Pandora’s squish mitten

So I did a thing.

Holy shit balls

I poked a bear with a stick. I opened the cupboard. I tickled Pandora’s button. I was curious, that’s all…

Curiosity- the conflict that seems to generate plot development in my corner of the human habitrail now that I’ve taken the keys away from the mini-bar in my back pocket- and I should know better. I know that because I’ve finally reached an age where security and contentment are more valuable than jumping off cliffs just to find out once and for all if gravity is really all that or just another long-con set up by the collective that told you not to stick forks in light sockets. Old enough to know better and yet here we are.

It never ceases to amaze me how much things still amaze me- even when I do know better. It’s quite possible that I’m broken, or at least part of me is, I don’t know. Tim Quirk wrote about how he felt bad for the astronauts and asked the question: How does it feel to look up at the moon and say ‘Yeah, I’ve been there’? and it’s a good question- one that makes me want to seek out an astronaut pen-pal and pick his brain. I’m sure there’s a story in there- but if I had to offer Tim a theoretical answer, based on my own Earthbound experience, I would say it probably feels surreal as fuck and way beyond awesome. I have a hard time believing that stargazing could ever become mundane, whatever your day job.

In my world– where I split my time between name tags and nature walks, Netflix and folding laundry, cat boxes and crayons- there is a never ending parade of surprising and inspiring, horrible and hideous, wonderful stuff that fluffs about like dust motes in a radioactive sunbeam. I never get tired of the voices or the faces, the flavors or the feelings- and everything manages to surprise the shit out of me. Every day. God surprises me. My wife surprises me. My kids surprise me. The cats and the rats and the parents and the co workers and the strangers with their dangers and their Facebook philosophies all manage, on a daily basis, to surprise me. I suprise myself, and let’s face it- that’s weird. After 42 years in this skull you’d think I’d have a pretty decent grasp of the geography, but it’s just not the case. Case in point- I did a thing, and now I have to figure out if it’s good or bad or whatever. Welcome to the process…

Could be meat, could be cake…

A week ago my blog hit a milestone with 100 visitors and I thought that was pretty cool. Amazing actually. It surprised the hell out of me- and what’s more dangerous- it made me ambitious. So I did what anyone in my position and lack of experience would do- I asked Google how to promote my blog and get even more traffic on this blog-train ’cause if I learned anything from the Once-ler is that bigger is better. After all, as a good American shouldn’t I subscribe to the Gospel of Henry Ford: Bigger Better Faster More? Well, I thought so at the time. It seemed like the logical progression.

Google, as usual, had a lot to say.

Straight out the gate were all manner of articles about effective writing and target audiences which I ignored completely. Let’s be real Google…if I cared about relevant content I’d be blogging Vegan recipes, commentary on the incel movement and what’s up with the Kardashians and what does Kanye have to say about all these new genders popping up like daisies. No. I’m here for the sake of hubris, insecurity, mental masturbation and run on sentences chock full of obscure metaphors, idioms and simile. That’s my jam. So no thank you Google wizard- what I’m looking for is: How do I get butts into my theater and hold them hostage. So I scrolled down a bit…

There were ads for services that cost money to subscribe to, which was out of the question, and the obligatory pitches from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram which are all waaaaay to scary and millennial for me to even to consider. There were also forums I could join and connect with other writers but since all I want to talk about is me and the shit I care about that seemed like a dead end. Besides, who has the time to talk to strangers? I barely have time to talk to myself and some things get priority.

Finally Google gave me something good- something I could get behind: Post my writing on other sites and link it back to the blog. Yep. That I could do, and that I did.

I joined a few free sites, posted some stories and pimped the blog link. I even stuck around and read other people’s work for a while since I was there. It was a mixed bag. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, read some crap, reviewed a few pieces then called it a day because there is always something waiting to be done. Then it got weird.

