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Friday, November 29, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 2, Part 11

They had parted ways when they finished dinner at Perkins that day, and Bryson had gone home to watch some TV. When the visit occurred he had been sitting on the couch watching Charles Carmichael, aka Charles Bartowski, worm his way out of another tight spot as the titular repository for all things CIA in the TV show Chuck. He hadn’t seen Mike and Melanie in a while and assumed they had found a little hotel for a romantic bit of hanky panky where it didn’t matter where they were when they dropped trou. As that thought occurred to him he laughed at the ridiculous amount of times he had seen Melanie naked and there was a knock at the door. He got up to open the door and was surprised at the site that greeted him: Monica in a gray trench coat similar to the one that he wore on a cold day over his service uniform in the military. The site struck him odd for two reasons, the first being the fact that she was wearing a heavy coat in the middle of summer. Secondly, he had no idea what she was doing there, as they had set up their next apartment hunting meeting for the following day after work.
As he stood there, about to ask why she was there, she sauntered past him and turned around by the couch leaning on the arm waiting for him to close the door. Slowly he closed the door, and a puzzled look crossed his face as he turned around to question her, but before he could get out a word she spoke first.
“I know you’re wondering why I’m here,” she said in a quiet seductive way as she unbuttoned the trench coat, “I just felt we had something to get out of the way.” The trench coat slid down to the floor revealing nothing more than what God, or nature, had given her at birth to let blossom for this day. This glorious day he thought, but he couldn’t uproot himself from where he stood. What if this was a dream? What if Mike and Melanie walked in to find him asleep with his hand down his pants grinding against the couch? Even worse, what if in the middle he called out Monica’s name and they told her about it? Well, in that unlikely case he would have to tell them unless they wanted him to see Melanie naked one more time, or if they didn’t want him off their couch they would keep their mouths shut.
 “Are you going to stand there all night?” she asked quietly, and his mind finally clicked and said, Fuck it, and his body followed his brain’s advice. What followed was nothing short of miraculous as the room and everything in it disappeared. Nothing existed for Bryson and Monica for those short minutes and he would be happy to live in that world for the rest of his life. Was this how cocaine felt? Marijuana? Heroine? No, it was ecstasy, pure uncut ex. Knowing how he felt he dared to open his eyes, and the look on her face showed him that he was making all the right moves. Besides the active parts of their bodies, they had become numb to the world around them, as if past present and future had all melded into one and had become timeless. The moment lasted forever and was over within the blink of an eye, and when the moment had passed they were both satisfied having reached that moment together at the same time.
They stared into each other’s eyes for days it seemed (now Bryson had the corny thought that they really were peering into each other’s soul before the thought caused him to nearly spit beer all over his Dell) as the world faded back into view. That was when they heard in a whisper of horror and fear from the edge of the couch, “My couch!” They hadn’t realized that they weren’t alone, and hadn’t been for at least five minutes. Bryson smiled internally as he thought: At least I’m not sitting here with my hand down my pants grinding against the couch.
 “Oh hey, I believe you know Monica,” was what he wanted to say, but what came out was, “Umm, a little privacy.” At least he had witnesses he would think later, but the witnesses didn’t matter because he never told anyone. After that day, when Mike and Melanie had left the room and Monica threw on her coat and gave him a smile and peck on the cheek, he didn’t even talk to her about it.
Things almost went back to normal after that. At first, Bryson thought her plan had worked. He wasn’t worried about getting into her pants, and she didn’t spend her time flirting with him. Sure, he thought about it, but typically not when he was with her. Generally he only thought about it before going to bed or, on rare occasions, when he woke up. That was before he came home from a late night at work to see her making out in the living room with some dude she met at the bar. His heart started racing, his hands became clammy, and his throat went dry. The first though to pop into his head was, “How could she cheat on me?” That was when he realized that the most glorious moment of his life was the equivalent to breaking the seal on Pandora’s little toy box. On the outside of the box there were only words of lust and like written bright colors to attract the casual viewer. He broke the seal and peered inside, just a casual glimpse, or so he thought. The moment that box opened he couldn’t jam the word love back in, it settled in his mind and corrupted his soul. If he let it, it would find him on the street with nothing but the clothes on his back and its evil in his soul.

He couldn’t let it go, though. The words never crossed his lips, and he tried to maintain himself around Monica. As time went on though he found himself going out less unless he was with her, and he spent a lot of time waiting for her to come home. He found lots of things for them to do together as friends, but in his mind they were dating.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 2, Part 10

