Monday, August 31, 2009

Candy

It was like watching a fairy tale, or something written by Shakespeare, but set in a more modern era, if 1979 could be called that. That is the key, really, when the footprints hit the sand, if a writer can reach into the future with a story and people still see his work. Good writing, like human behavior, is eternal. Good writing captures people going through the same plays, the same drama, the same tragedies and comedies as we always have. So as it ever was, and same as it is now. I wish I had known I was a writer then, I would have been able to take notes, or at least gotten it down during the fact.
Daryl and Candy were High School sweethearts, who got married, stayed in Blakely after they graduated, and settled down to a nice comfortable small town life. Daryl worked as an electrician with his father, Candy got a job at the bank, and the two were the perfect little couple. It wasn’t long after their first anniversary Candy announced she was pregnant, and they would live happily ever after. Happy endings do not make for interesting writing in most cases, and when Candy slipped in the car port and fell, the future fell with her. A miscarriage isn’t the end of the world, but it created a tiny seam in the life they had created for themselves. Daryl went out one night with one of his old drinking buddies, Bobby, and it was right there I saw the beginning of the end.
Daryl and I had never ran with the same crowd. Most people considered me insane, dangerous, and downright scary. I was never sober, always trying to find something to get into, but I did have good pot. Daryl had never been much of a smoker, but he and Bobby were looking to kill some brain cells and to implement a little self- medication. I sold Daryl some pot, they went their way, and I went mine. A week later Daryl came back to bum a joint off me, and I almost said no. This was not the same confident and smugly happy person I had always not really known. Honestly, I knew it was evil, yes that is the word I want to use here, to sell him anything. Why? Why would I? I felt like the serpent in the garden at that point. But he came to me, I did not go into his home and tempt anyone. In all good truth, I wanted to see him fall. He was clean, sober, sane, connected, respected, had a future and life smiled upon him. Daryl dipped into my world, slumming, looking for sympathy and relief from his perfect life gone wrong, and I made a buck off that.
Daryl came back on a regular basis after that, and each time he bought pot from me he stepped a little further away from that world he once lived in. As he bought more I knew Candy was smoking too, and I knew it was a matter of time before something happened. Daryl started drinking again, started missing work, and his father finally fired him. Bobby got him a job working pulpwood, it was just temporary of course, until he got back on his feet. They threw a really wild party one night, and I wandered into it no more than a ghost. In four years of High School I had never seen Candy drink, but she was now, and she looked all Chinese eyes and scary. In school, Candy had never given me so much as the time of day, but they were out of pot so I was her new best friend. A minor demon in the underworld, I was someone she would have never allowed into her house, but this was a party. I looked around and didn’t see any of her old friend, but plenty of Daryl’s new buddies. Their prefect little house was getting beer spilled on it, and if buildings have hearts, this one was breaking. Someone fell into the rose bushes, breaking them off at the ground, and someone cut a doughnut in the front yard as they left. Rumors swirled around after that night about wife swapping and sex parties. Candy lost her job at the bank when some money was miscounted. The first night I saw her working as a cashier in Blakely’s only fast food joint was a stunner.


Daryl showed up one night, nervous as hell, and I sold him a quarter pound of pot. I cleaned out my car, and waited. I knew he was going to sell the stuff, and I also knew he hadn’t a clue as to how to hide what he was doing. They picked me up the next day, and I knew Daryl had ratted me out. It didn’t matter one bit, because they knew me, and I knew them. They knew there were those of us who saw it coming, and there were those who didn’t.

They offered Daryl a deal, and that deal was to turn over as many people as he knew, to save himself and Candy. The cops told him who to sell to, and when, and they rolled in and picked up their prearranged prey. At that time, pot was being sold in ounce bags, so Daryl sold out four of his friends, who in turn would sell out whoever the cops wanted from them. All in all, about twenty-five people in Early County went down in a couple of days.

Daryl and Candy tried to pick up the pieces of their lives again, but it is very hard to look back at what you’ve done when you were stoned and drunk and then deal with it when you’re clean again. The people you were smoking and drinking with are still smoking and drinking, but you want to stop and cannot, because they are your friends, right? One of the people Daryl sold out was Bobby, so that made it easier to keep away from a lot of the party crowd, but at the same time, turning on your friends is never easily forgiven, not even by those who have committed that sin.
I saw Candy a few days ago, in a Wal-mart in Thomasville Georgia. I was almost out of the store when I realized who she was. I went back in, and saw her looking baby clothes. It’s been long enough for there to be grandchildren, yes, and I almost went to speak to her. But almost thirty years ago, I had a chance to not do something, and I wish I could undo it. I can’t. I really have no right to speak to her, and I will always wonder if she knows it.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Strangers

Strangers make me nervous. I don’t like human beings to get within knife range of me on my best days. It’s not I’m afraid I’ll be killed by some random person or anything like that but it’s more like watching the traffic around you because sooner or later some moron is going to do something stupid while driving. Working in and around traffic totally destroys any faith a person might possibly have in humanity. Survival is predicated on assuming the worst of each and every driver coming at you. I just transferred that belief system to humans not in traffic, and so far I’m still alive.

The phrase “pissy attitude” would be spoken before the end of the evening.

Leigh is a woman I know from the Y but it isn’t like we’re good friends. I do remember telling her where I lived, and telling her my neighbors operate a horse riding business. Generally speaking, no one rides horses after dark, and my neighbors aren’t the type to do business with people who show up drunk. Leigh wasn’t sloppy drunk, but I could tell she had been drinking, and the couple with her, Billy Bob and his wife, Karen Anne, was getting more than a little tipsy. They were on their way to Tallahassee and Leigh mentioned she knew someone who lived out this way.
When they pulled up in the yard I went outside with the .38 in my hand, as I always do when someone I do not know arrives. Leigh’s friend Billy Bob didn’t much like it. He’s the type of guy who got into the habit of calling everyone “Boy” and there isn’t anything that irritates me more. Billy Bob had a plan, however, and I knew something wasn’t right, I just didn’t know what it was. Because Leigh seemed really embarrassed over the clash between myself and Billy Bob before they could get out of the truck, I invited them in.

Lucas is still in that love me love me love me love me love me phase puppies go through, and Sam is still terribly jealous, so that helped. Clearly, Billy Bob and I did not come from the same planet. He wondered aloud where my stuffed fish and Deer heads were. Why was I not watching ESPN? What in the hell was I doing listening to that weird classical music, oh wait, I’ve got my CDs in the truck I’ll go get them.
Southern Rock isn’t something I have ever liked, and I’m sure as hell not going to have someone I do not know wade into my house and play music I do not like. Billy Bob hated Bach, so I decided an end of the evening was needed, ten minutes after it began, and I told them while I really enjoyed meeting them, I thought it was time they went on their merry way. Tallahassee was where they were going, so there they ought to go. Billy Bob switched tacks and decided I needed to go with them. No, thank you, I rather not. He went through this long list of things they were going to do, and it dawned upon me he was trying almost desperately to find some way to get me to go with them. I put the dogs out of the back door, went to the front door, and held it open. Go. Now. End of conversation. Leave now, and do not come back. It was far more rude than I like to be but Billy Bob was a man on a mission, and I had no idea what that mission might be. All I knew is I wasn’t going to be part of it.
There was this weird standoff where Billy Bob was trying to get me to shake hands with him and I was telling him to get out. It’s a major insult in The South for a man to refuse to shake hands with another, and we both knew it. Leigh and Karen Anne went and got into the truck, and that more or less pulled Billy Bob out of the house. I closed the door, turned off the outside lights and cracked another beer. I really hate people sometimes.

