A Story I Wrote on Every Day Fiction

Read it here!

https://everydayfiction.com/the-brothers-grimaldi-by-jesse-mclean/

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Doing Things – The Van Damme Way™!

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Ironing a Shirt The Van Damme Way!

Any real man knows that there is no shame in helping out around the house. If you live alone then you have no choice (until someone magically creates a service wherein a person, or persons, comes to your home to take care of light housekeeping duties for an agreed upon fee, but let’s restrict ourselves to the real world, OK?). In either instance, you need to know how to perform a few rudimentary tasks to keep your place and person in presentable shape, i.e. to attract a potential partner, or keep the one you’ve already snared. These are the only reasons to keep a tidy home, so if you are single and have no intention of coupling, pull on one of your wrinkly shirts, put your feet up on your almost certainly fast food container-strewn coffee table, and watch Universal Soldier: The Return for the nineteenth goddamn time.

For everyone else, special skills are required (unless a forward-thinking entrepreneur invents a business where you take shirts and pants to a specifically designated building and leave them to be cleaned, starched and pressed but, again, this isn’t science fiction). Approaching such a task may prove daunting to those not stout of heart, but assuming those are exactly the kind of people who would buy this book, I suggest three stages to vanquish this chore The Van Damme Way!

Ironing Board

Much like eating your waxed beans before tucking into your chicken Kiev, this is the tough work before digging into the sweet, buttery center of the task at hand. Folding out an ironing board without incident takes years of practice. Like any other strenuous undertaking, I recommend stretching. Now your first impulse may be to work your hamstrings for the inevitable performance of the Van Damme splits, but I suggest that your time is better spent working the upper body. In particular, dislocating one shoulder until your fingers are numb—this way, when you pinch your fingers between the board and the legs (and this will happen), you will feel no pain. However, do be careful to note any bleeding on the ironing board: this could indicate the escape of blood from an open wound, and that is no surface upon which to iron a clean shirt.

Warming the Iron

If you have purchased your iron wisely, it has temperature settings based on material. This is very important as improper heat-to-fabric calibration may lead to:  a) under-ironing, a side-effect subtly noticed in the lack of wrinkle banishment (in this event, check that to see if you have the iron set for a multi-fabric blend, if you are in a humidity-rich environment or, failing all other options, see if the iron is plugged in); b) over-ironing, which will make the garment appear pressed only to revert to a wrinkled state by the time you put it on; or c) iron-shaped burn marks on the back of your shirt (while perfectly calibrated for comic effect, this does not suit our purposes as this is not a book called Be a Man—The Larry the Cable Guy Way).

Wait for your iron to warm up. This is an excellent time to stretch for the splits, if you are so inclined.

Many test an iron’s state of readiness by spitting on the element to see if their saliva sputters. This is grotesque and inelegant, completely unbecoming The Van Damme Way! Use the tip of your tongue.

 

 

The Garment

You are now ready to attack and don’t fool yourself—this is warfare. Do not pity your opponent, but do not underestimate him either. Bow before your collared foe, but do not take your eyes off it.

Flatten the shirt on the board so the sleeves dangle on each side like a face-plant victim carried by stretcher from the Kumite circle. Smooth the shirt and then apply steady arcs across the back with strength but also with grace. Be of the shirt but not in the shirt. (Note: do not attempt to iron a shirt while wearing it not matter how late you are.)

Flip the shirt on the left front panel: the buttons are tricky, but you must move in and around them like one dodging pools of blood in the Kumite circle. Repeat for the right front panel, which is now a breeze because, if you have purchased your shirt correctly, there should be no buttons on that side.

Iron each sleeve. Make sure that the fabric is not bunched up on the underside of the sleeve you are ironing as this will lead to your ironing wrinkles into your shirt which, you will agree, is counter-productive.

Run the iron over the collar to ensure proper rigidity, and then hang on a plastic or wooden hanger. Collapse your ironing board, suck on your pinched fingers, and rejoice! Realize that you did not unplug the iron or remove it from the board before collapsing it. Stop celebrating. Retrieve iron (handle first if you can) and unplug. Decide how you will explain burnt parquet flooring to landlord. Find comfort that, if called before a judge in small claims court, at least you have a decent shirt to wear. The Van Damme Way!

Negotiating a Raise The Van Damme Way!

A quick checklist:

  • You’ve worked there a long time
  • You are underappreciated
  • You’ve figured out the ultimate time-saving route to the office, shaving precious minutes off your commute and, as such, are reluctant to find another job
  • Boss still calls you “Skip”

That sounds like one bullshit workplace environment. You have but two choices: find another job or get yourself a raise. Otherwise you’ll resent every second you spend crunching numbers or making deals or whatever the hell it is you do. Plus, nothing dries up a vagina quite like a low annual wage (other than a cigarette habit or approaching menopause). You don’t want to spend the rest of your life in a crappy bachelor apartment. Do you?

Assuming the answer is “no” (and assuming that you are straight because, seriously, what self-respecting gay man would live in a bachelor apartment?), an increased salary not only improves your bottom-line but will do wonders for your self-worth and your value in the dating market. You’ve put in your time, and you’re hardly ever late on consecutive middle-of-the-week days. Goddammit, you deserve this!

Hold on there, pal. You don’t just kick in your boss’ office door and make demands. What, do you think you’re some guy named “Skip”? You have to consider your approach, and that is determined by many factors such as on-the-job performance, personal comfort zone and kicking ability.

