.

?Im not upset or anything, Really its fine theyre gone its great, I get to have all this time to myself and and its not loud or noisy or not stressful and I get it theyre busy I shouldnt be selfish, Im not selfish im fine.?

But


The train is packed today. Conductors click past with gold-leaf buttons, businessmen nod off in seats or stare out windows with mismanaged eyes. Next to me is a young man, early-twenties, with a box of crayons. Next to him, in conversation with him, is a man who drinks a strawberry seltzer in exaggerated gulps, and wears a pink bowtie, who stares past the crayon-man, at me, and winks.

?Everyone asks about the crayons, It's really kind of funny. It all started when I took a gap year to really find myself you know??

Bowtie nods.

?I worked all these crazy part times to pay the bills, there was this one I?ll never forget, the only one actually.?

?Yes?? and sips seltzer.

?It was in a pencil factory, I had the unfortunate job of sitting at the end of a conveyor belt and sharpening all the pencils.?

?Don?t they have a machine for that??

?Of course not, computers don?t feel, how could they understand the joy of a perfectly sharpened pencil, the balance between too-dull and breaking-point-sharp.?

?So why the crayons?? Says strawberry seltzer.

?Well it?s funny, after six months of sitting at the end of this conveyor belt and sharpening pencils, literally having them rain on me as they flew off the end of the conveyor belt, I was through, I swore to myself I would boycott them, I told myself I would never use a pencil again, so here I am, in college, using crayons.?

?...?

A fizzing sound, another seltzer being opened, and I can?t stop myself from speaking.

?Which college? You mentioned one I thought I heard- not that I was listening just- couldn?t help it, human condition, you know, perception of, well nevermind.?

They stare, eyebrows far into enemy territory, approaching the scalp.

?What?d he say?? Says the collegian with the crayons.

?I think he asked where you go to college.? Says bowtie.

?Hey kid, I go to Royal College, you know, In Steelford.?

They pause. My heart races, the train floor shifts beneath me. I think of sailors developing sea legs and wonder if conductors develop train legs.

?Kid??
        ?Oh, sorry yes, I do know Royal. I was going there now actually.?

?Oh really? I thought you would never have heard of it. Small school isn't it, but I like it that way. They have no problem with the crayons either. My psych teacher says that emotional traumas are big deals, she even banned pencils in every one of her classes. Why were you going there anyway? Thinking of applying? They have an amazing ecology program.?

Blood is in my ears now and when I reply, it?s to the box of crayons in his lap, I notice it?s a pack of 64, which features the elusive gold and silver crayons.
        ?No, I mean yes, I mean I am going to see my mother, she works there, my dad too, he works there too.?


Edmund Tallow once again finds himself in the back seat of a ?93 grand cherokee jeep. The car smells like smoke.


I?ve scraped a thousand first lines, but it doesn't matter. I am writing this for the seven of us. To remember this journey. To remember ourselves, which in the dark, I am afraid we have lost. I have collected here, our stories, bits of them at least, just the parts we could remember. I have tried to organize them, give them some type of order so that you may understand them. Whoever you are.

And I am writing this for Anita. Poor Anita.


For roughly two years now, Anita Goldine has needed eye drops. She laughs about it sometimes with her friends, the ones that don't know her. ?Chronic dryness? she says and then titters a little. ?Just happened out of the blue? she says, they nod thinking she means the eyedrops.

Outside the air conditioning, Its midday, blistering july midday, Inside, Anita is crying and tears are everywhere. Onto the boy-band posters, onto the pack of Ritz crackers which she is still trying to eat, onto her floral bed sheets, and onto the faded photograph in her lap. She tries to eat a cracker but it crumbles in her shaking hands. Crumbs, tears, and snot fall onto her bed. No one is home to hear her.



Very late one summer?s night, Cassian was eating chinese. His father, across the table, had cracked open all the cookies and was trying to read the fortunes in mandarin, to the general discomfort of all. His mother, still scornfully ignoring the dying-cat-dialect of made-up chinese, was worrying over a tip for the busboy- A 6 foot 2, wide bellied, boy with a carpish face and more dandruff in his hair than there was salt in the shaker. She gave ten percent.

The busboy came back to collect the forks and check, everyone tensed watching flakes fall omto the paper tablecloth. He dropped the forks on his way back to the kitchen. Cassians mother made a sympathetic noise in her throat.

?I should have given 15%, the poor boy.?

?Maybe he could buy some anti-danfruff shampoo then.?
        ?Dear!?


