Thursday, December 31, 2015

Murder on the Beach



There’s something to be said for walking long distances. At some time in every Long Walk I’ve taken I discover that I have traveled a lot further than I had anticipated and time has evaporated. Also, when I discover this lapse in time and distance I realize that no matter what happens I am only halfway done, at most. But usually I keep going. If I walk long enough and far enough there is a certain clarity of the moment that will come to me. And there are characters in stories that must either live or die and walking helps me determine their fates.

I’m writing a short story about a woman who decides to kill one of her coworkers who lives in the same building as she does. He’s not a mean person, and he doesn’t flirt with her, and he’s not evil or bad at all. She just decides that she is going to kill him. No real good reason.

The more she thinks about it the more the idea fascinates her. She knows better than to use her computer to look up ways to kill someone so she watches detective shows on television and makes notes on how people get caught. She begins to realize that no murder is perfect, in fact, no crime is perfect, but if done right and done well, she feel like she can get away with it. It’s a challenge to pit herself against an entire police force and it’s not enough to kill someone, no, she has to make sure that the police know the person was murdered and they have to know they’ve been outsmarted.

This women begins to feel a sense of purpose in her life that she never has felt before. She stalks the man, listening to conversations that he has with others, learning everything she can about what he does and where he goes. Her apartment is upstairs from his and she can see the light from his bedroom reflected in the window of a building across the street. She knows what time he turns the light on and off. She discovers he eats carry out pizza every Saturday night so she knows when the pizza guy is showing up for his delivery. She careful to keep only paper notes and she never uses his real name. She know the best time to kill him would be right after the pizza guy leaves and the best time of year would be winter, so it would be cold. 

I look up and realize that another mile or so has passed. The sun is a little warmer than it has been and I’ve noticed there are a lot more Asians on the beach than I remember seeing before. Of course, the demographic in America is changing very rapidly and the influx of people from all parts of the world is crafting new cultural norms. I wonder if I should make the victim Asian. But no, that would make our killer seem as if she might be racist, and I want her to be a pure psychopath.


So she decides that she will watch this man for an entire year. What does he do on vacation? Where does his family live? She discover he has an ex-wife that stole a lot of money from him. She smiles. There’s someone out there who hates him and could be blamed for the murder. Our killer smiles. The plot begins to take shape. She will kill him the day before Thanksgiving. She has heard him talk about taking that time off to go birdwatching in Mexico. He is going alone and won’t be back for a week. That means he won’t be missed for ten days, maybe even two weeks. The trail will be very cold and she plans to leave the window open in his apartment as to keep the body from smelling. But how to kill him?

She knows better than to buy any sort of weapon and she only used a gun once or twice in her life. Poison pizza? No, that’s not a sure way at all and she would have to buy poison. Push him out of a window? She stops and thinks, but no, too risky. She watches and waits and wonders. But just in case things get physical she starts working out like a fiend.

I stop and stock of where I am. I have to turn back now or risk falling off the edge of the earth. I wonder if there’s a way to plot a murder where there is no doubt there has been a murder but at the same time, something that hasn’t been done before. Then again, things that have been done before have been done because they work.

I stoop down to pick up a seashell and discover it’s a piece of plastic of some sort. Suddenly, our killer finds a box cutter while jogging. It’s a gift from the Gods of Murder, a sign she ought to fulfil her plan and she knows that she has to practice with it before she kills.

The box cutter is one of those that have a screw holding the two halves together with spare blades hidden in between. She buys cheap pillows and slashes them to pieces while wondering what it will feel like to kill.

A month before the date she rids her apartment of all the evidence of the pillows and tears up all her notes. She’s careful to get rid of everything that connects her to the crime and she very carefully goes through the stages of her plan. It is time.

I’m nearly back at the hotel but I walk past it. The story has occupied my mind. There’s a need for a twist, some weirdness that occurs that both surprises the reader and completes the tale. We have what we need here; a weapon, a date, good planning, yet there needs to be more. Should the ghost of the murdered man come back to haunt her? That would be unexpected.

More later.


Take Care,

Mike

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015




It’s an strange thing, time is. I haven’t been down to this part of Florida since the late 90’s and even thinking about that passage of time is odd. But since that point Destin has really built itself into a continuous tumor of resort hotels and strip malls, tourist attractions and convenience stores. There’s hardly an inch of space where there’s room for a palm tree to grow. The ocean itself is the last stand of undeveloped space and I wonder how long it will before someone build a hotel in the water. You have to see that coming one day, really, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been done already.

It’s been foggy and cloud ridden since we arrived but at least it’s warm. There’s a strong wind blowing off the Gulf Of Mexico and it’s far too windy to walk on the beach as I wanted to do. I settle for haunting the road that borders the beach and whoever developed this area knew that one day the Gulf would reach up and take part of this road, and maybe part of the hotel back into the sea where everything came from in the beginning. But the profits made from an endless parade of people trying to escape their lives make the gamble an acceptable risk. The vendors and owners of all the tourist attraction live and breathe with the casino of the sea.

There’s a full moon hidden in the clouds above. I can see it at odd times as the clouds march inland. Maybe it’s raining a hundred miles away from this spot as all that moisture has to fall eventually or maybe it’s building up for a flood. There is no one else in the damp darkness but me. Last night’s beer is still with me. It’s three in the morning by Central Time but I’m still on Eastern so it’s four. It doesn’t matter. It’s Christmas and that means that everyone is sleeping in and there isn’t any place open for hours if at all. There isn’t even a vehicle on the road anywhere. I am alone surrounded by thousands of sleeping people.

The dampness of the air and the wind ought to bring a chill to the air but there isn’t anything but a warm salty taste. I’m going to have a difficult time convincing law enforcement I’m not drunk if I get spotted. I’m staggering from the wind in the darkness of a predawn Christmas. Who in their right mind would be out in this on Christmas Day? Hotel resorts and strip malls. There’s very little else out here but shops and sand and the wind. Sidewalk would be nice but no, there’s no room for the walking. It’s better if people drive because they will get there faster. And if they walk they will not want to carry anything they buy. Driving is better. They can put the stuff they bought in the trunk. There has to be some souvenirs from the trip, some memento look at and remember that we were once there in the dark and in the wind, full moon and Christmas at the same time and some reminder that life can be different if enough money is spent.

There has been literally twenty-five minutes of sunshine in the Sunshine State in the last twenty-four hours. The balcony from which I write this overlooks the Gulf and it is beautiful and I am half naked. There is something to be said for the warmth here, even though it wasn’t cold when I left Hickory Head. There is also something to be said about the sound of pounding surf. The high winds that refuse to blow the fog completely away also provides with some excellent background noise. There is also the smell of the salt air, even in the fog, and there’s a cleanness about the ocean that lifts the spirit and soothes the soul.  I can see why so many writers have sought out the sea as a Muse. This is a delicious environment for the mind to feast upon. Even with the wet wind, and drippy fog, the clammy feeling on all hard surfaces dewy with moisture, this is still a magnificent place. This would be an easy addiction. There is a powerful draw to having the vastness at arm’s length from the fingertips while they write. The balcony is on the tenth floor and there are seagulls flying underneath me. How can someone write something small when such greatness exists on the very air that is being breathed? The wind pushes the waves, carries the gulls, and surrounds everything like the breath of the planet. Even as I type this out on the screen I can hear the raucous cry of a gull wheeling a few feet from where I sit.

There is a child flying a kite on the beach and it looks to be a few feet lower than my elevation. Yet the wind will not keep the craft in the air. I think the capricious breeze is too strong, too unsteady, and the child appears to be losing interest. There is a lot going on near the beach with each wave having the potential of washing ashore the body of a dead pirate or a massive whale. There are fragments of shells to examine and who knows what else might be attached to that piece of driftwood? There’s a certain sense of mystery involved with being here. The ocean may or may not offer some odd gift. The rush of the waves churns and churns and churns and anything long lost may once again see the light of day, maybe just briefly, and perhaps it will be gone for another thousands years, or be back after the next wave pushes it around.

 It is time for me to fold this device up and heed the call of the ocean. I must go walk on the beach and discover something, nothing, everything, and all things. From the oceans we came and back to the ocean we ought to go.

Take Care,
Mike





Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Hate Christmas




 In eleven days it will all be over. Christmas 2015, which started back in late August, will finally start winding down. It will take a few weeks for all the decorations to be taken down and put away, and after months of the frenzy building to a greater and greater point of obscenity, we will begin dreading next Christmas, which will like start right after the 4th of July. I’m at a loss to explain this to you, really. But I feel as if someone, somewhere, has to make a stand against Christmas, and even if I am the lonely light in the darkness, someone has to be.

I hate Christmas.

I fucking hate Christmas.


More than anything else it’s the waste. Each and every roll of wrapping paper will wind up in a landfill after being used for one day. Cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, blister packages, plastic bags, tape, bows, ribbons, all of this stuff is landfill fodder and the day after Christmas there’s trashcans everywhere filled to overflowing with cheap plastic shit from China that will fester in the ground for  centries. Worse, infinitely worse, most of the things that came in that packaging will soon follow. Christmas is capitalism’s yearly bowel movement. Mostly it lands on us all. It hits some more than other, but it infects everyone with the urge to do it all again next year.


The waste of food is as bad as the waste of paper, plastic, and cheap shit from China. People gorge themselves during this time of year, over and over again, stuffing themselves in an orgy of harmful food and alcoholic drinks that ensures that the hangover that begins on December the 26th lasts for months. The waste of money, the way people drain themselves trying to buy presents, cannot be matched by any other event. People will bankrupt themselves and their families trying to buy the next greatest Barbie or Star Wars toys.

The thing that bothers me the most is we are teaching our kids that all of this, the waste, the stress, the manic need for more, is a religious celebration.


In Christ’s name we prey, Amen.


