Monday, November 28, 2011

Old Flames X: Borne Into The Sea

I was borne into the sea, like a sailor overboard with a drinking problem and mermaid troubles. I was caressed into the air by the willowy arms of a god that had long forgotten his own problems with the church. I was dashed onto land by the screaming, scraping majesty of a cold air front. This is the wind. This is the bends. This is the end of the world for pessimists.

Imagine a country without borders, a corral without cowboys, a chick without curves. What would we have? Anarchy, surely.

This is ten broken promises counted on ten broken fingers. This is the list of new year's resolutions being used for kindling. This is the breakfast I lied about eating. This is the second drink I've had for lunch. This is the three botched dinners I made you as apologies.

How well are we doing on time? Oh, that bad eh?

Well, then it's too late for lovers' quarrels and fantasies about past lives. We've got a house to build and neighbors to scorn. Why can't we all own pianos? Wouldn't that make things easier? How would we rob and murder each other if each of us were classically trained? If there were symphonies for every block, why would we ever use and abuse each other? Was that a good idea? I actually came up with it as a child. Watch the world get harder.

This is for all the broken casts with penny poetry scrawled into the white paint. This is for the red tape of democracy and the yellow tape of crime scenes. This is for party favors. This is for the old school. This is for the new wave. This is for the sleight of hand in every card deal.

This is for every kid breaking out of their house at night. This is for every teenager breaking into houses. This is for every twenty-something breaking hearts. This is for every thirty-something breaking up marriages. This is for every forty-something and beyond breaking their own promises to themselves.

This is for the rest of us. This is for the nobodies, the somebodies, the anybodies - all everybodies with antibodies. We are now moving matter. We are now making matter. We are now making sure we matter. This is why we move, so we can fill new deserts and taste new oceans.

The saltiest kiss I ever had was a girl's shoulder after a swim. That was one fine summer. She was young and I was young and all we had was youth.

To realize it now, as an adult is tragic: my most battled quality is my perfectionist drawl about being an outlaw. But what if I had my youth again? Would I pray for ivory beds and silky hair? Would I sneak off and abandon my parents? Would I make the most of a bad idea?

These are the questions to ask. These are the answers to beg for. These are the conversations we have with ourselves when we read a good book. These are the lyrics we know to the songs we hum in showers. These are the newspaper clippings I turned into revolutionary themes. How are we crass? We are crass by proxy, of course.

"Oh, now tell us how it ends, young, beautiful murderous thieves."

"In a stage bow, I promise you."

That is grand enough for me, for I have books to read and books to write. But how will I ever write with the future so very much a concern? I will figure it out later!

"Ah yes, famous last words..."

"The most famous indeed."

Well, then this is for the weddings, the funerals and the romantic getaways that fill our lives in constant ecstasy we deny and continuous euphoria we don't believe. That is truly remarkable, citizens of the world. All we ever really needed was tree houses and candles. Everything else is just trim.

"It's settled then. We shall kill ourselves."

"It really seems like the only honorable solution."

So, march forward, brave men and women! We honor your defeat by way of thunderous applause! Hear me now in this cavern!

"He's lost it now."

"If it was ever really there..."

Ah yes, the true nature of wisdom is the ability to talk with ease.

So give me the microphone.

I've got a culture to save.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I've had a lot of great days in my life. Hell, I've had a lot of flawless days this year. But, man, Saturday was incredible.

It's easy to point out big events and say, "Hey, that day was something." Obviously, when I first wandered Sydney, Paris or New York City, those days were big. And, sure, the first time I saw my name in print or bought booze legally for the first time have been grand moments in my never-ending carousel of a life, but that's not what I mean.

And I don't even mean really fun days that you'll always remember, such as Memorial Day of this year when I stayed in a seaside mansion with all the time in the world or the Mexico trip when we got robbed and almost drove off a cliff.

