A GALLERY OF HUMANS

These paintings walked around so sick of it all.
“This one is so damn traditional,” said the painting, on the observation of a preacher in his Sunday’s best, “I just don’t know what to even think of it. It doesn’t challenge me, it doesn’t provoke me, I feel like I’ve seen this trope a million times over.”
“Okay,” said another painting, “But at least it makes sense. This one is so abstract.”
The painting referenced a human in torn denim, purple lipstick, probably thirty overall piercings and ‘daddy issues’ tattooed on its chest.
“It’s so abstract,” said the painting, “I feel like this human is trying too hard to make a statement, but the statement itself isn’t that strong.”
On the other side of the human gallery, another painting just stared at a different human, completely consumed. The painting was encapsulated by it. It felt as if time were standing still and moving so quickly, all in the same instant.
The human had his hands tucked in its acid wash jeans. It wore a white v-neck t-shirt and smoked cigarettes like that was its core function. Pretty standard Americana kind of thing going on, but he had these absorbing greyish blue eyes that the painting couldn’t look away from. The eyes were in motion. Like some great thunderstorm traveling slowly across an evening sky.
The painting felt something it had never felt before. It was as if the human was alive. As if buried behind those stormy sky eyes was a soul desperately reaching out, trying to connect.
“They say art is dead,” said the painting, “But this. This is alive.”

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2016

ALAN WATTS ON THE BACONATOR

Living today the way we do, among the chaos, and here in a time full to the brim with a sense of self-imposed purpose, we really are given no choice, but to consider what it means to be, the perfect hamburger.

Now picture if you will, a cow; spots, four legs, perhaps a bell around its neck. It is, for all intents and purposes, aware that it is a cow. What it is not aware of, is that it may some day be the ground beef patty of an American hamburger.

And does it need to know? It was thinking about this hypothetical cow which led me to consider if we, in fact, have made hamburgers the way best suited for the continuance of humanity, above all things, in pursuit of the perfect hamburger.

Long ago, some man, or woman, some person, decided to recreate a large bovine creature, in part, into the patty of a hamburger. What if that person had not had that inclination? What if they were inclined to translate, say, salmon fish, into a delicious hamburger? What if there were no fish to be had? What if this person had not been? What if this person had opted to dig instead into their own flesh and blood to consider that which we can consider, a hamburger.

Perhaps what happened is what was meant to happen, perhaps not. But I do know this – Wendy’s Baconator (C) is, beyond any fashionable spark of a human doubt, far superior to any other hamburger ever conceived by the human race.

Food scientists, through carefully centralized, organized and deductive research have concluded, in tandem with the scientific method, that when it comes to the hamburger, there can be no doubt, that the combination of beef patty, of cheese and of bacon, is far beyond anything else we, as modern humans, within our realm of thought creation, could induce into existence.

Now, what of those who do not like bacon? You see, there are those among us who do not like sizzling, crispy sensation, delivered to us from pork, from the animal the pig to be consumed by the mouth, and bigger picture, by the human digestive system.

The main question I wish to pose to you is this: if I one refuses to acknowledge, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that there is within the spectrum of human personality, those living among our large tribe, who do not like bacon, do they truly exist? Do they have to exist? And if you join in this larger thinking, in this collective mentality that if we focus energy on the idea that those who do not like bacon do not exist, how would it be possible that they would truly exist? I think of the old question, the old allegory regarding a tree in the woods. If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

So for our purposes I ask, if we acknowledge that it is absurd, that it is impossible to not like bacon, especially to not like bacon when paired with cheese on top of a delicious Wendy’s Baconator (C) hamburger, do those people exist?

I believe they do not.

This is the nature of human beings, really. To be able to see that at the core of human life is the identity of an undeniable attraction to the perfect hamburger, which is, as science provides us, The Baconator (C) from Wendy’s restaurants.

We are limited only by what we allow ourselves to see as the perfect hamburger. But if we can escape our ego, and see the eternal, immeasurable, objective reality of hamburgers, we can then acknowledge that the perfect hamburger is in fact the only and only Baconator (C).

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2016

CENTRAL PARK LOVE STORY

A man sat at dinner with his beautiful wife in a restaurant in New York City.

The restaurant was nice. Very nice; the kind of place that not just anyone could get into. The kind of place with chilled salad forks and tiny portions and luminescent views of Manhattan.

The beautiful wife was seven months pregnant. They were out celebrating their one year anniversary. She was radiant. One of those women who maintained her glamour even through pregnancy.

They spoke of their marriage and all of its successes. They spoke of their excitement to be parents and how privileged they were to live among the business elite in one of the most coveted cities in the world.

The man’s gold watch shined brightly in the white light of the upscale restaurant.

The man told his wife that he had been thinking about things and that he really wanted to be a dinosaur that lived in Central Park.

The woman laughed, and said, yes, and I would be a giant squid that made its home in the main pool of the Manhattan Rec Club.

They smiled at each other.

The man told his wife he was serious. That his life with her was rewarding and beautiful and heartwarming and gratifying, but he wanted to be a dinosaur who lived in Central Park.

