Clandestine – 2

Soundtrack

“You lost, friend?” Comes a loud voice, which sounds oddly familiar. I wipe the sleep from my eyes, put on my glasses, and look out the window. It is the cop from last night. Did he follow me here?

I roll down the window of my car. “What do you mean? I’m sorry if I wasn’t supposed to stay here; I’m leaving now.”

“You best do that. And go back where you came from, remember?”

When he says ‘remember’ his voice changes. It gets lower, sadder, and even louder. Immediately, without trying or even thinking, the image of the boy hanging from the highway sign by snakes comes back to mind. I shutter.

“I’m leaving,” I say in a rush, starting my car.

“Good. Go.”

I leave the lot feeling just as bad as I did last night. The location where I am supposed to drop off the letter is just about ten miles outside of town. I reach the small community by 10 a.m. There is no one in sight. The road is made of dirt, and I see a few houses every now and then on the left and right side of the road.

I wonder what the hell was up with that kid, and with that cop. Was this all some sort of backwoods joke on passers by? I begin to feel sleepy. Almost like I am going to fall asleep at the wheel, just out of no where. I stop to calm down and have a cigarette at a small park I find. There’s not much here, just some rusty swings, some gravel, a chain-link fence missing the gate, dead trees in the middle of summer, and some matching cigarette butts. I glare at the envelope I am to deliver. What could be inside this? I hold the envelope to the light to try and read through it. I think I can see the word “Human” somewhere, but I’m not even entirely sure.

“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS came on my CD player. It’s a good song. I forgot about making this CD, there’s a lot of good songs on it.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division came on next.

Odd pairing, I thought, but also sort of funny. I started another cigarette.

“Never Tear Us Apart” started again. Followed by “Love Will Tear Us Apart” again. Tired of hearing the same two songs twice, I pulled the key from the ignition. The radio didn’t stop, though. I pressed the power button and it still didn’t stop. I pressed the eject button; the CD didn’t come out, but the music had stopped. Something didn’t feel right; I lit another cigarette.

Just as I did, “Never…” started playing again, at full volume. About thirty seconds in, “Love…” began playing. I ran to the car, and pressed the power button again, to no avail. I looked at the radio.

666

That’s all that was on the radio. The music kept playing and I opened the trunk for a wrench to disconnect the battery. Just as I opened the trunk, the music stopped.

What could I do, really? The car went back to normal. I was a bit freaked out, but I needed to make my delivery. I kept driving on back roads, and the streets seemed to get worse: more potholes, more rocks. The houses also went down drastically in quality. That is, until I got to a golden gate, with a drive-up box to talk to the owners of the house up the hill. The house was the one I was to make the delivery at. I drove to the box and pressed the call button. “Who is it?” responded an elderly-sounding woman’s voice.

“I have a package,” I said.

“And you’re sure it’s for me? For this address?”

I repeated the address to her.

“Well, who are you with?”

“Ma’am, I’m just trying to make a delivery for my landlady. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I am not with a corporation or anything. Can I please just come drop this off to you?”

She let me in. As I drove up the winded road to her house, I realized it wasn’t much of a house at all — it was a mansion.

“I’m sorry I was so annoying at the gate,” she told me over the tea she eventually made us.

Her mansion seemed to go on forever. We were sitting near a large fireplace, in elegant red couches.

“It’s just,” she continued, “you saw all of those shacks on the way up. They’ve got me beginning to think this was all a bad idea.”

“What was a bad idea?” I asked.

She sighed. “You have something for me?”

I handed her the envelope. All it said on it was For Sasha. “Can you tell me what it’s about? I don’t want to pry, but I drove a long way and my landlady is really making a big deal out of these deliveries…”

“You’re right, you shouldn’t pry. I think maybe you should go now.” Her tone was completely different, like she had snapped.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry if I asked something offensive…”

She didn’t even look at me as I left out the long, stone hallway. Along the way, I saw something move into the room next to the front door along the floor. I peaked my head in before I left, to see a snake slithering through the room.

I found it a bit unsettling when the people who lived in the cheapest housed gave me sad, almost scared faces as I drove passed. They were gone so quickly and out of view, so my mind moved on to other questions faster than it probably should have.

I ended up back in town quicker this time — strange how not having my car radio become possessed during a smoke break will make that happen. I had to get gas at the gas station which was now open. As I went inside and b-lined for the snack isle, I got a message on my phone from an unknown number.

“New delivery boy, huh? I think there’s something you should see,” it read.

I responded with a “who is this,” only to get no response. I paid for my gas and chips and went to start my car. It started, but didn’t sound okay. I pulled over in the still closed “Atlas of Humanity” parking lot since it was still abandoned, and looked at the engine. Everything seemed fine, but when I went to start the car to leave, nothing happened. The engine didn’t turn, the lights didn’t come on, nothing.

I had just made a long, stressful drive out to a place I didn’t really want to go, where I didn’t really feel comfortable, to do something I didn’t really want to do. And now my car had died. To make the best of my situation, I decided to cut my losses and make a day of things. I stopped by the local liquor store, grabbed some more snacks, and went on a hike in the northern Kansas nothingness to take my mind of of things, or at least to organize the thoughts inside my head from the last day.

The day-hike quickly turned into a night hike. I got lost. I don’t know how it happened, exactly, as I followed the map I had previously downloaded onto my phone. The whole time, it said I was only a couple miles away from where I had started at most, but when I turned back to go to my car it took me hours. I am back at my car now, and it still will not start. Something is wrong, though. Someone has done something to my car and is keeping me here. It’s too late to do anything about it now, though. I have no choice but to camp out in my car again, in the same lot I was in before. I hope that cop isn’t watching me.

