Sunday, December 31, 2006

Oh, Woe Is Me!

Apparently, you are reading the ramblings of a vicious, unprincipled, politically ill-informed Socialist dupe. According to the talking heads on Fox News, I am personally responsible for all of our losses in Iraq, both human and fiscal. By some ideology that remains a little foggy in my mind (probably due to my low IQ and myopia), my lack of support for this president directly translates to military and political failure in the Middle East.

What can I say? Send me the bill. Oh, wait… you already did. Sorry, my bad.

So take my advice and stay away from here. Run while there’s still time. I’m a pox on this society and if I had any class whatsoever, I’d just go ahead and stick the barrel of the good ol’ Ruger Firehawk in the back of my throat and yank. I’ve already run Rummy out of office, along with DeLay, Foley and several other fine, upstanding, right-leaning pedoph—er, I mean congressmen. If I’d just had the good sense to go along with the winks and nudges of the majority of Real Americans, our troops would have adequate body armor and weapons to go door-to-door in Baghdad safely, rooting out all the Al Queda cells and more than likely, finally apprehending Osama Bin Laden.

Then, Halliburton and Daddy Dick could nationalize all the Iraqi oil and bring gas prices down a penny or two.

But, no… I had to insist that we bring our kids home. I supported and voted for a bunch of wild-eyed liberals and women who don’t have the balls to do what has to be done in order for the blessings of liberty to ring in the ears of every freedom-loving patriot in the world! Now, the wrong side is writing the checks, and they’re a bit more reluctant to blow up the desert and actually think that we could maybe spend some of those billions on our own people and bring some of our troops home, blasphemous bastards that they are.

So, as of the first of the year, I will no longer receive Channel 16, it is being permanently blocked to any registered Democrat. We simply can’t be trusted to hear the truth. I'd write back, but I simply don't have the heart to tell them that I destroyed the number 6 on my remote so that tuning to their channel was highly unlikely. "You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!!"

Oh, and Happy New Year to the Bush twins... here's hoping they're sober enough to watch their father's impeachment hearings.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Yet Another Hill In The Ha-Ha Landfill

Well, we’ve almost shot another year in the ass and lived to tell about it. Mankind’s ultimate demise continues to be no more than a reckless theory promoted by third world countries and other non-capitalists around the globe. Once again, although we teeter on the brink of chaos (according to ‘them’), America’s Wal-Marts still have the lights on twenty-four/seven, and a sub-culture of postindustrial Moorlocks inhabit them during those hours where they can remain unseen by anyone who doesn’t frequent monster truck rallies and stop in afterwards for a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

As I stood in the checkout line at the pharmacy late last night to purchase a certain feminine pain reliever required by a seriously homicidal spouse, I was confronted by Ardeen, who simply couldn’t live without telling me that he lost his spleen to an industrial accident fourteen years ago and that he hadn’t been able to work ever since, and that rats absolutely hate the smell of moth balls.

Yea, I was a little taken aback, too, that a conversation of only two sentences (both of them his) could cover such a diversity in subject matter, but there it was. Before I could step into another line, his wife, Clindoris, stepped between us and informed me that ‘they’ now made Shake-N-Bake for squirrel. I was fascinated that apparently some fathers felt comfortable naming their daughters words they’d picked up from posters at the county OB-GYN clinic and subsequently mispronounced. In fact, I wanted to ask her which end of a possum was considered ‘pork’ and what other rodents now had their own seasoning products, just in case I found myself suddenly homeless or in the throes of a national ebola virus pandemic.

After she’d taken a moment to size me up, she asked me if I were ‘from these here parts’. Not wishing to sound impolite, I told her that I was from Nigeria. This brought the conversation to a close, for all intents and purposes, although she did look back over her shoulder after a momentary pause and ask me why I wasn’t black.

Yea, it looks like we’re going to make it to ring in the New Year, warts and all. So enjoy yourself while you can—and if you value your sanity, avoid Wal-Mart like the plague.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You Have The Right To Shut The Hell Up...

