The Wayward Irregular is an ongoing series of free audiobooks—essays and storytelling read by the author, occasionally humorous, often baffling.
The Wayward Irregular is an ongoing series of free audiobooks—essays and storytelling read by the author, occasionally humorous, often baffling.
My Dog is Dead, Long Live My Dog
The first time I saw Carl was in his fourth week of life, a tiny English Bulldog with paws the size of caramels and a head too fat to squeeze through the bars of the baby crib he struggled to escape. The last time I saw Carl was ten years later on Christmas Eve, when I’d left him wrapped in a blanket on the cold linoleum of the vet’s office. A snub nosed s**t-storm come to life as a well muscled bag of wrinkled dog flesh, Carl was the very best of us for an entire decade. He passed four days ago, and the a*****e has left a considerable gap in my soul, one I shall fail to plug during the remainder of my holiday vacation with cheese, drinking in the bathtub, and this wayward attempt at a eulogy.
Fresh to Colorado and newly married, my wife and I drove for hours to steal Carl away from a breeder whose house smelled like yogurt and moldy TV Guides. It had that now-familiar brume of the over-tired dog breeders — the kind of folk with a maniac’s haircut, likely made their own soap, and wouldn’t mind sharing a popsicle with a doberman. Baby animals and their accompanying funk were wedged among the knickknacks and school photos, plastic dishwasher soap bottles converted into feeding devices, and much like the four-hour mark in a melatonin overdose — warm milk and red animal nipples could be seen from all corners.
Two boys remained in the expensive bulldog litter by the time we’d arrived, the well brindled Carl and the shrieking all-white bulldog whose tender belly was in Carl’s mouth. “Pick me, goddammit, or I’ll festoon this crib red with his insides,” his insane behavior seemed to say. “He is weak, and I am strong. I alone am worthy of love.” My wife and I looked at each other as if we were witnessing someone beat their children at a public rest area — unsure if we should interfere or simply place bets like the other rednecks. A hefty deposit and a short wait later, we carried him away from his champion show-dog parents and their equally bizarre titles.
“What’s his name?” the breeder asked as we closed her front door behind us.
“His name is Carl! Okay, bye!” Her face slackened as she learned that our boy was to assume a moniker nowhere as regal as Snow Pea, Princess of Courtney or Rolls Royce.
Beloved and charming everyone who’d ever laid eyes on him, Carl was our family avatar. Situated in every photo, asked about during every phone call, he grew into a massively strong and handsome bull-hound — an iron-thick skull and a face that looked like marshmallow chocolate poured over a pile of carefully placed rocks. I freelanced out of our home for the first six years of his life, Carl following me to and from the office for work, taking breaks and naps with me, and there was no finer a listener when I celebrated a new contract, nor a better shoulder when I lamented some rotten bastard of a client. I laughed, fought, and wept deepest with that animal. Without fail when my wife or I fell ill, Carl held our legs down through all the wails and coughs it would bring, ensuring the sickness would never lift us away.
His favorite food was an apple. His favorite scratch was between his toes. Unlike his brother, Herman the Pug, he hated beer only one degree less than hot sauce.
Carl was plagued by allergies, slobbered and shed relentlessly, and like any bizarre dog engineered over a billion years of man’s influence, he had every allergy or infection an animal could mysteriously acquire. I had handled or had been sprayed with every possible gross fluid or infection that a dog could have thanks to Carl. He was impossibly tough though, the hardest son of a bitch I’d ever met — the kind of guy you’d dare to eat a beer bottle or trade a fiver to watch him break a windshield with his forehead. More than once during considerable pain and high fever, I found Carl crazed and sweating i
I Will Let The Alamo Drafthouse Get Me Pregnant
People, other humans, they’ve damn near ruined everything. Fox hunting, hard narcotics for a head cold, and the Ecto Cooler—the great things in life are slowly phasing out from our day-to-day, usually an order from some Fresca drinking slick-shaven-sally in a grey suit, something about safety or child labor laws. I’d come close, as I usually do. I was standing on my roof, clad in a trash-bag, one fist full of peanut butter, the other holding a shotgun, just me getting ready for the usual Tuesday night stuff. Then, the Old Gods intervened.
