Sunday, August 31, 2014

Playing Hide and Seek With God in Frozen Foods and the Discount Meat Aisle




He reminds of me Hamilton Jordon, except older and fatter, no wait, it doesn’t remind me of Hamilton Jordon at all except for the combed to one side hair. Hmmm, maybe Jimmy Swaggart, yeah, that’s a lot closer. It’s that Southern Fat Man combed to one side leaving a slight ridge thing going in front. And he always wears a suit when he’s grocery shopping. That’s a dead give away right there that the man is a few eggs short of a basket.

I know him from work and even though he doesn’t work with me he does work with people I know and even though he isn’t in a position to make my life any harder than it is he can and likely would take it out on people I like if I was downright nasty rude to him, which is coming. There are few things that irritate me more than the sanctimonious but  having someone I don’t like put their hand on me pushes the bar into the red. He’s a toucher. He has to reach out and put his hand on your arm when he speaks to you because he knows damn well most people are going to start trying to get away from him as soon as they can. I’m the Chow dog of our office. Everyone knows I have a greater sense of personal space than most people do. At a meeting one time this guy grabbed my arm, I pulled away, and he advanced a step and grabbed me again, like some high school football player not realizing he’s not supposed to put his hand on every woman’s breasts.
“Keep your hands off me” I said in a voice loud enough to cut through the small talk in the room and it floored him. Oh, I am so terribly sorry I didn’t mean anything by it. I didn’t say you meant anything by it I said keep your hands off of me. It’s a different world these days and when it comes to work stuff most companies would rather drag an employee out in the street to be gang raped by wildebeests drinking gin than face a he-touched-me lawsuit. I have no intentions of filing a lawsuit I just want the man to stay about three feet from me.

So this guy will go to the local grocery store every Sunday and try to guilt people into going to church with him. If you are in that store about 9:45 on a Sunday morning this guy is going to tell you that you ought to come with him to church and they’ll even keep your groceries in a refrigerator for you. I’m not sure he’s ever really talked anyone into this but he’s hit me up twice for it, all before I embarrassed him in front of about fifty people. We haven’t spoken since. So today I make the mistake of going into the store a bit too late in the morning, or too early, and there’s Mr. Hair Ridge Bad Suit God Wants Me To Stop Your Shopping And Come With Me Let Me Touch Your Arm. I check my cell phone and realize he has ten minutes to save my soul before he’s late.

I pretend I don’t see him but just as he’s about to walk towards me one of the stock guys walks by with a long cart loaded down with stuff. I walk beside Cartman and away from Hamilton Swaggart. Bad Suit stands there staring at my buggy and realizes that I escaped. He makes a big effort to pretend to look through the discount meat section while waiting for me to return. Twice he stops and looks around. His prey has vanished. I’m over by the snack aisle watching him through stacks of Doritos. He checks his gold wrist watch and has to move on. His own buggy clanks and he pushes it, clock, clock,clock,clock! I grin. This could be fun. Soul Saver Arm Grabber turns left at frozen food and I slip out and grab my buggy and hit the aisle in front of frozen food. I can hear the clock,clock,clock, of his buggy as it stops. He’s going to check to see if I came back. I head towards the other end of the aisle to study the contents of Tide Detergent. I can see him spot me, and he goes back to his buggy, clock, clock, clock! He’s pushing faster now to get to me before I get away. I push my buggy to the end of the aisle and I can see him in the reflection of the glass in the meat department. But time is on my side. He has to leave soon.

I circle around and sure enough he’s at the check out and I can see him looking around for me. I ease back into the soup section, where I can see the door and he stands around, waiting to see if I reappear. I wait until he goes through the automatic doors before I hit the check out myself.
“That guy is so creepy” the woman says and I smile because I know who she’s talking about. I look out of the window I can and see him standing out front, but he’s out of time and he is out of luck. But time has run out on him. He has to go with no soul in tow.

I wonder, seriously now, if anyone has ever walked up to the man, grabbed him by the arm and said, “Well gosh! The goodness and holiness of your life makes me want to wet my pants it shines through so brightly, please hold my eggs while I go to church with you!” Do you think that has ever happened? If you’re one of those church inviting people why is it that people don’t go to your house and ask you what church you go to because you’re just everything they want to be?

Why is this, do you suppose? If your church isn’t turning you into something other people seek out then what in the hell is it turning you into?


I live out in the middle of the woods without no one else around. If there was some omniscient and omnipotent being who wanted me to go to your church I burn enough bushes I think he would have all the opportunity he needed to speak to me about the subject. This morning I got up before dawn, made some coffee and then walked around in the woods to watch the sun come up in a light rain. I’m certain my church is better than yours at this point. If you can’t find your soul in the woods before dawn with a group of dogs you won’t find it with a man with ridge hair, a gold watch, a bad suit, and who wants to put his hands on people.

And if I am wrong at least I’m not bothering anyone else.

Take Care,

Mike

Bruce Springsteen - One Step Up

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's Just a Coincidence.


Look at the dog next to the fire. Look at the fire. Look at the marking on the dog's head.


Your End Of August Firesmith




Okay, I admit it, building a big ass fire when the heat index is one hundred and two won’t get me an invitation to Mensa. But I need a fire. I need to feed flame. I need to feel the heat on my skin. I need to get close enough to feel Death looking at me as if even She is wondering why I’m stacking all this fuel up at the end of Summer. Cooler weather isn’t that far away. Why not wait for one of those early mornings when a fire feels good? No, I have to have a fire. I have to build a fire today.

I’ve been stacking stuff up in the firepit for a while and the break around the pit is overgrown with weeds. The match is stuck the flame begins and even as the heat around me begins the fire leaps into majestic life. The fire will eat its way to the overgrown break and I’ll have to keep raking it back, pushing fuel back into the fire, and today there will be real work in controlling this fire properly. But the big stuff on the pile catches easily. I have to back away from the fire even as I marvel at it.

There is but one really good reason to start this fire and that would be the rats will move into the pile if I don’t burn it off often enough. Sam likes it when the rats move in because Sam will wait for the rats to move out once the fire begins to evict them. I cannot afford to have rats. They’re a lot of trouble in a lot of ways and better to keep them out than to have to get rid of them. Sam is disappointed when no rats come scurrying out of the fire. Lilith sits near the flames and I wonder what it is she is waiting for. My Little Girl has always loved fire even on the hottest days. There is no method I have of discerning the motives of any female so I just admire her for who she is and I keep feeding the fire.

There is a piece of wood, the very last remnant of the big tree stump, the twenty feet tall stump, which I took down before the firepit was flooded. Most of it burned away in my last truly great fire but there was this one piece. It floated around the firepit and mocked me during the flooding we had earlier in the year. There’s no way, no method that I know of, that will determine how a piece of wood will burn. The last big piece of the stump burned down to a monster sized block of wood that looked twisted and carved almost. It was nearly beautiful but the darkness upon darkness of its texture made getting a good photo of it nearly impossible. Sometimes wood that is old gets very wet and it is impossible to burn, nearly, and today I think I will burn this piece of wood.

This is Burke’s first fire and he is stupidly unafraid of it because Lilith shows no fear. Burke draws too near the fire and whatever it is inside of a living creature that kicks in around fires chases Burke away from the flames. He runs to me and gets petted. Burke stays close to me all day, never straying far from my side. It’s a good feeling to be in the company of a Lab again. I had forgotten how alive Lab puppies are, senseless and free that they are. The thought comes unbidden and without prompting that Sam is aging and when he is gone I will not have a Lab in my life. Burke weaves in and out in front of me, making sure of my path, making sure I am still there, delighted that we are in the woods, and he loves being here. There are worse dogs to have than Labs, Mike, and you are going to need another when Sam goes. The thought sticks in my head and I have a dozen days to decide.


Lucas the large has taken up position in the yard where he can see everything but still be away from Burke. The heat takes a toll on him and the puppy takes a toll on him, too. Burke runs circles around Lucas and Lucas just watches. Burke starts a long swift ground devouring oval and he’s stretched out running, full tilt boogie, scalding fast, and as he passes between Lucas and myself he turns to look at me, to see if I’m watching how fast he is. His mass shifts and suddenly Burkes goes tumbling, flipping end over end. Burke’s long black legs claw nothing but air and he lands with a thump! I half expect him to burst into flames, honestly. Then he’s up again and off again. Lucas stares at this spectacle without a word.

