Strove to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.


Degenerate and Bulging
Lately I spend all my time on the couch, out of my mind on pills, drooling and watching TV. I’m one swank jumpsuit and giant peanut butter and bacon sandwich away from becoming Elvis.

I always said this is what I’d do if I got super rich. No philanthropy or adventure for me — just the trouble-free emotional flatline that can only be delivered by the time-honored combination of daytime talk shows and prescription dope, periodically spiked with the frisson of cramming a handful of deep-fried cake icing in my mouth.

Like Elvis, I’d stave off the occasional, inevitable coronary by firing a few rounds into the screen from a high-caliber revolver, enabling a shot of sweet, heart-jolting adrenaline to ride the reliable thrill of sparks and noise and broken glass straight into the ol’ ticker. And then I’d gasp and smile and my chest would spasm and I’d clap my hands and my transvestite Filipino houseboy would wheel another plasma screen into the room, along with maybe a bucket of hams, and thus would the sacred cycle of life begin anew, so has it been written, amen. Chop chop, Rosita! It’s almost time for Oprah!

Eventually I’d die, sitting on a comfy toilet, fat and happy and stoned as a motherfucker, and you and the rest of the world could all go fuck yourselves. Yes, that was the dream.

Right now, though, I’m trapped in a cruel funhouse mirror image of paradise, one where I take pills from Dr. Happy Pills because I actually need them, and my toilet seat remains cold and stern, and Rosita lives on a Web site that I suspect is up to monkey business with my credit card number. And the ham bucket sits out of reach, forlorn and barren, empty as this grotesque hunk of flesh sitting here typing, this ashy husk that up until a few short weeks ago was home to a human soul.

It all started with these big fat Puerto Rican lesbians living next door to me, when they got all high or something and tried to burn our apartment building down.

Now, you know I ain’t got nothing against no lesbians, being half lesbian myself, on my mom’s side. And I hold no grudge against big fat Puerto Ricans, despite some trouble with one early on. I reckon you can’t blame a whole culture just because one big fat dude turns out to be a big fat cocksucker. Oh! And I’m not trying to slur cocksuckers by using that term perjoratively, either — I meant cocksucker in the, um, what do you call it, platonic sense.

But anyway the two big fat Puerto Rican lesbians living next door skipped softball practice to fry up a bunch of coconuts and bananas, I guess, and I suspect they got all high at some point and forgot about the hot grease and shit caught on fire.

I don’t know for sure if they were high. I mean, I didn’t think to ask them for a blood sample. In fact, I was kind of out of it myself when it all went down, drifting off to sleep by spacing out to a preposterous CD full of electronic drones and bleeps and blips. But even in this drowsy state, I noticed a particularly shrill bleep continuing between tracks. Eventually, smelling smoke, I realized I had been nodding off to the relaxing sound of a fire alarm.

I poked my head out my door, and the small hallway was filled with thick, black smoke. “Fuck,” I said.

I noticed it was coming from the open lesbian door, so I put some pants on before going to investigate. I figured if I was facing impending evacuation I might as well look presentable, plus I wanted to save at least one pair of pants from destruction. Also, personal experience has shown very few lesbians, or even people, like to see me traipsing around in my drawers, emergency or not.

Man-parts covered, I poked my head inside the smoky lesbian door to see if anybody was, like, dying. The smoke was dangerously thick — my eyes were watering and I started violently coughing, and I couldn’t see a damn thing. I was about to call out when I noticed one of the lesbians — one who, unlike me, had neglected to put on pants &mdash blowing on that goddamn ear-shattering smoke alarm with a tiny, plastic oscillating fan.

“Are you OK?” I yelled, spastically trying to bat gobs smoke away from my face. “Do you need any help?”

It was hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure all I got in response was a sneer and a few mumbled curses. Meanwhile the smoke was just pouring out into the hallway. I was standing there, coughing and pulling my shirt over my face, wondering what to do next, when a second big fat Puerto Rican lesbian materialized in front of me. Like her counterpart lesbian, the one with the inconsequential fan, she was perhaps a bit underdressed. In fact, at first I thought she was naked from the waist down. Closer inspection revealed her undies were just kind of, uh, swallowed up, though.

