Tuesday, 1 November 2016
There once was a man-
Call him Bob-
Who lived on a hill
Far removed from the mob.
“I’m a self-made man”
He would boast in his manor
“And deserve all my wealth,
High status and glamour.
“The schools that I went to
Were built by yours truly
And paid for by money
You demanded so rudely.
“Our whole banking system,
And the laws that protect it,
Were not around
Before I existed.
“The hospital, too,
That restored me to health,
Where would it be
If it weren’t for my wealth?
“And as for the workers
They’d starve in a ditch
If they didn’t have someone
Like me to make rich.
“All the inventions,
The gadgets and science
Are due to my own
He lived his own life
And built his own tomb
Even spoke at his wake
In a big, empty room.
Now he’s in heaven
Telling God to his face
“It’s me you should thank
For this fabulous place.”
Posted by james-hazard
at 12:15 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2016 8:42 AM PDT
Thursday, 19 May 2016
When I was in high school I had a friend who was a Nazi. I’m not talking figuratively; Dave was an actual Nazi who would one day join the National Socialist Party of America. We became friends because we shared an interest in science fiction literature. One day he talked to me about the Nazis, who had recently established headquarters in El Monte. We laughed about it because, at least to me, the idea of Nazis setting up shop in El Monte, of all places, just seemed too ridiculous.
“Do they wear uniforms?” I said. “Like in the movies?”
“Oh yeah,” Dave said. “And they have meetings. On Wednesday nights the public is invited.”
Dave wanted me to attend one of the meetings with him. I was tempted but not because I took their ideas seriously. To me Nazis were interesting in the same way zoo animals and creepy stories are interesting. I mean, here are people who cling to the most spectacularly failed ideology of all time. It’s like watching a boxer get pummeled so badly that he dies on the way to the emergency room and then turning to your friends to say, “Man oh man, I want to be like that guy!”
Dave and I drifted apart but I sometimes wondered about him. Years later I mentioned him to my friend Rob who told me that, yes, Dave had become a card carrying Nazi which resulted in his family disowning him. I was stunned and appalled. To this day I also feel a little guilty. I tell myself that I should have realized that my friend was attracted to real, muscular, bloodthirsty fascism, that he wanted to express fanatical hatred and the most extreme form of intolerance. At the time, though, it just seemed too improbable. I would have found it easier to believe that he was a time traveler or that he could make himself invisible.
My most persistent character flaw is that I tend to think that, deep down, everyone is basically like me. My anger is transitory. However mad people make me, I can’t find it in my heart to hate anyone. I have to keep reminding myself, though, that not everyone is like me. The quiet man sitting next to me on the bus may be plotting my extermination. That friendly, smiling cashier I like so much at the supermarket may daydream about annihilating the human race. As hard as it is for me and maybe some of you to accept or believe, hatred can become our most prized possession, the sweetly exhilarating emotion that gives life meaning and purpose.
When I returned from the Navy and settled back in El Monte, I spent one afternoon with a man I had grown up with as a neighbor. His name was Billy. We were never very close but I remembered him as a sweet, quiet little boy, the youngest of three children. I think now that life was probably not easy for Billy when he was little. His father, a railway worker, was injured at work and as a result lost both legs. The loss of blood caused extensive brain damage. I remember seeing the poor man slumped in his wheelchair, chain smoking and babbling words only his wife could understand.
Despite this I didn’t mind going over to their house. I especially liked seeing Mary, the older of the two daughters, washing her mother’s car in a bikini. But by the time I was in high school the family left California and moved to South Carolina where Billy’s mother had originally come from.
Now, as a young man, he had come back with his mother for a visit.
“Why don’t you boys go out and do something?” my mother said to me.
I looked at Billy, who stonily stared at empty space, and said, sure, why not? We got into the two-door Chevy I had purchased from one of my father’s co-workers and then headed for town. I talked about this and that, asked Billy questions and tried to make conversation but the kid was not easy to talk to. He was quiet and seemed remote. Politics was off the table after he grumbled that, “Liberals think they know everything.” There wasn’t much to say about education, since I was in college and he was living at home doing whatever young people do when they are not going to school or working.