The sky overhead is worn-jean blue with cloud threading. Kids in floppy hats wander a rocky riverbed, pines and white colonial houses line the banks. The air smells of woodsmoke, evergreens, and freshly ground coffee. In the center of town stands a typical four story, big bell town hall. The Carthage town hall. The mayor is visible in the southeast window, third floor. By night you can see red lights pulse on distant cell towers, but its day, and the mayor?s head rests in his hands. Outside of the window is the red of school-brick, grey of a police station, mottled roofs, green and denim of pines and mountain in the distance. Inside the window, an emergency meeting is in progress, Billy, Brian and Brice Stump are seated. No one speaks. Downstairs a vacuum cleaner roars. Outside birds sing. The Mayor's assistant, a mousy and nervous 20 something, frantically rereads a chapter on conflict resolution from an open book. The book is thick. Billy folds his arms and stares out of the window. Brice taps a foot, Brian grips the table. The only sounds are those of an occasional page-turn.

Oswald Garfield here, special reporter for Red Herring Pess. Reporting live from the time of writing this draft about the tree crisis that has been plaguing Carthage for this last week. We here in Carthage are strong citizens of democracy and I know it will come as a surprise to none when I say that all matters concerning tax dollars are in the public domain. This morning, I, your special reporter was among those rallied outside of the town hall to read all disclosed information on the Stump contract. Your loyal, honest and hardworking reporter stood all day in summer?s hot glare and was rewarded. The details are summarized below:

Carthage, your special reporter asks you, why then is half our sweet town without power? Why is half of main street torn up? Why have telephone poles been cut down? Why have the hard working men and women of our great town, of which this reporter writes for, being inconvenienced and endangered by these incompetent workmen? I will tell you the answer Carthage. It is the Mayor. He has allowed this dreadful fate to befall our beautiful town. Please Carthage, do not fear, our salvation is at hand, stand with the Red Herring Press and help elect Jones Bright, the true Mayor of Carthage.

Jones has promised to rebuild mainstreet, pave all those pesky potholes which the current Mayor has ignored. Jones will be careful with our town, just listen to this melodic quote of his, speaking from the wide (and very impressive) deck of his house:

?The mayor is bad. I would be a good Mayor. Please vote for me.?

That, sweet Carthage is poetry. When I heard him speak these words to the gathered crowds, who come daily to swarm around his (beautiful and well painted) house, I felt my knees go weak. I knew that this was who we needed as our mayor of Carthage.

In the meantime we must take action, Red Herring is building a case to sue the companies: Stump Tree Removal, Stump Marking, and Stump stump removal. The companies who have wrought such damage to our once tourist friendly town.

Well folks, that's all for now, Oswald Garfield, your special reporter is signing off.

? ?I?m Thinking of changing my name?

? ?Uh huh?

? ?How does McCarthy Wright sound??

? ?Lovely?

? ?Do you like it??

? ?It?s ok?

? ?Maybe I won?t change my name?

? ?Uh huh?

Business was slow as usual. Just Nellie, me, and the whole day ahead of us. Nellie looked great today, as always.


Mr. Dwellberry adjusted his fake glasses-mustache-nose combo, it was making his nose itch. He would have taken it off, but he was terrified of being recognized, and even more terrified of his wife discovering what he was doing here, on this humid summer morning when sweat drops clung to everything like fresh dew. He was sure she still had the divorce lawyer on speed-dial. He leaned against a brick wall, trying to look at ease while wiping sweat from plastic lenses. The back of his rear-admiral coat, heisted from a london museum and specially ordered, had gotten soaked. He groaned, he would have to dry it out at Janus, if he brought it home his wife would insist on putting it in the dryer, on regular.

        He was late. The man, who was supposed to be here. This was supposed to be the time, after years of searching, finally. So many dead ends. All the therapy sessions with the stifling rooms and sympathetic nods of yogurt-lipped marriage counselors, so many lost treasures, a grandfather clock, autographs of a hundred french architects, whale oil lamps, his collection of persian rugs. Sweat dripped off his nose and puddled on the asphalt.

He was late. Mr. Dwellberry checked his authentic transcontinental-railroad watch, it was midnight, it was always midnight on this watch. Three anniversaries ago his wife had tried to polish the silver, and dropped it in the sink.

That night, their anniversary, they hadn't spoken, just watched the road, driving from one repair shop to the next. The watch was mechanical. Each morning Mr. Dwellberry would wind it up for another day of timekeeping. The winding mechanism had been washed down the drain. The repair shops couldn?t help. In desperation he had driven to the Carthage Water Treatment center, crawled under a chainlink fence, and used a kitchen sifter to search the sewage for brass gears in the dead of night. It was then that the watch had stopped ticking. Under a waxing moon, on town property, searching through vats of reeking waste for bits of metal.

        Mr. Dwellberry scratched under the carrot nose of his disguise. The man had never showed. He pocketed his watch and slunk from the alley , the tail of his admiral coat flapping behind him.

The Carthage Mayor was having a dreadful morning. He had woken to grunts and crashes in his backyard, thrown open the window to see Brian Stump hacking away at a japanese maple. On the way to work her had spilled grape juice all across his shirt and been sighted by that idiot Oswald Garfield, who immediately ran off to write a breaking story. The Mayor sighed and buried his face in his hands, elections were looming and Jones Bright never spilled grape juice.

