Tag Archives: Anselo’s Poetry

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story – Part 7

I’ve been in Dayton five days, but it feels like much longer, and I have at least another five to go. My world here has mostly lain on a triangle path of my hotel room, the dusty and ill-kept seventh floor office where I have been performing regular open-case brain duplication, and the limited dining options in downtown. Time in the real world flows in hours and minutes, but in my world, its only measures are the teardown, the meditative waiting for the audible “beep-beep” of a successful dupe, and the packaging of the precious electronic payload into cardboard boxes, protected only by styrofoam and tape.

I had walked about a mile and a half out of the decaying downtown core to a moving truck rental shop in order to purchase the boxes the first day. The only store in-city that sold boxes charged triple what the moving place did, and seeing that my fixed bid contract meant that every penny saved went directly into my pocket after I got reimbursed, the walk was worth it.

A walking tour of a rust belt city well past its prime should be part of every business school curriculum and required for every entrepreneur before they deposit their first check from investors in order to wring the hubris from them. There are excellent reminders of the impermanence of our working endeavors everywhere.

Empty streets of downtown with previously prime, vacant retail space whose blank windows reflect the emptiness of so many who pass before them. All patiently offer a name and a phone number to the next dreamer who peers past the despair and sees an oasis of activity in a desert of doldrums.

Shuttered brick factories, rusty gates chained, weeds exploding from every crack in the pavement, signage of some long gone sub-sub-contractor to a former global conglomerate weathered to indecipherability. Once vital commercial organs are now cancerous blots in the geography of commerce, decaying until removal.

Duck into the grocers for some snacks and see the sad, poor collection of produce and vegetables, and the overweight of carbohydrates to protein. You can sense the resignation of those for whom shopping there is a regular part of their lives and then you’ll see, one, two, three, four people in a row in line pay with food stamps.

Feel the gloomy vibrations from mixed-use blocks where graffiti- and gang-branded corner shops abut tidy but pale yards strewn with children’s toys. See where fire did not purify but stain. Hope is now far, far away in another country and where they dream of their own future domestic glories. If only they could both step back and see the ouroboros that links them, they might find a new pole star to follow, for the current one leads them to the same but individually expressed ruins – crumbling apparatus and Christo-like-wrapped blights.

Though my circadian rhythms are off-tempo due to the varying periods of my surgeries, when I do rest, it has been uneasy, as the feel of this place has depressed me and conformed me to the same undirected and uninspired gait of the locals. At times, when I open my eyes after rest, I am confused, unsure if it is pre-dawn or post-sundown. There is only the “beep-beep” and screech of tape to mark the passages, and they have no use for the sun.

This time, I awake in my hotel room, grope about for the light switch to the lamp on the nightstand next to me, and brush something small off onto the floor. I swing my legs to sit on the side of the bed. The light blazes and I cannot see for a bit, but as I blink dust and crust from my eyes, they eventually focus on something round between my feet.

There, laying on the carpet between my feet, is a white button.

Puzzled, I lean to pick it up, but my hand hovers over the disc. Maybe it is the sleep depravation or an echo of a bad dream previously long-forgotten, but a sudden queasiness settles in me the more I think of picking it up. Sitting back up, I stare at it while naked and trying to understand why I feel this way.

Then I start wondering where the hell it came from in the first place.

Clearly a shirt button, I perform a quick mental catalog search of the shirts I brought with me and come up blank. Everything I have with me is t-shirts or zippered pull-overs. I try and remember if it was there when I went to bed.

I have no recollection of it, but it would have been easy to miss. I give a mental shrug and ascribe it to a previous guest, with housekeeping finding it under the bed or couch and placing it on the nightstand for me, thinking it was mine. I lean over and snatch it from the floor, and on the way up, my mouth fills with a metallic tang and then starts to water. My stomach lurches, and I can feel the bile raising in my gorge.

As a child, I once went to a Mariners baseball game with my mother at the Kingdome, and inning after inning, munched down King Dogs like it was a perverted rally streak superstition. The team probably lost, but as I was scrambling out of bed towards the sink in the bathroom, the memory of the morning after that game vividly came back to me.

I am dreaming, and I am beginning to drown.

Lost or abandoned in the middle of an unnamed ocean on a clear night, the waves buffet me around as if the very breath of an angry Poseidon are behind each one. Walls of water that leap and crash – one moment I am leagues underwater – merge and split – the next fired through froth and sailing through the air – grind and tear – my limbs are tattered rags – and I am forced to gulp deep draughts of briny juice. Coughing and spitting out the salty remainder from illions of drops of rain that fell and dissolved the stone over which it fell for almost two trillion days, a pirate galleon crests the nearest wave, black raider banner flapping the breeze, demiculverins bristling and smoking, it zips athwart me and then the cannons begin to blaze.

