Downwind Thinking himself quite tall and claiming the high ground, he loomed over them all from atop a dung mound. “You’re beneath me,” he said, “and you always will be.” Bible in hand, he read from Deuteronomy. “So circumcise your heart,” he said, “and be not...stiff...” then choked on the next part, getting too big a whiff of the shit neath his shoes, as did his would-be flock who left, as so behooves those sickened by shit talk. “Wait!” he cried, but then coughed at the odor blowing with the wind, now aloft, and the heat now glowing amidst the Summer sky beaming with its full fire, bringing tears to each eye and worse than any mire. “By God!,” the man exclaimed, “and by Moses and Christ, and all who yet be named, this is a true shite-geist!” He wavered a moment, feeling faint at the smell, but rallied as he went though the smell did but swell. “Yet, I shall reprimand this age of foulest souls and purge this goodly land until the church bell tolls to declare all so pure as a Godly town might...” He gagged as the manure stank in the hot sunlight. Rallying once again from atop his dais, he preached against all sin, saying, “Lord God, stay us from temptation, from lust, from envy and from wrath, show us works we will trust and show us the right path.” Then pointing at a boy passing by with a book, he vowed then to destroy all sinners with a look should they read any tome that was not the Bible, but the boy went on home and cared not of “high bull”. A girl then passed in grace with ribbons fine and fair and the preacher’s green face burned bright red with a glare. “Vanity is thy name! Forsake earthly treasures or it will be thy shame in Heaven, these pleasures!” The girl pinched her nose and gave him a wide berth, fearing to ruin clothes more than her soul on earth. The preacher loathed the cloth of her pink dress as well, saying “Beware the moth that nibbles souls in Hell!” The girl did not glance back, but hastened to the downs, keen to practice her knack for sewing pretty gowns. And many a more soul did the preacher condemn, the world together, whole— leaf and bloom, root and stem. “Foul! Foul! So foul indeed! This world stretched beneath me! An iniquitous seed felled from the Fruitful Tree!” He stomped deep in the mound as if ‘twas what he scorned, kicking filth all around like a bullshitter, horned. “As a Joshua tree will my belief so grow from this filth beneath me and the faith that I show!” All day he preached thereon till sun slept and moon fell, and though he bathed till dawn he could not shake the smell. “The iniquities last, ever without reprieve as shadows from the past cast by Adam and Eve.” He thought it a trial from which others might learn, yet his wife thought it vile— a circumstance to spurn. “If you are so holy,” she said, “be a saint no more roly-poly. Wash away your foul taint!” “Tis the taint of the world!” he said, “and follows thus!” She screamed at him, then hurled a pan, raising a fuss. “Out! Out!” she cried, “Out, swine! I cannot endure you! Were I not wedded thine I would marry anew!” The preacher fled thither, backside aching from blows, and felt his heart wither, as did his crinkling nose. “The stench persists,” he said, walking the country lane, knowing not where to head while stench brimmed in his brain. “Now I am an exile from out my own good home, prey to some devil’s wile and forever to roam!” Angrier than before, the preacher returned now to the high mound once more with a complacent brow. “Still do your sins smell!” he proclaimed, hands aloft. “And will thus unto Hell when sulphur and fire waft! Raise your heads up to me, and know the higher ground, for I stand above thee, a sermon on the mound!” For the rest of his days the mad preacher lectured, decrying the world’s ways while retching on each word.
“Worry not for worldly wealth,” the priest said,
“for your riches lay beyond Heaven’s Gate.”
The priest then counted his flock, head by head,
and, pleased, sent around the collection plate.
The ventriloquist had not half the skill
to throw his voice from a wooden throat,
so he chose to work on Capitol Hill
as a lobbyist, becoming the GOAT.
A contortionist of world-wide renown
was giving a performance much lauded
when she suddenly stopped and then stepped down
from the bright stage as the crowd applauded.
Waiting till the audience fell quiet,
she pointed to a man among the crowd,
directing the spotlight till he was lit—
an embarrassed man to whom she now bowed.
She said, “Here’s a man who twists more than me,
more than anything, even a serpent,
as he lies on the phone so easily.”
The man tried to speak, but she said, “Get bent.”
Much In Common
They adored him as a Rock god of sex
in the Seventies, his groupie harem
birthing the next generation, (Gen X),
who also shared his favor among them.
The young man flew like Shakespeare’s Ariel
from woman to woman, with great flair,
himself more center-stage at the burial
than the man for whom they had gathered there.
He wore his tears like badges of honor
as he reminisced vaguely about the dead,
talking to each woman, and prevailing upon her
to embrace him, support him, bosom to head.
