GIRLS ARE PRETTY

For Love Day!

“She’s worried about me,” you tell your coach. “I have to quit the team.”

Your coach tells you that in all the years he’s coached high school football, he’s never seen a quarterback like you.

“But I’ve also never seen another girl like Marie,” he adds.

Marie was your coach’s high school girlfriend. She also wanted him to quit the team, but he loved the game too much.

“I thought if she really loved me she’d let me do what I’m good at,” the coach says. “So I gave her up for the game. Now I realize that life is finite, and if you get your arms around love, you hug it to your chest and run it to the endzone.”

“The endzone is death right?” you ask. “Like, hang onto love until the end.”

“Bingo,” your coach says. “This game sucks and is stupid. Your love for that girl is rare and to be treasured. If you don’t quit this team, I’ll reveal some grading scandals involving players coasting by without learning how to read just so the entire team will be dissolved at this school to make sure you don’t have a team to play on.”

Since you’re one of the players who doesn’t know how to read, the embarrassment of that being all over the papers is just another reason to quit the team and be with your girlfriend.

“Thanks, Coach,” you say.

“SHUT UP AND LOVE!!!” your football coach screams in your face.

Happy For Love Day!

Explain To Your Mail Carrier What Love Is Day!

Today you’re going to bump into your mail carrier just as she finishes loading up the boxes in the lobby of your building.

“Hey there,” she says. “Long as I have you for a sec, what’s love?”

“Hang on,” you say.

You open your mailbox and pull out this week’s letters marked return to sender. Six new ones.

“This is love,” you say, letting her hold the unopened letters, each one containing several dozen instances of the words “please” and “forgive.” 

“All this time,” the mail carrier says, “I’ve been lugging love around in my sack and I didn’t even know it.”

“Wanna get drunk?” you ask.

You and your mail carrier get drunk and take turns opening people’s mail and reading the letters out loud in high-pitched girly voices. Looks like you have a new friend.

Happy Explain To Your Mail Carrier What Love Is Day!

Rich And Mean Day!

“Why aren’t your clothes fantastic?” the rich people ask. They’ve invited you to stop waiting on them and sit down for a while. Your manager told you to do whatever they say.

“I can’t afford to look fantastic,” you explain. “I can only afford to look cute.”

They ask what you expect to do with your life if the best you can hope for is cute.

“I just want to be happy,” you say.

They stare at you, unsure how you expect that to happen if you have to settle for cute.

“We aren’t making ourselves clear,” says the man in the suit that billows around him with the breeze. “Everything is ours. Everything we want. Comparatively, you have nothing. This sickens us.”

You wait for more, for them to ask a question.

“It’s disgusting,” his sister, whose skin looks like an ocean at sunset, adds. 

“It upsets me to be in your presence,” the billowy suited man says.

You ask them why they’re telling you all this. You’re handed a brochure. 

“It’s an underground city that’s being built for you and others in your situation,” you’re told. “Every basic need will be provided for you, and nothing more. We’re using our own funds to pay for its construction so that you can finally leave the surface of the earth.”

You look through the brochure. The bedrooms are slightly bigger than the one you sleep in right now.

“No sunlight?” you ask.

They shrug. “Sunlight is free, currently. But rent isn’t. Would you rather have free sunlight or free rent?”

The youngest, thinnest, and most beautiful of them leans forward, her dress collar hanging open for you to see the entire stretch of her flawless body. She takes your hand and says, “We just want you all to go into a hole and stay there. And we dug a very nice hole for you.”

There’s a date on the brochure. Six months from today.

“That’s the deadline,” the man in the billowy suit says. “Up until then, it’s voluntary.”

You fold the brochure into your apron and you get up from the table to go back to work.

“You’re welcome,” the beautiful girl says as she pours wine into a napkin and scrubs at the hand that touched yours.

Happy Rich And Mean Day!

Fancy Artist Loft Party Day!