Explaining to people that your mom ex-patriated to Mexico and that’s why she hasn’t been in church kind of weird…

Ok, so maybe weird is the wrong word. It got busy. My email inbox started filling up with notifications, reviews and messages from the new sites fast which wasn’t at all what I had expected to happen. Truth be told I really didn’t know what to expect but what I got was unexpected. True story. Suddenly there was all this feedback rolling in and my soul wasn’t prepared Dr. Jones. It was unreal. Surprising. Amazing…

I’m exaggerating a little here. Come on…I do that.

This morning my stat app tells me Plague Squeak is up to 145 visitors and counting so I guess Dr. Google knew what he was doing. I’ve received more criticism (constructive and otherwise) in the past week than I did in 5 years of preaching in a UCC Congregational Church- which means something to some of you and if it doesn’t I’ll say it another way: A fuck ton of critique. Un-freaking-real. I feel like the kid who wanted a glass of water and God sent a tsunami just in case. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not complaining, I asked for this and wanted this- I just have really low expectations so Christmas in May is overwhelming. I assume that the current quarantine conditions around the world have something to do with the sheer volume of people reading and reviewing amateur writing- either that or I have criminally underestimated how many nerds can fit on the head of a pin. Doesn’t matter really- what does matter is that people are saying all manner of nice and not so nice things and that’s all I’ve ever wanted- that, and a crossbow.

Apart from doing wonders for my ego the flood has also encouraged me to keep fit and keep my promises- I’ve been writing more, and as a result will be posting more and at a more rapid pace than I’d thought probable. I even finished the wretched beast Ark which I had been ignoring successfully for a good while. I posted chapter 5 here this morning and the last two chapters are almost formatted and will be up soon. Tonight I think I’ll get out the paints and conjure some angry beavers.

One reader actually made a very thoughtful observation and suggestion regarding the sci/fi Velveeta melt that is Miranda- and all of a sudden I actually like the story. Which is nice. It’s embarrassing to have a kid you don’t want to hang out with.

So here I go evolving all over the place- giddy and freaked out and nervous and feeling like an internet angel forgot to lock heavens gate and now there goes the neighborhood but get this- it just keeps getting better. The experience, not the writing- that’s just what it is- and baby I’m amazed. Who knows what June will bring.

I’m still hoping for a crossbow.

Brian Shepard May 24, 2020

Door Prize…

Hic Sunt Dracones

Notice to all inbound travellers:

Here be Dragons

And children. And rats. And insomnia. And misfit toys…an Island and a Head filled with second hand stringed instruments. You can’t tune a spoon. You don’t shit where you eat, and laughing gas isn’t funny at all- that’s why you sign a waiver. Sometimes there is conversation and sometimes it’s set to music and sometimes the bear isn’t a bear at all- just a whisper print of decaffeinated tea and the crumbs from last night’s meltdown. Here be Talons. Here be dried up paint and glue…

 

Utopia Planetia

I’m not good with plans and I almost never think about what comes next- which is odd because I spend a lot of time writing about other people’s futures. I assume it has something to do with memory- mine is terrible- and it’s hard to look forward when you can’t look back. I’m not really sure and to be honest I haven’t given it much thought until recently. At least, I don’t think I have, it’s possible I forgot.

If you’re new here I should probably warn you that this entire facility is run by pissed off clowns. I’ve been sober long enough now to experience, with alien clarity, the ticking of clocks and the progress of glaciers. Heads up- they leave puddles. I’ve also learned to be angry at the world all over again. You see, I lived in an eggshell for 20 years and time just passed by. Now there’s post-hammer synthenesia to deal with and I’ve started making lists just to avoid being wrong. It scares the shit out of me, and I’m angry angry angry all the time- at everything- because everything makes too much sense now and I liked it better when it was all just smoke and stories other people told me about a guy named me. The sky is damned blue people and water is friggin wet.

