Authors: Chris Bowsman
Published by Grindhouse Press
Dayton, OH 45429
A Life On Fire
Grindhouse Press #006
Copyright © 2011 by Chris Bowsman. All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction.
Cover design copyright © 2011 by Brandon Duncan
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author or publisher.
A Life On Fire
If you die you’re completely happy and your soul somewhere lives on. I’m not afraid of dying. Total peace after death, becoming someone else is the best hope I’ve got.
- Kurt Cobain
Why in the hell did I ever want to be a patent clerk?
Gerald McManner thought to himself as he pretended to listen to yet another idiot “inventor.” He asked himself this question at least thirty-five times a day.
“. . . and they let you zip around like magic!” the idiot proclaimed. “Come on, seriously. Who isn’t going to want a pair of these babies?”
“You’re right, Mr . . . uh, Holman. This would appeal to a lot of people. Unfortunately, roller skates were invented kind of a long time ago,” Gerald said, trying not to sound too patronizing. He had already sat through too many lectures from his boss about speaking down to the applicants. He didn’t do it intentionally, but when at least twenty people a week tried to get a patent on something like roller skates or dental floss, feigning sincerity became quite difficult.
Mr. Holman’s jaw dropped. “Whoa . . . seriously?”
Gerald swallowed, took a deep breath, replied, “Yes. Actually,” he paused, typing on his computer, “it appears a Belgian man first patented them in 1760. Two hundred and fifty years ago.”
“Well I’ll be damned. Two hundred fifty years ago? How the hell was I supposed to know he did that?”
Gerald took another deep breath and pretended to be busy concentrating on his computer monitor while counting to ten in his head. “Well, Mr. Holman, I would recommend Wikipedia. Or at least a cursory Google search.”
Mr. Holman appeared slightly angry. “When am I supposed to do that? Can’t work a computer. I’m too busy inventing things.” He sounded angry, as well. Not as angry as last week, though, when Gerald had denied his waterproof matches, which were in fact ordinary matches dipped in wax. Nor was he as angry as the week before that, when he had brought in two Sharpie markers—one red, one black—taped together end to end, and Gerald had shown Mr. Holman his four-color pen.
“As I’ve recommended in the past, it may behoove you to spend a few minutes on research the next time you have an idea.” Despite his familiarity with Mr. Holman, Gerald was still astonished every time the guy dismissed the notion of research, no matter how many times his “ideas” got kicked in the teeth.
“I don’t know, Gerald . . . I get an idea, I gotta jump on it. Remember that kid, traded a paperclip for a house? What if he’d stopped to research? Some other bastard with a paperclip would’ve wound up with his house.” Mr. Holman sniffed and rubbed his nose. “You see where I’m coming from?”
Gerald forced himself not to roll his eyes. “Think of all the time you spend pitching me your inventions, and all the time I spend denying you patents, and explaining, sometimes several times, why. Couldn’t that time be better spent doing a search for ‘wheel shoes’ or ‘waterproof matches’?”
The hurt on Mr. Holman’s face was unmistakable. His expression hardened. He retrieved his crudely fashioned skates from Gerald’s desk and put them back in his canvas knapsack. “Okay. I won’t take up any more of your time.” His voice had an air of professionalism previously missing. “Besides, I had an excellent idea on the way here this morning I’d like to work on. I was eating an ice cream bar, and when I was done, I couldn’t find a good place to put the stick. I was thinking about some sort of edible ice cream holder—”
“Like a cone?”
Mr. Holman’s eyes reddened and Gerald swore he saw a tear form in one of them. “Good day, Gerald,” he said, turning and walking out the door.
“Take it easy, Mr. Holman. Better luck next time.” Gerald’s fake smile receded as his head sunk toward his desktop. He punched the intercom button on his phone.
“Yes, Gerald?” Matilda, his secretary, answered.
“Can you keep everyone out of here for forty-five minutes? I need a nap.”
“Will do. Anything else, Gerald?”
“Not now. Just the nap.” Gerald let his head rest on the desktop and shut his eyes. Matilda was a good secretary. Perhaps a bit more familiar with him than tradition would dictate, but good nonetheless. Gerald drifted off to sleep with images of Mr. Holman’s head popping up from a Whack-A-Mole game and Gerald smacking him with a mallet running rampant through his mind.
“Fuck my ass like I’m your whore!” Matilda screamed. Gerald thrust against her, his cock pounding in and out of her ass. He could feel his balls smack against her wet vulva. She squealed, pressing against his thrusts. He reached around her, slid his fingers from between her legs and up her body, stopping at her double D-sized breasts. He cupped the flesh, but felt it lose consistency.
