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Rare Earth by Chase Burton

"Punk is dead," said Alexander. It was an unsurprising thing for Alexander to say. He had ridden the wave and landed ashore. Punk brought him immense success. But he was tired.

Charlie was the receiving end of Alexander’s words. Alexander felt a twinge of sadness hearing himself speak the words to his little brother. Charlie was his most loyal fan. He was just a kid when IMMORTAL EKOPUNK, Alexander Cromwell’s band, thought it would be funny to snap a photograph of him dressed in skinny jeans along with a safety-pin infested tanktop with a rough black-and-white scanned image emblazoned across. Charlie remembered staring down the shirt of Alexander’s girlfriend at the time while she applied dark makeup to his face. They made him feel like he was a part of the band. The photograph was turned into the front cover of their legendary first album, the only time they had ever been truly hungry for success. Everything was downhill from there.

Charlie ignored Alexander for the rest of the night. Charlie, in his early thirties, found it difficult to slip into a comfortable groove with Alexander these days. He was always taking things too personal. Charlie found himself standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom at his apartment later that evening.

He let the water run full blast for an hour. The key to being punk, Alexander once told him, was to give off the appearance of not caring while actually giving a shit. Alexander pretended not to care about the running water, staring at himself in the mirror, but the paradox grew inside. He didn’t really like wasting water. Each minute felt worse than the last.

Finally, Charlie shut the water off. The last girl who walked out on him told him that he had serious issues he needed to address, namely the guilt he often harbored. He tried not to care too much, but the guilt came like clockwork. Every time. Sometimes he’d even take a whole clean wad of paper and stuff the toilet just to see if he wouldn’t give a shit. But the guilt always came. Charlie did a lot of things to feel guilty.

Charlie screamed at the top of his lungs into his pillow. Then vomited his dinner on the floor next to his bed. A second violent heave came and he felt something snap in his head. Suddenly, like standing up too fast, everything went white.

"What’s wrong, dear," the old lady asked her husband who peered out the window.

"I think the punk is dead," the old man said.

The old lady shook her head. The old man was referring to the ambulance outside their apartment window as the paramedics wheeled Charlie away on a gurney with no time to spare.

Charlie found himself sitting in a darkened room. Across from him was a husky man in full courtroom regalia, complete with a rolled-up white hair wig and a pasty face. The judge sat behind a monolithic desk. He instantly recognized the dour judge as the actor who starred in what was arguably IMMORTAL EKOPUNK’s most popular music video, Hold Me in Contempt. Alexander always said it was their worst song, but everyone loved it. In fact, it was the very song that made Alexander want to hang up his guitar.

"Charles Cromwell," the judge said in a booming voice, "the court of the world has summoned you here today to answer for your crimes. Are you prepared to listen?"

It felt all too real but something told him to play along. Charlie knew better to say something to make The Man Judge angry. The judge intimidated him even while watching his brother’s music video. He was a good actor alright.

Charlie shook his head yes. ”On September twelfth, nineteen eighty-eight, you left the backyard hose running overnight from the hour of 8:12 P.M. until the following morning at 10:16 A.M. when you finally proceeded to shut the running water off. You laid awake at night, completely aware that this was occurring just outside your window.”

Christ, Charlie thought to himself, he remembered that he was only seven years old, but he felt guilty even then. His teacher spoke of the world being on the cusp of running out of freshwater that day. “Get comfortable,” The Man Judge said to Charlie and tapped on a stack of papers four feet tall. Charlie felt numb and sleepy. He wanted to curl up and sleep forever.

Split seconds. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. Months. Years. Decades. Centuries. Millenia. Eons. Charlie was sure he was going to live forever. The Man Judge wasn’t going anywhere as he rattled item after item, guilty feeling after guilty feeling.

The Man Judge had at last worked his way down to the last page. The final page - the night Charlie was angry at his brother and something snapped in his head.

The gavel boomed and Charlie’s eyes opened. Alexander broke into tears. “Oh man. Oh man. Charlie,” Alexander said to Charlie lying in his hospital bed.

"How long have I been asleep?"

Alexander broke into a tearful laugh. “You little punk.”

kitsamantha by Chase Burton

“I didn’t know you thought like that,” Samantha said. Kit kept to herself in the car. Mostly.