The Ninja Way

You are a quiet performer, content to put your nose to the corporate grindstone and get shit done without tooting your own horn (or keeping track of your metaphors). Essentially, calling you a “ninja” is a nice way of saying you’re a wimp, a complete train wreck of masculinity. That’s OK. You’ve still got options and I’ll talk you through them, ensuring that I don’t make any sudden movements that might startle and cause you to pee in your pants. You disgust me, you pathetic, supine, wormy little wastrel.

First, you have to believe in yourself! Make a list of your accomplishments and be ready to present yourself as the hero of any anecdote. Remember that time you screwed up the courage to ask out that girl with all the piercings in the mailroom? She didn’t laugh and make you lick glue off the floor—you took her out and totally banged her.

Think tales of conquest have no place in the workforce? You need to show your boss that you’re a guy who gets results, and if that means bragging about fictional yet meaningless sex, then so be it.

Who am I kidding? You’ll just rewrite an email thirty times asking for a raise and never send it, so I’m wasting my time on you. Jesus, you make me want to puke.

The Kumite Way

This is for the employee who makes the effort to play the game: knowing the boss’ middle name, his wife’s favorite dish, what sports his kids play. You see yourself as a player, but everyone else thinks you are the world’s biggest brown noser. So what? They don’t have to pay your phone-tapping and spy camera bills.

You know asking for a raise is a battle and like any warrior stepping into the ring, you know that preparation is the key. Before you step into this corporate Circle of Death prepare by arming yourself with the ordnance of information:

  • Is the company financially healthy enough to pay for a raise? Best times to ask are after the announcement of record quarterly earnings, post cash infusion from outside investors, or when the boss is drunk
  • Stay alert to unannounced signs of liquidity, such as office renovations: use this as an ice-breaker for your request, i.e. “Who the hell chooses pastels and beads of neon—a set designer from Miami Vice? Since we’re throwing money away…”
  • Understand how you are perceived in the office: has that nasty public indecency rap from the Christmas party blown over yet? Underline the substantive difference between “moral turpitude” and “acquitted due to flood in evidence room”

One of the cornerstones of successful negotiation is possessing information that your opponent does not. Knowing your own style of underwear is not sufficient and points out a recurring flaw with this tactic. I say that more important is the possession of information that your opponent does not know you have. You’ve spent enough time hacking your boss’ email and having him shadowed by a private detective. Ask for your raise and slide a lurid snapshot of his affair with that dreadlocked white guy at the pet food store. Given enough time, you should be able to write your own cheques.

However, if your boss is stronger than all that or in an open relationship with his wife, you can always rely on persistence: if you do not receive your pay increase, refuse to leave the office. The discussion isn’t over until you get what you want or get dragged from the room like a beaten man pulled from the Kumite. In this case it will likely be in the form of a security guard and not a crooked Asian corner man. Also, instead of it happening after a bloody beating, this will probably end with one in the company parking lot. Try not to get blood on the guard’s pant leg: he makes a pitiful wage and is responsible for his own uniform.

The Van Damme Way!

Kick the door in and make demands. If you don’t get a pay raise, consider negotiating for perks such as an extra week of vacation or a company cell phone. There’s no shame in that.


Be a Man—The Van Damme Way™! An Entirely Unauthorized Guide to the Films and Virility of Jean-Claude Van Damme

Here’s a book proposal of mine that never went anywhere. It’s a shame, but no so much of a shame that I wouldn’t put it up here.

 

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Hey men—tired of not knowing how to be a man?

Hey ladies—frustrated with men who don’t know how to be    manly?

Would you read a book that sorts out all these confusions and makes for a more fulfilling life? Of course–what a stupid question!

Introducing Be a Man—The Van Damme Way™! (in no way officially affiliated, endorsed or medically recommended by the greatest action hero actor of all cinema, Jean-Claude Van Damme). This book and, by proxy, its author (me), strive to achieve the impossible: review the entire canon of JCVD’s work, film by film, and reveal the Rosetta Stone of masculinity that exists therein. Hard to believe? Which part, the “masculinity” part or the “entire canon” part?  Seriously, not a stupid question: dude has made almost fifty films.

You can point to your Schwarzeneggers, your Stallones, your Seagals, your Willises, both Bruce and Todd Bridges (Willis of Diff’rent Strokes, who did appear in the Insane Clown Posse opus Big Money Rustlas as Scruffy Scrub #3 so, I appreciate the chance for confusion), but they all embodied a hollow form of manliness that is best summed up as Macho Regan-Era Ass-Kickers: a whole lot of  1980’s “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” plus “trickle-down economics” with a dash of “sado-masochistic homoeroticism”. Pre-heat the oven at four hundred degrees and bake. For how long? As long as it takes for that fucker to kick the door open and dispatch your sous chef with an Uzi and a “witty” yet monosyllabic one-liner, that’s how long. And in today’s hectic, dog-eat-dog, drive-thru culture, who’s got the time?

Now God knows we need good ass-kickings now and again. But if fine classical musicianship is as much about the notes not played as the ones played, then true masculinity is in the eyes not gouged. Correspondingly, if showing vulnerability is the true sign of strength, then doing so while performing the splits on two edges of a kitchen counter to avoid an electrocuted floor, then that person is so much the stronger (see Timecop).

We need absolutes in times like these. When women make up a greater percentage of the work force but men are still expected to pick up the cost of the abortion, we require a magnetic north to cross such treacherous waters. I suggest that Jean-Claude Van Damme is just such a geomagnetic verging of magnetic declinations.

After years of cinematic study and manliness failure, I have determined that the entire spectrum of positive male traits is prevalent in the films of Mr. Van Damme. One might suggest that my failures in masculinity are directly linked to my years of Van Damme investigation, but these are people who miss the greater point, i.e. my ex-girlfriends.

