lessquestionablecontent:

We haven’t seen each other in three years but I liked your picture so I guess it’s ok. Monday nights I spend on porn websites and staring at blank screens and listening to all of the same songs. On Tuesdays I go to the bar and read poetry to strangers and get drunk and talk to no one but the television screen. People try to talk to me, they approach me, and all I see when they do are shipwrecks and corporate training sessions.
On Wednesday I drink coffee and write. I go to the same place every night and hope the guy behind the counter doesn’t recognize me. What I write about now, I write about closing my eyes on Sunday afternoons and hoping a culture of a dream will develop underneath my eyelids. I drink my coffee and listen to songs and scribble until it hurts. I tap my shoulder into the window.
When the night ends, when you go your way and I go mine, you ought not to believe I continue existing. You ought to think I disappear as soon as I hit that corner. You ought not to measure my worth in the time I spend without you. You ought to forget me in conversations with other friends, you ought to reassure me that I only die if I die in a room full of witnesses. You ought to forget me as often as I do.
On Thursday I go to the karaoke bar. I drink four beers, I count them off,  and then I go on stage. I sing Boston, I sing R + B, I sing along to the songs others choose. Sometimes bodies with faces sit next to me and we go places and I feel guilty and I wake up the next morning late for work and I count on my hands all the ways I will fuck everything up. I sit at work, where I’m supposed to be.
The last time we talked I called you a phony but I liked your photo last night. You took up rock climbing and I liked your photo last night. You got your MBA and I liked your photo last night. Your photo of your new boyfriend I liked last night. So now we’re all alright. And I’m back to being what you need me to. I liked your photo last night and you forgot my name, you looked at it and thought “Who liked this.”
Fridays I take the train anywhere and speak with alcoholics suspended in futureless ruts. Beleaguered bartenders make small talk. The jukebox plays the same Creedence song every night, all night, all noise. On the walk home with my slice of pizza, on the walk home with my slice of pizza, listening to The Bends, I’d punch the wall harder if I  didn’t know how stupid it was to punch a thing with anything other than the heel of your hand.
You’ll get married and the wedding will fit atop me like a hat. You’ll be happy and your smile will patter off against my umbrella. Everything is homogenous. Gentlemen with projects tell me things because their own sons hate them, and I chew the inside of my lip until a chunk breaks off.
Because Saturday and Sunday are spent in a room without lights listening to noise. Curled up under the covers protecting me from the air conditioning. Young breasts skating over. Gods asking for a date. I liked your URL, your side project, your page, and I did it all without looking in your eyes. Gods asking for a date. When I come crawling back I come back spouting blood out my mouth. And if you love me you’ll forgive me for what I got on your shoes.

lessquestionablecontent:

We haven’t seen each other in three years but I liked your picture so I guess it’s ok. Monday nights I spend on porn websites and staring at blank screens and listening to all of the same songs. On Tuesdays I go to the bar and read poetry to strangers and get drunk and talk to no one but the television screen. People try to talk to me, they approach me, and all I see when they do are shipwrecks and corporate training sessions.

On Wednesday I drink coffee and write. I go to the same place every night and hope the guy behind the counter doesn’t recognize me. What I write about now, I write about closing my eyes on Sunday afternoons and hoping a culture of a dream will develop underneath my eyelids. I drink my coffee and listen to songs and scribble until it hurts. I tap my shoulder into the window.

When the night ends, when you go your way and I go mine, you ought not to believe I continue existing. You ought to think I disappear as soon as I hit that corner. You ought not to measure my worth in the time I spend without you. You ought to forget me in conversations with other friends, you ought to reassure me that I only die if I die in a room full of witnesses. You ought to forget me as often as I do.

On Thursday I go to the karaoke bar. I drink four beers, I count them off,  and then I go on stage. I sing Boston, I sing R + B, I sing along to the songs others choose. Sometimes bodies with faces sit next to me and we go places and I feel guilty and I wake up the next morning late for work and I count on my hands all the ways I will fuck everything up. I sit at work, where I’m supposed to be.

The last time we talked I called you a phony but I liked your photo last night. You took up rock climbing and I liked your photo last night. You got your MBA and I liked your photo last night. Your photo of your new boyfriend I liked last night. So now we’re all alright. And I’m back to being what you need me to. I liked your photo last night and you forgot my name, you looked at it and thought “Who liked this.”

Fridays I take the train anywhere and speak with alcoholics suspended in futureless ruts. Beleaguered bartenders make small talk. The jukebox plays the same Creedence song every night, all night, all noise. On the walk home with my slice of pizza, on the walk home with my slice of pizza, listening to The Bends, I’d punch the wall harder if I  didn’t know how stupid it was to punch a thing with anything other than the heel of your hand.

You’ll get married and the wedding will fit atop me like a hat. You’ll be happy and your smile will patter off against my umbrella. Everything is homogenous. Gentlemen with projects tell me things because their own sons hate them, and I chew the inside of my lip until a chunk breaks off.

