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No Talking At The Movies

[THE FOLLOWING IS KIND OF SOMEWHAT PARTIALLY BASED ON A TRUE STORY. OR AT LEAST INSPIRED BY ONE.]

DATE WRITTEN: June 23, 2006

***

            Chris Sutter folded his arms across his chest after several minutes of circulating his thumbs. The movie was supposed to start five minutes ago, although there was no real anticipation for it to ever begin. Chris had been to the movies several times already that summer, and he felt like chewing off his hand during every single one of them. Why he kept coming back was a matter of duty. He felt that he owed Craig a summer’s worth of shitty movies in order to receive clemency for a year’s worth of unreturned phone calls and deliberate avoidance. On this particular day, they were to see some action movie. Certainly some robots would be involved, probably from the future. Everything will seem abnormally normal until one of the automatons malfunctions and starts reeking havoc on a city full of innocent civilians. The plot is basically irrelevant. All that matters is that there is a huge, unfathomable explosion every other scene and the audience will applaud the dismal and far-fetched conclusion. Chris loathed the surrealism, but Craig always had an unexplainable attachment to ridiculous concepts.

            They sat near the back of the theatre, listening to the pre-show music selection. Craig was already licking the bottom of his popcorn bowl, while Chris became fixated with the movie theatre trivia that popped up on screen after every few advertisements. He had no personal interest in the trivia itself, in fact, he mostly answered incorrectly. His satisfaction came with the petulant howls he received from random moviegoers when he declared rather exuberantly whether or not he had answered correctly. At that point, Craig had to calm Chris down and sedate him with a mouthful of popcorn and a Cherry Coke that could pass itself off as a miniature wastebasket.

            After attention gradually began diverting itself back to the movie screen, the mood began to sulk. The movie was now eight minutes past its original starting time, and the ever-present tension between Chris, Craig, and the other moviegoers was becoming unbearable. Craig felt the need to initiate conversation, though he’s not necessarily known for having his head completely attached.

            “Do you believe in God?” Craig asked inquisitively.

            Chris’s initial reaction was to spit a mouthful of Cherry Coke into the hair of the gentleman sitting directly in front of him, who was already considering pelting Chris in the chest with a dozen giant hailstones after the aforementioned trivia fiasco. Luckily Chris was able to contain the liquid and furiously struggled to swallow before he dare opened his mouth. His voice split as he muscled out the word, “Why?”

            “Well, ya know. Just because I’m curious,” Craig responded with a hint of integrity befitting for a friend who feels he has the best intentions in mind – the same integrity that earned him an honorary top spot in the legendary throng of pool-farting champions.

            Chris took another sip of his Cherry Coke before attempting to answer. The question is very complex, he thought. It implicates no right or wrong answer, but, of course, Craig is expecting a certain answer, and I have no idea which one he wants. Conflicted and hesitant, Chris began to blow bubbles in his drink.

            “It’s a simple “yes” or “no” question,” Craig reasoned with a certain amount of obnoxiousness that made him seem almost offended by the gap of time Chris had made in pondering an answer. “It’s really not that big of a deal. Are you a Christian or are you not?”

            “Why do I have to be a Christian to believe in God?” Chris retorted, hoping to possibly change the subject and avoid having to answer Craig’s question at all.

            “You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in God, but, what I’m asking you is – do you believe in the Christian God?

            “It depends,” Chris finally answered.

            “Depends how?”

            “Depends on the answer you want to hear.”

            “What? I can’t answer the question for you, Chris.”

            “I’m not asking you to. Just tell me the answer you would like me to give you.”

            “Damn it, Chris! Just answer the question!” Craig shouted. He noticed his sudden rise in tone and brought his voice down to almost a whisper. “Do you believe in God or not?”

            “Sometimes,” Chris responded.

            “How can you believe in God sometimes?” Craig asked inquiringly.