The proof in JCVD’s films and his finely wrought performances are endless: whether peeling back the layers of a widowed cop confronted with the ethical choice of using a time traveling device to save his late wife or just to apprehend bad guys in Timecop (Why couldn’t he just do both? A good question…); a cyborg programmed for warfare coming to grips with an emerging humanity and the virtues of pacifism in Universal Soldier; a hard-working father deciding whether to save his son from a hockey arena held hostage by terrorists before or after suiting up as goalie to win the Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Sudden Death; to a cyborg genetically-engineered to track down a serial killer who comes to terms with his emerging humanity in Replicant. Even his stunning debut as “Gay Karate Man” in Monaco Forever shows a bravery in portraying every color across the masculinity rainbow.

Those leery of my thesis would benefit from regarding the totality of Van Damme’s work in the same way one should view Proust’s A la recherché du temps perdu: if you watch Street Fighter the same way you read In the Shadow of Young Girls Flower, well you’re just not getting the whole picture.

Gentle reader and seeker of masculine wisdom, I am here to help. For not only do I intend to look at each of JCVD’s films in detail, with special attention paid to lessons learned by men at any pivotal stage in their lives (loss of innocence—see Kickboxer, sins of the father—see The Order, the moral quandary of a clothing counterfeiter drafted by the CIA to break an international producer of forged designer jeans that conceal “microbombs”, as opposed to genuine designer jeans which almost never explode—see Knock Off), I will provide many handy examples of how these modes of masculine behavior can be applied to your everyday life—The Van Damme Way™!

JCVD_2Much like a Shakespearean tragedy (but only if Shakespeare had the stones to finish his off on an “upbeat” note), we shall review Van Damme’s films in five parts:

  1. The Rise Begins: from uncredited yet head-turning roles such as Car Driver in Missing in Action to Spectator in First Dance Sequence in Breakin’, we detect a sensibility that will become readily apparent when Van Damme blade kicks his way into the spotlight.
  2. A Star Is Forged (alternately known as The Cannon Years): From Bloodsport, where JCVD takes the title, center stage, and pummels the shit out of our hearts, to Hard Target, where he introduces John Woo and flocks of slow-motion doves to North America. Boys and inebriated men the world over try to mimic his famous ability to do the “Atomic splits”. Hamstrings are snapped, testicles are ruptured, cases are settled out of court.
  3. Superstar: Timecop sees Van Damme headline a major studio picture (and tame his mullet from Hard Target), play a member of the elite foreign legion in Legionnaire (note to filmmakers: do not title your film after a disease and expect anything but box-office poison: also, don’t release theatrically and to DVD at the same time), and live out every boy’s dream of embodying a video game hero to destroy an apparently AIDS-ravaged boss villain in Street Fighter: The Movie (poor Raul Julia). The pressure of being all men to all mankind wears on JCVD and the cracks start to show. The ballooning cocaine addiction doesn’t help.
  4. The DTV Slide: We see what is, by now, an all-too familiar trajectory—a series of direct-to-video cheapies shot in Eastern Europe for quick name-recognition cash. This is not a surprise for more one-dimensional action heroes such as Wesley Snipes and Steven Seagal (with a hotel room in Prague reserved for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, presumably), but a shocking decline for our hero. From Inferno to The Shepherd (a film notable as much for its critical stance on America’s War on Drugs as it is for being Van Damme’s sixth time playing a character whose surname ends with the letter ‘X’), Van Damme puts in his time, cleans up his act, and finds his kin geri (stomach kick) is no match in his battle against rapid cycling bipolar disorder or most divorce lawyers.
  5. Redemption: JCVD is made, a quasi-autobiographical account of an aging action film star holed-up in a botched post office robbery. This film presents the entirety of Van Damme’s artistry, both martial and acting. It plays at film festivals around the world and he is suddenly a hot commodity once again. He uses his most valuable instrument, his voice, to appear in Kung Fu Panda 2 and achieves a circle-of-life moment by playing hard to get for Stallone before finally signing to appear in The Expendables 2: Of Course We Cast Chuck Norris.

Think it can’t get any better? Well go back to your thinking spot and think some more! Edifying and life-changing essays will sparkle throughout, including a winsome, yet rib-crunching piece on the Death of the Action Star: nowadays it takes a $200 million budget and twice that in publicity to launch an actor-proof franchise like Batman, whereas in 1985 even a charisma-challenged mannequin like Kurt Thomas could open a dud like Gymkata (a fine form of martial arts, provided villains don’t know enough to stay away from back alley appearances of  a pommel horse or the uneven bars); a true-life event that actually happened that I just thought up, Meetin’ J.L.G. (JCVD vs. JLG), a one-act play depicting directors Van Damme and Jean-Luc Godard nervously awaiting the debut of their films, The Quest and For Ever Mozart respectively, at a prestigious film festival in Albany; and a definitive assessment of Van Damme’s signature move in The Splits: A Useful Tool In Your Martial Arts Arsenal Or Just A Waste Of Warm-Up Time?

Whew!  That’s a lot of book. Maybe too much? Bullshit!

The book is called Be a Man—The Van Damme Way™! It must include a system for living your life in a balanced, well-rounded masculine manner (if not to justify the title, then at least the trademark).

Included in The Van Damme Way™!

