Thursday, January 2, 2014

Il Mago Merlino's Greatest Trick

Out of tricks, Il Mago Merlino stared out across the booing crowd. Tears sprang to his eyes.
"They don't like me anymore. They aren't amazed."
The herd of rabbits he just conjured from a single top hat hopped awkwardly off stage to the dressing room.
His voluptuous assistant, Stella, used his real name...she never did that - not on stage.
"Jack, I think we're done."
Il Mago Merlino stared at the wood panels that composed the floor of the stage he stood on. As the blood left his face he thought back to his childhood, to the moment when he realized he wanted to be a magician in the first place, to surprise and inspire people. Done?
He grabbed his giant saw from his trunk of props.
"Jack, what --?"
"I AM NOT JACK!!!!" He yelled, threatening Stella with the saw as she made a move towards him. She stopped, horrified that he would do such a thing.
And in that moment, he saw in her eyes fear and anger. And incredulity. A sort of twisted awe, a terrified...amazement.
And he wanted more.
He pushed her off the stage, into the audience, and he saw that look in all of their eyes, the look that used to be caused by his magic, now caused by his desperation.
"IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT?!" He paced around the stage, waving the saw. The audience was agitated and afraid.
At a loss of what to do next, he turned to his table, his beautiful table that he'd built himself so many years ago. He began to cut it in half, just to do something. And he laughed.
He sawed and sawed until the table was nothing more than a mountain of splinters under his feet. He threw his head back and his laugh grew into a roar. He was the king of destruction and the saw was his scepter.
"A king deserves better than a simple black suit," he thought.
He tore down the red curtain of the stage and tied it around his neck; the robes of a king; the uniform of a madman.
He looked over the crowd again.
They were screaming and afraid and horrified - not so much from what he had done, but from the obvious infinity of his recklessness, demonstrated by his shaking hands and sweaty face - but underneath it all was the awestruck disbelief that he loved so much.
And he couldn't stop.
He suddenly became aware of the pack of cigarettes and matches in his pocket, and he wanted to smoke. He did, and as he breathed out that last drag of nicotine and tobacco, he kept lighting matches. He gathered his "cape" around him and gently arranged the burning sticks on it.
He stood in a nest of crimson velvet and broken dreams and wasted years.
As his train on fire, he spoke his last words.
"Aren't you amazed?"
And he stood laughing, in this deadly spotlight fashioned by his own inadequacy, as the flames swallowed his body.

Inspired by the result of a Mad Lib game.

Friday, December 27, 2013

On Airport Fashion

She had seen this face so many times. So many travelers had worn it. Like any look, some wore it better than others, but the raw elements were all the same. The eyes were sleepy but defensive, as if daring anyone to acknowledge their appearance at all. Nostrils slightly flared; not enough to be immediately noticeable. The mouth a grim line, with just a hint of a snarl now and then. There were always lines around the mouth, ghosts of smiles that had not been freed from their cages for the better part of the last 24 hours. The skin of this face was blotchy and red in the cheeks - but not a hint of the rosy glow of cosmetics to be found. The men wore a sprinkling of uneven stubble across their faces as if it had been an afterthought just barely remembered before leaving the house yesterday - or was that today? The women kept their hair pulled back haphazardly. Every so often they would make some gesture as if to somehow transform it into something more reminiscent of a hairstyle, but the commitment to following through was lacking. 
The uniform of this individual was functional at best, and rarely met the standards even of this adjective. Closer to something one would wear to bed after sitting dejectedly on the couch alone all evening eating junk food and reminiscing about past mistakes, this outfit rarely made appearances into the real world. And yet this subculture prowled around airports in presumably week-old sweatpants and bland hoodies speckled with coffee stains that the wearer occasionally made a small show of noticing, for the sixth time since putting it on, to hopefully help their observers to imagine that maybe there were times when they were not so shameless.

