Started on September 2nd, 2011
The dog was always there. Every cycle, every week, every day, any time or condition of weather. Chained by a 10 foot lead to a splintered and splitting doghouse; the dog was always there. Leon drove slowly down a row of Wax Myrtles, keeping the wing of his mower a safe distance from the trees’ base, towards the corner of the property that was adjacent to the dog’s residence. When he was behind the dog house, Leon eased the throttle back on his mower and turned the blades off. The combination of mid-Summer heat, four consecutive hours riding a large, slow-moving, mower, and muffled idling had softened Leon’s focus. He sat on the mower looking for the dog. He thought to himself, “Will I come to work one day, and the doghouse be gone? Will they even get rid of the doghouse when the dog dies? How much longer can I work here? Will I be working here when he dies? What if he dies alone, does he care, do his owners care? Why did they get a dog to leave him chained outside? Does he know how old he is?” Leon reeled his focus in and scanned the yard. The dog was laying down by a dead tree, an easy fossil to miss in a backyard filled with five year old storm debris. As soon as Leon sighted the dog, it stood up and walked toward the fence; it’s eyes were black, Leon had never noticed that before. He’d never seen a black eyed dog, and it sent his mind exploring again, “Does he know who I am? Does he want somebody to take him? What is he thinking about? Is that what death is like? Will I experience that, or some form of it?” Leon and the dog were staring at each other when someone with a weed eater walked briskly by, spraying the back of Leon’s mower and head with dirt, and broke Leon’s concentration. The dog’s coat was salt and pepper except for his face which was pure white except for the black patches of fur around it’s eyes, nose and mouth, leaving an impression of a monochromatic Mexican death mask, appropriately enough Leon thought. His soft focus had sharpened, and when Leon widened his vision he realized that the dog wasn’t staring at him, but pissing in the same patch of dirt that had formed from all the previous urinations. Leon moved the throttle to rabbit and continued mowing.
Nobody else liked riding the 4000 because it was monotonous, but Leon didn’t mind. He liked the time it gave him to think. He spent most of his time on the elevated triple deck mower in fields. His pattern was North to South or East to West. Sometimes he would listen to music, but this required a lot of set up; the earbuds had to fit just right in his ears so when he put the ear muffs on they wouldn’t pinch or smash, and his eyewear had to positioned just right so as to not gouge into the side of his head under the weight of the ear muffs. He liked the feel of the wind on his unencumbered face, and the muffled calm of spongey earplugs, so most of the time he would forego any devices and mow with his thoughts.
Leon was still thinking about the dog when he noticed a black lump in the field he was mowing. Today Leon had chosen to mow in a North/South pattern instead of East/West. If he had chosen East to West he would have encountered the lump much sooner in his pattern, but as it stood now he had mowed about half the field already, and would need about five or six more swipes before he would be upon it. Leon didn’t like to jump around when mowing so he kept with the pattern instead of turning off the decks and riding over to the mysterious black beacon; this gave him ample time to speculate on the nature of the object. “It’s by the baseball field, it could be a glove. But, I thought I saw it moving. That could’ve been the wind. It could be a bird, with a broken wing, or injured.” Leon’s sites were on a 21-day mowing frequency, so the grass grew tall during cycles, allowing the mystery object to remain hidden. “It’s probably just a sweatshirt.”
As Leon plodded along the next few lines of his pattern he almost forgot about the debris in the field. His mind instead reverted back to the chained up dog. He looked up occasionally in search of the other workers and what their progress had been, trying to get a feel for what would be left to mow after he was done with the field. Then, Leon was heading North when he realized he would be passing by the foreign object, not riding over it, but close enough to see what it was, and even get off the mower if it was interesting enough. As he approached he could see that it wasn’t just a sweatshirt, or baseball glove; it was moving, not purposefully though, it appeared to not even be voluntarily, but it was moving. About 10 feet out Leon pulled the throttle back, put the brake on, and lumbered out of the 4000, leaving it idle. The beacon was no longer a mystery, Leon could see the slight breeze rustling through it’s black feathers, a wing leap up and slowly lower down. It appeared to be pulsing, maybe it was a haze from the summer heat. It was a bird, a crow. And it was dying.
Untitled Story About The Future
Started on March 31st, 2012
Does fiction influence reality? Would the Behavior Adaptation Implant have been created without Philip K. Dick’s mood organ? Was the mood organ commentary on overprescription, or a prediction on the state of mental health in the future? Did he have any idea in 1968 that his commentary would be the basis for a mandatory implant for any working citizen in the United States; streamlined into every hiring orientation, investment meeting, marriage counseling session, etc. etc. etc.; unavoidable in practical, modern, life? Was it the basis? Will congress pass a law that requires placement in an inconvenient place?
