Chunk Barnley

They ask you to sign in. It’s not a membership thing. I don’t think it’s even a safety thing. They’re not keeping record in case the building goes up in flames and they need to confirm that you are not one of the charred lumps on the ground near the larger charred lump that used to be the pool table. They just want your name. A name. Any name. It’s to fill some weird self-validation quota like guest books at weddings––“See, people came.” I never put my real one. I’m not paranoid or anything, I just go out to places like this to luxuriate in my anonymity, not reveal it in the first forty-five seconds. The cashier at IKEA once asked for my area code and I nearly threw my RÅSKOG into the soft-serve machine.

Smirking, halfway finished scrawling my pseudonym in the bar’s book of collected names, is when the pen stopped working. I shook it, scratched into the margins and nearly through the page––dead. This pseudonym was near perfection, my best yet, and now it lay undone. I could’ve just left it and grabbed a beer, no one would’ve checked to make sure my book-name matched my life-name; but I needed this. I asked the bartender for a working pen. They had none. Neither did the women at the bar. My friends waited for me at the table in the back but I couldn’t get myself past coat check. I left. If couldn’t be someone else in here, I’d be no-one out there.

A Perfect ‘V’

If I wanted to be loved I would’ve said something. I would’ve brought it up at dinner. You would’ve known. There would’ve been strategically placed indicators. Now everything is tangled. Wet. Sticky with emotion and damp with, what is that? Desire? Ugh. Can we just not? Just do everything but, you know? It’s not unreasonable. I used to watch you watch me and I never assumed. It’s kind of embarrassing for me. And you, obviously. More so for you.

That’s why I brought you here today. To the gorge. This expanse is a metaphor. For something––not sure if it’s related to our situation, but it’s profound. Look around. See the birds? The shapes they form, carving the sky with a  synchronized instinct. That’s also profound. How do they know how to do that? Yeah, shrug your shoulders. I don’t know either, they just do it. I thought we were operating with that, too. Synchronized instinct. Then you went and pulled this. Love. We were flying in a perfect ‘V’ and then you took a hard left and drove your beak right into my side. Sure, we both want to go different directions, but now neither of us can fly.

Pure Electric Light

Move beyond the trees, The Director said. Wait, no. Move out of the trees. Beyond indicates, like, further away. Just come out of there, towards me, so we can see you.

The Model was tired of taking directions. He had been standing in the trees all goddamn morning waiting for their many, tightly spaced branches to divide the sunshine just so, so that it would lay on his pale, naked flesh like he had been lashed by Zeus’ flog of pure electric light. That was what The Director called the sunshine streaming through the trees: a flog of pure electric light. There were small brown ants crawling over The Model’s bare feet and every time they crawled between his toes it tickled and he’d flinch and then The Director would have to reposition him in the sunlight so that the lashes were just so again.

The Director asked The Model to adjust his penis. It wasn’t right. The Model tried but he wasn’t moving it correctly. His penis was all wrong. The Director asked The Assistant to fix The Model’s penis and The Assistant shuffled through the pine needles and grabbed The Model’s penis between his thumb and forefinger and the model grimaced because The Assistant’s fingers were quite cold. After a few moments of uncertainty The Assistant stepped back and looked at The Director who looked at the penis of The Model and nodded. The Director pointed The Photographer at The Model and screamed:

Shoot! Now! We are running out of time. The wounds of light on the body of The Model will not stay still. As night falls, they heal.

The Model could feel his penis begin to unstick from his thigh and he prayed that it wouldn’t flop free and that The Photographer would hurry up and take the goddamn photo so he could put his clothes back on. Then he wondered if praying for two-separate things at once devalued the overall efficacy of both, because asking for two things at once was kind of a selfish thing.

The sun warmed The Model’s penis and The Photographer hesitated as The Director shouted, Go! Go! Go!

Let’s Get Cake

Around here there isn’t much to do. There are horses in the field outside of town that we can look at. The last time I was in the field there was this really cute moment where the small baby-horse nuzzled against the bigger one, which I assume is its mother. Or father. I didn’t look for a penis or anything so I don’t actually know. If we went to the field outside of town we could look to see if the big horse has a penis and maybe they’ll do something cute again. There’s also the cake shop downtown. I don’t know if you’ve been there but it’s something else. People from other towns come to our cake shop just to look at its cakes. They made this one cake shaped like a battleship for memorial day. It had little frosting fighter jets on it and everything. On the mayor’s birthday the cake shop people made a life-size chocolate cake that looked just like him. We could also go to the hole behind McLaren’s Autobody. No-one knows when or how it got there, it just appeared one day. It’s been there as long as I’ve been alive. You can drop things in it and never hear them hit bottom. It’s pretty cool. A kid I went to high school with said he fell into it while walking home one night and when he fell out the other side he was in Cabo San Lucas and it took two-weeks to find his way back. I’m pretty sure his family just went on vacation, though.

