prison, he joined a white power gang and stabbed a Mexican. The guy almost died, apparently. They revoked my father’s suspension and gave him the full sentence plus two more. I don’t disagree with that decision, I really don’t.

My mom filed for and received her divorce shortly after the trial had ended. She started hanging around with this piece of shit named Johnny Watson. I hate that sonofabitch. He’s a fucking pervert and I’d like to slash his throat. He’d stare at my sister’s ass like it was alright, like it was perfectly normal for a 47 year old man to gawk openly at the 19 year old daughter of his girlfriend. He’d say sick things to her, ask her twisted questions about twisted things and laugh in this growling cackle that would make your skin crawl.

I told my mom he was no good and she didn’t listen. He bought her whisky drinks at the bar and treated her with disingenuous respect and took her out to the movies every now and again. He didn’t hit her. She liked that, I guess. She stayed with him. They moved down to Houston about a year ago and I haven’t heard from her since. I don’t miss her.

But my sister missed her. They had always gotten along alright and they had their own personal relationship that I wasn’t privy to. Good for them, you know? Anyway, she missed her and felt bad about things and started doing things that she shouldn’t have been doing. She got hooked on meth and now she’s a skeleton with rotten teeth. I don’t recognize her eyes anymore and I think she’s gone. That kills me. She’s my baby sister, you know? We went through all this together and now she’s leaving.

Maybe I’m taking the easy way out, blaming my mom’s departure for my sister’s destruction. I’m not sure. It doesn’t and can’t matter at this point. What’s done is done and there’s no sense in arguing with any of it. I do know that I feel alone and abandoned and that I miss the way things used to be. Even though they were bad, far from anything or anywhere close to perfect, it was something. Occasionally, things were good. Christmases and days at the beach in the summer.  Ephemeral? Of course. But that was part of what made them good. Now, I feel pretty lonely about most things and it’s hard because I’ve got no one to talk about anything with.

About six months ago, I got into a bad wreck with a pickup truck. It was snowing a little bit and I lost control. I slid across the median and side-swiped a blue F-150 and sheared the hell out of the side of my car. My arm got caught up in the wreckage and I woke up in the hospital in more pain than you could imagine. They told me my options and said I needed to act fast. I told them to cut it off, if meant not dying. So, now I’ve got one arm and four hundred thousand dollars in hospital bills.

Losing my arm doesn’t have much to do with anything, other than the sense that I’m tired of all these bad things happening to me. I see the good life and I want it, but I’m entirely unsure on how I should go about finding it.



Illinois
September 3, 2008, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , ,

The internet has changed everything for the worst. There’s no two ways about it. I remember when I first started out. Business was alright and slowly got better. I built all of this with my hands. I built it all and that’s the only thing I’ve ever really been proud of. It’s hard, making nothing into something, even if it’s hardly something. I scratched and I fought, I worried and anxiously battled the omnipresence of ruin. I’ve had a couple ulcers from the stress of it all. But I did it, I made it. And now, the internet is taking everything, literally everything away.

People just don’t buy pornography in person anymore. Or at least, not like they used to. Maybe they’re embarrassed, maybe they’re ashamed. That’s reasonable, I guess. Sure, truckers will always be around. They’ve always been around. Truckers are a special brand of creep, a special type of dirtbag. The open road and its long stretches of loneliness can do that to man, twist and shape the mind into obtuse and perverse shapes. But, hey. Truckers helped me send my kid to college. They paid off my mortgage and helped me take my wife to the Bahamas a couple times. All that’s besides the point, though.

I started selling dirty movies and sex toys in 1976. I bought a shack on the side of Interstate 80. I had plans to build an empire. The empire never materialized. There’s not a whole lot to this industry: get some movies, some pictures, maybe a rubber dick or two and sell them to whoever you can. I started out small time, you know, selling the softcore stuff. You’ve gotta remember this was over 30 years ago. Things were different, then. But, even then, I had to battle the goddamn bible beaters hand over fist. They’re sons of bitches and nasty, petty people. I never went big time because I couldn’t fathom fighting with these people. Over what? Me trying to put food on my family’s table. The damnedest thing about it is that people love pornography. They crave it. Humans are sick fucks and that’s alright.

