That Fucking Night


Oh, that night.

That night that night that fucking night at the diner.

We both knew what was happening, even as we left work, even as we drove down the road, even as we pulled into the parking lot.

Baby I have never seen lights so bright.

When we were radiating, like bells, like starshine

Like humming in perfect harmony

The fucking waitstuff wandered by for a contact high; smiling like we were new born.

And our food was fucking perfect, though I don’t remember eating.

I even (even I) recall the song on the jukebox: Mr. Mister with Broken Wings because I fucking hate that song.

But that night…

Oh, that fucking night…

And back at your place my hands found yours and they were
Intertwined before I could even make a move and
You were mine

I was yours

And I made you smile like you never have before

Glad to be blind when you

Made me smile like I never have before and we

Lost our identities in the most unimaginative way

And I heard Broken Wings even though

I fucking hate that song

But that night…

Oh that fucking night…

I’ll spend the rest of my days trying to forget (to remember) every detail of that night…

Oh that fucking night.


Top Ten Comments Overheard In China


10. “One more time: are dragons real or what?”

9. “Somebody stole the Golden Child!”

8. “Which one of us is me?”

7. “I solved pi again last night”

6. “You wanna give me a hand with this finger-trap?”

5. “Never let the Westerners know we can read binary”

4. “One billion people but none of us can drive”

3. “This Communism thing is a blast!”

2. “The lasers are blinding the children”

1. “’Eggroll?!?’ You’re a cliché, man!”

Ashli /Vs/ Death

Ashli had blisters on both of her thumbs, the result of excessive texting. They were swollen and scuffed, full of puss and bound to burst.

“Life is the bitch,” she said to no one in particular.

She threw herself down on her bed, kicked off her Crocs and started thinking about guys. Would she ever have the guts to… you know, do that thing? With a boy's thing??

That’s when Death walked into her room. A heavy presence, a sour stench...

Ashli pulled her hand out and sat straight up on the bed.“Who are you?!?”

Death answered in cold quiet. “I am Death.”

She cocked her head in confusion. “You don’t look like Death... you look like David Letterman.”

Death smiled. “I have assumed a form with which you are familiar.”

“But I never watch the Letterman show!”

“Nevertheless, Ashli, your time is arrived… your days on Earth are come to an end. I am here to claim your soul and carry it around in my sack of broken glass for all eternity.”

Ashli’s cell chirped an incoming message. “Look Mr. Letterman, I don’t know why you're here but I’m only seventeen and I don’t like older guys.”

Death blinked twice and straightened his tie. “I am not David Letterman. I have only taken his shape to-”

“Can you loan me dollars for a pizza?”


“Yeah. You can have some- if you like pepperoni.”

Just then Ashli’s dog Fuckup came running into her room, a yellow labrador with toilet breath. Death poked his bony finger at the beast and melted him. The room stank with the smell of stink and burnt fur and Fuckup was now just a puddle staining the carpet. Ashli held back the tears.


Death turned to her, furious. “No, I MEANT to do that.”

Ashli wiped the wet from her eyes. “Who are you and what have you done with the real David Letterman?”

Death took a deep breath. “Letterman is resting comfortably in his New Canaan townhouse and I   AM   DEATH!

He smashed Ashli’s full-length closet mirror to punctuate his point.

Ashli watched the shards fall. “My Dad is gonna kill you.”

“No more delay- you will come with me at once.”

“Why do I have to die?” she asked, adjusting her bra.

“It is your time, Ashli Vido!”

She stood up. “But I haven’t done it yet!”

“Done what?”

“You know… that thing? With a boy’s thing? That thing.”

“Are you referring to sexual intercourse?” Death was downright puzzled.

“You can’t take somebody before they have sex!”

Death paused then, thinking. He looked inward, discovering mercy, restraint, hidden in a fold of his dark soul. It was a feeling he had never known: he felt sorry for the girl.

It passed.

Death roared in a thunderous tone, “Get into my bag of broken gl-”

Ashli leapt across the room and punched Death in the neck, slicing his skin with her February birthstone ring. She gouged his eyes out with her thumbs, popping her blisters, oozing puss and blood into Death’s hollow sockets, stinging him so sharp that he cried out in pain. He staggered, sightless, stubbing himself on her nightstand, cursing in tongues.

Ashli grabbed his necktie and yanked him to the door of her room. She kicked Death’s ass with the heel of her pedicured foot, and there was an audible crack as her painted toenails shattered his spine.