I see the balls pass before I hear the powder-bursts, large melon-sized baseballs that soundlessly punch holes in the seething waves all around me, and then I hear the off-rhythm, bass staccato claps echo off the surrounding water and then vibrate my chest, and I expel more thimbles of my swallow into the sea.

“HOME RUN!!!” Comes the cry from the parrot-bedecked pirate captain as he and his crew wave their caps in wild salute as they zoom past, excepting one man who heaves a bucket-full of sausages over the side and towards me to float there like pork sea cucumbers, three straining at the wheel, and two pulling at the tiller, which guides them straight up and over the nearest looming El Capitan wave with mizzenmasts bending, wet canvas straining the riggings, and then disappear out of sight, leaving me with only a snapshot memory of their crenelated stern-castle and a terrible thirst as I went under for the last time.

I run to the bathroom, and while gripping the countertop and retching into the sink, I am confused, wondering how picking up a button I have never seen before caused me to recall an unpleasant morning once spent as a child cleaning my bed of vomited hot dogs. I rinse out my mouth and realize I feel fine now – hungry even. Truly confused, I let it go for now and shower.

Emerging from the bathroom, I spot the button on the floor, dropped in my haste. Gingerly skirting around it, I dress and spy through the curtains that another day is arriving and see that if I hustle, I can get to work before the crazy receptionist. Before I even shut my door on the way out, I am already thinking about how many computer brains I can duplicate prior to lunch.

In the elevator on on the way up to my dusty hole, I ascribe my earlier sickness to overwork, and vow to take some time off when I can afford to.

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Anselo’s Poetry – Part 6 – A Story

And then I changed my mind.

Based on the boot squeaks, I had about a minute before I would be in sight.

Working swiftly, I moved back around to my cubicle, grab my backpack from the drawer and pull out my Glock .45 and iPod. I holster the gun, clip the iPod next to it, shove the earbuds into my ears and hit play. There’s nothing like a little bit of Crystal Method to get me into the mood.

Rummaging my desk drawer, digging through promotional keychains and discarded printouts on dead trees I should have sent to the 482 corners of my employer’s empire, I find my previously stored, (my grandfather worked for the civil defense, and I sure as shit wasn’t going to take any chances after the anthrax scare, particularly since I was in and out of the mailroom all day long,) Tyvek biohazard suit, face mask, and rubber gloves and don them, head bobbing. You could probably hear me from ten feet away. I was ready for action. I move towards the center of the building, peer around the partition. Looking safe, I dive down the hall and roll into kitchen.

I find the drawer where the CO2 cartridges for the whip cream are stored, grab a handful and then open all the doors to the commercial refrigerator and the sink, drop the carts on a fridge shelf, shove the cow milk aside, dump out a quart of non-fat soy milk on to the floor, get down on my knees, and then stuff my head as far inside the cold case as I can and try to look busy while making as much racket as I can.

I’ve just about got the third metal shelf out and on to the floor, when I’m roughly jabbed in the shoulder blade.

Turning, I see a SWAT officer with a mustache that would make Freddie Mercury jealous shuffle back a few steps, pulling a small soy puddle along with him. He’s motioning vigorously with his shotgun for me to raise my hands, which I do. I can see two more officers covering the door, guns trained on me. I go wide-eyed. He motions me towards the door and raises a finger to his lips to tell me to be quiet. It’s funny given the bass throbbing in my ears and I have to suppress my amusement.

I move to stand, and purposefully slip in the milk, reaching into the refrigerator to steady myself and pierce the end of one cartridge on a shelf corner, and it rockets out of my hand through the door as I fall back to the floor.

The bait’s too much, and I’m blessedly lucky. All three turn to watch it go, but one’s a bit trigger happy and fires off a round, embedding buckshot into the hardwood floor less than a foot from his partner. I giggle, and can hear the jack-boots getting even deeper into their machismo fantasy now that gunshot has been loosed, as a chain reaction starts with more shots and tear gas going off. It’s pure chaos, and I try and take it up a couple of notches.

Two of my would-be jailers are now busy trying not to shoot each other, but the one closest is still tracking me. I move to stand again, slowly, trying to look terrified to the man with the shotgun pointed at my chest. Visibly shaking, I take a step and slip face first into the cabinet under the sink with arms outstretched and pull the cold water supply line to the faucet out from the valve, causing a deluge to emerge from under the sink. I prick another CO2 cartridge open as well, but quickly cover it with my thumb.

