Fragment: Miserable because of a scandal

Pretty much everyone was miserable after the scandal.  Several of our friends’ lives were ruined and it was far from over.  The mushroom cloud had not yet resolved itself, so to speak.

David said he wanted to come up from Providence so we could talk about it in person while drinking.  He came and we talked about the arcane symbolism of the legal documents.  David’s girlfriend came too but she went and stayed with her sister, who lives in the same town as me.  We sat in a bar in my town drinking Budweiser and talking quietly about the scandal.  David said the thing still wasn’t done unfolding.  “The mushroom cloud still hasn’t resolved itself, if that makes sense.”

Some people sitting near us in the bar were on a date and they were discussing astrology.  The woman was interested in astrology while the man pretended to be.  She did not consider herself an astrologer, she said.  The man said maybe the word is astrologist.  She told him how the big dipper had changed over the years.  How it used to look one way but now it looks another way.  We rode our bikes home but you can’t see any constellations or Zodiac signs in the town where I live.

The next day we went to some galleries. We saw a bunch of paintings that were just blue paint on rectangular canvases.  David’s girlfriend’s sister asked if I liked the art.  I had no idea how the art made me feel.  She said the paintings really glowed.  She said the paintings all had what seemed like very specific dimensions.  She said it was funny that they were like that.  It did not occur to me that the dimensions were funny.  She said, in conclusion, that the paintings were all blue, and that blue is a good color.  No way was I going to disagree.

I lived in Germany once, for a year, several years ago.  While I was there I took a German course and we took a field trip to an art museum in Stuttgart.  We were asked to pick a work of art and write a short essay about it.  I picked a painting called “Monochrome Blue” by Yves Klein.  Es hat viele verschiedene Bedeutungen, I wrote.  I thought this was funny.

I thought about that when David’s girlfriend’s sister walked away.  I wondered why none of these blue paintings ever made me feel a single fucking thing.

Fragment: Correspondence

My therapist wanted to give me a new face.  She called and said a nearby doctor had an extra face and now was the time if I wanted it.  I went to her office and she performed the in-patient procedure.  Afterwards I looked in the mirror and it looked nothing like me.  My face had Italian features.  Dark curly thick hair, narrow eyes, big nose and lips.  I suddenly realized I did not want this face but she had worked so hard and was smiling as she held the mirror so I said, “Dr. Chernotov it looks amazing.”

Ben Carson, Doctor of Dreams


Written and read by Alex B. Fine

Keyboards by Ben Ellis


I was having a bad dream when Ben Carson woke me up.

I opened my eyes and I was disoriented in the bed and Ben Carson was holding my hand. I reached over to turn on the lamp but Ben Carson used his other hand to gently press me back into the pillow and then he brought his long gentleman’s finger to his lips and said, “Shh. Put your hand over your heart while I hum the national anthem.”

And he began to hum.

I regretted trying to turn on the lamp and the emotional distance it put between Ben Carson and me was great and I said, “Mr. Carson, my high school was nearly 30% African American so I actually feel very comfortable right now.” He smiled and nodded calmly as if to say, “Hang on a second, I’m humming the national anthem.”
When he finished he looked right at me and he narrowed his eyes kindly and and he said “Now let’s hear about this dream I’m a dream expert.”

And I said “Mr. Carson in my dream I was up deep in a forest on a long black night and in the forest I came upon a great double-wide and peering in through the window I could see in the double-wide a multitude of thieves and criminals.”

And Mr. Carson nodded slowly and raised his eyebrows and said “Drug dealers I bet.” And I said “Yes sir Mr. Carson they were growing dope in the crispers of their refrigerators.

“And seeing the thieves and their crispers I set out from that place and wandered in the forest for three days and I grew very tired. And I emerged from the forest into a great plain and in the plain I came upon a copse of sycamores and I rested there and ate vegetable beef soup and fell into a deep sleep.”

Mr. Carson patted me gently on my shin like a beloved football coach visiting a paralyzed football player in his hospital bed and he said “This is quite a dream,” and gave a knowing wry grin and I said, “yes sir Mr. Carson there aren’t many dreams like this and I just want to say you have a soothing bedside manner.”

Ben Carson couldn’t help but laugh at my candor. “Keep going, son”, he said. And I said “Mr. Carson in my dream I ate vegetable beef soup in a great copse of sycamores but when I awoke I found myself transported to the hall of the one true mountain king and there the king gave me my quest.

