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Defiance in the face of inevitability

The back of the cruiser was cramped, so focused on safety that I could barely fit inside. The screen that separates the back from front seat extends from the roof to the floor, completely blocking off the underside of the driver’s seat. My feet were pressed hard against the barrier, curled up and stretched. The handcuffs dug into my wrists, slicing as I tried to adjust my position.

The deputy groaned loudly as he sat in the driver’s seat, almost lounging across the cab. He tapped away at the keys of his on board computer and laughed to himself. I tried to stretch my neck to catch a glimpse of the screen, the cuffs catching the upholstery and tearing out a seam with a “pop”.

The deputy glanced back and swung the table the laptop rested on to a greater angle. “Whatever you’re doing back there, quit it.” He seemed annoyed at my presence. He smiled as he tapped away, laughing to himself. “You’re fucked, kiddo.”

I stretched me neck, cracking it as I turned. I felt annoyed, frustrated that it was going to end with this. Picked up walking home from a random girl’s house simply by looking drunk and undesirable. My beard itched, and my wrists hurt. I simmered slowly, and could feel the heat build in my face.

“Oh yeah? Fucked?”

“Oh yeah. Fucked.”

He straightened in his seat and reached for his radio. He mumbled something that most likely only made sense to cops. There was a response over the line, it was short and made little more sense then what he had said. “Do you know what happens to people like you?”

He turned back to me and grinned wide. His face was craggy and old. The cleft in his chin was so severe that there were hairs caught in the crevice that could never be shaved by conventional means. “Really? Do you have any idea?”

He laughed again, a wheezing laugh full of phlegm. His voice cracked, and the sound of a trillion Camels like steel wool scraping the inside of his lungs.

I grinned back, smarmy and toothless. Wearing my disdain as a mask. I pictured the most punchable face I’d ever seen and slipped it on. “No, sir, not at all. I’ve never yelled ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater before.”

He turned back to the wheel and shut the door to the cruiser with authority. He glanced back at me through the rear-view mirror, his eyes narrowing. “Enjoy it. I hope you can speak Arabic.”

Without hesitation. “Your mom taught me. While I fucked her in the ass last night.” Couldn’t help myself.

He dropped the car into drive and pulled out onto the road. I settled again in the seat, stretching my legs across the whole of the cab. “Nice and roomy back here. It’s nice.”


The Great And The Good

The sun was painful in it’s brightness. I couldn’t have done this a month ago. I’d struggle to get out of bed, and sleep walk to the coffee maker to try and wake up. Barney would jump at my leg, whining and screaming to get out to the backyard. Now I’ve gone commando, up and gone without amenities like caffeine. It’s a luxury now to get a beer and a smoke, or to spend a night with a pretty girl in a bed that is more than a mattress on the floor.

I slipped on my sweatshirt as I walked, the fabric catching on my newly shaven head, dragging across my scalp. I struggled to poke my head through the neck as I hit 4th Ave, hoping to make it to the junkyard on 27th before the boys made it to work in the morning.

My heart sank when the siren kicked up.

I stopped dead in my tracks, my head sliding through the neck of the sweatshirt. I was standing in the middle of the street, unaware I had crossed off the side of the road as I walked. I wondered why it couldn’t have been a delivery truck or some doughy yuppie racing to work. Metallic green lettering – HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERRIFF – on the hood of the patrol car glimmered in the morning sun. The deputy opened his door and called out to me.

“You alright there?”

He didn’t recognize me. I sprang back to life and struggled to find anything to say. “Yes, sir. Doing fine.” Any words. He shut the door to his car, and slowly walked towards me. Fuck.

“What are you doing in the road, sir?”

I turned and pointed to the sidewalk, grasping at straws. “Well, I was walking down from my girlfriend’s house. She…” I paused, searching. “She just kicked me out, sir. Found out about the other one.” He grinned wide and shook his head.

“Gotta cover your tracks, kid.”

I laughed nervously. “Yeah, I guess I just took it a little too far.” He stood back and sized me up, eyes taking in the only clothes I had left. The sweatshirt was torn at the sleeves, and my jeans were covered in weeks of dirt and tattered at the knees. My Doc Martens were scuffed and worn. I was speckled with paint, in my hair and caught in my three day beard.