Kit roused from her sleep in the middle of the night before last. She walked out to her car. There was a crack in the windshield that completely snaked up from the base of the lower left side to the top. All she could think about for the past two months, each time she drove, was how much the insurance deductible would bite out of her savings. She paid no mind that it could turn out to be a surprisingly small fee.

She picked up a nearby rock, the size of a grapefruit, with her shirt. It was important that she didn’t get her fingerprints on the rock. This was the way she thought. She’d throw the rock, then call the police in the morning that someone had tossed a rock at her window and the insurance would cover her windshield replacement completely. But what if they didn’t? What if the deductible still applied? She stopped in mid-lunge. This was crazy.

She dropped the rock and dusted off her now stretched-out shirt. She slid back in bed. Samantha briefly tossed from side to side, then wrapped her free arm around Kit. Kit fell asleep fast.

“Why would you do that?” Samantha asked Kit in the moving car. Kit stayed quiet. And still. “That’s crazy. I’m glad you didn’t throw a rock at the windshield.”

“I must’ve been on crack. Anyway, I thought you’d get a kick out of that little story.” Kit was also glad she didn’t throw the rock. She stared ahead at the snakeline. Sometimes while driving, she’d close her left eye, which was far less affected by astigmatism than her right eye, then the crack wouldn’t be as visible.

Samantha sat quietly in the car for the rest of the drive. Kit felt like talking, but it was no use. She knew Samantha liked to talk about the world. It was hard for Kit to keep up sometimes. As they pulled up, Samantha finally spoke up, “Would that have really worked? Would our insurance really have covered it?”

“Oh, now you think it’s a good idea?” Kit said.

“No, I’m just wondering.”

“I really don’t know. Maybe if we asked JD, he’d know?”

JD was Samantha’s uncle. He had successfully wormed his way through the system to the point where he landed an all-expenses-paid pool in his backyard out of some bogus claim. He wouldn’t say how he got it, but he liked to brag about the little David versus Goliath episode in his unusual life. Kit liked swimming in his pool, but it was the only good thing to come out of visiting his home.

That night, Samantha woke up from the light of the full moon peering through the partially open curtains. She walked to the window, separated the curtains, and looked at her car. She shut the curtains together quickly after realizing the light could wake Kit. But Kit didn’t budge.

Outside, Samantha could see the windshield crack clearly. She thought about her neighbors. What if they woke up and reported a half-dressed female running away from the scene of the crime? Chills ran down her naked legs. She toed the rock by her foot. This must have been the rock Kit was talking about.

Samantha picked up the rock and started to heave it. But then she stopped in mid-lunge. She thought to herself, they’ll pull my DNA off the rock… But would they do that much work for a stupid crime? She choked back a strange sob. No words for what she was feeling.

Then she looked up at the moon, a spotlight on her presence. It felt good when she dropped the rock.

Photo by Haley McBride

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT MOVIES - VOLUME III

NOTE: THIS MOVIE-TALK CONTAINS SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

INT. LIVING ROOM - AUSTIN, TEXAS - NIGHT

               Mademoiselle HALEY, basking in the orange glow of a reading

               lamp, hits several virtual buttons on her iPad.

INT. MAMA BURTON’S OFFICE - VENTURA, CALIFORNIA - NIGHT

               Meanwhile, a half-dressed CHASE, waiting on the latest load

               of laundry, reacts to an incoming Skype call on his laptop. 

               A week ago, Chase and Haley, 1,500 miles apart, watched

               PROMETHEUS simultaneously.

               This is the dialogue that transpired…

Read More

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT MOVIES - VOLUME II

NOTE: THIS MOVIE-TALK CONTAINS SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.


Jiro

               INT. DINING ROOM - NIGHT

               CHASE and HALEY sit at the dining room table and set up an

               iPad to film themselves. In front of them - a plate of figs

               and peanut-butter & pear-jam slathered french bread slices.

               They’ve just gotten back from watching “Jiro Dreams of

               Sushi.”

               This is the dialogue that transpired…

Read More

What We Talk About When We Talk About Movies - VOLUME ONE

NOTE: THIS MOVIE-TALK IS *SPOILER HEAVY* SO IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM, PLEASE AVERT YER EYES.

The Cabin in the Woods Mondo Poster

               INT. DINING ROOM

               CHASE and HALEY sit at their dining room table and set up an

               iPad to film themselves.