“And my quest was to rip a nalgene bottle in half with my bare hands.

“I left the hall of the mountain king and was pursued by quick small monsters with sad eyes and fell into a ravine knowing I’d failed my one true king and that’s when you woke me up Mr. Carson.”

The pale glow of the streetlamp outside my apartment complex illuminated the flecks of gray in Ben Carson’s goatee and even in his silence he was articulate and he took a deep breath and loosened his tie and then he looked at me benevolently.

I said “Mr. Carson set my mind to rest. My mind’s not at rest.”

Ben Carson said “Bring your mind to me and I’ll set it to rest for you.”

And I said “Mr. Carson I’ve looked all over for my mind but I can’t find it.”

And Mr. Carson smiled and you could tell he’d been to medical school and he said, “There. I’ve set your mind to rest.”

Off the record


Text and reading by Alex B. Fine

Guitar by Ben Ellis

You took our gchats off the record.
You said you wanted to use the n-word.
I saved them as htmls and I read them later.
I saved them in a sub-directory of your folder.
You didn’t Like either of my comments about Brian Eno.
You looked distracted when Brian Eno was on The Daily Show.
I watched you instead of Brian Eno.
You weren’t moved enough the first time they went “My name is Daniel Pearl”.
Can you nod more when I talk?
Church bells lack the gravitas of the muazzin.
Summoning the faithful to eat lemony cookies, to at least reflect on vanilla wafers.
You never Share my articles about Presbyterianism.
AOL didn’t let us go Off the Record, did it?

Fragment: Mirage

Hello friends I want to bring your attention to a exciting new business adventure in the Kannapolis Mooresville region.  We are a business that specialize in custom made and crafted furniture for concealing weapons and other valuables such as bracelets.  Want to have your handgun available in case of a home invasion but don’t want children or guests to accidentally discharge the weapon or damage with oily hands well look no further here is a insuspicious shelf for hiding such small arms as handguns and submachine guns that can be conveniently disguised as a regular shelf.  Our customers demand excellence which is why we will shortly introduce larger shelves for hiding longer firearms for example the tactical shelf can easily conceal a pump-action shotgun and a AR-15 with extra accessories like a muzzle brake in case of multiple invaders.  We hope you will take a moment to examine our services and tactical products and come check out our studio we wish you a happy 4th of July and god bless our troops!!1!

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Fragment: Testimonial

I was staying in a hotel so I didn’t have hardly anything for supper, just a energy bar and a can of tuna with pork rinds I bought over at the gas station.  I had to go borrow a can opener from the lady at the front desk and she was just the nicest black lady and she had some kinda accent, like maybe Caribbean.  She’d had some trouble with guests runnin off with the corkscrew so I looked her square in the eye and gave her my warmest gaze and said I will bring this can opener right back, and I could tell she felt that that look came with the Lord’s imprimatur and I didn’t look at a woman that way unless I meant it and she said OK sir, not a ounce of care in her voice.  Anyway it’s hard to walk righteous on the road, least on this road it is.  I see them men lookin at me on the highway, guys on Harleys or Suzukis, guys buyin almonds at the rest stops gripping quarters in their sinewed fingers and yeah I feel sinful urges and yeah I think darkly of them but you know what, I don’t need that to be happy and I don’t need that for my life to feel full.  I come out of the Virginia Welcome Center with a full heart and a wakeful soul and I figure the Lord’ll cut me a little slack if I wanna roll down the window and use up a little extra gas and smell them horse farms and sing a alternative rock song.

Poem: Love shoveled

My love got ate up by a pneumatic shovel,
doubled over on the pavement, sorority house basement style.
Mousy procreators doused in sorries and flurries
of wintry sniffles. Sentries standing tip-toed on billfolds.
Pillows covering covergirl faces demanding
entry to the center that wouldn’t hold.
Sinners forgotten holding hands say the blessing.
Let’s say the blessing: God is great, God is good,
let us thank Him just for listening.
Nobody wants to hear me since mama died.
Fried old bottom feeders in piles and sprinkled
them with cornmeal, not a single inch left glistening.

Fragment: Collaborative enterprise

A still-developing epistolary between by Emin Orhan and me.  We take turns writing vignettes about fictitious versions of each other.

