archives spring 2008



List of 50 (12 of 50): Electric Jesus

1. This past weekend, two days before Christmas, I witnessed evil that stilled my heart.
2. A small Korean child, roughly six, brutally beating a live crab with the butt end of metal tongs.
3. His smaller sister there beside him, flinging crab bodies from mid-crawl, while a few feet over their parents fought amongst a crowd for fresher specimen.
4. Hours later, in my head still—the way the crab, shell busted, seemed to reel.
5. There in the market, where they sell piñatas of 5 sizes.
6. Where there are aisles of candy from countless countries, named in languages I can’t read.
7. We took cell phone photos with a huge green hollow piñata bird in the crowded dairy aisle.
8. A small woman with three children smiled at me with her crooked teeth and blinked.
9. Afterwards I watched a young Spanish boy shadowbox the bird where we’d left it leaned against the light.
10. I would have paid to take it out of there if it hadn’t already been missing its right eye.
11. Instead I got an electric wall hanging of the crucifixion, $10 flat, in cash.
12. I did not attempt to dicker, as every other customer did. The salesman wore a fanny pack.
13. Neon Jesus, wrapped in bubble wrap, stuffed into a box with plastic handle.
14. Neon Jesus with red, blue and yellow light strobing from his ass.
15. Still mesmerized an hour after, on a sofa in the dark.
16. His light creasing the room.
17. The crab-crushing boy still at large in my head.
18. Our midnight construction of a gingerbread masterpiece served a nice distraction—ginger home, woman and man.
19. We iced the woman into the darkness under the roof inside the house.
20. 8 pounds of Kim chi from the Market in the refrigerator. A Christmas gift, not given.
21. Here now alone two hours after Christmas, the day feels like it never happened.
22. Brand new remote controlled space heater blowing mercilessly at my back.
23. A cardboard box brimmed full with candy that will be eaten in a week.
24. Wondering what the other customers of the International Market are doing with their evening.
25. Wondering what new junk the crab-beating boy is abusing in his room.
26. So many places I will never know exist, however thankfully or unthankfully.
27. So many people with their own machinic brains, each absorbing on its own.
28. Average number of thoughts per waking second: 10.
29. Therefore, per hour: 36,000.
30. While sleeping, the rate moves back a decimal.
31. Therefore, per day, per human: 604,800 thoughts.
32. Current estimated world population: 6,446,131,400 folks.
33. How many of those thoughts are evil? How many are the same?
34. How many equate to: I am hungry. How many: I want to buy that electric Jesus.
35. I remember once having wanted children. Not certain when that desire died.
36. In the noodle restaurant after the market, a father to his son: STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT. DO YOU HEAR ME? STOP IT. STOP IT.
37. The evenings I’ve overhead my upstairs getting beaten by her husband more than twice.
38. The air of my bedroom somehow vibrating with her scream.
39. Such evil thoughts I’ve had lately, uncontrollably.
40. As in last week I found myself wanting to climb through the window at a child staring at me from the backseat of his parents’ car.
41. What future selves that child will bury.
42. The portals of his eyes.
43. Such beautiful heat from the space heater. Drying out the skin along my back. Bringing itch that keeps me curling. Scratching my skin cells off into the air and breathing them back in.
44. The cold sky beyond the window. My window as big as two large doors.
45. A world of rooms on the horizon. Flush with people I’ll never see. Their thoughts all replicating, bruising new remembrance on the flesh.
46. Their tongues, their lips, their nails, their wallets, their knees, their hair.
47. So many windows on nearby making the stillness seem evil even more.
48. So evil now I’m going to turn on this electric Jesus. Plug him in and dim the overhead.
49. His ass, neon, radiating.
50. His light creasing the room. 


List of 50 (16 of 50): Death Toll

1. In 2003, one out of every 113 people died, according to biblehelp.org.
2. Roughly 1.78 people per second.
3. They have a counter that estimates 244.4 have died since the time I opened their webpage when I began writing this list .
4. The tally growing larger while I sit staring.
5. Tonight I fell asleep in water so hot my feet were numb.
6. Nodding off every couple minutes, banging my head against the tub.
7. Half-dreaming people from sometime else. Faces I hadn’t seen before.
8. Another 102.4 people estimated expired while writing the last 5 lines.
9. In the mirror finding a small bruise on my forehead that I don’t remember getting.
10. Soon I will remember less and less.
11. Outside again tonight it’s raining.
12. Other things are less obvious.
13. As on another website I’m reading, planecrashinfo.org, which claims the last words recorded on British Air flight 5572, June 22, 2003 before its crash-landing that killed the pilot: I have nothing in front of me.
14. This short quote brought before me by the internet, here alone 11 PM on a Friday night.
15. For some reason my whole head seems to itch.
16. The walls of this room are blue. Drinking ice water from a plastic cup that is also blue. Not sure why that matters.
17. Such an evil night tonight.
18. In addition to the mortality counter, biblehelp.org offers a U.S. abortion counter, a world abortion counter, and a destiny counter, which estimates the souls condemned to hell.
19. The rate of condemnation supposedly comparable to that at which a warning light on an ambulance flashes.
20. These counters are ideal for presentations at churches, conferences, and rallies.  These counters can run on laptops for small groups (Bible studies and Sunday Schools) and on projection screens for very large audiences. 
21. Having just now got up to fill my blue cup and at my return seeing that 80.2 more have died.
22. The anticipation of this number having actually affected the way I walked.
23. Last words recorded on Vladivostokavia Airlines flight 352, July 4, 2001, which crashed killing all 145 aboard: That’s all guys! Fuck!
24. Not surprising that quite a majority of these crashed plane logs contain fuck in the last words, in fact.
25. Also very common: Oh God and Holy shit.
26. Though certain camera’s recordings note only rattling, hissing, noise.
27. Wondering what I’d say if I knew I was dying; if I’d be more eloquent, or if I’d just curse.
28. Last words of Hegel: Only one man ever understood me.  And he really didn’t understand me.
29. Last words of Conrad Hilton, father of the hotel chain: Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.
30. Actually, saying fuck while on a crashing plane seems eloquent enough.
31. Imagining there will be a significantly higher death rate this year than that established in 2003.
32. 2107.2 people have died during this list now.
33. I’m confused about knowing certain things.
34. What else could I be doing.
35. Here alone with an itch, an ache, poor posture. My cell phone silent beside me on the desk.
36. Abraham Lincoln died laughing, so they say.
37. J.M. Barrie’s last words: I can’t sleep.
38. Heinrich Himmler’s: I am Heinrich Himmler.
39. I think I’m going to make it. Richard Loeb’s
40. I could call someone but I don’t want to. I want to take another bath.
41. I’d like to sleep straight through tomorrow so I’ll have more energy the next day.
42. 2700.1
43. Not even willing to imagine how to consider a percentage of a person. It’s still early enough to go out.
44. The Captain, last words recorded on Airwave Transport flight 9807, which crashed killing both members of a crew of two: I have no idea which way is up.
45. The First Officer on Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight 529, August 21, 1995, which crashed into trees during an emergency landing: Amy, I love you.
46. The walls here are still blue.
47. An estimated 229 die each year in the U.S. from botched circumcision.
48. More than 11 million children die each year before reaching age 5.
49. 4061 and counting.
50. I don’t want to look at the internet anymore. 


Blake Butler is the editor of Lamination Colony and the author of Scorch Atlas, a novel in stories. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, LIT, Fence, /nor and etc. He lives in Atlanta.