The coup de gras was the dirge that he sang
as if to conjure from air a chorus of sylphs
in accompaniment, yet his lovely voice rang
not for sorrow or pain, but for the MILF’s.
For he knew the flow of sorrow’s tears
was as good a lubricant for the ruse of Love
as any seduction by charms or beers
and so he sang smoothly, sweet as a dove.
Alas, while he sang without any shame
and with a talent that was duly silver-voiced,
he also sang proudly the wrong man’s name
and immediately dried up all that was moist.
Realizing his deceit, the mourners rebelled,
cutting short his golden-throated verses
and taking him by his arms, whereby held,
he was tied up and put into one of the hearses.
The funeral director said he would see justice done
and so drove the funeral crasher far away
until the hours flew by, and down came the sun
at the coffin-like darkening of the day.
The director was a pale man with a narrow face,
neither young or old, but seemingly ageless,
and he had an accent which nobody could place,
his hair slicked back and his eyes sagacious.
At length they came to a graveyard on a hill
far from the city, in the moonlit countryside
where many people had gathered until
the hilltop was crowded, all around a bride.
The nary-do-well was untied and brought out
and taken to the bride that awaited him there—
a paper-pale woman with her lips in a pout
of fangs, her eyes unblinking with an undead stare.
The funeral director grinned, his fangs agleam,
and he said, “You celebrate Death as we all do—
as an occasion for Love, an advantageous scheme
whereby joy is had while others only rue.
“Thus you will join us in our blood-linked clan
and live eternally, wed to my niece, Natalia,
thriving in shadows, feeding upon Man,
from now and forever a vampire, nox fatalia.”
The young man was brought before the bride,
and she pulled him close to her fetid face,
and no matter how much the young man tried
he could not free himself from her embrace.
As her lips parted, however, and her fangs flashed,
there arose a warcry as men flanked the hill,
their guns firing while their silver swords slashed
at the guests that had gathered in the dewy chill.
The young man was agog with confusion and fright
as a stake entered the bride that held him to her,
Natalia withering unto dust beneath the moonlight—
he ran as fast as he could, slipping in cow manure.
A vampire hunter approached, looming while astride
a horse as pale as Death, the moon at his back.
“I’m not a vampire!” the young man cried and cried,
but the hunter granted the rake no slack.
The young man tried to flee, but slipped once again,
falling as the hunter dismounted his ominous horse
and raised a hammer and stake, aiming to pin
him to the darksome earth without remorse.
Awaking as the stake struck his heart,
the young man found himself at the black gate
to the graveyard where he had plied his art
to women in mourning— the hour now late.
It had been a dream, but his neck still ached
where the mourners had tossed him out on his head;
standing up, he realized it was not good to be staked
out at funerals— a dating app might work better instead.
Like a baby shower
at an abortion clinic
I have always been awkward
and a little weird.
I am bathos personified,
a schizophrenic dramedy
without pacing or direction
or pertinence to the narrative—
a fart joke
in the middle of a love triangle,
or a food fight
while the hero proposes to his
a headstone for your
grandma’s birthday party
because I have been told
should be appreciated.
a streaker caught
in a Black Friday swarm
pressed between angry mothers
with impatient children
and wondering where
he put his wallet.
a self-avowed atheist
invited to say Grace
at a company picnic,
and I am
like nervous laughter
during a hostage negotiation,
the muzzle against my temple.
an errant boner
in swimming trunks
while at the public pool,
or a bit of broccoli in the teeth
of a president speaking
of impending war;
a fan invited on stage
to sing a song
and spacing-out on the lyrics
with the microphone broadcasting loudly
my static-crackling forgetfulness
as I hem and haw
in beatbox rhythm.
an unarmed Security guard
asking to see a real cop’s ID
among a flock of flamingos;
a boot put on backwards
and sliding off to reveal
a peg leg.
Sometimes I feel
like the universe’s punchline,
and yet nobody laughs at the joke
because I am just too weird and awkward.
Disclaimer: Adult Content and Gallows Humor. Some might say this is politically incorrect, but such people are too blinded by career-oriented agendas to read between the lines or to see past their own projection. It’s all in good fun, even if it is also a little bit, well, caustic.
It was past midnight by the time Daria pulled into the parking lot below the tall apartment complex. She had taken her time that evening in her photography studio, developing several wedding photos before finally making good on Kyle’s invitation to come over. The wedding photos were not an urgency for her. They were for Mr and Mrs Bentley, whom she had started to call Mr and Mrs Getbentley because of their nagging. She always came up with dismissive names for wedding photography clients. She resented such clients most of all. Still, Daria did not want to drop what she was doing all at once because a boy had called her over for dinner. No, Daria was taking her time developing the wedding photos for their album, giving them their proofs piecemeal and taking pleasure in cutting their faces up for a collage with which to taunt them, like a kidnapper cutting out letters from various magazine ads for a ransom letter. Or perhaps she was more like a serial killer taunting police. The truth was that Daria held nothing but contempt for couples getting married, and resented having to work for them, especially for their weddings.
