I don’t know a lot of things.

I remember hearing a story about a businessman and fisherman somewhere in Mexico, a story that I can’t quite recall now but that I am certain sums up my feelings as I stared out that window. I think of things, and they happen. I’ve seen a lot of crazy people.

I’ve never tried to sell anything really. Me. These are my days.

My childhood is a collection of Saturday afternoons filled with the smell of hot oil in the air and a pan full of freshly cooked, cornmeal covered fish on the table. One couple was cautioned not to open the pantry door because I didn’t want the rat to get out before I could set a trap. Apparently the house was shown to a family of drunken ogres.

If you’re unfamiliar with its exact location, it is seven hours east of Houston and two hours south of New Orleans.

This isn’t a goddamn pleasure cruise! I’m serious here, people. The Gulf Coast of the United States is a self-contained biosphere. Remember?

I don’t neeeeeeed a camera ‘cause I keep all the pictures right here in my head.

That may be a bit of writer’s embellishment on my part, but still, 4-6 foot waves in a fast boat sucks. That, and who doesn’t love bean bags?

I won’t pretend that my time there has been completely positive, but it has been eye opening.

Comedians tend to latch on to one thing and drive it into the ground. It is awkward. Get used to them. If they were ever captured, their insanity pleas would be airtight.

When I was eighteen I worked at a grocery store. I was a bit incredulous. It was never unselfish. I in no way ever felt like I was doing some great service to these men. Visibility was zero. People were neglecting their families to race after a paycheck that would only buy more things that probably wouldn’t make them as happy as time with their family would have. A lot of fat girls in there, too. I like these people, I thought to myself.

It is intense. It blows hard there. It was like screaming into a jet engine. I yelled as the spray washed over my face.

Good, said Life.

I’ve always found it disrespectful to the whiskey gods to add anything to it but ice. While you have to pee.


I’m pretty sure all those suicide bombers blow themselves up just to cool off. Their stories are never that mundane. Crazy is such a relative term anyway. They’re heroes.

They look like sharks, if sharks flew in pairs and had massive guns hanging from their skin. They hovered and buzzed and landed on everything, their bodies stuck to traps in black masses, while thousands of others swarmed, still alive and hungry.

There was the dust and then there were the flies.

Perhaps it was even Life’s way of keeping me humble.

The cameraman fell down. He looked slightly green. He wasn’t kidding. There’s a world where bombs go off and people carry guns and other people will blow themselves up because God told them to. At 40,000 feet, things fall into perspective.

I remain baffled at why the country of Iraq is so hotly contested. Who’s shooting cows?

The Muslims can pretend that they defend the region for religious reasons, but even they at some point would have to admit that no god, Allah or otherwise, has come anywhere close to caring about that hell hole for some time. What is important is Jerome.

I sat with my feet up on my desk, a cup of coffee in front of me, and Rage Against the Machine cranked as loud as my stereo could manage. The air conditioner was broken. She tried desperately, hopelessly, to cover her eyes. Her cheeks vibrated as the burning air clawed at her face. It rocked her back and forth and made her skin quiver and flap. She gave me a quick thumbs up.

Weird, I thought. I feel fine.

Eventually we gave up. I know I left that night having had an incredible time. It was totally worth the wet blue jeans.

I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m doing the right thing or if I’m in the right place or if I’m not supposed to be somewhere else with someone else doing something else. So I am going to spend my day the way I want to, and that way doesn’t include a bathroom full of Japanese people. Exactly what I said I would do. There was a long pause. I wasn’t very confident myself.

Over lunch the imaginary bird miraculously disappeared and a much saner man emerged. And then he died. I didn’t even know he was sick. I grabbed another slice of pizza. The latter was deeply disturbing.

You can talk about my age if you want. Years ago I used to make a habit of randomly picking up homeless people and taking them for fast food. When is it my turn?

It was never unselfish. I live here. I’m trying to work out a better arrangement. I do have the right.

It’s cool.

Can we talk about this?

TAGS: , ,

JUSTIN BENTON has written for the Nervous Breakdown since 2009. He co-authored Board with Brad Listi, a literary collage released by TNB Books in 2012. He is now a father and is currently writing an ongoing pantoum poem you can find here.

25 responses to “Slayed Ham”

  1. Courtney says:

    Brilliant….I’m a huge fan of the remix.

  2. Becky Palapala says:

    Courtesy of David Shields.

    Or whatever his name was.

  3. Becky Palapala says:

    No no no… TNB Flarf.

  4. Richard Cox says:

    Editing is where the real genius lies.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Nice work. Slayed Ham. Very funny!

  6. D.R. Haney says:

    I love it when you post, JB.

  7. Simone says:

    Two thumbs up!!

  8. Don Mitchell says:

    Waiting for Janet Webster’s comment . . . .

  9. Joe Daly says:

    Greatest Hits compilations- essential for road trips and morning coffee.

  10. Lorna says:

    And this is exactly why I have been a loyal reader for over 2 years.

    It’s funny that you wrote this, I was thinking the other day of the many quotes I would like to steel off of this site.

    You are all brilliant and I thank each and every one of you for giving me the giggles. Even the writers that weren’t trying to make me laugh get my appreciation, wanted or not.

    I’m so happy I found you, TNB.

  11. I read the entire thing out loud in my best auto-tune voice, while a remix of B.T. Express’ “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” played underneath.

  12. Slade Ham says:

    Man, I have been remixed *inserts record scratch*. This may actually be the best thing I’ve written.

    Now, is it strange that I only remember writing a few of these lines?

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Once upon a time
      A writer’s task
      Was just to write stories
      What more could you ask
      But then came remixes,
      Scratches and cuts
      Which was too much for many,
      Drove some writers nuts.
      But the writer named Slayed
      Has reigned supreme
      As the glitter pen zips
      Across the Moleskine ream
      So read it at night, and once more after breakfast
      When he rides in the paragraph rodeo,
      He’s reckless

      …insert scratch break here…

  13. Jordan Ancel says:

    Excellent remix.

    And next… a Slayed Ham roast?

  14. Erika Rae says:

    “I’m pretty sure all those suicide bombers blow themselves up just to cool off.”

    My all time fav.

    Justin, this was AWESOME. I feel like I just took a bath in Ham. Which is kinda weird if you think about it too much, so don’t. Just stop. But this was so cool to read to a champagne buzz (thank you very much, Uche).

  15. Nice post, Justin. Slade’s stories trip me out. Real hamdingers. Whenever I’m having a down day, I go to TNB.com, read some Slade Ham and view a Ted McCagg cartoon. It’s like digital Prozac.

  16. This is priceless, like the best Ace of Base mix tape. Kudos.

  17. Greg Olear says:

    I feel like I should reassemble some vintage JB comments to paste here in lieu of my own, but I don’t have time, alas.

    Most creative, Justin, as usual.

  18. […] Asshole analyst and synthetic Ham. […]

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