Indicting the entire expanse of the world

The goddamned birds had come back.

Indicting the entire expanse of the world
Photo by Stephen Gidley

I decided to go to a second beer store to give the main one a break from perceiving my ordeal and there now in front of me stood the same clerks from the first one. Apparently both of the stores being operated by the same guy.

Here's a look at whatever maneuver it was I was trying to pull off.

Today's main thing is a new short story by me. It's not in (the shortly arriving I swear!!!) A Creature Wanting Form but it could be.  

Speaking of books did you read this Hell World from a few weeks ago? That was a fun one.

This one was too.

One of the best lies they have going right now is that the more you hold powerful politicians accountable for crimes the more like a “poor backwards country” you are.

If they can come for Mr. Trump they can come for you too.

Meanwhile as I wrote in here recently "cops killed more people in 2022 than any year since we've counted. 1 in 47 adults in the country are under correctional supervision. We have 20% of the world's prisoners with 5% of the population."

How much harder could they come for us?

Wait I don't think I want to know the answer to that.

One last plug for this great piece from the other day by David Grossman about what's going on with the protests in Israel.

Elsewhere I thought this recent piece on Elliott Smith in The New Yorker was pretty good.

Smith was also mispegged as a folk singer during his lifetime, to his own bafflement; his music has a pop architecture that runs deep. Lyrically, his songs trace our own contradictions and inner arguments, the warring impulses that tip us over into people we never wanted to be or reel us back from the edge. In songs such as “Speed Trials,” “Needle in the Hay,” and “Between the Bars,” he documents, not unkindly, our capacities for self-destruction—the dumb, impatient kid who tries amphetamines “when the socket’s not a shock enough.” The joy of his songs, the counter-argument to their pain, lies within the melodies. “I wrote a lot of sweet, happy melodies this time,” Smith said, dryly, of his album “XO.” “The songs aren’t really happy. But you can pretend they’re happy.” At the Fonda Theatre, in 2003, where he promised not to end on a sad song, he was more earnest. “Some songs are sad, but they make you happy anyway,” he says in the concert’s recording, looking delicate, knees turned in, fiddling with the opening chords to “Strung Out Again.” The softness of his voice, the comfort of his hum in “Roman Candle,” the unearthly beauty of “Waltz #1,” the moment in “Pitseleh” when he reminds you that “no one deserves” the pain they’re put through, followed by a flood of piano that swallows you up with compassion and human understanding—that’s not just pretend happiness. That’s happiness.

"No one deserves this."

And oh my god this Los Angeles Times story is crazy-making and worth reading too.

As an R.E.M. Guy I always knew Wire were an influence and that they covered them but for some reason I never appreciated until recently just how much Mannequin off of Pink Flag is the blueprint of an early R.E.M. song.

Man what a band man. Both of them.

Ok here's a short story. It's about birds. Thanks to everyone who supports my work with a paid subscription. If you can't do so at this time maybe tell a friend about the newsletter. Twitter is throttling outbound links lately and it's really getting my ass.

Photo by Matt MacGillivray

Red violet, violet red, brick red, magenta

The goddamned birds had come back. Unannounced by the way. Uninvited. And with little having been done to the feeder these past few years in terms of upkeep. No point to it of late on my behalf considering their initial absconding.

So here they perched in their chattering dozens picking right back up where they had left off.

Like nothing was amiss.

Like they’d simply stepped out for a smoke.

Had bumped into a complicated ex in front of the venue and would have to text us later about it but it was basically fine.

Presently the shitting birds taking in the scenery which largely amounted to yours truly and the idiot mutt over there digging for only Christ Himself knows what. Whatever must have died and been buried beneath our poor tortured hydrangea. Or was now being born down there and digging in the opposite direction upward toward an unspoken meeting point.

Nine or ten chipmunks and their associates gawking at us all in the tableau to boot.

The subterranean society these woodland characters have managed to excavate down there by now. Teleporting in and out of sight instantly if I so much as breathe weird.

Tunnels like wormholes.

Both kinds.

These vomiting birds with the staring problem remain the headline though.

Like lunch-goers on a sidewalk patio watching the pedestrians amble by. People perhaps on their way to a boutique of some renown. To a used record shop that doesn’t exist anymore. That you always wondered how it had survived as long as it did come to think of it.

On a nice broad avenue.