Unfortunately, he hadn’t really done much in the way of savings, and Circuit City didn’t necessarily pay the bills as it was, let alone the bills he would have to take on if he got his own place. He started asking coworkers and barroom friends if they knew anyone looking for a roommate, but most of the people he knew lived in the dorms at UW-GB or were shacked up with their significant others, and naturally three was a crowd. Weeks went by and Bryson wasn’t having any luck finding a roommate or a cheap out, and both Mike and Melanie were starting to lean on him harder and harder to get out.
That was when salvation came in the form of a mousy brown haired beauty named Monica. As it turned out Monica was getting tired of living in the dorms where the girls acted like they were still in junior year of high school and was looking to find a place of her own. She didn’t mind having a roommate as long as they were adult about the situation, and since they had practically become best friends she figured they should try to become roomies. He, of course, wasn’t going to turn her down on her offer. After all, didn’t most guys and girls who started out as friends and roommates typically end up as lovers? Probably not, but that didn’t stop him from dreaming of catching a quick peak here and a fast glimpse there of perfection in its raw form.
They started browsing through places online and in apartment guides they found at gas stations around town. Bryson was partial to the west side, as the east side always appeared to him to be filled with wolves ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims so they could tear the flesh off their bones. Monica was partial to the east side because it was closer to campus, and if you went far enough east you could find fairly affluent neighborhoods with quick access to the highway to help you avoid the wolves who resided closer to the Fox River. In the end they settled on a fairly large apartment on Humboldt Avenue which was close enough to Highway 43 for easy access to everything, yet far enough away where you could hear the traffic. Monica also remained a stone’s throw away from campus there. They signed the lease early in the month prior to their move to give them a few weeks to make sure they had the money for utilities and other necessities. Everything was running smoothly, that is, until the visit.
Monica spend a lot of time joking with Bryson about the sexual tension that was sure to rise up between them when they moved in together, and how they should each release some steam before they decided to move in together. Bryson always laughed it off as a joke, even when she was standing too close to him and he felt a bit flushed and a tad too big for his britches; he just hoped in that moment she wasn’t looking down. With each visit and with each meeting about a new place she seemed to become more aggressive with the jokes, and Bryson began to wonder if they really were jokes or if the tension she kept speaking of was turning into her own frustration. When they parted ways after each rendezvous, though, he took his thoughts to be a mirage of his own growing frustrations. Her words loomed large in his mind in the nights before he fell asleep after their visits.
 “You know, we’re both going to wonder what the other is like in bed when we move in together. It could ruin our dynamic if we let it get in the way, maybe we should just get it out of the way,” she once said with a smile and a hand on his leg as they sat in Perkins eating omelets and looking over rental guides. A mental picture popped in his head and he thought he would save that for the swelling in his loins and let out a nervous laugh at the thought of himself saying loins more so than for her suggestion.

Now, sitting in his room, sipping on his beer debating whether to watch TV or surf the net (or both) he thought back to the visit. He always held it in an esteemed place in his mind, one of the finest moments of his life. His graduation from boot camp was his most proud moment, but the visit was by far his most prized memory. In his mind he could imagine that it lasted for all eternity, even if the moment itself only last for fifteen, maybe thirty minutes tops. Sometimes, only the middle played through in his mind. Other times he viewed the whole video in his mind’s projector like watching a home movie. How it ended never escaped his mind’s eye though, and that was the moment he fell in love.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 2, Part 9

The door to the apartment opens from the outside. As he walks in, Bryson slowly closes it behind him. Next to the door is a tray to place his keys, he drops his keys on top of another set of keys already sitting in the tray. Everything is dark, his roommate must have gone to bed, or she's busy with another query she brought home for an overnight rendezvous. The thought of it brightens his day to no end causing him to forget what he was considering doing before he walked into the apartment. He stands for a moment in the middle of the cluttered living room trying to figure out what he meant to do next, and allowing his eyes to adjust to the dark. After a moment of standing around he finally decides to go to the kitchenette and grab a beer. Carefully stepping around the clutter that litters the living room floor he makes his way to the kitchen where he grabs a Bud Light from the fridge. As he heads to his room the thought that his roommate may be in her room with another man makes Bryson jealous and he stares at her door with a heavy glare as he walks through his own.
Sometime after Bryson was discharged from the military he decided to leave Florida. He didn't want the reminder of his former flame and best friend lingering in every relationship he tried to recreate, and since a few of his former fellow recruits had talked about Green Bay he decided it was time to make the move. Well, that and the fact that the other people he formerly knew that still wanted to associate with him were into drugs or much less savory past times or had simply moved on to greener pastures that he did not find quite as green as they did. While his first few months in Green Bay didn't seem particularly fruitful, he forged ahead not intending to relocate once again. Finally, he garnered friendships and acquaintances from his time at work and frequent trips to some of the local bars.
In the seven years he had lived in Green Bay, Bryson had held many jobs. From the bad (telemarketing, ala Boiler Room) to the worst (working the seafood department at the local grocery store is not a good way to score chicks unless they dug a guy who came home from work smelling like shell fish). Every once in a while he would find a job that seemed to be going somewhere, or at least seemed enjoyable, the company would either fold, he would learn the dark side of the business, or other circumstances would cause the job to go the way of the dinosaurs. After a few marginally successful to dismally disastrous employment opportunities, Bryson finally settled for a fun, if low paying, job jockeying a register at a local Circuit City.
While he hated the customers, he loved his coworkers. From the hipster hippie Aaron who trained him in his position, to the hot yet accessible Anna who he used to jokingly argue with about their (fake) juvenile delinquent kids, to the retarded yet lovable drama geeks it was possibly the most fun he ever had at a job. That’s also where he met Monica. She started about six months after him, and he helped train her. A local journalism major at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, she was something of a tomboy, not afraid to get her hands dirty and easily fitting in with “the guys,” but she still had very feminine qualities in how she held herself and dressed at work. Also, she was a celebrity look alike, the spitting image of Eliza Dushku; in other words, she was every guy’s dream, and she knew it.
She flirted with every guy that laid eyes on her, even the ones who weren’t buying what she was selling. She never gave any of them the impression that they were getting more than her friendship though, but that didn’t keep them from speculating, and Bryson in turn enjoyed the feeling that he was something more than average. Having a friend that was equally comfortable having a beer while watching a football game, going opening night to the latest comic book movie that was driving local fanboys wild, or sitting at home watching a romantic comedy had its advantages, especially when she was willing to do the latter on her own. Bryson found himself more often than he had anticipated on the very uncomfortable stage of a local bar for an unfortunate karaoke duet with Monica. Despite the discomfort, he didn’t really mind it too much; the candle he harbored for her was brightened by being able to call her friends, even if that meant sharing a sticky stage in front of a drunken crowd.
At the time that Bryson had first moved to Green Bay he was staying with the cousin of one of his old Marine Corps buddies on the condition that he would eventually save up enough money to get his own place. Well, that didn’t quite work out the way that Bryson had initially intended. Between trips to the bar, and the occasional lack of work when things didn’t pan out, Bryson wasn’t really contributing or even coming close to getting out. Now his roommate/landlord, Mike, was getting antsy. Actually it wasn’t so much Mike as it was his fiancée, Melanie. When Bryson first moved in she wasn’t used to walking around Mike’s apartment clothed, and in the several months that he stayed there she still didn’t seem to have a clue what pajamas or night gowns were for. Bryson didn’t mind so much, but she seemed to have a major problem with it. While at first he didn’t have too much of a problem with the living arrangements, Mike was starting to get irritated with having to confine business to the bedroom so he was starting to push harder for Bryson to find his own place.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Story Behind "Love Knife"