  • Defuse a situation without violence and possibly through dance—The VDW™!
  • Kicking crazy amounts of ass—The VDW™!
  • Ironing a shirt—The VDW™!
  • Negotiating a raise—The VDW™!
  • Marital bliss—The VDW™!
  • Beating Van Damme in a fight—The VDW™!
  • International diplomacy—The VDW™!
  • Romance your lady—The VDW™!
  • Self-awareness—The VDW™!
  • Talk about yourself in the third person—The VDW™!
  • Defending yourself in nature specifically by punching animals—The VDW™!

In the end, there is no book like it in the world (see exceptions below).  This makes it difficult to encapsulate for the average writer, but I’m made of sterner stuff, so here goes: this book is part off-beat film analysis, part sociological study and part self-help book—but all man.

The Van Damme Way™!


Considering Which Member of Willliamsburg’s Autoharp Ensemble “Zither and Yon” Is Fucking Your Wife

Originally appeared in Points in Case

If the state of my pillow covers means anything, this douchebag uses a ton of moustache wax. That narrows it down to eleven out of the fifteen band members.

The guy is likely a racist because I found a crumpled up piece of paper on the bedroom floor that had a list of potential band names. He might be an idiot, too, because “Low-Cut Niqab” was the best of the lot.

My best friend Jack likes the current band name because he thought of it. He’s in the band but is the only guy who isn’t an autoharpist; he plays the metronome (he studied at the Sorbonne and everything!). At first, he thought it couldn’t be one of the band members but then he remembered how married women throw themselves at him all the time. But he doesn’t act on it because “metronomists have morals”. There’s also the fact that he heard my wife say autoharps make her wetter than pictures of a young Boris Karloff so, yeah, he came around to my thinking. It’s got to be one of those damned string pluckers.

Also, I found one of the matching barbershop quartet jackets all members of the band wear. It was crumpled up underneath the bathroom sink and stank of skunk weed and Febreze. So, we’re back to every member of the band as a suspect.

It might have to be one of those day-job-type musicians, given that all evidence points to quick lunch-hour couplings (messy sheets on a bed I make in the morning, cap off the KY lube that’s left on the new issue of GamePro–the one with my letter to the editor!). At a Knitting Factory after party, I heard one of the guys in the band say that he freelances for an ethical IT firm, so maybe he’s the culprit. What does “fair trade Wi-Fi” even mean?

Whoever he is, dude left his skinny suspenders slung over the gaming trophy shelf I had Jack install right above the headboard. So it’s probably the guy who fucks up the polyphonic cover of “Single Ladies” by constantly pulling up his pants during the bridge.

But I have my suspicions that guy is gay. Maybe it’s the way he talks or possibly the rainbow flag he has dyed into his immaculately trimmed chest hair, which I believe is cultivated by his husband of seven years.

My wife and I have been married for almost seven years. Whenever I bring this up, she counters that Xbox has probably broken up more marriages than office Christmas parties. Then she follows up with statistics, or a story, or something else I don’t hear because finding the bharals in Far Cry 4 takes more than just natural skill. You need all of your concentration.

I don’t think it’s the guy that’s seven-feet tall; my wife once said she couldn’t sleep with a man she respected too much and she always admired tall guys like they’d earned their height. They haven’t placed in Major League Gaming’s “Halo World Championship North America Regional Finals” three years running, not like a certain you-know-who here. So she’s got that to admire me for. Which, if true, would also explain the three-month dry spell in the sack.

Maybe it’s the one who wears the bowler-and-monocle set and legally changed his name to “Axe Jeeves”.

Or the guy who’s side project is a one-man Color Me Badd tribute band.

Or the one with the beard that doubles as an apron.

Maybe it’s Fred Armisen.

My wife wants me to think that she might be sleeping with my best friend Jack. She manages this with sly insinuations like waving a ripped-open condom wrapper in my face and saying, “These are Jack’s favorite, he says they feel like silk.”

Which is ridiculous, because I know that Jack hates silk. Or at least he hated the silk shirt I bought him for our friend-versary. But still, I have seen his eyes linger over her backside a few times. And he came out of the bedroom after installing my trophy shelf more out of breath than the task required. Especially seeing as he had my wife there to help out.

In my darkest moments, I consider whether Jack—a second son to my father, the guy whose college graduation my dad actually attended—might be fucking my wife.

But my best friend Jack does not play the autoharp, so I always have to start over again.

Maybe it’s the clumsy guy with the scraped knees. That guy is so clueless.


Propinquium: Side Effects and Warnings, An Incomplete List

nutraceutical

 

