The Amoeba

The amoeba’s sense of self is keeping me up at night. How can he just lie like that (I use “he” as a convention) and ooze all those pseudopodia out into the world fluid, as if to say, “Here I am. This is me!” on the right side, while over on the left side of this microscopic, supercilious, clear snot being another pseudopodium is greeting bacteria it wants to ingest with all the insincere warmth, the hot come on, of a used car salesman. A used car salesman who is trying too damn hard and who you just know owns only one pair of sneakers, which are really way too bright for his age. If you’re dying, don’t wear neon. That pseudopodium on the left is trying to shake protoplasmic hands too, saying “Why, Howdy! Glad to meetcha!” to any animalcule that gets anywhere near it. And so it is at the north pole of the amoeba. And so at the south pole of the amoeba. But here’s the thing. Probably every single one of us has dated that amoeba at one point in our lives, slept beside that amoeba for a night, or a few nights or more than a few years. Or maybe you’ve been him. The amoeba doesn’t really have a bad life.  He doesn’t really even have to keep his stories straight. When he’s found out, he can just split. If you walk into a bar at night, there are amoebas everywhere.

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The Cashier

In the Dollar Tree located right across the small street from the rather deadly housing projects, there is an interesting cashier.

She is young enough to be a natural artist. She is old enough to feel death crowning in her. In other words, she’s an aging kid.

Whenever she gets a customer all by himself or herself, young or old, when there’s no one else in line, no one else in the store, she pauses before handing them their merchandise in those depressingly bright cellophane bags with the store’s name printed on them.

She clears her throat in an almost undetectable way, and then she launches into this fantasia: “You are standing in your grave. This is as good as it’s going to get. The happiest days, all the most oblivious ones, are well behind you. It will not get better. It will get worse. At first, it will be like a record skipping. It will happen subtly, it will happen slowly. You’ll have little dips, little trips to the emergency room, little jaunts to the psychiatrists. Then it will increase. The aftershocks will outdo the earthquake. You will spurn friendships as nothing more than shared miseries. You won’t even possess the imagination or willpower to cheat on your spouse. Parts of you will begin to turn to Playdoh and other parts to steel. Your pubic hair will look like a dead ferret. And then you will realize, near the end, self-stripped of all friends and family, that someone is standing on your head. Someone is standing on your head as you stand in your grave and you begin to sink. You can’t even tell who it is. You can’t look up. But they’re there for sure, and you have the pain of those constantly shifting shoes on the top of your skull to prove it. Because the floor of your grave is wet mud, it’s quicksand, and you’re just going down into it. Like dogshit. Inch by inch. And your hands are tied up. Your hands are holding these cellophane bags full of shit from the dollar store. Your cat food and batteries and off-brand pudding boxes are causing you to sink deeper into the final quagmire, which will probably be a struggle for breath and a prayer to a nonexistent deity, beseeching him for merciful help in stabilizing your skipping heart, which is now like a stone sent skittering over a rain pond in an auto graveyard. Your fate is ricocheting off other’s people’s faces, they’re talking behind your back in your hospital room, and your sinking blood pressure won’t let you even argue with them. You will no longer be able to even do the basic things a body must do to remain a viable blood balloon floating around this planet. That’s it. The earth like a too-thick chocolate milkshake closes over your head and then the top of your head, which is bald anyway, already showing your skull through its skin, and you begin drinking that milkshake of death through all the holes in your face and skull. You sink down into nothingness It’s the best day you ever had. The End.”

And she always ends with “Thank You. Have a nice day.”

The respectable thing is that she delivers this in a really dead monotone. It’s like she doesn’t even care whether you’re listening.

Most of the people just say, “Thank You” back like being dead is no big deal. Probably most of them already knew all this shit. She did cause a few to go into deep depressions. But probably she thinks that is good for them. Maybe she’s right. Who knows.

One day, she will be gone from that Dollar Tree. In her place will be a man who has all the spirit of a broken calculator on a card table at a yard sale.

And that cashier will attempt to smile, and it will feel as though someone has just stapled your body. It will feel as though someone has just stapled your body somewhere very unpleasant to be stapled.

A Bay

Some young men are playing pool and watching as the sails of a small boat become pure distance out on the bay. When the sun gets low enough, it breaks up their syntax. Their young women are holding their babies in hard chairs, in dark corners of this room. The young women are going deep inside themselves and watching, jogging their babies on their knees as young printers will do with sheaves of paper. The room’s high ceiling is covered with a ridiculously ornate, white boiserie that fell from a high style so long ago that nobody can even remember. It looks like swallows should nest in it. Drinks move at an agreed-upon level in space, and space is agreed upon too, except where certain emotions flare up like sunspots or the fringes of a corona. A handful of hours later, after night puts a bandage to this scene, the thing mistakenly called silence plays like the faintest old record in there. The smoky bay is the last to leave this room (and, really, not until morning). The bay turns the blue walls of this room even bluer, gives out many somnolent shades that percolate in drizzled dark, and when the light finally comes around like a headache, it collects all these synonyms for the night and leaves.

She Liked Pickerelweed

There is a blue glass parrot in her picture window                                                    Dead people are often doing things                                                                                          They won’t stop                                                                                           The sunflowers out back still expect her hands                                                         The birds feel like waifs                                                                                                     without the bread crumbs she would dispense                                                   from a battered old aluminum pot                                                                            The apple trees behind the old, blistering house                                                        she climbed naked in moonlight                                                                                when she was fourteen years old                                                                             are still scandalized

and now have no one to tell