Thursday, November 23, 2017

Adorably Clueless

Billy Mann scanned books into the system while his mind drifted off into outer space. “The second chance college prom,” he thought to himself. “If you couldn’t get it right the first time, you won’t get it right the second time.” He repeated this mantra over and over in his mind while paying minimal attention to the students checking out books at the counter. Loud conversations rarely carried on in quaint libraries like this one.

The loud snapping of fingers, however, was enough to jolt Billy awake like a fire underneath his ass. He adjusted his thick rimmed glasses and saw the image of a lovely Mexican student in front of him, donning a black dress with floral designs and flipping her raven black hair around with a ruby red smile on her face. “Wakey, wakey! Eggs and bacey! Rise and shine! It’s breakfast time!” she giggled.

“Sorry about that, ma’am. Here, let me scan that book for you,” said Billy while fluffing his black hair and adjusting his checkered wool vest. “Can I have your name, please?”

“Man, you really are out of it today, aren’t you? What are you doing, thinking about your girlfriend?” said the lady with her elbows on the counter and her face in her manicured hands.

Billy just now realized the student’s library card was tucked in the pages like a bookmark. He shook himself awake yet again before reading the name on the card, which was Mia Rodriguez. “My apologies, Miss Rodriguez,” said Billy while scanning her items.

“You don’t have to say you’re sorry. I’d be out of it too if all I could think about was the second chance prom,” Mia grinned, flashing her pearly white dentistry.

The librarian’s face flashed a neon shade of red at that revelation. He’d been talking out loud this whole time? Were the other students just trying to avoid him? Is that why they didn’t speak up sooner? Billy felt like crawling under the desk and sucking his thumb into a deep sleep. His testicles seemed to shrink to the size of Tic-Tacs.

Speaking of which, a tiny winter mint capsule would have been nice at that point. He breathed into his hand and scrunched his face in disgust at what he smelled. That breakfast burrito hung around like a home invader. Or even more appropriate, a flirtatious Mexican lady who just wanted a fucking library book.

“If you wanted a breath mint, I could have given you one. I’ve got a million of them in my purse,” said Mia as she rifled through her belongings.

“No, no, that’s okay. I’m just, uh…” Billy could only complete his sentence with a deep sigh, as if the tunnel of air would relax his rapidly beating heart and his ice cold neurons.

“Look, if you’re that hung up on the second chance prom, just take one of these,” said Mia as she handed him a business card with her name and phone number on it. The redness in Billy’s face was a perfect match for Mia Rodriguez’s cherry-colored lips. “You don’t have to be shy around me. Just give me a call if you change your mind about the prom. Buenos tardes…Billy Mann! How could I not like a guy with Mann in his name?”

“Wait a minute, how did you know my name?” asked Billy. He looked down at his vest and at that moment noticed he wore a nametag this whole time. Mia giggled and waved goodbye at him before strutting away with her book. Billy hung his head in shame, wishing deep down that he could hang his head with an extension cord. He tucked his lips inward and bit down on them before tossing Mia’s business card in the dustbin behind him. He breathed out another sigh in a futile effort to calm his nerves.

“What do you think you’re doing?” asked a black feminine voice behind him. Billy mouthed, “Oh no” to himself and then turned around to see his coworker Dottie Jackson fishing Mia’s business card out of the garbage bin. With a hand on her purple dress-wearing hip and an incredulous pout in her lips, she said, “You’re really going to let this chick slip through your fingers, babe? I don’t think so. You need to get out every once and a while and you literally had that opportunity handed to you on a silver platter.”

“Yeah, like I’m going to trust her with my heart that fucking easily. Give me a break,” said Billy with his arms folded and his weight leaning against the counter.

“If you can’t trust her, who can you trust?” asked Dottie. “All your high school crushes are long gone, my friend. Sure, you could look them up on Face Book, but you ain’t bringing them all the way over here for a stupid dance. That chick was into you, buddy. Seriously, how often does that happen anymore?”

“So I’m just supposed to say yes to any chick who flirts with me? For all I know, this could be some kind of joke. I’ve had girls in high school joke around like this all the time. I know a faker when I see one,” said Billy.

“This ain’t high school anymore, Billy-Boy,” said Dottie as she tucked Mia’s business card in his vest pocket. “This is college. She’s in her twenties, just like you and me. You really think she would go up to just anybody and waste their time like that? She’s too old for that shit. You’ve got something that others don’t.”

