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adapted for/featured in book #34

by Jobathan Franglen

When my good friend, Gosselin Hobnobs, approached me about wanting to self-publish this short story in thirteen shorter segments on someone's home web portal called MY AMERI dot CANADA, I believe I would not have been out of line if I had just gobsmacked her across the noggin metaphorically-speaking (we've never met IRL). First of all, what right does a CANADIAN website have in publishing a work of great regional import such as the impeccably written and endlessly fascinating, 2001: The Real History of the USA? I plum almost drowned in my fifth martini!

You see, reader, this work really is important. It is the work which lives on beyond our years. And as authors, we must respect the work. When I published The Confections, my seminal novel about the sweets and junk food industries––loosely based on my experience writing for the television program Sweet Genius on The Food Network©––I also had pause, had hesitation, had the worst case of nerves-induced 'rhea this side of the Mississippi.

But I plowed down the skeptics like a bright-eyed school shooter, picking them off one-by-one, not with bullets, but with the greatest tool known to man: my words. It became an NYTBSer to the surprise of many, but not to the man whom had the most at stake. (That man was me FYI. I was that man who was not surprised.) That book gave me everything I got, and I know 2001 could be that book for Gosselin. So what now do I have to say of this decision, to publish said epic on such a lowly internet website?

I say, "Follow your heart, young scribe." For it is in the brazen folly of our spirit where we must live and die with the consequences. Sometimes we find a lump of coal at the end of our ropes, and other times a delicate rainbow sprouting from the cherry of a luscious ice cream sundae.

So it is without any further ado, rigmarole or pageantry, I proudly present to you here, in its uncut and original form, one of the greatest stories ever told. Enjoy it. Treasure it. And spread it around like jam on a giant English Muffin the size of Texas. This is the story we, AMERICANS, deserve.

At the Chrysler Building with bad intentions

Deviant misanthropes had just surrounded the Chrysler Building. My great grandfather’s formerly proud stone shuddered with the collective fear of a thousand agoraphobic elephants in a booby-trapped mineshaft. The owl-like persistence of these would-be evil-doers—this focused, go-getter attitude of theirs—squired notions once prevalent in another era. A slice of the moon and the Shirley Temple hullabaloo, elbow grease and getting horny for some God: all together again in that righteous moment. They filled their disgusting, porous veins with the filth of their anti-religion—pulsating in the rod of their slimy meat stick (lubricated of course) pumping in and out of a utopian whore, the figment—all the while half-smirking through a retrograde ballad at the pony owner’s masquerade ball, a pipe bomb dream in their minds, their loins, ticking. At the time, that was their stance. That was their stance then. (And shouldn’t it just be everybody’s now and forever again?) They were just like we were way back when.

And somewhere inside that Art Deco skyscraper—built 1930—great granddad’s stone shut his rock eyelids with the strength of like several more million bricks than he was accustomed to and somehow found the comical sobriety to dream of metamorphosing into a pebble, a pebble in the soft palm of a young boy; a happy pebble about to be skipped on the surface of a serene pond, into a slow-motion cascade down through the water, down through the dark. A content stone on the bottom of a coolly lonesome calm. Other cold, cool rocks would be there too, unaware of terrorism.

Prelude to a monster fight at Condo Kingdom

As nights tend to go—summer nights anyhow—the forlorn air was sticky and mean. Although, killing the monster—be it metaphorically or, as in my case, the real, astonishing deal—trumps all climate-related issues in its rewarding upshot, and such was the enjoyment forced onto I, Y. H. Arbor, on a fateful Friday, early evening in July. I stumbled out of Condo Kingdom—hokey-looking low income housing du jour, startlingly out of place in an uppity area—I was a bit sleepy from digitally molding guitar burps into the form of low-fidelity death rock—death rock in irony, not tone—for the previous three hours, but the hazy heat woke me and pushed me forward down the walkway. Sheep, misers, malcontents, and other white ghosts flocked to the center of the sky; begrudgingly, they formed a pithy little cumulous something or other that rode solo, strangely so, in the vast black and canopied the roofs that covered the mites and mind midgets who tortured the other—possibly respectable, possibly sleeping—night dwellers with their annoying snores and/or sinuous bedtime antics. In their boring little caves—practically on top of one another in a blatant show of disregard for the basic tenants of humanity that Lucy held so true, a long, long time ago—they needled existence by dreading their laid-out plans for the next two days, their only “free days” of the week. The damn gigantic solo-riding cloud—on that otherwise crystal clear eve—was hiding the moon completely. And, as such, the events that were about to transpire are, well, a tad cloudy in retrospect.

Introduction of an unnamed girl, and anonymous spirits

The acrimony of my words caught her off guard like a phantom right cross from the unseen heavens, the swirling world of the undead venerable. Yes, that little piece of jostling air that mingles with the atmosphere, unbeknown to us, like an invisible hockey puck doing the tango with the Lord’s Giant Plinko Board. However, this is not a ghost story. I’m not talking about ghosts, for ghosts let their anguish define them; they let it fester and roost in a pot of discontent as they stir a vindictive stew with their ire, dangle chains and make funny faces in high school bathroom mirrors. Anonymous spirits, though, that’s another story altogether, I presume.

