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

Rage in the Rain, on the Road, and Windshield Wipers

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It’s a strange life to lead when getting off work just after midnight is getting off early. The rain started right after work did and a light rain doesn’t kill things off, but a light rain that doesn’t stop, and gets harder, does. The bottom fell out of the sky right after it was called off, as if to punctuate the demise of the day. By the time I pointed the truck westward the rain was down to a heavy drizzle but the damage had been done.

 

Mile Marker 8 exists just west of I-75, and I try to ramp my speed up to fifty-five by the time I get to it. True enough, the speed limit is forty-five, but it is late, and there’s very little traffic. Up ahead of me, there’s a white serial killer van in the inside lane, directly ahead of me, and to his right is a car. The serial killer van and the car aren’t side by side but they’re damn close, and I see now I’m going to have to slow down until one of them decides to turn, slow down, go faster, or stop to kidnap some schoolchildren while offering free candy.

 

As far as I know, the white serial killer van is an urban myth with no real serial killers actually using the vehicle and if one or two did, remember that Bundy used a VW Bug to kidnap women. I had a friend with one, many years ago, and I never really saw them as creepy until the internet started calling them out. I wonder what else the internet has done for us, other than that?

 

Suddenly, as I’m getting closer, the white serial killer van speeds up, and passes the car, a little too closely, and the car responds by changing lanes, and moving in front of me. It’s like they traded places, but the car was forced to slow down, so when it changed lanes, it cut me off, and I had to slow down. The white serial killer van makes a right turn, seeking some lost soul to prey upon, and is gone.

 

Somehow, what just happened was my fault in some way. The car, which is in front of me, slows down dramatically, and I change lanes. The car speeds up and changes lanes, and the driver flicks a cigarette out of the window straight up into the air.

 

Really? This is supposed to, in some way, enrage me?

 

So another car appears behind us, and as it passes me, I fall in behind it, and the Enraged Car speeds up, as to not let me escape his wrath. As he gets beside me, I speed up to about sixty, then drop down to fifty very quickly, and he has to brake to keep from overshooting me to the point his point hasn’t been made yet. He slows down and I speed up. A big rig truck shows up behind me and I speed up, knowing the car of rage cannot fall in behind me because of the truck.

 

Really? Is any of this truly necessary?

 

We get to Mile Marker 4. Yes, all of this has occurred in the last four miles. If you really want to know how weird things can get, there were four people burned to death in an accident about ten years ago. They were pulling out of Exit 18 and by the time they had nearly reached Exit 16 two miles away, four people were dead. They cut someone off and that person eventually rammed them. At three in the morning. There were a half dozen cars within a mile of that event, maybe.

 

 

But now he’s lost track of me and I drop down in speed and get over into the slow lane again. A few minutes later he passes me, slows down, so I do too, but there’s more traffic on the road behind him and he’s losing interest. He speeds up and I watch him slowly gain ground. Soon, another car passes me, and another, so by the time we get to the County Line, he’s too far ahead of me for me to tell who is who up there.

 

The rain begins again, harder, and I have to turn on the wipers. There’s a certain ethereal quality when it comes to windshield wipers. They appear from nowhere, disappear instantly, and the water on the windshield is gone, but then it returns, and the wipers come back, and so it goes, for miles and miles and miles. No one can really say how many times they’ve watched this, and to a point it’s just background scenery, like the lines on the road, or the rain itself. We don’t really see wipers, until they go to hell on us, leave streaks, squeak, or break. And most streaks occur right in front of the driver’s field of vision.

 

The mile markers reverse at the line. I went from eight to zero, and now go from seventeen to twelve. At twelve I’ll be in Quitman, and eleven is on the west side, and I’ll head South. In Quitman, there’s a line of traffic caused by the train catching people, I just missed it, and lo! The car of extreme anger is trapped at a traffic light two cars ahead of me as I pull up.

I wonder if he sees me back there and there’s some trigger that’s pulled and he wants to play tag in traffic some more? I mean was it really that big of a deal? Does it mean so much to people that this person did that or someone in some car did something that caused that much anger?

 

I make a left turn as the car of rage heads due west. Somewhere, his version of the story is different, but I made an effort to disengage. I don’t do road rage in any form. I keep the hell away from human beings when I can, and I can. One day, he’s going to pull up beside someone can catch a bullet for his troubles, but those are not my troubles. The rain ceases and I turn off the wipers.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

The Dream of Burning Houses, and Being Hunted.

