Sunday, November 06, 2016

To forget and then remember a rectangle -- a guided meditation

Do you remember what a rectangle looks like?  Most people always know what a rectangle looks like, so to remember one is mundane and without value, like seeing one's face reflected in a mirror.  But if you can forget what a rectangle is, and then be reminded of it, it's an incredible dual pleasure -- of reaching for something at the fringe of your conscious memory and grabbing it into focus; and of the neat symmetry of the rectangle revealing itself to you.  Today, we will remember a rectangle.  But before we can remember a rectangle, we have to...FORGET a rectangle.

To forget a rectangle, first, we must remember a rectangle.  First, remember a rectangle.  You see its four sides.  You see its ninety-degree angles.  You see that its perpendicular sides are of slightly different lengths (forgetting a square is a more advanced technique, which we will save for another day).  Are you remembering it?  Maybe there's a rectangle in front of you right now -- a book, or a table, or a television.  If you're having trouble remembering a rectangle, you might try remembering one of those things first and then erasing it of detail so that all that's left is the shape -- the shape of a rectangle.  Are you remembering a rectangle?  Good.  You might wish to remember holding or kissing a rectangle.  You may kiss a rectangle, but please go no further (do not fuck a rectangle).  When you are done holding and kissing it, remove yourself from the scene -- it is now just a rectangle.

No, you're doing it wrong.

Just -- the rectangle, remember?  Think about a rectangle, hold it in your mind.  Is it a rectangle?  All right.  Just, remember it.

Now: forget it.

Forget your rectangle.  Let the angles twist like a weak structure in a heavy wind.  Let the sides collapse like a pile of twigs.  What angles?  What sides?  You don't know; you don't remember anything like that.  The shape you held in your mind -- whatever its shape, whatever its name -- is obscured in a fog.  Your mind fills with this shapeless fog.  Although you find that you can manipulate the shapeless fog into shapes -- a circle?  Yes, that's that round thing.  A heptagon?  Yes, seven sides, you can see it.  Are there more shapes?  Sure, you can think of more shapes.  Different shapes, but not the one -- the one that...the one you can't name...the one that's there in the corner, hiding in the shadows, and if you turned your head to look at it it would be gone...

Great!  You forgot a rectangle!

Now it's time to remember a rectangle again.  This can be the same rectangle from before, or a new rectangle.  The important thing --

Your phone is ringing.  Answer the phone if you have to.  This can wait.

You hang up.

You stare at your phone.  It fails to resolve itself in your hand.  It's solid, glass and light, you can feel its cold hardness in your hand, but to your eyes, it looks like liquid.  It's unstable; you're afraid that if you look away, when you look at it again, it will have taken on a new form, unrecognizable; it is a monster.

Anyway, now that you have a second to reflect on the call, you just got some bad news.

Ok, but put that out of your head, because it's time to remember a rectangle again.  So close your eyes.  Put the news out of your head.  It'll be fine, you can reflect on it later, the important thing is to remember a rectangle right now.  Wipe your mind clean.  See the blank canvas, and now draw a rectangle onto it, with its...number of sides and its...angles, of various...

All right, you're a little distracted, that's to be expected.  Take all the pain and frustration from the phone call and whatever other garbage is going on in your worthless life, and pen it into a solid, clean rectangle.  Rectangle, remember?  It's -- it looks like -- I mean, it's kind of hard to describe, it's just...it's just a rectangle...you kind of need to just, like, remember it, I don't know how I can help you beyond that, you just -- you need to --

You were doing something -- what was it?  Something you were supposed to remember.  The laundry?  No, you did that yesterday.  Something with the cat?  The cat is sick?  You see the cat, lying on an unstable, liquid mass in the bedroom.  The cat looks fine.

You step back, out of the door frame.  You try take it in -- you're baffled and frightened.  This thing, with the hinges, and the knob, it's a "door," but -- what the hell is this thing?  Why does it have so many sides?  It's like a triangle, but...more...

