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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Random Friday Ten - Late Edition

It's a last minute entry, I know. I probably should have done this earlier, but didn't get around to it. Now I'm tired and half drunk, so this is all I got.

1) Cop Killer - Bodycount
2) Red Headed Stranger - Willie Nelson
3) The Reflex - Duran Duran
4) Girls, Girls, Girls - Motley Crue
5) Rust in Peace...Polaris - Megadeth
6) Trampled Underfoot - Led Zeppelin
7) Alive - Pearl Jam
8) Shoots and Ladders - Korn
9) Cochise - Audioslave
10) Regular People (Conceit) - Pantera

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Other Fish - Part 4

Another day, another edition of The Other Fish. Part 4, wherein the shit hits the fan. Catch up here.



4

Even though Karen had shushed him at least five times between the car and the front door, Travis insisted on making as much racket as possible.

"Come on, baby, one more kiss," Travis slurred, stumbling around on the lawn.

"Shut up, I said,” Karen told him between giggles. The sticky taste of Travis’s vodka-soaked breath lingered on her tongue. At her side, Travis sniggled. “Be quiet,” she said, rummaging through her purse for her keys.

"Oh, no, baby, not tonight,” he said, his voice drenched with drunkenness. “I'm going to make as much noise as I want." And then he howled into the night, ripping open his shirt, sending buttons flying and baring his furry chest. "I'm going to show you the beast tonight, baby."

"Just let me open the door," Karen said, finding the keys.

Travis was laughing. He wiped a string of drool from his mouth and said, "Your husband’s not here, is he?"

"No," Karen said, “he’s at the club.” But she cast a doubting glance over her shoulder anyway. She wondered what time it was, but by the time the thought registered, her inebriation and lust took over. Finally, she found the right key and inserted it into the deadbolt.

"You look so hot right now," Travis said teasingly. "Yummy."

"Hush," Karen said, doubting that she looked all that great, half-drunk and stooped over the door handle. She pushed the door open and stumbled into her living room, letting her eyes adjust.

"You know where to go, baby," Travis said, pushing his way into the house. He didn’t notice that Karen had frozen, one hand over her mouth. She was looking at something in the living room and when Travis saw what it was, he froze too.

Adam was reclining on the couch, his feet propped up on the coffee table. He looked like he had been asleep only moments before, but now he was wide awake.

"Adam," Karen said, her voice trembling. Her face had turned ghost white.

"Karen, who's this guy standing in my living room?" Adam asked her calmly. He remained on the couch, arms crossed, motionless save for his twitching eyelids.

"Oh, that's, uh," Karen said, looking at Travis. She bit down on her pride and said, "Adam, this is Travis."

Immediately sober, Travis took a step back and raised a bewildered hand in a weak salute. He mouthed the word Hi but the sound got stuck in his throat and came out as a mere squeak.

Adam put his feet on the floor and stood up. "Would you mind excusing us, Travis?” he said, his tone measured and calm. “I'd like to speak to my wife alone."

"Uh, sure," Travis said, polite and friendly now that he had been caught. He reached out, touched Karen's arm with a flimsy hand, glancing carefully in Adam’s direction as he did so. Karen turned to her lover and offered him a downturned smile, too ashamed to meet his eyes. She expected Travis to kiss her goodnight, but he disappeared out the front door without a word.

Adam was silent until Travis had gotten into his car and driven off, but he regarded her with basilisk eyes, shaking his head. After an eternal pause, he said, "It's over, Karen.”

A lump got stuck in her throat.

“I want a divorce,” Adam said.

She swallowed hard and put her hands together. "But, Adam," she pleaded.

He shook his head, his eyes hardening. "I've already made up my mind, Karen."

Tears began to flow instantaneously. "Adam," she said between sobs, "can't we just talk about it?"

"Talk about what? Your boyfriend? I don't want to hear about it. Talk about our marriage? What marriage?"

"Don’t talk like that," she said.

"It’s over, Karen!" Adam barked, his voice echoing off the walls.

Karen flinched at the outburst. Adam had never yelled at her before. She shrank back and said through feeble lips, "You don’t have to yell."

"How long?" Adam demanded. His eyebrows produced an angry shadow on his face. "Damn it, how long have you been fucking that guy, Karen?"

"Since the tour," Karen confessed.

"I knew it," Adam said.

"No, it's not like that."

"Then how was it?"

She didn’t say anything.

“Well? What’s it like, Karen?”

"I was lonely, alright?" Karen said in a sudden outburst of emotion. "I was lonely. Is that such a crime? You left me, Adam. And I needed someone to talk to, someone to be with. What else was I going to do for three months? Sit at home and be the perfect housewife in the perfect house with no perfect husband? I'm a human being, Adam. I have desires and needs, just like you do."

Adam opened his mouth to speak, but stopped before his lips could form the words. He looked like he didn't know quite what to say, but his facial features remained hard and unforgiving.

"It takes two to make a marriage work, Adam," Karen said.

"Two," Adam said. "Not three."

Karen shook her head, and decided to go for a low blow. "There's not just three people involved is there, Adam?" she said.

"What are you talking about?" he said, the how-does-she-know expression on his face betraying him.

Guilty as charged
, Karen thought. She said, "You have yourself a little side project as well, don't you?"

"No," Adam said, obviously lying.

"Come on, Adam. I know you too well. I can see it in your eyes. Who is she? Do I know her?" Her tears were gone now, replaced by random twitches of rage. "Is she prettier than me?"

"Karen," Adam said.

"Tell me, Adam. Just tell me about her."

"Who?"

"Just tell me her name, for Christ's sake. Give me the courtesy."

"Courtesy?!" Adam roared, this time louder and much more fierce. He leapt off the couch and got in her face. "You had an affair, Karen! And you expect fucking courtesy?"

She shriveled under his glare and her tears returned. Adam's words were like tiny blades and they cut deep.

