the idiot’s guide to morons by Tony Rauch

the idiot’s guide to morons

(dave granger is in grave danger)

Tony Rauch

dave-o and me at work

me and dave granger work in the back of the bottling plant on the east side. it’s a really nice job—everyone leaves us alone, the work isn’t too bad—and best of all, we can drink all we want, and walk out with an armload under our jackets whenever we please. it’s a sweet gig


now if you ever actually met me, you’d probably not peg me as a loser right off because I dress well—I don’t sport expensive or elaborate clothing (I wouldn’t be able to afford brand-new or fancy tailored duds), I get my clothes second hand at vintage and charity clothing places, and I can assure you I dress with a crisp taste and style—optimistic, with an assured authority—beyond that I’m probably a loser (and probably dave too) because nothing ever seems to work in my favor, I don’t try real hard, because why even bother, I take my own sweet time, because where is there to be, I don’t need any of that fancy big city talk, because why be impressed by any of that phony crap, and sure we ain’t got nothing to do, I’m not clever enough to figure it all out, my friends are probably losers too, of course they’re morons and I’m tired of them and they’re tired of me, but at least I ain’t got nothin’ ta lose—now, pass the bottle opener an’ get back ta work


yeah, you probably wouldn’t dig me, but at least I got style, an’ that’s worth a lot —it ain’t something you can just buy or learn, it’s innate, and davey-boy and the others have a style and knowledge all their own too—it wasn’t bought out of a catalog or preformulated on a tv show


so, let’s ogle us some women

so we end up at the bowling alley with dave’s cousins, and for some reason we’re all being kind of defensive in that we’re just hanging out way at the end and just staying away from people in general because they’re always hasslin’ us for no good reason, an’ at the moment we just ain’t in the mood, but dave, oh davey boy, he’s constantly trying to talk to these gals a few lanes over, but they’re not interested and keep shooting him down, but he’s persistent—like those smooth guys on television, but after a while they just end up ignoring him completely, so he starts in on another group of gallies and they just end up yelling at him, and eventually it gets to the point where me and his cousins are laughing our asses off as it slips into this pathetic, absurd routine—I mean here dave’s got like a 220 game hanging and he just keeps drifting off to talk to some gals, only not one of ‘em is really interested so he always ends up back here with us at his turn because who wants to hold up the game?

oh, and he’s wearing a white t-shirt that he has written on in big, crude letters: “free hugs”

good plan

we just sit and watch, talking about the ball game on up in the corner behind us and about work and fishing in the link between the reservoir and the lake at the park, and trying to get dave-o to idle down a few notches, but then after a while of watching dave-o it starts to get fascinating, like what’s the point? what’s the point of even trying?


but you know, as it gets towards the end, we’re almost rooting for him, he actually seems like he’s getting close to getting a phone number or something a couple of times here, and all that tragic bowling alley rejection and late night failure just doesn’t seem to faze him, I mean it gets to the end of the evening here and we just can’t believe it—like he’s worked his ass off all week just to end up here—I mean it’s so brutal watching it all unfold after a while, him making the rounds, working the room, heaps of rejection piled on him, like what’s the point even? and I mean all night long—like four hours worth, an ample portion—here he’s being a gentleman—calm and polite all night, but just getting nowhere, and we’re all just laughin’ at ‘im and suggesting he just stick with us for a while and not bother people as maybe it‘s just not his night, and after a while we even stop apologizing to people for him, but you know, it’s Friday night and he’s just so keyed up an’ all, like he’s been waiting to get out all week, and he just shrugs: “how do you think people meet?” which is a valid stance, I guess, it just doesn’t really seem to be his crowd in here tonight, that’s all—if you know what I mean, I mean he isn’t in the flow or hittin’ smooth or ridin’ that mysterious current of night or rockin’ the boogie, so why bother, ya know? but he still keeps on keepin’ on, approaching the unapproachable—strange girls, exotic bowling alley women, dark shadowy ladies—and keeps getting turned away, and you know, when we’re leaving, re-submerging into that back alley existence of ours, the only place in this world that will leave us be, returning to that oily, oil-stained shadowland, I open my mouth and say something really profound like, “nice job, dorkus,” and just as we step from the blinding white void of bowling alley, plunging into that waterfall of night, dave looks over to me and goes, “oh yeah, well at least I talked to some girls tonight, some actual girls—I mean, what did you do? you just sat there,” to which I reply, “but you didn’t even talk to any of them, they didn’t want to talk to you, they didn’t even bother with you, they dismissed you outright, they didn’t want anything to do with you, smoothie, they all told you to basically get lost, ‘you’re bothering us, we want to be left alone,’ even in that polite nice girl way of theirs of letting you know that they’re busy,” and dave shrugs, and just goes, “well, I talked to ‘em,” and I mean, the pride in his voice suddenly becomes the only thing in that cavernous darkness, that feeling of accomplishment, that he actually did something, tried something, that it startles me, to the point that I am actually taken aback for a moment, like all night I’m thinkin’ this guy just doesn’t have it, that he’s a real no-talent loser, a lifeless anemic washout, I mean, maybe dave-o is right, at least he talked to some girls, at least he tried, “I mean, what happens in the future?” he counters, continuing, “if I ever run into any of ‘em? Now I have an opening, I can say ‘hey, remember when we met bowling? remember when we talked, but you were kinda busy with your friends….’ I mean, you gotta pretend you’re already friends, convince ‘em they already know you, they trust you, you’re harmless, they’ll have a righteous time with you. I mean, you gotta have an opening, man, an ‘in’—that’s the hardest part, that’s your golden ticket. so I got that to put in my back pocket and carry around with me for the rest of my life—all those openings, all those golden tickets…” and just then a big ol’ sedan rumbles past in the dust and darkness of the alley, and some big guys chuck beer bottles at us and we have to duck and scatter until that unmistakable clunk, clunk, clunk of empty beer bottles slamming projectile-like into dumpsters and brick walls and the asphalt and brick of the alley floor, and then that one unmistakable, hollow clunk of empty beer bottle against noggin rings out in the dark night and we hear dave drop with a wet thump against the hard ground to splay out on the cracked and oil-stained pavement and we run over and feel him there in the darkness, even though it’s too dark to see as he rolls around holding his throbbing noggin and moaning, so I rush up and to make him feel better I just stand above him as he rolls back and forth mumbling and moaning and holding his noodle and I just say, “man, yer mom’s an ugly whore” and just as I figure, dave pops to his feet and springs after me, lunging in the darkness—I spin away and he gives chase and we’re running and running like invisible winds in the oily darkness and I hear him behind me, huffing, gaining, groaning, gasping, so I stagger up to a spot where I know a telephone pole is (I grew up in these alleys, playing kickball and hide and seek while waiting for mom to return from the bar, while hiding from the rich kids who would tease me, while trying to escape that closet of an apartment me and mom had to share) and just as he gets to me I spin away and he slams smack into the side of the pole with a slapping wet thwap in the dark gritty night and we all just break up like it’s the funniest thing we’ve seen in hours, as dave-o staggers about then drops in the dust, so I hustle over as he sort of groans and moves real slow, trying to get up, so I unzip, ready to cut a whiz all over him, and that really gets him going, lunging at me, trying to drag me down, so I start in again with the whole “ya didn’t talk to ’em,” and he’s all “but I did,” and I’m nothing but “what did you even talk about? huh? what a pest you’re being?…that’s not even close to a proper conversation, not even in the same neighborhood,” which sends him lunging after me, which I expected, so I spin away at the last split second and dave-o whaps into that same back-alley telephone pole again


