conversations

bees


[Sunday afternoon. A bathroom Schmutzie is showering. Palinode is at the sink. Water is splashing. Schmutzie, maybe she's humming a tune to herself, the kind of shower tune that's half memory, half improv. Palinode picks up a six ounce tube of Burts Bees cleanser.]

Palinode: Can I try your cleanser?

Schmutzie: Sure!

Palinode: I want to use half of it.

Schmutzie: What?

Palinode: I'm going to use half the tube.

Schmutzie: Uh, you want to owe me fifteen bucks?

Palinode: No, I want to squeeze half this tube into the palm of my hand and slap it on my face.

Schmutzie: No!

Palinode: Hey, I tried it.

Schmutzie: And?

Palinode: It's nice.

Schmutzie: Isn't it?

Palinode: It's awfully expensive though. You only get, like, two uses out of one tube.

*

This post has been sponsored by my cat. If you read this post, you agree to send money to my cat. By reading this far into the addendum, you also agree to indemnify and hold harmless my cat against any and all liability. Cat comes "as is," with no expressed or implied warranty. My cat may send certain information to third-party sites for the purposes of targeted advertising. None of the information sent by my cat to third-party sites is personally identifiable, with the exception of your name, foot size, dental records and your opinion of Game of Thrones. My cat wants to know what you think of Game of Thrones.


Oh crap, here comes my cat. He wants to know where the money is.

the meaning of TV

Schmutzie: What's on TV tonight?

Palinode: I don't think you realize what 'TV' stands for.

Schmutzie: Television.

Palinode: Nope. It stands for 'toilet vomit'.

Schmutzie: What?

Palinode: Yup.

Schmutzie: Did you say toilet velmet?

Palinode: Velmet? What the hell is velmet? No. Vomit.

Schmutzie: What are you talking about?

Palinode: All these years you've been talking about TV like it means television. And it means something really gross.

Schmutzie: ...

Palinode: Seriously, it's kind of embarrassing.

Schmutzie: I think there's a case to be made for TV standing for television.

Palinode: In your crazy fantasy world where people throw up televisions, maybe.

the lost supper

[Afternoon. Summer leaching out of the sunlit sky. Palinode and Schmutzie are hungry.]

Schmutzie: We should go for lunch.

Palinode: Agreed. We should lunch.

Schmutzie: People don't use meals for verbs much these days. Breakfast, supper.

Palinode: Sure they do. For example, "Yo, 'sup" means "Hi there. Eat supper".

Schmutzie: No it does not.

Palinode: It's a timely reminder for an evening meal baked right into a greeting. Very efficient discourse.

Schmutzie: Not even close:

Palinode: ...

Palinode: It's Spanish.

Schmutzie: SHUT UP.

the ingredient

[Deep, ridiculous night. Electricity all over the place, just trying to keep the night outside. Schmutzie and Palinode ignore humanity's triumph over the night and watch TV.]

Schmutzie: I don't like this commercial.

Palinode: This is a commercial?

Schmutzie: They tell you that this product has an ingredient that stops heartburn, but they don't tell you what the ingredient is.

Palinode: Don't need to know. As a viewer, I'm too busy and important for details.

Schmutzie: Maybe they figure we're too dumb to trouble ourselves over the name of the ingredient.

Palinode: It doesn't matter if I know what the ingredient is. I just need to know that the ingredient will stop heartburn.

Schmutzie: But what if the ingredient is dog poop? Dog poop to stop the heartburn?

Palinode: Dog poop doesn't work that way.

Schmutzie: Oh, you know how dog poop works.

Palinode: I know enough to know that it doesn't stop heartburn.

gluten free

[Supper time. Schmutzie and The Palinode are hungry. Who can blame them?]

Schmutzie: Is it supper time?

Palinode: It is.

[See? Just like I said.]

Schmutzie: Is there food in the house?

Palinode: Maybe. But there's better food outside the house.

Schmutzie: I should phone Panago and see if they have gluten free pahp - pizza.

Palinode: Were you about to say gluten-free pap smears?

Schmutzie: I think I was.

Palinode: Because you shouldn't fall for the ads. All pap smears are gluten free.

[Sadly this conversation happened.]