“Love Knife” is one of my favorite songs that I wrote with Social Fallout. The music is heavy and the concept itself is heavy. A little too heavy for some people, apparently. My former instructor in Creative Writing (one of my favorite instructors) Colleen Abel, tried to lead the class to a feminist discussion on this song. I submitted it as a poem, which was already problematic, but the focus turned to the feminist qualities of the song since the person accosted is a female. That’s not what the song is about though.

The original idea for the song came from reality TV. I don’t watch reality TV, and I didn’t watch it then, because I’d rather patronize television that features talented individuals (particularly shows that are written by real writers), but I was interested in the idea of voyeurism. The idea of the social obsession with voyeurism still intrigues me, and it might be a concept that invades my stories in the future. In reality, aren’t all stories really about seeing into another person’s life without actually having to deal with them? That’s a large part of what this song is about. This is one of only two Social Fallout songs that actually did not come from personal experience in some way.

In the end Colleen was proven wrong by the students in the class who did not feel that the song was in any way an insult to feminist ideals. I did end up rewriting it as an actual poem, but I’ll save that for another day. I’ll detail what I updated then, but I will say here that I kept the voyeurism concept of murder with the same characters. Below you can find the music for this song.

Btw, I should say that the title of this song came from Tenacious D, particularly HBO episode where Jack and Kyle first meet Lee and describe him as “...love knife material...”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Love Knife

He says, "I need you my dear
For now till the end of time
You are my strength, my love divine."
He pulls her close in a kiss that lights up the heavens
He pulls a knife from his coat and slits her throat
I see it all through the rose colored windows
The rose colored windows
The blood stained windows

Corpse in the tub
Drenched in her blood
The shower's on where she fell
To make her clean for Hell
Empty her veins
She feels no pain
What's your next line
Have I lost my

Mind is on fire should I turn away
I feel the punch of a train
As blood pumps through my veins
I reach for the door
But turn back to see once more
I pull myself from the torn
To view her on the floor
It's at this sight that my mind is still racing
My mind is still racing
I'm anticipating

He says, "I needed you dear
To make me whole,"
While inside
I'm left feeling cold
He drops to his knees
To kiss her lips
My heart hits the floor
Wanting one more hit
It's at this time that I ask myself
Why do I need death
I need to see death!

The body's now clean
This scene so serene
He walks out the door

And I'm left wanting more!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 1, Part 8

He went back to his desk and sat down to see that he was already two minutes late logging back into the phone, but he was in no way motivated to hop back on the phone. As he sits there contemplating whether to jump on or flee the institution, someone walks up to his cube and peers over the wall at him. “Hey, how's it going?”
“Hey Brian, I'm here,” Bryson replied before adding, “unfortunately. What's up?”
 “What are you doing tonight?”
“Probably going home, having a few beers, eating a snack, watching a little TV, maybe viewing some porn, and to top it off possibly blowing my brains out.”
“You sarcastic bastard. So am I to take it that means you're not coming?
“To what? Oh, tonight's movie night, isn't it?”
“Yeah it is, you thinking of changing your mind and showing up? We're playing Predator tonight. Please don't tell me you seriously forgot.”
Brian worked at one of the local movie theaters in town. Originally, movie nights started as a chance to preview movies before they came out. The theater workers had the opportunity to watch movies before they came out with a guest, so Brian took Bryson to see a few movies the week before they came out free of charge with free popcorn and soda. Then Brian learned that some of his coworkers at the theater would hook their PS3's up to the digital projector at the theater and play video games. This opened up a whole new world of opportunity. Brian decided to hook his PS3 up to the projector, but instead of playing video games he decided to watch blu-rays of movies that he didn't have the opportunity to see in theaters when they first came out. The opportunities were nearly endless, and now every Tuesday night they would get together with friends and watch the movies they loved in high def as if they just opened. Die Hard, The Big Lebowski, Jaws, Blade Runner: they were all available at the local theater now late at night, after the theater closed.
“Yeah, I forgot,” Bryson said. “I've had a lot on my mind the past couple of days.”
“Well, are you going to be able to make it?”
As much as Bryson wanted to relive his moment of empowerment watching Predator almost ten years ago, he really didn't feel like being around people at the moment. Sure, he thought, I could use the kick in the ass to effect change in my life at this moment, but I can't say that I really want to think about it or do anything about it right now. “No, I'm just going to go home and surf the web for a little bit and go to bed. Maybe I'll have a beer or to. I don't feel like going anywhere tonight though.”
“Seriously? You suck, dude.”
“You trained me.”
“To do your job and be awesome, not to be a pussy!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, have a good night.”
“You too,” Brian says as he walks away.

