Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cooperstown the Beautiful

I’m finding myself more and more prone to get up in the morning, fire up the computer and immediately go check the standings in Major League baseball, and I don’t know why because I have no dog in the fight. Living, as I do, in the cultural wasteland known as mid-Missouri, I suppose I ought to declare an allegiance to one of the two teams situated on either side of the state, but I’m slow to do so due, at least in part, to my short tenure as a Missourian. I’d hate to develop an affinity for the wrong team only to have my allegiance questioned by this or that local who happens to support the team on the opposite side of the state. I’d hate to be the only Democrat in a sea of Republicans…

It should also be stated that becoming a Kansas City Royals fan would likely subject a person to a lifetime of abuse by any casual fan who witnessed any demonstration of such loyalty, such as the wearing of a T-shirt with the team logo emblazoned upon it. The Royals have fallen into disrepair since their glory years of two decades past, the result of mismanagement by an owner (the heir to the Wal-Mart fortune) richer than Croesus and stingier than Midas. Since the franchise is run like a business instead of a rich man’s dalliance, salaries are limited and very few, if any, premier players can be kept in the organization past their apprenticeship years. They come into the league, show flashes of brilliance, and sign contracts with the Yankees or Red Sox or Mets for twice what they made in Kansas City. Sorry, Royals fans, but you understand… it’s the American way. So the rich get richer, the poor get poorer (comparatively speaking, of course… there are no poverty-stricken franchises or players) and the beat goes on.

Before you draw the conclusion that I’m some sort of anti-free enterprise, Socialist wacko, I should point out that I rather enjoy the drama created by the disparities in salaries, especially when the Yankees (complete with payroll nearly triple that of the Royals) fall flat on their collective asses and stink up the stadium with play so inept that using the term ‘amateurish’ to describe it carries the risk of hyperbole. Besides, professional football and basketball both have salary caps to ‘level the playing field’ (I want to throw up every time I hear that phrase). There are thirty-two teams in each league and the same five or six teams still win the championship every year.

Professional baseball is America in microcosm. Immigrants now make up a huge percentage of the rosters, labor has a token union to speak for it that is closely controlled by management, the consumer pays ever-increasing, inflated rates for consumption of the product without any retreat of a free-market economy, powerful families control the destiny of the venture, free expression of dissent are not tolerated without banishment, franchises occasionally become homeless, and the decline of the middle class has become the hallmark of the venture. I guess the Iraq mess is the one real difference, although border skirmishes break out whenever the Yankees and Red Sox meet at either venue, but at least, unlike our government’s efforts, the league is able to control the sectarian violence with a minimum of loss and there is the promise that the war might someday conclude.

So, I’ll continue to read the stats sheet and check the standings, but become a fan of a specific team? Sorry… can’t afford it.

Bob Church©6/24/07

Monday, June 11, 2007


“Retork squiddle whup whup, skiddley whup whup-doo!”

Fingers poked through threadbare cotton gloves, wiggling and gyrating at me, his face now a confused amalgam of concerted bluff and imposition as he continued his doomed attempt to intimidate me. Before I could grab him, his eyes glazed over and he assumed a pose with one leg off the ground and both hands extended in mid-air, fingers still wiggling stupidly. Lips pursed and loudly sucking in air, I thought he might pass out.

“Stop it, Jack, it won’t work on me. You don’t scare me, unless you count my worry that you may hurt yourself and the cops might try to blame it on me… you don’t know kung fu and your gibberish doesn’t sound anything like Bruce Lee’s Chinese, so do us both a favor and quit trying to act like a badass before I forget my manners and slap the shit out of you.”

This seemed to break the spell, at least somewhat. He turned his head inquisitively, his expression still defiant, if no longer martial artist. Jack pushed his chest out and posed with his hands on his hips. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t keelhaul ye as you stand, and feed ye to the sharks, ye scurvy dog!”

Mercifully, he didn’t actually own a saber, so his Captain Jack persona failed as well. But, at least he was speaking English again, so I took that as a step in the right direction. Our little impromptu therapy sessions had actually started to bear a little fruit. Jack now abstained from liquor on Tuesdays and every other Wednesday in months that ended in ‘ber’ (his choice as a counter-offer to my suggestion of bathing on a semi-weekly basis).

“So now you’re a pirate? What’s next, Eli the Wonder Llama?”