The wife looked blankly at her husband for some time. Told him this wasn’t even funny anymore. Told him she was confused. A great silence overcame the couple. A tension shared by both their sommelier and their waiter as they came to see if they would like more wine and to deliver the check respectively.

That night they lied beside each other in bed in their beautiful apartment in the heart of Manhattan but the great silence remained.

In the morning, the woman awoke and her husband was gone. She put her hands on her stomach and she began to cry. It was not a weeping cry. It was an empty, almost tearless, cry. The kind that fills you with confusion and then like the wind being knocked out of you, even that is then gone. It was a very empty cry.

Meanwhile, the man went to a costume shop in Manhattan. He flipped through a catalog of costumes and requested that the costume shop employee bring him, of course, the dinosaur costume to purchase. The dinosaur was the Tyrannosaurus Rex. So named for its perception by human beings as having been a superior being in the dinosaur kingdom.

The man put on the costume and stopped by the bank. He had his funds transferred to his wife’s account.

And finally, the man went to Central Park, where in his dinosaur costume he roamed the great trees, the great fountains, the great green fields of the park. Day and night he roamed as the dinosaur he felt deeply in his heart he was meant to be.

He was in love.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2016

GEOFFREY DONAHUE

geoffrey donahue’s day started as normal. he went to the printer where he scanned his badge and printed the copies he needed of a document to help facilitate his morning meeting. geoffrey made a mistake though. where he only needed 10 copies he accidentally printed 100. he had hit the 0 button excessively in error. but in that moment of watching the 100 copies of the document to help facilitate his morning meeting, geoffrey felt a great wave of soothing energy come over him. he became entranced, watching as paper after paper came shuffling down the print tray. it was mesmerizing. geoffrey then thought nothing. geoffrey then felt nothing. when the 100 sheets of paper finished printing, he printed another 100, like it was nothing. like the strings of the universe were in full command of his actions. like geoffrey donahue was nothing more than a vessel for the will of the universe. geoffrey donahue, who was now running late for facilitating his morning meeting. geoffrey donahue, know around the office for his dad jokes and being a good listener when someone was having a bad day. he printed another 100 copies. geoffrey made a mistake though. where he only meant to print a third set of 100 copies he accidentally printed 1000. he had hit the 0 button excessively in error. around 73 copies into this batch of 1000 copies, the printer ran out of paper, and once again the universe commanded. some invisible ominous puppeteer pulled strings at geoffrey to gather paper from the nearby filing cabinet and fill the filing cabinet with papers. geoffrey was not aware of any of this. geoffrey donahue was elsewhere. geoffrey donahue was thinking about his past. geoffrey donahue at last was taking the time to work his way through the daunting moments that led up to and followed his divorce from his once wife, mrs. elizah donahue, who was now elizah brown. a coworker or two walked by, unaware the exact details of what geoffrey was doing. they assumed whatever it was was important, and kept walking. geoffrey continued to retrace the steps of his failed marriage as the 8 1/2 by 11 papers continued to travel magically from the guts of the printer and onto the printer tray. until finally, the geoffrey had no more thoughts to think about his divorce, or his life in general for that matter. it was then that geoffrey donahue’s legs kicked slowly out from beneath him until he was levitating about 2 feet off the ground. light as a feather and still as a board. slowly, geoffrey donahue began to float upward and through the ceiling. he disappeared like jesus on easter sunday but no one saw this. they were very busy with their monday workload, mostly catching up on emails and scheduling down meetings for the current work week. geoffrey had ascended to another plane. the papers continued to print en masse from the printer. later that day, the management staff pulled geoffrey’s direct reports to inform them that geoffrey donahue was no longer with the company.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2016

TURN GREEN

there’s this woman behind the wheel of a car driving down the road in the middle of nowhere. it’s pitch black. middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. she comes to a red light and she comes to a steady halt and waits at the light. a minute goes by, the light is still red. she still waits. several minutes go by and she still waits. hours, days go by, but no, she thinks to herself, she must not run this light. it would be wrong to run this light. chances are if she runs the light no one would be hurt, she knows this, but if we disregard the laws that have been established to protect us, what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom? nothing, she says to her self. birds hover above her. the sun rises and sets again. insects jump onto her windshield and off. the world changes around her, but she remains the same, unflinching to her convictions and the convictions she has been taught. babies are born, the elderly pass away. new technologies come into existence. couples fuck in their warm beds. people bitch about the weather, but refuse to talk sex, politics and religion, but this woman is not concerned about any of that as she waits desperately, starving to death on the inside, for this light in the middle of nowhere to turn green.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2014

READ “KEROUACIANA #1”

KEROUACIANA #1

I was napping under the freeway in the bone city of Los Angeleez, when a man walked by and he stopped and he asked me “Who are you?” “Who am I?” I said. “Who are you?” “Who are we?” and next thing I knew we were in his flat uptown, drunk on red wine, listening to Charlie Parker through the radio. Charlie was manic panic writhing up and down his saxophone beneath the electronic fuzz. The man who took me in paced around his apartment aimlessly. He was a strange man – his books scattered across his cigarette floor. I asked him what he did for a living and he pretended not to hear me, I’m pretty sure.

