Wednesday, March 30, 2011


My mother would buy a new spiral notebook every week, sometimes more often yet. She kept them on the kitchen table, the spot where she likely spent 70% of her life. It would sit next to the sugar bowl, salt and pepper, coffee cup rack, her cigarettes and the huge, glass ashtray.

And there, she’d doodle...all day...all night.  She solved her oral fixation with smokes, her “being wanted” fixation with talking on the phone for hours and hours and yet she still had so much nervous energy that she had cheap, ballpoint pen in hand nearly 24/7.

She was multitasking, a pioneer, a testament to the fact that some people CAN walk and chew gum at the same time. Sometimes I’d find her smoking, talking on the phone, nibbling on licorice sticks, doodling, cooking using a recipe AND she’d try to add a conversation with me to the mix. Maybe it took all that to keep her mind from wandering.

I wish I could say I have her notebooks filled with cartoons or little artsy renditions of my siblings and myself. It’d be great if it was a collection of house plans or wilderness scenes. It’s none of those things. It’s pages and pages and pages of......little triangles.

They touch each other, sometimes vertically, some horizontally. I’m sure a shrink would have some explanation for that, some deep meaning that eludes me at the moment. All I saw was triangles, rows and rows and rows of  ‘em.

Some would be colored in, some had little spirals inside. Sometimes they’d be inked over something she’d written like “I’m gonna getcha...” and then some name of a friend she’d talked to half the day on the phone, every day for 30 years.

I should have bought stock in the notebook company. I don’t remember her ever not doing it, so do the math; say 75 notebooks a year times the 34 plus years I was her son...that's 2550 books with an average of 100 pages. Think about how staggering that is.

255000 pages of little triangles, some with spirals inside, some colored in, all touching. At likely six or seven hundred triangles per page.......god my brain nearly explodes.

Everyone picks up some habit of their parents, it’s inevitable, it rubs off. If you’re lucky it’s not belching in public for a laugh or buying closets full of wing tip shoes.

These are my doodles, my little scribbles into notebooks, little vicious circles mostly; some are just empty, some have wiggly things inside, some touch together at some point and some don’t. So if this page seems odd to you, blame my mother. She was odd and she passed it down to me. If you feel like doodling while you read, go ahead, though in the borders please. I won’t take it personally so long as you don’t scribble on my doodles. Just make your own.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chinese Dragon

There was snow atop the Bighorns yet; seven feet of it by my measure. I plocked steps with my cowboy boots and climbed aboard the drift that towered over Linda and the highway. As I lay back in the slushy mass, Lin took a photo as proof we'd rode into our honeymoon a month too early. It was her first long ride and there were many things to show her. Snow was the least of the magic.

This was our beginning mountain pass and as Linda was a corner virgin, I took the switchbacks to Cody as quickly as I could; the well paved, double lane highway offering a forgiving leisure to a speedy scoot downhill. Her knees found purchase in my pelvis, her hands in the love handles I'd tried for years to eliminate. My new bride thrashed me and pinched me and punched me when she felt the urge, laughing and hollering "DoooON'T" and "STO-PIT" in that whiny baby voice I've come to know and love.

We were both exhausted upon reaching bottom, and my butt was soaked from the melted snow throne I'd posed on a half hour earlier. So to show proper camper clothes drying etiquette I stood at 70MPH and waved my bottom about, hoping to catch a warm breeze that would cure my uncomfortableness.

Linda was not pleased and mock attacked me each time I took to the upright position. She was actually a bit frightened as cross country motorcycling was all new to her and she wanted me to slow down on my antics a bit. But it's not fun to wallow in pasty underwear and denims so I sat, waited for her to become distracted and then stood again; each time evaporating another sodden layer from the damp cloth and each time suffering another curse.

We found ourselves relaxing a few hours later in cheap, plastic chairs in front of a cheap, plastic motel in the cheap, plastic town of
Cody Wyoming, gateway to Yellowstone. And there we discussed the day, the snow, the rush of leaning into a heavy curve, the wind nearly pulling your body aloft, and the slow transference of her, at first, incredible fears, into unerring confidence in my abilities.

The next day was no motorcycle adventure but a sense awakening that only the majesty of a National Park like Yellowstone can bring to a mere mortal. But this story doesn't go there, nor to the gaudy motel in
Idaho that we spent the next night in.

This is just a short tale about how quickly one can become accustomed to danger, how easily we forget our gooseflesh, pounding hearts and shortness of breath once we've seen what we've believed to be death, and lived to tell.

She had no idea that Ketchum was the new Vail, that
Sun Valley was rapidly becoming Hollywood NW with Tom Hanks among others driving once average property values into the stratosphere. She only knew that the town was incredibly cute and the mountains behind it incredibly tall.

I'd begun a white water raft trip from those peaks and wanted to share my fascination with her in first person. So after breakfast in touristville, we slithered up the ridge to the Sawtooth mountains, some of the coolest granite clumps I've ever seen.

We spent most of the day carousing atop the mountains, peering into canyons at the raging rivers that I'd nearly lost my life on more than once.

Know that I am not an adrenaline junky. I fear unfenced heights for one, deep water for another. I have no death wish and I tend to the safe side, doing little in the way of tricks or outlandish behavior. I just have a tendency to try new things and some of them try to kill me, that's really all it is.

In any case the sun began to wane so I decided to make
Boise before dark. The highway downhill is likely the tightest turning stretch of any mountain range I've driven and while it's fun to twist and turn, it's also both frightening at times and a hell of a lotta work. So we sat at the entrance to a "last stop" filling station waiting for all the truckers to pass by before starting our descent in hopes that I could take this lightly traveled road at my own pace.

The first 15 minutes was grand as I slowed enough at times to see large and small animals lumbering alongside us in the heavy wood. This particular road is unusual in that it is so thickly forested that the trees grow right to the edge of the tar on one side and the sandstone and granite cliff face stands guard on the other, making its reach a bit claustrophobic for those so inclined. You know there are 4-600 foot drops here and there...but damn if you can see them until you're on them.

So I was not too happy as I heard the midrange whine of a semi approaching from my rear. I imagined us to be about halfway to the valley below and thought to find a spot to pull over and let the behemoth pass. It was too far to fight another driver all the way down and as the day was wearing on me I was a little stiff and raggedy in my technique.

I never found that pullout before a reefered 18 wheeler encroached, creeping on me fast enough that it unsettled me for a moment. I kept hoping that the next half mile would bring a straight stretch into view that I could lean into the tiny shoulder and let this guy blow past us, but no such luck as we moved faster and faster down the slope.

