Blake Middleton

Blake Middleton lives in Jacksonville, FL. He tweets @blaketheidiot. You can read more of his work at

THE LAST INTERVIEW: Blake Middleton vs. The New Guy at XRAY

Blake Middleton is an actual person. A Floridian. An American. The co-worker of your bartender friend who you immediately like better than your bartender friend after just a few conversations. And a poet. The kind of poet who just wants everybody to feel less fucked. Writing concise, concrete lines that once piled together form a sort-of meditation, a smirking mantra of “Fuck You” in the face of an absurd world.

What follows is a conversation/battle of wits between he and I, revolving around his new book “An Actual Person in a Concrete Historical Situation”—out now from CLASH Books.


Part 1: The Weigh-In


Hey dude. Have you done any 

interviews for your book?

 Whaddup broJust did one w Zac but tryna do more 

Nice. Well, I’m now “The Executioner” at X-Ray 

(self-appointed title) and was thinking about interviewing you

 Oh yeah damn I saw that earlier, congrats manI’m down for whatever, would love to do one w youI’ll send u pdf 

Hell yeah

 Just sentIt’s a small boy 

Nice, I like the small boys. 

Just sent a message to Jenn

 Jenn rocks thank u man 

Yeah she does

You rock too. 

But also fuck you I was playing you this entire time

 Fuck u idiot 

This was a test. Interview is back on

 Good, looking forward to our interview 

Me too buddy.

Fuck you and your extended family

 Gonna respond to all your interview questionswith ‘fuck you’ 

I’ve already planned ahead for this. 

May the best man win

 Damn it appears I have poked the bear 

Interview devolves into goal-less competition, morphing finally

into a ten-part doc investigating the death of one or both of us

 One of us. You, to be specific 

I started this, and I’ll be finishing it as well

 (Thumbs down emoji) 

Part Two: The Interview


Alright, first question. When I read that excerpt of your book on Neutral Spaces, I told you it felt meditative. Not just the space between lines but the space between images/ideas. A lot of writing feels immediately congested to me, or like a scam, something “not real” hiding in those paragraphs. But your book moved quick. Each sentence had its own purpose. And that created a soothing effect on my brain. What’s up with that bruh?

BM: I’m glad it created a soothing effect. Everything feels kind of overwhelming right now, our attention spans are getting worse, and we’re constantly distracted. So the problem is, I want normal people to read my book, but normal people don’t really read books. They purchase books sometimes, but I don’t think they finish them that often. I wanted to write a book people would read. So I wanted to make something spacious and minimal. A book where each line can breathe and stand on its own. A little book that is sparse, direct, no bullshit.


I think the white space does a lot of work in helping the poem feel meditative. It kind of reflects real life, in that there are a lot of gaps and juxtapositions between thoughts and experiences. But ultimately it’s all tied together because the lines are coming from one person, experiencing the world from a singular point of view/moment in time. So the lines aren’t as disparate as they might seem. And hopefully they’re also tied together by tone.

I’ve read the book a few times now. And the first go around, I felt like I was reading the thoughts and observations and memories of a person living in the middle of the pandemic. Then for the second read through, it felt more ubiquitous, just a person coping with and thinking about being a person, and bouncing between many time periods. Was the “life during covid” vibe something you set out to do, at least at first anyway? 

BM: Went through a rough draft and i lie in the sun and laugh at my bank account was the only line written during the pandemic that I used in the final version, which seems fitting. I think I felt like the disconnect between lines written before and during the pandemic would have been too jarring; I didn’t want to write about two totally different worlds from two totally different headspaces in a poem that was already so far outside of how I was used to writing. Also I didn’t feel equipped to write about that time period while it was happening—I had no idea what the fuck was going on. Was also probably just more focused on securing groceries and booze and trying not to die. So it felt like a good endpoint. Before the pandemic I viewed ‘an actual person…’ as a poem that could essentially go on forever, but when the pandemic started that didn’t feel like the case. The poem is radically nonlinear but that’s mostly because the days felt interchangeable to me back then, and the pandemic definitely changed that. Jenna and I were drinking margaritas/wine nightly at the very start of Covid and I wasn’t writing at all. Pretty quickly I realized that I couldn’t be drunk for the entire pandemic and shifted what little focus I had toward editing the book. So I edited the book right when Covid hit through around July. It’s weird to think back to early 2020. Seems almost unreal to me now.

I had something similar where I was writing a longish thing during the pandemic. My girlfriend and I had just moved in to our first apartment together at the end of February. So while I was still asking the leasing office for a working fridge shelf, COVID hit. I thought that was a good/funny start. But I abandoned it once things got worse, seemed impossible to write about it. Anyway your book made me think of this, so I am asking if you think we’ll ever get a good Covid novel? 