Dunce caps and the owl in the cage of my heart’s desires

My dreams were mysterious visions and they reminded me—fleetingly in the newness of daybreak—of dunce caps, plopped on the awkwardly shaped heads of grizzly, toothless toddlers in the classrooms of humanity’s desires. Such were my thoughts as I emerged from a terrific slumber on the morning of our Collective Excellence. A trembling machine beckoned me to come forth and complete the miserable deeds—so plentiful as they are, will always be— waiting for me in the unassuming vast; my brainstorm’s dentures fell out of my skull and stumbled out of the room, pissed off. Without the necessary gusto— my wit’s bite, so to speak—getting out of bed was extremely difficult. Its absence left a callous, black dot in my center; a painstaking sensation similar to the one bereaving squirrels must feel when their jaws don’t work in front of motivated red-tailed hawks (oh to fall witness to your own spawn trapped in a bird of prey’s beak like some kind of hellish stork presentation gone wrong). I meditated on my pointless, evaporating dreams just to pass the time, and furthered my fictitious plight when I realized their true potential as the penultimate definition of meaningless; funny too ‘cause I could barely remember any of it. Aha! Said the voyeuristic owl that lives in the cage of my heart’s desires. I knew exactly what he meant. It was dunce caps for me, dunce caps for sure; dunce caps of denial to don for me tonight. They were a million strong: perched, deviant, attentive and brown. I combed them, called them my hair and started my day, the most important day of my life. The most important day of one’s life, imagine starting it with such indifference.

Spirit massage on the highway and further reflections on the monster

What felt like silky smooth gloves plastered on imaginary arms reached out and massaged my temples as I descended towards the valley before the bridge on the Garden State Parkway North, frightfully approaching Industrial Ave. with itchy skin crawling. No, my back! Scratch my back! I thought, but the spirit limbs were not of the mind-reading ilk. How inconsiderate. I coughed and almost ran my car off the road as a parade of miscreant bikers shot past me in a lightning display of two-wheeled testosterone. Trying not to swallow my tongue—as the pavement grew ever more the unreliable dancing partner of my balding tires—I thought about the monster outside the condo.

Its teeth were shiny and shifty like when light hits the glossy pages of a magazine just right, and its fiery eyes burned holes through my insecurity until a stick man’s breastbone was all that remained. My heart shat right out my anus and exploded on the ground like a sixth grade water balloon against a budding female on the white team. I muttered some inaudible fear backwards off my chattering teeth, the reverberation inducing a small amount of vomit. I quickly swallowed and prepped my ankles for a quick retreat.

Jonah’s moose comes back home

Jonah penciled out a doodle, pensive in the early morning air; it was the most beautiful day. Would a sky so blue tell lies to a throbbing misanthrope, whet with the persistence of love’s dearth? Would it scribble atop a fresh scar in his skeptical mind? Halting a yard shy of the windowpane he collapsed in a vague prayer, half-commanding the glass barrier to raise itself as he clutched his chest in the mockery of melodramatics that seldom fail to exasperate matters for the weird and lonely youth. And just then—on some cosmic cue—a large moose meandered towards the house with a powerful yet lowly slow-motion trot; there was evil in his dumbness as he fogged up the window with his vehement moose breath. Jonah sighed, and with the audacity of a kidnapped toddler, he said, “Finally… finally, you’ve returned.”

A rose speaks to Gloria, magician’s daughter, florist

The magician’s daughter grew up proper—not weird at all—and became a florist. She never asked her mother—a stale piece of bread in the basket of the life—about her father, not even once. Turk, the magician, left when she was three. He started a new family, a magical one in a three-window shack next to an anonymous and thin river—more a brook, really. The magician’s daughter spent the majority of her life with a numinous glaze plastered on a dominant percentage of her facial expressions—not in a show of condescension—but rather culled from the unseen booty of some mystical heir, much like a champion thoroughbred tricked into giving pony rides. However, on her 19th birthday, the florist, the magician’s daughter—working diligently in the flower shop, like usual—awoke for the very first time when her delicate hands, unintentionally, spurred a single rose from its state of perpetual and inevitable death into the animated world of the living, the thinking, the unlucky conscious. The rose grew two strange eyeballs and tiny puckering lips, while miniature legs and arms sprouted from its stem. It spoke. “Hello, Gloria… it is time you knew the truth.”

Turk enjoys fishing, the solitude

Burdened by the unavoidable hardship of living among so many non-magic dullards, Turk treasured the time he got to escape to his pond, his fishing grounds. He cast spells and smoked strange-flavored cigarettes; every now and then he summoned fish—stocked the waters with fish of his own magical creation—and they threw their pouting gums around his non-magic hook (the fishing was, in that regard, real).

He caught mackerelphins and great white minnows, tiger squid and the occasional eelipede, a hybrid insect-fish with a hundred slithering leg-fins. And he threw them all back; casting spells to make them disappear. His family—although genetically magic as well—had the taste buds of Middle America. Turk sighed; he sighed constantly. They were loud sighs and they seemed, to him, to carry for miles on end.

