Category Archives: Stories

The Gift

On the redeye back to the City I wept profusely in the first class bathroom. The stewardess was knocking on the door, begging me to return to my seat. People were complaining.

airtoilet

When I staggered back to coach, I found something tucked into my briefcase under the seat.

It came in a brown paper bag, twisted at the top and tied with a blue ribbon, like it was meant for a special someone. A small envelope stuck out of the bag with my name written on it. I opened the envelope. The card inside read, You forgot this. I opened the bag and found a black DVD case with a blank disk inside. I looked up and down the dark aisle. Nobody was awake. Maybe the gift was meant for somebody else.

I asked the stewardess if she had seen anyone stop by my seat. She didn’t know. Nobody was supposed to be walking around while the fasten seatbelt sign was illuminated. The captain came on the PA system and said we would be going around the storm. There would be a slight delay.

I looked at the disk in my hand. I thought about making an announcement on the PA system. I could wave the disk around like a throwing star to get people’s attention. I might break it in half, wield the sharp edge as a weapon and threaten to take everyone in first class hostage.

A week ago, Laurie had rented a cabin on the lake. We spent the whole week without any trouble. It was the first time we were alone together since leaving the City. But after a week, I thought I would be better off without her, and she would be better without me. She cried for a while. When she couldn’t cry anymore, she let me go. I drove straight to the airport and got on the redeye back to the City.

Here I was with this gift. Maybe it was a trap. Maybe Laurie wanted to get back at me. Maybe it was a tape of her having revenge sex with Roy. I wouldn’t have put it past her. I would never put a mysterious blank disk into my own laptop, but I was willing to risk losing my life’s work to find out what it was. I’d insert the disk and press play. Laurie’s face would fill the screen. Laurie would explain how it was she who had planted the gift in my bag. She would explain how she had gotten on the next flight to the City without my knowing. She had put the gift in my briefcase to make sure I didn’t find it before I took off. She had followed me home to save our relationship. She understood me and wanted to be with me. She would wait at my doorstep. She would wait and wait and wait. She would talk me into falling back in love with her. She would beg for forgiveness. She would promise to never see Roy again. She would ask to move in with me. Then she would beckon to me through the screen and stretch her big lips into a smile and say, come hither. It would be so sweet. Then I would eject the disk and laugh and wipe my eyes. In the airport, I would forget about my checked bags, hail a cab and tell the driver, take me home and step on it. I would hang my head out the window like a dog, sniff at the fresh City air and think, It’s finally happening!

I pulled out my laptop. Before I could insert the disk, the stewardess told me to stow my computer. We would be landing soon. When I got off the plane, I found a seat at the arrival gate, hoping to find out what flight she would be on, to stay one step ahead of her, ready for anything. I inserted the disk into my laptop. The disk was scratched.

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Park Slope Food Co-op Nature “Lovers” Winter Outdoor Adventure Tent Fever

This blizzard has been shitting on us for three days straight. We were supposed to go on a week-long adventure hike. We’re trapped now because you thought it would be smart to wait out the weather. We don’t have enough to eat or enough fuel to melt snow, and we are fully at the mercy of this storm. You’re saying this is what adventure is all about. I’m starting to think you’re full of shit.

snowboundtent

I haven’t slept for days. A piece of tent cord has been fluttering against the nylon right next to my head. It’s always early. Too early to fall sleep, too early to wake up. I need to piss. I open the tent flap and find two ice blocks that used to be my hiking boots. I have to go so bad, but we made a pact not to piss in the vestibule. I start the stove in the vestibule to thaw out my boots and make coffee. This requires fifteen minutes of bladder wrenching patience. I’m getting used to the fact that you’re an asshole, and your plan to bring minimal food to go light and fast was really a plan to starve me to death.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The boots are taking too long. I really have to go, so I muscle them onto my feet and trudge into the whiteout to dig a cat-hole. I crouch over the hole and look out like an animal watching forpredators. Actually, I’m making sure you don’t come up behind me to tell me to dig a deeper cat-hole. I don’t give a shit. I can’t see shit. Everything is so white. It’s like illuminated darkness. I feel like I’m in the matrix, when they delete everything. Every fluttering snowflake is unique, just like people, but there’s got to be one asshole snowflake that’s just like you. I feel like I should record these brilliant observations in my journal. But I don’t have my journal. You didn’t let me bring my journal. It weighs too much. You know what—you weigh too much.

fathiker

I retrace my tracks back to the tent and notice the snow has piled up above the air vents on the tent. I dig out the air vents with my fair-weather gloves so you won’t suffocate. My hands are so cold I have to jam them down my pants. You’re welcome.