I eventually fell asleep for a little while. But I woke up to a loud pop.

I looked up at the lot, and at the “Atlas of Humanity” place — it wasn’t empty anymore.

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Clandestine – 1

Soundtrack

I moved because there was nothing for me where I came from before. There were more people, and more businesses, and more “friends,” but there just wasn’t what I needed. I need to think. I need a fresh start more than anything, I guess.

I did things where I came from that I am not exactly proud of, and don’t exactly want to relive. I want to get away. I need to think, that’s all. You can’t think when your home in the city is filled with people who have bigger, louder problems than yours. They rant and rave, they stay up late and drain all of their emotions, they eat whatever. And I mean, like garbage on a plate — and it smells, and their conversations drain me, and make me want to go mad.

But here I can breathe. I can think, and I can make for myself what I want.

I found a spot in the middle of nowhere. Here I am thirty miles from the nearest town, and twenty from the nearest grocery store. There is almost nothing to see in every view, but it somehow means everything to me. There is a beauty in being surrounded by nothing, knowing that nothing is your closest “thing.”

When I moved here, I agreed to work out a plan with the Landowner. I will drive (an undetermined amount of miles) every month and deliver “special packages” around the country. “It’s nothing harmful or illegal, I promise,” L tells me. “Your help could really fulfill some important goals, though. I don’t have the energy or the time to make all of these stops on my own.” I say that the deal sounds great to me and move in. The house is a two story, green adobe home. I live above the garage in a studio-style setup. There is a bathroom, a small kitchen, my bed, and a closet. I don’t need much else – I don’t own much else. I can see out of two windows — one to each side of the house, and can sometimes hear L loudly making phone calls. She is out of town this week, and I have my first delivery.

I am to go to a small town on the north side of Kansas. I have an envelope to deliver there. “I don’t trust the post much anymore,” L tells me when she gives me the envelope, “I doubt any USPS truck is going to go here, anyways,” she concludes. She then leaves on another “vacation,” and asks me to finish the delivery by the end of the week. Kansas is fairly close to here, but I have nothing else to do and I set off.

I begin driving through the nearest city and when I reach its outskirts, I start to think. Why is L always going on vacations? There is no way she makes so much money she can really go somewhere almost every week. I ultimately decide she must be some sort of millionaire retiree, though, and journey on.

When I reach the edge of the Kansas border, I see something in the distance. It looks like some sort of fake alien. There is a cartoonishly large head upon a small body. Above that is a billboard. I can’t quite read it out yet, but as I get closer it says “Travelled so far?” The billboards is just black, with plain white font on it. There is no advertising for anything. As I get closer, I realize that what’s under the sign isn’t a fake alien at all. What I see is much worse.

I see a body. I don’t know if it is real or not, but it’s a body. Above that is not some silly alien head — it’s snakes. A ball of snakes is wrapped around this person’s head and is holding them up by the sign, as if they are hanging. “That has to be a mannequin,” I think to myself, not wanting to stop. I pass, and the human and snakes become more clear — it is a boy’s body hanging, and the snakes are red. I almost swerve off the road staring, when I am pulled over by a police officer.

“Sir! Sir!” I exclaim when he walks up besides my car.

“Shut up,” he whispers.

“No, you didn’t see that kid?! You need to send h—”

“Stop. Stop right now,” He says slowly, but with a loud force that gets me to quit. “What you saw was nothing, and I suggest you go home.”

“I won’t have a home if I don’t keep going,” I say, “This is all I’ve got.”

“Look, kid,” he knelt down to my car and looked me deep in the eye. “We are all a part of something, we just don’t know it. We should be glad we don’t know it. Once you start knowing what you shouldn’t know — what there is out there to behold… Just get out of here and pretend tonight never happened.”

He doesn’t say anything else, but with the look in his face, I can tell he is terrified. He slowly walks back to his car and I slowly get back onto the highway. I am shaking from what just happened. If the police aren’t going to even acknowledge that boy, how are they to ever help me here? I felt as though I were totally on my own. It was the middle of the night now, and I knew I was getting close to my first delivery.

I park in an abandoned lot. I am in an extremely small town in northern Kansas. It is flat here and there is only a gas station (which is closed), a grocery store (which is closed), and a mega-complex (which is shut-down) with the old outline of a sign that has been taken down which reads “Atlas Of Humanity.” This is the abandoned lot which I am camping in my car at.

I begin to think of my move, and about what I am doing with my life. I chose to walk away from the city, to face my anxiety and move into the forest. I made a deal with someone who I hardly know, to do god knows what. I can’t help but feel as though I am a part of something now, though. I have to, if not finish, a least find out what I have started. I fall asleep thinking of what the morning will hold in store for me, and what I will find.

I awake to a knock at my car window.

#Dogs4BbySitters!

When the local news predicted that “dogs could be taking retail jobs by 2025,” I only raised half an eyebrow. When my NSU professors told me that “dogs will probably not take retail jobs, but will absolutely take babysitting jobs,” I was even less impressed. When Fox News stated that “the Democrats want the next president to be a dog and will do anything to trick you into voting for one,” I was just angry. But then 2025 came, and we slowly saw what the networks were talking about. Except Fox, they are literally insane garbage.

In 2020, we somewhat developed the technology to sort of figure out what dogs were thinking (this is to say that their thoughts were projected onto a screen, but only as graphs and charts that were 99.9% arbitrary). The technology kept advancing, though, and by 2024 humans could project in vivid detail, the thoughts of a canine companion. The thoughts started off as what one might expect it would be: “Let’s go on a walk,” “I want some more food,” “Get rid of the mail man,” etc. Yet, within a year, the thoughts quickly developed into more serious matters: “Do you know what you’re feeding your children, what is wrong with you?”; “Why is it that you love black labs, but seem cautious around black people?”; “Blowing pot smoke in our faces won’t really get us that high, mostly it’ll just make us quit trusting you,” so on and so forth. This uptick in canine knowledge is what sparked the #dogs4bbysitters movement: one that is based on allowing dogs to make their family extra income by replacing sitters and nannies.