Daria did not bother to dress up. She wore a black sweater and blue jeans, a pink shade of lipstick, but no makeup otherwise. She had only started seeing Kyle a month ago and she wanted him thirsty and aware of who held the keys to the libido kingdom in the pseudo-relationship. That wasn’t to say that they never had sex—they had sex the first night they met at a mutual friend’s art exhibit after going to his apartment for wine—but she wanted him to know she had full control over the limited resource of her body and that he was not entitled to any of it even though he was a White cisgender male that made six figures a year trading stocks. The amusement park could close at any time, and often did. Last time she came over to his apartment she left prematurely because he wanted to watch a Jackie Chan movie. Totally boring. Hopefully, she thought, he learned his lesson or she would blue-ball him again.
Kyle had already given her card access to the apartment complex. She used it to get into the lobby and to take the elevator up to his floor. On the way up she felt some pressure on her stomach. She belched, her throat burning with bile, and she was glad she was the only one in the elevator. She carried no purse—being a 10th wave feminist—but she did keep a roll of Tums in her pocket. Her gastroenterologist said that Daria suffered from excessive acidity. She called it acidosis. Her gynecologist claimed the same thing, more or less. Too much alcohol, they said, and not enough alkali to balance it out. She told both of them that she ate plenty of cheese with her wine, but cheese also had lactic acid in it, or so they said. Sometimes her skin blistered and rashes bloomed on her knees, elbows, and forehead. She resented makeup, mostly, but used it whenever she had flare-ups. She felt like she was being dipped in acetic acid by someone who did not know the first thing about film development.
Then again, she also knew the bulimia did not help. Eating a carton of ice-cream and then force-vomiting afterwards left canker sores in her mouth. The sores hurt when she talked, which only made her angrier when she had to talk to people she disliked. And she disliked a lot of people.
Kyle had a posh apartment on the upper side of town. He had no taste for movies or art, Daria reflected, but he did have good taste for amenities and material comforts. There was merit in that, at least. And he had good taste in women, obviously, since he was so hopelessly head-over-heels for Daria. He was like a puppy dog around her. Too bad she was a cat person. Still, she thought him useful for passing the time.
The elevator opened and Daria stepped out, popping another Tums tablet into her mouth and chewing it as she walked the long, high-scale hallway that led to Kyle’s apartment. The silence attested to the quality of the apartment complex. Thick walls and solid doors. Someone could be screaming bloody murder and no one would hear it next door, above or below the apartment.
Daria came to room 512 and swallowed whatever bits remained of the Tums tablet. The acidic heat subsided in her throat and stomach. The bile ebbed. The card Kyle gave her to the lobby and elevator did not work on his room, which irritated her. But it was a ritzy apartment building so they had cards for everything. She hated door buzzers and chose to knock instead. Kyle fumbled with the chain a moment.
“I didn’t think you would show up,” he said, both nervous and giddy with apparent joy as he opened the door.
“You sure look like it,” she said, frowning at his boxers, black socks, and white T-shirt. “You getting ready to go to bed? That’s okay. I’ll just go out with some friends if you are tired…”
“No, no,” he said hurriedly. “I just thought it was too late for you to want to come over. I was watching something on tv…”
“Nothing pervy, was it?” she teased, albeit with a tone so flat that he could not tell the difference. Daria disconcerted most people this way, including her own parents when she spoke to them…which was rarely.
“No, just some old sitcoms,” he said. “I like to jump around. MASH. Seinfeld. Frasier…”
“Old White guys sitcoms,” she remarked with a frown. “Whining about their privileged lives.”
Kyle smiled uneasily. He had shaved, which Daria did not like. She preferred him to have stubble on his chin. Since his hair was black it gave him a very Bohemian shade to his look, even if it gave nothing to his milquetoast personality.
“I guess so,” he said. His awkward, nervous laugh died in his throat. “What do you watch for comedy?”
“Nothing before 2010,” she said, walking past him and into his apartment. She went to his living room, which was dark except for the glow of the television and the city beyond the windowpane. “Anything before that is just too Patriarchal for me to stomach.”
“Oh,” he said, closing the door. “I guess I’m not up to date on that stuff.”
She felt bile rising in her throat again.
“Need to use the ladies room,” she said lightly. “Be back in a second.”