I hear you snoring in there like you’re getting the best sleep of your life. You better be dreaming something interesting and better not forget it when you wake up. I hope you’re dreaming about being force-fed overcooked non-organic beef, or getting exiled from your yoga instructor’s yoga social potluck brunch gathering. We desperately need something to talk about. I’m losing it. I’m turning into an evil robot.

callista-gingrich

You should wake up already. We have a lot of absolutely nothing to do today. Actually, maybe you should sleep. Sleep all you want. Let me handle this catastrophe myself. Let me do all the maintenance around camp. Let me wait for the weather to change. I’ll keep the snow from building up and suffocating us. I’ll dig the tent out every three hours—no problem. I’ll clean the dishes from your shitty macaroni dinner last night. I’ll do the cooking. I’ll make food for you and let it get cold and then heat it up for you when you’re ready. Let me deal with survival on my own. Let me weigh the options of staying put or trying to move down the valley to lower elevation. Let me worry about it all day. Let me sit with nothing but my thoughts. I’m so glad we didn’t bring anything to read. You were right. It was totally not worth carrying the extra weight. I’m so bored I want to gouge my eyes out. I’ve read the tent instructions sheet twenty times. Wait why did you insist on leaving my book behind? I was half way through War and Peace and you said it was too much weight? That’s ridiculous. I would have happily carried the extra 2 pounds. Are your leg muscles that sensitive? Were you planning on sleeping so much you wouldn’t have time to read? Not even a magazine? A pamphlet? My vision is getting spotty. My eyeballs feel like eggs. I want a fried egg so badly right now.

friedegg

I crawl back in my sleeping bag. I try to meditate. I hate meditating. All you ever talk about is meditation. All you do is meditate when we’re not hiking. I came on this trip with you to learn how to control my anger a little bit, but you haven’t taught me shit. You just sleep all the time. It really pisses me off. I want to slap your smug little sleeping face so hard. Then again, I’m glad you’re not awake. All you ever want to do is talk about your yoga instructor’s yoga social potluck brunch gatherings. All you talk about is how much you want to move back in with all those squatters and thirty-three year old potheads who are allergic to soap. All you talk about is vegan politics. I voted for Gore and Kerry and Obama, but having met you, I honestly wish I had voted for Newt Gingrich. I would rather be married to Newt Gingrich than be here right now.

newt_gingrich_and wife

The wind won’t stop whistling. Three-days-straight. And you haven’t helped. All you’ve talked about is global warming, global warming. How does this blizzard have anything to do with global warming? You better wake up fast and explain this stupid weather to me before I lose my shit. Actually, you should sleep. I’m glad you’re asleep. I’d rather mentally annihilate your non-responsive smug little sleeping face.

I will never go hiking with you again. I will never bring tofu casserole to your yoga instructor’s yoga social potluck brunch gathering ever again. I will never use the word sustainable ever again. I will never eat a vegetable ever again. I want eggs on eggs on eggs. I want to slaughter a chicken with my bare hands. I want to join a mixed martial arts gym. I want to drive a huge truck and tail gate every single Prius in America. I’m going to vote for Newt Gingrich if he ever runs for political office of any kind ever again. I hate of this tent. I hate shoveling snow off our tent so we don’t suffocate. I hate survival. I’m going to hike out of here without you. I don’t even care anymore. You can suffocate. I’m out of here.

guyintent

Oh, hey babe, did you sleep okay?