Meanwhile, the tear gas sets off the smoke alarms and the fire doors start to roll down, sealing off the floors from each other. And because there isn’t enough water poruning onto the floor now, the sprinklers fire off.

The electric mains shut down when the sprinklers come on, dropping the kitchen into darkness except for the wan glow of the emergency lights in the hall and the strobes of the fire alarm.

I’m an easy target in white, but it looks like my mustachioed storm trooper is fogged in the goggles and struggling with what to do about it while repeatedly shouting, “DOWN! ON YOUR FACE! NOW!” He’s barely audible over my tunes. Totally fogged now, his gun wavers as he reaches for his goggles, and I use the opportunity to come up out of the sink, body hug him and ram the remaining cartridge into his neck with my palm.

He briefly struggles with me as I watch a goiter quickly grow from the inserted embolism, and I knew I had him when he began to claw at his neck.

“Yes thurr.” I lisp to myself as I let him drop to the floor, convulsing and then watch him go silent.

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story, Part 5

The chill waves threw me ashore at Brackett’s landing and left my body shivering on the dark, rocky sand. Barnacles had sliced the skin on my hands, arms, thighs and shins, and my vital fluid and torn, ragged tissue was attracting quite a crowd of invertebrates that scuttled, skittered and jostled about for a share. Seagulls cried in the air, and I thought of my grandfather throwing the morning’s extra pancakes to the gulls in a swirling flurry of white adults and mottled gray juveniles. There was a gull larger than the rest that always came for breakfast, and he had been duly named Jonathan. I pulled my knees up to my chest, hugging them tight, trying to keep some heat, and brushed Poseidon’s pets from my legs and looked about through swimming eyes.

A crowd had gathered at the end of the ferry pier to murmur and mill about and generally get in the way of the hardier souls manning ropes and carrying life rings down to the heaving waves. A freight train thundered behind me in its rolling tremble, and I could hear sirens choppily wail between the gaps in the freight, which consisted mostly of Douglas-fir trees. Likely, a few trees somewhere in that cargo had sprouted before Copernicus’ Little Commentary, waiting patiently through sun and cloud, rain and snow, drought and deluge, Cooley spruce galls, coneworms, Pileated-, hairy-, downy- and all other sundry woodpeckers, wood-boring beetles, ichneumonid wasps, black bears, lightning, lobaria lichens, native firewood gatherers and outlasted all else that orbited around and impacted them until a plaid-wrapped hoot owl born on a wanigan and now missing his left ring and middle finger gnawed them down to stumps and put them on a railcar heading north to Everett to be turned into toilet paper.

My five-year-old soul was amoral at that point to the cutting down of old-growth coastal forests because it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was cold, my grandparents were likely dead and my favorite toy car was somewhere in the murk, probably eaten by a ling cod or being driven off to some secret, underwater garage by an enterprising hermit crab.

I did not know why I was crying. It could have been the loss of my car or grandparents, the cold and wet, the creatures feasting on my flesh or the shame and horror of enjoying the warmth of involuntarily urinating in my purple jeans.

So lost was I, I did not know I was found.

A man with a pocket protector and thick glasses was crouched down in front of me with his hand laid on my shoulder. He probably had been asking me what was wrong for at least a minute. He had a weird looking wheel made of wire on a stick next to him on the sand.

“Guh…guh…guh…” was all I could gasp between sobs.

“Everything’s going to be all right. Where are your parents?”

This confused me, as there was no good answer for that right now, and it caused another round of involuntary jerks.

“Okay, okay. It’s going to be okay.” Looking about, he seemed to connect my dishevelment with the commotion on the dock. “Were you a part of what happened over there?”

I nodded between spasms.

His hand lightened a bit, and he looked around. He seemed a bit at a loss. How could you blame the guy?

“Let’s go find someone to help you out. You’re all cut up.”

“Wher…where…?”

“Over by the dock. Can you walk, or should I find someone to come here?”

I was starting to feel a bit more safe, the sobs were subsiding, and I was able to squeak out, “Walk.”

He stood, extending his hand to me, and then remembering his wheel, crouched down and grabbed the stick attached to the wheel. “My name’s Mark.”

I stood, brushed some sand off my pants and took his hand. “Ansilo.”

“Nice to meet you, Ansilo.”

Now I had the hiccups and realized how much I ached all over. I took a few wobbly steps in the sand, slipping on seaweed and tripping over a sand collar, but his steadying hand kept me going in the right direction. He navigated us towards the dock, but I could see him glancing at his wheel, which he steered in the same direction.

“What’s that?” I said, pointing at it.

