Meeting Minutes

Have you ever had that feeling during an important meeting like you’re not sure why you were all called together or why you are there? Like when you are called together for a meeting but then the organizer and everyone else you would normally recognize isn’t there, so you just sit there as a group and raise eyebrows at each other, wondering who everyone around the table is until someone finally says something like “well.. i’ll guess i’ll start us off.” Yeah. So long story short I walked into the wrong meeting room and accidentally took part in a meeting about frogs.

I wasn’t brave enough to step out of the meeting once we got going. Learned a lot.

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Journey to the Infinite Part 4

At or around hour eleven of our journey I got a rough sort of feeling.  I’m not sure if it was the liquid heart-squeezers (5-Hour energy drinks are a helluva drug) keeping me awake or the fact that I had consumed nothing but jerky for half a day, but either way, my body was in the middle of a labor dispute. It seemed the quality-control department in the basement was up in arms about what management upstairs had been green-lighting for consumption. I phoned Nicole that we needed to stop for some “real” food.

By “real” I mean FDA-sanctioned non-toxic edible food-like substance commonly available to consumers at over 35,000 locations worldwide. I’m speaking of course of one of the few institutions available during the witching hour for the desperate travelers of the interstate, McDonalds.  I pulled the Beast into the drive-thru after checking the clearance signs and stared at the menu with half-open bloodshot eyes, reviewing the offerings as if it was my first time at a McDonalds restaurant. Big Mac? The fuck is that? Oh BIG mac.  Wait do they even sell Big Macs at this hour? The fuck time is it anyway? The  clock on the dash read 5:37AM. That can’t be right. Wait. My phone. my phone has a clock. Fuck’s my phone? Maybe I should call it. Call it with what? I know. I’ll call Nicole and tell her to call it.  I went on in my delirium without realizing that the intercom had started making noises.  Human talking noises.

I put my own inner monologue on mute for a moment, startling myself with a louder-than-necessary “WHAT?”

“WELCOME TO MCDONALDS. CAN I TAKE YOUR ORDER?” she replied, matching my accidental intensity.

My mind stalled; I had not come to this drive-thru prepared for questions.  I looked at the intercom for a few seconds blankly, like you might look at someone’s mouth in anticipation of a punchline when you just don’t get the joke. She followed-up with a “Sir?”as I blurted out “BIG MAC,” then a more composed “Big mac. One big mac. If you are selling Big Macs I would like to purchase one Big Mac from you.” 

“The meal or the sandwich?” replied the intercom.  

Now let me reiterate: at this point I’ve been awake for more than 24 hours, 11 of which have been staring into the animated ass of a Prius on our way across half the country. You could have asked me my name and I might have easily replied “Orange.”

And so this simple question about my order became the most beguiling metaphysical question to plague mankind since the heydays of the Acropolis. I could hear myself trying to come to terms with the what she was really asking: The meal or the sandwich? Isn’t the sandwich already a meal?  Or the meal a sandwich? If I say yes to sandwich do I not get a meal? For our purposes let us imagine the Big Mac as existing in a quantum mechanical superposition between two states that were equally true until eaten by the consumer. I was caught up in the kind of profound intellectual quandary usually reserved for teenagers after a massive bong hit.

“Sir?”

“Yes.” I said, with an increasing assertion.”Both.”

“Huh?”

I clarified at some length my desire for at least one Big Mac without onions, one large order of french fries and one large orange drink, all of which would comprise the  hypothetical “meal” I wished to order for purchase from the restaurant in exchange for currency of a predetermined amount agreed upon by both parties involved in the transaction.  I’m not sure exactly how long it took me to hash all of that out with her, but eventually she asked me to pull forward to the last window. Sidenote: why do they even have the first window anymore? They never use it anymore. It’s like a kid’s room room after s/he goes away to college.  They should just turn it into a craft room with a daybed.