We got a bite to eat and then watched a movie. I don’t remember what we saw but I do remember seeing the trailer for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
“Holy cow.” I said when we got back into the car. “Do I want to see that movie!”
Billy just shrugged and looked out the window. Something was wrong and it began to get under my skin. He hadn’t cracked one smile and seemed depressed. I’m not given to prying but finally couldn’t help myself.
“Uh, Billy,” I said. “You, uh, all right? Is something like, you know, bugging you?”
He glanced at me, twisted his mouth into a bitter smirk, then looked out the window and said, “Jews.”
I felt my jaw hit my lap. Jews. Jews? Did I hear that right? Jews? As in…Jews? I wondered if I had missed something. Maybe a rabbi had attacked Billy for buying a box of Milk Duds on the Sabbath. Had Israel just declared war against South Carolina? What the hell did Jews have to do with the price of butter in Finland for crying out loud? This was nuts. I was sitting in a car with a crazy man.
Being the coward that I am I didn’t say anything. I’ve never been good at confronting irrational prejudices. A few days later Billy and his mother returned to South Carolina and I never saw them again.
Thoughts of Billy always make me sad and angry. I imagine him by my side as I shake my fist, bellowing to whoever poisoned this once sweet little kid, “Do you see what you have done! Does this make you happy?”
Mary, the girl I had my first erotic fantasies about, went to college, married and worked in the banking industry. The others kids, my mother told me with a sigh, never left home and did nothing with their lives, living on the money they received from the railroad company. I hope this isn’t true but my gut tells me that it is. I imagine an old Billy sitting alone in his kitchen, sipping black, bitter coffee and occasionally muttering, “Jews!”
Posted by james-hazard
at 12:38 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 19 May 2016 12:40 PM PDT
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
My book, The World's Most Rotten Kid and other stories, is now available at the Kindle store. At the Kindle store type James Hazard in search and you'll go straight to it.
From the book jacket:
The World’s Most Rotten Kid
A young boy, driven nearly insane by a sister who wants to be Shirley Temple, a father obsessed with Richard Nixon, a next door neighbor who may have murdered his wife, a TV perfect mother and a cynical, sadistic grandfather, creates the most terrifying work of art ever conceived. He could be the world’s most rotten kid; or just misunderstood.
The Night Sky
Meet a successful realtor who has just sold a house. Business is booming, as they say. There is just one little problem. The world may be on the verge of coming to a hellish end.
What’s the Matter with Tomatoes?
Growing tomatoes may be a pleasant hobby. As long as it doesn’t drive you crazy once you face the great cosmic power that is intent on cornering the market.
My Life in a Day
Johnny has a long life ahead of him. Unfortunately for him, he’ll live it all in one day. Still, there’s a reason for everything, as he’s about to find out.
A young mother listens to a story about a murder that may or may not be an urban legend. At the end of the story, however, she will have to grapple with death in real life.
Going Once, Going Twice
Sid may have died last night, but that won’t keep him from going to work the next day.
An old man is down on his luck. To make a comeback he’ll have to plot a few grisly killings. Is he a harmless crank or the Devil himself?
Posted by james-hazard
at 11:41 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 27 January 2016 11:51 AM PST
Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Now Playing: a letter from the government
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
December 1, 2015
Re: form N-400
Dear Mr. Jesus, USCIS, upon a careful review of all documents pertaining to your application for immigration, must inform you that you have not provided sufficient evidence that you are a proven Christian and that your application has been denied on that basis. Furthermore, your activities on behalf of people who have expressed hostility toward Roman occupation make it imperative that we exercise extreme caution in regard to your case. Crucifixion, though condemned by international law, does not warrant our government to allow those threatened by it to enter the U.S. at this time.
Posted by james-hazard
at 2:51 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 1 December 2015 2:53 PM PST
Monday, 30 November 2015
Now Playing: Conversations with Zoon
“I was watching the Rebarbarian debates the other day,” my friend Zoon said. “And I heard Mister Duck say that worker bees make too much money. Is that so?”
“If Mister Duck thinks something is true then it is true,” I said.