The artist is angry and he’s spitting champagne on his guests and they love it. His wife is enchanting people with conversation. The ceilings are 20 feet above the tops of the guests’ heads, looking down on their bald spots and dandruff-dusted parts with disgust. The paintings on the walls are the size of trucks and they don’t mean a thing. The artist assistants are starving but drunk, one is crying, the other just jumped out the window, the third is calling her dad. The gallery owner has a one-way plane ticket to Berlin in his jacket pocket and no one knows this party and the city it’s in is already dead, Berlin is where it’s at. The ceilings rise higher, 45 feet now, getting further away from the freshly-dyed roots. You’re excited about the open bar and you stuff some cheese in your pocket for the train ride later because you’re new here, shocked to have even been invited. The artist is down to his torn underwear and he just grabbed the ass of a 66-year-old billionaire heiress and lover of dogs. 55 feet now, the loft upstairs obliterated. One of the artist assistants has a knife, but the other is talking her out of it. A 75-foot ceiling. The artist sees you. He sees something in you. Himself? He’s cross-legged on the ground in his underwear, waving you over. 110 feet. The knife clatters to the ground and the artist’s wife is making love to the gallery owner on the artist’s bed. The assistant who gave up on the idea of the knife absently watches them fuck when she isn’t checking her phone. “I admire your work,” you tell the artist. 200 feet. “You’re the one,” the artist says. It’s time for him to tumble out of fashion. Time to take someone under his wing, resent their youth, corrupt them so they have it just as bad as he does when they get the 300-foot ceiling. 345 feet now. “You’re the one,” he says. You glow and you stammer and the ceiling crosses the 500-foot mark, crashing into the bottom of a local news station’s traffic helicopter. The assistant climbs into bed with them. The artist throws on a pair of sweatpants, grabs your hand and drags you onto the elevator, presses down. You both get out seconds before the ceiling shatters bringing the party to an end.

Happy Fancy Artist Loft Party Day!

Bunkbeds Day!

It’s your first visit to your daughter’s new house with her new husband and no dad could be happier than you. They take you from room to room. The living room, the kitchen, the spare room that they say with a giggle will one day be a nursery. Then they show you their bedroom.

"Thought the other room was going to be the nursery," you say.

They both nod. That’s right.

"So what’s with the bunk beds?" you ask.

They look thrown. “You mean our sleep tower?” your son-in-law says.

You look at the bunk beds again.

"Sleep tower?" you repeat. "What the hell are you kids into?"

Your daughter laughs. “I get the top. Jarrett likes the bottom.”

"My knees," your son-in-law explains.

You walk out of the bedroom, shaken to your core, and you sit down to a long, polite, silent dinner.

After, your daughter follows you out to your car.

"Jesus, honey," you say. "What the hell is that all about?"

She nods sadly. “I know how it looks, Daddy,” she says. “It’s just what he prefers.”

You shake your head. “What about what you prefer?”

Tears form in her eyes. “You don’t think there’s anything wrong with his knees either, do you? He says when they’re better I can have the bottom, but he’s lying isn’t he? I want the bottom, Daddy! I was supposed to marry someone who’d treat me like a princess and let me have whichever bunk I wanted! But he’s just another liar out to get whatever he wants!”

She cries into your chest. You pat the back of her head, coming to grips with the knowledge that your daughter is a grown woman who digs bunk beds. You conclude that you were a not-very-good father, and you vow to visit your daughter’s home as infrequently as possible.

Happy Bunkbeds Day!

Sand In The Suitcase Day!

Your mom’s on her bedroom floor rubbing her body in sand. Sand that shook into her suitcase from the swimsuit she wore on the beach in Tulum, two winters ago when she was there for a work retreat and she went for a walk with Alfonse, the spa director of the eco-resort. Alfonse promised her he’d show her the exact perfect spot on the beach to see the moon over the cliff, and he came through. The spot was on her back, underneath Alfonse, her pleasure causing her to howl loud enough she feared she’d scare the moon away. That sand in her suitcase hugged hers and Alfonse’s bodies and she’s rubbing it all over her skin, feeling his touch once more. If the sand from that beach can be in the bedroom she shares with her husband, years later, Alfonse can be there as well. Space and time allow for so much more than we know. You mom is there again. She’s there on that beach having the most wonderful sex of her life again.

"She’s doing the sand thing again," you tell your dad.

"Ah Christ, every damn trip," your dad says before marching upstairs to yell at his wife.

"Dammit Doreen! You can’t bring him back! Let a fling be a fling so we can not miss our plane for once!"

Happy Sand In The Suitcase Day!

Open House Day!

Today at the open house, you think you’ve found the perfect place. Beautiful yard, great kitchen, and lots of storage space. You’re pretty sure you’re going to take it until you notice the photos on the tables are all photos of you, surrounded by a husband and two kids you’ve never met before.