“Well, it’s a wheel I’m testing for the moon.”

“The moon?”

“Yep. The moon. I work at Boeing, and my team is building a moon buggy that astronauts will be able to drive around in when they’re there. Most of the moon is covered in dust, but there’s still a lot of rock there, so I thought the beach would be a good place to test this design out.”

“That wheel is going to the moon?” I asked in wonderment. All my pain was forgotten – I had moved from despair to euphoria by standing next to a holy artifact.

Mark chuckled. “Well, no, not this one. This one is to test the design. It’s performing pretty well though, and so far, only you and me have seen it.”

I must have done something, as he stopped and looked at me with alarm.

“The moon?” I mumbled as I fell to the sand, my brain overloaded by my morning’s arc from Rambler apogee to beach perigee. I wanted to ask him all sorts of questions, but I couldn’t quite seem to make my mouth move, and things were going dim for me as I moved into a long, dark tunnel. The gull cries and lapping waves echoed down the tube until everything was silent and dark again.

I came to in a busy industrial kitchen, with clinks, clanks and clunks, shouting, liquids being spilled, meat being chopped and hacked. I can’t quite place the era but it must be pre-industrial, as the barnyard sounded close and because I could hear squeals from the abattoir.

The floor felt like cool stone to my cheek and was pleasant on my temple, but the rest of my body was wearing whiffy, course cloth that itched, and it felt like I’d been beaten.

I was getting too old for this.

I decided I should open my eyes and sit up.

“Ansilo!”

A big bear of a man with long, matted black hair and beard startled me. He wore a wide toothy smile and the pelt of what looked like a yak, but I couldn’t remember if there were yaks with spots. He was shod in leather moccasins and a shofar hung from his neck on a silver chain.

“Who…? Where…? Wha-?” I dribbled, swiveling my head around to sound my milieu.

I was in no kitchen.

The bear came and knelt down next to me and clapped his hand on my shoulder.

“What, you do not recognize your own brother? It is me, Amielio!” he said with a hearty laugh. “You must have hit your head harder than I thought. That should teach you to watch your feet in battle, brother!”

Definitely yak. Burned yak. The perfume enveloping him made my eyes tear.

“You need water! Hoi! Slipson! Bring my brother Ansilo some water!” he barked.

Slipson put down the basketful of catkins he was carrying and scurried off.

Ameilio quickly sat and put his arm around me. “Ah, my brother. A fine battle and grand victory that was. Next time you mustn’t sleep through it!” he said as he shook my shoulders.

“Who…? How…? …”

“There’ll be time to tell the story later! Now that you’re awake, I’m off.” He used my shoulder to lever himself up.

Amielio must have had very important things to go and do because he didn’t look back and didn’t see how he had accidentally shoved me back down onto the floor hard enough to cause me to lose consciousness again.

Yet again, I was plunged into the black void.

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story, Part 4

“Don’t bother, the liquor generator is whacked again. Everything tastes like it’s been filtered through kwarlen litter.”

Scatological imagery is not the first thing I want to consider after I have just woken up after a rough night of Brownian motion in my quarters. The restraining straps are worn and do not hold very well anymore. Every nocturnal twitch, cough or roll had been sufficient to unmoor me. Startled awake at least five times by having my hair yanked from its follicles by the exchange fans or by groggily awakening to discover my ear or nose pressed against a ventilation grille after a nightmarish dream of being sucked through turbines, reporting for watch found me desperately in need of something to jolt my nervous system and sling my brain into gear.

Floating in front of the generator with empty container in hand, I again curse the lifecycle routines we purchased on discount and loaded into our matrix on Silvan in Triangulum last week. The previous routines had been damaged so badly in our last skirmish, we had been reduced to water, and protein and carbohydrate pastes.

The heads had also been rendered inoperable, the recycler was unable to break bonds leaving us with true garbage, and the gravity deflector fried out. We had limped to port performing a tedious series of short grips in order to minimize field drift for a rapid refitting. We had carried other wounds in propulsion, communication and navigation, and did not realize until negotiating for a dry dock berth that our credit line had apparently been slashed by our employer after becoming incommunicado and not responding to status queries. Fearing we had lost the ship, they had imposed a budget freeze on us.

We had to make do, and now that doing was undoing my morning.

Staring at the generator, I realize the futility of even trying, and I pull myself to drift left a bit. Before I can even vocalize, Bratinson gives me the second of four pieces of bad news for the day.

“And the constructor’s wonky.”

I turn to look at him, expecting more. He is deeply engrossed in his leaf and it appears that nothing more is forthcoming. He knows how much dripping information irritates me, but then I return the favor when gripping without warning.