"Adam," she whimpered. "Stop, please."

Adam slicked his hair back with both hands and seated himself back on the couch with a submissive sigh. "Okay," he said after a measure of calm had seeped into his bones. "Her name is Jessica."

Karen repeated the name through her trembling lips, trying it out. "Jessica."

Adam nodded.

"Do you love her?" Karen asked.

Adam looked her in the eye and said, "Yes. Yes, I do."

Karen closed her eyes. The way Adam said that he loved the other girl, that whore Jessica, made Karen want to clamp her hands on her ears and scream until she went hoarse.

"Do you," she said with a sniffle, "do you love me?"

Adam turned away, glanced at the carpet. "Not anymore," he whispered.

Karen collapsed in the chair, weeping silently and looking through her tears at Adam as if for the last time. She looked at him with fresh eyes now, not as her husband, but as someone she hardly knew.

They sat there awkwardly for what seemed like hours, looking at each other, neither speaking, until Adam broke the silence. "You should call Trevor to come pick you up,” he said. “You can't stay here tonight.”

"Travis," Karen said.

"Whatever. While you're waiting for him you should gather some of your things. You can get the rest later."

You're kicking me out?
The thought came to Karen's mind but her lips wouldn't move. Can't I at least take my car? Her quivering lips prevented the formation of any words. Adam had paid for it, but it was still her car.

She nodded and decided it was better to go along with what Adam wanted rather than to question him, so she went to the telephone and called Travis. He was nervous, a little bit scared, and he refused to pick her up. He was too tired, too drunk to drive. He offered to let her sleep at his place, but there was absolutely no way he was going back to that house. No way, sweetheart. Not tonight. Karen told him that she would be over in a few minutes.

She went back into the living room, where Adam sat motionless on the couch, staring at the TV screen but not paying attention. He looked up at her and waited for her to speak.

“I'm going to take my car," she said, "and then I'll be out of your life."

Adam's eyes remained fix on a point in space quite far away from where she was standing, looking through her rather than at her. "See ya," he said.

Karen choked back a final tear and said, "Bye." And then she was out the door.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Other Fish - Part 3

Finished with parts 1 & 2? Here’s Part 3…
(The blog format isn’t really all that conducive to serialization. The most recent post goes on top, so basically it means the story will be backwards or upside down or out of order. By the end of this, um, experiment, it’s going to be a little messy. Have no fear, readers. I really do love you. That’s why I made this page. Now you can read it all in order in a nice printable format. That is, unless you have better things to do.)


3

Karen didn't know about Jessica, but Jessica knew everything about Karen. The two had never met, thank God, and if Adam had his way, they never would.

His relationship with Jessica was something that came out of nowhere a few weeks after his return from Japan and smacked him upside the head with a big dose of reality. He had been working off and on at the club again, sometimes hosting, sometimes warming-up, trying to get back into some kind of a rhythm after his three months in a foreign culture, cracking jokes he didn’t understand.

He didn't need the money, the tour had taken care of that, but he wanted to get out of the house. Karen wasn’t there half the time, off living her own devious life, and when she was, they barely spoke to each other. Though they still slept in the same bed, they communicated mostly by voicemail, perhaps to save themselves the indignity of having to lie in person. The club became his refuge. He threw himself into his work so that he could escape what had become of his life.

And that’s how he met Jessica. She worked in promotions for the leading rock radio station whose afternoon DJ happened to be a former (or reformed, as he put it) stand-up comic with close ties to the club. Every year the radio station sponsored an open-mike contest at the club where amateur comics competed for a trip to Hawaii.

Jessica had been responsible for hiring Adam, an established comedian, to host the event. They hit it off well. Going against all his virtues, he asked her to dinner. She accepted, and within weeks they were an item. They kept their relationship quiet, but didn’t try to hide the obvious.

And so Jessica waited in the dressing room for the triumphant return of her boyfriend.

“Holy mother of God,” Adam said, barging into the room, startling Jessica.

She looked up from the silly face she was making in the mirror and smiled with a glaze of embarrassment. Adam couldn’t hide his grin, and the look on her face made him feel a tiny bit better about his miserable performance.

"You wouldn't happen to have a body bag I could zip myself into, do you?" Adam asked her, wiping his brow.

"You bombed?"

"Bad,” he said. “Now I know what it feels like to have multiple new assholes." He loosened his tie, and seated himself on the stool in front of the mirror. Jessica wrapped her arms around him and squeezed.

She lathered his face with kisses and said, "Not that bad, I'm sure."

Adam had been in a bad mood when he got off stage, hating the life of public ridicule and failed ambitions, hating his life, but now with a gorgeous woman clinging to him like a tether to the world, he had to reassess his situation. So he had a bad night. So what? He had a bad routine.

Jessica began massaging his shoulders. "If they didn't like it, that's their problem," she said.

"Yeah, that’s what I said,” he said, his aching muscles purring under Jessica’s kneading fingers. “But still, I need a new routine. I mean, I've done the sumo football player bit every night for the last three months. It's literally not even funny anymore. I don't think it's funny."

"I thought it was funny,” Jessica said. “The first time I saw it."

Adam cracked a smile. "It's your honesty that I love."

"Only one of the many wonderful things about me," she said, cocking her head and throwing her eyes skyward.

"But I've been so busy and,” he avoided the word distracted, but it hung off the edge of his lips. "It's just been hard to focus."

"I think I know why."

"Why?"

Jessica grabbed his chin and turned his face to meet hers. A sudden seriousness filled her eyes. "You know why, Adam," she said. The stern look in her eye disappeared as the makings of a smile revealed themselves in the corners of her lips. "You're turning into peanut butter on me, spreading yourself too thin. You need to think about what you want. And then, think about the best way to get it. Until you do that, I can't help you."

"Help me?"

"You know what I mean."

