Their Days Are Numbered is a new year-long project authored by the collective Entropy community. It is a collaborative online novel written by the Entropy community on a weekly basis. A different author will write the next “chapter” each week, to be posted every Tuesday, following the previous post from the previous week, and following a very limited set of guidelines (that each author has one week to write the next piece after the previous week’s installment goes up, that installments should range between 150-1500 words, and that pieces should somehow incorporate a real-life occurrence, current event, news item, or other happening from that week).
Follow the entire “novel” here: Their Days Are Numbered.
The nineteenth installment is presented this week by Joseph Houlihan.
This heat, this enchanting burn, frost heat, I stared at the light fixture, swizzle, rippling photopsia, until the focus hurt, a GE reveal 40 watt A15 appliance on the counter, and above that, the sun 52 Kelvin Sylvania, the phosphors pouring into my head, and in the corner, by the bookcase, a GE Reveal 65-watt 940, casting 900 lumens, overlapping my shrinking pupils, arrows piercing through my clotted senses, my face, a fishbowl dropped in the swimming pool, I noticed a wet spot of drool on the pillow, where I was napping, through the picture window an 80 year old cycad swayed, brushing against the plexiglass, cool wind, down from the mountains, I heard the sound of an engine cut off, and a door open and shut.
This is the brightest room in the group home. It reminds me of trips to the department store photography studio with nana and papa, lights, when I’m the baby, even though sometimes I’m still the baby. I’m tired from my shift at the circle k where I do bagging for all the customers that smile and come through with hungry smiles. It makes me hungry too. Sometimes when I’m bagging, Sylvania 75-watt, I think about my friends. And then some other friends. My PCA showed me a list of all my favorite people online. I recite their names as I tuck the groceries, making little towers of beans and hash, and mouthing: Harry Potter, Uncle Vernon, Aunt Marge, Aunt Petunia, Dudley Dursley, James Potter, Lily Potter, Stan Shunpike, Ernie the Bus Driver, Sirius Black, Tom the Innkeeper, Cornelius Fudge, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger…
A tall boy, that’s my PCA, comes in with a bag of Chinese take-out.
“Who are you?” I ask him.
“I’m Wen,” he says, “You remember me. I’m your PCA. Today’s Wednesday.”
We eat the Chinese food take-out. And I turn on Toonami. We watch a show about a boy that needs to travel to all the islands. His best friend is an electric mouse that follows behind him, and they go on adventures. Sometimes, the bad boy and the bad girl try to steal the electric mouse.
I recite back at the screen: “Prepare for trouble…And make it double…To protect the world from devastation… To unite all peoples within our nation…To denounce the evils of truth and love… To extend our reach to the stars above… Team Rocket, blasts off at the speed of light… Surrender now, or prepare to fight… Meeeooowth! That’s right!
I tell Wen I’m still hungry. And I ask for dessert. He sighs and tells me he’ll have to call the house manager to get the new code for the refrigerator. He walks out of the room, and returns later with two cups of sliced peaches. We eat the peaches in silence and then Wen gives me my PM meds. As I start to doze, Wen pulls out his laptop.
Audience Reviews of MANH(A)TTAN: Nuclear Family
Let me be clear: this is very promising. Does anyone else remember the Land Girls? Seriously, I was getting the same vibe from Manhattan!! It’s a lot of fun (and sexy) because it follows the day-to-day of the scientists tha t built the A-bomb, and their wives and mistresses …Astute, immaculate, clever from top to bottom, Manhattan will make you believe in network television again…. It’s sinister the way they uncover plotting on domestic soil. The show addresses some of the most classic themes in literature: heartbreak, dissapointment, betrayal…Yet another solid contribution from the heretofore dubious WGN America. This kind of programming shows that we’re in the midst of a renaissance…But it’s set against the backdrop of Los Alamos, the city that never existed!!!! Big Star review!!Capable and even prodigious!! Wodner what will happen in seasons down the line? What will happen if the NAZIS and the SOVIETS get there first?…Ok, from the very first, I knew I would love this show. I’m a Mad Men gal (I BLOW UP BRIDGES Y’ALL!), and just the costumes make me squeal. But sets aside: SPECTACULAR SHOW!!! Besides its GREAT acting, and VERY WELL WRITTEN!! The best parts are in the stories. It’s a serious look at the real-life problems of the scientists that built the atomic bomb, all the while under the pressure of secrecy and haste!! Two big thumbs up!!…Meh, I had an uncle that was in the Manhattan Proeject. And it’s exactly like the show. One thing that he said was that they had all these black porters that came from all over the country, but judging from the show, there aren’t any black characters yet…It’s also the way that they have true feelings and struggles. It’s just about so much more than the Atomic bomb. It’s also about the real-life struggles of Americans living in that darkest hour…Who could ask for a better introduction to Los Alamos, then through the eyes of Rachel Brosnahan? Brosnahan, the Beautiful Creature, is captivating and subtle as she leads us into this sexy WW2 set piece. This show goes crazy, quickly with DRUGS! Sex! Espionage! And the best part is the art behind the science. Manhattan is slow moving, but that’s ok. Life is slow moving. It’s just so sad to think that all of these brilliant men were working away on a project that was so important but also just so terrible and they were very cultured, the show gets to that in different quirky ways, like one of the main characters was a TV quiz show kid in his youth, and now he is an important scientist, but he is happiest in high culture…Beyond epic!!! The lives of the Manattan Project scientists are the real BOMB!…DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIEM!! This show is stagnates quickly. Worst depictions and STEREOTYPES! Who cares about the huous wives of LOS ALAMOS? Not me!! UTTERLY TRITE!