“What do you mean by wonky?” I ask, trying to contain my growing frustration.

“Just order something,” he says to his leaf while idly gesturing and reading data flows from the most recent library squirt.

“That’s very helpful, Bratinson,” I say sarcastically. I am also annoyed that he is floating at a challenging angle to read facial expressions. I cannot discern if he is smirking at me or amused by what he is reading.

I turn back to the the constructor with a sigh. “Constructor, breakfast please. My usual.”

“Whhhzzzzzzzzttt-phhhhherrpfht,” it replies.

“See?” Bratinson offers unhelpfully.

“Constructor, breakfast!” I bark, flashing Bratinson a dirty look.

“Whhhzzzzzzzzttt-phhhhherrpfht. Gwzzzzing per.”

I can hear it doing something…squishy, but these machines are beyond me. Too many complex organic fields to weave together. Give me the pure fields of gravity to lace any day.

“Deeeeennnng,” it announces and the constructor chamber merry-go-rounds and presents me with its offering adhered to a shiny, white porcelain plate. The only problem is that I cannot quite identify what is on it. A blue blob quivers and glistens through a translucent skin like an off-shade blueberry purée, flanked by a blue membrane with tiny, very sharp looking spikes prickling out of it, all spread atop an expanse of what looks like an orange, anodized aluminum, squashed sea sponge.

“What the…”

Here, Bratinson looks up from whatever he has been engrossed within and offers me a bone, “Try it. It may look strange, but could taste great.”

I snatch my food out, grab a spoon and napkin from the rack above, and guide myself to the other end of the wardroom near the window. Bratinson is watching me now, waiting to see if I am going to take the bait. He is in a gentle rotation centered somewhere around his kneecaps, and his ankles are at ten o’clock.

I have faced down worse terrors than an orange and blue breakfast course, but then my run of luck the past couple of weeks has been less than outstanding. Gingerly spooning the blue blob, I am surprised to find it crusty-hard. I frown as I apply more force, balancing my plate on my left hand. I am worried a piece is going to break off sharply and I will have to chase it down the hall. The crust yields abruptly, and I am further surprised as my spoon slices downward to find my meal has the consistency of créme brûlée before my utensil divides the acutal spongy orange layer on its journey to a sharp clink on the plate.

“Maybe it is a sponge,” I think.

Mentally sighing, I pop it in my mouth and begin to chew.

Expecting some sort of blueberry brûlée on seafood, my brain began to wildly phantogeusia until the realization kicked in that I really was tasting prime rib and garlic mashed potatoes. It was also the best prime rib and garlic potatoes that I had ever tasted in my life. It must have shown on my face.

“Told you,” Bratinson says.

Startled, I turn to Bratinson and almost spin off into the window before steadying myself, “This is incredibly good. Strange-looking for sure, but who cares?”

“What’d you get?”

“Prime rib and mashed potatoes.”

“Order something else,” he says, eyes glittering with ankles at seven o’clock.

Sticking my plate to a tackdown, I kick back over to the constructor and ponder my next order. Do I order another breakfast item, hoping that it transforms it into a dinner item, or try directly for something complementary?

“Constructor, waffles please.”

“Whhhzzzzzzzzttt-phhhhherrpfht.” Nothing.

“Constructor, waffles!”

“Whhhzzzzzzzzttt-phhhhherrpfht. Gwzzzzing per.” A rumbling noise builds in the chamber before emitting its, “Deeeeennnng.”

This time, it is a red-glazed earthenware cup with a clear domed lid and straw. It is filled with a viscous green liquid that looks like it could be metallic paint.

Plucking it from its alcove, Bratinson watches me intently as I take a pull on the straw.

Retching, I claw fistfulls of napkins from the rack in front of me and spit the foul liquid into them.

“How about this time?”

Still spitting, “It tasted like over-buttered popcorn that had been radiated until it was black, then mixed with kuli-kola.”

Vomiting in zero-G is frowned upon, mostly because some bits always manage to get sucked into the exchangers, so I quickly grabbed a cylinder of water from the chiller and used it to swish my mouth out.

While I was doing that, Bratinson, close to my vertical, tells me that no matter what you ask for, it will not give it to you, and that it will randomly give you something gourmet or rotten. There is no correlation between color, shape, or texture to differentiate gold from fool’s.

Since constructors suppress volatiles to keep down on shipboard smells, a sniff test is useless.

Clenching my soiled napkins, I suppress urges to strangle him for not telling me this before. I settle for imagining sending him out the airlock without his vacuum suit.

