Don't Drink the Water
No subject was safe
with him, especially
I watched as he worked
the aisle of the bus,
moving from seat to seat,
diagonally along the rows
attempting to engage
the unwary in conversation,
"Lousy weather we're
having, isn't it?
I'll bet you don't know
why either, it's them
the government's been
putting up in the sky.
Messes up the atmosphere,
that's really what
they're for, who do you
think they're called
I'll bet you never
thought of that before
did you? And that's not
the half of it.
The government's been
putting stuff in our
supposed to be for your
teeth but it makes
"That would explain
what happened to you,"
I said, "Wouldn't it?
I'll bet the moral
of the story is:
Don't Drink the Water."
"Who are you anyway?"
he asked me.
"A government agent
in disguise." I said.
He turned pure white,
pulled the stop rope,
muttering, "I think
I'll walk from now on."
I haven't seen him since.
The Grand Marshall of Nowhere
Settling on the rickety, out of balance
bar stool, he said, “There’s a warrant
out for my arrest. On another planet.”
Most people making a statement
like that would be totally disregarded
under the assumption what he said
was just some obscure shock value,
in-the-moment thing or maybe
wishful thinking as in, “Hey, someone
out there, somewhere, wants me.”
Even if somewhere was some indefinable,
unrecognizable place in the cosmos,
and those doing the wanting were so
alien, we couldn’t begin to envision
what they were like and what they wanted
with him. Though we were welcome,
of course, to make a few wild guesses.
Maybe it was the way he looked,
that bold attempt to achieve instant recognition
that had largely succeeded. His look included
several outstanding features, not the least of
which were: a mostly shaved head,
now patched with stubble after inconsistent
attempts at grooming, remaining, exclamation
point waxed locks, stretched down the back
of his skull in a line, each dyed a garish neon-like:
red, blue, green, yellow. His mascara highlighted
eyes with tattooed tear drops at the edge leaking
red down his pocked marked cheeks toward
leather vest and pants. Gothic scrolled lettering on
each forearm in black ink said : ZAK SABBATH.
His alternately gold capped and tobacco brown
stained teeth, had never been brushed in this
lifetime ,and an unhealthy cast to his unfocused
eyes, suggested the unnatural yellow tinted
iris implants hadn’t taken and his sight
was shaky at best, so when he spoke
it was to a moving shadow somewhere
behind the bar, “I expect they’ll be here
to pick me up soon. Might as we have
something to drink while I wait.”
“Like a Brother from Another Planet.”
“Just like that.”
“Stay away from the jukebox, it’s been
“Oh, really? What did they do to it?”
“God only knows.”
He looked over toward the wall recess
where the infernal machine sat, emitting
its timeless, neon glow. His staring became
so fixed, so intent, you might think they
And maybe they were.
In their way.
They are the worm people,
who sleep on funeral parlor castoffs,
barely worn sheets, a hundred hot rinses
could not remove the scent of death from,
an odor they wore like second skins,
peeling off as if once upon a time,
they’d spent too much time in the sun
and now all memory of it must be shed,
revealing an unnatural pallor of time spent
in airless caves, stagnant barroom holes,
inhaling each other’s stale breath,
rust flaking from unwashed-for-decades
hair, no longer dandruff, but something
scaled, bed bug sores or skin ulcerations,
partially healed, leaking fetid fluids they
share like communicable diseases,
drinking the welfare checks of long-dead
relatives they claim as alive, forging
signatures, census forms, keeping the bodies
on ice in deep freezer chests until the power
fails and a new life cycle begins.