BM: Yeah, probably. I don’t think I would want to read a Covid novel for a long time though. Would read a book that takes place during Covid for sure, but not one that is totally centered around it. Would have to be really good for me to want to think about that time period again. Does that make sense?

Perfect sense. I’m most interested in stories of people being people. And it depresses me when I see movies/books that are just about a marketable thing, and the main character is just a device, like morally superior, something the audience can project themselves onto. Which brings me to the thing you said about writing for normal people, even though normal people don’t really read books. Do you think that’s dying, with most readers (of indie books) also being writers? Or is it the same as it was ten years ago. Just putting something out all for the slim chance a depressed kid somewhere stumbles into it? 

BM: I feel you on that one. I think sometimes portrayals of life get so far away from what life is actually like, what it actually feels like to be a person just trying to navigate existence. I like books where I feel like the author just paid attention to their life and then wrote about it, instead of following some narrative template or whatever to try to appeal to some imaginary group of people so that they can make one million dollars. But instead of getting depressed thinking about things I don’t like, I just ignore them, and focus on the stuff I do like instead. 

I think, for me, it helps to take more of a long-view, to stay focused and keep writing regardless of what happens with it. Because even if nothing happens immediately, the books will still exist, maybe they will get noticed eventually and I will make a million dollars and quit my job. But I’m also okay with nothing happening (more likely). I write because I enjoy it. Writing enhances my life and my experience in the world. And if other people enjoy what I write, then that’s good. I haven’t had any real success, as far as book sales go. But writing has improved my life/made it more interesting in ways I couldn’t have even imagined when I was just starting out. I think it’s better just to focus on becoming a better writer as opposed to thinking too much about the unpredictable, uncontrollable things that could happen with the writing once it’s out in the world. 

Another thing that I love is getting offline and venturing out into the real world to travel and to do readings. I don’t really promote my stuff online much. I don’t think anyone is really paying attention. It feels much more normal, fulfilling, life-affirming to get out there and read in front of and talk with people. It feels more real, and it’s a lot more fun. I would rather some depressed kid come to a reading and get drunk and have fun as opposed to finding one of my books on the internet. Oh and also, fuck you.

Point—Middleton. Alright. What do you think about a lightning round now? Phase three. Higher stakes. Even more intimate.

BM: Hell yeah, let’s do it.


Phase Three: Lightning Round


What book do you pick up most, when you feel anxious or shitty?

BM: The Collected Works of Alberto Caeiro by Fernando Pessoa.

Jackie Chan or Arnie Schwarzenegger? And why?

BM: Jackie Chan. Out of all the movies they've been in I think I've only seen Rush Hour and Twins. So I don't have strong feelings about either. Feel like I would rather hang out with Jackie Chan. Seems more chill/isn't a politician. But I don’t know though. This was a bad question.

From what you’ve said about both your books, I get the impression you write and write and write and write, then cut away at huge chunks afterward. Am I correct in this assumption?

BM: For sure. I ended up cutting about 80% of the words from College Novel, and about the same for this one. I like having a lot to work with.

Do you have a favorite memory from your readings?

BM: The first couple times I did readings I didn’t enjoy them. Was nervous and my voice was shaky. The third time I felt comfortable and was even having fun, felt in the moment and good, was a little drunk and surrounded by friends. Afterwards we had a little dance party at my friend’s neighbor's house. Or maybe that was after another reading. Either way, I cherish that memory/both of those memories a lot. Was the start of something nice. People always say this, but it's good to do things that make you nervous.

If it doesn’t put you in any danger, could you talk a little about your alter-ego Dough Mahoney?

BM: Went over to a friend's apartment and was drinking out of a glass that had ‘Dough Mahoney’ written on it in sharpie. I asked him why his beer mug had ‘Dough Mahoney’ written on it and he said it was his pen name. I thought that was stupid and funny and used that bit in College Novel. One day I wanted to publish something on the internet under a different name and Dough Mahoney was the first one that came to mind. Felt kind of good. A little freeing. I started feeling like a Dough Mahoney. I ate some potato salad after the Dough Mahoney story came out, and eating potato felt like something a Dough Mahoney would do. I thought maybe I really am Dough Mahoney. I changed my twitter handle to Dough Mahoney. It felt right. So I legally changed my name to Dough Mahoney. I bought a little name plate for my desk that said Dough Mahoney because that was my name. I submitted An Actual Person... to Clash and they said they’d publish it. But Leza did not like the name Dough Mahoney. I changed my twitter name and legal name back to Blake Middleton, but kept the desk plate.

‘An actual person…’ has a calm rhythm to it even when describing the most absurd images. Is there an album you feel ‘pairs well’ with it—or did you listen to a certain type of music while writing it?


