rabid tush patrol


A publication once said or printed anyway that Deserter 27 was a future king of war. Back then Deserter 27 was tall and whip-strong and probably immortal. The experts who evaluated new soldiers had looked at him and carefully noted attributes shared by many young people who went on to become kings or queens. His hands and feet were too big for his frame, like a puppy. So was his ass, waiting patiently to be grown into.

The king analysts had hammered their centuries of shared wisdom into a rough system of understanding. It was not a science because it lacked laws. But just often enough the king experts were correct about who would and would not, and that gave them an authority. The authority gave them the confidence to continue carrying their traditional divining rods.

Once the rods, or one of the rods, were at the center of a scandal. A rod was left on a bus, an airport bus if memory serves. The man who found the road announced via a newspaper advertisement that he would make kings or queens or lesser but still noble creatures of anyone who offered him a sufficiently voluminous honorarium.

The king experts, fearing the loss of face, felt obliged to take out a larger ad in response explaining that the power of the rods was non-transferable. The capacity for turning base humanity into chieftain-and-higher level executives was not in the rod. That power was only inside the humans. And furthermore, what powers of understanding the rods did contain were whispered to the rod’s operator in an ancient and secret language. Unsurprisingly this language was only interpreted by the king experts, by drawing on a correspondingly ancient and secret body of data and lore.

Of course the experts knew that the rods were purely symbolic and always had been. They had not been concerned that the man who found the lost rod would flood the world with unlicensed monarchs, thus debasing the nature of authority. But they still felt obliged to protect and honor the rods. Even though majesty could not be created and could only be understood, the rods were still a part of their family.

It was not many years after the misplaced rod issue danced away in the wind that the experts began to appear in television, thanks to their own instinct for self-promotion and the good offices of a publicist blessed with foresight about changes in the media landscape. The suits the king experts wore for their television segments were blocky, shiny and stiff. Underneath their special conical hats, the glistening gray fabrics looked like some strange conservative sect of exotic dancer.

Before the airport bus incident and the newspaper ad salvoes and the offscreen detente leading to the return of the missing rod, before television, the king experts met in sad sullen rooms. They gummed expensive, shitty cigars in filthy office warrens. The walls and furniture and occupants were browned by smoke. These chambers were flophouses for wayward ideas.  In one such dropceilinged brownness, about two generations ago, depending on how you count generations or whether generations even exist, the old unhealthy king experts, the ones born before the splitting of the atom (retaining a certain molecular innocence and weariness) pronounced that Deserter 27 (who of course had a different number then) was a future king of war.

The information was put into an annually circulated list of future kings, bound and stapled and retailed across the nations of the alliance. The list came out as a special issue of WAR TODAY magazine—the NEW KINGS issue,  celebrated and sanctified by a special push by the ad reps. It was read and memorized and informally archived on the tables of strip-mall barbershops, where young boys might peruse for months and months to come, tearing themselves away from the infinite embrace of mirrored walls to see themselves in these future kings instead.

WAR TODAY long ago went out of business, having lost its advertising base to the televisions and the websites. Every so often one of its longer pieces, seeming stylized but really just warped by the passage of time, is revived and circulated by adepts of vanished transient information.

So 27 was a future king of war. This status was meant more to suggest that pending proper development he could be a possible future king; nothing was guaranteed, not by the experts anyway. In those days the market for analog graven images had not yet collapsed. This was before the big gravening firms spun off their print devisions to satisfy stockholders.

These were also the days of a new season of war. There was to be a desert campaign, and fans keened for preemptive memorabilia. Trading cards were printed. Deserter 27 had his own card. In patriotic colors and playful type beneath 27’s old name was FUTURE KING. If this was still only a possibility and not a promise, no one could convince his eyes.

[to be finished/whatevered/otherwised]

their wide hips gave off the odor of the sea and of milk

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 11.03.04 AMThe first time Deserter 28 witnessed the permanent transmission of lethal force his bones turned to gas. Only the bones and some of their confidants understood this. Some of the confidants worried to excess that this meant 28 was fucked. In fact because of the high engineering standards to which we hold our bones and bone accessories, gasbone is not an immediate threat to safe use of a deserter. But what the bones and deserters still do not readily understand is that gasbone is a serious and lifelong medical condition that has to be understood and coaxed along, fretted over to a sufficient volume. Swallowing jagged life or even unimportant gang tackles for mediocre football teams incurs a risk of puncture. We might live with a leak, just like we might live on after a failed love affair in which it turns out we both only ever hated ourselves and that was enough to draw us together in a photonegative of desire. In both cases there is a slow trickle inside you. At first you don’t know, at second you don’t mind, at integers greater than or equal to three you can taste your own bones on your breath. They disappear into a wind that hardly cares what those bones ever meant to you. Not because the wind is a dick, but because there aren’t enough hours in the day to not be a dick in every way to everyone.

