Entries By Ian Rowe
Displaying 1 To 30 Of 74 Entries
The last time I saw my mother – she died while I was abroad – she stood with her back to me mixing apples and brown sugar and flour in a bowl in preparation for a pie she’d intended to make. She was a wreck then, my father having just left her, and she in the midst of moving out of their home and into the same apartment complex as my aunt downtown, and she kept forgetting she’d packed most of the kitchenware (spices and sugars included) as she stared at the boxes in the living room trying to remember where she’d put things. Jonathan, she said, not turning around to greet me, I need sugar and my pie pans. I think, I think they’re in one of the boxes marked – something, I can’t remember – Will you just see if you can find it for me? I walked around her and dropped to my knees in the living room, pulling my keys out of my pocket so I could cut through the hastily applied tape, and to my right my mother began crying. She eventually slid to floor, the bowl almost being knocked off the counter, and I pretended not to hear her sobs as tried to make as much noise as I could rummaging through every artifact of what used to be her life.Posted By Ian Rowe On 12.15.2012 @ 3:59 pm
Assad sorts through the clothes in the Goodwill donation bags. He opens them carefully, unlike his coworkers, who rip into the black plastic with great disdain, and pours the clothes from the bags with great care onto the floor. Assad has been given asylum form Syria, and he spends his days in the United States, in Macon, Georgia, spreading clothes across the floor of the 34th street Goodwill, where he is sometimes called “A-man” by his kinder coworkers, “Ass-Hat,” by those less informed. Still. He is patient with them. He goes about his work and tries not to think about the travesties taking place across the globe. But this is impossible, and he knows it. As he picks through the clothes he imagines they belong to the dead back in Syria. The holes he finds in t-shirts are not from wear but from gunfire, stains not from condiments but the righteous blood spilled by his unknown brothers and sisters. Sometimes when he sees the empty shirts and pants strewn across the spotted tile of the back room he imagines it’s like this back home; people he could have loved simply evaporated, separated from their bodies to be identified by a handwritten price tag and some sad, menial, arbitrary value.Posted By Ian Rowe On 12.13.2012 @ 8:16 pm
He left the ground like a cannonade. It was a violent, awkward departure – his shoes scraping the ground while gravity restricted his shoulders for those final few seconds before he lifted – and then, shocked, he looked down and realized he’d done it – he’d mastered flight. The thrill, unsurprisingly for a generation plagued by immediacy, wore off quicker than he’d anticipated, and soon he grew tired of flying over the tops of buildings, because, yes, he could fly, but it’s not like he was going anywhere new. So he settled down in a Wal Mart parking lot, walked into the store, purchased a six-pack of triple A batteries, launched from the parking lot (smoother this time) went back to his apartment, inserted the batteries into his electric razor, and he shaved. And that was that.Posted By Ian Rowe On 11.05.2012 @ 8:19 pm
How old do you have to be before it’s appropriate to ask the question: Am I a good person? Drunk and stoned by eleven-years-old. When do you count? When you lose your virginity? The first time you cheat? When do occurrences stop being isolated incidents and start being part of an integrated whole? Steal a car at sixteen. Overdose at seventeen. Rehab at a facility in the mountains. You break into your neighbor’s house when they leave town because you’ve seen their liquor cabinet from the times their daughter snuck you in through her window to fuck her. The first time you steal painkillers from your mother’s medicine cabinet. How old? You still did childish things. Still went to the neighborhood pool. Still had sleepovers. Just wait until the parents fall asleep. Sift through drawers, steal money, sneak out of the house. Wake up at noon and they feed you waffles? Did you kids have fun last night? Your brain is swollen. You should have been taken to the hospital. They almost found you cold this morning. Great time. Thank you. Breakfast is delicious. You keep your drugs under their porch in an Altoids container wrapped inside a ziploc bag. You’ll never be held accountable. Crushed up your father’s viagra and slip into a classmate’s drink in 7th grade. You write to no one in particular on sheets of paper in your desk drawer. Help me help me help me. Are you a bad person if you can’t stop? Raised by wolves? Not raised at all? Parents work the night shift? Dinner’s in the fridge, their leftovers from lunch. Enjoy the half a burger and an apple, unripe. How much adds up before it counts? How much?Posted By Ian Rowe On 09.24.2012 @ 2:05 pm
When he was born his father placed him into a bucket and said, “You will respect me,” and then rolled him down the stairs. He never cried again. When he was five-years-old he stole for the first time. He was caught by his father, who noticed his son’s pockets bulging. His father pulled out two packages of gum, an Arabic to English dictionary, a poem that would have brought world peace, and the cure for cancer. His father instructed him to place these items into a 55 gallon drum trashcan and then light them on fire. The scent of the gum, mixed in with the possibility of harmony, emitted a sweet rosewater smell that made the boy cry. Seeing his tears, the father made the boy eat the flame, and the boy never cried again. When the boy was sixteen he fell in love and was happy. When the father saw the boy was happy he intercepted the woman his son had fallen in love with and took him for his own wife. At the wedding, tears graced the boy’s cheeks. After cutting the cake, the father cut out the boy’s heart. He never cried again.Posted By Ian Rowe On 09.13.2012 @ 8:02 am