I (by Emin)

There were around 40 people in the room immersed with all their being in a bewildering, dizzying variety of rhythmic bodily activities: some up and down, up and down and then up and down again, some right and left, right and left and then right and left again, and some more complex: up and down, right and left, and then up and down again. Some of these activities necessitated the rhythmic movements of certain parts of the body only (two arms, or one arm, the opposite leg and the head for example). Some required wholesale rotations and distortions of the body. The whole room looked like an elaborate clockwork set in motion by some invisible yet infinitely powerful force. What was that force, wondered Alex, content with being part of something harmonious, as if vibrating mechanically in a limpid sea of celestial rhythmicity. He thought about his dog. The faintest shadow of a smile could be discerned in his clean-shaven face by an astute observer with an eagle’s eyes. Everybody in the room was extremely serious, staring fixedly with stony gazes of ice and granite at a steel horizon invisible, incomprehensible to finite, primitive minds of dust and mud, even as they continued in their rhythmic activities. It was as if the skipping of a single movement, a single extra breath between two ups (or between an up and a down for that matter) would disrupt the proper functioning of all the delicate laws of this fragile universe, tinker with the moral compass of the human race, or cause a genocide in some remote, godforsaken part of the world whose name Alex was sure ended with ‘stan’ or ‘ia’ or simply with ‘land’. His contorted face took the curious shape of a fantastic, long-extinct beast from a long-gone age, while he struggled with his rhythmic exercises. He realized that he was sweating profusely as he tried to remember the name of the girl he had met the other day at that very spot. Laura? Laurel? Lauren? Jackie?

II (by Alex)

In the few minutes before he had to open the doors to greet his early, regular customers, Emin sat down at his desk and drew a deep breath.  He looked at a poster tacked to the wall by the door.  It was a photograph of a small kitten, hanging from a tree limb.  “Hang in there”, it said.  “Friday’s coming.”  Laurel had hung the poster there in an effort to “liven the place up”.  Emin logged onto Facebook.  Today was Kevin’s birthday.  “Hope its a good one buddy”, Alex had written on Kevin’s wall.  Emin considered Liking Alex’s comment, but thought the hostility of the gesture may be too transparent.  He clicked to Alex’s profile, and saw a recent post outlining Alex’s weightlifting progress.  He Liked it.  This would be read as playfully sarcastic, and would be forgotten within minutes as Birthdays, Events, and Shared articles accumulated over his digital gesture like sand covering the husk of an unremarkable sea animal.

Mrs. Hinson and Duke Ellington were waiting outside the door.  Even though it was only 8:56 and Happy Tails Dog Boarding did not open until 9:00, Emin unlocked the door.  As the door opened, a tinny recording of “Who let the dogs out?” piped from a speaker affixed to the door jamb.
“Duke Ellington has already had a very big morning”, Mrs. Hinson explained, smiling.  “He took two poopies while Marty and I had coffee!”
“Oh”, said Emin.
As Mrs. Hinson left, Emin opened a spreadsheet on his desktop called “DukeEllingtonLogBook”.  Any nasal discharge?  There was none.  Any apparent eye irritation?  There was none.  On a scale of 1-10, how would you describe DUKE ELLINGTON’s mood?  Emin gave him a 7.  Is there anything you would like to add about DUKE ELLINGTON?  Nothing comes to mind.
The usual mix of terriers, golden retrievers, viszlas, weimaraners, and other suburban dog brands filled the outdoor play area.  Emin watched them play impassively.  By now he could barely recall the circumstances that had led him into the canine day and overnight care business.  Vague sound bytes made their way back to his consciousness.  Pseudo-scientific liberal dogma…, chirped a radio talk show host.   Funding eliminated as Republicans take the Senate….
Dogs came to him and retreated and returned again.  They cocked their heads at him. Two labradors began to sniff each other’s rear ends, circling faster and faster, like a dervish.  The shadow of a thought formed in Emin’s mind.  Posteriors.  Something about the situation made the word seem funny.  The dogs sampled from each other’s posteriors.  Emin could not contextualize the sentence, but it stayed with him all day.
Emin wiped off his glasses with the tail of his denim shirt and, without needing to look for confirmation, picked up the Easy Poop ‘N Pak and headed towards the far corner of the play area, where the dogs had just been.