Adam didn't feel like it was an ultimatum, but in a very subtle sense it was. They say relationships happen in levels, and if Adam didn’t come to grips with some serious issues in his life, his relationship with Jessica would never reach that next level, and that's what Adam wanted.

The next level.

Adam nodded, exhaled, and rubbing the bridge of his nose, said "I know."

Jessica fluffed a hand through his hair. "It's hard to be impartial about something like this," she said, "but if I could give you a little advice, I'd say stick with me." She winked and kissed him on the forehead.

"I'll take that into consideration," Adam said with a sly grin, then kissed her back. They held the kiss for a moment, tongues exploring, hands fondling, until Jessica drew back abruptly. At first, Adam thought something was wrong but one look into Jessica's eyes told him that he was overreacting.

There was a knock at the door.

"Adam no aqui," Adam said in a high-pitched voice, then "Who is it?"

"It's Mike. Open up."

Jessica opened the door for him. Mike looked at her with a certain shade of awkwardness, then at Adam, his cheeks turning red. "Uh, was I disturbing anything?" he asked.

"Not at all," Jessica said, grinning. "But I've got to get going. I have a staff meeting first thing tomorrow and I hear my pillow calling." She kissed Adam on the cheek. "You did great tonight," she said to him. "Don’t forget about lunch tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay," Adam said. They had a date for lunch at the Hard Rock Café. Jessica was doing some kind of publicity thing for the radio station, and she had been mysteriously insistent that Adam be there. Adam had no intention of letting her down.

"Thanks for coming down, sweetheart. You give me strength." He pounded his fist on his chest twice and mugged like a rapper. “For real.”

Jessica smiled and put a hand on his cheek. She said, "I love you. See you tomorrow.” She gathered her jacket and purse, said to Mike, "It was great seeing you again, Mike."

"Yeah, you too," he said, averting his eyes as if he were witnessing something he shouldn’t.

Jessica blew a kiss in Adam’s direction before ducking out the door, leaving the two comedians alone in the dressing room. Mike stared at Adam, a bemused half-grin on his face, waiting for her to be out of earshot.

“You’re already at the I love you stage?”

"Yeah, I guess.”

“You sure you know what you’re doing, partner?”

“No clue,” Adam said. “But I do know this. She’s wonderful."

"Yes, she is. But you're forgetting something."

"What?"

"You're married."

Adam had to laugh. "So what's your point?"

"I don't know, man. Figure it out. It's your life. If you want to keep sneaking around behind your wife's back, I mean, I'll help you if I can, you know, give you an alibi or something, but I can't really see why you'd want to lead a double life like that. It'll wear you down, break your spirit. I can see it already, with what happened out there tonight."

"What happened, Mike?" Adam said, suddenly defensive.

"Nothing, man," Mike said, quick to defuse the bomb. "You didn't have a good night. It's not because of you. There were a lot of factors. You had a bad crowd, a bad warm-up act. But you're a damn good comedian, and one night isn't going to kill you, especially a night in this joint. But think about what you've done, about what you want to do in the future. You're on the cusp, man, and I don't mean in the astrological sense."

"This sounds very familiar. I was just talking to Jessica about that..." Adam cut himself short. "But I can't talk to her, man. She's part of my problem."

"Just a part?”

Adam nodded. “Karen’s a bigger part."

"And Karen's boyfriend, too,” Mike said.

Adam's face creased into a scowl. "What about him?"

"He's involved."

"Yeah, with my wife," Adam said, dry as a bone.

"A couple years ago," Mike said, veering off the subject, "my second wife had an affair, and I went through something like you're going through now. I came home to find my wife in bed with another man. Not only was I crushed, I was pissed. Man, I was pissed. It didn't turn out too well, either. I broke his jaw but broke my hand. I was arrested, spent some time in jail, was put on probation. She got the house, the car, half my bank account. I felt violated. But I also felt stupid. I let her get the better of me, and I lost control. Then I lost everything. Do you hear what I'm saying?"

"So exactly how many times have you been married, Mike?" he said with a grin.

"Thirty-two times," Mike said, "but listen to me, man. I'm being serious now. Just don't lose your head. That's all I can tell you because that's all there is to it. Don't react with your emotions. React with your heart. That's a fine line, I know, and I couldn't even begin to tell you the difference, but there is a difference."

"Thirty-two times, huh?" Adam said, as if he missed everything after the revelation.

"Yeah, and I'm still looking for number thirty-three, so if you know anyone, send her my way. She could make a fortune.”

“You hungry?" Adam asked.

“Yeah, let’s go see what Ernie’s got left.”

They left the dressing room and made their way to the kitchen. By now, everyone but the employees had been shuffled out of the club. The bussers were cleaning up the tables, wiping them down and emptying ashtrays. It didn’t take too long to clean up the joint, despite the nightly mess made by the customers. The employees had it down to a science.

Ernie, the cook, was in the kitchen, scrubbing down the griddle and putting the leftover food away. He had set out a big batch of buffalo wings for the staff and the talent, Adam and Mike included. They scarfed them down by the handful in complete silence. Bellies full and hunger sated, they decided to head home. The decision wasn’t difficult for Mike, but Adam had his reservations.

In the parking lot, he expressed these to Mike as they looked for their cars.

“Because of Karen?” he asked.

“No, because I have lead paint on my walls,” Adam responded. “Of course, because of Karen.”

"Just remember," Mike said, "use your head."

"I thought I was supposed to use my heart," Adam joked.

"What are you? A comedian?"

"That’s so lame it’s kind of funny," Adam said, getting into his car. “Later, man.”

When he got home, Adam found the house empty, and though he did look for a note, he didn't find one. Apparently the explanation would come in a later mea culpa not writ in stone on a sticky pad note.