I remember my teeth painfully clenching and asking Lyn for a couple sticks of gum, she unwrapping and folding them and then slipping them into my mouth as we bent into another hot corner. I tapped my brakes a couple times and in answer the driver behind me tapped his horn...pretty much a universal for "don't even ask me to slow down."

I swear it was the hardest ride I'd had, or have had since. I never knew I could concentrate like that, I'd never believed in my abilities to the point of road race. He was so close I could nearly smell his exhaust and our speed was topping 70, then 71-72-73. A little stretch of straightaway would appear and I'd add 200 feet to our space, but then another corner would push me to back off, to stay within the yellow line of my lane, to watch ahead for sand or rock or even fallen boulders that might at any time litter the road.

My hands cramped, my thighs were sore from gripping the chassis, I swore my brain was going to explode as it raced to identify each inch of ground as friend or foe, each moment as our next, or our last.

By the end I'd had a Matrix moment, when all becomes clear and the fantasy is your creation and not foisted upon you.

I imagined a Chinese dragon, the reds and oranges of its slender, weaving body lighting up the roadway behind me; its mouth snapping in time with the diesel rhythm as the driver behind me "jake braked" and doubled the volume of his engine, roaring much as any monstrous demon in search of a meal would do. I was strapped to a rocket and deftly leading my pursuer to its death in the valley far below, using only the angle of my body, the gravity of my changing weight to modify my direction and speed.

When we'd finally reached bottom we were doing over 80 and I quickly made that 90 as I sped away from my tail and made a giant leap toward freedom of movement. I spied a roadside rest ahead, a middling river rushing past the picnic tables and fire pits and singular outhouse.

I damn near slammed on the brakes as I downshifted myself to a stop and slowly turned our ride into the welcome respite. Neither of us had said a word since leaving the top of the mount, and nothing was said yet as we dismounted and set helmets and gauntlets on our chosen table, and I shakily lit a cigarette.

"Now that was FUN!" Linda said finally as she dragged her water bottle from her pack. "Let's go up and do that again!" I just laughed and laughed and...

"What's so funny?" she asked raising an eyebrow for effect. "Nothin" I answered and smiled broadly to myself. I'd created a monster alright, and luckily I'd married her first.

I didn't tell her my reality until weeks later, once we'd found our way home again. We had thousands of miles of highway and dozens of mountain passes to go yet and I wanted her believing in the magic of the moment, not wondering how I was holding up under pressure.

It can be amazing to go into a dark tunnel and come out the other side a totally different person; But some experiences are exactly like that, and while our visions were quite different, we both lived an epiphany that afternoon; one that scared the crap outa me and only delighted her. And one neither of us regret.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

I have this recurring dream that starts with a phone call. I groggily exit my bed and slump to the next room to pick up the receiver. "Hullo" I mutter. An obviously excitable young lady is on the other end. "Hi", she squeals. "I'm Bambi Bartel, an assistant producer with the Maury Povich show and I was given your number by a woman that wants to surprise you on national television."

Once I'm sure she won't give me any more info, I tell her I'm an introvert and will only appear if I can be invisible. She haggles; I counter. We end up agreeing that I can wear a paper bag over my head with eye and mouth holes at which time I'm whisked to
Chicago by some sort of teleportation device. (Dreams are under time restraint; shortcuts are sometimes necessary)

There I am in the hall awaiting introduction, a lovely generic bumble bee like fuzzy sweater announcing every morsel of fat on my huge frame in black and yellow stripes, a nice white pair of jockey shorts, (every dream I have ends up with me in a public place in my underwear) and a huge, orange pair of clown shoes flopping before me as I pace.

I hear my name mispronounced over the speakers, don my paper bag and proceed to the stage where I'm roundly booed and catcalled for what, I have no idea. There's a woman with Maury that looks every bit an Aunt Bea; a gramma type with horn rim glasses and frumpy dress, sipping on some yellowed liquid through one of those red, twisty straws. She gets in my face, or bag if you prefer, and screams at me in some alien tongue; something about farm animals and child support is all I can make out.

It's only been a few minutes since I was sound asleep, so I nearly nod off again just as a crate of vegetables appears in the audience and I'm pelted with passion fruit and collard greens among other items, nearly knocking away my disguise.

All settles down as Maury begins to weep in his Maury way. Choking back the tears he turns to my surpriser and says "tell Ron what you came here to say....if you can." She then sobs aloud as is the custom, turns to me and says, "32 years ago you made me pregnant you bastard, and your son wants to meet you...oh, and there's 18 years of back child support you owe me."

Emotion washes over me. I'm crushed, elated, afraid, mortified, curious, outraged, in denial and still sleepy in spite of my tomato and spinach bath. "But, but". I struggle for the right words; the phrase that will vindicate me and save my reputation. "Who the hell are you?" I ask suddenly. So much for tact.

The crowd groans and whips a few more cobs of corn in my general direction. "Honeypie", as she's finally introduced, stands in a huff and rummages through a purse the size of a Passat, finally pulling out an 8x10 glossy. She grips it with both hands and slams it into my bag, nearly knocking me and my red velvet chair ass over teakettle.

"This! This is what I looked like when you took advantage of me you creep!" As I'm a bit stigmatized, I push her hands back so the photo comes into focus. It's a bikini shot of Heather Locklear, right hand index finger crooked in a "come hither" position, left hand holding a spiked dog collar and matching leash.

I flail my hands to ward her off and sit up straight like mom taught me. Raising my right hand and spreading the fingers, I count off the women I've had sex with, lowering one finger after speaking each name. Once reaching six and never having heard "Heather" mentioned, I stood proudly and shouted "AH HA! Impossible!" (But the idea of sex with "Heather" appealed to me so I secretly stowed the thought for later perusal.)

Honeypie breaks down in tears and Maury gets all high and mighty like Maury does, huffing at me for blaming the victim or some such, as an assistant runs from the green room and pokes me with a needle, drawing a few pints of blood into a great big syringe.

She then squirts the contents into a dice cup and hands it to the host. "Are you ready to find out the truth?" he shouts smiling and nodding like a bobble head like he does, swiveling right and left toward the audience who jumps up like they're doing the wave, laughing and giggling, pointing and calling me naughty names.

"YES YES!" They cry as Honey stands and walks to me, looming her enormous shoulders over my little grocery bagged head. Maury covers the top of the cup with his hand and shakes it for a minute; then rolls it out onto a table surrounded by a dozen people in tie dyed lab coats.

My blood comes out like a twisted ladder, all green and yellow and long as if it was an exploded party favor. The docs lean into it, talking in low tones amongst themselves, ripping off little pieces of the string and realigning the parts like a jigsaw puzzle.

