Saturday, September 9, 2017

On Getting Ready for the Flood

     The end of the world is coming and her name is Irma!
    One of the most destructive hurricanes ever recorded (or possibly the most destructive) has hit the country and it is rapidly churning my way. There seems little doubt it will hit my neck of the woods. It has destroyed several islands (literally wiped them off the map), caused millions in property damage, killed a bunch of people, and has the survivors scrambling to pick up whatever’s left. And still for some reason, I’m dragging my feet about getting disaster supplies.
    As some of you may recall last year I was faced with a similar situation where the flooding of the city was ridiculous and I hadn’t bothered to plan ahead.  I still defend my lackidaziness then, there had been so many false alarms up until then, I figured the actual storm was just one more time “Crying wolf”.
    But now it is a credible threat. The beast has risen. A flood of biblical proportions threatens. And yet I still can’t get off my ass to get things together. As I cast a lazy eye over my unkempt apartment, eating all of the non-perishable foods like I shouldn’t be, I notice all sorts of things I need: crackers, water, toilet paper, some other food that’s nonperishable- whatever it might be, I’m blanking at the moment- wooden matches, candles, toilet paper, candy, thick woolen socks, and so on.
    Luckily I have a girlfriend to nag the shit out of me and spur me into action in order to cease her cackling.
    Rex, we need the fooooood!
    Rex, did you get batteries?”
    Rex, are you going to crush this pussy before we all drown? Well, are you?”
    These little interplays reinforce the basic dynamics of our relationship, of many American male-female relationships in general. While it was perfectly possible for her to go and stock up on food before the inevitable deluge, she viewed it as her job to kick me until I did it. As if she was supervising the management of our house. As if the place that I pay for was somehow under her control. As if my agency were somehow diminished when she was issuing orders, and her agency was limited to only issuing said orders.
    So what happened?
    I got the goddamn food, what else?
    Did you think I was going to let myself starve in the case of a flood? No amount of power control identity politicking is going to stand in the way of me getting what I need. And I suppose she can eat some of it too.
However, to add a little snuke I primarily stocked up on things she doesn’t like. Bologna, ugh. Pickles, vomit. Cocktail onions, double vomit. Grapes and its elderly cousin raisins, you know those are like just little cubes of sugar and not very nutritious, right. Ha. Score one for me! 
Course, I don’t really like those things either, but that’s beside the point. From a power politics lens of our relationship I had wrested back control. From a feminist perspective, me buying the grapes was the equivalent of blowing a hot load right in her face. An absolute display of my pungent masculinity.
But no, no. These things all pale in the vicious majesty of mother nature’s wrath. Who cares about what squabble emerge between man and women when the planet wants you dead? Let us put all petty aside and help each other, regardless of what the fanatics say.
I stand naked with my woman on our porch, linked hand in hand, watching the dark clouds roll in.