Mary stared into the thick brush behind the house they lived in — or the house they used to live in, starting tomorrow — for the last time. Behind her, faded from view by the sunset streaked glass, were dozens of boxes bound in all different kinds of tape, her husband too frugal to go out and buy more duct, the affect of this being that her things looked like they were going to be donated, not moved halfway across the country. New Mexico. What in God’s name was she going to do in New Mexico? She blew a stream of cigarette smoke into the air and watched it weaken and separate, but not before she had the passing thought of a cloud rising from her mouth and blocking out the sun, to the extent that everything on earth should wither and die. After all: if she could no longer enjoy California. Why should anybody else? She remembered suddenly Edward Cope, who had discovered a mass graveyard of Ceolophysis dinosaurs at the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Scientists were bewildered by the mass of fossils in the sand, and attributed it to a mass flood. But Mary knew better. Mary knew it was an act of God, who to her was just another angry woman, who had grown bored with her early primordial creations. She blew out another stream of smoke and concentrated and prayed hard for a future in which scientists would uncover a mass suburban grave and posture: It looks like everyone here died of boredom.Posted By Ian Rowe On 09.10.2012 @ 2:54 pm
Twice I saw the interior designer look up my towel; the main reason being I’d grabbed a hand towel, not a full sized towel, and so the small cotton square barely managed to cover what now sagged and rested on the hot and sticky wood. The spa’s pine scent brought me back to my office, our own sauna stuffed with buckets of egg-shell-white paint, and in the moment I hated more than anything my own rotten life. “I’m telling you,” he said again, he not bothering to lift his eyes from my crotch, “You’re cute. You could easily get a job selling apartments in the city.” I perked up. I was desperate not to go home. It was only my second day in New York, and already I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Next to me, Austin sat upright with his head at an awkward angle, small snorts seeping from his mouth. He was asleep. “Is there someone I can talk to while I’m here?” I asked. “Do you know of anybody?” The man smiled. “You free tonight? I’m having a party, I’m sure I have friends who could help you out.” “That would be amazing,” I said, oblivious to the fact the heat and probable alcohol poisoning hindered my cognizance. “Should I bring anything?” I asked. “Coke?” he said, and shrugged. We both laughed. A very long day began.Posted By Ian Rowe On 09.09.2012 @ 6:08 pm
The first woman I loved stabbed me in the finger with a pencil when I was ten-years old in fifth grade. The manifestation of my physical longing was because of this young woman, Courtney Conrad, and was the immediate result of a wardrobe malfunction, if that’s what you call newly useless clothing in the wake of young person’s growth spurt. I believe it’s continued usage is more commonly referred to as “Parental Ingenuity.”
In any case, on the day in question, Courtney, who was the tallest girl in Mrs. Clements class, was wearing a pair of her older brother’s overalls, as she had suffered the misfortune of outgrowing every pair of jeans she owned. To pair with this, she wore a tight pink teeshirt — also outgrown — and so between the top of her overalls and the bottom of her shirt showed a healthy portion of her midriff.
I had thought Courtney Conrad to be the woman of my dreams since the first time I liad eyes on her in fourth grade, however, in the wake of my exposure to midriff saturated music television (remember Christina Aguilera, Brittany Spears, and the Spice Girls?) I found myself hypnotized by the sight of her tummy every time she raised her hand, or twisted around to talk to Haley Chafin, or left her seat to walk to the classroom’s pencil sharpener.
As my own growth had stagnated (likely because of the over-distributed and under-tested Adderall I was prescribed to) I was several inches shorter than Courtney and so terrified to speak to her about the nature of my true feelings, which was the overwhelming desire to blow a raspberry or to play bongos on her stomach. The truth was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do to her. I just wanted to live happily in the space between her and her brother’s overalls, forever.
It happened during a pop-quiz for our Geography chapter, as everyone in the class was bent forward over their papers shielding their answers from any potential cheaters, which more than likely would have been me. Unable to take my eyes off Courtney for more than a few minutes at a time (even in the midst of a question about which layer of earth’s crust was liquid) I looked over and saw it by the grace of a sag in the baggy denim, the top of Courtney’s underwear. They were pink, and polka dotted, with a frilly white lining along the top. It took everything in my power not to write “My Heart” for which layer of the earth was composed entirely of molten hot magma. There was fire inside me, and a sudden unbearable tightness in chest — and my underpants. Oh God, No, I realized, in my charming elastic khakis: I was the unproud owner of a shameful adolescent boner.
Trying to be discreet, I reached under my desk for my textbook and thrust it over the top of my infinitesimal erection to try and press it down. But the little monster wouldn’t budge. I knew fair well what was happening to me, no thanks to my “progressive” New-Age parents, who took it on themselves to teach me about sex and the reproductive organs when I was five years old, effectively scarring me for the rest of my natural born life. My next idea came from my father, who had a habit of walking into our kitchen in the morning’s during breakfast in his underpants, which did little to conceal his monstrous morning excitement. My would often remark, laughingly, “Kevin, do something about that, would you?” My father would laugh back with his own stock answer: “Better splash some cold water on it.”
Keeping the book over the front of my khakis, I ran from my seat to the restroom, conveniently located behind the cubbies housing our backpacks and our art supplies. “Ian, what do you think you’re doing!?” Mrs. Clements shouted, as I rounded the corner and slammed the bathroom door behind me. I threw my pants and Lion King briefs to the floor (which, both being only elastic, quickened the process), turned on the sink, and frantically began splashing cold water on my eager member. However, What I failed to remember in my haste to the restroom was to lock the door behind me. I heard thundering footsteps, and Mrs. Clements shouting, “Ian Rowe, you’re getting an F for cheating!” and then the bathroom door swing wide open to the sink running, my pants at my feet, my penis nodding up and down, a puddle on the floor, and my right hand, soaking wet. Mrs. Clements threw her hand over her mouth in time to muffle an “OH!” which made the “whumph” of a pillow hitting a mattress, and she slammed the door shut and spoke to me through it in a muffled tone. “Ian. Make yourself presentable and get out of the bathroom this instant.”