No doubt about it, the suggestion gave him pause. His face, fixated on my own with his best Johnny Depp stare, suddenly morphed once again and confronted me with his best limp-wristed, tortured-artist Truman Capote pout. A grin escaped as he lisped, “There’th never been anyone quite like me.”

“Well…” I confessed, “this one shows some promise, but if you’re going to pull it off, you need to dress a little better and maybe get yourself one of those cigarette holders that all the fairies carried in the ‘60s. Tell me, what was it like living in western Kansas when you wrote In Cold Blood?”

Jack sat down and covered his head with his arms. I couldn’t tell whether he was weeping, but it wouldn’t have surprised me. His mercurial personality changes had to be difficult to deal with, even considering the length of his history with mental illness.

I jotted a few notes on a legal pad. “Can I speak to Jack?”

Nothing. He didn’t move.

“Okay, have it your way. You stay the enigma that you are, forced to exist in two or three worlds simultaneously because of your inability to accept your place in any one of them… while the rest of humanity continues to regard you as a pathetic wackjob, dedicated to your quest for egocentricity.”

Slowly, his face an overflowing palette of remorse, he stood up and placed a crisp fifty-dollar bill on the table. “Here… for your services.”

I looked at it for a few seconds before speaking. “I usually get a hundred.”

Turning to open the door, he stopped and stared at me. “Usually you supply the reefer.”

Damned if he didn’t have me there. Oh, well, easy come, easy go. It was drinking money, even if it’d never pay for medical school.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Once Upon A Coney

“Five-fifty for a freakin’ hotdog? Why don’t you just reach in your pocket and stick a gun in my face… you’re robbin’ me either way!” The Gentlemen's Quarterly poster child reached into his pants pocket. A ten-spot emerged from a gold money-clip and disappeared just as quickly into the vendor’s meaty right hand.

Control came easy for Jamie these days, but it hadn’t always been so. It was an acquired skill, one honed over years of dealing with the denizens of New York. His cart, The Spirit of Pawtucket, rolled to its present position every Monday through Friday, come hell or high water.

“Yea? Well, give it back then, you cheapskate hump! Walk five blocks over and eat that garbage that Mohammed puts out. It'll give a whole new meaning to the word 'hotdog' when you bite down and it barks!” Jamie reached for the change in his pocket as he watched the impeccably dressed man slather mustard, onions, ketchup and relish onto the bun. A hint of a smile betrayed his mandatory New York toughness.

“Jesus God, take it easy on the condiments, fella’, or I’ll have to take it back and charge you by the pound! I sure as hell hope your secretary carries breath mints, or your afternoon will contain nothing more exotic than a three-hour nap.” A quick sleight-of-hand left four one-dollar bills tucked neatly under the napkin holder.

Christian Dior fastidiously bit into the huge sandwich, a bouquet of napkins secured in his hand. “You know, with your diplomatic skills, you should have become a lawyer instead of a hotdog vendor.”

Jamie continued to wipe down the small counter on his cart, never looking up. “Yea, I applied for law school, but they wouldn't accept me because I know who my father is. Besides, why would I want to take a cut in pay?”

Botany 500 shook his head and harrumphed. “Everyone’s a critic these days… next, you’ll be telling me you’re out of horseradish!” His right hand extended over the counter, reaching for the unmarked white plastic squeeze bottle. He began to apply a light-green paste onto his hot dog before stopping suddenly.

“Why is the horseradish green?” he said, biting into the concoction.

Arms folded over his apron, Jamie stared disdainfully at the man. “Well, if you’d had the common courtesy to ask for horseradish, perhaps you wouldn’t be asking stupid questions. It’s not horseradish, Einstein, it’s salsify.”

“It’s what?” He’d stopped chewing now, his face suddenly transformed into a grotesquely hideous mask. “It tastes like raw oysters, for Chris'sake!” Leaning forward fastidiously to avoid getting any on his suit, he spat small chunks of partially chewed sandwich into the gutter alongside the cart.

“Salsify. It ranks as one of the most salubrious of culinary vegetables; being antibilious, cooling, deobstruent and slightly aperient, should be used sparingly.” Jamie’s grin revealed his obvious satisfaction with his customer’s displeasure.

Wiping at his mouth, Bill Blass reached for Jamie’s lapel, snarling, “Gim’me my money back!”

