Here Comes the Box

When you watch one of my power point presentations, I enthrall you. My power point presentations . . . to you they are waking dreams. You do not realize that I have placed inside my power point presentations . . . messages. They are subliminal messages. I don’t want you to buy product. I want you ready to open the box when it arrive at your house.

My power point presentations entertain you with wit. If lunch is at hand very nearly, between slides of chart and number, I put up a picture of a delicious looking sandwich and say, “Sorry, that’s a picture of my delicious lunch.” Everyone laughs. If there’s a fat man in the audience and his name is Maynard I say, “Sorry, that’s a picture of my delicious lunch . . . don’t get any ideas, Maynard.” Everyone loves it. To explain: I call out any fat man, even if his name is not Maynard. I just use Maynard as an example because he fresh in my mind.

The box, when it get to your house, it is like any box. Brown, pfffft. Regular box. But something about the box . . . you don’t like it. It isn’t heavy, but something shake around inside, a bit loose like. What is it? But you don’t want to know, because the box . . . it give a bad feeling. Oh, goodness. But you have seen the power point presentation. You have a little subliminal message rattling around in your head like something in a box that you don’t know what it is.

After you seen my power point presentation you will think, “Pretty good.” Several times maybe through the next few couple days you think, “I like that.” And sometime you try to think “Who was that guy? He gave the power point presentation?” And you will try to form a picture in your own head of me and who I looked like, and you will get the fringes of my puffy hair, the tips of my big ears, but in the middle where the face is, you will not get nothing. “What he look like?” you say to yourself. Oh, goodness. No idea. Just fuzz. Like my face is giving you the bad finger on American television. Pfffft. You will think, “Just a normal face.” Maynard sat for a long time when he try to remember my face. Nope. Nothing. Just slow look on his own face.

And the box get dropped on your door. Oh, no. Here’s the box at last. And you ignore your better angels of your nature, they all scared off by powerful subliminal messaging. And you think, “I take that box in my house and open it up. See what’s inside.” Oh, no. The last thing you should do. But there you go, doing it. Lifting it up, being careful. Dash it on the ground, that would be better for you. Don’t be careful with it. Bad idea being so gentle with it.

I watch. I can see you with the box. I watch you, I watch Maynard, pick up the box. Go inside.

I see Maynard set the box down inside the house. Oh, Maynard. He’s fat. His wife left him. Not only because he’s fat. Maynard has a thought, maybe something in the box is a fix for me. Oh, fat Maynard. No.

He still at this point okay and fine if he just don’t open the box. But oh, gee, does he want to know what inside the box. The box has even started drip a little. Got wet on the bottom of the sides. It doesn’t look good, the box. It look like “guuh”. Not good.

Then Maynard open the box. Then he look inside the box. Oh, goodness. Then Maynard his mouth open so wide. So wide, indeed. Too wide if you see him. Oh, Maynard. He remember then, my face. It come back to him just then, just at the end. He see in the mind of the eye and think he should have known.

Here Comes the Box

Clearing the House

I don’t know who’s responsible, but our home is full of landmines. The cat pads through the living room. A small, but still deafening, concussion. Boom. Cat intestines on the TV, cat brains on the couch. We’ve considered getting a new sofa cover anyway.

Here we go.

We’ve just entered the house after going out for donuts on a Saturday morning. When the cat goes up, my four children and I are still in the kitchen, distributed on either side of the island. My wife is at a craft bazaar. Our plan was to start our Saturday cleaning as soon as we got in the door. So much for that.

“Freeze,” I say. “Tim,” I shout to my oldest, “get the metal detectors.” They’re in the garage.

“Don’t go through the house,” I say, because I know that this kind of obvious instruction is necessary.

He’s standing right next to the front door. He opens it, steps gingerly outside. The rest of us, myself and the four younger children, stand stock still. “It’s going to be okay,” I tell everyone. I smile, but I can feel how thin the smile must appear.

We wait for a long time. That’s okay. It’s important to remain calm. We wait for longer. “Tim!” I yell. After a pause the door in the living room, the one that communicates directly to the garage, pops open. Tim stands there. “What was I supposed to do?” he says.

I breathe deeply. “Get the metal detectors,” I say.

