Bounce (A Truer Story)

bike33by Liam Scheff
published at The Truth Barrier

I’m almost human today, having reverted from whatever maudlin and darkly creative state the world usually extrudes me, into a more wide-open pose. Perhaps it was my intersection with a woman accelerating blindly into another intersection yesterday. I’ll restrain myself from a parsed, tight-lipped explanation that might make you think I was hit by a car and bounced off of its hood and tossed onto the road — that would be too dramatic. It is what happened. But, I was able to stand immediately, and my job became to soothe and calm the woman, who seemed all at once in deep tremorous shock.

People don’t see cyclists, I refuse to pass in front of a car paused at an intersection, as they crane their necks right into traffic; they never see me until they hit the accelerator. This one, though, was 12 to 15 feet away, and I felt sure she’d s…

And then she was accelerating and I was sure she would hit me, it was inextricable, and then I was on top of a hood, and the bike, I noticed was too, and then there was the pavement. And I thank the Holy Lord and Lords and Goddess and Spirits and Angels that no car zoomed quite near me, and that she responded to my yell of “Stop!” But, really, more, “stop.” Continue reading

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The Bridge – Part 1 and 2

by Liam Scheff
15 of 15×15

Menai Bridge

“Some of the others fall and they’re putting out their arms and legs, and trying to catch something, but there’s only air and rain. One of them actually dives – he pulls his head together and like… like an Olympic diver or something. He puts his hands in a prayer, and then juts them up over his head, and then he points down and they’re an ice-breaker or a hatchet and he dives right down and disappears into the water.” Continue reading

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by Liam Scheff
15 of 15×15


“It was always too late,” she says, fully articulate, loosened by alcohol, bordering between convivial and hostile, and back to jovial. She’s holding court, and we are no longer her peers, but her subjects.

“The human species is a kind of animal. And if we’re going to understand the rest of the story, we’re going to have to understand something about this animal that we are.” She says it flatly. It’s not up for debate, and we’re cowed, over-awed, listening.

I do marvel at her in these moods.

She keens her focus on Emily, seeking out the protest in her eyes. Emily is a darling girl, and imagines that the world is a kind of darling place. Rachel seeks to puncture that illusion. She reaches in, gently but firmly:

“We don’t like to think of ourselves this way, we avoid self-analysis on a grand scale.” She holds Emily’s eyes. “We’re ‘unique’ and ‘special’ and ‘one of a kind.'” She lets us hear the words, and wrestle for a moment with our identification with them. “We are, of course, as unique as farmed rabbits as far as time and the Earth are concerned.” She takes a sip of the purple wine.

“Rabbits, or…or rats. Or pigs. Or, if we are more varied, then in our variety there are still patterns – small ears, sharp, hard teeth…” she trails off. “Should I tell you what kind of animal we are?”
Continue reading

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Company Man

by Liam Scheff
13 of 15×15


The company moves me around. They liked how I got team activities going in Philadelphia and Kentucky. They wanted to try it in Durbanville. It wasn’t complicated. It’s the kind of stuff they make fun of on “The Office.” Team-building exercises: one-day camping, zip lines, trust falls. But I added the stuff people actually want to do: disco afternoons, after-hours bar, and gambling night – all at the office.

Office hookups went up, but so did a feeling of “I gotta get to work to hear what the fuck is going on!” It was a hard pitch to management. They had to throw out 10 years of legal on inter-office romance. Everybody had to sign a waiver that said, “Fucking is our business, not the company’s, and if we run into a problem, remember: Kiss and make up, or shake and be colleagues.”

“You’re all grown-ups,” is how I start the lecture. “But you come to this place and suddenly you’re back in school, making cupcakes for each other’s birthdays, picking out clothes so you don’t get made fun of. Stopping yourself from swearing because you think it’ll offend somebody.”