Bryson puts his headphones back on, and hits the button on the phone to start taking calls again only to hear the beep signifying a call was coming in. “Client service, this is Bryson speaking. May I have your policy number please?”

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 1: Part 7

In the break room, past the cork bulletin board of useless customer compliments and company news, past the refrigerators filled with lunches no one will ever eat but they'll complain about if someone takes them, past the microwaves and coffee maker; Bryson makes his way to the vending machines. Not sure of exactly what he wants, he looks through the soda machine, a snack machine of chips and cookies, and a machine known around the office as “The Wheel of Death.” The Wheel of Death is a vending machine that contains burgers, chicken and fish sandwiches, and other assorted snack items that were premade with an expiration date. Bryson was never sure where the name came from, but it's possible someone had purchased a perishable item from the vending machine past its expiration date. If you want to take your life into your own hands, just grab something from “The Wheel of Death.” Of course, other snacks weren't any better. How were they able to maintain their freshness without an expiration date?
            As Bryson stands in front of the vending machine holding the soda, an older man walks into the break room and reaches into the refrigerator as he looks over at Bryson, “How's it going? You working hard or hardly working today?”
            Bryson pushed back tendencies reserved for a more sarcastic approach to a stupid question like this while answering, “I'm alright, you?” Lying was ingrained in the job.
            “Trying not to work to hard, it's against my religion,” he responded, laughing at his inanely brilliant joke. “Have a good night.” The man grabs a lunch bag and leaves the break room, and Bryson just glared after him. He hated that phrase, working hard or hardly working. It was, unfortunately, a popular phrase used by the easily manipulated who couldn't think for themselves. Even the guy who invented that phrase had to hate it, every idiot around the world in seventy different languages repeated that phrase on a daily basis. The guy who created that god-awful phrase probably wishes he died before he could have come up with such a phrase that was repeated by easily lead automatons regularly.
            As Bryson thought of it, other thoughts poured into his mind. He wished he could pound in the faces of anyone he talked to on the work lines who asked, “How the weather was?” Hey, if the weather was nice did they really think he wanted to be reminded that he was stuck here? If the weather was bad, well at least it wasn't bad enough where he couldn't answer they're calls otherwise they'd whine and bitch about how the weather inconvenienced them. If they seriously questioned the condition of the weather surrounding planet Forrester than maybe they should check the weather channel or the internet. People always liked to ask where he was located, and when he said Green Bay, Wisconsin another shit storm of stupid comments assaulted him. No, he didn't care about how the Packers were doing this season. No, he didn't care who Favre was playing for this season or if he was going to be in the league next season or if he was retiring for the umpteenth time.
            Then all time stopped. From the corner of his eye he saw her walk in from the other side of the break room. Her khaki skirt revealed legs that went on for days, or at least he wished they did so he could look at them forever. Her blouse was cut just low enough to reveal a little bit of cleavage, but not low enough for people to call her a slut. It was like the slow motion passing of the hot girl you see in some movies, complete with her mid-back length brown hair waving behind her as she walked through the room.
            “Hi,” she said as she passed through the break room with a smile that brightened the room around her.
            “Hey,” Bryson feebly responded back as she passed the room, leaving it darker in her wake. Women like that didn't go for guys like Bryson. What was dating if it wasn't about finding a mate and procreating? Girls like that procreated with beautiful people or strong people. All they really wanted in offspring was either a model or a body builder. Some of the geeks got the girls, but that was being they were funny, intentionally or unintentionally. Bryson was none of these things. His clothes were nothing special, and even if he did add a little muscle to his physique that he casually maintained from when he was in the Marine Corp he wasn't a strong man. He had his moments when he was funny, but nothing special and he definitely wasn't anything spectacular to look at. Even in an intelligence race Bryson had to concede that he was quite possibly the most average person on the planet. If he had to describe himself in one word that word would be: generic.
            He sighed looking in the direction she left as he finally settled on a Pepsi. He reached into his back pocket to grab his wallet, but when he looked into his wallet nothing but a receipt and a few pennies greeted him. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered under his breath as he replaced the wallet. Forget smart, he couldn't even tell you the balance of his wallet or bank account let alone explain the mysteries of the universe.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 1, Part 6

