Issue 51 – June 2024

Her inhabitants, the ones our heroine related with, drove kilometers beyond their destination. They would have been fine at an inn at the city limits, or at an acquaintance house, or even camping in the woods. She had the greater will — she was her own hostelry. There was service but not much in the way of spark — the hatband was too tight. The trouble was she had the drive to eat and the taste to find good flavors along with the excitement that something new gave off.

And there was something more. There was a restaurant, that for her was always open. It was right next door to where she lived. She could go in any time. It had the finest chefs. The menu was larger, had more choices than all chain restaurants together. It had ingredients and plates she’d never heard of. An item caught her eye. It was delicious so she kept ordering it. The chefs got to know her. They’d have it ready just as soon as she walked in. But sometimes there’d be a new aroma in the air. She’d done nothing to acquire it — nonetheless it was there. She couldn’t help but notice. Her regular dish was still delicious but, in time and hundreds of visits, just not as overwhelmingly so as it had been at the start. She was loyal to it though. The chefs already had it ready, and besides there was inertia. But she wondered. It was emotional to even ask what that smell could be. Another time, the menu on her table had been left open to a page that she had never seen before. The words all sounded new to her. The pictures of the plates were likewise puzzling. She watched the chefs through their dividing window, knowing they could whip up one of these for her — all she had to do was point. And she was hungry, and the Olympian aromas. Finally, nervously, she asked about a new dish, and was told the chefs had just prepared one — that was the odor in the air, lemongrass, Thai eggplant, and spices that she did not know. Before she could protest, the dish was placed in front of her. It would be an insult to the chefs to refuse a bite. Unthinkingly, the only way she could have acted, she raised the silver to her lips. It was magical. Her insides were delighted. She’d never eaten something like this before — warm, spicy, savory, and sweet, with flavors so unusual yet so good she chuckled in confusion. After that it was hard. She didn’t order the new dish again right away. But considering how that turned out, how could she not want to delve into the menu? If the chefs could make more unpronounceable dishes as good as that, it would be repressive not to let them. The possibilities aroused her. She had her old favorite dish, but she loved food too. This path was sure to change her body. She wasn’t thinking of that now — she was thinking of the next time she’d be hungry, in the nearly now. Soon enough she’d be at the point when she’d stop ordering, and let the chefs send out their choice.

Some rafts take a lifetime to think up. Then she wished she could have sailed it from the start — how much farther she’d have gone if only she set off sooner. She’d rue a destiny where everything appeared for her, but it came too late. It would only be worth it at the right time, i.e. young, and with proper recognition. It was so easy to unplug — the hard part is the idea, design, and building of it. Pulling a cord out of a wall does not really compare. Tripping over it was silly. The problem was, was our hero the guy to put all the effort in for years — and the sine curve of emotion that would emit? Perhaps the answer lied in the fact that she hadn’t thought about it much. The consideration wasn’t causing restless nights. But at the same time she was easy going, in the sense of going with the flow. She believed everything would work itself out, and the best possible world would always shove it way to the front. The key word there was possible. Personal utopias did not contain that rubric. How strange it was to live in a headspace apart from all that was going wrong, and lament and criticize it, while being at the same time in and part of it. The softest aphorism was shouted down in her own head. Often it wasn’t long before the strength of movements waned. It trickled down like sweat. Even well used rafts were beached so repair wood could go into construction of another. That was a helluva way to think of someone’s feelings, particularly when it was love that was involved. This was the breakup as personal development.

But the overlap between selfishness and that, is so thorough they could not be said to have a star to guide them. And there was another factor, one deep enough to Bush the rest — her own parents’ relationship. They had met in their teens and had been together ever since. That’s a powerful model for a child. Girls raised right will look for a guy who reminds them of their dad. Girls raised wrong will pick a guy with their dad’s worst traits. Then they will try to fix him, in the way they couldn’t fix their father. They’ll learn that having an adult’s brain and tools will have no effect on partners either. This did not mean they’d leave the bad trait guy for one with better character. There was a gross attachment to familiar pain, especially when it stemmed from childhood. These girls were just as likely to stay with such guys after they failed to change them, because ancient conflict is what is most real. So in spite of her leaving and not calling, she could easily follow the model laid out for her, and let our hero’s gesture win her over, his bad traits aiding him.