Daria went into his bathroom and closed the door behind her. Looking into the mirror she saw, much to her chagrin, that her forehead was broken out with an angry red patch of psoriasis. It was reptilian in its scaliness.
“Should have used makeup after all,” she grumbled.
Her brown hair was pulled back into a stern ponytail. She undid the tie and let her hair fall to her shoulders. Her bangs covered most of the rash. If Kyle kept the lights off then he would not be able to see the rash. She ate another Tums and rinsed down the chalk with some water. The cool water stimulated her bladder. Sitting down on the toilet, she peed. Peeing burned down below and up into her lady bits.
“Great,” she muttered. “Yeast infection. Or a bladder infection. Maybe both, knowing my luck.”
Her gynecologist told her once that condoms could cause infections. Of course, pregnancy was a worse infection—in her estimation anyway—but she really wished men would get more vasectomies. One little snip and that was it. But their pride got in the way of progress. Daria had been known to castrate men with a quip, so it was all a normal procedure for her.
She waited until the burning, and the tinkling, stopped, then washed her hands and went out to the living room. She was annoyed to find that Kyle had turned the lights on.
“No,” she said. “Lights off.”
While Kyle turned the lights off, Daria sat on his leather couch in front of the huge widescreen television. The lights blinked off and Kyle tried to nonchalantly sit beside her—as if he wasn’t under the delusion that Netflix-and-Chill was always a euphemism for sex while throwaway programming cycled in the background.
“No funny business,” she said. “If this was a booty call I’d tell you.”
Kyle eased off of her, leaning toward his side of the sofa.
“Sorry,” he said. “I just…well…I like you a lot.”
“Course you do,” she said. “I am awesome.” She frowned at the television. “This? Not so awesome.” She held her hand up and Kyle surrendered the remote control. She cycled through the Netflix browser. “This looks pretty good,” she said, selecting an Indie art house film.
“I’ve heard the reviews aren’t great,” Kyle said reluctantly.
“Anybody with a keyboard and an internet connection can critique something,” she said, as if explaining to a toddler. “You can’t let other people tell you what to think.” She crossed her legs, kicking impatiently as her nether regions began to burn again. “Now be quiet and watch. You’ll enjoy this.”
But half an hour later and Daria was not enjoying the film anymore than the critics. It was a slow burn— like the burn between her legs and at the back of her throat—and it went nowhere. Yet, Daria’s pride would not let her turn it off. Kyle fell asleep a few times, and she even nodded off once or twice, finally succumbing to sleep at the forty-five minute mark. She woke up later, the credits rolling down the screen. She needed to pee again.
Rushing to the bathroom, Daria relieved herself. It was painful. The bile rose up in her throat again and she spat it into the toilet. Throat, mouth and vagina burning, she examined herself in the mirror. Apart from redness—and the rash on her forehead—she looked fine. She left the bathroom and rejoined Kyle on the couch. They cycled through the browser again, finding nothing. Neither of them was in a mood to watch anything anyway. Kyle yawned, which irritated Daria. She was ready to leave, but then Kyle spoke.
“I met one of your friends today,” he said. “Or ex-friends, I guess. Toni Bower. She’s an intern at the office.”
Daria never laughed, but she did smirk often, and she smirked expansively at this. “I always knew she’d become an office waitress. She sure as hell was a shit photographer.”
Kyle cringed. “Yeah, she seemed nice enough. At first, I mean. But then I told her I was dating you and she looked like I had ran over her cat.”
“Why were you talking about me?” she demanded. “And we are not dating. This is just…hanging out with benefits. Sometimes with benefits.”
Kyle raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “She wanted to grab coffee,” he said. “I told her I had a girlfriend so she wouldn’t feel rejected. I thought I had a girlfriend,” he added, looking at a loss.
“That’s pretty presumptuous,” Daria said. “Of both of you.” She eyed Kyle coolly, quite irritated with him and with Toni. Daria had planned on dumping Kyle sooner or later, but now she couldn’t. She didn’t like the idea that Toni would be Kyle’s rebound girl. Toni, she thought, was a damn scraphound.
Leaning toward Kyle, Daria rested her head on his shoulder. He could not see her face, but she was smirking— smirking at him as much as at the thought of Toni Bower working as an intern.
“That bitch has some serious crabs downtown,” she said. “She sleeps with just about any dude with a guitar. He doesn’t even need to know how to play it. In college her panties would drop if she saw a dude with a pick in his hand. She’s basically just a groupie for loser guitarists.”
“You are so caustic,” he said.