Now is different because I’m awake. Writing is not a new thing but keeping track of it is. Painting has always been like breathing, but now it’s sublimated into solid bits that experience gravity and need homes to call home. There’s a learning curve involved here and I’m older and less patient with myself than I was once upon a fifth of apple brandy.

Impatient little bitches

So all of a sudden there are goals and anorexic gnomes wearing name tags. They want me to stay on task. They want their bonuses at years end. They want to be beautiful and I’ve never sat in a cubicle or sold steaks to old women with dead husband’s who miss their kids. It’s new and irritating and there are rules now.

Rule one: Don’t talk about the people you know and/or care about unless it’s vague or innocuous. In other words respect the privacy of others who haven’t signed a release. This includes (but is not limited to) my wife, my children, my parents and siblings, my co-workers and any tertiary characters that inhabit their larger circles. As filters go this is shiny out of the box so I’m being hyper sensetive- trigger finger on backspace like it’s my brain clit and the prom’s been cancelled by the plague.

Rule Two: Be naked. Always. Protecting the innocent does not extend to yourself Brian. No white wash, no crunch coat- nothing between the shit bubbles in your soul and the page. Feel free to preface and explain away the darkness and the drivel, but never hide or apologise unless you mean it and let’s face it- you rarely do. I’m not making money from this and it’s not a class worth credit hours. So I will say what I want/feel/think- abuse punctuation , indulge in obscure references- and ramble as much as I want because if you waste too much time polishing a brick you just end up with a smaller brick that’s no good for building anything. I’m not sure what it is I’m building but I’ll be damned if I run out of bricks before I figure it out.

Rule Three: Write every day and put it somewhere secure. There’s nothing safe about the internet but at least I can be damned sure that it’s secure. Nothing posted online is ever truly gone. Just ask any idiot who thought sending a nude selfie or a bomb threat was a good idea. Fight against every complacent fiber of your fat lazy white American working class racist bigoted sexist consumer identity and actually do something- stick with something- commit. It doesn’t have to be good- in fact it probably won’t be so get used to that and being okay with that and move the fuck on. Create something every day. Turn a diaper box into a marshmallow farm in space and explore the moral implications of eating sentient food because someone has to. Might as well be you.

Wouldn’t you?

Rule Four: Evolve.

This morning I finished the first draft of a story called Max– you can find it in the drop menu at the top of this page. It’s not ready to be set free but the bones are all there- and I decided it might be worthwhile to update anyone following along with me here on where I am with the scraps. A well child visit for my digital avatar. So here:

As of today there are 7 stories in various stages of completion attached to this blog. Five of them are completed drafts awaiting editing which may or may not include expanding. One is halfway there. One is just beginning to take shape. It’s not a seamless process- some days I manage to add a sentence, some days I churn out a few pages- some days I write whole section just to delete them or transfer them to the limbo of the documents folder on my phone.

Oh yeah, and there’s that- I’m writing everything on my phone these days. 20 years ago I was writing misanthropic nightmare poetry on bar napkins in between shots of cheap bourbon. Now my thumbs tap out my emotional weltschmerz on a 3 year old Moto e5 between going to the post office and changing onesies. Evolution bitches. For real…

I have a zygotic vision regarding all of this- a long con if you will- a goal… cue the gnomes… and I think it’s realistic. Maybe not. We’ll see. Time is a bitch covered in motor oil and life is a kiddie pool from Walmart, but me? I’m a rodent whose teeth never stop growing. I’ve given myself till December to finish (key word: finish) 12 stories. That’s it. Just 12 stories. If I can do that then I’ll move on to phase two which involves variables so alien that they might as well rest in the secret memoirs of Xenu. If I make it, and if you’re still here with me when I do, we can face whatever comes next together. Until then I’ll be here, slogging, and trying to obey my own directives.

So where are we?…

In my head

* The end of something is an illustrated story about survivors of an extinction event. Its done enough for now. I think there are 3 paintings left in it somewhere and a few more bits of prose. It feels hollow to me.