A few minutes later Leigh knocks on the door. Billy Bob got abusive so when they got to the end of the driveway she got out. She’s got no cell service this far out, and so I let her borrow my landline to call for a ride. I’ve been drinking so I can’t take her back to Valdosta, and besides, it’s getting late. I have visions of Billy Bob coming back for her. This will not end well. Leigh tells me they were going to Tallahassee and when she mentioned she knew someone who lived out here, Billy Bob remembered his father used to take him fishing out near my neighbor’s lake when he was a kid. His idea was to make friends with me so he could go fishing out there again.
See? There is a reason I do not like people.

Leigh can’t find a ride so I let her sleep on the sofa. It occurs to me Leigh isn’t a bad looking woman, but it also occurs to me Leigh hangs out with some very unsavory people. The thought wanders in and out of my head for a while, but then it finally wanders away. It’s late. I’m tired. We’re both drunk, and she doesn’t have a way out. It’s a little too close to predatory at this point.

This morning Lucas wakes her up with puppy kisses at dawn. She’s incredibly embarrassed about the whole thing now that she’s sober, and she apologizes over and over and over again. I give her a ride home, and just before she gets out of the truck she asks me, “Do you think I’m pretty?” Leigh is a thirty something year old woman who works out every once in a while. Her hair is bleech-ed blonde, and she wears too much make-up most of the time. But here in the early morning light, with her hair pulled back, and all the make-up gone, and she’s just about to cry, yeah, Leigh is pretty. I tell her it’s okay, and that had everything been different, it would have been different. She smiles, slides out of the truck, and I’m alone again.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stray Minus Fifteen

Lucas: Fifteen Days Later



This was Lucas 15 Days ago.


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Lucas Now...



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Mal-Wart: Your Home For Cheap Plastic Shit.

I won’t go to Mal-Wart unless I need a lot of stuff and do not feel like driving around town to several different places. I need dog chews so I might live another day, I need oil change stuff, I need a filter for my vacuum cleaner, I need some Goody’s Powers, and I need kitchen sponges. I like the kind with a sponge on one side and a scrub pad on the other. Either I can go to one place and get it all or go to several places and waste a lot of time shopping. It’s not the shopping that’s so bad but the checking out. I hate that part of it. Rarely can you just walk up and exchange money for stuff, and that be it. More on that later, I assure you, it’s coming.
I went to the Y this morning for Yoga and one of the women in the class brought a twelve year old with her. Her husband ( and yes, she told the entire class why she brought the kid, and gave us details we didn’t need, and yes, that is all part of why I wrote this, because other than going out with a large caliber automatic weapon that spews out superheated plasma charges in the general direction of morons, I write), anyway, her husband told her he wasn’t watching the kid because he wanted to mow grass but he was still sleeping in when she left. Damn, woman, just leave the kid at home, and let him wake your husband.
The kid is this bulging self absorbed little twit who is hooked up to one of those hand held games. He doesn’t realize, or he doesn’t care, he has to speak rather loudly to hear himself over the sound of his earbuds. “MOM I GOT TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!” “MOM I JUST GOT TO LEVEL NINETY-EIGHT!” “MOM CAN YOU HOLD THIS WHILE I STEAL YET ANOTHER MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE FROM YOU SO YOU WILL FOREVER BE OBLIGATED TO SERVE ME?” I just wanted to walk over and slap the shit out of him for treating her like that.
I knew better than to go shopping today. I knew there would be trouble after the disharmonious Yoga class. It began as soon as I stepped out of the truck, and there was a hypodermic needle lying in the parking lot. In South Georgia, no shoes no shirts no problem, but it’s the no shoes thing that might hold sway here. It’s creepy to find a needle. Always.
Because it’s barely after nine the place isn’t crowded, but there are always those idiots who cannot stay out of the way of those of us who are actually trying our best to get in, get the stuff, and get out. People in South Georgia think Mal Wart is an event for the whole family so they’ll have a family reunion in aisle three. I have to go around them because getting them to get the hell out of the way might mean they would have to have some semblance of courtesy.

Of course they do not have the oil or air filter I need, and I have to cross reference my number with their manual which is bigger than the annotated edition of the Independent Southern Baptist King James edition of the Holy Bible. I brought in my little note pad so I could write the number down, and after I find my number, so redneck wades in and tries to remember his number and can’t. He has to look it up again and before I can offer him the use of my notepad, he tears the whole page out of the Independent Southern Baptist King James edition of the Holy Bible catalog of oil and air filters and that way he doesn’t have to remember anything.

Remember what I said about check out? Okay, there is a woman, one woman, in front of me at the checkout in the Garden Center. I almost, very nearly, bail, because she’s got a lot of stuff, and the cashier looks less than inspired. Worse, her fellow employees are morons. One wades into the middle of the sale for a price check, and a discussion as to whether or not the price on the tag is the right price. Apparently less –than- inspired-chick is the keeper of the keys, because someone asks her what key unlocks what lock to get the bikes out ( this will show up very soon, and not in my favor) and finally someone calls her on her cell phone and she has to answer it or life as we know it will end.
Remember the bike? Seem while the woman ahead of me was putting all her cheap plastic shit on the counter to be rung up, her mother was trying to buy a bike. Not a real bike, mind you, but one of those tiny kid’s bikes that will last a week or so before it gets destroyed. They have to discuss this and I ask them if perhaps they should make their purchasing decisions before they get into the line which is supposed to be for buying, not deciding.
“It’s for his birthday!” the mother huffs at me, and very nearly I told her for his birthday she could take that piece of crap bike and stick up her very large butt. To push me over the edge, she then pulls out a check to pay for it all.

It occurs to me people will let their kids take over their lives to the point it interferes with their health. It causes people to overfeed the little bastards, and obviously some of them aren’t exercising enough. It occurs to me we’re spending way too much money on them, and getting far too little in return for it. It occurs to me one day these people will be adults, and all I can truly hope is they all have children of their own.
Take Care,
Mike

Friday, August 28, 2009

Amphi-End, Adam and Eve are cast from the Bus station.

With the Amphiuma safety ensconced in his new and most excellent digs you would think the story had come to a close, and for his part, our eel-like salamander would spend the next five years as a pampered pet, in as much as someone can pamper a surely eel-like salamander. We did discover it was totally carnivorous in nature and would eat anything aquatic but loved crawdads. It also had a very nasty bite. Those who thought an ambush predator is less a predator would be rewarded by a very curious looking scar or in the case of feeder fish, a sudden but brief rain of shimmery scales followed by silence. In the aquarium no one can hear you scream.
Adam and Eve made plans to be married, and JTP and I was quite surprised when Eve announced we would be throwing Adam a Bachelor’s Party. She allowed that it would be a great time for us to sit around, play Risk, and drink a few beers. In fact, she was going to sit it out entirely because her family had come down for the rehearsal stuff destined to go down the next day. She had no idea she was dealing with professionals.

