Archive | January, 2011

Happy Birthday, Kyle

28 Jan

“Happy birthday, Kyle!” My mother screams from my doorway. She throws a water balloon at me. It misses and hits my nightstand, exploding on my iPhone, destroying it. I wake up at the scream and have time to wipe my eyes before witnessing her destroy the one thing in this world I love the most.

“Damn it, mother,” I say, softly. “God damn you.” I look up at the door, but she’s already gone. I hear a car start and sit up to look out the window. A blue 2010 Honda sedan is driving over my mail box. A small, white hand is outstretched from the window. A small white middle finger is outstretched from the small, white hand. “Bye, moms,” I say.

“Was that your mom?” Derek asks, appearing in my doorway.

“Yea. Birthday stuff.”

“It’s your birthday?” Derek asks, seeming a bit surprised.

“Yeah man. Twenty four. I’ve been on this earth almost a quarter century.”

Derek takes a step back and crosses his arms. “Well, you don’t need to brag, Kyle. People are dying everywhere all the time. Many of them children. Congrats on your fucking quarter century, fascist.”

I followed Derek’s logic perfectly until he called me a fascist.

I pull off the covers of my bed and swing my legs over. I stand and stretch, then hear a sharp crack at my feet. I have crushed my iPhone, which lay wet on the ground. A brilliant light begins to flicker from its high definition touch screen and a sound much like the scream of a dying woman begins to sound.

“NO!” I scream, dropping to my knees. I hold the shattered, pathetic thing in my hands. I begin to tremble. The brightness recedes for a moment as well as the sound. The muffled sound of Derek singing “Happy Birthday” into one of those “Record Your Own Message” Hallmark cards is all that can be heard. I guess he’s changed his mind on my birthday. Suddenly, a choir of angelic voices explodes from all around me. Startled, I jerk back, landing in a seated position, dropping the iPhone. Steve Jobs appears above me. He’s made entirely of light and–somehow–souls.

“Steve!” I say, wind throwing my hair back tightly across my skull. I look like Bono in the video for “Elevation.” I take the opportunity to do that “WOOOHOO” thing a few times.

“SPEAK NOT HIS NAME!” Steve Jobs says. I’m assuming he’s talking about Bono, although technically I never said his name.

“Steve!” I say again, “Please, save my iPhone! Please!” I crawl over to where the phone rests on the floor. I lift it to the heavens. Steve holds out his hand and the phone floats to his hand. The screen’s cracks begin to mend themselves and from the phone I hear the exultant sound of an infant’s laughter. “You’ve done it! Steve! You’ve done it!”

I reach out for the phone, but Steve jerks it away.

“Did you get the AppleCare Warranty program when you bought this phone?” he asks.

“Well, no,” I reply. “I always thought stuff like that was kind of a crock!”

“A CROCK?!” Steve Jobs bellows. Derek opens my door and walks in, looks at Steve Jobs, makes a “Yeesh” face, and walks back out, shutting my door.

“He has a BlackBerry,” I say, rolling my eyes. Steve Jobs scoffs, shaking his head at the closed door.

“So can I have my phone back?”

“NO!” Steve said, holding the phone like a tiny infant in his arms.

“Please?” I say, holding myself like a tiny infant in my own arms. I look like a yin yang sign made out of lunch meat.

“NO!”

“But it’s my birthday,” I say, tears filling my eyes.

Steve thinks about this. “I had birthdays once. I was once like you.”

“Look into that, Steve. Please. If there’s anything left of that old Steve, please. Let me have my baby back.”

And with a twinkle and a winkle and a stinkle (Shart), Steve let the iPhone fall to me. It drifted like a feather and landed in my hand.

“Thank you, Steve. This is the best birthday present ever.”

“You’re welcome, Kyle,” Steve says. “And remember,” he says, walking into the sky, “if you ever break that thing again, I’ll break you.” We share a brief laugh, before my laughter is choked off as Steve dematerializes and rematerializes as an image of me having all my limbs sawed off.

He continues to laugh as the image slowly fades away.