“It’s not like my old nanny was any better than someone who licks their butt, anyways,” one mother and doggy-nanny-hirer declared. Another added that “If my human nanny steals from me, it’s my pearls and earrings; if my doggy nanny steals, it’s my bacon and my herb-crusted polenta.”

Yet, in times like these, when the national driving age has decreased to 14, (because President Nick Cage says, “I sell amazing properties like mad. Literally like that crazy guy I played in that movie… what was it… National Treasure, or something, that’s it(1). So, whatever, let 14-year-olds drive,”) we are forced to look at what our country has become. National Geographic recently published an article entitled “The top 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Your Dog, Nanny,” which displays graphic photos of doggy nannies raiding refrigerators, drinking from babies’ toilets, pooping in baby jumpers, and worst of all, playing the “airplane” game with the baby food, only to selfishly feed themselves instead. This is not to say that the babies went hungry; in fact, almost all doggy nannies are guilty of both themselves and the baby gaining an average of half a pound upon dismissal of sitting duties.

“It’s just like, why would you let a dog do that? I mean, I’ve been at [retail store name omitted] for like, six months now. If that’s not responsibility, then I don’t know what is. Seriously, I’m more responsible than that dog. How much is that dog getting paid, anyways?” Voiced one concerned neighbor, before asking if he made more than the doggy-nanny—several times.

An engineering-based school in Arizona has conducted a study on the new nannies, stating that drug-related babysitter arrests and episodes are at an all time low. “Instead of just following the natural trend of placing a baby in a large cage and giving it an iPad, the dogs seem to actually interact with the children. I really haven’t seen anything like it for several years,” states one of the college’s professors. Overall, the study has shown that dog-sitters spend an average of 70% more time just looking at the child they are watching, compared to human sitters. “That time really adds up,” another student tells me, “Some kids have just ruined their lives, or their parents’ homes by the time you look at them again, but the dogs seem quite a bit more alert.” This may possibly be attributed to the fact that dogs still cannot legally have their own phone plans. “Ever since president Cage has mandated watching at least two of his movies a week, average screen-time for an American has gone up from about 20, to 22 hours a day. This does, of course, not count for any time spent watching TV before bed, as many still like to do. But since dogs cannot legally have their own phone plans, their screen-time is significantly less. Plus, given their greyscale vision and notoriously bad password-making, most dogs become fed up with electronics fairly quickly, even when they do show an interest at first,” the student informed me.

Another professor at the school (who was not involved in this study) voiced her concerns, “It’s just not natural,” she says. “I don’t think any person, or dog, who is so disconnected should really have any responsibilities. What if a child asks for the current head count on the Kardashian family, or if they have not seen the latest video of a cat doing something boorish and lame? Dogs, from what I have gathered on Instagram, do not even seem to like cats. A child watched by a dog will miss out on these things that really matter—the reason that millions of Americans wake up every morning.”

When I shared this interview with leading members of the #dogs4bbysitters movement, they were not surprised. “This is why I take those responsibilities upon myself,” one leader told me, “I think it’s more of an ethical problem, and so of course I spend my nights not just plugging in my baby’s iPad, but also rocking him to sleep, assuring him of how many Kardashians there are, and telling him the dire differences between the Tumblr and Twitter communities daily.”

The group hopes to have dogs replacing at least 40% of sitters by 2027, and is also Kickstarting a small robot that can still keep babies and young children updated on the internet 24/7 via a loudspeaker which will read out the world’s most-viewed Tweets, so that all of a parent’s worries can be covered.

(1) Seriously, look up some of the properties he’s bought and sold. Just Google it.

Seeing Vincent

Amber and I just recently saw the new movie “Loving Vincent,” which is the world’s first completely hand-painted feature film. We didn’t necessarily know what the movie was about, just that we knew we should watch it. We did, if sort of by mistake.

Our bed is broken, by the way. Amber’s side, specifically, and I know why. Every time she gets home from work or school, she will first throw her things onto the ground and then throw herself onto the mattress like an overreacting child in a play pretending to be shot. If you do this enough times, we have found, it will break what can only be Amazon’s cheapest bed frame. Because of Amber’s bad back, I have volunteered to switch her sides of the bed. The situation I was in didn’t really bother me at first, only one of the ten bars on my side that was holding the mattress was missing. One night when I was eager to fall asleep I knocked another bar out—both of which are next to each other and happen to meet right around the small of my back. If I slept on my stomach I would start to feel as though I was doing yoga poses against my will all night. The mattress slowly kept seeping right in the middle towards the ground, and only on my new side. Rather than buy a new frame though, I suggested to Amber we go to Home Depot to find a solution.

I am not a Home Depot guy; Amber is not a Home Depot gal. There are Home Depot people who seem to know every nook and cranny. Need a blade for your power drill? Follow me. Oh, a cactus and a new chandelier? Right this way. Amber and I are not like that and so it took us a good deal of time just to figure out a proper solution. We finally found some metal piping that seemed as though it would work, and were told that the plumbing department could cut it into pieces for us. We then wondered around almost the entire store again, before stumbling on plumbing. We found the pipe cutter, but no one was waiting idly by to man it. Around the corner, Amber and I found an employee next to a ladder. After much time fumbling about “who last had to talk to someone,” etc., we both approached the man, who happened to climb up his ladder the second we turned the corner. Discouraged, we walked back to the cutter, close to fed up with Home Depot’s inability to read our minds.