            “When I’m around Christians, I believe in God; when I’m around non-Christians, I don’t believe in God,” Chris answered very modestly. 

            “You’re a real crack, you know that,” Craig replied glumly. “I ask you a serious question, and you go and make a big joke out of it.”

            “But I’m completely serious,” Chris responded. “When I go to church on Sunday, I love God. I pray and go to Sunday school and laugh at jokes during the sermon and sing along during song time. But when I get home, I forget about God unless something bad happens to me. Like yesterday, when I knocked my plate off the table during dinner and got tomato sauce all over the floor. I remembered God then. He made me drop that damn sauce! I mean, He knew I was hungry and thought it would be funny to keep from my table longer. At least He’s good for something – He can be my scapegoat.”

            “That’s terrible,” Craig replied, astounded. “What about all the good God has done for us? He sacrificed His son and gave us eternal life. We don’t even deserve to be here, but He’s letting us live anyway. He gives us purpose. How can you just pretend like none of that even matters?”

            “Actually, I’ve decided that I don’t believe in God right now. Do you think you can ask me those questions again on Sunday?”

            “No,” Craig was flabbergasted. “I want to know right now why you don’t believe in God.”

            “Is it really that big of a deal?”
            “It’s a huge deal!”

            “But before, you said it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

            “Are you kidding? We’re talking about life, Chris – The Life. And The Truth. We’re talking about giving life purpose. We’re talking about loving the Lord and serving him in all aspects of life and –”

            “Says the man who stole a donut from Jewel just a half an hour ago,” Chris interrupted mockingly.

            Craig’s face turned red.

            Suddenly, there was a loud and vicious feedback that projected from the theatre speakers. A stern and almost mechanical voice sounded and penetrated the entire theatre. The voice said, “We apologize for the long wait. There have been technical inconveniences beyond our control. Thank you for your patience. The film will start now.”

            As the lights dimmed, Craig folded his arms and leaned back in his chair, scowling incessantly. Chris watched the movie intently. As predicted, the plot was ridiculously fantastic and was directed mostly by scenes of large explosions and consistent gunfire. One scene particularly impressive was when, in one gigantic blast, starting from the top, the Eiffel Tower split in half, and then fell on top of the unfortunate Parisians who all spoke English. Every single one of them spoke English! Chris scoffed at the unrealism.

            Once the movie was over, Chris and Craig rushed out of the theatre. It was dark out already, and the moon seemed to spotlight the boys and shadowed their every movement. The town lights were dimmer than usual – almost completely shut down, and the moonlight seemed to reflect off every eye passing by that desolate street.

            On the walk home, Craig was completely flushed. He’d occasionally eye Chris to see if he could find an opening back into their previous conversation, but his eyes always redirected back to the chipped concrete. He felt like a would-be hero who was given a chance to salvage his trembling comrade, but blew it because he wasn’t adequately prepared to fend off the prevailing enemy. Before the night ends, he thought, I have to bring it up again. I have to convince him that he is wrong. He began to bite his bottom lip and pondered ways to recreate and then dominate the previous discussion. Then suddenly, he came up with a brilliant plan. A plan so logical and so rudimentary that he can’t remember why he didn’t think of it before.

            “Chris, you really should consider putting your faith in Christ,” Craig began as subtle as possible.

            “Wow. Very subtle, Craig,” Chris responded irritably.

            “I wasn’t trying to be.”

            “Well good because you weren’t fooling anybody.”

            “What’s the matter with you?” Craig inquired restively. “Why are you so Godless?”

            “I told you already. I’m not Godless. I believe in God just as much as you do, but we believe in two different Gods.”

            “Well please then, enlighten me. What makes your God so different from mine?”

            “Well, first off, my God doesn’t interact with people.” Chris tore a leaf off of a passing tree and began to strip it into several layers. “He recognizes that we’re too different, and that a God of His caliber needn’t contend with such inferior souls.”

            “That’s not true. In The Bible, God said that He made man in his image. It’s right in Genesis. The first couple pages.”

