Secret Admirers

Manny Furious woke up early on New Year’s Day because he’s a loser who didn’t stay up all night getting drunk. Plus he had work, because he somehow had gotten himself a job that requires people dumb enough to apply for the job to work holidays. Anyhow, the sun was out bright but it was visibly frigid outside and he turned up the thermostat, which has a mechanism that would allow him to schedule it to kick on automatically at certain times of the day and to specific temperatures, but even seven years of living with such a luxury is not long enough, apparently, to combat his natural laziness and refusal to make the effort to learn how to engage such a mechanism.

He jumped onto the internet and scrolled through facebook, liking everyone’s New Year’s posts, except it was 7:30 in the morning, and he became self-conscious because everyone would realize he was up so early and therefore a loser who didn’t stay up all night getting drunk. So, first he wrote a tanka that went:

Every other year

I seem to have a midlife

crisis. It bodes well

for my longevity, I

attempt to convince myself. 

Then, he checked his email.

Much to his surprise a “secret admirer” had sent him a message stating:

“To a very handsome man,

                May the New Year bring you much joy and find you in the

                perpetual protection of the Angels, Buddhas and Immortals.

                                                                                 Sincerely,

                                                                                 Your Secret Admirer”

That was nice. He had always wanted a secret admirer. Beginning in his youth, and even occasionally in the present,  he had often times borne the misfortune of being a secret admirer himself, but had never had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of one’s affections or overtures. That, combined with the unexpected blessings of good will made his eyes well and forced him to fight back tears…although one (or two) managed to manifest through sheer will.

He took a screenshot of the email and forwarded it to his old buddy, Fat Milo, hoping it would make him envious. To Furious’s surprise Fat Milo was awake and texted Furious back immediately.

“You sent it to yourself, last night. Right before you went to bed, probably,” Fat Milo texted, circling the 9:30pm time stamp in the corner of the email with a digital red marker.

“So?” Furious texted back.

“So…what’s the point?”

“I always wanted a secret admirer,” Furious texted, simply.

Furious lamented his ever-present laziness, once more, in failing to establish a new, fictional email account instead of using a pre-existing one under his own name.

He ventured into the frost and into work, and spent the rest of the first day of the new year looking up pre-Socratic Greek philosophers on Wikipedia and playing chess frustratingly poorly on his phone. Basically, activities that didn’t require him to actually do the job that he was getting paid to do.

He also wrote the following poems:

The Cold and I–

When did we become

Such bitter enemies.

                                                       Diogenes

                                                      kept jerking off in public. 

                                                     When asked what the hell

                                                     he was doing

                                                    he stated he only wished he could address

                                                   his hunger

                                                  by rubbing his tummy. 

                                                 What an 

                                                 enlightened 

                                                man!

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THE HEBE-JEBEES

When Estee Lauder released their miracle anti-aging cream, “Hebe-Jebees,” the entire world took notice.  The “miracle” was no-longer part of a typical marketing push, it was a literal description of what the cream was capable of producing. Forty years and nearly two billion dollars in research had led to a profound breakthrough in the technology of youth. All patrons had to do was rub the cream on their faces once in the morning and once in the evening and voila, a never-ending youth.

The earthlings ate the shit up. Not literally, of course. But they rubbed it on their faces by the gallons. And before long strange things began happening. Terrible things. Monstrous things.

The first reported case of mutation occurred on February 16, 2025, about two months after the launch of the Hebe-Jebees. Christina Powers, aged 42, mother of 3 frat-boy sons who attended Big 10 conference schools and who TOTALLY SLAY TOO MUCH PUSSY BRO, was rubbing some of the cream into her face when she began to notice what felt like a slight electrical surge slithering through her veins. This sensation stopped her only momentarily. When she didn’t die or fall convulsing onto the floor she figured it was just a momentary phenomenon, liable to dissipate momentarily.

However, she was wrong.  Although she didn’t die, she immediately became “undead” so to speak, and her vibrant, revitalized skin suddenly turned to plastic, her eyes became red with wrath and she was immediately consumed with a thirst for the flesh of good looking human beings. And flesh is meant in the most literal sense possible—just the skin, the epidermis, the hide of the victim. This monster had no use for the actual meat, or bones or marrow or soul of the person.  Just the cosmetic.

After the initial case, the condition spread like a cup of spilt soda on a kitchen floor.  It was confined to mostly women, who were the primary patrons of the Hebe-Jebees, but in some areas, such as southern California, there was a sizeable portion of men running around cannibalizing their neighbors. Also in places like “SoCal,” the plague was so great that in a matter of a few days’ time, the monsters outnumbered their prey by a good 3-1. Very quickly, there was very little feast for the famine.

