Tyger Linn and Prison

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Tyger Linn is not an overly needy dog so I was surprised when she got up on the bed and tucked herself quite neatly against my body with her head under by chin. This is Tyger’s way of letting me know she wants to be held, like a puppy, and even though I want to nap, and it’s going to be hard to get to sleep with Tyger nestled against me like this. There’s some reason inside of this little girl that caused her to come to me wanting comfort. So the nap can wait, and Tyger gets petted on her ears as she dozes in and out of sleep, pushing me with her nose when I stop.

 

In an alternative universe, Tyger Linn is an only dog with an older person as an owner and I think she would be happier that way. But then again, there is no way of telling what is reality except that one we’re sensing right now, clouded by prejudices and desires, perceived poorly by soft machines that are tragically flawed. One beer more and I might not have cared about the person of a striped persuasion, or perhaps, one less and I would have been more reasonable and not tried to rescue the violent little street dog.

 

 

Very few of the dogs I have rescued have been abuse cases, and Tyger arrived in good health, physically, but clearly she was accustomed to fighting for food, space, attention, and for her life. Every disagreement was a fight and every fight was to the end. The reality Tyger Linn lived in there was very little love or affection and no comfort. Sleeping on the bed was something that Tyger delighted in the first time I allowed her. She had to learn not to sleep in the middle, so there would be room for others, and for me, and her was taught not to growl at me, or the other dogs once she was on the bed. But there is something to be said for a bed. It beats the hell out of sleeping on the ground, in the open, or in a cage.

 

While in reasonably good health, Tyger did arrive with a great deal of food aggression. She ate very quickly, scarfing down mouthfuls of food as quickly as she could, growling at me if I got near, and then she was off to do battle for the food of other dogs. Tyger learned very quickly that no one is allowed to steal here, and no one will ever starve under my roof. It took some doing, but in the end, Tyger learned to sit and wait for her bowl to be filled, and she learned to stay away from other dogs while they eat. Comfort and food go a very long way in getting a dog to settle into a pack. Love helps a lot, too.

 

When we see this, and if you rescue dogs you do see it, we assume it’s a natural thing. We assume that if we do the right things the right way, no matter how damaged the dog might be, we can pull it back from the edge, and wind up with a mild mannered lap dog. It’s true, it’s possible, and while Tyger is not exactly perfect right now, the little girl has come a very long way. The clashes are less frequent and far less violent now. Tyger isn’t interested in prolonged conflict with anyone for any reason now. She has her bowl and she has her place. And when need arises, Tyger gets to get up on the bed and curl up beside me, and be comforted.

 

 

It’s odd. As many people who might applaud this rescue of a street dog destined for the needle, there seems to be a blindness when we speak of rescuing human beings. If you can agree that love and comfort will heal the violent street dog and guide her into being a trusted member of a pack, why is it we jam human beings into cages and expect them to be released in a better form? We cringe at the idea of high kill shelters churning out dead pets as quickly as they can be brought in and put down, yet we have become so accustomed to prisons being the only answer to crime and criminals, that we do not wonder any more that they do more harm than good. If prisons work then why do we keep having so many criminals?

 

 

 

It’s difficult to rehab a dog, especially one who is violent. It’s got to be even harder to rehab a human being. Yet with all the millions we spend, are we actually making things worse? I can point to Tyger Linn and tell you that she is a success story, that people can pet her and hug her, and she’s okay with other dogs, but can you take someone out of prison and feel comfortable letting your kids live next to that person? The perception is there, even if it isn’t true. We do not trust our system of punishment to produce favorable results. We use a system to damage human beings and then we blame them for that damage.

 

 

No, I have no answers. I cannot tell you that allowing criminals to sleep on beds and be petted will solve the world’s problems and we’ll all sleep with our doors unlocked. If there was an easy answer here then the world would beat a path to my door and we would all live happily ever after. There is no cure here.

 

 

What this is, in the end, is a question. Why can we do no better? Why is it that we have the wherewithal to seek the retraining of dogs in need yet there are over one million of our citizens in prison right now without any hope of doing more than sitting and waiting for their time to be up?

 

Tyger Linn stirs in her sleep, sighs, and then returns to slumber. This is a damaged being, mistreated by humans, and mistrustful still, at times of their intentions. But it has been worth all that I have done, and it will be worth all I will do.

 

Take Care,

 

Cup And Plates

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When I had served my sentence in the Unites States Army, I rented an apartment in Valdosta, Georgia and began my life anew. I had decided that I was going to do two things in life that I had always wanted to do; I would learn to cook the food I liked, and I would learn to eat spicy food. The former is a very reasonable talent to be desirous of, and the latter merely a function of both curiosity and bravado. As the military is not conducive to keeping household goods, as soon as I ran out of paper plates I ventured forth to find “real” plates.

 

There were other items that were on my list; a measuring cup, a set of flatware, and some glass drinking glasses, as the red solo cups become brittle after a few washes. I ventured forth on foot to a local K-Mart, some two miles away or more, because gas was more expensive than the wear and tear on my feet.

 

You are never really fully aware, or fully appreciative of how good food is until you have to cook it yourself, and it’s a product of your own investment in time and skill. I could afford salt and pepper, but that was bout all in my spice rack, and I didn’t own one of those, but like most people who start out poor, there’s a lot to be said for being forced into doing well with what you have. Baking was out of the question, but I did learn that simple meals can be prepared to be better than the sum of their parts.

 

Believe it or not, I was shocked to discover rice takes forty minutes to boil. Rice is one of those dishes that there is just so many ways to flavor it that it might be considered a spice of sorts. I was surprised that it took chicken as long as it did to cook, too. I baked a whole chicken once and followed a recipe that required nearly one and a half hours of cooking, and some stuff inside of the chicken. It came out perfect.

 

But the journey to get plates became a surreal thing because once at the store, I realized that a man cannot simply walk into a store and buy plates. Each set of plates came with tea cups, tea cup saucers, and bowls. None of this stuff survived the many moves between here and then, but two of the original four plates did. But it took a while to pick out a pattern. I finally went with the cheapest and was done with it. I also bought a plastic measuring cup. This was in January of 1985. I still have that plastic measuring cup.

 

 

In 1985, grocery bags and shopping bags were still paper, and I began the journey back. One thing the Army teaches you is to walk. You walk everywhere in the Army, so two miles or four miles, or even ten miles meant nothing to me, even while carrying a bag that had plates in it. It was a very cold day, and I shifted the bag from one hand to the other to keep at least one hand warm. Left, left, left, right, left, the steady four miles an hour walk had me and the plates home in less than half an hour.

 

There are things that define how you intend to live. If you are going to cook then you are going to need pots, pans, kitchen utensils past a spoon and fork and a large knife to cut with. I greedily accumulated these things, one or two at a time, and I learn that you do not have to have a certain instrument, such s a bread knife, but if you bake bread then having a bread knife is a wonderful thing. You don’t have to have a collider or a strainer, using a plate, one of the new plates, to block the spaghetti from escaping the pot while the water is drained is perfectly fine, if not a little dangerous, but it will do.

