hel·low (ˈhelō/) exclamation. A salutation embodying the vibrant energy found in the color yellow.

30 July 2012

The Drug Lord: A Myth of Eternal Frustration

“Eternal Pharmaceuticals rose thirteen percent yesterday,” a man said between mouthfuls of sandwich as he leaned against his truck with today’s copy of the Wall Street Journal.
            “Ain’t surprise me none,” his buddy responded, rubbing his face down with a red handkerchief before replacing his yellow hardhat, “I buy enough of those goddamm drugs. Wife’s got breast cancer three years back, ever since she’s been popping five pills e’ery morning. The boy’s got ADD, I damn think all kids these days do. Takes three different meds. Company’s running me dry, all this penny-pinching is giving me hyper…hyperten…high blood pressure. Gotta buy another pill for that, then two more for all the diarrhea…”
            “Dammit it, Phil, I’m tryin’ eat here!”
            "All I’s saying is EPI ain’t helpin’ the little man. Every frickin’ drug has goddamm side-effects.”
            “I hear ya, got the same problem. Taking a couple pills myself for prostate.” He crumpled up the newspaper and tossed it in the back of his truck. He took a swig of Coke before slipping on his tool-belt. “Don’t got any better options though. Eternal’s bought all the other drug companies.”
            Phil nodded and spat. He looked up at the skyscraper dwarfing the surrounding city. The looming pyramid of tinted black windows stretched into the clouds.
            “What’d ya think they do in there, Larry?”
            “Spawnin’ things worse than taxes.”
            “It was better when drugs was shrooms,” Phil said, “Helluvalot cheaper.”
            “More fun too.”
            Eternal Pharmaceuticals Incorporated TM CEO read the polished gold lettering on the sleek black of the double-door. Gold-plating covered the triangular handles on each of the doors, which formed a golden pyramid along the centerline when shut. The elevator was situated on the other side of the small foyer before the office suite, built out from the slanted ceiling. Plastic plants sat in stone pots on either side of the elevator door, in an aspirant attempt to demonstrate class. Yelling and the sound of shattering glass, which was not an unusual occurrence on the top floor of the Eternal Mountain, broke the silence and diminished any guise of class attempted by the plastic plants.
            “No need to get upset, I just suggest you should find a new career,” a man’s voice echoed from behind the double-doors, “Preferably one that involves clothing. Let’s be honest, no man in his right mind would want to…”
            The sound of an angered slap emerged from behind the double-doors. A second later they flew open and a woman stormed out, streaks of mascara crawling down her face as tears gushed from her eyes. Blonde hair clung to the glittering haltered top while a black purse bounced against her thigh below the lacey mini-skirt.
            “You are a sick monster!” she cried, standing before the elevator while her manicured nails impatiently jabbed the button. She reached into her purse and withdrew a thick wad of bills. “No amount of money will ever make me come back here!”
            She threw the wad at the man as he appeared in the doorway. Like leaves in an autumn breeze, the bills spiraled to the black floor. He smiled.
            “The Best in the Big Apple,” he sighed, his eyes running from the tall heels to the large breasts, “And I can’t even have my money’s worth.”
            “To think I have standards,” she seethed as the elevator door opened behind her.
            “So low,” he added.
            A shrill scream erupted from her as she dropped into the gaping hole in the floor. The man smiled as she disappeared into the darkness of the pit. It was times like these when he missed the prostitution business. Loki and he made good pimps. Loki was a bit too good, and was truly the lesser trickster. They had their fun, but it was frivolous. Prostitutes wrinkle and drugs could fix that. Drugs are eternal. Reaching into his pocket, the man withdrew a handful of change. Plucking up a penny, he flicked it into the hole with his thumb.
“Don’t forget your tip.”
With an impish grin, he pulled a small remote from behind his back and pressed the single red button. The hole sealed.
“Every good businessman needs a reliable pit of doom,” he mused, spinning on his heels and strolling back to his office, “Not everyone can be on top.”
The doors closed behind him. His polished white shoes clicked on the tile. The sound bounced off the large windows, which comprised the majority of three entire walls. As he stood in front of them, he breathed deeply and stared through tinted glass at the flat tops of the surrounding buildings. The top of Eternal Mountain did not end in a ceiling, but rather a pointed glass peak, from which hung a chandelier. Moonlight filled the room, reflecting off the black floor and the glass of his desk. He turned from the window and strode back across the room to the only wall. On the floor, the shattered glass sculpture of himself made him curl his lip and press the button on the intercom.
            “Get someone up here immediately.”
            Pinching his forehead, he collapsed on a couch and removed a pill case from his shirt pocket. Hastily, he popped a large green tablet and lied flat, staring at the moon. It was much larger up here. So much more for him to see.
He grabbed a stack of newspapers from the glass table and skimmed the headlines.
E.P.I. rises 13%, market plunges.
purse dog drugs outweigh school teacher salary.
black pyramid kills 27 pigeons, PETA outraged.
7-yr-old charged with murder, ‘we couldn’t afford side-effect meds’ pleads mom.
eternal pharm or eternal debt?
            “You called?”