and what do you know, the guy doesn’t even go down this time, he just sort of sidesteps and staggers a few feet in a circle and then starts in on me, “so I talked to some girls tonight and you didn’t, you’re just jealous and resentful,” and I reply with “but you didn’t talk to them—they didn’t even want to talk to you—sitting down and having a beer and some actual in-depth conversation is what ‘talking to girls’ is all about,” so he counters with, “yeah, well what if one of ‘em ended up talking to me? huh? one of ’em might’ve—an’ maybe I’d get her number and we could go out? maybe have a nice, gentle time of it, nothing like the rattling and heat at work, huh? how do I know which one would talk to me or not? I don’t know one from the other, I don’t know which one, so I guess I have to talk to ‘em all to find out, huh? what then? what if one of ‘em is nice, maybe even starts ta like me? huh? what then genius? how will I know which ones to talk to or not unless I approach them?” “but you were bothering them—bothering them— man, take it from me—girls don’t like to be bothered,” “so I need to make a few subtle adjustments in my delivery, that’s all, just some minor refinements, then you’ll see, eventually if I keep tryin’, eventually it just might happen, I might just hit smooth, you’ll see, an’ where will you be during all this? huh? sittin’ over there off to the side, partially in the darkness like always, while I’ll be in the glorious glowing brightness of some gal‘s bright smile to light my way…I mean, when you sit back and watch, sometimes life just doesn’t happen the way you’d expect—this way, at least maybe I might have a little hand in my own destiny—yeah, eventually the odds are in my favor—eventually it’s bound to happen for me, I’ll improve, I can feel it out there stirring in that darkness, in the emptiness, in the weeds, in the garbage, in the gusts, out beyond that great beyond, just waiting for me to find it in that stew…that’s what I figure…with enough practice, eventually I’m bound to get good at talkin’ to girls, experimenting and probing until I find out just what they like, you’ll see…I mean, what other options do I have? and most importantly, what if…what if one day one of ‘em actually says yes? what then? huh? how ‘bout that?”


(I have to admit, it almost makes sense—all that hoping, but then love always made me behave stupidly, so I wonder what the hope for love could do to someone like dave—someone who’s always in love with the thought of being in love, I mean, how would that make a person feel and behave? that always chasing after something elusive, that always expecting things to happen, that always grasping at the wind and passing fog, that always hoping, I mean, if you had that weighing on you all the time, if you were infected with those feelings, if you were always relegated to the sidelines, if you were always left there waiting, if you were a loser, wouldn’t you want to do something about it eventually too? wouldn‘t you end up trying just about anything and everything to relieve yourself of those feelings?…and I tell you, I’m not jealous of him, I’m just tired, I just didn’t want to get kicked out of that bowling alley again—it’s one of the few places to go around here, a place you can go when you have no other place to go—in fact, I think I might actually admire his courage, the fact that he can still keep hoping. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there was no secret, that all the women were different, that there was no single key to it all, no magic word that worked to open it all up)


