thrice great hermes #79 (2018/02/18)

thrice great hermes

#79

by stanley lieber

quartz in the ground, in the woods behind the house. étienne started finding it the last time he went out for a walk. mostly concentrated in a small ravine behind the abandoned car lot. he brought some back to the house and kept it in a plastic bread bag.

big glass doors off the dining room. sitting at the table eating his breakfast he could see the whole town. such as it was. he stretched out his arms and ran his fingertips along the tablecloth. finished his cereal.

he’d been reading a byrne superman. number fourteen, the first he’d managed to acquire. some primitive computer art, inside.

beyond breakfast he’d made no plans for the day. violet was already up and out of the house. he didn’t have to work. he’d have to think about it.

it was starting to snow.

a lion emerged from the woods. it rounded the yard barn and sauntered up to the house. on the back porch it nosed through the cat food étienne had put out for the strays. bottom half of the plastic milk carton that served as a bowl briefly got stuck on the lion’s nose, and eitenne laughed out loud.

the lion didn’t laugh.

"i am smiling," étienne said for the lion.

he decided to walk into town. the snow started and stopped, sputtering gently for the rest of the day. he spent the afternoon wandering between "weimar" shops in town. he came home clutching christopher isherwood.

étienne perversely tracked his purchases in a custom-made arrangement on an antique amiga computer running openbsd. basically, a big text file. he would print out the file and file it in his filing cabinet, because it amused him to do so. the computer was not networked, and lions couldn’t type.

when violet came home she said she was pregnant.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #78 (2018/02/16)

thrice great hermes

#78

by stanley lieber

and then there was the house. grandpa and grandma’s house, where dad had moved back after the divorce, his world contracting into his childhood bedroom, no longer shared with his brothers. that had been where the computer was stored, where the books had lived, where the board would be laid on the bed and the pages laid out for assembly, a small lamp and a small speaker providing atmosphere.

the house was gone, now. the green asphalt tiles had given way to green vinyl siding, had given way to demolition, debris removal, and, finally, a stranger mowing the empty lot.

before any of that had been the old bedroom, the crumbling wallpaper in the kitchen, the pale beige carpet in the front room, the moss on the cracked concrete of the back porch, the makeshift garage—all, also, gone.

étienne could somehow picture it clearly, even though he had never been inside the place. his grandfather’s grandparents’ house. in some other little town. in some other little world. he was just as sure the place was gone. he found out later—it was.

he counted the other unknown places he somehow felt he knew: the public library, the firehouse, the demolished wing of the casino, the firehouse in that other town (whose name he did not even know), several homes of strangers, a drug store that sold adult magazines sealed in ziploc bags, a movie theater (which somehow he knew had also burned to the ground), john henry’s restaurant, an old train car, the church in the country, the trailer park, the small barn in the backyard over the hill, yancy’s swimming pool, the cellar, the other pizza place by the highway on the way to petersburg, the old caboose at the city park that dad (who’s dad?) had said he’d help settle into its base by the shelter house, brandon’s new house on flood road, riding two skateboards down hill street while dribbling a basketball, the empty trailer whose yard nevertheless got mowed, medco center, pumpkin center, the rural pole barn that also burned down, the swing set at the campground (also installed by grandpa), the stacks of newspapers in aunt (the other aunt) eunice’s living room, sitting at home and watching cable television. none of these were his memories. none of these people were people he knew. they trampled through his mind as if the route was familiar and they didn’t need to look where they were going.

all he could do was think.

he found the address—also, somehow, already in his mind—on a mapping service and confirmed the street view in his visor before turning off the device and closing his eyes, laying his head down on his desk and pressing its flat, laminate surface directly against his forehead.

the pictures continued to disembark, dragging trunks and chests through his mind, on their way to an as yet unimagined new world.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #77 (2018/02/15)

thrice great hermes

#77

by stanley lieber

for some reason étienne’s town had a video store. a remnant of the somehow still extant berlin-in-the-’00s tourist theme. étienne had taken to renting videos to watch during his shift.