Because Saturday and Sunday are spent in a room without lights listening to noise. Curled up under the covers protecting me from the air conditioning. Young breasts skating over. Gods asking for a date. I liked your URL, your side project, your page, and I did it all without looking in your eyes. Gods asking for a date. When I come crawling back I come back spouting blood out my mouth. And if you love me you’ll forgive me for what I got on your shoes.

lessquestionablecontent:

Dwayne knew it was my spot underneath the bridge but took it anyway. I came back from the ramp exit and found him lying there asleep like it was the most natural thing in the world. My bag was still there, my shopping cart was still there, my mattress, my blankets and everything — he had put them off to the side and slept on the concrete, like moving my stuff made his an excusable offense.
Dwayne, I shouted. But the traffic was still heavy underneath the overpass, what with it being a Friday around seven and all, and so trying to be louder than this constant whooshing proved difficult. I waited for lulls but I could only fill in the noise rather than break through it, if that makes sense. All I’m trying to do is explain why I did what I did next.
It’s not like I ever held any animosity toward Dwayne. In this type of environment, of course you’re gonna run into people who aren’t exactly all there, and from what I could tell Dwayne was a slow guy. Like you could talk to him and he could talk right on back but you never or rarely felt that anything was sinking in. He’d just sort of nod, wide-eyed, and say “Yeah” a bunch like he was trying to get the conversation finished as quickly as possible. But you didn’t feel insulted by this because it wasn’t hard to recognize he was kind of dim-witted and wasn’t doing it out of any sort of arrogance.
Anyway, after it was clear I couldn’t wake him up just by shouting, I gave him a nudge somewhere in the middle of the back, since he was on his side turned away from me, and he, like, I think he’d been awake all along, because he just exploded or something, the next thing I know he was swinging toward me with one of his arms raised with a clear intent to backslap, but when I got out of the way the thrust of his momentum just sort of made him roll over and fall off the raised slab of concrete between the bridge’s legs that we referred to as cubbies.
And then he was back up, ferocious, he tried to stand up and charge at me at the same time, and I got out of the way, and he sort of toro’d past, which I felt was a good opportunity to get him to calm down.
Dwayne, it’s just me, take it easy.
Now that he finally stood and faced me I could see how spooked he was. He wouldn’t listen to me, he just kept shouting What the fuck, I was sleeping! I was sleeping! in his clunky marbled way.
So I just waited. I kept my hands out in front of me to keep him a safe distance, spoke calmly and quietly. I knew in time he’d get tired of repeating himself. And slowly over time there were longer pauses between his explaining himself. And he recognized me.
Petey, Petey, he said. I din’t know you’d be back so soon. I was gonna be gone before you got back, I swear.
I believed him. I guess I believed him. Why not believe him? I normally retired later in the night, since it didn’t serve any purpose to try and get any sleep down there unless you were dead tired. Today was one of those exceptions. And maybe I was judging Dwayne’s intelligence too harshly. Like, sure, he might’ve been a little slow, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t figure anything out ever. I felt bad for him, anyways. He had gone from furious to frightened in no time, like there was any chance of me punishing him, me, half his size.
It’s alright, I told him. I just wanted to come by and pick something up, I lied to him. Go back to bed, but just make sure to put everything back when you leave.
What time do you think you’ll be back?
I shrugged. And that’s when some guy in a passing car stuck out his head at us and screamed at us. Nothing hair-raising or threatening or mean, but more mocking, jerks being jerks, like a wahoo! sort of thing. You could hear the guy driving laugh at this. 
It made me remember the life I left two years ago for the one I inhabited then. Day in, day out, sending faxes, licking envelopes, talking with people dumber than Dwayne on the phone. I had felt good walking away from it, I felt comfortable with choosing to live by my standards rather than be unhappy trying to reach the standards others expected of me, but it was moments like those, when some kid shouted at you while you were in the middle of a conversation about when you’re gonna come back to fall asleep underneath an overpass, that I questioned my decision.
Dwayne’s attention had followed the car and its screamer. I watched his craned neck and wondered how long he would’ve stayed that way if I hadn’t continued the conversation, hadn’t just turned around and walked away.

In the spirit of The Real Olive Garden, a new site has been created, featuring fiction inspired by the shitshow that is the webcomic that is Questionable Content. Check it out.

lessquestionablecontent:

Dwayne knew it was my spot underneath the bridge but took it anyway. I came back from the ramp exit and found him lying there asleep like it was the most natural thing in the world. My bag was still there, my shopping cart was still there, my mattress, my blankets and everything — he had put them off to the side and slept on the concrete, like moving my stuff made his an excusable offense.

Dwayne, I shouted. But the traffic was still heavy underneath the overpass, what with it being a Friday around seven and all, and so trying to be louder than this constant whooshing proved difficult. I waited for lulls but I could only fill in the noise rather than break through it, if that makes sense. All I’m trying to do is explain why I did what I did next.

It’s not like I ever held any animosity toward Dwayne. In this type of environment, of course you’re gonna run into people who aren’t exactly all there, and from what I could tell Dwayne was a slow guy. Like you could talk to him and he could talk right on back but you never or rarely felt that anything was sinking in. He’d just sort of nod, wide-eyed, and say “Yeah” a bunch like he was trying to get the conversation finished as quickly as possible. But you didn’t feel insulted by this because it wasn’t hard to recognize he was kind of dim-witted and wasn’t doing it out of any sort of arrogance.

Anyway, after it was clear I couldn’t wake him up just by shouting, I gave him a nudge somewhere in the middle of the back, since he was on his side turned away from me, and he, like, I think he’d been awake all along, because he just exploded or something, the next thing I know he was swinging toward me with one of his arms raised with a clear intent to backslap, but when I got out of the way the thrust of his momentum just sort of made him roll over and fall off the raised slab of concrete between the bridge’s legs that we referred to as cubbies.

And then he was back up, ferocious, he tried to stand up and charge at me at the same time, and I got out of the way, and he sort of toro’d past, which I felt was a good opportunity to get him to calm down.

Dwayne, it’s just me, take it easy.

Now that he finally stood and faced me I could see how spooked he was. He wouldn’t listen to me, he just kept shouting What the fuck, I was sleeping! I was sleeping! in his clunky marbled way.

So I just waited. I kept my hands out in front of me to keep him a safe distance, spoke calmly and quietly. I knew in time he’d get tired of repeating himself. And slowly over time there were longer pauses between his explaining himself. And he recognized me.

Petey, Petey, he said. I din’t know you’d be back so soon. I was gonna be gone before you got back, I swear.