“Yipes!” I said.

“We had a grease fire! But it’s out now! What do you think we should do?” said the second lesbian, all excited and googly-eyed. Like the first, this lesbian seemed relatively unaffected by the smoke. Well, relatively unaffected by the smoke from the grease fire, anyway. I suspect smoke inhalation of a different sort may have played a role in the evening’s events.

“How we gon’ get all this muhfuckin’ smoke outta heah!” the first lesbian barked, to no one in particular.

Weeping and coughing, I managed to choke out an answer to the second lesbian: “You might start by opening that window right there.”

I pointed at the closed window, maybe 10 feet from where I was standing in the doorway. The first lesbian turned and stared. It was like she had never noticed this particular window before. She continued staring, and holding up that fan to the shrieking smoke alarm. The second lesbian looked confused for a few seconds before slowly and carefully following my extended arm with her eyes. When she got to my fingertip, her back almost wholly turned to me, she noticed the window, jumped in surprise, and sprinted over to jerk it open. Instantly, she was back at the door, just inches from my face, unblinking.

“Now what do we do?” she asked. The first lesbian ignored us, holding the fan to the alarm and mumbling curses.

“The bedroom — open the window in the bedroom too,” I coughed out. She did, and was back in a flash.

This time I didn’t wait for her to ask. “Now I think you should call the landlord,” I said. “They need to know what happened, and might need to check the place out. Plus they might have a big fan they could bring over to blow all this smoke away.”

“Shit,” the first lesbian said, continuing to fan.

The smoke seemed to be getting worse, blinding me and making me nauseous, and that loud-ass alarm was chapping my ass, so I bailed and ran back to my apartment. After a few minutes of coughing and rinsing out my eyes, I could hear the alarm continue to beep, as well as both lesbians running in and out of the hall, yammering at each other in their unintelligible foreign jungle monkey language. I paced inside my apartment for a few minutes, wondering if I was safe, before finally deciding to narc on them and call the landlord’s emergency number myself.

“Yes?” an operator answered. She sounded annoyed.

“Um, this is your tenant Patrick Hughes, and, uh, the big fat Puerto Rican lesbians next door to me set the building on fire.”

“There’s a fire?”

“Yeah. Or there was. The big fat Puerto Rican lesbians said they put it out, but I couldn’t tell if that was true or not because of all the smoke. Also, I think they’re all high and maybe not using their best judgment.”

“So what would you like us to do, Mr. Hughes?”

I paused. Do? What the fuck? I figured maybe the landlords would have some kind of plan or something in the event, you know, their building caught fire.

“Maybe someone should come out and inspect the apartment to make sure we’re safe?” I said. “Or maybe you bring over a fan for the smoke? I don’t know, it’s up to you, really. I just thought maybe you’d appreciate being informed.”

The operator yawned. “Thank you, Mr. Hughes. I’ll relay the message.” She sounded a lot more nonchalant than I would have liked. But then she hadn’t been alarmed by a close look at those big fat incompetent lesbians.

I was listening to the racket in the hallway, the chattering and commotion and really loud beeping, and pressing my face and hands along the wall separating my apartment from the lesbian apartment, looking for telltale hot spots that meant deadly fire was fixin’ to burst through, when my phone rang. It was the apartment maintenance man.

“Hey, I got your message. Did anyone call the fire department?” he said.

Shit. That was a good question. I mulled it over for a second, hoping the expression I was making wasn’t as dopey as the one the lesbian with the fan made when I pointed at her window. “I, um… I don’t know,” I said. We were both quiet for a moment, contemplating the implications of my reply.

Before I could apologize, or the maintenance man could yell at me, a huge, gnarly noise roared out of the hallway, drowning out everything but the beeps from that goddamn smoke alarm. I stuck my head out the door to see what it was and found myself reassured by the sight of firemen going in and out of the lesbian apartment, working some kind of huge industrial fan.

“I guess someone did call the fire department, because the hall’s chock full of firemen,” I said into the phone. “They’ve got a jumbo fan they’re using to clear the smoke.”