The Spicy, Delicious Taste of Being

[Afternoon. Schmutzie plucks away at web design. Palinode rolls like a pig in the obscene joys of joblessness.]

Palinode: I just added a spicy, delicious taste.

Schmutzie: What?

Palinode: I just. Added. A spicy, delicious taste.

Schmutzie: To what?

Palinode: Sardines on toast?

Schmutzie: No, you did not add a delicious taste to sardines on toast.

Palinode: My bottle of rooster sauce says that it adds a spicy, delicious taste to anything.

Schmutzie: There are limits to what can be made delicious. Sardines exceed those limits.

Palinode: I even added some to Heidegger's notion of Being.  It really gave the concept a spicy, delicious taste.

Schmutzie: Rooster sauce only works with physical objects.

Palinode: The bottle says anything.

Schmutzie: Those are just words on a bottle.

Palinode: Hey, you should incorporate rooster sauce into your web design.

Schmutzie: Um. No.

Palinode: It would give your banners a spicy, delicious taste.

concepts of toast

[Night. Too late for food. Too late for baked potatoes. Schmutzie and Palinode, protected by darkness, are having baked potatoes.]

Schmutzie: I'm craving toasted marshmallows.

Palinode: I'm craving marshmallow toast.

Schmutzie: What is that?

Palinode: That is the exact opposite of what you're craving.

Schmutzie: But what exactly is it?

Palinode: It's toast made of marshmallows.

Schmutzie: So we want the same thing.

Palinode: Not at all.

Schmutzie: Completely at all.

Palinode: Nuh-uh. You want to take a marshmallow and toast it. I want a piece of toast that's made of marshmallow.

Schmutzie: The final product would be the same. And it would taste awesome.

Palinode: Would you put cheese and pastrami on your toasted marshmallow?

Schmutzie: Um... no.

Palinode: But I'd put cheese and pastrami on mine because it's toast.

Schmutzie: You're changing the food. You can't win the argument by talking about cheese and deli meat.

Palinode: I'm just providing an example of the uses of my marshmallow toast. I'd put pastrami on mine.

Schmutzie: No you WOULDN'T, because marshmallow toast doesn't EXIST.

Palinode: I introduced pastrami as a substantive addition to my assumed marshmallow toast. QED.

Schmutzie: I'm holding a sharp knife.

kitty in puppy

[Night time. Is it night time? It is night time. Darkness is being dragged over our half of the world, just a skip ahead of the day. Schmutzie and Palinode in bed, he with a book, she with a laptop.]

Schmutzie: I want you to see this video of a cat taking a shower.

Palinode: Once more the internet has found its true purpose.

Schmutzie: Hold on while this puppy loads.

Palinode: I thought you said it was a cat.

Schmutzie: It is a cat.

Palinode: But then you claim that a puppy is loading.

Schmutzie: The cat is in the puppy.

Palinode: What, you mean that a puppy ate a cat? A cat that likes taking showers?

Schmutzie: No.

Palinode: Then an incision has been made in the puppy and the cat placed within? Or is this some weird interspecies sex thing you're going to make me look at?

Schmutzie: No, it's like... the cat isn't fed to the puppy, exactly. It's more like the cat is being inserted by a syringe into the puppy's anus.

Palinode: What? What the hell does that mean?

Schmutzie: You heard me.

[pause]

Palinode: That explanation is acceptable to me.

the politics of slutty jovians

[3 a.m. Grey stripe on black stripe, no light, just shadows. Schmutzie and Palinode cannot sleep.]

Palinode: They're all sluts on Jupiter.

Schmutzie: Why's that?

Palinode: The gravity's so strong that they can't do any light petting. Heavy petting is their baseline.

Schmutzie: Wow. They are slutty.

Palinode: Bunch of slutty Jovians in the sky.

Schmutzie: I was going to call them Jupiterites. Or Jupitites.

Palinode: Nope. They're Jovians.

Schmutzie: And they're jovial?

Palinode: Jovial jovians. There's probably a connection between the words.

Schmutzie: I bet there's a connection between their mood and their sluttiness.

Palinode: Happy Sluts of Jupiter!

Schmutzie: You should write something called The Politics of Slutty Jovians.

Palinode: Maybe I will. And maybe I just did.