“Is this some kind of prank?” you ask.

The realtor looks more closely at the photos.

“Oh, this happens sometimes,” she says.

“What does?” you ask.

The realtor explains that some houses skip ahead. 

“The house knows what your life is going to be, who you’re going to marry, what kind of family you’re going to raise here,” she says. “It knows so well that it thinks you’ve already lived here.”

“Lived?” you ask.

“Well, it’s up for sale. So you’re selling it. One day.”

You ask the realtor if you’re going to get a good price. She says she doubts it. You seem to want to sell in a hurry. Things aren’t going so well with your husband.

“I’m not even dating anybody,” you say. “How is it the house thinks I’ve been living here with a husband and kids, and I’m already moving on to a new chapter in my life?”

The realtor says she can’t answer that, but you should get a move on before the house realizes you’re there before you’ve ever been there. Just then the house starts screaming.

Happy Open House Day!

End Your First Date About To Be Crushed To Death In A Trash Compactor Day!

Say to him over the loud grinding of the gears, “Even if we die right now, I really had a good time with you tonight.”

He’ll say, “Yeah. Though the wild turn of events over the course of the evening lead to us being stuck here, about to be turned into nothing but splotches of liquefied organs, this was the best date I ever had.”

You kiss for the first time. It’s such a powerful kiss, you both suddenly know that this isn’t how it can end. Something so right can’t reach such a premature and gross conclusion. This could be the love of both your lives. That kiss proved it. And that kiss gives you the strength to try and get out of this to see where this love takes you.

“We have to try!” you shout.

“I agree,” he says. “We can’t just—“

Some of the garbage gives way underneath him and he’s dragged under the compactor wall. You mourn the love of your life for a few endless seconds before the walls close in and take away the pain of your loss.

Happy End Your First Date About To Be Crushed To Death In A Trash Compactor Day!

Your Old Friend Alice’s Funeral Day!

You’re 70 and your friend Alice was 70 when she died and you used to be best pals. You showed up wondering what happened to you two, then you find out when her family tells you they don’t want you to speak at the funeral because they felt like she put more value in her friendship with you than in her relationship with her husband and kids.

“That why she moved away and stopped taking my calls?” you ask her daughters.

They nod. “We told our mom that unless she cut ties with you we would stop loving her. We told her she had to sacrifice a cherished friendship in order to keep us as daughters.”

“You’re shitty daughters,” you tell them.

They shrug. “Deal with it. You’re not speaking at that funeral.”

You keep quiet at the service but at the burial a plane flies by with a banner tailing behind it that reads, “Alice is dead, and she loved her best friend more than her own horrible kids. I loved you back just as much, Alice. Sorry your kids sucked. Sorry and Goodbye. Catch Jason Mraz at Foxwoods Thur-Mon.” 

You got a discount by tacking on an ad that the pilot already got paid to run. Doesn’t matter, the kids are looking up at the sky and crying as you walk away from Alice’s grave, knowing full well you had a friend for life.

Happy Your Old Friend Alice’s Funeral Day!

Pam Can’t Drink Day!

You ended it with Pam because she can’t drink.

“It’s because I have to take all this medication for anxiety,” she said. “Alcohol contraindicates.”

That’s all well and good but you told Pam from the get-go that she better be able to keep up with you or you’d be hightailing it to someone who could. Someone like Martha.

“Let’s get started,” Martha likes to say at around 4:30 PM when she pulls the top from the bottle of gin. “Don’t dawdle.”

Martha drinks way better than Pam, and the two of you have a lot of fun getting plastered each night and then spending the next morning helping each other piece together why you have so many bruises on your bodies. But you can’t get over the feeling that maybe you should have found some way to make it work with Pam. No matter how well you and Martha drink together, she’s no Pam.

“Why are you Googling herbal remedies for anxiety?” Martha asks one drunken night after going through your search history. “It’s that Pam, isn’t it? You’re looking for a way to get her to take different meds so she can drink with you.”

You try to lie but Martha’s too blitzed to listen. She throws your laptop at your head, knocking you unconscious. Martha runs to your aid but she slips and cracks her head open on the floor. 