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Penguin vs. Albatross

We sat together at the stern of a ship ferrying us into the Magellan Strait. Clouds swept across the sky by the broom of God. We were going to see the penguins. I was here to write an article about Magellan for an explorers blog. Magellan, also known as the Paranoid Portuguese, feared that the indigenous people who lived in this rugged landscape would overrun his crew. He preferred the docile, God fearing indigenes. But these mysterious people had no religion or concept of God. According to a regional museum pamphlet, they mostly foraged for food because they considered fish untouchable, vile creatures. They were godless and all alone in this strangely quiet, windy place, at the end of the world. Until the other hemisphere arrived.

Death Of Magellan

I had been in India just weeks before. In my parka I carried a Swiss canteen filled with whiskey. The whiskey warmed our stomachs. We sipped back and forth, and you lectured to the wind on quantum mechanics. I told you about my new religious beliefs, which I never fully understood. I was losing the urge to tell people about India. We watched the birds instead. You identified a Wandering Albatross gliding in beautiful figure-eight patterns across the stern of the ship, swooping down and dipping the tips of its long wings into the water.

wanderingalbatross

The penguins lived on a tiny, barren, bird-shitty island, which we circumnavigated in an hour. After the albatross, the penguins seemed short and stubby. You disagreed. The penguins weren’t afraid of humans and walked right up to us and pecked at our boots, which unnerved me. I generally preferred animals with a primal fear of humans. The penguins  sized us up in our yellow parkas as you clucked and kissed at them. I tried to pet one, and it scuttled away all pissed off. You loved the penguins so much we almost missed the ferry back to town.

islamagdalenapenguins

On the way back, I said if I were a bird I would be an albatross. The albatross is a masterful flyer—a great artist.

You said you identified with the penguins, but albatrosses were great too.

His whole life is a long journey, I said. He will circumnavigate the world ten times, riding the trade winds, soaring over the open ocean.

You said that sounded lonely.

I agreed it would be pretty lonely. But if I flew for a living, I would be an albatross.

You said you would be a penguin. Penguins mate for life.

That night I dreamt about mating with you for the rest of my life on a shitty little island. Next morning, I called home and covered my mouth as I whispered into the receiver that I was never coming back.

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Chaim Witz Files A Complaint

You might think this a no-brainer but my tongue is really tired. I can hardly form a sentence much less enunciate a lyric about how I want to rock and roll a lot, like all night for instance. You people—ladies—take that line way too seriously, seriously. I love rocking out and rolling around, but give me a break. Everything is taken so literally these days. What you’re probably thinking when I sing about wanting to stay up all night long and then wag my tongue for a few bars of deep, body-penetrating bass—I can’t even imagine. Gross.

genesimmonsbasstongue

Back when I wrote the majority of my musical cannon, back when brown and yellow and fake wood were cool and long hair was rad, back when people made love missionary style because the other two styles hadn’t been invented by me yet, back when nobody painted their face or wore studded leather or platform heels until I solicited three super-cute-cool guys I met at the beach to dress up like I had always really wanted to but had felt self-conscious—like BDSM demons, though I specifically asked them to make their costume-identities less masculine and named them Starchild, Catman, Catwoman and me, the Demon—back when my Dad told me I wasn’t from Long Island but was actually born in Israel and that my real name was  Chaim Witz, I started wearing my hair up in a cute little bun, and music started rolling off the pointy tip of my very average-lengthed tongue.

Kiss1

From then on I started getting mail, telegraphs, packages, phone calls, voice messages, voicemails, text messages, texts, emails, comments, tweets and vines from people asking me if I would use my tongue to service their bodies in every disgusting and perverted way you can imagine. You can’t imagine. It has been awful.

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What’s worse, people have always confused me with other celebrities: Ozzie Osbourne—obi, Patton Oswalt, The Wizard of Oz, Liza Minnelli, Mario Batali, Pavarotti, Boy George—a close friend, and Muammar Gaddafi. But I’m a Jewish Rock Demon, so that last one doesn’t make sense at all. Ghaddafi was all Country Western. Anyway, I’m about to lose my patience with you people. I’m not servicing any of you anymore. I’m tired of being stereotyped, tired of being used, tired of being profiled, tired of being judged, tired of giving and never taking, tired of being your little toy, tired of doing whatever you say, tired of being scared to say no, no matter who you are or how well I know you or how strong you are or how you make me feel inside.

gene_simmons

This isn’t fun anymore. I don’t need this. I don’t need you. I have a band and we’re going to be together forever. Forever. Stop taking my lyrics so literally. I don’t want to stay up all night. And I don’t want to rock or roll past 9:30 on a weeknight. I never have. I never will.

