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BIG BAD ASTERISK*
BLAZEVOX[BOOKS] Buffalo, New York
BIG BAD ASTERISK* by Carlo Matos Copyright © 2013 Published by BlazeVOX [books] All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews. Printed in the United States of America Interior design and typesetting by Geoffrey Gatza First Edition ISBN: 978-1-60964-119-1 Library of Congress Control Number: 2012948669 BlazeVOX [books] 76 Inwood Place Buffalo, NY 14209 Editor@blazevox.org
The game was afoot, and he had his walking shoes, but the amount of meat needed to feed this bird of prey would surely leave him a bag of bones . . . and that was that.*
*Better that than the flesh of mighty men or the blood of princes.
He knew instinctively that email would be waiting. Email was always so smug with answers. He hated email. There should be a word for that. And, sure enough, in his inbox, nestled among the junk, the porno solicitations and penis-increasing tonics and creams was a two-week old message. He didn’t recognize the address, and there was no text. It was all subject heading . . . “Are you married, yet? If not, come find me.”*
*“or I’ll come for you.”
There was a word for it he was sure, but he had no head for trivia, and the more he tried to remember some small amusing or interesting factoid, the quicker he forgot it. His roommate, on the other hand (the largest Korean he had ever known), routinely squashed everyone at Jeopardy— routinely. He would’ve been a huge hit at parties since trivia excellence—like tournament spelling— is one of the few intellectual pursuits we all unabashedly aspire to. His roommate could’ve made millions, but why spoil it? And it would be spoiled, he was sure of that. It was a fact. That was that and no bones about it . . . Bones are for graveyards. Bones are for stock. Bones are for poison, for junkyard dogs, for tall ships. You could love bones. But bones were no good for feeding the grinder. That’s how you cracked teeth and choked into your soup.*
*What is aphasia?
Maybe the mail would cheer him up. He’d always loved getting the mail. But email had ruined it all—nothing now in the box but bills and junk, an occasional pizza menu and pamphlets about getting into heaven. Email had no meat to it . . . It didn’t touch anyone. It didn’t have a delivery time. It didn’t come from anywhere; it didn’t go anywhere.*
*I’ll take The Rapture for 100, Alex.
Something thudded against the front door as if he’d caught someone mid-knock and then scared them off. There was a small grocery bag tied to the doorknob. He was pretty sure he hadn’t been in this apartment long enough to make enemies— or friends for that matter. Maybe it was meant for another apartment. What was it? A bag of bones? . . . A bag of dog shit? There were lots of people with dogs in the building. It didn’t smell like dog shit, at least not from where he was standing. After all, this was no small town; this was a big city. People were busy here, had lives, had things to do and worry over. That’s why he’d moved there. No small town boredom turned to stoning: the smaller the town, the larger the stones. It was some kind of inverse proportion thing*
*I’ll take Flux Lines for 800, Alex. **Alex Trebek was the host of Jeopardy, and he came to be synonymous with American intellectualism. Of course, he was actually Canadian.
Just a bag of shoes, nice shoes too, designer brands appropriate for work and play. They weren’t new but obviously not worn either. No note. No name. Just a bag of shoes. He wasn’t skilled at deducing things. His roommate could probably deduce the hell out it. To him it was just a bag of shoes . . . size nine and a half. This was his size. Somehow he knew this would be the case. They were all the same foot. There wasn’t a matching pair in the whole bag—all right feet. The right thing to do was leave the bag where it was . . . but they were the right shoes. Only those closest to him knew that his right foot was larger than his left, a lot larger in fact. If something happened, his parents could always identify him— assuming he still had his feet, that is. If this were a zombie movie, he would be the nameless guy who gets killed in the opening sequence—a lucky rabbit’s foot for the important characters to rub in distress. His left foot, on the other hand, was always swimming.*
*He wouldn’t be nameless. His friends called him O Giz (the Chalk) behind his back.
He couldn’t stand not understanding. And it was absolutely true that he could understand almost anything—well, not ideas or concepts or theories. He wasn’t some kind of genius, nor did he claim or pretend that he was. What he understood were desires. It all made perfect sense to him, and when it didn’t, he forced it to—but those times were rare. Things that others worried over or pretended to worry over bothered him not at all. Goat fucking? Please. Suicide? C’mon. Murder? Just another day at the office. Infidelity? Might as well get a shave. Goodness? Nothing to it. Evil? . . . There was something about other people’s surprise he deeply distrusted. There was no such thing, as far as he was concerned, as the failure of the imagination. People could tell him anything and he would understand perfectly. He really did listen, and people couldn’t help but seek him out—a ready ear to pull.*
*“He was never alone.”
His friends, on the other hand, rather than protect him seemed to enjoy repeating what others said about him. When asked how they responded, they often looked blank or confused as if coming to his rescue was an absurd notion. He used to think it was a loyalty thing—some flaw in how he picked his friends, some defect in his ability to gauge others. Of course, since he had no one to discuss it with, he never realized there was never a chance of reciprocation. In fact, it was more than that. It was not to be returned. It would have to remain shameful, debased, secret, something . . . What sense would there be, after all, in one goat fucker confessing to another goat fucker the loveliness of his weekend? They needed someone who punished without judgment, who served the moment, and staked the next round.*
*A recent study concluded that although there has been a drastic increase in references to copulation with farm animals in popular media, actual incidence of the act has been in steep decline since the late 1800s.
For example, everyone around him—and this seemed to have happened only very recently but so slowly as to feel like it had always been there— had developed a pathological need to blow their noses. He did not witness—initially—the act itself; what he found was the evidence, the aftermath. In every bathroom, those little plastic canisters that passed for trashcans were overflowing with used Kleenex. It was not his practice to use other people’s bathrooms or public restrooms. It wasn’t the national-brand hypochondria either; he didn’t care about germs. It was a leftover from a childhood of visiting people who lived in small apartments, whose bathrooms were always perilously close to the parlor where the entertaining was happening. There was simply no way to go about one’s business without everyone being audience to it. But he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity . . . It was important not to exaggerate, not to make a claim based on too small a sample. The world did not need another metaphor. What was needed here was cold observation if such a thing was still
possible: the facts and then some viable conclusions if they could be drawn.*
*“Discoveries were made, then later lost, forgotten. Some things came to light, while others disappeared, certain beliefs becoming accepted as fact, some as legend.” Darrell Kastin, The Undiscovered Island.
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