Initially, the less…uh… aesthetically endowed amongst us, such as Pedolo and El Crow, feared little for their own safety. After all, initial reports claimed that it was only the most beautiful parts of the population who were being victimized by this sudden rash of cannibalism. However, because “beauty” is truly in the eye of the beholder—and because so many people have so many different kinds of fetishes—it quickly became obvious that the ugly people weren’t safe, per se, simply safer.   

After several weeks of intense fighting between the mutants and the humans, the mutants managed to gain considerable momentum. It was during this time that El Crow and Pedolo had found themselves at the edge of survival by hiding in a dilapidated cabin in The Middle of Fucking Nowhere.

Small towns got hit the slowest, obviously. And the smaller the town, the slower it got hit. In Rio Frio, it began with about 37 cases in the first week. That was all, and it should’ve been easy to defend against. It wasn’t like in New York, where 85,000 mutants began carving up the living within the first week. But there were several problems for the small town populations. For one, no federal aid was available, as all of it was tied up in the major cities. For two, everyone knew everyone, and while this made for the occasional glee-kill of one woman getting to lop off the head of the plasticized version of the woman who had once spread terrible rumors about her at a local hair salon, by and large, people were extraordinarily hesitant to decapitate their neighbors, or their friend’s wife, or a former flame, or a family member, or whatever relationship it was they had to the monster ripping at their flesh. 

El Crow and Pedolo were actually supposed to be prepared for such a scenario. They were members of a team of rag-tag Zombie fighters that called themselves the “Zombie War Attack Team” or “ZWAT” for short. All members had  the team name emblazoned on the side of their vehicles, which had all been customized with bullet-proof siding and windows (that zombies shot guns was beyond my knowledge) and all members had concealed weapons permits and contained within their vehicles a small arsenal of weaponry consisting mostly of firearms, but depending on the personality of a particular member, could include samurai swords, chainsaws, hatchets or even tazers.  

El Crow and Pedolo weren’t “inside” members, with access to the group’s official, and surprisingly large, armory and caravan. They didn’t even actually own any guns and they didn’t customize their vehicles with the obligatory bullet-proof siding and glass (or at least El Crow didn’t. Pedolo didn’t own a vehicle so this wasn’t exactly a choice on his part). In fact, both joined the group simply because they thought it was funny. 

What they didn’t think was funny, however, is when the other 22 members of the ZWAT froze in their tracks during the outbreak. The team completely barfed. And instead of putting any of their weaponry to work, most members of the team simply soiled themselves and stood perfectly still as the middle-aged mutants of Rio Frio ran at them and feasted on their carcasses. Some prayed to God. Others asked dead loved ones for forgiveness. The rest were too scared to do anything but discharge their bowels and mourn their own deaths. 

It was while all that was going down that El Crow and Pedolo “commandeered” one of the ZWAT vehicles–a 1998 Nissan Pathfinder, blue– and raided every gas station and shopping market in town for canned goods and water. Then they drove the backroads of the Rio Frio Valley, up into the mountains, until they found somewhere to sleep that seemed far enough removed from civilization to provide relative safety.

The structure was a dilapidated 3 bedroom house that appeared to have had no occupants in at least 20 years, perhaps 30. It was located 14 miles from the nearest town on a flat piece of land right at the point where the rolling foothills of the Rio Frio Valley gave way to the towering Rocky Mountains.  The prior occupants had obviously had an aversion to civilization, to the point that they lived sans electricity, plumbing and running water. There was an old outhouse about 20 feet from the abode, and, after a brief investigation, El Crow had found a fresh-water well about football field’s distance away. There was no glass in the window frames and the inside of the house was brown and dusty. The floor was littered with the parts of the wall that just couldn’t take it anymore and had leaped to the ground in their seemingly successful attempts at suicide.

El Crow and Pedolo swept a few spots with their shoes, threw down a couple of sleeping bags and made themselves at home for what they conservatively estimated would be the next three months.

Besides spending a good portion of that time trying not to freeze to death at night, they spent the majority of the day simultaneously attempting to not let the other catch them masturbating, while simultaneously trying to catch the other person masturbating. This led to a veritable litany of awkward moments throughout each day and night as both men were seemingly incapable of either reining in their desires and/or of exercising any kind of basic motor-control over their hands and genetalia.

