the writing disorder


emil deandreis

New Fiction


by Emil DeAndreis

      Lakota has just fucked herself. Not literally; pit bulls rarely display such advanced thought. But she has spent the last hour maiming the compost bin and assigning its contents to digestion. Notable substances that are currently being mulched in her stomach are egg shells, burnt cupcakes, napkins, and one pound of discarded marijuana butter. She was not previously in the market for a hallucinatory voyage, but has just lapped up enough pot to incapacitate a small civilization of stoners, so she no longer has a say in her sobriety levels.
      Quickly, her life is melting into an asylum of tremor. Her shaking is uncontrollable. Usually an athletic specimen, she is presently collapsing into walls and forgetting how to walk. Her brain and heart are likely burning like a volcanically-tempered cocktail of battery acid, rubbing alcohol, and shrooms.
Occasionally, she pisses. On the floor. She looks like baby veal walking for the first time, having lived her entire life in a cage. Her primary caretaker, Chase, believes she is acting skittishly because she is still emotionally healing from when he lightly spanked her butt for drinking toilet water a few hours ago. Chase and the rest of the roommates can’t seem to make the connection between the thrashed compost, which contained pot butter, and their presently retarded canine.
      All that can be confirmed is that Lakota is in terrible shape, and no one can make her feel better. She’s just going to have to wear this one on her chin. Or snout. Poor baby.
      Another housemate, Juke, pets Lakota on the head as she cowers into a ball wishing she knew how to end her life. Juke’s friends are waiting for him in the car outside. They are calling him and telling him to come out so that they can all get to this party, a party they have been looking forward to for months. For the party, Juke has put on a shirt that masks the reality of his man tits. He has also applied his contact lenses; nights he wears his contact lenses are nights he takes very seriously.
      It’s the annual high school holiday party. Everyone from high school gets together and asks each other catching-up questions and no one listens to the answers but it’s a lot of fun either way. They are in their mid twenties. Everyone has a job now, and if they don’t, they at least have a well-rehearsed decree on the state of the economy as an excuse. Anyone who still lives with their parents has an even better rehearsed decree on said economy. But deep down, the source of this bitterness can scientifically be credited not to the flourishing unemployment, but to a more basic science—the science of maturation, of years piled on years piled on years.
      At these parties, anyone with new partners usually brings the partner, at which point this partner is usually introduced and interviewed by the masses and then assessed later. The party goers who are still single usually get drunk and fuck one another, thereby quenching some strange sexual tension that has been strengthening and fermenting since high school when sex drive was something new and fresh. Juke is not investing himself into such endeavors tonight, or ever; he is a bit simpler than that.
      “You be a good girl,” Juke soothes to Lakota, whose eyes are glazed and fixed upon nothing. “She doesn’t look too good,” Juke tells Chase as he heads out the door.
      “She don’t know how good she has it,” returns Chase, a sort of unprepared and nondescript remark that suggests he is currently as mentally disfigured by marijuana as his dog.
      Juke leaves Lakota a pile of apocalyptic misery and walks out the door to the car. He decides to bring a twelve pack of non-piss beer to the party: Sapporo, another indication that he means business tonight. The car’s population—the old baseball boys, as it were—recalls the different high school cliques. They forecast who will show up. They wonder if so-and-so is still fat, or if so-and-so ever broke up with her opossum-nosed boyfriend, and if anyone heard about how ‘so-and-so moved to Tibet to bike through the Himalayas’. They place bets on which guys will show up sporting the I’m-a-man-now beard. They wonder if anyone has gone off the deep end and really changed, really severed ties with their youth.
      When the door opens, the muffled house party noise becomes more acute, and the crisp San Francisco winter air is quickly buried under a surge of alcohol-muggy fog from inside the house. Juke is in heaven. He walks over to the alcohol table and introduces his cultural beer to the community of corona, Jameson and Grey Goose bottles. Quickly Juke is hugging the rosy sloshed faces of his once-classmates. He cracks a few of his beers and drinks them to catch up with the masses, who appear to have been drinking for quite some time already. Juke separates from the friends he arrived with and branches out to old classmates to exchange the due futile conversations that go something like this:
      “So how’ve you been?”
      “Great, and you?”
