Chariots of the Gauze

When I opened my desk drawer at work yesterday, I noticed that someone had put a box of tampons there.  There were 16 of the 18 remaining.  Who put them there, and why?

Since there were a couple of tampons missing, I began with the assumption that whoever put them there planted them as a stash for personal use.  If this was the case, I could safely eliminate all male coworkers from my suspect list.  The same logic could be used to eliminate all the more venerable female ones as well, especially the few whose blue-rinse cooters haven’t shed a drop of blood since Hinckley shot Reagan.

Unfortunately, this did not even come close to eliminating the possibilities to a select few.  My workplace is pretty large, relatively young, and women make up at least half of it.  Even if it did not run afoul of both the sexual-harassment policy and common courtesy, it simply would not be feasible for me to confront and accuse each potential tampon-box planter individually.

As if the question of who wasn’t perplexing enough, figuring out why seemed absolutely mind boggling.  We all have desk drawers.  Why would a woman choose to store her feminine-hygiene products in my cube rather than her own?  Naturally, I smelled a conspiracy.

One only has to look through my extensive secret file that is no doubt being amassed in the basement of some quasi-legal shadow-government agency somewhere.  “It is hard to imagine how someone who is so chronically inappropriate with the basest of sensibilities and immaturity run riot has neither been incarcerated or beaten to death by decent people.  It is our recommendation that Jennings be tempted to perform some loathsome act for which he shall be apprehended and severely punished.”

In light of this, the motivation behind this becomes pretty clear.  The person or persons responsible placed the tampons in my cube in the hope that I would be caught on video taking one one of them out of its wrapper and putting it in the office coffee pot.  You know what?  I would have done it in a heartbeat too if I had not been onto their little game.

hese sorts of dirty tricks by the Global Managers are nothing new.  One need only look at the tragic case of Phineas Gage.  Gage was a railroad employee in the mid-nineteenth century.  By all accounts, he was both a conscientious worker and a virtuous person.  All accounts, that is, until his “accident.”  In 1848 while working as a crew foreman in Vermont, Gage was in the vicinity of some dynamite that “just happened to go off” and launch a three and a half foot tamping iron up through his jaw and out the top of his head.

It is my guess that he learned something he shouldn’t have and because he was a good American, said he would go public.  Among the railroad robber barons, only locomotives were allowed to do any whistle blowing.

The injury changed Phineas Gage forever.  The once solid citizen had been transformed into a violent and lecherous alcoholic.  Even if he made good on his threat to tell all, no one would trust a man who was known for the horrible sucking sounds his cranium made while he downed one rye whiskey after another and tried to ram his hand up a barmaid’s skirt.

I was certain that the merciless success of silencing Phineas Gage has emboldened many thuggish operatives over the years and that I was the intended target of this brutal legacy.  I have to admit that I was skeptical at first.  I was willing to accept as mere coincidence the fact that both of us being in the employ of large profit-motivated organizations, or even that “Gage” and “Dave” have the same number of letters.  What I could not dismiss was the undeniable fact that TAMPING IRON THROUGH THE BRAIN is an anagram of INHERIT THROUGH BRING A TAMPON.

I know that I’m going to have to watch my back to avoid a similar fate.

Checking In, Making Excuses, Taking up Space

This is another placeholder post.  I am still working out how frequently I can update the blog without burning out or resorting to posting filler like you’rre reading now.  I’m writing a little every day now but I can’t always get something worth a damn finished inside of 24 hours.

Sometimes that’s because my writing for that day is complete crap.  On my latest project, I don’t think that’s the case.  At least I hope so.  It’s a longer piece, not as long as “Hold Me Closer Tiny Cancer,” but too lengthy to whip out in a single day.

That’s about it for now.  I don’t have much more to say today.  It would be a shame to finish before culturally enriching you in some small way.  I know.  How about a haiku about tea?  Ito En Teas’ Tea had a haiku contest and I really wanted to enter, but the contest was already over when I went to their website.  Oh well, their loss is your gain.  Here is my haiku:


I pissed in your tea

Hey you stupid fucking bitch

Drink my goddamn piss

I’ll be back Friday.  I think.  Fuck, I don’t know.

Clean Underwear and Not Much Else

I did laundry this weekend, two whole loads.  It was time.  Actually, it was well past time.  For the last three weeks I’ve been avoiding the chore, figuring no one would catch on if I never wore the same shirt to work two days in a row.  I could conceivably continue in this manner indefinitely if it weren’t for the smell.  Even with a cushy office job, the pits can get a little ripe after a while.

So I took care of that task.  Along with sleep, feeding myself, and basic personal hygiene, the bare essentials were checked off my to-do list.  It was time to get creative.