amidst the hootings and yee-haws

I remember telling dave in that bowling palace, amidst the revelry, hootings, and yee-haws of the people beyond us, that I wasn’t up for it just then—that whole “approaching-strange-girls” thing—it was all just too much work. I guess I’m just burnt out on all that, and I didn’t see the point in wasting the energy, letting your hopes get up only to be disappointed—but what I didn’t tell him is that, in reality, I am merely a brute wandering a fragile world and bumping into things in the most inelegant of manners—that any girl I would happen upon would be too fragile for me and that I would surely soon soil or crush whatever desperate, single chance I would ever even hope to have with her in the first place with whatever clumsy, awkward words I could somehow come up with, and that yes, even though I am an accidental brute, trapped in a fragile world, I really don’t mind it all that much anymore, I mean, you are who you are after a while, an’ besides, I have a nice piece of chocolate cake and a new copy of “the best of mountain” waiting for me at home—it’s just the uselessness of words and feelings that gets to me sometimes—the fact that they were meant for other people and not for me—that’s the sad, frustrating part—that words get crushed when they finally fumble around and escape from my mouth—meanings become distorted, stretched, mangled, crumpled, and how too much always comes out all at once, as if everything inside, everything I’ve ever seen or heard, everything I’ve ever wanted to express or share with someone else all wants to come out all at once, that it all wants to escape from me if only given the chance


a mountain of wind holding us back

(then something caught my eye—just a flash in the window of a car turning a corner up ahead—just a blink of a girl I used to know back when things were easier, back when I was somebody, back when I had it all, all the comfort and security of another, back when I had all the answers, now faded to old questions, rusted in place, back when I had her, when I had something permanent, something to look forward to, back when I had her, when I knew everything, when everything came together and fell into place, when everything was so much smoother and more dependable, before it all disappeared around unseen corners, from a life so condensed, so concentrated into a bright focus—and now I’m burned out, waiting for someone or something to re-ignite me, other blurry lights in the unfocused distance now burning brighter and bigger than me, as girls pass invisibly at a rate I can’t seem to catch up to, passing on winds of sharp flashes and quick glimpses of what I once had, all I could’ve been, reduced now to only quick sparks that flash out before I can even realize what was there—until all that is left is just me, standing alone in an alley in the darkness with the other randomly displaced—scattered, and unseen. just a flash, as always: a girl I used to know, trapped in a car turning a corner, then obscured by huge unmovable objects—sagging buildings and old darkness and time)


a flash of a girl in a rush of dark colors from a speeding car—a girl I used to know until she just disappeared one day in a rushing blur and now that’s all I know of her, just those brief glimpses, just that smear of blur and sparks and flashes of winds. and in thinking of her it just gets me in such a foul mood, remembering all I could’ve had, all I’ve been missing out on—and as I think and stew on this, I just start calmly informing the gray blobs of strangers who pass in the night, “man, yer mom’s an ugly whore,” shaking my head in shame and looking down in pity for added effect and really laying it on with a granite-like indifference to the point that every once in a while one of ‘em really becomes offended and tries to chase me, but luckily one of my fellow advocates usually sticks his foot out and sends them into the hard dusty ground which generally cools them out awhile as I continue to refer to people as “ugly whores” for no real reason other than it’s just a sad thing to have your life reduced to flashes of colors that dissipate and shrink so fast you can’t even take a step to try an’ catch up


that and the fact that it’s getting late and I guess I just want to get them thinking on another plane, whether they are in fact ugly, or whores, or either, or both, but hey, they want to fight, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is we all have to fight something I guess, I know that, at least, and I guess I’ve figured out a couple of other things along the way here too, more things than I’d care to admit—like beauty comes from need, and that life springs from emotion, raw feelings, and I also think I know God in a way I hope you never will—the taking God—the taking taking taking and leaving only empty, windy, dirty, expanses of nothing as far as the eye can see, and in thinking of this and that brief blur that reminds me of what we had, what we could’ve been so that for the rest of the night everything else seems so spoiled and rotten and left behind like an ugly whore—a dark windy humaneless void that I want to lash out at and tear into for making me feel so lousy and empty and forgotten—that time has slowed down for me and I miss the blur of it all, the rush of belonging to that swirl, of not always having to sit and wait from the sidelines, waiting my entire life, of not participating, of not rushing with the current, but always watching from a distance, from a dark, dirty corner, of always waiting


and then I see at the end of the alley, bobbing in that little puddle of streetlight at the tip of that barrel of darkness, the outlet of the Venice-like channels of our back alley world, the outlet to the great mysteries beyond, finally, at the end of it all, there in that speck of light, that flickering end-of-it-allness—is dave being swung around in the air by his collar, so I call out to the others and we all rush down, fighting the heavy wind, to find some big guys from the bowling alley hasslin’ dave-o—and I feel so bad for him now, swinging by the thick meat hooks of some big guy, as if hanging by the fists of time itself, some big shadow raising dave into the night by his best friday night finery, the wind trying its best to hold us back, trying its best to keep us down and out as usual, and as I race up the sandy alley I swipe the lid off a garbage can, and the night is flowing right through me, and I become the night, the darkness, the breeze…and the alleys grow to stretch on before us like strings drained of their color, the alleys stretching on


as we rush up the alley, tommy reaches low for a handful of sand, jimmy scoops up a bottle, haymer removes his belt and begins swinging it ritualistically, as if we’re a machine roaring into action and I see the guy lets dave drop with a thump and by the time we get there the big guys are gone, disappearing like cowards, and dave is on the ground, sitting up, brushing himself off—“what was that all about?” someone behind me asks as we search the blankness for more baddies—“was talkin’ to some of their gals,” dave climbs to his feet and looks around—“their girlfriends?” “no, just some gals who was with ‘em…just some peeps from their crowd…they don’t like no outsiders ‘round here much, not ‘round in these parts none anyway, hey”