The room doesn't move, but your perception of it does -- it seems to tear itself open and hurl you into a void of sharp lines and right angles without name.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Teens took my jetski

Teens took my jetski.  I left it idling by the dock at the inn because I was just running over to the grill to grab an ear of corn and all of a sudden I hear the engine go and I turn around and I see the teens jetskiing off.  I chased them down the beach but I could only go so far before they'd left the shore behind and I was just yelling into the cloud of black smoke that comes out the back when you accelerate too fast ever since I drove it onto a sandbar last year.  But they saw me chasing them so they turned around (two teen boys and a teen girl) and laughed and yelled at me and did a couple donuts.  They were still too deep to chase after but just shallow enough that I could make out their taunts.  I could have thrown a rock, but to what end -- dent my own jetski?

It'll turn up somewhere, in a couple days.  The last time it washed up on the beach six days later, tangled up in a water volleyball net, chassis cracked, sand pouring out of the exhaust.  I'd again left it idling, this time because Dana brought donuts to everyone out on the pier.  The teens don't care what reason you have for leaving your jetski unattended, they just pounce.  People tell me not to leave it idling in the water, but it wastes more gas, I've read, to shut the engine off and then turn it back on if you're only getting a donut or an ear of corn, and gas is expensive.  Well, actually, it's pretty cheap now, cheaper than it's been in years -- under two dollars!  The teens figure they're just stealing some yuppie's joyride, but I need that jetski to get to work.

I'm back working at the marina.  The lake has this eel problem, so my job is mostly untangling eels from the propellers of yachts, and scrubbing off the lake muck that gets smeared onto the yachts as they plow through the water.  I couldn't afford the car AND the jetski.  I had to pick one and I'm fine with my choice.  I live on one side of the lake, the marina is on the other.  The commute is shorter, or roughly the same.  Some things are harder with a jetski than with a car that I hadn't thought about.  Grocery shopping, is one example.  I can pretty much count on losing a bag or two into the lake every time I go shopping.  I tried buying a bag of "dummy groceries," figuring, I'm gonna lose a bag, may as well have it be a bag full of stuff I don't need like cat food and bean curds and root vegetables and those unscented religious candles they sell and stuff like that, but it's not so easy to guess ahead of time which bag is going to be the one to slide off so now I've got all these bean curds and some eel is "digging in" to my sirloin steaks 150 feet underwater.  So that's a challenge.  And when it's winter, I won't be able to go anywhere at all, so I'll have to quit my job, I guess, I'm just realizing.  But I'm in trouble there already, having missed so many days waiting for the teens to discard my jetski, I may have already been fired without my knowledge for all I know.

I want to make a bomb.  I want to leave it on my jetski and blow it up the next time it's stolen.  I want to watch those teens ride off, exulting in their theft and my oldness and lameness and stupidity, and wait until the moment their triumph seems to them assured and just blow them up.  I want to feel the warm tickle of liquefied teen on my skin like a hot summer mist.  I want all the other teens to be gathered on the beach, so they see their friends' beautiful heads pop off and land, still smiling, at their feet; I want to make those surviving teens come to understand that they can die too, and all their youth and sex and vigor means nothing against our old, brutal adult violence.  We invented that.

I told Dana this, and she just shook her head.  Teens are infinite, she said, and their knowledge is never passed to the next generation; they can only make the same mistakes forever.  She's right.  Because I was a teen once, and death touched me, and all I learned from it was, "but it wasn't me, and it never will be."  Though sometimes I wish it was me and not my slutty teen girlfriend who had that balcony crash down on her head, or that it was me and not the town bully who got drunk on his birthday and passed out and slept where a tractor would roll over him the next morning, or that it was me and not my brother who rode a jetski into unfamiliar waters and hit a rock and slipped under the waves; and that it was him and not me who clung to the side and had to ride home alone and tell his drunk of a father, who hardly cared, what happened -- I wish all this in just the same way the teens who steal from me hope that they drive it into some rocks or that I build a bomb and blow them up so their responsibilities are relieved of them and they can die the way they want to be remembered -- young and beautiful and moving away fast, with no eels ever to be untangled.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Mulchtown

You can now watch Mulchtown, a short I wrote for Adult Swim, on Youtube.

This is based on stories that were previously published in PBQ and Snacks Quarterly.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Late from school

The kid came home at 3:10.  School gets out at 2:20 and it takes half an hour to get home on the bus, which means he usually gets home at 2:50.  So what the hell made him twenty minutes late?  These are the questions that seem simple, and yet answers elude me.