If you really want to know how bad all of this truly is then all you have to do is speak with someone who works retail. Ask someone who works in a store on Black Friday what people become when a television goes on sell. Ask a clerk what people are like when they have to return something or something isn’t exactly right or, heaven forbid, there’s some sort of problem with a credit card. Consumers become vicious, inhumane, and cannibalistic. It’s everyone for themselves at the Mall and all the generosity we can muster is half a handful of change tossed into a red kettle. That’s it. Once we hit that parking lot it’s life or death getting a space and there’s that grim satisfaction of having a spot better than someone else, and you can brag about it at the office. Meanwhile, think of the irony of a Wal Mart employee who isn’t making enough to live off of yet has to face hundreds of people a day snarling about having to wait in line to buy things the people bagging the items cannot afford to buy. And for eight hours a day they have to face this.


For those of us in Dog Rescue we know what’s coming next. Every natural disaster means people will flee their sanity and abandon their pets. Christmas is no different. People don’t want to travel to grandma’s house for the holidays so they’ll drop their ten year old Irish setter off at the local shelter where it will be killed in three days because there’s eleventy billion people doing the same goddam thing right now. People will simply leave home with a dog chained to a tree and hope it’s still alive when they get back. They’ll leave their pets outside so company won’t have to deal with the animals and don’t worry they won’t freeze because they are wearing a fur coat. People will pull up to animal shelters and just tie their dogs to whatever is outside and leave. The people inside those shelter are watching mass murder in the name of Christ’s birthday party. Those people are teaching their kids that love is expendable and when an animal becomes inconvenient to the holidays it is perfectly acceptable to drop it off in the middle of nowhere and never look back.

In Jesus’ name we slay. Amen.


I don’t want to hear about how this is such a great time for everyone to get together and how you haven’t seen Uncle Charlie since last year because it isn’t worth it. The damage that is done this time of year isn’t outweighed by pretty lights or watching the same thing on television you did as a child. The environment is getting raped, people are throwing their money away for no good reason, we’re drinking and eating too much, and people are killing their pets. This happens every year. This happens every damn year.


There isn’t a god. There is no Jesus. There isn’t some old man in a bathrobe and a shepherd’s crook looing down over this mess and promising to make it all better one day. No deity or god worth its weight in lightning bolts would sit around and watch this sort of blasphemy in its name and simply let it go. If there was a god there would be some sort of reckoning by now if for no other reason than to keep some poor kid from waking up and thinking he was bad and that’s why Santa skipped over his house and landed in some rich kid’s yard with a bike. It’s obscene what we teach kids about Christmas and it is a lie.

The whole thing is a lie. It’s a made up event to sell you things you don’t want or need or enjoy and give things to other people you cannot afford and give kids a sense of entitlement they haven’t earned or a sense of worthlessness they do not deserve.

You want a war on Christmas? It started the second Black Friday became something that was more important than the day before it was.

And have a happy New Year,

Mike

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Year Of The Tyger





Tyger Linn is more vocal than her sister, Lilith Magnolia, and hardly a sound does her cousin, Greyson Charlotte utter, except in dire need. Marco Ladakh seems to be a little mouthy at predictable times, but his is noise to make a point, not actual words, like Tyger Linn uses.
Tyger Linn has a different bark depending on who she is speaking to and why she is speaking. The Squirrel Bark is easily recognizable for it’s the highest pitched and loudest. Tyger Linn has laid claim to dog head high and below and the Squirrels know it. Never before has it been as dangerous to be below the lowest limbs and Tyger Linn has brought a level of lethality to the woods that the Squirrels have never seen before. Tyger Linn is deadly serious about hunting.

Marco is trying to learn what he can from his little cousin but he lacks the mobility or the ground speed. What he’s really missing is that hair trigger sprit that Tyger has developed that flings her off the ground and into action with flawless execution. A squirrel was just outside the backdoor two days ago and as Tyger rocketed out of the door and down the steps in one bound, the squirrel zigged when it should have zagged. There are no second chances. There is no second place trophy. The other three dogs alerted at the action but no one got near Tyger Linn when she was making the kill. I tried to take a venomous snake from her and she looked at me as if I had just spoken Adele lyrics in Latin while whistling through my nose. My smallest little girl has a feral sense about her betimes. I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to like it the way I do.


Tyger has a bark that alerts me that Greyson Charlotte is, once again, on the bed, where it disconcerts Tyger Linn no end. This is three of four short, sharp, barks, nothing serious, but really, get down from there. Greyson would be allowed to stay on the bed, but she likes to get on the bed and chew things. Shoes mostly.

Back when Bert was alive no human being and no other animal got within sight distance of the house without Bert telling me, and everyone else in the Area Code, about it. The dog had a hammer for a voice and wasn’t afraid to use it. Now, someone can be on the porch before anyone here knows it. I have no idea why this is. But I can tell when Tyger Linn is barking at a person, too. She’s very loud at people and her barks are very fast. She also positions herself as close as she can to one side of the action, flanking. Bert was more of a full throttle head first brawler. Tyger Linn looks for an angle.


My Lilith Magnolia has finally come to believe that Tyger Linn is here to stay. Lilith the Aloof has never bonded with anyone but Lucas, the Beloved, and I don’t think she ever will again. I’m not sure it will ever be the same for either of us. But she has accepted Tyger Linn as a packmate and they do play, some.


So all of this was brought on by Tyger’s observation that my computer bag and gym bag were on the sofa next to me. She sat there, looking at the stuff, and looking at me, and suddenly, here comes Lilith, who would normally get up on the loveseat next to Tyger Linn. Well, instead of curling up and leaving room for her sister, Tyger plops down and stretches out as long as she can, and looks at Lilith as if to say, “I was here first, so there” and Lilith looked a little putout that she had no place to lay.

I moved the stuff on the sofa to one side and invited Lilith up, and she accepted and curled up next to me. That’s the one thing I can say about Lilith; she is the most polite dog I have ever met. She would never get up next to me without me asking her to and she would never do something like block Tyger Linn. And of course, once Tyger Linn realizes that Lilith is going to cozy up to me she stand up, cocks her ears and barks. Once, high pitched, shrill, and in a word says, “Bitch!” but that’s all. Tyger Linn, for all of her hunting skills, isn’t going to go head on with Lilith and we all know this to be true.

It’s been a year now. Last year on this day I went down to Dr. Harrell’s office and picked up a little brindle pit as a foster but I knew the first time I saw her I was going to keep her. It has not be easy. Tyger bit me the first week she was here and she meant it, too. She’s clashed with Lilith but not seriously, but she did clash with Sam when he was alive. She never really took a shot at Lucas, I mean, really, but she never got along well with Tanya Rose.


All in all, Tyger Linn has been a hell of a lot of trouble for such a small little girl dog.



So begins the second year of Tyger Linn Firesmith. There isn’t a way to describe how it feels to have lost so many dogs in one year, Sam to old age, Lucas to sudden illness, and Tanya to her madness. I never envisioned inheriting my sister’s dogs in the manner I did, but that’s what family is for, those unexpected times when you get more dogs. Tyger Linn has survived being bitten by a venomous snake and that’s something only Lucas the Beloved has done out here at Hickory Head.

I want to thank Michelle down at the Lowndes County Shelter for posting that photo a year ago today. It changed my life and it saved Tyger Linn’s.


Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Consistency Of Memory



The problem with memory is that it is stored in the brain and it survives by being kept up to date by the operating system of the brain, that thing which we call the mind. Now, because memory is being constantly updated there’s a better than average chance of there being a flaw, ever how slight, in the copy, and therefore the entire memory becomes suspect over time. Usually we’re happy with this arrangement because the memory can be refreshed by reality. We couldn’t recall the exact lyrics to a song we liked five years ago but if it comes on the radio we merrily sing along with it as if we’ve practiced it for years, which we have, in a way, because it’s stored in our memory.

Six or seven years ago, I cannot remember how long, isn’t that a hell of a way to start out, I met a woman who had a great body and dark hair. The next time I saw her she had lightened her hair considerably, and I commented on it and a connection was made between us. We dated, became close, and one day I asked her why she had changed her hair from very dark to very light. She countered that it hadn’t really been that dark, but I remembered that it had been. It was an odd sticking point but I conceded that she likely knew more about her hair than I did. Odd thing was that while we were dating someone else commented they liked her hair very dark, like she used to have it.


Now, let’s go back even deeper in time, back in the early 80’s when I was stationed at Fort Gordon near Augusta. I tried several different routes through Middle Georgia to get to South Georgia and none of them were easy or quick. At some point in that time I must have passed through the same part of Middle Georgia I passed through in the late eighties, when I went to visit a friend in Warren County. Now, here we are in 2015, on Thanksgiving Day, and I’m on my way to South Carolina and I pass by an abandoned school. There was this odd sense of veja vu. Not that I had been there before, no, but the feeling that this had been a dreamscape, and that I had formed a dream from memory, the most elusive of realities. In the dream, in this dreamscape of the abandoned school, I was walking under the shelter to the busses and somewhere in that school I had hidden something that I wanted to get back but had no idea how to do it with so many people around. I found it odd that so many students were waiting outside, even under the shelter, risking getting wet, when they could have waited inside. I was looking for a girl I knew, and I wouldn’t see her again because the school was closing.

Ready for some weirdness?

I have no idea at all the condition of this building as I passed by it, if I indeed had ever passed by it, but Thanksgiving Day of 2015 I went by it and saw it, in broad daylight, as a building sitting in an overgrown lot with high weeds encroaching on all sides. That was it should have looked like if what was to be in the dream transpired. The school had been abandoned, the girl forever lost to me, and some ill-gotten gains recovered or not, who is to say?


This edifice stayed in my mind from Thanksgiving Day to the next, and I was looking for it on my way back. There it was, too. Fully functional, nicely groomed, and obviously it had been for quite some time. No field expedient lawn care company had swept in on Thanksgiving Day to clean the place up. At some point I came upon the building, saw it for what my memory told me I would see, like hearing the lyrics of a song wrong, and the next day… Which memory is correct?


The woman’s hair, the condition of a school building I may or may not have seen over thirty years ago, when it comes to memory, what is to be trusted and what cannot be trusted? You get into a car and you feel comfortable you’ll arrive at some destination that’s stored in your mind but at the same time, how long did it take to find your keys?