BM: I listen to a lot of Destroyer when trying to write. I don’t sit down at a computer anymore. I ride my bike or sit by the river or go for a walk. I need to be out moving through the world. I need to feel different than I normally do. I don't know how to describe the state I get in but when you're there you just know. I think on average I probably wrote one or two lines a day. But Dan Bejar can get me in that state sometimes. I like his song writing because it’s calm, detached, world-weary, deadpan, dream-like, not hysterical or overwrought. Eerily good. Like it shouldn’t exist on this earth.  Even when he’s singing about the apocalypse it’s beautiful. You can tell he has so much love for life and that he’s also completely horrified/disgusted by the world. There’s nothing better. “Sing the least poetic thing you can think of, and try to make it sound beautiful.” It feels pointless to write poetry while listening to Destroyer and I like that for some reason.

Love Destroyer. Nice. Very nice. So, what kind of vaping rig you working with?

BM: (demands we strike question from the record, citing: “you’re an idiot”) 

Fuck you.


Round Four: The Last Question


There are some philosophical lines in your book. life should reveal itself as an increasingly moving series of recognitions. But are followed with one-liners or blunt statements of confusion. i know that i know things, but it feels like i don’t know anything. Which for me, gives it this endless looping feeling of introspection. Were you inspired/influenced by any philosophers/big-brain thinkers? Or was there any specific reading experience that sparked the idea for this book?

BM: Reading $50,000 by Andrew Weatherhead definitely sparked it. I loved the tone of that poem. The space between lines. It’s really funny and direct in a way that most poetry isn’t. Then I read The Rejection of Closure, an essay by Lyn Hejinian, which I won’t go into here because I did that in the interview I did with Zac and ended up rambling way too much. The combination of those two back to back really jolted me away from linear narratives and I felt much more excited by nonlinear, fragmented, aphoristic, non sequitur type stuff. Right after reading those I started writing An Actual Person...without really even thinking about it. It just felt natural and good, which is rare for me, so I kept adding lines. 

As far as big-brain stuff goes, when I was like 22-25 I read a lot of Sartre, Heidegger, Schopenhauer, Nietzche. Sartre was the big one for me. I remember coming across his essay Existentialism is a Humanism in college, feeling failed by public education for never having been forced to read it, then getting into all his other books. Lol. I almost don’t even want to think about it because I almost went insane reading all of that shit. I read so much of it that I’m sure there’s some influence there, but I don’t think I can pin-point anything. I don’t know why I stuck with it for so long. I thought I would find something that would make sense of things I guess. But nothing ever really did that for me. Lately I’ve just been really into E.M. Cioran. He’s an extremely emotional and unintentionally funny philosopher. He writes in aphorisms which I always enjoy. Like, I think this kind of shit is hilarious: “In the days when I set off on month-long bicycle trips across France, my greatest pleasure was to stop in country cemeteries, to stretch out between two graves, and to smoke for hours on end. I think of those days as the most active period of my life.” I keep talking about this excerpt from The Trouble With Being Born by Cioran in all the interviews I’ve done for this book so far because I think it kind of changed how I viewed things, almost put me at ease or something: “We cannot elude existence by explanations, we can only endure it, love or hate it, adore or dread it…” It seems so obvious and I’m sure I’ve read similar iterations of that same sentiment, but it really hit me. I think after reading that I felt kind of freed from trying to get at anything, and my writing got more playful. There’s really nothing to say. Or I’m just comfortable not really saying anything. I’m happy to just paint a little picture of the world/reveal things about the world and being a person on it that I think are funny or confusing or exciting. I don’t care to sound smart or like I know what I’m talking about. But I can look at things and describe them, articulate how I’m feeling, write about stuff I think sucks and stuff I think is good and hopefully do it in a way that feels new and hopefully say some things that other people also think but haven’t articulated. I’m still figuring things out. Or maybe I’m realizing that there isn’t all too much to figure out. 

And that’s match, Middleton. Well done. Anything else you want to add?

I’ll be reading in NYC at KGB bar with GG Roland, Shy Watson, Graham Irvin, Peter BD, Theo Thimo, and Alex Otte on July 22 if anyone wants to come hang. Also doing a reading with GG and other Clash Books people at the NYC Poetry Fest on Governors Island July 25th if that sounds like fun to anyone. *gif of that Miami beach dude in joker face-paint waving an American flag around while standing on a cop car*

Continue Reading...


The next day around 6:00 p.m. Jordan drove to the corner store near his apartment and bought a Peach Cisco. He drove down I-95 with the windows down and drank Cisco and listened to Propagandhi. In the song the lead singer sang about sticking an American flag up someone’s asshole. In the parking lot of Eric’s complex Jordan sat in his car and swallowed an Adderall then drank some Cisco.

He walked toward Eric’s apartment. All the apartments looked the same. People were starting to come home from work. Jordan walked up the stairs to the third floor. He knocked on Eric’s door and Eric opened it. ‘Drinking Cisco already?’ Eric said.