I dried myself with several paper towels and pulled my pants up, and, having been unable to get my passion under control, left the restroom holding the textbook over my crotch. Mrs. Clements sent me to the office, and I was given a referral for “Masturbating during a Geology quiz.” In spite of my trying to explain myself, no one believed that I was only trying to control myself in the most logical way I knew how. (Truth be told, I wouldn’t discover masturbation until almost a full year later.) I was instructed to see the guidance counselor once a week until my compulsive behavior was deemed improved, and, as a direct result of this, my Adderall dosage was increased.
Due to the nature of gossip in the primary school setting, word of my lavatory activities spread, and I was soon given the endearing nickname “Boner Boy.” Come Valentines day that same scholastic year (the preceding events having occurred in October), thanks to the mind-numbing effects of mood stabilizers and the encouragement of elementary guidance counseling, I worked up the courage to give Courtney Conrad a valentine, which featured the two rabbit stars of the popular cartoon movie “Space Jam.” When I approached her with it, she raised her hands as if I was holding a gun at her. “Ew,” she said, scowling. “I don’t want that from you, I don’t know where that’s been!” Red faced, and unwilling to accept the shame of having to walk back to my desk with it, I placed it on her desk. She promptly brushed it off as though it were a cockroach, or some other disease ridden bug. The other students took notice, and started to laugh at me. Frozen in place by the stupidity of social pressures, I picked the valentine up again and placed it back on her desk. She swiped it off her desk again and picked up the pencil in a threatening manner. “I said I DON’T WANT IT,” she growled. “Too bad!” I yelled, and picked it back up, slamming it onto her desk, where I held it in place with my left hand, fingers splayed, as if to show her the brevity of my seriousness. Pushing back from her desk, she raised the pencil high above her head and said, “If you don’t move your hand, I’ll stab you!” “Do it!” I said, on the verge of tears. “I don’t care!” The rest of the class now huddled around us, silent, blocking Courtney’s and my standoff from the teacher, who had risen from her desk to see what all of the commotion was about. Making note of all the expectant faces around her, Courtney hesitated, and for a moment I thought I had won. Then, with the tremendous force of a hormonal girl in the early throngs of puberty, she brought the pencil down with a thud, stabbing me in the middle finger, and breaking off its tip in my flesh.
The lead is still there to this day.Posted By Ian Rowe On 07.07.2012 @ 3:03 pm
You think: if you wrote a story about a single minute in every single person’s life on the planet you would have some seven billion stories. You have written three previous novels that publishers kept calling “Near misses” and you decide that you have nothing to lose. You write the book. It takes you eleven years. When you started the book you were still on the cusp of being a young man and a grown man, but now you are on the cusp of being an old man. You are forty-one years old. The first year you spent delegating what time of day to make the book. You chose 2:30 in the afternoon, so that too many people weren’t eating lunch. You also debated whether or not to set the story in Central Time and honor the time zones, but didn’t want too many chapters of people sleeping, which you felt would be a cowardly way of finishing the book early. You wanted deified status, to be remembered as one of the greats, to see your name alongside your heroes: Orwell, Faulkner, and Dostoevsky. And so you spent eleven years writing a book. You list the chapters as ages. 0, 1, 2. The beginning of the book, much to your chagrin, is still mostly just sleeping, because this is what babies do. It is also much more shitting than you had envisioned. Similarly, the later chapters — 90 – 100ish — are much of the same. But still, after the first couple thousand pages, as the book climbs its way into more cognizant ages, the story begins to pick up. Stories of loss, self awareness, growth, self-discovery, and only slightly more paragraphs about masturbation than you’d originally imagined. Around 40′s you’re shocked to discover in many cased life begins anew; stories of divorces and affairs and drug usage and alcoholism and sex changes and Zoophilia and murder. Stories of people being electrocuted and falling in love and being electrocuted and falling in love and so much fear of death. There are thousands and thousands of pages of people trying to rationalize death, there own and that of others. You’re amazed when you re-read your masterpiece (which takes you seven years, making you now forty-nine, because you took a year off to celebrate writing your novel and disappeared in Cabo) by how much of it is pissing and shitting and fucking and crying and nothing and nothing and nothing and nothing. You’ve captured the human condition and discovered the human condition is composed primarily of boredom and fear. We’re bored because unintelligent and we’re afraid because we understand nothing. Your novel is broken down into hundreds of books the size of several Encyclopedia collections. The entirety of it fits into the shell of a semi-truck, which you have delivered to several publishing houses. It takes them five years and dozens of readers to make their way through it but they praise you as being brilliant, revolutionary, omniscient and celestial. There’s some changes they want to make but the answer is: yes yes yes yes yes. It takes them ten years to edit the book and another year to get it to print. The book is called “I” to capture the essence of existence and self awareness. Your collection fills entire bookstores; you are the only thing available to read. It takes the public 20 years to finish your book — as there are things the public simply can’t make wait, like their children and television shows — but when they do they too praise your genius, your ingenuity, the ruminative way at which you captured them. You are 85 years old when the offers start coming in to do book signing and book tours and talk shows, but by now you have started going slightly senile, and though you cannot resist offering praise for your work, you cannot pair to shake anybody’s hand knowing you’ve written about how much shit and piss and come has graced their delicate fingers. You cannot bare to look anybody in the eye knowing you’ve written about their despair, their longing, their hatred. On a nationally broadcasted television show, in the middle of an interview, you have a heart attack and piss and shit yourself and the audience rises from their seats and applauds you as your soul slips from your body to the chants of, He knows, he understands, see how he captures the very essence of us all!Posted By Ian Rowe On 06.23.2012 @ 10:33 am