After entering it to the system Bryson pressed enter and came up empty handed once again. He rubbed the back of his head and tugged on his hair in frustration. “I'm sorry,” the lies he told to keep his job, “but I still can't find you in the system. Do you have an account with us?”
 “Yes,” the interpreter replied for Paulo, “I'm calling about my credit card.” Believing that Paulo was talking about a card that was being billed for his account, Bryson pulls up another program to search for Paulo's account by credit card number. This is really starting to get ridiculous, he thinks as he asks for Paulo's credit card number, why no one is ever prepared when they called in to talk about their account will forever remain a mystery to Bryson. He hears some rustling around in the background through his headsets as he lets out a sharp exhalation of breath.
Finally, the interpreter relays the full credit card number to Bryson and he enters it into the system, once again coming up with absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada. What the hell was going on here? Bryson runs his frustrated hand through his frustrated hair as he tells Paulo through the interpreter that once again there is absolutely nothing on file to prove the client should even exist, and by comparison maybe the client shouldn't exist if he was incapable of giving Bryson the proper information. Now he's curious as to the exact reason this client has called in today and why it was that he, Bryson, had to be the one to receive such a call. “Well,” the interpreter relays, “I just received my credit card statement and I had a few questions about some charges that appeared on there.”
Incredulously, Bryson asks, “Were you trying to reach the credit card company?”
 “Yes,” the interpreter interprets, “and I tried calling the number on the back of my card but they don't have a menu in Spanish I could follow, so I got a number off the statement and tried calling it.”
Bryson slams his hand down on the desk. I'm now late for my break because this fudge packer can't speak English, Bryson thought. Seriously, are you kidding me? “Sir, this is not the credit card company,” Bryson said. “I’m fairly certain if you call the number on the back of your credit card again, you could possibly keep hitting one or zero and you’ll eventually get someone that can get an interpreter to further assist you.” But don’t you ever call here again, chum bucket.
 “Thank you,” the interpreter said for Paulo, “I’ll try calling the credit card again. Have a good day.”
It’ll be much better when you’re off the line. “You too, is there anything else I can help you with?” Bryson felt no point in asking this, but it was still unfortunately protocol.
 “No,” the interpreter said, “that will be all for today.”
 “Okay,” Bryson replied, steeling himself for the next lie he had to tell, which at this moment felt like a whopper. “Well, I hope you have a great day,” and don't get hit by a car while crossing the street, or get the shit kicked out of you in the local gringo bar, or die of a massive myocardial infarction while taking a crap.
Paulo hangs up and the interpreter inquires, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No, that'll be all for today, thanks,” Bryson responds. As the line goes dead he takes his headphones off and tosses them next to the monitor on his desk and just sits for a minute. In his head he's musing over the fact that the sound of every call that comes through those stupid little headphones seems to be the sound of the requiem for the death of his career and his dying life. Twenty-eight, and with every call he takes he sees his life flash before his eyes. This rut, this murderous rut, how would he ever escape it?
There's more that he wants out of life but he can't seem to find out what it is, doesn't the world owe him more than this? He knows the answer is no, but as long as he looks around and sees others take take take, he no longer feels he needs to give give give as a member of society. Unlike some though, he has a conscience, he feels, and he must continue to work as a functioning member of society. The real question is how can he get out of this funk. He can go back to school. But then where is the money and the time going to come from? He can look for another job. But what skills does he have to market to a new employer? He could drop out of the race and become a wino sleeping on street corners and park benches holding signs begging for money for food. Unfortunately he doesn’t like wine, and has never been one to rely on the kindness of strangers because strangers are rarely ever kind

He reaches over to his phone and pushed a button marked Aux and then tapped the 1 button. Finally, Bryson gathered the energy to stand up, and walked down the aisle past the rows of empty cubes that earlier held other representatives, trapped in their rooms within the customer service prison. Following the walls past more cubicles, formerly stacked full of representatives like hens in a hen coupe, there to take the never ending string of calls from the cretins who can't figure out things themselves, he made his way to the break room.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Black Ring: Chapter 1, Part 5

“Customer service, this is Bryson speaking, may I have your account number, please,” Bryson spoke with a tone that, to him, sounded as if he was bored out of his skull. Of course, he couldn't help it after what felt like thousands of calls with the exact same greeting over and over and over again. Now he just prayed for an over and done call, after all, his break was merely three minutes away.
            “Eh, speak-a Spanish?” came the voice ringing through the headset covering Bryson's ears.
            Dear God no, Bryson thought. This call was going to take forever. “No, but I'd be more than happy to bring a translator on the line,” he lied in the happiest and least sarcastic tone he could muster. He was really thinking something more along the lines of: No, but if you go back to Mexico I'm sure you will find more than enough people who would be more than happy to further assist you in your native language, because I'm definitely not willing or happy to.
            “Thank you,” the client replied. Reluctantly, Bryson pushed the conference line and dialed the extension for an interpreter. There's no way his break was going to start on time now. With an interpreter call he'd be lucky to be off the call in time to end his shift.
            As he waited for an interpreter to come on the line, he wondered what he was doing. Here he was in this ridiculous office, sitting at his ridiculous cubicle, with his ridiculous headset, talking to this ridiculous client, waiting for this ridiculous interpreter. When the interpreter finally came on the line, he told them his name and the code number for his job site and as he did he was really just hoping the Hispanic gentleman on the line would drop dead before he could patch the interpreter into the call so he could simply take the break that was owed to him by his company thanks to state law.
            Channeling his agitation into a rainbow colored mini slinky, Bryson told the interpreter he has an ass of a client on the line who can't learn English and probably is an illegal immigrant, but he must service the prick like they're best friends. Naturally, most of the previous sentence doesn't escape his lips, but can easily be read through his tightly gritted teeth. He told the interpreter to ask for the client's policy number. The interpreter said she'd be more than happy to further assist.
            Bryson patched the client back into the line. “Hello, sir, thank you for holding, I have an interpreter on the line.” The interpreter translated Bryson's previous request as he looked around his drab cubicle for anything that could possibly lift his spirits.
            It has occurred to Bryson that this building, this place where he spends 40 to 60 hours of his week life, is like an asylum for the mentally ill, and this cubicle is his padded cell. If it wasn't an asylum then why does he come here every day of the week expecting a different result only to get the same crap handed to him day after day? Still, each day he worked his eight hours with the hope of getting off at the same time every day with good behavior, or as close to it as possible. It really was a meaningless experience wrapped in mediocrity. He looked around his cube, and even with the personal flourishes he felt the need to bestow on his work area, this place still appeared to lack any kind of warmth.
            After meaningless words spoken in what sounded to Bryson as childish gibberish are exchanged between the halfwit client and the interpreter, the interpreter relayed what could possibly be, but may not be, the exact words spoken by the client in a dialect Bryson can actually understand. “I'm sorry I do not have the account number, can you look me up a different way.”
            With a release of air that could be nothing less than a sign of exasperation, and with the feeling that much more was exchanged between the client and the interpreter than what was just relayed, Bryson says, “I can look it up by your phone number.” More mumbo jumbo is passed between the two Spanish speaking freaks before the interpreter finally returns to speaking something comprehensible in the form of a nine digit phone number. Bryson enters it into the computer and nothing is returned in his fruitless search to find this asshole in the system. “I apologize, I could not find you in the system using your phone number, if you could possibly spell your last name for me, I may be able to find you with your name.”