As I reached the second window I saw an arm shoot out haphazardly with a hand preemptively opened to collect payment for the goods about to be received.  I drew up parallel to the hand and threw it in park, looking down from on high at the young woman.  The look on her face was a cocktail of I’m tired, a jigger of fuck this shit and a dash of this is the last time I cover for Brenda. She repeated the total, hand still outstretched as I fumbled around for my wallet while managing a weak, unreturned smile. After nearly handing her the whole thing I plucked out a card and strained to reach down to her.  She snatched it out of my hand and withdrew back behind the closing automatic window.  Not 10 seconds later she returned with card.  “This is a bus pass, sir.”

“Oh did it not go through?” I responded.  Then, slowly catching up “Oh right. Ha ha. Sorry. Uh ..here.” I traded with her using a better-looking piece of plastic.  “Here you go.” She examined it quickly before following the trajectory of her own deep eye-roll back inside, giving me a moment to think.  Wait. Did I order a meal or a sandwich? Did I ask for no onions? If she asks me about condiments I am so fucked. A minute later she returned with a receipt, the card and a brown bag, wordless as she reached up for the hand-off.

“No onions, right?” I asked. 

She just looked ahead, or maybe through me, still holding the bag in the air with a thousand-yard drive-thru stare.  Was she asserting through her silence that the order had been fulfilled as requested?  I just stared back, looking for some expression of affirmation.  It was quite a scene. The two of us, frozen in motion with eyes locked, the gentle gestations of the Beast rumbling against the chirps of newly awoken birds greeting a new day. I don’t know how long we were caught there like that.

She finally doubled down on the silence with an eye-widened, eyebrow-raised jut of the head in my direction as if to ask well? I repeated “No onions?” To which she finally responded in a quit your bullshit tone “They all made the same way.” She jostled the bag in her hand, beckoning me to grab it and get gone. 

I hesitated, slowly reaching for the bag with a puzzled look on my face. They all made the same way? They’re all made without onions? They’re all made with onions and I have no control over onion deployment, sir? Before my hand even reached the bag she repeated with more insistence, “THEY..ALL..MADE..THE SAME ..WAY.”  I took the paper bag, receipt and card back reluctantly as she recoiled back into the restaurant and the service window snapped shut.

I shrank back into the cab of the truck, bag in hand.  I opened it up.  Inside were two breakfast burritos and a hash brown. After confirming that they were not in fact two burrito-shaped Big Macs, I closed the bag and laid it on the passenger seat next to me. Turning back to the sunrise straight ahead I sat idling in place for a moment, hands on the wheel, trying to make sense of it all. But there were no answers. Not anymore. Not for me. Not until this place was long behind me. 

Somewhere behind me a familiar car horn confirmed it was time to move on with my life.  I popped and rolled the Beast out of park and didn’t look back. The universe was all out of Big Macs and I needed to accept it. Daylight was burning along my pilgrim trail to salvation.  I ate the fucking breakfast burritos. Angrily. They all made the same way.

Canadians Abroad

I left the country for my honeymoon only a few days after the 2016 presidential election.  My friend Matt sent in a congrats and fairwell:

Matt: Hey, congrats again and have a safe flight!

Nick: Thanks man! Feels good to get out of this fucking country.

Matt: Stay safe over there, the less said the better.

Nick: We’re Canadias. Not sure what you mean, eh?

Matt: …are you really?

Nick: Sure, eh?

Matt:

fry

Nick: He looks like he had one too many maple syrup donut-holes at Tim Hortons, eh? Hockey canadian bacon Labatts Molson mounties super polite socialism, eh?

Matt: Keep repeating that. Memorize it. Don’t stray from it.

Nick: Will do, you yankee hoser.

My tenure as a Sex-Ed Teacher

So one night while I was working as a Summer RA for a youth camp comprised of about 300 middle-school aged girls and boys, I get this knock on my door. I open it to find my friend Ben with an exasperated look on his face. “Some kids are having sex. All the campers are talking about it. We gotta find them!” My mouth is about to drop when he sprints away, hellbent on catching the offenders in the act.