He’s lost four children at an airport in Germany. He may or may not have done it purposely. He does not recall, as he sits at a slot machine and watches as his money disappears pull after pull after pull of the lever that spins an assortment of cherries and sevens and illustrated naked women. He did not know you could gamble at an airport in Berlin. His wife spins him around and asks where the children are. He himself is his own lost child. He has no idea where he is. He considers, briefly, the possibility that this is some kind of simulation. That he is not at an airport, which he is, as he sips on his drink on his seat in the airplane and wonders where he is going, as the pilot’s voice comes over the intercom and apologizes to everyone on the plane but there’s nothing he can do, and he’s sorry, he’s so so sorry as the plane tilts down its nose and plummets towards mountains or the oceans or some vast open plane and the man looks out his window and watches as the earth pulls the plane closer and closer to it, as if for an embrace, and the man closes his eyes, still not knowing where’s he’s going, and hopes that it’s at least warm there.Posted By Ian Rowe On 06.22.2012 @ 11:08 am
There are men who want women, and men who want to be women, and women who want men, and women who want other women, and the men who were previously men but are now the women desired by the women desiring other women. When we are children our feelings feel heartbreakingly surreal because through the course of our short little lives we haven’t lived long enough to describe the indescribable. We know tiny little pangs of lust; or how could lust live in tiny little bodies so pure? We are bursting at the seams for each other with a feeling we have no hope of ever understanding. And then we see chapels and dresses and ties and bands of metal — ignore people digging in caves for rocks and for their lives — so we can slip some gold onto someone’s finger and say, I do plan to take out all of my aggression on you when things don’t work out, I do plan to blame you for my failures, I do plan to commit adultery, I do think I love you, but I’m realizing now in this instant that I’m making a terrible, terrible mistake. But then, sometimes, in spite of our growing bigger, that tiny little fire rises inside of us and fills us full of love the way smoke fills a burning house. Sometimes we say what we mean and we mean what we say and we think back to those Dr. Seuss books and can’t explain why but we know that one fish is alone and two fish are happy and the blue fish is blue because he’s despondent because he too is one fish, alone in an ocean we haven’t even explored a fraction of, and we refer to the middle, which doesn’t mean complacency necessarily in the way of stagnancy, but rather that, perhaps now that we’re happy, we can focus on the things in our lives and others that actual matter. Or maybe it doesn’t mean any of those things: Maybe it’s just a test to see how long we can make a promise regarding something miniature that none of us grew up enough to really understand; that small feeling that stayed small because it felt better that way — something pure, and unfinished, and indescribable.Posted By Ian Rowe On 05.21.2012 @ 11:47 pm
David drew comics for a living; a syndicated comic about the Civil War called, “The Silly South,” which was not the most popular. What David had in mind was a cross between Garfield, Beetle Bailey, and Dilbert, though David did not want to glorify war, or make it seem fun, like Beetle Bailey did. David just wanted to show, through humor, how exhausting certain things could be. Like cognitive dissonance, or tentative race relations. Plus, everybody everywhere was tiring of family circus — especially in today’s age of Prozac addled dysfunction, where father’s fucked the mothers of their children’s friends, and mother’s drank vino and were fucked by the fathers of their children’s friends, and the children sometimes watched through the windows where one child would turn to the other and say, “My Dad is giving it to your Mom good,” and the child whose mom was “getting it” would chase the child whose father was “giving it” and the trail they made as they chased each other would be represented by a dotted line ducking over bushes and under fences where it would finally end in an adolescent’s beating and the end of an already precarious friendship. This is what family circus should have been depicting, and it wasn’t, which is probably why it had waned so much in popularity. No, David’s comic might have been arcane, outdated, and full of racist jokes; but at least it wasn’t Family Circus, that tired, tired punchline.Posted By Ian Rowe On 05.10.2012 @ 4:26 pm
The young boy listens to his mother and his older sister fight. The boy is eight years old, and does not understand certain words that are spoken more viciously than others, like they were acrid, like they needed to be spit quickly out of the mouth. Words like: resentment, cruelty, abusive, rape. The last word is repeated over and over again in a variety of ways. It is hissed, it is moaned, it is abandoned. The boy watches from a darkened hallway and is not seen, in spite of his hoping to be noticed. He gives substance to the shadows. The boy is under the misguided impression that if he walks into the living room the fighting will cease, that someone will embrace him. He was having a nightmare. He left the room to be comforted. In his dream, hands and arms dripped from the ceiling like tar and held down his arms and his legs, they covered his mouth and his eyes. When he awoke he didn’t scream or thrash his sheets but gasped for air, as though he’d been holding his breath, as though the dream with the hands was all the more real. That’s when he walked into the living room. That’s when he learned for the first time how much weight could be pushed from someone’s mouth, how everything could change with a single utterance, a confession, a cry, one for help or attention. And with this newfound understanding the boy speaks. He says, “I,” and then stops. He looks back and forth between his mother and his sister who have both stopped their fighting to stare at him. They say nothing. No one says anything. The boy has merely made mention to his existence, to his presence in the room, and the silence carries the rest. The silence, he learns, explains everything.Posted By Ian Rowe On 05.03.2012 @ 11:10 pm
