The Bruise

LOOK AT THIS SEXY MOTHER FUCKER. LOOK AT HIM.

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*This is a longer version of my original Facebook post, for those of you that read it.

One night many years ago my sister knocked on my bedroom door before letting herself in. She was holding a white rectangular laundry basket with an old, blue, frayed-at-the-edges towel neatly folded at the bottom. On that towel was a puppy; the progeny of my mother’s miniature pinscher. But the puppy wasn’t pure bred. The neighbor’s dachshund crawled under the fence some months before and got himself in a family way. So he ended up with a long body and long legs. And where his mother was mostly black with dark brown spots he was bright gold with a single white clockwise swirl on his chest.

“Can you please just take him for the night?” she asked. “He’s whining and I’m trying to study.”

“Fine,” I said. “Just set it there.” I pointed to a spot on the floor next to my bed.

She did, and I shut off the lamp and went back to sleep.

Some hours later I woke to the sound of whimpering and desperation. I flipped on the lamp and there was the pup, no bigger than the palm of my hand, dangling from the edge of the mattress. The little shit had climbed and clawed his way out of the laundry basket and up the side of my bed only to cling for dear life and whelp for attention. I couldn’t help but admire such tenacity. So I scooped him up, turned out the lights and went to sleep.

By the next morning the pup had made an executive decision. I was his human. I belonged to him now. Anywhere I went in the house he was right at my heel or in my lap. And when I had to leave he’d howl bloody murder. At least that’s what I’ve been told. So naturally when I moved out he insisted that I take him with me.

I lived in a townhouse. My bedroom was upstairs right over the front door. We used to play this game where I’d have him sit by the entrance and then I’d walk out of sight from the window and you could hear him tear ass up the stairs and into my room so he could find me. And then I’d point to the front and he’d haul ass back down again. I would do this repeatedly. It was a good way to get him worn out while I only had to walk about five feet back and forth a dozen times or so.

One summer Saturday I was walking around downtown, the dog at my heel, and a voice from behind be said, “Oh my god he is so cute.” There was an exaggerated emphasis on the “so,” and it came out in this kind of high pitched sound that’s a hallmark of the twenty-something California female. “What’s his name?”

I turned around to find this cute, curly haired brunette with deep dimples whose name escapes me at the moment and isn’t really relevant to the story. “Shithead,” I said.

“What?”

“That’s his name. Shithead.”

“No!” Again with the elongated “O” sound. “You’re not a shit-head,” she said as she bent down to pet the little celebrity. He knew when the eyes were on him.

“Nah, he’s pretty awesome actually.”

“So what’s his name, really?”

“Bruiser. But he answers to shit-head, or butt-face or just dog.”

“Oh my god you’re terrible. But he is just so cute. Does he do any tricks?”

“He’ll give you a kiss on command.”

She blushed and did that little thing with her hand that girls do when they play coy, and smile and brush their hair over one ear with their index finger. “Oh really?”

“Really. Just ask him.”

She did, and he did. And after I informed her that he learned the trick from me, I did also. But not until the next day. And as much as he liked to play up the ladies when out and about he was never too happy about me bringing them home. He’d do this thing where he’d march from my side of the bed around to the other and back again, his ears pricked up and voicing his protest in a very quiet woof. As if to say “Oh hell no.”

We went everywhere together, unless we absolutely couldn’t. The office, and most restaurants were off limits. But the grocery store? Yup. What do you mean I can’t bring a dog in here? He’s a service animal, sir. No, it doesn’t matter that he’s not wearing a vest, he doesn’t have to. No, you can’t ask me what my disability is. That’s illegal. How dare you. *Smirk*

On more than one occasion I’d wear a big puffy jacket two sizes too big so I could sneak him into the movies with me. A kid caught me once when he turned around from the seat in front of me and saw me feeding The Bruise popcorn through the zipper in my hoodie. I politely reminded him that snitches did indeed get stitches, and handed him a pack of peanut M&M’s for his consideration. Carrot and stick, ya know?

I came home from work a week ago, and he was there at the door to greet me as usual. We took a nice little walk around the block. A little bit slower than we used to though. He looked up at me with his cloudy little eyes and started to tug on the leash. That was his way of telling me to step on it. But I’ve gotten fatter as well as older, and my knee bothers me every now and then, so we meandered.

When we got home, I gave him some fresh water that he lapped up vigorously, and some food that he was only semi interested in. I chowed down on leftover beef stew with white rice. After dinner I laid down in bed and put on the television as usual. The dog hopped up and gave me several sweet doggy kisses and one of those head bumps that dogs do that’s as though they’re trying to push their way into you. You know the kind. Then he curled up into his customary little spoon position. We were about ten minutes into the show when he had the seizure. His back arched, his front paws stuck straight out in front of him. And just like that, he was gone. I tried to wake him. I wept.