 

It took me a while to understand how to boil pasta perfectly. It took me a while to understand how much salt to add to the water, and how much butter to put on the noodles, and how much time to allow them to boil. I ate my mistakes, because food could not be wasted. I still yearn for crunchy spaghetti sometimes.

 

 

I bought a jalapeno pepper and it nearly killed me as I tried to eat it. But I did begin to understand how to cook with hot peppers, and I did understand that past bragging about being able to eat hot food, there was some very serious flavor to be had in the heat. Learning to cook, and learning to cook spicy food went hand in hand, and I began to understand why people bothered to seek heat. It would be years before I started looking for, and being able to fine, really hot peppers, but the desire to look within them, and past the heat, never left me.

 

 

The plate I washed this morning after breakfast is older than a lot of people I know. I stopped, looked at it, saw the fissure that had begun, and realized that over the last thirty-three years, many meals have passed over that piece of porcelain.  Friends, roommates, girlfriends, a wife, and many dogs have likely had a meal on that plate. Its days are numbered, and eventually it will crack and fail, and the pieces will find up in the trashcan, and this post is likely to be the last reminder it existed at all.

 

 

Yet there was a time when that plate was one of a dozen things I owned that belonged in the kitchen. I had a set of flatware, four glasses, and a wooden spoon. (Bert chewed the wooden spoon into pieces.) I couldn’t cook, but I wanted to. I didn’t know how to do the things I wanted to do, but I learned. That’s how life goes, in the kitchen, or anywhere else.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

 

Not Dreams

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I don’t remember all of my dreams but I do remember a lot of them. Some of them are unformed, not really defined as events or people, but they’re just thoughts or ideas that were pulled out of the oven too soon. I’ve woken up feeling afraid, or sad, or elated, and the remnants of a dream be just out of memory’s reach, like a lover who gets out of the bed, and your hand misses hers by an inch. I dozed off and was jerked awake by something that was nearly a dream, somewhere in my mind, but it’s gone now, and asking me to describe it would be like asking me to tell you who was driving the car that just passed in front of the house, a third of a mile away. I can only tell you I think I heard a car go by, and nothing else.

Budlore was sick last night, into the early part of the morning, and I stayed up with him, cleaning puke up off the floor. I dozed a couple of times, and saw images, at least twice of charcoal drawings, of faces, contorted as if someone sketched out Pompeii’s last moments.  Where did this come from? I didn’t recognize the faces. They were just human forms yet not entirely finished, like the dreams that aren’t quite there yet.

 

Bud is usually energetic and exuberant. To see him down and out is disconcerting. This is the first time he’s been sick since he arrived and it’s disheartening. I can only sit with him and clean up the puke, and wait for this to pass.

 

I drift off to sleep and the dreams are fragmented and disconnected. It’s like trying to read the pages of a book as they are spewed out the end of a wood chipper. The scene and people change quickly, erratically, and there is no transition. The faces in the drawing are back, and I can tell gender, but that’s all. They seem to be colored in black, as if in shadow or night, and they all seem to be in some anguish.

 

I get up because Bud is hacking again, but he seems to be less sick. I sit on a blanket on the floor and hold Bud, and this might be the first time in his life someone had held him when he’s been sick. I lie down with him and he sleeps. I drift again, and the dreams do not come, but stay just out of reach, like someone speaking on the other side of a restaurant.

There’s a story here, where a person sees faces that have been drawn and that person doesn’t know why. Let’s start out with a female lead character, a very young woman, who isn’t an artist at all, and she’s trying to figure out what these visions she has means. They begin one night after she’s been drinking, and she wonders if she has a problem.

The woman’s name is Tory and she works for a lawyer. She has to serve an eviction notice one day and the man about to be dispossessed is an artist living in a terribly shabby and totally dark apartment; he’s blind. Sure enough, when she’s inside she see one of his drawings and it’s one of the faces she’s seen, she thinks, but she cannot be sure. The next day she tries to find him but he’s gone. The dreams become more vivid, the faces more clear, and Tory is convinced the man drew one of them, and perhaps more. She finds him by accident, near the river, about to jump. She looks at his drawings and realizes that they are the faces she’s seen.

She lets him stay at her place and he draws. The energy between them sharpens the dreams, and his drawings. At work, her employer is working on a missing person case, and setting up a substantial reward. The photo of the missing girl looks exactly like one of the faces in the dream, and one of the drawings.

 

They sit and wonder what the connection is between the two of them, and the people in the drawings. Is the girl alive or has she been murdered? Tory looks at the drawing and realizes the girl looks as if she is still alive, and she asks the artist, Archer, if he will try to draw the missing girl again.

 

Tory asks her employer about the girl, and he tells her that he was contacted by the girl’s mother, who believes her ex-husband has taken their daughter, but she doesn’t know where he is. Tory goes in search of the woman, but finds her dead. She returns to her home to find that Archer has drawn the woman’s face.

 

They both are at a loss as to how this is happening or why. They do not understand why he draws what she sees in her dreams. They make love on the floor, passionately, nearly accidentally, for they both fear the passion they’ve kept secret. Unleashed in this is a melding, where she can speak to him of her visions, and he understand now how to draw them. They sit on the floor, an invisible steam rising from their bodies from the heat, and they speak in whispers, seeking the girl, seeking her fate, looking for a connection, and finally there is a building, a home, where she might be held, and the woman had seen this house before. She asks Archer to draw a face, the face of a man, and she closes her eyes and allows her vision to take her, and she sees the girl chained to a bed, and she knows the man is near, he is coming down the steps, and he means to use her for his gain, for ransom, and his evil is plain and finally, Archer tells Tory to look up and he had drawn the face of her employer, and they realize what he is.

 

Take Care,

Mike

Who Killed Lacey Warren?

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It’s been dozens of years since I ever heard the name, and there was no reason for me to hear it. Even in a very small town and a very small county, there are people you’ve got so little in common with that spending twelve years in the public school system means you discover there not only is nothing in common but likely never will be. His name was Van, which was short for some family name, and to me, family names are just a lack of imagination. Family names once meant something with titles or things like that, but seriously, I think names ought to be legally binding for five years and then everyone ought to have the option of changing. His name, though might have sounded Dutch, he said it was from a family from the English moors. I had to look it up, to find out what a moor was.

 

The schism occurs somewhere around the seventh or eighth grade, maybe earlier, but there were those of us who destined to drink, and smoke pot, and do those things they had tried to indoctrinate us against, and there were those who were not going to do those things. I was the standard bearer of the drinkers, the smokers, and those who were going to try the things that terrified the others. Van was on the other side, soundly, and definitively. While I was going shots of tequila on top of the school on a Saturday night he was a youth counselor for a local church.  If I kept a bag with the words he and I exchanged in it I wouldn’t be able to make out a decent grocery list of the contents. After High School he joined the military, I cannot remember which branch, and I never thought I would see him again.