Arthur closed his notebook and put his pen down. After a few seconds of observing the cumbersome, outdated tools he turned in his chair and looked out of the window of his 33rd floor office. Arthur Ale had worked his way to the peak of his building, because of this, his view of the encompassing desert was breathtaking. Any desert defies description. It has to be felt, witnessed, woken up to, and surrounded by, to have any kind of meaningful impact. Even in his current state, the beauty of the vast expanse of desert, hemmed by a range of mountains, was not lost on Arthur. The whole reason he moved West was for this view. Before his implant was removed he could stare out of this window for hours. Watching the sun lazily drift through the sky, like even it was tired of how hot it was, casting light and heat across miles of nothing. Now he saw it all differently, Arthur turned back to his desk, picked up his pen and reopened his notebook: Is that a mountain range, or just another building?
“The New American Landscape Initiative” led to sweeping redesigns of old architecture and strict regulation of new construction. NALI’s objective was simple, yet grand: restore the Great American Landscape. This was accomplished by forcing every commercial building in the country to install a “synthetic landscape simulator;” instead of store fronts with busted out windows or burnt out neon signs, a projection of the natural regional landscape would be shown. The East coast was restored to rolling mountains full of Dogwoods and Pear trees, with seasonally appropriate color changing leaves; thousands of acres full of tall, thin trees that you could imagine Confederate soldiers running through. Out West the industrial complexes were the main attraction. They typically encircled residential areas, to provide natural vistas for the community. The greatest range is said to be ExxonMobil GM, rivaling in length what used to be the Rocky Mountains; Verizon with Google is said to be planning the first bi-coastal compound.
NALI proved to be a short-lived benefit for smaller businesses that either couldn’t afford, or didn’t care about the relatively low maintenance costs that the simulators required. After a few years projections would fade, one dead pixel would become a group of dead pixels, and there were other immediate issues: landscaping conflicts, companies that didn’t hire planners were left to their own discretion. This resulted in mismatched projections: a row of crepe myrtles would be abruptly ended by a row of wax myrtles. Resulting in one tree that was half crepe myrtle and half wax. Three different types of grass would be growing on the same block. The great irony of NALI is its required use of the Augmented Reality Lens. All ARL’s have one mandatory function: when activated it allows you to see the business behind the projection, along with supplemental features based on the model you choose: lower end models will push a lot of context sensitive adds to you, while the higher end models can give you directions, vital statistics about people and businesses you are interacting with, or real-time translation of foreign languages. Brand specific ARLs provide discounts for entering an associated brand’s store or visiting their website, while also pushing advertisements. It wasn’t long before people stopped using their lenses supplementally and started leaving them on 24 hours a day, even while they slept.
Arthur switched to his ARL. Immediately he could see the far off mountain range was in fact another business, however, he didn’t know which one. Around him the landscape changed immediately from hues of orange and brown to rows of grey buildings, stacks of grey buildings, an endless matrix of grey buildings, whatever creativity the architects gained in the freedoms of NALI’s projections, they forfeited in actual architecture. Buy one get one advertisements floating by store fronts, unnatural illuminated colors flashing on and off, back and forth, zig zagging, and blinking; a faint red cross shaped beacon was pulsing in his peripheral vision, if he wanted to Arthur could have gotten directions directly to the beacon, he’d splurged on a top of the line ARL two years ago when he got his first promotion. Arthur looked down at his hand. A gouge where his implant had been was bleeding heavily, leaving a trail that ran down his palm and between his middle and ring fingers. He had lost approximately 4.3 ounces of blood and his heart rate had been steadily increasing from 68 to 89 to 100, 105; at 107 an ambulance would automatically be alerted to his condition. Arthur opened his office window so he could feel the wind blowing. It was one thing that could never be simulated or controlled, and it was always windy out West. He felt the wind push him briefly, whipping his jacket back and flattening his pants to his shins. 31 mph. He leaned out of the window to feel the wind even more. It took control of his hair, forced his eyes closed, pressed into his nostrils and mouth without permission. Without the barrier of the two interior walls he could feel the full strength of the wind, weaving in and out of his limbs, throwing his hair and tie in a different direction every second. Why was the window so easy to open?
