Out the Window

20170524 Out the Window.001

My brother fell out the window. I was on the computer. Maybe playing Doom. Maybe researching something on the internet. Probably pulling up chords that could help me to understand the intricacies of certain Phish songs. Probably viewing guitar tablature. My four year old brother fell out the window. I was slow to act. But my ten year old brother was not.

The reason the four year old fell out of the window? He had decided to sit on the window sill.

The intricacies of the Phish song had so entranced me that I could not think to tell my brother, please don’t lean against the screen on the window. Don’t sit on the window sill. Get down. Stand on the floor or sit on the floor or sit on a chair but don’t sit on the window sill and lean against the screen on the window. Anything like that would have helped. But I couldn’t tear myself away.

So the screen on the window popped backwards, like a doggie door. The screen thought it was being helpful. The screen had good intentions, letting the four year old brother just crash backwards out of the house, all the way out of the whole house.

He fell out and we’d heard a popping noise, so we turned to see that he wasn’t there. My ten year old brother jumped through the window after him. Two brothers out the same helpful window. If I had seen both of them go out the window it would have been a great visual. One crashing backwards, another jumping on to the sill and then right through the window. Two humans out the window in such a short span after a long time during which no humans had gone out the window.

Quick thinking on my ten year old brother’s part, since running to the door and then around the side of the house would have taken a lot longer. You might have not realized that the window was on the first story, because I withheld that information on purpose. For reasons of suspense. It was on the first floor, but still pretty high up, because the Amish men who built the house had embedded it into a hill, and the hill slanted away along the side of the house, towards the back. So the bottom of window to top of ground distance was greater than you might first imagine. Sorry to bring the Amish in, but they’re part of the story.

The four year old brother landed in a bush, not flat on the ground. The ten year old brother scooped him up and held him up to the window, and I grabbed the four year old brother under the arms and lifted him back through the window. Alright now, the helpful window thought. So many humans going back and forth. This is definitely more like it, the helpful window thought. The helpful window felt more helpful the more humans passed back and forth through it. Finally, the helpful window thought. We’d always been fine with the window just fulfilling its standard offices—letting sunlight in and keeping wind out. We didn’t know the window had other aspirations, had bigger plans for itself. If its offices had also included not letting preschoolers fall out of the house we’d have been even more pleased, but it seemed unfair to hold the window accountable for that.

I did not pull my ten year old brother back through the window. He had to go around the side of the house and come back in.

The bushes outside had simultaneously helped and not helped. They had kept the four year old brother from smashing into the ground, but they’d scraped him up pretty bad. The four year old brother cried a lot, and we tried to cheer him up. When my ten year old brother got back into the house, we each took an end of the four year old brother. I had his hands, my ten year old brother had his feet. We swung him towards the window and pretended to count, as though on three we’d let him go, back out through the window.

The helpful window got quite excited. But we never threw the four year old out, frustrating that weird old window. Eventually the four year old brother laughed and we put Neosporin on his scratches. Then we picked him up by hands and feet again and pretended to stretch him out, tear him in half.

Watching us, that window really had no idea what was going on.

Out the Window

The Aye Aye’s Middle Finger

In Madagascar, the locals say that if an Aye Aye points that middle finger at you, you are cursed.

I was unaware of the Aye Aye’s middle finger. A weird stick stuck on, joints and bones and a bit of tendon. Do you know what the thin end of a winter dead forsythia wand looks like? That’s a useful analogue for the Aye Aye’s middle finger. Another shrub or tree even has the same color, and the knobby places where the twigs failed even approximate finger joints—but I can’t remember which shrub or tree that might have been, so you’re stuck with the forsythia.

My son already knew about the Aye Aye’s middle finger. He seemed bored by it.

Aye Ayes use their withered stem to tap around a log and look for weak spots where grubs have dug. The animals listen to each tap, hoping for a hollow sound. When they hear a little more nothing coming back to them, they salivate. They chew through the wood, down close to the hollow spot, and then that terrible finger reveals another use. The Aye Aye plunges it in, jabbing at a grub. The finger has a claw on it, a hook to catch something white and slick. The white grub, snared on the dark dead finger, comes free of the wood. The Aye Aye eats.

And I watched all of this on TV and experienced an epiphany on my couch in my living room. I was not prepared to learn about the Aye Aye’s middle finger. “I have never seen anything like that,” I said. And I wasn’t kidding.

The knowledge alone of the Aye Aye’s middle finger is a curse. Bored by it? That’s no response. There’s no way to live a normal life, having witnessed the Aye Aye’s middle finger. You fall slavering on the ground. It’s all over.