Suddenly I’ve got their interest. I give them some reason: “And that’s all well and good when you’re hosting a client….but how many of you host clients?” Maybe two out of 15 hands go up. “Riight,” I say. And it pays to be on generally good behavior at those times. (Or does it?)” I give them a wink and a nod. “Because we all know that the thing the males clients like to do is?” Continue reading

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by Liam Scheff
12 of 15×15


Sandy orders eggs, which I’ll never understand. I like her, but I just can’t understand ordering eggs at a restaurant. That sulfur smell, the rubbery weird cooked jello flesh nature of it, with just salt and pepper, like you’re still a child, eating what your grandmother puts in a bowl in front of you. No choice, but maybe she’ll let you have a cupcake if you eat these smelly ovaries.

“Smelly ovaries,” I say to myself, hoping Rich hears me. He does but doesn’t know what I mean. He barely mumbles a “wha?” and I ignore him. Sandy shoots me something that could be a very mildly amused, ‘but not going to bother’ look. Or she just looked up when I did. Not worth unspooling, I think. Have your eggs, Sandy. Apologize to the chickens in the next world.

“I’ll have…” I trail off. Rich jumps in. “Can I have some coconut milk?” The waitress responds by blinking and pulling back a fraction of an inch, signaling a lack of understanding. “For my coffee?” he says. “Do you have, you know, coconut milk?”

She blinks again. Continue reading

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The Farm

by Liam Scheff
11 of 15×15


“And what’ll we do for water?” Jolie stands frozen in place, her eyes shocked open, tears forming on a thin sheen of burning dry heat that she feels all over her eyes, that she started complaining about 18 months ago, that everyone told her to ignore, that the allergy doctor said was tomatoes, then corn, then wheat.

It hadn’t always been this way. Once they were a couple, she wasn’t as fat. She was almost appealing, from certain angles, in certain dresses. And Dale loved her, her natural roundness, and she loved him for loving her, and for being hard-working and good, and not drinking too much. It hadn’t always been this way. It had been… what was the word? Natural. Yes, but, something else. Uncomplicated.

Well, never entirely, not with her father and his mother, and the beer and whiskey they pulled down between them. They had to be separated at parties, seated apart at the wedding. The father of the bride, the mother of the groom, getting on all too well, bonding over booze, and a penchant for self-destructiveness that had infected most of their children. But not Jolie, and not Dale. They had taken the shocks and risen above the morass; they had done so through humility and determination, and a willingness to try, and try again.

And then the Company came to visit. There had always been companies. There were Dow and Monsanto down the road in the Twin Cities, but they’d left this little tract of family farms alone. This hundred acres of huddled cul-de-sac of family farms – Dale, Jolie, her brother and his, growing squash and pumpkin and corn and tomatoes, and two kinds of wheat – all heirloom plants, handed down through generations, surviving the dust-bowl, never buying into chemical progress. Continue reading

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by Liam Scheff
10 of 15×15


We all came out after Entourage, in like…2006, 2007. We all grew up watching Swingers on cable. We’d seen the movie 1,000 times. We knew all the lines. We’d become those guys in our home towns – obnoxious to the point of violence, if you took us seriously. But why take us seriously? We just wanted to be actors and hang around all day, fucking good-looking girls who wanted to be fucked and did not want boyfriends.

We thought, if those loser hacks could do it, so could we – we’re about as funny, same bunch of assholes in that movie, and some of them…well, two of them, two and a half maybe, got rich a long time ago, and the rest are probably doing theater in Santa Monica or Hollywood, or maybe Silver Lake. Like, getting commercials once in awhile, or a voice-over job.

That’s the – well, it’s not the gold mine – but it pays the bills. I guess it’s copper. But copper is worth gold, too – or silver. It’s worth something anyway, by the way the freaks rip it out of the houses in the Valley that are too hot to live in without central AC.