the gold didn’t believe in him


“Hello is this this gambling problem hotline?”
“Yes it is we are listening in a sensitive and non-judgmental way, please tell us what your gambling problem is.”
“So OK my gambling problem is that the CAVEMAN KENO machine next to my video poker has this pterodactyl animation that flies over the screen and makes a super unpleasant screech. I don’t want to move to a different video poker, I have sunk a lot of spiritual and actual capital into this DOUBLE BONUS POKER. You know the machine I’m talking about. The one that is fairly glowing with its intent to cough up a jackpot in this lunar cycle. Right by the escalator up to the buffet area. When this was a department store, before the casino awoke from its thousand-year slumber, this was the perfume counter. This video poker machine has always been here. I’ve never gone up the escalator because of specific fears of what lurks above.”
“Sir or ma’am you are not supposed to call this number for this kind of problem. For pterodactyl problems you have to call the manufacturer.”
“Do you mean the manufacturer of CAVEMAN KENO or the manufacturer of the pterodactyl?
“Actually we mean the manufacturer of you. So God as you understand him her or it.”

enmesh you in my concerns


If you achieved some larger context the sub-development had traces of inside-out beauty. The template construction and subtle personal deformities could pop. The problem with the subdivision is that the houses were miles apart. This proved inconvenient and lead to brigandry. Also, as an enclave of the airport, the subdivision proved difficult for goods, services, and first responders to reach. This is why no one was surprised by the following.

House 221 was deep inside the enclave.

Pamela was doing laundry in the manner of a pioneer woman, hanging austere linens to dry in the airport breezes. She was middle-aged but still sexy. She downplayed the sexiness and in fact was not actually constantly appraising her own value as a sexual object but the sex value was irrepressible, it kept expressing itself to the others, who blamed Pamela for this.

The strangers materialized out of the horizon between flaps of a blinding white bedsheet. They were approaching the house with paramilitary caution. Spread into a loose net of consequence, prepared to douse nearly any version of reality the house could cough up. They lacked the bald pride of legal invaders. Their shirts did not say who they were. They did not have walkie talkies. They wore no-iron knit shirts in mostly quiet tones and their jeans were too casual for all but the least consequential office work. They walked with purpose but not as good guys. They delivered menace but not in a clinical way. Two of them were a little fat.

All the trouble the house could offer was Pamela. She was hanging out the washing on a tired clothesline dried out twine. Kevin the beagle was sunning himself on the small concrete patio. He glanced at the visitors but did not get up. None of what followed would compel Kevin to stand up. He was a fine companion but in recent years he had started to smell like serious earwax.

Pamela unfurled a twin-sized sheet in the mellow exhalations of the day. There would be a few more hours of sunlight to dry out the washing. Her dryer was ailing. It seemed to suffer from some respiratory sickness. Clothes somethings barely dried at all, other times they were scorched into aridity. Make the dryer more magic.

She snapped out the sheet and saw the six of them. They had brown hair. She exhaled in frustration.

“Who are you?”

“We’re student loans.” The answer came from behind her. She wheeled around to see that there were six more approaching from the other side. None of them were fat but they all had brown hair.

She did not respond immediately. The visitors glowered in an attempt at menace. This only deepened her confusion.

“Like, student loan officers?”

“No,” said a pudgy brown-haired man at the center of the group approaching from behind.

“So … are you selling student loans?”


“We’re actually student loans. Personified.” This was a second man, a the other fat one.

Another unappreciative silence followed.

“I guess I am confused. I wasn’t expecting anyone. And now that you identify yourselves as student loans I guess I would have expected you to be sheaves of paper and neatly labeled file folders. If you were material at all. Just sort of gently throbbing clip art was more what I expected, if I had been expecting.”

“Cut the shit lady. Do you have the money?

“What money?”

“GOD DAMMIT I said cut the shit, not extend the shit additionally. One hundred fifty nine dollars and fifty six shitting cents.”

“I think there’s been some confusion. I don’t have any student loans.”

“DOLLAR SIGN ONE FIVE NINE PERIOD FIVE SIX,” the first pudgy brown-haired man roared. His roar was alarming but not impressive.

“I think you have the wrong house,” Pamela said. She stood up straight and puffed herself out to seem assertive.

One of the men shrieked. It was unclear if this was meant to intimidate or merely express anguish at the non-forthcoming payment. As the breeze carried his shout away, the other 11 men spoke as one.


“But I don’t have any student loans.”


“I went to college on a scholarship.”