You fight so hard not to believe it. When your wife asks where you were you say the pet store. The truth, in all likelihood, would have incited less suspicion. You were with your friend Mark watching a baseball game. The Rays won. The two of you were elated. So much in fact, you had hugged. Your wife crinkles her brow in the way that annoys you so much. Makes a face that suggests something smells funny. Whenever she makes this face, you want to call her a bitch. You want to call her a whore. You want to tell her you hate her more than you’ve hated anything in your entire life. She repeats you, which aggravates you further. The Pet store? She says. What were you doing at the pet store? In this instance, you suddenly wish you’d had children. Not to love, but to have things to make excuses for. For things like calling out of work; for going to themed amusement parks; for cheating on your wife. You try to conjure up the image of an animal. You can think only of the color gray. This leads to you thinking of gray animals: rhinoceroses, elephants, Komodo dragons. What? You repeat, which annoys her as well. Where were you again? She asks, narrowing her eyes. Her hand curls around the kitchen counter she leans on. You make note of how sharp her nails you look. This leads you to think of those slow motion kill scenes on nature shows. Lions taking down gazelles, tigers tackling water buffalo, crocodiles crushing the skulls of thirsty, unsuspecting deer. When Mark pulled away from the hug and kissed you, you were surprised at how unrepulsed you were. You acquiesced, assisted him when he moved to take your belt off. Your wife snaps her fingers. Where were? She asks. Her eyes are swimming. Gingerly, you place the palm of your hand on her cheek. I’m home now, you say, and make note of how warm she is, this woman who you’d love nothing more than to swallow whole.Posted By Ian Rowe On 04.29.2012 @ 4:48 pm
She noted the earring in the sink. She asked her husband about it. Happy Birthday, he says, and kisses her on the cheek. Where’s the other? She asks, and notes the box in her hands. It’s her birthday again, her husband isn’t there. They were just in their apartment. She has a house now, purchased with the money she made in the divorce. In the couch she finds the same earring. Her new husband is having an affair with the same woman. Who is this woman? She will find her. She calls her husband to the room. It’s her birthday. She’s in her car now, a one-year-old cherry red convertible. She bought after the second divorce. Her second husband was a senator who didn’t want a scandal. What do you want? He begged? Tell me what you want. So she bought the car, and now she drives. She’s earned a reputation. People call her different variants of poisonous things. Black Widow. Queen Cobra. A toxic woman. This has an opposite effect. Men find her irresistible. She makes love to them in her car, each time finds the single earring. She lives in Las Vegas and takes these men through the drive-through chapel and after they lay there, tired, the earring falls from their pocket. Each time she divorces each man she buys a new car and soon has a fleet of red convertibles that drive across the desert looking for new men with the same mistress, this vapor with a single earring. After so many husbands she names each car after each man. A convertible named Hank, Greg, Henry, Tom. When she marries every man in America she makes her way to more exotic men and buys exotic red convertibles and names them Pierre, Jean-Paul, and Aziz. After she marries every man she marries every woman and as women are perceptive they are the only ones who notice she is only wearing one earring and so they ask, where is your other earring? As it falls out of the pocket of every man in the world and as she drives each of her convertibles off a cliff in the desert like Thelma and Louise she chants to herself, I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.Posted By Ian Rowe On 04.17.2012 @ 8:49 am
A tiny man had fallen from the sky. He must have died on impact, I thought, or before impact from fright — I am no expert on tiny men, as I am a gynecologist — but his small broken body lay twisted near the hood ornament of my car, maybe a foot or so from where he’d landed and left a dent, an unsubstantial dent, as though I’d driven through a storm and been hit by a single piece of hail. Under the hippocratic oath, it is my duty to administer medical treatment whenever necessary, and so I leaned close to the motionless tiny man, the same size as one of the plastic army soliders I’d had as a child, and said, “Sir, can you hear me? Can you give me any indication that you can hear me?” And the tiny man did not stir, did not make a sound, and so I leaned closer, and took great care to place my finger on his chest to check for any sort of pulse, but instead I heard a pop and figured I’d broken one of his ribs. I stepped back to look at the little man. His head faced me and his eyes were closed, his arms and legs bent so that it looked like he was running toward something. The clouds overhead seemed to pass under his body as they reflected in the hood of my car, and it gave me the impression he was falling again, that he looked like this as he hurtled through the air and probably died of fright, but not before he’d smacked my hood, not before he thought something we’ve all thought before, that is: “This world is much too big for me; I don’t know what I’m doing here.”Posted By Ian Rowe On 04.04.2012 @ 12:04 pm
Rod Carlson rose from the dining room table to answer the front door, albeit rather angrily, perturbed that someone had not thought it too late to bother him and his family in the middle of their dinner, his favorite of the week — Thursday — Beef Stroganoff night. When Rod opened the front door he only got halfway through a very aggressive “Can I help you?” Which came out, “Can I –” Before the person on the opposite side of the door interjected, “Yes, Rod, you can.” That person was Jesus. Jesus, as in the Christ, not the Mexican. “Jesus Christ,” Rod said. And Jesus didn’t say anything because he knew Rod meant the expletive, not his name, and, frankly, Jesus was tired of being the straight man for that same, tired joke. In fact, if Jesus wasn’t the same forgiving Jesus we all knew and loved today (save for the atheists, who saw Jesus as more of a spoiled, silver-spoon Mitt Romney type) he might have started sending people to hell for these awful, awful jokes. Rod stepped aside and waved Jesus in. “Please,” he said, “Come in.” And Jesus did. And then he drank Rod’s blood. Because everybody knows that vampires can’t come into your house unless you invite them in yourself.Posted By Ian Rowe On 03.10.2012 @ 3:38 pm