            After a moment of the client saying something irrelevant to the interpreter, the interpreter said in English, “R-O-D-R-I-G-U-E-Z.” As Bryson typed the letters, he thought, Wow they don't even spell like regular people. Bryson asked for the first name, and after a moment of that funky spelling the interpreter returned with, “P-A-U-L-O.” Paulo, Bryson thought, what kind of a ridiculous name is that? How about you drop the O and become an American, while you’re at it maybe you can learn English. Or maybe you'd rather change it to an A and get a sex change.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Story Behind "Kill Society"

You’ll notice that I took a break from The Black Ring to post another song. I still have quite a bit of The Black Ring to post, and felt as though I should break up the pattern a little.

I feel as though I should preface the story behind “Kill Society” by saying that Social Fallout went through bassists like Spinal Tap went through drummers. At the time that we wrote a recorded this song, we were no longer working with Jim Nasty. Our bassist in this era of the band was Köenig, or Mike Koenig, we all liked the idea of using his last name as a stage name (my stage name was Dr. Whitey McWhite, since I was a black lead singer in a metal band, and to this day there are people who only know me as Whitey).

Anyway, I bring this up because when Köenig left the band this was the song that he cited directly as his reason for leaving the band. It wasn’t the lyrics or anything like that. His issue was that he didn’t feel that he could have his family listen to our music because of how heavy the vocals were. He felt that I should have written the vocals with less screaming, and found another way to present my message. The band stood behind how the song was written and we parted ways.

As you can tell, I was really into social issues at the time that I wrote these lyrics. Looking back now I find it funny that I was a Republican at the time that I wrote these songs. Naturally, a large part of my issues at the time dealt with the structure of society, and this song was almost a call to anarchy. I don’t way to say here at this moment that I am Democrat or Republican or Anarchist as I did write this song primarily for the sake of entertainment.


Future essays will probably give you an idea of where I stand on that spectrum. This song does serve to show some of my view point and was cathartic in helping me purge myself of the inner demons that I felt at the time while going through some personal issues. You can check out the song as it appeared on Chapter 1: Peaceful Aggression below.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kill Society

Break the trend 
Will it rise again 
Government fails 
We'll rebuild from within 
Empty lives 
Filled with cries 
We'll give them more 
From those who take from the poor! 

Kill society 
We'll make it what we want it to be 
The fallout has begun 
And it's we who have won! 

Blood will be shed 
Till all are well fed 
Tear down the lies 
Let's see what they hide 
Murder our pride 
Or fall and be tried 
This our call to war 
Now make your way through that open door 

Kill society 
We'll make it what we want it to be 
The fallout has begun 
And it's we who have one 

The writing's on the wall 
For corporate America 
Warmongers choose to take away 
Our peace and democracy 
I'm not asking for human contact to end 
But for society to die 
So let us all take a stand 
And better this land! 

Kill Society 
We'll make it what we want it to be 
The fallout has begun 
And it's we who have won 
Kill society!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Black Ring: Prologue, Part 4

Bryson flipped through the paperwork absentmindedly, he was hoping that there was going to be a trip to boot camp leaving tomorrow from MEPS. He had heard of it happening before, and he just wanted to move on to a new life with a career that he could look forward to. He knew the Marine Corp would afford him the opportunity for that. Lost in the thought of boot camp and a future without them he almost missed the point when the recruiter called for them to board the van to MEPS. A flutter in his stomach made him question for a split second whether he was doing the right thing, but he suppressed that thought as he joined the other high school and former high school students on the van.
            The MEPS examination went without a hitch. The first day he filled out a lot of paperwork and signed his name what seemed like several thousand times. He picked is Military Occupational Specialty in Intelligence, granted he passed an extensive FBI background check for clearance. On the second day he went through the medical examination. He turned his head and coughed when he was told, and nearly questioned if they wanted him to quack like a duck when he was told to duck walk across a room with many other military candidates dressed only in boxers. At this time he wondered if he was actually performing a medical exam to get into the military or if he, and the many others around him, were on the pilot episode of a hidden camera television show.
            When all was said and done he passed his exam and took the official oath to join the military. Before the van was set to leave to go back home, each of the future recruits met with their respective recruiters to discuss when they wanted to leave for boot. They each sat in a room waiting for their recruiter to call them in. Allen, Donovan, and Edwards were all called before Bryson was called in to meet with his recruiter. He walked into the room and took a seat in a chair opposite the overly confident ego-less Marine.
            “When were you thinking you wanted to leave for Paris Island?” his recruiter posed the question, not looking up from the paperwork before him.
            “As soon as possible,” Bryson answered without hesitation.
            “Well, you have a few choices. Each Friday for the next three weeks we have a group of recruits heading off for boot. Otherwise, there is one that will be leaving here at seventeen hundred hours today.”
            “I'd like to leave today, if at all possible.”
            For the first time since Bryson entered the room the recruiter looked up from the paperwork before. “Hurrah! That's what I like to see, a gung ho future Marine. Well, I'm sure you'll want to call your family to let them know you'll be leaving.” His recruiter walked him out of the room, and pointed to a corner of the room where a pay phone stood. “You can use that phone over there, you don't have to pay with that phone, and you can tell your parents that you'll be able to call them once you arrive at Paris Island to let them know you arrived safe. When you're done just come have a seat back over here, we have more paperwork you'll need to fill out before shipping out today.” As Bryson walked toward the phone, the titan Marine called David Garrett into the room after him.
            Bryson made his way to the phone, his feet felt heavy as if he was walking the green mile. What would he say? What would his parent's think? Well, he wouldn't have to worry about too much fallout, he'd be gone for three months, and during that time they'd get over the fact that he left so abruptly, and would embrace the fact that their son was in the Marine Corp serving his country the way his stepfather thought every young man should.
            He made the call. His mother cried, his stepfather dejectedly told him he was proud of him. He was sure his mother was thinking he was going to end up shipped overseas where he would be shot by some evil insurgent with the highest contempt for America. He wasn't sure himself what was going to happen to him from here on out and didn't want to think too much about a future that led him to war. Bryson told them he loved them and would call them when he reached Paris Island to let them know he got there safe and he hung up the phone.
            One month ago everything had changed. All it took was one moment to determine the course of the rest of his life. Now, here he stood waiting to board a van that would take him up the east coast to the Marine Corp training facility in Paris Island, SC. Where he would go after that he did not know, he just knew it would be far away from them.
            He found a spot in the back of the van, and looked around at all the families with freshly minted recruits about to board the bus and leave on their way to a life of bravery and American tradition. As he looked behind him he could have swore he saw Ian in the parking lot looking directly at him. He turned at looked the other way and never looked back. This was a time for moving forward, he could never turn back.


Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo Questionnaire

Today marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel of 50,000 words over the course of November. That’s approximately 1,667 words a day. I might not seem like much at first, but once you get into it, it’s a lot! Of course, I hear that as you get toward the middle of the month it isn’t so bad. Anyway, I have my outline to help me.
When I decided to join NaNoWriMo this year, I saw that there were regional message boards you could check in on. One of the message boards had a questionnaire to fill out to introduce yourself to other NaNoWriMo participants in your area. Following, you will find my NaNoWriMo questionnaire giving a little information about myself and my writing habits among other things. I hope you enjoy this look into my process!

1. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE US TO CALL YOU?
I don’t really have a preference. My writer name is J Courtney Wilkerson, my first name is Jason. So you can call me Jason or J. I used to be in a metal band, and my stage name there was Whitey McWhite (because I was a black lead singer doing metal) and there are still people who don’t know me by any other name than Whitey. In high school I had a plethora of nicknames: J-1, Uncle Jemima, Shaft Jr., etc. Of course, a lot of that came from being the only black dude in a white school.
2. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
I don’t eat cereal, but when I did I liked Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
3. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
It depends on what’s available. If I walk into an ice cream shop for a waffle cone, I’ll take cookies and cream. Otherwise I always go with Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream from Ben & Jerry’s.
4. WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?
Right now I’m really into Stephen King, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Elmore Leonard, and Roddy Doyle. I also absolutely love J.D. Salinger and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
5. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
At the time that I’m writing this, I’m not wearing shoes. I prefer not to be wearing shoes if I can help it.
6. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
I think a bluish green. Mainly because those were the first colors to pop into my head and both blue and green popped up at the same time. I couldn’t decide so I mixed them together.
7. SUMMER OR WINTER?
I would say summer, but I never seem to write as much as I want to during the summer. Of course, the places I want to write are better for writing in the summer. Autumn is when I have the best ideas though.
8. IF YOU COULD BE ANY FICTIONAL CHARACTER, IT WOULD BE...?
Pip from Great Expectations. He might have had it hard early on in life, but he had a rich benefactor later in life. Sure he couldn’t get the love of his life, but I’d like to think I wouldn’t make the same mistake of wasting so much time pining for a girl I knew I couldn’t have.
 9. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Football and football. Well, I guess I should say American football and football. If you still don’t like that then football and soccer. I’m a fan of the Florida Gators and Wisconsin Badgers in college football, Green Bay Packers in the NFL, and Manchester City in soccer.
10. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
I’m watching a movie right now, but the last couple of albums I listened to were Collapsible Lung by Relient K and War by U2. I’ve been on a major rock n’ roll and alternative rock kick lately, listening to a lot of Third Eye Blind, U2, later Relient K, early Weezer, Oasis, Black Lab, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc.
11. WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO DURING NANO?
When I’m writing I prefer to listen to Nine Inch Nails. I find the creepy vibe really works for me.
12. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
I’m currently watching the Irish film Intermission starring Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney, and Cillian Murphy (back when the only part he was known for in the US was 28 Days Later). Before tonight I had finally gotten my wife to watch The Hunger Games so that was the last movie I had seen in its entirety prior to writing this.
13. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, however, I haven’t really been reading it since the semester picked up. Since then I’ve read excerpts of Jesus’ Son, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and The Graduate.
14. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
I don’t have a desk top computer or a desk, so I don’t have a mouse pad.
15. WHAT'S YOUR WRITING VICE? (EG., COFFEE, CHOCOLATE, ETC.)
Probably coffee, beer, and whiskey.
16. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
My handwriting is pretty atrocious, if I wait too long to type what I write I can often forget what I had written down and I’m unable to translate it. I do like handwriting at times, stories as I feel the writing by hand leads to a more organic story, but because of the way I hold writing utensils (pens and pencils) I find it cumbersome because of hand cramps. So for NaNo I’ll be largely typing out my story.
 17. HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU PARTICIPATED IN NANO?
This will only be the second time. The first time I didn’t make it past a week, but this year I’m working on my outline over October so I know exactly what I’m doing throughout the month.
18. HOW DO YOU DEFEAT WRITER'S BLOCK?
I’m typically a short story writer, so I know exactly what I’m doing prior to writing. Often I come across news stories that lead me to consider how a character sees a certain issue, or I think of how I feel about issues and I take those issues and figure out how to turn them into stories. Even using forms such as satire to make them into stories can help me usher my thoughts into something coherent that I and my audience can understand.
19. DO YOU HAVE A PLOT YET?
I have what I think is a great plot and idea, which is why I decided to participate in NaNo this year. Novels aren’t typically my ideal form of communication as a writer, so I decided this was the year to really work toward it. After communicating with a small group of writers and friends, I feel very confident in this idea.
20. FAVORITE WRITING SPOT?