"YAHTZEE" one of the lab coats screams, and the audience goes nuts. Honey is again in my face screaming I toldja so's and Maury is just shaking his head back and forth in that "you fool, you thought you could get one past the great Maury" sorta Maury does all the freakin' time.

"With a 99.99..." (he waits for a moment, looking to the lab coat table as one of the science geeks rips another piece of my genetic code from the bottom and tapes it to the top) 9999% certainty" he finishes, "You ARE the father of this child."

Honeypie sits back down and begins to bloat in a John Carpenter kinda way. The crowd is tossing ripe bananas and parsnips at each other as she gets bigger and bigger, until finally she looks like a combination of Jabba the Hut and the Cheshire cat...smiling at me in that Cheshire way and talking as if in slow motion something about "get ready cuz here comes baby."

I stand to meet my fate and face the "secret" door (the one between door number 1 and 3) as it bursts open. "DADDY!" he shouts, and skips across the room, playing a ukulele and singing some children's song that includes a few vulgarities peppered into it's lyric.

"Oh my God" I think aloud. "It''s Adam Sandler...MY SON IS ADAM SANDLER!!!!!!!!!"

I feel a sharp pain in the middle of my back. It repeats again and again as I scream and scream and..."Shut up and go back to sleep" my wife Linda says. "I have to go to work in the morning you worthless bum."

Actually, I don't remember my dreams. But if I did.........I just bet this is what they're like.

If you think you're my kid, please don't call Maury, just call direct. I hate the smell of paper bags from the inside.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Eye of the Beholder

Johnny had finished his project and scurried to the desk of his teacher to request praise.

"Sister Mary Judas! I've finished! It's good don't you think?"

The aged nun studied the drawing for some time and then said, "Why red Johnathan? I've asked you to produce a painting demonstrating the color of sin and you've drawn a man covered in red!"

"It's the fires of hell surrounding the wicked man sister. If you sin you are consumed by hell and damnation! Isn't that so?"

"Yes John, it is so, but the sin itself is black; it makes a black mark on your soul. You can do better on this assignment. Try again son!"

Johnny hung his head, slipped his paper from the desk and returned to his seat... but was back within a few minutes.

"Alright John, let's see what you've..." Sister paused; "Why it's the very same drawing! I hope you have an explanation for this young man."

"I do Sister" the boy said; "This is my dad and for beating my mom and me every day God sent an angel down from heaven to rip all the flesh off his wicked, wicked bones, one strip at a time. This is a picture of him taken just before he's sent to hell where Satan will pour hot tar on him, turning him from red to black!"

The nun could only stare, her mouth, paralyzed, her wits scrambled.

"You said every work of art has many interpretations Sister" John continued; "you saw red, but I saw only darkness."

Monday, March 21, 2011


SNAKE!!! I shouted the word just as I flailed the blankets off my chest, and off her's in the process, and knelt upright in the bed. Get BACK! I moved forward to protect my woman, setting myself as the only target, my hands open and arms wide in order to stop the monster if it was to attempt passage.

It was the first night Linda and I had slept together; the sex, wild, lengthy, exhausting. My house in the city was small and old, the corners dark. The urban noise seeped through it's lath and plaster walls as if they were cardboard, the stained glass windows left prismatic, creeping shadows as cars passed on the icy streets. It could be a spooky place if you let it be; the previous owner had died in it and some people couldn't swallow that thought without choking on it.

My bedroom, a relic of my divorce, was sparsely furnished...bed, frame...umm bed...frame...

I'd turned the real bedroom into an office once my ex had stripped me of my possessions and dignity; and utilitarian that I was, I moved my queen sized bed and frame into the tiny room to the front of the house. Between the radiator, the window and the entry and closet doors, there was really no place for anything else anyway, beyond a few sailboat posters and the standard single man dust bunny herd.

We'd dated a few months, I'd written her poetry and read her Poe; what was left besides sex? She hated driving into the city, she was a country mouse and the nutcases I called neighbors scared her and her family as well. But she'd already seen me naked, an accident caused by walking up on me as I was sauna/swimming at our shared campsite during our first canoe trip. I was unaware that her long walk alone had ended prematurely so I was devoid of my usual petty modesty. Something about seeing my non chicken legs and non concave butt made her crazy, and more than willing to follow me home to witness the remainder in person.

We'd spent all night at it; not easy for a man out of shape who smoked like a chimney. Once we'd finished, there was nothing left for snacks or chit chat; or even a quick cig for an incorrigible addict. We'd passed out cold and slept the sleep of the dead... until the snake.

It-was-Huge! A Boa maybe, or Anaconda perhaps! Luckily I'd spotted it out of the corner of my eye as I sometimes slept with an eye or two partially open. And now as it began to slither onto our bed I took to my role as savior, martyr, knight in nakedness, and leaped to the fore to protect my lil darlin, my new playmate and wife in training.

Already being a light sleeper and in a new and mildly uncomfortable setting, Linda was already half awake when I shouted; so jumping out of the way to cower in the corner was not a problem for her. She tells me that I knelt there for some time, looking from the back a bit like Jesus on the cross with my arms akimbo and my head tilted to one side...presumably listening for the hiss so I could target my enemy in the dark.

And then as she curled there, heart thumping wildly, sweat forming on her brow, I relaxed my formerly tightly strung musculature and lay back down, squishing my pillow into it's customary position and reaching back to pull the slightest bit of sheet over my bare ass, as if a napkin would keep me warm. Within a split second I was "sleeping breathing" as she calls it, out like a light with a satisfied smile on my angelic, dimpled face.

For an hour she tells me, she just sat there shivering, asking herself ad nauseum if it was possible that a snake could just happen to be in the bedroom of a hundred year old house in a northern city in the middle of the coldest winter in a decade. Not only a snake, but a massive snake bent on feeding on human females.

She finally settled back to sleep as even fright couldn't stay her from lapsing into unconsciousness, the sex had just been too damn good.

When I awoke, I had no memory whatsoever of the snake, or even my heroism
...Dammit! It happened once in a while, my Rem interrupted by some movement or shadow interpretation seen through my ever so slightly opened eyes. My first wife had once accused me of dancing in bed. I claimed I was putting on my underwear and was too stupid to do it on the floor rather than trying to stand on one leg at a time on a squishy mattress in the filtered light of the moon. But she might have been right. I only wonder whether I was any good or not since I don't dance when I'm conscious cuz I think I look stoopid.

I had to hand it to Linda; if she was able to withstand my sleepscreaming on our very first night together and still come back for more, how could I let her get away? You bet I married her, I'm not as dumb as I dream.