There's nothing like a family get-together to conjure up notions of yesteryear. For reasons I'm still trying to understand, I agreed to allow all my extended family to come to our Christmas celebration this year. My wife invited cousins, second-cousins, step-second cousins and not a few interested peripherals with bad table manners and a real zest for alcohol.

Of course, this offered the perfect opportunity to reflect upon some of the more intricate interpersonal skills required by all to keep total chaos at bay. Sadly, these talents tended to hide behind bravado produced by Uncle Tony's revelation that Bob really does have a secret stash hidden in the shed outside, and if he'd be good enough to bring it in (without Uncle Tony's help, of course), Uncle Tony just might be willing to forget all about the lawsuit he intends to file after scraping all the hide off his left arm, incurred while sticking said arm through the hole he'd just bashed into the side of my shed because he could 'smell the hooch'.

I took the day off work today so I could be there when the city trash crew came to pick up my Barca-Lounger. It was only two years old, but forty-eight hours of Uncle Tony left twin craters in the seat where his ass had been perched and an odor untouchable by generous applications of 409, Lysol and several different brands of industrial-strength products capable of ridding a funeral home of the aroma of death. In his permanent perch, Uncle Tony adopted a pose not unlike that of some Himalayan mystic where he saw fit to grace us with witticisms and advice previously unexpressed outside a barroom on Chicago's south side. It turns out that one is wise not to "fuck with pipefitters". Who knew?

Plus, as you can see from the photo, even in the last week of December in north-central Missouri, certain people are capable of retaining the tan lines previously known only to farmers and over-the-road truck drivers. We only know because he saw fit to rid himself of his beer-soaked "Pipefitters Lay Deep Pipe" T-shirt after a bastardized and unsuccessful attempt to goad some of the younger ladies into participating in a wet T-shirt contest. It was about this time that his semi-lucid recantations of doggerel morphed into a Jack Daniels-induced rage threatening to inflict heavy casualities upon the family's pet population.

Fortunately for us, the officers responding to my wife's frantic, screaming 911 call were willing to listen to him explain the intricacies of proper sod-laying or we might still be attempting to talk him back down to earth.

Yea, it'll be a shame not to have them all over again next year, but if my wife has recovered enough by then, we may go visit someone else... Uncle Tony, for example. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Snicker, Snicker... Snork!

No matter who you are or what you do, there are times when you just need to let it go. Forget society, forget family, forget all the lessons your mother taught you about being polite... just for one shining moment, simply release all your frustrations, inhibitions and fears unto an unsuspecting world. Be a pain in the ass to total strangers, provide the impetus for someone to look down their nose at you, create a spectacle that others can point at and laugh.

You won't get any awards for it, there'll be no medals for heroism and there's a good chance that you'll receive some unwanted attention from the legal community, but for a few hours you'll experience the incomparable bliss that few other human experiences can rival.

During one of his weekly excursions into the world that only drunks and drug addicts can ever know, my father pointed out to me that there are more old drunks than there are old doctors.

He lived to celebrate his 82nd birthday.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Just give it some thought, that's all I'm asking

I’m officially boycotting the game Rock-Paper-Scissors, for reasons that should be obvious to every thinking person. Literally, for the past fifty years (with a forty year pause for adulthood) I have played the game with friends, and thoroughly enjoyed both the temporary ego stroke gained from out-thinking and out-guessing one’s friends and the opportunity to slug the defeated opponent on the shoulder a pre-determined number of times. I even enjoyed the fights that often ensued after the opponent slugged me back, only on the mouth instead of the arm.

However, a closer examination of the game and its rules has brought to light a subtle although very important point—one of the basic assumptions made when playing the game is totally ludicrous. Everyone knows that Rock Breaks Scissors and Scissors Cut Paper; these assumptions are valid to the most discriminating observer. It is the third member of the triad that gives me pause: Paper Wraps Rock.