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Entrance

I unlocked the front door and called through the dark, I’m here! The voice that answered belonged to someone I did not expect to be home. I threw my keys on the floor next to my bag and ran up the stairs. In the distance I heard the neighbor’s dog barking himself to sleep. She lay in bed, smiling, looking over the bridge of her glasses.

I thought you were someone else.

Was that George outside? I asked.

She knew nothing and had heard nothing. I grabbed a tuft of her soft hair and pulled her to my lips.

How did you get here so fast?

I don’t know, I said. I’m here, I’m here. I’m here, nowhere else, the only place I could be.

That’s why you’re here?

Yes, I replied, I just told you. Here—right where I should be.

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Morning After

The service is pretty laissez-faire here.

I wouldn’t comment on the servant class.

I’m not trying to make a comment on class.

My book is a class commentary.

I read your book.

Did you like it?

It’s super short, which I like.

I worked on it for five years.

The middle part has a specific ambiguity too it, which I like.

I specified the specifics in the latter chapters.

Your specifics were pretty unspecific.

You can argue specifics without specifying, seriously.

Yeah. These waffles are seriously going on myspace.

waffle instagram

Don’t you have an Instagraham?

Just myspace and AIM.

Tell me more about your book.

I started writing it when I went to Canada to do community service building playgrounds. It’s really a commentary on the socio-economic borders of wealth and the super-rich.

It’s definitely about the super rich.

I should have added some significance toward the end.

Yeah it gets a little insignificant toward the back of the book.

Unconventional-Childrens-Books

I love writing children’s books.

Yeah, I don’t like that as much.

I love how formulaic the writing process is.

The characters have shallow aspirations.

What do you mean?

It’s not realistic. I  read a lot of non-fiction.

But what are aspirations?

The characters aren’t real to me.

No, what does aspirations mean?

I don’t really know.

bad-date

Do you even like children?

I almost expected you to ask that.

You talk about how much you love children in your book.

That’s not what it’s about.

You should write something else, maybe.

I want to write something really significant.

Your book was pretty good.

It wasn’t significant though.

No, it wasn’t significant.

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Fly Fishing on Hawthorne

Keep your eyes on the corners at all times. They’ll catch you in an eddy of strolling weekenders, singling you out, because you’re the one who looks people in the eyes.

They pop up out of nowhere. Once they’ve got your attention, you won’t escape without severely disappointing them or feeling guilty to the point of rethinking your reasons for denying them your attention and sympathy.

Some of them ask for your sympathy, or just a minute of your time. Some beg you to rethink, to care, to make judgment about their causes, their problems, their artistic talent.

You’re walking across the street to buy some pens and paper in “Presents of Mind,” a fancy card store next to Starbucks. There aren’t any stationary stores on Hawthorne, just artisanal card stores. They have ballpoint pens with trees and woodpecker designs, and the only plain paper they sell is Mole Skine. Halfway across, you see one standing on the corner outside Starbucks.

The problem is catching their eye. Try not to make eye contact. Make eye contact no more than once. The second glance is the baiter. Third glance, you’re already reeled in and flopping on the deck as they jab at your ears and pound your head to death with their gimmicks and guilt spears. At that point, you have to fight or wait until it’s all over. You’ve listened to their rap CD, signed their petition, written them a check, and put an angry grin on your face.

canvasser

This guy is good. He has such strong hooking skills, he has himself a fish flopping on his deck as soon as an unassuming loner like you walks by. He catches your eye with a wave.

Excuse me!

Sorry! You shake your head.

I just want to ask you a quick question.

Ok.

Can you count to 30 while listening to my rap CD and tell me—

No. I’m really in a rush.

Where are you headed?

I’m sorry, that’s my business. You look him in the eyes like, don’t make me say it out loud because it’s embarrassing, which is true. No one is ever in a rush to shop at “Presents of Mind.”

So you’re not going to give me the time of day?

No.