 It took them about a week-and-a-half to go through the 6 months of food and drink they had brought with them and after about 3 hours of attempting to snare a mouse or a rabbit or any other kind of small game, the two men decided to take their chances heading back down to Rio Frio, where, by now, the mutants had surely fed on the last of the humans. But hopefully, they thought, they could perhaps blend in or simply just power their way through the remnants of society and scavenge for any leftover non-perishables and…possibly… some womenfolk. Yes, their nearly 20 years of incessant porno watching had taught them one thing and one thing only: that it was only a matter of time and chance before they would come across some woman they didn’t know who, for reasons known only to her, could not contain her spontaneous and engulfing lust for either El Crow or Pedolo or, preferably, both.

And so the two men headed down from the foothills and began the nearly 2 hour-long drive back down to the ruins of Rio Frio. But if they had had any modicum of perception, they would’ve noticed a series of subtle but telling clues that awaited them as they descended. From a plethora of birds, to fresh tracks in the dirt, to the passing of other housing structures along the way that appeared to be in mint condition. In short, as they came preciously closer to the town, they would’ve noticed that things seemed incredibly and increasingly “normal.”

When they finally entered the town on a cool, crisp, invigorating March morning, even their dull, absent-minded, distracted sense of observation couldn’t help but notice that the streets weren’t inundated with glassy-eyed, hunched, plastic-skinned mutants, but, instead, there were families and puppies and the occasional jogger.

They pulled into a gas station, walked inside and were met with a smile and a jolly “hello” from some blonde college student with a name tag that said “Jake.” Pedolo and El Crow gazed at each other for what surly the cashier must’ve thought was an awkward amount of time and left rather rudely without acknowledging the salutations of the cashier.

Eventually they made their way to El Chupacabra the Apathetic’s home, whereupon they stomped on the door and Manny Furious the Underachieving answered with an unwavering smile, and a hug.

“Where the fuck have you two been?” El Chupacabra asked. “We thought maybe the mutants had gotten to you fuckers. It’s damned good to see you.”

Immediately after concluding the group hug, El Chupacabra sniffed expressively, made a face of pure disgust and said, “Holy Jesus, we need to give you guys a bath. Or, at least you El Crow.” Pedolo apparently reeked of his usual self, and therefore elicited no concern.

After bathing and eating a wonderful several pizzas cooked up by El Chupacabra, El Crow and Pedolo related their trials and tribulations and asked El Chupacabra what had happened after they left.

“Oh,” replied Manny Furious, “one of the mutants fell in love with a human and before you know it, they all came back to normal again. It only took like a couple of weeks. El Chupacabra insisted we should just stay home and wait it out, and as usual, she was right. So far.”

El Crow and Pedolo wondered aloud about the weirdness of the whole thing, but Manny Furious, after an awkward hum of silence, tried to tie up the entire experience with an elegant, encompassing, evocative elegy.

“Our emotions,” he stated. “Are what makes us human. And I suppose love is one of the most powerful emotions. Probably even more powerful than hate. So it should’ve made some kind of sense to get these mutants feeling something. Nothing lasts forever anyways. Not even mutations. Not even death. Physical, spiritual, emotional or otherwise. It’s like a big cycle or something. You know. Death, rebirth, decay, growth, etc. You gotta stay in the moment, so to speak. The universe is love and all that. The circle of life and what not. You know, good things happen and then bad things happen, but good and bad are relative, so you really don’t know what’s good or bad. Look at it now, the mutant invasion seemed like a bad thing, but now everybody’s happier and enjoying life much more since the mutants turned human again. We appreciate things more. Every morning I wake up and I’m like, what a wonderful day, I don’t have to dodge mutants today. So maybe it was good in some ways that it happened. For the time being, the country is getting along and people are working together and stuff like that. It’s like the story in Chuang Tzu about the guy whose kid finds a horse, and the guy is all like, ‘Cool a new horse. This is really great,’ but then the kid falls off the horse and breaks his leg and the guy is all like, ‘Well this is fucking terrible. Why did this have to happen?’ But then the army strolls through town to forcefully recruit members for some bullshit war armies are always wasting time on, and they leave his son alone because his leg’s broken and then the guy’s like, ‘Holy shit, good thing my son broke his leg.’ Except it was like a whole series of events.  Like something bad happened, but it ended up being good and vice-versa. Like the guy comes across the horse, which is a good thing, but then the horse ends up being too wild to break, which is how the son breaks his leg, which is bad and so on. But I can’t remember the whole thing, right off. But, as usual, Chuang Tzu had a really good point.”

