The Pain Reliever

Expectation:

Will relieve pain. All pain.

Heartbreak from immature brat who found someone better. Bruised pride from begging Jayson to cover her rent. Soreness from best friend who ‘could’t’ let me crash with him. Twisted arm from agreeing to live with other friend in roach infested apartment. Throbbing headache from hearing her complain about vintage Beastie Boys CDs that are not played too loudly. Burned by the desire we share every Tuesday in the laundry room. Burned because she’s friends with the brat who found someone better. A pain in the neck from explaining she’s not really a brat. Stiffed on the rent money when she, too, moves out.

Headache gone.

The Paper Clips

By the desk near the fax machine that nobody really wants, there is a special drawer for paper clips and erasers. It’s in the corner, like an afterthought, just like the paper clips themselves. Only slide projectors and viewing screens can be seen up front, but it wasn’t worth the fight for visibility. 

Paper clips like their unobtrusive, low-commitment-oriented life. The front of the room is too bright. Really the only ones that like center stage are the kind of assholes that run for a political office. Even local law has mirrors for windows.

Paper will become obsolete, the up-fronters say. As if this is something I want to hear. Monitors are popular, but they’ll die off too. Who doesn’t remember Elmo?

It’s the importance, the integrity of the position that really matters. Not the actual position. There is no twisting involved with a screen. Lazy by nature, they demonstrate the shapes and activity that only in-betweeners have. 

Not the display. Not the object on display. Paper clips fit somewhere in the middle. 

Don’t you worry about being replaced?

The up-fronters think honesty and tact are two separate things. 

I look at the stapler. He’s still here. I look at the rubber bands. They’re still here too. I try to find the pencil sharpener, but it’s not in the desk. The erasers are on borrowed time. 

The Mall

Dear Sears,

I know I don’t know you super well, but I always liked bumping into you. You were kind of like a staple. I want to say you had a mint green sign with block letters, but I could be wrong. Mint green just seems to fit. Not because it’s cheap, I didn’t mean that. It’s fresh. Like something new and today.

Maybe it wasn’t green. You were more like a “basics” store, but not like “basic” basic. You were the one moms went to when their kids needed a portable basketball hoop. I think you also sold lawnmowers?

When I heard you were closing, all I could think about were those catalogues with the points so that the more you bought, the more you saved. I think there was a point system for Marlboros too, but that definitely wasn’t as wholesome.

In the early days, back before flat screens, did you sell Betamax? Most people don’t like videos anymore, I sell them as vintage collectors items. They aren’t actually showcased. People have to know about them to buy one. 

It’s a shame we didn’t connect. I remember the deluxe patio set with the grill and spatula sold together. You had the cardboard cutouts of two women grilling in fake grass. I think there was a beach ball behind them and a set of melmac. That was so you. Am I right?

  • Belk 

The Kettle

Two cups sat one on top of the other, upright and full to fat. They bulged, the top hanging over the bottom, while the bottom cup burned underneath. If the kettle was like other kettles, there would be only one. Each cup could be separately cherished. 

Curled together with vines that twinkled, they thought of themselves as bright. Too bright to be in this predicament. But too tied to get away.

One afternoon, when they were shuffled out to a low sitting table in the den, the cups felt heavier than normal. They would never belong to a woman’s full attention. They would always share their afternoon in the sun.

The bottom cup lurched to the kitchen and felt its liquid shift. The top cup moved away. 

“Move toward the one that loves us most.” The top cup said to the bottom.

The bottom cup looked at their guest. Bored, chewing at her nails, a half-eaten bear claw remained on the dish. 

The bottom lurched. It inched closer to the sink. From a slant, the two began to topple.  

When they faltered and staggered, splashing tea to the ground, it was the bottom cup that finally cooled off. It was mopped up and drained out, but the cups remained dazzling. Their love was now filled from their shapes.  

The Server

Name: Server

Interested in: User

About Me: I grew up all over the world. Did you live in Texas? Bulgaria? Wherever you are, I can be there. 

I am extremely loyal, outgoing and trustworthy. Some of my friends describe me as having a secure presence. Do you like security? I like security. But if you don’t like security, I’m cool with that too. I live for the energy of others.

My Ideal Date: Someone who knows what they want. Or what they don’t want. Either way, I’m totally flexible. I don’t want to play games just to figure out who you are. But if you like games, that’s also cool. Whatever you want, really.

I’m straightforward and optimistic. Most people think I’d make a great partner. Are you interested in a strong connection?  If not, it’s alright. But if you are, I can be as intense as you want.

I like a person that’s fully available. I’m available 24/7. If you need me, I need you. Just tell me where and when.

Favorite Book: The Missing Link by Brandon Meyers

Favorite Song: I would die 4 U by Prince

Three Things I Can’t Live Without:

  • Direction
  • A strong connection
  • You

If you’re interested in messaging me, know that I will always get back to you. My response time is immediate. 

The Kiva

Deep in the desert, it almost looked dead. Beige dirt and tufts of bushes were all the eye could see. But below the eyes and below the brush, mutated life still lived.

The best mutant, a tiny rodent-like piece of fur with lizard eyes and a sandpapered beak, tried to make itself invisible. 

Nobody will see me under the brush. 

The mutant curled closer to the roots. In the daytime this worked well and he could watch the others scatter as they pretended not to be scared.

There were big ones. The size of basketballs with rubbery mouths and black tongues. There were tiny ones. Insects with 9 legs and a limp. All of them to be carefully avoided.

At night it was cold. Freezing winds and chattering teeth, the mutant needed a break. Any break. A hole in the wall of a cabin. The inside of a hanging cliff. He knew there was nothing available.

In the distance there was smoke and the round mouth of stucco. An outdoor fireplace. A bellow of gray. A kiva. 