Adam had once been a professional drinker but a year of the ball and chain had weakened him. We did shots of tequila and chasers of beer until he turned green and went into a coma. Our original plan involved us dumping him out in a hog pen just east of town, but we lived in fear he might awaken and discover a female just slightly smaller than Eve next to him. The offspring of that encounter…nevermind. Okay, at this point let me explain to you there were five people, not including Adam, in the room when this next plan was hatched. Young Steven, who lived next door and did not drink, said these words, “Why don’t we put him on a bus to somewhere?”
We loaded the nearly dead Adam into my car and drove him to the bus station, pooled our money, and bought a ticket to Jacksonville Florida. Why Jacksonville? Because we didn’t have a lot of money, and a bus to Jacksonville left in one hour. That and Jacksonville was only two hours away. Adam would call us and we would go get him, ha ha. We convinced the bus driver to take the corpse-ified Adam onto his bus by telling him Adam had to get to Jacksonville by the next day for his wedding. We took his wallet, his pocket change, and as we left him on the bus, we took his shoes, too. We then went back to my place to wait for him to call, and to drink more tequila. Young Steve went back home. Two more less serious drinkers drifted away about the same time, so JT and I were the last two left to catch the phone call. An hour later, we passed out waiting. We had forgotten we had turned the phone off so Eve couldn’t interrupt our drinking.

Adam was rudely awakened by the bus driver to discover he was penniless, shoeless, and clueless. The bus station in Jacksonville is a horrible and crude place and it blends in perfectly with the part of town where it is located. Adam managed to bum enough change to call us, but we didn’t answer. Another hour went by and he finally contacted Eve. She jumped into her car and went to our place and banged on the door to no avail, so she headed South to go get her man.
Adam had gotten terribly sick and was camped out in the bathroom. Eve, in her haste, left her house wearing a pair of shorts, an oversized tee shirt, and a pair of flip-flops. Accustomed to people in general, and men in particular jumping when she spoke, the Zombies working the late shift at the Jacksonville infuriated Eve. The local police, who were summoned by the Zombies, sought to inquire why a woman so barely dressed would be seeking a man at such a late hour, in the Jacksonville bus station. The innuendo pushed the already maddened Eve into a brand new level of anger. The Jacksonville Police department, having worked around the bus station for quite some time, was not impressed in the least. Adam wandered, stumbled staggered, out of the bathroom only to discover the love of his life was in handcuffs, perhaps or the very first time, or perhaps not depending on her peccadilloes, and offered himself as evidence for her search. Again, in her haste, Eve had not bothered to bring her purse, and had no identification. We had taken Adam’s. They both were hauled to jail, and Eve’s parents had to come bail them out.

I awoke the next morning and after a few cups of coffee wondered aloud as to the fate of Adam. JT was sitting there equally pained, he offered the suggestion that perhaps Adam had passed out at the bus station, and a road trip would be needed to extract him. Simultaneously, we espied the blinking, red, and baleful eye of the answering machine. After hearing the first ten messages, we both ran for the door, knowing it might already be too late to hide.

When Adam caught up with me two days later I explained to him I had left the party early to recover more of his power tools and had nothing to do with the road trip. I had delivered unto him the drill and the saw, and told him I was hot on the trail of the rest of the equipment even as he held the .357 on me. He didn’t believe me, of course, but he did remember me giving his tools back. I knew he wouldn’t shoot me, but I also knew I had to pretend I did think he would shoot me or he might shoot me. The fear that someone might shoot you is nearly as strong as believing someone will shoot you. Besides, I owed him for what we did to him. I did a very good job of pretending I thought he would actually kill me.

That was over twenty years ago. Adam and Eve are still married, as far as I know. Neither are speaking to me, even after that long a time, however, and to this day, I haven’t been invited over to their place for a few drinks.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Summer of 2009

There is no denying it’s late August. The corn has turned brown, the cotton is beginning to show, peanut trailers are being readied, and the sun seems to set just a little earlier in the day than it did, well, just last week. A week ago Summer was still here, but this has been a mild Summer for South Georgia. We had one week, (one week!) of triple digit heat and after that it was as if June never really left us. Now we’re heading down to the end of Summer, and there doesn’t seem to be much fight left.
The Summer of 2007 left us all panting like dogs and begging for relief. The first three weeks of August was a grueling twenty-one day and night head in the oven oh my god can you believe how hot it is and each and every day was over one hundred degrees. The night saw the mid-seventies, at best, and the sun rose to eighty on the bad days. The first part of the Summer of 2007 saw massive wildfires, and it wasn’t until a tropical storm pounded the fire into submission we drew a clean breath. The afternoon rains kept the fire down, but the heat never blinked.
But that was two years ago now. This Summer has been nice, almost, and right now, at this very moment, I have the doors open and a window, too. There is a very light gentle rain dripping out of the sky, and the trees, the crickets are buzzing, and there is a stray frog or two in the pond singing. September has brought us brutal Summer heat but even then you know there is an end in sight. We could be out of it early this year. Dare we hope the heat is already gone? The air seems almost not warm. I would not call it a chill in the air, but gone is the oppressive humidity and ever present warmness. It feels good out.
It was a good time of the year to rescue a puppy, and even now the little beastie is napping at my feet. Napping or snapping Lucas knows no middle ground, and his older packmates like the cooler weather. Bert, who is part chow and more than just a little furry, likes cool weather. Sam, short haired and lean, likes it when he can play fetch for an hour without his tongue rolling out a foot long and dirty. My elderly mutts have survived another Summer. It’s a cool Thursday night, and it sounds great out.
The long range forecast doesn’t look that bad. The call is for the first of next week to see lows in the mid-sixties. That’s great sleeping weather, very good bed weather, if you have a willing partner, and it spells the end to the high utility bills. 2007 saw me shelling out a hundred bucks a month on electricity, and I’m not a big fan of the AC. I can cut it off right now and not turn the heat on until November.

This is over exuberant optimism on my part, of course, but I deserve a little of the stuff, I think. Late August, cool weather, nice forecast, and a light rain? That is heady stuff in South Georgia. We’ll drag out the winter coats if it gets near sixty. Sixty? Did I just write sixty in late August? Ah, I am drunk on the coolness of the night! This is a rare treat, to be looking forward into the year, and know there is cool weather this close, and the days of the triple digit heat have passed for one more season.
I’ll miss it, you know. I’ll miss the heavy heat. I’ll miss the extremeness of it, and danger of it, and the sheer challenge of staying alive when running in it. I’ll miss the humidity, no, wait, dammit, I won’t miss that one bit. But I already miss the Summer.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hermit Freezes Mom in Block Of Ice, Shoots Neighbor, and Wants to Be Alone.

MADISON, Wis. - True to his word, a hermit who encased his dead mother in a block of ice keeps himself in solitary confinement by threatening people, swearing at guards or simply refusing to leave his cell.

Philip Schuth told a newspaper when he was sentenced to prison in 2005 that he feared other inmates and wanted to live in solitary confinement. Prison conduct reports show Schuth, 56, has been working to do that, earning more than 1,400 days in solitary.

"He's somebody who just wants to be left alone," said Schuth's attorney, Michael Lieberman. "It appears in his mind keeping himself in solitary confinement is the best way to keep himself safe."

Dude! Couldn’t you just buy a house in the woods? Come on man! That’s a long damn time! Four years alone in a box? You better be cranking out one bitchin’ novel.

For decades Schuth and his mother, Edith, lived in a crumbling two-story house in the town of Campbell, a hamlet of about 4,000 people on French Island outside La Crosse, Wis.