“Have you been drinking?”

“No…No sir. Not this early.”

He stepped closer. “No place open yet?”

I tried to straighten my posture. “No, sir. I…don’t drink?” Son of a bitch. This is not going the way I had hoped.


Half finished thoughts on paper

Slowly, they eventually come together into something new. Most of the time they don’t have to, lasting long enough for music or moments to fade.


I woke up to the sun sneaking in between the venetian blinds, warm light soaking the room in a gentle orange. I slowly pulled back the bed sheet and slid off the mattress, careful not to wake Sarah as I stood. I winced at the creeking of the springs and waited in silence to make sure she hadn’t awoken, her gentle rhythmic breathing the only sign that her motionless body was still alive.

I dug through the pile of clothes thrown chaotically on the floor next to the bed, searching for my cigarettes and lighter. I opened the Zippo with the greatest ease, and was just as careful in closing it. I enjoyed it, the first drag in the morning, killing the burning ache in my throat and jump starting my consciousness.

I peered through the blinds, watching the world below already alive and kicking. The taxis and delivery trucks, the bike messengers and town cars, all of them twisting and turning through the street, lives intersecting for a moment before receding off into the darkness. From high above I watched, stark naked except for a thin sheet of smoke wrapped around me, and smiled.

In my head, in his perfect deadpan, Lou Reed spoke for me. Oh it’s such a perfect day, glad I spent it with you. The song played in my head, the world slowing down to a slow beat as he droned on and on. It played to completion, and when it was done I smothered the cigarette in the ashtray and dress. I left, without ever waking her.


Have you ever asked yourself…

What would happen if a universe was born in your neighborhood? I imagine something like this. This short story should be finished in a day or so.


I woke up three days ago to a hole where the roof, windows, and upper floors of my apartment building should be. Blown out by some noiseless explosion that had never disturbed my completely sound sleep. The unfiltered noise of the city drifting in to replace my alarm clock. The white noise was shattered by a screech, “JESUS!”

From my bed, I could see into my neighbor’s apartment, as he struggled to hold onto his oak dinner table dangling from the rubble that used to be his nook. His wife cried and screamed and did little to help him as the massive table creeked and slowly slid backwards under the pull of gravity.

I vaulted from my bed, and slammed hard into the wooden floor of my apartment, my feet still tangled in the sheets. “ROY!” I screamed. “HOLD ON!” His wife shot her eyes to me and wailed again, blubbering out something that sounded like “Help.”

Roy, for his part grasped at the table, working his hardest to crawl his way across the slick finish of the wood. “I’m trying!” He yelled, his voice half muffled by distance and the wind rushing past the building.

I stumbled over what was once my fridge, a gnarled and twisted pile of sharp metal, tearing a gash in my leg as I tried to crawl across it.

Roy’s wife screamed again, as the wooden legs clawed into the carpet of their apartment began to crack under the stress. The stress of it’s own weight, and Roy’s middle aged girth, too much for the glue holding the leg to the table to stand.

The table crashed into the floor and began to slid over the side of the cliff that was once our apartment building. Roy yelled something that was swallowed by the noise of the moment, and then lost in the next.

Roy’s widow collapsed to her knees, sobbing, burying her head in the carpet. I stood, looking out over the expanse between our building and the one across the street. It too was missing a large part of it’s wall, in a sort of half spherical pattern, like someone had dropped a massive bowling ball between our two buildings.


Houston Press – 16 albums based on lit

Some of you are most likely rocking back in your chairs and laughing over my inclusion of this, but it’s the sort of connection between music and writing that I have always loved. That is, crosspollination. Cover tracks are still one of the things I find most fascinating about modern music, as they are as much of a window into the cover artist’s mindset as their own work. Why did they choose that song? Why did they decided to play it in that style? Was retaining the original piece’s integrity important? If so, why cover it at all?

Regardless, The Houston Press has just put out a list of 16 albums inspired by literature. It’s that much more fascinating to me. Track down these albums. They’ll blow your mind. (Specifically Lou Reed’s “The Raven”, Mastadon’s “Leviathan”.)