Maybe it’s the mindless work of it; I haul stuff in the wheelbarrow and feed the fire. There’s a smallish but long tree that has fallen into the crook of another tree and I knock it down. I flip it end over end a dozen times to get it to the fire and in it goes, to be burned in two twice before it fits all the way. There’s the stuff that has fallen in the front yard that has to be collected. There’s the limb of a large tree on the trail that has to be axed and fed into the fire. Burke stays at my side, always. I have to shoo him away from me as I work the compost pile, but that’s another story for another day.

The fire roars and crackles and the day wears on. I can feel layers and layers of dirt and sweat on me. The Three lie in the yard and in the shade, exhausted. Finally, there is no more fuel. The big piece of wood is much smaller and breaks into two pieces when I move it. I get slightly dizzy and realize I have not eaten or drank any water since breakfast. It is time to call a halt to the burning.


There are smoldering ashes and a few coals. Once again, I have a dog in my life and I have to decide what to do with him. Once again, a fire has led to writing and exhaustion is always my drug of choice. The time has come for lesser exertions. The day had drawn close enough to the end that I will feed no fire.

Take Care,

Mike

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Pukey Little Foster Dog

I was sitting right where I am sitting at this very moment when the call came in that Lucas had cancer. So when the phone rang and I saw it was the vet’s office I braced myself. Burke, my little Black Lab foster boy, had started throwing up a clear brown liquid in the middle of the week. My life isn’t simple as far as dogs go so I assumed it was somewhere between a face hugging alien and something truly lethal. But it’s just a simple upper respiratory infection. Some meds and some time and Burke will be okay again.

The woman at the vet’s office told me this morning I might not be able to take him home today. I’m fostering for a group who saves Labs and they have a policy of keeping the dog at the vet’s if he’s sick. But Burke has been abandoned before. I can’t let him think I walked off from him. He has to know I’m coming back and a three day weekend would cause a lot of the trust and training I’ve given him to fade. You really do not know how much you care about a dog until he’s sick and you’re separated from him.

When Lucas was recovering from surgery the vet called me to tell me that Lucas had stopped eating and stopped emptying his bladder when they walked him. All his vitals were good and the bleeding had mostly stopped but Lucas wasn’t responding to anyone there. Lucas was shutting down. I told them I was coming to get my dog, now. There comes a time when an animal’s mental state of mind is as important as meds. Burke cannot spend another night in a cold cage away from an environment where he knows he is safe and has a home. I told him I wouldn’t let this happen to him. He’s been failed too many times in his short life. I cannot, I will not, fail this dog.

What will become of those people who abandon dogs? How do they ever recover that part of their souls? How can they not be haunted at night with the idea they’ve destroyed a sentient being in the cruelest manner possible? I have no intentions of keeping Burke forever but I do intend on making sure that he is kept forever. This little pukey dog has a place to go home to and he always will. This is my vow as a foster. This is what I must do.


I’ve cleaned up more dog puke in the last three days than I ever have before. This morning on the way to the vet’s office Burke puked on his blanket and then tried to get away from it. He wound up with his head stuck between my stick shift and the lower dashboard console. I couldn’t shift into third or fifth gear while his head was there and he was making his, “Oh, I have to puke right now!” noises. Two blocks from the vet I hit two red lights and Burke was heaving. I managed to get him out and get him on some grass as he popped. The blanket has puke on it and my truck smells like puppy puke but Burke made it to the vet’s.

It’s been a while since I had a sick puppy. Burke hasn’t really bonded with the pack quite yet and with this bout of illness I haven’t been able to put him into training like I want. Wrex knew his name, knew how to sit, and knew what it meant when I called him, and all of this within the first week. Burke is limping along. He knows his name but sit escapes him and he sits tries to run from me sometimes. He’s frightened, still. Last night I put him on the bed and he let me hold him for a while. His body posture tells me he’s still unsure as to who or what I am or what I might do. But the bed is the place where the big dogs go and he was excited to be up where they can go. Lucas and Lilith seemed to realize what I was doing and showed great patience with the little guy exploring their territory. Lucas was very good about this sort of thing even before I began fostering and now he seems to take it as part of his mission in life, too. Lucas the Large, massive of body and of heart!

Lilith, eh, not so much, still.


Sam, The Happy Hound, is sitting this one out. He’s paid very little attention to Burke one way or another. I think Sam’s day to day struggle to survive the ravages of old age takes up most of his spare time these days. Sam gives this gangly stranger a wide berth. When trying to navigate the back steps Sam must first ascertain where Burke is before he’ll try the trip down. Burke hasn’t learned the steps are a one way street when Sam is coming down them.

So now I have a three day weekend before me. I’ll spend that time nursing my little pukey dog make to health. I plan on building a fire one day. I’m going to do some writing, too. But mostly I’ll be washing towels and blankets and getting the puppy puke out of the bottom of the crate. I’ll be feeding Burke his special wet puppy food and making sure he gets out and gets some exercise while he’s sick. He has to know that whatever is happening to him there is someone there to take care of him.


After Lucas was diagnosed I simply could not lose him. I had lost Bert too recently. I couldn’t lose another dog, no, not yet, not to something like cancer. There had to be a fight, some epic battle, were I to lose, I had to make sure I went down hard, smashing into the earth, leaving nothing on the table, leaving nothing untried, leaving my heart crushed and my soul damaged, because Lucas deserved it.

I can’t lose this Pukey little dog. He’s lost too much in his short time here. Someone has to fight for him and make him well and assure him that his life means something.

It’s why I foster.

Take Care,
Mike



Monday, August 25, 2014

The Dragon's Ink Tis Forged in Heat!

It may seem insane to some, to drag out the push mower, in the heat of the day, in August, when the thermometer has reached out and over to triple digits, but that’s why I have done it. Once again, I go forth to dare the Summer to kill me. And I’m not entirely sure that it cannot this time. I’ve been slack on working out and last night I drank one beer too many. Three is my limit, yes, I know how few that sounds, but I went up to four over the space of Saturday afternoon, and today my body reminds me of why I stick with three.

The Puppy Burke is astounded by the noise of the mower and flees. The tall weeds that pass for the back yard seem to go down easily and it’s a surprise. There is more dust than resistance. I haven’t mowed this section since the first of the month but the jungle that was once this part of the yard shows real signs of thinning. But the heat! The heat is here and it is not thinned out in the least. This is real heat. The ground is baked and the wind is baked and all the earth and air is nothing but heat and then more heat.

Summer is a vast roaring dragon, whose wings fan the flames of the hottest fires for well over four months. From the middle of May it’s been very hot but the last few days have been murderous.  Each and every day has been hotter than the next with even dawn seeming stuffy and humid. The dragon’s roar brings forth his minions; mosquitoes and gnats and biting flies of pestilence. The ground is covered with fire ants. The breeze flutters and dies, its body broken from having to carry so much humidity and so many flying insects.

Yet dragon is dying. The roar which drowns out all things is heard less and less north of here. The fires rage, yes, even the very hottest parts of the fire yet rage, but I can see there is little fuel other than what is before us. The wild grape leaves turn gold. The Chinaberry’s leaves are falling. The corn has been harvested. The tomatoes are nearly done. The Zinnias are dying. It matter not at all how hot the fires rage for the light is failing slowly still. Here, just ten days past the middle of August, the fires feel hotter than I can remember but my eyes tell me relief is in sight. Not this week, oh no, and perhaps not the next, and maybe even three weeks hence there will still be flame enough from the sky. But the light in the eyes of the dragon is failing even as he bellows out his name.

I wear a hat and under my hat I’ve a rough piece of cloth soaked in water. I wear long sleeves and jeans. But the heat hammers away at the hat and I can feel heat, real heat, tugging at my clothing. The dust rises in the yard like smoke from the dragon’s mouth. It will take an hour to cut the front yard and I start furthest away from the house and work my way back.

It’s better to work steady in the heat than fast but I discover the grass isn’t thick. The lush green jungle of July is gone now. The matted and tangled emerald forest of the yard more resembles a scraggy group of survivors. There are still some blades that are much taller than they need to be but they are fewer in number. The weeds seem stunted. It’s nearly easy to walk the mower over this sort of already beaten army but the heat… The heat sears everything in my path and me along with it.