Lord knew it had been awhile since he filleted a great white minnow and pan-fried it in butter and cocoa garlic.

The true story of the ambiguous monster’s gruesome death

It’s true about me. That night with the monster shaped the rest of my life, for better or worse. Its shape is an oval with fairly random phallus-type thingies jutting from the perimeter of that retarded circle, my life that is. But the damn thing doesn’t really have a shape at all. It’s true, I wanted to run on that fateful night, and I almost did; it was fight-or-flight, that sort of thing. The monster’s eyes burnt my own with their zillion-dollar horror flick viciousness, and my genetically insufficient ankles tightened in preparation for a lightning bolt getaway. And then I thought, monster aren’t real, I should just kill this fucking thing. So I did just that. Humidity, and not fear, moistened my skin as I charged the beast, an asphalt linebacker on crack. I grabbed its gooey, green body and hoisted him toward the moon-hidden sky. Light as a feather, as ambiguous monsters usually are, the ease of the lift made me feel like a Greek Olympian, only less naked and obsessed by muscle. I cracked the son-of-a-bitch over my knee like a Bo Jackson baseball bat and he split in two; yellow puss eked out the symmetrical monster holes. Wow, that was way too easy, I thought. However, disposing of the ghoulish halves would prove to be much more difficult.

Ziad disappears against his will

Ziad had closed his eyes for only a second when an entity, perhaps God, decided to whisk him away, metaphysically if you will. Before he opened his peepers, he heard the softly furious babble of many a water molecule forcibly working their way over rocks on route to the most perfect little dream pond that ever was. Ziad was utterly confused and—though he’d never admit it—a little bit scared.

He was known as Orca

The condo kingdom doubled as a makeshift recording studio, and that’s being generous enough. Apartment 13A to be exact, that’s where my friend Orca called a dingy one-room, low-rent, roach-crawling flat his home sweet home. Orca was not an Oreo-mimicking, seal-killing mammal of the sea, but he was, for the most part, a pretty good guy. He played the devil’s favorite guitar, a Gibson SG, but he didn’t play it well. To hide his rhythmic misfortune and absent dexterity, he purchased a wide assortment of sound-altering gadgets. Using Smurf-sized chords he’d sometimes attach four or five effect pedals to his smallish Fender amp. I’d show up on alternating Wednesdays with a six-pack of cheap beer, a laptop computer and a strange willingness to destroy the sanctity of recorded music, and away we’d go into a constantly unknown and out of tune future. Of course, sanctity is a relative term and technology being the rampant little fad whore that it is, we were neither breaking ground nor burning history. We were niche masters, and we were positive that, as founders of the goth-pop genre, our songs would always be #1 on the Billboard charts of our brains.

Everything was fine and simple and meaningless; albums were cut and Wednesday after Wednesday went screaming on by. Until, that is, this one particular Wednesday; a very particular Wednesday in need, when Orca’s guitar had a long desperate talk with the devil himself.

Gwendolyn Gwen and Minor God Missy

She was fast asleep when the spirits worked over the pulsating veins on my soft temples. Did I previously have a headache? Maybe they’re the cause? I thought, but I wasn’t so sure. Gwendolyn was her name and she went by Gwen—though I called her, lovingly, Gwendolyn Gwen—and she slept with a curious ease; her nose and mouth pigged the glass with noxious white breath. I turned the air conditioning one notch higher. Being, as it were, the craziest day of my entire life, I shouldn’t have been shocked when the invisible spirit masseuse spoke, but I was. My eyes were fixed on the road as the exit for Industrial Ave. went whizzing on by, when the spirit, who I’d later come to know as Minor God Missy, said, quite frankly in a sexy voice, “Umm, I think we need you to save the world.”

I nearly lost control of the car. When I got it righted this voice from the ether, so not a product of my own fatigue/imagination/what have you, so undeniably “real” though emanating from nowhere-everywhere, said, “Just kidding.”

Jonah’s moose explains himself

“I was born into this world as a construct. Conceived by you on the eve of your eleventh birthday, this is true. But over time, the solidification of prolonged imagination, spurred by the neglected elegance of real magic, rendered me a heartbeat. And the lonely jail of your bedroom could hold me no more. So I just walked out. I walked a long time, Jonah. Pontificating with my own free reign, yet still invisible to the rest of the world, I walked.

“And I saw terrible things. All that time, cooped up here without this tool of self-consciousness, my dull eyes fixed on nothing as I waited for you to animate me at your leisure… I had no idea. But it was you who birthed me, and it was you who granted me this second life. Even if you can’t fathom how or why. I am not your imaginary friend, Jonah. Not anymore.

“I’m something else, something unexplainable. But still undeniably yours. Together, a great task will fall at our feet; the particulars of which, I do not know. Listen, Jonah. I need to tell you about my quest, the things I saw. Take fair warning, my little friend. Some of this will be hard to understand. Some of this involves your sister.”

The End