one evening when he stopped by he noticed they were giving away comic books with every rental. there were mint condition stacks of three titles: uncanny x-men #215, uncanny x-men #216, and avengers annual #10. since he was renting three videos, étienne was entitled to all three comics.

why did this place have old comic books? they weren’t second prints. they weren’t even german translations. weird.

he left the shop, and headed on to work. He went about his shift.

bill had messaged him, wanting to complain about politicians. étienne demurred. he was going to watch his videos.

from his backpack étienne produced a device whose function was to interface the ancient video player to his visor. the thing was on the fritz. some protocol glitch between the devices. lacking any other explanation, étienne blamed a recent firmware update.

blame was fine, but now he couldn’t watch his videos. the contemporary playback device he’d found squirreled away in a closet in his central office was likewise—but differently—inoperable. he sighed and gave up.

he flipped through the comics. okay, he’d never read these issues before. filling more holes in his collection. this michael golden art was something else.

étienne put down the comics and ate his lunch early. he’d be hungry later, but so what, he could do whatever he wanted. (thanks, violet, for packing the lunch.)

bill again. leave me alone.

the next evening étienne returned the videos to the shop, unwatched. he noticed the stacks of mint condition comics again, and, impulsively, offered the clerk a hundred dollars to buy the whole lot.

"nope, nuh uh," the clerk said. "one free comic per rental."

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #76 (2018/02/14)

thrice great hermes

#76

by stanley lieber

sl called, asking for anything related to computers. old manuals, disks, peripherals, component level parts, warranty cards, trade magazines, catalogues, notes, instructions, schematics, or program listings—he wanted them all. étienne asked if he had any comics to trade.

it turned out he did. amazing spider-man #298-299; cerebus #77; twenty copies of x-force #1 (several versions inclusive); ten copies of spider-man #1 (several versions inclusive); the uncanny x-men and the new teen titans; cosmic odyssey #1; wolverine limited series #1-4; marvel uk black and white reprint magazine featuring george pérez avengers stories; conan the barbarian (misc.); alpha flight #10; daredevil #168; random 1990s issues of the amazing spider-man and batman; ann nocenti daredevil (incomplete run); daredevil: the man without fear #1-5; video jack #4; silver surfer v3 #1-3; justice league america #34; thor #337; x-factor #25-27; groo (misc.); wizard magazine (misc.); the death of superman tpb; dark horse presents #34-36; roachmill #1; uncanny x-men #141-143, 180; and a complete set of tsr marvel super-heroes role playing game pewter figurines. étienne said he would take them all.

in return he surrendered a tandy color computer (coco) 2, its manual, a collection of recently pirated software, and a joystick.

it was an okay trade. some of the comics étienne already had, and a lot of them were garbage, but there were also quite a few key issues he could flip on the secondary (tertiary?) market to buy yet more comics. they shook hands and étienne loaded the new books into his truck.

the computer had already been old when dad had handed it down to him, maybe twenty years ago, when he was around ten years old. crucially, the dual floppy disk drive hadn’t been a part of étienne’s deal with sl. he assumed sl would be back for it once he realized his mistake.

what other comics did he have to trade?

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #75 (2018/02/14)

thrice great hermes

#75

by stanley lieber

HE’S GOT (BACK) ISSUES

Surface of Mars. Beverly at the door. Blank book. Surface sounds. This photo is no longer available. Fake car.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #74 (2018/02/13)

thrice great hermes

#74

by stanley lieber

start with a blank sheet of paper. common sizes include: 5.5" x 8.5", 8.5" x 11", 8.5" x 14", and the venerable 11" x 17", though sizes at the larger end of the spectrum can be expensive. a fully realized comic book may be created for around five dollars if the artist isn’t picky about materials.

next, the page must be laid out in pencil. some clever artists skip this step, and work directly on the page in ink, but for our purposes roughing out the page with any non-permanent graphite lead will do.