When the employee finally got off his ladder, we almost ran to him. “Can you cut this? Who do we talk to for something like that? Is it you?” I can never manage to ask things from strangers the way I want to. The man gladly said he could help us.

“You mark it I cut it,” he said, handing me a Sharpie. “Do you need this to look nice? My machine is gonna leave some scratches.”

We said no, and minutes later he handed us four perfectly cut replacement parts for our bed. All we have to do now is crimp down the ends with a vice to make them fit into the old slots at the ends.

We were both hungry as we were leaving, and Amber suggested a Home Depot dog as a joke, which really just excited me to eat some food, and she had me convinced. “Yes,” I replied.

“Really?” She said.

“Yes. That sounds good!” And soon we were in front of the vendors of the Home Depot hot dog stand—an elderly couple: a woman who took our orders, got our dogs and placed them in the bun; and her husband, who mostly just watched football on tv. The couple seemed hesitant about us at first; then the woman gave me the receipt and I employed my usual 20% tip to the total. She then immediately perked up, as if tips were a sort of holy grail for her profession—I was the bearer of some sort of rare, exotic and wonderful news. After mostly not talking, she then asked Amber and I about our day and what we would be up to. She also complimented my shirt. Her husband, still mostly focused on the tv, asked us what we’d like on our hot dogs. Knowing that the station was self serve, however, he soon gave up on helping us in favor of football on tv.

Next on the list before we went home was to look for a music adapter I needed at Best Buy (who no longer sells any music equipment, other than online), and finally to go to an Asian market so that Amber could find some cooking ingredients.

The Best Buy did not seem to yield many results. Amber set off to look for cameras and I headed to where the music equipment used to be. There, I saw two employees. “But R, I don’t really understand how I’m supposed to set up the new display and a customer is asking me about it, do you know?”

“Well I’m sorry,” said R. “I’m off the clock, they’d get mad at me if I helped you. Get mad at us.”

R’s coworker walked away, but when one of his managers came out, he said, “Hey, P, I just got a new TV but can’t get the HDMI to work. Do you know what I should do?”

P answered his question, off the clock. On her way off, R said, “One more thing. A new guy was asking me a question while I was off the clock and I didn’t help him.”

“Good,” P responded, “that’s what you’re supposed to do in that situation. Don’t help them.”

Prior to this, Amber and I had ran into a childhood friend in the entrance of the store. “Hi, E,” I said. “This is my girlfriend, Amber.”

E proceeded to give me a handshake at a ridiculous angle and stare a what I can only assume was a single hair I had sticking up on my head. “How’s it going?” I asked.

“I’m good, how are you?”

“Good!”

He kept staring at the same spot. Just one hair sticking up. He then proceeded to quickly look me up and down, judging everything I had chosen to wear. “Are you sure you’re good?” He responded.

“I think so,” I said. We (the three of us) slowly rounded the cardboard DVD display stand we had been casually looking at to keep things as normal as possible. E was now really staring the DVDs down, though, as if he knew one had a golden ticket to live in L.A. for free or something like that. I watched him move out of the way a portly blonde woman who had also been giving the DVDs a good eying. After a few seconds of looking, E glanced up and seemed almost surprised that I would still be standing there, wondering if this was the end of our interaction or not, and if he had known the portly woman he’d manhandled earlier.

“This is my girlfriend,” he finally said, pointing the the woman he’d been avoiding around the DVDs. Her and I and Amber exchanged our hellos, and I left as soon as possible, knowing I had no regrets towards never talking to them again in my life.

When we left Best Buy I thought I could kill two birds with one stone, so we headed to Glendale, the Russian neighborhood in Denver. Amber and I stopped at a Guitar Center so that I could look again for my part. “I didn’t want to go out,” she said.

“I didn’t know, I’m sorry. You said ‘Asian market’…” I trailed off, realizing that not only had I gone all the way to Denver, but I had gone to the Russian neighborhood to find an Asian market. Amber forgave my stupidity, and driving around, we found the Chez Artiste Theatre. Neither of us had been there, but recognized it as being one of Denver’s only three artsy cinemas. Amber was looking up showtimes as I was looking through things I didn’t need to spend money on. We found a showtime, got snacks at a local Dollar Tree, and went in.

I suppose we did not see “Loving Vincent” on accident, it was very much on purpose. We really didn’t mean to see it on this day, though. Or at this theater. We’d both assumed that, like all people who want to watch an artsy thing, we would be forced to buy it since it would never be popular enough for streaming. I think that maybe it makes a difference that we saw the movie in an actual locally-owned, small theater. Isn’t that the point of things like these? Watching the movie on a small but glamorous screen, I was inspired. For me, it was surely the fact that Van Gough struggled with depression, but also there was a small conspiracy surrounding his death, which is something I pine for upon my passing. I also found solace in knowing that Van Gough is an internationally acclaimed artist, but you can still only find “his” latest masterpiece in small, cramped, local theaters.

Maybe someone will come to see my late works in a small, cramped theater someday. God willing.

Dead Geese and their Secret Society

I’m not sure why I have never seen a dead goose. There are hundreds in the park I walk through every day. Amber just sent me an article about how thousands of Canadian geese are moving to Colorado this year, too. I am positive that I have seen literally millions of geese in my time on Earth, but I find it almost mysterious that I have never seen a dead one. That is, aside from the ones which are presumably dead that I hit with my car in high school. In that case, I have only seen a goose’s last moments.