      “Where’d you go to college again?”
      “UC Davis.”
      “That’s right, I knew that. What’d you major in again?”
      “Molecular Engineering and Business Management.”
      “Wow. I think I remember you telling me that before. So what do you do now?”
      “I just started my own business. Molecular engineering.”
      “Oh no way. Sounds heavy. What’d you major in to get into to that?”
      And so forth. Eventually, the conversation switches sides, and it is the other person’s turn to ask questions, not listen to answers and then repeat the questions due to the ever-cohesive bond of disinterest and inebriation. Periodically, the calamity of loose socializing and celebration is silenced by a cheery soul who elevates himself on a chair to necessitate a unified toast. Juke raises his beer along with the hands of his mid-twenty year old peers to say cheers. Cheers to the old days, the days that feel like yesterday but are steadily coming to be remembered as the best days, and also the lost days. The days when staying out late was still monitored, before driving became boring, when they got money from their parents for lunch, when fucking up meant trash duty at lunch and not a criminal record, when they drank because they wanted to, not because they needed to. The days when it made them happy to hear Hey Ya! by Outkast; not sad.
      Juke is deep into a few beers now. The scattered toasts have bled some shots of whiskey into him, leaving a warm smile plastered to his face. In a corner, he lethargically intercepts pieces of surrounding conversations. The smile does not leave his face. No one notices his strange tranquility. He looks at a girl who, in high school, was so adamantly against the use of marijuana that she would occasionally cancel a friendship if she learned of a prior affair with the herb; her system for admittance of friends was as strenuous as the CIA’s. Juke listens as she explains how these days she is on a panel for the legalization of marijuana in Portland, where she went to college. Additionally, she works at a medical marijuana distribution clinic in Portland, and is quite pleased to deliver these facts. Smiling, Juke thinks that if he were talking to her, he would say “quite a turnaround for you”, but he is in the corner. As it turns out, the boy who is actually talking to the girl does not react to her news because he simply isn’t listening to her. Juke finishes a beer and sighs out an airy burp and smiles. He looks at a boy who, in high school, was a sexually abstinent, commandment-abiding Christian who would melt girls’ hearts when he played his acoustic guitar during lunch. He could have had any girl in the school simply because he genuinely wanted none of them, so naturally they were driven into barbarous, narcissistic pursuit of his phallus with hopes that they could be the one that he ultimately couldn’t resist, the one that he threw everything away for. He never boned any of them. He just brushed his blonde hair out of his eyes and strummed his guitar, which brought moisture to the vagina of any female within a listening distance. He also arranged missions with his Church to third world countries where he fed the children and played games with them in the street and informed them of the one-time, yet ever-continuing existence of an entity called Jesus. Wherever he went he was loved. Now, he’s gay. His boyfriend is at the party and they are being neither secretive nor boastful in their displays of affection. Girls realize that the reason he avoided them in high school was not entirely due to his devotion to Christianity, but because he was turned off by them, and somehow, if it is even possible, the girls appear more infatuated with him as a result. He could go around the party and honk every girl’s tit if he wanted to right now, and they would only laugh and smile for more. He still wears a cross around his neck. Juke has drained another half of a beer. It’s funny to look at all the guys who wore baggy sagged jeans in high school, himself profoundly included, now walking around the party with testicle-suffocating jeans painted to their legs in a white-flag-waving surrender to fashion. Juke can barely even walk in his denim leggings. God help us, he thinks. Where are we going? He knows where.
      “Juke, good to see you.”
      Someone has tapped him on the shoulder. It’s Gary, an old classmate. Back in high school, Juke and Gary would take turns doing the French homework and letting the other copy the next day before class. Their teacher was a flagrant stickler about homework; she felt that nightly academic efforts indicated much in a young scholar, like promise, drive, durability and Cancer immunity.
      “And if you don’t do your homework, you will be passed up. You will be forgotten. This is not just a fact of this class, ladies and gentlemen, no. This is a fact of life, prearranged and not up for debate. Fait Accompli. Life will not wait for you, and it starts with your homework. French homework, yes?”
      Manifestos like this often inspired all Francois students to take school profoundly less seriously. Nonetheless, this was stupid busy work, nothing more, and Juke and Gary had a very nice system in place that enabled them to be viewed highly by their French teacher without putting forth any real effort; the beauty of high school.