The laid back traveled well on frictionless inertia. They involved themselves with deliberation. The effort of this ashen world! To say in detail would be to use up the retreads she needed to apply. She had the urge to. She knew she had to use them sparingly, with taste. One too many could push an otherwise strong relationship off the plank. It was a big mistake to carry fights from prior ones over to the current. The self-possessed would recognize it right away and dip. The rest would be confused at first, but the common base layer of emotion would cause them to match the other’s intensity. Now fights that went unresolved last time have a chance at further exploration, which in the retread meant reanimating horses to beat with cudgels, nightsticks, crowbars, peglegs, bats — everything that went untried before received its own long term review. Bias meant she’d find the result she wanted, that she was right. Then and now, all along.

Which was one of the subconscious problems our heroine had with our hero. He sensed when their disputes weren’t really about him. It wasn’t that he knew she was thinking of her former lover, the only one that she’d admit to having — he just knew when he’d conceivably been wrong, even when he couldn’t admit it in the moment, and it was outside of the purvey he considered her baggage, never considering he had any of his own. Since he wouldn’t engage with fights she turned into retreads, she thought he didn’t love her. There was some base comfort she at least expected, that he did not give. In her mind, he wasn’t allowing her the dignity of being right, was disdainful of her self-expression. A partner who won’t let the other self-express is on the fast track to masturbation. Then factor in how the partner didn’t know he was not allowing something in her — not only does that not negate it, it even made the problem worse. There was storytelling that must be common between partners for the thing to work. When both parties were unreasonable, mired in confusion, drowning in inflicted hurt, in shame, humiliation, the underlying story was what could bring them through. So it had to be agreed on.

There were countless ways he failed to meet another’s expectations. Some he passed by blithely unaware. Others he was made aware of relentlessly and punished for. Rarer, though it did happen, he was morally correct, and acted altruistically, and it still was not enough, because that wasn’t what the partner needed. It was weird but there was something in his PTSD that made him re-enact that which he’d pay anything to forget. If children were convinced they deserved punishment, then as adults they’d seek it out. It was like a dream of snails on gyroscopes — it was absurd and should not work, and yet the mind created it.


It was fun to go through life by what was permitted by our mighty vendors. We could not attempt to do anything that would lessen their take-home pay. We’d be some kind of target otherwise. If there was one thing we’d enjoy, it was having arbitrary limits set by corporate personhood.

Someone showed up at our door one day with news that was going to make this world just a little worse. Sometimes the news was much worse. One did not wish to be born during the worse times. “I’ll just wait for central heat and indoor plumbing if it’s all the same to you. No? I get a colonizing raid in Spring and a bunch of crippling slavery thereafter? (Sighs.)”

Waste came only to the children. That was one that set the dogs to fighting. A pile of innards salivating, it could save their lives.

Gardeners own the most sheds. The places where our stuff was stored was another thing to fight about. Behind the interested husbands were men in need of something better. That was why they were eager to put themselves out there. They despised the ones who had not this need. The ones who already had something better aren’t in need. Their frequency’s devoid of desperation. It really ticked off other men. In fact it activated their infancy. Since they were unpermitted to cry in front of others, they went on the attack. It was a steely shock the first time, then a callus formed to dull the hurt. It was a dreary repetition. Save us, evolution, from the bad repeated patterns! But it does not hear.

If it was necessary that we re-enable the digestion of grasses, though, creatures who could do it well will be born, we are assured of that. One hoped they’d gaf about poetry and math. These neurotic phenotypes, byproducts of survival strategies, shall not be discontinued. We pictured glowing strands of acids issuing a curt “No sir.” Misery was added to our toil.

If we had our druthers, every cartridge would be blank. But every time we checked, every one was live and loaded. Eventually someone was gonna fire one off.

The cascades would never give a bye. They did not intend that we got drenched — that was their goal all the same. The shipbound carriers were laden. They produced an awesome wake. We could not see how long they were, for their boughs were pointed at us. A thousand brainwashed conscious apes were hanging by the neck from their mast. They would spring back to life once their target had been reached, thinking they were amiable because they’d be willing to repeat our collective indoctrination, should we be too dense when our turn came. Their jerking was in line with proofless admonition. They only wanted us to enjoy the orders that they took. It only took a moment to salute.