at this stage the lettering of word balloons, captions, and sound effects (onomatopoeia) is added in ink, whether from a pre-written script, or, less frequently, improvised by the artist. performing the permanent lettering immediately after the pencils are turned in also allows for any last minute adjustments to the artwork to be decided upon before it is committed to its final form in the next step.

finally, the page’s linework is tightened up by tracing it in black ink. most artists tend to prefer india ink, but any form of black line (including, it should be noted, thick, dark pencil markings) is acceptable, so long as the result is reproducible by mechanical means. modern production techniques, often involving computers, are more forgiving on this point.

color is optional. a typical self-financed, self-published comic may find color reproduction to be prohibitively expensive.

at the end of the project the artist will find he has created a comic book story of however many lovingly, painstakingly assembled pages comprise his completed graphic narrative. the satisfaction of crafting a tale well told is found by most artists sufficient to quell the pangs of loneliness typically suffered by those who exhibit a sensitive nature, including some of the most celebrated practitioners of cartoon art in the modern era.

drawing comics makes you crazy, but if you follow these steps, we guarantee you’ll hardly even notice.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #72 (2018/02/11)

thrice great hermes

#72

by stanley lieber

his back still hurt.

étienne stopped on his way to work to fill up the truck. coffee, danish, spinner rack comics. whatever, he bought a copy of uncanny x-men.

sometimes while reading a comic he would flash upon some way the story or artwork could be improved. he would take his pen from his pocket and draw his improvement right on the page. the ink would soak through the page and he would frown. in this particular issue some of the power signatures, as illustrated by the book’s artist, seemed incomplete. étienne added linework as he saw fit.

he took the issue with him to lunch. this time, at jerry’s family restaurant. he finished his french toast and eggs and headed back to work. it wasn’t until he had made it several miles down the road that he realized he’d left the comic book on the table back at jerry’s. probably already bussed away by the wait staff. too late to go back now.

he’d made important notes in that comic.

the next day he stopped again at the pantry for coffee. the spinner rack of comics was gone. "yeah, we’re not going to be getting those anymore," the cashier said flatly. there was no way for étienne to argue—policy was policy. he bought a cherry slush puppie and hopped back in the truck.

most likely, declining readership and increasing encroachment by corporate management into this territory previously ignored by parent companies would account for the abrupt cessation of newsstand distribution. adaptations in alternative media having all but eclipsed the humble, openly dysfunctional methods by which the source material continued to be churned out. item: the comic book spinner rack had been replaced, in étienne’s local pantry, by a large cardboard display of branded, papercraft vr glasses. cheap and disposable, just like the comic books had used to be.

étienne didn’t know or care about these machinations of capital. he just wanted to hold a comic book in his hands and read it, maybe more than once. that would no longer be an option without traveling to another, larger town, where demand evidently supported the operation of a privately owned comic book specialty shop. and who had time for that?

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #71 (2018/02/11)

thrice great hermes

#71

by stanley lieber

things were not going well. he ordered a new pair of boots and they were the wrong size. he sent them back, and the replacements, a half size larger, were also too small, but he wasn’t certain until he’d worn them for a couple of days. reluctantly he ordered a third new pair of boots.

climbing out of bed something went wrong. his back seized up and it was impossible to stand. his lower back was the problem. he eased himself back onto the bed and yelled for violet (she’d been up for hours, by this point). what now?

it lasted for five days. he thought he would lose his mind. painful spasms even just trying to turn over. he was exhausted but sleep was out of the question. when he dozed off, and moved, another spasm would shoot through his back. if he did sleep, waking up, and moving again, unthinking, it would set off a similar, unintentional chain reaction. at the end of the five days he finally just stood up and walked out of the bedroom, as if none of it had ever happened.