“Matthew,” a thunderous voice commanded, eyes and a beard forming in the clouds. “Matthew, what troubles your soul?”
“Besides low-calorie mayonnaise and Joss Whedon’s excuses?” I shot back. “The movies, cloud God. I can’t go to a movie theater anymore without pouring a Diet Coke on some pre-teen’s cellphone.”
The cloud smiled, then vanished, leaving only a light towards the west and a whisper in my brain.
“The Alamo Drafthouse,” the whisper beckoned with authority. “It’s, like, totally super badass.”
Soon, my life was to be changed forever.
I can’t attend the local theaters anymore, and this was a slow crawl of a decision. It started with the talking. I’m one of those folks who just can’t tone the stuff out. Every little whisper and slice of chit-chat pulls me kicking and screaming from the immersive experience I fished coins from that fountain to pay for. The cell phones are equally as bad, small lighthouses somewhere in the front row banging rays of color off of my corneas and killing my night vision or however the hell our eyes are supposed to work—something something, science.
The first few times, I’d do “the glare,” the dramatic turn back over your shoulder to snag a little eye contact, something that says “Please close your fat mouth,” or “Stop kicking my seat with your fat feet,” or “You are really fat and you don’t belong here, fatty, I was teased in middle-school for my weight and so I’m taking it out on you and also I’m really sorry.” Failing that, it progressed to “shushing,” which worked about as well as drinking oven cleaner to avoid attending my nephew’s graduation. The last attempt was to use actual words with the trouble makers, which sometimes worked, but often resulted in teenagers throwing popcorn at me until I snapped, and then later I have to introduce myself to my neighbors in new and embarrassing ways. That was a crack at sexual assault, in case you missed it, one of the many reasons I’m still not published.
The whole scene eventually drifted to my wife and I attempting to view new movies weeks after release on some odd Tuesday morning, anything to keep us away from other human beings. Then, nothing. We just stopped going to the theater. Instead, we simply waited for new releases to come out on iTunes, where we’d watch them struggle to play on an Apple TV, each few minutes of video in staccato with slow data buffering and my soppy tears.
Then, I was turned on to the fancy world of reservable-movie seating. I don’t know a slicker way to describe the places, but they have several beautiful attributes in common. For one, you pick out your seats, online, like you’re reserving airline tickets but with less anxiety and regret, and it’s surprisingly cheap. For two, you sit in a large, now-reserved, comfortable seat. This also includes a little table, where wait-staff will bring you food and drink. It ranges from bar food to an attempt at fancy-cafe edibles, but there’s no standing in line while some haggard thing attempts to wrangle their larva into deciding on the chocolate, the gummy candy, or a 1950’s-strength slap in their dumb little stupid smart mouth. Third, the culture is different—these are my people, and in our kinship we understand that we are all
Felt Better for Three Minutes, Then I Got Even Prettier
Hello again, savages, Mikayla here. Matthew's been busy getting ready for the second Tincture book to begin (June 3rd - tincturestory.com), so he's been super lazy here at the Irregular. To showcase this, the following is an excerpt from that book of essays he wrote back in 2011, you know, the one he slapped together and told nobody about? The one he's entirely embarrassed by? That one. It's still available, for whatever reason, at Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle, so enjoy the first thousand or so words from chapter 1. It's not, like, even the whole goddamn chapter! He reads part and then it just… ugh... Maybe he's trying to sell it again. I don't know. Maybe out of the six or seven of you who read this stuff, one will go buy it. It's like, two bucks I think. I'm looking at you, Jeff. You too, Steve.
Shortly before our move to Colorado, right after my wife and I returned from Ireland, I had the mistakenly bold notion to relax. I was already in sweatpants and more than ready—my movie, my bottle of wine and my sandwich laid around me like a Chinese burial offering. I imagine now the food looking at me, given life by some strange hallucination, its bread mouth and bacon tongue sloppily groaning.
“Something is missing Matthew, something... will you... will you make me whole?”
“Yes, talking sandwich,” I replied in my thoughts, “I shall do as you ask.”
Cue a dramatic fridge opening, followed by a careless dumping of jalapeño peppers into the sandwich—probably enough to make tear gas. Now I know what you’re thinking.