I never got into the fringe stuff, never felt it was right. I took it a little farther, but not too far. I got into the harder stuff, you know, the stuff they’ve got in Europe and Asia. I sold pocket pussies to creeps who will never sniff a real one. But, always, there were lines and limits. I’m not talking about morals, I’m talking about doing things the right way. I take pride in doing things the right way, I take pride in having grace and class and integrity. If a man can’t hold his head high, then what can he do? It never ceased to amaze me, though. I’d be working the counter on a Tuesday morning and some hotshot in an Italian suit and a pair of wing tips would come strolling in. He’d saunter to the counter and nonchalantly ask me for some fucking little kids porn. Twinks, they call it. I’d tell him to fuck off and he’d look at me like I was the sick one.

The internet made everything different though. It changed things, rearranged them and made them strange and unfamiliar. By this time, I’d carved out a pretty good living for myself. Put my kids through college, paid off my house, had two brand new pick up trucks sitting in the driveway, gleaming and shining underneath the afternoon sun. It started slowly at first and then turned into something different. This, all of this, reminds me of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi starts way up in Minnesota and isn’t much of anything; a trickle of water that slips slowly and quietly through the grass. But, eventually, it’s a monstrous and looming thing, a river so thick and deep that you can’t imagine how something like this came about in the first place. That’s how it happened with me.

It started like everything starts. Things change but you don’t see it at first. You don’t see anything. You just keep on living like you’ve always been living. You eat dinner, you mow your grass. You watch television and think about the weather or how the weather used to be. And then, it hits you. It’s big, it’s monumental. It slams into you and leaves you bruised and estranged with an anxious feeling in your stomach. Just like that. Everything changes and nothing is fair or good anymore.

Now, only the truckers still come. They like to shoot the shit, talk about things. They tell me about their lives. They tell me about hauling grapes from North Carolina to Nebraska or machine parts from Los Angeles to Chicago. They talk about long stretches on the road and what it feels like to be really and totally alone. They talk about gas prices and how they’re on the rise and how it’s changing everything, for the worst. I can identify with them, in a way. And I’m thankful for them. I don’t make a good living anymore. I don’t make anything, anymore. Last week, the IRS sent me a letter dripping with bureaucratic promises of financial execution. And that’s fine. Why delay the inevitable? The end is almost here and I’m trying to be alright with that.



Solanum Lycopersicum, Ye Godless Red Demon.
July 2, 2008, 12:07 am
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , ,

I wake up as sick as a dog. I get ten feet out of bed and I realize that I’ve got the running shits. I reach the bathroom barely in time. Afterwards, I heave a voluptuously obese spray of vomit over the sink and mirror. It has a stew-like consistency, off-brown and pocked with porcelain white lumps of digestive curd. I lean over the sink, panting. My stomach muscles gently begin to relax as my sweating head cools against the air. There is, slightly, relief.

I crawl back into bed and space in and out for a couple hours. I wake up to the warm feeling of my own fecal matter drying aridly on my leg and my sheets. It’s like someone opened an industrial-sized jar of extra creamy peanut butter and spread it generously throughout my bedding. I don’t know what to do, it’s all so disgustingly horrifying.

Eventually I pull it together and wad my pajamas and the affected bedding into a large ball that I push under my bed. I’m naked and laying on the bare mattress. I feel terrible, so goddamn terrible. I start sweating, then, I’m shivering, shaking rigidly. Things are strangely and uncomfortably inconsistent. My teeth clack together. I wish that I had a blanket and I glance lustily over to the ball of shit-covered linens. No, I can’t – won’t – wallow in my own feces. I’m a red-blooded American, not a German. So I’m cold and hot and shaking and naked and laying in the fetal position on a stripped mattress. The air is afire with the repercussions of misappropriated digestion. It is a low-rent scene and yours truly is the feeble, humbled star.