they were some guys whose gals dave was tryin’ to get to know—an’ that just really upsets my apple cart—that these guys were hassling’ him just ‘cause he wanted to talk to someone, someone new—just wanted some warm soft company, some fresh new company (as opposed to us tired, boresome losers with apparently nothing better to do than pick away at one another, with nothing better to do than get beat on by life), just because all he wants is someone gentle to talk to, some real nice gal to look deep into his eyes and maybe whisper his name back to him, maybe whisper his name into that deep empty void of night, filling it all with her breath—that’s all, that’s all he wants, all he feels he really needs out of this flat, blank, deflated existence—all he really needs—to be inflated by another’s breath, to breathe life into his day, bring color and a fresh perspective—so it really really really got under my skin and good when I saw him in that faint little pinprick of a spotlight down there, ‘cause it felt like I was sort of looking at myself somehow, that I was the pinprick, the tiny glow in the great expanse


a return to the warm, fuzzy abyss

as we turn back into the night, back into our backwater abyss of narrow back alley sand and inside-out world of stacks of old tires and pallets and dumpsters and used-up appliances in tall grass and nothingness, back into our kingdom of stains, cracks, weeds, banished items and wrung-out yester things, back into our own hidden cocoon, old used-up days faded, rusted, crumpled, frayed, stacked and hidden away, into the place no one ever really knows, back into the in-between space, back into feelings you’ll never admit, feelings someone like you will never know, feelings you hand down to us with your contempt, back into our forgotten back-world sanctuary of warm, comfortable, furry darkness all our own that nobody else wants or even knows about, that no one else can ever attempt to spoil, we all try our best to reassure dave—“they just couldn’t handle your daveness, that’s all—the magnitude of your massive dudeishness, the divine daveitude of your deity, your density, your sheer mass, your velocity—it’s on a totally other plane man, a level they can’t decipher, a frequency so advanced, so beyond them they can’t reach or translate.”—”your coolness needs to be contained in concrete bunkers deep in the desert, like nuclear waste, that’s all, we should pity them their limited viewpoint, their primitive minds, for they cannot foresee your higher-level comprehension, your destiny is beyond their measure, beyond their reach, and they’re just starting to glimpse that—it‘s that simple”—“they’re just intimidated by your beautiful freedom, your lightness, your gravitational pull, your gravity”—“yeah, man, they’re so terrified by your beautiful freedom it triggers a territorial aggression in them, a fear-aggression of the less-evolved, that’s all”—“yeah, man, I pity their plant-life brains, their plankton-like simplicity, the fact they can’t tune in to your various frequencies”—“yeah, they’re just so insecure about you, that’s all—they know people like you reduce them to gossipy gutless cowards—I mean, that’s really all they have when you get down to it—just do the math, distill it down, and that’s all that’s really there—their gossip and desperation, their elbowing people out of the way, their keeping people down, their expecting things to just be handed to them instead of earning things on their own merit—I mean, really, besides being mean to people and being terrified cowards, what’ve they ever done?”—”Yeah man, they can’t reach you, that’s all, can’t find that range to tune in to you, you’re just too far beyond them, more advanced, deeper”—”you are a bright shining prince among enfeebled dung beetles, and I am inspired by your glow, it lights my way through the darkness, through the doubt”


when walking back we pass stacks of garbage, but some of it is not garbage, some just good stuff some people just aren’t using right now—bikes, chairs, filing cabinet, a bench, a desk, a lamp, a set of shelves—man, you wouldn’t believe the stuff people throw away, new stuff, good stuff—it would break your heart—it’s like they just can’t help themselves, just don’t see the goodness, just don’t know any better, just can’t see


and in thinking of this I reconsider a few things, I mean, like sure, I know I’m a loser, and a professional loser at that, with years of experience of nothing working out—dismissed from school, the army, jobs, apartments, groups of friends, girlfriends, potential girlfriends, left behind—why even pretend anymore? does it even matter at this point? but at least I’m not out causing too much trouble—at least I’m not out hurting people, I’m not one of those cowardly creeps pretending to be something I’ll never be, at least I’m not some poser, some fast talker always trying to sell myself, impress people, put others down all the time—I mean I am what I am and I’m content with that and nothing and no one’s going to change that—I found a groove, and people who bring out something no one else could, and in them I find the better parts of myself, so, no, I’m not one of those cowardly creeps clinging to some pathetic worn-out clique or posse handed to them from someone else, at least I can think for myself (at least I want what I have and am not shoving it in people’s faces, at least I know enough to start my own crowd, have my own thoughts—I mean, if you don’t like what’s on television, start your own show, don’t like the stories you’re hearing—start your own stories, don’t like the clubs around you—start your own clubs, not getting invited to the parties—start your own parties)

it’s just the randomness of it all that’s starting to bother me


the darkness is peaceful, it gets me to thinking that I really should stop dave, save him from that sting of rejection that never leaves. he’ll say I’m jealous, but I should see beyond that contention, but then I think on it some more and reconsider—maybe that pain helps the grass grow, propels the clouds, makes them churn and ooze, helps the wind cool you out, activates all the free beauty, inflates it all, fills it all with color, all the ornament, but then maybe there are even more options to consider beyond just those two


a shadow appears in the shadows, we can perceive them because of all our time spent in the shadows, we know one from another, we can separate that which is flat and pressed down, mooshed together, we can inflate the shadows—it’s just some random dude relieving himself, who turns when he perceives our scuffle, our breathing—he is startled, too many against one, “oh, hey, it’s you,” he nods, turning and zipping up as a small grey light in the distance tries to define us, tries to bring us into relief, “it’s you, my man,” he gestures lazily to dave-o, quickly taking note of our measure, “you that smooth operator, my man, yeah, I seen you in there tonight, wish I was smooth like you, could work the room, make all those flash connections, in the mix, getting to know”

“ya gotta get out there, reveal you’re a person of substance,” dave nods as we pass, “you have a good night”