“Right!” Tim says, widening his eyes to emphasize that he knows that he should have known this. He disappears back into the garage and then pops back through the door with three metal detectors.

“Got em,” he says.

“We need all five,” I say.

“Ugh,” says Meg, my second oldest.

“I’m tired,” says Paul, the youngest, the toddler.

“Shut up!” Tim says to Meg. “Sorry!” The sorry has an exasperated spin on it that completely annihilates the apology.

“Don’t say ‘sorry’ unless you’re sorry,” says Violet, the third oldest. She looks at me and smiles after she says this, because it’s something I say and she wants me to know that she’s been listening.

“Throw those three to us and then go get the other two,” I say.

“Okay,” Tim says.

I should predict what Tim does next, avoiding it with a more specific command. He attempts to throw all three metal detectors across the room in a single heave. The knot of metal detectors makes contact with the floor. Boom.

Incredibly, the forward inertia of the detectors, undergirded by the blast, throws them towards us. I catch two. Meg catches the other. Meg glares at Tim. He turns abruptly and goes back into the garage.

One of detectors is damaged beyond repair. I lay it gently down on the ground. Meg and I start up the others. Both appear to be working.

“Get Mom’s to replace the damaged one,” I yell to Tim out in the garage. I hear an exasperated groan from the garage.

I turn to Violet who’s right next to the sink, and the cupboard underneath the sink.

“Very carefully, open the cupboard and get the flags out.”

We have little mine flags, with one weighted end so we can mark the mines. Violet retrieves the flags. I divvy them up between the children. I scan the area with the detector, shuffle over to Paul and lift him onto the island.

“You get to stay up here,” I say.

Tim appears back in the doorway with the other two detectors.

“Got em,” he says.

Before I can warn him, direct him back out the front of the garage and in through the kitchen door, he steps into the house. Boom.

There goes the firstborn. You have to tell them absolutely everything.

The three detectors lie on the floor.

“Everyone stay still,” I say to the remaining children. My detector hums and beeps as I pick my way over to the fallen machines. I pick two of them them up, turn them on one at a time. They work. I pick my way back to the other children. Paul is defacing the island with a marker. Fine. I take him down and equip him with a detector.

“We’re going to work through each room,” I say. “Meg, you go back to your room. Clear it and mark anything you find.”

“I didn’t put any mines down,” she says.

“Neither did I,” I say. “But we’re all going to help detect and mark the mines together. Because that’s what we do.”

Meg grumbles as she carefully sweeps the hallway. I turn towards Violet.

“Bathrooms?” she says, showing me that she’s anticipated the order, making sure I notice.

“Bathrooms,” I say. I give her a smile. I try not to reward brown-nosing, but I prefer it to complaining.

From her bedroom Meg shouts, “Does Paul have to do anything?”

“Paul is three,” I shout back. “He can help me. We need this house cleared, all mines swept, before your mother gets home.”

Paul and I work carefully through the living room. We work through the kitchen. Everything is going well. We’ve identified ten possible mines. No concussive explosions elsewhere in the house.

“Bathrooms are done!” Violet shouts.

I scan my way over to check. I wave the detector over the flawless floor in the corners of the first bathroom. The machine screes its warning in two of the corners. I put flags down.

“Sorry!” Violet says. She scrunches up her face in a way that I can tell she thinks is cute. I roll my eyes.

“Go help your sister in your room,” I say. She sweeps her way to the room.

I sweep my office, finding three more mines there.

I go to check the girls in their room. No flags down. They’re both sitting on the bed looking at books when I enter the room. They adhere to the opposite logic of Toy Story when they’re clearing a room—meaning that if I’m not watching them, they’re lifeless. As soon as I catch sight of them, they’re active again.

Violet, eager to not be caught goofing off, stands up too fast and loses her balance, puts a foot down in terra incognita. Boom.

I turn to Meg.

“What have you been doing in here?” I say.

“Clearing!” she says.

“So you’re saying that if I step here . . .” I make a motion to put a foot down.

“No no no,” she says. I stop.

“I’m setting a timer,” I say. “I want this room cleared in ten minutes.”

Paul and I do another sweep, double-checking everything. Paul looks like he’s getting tired. The timer goes off. I go back to Meg’s room. She appears to have been working diligently. She’s placed seven flags. I feel relieved.