I feel rivets then rivers of sweat on my body. Each new cloud of dust forces me to hold my breath at a time when I am trying not to gasp. Become one with the heat, Mike, endure it, do not fight it, relax into the heat, try not to resist it, and breathe. I find the zone where the heat soaks me, immerses me, embraces me, and suddenly I am alone with my thoughts and the noise of the mower, but there is no heat. There is only the focus on what is in front of me and plots and storylines begin to come and go. The heat is totally gone. I am sweating small ponds down my back and my legs, and my vision is blurred from perspiration, but the sun muted. Back and forth, across one way and then the next, around the yard, large sections become small and then are done. My clothes are soaked and even my shoes are drenched but there is no heat and there is no sun. There is resolution and clarity. I know now who must die in a story and why. I know where to place a minor character and where to take another and erase all accounts of existence.

I know this feeling is an adjustment not so much in my body but my mind. I have something to do, something to get done, and maybe even a mission of sorts, but I also know that my body isn’t going to take this sort of damage and everything be okay. I get done with the front and take a break. A quart of water disappears in a few minutes.  Time to finish the back!

The back yard is easier but it is there the change of season has hit hardest. The shade of the Oaks has exacerbated the light problem for the grass and very little is growing very much at all. The trampling of the mutts seem greater because of the puppies. Another thirty minutes and I am done. Once my focus is broken and I know the job is finish I feel the heat seeping back into my body. But it is time to go in and let the dogs follow. More water and now I can write. There is a certain mental state where writing can be found and followed easily and in the heat, I have found the Dragon’s ink.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Writer's Brains

Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Injured Boy Bits: Ache, whine, ow, ow, itch, itch.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Part of Brain which does wander: Those two should have sex.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write….cue record scratching sound.
Me: What? They hate each other, and they’re trying to find a way out of a time sensitive life threating ordeal and they’re on video so they know other people are watching them.
Part of Brain which does wander: That’s the great part! The readers will never see this coming.
Me: Oh? Like the sex scene in “Aliens 3”? Yeah, that whole scrip was something no one saw coming.
Part of Brain which does wander: Angelina Jolie looks good naked.
Injured Boy Bits: Ache, whine, ow, ow, itch, itch.
Me: Where the hell did that come from?
Part of Brain which does wander: Just sayin’ In case she wants the lead part in the story, this would be a great way to get her clothes off her.
Me: Why don’t we finish this and then worry about Angelina Jolie’s clothes?

Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Part of Brain which does wander: Remember Susan from High School, that time at Kirkland Creek when she…
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write….cue record scratching sound.
Injured Boy Bits: Ache, whine, ow, ow, itch, itch.
Me: What does that have to do with the story?
Part of Brain which does wander: You could write that into the story. This scene would be so cool if you could juxtapose the two events.
Me: That’s stupid. One is a fictional scene where two people are trying to save the world and the other is high school sex experimentation.
Part of Brain which does wander: But you see where everybody has those things in their past? Imagine if those two started talking about their lives in High School and they realized that they never had a Kirkland Creek!
Me: That’s a fine point but it isn’t going to fit here. Go. Away.


Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Part of Brain which does wander: What if she still loves you?
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write….cue record scratching sound.
Me: Then she shouldn’t have married someone else, I’d say.
Part of Brain which does wander: What if she was waiting for you to do something, you know, like crash the wedding and take her away on horseback.
Me: Uh, that was 1985. I think happily ever after has kicked in.
Part of Brain which does wander: But that’s my point, you’ve never done anything like that. What if all the women you’ve ever lost were just waiting for you to do something incredible?
Me: Like finish a book?
Part of Brain which does wander: No! Something epic and dramatic!
Me: Do we know anyone who has done that, who hasn’t got a restraining order?

Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Part of Brain which does wander: Call her.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write….cue record scratching sound.
Me: Someone she hasn’t spoken to in thirty years?
Part of Brain which does wander: No, the one you can’t stop thinking about.
Me: It’s not ME who has this problem, it’s YOU!

Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Part of Brain which does wander: (singing) Oh, baby, I wonder if when you are older, some day, you’ll wake up and say, “My God I should have told her!” what would it take?

Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write….cue record scratching sound.

Me and Part of Brain which does wander: (singing, in harmony) But now here I am and the world’s gotten colder, uh huh, she’s got the river, down which I sold her, she’s got the river, down which I sold her….

Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Writing part of Brain: Write, write, write, write, write.
Injured Boy Bits: Ache, whine, ow, ow, itch, itch.


end

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Daughter Of My Dog.




In the dead of night I can hear my little black and white hunter slip out into the darkness in which she lives. The moon isn’t right for the other two to want to seek out that which only they can sense so I know this is a personal preference for her. Lilith is patrolling. She’s out on the perimeter confronting whatever it is that is out there and she’s doing it alone. Lucas lifts his head, considers the effort, and then puts his head down again. She’ll bark if she needs me, Lucas thinks, and it says a lot about how confident he is that Lilith can handle herself out there.

Bert did this, too. He was a rambling border patrol mutt who liked going out on his own to make sure the night knew we were still paying attention. When the weather was cool enough sometimes I would go with him or wait until he was gone then wait on the end of the trail for him to come back. Sometimes I would just sit on the deck, in the cold, and wait. Towards the end, Bert moved as slowly as a shadow, much more out of old age than stealth. But the moonlit branches of the trees made spotting him nearly impossible and his footfall was invisible to the ear as his coat was to the eye. I always marveled at how Bert blended into the woods when he was hunting or playing. He was a deer colored dog; tawny red and cream blended into a dog jacket. The cold weather was his favorite time to be out on the border. I would wait for him and never hear where he was.

At long last Bert would appear from the trail, walking slowly, but convinced the fenceline was secure. Always, he would walk over to the water bucket and sometimes I would go out into the yard to greet him. If the wind was blowing in the right direction he would know I was there, and I would know when he sensed me because his tail would start wagging. Sometimes he would be right up on me before he realized I was near and we both liked the idea of me surprising him. “Oh hi!” and I would pet his ears. He would walk on ahead of me, getting to the door first always, but that trot became a slow walk towards the end and the missions were always longer. Yet he kept it up. Bert went out at night and he walked the line. It was never a question of whether or not he was physically capable of doing the job the only question was going I open the door and let him out. If I left the door open he was going to go out there. One night he went out during a storm and I think he did it just to prove he could.

Lilith is a little more dainty than that. The first hint of rain or thunder and she’s in the bedroom looking up at the bed or in the living room wanting to get up on the sofa with me. Lilith doesn’t really like the cold as much as Bert but she’ll get out in it when she has to do so. The night is still her time, but under the right conditions, and like Bert it’s a display of force, a promise of violence, and a reminder of a border. The canids are like that, you know. Some of them a lot more than others but all of them have a wolf inside.
Lilith did not like or appreciate the Puppy Wrex and told him so. She told me so. She didn’t like Lucas playing with the new puppy and even though she was warming up to him rather slowly I think she’s happy to see him gone. This has been an interesting experiment in who I am going to have problems with in the future when it comes to foster. While not openly hostile towards Wrex, Lilith never really showed much interest in another dog in the family. When Sam goes I’ll get another dog but how will Lilith react to that?

I think there are a lot of people out there in the dog-less world who have a misperception as to what dogs can and cannot do, or will and will not do. Dogs are powerful creatures armed with a mouthful of teeth and those who are large can do much damage. You’re more likely to get hit by lightning than killed by a dog, but the idea that human beings can treat dogs with cruelty and meanness and not pay a price is just plain stupid. Dogs are fast, strong, and focused carnivores who, lacking training or a sense of family, are going to react to being threatened the same way a wolf might. This bodes ill for hairless apes whose opposable thumbs aren’t gripping a weapon or for those not using their brain, or their heart. My first foster was an experiment on how well I knew my own pack and what I didn’t know.


But mostly what we get from dogs is what we put into them. Little Lilith, my Pibble Princess, will sleep on her back with her legs in the air, her head back and totally at ease. Sometime during the night she will wake up and if the door is open she’ll slip out of the back door on her own. Alone and in the dark, Lilith will explore the boundaries that the fenceline describes to her as her home and the home of her family.  Her nose will interesting smells and her feet will carry her unerringly to the Big Oak and then down trail I’ve mowed. Lilith will move east towards the pond and maybe stop to consider the world at the point furthest from the house. The owls and nightbirds have long since ceased to be a problem for her. The foxes and bobcats likely fear her now. The lone coyote might consider her but no, she’s a low slung big headed, Pibble Princess and she is not on anyone’s menu.