The wine hit us hard and we laughed at the Bodhisattva residing in our hearts. We laughed at fleeting enlightenment and we bonded over cold Chicago. I passed out on the dirty floor, but in my haze, I heard his girl come home and ask who I am and they riffed for a minute, her asking if I was another junkie and he said “No, well, I don’t think so,” but they calmed down and I faded to black again.

When I woke up, I was alone in the apartment. A note had been placed on my chest “Don’t worry about locking up. No one would rob this shithole anyways,” and that was that. I gathered myself and caught the next train out of the city of angels.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2014

READ “BREAKUP WALTZ”

WE CAN EAT YOU NOW

I had 13 new voicemails on my phone. I knew it was time for me to check them. Normally the process of “checking voicemails” for me looked a lot like hitting the number 7 over and over again until my phone indicated that I no longer had any new voicemails. Sure, the occasional message from a friend got lost in the mix, but the sweet justice of not hearing to hear a robot lady voice informing me that it’s urgent and important that I contact them for a business matter far outweighed the cons.

This time around though, I couldn’t delete my voicemail. Each time I pressed 7 the message would just start over again and again:

“This is a communication regarding a debt from – This is a communication regarding a debt from – This is a comm – This is a comm,”

I hit the button to end the call but the message just began again:

“This is a communication regarding a debt from ABC Collections. You have been scheduled for a mandatory hearing regarding a flexible repayment plan on Saturday, July 25, 2019 at 1200 hours at the National Trust Tower at 1400 S River Street in Suite 1213. Please be at least 30 minutes early for your hearing and bringing legal proof of income and two forms of identification. Thank you.”

I knew which debt they were referring to, my student loan debt. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to repay it, it was just that I didn’t have any money. Sure, I was riddled with guilt every time I picked up a new vinyl record or treated myself to a nice lunch with a friend, but I couldn’t give up my sanity or my life to repay this absurdly high stack of money I had borrowed. Maybe the hearing would do me well. Give me a chance to plead my case and let them know that I was trying, I really was, I just needed time; maybe a year or two to get my shit together so I could start repaying my debt. They had to understand. I wasn’t the first person to be in this situation and they did mention a flexible repayment plan.

*****

I arrived at the National Trust Tower a half hour early on the 25th. I felt I’d never seen the building before despite the fact that I drove down 14th Street everyday on my way to work. It rose probably 16 stories off the ground and left an ominous shadow over a large portion of the park that it lurked over.

I entered the building where I was checked in by security. I removed my keys my phone and my wallet and watch and put them in a bin to be scanned as I passed through the metal detector. I had my proof of income, my last paycheck from The Burger Shack tucked under my arm. The security guard was dead behind the eyes as her white gloves patted me up and down. It always bugged me how half-assed the pat down is. I’m not requesting a cavity search or anything but a couple love taps didn’t seem very thorough to me.

“Please regather your items. Elevators are straight ahead of you, sir,”

I did as she said and filtered towards the golden elevator doors along with the great masses of other people, sheep being lead to the slaughterhouse. The doors opened and we all gathered in. I pressed twelve on the elevator door before the continuing rush of people on the elevator pushed me quickly towards the back.

The elevator was balls hot. People coughing and clearing their throats dressed in shirt and ties and blouses, some didn’t even bother to dress up. It was no small elevator either. I guess they’d figured with the traffic they’d be experiencing something similar to a freight elevator was the way to go.

The floors ticked by and the elevator got more comfortable, but very slowly. Lots of folks in lanyards with name badges got off on Floor 10, I’d figured it was an administrative floor or something to that effect.

Now it was just me and one woman in the elevator. She gently cried to herself, I couldn’t figure out why and it didn’t seem right for me to ask why. As the elevator pinged for Floor 11 she glanced back at me and quickly exited. Alone in the elevator I could hear the cables pulling me up. I couldn’t help but think of those cables as a knotted rope and the elevator itself my head caught in its fray.

The doors opened as if they were automated gentlemen welcoming me to the last place on Earth I wanted to be at the moment. Ahead of me was a great long hallway with door after door, all closed.

I began walking down the hall searching for my room number. I glanced down at my proof of income where I’d written ‘1213’ as a reminder to myself. The rooms all had placards stating “HEARING ROOM 1201”, “HEARING ROOM 1202,” and so on until there in front of me was ‘HEARING ROOM 1213.”

I dusted myself off, tucked my shirt in and entered into the room.

It was nothing like what I expected. Where I thought I’d find a waiting room or a warm office, similar to a DA’s office, there in front of me was a giant white space, clinical and echoing. There before me was one empty chair and across the room a long table where a board of professional looking people sat and stared at me blankly.