I really like to write at the beach in Veteran’s Park in Milwaukee or the Beer Garden in Estabrook. The problem with those places is there’s too much stimulation, so I end up watching people more than writing. I really enjoy writing in my basement as well. There’s very little stimulation down there and I usually have my cat, Maggie, for company. 

The Black Ring: Prologue, Part 3

Julie's voice hit his ears first playing a sour note in his noggin, “Bryson, please speak to me, we really need to talk.”
No. The word popped into his head, but never issued from his lips.
“Come on, buddy, it's not what you think,” came Ian's voice through the window.
I'm sorry, the dagger in my back will not allow me to comply.
“We're not going to give up until you come out and talk to us,” Julie reported.
Give up trying to talk to me, or give up humping each others brains out.
 “Will you please just come out and talk to us?” Ian pleaded.
Nevermore, quoth the raven.
They issued a few more pleas, but with pillows over ears, Bryson refused to hear them. Not only that, but he seemed to have fallen asleep during their barrage of pleas, after all heartbreak can take a lot out of a man. In his twisted dreams toy soldiers blasted the hell out of invisible aliens, cheating girlfriends, and conniving best friends. When he woke up three hours later to the DVD menu for Predator he knew what he would do: join the military.
Of course, it wouldn't be that easy, for a freshly graduated former high school student he was grossly out of shape. Besides his short stint in sports, what little physical education he had to take during high school he never took seriously. So to make boot camp easier he started getting up in the mornings to either walk, run, or bike. It was the only time he'd leave the house, and he made sure to do as early as possible to keep from running into either of them which is how he started referring to Ian and Julie a few days after the incident.
During the day he remained in his room except to eat and use the bathroom. His parents wondered what was up with him, but he refused to answer any questions, after all, he knew they would just think he was overreacting and that this was just a phase. While he was in his room he watched movies and researched the military on the net to determine what field would be the best for him. The Air Force would be easy, but it would be too easy for a guy who wanted to kick his life into high gear, and he didn't want to go into the Navy because he knew he didn't want to ever be referred to as “Seamen.” The Army was a viable choice, but most people went into the Army, it was the biggest branch of the military after all. He wanted to kick his life into high gear and become a badass, so the only choice was the Marine Corp.
For a month straight he kept up his routine, and they kept their routine as well. Everyday like clockwork Bryson's mother would come to his door telling him that Ian and Julie wanted to talk to him, and everyday he would tell his mom that didn't want to speak to them. Everyday following this routine they would appear at his window pleading to speak to him, and he would remain as quiet as a church mouse until they left. By the end of that month since the incident he had steeled himself against the attack so that he was able to keep his functionality, and even would routinely do situps or pushups as they shouted through the window.
When that month was up he knew his next course of action. After he finished with his run that morning he ran a little further down to the Marine recruiter's office. When he walked into the door of the recruiting office he was nearly blown back out by the excellence that exuded from the office. Marine Corp decor littered the walls, as well as motivational posters that weren't cheesy, but instead they were badass, and he never thought that was possible. The recruiter behind the desk made him think of the Spartans of old, he exuded a confidence that didn't feel like it derived from an ego in the least bit. At the same time Bryson felt both at home and proud that he made the right decision and slightly intimidated by this gladiator sitting behind his desk.
He proceeded to step in before the recruiter and made no bones about what he wanted, he wanted to join up and ship out as soon as was humanly possible. The recruiter smiled and told him that there was an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test available today, or he could schedule one for next week if he wanted to study. When he said today, the recruiter gave him a look of incredulity and told him testing starts in an hour. The recruiter reached into a drawer on the desk that stood between them, and pulled out a book and handed it to Bryson, “I still recommend you give this a once over before the test starts.”
Bryson took the book and sat down in a chair across the room and began to look through the book, but wasn't really taking much in. For one thing the intimidation of the warrior sitting across the room coupled with the thought that in a few hours his life would probably be changed forever. On top of that the other testers were starting to file into the recruiter's office taking seats next to him. Increasing his nervousness was the fact that a few of them had gone to school with him, but luckily he didn't know any of them from closer than a distance.
The hour passed fitfully slow, and then the recruiter called them all into the back room where they were to all take the computer test together. After they finished the preliminaries, Bryson felt at ease once he started taking the actual test. He scored high on the SAT and the ACT, he knew he'd ace an aptitude test to enter the military. He was the first finished, and when the score was tabulated by the computer he had scored an overall score of 77, allowing him his pick of any job he wanted in the military. He already knew he was going to pick Intelligence, but he still had another obstacle to overcome before he could say he was ready for boot: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey or MEPS. He had to pass the physical to get into the military first.

Thankfully, he chose the day that he did, MEPS was taking place the next day with a battery of forms to sign and military career counseling going on that night. The recruiter handed each of the testers pamphlets and forms to review, and told them that while they were at MEPS, since the office was over an hour away, they would each be getting their own hotel rooms to stay overnight rather than having to drive back to their residences. He told them to review the paperwork they just received and they would be leaving shortly.