 His damn assistant Sally had hidden the blueprints for a new town hall - 8 stories with rooftop garden and gymnasium - and was now taking her sweet time in fetching a coffee from Janus. Plus she never got him regular, always decaf. He made up his mind to fire her the next change he got

150 miles away, the very respectable, Mrs. Stump was waking up to a similarly dreadful morning. She was lying recumbent in bed, imagining herself filled with positive white energy, cheating on her morning meditation by using small parts of her brain to mentally plan her financial moves for the day and write up a many paged shopping list.

She was floating away, alone in the world, at peace with everything, when her bedroom door was rapt on sharply. She reared up, cucumber slices flying like denarii from the eyes of the dead. ?What is the meaning of this? You had specific instructions that I was not to be disturbed.? A butler entered. ?I am so sorry Lady Stump.? He bowed deeply, ?It?s just, your children.? ?Oh them, what have they gotten themselves into now.? ?Well Lady Stump, I have reason to believe that they destroyed part of a town?s main road, and it?s electrical grid.? ?They did what? Those rascals, they'll bring dishonor to the family, I swear on it, they'll never rest until they see every brick of this estate broken into fragments. That is it! I have had it. I will go and fetch them myself and show them a little bit of the discipline we had back in my day.? She marched from the room, nearly pushing a butler down an ornate set of carved mahogany stairs, still in her bathrobe.

The Carthage Mayor was sprawled across the couch. Dr. Striffle was shuffling papers on his desk, letters from fans. ?Now Mayor, where were we??

?That damn Sally, you know what she did today??

?Go ahead?

?No, ask what she did.?
Dr. Striffle joted down a note:
next time lock the mayor outside

?Tell me then, what did she do??

?She told me to sell off some of my reserve vechanicals.?

?Define reserve vechicals?

?The 4 extra cars I keep, for driving around and waving at people. She said it would look better if I sold them and invested in the community.?

Last minute shoppers with dark circles, pushed carts around in circles, looking for checkout lines. 30 of them, with motionless belts and vacant registers, only Susan was working. She had arrived minutes ago, through the the sliding doors and the darkness and into the striplighting. Anne waved from the deli, a woman coughed pointedly and Anne hurriedly returned to slicing salami. Past the checkout, behind the low bakery counter, Mickey was reorganizing bread and writing a letter to his manager - 456 reasons to raise prices on hard rolls.

        Edmund was in the freezers. Wearing mismatched scarves he was trying to sort fish. His toe ached from where a long dead but still boisterous Mahi-Mahi had fallen from a rack and crushed his foot. Through the freezer-fog he thought he could make out the exit. But it was just another grey stretch of insulated wall between a sardine crate and an icebox. Racks lept from the mist, fished watched with rolled up eyes. ?Freezers are creepy.? He said aloud, words all going misty.

        Mickey was having a dreadful second day on the job. He had wanted to be a cashier which offered the dual bonuses of being within sight of the deli, and allowing him to practice sleight of hand on the customer's change. He had been stationed in the bakery. It?s not that he really wanted to be in sight of Anne or anything. She would probably fail to notice how well he interacted with customers anyways, fail to see his expertise at change-making and smalltalk.


        The sky outside was the color of worn jeans, with cloud threading. Inside the window, an emergency meeting is in progress. Billy, Brian and Brice Stump are seated. No one speaks. The Mayor?s assistant, a nervous 20-something, rereads a chapter on conflict resolution. They are seated around an oak table, third floor, south wing of the Carthage town hall. The Mayor lifts his head out of his hands.

        ?You Brian, this is your fault, I contract you for a simple job, a simple job, I tell you to cut some trees, and you go and destroy the electrical grid!? Across the table Brian lumbered to his feet.

?Me?? He jabbed a thick finger at his brother, ?t?was Brice?s fault. He dont mark the trees like s'posed to.?

?Forgive my idiot brother and his impaired control of the English language. As you know Mayor, I have submitted to you a complete list of trees marked for removal, and my brother was also given that list.?

?I?ve changed my mind, It?s your fault Billy, you were the one that dug up half of mainstreet.? Billy covered his face and whimpered. ?Well Billy? What do you have to say for yourself??

?Nothing apparently.?

?Did I ask you Brice?? Snapped the Mayor, ?Don?t pretend like you?re innocent either, yeah you submitted this...thing.? With some difficulty he hefted an immense stack of papers, clipped with a black clamp. ?No one can read this, and while your brother does not seem like the sharpest lightbulb, I can hardly hold his inability to read this drivel against him.? Brian nodded vigorously,

?lots of big words Mr. Mayor sir, me didn?t know where-?

?Its ?I? Brian, when you are the subject you use I.?

 ?Shut up Brice!? The Mayor hurled the papers against the table. The assistant did a sort of squeaky yelp and leaped to her feet.

?M-Mr. Mayor please don?t get angry it won?t help anything.?

?You shut up too Sally, why don?t you take your pathetic self and self-help book and go make us some coffee, it was all very cordial before you intervened.?

