Updates

Two weeks ago I posted a modest declaration, something to the effect of, “I promise to post every day.” Then within the following ten days posted four times. So I feel I owe a bit of an apology to the growing crowd that frequents here, because I do appreciate everyone more than you’d think.

In short, I ran into a rut. Nothing horrendous, nothing broken, but I fell off keel for a few days and writing — what there was of it — wasn’t worth anyone’s time. And then this past Tuesday my internet was disconnected for neglecting to pay the cable bill. That had to wait till Friday, payday. Long story.

The good news is that I was able to catch up on submissions to a few publications, Sudden Denouement included, which is putting together an anthology that promises to make your nose bleed (don’t read it too hard).

A paramount goal for me has been to stay focused and keep the ship level, so to speak, and it seems everything is back on track — aside from promising employment, dwindling debt, etc.

In other news, I’ve decided to add a new page to this blog, a dictionary, which will feature the sort of words you either only hear once or, hear a few times but never enough to stick. The sort of vocab words which, I think, can help make writing pop, add a little flavor, hit the right sort of note. I keep them in a journal and jot them down when reading, so I might as well share them here. If you’re not already following me on Twitter, I’m @ MickHugh_ (mick hugh underscore); you’ll be able to find the same vocab words there, where we can see who comes up with the best examples of the words in sentences (what else can we do on lunch break?).

Also, lastly, if anyone has any tips on building a solid Patreon page, fill me in. I’m exploring a few different ways of monetizing Neon Fog, without ads, so if there are some avenues or tricks you know of, let’s chat.

Thanks for reading.

 

Capitalist Prophylactic

The grass was short on the ball fields. Lazy Sunday afternoon, and the park was mostly empty: alongside the poolhouse on a picnic table, behind a row of tall firs, the girl was telling him about her campus. She made it seem wonderful, the library and the classes and the student activities. She was two years older, and very pretty, named Alyson, plainly. The afternoon was hot and slow, and so too was the summer; sun streaks dappled through the tops of the firs and the boy wasn’t sure why, but his mouth seemed stuck in his throat. He hadn’t spoken — the girl talked so much — but for little observances he knew she’d find agreeable. Squirrels chased around in the fir trees’ pine needles. Cool water babbling in the brook behind them. The silent expanse of the deep blue sky and the quiet stretches of the park. A perfect moment lonely with an older girl. Yet the boy couldn’t shake the feeling of rotors and gear-boxes muffled and humming, a hidden mechanical cover, behind the scenes of their paradise sky. Which might have been his head: he was embarrassed of his desire: Little pervert prick, she’d tell her friends. She was asking him if he’d like to come visit, to her college. So he told her he’d like that very much — transparent enough to blush — and the girl kissed his cheek goodbye. The boy then walked through the park alone, taking his time to the road. The pavement felt careful beneath his feet: the trees seemed to be breathing, something quiet and full of meaning. His body felt full and hard and light. Picturing the kiss on his cheek. The grass seemed phosphorescent, and the cotton-puffs drifted dreamily in the sky. The air glittered, like specks of tin floating in water. The boy was sure he was somehow high. Was this elation? Was this his joy? turned inside-out to the warmth of the earth. The street ahead disappeared round a bend of the hillside and he saw where it went, past groves and the homes of his neighbors — and the road continued on, hot and long forever abiding the lilt of the land, straight onwards towards the mountains and going on even after that, across the vast plains of the northern plateaus, tilting around gentle hills and the curvature of the earth — finally to bury itself in blue snow somewhere north of Canada. The boy knew his dreams just as clearly: the road wrapped the world before him, and in his chest a bright burning for the gentle moments unfolding, excitement to find something similar in a beautiful stranger, to gaze at the peaks of mysterious mosques and the spires of red rock along the straight roads to California. To hold cities in his hand! But he was only going home. And he knew if he called his friends they were damned to play those old familiar motions and conversations; the next morning to ride buses to school. The affections of their mothers. Satisfying isolation in their bedrooms. In a year he’d be off to college. And in five years who would he meet? What beautiful strangers who weren’t caught in the gears of the silent machinery? The muffled lights in their chests. Long lines of blank squares counting through the days of their ending years. Sweaty suits barking orders from behind desks, and the cowering creatures that scurry to fill their orders. The boy was rubbing his cheek. He was very disappointed. Alyson’s major was in corporate management.