Friday, September 1, 2017

On Staring Up at the Sun

This past week its seems like half of America dropped everything they were doing to gaze at our life giving celestial orb. Being stuck here in Columbia, South Carolina, I found myself accidentally trapped in one of the best places in the country to watch the majesty of the 2017 eclipse, or as the ancients called it, the “moon devouring the sun”.
In ancient times, such an event would call for a massive human sacrifice or a collective public scourging of oneself in penance for the sins of humanity. Nowadays we are more sophisticated. Presently, we run out into the streets to clog up traffic and stare upwards stupidly, all the while gibbering “oooh” and “aaah”. A much more primal ritual, in a sense, than any of the ancients had concocted. The eclipse started at 1:41 on August 21st, 2017, briefly showered us in darkness around 2:35,  and then departed  roughly at 3:15.
And while the experience was fun, watching the sun slowly slip away like an accelerated moon cycle, listening to the crickets flare up in the middle of the day, watching people slowly get holes burned into their eyes. But the real story, my real story, lies in the preparation. As in, what a pain it was to actually get the goddamn glasses!   
Now part of this, okay most of this, was my own fault. In the weeks leading up to the great solar event I was very preoccupied in trying to make it to work on time, finding copies of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and re-arraigning my Fallout 4 settlements (which I spent more time on than cleaning my actual house). And as I never bother with things like the news, I missed completely the impending date of the this celestial event. Despite everyone talking about it at work, despite the growing number of discussions about it on social media, despite Google constantly throwing articles about it in my face, I forgot that it was about to happen.
It wasn't until my girlfriend came and kicked me in the shin, demanding to know how we would celebrate it and that I would have to get some glasses so we wouldn’t have holes burned into our retinas. Nevermind that she could’ve done something, I as the man would handle the situation… somehow.
Upon scouring the local stores, I discovered that every single place had sold out of glasses. After whining to the acne-scarred blimp behind the Walmart counter, she suggested I check out the local libraries as they were rumored to be giving them away free. I went, they were, but they were out. The gaunt sexless librarian stared at me through dead cow eyes and said they could send me a email list of places that were still supplying the needed spectacles. It took them an hour for their fat fingers to push in my email address and hit send. I waited on pins and needles, ready to spring into action the moment it arrived. And when it did, there was only one placed listed. Amazon.
Now let me describe these glasses to you, so you understand my reaction after looking the damn things up. The eclipse glasses frames are from cheap cardboard stock, very similar to what you would find in those old three-d glasses. The lens, instead of one being red and the other blue, were made from a pitch black film, so dark that only the brightest of lights, ie directly from the sun, could penetrate it. But this in itself did not look much different from the old camera film used back in the prehistoric days before digitalization.
These damn things!
So you can imagine my shock when I looked on Amazon and discovered that not only could I not buy individual pairs, the lowest being a block of five, but the whole mess would cost me a whopping $35.99. For essentially comic book X-Ray specs that I would only use for about an hour. But being henpecked as I was, I bit the bullet and ordered a pair.
For a day, all was right with the world. Then I went back on the website to check the order and I discovered the estimated delivery date was Tuesday August 22nd- exactly 24 hours after I would any possible use for them. Turns out that a run on the item was causing shipping delays. Well I helped the company out a little by canceling my order.
Then I had to go back to Amazon and order again. The problem was I had picked the cheapest package before, now I was forced to buy a group of 20 for $79.99. Ridiculous, but it shows the lengths a man will go to shut a woman up. Fine, problem solved. A little expensively, but solved. Right?
Wrong! I’m some of you might be aware of this, but there was a mini-scandal at this time, roughly four days before show time, because it seems many of the glasses peddled on Amazon weren’t up to snuff. And anyone trying to use them, would have neat little blind spots permanently burned into their vision. Very nice. So while I did dodge a bullet, I was left with nothing.
Bummed and upset, I dragged my perpetually squawking significant other, the light of my life, out for a night a sushi and saki- hoping beyond hope that raw fish and rice booze would cushion the blow. We went to nearby Japanese restaurant, noted locally for the lack of any asians working in it. And I was glad that I did, for on the specials board was the Eclipse Roll - Shrimp, avocado, seaweed wrap, topped with roe. Nice, but an order also came with a free pair of eclipse glasses!
Well halle-fucking-lujah. I grabbed the first waiter that glanced in our direction and immediately demanded two of the rolls. Startled, the waiter backed away at my New York brashness, but a further yell from me sent him scurrying for our sets of glasses, while a blonde southern belle wrapped our sushi. I sat back on my now soothed hackles and sighed in relief. I was the man, like the pioneers of old I went out into the freezing cold to chop down redwoods with my bare hands, strangling animal all along the way, to provide for my family. The laurels of godhood would soon be mine.
Then the unthinkable happened. The waiter in his scuttling servility scuttled back up to apologize. Apologize? Apologize for what? Ohhhh, there’s only one goddamn pair of glasses left. Well, how nice. Thank you for the skewer of roasted shrimp to make up for it. Now get out of my sight!
So who got the glasses? Well I offered them to her, on the condition that she was not to speak to of what she gazed upon through those smoky lenses. I could stand not viewing the event, but I wasn’t going to allow it to be rubbed in. In her infinite compassion, she offered to come to my work during the eclipse and we could take turns using them. Good enough.
Well the day came and the city shut down for several hours. My girlfriend appeared at my work and everyone in the building went out into the rapidly darkening day to stare at the sky. As I stepped out into the empty street, someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned and a pair of eclipse glasses were shoved at me.
“What’s this?”
“We bought enough for the whole building awhile ago.” Came the reply, “You didn’t pick up yours.”
“Oh. Thanks.” I should start reading office emails.
“We’ve go a few extras. Do you need one for your girlfriend?”
“No. No. We’ve got that covered.”
I was given a pat on the back. My woman and I gripped hands and looked upwards.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Spider Man on the Electric Company

Spider-Man, where are you coming from?

Spider-Man, nobody knows who you are!

Spider-Man, you've got that Spidey touch

Spider-Man, you are a web-slinging star!

Now this will probably only be remembered by those that grew up in the drug ridden 1970s, but yes Spiderman’s first jaunt out of the comic pages into live theater happened on a kids show called The Electric Company. The Children's Television Workshop, who produced the still famous Sesame Street, wanted a follow up to keep the kids educational market cornered and beat down those bastards at Zoom.
        At first this show was nothing new. Another kids educational show set up with sketch comedy style bits. Basicly it was like Sesame Street without the muppets- so you see the problem. It needed a hook to grab the kids in. And then it found it. SPIDER MAN.
        Hell yeah! When that happened the pre-pubescent me was all over that show. Tuning in every chance I got to catch up on the crime fighting action of our friendly neighborhood web slinger. Twenty nine segments were produced, along with another- presented here with The Blue Beetle. Each has the web slinger fighting against a unique foe and narrated by a cast member, the most famous one being Morgan Freeman, presented in the first two segments Spider Man Meets The Sack, and Spiderman Meets The Spoiler.
        Stay tuned true believers. The style of these sketches were amazing. And as demonstration of lack of budget spurring imagination. No special effects were used, instead comic book panels were peppered through each episode. Also, to encourage kids to actually read, Spider Man's dialogue was supplied as word balloons. These details gave the segments a truly unique look, that are decent even today. No one has ever done Spider Man like this.
        Permission for use of the character was apparently given free of charge, I assumed this allowed Marvel and it’s parent company to have a nice charitable tax write off, as Spider Man at the time was Marvel’s most popular figure and its licensure would have garnered triple digits at the time.
        I enjoy them even now, granted only for a hoaky, look at this weirdness, chuckle. But they were artistic, stylish, and definitely of their time. So enjoy and caveat emptor.
                                               Spider Man Meets the Sack
                                           Spider Man Meets the Spoiler
                                          Spidey Up Against the Wall
                                             Spider Man Meets The Prankster

                                                     Spider Man Vs. The Blue Beetle

Friday, June 23, 2017

Japanese Spiderman: The Greatest Spiderman TV Show Ever!

          This is not to be confused with the Marvel Mangaverse version of Spiderman. This was the 1970s and Marvel, during the comic slump of the time, was looking to expand their properties. They saw that Japanese action cartoons were becoming popular. Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, and Robotech all being prime examples. To grab some of this sweet fruit, they entered into a three year deal with Toei Entertainment, wherein each party could use the other’s characters in whatever way they deemed would work in their perspective markets. 
          Marvel adapted two of the Japanese characters to expand their Shogun Warriors (a sort of early Transformers) comic adaptation. While Toei created Battle Fever J, the Japanese Captain America of all things, an animated TV movie based on Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula comic, and this little gem. 
What did you expect it to look like?

          This isn’t your average spidey story. In fact the only similarities are the costume, some of the powers, and the web. The rest takes a sharp departure. The biggest being…? Well guess. Japan in the 70s making an action show geared towards kids? That has to include giant robots!
          So Spiderman was given the mighty robot Leopardtron to strike against the evils of the world. Not that you would recognize any of the villains. This Spiderman didn’t fight against the Green Goblin, Sandman, or good ol’ Doc Ock. Instead the main villain is Professor Monster and his Iron Cross Army, an alien organization (that looked human) with plans to rule the universe.
          As such with this series we have the monster of the week, or Machine BEMS, created by the Professor, who can change size from very small to huge, necessitating breaking Leopardtron out of storage and blasting it in a Voltron like battle.
          The origin story is as follows: Professional motorcycle racer Takuya Yamashiro sees a spaceship crash land which out pulling some wicked moves. He goes with his father a prominent “space archaeologist” to investigate, but the elder killed in their exploration. The incident also attracts the attention of Professor Monster and his boys, the evil Amazoness, and monster creations, who are on Earth to conquer it.
My favorite still.

          Takurya discovers a dying alien in the ship who bequeaths on him a green lant… oops I mean he discovers the last warrior of the planet Spider, who injects him with his blood, granting the young motorcyclist the powers of a spider- I guess- and the keys to the ship, called the Marveller, which can also transform into the aforementioned giant robot. Just before dying the alien gives the hero a mission: To fight and defeat Professor Monster and his evil Iron Cross Army!

          Now apart from the powers mentioned above the Japanese Spiderman also is granted the GP-7 flying car, complete with missiles and machine guns. The Spider Bracelet, which contains his costume that shoots out over his body as needed, dispenses the webbing he all known, and acts as a homing beacon for his vehicles.
          This series, while goofy, is an incredible amount of fun. Forty one episodes were produced between 1978 and 1979 with excellent titles like “The Hero's Shining Hot Blood”, "Professor Monster's Ultra Poisoning", "To the Flaming Hell: See the Tears of the Snake Woman",  "The Onion Silver Mask and the Boys' Detective Group" and  "From the Unexplored Amazon: Here Comes the Mummified Beautiful Woman". It is recommended that, if you can find a copy, to watch it with a group of pals with plenty of  alcohol.
Too much symbolism?

          I have been unable to find a full copy of an episode. There was a collection released in 2004 for Region 2 only, but you have to get it through Japan or a Taiwanese knockoff. But the soundtrack is available through Amazon Prime streaming if you are interested, it may be worth a listen. Marvel briefly had them streaming from their site, but have taken them down. So I have placed a few clips and Marvel’s official trailer for your gratification.
          Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

                                                   Marvel Trailer
                                                A highlights clip
                          A monster fight scene with Leopardtron
                             Some of the transformations scenes.

                                            The series opening...
                                                          ... and the ending ballad. 


Friday, May 12, 2017

Another Mother's Day Special: Worst Mothers in History II

            Once again time has swung around to the day where people are falling over themselves to give praise to the baby factories that mass produced them. Once more we have people gibbering on about the sacrifices mothers have to give for the sake of their children, as if abortion and adoption did not exist. Once more we have sickening displays of coke addled celebrities and scumbag politicians squirting crocodile tears over the parts attached to the vaginas that shunted them out.
            As I've done before, I’m here to remind you that not all mothers are cast from the same mold. That they aren’t all dripping fonts of kindness and warmth. That some of them are the worst examples of human beings ever to exist. Enjoy!
Belle Guinness and murdered children
Belle Guinness: Lady Bluebeard. Born Brynhild Paulsdatter Størseth in 1859, she was a Norwegian serial killer that emigrated to the United States, changed her name to Belle, and married Mads Ditlev Anton Sorenson. The pair opened a store, which burned down and the insurance company paid up. Her husband and two children (of four) died shortly afterwards- the doctor thought that it might be strychnine poisoning. Of course they were insured. She married again, to Peter Guinness, and moved to LaPorte, Indiana to start a farm. Peter soon died when a sausage grinder accidently fell on his head. Once again the insurance paid up, but not without some close scrutiny. For awhile Belle quit the insurance fraud. That’s when the suitors started. Belle placed lonely hearts ads in newspapers all across the country proclaiming to be looking for love. What she really wanted was a fast payday. They would write back and forth, Belle flirting with them until she could ascertain that the mark had money, then invite him to her farm. One night at her farm would be their last. An estimated thirty to forty men disappeared, only one got away. Eventually suspicion grew and she decided to make a break. She killed a homeless drifter to use as a substitute for her own body and burned down the farm with her children, now numbering three, sleeping in it. She pinned it on a retarded assistant that she occasionally have sex with. She was never caught.
Mary Ann Cotton: The Dark Angel. Born in the North of English, Mary Ann Cotton was another of those female serial killers that whacked people to collect on their insurance. She made her way through three (of four) husbands, eleven (of thirteen) children, and one lover before getting caught. Everyone around this woman kept dying of gastric bypass illnesses. Now while those were common in her age, her score was well above the average. After each death, and once the insurance paid out, she moved to a new city and started the process all over again. The only one to survive was her third husband who, suspicious of her insistence that he get life insurance, did some digging and discovered she had run up considerable debts, stolen money from his bank account, and was having the children pawn the household goods. He tossed her out quickly after that.  Described as having a “cold reserved demeanor”, she did herself no favors by not demonstrating any emotion in the court room, except after being sentenced to death. Being a woman, she expected to be given the “royal clemency” but her sins were too great. She was hanged at the prison. Apparently her neck did not break, due to the shortness of the rope, and she died due to strangulation.
Megan Huntsman: The Secret Strangler. Now we move to the great Mormon state of Utah. Most women kill their children for gain or sympathy (see Munchausen-by-Proxy syndrome). This one is an oddity however as Huntsman killed six out of seven children (the last being a stillbirth), but did not collect insurance and no one seems to have known that she was pregnant.  Directly after birth, the child was either strangled or suffocated. Wrapping their bodies in a towel or a shirt, Huntsman put them in plastic bags and then packed them inside boxes in the garage of her home Salt Lake City home. While this was going on, her husband and their three daughters were unware that she was pregnant, only stating that at times  her weight “fluctuated”. Police were alerted in early 2014 after her, then estranged, husband discovered them while looking for tools in the garage. The actual fathers of the children were unknown, as her husband had been in prison during some of these pregnancies. When pleading guilty she blamed her murders on a meth and alcohol addiction, an abusive marriage, and personal depression. She was given thirty to life.
Deena Schlosser: The Medicated Murderer. Moving from the meth-heads to the actually insane we have this woman, Deena Schlosser. The day after her third daughter was born she attempted suicide. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features and ordered by Child Protective Services to seek treatment and restrained from being alone with her children. Despite taking anti-psychotic drug, she came to believe that the third child was destined to marry Doyle Davidson, a veterinarian who had become the family's pastor at the Water of Life Church. The day before she attacked the baby, Schlosser told her husband that she wanted to give her to Davidson. Later that day he spanked her with a wooden spoon in front of their children to smack the crazies out of her. In retaliation she hacked the arms off of her 8 month old daughter, while leaving the other two unharmed. At her trail everything from religious frenzy to postpartum psychosis was blamed, but the child was still dead, and she was interned at North Texas State Hospital.  Her husband divorced her to regain custody of the rest of their children. She was released in 2008, after only four years inside, then recommitted in 2010. She was put on outpatient care and spotted in 2012 working as a Walmart greeter.
China Arnold: The Baby Roaster.  In 2005, a career felon, China Arnold, was living with her boyfriend Terrell Talley, and while nursing her newborn twenty eight day baby, the pair got into a drunken argument. Terrell apparently felt that the baby didn’t look anything like him and was too light skinned. He then accused her of cheating on him, which China denied. The argument heated up, both screaming at the other, whereupon China yelled, “Fine you don’t want her, I’ll get rid of her” and shoved the baby into the microwave then turned it on. Analysis of the body suggested that the child was in the machine for longer than two minutes. This raised the baby’s internal temperature to a critical level and she died in the hospital the next day. China was arrested, and tried twice. The first was a mistrial, but was  convicted on the next one. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Completely Crappy Toy Commericals from Yesteryear