 

I started seeing a woman, named Kerri, who was a nurse, and she worked some in Hospice, and one day she asked me, tell me where did you go to High School again? What was the name of that little town? What year did you graduate? I was nearly fifty years old and those questions slowly faded away from conversation decades ago. “There’s a man in Hospice, dying of cancer, and he told me today that he went to your school, and graduated the same year.” Kerri looked at me with a very odd expression on her face, “He asked me to ask you if you remembered Lacey Warren.”

 

We went to see Van the next day and I wasn’t sure it was the same person. Over thirty years had passed and the disease that raged inside of him had changed his facial expression as surely as three decades had changed his body. He was always tall and thin, but now he was a Death Camp prisoner, inside his own body, and it was not long at all before his execution. The tubes had been removed. All attempts to keep life in shell were abandoned and only pain medications were being given.

“I retired here,” Van said without bothering with introduction, “and I spent my entire life trying to become the person you never thought about being.” He laughed and started coughing. “But now, after getting morphine and OxyContin, I wonder if you weren’t right. I understand the draw now. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? You can be alive and not feel pain. I had no idea such a thing was possible.

When Lacey disappeared, I prayed that I would be the one who found her. I wanted to be the hero. I wanted to be the one who carried her to her parents. I thought it would be something that proved that God meant for me to good things, and that people would see it in me.” Van coughed hard, and then closed his eyes. Briefly, I thought he might have died.

“You were there,” Van opened his eyes and they were filled with hate, “and you were going to ruin it for me. How could someone like you be part of God’s Plan? I spent my night in prayer and reading the Bible and you stole all the baseball equipment the day before the playoffs. We forfeited that game. I know you did it. Everyone knew you did it. But it all reappeared the day after. I have to know, how did you do it?” He coughed again, and once again, I thought he was dead. His eyes opened again. “Tell me,” he rasped.

“I used a bench as a ladder, and I hid it on top of the ceiling tiles,” I told him. “It was hanging over their heads the entire time they were looking for it. They wouldn’t let me play, so I decided not to let them play.”

“That’s defined your mindset,” Van tried to sneer at me, “you were a vengeful and demonic young man.”

“What happened to Lacey?” I asked.

“I found her,” Van said. “There was an old shed, you remember the old shed don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“You and those potheads you led around like zombies where right there, and I found here, but I knew you and the others would claim you helped find her so I didn’t say anything. Your selfishness infected me. I didn’t want you to have anything to do with the rescue. I thought she was sleeping so I didn’t say anything.” Van coughed hard and tears came out of his eyes. “I went back. It was no more than an hour later, and Lacey was gone.”

“Van, it’s the morphine,” I told him, “Lacey was found miles away from that area, I remember that, she was found in Seminole County, it was an hour away. A six year old isn’t walking that far.”

“She was left in that shed, and it was there she was murdered,” Van said. “Our Pastor, Billy Womack did it. He moved the body. You remembered he killed himself? When we left the shed that day I told him we didn’t find her, and I saw something in his eyes, I didn’t know what it was, but he lingered around where we parked. I left and came back and he was gone. Lacey was, too. I went through the shed, and the woods, and I thought it was my fault she was dead. The next day I sought out the Pastor to tell him what had happened, and he thought I came to confront him. He confessed to me and then shot himself.” Van was shaking with tears and a sound came from his soul, the sound of a dying man whose pain could not be slacked anymore. “You’ve never feared Hell, have you?”

“No, it doesn’t exist.” I said.

“I have discovered the solace of drugs and atheism,” Van laughed, “in the final moment of my life. Tell Lacey’s parents to forgive me.” And he his eyes remained open, fixed, but his breathing had stopped.

 

 

 

“Are you going to tell her parents,” Kerri asked me as we drank. She told me she never drank after a death, but in this case she would make an exception.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.

“Why?”

“Van was telling the truth when he said that I was there, at that shed, and I remember him saying there wasn’t anything inside of it,” I told her, “and we tracked north, towards the river to look for her. But Womack didn’t stick around after we searched that area.” I told her.

“Are you certain?” Kerri asked.

“Yep,” I replied. “Womack was a closet pot head and I was his connection. He gave me a ride home that day, and we took the scenic route to burn a joint or three. Van was lying about Womack moving the body, and I think he was lying about everything else, too.”

“You think Van killed her?”

“I think Van killed her, and then hid the body in Seminole County.” I said. “And he went to Womack for spiritual guidance and whatever Womack told Van it was bad enough for Van to kill him.”

“Damn.” Kerri took a hit off the bottle and handed it to me.

“Yeah.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Woman

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Dear Woman,

It was odd seeing you naked, and I shouldn’t have looked, but I did, and perhaps it’s an inner failing of mine I never regretted looking, yet now it’s too late to ask you if you wanted me to, and if that’s why it happened. You left the door partially open, just enough for me to see, but not enough for me to think it was intentional, except for these years later. I remember watching you getting ready to get dressed, for longer than I should have, your back to me, your face hidden as you searched a drawer for something or you pretended to, and the mirror reflecting your breasts. After three kids your body was still young, still taut, still firm and only a slight spread at the hips hinted at motherhood. I wish I had not look, not seen, and not begun the desire.

 

It was easy to stay away from you. Yet there were times I would come by, always when your kids or husband was home, and later you told me you realized what I was doing, and how I was doing it, and it was so subtle that you often wondered if this was your fantasy alone, if you were imagining this for your own entertainment. I wish I had never been as close to your husband as I was, and I wish that he had been a better father to your kids, and a better partner for your life, and I wish that he had not started down the road of addiction and abuse. I wish that I could have stayed at the periphery of your life, and the lives of your kids, forever.

 

We both knew what we were doing when we met for lunch after you left him. We were both far too nervous for it to have been anything but a meeting to explore the possibility of an affair, and it would be an affair even after the divorce because we both knew we should have never started something that couldn’t have ended well. We both knew that. We both could have agreed on it before we ordered, before we got our iced tea and napkins, before we both made small talk about the waitress being nice and the aquarium being fascinating, and the candle on the table, we could have simply said, “This will end poorly,” and left.

 

You had been over at my house dozens of times, but never alone, and we finally dragged it out into the light, opened the door, and I remember the look on your face. You looked terrified, the divorce wasn’t final, my house was too close to someone you knew, there was no way to park your car in my driveway, and then we got down to business of how we would begin and where. Let’s meet out of town, leave my car in the parking lot of a store, you pick me up… You had already thought about it. You had a plan. I was more than a little aroused at the idea you were thinking about it, too.

 

I saw you in the store before you saw me. Years ago, I had watched you dress, or pretend to, and now you were pretending to shop. I had the key to the room in my pocket, I had already gone in, set flowers for you, made sure the room was clean, and now, I approached you, startled you, and for a minute, maybe more, we hesitated, talked about something you had just found, then I remember saying, “Are you ready to go?” and my voice sounded odd, even to me, and you smiled, and say, “Okay”.

There’s a difference, very subtle difference, between “okay” and “yes”. Okay means you are willing to go along with something, you’ll acquiesce to it, agree, but there’s some hesitancy, some sort of near reluctance, and more than a little fear. We got out of the truck, and walked quickly to the door, it opened without drama, and suddenly, we were alone, together, in private, for the first time in our lives.