J.P. Henderhorff was old. But, more importantly, he was comfortable. He had just settled into to the large blue recliner that conformed so perfectly with his angular, bent frame, the lovely blue chair that was a gift from his grandchildren, when the fire alarm for the building went off. It was just then that J.P. noticed his apartment was opaque, that there was indeed cloud shapes floating past the insides of his windows that wasn’t smoke coming from the oven, that his wife hadn’t forgotten about a tray of sweets that was burning, because he was constantly forgetting that his wife had been dead for four years. Fell down the stairs on her way up from grocery shopping. Slipped on a slimy new egg she had dropped. J.P. let out an old man’s “Oh!”, the kind of sound flour makes when you pour milk into it, the sound of things being both dry and wet simultaneously, and he rose slowly from his chair, wincing in pain when both of his knees popped. Pop, pop, pain. J.P. stared at the door in front of him, saw the smoke sneaking through the bottom now in little billowy puffs. And he thought about the stairs. All those God damn stairs he was going to have to walk down. Who says you can’t use an elevator in a fire, he thought. Who the hell says. But the thought of the stairs again exhausted him. There was no way an old man such as him was going to be able to make it down eleven flights of stairs, his knees popping painfully all the way down. He bent his knees slightly at this, and allowed gravity to take over, fell backward back into the chair, reassumed his comfortable position. He nestled in and closed his eyes, breathed in deep through his nose and smiled in anticipation of the baked goods his wife would soon be waddling out him, her asking who was hungry while the platter smoked between the mittens protecting her fingers.Posted By Ian Rowe On 10.23.2011 @ 9:27 am
On the desk in his bedroom he had written on several hundred sheets of paper over and over again in black ink, “She’s mine, she’s mine, she’s mine.” He had repeated these words to himself the second he learned about her pregnancy considering the fact her fiance and her weren’t sleeping together at the time; but they were. The two of them, but he had never voiced his declaration, only swallowed it and felt it burn going down like coffee that hadn’t yet cooled or maybe nothing like a simile but maybe just the way words did, the kind that carried weight and weren’t ever meant to be digested but rather sung or screamed as his was an injustice that was insufferable. She’s mine, she’s mine, she’s mine. She was his, that little girl, that little girl who had been handed to that weak-chinned man with thick wrists after she had been bled out of her mother and given a name our protagonist had nothing to do with. Still though, it was a beautiful name. It was a beautiful name the little girl would never hear come out of her father’s mouth despite being a name he would often whisper to himself years later as he sleep, inadvertently whispering to himself with his face half submerged in a sea of muggy pillows: She’s mine she’s mine she’s mine.Posted By Ian Rowe On 10.10.2011 @ 11:25 pm
Suppose you slept last night. Suppose you brewed a fresh cup instead of reheating the two-day old leftovers in the pot. Suppose your forgot it on your way out the door. Suppose you never got her pregnant. Suppose it’s yours. Suppose now he’s raising your daughter as per her request to not get involved, to not break her home. Suppose you never met that girl, or that other one, or the other one. Suppose you never got on the plane. Suppose you never caught her sneaking out under the garage door. Suppose you didn’t come up for air after you jumped off the hotel roof into that pool and drowned with your friend who hit his head, but you didn’t know, because when you saw the lights you just ran. Suppose you told his parents what happened. Suppose you never did drugs. Suppose you never hid behind a door while your father stumbled through the house looking for you with a broken beer bottle when you were twelve. I’m in quite good health, I suppose. Suppose you never fell in love. Suppose you never followed her pair shaped ass upstairs to her attic apartment. Suppose you took that job instead of staying to take care of your sick mother. Suppose she gets better. Suppose she doesn’t. Suppose the ticking of your heart counting down all the hours you have left like a finite clock. Suppose things get better. Suppose they do. The what’s supposed to happen?Posted By Ian Rowe On 10.04.2011 @ 8:07 am
There was a time in the fifties when people in their living rooms were closer to the secret of existence than we contemporaries now can ever hope to be. If you are one of the lucky few in possession of a television that isn’t the receptacle of a $95 a month cable package with 750 channels of which 700 go unwatched, you should turn it on and find a channel that doesn’t receive signal and you will see there, static. But it’s not static. The static is the pickup of radio waves being sent to us from the outer edges of the universe, just beyond quasars, the most distant visible thing in said universe. As you stare into those scratchy sporadic lines and cracks, a hundred million static ants crawling across the screen at the speed of lightning, remember, it’s so much more than that. It is history. That amorphous static will outlive all of us, holds more weight than any greatness any of us hope to achieve, and with this revelation, it’s hard to imagine that everyday we still wake up and work 10,400 hours a year and spend the rest of the time tuned in to any of the other 749 channels that aren’t really saying anything outside of what’s happening in existence right now, that none of it will mean anything, that all of it is transient. Why do we do these things to ourselves? Why?Posted By Ian Rowe On 10.02.2011 @ 3:23 pm
He tied the rope into a braid and then slipped the ends through other ends to form the knot and loop that he would wrap around his neck and at the last minute decided that he didn’t want to have to kick away a chair and so he went into the garage and grabbed a ladder climbed a tree and secured the rope around a branch but decided than that he didn’t want to hurt the branches and so he went into his garage and drew up some blueprints and began work on a gibbet with a self-releasing trap door so that he could fall the length of a good standard drop and he decided to do so in his front yard where at first the neighborhood children asked what he was building and then eventually the rest of the neighbors until pretty soon all of the cars in the community would make it a point to go out of their way and drive down his cul de sac to see how the gibbet was progressing and when the day came of its completion the neighbors arraigned chairs all along the front of the yard to watch him finish everything that he had started with what seemed like a very permanent solution and so he climbed the wooden steps he had build and wrapped around his neck the rope he had braided and smiled into the faces of the crowd and said, God it’s all so arbitrary, and kicked the lever and was happy because for once in his very brief life he finally had control of something.Posted By Ian Rowe On 10.02.2011 @ 12:05 am