Children teased him in school and he never found real work, neighbors said. He often walked the streets in knee-high rubber boots.

Small town loner with no fashion sense. Hey man, this isn’t funny anymore!

Things came to a head in April 2005, when Schuth shot Randy Russell Jr. after Russell came into his yard to ask if Schuth had hit Russell's 10-year-old son. Russell fled and Schuth retreated into his house. An all-night standoff with police ensued. Schuth eventually surrendered without incident and Russell survived his wounds.

There is a line between being a Hermit and being a nutcase. Hitting kids and shooting other people put you firmly in the “nutcase” category. I’ll get the other members of The Order to cast this man out at out next meeting. Wait. We’re Hermits. We never meet in groups. Okay, I’ll cast him out. All opposed? Motion carries.

Police then discovered Schuth's dead mother in a basement chest freezer, frozen into a 200-to-300 pound block of ice. Schuth told investigators she died in 2000 of natural causes. He kept her hidden because he feared police might charge him with homicide and he needed her Social Security payments.

You know, I think I may have cast him out of The Order just a wee bit late. So, dude, you just in there chillin with your ma? That’s cold.

Schuth was the talk of La Crosse for months. One man even started selling car magnets that read: "What's in Your Freezer? French Island, WI" and "My Mom is Cooler Than Yours! French Island, WI."

I would point out to you how totally tasteless this is and how it points to the decline of our civilization except I was doing the same thing a paragraph ago. Nevermind.

A judge sentenced Schuth in November 2005 to seven years in prison and 10 years extended supervision for hiding a corpse, attempted homicide and recklessly endangering safety. The next summer a federal judge gave him four months, to be served simultaneously with his state sentence, for Social Security fraud. Schuth gave a bizarre speech in court laced with Latin, demanding more roles for actress Jennifer Garner and fewer for her husband, Ben Affleck.

Seven years for a dude that shot someone and kept his mother in a block of ice? May I take a look at those sentencing guidelines? You’ve got them confused with those people who do shots with their neighbors and keep ice for their mom while defrauding Social Security.

Schuth gave a bizarre speech in court laced with Latin, demanding more roles for actress Jennifer Garner and fewer for her husband, Ben Affleck.

He has his moments of lucidity, yea.

He started demanding to live in solitary the day he got to prison, conduct reports show.

After watching an orientation video on his first day at Dodge Correctional in December 2005, he immediately told a guard he was a solitary person and asked to be placed in "the hole." He refused to go to his cell and got his wish: 90 days in solitary for disobeying orders.

“I wanna be kept in solitary.” Crazed Hermit.

“No” The System

“Then I’ll act up.” Crazed Hermit.

“Then we will punish you.” The System.

“How?” Crazed Hermit.

“By keeping you in solitary.” The System.

Do you not see where this might be heading?

Schuth has received 11 more conduct reports since for violations ranging from disobeying orders to leave solitary to making threats and being disruptive.

He got 180 days for calling a Green Bay guard a "Nazi flattop (expletive)" in May 2007. In August 2008 he got another 30 days for swearing at a guard at the unnamed facility.

Well imagine that!

The most recent conduct report was dated April 2009. He got 90 days for refusing to leave his cell in solitary.

And the punishment for that is…?

"This demonstrates a good example of why prison isn't really the place for people with mental illness," Lieberman said. "Even if you go back to the facts of his state case, without trying to minimize his conduct, he was living in isolation, wanting to be left alone. If he had been left alone, none of this would have happened."

Except for the freezing his mom in a block of ice stuff that popped up there at the end. Oh, and by the way, shooting people isn’t always a guarantee you’ll be left alone. Buy a house in the woods. Get a computer and three dogs. Man, I’m telling you, this is much better and much easier on your parents.

Take Care,

Mike

The Hidden Room

If you’ve been keeping up with what I write for any length at all you already know I have reoccurring Dreamscapes. These are the movie sets the human mind creates so dreams have a place to happen. Yeah, I also have reoccurring dream people but this isn’t one of those cases. This is about a house and a room, and what is happening to them both.

To begin with there is a city. I haven’t named the city and I suppose I should because I’ve been there several times. It’s a very large city with sky scrapers and all the big city stuff, but there just aren’t very many people there. There’s a very tall and very large building made out of black glass which sits near the park, and it’s a very large park, too, but the building has never been used and there is nothing inside of it but rows and rows of empty offices. All the floor of this building look exactly the same, and all the door look exactly the same, so when I’m in there I have one hell of a hard time getting out again because I can never find the stairwell. Each floor has a stairway to the next floor but they’re staggered about so they are never in the same location on each floor. It’s kind of scary to be in that building and I do not like it one bit when I wind up there.

Look east from the empty building there’s the park with swing sets and slides and all sorts of stuff. It’s a wide open type park with a vast green lawn inside the park and trees surrounding it. Still heading east there is an old established neighborhood with rows of wood frame houses, almost all of them two story houses, and all of them very well kept up. East down this street is a turn to the South, where there is a tiny paved road that dead ends to where the city keep a lot of their maintenance stuff. There’s a red brick building with a loading dock and it’s always run down looking.

But none of this has anything to do with the house, and the room.

Okay, because it’s a dream this means things change. The last time I was in the house and in the room the house was downtown in one of the worst sections of town, the rotting away inner city where buildings have been left to die. This time the house was in a much better part of town, and the room, well the room is what this is all about to begin with, you know. The house is one of those two story houses, wood frame with a massive fireplace in the main room. There’s two bedrooms upstairs, but to one side of the fireplace the ceiling slopes downwards, and I’m just able to reach the wood paneling. When the right panel is pulled down there’s a lever, and when the lever is pulled three panels open up and there’s a ladder. Pull the ladder down and the ceiling opens up to a hidden room!

The hidden room in the attic is, of course, what this is all about. It is situation between the two bedrooms upstairs, and therefore it is a little cramped but it was built so whoever was in the room could see what was happening all over the house, and outside too. There are peepholes hidden in every room, and tiny portholes to view the outside world. The floor of the hidden room is covered with a very thick carpet so no one can hear anyone inside walking. There’s even a sky light, and a bathroom. To get into the room whoever comes in must pass through the rungs of the ladder, so it isn’t easy, and only one person at a time can get in. It’s a nice, cheery place that’s great for a writer. The first time I discovered how to get up into the hidden room I was perfectly delighted. I can’t remember what it was that made me look but I’ve been in the room two or three times since then and there is always some old book laying around I didn’t notice before, or something going on in the house I can watch without being noticed. Of all the Dreamscapes I’ve ever had this is one of the best.

Someone bought the house.

The doors were open when I got there, as usual, but this time someone had gone in and really cleaned the place up. There were drop clothes all around, and the place smelled of sawdust and paint. A young woman with pretty eyes greeted me at the door and gushed about everything they were doing to the house. I asked if she knew about the hidden room, and she said that is why they bought the place. She had some trouble navigating the ladder still, but they had totally redone the room, and I must say it looked great. The walls were a dark blue color and the trip was white. The floor had been redone with thick white carpet, and the skylight had been expanded. The woman’s husband came up and it was then they realized neither of them knew me, and there was this truly long awkward silence. I mean, wow, this guy comes home and his wife is alone with a stranger in a hidden room, and she’s telling him, “I thought he was your friend from work, isn’t he supposed to be here?’ and the man was saying, “Who the hell are you and what in the hell are you doing in my house?” I tried to explain that I just like the house a lot and the room a lot more, and the wife told him she did invite me into the house, and did offer to show me the room, and I told them the last time I had been here what it looked like, and they did settle down quite a bit.