“Please Mr. Carney, have a seat…” said a woman, her voice carrying through the room. She wore a pink business suit and black stilletos. She was incredibly blonde with an incredibly big smile and a flight attendant tone in her voice that echoed through the hollow room. “We appreciate your punctuality,”

I took a seat as their three sets of eyes pierced me, watching me like some foreign zoo animal they didn’t understand. Their desk was clear, except for one stack of papers that the woman in the middle shuffled through. Looking up I noticed a giant two-armed fan circulating on the ceiling, like a great blade that I half expected to descend upon me.

“For the record, you are in fact Mr. James Douglas Carney Jr., correct?”

“Yes, mam,” I said, the cool air pressing down against my face.

“Did you bring your two forms of identification and your proof of employment and income, Mr. Carney?”

“Yes, I did,” I began to stand to bring them to her.

“No, please Mr. Carney, remain seated. Mr. Jetson, please retrieve Mr. Carney’s documents,”

Mr. Jetson was a big fucker. Probably 6’4” 270 pounds. I had this lurking feeling that that was a big factor in his position here with the ABC Collections Agency. I handed him my Driver’s License, my expired student ID and my proof of income from The Burger Shack.
Mr. Jetson presented the documents to the woman who put on her glasses to assess their validity.

“Very good, Mr. Carney. From here, I would like to go through a line of questioning with you, if you don’t mind. If you have any questions or concerns, please save them for the end of the inquisition,”

“Okay,” I said, my voice cracking slightly.

“Mr. Carney, you have been brought here today concerning your remaining debt of twenty-two thousand, eight-hundred and sixty-four dollars accrued during your freshman and sophomore years at Trenton Community College. Following your exit from their education program, you had a six month grace period allotted to you during which time no payment was due, however, after that time you were put on a payment plan of two-hundred and fifty dollars per month, which you failed to acknowledge for a period of 24 months leading up to the present. Is the preceding information correct, Mr. Carney?”

“Yes, it is,”

“Now I see here, Mr. Carney you are employed by The Burger Shack. Is that correct, Mr. Carney?”

“Yes, mam,”

“What is your official title at The Burger Shack, Mr. Carney?”

“I guess I really don’t have one,”

“I’m showing you make eight dollars an hour at The Burger Shack, Mr. Carney?”

“That’s right,” I said, “Just above minimum wage,”

“Mr. Carney, please don’t veer from the questions I’m asking you, okay?”
This woman was scary. I suspected her of being a kind of Stepford Wife. I half expected there to be a wind-up key in her back.

“Now, let’s get back on subject if we could – Mr. Carney, why have you been neglecting to pay your student loan debt to us here at ABC Collections?”

“Well, honestly. I don’t have the money. When I have the choice between eating and paying my student loan, the first one tends to take priority for me,”

“Have you considered getting a second job, Mr. Carney?”

“I have, and I’ve tried, but no one seems to be hiring, and even if they are, they have been unwilling to work around my schedule at The Burger Shack,”

“Mr. Carney, we’re not here to hear your excuses. The bottom line is your generation seems to have a large issue with accountability. When you take out a loan, you are making a promise to return that money, and your complete disinterest in doing so is beyond disturbing to me. How would you feel if I asked you to borrow twenty dollars and I didn’t pay you back?”

“I don’t have twenty dollars to lend you…”

“Mr. Carney, you are missing the point. You need to take ownership of the fact that you dropped out of college and thus, you have put yourself in this scenario. You have to pay us back,”

“What if I can’t? What are you going to do if I can’t? Sue me for the money I don’t have? Throw me in jail and deny me my horrible fucking life flipping burgers at The Burger Shack?”

“Actually, Mr. Carney, we are going to eat you now,”

I must have misheard her.

“You are going to do what?”

“You have defaulted on your student loans, young man. We have no choice but to eat you,”

“To eat me? Is that some sort of legal jargon for something?”

“No, I’m sorry, Mr. Carney. What I mean to say is we are going to tear off your limbs and eat you,”

“What the fuck? You can’t eat me?! That’s not… what the fuck?!”

“Section 14, Clause B of your student loan agreement states ‘In the scenario the aforementioned signee defaults on their student loan, it is left at the discretion of the lender to take whatever action is deemed most reasonable to ensure fairness in the agreed upon transaction, not limited to, or excluding, execution,”

“I’m getting out of here,” I said, rushing for the door, but as I did it padlocked.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Carney, but we can’t allow you to leave. We’re so very hungry, and you owe us a very large sum of money,”

They rose at their table, as I rushed towards it flipping the table over, their papers flying every which way.

“I never agreed to this!” I said, cornering myself as the three of them lurked all the closer to me.

“Yes, you did, Mr. Carney. Fair is fair. Your word is your bond and you have to understand that sometimes human blood is the cost of a good education,”

The big guy held me down as the other two began to rip my clothes off. I squirmed but it was no use. I felt the blonde woman biting into my stomach as the other man penetrated his teeth into my neck. I saw my blood pouring out all over my naked skin. I felt my heart raging. Looking up above me in excruciating pain, blinding pain, I saw the fan blades spinning still, over and over as the searing pain overtook me, and I slipped into unconsciousness.