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Last night I dreamed I was working on some sort of road crew, and part of the process was a dump truck that was dumping something, it wasn’t gravel and it wasn’t asphalt. But I would grab the side of the bed of the dump truck as it lifted and ride it into the air. It would go up ten or fifteen feet, really not that high, but there were men on the crew that would laugh and others that would call for me to stop that sort of thing because it was dangerous.

During a break one of the men told me I better stop because one of the crew members had taken a video of me doing it and posted it on FB.

 

This is the first dream I’ve had where FB was mentioned by someone in the dream.

 

The dream continued. There was a house I recognized as being familiar. Not in reality, but as in the dreamscape. I either had been there before, at either a party or visiting a friend. There was a pool in the backyard and a friend’s daughter had been there. She was much younger than I and I watched her in the pool. I had my sunglasses on and it didn’t matter than I stared but she got out of the pool and came over and spoke with me, and asked me if I thought she ought to get a tattoo. I remember the conversation vaguely, as if it had happened a long time ago, but I still remember the electric blue bikini she wore.

 

That’s an odd detail for the dream to add and the young woman seemed familiar in real life, but I can’t place her.

 

It was getting late, darkness had begun to fall, and I walked forward of the worksite with a young man who had offered to give me a ride to my truck. He was impressed that I had ridden the truck bed up, and he told me that he had to go right by my truck to get home, so it wasn’t going out of his way to give me a ride.

 

There was a very nice home with a small pond in front of it, and the young man grabbed my arm and pointed. There was fire inside of the house. We could see it through the windows and he said he was calling 911. As he pulled out his phone, and this house was a good three hundred meters away, the fire in the house suddenly turned into a white mist for a second, then there was more fire, and I said to the young man, “Boom!” and something in the house exploded, shattering the windows as pieces of it were blown through them. A split second later we heard the sound and he said something about us driving over to the house and trying to rescue people. I liked him a great deal for this. I thought it was a brave thing to want to do. But just as we were about to get into the car, we saw a trail of smoke, with fire at the head of it, snake towards the house from the road. It was a missile. But instead of streaking towards the house, is wound its way to the house snakelike and slowly, but when it hit there was a flash of light, more fire, and then we heard the explosion. We stood there in shock and horror and he looked at his phone to make the 911 call and told me his phone was dead. A vehicle of some sort came down the road with its lights on, and we both knew it was the car or truck that had launched the missile. We hid between his car and another and he took his keys out and told me if something happened one of us ought to get out. The car stopped and a light, a very bright white light illuminated the inside of his car and the one next to it, and I looked under the car to see if anyone got out, if anyone was going to come look for us, but no, the light went out, and the car continued down the road.

 

“Wait,” I told him, and we stayed hidden. Suddenly, there were noises, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and we heard the sound of men screaming. Then, there was silence, and I could hear my breath rasping.

 

I was on the run. The young man was gone. I was at the home of a friend of a friend, and she was a little older than me and trying to figure out if I was in more trouble than she wanted to invest in. But we were drinking, and she was interested in the trouble, and interested in the excitement of the trouble, even though she had no idea how terrible the trouble might be. She asked me if I could find some hash, and I called a friend and hinted around at what I was looking for, and he caught on, and told me he would call me back. The woman asked me if I had heard about a house being burned down, and the people inside being killed. I told her no, and pretended to be shocked. I knew they were hunting me. I knew I had seen too much. And I knew that if I was to stay alive I would have to use this woman, and she might die for it.

 

I woke thinking they might already know where I was.

 

Questions:

 

Who are “they”?

What happened in that house?

What do they want?

Did you notice how tech heavy the dream was?

 

 

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

 

 

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won.

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In my defense, I did try to pull the old tree down a couple of times but it refused to yield. Chainsawing a derelict tree is iffy, even to professionals, because rotted trees fall in odd ways and in odd places. Yet, still, when it crashed into the front part of my shed I wished I had done more and even as I had the thought I should have done more, I went into full procrastination mode, and did nothing about the stuff in the shed. My reasoning was sound; the front end of the shed was wrecked, but the roof was still relatively intact, and the stuff inside was still dry. It was cold at the time, and I didn’t need the mower or the hand tools, or for that matter, the chainsaw at that point in time, so I just left it. Until I got another shed I would just leave it like it was.

 

Then I started night work, and that drained my energy down to nothing, and I knew I would have to mow, one day, and I knew the longer I let it go the worse it was going to get, but night work, exhaustion, and dread got the best of me. I decided to go into the shed today, and get the stuff out I could, put it on the porch if I had to, and mow the grass. It was time. I was looking to see where Lilith was earlier in the day and lost her in the backyard.