I throw on some shoes and rush after him. We spend a good 30 minutes wandering outside and in, ears to every suspect dorm room door. Nothing. I wander into one of the corner lounges and overhear a couple of the campers talking about the incident: “Man, it was beautiful. I mean they were really going at it. I think I know who she is too.” I surprised them and proceeded to put the kibosh on their hormone-addled revelry by sending them to their rooms.

By then Ben had gone off on his own investigation, and I wandered the hallways for a bit longer with my imaginary sherlock hat and pipe in tow, trying to pick up on the slightest perceived sounds of pre-pubescent snogging. Finding nothing, I returned to the main desk of the dorm, where the other RAs had gathered to make sense of the rumor. Or so I thought. As I approached they all looked up at me, including my friend Ben who took a few steps forward. I stopped dead in my tracks as he looked at me with a profound gravity. “Nick. You couldn’t have shut the curtains?”

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The words just hung in the air for a minute somewhere between the two of us, until my eyes caught the sight of my then girlfriend through the window, walking back to her dorm after a short visit with me, moments before Ben knocked on my door. It was then I realized my room’s over-sized window looks out onto a sweeping vista of beautiful Bellingham Bay and more importantly, the entire basketball court only 20 feet below where at least a third of the youth campers had gathered to be witness to the splendor of adult intimacy.

To this day I have no idea how many kids saw us. I was incredibly lucky in that apparently none of the kids connected the dots that it was one of their counselors. In fact several of the silverback male-grubs claimed the act as their own doing (which I did not discourage) and I made it the rest of the summer with only myself and the other RAs knowing the real identities of the phantom fornicators.

I’m only telling the story now as a cautionary tale to you young RAs out there. So be safe. Be smart. Close your curtains if you live on the 2nd floor of Nash Hall. You could be disrupting the otherwise natural process of kids discovering their sexuality at their own pace and accelerating them into feelings they do not have the capacities to deal with as a developing juvenile. Still. I bet a lot of kids had good dreams that night.

When The World Fell Apart

A lot of people think the worst day of your life is the day when you have to see a loved one or someone close to you die.  But it’s not.  It’s the next day.  It’s when you realize that the sun has risen with the nightmare still playing out and you have to live in a world that’s been broken.  Think back for a minute to the dream we’ve all had of forgetting to study for a test, or the dream where your teeth fall out. Remember the relief you felt when you woke up from those dreams. Now imagine never getting that relief. Imagine never waking up. Not completely. Not ever. That is what it felt like for me on March 30th, 1993.

Like a lot of boys, I was closer to my mother than anyone in the world.  And so the scene of her demise in a shitty two-bedroom apartment in Sacramento was as gruesome and gut-wrenching as anything I had or have ever faced. It was confusing and terrifying and surreal. But what came after was far, far worse.

Most of the time in the days and weeks after she died, I felt like I was walking on a razor’s edge between not wanting to think about my mother and having to deal with it out in the open.  One of the worst moments for me was coming back to school, knowing that others already had heard the bad news.  I didn’t want to look at the curious, quiet faces of the other students.  I didn’t want to hear the tone of condolence and care from teachers and staff. Every well-meaning attempt was another lump in my throat. Every kindness another reminder of what I had lost. And I did lose it, almost every other hour; behind trees on school grounds, in the bathroom alone, or quietly straining in front of classmates to keep my glassy eyes from welling up any more.  

Being forced to confront death in front of your peers as a child was humbling to say the least.  But I got through it with the help of people that tried to help me feel normal.  My best friend called me up to come over and play, never asking, but always knowing what I was going through.  My science and home room teacher minimized the spotlight on me during class by simply welcoming me back and then going about the regularly scheduled program.  My dad and brother and I were all lost, and rallied to each other at different times, the three of us trying together to map out this world with less light. All this is to say I wouldn’t have gotten very far without any of the people around me.