“What can I say?” she said. “I am a soup kitchen of sarcasm, and everybody’s in line for a bowl. And that bitch deserves multiple servings. Shit photographer and a shit feminist, too. 3rd Wave washout. She’ll probably be knocked up by one of the janitors there by the end of the year. No, it will be worse. She’ll probably marry one of the janitors. She deserves as much.”
“Toni seemed nice, though,” Kyle said. “Really, she did.”
Daria shrugged with smug self-assurance, then took off her sweater. “You’d be real nice, too, if you would just fuck me and stop talking about Toni Bower.”
At least Kyle was good at foreplay, she thought. Her panties were gushing by the time he put his rubber on. She ignored the burning downstairs, even after he inserted himself and began to thrust away. He was average in every measure, so the burning was not exacerbated too much. For a while, at least. He even managed to give her a couple of decent orgasms, her vagina tantalized into gushing vengefully against the image of Toni Bower crying in a lonely corner of an office building. Daria hated that bitch so much that it made her horny.
It was just before Daria’s third orgasm that Kyle began to grunt and groan and make painful faces. At first Daria thought he was going to orgasm. That irritated her. How selfish! She considered herself a 10th wave feminist— far ahead of the curve— and she did not want a man to finish inside her without giving her what she wanted first. So, she pushed him off of her and, before he could say anything, grabbed him by his ears and dragged his face down in between her legs. She was so wet now. He began to convulse, but she did not let go; no matter how loudly he screamed into her pelvis. When she had finished shaking from her final orgasm she let him fall back, moaning in agony. She was so taken away by climax that she did not care. If the building was on fire she would have just laid there, satisfied and unconcerned. It was when he began crawling across the floor that she realized something was wrong.
“Don’t be such a baby,” she said. “Eating pussy never killed anyone.”
He mumbled something, weeping and pointing to his face and to his penis.
“I am not going to blow you off,” she said. “Go finish yourself in the bathroom.”
He was shaking with sobs now and she lost patience. Sighing angrily, she stood up from the couch and turned on a light. Blood streaked the floor where he had crawled like a worm. He tried to speak, but could only moan ineffectually. His tongue, and his penis, had been melted to bloody nubs.
“Okay,” Daria said, after considering him for a long time. “I suppose Toni can have you if she wants. Better than a janitor, I guess.”
“It’s time you learned how to swim better,” Tommy’s father said, tossing Tommy into the water. “Motivation is key.” He upended the bucket of chum into the fin-crazed sea.
He promised to cook something she loved for supper. She ate it happily, with good wine to wash it down and candlelight to set the mood. Later she brought the scraps outside to give to her beloved dog, Max, but he was nowhere to be found.
The tree’s branches scraped against the bedroom window, waking up Lisa. Groggy with sleep, she walked over and closed the blinds. The scraping became faster.
Ashley’s sexy barmaid costume was a hit at the Halloween party. “Can I have a drink?” everyone asked her. Happy to be so popular, she laughed…until she saw their long fangs.
“This punch is a little bitter,” Julie said to Maggie, the host of the New Year’s Eve party.
“Bitter drink for a bitter year,” Maggie said, looking sidelong at Julie’s husband. “Next year will be much better,” she concluded as Julie choked and fell to the floor.
“I did my book report on a very old book,” Katie said as she stood in front of her 5th grade class. “It is called the Necronomicon.” Her eyes glazed over as she spoke and opened the book, showing its secrets to her classmates.
The barrel had been buried for nearly two hundred years when the archaeologists unearthed it in the outskirts of a Caribbean pirate town. There were carvings of crosses all over the barrel’s wooden flanks. They buried it again, unopened, when they heard something moaning inside.
The hitchhiker waved from the side of the dark highway, her wide grin flashing in Jerry’s headlights. He slowed down, momentarily, then smashed the gas pedal to the floor. Shadow and light rotated in her empty eye sockets as the car screeched by.
“It is a really good makeover,” Zoe remarked. “Beth looks better than she did during the Homecoming Dance.”
“I pride myself on my work,” the mortician said.
“All whom are baptized today shall fear pain no more!” the priest announced as he walked upon the sea. He looked gray and bloated, his arms hanging laxly at his sides and his head lolling with a vacant face. Something undulated in the water beneath him, restlessly awaiting his flock.
The pilots saw the beacon through the storm and redirected the plane toward the light. They thought the turbulence came from the winds, but it didn’t. When the plane crashed no bodies were found onboard.
The medical students all gathered around the cadaver. The professor held up his scalpel and said, “We need a fresh start today, so do I have any volunteers?” Ellen stepped forward, and screamed as they held her down beneath his blade.
Cedric the Magician knew it would be his final show, so he wanted to make it memorable. Everyone cheered when he sawed his assistant in half. No one cheered when he pulled the box apart.