*****

Heaven is maybe the wrong word for where we go after we die. If Earth is a Beatles CD, Heaven is like a first edition vinyl of the White Album. What I’m trying to say is Heaven is a lot like Earth in its imperfections, but just a little bit better. There’s no anxiety pills here, you wouldn’t need them. There’s no wars, sure there’s fights, but at the end of the night, we leave them behind us. There’s too much to be grateful for to waste your time with hatred or jealousy. It’s like a good camping trip. Good company and good conversation and a few good beers. There’s no palm trees or clear blue water, at least not in my Heaven. That stuff never was the truth to me.

In Heaven, there’s no danger in the United States Postal Service going out of business. The mailman just comes every day, smiling, because he doesn’t have to do his job. He can stop in the middle of his shift and take a nap if he wants. It will get done when it gets done. Why would anyone deliver the mail by choice? Well, because that’s the whole thing here. They have the choice. No one is forcing you to do anything. There’s no salary, there’s no 401k, there’s no credit check. Autonomy is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I meet up with the mailman one day, and he’s smiling, like I knew he would be. He gives me my letters and I look through them. I got a postcard from my grandfather, letting me know he’s gonna spend a couple more weeks in Mexico up here in Heaven. Says he met a nice woman who is teaching him the true way to dance. I got another postcard from my friend Paulie who is inviting me to come up to his lodge in Aspen in Heaven. Says in Aspen in Heaven it’s always fall and it’s always beautiful. Says he’s got an endless fire going and we can sit around it and drink some whiskey.

My final piece of mail for the day is in a white envelope with just my name on it. I open it up in anticipation and I read it to myself:

“This is a communication regarding a debt from ABC Collections. You have been scheduled for a mandatory hearing regarding a flexible repayment plan on Tuesday, July 28, 2019 at 1200 hours at the National Trust Tower at 1400 S River Street in Suite 1213. Please be at least 30 minutes early for your hearing and bringing legal proof of income and two forms of identification. Thank you.”

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2014

READ “BATHROOM STALL…”

HOT MUSTARD

McDonaldsHotMustard

I walked down the way to the neighborhood McDonald’s like I did every day. It wasn’t too far. I was very lucky to live within walking distance of the burger establishment. The day was nice enough. A bit hot, but there was a cool breeze catching in the trees of late summer. It seemed as if the heavens were smiling down upon me.

I walked into the McDonald’s and saw people all around me. Some were smiling as they ingested their reasonably priced burgers but some of them looked less than happy. I walked to the counter where Jim, a nice young man who regularly helped me with my daily transaction, smiled at me and said

“Hey Al, how are you doing today? Welcome to McDonald’s,”

“Thanks, Jim. I’ll just have my usual,”

“A Big Mac combo?”

“Yeah, super-sized,”

“Well, Al, we don’t do super-sized anymore, but I can make it a large for you?”

“Large is fine,” I said, “I just really like saying ‘Super-Sized’,”

Jim took my five dollar bill and exact change and gave me my receipt which I crumpled and put in my pocket.

“Here’s your cup, Al,”

“Thanks, Jim,” I said, snatching the cup from his hand, I went over to the soft drink dispenser and filled my cup with very light ice and 48 ounces of ice cold Coca-Cola. I grabbed a large lid and a straw. I unwrapped half off the straw and then blowing into the straw, shot the other half of the wrapper into the trash. From there, I went back over to the lobby and waited, my arms crossed for my burger and fresh French fries.

I watched a lady and her son gather their food as they called out her order. She got a chicken wrap with a large French fry and her son had gotten a happy meal with chicken nuggets. The woman guided her son to a booth and they began to eat.

A skinny man who had rung up just as I had entered the McDonald’s came up to gather his four Spicy McChicken Sandwiches. I was marveled that such a skinny guy could eat so much food!

Then I heard them call my order out. BIG MAC AND LARGE FRENCH FRY? I went to gather my lunch and said to the lady behind the counter,

“Excuse me, miss? Can I get some hot mustard to dip my French fries in?”

The woman looked at me sadly with a smirk.

“You know, I’m very sorry, but we don’t have hot mustard sauce any longer. They discontinued it,”

“What?” I said, “There must be some sort of mistake. You see, I get hot mustard sauce everyday to dip my fries into. Are you sure you’re not just out?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry, sir. We simply don’t have it anymore.”

Her voice sounded slower each second. I could hear my heart thumping in my ears and my hands shaking. A great red rage began to overcome me as the woman behind the counter looked at me, her eyes filled with terror.

“You have to have some back there somewhere?”

“I’m really very sorry, sir. We are all out,”

“You can’t be all out!” I yelled, “You just can’t be!”

“I could get you some barbecue sauce, sir? The French fries are very good in barbecue sauce?”

“I don’t want the barbecue sauce! I want the hot mustard sauce! I come here everyday!”

It was then the anger overtook me. I threw my tray of food behind the counter and screamed ferociously as a coffee pot was shaken off the counter and crashed onto the floor.