‘Yeah,’ Jordan said.

‘Take this,’ Eric said. He handed Jordan a beer. ‘I just opened it. Put that shit in the fridge. It’s not even dark.’

Jordan walked inside and saw Eric’s roommate, Sam, lying on the carpet, holding a beer. ‘What’s up?’ Jordan said.

‘Drinking beer on the floor,’ Sam said. He got up and sat on the couch, grabbed a TV remote and a PS4 controller, turned on the PlayStation and the TV.

Jordan put his Cisco in the fridge. He sat on the couch next to Sam. Sam was holding a controller, searching YouTube. Eric sat on a different couch, facing the TV. Sam played ‘Sound System’ by Operation Ivy. They talked and drank beer.

An hour later Jordan was shirtless on the back porch, sitting in a lawn chair, holding a beer. Sam was behind Jordan digging through a bag of haircutting clippers. He attached one to a razor and ran it down the center of Jordan’s head.

‘Hell yeah,’ Eric said. ‘I'm pulling up a seat.’ He grabbed a milk-crate and sat on top of it. ‘Did you tell Emma you're shaving your head?’ Emma was Jordan’s girlfriend. They lived together with Zach. Had been dating for about four years.

‘Um,’ Jordan said. He texted Emma and said he was shaving his head. ‘Yeah.’  

Sam shaved off a long strip of Jordan's hair. ‘That feels good,’ Jordan said.

‘Give me your shirt,’ Eric said. ‘It's going in the freezer.’

Jordan picked up his shirt and handed it to Eric.

Eric walked inside. He walked back outside. He drank some beer and burped. ‘We’ll be drunk by nine,’ he said.

‘Right when we have to drive,’ Sam said.

‘Perfect,’ Eric said.

Sam finished shaving Jordan's head. Jordan rubbed his head. ‘Does it look alright?’

‘Looks good,’ Eric said. ‘Go ahead and pull your shirt out of the freezer.’

Jordan walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. He rubbed his head with his hands. He walked into the kitchen and grabbed his shirt and put on the shirt.

‘It's cold,’ Jordan said.

‘Feels nice, right?’ Eric said.

‘Yeah,’ Jordan said. ‘Not bad.’

They sat on couches in the living room.

Sam talked about getting high at church when he was in high school.

Eric played a music video for the song ‘Jesus is a friend on mine.’

Jordan said it sounded like the Talking Heads.

Sam said something about the guitar player’s hip motions.

‘I need more beer,’ Eric said and looked at Jordan. ‘Wanna come to the gas station?’

Eric opened his car door. ‘Don’t get in yet,’ he said. He pounded on the seat. ‘It’s infested with roaches. You gotta pound the seat so they go back into hiding.’

Jordan and Eric drove to the gas station near the interstate. They passed a McDonalds, a Wendys, a Taco Bell, a Walmart, another McDonalds.

‘Jesus is a friend of mine,’ Eric said. ‘He taught me how to praise my God and still play rock-n-roll.’ He parked the car. ‘Man, I really wish they made eight-packs of tall-boys.’

Eric walked inside the gas station. He walked outside the gas station, holding two four-packs of tall-boys. He got in the car. He looked at Jordan and held the four-packs next to each other. ‘Eight pack,’ he said.

They drove back to Eric's apartment and walked inside.

‘Let's take some 800 milligram ibuprofen and get fucked up,’ Jordan said.

‘Ibuprofen is generic trash,’ Sam said. He was lying on the carpet again. ‘I only get high off Advil extra-strength.’

Eric put beer in the fridge. ‘How does it feel to be two of the dumbest assholes on the world?’ he  said. He grabbed a beer and closed the fridge.

‘Feels pretty good from down here,’ Sam said. He took a drink of beer, spilt some on his face.

‘You spilt beer on your face,’ Eric said.

‘That’s what the carpet is for,’ Sam said. He rolled over and rubbed his face on the carpet.

‘Jesus Christ,’ Eric said. ‘I’m getting drunk tonight.’ He pulled his shirt off, walked to the kitchen, put the shirt in the freezer.

A little later Eric’s girlfriend, Kim, showed up. She sat on the couch next to Eric.

‘Can we get high tonight?’ Jordan said to Kim.

Kim reached under the coffee-table and pulled out a bong.

‘You're not allowed to smoke weed,’ Sam said. ‘You just got a haircut. That's illegal.’

Eric played depressing music on YouTube.

‘Sounds like American Football,’ Jordan said.

‘No,’ Eric said.

‘Very similar,’ Sam said.

‘Very sad,’ Kim said.

‘Sounds like Postal Service and American Football,’ Jordan said.

‘I’m gonna kill you,’ Eric said.

Jordan and Kim smoked marijuana.

‘My mom is going to find out,’ Sam said. ‘This is smart. This is really smart.’

