Never Took

  • Reading time: three minutes
  • Word count: 409
  • Published: 9 dec 2KXV
  • Author: Matador Matt Matrisciano
  • Copyright: Matt Matrisciano, 2015


“People have all ripped me off long as I been breathing. I figure why not do the same. Keep things balanced.”

“You’re just—all it is is you’re keeping that cycle running.”

“Madam.” He smiled. “Please. Not like they know they getting ripped off. Think they doing me a favor, a solid, giving me a good turn or a leg up. They got no reason to feel cheated.”

“…”

“That’s the difference. They feel good helping me.”

“Bull shit.”

“Bullshit nothing, ma’am. Those four phrases I tossed out I got from four different people the last day or two. Shit. Like I’m helping them. Cheapest therapy they’ll ever get.”

She crossed her arms.

“Not like it’s a total lie, neither. You see my car. These my clothes. Yeah I got money. Just enough I can’t tell it’s keeping me floating or trying to drown me.”

“Those people might have more or better stuff, but it’s not like they can actually afford it. They miss a check, they miss a payment. They’re boned. And you’re asking them for gas you don’t even need.”

“I got a car, right, I drive it, right.”

“…”

“So I need gas.”

“Could you pay for it?”

“Not the issue here. I need it, I ask. This how I spend Saturday and Sunday. This how I’m staying up. Yeah I could pay. Couldn’t afford, though.”

“You just ask different people, is all?”

“I never pressed on anyone. Some say no, I leave ’em alone. Never took from someone didn’t think they could afford it.”

“The ones who can’t won’t say no.”

“They should say no. I’ll talk someone else to help me being independent, not riding the bus two hours to go what should take half one.”

“The ones who say no probably can afford it.”

“Yeah. And the ones who say no probably call the cops. They do. That’s how I run out of gas one week.”

“…”

“I got another why for it. You wanna hear?”

“…”

“See who say no. See who say yes.”

“…”

“I wear this polo every day. That’s why it’s black. Hide the stains.”

Her eyes burned a bit as they picked up the wobbling white salt patches of sweat pooling under his arms and on his chest.

“I got two pair khaki shorts. Me working outside all the time, I gotta spend clothes money on socks and underwear and shit shoes. So don’t say I take advantage.”


“Never Took” is a poorly titled deleted scene from “Eighteen Gallons to Freedom,” the first short story published on fingerpuppet raygun. Why did I cut this scene? A couple of more technical reasons: (A) I couldn't figure out how to start or end it, so I didn't know how to fit it in to the story; (B) it really didn't add anything to the story and didn't move it forward in any way.

But my biggest concern when I was writing and revising the story was that this exchange would cast the protagonist—Daniels—in a negative light, and I wanted to make sure readers knew that he was someone to root for. Reading this exchange now, it doesn't make me see Daniels negatively—but I still think it would slant many readers’ minds in that direction.

Hope you enjoyed this short, non-canon exchange between Daniels and a random woman at a gas station.

Nerves Warming

Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.
Warning? This is my warning, three seconds out.
If I could pray, I would thank God
that my lunch break starts now.

If I could beg, I would beg for silence.
Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.
Warming—have the fans for the dark bright-lit tape decks and camera heads
always run so loud so hot to keep everything cool?

Car door slams behind me and my ears rumble.
And rumble, and rumble, have I always shut that door like I slapped my brother one time?
Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.
I’m suffocating for air worse than when I almost drowned under the float in my aunt’s pool.

Hands gripping the steering wheel, cool and stiff, engine sleeping and vents off,
I search my memories for where I stashed my box of earplugs.
I won’t come back after I eat my fill, if I even eat at all, stomach full of wires.
Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.

[ 20150429 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. Viator poem. Written for the Ultimate Roar, a fun slam Curtis X hosted wherein each poet represented a specific form or mode. In order, I roared “Why the Hate for Rain,” “Sunset,” and “Nerves Warming”—and won! Now to get a chapbook together.

“Nerves Warming” is the tenth poem I’ve written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Why the Hate for Rain?

Why the hate for rain?
Quiet accidents in rapid succession dripping on tin roofs
and sploshing in steam columns on the hot blacktop it’s cooling.
White noise cascading down from grey clouds, a soft lullaby for the afternoon.

Water, ever safe, never suffocated anybody at six in the morning.
Why the hate for rain?
It doesn’t collect itself in valleys to flush out the poor.
It didn’t put the poor down there to suffer the wrath it doesn’t possess.

I’ve found comfort in driving through walls of rain, worrying only for my window—
my brain can slow down when I can see only my windshield and grey forever.
Why do so many drivers hate the rain?
I guess 50 miles an hour is too slow.

If there are more accidents on stormy days, none of them have happened to anyone I know.
Why so little hate for the night? The only person I know who died in their car
died in an accident in the dark of night, when the streetlights get shut off.
Why so much hate for rain?