The problem now is they told me not to come back, not even to visit the room, and I think I’ll be stressed out about this. Yeah, okay, I do realize this is a dream and my mind is controlling all of this, but what if this is my mind’s way of stopping the dream about the room? Damn, I am going to so miss that place.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Amphiuma and UFO's

Okay, one of the more serious but less known side effects of substance abuse is “The UFO Syndrome” This theory states that if you’re drunk or stoned out of your mind you might as well not bother to tell anyone you saw a UFO even if you really think you did. The little grey men could be dancing naked in a Conga line to old BeeGee’s tunes while abducting Elvis but if you’ve so much as been in the same area code with some decent hash there’s no point in trying to explain what you saw to anyone, or at least to anyone other than that Pink Unicorn that’s camped out in the passenger side seat of your hovercraft.

So there I was, back in 1986, or maybe 1987, who knows at this point, washing a twenty-five gallon aquarium that hadn’t been cleaned out since Captain Ahab’s leg was just a sapling. The water in that container was as dark a green as I’ve ever seen, apart from dreams, and it stank. While the garden hose was slowly suctioning off the stuff at the bottom I was scraping the sides, and suddenly it came from beneath the deep and tried to attach itself to my face. All I saw was a flash of white, green, and I swear on the grave of Timothy Leary, I was not that stoned and I saw a massive white hand coming at my face as I screamed like a little girl and ducked. See where the UFO Syndrome kicks in? You have no idea what was going on in that fish tank but just because you know I had been drinking and smoking pot you think my view on reality had to be altered to the point you won’t believe something came out of the tank and attacked me.

You would be absolutely correct, of course, not to believe me, because nothing of the sort happened. But it could have and you’d be there all skeptical and shaking your head, and worse, this one time you’re right ruins the future totally for anyone smoking pot and taking guitar lessons from Bigfoot, if they decide to let you in on it. But something had sprung from the aquarium, I knew that because there was slime on my face. The apartment floor of the crackhead was littered with…litter, so there was no telling what it was, or where it had gone. I poked the piles of stuff with a stick I found on the floor until it jumped from one pile to another. The crackhead had been keeping a massive Bullfrog in the aquarium. I chased it under lounge chair and managed to corral it up in a plastic bag that had once held the better part of a pound of pot. But also under that chair was a power drill, and skill saw. I corralled these two items up, too, and in just a few weeks, I would barter these items for my very life.

Meanwhile, the aquarium was nearly empty. I could almost lift the thing now, but I wanted it to be as free of the green slimy water as it could get. The water flowing from the hose had slowly formed a toxic green pool in a low spot in the yard of the crackhead. One of his neighbors had a cock-a-poo and this animal rolled around in the green mess and went back inside to show mom. Mom screamed when she smelled her dog, assuming incorrectly it had rolled in the corpse of a zombified elephant with body odor. The woman then went outside to discover the source of the malevolence and then backtracked the garden hose inside where I was just coming out with the tank and the lower tenth of it still awash with green slime. I sloshed green water on her at the front door, and as I did, something leapt from the water and attacked the poor woman, and that’s when I discovered there was also a foot long catfish in the tank.

Both the catfish and the Bullfrog were released into the wild, yes, into a swamp, where both might live long lives. The woman who had been attacked by the catfish had gotten some green stuff on her and had gone to the Emergency Room to find out if she needed shots. I took the whole mess home, stopping by to release the animals, and yes, it’s important to me you know there were no frogs or catfish or even cock-a-poos harmed in this adventure. And I also want you to know this was all done with great peril to my very health. Can you imagine what would have happened to me if a cop had pulled me over? Okay, here’s this long haired guy with a bullfrog in a plastic bag that smells of pot, a catfish in a plastic trash can with some green water in it, and a twenty-five gallon fish tank with a half inch of green slime in the bottom and some power tools in the back seat. If that isn’t against the law then I’m totally unsure why we bother at all.



I made it home alive, of course, and when it for right down to it, the aquarium was in great shape. The gravel in the bottom was incredibly beautiful. It had multicolored rocks with dark blue chucks missed in, like rice krispies for LSD fans. I strained the green stuff out of it with my spaghetti colander for about an hour then soaked the colander in bleach. The tank itself had to be cleaned with a razor blade, again, but it was in good shape as well. The pump ran very quietly now it was no longer trying to force air through primordial ooze. The hood was clean, the light worked very well, and to my surprise, the heater worked perfectly. After just a few hours, a twelve pack, and some UFO sightings, I had the Amphiuma in his new home, along with a half dozen cheap goldfish. Honestly, it was a beautiful aquarium.



Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

GIMME AMPHIUMA SHELTER! (An Exorcize in Patients. )

Having an Amphiuma was pretty cool except that neither JT nor myself owned a real aquarium. The Amphiuma was being housed in a plastic bowl and that wasn’t going to work. We could have released him, her, whatever, but the animal had come through in fine fashion by mauling Eve’s pet goldfish. No, we didn’t wish evil things on the poor creature, but it has caused what we thought would be an irrevocable rift between Adam and Eve. Hell, it even looked like a serpent! I had twenty-five bucks to my name and for all we knew the Amphiuma was going to be able to slither out of a normal aquarium.

The great thing about religious people is they’ll sell their souls to prove their way of life is the only one worth living. Adam had loaned a local crackhead some tools to start his own business and the crackhead had promptly pawed the lot of the stuff. Despite all of Adam’s pretensions towards piety he was still a South Georgia redneck and he was known to carry a .357 Magnum. I saw him use it one night, not to shoot someone, but when a prowler declared, “I knew wouldn’t shoot me” Adam cracked the guy over the head with it, dropping him on the spot. “I don’t have to shoot you to kill you.” Adam said, and those were words most people took note of when they heard the story. I was there. I had no idea the story would end our search for the Amphiuma’s housing problem.

There was no Craig’s List, no eBay, no way to find someone trying to sell an aquarium other than to use the only method JT and I had at out disposal; we asked the waitress at a bar if she knew anyone who was looking to unload an aquarium. Ruddick was the local crackhead in question and he had been in hiding since his misappropriation of Adam’s tools. The waitress had been over at his place trying to score some weed, and she noticed he had an aquarium. Maybe he was looking for some quick cash. We went over to Ruddick’s place and he damn near died when he saw us. He knew we were friends with Adam so he started telling us how it was all a misunderstanding and he was going to get the tools back that very day, in fact, he was just leaving, I’ll catch you guys later. We told him we would wait for his return, and when he got back, well, someone wanted to speak with him about those tools. The man broke out into a sweat. We talked him in to letting into his and once inside, it was like being on an alien planet. Crachheads are not known for their skill in inferior design, I am certain about that, but his apartment looked like a dumpster had exploded. On a very nice wrought iron stand was a twenty-five gallon aquarium that had a practically new hood with a light in it. It had an under gravel pump connected by tubes to it but it was impossible to tell if there was a filter in the damn thing. It was demon puke green. The filter pump made a very high humming noise because the water it was trying to force air into not only looked like pea soup but it had a slightly thicker consistency. Had the apartment not already smelled like a crackhead lived there, the aquarium might have smelled worse.
Ruddick had a couple of hundred bucks worth of aquarium equipment there. He had a heater, a couple of miles of tubing, a charcoal filter, and a bunch of other stuff too. We suggested to him that if he smoked some pot with us, and sold everything he owed in the way of aquarium stuff to us for whatever money we gave him, which was twenty-five bucks, we might actually and tonally forget we ever saw him. He went to buy crack with the money, JT had to go to work, and I was left there to clean out the aquarium before I tried moving it.