            “Oh, and that’s another thing,” Chris said as he dropped the torn leaf, “My God doesn’t write books. None that He’ll ever let us read anyway. I think He’s kind of withdrawn when it comes to His writing. Not that I’d ever know this because it’s not like He’ll answer my prayers.”

            “Okay, just stop it!” Craig cried out heatedly. “I know you’re full of shit. Please just tell me why you don’t believe in God. My God. The God of the Christian Bible. Jesus Christ our Lord.”

            Chris stared dubiously at the shadows on the ground. As they walked, the shadows seemed to grow more condensed, but never to the point where they disappeared completely. Chris glanced at Craig, who stared back at him peevishly, awaiting a candid response for his already exhausted question. The sarcastic and mordant comments that Chris was able to conjure up so wittingly a few seconds ago couldn’t seem to translate into diplomatic resolutions.

            “Well?” Craig asked impatiently.

            “Well, maybe I just find The Bible to be a little bit too fantastic,” Chris replied hesitantly. “A lot of those stories are very far-fetched.”

            “And that’s the basis of your skepticism?”

            “Basically.”

            “Well, that’s a very ignorant response, I have to say. To doubt that the Creator of the universe couldn’t perform things that are just slightly beyond our comprehension! And that’s it? That’s why you don’t believe in God? And you’re willing to suffer the consequences of eternal damnation based on that? How ridiculous can you be?”

            “Excuse me,” Chris retorted defensively. “I’m not the one who reads a book and believes it’s true because it says so. And I’m not the one who insults his best friend because he believes that his beliefs are superior to mine.”

            “Well, if you would have just answered my question directly in the first place, then I wouldn’t have gotten so upset.”

            “But you still would have attacked me because that’s what your people do. They shove their beliefs down your throat and force you to assimilate every word, regardless of the fact that you’ve already come to your own conclusions about the world, our existence, and whatever else.”

            “That’s not true,” Craig said, much calmer now. “Yes, I would have questioned your beliefs, and I would have tried to prove them wrong in comparison to mine, but I had no desire to get into a bickering match with you. I just wanted to help you. I was once told that if I truly loved a person, I had to at least try and lead them to Christ because there is no greater life than a life in Christ. I just want you to see that.”

            The silence that followed was painstaking. For several minutes, neither of them said a word to each other. The shadows on the ground continued to decrease in size – so small to the point where an ant would hardly be able find room to hide from a blazing Sun. The sidewalk seemed endless and without purpose. The summer breeze was cool and light, and found interest in Chris’s soft, blonde hair that danced back and forth across his forehead. An owl howled in the background, questioning the validity of this particular night. “Who? Who?” It asked. “Who?”

            “Who is this Almighty Father anyway?” Chris asked with impudence, shifting his head from the concrete in order to look Craig in the eye. “This Eternal Good-doer. It never ceases to amaze me how many people put their faith into such a whack job.” He averted his eyes and looked straight ahead. “Death, disease, destruction – and do we pin any of this on God? Of course not. It’s our own fault, and it’s never going to get better.”

            “Some people just need something to believe—“

            “And what about temptation?” Chris interrupted. “It’s never God’s fault that we’re tempted, even though he allows it to happen .We blame the Devil – Satan and his unholy alliance, with nothing better to do than to fuck up our lives.” Chris spewed caustically. “And that’s just the start of it.”

            Craig looked hopelessly on as Chris crucified God for all the angst and pain in the world. With every word, Craig felt more and more distant from his best friend. The worst part of it was, he couldn’t defend it. Craig didn’t agree with a word that was coming out of Chris’s mouth, but he couldn’t retaliate either. He thought about quoting The Bible, but what good would that do? Chris was derailing it, crying foul – condemning it for intentionally misleading millions of brainwashed minions in order to fulfill its fundamental purpose: to squash the Earth like an insignificant, helpless black widow. If Craig was going to offer any sort of defense, he knew it would have to be non-biblical. He would have to conduct more of a spiritual outreach. The Bible was far too big of an issue with Chris, and the poignant criticisms were evidence enough that Craig was going to have to avert from doctrinal teachings and go straight for Chris’s heart.