The Valley has become a regular shop and drive for the gangster set. The city sure gets a lot of mileage out of recycling its bones. You can’t stay there in summer. The only people left out there are very boujie, very swank millionaires who can run private generators to keep the A/C on. In winter it’s nice, and everybody goes, but not in summer. Only the die-hards and indijs stay. Continue reading

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Blackout Pt. 1

by Liam Scheff
9 of 15×15

New York Blackout

It’s the fourth day of the power outage in all of the Bronx, Queens, most of Long Island, half of Brooklyn, and all of Manhattan. New York City: 430 square miles, 5,200 buses, 250 lines,  34 subway routes, over 800 miles of track, 7,400 miles of sewer pipe, 16 bridges, 4 tunnels, and in daytime working hours in the city island alone, 5 million people. But it might as well be the whole world.

There are no cars the streets, but plenty of bicycles, emergency vehicles, and occasional cabs for officials. Some buses are running, too, but you’ve got to walk between stops and find the lines that are working. Given gas prices – around $8 a gallon in the city – and fuel shortages, they’re using as much diesel as they can for fire engines and generators.

Fleet of firetrucks are parked in and out of Times Square. There are another 10 on Broadway in Harlem, 20 on the East Side, 20 on the West Side, 10 in Columbus Circle, a few in the Park, 20 in the Lower East Side. Probably plenty down by the Wall Street and the Tower, but I haven’t been that far.

It’s like a red truck convention all over town, and the firemen are hanging out, talking to a lot of women, who are dressed in pastel colored shorts, tube tops, thin blouses and thin-strapped numbers suited for summer heat. Continue reading

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Neo-Tokyo is about to Explode

by Liam Scheff
8 of 15×15


Vivian flips through the channels. Basic cable. It was our decision to limit it. “The two way mirror,” she calls it. We’re not permitted to have nothing (which would be our choice). The building requires a video-in for security. But we can modify it, so, no movies, just news and the networks.

She flips her hair gently to get it out of her face. Straight with a little curve, brown with a little amber in summer. She’s still so pretty. Prettier than when I met her. How does that happen to women in their late 30s?

She’s churning through channels trying to find what Mrs. Ekelsen was talking about in the hallway. Tokyo on fire? She gets to CNN, and they’re on the war. Skips to Fox. Sees Hannity and keeps going. She goes with the network, and there it is. A protest – not a fire – but a firefight. Protesters throwing bottles and – there it is. A fire in downtown Tokyo. The helicopter shot shows it from above. A couple city blocks are burning. Continue reading

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The Critics

by Liam Scheff
7 of 15×15


“So, this kind of chunky Matt-Damon looking dude in a short-sleeve button-down white shirt with like, a Bible in his hand is walking with his butt-buddy, and I realize these are Morons, or whatever.”


“Right, and one of them goes to knock on Julie Assinski’s door, and I say, ‘Good luck with that one, Father! The only way she’s getting through the pearly gates is if you close her legs for five minutes!” Stevie laughs hysterically in his insane hyena laugh. This is how he likes to behave in public, and why I didn’t want to go to Target with him.

“They’re not priests, Steve-o. They’re, like… I dunno. Missionaries.”

“Oh, yeah, right…missionaries. For the…missionary position!”

“Stevie,” I’m gonna say. “Can you shut the fuck up in here? There are people around.” But before I can ask, he’s onto his favorite topic.

“Yo, Dougie, you see that Avengers movie?”

“Avengers 4? No.” Continue reading

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News Room

by Liam Scheff
6 of 15×15


“And why won’t you write it?”

“Because it’s not true!” She says it with unintended force from air that pummels its way out of her lungs and guts and makes the words throaty and heavy.

Joe paces the length of the long, open desk. Rob and Kelly are at their stations, six feet on either side, clicking away, like statues with motorized fingers. Joe cocks his head. She sees him winding up. He doesn’t surprise her.

“Because,” he savors the phrase, “it’s not ‘true.’” He lets the words ring. “Well, I guess we can — lemme go tell Natalie to shut down reception because we can all go home. We’re not running a paper, we’re running a fortune-tellers’ clinic.”

She says nothing. She’s learned that much. Just waits as he goes through his gyrations. His greatest hits: “Truth and appearances of truth, getting the story, pounding the pavement, making the calls, vetting your sources,” and the bayonet at the end of the rifle: “And what does your opinion have to do with truth?”

