The Heel that Started the War

Amy shoveled another spade of martian dirt into the pile. It felt strange to have traveled so far to Mars to shovel dirt. She and Bill were building the greenhouse, and these holes would be its foundation. She peered at his pile, a foot shorter than her own. He had spent most of the hour humming, and it seemed to have slowed him down.

“Bill, could you dig a little faster?” she said.

“Hmmm, hmmm, remember me to the one who lives there, she was once a true love of mine,” he sang.


“I just sang the first song to ever be sung on Mars. It was Bob Dylan. Y’know they put that album in Voyager 4. ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.’ Freewheelin through the cosmos, Ha!”

She couldn’t help the smile. His enthusiasm was corny, but contagious.

“We’ll spin that record when we find it,” she said.

Voyager 4 carried bits of Earth’s culture, and it had crashed on Mars.

“Y’know, I wonder if they put any fightin’ songs in there, to warn invaders to stay away, like, ‘We’ll kick your asses!'” he said and punched his palm.

“Good idea, but they might take it the wrong way. Don’t wanna start a war off a misunderstanding.”

“Guess so.”

She headed to the shuttle for a break and froze at the entrance. A horsefly the size of her fist stared at her from the ramp. Her childhood instincts kicked in.

Hello. We come in–

Before she could stop herself, she crunched the bug under her foot. She lifted her boot and trembled as the blood oozed down the treads.

“Oh god.”

Life. She had found life on Mars and greeted it with a boot heel.

“Something wrong?” said Bill.


A piercing screech filled her head, a violent, stabbing screech that knifed into her brain and chainsawed along her skull. She clutched her helmet and doubled over on her knees. The pain sliced through her body with a serrated edge and sprawled her onto her back.

“What is this!? Bill?”


He twisted on the ground, kicked up small clouds of dust until he became a shadow of jerking limbs.

The crew flashed into her head and for a second she wondered if they were safe, but the pain escalated and smothered her worry.

And then it stopped.

Amy stared into the sky. It was calm and reminded her of butterscotch. She wanted to sit up, to assert control over her numb limbs, but she feared waking the pain. In the silence of the peace, she heard a thousand tiny voices singing in her head.

I am not saying you treated me unkind


You could have done better but I don’t mind

A dark cloud filled the sky. It was sizzling with tiny movements, and it was coming closer.

You just kind of wasted my precious time

“Bill, I know this one,” she said.

But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

The swarm devoured her.

Lyrics by Bob Dylan


Week Twenty-three
Prompt: The first men/women to set foot on Mars return to their ship only to find a large, strange insect on the door of the ship.


Blue Eyes for Adoption with Cat

Wednesday morning with coffee standing outside of the office. Since I don’t smoke, I just stand out there with nothing to do but observe the busy slice of street that runs past the office building.

I spot a flyer on the lamp post.

CAT for adoption with BLUE EYES
She’s white with a little bit of color on her head and tail.
Very cute and friendly.
3 years old, healthy, has shots etc.

I rearrange the words in my head, inspired by a video I saw of Bob Dylan doing something similar.

Eyes for adoption with blue cat.

Very blue and old cat with 3 eyes for adoption. Healthy, has head with little bit of tail.

For adoption: 3 healthy years

Cat with little eyes for adoption. 3 years shot. Very blue with a friendly tail.

Blue Eyes for adoption with Cat.

Cat with a little bit of head. Has shots, etc.

Head with a little bit of tail.

Cute and friendly eyes for healthy Cat.

3 year old cat head for adoption (with eyes, etc!)

I probably enjoyed myself too much. I loved the odd combinations that popped up. The more ridiculous, the better.

Goodbye Alexander

The apartment was small and drab and suffocating. Alexander slouched into the gutted sofa cushions and tried to admire the decor. Instead, he scribbled criticisms in his mental list: the walls were a splotchy, faded red, the floors were puddled with water stains, the windows were dark with the city’s grime. He almost added “filthy,” but decided against it. It didn’t matter now.

“It’s cozy,” he said.

His foot slid from the coffee table and left a smear of cleanliness on the tabletop.  Continue reading

When I Almost Met Chris Jericho

When I was ten, Monday Night Raw was can’t-miss television. I’d graduated from the Power Rangers school of martial arts and entered the “Steel chair! Steel chair!” academy of mayhem. It was two hours of people beating each other up, which, in some ways, was an upgrade from watching teenagers with attitude fight putty patrollers.

Scratch that. This shit was awesome!

It didn’t matter if the matches were fixed or if it was all scripted. I was there for the thrills. Is Triple H going to rush in for an illegal save? Who’s going to get Stone Cold Stunner-ed? Will Vince McMahon screw The Rock out of a title shot?

Raw was a show in which I was heavily invested. The WWF(/E) ramped up the drama. The stakes were high and sometimes reachable only by ladder. It added the word “turnbuckle” to my vocabulary. I learned that dousing your boss in beer would have people chanting your name and that getting up when you were down was more exhilarating when it was impossible.

I intern at a place that occasionally brushes elbows with celebrities, where the question “Who can we get?” is usually followed by a list of recognizable names.

I was at my desk when I overheard someone share her to-do list.