Where have you been, I asked him.  School, he said.  True enough.  What about after school?  He didn't answer, just grabbed a snack cake from the tall cabinet and stomped up to his room.

And look, I know how it sounds.  I'm not such a hardass that I'll ream the kid for getting home a little late from school.  I try to give him his independence or whatever.  It's just -- to get from school to home takes a known number of minutes.  Five or even ten minutes late suggests traffic, or forgetting a book in class, or chatting with a neighbor -- a brief, unexpected delay.  An hour or more late, ok, sure, he's got something else going on, another activity of some kind, a little heads up would have been nice but I suppose I don't have to know everything.  But twenty minutes late is too long for a delay and too short for an activity -- it's only enough time to do something wrong.

He drinks now -- I know that.  His mother says it's not big deal, and it's not, obviously, but it annoys me.  He knows a server at Chili's, some girl in college, so he and his friends go there every Friday and Saturday and get a table and get a bunch of appetizers and their server friend brings them preposterously colored drinks all night.  I don't know how this has been going on for weeks and the girl hasn't been fired yet.  He comes home with his breath stinking of weak booze and fruit mixes; his teeth are stained blue or red or purple.  I'm always right about to lay into him but his mother cuts me off and says she's just glad he got home safe and asks, did you have fun? like he's coming home from flying a kite.  He says they take turns being designated driver but I've never seen him come home sober.  That's not what he was doing today, obviously, it's just to say -- I know him, and he's rotten.

I went up to his room and knocked on his door.  He was blasting something on his television way too loud.  He called out WHAT, already annoyed.  I told him I didn't want to shout through the door and that he should open up or I was coming in.  He shuffled some papers and shoved them into his desk, it sounded like, and then came to the door.

"Turn off that damn TV," I said.  "We never should have let you bring it up here."  He stomped over and made a big show of turning it off.  I was actually glad he had the TV; it was my idea; it keeps him out of our hair, and it's useful leverage.  "I'm going to cut the cable cord outside, see how you like that."  He sat on the bed and looked out the window, away from me.

"Return to the door," I said.  I wanted him to face me.  He sighed and dragged himself over like his shoulders weighed a thousand pounds.

You never think your son is going to grow up to hate you.  Well, that's not true, I had an inkling.

"What were those papers I heard?"

"What papers?"  He avoided eye contact, which, I knew from television crime shows, was a sign of deception.

"I heard you shuffling some papers before I came in.  You threw them in your desk.  What were they?"

"They were just some magazines."

Preposterous, that he thought I couldn't tell the difference between the ruffling of papers and a glossy magazine, even behind a closed door.  But why lie and say they were magazines?  Even if he thought he could fool me (fat chance), did he not realize that magazines opened himself up to all kinds of uncomfortable questions?  That in many ways, magazines were more suspicious than papers?  I was a bit thrown off, so I decided to respond with that old standby, explosive rage.  "I know the difference between loose papers and magazines, who do you think I am?"

"It was just homework."

I had him changing his story; it was difficult not to grin.  "So first they were magazines, and now they were homework sheets.  Why, if we're here for much longer, soon they'll have been elephants!"

"You're not making sense, Dad."  He always did that; skirt my traps by pretending not to understand their logic.  Well, he's dim, but he's not that dim.

I wanted to press further, but ultimately decided to move on for now and circle back to the papers later if he squirmed free on the main issue.  "Where were you today after school?"

"I don't know," he said, "on the bus?"  Every answer was another question with him.

"So why were you twenty minutes late?"

"I wasn't that late."

"You want to explain to my watch that you weren't late?"  I tapped on my watch for emphasis.

"I didn't say I wasn't late, I said I wasn't twenty minutes late," he insisted.  "I was like five minutes late."

"Well let's start there," I said.  "Now we have an admission from you that you were late, and I appreciate that you're being honest with me."  This was a ploy -- let him feel comfortable with his story, and soon enough he would contradict himself, and then it would just be a matter of pointing out the inconsistencies and he'd have no choice but to acknowledge that I'd been right.  "So the question is, why were you late at all?"

"I don't know, I was just walking slower?"

"Well, that's another lie," I said calmly, "shall we begin to tally them up?"