When you wake up, the police are hovering over you, having been called by the neighbors. With Martha dead and signs of a domestic dispute all over the apartment, no one buys that Martha did all the disputing. You’re jailed for manslaughter, sentenced to six years of longing for the one that got away because you never thought to convince her to try herbal anxiety remedies that wouldn’t have been contraindicated by alcohol. 

Happy Pam Can’t Drink Day!

You Know Anyone Your Mom Might Hit It Off With Day!

Your mom writes love songs but her career’s been in a slump ever since she fell out of love with your dad. House payments need to be made and you’re going to have to go to college somehow.

“Any of those teachers at your school single?” your dad asks you. “Anyone you think your mom might hit it off with?”

You tell your dad you don’t feel comfortable being put in this position. That you think your mom should cheat on him of her own volition, that it should happen naturally.

“Yeah, yeah,” your dad says. “But love sometimes needs a nudge. She wrote dozens of songs about me, but I ain’t doing it for her anymore, and they’re about to cut off our electric.”

On Parent-Teacher night you make sure to introduce your mom to your social studies teacher, Mr. Lawson.

“You two both enjoy things,” you say to them, trying to get some kind of connection to happen. 

“Hello,” Mr. Lawson says.

“I hope I never hear you say goodbye,” your mom says. Then she rifles through her bag for a notebook.

Meanwhile, your dad is at home sitting on the back step of the house, staring at a tree he and your mom planted when they first moved in. That tree never stopped growing. Maybe if he tends to his marriage the way he did that tree, your mom will find it in her heart to love him again. He makes a silent promise to try as soon as she gets home, not knowing it’s already too late. She’s found a new song.

Happy You Know Anyone Your Mom Might Hit It Off With Day!

True Romance Day!

DEPARTURE

You ask to be excused from the table and your dad grunts so you head upstairs where your duffle bag is packed and you flash your flashlight three times out the window. He responds with three flashes from a flashlight of his own.

JOURNEY

You board the bus and you kiss for three hundred miles until someone complains to the driver who comes back to ask the two of you to stop kissing. You hold off for fifteen miles before the other passengers complain that your kisses were the only thing keeping them going on this bus ride. 

“It’s nice to be around people who are hopeful!” a man with an open face wound shouts.

“The sound of their lips keeps me from hearing the echoes if what my sister said to me when we last saw each other in ’83,” a lady trying to pick the lock on a handcuff concurs.

“Lift the ban!” the other passengers shout. “Lift the ban!”

“Fine.” The bus driver buckles. “Ban lifted.” So you kiss for the next 1100 miles and everyone on the bus is grateful.

EXCITEMENT

Ten miles from your destination you pull out your guns and rob everyone on the bus. Someone tries to be a hero so you shoot him in the heart.

MALAISE

Hiding up in the mountains wears on you after twenty-six months. You try to remember the day you met, just another gray November day of senior year turned suddenly to the brightest springtime morn when you saw his face.

“He’s a transfer,” your best friend whispered into your ear when she spotted you drooling.

But a cold mountain wind blows and the memory scatters with the gust. He comes back to the cabin with not enough meat. You can feel the baby kick.

JOY

The three of you head down the other side of the mountain, to a valley town in a whole other state and no one looks at you twice when you enroll to get your GED. You’ll make a life for your baby, a better one than you made for yourself.

STRIFE 

You’re driving home from school when you spot the flashing lights of three squad cars forming a roadblock at the end of your street. You stop in time to see him run down in the middle of the road, pinned to the concrete with the knees of police. They lift him up and you think he can see you. The rest of your life you’ll hope he could see the two of you, that he could see you mouth the word “goodbye.”

MEMORY

You tuck her in and you pretend you’re reading a storybook as you tell her the tale of the boy and the girl who ran off to find out what their love might do to the world. And when she asks if it did anything bad you say yes. And when she asks if it did anything good you kiss her on the forehead and you say yes.

Happy True Romance Day!

Found A Guy Stranded On A Desert Island

He’s been there for ten years, which means I have to devote half my day to catching him up on stuff.

“This is an iPhone,” I say, holding up my pink 5C. “You should get one if your ex-wife gives you any of her money.”

“Ex-wife?” he asks.

“It’s been ten years,” I say. “Think she waited?”

We then start watching the pilot of ‘Breaking Bad’.

“You need to know watch the whole thing,” I say. “Before you can have conversations. Remember 9/11?”

He says of course he does. 9/11 happened three years before he was stranded.