            Chris paused to catch his breath. This was Craig’s opportune moment to take the offensive, but he couldn’t think of a word to say. So many questions were running through his head, but none of them were connecting with his brain. As he fussed, Chris inhaled.

            “And another thing – what’s with these stories?” Chris continued petulantly. “A guy talking to a burning bush? That’s ridiculous! How could anyone believe that? How could you believe that? And Noah and his stupid ark? How ludicrous! You know, you should really—“ Chris heard a soft murmur from Craig’s lips and stopped. “What did you say?”

            “I said ‘so what?’” Craig replied ingenuously. “So what if those stories are absurd? So what if you think it’s preposterous for someone to believe that Moses talked to God through a burning bush, or that Noah built an ark and repopulated the Earth after the flood.” He suddenly stopped walking. Chris moved forward a couple of steps and then continued back to Craig. As he started back, his shadow increased in size for the first time since they left the theatre. “I don’t find purpose in The Bible.” Craig continued. “The Bible is just a tool – an instruction manual, really. But it isn’t the reason why I believe in God, and it shouldn’t be the reason why you hate Him. I believe in God because I want purpose.” Craig looked up to the sky. “I believe in God because I need assurance that there is more out there than just the pain, the famine, the destruction, and all the things you mentioned before.”

            The delicate summer breeze seemed much cooler than before and the night was at its peak. The sudden and recurring mood swings left the boys exhausted and longing for a place to rest. This quarrel, which started out as a pawn to ward off attention, became a constant struggle to retain normality between two self-assured confidants, neither willing to concede or back down. They began walking again.

            “Maybe you can just believe,” Craig suggested.

            “What do you mean?” Chris asked.

            “I mean – just believe,” Craig repeated with a vigorous determination in his voice. “You can just believe that there is a God. That way – when you die, God will let you into heaven – if there is a heaven, that is. And if there isn’t – well – then you’ll just die like everybody else. But think about it. There’s an advantage when you believe in God; there isn’t one in atheism or whatever you are. You believe people just die, and that may be true – but what if it isn’t? Then you’ll go to hell because you were too stubborn to just believe, even though it’s so simple.” Craig paused, hoping for a response, but Chris didn’t give one. Instead, he continued walking, glancing in every direction that was not in line with Craig’s eyes. Craig grew anxious. “So, what do you think?”

            Chris looked down. “Just believe, huh?”

            “Yes. Just believe.” Craig replied sanguinely. “It’s simple enough, isn’t it?”

            Chris persistently wrestled all urges to look Craig in his eyes. He saw the validity in Craig’s argument, but couldn’t ignore the overwhelming feeling of hesitation that was so intractable. He couldn’t discern any logical reason for his skepticism, but it was there and he couldn’t just disregard it. He formulated a response.

            “Actually, it’s not that simple,” Chris started tentatively. “I mean – you’re right. I have nothing to lose if I do choose to believe in God. If I die with faith and there is a heaven, I'm going to it, and if God doesn't exist, then I just die like everyone else. But believing in God is a choice that you make after looking at the facts. The fact is, I don't believe the Earth was built in 7 days. I don't believe Jonah was swallowed whole by a whale and not digested after 3 days. I don't believe people ever lived to be near a thousand years old. I don't believe that Daniel survived a night in the lion's den unless they found all the lions dead and Daniel severely wounded. I don't believe that David defeated Goliath with one single fling of his slingshot. I don't believe that a bunch of people walking and playing music can knock down the Walls of Jericho,” Chris paused with almost a hint of triumph in his voice. He was finally able to look Craig in his eyes. “Faith in God requires belief in what He says, and I don’t have that.”