Over the years I’ve seen some terrible shit drop down unto the lives of those around me.  Occasionally I’ll get hit with something myself. And almost every time whether or not the calamity in question impacts me or someone else, the last thing I really want to do is talk about it, like everyone says you should.  Words can be as cutting and painful spoken as they are heard, and having to bear your wounds can feel like a disrobing of your soul. It’s embarrassing, awkward and a little scary.  But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s a necessary leap.  Stepping off the edge of the knife is the only way you can let go of real pain.  

My hope in writing this is that whenever you, the reader, are forced to live through a loss, you remember a little of what I’ve written. More importantly: the most useful book about how you should grieve is the one your friends and family will help you write. I hope by sharing my story maybe a few people will feel a little less alone and can possibly relate to my experience. If you ever need someone to talk to, please reach out.

The Natural Laws

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One time while I was out camping with my dad, I had gone to sleep early and my dad stayed up by the fire, drinking beer and staying warm. He soon noticed a raccoon nearby in the bushes, and being the resourceful man he was, decided to use his nearly empty beer can as a projectile to deter the raccoon from coming any closer. It worked, but in his retreat, the raccoon grabbed the beer can. The next night it happened again, except there were two raccoons this time. The third night, three… and so on until on the fifth night there were about a half dozen raccoons shoulder to shoulder, waiting in the bushes for their cans of beer. I laughed about it when my dad told me, but now as an adult looking back I can see clearly that we were turning those raccoons socialist.

Journey to the Infinite Part 3

The look on Frank’s face told a rather complete and tragic tale. Up until that point I had never known a feline to have the capacity to emote more than three expressions: “I like this.” “I dislike this or am otherwise not interested.” And lastly “I WILL REMOVE YOUR EYES IF MY PRESENT SITUATION IS NOT RESOLVED TO MY SATISFACTION.” But as I looked through the bars of his crate, Frank surprised me with a face of remorse, self-loathing and defeat. I suppose I would feel the same If I was entirely drenched in my own piss.

I know what you’re thinking. Poor Frank. But let me offer another perspective. Poor Nick and Nicole. There we were, standing outside of the car at 1 am in the middle of a poorly lit gas station in Godknowswhere, Mississippi. Population 347. A cat swimming in its own urine and meowing with increasing urgency at us from within the confines a carrier. At the time, I felt like we were a couple of bomb disposal techs working out how to approach the defusal of a 20-kiloton warhead. Each meow felt like a tick of the clock. Steady hands and cool heads were needed. Unfortunately we had neither, and at that hour, grace and propriety were in short supply.

That’s how I found myself holding on to a thrashing, piss soaked cat while a few slack-jawed local onlookers guffawed and snorted to each other with glee. Apparently in Mississippi a gas station also serves as a community gathering place and social nexus for the surrounding area. I quietly scorned their levity while considering the tactical applications of a piss-soaked cat as a disruptive projectile. Imagine a SWAT team just tossing a couple of piss-soaked cats into a room they were attempting to breach. The cats would do half the work, assaulting the senses in a fashion several orders of magnitude greater than a conventional flash-bang.

While doing my best to mentally check-out of the situation, Nicole cleaned out Frank’s carrier as best as she could until finally we were able to in turn get Frank calmed down and at least a bit drier. Frank had at that point dropped all of the sophisticated expressions of a cat navigating a complex emotional mire and instead reverted in full to feline emote #3. Mind you, we were doing this all without gloves. After realizing the scent of cat urine had permeated not only my skin but the fabric of my soul and essence, I excused myself to the station washroom to clean up and get some relief.

As I approached the doors of the food mart, I took some comfort in what appeared to be readily accessible public restrooms offered just beyond the racks of slimjims and adjacent to the coolers full of Bud Light (aka America’s Beer). Before I even touched the handles of the door I made eye contact with two underage males just inside, standing near what I’m assuming was the adult magazine section, given that their eye contact was a mere flash of embarrassment. They scuttled out of the section and out the door past me as I walked in.