I have a couple of good ideas for stories (along with countless bad ones) but I felt this weird inertia that kept me from diving into either of them.  I wasn’t too worried.  It was only Saturday afternoon and my muse would either return to me or wouldn’t.

I spent a couple of hours on Stickam chatting with a friend of mine in Europe.  He’s usually a good conversationalist and it was my hope that some witty banter would provide a colonic for my writer’s block

There were two factors that kept this from working out as well as I liked.  The first was the time-zone difference.  My friend was nine hours ahead so mid afternoon for me was past midnight for him.  The second factor was the lump of hashish he decided to smoke.  In a few short moments, an engaging and intelligent human being was transformed into a spaced-out dullard with sleepy-creepy Baldwin eyes.  I was on my own.

So there I was, craving an artistic outlet but not knowing quite what to write.  If I could draw, paint, or play an instrument, I might have created something beautiful that I could be proud of.  Instead I had to make do with whatever was within reach, which turned out to be a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce, and a plastic baby head.

The baby head, purchased in Japan in 2003, is actually a piggy bank with the coin slot in the location of the fontanel.  Now before any of you jump to conclusions, let me just say that the slot is too narrow and the plastic too hard to use the head as a sex toy. Besides, I’m not just some sicko.  I have the soul of an artist.  That’s why I used the hot sauce and toilet paper to make it look like the baby had its eyes gushed out and then was hastily bandaged in a futile attempt to keep the blood from gushing down its face.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday was, of anything, even less productive.  I finished reading Roald Dahl’s My Uncle Oswald, which I enjoyed for the most part but was a little let down by the ending.  I’ve read books with worse endings (most of Harry Crews’ work falls under this category), but Dahl’s short stories have never lacked for satisfying and twisted conclusions.

I eventually found my way down to the Argus, as I am prone to do.  I waited until after the Giant’s game was over because I don’t do well around sports fans who are drunk and stupid enough to think that their home-team hard on had any bearing on the outcome of the game.  Instead I showed up while the 49ers were playing.  They suck this year so the crowd was not nearly so rowdy.

I took out my notebook and scribbled down the opening to one of the stories.  It wasn’t much but it was something I could work with.  Every little bit helps.

I was still feeling distracted so I started surfing the web on my iPhone.  I learned that the flood of red sludge in Hungary had actually killed people, at least seven of them.  The phrase “Hungarian Ghoulish” popped into my head and I was proud of myself coming up with that.  I wanted to turn that into something, a poem perhaps.  I never got that far in this endeavor, probably because I could not decide between this opening verse:

Red Sludge

Red Death

I can barely hold my breath

and this one:

Red Death

Red Sludge

I can barely hold my fudge


There are some things in life best left unaccomplished.

Civic Duty and a Dying World

I checked the calendar.  Seven and a half weeks went by with nary an update to Poison Spur.  I figured that was pretty awful.  Rather than hold myself accountable, I decided to blame the American legal system.  No, the law didn’t finally catch up with me for all those high-spirited felonies I allegedly committed over the years.  It was something far more ordinary in the form of a jury summons.

This sounds like a lame excuse but let me explain.  I hated getting that jury summons.  Obsessing over it took up all my free time, well, except for the hours spent drinking or playing Civilization IV with the space race and time limit options turned off so I could experiencing the joys of endless wars.  More on that later.

At this point, some of you are no doubt shaking your heads and thinking that not only am I an unreliable blogger, but also a real crybaby in the citizenship department.  I can’t say I blame you.  The right to trial by jury is one of those things that makes this country great.  The orientation video they play in the jury assembly room says so and I could see myself enjoying the experience.  With California’s three strikes law, I might even have a hand in putting some guy away for 25 to life for stealing a candy bar.  Ha ha.  Fuck you. The gavel comes down.

The only drawback is not getting paid for my time.  Your bosses can’t legally fire you for going on jury duty, nor can they threaten you, call you mean names, or put a thumbtack on your chair if you are called upon to serve.  However, they are under no obligation to pay you and your landlady is able to legally evict you if you don’t earn enough money to pay rent.
Granted, such an outcome is extremely unlikely.  I have yet to hear of a single instance of someone being thrown out on the street as a result of having to sit on a jury.  Most cases don’t last that long and for the ones that do, even the least sympathetic of judges are willing to dismiss a juror because of financial hardship.  Unfortunately, they rarely share my view that hardship begins with the first penny of lost income.  I must therefore fall back on the proud tradition of using every trick in the book to get out of jury duty.

A little finesse is necessary here.  Unless you’re willing to get cited for contempt, you can’t threaten the judge with causing a mistrial out of spite.  A juror does have the right to do exactly that but only as an unanounced act of revenge and only if one at least pretends to have considered the evidence in the trial.  You just have to be able to say with a straight face, “I voted to acquit because the prosecution based their entire case on just three eyewitnesses and a single fingerprint lifted from the victim’s perineum.  I still got reasonable doubt to burn.”