No, what I mean is the epic days that were made out of impromptu nothing. To me, what's impressive is when you can go to bed laughing about things that you'll easily forget in years to come. It was easier in our youth, when we only worked two days a week and could go swimming, bike-riding, partying and swooning in a single evening with ease and without worry. What gives me chills is to be so ecstatic about moments that may not even be on the radar for others (a classic parade of "you just had to be there").

Saturday was one of those days.

After attending a pirate show on Friday with more than a dozen friends for a birthday and drinking beers the size of my arm one after another, the lot of us came back to my basement bar and inhaled whiskey and beer until the early hours of the next day.

So, on Saturday, I woke up in search of the trains that hit me with Chase saying nobody was home. So, the two of us watched the Lil' Wayne documentary wearing only the jeans we slept in.

We told Rex to return/come over and the three of us goofed off until visiting my mom's farmers market booth and grabbing breakfast at Kimmie's Coffee Cup in the Orange Circle. Filled to the brim with food and laughter, we came back to the empty house to do dives off the stairs and couches onto oversized beanbags like oversized children. Nobody home but us kids, we thought. Sweaty and shirtless, we got rid off our pants and drank mimosas in our underwear on the back patio to compose a sincere letter to a friend before going through old photos and reminiscing about our younger exploits.

Around six, Dave, Sara and Brian (Dave's roommate) picked the three of us up and we sped out to Joshua Tree singing one song after another, where we stayed at a house (my first time out there not sleeping in a tent or a van). There, we inhaled whiskey and beer again until we played an erotic board game turned quiz show with contestants being tossed beers on the roof. Also, there was a brief scare of aliens, a costume contest that just about everybody won and an hour-long gigglefest over nicknames from a label maker. After scarfing down food from the super killer Mexican restaurant for some reason in Joshua Tree, we fell asleep watching The Big Hit.

What a fucking day.

The Great Gatsby

Other goofy takes on The Great Gatsby are on Hark! - A Vagrant, but the phrase "fuck the jazz age" makes this one my favorite.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Old Flames IX: If I Were God

If I were God, I'd pray for better angels. I'd wager all of my feathery white gold on the anarchists that made it past the gate. Saint Peter just wanted to see what would happen with a little graffiti and color. So, let us paint this heaven before tumbling down the splintery ladder to earth. See you on the other side, darling. See you were it counts.

But with longer lashes and sweeter dashes, right? Because how can I rely on an empty wallet? Bash these brains in to see roses. A severed head for a pot, so the grin always glows. Mark(et) my words, I've had it with these wars. I'm done with the class fights and protest rights.

I was in the grocery store tonight and nobody bothered anybody. Everyone stacked their carts with turkeys. Thanksgiving is this week. All I had in my hands was vegetable oil and cookie frosting. What was I then? Can I still be an adult if red wine is all I've got for dinner? Come on, we were the tragic generation? We came from homes that were broken homes a generation before. We came with the stitches already on our body. We came with plaster on our bedroom walls. We came with duct tape and glue. We came into the world sick to our stomachs. We aren't broken. The system is broken. It didn't come out fixed like we did.

So give us our medals, bestow us our pride and give us your thanks for looking at the world like a last meal. Don't hand us the hate, the guilt, the regret, the patriot acts. Don't feed us the lies, the greed, the horror, the dragging curse of a western god. This was our mess. From when we had town halls in school rooms to now, between the sweaty hand and the big red button, this was a final stand against ourselves. But no one will show, you say? Well, we all have flaws and freedoms to give the world just cause for tying us down. It's a wicked world, but it's always been one or the other, and that other world is like one long terrible dinner party.

Now, what is? What shall we all have? Have we questions? We have answers. So, why start making a joke now? Why didn't we always just think this? Why did we have to hate and worry and fear what so many of us all do?