He scoffed.  "Can I close this door now?"

I burst into the room.  I seemed to pass through his body like it was a mist, odd.  I marched over to his desk and yanked open his drawer.  There was a single sheet of paper inside, with "Fuck Dad" written neatly in pencil on the top line.  "Ah ha!" I cried.

"I told you, it's homework!"

"Homework, indeed!  For your 'fuck dad' class?"

"Give it back!" he screamed, but he stayed where he was, as if his feet were rooted to the spot.  In fact, his feet were still facing out the door, where they were before I'd stormed in; he'd had to spin at the hips to face me.

"So this is what you think of your father!"  I waved the paper under his nose.

"I guess."

"You guess?  You guess 'fuck Dad?'"  We were going nowhere.  The conversation, the situation, the relationship, it was all going nowhere.  "Is this why you were late?  Were you writing this filth?"

"Yes."  He had no spirit left -- I was losing hold of him.

"Don't evade me!"

He put on a pair of sunglasses and pulled a skateboard out from behind the door.  "Surf's up, dude," he said.

"You don't make sense, you don't hold together," I screamed at him, "you lack depth, you have no reason to be, and you're not interesting or amusing!  Why are you even here?"  His posters and his pictures all fell off the walls.

He shrugged and blew a big cocky bubble with his bubble gum.  He mouthed words but all that came out was a low, even whimper.

"Louder!"  The air conditioner and the furnace both started blasting at the same time, the TV turned back on and the vacuum howled from where the downstairs used to be.  My son was saying something to me but I couldn't hear it, and everything was wrong.

I searched for something to say -- something witty and droll, maybe, or something cutting and brutal -- something coherent and true that would bring things to a close, but I reached down deep and there was nothing there.  The fact is he was never there, my son, he was never real to me, it was you.  It was you I was trying to reach, to shout at and beg for clarity or meaning or forgiveness, but the fact is, I don't have anything to say to you anymore.  And I'm not angry, it's just how it is.  You were a light in my head but it got switched off and now all that's up there is the parts that tell me to eat and sleep and go to the bathroom.

"You all right over there, Pops?"  My son punctuated his sentence by rapping on a pair of small bongos and flashing a peace sign.  I ripped the world apart and was absorbed into a blackness that was very bright, and what does that even mean?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Air Message

Imagine this: a world in which your next communication is just a few keystrokes away.  Type a few words into a box -- as few or as many as you'd like! -- choose a recipient, click the "Deliver" button, and that message appears in his or her Message-Box, not in a few days or a few hours, but AT NEARLY THE SPEED OF LIGHT!  And all of this is done without having to lick a stamp or work a fax machine or hear the sharp hiss of the dial tone in your delicate ear.  It sounds like an insane future, right?  Well that future is here today: with the amazing power of Air Messages.

This invention is completely different from email.

Air Message is a revolutionary communication platform that will change the way we work, play, communicate, and do other stuff.  It will seem unnatural and strange at first, typing everything from quick "hello"s to your most heart-felt declarations of love into a small box on your computer screen and sending them off invisibly.  It's an experience unlike any other, including email.  But once you use Air Message for the first time, soon you will be addicted to filling out the Message-Reason Line and sending cool Affixed-ments to all your friends.

Email is electronic.  It's electronic-mail.  Air Message goes through the air.  So that's one difference, straight off.  Email only works with electricity.  Air Message works wherever there is air, and an electrified computer to send your messages with.  So you do need electricity, but only the DEVICE needs it, not the message itself.

Hear that blaring klaxon?  Get used to hearing it most of the day, and for extended periods of time!  That's the sound your Message-Box being filled with a new Air Message.  It doesn't stop blaring until you've read all the messages.  This is yet another of the major differences between Air Message and emails.  When you get an email, it just shows up, without any declaratory sirens.  Air Message demands more of your attention, which is a good thing, in my opinion, because otherwise I'll just read a few emails and leave the rest of them, but if there were a blaring siren I couldn't shut off, you can bet I'd stay glued to my screen until I read them all!