 

You brought tequila. You hated the stuff, couldn’t stand the smell of it, but you liked doing shots of it. You pulled it out of your purse, and two shot glasses, and your hands shook as you poured. We stood close together, my hand on your hip, and you made a toast, “Salute!” and we both downed our shots. You put the shot glass down, deliberately, without hesitation and asked me, “What are we doing?” and that question covered so much territory, so many things, so many thoughts. We kissed. You let my hands wander your body, and I could feel the fire beginning in us both. You let me push you down on the bed, and you wiggled away and said, “I have to pee” and got up. Longer than it should have taken you came out, wearing nothing but a towel, and you got into bed, and told me to cut the lights off, to make sure the door was locked, and I did.

 

Gone were all questions or reluctance. Gone were the moral or ethical issues. Gone were our clothes and our thoughts of stopping this, or slowing down, or trying to figure out what it was. There was a mad fire, an insanity fueled by so many emotions we couldn’t have discerned which one drove us harder. Then, the aftermath, the breathing hard, the sweat, the mutual heart pounding receding and you said, “Well, we’re sexually compatible” and I agreed.

 

The clock drove us to “one more time” at the end, and afterwards, you told me, “This is the first time I’ve had sex in three years, almost.” And I could tell you instantly regretted saying it, because there were so many questions to ask as to why. And we rode in silence and finally I asked, “When are we going to see one another again?” and we made plans.

 

The basic were there, but there was so much you had never tried, never been asked to try, and I was surprised at how much I took for granted that you had only heard of before. “He’s pretty much one position, on the bed, and two minutes later,” you told me, and I knew you hated yourself as soon as you said it. There were a lot of things we both said that we regretted, yet at the same time, you had to explain why you were doing this, you had to let me know you hadn’t done this before, and would have never done it with anyone else, and at the end of the day, wished things had been different a long time ago.

 

“Before we moved here,” you told me one night, when we finally had some time together, more than a few stolen hours, “we were really broke, and neither of us had a job. I was pregnant, barely, with the youngest, and managed to get a job waiting tables. He would come to the restaurant and sit, and drink tea, and just watch me. Four, five, six hours or more, he would find someone to stay with the other kids, or he would drop them off at a friend’s house, and come watch me work. I asked him why and he told me he didn’t feel right with me being there alone, with all those people, and even though we were broke I had to quit because the manager didn’t want him there taking up a table. He couldn’t keep a job, wouldn’t work at anything very long, but didn’t want me to make a living. I hated that in him. I hated that he could get a job and stay with it long enough for us to pay off the credit cards and finally put the kids into some nice clothes and then he would get busted on a piss test or start laying out drunk.” All of this came out of you in a rush, as if you had been holding it in for years, and suddenly, at that moment, I knew you were thinking about what it would be like to be with me, longer than a few stolen hours, longer than it took to get this out of our systems, and I wondered, too.

 

If I had to name one thing that separated us more than anything else it was my atheism. You never could come to terms with it, and you confessed you had asked him to keep me away from the kids when you first found out. When you first got married, because the first kid was on the way, you went to Sunday school every Sunday, and even after the first child was in school there was the Sunday morning ritual of going to church. He started sleeping in, and then the oldest started wanting to sleep in, and finally you gave up on having a family of church goers, and it wasn’t my fault, and you knew it.

 

“I don’t believe in sex outside of marriage,” you told me one night. “I think this is wrong, sometimes, but I can’t stop.” And you surrendered to me right after you said that, you allowed me to set you ablaze in desire, and it didn’t matter what I asked you to do because we both knew you were going to do it. I think this was your way of confessing to me that you were flawed in what you believed, yet were still capable of that belief, and you wanted me to join you, and by joining me it was an invitation. And you never turned down an invitation from me, ever.

 

“Please don’t make me talk like that,” you would plead with me, “don’t make me say those things.” But when I did extract from you words you had never used before, in ways that you would have never done so freely before, it always pushed you to a level of heat like nothing else we did. Your innocence was refreshing, and I’m sorry that I watched it die.

 

 

 

Two or three times, I remember having the thought, I was going to ask you if you meant for me to see you naked, to watch you, and each time something else happened, and the thought was pushed away.

 

Affairs never grow up to be relationships. The strain of trying to keep the fire from burning through so others could see it damaged us both but mostly it damaged us. Even after the divorce was final it still felt like an affair and eventually there was a month we didn’t see one another, and then there was another, and then there was a time we were mad at one another about nothing at all and we stopped speaking for a while.

 

Finally, one day, you showed up again at my house, and this time I was far away, and you told me that you were getting married again. You wanted to see how it felt to be in the same room with me again, just to make sure the fire was really out, and I had started seeing someone else, too. It felt wrong this time, and it was wrong, this time, and I felt bad for talking you into it. You couldn’t stay, wouldn’t, and when you left I knew I would never see you again.

 

Your youngest finally graduated from college, and she looks a lot like you. You called to tell me I was invited, if I wanted to come, and that was it, that was the last time I heard your voice. Someone from High School looked me up, found me in my hiding under writing name, and we talked for a while before he asked me if I remembered you, and yes, I do, I do remember her, and he said, “She’s dead, she died in a car wreck in ’16, or ’15, I think it was ’16, and did you know that the Coach’s daughter is a lesbian now?” And then the obligatory homophobic rant.

 

Really. I didn’t know that. Hey, thanks for calling, but you know, I buried my past under another name, and I wish you wouldn’t call me back, okay? Thanks. Bye.

 

I hope you died quickly, and painlessly, and I hope that you were right about your religion and your god. I wished I had told you I loved you, because in some odd way, I always did.

 

 

 

 

end

 

 

Dimensions (sci-fi fiction)

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“You know what they are,” I panted, “you know, don’t you?” The room was totally dark and I knew the panic would kill me, one way or another. I was born with a defective heart, and I knew that the adrenaline being pumped into my body might be enough, in and of itself, to kill me. But considering all things, it was the second worst way of dying I had seen very recently.

“Ray,” she answered in the dark, “you don’t want to know any of the answers to any of this. They’ll kill you quicker than you’d kill a house fly, and they think of us as insects of sorts, lesser beings, and they should. They’re gods. They have the power of life and death. Or at least death. You saw what happened in there. The man’s head was totally blown off, at close range, with a shotgun, and he just got up and walked out of the room. You want to know? Really? They’ll kill me for what I’ve told you so far, if they aren’t going to kill me anyway.”

Beverly stopped talking and reached for my hand. I was shaking hard and I could feel my chest constricting. Maybe this was the best way to die. I didn’t want to have anything to do with what I just saw. But I was there and there was no way out that I could see.