You trust your memory to remind you to take your meds, or that you have taken your meds, or to skip your meds, yet you cannot remember what you had for lunch yesterday without some effort of thought, and even then, are you sure? Can you be?

We’ve all heard about some elderly person who drove for hours because their mind simply let the memories go of familiar places. That only happens to old people and those with brain diseases, right? When it happens to us, those of us who consider themselves in command of their facilities, how to explain it away? Does the mind simply sweep it under the mental rug to keep from having to face the idea that the mind itself is a flawed creature? This is paramount to a long distance runner getting tired after running a block. A glitch? A sign of aging? Is disease setting in? Or has this been happening all your life and it’s just getting to the point you now have age to blame it on?

I wonder if I can find the school on Google and bring forth a photo for you? Can I remember where it is close enough to find it without searching for it at great length?

What if it never existed at all?


Like the woman’s dark hair, either she doesn’t remember it correctly or two people do not remember it correctly, or there’s some place in between all of this where a long dead reality resides unknown and unknowable.


Somewhere out there, in my mind or Middle Georgia, is a school I never went to and will likely never see again, yet here it is, you will either remember it because of these words, or you will forget it, too.

Take Care,

Mike

Friday, November 27, 2015

A$$holes (Rated R for language)




First off, given the title of this essay, I would like to introduce my fuel gauge as an asshole of the First Order. After I drive two hundred miles, my fuel gauge announces that I have used but a quarter of the gas in my tank. This means I can drive another five hundred, ninety-nine miles without refueling but my gas gauge is an asshole. After fifty more miles it tells me that I have used up more than a half a tank.
Asshole.


During the last two days I have driven over seven hundred fifty miles. Other than my fuel gauge outright lying to me, I’ve decided there are two devices that ought to be mandatory in all vehicles and the use of these two devices ought to be enforced to the point that getting a ticket for not using either would be expensive to the extreme. Or someone ought to drag the drivers out and beat them with a cane.

The first are turn signals, also known as blinkers, because very clearly there are those drivers out there who cannot seem to fathom the idea that they are used to indicate a change in lane or an advanced warning for a turn. One thing I learned in the last seven hundred and fifty miles is there are a lot of people on the interstate that either have no turn signal, which they need to get fixed, or they have one and haven’t been shown how to use it, which they need to learn, or they know how to use it, it does work, but they choose not to engage their turn signals in a timely basis or not at all.

Assholes.

The second device I think ought to be mandatory is cruise control. An odd pick, you might think, for most were thinking of an automatic plasma rifle in the forty watt range, but no, cruise control. Here’s why:  I left South Carolina this morning an hour before dawn to beat some of the worst traffic. Basically, at that time if day you’ll have fewer human being and by default, fewer assholes. I’m cruising along in the middle lane of three, when this minivan come out from the far right lane and cuts me off causing me to have to hit my brakes. They acerbate the situation by immediately slowing down. Why? Because they’re assholes, that’s why. If they had cruise control or knew how to use a turn signal things might have been better, but things were worse because as they passed me they, and myself, began climbing a hill. This caused them to slow down. So I passed them, because now they’re going five miles an hour slower than I am. Once we get going downhill, you guessed it! They passed me again.

Assholes.


Now, as dawn began to break I noticed a bumper sticker, as they passed me for the third time, that read “I Love Saint Jude’s” and I wonder if they thought about their own kids climbing around in that minivan while the driver engaged in some fairly wicked assholery. Finally, I camped out in the Hammer Lane, and watched them go back and forth with another truck in the middle and slow lanes. This went on from South Carolina until I finally had enough and pulled into a rest stop in Georgia. No kidding, this went on for about an hour with the driver of the minivan not realizing he was changing speeds faster than Donald Trump insults people.

Ass.

Holes.


Let’s also have an honorable mention to the Asshole who pulled up behind me at a gas station with ten gazillion other pumps, three quarters of which were not being used. No, he had to pull up behind me, with a foot of my truck, and then looked at me as if I were holding him up or something. Of course, if my fuel gauge wasn’t an asshole, this wouldn’t have happened, would it?

And then there was the Asshole who passed me from the Hammer lane while I was in the middle lane, and just as soon as he realized there was a BIG FUCKIN RV in the slow lane he had to lock’em down and duck back behind me, nearly clipping me. YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT HUGE FUCKING RV? REALLY?

ASSHOLE!


And at last, let’s not forget the semi, who once I was off the Interstate, passed me on the back two lane road that is supposed to be safer and slower, passed the tractor ahead of me who (asshole) was doing about twenty, and nearly killed hit the car that I was waiting to go past before I passed the tractor. A half mile ahead are train tracks which, because he’s a tanker truck, has to stop at anyway.

Asshole.

This concludes my commentary on other drivers. Thank you.


Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Problem With War

The problem with war, as I have pointed out many time over the years, is it’s like tossing a handful of unknown seeds into the air and then coming back a year later hoping to harvest a certain crop. You may have some idea what might happen but in the end that rarely is what happens. It’s one of those strange things that whatever reason you go to war and whatever outcome you might imagine the reality of war is unknown and unknowable. That’s why anyone with a sense of history avoids it all cost if they care about humanity.

If you look at the war in Syria it seems like a fairly cut and dried problem; the man running the country is an evil human being and getting him out would mean good things, right? But that was the case in Iraq. We discovered that by interjecting a massive amount of firepower and money into a region and then destroying the political infrastructure, we created a massive amount of power that emptied that part of the world of a lesser power, and then we left leaving a vacuum that was filled by the most violent entity that arose after we were gone.

Anyone who reads history saw this coming.

What all armed conflicts cause is a massive amount of both soldiers and arms left over once some semblance of peace has been cobbled together. After the American Civil War both sides contributed to the wayward and senseless slaughter in Kansas and the American West. The native population of this region should have known as soon as the combatants were done tearing their own country apart they would look to keep the battle going with someone else.

The very sad truth in all of this is as long as there is an obscene profit to be made in war there will be those who will sell arms to anyone, and worse, everyone, so that no one is left without the means to kill a lot of human beings as swiftly as possible. The Americans left billions of dollars’ worth of war material in Iraq and those who opposed the Americans also invested in arms so what to do with all that equipment meant for humans to wage war on one another?

We might not like to admit it and we certainly aren’t going to speak aloud about the root causes of terrorism, what happened in Paris was something that has happened many times before in many places, recently, and in the past. Anyone psychotic enough and sociopathic enough to run a terrorism campaign successfully also knows that the only way to keep the war alive is to keep killing people. And they also know as long as they can kill there will be those willing to fund the killing so even more weapons can be sold. More than ideology, pure predatory capitalism, in other words greed, fuels terrorism.

Without money terrorism ceases to exist on a global level. Without greed the need to fund terrorism ceases to exist. Without war, the industry which supplies the basic needs and the basic conditions for terrorism ceases to exist.


Paris will happen again and again just as long as we, the people of planet Earth, continue to fund it. As long as we listen to those who would divide us with religion, politics, false nationalism, and invented racial rifts, we will continue to fall prey to delivering our resources to those who plan, begin, propagate, and profit from war, conflict, fear, and terrorism.

At some point in time, we as a species, will have to realize that resources are finite and we must care for these resources or we will most certainly become extinct, along with most of the species that share this earth with us. Yet as long we fall prey to the conditions of greed and war, we will see only those false and immediate threats that devour our spirits as well as our time, our treasure, our humanity and our young.


Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Doing 55



In 1979 I was voted “Most Likely To Die Before 21” by my High School peers. This wasn’t printed in our yearbook or anything like that but it was widely assumed that I would be dead, and dead very soon. I spent more time in my Senior year passed out in the parking lot than in the classroom. In today’s world someone would get involved in something like that but back then serious drinking was what men did and I did it too. My problem wasn’t a secret to anyone who had known me for any length of time at all.

I turned fifty-five on Monday which is a terrible day on which to have a birthday. Worse, it rained all day long, but I decided to stay home, socialize with the mutts, and write this. I’m still alive, by the way. All attempts at causing anything other than this condition have clearly failed.

I’ve been shot at once in my life and I didn’t like it. I’ve never shot at anyone. I held a gun on a deputy once but that was a misunderstanding and I had a cop in Tampa hold a gun on me once, and that also was a misunderstanding, but when it comes to guns there cannot be misunderstanding without the very real possibility of tragedy. But I am still alive.

There have been four wrecks since 1979 and I’ve managed to walk away from all of them without serious injury. The last was in 2013 and because I was doing Yoga three times a week I wasn’t even sore.

A friend of mine, a lifelong friend of mine, died in 2013. Smoking finally caught up to him, as we all knew it would, and back in 1985 he told me he thought he would live longer than he would. We talked about that, even when he was going through chemo and radiation and all of that stuff, he never truly gave up the idea he might beat it. It’s hard to grasp the ending of life and I thought I had made peace with it decades ago but I realized when my friend died that I hadn’t. Or maybe I’m more willing to let go of my own life than anyone else’s. I can deal with my own death because I don’t have to but losing someone else is a lot harder.

A car crash took the lives of five young men I knew back in 1980. It was a strange thing, really, for five people to die at once, that quickly, and I didn’t even know about it until after the funerals. A log truck driven by a man with a history of seizures crossed over into their lane and in whatever time it takes for two vehicles to slam into one another was how long it took for five lives to end. Hopes and dreams, loves and memories, bodies and souls, all of that was gone in less than a second. I still remember my sister calling and telling me about it.

 Of course, back when no one thought I was going to live long enough to be able to see twenty-one, I didn’t have a niece of a nephew, and neither of my sisters had been married. It would take another twenty-two years before I would get married and that ended poorly, but we both lived through it. No one saw me joining the Army, surviving that, and no one ever thought I would live to see thirty, or forty, or, damn, fifty.


Yet I am still here.


Do they ever wonder, those people who saw me carried out of class in High School, limp as a wet rag and unconscious, did they ever stop and wonder that perhaps even as large of a wreck as I might have been, that even at that very moment, I was outliving them? They colored inside of the lines, showed up for class, studied hard, went to church, and now, forty years later, I’m still here. How does this sort of thing happen? How did life not punish someone who lived on the edge for that long? I hitchhiked across country, smoked more pot than any other two people in High School, drank like a fish, lived in terrible neighborhoods, caught venomous snakes barehanded, and dated redheads.