The sea hordes gained experience in infiltrating walls to get inside a city and take it from within. These skills passed on for generations were too significant for cultural memory — they passed into the genetic. They found expression in our heroine. She could flatter any clique while giving off her own point of view. This was one of the more difficult of social feats — fitting in while maintaining one’s own vibe. It was not a plank that everyone could balance on. One like her who came in unattached was bound to be the target of attention. To rebuff was to earn a reputation. Two rebuffs would earn one harsher — everyone, and she’d be a pariah, another kind of targeting, this one of attack, not merely ignoring and derision.

She looked at everyone from pauses. When she spoke it was never over someone. When she felt some eyes upon her, she trained herself to look away. This was a factor in her reputation, but it was for pure survival. Many were the mechanisms of disappointment she had to activate just to promenade a mall. The traveling times were inhospitable. They’d have come whether she wore a hat and sunglasses or glad-handed every passerby. Folks lacking but equal had a reason to throw mud at every space-time point she was inhabiting.

People are so creative they’d find a reason to do anything. Their intellects were dictionaries of permissiveness. Their superegos, far from policing them, wanted to rubber-stamp requests. Childhood indoctrination could change the stamp from yes to no, but it could not erase the ink. The want would be fulfilled.

By returning to her home in Nebraska, she had deserted her tomorrows. It was the type of knot that was undone by simply pulling on the ends. Most islands were separated by money, but our heroine and hero did not have such a concern. They had the destiny that was only felt by youth. There’d never be a hurry, so they thought. She wasn’t thinking much of love while he could think of nothing else. One had a fire lit under him, the other’s world was always at room temp. She didn’t have to do much to always be on time. She’d had success in art already. If things always worked out so far, they wouldn’t just stop now. Recency bias was something to believe in.

Emotional mortaring was a conflagration but not one that ever had a chance at staying power. Every scene carried the weight it otherwise should’ve shed because of its impermanence. Such bias made connection rare. She had to really like someone for the chance that that could happen.

There was no going through the motions in this sphere, not as with her quotidian. The great sea fainted rather than defy her. Gigantic voices went adrift for ears they missed a-singin’. They didn’t find it fair that she could move her own away. There are demands in expectation. She acted fully but showed fear for those able to read them. They weren’t on the surface obvious. But there could be pain in every drag.

So many of our actions are reactions to thinks that happened long ago. Every time she saw a religious woman with a pinched face, she thought, “That’s the way her mom or step-mom looked.” Ten percent of her brainpower was on identifying causes. It was a process always running.

From now the sea had arms and palms. With opposable thumbs it was capable of using tools against her and playing music she despised. It wasn’t any more just the predators inside it. The sea itself was swarthy, practicing its body language, ready to pass as human just like her. The first thing it wanted was its image of her to be verified. It wanted her to act toward it with the light and cheery manner she displayed to her closest friends. It would take any less from her as family insulting. Then it would have its rogue waving revenge. The planet really was a smorgasbord of retribution.


The food was always ready. It was always fresh and hot. It was never closing hour. She at any time could find a combination that would please her. The gamble was that sometimes it would make her sick. But the times it was delicious seemed to make up for it. Oddly she couldn’t remember how sick she’d been before when the meal went down just right. Parts of her developed a real taste for it. Even when it was bad, it fulfilled something within her. People could get hooked on anything.

One time she went to an Afghan restaurant. She ordered a milk drink. By design the milk was actually rotten. It was served well spoiled and people who grew up on it actually enjoyed it. It didn’t bother them a bit. They kept it refrigerated, though that made no sense. Here was something new to try. It was full to the top with ice in it. She lifted it, it spread over her tongue. The taste of it in her mouth made her in a split second expectorate back into the glass. It was shocking. There was no disguising her reaction. There could be no drinking it just to be polite. It was impossible. She was red-faced. She’d been culturally insensitive but had not had a choice. The milk was truly foul. One would have to have had one’s mother drinking it while she was pregnant so that pre-natal antibodies could make it palatable. Perhaps like surströmming, worse than durian and poi, no foreigner could appreciate this drink. When the waiter came he saw the glass still full and asked if it was too salty. Too salty? she thought, Doesn’t he know it’s rotten? But she took the out he offered, agreed, and said that she was sorry. And could she have more water right away?

Sometimes the guy she left was water; now he was the milk.



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