“So you’re telling me we have an idiot savant constructor?”

“Apparently,” he replies bemusedly. “I ordered oatmeal and ended up with something that looked like a bronze baseball and tasted like rotten fish in honey. I tried again, and got a mottled grey banana-like thing that turned out to be an excellent vegetable polenta.”

“So, basically, you’re telling me that our ration options are water or kwarlen-shit tasting beverages and either something sublime or vomit-inducing to eat?”

“That’s about the size of it, unless you have some personal rations stored.”

“Well fuck me,” I say to no one in particular. Looking about with appetite spoiled, I abandon my first meal. “I have a grip to do. I’m off to the bridge. Prepare the cabin for G-return.”

This is when Bratinson drops the third piece of bad news on me.

“Oh, a coded squirt came in. We’re to report back to Admiral Froster.”

Before I can even swear, I am plunged into combat against a black-mailed foe wearing a bulbous black helmet that seems to bend light around it like a soap bubble. Atop a stone rampart in late afternoon under cloudy skies, clad in silver arabesque-adorned armor, my comrades grunting, cursing, and screaming amidst the grim clatter of battle around me, I trip and slip, my feet entangled in bloody entrails, and go down hard onto the flagstones and slip into darkness, one final rude punishment this day for a man deprived of his coffee in the morning by an insane entanglement of qubits.

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story, Part 3

“This must be what BASE jumping is like,” I think to myself as we plunge down the karst carbonate throat of a former cenote, “without the parachute.”

The harrowing ride had begun innocuously enough in a flooded soccer field after the shuttle lifted away. The backwash from the turbines created a water depression around the ascending craft’s landing gear, which added even more humidity to the already saturated air and forced a wave of muddy water to lift the stacked luggage off its platform and briefly become surfing flotsam.

The sun beat down furiously and I began to think that I should never have left the air-conditioned shuttle and just returned to orbit.

Mauro wrangled the muddy bags onto the flatboat and the four of us climbed aboard. At least, Mauro called it a flatboat, but it was really just a giant banana palm leaf laid on a flexible gravipeller frame. It was roughly two meters wide, two and three quarters long, and had no seats or gunwales.

Nonetheless, I still grabbed an edge and rolled it into my hand, mostly out of instinct, even though I knew that there would always be a steady one G keeping my ass rooted to the leaf, no matter our orientation.

The other two passengers looked like traveling pharmaceutical saleswomen. They both wore the same bright yellow, crisply pressed skirt suit with white decolletage blouses, and totally useless footwear for this planet: matching three-inch yellow pumps. I shook my head at the absurdity of it and amused myself by imagining them with matching pom-poms these clearly former cheerleaders used to shake.

Mauro stroked petiole veins in front of where she was sitting, and we floated gently into the sky before accelerating rapidly. The wind whipped my face, and I turned to look at this world go by. Moving away from the landing field, we headed towards the local town. Glinting in the closing distance were its huddled masses of buildings encircling a towering mountain’s base. They looked like a child’s haphazardly stacked blocks holding back and separating the cascade of green foliage spilling down the flanks from the muddy brown shoulder of the the river.

The town came into view, and as we flew by I saw that the apartments had been built in clusters of five. Two on either side of a gated courtyard and three to the rear. Each cluster came with its own caged, zig-zagging stairway that led up or down to the next level’s courtyard, all made of metal grates welded to structural pipes that likely served double-duty for water and sewage. The top ranks had landing platforms while the lower levels had stairs that went down into the muck.

Each cluster was its own gated community, and I saw people scurrying up and down stairs while leaves, doors, plastic sheeting, carriages, and even canoes attached to gravipellers flitted in, out, up, down and around the platforms like a semi-orchestrated hurricane.

I was agog that we didn’t witness or participate in a mid-air collision.

Every apartment looked to be the same architecture; about three meters wide, eight meters deep, and two stories high, with anodized, rectangular aluminum window frames in a rainbow of colors holding transparent, semi-transparent and opaque panes of varying hues.

We accelerated to upwards of 200 klicks, and the effect of zipping past the buildings was a dizzying kaleidoscope of blocked color and reflected light that just about induced an epileptic seizure in me.

We followed the shoulder of the mountain into a dense, green valley until the town petered out behind us, leaving us to surf over and gaze at the canopy as it flew by. Mauro knew the local fauna well, for she would occasionally slow down somewhat and swerve to the side, flushing out flocks of parrots that were roosting and sending them skyward, or plunge down to clearings in the understory and stampede tapirs into denser cover. Me and the other two tourists recorded these encounters with our resmems.