How the hell am I still alive?


The simple truth is life is filled with chances to die every day. Some people are lucky and some people are not. I’ve been lucky to the extreme and some people die young for no good reason. For all my addictions and habits I have pretty much lived a quiet life for the last twenty-five years or so. I’ve rescued dogs and one or two humans. I’ve read more than any two people back in High School and I’m pretty sure I’ve written more than anyone else who ever knew me. I think at this age I’ve pretty much outlived all the bitter old women who tormented me in grade school. They’ve torn down that building that I regarded as a prison. I meet people who tell me that High School was the best four years of their lives and I can only pity them for that.

It’s odd, really, being fifty-five. It’s like being in a place I had no idea I was going, didn’t want to be there, but here I am. There’s a good half dozen or so people I would like to speak with before I die and I would like to ask them was it worth it, to live by the rules, and to not do the things that Mike did, and to spend a life in the same small town waiting to join the rest of the family in the same grave plot, I mean, really?

I do not feel fifty-five. I feel as if there are more rules to be broken, more excess to be explored, and more memories to be made. I feel a certain kinship with that kid back in High School where everyone was sure he was going to die, just because he lived.

You are all going to die anyway, bitches.


You might as well live.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Possession of Terry Sirmons

It was a little warm for a letter jacket but Terry wanted everyone to see him wearing it before he handed it over to Debbie. Everyone already knew they were going steady, and everyone was so jealous. She wanted to wear the jacket to the concert but hadn’t said so, and Terry wanted her to ask. He wanted her to ask him to take it off, and he was going to, but she had to let him take her shirt off first. Debbie had been very firm up until last night about letting him touch her but last night… Today, however, ARS was playing here, in Dothan Alabama, and Terry had great seats. Coach Riverdale had somehow gotten four tickets and so he, the backup quarterback Michael and his girl, Cill, and Debbie were off to their first trip in Terry’s father’s car. Man, was this great or what? He was the youngest starting quarterback ever at Hopkins High.  His driver’s license wasn’t a month old and he was already at a ARS concert with Debbie. But right now he had to pee.
He used the bathroom and washed his hands and something was all over them. Something came out of the water faucet and…Terry looked up and there was a monster in the mirror. He screamed, fell, and scrambled to get up but nearly fell again. His legs…his..oh God. Where was he? Terry looked around and he was not in Dories Auditorium. He was in a tiny stinking bathroom and it was incredibly cold. He stood up and the monster looked back at him from the mirror. Terry took a step back and fell again. His legs didn’t work at all. He hurt his arm and when he looked at his hands he screamed again. They were covered with sores and they were wrinkled, shriveled, and veins bugled out.
“Oh God” Terry whimpered.
He pulled himself up and looked in the mirror. The monster was him. His hair was long, greasy, and matted. His face was wrinkled too, and his teeth were yellow and crooked. There was a couple missing. PAIN! Suddenly his body was racked with pain. His knees hurt, his back hurt, his mouth hurt, and Terry moaned out loud. What the hell was this? He pulled at the hair and it hurt, too, the hair was real. He shuffled to the door, crying, and when he opened it a blast of cold air hit him. Snow fluttered around him and Terry walked out into the freezing cold. What had happened? Where was he? Terry staggered back into the bathroom and stared at the mirror. He was a million years old, at least. How could this be? Terry tried to remember something, anything, but his last memory was of going to the bathroom in Dothan. Was this Dothan? Did he get amnesia and…? Terry doubled over and threw up. Blood. There was blood in his puke. Oh Jesus. Pain racked his body and Terry fell into the puke. He tried to get up and fell again. His legs, his legs didn’t work right, his back hurt, his hips were on fire, and…
“Okay, Kevin, get the hell out of there dammit, Jesus you’re bleeding, just get the hell out will you?”  A policeman stood in the doorway.
“Please, Officer, please help me, my name isn’t Kevin, I’m…, “ Terry tried to explain but the cop grabbed him and flung him out of the door.
“I’ll Taz the hell out of you, you stupid jerk, now get the hell out before I start cracking some ribs.” The cop advanced on Terry and before he could stand up the cop kicked him. “Go on, get the hell out of here, dammit.”
Terry half crawled and was half kicked away from the bathroom. He was at a gas station but there were a lot of pumps, and the cars… Terry stood up and stared. None of the cars looked right. They were smaller than his dad’s Monte Carlo by far, and no one had a Trans Am or… Terry stumbled towards the parking lot and nothing seemed real. There were tall buildings, snow, and small cars. Where was he? Almost everyone he saw was talking to the palm of their hands held up to their heads, or poking at something in their hands. What were they doing? He stumbled away from the gas station and down the street. There was a bar of some sort and they had the biggest television terry had ever seen in his life. The thing was enormous. Wait! The giant televisions were everywhere! The bar had one on every wall.
“Hey!” a man said to him, “Beat it!”
Terry stumbled away and sat down on the curb of the street. He hurt all over. His ribs ached. Terry looked through his pockets and found nothing at all worth anything at all. A newspaper rolled like tumbleweed past him and he grabbed it. The print was small, and blurry, but he could make out the date; 4 February, 2011. Terry stopped breathing for a few seconds. 2011? 2011? Oh God he was..fifty? No. No. He couldn’t be fifty! He looked at his hands. His body ached. Where was he? The paper was from Las Vegas, Nevada. What was he doing here?
Terry found another gas station and watched the cars. He saw one every once in a while that looked familiar but mostly they were alien. The people were talking and pushing buttons and he saw tiny television screen in odd looking vans. The billboards were giant televisions too, and the people looked weird. Some of them had bits of metal stuck in their faces. Terry couldn’t figure it out. How did this happen? What had happened to him?
“Are you okay, sir?” There was a woman standing there, with a bible.
“My name is Terry Sirmans, “Terry said, “and I am lost.”
The woman took him to a shelter and they fed him, and gave him some new clothes. “I want to call my mom, “ Terry said, and they explained to him how a “cell phone” worked. Terry punched in his parents’ number and waited. The thought hit him like a hammer. They were likely dead by now. What if they had moved?
“Hello?” it was a woman’s voice, but she sounded very young.
“My name is Terry Sirmans, “ Terry blurted out.
“I’m sorry you have the wrong number,” the woman said and hung up.
Was his parents dead? Terry felt his eyes water and he wondered what the hell had happened to him. When did they die? What had happened? Did they know where he was? Has he been…? What? What had he been?
“Would you like to look for your family on the Internet?” The bible woman suggested. Terry couldn’t remember her name.
“The what?”
“The Internet?” The woman asked again. “Face Book, maybe?”
Terry still couldn’t get over the “lap top” which looked like a tv had mated with a typewriter. But the bible woman had found his old address, and they had looked at the house he felt was still his home. They couldn’t find his parents.
“Debbie Smitheart.” Terry blurted out, and the woman began to type.  They found a Debbie Smitheart Collins in his hometown and the bible woman sent this woman an “instant message”. The woman led Terry to a room with a cot and he fell asleep almost immediately. It was a dream. He would be back home in his own bed when he woke up.
“Mr. Sirmans?” It was the woman. Terry looked around and it was light again. He hurt all over. The woman handed him a tiny phone.
“Hello?” he spoke into the phone.
“Who is this?” a woman asked.
“My name is Terry Sirmans” Terry said.
“What year did you graduate from High School?” the woman asked.
“I didn’t,” Terry said, “I went to a concert one night and suddenly I was here. I don’t remember anything past that night, Who is this?”
“This is Debbie.” And suddenly it sounded like her.
“Debbie?” Terry tried to remember what she looked like.
“Terry, your folks moved to Montgomery. They’re still alive. Oh god is it really you?”

Terry sat on the edge of the bed in the hotel room and stared at the television. It was huge, and flat as a pancake. His brother, Richard was flying up to get him and take him home. But Terry wondered what home would be like. What had happened to him? Why was he so old? He had spent hours talking to doctors and looking at their internet and so much had happened to the world since that night. What had happened? It was time. He walked down to the hotel lobby and waited. A man was walking towards him, Richard? And there was a much younger man with him, was this Richard’s son, they looks so much alike. Suddenly Terry realized how much time was gone.



“Did you do this to someone?” Colleen asked. “Why? Why would you, why would any one of you, do this to someone?”
“Why did you take the life of the animal that you took for breakfast, Colleen?” Rhiannon asked. “You think it cruel to use a human being in this manner? How many animals spend their lives in a cage for your amusement, or tied to a tree until they die of old age?”
“You stole his life.” Colleen was furious.”You ruined the lives of everyone who loved him.”
“This is still kinder than how you treat those animals you use. I needed a host. He was a host. It’s the same way you use animals. ” Rhiannon said simply. “And I do not like your tone.”
“I apologize.” Colleen said. She looked down.”It won’t happen again.”
“See that it does not.” Rhiannon told her. “Regal cannot protect you from me, and you know it.”
“Yes.”





Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Woodpecker Tree Has Fallen.





The woodpecker tree has fallen. I never could get a good photo of it while it was standing because there are, there were, so many other trees around it, but now that it’s on the ground I can explore it at my leisure. It was tall enough to hit the trail and I didn’t think it was, but about two meters of it slammed into the dogs’ path late last night or sometime today. We’ve gotten over four inches of rain here in the last twenty-four hours and I suspect that had something to do with it. It’s a little sad to see it down. The damn thing had stood up there, dead as a hammer, for years.

I remember when it first died, and started losing limbs, I started to cut it down then because of the threat to the dogs, but the woodpeckers need such trees. They find their food in rotted trees and they build their nests there, too. Most people will take dead trees down very quickly and this is a good thing from a human point of view, or even a dog point of view, but from the point of view of the woodpeckers it’s a death sentence. So the tree stood there and did what trees do when they die yet die standing.

