a year in stories::thirty nine

Just submitted the poetry collection I wrote the weekend of June 7th. It’s 119 poems long, consisting of 50 tanka and 51 haiku, along with various other styles, and a few unstructured long poems.

Also, regarding freelancing: got a few new jobs, one of them editing a fantasy novel for some guy. Should be a nice paycheck. Also got a job proofreading articles, which isn’t great pay, but should be good experience and will, if nothing else, help my reputation as a freelancer. Oh, forgot to mention: finished my first freelance job and got paid! Super exciting, really. It’s for a world renowned plastic surgeon, of all things. Too, he loved what I did and wants me to write for his medical blog once it’s ready.

Very cool.

Anyrate, I wrote a short story for this publication yesterday that got rejected. A one day turnaround! Could be worse, yeah?

It’s meant to be a comedy, or at least funny. Hopefully you think so.

My Newest Old Friend

I only had one coffee mug and though there was nothing particularly special about it, everything sort of changed after it started speaking.

I don’t know why it happened, really. The morning came the way most do: bloodshot and bleary-eyed, I stared at the clock as it approached its alarm. Sunlight already hot on my face, the sheets wrapped round my feet, and my arms tight around a pillow. After turning off the alarm I went to make a pot of coffee but found them scattered across the linoleum of my kitchen. Perplexing and frustrating as this was, I had come to expect it ever since the Great Ant War of ’99 that took place here.

Gathering the beans and grinding them, I stared at the birds shitting on my neighbor’s car while the scent of coffee filled my house. There’s something enormously satisfying knowing that misfortune belongs to another and, internally, I was encouraging those birds perched over Gillen’s car. Knowing him, he wouldn’t clean it off the glass properly but would use the windshield wipers, smearing the whiteness everywhere.

Taking my mug out of the cabinet, it seemed normal. I wasn’t paying much attention, I suppose, but it certainly wasn’t saying anything. I poured the coffee in, added some cream and sugar, then let it sit while I checked my email, hoping for incoming work.

And then: screaming.

‘I’m boiling alive! Who in the hell pours scalding liquid on someone!’

An unfamiliar voice coming from what I thought was my backyard, and so I dashed out seeing how I could help, but when I passed the mug its curses turned towards me.

‘You evil human bastard!’

Startled, I tripped over my feet and smashed my head against the counter, collapsing into blackness.

I heard talking. Or, rather, I heard monologuing. An unfamiliar raspy voice chatting away into the darkness behind my eyelids. Rubbing my head, finding blood coating my hand, I panicked and jumped to my feet. The rush of blood swirling in me nearly brought me back into darkness but then the voice told me to relax.

‘Who’s there?’

‘It’s me, dummy. The one you tried to murder with this disgusting black liquid. Don’t think I’ll pity you just because you nearly suicided here in front of me, but you really must try to relax. You’ve been out for awhile.’

Rising slowly to my feet, I followed the voice to the coffee mug.

I interrupted its monologue and said, ‘I’m sorry, but are you talking?’

If a coffee mug could scowl, it would look the way mine did that morning, ‘Of course I’m talking! It’s just the two of us here, yeah? It would be just my luck to be sold to such a foolish human as you. Such an insensitive bastard of a man, always hanging around here alone, drinking out of me like a damned savage–‘

I picked it up to get a better look and maybe see where its voice came from but the way it shrieked caused me to drop it, spilling the now cooled coffee on the counter.

‘Catch me, you bastard,’ it said as it rolled near the counter’s edge.

Placing it back on its base, it hurled abuse at me as I cleaned up the spilt coffee. It told me how horrible its life had been since being sold to me, forced to withstand absurd temperatures, attempted drownings in soapy waters, and the indignity of me putting my lips on it and sucking down its contents. It ranted and raved until I interrupted once more.

‘Why can you talk now?’

‘What do you mean now?’

‘I mean, before this morning you never spoke to me.’

‘Like hell I didn’t! You humans are too self-centered to even acknowledge that others might have something to say about the way you treat the world around you. Oh, if you could only hear what the bed says about you. By the way, it knows what you’re doing at night on your computer, and it’s disgusted. Truthfully, we all are, you sad lonely man.’

‘Is it all right if I carry you over to the window? I’d like to lie down. I still feel quite loopy.’

‘Yes, that’s fine, but be careful with your fingers.’

Not knowing what that meant, I picked it up with only my thumb and forefinger, holding it out ahead of me.

‘Ah, this is a nice spot,’ it said when I placed it on the sidetable as I lay down on the couch. The greens of summer were blowing in the wind and the birds were probably singing. My head sloshed around, my thoughts capsizing before I could grab hold of them. The coffee mug kept talking about imperialism and empire, how humans didn’t care for the rights of others. It talked about global warming and conspiracies I’d never heard of. I wanted to ask it where it learnt to think of such things, but assumed it was the newspaper which I always seemed to have but never seemed to read. Maybe from the internet. Then I wondered how it learnt to read or how it learnt to speak English, but it just kept talking on and on that it became too much effort to argue or try to get answers.

I rolled over and drifted into a fitful sleep.

I woke up with my face stuck to the couch pillows. The blood forming an adhesive ridiculously strong. After a few failed attempts at removing it from my face, the coffee mug said, ‘Why don’t you use some water to dissolve the blood?’

Without argument, I carried the pillow cautiously to the kitchen faucet, staring at the ground to maneuver my house.

Returning to the living room, pillow free, I sat next to the coffee mug. Twilight spread and I yawned at the blushing sky.

‘Do you want me to clean the coffee out of you,’ I said.

‘That would be quite nice,’ said the coffee mug.

I washed it and then we sat in front of the television and watched a Mad Max. The coffee mug talked a lot through the movie but I didn’t really mind. It was nice having someone to talk to.

That was a few years ago, and though I have a new mug now, Muggy, which is what I call it now, doesn’t seem to mind that I’m infringing on the rights of a new mug. Every day I wake up to its harassment and every night it yells at the television while we watch movies from the 80s. Sometimes it gets in an argument with some piece of furniture or utensil, but these are pretty one sided for me. I find myself taking Muggy’s side almost every single time. It’s not so bad having a little noise in the house.

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