Unscathed, Adam changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and crawled between the sheets alone. He lay there, keeping to his side of the bed as if Karen would come in and join him later. Adam tossed and turned under the covers, eyes wide open, his mind still ticking off madly into the night even though his body and spirit were exhausted.

An hour ticked by.

Karen hadn't come home.

Eventually he crawled out of bed in drowsy frustration and settled on the living room couch in front of the television. There was nothing worth watching at this hour, but Adam flipped through the channels anyway, landing on a Jackie Chan movie on late-night cable.

The remote fell from his relaxed hand, and Adam’s weary mind slowly wound down like a clock with an old battery.

He was snoring, sound asleep, by the end of the movie.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

262 Months

I was thinking a bit more about my jury duty story after seeing the Supermax article yesterday, mostly because I have an active subconscious, but also because it's kind of interesting, especially if you're into crime and law and order like I am.

Being the jury foreman on a federal criminal trial was pretty cool, even if it was just a prison shanking incident and the trial only lasted two days. Like I had mentioned before, I looked the guy up after the trial and thought he wasn't getting out until 2036. I was wrong.

He's not getting out till 2039. Do you know how old he will be then? He'll be 79.

I also forgot his name, though I remembered they threw in that conspicuous middle name when talking about him, and that one of his names was James. I mean, that's not too hard to remember. For some dumb reason, I was thinking it was Mark David Chapman...but as it turns out, I was wrong.

I scrounged up these articles from the Pueblo Chieftan (even had to pay for the suckers) that have more information.

Federal inmate guilty in assault of prison guards

By ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN

DENVER - A jury has convicted an inmate of assaulting two guards at the high-security U.S. Penitentiary in Florence with a homemade ice pick.

Federal court jurors convicted James Wesley Chapman on Tuesday, the second day of his trial. He also was convicted of possessing a prohibited object.

He was charged with assaulting Cory Hodge and Anthony Trapp on Feb. 14. One guard received puncture wounds and the other broke his hand in a struggle, according to a spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Suthers.

Chapman chased Hodge, who fled an office to avoid being stabbed, and they then fought with plastic chairs, according to a prosecution filing.

Chapman, 43, is serving a sentence from federal court in California for conspiring to make methamphetamine with the intent of distributing it.

Chapman served as his own attorney in the assault trial. He is to be sentenced later.



Inmate draws hefty term for assaulting 2 guards

By ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN

DENVER - A Florence prisoner convicted of assaulting two guards was sentenced Wednesday to almost 22 more years in prison.

James Wesley Chapman, 43, an inmate at the high-security U.S. Penitentiary, was sentenced to 262 months by U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham.

"This case should demonstrate to inmates serving lengthy sentences that they will face serious repercussions for continued criminal behavior in prison," the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Suneeta Hazra said Thursday.

Chapman was convicted in December of assaulting Cory Hodge and Anthony Trapp with a homemade ice pick on Feb. 14 and of possessing a prohibited object.

"The sentence also helps to maintain order and discipline within the prison," Hazra said.

When Chapman attacked the guards, he was serving a sentence from a federal court in California for conspiring to make methamphetamine with the intent of distributing it. He was scheduled to be released in 2020 before the new sentence was imposed.

Judge Nottingham, Counselor Hazra, Cory Hodge, Anthony Trapp, James Wesley Chapman. Yeah, I know all those guys. To this day, I could pick them out in a crowd.

The Judge was the boss. Hazra was a young and very smart Indian lass. Hodge and Trapp, two slightly overweight young white guys. Small town guys. Chapman, a big dumb oaf of a man, with thick glasses and a calm demeanor. He was loving his two days out of the joint, let me tell you. If he were as competent as an attorney as he was as a low-rent criminal, he might have even gotten a few more days.

But instead he got twenty-two years. I don't feel guilty about my vote to convict. He deserved it!

But twenty-two years...man, that's steep. They didn't give him twenty-two years because he went crazy and stabbed a few guards. I saw the tape. It wouldn't make it onto World's Wildest Police Moments. It didn't last but a minute and it looked more like an awkward fight than a brutal stabbing.

Chapman got twenty two years because he was a federal inmate who attacked federal employees and they needed to make an example out of him. Here he is, originally busted for drugs. I'm sure you know this, but they don't put you in a maximum security prison (which is what Florence is) because of drugs. The article doesn't mention it, but Chapman also tried to escape. More time was added to his original sentence then, too.

So you have the drugs, the escape, and now the attack. Three strikes and you're out, buddy.

On one hand it's an example of justice in action, and on the other hand it's a tragic waste of a man's life. I can't speak for them all, but I can say that in this case, it's a path Chapman chose for himself.

Anyway, you can write to Chapman at this address:

JAMES WESLEY CHAPMAN
26940-198
USP FLORENCE ADMAX
U.S. PENITENTIARY
PO BOX 8500
FLORENCE, CO 81226

Tell him I sent ya.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The Other Fish - Part 2

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1.


2

Adam stood at the edge of the stage, gazing out at the crowd, trying to gauge their mood. Onstage the warm-up act, Chet Bowman, a character comic from Detroit with a greasy shirt and uncombed hair, delivered his act in a dry monotone, desperate to keep his audience entertained. Adam wasn’t paying attention to Chet’s dreadful monologue. Instead he focused on the squirming audience.

“Would you look at that?” a voice said next to him. Mike Viera, the evening’s host and Adam’s closest friend, was standing next to him, watching on as well. He shook his head and whistled.

Adam was already looking. People were starting to let their attention spans get the better of them. Their eyes wandered to peruse the drink menu or to check their watches. It seemed that they were enduring, rather than enjoying, Chet's act.

“It’s going to be a long night,” he said.

In industry terms, when a comic bores his audience, they call it bombing. Since comedy is such a subjective pursuit, its failure has only one symptom: the absence of laughter. Every comic, at one time or another, bombs. But Chet was bombing so badly that Adam expected to see a mushroom cloud bloom over the crowd as soon as Chet uttered his next half-assed wisecrack.