Most people do not realize that trees simply die. They get hit by lightning or they get a disease and some trees aren’t long lived to begin with. But this was an Oak tree and I suspect it was lightning or bugs but not lightning bugs. Whatever killed it did so quickly and after a while the woodpeckers discovered the vacancy sign was lit.

Before the woodpeckers moved in there had to be a transition between life and death. We humans couldn’t produce anything similar to a tree to save our lives, and we might want to think about that. This is a structure that stands upright with nearly all of its mass above its center of gravity. It withstands hurricanes and storms yet it still stands. It carries a bough full of leaves and limbs and branches high into the sky yet even never fails. Even in death, the limbs and branches fall, yet there is the trunk, ten meters tall, standing as if death itself must wait on trees to fully die.

The very top of the tree and a couple of limb broke off last year and one piece was driven deeply into the ground. This is a real hazard, but I’ll take photos of the tree and you might be amazed; there is no sign the dogs have traveled around this tree in a couple of years. That’s right, the dogs, all of them, have avoided getting near the dead tree. Do they know? I think they do. What this does is keep my mutts safe, certainly, but it also allows underbrush to grow near the tree which means saplings have risen up near the tree. A parent tree, even in death, protects its young.



So seasons have come and gone, years have come and gone, dogs have come and gone, yet there’s this dead tree, a condo for wood peckers, hanging in there and standing like a wooden obelisk waiting for this day to arrive. A couple of months ago I noticed a lean to it and too some pictures of it. I know full well that once a dead tree starts leaning the end isn’t too far away at all. Now, the home of wood peckers becomes the home for all the land dwelling wood eaters and eventually, this tree will become soil.


I’m very likely to line my compost pile with the corpse of this tree. It’s perfect for the job and there’s very few things that go a compost pile as good as those things that are already eating away at the dead tree. There’s a virtual soup of living creatures in that wood, large and small, and the compost pile needs the residents. Compost kickstarter ex woodpecker condo; it sounds like an alternate rock band from Colorado.

Yet with all of this comes some sadness. A tree has died and finally fallen. Part of my daily routine in walking with the dogs was to try and spot wood peckers on that tree, to see if it was still there, and wonder if and when it would finally go. It was, and still is, a testament of how perfectly well evolution has shaped trees to be the sky reachers and sunlight drinkers that they are. Nature has perfected the tree so that even as it dies it becomes useful to other creatures and when it falls it feeds many more. In life and in death, trees are some of the most versatile and certainly the most beautiful beings that have ever inhabited this earth. Unlike most organisms, and certainly unlike humans, as they reach their full maturity they serve a vast number of other species, with shade, food, homes, as a travel way for squirrels, a rest stop for birds, and for an oxygen pump for everything that breathes on this planet.

As the compost pile is blessed by the parts of the tree that decompose, my garden will issue forth peppers and tomatoes and yes, flowers, that will feed upon what was once this tree. There will be no waste, there will be no remnants except those that are alive because of what the tree gave. There will be insects that come to feed on my garden and there will be birds who capture them and eat them, and all of this because of a tree, because of all trees, and because this is the way that nature has always been, if we allow Her.

The tree has fallen; its reign in that part of the sky is now over. My world is a little less than what it was when that tree lived and when it stood. Yet I will follow my obligation to see that which stood in the sky will return to the earth, again.


Take Care,

Mike

Monday, November 2, 2015

Christa: Epilogue




Six months after…

“Hey DeMurrey, I hear you’re leaving us,” the guard said and Larry couldn’t remember his name. The new prison was full of new faces and he couldn’t keep up with everyone’s name anymore.
“Yeah, me and the wife are moving to Florida,” Larry replied. “It’s time to move onto bigger and better things. I got my degree now. I can be a real detective.”
“Your wife’s a dentist?” the man shook his head. “Get out of this business while you still can.”
“It’s something in my blood.” Larry replied truthfully.
“You heard about Timmons?” the man asked.
“Timmons?” Larry knew he was bad at names now. A man whose name he couldn’t remember was asking about another name he couldn’t remember.
“Yeah, the FBI Agent you worked with before the flood.” The man said.
“What?”
“They found him dead up in Montana.” The man replied as he left the locker room. “Suicide. He’s the one that kept trying to find Fuller. He never gave up on that, you know?”
“Yeah?” Larry replied. “I think she drowned.” And Larry never wished for anything to be true like he did that.

Two years, six months later….

 Susan brushed her daughter’s hair while listening out to whatever it was that had made Timmy go silent. A quiet little boy was a little boy making trouble for his mother and Susan silently slipped away from her daughter to find her son contemplating a climb up the drawers of the cabinets to gain the countertop where cookies were cooling.
“You were not, were you?” Susan arched an eyebrow at him and Timmy fled to the safety of the living room where Larry was supposed to be watching him, but had fallen under the spell of a football game. What on earth is he going to be like when he’s big, Susan wondered and she knew, if genetics meant anything, he would be a lot like his father.

Larry’s sister was coming down in the next day or two and all four kids of the cousins would be together for the first time. Debbie was barely two, her brother Timmy nearly five, and Bryce’s two were just a bit older. Susan couldn’t see how Bryce and Larry grew up in the same household but her sister in law still had that heart of gold thing going for her. The tattoos were a bit much for Susan and she fought back the images of Debbie getting inked up like that when she was old enough. It had been since…Susan went through the math in her head, damn, well over a year since she and Larry had a weekend away together. It was time. Whatever else could be said about Bryce, children and dogs loved her. Was it time to get the kids a dog? Susan smiled at the thought. Another child, but in fur.

Destin was as far from Jacksonville Florida, where they had moved over two years ago as any place could be and still be in the state. Susan loved the white beaches and clean water. Larry liked to drink beer and float. They had made a vow of silence, to never speak of certain things, unless it was absolutely certain no one else could hear them. Larry pushed Susan out on a float until they were a hundred yards out or so.
“Are you sure about this?” Larry asked.
“Yes,” Susan replied and put a hand on his shoulder. He was still working out and it was still working. “The kids need to grow up in a smaller town. But not too small, Bryce has a perfect set up and she needs some help. And she has a fenced in backyard.”
“You never let up, do you?” Larry laughed. “Yes, we will get a dog.”
“You’ll like it out west.” Susan told him. “And we need to put some distance between us and the past. I can set up shop anywhere. You can finish your next degree. I need an accountant and we need to be able to explain why we’re, uh, well off.”
“As long as there is beer, and the kids, and you.” Larry sighed.

“And a dog.”


Susan walk along the beach alone. Larry was napping at the hotel after they had feasted on fresh seafood and great wine. She had slipped away unnoticed and she hoped to be back long before he awoke. She cut back up to the hotel with the lighthouse on top of it, and then down a side street, away from the tourists. There was a pink house with a sign out front that read, “Madam Murrey Fortune Teller” and Susan went into the house without knocking.

“Yes, may I…” a small woman with grey hair walked into the room but stopped speaking when she saw Susan. “Who are you?” she asked.
“You’re a psychic and you don’t know who I am?” Susan laughed bitterly. “Yet I found you.”
“I knew you would come one day, Susan.” Christa said as she sat down across the table from Susan. “You were one of the few people I could never see. I thought that was perhaps because you could see me. I was right.”
“Your vision was derived from death, my own from childbirth,” Susan said, “and no, Larry doesn’t know where I am, or where you are.”
“What do you want?” Christa asked.
“I have something for you.” Susan slid a large envelope across the table. “There’s fifty grand in there. I recommend some place outside of the states.”
“I understand.” Christa said but she didn’t pick the envelope up.
“You were already out of that cell before the dam broke, weren’t you?” Susan grinned. “You conned Timmons into helping you get out right before all hell broke loose. Once the power was down and the walls fell you two just walked right out of the front door.”
“The more simple a plan is the better chance there is that it will work.” Christa smiled. “You of all people should know that.”
 “I know that the further away you are the safer my family will be.” Susan said bluntly.
“Then why not turn me in?” Christa asked. “Why not collect the reward money?”
“You still know that Larry and I killed someone.” Susan said as she stood up. “That will hang over our heads forever and I won’t risk my kids to see you put to sleep like an ailing pet.” Susan hesitated. “Why did you never have kids, Christa?”
“The abuse from my stepfather damaged me.” Christa told her.
“You wanted to, didn’t you?” Susan pressed.
“Yes,” Christa looked away, “your vision is clear.”
“Yeah, I thought so,” Susan walked to the door and turned around, “and that too, I think you’re a product of how men treat women, and I can’t say I condone what you do or what you’ve done or what you will do, but maybe one day you’ll make someone think about it.”
“I still have no idea why I cannot see you and you can me.” Christa said.
“Leave the country.” Susan replied. “And you’ll never have to worry about seeing me again. If you don’t I’ll take it as a threat.”
“I already know you are capable of killing, Susan, and I know he will kill for you, and I know the two of you would blot me out of this world with less care than you did for your lover.” Christa opened the envelope and smiled. “I will leave the two of you alone, and I will go to Mexico.”
“Are you capable of not killing?” Susan asked.
“No.” Christa whispered.
“Good bye.” Susan said as she walked out of the house and closed the door behind her.

Susan walked back to the beach and looked behind her. She felt as if Christa was going to follow her, or harm her, she would know. Susan closed her eyes and allowed the world to flow around her. She waded out into the water and sat down in the clear sea. One more, she thought, a boy, a girl, and a surprise, this time, she wouldn’t look, but she had stop taking the pill over a month ago. Here, in this place, at this time, she would conceive once more, for the last time. Her vision cleared and she saw a small woman, with grey hair and her back bent, passing into Mexico where she would lose her aged appearance, and once again, hunt.

Susan stood up and walked back to the hotel room and woke her husband up. “Get me pregnant,” she said.



end

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The City Of Dreams

It’s an odd feeling. Suppose at any given moment during the day someone asked you how your socks felt and unless there was something stuck in one of them, or they had gotten wet, or it was cold out and you were wearing wool socks, you might not have noticed them at all. It’s that kind of feeling. I’m dreaming and I know I’m dreaming but it’s a Sock Feeling, that knowing that I’m dreaming, and it feels good to be sitting in the park again.