Over the Mountains

If you’re going to do something extraordinary with your life, you need to start at it young. What you’re attempting is life outside the crowd which is where all the opportunities are, the money and the resources. Not just mansions and nice suits but even rental apartments and being able to buy enough food for your (eventual) family, you need to be in the crowd, or at least nibbling what they drop; even if you aren’t in an office and looking forward to casual Fridays, you’re making ends meet by serving those types of people, the crowd. So if you want out of the crowd you need to start at it early, because you need to learn how to eat + sleep + shower (if that’s your things) + fuck + survive in the shadows on the other side of the mountain range. If you want absolutely anything the crowd has — a cabin in the woods, a motorcycle, clothing, children, a stable life, a calm death — at any point in your life, you need to start early because the crowd has a monopoly on all of those decent things and so if you dream of finding them on the other side of the mountains, you need to start early. You’re attempting to do what few people have lately done. You’re starting from scratch, with no guidebook, few resources and few friends; no friends who can help.

But what you’re doing is worth it. Because at no time in history have basic human goals, a piece of property, food, clothing, an honest death, been so monopolized and guarded by the crowd, the mountain passes so completely avoided by highways and main streets and side roads, that to find them and understand what they offer is a feat worth its own weight.

And what I have to say here is something about college, the social pipeline from school to school, desk to desk, a new desk when you graduate from your college desk. It’s a pipeline. And I’ve run out steam to keep this rant going.

Peripatetic Graduation

Much has been learned in night’s corners, of drowsy bars, streets with echos, women’s love: The loneliness of street-lamp walks home, pre-dawn, dew a million glints of regrets and what-ifs. Hangovers that last till Tuesday. Body aches that cramp in class and the sweet red-head, warm bust, who turns round in her seat no more. Dry laughter, a coughing he hears in his sleep, and the feeling he gets when his cock’s been dismembered, and friends squint to see him more clearly. Failing grades, a long way from home, superficial hellos and the cold concrete that holds up his hands as he pukes. Bank tellers distrust his withdrawals. In short, a mess. A coming of dues: searchlights chasing the footsteps of mistakes, finding mirrors, reflect, and amplify. Lessons learned in a state of fugue, the quiet observer, carefully tracing one-way paths in eager slumber. What a fool he’s been! But the hallways show no exits; a Sim, picked-up and plopped into desk after desk, and the artificial sun that rises, someone else who keeps flipping the light-switch. Long walks through the university library, day-dreaming of a tryst that can keep him awake. There are essays due in the morning, but he hasn’t been able to get himself asleep in a week. His rhythm is agitated. There are dogwoods blooming across campus, pheromones of pollen in the air: the room contracts and expands. Horizons breathe.

White sun dazzles the sidewalks, the clarity of a lucid dream; spunk in his feet and a heat in his heart, he moves, towards the beckoning at the edge of town.

A Retrospect

Suburbia plots boring Friday nights — verdant roads winding along little houses with front porch lights. A poor place to put a college campus. Which goes to the reason the twenty-something finds himself standing, quite stoned, in front of the “cat house”. For lack of better things to do. Small-town campus monotony, he would like to know if Nothing is real. The house is pushed back through a garden from the ‘80s: a trellis thick with ivy, flowerbeds wooly with towering dandies gone to seed. A rust-eaten wheelbarrow, and a rust-eaten screendoor, a watering-can overtaken by soil: the slow Earth it moves over remains. The house is damp, cool, and smells of piss. Pungent. In the darkness with his cellphone flashlight, a frighted cat scurries across the floor. The house might be an episode of Hoarders; a TV-special on the house hygiene of Alzheimer’s. The smell of piss! The meowing rises momentarily to a cacophony in the clutter of boxes overflowing with crafts, needlework, VHS tapes from 1980. 30 years alone in a slow collection of insulation from the outer world: disheveled bookshelves, damp-rotten boxes, hoary floorboards soft with decay. He makes his passage in a narrow line through the clutter. Perhaps her family had used the house for storage, forgotten. Or perhaps she is just insane. Festering creatures creep along in the corners of his eyes. Blossomed cobwebs in the cabinets higher-up. Needle-point, half-finished baby socks untouched by capable hands. The refrigerator is open, the light on in the kitchen. The people who do this! the people who fade behind sun-drowsy shades, achromatic faces, color leached by the rain that rattles the slimy rooftops. The soft hum that hides the fear of the withering years — to waste her years! To waste like this in a nothingness of self-developed lacking, disgusting. What a waste! The woman moves upstairs: gentle-creaking footsteps. But no one is there: but the stale taste of must, piss-stained wallpaper and the framed pictures of children smiling in yellowed memories on the stairway wall — thumb-scrubs where the dust covered their faces. The creaking creeps slowly, from down the hall, footsteps more like shuffles. The smell of piss grows. The withering develops into deposits in his follicles. He can fear the coming end. The poor woman in her bed-dress stained with piss and spilt food, creeping slowly across the room. He says nothing but a sound escapes his throat, and the woman doesn’t move, stopped at the end of her step, in the middle of her empty bedroom, facing the wall. The room turns. The window sash flings open. The curtains billow and the bedsheets fly overhead to the corners of the room — the stain peels up from the floorboards, picture-frames shoot from the walls and the featureless face standing hunched at the center of it all: a tight packet of hurt, and the light that still burns through her breast.