“But you are always worried about money,” Zoon countered. “ Are you worried that you have too much of it?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’ve earned too much money. You see, Zoon, it’s like this. If I had made less money then I wouldn’t have bought so much stuff; and if I hadn’t bought so much stuff I wouldn’t have gotten into so much debt. If I owed less then I would have more money to pay what I owe to The Super One Percent.”
“But if you and almost everyone else bought less,” Zoon said. “Wouldn’t that cause Big Brother Economy to crash?”
“Not at all,” I replied. “See, all the stuff that’s made in China can be bought by The Super One Percent. They won’t need it, of course, so they’ll ship it to Mexico where it can all be recycled.”
I heard Zoon’s tentacles twitch. He is from the planet Goonleopopfar and is, to humans, invisible; but I think that if I could see him he would look like a giant lobster.
“I do not understand the function of Big Brother Economy,” he said. “On our planet, if we need something we just get together and make it.”
“That’s insane!” I roared. “Worker bees can’t just get together and make stuff on their own. They have to be told what to do by Big Brother Economy.”
“I don’t think I get it,” Zoon sighed.
“Tell me,” I said.
Posted by james-hazard
at 12:10 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 30 November 2015 12:13 PM PST
Wednesday, 25 November 2015
My friend Zoon, who is from the planet Goonleopopfar and is visiting Earth, asked me the other day if Americans are a tolerant people.
“Oh yes, indeed,” I said.
He wanted to know how so.
“Well,” I said. “We tolerate sitting two, three hours in our cars to go to and from work because most of us don’t have a modern mass transportation system. We tolerate sending our kids off to expensive colleges so that they’ll have to work half their life to pay off student debt.
“We tolerate being gouged by drug companies because we won’t let the government negotiate prices. We tolerate mass shootings that are a regular feature of American life now. We tolerate sending people to prison for smoking a weed.
“We tolerate a government that spies on everyone, software companies that spy on their own users, a military industrial complex that kills innocent men, women and children with drones in foreign countries.
“We tolerate the fact that there are a million school children who are homeless. We tolerate corporations that send jobs overseas so that they can pay pennies instead of dollars for an hour’s work.
“We tolerate a political party that is more interested in inventing scandal than protecting a citizen’s right to vote. We tolerate an economic system that is sending us off in our SUVs to the biggest ecological catastrophe in human history; that forces people to work two or three jobs because the minimum wage can’t support them.
“And we tolerate politicians who blame all of this on poor brown people who come here so that they can pick lettuce.”
“You’re a bit more tolerant than we are,” Zoon said.
“Tell me,” I said.
Posted by james-hazard
at 10:38 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 25 November 2015 10:44 AM PST
Monday, 19 January 2015
Now Playing: Idea Man
The first time I met Mary L I was in The Food Box Café eating an egg salad sandwich. We had seen each other around town several times so we nodded, said hello and then introduced ourselves. She had a pile of brown, frizzy hair on her head, unnaturally bright grey eyes that didn’t look as if they worked well together, thin lips that usually curved down and the shallow cheeks of one who doesn’t eat enough. She wore clothes that looked as if they had been made from the covers of old brown sofas. Her feet were in sandals even though the weather was cold and damp. I placed her in her 40s but gave myself a margin of error of ten years either way.
Looking at me with unblinking eyes she wasted no time telling me the dramatic circumstances of her life.
“The flying saucers come to my house every night, James. They really do. I wake up and there they are. They must use some kind of electromagnetic pulse because my electricity goes out and I can’t call the police. They take me to Vietnam, James. They really do. And I’m tortured there. Every night. They use electrodes on me. I have to watch sex movies. The government won’t do anything. All they do is spy on me. They really do.”
This increasingly one-sided conversation went on for several more minutes before she shambled out with a large Styrofoam cup of coffee in her hand. Two years after getting married my wife and I ran into her one day on the street.
“I finally know what to do, James,” she said.
“What’s that, Mary?” I said.
“I have to defeat the Devil.”
That night, after dinner, I put dishes and cups into the dishwasher and thought about defeating the Devil. Could the world exist without evil? To me it seemed like trying to bake a cookie with only one side. And freed from suffering, what would we do with all the free time? Maybe, I thought, a few disasters here and there build character. At the very least they give us a chance to act heroically. I called out to my wife that I was going out to check on Lewis.