I decide to take a bath. I don’t normally take baths. It’s hard for me to respect a man who takes a bath. Seems fruity, you know? But, as always, there are exceptions to rules.

On my way to the tub, the phone jingles merrily. I answer it on the third ring. It’s my boss. He’s talking to me, asking me where I’m at and some other things. I tell him I’m really sick. I look at the clock, it’s twelve fifteen. I apologize and tell him I’ve had a really rough morning. I say that I’ve got one heck of a bug and it’s running me ragged. I keep it nebulous. I don’t get into specifics and I don’t tell him that I’m presently buck ass naked and streaked with viscid contrails of my own shit. I’m a good employee so he believes me. We hang up.

As I’m heating up water for the tub, I puke again. I’m hunched manically over the rust-rimmed throne, gripping it distraughtly with white knuckled ferocity. Like I’m on a roller coaster or something. I didn’t flush after my initially disastrous flirtation with diarrhea and so my plight is robustly disheartening: I’m chest-to-chest with a monster of my own making. Vomit on top of shit and piss. My face is inches away.

The bath is mostly full and I squeeze a half bottle of Pert Plus into it. I sink into the water and it burns me, deeply reddening my skin along the high water lines of my clavicle.

I eventually get out and start to dry off when it starts grabbing me again. From deep within, I’m ravaged by a phantasmal and wrenching cramp. I sink awkwardly to my knees before falling to the ground. So, I’m laying there, gasping for reassurance like a fish in pure oxygen, and thinking: Am I on my way out of here? Violent spasms roll through me and it – all of it – erupts from my body. I dip into a self-contained pool of blackness and static. Time abruptly and completely stops.

I wake up seven hours later in the shimmering white phospherence of a hospital room. There’s a nurse sticking some sharp ass needle into my arm. I groan. She looks at me. She’s a smoking hot Latina and I’m into smoking hot Latinas so I wink at her.

I get answers, eventually. Tomatoes. Can you believe that? Fucking tomatoes.



Fixable, Anyway.
June 26, 2008, 3:12 am
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , , ,

It happened before I knew it. One day, nothing. The next day, wasps, en masse, are bleeding from the dark of the shed and into the bright of day. I’m taking care of some yard work and sweating a little bit when I first see them, carving nonsensical flight patterns into the afternoon’s humidity. I hate, despise, loathe wasps. My childhood is punctuated by painful memories of painful stings – riveting moments of pin-pricked melodrama that haunt me into adulthood. Wasps are sonsofsbitches, I really believe that.

I’m angry, suddenly. I don’t need immediate access to the shed but I decide to take immediate action. I’m roused into a frenetic and singular inferno of resolution: these motherfuckers are going down.

I’m a strange man when it comes to action. Inspiration strikes me quickly and pointedly. That’s just how I’ve always been. I can’t see point of patience. I get antsy, you know? I don’t always take the time to think things through. Some people say I’m a hot head. Fuck those guys, though.

Anyway, here’s my problem: my can of Raid is in the very shed that the offending wasps have taken over. It’s a cruel, but simple irony. Definitive killing requires forethought. Efficiency is mistress that undresses only for those anticipatory, calculating minds. Messy, slow burning debacles, however, are the children of men like me, whimsical beings with limited foresight and above average hand-eye coordination.

Quickly, and with razor sharp efficacy, the answer to the problem at hand materializes, literally rising from the earth into my admittedly limited cognizance: gasoline, the majestic giver and taker of life. These wasps will feel a petroleum rain and then, nothing. My mind is racing and I’ve got a taste for slaughter, the wholesale extermination of an entire colony, an entire way of life. I ponder things and feel, fleetingly, tyrannical: is this what power, true power, feels like?

