Below is an excerpt from SOMETHING TO DO WITH SELF-HATE by Brian Alan Ellis. It just came out. Buy the book here, and get the audiobook here. Narrated by Mary Moore. Let’s party.



YOU CELEBRATE WITH Jen-Jen, and Moon­burst, and Gretchy (and possibly a Liz­beth or a Som­mer), perhaps a few others; none of whom share Willa’s name, so they aren’t all that important. But like her they are hundreds of bones wrapped in soft flesh, each with a par­ticular voice, though none of their voices are any­thing like Wil­la’s; they don’t sing.

Regardless, you are once again an unfur­nished com­panion, a limited-time visitor, in the lives of oth­ers—some with parents; some only mothers or fathers, or neither. Some of them have too much money, or not enough money. Lizbeth (or Sommer?) has a son who is deaf. Jen-Jen says she’s less than a corpse. One of them barely speaks English, another barely speaks. One has some bullshit rocker glove push-pinned to her wall. One has a St. Bernard and a bean­bag chair. One takes too many down­ers and then farts in her sleep.

Most of these people celebrate by sharing their life stories—at least the parts they’re willing to share—and it’s all very dull. Willa, however, was never dull—you hung yourself with every word she spoke.

Moonburst gets pissed you won’t snort coke off her tit­ties. When you tell her you’re hurt­ing, she leaves.

Later, you hear whimpering coming from outside. So you investigate, only to find Moon­burst splayed out in a bush on your neighbors’ yard.

“You gonna help me up, fuckhead?”

You answer her by going back inside your house and locking up.

Moonburst, in intervals, spends the next hour screaming and banging on your front door. She badly wants in, especially when it starts raining. You wish you had a tran­quilizer gun, or perhaps neigh­bors mer­ciful enough to call the cops on this wily savage. Not even your roommates seem to care.

Nobody cares anymore.

In fact, they are probably enjoying the excitement quietly from their rooms, listen­ing to you squirm.


Finally, having settled down some, Moonburst asks if she can come in to use the toilet. “Just num­ber one,” she says. You tell her to go in a bush. “Please! I’ll leave you alone if you just let me in to pee. I swear.”

You immediately regret your decision as Moon-burst calmly pulls down her panties, lifts her trite hippie dress, and then smirks as she squats to piss in front of you, on your living room floor.

You can’t believe it.

So you shove her back outside, slam the door, lock it, and listen, disbelieving, as she climbs into some strange vehicle that pulls up and just as quickly tears off into the rain-soaked night.

You celebrate while a midnight sky sheds tears over pick-pocketed a.m. streets. You are the only living thing. Though, from somewhere, you hear chirping from the ter­rible kissing mouths of birds—somehow elec­tric—when all else seems to have short-circuited.

You celebrate while hidden behind the old church, watching as two lovers disappear into an abandoned white house. They do it like two horny shadows. They don’t notice you, and you hate them for it; you must be ghost-like.

So you celebrate the wet ground by mastur­bating upon the wet grass. And your fin­gers are cocked like a pistol pointing sky­ward. Dreams loaded, one by one, you shoot out all the stars, one by one. Next, you aim for the moon but let it be; it only shines its beautiful loneli­ness up­on ugly humanity.

No problem.

Moon is God.

Willa is Goddess, and you must open fire upon her. And like a true martyr she will fall, smiling, from her damn heaven.

And you too will smile. Big and goofy.

And if the midnight angels choose to shower you again with love, blessed be rank and gold­en.

You celebrate while your tongue is inside Gretchy, who comes in half-hearted spasms while gyrating her marshmallow body—the kind of body you as­sume certain serial kill­ers would cut up into tiny pieces to feed to their pets. Think­ing she’s had enough, you turn to face the wall. But Gretchy isn’t through—she cuddles you, whis­pers in your ear, nibbles your shoulder, and tries reviving your inter­est with thick, sausage fingers. It’s no use, yet you feel obliged, so with your body still turned towards the wall, you reach behind and begin fingering Gretchy. The angle is exhausting and tricky, however, and before long you have given up and fallen asleep. Angry and rest­less, Gretchy doesn’t know what to do. And you don’t care. You can’t.