Lewis lives in a tiny one bedroom house on our property. In exchange for rent he helps with mowing the lawn, weeding and other routine chores. He calls himself an idea man, a once influential consultant and advisor to politicians, celebrities and Fortune 500 executives; but for the past several years he has fallen on hard times and lives nearly penniless, with only the clothes on his back and pictures clipped from newspapers and magazines of him next to Bernie Madoff, Jack Abramoff, Bill Cosby and other luminaries.
“You want something to eat?” I said as I knocked.
He told me to come in, saying that he had Chinese. That’s his euphemism for dumpster diving.
We talked for a few minutes and then I asked him if he had any plans for the next day. He sat hunched over on a wooden chair wearing nothing but an old tattered cape that looked as if it had come from the stock room of a community theater. His pale, slack face was unshaven and he looked emaciated. Dirty grey hair hung down nearly to his shoulders. I could hear tired, congested lungs work as he smoked an unfiltered cigarette from a red, crumpled pack.
“Yeah,” he said, staring down at the whirring electric heater I let him use. “Guy in Oregon. Got something seriously wrong upstairs I figure. Gonna do the ‘ole instant shotgun divorce thing with his family-nothing much new or exciting there-only gets interesting when he decides to chew ‘em to bits with a chainsaw. I guess movies help if you don’t have much of an imagination. And a woman in Sidney gonna leave her husband and three kids to run off with a feller who sells tropical fish so she can swindle him out of his money and leave his body in the trunk of his car. I know, small potatoes but I’ve slid down the ladder and landed on my butt enough times to know that when you’ve hit bottom you gotta start somewhere.”
“Okay,” I said. “Sounds good. Think you’re up to it?”
“Oh,” he said, lighting another cigarette with a snap of his long, knobby fingers.
“Don’t you worry about me, Sonny Jim.”
Posted by james-hazard
at 12:46 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 19 January 2015 1:00 PM PST
Saturday, 18 October 2014
One for the Road
The Ebola Cola Cafe
take the last road at the end of the earth
sodden rags full of bones piled at the counter
click, clack and cackle with mirth
The infection sticks like confection
latex hands snap like rubber bands
but the spread of microbial insurrection
has already crossed that intersection
Remember, back in the day,
we packed the churches like flies on meat. "You're all dead so good luck with that," the priest would say and off we'd go to babble, fart and sweat,
turn to carrion where we lay
Now I'm all mixed up with clocks and the price of stocks
as the dying writhe under the heat of their own blood-red sun
blue skies are drawn with charcoal, the planet has its own
as the seas rise to the occassion there'll be no place to run
There's a solution to this, of course, there always is
fever itself is an untapped source of energy
we use it at the cafe to give our drink its fizz
what's real is only empty imagery
after all, even the misery
Posted by james-hazard
at 5:36 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 October 2014 6:11 PM PDT
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Now Playing: The One that Got Away
Author’s note: this is a very short story written in a style called stream of consciousness. It may call for some increased attention but I do think the reader will find it very amusing nonetheless.
Rated: mature for content and some strong language.