“I want my hot mustard!” I yelled again, punching my fist into the Coca-Cola drink machine and knocking over the lids and straws, the salt and pepper and the little packets of ketchup. Some people began heading for the door, as others out on the patio looked in intrigue. I could feel their eyes on me as great globs of sweat began pouring down my face.

“I come here everyday!”

A manager came out from behind the counter, his hands out in front of him as he said to me,

“Sir, I’m very sorry, but I’m going to need you to calm down. You are being out of line. I’m sure we can solve this in a rational manner or I’m going to have to ask you to leave,”

“ALL I WANT IS MY HOT MUSTARD FOR MY FRENCH FRIES! THAT’S ALL I WANT!”

I felt my hand curl up into a stone fist and saw myself swinging at the manager. Next thing I knew he was out cold, as the rest of the restaurant exited out the door. I began flipping tables, I threw a chair threw the window where there was an ad for a new burger sandwich. I could see the red in my fists. I jumped over the counter and shouted my demands again to them employees. I grabbed a teenaged employee by the red polo and demanded that he find me hot mustard. I threw him down and he crawled out the drive-through window in fear for his life.

“HOT MUSTARD!” I said, “I COME HERE EVERYDAY!” I said, throwing the deep fryer onto the floor as cornered employees screamed in terror. “I DESERVE HOT MUSTARD!” I said. “I NEED HOT MUSTARD!”

I pulled the drawers of burgers out, I swiped the mess off the counter as I lurked closer and closer to the cornered workers.

“It’s not our fault!” they said to me, but I knew better than that. They worked for McDonald’s. They were McDonald’s. They were keeping the hot mustard all for themselves. They looked at me like I was the devil himself, but I knew I was in the right here. The customer is always right. I yelled it at them.

“The customer is always right!” I yelled. I was a hero, standing up for my rights. You can’t just give someone something they love then take it away from them. That’s not fair. I approached them even closer my breaths ugly and harsh now on their faces.

“Please don’t hurt us,” said one brave employee desperately, wearing their McDonald’s employee visor, “Here, here’s a coupon for a free Big Mac combo.”

“Oh, that would be great,” I said, taking the coupon and exiting the McDonald’s. The day really was nice enough. A bit hot, but there was a cool breeze catching in the trees of late summer. Maybe tomorrow I would go back and try the Sweet and Sour sauce.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2014

READ “IN REALITY”

A BEAR IN TOKYO

a factory in denver. we arrived at the manic disco like roided out bulls entering an interstellar china shop. we meandered through the crowd of fairies and monsters
and pushed as close to the alter as we could. all around us faces were crashing together like bangkok cars. there were snake charmers floating up the walls; paid entertainment for the day glow princesses and the queens and kings of the beat. we found our seat and met rabbit who offered to take us with him on his journey but we told him we weren’t big fans of wonderland and were happy just staying where we were, amongst the digital ocean waves and the illusions of heaven. amongst the dirty vibrations and the organic computers of seratonin we hid our beers in the corner where no one would mess with them and we headed out to the dance floor where we swam the technological wavepool.

i was dressed as jack kerouac as usual and she was dressed as bohemian ingalls wilder. there was a group of hissing girls on the dance floor dressed like tim burton mean girls. they danced like sandworms in their black and white striped slinky dresses. fuck-me pocahantas was at the bar ordering a long island iced tea, she asked her boy galactus if he had eaten and he said no he was stuffed from eating planets all day.

i breathed. just took a minute to breathe. i wasn’t used to this much energy. it was a bit overwhelming, like being at a city zoo in a different galaxy. saturn was out on the dance floor spinning her rings and her boy was watching in awe from the sidelines of the space gym. dj gnome was twisting the color of the room so it sounded less red and more blue. i kept breathing, and looking over i realized that i was the luckiest guy in the room, having the company of bohemian ingalls wilder. i asked her how she was doing and she said “fine” like none of this could break her zen. i was so in love. the idea of someone who could meditate at a circus like this was something to admire and something i wanted in my own life. i myself always fluctuate between dalai lama and mad scientist. between cool hand luke and yosemite sam. in a sense, i’m a basket case, but she seemed to be the apples i was looking for to fill the bushel of my psyche.

the red room was spinning. the day glow princess and her royal party hovered over the room looking down at us like electric greek gods. saturn was still spinning her rings. i was getting tired which means i needed to push myself a lot further down the beer spectrum if i had any chance of surviving the evening. i excused myself from boho ingalls wilder and went to the corner where i chugged down three of my cervezas like it was the end of the world party, and for all i knew it was. i felt like i was on the inside of a television. even the walls with all their wiring and weird technology looked like the clockwork guts of a tv. my stomach felt overloaded as i finished the last beer. it was then miss mayor of fuzzytown found me, wearing her official fuzzy sport coat. “hi” she said. “hi” i said. “touch my arm” she said. “why?” i said. “just trust me.” never being one to distrust i placed my palm flat against her forearm and looked into her cosmic empty eyes. i was not attracted to this woman, but it was clear she was attracted to me. why was i so trusting to do what this stranger asked of me? i guess it’s just this writer’s curse: carpe fabula, seize the story. I could never say no to people. “come sit with me” she said. “okay” of course i said. she took me to the next room, less astrological, but far more menacing than the former. the paintings seemed to be changing, mingling with each other. she sat me down with a jester and a man wearing a burglar’s costume. “there must be some kind of way out of here” i said to them, pointing at the joker then the thief, but they didn’t catch on. these were supposed to be the brilliant minds, the enlightened souls, the kind eyes of modern times but it seemed to no one could muster up a damn conversation. i guess at the end of the day we’re all still millenials. we sat there watching act after act of the circus, miss mayor of fuzzytown just kept staring at me and i myself started to feel a bit odd. i knew i had to escape the clutches of this oversized couch. i saw a man, a normal looking young man staring at one of the paintings on the wall; i knew they wouldn’t be offended if i excused myself to go speak with him, so i did just that. he was the aura of normalcy i had been looking for.