“Yeah, they’ll do that,” said the maintenance man, and hung up. I got the feeling he had been through similar lesbian experiences and maybe was jaded.

After a while the smoke must have cleared, because the fan cut off and things generally quieted down. Except for the alarm. It beeped and beeped and beeped and beeped while I flopped around in bed, trying in vain to fall asleep. I could feel a certain spot on my back tightening up, just below the base of my neck and to the left, a small baby-fist of tension and hatred clamping down on my precious vertebrae.

“Dark oblivion, where is thy sweet midnight caress?” I thought, triggering an internal argument between the chunk of grey matter that came up with it and the rest of my brain, which felt the first part of my mind was being melodramatic. This distracted me from the alarm and somehow, eventually, I fell asleep.

The next day I woke up with a slight kink in my neck. I thought about the day ahead, and something there clenched a little tighter. I had agreed to babysit some dogs for my friend Liz while she vacationed, which required I spend the night at her house.

I admire Liz for many things. Her ability to be my friend after I supposedly peeped in on her and her old boyfriend, for example. She can drink a lot, too. She’s also very organized, and for dogsitting purposes had provided PDF files detailing things such as use of her complicated system of TV remote controls and the feeding regimen of the dogs.

There were three dogs I needed to watch, but I’m going to leave one of ‘em out of this, as she’s old and sweet and no trouble at all, and surely doesn’t deserve to be besmirched through association. The other two are named Sam and Charlie.


Charlie’s the dopey-looking one in the front. “He’s a special-needs dog,” Liz had said. “A little slow.” In her detailed instructions for their care, she mentioned that sometimes he gets excited and pees in the house. She also said that sometimes when you let the dogs out to go in the yard, Charlie will forget to do his business, requiring you to remind him to “go tinkle” and “go dookie.” Yes, those are the phrases she used.

“Liz, I’m not saying no fuckin’ ‘tinkle’ or ‘dookie’ to no damn dog,” I told her. “I’m going to say ‘shit’ and ‘pee’ like a normal person. Maybe — maybe — I’ll go with ‘pee pee,’ in an emergency. Charlie’s just going to have to learn man-talk.” Liz looked concerned. Little did I suspect what was in store.

So Liz goes off to Ireland, to see her relatives or hunt for leprechauns or, perhaps, do both at the same time, and I go to her house to watch the fucking dogs. I’m nervous, thinking I’d much prefer to sleep at my apartment, where I could keep an eye on those careless lesbians. I’m also greeted at the door by a puddle of pee and two small turds. Charlie sits next to them, looking at me expectantly. Perhaps expecting praise. “He’s a special-needs dog,” I think while cleaning up his filth. “Don’t beat him.”

The dogs have been inside all day, so I open the back door to let them out. Sam and the other dog, the good one, do their thing, quick and neat. Charlie seems reluctant to touch the grass. “Go on, Charlie,” I say. He just looks up at me.

“C’mon, motherfucker,” I say, giving him a little nudge with my foot. Charlie hops around a little on the grass, clearly unhappy to be out there, before running back inside. “Whatever,” I tell myself. “Maybe he got it all out of his system in the house right before I showed and just didn’t need to go.”

It’s feeding time, so I spend a little time assembling the complicated combinations of dog food as per my instructions. The dogs are eating when I walk around the corner to the bathroom, where I wash my hands. I finish and walk back to the living room, and Charlie sits there, looking at me, next to a puddle of fresh pee and two small turds.

“What the… What the fuck, Charlie?” I’m trying not to raise my voice, but I’m a little disturbed. “I was gone for four seconds! How did you even do that?” I feel a few muscles spasm in my left arm and shoulder, and the kink in my neck ratchets up another notch.

This pattern repeats itself for the next few days. Every time I leave the house, Charlie pees and takes a shit on the floor. Every time I go to the bathroom, Charlie pees and shits on the floor. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is clean Charlie’s pee and shit off the floor. When it comes time to let the dogs out, Charlie balks, just staring at the grass.

