#1

The starter pistol exploded, and Gideon Young took off at a jog. No need to push myself right off the bat, still 26 miles to go.

The midday Sun beat down on the runners, a great herd of muscles under cover of nylon and neoprene, as they left the starting point behind. Young could already feel the sweat running down his forehead, the back of his neck, the now bare place where his sideburns used to be. He resisted the urge to reach up and wipe it away. There would be much more where that came from and he couldn’t afford precious energy on the constant wiping. Better to focus on the task at hand.

Finish the marathon, Gid, then you can bathe in ice.

____

He had actually detested the nickname “Gid” his whole life. That is until he met Maggie. From the very beginning he’d been taken in by her bright smile and not-quite green eyes. Her curvy body and penchant for spontaneous dancing certainly didn’t hurt things. She’d called him Gid on the first date. He meant to correct her, to explain to her that his neglectful, drunk father had called him “Gid” with derision and he wished never to hear it uttered again; but he was already under her spell.

They sat in a coffee-house in the collegiate part of town, quietly sipping their coffees when some obscure album track by the now-forgotten Live came on the radio. Maggie stood up from her chair and began to dance, slowly, sensually. It was part belly dance, part middle-age hippie sway; and the very introspective Gideon found it a little embarrassing in a 19 year-old coed. He also found it amazingly erotic and despite himself rose from his chair and danced next to her; coming up beside her and singing quietly in her ear, “Talk to me now, oh vicious crowd…”

Not the most romantic song, but you don’t always get to pick your first dance’s anthem.

Nine years, a doctorate, and two masters later, they married. It was a night to remember. There was wine and song, more food than their 104 guests could possibly have finished; and to end the evening the couple took to the floor and slow-danced to Mother Earth Is A Vicious Crowd, much to the confusion of all in attendance.

_____

The first muscle cramp came at around the three-mile mark. It was in his abdomen, a sharp pain that soon spread through his whole midsection. He felt his pace slowing, and struggled to pick it back up. A woman half his age passed on the right, then back tracked to keep pace with him. “Are you alright, sir?”

“Yes,” a sharp gasp, “I’m fine.”

“I’ll tell you what,” she seemed to have no trouble keeping pace and conversing with him, he envied her, “My name is Meredith, Meri if you like. I’m not in this to set any records, I’m just raising money for a friend. I’ll try not to leave you too far behind. OK?”

He didn’t answer her. He was focused on the task at hand.

“Alright, well if you need anything, I’m a doctor, and I’ll be in earshot.” With that she pulled ahead; far enough to give Gideon his space, but within sight.

He allowed himself a glance down at his aching gut, and the number pinned to his t-shirt. He was runner number 344. And in the upper right-hand corner a smaller number on a piece of note paper. It was his youngest daughter’s handwriting: #1. He smiled despite the pain, remembering who he was doing this for.

After five miles he grabbed a bottle of water from an outstretched hand. It was cold and refreshing, yet burned in his chest as he swallowed. He coughed, sputtered, nearly tripped over himself. Meredith was listening closer than he’d thought and slowed her pace until she was neck-and-neck with him. “You ok?”

He gave her a thumbs up, then as she sped back up, he flipped her the bird. I’m doing this for my little girls. I don’t need your help.

_____

It was two years ago that Gideon had come home from the doctor’s office and collapsed on the couch. Maggie ran to him, running her fingers through his dark, curly hair. “What is it, baby?”

When the doctor had told him, in his oh-so-clinical fashion that it was cancer, Gideon reacted stoically. “Oh, I see.”

“The placement, more so than the size of the tumor makes you a poor candidate for surgery. I’d like to start you on radiation therapy as soon as possible.”

“Oh, I see.”

It was only with his head cradled in the lap of his beloved Maggie that he’d allowed himself to cry. It was a hard, body-shaking cry, full of fear and pain and anger.

They decided, after much discussion, to tell their daughters about the cancer. They kept no secrets from the girls.