The circuit complete, Lilith will head back in, pausing to drink from the same bucket Bert did so many years ago. Back onto the deck, across to the doggie door leading inside, and Lilith now searches for the bed, and the company of those she loves.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I Have a Laptop but can't use my Lap!





It’s going to take some getting used to, writing on a laptop, that is. The machine isn’t a real laptop but rather the case of one, the screen of another and the enternals put together with having a cheap and reliable computer so I can write when I am not at home. It case you missed it I have the world worst handwriting and it has never gotten any better.  I looked at a few dozen laptops and noticed one thing they all have in common; inconsistent reviews. And to get what I wanted would have taken more money than I wanted to spend on what is basically a writing tablet with a keyboard.

I’ve been writing lately while drinking coffee in a place that sells coffee, not to give a chain store a free plug. I like the atmosphere of writing in that place. The smell of coffee is incredible and there are always people who look interesting walking in. Women with tattoos go there and I always wonder what the ink means to those wearing it. You might look at the leg of a woman and that leg be covered entirely with tattoos and you might think, “It’s just a bunch of stuff that doesn’t mean anything” but what if each and every image is intensely personal? It’s not only beauty and art melded onto one of nature’s greatest wonders, the female human body, but those images might tell a story only she can translate for you. If you approach her in the right frame of mind she might tell you. But remember she might not like you asking. Showing doesn’t mean she’s obligated to tell.

I’ve had people stop and ask me what I was writing and it depends a lot on how they approached me and their body language. I have some Chow Dog in me because I just don’t like people getting all up and close to me without me knowing ahead of time, a couple of days’ notice is fine, and talking to me. Don’t assume I’m going to read to you or a tattooed woman is going to show you her life’s story. She doesn’t have to wear a burka to get some personal space and I don’t have to share my writing with you simply because I’m in public.

There have been times I’ve played Sudoku on my phone and really wished I had a laptop so I could write. Maybe it would only be enough to get a few hundred words down but that would be writing I could build on later or maybe it was a moment that felt different. It doesn’t really matter, you know. This is a device that will facilitate writing and therefore it is good. The downside to having a new machine is now I am going to have to retrain spell check out of its third grade vocabulary.

Honestly, if you can write a couple of paragraphs and suddenly realize you’re using words that Microsoft Word hasn’t seen fit to include into its lexicon this bodes ill for writing a novel with the same software, I evince. Back when I was working with Word Perfect the program would let you see the words you had added. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that with Word.

Generally speaking, I think the art of using new words in conversation is pretty much dead. Using words I commonly use when I write is pretty much out of the question when I’m engaged in public conversation. I can tell you that hyperbole is my forte but telling that to someone who hasn’t picked up a book since Cindy Crawford posed nude is going to be futile. Worse still, my penchant for using metaphors and similes go over very well in writing but some of them go over like a helium filled brick when they’re tossed into a conversation. If the people who put writing software together were really aiming at writers they would include the etymology of a word whenever offering a suggestion as a replacement. They offered entomology for my poor spelling of etymology and that bugs me too.
Back when I first settled down in front of a keyboard I never dreamed of a day like this. The process of writing is now incredible easy and editing is not nearly the task it once was. Writing is still hard as hell but just knowing that fifteen acres of rain forest won’t be sacrifice for a failed chapter one, part fifty-seven, is a benison. In this medium printing isn’t require all the time and sometimes it’s just plain superfluous. The craft of writing, nearly as much as photography, has benefited greatly from the digital age. Maybe even more so.

There was a time a person had to be good, really good, and have a decent camera to produce good photos. No anyone who knows anything about photoshop can turn an average photo into a shot of a  Sasquatch presiding over the funeral of Elvis with Miley Cyrus swinging on a hammer in the background while displaying her new ten commandments tattoo( five on each  inner thigh, regrettably) . But a writer still has to write. There isn’t a program that can replace the mind with text. Even cut and paste has some limitations as it’s impossible to plagiarize without getting caught if your professor has the right software.

I am uncertain where having a laptop will lead me. I like the idea of being able to write on the sofa, the bed, in the truck, on the deck in nice weather, and maybe even the woods. That’s going to be different. I think I’ll get a beanbag chair and write in the woods when the weather cools off. The dogs should like this new environmental change. I think I will too. You readers out there will have to let me  know if you think I’m writing any better or worse or if you think it’s all about the same, anyway.

Take Care,
Mike











Monday, August 18, 2014

My Day As A Woman



So in case you missed what that shrill whistling type gasp and moaning was early Sunday morning, Lucas, well over one hundred pounds of Lucas, at a dead run, launched himself off of my bed by planting one of his back paws dead center of my crotch and then springing.  I was just lying there reading so I was totally nude and unprotected. One of the nails on the paw of the Loki Mutt dug into my privates and left considerable damage and I’m pretty sure there is permanent hearing loss. For just an instant I gulped enough air to cause a slight vacuum in the time space continuum. I think I saw a unicorn.  

There’s a lot of stuff located in that region of the body. There are a lot of nerve receptors whose job is to herald in great tidings of joy, ecstasy, and heaven felt goodness. Their job is to make sure that no matter how terrible the sound of a crying baby might actually be, the pleasure of sex can and will outweigh the memory of a two year old driving all the other patrons at Red Lobster  to pick up your tab just to get you the hell out of the place before someone put your kid in the tank with the live crustaceans. A loud kid is like having all the nails ever done by Asian women wearing  masks being drawn over all the chalkboards ever drawn on by third grade teachers whose cats would be the only living creatures ever to sleep in their beds. If sex was not as great as it was the human species would have died out right after the first kid began to wail inside a cave. The nerve endings there are what keeps us all alive and happy and not even evolution can stop the quest for orgasms.


I lay wheezing for breath. I knew it was bad. I had been reading a book on the Battle for Guadalcanal and suddenly I felt like that guy,  from “Band of Brothers”, who after being hit in an explosion  has his friend rip his pants open to see if he’s all there. It’s one of those common fears of men in war zones and men who have large dogs with claws. You’d think that Lucas would know better by now, or I would know better by now, but that has nothing to do with me open mouth gasping like a fish while trying not to cry in front of a book about World War Two. How unmanly would that be?

But it is equally unmanly to draw your hand away from your, uh, manly area, and there to be fresh blood there. I knew I would have to look and see how bad it was but there was a full minute where I was hoping something else might happen. Maybe the world would end and save me the discomfort. I checked for blood again and there was more blood. Oh, shit! What if it’s serious? I had to look.

whoa

Okay, because I was reading, “Starvation Island” which has nothing to do with a 747 full of cheerleaders on Spring Break crashing landing on a remote island with only myself and fifty cases of tequila, my , uh, well, everything was stashed away in an accordion sort of way. Lucas’ nail caused a three inch gash running vertical near the bottom of the, uh, main attraction, that was deeper, not so deep, deeper, not so deep, deeper, not so deep until the wound hit  the, uh,… boys’ room …where the wound was deepest. At least it was bleeding which with a wound made by any animal, it’s important to get cleaned up quickly.

Now how to cleanse the wound came down to a do what you have to do and get over it. Usually a man cleaning that part of his body for that long hasn’t been reading nonfiction but I had to know the real damage. Soap hurt. Hot water hurt. Hydrogen peroxide hurt. And worst of all, I kept having this vision that at that very moment, some women I knew was going to show up and say, “You know, I’ve never said anything about before, but I’d like to come in and just let you take my clothes off and see what  happens.”

Can you imagine the amount of self-deception that it takes to have that fear at that moment? Oh, yeah, you’re bleeding like a stuck pig on a Sunday morning and you have no idea how bad it might be, so the first thing you need to worry about is whether or not this is going to cause you some sort of problem when a random sex partner appears without warning!

I love being a guy. I mean, a woman would have never, in a million years, had that cross her mind with that sort of injury. But a man?  Oh damn, I’ve been mauled by a bear, I hope Angelina Jolie doesn’t run out of gas and walk up to my door right now. Men will keep this species going, ladies, as long as at least one of you is too drunk to laugh at us and who forgot to take her pill this morning.  

So the rest of the day I read and I bled. I lay on the bed with a towel under me and a washcloth on the afflicted area and I kept things clean and open and threw harsh words at a certain dog who wanted to get up on the bed again.