There’s several dreamscapes that reappear in my dreams and one is of a small, clean, and neat little city where there’s never any people but the buildings are nice. There’s a long rectangular park, greenspace surrounded by buildings on the west end and homes by the time the park ends at the east end. There’s a walking track around it and the track had two colors; one for runners and the others for those who walk, and the walkers walk counterclockwise and the runners run in the opposite direction. There are three fountains and each of them look exactly the same. One is near the west end, one in the middle, and one near the east end. I know this city by heart, but most of my wanderings, in my dreams, have come on the east end where the comfortable homes with their nice lawns are. There’s a house there, a normal looking wood frame house with a porch and shutters and columns on the porch to hold the roof up over the porch but everything is painted white. Trim, the front door, the swing, the columns and even the mailbox hanging beside the front door is painted picket fence white.

There’s a building near the west end of the park and I got lost in that building one day because of all the sameness in it but other than that building and that white house, and the three fountains, now that I think on it, everything else is just as normal as anywhere else I’ve been. I’m sitting on a park bench looking west and the top of the building, which looks like a five story office building of some sort, is perfectly aligned with the the fountain, which has three fluted tiers for the water to flowing into and drop out of, and I can tilt my head, change the focus of my eyes, and it looks like the top part of the fountain is sitting on top of the building.

That would be different, if an office building had water slowly moving through it all day. The workers would wear swimsuits and paddle around the break room but cell phones would be out of the question or enclosed in waterproof cases. I like the idea of an office building being part of a fountain and I like watching the sun going down and the water lights up.

“Human create their own viruses” a man sitting next to me says and he wasn’t there a second ago. Scared the hell out of me he did, but I stay asleep. “Ebola is being found dormant in survivors and we don’t know why it’s there but our bodies keep it alive. We’ve been looking for the host all these years and we never realize it was us. But that’s what we do,” the man adds with a sigh, “we keep alive those things that keep repeating themselves; reproduction is why we exist and it is our existence. We create the viruses to kill off enough people so the rest of us can survive, so even when we kill it’s so that we can keep replicating. It’s like throwing up to eat more.” The man falls silent and I wonder if he’s about to pull a knife or something. He looks homeless, like someone with nowhere to go and all the time on earth to get there, but he’s nearly lucid, as if part of him resides in the real world while part of him is living in a dream.

To a degree he can’t be argued with. The office building has identical floors, someone, even if it was me, designed the park with matching fountains. It’s only recently that people thought that mismatched socks might be cool. But even in our works that are vastly different those works are very much the same, are they not? Look at “Lord of the Rings”. It’s still made out of the same letters that some child’s story about a frog who became king of New York. Each person is made up of the same genetic building blocks as the amoeba floating around in the water spilt from the fountain.

The sameness of our world catches up with me as I wonder why humans react so strongly against anything that is new or different or alien. Could it be that we’re hardwired to see anything that isn’t replication as a threat? I hear him get up and move away from me and I’m glad to be alone again. The sun is sinking lower than the building and the light begins to fade. I know I cannot stay here much longer and I feel the urge to walk, to move from one place to another, the ultimate act of replication as one foot is put in front of another and repeated endlessly. Is this why so many of the homeless drift from one place to another? It’s an act of repeating, of creating another version of something the same; the day before.

“I’ve seen you here before” the woman says and this time I half expected it. She’s replaced the homeless man and it almost looks like she’s wearing his coat. She’s a small woman but she’s wearing a winter coat that covers most of her body, and only her legs from the knees down are visible. She’s Asian, maybe, but the accent is European. Her face smiles from the eyes and I have to remember it’s impolite to stare.
“Yes” I reply simply and I stifle the urge to tell her she’s beautiful. It’s the eyes, really, dark brown to the point of liquidity.  It’s never a good thing to tell a beautiful woman she’s beautiful until after she has allowed, until after she has encouraged, the first kiss. She’s been told she’s beautiful endlessly, thoughtlessly, as all beautiful women have been, and it’s meaningless to her now, and it will be until there’s an emotional charge, a lightning strike, that goes with it.
“I went to Paris with some friends,” she tells me as she reads my thoughts, “and the first morning we were there a man took my picture, came in from my right side and surprised me by snapping a photo of my face, and he was no more than a meter away from me. It irritated me, shocked me a little, and I wondered what the hell he thought he was doing.”  She stopped and shifted around and she looked at me as if she wondered if I was still listening. I tried not to stare at her legs. I could tell she had some serious inkworks but I couldn’t see the details. She continued…
“Later that day, we were standing in line at The Louvre when he came up to us. He was with a tall blonde woman who translated for him. He didn’t realize I spoke German, and I knew enough French to be dangerous. The blonde’s name was Kathy and she told me that he wanted to sculpt me. Yes, here I am, an American tourist in Paris, there for less than a week, and this man wants to turn me into a piece of artwork.” She laughed as if she still found it amusing but at the same time she looked as if the wonderment of it all still surrounded her at all times. “I said no, but when he looked at me I knew that he knew I would do it. Kathy wrote down an address to his workshop where he trained students and did his own work. My friends were totally against it, but later, after we had been drinking French wine for far too long, we decided to investigate him.

His name was Lexington, no last or first name, and he was locally famous in Paris. Kathy and he were in nearly every photo of his work, when anyone at all was, and his studio/ workshop/ classroom was in a building that was an abandoned factory of some sort. We had to go, just to look, and we did.

There were a dozen students inside, all of the working on stone, rock, anything difficult and impossible, this is where it was born. No one stopped working, no one looked up as we entered the building but Kathy greeted us, in a fashion, and she told me that I would be allowed to go further but my friends would not. There was no way they would leave me alone in a strange building in Paris but I surprised them and followed her to an ancient elevator that was powered by students who suddenly rushed to turn the wooden wheel that operated it. It creaked and shuddered as if it might fall apart itself but we arrived at the second floor.

The workshop had in it several amazing pieces of artwork, carved out of stone, and it was like standing at the birthplace of creation. Here, was a life sized sculpture of a little boy, his left hand outstretched, palm upwards, with a tiny stone toad craved out of the same rock as the hand yet seemingly independent. Kathy translated from the Lexington, no, not Lexi, or Lex, that this was to be a memorial for a child who had died very young and his parents wanted a memorial that would matter and reflect. There was a statue of carved pillar of stone; its detail painfully exquisite. It was a match to one found at Pompeii and accidently destroyed. This was to be the replacement.

‘Why am I here?’ I had to ask the question even though there would be no other reason for me to be there.

They led me to a corkboard on the wall where the photo of my face had been printed out. I had turned towards him in surprise and slight irritation. There were red marks on the photo as if he had been making measurements. He pointed to a massive piece of marble in the middle of the floor, it looked as if it were half a mountain to me, and told me he wanted to carve this into me, and me into this.

How could anyone say no to becoming art? It would be me but three times my size, to scale, and I went down to say good bye to my friends and to tell them I would be staying. When I returned to the workshop he photographed my face again, and my body in various positions. Kathy told me that I could keep my clothes on and I knew that before we truly began that I would be nude. I had never taken my clothes off for a stranger. I had never taken someone I didn’t know as a lover and every women who has a young daughter knows that each encounter with a man might be the same encounter her daughter might have, years later. A mother wants her daughter to be immunized to mistakes her mother has made but deep down inside she knows that physical attraction is an addiction very few can withstand. Even as this young man with a small beard and a covering of dust studied me I knew that he was thinking of more than just a woman made of stone and despite myself, I was thinking of what it would feel like to be more than made of stone. The divorced had crippled me emotionally yet in this ancient building with a piece of a mountain waiting to be a mirror, I felt the stirrings of life again.

What does a woman tell her family, her friends, her employer, herself, when at thirty years old she quits her life to stay in Paris to become a model? Yet my children were young and they would agree it was the right thing to do, and forever they would live to see the day they might dare some adventure. But yes, it was selfish of me, and the second day that I spent sitting for hours, first in one position and then another, with a man standing, walking around me, looking at me closely, standing across that great room from me, and asking me, motioning to me for he spoke little English and I very little French, finally, I walked out and gathered my things at the hotel, and I moved into the studio. It was an explicit surrender to the process and to the artist. It also prompted Kathy to move out.”

I began losing her. The sun was going down and I knew when darkness fell things would change. She curled up on the bench and faced me, and suddenly, I knew under that coat she wore nothing at all, and she had walked around the city, naked but covered, that day.

“The next day I took my clothes off for the first time for a stranger and sat still and waited. My body reacted to his words, his gestures, his gentle repositioning, but he didn’t touch me except as an artist. There was to be another two days of this, with he looking and I sitting still, he would touch me, reposition me, guide me, and I could feel my body willfully obey and my mind saying it was madness and my heart saying to leap into this. Finally on the fourth day we kissed and for that moment on my body was his to command during the process and during the night. We lived together, cooked together, drank together, and we turned a stone into a reflection of who I looked like during this time.

It was finished. I stood and marveled at it and that expression on my face was the very first and the very same in the photo. Kathy returned, as she always did, for the one feature what was not mine was the long hair of the statue, which belonged to her; I cut mine before the trip, from past my shoulders to as short as you see me wearing now. Oddly, he meant to carry the sculpture out to sea and leave it in water that was ten meters deep. It was a popular site for divers and forever I would remain there, with that expression on my face as they explored me. I returned home to my family and everyone was excited over what had happened. It was difficult for me to explain what had happened to me in the last nine months, but it was the same length of time as a pregnancy but this time I had given birth to myself.”

Without another word she got up and walked away, a slight swaying in her walk as if she were still at sea, still adrift, but happily, in the City of Dreams.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Christa: The Dam Breaks




Larry stood in the rain in the parking lot of the prison and stared at the sky. Raindrops caused him to blink and Larry wondered how long it had been since he had seen the sun. He looked down, cleared his vision and noticed a plant growing near the fence. How long had it been there? He walked past this spot every day and he never noticed it before. It was nearly a foot tall and looked like an alien tree of some sort for it had a blood red stalk and its limbs were red as well. What kind of plant was it? Larry found it odd that he would choose this moment to notice something, a weed, that had always been there. Larry felt an odd tingling moving across his skin like a tiny sailing ship cris-crossing an ocean. He glanced skyward once more and hurried home.