Christine, the youngest, patted his hand gently, “Don’t be scared, Daddy. You’re strong.”

_____

At fifteen miles Gideon could barely see straight. His muscle cramps had spread throughout his entire thorax. His shoulders burned, his arms ached. He was more than certain that several blisters had formed on his feet and subsequently burst. His right shoe filled with blood, squishing between his toes as he continued to jog.

He congratulated himself for not having slowed much since the beginning. He had discovered a previous unknown tolerance for pain when he started the radiation therapy, and it served him well now. He reached out for another bottle of water, and noticed that the spectators were fewer. The running herd had thinned out considerably, as well. The sun had moved across the sky and was beginning to disappear behind the taller buildings. Streetlights began popping on. Gideon powered on.

At twenty miles his legs gave out and he tumbled forward. The concrete bit into the thin flesh around his knees and he left a piece of himself behind for the crows. For an agonizing minute he thought he might not make it back to his feet, and that body shaking cry began to creep back up his spine.

No, you bastard, shake it off. Shake! It! Off!

He lifted himself up halfway to standing, his legs shaking under his weight and his short time. He was about to collapse again, when a pair of hands caught him under one arm. “Come on, man, don’t give up on me now.”

Meredith helped him the rest of the way to his feet and looked at his knees. “You’ve got some nasty abrasions, but you’ll live. Are you going to keep going?”

I’m sorry for flipping you the bird. “Yes,” he pointed to the handwritten number on his chest, “I’m number one.”

He started up again, barely faster than a walking pace, but he was moving.

“I’m right behind you, sir. Don’t worry, I won’t let you quit.”

It was almost midnight when Gideon crossed the finish line. The officials had almost all left, just a hefty woman with reddish hair taking note of finishers; and of course, his family. They stood to the right of the finish line, half asleep, but there. His older girl and Maggie held up a banner he hadn’t known about. It read: YAY DADDY! YOU’RE OUR #1!

 

 

 

936-442

Gavin Killam gripped the little slip of paper tightly in his fist. Maybe too tightly, he thought for a moment. He didn’t want the ink to smudge from his sweat. He loosened his grip, then thought better of it, and shoved the paper into his jean pocket.

The number on that little sheet, just a corner from a newspaper, was very important. It was probably the most important piece of information to ever pass from one human to another.

The barista’s phone number! He had finally worked up the nerve to say more to her than, “Grande non-fat Macchiato.”

It wasn’t easy. It took nerves of steel. And a bottle of Killian’s Irish Red at the bar down the street. But he’d done it.

“Good evening,” he said, very cleverly as he approached the counter. She ran her fingers through the hair that drapped across the right side of her head, the left side was buzzed with military precision, and responded with a very telling, “‘sup?”

‘Sup! They carried such weight, those three letters. She could’ve stuck with the barista script, and simply asked him his order, but she said, “‘Sup?”

Gavin hadn’t planned for that eventuallity. It left him stunned, stammering, and struggling to come up with a witty retort. He found it in, “Not a damn thing.”

She smiled and took his order, then she took his cash. Their finger tips touched, and he could’ve sworn that she held the contact longer than necessary. Another very good sign.

There was no line behind him, so he felt confident in taking his time. Ease into the seduction, Gavin. “So…what’s up with you?”

He was proud of that, it kept the conversation going. “I’m making your coffee.”

This time she was deadfaced. No smile, no twinkle in her greenish eyes, no flare of her small, pierced nose. Undaunted, he carried on.

“Did you hear about Letterman?”

“Who?”

“Dave Letterman.”

“Did he die?” She moved to her left, gathering the ingredients for his beverage.

“No, no, he’s retiring next year.”

“And?”

And this is where he could feel it all coming apart. Gavin had not contemplated a point in the conversation where he’d lose her interest. There was no plan for this. Of course, that didn’t mean he was going to back down. The Killams where not quitters! So he leaped into the abyss of the unknown.