As Arthur fell he continued to look down on the grey mass of buildings. With each passing second the buildings were getting closer, rushing up to offer him 50% off his first purchase with a new DiscoverAMEX card. He closed his eyes and turned the ARL off. When Arthur opened his eyes again he was falling through the side of a mountain. Leaving a long deep scar in the synthetic landscape as he fell; pixels of mountain were exploding all around him, fluttering like gold dust as he ripped through the shroud. 1s and 0s. Could that be it? Can you make a mountain out of 1s and 0s? And the last thing Arthur thought was: Do you have to program the ground to be hard?
When Arthur hit the ground it created an eruption of pixels that made his free fall look like confetti at a middle school dance; this was the president delivering his third term acceptance speech. For a few seconds it was all he could see: a blinding light being blotted out one pixel at a time; his breathe being knocked out of him caused a small upsurge of pixels around his mouth and nostrils, like his lungs were filled with the projection’s discharge. The ground felt surprisingly soft, definitely softer than Arthur remembered. As a matter of fact, it didn’t feel like the ground at all. Is this heaven? Am I in the clou…Two cacti grabbed Arthur by the armpits and dragged him off what looked like a small hill of dirt. Alright, listen up! Get this asshole in restraints and get him out of here! I want this scene clear in 15! Ladies and gentlemen the show is over, you can back to whatever the hell it was you were doing before. If you’d like to stick around longer I’m sure we could find a couple more pairs of restraints to suit you up like this window-jumping prick over here. Still being raked across the ground, and still disoriented from the fall Arthur looked around to see the accused rubberneckers but instead saw nothing but Saguaro, to make matters even more confusing, they were moving: dispersing in various directions, but all away from Arthur. As the two cacti dragging Arthur started lifting him off the ground he realized he wasn’t dead, wasn’t in Heaven or the clouds. He switched his ARL on and saw the inflatable landing pad that saved his life, passerby’s talking to each other about what they had just witnessed, a dozen or so cop cars with their lights flashing, and barriers formed in a semi circle insulating the officers and landing pad from the civilians.
Out of Pocket
Started on October 20th, 2011
The report was bad. It was bad for the community; even worse for the department, and everyone knew it. We were all expecting a big show from the Lieutenant; one of the those fire and brimstone speeches that he loved so much, supposed to motivate everyone, but he didn’t deliver. Prostitution had never been an issue at the beach, but the asshole at the local news station who runs one of those “What are YOUR tax dollars paying for?” segments changed all that. Everyone knew it was overblown horseshit, but the phone at the city managers office had been ringing of the hook since it aired and now they were demanding a “show of force.” Instead of standing in front of the department with a mouth full of bees, LT was calling everyone into his office one at a time to receive individual assignments. No one was allowed to discuss their orders, “just grab your gear and get out.”
On my drive down to the boardwalk the first thing on my mind was what LT had told the other officers. Everyone walked out of the office with their heads down, avoiding eye contact, when it was my turn to leave I followed suit; mostly because that was what everyone before me did, the assignment left me more confused than ashamed, but I didn’t want to show that confusion to the guys either. My assignment came way out of left field, especially for the LT. I had never done plain-clothes work before. Before the story hit I was just a beat cop on the boardwalk. The beach has always been squeaky clean, it has to be for all the tourists, I’ve spent 6 months walking up and down the piers, spent more time stepping in bird shit than busting broads for their cooters hanging out. I told the LT as much too, but he didn’t hear, all he hears is the city manager and all she hears is complaints from the citizens and all they hear is that dickhead on the news, and now I’m out here at damn near midnight in plain clothes trying to bust hookers undercover like Matlock or one of those other pricks on tv or that used to be on tv.
When I asked LT what to wear he said to just put on normal clothes, like I was going to the supermarket or something, I told him my wife goes to the supermarket and I’ve never picked up a whore, he told me to just wear whatever I came to the station in today. But I wore my sweats to work, my wife tells me I look like those weightlifter guys from Saturday Night Live when I wear my sweats, but what do I care? When I get to work I just change into my uniform. If I knew at 5 o clock this morning I was going to be out on the boardwalk trying to pick up a whore, I would’ve brought a nice suit from Penny’s or something.