         First up we have the Swing Wing which was the paraplegic’s answer to the hula hoop. Worn on the head like a beanie, a person swung it round and round their head by jerking their neck. I don’t know why anyone thought this would be fun, it certainly looks more like a chore or punishment. “Be a good boy or I’ll make you use the swing wing for an hour. Then you’ll be sorry.”  Notice the kid in the commercial that tries to walk and use it at the same time, it looks like he has some sort of neurological disorder. This toy appears that it would be better used as a punishment rather than a fun time activity.

            When the Japanese take a property from somewhere else, they always tweak it to bring it more in line with their culture- whether it needs to or not. And when, in 1979, the Toei Company acquired the rights to make a live-action Spiderman TV show they added a few bits for the kids. And what did kids in japan clamor for back then? Giant robots of course! So Spiderman, somehow, got a massive robot to fly about in and pummel things with. It didn’t go entirely to waste in America as several of the robots developed by Toei were recycled into The Shogun Warriors.

            From the good people at Transogram comes a game of strangeness, Monkey’s Uncle. This actually doesn’t look that bad, the smothered eight year old inside of me would’ve leapt right on it. A game that involves screaming, running, tossing things together- I was all about that back then. However how many times can you build a tower with three pegs or make a noise before it gets old? And with all those pieces how long till you lose a few, or all of them, or your retard younger brother shoves one up his nose thus rendering it unclean?
            Well this toy, the Loop-a-Lot, pushes a few buttons. First you have the fake German professor type trying to lure you into his rape van, the two smarmy kids who think they’re oh just so much better than you, and the abused animal zapped into activity by electrodes hidden under its clothing. But putting those aside, I don’t see the appeal of this “game”. You spin the necktie and keep your penny on it. It seems like it would be fun for less time than it took to describe it in this commercial.
Finally we have the Trik Trak. The daredevil simulation plastic stunt car where the pieces don’t fit together- batteries not included. This commercial is so sixties with the poor man’s Phil Silvers in glasses and sweater vest, the buck toothed kid in the Bobby Brady hairdo, and the Batman inspired onomatopoeia title cards when the car slightly knocks over some simulated hollow plastic logs. Another toy that you play with intently for twenty minutes, forget about in the closet for five years, and pull out again only to realize that you’ve lost most of the pieces and the batteries have been cannibalized to run your sister’s transistor radio.   