The Aye Aye’s Middle Finger

LaLaLand Spoilers Ahead

hey guys do you think that the coffee shop at the end of lalaland was the same coffee shop at the beginning

the one that she worked in at the beginning on the movie lot

and then at the end of the movie she went into a similar coffee shop

im not saying it was the same one for sure

but now

instead of her working at a coffee shop

they were the ones serving her coffee

pretty interesting reversal dont you think

if it is in fact the same shop


also guys i think theres no question that emma stone deserved that award from the academy

ill tell you why i think that

it basically comes down to one scene at the beginning

yeah you know the one

do i even have to say it

the audition

heres why that scene was so great

she cried in the scene

it was very helpful i think to know that she was acting

so having her cry in an audition meant that we had no doubts about whether or not the actor emma stone was pretending to cry

instead of pretending we could also say acting

sometimes i watch a movie and i forget that the actors are just people pretending

but in that scene i was sure she was an actor pretending to cry and that was the clincher for me

give that actor an award for acting because shes definitely acting a whole lot

thats what the voice inside my heart said

thank god that the hearts of so many others also had voices that said the same thing

thank god that emma stone got that award

thank god so much for that


guys i also enjoyed the fact that the characters in the movie did so many things with only the slightest motivations

life is like that

one day you might not care much for jazz

but then the next day you hear a song thats not really jazz and boy does it turn you on to jazz

that happened to me with jalapeno poppers

i had one at a new years eve party and was like no thanks

but then i had them at arbys

oh boy was that ever a conversion moment for me

if youre on the fence about jalapeno poppers i think you should stand up carefully and go get some of those amazing jalapeno poppers at arbys

ive been wanting to talk about jalapeno poppers for awhile and lalaland gave me the courage to do just that

thank you lalaland and the academy

we like you we really like you

thank god for you

LaLaLand Spoilers Ahead


Even though I don’t own a fish, I print off several articles about euthanizing fish.

The articles are all available on the internet for free, but now I have paper copies of them in the real world.

I find this so convenient that I shake my head.

I recommend that you find opportunities in your own life to shake your head in wonder.

If I had the resources at my disposal—a fish suffering needlessly, medical supplies—the way I would euthanize fish would be to inject the fish with an overdose of barbiturates, which is one of the methods recommended in the articles.

My father and mother are veterinarians, so I have often helped euthanize animals with an overdose of barbiturates, so for me this method of euthanizing fish would be like riding a bicycle or putting on an old and forgiving pair of sweatpants.

If you feel strange about me telling you that I have helped euthanize dozens of animals, don’t be mistaken: I’m not bragging.

I didn’t like euthanizing the animals.

It was my job as the son of veterinarians to help kill animals sometimes, and I tried to approach the office with a measure of solemnity.

For instance: if someone mentioned that we were going to “put an animal down” I wouldn’t make a joke about insulting the animal to death.

I showed restraint.

I’m not sure why I’m printing these articles off.

I came across idea of euthanizing fish and found it fascinating, head-shakeable.

I have a hard time identifying with fish.

I feel that I am not alone in this.

I agree that fish are living creatures and don’t deserve to suffer and so give mental assent to the idea that in certain circumstances euthanasia may be called for.

But I have to admit that I find it comical to imagine a human drawing up a large dose of Euthasol in a needle in order to give the gift of eternal rest to a fish.

The human flicks the syringe to get them bubbles out.

Gotta get them bubbles out, because even though you’re putting a living creature to death, you don’t want bubbles.

Embolism is a much worse way to go than your typical death by injection of Euthasol.

The Euthasol in the syringe looks thick and deep and red.

They color it to so that doctors don’t accidentally inject Euthasol in circumstances that don’t require euthanasia.

Then the doctor injects a fish with the deep red fluid in order to put the fish out of its misery.

Except that all fish appear to be miserable all the time.

The only times that I didn’t find the death of animals by euthanasia poignant were the times I worked very hard to deny the poignancy.

Most fish have faces that can only express glum resignation to the misery of their sunless lives.

It hardly needs to be said that having to make an effort to deny the poignancy of an animal’s death by euthanasia reinforces the inherent poignancy of watching a living thing breathe its last.

If we’re going to euthanize miserable fish, I’m worried we won’t know when to stop.

I remember assisting in one euthanasia, maybe a few, and praying for the departing soul of the dog, the way I imagined a Native American would have.

I found myself under the sway of the Michael Mann film Last of the Mohicans during this time.

In particular my sister and I liked Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance.

We liked the way he wiped sweat from his face while talking about Huron raiding parties.

He wiped the sweat away and then looked at the sweat on the meat of his palm.

Now that’s acting.

And now the smooth white sheets of paper run hot into my hands.