            “Okay, okay – I get it,” Craig finally interrupted. “Let’s just kill this horse and get on with our lives.”

            “Agreed,” Chris spat approvingly.

            The summer breeze was cool and soft. The air was so clear that a trail of light could be seen from several blocks away, where two siblings were arguing in the course of a pleasant dinner neither of them wants to eat. The cracks in the cement were filled with numerous minute pebbles, like ants that gather on a hill, crushed, as if stomped on by the sole of a shoe. The boys had finally reached their destination of departure, parting from two separate sides of the road.

            “We’re okay, aren’t we?” Craig suddenly asked. “I mean, this hasn’t ruined anything, right?”

            “I don’t know,” Chris responded dimly. “I hope not. I mean…it probably hasn’t, I don’t think.”

            Craig nodded. He turned and began to walk away. Chris followed suit in the opposite direction. At this point, it seemed that the moon cracked in half in attempt to trail each of the boys home, following their morose footprints. Their shadows were no longer shrinking nor were they growing in size, but, now, they stayed consistently small and slurred. The boys had no definite plans to ever speak to each other again, but the shadow of a fallout was inevitable. They would meet face to face again – at school, with friends, or just walking around – and the awkward tension to follow may be insufferable. And to think, all of this started with a courteous, well-meaning opening to spark conversation in a movie theatre.

Arrows

It doesn't take long
for the road
to flare out—
to expand into long horizons
and then fade away.
And I'm thinking
it's likely
that I'll have to turn
to make it seem like I have
a direction in mind.

And all I do now is
construct roads.
Using cement, or maybe limestone.
Something stronger and more stable
than human arms.

I use flashing neon stars
instead of maps,
because I think it's more poetic
to appease or ignore
promises of a better life
and strum a smiling guitar
to a sea of no one.

And my home reeks of April.
The alcohol stashed
to last week's leftovers,
and the cracks are no longer connecting.
The latter shows:

I chose the road I have,
because I couldn't.
Now look at me.

Razor In The Sky

quietly cutting her gentle
eyes glaring up at the flicker
porcelain enamel when her lips curve up
and arms slouched uselessly at both sides
vibrations crawling from her throat
itching for interpretation
mumbling some meaning in a sea
of bubbly incoherence
wanting that brisk slice
that guillotine of end
the ultimatum i can't come back from
but she's stuck with a weight on her tongue
licking the tiny hairs above her thoughts
where she eyes that razor in the sky
inside of the light, where she knows she's free

The Quiet

The quiet spring silence bells
Could dampness spring a life so well?
The quick exhaustion of a switch
To take a life that won't be missed
Their screams are mine but not these lips

And all I hear is bubbling water
The sun, it shines, but everything is dead
The quiet has such an appeal
With lives so dry, they can't be real
Their blood is mine, but I can never feel

I turn away
My life is empty but so are they
The words they say are words that they don't mean
They'll never know


(July 12, 2006)

The Misanthrope [acrostic]

Population psychosis
Everyone is in love
On highs of imperfection

Passing time
Like fish in a school
Each mind an empty vat

Save for the artist
Under no one's Sun
Can anyone compare or
Know how to live

Old Man and the See

this is a story about an old man who wanted to find the meaning of life so he dug into the ground scratching and scratching at the crumby earth and yelling and screaming at it to explain its existence and all it did was stare with gravel and stone which lie cemented in his wasted old hands and he shook and he shook those hands but still couldnt understand why he was there and why he was old and why there was pain and suffering and foreclosures and gangsta rap music because he realized that nature didnt know any better than he did because nature is stupid and inanimate and unsympathetic and does nothing but perpetually sail through time being forceful and unfeeling and unanswerable and that is why at the end of the day when this man watches the sun set on the cold black earth he takes his time going home because there is nothing there and there is nothing here but cold and rocks and stone all unfeeling and unanswerable. that is the meaning of life.

