Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Good War



I hesitate to say “war made me who I am” for many reasons, but it’s as important a foundation as any I might suggest and as it’s memorial day I thought to expound on it a little; for my own benefit is no one elses.

War was not something I thought about much as a kid. There were war movies and tv shows, Rat Patrol for instance. It seemed more adventure than grim reaper. Even those entertainments that showed the dead romanticized it, making the corpse piled horror seem more the Bela Lugosi version than the Nosferatu. My dad the history freak laid out the reality, but still, not having experienced seeing someone’s limb flee their body or the blood seeping from their exploded innards at least documented in film if not in person, I had no call to take it particularly seriously. Besides, we were at peace. My dad was a Korean war time vet, but had only served stateside and just barely at the end of the conflict. The only violent action he ever saw was years after his service when he chased some young punk on a bicycle a half mile for having tried to rob my grandmother. (Had the punk only been North Korea we’d now have a unified peninsula)

But once I’d reached the ripe age of 17, boys I knew started to vanish and little notes started showing up, reminding me of my forthcoming “duty”. I was busy with drugs mostly, and common, lesser thuggery, so while I thought about my impending doom now and then, I only truly concentrated on it when I’d go home to have an actual meal rather than buttered rice and cheap wine, and I’d see Walter Cronkite tally up the day’s body count.

One of the guys I knew was dead within a month of his leaving; another lost most of his arms. As December creeped up I found myself caring more and more, watching the news, reading the paper, talking to elders, steeling myself for my tragic end. I registered on my birthday. Mom made me pork roast with mashed potatoes and a piece of cake; a fair compensation for signing my future away.

I found myself incapable of expecting anything but the worst. It was a Runeborg thing, a lack of luck, a black Swede curse. I would be drafted, I was the guy who was certified as unable to live up to expectations, a brilliant idiot, sure to qualify for nothing but shark chum. I would be infantry, go to Nam, have to kill some people I didn’t know or care about, then I would die, hopefully so quickly as to be painlessly as well. I didn’t obsess about it. My father had taught me logic well; what would happen would happen, no sense wasting time on debating the projection. But I did start thinking about war.

I wasn’t raised with prejudice. I admit Minnesota isn’t exactly diversity heaven; in the sixties you might have been hard pressed to come up with enough latins to make a good Cinco de Mayo party. Blacks here lived pretty much in two enclaves neither of which the Runeborgs visited. though we did drive through the one on the way to grammas house a few times a year. Still, I never did get the idea that stereotypes were anything but that; perhaps rooted lightly in some truth, like a bonsai in an empty egg carton hole, but just petty insults in the main. People of other colors were just odd to me, like people with heavy accents, like my grandtante Lisa for instance who swore she had no accent and would glare you into a puddle if you said otherwise. Truly, they were all the same to me; Native, black, Hispanic, Ukrainian immigrant, Australian… pretty much the same thing… odd.

But when Nam was discussed, so were the Gooks. The Gooks were like unto the Japs as were the Krauts and the Reds and oh I dunno, there were others. And the Gooks were hated, mostly cuz they weren’t really human beings like we were at all, but raving fanatics whose minds had been siphoned out by giant Commie rat-bastard vacuums and their skull filled with a singular devotion to the death of all who do not follow their rules. Sure, I’m exaggerating. It never got that specific. It was more like “cuz they’re assholes that’s why” or the good old “cuz they have slant eyes and buck teeth” which only made me think of Mr. Moto which made me think of Peter Lorre which made me think of Boris Karloff which made me think of Frankenstein which made me visualize tunnels full of crawling Frankenstein monsters popping up from holes in the ground and growling in that special Frankie way at our soldiers… which wasn’t very scary really but more grin inducing.

But it made me think about Viet Cong and to break it down to one guy, a photo I’d found of this one soldier in PJ’s and a silly straw hat, and I stared into his eyes and tried to conjure up the monster he must be. He did look crabby, I’ll admit that. Of course a Snow Leopard in a cage looks kinda crabby too when someone’s taking a picture of his distressed being so I couldn’t blame the guy. His eyes were a little less than rounded but surely not “slanty”. Maybe one of his parents was Russkie I figured, so his eyeballs unslanted a little in the womb. And his teeth didn’t protrude at all; in fact they were pretty pearly, which surprised me a little as I never figured on poor Communist states to be bastions of dental hygienics. The fact was, given that he was probably a lot shorter and his hair a lot darker and his face a lot rounder, he looked just like me; a plain old ordinary human being.