Deep down, I know that coyotes and foxes have got to be the coroners of the goose world: a goose will parish, and one of them will quickly swoop in to dispose of the corpse. This cannot possibly happen in the daytime, however. Sitting there, drinking my beer and hoping something interesting will happen, I could not possibly miss a mammal preying upon a dead goose. I just wouldn’t. Foxes are my favorite animal, and coyotes look enough like foxes that I would also stare them down, wishing that society would not frown upon our friendship.

“Why don’t you just Google it?” Amber asks me, in reference to the goose deaths.

“Then what would I have to write about?” I respond.

I still have not Googled it, and I refuse to. I currently maintain the belief that geese uphold their own society. Just the other day, I saw hundreds of geese in the park by my house; the Labrador in front of me scared them off. I then saw hundreds of geese looking for their herd. I saw geese smack into each other in mid-air and continue on their path like nothing had happened. I saw geese stop on the ground, look around towards the air, and take off in the correct direction of their home flock. I have seen a goose shit on a person who has previously made a conscious effort to scare off an entire flock. It is based on these facts that I believe the goose society exists; this, and the fact the I have not seen a dead one of these assholes.

I can only assume, based on the lives (of geese) I have so far seen, that the geese will drag the newly-dead goose to a secret location. This location is one in which the fellow geese will constantly bark at (what the fuck do geese do – quack? squawk?). Growing up, I can remember my mom telling me that a goose “yelling at me” was a sign that it had baby goose nearby. I have got to call bullshit at this point, as the geese “yell at me” year round. I vividly recall summers in which I had to wait for geese on my street to pass before I could drive my car; springs where the cursed bird would drive my dog (at the time) crazy, my dog assuming it could fly as well; autumns filled with geese ruining the set-up of the local park light display by outnumbering the workers by at least 20:1; and now, this winter, a supposed twenty thousand of these giant, flying rats has inhabited my state, and the geese have – in every one of these scenarios – yelled at me the entire time.

This is where I should be clear: I have seen a lot of dead animals in my lifetime. This is not something I boast about, it is just an unfortunate fact. I have seen dead raccoons, crows, dogs, cats, deer, moose, rabbits, etc., etc., though I have never seen a dead goose. Not even for a second. Not even out of the corner of my eye, as some mysterious robed figure pulls the dead bird away for a secretive ritual sacrifice. Not even then have I seen a dead goose.

“The Office” had a Christmas episode in which Dwight (one of the show’s main characters) claims that he’s found a dead goose and would like to cook it for a Christmas meal. Just as I was forced to do with my mother, I had to (at this point) sever my ties with any advice I had considered even remotely helpful in this episode. A mindset in which one believes that dead geese can be seen by human eyes is one that cannot be trusted.

What must happen is that coyotes and foxes do, indeed, dispose of the geese’s corpses, (the possessive plural of goose really is geese’s, how dumb is that?) but that this activity must happen in a certain fashion. It is my estimate that the secret goose society, which appears to fly off out of nowhere, is actually controlling its personal image as a species that will live forever. The random taking-off of the flocks is their clever way of hiding that one of their own has perished, and that they are surrendering him or her to the circle of life.

Geese are also just shady. They’re the only bird that seems to make a conscious effort to hid their deaths. Geese are also the only bird I am aware of that will not back down to a fight. I haven’t directly challenged one of these birds to a physical match, but I have had them hiss at me for coming more within more than ten feet of them. Any other bird would fly away, but I know that the goose would attack. My grandmother on my father’s side is a first-hand witness. In her old age, she had developed dementia. Through the horrific illness, she still knew that she loved me though, as my only memory of her is of scaring off geese so that we could sit and have a chat at her nursing home. I was maybe five at the time, and she knew in her old age and deep wisdom, that geese were up to no good.

I do not bother the geese these days. In fact, I make a point to not scare them off as I walk through the fields they inhibit on a daily basis. Now more than ever, I have an appreciation for this bird. The goose is a bird that will not take any shit from anyone, will protect its young against a perceived threat that is at least five times its size, doesn’t let a mid-air collision slow it down from hanging out with its friends, and can move to a new location hundreds of miles away from its home and fit in just fine. Perhaps I have a lot to learn from this love/hate relationship I have with Denver’s 20,000 new inhabitants.

A Systematic Distaste 4. The Current ‘Political Climate’ (Or The Story of How I Almost Got Arrested as a Threat to the Current American President)

I have never had more than probably twenty Twitter followers. Twitter has never been a big or important aspect to my life, but at one point in mid-2015, I was able to consider myself somewhat funny. And it’s not so much that my humor was related to Twitter, but that it sometimes bled into Twitter, like seeing Iggy Pop and having him throw up on you, or something like that. The main essence to this comedic prose was, admittedly, probably just lots of alcohol, but I am not in the business of debating from whence genius arises.

It was May of 2015. The GOP was still figuring out who they would send forth to screw us all sideways (as were the Democrats, reader who just became offended). By this point, however, it was clearer than daylight that Donald Trump was the most incompetent, unqualified, laugh-worthy, cringe-worthy, selfish, narcissistic, delusional, useless, most idiotic, ridiculous joke that had ever even had a remote, passing thought of even maybe being president of the United States. Thus, my friend Charles and I made a constant night of drinking and watching the debates, making a joke out of everything. We would occasionally try to follow it with some drinking games, like taking a sip every time someone would mention ISIS, etc, but anyone following those actual rules would surely be dead by 9 pm. We would instead drink casually (heavily), and send out to the world our barrage of thoughts on what was happening. I used Twitter, he used Facebook. Most everything was just arguing with people in a drunken laugh, knowing that the same thing was probably happening on the other side – it had to be. I cannot recall specifically any of these arguments, only that the threats revolved around impossible, metaphysical feats. I could imagine myself saying that I would blow up the whole world if someone kept up with their stupid argument, etc, etc. Dumb drunk talk.