Kim handed Sam marijuana and Sam smoked marijuana.

‘Play Ricky Calloway,’ Jordan said.

‘Shit,’ Eric said. He played the song ‘Get it Right’ by Ricky Calloway. ‘This is the guy that pressure washes UNF.’ UNF stands for University of North Florida. Jordan and his friends went there because you didn’t have to write an essay to get accepted.

‘What?’ Kim said.

‘This is Ricky fucking Calloway,’ Eric said. ‘He's a funk-singing pressure washer.’

‘Shit,’ Kim said.

‘He's not good at pressure washing,’ Sam said.

‘Leave Ricky alone,’ Eric said. ‘He does a fantastic job of pressure washing. He’s an excellent pressure washer and a magnificent funk-singer.’

‘Yes he is,’ Jordan said.

‘I'm an asshole,’ Sam said.

‘You are,’ Jordan said. ‘He does a fantastic job.’

Jordan stood and walked into the kitchen. He was feeling buzzed. He opened the fridge and grabbed a beer. He opened a cabinet and picked up a glass. ‘Why does this glass have Dough Mahoney written on it?’  

‘That's mine,’ Eric said.

‘Who's Dough Mahoney?’  

‘That's me. Dough Mahoney is PEN name. I have to use a PEN name because I’m going to be the fucking president. Kim made me that.’

‘Dough Mahoney,’ Jordan said, and poured the beer into the glass.

‘Dough Mahoney,’ Eric said.

It was quiet for a few seconds. ‘My mom is autistic,’ Sam said.

‘My Mom is Zach Braff and so am I,’ Eric said. ‘She’s big Zach Braff and I’m little Zach Braff.’

‘Shut up,’ Sam said.

At the party an hour later Jordan sat around a table with Eric, Aubrey, Olivia, and Sam. It was a glass-top table and the base was made of ceramic dolphins. There was a large bong in the center of the table. Aubrey was painting something on a small canvas. In the living room there was a drumset, a guitar, a bass guitar, and a microphone. Jordan was stoned and staring at the ceramic dolphins, not really thinking about anything except how stoned he was. He was very stoned, he thought. He heard a tambourine. He looked up and saw Olivia smiling. It was her birthday. She was twenty-two.

‘This is my tambourine,’ she said, and shook it again.

‘Cool,’ Jordan said.

‘I'm putting on Die Antwoord,’ Olivia said, and put on Die Antwoord. ‘I want champagne.’ She walked into the kitchen and came back with a bottle of cheap champagne and two glasses. She shook her tambourine. ‘Would you like some?’


She poured Jordan a glass of champagne. He drank some.

‘Don’t drink before we toast,’ Olivia said.


Jordan held up his glass and toasted with Olivia. Olivia smiled and then Jordan smiled.

‘Where’s Emma?’ Olivia said.

‘She didn’t wanna come. She’s probably at home watching The Office.’

Olivia shook the tambourine again. ‘This isn't loud enough,’ she said. ‘I’m tired of hearing everyone's voice that hasn't said hi to me yet.’

Jordan didn’t know what to say. He took another drink. The champagne was good. Or the champagne was bad, but Jordan didn’t know what good champagne taste like.

Someone walked up to Olivia and said happy birthday. The person was wearing a colorful jacket and eating a carrot. ‘That jacket is funky fresh,’ Sam said. ‘That is some serious jazz.’

‘Yeah man,’ the carrot-guy said, and took a bite of his carrot and walked away.

‘That was strange,’ Jordan said.

‘What?’ Sam said.

‘That whole thing,’ Jordan said. ‘What you just said.’

‘You didn't like that?’ Sam said. ‘You gotta get freed by the funky fresh jazz beast.’

Eric walked up and said something about Billy Collins.  

‘Billy Collins is dead,’ Jordan said without thinking. ‘He died a week ago.’

‘No he didn't,’ Eric said. ‘Fuck off.’

Aubrey held up the canvas she was painting.  ‘It’s Eric,’ she said. The painting was deformed-looking.

‘The sagging lip represents years of untreated alcoholism,’ Jordan said.

‘Fuck off,’ Eric said.

Sam stood up and sat at the drum set. The carrot-guy walked over and played guitar. His carrot was gone.

Eric walked up to Jordan and said he had a confession. Eric said he never received money from the U.S. government for being one-eighth Native American. Jordan had been convinced for over a year that Eric received money from the U.S. government for being one-eighth Native American.

Jordan looked out the back window. ‘There's a fire out there,’ he said. ‘Let's go.’

The fire was big. There was a small tree next to the fire. Kim walked outside and stood next to Jordan and Eric. ‘This is how white people die,’ she said.

‘White people die in Iraq,’ Eric said. ‘Chill the fuck out.’

Someone threw an onion in the fire. ‘Burn the onion,’ someone yelled.