?What does cordial mean??

 ?Friendly Brian, It means friendly.?

         ?Please Mr. Mayor, it says here that people make bad decisions when they?re angry.?

?I?m starting to think that it was a bad decision to hire you Sally, you?ve done nothing but disagree with my choices, like last week when I wanted build that monument-?

 ?To be fair Mayor, that was a very stupid idea.?

?No one asked you Brice; Sally, get that coffee!?

?Mayor,? she sobbed, ?the coffee maker broke last week.?

?Go to Janus then or something! It?s right up the street, stop dragging your feet, you could have been there and back by now, and take your book too, I don?t want that in my sight either. Now the rest of you, out! I will deal with the incompetence of your various businesses another day, I am a busy man, get out.?




?You?re cute when you?re not talking?
?You?re nice when you?re not talking


        Summer months at Janus Coffee were unbearable. The chronically irate came to enjoy consequence-free screaming, directed mostly at yours truly, and also (but not limited to) the other patrons and their children. The cripplingly self conscious came to enjoy the variety of fat-free milk substitutes. They were not deterred by the price, or the printed warnings required on all cups.  The Sugar-syrup, patent pending. our cheap and unhealthy alternative to cane sugar, had been cooked up by the boss?s college roommate, a chemistry minor who happened to be visiting. The customers loved it. In the summer they brought their kids, boys with spiked hair and full-contact football gear, girls with an average of 5.7 dolls, and babies in double strollers.

        It was morning, crowded, and I was being glared at. I was holding the cash register in one hand and frothing 0 cal milk in the other. The counter, where the register should have been, was taken up by an especially gruesome crocodile skin handbag. Its owner glowering as I prepared her chocolate delight - a special with extra whip, synthetic espresso, double lowfat chocolate drizzle, and six pumps of coffee flavored sugar-syrup. She paid with a 100, folded her arms as I made change, and then counted it herself, twice. 76 dollars in, her son made a grab for the cup, she smacked his hand away. ?Down Regan!? She barked, holding the cup aloft, ?You know what happens to little boys who mess with mommy?s coffee.? She snatched up her croc skin bag and stalked out the door, twisting the boy?s arm behind his back so he couldn?t grab at her drink, he was crying.

        The line moved forward. A young lady with brown hair and a tearstreaked face ordered a coffee to go, fifth time this week. She counted out change for the destress decaf and left.

Allie was working with me today. She complained constantly. Today her sufferings included: A broken air conditioner, a slash in her allowance, no good sales at her favorite stores for back to school shopping, and the transformation of her third bedroom into a guest room. The customers loved her. Plastic faces were stretched into pouty frowns nodding empathetically. They all got discounts, she was stuck behind the counter, miserable and with me. We had long since given up trying to find common ground.

        There were moments, brief and wonderful, when the store was empty. No screaming. No kids. Just the hum of the machines, Allie?s dejected breathing and the distant sounds of our boss, Mr. Dwellberry, yelling into his phone receiver. ?Guess what?? It was Allie. Not waiting for a reply she plowed on. ?I was up crying all last night, all last night, can you believe it? I might not fit into my new bathing suit, how will I live??  

        ?They must have other sizes.? ?Me? move up a size?? We were interrupted by customers, a woman and her daughter. Both with grapefruit-esque heads, wispy blond hair and shallow-water eyes. They both ordered the Caramel Sweetheart - thick layers of caramel and chocolate that sat at the bottom of the cup with coffee and whip on top, with drizzle and extra whip options.

        ?I can?t move up a size!? The air smelled of harsh disinfectant, old mops, the door swung shut behind the grapefruit-girls. ?Maybe you could go on a diet.? ?You think I need to diet?? Another woman came in.


? ?Nellie you look good today?

? ?Thanks?

? ?Do you? Notice anything different about me??

? ?Not that I can see?

? ?Maybe my hair??
? ?Is it your hair??

? ?Yea! I cut it, do you like it??

? ?It?s ok?

? ?Nellie you look really great today?

? ?Thanks?

Poor Nellie, I almost feel bad for her you know, being so taken with me and everything. The other day I heard her saying something to someone about how hard it is coming into work and everything. I mean I know she liked me but really wow. Don?t think I was listening in or anything also, I just happened to be in the street, passing you know, when I saw Nellie and her friend walk by. Of course I didn?t want to make that big a deal out of it, you know girls, get anxious and nervous around a guy like me. I had my new cologne on and everything too, poor Nellie looked like she almost had a heart attack when she saw me, can?t blame her, I did look dashing that day and her hair was so not combed one bit. I just casually said hi to her, and told her straight up that despite the fact that her hair looked like a rats nest and her clothes were plain, that she still looked solidly above average. My, after that how could she resist me. Did I mention I had my new cologne on?


Dr. Striffle scribbled a note on his clipboard: water hydrangeas tonight.