Sick of Air Messages with ads you didn't ask for clogging up your Message-Box?  Just drop them into your BEEF folder.  BEEF stands for something, I forget what it was, I wrote it down somewhere (I should have Air Messaged it to myself!).  Once the message is in your BEEF folder, it will be "frontwarded" to a three-judge panel who will adjudicate whether the Air Message violated our terms of services, or whether it was a permissible commercial contact.  If it is found to be in violation, then the sender will lose their Air Message account and you will never hear from them again!  If it is found to be permissible, then it will be frontwarded back to you fifteen times and you will pay a fine to cover costs of flying the three-judge panel to arbitration headquarters in Nebraska.  None of the judges live in Nebraska, and they have to be flown there several times a day to handle our many adjudications.

Someone send you a cool Air Message and want to give the sender a quick thanks?  It's easy!  Just click the "Retort" button, complete a twenty-minute survey about your pornography purchase habits for our advertisers, and your retort will be flying through the air in no time!

Air Message accounts are not compatible with email addresses.  If you try to send an Air Message to an email address, our servers will be unable to read the recipient-line and will melt, resulting in a loss of Air Message service for all users for up to 12 hours.  Please do not try to send an email with Air Message.

Hey, ever dreamed about sending an Air Message from your car?  Now you can!  Just plug a heavy microwave-sized box into your exhaust pipe, install wheels on the box, start driving around, and it's fully functional!  The Car Input works by beeping the horn in Morse code to spell out your Air Message.  Just beep several times for every letter!  And don't worry, Air Message won't affect the functionality of your horn -- in fact, many say their horns beep louder, and occasionally without being touched as other Air Message signals floating gracefully through the atmosphere are picked up by your new exhaust-powered box.

People who have never used Air Message often say things like, "this sounds just like email, only worse."  Well, if it's worse than email, then it can't be just like it, can it?  It's a totally different invention then, you've just admitted it, you stupid fucker.

Air Message is entirely free, except for the microtransactions that are withdrawn from your account literally millions of times per day.  This way, you lose money, but just a little at a time, so you don't even notice the subtraction unless you check you bank account less often than every few seconds.  Ever see someone look over a bank statement that is unfathomably long due to countless withdrawals of between zero and one cent, such that their larger transactions are completely buried under lines and lines of useless data?  Well, as for their Air-Message Identification Key and send them a "hello," or select from dozens of Air Message-exclusive "FacE-L-eXPressions," which are like human emotions expressed in typing form, like "O&" which is a sideways head with stupid hair.

I think you should just give Air Message a fair chance.  If you don't like it, well, then just keep using it and keep using it and keep using it until you get used to it and you're too invested in it to change back.  And if you still don't like it after all that then maybe you should look in the fucking mirror to discover what your problem is instead of blaming it all on me and my invention.

Because I don't think you understand.  I quit my job to invent Air Message.  It is my life and it is my passion by default.  I was inspired when I was sending an email, and I said to myself, "there must be another, not necessarily better, but at least different, way to do this, that I can make some money off of."  I used to work at a town park.  My job was to sit behind a little desk on a patio and whenever a kid wanted to play with a ball I took a little key and opened the supply closet and gave them one and made them sign it out, and then collected it back at the end of the day and crossed their name off the list so I knew they were not negligent.  The older kids would jump me when I turned my back on them to unlock the closet and make off with all the balls they could carry, and pour their sodas on my sign-out sheet, rendering it illegible, and throw rocks and hornets' nests at me when I tried to plead with them to follow the rules.  And when an honest kid came up and asked to sign out a ball, I had to explain that I had failed them, and then at the end of the day the stolen balls would just be scattered around the park and I'd have to go and collect them, from the basketball courts and the sandbox and they'd chuck some deep in the woods and a few of them would be in the pond, which always got really cold at night and I'd have to go in there and fish them all out, and many of them would be filthy or popped and I didn't feel right asking for overtime to stay late and fix them, since it had been my fault for them getting in that condition in the first place.  I was a bust at ball disbursement and collection, and my salary was a waste of tax money.  Well if I couldn't do that, I thought, maybe I could do some other thing: maybe I could devise a way to send Messages through the Air, to make communication frictionless and beautiful and without bullies or hornets' nests, and anyone who was cruel would always lose their adjudication hearings.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Impartial Fish-Man

We turned on the TV.  Charlie Rose was on.  He was interviewing a Fish-Man.