               They’ve just gotten back from watching “The Cabin in the

               Woods.”

               This is the dialogue that transpired…

                                   CHASE

                         For the last few months I kept

                         avoiding anything from movie buffs

                         who already saw “The Cabin in the

                         Woods.” After Butt-Numb-A-Thon, the

                         word of mouth was: DON’T WATCH THE

                         TRAILER OR READ ANYTHING. So I went

                         into the movie “blind.” Although

                         due to the overbearing secrecy

                         around the movie, I knew there was

                         going to be some kind of twist

                         and/or bigger-picture sort of

                         thing.

                                   HALEY

                         I was more concerned with it being

                         horror. Because I saw the trailer.

                         But you kept hyping it up so I was

                         like, “Okay, okay… Let’s go!” I

                         don’t generally like scary movies.

                                   CHASE

                         When I got to see Joss Whedon talk

                         at SXSW, I got the sense that he

                         was… trying to achieve something

                         with filmmaking that he was already

                         working into his comics. I’ve never

                         read his stuff, though. In his SXSW

                         interview, you could tell he has

                         positive feelings about humanity

                         and you can definitely get that

                         from “Firefly.” He made his heroes

                         humanists at heart, Robin-Hood-and

                         his-Merry-Men-in-Space. You can see

                         the character of Mal (the captain

                         in “Firefly”) evolving into this

                         really good dude. Mal had to start

                         somewhere, and oftentimes, it’s a

                         bad place the hero has to start

                         from.

               Haley looks at Chase as if he’s going off on a tangent, as he

               usually does.

Read More

Shotgun Suitcase by Chase Burton

At any instantaneous point in the world there was something to be found. That was how Noel Corngold saw it. He spun the imaginary globe in his head and his mind’s finger stopped it at such a point. What was there at such a point, Noel did not know exactly. What he did know was that he had driven two thousand miles to reach this point with a small suitcase, a laptop and a few books riding shotgun. Noel did not like to put his things in the backseat for it made him feel lonely, as if he were chauffeuring passengers. He remembered the time he picked up a girl that he liked. She sat in the front. Halfway through the date, the girl asked Noel if he could pick up her friend. He obliged. And the girls sat in the back, chatting the rest of the date away.

Noel checked into the apartment that he would sublet for at least one month. If he wanted to stay longer, the young lady tenant told him he could. There was no contract or yearly lease, just a month by month plan. She had no plans to open up her apartment to yearly renters. Noel liked to keep things open anyway. He knew opportunities would present themselves in time just as they had always done. Noel’s older sister had called him on his cell. He knew his sister was sad. She had spent her teenage years dreaming of leaving the house. He would sit and listen to her talk about it. This made his mother sad. His mother believed she had created the ideal household for her children. In his teenage years, Noel had never dreamed of leaving his hometown. He found it ironic that he would be the one to leave. His sister kept the same ice cream parlor job for twelve years.

Noel put on his faded buttoned shirt. It was his favorite one. He wore it often. He tried to imagine what it first looked like when he bought it. But his memory made the faded colors feel vibrant as ever. Noel passed his temporary roommate on the way out. She acknowledged him with a small wave. He wondered if they’d ever have a conversation during his stay in town.

Noel bought a beer at a restaurant where a subtitled film played on the telly above the bar. No sound and Noel’s astigmatic eyes couldn’t read the subtitles too well. To his side, there was a man who looked down at his beer. He did not budge for nearly five minutes. This made Noel sad. He wondered what images were appearing in the man’s thoughts and tried not to think of sad things. He noticed two women sitting together at a nearby table. Noel looked at the subtitled film once more, sighed and decided that he’d never look at it again. He turned his attention back to the two women.

He stood up and walked over to the two women and asked politely if he could join them. So as not to seem like a burden, Noel announced a little white lie that he wouldn’t be staying long because he had somewhere else to be soon. The women happily obliged. One of them was working her way down a gin and tonic with a lime wedge somewhere in glass limbo. The other was eating. Noel decided not to interrupt the one that was eating. He asked Gin and Tonic if she had been living in the town long. All her life, Gin and Tonic responded. The Eater pointed at herself and nodded. She lived in town all her life as well. A few more questions and answers later, Noel suddenly felt a little embarrassed that he hadn’t introduced himself. My name’s Noel. Oh right, Gin and Tonic said, my name’s Anastasia and she’s Sofie. Sofie finally finished her plate and walked up to the bar.