I knew right there he (generally speaking of course as he might have been the actual Frankenstein monster for all I really know) did all that stuff that I do; he liked kids or didn’t, he probably had a girlfriend (it was the sixties, don’t flame me for not thinking a possible boyfriend) he probably sang songs with his pals and got a little too high sometimes and his mother probably still hugged him in spite of his protestations and his dad probably still whacked the back of his head with an open hand when he was being disrespectful… He loved and feared and anxiously awaited, and was frustrated and bored and all the same shit we all did. And he just as easily might have been a soldier for the exact same reasons many of us would become soldiers; because it was a job, because if we didn’t we’d go to jail, because we didn’t want to be traitors, because we bought the bullshit that on the other end of our guns there’s be a Frankenstein monster and not a human being at all; one who deserved everything that was coming to him in the form of a hot lead projectile, that once he and all his fellows were dead or had capitulated in some humiliating and testicle removing way, our ways would be saved, our babies could once again sleep at night without the fear of boogymen stealing them away, and we would from that day forward live long and prosper.

I felt… empathy for this stranger; sympathy even. Never again could I look at someone I didn’t know, no matter the color, or the shape, or the ethnicity, or the odd accent for that matter, as a representative of the worst of his or her kind; as immediately suspicious, as lesser or dumber or lazier or more corrupt. I can’t say it changed me completely because I was 95% there already. But as our own patron saint of moron politicians Mr. Rumsfeld would say, I didn’t yet know what I didn’t yet know; until that moment when one secret of the universe was made clear to me: Aint nobody here but us chickens, and we’re all equally tasty… to the Grim Reaper.

My number was drawn; it was in the low hundreds. I enlisted in the Navy to avoid the curse thing. I failed miserably; I should not be thanked for any service, I was rejected and have had to live with that hanging around my neck my entire life, emotionally and legally. In spite of that I came out of the experience a better man who understood the absolute wrongness in grouping humans together by some artificial marker, who enraged at the spewing of racial epitaphs, as well as saliva aimed at soldiers, who developed a contempt for the general public, a taste that never left, that only grows stronger with every Bircher, with every Militia, every Teabagger, every left wing manifesto dribbling nutjob, every human being that finds some catharsis in the hatred of others who are not like themselves.

I don’t do the hero thing. Not all military personnel are heroes. Some just needed a job, some were given a choice of jail time or military, some did the French foreign legion thing and ran from something to oblivion. Heroes are heroes, they know it, and most don’t want credit for it. To use the word so lightly cheapens it, or more, makes a mockery of it. My wife’s ex-husband joined the Air Force because he wanted a job and an adventure. He’s not a bad man, but he’s about as patriotic as a tree stump. He was a clerk, spent a couple years in Texas and a couple in Germany where he and Linda toured Europe as planned. I’m not thankin him for his “service” if you get my drift. A sacrifice requires sacrifice. Not all soldiers sacrifice. Many if not most “combat” soldiers do, and for them I offer thanks, and to the real heroes I offer something more than thanks and slightly less than deification.

I am not one to disparage the military for no reason. Simply put I believe if we don’t show our teeth there are neighborhood dogs that would put us down. That said, I wish not one more drop of blood would be shed, not one more future dream ended, not one more child raped or dragged off into the bush for a uniform and an AK. I wish the military was unnecessary, that violence was long a thing of the past, that good conquered bad and crazy was never explosive and we could all “just get along.” This is what would honor the men and women that died for us. Not flags and parades, not poppys and bumper stickers full of platitudes and plastic ribbons, not dedications of thanks or eloquent speeches or moms and apple pies. Peace people. Not saying “I hate those motherfuckers” ever again. Yes, doing what HAS to be done when it does, but THAT and THAT alone and no more. It’s fixing this poverty and hunger, this jealousy and fear and this 8th century cultural illiteracy madness. It’s doing what we can do, being nice to the cashier at the grocery store even when you’re hot and at the end of your rope, saying “I don’t do dat” when someone says the word spic or nigger or any of that crap rather than pulling your head into your coat and slipping off into the shadows.

If we just continue the game that’s been played since the Neanderthals, we dishonor the deaths of those who spent their futures on our continuing to live. I’m not doing it all that well, but these are the thoughts that came to me back in 1969 when my future was suspect, and this is the journey I’ve been on, all because of a war.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Buffalo Crossing

“Hey! Aren’t you a buffalo?”

It was a rhetorical question. Hell I’ve seen plenty of buffalo in my travels, and this most certainly was a buffalo.