Rising Tides

In the mornings the big house smelled of ocean air, cool shadows in the hallways, a chill to the couches and chairs not sat in since the night before; his older sister’s book lying open on the alcove’s cushion. The sun soon to chase away the comfort of quiet dawn. Before the house awoke, before parents rose for morning showers, before his aunt’s pancakes and cousins who liked video games, the boy would ride his bike. Down sandy streets and sidewalks shaded by beech trees, the boy on his bike that was his for the week, would pedal to the bakery in the shopping-center nearby. The damp air breezing on his bare arms and legs always felt kinetic, fresh, a harbinger of the heat to come; cool shadows fleeting post-dawn. He’d buy himself a bagel, an orangejuice and newspaper, and pedal back to the families’ rented beach house where he’d sit, at the table in the screened-in porch, to eat and read. Sometimes his mother would join him, with her eggs and tea and magazines. They’d eat quietly: the boy, annoyed by her presence, kept his wishes padded with silence. Then, for a few hours, he’d lie on his towel in the sand beside his parents and sister and cousins, listen to music and sleep. He’d swim in the sea with his father, and watch from a distance the girls who bathed in the wake. The boy had seen pictures of Ibiza and Corsica: in the late-afternoon’s drowsy heat he’d shower and feel himself ache: Daydreams of midnight seasides, conspiring liberties, they’d sneak from her window and creep the beaches with soft kisses and laughter only heard by the moon.

Must This Be Masochistic?

Originally published at SuddenDenouement.com

You told me to buy presentable clothes and I did, a whole new outfit from Target. Neat slacks and spiffy shirt, even found shoes to match. And now here I am dressed like a fish trying to understand what it means to breathe air. We’re toddlers on a see-saw, you and I, for the first time trying to find stability. But this gala is full of coroners. My first big affair for a serious career, and my editor escorts me to a corner booth to meet the district managers who pay us both. I laughed at the right jokes but I kept my mouth shut, and they never once saw the tattoos ‘round my gums. The molars I had pulled from eating rocks as a drop-out. Clean-shaven clean-cut and dressed like the guest of a judge who doesn’t recognize my face from four years before, I could maybe fit in if my conscience didn’t heave. The walls are turning purple. Faces start to swirl with open jaws of twisting laughter, vortices of features. The chandeliers are bleeding light. The hotel porters are cackling rapists out in the foyer looking for a fix and I don’t know what I’m into but I’m out in the rain. I am the news man who screamed out the window and tossed himself to pursue his echoes. There is a limo parked in the curbside puddles, seven porters to open the limo door. Out steps the Big Man himself, CEO of Gannet. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” My editor masturbating through his pocket. I am pouring vodka into champagne so no one will notice the changes bringing back the alcoholic. Unemployment gets me paid about half as much but if I don’t need a car or to keep my appearance, well, that’s money well saved and spent at the bar. No – I should give you a call to keep my head grounded but our conversation cannot be heard by these howling de Sades. Their suits are worth more than the hearse they’ll wheel me out on. I am cackling at the bar. Am I the Marquis in the mirror? Behind me spins the eloquent calculations of Murdoch’s publications, wives and the mistresses of breaking war stories and the talking heads from GE that just won’t quit. I am performing Coyote Ugly on the bar, finally shouting all the things that should be said. I haven’t had a care in the world since Makers’ Mark let me forget the debts I owe and the kids we support and I may be the Marquis in the mirror but god damn these cruel fools, our see-saw will stay stable if we place a god damn trailer on it.