Thrift and Drift

Wrex Wyatt is up at three something, wants out, and wakes up the other dogs, but I’m not buying. Four something comes and goes and I’m winning the war of sleep, but at five Wrex paws at me, hitting my cell phone and it lights up. The look on his face is epic. Wrex has discovered fire, well, at least light, and is amazed. I should not leave the phone on the charger overnight, and I know it.

Up and writing, or trying to but the Muse is silent, waiting for me to do something, waiting for me to offer a cue so she can, like a woman at a bar looking at a man, wondering if he’s going to speak. My main character treats me as if we’re on a first date that’s going bad, quickly, and she isn’t speaking either. It’s time to move.

Thrift Stores speak to me. Inside one of the largest in town, castaway items crowd to the front of every flat surface wondering if they will ever find a home, or like a vaudeville show of old, just be on permanent display until the store goes under. An odd piece of furniture, part desk, part dresser, and all mutant speaks loudly. Painted by a five-year-old on acid, if I didn’t put a ban on me owning more stuff years ago I would buy it. Produce and buy until you die. No more of that for me.

Used bookstores are dead, reading is dying, and writing is being turned over to machines. The only bookstore in town is huge, lifeless, and lacking any reverence for books, and more like a prison, where books are sentenced, no pun intended. I look for old favorites, books that changed the way I see life, and it’s like going back to a childhood home that’s now in a subdivision with a strip bar next to a title loan place.

The big box hardware store is next for as a homeowner and a gardener, I never run out of things needed for one or the other. A woman, tall, blonde, and wearing jeans she was poured into walks past. I remember the first time I heard the phrase “peasant stock” in reference to a woman who wasn’t small of build, and I’m sure the person who said it would say it again here. But this woman has a glide to her walk, a slow shifting of mass and movement that speaks to physical grace as well as a body that is accustomed to moving in rhythm and in passion. The man with her stays close, but not possessively so. These two, I feel, have been together for a while, and their union has produced strong mutual attraction.

Once inside, I wonder what it would take to have a rain barrel on a stand, to produce water pressure, and for storing rainwater for the compost pile. And this speaks to me, too. Weight up high is never easy and shouldn’t be considered lightly. Fifty gallons of water will carry four hundred pounds of liquid mass, and that’s impressive if it were to ever start moving. Creative juices now begin to make their way through my brain. A metal stand, six fence posts, and some plumbing, yes, this is doable.

The Muse is delighted by all of this, and she wants more. Fiction writing later, she promises, and so right now, we start thinking about the Hickory Head Water Tower.

Take Care,


I take a lot of photos. There’s very rarely a day that goes by a dozen or so shots aren’t taken. Sometimes, there’s many more than that. Why I do this is to better understand the tool with which I work. I learn from shooting, and I try to apply what I have learned to better use the cell phone’s camera.

I do get “lucky” shots, where moments are caught in time, rare photos of nature or the sky, where something unusual happens.

No one, anywhere, at any time in human history, was ever good at anything worth doing because they were lucky, or they had the right equipment.

They’re good because they spend a lot of time doing it and they work at it.

Sometimes, you can spend a lot of time doing something, and work at it, and still not be that good. But if you like what you do it is still worth it.

It’s still not luck.

            When the shelling started every man ran for his life, ran for his foxhole, ran for a bunker if he could make it. Some were caught in the open, torn apart, vaporized if one of the eighteen inch guns hit them, merely shredded if a smaller caliber shell landed close. Some lost legs, arms, and screamed as they lay waiting for the next barrage to finish them. Sometimes help would arrive, a buddy would rush out from safety, and sometimes he was killed, too. But the wounded might get dragged into a hole and bleed out.

            Our ships arrived. The battle raged from noon until past dark, when the flashes of light from the guns, and the orange colored comets passing in the sky passed back and forth, the shells either landing in water, never to be seen, or hitting their target in an awful sound, and fire. More ships joined in, and then suddenly it seemed the burning vessels, flashes of light, the sound of thunder from the guns, was all there was, or would be. Exhaustion took me, after being awake for three days straight, I slept.

            The next morning brought a gray sky, overcast, and dark. Bodies lay where they landed, pieces of men were scattered kindling for the next battle, hatred gripped us all, and the constant fear. The sea spat out survivors in rafts, ours, theirs, burned men who only spoke the language of agony waved blackened limbs at us, and begged for death. Bodies floated in masses, platoons of dead, face down, or staring eyeless at the heavens. Dozens, in pairs, one at a time, but the tide brought them in, and I wondered how many more had gone down inside burning ships, or drifted out into the endless sea.