A series of blocks where the city allows trees to flourish still.

Expends resources toward that still.

Where bright orange bouquets of hundreds of dollars worth of parking tickets bloom on the windshields of cars that are expensive enough that nothing that could ever happen to them would really matter to the owner.

You remember this right?

Starched white tablecloths and the squeezing of fresh sliced chunks of lemon plopping into tall glasses of sparkling water with the little tongs they rent you.

Bartender-sliced lemons. Bartender-carved ice. Bartender-sparkled water.

One relatively sicker person from each party ordering a third day-drink and everyone struggling not to remark on it aloud but nonetheless cataloging the fact of it individually and collectively in the subsequent silence.

Maybe saving it for later if it proves necessary as far as character assassination.

For the waitress the question of the dangled fluctuating tip broadcast on the diners’ reddening faces like a stock market read out. A formula that only a servant can translate in real time but has to pretend not to be able to.

Not like this really but say for example how you could get killed for comprehending the language of your captors in certain much higher stakes international predicaments.

Then came an alert from the governor on my device saying to be on the lookout for Perverts around every corner and noticing my neighbor Raymond fussing over his truck and receiving this very alert on his phone simultaneously I did the haha I got it too wave with my phone and he started to limp directionally me-wise so now here was this guy in his war veteran baseball cap.

To forestall his tedious interrogation I did the little joke I do every time the governor sends this same alert looking around the corners and in the recycling bin and so forth. I grabbed an invisible hatchet and did a whole pantomime about chasing the Perverts out of the yard and Raymond chuckled.

Kill them all he shouted despite being close enough to not need to.

Yes yes kill the Perverts right now in front of God I said.

Just performing it though. You understand me right?

The variegation in their coloring this cycle Raymond said gesturing with his wrench and pointing toward the tree-full of you know who.

Birds not Perverts that is.

I’d like to get a peek at what’s going on inside of there he said. Under the hood so to speak he said. How certain meteorological contrivances have been at play these years he said.

I hated to hand it to Raymond if it wasn’t necessary under normal circumstances but these birds were in fact beautiful. Reflecting an uncanny light off their disgusting mite-infested feathers. Or I don’t know maybe the mites hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe this was a brief pocket of unmolested purity for their skin.

Some of them exploding now into the second story windows of my home again and again like boomerangs.

You wouldn’t want to look too closely under there though I said. With what they might be carrying.

Ah well that’s fair enough to say Raymond said gesturing outward toward everything. Indicting the entire expanse of the world.

That being over for now I started to make my way back inside. The co-pilots flicking switches overhead and checking certain meter levels inside of my joints. Come on baby girl I said to the dog. Come on baby idiot I said then felt badly about it and when she didn’t look up from her delving I humped over to jag at her choker and felt badly about that too but before long we were safely ensconced inside albeit now at odds temperamentally and meanwhile finding my poor sister resting under an avalanche of pillows. She murmured from within the fort at the sound of our footfalls. Who is it now she said. I put my hand on the meat of her and said what is it dear and she said no no no it’s not you.

There’s a bear chasing me in my dreams she said and so I put my hand next backways onto the skin of her skull which was roiling and I told her that there are no bears anymore.

None of this is real dear sister I said and it was unclear at first if she understood me but she subsequently tucked her head into the blanket of her bicep and after a moment’s silence opened her purple eyes and instructed me that I personally do not know what it is that is real and what it is that is not real. I felt that that was a fair admonition.

I stole her phone from under her couch-smushed cheek to aid in her comfort and glanced at it in the movement and on the screen there was a photo of a robust healthy tree growing toward God’s light and in the embrace of its sturdy arm branches was a thinner but still flowering tree without a base or roots of any kind. It looked like it had been chainsawed from below long ago and was now suspended in mid-air like you’d hold a child up in a pool to prevent its drowning. The larger one nourishing the smaller horizontally in the trick of this levitation I presumed.

I went to the water and brought her a glass full and considered myself the brother of the year for that kindness. A kind of sturdy tree you might say. I said I was going to go back outside again and figure out what was to be done at last about the prodigal birds and she lifted herself up on one elbow and squinted at me violet and quivering and said you are going to leave me alone in this world aren’t you?

I didn’t have an answer for that at first.

That was the kind of accusation you had to turn around and look at from various angles.