       “I’ve been meaning to tell you, I’ve read some of the stories you’ve had published recently,” Gary tells Juke.
      In the event that Juke chugs another beer, his mind will be sent into an alcohol-assisted delirium unsuited for a deep and philosophical conversation, even if that conversation revolves around him. Juke, however, does not know this, so in order to lube his vocal chords for this materializing discussion with an old classmate, Juke pours beer down his throat.
      “I had no idea you spent so much time thinking. You alluded to no such activities in French class, of course. But your writing is impressive,” Juke’s classmate says.
      Juke shrugs, chugs.
      “It like, you know, flows smoothly like good writing does. Not that I’m a scholar by any means.”
      Juke finishes his beer and releases an exhausted sigh of submission to alcohol.
      “Thanks for taking the time,” he dribbles warmly, and proceeds to be deliberate in his pursuit of more flattery. “What stories’dya read? What’dya like specifically?”
      The classmate excavates through the part of his mind that stores fairly useless information, like what dish he liked so much last time he got Thai food, or how old he was when his fish died.
      “I read the one about the guy, uh… he was on the fishing pier or something. He was old I think, and he was talking about girls.”
      “Ah yes,” Juke gloats. His eyes are half-shut. Juke pretends he’s being asked about the secrets of his writing, the secrets to all his success. He pretends he is being interviewed about a published book. Maybe he is at a book signing.
      “Thank you. With that story, I—”
      Another energetic soul has just navigated to the top of a stool and merrily silenced the party so that he can make an announcement. Evidently, the house segment of the party is over and now an exodus is being arranged to a nearby bar for continued festivities. This alert commences a raging flurry of shots. Tiny Chinese girls are slamming whiskey after whiskey like navy boys on their night off, blowing Juke’s mind. Toasts are being enforced among various pods of people—toasts to their high school basketball team, toasts to Cal Berkeley alumnus, toasts to Obama, toasts to the bacon-wrapped hot dogs that everyone will purchase on the street at the precise moment that the bar closes, toasts their class of ’04.
      Juke tells his ex-French partner, Gary, that they will continue catching up at the next destination, for there is only one thing more powerful than Juke’s eternal search for ego-boosting, and that is his inability to resist free booze, especially when he has already had too much, especially when he is around high school alumni. So he sacrifices literary acclaim and lines up at the liquor table and clinks shot glasses a few times with people he knows only by vague recognition. He washes the vodka down with beer, and now his mind is processing things at the pace of a baby turtle wading through quick sand. In a moment of calculated thought, he decides that the one-third-left bottle of Bushmills will be left unenjoyed, unemployed, if he doesn’t do anything about it. So he jams the long glass container into his very snug jeans like a baseball bat into a condom, and stumbles to his friend’s car.
      “Check out this acquisition,” snarls Juke, hoisting the ball-sweat-glazed bottle of whiskey like an MVP trophy. Juke’s friend rolls his eyes, electing to let the spicy human precipitation dry before grabbing the Bushmills and swigging it. This allows Juke to take a hearty swig. He has just ensured that he will not remember arriving to the club, or anything that follows. He will more or less bump and wade through the night completely disqualified from mental function—and he will go this path alone.
      After parking, Juke’s friends are showing interest in avoiding him because his communication is proving to be ceaseless and foul. In the bar, he quickly finds himself standing alone, and what he does to combat the social idleness is approach congregations of interaction and simply stare into them. Being that the groups are courteous, they open to Juke and offer salutations. Juke bulldozes his way in and continues to stare, only now he’s smiling. He asks everyone’s name and says nice to meet them, which is stupid considering they were all his classmates a short time ago. Once they realize that he is nothing more than a breathing corpse, they resume conversing as if he’s not there. That is of course until minutes later when Juke ends his mute streak by proclaiming “I hate iPhones.”
      The group is stunned by the irrelevance.
      “You know what I mean?” Juke slurs, his eyes fixed on someone’s armpit. Having provided no details to support this claim, his audience unfortunately doesn’t know what he means.
      “Remember when everyone had the old phones? And we played snake?”
      Standing there, Juke forgets what has just said, then takes the lull in the conversation as his cue to pinch a girl’s ass.