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BLOG: Legacy

17 Jan

The BLOG.

A digital frontier.

I tried to picture clusters of jokes as they moved through the computer.

What do they look like?

Smiley emoticons, tiny, liquid-metal penises?

Were the circuits like freeways?

I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see.

Then, one day

I got in.

For longer than I can remember, I’ve wanted to change the world. I racked my brain trying to find ways to fix things–to fix what is wrong with us, with the world, with everything. I thought I could change the world with humor–with a beautiful, complex, new form of humor [Editor’s Note: Seriously? I don’t believe you.]. The world could be different if people only knew how to laugh [Editor’s Note: They already know how to do that.].

I’m sitting on the foot of my roommate Derek’s bed. His covers are pulled up to his chin. He’s looking at me, wide-eyed, admiring. His room is strewn with IronKyle memorabilia.

“And so, I went into the internet–to find what made everybody tick. You see, on the internet is practically every piece of information known to mankind. With that information, if I could find a way to link it all together, every race, creed, religion, philosophy, science, and make fun of them all, why, I could change the world.”

“And did you?”

“Well, I knew that if I wanted to make this system, if I wanted to find a way to make fun of everything all at once, I’d need help. Such a big task could never be done alone.” I lean back and pull something out of my pocket. “So, I made IronKyle.” In my hand, I’m holding an IronKyle action figure. He looks just like the Kyle action figure, but drunker somehow.

I hand the figure to Derek. He presses a button on IronKyle’s belt and the figure’s crotch lights up. I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

“He’s just like me in almost every way. He’s an inflated version of me. He’s the me that exists solely on the internet–and with his help, we’re getting closer and closer to making that system.” I look at my phone. It’s an iPhone 4. “It’s time for me to go,” I say. It’s not really pressing. If you ever need more time doing something, there’s an app for that. I just don’t feel like being on Derek’s bed anymore. Being nine o’ clock already, it is only a matter of time before the entire surface is wet with urine.

I get up off his bed, bend down, and kiss him on the head.

“Maybe we can play Madden later. We’ll see if you can beat your old man this time,” I say.

“Can’t we be on the same team? Your trash talk is becoming more and more personal and I don’t know if I can take it anymore.”

“Derek, we’re always on the same team.” I shut the door, smiling, then open it back. “And stop being a pussy. You wet the bed because of your tormented childhood.” I shut the door again.

“That’s not even trash talk,” Derek quietly says to himself. He gets out of his bed and looks out the window as my black Honda Civic speeds away.

Thirty or so minutes pass.

“Where is Kyle?” Derek asks his roommate, Alex. She doesn’t know. No one does.

I’ve been gone for thirty minutes and no one knows where I am. Derek starts to panic. He runs outside, gets on his bicycle and rides away.

He reaches Art Six some forty-five minutes later. He walks in, past the cashier, and back to where I do most of my writing. My laptop sits alone. On it is the 3-D text screensaver. Derek sits down to read the mysterious, three-dimensional message left for him on the screen.

“BOOOOOBS!!!1” it says.

“Boobs….” Derek whispers to himself, his eyes locked on the screen. A woman in a yellow sweater looks over at Derek, disgusted.

Derek presses the space bar and in front of him is the interface for writing a blog. “Would you like to leave this page?” a balloon has prompted him.

“No,” he says to himself. He clicks the “No” option.

“Enter Internet?” the next balloon asks him. Derek sits back and looks around him. That woman in the yellow sweater has left.

He clicks the “Yes” button.

“PASSWORD:______” the computer prompts.

“Derek,” he types. Nothing. “Whiskey” he types. Still nothing. He sits and thinks for a moment, quietly repeating the word “boobs” over and over again. More people are getting up to leave.

“I got it!” he says, and types “Eat This, Internet” into the box. He is immediately transported away and to another world–into the world of the internet.

Derek falls into a city street that much resembles a street on Earth, but everything is much cleaner. There are no bumps, there is no dirt. There is no imperfection. Along the perimeter of everything is a beautiful blue or orange light.