“will do what I can,” the shadow turns to dissipate, mixing into all the other darkness


shadows can be nice, a quiet place no one can bother you, an accomplishment if you can figure out how to blend in, but they can also be a trap, a cage, limiting your progress, and if you can find a way to turn that dichotomy on and off, then you’ve really mastered something
it got me to thinking, the dark figure we just passed could be a version of us from earlier in in our lives, or maybe a possibility of what we will become, but when we were younger, we were going to inflate the world, give it color and depth, but then we got too tired, worked too much, dissipated our energy, and then the world chased us away


it’s the big schweez, man

as we walk back down the alley, through that thin watery darkness, someone in that distant darkness calls out “losers” and “freaks” in our direction, and even though they’re aimed at us from cowards hiding in that darkness, we all just continue on like it’s nothing—we don’t chase after, they’re just words shot at us to try to pierce our comfortable world of silence, to keep us down, elbow us out of the way, hold us in place, try to define us, but we know all that crap is just to try to divert us, waste our time, bog us down, and that’s a big schweez if there ever was one, man—trying to divert someone and bog them down with your insecurities—and man, sometimes it just feels like it’s coming from just about everywhere—every mouth, every advertisement—we know it isn’t true, so why bother with it, yet we also know that, in a sense, it is true—I mean, should we be out there doing more? trying more? sure, we’re hanging out in the inside fold, in the unseen grooves, in the shadows, with nothing to lose, nothing to try for, hiding in an insular, comfortable sameness—I guess we could be visiting the sick and imprisoned, helping the elderly and disadvantaged, cleaning up the park, but I can’t see those situations being any different than anything else out there—those places are also populated with people tryin’ to schweez you at every turn, man—schweez you out of the way and down to nothing, take it all from you, hog it all for themselves, trying to turn you into something you’re not—something they need you to be so they can feel better about their crappy do-nothing lives, or into something they want you to be—a puppet, a pet monkey, a loser, someone without faith or hope, they want to use you to make themselves look better, they want to take it all away from you, leave you with nothing, they want it all for themselves


and you know, I almost recognize that voice, as if that voice were a ghost that knows me, but then all those deep empty night voices think they know me, think they’re better than everyone else, think they know everything, think they know the unknowable, to the point that sometimes I almost feel as if I’m on the other end of those voices, calling out to strangers, to ghosts, as if at one time I were the one hoping to keep people down, trying to keep people in place, trying to label it all, take it all, as if those frozen invisible words are now only an echo from out of my past, sent back for revenge, keeping people from getting to know me, as if I were calling out to myself, trying to keep myself down—it all gets me to thinking—I don’t want to be that person anymore, I don’t want to be that guy, I don’t ever want to hurt anyone else ever again, I’ve seen way too much of that for one lifetime, I’ve seen way too many bad things…me, I just want to be left alone…and that’s another big schweez, man—you can add that one to the list too


even 4 out of 5 idiots know that

am I really a loser? am I really that bad? huh? should I just give up like this? give up trying, just slump down to hide in the safety of the shadows, in the creases? hiding out at home, never going out, never meeting anyone new? am I the only one who’s ever felt this way, is a person really ever useless, is it all about practice, or luck, or just all that there is, all that you get?
or maybe I should just enter that other plane of existence like johnny over there and just pretend I’m somewhere else, or maybe I should just get cookin’—maybe it all just rests on hard work, hard work just for its own sake, just for a challenge, just to see if I can do it, I mean, that must be it, huh? I mean, even four out of five idiots must know at least that much


and I get to looking around sometimes, wondering if other people have better lives than mine, have it easier, wondering why other people are luckier than me? (and not fancy desperate poser cars or insecure artifice, but depth, meaning, knowledge, weight) wondering if I just wanted too much? wondering: did I have a good life? could’ve I tried harder?


let’s ruin the planet for everyone (let’s pave the world with our indifference)

every so often I wonder if I could really blame them for yelling things into the night, what with how tough, uncaring, and indifferent the world can be at times what with all the struggles, frustration, obstacles—the clutch fading out, doesn’t stick tight no more, the garage door opener grinding the plastic to nothing, the lawn mower rusting through and not starting, the tape player in the car whirling but not catching and then slowing to a drone, the house settling in a bad lean so the back door won’t even open, janet the girl I liked moving so far away it felt as though that distance was stretching me out so thin there wouldn’t be any room left for anyone else to live inside me anymore, so thin it made me not want to know anyone anymore

but then you realize that even in the back alleys you can’t be free of all the feelings you haven’t even had time to identify and name yet


and then there’s such a thing as maybe holding on too tightly

standing here in the dark and thinking about all of this—I guess now maybe I’m starting to see dave granger in a little different light, or maybe he’s still really the same person he always was, I just never got to see this side of him or realize he was more deep or three dimensional—but maybe that was all on me, me keeping him down, me only seeing what I wanted to see, me only seeing him for what I wanted or needed him to be, and now I view him as an explorer of the human heart, but as with all explorers I fear what’s going to happen is he will get out there too far, too far away from everything he knows and into that dangerous wilderness—and I don’t mean that in a cynical way, I just don’t think he’s going to find anything out there, nothing like he knows here with us that is—like a lot of explorers of the human condition—he’ll get too far out there and there won’t be anything or anyone else around and he’ll get lonely and miss us—so I just think he’s better off by hanging back a little and letting life come to him—but I guess he’s a man of action, not one to sit and wait for things to find him—and maybe I’m just afraid of losing him, that if he does end up with a girl, she’ll just whisk him away on her wind, and then what’ll I be left with? just a small apartment with nothing but a table full of bills waiting for me at the end of the day

an’ man, I’m sure tired of people disappearing, tired of the constant change, that everything is bound to slip away