I believed him. I guess I believed him. Why not believe him? I normally retired later in the night, since it didn’t serve any purpose to try and get any sleep down there unless you were dead tired. Today was one of those exceptions. And maybe I was judging Dwayne’s intelligence too harshly. Like, sure, he might’ve been a little slow, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t figure anything out ever. I felt bad for him, anyways. He had gone from furious to frightened in no time, like there was any chance of me punishing him, me, half his size.

It’s alright, I told him. I just wanted to come by and pick something up, I lied to him. Go back to bed, but just make sure to put everything back when you leave.

What time do you think you’ll be back?

I shrugged. And that’s when some guy in a passing car stuck out his head at us and screamed at us. Nothing hair-raising or threatening or mean, but more mocking, jerks being jerks, like a wahoo! sort of thing. You could hear the guy driving laugh at this. 

It made me remember the life I left two years ago for the one I inhabited then. Day in, day out, sending faxes, licking envelopes, talking with people dumber than Dwayne on the phone. I had felt good walking away from it, I felt comfortable with choosing to live by my standards rather than be unhappy trying to reach the standards others expected of me, but it was moments like those, when some kid shouted at you while you were in the middle of a conversation about when you’re gonna come back to fall asleep underneath an overpass, that I questioned my decision.

Dwayne’s attention had followed the car and its screamer. I watched his craned neck and wondered how long he would’ve stayed that way if I hadn’t continued the conversation, hadn’t just turned around and walked away.

In the spirit of The Real Olive Garden, a new site has been created, featuring fiction inspired by the shitshow that is the webcomic that is Questionable Content. Check it out.

What are you doing on here

As an afterthought, he wrote:

I know you could ask the same of me, but I asked first

He scanned the crowd for her. He had put the distance limit to its minimum – five miles. So really it could’ve been anywhere but he knew how much she loved them, The Arcade Fire. He got a response.

“To keep tabs on you”

And then:

I’m guessing that’s the reason you’re gonna give, as well.

He let out an involuntary smirk.

Something like that, yeah

When he first saw her photo he almost skipped it. It was easy to start skipping without even looking at what you were doing, and he was in the middle of an unconscious channel surf, but it was the location that made him pause. The picnic table they liked to walk to when the weather was nice. He had taken the picture.

He had told her he was going out with friends and she had told him the same.

Are you at The Arcade Fire show, he asked.

Yeah.

Where

Upstairs.

He looked up to the balcony, the view from his vantage point was limited, the stairway at the venue’s entrance was empty, everyone had pushed forward to get close to the stage. Upstairs, he found her in one of the back corners, by the bar, staring down at her phone. He walked over.

“Are you alone?”

She looked up. Not at him, but out over the balcony. A roadie sound-checked a guitar. She’s deciding how to feel, he thought, because that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“Yeah,” her voice clipped.

“Let’s go somewhere and talk.”

She sped past as she assented and didn’t look back to see whether he followed.

*

Outside was misty but temperate, the first nice night they’d had since the start of winter. He watched her smoke with her arms crossed and her body standing near but pointed miles away. She spoke to the traffic.

“How long have you been using it?”

“Let’s go back to the apartment before we start.”

“Linda’s probably still there.”

“I don’t care. I’ll text her, I’ll tell her we’re coming back to talk.”

She exhaled and made a small face. “I told her I found you on there.”

“Ok. But this is about us, not her.”

“Lets go to the apartment, then.”

The streets were quiet. He got edgy and started.

“Why’d you go on it?”

“Why did you? Are you unhappy?”

“It’s not that. It’s hard to explain.”

“Of course it is. When have these things ever been easy to explain?”

“I started it three days ago.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Which I guess means you’ve had it for even shorter.”

Two young men and a young woman walked past.

“Let’s finish this at the apartment,” she said.

“So what, yesterday?”

“Two days ago.”

“Are you unhappy?”

In the vestibule of their building’s entrance she unlocked and jerked the door open like she was banging a faulty electronic.

“I guess we’re both unhappy.”

They didn’t speak again until they were safely locked away in the apartment. There was no sight of Linda.  He watched her remove her jacket, toss her purse on the kitchen counter, and asked,

“Should we break up?”

and she didn’t respond. Instead she paced and looked like she sought out another activity by which to occupy herself. He watched her.

“So?”

“Give me a second.”

“Take your time.”

She stood over the couch and lifted its cushions. She peered over the throw pillows. She took her hand which held the house keys and shook them, as if she were contemplating something.

He asked, “Are you ok?”

“It’s just something.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Just something.”

“Do you want me to help?”

She sat on the couch and bent over and untied her shoes. She took them off. She put them back on. She banged her fists on the couch and the couch made an utter.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

“Maybe you were just on it out of curiosity. Maybe I was, too.”

“Maybe.”

She pushed up from the couch, walked to the kitchen, and put her back on the kitchen wall with her arms crossed, standing across from him. He remained prone, continued to wait for an action to which he might react.

“Have you ever wanted to just disappear for a while?”

He shrugged. “Sure. I think we all have.”

“Like, you want to keep living and doing stuff and going places, but you don’t want to have to, like, care about any of it. Be responsible for any of it.”

“A fear of commitment.”

“Not a fear.” She finally looked up at him, in some sort of disgust. “An escape. A vacation. A reprieve.”

“That’s ‘me’ time. Are you talking about ‘me’ time?”

“Why were you on it?”

His eyes slipped away.

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“It’s only been three days. It’s not like I’ve done anything with it. I barely know what to think of it.”

“But you used it. To look at girls.”

“Yeah. And you, guys.”

“It didn’t have anything to do with moving on.”

“You just wanted a ‘reprieve.’”

She cocked her head. “Well, yeah.”

“You wanted a night where you didn’t have to care about anyone other than yourself.”