OMG SO META

your metathesis and caps lock dollars at work

Hey, you know what's not exciting? Somebody else's IM conversations!

*

schmutzie has invited you to install Gmail voice and video chat. Get started with video

me: Is you there?

schmutzie: Yup. I don't know how I called you up.

schmutzie has invited you to install Gmail voice and video chat. Get started with video

me: Me neither. You keep inviting me to install Gmail voice and video chat.

Learn more

schmutzie: Oh, yeah. I was inviting you to Google's new voice and video chat functions.

me: I thought maybe Onion was doing it.

schmutzie: No. He's sleeping with his feet under my butt.

me: Mmm. Butt-warmed feet. Say, I just tried to call you on the cellular telephone, but you were not answering.

schmutzie: It's off and plugged in. I am going to go start doing some work on organizing our office.

me: Do you want to wait for my strong hands and manly legs to come home and help with that?

schmutzie: I'll do what I can until then. I'm going for a stiff pint after work. I don't care if it's cold. Work! Ha! I meant after I do all this getting myself organizized to actually do work in the office with this new computer and talking to possible work peoples including desing.

me: Desing? YOU'LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP, I'M BUSY DESING.

schmutzie: That's what Design used to be back in the days of hrosses and wapses.

me: Don't forget the brids.

schmutzie: And the flutterbys.

me: And the holemans.

schmutzie: molehans?

me: No.

schmutzie: Out with it.

me: HOLD ON A MOMENT, I'M DESING. Manholes.

schmutzie: Want to meet me when you're done work?

me: DAMN, THEY JUST BROUGHT IN AN ENTIRE DESING CREW. IT'S REALLY NOISY IN HERE. Sure, I'd love to.

schmutzie: I'LL TRY NOT TO BE DESING THERE

me: DON'T DES AND DRIVE.

schmutzie: DESING IS NO LAUGHING MATTER.

me: TO DES IS HUMAN. TO FORGIVE IS RIDICULOUS BECAUSE DESING IS SO HEINOUS.

gmail invites you to shut up already

the invention of games

[Late afternoon. Schmutzie and Palinode in the living room. The sun begins to droop in the sky, laying out its long lazy beams over the floor. It is dangerously close to dinner.]

Palinode: I have devised a game.

Schmutzie: I don't want to play your game.

Palinode: You mention an object - any object - and I will tell you whether I would put rooster sauce on it.

Schmutzie: Why?

Palinode: Any object.

Schmutzie: An ottoman.

Palinode: Yes. Name another object.

Schmutzie: What is the point of this? Okay, Lula. [points to cat]

Palinode: Yes. Name another object.

Schmutzie: I'm bored with this game.

Palinode: It's best two out of three, come on.

Schmutzie: Your PS3 controllers.

Palinode: No.

Schmutzie: Are we done?

Palinode: It's ridiculous to think that I would put rooster sauce on my PS3 controllers. They'd be all sticky.

[long pause, in which Schmutzie studiously ignores Palinode in the hope that he'll go away]

Palinode: Do you want to know a secret?

Schmutzie: No.

Palinode: I said the game was best two out of three. You didn't even need to ask me that third time.

Schmutzie: You have no idea what a game is.

Palinode: I admit to being unclear on the concept.

getting to Ontario

For the first hour or so of the 3 hour bus trip from Regina to Saskatoon I thought we'd gotten away with boarding a crazy-free bus, but then the man in the seat behind me began to talk to himself.

I'd seen him earlier in the ticket queue, a slight fellow in a white shirt and black shorts, a thatch of hay-blond hair sticking out from under his black baseball cap. He had an air of politeness, even deference, that probably came from living in and out of institutions. A white crust clung to the corners of his mouth, and the skin on one of his legs was a bright ham-like pink crazed with white markings. From his pores puffed a haze of cheap alcohol.

I'd met and struck up conversations with plenty of people like this one, and I could already map out the course of our acquaintance: a few innocuous remarks that would eventually get a reply from me, and then the chopped-up biography, rearranged and presented for maximum pity. Eventually he would ask me for a cigarette, which I would have to decline (being a non-smoker), and he would wind down our brief friendship and start up the show with the next person.