 

We were just sitting there, smoking pot, and Beverly had starting finding really good pot lately. She knew this guy that lived out in the middle of nowhere, and he didn’t seem to be her type at all, and she also seemed to be someone else when she was around him, tentative, and maybe a little fearful. Bev wasn’t the type of woman to take any shit at all from a man, but he called her “Bitch” all the time, and “Cunt” sometimes, and that’s not something she liked. He treated her like a servant, really, and he was rude as hell to me, too. I was used to that sort of thing, actually, so it didn’t bother me. I had in and out of hospitals all my life, had too many operations to count, I could barely walk from here to there without help, and at age twenty-one, looked twenty years older. I had been born in a body that was giving out before I was out of the womb. I got picked on a lot in school, and after a while, it seemed normal. Bev and I became friends when I helped her cheat on her tests in school. I was helping her through college now, and suddenly, she made friends with Bob. But she had called him Tommy a few times, like she couldn’t remember his name. He ignored me when I introduced myself and seemed totally uninterested in anything I said. We were smoking a joint when this guy walks in with a shotgun and fires three shots right into Bob’s face. We sat there too scared to move, and the guy laughed and walked out.

We got the hell out of there but Beverly had left her purse inside and her keys in her purse. We sat in her car and waited, but the cops didn’t show up and no one else did either. We knew we had to go back inside, and when we did, Bob was just getting back up. His head was there even if his face was a mess.

“Somebody’s gonna die,” he said as he went into the bathroom. We got the hell out of there and went to her place, and turned off all the lights.

“Bob and I got really drunk one night, and he did some coke, a lot of coke, and we were smoking weed constantly.” Beverly said. “He told me he would pay me to do things I didn’t want to do, and he would pay me to do things I had always wanted to do.” She was panting, and I had never seen anyone so terrified. “He asked me if I would let him beat the hell out of me for fifty grand,” Beverly said, “and I asked him if it would disfigure me, or if I would lose any teeth. I mean, fifty grand is a lot of money, but I kinda thought he was joking. He pulls out this bag full of money and dumps it on the floor. There was bundles of twenties and bundles of one hundred dollar bills. I counted it, and it was amazing, Ray, there was one hundred thousand dollars there. We made a list of things he couldn’t do to me, like break my teeth or any bones, or leave permanent damage to me, and then he did beat the hell out of me. He told me I could fight back and I did, but it didn’t help. Afterwards he told me to take all of the money, I had earned it. I went to the ER and told them I had been mugged.” She went to her closet and pulled out a cloth bag and emptied it on the floor. There was a lot of money.

“I didn’t go back for about a month, and he didn’t call me. I was scared to spend the money, scared it might be counterfeit, but I used some of it to pay off my bills, and got my car fixed. I knew better than to go out and start blowing a bunch of cash, then he did call me, and asked me if I wanted to make some money in an easier way. I told him to fuck off but he was in my apartment when I got home from work one day. He handed me ten grand, a plane ticket, and a cell phone. I was to go to Paris and leave the cell phone in the hotel room when I left. All expenses paid. And I went. I lived like a damn queen while I was there, got picked up by a rich guy, made some friends, and when I came back he gave me another ten grand and another cell phone.

Bob asked me if I wanted to keep going, keep going to places I would never see otherwise, and live like I could have never imagined, and I told him yes. He did things to me, unspeakable things, but the money was incredible. Then one night he got drunk, really drunk, and told me that he was eventually going to kill me. I could leave if I wanted to, but it was already too late. It would take another year or so for me to finish what he wanted me to do, and I should live it up. He told me that,” Beverly looked at me and dried her eyes, “he told me he was a creature from another dimension, and that he and another creature had come here to play. They grew human forms out of chemicals, and they killed one another for sport. They think of us like we think of sand dollars at the beach or something like that. They think we’re a fun distraction but as soon as they’re tired of us then it doesn’t matter what happens. Think of all the sand dollars that are killed by tourists that never stop to think these are living creatures they’re putting in bags and carrying around. That’s the analogy he used. We’re just something they pick up to play with.”

Beverly fished a joint out of her purse and lit it. We shared the smoke and she tried to compose ourselves. “He told me they lived inside of a black hole and he once grabbed me, and suddenly we were in Paris. He laughed at me, and we went up to the top floor of a hotel and he pushed me off, and then caught me in midair, and suddenly we were back here. There’s no escaping these things. Everywhere I left one of those cell phone left him a new path to get from one place to another. They can go anywhere they’ve been before, but they need…, where are you going?” she asked as I lurched to my feet.

“Need some water,” I replied, “you want some?”

“Yeah, thanks,” Bev said.

 

I went into the kitchen and got a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, and pulled the longest knife I could find out of the butcher’s block. I walked back into the room and as Bev reached from the water I rammed the knife deep into her left eye. She went down hard, and without a sound.

 

If what she said was true, and I had to think it was, they knew who I was and they would kill me. But I had kept up with all the places Bev had gone, and I knew there were still some places on earth she hadn’t left one of those cell phones. I went through her apartment and found another bag of money, a lot of pot, and a small book with her passwords in it. I took her laptop and her tablet, and then stumbled out of the door. If they wanted me dead I was going to make them work for it, if I could.

 

end

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won.

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Yesterday, I took the bush hook out and hacked and hacked and hacked some more, and finally got to where there was a tree that needed to be removed from the fence. I woke up stiff as hell and sore, but I also needed to finish mowing, from two days ago, and get the weed eater out. I need to rewire the fence’s electric wire, but there is no point in doing that until I can get some work done is getting the fenceline clear. But first I have to finish mowing.

 

Many year ago I had a dream where I was sitting in a house, smoking pot with some friends, and this guy just walks in with a shotgun and blows this other guy’s head off with it, and walks about again. There was smoke, blood, screaming, and everyone ran like hell out of the back door. Of course, once we were outside we realize the only phone was a landline inside, cell phones had not permeated by dream world at that point, and so we went back in. Well, the dead guy was not only not dead but he was standing up and even though most of his face was missing, he seemed pretty lively for someone who took a direct hit from a shotgun. We’re still thinking, okay, the dead dude isn’t dead, but he’s got to be injured severely, but no, he isn’t. We watch as his face slowly reforms and he tells us, “Stupid bugs, you’ve seen things you shouldn’t have.” And we run. And that’s more or less how the dream ended and the story died.

 

The mower doesn’t crank right off the bat and I feel that odd sense of dread that comes with dead lawn equipment and the relief of not having to mow today. But I would have to get the damn thing fixed today, which might be as bad as mowing. The mower roars to life and the debate ends. I have about thirty minutes in the front and all of the backyard to mow. It occurs to me that the story died a long time ago and I ought to try to bring it back. But how? First, aliens, supernatural creatures, or… something different. I’ve never had a story with…what?

 

The front yard is a curious mix of jungle envied Bahia grass and weeds from the woods. It’s a tough mow if I let it go, so I have to mow every five days or so. That last sentence could have been a poem, you know. It’s a yard that wants to be a jungle, not a jungle I’ve turned into a lawn. Back and forth, back and forth, and the area I have to mow shrinks. So, what if the dead guy who isn’t dead was a creature that comes from a race of beings that live exclusively in and around Black Holes? They’re intelligent enough to build bodies that mimic humans, but they are also creatures who spend their existences traveling through space in the blink of an eye, literally. Mostly, they are seekers of truth through science, but there’s a very small number of them who like to play with lesser beings, the way some humans use animals for entertainment.