A few days of this and I just can’t seem to get clean. I scrub and scrub, but can’t shake the feeling I’m covered in molecules of evaporated dog pee. It’s inside my nose, in my food. I mop and wipe and spray Lysol and Febreze until a pleasant-smelling chemical fog envelops the living room, but as soon as it dissipates all I can smell is pee.

The one break I get comes when I’m lying on the couch, miserable. At some point I realize the house doesn’t smell like dog pee — it smells like the delicious chai tea I brought over, for breakfast the next morning. “Wait, why am I smelling tea?” I think. “That doesn’t seem right.” Sam, less a special-needs dog and more like a diabolical criminal mastermind, has chewed through two plastic bags to get at my goddamn breakfast tea. Little tea crumbs are all over the floor, as well as Sam’s snout. Oh yeah, that was detailed in Liz’s instructions too. Apparently you can’t leave anything edible within five feet of the floor, because that fucker Sam will find a way to get it.

“I hope that tea is poison to dogs, Sam,” I tell him. “I hope you die.” I’m sincere, but I spend the next three hours watching him intently, because I know if Sam dies Liz will have my ass.

Sweeping up the tea restores the pee smell, and the next time I have to let the dogs out my pride has been worn thin. “Please, Charlie, please,” I cry, begging him long after the other dogs have finished and returned inside. “Dookie. Tinkle. There, I said it. Please make a dookie, Charlie. Please tinkle.”

Charlie looks at me, takes a few steps into the yard, and tinkles. He then makes a modest dookie, and trots inside. I’m relieved. That’s all it took! The magic words… I’ll gladly trade my last few bits of self-esteem, along with my scant masculinity, to be free from turd duty during the remainder of my stay. Dookie and tinkle it is.

I prepare the dogs’ food, then drive to a nearby grocery to rustle up supper for myself. I’m gone 10, maybe 15 minutes. By the time I get back, Charlie has peed and pooped again, right inside the front door. He’s also attempted to eat a chunk of his poop — his own poop — unsuccessfully. I stare, aghast, at the small pile of regurgitated dog-doo at my feet. Charlie sits next to it, looking a little green, but also a bit proud. My kink kinks a little more. It feels like a monkey is slowly fucking the side of my neck with a penis made of ice.

Liz sends an e-mail from the beautiful Irish countryside, a land of magic and mystery where molecules of evaporated pee are carried off by fragrant ocean breezes. “If you think Charlie is going to have an accident, put him in his kennel.” By this point I’m pretty sure there’s nothing accidental about Charlie’s behavior, but am too weak to belabor the point. And, let’s face it, I don’t turn my back on too many chances to belabor a point.

I spend the evening staring at Charlie, daring him to just try and pee or something while I watch. Before I go to sleep, I open the door to his little kennel, and Charlie runs right in. “Huh, he must like it in there,” I think. “Fuckin’ retard.”

I head to the bedroom and lie down. The pain in my neck, shoulder and arm is now so bad that I’m unable to sleep through the night. My pectoral muscle, or man-boob, twitches constantly, and my left hand refuses to work in conjunction with the right. I thrash around for a while, trying to find a comfortable position, but am eventually graced with fitful, welcome rest.

It’s 3:30 AM when the howling wakes me. I jump up, hitting my head on the ceiling fan, and yell. “LESBIANS!” I say. “FIRE!” The noise continues as I get my bearings. No, no… The howling isn’t coming from lesbians… It’s coming from the dog kennel in the next room.

I walk to the kennel, terrified. The howling is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t even sound like a dog — it almost sounds human. It’s the most tortured, wretched thing I’ve ever heard, a deep moan, absolutely chilling. I turn on the light and open the kennel door, expecting nothing but horror, pain and blood. But Charlie just walks out, sits down and stares up at me, tail wagging. He’s fine, you see. Just lonely.

The next morning the pee and the poo are back. They never go away. The days pass. Unable to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time, I spend my evenings rocking back and forth at the edge of the bed, rubbing my shoulder with handfuls of Bengay. It almost covers the pee smell, now saturating every particle in my body.

The pain continues, even after my stint as dogsitter finishes and the lesbians more or less settle down. Disturbed by my haggard appearance and the smell of the Bengay (and I guess the constant weeping), my boss orders me to go see a doctor.