But now it was Trump’s turn to speak on this particular night. The epitome of dumb drunk talk.

Do I really need to remember what it was that he said, or the absurdity I felt at the entire situation I was watching in front of me? If I do, perhaps this story is not for you and you should find another blog; I am not trying to start any arguments here.

I had finally reached a boiling point, and a drunken boiling point will never really lead to anywhere beneficial towards anything. “Yo, I’m gonna shoot Trump, you cool?” I Tweeted the FBI.

Yes, the FBI. I told the American Federal Bureau of Investigations that I was going to shoot the future president. In retrospect… I have since seen evidence of successful protests which took a different route.

 

I woke up the next morning, found out that was probably a bad idea from last night, and deleted the Tweet.

I had what is probably now seen as one of my first dates with my amazing girlfriend the next day. I picked her up in the early afternoon and we went to a zoo in Colorado Springs, about an hour from where we lived in south Denver. On the drive, we listened to music and talked and mostly just got excited about our day together, everything was normal and it was great. We pulled up to the zoo and got our tickets. Not even two minutes into the park and my phone rang – my mother. It’s not that I especially dislike my mother or anything like that, but when you are on your first official date with a girl you really like, you don’t answer the phone for your mom at the beginning of it. I let it go, and we walked foreword a few feet to look at the giraffes. The phone rang again. I was already in Colorado Springs, I wasn’t going to go back now. This was my first date with Amber and I had been looking forward to it and made sure to leave a clear schedule. When the phone rang a third time, though, I knew something was wrong. I answered.

“Hello?” I said.

“You need to come home, now,” it was my mom, her tone sent shivers down my spine. It was that tone one might recognize as a child, when you would became absolutely certain that you have fucked up. The Tweet still hadn’t really entered my mind, though.

“What for?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter, you just need to be here.”

“I’m not just going to come home if there’s no reason, though,” I pleaded. A not-so-great move to pull on your mom, I understand, but let’s keep the consequences in mind here.

“What?” she said to me, rhetorically. Then she whispered into the phone, “he’s not gonna come. I don’t know what to do.” Then there was a shuffle on the other line.

“Evan?” It was a woman’s voice. She sounded stern. Younger, but old enough to have seen some shit.

“Yes?”

“You don’t come home when your mother asks you to?”

I was twenty years old, what the hell was happening here? Some sort of covert operation to get me to spend time with my mom? “I just don’t know why I would go home, and I am far away from home,” I said, as if explaining it to a child. She didn’t know me, or why I wasn’t immediately rushing to my mother’s aid, and who was she to – oh god. I got drunk and Tweeted something. What was it…

“I’m Betsey [not really] with the Secret Service. How far away are you,” she asked.

“About an hour. Maybe longer.” What did I say? Something about that orange…

“Alright. Head home and we’ll see you here,” her tone indicated it was for something serious.

This was all real and it was all happening.

Oh, goddamn it! I told the FBI I’d shoot Trump, huh?

It’s quite an awkward moment when you realize in your mind that you have to now abandon your plans for a date, only to be potentially – and very possibly – arrested for threats against the GOP primaries.

As an anarchist punk at heart, it is also a badass moment.

“We’ve gotta go, Amber.”

She could see the nervousness on my face. I’m sure my color was lost. “Oh, okay,” she said.

It was a silent walk to the car, and a silent drive down the mountain and onto the highway, where we found ourselves surrounded in rush hour traffic.

“Do you mind if I smoke around you?” I asked. We had hung out several times, but this was the first time I had the need to ask her.

“Of course not. I’ve got friends who smoke, you can do what you want.”

I love her.

On our silent stop-and-go ride, I received a text message from a number not in my contacts.

This is Betsey. Go to [an address in the Denver Tech Center]. Let me know when you are close.

Is this real? Is this really how these things operate? Is this what the world is? Text messages telling the bad guys where to go, because traffic is a bitch, you know? They don’t have time to wait around for that.

Amber pulled out her phone and found a shortcut to our cryptic destination. She also consoled me greatly, but that’s less funny so I’m leaving it out.

I’m close, I sent as we stopped at a gas station so that I could chug a Red Bull and take a Xanax.

We got back on the highway and Betsey replied Park in the garage. Take the elevator to the 4th floor. Go left to the end of the hallway. There will be a doorbell, ring it.

At this point, I wasn’t sure how to feel, honestly. On one hand, I was terrified at the thought of strangers bothering my mother over something stupid I had done, and I definitely didn’t want to be arrested. On the other hand, however, the entire US government appeared to be working based on text messages and the honor system. I know deep down that had I responded lol jk. l8r, losers! they would have found me soon after, using satellites and FBI stuff, but I still thought that I should be let off the hook for even considering this weird, lonely adventure I was now facing. Amber waited in the car. The building was enormous, but had hardly any signs out front indicating as to what any of it could be for. The elevator was right next to the front doors. My heart was pounding now. How were we even sure that this was for sure the FBI? What if I had just offended a close, mentally unstable business partner friend?

I got off the elevator and took a left. The hallway was completely empty and was painted an extremely boorish grey. The hall took a good 30 seconds or so to reach the end. There, I found a doorbell and a wooden door with some sort of keypad on the left side. Assuming that they had somehow traced my steps to this very door and knew where I was, I felt as though I had no choice but to ring the doorbell. The door buzzed and an intercom asked who I was. I told them and they unlocked the door remotely so that I could enter. Inside was an equally boorish waiting room. There were no photos, no name or organization anywhere, nothing. Just a few chairs along the wall that looked like they had been commandeered from a doctor’s office. Straight ahead was another wooden door, to the left of that was a reception window, and on the left side of the room was another door. I walked to the reception window and spoke into the circular microphone in the glass. “Hi,” I stammered.