"So I finally finished reading a book the other day,” Chet was saying. “Well, okay, so it was a magazine. A dirty magazine, and okay, I just looked at the pictures. But at least I didn't call any of the numbers in the back. Well actually just one of them, but don’t worry, it won't cost me anything. I used my mother's credit card. Yeah, when she finds out, I’ll have to find a new place to live because she's gonna kick me out of the basement. But it's not like she didn't know. I put the call on speakerphone. 'Uh, yeah, hello, I read in this here magazine that you love to suck cock. Yeah, could you tell me a little about that?'"

A few chuckles rippled in hesitant waves through the club. The sound was eerie, like a chair being scraped across the floor in a silent study hall. The crowd looked up at him, expecting something more, something better.

"Yeah, the girl who answered the phone said her name was Samantha, but she sounded more like a Bruce. As soon as I gave her my mom’s credit card number, she had an orgasm. At least I hope it was an orgasm. It could have been a heart attack. I really wouldn’t know. Whenever somebody makes this noise,” Chet proceeded to unleash a high-pitched squeal into the microphone that sounded like a cross between a soprano solo and a dolphin’s mating call, “I automatically think heart attack. That and the fact that I heard people in the background yelling Clear!”

Chet paused, waiting for the hysterics that he thought was sure to follow his bit, but they didn’t erupt. Someone in the audience coughed, a conspicuous sound in the dreary stillness, and a round of copycat coughing bounced from head to head in the darkness. Sensing an opportune moment to slip away, humiliated but with his dignity intact, Chet sacrificed the rest of his planned set for a graceful exit. "You've been a great audience," he lied. "Good night."

The crowd ushered Chet off the stage with a spattering of merciful applause, thankful that Chet was leaving the stage. He burst through the curtain, coming face to face with Adam and Mike. “I haven’t bombed like that since Georgia,” he said to Adam, huffing loudly and wiping his brow. “They just didn’t want to laugh.”

Adam just stared at him, shaking his head. “You have to give them something to laugh at,” he said dryly. Then he closed his eyes and dropped his head.

Mike tapped him on the shoulder, and said, "Don't worry, man. You got 'em. Like putty in your hands," and then he disappeared through the curtain and onto the stage, the MC that now had the arduous task of winning back a neglected audience.

Head bowed, Adam pleaded for divine assistance.

“Adam,” a disembodied voice answered. It was Chet. “Sorry, man.” He gestured weakly toward the stage, but didn’t have to point out what he was sorry for.

Adam waved him away, furious, and continued praying.

Mike’s voice could be heard over the PA, muffled by the curtain. To the audience, he said, "Let's get a hand for Chet Bowman." The audience applauded reluctantly but they were just being polite.

Chet didn't even stick around long enough to hear it. He had tucked his head in shame, and then stormed off to his dressing room, slamming the door behind him. Adam couldn’t feel sorry for the guy. Chet was a funny man, but all the funniness in the world couldn’t hold every bad night at bay. Everyone has bad nights. Everyone.

Including Adam.

Adam feared that Chet's comic failure was contagious, that it would spread to him like a bad case of TB. More than that, he was afraid of the nuclear winter Chet had unleashed on the crowd. You gotta put them out of their misery, Adam said, reaffirming his inner strength like the numerous self-improvement books he read had instructed. Go out there and kill 'em.
He just hoped they didn’t have any rotten tomatoes to throw at him.

Adam crossed himself and then opened his eyes.

His ear honed in on Mike's voice, booming over the PA. "With that said, I'd like to introduce a very good friend of mine and one of the funniest guys I know. He’s recently returned from a three-month stay in Japan, where he learned how to eat seaweed and drink saki straight out of the bottle. Ladies and gentlemen, from right here in Denver, Colorado, please give a warm round of applause to Adam King!"

Biting his cue like a hook, Adam rushed out to the stage, blowing through the curtain and giving Mike a high five as they passed each other. He was surprised to find himself in the midst of a rush of applause.

Adam grabbed the mic and adjusted it to fit the growing smile on his face.

"Let's get a hand for Chet Bowman," he said. The crowd clapped with equal parts bitterness and laziness. "Yeah, Chet's a pretty funny guy. Especially when he doesn’t say anything." Some of the crueler members of the audience giggled, but Adam didn’t stop to celebrate. He continued, full throttle ahead.

"So how's everybody doing tonight?" A rhetorical question, one of the first comedic devices a young stand-up learns. "This is my home town, Denver. Yeah, born and raised." There was a round of proud applause as the natives cheered for one of their own. "Actually, I grew up in Thornton. Anybody from Thornton here tonight?"

Someone in the darkness howled, all alone in their civic pride. Adam smiled. "Nice place, Thornton. The cops up there though, man, I don't know what their deal is. Of course, it's a suburb so the cops feel like they're just pretend cops, you know, not really doing anything but driving around and making the speeders slam on their brakes.

"I got stopped by a cop on the way home the other day, a female cop. She just wanted to get my phone number. She said I looked pretty cute behind the wheel. Yeah, I don’t know what that’s all about. Normally a chick cop would be kinda cool, you know . . . the handcuffs, the authority. That’s kind of hot, man.

"But not this cop. No, this cop looked like Dirty Harry's ugly sister. She had Clint's squint, the weather beaten face." Adam shifted into his Clint Eastwood impression as he had night after night for the past six months. "You wanna get lucky, punk? Well do ya?"

A few people in the audience took their lips away from their drinks long enough to laugh. None of them laughed very hard. The stage lights seemed to grow a few degrees hotter and Adam felt the first few drops of sweat forming on his brow.

It was times like this that Adam had to remind himself of the presence of his ball sac. Speaking in front of a large group makes most people shake at the knees. There's just something about standing under a spotlight in front of a crowd that is absolutely terrifying. Adam did it every night, and he never panicked.