The doctor looks at me for nine seconds and recommends a fat load of pills and an MRI. The pills sound good, but I’m a little leery of the latter. First, I’m a little afraid the MRI will reveal the widespread tumors no doubt spreading through my entire body, and second, I don’t want to know if the pain is being caused by my unborn twin brother, malformed and embedded in my spine, gnawing his way through my bones with tiny, hideous teeth. But they eventually microwave my neck with a ray and come back and tell me I have “degenerative changes” and two bulging discs.

Now, I have a lot of experience with degeneracy and bulging. Why it’s an issue all of a sudden is beyond me. I think maybe my doctor’s a quack. I keep demonstrating my floppy left arm and pointing to the location of the pain and he keeps going on about my cervix. Excuse me if I’m wrong here, as I’m no paleontologist or anything, but I’m pretty sure the cervix is a component of the female hoo-hah and nowhere near my neck. There hasn’t been a cervix or a vulva or any of that good stuff anywhere in the vicinity of my neck for a long time.

Well, wherever the cervix is, I have plenty of couch time to contemplate it, even if my thinking is a bit muddied by the handfuls of party pellets I now eat to make it through the day. The doc is recommending physical therapy and traction, and even mentioned a home kit for the latter.

I just want you to know — when they find me, lifeless and dangling from my ceiling upside-down, strapped into some complicated gizmo, don’t assume it’s auto-erotic asphyxiation, like all the newspapers will say. Carefully explain to truth-seekers that the lesbians caught fire and the pee molecules coated my body and as a result I had a horrible accident with some therapeutic traction.



Teh 198s Bolgger is Former Writer, Editor
Ah, you know me. I ain't looking for much. I got what you might could say are generally low expectations. And I don't want to come off here like some stuck-up fancy lad, swaggering around all over the Internet all pompous and full of self-esteem. But check this shit out:


Okay, I got this book out now, and I figure it's an honest hustle, why not try and drum up some local publicity, right? So I start bugging an editor at the Gainesville Sun, someone named Sarah Sain. I explain how used to write for the Sun — I wrote some music features for the paper and had a column in its entertainment section for a year, complete with a dorky little photo of me — and am a longtime Gainesville resident with plenty of community ties. I drop off a copy of the book. I pester Sarah with some polite phone calls and e-mail messages, hoping the printed tales of my sad, goofy life warrant a mention or maybe even a little article, if it's a slow news week and they have some extra space they need to fill.

Friday Sarah tells me they're going to do a little thing in the Sunday paper, and I think, great, this is awesome, maybe a few people will want to support a local dude and they'll buy it and get a few laughs. Or maybe an old teacher of mine will pick up the book and read it and be all horrified at the way I turned out, how severely I perverted their attempts to cultivate educated and hardworking members of society, and I'll have, you know, sweet revenge.

Sarah then, apparently, trots off to set a new typo-per-sentence record and recruits a slow-witted monkey, or perhaps an underfed houseplant, to copy some stuff off the back cover of the book, I guess while wearing boxing gloves.

Now, in private conversation throughout the years I haven't had much good to say about the Gainesville Sun. It's a shitty paper, and everyone knows it — its readers know it, people in the industry know it and the miserable saps that have to work there especially know it. But I haven't exactly gone on the record with my opinions, because I write for a living, and in a small city with limited professional opportunities you just don't want to alienate anyone that someday might throw a paycheck your way. Reading yesterday's paper flipped some kinda breaker in me, though.

So, uh, fuck the Gainesville Sun. It sucks. If that sorry sham-ass excuse for a newspaper ever came into contact with real journalism it'd flame on like a vampire douching with holy water. I hope Osama bin Laden packs a Ford Pinto with fire ants and SARS and flies it into the building. I hope Chris Benoit comes back from the dead to babysit its kids. I hope its editors never ever learn how to spell "the," and all its advertisers get mad and leave, and the only people willing to buy any space in it until the end of time are American Apparel and Hitler. Seriously — fuck you, Gainesville Sun. Fuck. You.

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