Flash Fiction Friday: Atmospheres (Excerpts)
by Jon Konrath
He committed suicide with a nail gun on the day before Christmas, a quick 120-psi burst from a Hitachi two and a half-inch coil sliding nailer held to his head. With a death grip on the trigger, two dozen rounds of roofing nails went straight into his skull. Everyone assumed self-destructive rage from chronic anger management issues, and that was pretty much the deal. The new mandatory NASCAR restraints and braces angered him into a constant white-hot rage, because it made it almost impossible to jerk off during the race. “Dick Trickle never had to deal with a god damned HANS restraint system when he wanted to rub one out at Talladega,” he told me at the company Christmas party. “It’s fucking communism. Next thing you know, a man won’t be able to fuck his secretary without going to prison, no matter how much she asks for it.”
As the individual who read all our corporate lawyer’s email on the server, I knew HR was assembling a sexual harassment case against him, so it’s probably good he countersunk those galvanized steel ring shank nails through his thick skull. He still had a few bucks left in the bank, enough that his family could clean up the shit, piss, and blood from his studio apartment and get a third of the deposit back. But the victims he tormented would never see one thin dime from his estate, and all of them would get fired when the company sent 90% of its jobs overseas, the domestic workforce replaced by child labor in some former Soviet satellite state.
When the NASCAR enthusiast-slash-rapist was a kid, he believed the sandman would rape him in the ass. As a kid, his pedophile uncle who listened to that Metallica black album way too much spent nights and weekends giving him molesting him after drunken listenings of “Enter Sandman.” He developed an unnatural fear of falling asleep and as an adult, consumed maddening amounts of raw coffee beans and processed sugar every evening. This was before the days of energy drinks, high-quality crystal meth, or other chemical methods to plod forward with the high of life. Sure, if you went to the right doctor, you’d get a fistful of Ritalin or some high-test amphetamines to stay sharp and make your company money. But for him, there was nothing but NASCAR obsession, Mexican pornography, and drinking large amounts of RC Cola as he stared at the ceiling fan slowly spinning in circles, mocking his insanity.
I got roped into going to his funeral, a prepaid Dale Earnhardt-themed ceremony with a nacho fountain at the graveside, and a worn cardboard cutout of The Great Intimidator standing shirtless in a drunken stupor on the South Carolina coastline. One of the dead dude’s buddies showed up in a sandman costume, and said, “Each man creates his own Heaven, his own Hell. Death has no life,” over and over, not knowing what movie he was quoting. Another guy threw a copy of the Neil Gaiman comic book from Vertigo into the casket, and mumbled about his theory on dreams, which nobody understood. Then twelve of the women he harassed at his job showed up and pissed on his corpse, stole all of his jewelry, and shoved him into a cremation oven while doing bong hits and listening to the first Deicide album at full volume, chanting “Dead by dawn! Dead by dawn!”
Ultrasonic modulation motherfuckers, toying with the mixtures of time and temperature. Fighting the fury, the viking abduction conspiracy. I eat the cheese from the pizza and fuck the rest, a warm rolled dough and tomato sauce womb to chafe my manhood, chunks of ham and pepperoni for your pleasure. The forgotten acupuncture needles in my forehead picked up interference from my Bluetooth keyboard as I typed forgotten cantos in pirate language (Somalian, not Captain Hook) and every line made me remember the time in fourth grade when Fat Mike shit his pants on the tilt-a-whirl and sprayed geysers of brown gold on the hillbilly county fair patrons. Solid.
Drink the blood, drink the blood, screamed the crazed shop teacher, severing his hands with the table saw and spraying down the fourth period industrial arts class with his arterial jism. “Vampires suck blood not cocks!” he yelled, right before collapsing from shock. They took up a collection and bought him a coffin at Target, with ironic sans-serif motivational slogans and a UPC code on the bottom. No assembly required. Biodegradable. Designed in Minnesota, manufactured in China. Before throwing in the dirt, a custodial worker named Boris carved the Slayer logo into the corpse’s arm and sprayed that pink industrial toilet cleaner in his eyes, just to make sure he was really dead.
Two men in front of me at Arby’s got in an endless argument about the use of the word “titular” versus “titulary.” They looked like the kind of guys that spent most of 1995 trying to convince women they were feminists because they owned a copy of the Reality Bites soundtrack and were the target demographic for Saab auto sales in the US before they went bankrupt. I flipped through one of those free newspapers filled mostly with ads for hookers and semi-legal weed clinics. This whorehouse named Ass City always ran full-page ads, with the slogan “199 tight assholes and one loose one,” and their name always reminded me of ascites, the gastroenterological term for an accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, which is usually caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Always an odd association for a house of ill repute specializing in anal sex, but my inner monologue tends to wander.
“What happens in Kabul stays in Kabul,” he said. He remembered the shop teacher incident as he stabbed the butcher knife into the courtroom bench, over and over, doing the stab-the-spaces-between-your-fingers-without-looking knife game as he stared straight at the judge, unflinching, fearless, not listening to the prosecutor attempting to ask him questions, like exactly why he stood on Dick Clark’s grave with a machete in each hand, screaming “47% OF THE CRANES IN THE WORLD ARE CURRENTLY IN DUBAI AND NOBODY CARES” over and over until the police tackled and arrested him on aggravated landscaping charges, now a class B felony in Los Angeles County after that incident when the paparazzi kept spraying Agent Orange on the trees outside of Angelina Jolie’s house to get a look at her ass-crack through a telephoto lens. The judge would give him ten years in pound-you-in-the-ass federal prison for the trumped-up charges, which was fine anyway, because hey, taco tuesday for free, and the library had laminated copies of the Lord of the Rings books, for your jerking pleasure.
Jon Konrath is a writer, technologist, and recovering hoarder. He runs Paragraph Line Books (www.paragraphline.com) and has been blogging at rumored.com since 1997. He divides his time between Oakland and a compound in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where he is trying to start a UFO cult.
Also, the “each man creates” quote as stated is a sample on the Entombed album Clandestine, from the song “Living Dead.” It’s taken from the 1964 movie The Masque of the Red Death, based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name. The sample is actually an amalgam of two lines said by the personification of The Red Death, played by Vincent Price. Oddly enough, another line by the same character (“Death has no master”) was the inspiration for the title of Konrath’s eighth book, Sleep Has No Master