Saturday, January 18, 2014

Poem: I Just Have That Kind of Face

This was in a bar in a pointless place, like Pocatello, Idaho.
I'd been in town a few weeks.
As I was drifting through I answered an ad
and got a job washing windows on the businesses downtown.
I was paid half of minimum wage, but I had job security.
It was the dustiest fucking town the Earth ever shit out.

I went to the same bar every night and drank until closing time.
It was a dirty, ugly place,
but the beer was cheap and popcorn was free,
and the other working class jerks got used to me being there.

After I'd been coming there every night for about a week,
with my feathers a mess from dirty, soapy water,
and me just wanting to kill the night
with beer and noise and juke box music
and whatever stupid shit was on the TV,
a guy decided I was the guy he would tell his story to.

He slid on over to the empty stool next to me,
and seeing that my beer was almost empty,
he gestured to the bartender for two more.
Great game, huh? he said, looking up the baseball game on TV.
They got a great team this year.

Sure, I said, as the fresh bottle appeared in front of me.
I don't know anything about baseball.
Most human sports seem beyond stupid to me.

What line of work you in? he asked.
Sanitation, I said.
Well, there's always demand for that, he said.

Next he started telling me about his line of work: insurance.
He tells me how he travels three or four days a week.
It's hard. He doesn't like to travel.
He used to be married.
His wife couldn't stand him being away all the time.
She thought he was cheating on her,
so she started cheating on him.
He had been cheating on her.
They divorced.

It was for the best, he told me. I nodded.
He ordered another round.
What about you? he asked.
Not married, I told him, and that was enough.
He didn't want to listen. He wanted to talk.

He was getting drunk.
He was getting drunk enough to tell me what he wanted to tell me.

He had a new girlfriend, a real looker, a real beauty.
Great ass, he said. I'm an ass man. You an ass man?

Not specifically, I told him.

I want to do her in the ass, he says, but she keeps saying no.
Too bad, I say.
I want him to go away, but he's enthusiastic about telling me all this.

She told me there's no what she's letting me do that to her
unless I'm willing to do it to myself, he tells me.

Um, I say.

At first I think no way, but then one day I was walking on the beach.
I was walking along and I see this rock. It's about this long,
and he holds up his index finger.

It's this long, about this thick, and smooth.
I figure I could take this, and then she would have to let me do it to her.

Uh, I say. He orders another round.

So I take it home to try it. I get in the shower, cover it in Vaseline,
and I shove it up there. It doesn't hurt much, goes right in.
Then you know what happens?

No, I tell him.

I can't get it back out! It's up there. I'm poking in with my fingers
trying to grab it and it just goes further in. It goes in forever.

Too bad, I say.

Yeah. I don't want to go to the doctor.
How do you explain a rock up the ass?
I don't want to wait and poop it out,
because then I would have to get it out of the toilet.

Wouldn't it just flush? I ask.

Not sure, he says. He didn't want to take the chance.

So I was in the shower for half an hour pushing, fingering my ass,
trying to get the thing out. It was awful.

Oh, I say.

It finally came out, he says.

That's good, I say.

Now I don't mind taking it up the ass, he says.

Oh. Um. Uh.

He puts ten dollars down on the bar and gets up.
Have a good night pal, he says.
Good talking to you.

You too, I tell him.
I've just got that kind of face, I guess.
You can tell things to a bird that you can't tell another man.
But now I have to find another bar to drink in after work.

Why the hell can't he talk to the robins in the park?

But in the end it was just one of those things that happened.
I thought about putting it in a book one day,
but it has no place in any story.
It was just one of those things.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Among the Humans: An Excerpt

(Note: As the wrangling continues to bring the complete text of Jerry's ground-breaking memoir Among The Humans back to the general public, we have finally been granted permission to publish this short excerpt. If everything proceeds as planned, the complete version will be available in spring or early summer. In this particular passage, Jerry goes next door to have dinner with his neighbor, who is the goaltender for the local minor league hockey team. Enjoy.)


Tank fried the steaks on the stovetop. He boiled some potatoes and put together a green salad with lettuce, tomato and cucumber.

I sat at the kitchen table with an open beer while he cooked. "I guess you'll expect me to put out after the fancy meal," I said.

He laughed and poked at the steaks. He was smoking a cigarette, and he had an open beer and a cup of coffee going. "Hey, I'm not a bird-o-sexual. I don't know. Are there bird-o-sexuals?"

"Probably," I said. "There's everything."

"Yeah, I guess so. Well, don't worry, this isn't a fancy date. I always eat like this. I'm an athlete. I have to take care of myself." He finished his beer, dropped his cigarette butt into the empty bottle, and got a fresh beer out of the fridge.