“This looks good,” I say. “See, if you stay focused, it’s not so bad. You and Paul can watch something.”

She sweeps them out to the couch, they turn on the TV. I’m exhausted. I go back to my room to lie down. The hallways are cleared and marked. We have the rest of Saturday.

As I open the door to my room, I put a foot down without thinking, without sweeping.


Clearing the House

Building an Igloo

We are building an igloo, because I have a compulsive desire to build igloos.

I am not interested in giving you, my children, the experience of building igloos. I don’t care if you enjoy building the igloo. I don’t care if you use the igloo. You can help build the igloo or you can do something else. I do not care. I think the right choice is for you to help build the igloo, but you’re free to do anything else. I’m going to build the igloo.

Before we begin even making the blocks for the igloo, we make an enormous pile of snow. Making the pile of snow is not fun. Also, it turns out to be useless. The next day the snow melts slightly and then at night re-freezes so that the huge pile of snow is a huge pile of ice, and not a good source of packable snow. Because we don’t know that this is our inevitable future, we spend four hours piling the snow. We use plastic sleds and a snow shovel. I shovel the snow into the plastic sleds, and the children dump the sleds on the pile of snow. Everything is working perfectly.

One child says that this is boring and that she wants to do something else. I suggest that she go do it, because the work of building the igloo cannot be done half-heartedly. Don’t waste our time. We continue into the dark, building the igloo, even though we are not building the igloo, and not even gathering snow that we will use to build the igloo. But even not building the igloo is part of building the igloo, you must understand that. Because you are building an igloo of the mind.

The next morning, I wake up early, and am immediately building the igloo. The sweat runs off my body in sheet after sheet. I am sweating like a Xerox machine. My children no longer care about the igloo. They drift away. I have heard a whisper that says there’s a direct current here. Building an igloo is a way of sticking a fork in the wall socket and tapping into the current. I begin to lay the blocks. I use a plastic tub, rectangular. It tapers from the mouth to the base, so that the rectangle at the bottom is smaller than the rectangle at the top. It makes perfect blocks of snow. The white of the snow is perfect. I work in a frenzy. I feel the tingle of a current in my finger tips. I cast my gloves off long ago. The children begin to see the design of the igloo unfold. Their interest re-emerges. They want to help. I laugh cruelly.

I tell them that they are false laborers, I revoke their inheritance, and I spit into the snow to show them that I spit them out of my mouth. I run them off, waving the snow shovel, smashing the snow shovel against the plastic sled. I work for three hours straight, in a frenzy. I pound the snow into the plastic tub, dump out a new block. I place the block, I make the next block. I am racing. More Xerox-style sweating.

My wife comes out to observe. I am in a state of flow and cannot speak. “Cool,” she says, gesturing at the igloo’s floor plan. “You’re really working out here.” It may be that she hoped that my time off would mean I spend time with her or help her do something that needs to be done. She did not know that I would hear a voice nor what that voice would require of me. I forgive her, but all I can do is continue to make and lay blocks. I cannot form human words. I point to the blocks as though those dumb stones will speak for me. She takes out her phone. She takes a picture of me pointing at the blocks. My wife looks at the photo on her phone and doesn’t recognize me in it.

The igloo is not perfect. I am not an engineer. But the whisper that demands an igloo does not demand perfection. The voice that requires an igloo asks for intensity and focus, not perfection.

The walls of the igloo rise. They reach towards each other. I begin to make thinner blocks, so that they more easily resist the urge to throw themselves down from the height of the wall. These thinner blocks become the ceiling.

I close the top of the igloo, place the last block with ferocious ceremony. I crawl in. I did not think the igloo would be so dark inside. The sun still shines, but it doesn’t even make it through the cracks between the blocks. Not even the thinner blocks at the top. This doesn’t seem possible. I lie on my back in the igloo. I lie in the perfect black. My boots block the light at the entrance to the igloo. Nothing all around me. I listen for the voice.

Building an Igloo

Father/Son Chat

Let’s talk about some recent behavioral issues that have come to our attention. I’ll go down the list.

1 – We heard a report from your cousin that in your room, after your mom told you that you that it was time to stop playing Battlefront, you called her order “asinine”.