Her red hoodie concealed her face as she walked along Woodland Drive in the dark. The hairy man snuck up and grabbed her by the wrist, spinning her around and unbuckling his belt with his free hand. Afterward she continued on to her grandmother’s, wiping blood off of her smile with her sleeve.
Aello’s sister always said she had terrible tastes when it came to men. But when Aello saw Patrick walking down the road, she knew he was different. Spreading her wings, and her talons, she swooped down upon him and carried him away.
The necromancer sat in the graveyard all night, scowling at a black book in his lap. “I did everything the spell required,” he growled, “but nothing has risen!” Suddenly he saw the sun rise above the tree line, and he leapt for joy, exclaiming, “I am the master of Life and Death!”
Lady Chastain had lost all patience with suitors that evening and came to sit in her parlour, next to the cage where her parakeet perched. A man stepped forward from near the fireplace, a knife gleaming in his hand. When they found her body the next morning, all the parakeet said, over and over again, was, “A twist of the knife for a twist of the tongue.”
Diogenes drank all night and woke up the next day on the steps of the Parthenon. The Athenian priests threatened to beat him if he did not sleep elsewhere. “Hypnos, upon Pan’s counsel, bid me sleep here,” the philosopher said, “and so who are you to question such gods?”
“I don’t know, man,” Bo said. “Sometimes I just feel like I’m drifting in open water.”
“That’s because you are drifting in open water, dude,” said Tyler, his grinning teeth as bright white as the surf breaking on the Hawaiian beach. His sandy-blonde hair was a nest of sun-bleached curls. The silver lenses of his shades reflected Bo’s exasperation as clearly as a mirror. “This water’s glassy as fuck today. No gnarly waves at all. The ocean’s taking a breath and holding it, man. We aren’t going to get any good barrels today.”
They both floated on their surfboards, belly-down, arms hanging laxly over the sides. Tyler had been smoking marijuana all morning long. Bo could smell it on him through the salty air of the ocean. He had probably popped a pill, too. Bo was trying to stop taking drugs altogether.
“I don’t know what I want to do,” Bo said. “Dad’s really pestering me to go to Business school, but, damn, I can’t stand those kooks. He keeps threatening to take my allowance away. He thinks he can scare me straight or something.”
“Your dad’s got mucha moola, dude,” Tyler said. “But, yeah, I’d hate to work around a bunch of kooks all day.”
“I was wanting to do something that would let me stay in Hawaii,” Bo said. “The only thing I really like to do is surf, and even that is starting to let me down.”
“Don’t worry, bro,” Tyler said. “There’ll be more waves to ride.”
“Even if there were,” Bo said, sighing, “I don’t think I’d care about them.”
Tyler looked at Bo for a long time, then shrugged. “You sure this isn’t a problem with Rae?”
“What about her?” Bo said.
“She’s going to school, too, isn’t she?”
“She graduated from highschool, so, yeah.”
“What’s she going to study?”
“Marine biology,” Bo said.
“At least she’ll be able to keep on the ocean,” Tyler said. “And studying whales and stuff would be cool…if I could do it from the back of a surfboard.”
Bo laid his face on his surfboard, left-cheek down while his eyes wandered over the landless horizon to the West. “We had an argument last night. She said I wasn’t taking anything seriously anymore.”
“What did she want you to take seriously?” Tyler said, grinning mischievously.
“School,” Bo said. He closed his eyes and sighed. “And our ‘relationship’.”
“Relationship?” Tyler exclaimed, chuckling. “You’re friends with benefits. That is more like an arrangement than a relationship!”
“Yeah, but now she wants something serious. Don’t get me wrong. Rae is a cool chick. I like hanging out with her. I like the sex, too, but she wants me to meet her grandparents.”
“Whoa-ho!” Tyler laughed, grinning and shaking his head as if he had sandfleas in his hair. “Talk about being in the pocket. Her dad is loaded with cash. Hell, if you two marry then neither of you would need to work again, man.”
“Her dad’s a hard-ass,” Bo said. “One of the big Kahunas. He hates that Rae hangs out with me. He thinks I take advantage of her. He’d kill me if he knew I was shagging her three days a week. But I’m only a year older than her, and she knew what she wanted when she started this thing. Still, he gives me the whitewater treatment. Whenever I do go to her house he tries to bog me bad. Always saying shit like he’s going to hurt me. Rae thinks he’s kidding around with me, but he doesn’t play.”
“Oh yeah. He’s actually one of the elders, isn’t he? Like, he belongs to one of the oldest tribes on the island.”