The One that Got Away
Of course the first one tottering in on heels you could use for a shish kabob is Janice Ritmore-always called her Rigor Mortis -under a pile of hair I wouldn’t put on a poodle-wearing an old hanging skin of a dress-the flowers look like faded tattoos-smiles puffy eyed and has to hug me to her bag of bones-I’m half afraid I’ll stick to her-Oh Sharon the service was beautiful she has to tell me and then Peter comes in stomach first-the man is so red he’s a walking advertisement for a stroke-Sharon Sharon Sharon as if I’d forgotten my name but I’m seventy for Christ’s sake not a hundred and seven-can’t believe he’s gone she has to go on-hell he’d better be gone he’s dead isn’t he? One day she says he’s right here working one of his puzzles and the next day-he’s gone I finish for her-godallmighty is that perfume she has on or sugar water and bug spray? Oh I can see Herb my deceased embalmed buried dead as a doornail hubby working one of his puzzles or wrapping his face with newspaper so he won’t hear a peep out of me the bastard was as useless as condoms on a dildo-and now the whole mob with their canes and walkers their scooters and wheelchairs all of them gray and clammy god it looks like one of those zombie movies Herb used to like while he wasn’t gawking at teenagers in bikinis on the soft porn channel-the smell of cemetery sod and aftershave wafts in-Jackie and then Frankie with her grandson pad out of the kitchen wiping their hands-we’ve been cooking all goddamn night and day is what I bet they want to say-you want coffee tea a soda beer or bourbon-why not drink the whole house dry while you’re at it? Get something to eat make yourself a sandwich-fine with me I didn’t buy or cook any of that crap-and my son comes jiggling downstairs smelling food no doubt-hey Mom-peck on the cheek for all to see-you okay? Oh fine fine I say-here for three days and my brain is about to boil over him with his Italian inner tube for a wife who could for god’s sake wax her lip just once in her life-oh yes that’s my boy my forty three year old son two kids of his own but he floats and bobs around young girls like a poisonous jellyfish I mean I swear the kid was born with a hardon it’s the only thing about him that ever made me laugh-to think it took twenty three years before he finally oozed out of the house-quit school why don’t you it’s time to fail in the real world-sells cars and actually makes a living at it would you believe it? Probably been in his old room jerking off-I can just see him and his wife Sofia scarfing down lasagna while the kids upstairs watch slasher movies-food? Oh not for me not now-truth is I’m too sick with hunger to eat which is weird because last night I was too tired to sleep-my son waddles away and I know why we women call our kids little shits it’s because both have to be pushed out-hi Mary I force myself to say how’s Jerry and Terry and Barry-the family is a nursery rhyme-oh I know it was such a weird and stupid accident but then how many of us get up in the middle of the night and fall down the stairs in the dark? Happens all the time but you never think it’ll happen to your own husband-and now I gotta daub my dry eyes-I told him a million times to be careful going down those stairs-what I want to say to scream is that the pig asshole was creeping downstairs to piss the last of our money away on online poker-no officers I was in bed when I heard him fall and then I ran out to turn on the light and there he was his legs and arms all twisted wrong and I knew he was dead can we can we talk later I think I think I’m in a state of shock-only one twenty five in the afternoon the end of the universe seems closer but I have to be comforted by these clowns-give me a drink I just want to celebrate and then take a nap the clinking of glasses shivers along my teeth and a headache fattens in my temples-oh sweetie I say it is such a terrible thing but he isn’t suffering and I know he’s looking down at us and he’s happy-roasting in hell I hope-when I think of how many women he screwed for the first twenty years of our marriage before I finally lost it and sliced a nice thin line above both his nipples with a paring knife and said next time it’ll be your nuts you scumbag-but for now I’m the queen of grief which is like getting married but better everyone brings food instead of useless crap for presents-Bob that was so nice what you said at the service and so funny you and Herb out in the sticks getting lost and a moose almost runs you over-they’re all looking at me poor poor Sharon hubby go fall down boom broked his neck well shit happens-wait what the wait what’s that gring gring gring sound what is that kid Jason playing with on the floor it isn’t a toy car or marble oh hell no it’s but it can’t be but it is the kid found it damn-spent hours on hands and knees looking for the one that got away and the kid that kid who could have found anything finds it-excuse me I say slithering around everyone as I slowly make my way to the other end of the room-the kid is on the floor rolling it back and forth gring gring gring it makes my head pound but have to stay calm-close closer closer have to time it just right-turn around make it look like an accident I’m good at that-then I wait and glance around then one teeny step back and the kid’s hand feels like soft chicken bones underfoot then the screaming and gram scoops him up and I go scooping too-oh Frankie I’m so sorry I didn’t see him there-then I slip the ball bearing into my pocket-I hope I didn’t hurt him I say-but then getting hurt is not always such a bad thing if one has insurance
Posted by james-hazard
at 7:14 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014 7:16 PM PDT
Thursday, 29 May 2014
Now Playing: As Long as I live
My mother, a teetotaler who smoked and drank coffee in moderation, took no interest in modern art, wore sensible shoes and lived by rules such as not running while holding scissors, kept a sharp lookout every single day of her life for the sudden and dramatic fall of Western Civilization in general and the collapse and ruin of the United States in particular.