El Chupacabra the Apathetic, Pedolo and El Crow stared dumbly at Manny Furious for about 40 seconds as he sipped on some green tea, and then El Chupacabra the Apathetic, with the resounding amount of anger and indignation that is only capable of someone who has tried to instruct a moron like Manny Furious in the spiritual arts for 30 years or so said, “What the fuck are you blathering about? You fucking moron.”

A Snippet of a Conversation Between Manny Furious and One of His Bosses about Professionalism

“Are those Spider-Man socks?”

“Yes.”

“That’s not professional. Those aren’t professional socks.”

“I don’t understand what socks are professionals? Like, I wasn’t aware there were certain socks that got paid for highly-skilled job of being socks.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. you know what I mean.”

“Don’t I do a good job?”

“You’re one of the best Family Networks Education Recovery Deliminators I’ve ever seen. And the clients love you.”

“Do I ever give you cause for concern about the way I do my job?”

“Beyond your occasional naivete and obliviousness and concerning lack of common sense? No.”

“So what does it matter what kind of socks I wear?”

“It’s in the employee handbook Manvil. We are to exude an air of professionalism at all times.”

“And what do socks have to do with that?”

“They’re Spider-Man socks. They’re the socks of children. Not professionals.”

“But I’m a professional. A good performing one, at that. And I’m wearing them. So you’re wrong.”

“Change your socks tomorrow, or you will be put on a corrective action plan.”

“Ok, so, tonight, after work, I’ll run to the store, grab me some black socks, ok?”

“Yes. Good idea.”

“And in the morning I’ll walk in to my office, lay the socks on this here chair I’m sitting on, and the socks can do my job for me. Professionally, of course.”

“…”

“…”

“Ok, fine, Manvil. Have it your way. Wear your childish stockings. But whatever the Empty Suit does to you if it happens to see you wearing them is on you. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.”

“Thank you.”

“But I’ve noticed your button-up is short-sleeved today.”

“But it is a button-up. With a collar and everything. A very professional shirt. Probably got an MBA before entering Old Navy’s inventory.”

“Perhaps. But your tattoos on your arm are showing.”

“…”

“…”

“And?”

“And…again, as per the employee handbook, we are determined to exude an air of professionalism at all times.”

Discoursing on Hubcaps, or: Robber Che Part 3

Periodically, El Crow would head over to Stoa park to listen to one of Robber Chè‘s rants and to try to outmaneuver her at her own game. This was how stupid El Crow is.

“Look here, Robber Chè,” he might say.  “There is no reason for you to steal our shit, or anybody else’s shit. That is not cool, man. That wasn’t the act of a philosopher king.”

And Robber Chè, through her green luchador mask, would reply with some philosophical non-sequitur like, “You don’t think there’s honor in being a thief? It takes courage to be a thief. It takes intelligence to be a good thief. It takes cunning. It takes foresight. A good thief must be physically fit. Are you any of those things, El Crow?”

El Crow was too dim-witted to answer on most occasions. He would simply sit there, silent, trying to will his brain to conjure some kind of competent response. So Robber Chè would take that silence as his answer.

 “Of course not,” she would say. “So don’t pretend like you have half the virtue I do.”

 “You’re a criminal,” El Crow might finally respond.

 “I never stole from someone who didn’t have it coming. I am merely an agent of karma.”

 “KARMA?!” El Crow would holler. “WHAT FUCKING KARMA? Karma’s a fairy tale for those small minds who are too chicken-shit and intellectually incapable of considering there probably is no such thing as ‘justice’ in the world. There are no “just desserts.” They’re all a bunch of children who can’t stomach the meaninglessness of existence. What about your goddamned karma? Where is nature’s retribution for your crimes?”

“I accept my karma, wholly,” replied Robber Chè calmly. “Without any hesitation or regret. Whether that means being tied up and burned by a bunch of inbred hillbillies, or being tied up and preached to by an idiot lunatic in this beautiful fucking park.”

One time, the self-satisfied Fat Milo went with El Crow and said something to Robber Chè like, “Where’s our goddamned fucking shit?” only somehow less eloquently, and Robber Chè responded with a rather lengthy, and vaguely Marxist soliloquy about what makes a thief a thief.

“Who’s stealing from who, Fat Milo? Who did you steal from to get your beloved Jetta? Your parents? And who did they steal from? Don’t get mad, Fat Milo, get rational. I stole your car. I know all about it. The $350 hubcaps. How is that not thievery? It’s thievery on several levels. The person who sold them to you stole from you. And you let him. Do you know how much food that $1400 could’ve bought any hungry child in this country? That’s a lifetime worth of ramen noodles and grilled cheeses. And for what? So your car could be a little shinier? That’s it.