My apartment is quieter, and colder than it once was, and never before did I think that an empty space could be so heavy.

Goodbye, Bruiser. I love you and miss you very much. You’re the best dog I never asked for.

33rd With an *

33

At SixFold, the all writer voted literary journal.

Bummer.

Upon further review, it appears that there was one, very uncharacteristic vote that held my story back. The vote in question (LAST PLACE!) and commentary was so far removed from the 1st and 2nd place votes and commentary I received from the other voters. Here it is:

“This document contains several curse words or vulgar language. The quality and quantity of trite or inappropriate words, phrases, misspellings and clichés are found in this paper. The use of a ‘readability index’ to gauge whether or not your text is appropriate for a certain audience may be helpful. Most of your sentences state with a pronoun. Variety is helpful in eliminating monotony. Keep on writing as with practice you can do it.”

The thing is, my story contained very little profanity, zero misspellings and it had been run through a “readability index” with the following scores:
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 4.3
Gunning-Fog Score 6.6
Coleman-Liau Index 7.6
SMOG Index 7.4
Automated Readability Index 3.4
Average Grade Level 5.9

A score of 8 or lower is what is recommended for the general public.

It’s almost as if this voter was reading a different story while voting and commenting on mine by accident.

In contrast, here are some of the more flattering comments left by other writers:

“Midtown Funk 1. There’s a lot of despair throughout the text. I liked that Joe just rolls with the punches (literally) despite his gambling problem and the terrible things that happen to him. He carries this sense of responsibility for his own mistakes that’s admirable, even if it is just because of despair and resignation. His strength is particularly strong when he thinks about how he will die humorously. 2. The details about the settings are great – the bar in particular feels so alive and almost like it’s a character.

“Midtown Funk: A witty Charles Bukowski-style story about a man at the end of his rope. Strengths are: that the story starts in the middle of the action

“Good descriptions/imagery. Love the details of the bar bathroom – so stark and depressing, just as a bar bathroom usually is. Also love the description of the music on the jukebox. More of a vignette than a whole story altogether, though, I thought this was a well-written piece.”

“I was entertained by the ‘film noir’ qualities of the piece. The character is engaging if not particularly likable. The dialogue is authentic and the mood is sustained effectively throughout.”

“Vivid imagery, original non-cliched descriptions, and an engaging opening. The writing style and explicit imagery gives me a Chuck Palahunik vibe.

I’m Back

Just a lunchtime quickie. It’s been about eight weeks since my computer at home died, and I’ve finally procured a new one. I will once again grace your feeds with my linguistic idiocy.

New Project Prologue

stew

 

Inspiration came to me today. A fantasy novel from the perspective of three people who, if they lived in the real world, would be real candidates for “still living in mom’s basement”. Thoughts?

Prologue

The sun lingered on the horizon, sending the last rays of the day through the kitchen window of the Cask and Cod. Soon the tavern would shed its silence and embrace the bustle and laughter befitting a rowdy tavern during a late supper rush. Before the great cast iron cooking pot of long simmering stew stood a man, a woman and a moron. In truth all three were fools, but they were fools of three different types.

The first of these belonged to Q’urt and the way, mid conversation, he’d simply stop listening while nodding in automatic agreement. It was in the way he could dazzle you with obscure facts on a wide swathe of subjects while remaining oblivious to the obvious. And it was in his frequent stares into the middle distance examining – nothing.

The second stupidity belonged to Baub and her penchant for conjuring terrible ideas. It was in the way she chewed her food slack jawed, and the moist smacking sound her mouth made as she shoveled food into her face. And it was in her laugh, like a braying ass, loud and ornery. You could count for her all the ways her schemes were doomed, and when confronted with the facts she’d simply say fuck it.

The last of these belonged to Fhil, the greatest thick-wit of the three. It was in the way he’d keep talking long past Q’urt’s listening and how he thought every fickle notion of Baub’s was brilliant. It was in the way he’d subordinate himself to them and their constant needling and ridicule. You could listen for an hour and you might catch the knock of shallow thoughts bouncing around inside his skull, one at a time.

Combined, their jackassery stunned the owner of the Cask and Cod into a horrified, pre-rage silence as they seasoned the stew with their spit and snot and in Fhil’s case, piss.

The Art of Trolling – A Two For One Special

Malaya, my favorite four year old niece, came up to me whilst I was lounging about on the couch. She reached out her tiny little hand and tugged at the cuff of my polo shirt. “Uncle Chris, will you play a game with me?”

“Sure sweetie. What do you want to play?”

“Chutes and ladders,” she popped up onto her feet and bounded for the toy closet, “Or we can play one of Tala’s games.”