To my right was the meth-iest meth-head that ever meth-ed, moonlighting as a cashier. Or at least the person he killed for meth-money and then later assumed the identity of was at one point a cashier. His name badge read Jarret, but I was never introduced, in fact he only spoke once the entire time I was within earshot. But I’ll get to that later.

After scaring away the pre-pubescents and taking in some sidelong glances of the outcome of America’s War on Drugs, the sting of urine filled my nostrils once again. I realized I was still walking around with urine on my hands. Funny how no one in the food mart seemed to notice. I brushed past a rack of pork rinds on my way towards the fading, hand written sign for RESTROOMS.

As I closed the distance, I saw what looked like a janitor, possibly Jarret’s only co-worker, leaving the men’s room. He looked up at me for what I assumed would be the man-nod. You know. The sacred man-nod of unspoken fraternity and universal understanding that beer is refreshing, Bill Clinton has reached the summit of manhood (Nick Offerman is on the ascent) and fashioning a gun out of legos is a rite of passage.

But alas no man-nod would be offered to me. Instead I was met with the look of a surgeon exiting a tense operating room, his eyes pregnant with the delivery of bad news. In his hands he was pushing along the handle of a mop and bucket, filled to the brim with some kind of dense, vile bog-water. He was straining to push the bucket along, and quickly broke eye contact with me, re-affixing his mournful gaze to the ground as I passed him. To this day I can’t say if I imagined it or not, but I thought heard an “I’m sorry.” I turned to ask “Sorry?” To my surprise he just kept pushing the bucket in a straight line out the door, never lifting his head as he struggled past a vacant Jarrett. I don’t think Jarrett even acknowledged his co-workers presence with a blink. They were both fluorescent apparitions operating independently and only half-present in the waking world. I pressed on to the men’s room.

My memory of the first few moments inside that dark place have only recently begun to crystallize, as I was almost immediately overcome with a primal surge of adrenaline and fight or flight signals from my brain. One pale bluish light flickered in the corner, revealing the visceral visual detritus in rave-like pulses of horror. I stood very still for about 10 seconds just inside the room, unsure whether or not to take another step. I then noticed for the first time I did not smell the cat urine. That aroma had been replaced by something much, much more disturbing. I would call it death, but that wouldn’t do it justice. It was a cocktail of mildew, fecal material, tobacco and the broken dreams of flowering youth. On the hastily “mopped” floor, years of stains had created a sort of Jackson Pollock floor mural made from dribs and drabs of bodily fluids. It also appeared as though the floor had been covered over and over again with succeeding tile and linoleum treatments, several layers thick now and only visible in a few spots where the strata had been torn asunder, presumably by some primeval wolverine-shitdemon hybrid creature who had set up court here.

I took a quick survey of the rest of the facility without moving and then settled on the fact that I would not be touching any surface. I was even nervous about touching the air. On the plus side, I felt very comfortable relieving my bladder pretty much anywhere, as others before me had already apparently blazed that trail. But before going too far down that road I needed to take care of my hands. Luckily one faucet was permanently running. I ran my hands underneath and dried them on the back of my jeans – the only swath of fabric I was willing to trust within a 50ft radius. I then turned and moved slowly towards the urinals.

It was a bit of guesswork walking in between light strobes – but I felt comfortable about 3 feet from the urinal, unzipped and let her him rip. It was one of the few times I felt like maybe I should wash off the soles of my shoes. A feeling I usually reserve for walks through dog-friendly public parks. Upon answering the urgent call of inner pressure on the wall of my bladder, I rinsed again and headed for the door. I then noticed the words scrawled in what looked like a dark finger-paint right above the door. “GOD LEFT THIS PLACE A LONG TIME AGO.” I took that as a cue for me to follow god’s example and get the hell out of there.