When Rock Breaks Scissors the poor scissors is severely injured and when Scissors Cut Paper the unfortunate paper is forever altered and possibly misshapen, but Paper Wraps Rock? What horrible fate befalls the ill-fated Rock? Being “wrapped”? Oh, boo hoo…

Do you see my point? You can’t simply wrap a rock and claim victory! There is no penalty for the rock or any physical discomfort whatsoever, unless you assume (and I think it’s a pretty far-fetched assumption) that the rock suffers from claustrophobia.

So, unless you’re a psychology graduate student studying the neuroses of inanimate objects and their contributions to pre-adolescent behavior, I might suggest that you join me in boycotting Rock-Paper-Scissors before someone decides to make it an Olympic event. If you don't, I can't be held responsible for the decline and fall of our civilization. It's up to you...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Forbidden Love and The Intellectual Ceratopsian

I can’t remember exactly what stimulus dictated that I pursue her, I only recall being unable to resist. So majestic her bearing and military her posture, I might have mistaken her for someone else entirely since her kind are not known for such grandeur. When she raised her head, her frill projecting an allure certainly irresistible to guys on the make, she became the princess of her realm searching for her prince. As the excess cycads dropped at her feet, the look on her face might lead a disinterested observer to believe that her encephalization quotient was much higher than 1.0.

But, it could never work out for us. I am but a lowly triceratops and she a magnificent protoceratops. Maybe someday, in a time of greater enlightenment, inter-species marriage will be tolerated, but not now. I think they’re afraid that our kids would be goofy. I love you, horn face, with a love that could quite possibly outlast the Cretaceous Era or perhaps even part of the Jurassic with any luck at all, one can never be completely sure about such things.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

If Anyone Can, Genghis Khan

“Look out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat no yellow snow.” Frank Zappa

And as quickly as they came, they’re gone— dispatched. Bound for more exotic climes, no doubt, more ornate refuges, my words have deserted me. I assume they've gone somewhere they can now frolic without fear, cavort without hesitation and stick their heads into every foxhole they find. I believe—at least I hope—they’ve found a nice young writer who’ll give them a good home and nurture them in a manner respectful of their heritage, perhaps a playwright or even a poet. Forgive me, but I hope they won’t take up residence with a technical writer—the arid surroundings might threaten their delicate nature.

I don’t know why they left. I did my best, within my limited means, to offer them hope of opportunity. Perhaps they realize the futility of a future entrusted to me, and they’ve chosen to return my ring before consummating a marriage built on too little real substance. I shudder to think that I am little more than a one-night stand, but given their reluctance to come around these days, what else am I to think? Slam, bam, thank you ma’am?

I don’t blame them; I blame myself. They needed structure and I gave them parties. They expected a certain dignity of expression and I insisted upon flippant dreck. They longed for Ernest Hemingway and I settled for Monty Python.

Wherever they’ve gone, I wish them well. I must admit, it’ll hurt to listen to them being mutilated by local newscasters and politicians, but they made the choice, not I. If this sort of ignominy suits them, then so be it.

Maybe we’re just too different.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Christmas Quarrel

“Alms for the poor! Alms for the poor…” A fingertip poked out of his threadbare green glove as his pronated palm violated my personal space. I stopped, wondering if the other hand held a pistol or club inside the pocket of his filthy trench coat. His face, however, glowed in the half-scowl, half-grin that homeless men characterize when begging.

“Alms for the poor? Who the hell do I look like, Charles Dickens? We’re in Denver, dude, not London, and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but this damn sure isn’t the Eighteenth Century. I’m sorry, but if you expect me to give you some money, you’re going to have to be a little more original than that.”

The look on his face surprised me. I’d had many confrontations with beggars on my way to my office on 16th and Welton, but when first rebuffed, most would offer up a new ‘shtick’; something unique and usually accompanied by a streetwise mea culpa grin. Not this guy, he merely turned and started to walk away. This amazed me and left me feeling a little cheated. During the last ten years, I’d come to expect a little more from my morning walk to work.

“That’s right…” I taunted, “Walk away like the pussy you are. No wonder you couldn’t make it in the straight world. You give beggars a bad name! You’ll never be King of Wel—”

The force of his head hitting me in the solar plexus knocked me down and took my breath away. As I lay writhing on the sidewalk trying to remember how to breathe, he bent over me and I felt his fingers extracting my wallet from my pants pocket.