“There’s nothing more to it. Because a shinier car somehow makes you more worthy or honorable or noble? How sad. You are not your car. You are worth more than your car, it’s too bad you don’t see that much.

“There is no real value to those hubcaps. There wasn’t ever any craftsmanship. They were forged in an assembly line in a factory that is polluting rivers and air and giving cancer to poor people. You paid $1400 for what amounted to maybe–maybe— $50 in material and labor. You let them steal from you. But that was your karma for being willing to let a bunch of hungry children starve so you could have a shinier car and pretend that made you special, you insecure fuck. That’s your karma for your petty, childish insecurities. Having a shinier car makes you no more of a man. If you were a real man, you’d understand as much. But you’re a child. A little boy who still believes having the best toy on the playground means anything.

“Oh, you don’t believe me? Look at you on that iPhone. How much did you allow Apple to rob you for on that one? $600?! My god, you’re even dumber than I thought. $600 for something that adds nothing to your life and for which you have to stress out about breaking or losing or charging, because the battery fucking sucks. The things you own end up owning you.

“Oh shut up. I know I stole that from Tyler Durden. I’m a thief, ain’t I? At least I’m an honest one. Fuck your shitty music. Fuck your shitty apps. Fuck having the internet wherever you go. How has it improved your quality of life? How is that battery treating you? How much do you let them rob you for monthly service? $150 per month?! Jesus. That’s another $2000 per year just so you can watch fake sex on a porn app while you’re taking a shit. How sad. When’s the last time you simply took a shit and felt the wonder and relief of taking a shit? You’re a sad little boy. You paid $600 and $150 per month so you could take one more step toward being a robot. The technology does nothing but lie. It tells you it is meaningful and worth all the bullshit you go through to get it. All the strain, boredom, deferred pleasures of work. Instead of lying under a tree, enjoying the magnificence of Creation, you’re working yourself to the bone so you can pay for a phone.

“Be human. Don’t be a robot. Feel the shame, the pain, the disappointment of being a human. It’s beautiful. When was the last time you were truly happy, Fat Milo? When was it? And don’t tell me about the time were at a restaurant and you took a picture of your greasy, fatty, disgusting fucking food with your $600 fucking cell phone and posted it on Instagram for all the other robots to pretend to care. That’s all it’s good for–mild diversions. When’s the last time you were really fucking happy? Well, when you figure it out, I’ll guarantee it had nothing to do with your stupid fucking cell phone or your stupid fucking hubcaps. Oh, when your parents bought you the Jetta. That’s pretty fucking sad. You didn’t even buy it yourself. At least then you would’ve at least accomplished something. That would make some kind of sense. I was hoping you’d talk about falling in love or a fun night out drinking with your friends or completing a personal project you’d been working on–like making a table or even cooking a batch of meth or some shit. Instead, it was when your parents bought you a car. You sad, miserable fuck.  See, you’re the true thief. You’ve robbed yourself of your own dignity. You let others rob you of your own money, so you can rob yourself of your own humanity. And it’s like that all over the world. Six billion thieves robbing themselves. I’m just the only one who doesn’t lie about it.”

She didn’t actually stop there, but I will (apologies for not stopping earlier). It was like listening to a slightly more philosophically and morally coherent and less verbose version of a Randian Libertarian.

Sheer Drowning

Picture 15-year-old Manny Furious. Wild hair looking as though it were straining to get as far away from from the chaos inside his skull. That same perpetually befuddled look in his eye that existed partially from being perpetually befuddled, but also because he still didn’t wear his glasses, even though he now knew he needed them. And that same, oblivious, naive demeanor.

Picture him at a high school track meet, in his joggers. Enjoying the warming of the spring air, where the sky itself seemed to thaw and crack at the soft heat of actual sunlight. Picture him on the greening grass, inside the track, with dozens, if not hundreds, of other track athletes from a dozen different schools all scattered about like malfunctioning ant colonies. Picture a smattering of tents throughout the field where the athletes can escape the sun, if need be. Picture him catching a a looksee at a pretty girl from the Canelo High School track team. Canelo being the nearest town over from Rio Frio. Picture her with long curly hair, dark skin, braces, and that endearing awkwardness teenage girls tend to radiate.

Picture 15-year-old Furious thinking to himself, “It’s time. I’ve got to be a man, dammit. If I want a girlfriend, I have to make it happen.”

Picture the Canelo High School girl crawling into a tent with several other young women from Canelo High.

Picture 15-year-old Furious ambling over.

Picture 15-year-old Furious sticking his head in the tent and saying:

“So, uh, is this the fine girls’ tent.”

Oh god.