Yes, she had seen this face countless times in countless airports, but never, until this moment, on her own reflection.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maritime Inelegance

Today I was at the beach. I'm on vacation, and with vacation comes a certain sense of invincibility. So, when I happened to end up sharing the waves with a group of surfers, I felt certain that if I played my cards right, one of them would teach me how to surf by the end of the day.
The execution of this plan was more difficult.
So instead I played in the water with my younger cousins, in my shirt that I've had to wear ever since I became badly sunburned on day 1 of this trip.
I was there with 5 cousins, and we had 2 boogie boards to share among all of us. In a perfect world, we all would have gotten even turns. But it's not, and so the youngests had a monopoly on the boards for the majority of the day and those of us who are more advanced in age had to take what we could get.
Then, a stroke of luck!
I came into possession of a board - that Styrofoam slab that would make these waves really worthwhile (especially for someone who is deficient in body-surfing skills, like myself). To my dismay, however, my particular flotation device was the same one that had broken in half earlier and was currently held together by naught but its canvas casing. Nevertheless, I trekked out into the water, doing my utmost to stay vertical despite the tumultuous waves and their efforts to thwart me. Eventually I made it past the breakers, and began waiting around for The Wave that would take me the farthest.
As I was moseying around, carefully studying the nearby surfers the water, Fortune decided to once again smile upon me: a certain grommet happened to catch a wave that landed him relatively close to me. He was exactly your stereotypical beach guy: tan, with blonde, shoulder-length hair that gleamed in the light of the impending sunset. He looked like he knew what he was doing. I mean, he was wearing a wetsuit and he had a surf board.
He looked over at me and smiled (perfectly white teeth, by the way). I recognized this as my moment to strike up a conversation. I yelled over, in my most approachable vocal tone, "Are these good waves for surfing, or is the water too rough?"
He tossed his hair out of his face and replied, "They're okay. A little small, though."
He had walked straight into Phase 2 of my plan: a silly little joke. (That is Phase 2 in every single one of my plans.)
"Oh, I see," I said, "but it's good for boogie boarding, right?" And, to complete the effect, I shook my board in the air as I threw my head back slightly and laughed briefly.
He answered me, I think, with something like "Oh, yeah, it's perfect for that!" but I was distracted because, you see, in all my merriment and mirth, I had taken my concentration from the waves and during our short exchange, that ruthless beast called Ocean had reared her ferocious head and sent her wrath in my direction. In short, a wave caught me off guard and swept me off my feet, tumbling me this way and that. I had just enough time to utter a bark-like scream and grasp my little board for dear life before I went under.
When I returned to the surface, I had been relocated by several yards. My 'friend' was mid-laugh, with just a hint of concern thrown in, forming a deadly concoction of embarrassment for yours truly. I laughed it off as best I could, but he and I both knew that our relationship could never be repaired.
As he made his way to the shore and his friends, I hopped back on my board and began to once more paddle out.
The ocean is the place for me, anyway. The ocean understands me. The ocean loves me. The ocean just doesn't want me to see other people.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I was recently published in Cleaner Times Magazine. It's a pressure washing magazine, but, if you think about it...even pressure washer operators need reading material.

Page 24, by yours truly!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Parakeet: A Tragedy.

A year ago, I had a parakeet. His name was Dudley; Dudley was the best pet anyone could hope for. Short of talking, he was all I was looking for in a friend: he ate birdseed, flew around the room for my entertainment, and showed off whenever I stopped by his cage-or rather, enclosure. Then mine and Dudley's worlds were shattered, and I moved too far away to transport a bird, as they have delicate bones, need exercise, etc.
Fast-forward six months. I was all settled in and I was ready for another relationship like that. So I went down to the local PetCo and bought myself a strapping, blue and white parakeet. A boy, as (in my opinion) the adjective "strapping" suggests. I named him Quasimodo - perhaps that's when things started to go wrong. You see, things soon went awry. Not right away; we were friends for just enough time for me to get attached. He wasn't as immediately loving and lovable as Dudley had been, but I had been expecting that. I was prepared to put the effort in to make our interactions fun, relaxing, and frequent. Quasimodo was not.
I went through the routine exercises, patiently waiting for him to step onto my finger, then the next, and the next. He complied, but would go no further. He would not climb up my sleeves, or "kiss" my earrings, or strut around my shoulders. As far as my little avian companion was concerned, he was a captive.
Quasimodo's true colors began to show, and they weren't the soft azure and ivory he advertised. On the outside, he was a timid, fragile little creature. But his heart was evil.
This winged monster began to torment me. Every time I opened the door to his home, he would scurry to the far side. When I approached, he would bite my finger as hard as he could. His attacks became increasingly violent as the weeks dragged by.
Finally, I could take it no longer. I was at a loss. How could Quasimodo and Dudley be of the same species?  The only thing I could think to do was to acquire a companion for the bird, hoping she would sweeten him. I resisted this urge, because I've read pages and pages of online budgie-care advice, and all of them say that if you want a nice 'keet, don't get a second until the first is well-trained. But, alas, in a moment of weakness, I could again be found at PetCo, purchasing a yellow, blue and green female.
Long story short: the girl (named Esmeralda) did not help; on the contrary, she has never even stepped on my finger of her own free will. Quasimodo grew increasingly hostile towards yours truly, and so we are now completely acrimonious. I would set them free or something - we would all 3 be happier - but PetCo made me sign a waver stating that I would provide a good home for them, to the best of my abilities.
So I'm stuck with two really mean roommates who scream about the sun for hours after it rises every morning. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By: Anonymous