Ear of Dog, Wing of Bird

Pigeons die in a multitude of ways everyday in the city. They’ve become too comfortable and trusting in a world that sees them as disposable. We put cute little spikes on windowsills and mesh on the undersides of awnings so they don’t perch and shit off of our things onto our surfaces. With no place to sit they wobble around the streets, getting run over by feet, bicycles, cars and eaten by creatures that use the nooks and shadows of the city better than they do. They fly into windows, power lines and the ocean where an octopus tears them into separate but surprisingly equal portions. This is why I didn’t find it surprising when I saw the pigeon wing beside the bike rack, I even gave it a little kick, because why not? The pigeon limb is almost ubiquitous, they’re everywhere, like the birds are just feathered Mr. Magoo’s, absentmindedly forgetting feet on ferris wheels or eyeballs in the alley behind the fish market. Then the wing rolled over from the force of my kick and it wasn’t a wing, it was an ear, the ear of a dog. I was shocked, I was sickened. How could this happen? How could this grotesque artifact of mutilation just be sitting here surrounded by all of this urbanity, feet away from my bike, my foot now an accidental bludgeon to its soft, precious fur.

Take this and run with it.

Take this and run with it, is what he had said to the boy. Well, something like that. He just wanted to get the boy out of the house so he pointed at the thing and said what he said and the boy took it and ran out the door. It wasn’t meant to be a real inspiring address or anything. He didn’t even expect the boy to make it as far as he did, the thing he’d pointed to was pretty damn heavy after all, but the boy plucked it off of the floor without even a grunt. It was like he had actually been inspired by the little speech-thing he’d been given and was imbued with a sort of power, one that he had seen stirring in him briefly a few times before. It would occasionally find its way to the surface to poke its nose out of the water and draw short breaths of confidence, but now it had fully emerged, the water gone, and with the pool drained its flesh dried and grew warm in the sun.

He watched the boy run out of the cul-de-sac, thing held over his head like a totem. A young girl on her stoop, also watching the boy run with the thing, picked up a thing from her yard and started to run after him. Another child with another thing joined. And another, until at least twenty children with twenty different things were running down the street towards an intersection where the traffic stopped on a green to let them pass, a few of their back doors springing open and children with things held over their heads spilled out into the street, running towards the others. At this distance he could no longer make out the boy, but he could still see what he carried, the thing now more silhouette than solid, a memory pushing into the horizon.

The Classic


The eggs and the bacon and the toast and the beans and the potato hash and the little $1.75 dollop of guacamole had no visible borders on his plate. The server laid down one solid mass in front of him, the individual parts that made up his breakfast that were listed as separate, distinct items on the menu, were here just one big compound word, one chunk of text in a nearly illegible font. The beans seeped into the hash, the eggs blanketed the bacon. It reminded him of learning human anatomy in school. The teacher made the class look at a diagram and name the illustrated organs within a thin-lined human frame. Lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, brain, intestines of varying sizes. They were all neatly contained in the human. In the drawing each organ had a few centimetres of breathing room between it and its neighbour; some real estate of its own inside the body. That was comforting to him as a child. It made him think of the human body as a purposefully neat and organized place, like the rows upon rows of houses with buffers of green grass and white fences in the new suburbs going up around the outskirts of the city or the eggs sitting cozy in the protective pocket of their styrofoam carton in the fridge. He thought the human body ran with this type of order for years until he watched a man get cut open from navel to sternum on TV. The doctors performing the surgery pulling open the fatty flesh until the lights above them illuminated the glistening, pulsing piles of brown and reddish-brown meat inside of the man. There was no order in there, just one pile of meat slopped on top of another. He poked at his mound of breakfast and started to eat.

Perception Management

“I didn’t do it.”

He did.

“I didn’t pull her hair.”

But he had.

“I’m not lying!”

His child’s face red with bluster as he lied.

“Why is she crying then? Why are there long blonde hairs wrapped around your fingers like a gold necklace torn from the chest of a debutante robbed in a poorly lit alley with steam rising menacingly from its manholes.” I said to him, except for the part about the necklace and manholes because he is only nine.

“I already told you. It wasn’t me.”

“Then who was it? Who pulled her hair and made her cry?”

“It was you. You pulled her hair. You made her cry.”

“What? No, it wasn’t me. It was you. I watched you do it!” I said, clumsily, confusingly switching from offence to defence.

“What! No, I watched you do it! Right?” He nudged the young girl with damp eyes. She said nothing, her small face streaked with tears and snot.

“Remember when he did that to you?” He asked again.

“I don’t know. I can’t remember.” She squeaked after receiving another elbow to the ribs.

“Well, it was him. Trust me. Don’t believe anything he says. He just wants to pull your hair again, he wants your long blonde hair wrapped around his fingers like a gold necklace torn from the chest of a debutante robbed in a poorly lit alley with steam rising menacingly from its manholes.”

Perplexed, I said nothing.

“Why?” She asked, voice wavering. “Why did you pull my hair and make me cry?”

“I didn’t––


“It hurt so much!”

“You’re a monster!”

“I didn’t!”

“Don’t even, pal!”