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Naked Kiss- One of the Best Bad Good Films Ever

          “Film is a battleground. Love, hate, violence, action, death… in a word ‘emotion’.” – Samuel Fuller, writer & director of The Naked Kiss
          A bald prostitute beats her pimp unconscious with a stiletto shoe. That’s what were given in the opening of The Naked Kiss. When we thing of old films we naturally have an idea of a sepia toned wholesomeness or watered down action where a person didn’t bleed after being shot. The bad guys are always bad, the good guys are dove like icons, and never never a hint of sexuality or “gasp” fornication. This film smacks that idea in the nuts
          After the pimp smack down, the protagonist, played by Constance Towers, goes on the road as a traveling prostitute. Eventually she bumps into a small town sheriff who samples her wares, then sends her across the river to the whorehouse in another town as his is a “decent place”. Emotionally at the end of her rope, she decides to quit the life of a hooker and miraculously lands a job as a nurse in charge of the cripple children’s ward. I guess they didn’t need accreditation for nurses back then.

          Well life turns good for the poor hooker and she becomes embroiled in the small town society. Stopping a girl before she starts the life a whore by picking a cat fight with the across-the-river Madame and so on. He then enters into a relationship with the town rich boy, who is best friends with the sheriff. After a dream-like courtship where even Tower’s confession about her hooker can't deter rich boy, the two decide to marry.
          Just before the wedding, she arrives her fiancĂ©’s  mansion, to find him on the verge of molesting a small girl. As he grinningly tries to persuade her to marry him, arguing that she too is a deviant, the only one who can understand him, and that he loves her, Towers kills him by striking him in the head with a phone receiver. Jailed, and under heavy interrogation, she must convince him and the town that she is telling the truth about her pervert beau’s death.

          An odd mixture of sappy and fucked up, tone in The Naked Kiss shifts dramatically from scene to scene. It is inconsistent in its presentation, as if the film is struggling on what it wants to be. From a harsh beginning we believe that we are delving into a sweet faux Cinderella story, only to have that illusion ripped away by a child molestation. I will say though that the actual scene is rather tastefully done, several people I showed it to were confused as to what had actually happened.  
          Mixed in is one of the strangest musical scenes ever shot. In a sense it is a perfect mirror of the rest of the film. None of the kids can actually sing or, more accurately, they sing like untrained kids, badly. When Constance Towers joins, who can sing, the two blend incongruously together. It reminded me of Cop Rock, the two elements did not fit, but makes something truly weird.
                                                      The Children's Song
          When the film is good it is dead on slap-in-the-face “did they really allow this kind of thing back then” good, but it does get bogged down in a sappy undertone that Tower’s character descends into after she decides to give up hooking. The film is then scattered with stock small town oddball “characters”.
          Parts of The Naked Kiss would still be controversial today. I can’t imagine how people reacted to it back then. The full film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Smacked By Life- Short Fiction