Noel smiled at Anastasia. Anastasia smiled back. So what brings you both here on a Wednesday night? Noel flipped through the calendar in his head and realized it was, in fact, a Tuesday. A Tuesday night, he corrected himself. Anastasia said they were going to watch their favorite blues player.

Noel liked music but not all that much. Too many choices killed the choice. He only liked listening to music in movies. He knew when a film had a good soundtrack or a bad one and felt he could judge this fairly well. He wondered what the subtitled film above the bar sounded like, then brought his attention back to Sofie who was returning with two fresh gin and tonics. Oh, I’m sorry, did you want something too? Sofie asked Noel. Noel shook his head. He still didn’t want to burden them.

How long have you been here? Sofie asked. Noel held up a finger. An year? Anastasia checked. One night, he corrected. Anastasia said, how long will you stay? Noel did not have an answer. Instead, he licked his index finger and held it up for the wind to dry. He could feel the conversation was drying out, but he was happy to be talking. He enjoyed talking to people in different places. Noel felt it was his time to take his leave. He thanked the two women for a lovely conversation and wished them a good night with their favorite blues player. With that, he was gone.

The two girls sat quietly, sipping their gin and tonics. He seemed lonely, Anastasia chimed in. Sofie agreed wholeheartedly.

I probably sounded lonely, Noel thought to himself on his way out the front door. The fresh air hit him, and he knew it wasn’t important to think such thoughts. He didn’t feel lonely. There were plenty of people in the world. Almost too many. But only very few were worth his time. Noel knew opportunities would present themselves as they had always done.

Noel jiggled the key in the lock. It didn’t budge. Like all other old locks, he knew it would probably take him two or three tries to perfect the jiggle. The door opened. A voice rang out into the kitchen that there was tea if he’d like some. His roommate was curled up on a couch next to the kitchen. Noel thought it’d be an especially good idea since there was nothing in his pantry. He hadn’t gone out to buy food yet.

Sure, Noel Corngold said, tea sounds nice.

Written October 27, 2010 in Austin, Texas.

Reflux by Chase Burton

Sandon woke upright. It was too early. Much too early. He could feel a burning sensation running down the back of his throat, then he realized it stretched all the way down to his stomach. He knew. He crawled over the body of his naked wife, his hand gracing her breast. He looked at her and knew exactly what her body looked like under the thin sheets. As he walked to the bathroom, the burning crested over the back of his tongue, then slid deeper into his stomach.

He knew what caused the burning. He leaned over the toilet and only the strain of the heaving came. He could feel his eyes turning red. The muscles that ran down from the sides of his neck to the ends of his shoulders hurt. He turned around, pulled off his boxers and sat on the toilet. He didn’t need to urinate, but sitting on the toilet comforted him somewhat. He rubbed his bleary eyes, then he felt something soft grace his leg. It was his four-month old kitten. His wife brought the kitten home on a whim. Sandon grew to love the kitten within a few hours. He had never loved a living thing so quickly. Even then, with the burning sensation, he loved the kitten. Meep.

He knew the kitten only said that when she wanted food. Sandon walked over to the bowl by the main entrance door. There was plenty of food. Brushing his leg again, Sandon looked at the kitten. He picked her up and brought her wet nose to his. If only he could vomit, he’d feel better. His mouth turned dry. He walked to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He gulped the water quickly, but swallowed too much air. A loud burp and he felt slightly better.

He knew he shouldn’t have eaten pizza so late. When he was small, he’d eat so much pizza before sleeping that he’d wake up in the early hours. No wife. No cat. Just that burning sensation. He’d get a glass of water, drink it. And wake up in the morning as if his early morning was just a blip of a nightmare.

Being an adult, he knew the burning would not take its leave anytime soon. Sandon woke up and his wife was gone at the usual hour. He could feel the slosh in his stomach churn and bubble. The sensation alone was enough for him to call in sick. He’d have some breakfast first and see if it’d coat the sensation. The first sip of coffee wasn’t the most favorable idea. He poured it in the sink and skipped his eating plans.

He knew his wife had told him the week before that she wanted a coffee-maker that would reduce acidity by sixty-seven percent. He wondered why they hadn’t ordered it then. He wished they did. He liked his morning coffee.