Susan came home to find the case of wine in the sink, all the bottles uncorked, all the wine drained and gone. She stood looking at the emptiness of the bottles and wondered if Larry had snapped and gone off the deep end.
“Baby?” She called out and she wandered into the living room where Larry was sitting on the floor with his back against the sofa.
“We’ve got to stop drinking so much, Susan.” Larry said as if she had asked. “Things are about to get a lot stranger than we ever imagined. We’re either going to ride this thing to the end and get rich doing it or we’re going down. I think we need to stay sober from this point on.”
“Baby, are you okay?” Susan slid down beside him and took his hand. “What did she do to you?”
“She told me where Robert Jenkins was buried and how he was killed.” Larry said without looking at her. “I wrote it all down. Every word of it.”
“Who the hell is Robert Jenkins?” Susan asked and then remembered. A rising star of a politician who had disappeared without a trace after getting involved with one of Christa Fuller’s boyfriends, who had blown his brains out on the steps of the family’s church. It was the case that got Fuller the undivided attention of the FBI. “Oh god, Larry, you picked a hell of a time to stop drinking.”
“She told me every detail of how we hid the body.” Larry replied. “And then she told me where Marcel hid the money he stole. You aren’t going to believe how easy it is for us to get the money, Sue. It’s ours for the losing. And you were right; Christa doesn’t just want sex. She wants out. She has a plan. If I help her, if we help her, then she’ll leave us and the money in peace. If we don’t help her then she’s going to tell everyone who will listen about what happened.” Larry stopped speaking and put his hands over his face. “We don’t have a choice anymore.”
“The hell we don’t!” Susan snapped. “The hell we’re going to help that bitch get out! What do you think she’s going to do when she’s back in the wild? Take up knitting? Larry she’s killed or had killed a half dozen men, that we know about, and who knows what else she’s done? I say we let her say whatever she wants to say. Who is going to believe her at this point? Marcel’s car has turned up in South Carolina! I have no idea how it got there but you can bet your ass we can prove we had nothing to do with it. Screw the money and screw her too!” Susan stopped talking suddenly. “I didn’t mean that last part, literally.”
“Baby, I love you,” Larry said softly, “and you know I will always do what is right for us, right?”
“Yes,” Susan straddled Larry and hugged him hard.
“You’re pregnant with my son.” Larry told her.

Two minutes, Susan thought, what was two minutes? It was one hundred and twenty seconds. It was the time it took for toast. It was how long that damn red light at the corner of Main Street and Liberty to change when she was running late. Susan had peed on the plastic white stick with two windows on it and then handed it to Larry. “I’ll be in the bedroom, you know I can’t stand this sort of thing.” And then she waited. Two minutes. It had to be over by now. Two minutes had to have gone by. It had been an eternity. It has taken Larry two minutes to reach orgasm on their wedding night, if that, and two minutes now seemed like it would stretch out into the stars and moon and…
“You’re pregnant.” Larry said as he walked into the room.
“Take my clothes off of me and fuck me” Susan said. “Now.”
They lay sleeping together and Susan woke up first. Was Christa telling the truth? Susan put her hand on her belly and wondered why it would feel like when there was a life inside of her own. Whose life? She was just a week late, stress, she thought, and she tried to backtrack when she and Larry had last made love. There had been a party and they were both drunk as hell and she allowed him just to get him to stop trying. She was nearly unconscious at the time but it had still been better than nothing. That’s a hell of thing at conception, son, your father was better than nothing. Susan grinned. Murder had made Larry a better lover as well as a better husband. She wiggled her toes and wondered what sort of family life they would live. Christa had to be dealt with, of course, but they had survived killing Marcel, what was a prison break compared to that? Susan felt herself evolving, becoming someone else, and she welcomed the change. Whatever it took, whatever had to be done, it didn’t matter; she would raise her son with her husband and nothing was going to stand in the way of that goal.

The rain lashed the windshield and Larry wondered how long it could rain in Georgia before it all washed away. There was a tropical system sneaking its way across the Atlantic Basin and Larry wondered what it would mean to get a real storm when the low places were already filled with water. Larry resisted the urge, and resisted it often, to go down to the bridge and find out if the piling he had seen concrete being poured into was the same one with Marcel in it, or if they had filled them all. What if the river rose and the body floated out of the piling? But they had dumped a lot of dirt on top of Marcel. And those rocks. No, even of the water rose over the piling Marcel was staying put. Who the hell was it on that video in South Carolina? Larry wondered about that too. Larry wondered if Christa could see that, or if she had seen that, and he wondered what it would cost him to ask her.
Larry went into the wing where isolation was and the agent who had been in Deen’s office stopped him in the hallway “You know, DeMurrey,” the agent said, “it’s illegal for us to record anything that goes on down there in that hole.”
“Yes sir,” Larry replied. He didn’t like the man’s tone of voice or the smirk on his face.
“There’s a big difference between legal and illegal, but we don’t have to use what we find in court to find something we’ve been looking for.” And the agent grinned at him.
“You ever sit and wonder how she knew where Carpenter was buried?” Larry asked. “You ever wonder how a seven year old three thousand miles might have ever known that? You ever wonder if getting tangled up with this…” Larry paused as if searching for the right word, “…woman, might be the very worst thing you could ever do.” Larry took a step forward and put his face very close to that of the agent’s. “Because I think we’re both getting involved in way over our pay grades. The only difference is I don’t have a choice and I know what she is.”
Larry took a step back and grinned. “You already know more than she likes. Best of luck with that.”


Larry walked into the former solitary wing and could still feel the despair. The place reeked of hopelessness and was built, designed in fact, to be a metal grave for the human intellect. Here, time stood still for men, locked away alone without any light or any sensory input but what they created. They were fed once a day. There was a metal toilet in each cell that could be flushed twice a day when the water was cut on. There were no sinks, no showers, no bed, nothing but the toilet and the floor. The toilet flushing was the only sense of time the men here would have. The one meal was delivered at random times, sometimes not at all, to heighten the sense of isolation. “You have been forgotten” was the message that was to be understood and most of the men who had be housed here, no matter how hardened or how demented, began to believe it. The walls were unpainted steel with no way to mark them or alter them; no method could be used to mark time or the presence of the inmates there. Each cell had one recessed light which was turned on for twenty minutes a day. None of this was legal, of course, but none of this was ever reported by anyone other than the inmates and no one cared. Order was kept by the threat of this punishment and if an inmate knew something and the prison wanted that information they had but to place the man in the hole and sooner or later than information would come out even if the man didn’t come out sane. The guards took bets on how long it would take for anyone locked in to break and how much time any given prisoner could take. Larry hated himself for placing bets and hated himself for winning and he wondered if the men who had gone over the edge in this place had realized that there were other men who were drinking beer gained on their insanity.

Christa waited for him in her own cell which a reading light had been delivered and a cord ran from the guard room. A simple bed had been also delivered and Christa was reading a book, propped up on a pillow. Larry thought she could have been an actress, a model, some sort of celebrity, for there was an aura of elegance about her, as if she were a princess who would one day be a queen, and knew it. Larry looked down at the cord and wondered if giving her that sort of weapon was a mistake he would pay for.
“Larry, please,” Christa began, “don’t think such terrible thoughts. We have so little time left together I would rather you be optimistic.” She put the book down and turned off the light. The cell was totally black and Larry momentarily lost his balance in such darkness. “Please come over here and be with me,” she said. “I never realized there was such a creature as the fire ant until I discovered a nest of them in Texas. What they lack in size they make up, in a good fashion, with numbers and ferocity. People have been killed by these tiny insects and Southerners grow up hating them and fearing them yet no one has ever offered a solution to their infestation. One day I was out walking and I happened upon a rather small nest of them, a tiny mound of dirt that would have fit into a large man’s hands, and I kicked the very top of it over, just to see what they would do. I saw hundreds of eggs, none of them larger than a grain of rice, and the fire ants scurried about, looking for whoever had attacked their home and they also began taking their eggs back deeper into the mound. I wonder how they decide who takes the eggs back inside and who looks for the trespassers? I got down on my hands and knees, risking getting stung, to watch the process. It seemed that there were those who carried eggs and those who defended, but there didn’t seem to be any ambiguity. How do they know? How can they tell who is supposed to be doing what? Yet even with their incredibly primitive minds, if you could even call it that, they’ve craved out a niche in a foreign land and the natives flee before them. They kill and they reproduce mindlessly,” Christa paused and Larry could sense she was toying with him a little in the darkness, “no offense.”
“None taken”

“When I asked Lexi to kill for me I already knew he would.” Christa said. “I knew he would protest, that he would deny me, that he would stop speaking to me and threaten me, but I knew that the moment he started calling me again he was going to kill for me, and just the act of putting his hands on me again was a precept to putting his hands on her, the way I wanted his hands on me and the way that I wanted his hands on her, he knew that one meant the other.”
Larry stared into the total darkness of the cell and fell as if he were falling. He felt the wind whipping around him and felt as if all the sanity that has left all of the men who had stared into this same darkness was calling for his to join them. He felt Christa’s hands on him and he felt detached from the passion that rose within him. He felt as if she were small, so very small, so tiny, yet at the same time the smaller she seemed the more powerful she became. Larry fought against the allure of her touch but his muscles relaxed in his shoulders and just like someone watching a movie who had decided not to get absorbed in the storyline, Larry discovered that Christa was the consummate director. Everything she did was perfectly timed and Larry hoped, once that hoped was being drained out of him one drop of sweat at a time, that one day Susan could learn to put her hands on him the way that Christa did.
“You refused to kill for me, Larry,” Christa said in the darkness, “but Lexi did not refuse. Lexington was one of the greatest sculptors of the last century and I could have made him immortal. But he strayed. I knew he would stray if I didn’t keep watch but I decided to allow his toy decide her own fate. She was his model and she saw me as someone she could push aside. She was a body, sinew and muscle and bone and perfect, but she confused that with power. He had her sit in a chair, told her to be perfectly still, and she awaited with perfect discipline. Her chin was up, her breath stilled, and then she saw me walk in and she ignored me. I stood in front of her and she took no notice of me until I smiled at her and then there it was, that moment of realization. You were so close to it, Larry, but the mallet slammed into the back of her head just as the first moment of her body began. Lexington pounded her body to pulp and screamed in rage. But then he threw himself out of the window of his studio and fell twenty stories to his death.
Some people, Larry, no matter how they dress it up or how they explain it away, or how they disguise it, are still just insects waiting for some instinct to tell them what to do and when to do it and there is actually less reason in their lives than there would be found in a fire ant.” Larry felt her stand up and suddenly the reading lamp was a white hot sun. “I want you to go now.”