Twenty-five gallons of water weighs two hundred pounds. I wasn’t about to scoop the stuff out, so I used the only drainage device I had available; a garden hose. I had to suck on one end of the hose, yes, shut-up, until the green stuff started heading out, yes, shut up, and then hope I didn’t get any of it in my mouth, uh-huh, take a deep breath you pervs. I had the outlet part of the hose in the yard, and it took some doing to get the pea soup moving but it did. As the water level in the aquarium dropped I scrapped thick green algae off the side with a razor. The water had just gotten to the point I could see some of the weirdness at the bottom when I was attacked.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amphiuma Dreams ( The Two Toed Nightmare)

It’s a long story but any tale worth telling is a long story, in point of fact. This isn’t to say any long story is worth telling, or making a short story long improves it in some way, but this is one of those stories where you have to know the background of who hated who, and yes, I was the one who was being hated, and how all of this came to be, which was all one accident after another. In fiction, it is said readers will forgive one Great Coincidence, but real life is littered with as many as goldfish have scales. More on the scales of goldfish, I promise you that.
The scene Valdosta Georgia. The time: 1986. Through an incidental encounter with a crazy woman who lived in a Psychedelic Bronco I met JT, who was musically and spiritually inclined in the same direction as I was. We both drank too much. We both played chess and neither of us had much use for organized religion. Through JT I met a guy named Adam, who was engaged to a woman named Eve. No, this was not their real names, but considering they are still not speaking to me, twenty years after the damage done, I would do well to not mention their names, lest it somehow invoke them, or provoke them.
JT was in need of a place to live, I in need for more drinking money, and I had a spare bedroom or two at 108 West Force Street, so I gained a drinking buddy and a roommate. But also, Adam needed a place to put his clothes. We let him move in so the people at the church Adam and Eve went to wouldn’t discover they were actually living together. Sexual intercourse is not a sin, apparently, if only a few people know you’re doing it every night. Don’t worry, this all plays into one place at one time, and it won’t be pretty, either.

JT found an Amphiuma. This was all long before the internet so we had no way of turning to Google to discover what it was. All we knew was it looked like an eel, had tiny legs with two toes on each of its very tiny legs, and that it looked a lot like it might live in water. JT had discovered in washed up on the banks of a small creek, and we had no where to put it. Adam had an old ten gallon aquarium at Eve’s house, where he actually lived in sin, and we took the poor critter over there, to see if we might use it until we could discern the nature of the beast. Adam went along with it, but to Eve, the thing looked like a snake and was therefore evil. She thought it ought to be put to death. We suspect she harbored the same view when it came to JT and myself. We put the Amphiuma in the aquarium and it sank to the bottom, seemingly lifeless. Bubbles rose from its mouth as if its soul was escaping. Honestly, the thing looked as if were already dead.
A day passed without any improvement but we did go get five twenty-five cent goldfish from Wal-Mart. We figured if it ate the fish we weren’t out any money to speak of and if it died we would still have the fish. Eve didn’t like the idea of us having anything at all that belonged to her, and if it belonged to Adam, it was hers by default. She went out and bought one of those fancy seven dollar goldfish, and declared it a living testament to the love between Adam and herself.

Our research on the Amphiuma led us to believe it was an amphibian, a salamander in fact, sort of, and a carnivore, but it just lay there. What if it was dying? What if we had the speed freak of all Amphiumas? What if this was all they ever did do? We were going to give it another day or so, if Eve would allow it, and then we were going to release it back into the wild, even though the weather was getting colder. These plans were pushed aside by a very hysterical Eve. She called the apartment screaming bloody murder so JT and I rushed over to her place to see just what had happened to trigger this particular episode. The last one was set off because JT, Adam and I had played a board game called RISK. She could not believe her husband to be would rather sit down with a couple of friends and play some stupid game when he could be attending to her every need. She had burst into tears at this terrible sight, and the fact JT and I were less than remorseful made things worse. We usually did make things worse, even when we didn’t realize it.
When we got to Eve’s place she had locked herself into the house and was trying to get the police to come. The aquarium, which housed the Amphiuma and the goldfish, was in the garage. JT and I investigated the scene of the crime, and what a scene it was. The Amphiuma was still lying on the bottom, still looked near death, but there was a swirl of golden scales in the water. Worse yet, three of the cheap goldfish were gone. They weren’t there at all. The other two were in the corner and one of them seemed to be saying, “Did you see that? DID YOU SEE THAT??” But what had caused the fuss was the living symbol of the love between Adam and Eve. The head was totally torn off, and a very long strand of gut hung down from the decapitated body as it bobbed around the aquarium. The Amphiuma still looked dead, but it also liked well fed. And it was smiling.

We had to get it out of the garage, out of that aquarium, and into a decent place to live, and soon. But that is another story, for another day, and it involves a crack addict and some five year old pond scum.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, August 17, 2009

Benny Cole

Benny Cole is a genius. The man is an absolute genius. There is no one, anywhere on the face of this earth, who knows more about how to fix an appliance, any appliance, than Benny Cole. No where on earth will you find anyone more able, and more apt, to tell you what is wrong with your washer, dryer, stove, over, refrigerator, or any other item that makes your domestic life possible. He is always right. Moreover, Benny always has the right part. He has it right there in his store, can reach over, grab it, hand it to you, and it will be fifty dollars less than some other place told you it would be in six to eight weeks, plus shipping and handling. Benny accepts no plastic. He does not take checks from people he isn’t sure about. In God Benny trusts but all others pay cash.


There is a price to be paid for this, and it has nothing to do with money.

To say Benny is a little talkative is like saying Custer had a little Indian problem. To say words pour out of Benny’s mouth nonstop is to say the Titanic sprung a leak. To say it is impossible to get out of that building in less than half an hour is like saying you’ll spend just a few moments in hell. Benny Cole will talk to you, even when it ought to be painfully obvious you’re in a world of hurry.

Benny is a throwback from the 1950’s. He’s from the “Leave it to Beaver” and ‘Father knows Best” world. Benny is always polite, to a fault, and he brooks no manner of discourtesy at all. Benny is a University Professor. He is a train conductor. He is an airline pilot. He is a funeral director. Benny all but wears a uniform, or a suit, but even without such, Benny still commands the respect his knowledge carries. Benny is a very nice, and friendly man, but when he discusses appliances with you, it isn’t a discussion. But you knew that when you began telling him what the problem was and he started shaking his head back and forth. “No, no, that’s not it, the problem is…”

Benny Cole is never wrong.