Mrs. Sally Shem looked up from the couch, ?What?s that doctor?? ?Oh nothing Sally, just notes on your worsening condition, I am, as you can imagine, very concerned. Have you tried to speak to the Mayor about how you feel?? ?The Mayor? No. He won?t listen to anything I say.? ?Mhm.? He kept scribbling: buy parm aged 12 months.

?Doctor, please, what can I do??

?Sally, what can any of us really do, you know what I mean? ?

?What do you mean Doctor??

The Doctor paused to regard Sally before writing another note: take some time off work

?What I mean Sally is that I have recently converted to a belief in emotional predestination.?

?Emotional predestination??

The doctor wrote for a full minute.

I was taught to have patients write down what they want most in the world and develop a plan to help them reach it (if of course that wish was healthy) what do I do if my wish is to never have to see another one of these patients? Also I should get some new bowties if I am going on a vacation soon.

?Yes yes Sally, emotional predestination is a little complicated but I will summarize for you. Basically it means that some of us are just destined to be unhappy, and when you can accept that, you can become well, perhaps not happy but, aware, and I do think there is a certain peace that comes with realizing that happiness - what you have been pursuing, is impossible. Think of all the damage that is done by struggling against this fated unhappiness. The prescriptions, the costs, the endless hours laying on a couch and crying your eyes out because you want something that you can never have.?

Dr. Striffle finished his speech and made one final note: I need to move out of town.

?Well Sally I think we made some good progress today but our time is up.?

?But doctor it's only been five minutes.?


Cassian Spresso realized, as he burned his hand on the espresso machine, again, that he hated his job. Summer months at Janus coffee were unbearable enough, customers like sweating wheels of cheese, and now this new girl, who he had supposed to have been training, had seen him burn his hand, which was thoroughly uncool and unprofessional.

His finger stung. He had told Anita, the new girl, that he was fine, but it stung, despite being bound with two band-aids. And as his finger pulsed with pain and he tried to tell Anita exactly how to pour and froth the milk he began to notice all the little.

the cripplingly self conscious came to enjoy the variety of fat-free milk substitutes. They were not deterred by the price, or the printed warnings required on all cups.  The Sugar-syrup, patent pending. our cheap and unhealthy alternative to cane sugar, had been cooked up by the boss?s college roommate, a chemistry minor who happened to be visiting. The customers loved it. In the summer they brought their kids, boys with spiked hair and full-contact football gear, girls with an average of 5.7 dolls, and babies in double strollers.

        It was morning, crowded, and I was being glared at. I was holding the cash register in one hand and frothing 0 cal milk in the other. The counter, where the register should have been, was taken up by an especially gruesome crocodile skin handbag. Its owner glowering as I prepared her chocolate delight - a special with extra whip, synthetic espresso, double lowfat chocolate drizzle, and six pumps of coffee flavored sugar-syrup. She paid with a 100, folded her arms as I made change, and then counted it herself, twice. 76 dollars in, her son made a grab for the cup, she smacked his hand away. ?Down Regan!? She barked, holding the cup aloft, ?You know what happens to little boys who mess up the whipped cream.? She snatched up her croc skin bag and stalked out the door, twisting the boy?s arm behind his back so he couldn?t grab at her drink, he was crying.

        The line moved forward. A young lady with brown hair and a tearstreaked face ordered a coffee to go, fifth time this week. She counted out change for the destress decaf and left.

Allie was working with me today. She complained constantly. Today her sufferings included: A broken air conditioner, a slash in her allowance, no good sales at her favorite stores for back to school shopping, and the transformation of her third bedroom into a guest room. The customers loved her. Plastic faces were stretched into pouty frowns nodding empathetically. They all got discounts, she was stuck behind the counter, miserable and with me. We had long since given up trying to find common ground.

        There were moments, brief and wonderful, when the store was empty. No screaming. No kids. Just the hum of the machines, Allie?s dejected breathing and the distant sounds of our boss, Mr. Dwellberry, yelling into his phone receiver. ?Guess what?? It was Allie. Not waiting for a reply she plowed on. ?I was up crying all last night, all last night, can you believe it? I might not fit into my new bathing suit, how will I live??  

        ?They must have other sizes.? ?Me? move up a size?? We were interrupted by customers, a woman and her daughter. Both with grapefruit-esque heads, wispy blond hair and shallow-water eyes. They both ordered the Caramel Sweetheart - thick layers of caramel and chocolate that sat at the bottom of the cup with coffee and whip on top, with drizzle and extra whip options.

        ?I can?t move up a size!? The air smelled of harsh disinfectant, old mops, the door swung shut behind the grapefruit-girls. ?Maybe you could go on a diet.? ?You think I need to diet?? Another woman came in.


A bonfire was burning down. Everyone was slumped, fermenting. Some had crashed on driftwood, others across a shipping pallet, more had their feet in the surf. They were, the ones that could, listening. The speaker had spiked hair that threw daggers in the firelight. He slurred his words, his voice rose and fell, like the surf.