"Turn it off," my sister said.  She was burping her son.  "I hate those slimy Fish-Men."

I didn't particularly care for the language she used.  Calling a Fish-Man "slimy" seemed to me to call back to hateful stereotypes of less enlightened times, when Fish-Men and their families were barred from buying homes in certain parts of the city.  Even if it is true that Fish-Men must keep their scales moist to avoid drying out when spending extended periods of time on land.

But still, I can't deny that I felt the same reflexive disgust towards Fish-Men that my sister, and other less-educated Americans still feel.  I think we all do.  It's not because the Fish-Man, with his unblinking eyes or stinking gills, is physically repulsive.  It's because Fish-Men cannot be impartial.

Just look at Congress.  Whenever a Fish-Man is elected to Congress, it's the same old story -- he refuses to work with his colleagues on anything that is not in the interest of his gerrymandered, Fish-Man dominated home district.  And as if that weren't enough, the Fish-Man doesn't go to Congress just to fight for his own issues.  He has to band together with the small minority of Fish-Man and Fish-Man-sympathetic lawmakers and disrupt the entire legislative process, with self-glorifying speeches, hopeless amendments, and time-wasting procedural moves.

And of course the same is true of the Fish-Men we deal with in our day-to-day lives.  I worked with a Fish-Man once and he was impossible.  Ask him to solve a tricky highway access problem (this is when I was working at the transportation department) and instead of brainstorming possible solutions, he'd just go on and on about how highway spending is a massive waste (because Fish-Men don't drive cars, they only swim) and how we should be spending that money instead to solve more important problems like repainting the bottoms of certain buoys to make them more reflective and Fish-Men would be able to see them in the dark.

And I would never ask a Fish-Man to change his opinion, or go along with something he didn't believe in.  But Fish-Men are just incapable of understanding that other people ("Land-Dwellers," they call us) might see an issue differently from them.  You try to explain it to them and they just get confused -- they don't understand.

It's because their brains aren't developed in the same way.

But I didn't change the channel.  I put the remote down.  My sister left the room in a huff.

Charlie said that his guest that day was the world's first and perhaps the world's only Impartial Fish-Man.  I turned the volume up.  The Fish-Man sat quietly across from Charlie.  He looked like a typical Fish-Man -- scaly, moist, with frills and fins styled on his head; wearing the unofficial Fish-Man uniform of a plaid button-down shirt and conservative khakis; with a huge clear fish bowl filled with water on his head so he could breathe.

Charlie thanked the Fish-Man for being on the show.  The Fish-Man didn't say anything, he just sort of nodded abruptly, but that kind of social awkwardness is normal for Fish-Men.

Charlie and the Fish-Man started talking about military expenditures.  The Fish-Man believed we spend too much on the military.  I scoffed -- this kind of position was typical of Fish-Men.  Of course they want the country to spend less on the military.  They don't need a strong military because, faced with any outside threat, they will just abandon the country and slip into the sea.  But I realized the Fish-Man hadn't called for the country to cut all military funding, like most of his brethren.  He was simply calling for cutbacks, and pointing out that much military spending was wasted on foolish projects and unnecessary foreign conflicts and, hell, I can agree with that position.

Charlie smiled.

The Fish-Man rattled off numbers, explaining how many billions of dollars had gone to waste on equipment that was obsolete before it reached the battlefield, or vehicles that were designed to fight the wars of the past but were useless in the small-scale conflicts of the future, or corrupt government contractors.  I don't remember the numbers, but they were big.  He was making a persuasive case.  The Fish-Man said we shouldn't be spending all this money on draining wars overseas when we had so many needs here in the homeland.

He looked at the camera on the word "homeland," hoping to drive home the rhetorical point, without underlining it too much.  Fish-Men typically didn't use words like homeland.  They typically described the United States as their "dry-spots," emphasizing that it was not their homes, but merely a place they were staying temporarily, or as a "sandy hell."  This Fish-Man was shrewd, in a way most Fish-Men weren't.  Even though I knew what he was doing, I had to admit I liked him.

Charlie asked the Fish-Man what kind of projects he would like to see military savings spent on.  The Fish-Man said "eliminating algae bloom."