Okay, my oven burst into flame. The element burst into flames, right? Bert laid down the Important Bark one night and I realized two things; one, when Bert really wants you to get off your ass and look at something it’s a good idea to get off your ass and go look. Two, oven elements can burst into flames. I took the damn thing in there with me, and he was talking to someone else. He went back into the back, got a part for the other guy, and handed me something that looked like my element. It wasn’t the same. It’s impossible to break into a conversation with the man so I waited. For a while, it seemed. Before I could say a word Benny said this, “I know it isn’t the same but it will fit because that was the one they were using before 1997 and your oven is from about that time. They went with the wider one and there isn’t one bit of difference at all except the way it looks, you’ll still be able to cook a roast or a potato or whatever you want, and the only difference is that one you’re holding will cost you eleven dollars and the other one will cost you fifty seven and some change. Back when I was…”

Do the math.

Benny doesn’t take checks and he doesn’t take plastic. ‘Won’t take credit card because they charge me and I’ll have to charge you.” Benny shakes his head at the idea of charging people more. “Got this book full of people I can’t trust, won’t pay their bills” Benny holds up the paperbound notebook for me to see, but it’s a rather thin book, considering the amount of pilgrims that flock to this tiny shop. The shop is cluttered but Benny never searches for anything longer than it takes for me to walk over and pick it up out of a pile, or a crowded shelf. It’s always the right part. Benny is never wrong.

You have to get there at 11:15 in the morning. Benny’s wife comes at 11:30 and they go to lunch. Benny will not keep his wife waiting, and so if you’re there you’ll get the part, pay for it, and out you go. Family first with Benny, same as it always was, and will be, too.

If you are in Valdosta Georgia, and you need a part for an appliance, and you’ve got some time to kill…

Benny Cole is never wrong.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I’m Sorry, Did You Drop That Eaves?

“Put it down! Put it down! Put it down!” there is something about the tone of voice that makes me turn around quicker than I’d like. But it’s just a guy at a table across the room telling his son to put the candle that was on the table back where it was began. Kids and candles are not the best combination in crowded places, and if you don’t think a tablecloth burning brightly won’t stampede a restaurant full of people I would suggest you’ve never been around the kind of directional stupidity humans are capable of when they aren’t thinking. They aren’t: assume this and you’ll live longer. I listen to people around me, eavesdropping some call it, but it will save you from looking around when the screaming starts. The kid puts the candle down and sulks, and his father, and I’m assuming it is his father for very few grown men take little boys out to eat unless they are related or Catholic Priests, gives me a look as if to say, “I’m trying, okay?”
I know some people who dislike having their backs to the door, but I’m not fond of having the rest of a restaurant between me and the only means of exit. Usually, and this Chinese place I’m in while this is going on is a great example, I can figure out a way out without using the door. This restaurant has huge windows. Toss a chair through the window and follow it out, and FREEDOM! You might think this is paranoia but I was in a house fire once and didn’t have a plan on how to get out. I nearly did not. Once is enough in a lifetime, trust me.
“They ought to let cops shoot anybody they catch with drugs.” Seriously. The man at the table Southwest of where I’m sitting says exactly those words. “It won’t tie up the courts, it won’t fill up the jail and we don’t have to worry about that shit anymore.”
I know better than to stare at crazy people but I do look over to make sure he isn’t packing. I can’t really tell, you know, it’s not like he would have an AK-47 on the tabletop, or maybe this one would. He’s over fifty and has red hair turning grey. His companion is a man about the same age, but he hasn’t said a word.

I’m having lunch with a co-worker and he mentions the sushi here is good, and it is, but our conversation drowns out most of what the nutcase is saying. I can pick up bits of the conversation, but not all of it.

“..they had the right idea in the Tuskegee , when they injected them…”

Oh, boy! One of these! It’s like finding a mutated hillbilly on the seashore. He’s making a reference to the medical experiments the government ran on blacks from the thirties to the seventies. The Nazis ran programs like these in the death camps.

“…ought to shoot every damn one of them at the border and that would slow them down where they…”

Sigh. Yet another victim of talk radio left behind. It’s not that everyone who holds the same views as talk radios hosts are as bad as this guy, but they do tend to take a no middle ground approach to their beliefs and that’s just plain weird. I’m all for any and all opposition to any and all presidents, and certainly Congress, but there is more than enough reality gone wrong without having to reach for something induced by pain medication overdose. Guns are not the answer to the drug problem, the illegal immigration problem, or for that matter, Global Warming, but if that’s how you want to approach all the issues out there, lock and load Billy Bob. I started to tell the guy I had a copy of Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate but decided against it. This sort of person is dangerous. It is best not to provoke these creatures for you never know when they’re going to do something violent and senseless.
The woman at the table two feet away from ours is complaining about her husband’s fantasy football obsession. Seems he and his pals are loading up to go to some hotel in Tallahassee to have this big draft scene for their league. She thinks there will be alcohol involved. She thinks there might be women involved, too. Hmmm, her conspiracy theories seem to be just a little more rational than some I’ve heard.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, August 14, 2009

I Found a Puppy!


Tallokas Road winds out in front of me, cotton fields and tobacco fields flank it, along with farmhouses and ponds. There’s a dog in the road right in front of me so I cut my speed and blow the horn. The dog scurries off the road and into the cotton, and as I pass, I realize it’s a puppy. Damn, it looks bad, too. Two, maybe three seconds pass, but I’m already slowing down. You wanted a puppy, Mike, and this puppy needs you. I turn around and look for him, but he’s in the cotton field.

“Come here, puppy, puppy, puppy.” I call to the cotton. I can’t see him. Ten feet to my left he pops his head out and looks at me.

“Come here little dog, you come to me.” I say softly. Really, at this point, what has he to lose? Might there be some fate worse than starving to death? He takes a few steps towards me, retreats back into the cotton, comes back out, and finally comes to me with his head down and his tail tucked. He collapses at my feet and rolls over. This reminds me of my first encounter with Sam, so many years ago, and once again, my heart breaks at how people treat puppies.

He is not nearly as young as Sam was, nor as starved, but he’s got some mean looking sores on him. Fleas have settled in, and there are a few ticks on his ears. The puppy smells terrible but I pick him up, and put him in the truck with me.



You cannot, under any circumstances, abandon a stray once you’ve called him to you. Once you pet the animal, once you make him trust you enough to get near, you have an obligation. When you tell a dog it’s going to be okay, dammit, you have to make sure it is.



Always.



He’s muddy, he’s covered with fleas, he’s bleeding from open sores and he rides in my lap on the way home. Like Sam, he leans into me, as if closeness is something he’s starved for as much as food. It’s twenty minutes back home, and as we go through town the noises scare him, and he rubs his nose to my chin, as I’ll comfort him.



Bert and Sam get all ruffled back at him, but Luke doesn’t see them. There is a bowl of food. Food! Food! Food! He doesn’t care if they growl, or snuffle, or dance naked on the rooftops. Luke hasn’t seen this much food in a while, and both Bert and Sam seem to realize this puppy is hurt. They back away and allow him some space, and some eating room. Luke devours the dog food as if there might not be anymore. I’ve seen this before. Sam, Sam, the Happy Hound, was almost dead when he was found.

Out in the yard Luke is perfectly happy to tag along with the big dogs. They put up with him, and Luke has a lot more energy than Sam did. He follows Bert around, because Bert is the Alpha, and Bert allows him. Sam snuffles him any time he stops, but other than that, they’re already acting like they’ve known each other for a while.