*Rolf is a long winded exploration of the father daughter dynamic and it’s skeleton that needs more flesh. I’m also not entirely convinced that it’s even structurally sound but I love the concept so here it sits. Waiting.

*Any day now is a trainwreck about the world ending, again, and even I think it’s incomprehensible. I either need to cut it in half or feed it growth hormones until it makes sense. I just don’t know yet, so be warned…

*Miranda is what happens to cheese that’s read too many hard science books. It is what it is: a correspondence piece that spans a few centuries and manages to come off as pretentious by loosely hinting at deeper themes. I don’t see myself revisiting this one. Check back with me on that in December.

*Max was fun to write. It’s a silly premise about a future where criminals are turned into animals and sent back in time. It’s not deep and I think it’s done. I reserve the right to tweak.

*Ark is important, but I hate writing it. It’s only halfway to where I think it ends and it’s moving slowly. It’s an unpleasant excersize for me because it deals with the worst parts of my own humanity. It’s my what if. What if today really did go all 28 days? I keep at it, gritting my teeth as I go, and eventually I’ll get it all out. Patience.

*Our damn island is Covid 19 on Mt Desert Island and it’s barely a thing… Just a begining. I know where I want it to go but it’s another illustration driven piece and I haven’t had the chance to really paint since I started. I will though. The finale, played out in my mind, is wonderful fun. And by fun I mean dark and gory. You’ll see…

What’s next? I have invisible sketches for enough stories to fill an imaginary swimming pool- it’s just a matter of reaching into the bingo ball and pulling out a number. So that’s a thing I’ll do. Write, edit, revise and post updates along the way. I’d apologise for breaking my promise to avoid this sort of conversation but why bother? You know I’d be lying.

I gotta put on shoes and do some grown up stuff now. I’ll catch up later.

Brian Shepard, May 19, 2020

Because…

So I’ve been making puppets out of old cereal boxes again. It happens. You heard me- puppets just happen. Why? Because. I’ve even got names for them and everything. They’re like the cast of Friends- if the friends lived on an asteroid in Saturn’s rings and spent their days harvesting space marshmallows instead of dating each other and hanging out in a coffee shop. My kids are gonna love it, it’s gonna be tight bro. Awww yes…

It’s not you, he’s always like that...

Honestly, I have no idea why I do anything I do, and I stopped letting that bother me a looong time ago. I can even stand outside myself and have conversations like:

“Huh. Cardboard aliens eh? I like the glitter paint. What was your inspiration?”

“It’s Friday.”

“Dope.”

…and it’s not weird at all. Because it’s not. So there.

I’ve come to terms with myself in my 40’s. Polite terms. The civil war of my adolescence, the cold war of my young adulthood with its ever present threat of total obliteration… these have settled into an unspoken agreement between exhausted nation’s to simply be chill. We have potlucks now- it’s very civilised, and no one threatens the peace by calling one another names.

The same can’t be said of our surly neighbors…

Not a rabbit...

Childlike is an adjective that gets thrown around a lot by people who lack imagination or access to a thesaurus- so does it’s dark twin Childish. I dislike both words. I also dislike the words Fructify and Puce but since neither of those words have ever been used to describe either my artwork or myself they are irrelevant to this conversation.

This guy gets it…

Childlike and Childish are lazy words- couldn’t take the time or expend the energy to construct a decent metaphor kind of words… Employed as weapons by small minded sophisticates, they assault creativity by relegating it’s expression to a caste system based on perceived ages and stages. (Wow that sentence hurt.) Total bullshit. Grown men who play with Legos aren’t childlike– they are grown men who like Legos. Crayons don’t have an age limit. Cartoons are awesome. So are cardboard puppets and glitter paint. Legit. Why? Because…

This guy is waaaay into carrots…

I shouldn’t get huffy. In all fairness, I can be a pretentious sonofabitch at times. It’s true… but it bothers me when I have to qualify anything I do just to avoid those damn words. I know the names and backstories of all the ponies in Equestria, of course I do...because I have daughters. Same goes for every Disney movie ever made, the complete Muppet catalog and any cartoon from the golden age through Steven Universe you might want to quiz me on…because I have 5 children. Obviously.