With his head very close to mine, he showed me a twenty-dollar bill and said, “I’m only taking this one, and you can be sure that while you’re up in your cozy little cubicle coming up with new ways to legally rob people, I’m doing it the old-fashioned way. Just remember that we’re the same, you and me, you just can’t admit it.” Standing up straight, he threw my wallet back down on my chest and smiled. “Here, Mr. Scrooge…” he added, a proper British accent now flowing from somewhere deep within, “I’m off for a spot o’ tea and a proper scone, I am. It wouldn’t hurt you to appreciate the Classics a bit, now would it? Give my regards to the Missus.” And he disappeared.

I suppose there’s a little Dickens in all of us, especially around Christmas time.

Bob Church©12/6/06

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A few poems

I write very little poetry these days... here's why:


A warmth inside
yearning to be free
tingling at the precipice
there for you and me.

Come out and play, she called to me,
before the sun goes down
To pass on this would be a waste
of passion's sweet renown.

But, care you not, she asked of me
that I am spoken for?
I have come to set you free
together we could soar.

Appelations of Winter Fruit

“Will you do me a favor?” she asked,
lyrics sung above the din,
less clarion calls than soft, burrowing nuances
sent to touch that hidden spot,
that erstwhile need only she recognizes.

“Write me a poem…” she whispered,
more request than demand,
springing from desire, expectant… yes,
but worthy of so much more than I could
ever offer with my pale, lifeless tones.

“…doesn’t have to be flowery”, she added,
as though in afterthought,
already preparing the bins for a bleak harvest;
sallow sprouts of not-quite-verdant yield,
sporting buds of ill-formed tufts.

So I offered the only crop that I can grow,
in fields past their prime,
hoping that dry flavor of winter wheat
can somehow blunt

the bitter taste of disappointment.


Castoff regrets, transitory sorrows… sugar-dipped troubles
Spread thinly across sallow lips of doubt,
Kissed… tempted by prodding, moist tongues of worry,
Yet yielding only to the stout staff of despair…

Twinges of Thought In Reckless Abandon

I become caught up in laminar flow,
That easy place to find when the world sails by;
Sweet, dangling sweetmeats of forbidden fruit—
Enticing, delectable, sometimes I almost think I can touch them.
Alas, it is not to be— not for me.

I float along in my own private oblivion,
Refusing to worry about the train wreck approaching;
Brown, sensible shoes of birthdays past—
Tight, dependable, sometimes I forget they’re tied together.
Sometimes I forget to tie them at all.

I gently go where I’m not allowed,
Trying not to touch the edges, coloring inside the lines;
Hall passes aplenty from a pad I stole—
Alone, available... quickly they line my pocket.
Now who’s the boss, asshole? Stop me if you can.

I get used to it too quickly it seems,
Forgetting to remember to think about thoughts;
Obituaries sent in letters from home—
Stark and putrid they line my footlocker.
Madness here, sadness there... sleep well, Uncle George.

I can no longer find any laminar flow,
No promise of ease, damn sure no freedom from pain;
Weekends are vortexed in pathways obscured—
Phlegmatic, arthritic, I stumble and balk.

Alas, it is to be—at least, for me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Secrets of Life According to Patsy

Times come and go (as times are wont to do) and not so long ago, after an extravagant disbursement spent in the quest of insobriety and dalliance, there I sat—once again perched precariously upon the outer branches of yet another unfulfilling escapade; not drunk enough to pass out and blissfully forget my problems, but too messed up to look forward to being happy. Plus, I remembered that morning would bring another ripping hangover. All my friends had run out of money or patience and gone home to mama, the barroom lights had come up and Lester was sweeping the muck and swill off the floors; even two-toothed Marsha, having decided that Mr. Right wasn’t going to show up again tonight, called her husband to come pick her up.