I know where you’re coming from here. One time my mom made me end a game of Mortal Kombat 2 before I was able to pull off one of Sub Zero’s fatalities (opponent’s head ripped off, spine dangling). Your grandmother prevented this. I was mad. I went to the disconnected garage on the property we rented and punched out every window I could find. My father had to pay restitution for the windows and this ultimately soured our relationship with the landlord to such an extent that we had to move into a tiny apartment.

Likewise, your actions had far-reaching consequences. Your use of the word “asinine” caused me to look up the word “asinine” in order to understand what you were talking about, and to make sure it wasn’t some new swear. I’d like to keep this sort of thing to a minimum.

2 – A teacher reported that you and a nameless compatriot got into a heated argument during a choir performance. That sounds bad. I get that there’s more to it than that. You were upset because the nameless compatriot wouldn’t stop talking about a habit of his: he goes to random photos on Instagram, clicks the heart icon to like a photo, waits a little while, and then removes the like. So his victims get that flash of excitement when they see a notification. But then, when they check the photo on Instagram, there are no new likes. Rug from under their feet. He says that he likes to picture their disappointment, expressions sliding from expectant to hopeless. You said this was “monstrous”.

This reminds me of the time that I cracked up during a Christmas concert because my friend Ian retracted his neck into his turtle-neck shirt and said “My neck is like a turtle’s.” Kids will goof off. I was goofing off right before my solo. I missed my cue. So I’ve made mistakes too. While I was supposed to be singing, I stood and rocked silently, emitting occasional laugh-snorts for an entire verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. I couldn’t stop thinking about how his neck was like a turtle’s. Our choir director quit at the reception after the performance. These things happen. Her quitting wasn’t entirely my fault, even though during the five minutes that comprised her rant to a stunned group of parents and children—punch cups and red, cookie-bearing napkins stilled for the duration—she pointed at me repeatedly and said it was entirely my fault. Boys will be boys. I get it.

But seriously? Monstrous? To be honest, that prank is kind of dope. I’ve done it quite a few times since I heard about it, and it’s fun! Lighten up. You should have that kid over. He seems cool.

3 – Your mother says that she caught you printing ISIS propaganda. And I cut her off right there. She said that—my vision swam. I was like “What?” I felt I had gone wrong somewhere. But then she said that you were printing it out and burning it. And I was like “Um . . . okay?” Like “What’s the issue here?” And then she said you were doing printing out ISIS propaganda and burning it without asking permission. And I was like, “Right.”

Personally, I don’t think this is a big deal, but your mother does. So I do think it’s a big deal. Here’s the thing: I once soaked a roll of paper-towels in gasoline and lit it on fire in my garage. Basically for no reason. I don’t think we even had ISIS back then. As I was trying to put the paper-towels out by waving them around frantically, a chunk of flaming ash flew over and landed in the puddle of gasoline that the plastic gas can was sitting in. Long story short, the garage did not survive the inferno. I told you that the thing with the garage windows soured our relationship with our landlord? The thing with the garage burning down because I was playing with gasoline straight up curdled it. We were out of there within the week. Why was I talking about that? Anyway. Yeah. ISIS sucks. Ask permission.

Father/Son Chat

Of Course You Have to Go to the Bathroom


“I have to go to the bathroom.”

We’ve been somewhere with bathrooms for hours, and now we’re sitting in the car in the parking lot of the grocery store while your mother grabs a few things, and we’re amusing ourselves with a game where we make up the answers to riddles, except for you. You have to go to the bathroom.

We were at your grandmother’s house where there are three bathrooms within easy striking distance. And now we’re in the middle of the parking lot. And because you are six, I can’t let you cross the parking lot—walk through the store into the bathroom—by yourself. Someone has to take you. Probably your oldest sister. And that would become an event. Going into the store to go to the bathroom would become the kind of thing that everyone has to get in on. A social phenomenon. The event would provoke your two sisters’ bladders. It’s possible that even the ears of your brother’s bladder would prick up upon receiving word of such a high profile gala. Attendance would be non-negotiable. All of the children would trek into the store and in their wake would follow mayhem and despair.