 

Yeah, I know, I know, don’t say anything, I know.

 

First, there was still part of the tree on the shed. I got the axe out and started chopping and Budlore Amadeus began barking at me. Every time I hit the tree with the axe, it made a deep resounding boom from inside the shed, like Grond was hammering away at it. This made for interesting tree removal, true, but it was a little funny. Once the tree was removed, I hard to unbend the shed as best I could, and say what you will about cheap metal sheds, but cheap metal is easy to bend. I got lucky; my metal rake was wrecked and the handle on the mower was a little misshaped, but all in all, most of the stuff was okay. Now, would the mower run? Yes, indeed, it would and it did. I was in business, except the grass was forest tall, and it was hot as hell. And I had been using an axe for the better part of an hour.

 

It was already one in the afternoon when I wrestled the mower into the front yard. I’m a push mower guy, yeah, really, because I don’t like the idea of being as out of shape as I am and paying five hundred bucks, or three times that much, or more, to sit and mow. Sure, this thing has gotten out of hand, certainly it’s going to be a bitch, but it’s going to be one hell of a workout. I decide to push, pull, and finesse this thing until I run out of gas, in the mower, and then take a thirty minute break. Usually, a tank of gas will nearly do the front and back yard, and I can get both done in two hours if I hurry, three if I do all the detail spots.

 

One hour later, I have an area mowed the size of my first apartment, minus the living room and kitchen. True enough, it’s the thickest and hardest part of the front yard, but I’m making zero progress at this point. Push, pull back, lift up, push, lift up quick as the mower nearly stalls, and the gnats are just about to carry me off like the Flying Monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. The tank runs dry shortly afterwards, and damn, this is going very slowly.

The first break I feel okay, but I can tell that my legs and back are getting a workout. I’ve got a good strategy in going slow, sectioning off the yard, cutting less than half the width of the mower, moving back and forth through the roughest part, and truly, I haven’t had to mower quit but once or twice. It’s slow, damnably slow, but I knew it would be.

Two hours later and I’ve got about half of the front yard done, with a patch that I’m going to have to attack with a weed eater to start it. There’s a pine tree there and there’s a billion cones, broken branches and a lot of debris. Fine. I expected that also. What I didn’t expect is to be two hours deep into this thing with just this to show for it. True, the thickest and hardest is done, but barely, and my body is beginning to protest. Still, after two hours, I still feel okay. During my break I take two aspirins and drink a lot of water. I may very well have two more hours to go just in the front yard. It’s not impossible, and I am running out of hours in the day.

 

Push, pull, lift, wait, and the grass is being cut and the hours are going by. My first real job was in the fields so there’s really nothing I will ever do that compares to that at all. This is bad, but it’s on my own terms. My back and legs are beginning to ache, however, and I can feel over half a decade of life hanging off of me. My making progress and can tell it down, driving deeply into the yard, narrowing the uncut area, and I wonder when we Americas lost the ability to appreciate hard work. There was a time everyone worked hard at something and now it seems nearly no one does. People don’t force their kids to take Summer job in the fields anymore, and you never see a kid pushing a mower. I’m sweating and it’s pouring off of my body, but it does feel good, this does. I can feel my body’s strength out here in the heat and the dust, and the tall grass, and it is a good thing. Do kids understand this feeling these days? Have they ever been pushed to the point where the work seemed endless, the days never-ending, and pay laughably low?

 

Three hours, and there’s a thin strip left. I have to refuel and take a break. It’s after five and I think I can knock this out before sunset. About ten minutes into the break the thunder kicks in and I go outside to make sure I can get the mower on the porch in case of rain. As I am pushing it the rain begins, hard, unrelenting, and incredibly cool. I’ve had more than my share of outside jobs where a rain like this was a benison. It feels good to be drenched to the bone, all the clothing wet, all the sweat swept away, and now, the day is done because of the rain. Put the tools away, go inside, and strip down in front of the washer, and then take a shower.

 

The day is done, even if there is still grass to mow. It doesn’t matter because I knew this would happen and it would be this way. I will likely sleep better much later on in the night, and feel good when I awake.

 

Take Care,

Mike

Late Night Drama of the Dogs

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Having totally deprived me of sleep, Budlore is at rest.  

After one beer I was trailing smoke and spiraling down. This is a sad state of affairs but working night shift will do that to a body. Eventually, I awoke to discover that it was still early, and I needed to get a few things done before tomorrow, and things went smoothly. No one was crying and no one was putting beans in their nose. I did some writing, no, not this writing, and then after midnight, I decided go to bed. After all, everything seemed very normal. Why would I expect for there to be anything different or surreal?