The looks on those poor girls’ faces. Picture them. Sheer horror and embarassment.

Sheer drowning.

The silence that hung in the air was heavy and thick, suffocating, as if everyone involved had suddenly been caught up in a sudden and catastrophic avalanche of silence, and not a single one had a plan out.

…Twenty years on and Manny Furious still loses sleep over that one, occasionally.

Duck Calling….

Lone Wolf once saw on TV a man with a tattoo that said, “Playing it safe kills your soul.” The man was good looking, well-built, adventurous. Lone Wolf figured the man probably had little trouble getting laid so he immediately came to idolize the man. He took the message of the tattoo to heart.

When he was 18 he decided to stop playing it safe and shrugged and bragged his way into a marriage with the felonious stripper Dee Lite. Dee Lite was in her early-40s, and had spent a dozen years in prison at various points in her life for any and every felony you can think of: larceny, breaking and entering, DUI, drug possession and intent to distribute, domestic violence, attempted murder, leashing an alligator to a fire hydrant within the Rio Frio city limits, etc. Lone Wolf was 17 when they met and started dating. They married six months later when Lone Wolf had managed to procure a fake ID that stated he had turned 18, and they immediately began having kids. When Furious had left Rio Frio two years after the wedding, Lone Wolf and Dee Lite had already had two kids, both boys, both of whom were named “Lone Wolf.”

Upon Manny Furious’s return to Rio Frio, El Crow told him that Lone Wolf and Dee Lite had remained married for seven more years and Dee Lite had, with the help of various fertility treatments and chemicals, popped out another five kids, including three girls, all five of whom were named, “Lone Wolf.” After the last Lone Wolf was born, Dee Lite left Lone Wolf for Lone Wolf’s father, the world-renowned Jazz xylophonist, Nico Cornelio. They’ve been together ever since.

When Manny Furious asked Lone Wolf how he felt about the whole situation he shrugged in a manner that suggested he was trying to say he didn’t care. But he was always a terrible liar and Manny Furious knew the shrug really meant he was one rude supermarket cashier away from diving throat-first onto a rusted bone saw.

Just then, Lone Wolf’s cell phone rang (no one could ever figure out why he had one). He answered and it was Nico Cornelio asking if Lone Wolf would be at work the next morning.

“He works as an engineer in Nico’s recording studio,” El Crow clarified.

Manny Furious nodded.

Lone Wolf shrugged and mumbled something that might have been, “bye” and then Furious could hear Nico tell him that Dee Lite was going to make a big breakfast before work and they’d make sure to leave him some if he were running late.

The whole thing was beyond bizarre.

“This whole thing is beyond bizarre,” Furious whispered to El Crow.

“Don’t do that, Furious.”

“Don’t do what?”

“Don’t judge. It takes all kinds, Furious.”

“I’m not judging.”

“You just said it was bizarre.”

“Because it is.”

“That’s judging.”

“Calling a duck a duck is not judging. It’s calling something what society generally accepts and expects it to be called.”

“That’s mob-rule, Furious.”

“Or Democracy.”

Lone Wolfe shrugged in a way that meant, “Quack.”

Manny Furious just shrugged.

Tunguskan Death Rays….

Somehow they all got invited to a party.

Well, Manny Furious had gotten invited to a party, by some people at work. And somehow, he had managed to get El Crow, Pedolo, Lone Wolf and Fat Milo all into the same party without the cops or a hazmat unit being called.

There was something to be said about the way each man had been dressed. Furious wore a straw fedora like something a sell-out, elevator jazz musician might wear, and a white Hawaiian shirt with orange flowers, and light blue “skinny” chinos. While not anyone’s definition of “dapper” there was a strategy behind the ensemble. He picked the shirt because it emphasized the parts of his physique he liked best—namely his shoulders, chest and back. And he picked the thin-fitting pants thinking doing so might underscore the curvature of his ass. He wore the hat because he’s a fucking dork.

Fat Milo, on the other hand, was truly dapper. He wore a classic black suit, with a classic black tie and a pair of black Ray-Bans. Everything was tailored. He had a white handkerchief that stuck out like a pet mouse barely hidden in the suit jacket. Remnants of his musk-scented cologne settled all throughout the house party, often confusing Furious and the others, letting them thing they had smelled him nearby, when he was actually nowhere to be found.

Lone Wolf wore a torn Korn t-shirt, cargo shorts with paint on them and a page-boy hat.

Pedolo wore 15-year-old JNCO jeans and a Sailor Moon t-shirt.

El Crow had on a light blue Legend of Zelda baseball t-shirt and jeans.