Amazingly, I haven't seen any snakes since that night, at least not in our bed. Don't ask me about wolves though, that's another few pages and it's getting late.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Prayer to Paddy

(To nearly any 4/4 Irish Reel)

Saint Pat’s life is a myth I hear, (a grand excuse to drink green beer)
A ghost we hallow once a year for chasing out the snakes
A middle man twixt us and God, a conduit for prayer and prod
A captain of the heaven squad who helps right our mistakes

I know not much of this is true, and yet between just me and you
I have a more progressive view of minions of the stars
I need a man of Patrick’s weave, I’ve got a purpose up my sleeve
So honestly, I must believe he’s more than smoke filled bars

To him I offer up these pleas from one of earth’s more vocal fleas
I’ll sing it loud, upon my knees, and pray he does exist
I need a champion (not the pope) who’ll bear us on a sea of hope
Who’ll stand upon the slippery slope and order snakes dismissed!

(To When Irish Eyes are smiling)

Dear Patrick, saint of Ireland
I beg you to clear our lands
We’ve reptiles as leaders, antipathy breeders,
We need a change of hands

Saint Paddy I implore you
To take up your crosier for me
Rid earth of its scourge
Stop this ne’er ending dirge
Please push them all into the sea!

(To Irish Washerwoman)

Here! Theres…
Bushes and Cheney and all their apostles
Please take Osama and all of his hostiles
Jintao and all Chinese communist fossils
Chuck them all into the blue briny deep

Chavez can go as can comrade F. Castro
Anyone charged in the Darfur fiasco
Cook up a Cameron stew with Tabasco
Dump Al Kalifah, now there’s a real creep

Take care of Putin with poisons in pottery
Torture Hamas one by one by a lottery
Send al-Asad to a grave cold and watery
Plant Kim Jong-il under mountains of sod

Garrotte Gadhafi and make us all happy
Crush Lukashenko and please make it snappy
I’d save Abdullah but he’s just as crappy
File away Mahmood Ahmadinajad

Please remove Puff Daddy, Sheen and Madonna
Paris and Trump and that ex of Nirvana
Jolie and Brit and the Geico iguana
Give us a break from the whiny and crude

Save us and next time I promise, scout’s honor
We’ll choose leaders better, like Sandra O’Connor
Please lose the snakes or this world is a goner
This I beseech thee, ….. O Shamrockin’ Dude


 Can be heard, if one is not afraid of going deaf or growing hair on one's palms, here:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Going Down?

If it wasn't ironic I wouldn't write it; it was hardly a watershed event. But if there ever was a moment to think that Loki indeed exists and we are only here at the pleasure of the gods, having been created solely for their entertainment, this would be one such moment.

It was drizzling and cold, and I would need to go from an appointment directly to work where I would spend the afternoon hopping in and out of a truck; so I'd worn my slicker, or Aussie cowboy coat for those hopelessly out of touch with manly man style. It's great gear for 'tween weather; not hot enough to make me sweat inside the truck yet plenty warm and solid enough to stop the frigid north wind.

I will admit, it only makes me look all that much bigger; and I suppose as it's Minnesota winter it might seem odd to some that I would be wearing oiled canvas cut in wild west gunslinger style. But I'm not a creature of vanity, I rarely peek in the mirror to see if my hair is combed much less fashionable, so I wouldn't be the guy to ask if I looked particularly scary at the time. I’m a clothing utilitarian; I wear what works for my health versus the elements.

My appointment was with a shrink, a nut doctor, a loony tuner, whom I was consulting among other reasons for insight as to what it is about me people think so unattractive, if not frightening. My first visit was tinged with hopelessness. I'd felt obliged to fix my many glitches to honor my wife more than make my life a thing of beauty. I'd not really considered it helping me, but perhaps I'd learn a trick or two about constructing lip zippers and hand clamps, so I could stop the incessant waving my arms and screaming bloody murder after each perceived inter-species confrontational foul. But on this the second round, I actually felt a draw to the building, as if there might be something inside just for me; a life lesson all wrapped in "you're the best" paper,  topped by a purdy blue bow and an address card signed

So while I was not oozing joy, I wasn't smelling of sulfur as if I were a direct conduit to the lair of Baal either.

I was limping, ok I give you that; I have a disease that causes my hobble, it’s not like I can turn it on and off. And with the limp comes an occasional grunt. I do try to keep that inaudible, but sometimes it slips out; when it feels as if someone's driven an iron rod through the ball of my foot I once in a while say "Urgh" or something to that effect. But beyond my personal struggle to walk there was no aura emanating from my Aussie cowboy clad body... I swear, I looked in the glass as I swung open the door, there was no red glow coming from my hands or eyes.

So I clomp to the elevator and press up, and three folks come into the office building behind me; two girls perhaps 18 and 25, and a guy maybe 30ish. The door opens, I step in; there's room for a dozen... they remain outside. Girl one chuckles, that nervous titter they do, like when they're caught by gramma playing with gramma's vibrator. The group kind of shuffles stage right, out of my periphery, as if their feet are tied together as participants in a three legged sack race.

I laughed. Ok, I laughed with malice. Ok, I laughed in a contemptuous fashion. I grant I couldn't have thought all I've written here in such a short time, but the gist of my reasoning was: they'd apparently impugned my character on the basis of my appearance alone, and let me know they were afraid enough of me to keep themselves off my elevator; just in case I might have a hockey mask and machete under my raincoat, if not a naked pelvis and a desire to show it off. I was befuddled and hurt and ridiculed and angered all at the same time, so I laughed, just a little, kinda quietly, but loud enough they could hear; in hopes I might make them feel like fools in return.

And then the door shut and I thought the circus over. But no. In their zeal to not waste any more precious time they thought to signal the next elevator, assuming they could still get quickly to their destination, yet not have to share a car with Grotesquemeda of Moorsby Watch. The elevator though, had outsmarted them. It knew I hadn't left yet, and it didn't know I'm scary cuz it's just a fucking elevator and elevator's don't have preconceived notions. So in the interest of saving energy, it just opened up my door again; and there they were with their jaws nipping their knees.

I have to imagine it was quite difficult to decide which emotion was more powerful and therefore the one to follow; their fear of my cutting them in half and feasting on their rent flesh, or being recognized as such cowardly assholes that they'd humiliate themselves by refusing to ride on an elevator with someone who likely just looks like an executioner, but is probably a toy rocking horse rosemaler. The embarrassment won out, but the fear never really left. They came into the elevator looking to me as if one torso with three heads and six legs, immediately moving to the right wall, never turning their backs (or its back, to retain the visual) and pushed into the fake wood paneling until it buckled under their (its) weight.

