Archive for the Dead Friends Category

Another excerpt from Dead Friends (a satirical love story)

Posted in Dead Friends, Fiction, Novel Insert on September 8, 2010 by melissa merin

I’m A Chicken

To say that my girlfriend and I had been having problems is an understatement. It’s probably more accurate to state that we despised each other. We stopped taking each other seriously, and we definitely stopped having anything in common. But it’s hard to live alone, and since both of us were afraid of the dark and of expensive rent and lack of sex, we made things work. She accompanied me to philosophy conferences and Balkan music festivals, and I followed her to rallies to defend the rights of animals or people or whomever.

One thing she couldn’t stand was the way I mechanically nodded my head toward people as a form of acknowledgement. She said it reminded her of chickens, and although she loved animals, she hated chickens. She thought they were stupid and she hated stupidity. It never really occurred to me that I did that until a Farm Animals Unite benefit back in ’06. My girlfriend and I had gone to see the critically acclaimed exhibition of Portraits of Farm Animals, By Farm Animals. It was an unoriginal title for what was supposed to be a noteworthy exhibit, and most of the pieces were abstract – a tuft of lambs wool stomped on by a bloody hoof, goat feces strewn across a sheet of butcher paper with just a drop of dried milk at the edge of the fecal drawing, a single horse shoe print on a picture of the then President of America, Herbert Walker, jr.

I was nodding to a friend of a friend, when I noticed a piece titled Chicken Dinner Dead. I let go of my girlfriend’s hand and strolled over to take a closer gander. My girlfriend said something I didn’t understand and wandered away. Chicken Dinner Dead was mesmerizing. The chicken had stapled an amputated foot near the top left corner of the wall length canvas. Several feet of white spread between the foot and three groups of messily bunched feathers. Over this and the rest of the canvas a plethora of chicken wire was spread, with minute drips of blood hanging precariously from one place or another. It’s violence and minimalism spoke to me, and I couldn’t look away.

When my girlfriend reappeared, bringing our friends and her brother with her, I wasn’t done looking at the portrait. “It’s fucking amazing,” was all I could say. I didn’t look away, but I know that she and our friends were rolling their eyes, and she was becoming impatient. After all, she didn’t come to look at the art. She came to hear the great Jungian animal psychologist Bravo Marcksuh speak.

She tried to lure me away. “Do you want another glass of wine? I heard the horses helped press the grapes…”

I nodded.

After this we should go see the animal band in the petting zoo out on the mezzanine.” Her brother guffawed, I nodded.

And then we should get naked and smear pigs blood on our legs,” she added.

I nodded.

You’re not even listening!”

I nodded, then shook my head. “Yes. I’d love some wine.”

She thrust her cup in my hand and walked away as I studied the blood and feathers beneath the chicken wire.

The room grew louder as more people arrived. My concentration on the piece was broken every so often by the rustling sounds of hearty handshakes and back slaps or smooches just missing ruddy cheeks. As I flitted around the gallery, I was surprised to see so many familiar faces. I was more surprised that so many people I knew cared about the artwork of animals. I nodded to this and that person, chatted with others and became more overwhelmed by the minute. Instead of searching for my girlfriend, I decided to retreat to the Chicken Dinner Dead for protection against inane conversation. No one wanted to stare too long at the piece.

A woman wearing a cut up Earth’s First t-shirt cut into a scoop neck and three inch heels barelled right toward me. Casually leaning against a wall doesn’t afford one much time to dart out of the way. Before I could juke, she shoved my shoulder and shouted, “This shit doesn’t make any sense!”

I didn’t make it,” I said, lazily staring at her bare shoulders.

I didn’t say you did. I’m just saying that it’s garbage.”

Do you think the chicken would say so?”

I don’t think a chicken had anything to do with this!” She flung her beautifully manicured hands at the portrait to emphasize her point.

Why are you so mad at it?”

Can’t you see?” I saw that the pink lipstick she wore did not compliment her dark brown skin, clashed with her red nails. “They’re exploiting these animals!” She waved a frantic hand around the room, “They are exploiting art!”