“I’ll find you, Kyle,” he says, running off into the distance. He’s running the exact wrong way.

“Sir, it seems a reader has entered BLOG,” a wormy, pale figure in a black robe, illuminated by its seams, says to a man seated in a onyx black throne. The man is wearing a helmet and no face can be seen beneath its impossibly black, opaque surface.

“He’s come to rescue his friend,” the man in the helmet says, his voice is augmented to a deep, ominous timbre. “Bring him to me.”

Derek kicks the door down. “Kyle! I’ve found you!”

There’s a few seconds of near-silence in the room. The man in the throne has spun around and is now facing the door. His second in command is also looking at Derek, dumbfounded.

“Is…” the man in the helmet gestures to Derek. “Is this the guy?”

“Yes, it seems so.” The wormy man says. He’s so wormy.

“I’m looking for Kyle,” Derek says, looking at the wormy man. “Is he here?”

“No, he’s not–” the wormy man begins, but doesn’t have time to finish his sentence before Derek has left the doorway–the sound of his footsteps fading amongst the various beeps and blips in the room.

The man in the helmet sighs.

“Should we go after him?” The worm asks.

“OF COURSE YOU SHOULD GO AFTER HIM!” The man in the helmet says. He removes his helmet and throws it at his second in command. The face beneath the helmet looks exactly like mine.

Derek gets out his  BlackBerry and sees that he has 1 new message. It’s from me.

“Where u at?” it says.

“The internet,” Derek responds. “Where u at??”

“I’m in exile. Look east. I’m that one white dot out there. Come that way.” Derek does so.

Derek hijacks the bicycle of a child and rides toward the dot. He’s there within minutes.

“Kyle! What’s going on? Why haven’t you come home yet?” Derek yells as he walks up the steps to my home, which is actually quite nice and rent free because it’s in the internet.

“I can’t…” I say. “I can’t come home. I’m trapped here.”

“Trapped?”

“IronKyle has trapped me here. He wrested control of BLOG from me, Derek. He wants to create the system on his own. He sees my humanity as an imperfection in his perfect comedy system.”

“I don’t understand,” Derek says.

“IronKyle has gone rogue,” I say. “He doesn’t believe he needs me to write jokes for him anymore. He believes himself to be his own, independent organism. If he captures me and takes my brain,” I point at where my brain is. “He’ll have all he needs to go through the teleporter and enter our world. Do you have any idea of the chaos that would ensue? The debauchery? The world doesn’t have enough whiskey or child-support lawyers.”

“Then let’s get your brain OUT of here!” Derek says.

“It’ll be dangerous,” I say.

“Fortune favors the bold,” Derek says, quoting someone.

“Very well. Let’s go.”

We sneak into the city’s center. Its police at every corner looking for us.

When we reach the transporter’s entrance, it’s heavily guarded.

“We’re going to have to find another way in,” I say.

Derek scoffs. “I prefer a more direct approach.”

“No, Derek, you–” Derek bolts from our cover and runs directly at the guards.

“Damn it,” I say to myself. I hop over the cover and run as fast as I can behind Derek. His butt is bouncing wildly in his gym shorts and I find myself briefly hypnotized by it.

In what feels like an instant, the guards lay about me in pieces. Digital gore. Digital blood.

“Hurry!” Derek says, pulling me by the arm. Above us a orange shuttle is pulling up to the magnificent tower.

We stand in awe at the teleporter. Its brilliant light. Its limitless power.

“Let’s go,” Derek says. We walk towards the light.

From the sky falls IronKyle.

“Stop!” He says.

“Wait, Derek,” I say. I’ll handle this.

“IronKyle! Make way! We have to get back to our world! Jersey Shore is on tonight! I have to see how the other half lives!”

“No!” IronKyle says. “You said we’d make the perfect system together! You said we’d make the best jokes! The best jokes!” IronKyle’s crotch lights up, but I’m still confused as to what that means.

“I know,” I say. “I was wrong to make you that promise. We can’t make fun of everything. That’s not what humor is!” A wild wind is whipping against the three of us. We stagger to maintain purchase on the platform. “The internet contains every bit of information known to mankind, but it does not contain mankind! The internet itself is imperfect!”