We are all treasures with different values, says the magician.
We are all coins with scratches, says the philosopher.
We are all money, says the kid.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"If Only We Could"

"If Only We Could"
after coming home by jake kilroy.

i wish i could write poetry on my knuckles
and drum them on your window,
on rainy, blasphemous nights,
when you're up reading late.

that would be my new year.
that would be my resolution.

you would be the heart i wish existed,
the lungs that weren't beyond repair,
the legs that can always run home
and the brain filled with hope.

why couldn't we just live here?
why couldn't we just give in?
what makes us go west?

to the sun, to the ocean,
to the fairy tale stories,
told and retold to generations
that come after the war's end.

this shall be one long, dazzling display
of affection, of realism, of comfort.
this will be the graffiti in words,
painted with the colors of adventure.

break more pens in furious rants,
bust more cracks for a sinful grin,
lay waste to all the times i begged for forgiveness.


this is what we have.
why not make the best of it?

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Knife Studies"

"Knife Studies"
a poem from a dark, empty house by jake kilroy.

Anarchist blessings for those camping in life,
burning old bills and sticks through their hearts,
cutting out snowflakes and pasting new stars,
oh, what fun an afternoon can be with a knife.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Autumn Leaves (Me Feeling Productive)

Last night, I put together more than 100 envelopes for submissions of my essay/poetry/short story collection to literary agents. Then I went to my extremely talented artist friend Alex's house and handed him the two kids books I've written, as he'll be illustrating them all kinds of radical. And, this weekend, I should finish a few more chapters of rewrites on my novel.

However, as for tonight, I'm going to get drunk as hell in my basement bar, if anybody needs me.

Also, there's colorful leaves all over my front yard and backyard and it's goddamn tremendous. I'm working from home today and I can't stop looking out my window. Outstanding work, Autumn.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Replacements

The Replacements
by Jake Kilroy

I saw the Replacements documentary Color Me Obsessed in Los Angeles on Friday with Lindsay. The "rockumentary" (one of my least favorite words ever actually) featured friends and fans, but no actual members or music of the Replacements. So, when someone mentioned a song or an album cover, you just had to know it. It was sort of a documentary made for serious fans, I guess.

The Replacements, for those (for whatever reason) who haven't discovered them, were incredible. Their career was basically the 1980s (1979-1991) and, to many, they were the last great rock 'n roll band. The four drunks from Minnesota were Paul Westerberg on vocals and rhythm guitar, Bob Stinson on lead guitar, Tommy Stinson on bass and Chris Mars on drums. Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley stepped in at the end, when the band was falling apart, but The Replacements, as in the legendary boozing goofs from Minneapolis, are those original four.

They were critic darlings, they influenced way too many bands to count and, yet, when you find a fellow Replacements fan, it's like acknowledging a member of your secret club. Shit, I was at a show last year when I was talking to the singer of a band called Whitman. I asked him what his band sounded like. He told me, " favorite band is The Replacements." I cut him off and said that I'd just buy his albums right then and there, as if supporting another Replacements fan is always the right thing to do.

The 'Mats (nicknamed that because of a misprint they found hilarious when promoted as The Placemats) are one of my all-time favorite bands, if not my actual favorite. Ok, they are my favorite band, but it's hard to say sometimes, because I think Bob Dylan was the best songwriter of the 20th Century and The Clash was easily the most talented (without getting into the whole Beatles debate). But The Replacements resonate with me like no other band out there. They were having more fun than anyone, they couldn't help but get famous, they played shows in the flannel or t-shirt they wore all day and they would get drunk in lawn chairs. They were so astoundingly talented without really giving a shit. While serious musicians would sit in a studio and craft a song for weeks, meticulously working towards perfect musical harmony or whatever, The Replacements recorded entire albums in a day, all while drinking cheap beer. And then critics would tell them how great they were.

When a magazine called The Replacements "the band of the year," pissed-off top-selling artist of the year Jon Bon Jovi infamously remarked, "If they're so famous, why haven't I ever heard of them?"