Look, truth is that I’m going to build a puppet theater this week out of a food pantry box and make up some goofy stories that my first grader will probably (hopefully) enjoy. That is a thing that will happen. I even have an idea for a song about asteroids and marshmallows that my cereal box friends can, and invariably will, bop along with. Hell, I’ll probably video it and put it on YouTube. Why not. The kids will love it…

Shhh…Communist sympathizer…

That’s not why I’m making puppets though. Puppets happen and I don’t know why, and at the end of the day I don’t care. I’m far too busy worrying about adult things like electric bills and stomach ulcers (I have both) to waste time worrying over awesome things like cardboard puppets and poster paint.

So get used to Beetle, Wubble, Candi, Trip and Orn- they’ll be around for a bit. Maybe they’ll even teach you their song one of these days. Who knows?

Brian Shepard, May 15, 2020

Full Disclosure

People are complicated. According to the stat page on my blog app 88 people are currently reading along with me- and that’s fine because I don’t know most of them and they don’t know me. Whatever picture they’ve painted of me based upon the stories I write and the various editorial comments I make is all well and good but let’s be honest with one another– it can’t be an accurate one- and that is also a good thing. If the sum total of my character was defined soley by the words I vomit into space then even I wouldn’t like me. I write some dark shit. I know that. Of course, I also know that I cry during Disney movies and can crochet. Like I said, people are complicated- and like Tim Allen in The Santa Clause 2: “I’m a man of many sides. I’m a Rubik’s cube in pants…”

Writers/artists/musicians etc. tend to be characterized by their product, which is an unfortunate side effect of putting part of yourself out there. It’s an understandable and completely normal reaction, it’s just not necessarily accurate. If it was we’d be living in a world teeming with hyperbolic cliches instead of people with families and Netflix subscriptions. Imagine a world filled with Harbingers from a Valiant comic- but their superpowers are accelerated addiction, sexual deviance, ultraviolence, and the ability to talk to animals. Add some occult wisdom, ties to the Illuminati, magic, misogyny and throw some Indiana Jones Jack Sparrow Mad Max shit in for good measure. Sure. That’s the X-Men we really need…

I don’t believe in censorship of any kind, and that extends from artistic expression into your day to day personal filtration system. Say what you want, consume what makes you happy, in other words- you do you. I’m a big fan of personal liberty. I’m not a flat Earther or a white supremacist or an anti vaxer or a fan of Sandra Bullock movies but if you are and that’s your thing I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. I may not invite you over for biscuits or let you babysit my kids- but again, that’s my right to think you’re batshit. Some people (commies no doubt) put miracle whip on their ham sandwiches and yet civilization hasn’t collapsed yet so yeah… freedom of expression and experience is fundamental to my worldview. That being said, I think it’s often prudent to pick and choose which hat we wear in public with great care. I don’t watch porn with my auntie, I don’t invite my parish priest to drag night at Carmen’s, and I don’t post my stories on Facebook. Call it self preservation but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to field that comment thread and why would I want to? The church ladies, librarians- my mother in law, my kids teachers, my kids… not my target audience. It’s not as if I’m password protecting any of this but there’s no need to advertise. Posting on Facebook is like wearing a hot dog costume and dancing around in front of a gas station. Sure, you get noticed- but do you really want that kind of exposure? I don’t. Nope.

Anyone can stumble on this blog, and judging by some of the comments I’ve received, some rather unique people have. That’s cool. I was prepared for that. If I’ve sent you a direct link I obviously have no problem shitting in your cereal and expecting you to thank me. If you, in turn have shared that link then you obviously have some odd ducks in your own pond and that’s also fine. That’s your business. I trust you to make your own life decisions and I’ll accept critisism from strangers gladly- just be aware that I’ll be picturing them naked surrounded by rainbows while I do so. Personal liberty man- It’s just me being me.