“Give me my hair back!”

“Give her her hair back!”

“I don’t have it! I don’t have it.”

He takes my hand with his small hand and opens it, unraveling the long blonde hairs from his fingers and winding them around my own.

“Give them back!”


I take the hair from my hand and place it back on her head.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Too little too late, pal.” He says.

“Too little too late, pal.” She says.

Believe Me, I’m Dead

She doesn’t believe him.

“I don’t believe you.”

He holds the receiver close, lips pressed into the plastic, chasing after his own words.

“So dead people can’t make phone calls?”

“Dead people can’t make phone calls.”

“Believe me. I am. Just listen. Do you hear that?”

“No. What the hell are you talking about Justin, this is––“

“The dripping! Hear the dripping? That’s the sound of my blood emptying out onto the hardwood. It just drains outta the hole until I start to get weak and then I collect it in that old measuring cup of yours and put it back in.”

“Hole? Okay. To be honest, you’re being really weird and this is getting concerning––

–It should be, I’m dead!––

–and I don’t really want to have this conversation anymore. If you’re actually hurt or need help or anything I can call someone for you.”

“What is anyone going to do? It’s too late. I’m toast. I’m already pretty heavily decomposed. It’s been like, what, four months? That’s a long time for meat to be sitting out in the sun.”

“You’ve been dead for four months.”

“And counting.”

“Oh god.”

“He hasn’t helped at all.”

“You’re being dramatic. Surprisingly so.”

“Death is inherently dramatic. The loss of a life. An extinguished flame.”

“Please, shut up.”

“Shut up? My elbows no longer work as a hinge joints. They’re like wet rope. I can’t do push-ups anymore.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Say? I just want you to have some compassion. Some understanding. My landlord is threatening to evict me because I haven’t paid rent––

–you haven’t paid rent?––

–due to the fact that it’s hard to mow a lawn when you can’t even start the mower without your fucking arm detaching.”


“My body is breaking down, because I’m dead, and my muscle strength is nearly non-existent and my flesh just tears like that fancy paper used to fluff up gift bags.”

“This is so stupid. If you really have nothing better to do than act petty and strange, can you take that show somewhere else, please.”

“Yikes––I thought you cared.”

“Please. Cared? About what?”

“About me. Us. I’m dead and nearly homeless and you don’t give a goddamn shit.”

“Justin, of course I care about you. That’s not fair. I just don’t want to play your games.”

“This isn’t a game. If you could see me right now you’d be, like, horrified.”

“What is this actually about? Why aren’t you working? Do you want money––is this how you ask me for fucking money? You cannot be serious.”

“Get off it! I’m not here singing a sap-song for pesos, I just needed someone to talk to, because obviously this is a real fucked up time for me.”

“Because you’re dead.”

“Because I’m dead.”

“And you’re getting evicted.”

“Unless I can come up with $300 by Wednesday.”

“Fuck you.”

He didn’t expect her to hang up on him. It stung. It had become a foreign thing to feel anything besides the whoosh of air through the grapefruit sized hole in his chest and the wriggling of maggots in his legs. He wasn’t trying to swindle Daisy, dupe her, or anything like that. He just wanted to spend his last few months before he became completely immobile in the comfort of his own home, not outside where the earth would reclaim him with haste and without mercy. He leaned forward, not so fast as to make his eyeball slip out like yesterday, but just fast enough that when his face met his remaining hand it didn’t collapse on a limp wrist. It just stayed upright, steady.

Does anyone else feel like this sometimes?…

Sometimes I walk into places, like the other day it was this bookstore, and I look around at all of the things in the place, in this case books, and I get overwhelmed by it all. Like, the thought of all of those millions of words working together in order to construct an idea or an argument makes me get all teary-eyed. Even if it’s something weird like a memoir where a guy confesses to putting his dick in the family dog’s mouth as a kid to practice for getting his first BJ, just the idea that all of those tiny words are bundled up in the enormity of all of the other words around them in that book, and all of the other books in the store around it, stacked on each other like creative brick and mortar, is enough to turn on the water works. I’m not sure if I’m just so inspired by all of the work around me (not the dick-in-dog-mouth part, I’m not inspired by that. Yuck.) or just overwhelmed by the amount of hours and energy that went into writing all of those words, editing them, pitching them to publishers, getting them accepted and the elation that comes with that, then having them printed into hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of books that need designers to design the layouts, book jackets, print and web ads, and then all of the promotional might that goes into getting those authors into radio interviews, podcasts, or maybe even the Colbert Late Night thing where the author’s publicist gives the show’s producers a list of talking points that the author is comfortable discussing. Walking into places like that bookstore and being surrounded by all of that manifested potential makes my chest grow tight and my eyes hot and it might be that I’m inspired or jealous or whatever, but more than anything when I’m there I just want to stay in that place, feeling whatever I’m feeling, forever.

vancouver, BC > vancouver > personals > rants and raves

Portrait by Jaik Puppyteeth for Portraits of Brief, Casual Encounters