Friday, December 9, 2011

a dream within a dream

by fan taser

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

bob woke up.

he had had a long confused dream in which he had purchased a rifle at a pawn shop and felt self conscious carrying it on the subway, and on the street as he walked home. then he had hidden the rifle in a closet. to hide it from his mother, who had been dead for thirty years.

then in the dream he had woken up and found the rifle in the closet, and thought, it wasn't a dream. i really bought a gun.

and then he really woke up. a strange dream, he thought, as he had never had any interest in firearms or weapons of any sort, and never held one in his hands.

he had fallen asleep the night before thinking of all the humiliating moments in his life. it had taken a long time to remember them all.

Friday, August 12, 2011

feast, part 3

by fan taser

illustrated by roy dismas

part three of three

click here for part one

bob had a terrible dream. he was thirty five cents toward a happy meal in death valley but a vulture kept pecking at him as he tried to get up out of the rubber raft on the floor of the big rig tipped over on its side at the beach, half in the gently rolling waves and half in the word "bumblebee" which he had to keep repeating over and over again. bumblebee bumbebee bumblebee don't leave me.... like all really terrible dreams it was very boring and repetitious...

suddenly he woke up. but he couldn't remember what he was or where he was.

after a minute he began to remember. he was a human. he lived on a planet called earth with other human beings, none of whom liked him very much. he wasn't a bumblebee or a happy meal. he didn't know why he thought he was a bumblebee. he had a toy dinosaur when he was a child, but a bumblebee? he knew what a happy meal was. happy meals were something to eat, although he personally preferred an all you can eat crab dinner at red lobster.

at the thought of "all you can eat crab dinner at red lobster" his brain cleared and he remembered everything. except why he was where he was - in a hospital. in a small semi-private room, with a sheet between himself and the human in the next bed, and a blank tv screen staring down at him.

"ah, the sleeper wakes." a skinny middleaged woman in a nurse's uniform appeared at the foot of his bed. "how are you feeling?"
"great." always a good answer.
"i'll get the doctor."
"thank you."

"i'm doctor mehta." doctor mehta made little effort to keep her mild disgust at bob's condition and existence from showing on her smooth face. she waved a small clipboard at him. "we had quite a time finding your particulars. we finally tracked down your employer. but we haven't been able to find your primary care physician."
bob just stared at her.
"do you have a primary care physician?"
"yes, doctor morris. doctor william morris."

"good, good. we'll give you some papers to fill out. can you handle that?"
"sure, no problem."
"your employer agrees that you are covered by their medical plan, even though you are on some kind of probation." she looked at him, as if expecting some argument or excuses.
"they didn't have your primary care physician listed. you should make sure they have it."
"i will."
doctor mehta looked at her clipboard. "do you know what day it is?"

"it's thursday."
bob thought briefly. "so i've been out two days?"
"exactly." a slight sneer on her face seemed to say, what, you thought this was a movie and you had been out for two years? but instead she said, "quite an accomplishment, considering no drugs or alcohol were involved."
"do you go on these eating binges often?"
"no. this was the first time."

she looked at the clipboard again and laughed. "well your weight, your blood pressure, other things indicate maybe it was. your first time. but you did inhale?"
"nothing, just a little joke. showing my age. but you do seem to have a serious glandular issue. were you aware of that?"
"yes, yes i was." come on lady, i've got a date with some buffalo fries.
"maybe you should discuss it with this doctor - morris? we'll forward our test results to him, once we get his address,"
"i've discussed it with him - he knows all about it."