"Well, it's fancier than I usually see guys cook," I said. "Most of the guys I've met barely eat at all. Just junk food, or twenty-five cent hamburgers."

"You can't live on that stuff." Tank set the two plates on the table. He watched as I used the knife and fork to cut everything into small pieces, and then began pecking up the bits in my beak. The steak was good. I hadn't eaten much steak before.

"This is weird," he said with a chuckle. "I mean, I guess I've seen birds eat before, but not like this. Sorry if I'm being rude staring."

I wiped the tip of my beak. "No big deal," I said. "I know we're different from each other."

"If you don't mind me asking," he said, "how come you... oh hell, I don't even know how to ask this. How come you're not a regular bird, you know? How come you're person sized, and you talk and everything?"

I shrugged. "Lucky, I guess." I had a drink. "There's just something that happens. Some people think it's because of the government testing atomic weapons or something, but it's actually been going on since, I don't know. The twenties. Maybe earlier. Sometimes animals figure they're not just animals. They grow up to person size, walk among the humans, figure out how to talk, drive cars, or do whatever. There's quite a few of us around, actually. Not many in this town, but I hear New York has a big community of...talking animals, I guess you call us."

"Huh," he said. "How come you don't move to New York then?"

"I visited. I didn't like it. Too noisy."

"Yeah," he nodded. "I'm not a big fan either. I heard about the animals when I was there, actually. You could go to like, animal shows. Not a zoo, but like a night club or something, and the animals perform. Even some kinky shit, like for guys who want to get it on with animals. Hey, like you said, there's everything, right? Everybody has some kind of kinky fetish."

"Right. That's not really for me. I'm not saying I don't like human women. I just mean that I wouldn't want to be with someone because I fulfill their fetish."

He put a piece of meat in his mouth. "You said you were common law once, right? What was that like? Was that with a girl? I mean a regular girl?"

"Yeah," I said, "a regular human girl. That was a strange relationship. My first and only with a human girl, actually. She came onto me in a bar, and ended up moving in with me. That was in St. Louis. We were together for about two years. She was a drunk and a pill popper. I didn't know what the hell was going on with her most of the time. She ran around on me a lot, I know that for sure."

"Man, that sounds like shit," Tank said. "You kick her out?"

"Nah," I said. "I had a hard time getting work, and I eventually lost my apartment. She just went and shacked up with another one of her boyfriends. I said to hell with it all and left town."

"That's rough." Tank hesitated, put a piece of meat in his mouth, and then made a show of thinking hard about something while he chewed. "This is another weird question," he said, "but you guys, did you... you know?"

"What?"

"Well, you're a bird and she was a regular girl. Did you guys, you know, sleep together?"

I cocked my head to one side. "Are you asking if we had sex?"

"Yeah, 'cause I mean, how would that work? You guys, you wouldn't exactly match up, right?"

"We matched up well enough," I said, smiling my little smile. "I think that's all I really need to say about that."

"Sure, sure," Tank said, nodding and smiling. He reached for his beer and took a drink. He looked embarrassed. "It's just funny, right? Because if you guys got it on, what would happen? Ha ha, if you knocked her up, would she end up laying an egg or something? I'm just joking around."

"Right," I said, poking around the salad with my fork. "What about you?" I said, hoping to draw the conversation away from my interspecies sex life. "You seeing anyone now?"

"Me? Hell no," he said. "I'm still settling in. Too busy with the team. We're just wrapping up training camp. I'll probably start meeting some girls once the season starts. There are always girls hanging around teams. You're going out with that Penelope girl now, right?"

My eyes popped wide open. "What makes you say that?"

Tank shrugged. "You guys left the party together. I just figured, you know."

"No," I said. "We just left at the same time. We each went to our own place."

"Right."

I poured some beer into my beak. "But since you mentioned it," I said. "I uh, I've been thinking about some way to talk to her. Some reason to knock on her door and say hello, if you know what I mean."

"You're shy, huh?" He grinned. "That's funny. You weren't shy about knocking on my door."

"That was a different circumstance."

"Yeah, I'm just kidding." He sat up and opened his eyes brightly. "I've got it, Jerry. My team's opener is this Friday. Invite her to the game."

"Hockey?"

"Sure. A hockey game is a great time. It's like taking a girl to a movie, except better, because you can talk to her all the way through. And the two of you can drink beer."

"I guess," I said. "I've never really watched a hockey game. And I don't know if she likes it either."

"Ah," he said, waving away my concerns. "It's zero risk. If she says no, at least the invitation is a conversation starter. I'll get you a pair of tickets. They always have tickets available for the players, and I don't have anybody else to give them to. It's not like my wife is going to make the trip. I wish she would, though. I'd like my kids to see me play at some point. I mean, it's not the big league, but even so."

I thought it over. "Okay," I said. "I guess it's worth a try."
 
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