He knew the headache, brought on by a lack of caffeine, would be hitting in several hours. And when it came, he stepped out in the sun and a gust of wind momentarily blew his hair into his eyes. He brushed his hair back and began his trek to a local convenience store.

He knew that he was wearing inappropriate shoes for the short walk, but he felt the desire for a soda was far more imperative. The caffeine would probably make his headache go away. Already, he felt his flip-flops chafing the winter skin of his foot-soles. Flip-flop. His feet felt cold.

He didn’t know that Lawrence, his neighbor, stayed home on Wednesdays. Sandon was usually at work at this hour so he never saw Lawrence sitting out in front of his house. Lawrence waved to Sandon. Sandon waved back and returned his attention to his brisk walk. Lawrence called out to Sandon if he’d like a soda. Damned if Sandon knew how Lawrence could tell he was out for a soda.

Sandon didn’t know that Lawrence could read minds. Or at least Lawrence said he could. Sandon thought Lawrence’s explanation was somewhat nutty. He worked on his soda as Lawrence explained that his entire life, he had wished he could read minds. Eventually, as Lawrence got older, his mind-reading abilities had kicked in and exponentially increased the more he used it.

Sandon didn’t know that Lawrence’s wife had left him. His wife felt the mind-reading had gotten out of control. Lawrence had discovered too many things about her, and she couldn’t stand it anymore. She even suspected Lawrence of reading her e-mails, but he swore he didn’t know her password. Sandon wondered what his wife really knew about his own thought processes. Perhaps she knew more than she let off. At least, he reassured himself, that he hardly ever thought anything bad of her. He knew that he loved her.

Sandon knew he’d better get back or Lawrence would never stop talking. Plus, he already felt better after finishing his fizzy soda. Lawrence offered to read Sandon’s mind once more. He couldn’t figure out what was on Sandon’s mind. Lawrence said nothing and waved goodbye.

Walking back, Sandon knew Lawrence was telling the truth because, at that instant moment, there really was nothing on his mind.

Written January 7, 2011 in Austin, Texas.

Photo by Haley McBride (link)

Exit the Sun

Chase Burton/Bradley Gantt are proud to announce that our 11-minute Sci-Fi film will be hitting computer screens everywhere on November 18th.

Starring Daniel Pfaff and Dexter Jones.

Music composed by Terry Burton.

Poster photo by Haley McBride (link).

Express Lane by Chase Burton

"Please don’t get coconut water," she asked. "Alright, alright," he said.

He lurched toward the store with a drink in mind. Perhaps not coconut water.

His legs were burning. Something about lactic acid being squeegeed out of his muscles and creating a tingling sensation, right on the edge of hurt. But then again, that was what he had heard. He also read something in a magazine debunking the myth of lactic acid causing muscle soreness.

His eyes adjusted to the brightness of the convenience store in the dark morning hour.

Soda didn’t sound good. He imagined the carbonated, sugary beverage shooting through his veins and causing his blood cells to stick together. Whether it was a scientific possibility or not, he didn’t care. It’d probably feel like an accidental touch of the thick and sticky rings of old cola you’d find in an overheated car on a hot day.

He stood before the refrigerated health food aisle and spied coconut water. No, his mind said. Yes, his thirst said. Nothing else really sounded good.

He grabbed the coconut water that reminded her of slightly sweet phlegm. He could see why she thought that. He joined the express lane regardless.

In front of him, a girl and her boyfriend stood in line. The girl took a quick look at him, holding the coconut water. “I like your jacket,” she said. He nodded and said thanks.

Her boyfriend whispered close to her face and she laughed. They watched the cashier ring up all of their items except for one. A pizza cutter.

Her boyfriend muttered something to the cashier. The cashier looked away. The girl moved the pizza cutter out of sight. She nonchalantly stared at the cashier, then looked over her shoulder. Averting her eyes, he gazed down at his coconut water. The girl threaded her boyfriend’s arm and they left.

The car door swung open. He climbed in and rubbed his sore legs. “Well, what’d you get,” she asked.

"Nothing sounded good," he said, then looked at her briefly. He leaned over and hugged her. "It’s alright honey," she said, "we’ll just have water at home."

Written October 20, 2011 in Austin, Texas.

Photo by Chase Burton