            “Clean that up,” he responded, tossing the newspapers aside and rubbing his forehead, “And tell that blasted chemist to work on this Eternity Pill, I found a grey hair last night.”
            “Eternity Pill?” the voice inquired.
            “Supposed to stop aging, dammit,” he sat up, holding his head in his hands, “It’s not working. I have a headache.”
            “All medications have side-effects.”
            “This pill doesn’t have those added in.”
            “Added in?”
            “I wouldn’t be at the top without the side-effect meds,” he paused, staring at the glass tabletop before turning around, “Why’re you talking to me, Baits? Clean that mess up and get…”
            His words froze as he stared at the floating black cloak hovering above the shattered statue. Forged metal chains rested in a pair of white skeletal hands. Black smoke filled the faceless hood.
            “Your time has come,” echoed the figure, “Your folly has escaped me for far too many years. You send more and more to me every day, but your clock has long run-short.”
            The man slowly stood from behind the couch and took a cautious step back.
            “And I welcome you,” said the man, “I have achieved everything I wanted in this life. I reached the peak of my mountain and have found contentment. I am ready, Death.”
            Holding out his hands, he stood before the window, waiting to be taken. The shadowy figure floated slowly toward him, the clinking of the chains echoing off the glass walls. Utterly calm, the man faced Death, his eyes locking on the shackles.
            “Is that what you use to take me into the eternal realm?” he inquired, pointing at the chains, “Do they hurt?”
            Death did not respond. Its bony fingers wrapped around the man’s wrist. His arm immediately went ice cold.
            “You can have me, Death,” the man said as Death unlocked the shackles, “But can I at least see how they work?”
            He stared into the faceless cloud of smoke, his arm stiffening from the cold. Death did not respond. Slowly, it released its grip and held up the shackles.
            “Although you were a wicked man, all men are given a final wish,” it breathed, “is that yours?”
            The man nodded. “Yes. Show me how the shackles work.”
            Death raised the chains and slowly dropped a shackle over his bony wrist. A cold breeze brushed the man’s cheek as Death shackled its other wrist. The second the lock clicked, the man snatched the large chain and dashed to his desk, jamming the bunched links beneath the leg of the table and waltzing to the center of the room, beneath the chandelier.
            “You fool!” he cackled, “I, a mere mortal, have captured Death!”
            He pranced across the floor in sick delight, beaming at the cloaked figure chained to his desk.
            “With you gone, my customers will never die! They’ll get weaker and weaker and require more meds to ease the pain of their deteriorating health. With more side-effects than ever before, I will be selling more drugs than even I thought possible…I’ll be able to expand, build a taller empire, be on top of more industries…go overseas…become more powerful than…” he paused laughing, “God Himself!”
            An ear-splitting silence engulfed the room. The chandelier shook on its chain and Death’s faceless stare pierced the man. Suddenly, the window became riddled with spider-webbed cracks and the tower itself shook violently. The man was knocked to his knees as the northernmost window shattered to pieces before his eyes, sending an almighty wind pouring into the room.
            Thou hast outlived thy life,” bellowed a voice louder than the pull of the wind, making the CEO of Eternal Pharmaceuticals crumple to the black tile in the shattered remains of his glass sculpture. “But thou shall never control the due course of Life and Death. For this…
            The chains binding Death to the desk disappeared before materializing tightly on the man’s wrists, “Thou shall suffer a fate worse than Death.”
            The man felt himself being lifted into the air as the grip of Death locked around his neck. Then he was sent spiraling out the broken window of the pyramid, flying faster than the pull of gravity down the glass faces of the building. His screams were lost to the wind, and he stared in fright as he passed below the tops of the other buildings. Death’s freezing touch expanded to his whole body and he watched the ground rising up to greet him. The bellowing voice reverberated in his ears. A fate worse than Death.
            He forced his eyes shut as he prepared for contact with the ground. But he never hit. He continued to fall. Death was still locked firmly, frigidly, on his neck.
            Man consumed thy poisons, hoping he could reach the peak of his struggles and be free of pain. Thou hast deceived him, so thou could reach thine own selfish peak.”
            The icy clutch on his neck turned to extreme heat, and suddenly he was burning. He screamed, but the falling wind muted every cry. Opening his eyes, he stared into the burning flames and emaciated corpses floating along the black river beneath him. The bony fingers were prying into his shoulder.
            Let thou suffer what thou hast made man suffer.”
            Flames engulfed his body and ate away his clothes, leaving him scorched and naked as Death dropped him. With an earthly thud, he collapsed to the burning stone floor. Shocked by the heat, he leapt up and fell against a heap of twisted metal. Pulling a shard from his shoulder, he turned around to face the scattered remains of his Eternal Mountain. The shards of black glass were scattered entirely over a stone mountain, all the way to the pointed summit, nearly out of eyesight from the lowly base. The mountain was just as tall and just as steep. A boulder, as tall and as wide as him, materialized before him.
            Pick up thy rock, Sisyphus.”