The best thing about being away from home is the anonymity.
I am currently on vacation, and this morning I woke up late - at about 7.45, and I had to leave the house by about 8. Generally speaking, that wouldn't have been so big a deal (I once caught a bus 5 minutes after I woke up), but last night I went to bed with my hair wet. Coupled with the fact that I cut my hair about two weeks ago and now it is not heavy enough to straighten itself, I awoke with a glorious halo/bird-nest coiffure.
At first I was distressed. There was little to no time to fix my appearance, and what would I do, and now my life was ruined, and there goes any reputation I had of being put-together, and ---- then it hit me. I was in the unique but now very useful situation of having absolutely no reputation. Nobody knew who I was, and nobody ever would.
So here I am, very confident in the fact that I will never see any of these people again. Now I can walk down the streets of this town with my head held high, no longer averting my eyes for shame. I am nobody!
"Heh, heh," I say to myself.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Go Fish

There's nothing like a good game of Go Fish to get your blood pumping. What seems to be such a simple game  of matching cards is really a symphony of suspense and relief, victory and failure. There are at least seven tough decisions to make such as "Should I ask Jane for a six, or a seven?" or "Does Jane have a six, or does Jack?" There are so many things to take into consideration.
I recently played a match with two friends of mine. At first I was a little disappointed because, really, who plans their day hoping to fit in a quick round of Go Fish somewhere? But, boy, was I surprised! As soon as we started, it was as if I was in some sort of trance. I was seeing double and I wanted to see more double! The sight of only one nine in my hand was a constant thorn in my side. Who could have its match? Maybe no one had it and it would be alone forever? My palms began to sweat and my eyes darted back and forth between my opponents, trying desperately to see in their eyes the reflection of their cards.
It is my friend, Chloe's, turn. I try to block her out in order to better strategize my upcoming move. Somehow, through the walls I have put up around my ears, I hear the muffled sound of her voice, directed at the third participant, Allie. It takes a moment to sink in, but I think she says "Do you have any fours?" The wheels in my head start turning and puzzle pieces click into place: If Chloe was asking Allie for a four, Chloe herself must have one in her hand! It was so simple! Foolish Chloe had completely given herself away! I chuckle softly to myself.
Allie asks me for a King, which I happen to have. This fact extends her turn and consequently postpones mine. She then asks Chloe for a two - Go fish. Now it is my turn. I ask Allie for a three and I don't even mind that she doesn't have one. I have this game all figured out.
While Allie and Chloe go again (and the latter of the two takes my three and makes a match), I listen intently, hardly daring to breathe for fear I might mishear one of them and ruin everything. By the time it is my turn again I have two turns planned. I ask Chloe for a ten: it's a match! Oh, the elation! Never had such happiness flowed in my veins! The tens were together and I was going to win!
When I come back to myself, I ask Allie for a four, which she had picked up since Chloe last asked her. I had another wave of joy before realizing that it was still my turn and I no longer had any sure moves. I can feel my throat starting to close up and my hands are shaking and my heart is beating a million times per second. I don't do so well under pressure.
Somehow I manage to keep breathing and eventually calm myself. I open my eyes which had at some point closed of their own accord. How long have I been sitting here? An hour, a day? It's impossible to be sure. But what I do know is that it is still my turn. Ok, Liv. Just go for it. 
"Allie, do you have any nines?" A voice asks, and I acknowledge that though it sounds so foreign, it is my own. Now is the moment of truth. She shuffles her cards slightly, and looks them over. Her eyes reveal no secrets.
Her answer is non-verbal and almost in slow motion, it seems to me. One card has been selected and is headed my way, clasped between Allie's thumb and forefinger. And it is...a nine of clubs! My own nine, this one being of diamonds, almost jumps out of my hand on its own. Clearly these two cards were meant to be together. I watch the two of them reunite, and tears are streaming down my face. This is what life is all about.

In the end, I did not win. It turns out that the trick of listening to other players' questions is a well-known trick.