You consider celebrating with Rita again, and then die some.

You celebrate with that asshole from Hector’s party. The one whose head you imagined was on fire, the “exit strategy” guy. You ran into him at a bar, and after Number Two, you swore you were absolutely done with men, but you got drunk and were offered pills—and later, a free Burger King meal—and reaf­firmation is sometimes key, so what the hell, right? And here you are, on your stomach, as Exit Strategy pounds you from behind, and his stupid-ass St. Ber­nard watches from a taped-up beanbag chair in the corner of the room—the dog’s fat, ugly head is tilted at a weird angle, like it’s confused, which makes two of you—and yes, it’s all very dull, and the pills are wearing off, and the shame is setting in, and another Whopper would be nice, and Goddamn, Willa, why have you left me in this horrible world to fend for myself!? and you can tell Exit Strategy (loser!) is pleased with himself as he plops down beside you while firing up his bong, and he doesn’t ask your opinion about the whole sad situation, which is a relief, and you tell him you need to use his bathroom to shit and he says he doesn’t have any toilet paper and you die some, and he tries being cute by tickling you and you tell him to fuck off while your legs kick the dirty sheets off the bed from being tickled, and as you go to retrieve the dirty sheets you’ve kicked off the bed while being tickled and telling Exit Strat­egy to fuck off, you reach inside a Kleenex box on the nightstand, but it’s empty so you grab the Burger King to-go bag from off the floor and you use that to wipe, instead.

You celebrate while Jen-Jen lay knead­ing the bleached strands of otherwise dark hair hang­ing in a slight curve above her left eye, which probably makes her seem enigmatic to others, like a great mystery to unlock, but whatever.

“I wish things were harder,” she says.


“I’d just like to know how it feels,” she says, “to have a broken heart.”


“It’d just be nice.”

“What would?”

“To be able to relate,” she says, “to a sad song.”

You pull her towards you, stiffly, with lit­tle finesse. And while kissing her, you place a hand inside her pant­ies. What you expect to feel down there is a surge of warmth and wetness, yet some­how a dry coldness is all your fingers are privy to. Down there she is ice.

“It won’t work,” she says. “My cunt is a frig­id bitch. You’d have better luck with a cadaver.”

You contemplate the benefits of falling in love with a cadaver.

“For real,” she says, “I’m broken. I can’t even get myself off. Sex is painful to me.”

You offer your services anyway, as though you have some mystical prowess over the anat­omy of damaged people—like you have any clue about any­thing at all—and this only angers Jen-Jen.

“It won’t work,” she says. “Don’t you under­stand? Can’t you trust me on this?”

It’s no use. You take back your hand, which smells like rust, and you keep smelling it discreetly while lighting two cigarettes, one of which you silently pass to Jen-Jen. The words are either too shy or too stub­born to come out. The two of you are twin corpses bled dry; the words cower.

And it isn’t until both cigarettes are fin­ished and stamped politely into the ashtray resting between Jen-Jen’s breasts that she asks if you mind walking her to her car. And though it’s late and you’re tired and everything smells like an old playground and the car is parked several blocks away, you agree to do so.

And so you get your appearances in order. You do it with quick and vacant precision. And when you start to leave, she says to you, “When we get there, you want a ride back to your place?”

“No, that’s okay,” you tell her. “It’s a good night for walking.”

“Yeah,” she says. “Nice breeze out.”

You nod. Nobody moves. You both just stand there, expectant. Then she whispers to herself, “Yep, yep, fuck a ride,” and the two of you remain static, waiting for something to happen, for this nightmare to scare you both awake.

It takes a while.

But even your nightmares are celebrations:

Love is pain, such sharp and ridiculous pain.

You say this as Number Three feeds you what Grandma Jean would call a “knuckle sandwich.”

Love is a jealous hell hound digging its claws into your throat.