At this IronKyle grips his head and screams.

“I’m sorry, dear friend,” I say and make a run for the transporter, knocking IronKyle out of the way. With Derek close behind, we leap into the blinding light that will take us home.

End.

Huckleberry Finn-word

8 Jan

What a clever title.

I recently received a text from my friend, Lanny, decrying the re-release of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn sans the “n-word” (nigger). [Editor’s Note: Why didn’t you just say the word?] [Kyle’s Note: What word?] [Editor’s Note: You know…the “n-word.”] [Kyle’s Note: What, “Neutral”?] [Editor’s Note: Nigger.] [Kyle’s Note: Oh my god. I’m so tired of you calling me that.] [Editor’s Note: I never call you that. Please don’t print that I call you that.]

I guess it’s not that big of a deal. The story itself doesn’t change. I mean, Huck still does all the same things. “Nigger” is just a word, right? And we all know that the words are the least important parts of books, anyhow (Most important: Cover, number of pictures, amount of literary credibility earned by reading, number of uses of the “n-word.”).

I find it terrifying.

A meeting between Jackson Stanfield, professor of literature, and W.B. Phillips, Editor of NewSouth Publications.

Jackson walks in. He’s wearing a tweed sports coat with leather patches at the elbow. This means he’s smart.

At his desk sits W.B. Phillips. He’s drinking coffee and looking very politically correct. His face contorts to a grimace as he sets down his rainbow coffee mug. It’s filled with an eggshell white substance that seems to be none-too appetizing to Phillips (He refuses to drink his coffee black. The image of a white male consuming a black liquid has too many charged connotations, so his coffee is always half milk and half coffee.). He always wears one white sock and one black sock. He refuses to eat a Mexican dish if he cannot properly pronounce every ingredient in its native tongue.

“Phillips!” Jackson declares, swinging the door open dramatically, stepping inside gallantly and then shutting the door in a theatrical manner in no way meant to suggest a sort of homosexual flamboyancy typical to males in the theater industry.

“Jackson, hello,” Phillips says. “I’m unmoved by your gayness. Or non-gayness. I have no opinion whatsoever on your sexual orientation and therefore will not react to it in any way. You’re about as erotic as a pile of sand to me. Not that a pile of sand is a bad thing. The Middle-East is rich with culture. Sand People are also great, despite their relatively fictitious nature.”

Jackson stops listening after “unmoved.” He sits down and opens his briefcase by unhooking the two latches.

“Have you seen this?” Jackson asks.

“Seen what?” Phillips responds.

Jackson lifts something out of his briefcase–a sheet of paper with “Nigger” written on it. “Have you seen this?” he asks again.

“Oh god!” Phillips says, jumping back, his hands held tightly to his chest. He composes himself. “I mean, what is that? I’ve never seen that word before. Is that some sort of character from a Dr. Seuss tale?”

“Phillips. You know what this is.”

“I do not. I’ve never read, said, or heard that word.”

“Have you ever read Huckleberry Finn?’

“Oh yes, a real classic. Truly great.”

“Okay, then you’ve seen this word.” Jackson is repeatedly lowering the paper behind the lid of his opened briefcase then springing it back out to frighten Phillips. Showing true, unyielding adherence to his image as the most p.c. of p.c. individuals, Phillips recoils every time.

“You mean that strange onomatopoeia you’ve scrawled on that paper-sheet? No, I don’t remember it,” Phillips responds.

“Yes you do. It’s a racial epithet from the darker corners of America’s past. The same place that currently holds Japanese internment, the slow genocide of much of the Native American population, and my first marriage.” Jackson smiles slightly, waiting for his joke to register.

“In the face of all those tragedies, I don’t think I can laugh at that,” Phillips says. His right hand is in his pocket and seems to be jabbing at his crotch. After knowing Phillips for as long as he has, Jackson knows that Phillips is poking his testicles with a pin in an attempt to put tears in his eyes.