“One day,” she warned anyone who would listen. “We’ll be fighting in the streets for a crust of bread!”
I was, like most kids my age, literal minded and so tried to imagine actually fighting with fists and clubs over a single dirty piece of bread birds hadn’t picked off the pavement. What would happen if you won? I wondered. You could eat a crust of bread and still be hungry.
My father, a teetotaler who smoked and drank coffee excessively, took an interest in modern art and lived by rules such as always eating hamburger steak no matter what restaurant you’re in, had a more subdued sense of the apocalyptic and would only say, while watching gladiator movies on a Saturday morning in the living room, that one day Americans will wake up and see that they’ve been taken over by Commies.
Not thinking for a moment that my parents were crazy, I took it for granted that, for whatever reason, one day we would beat each other’s brains out for a crust of bread while being simultaneously struck with the appalling realization that were now living under Communism.
But I also had a hard time understanding their ever present sense of impending doom. Life was good. We lived in a single family house that had no previous occupant, rode around in big cars, had plenty of food and lived in a quiet, safe neighborhood. There was always money for fabulous Christmas presents like toy robots, air guns and talking dolls; and the nation was still flush with its sense of triumph after World War Two. We hadn’t been corrupted yet by diet sodas, phony cigarettes, internet porn, identity theft, malls, cable TV, torture movies, a million new self-help books every month and pharmaceutical drugs for every ailment from “low T” to erectile dysfunction.
Life was good but my parents had come to maturity in a big Eastern city infamous for its political corruption during The Great Depression; and felt deep down that life in sunny Southern California was simply too good to be true. We were living in a fool’s paradise. The working class was meant to struggle and live in bleak circumstances because life is war, a constant contest for survival.
In a sense they were right to think that we were sleep walking in a fool’s paradise, for the 50s was the calm before the storm. Smoldering outrage over racism, poverty, political and economic inequalities and war would soon ignite fiery outbursts of protest that would forever alter the American landscape.
The 60s was a time of trial for my parents. For them the Civil Rights Movement was a threat to the natural order of things. As long as everyone knew their place the sun would keep rising in the east and setting in the west. They had been born in the South and had migrated as teenagers to Chicago, a city racially segregated by a system of unrelenting brutality.
“You can’t legislate morality,” my mother once told me. Actually, I think she told me that almost every day for years.
She was right. Morality cannot be imposed by new rules and regulations; and yet her criticism missed a bigger and more important point. We don’t make rules and regulations to become better; we make rules and regulations because we are better-because we came to understand that it’s better for children to be in school instead of in factories or mines; because we came to understand that we should all be treated fairly regardless of our skin color, ethnicity, income or sex. I think that this way of thinking about our moral progress has given me a bit more optimism about the human race than my parents had. Depression is as much a problem for me as it was for them but I remind myself that what I feel at any particular moment is not necessarily a reflection of what the world is.
For all their faults and moral blind spots, though, they were good parents. They taught me and my sister to be polite, considerate and to have a sense of humor about ourselves. They taught us the value of hard work and responsibility.
But they instilled in us more than that. My father taught me how to listen to classical music, play games with nothing but a pen and piece of paper, tell a joke and to appreciate the value of books. My mother taught me how to type by touch; and she encouraged me to write.
However prejudiced my father was, he often told us that he could never stand to see anyone, no matter who they were, treated unfairly. He also told me that everyone in a time of war believes that God is on their side. That left a deep and lasting impression on me.
Some years after my father passed away I was in my mother’s car as she drove into town. On a residential street she saw an elderly Latino man limping along the side of the road. She slowed to a stop, got out of the car, opened the door for him and then drove the old man to where he was going.
They were far better than I often realized; but isn’t that true of many parents? Born into a rough world of us against them, they nevertheless possessed a huge capacity for empathy and love.
They won’t die as long as I live.
Posted by james-hazard
at 3:09 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 September 2014 12:03 PM PDT
Newer | Latest | Older