            Centuries passed and he fell again. Three feet from the mountain’s pointed peak. The giant boulder tumbled down, over his bloody footprints and back to the base, so very far away. Death watched him slam his fists against the mountain’s peak and climb back down to begin again. It was a fate of eternal frustration, eternal despair, and eternal punishment. God smiled.

27 July 2012

Annual Boy and Perennial Girl

He smiled at me as I walked past him, pushing my cart of returns to the perennial section. Transfixed by his bright blue eyes, mine locked with his and I could not withhold the smile that formed on my lips and the flash of red blush that erupted on my cheeks. He continued to work, moving impatiens flats from the cart to the bench. My eyes lingered for a second, watching his taut leans muscles as they worked to move the trays of vibrant flowers. My smile lingered another second longer as I moved down the aisle.
            “Hi!” he said as I walked past the next day.
            “Hello,” I whispered back, feeling my pulse quicken. I slowed down the cart as he spoke to me. It was a nice voice.
            “How are you doing today?”
            “Good,” I responded a bit too quickly.
            He smiled. “That’s good.”
            Quick. I needed to make a response, something to keep the conversation going. I had already stopped pushing the cart of flowers.
            “How about you?”
            “I’m alright,” he said with a smirk, “Good as I can be, I suppose.”
            I smiled and nodded, waiting for a response to leave my parted lips. None came. He smiled.
            “Well I’ll let you get back to work. See ya later.”
            “Yeah,” I said quickly, feeling my face heating up from blushing. I smiled and pushed my cart down the aisle.
            The following few days brought a series of similar brief conversations as I passed through the annual section. Each time we would smile and he would ask me how I was doing and I would say good and ask him in return and his response would vary and then he would ask me a question.
            “So do you go to school around here?”
            The question I dreaded. I wished he would ask me something easy, like my name. For some reason that never arose. Granted we both wore nametags, but our eyes were always locked together and mine had never strayed to the little tag on his shirt.
            “No…” I responded, “Not right now. I mean, I graduated high school, if that’s what you mean.”
            “Oh okay. Did you go around here? Like Allendale or Coopersville?”
            “Oh, no. I was homeschooled.”
            I gulped, feeling the redness return to my cheeks.
            “Oh really? My cousins were homeschooled for years. It’s interesting.”
            He smiled and I returned it with a sigh of relief. A breeze came through the vaulted plastic ceiling and sent strands of blonde hair across my face. I quickly brushed them aside.
            “What do you work on in the perennials?” he asked as he laid out flats of portulaca.
            “Umm…I usually take the weeds out of the pot and work on returns,” I gestured toward the cart I was pushing, “I usually water first though.”
            “Don’t drink the water!” he said, stopping his work to look at me, “I did last year and it made me sick for a week.”
            “Oh,” I said, unsure of how to respond, but unable to walk away, “Okay.”
            “You know what they put in it?”
            I shook my head.
            He looked around before putting a hand to the side of his mouth, “I don’t want to tell you out here, in case customers get grossed out.”
            I giggled.
            “C’mon, I’ll show ya.”
            He started walking down the aisle back toward the barn. I glanced at my cart for a moment before pushing it aside and following him. The way he popped his heels while he walked intrigued me as I watched his calves from behind. After we passed through the twelve aisles of annuals, he slid back the door to the barn and closed it after I walked past. We exchanged smiles.
            “So have you ever been to the water room?”
            I shook my head and he grinned.
            “You’ll like it.”
