It’s an old saying:


   The first thing you should do when you wake up is eat a live toad. It will be the worst thing you’ll have to face all day.

Crane King listened hard, but heard no croaking music. Just sirens, horns, and an awful crunching sound. A bunch of pessimists eating amphibian thigh. The thought made him sad, but it was still early and perhaps the frogs would make a comeback. Anything was possible.

It was a strange land, and he led a strange life in it. Some things are grand, massive like earthquakes and parades, international gestures like wars and famines, and some things are minor, like love stories, birthdays, and the eating of these little animals. He pictured them as they croaked their last froggy noises and became breakfast for gloomy existentialists.

Poor bastards. As he lay in bed, he wondered if it might not be prudent for him to have a toad. He was hung over and things could probably only get worse.

A strange land where you could take a Berlitz course in Spanish, or French, or narcissism, or anal retentivity; where you could mail order a bride, or sue a homeless man. It was all very convenient, but lying in bed aching, and bored with prefab café society, he felt he could only consider the course in narcissism. It probably came with a mirror, a comb, a healthy dose of ID, and a stock of one-liners. Maybe some teeth whitener too. On a doctoral level, it may even offer penis extensions. Not bad if the materials fee covered it

He’d met someone who’d taken the course in anal retentivity. All she’d gained was a fake English accent and an office job somewhere.

Crane decided to wake his alarm clock to remind it that once again it had failed in its purpose. The first thing you should do when you wake up, he thought is eat your alarm clock. He leaned toward it to admonish the thing, but it spoke first:

“Whoop, whoop, tugboat fart and laugh,” the clock radio mocked him as it calibrated eternity for insomniacs. Its red numbers clicked over, like a store-bought cricket kicking its back legs together. He stared at it for a while.

He couldn’t remember coming home. He couldn’t piece together going to bed. This made him nervous. The alcoholic aspects of his blackouts didn’t worry him much, but what left him feeling out of sorts were the possibilities. A lot can happen in three or four hours. He may have murdered someone, have stolen a pocketbook, have been abducted by aliens. This sort of intergalactic mischief was getting a lot of press coverage, and it was most alarming. His head and his ass hurt and he could not reach any conclusions. Abducted by Martians? Abducted and sodomized by Martians? Vivisected by little men in the name of interplanetary progress? It was a slim chance, but Christ, he thought, it was enough to make a grown man wolf down a bullfrog.

He turned off the alarm clock, lay back down, and wondered at his erection. Oh yes, a healthy man wakes with one, and yet he felt terrible. His magnificent hard-on indicated that he was well, or at the very least had a full bladder. He wished he wasn’t alone, but this was not the case, and now as he surveyed his body, he realized that his penis also hurt. This alien sodomy theory was gaining more weight, and becoming more annoying. How exactly would they go about it?

He stretched and yawned, all the signs of rest were there; tired muscles, eye cheese, thirst, and some vague, unfathomable desire. The sun took its place like a 10K light right outside his window, and Crane sat up. “Jesus.” The pain was real and raw.

I’ve got the fucking bends, obnoxious nitrogen bone crushers. It’s the old lobster story. The thing lives happily and sleeps on some coral shelf, dreaming of endless meals of fish shit until some God-awful fisherman grabs him. They like his weight, they boil him alive, they crack his skin; they dip his flesh into hot butter. Well, no one said life was fair. I wonder if the space people wanted to find out how I work, or if they wanted to eat me. It doesn’t really matter does it? I seem to have managed to escape. He groaned loudly, climbed out of bed, and stumbled to the shower.

A drawn-butter shower. The water of the city felt greasy. A splish, splash, tidal pool, toenail affair that made him feel no better. The gray ring of dead skin, hair, brain cells, and dirt furthered his sense of mortality. No man is an island, merely a rock under a pounding wave, under a pounding headache. We are born, and then we erode.

 He wrapped himself in a towel, moved so that he was facing the mirror, and spoke:

“Look babe, I’m sick and tired of talking about me.” He stirred a mind mirror martini, or perhaps a highball, and continued. “Let’s talk about you.” He paused.

“Which one of my movies do you like best?”

Crane stared at himself for a long time. Perhaps I should take the course in narcissism. He reached for the shaving cream. Or teach it? He sprayed the required golf ball in his hand and spread it on his chin. Look at you now, you dirty bearded old man, St. Nick, nick, ow, cut my damn face, “Mary, Mary, pass Papa the shotgun, I’m sick of Sun Valley.” Crane quickly shaved away the white and was relieved at the baby smooth. Cheated you once again, you old bastard, you crashing wave. But as part of his face circled towards the sewers, he could only accept the inevitable, the serenity scream. His head hurt, his ass hurt, his penis was sore, his back ached, and try as he might, he couldn’t remember the last hours of the previous evening. Feeling like half a man at God’s two-for-one bake sale, Crane turned off the water and listened as the rest of his building wakened.

Liquid ran haywire through showerheads and coffee makers, through gutters and toothbrushes. On the other side of the wall, he heard Jill and Jill cough their way into another lovers’ dawn. He imagined them spitting up hairballs the size of little flannel shirts. Downstairs, Cocaine Brain passed from the cacophony of badly addled sleep to the fuck-fuck-fuck-the-police of some new rap song day.

He poured a glass of water, and sipped it slowly. It tasted terrible, but that was all right. He knew it wouldn’t kill him, he doubted it would make him stronger, and he didn’t think it would get him drunk. He was positive it wouldn’t do that. Not unless the aliens had pulled some sort of water/wine stunt, which in his unsure state, he granted, was a long shot.

Crane was hungry, a great big sour gut hunger that no soggy cereal could cure. In honor of the day, November 1, more so because he had the ingredients, he decided to make huevos rancheros.

He turned to the rumpled bedclothes, and spoke, “You eating honey? Someday I’m gonna come over and borrow a cup of sugar from you, and then perhaps we could make love.”

“Fuck,” a voice that wasn’t there corrected him. “Make love.”

It all seemed so long ago.




It's that practical sort of love that we all wish we didn't have, but at least on some level can directly relate to. It's Kimberly and Crane, two very damaged souls holding hands in a landslide.

Jim Martin, 3 AM. Magazine

This is Hubert Selby for the MTV generation. Stephen Creagh Uys is a writer who should be taken seriously.

Mark Huddle, Verbicide Magazine 


©2015 Stephen Creagh Uys