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