“What time do you get off?”

“Why?”

“I want to buy you a drink.”

Another smile, and flushed cheeks.

“Not tonight.”

“Oh.”

“I have classes in the morning, but tomorrow night I would love to.”

“Oh!”

She reached across the counter, grabbing at a newspaper some careless patron had left lying there. She was close enough to smell. Coffee, sweat, too-sweet perfume. Those were the scents of the barista. She tore a corner of the newspaper off and jotted down her phone number. Her fingers, long and cold, reached out for his hand and placed the paper in his palm.

“Don’t lose that. Call me tomorrow afternoon, we’ll figure something out.”

“Great, talk to you soon.” He said, with charm. He had come out a winner, and turned to make his exit.

“Hey, wait!” She called to him, missed him already.

“Yes?”

“You forgot your drink.”

“Oh.”

He was barely through the door of his apartment before he began to dig the slip of paper out of his pocket. He held it for a moment, reverentially, the unfolded it like a spoiled child on Christmas.

He read her number out loud to the empty rooms. “9-3-6-4-4-2.”

Then he read them again.

And again.

And then he realized, it was time to find a new coffee shop.

Too Little, Too Late Movie Reviews: The Fellowship of the Ring

I just got back from Middle Earth, and boy is my ass numb.

13 years ago a little gem from dying studio New Line graced screens everywhere. EVERYWHERE. The title, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, was a mouthful; and the film itself was nothing less than a grand epic. But maybe, just maybe, it was a little too epic?

I started watching Peter Jackson’s  ode to Viggo Mortensen’s five o’clock shadow at noon and finished at sunset. I understand that the source material is long, and that Jackson managed to leave almost half the book out of the film, but I think there really was some more room for cutting. The first film of this trilogy (there are two more?!) carries on longer than the entire Harry Potter series combined. That’s a verifiable fact, look it up. Complaints about the length aside, Jackson did a fairly competent job with The Lord of the Rings.

Competent, not great. I know he has a following, I know I may come under fire for this, but this is America and I’m entitled to my opinion. I didn’t really feel anything special about Jackson’s vision. I didn’t feel the connection to the world, the way I wanted to. I’ve read the book and I came away with a very dark feeling. I had to keep all the lights on in my apartment while reading about the journey through the mines. This film did not inspire any emotion in me, aside from impatience. Thank goodness for the mediocre CG effects.

Ah, there I go again, knocking Mr. Jackson, and along with him, his precious Weta Works. I will be the first to say that nowadays I would choose Weta over ILM any day of the week, but this movie was not created nowadays. I was taken right out of the world, its tenuous grasp on my imagination shattered by some poorly done CGI. And while we’re on the subject of special effects; this movie is chock full of wizards, and the greatest amount of magic we see is a make-believe shoving match? I thought I was being punk’d.

I’ve been going pretty hard on this little flick, and I feel bad about that. I should lighten up.

Frodo Baggins is our hero, the brave little Hobbit who faces the horror of Mount Doom. So of course, you want to cast a really fantastic actor, with a wide range of emotions at his disposal. Or you could cast Elijah Wood. And Sean Astin. Now, Ian McKellan was a brilliant bit of casting, that fella was born to play Gandalf the Grey, mighty wizard. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, Viggo Mortensen’s facial hair did a splendid job of setting scenes.

Overall, I actually did enjoy this film, despite my complaints. It was a fun adventure, and damn Viggo Mortensen is greasy.

My one gripe: Where the hell is Tom Bombadil? That could have been one of the greatest sequences ever put to film…or one of the worst. We shall never know.