I admired Mauro’s piloting skills. If she had grown up somewhere populated, she likely would have been able to get into the Academy on her skills alone and ended up skimming galaxies instead of treetops. Some of her moves alarmed the saleswomen, but I could see her in full flow mode, consciously and unconsciously dancing with what the world put before her and I felt reasonably safe.

Eventually, she settled into following the undulations of the trees. This fractal rhythm went on for about half an hour and I had been close to being lulled asleep, so I wasn’t paying very close attention to our surroundings when she suddenly pulled a huge loop-de-loop and disengaged the gravipeller at the vertex while simultaneously turning up the G field to what felt like three. This clamped us to the leaf and put us into a seemingly terminal, parabolic arc.

Your gut knows when you’re falling. Our brachiating heritage wired our brains to be very attentive to free fall. But our heritage is worth squat when two gravitational fields intersect somewhere around our knees, each pulling in different directions. The instinct is to reach down and grab hold, but when there are two downs, the brain short-circuits, leaving you paralyzed.

I helplessly watched us head towards a ridge of treetops that would be our end.

Screams erupted from behind me and I could sense movement behind me towards Mauro, but I knew it was useless.

In the time it took for me to realize and accept that I was going to die after plunging to the jungle floor in a tangled mass of branches, flesh, and leaves, and have my carcass consumed by scavengers with more legs than IQ points, I spied a black opening in the canopy that we seemed to be falling toward, and my predicted demise shifted to being cratered into the damp understory. But to my everlasting surprise, we ruffled the leaves fringing the dark hole, and then we plunged down into the gullet of the empty cenote.

Mauro’s wicked laughter was torn away by the wind buffeting us, so only her highest frequencies carried across the leaf. She sounded like the shrieking madwoman she was. The other passengers struggled against the G force but it was all they could do to gasp terrified breaths.

Despite myself, I laughed as well. While I didn’t agree with Mauro’s dangerous trick, I admired her skills and thought about how many other off-worlders she had scared with this little piloting trick. She caught my mirthful eye and winked as she touched the controls again, this time to re-engage the gravipeller and reduce the G field to about three-quarters.

This had the effect of dramatically slowing our descent and creating the disorientating feeling like we were now floating upwards. I glanced at the women, and they looked like they were going to be sick. I chuckled and wondered how the rest of their day was going to go. Hopefully they had some anti-nausea medicine in their bags.

The expected angry tirade began after they caught their breath and stomachs, and frankly, I didn’t blame them. One of these days, Mauro was going to be a bit off, and there’d be one less taxi in the fleet and reams of paperwork to do at multiple insurance offices. I decided to save my breath for a chat with the local recruiting office. We could use more pilots like her.

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story, Part 2

I was fucked. I had taken a risk and peeked out the window near the fire escape to ascertain the situation and it turned out that I was in the center of a three-ring circus, and my chances of getting out were dwindling by the moment.

In the first ring there were helicopters, riot police, K-9s, harbor patrol, APVs, mounted patrol, acres of beat cops, SWAT, plainclothes, and the bomb squad.

The second ring had ladders, pumpers, Medic One, hazmat, and heavy rescue from what looked like seven districts. They were like swarming ants, tugging on canvas hoses and attaching them to fire hydrants, creating a creeper-like tapestry of netted water.

The third ring was everybody else and their fucking dog watching the prickly festival of testosterone.

What the fuck was going on? Why so much callout? I slid down and put my back to the door, gazing down a row of empty cubicles. The cube closest to me was tidy. Papers, neatly stacked. Family photos pushpined to the fabric walls depicting two kids and a husband. There was a crayon drawing of what looked like a orange dragon/dog in front of a lake. A small, perky potted philodendron trailed over the desk. A lavender cardigan hung on the back of the task chair, which was pushed back against the file cabinet. The only clue something was amiss was an empty coffee mug on the floor, resting on its side.

Trying desperately to think of a way to get out, I was staring at the coffee mug when I was startled to realize that the building was trembling. Then there was a loud CRACK, and my stomach could hear steel bending somewhere in the building until it was drowned out by a shuddering crash that rang the building like a bell and sent burning debris flying over my head and out most of the windows.

Then came the heavy bits of concrete and metal, and after that, flaming wreckage arced and fell like tephra all about me, causing microfires to start everywhere.

“Holy shit.” I told the plant.

This explained the zoo around the building. My guess was that the roaster somehow caught fire and had been putting up a major plume. Add reports of gunshots and possibility for a hostage situation, and someone probably thought they had a terrorist attack on their hands.

That meant that FBI, ATF, CIA, and DoD were here or on the way, too.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” The plant was nonplussed.