“Name?”

“Evan.”

“Okay, Evan. I need everything in your pockets. Do you have an ID?”

I nodded.

“I’ll need your ID first.”

I handed her everything and then sat in one of the doctor chairs like I was ordered to. I was by myself.

I waited for a good fifteen minutes, though it felt like hours, when the door to the left of reception opened up. There stood two business-casual dressed adults – one man and one woman, staring me down. “Follow us,” the man said.

They led me down a small, plain, boorish hallway to a small, plain, boorish room. The room contained a large, wooden, rectangular table and three uncomfortable, mostly metal chairs – two on one side and one on the other. I obviously sat on the one person side.

“So, do you know why you’re here?” asked the woman. It was the woman from the phone, Betsey. She was probably in her mid-40s. If I saw her on the street I wouldn’t think anything of her, but knowing that she worked for a secretive government organization, I almost laughed out loud at how ridiculous her must-be-undercover outfit was – tan cargo shorts with a long, grey tee-shirt, with some off-brand hiking shoes. Was I supposed to believe this woman?

“For Twitter,” I said, maybe more abrasive than I’d have liked.

“You got that right,” said the man. He was dressed as equally ridiculously, with almost the same cargo shorts. What made his worse was that he was wearing a Hawaiian short-sleeve, though. And flip-flops. I’ll name him Nancy.

“What did you Tweet, Evan?” asked Betsey, obviously rhetorically.

“Something pretty stupid,” I responded.

“Do you think that it’s generally a good idea to tell the FBI you are going to shoot anyone?”

“Not anymore.” I didn’t necessarily have the heart to completely agree with her. Had anyone actually been serious in Tweeting that they would shoot someone, it would make government agents’ lives much easier.

Betsey and Nancy explained that they were from the Secret Service, and that the good ol’ fellas at the FBI had generously tipped them off (my wording, not theirs). This is the point at which I am not going to pretend I was a badass. I was nervous to the point that had I not taken that Xanax, I probably would have passed out in the elevator. Regardless of this, though, I still remember myself thinking at the time Don’t they have anything better to do?

“You still live with your parents?” asked Nancy.

“Yeah, I do.”

“Do they charge you rent?”

“No, they don’t.”

“So, your parents who brought you up, raised you, I’m assuming gave you your car? How’d you get your car, Evan?”

“Well I bought it, but from my dad…”

Betsey chuckled.

Nancy continued, “Right. So your parents essentially give you everything, make you happy, keep you alive, and then you make us come knock on their door and ruin their day. You think parents like to have us come looking for their kids?”

They make me happy? I don’t even know what that means, but I pictured a parent who’s chained her child to the tv with video game controller cables, saying “You must be happy! I command it!”

I shook my head.

“I’ve got a 17-year-old daughter at home,” began a now more furious Betsey, “and if she behaved the way you do, I’d kick her out.”

“Yeah, my kids would not be allowed to do this,” Nancy added.

What the fuck was this? I made one joke about the holy-shit-how-could-he-become-president-ass-hole and now not only was I under investigation, but I was also just a rotten kid? A rotten person? I have and have always had a boastfully low self-esteem, but this was beyond me. They didn’t know anything about me or my family. I didn’t give a shit what Betsey did with her kids, and I sure as hell didn’t want to hear about it. All of these grievances I quickly overcame, when the most infuriating event ever, the single biggest event ever to justify my punk anarchism, an event to define our current political climate happened:

“What would you do if Trump were to walk into this room, right now?” asked Nancy.

Well, Nancy, being that I am in a room with two Secret Service agents, nothing. “You know, I’d like to think I’d have something clever to say, but I don’t think I would do anything,” I assumed this was the actual answer they were looking for.

“So, I’m assuming you’re a Bernie Sanders fan?” asked Betsey.

“I guess.”

“If you were to vote today, who would you vote for?”

“Honestly, after all of this, I’m pretty discouraged from voting. I don’t think I’m going to vote at all at this point.”

They both shook their heads in agreement.

“That’s a good idea,” Betsey concluded.

Let me summarize this last bit for anyone who might have just missed what happened in the climax of the story. I do not usually condone using caps lock, or making a show with text, so forgive me, but: TWO SECRET SERVICE AGENTS FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TOLD ME THAT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA FOR ME TO NOT VOTE AT ALL IN THE UPCOMING ELECTION. If that is not the clearest, most textbook, backhand to the face of American democracy, I don’t know what is.

The agents then explained to me in threatening (but obviously bluffing) detail about how I could possibly go to court for this, but that they would let me know what was going to happen. They kept telling me I was getting off easy. (They never contacted me after this.)

Now, I’m not saying that these agents were on either side, or that there was any sort of conspiracy at work here, but I do know that when any sort of person working for the federal, or even local government, tells you it would be best not to vote, it means that they have no respect for you, your thoughts, or anything you stand for. I had not voted at the time, though I could have, during Obama’s second term. I still have not voted, which I understand can be deeply offensive to some, but it’s something I almost hold dear to me at this point. My voting virginity is something I am saving for when my punk heart finally gives out, and I have to succumb to a life of knowing which things are popular, being nice to everyone, and thinking that dubstep is a valid genre of music. A life when I know the Betseys and Nanceys of the world have too far outnumbered the reasonable people.

Though I hope that day never happens, I truly do wish for a day when politics in America doesn’t seem so shitty. For when I’m not a politician isn’t a slogan for why you should vote for someone. For when it’s okay to be different from your neighbors, but have that not affect your lives. And most of all, I am saving my vote for when there is someone I truly believe in, not just a “best of a bad situation,” or an “I guess this’ll work.” I am saving my vote for something and someone I truly believe in. And those agents can go fuck themselves until then.