            It was twenty degrees cooler. Giant barrels of swirling water and chemicals and pallets with bags of fertilizer covered the cement floor. The lights were dim. We smiled at one another for several long moments before the automatic lights shut off…
Intoxicated by the smell of osmocote pellets and milorganite, fertilizing the growing attraction I had to the boy in the darkness. The moisture in the air evaporated as the door sealed and the stifling heat of the greenhouse evaporated momentarily as my body cooled. The gentle press of his cold lips against mine sent a shiver through my bones and his tongue slipped between my lips and wrapped about mine, a flood of new warmth overtook me and I closed my eyes, a feeling of total emptiness stretched through me. I felt his hands crawl down my body, his calloused hands were firm against my skin as he pulled me closer. In shock and coated in a strange satisfaction, I pressed my skin against his. I wanted more.
            Sweat dripped from my forehead as we left the water room. A dizzying happiness left me intoxicated as we walked back to the greenhouse. Imagination ran amok and I pictured holding his hand as we walked along the shore of Lake Michigan in the twilight hours. He would swing me up in his arms and tell me he loved me. I would watch from the porch in contentment as he sat on the dock by the river with my father, casting lines in the water and asking for my hand in marriage. He would be taking me to one of those fancy restaurants in the city like they do in movies and pull a small box from the pocket of his overcoat and slide it across the silk tablecloth with his dirt-engrained fingernails. A veil over my eyes gets lifted by those same strong hands and his cool lips press against mine like they did today, but in an eternal commitment. We would buy a house and plant a garden together, filled with beautiful flowers.
            I fell asleep that night, dreaming of these scenarios and waking up with a fresh excitement to make them a reality. I came into work and snatched my cart. I walked through the annual section, on the way to the perennials. Out of convenience, I passed by his aisle. He was in a different one today. He had moved on from impatiens to begonias. Their waxy coat shimmed in the brightness and he turned as I walked by. There was a flutter inside me and I felt my cheeks brighten like the flowers of the impatiens. A smile cracked on his face in accordance with mine, but our eyes never met. A brown-haired girl walked past me, her eyes locked with his bright blue pupils. A new girl in the annual section. Instantly, I became hungover from yesterday’s intoxicated fantasies.
I walked back to the perennials as the smile evaporated from my face, like annual flats rotting in late September. Perennials went dormant, but they rose again when the snow melted. Annuals were replanted every year. New vibrant flowers. The annual boy wanted those flowers. The perennial girl wanted something a little more. A collective garden would be difficult to cultivate.

18 July 2012

Nub of the Horn

See this?
The lump on my forehead?
No, I didn't hit my head
At least not recently
Had it for seven years
It's a calcium deposit
From where I fractured my skull
The gap in my forehead opened
A gate for the horn to form
Like a weed pushing up through cracked asphalt
It didn't need watering
Just a chance.

Twelve years old
Steve and I sneak out of school early
Skip religion class
Walk past the crucifix in the hall
Slide through the little door
By the closet where we kept our albs
From altar serving that morning
I feel guilty
Like a Catholic boy should
But then we're out
Running across the snowy field
To the frozen puddle by the parking lot
More like a lake really
Boots dig into the snow on the edge
Lose traction on the ice
We're flying
Steve spins backward
In a one-eighty
Pretty cool
I could do better
Got a running start, kicking heels back
Go for the gold
Do a three-sixty
Lose control of my boots
My forehead meets ice.

Bloodshot eyes widen, fixated
On the fist growing out of my forehead
Scream at the bathroom mirror
Jam a snowball against the lump
Push Steve into a wall
Sprint across the parking lot
Plunge my head into a snowbank
Numb the drumming in my head
Like a tribal beat summoning the dead
The beast inside emerges
Wedging its horn between the split
In my skull
Breaking from the cage.