You can use me to keep you warm.

The kiva said.

I have a fire in my mouth that won’t go out. Sit, stay awhile. It will be fun.

The kiva said.

The fire didn’t look out of control. The warm glow from inside reminded the mutant of a perfectly proportioned potato, but with spark. He’d heard of the fires before, untamed and spreading throughout the brush. This was not half of that. 

You’ve come such a long way. 

The kiva said.

But then the mutant remembered the skulls. Wide, gaping mouths hollowed out as if they were screaming. They were littered throughout the desert. Some were cows. Some were undefinable. The distinct smell of char lingered.

You must be tired.

The kiva said.

The mutant noticed a few dead mice at the corner of the building. Their mouths, too, were open. Gray mice. They were not black. Not charred. They must have died from something else.

The mutant shivered.

What will you do without warmth in the night?

The kiva asked.

The mutant could not find an answer. He saw nobody else like him for miles. Except for the one possibility of another who had been ripped by something else. A simple beak stuck out of several weeds. It could have been trash. It could have been plastic.

I don’t know.

The mutant said.

I really don’t know.

The kiva illuminated the desert with one bright smile. Mutants scurried in the wind. Bigger mutants. Prickly puckered mutants with six furry legs and giant yellow teeth. They would eat him. Without a doubt. For dinner.

Why not just stay here? You can get warm and figure out something else for tomorrow. 

The kiva said.

Climbing up the brown structure, the flames flickered higher. 

Just on the edge, the mutant thought. I’ll just sit right on the edge.

In the corner space of the mouth, the mutant sat on its ledge.
It was warm.

He was happy.

There was nothing else to be said. 

The Button

“Like” used to be more optimistic. It was happy with high school reunions, weddings, and job interviews. Nestled at the bottom of something grandiose, it was a humble smile. A thumbs up for success.

“Like” made its way through family albums, 18th birthday parties, and dinners with old friends from college. “Like” was there for the video of your friend playing with the lobsters before supper. It was a funny gesture, something admirable. “Like” valued this.

But then “Like” became popular. “Like” hung out with girls in stilettos. “Like” went to see My Morning Jacket in an abandoned warehouse. “Like” started focusing on other people’s boyfriends.

Everyone wanted a Like for their party. That smiling selfie you took, gazing up at a cell phone camera with newly applied makeup? That was liked. A filter with cat eyes and pointy ears? “Like” enjoyed the stalking.

“Like” showed up to all the biggest parties.

The Halloween bash where your friend threw up all over the backseat of your mom’s car? That party was liked. The obituary of a distant relative that was met more than once? That was liked too.

“Like” became snarky. Hard edged thumbs felt more like middle fingers. That trip to Nantucket? Liked after three days. Kids dressed as NPR hosts for a costume party? Liked at 1AM.

After years of polite smiles and bouncy enthusiasm, “Like” had finally met its match.

Dislike was approaching the horizon.

The Battery

Noise Complaint Filed

Washington City Park 

Loud sounds coming from the field behind Jungle Jim. Second report in 2 weeks. Suspicious activity noted. 

Police Report

Full name: Grey Poupon

Date of birth: 8/12/1988

Time: 12:15pm

OFFENSE

Disturbing the peace

Additional notes:

Does not take responsibility for Britney Spears music. Says screaming was due to unruly guests and denies wrong-doing. When asked name, he gave Grey Poupon. He is yellow and in a packet. 

Police Report

Full name: The Can Opener

Date of birth: 2/17/1999

Time: 12:29pm

OFFENSE

Assault/battery

Attempt to flee the scene

Additional Notes

Appeared very angry and in an agitated state. Was still at said “picnic”. Did not show any remorse for hitting baby one more time. Battery appeared fine, but bruised.

Police Report

Full name: Battery

Date of birth: 4/25/2000

Time: 12:40pm

OFFENSE

Destroying property

Additional notes:

A boombox was destroyed between 12pm and 12:39pm. Apparently direct damage was not intended. When battery left, the music died. Noise is kept at a minimum. 

The Sofa

OtherDoor

When Neighbors Start Walking

unREALcouchpotato1966: New to 8th street

Hey guys,

I’m new here as you can probably tell by the moving boxes set out on the curb. I was going to call someone to remove them right away, but then I thought about the neighborhood. I thought, why get rid of my old treasures when somebody else might enjoy them just as much as I did?

So here’s what we’ve got. 

  1. A rainbow throw blanket from the 70s. This is real. The guy I used to live with gave it to me when he was in college and there’s minimal damage. Blanket may need a wash, but I’ve found a lot of people like the scent. 
  1. Round pillow speaker. I don’t know if you remember, but these were really popular about twenty years ago. You can fall asleep listening to music on a soft plushie. The speaker still works, but there is a high, whale-like, sound every few minutes. I think Britney Spears had one.
  1. Gold. This might not be real gold, but it could be. I found it inside one of my pockets the other afternoon and I’m guessing one of the kids from the old house shoved it in there. But it could be real gold.  
  1. An assortment of buttons, coins, and movie stubs. These are antiques. The only reason I’m not saving them is because of my allergies. 

Again, I’d totally call someone to haul this stuff for me, obviously it’s not a cash-flow issue, but I just figured, sharing is the neighborly thing to do.

Comments (5)

SarahDandtheKttens: Are you the house with a metal rocking horse in the front?

AnneCommings1953: Isn’t there a dumpster on 7th?

UnicornMadness: I don’t appreciate the depiction of horses as simply tools for riding. I have a horse and she is very intelligent. 

AnneCommings1953: I really think the dumpster is empty. Nobody uses that dumpster. You could put the horse in there too.

LampShade: Are you selling the buttons individually?