It's not quite accurate to say that he was talking to himself on the bus. At first I thought that some machine or system had developed an edge or started to heat up, because I could hear a strange humming sound that reminded me of the air conditioner in my office. Gradually the humming took on a kind of rhythm, pulsing with patterns that felt familiar but just out of reach. The sound reminded me of mumbled incantations, the buzz of far-off voices. And then I realized that the noise was issuing from the lips of the man behind me. Worse yet, I knew that the sound was meant partially for me, that it was designed to lure me in to a long and pointless conversation, a psychedelic retelling of all the wrongs done to him. I ignored the sound and turned back to my book.

After a while the mumbling fell away and he started in with individual words. Some of them were responses to a conversation going on in the rear seat of the bus between a young man and woman flirting with each other by trading a series of lies (he charged a hapless jerk six bucks for a cigarette, she was facing charges for beating up her stepfather), other words seemed meant to describe interactions between particles in the air. Cool, he said at one point. Hah at another. I kept my mouth shut. Even the least hint of a response would be an opening.

Halfway through the trip he leaned forward and addressed us directly.

"Excuse me," he said. That's when I caught the light fog of booze enveloping him.

"Yes, how can I help you?" I felt oddly secretarial saying that, but it seemed to formalize the situation.

"What highway is this? I mean, is this the Number One"?

I weighed my response for a moment. We were not on the number one highway, the East-West corridor that runs the length of the entire country. We were in fact over one hundred miles from the Number One, and rushing farther away from it with every moment.

"No, this is Number 11".

"Okay," said the guy, and sat back for a moment. Then he leaned forward.

"Because the Number One highway is the Trans-Canada, right?"

"That's right".

"Excuse me again, but will this bus take me to Ontario?"

This put me at a bit of a loss. Ontario is two provinces over, a solid twelve-hour drive to reach its western border. This was either the most graceless conversational gambit ever, or I was dealing with someone whose mind had been emptied or everything but a few sticks of furniture and some cryptic notes scribbled on the walls. I pictured a wall stripped bare, with the cryptic imperative "GET TO ONTARIO" scrawled in charcoal.

"No," I explained. "We're heading northwest to Saskatoon. Ontario is east of here".

"Okay," he said, completely unfazed by the news that he was heading in the entirely wrong direction, "so how would I get to Ontario from Saskatoon?"

"You can take the bus back to Regina, or just head straight for Winnipeg. Or you could hang out in Saskatoon. It's a nice city".

My shot at humour set him cackling. "Okay man, okay," he said. "Thanks a lot". He sat back in his seat and resumed his strange machine hum of a monologue.

I'm getting on the bus again in a few hours and I won't be surprised if he's sitting there, asking people how to get to Ontario.

puso

Good evening everyone. As most of you gathered here tonight know, despite our years of research, the pre-Error era remains largely a mystery. We do know that vegetation and animal life was certainly abundant in many sectors of Noram. Human beings enjoyed the ability to exist outdoors without the rad suits and stunners that are now necessary for even the briefest expedition outside the Domes. Imagine a world without radzombie attacks and the Southern Empire of the Mammo-Crow! I know, it seems incredible, even to a roomful of scientists.

Despite the incredible freedoms granted to pre-Error humanity, many of them chose to stay indoors anyway, shoving quantities of starch down their throats and staring at video screens. Some of these screens allowed viewers to enter and save information on magnetic media, but it is only recently that we have developed matching technology to remove the data and translate the impulses into recognizable information. Most of the data are brief, nonsensical entreaties for bigger penises. So far we have catalogued over 300 synonyms for male genitalia, and given our limited knowledge of the vernacular, we are assuming that at least thirty percent or greater of the untranslatable data strings are more of the same. It is possible that chemical runoff in the water supply may have been disrupting endocrine systems and producing smaller genitals in the population.

There is also this brief transcript, which we believe contains valuable clues about the institutions of the time:

[A slowly cooling Sunday afternoon. Schmutzie picks at the internet. Palinode pokes his head into the living room.]

Palinode: The soup will be ready in about ten minutes.

Schmutzie: I bet you didn't know that 'opus' is an anagram of soup.

Palinode: Yeah. So is 'puso'.

Schmutzie: Yes, but puso is not a word.