Last night it was hard to get comfortable and I despaired that I was leaving spots of blood on the sheets, which I knew I would. That’s when it hit me; this is exactly what women go through once a month. Ouch and damn. So there I was, having this thought and I realized that me leaking blood from a place I rather not was something every thirteen year old girl had already considered.

The next morning I found myself deeper into the neighborhood of womanhood. I was still bleeding. How in the hell can I still be bleeding? I took a shower and cleaned the wound off and it started bleeding anew. Maybe I should go get stiches.  Or a pad.


So during the day I would have a meeting and I had an appointment with the dentist. I was going to wear my kakis but they’re light colored and I thought maybe I needed something darker. Do women dress for blood? It occurred to me that every tampon commercial I had ever seen was filled with women wearing skin tight white yoga pants doing gymnastics while riding rodeo horses during earthquakes. Oh my dog I bet they do have to dress with blood considerations. It was sobering.

First, I never wear underwear unless I’m running or working out. I don’t like to have the boys bouncing around too much when I’m exercising but I want everyone to hang loose otherwise.  It occurred to me that women who really need sports bras can relate to this. But underwear seemed like a good idea. I took a bandana and folded it up and stuffed it inside just in case then looked at myself in the mirror. Shit. It looks like I’m a porn star. Hey, wait, no, try toilet paper. That worked. Women have to go through this once a month, you know, trying to get ready for work while trying not to bleed all over everything.

It was even worse when I got to work because I was walking funny. I realized that I had to pee and knew that would be getting everything out of position then back into position.  I checked for blood and there were still a few spots on my clothes but the rest was a small mess. Gross! This is…what women go through.

I fought off the urge to reposition everything and pull and tug all day long. I felt invaded and the pain came and went in waves. There were certain positions I did not put my legs. I found myself snapping at people and I also fought off the urge to see if I was leaking and people could see.

It’s like this, isn’t it?

I survived the day, the dentist, and when I got home, took a shower and checked the damage. The wound still looks raw but it isn’t bleeding anymore. It’s still oozing clear liquid but the area around the wound isn’t red and puffy. There is no swelling, thank dog, around the afflicted area and I don’t think there will be for a while. All in all, it looks like the worst is over but I’ve developed a newfound respect for blood management.

I truly apologize for all those bloody end of the month jokes I’ve made. Next time I get the urge to make one I’ll just plug it.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Pond Of Stars



There is something to be said for silence. There are times when even nature is still in the night and the sounds of this world all become muted. There are no frogs and no birds, no crickets singing, no lonely cry of the coyote or the hoot of the owl. The sound of the falling stars is the only audible presence and those simply because they can draw a quick breath from us as we lay under the sky, waiting. Why she chose this place for this time was not for me to question but for me to act upon. It was no harsh demand or outlandish whim but a simple idea to clear enough of the bank of the pond so that a blanket might fit and two people might look up at the sky at night. Time changes when creatures so small look up at the vastness above. The sheer weight of the Universe passing overhead is enough to stifle such a silly thing as human speech. What is there to be said? Everything that is everything floats above us and the magnitude stills the need for chatter or idle thought. There might be billions or billions of billions of creatures, great and small, living out their lives before us, most of whom must have died millions of years ago, and the light from their suns have only now completed the journey to a small speck circling a tiny yellow sun.  No, it is too awesome of a sight to waste on words. We hold hands and our hearts can be heard as the eastern sky surrenders its darkness and mist begins to form on the surface of the pond. A large bird passes directly over us, so close we can hear its feathers scooping out flight from the sky, and both of us will remember that moment forever. It is a bonding moment; a moment of togetherness than no other person will ever be able to experience. In a million years, or a million million years, the wan light of our sun will reach some distant planet and carry with it the reflection of this moment. There are billions of these moments in every night’s sky and wordlessly we are awash in the same thoughts. We are a part of all of this. We are made of this stuff. This is who we are.  Tiny specks on a tiny speck swirling around the Universe we hold onto one another to keep from being flung out into the darkness to become starts. Our breathing seems ethereal and nearly spiritual. There is nothing and there is everything. In the distance we can hear the noise of a truck on the highway and we both realize that the night, endless and magnificent and infinite beyond the thoughts of humans, is slipping away as surely as the light of a falling star.

The ice in the cooler shifts and makes a noise much louder than either of us was expecting and we both jump slightly. So soundless is the night that even this is garish. Sam shakes himself off, struggles to his feet, and woofs at us from the other side of the fence. It’s an act of democracy, this low throaty bark is. Sam isn’t sure what to make of what he heard so he woofs just loud enough to say he barked.  Lilith and Lucas are in the woods nearby but neither seconds the motion, neither cares to join in, and the motion fails. Sam rattles his ears and plops back down and snorts. I can feel her grinning at Sam’s display of predawn territoriality. She turns over on her side now, facing me, and I ease towards her very slowly. The August night air is sticky and moist with humidity and our clothes, a necessary evil against mosquitoes, seem itchy and cumbersome now.

I can feel her breath, taste it so close to my own, I can feel her body heat, I can smell her hair and sense every beat of her heart inside of her body. The blood in her veins rushes underneath her skin and there is a joining of streams and rivers and waterfalls and oceans between us. My hand on her back, guiding her gently towards me, is the pull of gravity incarnate. The kiss is slow, gentle, and promising but I can feel a slight resistance, as if there is a feather in my hand, being blown by the slightest of breezes. If close my hand I crush the feather so I must leave my palm outstretched, but I also much make sure feather isn’t wafted away.

This one is like a tiny flame before dawn, a woman who even after a decade, does not say yes in a moment or sometimes even in many moments and sometimes not at all. Like the tip of a burning match being set to tinder in the dark, if the wind is too great, just might snuff out entirely any heat, if rushed or pushed too soon. Small flames devour fuel very slowly and more than once I have seen the edge of a leaf burn down to a little yellow flame, seemingly without any chance of real heat or life. Yet where there is heat there is life, and a small gentle kiss becomes prolonged and the bodies pressed together more closely, and the leaf flares up to ignite those around it.

“Not here” she whispers to me but she doesn’t pull away. This is her time to smolder; the building of a heat invisible except perhaps some small curling wisp of smoke. Not here doesn’t mean no but it isn’t an invitation yet, either. She leans into me, letting my body support hers, and I can feel her shifting her weight, pressing against me more tightly.  The fire builds now, evident with a bright flame yet still small enough to die in a sudden gust of wind. She moves as if she can’t get comfortable and I know it’s a matter of time before she suggests a change of venue. But it will take that time. This is a woman who, after a decade, still wraps up in a sheet before she leaves the bed so she will not walk nude in front of me. Only when the fire is raging, only when the wind whips the flames into a conflagration that will consume all fuel and all emotion will she release herself to it. There is no dawn, no stars above, no sound, no stillness, and there is nothing but the fire and the heat and suddenly she pushes away and grabs the cooler, “Let’s go!”

There is the walk to the house, the blanket wrapped around us both even though it is far too warm, there is the sound of melting ice in the cooler, as if we’re affecting its lifespan by our nearness. There are the steps to the front door, three of them, and at the top she stops, turns to me, and is still shorter than I but delightfully taller as I stand on a lower step. There is a sound, the sound, of a truck on the highway, loud and rude, and then she is gone. 

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Virginia Woolfe at The Train Station














I am still offered an  unexpected pleasure...



Perhaps you could tell me exactly what you think you are doing?



What I was doing? - I went to look for you and you weren't there.



You were working in the garden, I didn't wish to disturb you.



You disturb me when you disappear!



I didn't disappear.



I went for a walk. - A walk?



Is that all? Just a walk...



Virginia, we must go home now, Nelly is cooking dinner...



She's already had a difficult day. It's just  our obligation to eat Nelly's dinner.





There's no such obligation.



No such obligation exists!



Virginia, you have an obligation to your sanity. -I've endured this custody!



Endured this imprisonment. -Oh, Virginia!



I am attended by doctors.



Everywhere I'm attended by doctors  who inform me of my own interests!



They know your interests. - They do not!



They do not speak for my interests. - Virginia, I can...



I can see that it must be hard  for a woman of your...



Of what? Of my what exactly? - Of your talent



to see that she must not be  the best judge of her own condition!



Who then is a better judge?



You have a history.



You have a history of confinement. We brought you to Richmond because you may have



fits, moods, blackouts, hearing voices...



We brought you here to save you from the  inevitable damage you intended upon yourself!



You tried to kill yourself twice.





I live daily with that threat.