Trisha Vangates, for her husband Marty’s 50th birthday party, had thought it would be entertaining, for her husband and for the rest of their guests, if she hired a hypnotist to jump out of Marty’s one story tall flaming chocolate-vanilla cake and perform little tricks for a small portion of the evening — but only after a fair amount of alcohol consumption, otherwise the guests might have found the gesture tacky, Trisha worried. And so it was, three hours into the party, when the faces of Marty’s school friends and business cohorts and investor buddies were flushed with color, did she have the cake wheeled out. Where the hypnotist burst out with a fit of joy, and threw down a ball and disappeared into a cloud of smoke and then reappeared across the room and shouted: Who wants to be a volunteer!? A herd of men and women jumped from their seats and ran to the small raised stage where the man in the coat-tailed tuxedo stood, grinning, his small stature hidden by his very tall top hat. And so he began his feats and made Marty’s friends believe that they were ducks and cows and pigs, and he eventually called on Marty’s associate David Astburg, who was waiving his arms wildly like he was drowning in cold water, and he called him to the stage and brought David into a trance and made him believe that he was a deer. David dropped to all fours in imitation of a quadrupedic herbivore, and began sniffing around the stage for any grass. Before the illusionist could snap his fingers and make David believe that he was a person again, Raybon Durrance, an old friend of Marty’s from college, who had had too much to drink throughout the course of the entire evening (as was his custom), pushed his way to the front of the stage and grabbed the hypnotist by his lapels and said, “Do me now! I want to be a dinosaur! Make me believe that I’m a dinosaur!” And when the hypnotist told him to wait just a minute so that he could tend to David Astburg, Raybon groaned and tilted his head back like he was trying to catch drops of rain in his mouth and then headbutted the man, knocking off his top hat. The man picked himself and excused himself, bleeding profusely from his nose, and ran out of the Vangates palatial living room without so much as saying goodbye or picking up his cap. Corine Astburg, who watched without amusement as each of Marty’s inebriated friends was turned into a barnyard animal, rolled and her eyes and sighed, because David was still on stage on all fours, biting between planks of wood as though he were looking for something. She asked Trisha Vongates for a collar and thanked her for a lovely time and proceeded to walk David to the car. She led him with the collar into the backseat of the car, and she watched him stare without expression into the rear view mirror. Corine couldn’t help it. She began to cry. Not because of her husband’s newly found catatonia, but because now that she had a deer for a husband, she would have to move into the country.Posted By Ian Rowe On 08.18.2011 @ 6:40 pm
You don’t not know when you’re doing something wrong. Two of them won’t make a right, like three lefts will, and it’s not like you need validation, but sometimes it would just be nice to get those kinds of things. For example: did I need to throw my roommate’s cat in my car and release it on the middle of the interstate just because it shit in my room? No. Probably not. But it certainly felt like I was doing the right thing. But it’s not just animals. It’s people, too. Should I have fucked my girlfriend’s twin sister at my own sister’s wedding just because my girlfriend said that I looked like an idiot in that tie? It’s unlikely. But I’m only human. I can’t always have all the answers.Posted By Ian Rowe On 08.11.2011 @ 3:23 pm
Really, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. People were being blamed for it, because blaming people felt better than having no one to blame at all, but, if you had to blame anyone or any one thing it should have been the location, but even then it’s hard to place blame because how can you pinpoint a phenomenon, which is exactly what he was trying to figure out. But that’s besides the point. The point is, people were being blamed. Her mother placed both parts equal blame. She blamed her daughter for marrying a fulminologist and she blamed her son-in-law for moving her daughter to Florida. The Son-in-law also blamed her daughter, his wife, for being so God damned stubborn, but he also blamed himself for trying to convince her that it could wait until morning, that they could use their cell phones as alarms, that no one needed to get out of bed right this minute to run downstairs to trip the breaker. Right before she tripped on the stairs she blamed her husband wholly, although she might have reconsidered and blamed herself for trying to prove a point, but, after her neck broke, there really was no going back on that kind of decision making. Her father blamed the carpet company for not pulling the carpet tight enough so that the fall might have been avoided. The carpet guy blamed his drug dealer for running out of the regular stuff he smoked and so he had to pay extra for the stonger stuff that made him lose his concentration. But what’s most amazing is that during the course of all this blaming no one thought to blame the storm that brought the lightning that knocked out the power that angered the wife that compelled to her to get out of bed and march down the stairs and fall to her death.Posted By Ian Rowe On 07.25.2011 @ 4:06 pm
I had made my decision to sleep with Emily based on a misconception. “I’m flaky,” she had said, and this led me to believe that if we consummated the dull evening we shared together I would likely never hear from her again. This was back when I was still living in Brooklyn; when I could still wake up smelling bagels at 5:30 in the morning because the sun beamed right into my room and the train rattled right next to my window. I had a living room with a bed, a bookshelf, a bathroom and a microwave. But I didn’t need to microwave. I had the bagels. If it wasn’t the train it was the polka music creeping up through the floorboards from my landlord’s room below, and if it wasn’t the polka music it was the nightmares I was having from sleeping in the top floor of a tenement building that didn’t have any air conditioning. And when Emily started sleeping over that just made it worse. I would lie there, awake, feeling the transfer of her body heat through the mattress as it seeped into my pores and filled me with intrusive fervor. A reminder of my sordidness, it made me miserable. Emily would show up nightly because things she had seen throughout the day had reminded her of me. The shape of an apple in comparison to the shape of my head. The smell of a man walking past who used the same laundry detergent I did. The sound of someone coughing. A word someone used on the subway. The fact that the sky was blue that day, and I had once told her about a time that I wore a blue T-shirt or held a blue crayon or once blue my nose and there was room for some unrelated connection that she had drawn together, like an actuary studying precision models, like Ptolemy arguing that the universe revolved around the earth. What bothered me most about Emily was the fact that while I was constellated with precipitation because of her relentless warmth, she was always smooth and dry. The hair never matted to her forehead, and salt water never formed a surface on her skin, or collected in the small of her back. When she asked me once if I loved her, I said. You can’t mean that. And it was easier to sleep after that. It was still warm. But at least now I could stand it.Posted By Ian Rowe On 07.10.2011 @ 9:17 pm