And your mother—who loves you, but who is also relieved to be picking up a few items in the store without you, who feels that this time apart is the key to a healthy relationship with you—your mother would find a band of roving progeny in the store. She would feel like there is a curse upon her, as though she cannot be free of an eldritch specter. She would be like a woman who accidentally opened a forbidden book of lore and in innocence provoked a unit of demons who will pursue her anywhere, even as she selects her favorite flavor of carbonated water and a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap.

And so it is my duty to distract you. I have limited capabilities here. The tape thing that allows me to play music from my phone on the car stereo has failed again. The tape things last for less than a month, if they ever work to begin with. We have exhausted every CD that isn’t a solid wall of skips. The only thing I have is this game where I say things like “What’s red and can’t climb trees?”

When I come up with the set up I don’t have an answer in mind. We’re going to go around and propose what the answer should be. So we’re starting with a random couple of dots—”red” and “can’t climb trees”—and the game is to connect them in a surprising way. You and the other younger children do not understand what a good answer to a riddle is, so your answers are things like “A red dog!” Dogs don’t climb trees, it’s true. But just declaring the dog “red” feels like cheating, doesn’t it? Search your heart.

A good answer would be something like “A paraplegic tomato!” or “An acrophobic fire-truck!” or, if we’re in the right kind of mood, “Blood!” But I have to rely on the older children for answers like these. One time, in answer to the question “What’s yellow and won’t wake up?” an older sibling said, “A dead banana”, a response which deserves an award. But even these older children tend to miss more than they hit.

In light of the circumstances, I decide to say, “What’s yellow and runs down your leg?” And that was the wrong thing to say. It’s only the premise. Just setting the pins up. A good answer might have been something like “An athletic lemon!” But we don’t even get that far. You have begun to laugh at the transgression of potty talk, the joy of excretion humor. The laughter is shaking your body. I wish I could take it back. Your body is tightening. There is no going back. Your stomach constricts and the pressure on your bladder becomes untenable.

In my mind, I am already gathering cleaning supplies, paper towels. I am shampooing the rug in the back of the car. I am doing everything I can to not mention that this is why we need to go to the bathroom when we are in houses that have bathrooms, because you don’t need to feel additional shame about a situation that I largely caused. Apparently, I struggle with a kind of incontinence too, where ill-advised thoughts come streaming out against my better judgment. We are not so different you and I. Except that I remember to use the bathroom before I get in the car.

Here comes your mother, refreshed by a few minutes alone, during which she was surrounded by the bounty of capitalism and a Kelly Clarkson song. For a little while longer, she looks happy.

Of Course You Have to Go to the Bathroom

How to Homeschool Your Children


The following remarks are the opinions of homeschool mom blogger Tabitha Loder, and do not represent the views of A Fruit Salad of Harm.

Can we just admit that the great thing about educating your children is that you can pursue it ANY WAY YOU WANT TO? But some people don’t get that. They’ll find subtle ways of putting pressure on you to conform. Can we all just admit that education-shaming needs to stop?

Yes, we homeschool, and it’s clearly the most effective way to create independent, creative, brilliant children. But some people want their children to be mindless, private-schooled robots that employers can press into a cubicle like play-dough into the bottom of a Duplo block. Both are valid. It’s about defining your goals.

Let’s take something simple, like “How should you run your day?”

My day starts at five o’clock sharp, when my husband gets out of bed, makes coffee, goes to the gym, does his morning devotion, wakes the children, serves them their buttered kale shakes, reads to them from the Septuagint, chants through 15 psalms in the original Hebrew, and then starts them on their online course-work. Yes, we did splurge on soundproof education pods for them, and we did put a little bit of extra money into a restraint system that only allow the children to exit their pods once they show content mastery.

But here’s the thing: those pods are worth their weight in gold (which is about how much they cost). There’s no easy way to homeschool. Can we admit that? But strapping your children into a self-contained learning pod for eight hours a day take some of the pressure off. (My hubby calls them “education-coffins”. He has such a TWISTED sense of humor. Cracks me up.)

What am I doing during this time? I’m creating my vision for the day. My methodology here is . . . unorthodox, but effective.