High school Barbie giggled again, while her elder counted the raindrops on her shoes, and both squeezed into the guy in the middle as if Steve McQueen movie blobs trying to absorb his life force. He in turn nodded to me; that manly nod that says "I know you could eat me mister Ogre sir but please don't and I'll be forever grateful". There were three floors and I’d already pushed button three. They didn’t look at the controls and they didn’t ask me to assist, obviously willing to go wherever I wanted to go, wondering only if they’d be alive and with limbs at the end of the ride.

It was over all too soon. The door sounded as if about to open and I eagerly said “go ahead”, knowing it could serve as my good Samaritan act of the day so I’d be one up on the sin tote board. They muttered thanks en masse’ with enough red in their collective faces to light a Tokyo Coca Cola billboard. I wasn’t sure if all that blood had risen in wait for its release, hoping to be offered freedom by my giant gas powered pruning shears, or if they were somewhat communally embarrassed by being such a trio of unmitigated prigs. Either way, little miss Muffet wasn’t four steps from my evil claws when she stutter laughed and mumbled about the weird guy they’d just had to endure, and as I left the confines of the death chamber I noted the six legged creature blasting around the next corner at a controlled trot.

I swear, I was in an ok mood that day; I didn’t glare, I wasn’t muttering to myself and his majesty’s dog and I didn’t have a clown nose, floppy shoes or my penis protruding from my coat. I just got on the elevator kids, just tryin to get a ride so I wouldn’t need to walk up three flights. I would have shared the box with a fleet of Algerian naval midgets for all I gave a crap, I had other things on my mind besides chain sawed flesh. But for the next hour it was all I could do to quit thinking about it. I almost wanted to grab those three, haul them into my witchdoctors office and say “ok creeps, tell him what you just told me, only with me you said it silently or just under your breath; This time say it out loud as if you actually had the power of your convictions… and let’s find out what my problem is once and for all.”

But I didn’t of course; that would have actually scared them and it’s more fun to have a reputation for something that doesn’t exist. Besides, it’s not really my problem; I’m just a target not a weapons designer.

When I was younger I'd ride my motorcycle up to any given stop sign or semaphore, and if there were a car in the lane next to me I'd hear the door locks slam down, over the noise of my unmuffled Honda 750. It was comical then, it almost made me proud. FTW, or fuck the world was my motto in the 70s; not because I thought the world had given me a choice in the matter (as I believed it had stuck its middle finger in my face long before I'd reciprocated), but because I assumed I could live without the assistance of any other human being, animal, vegetable or mineral so help me GOD! Now that I know I can't really, the slamming of door locks just makes me cringe, as it verifies my worst fears, adds to my self hate, and justifies my desire to shut down. That said, I didn't take my reaction to that extreme on this day. I just let it go after whining to the doc, hoping to write a good tale about it later. I will never be able to control people's reactions to me, their bigotry, their innuendo, their unreasonable angst. I can only control how much I care. Now if I can just find that agitation thermostat so I know not to crank it up, I'll be making some real progress.

Then again... maybe it is a lack of healthy vanity. Maybe I just need to comb my hair more often.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pre Me, For Ruthie

My lovely wife, whilst still attached to her not so lovely ex husband, on vacation sometime in the 20th Century.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mystery Box

I once found a box wherein mystery languished
A tour for one’s whimsy, a tune to one’s taste
An attic had kept it from eyes bent on prying
And wits prone to paraphrase meaningless waste 

A cranny awaited a pick of my making
A clip prized by paper, bent into a key
Once clicked and dis-guarded the lid opened freely
then contents were pried and deciphered with glee

Atop lay a hat with the face of a penguin
Embroidered above a most pointed orange bill
A fine feather duster lay closely beside it
And within that down was an old pepper mill

I dug down a layer and found a half candle
In red white and blue, as a barber shop pole
A pair of steel handcuffs and badge on a stick pin
Two chopsticks, five napkins and one fingerbowl.

And there at the bottom lay two spiral notebooks
One penned in blue crayon, the other in green
The first, titled “Truth”, seemed a bit torn and haggard
The second, “Life’s Falsehoods”, was far more pristine.

Perhaps someone normal would find this a junk pile
A box of mixed rubbish, a carton of crud
But I, (somewhat cockeyed) could see the whole story
And here I will make crystal clear what seems mud!

This woman, (let’s call her Amanda for instance)
Once bored by her husband, looked elsewhere for cheer
She roamed online chat rooms in search of adventure
But found men myopic, and stinking of beer

Amanda was saddened, so left for the country
A day at the zoo, she thought, might make her smile
‘twas there that she met him, Adolphus the penguin
a non flying bird with a penchant for guile

So struck by his manner, she spent the day watching
As her new friend waddled and preened near the ducks
Near dusk she determined that Adolph was dreamy
(most any girl fawns o’er a man in a tux)

She snatched the old bird and she ran to her Audi
She drove like a madwoman racing a ghost
And once at her home she and Adolph stole softly
Into the gray basement where she might play host

Poor Adolph was coated with road grit and powder
(Amanda had driven a long unpaved street)
A fine feather duster was put to the purpose
(He giggled when brushed on the soles of his feet)

Once cleaned to her liking, Amanda made dinner
“Fine sushi” she sang, “I’ll use chopsticks for mine!”
Adolphus was happy, if not a bit sloppy
Five napkins he’d need, when the couple would dine.

Of course the old husband would soon note an odor
“The house smells like fish!” he was heard to exclaim
Amanda was worried the grump would discover
Her passionate animal husbandry game

So pinned with a badge that read “Dog Catcher Mandy”
She clunked her man’s skull with a brass peppermill
Then handcuffed the sod to a pipe in his workroom
And gagged his poor mouth with a dominant’s skill

As days turned to weeks our Amanda found pleasure
in pleasing the fine feathered beast in her home
She’d bath him in ice water, toss him dead herring
And show him her pictures of Venice and Rome

In barber pole candle light she’d read him stories
Of penguins and boobys and walrus’s too
And she’d keep a fingerbowl filled with chopped tuna
To give her true love constant morsels to chew.

The notebooks you ask? There is little to tell you
Of “Truth” Mandy wrote “I can do what I please!”
Each page contained daydreams like “I’ll be a dancer!”
Or “I can eat doughnuts while on the trapeze!”

The great book of “Falsehoods” was somewhat a mystery
For only one page was inscribed by her hand
It said “There are rules that a person must follow”
And “All we will be, has already been planned.”

Now I’ve heard Antarctica has a new boarder
Amanda took Adolph to visit his folks.
She’d sewn a beaked hat so she’d look like a cousin
And learned a few dozen fat sea lion jokes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Pounding of Angry Men

Fiction based on original art..."Reflections" by Lee Teter ... to honor those men who've done the impossible

I'd not wanted to come here at all you know; Jack, you hear me? Freddy? It's been 32 years now, you'd think I could have just ignored this monument and forgotten all about that time, and you guys... but I couldn't. So now that I'm here, what do you want to know?