Now I have these articles about euthanizing fish as proof of people trying to do the right thing and trying to be good.


Head in a Cooler

The wooden smell of bourbon climbed
up the back of my throat and stopped
sinus high when Brendan said
“there’s a pig’s head in that cooler”

I’d been about to tell the story
of when we turfed a Church of Christ
and then a high school football field
drawing deep brown trenches

“It’s been in there for six days”
His skeptical eyes squeezed tighter
“Maybe ten” the whiskey making
math hard but the decision easy

We walked out into a field
into the dark, up a hill
whose arc carried us out of the world
into a simple black sky

The mud grabbed at my canvas shoes
glad to grip and keep the left one
restitution for the Church of Christ
Brendan unhindered holding the cooler

me still sliding in the mud
like a lobotomized calf
I said “I feel like the amputee
in the hotel hot tub”
not a proverb I ever heard

The top of the hill, the smell clawing
the cooler’s lid, the mud thinking
“I could go for a pig’s head”
The shoe whetted its appetite

Brendan flipped the lid off
and dumped the head into the mud
and we ran from the pursuing smell
the mud eager to keep us back

the smell carried a stone crock
brimming and slopping over the side
full of a kimchi made from sin
made from every last sin

and we didn’t make it
the smell caught us
tore off our arms
scattered us across the field

the smell hangs in the field still
floats diffuse like an amputee
in the hot tub at a Holiday Inn
or Best Western where his feet
and calves have drifted away and might
be found on the ceiling or in the sauna

Head in a Cooler


my daughter and I pass
the back door of the building
cowboy hat man smokes

my daughter’s bag slips
down her shoulder slope a bit
cowboy reaches for her

she hops off the curb
into the still parking lot
zips away from him

her eyes rolling to him
showing off much of their white
the way cows’ eyes roll

cowboy looked at me
laughed like what you gonna do?
what to do, partner?

with his mouth open
I could see his gums hanging
black blanks for fled teeth

I think he reached out
to pull the backpack strap up
her twitchy shoulder

sank away from help
sometimes kindness terrifies us
holy hell they’re awful

the dangling gums of the kind


In the Kitchen in the Morning

My dad had the paper. Shook that paper. Shake, shake. Like let’s get some music from this paper. Show me what this paper can do.

I prayed before I had my cereal. Prayed hard. Each top eyelid crushing each bottom eyelid. Please make me a mutant. I want to be able to infuse objects with kinetic energy so they explode. And have heightened agility. Please, Lord. Even if it’s just agility.

There was a honk outside because my younger sister went with another family to visit the old folk’s home on whatever the day was. She didn’t want to go. The birds in the maples that jerked in the sharp blue sky didn’t care that she didn’t want to go.

“You’re fine. Don’t go downstairs,” my dad said. Yeah, don’t go downstairs. That’s for sure. “You can stay upstairs this time. You don’t have to go downstairs.”

My sister’s mutant ability was old people thought she was a boy.

“Go to Hopewell today,” my dad said to my sister. He stood up. Hopewell was what they called the place people went to settle in to being dead. There they dipped a toe into the Styx, tried it out. My dad put the paper down and went to the door, opened it. Put a hand on my sister’s shoulder and scooted her out the door. “Tomorrow we’re going to the fair.”

I prayed something desperate would happen at the fair and the stress would reveal my abilities.

Last time my sister went to Hopewell, she went downstairs. Downstairs the lights didn’t work. They flickered. It’s where they tossed the people who had walked so far down dementia road that they’d gotten to the place where the pavement becomes chunks becomes gravel becomes spaces between gravel becomes just white space trying on white space. It smelled like urine that far down the road, down the stairs.

“What a nice little boy,” said a woman who wore a dental bib because she couldn’t stop drooling. Kshzzk. Kshzzzzzk. The lights flickering. “I want a hug from the nice little boy,” the woman said.

The CNA with my sister said, “She’ll give you a hug.” She scooted my sister toward the woman, hand on my sister’s shoulder. The drooling woman grabbed my sister and pulled her in. She opened her mouth and bit my sister’s arm. She had no teeth, so as bites go, this wasn’t one. But she clamped, and my sister cried out, pulled away, pushed the woman’s head away with her free hand, and the drooling woman laughed. It was surprising for someone to intend to bite you, and try to, and then laugh about it. What a surprise for my sister.

My sister going to Hopewell again, I crunched my cereal between my teeth. I looked down at my shorts. They were long, sort of billowy, gray with darker gray splotches, a drawstring. Not bad, I thought. Good for free movement. The shorts themselves heightened my agility.

My dad shook that paper. The corn husk pages slapped against each other, dry and crisp.