While preparing for the party at El Crow’s one bedroom house, Fat Milo had made fun of El Crow’s gettup, and El Crow had responded by throwing down a wager. El Crow had bet Fat Milo that he, El Crow, would meet someone at the party and end the evening at her place, and that he, Fat Milo, would leave the party with two empty arms.

“It takes an Alpha to support the weight of a woman on his arms,” El Crow insisted. “And even though you’re fat, you’ve got Beta arms. Even if for some stupid reason a dame would want to leave the party with you, she’d soon realize you were incapable of providing what she needed.”

It should be noted that Fat Milo is referred to as such because he used to be notably underweight, is now, currently, slightly overweight, and not because he is currently notably overweight, which he isn’t. And that El Crow visibly outweighs Fat Milo by almost 100 pounds.

Meanwhile, for the first two hours after arriving at the party, which was being held in some Doctor’s Spanish-style rancher, Fat Milo, El Crow and the others had spent the entire time huddled together in some lonely corner of the living room, trying to convince themselves that the party and all its attendants were lame.

Finally, the faintest of tickles fluttered in the deepest recesses of El Crow’s mind, and for the briefest of moments he began to realize that he was the lame one, and he was overcome with a kind of inarticulate, inconsolable anxiety. So he took a step away from the huddle of outcasts and said, “Fuck this. I have a bet to win,” referring to the wager he had made with Fat Milo.

He slammed his empty Bud Light can on the table and walked up to the nearest blonde he could find. She was in the middle of a conversation of some sort with two other women—all of them drinking some kind of green and blue radioactive mist out of tall glasses–  but El Crow didn’t seem to notice or mind. He just jumped right in and interrupted.

“Pardon me,” he said, speaking only to the blonde. “Have you ever heard of the Tunguska Blast of 1908? It was a massive explosion above the skies of Siberia. It destroyed 830 square miles of forest. Some people say it was a comet that exploded before it hit the ground, but the author slash philosopher slash prophet Artemis Magnussen has incontrovertible evidence that it was the work of a cross-dimensional death ray being activated by a rogue group of insectoids trying to exert their superior technological firepower over the Terran Overlords here on Earth.”

The blonde girl stared at him severely, as though he were a comet of cringe that was on the verge of exploding all through the party, and she was hoping he would do so before hitting the ground.

El Crow, waited an awkward moment, cleared his throat and continued: “Anyhow, even the power of that cross-dimensional death-ray couldn’t match the heat you’re producing tonight.”

Now,  it is an acknowledged fact that one of the symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder—in fact, the most merciful of symptoms—is the loss of memory of traumatic events. And so, what happened after El Crow uttered those most shudder-inducing of words is lost to History for all of time, for the Central Nervous Systems of everyone involved in the incident, and everyone who witnessed it, took pity on the collective, and the memory of the trauma has been collectively wiped from the memories of everyone within a six-block radius.

An Ode to his mirror at 6:13 in the morning Manny Furious once wrote….

Behold! The blazing faces.

Dozens. Hundreds. Tight with disappointment. Drooping

with frustrations.

Red with greed. Cornered with regret.

Angry faces.

Rushed faces.

Faces full of angst and existential knots.

Sex!

Money!

Power!

Chasing, grabbing, clutching. Faces swimming against

the proverbial current.

WHY!?

Where are you going?

What is so important?

Why are you in such a hurry to die?

What are you lacking at this moment?

Right now.

Where are the faces of freedom

joy

love

content

patience?

…Oh, there they are.

The “Second” time Manny Furious saw Lemon Crush….

Thinktoomuch was friends with Captain Colt Crush of the Rio Frio Police Department. This connection is how Manny Furious came to see Lemon Crush for the second time, seeing as how Captain Colt Crush was Lemon Crush’s husband.

In literal terms, this wasn’t really the second time Furious had seen Lemon. They passed each other in the halls at work almost every day. It’s just that Furious essentially had a sixth sense for her presence, and when he felt it getting near, he would angle himself as best he could from out of her eyesight. If they were in the halls, he would take out his cell phone, hold it up to his nose, twist toward the nearest wall and basically slither down the hall until she past.

Sometimes they would spot each other outside, as he was walking to his car and she was out in the parking lot, smoking. Furious hated those times, because he was generally to distracted by thoughts of where he was going that his sixth sense wouldn’t pick up on her impending presence until it was too late. At those times, his relaxed, free and easy jaunt of a walk would turn self-conscious and stiff, and he swore he could hear his joints creaking with every step, and he would give a severe smile and a heavy nod. She would smile freely and say hello, which had an effect on Furious’s central nervous system something like trying to light a candle with a nuclear bomb. He would try to say hello back, or “how you doing” or “how’s it going” and all that would find it’s way from his tongue was a barely mumbled groan. He literally choked on it on several occasions, and he always felt like the moron he was for hours after these much-too-frequent-for-his-taste run-ins.