      “Huh?!” Juke blubbers, startled, when the girl makes a prompt exit. Replacing her is Gary.
      “You just pinched my ex girlfriend’s ass dude,” he says. Juke rolls his eyes.
      “What do you mean?”
      “Where’s her ass is going?”
      “Just don’t do it again.”
      “You really wanna walk outside and fight?” growls Juke.
      “No, I’d just much rather you not colonize handfuls of my ex’s ass.”
      At this moment, Juke kisses Gary’s cheek. Then he makes a remark about how his ex- girl’s “real estate” is “eligible,” thus ending the correspondence between he and his old classmate for good. Juke is staring off into the crowd of his high school’s alumni. Maybe he is targeting new people to haunt, maybe he is having a revelation or perhaps thinking nothing at all. It is impossible to speculate the thought process of someone who is truly blacked out; no detail of the faded voyage can be personally recounted, not a cab ride or a confession or a surprisingly predictable late night ingestion of Taco Bell, so it is even further impossible to get to the bottom of one’s internal thoughts and motives. For all we know, blacking out can bring a man to the peak of human intellectual capacity. While one may potentially arrive into the custody of a rhinoceral bouncer or law enforcement officer, one may also arrive at the meaning of life, or the cure for cancer, or the explanation for why each year, communities of lemmings gather and march themselves off of cliffs to a self-provided death. No one will ever know heights of enlightenment one reaches in a black out, however, because those potential life-altering revelations are left trapped in the molasses-paced skull of the plagued and are then erased in the morning when all that commemorates the prior night is a house-clearing defecation and an archive of infuriated text messages.
       Juke has invited himself into another congregation. This one includes an alumnus whose younger brother was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year. The girl’s friends and other alumni have spent the months since his death being there for the girl’s family. The funeral was about six months ago—a crowded and paralyzing illness of an affair, the way funerals for premature and undeserved deaths tend to be. Classmates stood at the podium and wept about his loyalty and innocence and good nature, and how they could not believe they lived in a world that could take someone like him early. Adults had to be escorted from the service early, faint and claustrophobic from the proximity of death and youth. This was not the kind of tranquil funeral that brought closure to an ended existence, rather it was the kind where the wound was torn open to gape and glisten and reflect and gush under the rising and setting sun.
      “So’d they ever catch ’im?” Juke asks, swaying back and forth. He spits on the floor.
      “Who?” asks the slain soldier’s sister.
      “The motherfucker that did it. Killed your brother.”
      Juke’s eyes are rolling around, swimming, barely treading water.
      “I’m pretty sure he died soon after,” the girl says gingerly, looking around the bar for some kind of escape.
      “I’ll beat the shit out of him,” Juke boasts. “Just tell me where he is. You know? Trust me. I’ll choke him out, stick him in the fuckin’ ground. You don’t do that shit to one of my friends. Remember this one time we were outnumbered in high school, in the parking lot after one of the basketball games. We took on their whole school. Shit, we might not’a won, but we weren’t scared of nothing. Remember?” he asks this mortified girl. “Remember??”
      One of Juke’s friends walks by and hears Juke digging himself a hole, and pulls him out of there by the arm.
      “How bout we get you some water,” Juke’s friend says.
      “You wanna fight?” Juke dares; Juke’s friend walks off without getting him water. Juke doesn’t notice.
      He is standing alone again, ogling at different situations, losing and regaining his balance, losing and regaining his balance, falling forward and then stopping himself just before he face plants. He walks over to some old classmates and sticks his hand out for someone, anyone, to slap in the form of a celebratory acknowledgment of nothing. Generously, someone complies, and slaps it. Juke nods, as if he and this borderline-stranger have established a secret that no one knows. Juke does this to some more people and gives the same confusing reaction.
      Juke is not the only one having a rough night. One guy just puked in his lap and was promptly dragged out by his belt loop while his girlfriend followed and dramatically shrieked at the bouncer as if the world was crumbling before her eyes. Another guy, and girl, were just excused from the bar for being caught fornicating indiscreetly in a corner. Neither of them has any idea they were just fucking, or that they are now on the street flailing for a cab, unable to recite their own address to whoever picks them up. More or less, this reunion is dissolving into the night, one classmate after another. People will wake up tomorrow, ranging in health and spirit, with another winter reunion in the books; another night spent ignoring the fact that each party means they are one year further from the last, one year further down the dark and thinning tunnel of age.