In the end, was it the drunk guy who was making fun of asses on tv, hoping to find one who made sense that obstructed democracy, or was it the agents who blatantly told that drunk guy not to vote?

 

Walking Is Still Honest

I love walking. My car currently doesn’t work, and so I do a lot of it. My work is about a mile and a half away from where I live, which gives me quite a nice walk through the largest local park, which has a big lake in the middle. Most days I go into work at 9 a.m., and the walk is largely empty of pedestrians. When I leave, however, the residents of the assisted-living homes really come out to adventure. On Saturdays especially, there are maybe 60 or so elderly wandering the mile and a half long trail around the lake. The worst part of walking this lake (for anyone who is under the age of 60) is the problem of passing someone. I am not a particularly fast walker, but these old people really keep an inconvenient speed. This morning, for example, I spent maybe half of my walk consoling myself that passing the old man and his assumed grand-daughter was wrong. Instead of passing them, and causing a distraction with my tattered backpack and black skinny-jeans, I stayed behind them. This soon gave me anxiety, as I felt like I was following too close behind them. “What are ya, tryin’ to kidnap my Sally?” I envisioned the old man yelling.

This thought caused me to hunch over and slow my pace even more. Now if someone saw me, I thought they’d assume I was some junkie, trying to wake himself up from last night’s bender with a walk around the park. What a disgrace.

This thought caused me to suddenly perk up. I wanted to speed-walk around these losers, show them who was boss. I wasn’t any junkie, I was on my way to work! Sure, it was at a liquor store, but I just supplied the junkies, I wasn’t one myself.

The town I live in is also not so conducive to walking, and so leaving work proves to be somewhat problematic as well. I could wait at the nearest stop light, which takes an average of 12 minutes to change – or I can, and always do, j-walk across the six-lane street with my after-work beer in hand.

This must make me look like some sort of local degenerate, but I have surprisingly never run into any problems. I am generally listening to an audiobook or music on my walk home, but sometimes I leave my headphones mute – hoping that someone will say something about me, thinking I won’t hear it. At the thought of this, I’ll turn around, call them out in front of their trembling grand-something, and I’ll prove to be the most victorious person at Clement park. What a victory.

Instead of ever actually doing this, I try to smile at everyone along my walk. Having this terrible Rambo-esque narrative in my head at the same time sometimes makes me nervous, however, and I often come off as standoffish. This is also because I am extremely standoffish.

My current after-work routine is to buy two beers, and finish one when I am halfway around the lake. I then walk to my town-favorite port-a-potty, where I know I will always have to urinate. It’s pretty crazy being in that port-a-potty. I know that it’s not going to smell as bad as most port-a-potties because it’s on a “work site” which I pass every day on my way to work, but have never seen anyone actually working in. There is one skinny, long turd sitting on top of the blue water. It’s been there since the first time I used this port-a-potty, and it has always been this way. The toilet is filled mostly with cleaning supplies, and so the smell isn’t too offensive inside. In fact, when I’m in that port-a-potty, and I’m looking up at the almost translucent white plastic that is the roof, I almost feel as though I could be anywhere. My family went to the Grand Canyon when I was little and I still remember the port-a-potties. I can relive that experience whenever I want in this one, specifically. Sometimes I pretend I’m at the Grand Canyon, sometimes it’s in the jungle, sometimes I pretend I’m a construction person in some grandiose Japanese city.

When I get out of the port-a-potty, I have one more smaller park to walk past. This is the park which is directly in the middle of the suburbs. This is the wild west of white, suburban, elderly neighborhoods. A couple days ago I was walking, doing the mute headphones thing, and I watched an elderly man with headphones on, stumbling along the dirt next to the walking path. The woman 20 feet behind him gave out an odd look and so I looked down at my feet. I heard a loud, hollow clank and looked back up. The 60-something with the headphones had ran directly into a light pole. He then tried to make it look like it was just a part of the song he was listening to; something he had choreographed in his basement and was finally trying in public. Okay, when the chorus comes, spin around the light pole. Don’t hold back, Gary, don’t hold back. The woman walking behind him looked embarrassed, almost sad. She looked like someone who would sometime soon have to share a meal with this man.

One of the other things I love about walking is the wildlife. I live in a state where people travel from all over the world to see some of the vast wildlife, but not much beats seeing the geese and ducks be assholes to each other at the park. In the daytime, the geese will often block the sidewalks; in response to almost anything the geese do, the ducks will yell at them. When people come to walk by, the geese hiss and make you feel like a dick for getting some fresh air. I’ve also seen the geese block traffic, on the main roads at that. They’ve done it since I can remember being in a car. Knowing this, shortly after I got my driver’s license, I was speeding down a hill from Taco Bell back to my high school with my two closest friends in the car. It was here that I made my first (and only) decision to kill a goose. Three geese, actually. I saw three geese being assholes, thinking that they could rule the streets of Littleton, and I mowed them down in my 2001 Ford Focus like a madman.

I also like the idea of “going to the beach” at my park and on my local walks. Sometimes I will sit on the goose-shit-ridden shores of the Clement Park lake and think to myself: I’m super glad we got to get out to the beach today.

I have sold alcohol to the many elderly people of Southwest Littleton to know that they are not necessarily my type; I have also grown up with the many dropouts who inhabit the skatepark at Clement, and come into my store routinely to dismiss life and skate the day away just blocks from where they grew up. And I can’t judge, because when I’m at that park, I hold back on my fears and failures and I just walk, and for a few minutes it’s all alright.