Let’s talk about how it works:

I stay in bed, almost in an unconscious state, until around 11:30 AM. Basically, I’m vision-boarding, but mentally. I’m allowing thoughts to drift unfiltered through my mind. Sometimes the thoughts are CRAZY. Like yesterday, when my vision-boarding, intention-setting session was mainly about entering a cold room, that was my childhood bedroom, but didn’t look like my childhood bedroom, but I knew it was anyway. The room is cold, and in the middle of the room is a pine box, wrapped tight with chains. And I know my children are in that box. And I know I should let them out, but I resist. And then my hands become skeleton hands (gross!). Some people call these dreams, to which I say “Exactly!” I’m setting my intentions and achieving my dreams.

Vision boarding like that helps me to hit the ground running. After a revivifying soak in the tub, I’m ready for photography class by 3:00 PM, when the children emerge from their pods. Learning how to take flattering pictures is the fundamental skill in photography. And you will not believe how hard it is to get children to understand that. “Kittridge,” I’ll say, “Mommy doesn’t have a turkey neck, wattle-thing if you get the angle right.” Two hours later, it’s time to cull and spend some time in Photoshop. Can we just admit that seeing a five year-old master complex photo-editing tools is the CUTEST?

Then we set up the transfusion IVs and I receive a half a pint of energizing blood from each child. They keep me so young. Then it’s NAPTIME for them (they’re wiped out after every transfusion), while I prepare to spend some time writing and just VEGGING OUT on social media.

This is what works for us. It’s not perfect. Sure, we have days where we wonder if we’re doing the right thing. But I always tell my hubs that the energy he spends forcing the children into their pods (they are VIGOROUS) is an investment in the future. Hubster smiles and looks like he almost believes it.

How to Homeschool Your Children

Two Young People Drink and Cavort

Mark and I sat on the floor in the bathroom.

“It’s aged five years,” I said.

“I have a feeling that I can’t tell,” Mark said.

“It’s Ancient Age, and it’s been aged for five years,” I said.

“I wish there were other words to describe drinking from the bottle,” Mark said. “They’re all taken.”

“Took a pull,” I said.

“Nursed it,” Mark said.

“Hit it,” I said.

“Flooded the grub tube from the fire barrel,” Mark said. “That’s mine.”

We pushed the empty bottle out the window. It hit another bottle resting on the barely sloped roof and made a dim, quick-squelched ding, a recycling center sound, and sat there on the moss, a stunned living room dancer who missed a step and sat down hard on the rug.

Chris stood in front of the set of windows in the living room. He swiveled and the keys on the ring on his belt loop slopped against his thigh. He stood in the middle of the windows, in the middle of the peaked roof, and looked out into the parking lot across the street, intent on the parking lot. Chris would be staying home tonight and playing video games. He would slay countless digital demonic hordes.

“Hey, Chris,” Mark said. “We’re going to steal your car.”

“Were you guys in the bathroom together?” Chris said.

“Mark wanted me to check him,” I said. “You know, like in a physical. A little turning of the head, a little coughing of the throat. I was just being polite.”

“Bye, Chris!” Mark said.

“Bye, tiny little Chris,” I said.

“Don’t touch my car,” Chris said.

“Okay. If you’re still up, I can check you when I get back,” I said.

We would never have taken Chris’s car after drinking. Mark had a car. Mark had a perfectly good car. We got into Mark’s perfectly good Honda Hatchback. I sat there and thought about where we were in the plan.

“Hold on,” I said. “We were going to drive somewhere and then drink, and then not drive anymore. We stated that clearly. We were going to drive out into like a ravine, drink, and then come back to town.”

“So we’re abandoning the plan,” Mark said. “Because we’ve already done the drinking part. So we should drive somewhere now. Because we missed the first bullet point on the plan.”

I looked Mark in the face. His expression made drinking and driving sound fun.

“The plan evolves,” I said. “It’s a living document.”

In the convenience store, we got gum, gum awash with flavor crystals. We each took a handful of gum, the way toddlers take gum, alcohol heavy fingers.

In chapel we both sat in the back, and woke up sweating, to the sound of “and also with you” at the very end of chapel. Jeffery Bonds, towering over us, too old for our class, and too tall to trust, leaned down over us as we shuffled out and said: “Every pore is pouring whiskey stink. Both of you.”