The Indifferent Ocean

If I look at you a second longer,
I might turn blue, like you
and sink into the blue water.
Just like a wave
crashing down at sea,
the indifferent ocean
doesn't care what my name is
or if I choose to breathe.

“That is it!” I said with a vehement roar that would rival a walloping yelp produced by Howard Dean. “I am done putting up with this futile pursuit of purpose, this quasi-literal simulation of real life. I am paying this university to advance my academic learnings and further develop my life experience, but all I get in exchange for my hard-earned profits is a stiff finger, the median of five, extended highly from the university’s ocean-sized manus.

“The cost of money and stress, on top of the overwhelming workload academically and emotionally, is far too much to bear when attending a university that has no interest in my best interests and offers no definite guarantee of success. Something must be done about this.”

I decidedly went to my academic advisor, who was playing Solitaire on her desktop when I walked into the room. She asked how she could help me, and I told her, “I want things to change. I’m tired of sifting my way through the bureaucratic bullshit of money scheming and exterior polishing. I do not want to take classes that are not worth my while, and I am incredibly exhausted with the careless mistakes of the university heads that the students undoubtedly will have to suffer. I want to begin making decisions for myself, but the university will not allow this. I need help.”

My advisor looked at me dumbfoundedly and said, “These policies exist for a reason, and you are not in a position to change them.” She drew three more cards and frowned. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for you.”

I left her office furiously but not before dropping my English major. I decided that Undeclared was the only acceptable major this university had to offer. None other is more flexible.

Still unsatisfied, I decided to confront the even-higher-ups to see if I could institute some change. I looked up on the Internet the schedule of the next meeting of the Board of Governors and elected to attend.

I was greeted at the meeting by a group of suits with stern, acute looks on their countenances. They went through an entire routine of political mumbo-jumbo that I only half-listened to because the seat was uncomfortable and I was busy rehearsing lines in my head of what I was going to say to them. When the time finally came for questions or concerns regarding the university, I hastily raised my hand.

“Hello. My name is Dan Robaczewski and I am a sophomore here at Truman,” I began. “I am here to tell you that I am unhappy with the way things are handled at this university and would like to hopefully encourage some change.” The suits looked at me aghast with curiosity. I continued, “I am weary of the ridiculous liberal arts mantra and the expectations associated with it. I am tired of the untimely clerical mishaps and the repercussions that the students have to face because of them. I feel like a dastardly drone manipulated into situations and circumstances that are trivial and cruel. There needs to be a change here.” I quietly paused for a response.

One of the suits squinted through his monocle and snorted, “What did he just say?”

Another gazed indifferently at nothing in particular and said, “Something about robots.”

Another looked at her watch lazily and mumbled, “I better not miss The Apprentice for this.”

The level-headed suit that sat in the middle of the succession of suits and clearly had the ability that the other suits lacked to decipher the exact meaning of words stood up and said, “Boy, do you not understand what we’re doing here? This university is meant to treat you as if you were living in the Real World. If you are looking to change the existing policies of the university, then you are going about it all wrong. You will not be able to change anything in the Real World, just as you are not accomplishing anything now by trying to change the natural order of things at this university. Your goal is not to change things for the better, but to manipulate them to your benefit. Do not underestimate the power of the human mind. Because you are here, that is a firm statement that you are just as capable of jumping through hoops as we all are. You have the added benefit of this university, which will teach you how to jump through those hoops effectively and endure when things don’t quite go your way. You have a bright future ahead of you, as long as you learn to play by the rules.”

This was not acceptable. I glared at my adversary, who was grinning smugly and responded, “I am not giving up.”

“Very well,” he said. “But regardless of your goal, we cannot help you. The power lies in the hands of President Dixon. You have probably heard much about her, since she is the president of the university after all. She does not attend these meetings, as you may have noticed, because she does not attend any meetings. She does not have time for meetings because she is too busy involving herself in other things that do not include meetings. Being President is a very important position after all, and that level of importance requires enormous attention to very important matters that do not include frivolous meetings. That is why we – the less important heads – hold frivolous meetings.”