 

I turn the lights off and reality slips quietly out of the room.  She sobs softly, leaves a note  on the table about not being able to take this sort of abuse, and runs.

 

 

Budlore Amadeus, who clearly has never lived in the woods before, hears something in the dark. His plan of action is to bark loudly and charge towards the back door, where I assume he will stop, come to his senses, and return to sleep. I could not be more wrong. The entire pack lifts itself out of slumber to join Bud, and it sounds like they’re trying to tear the back door down.

 

 

There is a couple of issues here. One, I’ve been drinking, albeit a while ago, and only one beer, but I have an aversion to picking up a shotgun when I’ve been drinking. My senses tells me that this is Bud gone wild, and the others have joined him in this misadventure, but there is a chance, a small chance, that Bud might be onto something. I reach over for the shotgun and ease into the living room where there is total darkness and chaos to match it. I get to the backdoor and open it, and the pack pours out into the night, loudly, and I listen. Bud is the loudest dog, Wrex has a distinctive voice, Lilith Anne is pounding away at the night, and…where is the Person of the Striped Persuasion? I listen and wonder; has Tyger charged out deep into the woods on her own?

 

I go back to the bedroom and can still hear the bedlam outside. I sit down on the bed to put jeans on and almost sit on Tyger Linn, who has sat this whole thing out. She has not moved. Tyger has decided all this excitement is made entirely of the nope and she isn’t having anything to do with going outside in the wet and making barking at nothing. If Tyger Linn heard nothing and is doing nothing, perhaps it is time that I reeled the pack back in. I get everyone inside but Bud is still keyed. I hold onto his collar and make him lie down. Bud slips into sleep and I’m drifting off.

 

Suddenly, and without warning, Bud is off and running again, barking like hell, with Wrex and Lilith in tow, again. In the darkness I reach over to discover that Tyger Linn is of the nope. She has not heard anything that would convince her that wet feet and a raised pulse is worth anything that she hears going on.

 

I get Wrex in, and Budlore follows, still agitated and barking. Lilith is wound up at the fence barking at the night. She refuses to come in for a very long time and finally I go out and yell at her, and Bud barks at this, too.

 

Bud is totally shocked when he gets put in the crate. The door is locked behind him, and he’s sleeping in there, or not sleeping in there, I shall not care, but we’re done with this barking thing. I get the squirt bottle out and Bud lies down and remains silent. Wrex doesn’t understand why Bud is crated, but he does understand the squirt bottle.

 

Silence descends upon Hickory Head.

 

 

Wrex gets up, once and charges towards the door, but not barking. The backdoor is closed and Wrex is stymied. I remind Wrex the crate sleeps two, perhaps not comfortably, but two dogs will fit into it, yes, Wrex.

 

Silence descends upon Hickory Head.

 

 

By this time, about an hour or so has passed. I’m tired, sleepy, and peevish at the dogs for being stupid. I open the bedroom window and I don’t hear the multitude of frogs that were going last night. Did the dogs silence the frogs? Or was whatever the dogs barking at the reason the frogs are not singing? But whatever is out there, it is not human, and therefore not nearly the threat Bud might think it is. He does not know how to judge threats or how to temper his reaction. From inside the crate Bud whines softly but he does not bark for fear of water.

 

 

When Bert was alive this never happened. Bert knew what to bark at, when to sound the alarm, when to sleep through it, and we never had this sort of late night drama for no good reason at all. Sam and Lucas had good judgment as well, and even the Cousins didn’t do stupid things late at night. But Bert was the best when it came to being a guard dog. He hammered the hell out of humans with his voice and he had a big booming bark. He would bark at deer or other dogs, but when Bert laid it down it was always important.

 

I miss Bert in times like these. I miss having a Great Dog. I miss his stability and the way he was part of management and knew it. I miss the security that he provided and I miss his leadership with younger dogs. There really was never a reason to fear people with Bert asleep on the end of the bed, and there was never a time he got fooled by some odd sound in the darkness.

 

 

The sun comes up and the dogs want to be fed. I need to sleep but I’ll put it off for a while, again. I’m supposed to write today, and this won’t be all of it, but I also have to go into town.

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

After Midnight

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After midnight, things slow down because most people are heading home, already home, and snug in their beds, or someone else’s bed, you have to think about that every once in a while, after midnight. Friend of mine, who never was very good with women, stopped to help a woman change a tire, they went to a bar and drank together, and he wound up in bed with her at her place. He was working out of town and didn’t know the place very well so when the husband came home and chased him out of the house, naked, he simply walked down the road in the buff, waiting for someone to call the cops, and they did. The bad thing is they had taken her car back to her house and he had a hell of a time remembering what her house or her car looked like, but they settled on the only house with lights on and people screaming at one another.