Grinning White Teeth is done

That is, my novel Grinning White Teeth, is complete on it’s second draft. Query letters have been sent out to various agents around New York, and the clock is on for returns. Typically, established writers will tell you “It’s a 1 in 12 success ratio” with agents. So, here’s hoping that it is picked up.

In the meantime, I have been plotting and outlining a new novel, based on the beautiful world of Windsor McKay’s “Little Nemo In Slumberland/In The Land of Wonderful Dreams”. It has been in the public domain for some time now, and I’m excited as hell to work on it. Depending on how it works I’ll be looking to either go the traditional route, or possibly take it in a GNU direction (which has, for various reasons, fascinated the hell out of me.)

Geen was handed, the other day, a micro rewrite of the Child Ballad “Twa Corbies” for his upcoming art book, Cheap Vodka. (I love the name. I had been kicking it around like an old can for years before unknowingly handing it to him.) I anticipate it will be posted here when it’s complete. We’ve also considered continuing to adapt child ballads for a submission to However, the prose script can be seen below. I used it as an exercise to play with an idea I’d had during the writing of Grinning White Teeth. It wasn’t as prevelant in the novel, however it should be up front and center when reading this:

The Three Ravens –

In the valley down the river, in the low light of a pink sunset, on a crooked and dry husk of a tree, sat three Ravens. They had watched as the two armies clashed, and they had watched as the solider fought bravely, and they had watched as he was run through. The Ravens waited as the battle receded, the victors moved in pursuit of the defeated, and the solider was left to die with the day.

The first said to the others, “We should not have waited, my friends. We have lost too many meals to the heat.” The second said to the others, “We should follow the armies. The wounded will be freshly dead as they travel.” The third said to the others, “I stake my claim here.”

Below them, below the dry and dead tree, in the tall blood soaked grass of the valley, sat the soldier’s three animals. The hawk, the falcon, and the dog. They waited by their master, waiting until the day died, waiting until their master followed soon after.

The hawk said to the others, “He is lost to us. We should look for food.” The falcon said to the others, “He is lost to us. We should look for shelter.” The dog said to the others, “He is lost to us, let us look for a new master.”

The soldier lay in the tall grass, in the valley, under the crooked tree, and passed as did the sun. Next to him, the hawk, the falcon, and the dog began to mourn their master, and above him, the three ravens grew restless.

The first said to the others “We have waited too long.” He crooked his head to the third, and flew off to find other food. The second turned to the third and said “The wounded have surely now died, watch as our brothers follow the armies.” He crooked his head and joined the murder flying above them. The third sat stoically watching the soldier. “I stake my claim here.”

The hawk watched as the sun fell behind the far mountains, and watched as the the field mice began to scurry along the ground, and left to hunt. The falcon felt the temperature dip, and the winds picked up, and flew off to find shelter. The dog saw, in the distance, a lamp light flicker in the dark, and left to find a new master.

Above the knight, in the dry and crooked tree, in the valley covered in the dead, sat the third raven, who had yet to eat.


Being that one guy home on a Friday night sucks

My current schedule is due to some concessions made a few months back, and it generally means that I’m stuck at home on Friday nights as I catch up on work and get ready to go in at ass o’clock in the morning.

For the most part it is disastrous, as everyone I want to talk to is unavailable, out having fun that I had to wait until Sunday or Monday night for. What it does afford me, though, is one solid night of work. I get to sit down without being bothered, and work on some of the novel, jot down story ideas, tinker with the computers, or generally veg out. Fridays are my version of Sundays now.

So, things to look out for –

*I’ll be reworking a lot of the proto-stories that are here on the blog for artist Adam Geen. Geen has taken it upon himself to solicit any minor works any friends have put together for illustration. You should see the new text popping up over the next week as I rewrite them and hand them off to him.

*The novel, tentatively titled Jennifer Belle, is more than half way completed at this point. As I have been, I will be posting small excerpts as they are written, and updates on it’s status will follow.

*The continuing tribulations of my netbook, as I struggle with getting sound to work on it.

Mike Black is…

A writer, reader, commentator, music lover, art lover, futurist, tech lover, pragmatist, romantic, DepDecoist, and a bastard. Hopefully you enjoy.

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