By Jason McKenzie

He took the name HAL as a throwback to the Kubrick classic.
“I never seen nothin’ so badass as that computer
in my whole life,” he used to say in the stuttered blue light.
“I got cop lights from 17 states,” HAL would say, “including Hawaii.”
Staring at those siren lights gave HAL something to do when he was whacked on crank.
“Crank” was slang for Methamphetamine.
“Slang” was approved nomenclature for “vernacular.”
And so on.

Methamphetamine made the aggression section of the Medulla Oblongata ass-fuck
the pleasure centers located in the Temporal Lobes. Much to the Oblongata’s chagrin,
the Temporal Lobes didn’t mind.
HAL spent so much dough on crank, he couldn’t keep up.
He could have stolen a living- he was good at that- but HAL had morals.
“I know,” he used to say, “whenever I’m on a rapin’ spree, to leave alone nuns and womyn.”
So HAL did what Henry David Thoreau would have done. Henry David Thoreau was a
famous American patriot who learned to be self reliant. HAL made his own crank.
That’s why I was there. HAL had earned the reputation as the only crank dealer in the
area who’d never thrashed a buy.
I was a buy.

“Those are some lights,” I said.
“Tell me HAL, how’d you ever come across so many lights?”
It wasn’t very funny that I should ask, seeing how everybody already knew.
I was scared to learn anything intimate about the details of HAL’s existence.
It was enough that I was up on how he eked out his keep.
I and about twelve other miserable assholes eked out HAL’s keep for him.
We, in an anonymous pact, felt it worthy to bestow upon HAL a grant-
for educational purposes only, you understand- to make pharmaceutical grade crank
(if ever there were such a thing) to aid pursuit of intelligentsia into the substance’s medical benefits.
All HAL had to do was stare at blue lights, make crank and not kick the shit out of me.

For a literate type, I was dumber than a rubber mallet.
In the rift of an instant, siren lights could no longer satiate his Oblongata hard-on.
Like most people who live in blue-lit crank binges, HAL finally snapped.
From where it’d been hiding inside his knickers, HAL drew out a fourteen-inch
Bowie knife and started to lick the sharp side of the blade.
“Things are getting a little phallic for me, HAL,” I told him.
“Come here, copper,” he responded.

I wish I could have blamed HAL’s maladjusted behavior on watching too many 1940’s
film noir gangster flicks, but again I’m drawn back to the crank as the only logical

HAL pounced and straddled my intimidating, drug-riddled, hundred-and-twenty-four
pound physique to the floor.
He carved the symbol for Pi into my chest. It has, to date, proven the most interesting
thing about me. I cried and blood gushed and HAL cut off his thumb, van Gogh style,
in an attempt to appease me. Had he not already carved my sternum flesh into an ancient
mathematical ratio by means of a Bowie knife, I’d’ve thought him very sweet.
I read William Burroughs once did that for a lover.

These days, the closest I get to crank is three consecutive cups of coffee.
I rub my hand underneath my shirt every time I see the color blue,
and much to my chagrin, 2001: A Space Odyssey has become my favorite film.

jason mckenzie is the phantom editor at large of Centripetal. he is
gorgeous in mirrors, ugly in eyes, and is quite fond of french kissing
addiction. his poem "I Want Whores" was a finalist in The Crucible's
2004 national poetry contest. if you'd like to tell him off, please email

© 2003 Underground Voices