“Yeah. And now that that’s cleared up, what about you.”

“I’m not finished, though.”

“Ok.”

He perched his fingers over the right side of his mouth.

“How often do you see those nights happening in the future.”

“I don’t know.”

He squinted. “You have an idea, though.”

“You don’t believe me?”

Her head, not phased, remained cocked.

“Well, you don’t believe me.”

She unfolded her arms and a hand slipped down to its thigh.

“I don’t know. Maybe, like, once a month.”

He nodded.

“Is that okay? Or are you just gonna use it against me, when it turns out to be more?”

“If we reach that point.”

“If we reach that point. If we have a future. So any other questions? Or do I get to hear more about how you don’t know why you’re on there.”

The hand on her thigh had transformed into a fist. It half-bounced, half-punched off of her.

The fingers stayed on his face and his eyes stayed squinted. It looked as though he were smelling them.

“I’m unhappy.”

The fist paused, raised mid-air.

“What, like depressed?”

“No. I know why I’m unhappy.”

She slid her arms behind the small of her back and lightly pushed.

“So it’s over, then.”

“I guess.”

She sprung off the wall.

“I’m going back out.”

She collected her jacket and purse and left. He waited maybe 15 minutes before he followed.

I waste my time thinking of the time wasted on you. I retrace my steps to determine what is it I missed or where it went wrong. Every morning, there you are. Every morning, try as I might, there you are, for thirty years, there you are, there you are, there you fucking are, and now it’s too late to move on. You time-suck. You hooked me and gutted me and dried me out, you time-suck. Congratulations.

I didn’t want much from life and maybe that was my mistake. Or maybe I wanted too much from one thing. Or expected too much from one thing. Maybe that was my mistake. Maybe I take words like “love,” words like “monogamy,” words like “loyalty” too seriously. What do these words mean other than to put all your eggs in one basket, so why is it no one actually invests themselves in these words that way. How did I become the only gullible one out there.

Remember when you said that thing, and you thought I wouldn’t figure out what you really meant, because apparently in all these years you never really actually got to know me? Remember every day when your face betrayed your words, your actions betrayed your words, and I had to pretend not to notice, like a child who just pissed his pants walking around a theme park? Remember all those times I said things to you and you wouldn’t listen? Because they were things you didn’t want to hear? And you left me with them, alone, stranded?

You made it all seem so inviting at first. So well-disguised, the right pheromones and everything. What’s it matter. It was just more make-up. It wasn’t the real you, and I allowed myself to be tricked, and I hate myself for it, and I punish myself by wasting my time thinking of the time I wasted on you. You weren’t looking for love, or monogamy, or loyalty. You were looking for a pet. So at least one of us got what we wanted. And as I progressively learned to fit the role you progressively let down your guard and became lazier with your disguise. I was leashed, and you were unrepentant.

And, I think, it was this gradual tactlessness, the cloudy and nebulous unfurling that kept me from leaving. The number of times I apologized for you to myself. All of that patience and lazy optimism, the convenience of staying down the same path, even if it’s led to this, this devastation. This fucking devastation. There you are.

And I’ve never shared this with anyone and I’ll take it to my grave. And I know the face you’d give me if I tried to explain it to you. I can envision the confusion, the hurt, the easy dismissibility of all my points of grievance, the utter uselessness of it all, once more a failed attempt at getting you to understand me. Were you listening when I told you I thought love was understanding another person as completely as humanly possible. Because that’s what I did for you. And, oh well. At least one of us got what we wanted.

We’ll go to the mall this weekend. We’ll go to the movies this weekend. We’ll wake up and eat toast tomorrow. You’ll give me your cute bullshit little guff about eating those breakfast cookies when it’s not breakfast. We’ll pay the bills. We’ll call our kids. We’ll go to the mall. And, oh well, I’ll keep waiting for one of us to die.

I’m hiding in the woods off the shoulder of the expressway with the old security guard’s body. I brought the old security guard’s body with me because I figure an absent body is less alarming than a present dead one, and he didn’t leave a mark anywhere, there was no blood, because I strangled him. Carrying him was surprisingly easy. I lobbed one of his arms around my shoulder and I stuck my own around his waist and dragged him along beside me, Weekend at Bernie’s style. Not like there are a lot of people out at 4 AM in the morning. When I saw him in the school hallways, squinting in the dark to make out my figure, to figure out who I was, I freaked, I chased him down, tackled him, pressed one hand on his throat while the other arm, the forearm, jammed sideways into his mouth to muffle any noises, and waited. Part of his uniform came undone in the struggle, and underneath I could see the white text over the red fabric… the letters “pa.” “I’m a proud grandpa.”

I’ll leave him in the woods when I move again. On him was a gun, a wallet, a walkie talkie, one of those extra simple cell phones for seniors, some gum. Not much else that’s useful. The walkie talkie hasn’t made a peep, neither has the phone, and I am focusing a lot of my mind power on making sure they keep it that way.


*

It’s a stupid question, Did I think it would be an issue. Of course I didn’t think it’d be an issue. When the reps visited, corralled our entire town out onto the bleachers of our high school football field, trouble was the last thing on anyone’s mind. They were so upbeat, those reps, so good looking, so at the peak age of alive, they seemed so natural and appropriate, it put us all at ease. Granted it felt like a cheesy seminar but they were aware of that, too, made jokes at their own expense, said things like, “Cheesy, I know, but…” and we accepted them. We would’ve accepted them even if they weren’t like that, because we had heard about towns that hadn’t cooperated, but this was the gracious placement of lube before entry, and it made us feel as if we were in their debt.

They talked to us about the verb, “To be.” “What does it mean to be something?” they asked, and fielded responses as if it were a giant classroom. They asked us if we were proud of being certain things in our town, providing certain roles for those around us, proud of who we were, and we all said yes. Then they singled out some of us to specify.