Anyhow, Thinktoomuch had a party. He thought it would be the best way to make friends who weren’t Manny Furious, El Crow, Pedolo or Lone Wolfe.

“I’ll offer lots of alcohol,” he stated plainly. “And hamburgers. But what if some of the people who show who are vegetarians? Ah, who gives a fuck? Vegetarians need to get a life? As do teetotalers? Who wants friends like that anyway? I mean, they can be vegetarians or whatever, but don’t expect me to just drop my life to adjust to yours. I don’t have to be uncomfortable to make other people comfortable. Right? Let me think about this.”

When the party finally came, Furious sat at the other end of Thinktoomuch’s back yard, at a table with the ethnically ambiguous, Mario Suazo, who was in his mid-40s wearing a Slayer t-shirt and a Slipknot choker, and showing Furious all the snapchats he was exchanging with girls who had graduated from high school two weeks prior.

Furious and Lemon exchanged a handful of glances, but Captain Colt Crush was there, and he was her husband, so what more was Furious supposed to think about any of this? He was a master of torturing himself with romantic thoughts of unattainable women. And he was trying to put a stop to that sort of thing.

But this was the second time he really saw her. He hadn’t expected her to be there, at the party, so he was wearing a short-brimmed straw fedora and swimming trunks, because “it’s summer.” But if he had known she would be there, he would’ve dressed a little less like himself.

The day, and the party, came and went. There was nothing notable about it, except for the aforementioned fact that it was the second time he had seen Lemon Crush. And, I suppose, it was notable for the fact that that was the first time he had met and seen Captain Colt Crush, who, no joke, made everyone complete roadside sobriety tests before allowing them to drive home.

The days at work went on as typical for the next several months, with Furious’s sixth sense mostly being successful in informing him when Lemon was around, so that he could continue to react by being dumb and awkward.  

Dizzy Tongues….

The doctor didn’t look like a doctor. He was kind of short, kind of thin, and he had the complexion of a 16-year-old. He must’ve been fresh out of med school. Though he had certainly seen more than you or I, as far as all the myriad crazy-ass things a typical doctor sees, he probably hadn’t seen much yet.

And so he gazed upon Manny Furious’s shoulder as it dangled disinterestedly from it’s home socket. And he frowned.

“What did you tell the nurse happened here?”

“Well,” Furious began. “I got out of the shower this morning. And I was going to wear this blue button-up with a blue and gold tie, because I wanted to walk into Starbucks before work–“

“Uh-huh.”

“And there’s this barista there, Gabrielle, she’s so cute, Doc. Like my tongue gets dizzy and my words can’t keep their balance–“

“Right.”

“And so I like to walk in there before work with a tie on, so I look really important and stuff.”

“Ok.”

“And, but, when I wear a button-up like that, they’re really uncomfortable. So I wear an undershirt. Well, as I got out of the shower this morning, I didn’t really dry off so good and I put undershirt on when I was still wet–“

“Sure.”

“But I realized I put it on backwards. So I had to take it off to put it on right, but it was all stuck to my back. Like it was just sucking at my back like a goddamned octupus or something. So I had to wrestle the fucker off. So I’m twisting and grasping, and this damned shirt just won’t budge. It’s suctioned to my back. So at this point I’m just manic. I’m frustrated beyond all get out–“

“Of course.”

“So I don’t even care if I rip it. I want to rip it off. I just want it off of me. But it won’t come off. Meanwhile, in the course of trying to get it off, I’m twisted up in some indescribable position, my arms looking like a gnarled lump of spaghetti, and I hear this sound like a shotgun blast. It echoed and everything, doc, I swear.”

“Makes sense.”

“And it took a moment. I had to take a moment to figure out what was going on. And I look in the mirror, and I’m blowing air like I just survived a street fight, and there’s my arm, looking like it was drawn on by a drowsy kindergartner.”

“Jesus.”

“And here I am.”

“You went to Starbucks before coming here, I see,” said the Doc.

Furious took a sip of his very masculine “Pink Drink” from Starbucks.

“Indeed. It was too romantic, doc. Van Gogh had his ear. I had my shoulder.”

“And what did Giselle think of all of this? Did she find it romantic?”

“I don’t know. She wasn’t working today.”