To which, I can only assume The Replacements laughed and said, "Who the hell gives a shit about Bon Jovi?"
Maybe the reason I have trouble naming them definitely as my favorite band is because I'm always kind of mad at them. I'm mad at them for never properly considering how great they were. I'm mad at them for kicking Bob out (as one dude in the documentary stated, "How much of a mess do you have to be kicked out of The Replacements for being a drunk?"). I'm mad at them for wanting to leave the past behind. I'm mad at them for biting every hand that ever fed them. I'm mad at them for sentimentality getting the best of Westerberg's writing in the end. A lot of their friends in the documentary said it was hard to be a Replacements fan sometimes, because every time they had the opportunity to move on, they'd just blow it off most of the time.

But all of that shit is also why I adore them. And I didn't even discover them until a year after their Fourth of July on-stage break-up.

I was in second grade when I dug through my father's glovebox and rummaged through his music collection. I found cassettes for The Cure's Disintegration, Rickie Lee Jones's Traffic From Paradise, Los Lobos's Kiko and, most famously, The Replacements' Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash. And that album straight up changed my world. It was my first instance of finding new music and I technically did it on my own. My parents would've shown me them at one point or another, I figure, as my parents were responsible for getting me into really cool music: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley & The Wailers, The Who, Fine Young Cannibals, Johnny Cash, et cetera. My dad was even the one who got me into The White Stripes and Outkast.
But what I found in that Replacements tape was overwhelming. At that young age, all music is polished. Everything you're exposed to is flawlessly done. But you're also not exposed to much music. So, it's very easy to assume, "oh, so this is music." To hear four guys play the shit out of what they called "power trash" probably shaped me right then and there. Everything was inconsistent. There were random yells and no chorus sounded the same. Songs tapered off, the guitar was lower in certain parts, there were mistakes everywhere. One woman in the documentary described the solos as "hitting all the wrong notes at the right time."

But that's what I love them for. Nobody could say, "hey, there's a lot of mistakes on this album," because The Replacements would smugly reply either, "Are there?" or, "Yeah, so?" They put out punk classic after punk classic before evolving into a complex alternative band, because, as Westerberg stated, "We write songs rather than riffs with statements." So, they got sick of the punk scene and moved on to acoustic songs and songs with horns.

On Let It Be, there's a soft, tortured piano tune about laying off gender benders ("Androgynous") alongside a loose punk jam called "Gary's Got A Boner." Respected music critic Robert Christgau gave the album an A+. Also, it was named Let It Be, because their producer was a huge Beatles fan. The Replacements joked about naming the album Let It Be and their producer told them they couldn't. Ever the dissenters, the 'Mats decided on the spot to name it Let It Be, because, hey, why the hell couldn't they?
When I recorded my four-song project last year, I kept trying to fix it up and make it sound like a professionally recorded album, which was clearly stupid. Then I thought of Sorry Ma and wondered, "Aren't all the mistakes, like, half the reason I love The Replacements?"

I love them for their shrug-off-everything spirit, because it makes them impossible to criticize without them getting in the last word. They're like those brilliant kids in school who don't fully apply themselves. They may be slackers, but everyone knows what they're capable of, if only they really tried. Who knows what The Replacements would've become if they sobered up and started really putting in efforts with the fame machine? Now, sure, that may absolutely appear to be a cop-out, but I like that they existed during an era of hair metal bands and new wave groups being way too into themselves, with everyone tripping over themselves to be a one-hit wonder. All the while, The Replacements scored critical praise and just sort of laughed about it. And it wasn't like they "just wanted to be artists" or "ignored the fame in order to create." They seemed like they just wanted to do whatever made them happy, which was just being a band.

So, instead, they showed up drunk to their shows. They even showed up drunk to their 1986 performance on Saturday Night Live, which got them banned forever, as one reviewer noted that they were "mouthing profanities into the camera, stumbling into each other, falling down, dropping their instruments and generally behaving like the apathetic drunks they were." Rumor has it that NBC had to rebuild the green room because The Replacements got into a food fight and destroyed the whole thing.