            The radios were silent. Not our signals, not theirs, not a sound except the sea, and the wounded. We ran out of morphine quickly, and then, there was nothing but pain, and screaming. No planes flew overhead, no silhouettes of fear or hope on the horizon. Nothing but the heat and the gray skies, and the sounds of the men whose bodies demanded some relief.

            We buried men in the sand with the bulldozer until the fuel ran out, and then we buried men with shovels until we were too tired. Then we burned bodies until the smell was too much. Finally, exhausted and hungry, we sat and waited. For what, and how long, we did not know. Nothing was left to do, no one left to kill, and waiting to die seemed to be better than anything else possible.

            We sighted ships a week later. Our ships? Their ships? We could not tell and could not care. As they drew near the earth itself rolled, pitched, and heaved as if trying to vomit the dead from their graves. Bunkers collapsed, trees, what few were left, toppled, and we lay in the sand as if it were a solid sea of waves.

            As the ships drew closer and closer, we saw something else, too. A white line on the horizon behind them, at first small, then larger and larger. The ships turned, tried to outrun the wave, but they saw it too late. One by one we watched them flipped, overturned, or plain submerged outright as the water grew higher and higher and higher. Men ran, screamed, prayed, cried, but I sat on the beach and watched. The water retreated, was sucked away from the island for half a mile. Our antiship defenses lay open to the gray sky, the last time they would be.

            The wave came rushing, one hundred feet high, and I sat, waited, and made no sound.


Last Station


“Get them moving, Mike, we can’t wait,” the man tells me. He’s right and I know it, but it’s hard to convince people just to drop what they have in their hands, what they have pushed in a baby carriage or a wheelbarrow, or however they got it here, just to drop it and go.

            It’s like looking at the world’s biggest yard sale, with items from their homes, things they remember, things they’ve owned since they were children and now, they have to move fast, and leave it all behind.

            “It’s my grammy,” a woman sobs, “she raised me, this photo is all I have left of her, there’s room for a photo, come on, it’s not that big.”

            “Nothing,” I tell her, and keep walking as she wails. It hurts doing this, but we have to go, and there’s no time left.

            “Look, look,” a man paws at me holding up a golden figurine, “I’ll split the money with you, this is an antique, it’s worth a lot, I’ll give you half.”

            “Drop it, and keep moving, drop it and keep moving,” that’s my mantra.

            “I can take Gary?” the little boy asks me, and children are the worst, and when their parents aren’t around its heart wrenching. He’s holding up a fuzzy stuffed animal.

            “No, you have to keep moving, there’s no room,” I tell him and he drops his head, tears falling.

            “You don’t have to be this way about it, they’re confused, lost, they have no idea what’s going to happen,” a woman snarls at me.

            “And you do?” I ask, pausing for just a moment.

            “I, uh, I made my peace with it,” but she suddenly falters, looks scared.

            “The job is yours if you think you can do it,” I tell her, and I keep moving. She’s pretty, and in another time, I would talk to her, but now it’s over, and the end is near for all of them. We’re pushing them forward, tears, questions, anger, resentment, but behind there is nothing left at all.

            Then it is over. I sigh. Looking back, to the horizon are suitcases, photos, beloved items that mean nothing and are worth nothing to anyone who still lives.

            “More coming in a few seconds, Mike, get them moving.”


The Whore and the Snakes

            The last few nights I’ve had dreams populated by people who do not exist in real life, and dreamscapes which are a hybrid of the dreamworld and reality. The setting for one was Quitman, Georgia, the downtown area, but where there is a convenience store, in the dream  was a wooden building, old and sturdily built, which housed a hardware store.

            I didn’t go inside, but outside, a window that had been boarded up, and bars installed, had a live snake visible and its pattern changed so it was either a rat snake or a water snake. A young man was standing there talking to me, and I knew he worked for the store. A woman appeared, she was thirty something and scantily dressed, but neither she nor the boy were afraid of the snake. Suddenly, the window was full of snakes, rat snakes now, and the boy picked one up and offered to sell it to me. The woman also began to pitch her wares, and it took me a minute to realize what she was trying to do.