WEN THOMAS LIVEJOURNAL
August 7, 2014
10:32pm: It’s been more than fifteen years since my mother passed away. That makes it about half of my life, and I miss her in strange ways. We were never adults together. And there’s so much about her that I don’t know, and I realize now that I may never know.
I know she couldn’t have predicted the way things are now. She was so young: married at nineteen, children by 25, it’s almost unimaginable to me. I love her, but I can’t remember as much. Sometimes, I wonder how they met. I know that he was in Colombia working for Reuters and she took a class he taught at a local technical school. He was ten years older. I imagine he was courteous and gentle, and she playacted seductive, the hot Colombian blood stereotype, etc, etc, etc, but I’ll never know.
The other day I pulled some old photographs. I could see my mother pregnant, and my father with a bushy red beard, I know he didn’t have it when they met, but I imagine he did. And I imagine she was attracted to his funny Anglo name. I imagine they walked along the sea wall, and ate ice cream, and went surfing, a passion they shared, but I’ll never know. Is it strange to want to untangle these pieces of my own body? Is a body born out of empire a guilty body? Does it even matter anymore? I remember she absolutely refused some “gringo” requests, modest, I thought, as a little boy, no ketchup, or Lunchables or Gogurts or New Balance. She grew up in Cali, on a shaded street, studying engineering, demurring in an urbane voseo. Later at IBM, her colleagues would mock the barbs she delivered in a honeyed and sibilant lisp. Her shortened life weighs on me every single day. I see so much of her body in myself: the shadow of her dark eyebrows, coiled hair, her whinnying laugh. In the mirror: my mother’s face, or the face of God in a Massacio painting.
I remember the last time we were really happy together, planting the side garden plot for spring. I was overexcited, and I went to open our big box of seeds but I lost my balance and it flew out of my grasp, overturning, contents pouring out onto the floor of the shed, seeds dropping, scattering names, Queen of the prairie, Wood Honeysuckle, Spotted Phlox, Erigeron, Three-mallow Anoda, Bergamot, Traveler’s Joy, Hairy Oxybaph, and I did my best to recollect the packets, but they were hopelessly mixed, “It’s better that way,” she said, “like forget-me-nots,” and then we walked down the rows, she took the wildflowers, scattering them more in her involuntary shake, and I planted Purple Dragon Carrots and Cherry Belle Radishes, Burpees Super Peas, Wonder Beets, Tomatillos, Peppers, and Cabbages, tucking the seeds neatly into cool beds.
Monday: I dreamed I tore my sheets to braid a long thin cord. Then, wettening the fabric as I chewed, I swallowed hard, the length of the cord coiling in my stomach.
Tuesday: No dream.
Wednesday: I dreamed about a movie set in pre-modernity. Besides a spring of mountain water, I ate skittles, and sucked on cold river pebbles, and fell madly in love with Le Mepris era Bridget Bardot, married at that time to Norman Mailer, but fiercely wooed by Silvana Mangano. We took a hike into the mountains, and erotic tensions boiled over.
Thursday: I dreamed drove around dock neighborhoods in a baby Fiat. The steering wheel was on the wrong side, and it accelerated funny, in starts and stops. I passed over bridges, attempting to transverse a canal, over an island, but I kept getting turned around. Winding serpentine cobbled streets oxbowed and looped. I drove by the Monongahela, and the Ohio, and the Allegheny and the Wabash and the Fox and the East River but in the end I kept getting trapped on little islands with bottle cap factories and smiling elderly couples clad in tweed walking dogs and carrying groceries.
Friday: I dreamed I sat on a bench in Humboldt Park. Across the lagoon I saw an obscured figure walking in the twilight, advancing, across the surface of the water, dry and undeterred. But instead of run or scream, I dreamed I sat and expected a waking blow. But the spectre, lithe in a polkadot party dress, passed by in pursuit of another.
Saturday: I dreamed I met an informant, Deepthroat under a streetlamp, and as the muffled voice rose to reveal the crucial name, “This will blow the case wide open,” he let out a gasp and fell forward, knifed in the back. Hot pursuit, I chased the clack of shoes down alleys, through yellow red intersections into a dark bar with a hard bop quartet. I sat at the corner, and the barman slid me a glass, the trumpet wailed, ascending, and I spotted sinister machinations. Oh shit, I jumped backwards, oh shit! Nitro! Boom!
Sunday: I dreamed I drove a 50s Indian along a coastal highway at night. Past billboards:
“Within this vale”
“Your head grows bald”
“But not your chin”