Dune Story

        The ?stronomers say stars are those big flaming things way up there. Stars are holes. They don?t want you to know this but stars are holes. Our world is inside the stomach of a snail. We have holes. Maybe we weren't supposed to last this long or somthin?. The sky- shell I mean, is cracking, We need to patch it up. They?ve known this for years, the ?stronomers, bout the holes. We- I mean they- have tried to patch it up. Coal burning. Emissions. All that fossile stuff. We dig up minerals and burn em, isn't that crazy? The shell needs minerals. Healthy diet, you know. There is something out there, beyond the holes. Light I think. We have to patch it up. It?s not working. Look.

The ones that could looked up, and they saw.

It wasn't working.


        It was probably for the best that the lights were dim. Cars whizzed by outside, their lights moving along the bottom of the fake bamboo shade, and then disappearing. Lamps hung above the tables, old and orange, an oily light. Cassian stabbed around for another piece of chicken, got mushrooms instead, and spit it silently onto the carpeted floor.

His father was across the table, coughing, again; must have bitten into another pepper then. There was his mother, trying to use chopsticks to pick up a piece of rice, to no success. And there was his brother, who had finished eating and was not staring up, into the lamps.

The busboy was coming back. Even in the dim light you could always tell when he was coming, He knocked into chairs, dropped silverware, spilled the watery wanton soup all over a neighboring table, and was so tall, that he smacked his forehead on lamps as he passed by. He also had dandruff. Drifts of the stuff, collecting around his ears like snow after the town plow has come through. The busboy placed two glasses of water in front of Cassian?s father. He smiled and shambled off.

?Honey, any chance you brought a strainer?? Father whispered to Mother.
        ?Whatever for dear??

?It?s just- my water has well, dandruff in it.?
        ?Oh be quiet, he might hear you! The poor boy.?

The busboy reappeared,he was carrying two more glasses of water. He set them both down on the table with a craggy grin.

?Thanks very much.? Said Cassian?s father with a smile and a nod upwards.

The boy slumped off to the kitchen.

?The poor boy might be damaged darling.?

?Alright alright, where are the fortune cookies??


1

Intro

 STARTS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT, OR AT THE END?

Supermarket Orientation Films (CarthMart)

        Mickey et al go through the 6 hours of orientation films, he talks economics, also cutting off the hair of his coworkers and selling it. Mickey is a little jagged, a creepy attraction for Anne, strong willed but very bright

Janus Coffee Intro, Joe + Allie

        Joe recounts another terrible day on the job as a barista. He seems annoyed by his shallow co-worker Allie and a little bit adrift in life over the summer. Allie tells him about the party she is attending that night, and invites him.

Bookstore Intro

        Nellie, a sweet strawberry, with orange hair and freckles, has become the love interest of an unnamed character who is narcissistic and a little annoying while hitting on Nellie without reserve. Mostly internal and external dialogue.

Dr. Striffle Meets with Sally Shem

        Dr, Striffle, a useless phyciatrist has Sally on the couch and is ?talking? to her about her emotional troubles with Her new post as the Mayor?s assistant, while at the same time planning his vacation.

Red Herring  Daily

JUST MENTIONED IN PASSING - IN THE TUNNEL IT MIGHT POP UP

Gorgon Donuts

CHANGED TO WHERE THEY REMAIN IN THE BACKROUND AS COMPETION FOR JANUS - A PLACE THAT THE POLICE GO

Police intro, Isaac, Ishmael and Remington the cockatiel

        At the office getting calls, they put the bird on the phone. Eating gorgon donuts. They debate on where they should go fishing.

Mr. Dwellberry Intro

        Dwellberry is in an alley, dressed in a fake glass-nose-mustache combo and his stolen admiral's coat. He is waiting for an illegal trade of smuggled victorian spoons to collect.

Chem minor intro

        Sitting on a bench on a cliff reading ?Carthage? He has reached the tunnels. The police (isaac +ishmael) walk by with remington and he books it out of there.


2

Mayor?s terrible morning

        Stump tries to cut down his japanese maple, Sally troubles, budget, spills grape juice

Carthage times

        Incredibly dry statistics about the town and surounding area, something at the end about snails

Joe and Allie party

        Description of party on the dunes -> mother goes to bed -> snail shell

First night at the supermarket

        Little bit on each character, their job etc, personalities start to develop

Another Nellie and bookstore day

        More creepy hit-on-Nellie stuff, book cataloging

Dr. Striffle meets with the mayor

        Mayor complains about sally and Jones Bright, Dr. Striffle writes more plans about his vacation

Donut delivery to the police station

        Mark and Maddie go to the police station to deliver donuts and obsess over how amazing the police are

Police go fishing

        Isaac ishmael and Remington are fishing by a local lake, all the trees have been cut down and dragged away

Mr. Dwellberry?s letter about spoons

        From his contact about the heat and the ongoing struggle to liberate the ?relics? of the past

Chem minor goes to Janus to get a ?Monarch?