Palinode: Sure it is. As in, 'Hold on twenty minutes, love, just have to nip down to the puso'.

Schmutzie: I do not think so.

Palinode: Yup. You know, 'We're short on all kinds of things, I'd better run down to the puso for some more'.

Schmutzie: I'm still not buying it.

Palinode: Oh, you will, when you see the crowds down at the puso. Everybody's heading there. The puso, it's first-rate. But don't bother googling it or anything, it's brand new.

Schmutzie: It's brand-new.

Palinode: Yes.

Schmutzie: So new that it isn't even on the internet yet.

Palinode: Seemed to come out of nowhere.

Schmutzie: But everybody's there?

Palinode: Word of mouth. They're lined up.

Schmutzie: What exactly are they lined up for?

Palinode: The puso is HEY PALINODE, HIT IT IN HER DUGOUT WITH YOUR GIANT PANTSBAT, DOES SHE LAUGH? HERBAL SOLUTIONS 2 MANPROBLEMS cdo9hexhjsl

talking with the future

[The last sad dry powdery minutes of the work week. Schmutzie sends an email to Palinode. They enjoy the following discussion. Or perhaps only Palinode enjoys the following discussion].

Schmutzie: I need to get out of the house.

Palinode: YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF THE FUTURE.

Schmutzie: What?! I am going to have a shower and leave the house. You?

Palinode: DON'T YOU ALREADY KNOW? AREN'T YOU IN THE FUTURE? Sheesh. But if you're going to O'Hanlon's I'll meet you there.

Schmutzie: Coolio.

Palinode: Coolio? IS COOLIO DEAD IN THE FUTURE? NO, DON'T TELL ME. WAIT, YOU CAN TELL ME. HOW DOES COOLIO DIE?

Palinode: HELLO?

Palinode: HAVE YOU ALREADY DUMPED ME IN THE FUTURE?

*The all-caps style is necessary to communicate with people across the gulf of time. Communication across time is done with tachyons, and you need to be very emphatic with tachyons if you want them to take your messages.

improving your vocabulary

[Long past midnight. Schmutzie and The Palinode are in bed but they're not sleeping. Maybe they're drunk.]

Schmutzie: Today was such a lousy day. I seriously wanted to stab myself with a fork.

Palinode: You want to stab yourself with a fork, you just let me know in advance.

Schmutzie: I'll be like, I'M IN THE KITCHEN AND I'M ABOUT TO STAB MYSELF WITH THIS FORK.

Palinode: And I'll be all, DON'T DO IT, I'M COMING TO YOU WITH ALACRITY.

Schmutzie: And then I'll say, IT'S OKAY I'M NOT GOING TO STAB MYSELF NOW BECAUSE I'M IN THE OTHER ROOM LOOKING UP ALACRITY ON DICTIONARY.COM.

Palinode: Between me and the internet, you'll never come to harm.

#21 Bad Idea: Your Dream Stalk of Broccoli

Ladies and gentlemen. We are pleased to announce that from the strontium mists and cobalt lakes of the Central Silica Plain, we have recovered another piece of text from the pre-Error era. It is becoming increasingly clear that these dialogues, while they may not be explicitly religious in nature, are perhaps liturgical and definitely homiletic. It is likely that these texts served as guides to ideal behaviour. They were likely taught to ‘children,’ as prepubescent humans of the time were generally called.

In other news, Drs. Horvath and Kinchy have been spotted wandering the wastes and creeping through the sedge, their minds irreparably scrambled by radiation. We will be leaving food for them just outside the northwest entrance to the Dome. Any contributions will be greatly appreciated.

*

[Is it evening already? Like the remains of chopped vegetables, the day slowly wilts. Schmutzie at the couch, Palinode (alert for earthquakes) standing in the doorway.]

Palinode: I’ve brought you your choice of stalks.

Schmutzie: What?

Palinode: [holds up five broccoli stalks] I have five stalks of broccoli in my hand. Which is your dream stalk?

Schmutzie: The middle one, of course.

Palinode: [shuffles stalks, holds one up] Then this one will be your dream stalk of broccoli. This one and no other.

Schmutzie: What are you planning to do with it?