After the swelling went down
I was half-demon
Nub of one horn
Protruding from my forehead
Asymmetrizing my face
Depicting Lucifer on a child of God
A corrupt portrait
Of evil over good
Not ying and yang
No angels sang
Half of me was evil
Didn't mean the other half was good
But we say it's a calcium deposit
Give it the benefit of a doubt
Wait for the nub to atrophy
Or the second horn to grow.

11 July 2012

Pursuing a Mirage

A carrot dangling in front of its face. A perpetual state of taunting. So close. Every footstep encroaching, never sealing the distance. Water on the horizon, rolling hills, an oasis from the monotony of the desert. It remains dry. Fixedly stalking a goal, a misconception. An ideal fantasy looming out of nothingness. Pursing a dream that is only a mirage. Effort amounting to zero, yet blinded by the sight. Humbled. Beaten. Chained to the discipline to keep pressing forward.
Toward nothing.

10 July 2012

Poison Ivy

"Take this bucket. Fill it from the ditch to water the geraniums."
He handed me the bucket and walked across the street. I climbed down the steep ridge covered in weeds and dropped the metal bucket into the shallow muddy water. I couldn't help but feel like a pawn of myself in a microscopic world. Parents and teachers and elders gave me the mind I now contained, a solid bucket with values and skills that I could use to collect myself in the coming years. As I dipped that bucket into the shallow dirty water, I imagined the variety of possible fillers. Clean water, soil to grow a plant, blueberries, gold nuggets...But instead I filled it with dirty water from a shallow ditch. I was living a muddled existence, sifting through life and scraping the bottom of my narrow mind. Perverse thoughts and literal dirt encrusted my head. I clambered back out of the ditch and poured the water over the geraniums. Filthy water hydrating their beautiful heads. Was this the life I was providing for my future family? I wanted to be better, I really did, but there too many weeds tickling my ankles and retarding my progress. A rash had formed around my feet and itched my ankles. It was poison ivy. I had been brushing into the wrong crowd in the ditch, infecting my body. It created an itch, a strong itch that felt heavenly to relieve. Dirt-encrusted fingernails dug into my skin, ripping off the sores and letting blood trickle to the rim of my boots. I descended back into the weedy ditch, allowing the weeds to deposit their spores into my exposed pores. The itch would increase as I climbed back out. Dirty water missed the plants as I dropped the bucket. My fingers went to my ankles and crawled up my legs, scratching feverishly. Each time I scratched, the itch became stronger. Soon I could feel the sores creeping up my legs. It surpassed my knees and midsection, making the irritation all the more irresistible. I tried to fight it. I dove back in the ditch to fish for more water but the weeds encompassed me. My hands surrendered to the itch and I scratched. And scratched. And scratched. The whole time I watched the geraniums wilt from dehydration. The lack of water my clear head should have gathered caused them to diminish. The potential aspirations and dreams began to dry, their leaves turning brown and crumbling under the sun. I stared from the ditch, my arms enslaved by the itch, my mind no longer able to suppress the scratching. My face became riddled in sores and my fingernails peeled back the skin. More infections seized me and my bucket sank in the mud. Poison ivy encompassed me.

01 July 2012

Lego Man

Sometimes I wish I was made of Lego's. Not to be boxy or yellow, or even made of bricks, but to be regenerative. The ability to try on a new pair of legs or replace the color of my irises would be quite invaluable. There would be no need to wear a mask when I could pop off my head and slip on a new one with the twitch of a thumb. In fact, if I were made of Lego's, I would purposely change my configuration of bricks on a daily basis. I would wear black skin and green eyes on Monday, red hair and pale skin on Tuesday, giant arms and a bald head on Wednesday, be seven-foot-four with an eight-foot beard on Thursday, be a dwarf with big ears on Friday, have flowing blonde hair and a runner's build on Saturday, and maybe even a woman on Sunday. It would be mighty nice to have those options. Although I am satisfied with how I look, having the ability to change it would allow me to show who I am. With a such dynamic physicality, my appearance would be unreliable, forcing my personality to become more stable to balance it out. I would become the same person every day, even though my bricks are always changing. I would not have put on a disguise to hide who I am, for my character would be expressed like a sharp aura, cutting through my ever-changing physical appearance. I would be identified not by the color of my eyes but by the color of my personality. If only I were a Lego man...