To bring math into.

Like how the engineers who design the missiles have to pretend not to know where they’re destined to end up.

Yes I said.

Thought that is.

I didn’t actually say yes.

Yes I thought though.

But not yet.

No I’m not I said.

I will never leave you alone in this world I said.

The muted TV was looping a montage of colleagues of ours from hither and yon with their chubby little chunk of bright red babies and birdless yards and well-behaved dogs and I gestured to our lazing one and said look at that. Do you see that? This is what I’ve been trying to tell you I said but she didn’t understand me. That being a major source of the building tension between us. The prison of her dog brain. No progress closing the gap on that despite all of everything else moving so rapidly these years.

All of that amounted to a certain degree of blueness in my core roughly a 7 out of 10 in blueness but I breathed in big bales of house oxygen until it was all stabilized and my blood pumped safely and went to check on the status of the birds I mentioned earlier. Here they came again assembling a more concise jury. The bulk of them still nipping around and lollygagging and playing grabass in the trees. Disturbing certain yard improvements I had been working on as far as beautification. There was Raymond too within spitting distance. Still agitated about the sex pests in our midst I wagered.

Somewhere in the neighborhood a drummer was practicing solid snare thwacks like a heartbeat.

Then like an unspooling machine gun.

Raymond let me ask you a question briefly if you don’t mind I said. Do you have a staircase in your home that makes you just a little uneasy to walk down?

Not that steep at first but looking steeper of late than it ever had cause to appear previously I mean. Kind of a toothsome beckoning at the foot of it type of thing.

He thought about it for a moment then had a look on his face like he was trying to determine if I was some kind of Pervert myself.  

Haha never mind I said.

I could tell that offbook maneuver was going to come back to rip my ass one way or the other.

All around us the drummer going duguhduguhduguhduguh. Killing everyone with his striking. Heaving waves of freshly shaved boys in their little war hats into the burning hole.  

But not scaring the shit out of the birds strangely. The assault on my sloping tiles continuing apace.

You remember this right?

Well I mostly live on the first floor now Raymond said at last. So I’m not confronting the stairs as much as I once might have had to he said.

Just be careful he said nodding toward the roof pummeling and I said I would.

I broke eye contact with him then and asked my device to play for me a maudlin tune from my youth and it buffered long enough that I had to ask it again. Play the one about the Lioness I asked it and it thought about it for a minute and said no.

Thank you but no it said. Not at this time.

It wasn’t clear to me before now that it was allowed to do that.

Do you have a knife in your home that makes you just a little uneasy to use?

Not Raymond but you I mean.

Even if it’s not as sharp as it once was anymore because who all knows how to have knives sharpened at this stage of the game. It would be like having a shoe cobbled. Taking a hat to the milliner. Better to just keelhaul everything into the dirt hole and then none of it is your problem anymore.

Nothing is your problem anymore.

What about that?

Rotate it around.

A floating 3D text cube of:

Nothing is your problem anymore!

Without an exclamation point actually. Make a note to take the exclamation point out.

I don’t know.

Is there no beauty to be found in these birds despite their persistent molestations?

Mutilating the ass out of my shrubbery now.

I thought I might try not being so angry all of the time. Try once again to do that. Maybe to try cataloging the bounty of their colors.

I fetched a notebook and sat and observed quietly and wrote down every hue I recognized from the famously large box of crayons from my youth.

Burnt umber…

…orchid, lavender, carnation pink, thistle, red violet, violet red, brick red, magenta, maroon, mulberry, indian red, red, melon, salmon, orange red, red orange, orange, flesh...

The thing about birds is that alongside all of their elaborate plumage they have another devilish adaptation which is that they can see colors that we cannot. Ultraviolet frequencies for example. More colors than they’re even capable of growing for themselves.

A hawk perceiving a faint trail of rodent urine from the sky.

An insect announcing its whereabouts like the flickering of a motel’s signage.

The seeds of a plant confessing their desire to be carried off elsewhere to propagate their lineage forward.

To be carried literally anywhere else but here.

…maize, goldenrod, yellow orange, apricot, orange yellow, yellow, lemon yellow, green yellow, spring green, yellow green, sea green, olive green…

And what that is kept hidden can they see of us. What barely visible aura of ours do we broadcast for them as we tumble so slowly down the steeper and steeper steps.