"A schoolteacher"

"A fireman"

Then they stopped to explain that we didn’t have to define ourselves by our jobs. “That’s only one part of your life,” they said. Then they asked again.

"A class clown"

"A movie buff"

I remember my mom getting chosen and saying “A proud mom,” and looking down at me, aptly, proudly.

*

When we got the paperwork, on the second page was a drawing of a blank, fill-me-in tee-shirt. “Proclaim who you are below,” read the caption at the top, sort of smugly, in retrospect. “We’ll take care the rest.”

My parents were concerned when I showed them mine. It was supposed to be a creative play on the idea of “being” something. Instead of “being,” I was “seeing.” There was the homophone thing going on, sure, but I thought it was saying more than that, because “being” something felt so static, and “seeing,” on the other hand, took action, required a person to go out and do something other than to stand in a space shouting “HERE I AM.” And I thought the Dr. Pepper reps would appreciate that. Maybe they’d even be impressed enough to hire me a a marketing executive or something. So I convinced my parents it was ok for me to submit, “I see a bright future in every day.”

*

I don’t know what they’ve done to my parents. All I got was a single text from mom while I worked the graveyard shift at the bakery:

"Don’t come home. Don’t text back until you hear from us. They are looking for you. We love you"

Nothing since. After the text, I left work early, around 3 AM, and broke into the middle school to steal supplies from the cafeteria and an AM/FM radio from the A/V closet. It was a Saturday, so I knew I had a night before I had to leave.

The next day I spent avoiding custodians while listening to broadcasts about me. How I had set off a bomb in Wal Mart, killing a mother and her daughter. How they had unearthed blog accounts of mine calling for the end of capitalism by any means necessary and headshots of Howard Zinn and Timothy McVeigh photoshopped over glittering hearts. How, in my bedroom, they had found a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook, a number of tools needed to build bombs, live ammunition, but no guns. I spent a lot of that day crying, out of rage, out of grief, then back to rage, before night fell again, and I found myself strangling a Proud Grandpa.

*

I hear the cars buzz and cluck past me in either direction. I know if I keep near the expressway, in the direction of traffic, the next town’s in 35 miles. I have some water but little food. The Proud Grandpa lies next to me, stiff. What I am coming to terms with right now is that there is no turning back. There is no way to absolve myself of any accusations. I have murdered, and there is a chance I will have to murder again. I can only hope there are others like me, and we can help each other. The past is dead and ought not to be dwelled upon. All I see now is the future.

Hello friends,
The Real Olive Garden is proud to announce a new and exciting project in which we hope all of you will get involved.
If you attended or are attending a college, chances are you are/were provided with a more-than-sufficient print quota for you to use to hand in papers and other projects, the excess free pages lost at the end of every semester. Print Quota Press hopes to salvage these forgotten pages to produce zines and other forms of literature at a next-to-nothing cost. All concerns, including number of copies produced, content produced, and distribution, are negotiable with whoever volunteers his or her quota.Currently we are only on Facebook for any news/information (http://www.facebook.com/PrintQuotaPress), but feel free to also email us at printquotapress@gmail.com if you are interested.
Thank you for listening, and continue to Kill Hollywood,The Real Olive Garden 

Hello friends,

The Real Olive Garden is proud to announce a new and exciting project in which we hope all of you will get involved.

If you attended or are attending a college, chances are you are/were provided with a more-than-sufficient print quota for you to use to hand in papers and other projects, the excess free pages lost at the end of every semester. Print Quota Press hopes to salvage these forgotten pages to produce zines and other forms of literature at a next-to-nothing cost. All concerns, including number of copies produced, content produced, and distribution, are negotiable with whoever volunteers his or her quota.

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Thank you for listening, and continue to Kill Hollywood,
The Real Olive Garden 

My man likes me with a little extra padding. I don’t see a problem with that. Sometimes I get winded walking up stairs, or walking for a little, but that’s minor stuff when you think about it, I mean, it’s not like I’m a professional athlete or anything, so there’s that, so who cares. I want to make him happy. Besides, I don’t really mind eating a little unhealthy. Who wouldn’t? Shit, if I can eat a milkshake and not feel guilty about it, you better believe I’m gonna. Sure beats the alternative, with all that granola and organic crap, tastes like effing cardboard.

And how much guff can you give me? Really. When you got women starving themselves to look like Tyra Banks. Bulimia and all that self-image stuff, and Barbie. Paying ten grand for boob jobs so some dentist’ll marry them. Let people talk. Everyone talks about everyone else, anyways, so what do I care? The day people stop talking behind people’s backs about every little thing they can think of is the day I start caring. You know? People are gonna find something to judge against you no matter how hard you try. In fact, the more you try, the more they’ll judge you for that! For trying too hard! It’s a catch-22, so whatever, let people talk, big effing deal.

For breakfast, if I get up early enough, I’ll order from Eddy’s. I looove Eddy’s. They got good biscuits and gravy. I’ll order that with one of those coffee-flavored frappes, maybe a side of hash browns depending on how I feel, for pick up. Sometimes I’ll get the Hungry Man, but I’ll admit I tend to avoid it on account of the name. Then I head over to work and eat at my desk. I can tell some people in the neighboring cubicles are a little bothered by it, but until they say anything I have no intention of stopping. After that one of my coworkers always goes on a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee run around 11, so I’ll ask him to grab me a chocolate glazed and an iced coffee. I get lunch around one. All around our office are these places with great lunch deals. Buffalo Wild Wings has this awesome buffalo chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese for seven dollars. Pecky’s, they’ll let you get 5 pieces of fried chicken, two sides, and a coke for six bucks. And then there’s Panera, Potbelly’s, Gigio’s… I mix it up at lunch time, for sure. Then maybe later in the day a bag of chips and a coke.