Fans would arrive at their shows without knowing what the hell would happen. They were deemed "the greatest live band ever" by someone once with a tongue in cheek, because either they played harder than anyone else or they got too hammered to really care how things went. No show was ever the same. And everyone's favorite shows, it seems, were usually the ones when The Replacements also became "the world's greatest cover band." Realizing the band was too drunk to correctly do their own songs, fans at their shows would yell out random songs they wanted to hear. If one of the members knew how to play it, he'd try and the rest of the band would follow, everything from the Defranco Family's "Lovebeat - It's A Heartbeat" to "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams. One fan remembered a show where they were too drunk to play anything but The Beach Boys' "Help Me, Ronda."

When a teacher found out I liked The Replacements in high school, he burned me copies of their bootlegs (as well as The Shit Hits The Fans), just so we could talk about their live shows.
Some memories that fans shared:
- A guy went to a Replacements show with his cousin, who was a huge fan of the four-piece. While playing pinball, a dude asks him for a spare quarter to play the machine next to him. Guy gives the dude a quarter. They played pinball. The Replacements come on stage and start playing. Guy notices there's only three people on stage and wonders what happened to the fourth one. After two songs, guy turns to the dude and says, "Hey, I'm gonna go watch the band." Dude grabs his arm and says, "No, man, we started this together. We have to finish it." They keep playing pinball until the dude's last ball drops. Dude smiles and says, "Thanks! Gotta go!" Turns out that the dude who bummed a quarter is Bob Stinson. He tries to climb on stage, but Westerberg keeps kicking him.

-The Replacements opened for Tom Petty following the release of Pleased To Meet Me. At a music festival on their tour, they showed up on stage in drag (clothes they stole from Petty's wife). Westerberg then yelled into the microphone, "Tom Petty said he'd fire us if we fucked up again. But you know what? Fuck you, Tom Petty! And fuck you too, Nashville!" The band then played four or five songs before launching into a ten-minute instrumental version of Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side."

- A show was over, but Paul Westerberg was drunk and wanted to keep playing, so he did solo songs until hardcore kids started heckling him. He said, "Hey, come up here and play if you think you can do better." So, he took his spot behind the drums and the two hardcore kids played guitar and bass, and the three of them played "Louie, Louie" for half an hour.

That last one might be The Replacements in a nutshell: anyone can play music. They started off as a drunk (Bob), a janitor (Paul), an artist (Chris) and a 14-year-old little brother (Tommy). They were a crew of misfits who kind of gave a hard time to anybody who complimented them. They wanted to play music, but it seems like nobody could ever tell if they really wanted to leave the garages and basements. When they found commercial success, they would shoot themselves in the foot to keep from going mainstream. And it's hard to tell if it was systematic or they really just couldn't help themselves, like they had to self-destruct to live up to their own reputation. So it's funny that when they were self-destructing, they put out two pretty, well-constructed and polished-sounding records (which I, as well as most fans, actually like the least).

When sound engineers would tell them to play songs slower or faster, they'd just say, "Oh, I forgot the we'll just have to keep it the way it is." They'd draw marker lines on the clothes of studio representatives. They'd drink their weight at the bar with fans before a show.
But they never became charity cases. They never started doing heroin with groupies. They never trashed a million dollar hotel room. They never made personal regrets or public apologies. They were just drunks, for the most part (but, I mean, seriously reckless drunks). They weren't going to after-parties or big bashes in their honor. Someone once described them as "one of the most famous bands that never really left the garage." They could play a show in a basement or a stadium and it would've been the same. They would've gotten hammered, worn whatever they felt like (including tutus) and then played their music however they wanted, no matter what other people wanted them to do. If somebody told them to play their old songs, they'd either play all the old songs to be really true to their fans or they'd only play new songs just to piss them off. They even covered a Kiss song on one of their albums because they knew how many their fans hated Kiss. I suppose that's why being a fan of The Replacements in the '80s was a complicated ordeal, because you never knew if The Replacements were really on your side.