What is art if it isn’t exploitation?” I was intrigued.

Expression!” Her eyebrows were joined at the center creating an even crease from her widow’s peak to her nose. “Art is expression!”

I decided to test out the idea I’d been turning over in my head, “You don’t think the chicken that created this could be expressing something? Perhaps the bird feels oppressed by its own body, exemplified by the violent way the chicken wire encases the feathers-”

I highly doubt that a chicken stretched this wire across it’s own bloody feathers!” (I’m always tickled when people from the UK say the word bloody.) She pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a strike-anywhere match from her tight blue jeans.

Do you have an extra smoke?” I asked, ready to change the subject.

Hold on, let me get some wine.”

I have some here.” I’d been holding my girlfriend’s, and I offered it to my new favorite art critic who took it and turned to walk at the exact same time.

We weaved in and out of the animal pieces, strode purposefully down corridors of flannel-and-trucker-hat-wearing art fans chewing on glutinous chick’n wings or slurping down plastic cups of cheap red wine. In our hurry to get out of the gallery, we’d knock into a marble column, or an older matriarch from the beginning of the animals rights movement – both equally staunch in their positions, and both equally pale. My new British cohort, seeking to strike her match anywhere, did so on the hemp wallet protruding from the back pocket of one such witchey looking column. The sulfuric smell came as quickly as the puffs of smoke blowing from her face.

Out on the mezzanine, I was gulping down the cheap red wine left on the ledge. Each swallow brought a sweet tinge of sour on the back of my tongue, then slight burning in my esophagus. Standing under the stars next to this aggravated woman, feeling the dull consistent fire in my belly, I was alive! My head-nodding began to make sense as the dj’s mash up of Poison’s “Talk Dirty To Me” and Cher’s “Believe”, (with complimentary thunder from Dan the Automator) became louder and louder, propelling me toward my British comrade. I’ve never been much of a dancer, but there was no time to be self-conscious. As my head, then my entire body, began bouncing forward, my arms surrounded her and my hips pulsed toward her. I remember wondering – for only a second – if people were staring because they wanted to join in, or because she was trying to unbutton my shirt as I held a fist full of her hair. I’d sway, jerk, gyrate, my head continued to bob uncontrollably as great gusts of wind “Hah-huh-huh!” rushed from the scarred tissue in my chest. “Huh-huh-high! High!” Her warm breath melted every pore in my body. I could only see her crooked lips, impossible to kiss, while she knelt below my backward bending body, bucking wildly toward her.

I realized the music had stopped only when I started buttoning my pants. She was grinning, flipping her middle finger in every direction. People wandered away, shaking their pretty, liberated heads; I was still nodding my head like a damn chicken.

After I fucked that girl on the dance floor, in front of my girlfriend, her friends, her brother, and probably some squirmy board of directors, my girlfriend left me. Understandable. I didn’t try to win her back. But she didn’t just leave me. She disavowed of me. She burned every single shirt I had ever lent her, made little balls out of my stray pubic hairs in her sheets and torched them as well. Every scrap and scrape of my dna, my very existence, was burned from her life, from her memory. I was told she had a memorial for me. Her therapist suggested that it was part of the letting go process. She invited our mutual friends to a memorial at the queer temple in town and announced that I was dead to her. Dead to her.

Understandably, most of our friends decided that I was a liability as a friend, and they too disavowed of me. They too began to regard me, for lack of a better term, as dead.

In spite of the fact that we hadn’t been in love in years, a sort of malaise settled over my body. I didn’t want to go out. After a month of friends not returning my phone calls, it started to feel as though nothing in the world mattered. In a last ditch effort to reach out to anyone who might remotely care about me, I looked up Angie DiLaggio. I finally tracked down someone who used to know us both back in the day. When he picked up the phone, I could almost imagine him spitting out his latte.

Jesse Pilou? Uh, you might not remember me…” I spent about two full minutes describing myself and why I was calling.

Angie Di Laggio? Whoa. Yeah. She died in like ’94…”

I could feel my heart speed up as I remembered her and Chuckie and the snack machine, but I didn’t remember her dying. How could I forget something like that?