"all right."
"can i get dressed and go now?"
"yes, you can go. we ask you to fill out some forms - "
"i'll do it.'
"and we'll give you some literature on bulimia and other eating disorders, in case you'd like to seek counseling, or join a twelve step program..."
"thank you." counseling, right. how about some fried oysters or onion rings? or a big philadelphia cheese steak? bob didn't know much, but he knew enough to tell people what they wanted to hear, and only what they wanted to hear. in only an hour and a half he was back in the parking lot, breathing in the cold night air.

he felt like waving his car keys at the sky and screaming for joy. he was alive! alive! and he had taste buds and a stomach! other people - like that doctor - what did they know? had they ever really lived? the doctor - she probably spent ten years in med school so she could bring up two kids that took piano lessons and that she fed seaweed.
bob got in the car. thrills of anticipation coursed through him as he turned the key in the ignition. he got out on the highway and headed into the throbbing, carb-filled american night.
denny's! popeye's! arby's roast beef! red lobster!

the end came quickly. bob died in his sleep eleven days before the six week limit the doctor had estimated. it took a few days before his body was discovered.

he had felt weaker in the last ten days. after passing out in an applebee's, he started bringing the food back to his apartment instead of sitting in the restaurants enjoying the atmosphere. then he hadn't felt up to driving, so he had starting ordering take out.
he had made an effort to keep cleaning up, but his bed was surrounded by cartons and cups, and there were also cartons on his dresser and in two overflowing waste baskets.

"look at this joker, he didn't eat too healthy, did he? there's got to be a lesson here."
"right. hey, why don't call up for some take out while we're waiting for the doctor?'
"no, i'm serious. i'm changing my ways - i mean look at this shit."
"o k, martha stewart. we'll stop and get you a salad on the way back. go light on the crou-tons, though."
"whew - ripe, ain't he? i need some outside air."
"son, this is nothing. this is the winter time. just be glad we're not picking this motherfucker up in august."

the end

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

feast, part 2

by fan taser

illustrated by roy dismas

part two

click here for part one

"he realized he had been walking blind through a garden of infinite delights" - paul de saint-girard, "les reverberes de marseilles"

pale afternoon light barely made it through the windows of the wendy's on the outskirts of town.

outside, the occasional rumbling and grinding of a big rig interrupted the steady whoosh of vehicles on the interstate.

bob sat by himself in the back, sipping his cup of still lukewarm coffee. a tray with a couple of napkins stared up at him. with only a few crumbs and small spots of grease on the napkins - the remains of two bacon deluxe doubles with fries.

it was the afternoon of the second day of the rest of his life. bob's brain was ready to burst with excitement.

once again - to bob's now somewhat diminishing amazement - neither the woman behind the counter or any of the customers had shown a flicker of surprise or contempt when he made his large order.

bob felt a slight twinge in his stomach. nothing to worry about, he told himself quickly - nothing to get in the way of ecstasy. his course was set - he would let nothing get in his way. no more fear! no more caving in to social prejudice!

still, a few flashes of bitterness could not help but flash through his brain - as he thought of all the lost years of tofu and salads and granola. what a fool he had been, what a blind fool!

but there was no time for looking back - only forward. he pushed up out of the chair - another twinge - maybe he had eaten the two bacon deluxe doubles a little too quickly - and went outside and got in his car.

there was an arby's roast beef directly across the wendy's on the other side of the entrance to the interstate. he was tempted for a moment to just go around the rotary to it. no, he thought, somebody might notice me and wonder -

he knew he shouldn't care if anybody did wonder about anything he did. but he couldn't change the way he was - why bother trying, with six weeks to live?

but maybe some state troopers or fbi agents would notice him going to establishments right next to each other and think he was a bank robber or terrorist planning a job and getting to know the territory! no, better to just be on his way and follow the schedule he had carefully mapped out that morning after a surprisingly good sleep.

next stop - a popeyes fried chicken about five miles away, over the county line. the "catfish meal" sounded like a good change of pace. and he would be hungry after the drive.

he turned on the smooth jazz station - the one he usually listened to - and eased his car - a navy blue 2006 hyundai tiburon he had bought with 24,000 miles on it - onto the interstate.

about halfway to the next exit traffic began to back up and then slowed down to a crawl. an accident? probably, but bob didn't bother to switch to the traffic and weather station. he was content - content to listen to kenny g and george winston as a few raindrops began to fall on the windshield.