Incredibly perplexed and unable to stand it a second longer, I barged out of the meeting but not before inquiring as to where I might find one Barbara Dixon.

I decided to tackle the problem at the source. I marched to the office of President Barbara Dixon, which was located in a mysterious shed outside of campus, dark and desolate with a large wooden door at the entrance and an unused doggy flap at the bottom. There were no windows. All living things were required to stay at least thirty feet away from the establishment or risk sharp, involuntary spasms, profuse rectal bleeding, and other unusual and unprecedented acts of discomfort. Still, I strutted forward and knocked on the unnaturally hard wooden door, with my fight face intact and a horde of words I was fully prepared to throw her way. I waited awhile for a response, but I heard nothing. I knocked again, this time with much more force, but still, there was nothing. I decided, against my better judgment, to let myself in, unaware of what I might find. I entered a small room, with a large desk of varnished wood positioned in the center and a lifeless lady sitting behind it who was certainly not Barbara Dixon. The lady behind the desk was staring blankly into a computer screen, which wasn’t on, and sorting through piles of papers without looking at them. I decided then to make myself known.

“Hello,” I said assertively. “I am looking for Barbara Dixon.”

The woman’s head shifted abruptly and glared in my direction. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that she was a marionette. She replied very reflexively, “President Dixon is not taking visitors right now, but I will happily take a message.” Her focus shifted back to the computer screen and her pasty hands continued to shuffle through papers.

“This is urgent,” I protested. “I have to talk to Babs now!”

Suddenly, a violent gust of wind filtered through the door behind me, pushing me forward a few steps. The lady’s pale eyes reverted back to me, this time with a much more forceful scowl. Somewhere in the background, a dog was howling. The lady harshly asked me not to refer to President Dixon as Babs. I said, “Fine, but just let me speak with her.”

The lady replied, “President Dixon is not taking visitors right now, but I will happily take a message.”

This dialogue was going nowhere. I glared at the woman behind the desk and my eyes turned to a door located behind her. It was the only other door in the room other than the exit and placed at the heart of the door was a tag that said, “Barbara Dixon, Czar.” I deliberated with myself for a few seconds more and then decidedly pushed past the lady behind the desk and opened the door to Babs’s office.

The door opened to an enormous room dimly lit by a small lamp located on a miniature desk in the center of the room. The desk contained nothing else but the lamp, and behind the desk was an empty chair. The hardwood creaked eerily with each step, and I felt a vile chill shiver gradually from the crown of my vertebra to my pelvis. The room was no so much an office as it was an empty attic.

The wallpaper was perhaps the most peculiar. Dixon’s office was plastered with pictures of university students. Presumably every student who was currently attending the university had a snapshot quartered on her wall. Some of them were highlighted with signifiers, such as a checkmark or an ‘X’ plastered across the students’ face. Others were left alone. Nearly all of them had some form of scribble jotted on the side, such as “Must overcharge tuition,” “Must put arbitrary hold on account for no reason,” and “Must repeal scholarship on account of [UNIDENTIFIED].”

As soon as I began reaching for a minute photograph – a picture of myself – the lady who resembled a marionette grabbed me from behind and, with some impracticable strength, tossed me out of Dixon’s office. She ordered me, by the power of Czar Dixon, to never return.

Revitalized, I phoned the Kirksville Police Department, certain that I had Babs right where I wanted her. I now had legitimate proof that she was deliberately fucking over the students, and I was going to bust her on it. A few squad cars pulled up in no time, and I pointed them into the direction of Dixon’s shed. The coppers approached her office hesitantly. Apparently they were also aware of the peculiar atmosphere and atrocious rumors that were associated with the structure. Hurriedly, they knocked down the door to the building and found Dixon’s mysterious secretary still sitting behind her desk, not flinching a bit at the sudden bombardment of officers infiltrating her boss’s stay. She inquired as to their reason for attending, and they told her that they needed to talk to President Dixon.