Side Effects

  1. Nipple squints
  2. Viper tongue
  3. Asner Eyebrows
  4. Chapped hips
  5. Teeth lesions
  6. Squater’s Blight
  7. Genital burpies
  8. Webbed eyelashes
  9. Noontime terrors
  10. Curved fingernails (or “Jester’s Claws”)
  11. Nose sweats
  12. Barking rectum
  13. Widow’s Gumline
  14. Over-spaced teeth (“Chiclets Mouth”)
  15. Floral rectitude
  16. Bumblebee Knees
  17. Nasal halitosis
  18. Lower lumbar caking
  19. Spastic Knuckles
  20. Pigeon Elbows
  21. Suicidal Appendices
  22. Foreskin Curd
  23. Labia Tremors
  24. Prostate Shudders
  25. Heaving Eardrums
  26. Gruff-in-Mouth Disease (or Panthrax)
  27. Uvula Tantrums
  28. Paranoid Occlusions (Myopic Phasia)
  29. Heartgrubs
  30. Hyposeusso-spadia (Curly Cock)
  31. Soupy eyeballs
  32. Puckering Navel
  33. Burning Cuticles
  34. Oral Yeast Infection
  35. Throbbing Extremities (Flintstone Toes)
  36. Tingling Follicules
  37. Tangled Toes Syndrome
  38. Armpit Vaginas
  39. Herniated Lips
  40. Chin Splints
  41. Crabgrass Syndrome
  42. Male pattern blandness
  43. Pancreatic fancies
  44. Premature calculations
  45. Hobo Squats
  46. Impromptu Cleveland Steaming
  47. Phlegmatic Aural Discharge
  48. Elvin Ears
  49. Skull Bowing
  50. Auto-erotic Immolation
  51. China Bifida (or “Spinning Plate-Eye Syndrome”)
  52. The Rapid Cycling Fitzgerald Staggers
  53. Spontaneous Combustion (gas station employees only)
  54. Erroneous Soothsaying
  55. Banal leakage
  56. Calligraphic ejaculations
  57. Nocturnal Shoe fetishism (women only–am I right fellas?)
  58. Pendulous cheekbones
  59. Eyeball eking
  60. Plantar’s Fascist Tendencies
  61. Kaleidoscopic Stigmata
  62. Kneecap spiking
  63. Migrating boils
  64. Sagan’s Conundrum
  65. Bellicose bloviations (or “The O’Reilly Hector”)
  66. Scalp frights
  67. Hyper Thyroid Insurrection
  68. Argle Bargle in the Hoo Hah
  69. Bugle Burps
  70. A Serious Case of the Tuesdays
  71. Lung spurs
  72. Angry Ankles
  73. Forehead Fissures
  74. The Waltzing Maltidas (or “Violent Diarrhetic Explosions”)
  75. Verb Aversion
  76. The Delta Blue Balls
  77. Fingernail Pustules
  78. Slinky Ribcage
  79. Distended Philtrum
  80. Kidney Ballooning
  81. Anal Breakage
  82. Waxy Tongue
  83. Under Ripe Banana Aftertaste
  84. Starchy Discharge
  85. Bagel Buttons
  86. Lincoln’s Distemper
  87. Leptopsoriasis
  88. Screaming sneezes
  89. Withering Advanced Sexual Progeria (or “WASP”)
  90. Earlobe clapping
  91. Droopy sternum
  92. Noodle limbs
  93. Hasty Reheats
  94. Collapsed hamstring
  95. Bronchial lubing
  96. Accordion neck
  97. Hefner’s Palsy
  98. Carrottop’s Convulsions
  99. Uncontrolled baking
  100. White patches or sores inside your pockets
  101. Lazy Leg Syndrome
  102. Painful erection that lasts four years or longer
  103. Unusual bone seizures
  104. Under-reactive reflexes (or “The Melancholy Dane Condition”)
  105. Difficulty bruising
  106. Orgasm Bragging
  107. Ringing in your molars
  108. Coughing up soup
  109. Trace amounts of urine in blood
  110. Irritable Spleen
  111. Cranky Duodenum
  112. Perturbed Thalmus
  113. Wet Heaves
  114. Varicose Aortas
  115. Seeing halos around lights and traffic cops
  116. Frequent mood ring changes
  117. Inversion of eyeball/retina colours
  118. Temporary hair gloss
  119. Flamenco Heartbeat
  120. Swelling in your hands, feet, ears, nose, throat, toes, elbows, gums and chin
  121. Short-term memory…something
  122. Frequent, prolonged or bothersome euphoria
  123. Heart jaundice
  124. Ecstatic urination
  125. Poorly thought-out suicide attempts (or, “Three Stooges Ideation”)
  126. Loss of child-like wonder
  127. Nested menstruation cycles
  128. Intestinal Roman Candle Syndrome
  129. Increased hair growth on wide-spread back acne
  130. Partial or complete oxygen allergy
  131. Geometrically progressive growth spurts
  132. Evil Kneivel Knee Weevils
  133. Lunar Dropsy
  134. Wellington’s Itch
  135. Fire-sprouting esophagus
  136. Kidney-in-Throat
  137. Tongue shaving
  138. Bronzed Johnson
  139. Chapman’s Carbuncles
  140. Galloping Backend Bombast
  141. Bricklayer’s Burning Sensation
  142. Mouth Gout
  143. Thoracic Splendor
  144. Multi-hinged Jawbone
  145. Whooping Doff
  146. Locomotive tenderness
  147. Membrane Sheeting
  148. Milky Foot
  149. Flangial Purpura (or, “The Artist Currently Known as Prince’s Swollen Ridge”)
  150. German Easels
  151. Dashing Quinsy
  152. Berger’s Tissick
  153. Timpani Cheeks
  154. Cosby’s Dance
  155. Ulcerative Dizziness
  156. Stygian Wind
  157. Rushing Meadows (or, Rapidly Advancing Endometriosis)
  158. Irregular Tibia Bleeding
  159. Transvaginal Meditation
  160. Gall quarks
  161. Saliva Retention
  162. Chalky Eardrums
  163. Heart Disease
  164. Vacillating red cell count
  165. Decreased breast size
  166. Increased testicle size
  167. Epidermis translucence
  168. 360 Degree Floating Patella, (or, “Medial Collateral Ligament on a Half Shell”)
  169. Discolouration of lunula (or, “Green Cheese Thumb-Nail”)
  170. Torso Cancer
  171. Lik-M-Aid Tongue
  172. Yo-Yo Balls
  173. Cerebral Eczema
  174. Pelvic Corkscrews
  175. Apical Babooning Cardiomyopathy
  176. Apathetic Periostitis
  177. Calamitous Hypertrophic pulmonary squirts
  178. Arterial frimping
  179. Coal Miner’s Dung
  180. Blue Blood Syndrome
  181. Cerbrovascular Whoopsies
  182. Sagging Valves (or, “Pulmonary Shanty Towns”)
  183. Rheumatoid pancreatic sluggishness
  184. Spontaneous Macular Regeneration
  185. The Ludlum Conjunctivitis
