You know how it is. Just hanging out on a sexy ass Thursday night. Nobody’s really around and there’s nothing going on outside. Just a hot summer evening and you can feel the humidity begging you to take your clothes off.
Then you hear a hiss, and you’re not alone anymore (like you ever were). And you’re like, “What’s up man?”
"Sshit. Ain’t nothin’ up, tonight." He lingers on the s way longer than he should.
They all linger on the s. Fucking house eels.
"Why don’t you invite ssomeone over?" One of ‘em asks.
Because now there are quite a few of ‘em, filling up your living room.
It’s tough though. Nobody to call off the top of your head. There’s that one from last week, but she gave off a vibe like she might steal shit—and she stepped on Julius without apologizing. She also might have been on heroin. She’s definitely off the list.
The smoke in there is starting to get thick because Julius—what is it with Julius?—just lit up a fat jazz cigarette.
"Can’t think of anybody."
"What about that Harlem teacher?"
You look around, it’s Bernie. You reply, “She’s nice. Big hands though.” Julius hates girls with big hands so that ought to put her out of the running, regardless of what Bernie thinks.
"I like a sstrong woman." Even Bernie is on the s more than usual.
"If I invite someone over, are you sure it won’t get weird?"
Julius snickered a bit. “It alwayss getss weird”
"Suppose so." Now you’re really wracking your brain. "What if it’s not a chick?"
"What are you trying to ssay about Bernie?"
"Please quit talking about yourself in the third person, Bernie. Besides, what’s wrong with just hanging? It’s not like you always have to be getting inside of something."
"Sspeak for yourself." Bernie slid between the couch cushions and popped his head up around the armrest, eyes bugging and grinning like a maniac.
You knew what it was coming to this whole time. It always ends like this. You tap out a quick text and wait.
The room’s been hotboxed by now. You can’t see where Julius starts and Bernie ends. Forget the others, half of them don’t even speak to you but slide around the place like they live there. And they sort of do. It’s been a while and they’re pretty persuasive, so you take a few hits off the joint. Good stuff. Not west coast good, but good.
"I hate it when you guys make me do this."
"Sshit, it always ends well."
"Sure. For you guys."
There are ssnickers all around.
The door buzzes. You get up, a bit wobbly. It’s that girl that you know from the kickball league. The one you joined when you were lonely and sick of hanging out with eels all day. Fucking disaster, right? Still, you remember how fun she was and how she wanted to get a drink and how she lived in your neighborhood which was weird because there aren’t a lot of trains around and she looked like she had a much better job than you or at least she talked that way. But then she responded to your text. And she said she’d stop in and meet for a beer or something.
So you open then door, wary but optimistic because optimism is your strong suit.
She coughs a bit. “Hi. Um, wow. Having a bit of a party in here?”
"Something like that. Want to come in for a bit?"
Defying all sensibility, she steps inside. Not without caution. Not with caution, but not entirely without it either.
"Sit down, I’ll grab you a beer."
You can hear Julius. “There’ss room right here.”
You can’t see him, you just know there’s probably a couch in the direction of that smooth ass voice. God it’s hot. Why not open a window? Because they always complain and you always end up closing it again anyway. Not worth the effort.
"Oh, I didn’t know you had people over."
"They’re kind of like my room mates."
"Sshit. We’re sso much more than that." Bernie was over by the turntable and you can hear the hiss of the record as he queues up some Mose Allison.
Breanna perks up a bit. “Oh, I love jazz.”
"Well hot damn, sso do we. Sso do we." You can’t tell which one is talking now. They blend. And you’re a bit high.
You’re finding a beer and grabbing one for yourself and now you can’t remember where the opener is because—did Julius just say something about you?—no, probably not. You walk out with the unopened beers and then have to walk back in like an idiot but Breanna wasn’t paying attention to you anyway. Fuck.
Finally the bottles are open and you come out into the living room to see them all on the couch.
"Here’s your beer." You set it down and look for the recliner.
She’s giggling a bunch now. At some point Julius offers her the joint. She snatches it up without hesitation.
"So glad you finally stopped by."
"Me too! You should have told me you had eels. I love eels!"
"Oh, honey. Talk like that will get uss all in trouble." Bernie was ssnickering again.
The next morning, Breanna is in her underwear on the couch. Covered in eels. You’re just kind of in your chair, where you started.
The last volume of Purgatory, NY— “Labor of Love” was just published. You can pick its sweet ass up on Amazon
Big thanks to Jeff Beatty for editing, and the always amazing Aaron Morgan for the artwork. There will be a digital omnibus version published in the next few weeks, as well as print versions in the next month or two.
There’s something amazing about this for me on a personal level. I wrote my first novel. Some of you even like it. Some don’t—hell, I’ll be honest, I hate pretty much everything that comes out of the ends of my fingers.
But I do like some of it. And your encouragement keeps me truckin’ along, improving my work. So thanks Tumblr weirdos. Thanks sweet ass girlfriend who keeps telling me she likes the stuff I write. Thanks Internet friends. Thanks sexy strangers.
And there’s another book in the works. Some forty thousand words of drafts and notes flying around the 1s and 0s of my laptop’s brain, slowly taking shape into something that you might like to read. In the meantime, I’m going to keep putting out shorts and doing my best to hold your interest.
There will be times when I go a bit silent, mostly because my freelance work as a 21st century plumber (software developer) can monopolize my mental bandwidth occasionally. Still, I’ll keep cranking stuff out until there are enough friendly strangers buying my books to keep me out of the digital crack den.
Most indulgent food party ever. Hanging with 1000lbs of lobster, manservants (the epically awesome @unicornsmack), and all the champagne I could fit in my body.
Sometimes you gotta cut loose.
All our misery comes from wanting at all costs to go on being Tom, Dick, or Harry, year in year out. This body of ours, this disguise put on by common jumping molecules, the dears, want to get lost in the universe as fast as they can! It makes them miserable to be nothing but us, the assholes of infinity.Louis Ferdinand Céline, Journey to The End of The Night
A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.Albert Camus, from Lyrical and Critical Essays
New York is a city of movement. Artists and beatniks live in Greenwich Village, where the Negroes first settled. Negroes live in Harlem, where the Jews and Germans once lived. The wealth has moved from the West to the East Side.Gay Talese, from the 1960 essay New York is a City of Things Unnoticed
The original amazeball cover illustrations for Purgatory, NY (artwork by Aaron Morgan)
I write stuff. I am a bit silly at times. I live in New York, but I'm from a tiny little town in Alaska. Somewhere along the way I picked up an Australian passport. I also have a dog. Sadly, I think that's it.