“Why yes, so I am” the buffalo said; “And you’re human, right?”

It suddenly struck me that buffalo don’t speak, or at least if they do they most assuredly don’t speak English without a totally unintelligible accent, in which case I could never have understood the question, nor would I have answered it. And yet…

“Exactly” I said; “I had no idea buffalo were so bright!”

“Well, we’re not normally, but it seems I am for some reason.”

“This must be a dream I’m having!” An obvious deduction you might say, but honestly, the next time you’re in a dream, see if you can deduce shit from shinola and you’ll note why I was surprised.

“If you’re attempting to push me to admit I am simply a construct of your subconscious imagination and therefore lacking true substance not to mention a free will as is accorded to every living thing, you’re sorely mistaken” said the buffalo as he threateningly glared at me.

I was taken aback. “Oh heavens no!” I exclaimed; “I wouldn’t think of doing such a thing!”

“Good” snorted the buffalo. “Then, yes, I believe this is a dream.”

I was intrigued. “But” I asked, “why a buffalo? Why not, oh, let’s say, Heather Locklear? What is a buffalo doing in my dream?”

The buffalo smiled, as much as a buffalo can smile. “I’m grazing and glaring threateningly at passers by sir. What else would a buffalo be doing? As for Ms. Locklear” he added smugly, “perhaps she’s busy elsewhere. You may not be the only human on earth with an unhealthy obsession about the poor girl, there are likely many other dreams she must attend to.”

Well, that answered that question, I thought. The buffalo was here to pee on my parade.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Donna and Dan



Once upon a time there was a boy and girl named Donna and Dan, respectively. Certainly in this unisex age she might have been named Dan, and he, Donna, but not in this story. So if you know a guy named Donna and a girl named Dan, please don’t confuse them with the people in this tale, or it might not make any sense to you at all.

Now Donna, the girl in case anyone skimmed over the last part or read it and didn’t understand how it could possibly be that a girl had a girl’s name and not a boy’s, wasn’t very nice to Dan. He liked her, Dan did, but she, Donna, thought he, Dan, was a geek; and she believed with all her heart, not to mention her hormoney like things, she deserved a bad boy with manners in spite of the fact that oftentimes bad boys, even with manners, are just plain bad*. (* See: Eddie Haskell) In fact one time, on a hot summer’s day, when a light breeze was blowing and her auburn hair glinted, except for the black roots which more thrummed, Donna found a hornet’s nest hanging from her mother’s eave, and stood above it on the roof of her house waiting for little Dan to walk past on his way to school; and wouldn’t you know (well, I suppose you wouldn’t and that’s why you’re reading this) she took a big stick and whacked the nest away from her mother’s eave and right on top of Dan, the boy.

As Dan was being smothered by angry wasps, Donna just laughed and shouted “now like somebody else Mister cuz I’m waiting for someone special!” And while he screamed, and flailed, and shouted back “I don’t care what you do, you’re the girl named Donna for me!”, she left him there all covered in lumps and honey.

Another time, later in the summer after Dan’s welts had subsided to the point that he could leave his hospital bed and get around, with the help of a guide dog, since his eyes were still swollen shut, she, Donna, did another mean thing.

It was a dreary and rainy day, and Dan, and Weebly the guide dog, were just standing on the corner just down the street from Donna’s house, doing nothing really, though secretly Dan thought it was a good place to do nothing since he could be within aura range of his true love (based on the idea that her aura was about the size of a small mushroom cloud). Donna, the object of unwanted attentions, was suddenly seen marching from her front porch carrying something that trailed a long rope of some kind, or so it seemed. When she reached Dan, the geek, she, while looking askance, said “here, hold this for me would ya?” and handed Dan a medium sized personal hair dryer sporting two heat options and three fan speeds; and then she marched back toward her home, entered the porch, then the house, and slammed the front door shut.

Dan wasn’t sure what to think, except for the fact that he could now tell the “rope” was not a rope at all but an electrical cord. “Maybe she wants to take a shower and then dry her hair out here where I’m standing because she thinks drying her hair is a tedious chore and doing it in my company would be, while not overwhelmingly pleasant, at least slightly less than completely maddening.”

But Dan had guessed wrong. Within the time it took for him to come up with that very long, though quite eloquent sentence, Donna had plugged the electrical cord into her mother’s house’s living room’s west wall, upper socket, and Dan had only a few moments to admire how strong a wind blew from the obviously powerful hair dryer before it shocked him into submission.