I had a coworker once who’s favorite expression seemed to be: “Brian, you say things.” by which he meant- strange things. It wasn’t a compliment. I never corrected him because it’s true, and this blog proves his point. All I ask is that you treat my writing as if it was a bag of black licorice. Don’t like black licorice? Then don’t eat it. In fact– try treating everything in life as if it were licorice. It’s not a bad philosophy. Also, don’t assume I’m a monster because I write about them. This is fiction dawg. I’m about as interesting as live golf commentary. No offense to golfers.

Finally (for today at least) if you do have something to say please say it. You can post comments directly to the blog if you have a WordPress account and if you don’t (and I’m not shilling for them) my contact info is up by the menu button under one of those weird pretzel icons. Email me, text me, cut out letters from magazines and paste them together ransom note style…it’s all good. If you have a blog or know of one you think I’d like send me a link and I’ll check it out. If you have an idea where one of my unfinished stories should go and you’re tired of me adding a paragraph at a time- let me know. After all, I’m here.

Just don’t look for me on Facebook. Facebook me is vanilla AF.

Brian Shepard, May 11, 2020

Retcon…

Maxine made me do it

Ok, so I lied. Please disregard my disregard for editing the structure of this blog. Also, I may have been premature in insisting that I had nothing to say, ponder or rant about. Feel free to disregard that bit as well. Fact is- I’m really just making this up as I go, and as I evolve so does the mess I leave behind.

So yes, I tidied up the site a bit. To be honest, when I jumped into this the plan was just to have a place online to tuck a few stories into- more for myself than anyone else really. I thought archiving my writing projects such that I could access them from virtually anywhere at anytime would be neat. I was thinking of convenience, and that still stands. Carting around paper hard copies of poorly edited drafts everywhere I go isn’t realistic and my life, as it is, does not lend itself to traditional writing. I don’t have a sacred space or a dedicated time where I do these things. Hell, most of what you just read was tapped into my phone by cold fingers on the walk home from work. So there’s that. Also, Im terrified that I’ll drop my phone in the ocean. Seriously. I live on an island- that’s a thing that could happen- and if the sum total of my rambling is confined to this single, fragile bit of tech… well, shit happens. ‘Nuff said.

So it made/makes sense to do this- to carry my quill in my pocket and upload the scribbles as they come into the aether. Of course, now that I’m here, new variables have come into play- and being stubborn doesn’t do me any good. I need to be real with myself. This is me. Being real. With myself. Sigh…

Straight out the gate I was deluded. I told myself that I didn’t really care if anyone other than myself ever read what I wrote. Which was great. Liberating. Not caring is awesome when your self esteem is barely breathing. Not caring is the pajama pants adolescent writers wear to the Post Office. Comfy. Even when I posted the trite and pretentious phrase: stories are for readin’- I only half meant it…but here I am, so obviously the part of me that thought presentation was for losers who care about stuff is an asshole and probably needs a hug. Deep down I’ve always wanted you to like me. Full disclosure: that’s why I pierced my nose when I was in highschool. So you’d think I was cool. All that bullshit about non- conformity and breaking through oppressive paradigms was, in fact, bullshit. So yeah, I want you to read my stories and like them. There I said it. Now where does that leave us?