You walk three steps away and decide not to go into “Presents of Mind” for obvious reasons.

No one is ever in a rush on Hawthorne. That’s why they’re here. It’s a solicitors spawning ground—a canvasser, busker, artisanal card store swamp. You walk around the corner and loop back around to your car or your bike. Your head wades through a muddy puddle of maybe-I-should-have-said and who-does-he-think-he-is and maybe-he-was-right.

You forget to buy a pen, which you still need, which is why you remember this guy from last weekend when you went to Hawthorne to shop for stationary supplies and now you’re back on Hawthorne on a weekday and there aren’t enough people around to get sucked into their nets, so I’m just saying: keep your eyes on the corners. If you see one, let’s cross the street quickly or both receive important phone calls at the same time or start crying.

No second glances. Look away.

cat busker

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Love, Cats

If you follow my blog, you might have noticed I am a cat lover. My cat sentiments are not simply an infatuation or an obsession. It is a kind of cycle. It’s a trap.

This cat-loving whirlwind began long ago, when I first examined myself in the mirror. First, I was scared. I tried to fight my image, slapping half-heartedly at the body I saw before me.

In time, I grew out of my self-loathing phase. I grew to love my self-image. I stared at myself all morning and all afternoon.

My parents took care of me and I grew old and fat. My life has been wonderful.

I have loved my self and my life ever since I realized how cute and cuddly I really was all along. How can you deny it? I sure can’t.

Now I am bound by this love, by this beautiful animal staring back at me in the mirror. He is so soft, so furry, and so sly. I love him. I love that he is a cat. I love everything about him. But I worry my love is distracting me from the world around me. If I were not so in love with this cat, I might find time to get rid of my housemate, George.

George is a problem. George hates cats. He hates me. I hate him because I love cats. George is loyal, but he is an idiot. I want George out of my house. I would knock that loyal smirk off his face if I could. That would be awesome.

I would do anything to get rid of George, but alas I am caught in this cycle of self-loving. It would be impossible to motivate myself to do anything about George.

George will have to stay. Maybe I will leave. Maybe later—tomorrow. Maybe not.

I’m in a real bind. Any suggestions?

Love,

Cats

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Wanted?

Do you have trouble understanding your partner? Does your partner have communication issues? Do you?

Does your partner ever pretend like you don’t exist? When you call your partner by name, in the sweetest voice you can, does your partner come to you? When you touch your partner, do you expect anything in return? Do you ever get anything in return? Are you still cuddling together, or has most of the intimacy tapered off lately? Is there something you need that your partner seems incapable of giving?

Have you been feeding your partner the same food for the past five years?

Do you often leave your partner at home alone all day? Does your partner ignore you when you come home? When you come home, do you ever find the house in a state of disarray? When you ask your partner what happened, do you get a response? Does your partner just sit there and watch you clean the mess all by yourself? Does that make you angry? Does your partner know you get angry or do you hide your emotions from your partner?

Do you ever feel afraid of your partner? Have you been lying awake at night, trying to sort through the arguments you’ve had with your partner? Do you worry your partner might try to hurt you in your sleep? Have you been sleeping with one eye open? How long has this been going on? Have you been developing a deeply rooted hatred for animals? Do you need a break? Have you ever tried to end things? Do you want help? I can help.

Call my office: 1-800-CAT-CALL

If this is an EMERGENCY, call my Cell: 911-CAT-HELP

Sincerely,

Mittens “Mitt” Roflmao

Professional Cat Whisperer

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Deference

I need you to leave.

Why?

I’m going to hurt you.

How?

You don’t need to find out.

Where shall I go?

Anywhere but here.

What if I get lost?

You won’t get lost. There’s a fence.

This place is huge.

I’ll find you.

What should I do?

I don’t know.

When do you want me back?

Take your time.

Did I do something wrong?

Not really.

Are you sure?

You’re stifling me.

What do you mean?

I can’t get through a single page when you’re looking over my shoulder.

But I want to watch and serve and please you.

I’ve had enough.

I’m scared to leave.

I swear, if you don’t leave—

Fine. I’ll leave.

Thank you.

I’m leaving.

Wait—

What?

Turn the page.

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