He was unshakable, a rock. Nothing could throw off his comic timing. His act was all by rote anyway, and it had lost its humor somewhere in the umpteenth telling. As far as he was concerned, he could have been speaking to an empty room.

So fuck them if they didn't laugh. He'd take their money anyway.

He was confident by the end of his set that he’d eventually win them all back. He’d have them laughing so hard their overpriced drinks shot out of their noses.

"Yeah," he said, on a different subject now entirely, "I bet you don't think about those things, the subtle connections in life. Everything has some kind of correlation. Here's an example: Jesus . . . and Elvis." The crowd chuckled, far from a boom of belly laughs but good enough.

"They're both worshipped in trailer parks across America.” He held up his fingers, counting off each point as he said it. “With the exception of Spanish bull-fighters, Jesus and Elvis are the subjects most prominently featured in black velvet paintings. Jesus is the King of Kings, and Elvis is the King of Rock-n-Roll. Jesus lived in a state of grace, Elvis in Graceland. Jesus was resurrected; Elvis had that comeback TV special. Fucking weird!

"Get this, the name 'Elvis Presley' has 12 letters. 'Jesus H. Christ' has 12 letters. It's amazing."

He rode that joke on top of a comfortable surge of audience response, but to him, the joke was stale, old and rehearsed. Deep within him, he felt the unflinching need for something new, something fresh, in his act, but not only in his act, in his personal life as well, in his marriage specifically.

Since he had to travel to make his living as a comic, his wife Karen was often left alone for weeks at a time. They had many conversations about this topic, and Adam had always tried to accommodate her. Once he even invited her to go out on the road with him. She refused.

When Adam got the Japan offer, Karen was livid. Three months? Three whole months? But Adam was steadfast. Fifty thousand dollars for three months of work wasn’t bad. Karen relented only because she wanted to live slightly above the poverty line.

Adam promised to call every night, and he was faithful to that promise for the first few weeks. It seemed that every time he called, Karen would complain about being alone, about how Adam shouldn't have left her behind, about how she had needs that he wasn’t meeting. After that, he started getting the answering machine every time he called. He'd leave short messages, always ending in "I love you."

Sometimes she called back.

The last three weeks, when he was in Japan, she didn't call back at all.

"So I was in Japan last month," Adam said into the mic. "Yeah, I'm big in Japan. You wouldn’t think Japanese people, I mean, real Japanese people, not the ones who own the drive-thru liquor store, would like an American stand-up comedian, but they loved me. In Kyoto, there were little Japanese girls with pigtails running around, going crazy."

Adam morphed into one of those little Japanese girls onstage, his arms flapping about, face distorted, teeth stuck out. It wasn’t politically correct, but it was funny. "Adam King! Adam King!" he squealed in a droll, accented voice. “Let me take your picture! Yeah, it was crazy, man. They love me! My parents are so proud." He let out a sneering grumble and the audience chuckled on that one for a bit.

Japan had been fun, but upon his return, Adam found that his life as he knew it was over. Karen greeted him at the airport with a smug smile, and ignored him on the ride home. As Adam unpacked from his three month trip, Karen said she was going out and left him alone this time.

She didn't return till the next morning, and when she did, she was hung-over and her pants were inside out. It didn't take Adam long to figure out what was going on.

He was expecting the invitation from the Jerry Springer Show any day now.

"You know what's big in Japan?" Adam mused. "Sumo wrestling. Yeah, big fat guys throwing sand over their shoulder and ramming into each other. The Japanese love it over there. But you know what the funny thing is? The best sumo wrestler in Japan right now is an American! No shit. Aki Bono. That's Japanese for 'no shit.' No, it's his name. His name for chrissakes, people. Yeah, Aki Bono is the biggest sumo wrestler in Japan right now. He's a big guy. I've actually met him, shaken his hand, although I don't know if you could call it a hand. More like a gluttonous knob of flesh." Adam put an uncertain smile on his face and pretended to shake the hand of a giant. "Uh, you do have a hand in there, don't you?"

He was getting close to the end of his act. Looking out at the faces in the crowd, Adam could see that some of them sensed this and appeared to be relieved. Adam, on the other hand, wouldn't be relieved until he was off the stage. The lights were getting hotter, and the sweat on his forehead was dripping into his eyes. His jacket seemed to have shrunken, squeezing his shoulders and restricting his movements like a boa constrictor.

Wrap it up, he told himself. This is a lost cause.

Much like his marriage.

"I think professional football teams should actually recruit their offensive linemen from the sumo wrestlers in Japan. They'd make great linemen, don't you think?"

He jumped into an impression of a sumo wrestler, legs spread wide, gut extended as much as it could go. He puffed out his cheeks and scrunched up his face so that he looked as if he were taking a painful shit. He stomped one foot and then got down in a three-point stance, hand opening and closing comically as he waited for the hike.

The audience wasn't squirming anymore. Most of them were laughing.

In a silly Asian accent, Adam yelled, "Set! Hut! Hut-hut! Domi-arigato."

He straightened, raised an arm to the crowd and bowed. "Thanks, you've been great. Good night." To his surprise, they applauded him as he left the stage and Mike took his place to close out the night. Adam knew they were clapping out of courtesy, but the recognition felt good nonetheless.

Still, he couldn’t wait to get to the dressing room.

His girlfriend Jessica would be there waiting for him, and he couldn't wait to collapse into her loving arms.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Holy Shit!

Not too long ago, I posted an account of my jury service, where me and 11 others convicted a dumbass convict who attacked a few guards.

And today, I read this story on CNN.

Cory Hodge was a prison guard for less than three years at Supermax -- home of America's most feared and notorious criminals -- before he decided he had had enough.

He left to take a job as a train conductor.

