Joe woke up earlier than he wanted to—the dull, black unconsciousness where his mind had dreamed about dreaming folding back from his eyes. The room was silent. God damn it, must be early again; this always happens. That’s not how it’s supposed to start. He fumbled in silence for the alarm clock, turned it towards himself, and stared at the seven zero zero across its face. Frantically clicking the adjustment buttons on top of the clock, Joe changed the alarm time from eight zero zero to seven zero five, and went back to sleep.
The alarm buzzed to wake Joe. That’s better. That’s how it should begin. Buzzzzzz. I woke up, the alarm blaring obnoxiously. I hit the off switch. Perfect. Scary that I almost missed it. Last night had been so dark and stormy; you’d hate to start without an alarm and mess things up when they were going so perfectly. His wife was already awake—downstairs making eggs, probably. Stiffening out of bed, Joe looked at the bedroom door, ominously cracked. She was up, all right, and yet another lecture on “not helping enough around the house” was more than likely up with her. Downstairs, cooking those eggs, ready to unleash her torrential henpecking. Nag nag nag. It’s ****ing Saturday, you incessant harpy, give me a break.
He made his way to the bathroom for his morning routine. You have to have a morning routine. Everybody has a morning routine. Joe wanted a regimen. You have to want a regimen. Glance at the mirror. Toilet piss. Flush it. Mirror glance. Sink water. Wash. Brush. Floss. Rinse spit, rinse spit. Shower trickle. Soap. Shampoo. Towel. Mirror again. Hair comb. Mirror. Combgrease shampoo-goo. Flick it into the sink. Mirror again. Smile for the camera. Exit. Wait. Look back. Mirror.
Precisely four shirtsleeves and pant-legs later, Joe donned his socks and shoes and walked downstairs. There she was, sitting at the table; she looked at Joseph and smiled. She must’ve finished cooking those ****ing eggs.
—What’s cooking? He asked, smirking at his own wit.
—Nothing. Fix yourself some cereal, though, I have to go help out at the shelter an hour early today. She kissed him on the forehead. How’d you sleep? Any dreams?
Joe’s brow wrinkled. Always with the questions. Will I ever get a moment’s peace from this banshee?
—Oh, you know. Same as always. The one where I’m falling. Then I had the one where I’m running and not getting anywhere. Just your normal dreams.
God, how he wanted to dream.
—Well, I was going to make that carrot casserole you like so much tonight, but we’re out of carrots. Since you’re off today, could you do me a favor and go to the supermarket and pick some up while I’m at work?
Joe recognized the call to adventure immediately; he’d forgotten he was married to a monomythic control freak. Refuse or accept, refuse or accept? ****, I hate this kind of decision. Does overcoming indecisiveness count as a trial? Probably, which means that no matter which answer I choose, I’ve already overcome a trial. In that case, I’ve already accepted and moved on to the next element. Accept it is, then.
—Sure, honey. I’ll run get them as soon as I’ve finished my cereal.
—Great, thanks! Another kiss on the forehead. I’ll see you tonight, dear.
Joe lovingly clenched his teeth behind motionless lips as he wondered why she bothered with those stupid pet names. Trying to coddle me. Make me forget about the questions and the nagging. Joe looked forward to the weekday commiseration at the office. It seemed to him that everyone was married to one of these creatures, and loved them, strangely enough. They were a merciful bunch. It had been so lonely, when he first started working there. Not that lonely now. Still, the boss was a bitch and a half. Everyone thought so. She’d given the whole office an extra two weeks vacation this year. Trying to appease the slovenly masses, no doubt. What an elitist ****. Trying to garner our favor by driving down productivity and encouraging laziness? She probably wants to blame and fire someone when the profits tank. What does she think we are? Morons? Eric, particularly, didn’t like her.
Joe liked Eric. Eric had everything Joe wanted. But Joe wasn’t jealous. Jealousy was for adolescents. Besides, Joe wasn’t the jealous type; there were lots of types out there, and jealous was not the one Joe was. Jealous types were jealous, and Joe was not jealous. He just liked Eric. Eric had wanted a sports car, wanted a bigger house, wanted his wife to stop nagging him, the things people should want.
Right now, Joe wanted carrots for the carrot casserole. No, wanted his wife to stop nagging him. Yeah, wanted the carrots so his wife would stop nagging him.
The car sputtered to a start, hacking and wheezing from its pneumonic fuel injector. Poetic—he had always thought there was something poetic about a car having trouble starting. He liked the sickly sound of it: the oil-clogged phlegmic mutterings gurgling out of the piston chambers. Still, what he really wanted was a sports car—one of those nice red ones with a convertible top and an engine that purrs. Yeah. Purring engine. That’s good. Joe wanted a purring engine. People want engines that purr. Curling up in the garage, spreading its scent as it rubs its body against the carwash, a red sports car was a perfectly normal thing to want. It’s good to have goals. Someone had told him that once. That it’s good to have goals. They were right.
Settling in the closest spot he could find in the supermarket parking lot, Joe locked the car behind him and walked toward the automated, sliding doors. The cool air rushed over his face as he stepped through them, the breeze woven with the Smooth Jazz that soothed out from ceiling speakers all over the store. This was the jazz land, this was carrot land. Here the grocery aisles were raised. Lips that would kiss. His lips had not kissed. Prayers to whatever it was—stony stability, probably. What else would you pray to?ñ Had not kissed. Kissing him on the forehead. Meaningless. The nag. Joe hated living with an archetype. You had to hate living with an archetype, but you still had to live with them; heroes have to suffer.
Crushed ice. That’s what it smelled like in a grocery store—the fine-crushed-powder kind of ice you’d make a snow cone out of. Joe wanted snow cones. Hell, everyone liked snow cones. Was it even possible not to want snow cones? Not now, though, snow cones were obstacles in the way of carrots.
Joe walked down an aisle stocked with Campbell’s soup. He’d always liked Campbell’s. For some reason he enjoyed imagining that he and Campbell were inseparable—made for each other, sharing their love of neatly canned soups. So many different kinds of soup. Chili, too. They all came in the same can, though. Joe liked that. He wanted them to come in the same can. If the cans were different, the soup wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t taste the way it was supposed to taste. Soup was supposed to taste a certain way. The metal cylinders lining the aisles made sure it kept over time—silent, steadfast watchmen, eager to maintain freshness, no matter how old the soup. Joe wanted a can of soup terribly.
The scentless smell of crushed ice still perfumed the air, wisping up from the white-tiled floor. There was something beautiful about it, somewhere beyond its sterility, beyond the featureless nature, that made it unique, if not entirely definable, and Joe inhaled it with pleasure as he reached the vegetable section. There they were, the carrots. They shone before him with the glory of the carroty heavens all around them, their untrimmed carrot-leaves like the hair of angels, beautiful and lush and green like nature. As he reached for them, though, Joe spied the turnips just to the right. This was interesting. His heart pumped fire through his blood, and the sweat beaded on his forehead. He liked turnips. Turnips were so wonderfully delicious. Carrots or turnips. Turnips or carrots. Didi and Gogo waiting for him to make his decision. Stuck between carrot casserole and plain delicious turnips. His shadow fell between them—between the idea and the reality, the potency and the existence. He looked at them, his eyelid twitching sporadically. Just reach out and BANG, grab the carrots. Carrots. Bang. Maybe turnips? Radishes are there, too. The carrot cake and the turnips: the potency and the existence? Really? They’re ****ing carrots and ****ing turnips! Joe whimpered and sat down on the tiles.
I want the bomb
I want the P-funk!
My band is better than yours...
I want the P-funk!
My band is better than yours...