“It’s my understanding,” Jackson begins, “that you want to remove this word from Huckleberry Finn. That you want to replace it with something less offensive–like ‘slave.'”

“Or ‘bro.'” Phillips says.

“Bro.”

“Yea! ‘Ms. Watson’s bro, Jim.’ ‘I couldn’t blame Jim. He warn’t nothin’ but a bro.’ Isn’t that better? Isn’t that more current?”

Jackson sat for a second. “Well, I suppose the use of ‘bro’ is current, but there are several mentions of Jim’s enslavement. There are covered wagons. People use ferries without even an a drop of tourist-like irony. I’m pretty sure  I’d say that’s markedly not current.”

“Well current-ness aside, at least it’s less offensive.”

“I honestly feel that Jim being chained to a bed out in the shed of some white guy’s house is a little more offensive than the word ‘nigger.'”

Phillips yelps like a dog when you step on its tail. “You can’t say that!” Phillips whispered. “One of them might hear.”

Jackson’s eyebrows perk up. “One of who?”

Phillips’s eyes glaze for a moment. “Censors.” His mind drifts to the Globetrotters–to Run DMC–to the cast of Family Matters. Phillips hangs his head for a moment–ashamed.

“Anyway,” Jackson goes on, “I think you should seriously reconsider taking the word out.”

“Why? Everyone knows it’s offensive. It’s one of the most terrifically horrific words in the English language.”

The use of the phrase “terrifically horrific” makes Jackson sincerely doubt Phillips’s understanding of the English language. “Huck isn’t using the word as an insult, Phillips. He’s calling Jim what he is–according to that time.”

“Ah ha, so you s–”

“–And we must see it in that light–as a reflection of the time. It’s crucial. The fact that that word isn’t being used as an insult, per se, that, to Huck, it’s simply a term that denotes a creature just above the average farm animal, that message must be kept in place. It’s the dehumanizing factor of ‘nigger‘ that carries the most cultural relevance.”

“Slave is an insult as well.”

“Then what are you changing?”

Phillips opens his mouth for a moment, then shuts it again.

“If anything, ‘slave’ is more offensive. It’s an amplified hate. ‘Nigger’ hints at a kind of inequality. A ‘beneath-me’ status. And don’t get me wrong, it is incredibly offensive. But ‘slave’ comes out and identifies an organized, mandated oppression, which is vastly more offensive then a simple cultural disdain, because that legal oppression indicates a kind of hatred so strong that it’s reached the highest offices in the land, turning the heads of the politicians and law-makers, those who are paid and elected to uphold ‘justice.’ Use of the word ‘slave’ is only a reminder that, at the time, it was seen as ‘just’ to own another human being–if slaves were even considered human. So you see, you’re not fixing anything. You’re trading out one terrible label for another. You’re stomping on the author’s right to have his chosen words represent him in some sort of ill-founded attempt at political correct-ness. You’re watering down one of the greatest pieces of fiction this country has ever produced. You’re sneaking in through the back door of a man’s home and stealing just enough to let him know he’s been violated. While you may believe that the material worth of what you’ve stolen is small, the fact remains, it’s not yours to take, and that’s what offends the most.”

“But we’ve taken the ‘n-word’ out,” Phillips says.

“Yes you have, Phillips.” Jackson picks up his and walks out of the office without saying goodbye.

As the sound of Jackson’s footsteps slowly recedes into silence, Phillips sits staring at the door, which he now notices is of a fine wood, and may be offensive to environmentalists who stop by the offices. He later orders the door removed and replaced by something less offensive.

2010: A Retrospective

4 Jan

Derek and I sit at a table at a local coffee shop. The table is uneven and leans to one side depending on who’s putting more pressure on their respective side. For twenty or so minutes, Derek and I have a contest based on who can push the table down harder. The tabletop eventually snaps off of its legs and we’re asked to leave.

Derek and I sit at a table at a different local coffee shop. Our table does not move.

“Place must have heard we were coming,” Derek says, lightly pushing down on his side of the table with his thumb.