I agree Bill, "why"s a good start. I don't know why, I never have. Jose, you were the guy that took the sniper's bullet for me, and let's be honest, we didn't exactly see eye to eye so you hardly had reason to protect my white bread, pasty food eating ass. Hey, I never told you but I did admire your being able to chew those jalapeños without choking to death. Hell, even your breath made me sweat; if I'd so much as touched one of those devil weeds I'd have burst into flame.

Sure, I know I was stupid, standing and gawking when I should have been crawling on my belly with the rest of the poisonous snakes, but why did you knock me to the ground at just that moment, when a piece of lead was rocketing toward my head and found your throat instead? You can’t imagine man, you can’t. I was so sorry I couldn’t breathe, that you’d died on top of me like that, that you’d saved my life, whether you’d meant it or not, and then I had to lie still while your body bled out onto me… You know what I mean guys? You guys know what I mean. You guys alone. Wait, gimme a sec…..

I haven’t talked to anyone about it since, except for the debriefing obviously and that was short since the gook offensive had pretty much eliminated the forward bases altogether and people weren’t exactly in a chatting mood. I mean you’d think they’d have been surprised that one came back from a group of six, that either a few of us would have made it or none of us. And I didn’t help my cause any; you know me, mister positive, it was all my fault and I said so over and over but they didn’t want to hear it I guess. They just stuffed me full of morphine, shipped me to the rear and medivaced my butt outa there.

Yea you heard me, I admitted my blame. I know I screwed up, I haven’t forgotten one second of that day. Jerry, you’re the jerk that talked me into it, but I could have said no. I should have said no. I should have…

Bill your legs were mincemeat, you couldn’t have walked a yard but I could have stayed and made you crutches or a cane or something; maybe we could have figured something out ya think? Jack was unconscious, Jose was dead empty, Freddy you were screaming for what must have been an hour, remember? God I wanted to shoot you, Jesus I just wanted to end your misery and you begged and begged and I’m so, so sorry…just a minute, I’ll be right back..

Ok, I couldn’t do it, I admit I was not only a fuckup but a coward I couldn’t put a fucking bullet in your fucking brain because I fucking loved you man; and your wife and your kid and your screwy mother in law that sent you mittens at Christmas and your lousy fruitcakes you’d soak in rum and your shitty card playing. I loved you brother. All you. Brothers.

Look, I didn’t want to leave at all but if there was no other way I wanted to draw straws or roll dice or cut cards or something. Screw logic, Jack was gut shot, we all knew he wouldn’t make it on my back for 20 miles, for Christ sake why the hell did we even come up with that plan? Jerry you were in the best shape with only the arm missing and the broken knee, hell you could have helped me when I ran out of gas and couldn’t make it another step. But you wanted me to take Jack. Cuz he was a kid. Fuck, we were all kids you moron! What, did you think we were old men at 22? Being eighteen does not get you a bye from life, he had no more to look forward to than any of us. And no better chance to live through the pounding of angry men with loud, heavy guns.

Yes I carried him all 20 miles. Yes, ask him. It took all night, I set him down no more than a dozen times and he never woke up. I’m not a corpsman, how the hell should I have known he was dead? I checked his pulse now and then, I swore I heard him breathing, I did my best and if I had known I would have buried him on the spot and come back for one of you others but Christ man, I didn’t know and I wasn’t about to give up on him! He was just a kid! Just a kid. He was just a fucking kid.

Think about it you guys, I carried a dead body on my back through swamps and across streams, stomping and stumbling and weaving and diving and being shot at and shooting back. And I talked to him all the way; I said “we’re gonna make it buddy, no shit you can trust me cuz I don’t let my friends down, you’re gonna get home and Bill and Jerry and I will come visit you and we’ll all get drunk and you can show us how to fish Lake of the Ozarks like you promised.”

But of course you know and I know, I didn’t keep my word. We didn’t make it. Well, he didn’t make it, though his body did and I suppose Ms. Wethers has me to thank for her sons being in the box she covered in bluebonnets and fireweed when she put him in the ground. I wish that were a comfort, that I’d done something right that day, that at least the dead were served by my hand. But it doesn’t do it guys.

You know I tried to come back right? You realize I passed out from loss of blood before I’d made it to the outside wires on my way back to the ambush site. Yea I know, some excuse. I should have been able to stay awake just a few more hours, surely I could have made it back and pulled one more out. But my body let me down, and I let you down.

I'd not wanted to come here at all you know; Jack, you hear me? Freddy? Jose? Bill? Jerry Goddamn it DO YOU HEAR ME? I’m so sorry I’m here and you’re there and I didn’t just stay and die with you instead of coming back here to get spit on and called a baby killer and be driven out of my own damn family by my own fucking friends and relatives who made me the enemy because I served my country. I’m so sorry I was too stupid to understand who my friends really were. It was you guys all along. You understood. No one else ever will.

I miss you guys, but I can’t stay here any more; I’m crumbling and I’m gonna fold and I don’t want to humiliate my outfit by weeping in your faces so just touch my hand and say it’s ok, say I did the right thing and you don’t blame me, say they didn’t find you alive while I was riding in a helicopter and torture you while I lay on crisp white sheets in an air conditioned room. Say you forgive me, please. It’s ok really, I’ll never forgive myself but I’d feel a little better if you guys weren’t angry with me.

I gotta go now. I never thought I’d salute again, but this is all I’ve got to give you. My friends. Semper Fi. Save a place for me at the bar.

One Yellow Rose

She sits motionless, her head cocked away from me, no doubt letting the swiftly passing countryside take her to places far from here. The bruise on her upper arm tells a story unto itself. There are three blue marks in series, someone hit her hard enough to raise blood; and random scratches lower yet say that she fought back with equal fury, probably surprising her attacker who tried to hold her still to no avail.

The girl’s hair, as red as cherry wine, is unwashed and disheveled; not as if she’d been living out of a car, but more as if she’d been in a hurry and hadn’t bothered with a morning shower.

I note her left hand lying in her lap, palm down and fingers outstretched. She’s flexing it a bit, relieving a strain perhaps, or reliving an anxious moment. I can see the mark of a ring on her forth finger, a band of white, puffy flesh amidst a tautly stretched hand tinted brown by machine made tan. Her knuckle on that digit is slightly scraped, making me think she removed her band in a flurry of emotion, without a care as to how much skin came with it.

All of this may be a pessimist’s interpretation. Why her bruise might simply be from her bumping into a doorjamb that held three large petrified wads of chewing gum at shoulder height, the scratches caused by an overactive cat. Maybe she was late to work and had to rush from her apartment before coifing her hair… and the ring thing? I suppose she might have been playing with one of those Chinese finger puzzle things and could get the damn thing off before it made the area pale and swollen.