‘Is that an onion?’ Kim said.

‘It's okay,’ Jordan said. ‘We're going to get high.’

‘Who started this fire?’ Eric said.

‘Banksy,’ Jordan said.

‘Capitalism is the fire, and the tree is the people,’ Eric said.

‘When Bernie Sanders becomes president I'm going to request that all parties have large fires and Adderall,’ Kim said. Jordan gave her some Adderall on the drive over.

Kim talked about moving to Portland. Everyone was always talking about moving to Portland.

Jordan didn’t have anything to say about moving to Portland. ‘We need to burn this tree,’ he said, because it felt like it was his turn to say something.

‘It's alive,’ Eric said. ‘It won't burn.’

‘We need to burn the tree,’ Jordan said. He was drunk.

‘I'm not going to burn the tree,’ Eric said.

‘Okay,’ Jordan said. ‘Don't burn the tree.’

‘I'm not going to,’ Eric said.

‘Good,’ Jordan said.

Someone threw a pallet on the fire. The fire got bigger. There were about twenty people outside, talking in groups of three or four.

A little later Robert showed up to the party. Everyone was still standing around the fire.  Robert was wearing his Winn-Dixie apron.

‘Why are you still wearing that?’ Eric said.

‘I forgot,’ Robert said.

‘Keep it on,’ Jordan said. ‘It's good.’

Jordan asked Robert when he was going to bring him some ham-steak.

Robert said the ham-steak at Winn-Dixie wasn't on sale anymore. One time Robert and Jordan got stoned and ate ham-steak on the kitchen floor of Jordan’s apartment. Jordan said the ham-steak was shaped like a dog's head and Robert got scared and threw the ham-steak in the freezer, only to be discovered months later.

‘They sound kind of good in there,’ Robert said about the people playing instruments inside.

‘Should we go inside?’ Jordan said.

‘Take off your apron,’ Eric said.

Robert took off his apron. He threw it in the fire.

‘Hell yeah,’ Eric said.

Eric, Jordan, Robert, and Kim walked inside. They stood in the living room.

There were about twenty people in the living room. They listened to people play music. No one was singing.  Jordan walked to the microphone. He sang a song about ham-steak and Bernie Sanders. He walked outside and felt extremely intoxicated. A person walked past Jordan. ‘What is on your shoulder?’ Jordan said. ‘A hamster?’

The person said it was a rat. Jordan asked if he could pet the rat and the person said yes. ‘Her name is Little Miss,’ the person said.

‘Hey Little Miss,’ Jordan said. He looked at the rat. It had big eyes. ‘This rat likes you a lot. You can achieve things.’

‘Okay,’ the person said. ‘Thank you.’

Robert and Eric walked outside. Robert talked about leaving the party to go see a rapper named Kevin Gates. ‘I don't want to see Kevin Gates,’ Eric said. ‘He fucked his cousin.’ Robert said that it was cool to fuck your cousin in the year 2015. Jordan went pee behind a dumpster near the garage and then walked inside the garage. The garage was the rat-person's art studio. Jordan said he liked the art. The rat-person said it was shitty beach-art he got commissioned to make for rich white people.

Little Miss was in a cage hanging from the ceiling. Jordan put his finger inside the rat cage. The rat licked his finger. Jordan asked if the rat was going to bite him and the person said no. ‘It's licking me,’ Jordan said. He walked outside the garage. He walked inside the house. Someone said something about a terrorist attack in Paris. Olivia was singing and playing tambourine. Sam was asleep on the couch. Robert handed Jordan a beer and they both shotgunned a beer.

College Novel by Blake Middleton is forthcoming from Apocalypse Party Press in early 2019.

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CHARLIE by Blake Middleton

i took some adderall the other day

and for some reason i decided it was time to replace my old washing machine with a new washing machine

my roommate got a lighter stuck in the part of the washer where all the lent and other bullshit builds up

so we were scared that the washing machine was gonna catch fire or explode

i had been putting off changing it out for weeks

i didn’t know how to change out a washing machine and hadn’t really felt like learning

i kinda hoped my roommate would do it eventually

but whatever, i was bored and on adderall, optimal conditions for doing a dumb chore you’ve been putting off forever

i hadn’t taken adderall in months

and there were reasons for this, of course

but it had been a few months, it was early, i wasn’t gonna mix them with alcohol or anything, haha, just wanted some help focusing

felt like i didn’t need a youtube tutorial, no no, none of that bullshit

just needed some fucking drugs, kids

i stared at the washing machine, trying to use my brain to think

i did some thinking and unscrewed the hose on the back of the washer a little bit

but some water shot out from around the sides

so the first step would be to turn off the water

and hey hey


the adderall was working

it had increased my critical thinking/problem solving skills immensely

i tried to turn the faucet, but the handle was rusted and broken

i tried to use a wrench to turn the handle, but no, still wasn’t working

i thought, fuck it

removing the hose was gonna be the first step again

the adderall in my dumb-ass brain was telling me that would work, like totally, fuck yeah

the adderall was telling me that, despite the recent revelation that the handle was completely broken and fucked, i had the mental capacity and psychical strength required to unscrew the hose from the back of the old washer then, while water was spewing out from the hose, screw it into the new washer

actually no, without really thinking about what i was doing, i unscrewed the hose

and as soon as i unscrewed the hose i realized that unscrewing the hose while the water was still running was a stupid and bad thing to do

because water was shooting out everywhere

getting all my shit wet

the floor wet. the counters wet. my pants wet.