“Jeez, okay. I was just going to remind you if you forgot.”

Then I go through the list. Britney. Lindsay. Who the Kardashians are. We have a black president but we’re kind of over it. Katrina. 

“Watch these ‘Shit Girls Say’ parodies,” I say, handing him my iPad as I step out into the hallway for a second to talk to Rothschild.

“How is he, doc?”

“The usual,” Dr. Rothschild says. “Skinny. Really wants water and beef. Doesn’t even know that there’ve been two followup sequels to Before Sunrise.”

I ask Rothschild if there’s any chance this guy might die and he shakes his head no, bumming me out.

“I’d better catch him up to speed on Casey Anthony,” I say. 

Back in the examination room he’s laughing his butt off at Shit Guys Say To Girls Who Make Shit Girls Say Videos.

“Yeah, it was a simpler time,” I say. “By the way, what’s your name?”

He murmurs something in between guffaws at the video. I know what I think I heard, and I tell him to repeat himself.

“Matteo LaFourge,” he says again.

I suck in a breath, grip the edge of the examination table to steady myself. I brush his hair to the side and get a good look at his eyes. They’re the same eyes as mine.

“The last time I talked to my father, he told me about you,” I say. “I always wondered if I’d ever get the chance to meet my brother.”

From Hateboat3000.

HateBoat3000

This summer I’ll be posting a serialized story on Medium called “HateBoat3000” about Captain Heather T. LaFourge, the captain of a commercial cruise ship. You can find that here.

Latest chapter is posted below…

+++

Watching The People Splash In The Lido Deck Pool Pavilion

So many wet families.

They’re swimming and frolicking and cannonballing. Smiling and reapplying sunscreen. Are they happy? Or are they merely amused?

Their joy is my responsibility. I’m not just the captain of a small floating city. I am steering the American family on a course for intimacy.

Those families took this vacation together not just for the food or the sun or the PG-rated live entertainment nightly, but to have a family trip they will remember forever, to have an adventure they’ll be talking about for the rest of their lives, the excursion that practically defines their family unit.

That’s why I’m going to shut down all the bathrooms for 36 hours 

***

It’s what has to be done when it seems like the passengers are just going through the motions. Those cruise liners that turned into massive, stranded toilets, they were no accident. It’s captain’s orders, always, to shut it all down when it seems like the people need a little nudge toward each other, when they need to be reminded just how much they count on each other.

Walking along the lower deck, I see them, families huddled together in the open air, as far away from their stinking rooms and as far away from the scalding hot sun as they can get. I see them resting in embrace, consoling and reassuring each other.

“It’s like camping,” a mother tells her sons.

“We’ve never gone camping before!” they respond excitedly, their faces and hands filthy from the lack of wash water and chapped from the constant barrage of salty sea air.

We give them heaven on the ocean and they don’t respond. So we turn it into a floating, excrement-sloshing hell. That sends them into each other’s arms, camped out on the decks under the stars where the air is still breathable. That’s when they remember what holds them together. They are each other’s comfort in a sea of adversity. For the next 36 hours, they’ll discover they might not have toilets, but at least they have each other.

Or not.

Some families are turning on each other. Their true colors are coming out. As I walk past I hear a little girl confronting her Dad about his secret stash of toilet paper and saltines that he’s not sharing with the rest of the family.

“You were my hero until today!” she declares.

Further down, closer to the bow, I pass a teenage boy seated alone, staring off into the distance.

“Shouldn’t you be with your family?” I suggest to him.

“No, ma’am,” he says. “I overheard them saying they’d never have come on this trip if they weren’t trying to save their marriage, and they’d never have tried to save their marriage if I hadn’t been born. So I prefer to be by myself for a while.”

I toss him a Capri Sun and keep walking.

This is what a cruise is for, to get away from the trappings of dry land and shine the hot light of sunshine on the truth of your family unit. These people will uncover secrets and reveal animosities they might otherwise have taken to the grave had they not booked passage on my vessel. It’s easy for them to be distracted by the buffets and the water volleyball. It’s easy for them to just pass the time. When I see that happening, I make the choice to act.

I’m their captain. Sometimes, when they aren’t feeling it, I have to do what I can.

I must keep it to 36 hours, though, in order to not attract attention. This happens often enough now that CNN won’t bother covering a broken down ship until it’s been a sewer for at least three days.