and I think of more fears I have for him, and want to protect him from them, want to wrap him in bubble wrap and put him up on a high shelf and keep him safe forever—I’m afraid he’ll end up getting hurt, growing jaded, end up like me, all closed off, empty, with nothing left to share, nowhere else to go, fearing he’ll meet some of the negative women, the devil’s cousin, dust’s daughter, rust’s niece—so please dave, don’t ever develop an argumentative nature—please be agreeable, please be on time, remain sober-minded, good natured, supportive, attentive, willing to please, well-groomed, financially solvent, helpful but not a doormat, charitable but not to the wrong folk, generous with your time, money and affections—please remember to be well-organized, tidy, chipper, full of pep, keep your chin up, get plenty of rest, eat healthy, take a walk, don’t worry, speak well of others lest something comes back on you, use good judgment, practice good hygiene, be optimistic, always smile like the village fool, be reliable and positive, compliment others like your life depends on it, think for yourself, and let all the good things descend upon you like a plague of locusts and dave, oh dave, please, please do not forget to wear the colors of the day, lest ye risk ridicule and banishment—I mean really, please dave, please, stay current in your fashions, please keep watch of the trends, you would not want to fall so far behind


I’ve noticed dave has been sleeping through entire days lately, and I’m concerned—or maybe dave-o just knows something that most of us others don’t—that it’s all just a state of mind, that it’s all just a big schweez


and then dave’s about to get that look on his face, when he drifts off to the side, just barely hanging on the fringes, wearin’ those tight tight tight artsy red pants, doing what he calls his “crazy eyes” dance—just stiffly shuffling along and kind of twitching a tight, shivering jiggle and staring with huge saucer eyes, shivering in a shaking shimmy, a trance dance that I always enjoyed and appreciated, as if he were dancing just to amuse the likes of me, his eternal silent shake, his forever stare, as if in deep concentration, tunneling deep into himself, mining the soul, a soul miner, shaking and staring as if shaking out his demons, as if shaking free of arbitrary customs and norms, as if shaking loose from what constrains him


(and I don’t just care desperately about dave because he’s my friend or because it’s the right thing to do, or because he’s a “guy” and thus in caring about him I would somehow be caring about myself in a somewhat selfish way or that I would be caring about the entirety of humanity as a whole in a non-selfish manner—no, I mean I really don’t want to see dave get hurt because we were housemates once living in the same house with the same people and pressures and dramas and events for over two and a half oh my lordy years a few years ago, and sure, even though we are very different people, he is still my friend and I guess I don’t want to see him stick his neck out and get hurt in any of the various ways, traditional and nontraditional, some of them mentioned and evidenced above, but it is even more deep than that about how in a way living so close together like that it was like eventually he sort of absorbed me and me him in that transparent living-together way, him getting to know just about all my habits and secrets—and in a sense I know most of his habits and secrets too, and most of our secrets were and probably are basically fairly similar and so it is as if he is somehow a carrier (a holder, if you will) of most if not all of my secrets, and in that way I want to keep him safe—as if to keep my secrets safe and contained so they don’t spill or float off to who knows where, possibly getting trampled, lost, ruined, or at the very least soiled with filth of who knows what kind—all of my disappointments and embarrassments—all of my mistakes and flaws, even the one’s I’ve purposely forgotten about (and those forgotten mistakes have seemed to forever fuse us together in an invisible link)—all of my silly, fragile hopes and desperate dreams, silly and/or unimpressive as they may be—and even though I know I should probably get over myself and not be so protective and self-preserving and let all my dreams go with the wind so I can grow some fresh new ones, so I can maybe somehow possibly someday move on, I mean the past is in the past after all—past mistakes, past embarrassments, but somehow I still hold them all way way way too close, thinking of them as real and alive, with no expiration dates, so they don’t run right through my arms, but alas, events are so perishable and people tend to get busy and forget and why oh why can’t I let them go?…why can’t I just let her go?…and in a way dave is a container to hold them, and I wouldn’t want to lose that container or see it breached)


the gusts in the alleys

jimmy spilt some garbage from one of the greasy bars and was now lining up the chicken bones in the back alley sand (jimmy was always surly, today because he had switched barbers. it’s tough. his main friend killer joe was in the can for speeding, even though he had no place to go, no place to be, so was at this point unavailable, they called him killer joe because he looked like your average joe, which was certainly a clever disguise, a “put on”, his real name is stanley, and because he had bad luck with animals—all his pets ended up not living very long, or just giving up and running away), “come on,” I implore, but he’s down on all fours, shaking his head, “not done, not done yet,” while dave straddles the darkness, shivering a stiff, tight shimmy, head shaking, body twitching to some new wave song in his head, staring into the abyss, as spencer chucks bottles randomly into the darkness, as if to fight off the randomness of it all with a little randomness of his own, his own protest against the randomness, the only thing he has to announce his displeasure, the only thing he has to fight back against the randomness, while delbert whispers encouragements, and not to be out done, jai is scratching in the dirt with a stick, “whatcha drawin’?” I venture, “vaginas” he chuckles, “some serious business, eh?” I offer, “if you say so,” he shrugs, and as I wander down to him I notice that sure enough he has scratched out about a dozen in a row, each about two feet long, though it is clear he is inexperienced in this venture, his knowledge of the technique and subject quite limited at this time