 

I like this, I think, but it needs some work, and I have to get the weed eater out to cut the weeds in the Holey Land, that part of the yard marred by the diggings of two Giant Labs. My safety glasses are so fogged with humidity I cannot tell what I’m cutting so I have to stop. I can still clear around the fence, I just need a general idea of where to point the weed eater, so off I go, to clear around the inside of the fence.

 

So the Black Hole creatures here on Earth are renegades. They’re outcast from their own people. They have no physical form, so they create human bodies to live in. They have an innate ability to travel within certain forms of energy, so they travel instantly from one place to another, often leaving a dead body behind. The bodies appear to be human and only an inspection at the molecular level would indicate they are not.

 

Why are they here and what are they doing? I ponder that as I mow as closely to the Holey Land as I can. Boredom? Spite? You’d think an advanced civilization would be beyond that. But what if they’re not?

Weed eating goes well.  Children at the beach don’t think about the animals they kill collecting shells and sand dollars, so perhaps the Black Hole People just have no way to consider us as important enough to have empathy for at all. The two that are in the story use people in their own game of tag and if humans die then that’s part of the vacation.

 

I clear an area that is fairly large, and it’s now a place the dogs can run in the grass by the fence and see their feet. Hawks and Owls like short grass because it makes prey animals easy to see. And suddenly, I think, what would make one of these creatures more visible to another?

 

The story begins. There is a narrator, a man who is in terrible heath. He is only twenty-one but has heart problems and has had them since birth. He’s a very pale and very weak person, but brilliant. His friend is a very pretty but very unmotivated woman who he’s helped through High School and college. He has a crush on her, but he’s realistic about his chances with her. She likes guys with good drugs and money.

 

They’re at the narrator’s house an hour after the shooting. She’s explain how the man who got shot hired her to pose for photos, for really good money, but them started asking her to go to different countries, and for no good reason, asked her to leave a cell phone in various places. This frightens her, but at the same time, the pot is really good, the sex with the guy is great, and the money is more than she can get anywhere else.

 

The weed eater hits the fence and the hotwire wraps around the head of the weed eater and I get shocked. Oddly, the fence I still working so I have to go unplug it. The reason the alien has the woman drop off cell phones is they’re his conduit to difference locations. His opponent, with whom he’s sharing this friendly game, is doing the same thing. Both agree that the humans are as expendable as water bugs.

 

So, the woman theorizes that the alien has never intended for her to remain alive, knowing what she knows, and now the narrator realizes that he too is in danger. He asks her if she wants some hot chocolate and after he makes it, he hands it to her and tells her that he has always loved her, and that he has an idea how to get them out of all of this. As she stares at him, rapt in attention because he has always gotten her out of so much trouble before, he pulls a knife out and stabs her in the eye, killing her instantly.

 

The alien may just quit once she is dead, and he’s willing to take that chance

 

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

Not Nearly Late Enough

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If there is one single benefit of night work it would have to be I can go to one of the few places that are open all night and shop without a crowd of human beings convincing me that a species specific virus with a .0001% survival rate would be the best idea ever. I have never had to fight a crowd an hour before the sun came up and morning people are usually in a hurry, and I am, too. I want to get in and get the hell out, and go home and pet my dogs, and sleep.

 

I got off early tonight, not even midnight, and I need a few things. I pull into the parking lot and realize the circus has come to town. There are many cars which means even more people. I pull down a row and there’s two guys pushing a cart, in the middle of the row. The fact there is a vehicle behind them doesn’t mean anything. They get their stuff out of the cart and leave it in the middle of the row as they’re loading their car. They move the cart only because they don’t want to back over it. The guy pushes the cart in a random direction and that’s an allegory of his entire existence.

 

Inside, it’s too crowded for me to be there. But now that I am here, I may as well try to make the best of it. That’s hard to do, really. I’m looking for vitamins, and I stand far enough back to let people pass in front of me. A woman comes and stands right in front of me, and starts talking on her cell phone. I pull out my phone and say very loudly, “You have a great ass” and the woman turns around sharply, but I’m staring off into space and acting like I’m on the phone. She edges away from me, and looks at me as if she thinks there might be more to this than meets the eye. There isn’t. I know women with great asses and she isn’t one of them. Mediocre at best and no body hung on someone that rude looks good. I’m sorry, but you can’t paint roadkill and call it a Picasso.

 

There has to be someone who is good at math that can explain to me the probability of there being a screaming child in the same building with me, at any given hour, considering the population size of the people inside of the building, and the type of wares being sold inside. I need a cellphone app that I can pull up and check before I go anywhere, and see, mathematically, the odds of a screaming child inside. There is a screaming child. The sound is found in the darkest parts of Hell, and shipped upwards, and then installed in kids who parents who should have never bred in the first place. First, the Zombies.

 

Zombies are those people in a store who wander aimlessly. They have no direction. They have no shopping list, no mission, no real reason to be there. They go from display to display, fascinated by colors or design, and they’re going to move slowly, and they’re going to push their carts into the high traffic areas. They are the blood clots of human existence. The first video games that were made back in the 1980’s had Non player characters in them the players could speak with for information, but the NPC would sometimes stop in odd places and trap the players or prevent them from moving forward. It was a design flaw, a glitch the game builders didn’t see coming, and if you believe in such things, you have to believe people like this in real life are God’s worst mistakes other Florida Gator fans.

 

Worse, infinitely worse, are those people who cannot shop alone. They’re as weird as those people who cannot have a bowel movement without an audience. I simply do not understand it., They’ve gathered half their blood relatives, two in laws, three people who live in trailers nearby, a homeless man, and they kidnapped one person simply because he would get lost in the mob, and then they decided to go shopping. It’s like locusts or swarms of gnats. Or the stuff that comes out of overflowing toilets that keeps you out of a public restroom, if the smell didn’t get you first.

 

And then, the Screamer.

 

 

There’s a square. It has an entrance. It has an exit. Inside lies the heart of the problem here; that’s where all the machine that scan items and take money resides. There are two human employees whose job it is to herd shoppers into the square, and to the next available scanner.

 

How? Hard? Can? This? Possibly? Fucking? Be?

 

The woman with the screamer stops at the first scanner, and uses her cart to block the entrance. She ignores her wailing child. So perversely has she parked her cart she has to take three steps back to the cart, get an item, take three steps to the scanner, and she’s got one of everything in that damn cart. Finally, one of the cartherds reaches in a pushes the cart closer. The child screams. The woman moves slowly. The child screams.

The woman in front of me is buy camping equipment, including a sleeping bag, for reasons that escape me, she has unrolled in her cart. She’s on the phone and there’s a gap between her and the square’s entrance. Just as I am about to pass her, because clearly she’s uninterested in getting out of the store before dawn, her boyfriend shows up and they move up, and discuss the sleeping bag. It’s South Georgia. It’s eleventy-billion degrees with eighteen hundred thousand million percent humidity, inside an air conditioned building. Buy your camping gear in the native land of where you are going to sleep out, not here. She moves into the square and I hope if they share that sleeping bag in a tent in South Georgia, the offspring of their union of that night has superpowers. They’ve earned it.