When the just-starting-out Goo Goo Dolls opened for The Replacements on what would be the Mats' last tour, the four drunks ripped apart all of their backstage passes and slapped them to the stage, so when the Goo Goo Dolls (who were too poor to afford shoes at the time) would walk on stage, their feet would get stuck. Meanwhile, The Replacements sat off to the side, howling with laughter and drinking cheap beer from a cooler they brought from home.
After the movie, it was midnight and I didn't feel like going home. The movie put me in a weird mood. So I just sped along the Southern California coastline. I ended up in San Pedro, cruising around the port and listening to "Within Your Reach." Pretty soon, I was in Redondo Beach listening to "Careless." And then I was atop Signal Hill blasting "Buck Hill." It took me more than two hours to get home, just from aimless meandering. Apart from what I learned on the drive (like how this state has way too many CVS stores), I acknowledged some curious feelings about the band that's always, always, always been closest to my heart.

The fans of The Replacements can be like the actual band. Towards the end of the documentary, a drunken couple kept heckling the lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls whenever he came on the screen. As much as it bothered me, I wondered, "Isn't that what The Replacements would've done anyway?" I mean, The Replacements didn't respect anybody. This is the same band that drunkenly broke into their studio and stole what they thought were the master copies of their previous four albums and threw them into the Mississippi River. The band knew what they were doing, but they either got too drunk or played dumb all the time. And I figure they did it so nobody would ever make them into something they didn't want to be. Hell, when they got the chance to make their own professional music video, everyone gave them a million ideas. Do this, do that, said everyone. So, just to be dicks, The Replacements shot their entire music video for "Bastards Of Young" with a speaker playing. That's it. Seriously. The entire music video for "Bastards Of Young" is just one, long black-and-white shot of a speaker.

So, as I made my way home at the slowest of rates, I recognized landmarks from past times of getting lost. I ended up at the San Pedro bridge that Jeff and I reluctantly went over after getting lost trying to find a record store in Long Beach in my Deathmobile, I passed a coffee shop where I caught up with an old flame one summer after a playhouse flooded and we were left with nothing to do and I finally found my way back to the freeway because of a round-about Non and I circled when trying to find Cal State Long Beach.

But, because I've been listening to The Replacements for practically my whole life, a whole lot of their songs carry weight with memories too. I remember Bret, Rex and I myself dancing around Chase to "Can't Hardly Wait" in my old backyard, I remember dissecting "Customer" with Jeff and Nick on our way to Mission Viejo to spend the summer as punks in foreign territory and I recall driving fast every time "Hayday" comes on.

The Replacements is my band. They're the most personal band I listen to, since I discovered them by myself and they've been with me since I was a kid. And nothing they did ever felt forced. They weren't trying to be big stars or punks. They acted like they didn't care because they legitimately didn't care. And, because music history is all sorts of screwy, not enough people listen to The Replacements, so I actually get to tell people about them. I don't show very many people bands they haven't heard before. I'm very often on the receiving end of it. But The Replacements is the band that I get to show to people and it's, like, crazy exciting to do. It's amazing that I get to be the one who says, "Holy shit, you've never heard The Replacements? Ok, I'm going to give you The Replacements."

So, anyway, if you've never listened to Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash or Stink or Hootenanny or Let It Be or Tim or Pleased To Meet Me or Don't Tell A Soul or All Shook Down...well, then...I give you The Replacements.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Last Stand Prayers

"When I came at the world, I brought everything I had. It wasn't much, not by the standards of Fitzgerald or Bukowski. It was a pack of cigarettes, a lighter my father gave me and a loneliness nobody could put into words. How's that for apathy?" asked the man.

"Your name is in everyone's prayers," answered the kid.

The man nodded while the kid threw stones off the nearest cliff.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Magician's Veil: Part One

"The Magician's Veil: Part One"
the beginning of something by jake kilroy.