“President Dixon is not taking visitors right now, but I will happily take a message.”

The cops broke into Dixon’s office to find a lavishly decorated room, walls adorned with family portraits and honorary degrees from highly prestigious universities. In the center of the room was the same desk as before, but this time, it also contained stacks of papers, filed in manila folders and a picture of Babs with her husband on some beach somewhere when they were younger. There also appeared a decorative chandelier which primarily lit the room, and the hardwood floor no longer creaked with each step. Nothing seemed peculiar to the officers. The room only seemed to be an extensively decorated office.

I sighed in utter disbelief. I had been absent a mere fifteen minutes, and the entire room had gone from an uncanny, stalkerish darkroom to a well-ornamented president’s office. This was not right. I ran ferociously out of the building in an incredible angst. The officers didn’t even attempt to stop me.

Desperately defeated, I no longer knew what to do. I could not drop out of the university; it was too critical to my success. There was nothing I could change. Perhaps the head governor was right. Maybe I just need to learn appropriately how to jump through their hoops. Maybe if I give up, everything will be better.

***

With the flick of a match, I felt more alive than ever. I tossed the fiery morsel onto the gasoline-doused floor of Kirk Memorial and watched it burn. It didn’t take long for the entire building to erupt into flames. The flames carried to the tree branches hovering outside of the ancient building and made their way to Kirk Building. The fire had just begun to generate as Kirk Memorial was reduced to ashes. Kirk Building soon ignited as well and, before long, both buildings no longer existed. Afterwards, I raced further to the south of campus and set fire to MacGruder. The flames eventually reached the labs that held all of the explosive chemicals and MacGruder exploded. The explosion took care of all the surrounding buildings as well, so Violette, Pickler, and the Student Union were all extinct. I was also somehow beyond all reason or logical explanation able to obtain gelignite and was able to detonate it in the heart of Pershing, and so Pershing was reduced to rubble, along with the Grim-Smith Hospital, UCS, the Adair House, and the Fair Apartment Complex. I then took a flamethrower to Ryle and began injecting fantastic round shots to the exterior of the building. The fire created a domino effect and every building from Ryle to OP that extended across that one street were all destroyed. And then, from the McClain Building Parking Lot, I took a Grenade Launcher and blasted the hell out of Centennial. Along with Centennial went West Campus Suites and the previous explosion that destroyed Pickler made its way to Baldwin and effectively crippled both Baldwin and McClain. The only two buildings to survive this cathartic conflagration were Grim Hall, which was protected by the aura of Charlotte, and Barnett, which is insignificant because Barnett isn’t real.

 

The End

Haiku #4

People walking straight
Lines in steady formation
One by one, they crash

The Settler

He agreed to stagger forward
against the violent, elusive,
superficial flak of thoughts.

He, not so much as a cannon
shooting a zealous round shot
cannonball
spanning a multitude of yards
in a matter of seconds
would race,
but more as a sleepwalker--
subtle and unconscious,
faltering,
unaware of the structured path
in the form of a circle
upon which
he had
been walking.

When his eyelids retracted
and he gauged his disposition,
as he had done many times before this,
he witnessed the same, familiar frown
the same batted, weary eyes
the sulking shoulders, the gritted teeth,
legs still trembling in inebriated guilt
for feeling
or lack thereof;
and in fixing his eyes beneath
his hoary, laden feet,
he eyed the spot,
the same perdurable spot,
that he originally
staggered
away from.

Finding the pervading circumstances
overwhelming, invariable,
he unpacked his things,
which consisted of his heart,
his ambition, and a satchel of past
ponderings, hopes, perceptions
and reluctantly settled down
to the same old
grating
unwavering
revolving platform
he is now only too
accustomed to.