 

The screaming child screams. It screams as its mother pushes the cart out of the building. I can hear the child scream in the parking lot. I can hear the child scream as the car leaves the parking lot. I can hear the child screaming as they get on the Interstate, I can hear the child screaming even now, as they are in Indiana.

 

There is one scanner different from all the others, it has a piece of paper taped over the scanner. There is a sign that reads “Cash Only” on the piece of paper. There is a sign on the machine that reads, “No Cards. Cash Only” and a woman with a full cart pushes over to it. One of the cartherds comes over, and loudly enough for me to hear her says, “This machine is cash only.” But the woman ignores her. I get a scanner as I move up.

 

These are new machines. None of them will tell you to please wait because there is an unexpected item in the bagging area. If I ever win the lottery I will buy one of the old machines and when it locks up because of the unexpected item I’m going to open up with a Browning Automatic Rifle and put holes into it until I run out of ammo, and I am going to have a lot of ammo.

“What the hell is wrong with this damn thing?” Yes, the woman at the cash only machine is yelling. Yelling. She has no cash. She has taken the piece of paper off the card reader and is trying to put a credit card in it. The woman begins to throw a fit. “I ain’t got time for this shit” she yells repeatedly as she exits the store, all her stuff still at the scanner. The cartherds don’t so much as bat an eye at this. By far, the type of behavior they’ve just witnessed, is mild. Think about that. Think of where you have to be before this sort of thing is totally normal.

 

I have shopped not late enough. I have entered the realm of the people who are directionless, without intent, and they are purposeless. This is a foreign country to me. This is not my land. These are not my people. I wonder where the screaming child is, and I wonder how many of the people I’ve interacted with today were raised just like the screaming child; left to make noise regardless of how it affects others, with uncaring parents who might have been raised the same way.

 

Take Care,

Mike

Character Sheets

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I’ve created a world inhabited by fewer than one hundred people. As it’s progressed, I’ve created character sheets for over half of them. Someone of them will die early in the story, but they’re still connected to the people who survive. These are people who all lived in a County with a small population with a town inside of it that had an even smaller population. From afar, and untouched, mostly, they watched the larger cities fall, watched as sickness and destruction, and monsters, devoured the heavily populated areas on Earth, and finally, like a river that floods finally reaching far flung areas, the small town was all but overwhelmed.

 

For course, I cannot have one hundred main characters, and three of the first one hundred are kill in the first day, but the story weaves a different feel for what’s happening depending on who is in the scene. Thomas Coker and his wife, Brenda, have never lived anywhere else except this small town, and they’ve never known any other people but the people here. They are alone in their direct families, having lost all siblings, children, and most of their close cousins. Yet there are people they’ve know, quite literally, all their lives. When maps are being drawn as to where there might still be un-looted stores of good and places that contain vital pieces of equipment, Thomas knows where to look and he knows three ways to get there and four ways to get back again.

 

Then you have Annie, the young, heavily tattooed, and very liberal pink haired woman from Colorado who became stranded in South Georgia and never made it out. She knows no one, has no idea what happened to her own people and realizes she never will, despises the heat and humidity of the South, and hates the men of the South who view her as some sort of oddity with her face piercings and strange accent. While everyone else in the camp see this place as perhaps a new Eden, Annie see it as nothing less than a prison, and wants nothing more than to leave. But to be on the road alone is certain death, she knows that, too.

 

You have men who are secretly gay, you have women who have cheated on their husbands with men who are in the camp, you have people who have swindled others in the county and they must live and work side by side with these people. You have Robert Peters who worked as a meter reader for thirty years and retired two years before the end came. More than anyone else, Robert is vocal about having been cheated out of something promised, and he represents attachment to the old world that no longer exists in any form. There are those inside the camp who have accumulated great wealth, and there are those inside the camp who have always been dirt poor. There are those who will take to farming and the hard work required to survive and there are those who will simply find a way to die quietly.

 

The cloud hanging over everyone’s head is the lack of children. Of the ninety-seven people in the camp when the story begins, only three are younger than ten years old. Two of those are under five. There is one “real” kid, Jamie Marks, whose parents took turns guarding him until they were killed. He spent five years inside his house never going outside for one moment. At nine years old, Jamie is a lost soul. He has no family, and even though he is adopted by kind people, there is no childhood for him to have now. The camp as seen through the eyes of a little boy who might be the last child alive on earth will be interesting writing.

 

The story begins in September, of 2020. By hard work and some good luck, by Spring the camp has been secured, and the ground must be readied for planting. There is a hot house with vegetables being grown, but there is corn, soybeans, and other large yield crops to grow. The food inside the camp might, if stretched, last for another year, but that would require the people inside to further reduce their calories, and the two meals a day regime is beginning to wear on everyone’s nerves and bodies. They want this harvest to work, they need it to work, and their focus is in making it work, harvesting their crops, and storing food, and making life better for everyone.

 

So suddenly, in a time of plenty, a security camera catches the image of someone trying to sabotage one of the walk-in freezers, that is powered by solar panels. It’s Jamie. Very few people knew there were security cameras, and the question now is, how many are there and where are they? And the question of what to do with a nine year old that came close to ruining many months worth of food? Who decides his fate? What punishment fits the crime?

 

In a camp where food was very scarce, the mood was different and punishment was always a question of how much food to take away from those who committed what offenses they had the energy to commit. Yet now, in a time of plenty, or reasonably so, what is the guiding light of justice if everyone now believes they have beaten starvation?

 

And, the more pragmatic members of the group say, what it this year and next year is not? How many bad years would kill us? How much sabotage would it take to be an extinction level event? Nearly all mothers have lost children, nearly all fathers have lost children, yet here is the last child committing an offense that might be considered worthy of the death penalty if he were an adult. What to do? Who is to do it?

 

Ninety-six people gather in an auditorium to consider the possibilities. What do you think they should include and what would you not consider?

 

Take Care,

Mike

2006

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There was a time that if the power went out and you didn’t have a telephone, that was it; you had no idea what had happened or why, or if something was going to be done about it. I lived years without a phone, and of course, there were no cell phones when I was in the military. Pay phones were all there were for people like me, and I had gotten used to it. I resolved never to get a cell phone when they started becoming popular and affordable. I finally went down in 2006, the same year I started needing glasses to read. I can’t do without glasses now, or a cell phone.

 

I woke up tonight in total darkness and watched the lightning playing across the sky outside. It’s clearing up, finally, and the moon is no longer full, but the dreary weather that’s hung around all day is finally leaving, at least for a few hours. This is Summer in South Georgia, and it will rain in the afternoon and still be ungodly hot at night.

 

Air conditioning is something else I lived without for decades but I’m not sure I could now. I remember it being hot, damn hot, in Valdosta when I lived there, and about the time it was cool enough to get some sleep it was time to wake up. I miss having the sort of immunity from the heat I once had, but old age and air conditioning will take its toll. I cannot imagine the generation of human beings right now if the AC stopped working. They would all die, I think. But once upon a time people who had wells had to look at those people with electric wells the same way. I was a generation away from hauling water in a bucket from a hole in the ground. I think about that on occasion and wonder how anyone survived it, but everyone, or nearly everyone, did.