Yet, there I sat. Actually, ‘sprawled’ would more correctly describe my posture. Both legs straddled the booth seat across from me and I half-sat, half-reclined with my back against the wall, one arm rested across the top of the booth and the other twirled the glass with three sips of honey-colored grog remaining in the bottom. The brew’s characteristic carbon dioxide bubbles had long since stopped rising and it was roughly room temperature, making it nearly inconsumable… emphasis being placed on ‘nearly’. Silently, I pondered whether or not to drink it. I didn’t want it, I knew it’d taste like crap, but I’d paid for it and therefore assumed an obligation to Saint Brigid, the Irish patron of beer. To drink or not to drink… that is the indigestion. Lifting my glass in resignation, I tossed my head back and poured the beer/backwash mixture down my throat, simultaneously casting caution to the wind and willing my gag reflex to subside. I don’t know what battery acid tastes like, but I’m sure it’d resemble the liquid now rushing towards my stomach, stopping only long enough upon my palate to bring my taste buds into full revolt.

Why can’t I forget you and start my dreams anew, instead of having sweet dreams of y— Lester unplugged the jukebox and Patsy Cline became a lingering memory. On one level I knew he had to close up, but on another, far closer level, I wanted to hit him with a tire iron. Why couldn’t he allow her to finish? It’s not like he has a life… he lives in a camper behind the bar, for Christ’s sake! If I were governor, I’d enact legislation that would make it a Class Two felony to cause any Patsy Cline song to be halted before its intended conclusion. For that matter, why not have her song Crazy become the official Missouri State Song?

“Well, thank you, Lester! I guess the thirty-four seconds it would take to let the song finish was just more than you could take, huh, buddy? You wouldn’t want to be late to the 2:16 pop-up camper Porn Whack-a-Thon, would you?”

“Fuck you, punk! Get out… now!” He growled, the broom held menacingly as though it was a Louisville Slugger and he might do his best Barry Bonds imitation upon my head. Lester snarled at me, brandishing his best wino-turned-bartender-because-it’s-cheaper-for-the-owner-to-make-him-work-off-his-bar tab-than-it-is-to-kick-him-out-for-the-next-thirty-days scowl and exercising the only form of authority he’d possessed in the last ten years.

“Jesus, easy on the vitriol, Lester, you know that if you smack me I’m going to get up and flush you head-first down the shitter, so why do you stress yourself out like that? Lighten up, dude, you’ll live longer.”

Lester didn’t have any teeth, but his jaws clenched unconsciously, chewing some non-existent piece of meat, as he confronted me. As quickly as it came, his raged subsided, for reasons unapparent. I doubt he really thought he was about to suffer a throne-dunking—my threats, more often than not, were just that, empty threats— and he once again resumed his duty, that of mucking the stalls. Stretching my arms and neck in preparation for my own departure, I watched him disappear into the kitchen.

“Good choice, Les…” I muttered, my voice only slightly above a whisper. “I’m sure your mama is very proud.”

“You really should be nicer to him, you know.”

The voice startled me, but I recognized the Southern twang, I’d heard it before. Looking up, I noticed across from me sat a smiling dark-haired beauty with the reddest lips I’d ever seen. Her short, soft-curled hairstyle screamed ’60s and two large ruby buttons covered the majority of her earlobes. I tried to re-focus, but her eyes held me hostage; deep-set and dark, they glimmered beneath extravagant painted-on eyebrows, the glamour signature of a by-gone era. This was no ordinary woman. Every detail of her appearance declared her theatrical demeanor and elegance. I’d seen her before but couldn’t put a name to the face.

“Who are you?” I stammered. Pure genius. Never in the history of mankind has anyone uttered anything even remotely so suave, appealing and erudite. Not only does liquor make me more intelligent, it also, on command, immediately renders me charming and glib.

“Well, Sugar, I’m whoever you want me to be.” Now, she batted her eyes alluringly and smiled, showing just a hint of teeth. “Do you like me?”

“Like you? Hell, yes, I like you. You’re… different, I guess.” Again, my inner genius presented itself.

My inane comment didn’t seem to upset her. A shrug of her shoulders transformed her into a blushing 5-year-old, a nervous giggler responding to a request from an admiring stranger.