As I exited, I passed Jarret one last time, during which to my surprise I heard him expel a tired “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life,” under his breath. I don’t know whether it was directed at me to respond, but I looked in his direction anyways. He continued staring straight ahead out beyond the wall of the food-mart and into the abyss of profound questions only the super-high dare to venture. I issued a single man-nod and returned to the car, tearing off my shirt on the way back and leaving the remaining smell of urine in Mississippi. As I drove away I saw a couple of the slack-jawed yokels salvaging the shirt out of the garbage.

Journey to the Infinite Part 2

The human’s name is Nicole. Or Beau. She goes by Beau, which has never made sense to me. I know why it does to you. I don’t care. For the purposes of this story she’s Nicole, and riding with her are three animals. Stacked on top of each other in cat carriers ala Hollywood Squares in the passenger seat are two cats, Franklin and Monkey. I call Franklin Frank because he seems like more of a Frank to me, but Franklin also makes sense since both are black males often marginalized by white protagonists. Or so is my understanding. I never really got into Peanuts. While we’re on the subject of fictional characters, caged up in the back seat is our ginger-faced austrialian shepard, Finn. Like Huckleberry Finn. Or Finn from Adventure Time. Or Finn from the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII. That’s right, we future-proofed our dog for pop-culture references. He’ll always be relevant.

 Anyways, Nicole is the head of this peanut gallery, blazing the path through the darkness inside the little prius I’ve been tailing now for what already seems like quite a spell. Now comes the part in the story where I tell you about her driving habits. To say she is aggressive is a misnomer. Nicole is a very…alert and singularly aware driver. Aware of road conditions, aware of her own bladder-to-miles ratio, and especially aware of the driving abilities of the other motorists in her immediate area, to which she is apt to provide “observations.” Those are among her best qualities while behind the wheel. Unfortunately Nicole has no concept of speed or how fast she is going relative to her boyfriend following behind in a moving truck while bobbing and weaving between other vehicles at 85 miles an hour on a tight curve at 3am. It was like chasing down a CPU-controlled Waluigi in 1st place on Mario Cart when you’re plum out of shells. That’s right, Waluigi. Princess Peach or Daisy are too obvious. She drives like Waluigi looks.

While Nicole seemed to pop a mushroom-boost every 2 or three minutes, I struggled to will the Beast into speeds above 60 mph. The thoughtful folks at U-Haul had installed a “Fuel Consumption Gauge” to monitor fuel efficiency throughout the trip. They could have easily called it “How fast your money is being eaten and shat out by this giant metal box o’ worn gears.” I could actually feel my wallet lightening up every time I pressed down on the accelerator. The helpful needle would waver between the green zone of presumably fine china tea-cup sized gas sips to the red zone of construction worker lunchbreak-sized big gulps of unleaded octanes. For the past four hours or so I was perpetually in the red.

I would see the brake lights of the Prius changing its own shades of crimson every few seconds as it was forced to slow down. I imagined I was probably the latest subject of one of Nicole’s “observations,” but there was nothing I could do. Kicking your spurs on a wooden horse get you about as far as baking it a pie. I made that up, but it sounds like something a Texan would say, doesn’t it? Pity I was just getting into that role.

Anyways I was maxing out my horsepower as I watched other cars passing us on both sides. Riding up high, I could see down into the cabs of the other cabs pretty easily. Most people looked about as dead-eyed as I was, passing mile after mile in a race of phantoms. When you drive for so long on the same road you see the same cars/drivers again and again as you pass each other. For me it became a sort of fellowship of ghouls, forever cursed to roam the highways. They soon became such familiar travelling companions I started naming them. The white acura was Whitey Folgers (he was perpetually drinking a mug full of what looked like homemade coffee). A black F-150 was Mr. Dipshits, named simply because in my experience guys who buy tricked out F-150s are dipshits. I know it’s a hasty generalization. Some guys who own tricked out F-150s are successful mexicans, and more power to them brother.