The steam of the city came from every crack. It was the hottest month of the year and the poor of the downtown, an area known only as The Gray, knew it better than anyone. The Gray hid in the broken heart of the skyline, though it felt like the edge of civilization. Hissing and whistling came from the grates and the walls, as the water below them shook desperately to escape.

A young man by the name of Squile, pronounced "skill," left his block in search of a magician. As he kicked the cans of the alleyways and the dirt of the backroads, tucked away by the bridge, he felt the violent dreams coming back. Flashes of light careened in his head, bouncing off his ears and piercing his eyes with what he could only explain as "spiritual visions." Without any money, his family suggested he go in search of a magician, as the chance of affording a physician was slim, if not impossible.

Squile ducked through the sewer systems to make haste, tossing a switch blade in his hands for rats and thieves. He whistled his neighborhood's anthem, so any creeping sharp grins would know he was from the dirtiest of districts, making him the dirtiest of fighters. Now, on the other side of the water, Squile jumped through a pipe that had been set up as a hidden slide into an underground poker room. He slid, dragging his blade against the concrete towards the end to slow him down just enough to keep his stride when he hit the plank wood of a tavern's cellar. Several men played cards at a table nearby. They hardly noticed him.

This burrough, known only as The Range, was considerably cleaner than Squile's stake of city land, but it was the lowest level of interest for the other side of the river. Squile went up the stairs, kicked open the door and meandered through the bar of restless street tycoons. Broken bottles filled the trash cans, the bartender had a small arsenal beneath the counter and most of the crowd wore bowler hats with no smiles to match. It was loud and awful, but Squile moseyed through, still whistling his proud district tune. The locales knew him, but not by anything more than "kid." Squile was neatly dressed, or as fashionable as one could be from The Gray. Wearing a thin three-piece suit with shorts instead of pants, as pants were much more expensive in the city's tailor shops and a sign of class, Squile was as fancy as he figured he'd ever look. He was on the street and finally stopped tossing his knife in the air. Instead, he took in The Range.

Nearly everything in The Range was painted a shade of white or brown. The cobblestone streets were brown, the buildings were brown, both the horses and carriages were brown. One thing after another was either white or brown. The windows were white, the sky was white, the dresses were white. Squile nodded to nobody and stepped off the tavern's porch, slipping his sharp toy into his coat pocket.

Sunset was soon approaching, as the crew of lamplighters put the candles to work. Squile heard the angry chants of a fruit vendor at the market, which was spread through a large alley. Chalking up a sly smirk, Squile dodged carriages and beggers to make his way over. Without any hesitation, he bumped into the nearest lamplighter, who fell backwards into the angry fruit vendor, spilling his inventory. The lamplighter and the fruit vendor got into it, all while Squile collected his earnings.

Now looking like a young, lumpy man, Squile ate his winnings casually, with several more to go in his pockets. The sky was blood red by the time he reached Mortigan's Square and well on its way to darkness. Squile caressed the brickwork of the square until he came to a corner of ivy. The ivy was everywhere, except for a gaping hole in growth near the bottom. Squile brushed off some mortar dust and pushed on random bricks.

A churchbell rang in the distance. The sun was coming down upon the city. The brutal light of the sky flodded the streets in the final gasp of the horizon's breath.

Squile, still tapping at bricks, clicked his tongue and bit his lip, wondering what he should do. It was one thing to visit The Range. It was something else entirely to sleep in its streets. He just had to get beyond the wall.

Finally, his fingers stumbled upon a groove in the dirt and he pulled as hard as he could. The brick rolled in its place with the sound of gears replacing the gutter talk and drunken chatter awash in the square.

The bricks parted to form a small, though truly grand, entrance into a stone courtyard. It looked desolate and abandoned. Squile made a face. This was not what he was told would be. The rumors and wild talk had always suggested the courtyard was lavishly adorned with the most curious garden in the city's history.