My friend Sondra’s been trying to get me to go for walks during lunch but most of the times I’ll get my food delivered or have someone pick it up for me and eat at my desk. Gotta give Sondra credit though. “It’s not about image,” she tells me. “It’s about health.” I listen to her because she understands why I’m doing it, and she’s got a point. I mean, I know all about all that stuff, like diabetes and heart disease, so I have been trying for her, at least, I try to go out for walks with her on nicer days, it’s just exhausting, and shit, on the hot days, I have no problem saying I sweat pretty good, I don’t like coming back to the office all glowing and sticky.

My doctor gives me a hard time, too, but right now I got more pressing situations to take care of before I can start looking into trying to find a way to eat healthy while keeping my shape. Bills to pay. My lease is up in three months, and they’re talking about upping the rent, so we might have to move. And I might have to look into getting a new vehicle soon. Not to mention my man. My man, he sees me with a fruit salad, he’ll start getting concerned. Like I’m fixing to go bean stalk on him or something. Oh, you better believe he’s an enabler. I haven’t even mentioned dinner.

At dinner we mix it up, sure, typically it’s Chinese or Mexican, but our favorite place is Domino’s. We’ll order a large pie, half pepperoni (me) and half sausage (him), and an order of cheesy bread, and always, he’ll deny this, but always, he’ll have like one bite of the cheesy bread, and then sort of make me have the rest. Not “make me”, really, that makes it sound like he forces it on me. But like once we’re finished with the pizza he’ll get this little devilish grin on his face and pick up the cheesy bread and like, feed it to me out his hand. I think he thinks it’s sexy. And just recently Domino’s stuffed the inside of the cheesy bread with cheese too, so what’ll happen now is he’ll feed me a bite, and when I bite into it a big old strand of cheese won’t break off from the rest of the cheesy bread when he pulls it away, sort of like the spaghetti in Lady and the Tramp, or really even more like a thread of saliva, and he’ll take the hand not holding the bread and wrap the loose strand of cheese around his index finger until it snaps off and it looks like he’s got this juicy moist cast round his finger, and he’ll stick his finger into my mouth, and I’ll, you know, suck it all off, and because I know he likes it, I’ll make some sexy noises, and we’ll keep doing that until the bread’s all finished. But you should see the look he gives me. It’s the look I’ve dreamed of a man giving me my entire life, as stupid as it sounds it makes me feel loved and wanted.

And I just take it day by day. I’ve been taking it day by day for the past two years with him, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy. If something health-related happens, we got insurance, we’ll take care of it. But you can’t live your life afraid of that stuff all the time. Everyone has their habits, vices, whatever. So like I said, let em talk, you know? We love each other.

When I first started dating Lenore she told me I’d know when she fell in love with me. “Trust me,” she said with a small smile while we sat at a fancy French restaurant. It was as if she already knew I’d fallen in love with her, and now it was a matter of waiting for her to catch up. And this was true. I fell in love with Lenore after our second date, her confidence, her conventional beauty, her smile, her sense of humor, but I don’t know how she discovered it. I must’ve given off some pretty obvious vibes for her to make such a self-assured remark. And I kept it in mind. I thought about what she told me every time we met, straining my ears for a hint that the feelings I had for her were reciprocated.

Was she into weird sex stuff? Molested as a child? Maybe a drug addict. Maybe a CIA operative. Hermaphrodite?

Ha. The things I thought.

But she was right. I knew it as soon as she said it because it was beyond whatever I could’ve imagined. When she explained it to me, it reminded me of that joke, The Aristocrats. I told her that and she nodded and laughed.

"Yeah! I always thought of it that way, too."

And still, despite its bizarreness, there was no shaking in her voice when she told me. No fear of me leaving her. Maybe it was the fact that she showed she was in love with me. Maybe that sort of softened the blow of what she just explained. Because I was happy when she told me; in my mind, she loved me first, and the cat orgies, they were second.

The next week we went over to her parents’ house. The whole family’d be there. We had already talked about marriage at this point. She told me she told them she thought I was the one, and it made me glow.

Before we went over she offered me a tab of ecstacy. Seeing as it was my first time and all.

"They won’t mind?" I asked. "I want to make a good first impression."

"Don’t worry about it. You’re going to make a good first impression. Believe me."

I was rolling pretty hard by the time we pulled up to the house. I kept grabbing the inside of Lenore’s thigh and she swatted it off.

"Save it for later."

I asked her if it was ok for me to tell her I was horny. She shrugged and told me it was fine without taking her eyes off the road. “Ok,” I said. “I’m horny. This ecstacy is great. I’m ready to do this Lenore. I love you.”

She nodded in approbation.

"You’ll do fine."

Her mother opened the door, or I assumed it was the mother, she looked like Lenore but older so I guess it was her, but before I could introduce myself to her her mouth was over mine, tongue counting my fillings, poking the hole where my wisdom tooth had been removed, and I was kissing back, brought her in up against me, and I heard Lenore on her father in the same way. The four of us promenaded into the living room, constantly kissing and groping with occasional glances down the hallway to make sure we didn’t bump into anything, and as we promenaded our partners kept switching. Next it was Lenore, then Lenore’s dad, then Lenore’s mother again, and in the living room was Lenore’s sister and brother on the couch, the sister splayed out with her hands over heard while the brother pleasured her orally.

My jacket was off and so were my pants and someone’s mouth was on my member when we heard a proclamation from the top of stairs, stately, regal, stentorian, your choice.

"Here I come."

We all removed our mouths and genitalia from whatever mouth and genitalia they were attached to at the moment to listen. We heard the quick steps down the steps, heard his paws click clack over the marble tiles, and then there he was. Mittens the cat. Decked out in a monocle and a top hat, he sauntered in to the living room and took in inventory. Licked his lips.

