The Bureau of Consumption
It’s the warmest day of the year so far in Brooklyn, where I confess I have done a bad thing quietly. The self-storage center, a jolly roger, glints with a novel kind of light. Last night, I had a green potato and didn’t die. Today, I had another. Off the R near Red Hook, Brooklyn looks like Cleveland: pre-war warehouses, overpasses, russet brick and beige concrete. Past the playground I once pissed in, drunk, locked out of my apartment, my calves ache from jumping jacks, I’m unable to hold my whole weight when I plank. The questions are, as always, who benefits? Am I diabetic? I’m in the best shape of my life.
Last summer I was mad, I picked a direction. A young boy asked if I was a believer, then blessed me anyway. It’s different now. Sixty degrees. In Florida, I’d wear sandals into frost, tell people I’m from Ohio. A man on a yellow quad bike comes up my strip of sidewalk, almost runs me over, then another, blue. A man with a broom clears debris off the street a few feet from a pile of water bottles. When I come back tomorrow, the block will look too clean.
Two young boys fight by a hand-painted NO PARKING sign. I do not intervene. Like a castle on the corner looms a KFC. For a moment I wonder what it’s like to eat ostrich meat. I hear my knee click and ponder how I believe in anything. If I order a bucket of fried chicken from the takeout window, the Magritte painting in my head—ham steak, eyeball stuck like an olive in its center—would be the only witness. “No one would stop an ordinary act of cruelty,” the wind says, whistling off barbed wire. What an absurd man you are. If you wanted to be less outraged, you should have been born in less outrageous times.
The Bureau of Nature
Single file, we put the pigs in pens. Each pig an exact copy of the last. Exact plumpness of snout and jowl and flank. Tender and marbled in an exact and scientific way. Each morning, the pigs squealed one time in unison, and the first morning, we were startled awake. But we were so comfortable. And it was just another alarm left on in another apartment. And we were so comfortable—to go back to sleep, to ignore it. When the pigs grew large enough, a large man came out with a large gun, and held the gun up to the first pig. One pig fell, and each other collapsed—the shared dream of mud and apricots spilling from each pig’s head.