“Let’s see what the carnies are up to,” he said. The crime blotter got good with the fair in town.

I prayed for a more stressful breakfast, one that would help me express hidden abilities. The chirping birds outside failed me. When I poured them, the cornflakes sounded like dehydrated coins in the bowl. Did they smell like urine? Maybe. Something tangy in the smell of cornflakes. I’ve tried to figure that out. I still don’t know.

My dad’s mutant ability was to never have to lick his finger to turn the page.

In the Kitchen in the Morning

Speedy Gonzales in Decline

Speedy walks through
the streets of the city,
yesterday’s heat still echoing
in the round smooth houses
ready for the slanted sun,
as he remembers being fast.

Up ahead he sees a crow
perched on the curb.
He turns down an alley.

A woman leans out of a window
and in the glowing hands she extends
out into the air

she holds a mousetrap.
The metal arm and balsa plank
clench against a body.

She lifts the arm, the body drops
into the street.
Too small to splat or thud
it makes a blurrier sound
we don’t have a word for.

Speedy tells himself not to look
and has this thought:
“Why’d they put so much savor
in the unsavory?”

He thinks about how long
he stands at the traps
smooth round squares of cheese
and how it feels—
a newer feeling for him—
to want something
he can’t have.

Speedy Gonzales in Decline

Thirty Minutes After I Placed the Order

the pizza deliver boy
arrived with two pizzas.
I showed him my gun
explained why he couldn’t leave.

He seemed relieved and asked
should he put his hands
behind his head or anything?

I looked at Corinne
the humor of this guy thinking
I stood on that kind of ceremony
her face beautiful
even when glowing hatred.

The pizza delivery guy asked
Continue reading “Thirty Minutes After I Placed the Order”

Thirty Minutes After I Placed the Order

Peace Like a Restroom

I have barricaded myself in the bathroom. I listen for footfalls. I listen for their whiffling groans and small shrieks.  Everything is quiet. The bathroom is the last refuge. The doors—the bathroom has two—are locked. The lights are off. Everything is still. I can feel my heart-rate begin to drop. I begin to exhale deep, even breaths.

You know how it works. The disease passes from one to another. A slight wound is all it takes. From the vantage of early morning I would not have guessed my current, pathetic position—sitting on the side of the tub, trying not to cry.

But one of them told the other that she wanted the hair band back. A struggle ensued. Wailing. “She scratched my eye! She scratched my face and my eye!” The transformation from victim to victimizer takes only a moment. The poison, the pathogen works so fast. The bright eyes darken. Blood and destruction flood the vision. They begin the hunt for other victims.

Three on the couch watching Master Chef Jr. The two shufflers shuffle in. The three on the couch don’t notice the change. The shufflers stand in front of the TV.

“Move, we can’t see,” the three on the couch say. No response. “You have to move,” they say again. Nothing. “Move right now.” The head of one twists around, unnatural. The face has lost the light of consciousness, a sick distortion of the light of humanity lurks behind the eyes. The other’s head bends straight back, the neck extending so that the head travels past the shoulders, slides down the spine. The eyes glare, upside down in the face, at the three on the couch. Both attack, vigorous with rage. All five now shuffle and wail.

I am in the garage, moving bikes and bike trailers and snow tires onto the driveway. My husband went to rent a pressure washer from the building supply. I have earbuds in and am learning about gourmet ramen in the Los Angeles area from Jonathan Gold. I hear a wail. I take an earbud out to listen. I guess it was nothing. As I put the earbud back in, the wail comes back. Others join it. I know what’s happening. They’re coming for me. The door to the garage opens, but I’m already running, out through the open bay door, around the front of the house. Blood thumps and swishes in my ears.

I stand at the front door and listen until I can hear them in the garage, still wailing. I wait. I can hear them heading into the back yard. I open the door and flash inside. The bathroom is a keep. I have a moment’s hope. Maybe a dim memory of the bathroom as a place of privacy has stayed with them, even in their decaying state. Maybe enough of the old neurons are firing that they will leave me alone here. Maybe they’ll respect the inviolable sanctuary of the bathroom.

But now I begin to hear moans, unutterable groanings, too deep for words, and the shuffling footfalls. A shudder riffles through me. They pursue me even here. There is no escape. A hand falls heavy on the door. Another. Clawing, scratching. My shoulders heave and the panic takes me over. Nothing will stop them. Their grief, their pain, their vengeance, whatever it is that drives them, knows no boundary. Even here, in the safest of places, in the peace of the rest room, the moaning and the pounding build. I know there will be no release but death. They will not stop until I am wholly consumed. I know this.

I open the door.

Peace Like a Restroom