What happened?” I asked earnestly.

Damn, you know, I don’t really remember? That was almost 20 years ago. I didn’t really know her.”

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A scene from Dead Friends (a satirical love story)

Posted in Dead Friends, Fiction, Novel Insert on October 28, 2009 by melissa merin

This is another part of Dead Friends – just a scene.  It’s pretty rough ’cause I just churned it out this evening.  I’m posting it  prematurely, in light of my friend Al’s news that a man is currently trying to commit suicide on 16th & Valencia tonight.

Or Something


A man stood in the middle of the intersection of 16th and Valencia waving a gun. Mechanically we turned from reading the menu in the restaurant window to look in his direction. I quickly took stock of him; probably 32, disheveled clothes, scruffy beard…We’d learned the warning signs long ago, after The Panic At Southern Point Mall in Paso Robles, California. Three days before christmas, a young college student walked into the food court and pulled out a gun. Herds of shoppers clung to their bags of merchandise as though they were tiny children and charged hysterically toward the main entrances. When the dust settled, five people had been stomped so hard they had ceased to breathe. One man, the man with the gun, lay bleeding, forever breathless, from a single gun shot wound to the head in front of the Panda Express. The public outcry over the lifeless five people prompted the joint chiefs of police, fire, and medicine to release a statement that is now as memorable as the pledge of allegiance; A man with a gun is either a danger to himself or a danger to you. The man with a gun and a clean shirt is more likely to aim the gun at you than the man with a dirty shirt. If the man has a dirty shirt, he will likely shoot only himself. Nothing, however, is 100%.

As I looked at this man, a question lodged itself in my frontal lobe; who had buried him before? I scanned the faces on the sidewalk for any hint of epiphany from the passersby. As he raised his gun, a loud, unintelligible slur of words fell from his lips. Was it pain? Laughter? I ducked when I heard the shot, afraid to stop breathing.

The first thing my blurry eyes focused on was a four year old girl, curiously nudging the man’s cracked and bleeding skull with the toe of a pristine shoe. The child stamping her foot in the growing puddle of blood from the man’s head did not look terrified or even shocked. My friends rolled their eyes at the typical drama and brushed imaginary dust off of their shoulders. We continued down the street, hardly noticing the aggravated sirens fast approaching. I found the kid once more, this time her mother leading her gleefully away from the body as the medics mechanically checked his pulse, covered his face and hoisted the man with the gun into the ambulance. I yawned and followed my friends into the restaurant.

More laters!

Dead Friends (a satirical love story)

Posted in Dead Friends, Fiction, Novel Insert on September 24, 2009 by melissa merin

This story takes place in an alternate universe where elaborate memorials and tearful eulogies are common place.  I won’t give the whole concept away here, but this is how I plan on starting it.  Stay tuned…

Part One- The Details

When I was thirteen years old, my best friend Angie DiLaggio tried to steal my man.  She didn’t employ that sure-fire ghetto style that her mama used to land Andrew DiLaggio (everyone knew that story).  She used the creepy Sharon Stone style instead.  She showed up to the quad during morning break wearing a faded grey skirt and blazer get up, (I later learned it was purchased at Devlin Thrift), and her hair was pulled back so tight I heard Jesse Whirwol say she looked Korean.  He was an asshole and everyone knew it, but that’s beside the point.

My man Chuckie noticed her too.  “Is that Angie over there?”  She was shoving a handful of orange-flavored tortilla chips into her mouth, simultaneously laughing at something some boy was saying.  She approached us with a cougars precision.  As the chips were falling  from her face, I knew that she was trying to pull off her best black Basic Instinct.  We had watched the movie nine and a half times together – the last time her mama caught us rewinding and pausing the part where home girl crosses her legs. She grabbed the remote from me and yelled “Stop actin like a buncha lezzies!  I ain’t feedin no bull dykes in here!  What this look like? A petting zoo?”