like imagine all my shit getting really fucking wet

imagine a hose spewing water full blast on a bunch of shit that shouldn’t get wet

it was bad

i tried to screw it back into the old washer

i thought, fuck it

just wanted to screw the hose back into the old washer, keep using that one until it caught fire or exploded and killed me or whatever

just wanted to read a book or lie in bed and stare at the ceiling or something

but no

wasn’t gonna work for me

mentally added ‘changing out a washing machine’ to a long list of shit that just wasn’t gonna work for me

no i didn’t do that

but in hindsight, yeah, add it to the list

it was too late to quit though

this wasn’t a time for literature or bad feelings in bed

this was a time for stopping a hose from flooding my house

really didn’t wanna have to call my slumlord and get yelled at

plus my roommates had been getting drunk a lot and spray-painting the walls

so i would get double yelled at

then my dumb-ass brain did some more thinking stuff

and oh man

i realized who i needed

i needed my boy charlie

charlie was my alcoholic neighbor

there was a good chance that he would be home because he doesn’t have a job

he spends most of his time drinking busch on his porch with his shithead buddies (also unemployed alcoholics)

he has a friend named ‘ice man’ that sells meth out of his ford bronco

‘ice man’ also does lawn service

‘ice man’ and charlie have a friend named ‘creepy chris’

‘creepy chris’ lives in charlie’s garage

he also smokes crack-cocaine and has sex with prostitutes in there too

charlie's garage: a versatile space perfect for a variety of stimulating activities such as crack smoking and illicit sex

‘creepy chris’ helps ‘ice man’ sell meth and cut grass

sometimes creepy chris smokes too much crack and walks around the park across the street very late at night

creeping around

there goes chris again, smoking crack and creeping around in the night, there he goes

just some normal jacksonville florida bullshit my guy

but yeah, yes, charlie was my only hope

i put the hose inside the washing machine and it started filling with water

i jumped over the washing machine and sprinted out my front door, drenched in water, looking like a fucking dumb-ass

and yeah, yes

charlie was sitting alone on his porch drinking a busch

he was wearing cut-off jean shorts

and i could see his balls

dangling out, resting gently on the stoop

i got a little distracted for a minute by charlies big tan balls, you know?

shit was wet my guy

it was 11 am

charlie had been drinking, but he wasn’t drunk

which was great because charlie isn’t very helpful when he’s drunk

like one time i went over to charlie’s place to borrow a drill

i knocked on the door

and i could see charlie through the screen door

he was sitting on the couch, empty mcdonald’s wrappers on the ottoman in front of him

looking old and leathery as ever

but he wouldn’t move, he just sat there smiling, staring right at me

‘charie,’ i yelled. ‘what the fuck?’

then jane, charlie’s wife, nice old jane, came to the door, opened it

and before she could say anything to me, charlie yelled, ‘how many boyfriends you got, jane?’

so i was thinking, okay, charlie’s drunk and on pain pills again

suprise suprise

because charlie, in addition to being my drunk neighbor, is also my drunk maintenance man

and a few weeks ago he was doing some work on my roof, few too many beers deep, fell off and slipped a disk in his back

so for the past few weeks he’s been on the pain pills

calls them ‘happy pills’

usually in the context of ‘hey blake do you wanna buy some happy pills?’

so i asked jane if i could borrow a drill

jane said, ‘it’s blake. wants to know if he can borrow a drill. do you know where the drills at, charlie?’