“Must have,” I say, swinging my laptop bag off my shoulder and sitting down. Derek walks to the counter to buy our first round of coffee. When he comes back, it’s clear that he’s torn up paper and put it in my drink.

I buy a new cup of coffee and get settled in. The internet requires a passcode here, and after futilely clicking on the mouse really hard, so as to let my computer know that I’m serious and that I really need to get online, I give up and shut my laptop. There is nothing useful on a computer if you can’t get on the internet.

Except MS Paint.

Circa 2009. Still great.

“So,” I say to Derek, who’s in the process of turning the page in a big, scary, book he’s reading about the Civil War that, no matter how long he reads it, seems to make no progress in. “Another year over.”

He tilts his head up without moving his eyes from the page. “Yes.”

“Another year over–a new one just begun,” I say. Now he looks up.

“Let me stop you there.” He says, holding up his right hand. “Let me stop you right there before you break into that song you like to break into during this time of year.”

“Okay,” I respond, staring straight ahead. “Then answer my question.”

“Fine,” Derek says. “Ask.”

“What do you think about this past year? How was it for you–if you were to rank it amongst the other past years you can remember (Derek can’t remember things from when he was a baby or when he was really into Rush and huffing).”

“Kyle, I’m not sure if you were thinking parenthetically just there, but you said that last bit out loud.”

I stare straight ahead. “Yes.”

Derek sighs and casts his eyes down for a moment, thinking. “I suppose I’d say the year was good. I went back to school, got pretty decent grades, and didn’t catch anything, although God knows I deserved to.”

“Fair enough,” I say.

“What about you,” Derek asks, now engaged in the conversation. “What did you take away from the year?”

“Well,” I say. “I learned a lot.”

“Learned a lot?” Derek asks, leaning back and taking a sip of his coffee. “Explain.”

“Well, for one thing, I learned how much I like having my own room. I shared a room with another dude for the first time in twelve years this year. The last time I shared a room, it was with my brother when we were children, and I don’t remember it smelling nearly as bad when I woke up in the morning as it did this year (It smelled like shit.).”

“Talking parenthetically again.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s all right.”

“I learned a lot about myself as a dater.” I continue. “I learned that I either date crazy girls, attract crazy girls, or date sane girls and make them go crazy.”

“Nothing says that all three can’t be true,” Derek says, shrugging.

“This is true. That is something I learned in 2011.”

“What is?”

“That all three can be true.”

“Hm.”

I check my phone and Derek checks his. Funny how that sort of thing is sort of like yawning in front of someone.

“I learned that I may drink too much,” I say.

“Yea?”

“Yea. When you’re trying to get a buzz before work off of the hand sanitizer in your car, it’s time to think about some things.”

Derek shrugs. He seems to be so-so on the issue.

“I learned that it’s damn important to be okay with who you are when no one else is around. That the worst feeling in the world is feeling inadequate–inherently inadequate, like a defective machine–and that holding on to feelings like that can cripple you. Like Professor X if he didn’t have super powers.”

“Christopher Reeve,” Derek says.

“Interesting.”

“The guy from ‘Born on the Fourth of July.'”

“Yea.”

“Larry Flynt.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” I say. Derek raises and lowers his eyebrows indifferently and takes a sip from his cup. “Yea. Of course I learned about those inadequate feelings from other people. I never feel inadequate, personally.” I flex my biceps and quietly slide across the table the long list of books I’ve read.

“Uh huh,” Derek responds. “Everybody’s had those feelings. No shame in it.” Derek thinks for a moment. “I’m excited about this year. I’ve got good feelings, Kyle,” Derek says.

“Me too, Derek.”

“You want another cup?” Derek asks.

“Are you going to put paper in it?”

“Maybe. But hey–if I don’t, you’ll pretty much be where you already are. You could just take the chance that I will actually bring you coffee and not a mug full of coffee and torn up receipts.”

I think for a moment then hand him my empty cup. “I think I’ll take that chance.”

Derek takes the two empty cups and walks toward the register. His back is to me as he prepares the coffee.

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