Preservatives [Tame Impala, “Alter Ego”]

January 14, 2011

There’s a woman on television discussing her extraordinary life.  Her neighbor snuck into her attic crawlspace and drilled pinprick holes into her bathroom ceiling and inserted cameras with views of her shower and toilet.  He bought the cameras from a web site that sold private eye equipment, and I calculate the cameras cost him enough to have purchased a decent flower bouquet and dinner at a fairly nice restaurant—a shared appetizer, two entrees, and an alcoholic beverage apiece.  And I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s about as much as a woman like her could have expected.

“Eat, sleep, go to work.  That’s all I thought I did.  Throw out garbage, take in mail, hang up on creditors,” she says.  “I had a very normal life.”  Her lower lip trembles.  Her eye shadow sends reflected studio light out into space.  She squints.  Her eyes are dull. She speaks as if she had been dragged on television to discuss things she’s normally too polite to mention, and I’m annoyed that she shares the details of her fame so perfunctorily. You have a camera locked on you and an upper lip that was waxed for the occasion, I think.  You are store brand tampons, comfort slacks, chamomile tea.   Relish it, bitch.

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In the Public Garden [Basia Bulat, “The Shore”]

February 26, 2010

He dressed the way one does in a stranger’s apartment–careful to make limited contact with the physical space–balanced on the balls of his feet, the lip of a sofa cushion.  Careful not to stumble into pants, to seem poised.  He wanted his departure to be elegant, if that departure was not to include the offer of a shower or a cup of coffee, gestures that communicate the sort of connection that just a few hours ago had grabbed and shaken them out of their clothes.

Early morning sun leaked into the room and glazed the peaks in the sheets under which the other man lay.  The men stared at different objects in the room:  a throw pillow that had been thrown, a watch on the nightstand, the steam pipe that rattled the way that only one of them was used to and could sleep through.

The act of getting dressed was like erasing the evening, scrubbing the dinner, the drinks, the bland broth of facts they shared about their lives across a table.  Each piece of clothing he slipped on left less evidence on the floor.  If they wanted to, soon they could forget the night they’d spent together, could spend nights with other men in other unfamiliar places.  When he pulled up his socks, there was nothing left of him in the room that he wasn’t carrying away.

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Long Division [Headlights, “Dead Ends”]

February 23, 2010

I tell Cass to help her younger sister Polly with her long division so I can sit on the Milloways’ back porch and smoke and watch the river move fallen branches and trash out of town.  The light bulb is burnt out, so I wobble on the edges of the steps like a fat ballerina.  There are constellations of lights up and down the block.  They snake up the river like a lighted path, or like an alert energy, something sentient.  God in a small town.

I haven’t babysat the Milloway girls in a few months, but I was available on short notice.  Yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Harriet Porter was shot by a vagrant as she was leaving her dog at the groomer, and she bled to death in the middle of the parking lot.  Mrs. Milloway owns the grooming salon, but even if she didn’t she would be at the wake right now, because that’s how people here are.

Lots of folks probably think that’s beautiful, the way small towns manage crises, as if we’re incorporated communities of better angels.  I’d invite those people to drop dead in that parking lot next to Mrs. Porter, see how quick we shovel over them, too.

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Slips [Ra Ra Riot, “Run My Mouth”]

February 17, 2010

Jacob was writing shit, piss, and damn on slips of paper and leaving them all over the house in an attempt to get me busted for swearing–a trail of profane breadcrumbs sprinkled in our mother’s jewelry box and by the instant coffee and inside my clothes hamper.  This was after I took a dirty magazine from him and told him if he tried to retrieve it from my closet I’d whack him with a tennis racket.  So, his revenge scheme was to frame me, and when I tossed these slips of paper on his bed he called me a faggot, so I turned his TV off and stood in front of it so the remote wouldn’t work when he tried to turn it back on.

I wasn’t going to take being called a faggot by my 9-year-old brother.  It was bad enough I heard it so often at school I’d begun to answer to it.  Faggot Gladden, at your service.

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Welcome to The Measure

February 15, 2010

This project is purely a work of play and vanity.  I have long enjoyed flash fiction (short short stories) and write them myself.  Recently, I’ve been working on a long piece of writing and, having hit a block, find that writing short shorts helps unclog the pipes.

As a music junkie, my iTunes is rarely silent, and as I write I find that the music I’m into influences my stories.  Characters demand playlists and entire soundtracks develop over the course of my writing process.  Music has a way of immediately tapping an emotional reservoir–it’s a jackhammer where literature is often a toy trowel (dig dig dig).   So, in order to inject some discipline into my writing life, I thought it would be fun to pick one song per post and use it as the germ of a story, and then share both, without comment or context.

In the nature of keeping content on this blog fresh, I’m giving myself a time limit of 90 minutes to produce each story.  After that, it will be posted in all its Frankensteinish glory.  For me, the point is less to produce polished stories than it is to simply have fun with production.

I’m excited to see how these stories develop and equally excited to hunt through my music library for inspiration.

Note:  All music on this site is copyright its individual owners.  It will be removed if requested.  All text is copyright me.  It will be removed if my icky monster of self-consciousness gets the better of me.


America’s Stonehenge [Anathallo, “Italo”]

February 15, 2010

I open the car door and toss a handful of pamphlets from the New Hampshire Welcome Center into Todd’s lap.  They slide onto the floorboard or lodge between the console and the seat, and he begins to fish for them.

“Read that one,” I tell him and point at a cheaply printed and hand-folded piece of green paper that has come to rest under the brake pedal.  “ I think we should go.”

He shakes it open.

“America’s Stonehenge,” I say.  “It is an arrangement of rocks in Salem that looks like an ordinary granite wall, only the locals cash in on some old mystic hooey stories and claim that it is in some way aligned with the movement of the stars or the site of Celtic sacrificial rites. And they have snowshoe trails and an alpaca farm, because why wouldn’t you want to raise alpaca next to your big fake megalith?”

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