We set up...we set up  the printing press not just for...



itself...not just purely for itself



But so that you might have a ready  source of absorption and a remedy!



I need to work.



It was done for you!



It was done for your betterment!



It was done out of love!



If I didn't know you better  I would call this ingratitude!



Am I ungrateful?



You call me ungrateful!



My life has been stolen from me.



I am living in a town I have  no wish to live in. I am living...



a life I have no wish to live.



How did this happen?



It is time for us to  move back to London.



I miss London.





I miss London life.



This is not you speaking, Virginia.



This is an aspect of your illness... It's me, it is my voice!



Not you... -It's mine, mine only...



It's a voice you hear. -It is not! It is mine.



I am dying in this town.



If you were thinking clearly, Virginia. you'd recall it was London that brought you low.



If I were thinking clearly?



If I were thinking clearly... -We brought you to Richmond to give you peace.



If I were thinking clearly, Leonard, I would tell you:



that I wrestle alone...



in the dark, in the deep  dark and that only I can know...



only I can understand  my own condition.



You live with the threat, you tell me. You live with the threat of my extinction.



Leonard, I live with it too.



This is my right.



It is the right of every human being.





I choose not the suffocating  anesthetic of these suburbs...



but the violent jolt of the capital, that is my choice!



The meanest patient, just even  the very lowest, is allowed some say



in the matter of her own prescription.



Thereby she defines her humanity.



I wish, for your sake, Leonard, that I were happy in this quietness



but if it is choice between Richmond and death...



I choose death.



Very well, London then.



We go back to London.



Are you hungry?



I'm a little hungry myself.



Come along.



You cannot find peace by avoiding life, Leonard.

A Hardware Savant, a Nine Year Old with a Tattoo, and a Question for Married Women, Oh, and a Working Lawn Mower, too.




Two weeks ago, had it been two weeks since I mowed the grass, the yard would have been distinctly bushy. Yet the fortnight that has passed since the Adventures With The Damaged Mower, saw very little rain. It really isn’t as bad as I thought it might be. But back to The Adventure; you might be surprised at how inept the people are when you go to one of those Giant Hardware Stores or you might not be. The idea of repairing a machine instead of buying a new one is alien and doesn’t address the bottom line as well. Worse, there is a new generation of people who never had to, was never in a position, where repair was a necessity, and they’ve always had the money to throw away and replace rather than fix what was broken.

The first Giant Hardware Store I went to was devoid of sentient life.  After asking three different people to speak with me about mowers, or parts for mowers, I wound up giving a small class on mower parts to an employee who took notes and was amazed at what the bottom part of a mower looked like. This is where the blade goes. This is the bolt that holds the blade in place. This part holds the blade onto the shaft, yes, it is a separate part, have you a wrench, I’ll show you. Wow, that is amazing, I’ve never see anything like it. Thank you. Thank you, very much. He took photos with his cell phone.

The Giant Hardware Store across from the Mall was little better. They had a goodly selection of mowers but the young man, who looked as if he might be a football player, had never actually seen a push mower operated in person. He explained that he was raised in an apartment, lived in an apartment, and really, he had never mowed grass in his entire life. He did, however, once use a weedeater and could recognize the brand if he saw it again. He was able to tell me he could find parts for any mower online. But I would have to order them through a third party for they did not order parts at the store itself.

Meanwhile, this random guy walks up and explains that the new electric mowers are iffy. I should wait until the next generation until I buy one. He goes down the line of equipment giving advice and opinion on everything. For a second I figure he’s off clock and does work here but when I asked he tells me, “No, but this electric mower won’t be any good until they get the bugs out” and then he’s off to the electric generator next to it. Amps, volts, how big the fuel tank is, and then the next one, in comparison…As I stand there he simply goes down the aisle, as if I am following along, and gives an opinion, out loud,  on each and every piece of equipment, a savant of the Giant Hardware Stores.   

I went to one of those Farm and Tractor stores that sell cowboy boots and fencing supplies as well as yard equipment. I think because they sell cowboy boots and cowboy hats the people who shop there feel a little bit more like farmers than they do at one of the Giant Hardware Stores. Get a couple of them together and they’ll start saying things like, “I was down there at the tractor place and picked me up some supplies” and this makes them all sound like they’re home on the range down at the subdivision.  This one was being manned by a nine year old girl who told me, among other things, she was a freshman in college and was going to attend her first class in September, she was saving her money for a car, but not a new one, a used one, she is getting a new lap top, an Apple because they rock, wants a new phone, three gee is so slow, she wants to live in a dorm room even though she is local, her boyfriend is a jerk and she isn’t speaking to him right now, she doesn’t care how many messages he sends to her, has a tattoo but can’t show it to me, and she knows nothing about lawn mowers except the one her daddy has goes really fast and it scares her but she thinks it’s fun. She daddy is the manager and he won’t be back until one. I take a long hard look at this person. She’s nine. Maybe ten, but that’s pushing it. So I ask her how old she is and she rolls her eyes at me, “I know, I know, but I’m eighteen.”  I look at her. She looks at me. “Uh…” I reply and there is no way in hell she’s an adult. She puts her hands on her hips and glares at me.  I want to ask for an ID.

Okay, as an aside, how young does a woman have to look before dating her is creepy? Granted, if she’s old enough to be in college she’s old enough to have a boyfriend, but does her boyfriend realize she looks nine? Sure, she’s adorable, but in a nine year old sort of way, a kitten sort of way, not a woman sort of way. I dated people her age, if she’s really eighteen, when I was half the age I am now but I do not remember any of them looking this damn young. There isn’t anything about her that seems the least bit mature or attractive or anything. I worry about a young man who would date a girl that looks like she isn’t old enough to be at Starbucks by herself. I’ve seen trees with more fully developed secondary sexual characteristics than this girl.

Quite by accident I stumble upon a family owned small engine repair shop. There’s a woman in there who is manning the place and she knows how to greet a customer and she nods when I tell her what happened. “If you can live with the bent shaft, yeah, it’s going to go on you eventually but less than twenty gets you the part to get running again.”  I’ll have to bring the part or the model number in but she has three or four on hand. She doesn’t miss a beat and she doesn’t waste any time. She also looks old enough to drink and looks like she does. That helps a lot right now. We talk for a while and just when I think things might be getting interesting she mentions her husband.

Truthfully, married women, do you talk to a guy for a while and when you think he might be edging towards something more personal do you then decide to make mention you’re married? I mean, do you do that sort of thing intentionally? I think there are some married women who want to know they can still get a man’s attention but they don’t really want it. It’s like putting a painting in a gallery just to see who wants it.
The next time I am in town I bring the part, it matches, and when I get home I’m up and running in just a few minutes. The blade seems to be spinning evenly enough. It’s cutting well. I push the thing around for two hours, get the front and the back mowed again, and nothing goes wrong. Yet the grass isn’t as high as I thought it would be. Yes, it hasn’t rained but there are places where the grass is always thick. This time around it seems like the grass is weak and nearly scraggly. Is it already that late in the season? One third of August is gone but there is a lot of it left to go. The heat recently has been unbearable. Surely Summer hasn’t already begun to slip away, has it?

The rain comes down in buckets right after I finish mowing. Maybe the grass will return but I realize that next week August will be half over. The week after that only one week will remain. I would suspect it would be the last week when I notice the grass isn’t growing as well, but not yet, not yet.
Surely, time hasn’t slipped by this fast this Summer, has it?

I wonder if the man who has the very young looking daughter has these thoughts when he sees her getting ready to go to college.
Take Care,

Mike

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pack Dynamics: Just A Dog.




The pack dynamics have changed once again and it’s always surprising how surprising it is. Lilith was as laid back a puppy as I have ever seen but she wore Lucas out. I assumed Lucas and Lilith, hitherto known as the “L Hounds” were a matched set and that something between them clicked. They’ve been inseparable since her arrival, minus the three days he hid under the table because I brought in a new puppy. Sam hated Lucas, he hated Lilith, and now he hates, Wrex, the foster puppy. Lucas loves the little dog. Lilith has remained aloof.
Lilith’s aloofness is very surprising. She’s much younger than Lucas and Sam, much closer to being a puppy, yet she’s shown no puppy bonding. She hasn’t been outright hostile either and for that I am grateful. My little girl dog doesn’t like The Puppy Wrex in the least however and she doesn’t show signs of warming. I expected Sam to be the problem that Sam has always been. Lucas, I thought, would be perfectly willing to accept a new packmate because that is what I expected him to do. This is what Lucas has done. When I installed a doggie door all three stood staring at it until I called Lucas. He was first through the swinging door because that’s what I wanted.

