Soulless

The Charlie Daniels Band has been spreading misinformation for nearly four decades. In their seminal 1979 hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Charlie tells the story of Johnny, a talented young fiddler who is challenged to a fiddling contest by the eponymous Devil himself. The stakes of the contest are high; if Johnny wins he gets a golden fiddle, if he loses the Devil gets his soul––a dangerous wager depending on whatever your religious belief systems are. After spirited showcases from both musicians it is clear that Johnny is the victor. The Devil presents him with the golden fiddle and the song ends in a flourish of bows across strings.

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was track thirteen on disc one of the double disc collection Harley Davidson’s Road Songs, a CD which I’d stolen from my father and listened to on my Discman countless times as a child. From listening to that song I learned that the Devil was certainly a dick, but he was at least a dick of his word. Which is why after serious and difficult reflection on my mortality and life beyond the veil, my ten-year old self made a deal with Lucifer: for my soul, he would grant me the ability to have sex with Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Not Angelina Jolie from the film adaptations, but the hyper sexualized mound of pixels from the video game itself. Specifically Tomb Raider II.

However, the closest I would ever get to her heaving digital breasts was the TV screen. I was duped. Satan was not a dick of his word and he now owns my soul because of Charlie goddamn Daniels’ lies.

What Else?

Can we go somewhere else, I’m tired of looking at this.

We came here to look at this.

Yeah, but it was your idea.

Look at those trees. They’re beautiful.

I already looked at those trees.

Those ones right there?

Yup.

What about that goat over on the hill. That’s a nice goat.
I’ve seen nicer goats.
Well, what do you want to look at?

I don’t know.

Why don’t you look at me.

I’m already looking at you.

What do you see?

An idiot.
What else?

There’s dried snot in your nose.

What else?

You have bags under your eyes.

What else?

You’ve worn that shirt three days in a row.

What else?

Your tooth is chipped.

What else?

You have really bad coffee breath.

What else?

There’s a sadness in your eyes.

What else?

The wound is almost visible.

What else?

You’ve come out here looking for something. Answers. Solace. You don’t even know.

What else?

When you made the decision to leave you didn’t expect to lose such a large piece of yourself.

What else?

Now you’ve dragged me out here for someone to talk to so you don’t have to listen to your own thoughts.

What else?

You’ve questioned every decision you’ve made since. You’re scared. You feel brittle like a frozen pond in the spring.

What else?

You don’t want to take a wrong step. To fall through.

What else?

You’re completely lost.

What else?

I’m tired of this.

What else?

I’m going back to the car.

The Case for Cleanliness

Cleanliness is next to or at least near to godliness. I’m sure The BasedGod does his own dishes. I bet he takes the time to make sure there’s no tiny bits of hardened gunk stuck between the fork prongs too. It’s that sort of attention to detail that’ll provide you a happy, fulfilling life until you get to heaven or whatever. Is Lil B an outdated reference for our nanosecond, social media acclimated attention spans? Probably. But keeping a clean kitchen never goes out of style. That sandwich was delicious, but there’s no reason to let its crumbs dot the counter like hair clippings of a former lover you keep pasted into a duotang under your bed––wipe that shit already. Imagine the kick of dopamine you’ll get when you go to pour yourself some, preferably, grapefruit juice and there’s a clean glass waiting in the cupboard. That’s nirvana.

Ice

The giveaway is the sound of ice cubes bouncing off one another. When they collide at a higher frequency that means there’s less liquid in the glass, the boozy buffer slowly sipped out. Over the phone it sounded like she was almost done her drink, of which number I don’t know, when our conversation took an abrupt turn with her telling me that she would be fine with me having two wives. In fact, she advocated it. At seventeen I found that a daunting hypothetical. It was nearly impossible to keep my room clean, yet alone equally sustain two lasting, mutually fulfilling relationships, and only a few months before I’d very quickly lost my virginity, so the thought of regularly disappointing two women I would presumably live with and have to see every day was not exactly appealing.

“What the hell are you talking about, Mom?”

Foresight

Until I pulled the VISOR from his small plastic face, revealing the milky white of his eyes, I had felt suffocated by the guilt and shame that came with stealing him from the Drugstore my stepdad worked at. Those feelings enveloped me and made me sweat like I was wearing a Snuggy (which coincidentally, also makes me feel guilt and shame). But all of that was erased when I looked into the sightless eyes of my new Geordi La Forge action figure.

I held the Chief Engineering Officer of the USS Enterprise in the air, in space, as I strutted around the bathroom; my immediate refuge after smuggling my stolen goods home. Eventually he was beamed down to the bathtub, a solo mission to a crater on a hostile planet that he and his crew had received a distress signal from. Near the drain my Punisher action figure writhed in pain, his to scale Xenomorph assailant ready to rip into his overly defined chest. Then a loud knock at the door––my mom. Dear god, beam me up, I pleaded.

Reach Advantage

On two separate occasions I’ve punched my older brother in the throat––at eight and nine years-old, respectively. The first time was after he’d eaten all of my little chocolate Easter eggs that I’d just spent all morning crawling on top of the fridge and behind the couch in search of. He knew how mad that would make me. I watched him lie on the ground wheezing and squirming like a punctured inner tube. The second time he was just trying to teach me how to box, it’s not my fault I wasn’t tall enough to reach his nose.

Crazy Hot Thing

The small rooms with the quiet people moving quietly between them were no match for the woman talking loudly to her friend. As the rest of us tried to focus on the photographs on the walls, and as engaging as those photographs were, the woman clearly overpowered them. “So they shoved a camera down his throat, you know, so they could find where the bleeding was coming from. Then they, like, stuck some sort of really hot thing down there and burned the cut closed. Yeah, cauterized. Whatever. Anyways. So crazy.”

As annoyed as I was at the volume of her story telling, I also thought that sticking a really hot thing down someone’s throat was crazy. I looked up images of throat cauterization on my phone and was startled to find that they didn’t look too dissimilar to the photos on the walls in front of me of coal miners working in Wales in the 1930s. Those men trudging through the endless black of the mines with the same look of tired frustration on their faces as my own.

Hacked

Besides the violation of privacy, potential loss of income, destruction of digital property, and the possibility of my personal information being stolen for nefarious purposes; having my websites hacked was actually kind of interesting. There was now a legitimate antagonist in my life––a demon to excise. I was strangely excited by the challenge. I felt like the lowly knight’s apprentice, taking up the sword in order to avenge the brutal slaying of his master/FTP files. But that was just part of the intrigue. When Googling my sites I found their descriptions had been changed into a slurry of mismatched porn buzzwords that made no attempt at becoming arousing copy.

“Muscled Dog Dick Anal Cum Asian Lesbian Trumpet Misogyny.” Like a tick, the malware had buried itself into the code and my site was now suffering, unlike those with lyme disease, hilariously. This hack’s effort at titillation and SEO keyword placement had become crude beat poetry and I loved it. I couldn’t help but reread the descriptions again and again, the words popping, snapping, and stopping short with a stunted cadence as I aped Ginsberg’s generation: “Skinny Interracial Marvel Comics Pussy Orgy.”