Andie angles her head slightly. “Okay Joe. That’s all fine. But it’s…”

He’s so wound up he doesn’t let her finish. He screams out, “Don’t say it: Not True.” Rob snorts a little, because the self-congratulatory delivery is funny, not because it’s right. Andie looks at him. He keeps typing. Andie’s turn, and she goes.

“Joe, there was a fucking nuclear meltdown in Arizona. A fucking nuclear meltdown, and I’m not reporting the NRC statements as ‘fact,’ not anymore. Not since –”

“Don’t say Fukushima. Don’t say it. That is JAPAN! Andie!” Continue reading

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The Infinite Om

by Liam Scheff
4 of 15×15


“Just walk up to her and say, ‘The guy over there.’ No, ‘The manager recommends…’ No. ‘Wants you to have this, compliments of the house.'”

“Deck, I’m alphabetizing.”

“Just do this one thing – this one thing for me.”

Ray exhales. He knows somewhere inside that he’s going to be part of this transaction, but he’s going to make Declan earn it for a change.

“Deck, why is the travel section arranged alphabetically?”

“What? How else should it be?” Continue reading

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by Liam Scheff
3 of 15×15


It’s too personal. I’m not going to talk about that.”

“What do you…you mean, you’re not going to talk about it with me? Or you’re not going to –”

“I’m –”

“Talk about it?”

“I’m…I’m going to. I’m just not going to talk about it today.”


“Sense…Sensitive. Too sensitive.”

“Too sensitive? You’re afraid I will judge you for it? Or, you’re afraid of the feeling?”

“The feeling. Overwhelming.”

“Okay. I understand.”

He sits in silence for a moment, then offers, “It’s about. When people. When they leave here. It’s…I can’t believe I’m asking this. But, where.” His mouth closes to a crooked slit, he presses his jaw forward, and barely whispers it, “Where do they go?” Continue reading

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Coffee – 15×15

by Liam Scheff
2 of 15×15


“Ohhh,” she says, pausing, taking it all in, holding the daiquiri just below her chin, “I missed this.”

He looks at her, at the daiquiri, at her smiling face. He’d made, oh…3,000 of them, he’d bet. Maybe 80 for her. Three years, 1,100 days, 80 daiquiris, 200 ‘redheads’ (carrots, beets, apple, ginger, maybe some lemon), and 400 cups of tea.

“You missed it, too,” she goads him. “You did.”

“I did?” he says brightly. He laughs. She laughs with him. “I did.” he answers in the affirmative. “No, I did. It’s.. I did! Shit. How many afternoons, how many nights did we close together?”

She trades a straw for a long spoon and works on the daiquiri. “‘All local, fresh, organic fruit,’ remember?”

“No, all.. you forget. All ‘fresh, local, organic – and in season.'”

“In season!” she says, “Always in season. How could it be any other way with Anne in charge?”

He sips his coffee. “Over a thousand.” Continue reading

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Water – 15×15

by Liam Scheff.
1 of 15×15

I woke to the alarm bell. But I wake to the alarm bell every day. What’s new…We’ve been petitioning the mayor to change the value on the radiation clock, so as we’re not rattled awake at 5 am, when the morning breezes breach the mountains, but he says it’s good for us to be reminded what we’re up against – the invisible enemy. “Radionuclides,” the three sisters: tritium, strontium, cesium.

We tell him that the alarm bell doesn’t stop radionuke-whatevers, and us not getting enough sleep craps up the whole morning’s school or work, so we’re all extra grumpy by lunch hour. He doesn’t care. He’s such a crack-head.

I mean, not a crack-head like it used to mean. But he’s as much the Mayor as I am ‘director of the 6th squad.’ Before a year ago, there was no sixth squad, and he was no mayor. He was a car dealer. And there were no squads. There was nothing. But then the reactor breached, or that’s how they called it, and Mayfield was burnt. And all the towns downriver had to run. Nothing was safe for 200 miles. it was bad over there. Continue reading

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