(eventually they hauled jimmy away, somehow they found out he was some type of spy from some far away place—he was spying on us at work, the people who sent him thought our bottling plant might really be a secret lab, though I never saw anything secret in there, and even though to the best of our knowledge we’re not secret lab people, we all found the fact jimmy thought we might be to be really cute

they think jai fell into the link between the reservoir and the lake at the park one night, in any case he was never seen again, the night whisking him away while drinking too much and now we will never be blessed with that sly smile again, with his quick belt, his quiet proficiency with the garbage can lid. spencer got another job on the north side of the east side and ended up hanging out with people he met up there, and we barely saw him anymore, leaving us with just glimpses, just flashes

eventually delbert ran out of options, he got laid off from the plant, and then they took everything away from him, so he joined the military where they told him he was righteous, heroic, though we could’ve told him that, and the president sent him to die in a cold hard field of stones as far away from anything he’d ever known so the president’s golfing buddies could make even more money, but it was ok, they said, because they told him and his family that he was a hero, but we knew that only cowards talked like that, only people who didn’t know what it was like in those situations, so he died a fool, a chump, he was blown apart so badly that none of those stones would remember him in their thoughts, none of the presidents would whisper his name into the night, their breath not calming, not able to reach his mother, and I think about all that every now and then and I add it all up and realize that I don’t need any of those false, dishonest, fleeting victories, I don’t want the temporary glory other people who don’t know me try to convince me I should want, I don’t care about winning or any of that rotting sick money, I just want him back here with me, whispering encouragements…that would be victory enough, that would be all his mother could hope to ask for

it was the same in high school—the coach telling him he was a hero as he ran as fast as the wind into the other team on a kickoff, messing his back up so bad he never walked right again—it was the same thing as always

as for me, I guess I just want a future, I just don’t want to wait around forever, wasting time here in the past, time that I could use to make something new)


maybe I should just let dave go and do what he feels he must, but dave’s potential demise would project negatively on me, so why can’t I seem to let dave go, let him be? either way I want to protect him, and all our secrets there within, for he is still a vessel of my feelings, he is, in a sense, an extension of myself because he is in my world, close to me (oh the horrible chafing closeness), a full-time member of my life, for the time being at least, and thus my experiences are his experiences, and his experiences are mine and thus must be looked after in some way, right? (of course I should be talking—you know, like I should even be considering telling him, or anyone else for that matter, what he should be doing—compared to his, my love life is as scenic as the inside of a moldy cinderblock pump house) but I should just let him go, I’ve decided, so he can grow and move forward—just one more thing for me to lose in life, just one more change, just one more thing to slip away


but I’m afraid of losing dave, of losing all that is familiar and comfortable, of all I know changing on me, of myself changing, of maybe losing the best parts of myself, and if dave changes, so will the rest of my life accelerate in a domino pattern—yeah, I’m so afraid of dave changing, of him moving away from me, because that would mean that I would have to change, and even now I can feel him moving ever so slightly away from the rest of us—I’m afraid of dave changing, and I’m afraid of dave not changing and evolving, and I’m afraid of keeping him from changing, and I’m afraid that I will push him too hard to be something he doesn’t want or isn’t ready for, and I’m afraid of ruining the friendship and losing dave and all that is contained within—the comfort and familiarity—and I guess what I might really fear is losing myself—of changing too much or not at all, and that I’m merely using dave as a gauge to judge myself, using him only as a mirror instead of appreciating him for his unique and special shining daveness—and that seems to be one of the weird things: that delicate expiration date, or maybe I’m looking down on him for “falling behind” or something, and you know I want dave to still be my friend, but lately he’s started listening to other music—“the wes montgomery trio” instead of our “mercyful fate” and “napalm death”—and he’s been reading different books (a lot of the barry yourgrau stuff), he’s been spotted conversing with strange girls, other girls, he’s talking to strangers, other people, people other than our friends—I fear he may be falling behind a step, or maybe it’s me who’s falling behind, I fear he may be drifting away


sometimes I fear I’m changing too much—getting too far from who I should be, and then other times I catch myself fearing that I’m not changing at all, not moving forward, stagnating, getting complacent

sometimes I think the saddest thing about some people is that you could tell them anything and they would believe you, that they need to believe what they’re told—like you could shout into the night wind that their mother’s an ugly whore, and I swear a lot of people would believe you, and why? well because somebody said it, so it must be true (and I fear that I’m coming to realize that it’s the world itself that seems to be an ugly whore—the human condition in general—the prisons around us, our minds, our bodies—but then again I could never really absorb the full picture of the events that float on around me)


then sometimes I wonder if I’m just thinking too much—too many thoughts cluttering the way, gumming up the works, bogging me down—and sometimes I wonder if I’m one of those poor saps who just feels too much, who just wants too much, needs too much, expects too much, and thus can’t focus on just one thing, or maybe I’ve just lost too much now and don’t want anything to ever change in my life ever again, so much that I’m also concerned that I may be missing out on some things, letting things pass by unnoticed—people and events and stuff—as I’m too far gone inside my own mind—too far lost in thought to notice, which is not something to be bragging about or proud of…and suddenly, in realizing this, the pain builds and slowly squeezes out of me in the form of me (for some reason) shouting into the vast yawning chasm of night the words: “clown penis!!!” as a tortured, anguished wail of frustration, pain, and exasperation, just like always—so if you ever find yourself out in the darkness, on one of your travels, and you hear a faint “clown penis” yelped into the night, shouted out of the vague distance for no real reason and directed at no one in particular, just appearing in the deep blank night as if from out of nowhere, well, it’ll probably be from me or one of my future followers, disciples of the lonely darkness, explorers of the emptiness, the wasteland—expeditionaries on another journey into the unknowable


and then it all slips away again

sometimes it feels like the invisible hands of fate are holding us back, keeping us down—other times it feels like the hands of fate are keeping us safe in this insulated back alley world (which we’ve been pressed and processed into by indifference)—then other times it’s as if we’re not good enough to walk amongst the sidewalk crowd, in the light—or maybe this private refuge of ours is actually the real world, this dark inside-out nowhere area around us here, the “real” world as it is meant to be—stripped bare of ornamentation and phony artifice, stripped of all pretense, as if there was no-where else to go, no-where left to hide