I started my patrol at 10th street, figured I’d walk down towards the seven eleven, keep my eyes open, maybe grab a slurpee, and then work my way towards 26th. It was too late for the families to be out, it was mostly drunk college kids, or high schoolers wishing they were drunk college kids. They all like to hang out at the seven eleven too, I can’t walk into a store without bumping into some zombie punk tapping on his phone. This seven eleven was no different, I headed straight to the slurpee machine to see if they had the movie tie-in orange. Those movies are shit, but they can make as many as they want so long as seven eleven keeps Incredible Orange, or whatever the hell name they gave it. I shouldered my way through the zombie zoo, paid for my drink, and got the hell out.
On my way out of the store I heard some shuffling and voices in the alley where the garbage cans were at. I walked to the corner of the store and leaned on the bike rack to get a better listen. Trick ..u be…r get yo ass o….at runway and …n me some money. Maybe the LT was right, maybe that orange prick from the local news was right, I worked a beat for 6 months on the boardwalk and haven’t noticed anything like this before. When I stepped into the alley all I could see was a man standing in darkness with his back against the wall and his hands in his coat pockets. The girl was standing right in front of him wearing one of the shortest skirts I had ever seen and a neon pink tube top, she didn’t look anything at all like what I thought a hooker would look like, she didn’t look worn out or anything, she looked pretty good actually, she didn’t look like a hooker at all come to think of it, just a girl dressed up in hooker clothes. But as soon as the two noticed I was there they started talking a little louder and the girl moved towards me.
Lookin for a good time handsome?
Yeah, I might be, uh, what kind of good time can you offer me?
Oh I can offer you anything baby, just name the price…
Ok, well I have to know what’s on the table before I can name a price, we’re not just talking about a walk on the beach are we?
I’m looking for a good time, what does a good time cost a man like you?
Well, you know, it just depends on what you’re willing to do, I want to get my money’s worth.
I can do anything you want honey, you just have to name a price.
Again, I don’t really know the value if you won’t tell me what I’m getting.
If you just name you’re price I can tell you exactly what you’ll be getting.
Ok, let’s just say fif…
HANDS UP MOTHERFUCKER
The pimp, who had been silent for the conversation, had now exploded out of the darkness and was standing in an A frame with his gun pointed right at my face.
I SAID HANDS UP ASSHOLE YOU’RE UNDER ARREST FOR SOLICITATION.
Wait a min..
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE HELD AGAINST YOU IN THE COURT OF LAW. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY.
Mike? Holy shit. Mike is that you?
I SAI…Richie? What the fuck Rich? You just blew my cover. Wait a minute are you out here trying to pick up girls? What about your wife?
Because of that news story horseshit LT sent me out here to make some undercover busts.
No shit? He sent me out here to pick up Johns. Told me to dress up like a pimp and everything. I even had to get my own prostitute so i just grabbed my girl.
This is your girl? Nice to meet you, Mike has said a lot of nice things about you.
Thanks, nice to meet you too.
So this is what you wear to pick up hookers Rich? You look like those fake bodybuilders.
Fuck you Mike, I go to work and put on my uniform what do I care about my sweats? Besides it’s all I had.
Is that Incredible Orange? Have you seen the movie? It’s great. Hey what did you think of the argument we were having? Pretty good right? We’ve been using all the words LT told me about, Trick, Runway, Green, Square, shit like that.
Have you caught anybody yet?
No, we’ve only been out here for like an hour, so far it’s only been drunk college kids.
Alright Mike, I’m going to work my way down to towards 26th. Be careful. Nice to meet you.
Alright Richie, good luck man.
What was the LT thinking? Did he not trust me to tackle this by myself? Or was Mike and his girl just a test to see how well I would hold up under pressure? Maybe he was there to warm me up. Either way I was ready for whatever lay ahead of me now. It seemed like the world was getting thicker the closer I got to 26th: the air, the crowds, the sound. On 22nd there is a biker bar called Diesel; it didn’t matter what day it was, if you were working a boardwalk beat you were answering calls at Diesel. This place was ripped straight out of Cops: perps with no shirts, no teeth, titties hanging out, lot of meth, lot of beer, lot of stupid. It could be a too obvious long-shot, but if this prostitution problem is as big as LT and Sunkist think it is, then it’s worth checking out.
Around 21st the crowds become unbearable. I was tired from shouldering my way through teenagers looking down at their phones, dodging skateboards or puke, so I stepped out into the street. As soon as I did I saw of flock of scantly clad women duck walking around a puffed up alpha male. Can it really be this easy? The only thing they were missing was a sign, or maybe a bullhorn. I made my way towards the gyrating spectacle, trying my best to remain inconspicuous despite my targets clear disregard for it. About a hundred yards away I realized why they didn’t need bullhorn: