Bricklayer (Prologue)

Every day I see the bars.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….. FUCK!!!!!!!

Every day I see the bars. I live behind them. They grow from the ground organic and symmetric, in perfect parallel lines, interlocking to form the fourth wall, to keep me from the three dimensions. They don’t need food. They don’t need water. They were forged from iron and steel, the fingernails of the devil keep me in his sinister grip.

Fuck you, Satan.

Every day I see the bars. Every night I fall asleep to them, swaying in the breeze of the open air window, lazy and tired after a long day of holding me down, keeping me in my place, sealing my fate.

My fate is unsealed.

Every day I see the bars, every morning smiling wide in my open eyes like a set of fresh-brush teeth. They grin.

“You’re not going anywhere.”

They all of them, they wrote me off a long time ago: I’m an ignorant, I’m a lifer, I’m an animal.

They’re all wrong. All the people and all the bars. I’m a person. I’m a human being. With a taste for the bloody things in life. I order my steak rare just like you do. The only thing that separates us, the only dividing line: these bars.

These fucking bars.

I live behind them. Every day they mar my vision, they poke my eyes. People need to stop yelling at me. That toothless fuck Brewster in the mess hall every day, opening his mouth full of prison mush, making me look it, "Wanna bite, Ricardo?" One day I'll put my fist down his throat and choke him to death slow and pretty.

I see them. I see the bars. Every day I make the walk: down the line, the painted line on the concrete floor with the other inmates, the painted line parade that leads us in a circle. Around the other faces. Around the second floor cages. It’s supposed to break us. Maybe I don’t break.

Maybe I broke a long time ago.

I’m coming out soon, to the world you call home, to the jotunheim, to the lap of your loved ones, to your kitchen table good and proper that shines in the sun you call your own. I’m going to overturn your shaker of salt. I’m going to spill your pepper.

I do bad things, I know that. But that’s only because that’s what I want to do. That’s what’s inside me. Bad things, I suppose. Those are your words. Dark things that feel good. Somebody has to do the bad things. It’s a gift. It’s a fucking calling.

Every day they let us out from behind the bars so we can build the wall.

Day after day they march us to the construction site. In straight lines like soldiers under guard. Day after day they tell us to lay the bricks. It's our day labor and we have no choice: we build the building brick by brick, grids of geometric block stack to reach the heavens. To summon the hell. We build the wall. The prison is expanding. The jackets watch us and they laugh. They beat us with Cypress branches. You get not to feel it and the blood it clots eventual. I don’t no longer see faces. I want to break the wall. I want to topple those bricks to the ground.

In solitary it’s so quiet I can hear the wolves crying. I can hear the ones separated from the pack, lost and lonely, looking up at the moon and praying they were not alone. Sometimes in solitary I howl along with them. The howling doesn’t help because the jackets and the men they think I’m just a madman. Maybe they’re right about the wolves. Maybe they’re right about the madman. I'm the madman.

Every day I build the wall. I do what I am told. I eat my day's labor and cough up dust. Every day I stack the bricks. I was not born for this: I was not born to be slave for a society lie. I was not born to die a broken. I been drawing maps in my notebook. Maps and plans and smiles and schedules. You don’t need to know dates and times. You’ll never see me coming. Words have been underlined in pencil. Underlined in pencil several times. I have the idea. I was not born for this. Every day I build the wall. Every day I see the bars. I live behind them.

But not for long.

Microwave Magic

Congratulations on your purchase of a new Conmar Microwave Oven Cooking System! This state-of-the-art food preparation unit will completely revolutionize the way you operate your home kitchen. With this new 100-watt microwave powerhouse you can do things you’ve never been able to do before:

- Make crisp bacon in under four minutes

- Melt butter for lobster, shrimp and personal use

- Warm up the cat on cold mornings most likely

- Make a successful sales presentation and earn that promotion

- Soften ice cream, because sometimes when it’s a full box and the spoon goes in and it just won’t dig

From this day forward your family’s mouths will start to collectively water when they hear the musical hum of their new Conmar Microwave (ear protection recommended). In no time at all the whole family will be microwaving things just for fun, and that’s just the start of what you can do:

- Take your microwave to the beach and set it out on a blanket

- Encourage your microwave to take up a musical instrument

- Bring your microwave with you to the Clint Eastwood Film Festival

- Strap your Conmar microwave to the roof of your car and parade it around the neighborhood, rubbing your neighbor’s faces in the glory of your latest consumer acquisition

It also heats cold pizza. Enjoy!

[Not responsible for radiation or carcinogen leakage. Not responsible for Talking Foot Syndrome. Some items not microwavable. Not responsible for any items accidentally microwaved into parallel dimensions. Do not use microwave as flotation device. Not for use by Leos or Pisces. Some glowing of the skin is considered normal. Microwave rays may or may not warp space-time. No longer responsible for bladder accidents]

Untitled 92

I’m watching you from across the street. You left work early. You’re going out for drinks with the girls.