“Why would a human being mix spicy food and alcohol—and presume to live?”
Well, I used to have an iron stomach, one of those guys you know who could digest a damned soda can just for the twenty bucks and the blood in the toilet. Somewhere in my lineage, back deep, I’m certain we’ll find tribal blacksmiths with bellies full of horse meat, cooling iron with hearty swallows. On this night, however, my stomach, after performing years and years of service to its merciless king, decided the gates were to be stormed. While its armies corralled the troops, I ate my sandwich, drank my wine, watched my movie, and farted my farts—deaf to the protests.
At around 10:30 PM, I awoke as the signals to my brain pinged louder and louder—we have a solid red light here, something was very amiss in my nether regions. I felt nauseated and I couldn’t find a comfortable position to lay in, everything was getting shifty. Cut to the next scene, and I was doubled over the toilet, begging for the ability to barf up my own stomach lining in order to wipe it clean like a frog. It was a mixture of extreme nausea, abdominal pain, discomfort, and just a sprinkling of living hell.
My wife never has much patience for anything that disrupts her regimented sleep schedule, so this was no marital treat. As I pray to all gods and even a few new invented ones in a tongue I’d conjured right there in the bathroom, she’s sitting in one of our living room chairs with glazed eyes, half watching Mythbusters and half watching me writhe in contorted pain on the floor.
“No, you don’t need to go to the emergency room,” she continuously answers me over the groaning.
Eventually she returns to bed to leave me to my own misery—if I’m still alive in the morning, she figures, we can assess things then—otherwise we can harvest my corpse for fatty winter-time meats and lantern fuel.
We had no Pepto Bismal, anti-gas pills, nor any manner of soothing tea in the house—it was getting dark, and I was going to have to run this thing out the hard way. After remembering exactly what I had consumed that evening, (the wine and the tear gas hot peppers) I made an executive decision.
I hadn’t actually vomited since I was nine years old, (see the earlier paragraph about Nordic blacksmiths). On this particular night I still
Email Is Fodder for Corporate Anarchy
An email loaded with amorphous detail rings out in the morning, and by the afternoon, we will taste human flesh for the first time. Sometimes jobs are like this. Email is the fodder for corporate anarchy, some press release about our jobs written in newspeak, vague on detail and ripe for the scuttlebutt. Everyone imagines those who pen such things cackling as they type, one finger coyly twisting into their cheek as the missive speeds to a few thousand inboxes. The Masters™ are no fools—these things are not designed to root and rile—but we eat it up, we crave it like the needle. The inbox makes that little chiming sound, a wild email appears, and seconds later I am wearing a spiky leather Mad Max costume and running down some poor family on my motorcycle for an expired can of tomatoes. Things have escalated.
The morning started with coffee and small-talk about the weather, but by 2pm, the savages have painted symbols in blood on the walls, and I cannot identify what is slowly twirling over the sticky-note bonfire. Not all of us have come unprepared, however. As I read the tricky emails from on-high, I lower my Bane mask and inhale its chemicals, strengthened by it, empowered by its intentions. “You think the corporate world is your ally? You merely adopted the khaki socks and the Starbucks. I was born in it. Molded by it. I didn’t see true email until I was already a man. By then, it was nothing to me, but a career.”
Let us be afraid and jump to conclusions, goddammit! Worried bodies bob and weave in and out of the offices, struggling to hear what’s been heard by someone who heard a thing who heard a thing. Something smells rancid and delicious out in the open sun, so every dog under the prairie starts to pop their head out and squeak. Get it? I used prairie dogs as a loose metaphor because I am so terribly clever.
One question, then more:
“What have you heard?”
“What does ‘restructuring’ mean?”
“I heard that half of us will be fired.”
“Really? I heard that we’re to be hunted on an island off the coast of Argentina.”
“I heard that we are to now worship the Demon-King Pazuzu, and we are to prepare our bodies for the harvest.”
“Yup. I heard the same thing, and that we have to pay for our own break-room sodas.”
“It’s probably true. Someone told me that someone told them that they over heard that we’re all going to have to get those blood plugs installed over our heart, like in Dune.”