Right…so turns out that I do care (go ahead, act surprised) and now that I’ve embraced caring I thought it best to apply myself to becoming better at stuff. First order of business: apologise for being a twat. Next, reorganize the blog- which was as nerve wracking as I had imagined it to be- and I am well aware that it’s not quite right. I did decide to keep the stories as pages rather than posts (under the main drop menu) and I’ve moved the miscellaneous debris to a secondary set of icons to get them out of the way. I have decided to leave The end of something as a post out of nostalgia so you can still find it by scrolling down. Now, as for the stories themselves…

The hardest thing for me (even harder than admitting that I’m a cuddle slut in search of affirmation…harder than navigating this technological medium which is still akin to magic for me) is the pressure I’m putting on myself to commit. That’s some deep ugly truth vomit right there- I’m scared to death of commitment, or more accurately- I’m scared that I just won’t ever finish anything. This is why I’m forcing myself to upload as I go rather than wait until something is done, polished and pressed before I let you in. Now I have guilt driving me to follow through. Now if I don’t get out of bed in the morning or put on pants you’ll know, and I don’t want to be thought of as that guy. No sir, and so there is also that.

At the end of the day (today) I have several works in various stages of development here as well as the sincere conviction that at some point in the future they’ll move out of my basement and get real jobs. Thanks, in no small part, to you, my fear of your judgement, and my need to please you whether you exist or not. You see, it has occurred to me that, like the stories I write, you might also be elaborate fiction. Not that it matters in the end. It’s working. It’s working…

Brian Shepard, 05/10/2020

I have no idea what’s going on…

This is me:

and the voices in my head…

Fact: Technology is evolving faster than I am.

Point of fact: I am a slow learner.

Read the title again and tuck it into your pocket for later- there might be a quiz. Meanwhile…

This is me trying to be one of the cool kids and document my quarentine experience with a blog. Sort of. More accurately this is me sharing the scraps of stories that I’ve been playing with since this mess began. I know that most blogs play out more like an ongoing dialogue between blogger and reader, but either I’m not that interesting or no one is but they think they are and either way that’s not what I came here to do. Nope. I have no desire to document my days or pontificate upon any sort of hobby horse. Been there, done that- back when geocities were a thing…

I write stories. That’s all.° I don’t know if they’re good stories, I don’t know if they’re bad stories (or really good or really bad or somewhere in between) and ultimately it doesn’t really matter- good or bad they exist. I like them and that’s good enough for me. Almost…

You see, quality aside, stories are for readin’- and since we’re sharing a moment I can admit that I’m too poor to buy printer ink, don’t even own a computer or a typewriter, and even if I wasn’t and even if I did I wouldn’t have a clue how to actually convince people to read the stuff I write. It’s also possible that I’m also a stereotypical lazy 40 something white American male and blogging takes less effort. It’s also quite possible that my ego is waaaaay more fragile than I’ve led you to believe and that the faceless nature of a web based audience is waaaaay less threatening than actual human contact. Anything’s possible. I once saw a rat eating pizza. I saw it on the internet. The beautiful anonymous internet…

Now here’s where the boldfaced title comes back in to play: Writing stories is easy- navigating this fancy schmancy blogging app is….less easy. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I like to pretend that I’m up to date and relevant when my kids and their cool friends are around but it’s just not true. I recently read an article by a guy my age about how gen X is the most flexible and adaptable generation because we grew up analog, embraced digital and live virtually. It was a cool thing to say and I want it so bad to be true for me but it’s not. I grew up analog, experimented with digital in college (doesn’t everyone?) and I have guilty daydreams about virtual that I’ll never admit. I’m not tech savvy- I’m the other thing, the one that rhymes with tree-tarted. There really needs to be a support group for guys like me. You know- there probably is. On the internet. I’d Google it if I knew how to do that and type this at the same time. As it is I have a deeply rooted phobia of forgetting to push Ctrl S every time I end a paragraph. Yeah, so there’s that…

This phone can do things I can’t (I refuse to) completely understand or even believe… which is the real problem with this blog. I downloaded an app so I could type and italicize and boldface and such- then I downloaded another app to upload my text and pictures to a server, and yet another app to edit the pictures I took with a different app to really make the blog snazzy- and I’m doing my best, I really am. Honest Native American. Still, there are glitches…