      Juke’s friends tell him that they’re headed outside. Juke is appalled by this. They tell him he should get his jacket from the couch in the corner; it’s cold outside; Juke tells everyone to fuck off; they do. The bar is soon empty. Juke is staring at emptiness with the same drooling curiosity he had when staring at live humans. Eventually, he wanders outside. He has left the warmth. He has lost his friends. He has entered the winter of San Francisco, without a jacket.
      He phones his friends and gets a blockade of voicemails. As he instructed them to do, they have fucked off. Disturbed people scaling endless roads travel in all directions around him. The pavement is iced from rain water. Juke calls the girl who hosted the house party. She does not pick up. He shoots her a text message saying he would be advantaged to invade underneath her roof for lengthy refrigerator usurpation.
      When this message is not responded to in hasty enough fashion, Juke becomes particularly offended. Chinese chicken wings, for fuck’s sake is the follow up text. This also goes without acknowledged receipt.
      Now Juke is bordering insanity. He paces up and down Market Street, muttering to himself in the fashion of the drug addicts and bums that presently surround him, all the other ones who have had a rough night, or a rough couple of nights, or a rough couple of years, years upon years upon years.
      “Where the fuck is home?!” he cries dramatically, stunning some people out of a cheap-vodka stupor and out of their fort of garbage bags. Juke’s nipples are the consistency of machine gun bullets. Juke jumps on a bus, the 38 Geary, which will take him to his neighborhood. That he is taking the bus home alone after a high school reunion is derailing his psyche. And on this bus ride around the city, he has ample time to sit, and think, with his phone in his hand.
      I hope you have fun cupping your hand around the asses of your new best buddies leaving me in the dust on a bus you little hippie germ. This city will swallow you like you get it, like I am.
      Juke sends this cryptic blast to the friends who have mysteriously ditched him tonight. An old Russian man is watching a loogie fall from his mouth to the floor next to him. Other alcohol victims are sitting, their heads swaying as if their necks are broken. A homeless man is vocally castrating every human on the bus and challenging them to various death-resulting endeavors. The scent of one person is reminiscent of a clogged toilet. Not a single soul is of mild or presentable temperament, and the bus bumps riotously into an oblivion of dark and cold.
       The spell of whiskey dick that is about to infect you will leave you widowed by your girlfriend, and she will cheat on you with a real man like me because there has never been a doubt about who is a bigger man. Choke deliriously on chicken fingers, faggot.
      This text has just been dispatched to a bigger audience, including some friends who were not even at the party tonight. The drudgery of the night is now being blamed on people who were not remotely involved. Now Juke, disgusted by the universal ignorance he is receiving at two thirty am, commences a feverish rampage against his entire mobile community.
      You’ve always been one to prove time and time again that the purpose of your heartbeat cannot be proven.
      Juke scrolls through his contacts and assigns this conundrum to about ten people, including some acquaintances from college that he met only once, some classmates whose name never even learned, some kids he met in the library during the first week of school when he was trying to make friends.
      Congratulations, your girlfriend is insecure and dates you because she thinks she is a worthless clod, which she is, and fears she cannot do any better, which she cannot.
      This is sent to Juke’s best friends, his childhood friends. This is also sent to some girls, which makes no sense.
      Your counter-productivity on this earth cannot be quantified, nor can your closet gayness. In essence, you are no better than Hitler. Every day you wonder why you’re alive and I don’t blame you.
      Juke scrolls through his phone and blindly delegates this zinger to an ill-advised number of recipients. First he targets a kid from high school who is now a reputed brawler in a local Asian gang. Next, he checks off his good friend’s younger brother, a sophomore in high school now who has always quietly looked up to Juke at family get-togethers. Juke used to work at Hot Dog on a Stick. He once contacted his coworkers frequently in order to trade and replace his shifts, but hasn’t spoken to any of them since terminating his employ at the prestigious institution. Because he never got around to deleting their numbers upon quitting, he has just used his thumbs to arrange for all of them to receive this message. Any of them who still work at Hot Dog on a Stick will read Juke’s message and probably give their lives a serious re-evaluation. Juke continues down the list. An old baseball coach, who essentially taught him how to pitch: check. Juke’s uncle: check. A college professor: check. The mother of a child to whom Juke used to give baseball lessons: check. An old teammate who now plays for the Oakland Athletics: check. Send. Sent; and now, for a good morning message from your old pal Juke.