I move towards the garage where I keep a gallon of gasoline for the lawn mower. I unscrew the top and emerge, like my enemy, from the shade of the garage into the sunny afternoon. My pace is so quick, so undeniably determined that I’m splashing gas all over my forearms. But I don’t care. I’m floating on testosterone, flying high. I’m the king, baby. I’m in it to win it and I don’t plan on losing. I lust for the taste of victory and for the raw freedom of annihilation. I fall into it.

When I’m about a foot away from the shed’s entrance, my breath quickens with anticipation. I flick the metal door latch upwards and use my shoulder to burst into the shed. Glancing quickly around the small structure, I see the large hive, in all its looming iniquity, nestled between the bottom of the wall and the four-by-four which frames the corner. The hive is a massive structure of wood fibers bonded by insect saliva. Throughout the shed, wasps swirl, dancing with each other in protracted, nonsensical rhythm. The atmosphere is intense.

Unprepared for such discovery, I make a calculated and strategic retreat. How did a hive of such magnitude develop under my watchful eyes? How did it become so complex, so developed? I feel foolish and out of touch with the simplest of realities, the fact that my backyard, my small, sad claim to sovereignty, has been tarnished in the slightest of ways. I allowed it, I am to blame.

These thoughts spurn me into a humming force of spite and anger. I will salt their reality, these wasps, I will take their lives. I collect my thoughts and fashion my strategy. What it lacks in framework it compensates for with emotion. I ache for victory. I shift the gas can into my left hand and charge back into the shed. I strike with immediacy and drown the hive with upwards of a gallon of gasoline.

The smell of unleaded fuel saturates the air. Luxurious fumes. Success. It is a heavy and wondrous smell and I feel light-headed and proud. The hive is quiet, save a few straggling soldiers knocking about in the trusses above my head. I did it. I won. I have erased a scourge from the earth; I have done my part.

Then, everything changes.

The slightly intoxicating scent of gas is supplanted by the domineering omnipresence of fire in the air. I turn to see voluminous black smoke billowing from the shed. I run towards the shed and rip off my shirt. I beat down on the flames but its useless. I’m useless. The flames are whipping in agitated waves of heat and smoke and it’s not long before the entire shed and the adjacent house – my house – is consumed in a writhing disaster. It’s a mess, all of it.

The wasps have won and I have failed, miserably and completely. I take only a limited enjoyment at their destruction; it has cost me dearly. Most likely, I’ve burnt my son’s cat to a spectacular crisp. Most likely, we’re moving into the trailer park on the east side of town. Few people have failed in the manner and function of this failure.

In the distance, I can hear the distant echoing ring of sirens as they flood the neighborhood. From far away, they sound like mechanical voices, laughing shrilly at me, announcing my failure. They’re too late, anyway. I feel stupid and helpless.

I’m totally numb but I know the world is buzzing with kinetic energy. The firemen are arriving, running towards me, towards the inferno. They shout: is anyone inside? And I answer; no, nothing is inside. Well, maybe my kid’s cat, but I’m not sure. The firefighters hit the blaze with water. By that time, there’s nothing left to save. They know this, I know this, everyone knows it. But to not make an effort, we all agree, would merely extenuate the already welling tragedy.

When its done, the house looks menacing. Everything is black and burnt. Foreign, somehow. What used to be my house is now a hill of ash, a half burned mattress and a lazy boy armchair. That’s all that’s left.

The fireman pack up their gear into their grumbling trucks and ride off into the settling twilight. I’m standing there, too afraid to think about what I’ve just done. The short version of the long story is that I’ve got no one to blame but myself. It’s been a pattern, throughout my life. I don’t think things through. Never have, unfortunately. I can remember when I was in grade school and I got busted for stealing cartons of chocolate milk and exploding them against the cafeteria wall. My punishment? Writing, precisely one thousand and five hundred times, I will think before I act.