I’m being patient and honest with myself and that’s all I’ve ever asked of me. I won’t presume to ask the same of you but I will offer you these glimpses behind the ultra-cool super-chill got his shit together mask I wear around my kids and anyone born after I lost my virginity. If you’ve come this far it’s the very least I can do. And I mean that. The very least…

For starters- I can’t figure out how to arrange anything in here- shit is everywhere. My first post (The end of something) is below this post, which is the most recent post until I post something newer. Between the first post and the last post I posted other posts- a few unfinished stories, an open letter to everyone that I don’t remember writing but also can’t figure out how to delete, some contact info…blog stuff. Somehow those all managed to be “Pages” instead of “Posts” so you have to click on the menu button to find them and no- I don’t know how that happened and no- I’m not interested in knowing how to fix that around. It is what it is. All I know for certain is that I’ll keep pushing buttons and hoping for the best…

You’re all invited to come along.

Brian Shepard, 05/06/2020

°I actually do other things.

the end of something…

For Penelope

The days are so quiet now that They are gone.
Sometimes I listen to their ruin breathe and sigh.
Sometimes I count their empty dens.
Sometimes I wonder why,
But on most days the silence is enough for me.

The gentle ones remain. They coo and hum,
They whisper-
The BIG ONES are gone…
Just gone just gone just gone just-
(The STOMPERS, the CLAWS and TEETH
The daylight MONSTERS are)
Gone gone gone…

Some say that the wind took Them.
Some say that They must have forgotten something
Far away.
Some say that They ran to the edge of the world
And jumped.
Some say that They were chased there,
Which is why they left their bones and flesh behind.

Now is for the humble and still to breed.
Now is the ascendency of the feathered.
The Dark Parliament has judged my kin,
So we offer our young as sacrifice-
And live.

The Old Gods never left.
They slept as we all slept and the world
Moved from here to there.
They must be fed.

We take turns telling stories about
The before.
Otherwise we would forget.


We would forget the holes.
We would forget the tunnels and nests-
The dark spaces between walls.
We would forget the under of things.

We would forget the Wait and the Fear and
The Run and the Stopping Of Breath
And the Sigh When Safe
And the heart’s Patter Patter.
We must not forget.

Tonight my son’s son will see the stars.

When the Loud Ones left They took our fear
With them.
When They left everything changed.
This was the end of something we were.

I can almost remember Them…
Like a dream of dried leaves and thunder.
Like a dream of fire belching smoke and glass.
Like a dream undone.
Beneath the fluttering of black wings
We are reborn. We are new.

The nights are so quiet now that They are gone.
Sometimes I listen to their ruin breathe and sigh.
Sometimes I count their empty dens.
Sometimes I wonder why,
But most days the silence is enough for me.

Fin

Pandemics are weird. So is spending time with my family. Couch-flanked by my wife and my 10 year old daughter- The Simpsons playing in the background, the baby in his bouncer- I painted a mouse with a balloon for no particular reason.

“Why is he sad?” Amy wants to know.

“Because it’s the end of the world?” Penelope suggested.

“Is everybody dead?” Amy asks.

“Did the mouse kill them all?” Penelope wonders.

And so on.

Finally I put my paintbrush down and ended all speculation with:

“He’s not sad, no one’s dead, he’s just a mouse with a fucking balloon. Sheesh, give him a break!”

Then I went outside to smoke.

Of course, later that night the dragons in my head began to ask questions of their own…

What if a virus managed to wipe out not just man- but all Apex predators? What would happen if the meek inherited the Earth? Who would rise up? What if there were still predatory birds? Would they become the new masters? What would the mice think about all this? What are easier to paint- owls or ravens? And so on.

I’m convinced that the preceding story is unfinished. There’s a lot more to imagine, write and paint before I’ll consider it complete. Think of this installment as the skeleton around which something truly odd and dark will wrap it’s Eldritch innards around. I’ll get back to you.

Unless the world ends. Or I learn how to paint an owl.

Brian