I’ve never been penetrated before and I’m glad the first time was Mittens. His member was that of a normal cat’s — not very large at all — so that I got more sensation out of his furry body bouncing off of my buttocks than the actual intercourse. While it happened, I thought, This must be what it feels like when a baby gets his bottom powdered.

Lenore explained, much like a toast, these orgies did not finish until mouth and genitalia had connected with everyone’s mouth and genitalia, so obviously it took some time. When it did finish all of us were sweaty, naked, and pleased. We stood up and wiped fluids off our skin and smiled at one another. It felt like the end of a well-played soccer game. I even had the urge to shake everyone’s hands and say, “Nicely done.”

We sat down to a delicious roast beef dinner in the dining room. Mittens didn’t, however. After the orgy he sauntered back out the way he had sauntered in, mewling “A pleasure!” over his shoulder before he turned the hallway and went back up the stairs.

Everyone at dinner seemed to like me. I tried to pay the same amount of attention to each and every member of the family. None of us had put our clothes back on. We’d get dressed while Lenore’s mother made coffee and served dessert, and a month later Lenore would tell me everyone thought I was wonderful, and I was welcome back any time, and I felt very good about this.

*

I still hadn’t proposed to Lenore when we moved in together but I told her I would when the time was right, much like she told me I’d know when she was in love with me. We got a lovely house in a lovely suburban gated community that was close to my workplace. We’d go to Lenore’s family’s house every other month to do the same thing we always did. The only thing that differed was Mittens’ entrance and departure speech.

"Hello, you beautiful people!"

"Hasta la vista."

"Oh, let’s get things started!"

"Time for a nap."

"It’s Mittens time!"

"Thanks, guys. ‘Til the next one."

Lenore told me that Mittens was as old as her mother, Marta. Maybe older. Marta got Mittens as a child, and Mittens never aged. Mittens started talking to Marta when she hit puberty. Single sentences much like the ones he said before and after the orgies. And soon Marta found herself enamored with the cat. She hid this from her family but decided when the time came for her to get married and raise a family, they’d learn to love Mittens the same way she did, which was physically.

Lenore admitted to wishing she could bring Mittens to the house, but she knew her mother’d never approve. “They’ve been together too long,” she’d say sadly, one of the only topics she addressed that actually seemed to hurt her. “But I love Mittens just as much as she does.”

I’ll admit, too, that I had developed a strong affection towards Mittens. Something about him made you want him around all the time. He made you want to give yourself up completely to him, let him do with you whatever he pleased. A mysterious, hypnotizing cat. A one-of-a-kind.

So I started to research. I looked up cat orgies online. Ageless cats. Cats who can talk. I finally found a site, an occult site (surprise surprise) that provided folklore about demons manifested in feline form that went back as far as the ancient Egyptians. It was told that only a handful of these cats still existed today, many of them drowned or burned throughout history in a series of what some may call feline pogroms, and it was unclear how these cats came to be, when, or if more could be created through eugenics. I contacted the owner of the website to see whether he had more information but he didn’t. I didn’t let him know about Mittens, seeing as he was apparently such a rare and potentially coveted after commodity.

It pained me to see Lenore sad. I wanted to find a new Mittens for her, as a surprise. I went to her parents’ house for an unscheduled visit alone. I told Lenore I needed to pick up some things.

Over a cup of coffee in the living room where the orgies took place I talked to Marta and Edgar — Lenore’s father — about Mittens. “Your daughter would love a Mittens of her own,” I explained.

They looked at each other uneasily when I told them, mid sip, then supped, and put their coffee mugs down on the porcelain coasters. Edgar cleared his throat.

"We’ve tried," he explained to me, answering a question I didn’t need to ask. "For a long time we tried. We wanted to give all of our kids one, to pass onto future generations. But Mittens, it seems he’s sterile. We’d find a lady cat in heat for him, they’d go at it, and no results! No litters. He must’ve fucked every cat in town, to be honest. We’re at as much of a loss as you are."

"And I’d give him up," Marta said, "but I don’t even think it’s possible. I don’t think he’d approve. Honestly, there are times where if I’m away from him for too long…"

She stopped, looked down, and supped. Edgar finished for her.

"She gets sick. Nausea, headaches, pain all over her body. It seems Mittens and her are attached in some way, spiritually, and they’re gonna be together for the rest of Marta’s life."

I bowed my head in exasperation, tried to conceal the lightbulb that went off over my head.

*

Mittens watched me as I set up his playroom. I put a scratching post in one corner, food and water dish in another, kitty litter another. Against one of the walls I put a ladder for him to climb with a mousey toy dangling from the ceiling. Also in the room was a button Mittens could step on, calling for more Fancy Feast in his plate any time he pleased.

"It’s a nice place," he told me.

After the room was put together to satisfaction I put the proposal charm around his neck. He yawned.

"I’ll get used to this," he said.

And then we waited together for Lenore to get home.

I heard the door open and called for her to come over. When she walked into the room and saw me and Mittens the car keys and shopping bag dropped from her hands and hands shot to mouth in a joyous gasp. “Oh my God!” she said, and the tears were already coming down her cheeks.

I smiled. Mittens licked his lips stoically. I told her to pick him up.

"Oh Sam oh Sam you’re the best Sam oh Sam." And when she picked him up and saw the proposal etched on the pendant she yelped again and looked at me, laughing, crying, everything. "Oh, Sam!" she said, dropping Mittens and putting my head in her hands.

"Yes!" she said between kisses. "Of course! Yes!"

I’d take her to where I buried them later that night and she’d feign remorse but it would be all too clear she was happy with what I did.