Out on the sidewalk we ran. We ran to the art gallery. We bundled food onto first Friday plates, emptied a glass of wine, and nodded at each of the paintings, as though they were insecure and we were there to affirm them. I worried that I wasn’t nodding quite enough and that the painting could sense it.

“I’m not nodding enough,” I said to Mark.

“I’m counting my nods,” Mark said. And you could see his mouth move slightly when he did.

We could no longer go to the Prospector which had criminal drink prices, which turned out to be actually criminal. Can Norsemen be nebbish? Odin, the guy who ran the Prospector had been a nebbish Norseman. Mark said that he had “big brass, intestines. Guts.” Odin bought all the alcohol, everything, on credit, only took cash, charged next to nothing for well drinks, a dollar twenty-five, let his suppliers start to sweat about the lines of credit, let the mound of cash build up, and then got the hell out.

So we had to go pay two fifty for whiskey cokes, eight dollars for almond chicken.

The dark graded down the sky and we watched it from where we sat on a bench eating almond chicken off of styrofoam, darting occasionally into The Moderate Dog for the whiskey cokes, back outside to smoke.

Mark couldn’t make drinking and driving sound fun anymore. We walked back towards my house, to check in with Chris and see how his campaign against various demonic hordes fared, see if Mark would be able to sleep on the couch.

At some point in the walk we gained a throng. These high school kids, a few of them plenty stoned, were wearing bathrobes.

Mark asked if they’d just gotten out of the shower. A chubby sixteen year-old girl said that she was a wandering ascetic.

“But it isn’t a good look for you, my dears,” Mark said. “It’s not at all aesthetic.”

“Ascetic,” she hissed, like a patristic air hose.

Another chubby sixteen year-old girl said, “I look like Jesus.”

Mark stared at her.

“We need to keep walking,” I said. “Come on,” I said to Mark.

“I don’t know whether or not that’s true,” Mark said. “I want to pray with you.”

“Come on, Mark,” I said.

He pointed a finger at me.

“You are quenching the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“You are drunk,” I said. The throng cheered. The throng then decided to censure the sin of drunkenness and booed and wagged fingers.

“I am drunk and I want to pray,” Mark said.

I stopped and Mark put his hands on the kids in bathrobes and prayed with them. He told the them that he was gathering them to him as a mother hen gathers her chicks. His gathering was chaste and appropriate, and they seemed comforted by the embrace. Mark let them go. They passed on, silent and ascetic.

And we walked to my place, and Mark was overcome with emotion occasionally, and his eyes were wet, and I didn’t say anything and didn’t feel like crying or praying.

Two Young People Drink and Cavort

The Girls


I called the video store across the street from my Dad’s veterinary clinic to see if they had a copy of Forrest Gump. They didn’t. I asked them if they could hold the next copy of Forrest Gump that came in. They said that they would. I thanked them. I couldn’t wait to see Forrest Gump. That done, I felt thirsty.

I went across the street. Passed someone in the phone booth making a call. That guy’s name was Steve, and I was pretty sure that Steve had the face of someone who used drugs. I didn’t want to judge Steve too heavily, but it seemed like drugs would make your eyes bug out like that, and make your eyes red in a way that made it seem like the skin around your eyes and the corneas were the same color. His eyes reminded me of Mr. DiRinaldo’s eyes, both bug-eyed, but Mr. DiRinaldo’s eyes were yellow, as though his cigarettes had nicotine-stained his eyeballs, the amount he smoked made it seem feasible. I know now that Mr. DiRinaldo was likely in some advancing stage of liver failure, and the bilirubin barely had anywhere to go but the eyeballs. His eyeballs wanted out of that body, bugging the eyes out. But they were stuck. I waved at Steve in the phone booth. Steve didn’t know who I was. Further up the street I saw a large group of people. All girls. A horde of Honey Brook girls, all staggering around. Continue reading “The Girls”

The Girls

The Story of Our Business


Handmade Belt Maker
About Page
Original Text, October 21

I make belts. It’s simple. They’re leather, they have a buckle. I work real hard at making them right and everything. No one’s ever sent me one of my belts back. Look at my belts and order one if you like one.

Buckle Up
About Page
Original Text, October 23

We make belts.