Charlie stuttered something in disgust.  The Fish-Man crossed his fin-hands defiantly.  I reached for the remote and changed the channel.  The lesson was clear to me: never trust a Fish-Man to be impartial.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Another plane

Another plane crashed into our house a couple days ago.  It tore right through the new siding.  We ran out to the dining room and found the pilot climbing out of the cockpit onto our shattered dining room table.  He apologized and asked to use the phone.

That wasn't even the worst one, the worst one was two before that one.  It clipped the chimney and the chimney sheared one of its wings off, and the cockpit tore through the second floor like a missile and wreckage made it all the way to the master bedroom.  This was in the morning, we were just getting ready for work, but the pilot wouldn't leave because he had to catalogue the damage for his insurance claim.  He was taking pictures of everything, including, it seemed, my wife's lingerie drawer.  When we asked him to leave he started yelling at me and going on about the insurance.  I had to stay at the house until he left and my boss chewed me out for being late, this was after I'd only been working there for a couple weeks and he made me spend the day cleaning toilets even though I'm supposed to be a licensed customer service representative and we only have two toilets in the office, when I'd be done cleaning one he'd go and pour spaghetti sauce into it so I'd have something to clean after I was done cleaning the other.

We live across the street from an airport, is the problem.  Not a real airport, just a small landing strip in our little town.  People land their little two-seater planes here and they have flying lessons.  My wife was worried about the planes when we bought the place, but the realtor pointed out the traffic was so heavy on the street in front of our house that any plane that skidded off the runway would just get hit by a car before it got to our yard.  But mostly they cruise in and crash without even hitting the ground.

We spend most of our time in the back of the house now.  The front of the house we just use as storage, for things that we wouldn't mind too awfully much a plane crashing into.

A hang glider flew off a hill near our house on the other side.  He was aiming for the airport, apparently, but he drifted into our chimney.  We were away for the weekend and he got stuck halfway down and was crushed or suffocated or something or both.  By the time we got home we just saw his stiff bent legs sticking out; the hang glider had crashed through our daughter's window.  The police or whoever it was we called had to saw our chimney off to collect the hang glider's remains so they could be returned to his family.

After the hang glider we went to town hall to complain about the constant air crashes into our home.  We got a meeting with the zoning guy.  He said planes crashing into our house had never been a problem before we'd bought the place, and suggested we must have done something to create the problem, or else we were just complainer, who he said were not generally welcome in his town.  He told us that maybe we should paint our house neon colors so that planes could see it better from the air and could prepare not to crash into it so often.  It was true that our house was a rather drab beige but neither I nor my wife were sure we wanted to live in a house painted neon colors.  While we were in the meeting a student pilot landed on the lawn and half his plane basically bounced off the turf into our home office.  The walls are now charred and stink of fuel.  An engine landed on our other car and it caught on fire so now the kids have to take the bus to school.

One time we got crashed into at about three in the morning.  I didn't even wake up.

We were worried about the effect that planes crashing frequently into our house might be having on our kids, so we sat our daughter (Molly) down and asked her what she thought of all of this and she said she likes to think that each plane is an angel, and when they crash into us it's a sign of God's favor.  We explained to her why that was pretty stupid, explained how plane crashes were not blessings, that there was much mayhem and damaged metal involved, that we were getting hammered on repair costs and the property was worth basically nothing at this point, and then we heard the telltale low buzzing of a plane getting closer and the metallic wumphf of a plane burrowing itself into our home.  You see! Molly cried, You see!  It's a message from Him!  You doubted Him and He sent His messenger!  She grabbed a Bible off her desk (I don't know where she got the Bible) and ran out into the foyer and the two of us followed her.  The room was filling up with cottony puffs of gray smoke.  "What message do you bring from God?" Molly asked.  The pilot didn't hear her as he hoisted himself out of his seat.  "Motherfucker," he said.  Molly's face clouded and she whipped the Bible at him and it caught him in the shoulder.  "Watch the attitude!" the pilot yelled, and Molly stomped back to her room.

The pilot picked up the Bible.  "Hey, I've heard about this," he said.  He flipped open to a page somewhere in the middle.  "'It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man,'" he read.  "'It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.'  Hey, this is all right!"  His wings unfurled themselves from his back and he flapped out the hole he'd left in the front of our house, then he clipped a power line and fell onto the road.