But there were two more clues that brought me back to my theory. There is a fresh scar on her earlobe, looking much like a round headed stick pin. She’d had a pierced ring ripped out. Yes, it may have been an accident. Sure, she might have been walking along down some city street right along side a commercial building that had just had repairs done to it’s face, and a stray nail might have been poking from the façade at just the right angle that when she sauntered by, her loop earring, swaying out and in because of the perkiness in her happy step, suddenly slipped over the nail and her forward momentum made any recovery an impossible task… and zzzzip, out came the jewelry.  But my guess was she was in a fight, probably with her boyfriend, or husband if I have the ring thing right, and in the scuffle her earring was removed by force, intentionally or no.

What makes me think all this? You’d assume it would be an addiction to soap operas or a fascination with drugstore romance novels. But it’s neither. In the woman’s right hand she grips the stem of a perfect, just barely opened yellow rose. No friend handed her that flower, it has no wrapping, not even a ribbon around it’s thorny stem. She’d purchased the rose for herself from a street vendor, that’s clear enough. And that the rose is a somewhat unusual color makes me think she bought it with symbolism in mind. Again, I agree, it could just be she likes the color yellow, indeed. But nothing else on her body, not her scuffed shoes nor cotton socks, her rhinestones jeans nor her tie died top were in any measure, any derivative of yellow. No, she strikes me as someone who finds comfort in the metaphor, the silent statement, the secret sign that screams it’s message to the chosen few who understand and to no one else.

A yellow rose has limited meaning, it’s generally the friend’s offering given to mark a particularly joyous moment in the life of the recipient. It can also mean jealousy and be sent as a sort of poison pen. I think this is different, off the normal path; I think she’s bought this beautiful living thing to commemorate a new beginning for herself, a fresh start, a kind of wax seal meant to notarize her self made contract.

My stop has come and she hasn’t budged. As I step into the aisle to go I can’t help but whisper “good luck lass, you’ll be fine I’m betting.” It’s nothing save a weak encouragement from a random stranger, and yet I feel gratified to have noticed her pondering tomorrows, and the opportunity to toss in a single “don’t be sad, you’re not alone.”

For just a moment I imagined her assuming I was some panhandling bum or worse, a train riding lecher, “eyeing little girls with bad intent”. Whenever I try to commiserate with a lost soul of the opposite gender I fear reprisal based in fear because my gender has made a mess of things since time began. But this time I’m lucky; she smiles as I pass, sucking in a short breath as if to say “was I that obvious?” And then she says “thank you so much.”

I step from the train with a burning in my soul, I’ve done a good thing I think, whether I’m dead on about my supposition or slightly askew. She needed a kindness and she’d moved me to lend her one by simply carrying a yellow rose. Someday I may need to buy one for myself.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Lady Forkinbaby

“I realize it’s your brother’s friend and I should be nice to her and her year end project, but for God’s sake, it’s a black spray painted naked doll with a fork sticking out of its belly! I don’t really have to compliment it do I?”

Marie frowned, speaking a hundred pages of the ‘wife’s book of proper etiquette’ with a twist of her lip. “Just do it” she added with a raised eyebrow.

I had few options. I could lie and destroy my self image, or I could be honest and suffer the wrath of the assembled freshmen College of Art and Design artsy fartsies, most of which were now high on boilermakers made with ouzo. I decided to be clever, and try to use an old school phrase for honesty, hoping to have it received in a new school way, for the win.

“Fine Shit” I said as I smiled and pointed at her ridiculous excuse of an artistic masterpiece. “Hey, thanks Dude” goth-girl said grinning as her head pounded from shoulder to shoulder in some sort of satanically induced rhythm;

“Yup, some great shit” I repeated, visualizing her next work being a black spray painted pile of horse manure topped by a cherry. I moved on. I had more shit to appreciate.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Avoiding the Death of a Salesman

The colonel and I slipped into comfortably cushioned wicker chairs on his Paducah estate veranda. His maid, Hattie Smith, handed us each a tall, crystal glass of fresh squeezed lemonade on ice and then took her leave for the night. It was only he and I and the field mice present, so with his nod of permission, I began my story…

“It had been a long day, driving 21 miles up “going to the sun road” and crossing Logan pass, then down the east side of the Rockies into Saint Mary’s village. I was beat, a little chilled and in need of cheap lodging. I pulled my Nash Rambler into the St. M’s KOA. It had just opened for the season and stood nearly empty; 247 campsites and only a handful of hearty souls to fill them. Just my style. I chose a site at the end of the camp road, close enough to nature to smell it, but close enough to a neighbor to bother screaming for help should I be visited by a late night prowler.

In 1954 camping was really camping. No generators put-puttering, no television blaring through Winnebago windows. There were radios, but generally they were wired to earpieces so the noise they made was contained within the operator’s skull. And good thing too. Back then people didn’t like all the noise and commotion that mars the experience these days; they’d come to the woods specifically to hear crickets, not to drown them out. So with that said, I found it very strange to hear what sounded like a radio telephone conversation taking place within my listening range, in a language I’d never heard before.

It was the atomic age as they called it, a time to be on guard, wary, vigilant, particularly when Russkies might be involved,. And while I’d never actually heard Russian’s speak, the blab coming from an adjacent campsite sounded all too Red for my taste. If it were spies I found, and I hurried and turned them in to the authorities, I might receive a medal and a write-up in a national paper. I heard cash registers as I pondered the possibilities, I could be the most famous milk shake mixer salesman that ever was!”

The Colonel laughed at that. “I once had those lofty aspirations” he said in his gentleman’s drawl. “When I was young I sold tooth powder door to door and believed I could capture the entire US market. Then those damn scientists created paste for cleaning teeth, and my dreams were shattered.”

I laughed appropriately. He couldn’t know the seriousness of what I was about to tell him, being angry for his interrupting me would be counterproductive to my mission. But the moment we’d finished chortling, had taken new breath and then had quickly cleared our throats as laughers do, I began where I’d left off.

“Being an adequate outdoorsman if I might brag, I was not only skilled in orienteering, but also in silent movement and night vision. It happened to be three quarter moon, so focusing my eyes took little time. Still, I carried a large flashlight, just in case I needed to conk something on the head, or suddenly needed to run through moonless terrain; not that I was afraid mind you, but one never knows what those commies have up their comrade’s sleeves.