  186. The Kucinich Delusion
  187. Temporal Lobe Shrieking
  188. Pathetic, Half-Assed Self-Loathing
  189. Purpling of the Humors
  190. Severe Acute Chronic Syndrome
  191. Periodic Invincibility
  192. Fore-shortened eyelids
  193. Elevated Fibula
  194. Loss of Blood Retention
  195. Wheezing Uterus
  196. Need for a little less conversation, possibly counterbalanced by an overwhelming desire for a little more action
  197. Chronic Loss of Car Keys
  198. Pain or burning while talking
  199. Black, Bloody or Tarry Calves
  200. Shoulder Rickets
  201. Spinal Pleurisy
  202. Brickwork Gums
  203. Urge to punch people as a salutation
  204. Quaking Tooth Pulp
  205. Pork Belly
  206. Arrhythmic Two-Step
  207. Thigh Pouching
  208. Irrational Fuckface Anger
  209. Itchy Feet (or, “Rambling Man Syndrome”…no wait, those are cysts)
  210. Casanova’s Simmers
  211. Intermittent Duckface
  212. Appearance of unusual or rarely-seen skin creatures
  213. Blood clots in your temples
  214. Darker than usual urine, say like a weak cup of coffee
  215. Major organ itchiness
  216. Blood thickening
  217. Serious, possibly life-threatening sexual attraction to lawn mowers
  218. Speaking in a heretofore unknown foreign language (especially Japanese, Russian and Esperanto)
  219. Reckless behviour including, but not limited to, skydiving high on Xanax with a troupe of daredevil clowns
  220. Ear Marks
  221. Peeling mania
  222. Diarrhea and constipation
  223. Hair sores
  224. Straightening of some, if not all, vertebrosternal ribs
  225. Loss of appetite coupled with violent urge to cook Asian fusion cuisine
  226. Low white teeth count
  227. Putnam’s Phlebitis (or, “Sausage Veins”)
  228. Colorectal Dancer
  229. Sickle & Hammer Cell Anemia
  230. Haphazard Name Dropping
  231. Boiling Blood (or, “Irishman’s Curtsy”)
  232. Russian Tsar’s Telemetry Squibbles
  233. Ethiopian Gout
  234. Ranch Hand’s Argot
  235. Bloated or distended lottery winnings
  236. Irritation around injection site that looks like Maori war paint but is just a meaningless doodle (and likely cancerous)
  237. The Yahoo Serious Walkabouts
  238. Sleep-Related Ironing Disorder
  239. Tax Code Comprehension
  240. DNA Popping and Locking
  241. Tree bark mouth
  242. Pubic Parasthesia (or, “Thumb Tacks in Yer Tenders”)
  243. Subcutaneous Fibrous Toroids (or, “Cheerios Ridging”)
  244. Ill-timed Scissor Kicks
  245. Roman Shingles
  246. Barrel Chesting
  247. Hysterical Hyper-Hydrosis
  248. Banker’s Howls
  249. Tulip Lips
  250. Dirtbag Dermatitis
  251. Pickpocket’s Panting
  252. Antagonistic Pregnancy (or, “Fifth Child Syndrome”)
  253. Voice Box Palpitations
  254. Puffy Eye Balls
  255. High Chair Vertigo
  256. Dandruff that doubles as itching powder
  257. Mad Cat Disease
  258. Taste of copper in ears
  259. Soft palate cramps
  260. Bungling in extremities
  261. Skinny Jean Legs
  262. Illuminati Welts (or, “Hova’s Branding”)
  263. Post-Traumatic Stress Bravado
  264. Profligate Profiteering
  265. Bolivian Marching Glowers
  266. Peacock Glands
  267. Achy Breaky Novelty Songitis
  268. Satin Sash Rash (almost exclusively for mayors and Baby New Year)
  269. Briny secretions from previously undetected “pores”
  270. Shadow Boxing for International Recognition
  271. Dilated Nose Holes
  272. Sniper’s Whimsy
  273. Chigger Fights
  274. Foppish Papacy
  275. Papal Foppery
  276. Slip ‘n Fall Podiatry Hallucinations (or, “The Banana Splits”)
  277. Appearance of wild hair tufts that resemble raccoons (or, “Davey Crockett’s Haberdashery Syndrome”)
  278. Symptom confused for hand tremors but really just excessive jazz hands
  279. Loneliness of a long-distance runner
  280. Homeowner’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick of those rotten kids playing street soccer in front of his house
  281. Hard Palate shuffling
  282. The Tumbling Bumbershoots
  283. The Trouble with Hairy Cell Leukemia
  284. Periodic Hooliganism
  285. Exotic Pet Whispering
  286. Juvenile Alzheimer’s
  287. Knotted Small Intestine Disorder
  288. Ineffective Cockblocking
  289. Hipster Handlebar Pubic Hair
  290. Spitting Blisters
  291. Forty-Eight Hour Colitis
  292. Walking Dead Pneumonia
  293. Night of the Living Dead Blues
  294. Crescendo Arches
  295. Ever-increasing handsomeness (that’s right—we’re talking to you, gorgeous)
  296. Increased likeliness to haggle over bargain basements
  297. Syncopatic Flatulence (or, “Group of Children Clapping”)
  298. La Gripe
  299. Answering unheard Sufi call to prayer (non-Muslims)
  300. Pretty much just walking around like a big shot
  301. Unwarranted bodybuilding pose downs (especially in KFC lineups)
  302. Roller coaster-triggered epilepsy (seen primarily in roller coaster addicts)
  303. Blinding Orthostatic Hypotension (or, “My Head’s On Fire!”)
  304. Photo Insensitivity
  305. Deviated Biceps
  306. Saddle Calves
  307. The King’s Nervous Hiccups
  308. Armpit Miasma
  309. Cruise Director’s Scurvy (or, “Rotting Promenade Deck”)
  310. Panting Virus
  311. Hooker’s Dry Dock
  312. Hypersensitivity to constructive criticism
  313. Increased likeliness of lightning strikes
  314. Erupting follicles
  315. Free-roaming crying jags (or, “Pagliacci Squirts”)
  316. Inexplicable affection for Celtic music
  317. Ashy Eyes
  318. Solidification of finger cartilage (or, “Unjointing”)
  319. Excessive nominalization (or, “The Applicability Ask”)
  320. Impromptu but workman-like dance routines that lack finesse but make it for it with plenty of “zazz”