“I’m glad. Could we go somewhere else? You spend an awful lot of time here.” A fingertip sensuously played with a lock of hair as her beguiling eyes implored me.

The hypnotic upshot of her words, rather than bringing me to action, seemed to have the opposite effect. My legs seemed mired in clay and I couldn’t have moved if I tried.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like Patsy Cline? Er, while she was still alive, I mean… no offense meant.”

“No offense taken. What a sweet thing to say… the part about looking like Patsy Cline, I mean. I dress—or undress for that matter—just for you.”

To say I was taken aback by that comment would contain no more understatement than the Pope being describe as a nice Catholic man. I readily admit to being simple— I am neither inventor nor philosopher; DaVinci, Shakespeare, Freud, Monet, Aristotle and even the Earl of Sandwich all rest snugly in their little earth beds, secure in the knowledge that I will never challenge their legacy in the human history of great thinkers. Befuddled as I became, I needed to press on. “You mean to say that if I asked you to drop your laundry, please forgive the vulgarity, right here, right now, you’d actually do it?”

“Of course I would. I’d do anything you asked of me.”

Not a moment’s hesitation. Suddenly I realized that Lester hadn’t paid any attention to her whatsoever, preferring instead to continue his glass-washing chores behind the bar. Lester never missed an opportunity to leer at a pretty girl. Something was definitely amiss.

“Well, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that you’re here with me and I’m absolutely thrilled that you’re about to become my sex slave, but how did you get here? I didn’t see you walk in… and neither did Lester.”

“I came in when you did.”

“You came in when I did, huh?”


“You’ve been here all night?”

“That’s right.”

“Right here… sitting in this booth. Right?”

“There can be no doubt about it. You’ve mastered the concept of my presence.” She folded her hands in front of her on the table, sitting up a bit straighter, the smile replaced with a non-committal expression, as well. Gone, also, was the sexy wench of my dreams. A stark transformation removed her lipstick, grayed her hair, added fifty pounds to her frame and my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Larrick, sat across the table from me. Reaching into the bag sitting on the seat beside her, she produced a theme paper and laid it on the table. In the scrawling cursive of an uncoordinated ten-year-old, I saw:

Bob Church
October 27, 1957

At least you handed it in this time. D+

The History of Spam

I think Spam is good. It tastes sorta like meat, but without bones and comes in a can. My mother says if I eat it and quit swearing, I can go outside and play ball with my friends.

People have been eating Spam for a long time, I think, but not for Thanksgiving. At least, not until Grandma goes home.

By Bob Church


For one of the few times in a long and storied existence, words failed me. Momentarily, mysterious forces of time and space grappled inside my mind, inflicting punches to my ego and strategically placing satchel charges of plastic explosive upon my motor neurons, threatening to detonate them at the sound of the wrong word.

“Are you a ghost?”

No hesitation whatsoever preceded her answer. “Only if you are,” she pontificated, pissing me off mightily.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I bellowed. Then, realizing that I was shouting, I recoiled. Lester didn’t look up, apparently oblivious to my ravings at this point. A quick glance across the table surprised me once more, as the beauty had returned.

“Do you intend to keep doing this?” I whispered, “The ‘changing’, I mean… because if you do, we need to go somewhere else. Poor Lester’s heart may not be able to handle it.”

“Oh, I assure you, any changes that occur are a product of your actions, not mine.” Again, the smile re-emerged. “But, I wouldn’t worry too much about Lester, he can’t really see me. Here, I’ll show you.” Before I could react, she stood and lifted her sweater over her head with both arms, turning her body towards Lester and allowing her perky breasts to spring free from her brassiere.

“Yoo hoo… Lester! Look over here, big boy! It’s Patsy Cline, in the flesh, for your viewing pleasure!” Placing a hand underneath each breast, she rubbed them lasciviously, taking time to suggestively pinch the nipples and emit low-pitched moans and squeals. Still, Lester continued doing the dishes, oblivious to her presence.

As quickly as the performance started, it stopped. She sat back down in the seat, peered at me with an expression that I can only describe as piteous. “See? He can’t see me. It’s just you and me, pal.”