Larry drove home and wished for five minutes the rain would simply stop. Susan was there when he arrived and she looked as tired as he felt. They hugged, held one another without speaking, and suddenly, Larry felt as if his time with Christa was worse than the murder he had committed. His wife was pregnant, with his child, and he was selling their future off to a murderer as he enjoyed her flesh. He felt sick, violently sick, but held Susan closer, as if he could use her as a shield against what he had done and what he was going to do.
“Go take a shower.” Susan told him. “I’ve called for pizza.”

“Yeah, I’ll be right out.” But Larry soaked in the hot water that came out of the shower head until the water began to cool.

Larry found Susan curled up on the sofa eating pizza and drinking a diet soft drink. This was a sure sign that she wanted comfort food but wasn’t binging on it, even if she was. Larry knew to approach her cautiously. “How was work?” he asked.
“Bad.” Susan replied. “Hormones.”

“Is there anything I can say or do that won’t make it worse?” he asked with a smile.
“No” but Susan had to smile back at him.
Larry took a piece of pizza out of the box and Susan glared at him. They ate without speaking and Larry dared not reach for the remote. The television’s grey-white screen was as dead as the sky and Larry longed for color.
“How many people has she killed?” Susan asked suddenly.
“More than she’s told, more than we’ll ever know, maybe, I counted at least six, if you count the guys that commit suicide after having dealt with her.” Larry disliked the subject matter but knew better than try to divert Susan in this mood.
“How did she know where Carpenter was? She was seven. She was half a country away.” Susan picked a pepperoni off the pizza and held it out to Larry like a peace offering.
“Christa told me that during the time she was being raped by her step father on a regular basis she could tell when he was going to attack her and sometimes she could tell how. After she killed him she started paying more attention to her dreams and how she felt about things. She went out to California and when a guy tried to pimp her she rolled him up in the sheets of the bed and used a rope to tie him up, like a mummy. She took him out into the desert and camped out with him, sitting in the car with the ac running and watching him die. It’s an odd thing, Susan, how small and tiny she is, and yet she can move the bodies of men with ease. She uses ropes and rugs and all sorts of things I would never thing of using.”
“That’s because you’re a big man, Larry” Susan laughed. “We ladies have to use our heads.” 
“But she said by the second night the guy was dying, babbling, and suddenly she could feel his life beginning to leave his body. She said she began to see a lot of things, like a movie that was all around her and she saw Carpenter being killed and she saw where his body was.”
“You think that murdering other people gave her this ability?” Susan asked quietly. “I never thought of it.” Larry said honestly. “But if I had to guess I would say that when she killed someone she was really focused on what was happening around her. It’s got to bring a sense of awareness. She’s different, Sue, she was a very young fourteen when she started killing, and she never has known much of anything else. But I also think it’s kind of a death spiral. Like a toilet flushing.”
“Well, that’s poetic,” Susan had to laugh, “but what does it mean?”
“I think Christa see things more clearly when she’s recently killed but killing causes her to be hunted. Be hunted causes her to have to hide, which creates a darkness in her vision. The more she kills the more she see but the more she is hunted for it. Eventually, she was caught while hiding not caught while killing, and now that she’s in a box she can’t control it at all.”
“But she saw what happened here.”
“I think she can feed off of what other people experience.” Larry said slowly. “I’m not sure about any of this. We can be pretty certain she’s lying when she saying anything at all.”   They ate without speaking and Larry counted the number of pieces of pepperoni on the pizza before picking up another slice. Susan was prone to accusing him of getting the most populated pieces and he had to admit this was true, sometimes. There were four pieces left and he took the one with the second fewest bits of pepperoni. Susan smiled at him.
“You know, Susan, she’s never mentioned your name.” Larry said while chewing. “I don’t know if she knows your name. She told me she thought I was going to kill you. Her vision is imperfect or clouded sometimes.”
“Could we talk about something else?” Susan asked. “I don’t want to go to bed tonight with her on my mind or on yours.”

Susan slipped out of the bed, nearly fell again and silently cursed her inability to remember the new bed height. Falling was out of the question now, as well as drinking, and she had begun to train herself not to stress out as much as she usually did. She wanted to bathe her unborn son in waves of soothing emotions as much as she could, even if she knew she couldn’t do it all of the time, she still wanted to try. She went to the refrigerator where the remains of the pizza waited to kickstart her heartburn to a new level but Susan didn’t care. She felt ravenous even though she knew she was still only a few weeks pregnant, two months at the very most, but the idea of the condition had begun to consume her. She slipped out into the darkness of the yard and stood in the driveway and wanted to see stars but the rain was still falling. Again, she put her hand on her belly, and searched for signs of life. There had been some weight gain but Susan wanted to feel a kick or a push or anything. She hungered for that sign like she did odd cravings for food. The rain soaked her hair, made her nightgown cling to her skin, but she didn’t care. There was some primal about standing in the rain while pregnant. It was a primitive and terrifying experience to hold a life within her own and know how fragile that life was. Susan felt like a lioness and she felt incredibly isolated. There was a swirl of emotions and Susan drank them down, gulped them all in, savoring each new experience with each new wave of hormone driven thought. This was part of it. This was the beginning of motherhood. Susan planted her feet in the mud of the yard and braced herself against the wind and the rain and within her came a feeling that there was to be a battle, a battle from that moment on, that the world would try to make itself less hospitable for her child and Susan would not allow herself to lose that fight. Nothing would stand in her and nothing would dare. She would not drink wine or take her sleeping pills anymore. She would begin to eat better but the rest of the pizza was going to be devoured. That bitch in that box could be in league with the devil for all Susan cared but not even the greatest of all evils would harm her son. The wind picked up and the rain pounded Susan as she slipped off her nightclothes and stood naked against the weather. She clenched her fists and raised them into the air and from her mouth, her throat, and her soul, a sound came like no other she had ever made before. The forces of good and evil, darkness and light, those awake and asleep, those without the ability to hear and those that could, knew there was one alive who would fight to the death for her offspring. 
“Susan what the hell are you doing?” Larry shouted at her in the rain as he came outside.
Susan launched herself at him, wrapped her body around his, pulled him down onto the earth and bit his neck hard, and grabbed at his body as if it were a life raft in an ocean. There, in the rain and the wet earth, the two mated again, furiously, frantically, with more passion than either had known existed.








“My vision, Larry,” Christa told him at their next meeting, “rarely extends into the future, but when it does, it does so with exceptional clarity. That’s what started my path, the first time I picked up a knife and put it against the skin on the throat of a man, I had already foreseen it. I knew what it would feel like and what it would taste like and I knew how frantically he would try to stop the flow and I knew he would look at me at the moment he realized it was too late, and he knew he was going to die, and very soon, and I knew that look in his eyes would be unlike any look any man ever gives a woman. I knew I would kill again, and I knew that what I could give a man would be enough to tempt him into killing for me. That’s what drove my heart to beat and made my blood rush through my veins, Larry, is watching a man kill another man for me. You felt that. You handed her a gun and you were on the cusp of watching her become so indebted to you that she would never dare a free thought again in life, except that one of killing you. You were so very close, Larry, but you stepped back where I stepped forward. I wonder which one of us will die with the deepest regrets?”
“Are you sure you’re going to survive this?” Larry asked.
“Marginally.” Christa replied with a smile. “I will survive the initial breach. After that there is peril in every second for us both. If they find my body dressed in civilian clothing they will know it was you who helped me. You could go to prison.”
“But not as long as I could for murder.” Larry said.
“True,” Christa got up and began getting dressed, “but the time draws near. The dam at that park will collapse in a few minutes. This should be the last time we speak. Did you mail the letter as I asked you to?”
“I did,” Larry replied, “and you could tell if I was lying.”
“I will not tell you where I will go only that it will be very far away from you and your children and your wife.” Christa tied her shoes and sat back down. “Go now. Thank you, Larry.”
“I hope you drown,” Larry said “death is the only place you’ll ever find peace.”
“In less than half an hour you will know.”



Larry pushed the swing slowly, gently, and he knew if he pushed too hard Susan would glare at him. Little Timmy liked the speed of a fast push and would babble for more, as long as his mom wasn’t watching.
Susan watched from the kitchen window and she smiled at the way Larry liked to get away with little things with the baby. Baby? Tim was nearly two and growing like a weed. He would be a big man, like his daddy. Susan would never tell Larry about the DNA test she had ran, just to make sure, because to Larry it didn’t matter. Larry didn’t see himself in his son but only his mother’s beauty. Susan marveled at the idea that man could really love her that much. Was it time for another? Christa had said “children” and Susan now believed the woman’s sight. Half that damn prison had collapsed on top of her but no body had ever been found.
Christa had been right about the money too, Susan thought, but it was not time yet to dig it all up. It would keep, it would stay hidden, until the kids were old enough to move, and who knew, maybe they would never dig it up. Life was good, hard, but good, now. They had bought the house where Marcel had hidden his car because that was where Marcel had hidden the money. Christa was right about how easy it had been to lay claim to it. The back yard was belonged to them and therefore the money.  Susan look out of the window and wondered where that woman was. Susan hoped that at some point in time, Christa had been washed down the river, past the place where Marcel lay sleeping forever, and Susan hoped that was where she had drowned.



end