 

 

Dream #1

Her

An unconventional beauty

Pointed nose

Elf ears

Red cheeks

And crooked smile

 

Him

Shy

An introvert with dark eyes

A man who knows what he wants

But lacks the strength

The power

 

Their marriage unseen

A thing known

But never experienced

Muscle memory

Instinct

The hint of a whim

 

His heart is pained

He knows she is lying with another man

He knows this

But he is unable to stop her

Powerless

Castrated

The lowest he’s been

 

His phone is a maze

Apps confound him

In his mind, itching at the back of his skull

She is laughing

The sound comes to him

Distant

Strained

 

Not an evil laugh

The “mwahaha” of a scheming villain

But rather

A gentle giggling

Settling on him

His heart/mind search for her

In a daze

 

He finds her

Not alone

Surrounded by admirers

She drinks in their affections

She is empowered

Her eyes slice

Shred

Him

In half.

Platyptilia Pulverulenta

The herald of death is real,

The herald of death floats on soft wings,

Dry, Crisp,

Wearing earth and bone.

 

It commands a great army,

A vast troupe of soul-carriers.

They disguise themselves as life,

But no one is truly fooled.

 

Smash them beneath your heels,

Your fists,

Your rolled-up magazines!

Witness the absence of life.

 

Ashes to ashes,

Dust to dust.

More apt a phrase,

I can’t find.

 

To paraphrase the “good” book,

And behold, I saw,

A pale moth,

And Death followed with him.

moth

2014 Golden Globes Picks

Best Drama Series
“Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“The Good Wife”
“House of Cards”
“Masters of Sex”

My pick: “Breaking Bad” if for no other reason than it ended it’s run. Kind of a fond farewell.

Best Actor in a Television Drama Series
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Michael Sheen, “Masters of Sex”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
James Spader, “The Black List”

My pick: Wow, I have seen none of these. But I do think Liev Schreiber is a fantastically underrated actor. Give it to him.

Best Actress in a Television Drama Series
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
Taylor Schilling, “Orange is the New Black”
Kerry Washington, “Scandal”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

My pick: Taylor Schilling. Did you see Orange is the New Black? It was the best new series of the year, in my opinion.

Best Comedy Series
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Brooklyn 99″
Girls”
“Modern Family”
“Parks and Recreation”

My picks: This is like a tug of war between “Parks and Recreations” and “Modern Family”. But the star of “Parks” already gets to host, so “Family” gets this one.

Best Actor in a Television Comedy Series
Jason Bateman, “Arrested Development”
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Michael J. Fox, “The Michael J. Fox Show”
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Andy Samberg, “Brooklyn 99″

My pick: Michael J. Fox will get the sympathetic vote, and frankly he deserves it.

Best Actress in a Television Comedy Series
Zooey Deschanel, “New Girl”
Lena Dunham, “Girls”
Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”

My pick: Oh, Zooey, you’re cute, but you’re not really stretching yourself. I’ll give this one to Lena Dunham, because she’s just slightly less adorable than Deschanel.

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television
“American Horror Story: Coven”
“Behind the Candelabra”
“Dancing on the Edge”
“Top of the Lake”
“White Queen”

My pick: “Top of the Lake” is in my Netflix queue, so I have to hope this one is a winner.

Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television
Matt Damon, “Behind the Candelabra”
Michael Douglas, “Behind the Candelabra”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Dancing on the Edge”
Idris Elba, “Luther”
Al Pacino, “Phil Spector”

My pick: Idris Elba is incredible. I loved Luthor, so I’m clearly rooting for him to win here.

Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television
Helena Bonham Carter, “Burton and Taylor”
Rebecca Ferguson, “The White Queen”
Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Coven”
Helen Mirren, “Phil Spector”
Elisabeth Moss, “Top of the Lake”

My pick: Jessica Lange deserves to win for being (what, 70?) and still being hot.

Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television
Josh Charles, “The Good Wife”
Rob Lowe, “Behind the Candelabra”
Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”
Corey Stoll, “House of Cards”
Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan”

My pick: Aaron Paul, we bid you, “farewell.” And as a going away present, here’s an award.

Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television
Jacqueline Bisset, “Dancing on the Edge”
Janet McTeer, “White Queen”
Hayden Panettiere, “Nashville”
Monica Potter, “Parenthood”
Sofia Vergara, “Modern Family”

My pick: Sofia Vergara and her enormous, ahem, talent, will take home this award. Lucky, lucky award.

Best Motion Picture – Drama
“12 Years A Slave”
“Captain Phillips”
“Gravity”
“Philomena”
“Rush”

My pick: “12 Years A Slave” will win or we’re all racists. There, I said it.

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
“American Hustle”
“Her”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Nebraska”
“The Wolf Of Wall Street”

My pick: I am a longtime fan of the Coen Brothers and everything they do. “Inside Llewyn Davis”, you win by default.

Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years A Slave”
Idris Elba, “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom”
Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Robert Redford, “All Is Lost”

My pick: Given recent events, I think Idris Elba will win. And frankly, he’s an amazing actor, so he probably deserves it.

Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Her”

My pick: Batman, nanananana Batman! Christian Bale wins!!

Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”
Kate Winslet, “Labor Day”

My pick: Sandra Bullock versus a bunch of brits. Stand up for America, um, Hollywood Foriegn Press, hmm. Judi Dench Wins!

Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”
Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Enough Said”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

My pick: Julie Delpy is hard to watch, physically. But damn, girl can act.

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years A Slave”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

My pick: Michael Fassbender can’t NOT win this. I mean, his penis is huuuge.

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years A Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”

My pick: A couple of new names here, and I like seeing new names win. I caught a tiger by the toe and Lupita Nyong’o came out on top.

Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Paul Greengrass, “Captain Phillips”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years A Slave”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”

My pick: Alfonso Cuaron directed just two actors in the vacuum of space and made a compelling film. Give it up!

Best Screenplay
Spike Jonze, “Her”
Bob Nelson, “Nebraska”
Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan, “Philomena”
John Ridley, “12 Years A Slave”
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, “American Hustle”

My pick: True story, the script for “Her” was written on a turtle’s shell. While the turtle still lived. It’s a lie, but still, you believed it. Spike Jonze for the win!

Best Original Score
“All Is Lost”
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
“Gravity”
“The Book Thief”
“12 Years A Slave”

My pick: “The Book Thief” has got to win something, right?

Best Original Song
“Atlas,” Coldplay (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”)
“Let It Go,” Idina Menzel (“Frozen”)
“Ordinary Love,” U2 (“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”)
“Please Mr. Kennedy,” Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver (“Inside Llewyn Davis”)
“Sweeter Than Fiction,” Taylor Swift (“One Chance”)

My pick: Ugh, I am so sick of U2. But still, I see them winning this.

Best Foreign Language Film
“Blue is the Warmest Color”
“The Great Beauty”
“The Hunt”
“The Past”
“The Wind Rises”

My pick: Seriously, though, red is the warmest color. Idiots. But you win.

Best Animated Feature Film
“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2″
“Frozen”

My pick: DESPICABLE ME 2! DESPICABLE ME 2!

 

The Escort

Lithe, sinewy, she moves

Across the bed, barely making a dent in the sheets.

Her naked body is exposed,

Her breasts hang, limp cuts of meat.

A galaxy of freckles,

Moles,

Birthmarks,

Cancer,

Decorate her shoulders.

 

There is no life in her eyes,

Eyes which once held the younger men in a trance.

Her lips part, chapped and sore,

Her breath is heavy with coffee, cigarettes,

And semen.

 

“I want you,” she says.

For a fleeting moment,

Almost too quick to catch,

Her eyes are on your pants,

Draped across the nightstand.

 

Then she takes you into her mouth,

Dry, rough,

Canines catching, pulling.

 

There is no pleasure in this for her,

Or for you.

It is compulsion.

It is need.

It is too late,

and you cum.

 

She is clumsy, all bones,

Knobby knees,

As she dresses.

Slides a stained black dress over her ribcage,

Her protruding hips.

Sharp angles and freckles,

and she had you.