I look over at dave, standing there off to the side, together with us and yet at the same time alone by himself, kicking dirt in frustration and shame—another night stuck here in the back alley world, another night stuck here with us, another night struggling to get out, another night sent home alone, banished to the darkness, the blankness, the nothingness—back into the wasteland again my friend, back to the places no one else wants—who could blame dave for wanting to break free of his limitations, who could blame him for wanting to grow and evolve, who could blame him for wanting more, for looking to add to his life—and at this moment it feels like I’m the one who’s been the hand of fate, as if I’m the one who’s keeping him down, forcing my perceptions and insecurities down on him—sure I don’t want to lose him to another, losing all that he is and all that he has—his tapes, his old magazines, his staring shimmy, his twitching dance, his september gurls tape from big star, his another girl, another planet tape from the only ones—but I also don’t want to see my friend so down, so lost and alone—as through him I have finally isolated my failures—that I am stagnating here, living in the past, and even if I can’t see out of this life, then maybe I can help dave out of his, even if I have to push him out of it—and dave claims to need the practice so that someday he will have his rap refined to a pure degree, the syrup down cold, the remedy at his reach—and I want to give him that chance, because sometimes that’s all we get in life, just one chance—I know if I can help him it will put him in the best possible position if and when he gets his one chance with that special and unique someone, he’s my friend after all, and I want him to have that, that much anyway, however much that ends up being


and then, as I’m just standing there thinking in all that emptiness of darkness, in the best possible place to be, I watch as dave steps off the sandy trail of alley, out into that vast oily morass of night, entangled, sinking, going down, going under, going into that thick darkness, out to explore that thick who-knows-what wilderness of future, to disappear into that mirror of unknowable, to spiral down into that void—now into the darkness, a pioneer of life, oh courageous heroes


and then he became like a great wind, and strangely enough I never saw him again after that night at the bowling alley—maybe he ran into one of those girls and got entangled in her life, some say he moved away and changed his name, trying to shed the past to start over fresh, I don’t rightly know, but now, days and months and seconds and moments later I feel him changing, I feel him becoming like an elusive feeling, that spoiled friendship of loading dock beers and back door alley leanings and winds of night whistling softly through us as we all fade on—he has become like a great crystal vase that has held so many secrets for too long, so many dreams, I simply had to protect them, dave shattering into a million transparent events, a million feelings, a million hopes and dreams and aspirations and lives, all overlapping one another in colorful translucent layers of feelings, refracting tons of new colors, colors no one else ever thought of, I simply had to protect them all, so as not to spill any of them, lose any of them—so as not to spill any secrets…but then again what do I know, I only know what I see and feel, and how can you trust any of those senses? how can you trust what constantly changes?


for dave granger is in grave danger, for he has just seen a girl (haw…aahhh…choke…gasp…[whispered hush] a girl mind you…a girl…), a young lass who has caught his weary eye, and he’s not even met her really—they’ve never even been formally introduced, not even on the most casual level—he’s never even overheard her name in passing conversation—will he ever get to know that elusive and elastic name? so slippery and clean, that epic, operatic, catastrophic name, that tidy and efficient collection of letters—will the cold, exhale of fates that swirl in the shadows ever allow this? will he ever see her again? will their eyes ever meet? will he be able to open his mouth even (imagine that! what courage!) and let escape several rare and precious words? will those magic words ever collect themselves and find their way to daylight and into that warm embrace of her ear? will her feelings at last belong to another? will she forever bruise his fragile and inexperienced heart? will he ever be able to gather the resolve to ever feel this way again? to ever let slip some precious and courageous words? will he ever be able to take that mighty leap of faith and ever risk letting more enormous and elaborately crystalline collections of letters escape the prison of his breath? will he ever be able to handle those enormously cumbersome words ever again? words as difficult to lift as “hello”? (oh, the heft…oh, the struggle) will he ever dare whisper “hello” again?…will she ever look deep into his eyes?…will she ever whisper his name?


that night I have the dream again, the dream of getting sucked back down a dark alley, inhaled, me running down a narrow alley with tall weeds and old tires and garbage cans and stacked pallets on either side, me running through the night, my shadow rippling behind like the black swamp dog of time chasing me down, the alley narrowing, and I’m running and running, the wind rushing with me, my shadow giving chase, hunting me down to swallow me, obliterate me, my running creating more and more wind, my running a whirlwind, rushing faster and faster, but I don’t really know where I’m running to, I’m just rushing along in the darkness, just running and running, rushing in the wind, creating my own wind, until I become the wind, the alley around me blurring in a tunneled stream of speed, and I’m running and running, feeling the cool wind rushing through me, rushing to out-run time, out-run my mistakes, rushing to dave, to plead, please dave, please, don’t give your heart away so easily


© Tony Rauch

Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published: I’m right here (spout press), Laredo (Eraserhead Press), and Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again (Eraserhead Press). A fourth book will be out spring 2015 what if I got down on my knees? (Whistling Shade Press). He is looking for a publisher for additional titles he has finished and are ready to go. His work deals with fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, a sense of discovery, escape, concealment, ennui, regret, loneliness, technology run amok, eerie vibes, irresponsible behavior, confusion, absurd situations, surrealism, modern fairy tales, etc. He can be found at