Things have escalated. Early in the morning it’s all smiles and small talk, the kind you practice on each other, the kind you never use anywhere else in your life. The culture is adopted—it has to be—you cannot expect to bring your own flavor to the place. If everyone wears jeans on Friday, you are going to wear jeans. If everyone says “hello” in the hallway, every time, then you are going to say “hello.” If everyone participates in some archaic devilry mentioned in whispers as “the skin ritual,” then you are going to buy cocoa butter, learn the ins-and-outs of a wild pig, and be ready to learn Aramaic. You work here now, get f*****g comfy.
It turns dark when someone a few pay grades higher than you starts shooting out emails light on detail and heavy with innuendo. I don’t like it any more than the next, but I chose this life. I spent years inside the walls of the white collar world and its boring-ass carpet patterns, and I then Gladiator-ed my way to freedom. I spent years wandering the outside world, trying to find my place in it all as a grownup human. While I was able to make it work for a bit, eventually I carved “Matthew Was Here” into a support beam, kicked the chair, and fell back into “the life.” I wanted the politics, the red tape, the water cooler, and the words that aren’t used anywhere else. At home or with friends I do not speak like this, but at work, I
Matthew Norman, The Famous Author, Once Toiled Among the Commoners
Matthew Norman thrust his bulk upon the device, and with a hot breath into its data port, he de-virginized my Kindle. Let me back up. He’s the author of Domestic Violets, a novel released back in 2011, the story of Tom Violet and his milquetoast existence out in some fictitious middle-middle class somewhere. I had been meaning to consume the title for a little while now, and after years of smugly chortling at the fast forwarding world of electronic books, I finally caved and burned a few gift cards to pick up a Kindle. I love it. I held the device for all of four minutes before I threw it on a dirty mattress, aimed my VHS camera, then slowly sauntered up to the thing in dirty underwear while grunting along with Stuck In The Middle With You. So, Domestic Violets—this tight number about a guy shuffling through his day-to-day in the vast American white collar wastelands—I paid a couple of bucks, downloaded it, and spent the weekend properly glued. Domestic Violets is real, fresh, an engrossing novel by a real professional, but with everything feeling terrifyingly familiar. This is possibly—maybe just a little—because slightly over a dozen years ago, I spent my days in a cubicle about seven feet from the book’s author.
For the better part of 2000 and just a bit of 2001, I spent my weekdays in a cubicle at my first real advertising agency, a nineteen year old pasty fork in the ass for anyone who had the misfortune of attempting real work. While I was massively under-qualified to perform any task other than scratching my taint with the end of a stapler, the place was a top-down, soup to nuts clusterfuck. Each day you’re reincarnated as the mighty steed, Artex, and each day, you slowly lose will and give in to The Nothing. Not that I was much help, mind you. After fourteen months on the job, my specialties included crashing my computer, spilling printer toner, and audibly farting up whatever chemicals Taco Johns put in their tater-tot based “nachos.” While I was a 3D animator, a job that the agency did not need and a job that I could not perform, Matthew Norman, 24 or 25 at the time, was a copywriter, sitting an aisle away and always appearing busy. I’ll never forget the first words the man ever said to me: “You should probably go apologize, before you get fired.”
Out of around forty employees, there were only nine of us without the word “executive,” “president,” “manager,” or “director” in their title, and Norman and I were two of them, and we were two of (I believe) only four males that worked in production. So, as one does, we pissed away the days in this narrow row of fancy looking half-cubicles—me desperately trying to find something to do, and Norman likely alt-tabbing between the first draft of Domestic Violets and some U2 fan page on his jelly-blue iMac. The place was expensive, this agency, and everyone inside reeked of a goddamned trust fund, waffly strangers and loud-smelling business people, speakerphones and a job riddled with folks who had likely never required math to pay a bill. I counted Norman among them, but with Norman, I took notes.