As the ambulance drove away with a now convulsing Dan, Donna, who had returned to the scene of her meanness, yelled after the vehicle, “I mean it geek! Better boys want me, and I will climb over you to get to them!”

It was a few weeks before Dan had regained the use of the majority of his mind and body, and at that very moment, when he’d discovered he could pat his head and rub his stomach at the same time without his mother holding one of his hands and doing the motions for him as if he didn’t notice, that he finally came to the conclusion that creating a relationship with Donna, as amazingly sweet, robust, sensual, financially sound, joy filled, acrobatic, linguistic, merrimental and stuff his dreams made their future together out to be, was just too much like work; and he was only a boy still after all, so work was the furthest thing from his mind, right after bathing and taking out the garbage. There was only so much he could give, in the way of blood and skin and the all important "self esteem", before his will would break and he'd be forever embittered like some other people we all know.

It was hard to give up on a premonition like that, happiness being a brass ring he knew he must reach out for in order to experience, but five times already, three of which I skipped over because the story’s already long and I’m only a few prompts in so far, he had been burned, sometimes literally, by the woman he’d been “called*” to marry one day (*Donna had called him once, but as soon as he answered she screamed “Crap! Not you! Wrong number!” and hung up… and that was the sign he’d been waiting for), and nobody had ever seen the time she’d pushed over the city zoo’s piranha fish tank on him so he wasn’t even counting that, even though that’d make six times actually.

To be fair, there was a time when Donna was nice to Dan. After his father had barricaded himself in the house and shot it out with the police, who finally used dogs to break through the windows and drag his bleeding, vulgarity frothing self outside so they could rough him up like they did to Rodney King that time in LA, and then put the handcuffs on too tight, shove him into the back of a squad car after banging his head on the door jamb, pretending that they had warned him to “watch your head” but really they didn’t, and then Dan was just kinda standing outside his house kinda sniveling, watching the ambulance take his mom away to be treated for contusions caused by bad boy disease, Donna walked up to Dan and handed him a rat tail file and a recipe for chocolate cake; just in case he might want to help dad out.

But in the end, Donna was just too damned mean to Dan. He might have been fine with the occasional rap upside the head with a two by four, or being pushed off the curb into traffic, so long as he had time to brace himself before he got hit; but that hair dryer thing was just too much. He was through!

Meanwhile. Donna found herself a bad boy with manners; Dick. Now you’d think it was the author’s doing that he was named Dick, as what else would you name a bad boy, but in fact, his parents had thought of naming him Richard but hated the idea of their son being called “little Ritchie Rich” by their neighbors, even though they weren’t rich but only fans of a certain comic book, so they named the child Dick, because they had their heart set on Richard so firmly they couldn’t come up with anything but a variation on the theme. (Luckily, he hadn’t been born a girl or she might have been named Dicklet, or Dickley or something)

Anyway, Dick would ignore Donna properly, and humiliate her in public now and then. Donna fell head over heels. He was cute, strong, violent, vulgar, a real ass… how could she not love him?! He surely was all man, not like that geek Dan, whose name rhymed with man, but other than that was not in any way, in Donna’s mind at least, mannish.

One fine day Dick was riding around with his friends shouting bad words, though within complimentary phrases, about female body parts to girls that happened to be walking down the sidewalk near Donna’s house, when Donna spotted Dick, ran from her house, stood on the curb and posed in a non geeky, but not too sensuous fashion, as she was too young for that really and her mother would have kicked her ass had she seen her lifting up her skirt or something.

Dick’s friend’s car drew close and she waved at him as he flipped her the bird, then put two fingers in her mouth and whistled so loud Dick’s friend’s car’s headlights cracked. Dick was immediately smitten. What guy wouldn’t want a chick that would not only obviously put out, but could crack glass by only blowing through her puckered lips!

"I gotta have you!" He said.

"I just knew it!" she replied, to herself really, and to her image of Dan who in her mind was standing there all geeky like and looking sad so she stuck out her tongue at him, as if to whistle, only not.

Of course, Donna and Dick, or Dick and Donna if you’re not afraid of being suspected of being a misogynist, started dating, in that high school bad boy with manners, smart girl except for her absolutely ridiculous taste in boys kinda way. He’d grab her butt whenever he could, she’d slap his hand away with mock malice, mostly so the kids that saw them didn’t start calling her a slut and she’d have to kick all their asses which would not only take time, but leave her bruised and quite uncomfortable when rolling around on the back seat floor of Dick’s friend’s car with Dick.