i approached him from the side as he stared at a painting of a cow in space and another one of a bear in tokyo. tonight i related to these characters in these paintings. torn from my normal habitat i found myself thousands of miles away from home. i asked him which one he liked more.
“i can’t decide” he said, staring at me. “i want to buy one.” day glow princess had invited me here tonight, and i knew this was her home that these paintings helped pay for – this amazing factory of nonsense, so i went subtle salesman on this unsuspecting cat. “you should buy one” i said vigorously, as to be heard over the roaring music. “these are great.” “i can’t decide” he said again. “i like the bear better” i said. “i think i do too” i said. “maybe i’ll get both.” these paintings were a couple hundred bucks each. i was intrigued that in this room full of lavish bums there seemed to be a wealthy simpleton. “i want to buy one” he said again. “yeah, you said that” i said. “i want to buy one” he said again. i looked in his eyes and thus began my suspicions that this stranger was in fact a robot: with only so many preprogrammed phrases. “where you from?” i asked him. it was time to uncover the truth of it all. “chicago” he said. a robot factory in chicago, i thought to myself, but i couldn’t let him catch on to my feelings. i thought about bohemian ingalls wilder in the next room, realizing i had abandoned a beautiful red riding hood in a room full of wolves. i looked back over my shoulder. the robot man could see i was lost in something. “i’m sorry” i said “what brings you to denver?” “i like to travel” he said, not blinking his robot eyes. “i think i’ll buy one” he said again. “why denver?” i asked, preparing myself for his rant about how weed is legal here and there’s a cultural revolution afoot and how he just wanted to see it for himself “weed, honestly.” he said. i laughed. “yeah… we do have that here i said “chicago is so stuck up sometimes” he told me. maybe he wasn’t a robot after all. “everyone is moving so fast there and it’s almost as if everyone is in a silent battle with each other. denver is just so chill.”

i couldn’t argue with him. i loved this city. always had. it’s like this secret show for one of your favorite bands. all of the intimacy and joy you want and no one else has to know about it, but don’t tell anyone i told you that about denver. “i’m gonna get both” he said. “i think i’m gonna buy them” he said. “you should!” i said “i can grab mallory to check you out?” “i’m not sure if i’m gonna buy them” he said. “alright” i said. i had tried, but it seemed he wasn’t a human nor a robot. maybe an android. i couldn’t be bothered with his android problems anymore. i went back to bohemian ingalls wilder.

surprise surprise a man in ultraviolet briefs and a hugh hefner red robe had found a seat beside boho ingalls wilder. she had those big scared listening eyes as he explained to her the nature of the universe, how we are all one, how there is but one consciousness and she oh so politely took in the lesson, as if she hadn’t heard it all before. “hi” i said to him, politely, i did leave her alone in the room after all “hey i’m rocket” he said to me. of course he was rocket. “nice to meet you, rocket” i said “how do you know everyone?” “i don’t” he said “i was just over at eskimo bar across the street and heard music so i wandered on over here. the factory, day glow princess’s kingdom, had open admission to their events. anyone willing to pitch the few bucks could get in. it was a bit jarring to see these people at a birthday party, who were unaware it was someone’s birthday. rocket went right back to his pontification to boho. boho gave me the help me look. “wanna go grab another beer?” i asked her. “yes” she said.

we went to the bar this time. through the course of the evening i had killed the six pack i had snuck in. “two pbr’s” i said to the octopus bartender. boho gave me a look as the bartender fetched the beers with her tentacles. “what?” i said. “pbr’s?” she said “you hipster you.” “look” i said. “it’s not that i want to be a hipster. it’s just that i’m not rich enough not to be, if that makes sense.” she said nothing. she was one of those quiet ones where every thing she didn’t say could drive you crazy with curiosity.

“what do you say we sneak out back with these?” i asked her. “sounds good” she said. i threw the bartender the total and the best tip i could manage and boho ingalls wilder and i snuck behind a couple curtains, climbed a very unsafe ladder, and made our way up to the rough. i was feeling fairly romantic, and then i felt the midnight wind outside. i snuck up first, so i called down to boho and asked her if she minded. she didn’t mind. of course not. this girl wasn’t one to say no. the romantic man who lives in my heart was break dancing. we sat on the roof top on some wooden crates and we didn’t say much at all. i’d say we stared up at the stars but in the light pollution of denver there weren’t really too many stars to be seen. we watched the cars drive by below and then i looked over at her.