“And her mom is Japanese,” Bo said. “She’s nice and everything, but she’s very traditional. Can you imagine having in-laws that are tribal Hawaiian and old-fashioned Japanese? Man, that’s like surfing over coral!”
Tyler brayed like an ass. “That’d be a cheese-grater for sure, man! Ha!”
“And it’s not like I don’t like Rae,” Bo said. “But sometimes I feel like I don’t have any passion for her, ya know? I don’t have passion for much of anything. To be honest— and you keep this to yourself, man, I mean it— the only reason I have sex with her is because it feels like I’m accomplishing something. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. It feels like I’m building up to something.”
“Yeah, man,” Tyler said, laughing, “building up to creaming in her face!”
Bo thrashed his hand through the water, splashing Tyler in the face. “You can be a real dick, sometimes, man.”
Tyler just grinned through the water dripping down from his face and shades. “Just being honest, bro. Not trying to steal your waves or anything. It’s just that you got a good thing going with her. And, like, you could get your dad’s money and her dad’s money and you could just surf for the rest of your life. Or just coast. Or whatever, man. If I were you I’d be shacking out of my mind. Plank in the ocean and plank on Rae. Ride the waves out to oblivion.” He lifted his hands and made the choka gesture, pinky and thumb extending out while the middle fingers curled in. “That’d be totally gnarly, dude.”
“Do you have to be such a stereotype?” Bo said. But he laughed and then sat up on his surfboard. He glanced back at the shore. There were lots of kooks in the shoals, and a few trying to catch the nonexistent waves. Little grommets hauled their boards ashore, upset at the lull in the ocean. Bo thought for a moment about his future, and nothing looked good.
“You got it going on, dude,” Tyler said. “You shouldn’t be worrying about nothing right now, man. Just marry Rae and call it a day.”
“But her mom will want grandkids,” Bo said. “Hell, my mom will want grandkids. And if we do that then I will have to get a real job. No more wave-riding for me. No more coasting. Just the 9-to-5 grind. Everyday, five to six days a week until I can retire, roll over, and die.” He punched the water.
“Fuck that, man,” Tyler said. “Stay on the pipeline. Kiss the spray. Throw buckets at it all. I bet Rae doesn’t even want kids. I’m telling you, man, it’s not a bad deal.”
Bo opened his mouth to say something else, but then saw something terrifying. Shark fins— fifty of them, at least—all cutting through the water in a helter-skelter, zigzag non-pattern of frenzy.
“Fuck!” Tyler screamed. “Total sketch balls!”
The sharks did not pay attention to Bo and Tyler, even as the two surfers flailed to turn about and flee. Instead, they swam around them and headed toward the island. Even at the distance Bo could see the sharks slam into the shoals, then up onto the shore. It was like a mass-suicide of sharks. But he had never heard of sharks doing anything like that. Maybe, he thought, he could ask Rae about it.
Before he could contemplate it more, however, something struck his feet. He nearly tumbled off his surfboard in fright. He and Tyler both gasped as the schools of fish rushed by, so thick in numbers that they were like a moving landmass beneath the ocean; dense and frenzied as a mosh pit. This massive front of wildly diverse fish clustered around the golden sands while parents, screaming, fled with their children in their arms. Other surfers and kooks staggered frantically out of the water, retreating from the waves of marine life all throwing itself ashore.
And then the water became darker. Large creatures passed beneath Bo and Tyler. They could do nothing but watch as the pods of whales surged beneath them in feverish flight. Stunned to incredulity, the two teenagers watched as the whales stranded themselves with the rest of the creatures, crushing fish and shark alike to escape the ocean.
“What the fuck is going on?” Tyler said.
Bo and Tyler felt the ocean suddenly draw back, pulling them far out to sea as if on a riptide. Bo looked out over the horizon. He saw a white crest, as long as the ocean’s horizon, and knew upon the moment, with an instant dread, that it was coming their way. It was a rogue wave. It may have even been a tsunami. It was difficult to discern at the distance, but it confirmed itself rapidly with the passing of one moment into the next.
“Jesus Christ!” Bo cried. “That’s, like, a hundred foot swell!”
“No way!” Tyler said, gawping. He took off his shades and strained his eyes against the West Pacific as the sun glared along the concussive waters. “Fuck! That’s a monster wave, man.”
The wave was not something Bo or Tyler had any experience with. Bo did not believe they could ride it, and even if they tried he knew there would be no telling where the wave might take them. It might sweep them to the wrong side of the island, where rocks and coral waited with sharp, jagged teeth.
“We gotta’ dive under it,” Bo said.
“Fuck no,” Tyler said. “I’m riding that monster.”