Palinode: I’m throwing them out. But I thought I’d make the process special. [goes into kitchen]

Schmutzie: The stalks are high in calcium, you know.

Palinode: And now the garbage is high in calcium.

#20 Bad Idea: Itemizing the Groceries

Greetings Noramites. Thank you all for coming. The results of our latest archaeological dig in the Irradiated Zones have finally borne fruit.

As many of you know, Drs. Horvath and Krinchy did not make it back from the latest expedition. In their memory we present this scrap of writing which we found in the heart of the Central Silica Plain. Based on preliminary research, we believe that this piece was either a government document or a religious text.

*

[Late afternoon. The sprung door of day slowly creaking to a close. Schmutzie knits in the living room. Palinode washes dishes in the kitchen.]

Palinode: I have a question. What would you say is the likelihood that I have an avocado in my pants?

Schmutzie: A very good likelihood!

(pause)

Palinode: Wow, you just... no hesitation there.

Schmutzie: What?

Palinode: You immediately assumed that I probably had an avocado in my pants.

Schmutzie: Well I saw one earlier on the kitchen windowsill.

Palinode: Just because there's an avocado near my pants doesn't mean that it's in my pants.

Schmutzie: I figured it was your way of telling me that you bought an avocado.

Palinode: Yes.

(pause)

Palinode: Would you like some avocado in a sandwich?

Schmutzie: As long as it hasn't been in your pants.

Palinode: More for me then.

the boney life

[Canadian Thanksgiving morning. Palinode and Schmutzie are in bed, embracing inertia. Outside the sky is gathering its weather, but they don't care. They're ignorant.]

Schmutzie: I think we have a pretty good life. Do you think we have a good life?

Palinode: All I know is, if you want a good life, you need a skeleton.

Schmutzie: That is SO true.

Palinode: Once your skeleton falls out, that's it. Your life sucks. In fact, it's over.

Schmutzie: I think it's more that we fall off our skeletons.

Palinode: So that's life? We're just along for the ride until our skeletons buck us off, and then we're dead?

Schmutzie: Not necessarily.

Palinode: I think you're necessarily dead when you reach bonelessness.

Schmutzie: There are people born without bones. You just don't hear about it.

Palinode: Goddamn liberal media.

Schmutzie: People are born without bones sometimes and they live.

Palinode: But not well.

Schmutzie: No.

Palinode: In fact, they live so poorly that it would be more accurate to call them dead.

Schmutzie: No.

Palinode: And all these boneless people are going around dead, always asking for some sticks or rebar to prop them up.

Schmutzie: That sounds like a terrible life.

Palinode: Death is the worst life of all. Especially when you don't have any sticks.

Schmutzie: I can't tell if this conversation is more gross or stupid.

Palinode: That's why in some cultures, they place sticks in the hands of the dead. So they'll be presentable in the afterlife.

Schmutzie: I'm going to hit myself in the head until I go back to sleep.

one gorilla per child

It's a sick day, a sick day, a no-meetings-or-learning-lunches sick day. Sick Palinode and Hale Schmutzie hanging out in bed.

Schmutzie: Did you know that we have as much hair on our bodies as gorillas?

Palinode: But -

Schmutzie: It's true.

Palinode: How many gorillas?

Schmutzie: Um, just one.

Palinode: That's never going to work, on account of the huge human-to-gorilla imbalance.

Schmutzie: We'll have to divide up the gorillas.

Palinode: That's never going to happen. The rich are going to get their personal designer gorillas -

Schmutzie: The rest of us will get howler monkeys.

Palinode: Lemurs, more like.

Schmutzie: Fucking richies.

use of nouns

[Schmutzie is driving, driving, driving. Palinode is passengering along in the front seat. The sun is hot, yellow and eight light-minutes away.]

Palinode: A raccoon!

Schmutzie: Really? That's cool.

Palinode: Hmm.

Palinode: You thought I saw a raccoon.

Schmutzie: Yes.

Palinode: There was no raccoon. I just said the word 'raccoon' and you came to your own conclusions.

Schmutzie: You're a jerk.

Palinode: I'm not a jerk. I was just using nouns.

Schmutzie: That would make a good t-shirt.

Palinode: And it would be true.

Schmutzie: You're still a jerk.