“My grandparents tucked some money away in a mutual fund and that’s how I paid for my books and apartment.”


“I had a job waitressing too.”


“Are you sure you have the right house?”


“Maybe you guys should leave?”


“Stop saying numbers please, it’s upsetting me.”


She looked around in exasperation.

“Maybe you don’t have loans but your kid probably does.” This was the pudgier of the two pudgy brown-haired men. The other ten men also had brown hair, but most of them had acceptable or even admirable BMIs.

“I don’t have any children.”

“Oh you do. It’s your kid. I can tell when people lie,” the pudgier pudgy man shrieked. The eleven other men resumed the chant.

“Why would I lie about not having children?”

“No children?” The shrieker shrieked again. He flapped his arms as if to propel himself away from her statement.

“We’ll take your kids if you don’t pay,” the less pudgy of the two pudgier men hissed.

The chant sped up a tick.

“Why are you here? How did you even find this house? I don’t owe you anything. I’ve never taken out a loan in my life. I am not sure you all aren’t menacing me on my own property.”

The chant had devolved to just “DOLLAR.”

“I could probably gun all of you down under one of those stand your ground laws.”

“Do you even own guns?” the pudgiest man asked.

“Not enough to occlude all twelve of us in one gesture, one macromolecular gesture.” The pudgy but not pudgiest man was now jogging in place, his extra flesh trailing behind his bones and muscles

“That isn’t how guns work,” Pamela said. “It is more about the number of bullets I would have.”

“But do you even have guns, bro?”

“Why should I answer that?”

“Do you have enough guns for us to borrow? Each of us would like a gun.”

She looked back at Kevin the beagle.

“We would like the guns to be the same gun or at least look like the same gun.”

“I only have six guns.”

“Aren’t there six of us in some sense?”

“There are twelve of you.”

“Your point being.”

“Are you going to use the guns here or bring them back?”

“Can we decide later?” one of the skinnier men, not the shrieking arm flapper, said.

A second skinnier non-shrieker stepped forward. He smelled nice.”I feel like asking what we’re going to do with the guns is rude. Either you can help or you can’t.”

“Yeah even imposing the roughest of conditions on our guns tarnishes your brand.”

“Well, I feel like having my personal brand threatened by guests is as least as bad as not having enough guns for people who didn’t call ahead and also wanting to know how my guns, if I have six guns, will be used.”

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

“Can I tell you all something? I feel close to you. I’ve been taking courses at night. I’m paying cash though. Out of my savings.”

A dozen different versions of “No” went off like flashbulbs.

“Never do that,” the pudgiest man said.

“You guys aren’t even real student loans. You’re just regular loans.”

One of the non-pudgy men bellowed like a cow witnessing an atrocity. What would even upset a cow that much.

“Can we do work around the house?” “Do you have anything to eat”

“What do you all eat?”


“My doctor said I should eat six small meals instead of three regular sized meals.”

“Define small.”

“He or she said $159.56 was the one true portion size.”

“Please lady it has been so long.”

“I don’t understand. When you wake up in the morning as a student loan, what darkness does it feel like you have returned from?

“That’s not really how it works.”

“We’re not like you.”

“The fuck we aren’t,” the arm-flapping shrieker said.

“How long have you lived here?” another skinny man asked.

“Is it paid for?” the pudgy not pudgiest man asked.

“Are you paid for?” Pamela snapped back.

prisoners are returned with contagious diseases

(c) David Harriman
(c) David Harriman

more fiction in progress:

Deserter #11 was a bag of rich planting soil.
Deserter #12 was the father of our farmer’s market. He had strong opinions about apples. His burden and his gift was to have these murderously intense views about this one kind of fruit. He was not a natural organizer. The social dimension, which really is what made the farmer’s market such a huge success (apart from the apples) was the work of Deserter #13.
Everyone agreed that having a food desert in the middle of the war was a prime example of the old bad ways. The war would go much better if we were all eating well, eating healthy, living sustainability. I don’t know if this is what drove #12 to create the market. He left a rich enough documentary history that experts have conclude that his real motivation was apples. Specifically he was convinced that an apple a day kept the doctor away, and that doctor-less days could be stockpiled. That if he ate dozens of apples he could ensure health for as many days as he did not require a doctor. He overlooked the legalistic possibility that once you die, you no long require a doctor. By the end he was more of a greedy alchemist than a fruitmonger. There were a lot of questions to answer about his theories, and he set about answering them as best he could. Do all apples keep doctors away at the same 1:1 gear? Do different kinds of apples keep away different kinds of doctors? Are the doctors working to subvert their applephobia? What about nurse practitioners, midwifes, doulas, holistic healers. Our ideas of what constitutes an apple is also heavily mediated. Driven and derided by these complications, #12’s expertise drilled deeper and deeper into the groundwater of the soul. He understood and appreciated apple horticulture in a way that loudly and permanently alienated him from his peer group.
The whole reason for the farmer’s market was that there was a signup sheet, and nearly everyone had to visit it several times a week if not every day. And we were all hungry. And there were really no healthy options around the signup sheet. Later on we went to a web-based form but at the time of the apple incidents we had a paper form, with a ballpoint pen taped to a piece of twine (pretty neatly, not slipshod). When we used a pencil people would erase each other’s names to fit their friends in or to excuse themselves or just to fuck with people. Yes it was a war but being a dick is a separate thing from war status. So we put the pen there and most of the short-term unhappinesses stemming from signup sheet malfeasance quietly receded into the undergrowth for a time.
So #12 brooded over his apples and #13 promoted the market. The war had become a place where people came in and killed each other and went home, spending their money and cultural capital in suburban wars or even worse at home, individual servings of war. It robbed the greater war of what we call leisure hostility.