            The boy began talking to a woman who was slightly afraid of snakes, and the scantily clad woman leaned over with a leer and whispered, “What makes you think I’m not a whore?”

I woke up.

Vernon, Texas

Today is the birthday of Roy Orbison born in Vernon, Texas, back in 1936. Vernon Texas is close to the Oklahoma state line, and in the late 1970’s, one of the electrical companies in Texas executed “The Midnight Connection”. Federal law states if an electrical company has connections from one state to another, the entire state then falls under the federal regulations. Texas electric companies didn’t want this to happen to they all made a deal not to connect to other states.

            All of this was fine until one Texas company who had holdings in Oklahoma and Louisiana decided they would sneak a connection over and bring the state under Federal oversight.

            The rest of Texas was displeased. After many legal battles, Texas courts decided to keep Texas electrical systems isolated from the rest of the country.

            I heard about this yesterday on NPR, and then today is Roy Orbison’s birthday, the only two events where anyone was likely to hear about Vernon, Texas.

Though older, and sometimes clunky, my body still functions the way I want it to, mostly. The stump in the ground is coming out slowly, like a tooth being pulled, yet the main roots have been cut, and now, excavation begins. This is a siege, not a rapid assault, and days will pass, perhaps many of them, before the stump is headed to the compost pile. Then there are three more.

            Heat is settling in, like a watchful demon, whose breath is humidity, and whose purpose is spite. Sweat pours out of a body like blood from an open wound, and the mosquitoes, the imps of the Demon Heat, come to accept unwilling donations.

            Yet I have no intention of using brute force, for levers and strategic pries of wedges will do more good than trying to butt heads with the stump. This is a process, as most things that involve humans will be.

            The sun comes rushing around again, another week is born from the ashes of a weekend, and the stump awaits. What will I learn from it, today, I wonder?

            Good Morning. Let’s go.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

            I added ten square meters to the garden this year. Slowly but surely, the lawn mower is being retooled as a small tractor, and a harvester of compost materials. I once had the better part of an acre to mow out here, and now it’s down to less than a quarter of that size.

            The biggest area is that I simply let go back to the wild. It’s full of weeds and small trees now, in its second year of being left alone. In five years or so, trees will begin their ascension to the sky, and their shade will remove any vestige of the sparse grass that rarely grew well there.

            The compost pile is beginning to churn now. Days are longer, sunlight is more, heat builds deep inside the mound of vegetation, and the process that takes plants and produces soil continues. Even on the coldest days I can dig down into the mound, turn it so the process has its oxygen, and find warmth, steaming, smelling of rich nutrients and life, still doing what it has always done and will always do.

            Inside this compost pile is a metropolis of nature, a bustling city of production and tight living, with predators and prey, yet with each and every creature contributing to the size and function of the place they all call home. Plants arrive, coffee grounds, leaves from the yard, grass clippings, and cow manure are the infrastructure. Water from the drip hoses seeps in and the sun provides heat. Microbes break down the vegetation, their waste is a big part of the soil, and earthworms move in as well. Tiny creatures burrow into the compost, to keep warm, to feed, and to breed. Toads, frogs, centipedes, and a host of predators come to the buffet. Birds and snakes arrive as well. The water from the drip hose draws in the thirsty.

            One morning I was turning the pile, keeping the moisture level even throughout, bringing oxygen into the depths, making sure everything was getting all it needed, when I noticed the toads hopping around. At first, I thought the trio might be displaced, and fleeing in panic, but they we running to, not from. As I turned the compost, insects, termites, bugs, all matter of toad food was on the move, and the toads were there for the feast.

            All year long, in the cold and dark months, in the bright and busy months, the process of life churns. The compost I didn’t put into the garden is the basis, the fuel, of this year’s compost creation. Moisture, warmth, and oxygen turns plants into compost. This happens when I am awake and tending to the pile, and it happens when I sleep. It’s happening now, in the darkness and chill, as I write about it. The City of Decay never sleeps.

            A handful of my compost reveals all. How much moisture, how far has it broken down leaves and grass, what does it smell like, what are the pieces I can see, and tell what is, what does it feel like against flesh, and somehow, I know this is good soil. My plants will grow. There will be vegetables to eat, and their vines and bushes will return to the Earth again, and again, and again.

This is how it was always meant to be.