Death ran down the stairs, out the door, humiliated, and Ashli shouted after him: “And you tell Paul Shaffer to kiss my ass!!!”

She took a deep breath, threw herself down on her bed, and started thinking about guys.

Would she ever have the guts to… you know, do that thing? With a boy's thing??


Car Crash In Sick City


I lost control, alone on the road, and I turned back hard to straighten out.

By then it was too late.

I remember the car driving off the road- 51 miles and hour- rolling over three times, and knowing that death would be the inevitable period at the end of the sentence. There wasn't any slow-motion, no heavenly light, no grand philosphical insight: just a split-second preview that I was about to die. And I was as ready as any man can ever be.

The car stopped tumbling when it slammed into a telephone pole, and I felt my face meet the spider-webbing windshield as it tore my forehead open and bloodied my scalp beneath my hair. I don't remember the airbags deploying but I've been told they did. I don't remember losing consciousness but I've been told that I blacked out, if only for seconds. I do remember the steering wheel breaking my sternum and the impact cracking two of my ribs.

I remember when the car finally stopped it took me a minute to understand that I was still alive: even with consciousness the physical sensations I was feeling were so foreign that it took me time to process. I was in the driver's seat, upside down, seat-belted in, hand to my blood-gushing head so that I might keep my eyes open long enough to find my cell phone and call for help. I was so soaked and sopping with blood I eventually gave up on finding my cell... I pushed open the car door with my feet and got out, learning new words for pain, but it was probably the smart move because the cracked telephone pole eventually broke and fell on the car, crushing it. If I had still been inside I'd have been dead again.

The first motorist who spotted me turned out to be a physician's assistant, and this Angel kept me conscious until the ambulance arrived and the doctor put 13 stitches in my head. She rode with me in the ambulance, made conversation with me while the paramedics were cutting off my clothes, and even in my traumatized state I knew she was one in a billion, knew I had to get her name right then or I'd never be able to thank her.

I never did.

And so it's a week later. I'm out of the hospital. I'm learning to walk and breathe again. I've spent time trying to find perspective, meaning, or a lesson in any or all of this.

I am lucky to be alive. I've been told.

The Liquid Metric


Sunny smiled loopy, the medication entering her bloodstream: “I am so sweet…”

Her mouth was curling playful, her eyes closed as she slipped inward, deeper and deeper… farther back. Farther down.

Dr. Diamond, observing from his leather chair across the room: “Sweet?”

Sunny lay back, stretching, head falling into pillow. “Well, relaxed and um… a little loose?” She laughed to herself

“You can feel it. That’s good.” Dr. Diamond could see her muscles relaxing, her breathing deepen and slow. She was responding well- so far. It wasn’t always this easy. Sometime they freak out.

Sunny, nodding now, going tonic, her eyelids melting, eyeballs in motion underneath. Dr. Brian Diamond leaned forward, checking the equipment: Recorder: running, Camera: on. The IV dripped consistent, even as an hourglass, ticking two milligrams a milliliter. Sunny submerged, lowered into unconscious memory with every drop of liquid clear. It slid lazy down the tube to the hypodermic pinned to the bend of her elbow. Outside the sun was leaving the sky, casting purple shadows across the room and long lines in the parking lot below.

“You’re going to go back… you’re going to travel backwards.” Dr. Diamond’s deep Scottish voice took a soothing tone, and he spoke just above a whisper. “You’re in my office, you’re warm and you’re dry… you’re safe, and there is nothing here to harm you. I want you to take in a deep breath, and when you breathe out you’re going to let the walls fall away... I want you to take me back to that night.”

Sunny shifted, her heavy frame creaking the couch, her breathing deliberate. She swallowed, opening her mouth to speak. Nothing came out. The bag of magic juice hung on the pole, dripping.

“You’re going to take me back to that night, the night you can’t talk about... the night that everything went wrong...” She was still, and the doctor said a silent prayer that she wasn’t having a bad reaction to this experimental drug, that she wasn’t in the ten percent for psychotic episode, coma. Or worse.

Just then Sunny smiled, miles away. Diamond leaned forward.

“I remember. I remember it was a Saturday night and my Mom was going out, going out for the night and she hired this babysitter... the babysitter’s name was Paula, and I had never seen her before. Paula was old- and ugly- she was probably only thirty but back then to me she looked old… and ugly. I was nine...? Mom left me with Paula, and right away Paula got into the liquor cabinet- she must have- because I could see that she was drunk and something was wrong, something was wrong. Something was wrong with her besides being drunk.”