 

Warnings

  1. Some side effects perfectly mirror symptoms of congestive heart failure and our doctor-lawyers predict a 17% chance of misdiagnosis that will lead to death or more severe results; so if you see this or any of the above behaviours, stop the dosage if you can’t handle it, pussy
  2. You should not take Propinquium if you are experiencing serious complications after clipping your nails
  3. Propinquium should not be used in children with a history of imaginary friends, worm-eating or delusions of wizardry
  4. Do not use if allergic to polypropylene pre-injection swabs
  5. Do not inject directly into pituitary gland, no matter what all the cool kids are talking about
  6. Direct sunlight or high heat may cause an increase, then decrease, then an increase again in optical proptosis (“Eyeballs-on-Springs”)
  7. Death-like rigor mortis (cured only by complete sensory deprivation, especially if six feet or more underground)
  8. Avoid contact with women who are pregnant, likely to become pregnant, or are the result of a pregnancy
  9. Not for use in adults suffering from cradle cap
  10. Improper use may lead to unexpected bone growth where you once had tendons
  11. After injection, allow four hours to pass before going near an open flame; also, closed flames
  12. Not to be used by those who have breastfed livestock
  13. Not for use in those with squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer because, well, what’s the point?
  14. Do not mix with alcohol or protein-based foods
  15. Mix Propinquium with avocado, lime juice and minced garlic: use dip as a salve for spontaneous foot-long sores that might erupt wherever you have skin
  16. May induce episodic Non-REM Arousal Parsomnia resulting in “Sleep Sex” encounters with your mattress
  17. In case of shortness of breath or loss of life, consider decreasing dosage
  18. Not deemed safe for use in carbon-based life forms, but how many of us are made up of carbon?
  19. Ideal for use in grown-up test tube babies…what ever happened to those kids? It seemed like they were all the rage in the seventies.
  20. Not to be used in conjunction with SSRIs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, or Spanish Fly
  21. Increased instances of awake bruxism may turn your teeth into a tangled, Eastern European-type nightmare
  22. Any changes in sexual behaviour—including frequency, preference and role-playing—should be immediately reported to your pharmacist because he’s got a boring job and could use the spice
  23. Oh, test tube pregnancies are now called “in vitro fertilization”. Kinda cold, don’t you think?
  24. Due to deflation of self-confidence it is not recommended for use in ballers, shot-callers
  25. May cause numbness or tingling in vomit
  26. Prolonged exposure to Propinquium may result in thinner than usual urine stream
  27. Enlarged prostate in women is a serious red flag
  28. Allergies such as Anaphylaxis have been reported, along with how cool a name “Anaphylactic Shock” would be for a wrestling move
  29. Do not take in conjunction with the viewing of any large-scale wrestling event, excluding a Ladder Match, First Blood Match or Circular Saw-Ninja Star Fight
  30. Epileptic seizures may be triggered in those taking Propinquium and who suffer from epilepsy
  31. Do not use as a suppository (even the bottles identified as “suppository”, which was a batch resulting from an ill-advised night of Beer Pong in the laboratory)
  32. Cases of hypokalemia, or low sodium in the blood, cannot be remedied by eating excessive banana floats, mashed potatoes, or mashed banana floats ‘n potatoes
  33. Do not use as a marker in Texas Hold ‘Em poker
  34. Do not use as a marker for your golf game on the back nine
  35. Not recommended for use in the positive reinforcement of dogs or children, despite the medication’s rumoured “bacony” aroma
  36. Reports of Adam’s Apples descending to form a third testicle are mildly supported by tests, pictures, video testimony and a spot in the next volume of Ripley’s Believe it Or Not
  37. Duplexis Pharmaceuticals does not condone the use of Propinquium by Jackass-style stunt performers due to its numbing properties and impediments to common sense
  38. Do not operate heavy machinery if you can help it because those are low-paying and low-status jobs, despite the high level of skill and concentration required to do so successfully
  39. Abstain from the use of metaphors while using Propinquium—there are reports that they have gotten out of hand by when used by some patients and resulted in more than a few broken marriages
  40. Do not get married while using Propinquium
  41. Avoid making serious, life-altering decisions or at least have your pharmacist co-sign any loans or mafia-related IOUs
  42. Messianic fervor and belief in supernatural abilities will wear off within forty-eight hours of use: ability to walk on water will subside within a week
  43. Do not gamble while on Propinquium—unless you have a system, in which case you’d be a fool not to bet the mortgage payments
  44. If you sense a prickling beneath your skin, that’s no silly trick of the mind: you’re one of the lucky few to develop an actual new layer of skin known as “Triceratops Hide”
  45. Instances of hair growth on the tongue have been reported, but Duplexis is currently developing a specially designed mousse for styling (working title, “Tongue Sheen”)
  46. Urge to watch Adam Sandler movies can be combated with large doses of alcohol, ether
  47. The efficacy of Propinquium improves in those with a sedate, sedentary lifestyle: discontinue any health programs while taking this medication
  48. Not to be used in conjunction with pink camouflage clothing because, well, we’re all adults here, aren’t we?
  49. Reports of patients unprovable boasts at having read all of In Search of Lost Time, even more widespread use of the adjective “Proustian”
  50. Beware of counterfeit versions of Propinquium—they can present serious risks to your health