Take Care,


The dream began in a forest, tall evergreens, the wind in their crowns sounding like a waterfall, white clouds racing overhead, the blue sky visible in patches not covered by dark green or vivid white. The trees parted to a meadow, with the wind rushing over the ground now, pushing the heather to and fro, forcing bees and butterflies away from their tasks.

            A large gap in the meadow appeared, it hadn’t been there a second ago, like a dry lake. The bottom was white sand, fallen logs rested here and there, and I wondered what this was, and how it came to be. I stepped into the depression and felt an odd sensation and realized the lake was filled, but the water was invisible. Not clear, or pristine looking, no, it was there but not. The sensation of wetness was not cool, or warm, but simply wet, like light sweat unnoticed on your skin. I stepped forward, not feeling anything, yet with a vague feeling of pressure. I cupped my hand, dipped it into where I thought the surface might be, and felt something, a sensation of nothingness, as if I could feel the air in my hand. There was no taste as I put my lips to the liquid, and in my mouth, it felt as if something was there, like the tiniest weight. I swallowed and felt less than nothing.

            I stepped forward, and fell.

            The liquid was thinner than water, lighter than air, so I didn’t float. Nothing filled my lungs. It wasn’t like drowning but more like trying to breathe thin air, yet the sensation was of liquid, too. I flailed, didn’t swim, then turned and walked out of the deep nothingness.

            I could breathe. Air filled my lungs again, and when I coughed hard, something but nothing came out. The sky was still perfectly blue, the clouds were brilliant white, and the wind felt cool against my skin. I felt the liquid leave the surface of my skin as if it were all a connected, single organism returning to its home.

Farmer Firesmith

            I am happy. The last couple of days working on the garden has produced a harvest of good emotions and achieved goals. Soil from the Compost Complex has been hauled to the garden, and it’s as good as I might have hoped. Deep dark, black, moisture holding, organic dirt, made entirely of eggshells, banana peels, apple cores, vegetable kitchen waste, yard clippings, and leaves. It’s beautiful. And I had enough to fill the expanded spaces in the garden.

            The expanded space is just another ten meters square, but now I know I can produce that much compost, and still have enough left over to kick off next year’s expansion. What I am doing, the way I am doing it, is working the way I want it to work.

            Someone recommended using cardboard under the compost to kill the grass I extended over, and this is my first time trying it. I raided a dollar stores dumpster for enough cardboard, and removed all the plastic tape from the sides. The cinder block border went on top of this cardboard, and then I fill the new spaces with compost, hauling load after load with my garden wagon.

            The surface of the garden is still a little lumpy, but raking will even it out, and next year’s crop of compost will add another couple of inches to the whole garden, or at least that is the plan right now. That’s next year, however, and I still have this growing season to provide me with work enough.

            Foolishly, perhaps, I planted six pepper plants. Three Carolina Reapers, and three Georgia Flames. They are my experiment, and maybe my sacrifices, to the Gods of Weather. Have I planted too early? We will see. There is something primal, elemental, and entirely human about digging in the earth with your hands, taking a young plant and carefully placing it into the ground, and creating a new home for it. My soul yearns for these moments of beginning nearly as much as harvest, for in planting we say we believe in the future, we believe we will do well, we believe the Weather Gods, the insects, the random armadillos, squirrels and rabbits, will not defeat us. We are promising the young plants we will water, feed, weed, and love. We are promising ourselves that we will care, from now until harvest, and beyond.

            Tomatoes, yes. Always tomatoes. Forever, tomatoes. Large and small, vines and plants, yes. Squash, for mom, perhaps grown vertically this year, for I think it will work. Okra, for soup, yes, and hot peppers. Zinnias for the pollinators, and because I like them.  Mom’s mother, my grandma, grew Zinnias, and I will, too. Marigolds to frighten pests away, a fence with a charger, new irrigation, and then one day planting will be done and tending will begin anew.

            There is much to be done, even now, preparing the old part of the garden for the new season, raking and leveling and digging out sticks and old stems, but that is work for tomorrow, or the next day. The heavy lifting is done, the new garden ready, baptized in sweat.

            Today, friends will come over and share a meal, and food must be prepared. I must clean my nails for there is dirt there, and I must rest a bit, too. But from now until there is frost again, and the plants return to the earth, I will walk in the garden, pull weeds, and watch over the dirt, and all the grows in it.

Take Care,