It went like this:

  • Doing something
  • Doing something
  • Doing something
  • “I’m meeting with Chris Jericho”

I swiveled in her direction like a dog that heard the crinkle of a goodie bag.

Chris Jericho?” I said.

Excitement rushed up, warmed my face, and threatened to burst out in one loud, electrified “WOOO!” Chris Jericho was coming, and I would see him with my own two eyes.

A smile escaped and I tried to hide it by bending the corners of my mouth down, but the smile still dimpled my cheeks. I tried to play it cool. Cool, man, cool.

© Miki Barlok

Switch-combs, activate!

“Are you okay?” she said.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine. It’s cool.”

I spun around and let my excitement take over, which means I beamed at my computer screen for a good five minutes.

I didn’t end up meeting him, but if you asked why I was so hyped at the time, I’d be at a loss. Why was I so excited? It was only Chris Jericho. I wasn’t a “fanboy.” I didn’t know if he was still locking people into the Walls. I couldn’t name a single Fozzy song. I couldn’t think of a reason for my excitement until I got home.

Meeting Chris Jericho wasn’t what excited me (ok, it did a little OMG SO FUCKING EXCITED!), it was the memory of excitement echoing from the past.

Also from the past: square TVs

Monday night: my ten year old self engrossed in the on-screen chaos of Raw is War. At some point during the broadcast, the arena would go dark. A countdown would start on the Titantron. The crowd’s murmur would swell into cheers (or jeers).

Then, pyro!

Then, entrance song!

Then, Chris Jericho!

I pumped a fist into the air and reveled in the electricity of the entrance. I cheered when he was face and booed when he was heel. But I always “WOOOP”-ed when the place went dark and the countdown started.

Above: how I imagined Chris Jericho would enter the office.

Memories are strange because the details aren’t always clear. For me, the the who/what/when/where of a memory is secondary to how I felt at the time and how I feel as I remember it. Some memories stick around , and without the feelings associated with them, those memories wouldn’t mean anything.

The chance of meeting Chris Jericho conjured a long-forgotten buzz. You’ve probably felt something similar. No, not wrestling-related. Whatever it was, you might have paused for a split second and thought, “man, that brings me back…” and if you were on a TV show, you’d turn your head a little as the camera zoomed to the dazed look on your face while the picture dissolved with the sound of a cascading harp, and ten year old me would’ve changed the channel because OH MY GOD RAW IS ON EVERYONE SHUT THE FUCK HECK UP!

Original photo from

Instant! Wealth

I never considered myself “lucky.” Sure, you could throw a “lucky to be alive” at me, and I guess I’d have to agree, but I’m not lucky in the making-money sense. I’ve never, for example, won big at a slot machine or uncovered a trio of fifty grands on a scratch-off. 

If I got a lucky break by finding a suitcase full of cash on the beach or if some kind of insta-wealth rolled in front of me, I’d put my hands in my pockets, sidestep it, and pretend I didn’t see a thing.

The closest I’ve gotten to those riches is an email from a Nigerian prince with bad english or from a bank introducing me to a very wealthy, recently dead relative who bequeathed his riches to me.

Of course the suitcase would be a trick. It’d be crazy to ignore it and crazy (but the right thing to do) to turn it in instead of keeping it.

And if I kept it, karma would probably kick my ass. If I picked up that suitcase and brought it home, I’d find my home burnt to the ground. If I bought a car with that cash, I’d get in an accident. If I bought a car and didn’t get into an accident and my house was still standing, some burly guy in a suit would knock on my door and threaten my dog.

I’m not paranoid, I just subscribe to one of life’s simple truths:

Dodging Flyers in the City

Five o’ clock, and Lisa was out the door. It was home-time, and work was over. No exceptions. You could scoff and say, “work is never over!” and to you she would roll her eyes and answer, “fuck off.” She had a schedule to keep, and something important was scheduled after work.

If you studied her agenda you would see it: a blank space between five and ten; its emptiness and isolation among the pencil-ins and highlights emphasizing a pure white space; a sacred, divine, and practically mythical slice of nothing called “Free Time.”

It was free time-o’clock, and Lisa burrowed her earbuds in and disappeared beneath the stream of umbrellas bobbing toward 33rd street station.

She reminded herself: eyes forward, no eye contact. Eye contact was dangerous. She learned that when she started the job. The city, she realized, was determined to hand her something: brochures for bus tours; tickets to comedy clubs; pamphlets to ready her soul. She grouped these undesirables under one, disgusting word: flyers. Continue reading

What is this Feeling?

Inspired by a Daily Prompt by the Daily Post.

Tell us about one thing (or more) that you promised yourself you’d accomplish by the end of the year. How would you feel once you do? What if you don’t?

This sounds like a New Years Resolution.

By the end of the year, I’ll have a job in my field and get my own place. If I get one, I can get the other. I’ve somehow convinced myself that both of these things will either bring ultimate happiness or open the door to it. And if I don’t accomplish those goals? Ha! There’s no “if I don’t,” only “I will.” It’s do or die. Not that I’m planning on dying, but you know what I mean.

Hopefully, this will be me before the year is out:

This feels strange. What is it? Oh, it’s confidence. So this is what it feels like.