“What else was wrong with her?”

Sunny licked her lips. “Various things.”

And Diamond, for the time being, left that alone.

“When I asked Paula for supper… because it was suppertime. And she wouldn’t do it- she sent me to my room- just down the hall from the kitchen- and she told me to go to sleep. She sent me to my room and told me to go to sleep, and I couldn’t go to sleep- it was 6:30- but I went to my room and she locked the door anyway. And I heard a man’s voice outside and I knew it was her boyfriend, had to be her boyfriend that she invited over.”

The doctor inhaled, bracing himself. Sunny was mesmerized.

“That’s when I saw the snake... he was slithering in the corner of my bedroom just underneath the closet door. I swear to you it was a real snake... and I screamed so loud that Paula opened the door and I ran out of my room. And I saw Paula and her boyfriend... they were...” Sunny nodded, acceptance.

“What? What were they doing?” He had stopped making notes- he could review the recordings later. Right now he would relive this night with her, feel it. Be there.

“They were making hamburgers... in front of the television. And the television was on. They were cooking hamburgers on a hot plate... with my Mother’s spatula. And when the boyfriend saw me he hid the ketchup... because it was our ketchup? Paula chased me back in my room and took out all the light bulbs. From my lamps. And she left me in there with the snake... ”

She was speaking in a rugged, drugged voice: numbed… metered…

“Sunny,” Diamond shifted forward, almost slipping out of his chair, “are you aware that we’ve never gotten this far before? This is the first time you’ve been able to talk about that night…”

“I cried... I tried… I tried to cry myself to sleep but it wouldn’t work. I heard music from outside my door and I went out to see what was going on... Paula was in her bathing suit... a one-piece bathing suit, red and white stripes. Or red and white polka-dots. The boyfriend was watching racing on TV... you know, race cars? They were going around in those circles and… around in those circles. And there were two dogs sitting at the kitchen table. Strange dogs... I never saw them before. Black dogs, like Labradors. And they were sitting at the kitchen table like they were waiting for food to be served. But there was no food on the table... just a bowl of cream. Cream is for cats, right Mom?”

The doctor wasn’t sure if he should respond, wasn’t sure if he should role-play Sunny’s mother or simply-

“Paula saw me standing there, threw an ashtray at me when she saw me... I got out of the way before it hit me. She was cursing and she called me ‘little pig.’ Then the boyfriend got up and said something like, ‘I’ll handle her’ or ‘I’ll take care of this...’ and he was smoking a big cigar and the dogs were panting like they were dehydrated or something. The dogs were eating the cream. And the boyfriend took me into my bedroom.”

Diamond’s cell phone was vibrating on the desk across the room. He wanted to reach out and shut it off before it woke her, but he was afraid standing up might have the same effect. Goddammit!

“And it’s black in my room, black as socks, and the boyfriend sat down with me on the bed, and he said, ‘You’re safe, there is nothing here to harm you…’ He was trying to put me to sleep, I think. He wanted to make me sleep. He said, ‘That wasn’t a snake you saw that was an extension cord.’ But then he told me if I turned the lights on the extension cord would become a snake for real and then there was no turning back. I asked him why… why it had to be dark, why I had to go to sleep.”

Brian’s eyes were blinded by the sky outside, on fire as the sun burnt out, heavenly pink and magenta.“What happened after that?”

“I had to go the bathroom. I snuk out of my room and the boyfriend was gone... and the dogs were gone... and there was a newborn baby on the kitchen table but it wasn’t mine… It wasn’t my baby... it just wasn’t. And I made it into the bathroom and I saw them in the bathtub and they were feeding each other chocolate. It was delicious chocolate and I asked them and they said no… They said no I couldn’t have any chocolate.”

“Who was in the bathtub, Sunny?”

There was a pause as Sunny licked her lips, sniffing.

Diamond waited almost a minute but couldn’t run the risk of her straying from the memory. Tears were falling from Sunny’s closed eyes, but she was too deep, too close to turn back now.

The doctor spoke low: “Who was in the bathtub, Sunny.”

Even in the trance she reached up to wipe away the water streaming into her ears. “It was… my Father... it was my Father, and he said…”

Her voice was thicker, quavering, as her chest heaved involuntary.

“He looked at me, and he was laughing, and he said…”

Sunny sobbing, fighting the emotion.

“He looked at me and he said-”

“I’m sorry,” the doctor interrupted, “but we’re out of time for today.”