No, I’m not insane. I’m not a stalker or a madman or a psychopath. This is the first time I’ve ever done this. As a matter of fact I had to force myself to do it. I had to force myself to observe, to be witness, because this brain of mine is slow to uptake. I’m not fast on the download.

You could have been in my arms. You could have been whispering in my ear. We could have had that conversation we’ve been needing to have. Or we could have spent the afternoon in each other’s arms, saying nothing at all, steaming and simmering and melting into one another good and slow and thorough.

But you’re going out for drinks with the girls.

That’s all. You’ll never read this draft. No one ever will. This goes right to the recycle bin. It doesn’t matter, nothing matters, not even this afternoon.

Wolverine Pizza

“This is the story. This is the one. This story is gonna suck you in, this story is gonna suckerpunch you. Coldcock you. Knock you out cold. Like ice cream cold. This story is going to steal your wallet and bang your girlfriend from behind.”

Guzzleman sat up. “Too far.”

Bader nodded. “I did, I did take it too far. I apologize for the wallet remark. But’s it’s still a great story.”

Guzzleman had a feeling it was going to be hot garbage.

Still, he leaned back in his orthopedic chair, the custom cushion molded to his rollercoaster spine, the soft of the motorized roller working deep-tissue on his back. He lowered his belt under his gut and let his belly hang free. Outside the sun went behind a cloud. And stayed there. 

“Okay… hit me.”

It was just the two men in the office, dim now, Guzzleman behind his desk, Bader on the ergonomic chair facing.

“A guy is out there. Somewhere. In the wilderness, the arctic wilderness. Like Alaska- you understand Alaska. He’s out there, and this guy is hiking, and maybe he’s got a big bushy mountain man beard, and for some reason he trips and falls or something, and he comes face to face with this furious wolverine. And the wolverine is growling, and he’s looking at the guy with a raw hunger, a bloodlust…”

Bader, a small man in track pants, stood up and bared his teeth at Guzzleman, his voice a low moan of animal menace.

Guzzleman: “Don’t do that.”

“Okay,” said Bader, sitting back down. “So the guy runs- he runs from the beast, and the beast chases him and they run and run and run- and the wolverine is snarling and screeching, and he chases our guy at least a half a block or two… and they’re both exhausted from the chase, and they both stop to rest, just to catch their breath. And then comes the avalanche.”

“Let me guess…” Guzzleman put his hand to his belly and rubbed. “The guy gets buried in the avalanche and the wolverine digs him out.”

Bader shook his head, grinning. “Nope. The wolverine gets buried in the avalanche and the guy has to dig him out. It’s a switcheroo! The wolverine is so grateful he lets the guy domesticate him and make him his pet. The whole story gets a ton of media coverage- like from the PETA people and other assholes like those people? And the guy winds up with a ton of reward money. Well we find out his lifelong dream had always been to buy a pizzeria, so he does! Now the guy owns a pet wolverine and runs his own pizza parlor. That’s our pilot. The adventures practically write themselves!”

“What do you call it?”

“Wolverine Pizza. And it’s kind of a subtle play on words because that’s the name of the pizza parlor additionally. In the story.”

“The restaurant was called Wolverine Pizza before he met the wolverine?”

“God, no. He renames the place Wolverine Pizza. In honor of the wolverine.”

Guzzleman’s head bobbed, considering. He sunk his bare feet into the office carpet. “What kind of adventures do they have?”

“Anything!” Bader said, “They solve crimes, they bring pizza to shut-ins… in one episode they meet the Governor.”

“Do you have anything else?”

“You don’t like Wolverine Pizza?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Okay, okay…” Bader scrolled his finger down his tablet computer. “The ideas have just been coming so fast these days- I have so many good ones. It’s like a spigot of imagination- you know like one of those spigots you can’t turn off?”

Guzzleman took a peanut butter cup from the jar on his desk, unwrapped it and popped it in his mouth.

“Oh wait! Okay! Here we go! This is the story that’s gonna overload your powerhouse. I call it Midnight Hour. It’s about this group of insomniacs, and they just can’t fall asleep.”

“I figured as much.”

“So these people- they come from all walks of life- they roam the city all night until they finally all meet up with each other. Then they decide to form a club. An insomniacs club called Midnight Hour- that’s where the title of the show comes from. And every episode takes place at night.”

Guzzleman, chewing chocolate, was too drunk to nod.

“So these, these insomniacs… they pool some dollars and they raise some funds, and they buy themselves an all-night laundromat, and you know what the action is like at those places.”

“Homeless people sleeping in tepid puddles of their own sick?”