 

 


If New Slow Cooker Recipes Were Pitched the Same Way as Television Programs

beef-stewINT. OFFICE – DAY

A swell office, if you like IKEA furniture and clear glass awards. Oh, and posters of old, classic slow cooker recipes that the person sitting behind the desk wishes he was involved in developing.

Speaking of, a slim and nerdy type sits behind the desk, chewing on an arm of his glasses while he flips through recipe cards: this is BLAINE, our Recipe Development Executive.

Sitting in front of him is ERNEST, the Recipe Writer, a pathetic wastrel of a chef, chewing his nails and tapping his feet.

BLAINE

Meh…I don’t know. Is this based on a previously existing recipe?

ERNEST

Nope. One hundred percent original!

BLAINE

Too bad. It would really help us if there was already an established audience for this.

ERNEST

The last time we spoke, you said the world needed a new beef stew recipe. It was time, you said.

BLAINE

But, really—beef stew? Doesn’t Campbell’s already have a beef stew?

ERNEST

Surely there’s room for more than just one—

BLAINE

Have you thought about cumin?

ERNEST

I’m sorry?

BLAINE

OK, maybe ginger. Or how about ras el hanout? People like spicy.

ERNEST

I guess I could consider—

BLAINE

You know what, if you take out the beef and put in a root vegetable, we might be able to sell to a younger demo of chefs. Vegan is so hot right now.

ERNEST

I don’t know if roots are really part of my vision.

BLAINE

How about lamb? Lamb is skewing younger these days.

Blaine drops the recipe cards on his desk top and puts his glasses backs on. Leans forward on his elbow, serious now.

BLAINE

I’d like to think that my MBA leaves me uniquely qualified to tell you how to best cook food. Even though I’ve never been in a kitchen in my life.

Ernest considers.

ERNEST

Maybe something kind of Moroccan?

BLAINE

Sounds kind of spicy. People don’t like spicy. Also: do we have to tell people you’re from Toronto? That plays like shit across the country.

ERNEST

When I was growing up, I had a cousin who lived in Fenlon Falls.

BLAINE

(pensive)

Small town. Plays to the hicks. I like it. But, I’m going to have to pass. I just feel as if your recipe lacks focus. It’s all over the place.

ERNEST

Oh. I felt pretty confident about it before I came in here.

BLAINE

Sure you did. You’re an artist! By the way, we have a few chicken noodle recipes we’re having trouble cracking. Do you want to take a run at those? For no money, of course.

ERNEST

Come on. I have some self-respect.

Blaine gives Ernest a knowing glare.

ERNEST

OK. It’s just nice to get email from a recipe company. Makes me feel important.

BLAINE

That’s the spirit!

Ernest rises and exits. Blaine leans back and puts his feet up on the desk.

BLAINE

(smiling)

I’m an awful human being.

FADE TO BLACK


Reduce, Reuse, Rewrite

slip-up-709045_1920

I love recycling. For me, this is generally restricted to cans of pasta sauce and Dick Cavett jokes, but I came upon another opportunity while editing my novel.

I have spent five years working on the book (on and off, not straight through) and, worried that my periods away might have undercut the integrity of the overall work, I weeded through the manuscript looking for oft-repeated words and phrases. Discovering an add-in for Microsoft Word that scanned a document and produced a report, I found myself looking at the entirety of my novel reduced to an alphabetical list of words accompanied by a number indicating how often it was used; with each new number, the alphabetising started anew. It was a fascinating way of viewing those words I had worked on for so long, re-ordered and shaken free of context. It made my work sharper and forced me to confront why I overuse the word “braying”.

Employing what is, in essence, a cut-up technique, I now provide the following poem culled from the words that didn’t appear all that often. Enjoy! Or don’t. Or, cut it up and make a new one.

 

From the Department of Irregular Words

 

The Grotesque spy

Conveniently overhears;

Pushes homicide

 

Pantomime sparrow

Unleashes culminating verse;

Caucasian counterparts and

women cat-dancing

in the blithe discourtesy of

anemic mysteries.

 

Mid-argument cross-current rays

on a high-speed wood-panelled tilt-a-whirl

anchored by a sponge

 

 

Flinty fraternizing opposing thrill-kill alibis

the fleshy homeowner’s lament.

 

Writing wasn’t thought

when the late high heart

waited to trip your childhood

And break your goddamn neck.

 

Yellow cracked sounds

when Father returns for a four ear response

and terrible breath

 

Rounded plastic hips,

Mother has written beyond suffering men.

 

She’s calling.

Appeared, sit-kneed to explain,

“Get drunk on the pale palm.

Ever surrounded, seven shoes in the right rubber aisle.

Conversations don’t prove fellowship

anymore.”

The flat twisted phrase

a wild trick of the reflected evening

shuffle-board squeals our struggled solace

when handsome amorous groups

framed romantic menace.