‘bet you could find it if it was up your ass,’ he yelled

nice old jane said, ‘well, it’s not up my ass, mr. charlie’

and i said, ‘okay, i’ll come back later’

but it was early this time and he wasn’t drunk yet

i said, ‘charlie, i need you. i’ve got a fucking emergency’

i felt a little strange saying ‘i need you’ to a weird old man while staring at his balls

he stood up and his balls retracted

i said ‘follow me’ and ran to my house

he walked real slow behind me

well we got inside and Charlie assessed the situation

he stared at the washing machine overflowing onto my floor

he looked at me and shook his head and laughed like ‘haha what the fuck did you do, kid?’

then he took the hose and put it in a drain thingy behind the washer then walked outside and turned the water off by lifting up a concrete thingy in my front yard

seemed incredibly easy

made me feel like, what the fuck have i been doing on the world for 23 years. how do i not know how to do basic bullshit yet?

charlie said we were gonna need to go buy a new faucet because the current one was broken and fucked

i suggested that we go to the lowes down the street


we walked around lowes together

me and charlie

the two best friends

charlie would pick up a spout and mumble, ‘should have gone to the fucking home depot’

i had always thought that lowes and home depot were the exact same store but now i know that they are not

i was learning things

learning things to remember in the future

always preparing for some empty bullshit

shit breaks and you fix it

just more and more tiny breaks to fix until that last sweet unrepairable breaking

a breaking so broke you gotta bury it

wet wet wet

but yeah fuck lowes i guess


on the drive home from lowes we approached a liquor store

i had gotten pretty used to paying charlie in liquor

he had been mowing my lawn with ice man and chris every week in exchange for a 750 of canadian club whiskey

fucking champions these guys

so i figured i’d stop in the liquor stop and buy him a handle

so i did

and we got back to my place and charlie fixed my washer

no problem

just fixed her right up

he took a deep breath and looked at me

‘you want a mixed cocktail?’ he said

really felt like i owed him one

like if charlie wanted me to drink a cocktail with him, then i would do that, yeah

i said okay, and we walked over to charlie’s place

there was nascar shit everywhere

mostly dale earnhardt memorabilia

hell yeah

charlie walked to the kitchen and picked up two 32 ounce styrofoam cups

like those big motherfuckers you get at gas stations

he grabbed the handle of canadian club and a 2 liter of coke, handed them to me

‘mix yourself a drink’ he said, smiling like a big time motherfucker

so i poured a 2 oz shot into the cup

a normal amount

and he said ‘c’mon pour a little more’

so i poured another 2 ounces

okay, seemed fine, whatever

and again he said, ‘c’mon brother, pour a little more’

hmm not great, no no

but i poured another 2 ounces

mixed it with coke

we sat on the couch together, watching the local news

just two normal guys watching the local news alone on a couch, drinking giant-ass cocktails

a white lady was talking about a murder at a gas station in westside jacksonville

charlie yelled something at the TV

i thought, ‘okay all i have to do is finish this drink and then i can leave, cool’

so i started drinking faster

and by the time i finished the drink about five minutes later, i felt like watching the local news with charlie was a fun and normal thing to do

and i remembered that i took an adderall earlier

and that when i’m on adderall i feel like i can drink a lot more than i actually can

so i realized i drank too much too quick

surprise surprise

so i walked to the fridge and grabbed a beer

because i was already there

i was feeling good

i was feeling that invincible feeling again

felt like i was the fucking king of beer, god of the mini-fridge, the busch-light punisher

and as soon as i popped the top ice man and creepy chris pulled up in the bronco, honked the horn a few times

and it sounded like ‘daa-daa-da-da-da-da-daaaa-daaaa-da-da’

and i was drunk enough to think ‘fuck yeah, cool, all of this this is normal and good’

and the bronco had bull horns on the front and i’m not kidding, it had ‘ice man’ stenciled on the hood

creepy chris stepped out of the passenger side, looking like a praying mantis on crack

and he was holding a styrofoam box over his head with his mantis arms

he started chanting ‘chicken wings chicken wings chicken wings’

and charlie's lazy ass didn't hop up off the couch when i told him i had a fucking emergency but he sure did hop up for chicken wings

i followed him outside

‘shut the fuck up, chris’ charlie said. ‘what you got in there?’

‘chicken wings’

‘give em here’

he handed charlie the box

charlie opened the box and said ‘hey buddy’ to the chicken wings, smiling

‘hey charlie man,’ said chris. ‘i, uh, got them things for weed-eating a lawn’

‘who's garage you live at, uh? do you live at charlie's garage? is that your mattress in my garage, uh?’

‘Yeah, but--’

charlie slurped down a chicken wing


he stood and chugged a beer, walked out back to the garage

we all followed charlie for some reason

and also, for some reason, there was a tire nailed above the garage

just kind of dangling there in the breeze like charlie’s balls

couldn’t seem to stop thinking about charlie’s balls

charlie grabbed two 30 pound dumbbells out of the garage

‘lifts some weights, chicken wing’ he said to chris

and instead of telling charlie to ‘fuck off’ he just lifted the weights

he counted his reps and charlie ate his chicken wings

and ice man smiled at me and pulled out a one hitter

and i took a hit of ice man’s weed

and thank god it was only weed

and yes my guy

i was drunk and stoned and on adderall

it was one of those day where you’d usually think ‘huh, didn’t think i’d be doing this today’

only right then i wasn’t thinking that

i wasn’t thinking anything

that’s what made it so good

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