for the next three years, the cycle repeated once or twice each spring and fall. changing of the seasons meant at least a week in bed. outside of this window his back was mostly normal—just the usual low-grade misery. after three years the seasonal bed rest was replaced with a near-constant crook in his back that made it a challenge to stand or walk without making sour faces that pissed people off. he sighed a lot. the pain—as such—wasn’t bad enough to incapacitate him, it just lodged him in a permanent, sort-of-bad mood.

no one appreciated this more than violet, who spoke to him every day. "my back hurts," he would say, again.

he resolved to stop complaining. mainly because it took up so much of his time, and anyway had no positive effect, re: his back. whenever he wanted to complain about something he would stop, and not say anything at all. reminded him of his grandpa.

this worked about as well as it worked. sometimes he would complain anyway.

his back hurt.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #69 (2018/02/09)

thrice great hermes

#69

by stanley lieber

DO NOT ANSWER / DO NOT ANSWER / DO NOT ANSWER

Pyramid mountains, grass, rocks, a road. Cathedral arch. Visual rhetoric. This photo is no longer available. Android duck on the pond; repairs. Your Kindle is unable to connect to the wireless network.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #67 (2018/02/07)

thrice great hermes

#67

by stanley lieber

the lions came.

standing at the sink and staring out of the kitchen window he saw them for the first time. lions, cresting the ridge, walking slowly out of the woods. converging on his home as if there were some reason lions should exist in 21st century indiana. in winter.

male and female created he them. étienne blinked and sipped his coffee.

later, as he climbed into the truck, they glanced at him with evident disinterest (cats) and he wondered to himself if this was just going to be the way things were, from now on. more of them continued to show up as the morning wore on, but they didn’t seem to have any particular reason for being there. étienne could remember the portraits of the big cats his father had hung throughout the house: panthers, tigers, cougars, cheetahs, and lions. could there be some kind of connection? of course, the framed drawings from his childhood living room could hardly have lured these cats into the woods.

the lions didn’t cause any trouble, but still he was careful. he locked his doors and drove to work.

when he returned home they were all still there, most of them asleep. okay, so this was how it was going to be. what would violet think? one of the males perked up momentarily when étienne slammed the door of his truck, then rested his chin on his forepaws and drifted back to sleep. étienne was more careful with the back door of the house.

in the morning they were gone. well, absent. not apparently visible. he assumed they might return at any moment. they could always come back. he was curious to know: what had they wanted, and what had they been trying to tell him?

LIONS IN DREAMS: Understanding dreams is not so difficult.  In

practice dream symbols translate into certain words within the

English language.  For instance one lion dream translated into

the words "feeling nervous" and the dream meaning was linked

to the feeling "I am very nervous about being caught breaking

copyright rules".  So dream meanings are in fact very relevant

yet they seem so bizarre.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #66 (2018/02/07)

thrice great hermes

#66

by stanley lieber

website

web·site / ˈweb-ˌsīt /

variants: Web site or less commonly web site

noun TELECOMMUNICATIONS

A concentration point of connections to remote surveillance devices, also known as the central office. Remote sites are colloquially referred to as surveillance shacks.

webshit

web·shit / ˈweb-ˈshit /

noun TELECOMMUNICATIONS

An official, aficionado, or example of web-related technology, theory, or associated activities.

index
patreon






thrice great hermes #65 (2018/02/06)

thrice great hermes

#65

by stanley lieber

étienne pulled up to the railroad crossing and applied his brakes. he noticed a truck from the power company in the lane next to him. squinting, he could make out the driver’s screen through her driver side window. she was scrolling rapidly through quilt patterns, rejecting them all at a fast clip. the train finally passed and étienne let off of his brakes.

a new problem had emerged: what to do with the old equipment when it broke. replace it, fine, but how to dispose of the broken parts? the answer was not so straightforward as it might seem. frequently, the inventory system contained no record of a device that had been placed in service over a decade before the trouble appeared. the equipment just sat there, anonymously performing its function, even without possessing paperwork to justify its presence. étienne had heard that the aging devices, when they did manage to get returned, were being melted down for their gold content. he knew for a fact that most of this stuff ended up in the trash. but he’d also heard stories of (former) employees caught with large stockpiles of decommissioned defectives stashed in their attics, garages, and sheds, at home. why, he always wondered, would they accumulate stolen property at their homes?