"I felt like staffing levels were coming to a point where it was getting ridiculously dangerous to be there," said Hodge, who was stabbed in the head and arms at another prison before going to Supermax. "I have a wife and children. I want to be around for them."
Cory Hodge was one of the guards attacked by the creep we convicted.

Now you can go back to reading The Other Fish.

The Other Fish

I've been going through the "bottom drawer," that metaphorical (in my case) place where writers keep unfinished or unpolished works, hoping to bring them out some day and dust them off, trim the edges, and put them out there for all to see. Most of the time, these works stay in the bottom drawer. Sometimes you'll find something that surprises even yourself.

And so it is with The Other Fish, a long short story not quite a novella, that I wrote some years back. It's been collecting dust since then, having only gone through one or two rewrites and needing a few more, but I was reading through it again last night and some of it is quite good. It could really be something if I put some more work into it.

And so the process begins again...

In the meantime, I decided to serialize it on my blog, divvying it out in maddening chunks like they used to do in the old days (or so I heard when Stephen King was serializing the Green Mile).

So here it is, the first part of The Other Fish, the story of a married couple who discovers they are both having affairs, and that they're not quite ready for the consequences.

The Other Fish - Part 1

1


To Karen King motel rooms were a lot cheaper and more convenient than a divorce. She always made Travis pay for the room anyway, so she wouldn’t have to launder the receipts of her forbidden extra-marital encounters through the joint-checking account she shared with her husband. Travis didn’t seem to mind the expense, and anyway the covert nature of their affair seemed to saturate their couplings with more excitement, more passion.

And yet as Travis dismounted her in those sweaty motel sheets, his juices already flown and ready to be mopped up with a moist towel, Karen tried to remind herself that their relationship wasn't just about sex.

But it was.

She liked Travis for only two reasons, and both had to do with size, the size of his wallet and the size of his cock. And he was willing to whip either one out on a whim to fulfill Karen's every desire. This she liked. Besides, he was charming and good-looking for a man in his forties, clean-shaven yet rugged, large Italian nose with a dimple in his chin, hair cut in a short modern style and well kept. To tip the scales even further, he had incredible endurance.

Yes, Karen liked his endurance.

After sleeping with the same man for six years, the boredom had long become a staple in the King household. Every night with her husband had become a study in carnal déjà vu, a mockery of a sexual act that while enjoyable, was not entirely satisfying.

Sex, by its very nature, is complicated. At its essence, sex is a cooperative act between a minimum of at least two people, though there can in theory be more, often two people with vastly different perspectives and philosophies. Add to that the various social neuroses associated with sex, and there are a lot of them, multiply that by personal erotic likes and dislikes, take the sum and subtract the inhibitions and, over time as the relationship deepens, the expectations. Then divide the whole thing into six long miserable years of boring sex that always left Karen with a bad taste in her mouth and a stream of jizz in her hair.

The final total: cheap motel rooms, too many to be counted, and a lover that took care of her every libidinous craving. And he cleaned up after himself

She still felt something for Adam, despite his bedroom deficiencies, even though now it felt like a day old bruise, a sentimental kind of love, tender and sad, but oddly at peace. He could still make her laugh, even if his embattled career had doused some of the sparkle out of his eye.

Adam was a stand-up comedian, a man accustomed to rejection and addicted to his own insecurities. It was from this creative frustration that his comedy was born, and so far, he had made a more than decent living at it, even if he did often spend weeks at a time touring the nation's comedy clubs, or going to comedy festivals, late-night talk-show tapings, radio events, commercials. Recently he’d spent a four-month stretch in Japan hosting some silly gameshow.

It began to dawn on Karen that even though life with Adam seemed to have the semblance of a well-rounded, satisfying marriage, her husband was married to something else, and it was most definitely not her.

Now it seemed that the more Adam toured, the more convenient it became for Karen to see Travis. This eventually led to an almost inexplicable emotional equation. The longer Adam was on the road, the more Karen longed for him to leave again.

She pondered the implications of this wrapped in Travis's therapeutic arms on the stiff motel bed, the thin motel sheets draped over her breasts. As her breathing slowed and the sensations between her legs faded, she said, "You don't think Adam will catch on, do you? He's a pretty intelligent guy."

"And if he does, what's he going to do?" Travis said. "Make fun of us?"

Karen chuckled. "You underestimate him. No, I know what he'd do. He'd leave me, that's what he would do. He'll just leave. I know it."

Travis sighed and said, "That's pretty much inevitable at this point, don’t you think?"

Karen propped herself up on her elbows and eyed Travis with a cocked eyebrow. "What are you talking about?"

Travis pulled away and dropped his feet over the edge of the bed. He grabbed the bottle of champagne that he had placed on ice earlier for the post-coital celebration. "I thought eventually Adam wouldn't even be an issue," he said refilling his glass.

Karen snatched the glass from his hand and said, "Adam's my husband, Travis. If I was just going to leave him, I wouldn't have married him." She gulped down the champagne and let out a tiny burp.

"So it's just the sex then, huh?" Travis asked. They'd had this conversation before and Karen had never been able to admit to him that he was right.

"Travis, why do you always have to bring that up?"

He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, then stopped, thought about it again, reworking the words so there was no question about what he was trying to communicate. "Well, if it's just the sex, I don't see it continuing for very long."

Karen felt her belly tingle when he said that, and not in a good way. "Travis, baby," she said, calm and demure now, "it's not just the sex. You mean a lot to me, you really do. But it's complicated. I just can't leave..."

Travis shook his head and got out of the bed. He disappeared into the bathroom where he retrieved a bathrobe and came out again, his face crunched in displeasure. His head was still shaking. "I should have never gotten involved with a married chick," he said, a poorly aimed attempt at passive aggression. "No matter what you do, their husbands are the better men."