She came back balancing a long rectangle box in her hands and swaying back and forth under its considerable two, maybe three pound weight. “Let’s play this one.”

What she’d selected was a children’s circuitry set which, when set up properly, would light up with LEDs and send a propeller that Malaya deemed a “fan” a few feet into the air. One of the pieces you could choose to connect to this plastic breadboard was an LED inside a translucent white egg. That brings us to this day’s epic trolling event.

“Uncle Chris,” said Malaya. “Did you know that there are two kinds of eggs? There are eggs with babies and eggs that don’t have babies.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, but you don’t eat the ones with babies in them.”

Now to understand this, you have to understand a little bit about Filipino cuisine beyond lumpia and pancit. There’s a thing called balut. Balut is basically a half fertilized egg. You can crack one open and see a little duckling beak, feathers, and lifeless little eyes staring back up at you. And then you slurp it down. If you’re so inclined. I am not, because that shit is disgusting. At least it’s disgusting to anyone that grew up in the United States and hasn’t’ spent a great deal of time overseas. Or if you’re Filipina, like my mother.

“You know,” I said. “Your mamala (grandma) eats the ones with babies in them.”

Malaya went still, stood at attention, a peered daggers at me from beneath her wispy bangs. “No she doesn’t.”

“Yes she does,” I said.

“No! She! Doesn’t!” She made each word a declaration, punctuated by tiny little fists as she hammered them into the air. Her voice grew louder and more shrill with each word.

“I could be wrong, let’s ask her.” I pulled out my phone and put it on speaker, and dialed.

“Hey son.”

“Hi mom, I have a question.”

“Oh okay.”

“What are those eggs called with the babies in them?”

“You mean balut?”

“Yeah, you eat balut right?”

“Oh yeah.”

“See Malaya? Mamala does eat the ones with babies!”

My niece just sat there, horrified.

“Christopher!” said my mom. “No Malaya, your uncle is lying! I don’t eat the babies.”

“But you just said you ate the babies,” I said.

“I don’t actually eat the babies. I just suck the juices out.”

“So you suck the juices out of the babies?”

“Damn-it Chris. Malaya don’t listen to uncle!”

The whole time I heard my dad laughing like a madman in the background. He knew why it was funny. Good times.

The Lesser (more attractive?) of Two Weevils?

weevil

A candidate for President of the United States went on stage last night and defended his practice of not paying people for the work they’ve done because A) It’s good business and B) Because maybe he wasn’t’ satisfied. He also stated that “not paying taxes” was good business. That’s pretty weevil. On the flip side, it’s a legitimate out if you go to Vegas. Stay at Trump Towers then refuse to pay. It’s just business.

Across the stage from this spray tanned symbol of epic douchebaggery, it turns out, wasn’t a weevil at all but a woman. We know it’s a woman because Fox News’ own Brit Hume noted that she was “composed, smug sometimes, not necessarily attractive.” Because attractiveness is a very important quality in a candidate for POTUS, but only if you’re a woman.

That doesn’t really seem fair.

If we have to hear whether or not Hillary pumps up Brit Hume’s chubby, shouldn’t we also hear where The Donald’s tiny fingers rate on Ann Coulter’s Moist-O-Meter?

Pretty sure I’m not going to sway anybody one way or another. Either you’re voting for Hillary, or you’re a troglodyte. Keep in mind that if you’re voting for Trump you’re statistically far likelier to have to look up the definition of “troglodyte”. Because Trump supporters are dumb.

Writing Means Reading

Just a quick thought while I have the time and access to a computer while I’m on break. I just took a moment to make a list of the books I’ve read so far this year. I’m at twenty eight. That’s a book roughly every nine and a half days. Not bad, but could be better. But i also need time to write and eat and pet my dog and shit. Good thing I don’t have kids to neglect, because they’d get neglected.

Some of the books on this list are re-reads, because good books are worth a revisit, and great books are worth more than one. I put them in order by series and awesomeness. The top three series are clearly a cut above, but the rest of them are all kind of tied for fourth place so far. I’m currently trying to slog through The Centaur by John Updike, but it’s just not catching me by the short and curlies as of yet.

The Kingkiller Chronicle – Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind

The Wise Man’s Fear

The Gentleman Bastards – Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Red Seas Under Red Skies

The Republic of Thieves

The Magicians Trilogy – Lev Grossman

The Magicians

The Magician King

The Magician’s Land

The Farseer Saga – Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice

Royal Assassin

Assassin’s Quest

Fool’s Errand

Golden Fool

Fool’s Fate

Fool’s Assassin

Fool’s Quest

The Calamity Trilogy – Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart

Firefight

Calamity

The Stormlight Archive – Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings

Words of Radiance

Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

The Expanse Series – James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes

Caliban’s War

Abaddon’s Gate

Cibola Burn

Nemesis Games