One day Kelly had a latte in her hand, just cruising Target, looking to pick up something in the way of a little Mossimo. She happened to grab a boyfriend cardigan off the rack and turned to what she thought was a mirror.

Actually, it was Denise, holding the exact same boyfriend cardigan, wearing the same Wayfarers, with the exact same latte cup in her hand—but neither of them realized it for a solid five minutes! They were doing a sort of Marx Brothers’ mirror routine until Denise dropped her latte and tipped them both off.

The girls got to chatting and shopping, and in minutes they were pitching each other business ideas. They happened to be looking at the belts, and Kelly said, “Buckle up.” That cracked both of them up so much that they were forcibly removed from the Exton Target.

Kelly’s husband had a ton of experience doing leatherworking, so he was able to make all of the belts. It’s a family affair.

We’re just two girls who love drinking lattes and going to Target. We make belts together. Come see what we’ve made for you.

Handmade Belt Maker
About Page
First Revision, October 25

I make belts. They’re leather, they have a buckle. No one’s ever sent me one of my belts back. My best friend is my landlord and he calls me Frankingstein even though I’m a lady. He never helped me make my belts. I do it myself. Look at my belts and order one if you like one.

Buckle Up
About Page
First Revision, October 26

We make our belts ourselves.

After a hard morning out drinking lattes and poring over merchandise at Target, Kelly and Denise head back to Kelly’s house. They put on Carhartts (but like cute Carhartts) and get down to business. First they use scissors and cut up some of the leather. That takes about a couple minutes. They they hammer the buckles on and poke some holes in the belt for the little dangly tine thingy to do its job. They can make like 20 belts in an afternoon this way.

Belts remind us that something has to hold us up. For us, that’s friendship.

Kelly’s husband doesn’t make our belts.

We make belts together. Come see what we’ve made for you.

Handmade Belt Maker
About Page
Second Revision, October 28

I make belts. They’re leather, they have a buckle. No one’s ever sent me one of my belts back. I tan my own leather. My landlord says most people can’t kill a cow hitting it with a brick in the face like I can.

I forge the buckles myself. I forge the frame, I forge the chape, I forge the tongue, I forge the bar. I make every part of the buckle. I make the whole belt. I do it myself.

Belts remind me of my daddy come home from Mac’s, smelling raw with drink. But I make the belts now. The belts are mine. Daddy don’t have the belts no more.

Look at my belts and order one if you like one.

Lacin’ Up
About Page
Original Text, October 29

Our names are Kelly and Denise. We love getting lattes and going to Target. We make shoelaces.

The Story of Our Business



My office looks out on a parking lot. Across the parking lot are several silos. At times, I’ve stood at my window and looked up at the silos, attempting to have a profound thought. I’m relieved when nothing profound occurs to me. Because nothing profound has ever occurred to me, I’m always relieved.

One morning, I was looking out at the silos and I saw a figure step out from the little cabin at the top of one of the silos, and walk down the railed catwalk to the very top of another silo. The top of the silo the figure stood on had a circular railing at the very top, kind of like something on a World War II era military boat. If you stood at the very top of the silo, you’d be surrounded by railing with the stairs behind you. You’d be five or six stories up and completely safe. The figure stood there. I could tell the figure was male.

After standing there for a fraction of a moment, the man hoisted himself up over the railing. The top of the silo is a slick looking aluminum, and it slopes sharply away from the peak. You could take a few running steps down and leap out into nothing and land on the weed-broken cement below and have made all of the important steps towards becoming a corpse. I thought that I was about to see the man jump off the silo. And something not-profound occurred to me: I found myself holding a sliver of a hope that he would.

I didn’t want the man to die, obviously. I didn’t even want him to get hurt. But I did feel that witnessing a person throw themselves off a silo would be to touch something enormous and close by. Like sitting in a kayak on the ocean and putting my hand on a blue whale.

The man stood there, still holding on to the railing. Then he jumped back over and into the circle of protection. I had another not-profound thought: I was glad he didn’t jump off the silo. But then, for a couple days after, I caught myself looking out at the silos and wishing to see someone up there, walking out to the circle at the top. After a few days of this, I stopped looking out the window. Now I keep the blinds down.