She learned to enjoy the wheelchair after a few months. It brought back vague memories of being a child in a stroller when he pushed her around town on a nice day. Except, she remembered, the stroller, it was more of a home than the wheelchair, it sort of wrapped you up and made you feel safe and protected, and these walks, these strolls, didn’t really make her feel like that. She wished she could have a wheelchair she could sink into, with canvas on either side, and maybe one of those transparent hoods you saw that protected children from rain. She wished those existed but they didn’t because she asked him to check it out online once with no luck.

She could only really go on walks if the pain wasn’t bad that day, and even then it could start while they were going about town and they’d have to rush back home and give her her pain meds. If she was in pain, the slightest bump underneath one of the wheels could travel throughout her whole body, make her shout out, helplessly, causing others around them to turn and look, and give those looks she despised, of pity, sadness, disgust.

If she had the energy the words out of her mouth were typically along the lines of “I would understand if you wanted to leave me,” which hurt him, so she rarely spoke, even if she could.

The doctors warned her against abusing the drugs and she wondered why it mattered if this was going to be this way the rest of her life. It seemed silly to tell someone in her condition not to abuse anything that could help her escape a common and excruciating pain. She tried not to, anyway. Whenever she did take more than she needed he never protested and she was happy he didn’t because it meant he had a good understanding of what she was going through.

He could leave, though. She really wouldn’t hold it against him. She easily could get an aide paid for by the state to take care of her. He knew that, she was sure, but he was still around, and she liked to wonder, how much of it was out of loyalty, how much of it was him trying to be a good person, how much of it was him achieving moral high ground over others. They’d only been together for eight months when it happened. Not for a short period, but not necessarily very long, either. A weird limbo period, and they both knew it, but never discussed it.

She wished she could pay more attention to him, watch him when he wasn’t thinking about being watched, get a better idea of what he was thinking, but her condition kept her from doing so. She could hear him in other rooms preparing meals or cleaning the apartment but she could not see his face, she could not see whether he was happy or trying to be happy. All she could do was sit still and hope he got into her field of vision. Until then, watch the television, though sometimes she liked to sit in the den with a book on tape playing over the stereo with her eyes closed.

And then one day it finally happened. He lifted her out of her wheelchair and sat her down on the soft carpet of the den, propped her body against a mountain of pillows and blankets placed against the foot of the couch, and he sat Indian style in front of her, his hands constantly reaching up at his face to claw rub and massage.

I love you, I don’t want us to not stop seeing each other, but…

She knew it was coming. It made her happy. Tears started coming down her eyes, and it killed her because she knew he wouldn’t be able to tell that she was happy, or maybe he would.

When she started crying he started crying. He fumbled out a small jewelry box. I wanted you to have this, he said. To remember me by. He opened it. A small modest gold ring. He shook his head. I don’t know. I don’t know how I was supposed to go through with this. Everything’s already arranged. I took care of it all. Your parents know, too. I plan on visiting, believe me when I say that, but it’s become too much…

Still crying, she muttered, nodded, It’s ok.

That was all he needed to hear, and for the next five minutes they sat together out of a twisted feeling of relief, happiness, a tension deflated across the entire apartment.

He took her hand in his. It hurt but she made no noise. He took her ring finger like it was air, and that hurt too but she made no noise. It was only until the ring was on, the feeling of the metal sliding against her skin like a knife slicing off the upper level of the skin, that she screamed, a high pitched note held out over the two of them.

I keep praying one day you’ll come back. I think that’s what keeps me going. One day we’ll wake up and you’ll turn over, smile, say “Good morning, honey,” instead of giving me that stare, confused, scared, a little amused, before saying “Who are you?”

But I guess that’s why you get married. So that if something happens to me you take care of me and if something happens to you I take care of you, and it happened to you. That’s what I’m here for, I’m here for you, the same way you’d’ve been there for me, so, ok. Is it really you, though? And at this point — does it even matter? Why bother myself with questions that can’t be answered, excuses that are just a way to rationalize my own selfishness. I won’t go down that road.

We did have, what, 25 good years together? Great years even. Most people don’t even get that. They get divorced, they get cheated on, they die, they get bored. 25 years is good. It’s great. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’d even take you just remembering our walks in the park long enough for you to tell me at the end of them that You had a good time. These days, I’d take you remembering a single entire pleasant moment with me. Just a simple squeeze of the arm and a smile and a Thank you. If I could just have that I’d be happy. Before you forget again.

We have a house and the house is filled with memories, photos, souvenirs, newspaper clippings, and sometimes after you’re asleep I’ll go downstairs, maybe with a glass of scotch, and walk the halls like it’s a museum, picking up things, studying them, recalling their moments, remembering enough for the two of us. At least I’d like to hope so.

Your parents visit once a week. We play Scrabble while keeping an eye out for you. They make me feel better, too. Your mother, she looks just like you sometimes, and talking to her, remembering, I can trick myself into believing that it’s you I’m talking to, like you never disappeared, and the way they are so happy with me, appreciative of what I’m doing, helps a lot. I think I’d ask them to move in with us if I didn’t think it’d sound so weird. But they’re retired. They’re enjoying their free time. And as much as I hate to say it the doctors said maybe seven years, tops, so it’s not like the rest of my life’s with you, unfortunately, maybe not so unfortunately, I loved you and I miss you, but You now is not the same, it’s a moral obligation, sometimes I imagine lighting the house on fire and the two of us burning alive together, it feels like it’d be the right way to handle things some times, as if, if you’re not going to remember, what’s the point of remembering myself, why not cut to the chase.

For now, though, for now I’ll cling out to my hope, and it might be a fruitless hope, but crazier things have happened, right, people disappear, reappear, people predict tremendous events, are predicted to die and then miraculously recover, so Why Not You, who says it can’t happen to You, maybe it’d be enough to make me convert, ahem, God, ha ha, I’m just joking though, who am I writing to, I’m writing to you when you come back, I guess.