Over thirteen years ago, Bert shocked me when he became Sam’s older brother and best friend overnight. Literally, the dog went from being a Demonic Terror to a doting sibling between the setting of one day’s sun and the rising of the next. But no amount of love or tenderness from his pack has succored Sam from the torture heaped upon him before Bert found him. I wish I had known more when Sam was found but he has taught me more than I thought there was to learn. Sam has paid my tuition with scars unseen that do not heal. But I have given him thirteen years of life no one ever thought that dog would see.

At least three times that I know of Lucas intervene on behalf of Lilith when she was very young. When Sam would do his crowd and growl thing, walking up to Lilith and growling at her while really close, Lucas would simply walk between the two, put his nose in Sam’s face, and ease forward as Sam retreated. Lucas’ body posture was totally relaxed and he never growled at Sam, not even a hint of a growl. The message Sam received was very clear and unmistakable; if violence is what you’re looking for I am right here, you know. Even in his dotage Sam has the wherewithal to realize that Lucas can very easily kill him if it ever came down to it. But that isn’t the meaning Lucas is sending. He simply wants everyone to get along. Lucas isn’t about domination or power or fighting.

Yesterday Wrex came in blindside and knocked Sam off his feet. I’m not sure if Lucas was waiting for it or happened to be at the right place at the right time, but Lucas landed chest first on top of Wrex flattening him out like a pancake. I’ve never seen one dog do this sort of thing to another but I think this was Lucas’ way of telling Wrex to stop knocking Sam down. Lucas and Wrex play and they play hard, but Lucas has never hurt either Lilith or Wrex while playing. He is my Gentle Giant. He is a playmate and peacemaker. He’s the ultimate older brother guiding the younger siblings through life.

Do you think I am wrong here? Do you think this is just projecting or some sort of anthropocentric transferring of values? If dogs are instinct driven creatures honed into obedience through discipline then why did Lucas stand Sam down? Why not attack him? Why bother defending Lilith at all? But in conflict, Lucas showed calmness and determination. Why though? Could it be because Lucas knows I value both Sam and Lilith and this was his way, through intervention and mediation, to resolve the issue?

Lucas is “just a dog”.

So why did he pounce on Wrex? This is more catlike behavior than dog fight behavior but could it be that Lucas took an avenue of action that wouldn’t ratchet up the tension? In a classic dogfight scenario Lucas would have growled, snarled and then snapped at Wrex with his mouth. But Lilith might have joined in if Lucas would have done that. So did Lucas turn to his mass and simply push Wrex down, with Lucas on top of him, in an effort to keep conflict at its lowest level, but at the same time, teaching young Wrex that not only is the youngster being watched, but Sam is valued by Lucas.

I keep hearing that dogs are loyal and obedient. I think that is an overused and misunderstood concept. I never trained Lucas to defend the other members of the pack in the manner in which he does. What shows obedience better? A blind response to orders given under threat of punishment or showing an understanding of what’s good for the pack as defined by the one who brings home the bag of dog food and provides a warm bed on cold nights? What’s loyalty without this understanding?
Bert was reckless with his behavior until a tiny starved and beaten little puppy arrived and then suddenly he was nurturing. When Lucas joined the pack it was Bert who first played with the puppy. When Lillith arrived it was Lucas. Is this something they carry within or do they learn it? Do they have this inside and it’s brought forward by those who raise them?

What does it mean that these things; loyalty, obedience, protection, and love, are not traits that are taught but intrinsic values that these creatures possess in an abundance? These are naturally occurring properties that come as natural to dogs as eating, drinking water, and chewing up shoes.


What does it say about us human when we create environments for ourselves and other creatures that exclude, harshly so, the properties that dogs enjoy without effort?

We have so very much to learn from them.

Take Care,

Mike

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Monster: A Horror Tale For Writers





When my brother was I was just five years old. My father had died in the field the day before, on a clear Autumn day, he was smitten by lightning. My mother named her second born child, Sienna, for that was my father’s name and very little other than that did the man leave to us. It was hardly his fault for the taxers paid on the land we farmed were very high and always the lien was paid first. Yet we had ample food, always, and our roof did not leak except in heavy rain. When I reached the age of manhood at sixteen all the land that my father had tilled was passed to my name. It was an inheritance without good balance for the taxes were mine while the land still belonged to the Crown.
Sienna was a difficult child and he became a difficult man. Many things went missing and Sienna was more often than not in possession of these items. His skill was with his hands, there is no doubt, but work escaped his notice. Yet Sienna was cheerful and many loved his company, if they only would look to their pockets while they drank. Her younger son was the apple of his mother’s eye yet a stone on her heart. Again and time again, did the Warden of our section of town warn us that no good would come of Sienna’s lighthearted plunderings.

In a small town thievery is noticed more and there are fewer to look towards when something misplaced turns into something taken. Sienna began a life of cutting pouches from the belts of drunken tavern patrons and he lavished his ill-gotten gains on the service wenches. It was they who my mother blamed for Sienna’s fate for it was they who tended to him when he was in the stocks. The stocks were the first place of public shame and punishment and the last place where a criminal could expect to walk away from whole. It was the sheriff’s way of announcing a departure from stern lectures and a week digging ditches or mending the stockade. Sienna usually could charm his way out of hard labor and his charm helped him escape most of the harshness of the stocks. The wenches who kept him clean and well fed thought the copper would flow again from his hands to their and in this they were correct, at least for a while.

How loud was his protests! He yelled out his innocents even as they dragged him away. Sienna, not a week released from the stocks had taken the purse of the paper merchant. He slipped away from the man without so much as a hesitation in his step and slipped into the tavern, where the sheriff and three guard awaited him. Of course, Sienna, had artfully slipped the man’s purse out of his cloak even as the coins inside relocated into his own, but that too was expected. The coins all bore the mark of the King’s mint, and none but craftsmen could trade in them. For Sienna to have them at all things would go very ill for him but they were stolen as well. Sienna screamed his mistreatment as they hauled him away but they stopped long enough to beat him senseless. I, Beloth, arrived in time to watch my mother faint away at the sight. But worse things were afoot for my brother.

I suspect that they might hang him from the walls by hand hands for two weeks and he might not live. No one would be able to openly help him. I thought they might cut off one of his hands or perhaps even both. They might hang him outright, I knew that, too. I thought they might sentence him to a month inside the office of the torturer and few escaped that place with their minds or bodies intact. But the sentence handed out by the court was Devourment. My mother shrieked aloud again and again and I had to pick her up to get her out of the court before they held her too. My brother stood there, ashen, as his waste spilled from his trousers.

There was no hesitation that we would make an Offering to the Crown for the injustice that my brother and my mother’s son had committed, and while there was no law that said we would have to face ruin for it, we dared to hold back nothing. I sold my birthright to the land for nearly nothing, but that was its honest worth. The farm tools, the pigs, our cottage, the land on which it sat, our furniture, the clothing not on our backs, and even my mother’s spinning wheel we took and laid out for any to bid upon. There are times the sum of a man’s life makes him cringe in horror and this was my moment. Everything, all that we had had for generations and all of my life, my father’s life, my mother’s life, all of the toil and sweat and long hours, everything we were was turned into what might have half way filled a thimble with gold.

By law, the offering was not for the release of a prisoner or the forgiveness of his crimes, but for an audience to make the plea. I knew this, and everyone knew it, but the reduction of a family to ruin and poverty meant we would have to leave town to make our living as we could outside the protection of the Crown within the walls. Banishment, voluntary as it was, meant a slow death for my aged mother who was already in her dotage and whose body could no longer afford hard work. But the three of us would have to make a way for ourselves again.

My heart sank in my chest and I could feel it beating as if there were something else inside of it. It was not the Magistrate or even the sheriff who came to make judgment on the Offering but the Warden whose job it was to make sure the streets were washed clean of foulness once a week. This was a terrible thing to do to us, regardless of anything my brother had done, but a Jester came with him. The Jester mocked the man by bowing low and acting as if the man were the King himself as he pranced before the Warden. Worse, even before the proclamation the Jester stood over our offering with his hands on the sides of his face as if he were viewing some wondrous thing. Our friends, the people we had known all our lives, the people we had traded with, eaten with, and watched grow up and grow old laughed at the spectacle. When the Jester made sport of trying to lift the Offering he pretended it weighed as much as a team of oxen and the crowd roared. The Warden was nearly too drunk to read the proclamation of rejection. With a gesture of contempt he picked the offering up and stuck it in his pocket and walked out of the room, staggering.