Sean hadn’t expected the accident to change his brain chemistry. The fever dreams were worst. Last night he broke the neck of a lion cub in a hotel pool because it was the only food around for miles. They were alone in the middle of the jungle. They were alone in the middle of a disco. He was alone in his living room, sitting up and sobbing. The sound of snapping bones were still ringing in his ears; popping like slipping gravel. The feeling of the smallness of that imaginary things neck was in his hands, a sensation that never existed, and yet, it did, because he knew exactly what it felt like, or at least it seemed that way. In the darkness of his living room he could make out only the looming shapes of things, the empty space that his wife used to occupy, and the sound of new, unsettled quiet that echoed off one less body in his dusty, gray home.Posted By Ian Rowe On 07.09.2011 @ 7:54 pm
He crept out closer to the ledge and looked down, steeper than he thought it would look. His eyes adjusted to the depth and he began to notice intimate details of the ground below the same way you would familiarize yourself with the wrinkles of an old lover; by staring, by looking for something. The ground rose up to meet him and laid his cheek gently on the cold, rough surface. But he hadn’t been looking down at anything. He had been laying on the sidewalk. Only it wasn’t the sidewalk, it was the road, and there was a car coming. He rolled over three times toward the gutter to avoid being run over by the car. It was a cab. The cabbie got out and started screaming at him for lying in the middle of the road. He was saying something about not having five dollars. He wasn’t getting out of the cab, he was getting into the cab. He had been inside the cab and the cabbie had thrown him out for not having five dollars. He hailed the cab from the bar and watched the meter and then told the cabbie that he didn’t have any money and so the cabbie had thrown him out but before that he had been singing a song but drowning in the words. Karaoke. Super Freak, by Rick James, but before he had sang the song he met a man in the bathroom who told him he could channel Rick James if he just put a little bit of this up his nose. And so he did. And it was the last time he ever trusted a man with a woman’s first name.Posted By Ian Rowe On 06.22.2011 @ 7:44 pm
My first day as a substitute teacher I went to the wrong school. I remember my hands slipping off of my steering wheel as I turned into the parking lot next to the tall brick building. I slunk in through the side door because I was late to my first class as an adjunct. I remember scouring the empty halls looking for the classroom that matched the smeared numbers on the napkin I had used to write my instructions on. I remember that my footsteps sounded like gunshots with all of the bodies in the classrooms, nothing to absorb the sound of my heel bouncing off the tile floor, just black, metal lockers. When I finally found the room I thought I was looking for I walked through and loudly announced that I was sorry I was late, and found myself in the middle of a woodshop class. An older gentlemen, a Ghallager look alike at the front of the room, pulled his safety goggles off and balanced them atop his bald head. Can I help you? he asked. And I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket — in contrast with the spinning saw — and I knew it was the administration of P.S. 118 wondering where I was. I missed first period and made in time for the last half of second. In the desk I found the regular teachers instructions. “My students are to take a test today. No talking. If they do, don’t hesitate to take the test away. I have preemptively written John Henderson of my fifth period class a referral for disrespect. He will earn it without fail, just a forewarning.” When the third period class filed in I handed them the tests and then wrote the answers on the chalkboard. I said, “No talking,” and then watched as the class suspiciously copied down what I had written onto their paper. Most of my answers were wrong, and some of the smarter kids knew that, but it didn’t stop me from collecting their sheets and filing them into the teacher’s manilla folder. When the last test was handed in I opened my briefcase and pulled out a VHS of the 1930′s “King Kong” and then told everyone to take notes. One of the kids in the back said, smartly, “Shouldn’t you be teaching us something?” I wrote him a refferal and laid it on his desk. “I didn’t get this job to teach,” I said. “I’m just here to watch movies.” I took a seat behind the teacher’s desk and I did just that. I did nothing. I did nothing and I watched.Posted By Ian Rowe On 06.04.2011 @ 12:33 pm
He never quite knew when the dancing began. He didn’t know which song it was, or what time he played it, or whether or not anyone would be able to stop, or if it was even his fault to begin with. But people blamed him anyway. Marge Sanders blamed him for her broken hip when she couldn’t stop congaing down her stairwell. “An eighty year old woman shouldn’t be thrusting like that,” she’d said on the phone from her hospital bed. Then she requested a Frank Sinatra song. Susan Minnows blamed the station for her son’s spilling milk all over her new $3000 leather couch. “He was listening to the program, eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, and then out of nowhere my little pumpkin just started shaking like a mad man, jumping up and down on the couch and ruining each and every cushion.” She’d made it clear that he was to pay for the damages, but by her third time saying the word ‘liable,’ Eric had already hung up the phone to tend to the switchboard, which was lighting up in front of him like a small city on fire. All day the calls were the same. People wanted to know how to turn it off, when (or if) they would ever stop dancing, and what he intended to do about it if no one could. And, as luck would have it, no one could. The first death was reported a week after the initial show that had led to the dancing: exhaustion from excessive bossa nova. The hospitals were filled with rompers. Jazz and flamenco, can-can and cha-cha, fox trot and soft shoe, each and every bed full of jiggling, twitching legs and arms, hooked up to I.V. drips, because everyone was so dehydrated. Eric didn’t know what to do, and so he did what any reasonable man would have done in his shoes. He turned on the radio, tuned in to his own show, laced up his sneakers and danced, danced, danced.Posted By Ian Rowe On 06.03.2011 @ 8:55 pm