I didn’t have a choice now with the fire – I had to go out the fire escape behind me. My best chance was that in all the confusion with a major fire, I could avoid the police. I pulled off the white suit, yanked the door open, and started down the six flights of stairs.

I begin to hear a sound that I’ve heard before, but can’t quite place. A deep bass pushing growl of a groan. My stomach goes cold as I connect the sound to ground waves I see rolling towards me. I blink, not sure that what I’m seeing is real, but my brain connects as I watch successive rooflines bob and dip, bob and dip in the distance and throw mostly older, brick buildings down into heaps of rubble.

This was turning into a very strange and even more dangerous day.

Particularly since I was standing on a steel fire escape bolted to an older brick building.

I immediately flashed to the photographs of the building under construction displayed in the cafeteria.

The cafeteria of the building was a curious place inhabited by all manner of strange peoples. Working in one of the largest buildings in Seattle, it housed a number of firms, ranging from a Fortune 500 to mom-and-pops.

Across the street is a hardware store, where mostly Central and South American illegal immigrants and a handful of African Americans advertise their skills with buckets overflowing with brushes, saws, stilts, wrenches and various and sundry tools. Most only have their hands, backs and legs to offer.

The tradesmen stand apart and alone, waiting and watching in silence, keeping a keen eye for their truck to pull into the lot. The one with the rack on top, battered by metal pipes being heaved on top. The one covered in a fine dusting of gypsum. The one with a generator chained in the bed. The step-van. The rent-a-truck with a lift gate. Some smoke, some pace, some sit on their buckets. All wear the clothes of their trade from their paint-spotted caps down to their steel-toed boots. Most have small coolers harboring whatever passes for lunch inside. Always in the same spot, day after day, staking out the corner nearest the lumber load, the drywall load, the tool rental. Always in the correct place to beat the crowd. A target is spotted, and a practiced movement that a professional athlete would envy shows a fluid cigarette flick as they grasp their bucket and make haste with their livelihoods. I see them every day and we know each other by time and place but not by name and we nod, each acknowledging the other’s need to be where they are right now to keep their bellies full.

The muscle stands in groups that chatter, laugh and wave their hands when talking. They wear t-shirts, dress shirts, tennis shoes, shorts, jeans, Dockers, belted, unbelted. Some have paper bags, a few have backpacks but most have nothing but themselves. They swarm every truck, jostling for position. You can tell who is hungry, who has a family to feed, who is desperate – they move the fastest and are gone before the more comfortable deign to end their conversation. Some knots have designated translators who are just dealmakers. They are better dressed and have regular clients, and they sell and load up their fleshy wares by the truckload.

From time to time, I would see some standing at parade rest. More rarely, singular figures would be dressed in fatigues and combat boots. Most of those had canteens and a small rucksack. Always loners, they were invariably short, attentive to my passing through their space and to a man, looked very uncomfortable. I was never sure if they got jobs or not. It seemed they were waiting for someone to come to them. They were a puzzle. Shining Path? FARC? DISIP? Deserters? MPs? Alas, my knowledge of military uniforms is lacking, and Occam’s razor reminds me that there is a military surplus store on the opposite corner, which is where I instantly decided I needed to be.

But first, I had an earthquake and a bazillion fucking teenage boys in rut with guns to deal with.

Anselo’s Poetry – A Story, Part 1

The first time I died, I was five.

My grandparents 1965 black Rambler Classic station wagon flew down the Edmonds ferry pier with me in the back seat, crashed through the red- and white-striped crossing gates, and then cannonballed down into the murk of Puget Sound, mere yards away from where George Brackett landed his canoe during a windstorm in 1876 and then promptly set about selling the land out from underneath the resident Snohomish tribe, to their eventual dismay.

Five year-olds have little fear, as everything is new and exciting, so the facts that there was no braking, the crashing of the painted plywood as it skittered across the hood and ricoched off the windshield with a smack, the butterfiles-in-the-stomach drop as the sea embraced one and a half tons of machine folded steel, rubber, chrome and leather, and the fast envelopment by the chill waters patrolled by killer whales, were greeted by me with laughter.

The laughter changed to startled terror as a Pacific octopus erupted from between the seat and back, and enveloped me in its rubbery, spider-like grip. I blacked out, or maybe it was the ink clouding the water, but my last memory was of my grandparents sitting in the front seat, my grandmother admonishing my sedate grandfather, “Douglas, you’ve left the turn signal on again!” and of him flashing that sheepish grin of his that served him so well in comfortably avoiding true hardship and reality through the The Great War, The Depression, World War II, and the disintegration of his progeny.