I had just passed a familiar Honda Civic (Simple Lisa was her name) when my phone began ringing. I guess phones today don’t really ring. Mine just sort of pulses a pleasing tone while vibrating in spasms. I looked down and saw Nicole’s face vibrating across the seat next to me as if she were calling me so hard and with such urgency that she was causing the phone to jump up and into my lap. I grabbed it with one hand and awkwardly answered “hello?” If it wasn’t already obvious and evidenced by the fact that I was assigning personalities to people around me, this was my first time talking to someone in hours. I was also a little leary to hear how she was doing in animal-infested roll-cage on wheels after several hours. I only had to manage myself and my imaginary phantom friends. Nicole on the other hand was clocking-in hours as both driver and animal wrangler.

 “Hey, we have to stop” she said. “Oh yeah? Gas?” “No. Frank.”

I soon found out what she meant. Pets are great.

Journey to the Infinite Part 1

It was 8:30pm on a Friday when I strapped myself into the aging, soon-to-be decommissioned U-Haul along with all of my earthly possessions. Not that I have some other-earthly possessions in a storage unit somewhere out in the astral realm. That would be a great episode of Storage Wars.

 Anyways, I remember the time because I was already running an hour late. I had to arrive at my destination by 11:00 am the next day. It was going to be tight if not impossible. Certainly improbable. I had 930 miles to cover between now and then, from Austin to Atlanta. I would only have time to stop and gas up this cantankerous old beast of a moving truck along the way. No stops for food, relief or sleep. This was the hour of ass-sweat and eye-glaze. This was my journey into the dark recesses of the South; twisting and turning along the many back roads of the brain.

I took a quick inventory of my supplies. Phone, headphones, phone charger, 8 pack of 5-hour energy drinks, 16 cans of Red Bull Zero (I’m watching my figure), a single pack of Doublemint gum, a mini-fun bag of Funyuns and a complete collection of Fran Drescher stand-up “comedy” recordings. Everything I needed to keep my blood pressure spiked and my eyes open for the next 16 hours.

I plunged the key into the ignition and summoned the beast from his slumber alongside the fire lane where I had illegally parked and loaded him up. I’m assigning the truck a male gender, because I don’t like to think about those kinds of noises coming out of a woman. He coughed and groaned before landing on the steady sound of an old, fat man breaking wind in a massage chair at Brookstone set to maximum vibrate.

I shifted down to D and felt a tremor throughout the cab as if a really important piece of the truck had just said “fuck it, I’m out.” I popped the parking brake and miraculously the truck began rolling forward. It felt more like falling forward actually, like I just opened a door a drunk man had been leaning against. But it moved. I could feel the mighty 6-mpg engine pulling me and my shit inch after inch further into the East.

As we approached the first red light, the beast whined a little before resuming its flatulent grumble while idling behind a silver prius. I remember sitting there in the cab, illuminated by the red LED filaments thinking if the prius in front of me was sentient it would feel an awful lot like it was standing in line for the bathroom with a sweaty 400 lb. man behind it doing the potty dance. Notice I did not assign the Prius a gender. Because let’s face it, Priuses (or is it Priusi or Pri-i), if any car on the road, would be gender-neutral.

Did I mention that I’m following that Prius for 930 miles? I am. Because it’s full of animals and a human that are also making the trip with me. But we’ll get into that later. The important thing is that I’m following it for the entire trip, and I’m in the truck by myself. Undulating with the engine and my foot on the precipice of release, I began to stare into the ass of the Prius, thinking that the brake lights, bumper and license plate kind of formed a rudimentary face smiling back at me. Jesus. I was already tired. That’s not good, my little silver-faced friend. The Prius only smiled back before some of the light went out of its eyes and we were on our way.

Prodigous

My dad used to be kind of a big deal in the world of chess. He doesn’t play anymore, probably because I beat him so soundly once when I was still just a little kid. At the time he just told me it was just for fun and that eating your opponents pieces wasn’t technically a legal move, but I could see it in his eyes; he was devastated.

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