“Mmmm no sick, it’s more like a meeting place, like a bar or a club or the singles scene or even better- a home away from home? Like a library or a furniture store? You have people coming in at all hours, worried about stains and static cling and maybe they’re re-evaluating their career choices and romantic relationships and the Midnight Hour Gang gets involved, they help people out, do good deeds, they help a wheelchair man learn how to play baseball so he can teach it to his son and give the kid good values…”

“How are they gonna teach a wheelchair guy how to play baseball? At midnight?”

“Oh, you know… stadiums have lights. But they do more than that: they reunite lost pets with their owners- and vice versa- they help old people set their microwave clocks, they bake cookies for disaster victims, they go on job interviews with people to boost their confidence…”

“Job interviews in the middle of the night?”

“And there’s gonna be a lot of laughs in this one too- tender laughs that make you think… tender but soft to the touch… firm, with just a little bit of the squishiness. Al dente.”

“The whole thing sounds kinda soggy… do you have anything else?”

“You don’t like Midnight Hour?”

“I didn’t say that.”

Bader stared hard at the solitaire game sitting on his tablet, tilting it so Guzzleman couldn’t see. He moved the Queen of Hearts on top of the Suicide King. “Oh, here’s another great one: The Magnificent Mother.”

“The Magnificent Mother?”

“The Magnificent Mother. It’s about a woman named Terlissa, and her ovaries get blasted with gamma rays during a gynecology appointment gone wrong- naturally her fallopian tubes go supernatural, and every week starts off with Terlissa nine months pregnant and giving birth to a new baby. But here’s the twist: it’s a super baby. Because of the radiation? The baby grows from infancy to age 21 in the course of five days, so each week is a heart-bursting, tear-jerking, gut-busting chuckle-fest where Terlissa has to raise the kid, teach him to walk & read & drive a car and cook a pot roast… every week ends with a very sweet moment as she says goodbye to them & sends them out to face life alone.”

“I hate it.”

“Also she’s being chased by aliens with laserbeams who want to liquefy her for some reason.”

“No. No. I don’t like it. You need to start thinking real. Honest. Powerful. With tits.”

“Old People Go Fast. We put hidden cameras in the hallways and cafeterias of nursing homes and then play them back at double high-speed to the music of Guns ‘N Roses. Like “Welcome To The Jungle” and stuff.”


“Zero Gravity Fun Time. Slow-motion shots of things that are funny flying in zero gravity. You know like a glass of orange juice or a harmonica.”

“We can't send a rocket into orbit for a TV show. That would be madness.”

“Jenny & The Hyena! The Egg Begley Jr Show! Toaster Vs. Microwave!”

“Now you’re just getting crazy. I think we should-”

“Eat Meat You Vegan Asshole! Zoomar & The Porky Girl! Senator Chimpanzee! The Tomorrow People!”

“The Tomorrow People?”

“They’re exactly like you and me, just a day early.”

Guzzleman sat forward. “I don’t think this is going to work, Bader.”

Bader fell back in his chair, collapse in defeat. Guzzleman stood up and walk the carpet.

“Times are tough in this industry: shitty ideas don’t sell like they used to. Hell, good ideas don’t sell like they used to. The money toilet has stopped flowing. The dollar is fragmented… it’s shattered… binary. We used to have to hire assistants to carry our wallets for us because they were so heavy… today we mine & scrounge for virtual half-pennies. The T-shirts make more than the movies, the movies make less than the apps. The apps don’t make anything. Art is dead, fun is over… the dream has been drumpt. And then there’s my personal life…”

Guzzleman looked out the window, the manicured grass of the studio office park, rolling over acres of hills. An actor was slipping gold caps on his teeth to play a rap artist in his newest music video.

“I’m seeing a therapist because I’m afraid my wife loves me. She does this thing where she makes me pancakes. My daughter’s a lesbian & my son is a gay- or maybe it’s the other way around. My doctor diagnosed me with black testicle, my friends have been fitting me for a coffin, and the upstairs butler thinks I’m spoiled and self-indulgent. I don’t even enjoy molesting the Mexican cleaning lady anymore. Not that that stops me. There’s no purpose to any of this. Any of us. No spark. No meaning. Unless you have something I can use, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to end this meeting right here. I need to masturbate and eat cheeseburgers.”

Bader exhaled, defeated. He stood up, tuck his tablet under his arm and headed for the door. Just before he left he stopped, turning to Guzzleman with nothing to lose.

“I also sell cocaine.” Bader pulled a freezer bag of Bolivian flake from his jacket the size of a small watermelon. He dropped it on Guzzleman’s desk, where it landed with a gentle puff of white coca smoke.

Guzzleman’s eyes were fixed on the bag. He stared for a long moment before turning his gaze to Bader and reaching for his wallet.

“Can you break a million?”