“i’ve got a question for you,” i said, gathering myself, “is this a date?”
she smiled. “a date?” she said.
“yeah” i said “i always do this to myself. i ask girls to go to things with me and i mean it to be a date but i never tell them it’s a date and i never know”
“you always ask girls on non-date?”
“that’s not what i mean. but is this a date?”
“no” she said “i didn’t think of this as a date.” the romantic man who lives in my heart proceeded to die of a heart attack.
“oh” i said, the saddest living man in denver.
“i’m sorry but my heart belongs to someone else” i wanted to think what she said there was stupid, a cheesy way of saying ‘i’m seeing someone’ but there was a sincerity there i knew not to fuck with. her heart really did belong to someone else. had i been trying to trick her into a date with me? why couldn’t i have just said ‘this is a date.’ that’s all i had to say.
“i appreciate you being honest,” i said.
“i try to be honest” she said, “i don’t like the games, you know?”
“yeah, me neither.” i looked up at the sky. “it’s still nice to get away from it all with you up here.” she smiled at me with that brutal sincerity.
“cheers” she said, gesturing her beer neck towards me.
“cheers” i said.

it was strange to think of the monsters lurking and the peacocks peacocking below us. the bass slipped through the ceiling to the roof but barely. everything in me felt like i should be in the mindset of disappointment, but escaped from the circus below, just sharing the company with such a beautiful person left me with very little to not be grateful for.

we winded our way back down the ladder. she took off, giving me the longest, most fearless hug i’ve ever received and i was left with the leftovers of madness. she had vanished. i made a pillow of my jacket and i fell asleep, wondering if i was entering or leaving a dream.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2014

READ “ALARM CLOCK”

A WELL-KEPT SECRET

An Ode to Hills Like White Elephants

The streets across Denver were long and white. It was dry and the city was desolate, as it tends to get in winter. There was an hour or two to kill before the train came to Union Station before heading to Chicago. The couple leaned on the counter of Leela’s Cafe and Bar.
“Two PBR’s,” said the woman to the bartender. The bartender returned with them and popped one of the caps off.
“Queen of hearts,” said the woman.
“Lower, same suit,” said the bartender.
“Ten of hearts?”
“Nope, jack of hearts,” the bartender said, popping the other cap off, “and yours?”
“What?” said the young man.
The young woman showed him the top of the cap – J and a heart.
“You try to guess the card on the top of the cap. You guess once, and she’ll tell you higher or lower, and then if you get it right, your next beer is free,”
“9 of diamonds…” the young man said to the bartender.
“Yep,” said the bartender.
“Beginner’s luck,” said the woman, “can we get a couple coffees too?”
“Coffee and beer?” said the young man.
“It’s a Denver thing,” said the woman.
The man and the young woman found a table and they sat down. The man stared out the window at the snow falling and the dead streets of a Queen City.
“It’s beautiful,”
“Yeah,” said the woman, drinking her beer.
“Should you be doing that, Kat?”
“My mom did, and look, I’m just fine,”
“Okay,”
“I’m not planning to get belligerent or anything. Sounds like they gave you a solid dose of scaremongering at NYU,”
“I wasn’t trying to preach,”
“I’m sorry. Yeah, it is pretty outside,” said the woman, downing the rest of her beer.
“It’s just white. It’s all white, but i can’t look away. I feel like i’m trying to search for something through the haze,”
“You do sound like a writer…”
“You’re the writer…”
“Travel writer…” said the woman, “That just means they give me an allowance to go write about the strange troubles i get into in strange cities,”
“And strange affairs with strange men,”
“What does that mean?”
“It was just a joke. That’s all,”
“The way you’re drinking that beer is the joke,” said the woman, “do you want a nipple for that thing?”
“What?”
“You’re nursing it. You’re nursing your beer,”
“Oh,” the young man smiled his head turned downward on the table. The music was some girl with a jazzy voice singing over her acoustic guitar. The woman put her hand over the young man’s.
“I love you,”
“I know,”
“Do you like Denver?”
“I love it. It feels like a well-kept secret. Like New York if no one knew where New York was,”
“Huh…”
“I’m sorry; i don’t mean to compare everything to New York,”
“No, i get it. You’ve been there your whole life. I must admit though, it was funny to see you get so excited about seeing a Home Depot,”
“I’m sorry; I’d never seen one before,”
“No, it was charming…” the woman stood up, leaning against the back of her chair, “should we have another drink?”
“I guess that would be okay…” said the young man.
The cold air rushed in along with a group of street kids. The woman walked to the bar and ordered the drinks.
The young man pulled out his phone and checked how long he had. The woman looked back at the bar and saw him. He just smiled and waved at her, like they were meeting for the first time. CONTINUE READING ON GUERRILLA GRAFFITI MAGAZINE.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2013