      Juke looks out the window of the bus. It’s dark. He has no idea where he is, where this bus is going, where everyone on the bus is going. His phone is not exploding with replies, and this is even worse news.
      FUCK YOU he reminds the friends he was with tonight.
      The bus driver is yelling LAST STOP to Juke, as he is the only survivor on this goon-trafficked conveyance of hell.
      Hi he sends next to another friend—a male—at four in the morning. The bus is stopped for a noticeable amount of time. Juke wades his way up the aisle to the driver who tells him this is the last stop. Juke gets off, stands out in the cold unaware of where he is. Juke looks around. With the exception of a distant streetlight here and there, it is dark everywhere. There are hills and trees and sidewalks but everything is dark and wispy. Juke has no idea where he is, only that he was just traveling in the same direction as the city’s saddest people, and now he is by himself in the dark. He gets back on the bus. The bus driver has no interest in explaining to blacked-out Juke where he is, or how to get home, so he permits him to sit on the bus and sleep, or text, or whatever, as the bus goes back downtown where it began on this infinite merry-go-round through darkness.
      I think this is hell he notifies everyone via mobile device.
      “Each year, its further, further deep, further darker, closer, god damnit,” he says.
      The bus driver tells him where he actually is, which is back downtown at the train station. Juke asks him why he isn’t back home. The driver, in broken English, tells him that his home is now on the other side of the city, a long way away.
      “You gotta take me back, man.”
      “I cannot.”
      “Please, I don’t even know where I am at the moment. Please.”
      “This is my break. Forty minutes.”
      “Just—I wanna go back. Take me back.”
      “What can I do?”
      Juke cries. The door of the bus opens and releases Juke into an onslaught of unforgiving wind. Juke doesn’t know it, but he catches a cab. He pays fifty dollars, like any other adult, to be taken home from the exact destination he found himself hours ago.
      After jingling all of his keys in the gate for ten minutes, all the while cursing the entire world, Juke is finally inside. Now in a home, it is no longer Juke’s priority to sever his friendships via text messages. Juke charges into Chase’s room and startles him and even worse poor Lakota, who is still coming down from her holocaustic marijuana excursion.
      “Give me Lakota,” Juke says. Lakota is squinting even in the dark. Only a few hairs on the tip of her tail are wagging, whereas it is usually her ritual to nearly level the house in flippant excitement whenever a visitor enters her lair.
      “She’s still a little fucked up. I think she got into some weed butter,” Chase expertly mumbles.
      “I do not care. Only she knows what it is like to be where I am.”
      Lakota clumsily rises onto her paws and stumbles after Juke into his room.
      “She pissed the bed earlier man! Right under my ear! She can’t control it right now! Just a warning,” Chase calls.
      Lakota is showing a pitiful glare. Her neck can hardly hold her head up. Before Juke’s head hits the pillow, he is snoring. Lakota climbs onto his bed and curls into a ball next to Juke’s ear. Juke, snoring, rolls over and wraps his arm and leg around the dog, holding onto her, holding onto anything he can, just holding on because it is in everyone’s nature to hold on; she pisses, right under his ear, as scheduled. Juke does not wake up. Little can save him from the lonely feeling he will have when he wakes up and shakes the cold piss from his head. His head is so soaked that he will have to shake it until he has strained his neck, making it difficult to turn his head side to side, and especially painful to look backward.

Emil DeAndreis is a twenty-seven-year-old substitute teacher and high school baseball coach in San Francisco. He is published in over twenty journals and has received an Editor’s Choice and Pushcart Prize nomination. His first book, Beyond Folly, will be released in 2013 by Blue Cubicle Press. In his free time he plays inadequate rounds of golf and jazz gigs — jazz being the only artistic vocation which pays less than writing. His pilgrimage toward an MFA began this year at San Francisco State. His author page is here:

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