 

People with guns, I am here to tell you, put them down when the cops get there because cops react poorly to your second amendment rights, after midnight. They aren’t interested in your NRA lifetime membership pin or the fact that you considered going into the military to be a sniper before you decided that factory work was so incredibly similar that you decided there was no difference after all. My friend retrieved his clothes and his wallet, while one of the cops stood over a recently disarmed and soon to be divorced man.

 

I can stand in the back of my truck and feel the weird coming off the asphalt like the residual heat of a Summer day. The sun leaves hot energy in the pavement and so many people going by leave their strangeness here too. After Midnight, those left around to feel it absorb it, and alcohol just makes it sink in that much deeper. It’s in the air like a mist. If that sounds strange it’s because it is. Yeah, baby. Midnight.

 

It peaks around three. Between Midnight and Three, sex, drugs, alcohol, music, and the road are going to bear witness to some story someone will tell about all of the above in some way. I got into the back of a pick up truck when I was nineteen and rode all the way from Yulee Florida to Jacksonville with a young woman whose name I still cannot remember. It was late, we were drinking, we were young, we were stoned as hell, and now I wonder if anyone saw us and tells the story about two people in the back of a truck going down the road having sex on I-95?

 

The next time you’re out that late, if you aren’t creating the story yourself, with some help from someone you might have just met, if you still do that sort of thing, and wonder what you’re seeing in those cars and trucks passing around you. Why are they up this late? What on earth are they doing? After Midnight, you are either doing, or wondering abut the doing.

 

Some guy who never gets out of the house decides to go with a friend of a friend to go get a women out of her house, all of her stuff in the back of his truck, two cats, and a guitar, while her husband is at work. He pulls up, backs in, the woman and his friend of a friend get everything loaded in less time than it takes to think about dying of gunshot wounds, and suddenly there he is going down the road listening to the sound of two unhappy cats in the back seat of his truck and the woman tosses her cell phone of the truck at a sign. Her name is Robin and she’s escaping a truly bad marriage and no one who knows her knows where she is going and who she is going with. She filed for divorce this morning and now she wants to be a state away by the time the sun comes up. Small talk fills the cab of the truck, and Robin tells him she’s really grateful that he’s doing this, and she was afraid her soon to be ex would kill her cats, and they talk about why one of the cats is named Houdini, and the other is Fuse Box. Four hours later they’re making a transfer, at a truck stop where she has to go do something before she is handed off to another friend of another friend, and the woman and the cats are gone, forever, because past this point they will never meet again, and he realizes they shouldn’t. He stands back and watches the pickup truck disappear and the cars around him zoom past and no one thinks he might be standing there wondering who he just never met.

 

I watch traffic go past and I wonder if someone has just found love, or if someone is leaving, or if someone who just found love is being left by someone on the run. A woman I know lived with a man for five years then married him and had the marriage annulled after a week, and moved in with an ex-boyfriend who had no idea she was serious about someone else or getting married, and damn, you know, it’s hard to guess that sort of thing when you see a car go by, isn’t it?

 

 

There’s a truck that weaves in and out of traffic, a man driving hard, and he’s trying to track down a woman who left him, and he’s got a device on the collar of a cat, but a semi-truck has that device duct taped to his bumper, and the driver doesn’t know it. He’s hammered down on I-75 going north, heading towards a loading dock in Indiana, and in two hours a pick- up truck will cut him off in traffic, and his loaded truck will go right over the top of it as if it weren’t there at all. The cat collar will be destroyed, and the truck driver will always wonder what the hell that guy was thinking.

 

The crazy sounding guy on the side of the road that no one really sees is actually an emissary the one true god, who only wants people to paint more. Yeah, odd thing for a god to want, but you’ve heard stranger shit in church and never batted an eye. We never stop to think the people on the side of the road are aliens, come from faraway places, and this is the best way to be ignored no matter how weird you look and sound.

 

It’s after midnight. The normal people have fled the scene. They’ll get eight hours of sleep, wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go. Coffee is not a ritual of desperation for these people, no. They’ll never sit down at a park bench with a cop who just disarmed an eight year old walking across town with a .22 rifle in his hand, mad at his dad, going to mom’s house in his pjs and a hunting cap.

 

It’s after midnight.

 

Take Care,

Mike