The breasts became writhing masses of tentacles, each one seeming to have a mind of its own. Rather than cupping them, Gerald’s fingers were entwined in the tentacles. He felt his orgasm approaching. He thrust harder and harder. Just as he came, a white hot pain seared through his hand. He screamed, ripped his hand from the tentacles, and saw five bloody stumps where his fingers had been. He tried to pull away from her, but felt her ass clamp onto his cock in a death grip. He looked down at where they met and saw blood flowing. He looked back up. Matilda turned her head toward him, her face replaced by that of some hideous alligator beast. Gerald screamed and flung himself from her. He felt a tearing, and blood spurted from the now-empty space above his balls. He looked up in time to see his severed penis slide from the Matilda-creature’s ass. Gerald looked down at his bloody crotch again, and—
—snapped his head up from the desk, a string of drool connecting him to it.
“Jesus Christ . . .” he slurred incomprehensibly. His hands shot down to his crotch, feeling his still intact penis. He sighed in relief, but still hit the intercom button for Matilda.
“You’re up early,” she replied. The clock indicated that only twenty-six minutes had passed.
“Had a weird dream. Nightmare, I guess.” He shook his head, but couldn’t rid himself of the monstrous imagery. “Everything okay out there?”
“Yup. Nobody’s even arrived yet.”
Gerald couldn’t shake the imagery from his dream. He wiped the cold sweat from his brow and put his head back down on the desk. “Buzz me for the 3:00.”
Gerald locked the door to his office at five-fifteen. He dropped the key in his pocket and walked out through the lobby, past Matilda’s vacant desk. He stopped to look at a picture of Matilda and her husband. What the hell was his name? Steve? Jim? She had worked with Gerald for three years, so he really ought to know this. He rolled his eyes at his ignorance and put the picture back on the desk.
He exited the lobby and got into his car. He turned on the local public radio station and pulled out of the lot. On the radio, reporters were talking about concurrent natural disasters in Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, and Nigeria. “That’s some cheery shit,” he said, switching off the radio. He could only take so much news about fires, earthquakes, landslides, typhoons, and cattle stampedes. He wasn’t really certain a cattle stampede should be included as a natural disaster, but since there had been five deaths, he didn’t see any reason to split hairs.
He chose to take the long way home, still rattled by his dream. It wasn’t just because of the disturbing nature of the dream. Any type of sex dream shook him up, left him guilt ridden. Rather than spend the rest of the evening feeling creepy, he stopped at a gas station for beer. He picked up a six-pack of Sam Adams and, against his better judgment, two packs of Camels. He’d quit smoking almost three weeks before, but his will power had bottomed out.
Seventeen dollars poorer, Gerald turned into his driveway and parked his car. He got out, dropping his cigarette and grinding it out. He’d successfully gone nineteen days without a single one and then smoked three on the drive home.
, he thought. He already felt bad enough and wasn’t going to get himself any more worked up over smoking. He took the beer and sat down in his front yard. He pried the cap from one, flicked it at his garage, and downed half the bottle in one gulp.
, he thought again.
“Orion . . . Big Dipper . . .” Gerald slurred, lying in the yard. He lay in the grass, staring at the stars, surrounded by empty bottles, each containing several cigarette butts. The smell of fresh cut grass hung heavily in the air. In the three hours since arriving home, he had only gotten up to pee behind his garage a few times and to retrieve another lighter from the car when the first quit working. He was content to pass the evening smoking, drinking, and trying to identify the constellations in the Fallmeadows, Ohio, sky.
He and Tracy had spent countless hours on countless evenings lying in the yard staring at the stars. Sufficiently drunk, he felt safe dwelling on these memories. They were bittersweet but, through the alcoholic haze, more pleasant than painful.
He finished his last beer, tossed it off with the rest, and stood up. He got up too quickly, stumbled, and almost fell. After regaining his balance, he lit another cigarette. So much for quitting.
Despite how much he’d had to drink, he started feeling depressed thinking about Tracy. He looked at the house and laughed. It was after nine o’clock and he hadn’t even been inside yet. “Music,” he said to the empty yard and went inside. His first instinct was to turn on the stereo, crank some really obnoxious rock music really loud and piss off the neighbors. He thought about it, remembered his CDs were all packed away out in the garage and that he liked his neighbors and decided on headphones instead. He looked around and, unable to find them, thought watching a movie was a better idea. Before sitting down on the couch, he realized he held Tracy’s urn cradled in his arm like a baby. He must have picked it up without even realizing it. He put it back on the mantle, running his fingertips down its surface. Christ, he needed another beer.