       Fifteen year old Spencer Robertson looked into the eyes of his new niece, the daughter of his younger sister, Davea. She had been seduced by a smooth talking wanna-be gangster, ten years her senior. His name was Jobiah, and was easily identifiable by his crooked smile and clover shaped birthmark on his cheek. Everyone knew he was bad news, but Davea was just young enough to be lured in by his bullshit. He had charmed her with cheap booze and cigarettes, making her feel oh-so grown up, then took her virginity and breezed off in the middle of the night, leaving behind two unpleasant surprises. A baby and the HIV virus.
By the time the child was born, Davea was wracked with full blown AIDS. Nowadays she was covered in lesions and barely able to make it to the bathroom, while Jobiah didn’t even feel sick. Their child, mercifully, had been unaffected.
The baby’s eyes looked up at Spencer with an almost alien quality. She couldn’t understand this thing before her and her irises ran over every curve and crevice on Spencer’s face. She was neither happy nor sad, just passive.
For a second Spencer saw in her a being that would hopefully live past him, that would experience life in a way he could never conceive of. Then the moment passed and she reverted back into the creature that he had to occasionally shove food into and, ugh, change her diaper- the worst job of all. The stench of baby shit made him puke each time without fail. He made a vow after each episode that it would be a long time before he had kids, and that he would get his woman to change do the changing.
Of course it would be a long time! He had a life to live, places to go, Crystal to drink, things to have- gold chains, fat rims, a six pack of cars- and all the hot chicks, like you see in the movies, to fuck. He knew he’d get it eventually. He’d seen it happen over and over again on TV. Till then he’d just chill.
As for girls, well, his current girlfriend, Ranisha, was all right. A fat booty. A near flat stomach. But he didn’t like that gap in her teeth and her nose was too wide, plus she got ashy way too easily. She was hot, but not supermodel hot. He’d keep her around for now, but when other boys were around he pretended like he wasn’t with her.
Spencer picked up his backpack and went outside for the bus to take him to school. On the bus he saw Ranisha, but there was no room next to her. He wasn’t unhappy about that because didn’t feel like talking to her anyway, but he gave her a nod as he pushed his way to the middle and sat next to his friend Randle.
Randle was excited about a Youtube video he had seen, where a man gets hit with a car, and played it for Spencer on his smart phone. In it there was an audible crack when the car smacks the man’s leg. The man flips over the hood and must have hit the pavement extremely hard for his head exploded all over the street, looking like a very chunky pool of salsa. Randle loved pictures of death and gore, pulling them in from every sleazy site on the net.
“Look at that shit! Look at that shit!” Randle kept saying.
This wasn’t Spencer’s thing. He could blow away 1,000 aliens a night without blinking, but Randle always took things too far. Still he was a buddy and they looked out for each other, so he put up Randle’s crap. No matter how queasy it made him.
Spencer’s phone buzzed. A text from Ranisha. I got to tell you something. He wanted to ignore it and watch some more Youtube, but then she would be complaining to him the rest of the day. So he typed back, Later at lunch. He was too tired right then to deal with whatever she was going on about.
Spencer had been up all night playing video games and drinking generic cola. Both his parents had to work and, as they couldn’t afford any real care for their daughter, they spent most of their free time making her comfortable. This left no time to handle Spencer apart from yelling an order at him from another room. So his bedtime tended to be whenever he passed out. This made for a lot of groggy mornings.
He slept through most of homeroom, the morning announcements filtering in and out of his dreams. First period was English for which he had to prop his head up, because the teacher Mr. Thies, an old teacher, was uncool like that. Not like the other who let you do what you wanted as long as you were quiet.
The first part of the period was writing down some boring vocab words for next week’s test. They’d been doing this all year and Spencer couldn’t remember a single word from a past test. He’d just look at the list a few seconds before class started and regurgitate back whatever stuck to his brain. Then he’d forget it completely. It was just another thing to get through.
His hand slipped into automatic writing, while his mind wandered onto important things. What was he going to do after school today? What TV shows were on? Did he have enough money to buy some Doritos and a two liter of soda- or would he have to settle for a one liter? Would he be able to sneak Ranisha over during the hour and a half between when his father came home from work and his mother left? How long would it take to get her pants off again? Just enough time probably.
“Are you paying attention to me, Mr. Robertson?”
Spencer snapped up.
“Oh yeah, Mr. Thies.”
“Good.” Mr. Thies sat on the corner of his desk, trying unsuccessfully to look informal. “Now I want to talk to you all about your future…”
Spencer groaned. Here we go again. Another lecture on responsibility, planning for the future, and all that crap. There was one teacher every year that would bang on about it. Usually it was some young bright-eyed female, straight out of college, who tried to “inspire” all of them like some teacher out of a movie. Spencer hated this type because they always talked down to him, like he and his parents were too dumb to know any better. He always ignored them.
They never lasted long anyway. It took the new ones about a year, sometimes only a few months, to be ground down to reality. But the schools Spencer went to ran through teachers like toilet paper, so there was always a new one popping up. Veterans like Mr. Thies should know better.
By now Spencer had heard these lectures so many times that the words just slid through his brain. They became background static while he watched the second hand of the classroom clock tic away to freedom.
Mr. Thies’s perpetually sagging lips stopped moving and Spencer realized that a question had been asked, possibly to him.
“What?” He said sleepily.
“I was just asking Randle here what his plans were after he leaves school.”
“I’m a go home.”