his immediate concern was keeping the clutter in his office under control. trash was collected only twice per week. but some weeks he had a lot of trash. or anyway, a lot of decommissioned parts that did not appear in the inventory.

near his home, on an adjacent lot, stood an old, abandoned house. off and on he’d explored the property, ultimately concluding that he had no interest in buying it. but now a solution to his problem at work had presented itself: he could store all the unknowable junk in this building. after all—it was true—he never knew when a component of some discarded unit might come in handy to repair an unrelated problem with yet another piece of obsolete equipment. and this wasn’t his land, wasn’t his attic, wasn’t his garage, and it wasn’t his shed.

over a period of three months étienne cleared out the debris and restored a minimum of weatherproofing to the ramshackle structure next door to his house. it was more of a barn, now, than a home, but the discarded parts would in any case be safe from the elements.

in a flight of fancy he designed and mounted a barn quilt on the side of the old building. covertly, it served double duty as a transmitter for the building’s remote surveillance gear.

with the project’s completion étienne considered the inventory crisis—at least the one lately manifest within the confines of his responsibilities—solved.

and there wasn’t a soul alive he could tell about it.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #64 (2018/02/06)

thrice great hermes

#64

by stanley lieber

quit complaining. stress hormone levels rise by fifteen percent after ten minutes of complaining.

étienne closed the message and closed his leaf. he got back to work.

later, at home, he stressed out, complaining about his day at work. when he realized what was happening he thought about the message he had received in his company mail, warning him about complaining. he decided to try to calm down and take it easy.

one consideration was the age of the equipment. much of the old technology took up more space than could be justified by the capacity it carried. at the same time, the services it still provided could not just be switched off. the customers had contracts. a complicated cut procedure, requiring meticulous planning, was one of his primary work functions. but this process took time, and the migration from old to new was not keeping pace with the deterioration of the old network. obsolete facilities could not be repaired when the old equipment failed and replacement parts were not available. so, what to do when something broke and there was no way to fix it? étienne was still responsible for the downtime. he supposed part of what they were paying him for was to take the fall.

larceny was employed. from one surveillance shack to the next, idle surplus equipment was purloined to be installed elsewhere, where it was needed. increasingly this method was used to secure reliable services, quite outside the official inventory procedure. it was a violation of company policy, but then, so was allowing a preventable service interruption. étienne figured someone higher up would be able to see this.

sometimes the trip to fetch a spare plug would consume the better part of his shift. on these occasions étienne would finish his work (restoring service to the problem circuit) and go home without writing down his usual detailed notes. days or weeks afterward he would find himself unable to recall the details of what he had done, and why.

he had begun carrying with him the small painting kit violet had given him as a christmas present, some years before. and a portable record player, which seemed preposterous, especially since he only owned one record: miles davis, bitches brew. 180 gram vinyl, but the second lp from the set, and its sleeve, had gone missing. he had had to repair the player’s frayed power cord before he could listen to his solitary scratched record.

he didn’t get it.

index
patreon





thrice great hermes #62 (2018/02/05)

thrice great hermes

#62

by stanley lieber

EVERYTHING IS TRUE, NOTHING IS DELETED

WHITE, BROWN, RED, WHITE, GRAY, BROWN, WHITE, WHITE, GRAY, WHITE,

BLACK, RED, WHITE, BLACK, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, BLACK, WHITE, WHITE,

BLACK, WHITE, BLACK, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, RED, WHITE, WHITE, GRAY,

WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, BLACK BLACK BLACK,

BROWN, PURPLE, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, WHITE, GRAY, WHITE, BLACK.

index
patreon