Billy laughed sarcastically and waved Dottie’s talking points off with his hand. “Please, Dottie, I’ve got absolutely nothing. I’m a super nerd who works at a college library. It doesn’t get anymore uncool than that.”

“Uncool? Really?” asked Dottie with raised eyebrows. “Yeah, you really are stuck in high school if you’re talking like that, honey. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, my friend. If you don’t want to date her, that’s fine. Just don’t yammer on about the second prom out loud to the customers. You’re scaring them off like a bus stop psychopath.” Dottie walked away and left Billy to contemplate her arguments.

The librarian tucked his face in his hand and shook his head. The embarrassment was killing him like snake poison flowing through his veins. Any more of this psycho babble and he was out of a job. What if this Mia Rodriguez really was the last opportunity for him? Was it that easy this entire time? His mind blazed through a whole rolodex of girls he could have asked on dates when he was in high school. The cheerleaders, the geeks, the sweethearts, each and every one of them had fallen away from his grasp. The images of them flipping their hair and pursing their lips forced a single tear to build up in his eye.

“Excuse me! Hey! Hello!” shouted an impatient customer, which snapped Billy out of his trance and put him in apologetic mode once again. That was the difference between Mia Rodriguez and everybody else who checked out books here: harshness wouldn’t even cross her mind. Even if she was being disingenuous, it was better than the grating voice of a three hundred pound frat boy staring down at him like a bear waiting for his next meal.

Nightfall descended upon the college town and Billy’s shift was thankfully over. Somehow, the thoughts of Mia flirting with him so openly got him through a tough work day. He actually smiled and chuckled as he exited the building. How long as it been since even a hint of happiness crossed his face? He had to stop by the florist and pick up a bouquet of roses. He had to stop by her apartment. It really was his last chance and damn it, he wasn’t going to let it pass him by! He picked up the pace in the parking lot and hurried to his respective destinations.

The dashboard clock read 7:30 and Billy drove over to Mia’s apartment in record time. He wondered about the shoddy conditions of the building. The wood splintered and the paint peeled. Plus, there was a neon green swear word spray painted on the walls. Maybe Mia secretly needed a gentleman like Billy to take her away from this horrifying place. Whoever said romance novels weren’t real had never felt the beautiful rhythm in Billy’s heart before. With flowers in hand, he exited his Prius and ascended the stairs to her apartment.

He knocked on the door and Mia told him to come in. The interior of the apartment looked much lovelier than the exterior, or it could have been the angelic glow of lava lamps placed every which way. Or maybe it could have been Mia’s wide smile that could have brought the toughest men to their knees. “You brought flowers! Don’t just stand out there! Come on in, sugar-booger!”

The two would-be dates for the second chance prom met in the center of the room and hugged tightly, Mia’s high heeled feet lifting off the ground. She kissed his forehead and said, “See? I knew you wouldn’t be in that trance forever!”

Except Billy was in a trance now. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Mia’s brown beauties. This is what second chances looked like. This is what happy endings felt like. This is what…gang initiations looked like? His lustful trance morphed into a frown of fear when Billy found himself surrounded by Mexican gangsters in basketball jerseys with tattoos running up and down their arms. “Mia…I trusted you…” he whispered with quivering lips.

“I know you did, honey,” said Mia with fake sympathy. “But if you came here looking to lose your virginity, you can still do that. Isn’t that right, boys?”

The gangsters all unzipped their jean flies and chuckled evilly at Billy while one of them closed the front door and bolted it shut. Mia backed away and Billy could feel tears welling up in his eyes. He kept mouthing the word, “Why?” without having a powerful enough voice to speak it.

One of the gangsters said, “That’s right, buddy, you keep moving those lips. You’re going to need them! Open wide, sweetheart! It’s initiation time, bitch!” The gang bangers circled around Billy and wrestled him to the ground, already proving that broken hearts and loneliness were better than broken bodies and mind-numbing trauma. He screamed like Mia would have done in a similar situation, but she just laughed it off while the gangsters had their way with Billy.