We stayed in a barn next to out former home but we knew we had to leave there soon. With the crop coming in there would be no room for us and we knew it. We would not, could not ask, to be taken in. The sentence of Devourment ran through the town like a flood of water raging. There was shock, horror, yet there was the undercurrent of excitement. Many had suffered by the hands of my brother and some of them were glad to see him gone, even if they would not have chosen this ending. There would be a fair, a celebration, and all would attend. Sienna’s life had affected many people in the town and now his death would affect all.

We were not allowed to see him or speak to him before the sentence was handed out. We had to watch as the rest of the town did as the cage in which they kept him was lowered into the courtyard of the dungeon. The walls were high and no handhold would be gained. There were streaks of red where some had tried to escape but were caught by the monster and hauled back into the catacombs were the monster lived. It was a gruesome fate. I had only seen it twice in my life and needed not a third time to hate it. My mother panted and wheezed as she stood transfixed. I hoped my brother would go inside quickly but I feared the coward in him. I hoped he would not shout for her but again, Sienna had no heart to give.

Sienna was given a sword, a device which he had never trained a day in his life to use, and a small shield, and a torch. My brother was always a man who loved a show, and it surprised me that he made one of his own death. He tossed the shield aside and saluted the Magistrate with the sword. Without any hesitation Sienna entered the catacombs of the dungeon. Whatever my hoped were, whatever my fears might have been, no matter what my imagination conjured, nothing prepared me for the swiftness.

My heart had barely beaten ten times when there was a scream like none other I had ever heard. The scream was cut short then another issued forth and then another. With each scream my mother’s whole body convulsed but not a sound came from her lips. The crowd gasped, some cheered, but the cheers where from those pretending to be brave. The celebration was over. The punishment had been handed over to pain and with one last cry that trailed away in the wind, my brother died.

My mother collapsed into a sleep that a tonic had given her. We would leave the next day and I knew not what to do or where to go. In three months’ time ice would form and snow would fall. My mother might not last the night. Secretly, I wished it so. Yet even as I walked the streets and wondered what I would do I saw a guardsman come forth from the house were the wenches kept business. Far too drunk to fight, or even stand, the man fell on his face before me in the half dark of the street. I stripped him bare of his uniform, his helmet and his boots. I picked up his sword and went forth.

Sienna was dead. But if I could bury his body before the sun rose again I could keep his soul from wandering the earth. I did not want to see him again and I did not want my mother to think something might happen after Sienna’s death that might rival his pain in life. Whatever was left of his body, if I could return it to the earth, it might be enough. I did not know. I did not care. All I knew is that I had nothing left but my mother and hoped her dead by morning. Little else did I have to lose, or so I thought.

Picking up on my brother’s trade, I stole a torch from the stable and a rope. The dungeon was not guarded for why would it be? I entered the catacombs. The torch showed the way but for a little distance and the light was so close to me that outside the small area of light there was total blackness. I had to hold it down and it front of me a ways or the top of the flame licked the ceiling and created a thick smoke. I could feel all manner of sweat rolling from my body. The helmet sat uneasily upon my head and I did not realize the sword would be so heavy. My arm ached and I wonder how on earth I was to fight in such a narrow passage. What was the best attack; to slash or to stab? My footing was unsure.  I could smell fresh blood and gore everywhere I turned. I turned once more and found myself in a large room with the monster.

The head of this creature looked much like a toad’s so wide was its mouth but the body was much longer and it was taller than a man. Its arms where thicker than my waist and its legs were like heavy coiled snakes that had claws instead of fangs. It stood in the middle of the room and moved not at all.
“There was no celebration for you,” it said, “surely you’re not here on your own, are you?”
“The man you slew today was my brother.” I said as loudly as I could. My voice sounded tiny and lonesome to me. “I have come to claim his body or your head.”
The monster made a noise and I realized it was laughter. It stood there with its arms held open wide and it turned its back to me. “Strike then! End this life of mine! I shall count to ten before I move, I swear it!”
“Will you not yield to me the body of my brother?” I asked. I was terrified at its fearlessness.
“That?” it pointed to one side of the room. There, in the shadows was Sienna. From the waist down he was gone. Only his face remained totally intact but there was gore and blood on every spot of his torso. “If I allow you to leave with it the King will punish me, I think.”
“Punish you?” I asked.

“My curse is that I must feed at least once a week.” It said. “The flesh must be human, and it must be alive when I feed or I will become intolerably sick and the pain is considerable. The same is true if I do not feed; the sickness will come and the pain will grow until I do. The King cursed me but well. My family was chained to the walls here when I was first brought here. They taught me what I needed to know about my curse.”
“You, you killed, you killed and…” I was stunned.
“I had no choice, really.” It sat down and leaned against the wall. “Put that sword away, you’ll only hurt yourself with it. You’ll do no better than he.”
“Let me have the body and I will go.” I offered.

“I have no decided to let you live but I am thinking about mitigating your suffering.” It said. I learned how to do that as well. But the King wants a show when there’s an execution so I do what I have to do. You know what the worst part of this is?”

“Your family?”

“Yes, that too, “ it said, “but in my life I have never known any pleasure greater than my curse. The taste of human flesh is sweeter than any other sensation I knew before, magnified by a thousand times a thousand times a thousand. The King knows his curses, the man is incredible with them. He knows the loathing I have for myself now and he knows I must feed and he has made so I enjoy beyond reckoning what he has done to me and what he still does to me, each time.”

“If I take my brother’s body who will know?” I blurted this out and I knew I sounded afraid.
“Why is your brother’s body so important to you?” The thing asked. It stretched out as if to sleep. I had the odd feeling it was baiting me into attacking.

“His soul will wander the earth if he is not buried by sunrise.” I said. “I would not have my mother face him again, not after…” I stopped speaking. It seemed wise.
“What if you just tell her you buried his body?” The creature was on its feet so quickly I dropped the sword. I fumbled the torch and it went out.  I waved the sword in front of me and it cut nothing but air.
“Oh stop it, please.” The monster said. “Here.” It raked its claws against the stone wall and sparks flew in bunches. It held the torch out to the sparks and it reignited. “Here’s take this if you think it will help.”
I took the torch and realized its hands were larger than the shield my brother had tossed aside. Blood caked them and in horror I realized that just hours ago those claws had rendered my brother. The creature now stood so close to me I could hear its breath. Even were I to stab it with the sword I do not think the blade would go all the way to the other side of the body. I could have hewn it with all my might and not gashed it to the bone.
“I have a weakness.” The monster announced. “When the sun comes up I fall into the deepest of sleeps. I will remain asleep until the sun sets, even though I never see the face of the sun herself. If you are still alive when that happens, you may be able to kill me. If you do kill me, then the curse will pass to you.”  It sighed and the sound was like a giant bellows. “If I am dead I cannot be punished. I wonder if death would not be a kindness. I have lived the time of many lives here.”
“Why is it you do not leave?” I asked but my blood raced. The idea that I might somehow survive the night was alive again.
“Leave?” It laughed and the sound hurt my ears to hear it. “And go where? And do what? And live like some wild animal in some cave? And what if the King find me again? Do you think this the worse he could do? What if he cursed me to live in your form but with this same hunger? That man is not King because he rules with reason but because he rules with fear.”
The monster stood and turned its head to look at my brother’s body. “Every time I kill I wonder what life it is I have taken. Is there not a limit? What will happen to me when the King dies, immortal that he seems? What happens when a prince is born to replace him? Will I then serve every King that comes this way?”
“If I get you a body to replace my brother’s will you allow me to keep his?” I asked suddenly.
“What?”
“I am no guard.” I replied. “I will take my brother’s body and in return I will give you the man whose clothing I wear.”
“Oh!” the monster cried aloud, “so now I will help you murder a guard and steal from the King. If you decide to return at all. “ It laughed. “Okay. I will help you. Take the body of your brother. Return here before dawn. The sun will not rise for another four hours. Is that time aplenty?”
“Yes!”
“Go!”

Hi! So here’s the thing here… how would you end this story?

Take Care,

Mike