But soon, Dick’s little secret presented itself. No, it’s not the secret you might think, once adding up dating and high school and bad boy and the name Dick, which I tried to explain was not an inference but only a poor choice by his creative as a tree stump parents; it’s another secret altogether so wipe that grin off your face.

See, Dick, the bad boy, was addicted to night time cough medicine! Donna might have been able to tell by his smelling like black licorice all the time, or by the fact that he’d excuse himself to go to the bathroom just after making out and he’d come back all woozy and stuff, and she knew it wasn’t because her kissing was all that good because she’d only practiced on her doll Mrs. Bltzflk so she was pretty sure she hadn’t really gotten the hang of it yet, not to mention the time their braces got hooked together, but that’s another story. I say she MIGHT have been able to tell, except she never had seen Dick, the bad boy’s pupils! His eyes were hidden underneath really thick, dark glasses all the time, and whenever she asked if he had a hard time seeing he got all defensive and said “NO! I wear thick glasses because I’m very sensitive to the sun’s viewsta rays and so I need fifty layers of protection! My eyesight is perfect, just like anyone else’s!”

The reality is, Dick was a closet campfire sniffer, a malady that affects young punks throughout suburban America, wherever the city councils have, in their lust for absolute power taken it upon themselves to allow residents little teeny weeny campfires on which to cook s’mores and tell ghost stories and cuddle up to the dog when no one’s looking. Dick, like many aimless young men, would sneak from back yard to back yard, planting his face not five feet above the smoldering ashes of someone’s conflagrated yard waste, breathing in huge snootfulls of the wafting smudge, trying to remember what it was like in his former life when he chased dinosaurs with big sticks and dragged women by the hair. It seemed so basic, the need to be a man, yet it was so difficult unless one was reminded of exactly what that meant.

As a result, Dick’s lungs rebelled, and before he’d begun his love affair with artificially fruit flavored medicinal goo, he would suffer long and painful coughing jags at the worst possible times; like when he would try and explain to his mom that the magazines under his bed were not what they seemed but only anthropology research, or when he was telling Officer Beatem that the car he was driving was borrowed from his good friends at whatever the name was on the plaque that was plastered on the driver’s door and not stolen like the police obviously thought, or worse yet, when he’d finally talked his English teacher Mrs. Kudoz into, well, you know, and he had his head, well, down. there. “Too little time, too many campfires” he would tell his friends when teased about messing up his big chance, but then, Darwin Delmont told him about the secret of non prescription cough stopper, and once and for all, he freed himself of the humiliating side effect of the therapy known to millions of sub-scientists as “Primal Steam.”

Luckily, before Dick was caught by his family and friends and forced to go on a reality show for being a generic sedating antihistamine junky, Donna followed him into the bathroom one night after he’d excused himself from a particularly unusual bout of kissing, one during which he’d held his breath most of the time claiming he had the hiccups when she knew it was probably… another woman… where she saw him swigging from the plastic bottle of doom and forced him to tell her the entire story, from gender incapacity to multisymptom relief!

“No more” she whispered as he puked into the nearest toilet because being honest had always made him ill, even as a child, like when his mom had made him say “I love you mommy” and he’d spit up all over her blouse. In spite of the vomit stains on his nice new Levi jacket, and the sudden snap of nasal drip he would suffer for years to come, he would always thank good mistress Donna for curing him of being a patsy to Big Drug.

A few months later, after Donna had become preggers and Dick had left the country claiming the Sultan of Beejeebers had called and requested an audience immediately and he didn’t know how long he’d be gone but it surely wouldn’t be more than a decade or two, a giant spider attacked the city where Donna and Dan and Dick, or at least until he left Dick, lived, and for some strange reason the great big hairy thing just kept shuffling over toward Donna’s house. Nobody really knew why the predatory invertebrate mesothelae seemed to be aiming to do harm to the little house on Hempberry hill, but as an avowed and processed arachnophobe, Donna, upon hearing the speculation, locked herself in her mom’s house’s basement and wouldn’t come out, except when a little teeny spider, in anticipation of its fifty foot cousin’s arrival began to sing “ding dong the witch is dead” after which Donna fled upstairs to the living room closet and grabbed her Doc Martens, ran back down and squashed the little gloater before he could utter another chorus.

Though nobody feared the Corruptifornia State Militia when they came to town to try and rid it of its recent unwelcome visitor, they might have had they known that the budget for training these valuable soldiers had been spent by injudicious governmental agencies from the Cream Clotting Council to the Shovel Handle Weight Bearing Testing Committee, and the boys were so badly educated that they incinerated the entire city save Dan’s house, Donna’s house, and the Sonic Drive In where most of them stopped to get a burger before they began spider hunting, cuz, as Commander Shitzengiggles put it, “Aracnocide is hard work, and my boys need a healthy breakfast before shovin’ some tarantula’s 6 legs up its butt!”