Even if you do have the kind of mean streak necessary for this act of vengeance, you still had to sit on a jury.  As I said before, I’m fine with fulfilling my civic duty as long as my employer picks up the tab.  Unfortunately, I work as a contractor for an agency that pays nothing.  That means I make no money.  That also means that I will pay no taxes on the money I do not earn and if you hadn’t noticed, this country is strapped for cash.  I would argue that it is my patriotic duty to earn a full paycheck and let some non-taxpayer sit in the jury box.  If you look around, there are plenty of these folks to choose from.  If need be, they can wheel in some retiree from an assisted-living center, feeding tube and all.

The wheels in my head started turning about how I could get myself excused.  Because I was summoned to the courthouse near Civic Center and not the Hall of Justice, this was to be a civil suit rather a criminal trial.  If this was to be personal-injury case, my plan was to say the same things I said when I summoned a decade ago.  “Mr. Plaintiff’s attorney, pull your snout up out of the trough and listen to me.  When awarding damages, I will vote against any sum in excess of what covers medical expenses and lost wages.  This is a court of law, not the goddamn lottery.”

I’m paraphrasing here but you get the general idea.

I could tell the judge was onto me but we both knew there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.  I had played the tort-reform card and it was either boot me or suffer the consequences.  I was out the door within the hour.

So I had a plan that may or may not work.  The week of 9/27 was a long way off.  I have a nasty habit of worrying about things that I can’t do anything about and nonproductive diversion is often my only escape.  Heading out to the bar is usually a good plan but my liver is not as resilient a punching bag as it once was.  I find most TV unwatchable and while reading is quite enjoyable, it stimulates rather than numbs the mind.  When my mind is stimulated it gravitates toward unpleasant topics, like my jury summons.

To save both my liver and my sanity, I started playing Civilization IV on my laptop at home.  This was exactly the kind of diversion I needed but I found the early stages of each game tedious.  Let’s face it.  Building a granary is never going to be as much fun as orchestrating land, sea, and air units to pound the crap out of an enemy position.  Just when things started getting good, some rival would launch a mission to Alpha Centauri and the game would be over.  I turned off the space-race option but that only got me as far as 2050, the normal ending year for the game.  After I turned off the time limit, the game could pretty much last forever as long as I didn’t score a quick and decisive victory.  Since I’m at best a mediocre player this was not to be an issue.

I imagined myself ruling Civ empire as a modern Tiberius: brooding, suspicious, and delighted by perversion.  I closed my borders to other civilizations and built up a huge military, often starting senseless wars where the sole objective was to capture a single enemy city so I could rename it to “Fort Buttrape.”  The real world has never been this good.

As years of unchecked pollution took their toll, the global-warming feature of the game started transforming fertile farmland in this world into desert.  The populations in my cities began to starve and the shortage of arable land served as yet another reason to start wars of expansion.  In my mind’s eye, my empire had a quaint but effective propaganda machine.  Every night the populace was herded into classrooms where movie projectors reminiscent of those from my school days would show inspirational newsreels with booming narration like:


This sort of thing filled my head even when I wasn’t playing the game.  I maintained my presence of mind at work, but only because I had to.  In social circles, I’d nod my head and say things like “Is that a fact?” while thinking more about my game world than what was being said to me.  In my world, you see, no one would receive a jury summons.  The court system would overhauled so human juries were replaced by a panel of 12 Daleks.  The conviction rate would hold at a steady 100 percent.  Crime would cease to exist.  If it weren’t for the specter of global extinction by famine, the place would be paradise.

Time on planet earth continued to move ahead and before I knew it, the week of 9/27 was upon me.  On 4:30 in the afternoon of the preceding Friday, I checked the court website to see if my jury group was order was ordered to report.  It wasn’t.  I dodged the first bullet.  There were four more to go and then I was off the hook for another year.  The next two days followed the same pattern and I thought I was home free.  Then my number came up and I was to report to the jury assembly room at 8:45 Thursday morning.

I could scarcely believe it.  Every time I’ve been summoned for jury duty, they’ve called in everybody they need in the first cxouple of days of the week.  I felt cheated.  I didn’t sleep well that night.  I spent a lot of time thinking of every possible way I could get excused from jury service.  Since I knew nothing about the case or the judge, nothing could be a guaranteed success.

In the end, I lucked out.  Whatever case I was supposed to be on went into continuance and we were all excused.  The total length of my jury service was less than an hour and a half.  I was a free man, and a good thing too.  I needed to have all my wits about me because the city that would one day be known as “Port Yeastclam” was not going to liberate itself.