        Meets joe, of course he doesnt have monarch but this raises joes curiosity about monarch coffee

3

Mayor?s new sewer deal with MERC DRAINAGE

Sally tries to get them to spend a reasonable amount but the mayor overpays on very vauage terms

RHP

Oswald garfiled and his proaganda, mayor juice sighting

Allie and joe go spying on Gorgon Donuts

        Looking for health code violations to report on their rival coffee store they eat a lunch together (which joe has to pay for)

Breakroom and Carthmart

The various legends and mythos of a small town department store, indian burial ground etc

Goes to Nellie?s house with flowers

        It is awful and awkward

Dr. Striffle going to florida

        Disney world to be exact, having a great time, referneces to physcology

Gorgon Donuts spy on Janus

Mark and Maddie come to the idea that janus is linked to the mayor because he always sends sally there for coffee, they investigate as part of their coup plot

Isaac and Ishmeal are rock concert security        

Closest city, Malbrook, they and remmington are enlisted to keep crazy fans off of the underground metal band?s stange.

Marriage counsoling with Dwellberry

He and his wife, manager of IKEA at Malbrook, talk about differnt styles of interior deisgn and antiques among other things.

Chem minor at the old observatory

In the nearby mountains the chem minor is hiding out, cool hideout

4

Mayor meeting #2

Yells at Sally and the Stumps some more, wants to know where the timber has gone, a point which sally raised as an attempt to earn back some money and fix the town, turns out the town is in debt

Carthage Times

?A departure from our normal style, but we wish to talk about the current events plauging Carthage??

Joe helps Allie with Summer hw

Its easy for him, hard for her, she promises to take him shopping, says she has a plan for outfitting him. ?You?re not ugly? ?Thank you? ?You just need, an outfit, something that isnt a plain t shirt and jeans? ?I like my clothes though? ?Just give my idea a chance?

9th night at Carthmart

Hints that something a little stranger is going on, Mickey and Edmund work on financing an order of swordfish, the girls talk about how school is approaching and mention Maddie, Nellie, Allie, et alia

Asking Nellie out

        She leaves work early

Dr. Striffle is picking up the ladies

Starts wild driving in the early hours of the morning at really awkwardly hitting on women. Dr. Striffle was speeding down a smeary street at 2:31 AM. He did not know why he was, he guessed it was a biological stimulus and had something to do with the very attractice lady who was sitting in the passanger seat of his 98 toyata and was kindly not paying attention to the collection of phycology textsbooks in the backseat.

Mark and Maddie go to police day

        Both as always obsess about police and plan to overthrow mayor

Isaac and Ishmeal are watching cooking shows together

        With remmington, talk about wives and other stuff

Dwellberry interviews joe

        For his job at Janus


Four hours into his CarthMart orientation, Martin Kidd realized he was drifting off to sleep. which consisted of a series of movies. Cheesy little skits of careless employees slipping on cans of juice concentrate or falling asleep in the fish freezers. They were black and white. The sound fizzled and popped, bacon-like.

 Anne?s hair was blond, but grey in the light from the television. She looked like one of those girls with loopy handwriting, and color coordinated notes, who dots i?s with donuts and is an absolute idiot, empty-headed, moron, whatever. Are blondes dumb? Mickey didn't know.

Susan Lenard was sitting next to Anne, Her hair was stringy and brown. Edmund, was left-forward, 11 o'clock in WWII plane-speak. Edmund had short black hair and serious eyes. Mickey had almost decided which of them he liked the least when the Television caught his attention.

On screen, the action was heating up, a rotisserie chicken had caught fire inside one of the turning ovens, and two workers flailed, trying to extinguish by ineffectively jabbing with wet mops. The mops caught fire too. Across the store, the fridge doors had all broken open. Milks and juices rained and splattered in squelching splats leaving roshak blots of milky juice. Two more workers, one of which looked a lot like Anne, were trying to control the flood by building a dam out of discount loaves, the isle happening to be directly to the right. The fish in the fish freezers had come alive, as they had been warned might happen in film #5 (strange and improbable, yet possible disasters for new employees). Swordfish had speared three workers, bodies and blood were on the floor, four more workers fought to restrain the rouge swordfish, bludgeoning them with bags of CORMAC ice.  

        The sound popped like kernels in a microwave, cheap ice effects had been added just a second too late. A burly boy was standing over the biggest of the swordfish, which the workers referred to as the ?swordfish king? and was smacking it repeatedly with an iced cod, the swordfish thrashed and stabbed him in the leg, bringing him to his knees, he crumpled still lashing the king swordfish for all he was worth. Each time he was pulling up the cod to deal another crushing blow, a cheap clapping sound had been added. It ruined the moment. Maybe Anne would be impressed if he beat up a swordfish. Probably not, she looked like the type who wants flowers, flowers were expensive.