It took nearly 20 minutes to find their camp. They had no campfire burning, and the only light in the area was a bluish glow that came from the door of their Silver Streamliner trailer. But right away I felt instinctively relieved. They couldn’t be commies! The four of them had antennae on their heads! I figured they had to be American frat boys or maybe members of the Ray Bradbury fan club. I flicked on my light so as not to scare them, and sauntered into their space for a little neighborly chat; I’d walked this far I thought, I may as well see if they offer me a beer!

I’d only taken a dozen steps toward the group when I was frozen in my tracks by some unseen force. The man speaking into the radio device stopped abruptly, and his companions stood, aiming what appeared to be rifles at my head.”

The Colonel shushed me with wildly waving hands. “Well get to the point boy; were they Communists or not?”

“They were not sir” I said slowly and with enough tension in my voice that Sanders had no choice but to quiet down and concentrate on listening. Once I held his complete attention, I finished the sentence… “they were Martians!”
“Oh balderdash” the Colonel said. “That’s absurd! Now had you said ghosts, I might have quibbled a bit, but Martians! Indeed!”

An oval shaped head popped into view from behind one of the Colonel’s fine holly hedges; a head with elongated eyes, concave nostrils and a mouth that resembled a fire hose nozzle. Had I not known the creature would be listening I might have been as startled as Sanders.

“Is that… a Martian?” he squeaked through his white mustache. Both Nember Grimlock the Martian and I nodded in unison. The case was made quite handily I must say. Had the Colonel’s mind been wandering to this point, it was now securely stapled onto the backrest of his wicker chair.

“F.f.fffinish your story young man” he said, his hands quivering enough to spill a few drops of lemonade on his otherwise immaculate white suit pants. Without delay I picked up where I’d left off.

“At first they fought amongst themselves. It seemed they were angry about having been so lax in their security that a food service equipment salesman could just walk right into their camp! But as they were speaking in Martian I couldn’t really tell what they were fuming about, or why they kept flailing each other with these magnificent electrical whips they carried, slicing thin purple lines into each other’s skin-like covering. But then suddenly they stopped, sat, and appeared to brood; paying little if any attention to me.

I felt sad for them, they moped and heavily sighed, they all seemed very, very depressed.
So like any good salesman I tried to cheer them up so as to control them emotionally and broaden my opportunities!

At first I did my famous hand shadow figures using their campfire for projection and their space ship as my screen. But I suppose if they don’t know what a dog is, they wouldn’t think it’s funny having a shadow dog pee on a shadow fire hydrant. So I offered to buy them all a drink at the nearest pub, but they only stopped and stared at me, as if in that moment they felt more sorry for me than themselves. And then finally one spoke in a broken English.

He, or she, I’m not sure… told me they had been sent to earth in search of food; meaty type food to be exact. It seems Mars is running out of Placid Feral Dune Worms and needs a new supply of chewable protein. They had visited this planet eons ago and marveled at the diversity of species that was available for harvest, so naturally they assumed that a trip to set up a base camp and butcher shop would be all that was needed before Mars was regristled and ready to go. But alas, we, the humans, have nearly eliminated the meat supply by driving thousands of species into extinction. And now all that’s left is, well the human race themselves!”

The Colonel stood, as did the ray gun brandishing Nember Grimlock, and then the Colonel sat. “You can’t be serious man” he exclaimed while his eyes widened in terror. “They plan on treating us as inter planetary cattle and earth as the neighborhood, galactic grocery?”

When he put it that way, I nearly choked. It was a foul situation I’d stumbled into. But now that I was actively involved and knew the secrets of the universe, there was no turning back.

“Yes sir” I said with an obvious look of somber resignation. “But there’s a bright side to this cloud”. Sanders almost came out of his chair again, but he glanced at the ray gun first, and thought better of it.

“What could possibly be a bright spot in this ghastly nightmare?” he asked through his teeth.

“The chance to be spared, to grow old and wealthy beyond your wildest dreams? The chance to keep your loved ones from becoming Martian pupa chow?” I had to chuckle at that last line. It wasn’t funny really, considering… but it was damn clever.

I thought the Colonel would take some time to grow accustomed to the idea that we’d been invaded, but I’d underestimated his instinctual greed.

“Wealthy beyond my wildest dreams? For a simple deal with the devil? Speak up boy” he nearly shouted; “what’s the plan.”

So I explained the mathematics of our conditions; how we needed to compensate for our weight in meat with an appropriate poundage elsewhere. How I figured if we were to do more than just survive, we’d need to create so much meat that the Martians would be overwhelmed with our great powers of dietary manipulation and our quota would disappear; leaving us to cash in on a lousy stroke of luck and to become two of the most envied and honored men in all the world, perhaps even the galaxy.

Finally I’d reached the action steps, and Sanders leaned toward me as I described what was about to take place, with his agreement.

“I have found a few hamburger stands in California that I think will blossom into a huge corporation with the right propaganda campaign. I’ve sold them my shake mixers and then, with the Martian’s help in creative accounting, I’ve bought them out. I am now the biggest hamburger dude in the world I think, and the weight of the business will grow exponentially, following in the footsteps of our customers!”

The Colonel was catching on. He was tapping his cane with one hand and stroking his goatee with the other. “All we need to do is fatten up the population of the earth, and we’ll be spared the agony of becoming Martian sausage?”

“Righto” I said with a very small grin so as to show my pleasure at having worked out a deal to stay alive, while at the same time showing proper respect for the cattle we were about to produce for slaughter. “So are you in?”

“Well, I have this recipe of secret herbs and spices I’ve always wanted to mass market. Do you think the Martians will provide me with enough poultry to take over the world?”

“Have you heard of Tyson?”

“You must be joking!”

“Nope. Martians.”

The Colonel took a long swig off his lemonade. “I suppose we’re not out of the woods until we’re actually successful at making the general public chunkier. What are you going to call your place” he asked; “I have some experience in marketing, maybe I could give you some tips.”

I smiled. “I kind of like Mickey D’s”, I said. “I think it’s catchy.”

”Hmm”, he muttered while pulling at both of his large ears. “You Californians are so fad oriented. If you want to do business in the south you’ll have to be a little more formal than Mickey D’s!”

He had a point of course. Still, I could see my stores riding on the coattails of Walt Disney, with children thinking of hamburgers every time they saw a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Yet….

“What’s the name of that old guy again? The one that had a farm?”

The Colonel laughed; “Why sir, I think you mean old McDonald!”

A tie in to a nursery rhyme; That was good enough for me. “EIEIO” I said. “McDonald’s it is! And I’m going to have a clown as a corporate mascot.”

Sanders prickled at the thought. “Are you insane? Children have nightmares about clowns! Don’t do it!”

But he’d already gotten his way with the name. I wasn’t budging on the clown. Obesity Epidemic here we come! Harlan Sanders and Ray Kroc, Human engorgers extraordinaire!