“Okay, but if you aren’t really Patsy Cline, and I know you aren’t because Patsy assumed room temperature over forty years ago, and if you aren’t a ghost, who—or what—are you? And why, of all the creatures on God’s green earth, did you choose me to show your tits to?”

Throwing her hands up in the air, exasperation as fresh on her face as drops of juice on the rind of a fresh-cut orange, she stood and shouted, “Wake up! You’re not fifteen anymore, for Christ’s sake! Do you think you can find anything even remotely close to your dreams sitting in this barroom? Would you really rather spend three o’clock in the morning in Lester’s company while he cleans puke off the walls than snuggling with some cute little woman who sees what a loser you are but is willing to sleep with you in spite of it?” Folding her arms in front of her, the age-old sign that a woman’s pissed and no longer willing to remain silent, she sidled out of the booth and stopped at the end of the table. Craning her neck towards me she paused and closed her eyes, as if suddenly recalling a painful experience.

“I’ve known you for a very long time,” she said. “You can be hopelessly dim, bewilderedly obtuse, and disgustingly contrary sometimes, but in spite of it all, when I least expect it, you surprise me with sweetness of which I didn’t think you capable. Just when I think you’re impossible, you unexpectedly wander into situations that expose your heart to unspeakable peril without once stopping to think of the consequences. I’m still not sure whether you’re hopeless romantic, itinerant dream salesman, two-night sideshow act or Albert Schweitzer. Honestly, sometimes I question whether you even know who Albert Schweitzer is, for that matter, but I digress.”

Placing the strap of her purse over her arm, she snapped it open and reached inside. After rummaging about a bit, she picked a set of keys from the bag and once again fixed her eyes upon mine. “In case you’re too drunk to figure out who I am by now, you may want to consider following me. When that door swings open and I walk out, if you aren’t close behind I can no longer be responsible for the consequences. Just remember, no life lasts forever.” With that, she pushed open the back door to the Red Dog Saloon and walked out.

I sat in place for a few seconds, watching the hydraulic closer hiss, keeping the door from slamming shut. Then, without thinking further, I bolted towards it, catching it just before it closed. In the darkness, the image of my Explorer sitting next to the back patio curb with the engine running startled me. Quickly, I walked to the passenger side door and opened it. There, seated behind the steering wheel, sat my roommate, Sue.

“Need a lift, sailor?” her soft, lilting voice asked. As I stepped in, I inadvertently looked into the back seat and saw Ms. Patsy Cline smiling back at me. As we pulled away, in the background I heard I fall to pieces, every time I hear your name and I understood. To this day, I don’t know whether or not the CD player was on.

Bob Church©12/4/06

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Alder, Pine and Leonard McAuliffe

My granny once told me that being common is no more a sin than being rich. In truth, it gave me a good many more brothers than rich folks possess, I suspect. No, I don’t regret it for an instant. I would have liked to experiment with some of that wealth, but no matter. I’ve got this sturdy old cabin, sufficient rations and a good bit of dry pine and alder stored. With any luck at all, I should last the winter if the snow doesn’t completely cover this shack and turn it into a coffin. I’ve built a safety hatch in the roof, just in case. If need be I can force it open, snow and all. Common folks learn to get by.

If unforeseen circumstances forced me to walk out, my mukluks and snowshoes would keep me more or less on top, especially if there was a chance for the snow to crust at all. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at maneuvering in them. But where would I go, especially in the dead of winter? For a time I tried to get out and watch the sun rise, until it became more trouble than it’s worth. All the snow we’ve gotten lately, there probably ain’t been much sun, but that’s just a guess. It’s hard telling day from night in here since I put the boards over the windows. One hour is pretty much like another.

I’ve never been in prison, but I’ve done sixty days in this hole. If this isn’t solitary confinement, I damned sure can conceive of no other definition. The biggest difference between the convicts and me is that I chose this path; no one sentenced me to it… well, not in so many words, at least. At times when I get to feeling sorry for myself, I think everyone on earth had a hand in it, but I know better. Plus, the reasons don’t make a tinker’s damn worth of difference. I’m here, and here I’ll stay until spring or Providence-- whichever comes first.