[ 20150429 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. Viator poem. Written for the Ultimate Roar, a fun slam Curtis X hosted wherein each poet represented a specific form or mode. In order, I roared “Why the Hate for Rain,” “Sunset,” and “Nerves Warming”—and won! Now to get a chapbook together.

“Why the Hate for Rain?” is the ninth poem I’ve written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Sunset

Your voice sounded like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset
and I suppose that’s what got me to listen to you the first time.
Your timbre showed me the lattice folding chairs outside my grandparents’ shed
and offered me the smell of my cousins’ cigarette smoke and the taste of Coke in cold aluminum cans.

I never thought I’d up and leave the crawfish capital, but you were able to convince me
in your voice that sounded like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset.
We went up to Long Island, like you were following my father’s journey when he got drafted,
and when I met your family, I learned how alone blood can be in a house-shaped centrifuge.

In Valley Stream I learned you’d left your spine in your childhood closet
when you declined to stand for me the first time your mother jabbed me.
But your voice, sounding like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset—
I suppose that’s what got me to stay with you, as you pretended to search for your backbone.

Years later, three months after our third son was born, you gave up the pretense of your pursuit.
In our arguments your creak turned to a chainsaw roar, raised as our boys slept in their beds across the house.
Now I can’t sit in chairs, I can’t smell my sister’s cigarettes, I can’t drink Diet Coke out of iced cans, without wincing because I always hear
your voice, sounding like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset.

[ 20150422 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. About a month before I wrote this, Spencer and I started what I’m dubbing the Shitty Simile Soundoff, wherein we try to come up with the worst similes we possibly can. Maybe a week after we started it, Spencer failed. He spat out a simile that actually sounded good, and after we tweaked it a week or two later, it became the travelling in this piece.

This is a form poem. Curtis X introduced me to the viator—a form comprising four four-line stanzas, with the first line repeated as the second line in the second stanza, the third line in the third, and the fourth line in the last—a few weeks ago, and its similarity to pantoum intrigued me. I struggled for a while to write a viator, because I kept getting stuck on the form. Spencer kept bothering me to use the “sunset” line in a piece, and I decided it was strong enough to repeat.

To keep myself in form, I wrote the poem in Excel—I would’ve probably screwed it up otherwise. Much like in pantoum, I manipulated the travelling line here to fit context as needed. It’s the same line, only tweaked slightly in each repetition. Call it a game of telephone, if you like.

“Sunset” is the eighth poem I’ve written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Wherefore the Circles?

I hated Scooby-Doo
for the laugh track
and the repeated sound effects
and the lack of movement
and the repetitive head bobs the characters did while talking,
which I knew were for the illusion of movement.
But I especially hated
the background cycles.
You ran past that same vase four times!
How has the creepy coin collector (laugh track)
not caught you yet!
To keep my sanity, I did not stop watching the show—
I easily could’ve, we only ever watched it on VHS—
I told myself they were running in circles
to eventually disorient their masked pursuer
and lose them in the recovery.
But though I convinced myself I’d convinced myself,
I would sit there, tape playing,
gritting my teeth over my wrestling arms.
I should’ve welcomed the repetition—
I watched Back to the Future start to finish every Saturday morning;
I listened to the same songs and the same albums;
I painted the same paths in the same area
on the playground at school during every recess,
Mom’s refrain of “You bring the playground home in your shoes!”
always echoing in my skull;
I maintained the same hesitation in talking
to whoever my crush was then—
but I never could stomach that running in circles.
I saw it for a cheap trick
and was insulted Hanna–Barbera thought they could trick me.
I was too smart to fall for their bullshit.
But I watched the show anyway.
I watched it on a format I controlled!
We all do things we don’t like doing—
or so I’m told—
and I’m told it’s a mark of maturity
and maybe I felt more mature—
teachers and parents and grandparents all claimed I was,
I was advanced? I was smart? for my age,
which years later I’ve realized
was their way of absolving themselves
from having to instruct me whenever they felt
I should have Just Known whatever I needed help with—
but I hated those background cycles so god damn much
I’m surprised I didn’t yank out more of my teeth.
Running in circles is always more frustrating
when you watch other people do it,
because you know how they can fix it
and you assume they want to.
I’ve been circle-running since high school, and—
don’t touch me! It’s not that bad, I kind of like it!
It’s easier to run in a circle,
over ground I’m very familiar with,
than chase after unseen ground, far and away.
And after ten years,
my stomach has learned to deal with all the sloshing.
Have I told you how much I hated Scooby-Doo
when I was a kid
and had yet to learn
that maturity was accepting your rut
until it finally got too late to get out of it?
Those shitbirds ran in circles,
they always did,
and I never could figure out why.

[ 20150415+19 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. Across two different days.

“Wherefore the Circles” is the seventh poem I've written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.