The screen went to black, and the credits rolled. Edmund yawned and rubbed his eyes. A heavy girl with reddish hair dashed forward and stuck another VCR into the television. It was one of those fat televisions, similar to the girl who had just put the VCR in, mickey thought to himself. One of those televisions which sits on a platform, which has wheels and a tape player. The kind that used to be in schools, and now rusts away in nursing homes, where anything from the last century was a breakthrough, and would probably be a rediscovered breakthrough every day. Poor things.

The TV fizzled and snowed and a new movie began.

The title came up, ?Basement? and then faded to black. The fat-television girl was picking her nose It stayed black. There was no sound. They all sat there, Mickey, Anne, Edmund and Susan, watching the black screen, waiting. Even Anne was awake now. One minute passed, then two. The screen stayed black. He could almost hear something.. On the edge of of that hissing, spitting, popping sound from old movies, was it a voice? Or voices? He strained to hear it, staring into the impenetrable blackness of the old glass television screen. And then, a speck of white, dead center. And then the Television shut off.


Cassian spent the morning trying to rouse himself from the couch, where he had slept. His parents used the living room as a type of warehouse for the books they had published. Over the years the books had piled up, rising to the ceiling, all around the couch. Cassian had taken to sleeping there. Every morning when he woke, he could see his parents, on the spines of books, smiling down at him.

The apartment was silent. Cassian sat on a stool eating from a can of Mandarin oranges and letting his shoes dangle from his toes. The blank month of June was on the fridge, inside of which, between condiments and a few limp vegetables, he knew were his mother?s chinese missionary biographies.

He tossed the empty can into the sink where it made a hollow-metal sound with the can from last night. He put on his shoes, and wrote a quick note to his mother, using pen and a stray napkin.  So that in the unlikely event that she came home, she would know where her son had gone. The notes were starting to pile up.


The train is packed today. Conductors click past with gold-leaf buttons, businessmen nod off in seats or stare out windows with mismanaged eyes. Next to me is a young man, early-twenties, with a box of crayons. Next to him, in conversation with him, is a man who drinks a strawberry seltzer in exaggerated gulps, and wears a pink bowtie, who stares past the crayon-man, at me, and winks.

?Everyone asks about the crayons, It's really kind of funny. It all started when I took a gap year to really find myself you know??

Bowtie nods.

?I worked all these crazy part times to pay the bills, there was this one I?ll never forget, the only one actually.?

?Yes?? and sips seltzer.

?It was in a pencil factory, I had the unfortunate job of sitting at the end of a conveyor belt and sharpening all the pencils.?

?Don?t they have a machine for that??

?Of course not, computers don?t feel, how could they understand the joy of a perfectly sharpened pencil, the balance between too-dull and breaking-point-sharp.?

?So why the crayons?? Says strawberry seltzer.

?Well it?s funny, after six months of sitting at the end of this conveyor belt and sharpening pencils, literally having them rain on me as they flew off the end of the conveyor belt, I was through, I swore to myself I would boycott them, I told myself I would never use a pencil again, so here I am, in college, using crayons.?

?...?

A fizzing sound, another seltzer being opened, and I can?t stop myself from speaking.

?Which college? You mentioned one I thought I heard- not that I was listening just- couldn?t help it, human condition, you know, perception of, well nevermind.?

They stare, eyebrows far into enemy territory, approaching the scalp.

?What?d he say?? Says the collegian with the crayons.

?I think he asked where you go to college.? Says bowtie.

?Hey kid, I go to Royal College, you know, In Steelford.?

They pause. My heart races, the train floor shifts beneath me. I think of sailors developing sea legs and wonder if conductors develop train legs.

?Kid??
        ?Oh, sorry yes, I do know Royal. I was going there now actually.?

?Oh really? I thought you would never have heard of it. Small school isn't it, but I like it that way. They have no problem with the crayons either. My psych teacher says that emotional traumas are big deals, she even banned pencils in every one of her classes. Why were you going there anyway? Thinking of applying? They have an amazing ecology program.?

Blood is in my ears now and when I reply, it?s to the box of crayons in his lap, I notice it?s a pack of 64, which features the elusive gold and silver crayons.
        ?No, I mean yes, I mean I am going to see my mother, she works there, my dad too, he works there too.?


        ?Joe, who are you?

        ?Uh you?ve known me for awhile now.?

        ?No but, who are you??

        ?We?ve been together- ok not like that- but we?ve been in here, whereever here is for a long time, you know me.?

        ?Yes but, when setting is in, how would you say it, flux? And the only thing that remains constant is character, can you have character??
        ?Of course, you know I?ll always be Joe no matter if Im in a coffee shop or a dark cave.?

        ?But what if its not so simple as all that, what if they arent as seperable.?
        ?I dont quite follow what you mean?

        ?What if you, joe, were only a cynical snarky barista because of Janus, what if Janus coffee and the customers that you hated, what if that defined your personality.?

        ?So are you saying that, I have no personaliy??

        ?Its not like that just- can we have personality in the dark??

        ?Im sure you can.?
        ?I wish I could see you.?

        ?Me too.?