Karen drifted out of the bed, cupping the sheet to her breast and dragging it along to the dresser. "That's why we married them," she said with a crafty sneer. She poured herself another glass of champagne and gazed at Travis over her glass with mocking sensuality.

Travis didn't think it was funny. "Well if you want to be like that." He stripped off his bathrobe and reached for his jeans.

Near the dresser, shaking her glass in soft slow circles, Karen was unconcerned. "You don't have to leave," she said, watching him dress and enjoying the view.

Travis nodded his head and zipped up his pants. "Yes, I do," he said. He reached for a sock that had fallen halfway under the bed and the other, which had somehow become draped over the lampshade.

"I was just kidding, Trav."

"You don't sound like you're kidding, Karen," Travis said, buckling his belt and looking around for his shirt.

Karen set her champagne glass on the dresser and approached him, careful at first, and then confident as she wrapped her arms around his waist, set her chin on his chest and looked up him, batting her warm and repentant eyes and mewling like a kitten. "I was kidding, Travis," she said.

He looked down on her, sighing. He was unconvinced, but his hands went to her hips automatically, his fingertips like lightning on her skin.

"Sooner or later you're going to have to make a choice, Karen. We can't do this forever."

"So," she said, tracing her fingers along his abdomen, dipping her pinky into his belly button.

"Let's do it tonight."

Travis smiled.

"You shouldn't have put your pants back on, baby," Karen said. "Now I'll have to wait for you to take them off."

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Scott Brothers

I'm a huge fan of Ridley Scott. I like his brother Tony a bit better, even though Ridley probably makes better movies. Tony doesn't have an Oscar though, which means he doesn't have to struggle against his own pretensions like his older brother, who does have an Oscar and who occasionally (more often than not lately) thinks too highly of himself.

A quick run-down. Ridley Scott, in case you're just waking up and never read the credits of a movie, is the master behind such masterworks as:

Alien (the scariest sci-fi film...or the most sci-fi horror film)
Blade Runner (Philip K Dick + Harrison Ford + Ridley Scott = Me like very much!)
Black Rain (the quintessential 80s film noir)
1492: Conquest of Paradise
(my favorite Michael Wincott performance in a career of great villain performances)
Thelma and Louise (not my bag, but a lot of people...I mean, chicks like it)
Gladiator (the great epic that started the ball rolling for ancient world bloodlust, not to mention a great Oscar-winning movie)
Black Hawk Down (not just a great war movie, but also the new namesake of the Somali mission)
Kingdom of Heaven (the last of the great epics, mostly because it wasn't so great).

The guy is good.

His brother Tony you might remember from:
Top Gun (Tom Cruise, when he was cool, and Kenny Loggins, when he was cool too)
The Last Boy Scout (Bruce Willis in Shane Black's LA, not to mention an early Halle Berry appearance)
True Romance
(the best Tarrantino movie out there, and that says something because Resevoir Dogs was pretty good)
Crimson Tide (almost better than the Hunt for Red October, but definitely not lacking with guys like Gene Hackman or Denzel, or a couple of dudes who would later be better recognized as Tony Soprano and Aragorn)
Enemy of the State (one of Will Smith's best movies, with Hackman in the sideseat)
Spy Game (the pretty boy of his generation hands off to the pretty boy of our generation, plus a decent movie)
Man on Fire (Denzel on fire, kicking ass and taking names; one of my favorite Tony Scott flicks)
Domino (alternate universe girlfriend #349586 Keira Knightley as a bounty hunter, a bit manic unless you're on crystal meth, but still a decent movie)
And of course, Deja Vu, which is in theaters now.

Ridley Scott also has a movie coming out, a "romantic comedy" starring Russell Crowe called The Good Year, and the question I ask is this:

Who the fuck wants to see a romantic comedy starring Russell Crowe? From Ridley Scott no less!

Not I, said the James.

BDS

I saw this post by Atrios:
No one - not the cable news nets, not Karl Rove, and certainly not Bush himself - seems to be able to internalize the simple notion that people basically can't stand the president.
But then I realized Atrios has it all wrong. Cable news, Karl Rove, and other assorted Bush people do understand that "people basically can't stand the president."

They just think those people are crazy.

C'mon, Atrios! Get with the program here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

NFL Recap

Watching the highlights of this week's action over at NFL.com. Football was on at work, but I wasn't really watching it too closely.

The Broncos won...eventually. Plummer threw 3 interceptions. It wasn't pretty.

So now I'm watching the Indy-Buffalo game. The Colts are the team this year, with their 9-0 season. By I also noticed that my boy Terrence McGee grabbed a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. Then he busted out a good run back on a kick. I wonder how much that will count for my fantasy team, where T. McGee has been my defensive guy all year.

The best part about watching these highlight reels online is that you not that you can watch them over and over if you want, or that you can choose the order you watch them. No, the best part is the different radio announcers. And I do mean radio announcers.

Not the TV announcers, but the local guys. The guys who are all about the home team. Dave Logan is our guy. I don't know who the dude is for Kansas City, but he's funny as hell. He's almost like two people, the normal measured play by play guy and then the crazed when the hometeam scores. Listen to what I'm talking about here. He could provide the cookie monster vocals for any Norwegian death metal band if he wanted to.

I don't know his name, but he's great. Touchdown! Kan-sas City!

In other fantasy news, Chad Johnson got a touchdown, Berrian didn't even play, and Indira Varma is knocking on my door right now.

Updated:
His name is Mitch Holthus. The official Chiefs Radio Network site says this:
One of the midwest's most recognizable broadcast personalities, Mitch joined the Chiefs broadcast booth in 1994 and is now entering his 13th year as the "Voice of the Chiefs". Mitch has set the standard for professional sports broadcasters. Not only has he won the highly respected Sportscaster of the Year an unprecedented eight times, he was also the youngest person ever to receive every major sportscasting award in the state of Kansas.