contempt of the winged for the terrestial

(c) thomas prior

Deserter 1 wandered off during the rainstorm that ended the battle. He had fought enough for himself but not enough for his immediate supervisors. They found him sleeping under a stately elm, his phone on his chest. Lullabies streamed brightly from the device despite the small speakers and weak reception. They hung him from the shade tree. Later, as busy work, the interns chopped down the tree. After a succession of education processes, the tree was a stack of treated lumber. A different set of interns used the lumber to built a coffin for Deserter 1.

Deserter 2 was a computer programmer. He would have rather done something more active, less brainy and indoors, but his angels were sedentary angels, and they did not wish to chase him around the world. He was a reliable programmer, prone to moral panics about his incremental assistance to the military-industrial complex. The nature of his employment was not the angels’ responsibility. Choices led to other choices led to programming military drones. He only qualified as a deserter just barely.

Deserter 3 was only on base to use a relative’s purchasing privileges at the dispensary PX. One of the security wraiths denatured him. Fight or flight reflexes.

Deserter 4 was a security wraith. She grew up in a stable and loving home but over time developed persistent and debilitating deficit of self-love. She walked off the job. They found her in the mailbox of a vacant farmhouse two counties over. They dropped the mailbox in a car shredder.

Deserter 5 stole a car. He drove fast and straight enough to transcend earthly justice. At present writing he lives on an asteroid, one of the shitty ones. Extradition treaties with the space bacteria are a work in progress.

Deserter 6 was an asteroid.

Deserters 7 through 1,001 TK

not just a drugstore but a family

A Harpooned Whale 1845 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851


—Hey man.

—Muggy today

—Sure is. Fall’s coming though. When it collapses it collapses on me.

—You are a big one for self-reprehension.

—You are the spider that lives in my driver’s side mirror.

—You are the pale mutant god that steers the world.

I extended my hand in the gentlest way I knew, making a pincer of forefinger and thumb.

He extended a leg.

redshotWe didn’t fit together. I left my hand a few microns from him and he tapped me. I think we both had some cultural ideas about the relative hygiene of the other.



—Charlemagne, huh.

—Yeah my mom was a medievalist. Which you know in hindsight maybe a medievalist would go for a less obvious name from that chapter of the world’s diary.

—I dunno at a certain remove significance dries up and crumbles. Only the really big bland sturdy meanings survive history’s malignant neglect.

—I don’t disagree. And there is some context for Charlemagne as a family name. But it just never felt like me, you know. Something percussive and more Anglo-Saxon like Scott would have suited me. I dunno. I’m not mad about it. Why stress over it? I’m gonna be here for a lifetime, my version of infinity, long enough to drop my baggage off.

—I hear that. Well I’m headed to the coffee place, do you want anything?

—Can you bring me some fruit flies?

behind the gourd


wrote a piece for Scene on the celebrity of Jonathan Football Esq.

While ESPN is the bell cow of national sports media in obsessing over Manziel, Cleveland’s press corps has energetically contributed to the turd-hurricane of hype in their own doofy way. But, of course, in Northeast Ohio, the Browns garner intemperate amounts of attention year-round regardless of their prospects. Remember when we talked ourselves into Brady Quinn?

note for later


This poem was posted at the odd, wonderful Orange Show in Houston, TX. I like it a lot.

when i was a boy
farmers used scarecrows
in their orange crows
many timid birds
on seeing the scarecrow
would fly away
now and then
a wise old bird
would come down
and enjoy a good fiest [sic]
using the scarecrow
as a perch
between meals
this had little significance
to me at that time
but when i got tired
of being a fool
i came to the realization
the fears of life
are nothing
but scarecrows
–vass young