Your blood feels warm as it swims beneath the swell­ing of your flesh.

Love is the softener of humanity, the immortal undoing of one’s strength and char­ac­ter.

Number One goes completely Fight Club on your ass.

With love, loss trails closely behind; it sits perched in love’s shadow, waiting to strike at any given moment.

You nearly choke from swallowing your front teeth, a courtesy breaking via a Num­ber Two round­house kick.

O the shame of—

You are interrupted by the sound of your ribs snap­ping.

O the shame of sentiment—

You try again.

O the possibility of love left grieving beneath a hopeless moon.

It is now very difficult to speak, to breathe, when half the wind has been bashed out of you. But you must con­tinue. Yes, you must.

Broken, I bury myself within the terror of an empty night as—

You pause to scream as Willa stomps out your right eye with her skate.

—one thousand phantom birds cry out.

You know now that you have been left to die alone. You know this because you had watched the numbers vanish. You’d watched with your one good eye.

O the impossibility!

 Mr. Meowgi appears, though it is actually Moon­burst’s head on the body of a gray tabby, and you scream as it picks at what’s left of you, which isn’t much. Will it piss on you? Of course it will. It pisses fire, and you burn. And it is getting very dark. And all you can do now is wonder, though it is nearly impos­sible to pin­point, where all the good luck has gone.

You celebrate waking up.

You celebrate while shakily rubbing the bad sleep from your eyes. You celebrate while star­ing into the bathroom mirror, realizing just how ugly, how crimi­nally defec­tive the person looking back at you is.

Your eyes appear as though they’ve spent several rounds gazing into the taped fists of Ronda Rousey, or—what’s their face?—the “Ice Man,” “The Beast.” Those caged maniac moth­erfuckers.

Oh, and the scars (yikes!)—reminiscent of just how much a drunken, careless idiot you can be, if provoked.

And what about the mind?

To hell with that—your mind is an open wound, a butcher shop, a grizzly CSI cold case, a crude laugh­ter in the dark, a spook house all-nighter, all of it.

You remember what it was like inside of Willa—how snug, how perfect—her body a warm and gentle tomb. A sort of rebirth. Yet now that another has been given that very priv­ilege, your faith does noth­ing but flow like a nosebleed on fire down the river Styx.

Smoldering Love, will you please curl up and die already? Must you be the first to go?

And what about the sun?

The sun doesn’t give two shits.

And what about your courage?

It takes lots of that to exist beneath some­thing so bright and burning and unrelenting, even kicking Christ in the teeth.

A new celebratory low is reached when you and Siouxsie Shocker spend the night drink­ing red wine from the bottle and eating ran­dom pills—a night of suicidal pas­sion; of tribal tattoos and pierced eye­brows and bad vibes—and you both take turns vom­it­ing into a garbage bag—and you see the infamous glove fastened to the wall, the Rik Teaze sig­nature—a cruel reminder of your lot in life—and you don’t even get to meet the room­mate, Buzz (or Bill), which is a shame because he’s supposedly a really cool guy.

Sommer (or is it Lizbeth?) celebrates by pum­meling you with her bullshit, and you die some. You die some a lot.

You wonder what Willa is doing, whose clothes lay scattered on her bedroom floor. Are you even guest-starring in the sitcom thoughts jangling inside her TV head?

Thoughts of Willa march through you like machine gun fire. They empty you, take you apart. Make you their bitch.

She is the ship you can never captain. You are the anchor dropped and abandoned at the ocean’s bot­tom, rusted and growing old again.

Nobody is good to one other.

Nobody is good to anyone.

“Hey,” says Sommer (or Lizbeth). “Hey! What’s wrong with you, are you even listen­ing to me?”

You contemplate whether or not Lizbeth (or Som­mer) will just shut up and fall asleep if you give her what she came here for, half wanting it, knowing it’ll more than likely be lousy.



BRIAN ALAN ELLIS is the author of several books, most recently a story collection, Failure Pie in a Sadness Face, and a novel,Something to Do with Self-Hate. He lives in Florida.