To everyone’s relief, the spider stopped, surveying the carnage around him and wondering what the hell was wrong with humans, when Dan appeared on the scene. Dan had studied spiders. In fact, Dan had a few pet spiders. Dan was secretly, a spider geek!

Stepping to the fore, as you always want to speak to a fifty foot spider from the front and never the rear, Dan began to question the monster in spiderese, a language he learned while cooing at his pet spiders who got tired of the baby talk and one day had been so fed up that they just taught him the damn language in hopes he’d quit doing that coochie coo thing.

“So, how’s it going” Dan asked.

“Not bad” the spider said; “you?”

“Oh I’m great, except that I have this constant itch in my crotch that doctors tell me has something to do with having once been overloaded with hornet venom. Well and there’s that nagging pain I get…”

The spider raised two of his legs to his gaping maw and shushed. “Yea yea” he said, “I get it. Life’s a bitch. So, whatdya want?”

“Well” said Dan, marveling at the spiders agility and manners, though the two aren’t related really but just happen to have struck him at the same time, “I was kinda wondering why you were goin over to Donna’s house? Is there some fifty foot cricket hiding in her garage maybe? Gosh, I hope you’re not thinking of doing Donna any harm because I’d have to stop you.”

“Actually” said the spider, “I’d heard there was this evil B-word that lived in the neighborhood, and since bugs are a little small for me if you get my drift, I thought I’d wrap me up a few days drinkin and be on my way, if you get my drift.”

Dan pondered the spiders words. It was obvious spiders weren’t very creative, unless it was just some cultural thing that made it permissible to be repetitive.

“Oh, you wouldn’t want to web her sir” Dan replied at last, once clearing his throat and then swallowing a few times because he’d recently smoked the roach of a joint his mother had nearly finished and he had cottonmouth something awful, “her blood is poison! I know, trust me! She head butted me one time but missed her target a little and nearly broke her nose so she bled on me and I got the worst hives you’ve ever seen!”

“Well gosh “said the spider, “that’s a shame. And I had my heart set on Donna for dinner. Know anyone who’s not so deadly?”

Dan smiled. “I do in fact. See his name’s Dick, and he is!” Dan went on to explain that Dick was not only a bad man for running out on his preggo gf, but was actually a geek pretending to be Fonzy behind coke-bottle thick shades!

“He’s juicy I hear”, said Dan; “not that I’d know personally of course” he added, rescuing his manhood reputation, deftly.

The fifty foot spider jotted down the directions to Dick’s new house, not in the Sultanate of Beejeebers at all but just on the other side of the railroad tracks from what used to be Marabelle’s Sudz and Snoozin, (the laundromat that was one of the first buildings to have burned down when Sergeant Krakow ordered his men to fire on the monsters and they set fire to the washers) and he scuttled off to the east.

When word got to Donna that Dan had saved her malicious hide, she smiled, hideously, but a smile nevertheless.

“Dan” she crooned as he walked past through the rubble that was once her neighbors homes on the way to his own rubble strewn street, “Dan, I think I was wrong about you Dan” taking a cue from really old movies where the femme fatale repeats the freaking love interest’s name over and over ad nauseum.

“Shucks ma’am” he said in his best Clint Eastwood when he’s playing a good guy which isn’t very damned often so think real hard and you’ll get what I mean, “It weren’t nothing”. He nearly choked on the last line as it wasn’t proper grammar and Mrs. Kudoz, with whom he had just begun a satisfying relationship, would hand him his ass if she’d heard him talk like that.

“Was it… scary Dan?” she asked, continuing that annoying affectation as if she were never going to drop it.

“Well no Donna” Dan replied, dumping the Eastwood and trying more for a sophisticated man about town because to him it was second nature to be a geek, and geeks are very sophisticated, “I wasn’t scared at all! I just called upon my Boy Guides training in hand to hand combat, and I taught that spider to not mess with my acquaintances; even the ones who have, more times than I can count, done me grievous mental and bodily harm.”

“I heard you talked him out of it!”

“Well ok, I did, but only because the tongue is the geeks' weapon of choice!”

“Dan, hon, would you like to use that tongue on something besides spiders?” Donna’s bosom was heaving, like in those books they sell at the airport that somebody obviously buys or they wouldn’t be there.