“It’s too damn dangerous, man,” Bo said. “Go under it, or you’ll be just another cracker crushed in the soup.” Bo laughed giddily at his own joke, never having meant to make it.
“You can’t duck-dive everything, man,” Tyler said. “Me, I’m gonna’ face this thing head-on. Deep in the pit. Tickling the chandelier. Riding the pocket. Know what I’m saying?”
“Fuck that,” Bo said. “This isn’t necessary. It’s not worth the ris…”
But Tyler had already started paddling out to meet the large wave. Bo watched him in disbelief, wondering if he would ever see his friend again.
The sea went from glassy to choppy in seconds. Bo waited until he felt the ocean surging beneath him and then he took a deep breath and dove downward, abandoning his board and going down as deep as he could in the darkening ocean. He had trained for years to hold his breath for long periods underwater. It wasn’t so much his lung capacity that was the danger, but the panic of what he was trying to avoid as it rushed above him. He felt the wave pass, pulling him upward with it, but by the time he broke the surface the wave had already tumbled down into its own impact zone. He breathed out the old air and then sucked in some more. He regained his breath just in time to dive again and avoid another wave— somewhat smaller than the first— and repeated this until the waves finally subsided enough that he could ride the smaller ones shoreward. He yelled for Tyler in between each surge.
And then he turned around, looking seaward, fearful that he might see Tyler’s lifeless body drifting in that foamy calm. But instead of seeing Tyler, Bo saw a large shadowy figure on the horizon; a shadowy figure that dwarfed the sun sinking behind it. The shadowy figure was gargantuan in size. Reticulated wings spread from its humanoid back, whereas its face was a writhing tangle of tentacles. Its massive eye looked balefully upon the world and then its body lurched forward, wading through the deep ocean as a child might wade through the shoals. Had Bo not been awash with the briny waters he would have been soaken with sweat. Panicked, he swam shoreward with a frenzied flurry of his arms. A wave of terror carried him without end.
Sharks, whales, fish, dolphins—the beach was strewn with dying sealife that had stranded itself in its wild flight. Their slick, glistening flanks expanded and contracted desperately, but their eyes were empty of anything except instinctive terror. Many more animals had gutted themselves on the reef break. Bo came ashore slowly, gradually navigating the coral on this side of the island. He found Tyler waiting for him. They greeted each other with openmouthed dismay.
“This is some crazy shit, man!” Tyler said. “And one hell of a wave! A wave of a lifetime!”
“Wave?!” Bo cried. “Wave? Didn’t you see that…that…thing coming out of the ocean?!”
“These crazy beasties?” Tyler said, gesturing to all of the sealife dying on the shore. “Course I saw them. Hell, some of them were riding the wave with me. I managed to ride the barrel to the shore before I could hit the impact zone. Was pretty damn gnarly, man.”
“No!” Bo said. He pointed toward where he had seen the shadowy figure sloshing through the ocean. “I’m talking about the monst…”
Whatever it was, the monster was gone, and the sun had set. Dusk flared over the frothy sea. Tyler walked between a Great White Shark and a marlin, then tiptoed gingerly between a humpback whale calf and a Tiger Shark. He grabbed an opah that was the size of a bicycle tire and lifted it up.
“Dude,” he said, “does Rae’s mom know how to make sushi?” He gasped, awestruck by a sudden thought. “Dude. Dude. There’s enough fish here for the whole island to have a luau.”
Bo kept staring out toward the ocean; staring hard to see the creature again while also dreading the sight of it.
Tyler had now exchanged the opah for a Yellowfin tuna that was the size of his leg.
“We could have both, you know?” he said excitedly. “Like, a sushi luau, that way Rae would feel at home. You could propose to her! That’d be…”
“That’s it!” Bo cried suddenly. He stormed up the beach, farther inland. “I’m going to Kansas to be a farmer!”
Tyler followed after him, fumbling with the Yellowfin tuna. “What do you mean, dude?”
“Or a businessman,” he said. “An insurance salesman in Idaho! Or a pig farmer in Kentucky! Anywhere else but here!” he screamed, stomping between the hundreds of animals that had beached themselves there. “Away from the ocean! Away from that thing!”
Bo rode that wave of terror all the way to Denver, Colorado. He bought some land and grew pot for his own business. He was known as a savvy businessman that was fair and amicable. His father was proud of him for becoming a businessman, but also resented the fact that he never visited his family in Hawaii. Tyler married Rae, but that marriage lasted only three months and ended in divorce when he happened to see something rising out of the water one day, too. He joined Bo in Denver eventually. Rae married a doctor in Honolulu. Her father, and his tribe, were very pleased and no more gigantic monsters were seen off the coast of Hawaii.