I didn’t want anyone, much less Chuckie, thinking that I was a lezzie, but I couldn’t accuse my best friend of trying to steal him without real proof.  Angie’s hand was on Chuckie’s shoulder and she was laughing at the same stupid joke he always told about Jesse’s penis.  I listened to him prattle on in that same southern drawl that made all the boys laugh at him and call him ‘cracker barrel’. I woulda punched him right there, but I didn’t want Angie to know I was on to her. My hand gripped his arm as tight as I could without cutting off the circulation to his heart, and I’m sure I was grinning like a crazy person because right then I came up with the best plan ever.  A pencil fell from my half open bag.  Chuckie, a real gentleman, bent to pick it up but I stopped him.
“I got it, baby.”
I bent over real slow from the waist and reached for the useless implement.  While Angie stood there, hand still on my man, I fell off of the bench, landing on the ground with expert precision, my head underneath her skirt, and my worst fears confirmed: bitch had no underpants on. She was definitely trying to steal my man.

I didn’t tell her right away that I was never going to talk to her again.  I felt confused about the whole thing.  She and I were best friends.  We had cut our wrists with safety-pins to solidify the blood line between the two of us.  We ditched school every day before gym to get milk shakes from am/pm.  She helped me figure out how to paint my manish face so that cute boys like Chuckie would pay attention to me, and there she was, trying to steal him from me.

Instead of grabbing her by the puff ball plastered to the back of her head, I pretended to concentrate on putting my pencil neatly back into my bag.  When she got tired of laughing like a woodpecker at Chuckie’s jokes, she sauntered away, crumpling the bag of chips and tossing them at Jesse Whirlwol’s head.  Chuckie was still watching her when I pulled him close and said, “I think she’s a buncha lezzies.”
“What?  Not Angie!  She’s too…too fine for that!”
“I heard her mama say it once, that’s all.”  I rolled my eyes so he knew I didn’t really care, but  could tell he was thinking about it.

I didn’t really care if she was a lezzie or not, but everyone else did.  I started to notice that Chuckie wouldn’t talk to me if Angie was around.  In the locker room, girls whispered about whether or not she was a bull dyke.  Angie came to my house everyday talking about how this boy or that girl wouldn’t even look at her. I helped her strategize her revenge fantasies against all the friends who had suddenly turned their backs on her. I knew that I still wanted to hang out with my best girl even though she tried to steal my man, but I didn’t want anyone to think we were lezzies together.

So I spread another rumor.  Every morning during  first period lab Debbie Acker would find a way to sit next to me.  Debbie always had her hair pressed perfectly, like she had just walked out of the beauty shop.  Her skin shined under the flourescent lights and for whatever reason, it was hard for me to focus on my work whenever she came by.  She’d sit down close enough for me to smell the shea butter on her skin. Blood would rush to my cheeks making them hot and cold at the same time. She’d lean in real close and pump me for information about Angie.  One day I told her, “You didn’t hear this from me Debbie, but I heard that she don’t wear no underwear?”
Debbie jumped back in her seat.  “You mean she skankin?”
“I’m just sayin what I heard, girl.  I don’t really know though, you know.”

By lunch time, Chuckie and every other boy in the eighth grade was trying to talk to Angie.  As she stood by the vending machine, fumbling with her crumpled up dollar bills, Chuckie offered her a crisp one from the black patent leather wallet his uncle gave him for his birthday.  Her fingers grazed his as they exchanged currency.  I stormed across the quad, my busted back pack spilling homework and paper clips and pencils behind me.  I grabbed Angie’s wrist and twisted it up to her terrified face, “Skank!  You tryin to steal my man!”  Angie’s eyes started tearing and all of the guys around us broke out into wide grins. I heard Jesse Whirlwol whisper “Chic fight.  Awesome.”

Chuckie pulled me away from her and walked me down the hall.

“What’s wrong with y’all anyway?”

Of course the very next morning, Debbie Acker, and every other girl in the eighth grade was whispering about how Angie DiLaggio tried to steal my man, and by then my confusion was over.  Skank or dyke, I couldn’t be friends with her anymore.

I spent the rest of eighth grade ignoring Angie.  I erased our best friend tag from the walls of the mall bathroom to the tables at the taco stand.  I threw away the notes we passed in class.  Angie was out of my life.  She was dead to me.