He was a dry bastard—wry, clever, handsome and irritatingly thin. Every time he came to work, I imagined the super cool apartment he strolled from, high-fiving his roommate as he sipped a coffee and tightened his scarf, hopping onto some commuter train filled with blow-jobs and money. Matthew Norman rarely smiled, and while we never developed a friendship, the man kept me afloat with a strange and terrible mix of nonplussed acceptance, and likely, a morbid curiosity as to just how and why I was working there. I laugh at the montage, but it was real: Norman sighing with defeat as I had run out of checks to pay for my chicken fingers at a bar, again as he bought me a meatball sub the following week, and again at Panera Bread, slowly flipping
And Our Lust Continued: The Super Nintendo Christmas
I had known it for years, but Christmas morning in 1993 cemented my presumptions: my parents were terrible liars. I believe I had spent the first few hours of the night in my bed, feigning sleep, but at least six or seven of them were spent on the toilet staring at my red digital watch, desperately trying to avoid suicide. By my late teens I had already stopped with the whole anticipation thing on Christmas eve, sleeping like a baby until my brother woke me up to come witness the tree. However, in my pre-teens and those first one or two years of actual and for-reals puberty, I really couldn’t catch a wink or a Z or anything that would help the time pass any faster. In December of 1990 I had been caught trying to sneak down the stairs for a peek at what turned out to be a fully functional Castle Grayskull. It could’ve been our loud stairs, the fact that I was 10 years old and as wise as a pair of pee-stained Underoos, or perhaps my mother was simply clairvoyant—either way, the woman was standing at the bottom of the steps with her hands on her hips, casting a dark and terrible figure into the night. With a voice like molten hate and murdered kings, she commanded for me to return to my bed, before she, “let the crows eat my eyes.” So, in 1993, unable to feign sleep, venture downstairs, or keep it together in the dark of my bedroom, I dropped trou and sat in the bathroom for seven hours, staring at my watch and sweating like I’d placed a bomb somewhere in my house.
So, the thing about my folks and their inability to pull a ruse on a pair of pubescent nutbars—my brother and I—yeah, that didn’t roll like they’d planned. I’ve written before about how we were as poor as an empty bucket, so while our folks made a great show with dozens of wrapped boxes under the tree, we had always experienced my mother’s b******t sobbing preamble of, “Christmas is going to be slim this year.” Yet, each year, we awoke to find an unhinged Roman orgy of presents under the tree, each one a new mind blowing shimmer from Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase. They liked to have us unwrap the things in a particular order, too, and we were happy to oblige, slowly working to whatever grand finale they had planned—a new bicycle, a Red Ryder BB Gun, (yes, really), and for me, the best gifts possible: new video games.
By Christmas of 1993, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System had been out and about for a couple of years, and in America, the thing cost roughly a bazillion dollars, which meant the sons of the blue collars had to wait until the thing came down from, “Haha, you’re poor,” prices to, “a sharp stick in the ribcage,” prices. We were roaring through our gifts, wading in a pool of brightly colored wrapping and tripping out on endorphins, when we were directed to unwrap two oddly shaped little packages. The gifts were games, Super Nintendo games, and the reason this was an attempted ruse was because we did not own a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
My game was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, arguably the greatest Zelda game ever created, right up there next to Ocarina of Time. My brother’s game was Street Fighter II, a legend in its own right, and while my brother wasn’t terribly obsessed with video games, Street Fighter became a well beloved staple in our home. As soon as we witnessed the cartridges, my brother and I shot each other a knowing look. “Oh no,” muttered my mother, “are those not the right games?” The very second my brother and I unwrapped these video game cartridges, we knew there was a fully functional Super Nintendo set up somewhere in the house, plugged in and ready for molestation. Thankful for the bounty and in no mood to disappoint my mother, we nodded our heads. “It’s okay Mom,” we sheepishly replied, “but they’re Super Nintendo games. We have a regular Nintendo.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This is so funny I almost wrecked my car on the way to work, twice!
Matthew Jordan can take an average day out of his life and tell it in such a way that you'll what to hear more. Funny, witty and the way he uses that fantastic voice is almost a crime.
Our new favorite writer
We found the Wayward Irregular after becoming hooked on his Tincture books--and sort of like--OK, not sort of like, but exactly like desperate Firefly fans looking for just one more Fillion fix, we found this podcast. It's wonderful, amusing and never dull. Jordan takes the English language, strips her naked, contorts her into some weird Shibari position and makes her his. He's that good. I've decided my first "Genie in the lamp" wish would be for a return of Firefly to TV, written by Matthew D. Jordan.