“I’m afraid not Donna” Dan said almost reluctantly, but then he changed his mind and thought of it after the fact as having been firmly, “you see Donna, I’ve changed. You’re no longer the girl named Donna for me."

Donna watched as Dan picked his way through Mr. Jackson’s collapsed chimney and Sally Fockenwulfs kitchen utensils which had been the victims of a particularly egregious explosive screwup. She couldn’t help but feel she may have made a mistake so long ago, when at six she began to stick long hat pins into a wax replica of Mr. Dandrige, the school principal, and then at eight, the first time she noticed Dan looking at her so she broke his face. In serious reflection, she cried, and then, went back into her mom’s house to find the cleaning chemicals so she could make a bomb with which to kill Dan because NOBODY walked away from her like that!!!

The End

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Dust of Little Stories



He’d been working on it his entire life; at least since the age of one or two. It started small at first. Tiny screws and tacks were found in various carpets. It’s all one could expect a toddler to find after all. Then, smallish slabs of wood, mostly multi-ply but some hard and soft woods. By age six he’d formed the legs, by eight the first row of cubbies, by nine the next and so on until the cabinet stood 12 cubbies high and 36 across. The drawers were difficult, though had he not reached the age of eighteen they’d have been impossible. Curved metal handles, the type libraries use for their index files, those that index fingers might just fit horizontally below were added last, as they required a bit of cash as much as desire and a steady hand. Finally, the labels; each face of each drawer sporting glued and screwed plaques announcing the names of his emotions, one by one.

To the top left was Surprise for example. It was high enough that no one could see what was actually in the drawer until one drew from it a vial of its contents; a clever enough symbolism on his part, but sadly the drawer had been empty for many years, and even the few surprises drawn from it to date had not been very surprising.

The center of the apothecary hutch was less artful, more pragmatic. There in one row left to right were Envy, Jealousy, Depression, Hate, Malice and so on; in another row were Rapture (nailed shut), Acceptance, Love, Complacency and the like.

Although it had taken the better part of thirty years to build the √©mouvoir armoire, the daunting task truly, was to attempt the filling of the drawers, so as to have an emotion ready when needed. Joy for instance, was impossible to find. He’d thought to have stumbled across a vial of the substance early on, but discovered it was only a potent philter of happiness, thus the subsequent mixing of a dash of annoyance with a single thread of disappointment, the ingestion of which caused the aforementioned permanent closure of the rapture drawer.

By his 55th year he had sampled at least once, each of his drawers’ substances (save that of joy), whether elixirs or distillates, effusions or suspensions, philters or simple dehydrated resins; but of many he was able to find only one dosage, and no amount of searching would bring him another. Optimism was one of these, as were anticipation, zest, eagerness… oh I could go on. It was not that he’d never tasted of each, nor that he simply didn’t understand every possibility contained therein. They were only such rare commodities within the sphere of his influence, capturing them even the single time was a near magical feat, and lately he’d grown tired of the hunt.

On this particular day he waffled, reading through his labeling system as though he hadn’t seen it a thousand times before.

“What shall I be today” he muttered. “Grouchy? Satisfied? Oh there’s a few vials of guilt if I want to go that way, though I was guilty just a few days ago, for what reason exactly I can’t remember now. If only I had a drawer of Stymied, I could spend the day staring at the ceiling without having to choose. But, here we are there’s really no choice, choose I must. Hmmm, Caring? Nah, tired of caring. Lust? Tempting, but no purpose really. Enthusiasm? Hell, I’m not even awake yet, and there’s only a few left anyway; I may as well save them for someone’s birthday party so I don’t have to fake it.”

In the end he had whittled his choices down to two; contentment, and bitterness. There were a few small sacks of contentment left. He’d used up all his happiness and had been filching the stores of contentment and complacency as often as he could. Now those cubbies were nearly empty and the harvesting of said emotions had become far too dependent on the weather, not to mention the day of the week.

What he did have though, in droves, was bitterness. In fact, one entire vertical row of drawers was labeled bitterness, as he’d rustled up so much of it to begin with, and as everyone knows it is one of the most self-propagating emotions available, why he just didn’t have space for all the bitterness at his command.