 

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been twelve years since 2006, but it has been. In that twelve years I’ve become older and slower and my cell phones are now intricate enough to launch rockets into space and bring them back again, but mostly I use it to send text messages to people I’ll see in less than an hour, and to check the weather at work. It’s also a damn good camera. I take a lot of photos of sunsets and of dogs. If I had to say what use of cell phone really is, photos of sunsets and sunrises would have to be the thing I use it most for, and in the end, that really is a pretty good use for the machine.

 

I went and had my eyes checked and I got reading glasses in 2006 because I was running out of excuses at work for taking so much time trying to read things. It wasn’t bad, but it was getting to the point people were asking me if I wanted to borrow their glasses. I remember talking to a man who said he couldn’t read the dates on coins anymore and I found that incredibly strange. Even with my glasses it’s hard to read some of the dates on some coins, and I can remember when it was easy. The man who spoke with me in 2006 about his eyes being gone and mine going died several years ago. He had quit smoking but the damage was done. I quit in 2005, January of 2005, a full year before 2006 rolled around, so I think I’m safe now, or at least I would like to think I am. I get my lungs scanned once a year, on my annual check up, and so far so good.

 

The moon comes out and the dog are restive. They have no idea why I’m up at this hour, when it is very clear I should be sleeping on the bed, so they can too. I have turned the AC off and opened the windows to hear frogs and night noises, and I wonder if there are people who have never heard these things at night, late, when human noises all but ceases? What noises did someone hear when they went to the well late at night, what sounds did they hear that are now forever lost to us? What was it like to stand in front of the well and look down into it, and see starts, perhaps, in the reflection of the sky in the water?

 

I can pull up an app on my cell phone and it will tell me the names of all the stars in the sky, tell me which stars are what planets, and what constellations are wheeling around overheard, even in broad daylight. Yet the person at the well had only memory of words spoken about stars, and might have looked up at a sky unpolluted by security lights and car lights and town lights, this person might have smiled at the sight of the Big Dipper.

 

My cell phone doesn’t have a dipper. I doubt anyone I know still does. Long before plastic bottles became our trash of choice, people used and reused dippers at wells, and no one ever died from it. Or mostly, everyone survived it anyway.

 

There’s no way for most people to go back to digging wells and sleeping with the windows open, and even I shy away from the idea of having to drink water from a hole in the ground. It’s 2018, so many years have passed since they filled in the well at my grandmother’s house, and the outhouse fell into disuse. Now I can drink water from my glass bottle while writing on a computer, and remember 2006, which was interesting for reasons I cannot bring myself to write about quite yet and don’t think I ever will. But in the end, that year has passed, this one will too, and one day, perhaps someone will wonder how we primitive people got by on so little.

 

Take Care,

Mike

I Fought The Lawn, and a New Idea for a Story Popped Up.

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Yesterday, I set out to mow my grass at about one in the afternoon. The Heat Index was triple digits and the humidity was worse. I haven’t challenged the heat lately, okay, not at all this Summer. I use a push mower with close to an acre to cut. The mower roars to life on the first pull and the tank is full. There are very few activities that I do that can be called totally mindless, and even perhaps senseless, but mowing is both. Yet the one year I decided not to mow the first yard my neighbors, who think highly of me, I think, came over and mowed my yard for me. So, I’m thinking now about turning it into a large garden.

 

The one thing I really want to do, but I know it’s a serious liability is have some sort of holding pond in the yard. It would be nice to have a little waterfall to listen to in the late hours of the day, but the energy it would take to create and maintain it, the electricity it would take to run it, and the problems inherent in having a water source near the woods, makes me hesitate. The first deer that stood in it to drink would puncture the lining and that would be that.

 

So far, I’ve had deer, horses, a mule and a donkey, a herd of cows, a pair of emus, a peacock, and a lost soul or two show up unexpectedly in my yard. This isn’t counting a few dozen snakes, amphibians, turtles, and an appearance by an eagle, twice. Get a Koi pond in the country they said, it will be relaxing they said. It would be a buffet within a week. Still, I have to admit there’s a certain draw to see exactly who and what would show up.

 

Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth; I realize that thoughts of a Cottonmouth Pond in the yard has caused me to lose track of the time. I’m almost half way done with the front yard. The heat and the humidity is causing my safety glass to fill with sweat, and I wouldn’t wear them except I got popped by a piece of a stick that had ricocheted out from under the mower years ago. I lost vision in my right eye for nearly a week and even though an eye doctor assured me I would be okay, it was freaky to be half blind.

 

I have a lot to do, past this chore, and as I mow I realize that I’m not going to get done mowing today, and Monday ought to be interesting. There’s plenty of vines out there to be cut away from the fence and the young trees. There’s a lot of bushy stuff too near the fence. There’s several dead trees on the trail that has to be moved. It was a busy storm season last year and I’ve not been diligent.

 

There’s a fire that has to be built, and yeah, I know, triple digit heat with heat indices that stagger the imagination aren’t exactly conducive to great fire weather, but I have a yearn, a yearn to burn. I have to buy a rake today, also. There’s a lot that has to be done, and even though I have some time off, there is always the very present danger of procrastination.

 

The front yard is mowed and I have to push the mower under the hot wire once I raise it. Budlore Amadeus is intensely interested in this process, but all he really knows is there is a lot of hurt running along inside that wire. He would like to know more, perhaps he will Goggle it, but he isn’t getting any closer than he has to and he doesn’t have to at all. The other dogs have all seen mowers many times in their lives, but this seems to be Bud’s first experience with lawn care, or at least the mitigation of lawn neglect.

 

There’s a story drifting inside my mind somewhere, vague and lifeless at this point, like an pair of cells that might become an embryo. I think about what it would be like to live in a world where failure at even some of the most mundane things meant death. Really want a promotion at work? Ask for a raise and get it or get shot for asking. Or maybe there’s a small group of people interviewing for a job. There are three chairs in a waiting room where there are cameras. As one person is called into the interview the next is called into wait. The three waiting know there’s only one position open and the losers all get shot. Will those waiting try to influence the person behind them or in front of them or remain silent?

Can the person who just left the waiting room teach you anything to use against the next person? Are the cameras in the room part of the interview process? Suppose you could quit the interview and choose to spend a year at hard labor, plus losing your current job and social status? If the person ahead of you, or behind you, seemed stunningly good, would you bail out? And suppose if you interviewed poorly, the end came swiftly. You’re in the middle chair, and ten minutes into the current interview there is a scream and then a gunshot. The person in the first chair when you came in has just been executed and you thought she was a damn good candidate. Was it something she said in here?

 

The person next to you, but closest to the door breaks down and begins sobbing, he bails out, and they drag him away. The person ahead of you is called in and now you’re next. You have a half an hour to decide, unless there is another gunshot. The clock is ticking as the next person is led in, and you two nod at one another.

 

Take Care,

Mike