Randle grinned. Acting the fool to confound the teacher was an old game of his, one he played well. Undaunted Mr. Thies continued.
“I mean when you graduate. What are you going to do?”
“Man like I’m be a rap star.” He flashed a gang sign. “I’m be big and have diamonds and Ferraris and shit.”
“And if that doesn’t work out?”
“I guess… I’ll shoot hoops down at the playground until the NBA gives me a contract.”
Now Randle was dead serious.
“I don’t think too many talent scouts hang out at the playground Randle.”
“Man you ain’t seen me! I’m really good. There was this one time when these niggas came up on me and…”
“Don’t you think you should set your sights a little higher?”
“Ain’t nothing higher. They make bank!”
Mr. Thies went around the room asking everyone. The answers were about standard. Football player, basketball player, rap star, movie star, NASCAR driver. One boy wanted to “like make video games and shit.” Aim big! There were a few other choices. Nurse, mechanic, carpenter, pest control specialist, but they were the minority. A number of the girls wanted to be full time mommies, more than you would expect in this day and age. There was barely any mention of college at all.
“What about you Spencer?”
“I dunno.”
On the way to the next class, Spencer spotted Sgt. Dunree in the halls. Sgt. Dunree ran the school’s JROTC program and was friendly with everyone, though Spencer had hear he could be a real jerk when the JROTC were out on the parade ground. Dunree always stuck out because of his army uniform which he wore every day without fail. He looked good in it, smart, sophisticated. The uniform commanded respect. Spencer liked that.
Dunree was talking to a couple of seniors about them enlisting in the army after graduation. He gave them a couple of brochures and added,
“Well think about it.”
The bell was about to ring so the boys had to move on. Dunree had an extra brochure in his hand, when Spencer caught his eye. Dunree didn’t know who he was. Spencer didn’t join JROTC or anything that required him to spend more time at school. But he slapped the paper into Spencer’s hand anyway and clapped him friendly on the shoulder.
“Here you go chief,” he said, “This could be your future.”
Spencer looked over the leaflet in his Math class when he should have been learning the FOIL system. It was glossy, bright. A strong jawed soldier was on the cover, full uniform, weapons locked, staring off proudly at a distant horizon. It looked good to him. His eyes picked up the key words around the photo. Army of One, dignity, honor, travel, great benefits. All that was great, but it was the images that attracted Spencer the most. They were nice and clean and he could see himself in them- fixing a jeep, or calling in reinforcements, or blowing up a bunker filled with terrorists, or holding a hill against an enemy advance.
Maybe this was for him! It was something to think about. To be tucked away and brought out at the end of his time here. After all graduation as years away. Practically all the time in the world.
Spencer missed most of his lunch period, so he didn’t get a chance to see Ranisha. The vice principal had called him into his office to ask Spencer questions about his sister. How was she? Would she be returning to school? If the teachers sent work home would she be able to complete it and send it back? That way she could still graduate. The vice principal tried to display interest and compassion, but it was obvious to Spencer that he didn’t really care. What he was really interested in was the school’s statistics. Spencer had come across the problems in this school, while online while online trying to find out if Mr. Ethel, the librarian, had been in a porno, like the rumors insisted. If his siter died before graduating it would be counted by the state as a dropout in the school. Another black mark against a school that was constantly teetering between “average” and “below average” ratings.
After assuring the vice principal that he’d have his mother call the school, a promise he’d forget five minutes later, Spencer went to the cafeteria just in time to scoop up the last slice of cardboard pizza. While shoveling it down his throat, he looked around but couldn’t see Ranisha. In a school of 1200 students and only three periods for lunch, the noon meal was a big operation, even with a quarter of the students routinely absent each day. The bell rang and he quickly swallowed the last of the crust and trundled off to sleep through his Social Studies class.
Where we u??? Was the text he got from Ranisha later during Chemistry class. Got called 2 office. He sent back. There was a 10 minute pause, then she sent. I’ll come by ur crib ltr.
He smirked. This upped his odds for sex today, oh yeah. Spencer leaned back that wonderful tense joy of anticipation spreading all over him. The day drifted on and Spencer spent most of it in hibernation. He took notes when required, but didn’t think about them. It wasn’t until the day was over that he felt alive. When the final bell rang, he nearly jumped for joy, but that wouldn’t look cool.
On the bus he found a seat in front of Ranisha and turned back, winking at her. She looked at him defiant, then looked away. His stomach sank. Was she going to break up with him? How could she do that? Wasn’t he good looking? Wasn’t he cool? Wasn’t he a good lover?
Who was it? Who was she gonna dump him for? Reggie? That thick nigga was always hanging around her, tryin’ to get in there. Reggie talked big, thinking he was so hard. Spencer was gonna bust that motherfucker up the next day in school. He pounded his fist.
At the journey’s end, Spencer was choking back the anger. His brain had clouded over and a red mist spat evil thoughts all through it. He didn’t say a word to her all the way back to the house. At the door, Ranisha stopped him.
“I gotta tell you…”
What? What you gotta say?”
She clammed up immediately. Her gaze turned downward, fuming. His guts churned. She definitely wasn’t in the mood for love. He unlocked the door and entered, not looking behind to see if she followed him in. He went into the kitchen and got himself a glass of water, the only beverage in the house. He didn’t think to get her any, she knew where it was.
Spencer found Ranisha sitting on the couch. He slouched against the doorframe and sipped his drink disdainfully. When it became apparent that she wasn’t going to start talking, he yelled.
“If you just gonna sit there all day then you can get out. If you got something to say, hurry up!”
She looked up at him tear filled, her lips trembling.
“I’m pregnant.”