So Luke has a home now. He has food and brothers. I have another rescue and a little less respect for some human beings. Mike Vick signed a contract for five million bucks, and I got a starved stray with sores. I wonder if he’s as happy as I am.



Take Care,

Mike


Yes, I am keeping him.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Half Naked Woman on State Route Thirty-Nine

Tallokas Road closes in on me and my mind wanders back to commutes of the past. State Route thirty-nine was a road much like this one, but much more familiar. When I was a teenager, I dated a girl who lived in Kilarney Georgia, more or less just a crossroads and some houses, and even a couple of decades past I couldn’t ride that road without thinking of her. She was sixteen the first time I saw her naked, and even though many years have slowly drifted by I can remember that moment with a clarity that startles.

But a couple of decades past that date was a decade ago, and Tallokas Road stretches out before me. I see old farmhouses, lights on and breakfast being readied. My mind drifts back again, but not to the young girl, eyes full of promise, hope and lust, but a much older woman, one I never met, and never knew. Back in 1997, State Route thirty-nine was on my way to work, and I’ve always driven slower than most people. Call it a snake person habit, so I could stop quicker to rescue snakes from the road. That one morning I passed an old house near the edge of the road and caught a brief glimpse of a woman getting dressed in front of a mirror, but also in front of an open window with the lights on. How many seconds did I see her standing there? Two? Three? But long enough to realize she was naked from the waist up, and she was no longer a young woman. Long past was most people consider a woman’s prime, her breasts had succumbed to the forces of gravity, and her nipples pointed downwards, as if reaching towards the grave.

Five days a week I would drive by that house, and three or four times a week she would be at the window, getting dressed. Didn’t she know people from the road could see her? The old house was one of those single story elongated boxes slumping towards the middle. She would have three or four hundred square feet at best in which to live, and when I passed the house in the afternoons, I could see cheap plastic toys littering an ill kept yard. She was likely keeping her children’s children, a grandmother who found herself being a mother again. Yes, speculation all of this is, but each morning as I passed her house, and saw her standing there half nude, trying to patch together enough of her past to look good again, I felt as if in some way I had grown to know her better.

You dislike my description of what she was doing in front of the mirror? Once upon a time she too was young, and someone found her attractive. Women, in our society are gauged more by their looks then are men, and you know this to be true. So what becomes of a woman who loses her youth, who loses that spring in her step, who loses the perkiness and tightness of her body? If her family has money then she can care for her kids with some hope of they will be more than she is. If her husband cares for her, and her kids, then she can still have those dreams. But what if she is poor, and she lives in a small rented house with an ill kept yard? What if she discovers the man who bought her beer and pot, and took her clothes off her when she was young was very good at that but precious little more? Suddenly, because sex is all that is good and fun and cheap there is another child, and the man is more useless with each missed period. There is no money for proper food, no money to pay rent, no money for anything but cigarettes and beer. In time, the man is gone, and so are the bruises and the beatings, but with that goes the only thing that still makes her feel like a woman. Her body no longer attracts the same attention as it did three children ago. Younger women who haven’t made the same mistakes she has are fresher meat. The low paying job with the people who treat her as if she was a little less than human gets coupled with her children who cannot seem to make a living, her grandchildren who she cannot seem to help break out of the cycle of poverty, and the never ending stream of bills; rent, power, car payments, high interest predatory loans, and all of this on her shoulders with no end in sight, no real hope for anything ever getting better, and so who really gives a fuck if she dresses half naked in front of State Route thirty-nine?

I stopped traveling Thirty-nine when I moved into my first house, and I all but forgot about the half-naked woman. My life took a turn for the better, so why would I be concerned about someone I had never met, didn’t know, and had glimpsed a life in a matter of seconds, just a few times a week? Why on earth would I care? A year later, maybe more, I traveled up thirty-nine to go canoeing at Kolomoki State park. I wondered what the woman would think if I stopped in and asked her who she was, or if I might see her in the ill kept yard. Maybe her lot in life had improved, or maybe she had found someone. Maybe the yard had flowers in it now, and maybe she had curtains. I rounded the corner and saw like a blackened monument to indifference, the elongated house had been burned to the ground.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer, August 2009

The calendar will tell you Summer starts around June 21st and ends September 21st. The big problem with this is the thermometer is going to begin registering triple digit heat sometime after the last part of May, and that won’t end until the last part of August. This isn’t to say there aren’t those cool mornings in June, or that we have one hundred degree heat each and every day during this time. Yet if you’re going to gauge a Summer by its heat Mother Nature will tell you quite another story than that told by a calendar.

By any accounts the Summer of 2009 was a lot cooler than most, and certainly hasn’t acted up like the Summer of 2007. It’s been a wet Summer this year, and that follows a wet Spring, too. As of today, August 12, 2009, we haven’t had out first named storm much less anything large and windy making landfall, but the Atlantic Basin is roiling with activity. Historically September is a much dryer month but given its penchant for hurricanes, I suspect we’re going to see the water tables up a bit this year.

By the calendar, going strictly by the pages of a human created document hung on a wall or sitting on a desk, or tucked neatly away in some computer coding, Summer lasts about ninety days, and of those just over fifty are gone now. Summer is just a little bit past half over by this reckoning, yet for those of us who spend time outside and in the woods, there are signs this Summer is very quietly coming to a close.

The wild grape vines that snake their way in and out of every tree and bush throughout South Georgia have been a vibrant green since unfurling their leafy flags in the Spring. Up into the sky they’re thrust their heads and like liquid green they’ve fought off the Oaks and less plants for sky space and sunlight. There’s a smattering of gold among the vines now, the first signs of grey in the hair of a dancer. This is the first surrender to Autumn, the first retreat from the full bore all green things grow and go routine of Summer. The corn has already turned, but they are domesticated plants not subject entirely to rule of nature. Yet even humans must pay homage to Mother Nature, and it is a sign of the end of Summer when the corn is harvested. Cotton and peanuts are reaching their apex too, and another month will see their harvest begin. School has started, even this early, and even human created, it is a sign of what is to come.

The heat, which almost everyone associates with High Summer, hasn’t been that bad this year, as I have said, yet the middle nineties for the high and middle seventies for the low haven’t slacked off a bit. The humidity, the very breath of Summer, hangs in the air in defiance of all things Autumn. There is still much Summer left. There is still almost three weeks of August yet to survive, and early September is virtually indistinguishable from the last two weeks of August. The heat still rules, and will rule, and there will be no relief in sight, yet.

Without doubt though, the intense sunlight of the Summer sun is slowly being reduced. No human device, not a clock nor a calendar, nor computer, no genetically modified food plant, can deny the passing of a season. Yes, the plants are all still getting thirteen hours of light a day, but that means an hour or so of light has been lost, and as the earth tilts slowly away from the sun, the blast of energy is lessened. The leaves of the wild grapes are not turning gold due to cold, but due to the light being turned down. Like guests leaving the party early, subtle signs of the end are showing up in the middle of this month. Being out in the heat is still a trial. Working or playing hard in the Summer sun will still drain a body. An air conditioner is still a survival tool, and a cold beer is a benison yet. It’s still dangerous to push it too hard for Summer, even when she isn’t at full power, can kill. But her grip on the land is beginning to weaken, even if just a tiny bit. The signs are slowing even at this early date. Once again, as it always was, August is Summer’s finest month, but also her last full. There is just so much Summer in one year, even in South Georgia.

Take Care,

Mike