Dumbfounded and disappointed, Squile made his way across the courtyard, taking in the spectacular nothing around him. Deteriorating walls of once-majestic masonry surrounded him on three sides as he faced what appeared to be a long-forgotten spice store. Its wooden sign swayed in the lulling breeze. Dry leaves fluttered lazily. Squile's eyes took in the scene once more before he noticed the design below his cloth shoes. Beneath the weight of Squile's increasingly nervous stance, there lay a star within a circle. Squile inhaled quickly. A pentagram in stone is almost never a good omen.

He gasped, reconsidering his intentions. His breaths shortened and sped up. The brick behind him began closing, as stone rubbed stone. Squile sprinted to the hole in the wall, but would've been crushed if he had attempted to jump through it.

There now came a rumbling in his heart he was usually unfamiliar with. Fear, in all of its entangling trickery, crept through him like snakes. His eyes stayed on the pentagram. Could he climb the walls? He wondered. He would have to.

Moving uneasily to the pentagram, Squile lowered his body, ready to run and climb the wall. He relaxed his lungs, exhaled and regained his calm. This is not how the city will kill me, he promised himself.

But before he reached the end of his count, the courtyard exploded with colors. Squile blinked and straightened. In an instant, Squile was in the most breath-taking garden he had ever seen. Flowers he didn't recognize, trees he wouldn't have believed, mesmerizingly soft grass all circled a tiny pond in the corner. In the middle, underneath Squile's feet, the pentagram covered itself in ivy.

And then the door of the shop opened.

Squile spun around and was even more impressed with the shop's appearance. It looked new. Beautiful architecture swept over the shop, now with clean windows and fresh paint. Squile stepped out of the ivy, hyponotized by the beauty. His heart racing and his skin itching, Squile stepped onto the small porch and then into the shop.

The shop's interior was astounding. Walls of velvet, chandeliers of brilliance and endless shelves of world wonders filled the shop, which was overwhelmingly larger than the outside hinted at. Squile moved hesitantly through the shop. Jars of powder and liquid, neatly labeled, filled an entire wall's shelves. Another long shelf featured tanks of plants and mud, each beautifully labeled. Squile jumped as he noticed that each tank contained frogs. The frogs watched him move across the room, towards the other half of the room swathed in black. Squile gulped as he proceeded. More shelves came into sight, each one offering new things that Squile didn't recognize. It was a hall of dreams.

Squile heard a swift movement in the darkness beyond. A knife soared through the air, barely a whisper from Squile's ear, and dug itself into the door frame Squile had come through. Squile shook with anxiety. He trembled as he gritted his teeth, slowly building himself up for what may come.

The outline of a gentleman came from the shadows. He wore an elegant suit, with matching cape and top hat, and held a knife that he twisted into his fingers. The gentleman's calm voice both thrilled and terrified Squile.

"And what may I do for you?" the gentleman whispered in a slow, syrupy growl.

Squile warmed himself up with heavy breaths.

"I want to be a magician," Squile replied.

A thin smile carved its way up the gentleman's face.

"Oh, is that all?" he said. " Then come with me, for we have work to do."

And, with that, the gentleman turned and gently disappeared into the darkness.

Squile heaved a sigh, smiled sharply and then followed the magician into the shadows.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Old Flames VIII: All Gather For This Burial

I'm coming for you, reckless hearts. I'm riding my stagecoach west. But lest we forget you, prayer and politics. We'll ship you out with the coffins. We'll drag you to the coast, to the mountains, to the brink of self-repair, and then we'll burn ourselves alive as martyrs. For what cause? Just 'cause. We ain't fooling this year, this season, this breakdown of days. We've said so much in so little time. Give this next man the podium to speak. He has ideas! He has speeches! He has the world in the palm of his hand! Say what now, bespectacled man? We hardly knew ye. We down the ale and clunk the table, softly dampening the rot of the wood. We'll need that later for shelter, long before we build castles and gods. Sing us to sleep, clergyman. We simply must go on. We should wind through under the city, so we can end up in the better tomorrow. Wait, wait for your beloved. Surely, surely, this is a man who could've fixed Christ. Medic, medic, we've got an apostle here.