his cell phone throbbed in his pocket. probably his old job, offering "counseling" again. thank you very much, but no thanks, he had other priorities - like some kfc double down chicken sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy.

he waited for it to go to message, then picked up. it was the job, but instead of counseling, it was some garbage about his 401k. he had never paid any attention to that stuff when he was going to live to be 100. he put the phone back in his pocket. the line was moving a little and a horn sounded behind him.

impatience! for what? bob wondered how many of his fellow riders on the highway of life were going nowhere, as he had been until the day before yesterday. "walking blind through a garden of infinite delights"

part 3

Monday, May 16, 2011


by fan taser

illustrated by roy dismas

part one

"he was outcast from life's feast." - james joyce, "dubliners"

when bob reached the bottom of the stairs, he felt proud of himself for taking it so well when the doctor told him he had six weeks to live. the doctor's office was in a small commercial mall, over a t j maxx discount store which was beside a burger king.

it was the middle of december, and night was falling early. bob turned to get to the wider part of the parking lot and his car, and his eye fell on the signs in the window of the burger king. bob had always been an assiduously healthy eater - and a lot of good it did me, he told himself ruefully - and had never in his life been inside a burger king, a mcdonalds or any similar establishment. he started to pass by, then stopped.

although he had only six weeks to live, he had nothing in particular to do. he was just going to go home and watch reruns of seinfeld and drew carey, like he did every night. suddenly he was hungry. on an impulse he went into the burger king.
he wandered wide eyed up to the counter. he stared up at the illustrated menus on the back wall. the two young women behind the counter didn't seem to think it odd that he took so much time looking at the menu.

a whopper! he had heard the term, but there was something unreal about actually seeing it on the wall. he stepped a little closer to the counter and one of the young women asked, "can i help you?"

"i'll have a whopper, please."
"anything with it? fries, onion rings?"
bob didn't laugh, although he might have if she had actually said, "do you want fries with that?"
"fries, please."
"anything to drink?"
"uh - coffee."
"how do you want it?"
incredible! he was actually ordering in a burger king! this was much more amazing than dying in six weeks.

when the order came - in less than a minute! - bob took his tray and moved to a table in the back as far from the other customers as he could get. he realized he had forgotten to take any napkins and got up to get some, keeping a careful eye on the tray he left on the table.

he returned to the table and sat down. he suddenly noticed how bright the whole place was. why did it have to be so bright? he picked up the whopper in two hands, hesitated, and bit into it.

and his whole life changed.

for the first time in his life, bob knew ecstasy. and that was just from biting into the whopper. when he actually started chewing, swallowing, and digesting it - tears erupted in his eyes.

time dissolved. his consciousness stood outside himself, watching himself devour the whopper. slow down, slow down, it told him - don't choke, don't choke yourself. and enjoy the moment.

he finished the burger and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls of the black coffee, barely noticing how hot it was. normal consciousness drained back into his body.

he looked at around at the other patrons of the establishment - mostly overweight teenage girls in blue or gray sweatshirts. nobody seemed to have noticed him and his transcendant experience. they were concentrating on their portions, in a manner both businesslike and blase.

he wanted another one.

now the problem began. bob was a very self conscious person - perhaps the world's most self conscious person. would he look silly going back for another one?

would the girls at the counter, the other diners, laugh at him, openly or secretly? no, he told himself, they didn't laugh or even notice when i stood gawking at the menu like a martian. surely they won't laugh if i just order another one? people must order seconds every day - wasn't that why americans were overweight? and yet - and yet -

with a supreme effort of will bob forced himself up out of his chair. the girl hardly looked up when he ordered the second burger. he went and sat back down with a barely suppressed sigh of relief.

he hardly had time to start thinking about the strange turns his now shortened life had taken when the whopper was ready. this is great, he thought, this is what the word "fast" really means.

he ate the second burger more slowly, "like a civilized human being" (one of his favorite phrases). and as he devoured the burger and sipped his black coffee - maybe he should start putting cream and sugar - two sugars! - in it - terrible and regretful thoughts started percolating in his brain.

part 2