By the end of this night, a group of thugs would earn their stripes and a victimized librarian would lose his mind, his soul, and his cherry all in one night. Tears flowed more violently than the blood in his mouth and asshole. If something was too good to be true, it probably was. Billy had lied to himself this whole time and that was a more vicious lie than anything Mia could have spun up.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"No Cure for Cancer" by Denis Leary

BOOK TITLE: No Cure for Cancer
AUTHOR: Denis Leary
YEAR: 1992
GENRE: Nonfiction
SUBGENRE: Comedy Routine
GRADE: Pass

With a raging wit as fiery as his lit cigarettes, Denis Leary unleashes his comic venom on a variety of topics whether it’s political correctness, war, drugs, alcohol, meat, or his own life experiences. Nobody is safe from his silver tongue and no topic is off limits. If comedy could kill, he’d have a higher body count than Henry Lee Lucas. Hell, he might already be able to pull that off with the clouds of smoke he spews into the theater. Lung cancer doesn’t faze him and nor do sensitive opinions. He’s not leaving the theater until he gets a tumor-sized load off of his chest.

In many ways, Denis Leary reminds me a lot of late-eighties, early-nineties George Carlin. They both have angry, rapid fire deliveries. They can make humor out of even the most dismal topics. They have a non-binary political agenda. Let’s not forget the most important part of this comparison: Denis Leary and George Carlin are both funny as hell. Yes, I do realize that Mr. Leary’s politically incorrect sense of humor might not survive in this day and age, but that’s exactly why it’s important for readers to delve into this book with an open mind. As long as you’re laughing, that’s all that matters. And damn, did I laugh my head off!

It would be nearly impossible for me to list off all of the jokes I found hilarious in this book, because there are so many of them. I don’t even want to give away samples of jokes, because I don’t do spoilers. But think about this for a minute: when you have a viciously angry chain-smoker onstage with an alcoholic buzz ranting and raving about sensitive topics, you know it’s going to be something special. He’s not being politically incorrect just for the hell of it either; he actually has substance to go with his style. Everything he says means something whether you agree with it or not. But even if you don’t agree with some of his talking points, you’re going to laugh anyways even if he has to die trying (which he probably will, given how much he smokes and drinks).

If it isn’t obvious by the end of the story, then there is one thing you and Denis will definitely agree on: live every day like it’s the last. You want that big ass hamburger with five patties and god knows how much cheese? Eat it! You want that energy drink that will taste like sweet tarts but feel like heart attack hell? Drink it! Cross things off your bucket list despite the fact that you’re not even close to the end yet. Hell, you might even be closer than you think, especially if you live in a fun and exciting place like New York, Denis Leary’s home state. Don’t let life pass you by. Enjoy it! Relax! Take a chance!


I’ll admit that I haven’t seen a whole lot of Denis Leary outside of “Rescue Me”, “Demolition Man”, and “Why We Suck”, but this book is a damn good introduction into what he’s really all about. Now that I’ve read the book, I’d like to see this routine performed live. I could probably hunt it down on You Tube or some other movie streaming service. I hope I laugh just as loudly as I did when I read the damn book! A passing grade will go to Denis Leary and his fiery brand of humor!

Fine

VERSE 1
Watching Metallica shredding up a storm
Having eargasms in this heavy metal porn
Flamethrowers lighting up the fucking sky
So intense in the pit, you could fucking die
A night of badass music is in the books
This thrashed up body is exactly how it looks
You could do it again until the end of days
But when asked about it, you’ll only just say…

DEADPAN CHORUS
It was fine

VERSE 2
Losing your virginity to a Hollywood babe
Porno actresses want to be your love slaves
Cumming your whole body inside out
Orgasms so intense, you can only shout
Sex forever in the sunny beach weather
Who’ll it be today, a chick named Heather?
You could do it again until the end of time
But your only response gives another rhyme:

DEADPAN CHORUS
It was fine

VERSE 3
Driving around on the lunar surface
Floating in the air never felt so perfect
Planet earth is so many miles away
Yet all you can do is fucking say…

DEADPAN CHORUS
It was fine

BRIDGE
I don’t know if it’s laziness
Or a case of mental haziness
Fine is your answer for everything
If it feels good or fucking stings

ENERGETIC CHORUS

It was fine! X4

Dreams

DIALOGUE 1
Adult: What do you want to do when you grow up?
Kid 1: I want to flip hamburgers!
Kid 2: I want to clean toilets!
Kid 3: I want to bag groceries!