Bitterness or contentment. Bitterness or contentment. It was some time before he made his choice, but ever so slowly, so as to not chance spilling a single grain, he slid open the box of contentment and dissolved a single wax paper sleeve of the gray powder into a glass of water, downing it before he’d so much as stirred. It’s not as if the bitterness would go away, there was plenty to be had and surely he would have his fill before the cabinet was emptied; but for this one day he decided to write a pleasant story, one that said little, but was contentment unto itself. For this was his purpose in life, to write little stories that might somehow recreate contentment, that he might restock his cabinet and spend a few more days within its embrace.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

On Coolness and Cruelty



Linda and I were talking about why people hang on forever, and we found we thought very differently about it. Her take is simple...she doesn't get it. "If they don't want to be with you, why in the world would you want to be with them?" she says. "And if they've demonstrated even once that they can't be trusted with your love and vulnerability, why would you ever trust them again?"

"Life's too short and there are too many fish" she adds, as paraphrased by me. I could only applaud her good sense but as an example of a fellow raving lunatic, I found her lacking.

My part of the conversation as you might guess, was quite complex and anecdotal; filled with "and then ya know what happened"s until I was a tad blue in the face. I'll try to summarize 'cuz people sometimes yell at me when I go on too long.

When I was an adolescent I was a strange combo of geek and badass. My appearance was geek as I was too big and too poor anyway for reasonable clothes, hair too thin to comb stylishly, slightly overweight but enough to notice, eyes deepset and dark; very Nordic in a very anglo neighborhood. And due to the crap I suffered because of my appearance, I angrily put on the badass routine which in retrospect only made things worse. It seemed such a good idea.....

In spite of all this, I actually thought I was pretty cool all in all: intelligent, intellectual, cultured, creative; and yet daring, physical, a rules breaker and all around swell guy.

The rub was that no one else saw my coolness and certainly no chicks, who as a group thought me least cool of all or let's say, totally uncool.

It was lonely being seen as uncool, and I tried at various times to prove my detractors wrong. But in the end, I always failed to show my true self; Mr. Cool. And the punishment was frightful as not only did I have to suffer geeks as friends, but I never had what could be called a "date" as females shunned me as a conversation partner.

Oh I had sex, but it was of the bump and run variety; self gratifying but no walk on the beach the following morning, which is what I really wanted, as uncool as that may sound.

And then I met Anita...and she saw my coolnesses. She not only saw them, but she reveled in them, shouting them out for all to hear. To her, I was the "coolest" and so worthy of love as to force her into my arms with the sheer will of my animal magnetism. Ok, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.

She was the first human being to VERIFY what I'd known all along but that the huddled unwashed masses had missed; that I was "lovable" beyond that snuggly teddy bear crapola or that "hey bud gotta buck you can loan me" stuff.

AND, she was so incredibly attractive both physically and ...well physically anyway....that she could have had any guy she wanted!! and she chose ME!!! I was dumbstruck! And obviously, grateful...a truly horrid combination.

I turned over full rights to my coolness to my first wife, and the longer we were together, the more cool I became as each verification pushed me ever higher; and I must admit, the more important being cool became.

Then one day, she admitted to me that she didn't think I was so cool after all; that in fact she'd never really thought I was cool in the slightest but had just said that once she'd noticed my googoo eyes, so as to not hurt my feelings. She was just being kind for 4 years she told me. and now, she couldn't pretend any longer.

What happens when one day you're cool and the next day you're not? Well fuck Sherlock, you do everything in your power to get your coolness back! But as this woman had the verification rights to what was in fact my "beyond merely functioning" self worth, how else could I accomplish my goal without getting Anita back?!?! "Where's my Verifier!!"

Each time it's happened the resultant pain has been lessened, but only because as I've gotten older, my once large collection of coolnesses has been naturally whittled from me. It's a fact kids, get ready for it. The older you get, the less cool you are. But there's an upside; for me and the huge percentage of mortals that have played this same self defeating game.

Though your former lover (now adversary) still has control over the verification of cool, you have so little of it that it's not such a big deal anymore, and the time it takes to recover is severely lessened!

Now if you read this and get what I'm saying...and you find yourself in a similar sieve-like rubber raft as I, you can use this essay two ways. You might re-read it every few years and chuckle about how right I am, waiting until you're as old as dirt and so uncool as to not give a rat's ass that Billy or Suzy told you to take a flying leap;

Or you can stop this bullshit right here, and re-understand what you've known all along; that no one can tell you how cool you are but yourself.

And so you might remember that unless you give the verification rights to your coolness away, you'll be just as cool the day he/she leaves as the day they arrived, cuz you know as well as I...you have lots of coolness on your own; and then you'll be much better equipped to ...just...walk...away...and...never...look...back.


But then I didn't; three times over as I recall...so why should you? Just think of me as one of your parents and do as I say like a good kid.