The sound of the wind blowing reminds me of the sixty-cycle hum of the refrigeration system at the hospital. Twelve years of moving folks in and out of refrigerators tends to make a fella’ think of all sounds in terms of that place. Ten hours a day, the only noise I heard was rollers on the slabs, the metallic click of the vault doors and that damn hum. Pretty soon, my senses became as dead as the permafrost on the other side of those hinged hunks of stainless steel. The journey from there to here was short, if not particularly sweet.

A few days ago (weeks?) something walked across the roof. It was heavy and plodding, so I assume it was a bear, although I cannot tell you why any self-respecting bear would be out of his den in the dead of winter. I suppose there are common bears, too. Maybe Yogi was forced out, sentenced to wander the winter landscape in search of whatever fate provided. I think brother bear and I might have become good friends in another life.

On second thought, it was more likely a moose, or the abominable snowman. Everyone in the whole damn world has seen one except for me, and I live in the middle of Yeti Central. Hell, folks see the accursed creatures in Kansas and South Dakota, for God’s sakes, you’d think in eighteen years up here I’d see one! Is this irony or just plain ignorance? Maybe both, only time will tell.

How long does fuel oil last? McAuliffe left me two cans that he stole from those campers last summer. They were airlifted in by float plane and removed in a like manner, even if their trip was cut a bit shorter than anticipated. That damned guy would steal anything! No harm-- no foul, he figured; they’d survive for a few days without their fancy cook stoves. Of course, he stole their lantern, too, the very one I’m using to light the room right now. Thank you, Leonard McAuliffe.

Truly, I wish he’d survived. They spotted him running off into the woods. I told him they’d likely have high-powered rifles, but I couldn’t talk him out of making that second raid. I swear it was in the man’s blood! Truth told, I don’t know how he made it back to the cabin. When he burst through that door carrying those cans, he had a funny look on his face, almost a grin that seemed to say, Hey, lookie what I got! Then he collapsed on the floor, dead as a mackerel.

I dragged him outside and left him beside a big pine. I think he’d like that. It wasn’t the ideal solution, but it was better than one of those vaults. His funeral consisted of a bastardized rendition of the Our Father and what parts of the Hail Mary I could remember. Then, for a eulogy, I read the first few paragraphs of a story he liked in Field & Stream, about a hunter who mistook a mule for a cow elk. I’d have read more, but I was getting a little emotional. Plus, it was getting pretty dark and I don’t see as well as I used to. If he’s still there come spring, I plan to find a more suitable accommodation for him. It’s only fitting, after all he was a human being.

The light is going out. I’m either running out of fuel oil or going blind. Either way, this story is over. If you’re anything like me, you’re grateful there’s no preaching at the end.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

What's In A Name?

Prentiss Calder Biff-- The name held refined dignity. Certainly Prentiss' parents took great care in selection, given their abrupt surname. Biff didn't have the euphonic flow of McVicker, mother's maiden name.

The boy's father died in a freak accident during the harvest prior to Prentiss’ birth. A combine with stuck blades, it seems, shouldn’t be hammered with a crowbar by its inebriated driver.

After her husband's untimely demise, Freda McVicker Biff, by necessity, moved in with her inlaws. Her insistence on re-assuming her maiden name, along with her dogged resolve that the boy be called the formal 'Prentiss Calder' caused division within the family- there was a riff at the Biff's.

The controversy raged, until one day Prentiss Calder ran in from playing in the fields, covered head to toe in cockleburs and screaming in pain. The boy suffered mightily each time his mother extracted a bur from his blotchy red body.

After supper that evening (and several liters of elderberry wine), the boy's uncles decided that Prentiss Calder Biff was not a name for a lad who could withstand an attack of killer nettles. In a ceremony worthy of an apprentice knight, he was christened Sticker McVicker.

Cosmic kismet had spoken and the subject was not mentioned again. What goes around comes around-- a sense of humor is a lethal weapon.