VERSE 1
How can you dream big when you can’t fall asleep?
When there’s no liquor bottle that’s too deep?
No excitement in this world that’s too cheap?
No friendship in this life that you can keep?
Do you even know what your biggest dreams are?
A white picket fence, a family, and a sports car?
Or is it just surviving yet another dark day?
No rainbows today, but there’s plenty of rain

DIALOGUE 2
Adult: What do you want to do when you grow up?
Kid 1: I want to panhandle!
Kid 2: I want to stay in bed!
Kid 3: I want to sell drugs!

VERSE 2
Being an astronaut is easy when you’re a child
To be a dreamer is to let your mind go wild
Being a princess is what you’ve always believed
When you grow the fuck up, you’ve been deceived
Being on the big screen is a Hollywood trip away
As long as you take the director’s dick and play
Low expectations are the new Disneyland
Peter Pan isn’t going to hold you by the hand

DIALOGUE 3
Adult: What do you want to do when you grow up?
Kid 1: I want to jump off a cliff!
Kid 2: I want to swallow a bunch of pills!
Kid 3: I want to put a gun to my head!

VERSE 3
Is this depressing shit making you want to cry?
Or do you dare to spread your wings and fly?
Fly around the world? Fly into outer space?
Fly off a building, splat all over the place?
Find out whoever took away your dreams
Hold him hostage, make him feel your screams
Tell him over and over how he fucked you bad
Laugh in his face like you’re fucking mad!

DIALOGUE 4
Adult: What do you want to do when you grow up?

Teenager: I’ll do whatever the fuck I want, you shallow prick! Resist, motherfuckers!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"Mortal Kombat X, Vol. 1" by Shawn Kittelsen

BOOK TITLE: Mortal Kombat X, Vol. 1: Blood Ties
AUTHOR: Shawn Kittelsen
YEAR: 2015
GENRE: Graphic Novel
SUBGENRE: Martial Arts Dark Fantasy
GRADE: Mixed

Normally, the first paragraph of these reviews would be a brief synopsis in my own words (rather than copying it from the back of the book). However, there’s so much going on in this graphic novel that it’s hard to piece it all together in one paragraph. Yes, there’s a war brewing between the earth and outer realms. Yes, they involve blood daggers that turn their wielders into psychotic savages. And yes, old characters from the Mortal Kombat videogame franchise make an appearance in one way or another. Something tells me that in order to understand what the hell’s going on here, you have to be familiar with earlier materials (even though this is the first volume). I’ve never actually played the first three Mortal Kombat games, but I’ve watched other people play them on You Tube, so I have a general idea of who the characters are and why I should give a damn about them. But those are the only three games I’ve seen up close. It’s because of this mass confusion and chaotic storytelling that this graphic novel earns a mixed grade at best.

But what the book lacks in coherent storylines, it makes up for tenfold with the violent action sequences. Bodies are getting ripped in half, hearts are being eaten, heads are being chopped off, bones are being broken, and that’s just a warm-up. Hell, the daggers that corrupt the minds of their owners do so by traveling through their blood. “The flesh is a lie!” as one warrior so delicately put it. There’s so much blood and gore in this graphic novel that vampires would use this as their own version of Playboy magazines. Then again, this level of ultra-violence is to be expected from a franchise where Sub-Zero rips the spinal column and skull out of his opponents’ bodies in the very first game. This kind of bloodlust had politicians and activists up in arms in the early 90’s, so the graphic novel will do nothing to sooth their sensitive sides.


The positives of this graphic novel are purely superficial, unless of course you have a better grasp of the storyline than I do. You get bonus points if you can remember everybody’s names, let alone the names of the artifacts scattered throughout the story. If someone can explain this to me and make me feel like an idiot watching Jeopardy, I will be your own personal janitor for a month. I’ll mop your floors and clean your toilets…with my tongue. Okay, maybe that whole stipulation is a tough bet, but you get the idea. The graphic novel is enjoyable, but confusing at the same time. This kind of yin-yang dynamic is what makes me want to give the work a mixed grade.

"Winter Wishes of the Heart" by Ashley Uzzell

BOOK TITLE: Winter Wishes of the Heart
AUTHOR: Ashley Uzzell
YEAR: 2017
GENRE: Fictional Short Stories
SUBGENRE: Winter Love
GRADE: Pass

If you’re looking for four short stories that will warm your insides like a cup of hot chocolate, you’ve found the right book. They’re short and sweet, emphasis on sweet. Whether it’s Christmas, New Years, or Valentine’s Day, you’ll always have the wonderful writing of Ashley Uzzell by your side. Grab a fuzzy kitty, wrap yourself in a blanket, and light the fireplace: you’re in for a nice cozy evening.

Of all four stories, my personal favorite has to be Round Table Chant. This one’s about an anxiety patient named Herbie who feels obligated to go to a Christmas party despite the triggers of being around strange people. Mental illnesses are a favorite topic of mine to read about, especially in stories where the sufferer conquers his demons in the end. We need more lovable characters like Herbie in today’s books. Representation matters. It matters a lot. Mentally ill people shouldn’t be ashamed of who they are or the demons that try to hold them down. If anybody’s writing can put this group of people at ease and make them feel powerful, it’s Ashley Uzzell’s. While I won’t give away the ending, rest assured that this story will warm your heart like a bowl of clam chowder. I’d even dare say Round Table Chant deserves its own novel.

That’s not to devalue the other three stories, because they too are just as cute and cuddly to read about. If you want shy guy romance, read David’s Gift. If you want body positivity, try Emily’s Valentine. If you want a brotherly love, get started on What We Built. There’s something for everybody in this collection of short stories. If you don’t personally relate to one thing, you’ll relate to the next. Winter holidays are inclusive of everybody, just like Ashley Uzzell herself. It matters not if you’re rich or poor, young or old, happy or sad: you’ve got a place in her audience if you want to come in from the cold.


Ashley Uzzell knocks it out of the park yet again. Then again, she kind of has a reputation for doing just that. In all my years of reading her books (under both of her aliases), I haven’t come across one that disappointed me yet, nor do I expect to. She’s the go-to author of our generation. She makes independent authors proud to be who they are by virtue of her achievements. If she can kick butt on such a consistent basis, what does that mean for other aspiring writers who need hope in this world? A passing grade for her wonderful winter tales!

"The Cat Who Robbed a Bank" by Lilian Jackson Braun

BOOK TITLE: The Cat Who Robbed a Bank
AUTHOR: Lilian Jackson Braun
YEAR: 2000
GENRE: Fiction
SUBGENRE: Cozy Mystery
GRADE: Pass

Jim “Q” Qwilleran and his Siamese kitties Koko and Yum Yum are thrust into another mystery when a jewelry dealer winds up dead in a hotel room and the salesman’s assistant as well as a local Highland Games athlete go missing shortly after. Koko, being the psychic kitty he is, drops little hints in front of Q that could be mistaken for hyperactive playing. The closer Q gets to solving this case, the more he realizes that Koko really is a genius and that even the strangest clues can pan out from time to time.

I’ve been a reader of Lilian Jackson Braun’s “Cat Who” books since the early 2010’s. Every time I read one of these novels, the tropes she relies on become more and more apparent. The small town atmosphere, local gossiping, and constant lunch and dinner dates are just small examples. Others include the G-rated way in which the dead meet their fates, the townsfolk’s love of ancient literature, the typical elderly hobbies such as silhouette cutting and wood turning, and the relaxed sense of urgency when these mysteries move along. I believe it’s safe to say that if you’ve read one Cat Who book, you’ve read them all.

And yet I keep going back to them because of their relaxing nature and light reading material. This is especially comforting whenever it’s raining or otherwise cold outside. Just snuggle up with your favorite kitty and wrap yourself in a blanket for a nice afternoon or evening of easy reading. Notice how I’m using themes of comfort and relaxation with these books rather than boredom. You can be chilled out and still have lots of fun reading whatever it is you’re reading. Think of it as being like getting a chair massage with new age music playing in the background. After you’ve had your low-key fun for the day, snuggle in bed and take a nice long nap with the rain tapping on your window.


If you want to read something nice and pleasant with a double dose of feline sweetness, look no further than “The Cat Who Robbed a Bank”, or any other Cat Who book for that matter. Ms. Braun has left behind a legacy of lovability with this series alone. Yes, she had a nagging tendency to tell instead of show, but if you’re patient, it won’t matter after you’ve delved far enough into the easy-paced mystery. Easy on the eyes, easy on the soul, easy on your warm toasty kitty-loving heart. A passing grade not only for this particular book, but for the series as a whole.