“Ah-ah-ah! You wouldn’t want me to introduce you to Messieurs Smith & Wesson, now would you?”

Three-piece set the remainder of the hot dog on the counter and rubbed his hands together. “Okay, but put the horseradish back in the white bottle tomorrow, okay?”
Jamie held his hands up in front of him, mea culpa. “I’ll see what I can do, but no promises.”

Oscar de la Renta started to walk away, but stopped when he heard Jamie’s voice. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” He looked back and saw the vendor pointing at the counter where his change lay.

“Oh, yea…” he said, and reached for the bills. Jamie pushed the half-eaten hotdog in front of his hand and pointed at the trash container alongside the building.

Calvin Klein walked the four steps and tossed the refuse into the can. Once again, he glanced at the counter. The bills had mysteriously disappeared.

“I’d like my change, please.”

“Pardon me?”

There was little point in arguing. Pursing his lips, Giorgio Armani paused before pantomiming a pistol shot with his fingers. Whirling around, he started to walk away. “Don’t forget… horseradish tomorrow, Jamie.”

The hotdog vendor grinned yet again, “Say hi to Mom for me, little brother!” Kids, these days… you gotta love ‘em.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Scrap Metal, Steelheads and Me

This past weekend, while looking for a pastime worthy of expense for a man with dwindling caches of such allotments, I happened upon a surplus iron yard complete with wrecking ball and acres of stuff capable of withstanding the ravages of wind and weather.

Actually, a friend told me about it in terms leaving no uncertainty whatsoever as to the yard’s contents and their magical qualities to entice a man with an open mind and/or pockets. We’d recently enjoyed a meal at his place and I couldn’t help noticing that he’d replaced one entire wall of his house with a window roughly the size of Rhode Island. He said he’d purchased it at the surplus iron yard just because of the price. Now, if one walked into the rear portion of his home, he could share my friend’s bird’s-eye view of the Randolph County Medical Center. Of course, his six-foot cedar grape stake fence obscured the view of the parking lot, but it was a small price to pay for the grandeur of the second-floor operating arena and a few patient rooms, especially with the aid of the binoculars he provided his guests. For nearly twenty minutes I watched a homely old woman in a hospital gown try to eat her evening meal of mashed peas, apple sauce and butterscotch pudding before trying to sit up and grab her IV pole for a quick trip to the bathroom, ultimately summoning a nurse’s help. I hate peas her lips repeated over and over as she finished every last drop of the squamous green material hardly worthy of a poultice, much less a meal.

I needed to go see if I could find anything worthwhile at this place. Upon first glance from the road, all I saw were rusted cars and old iron roofs stacked like cordwood, extending as far as the eye could see. I wasn’t currently in the market for a ‘74 Tempo with no front end, but I decided to go inside and talk to the proprietor anyway, having driven nearly six miles out of my way to get here. I told him that my neighbor had purchased some merchandise from him and that I would like to look around if he had anything left of a non-automotive nature. He said he’d just taken a couple of acres of Washington rain forest in trade for two sections of Shawnee County mushroom pasture, and if I’d like to step into his stockroom, he’d be happy to show it to me.

Well… I certainly didn’t want to appear too eager, so I allowed as how I’d take a quick look at it, but that I was just looking around and wouldn’t be buying anything today. ‘No pressure’ his look told me, so I followed him past an old tobacco-curing barn, a few pieces of equipment that I recognized as beer duns and something that appeared to be the side of a mountain, then we walked into an area containing a forest glade that caught my eye.

As far as the eye could see was wilderness of pine trees, moss-covered granite boulders and a lush meadow with a small pond complete with cattails. On one side a stream ran swiftly past.

“Any trout in that stream?” I queried, trying not to sound too interested.

“Of course, in fact, just yesterday, one of my employees caught two rainbows and a German brown after work. The amazing part is, I know he’s a lousy fisherman.”

“How big?” Immediately, I regretted having asked. I’m sure I appeared too interested and he’d raise the price, but something about the sound of the rushing water enchanted me and lowered my defenses.

“Oh, I don’t think they were huge, probably not bigger than 22” in length of more than five or six pounds… just average-sized.”

“How much?”

“Well, we’re piecing it out, selling the waterfalls separately, of course, as well as the ferns, grass, etc., but the stream sells for $2.50 a lineal foot for the first thousand feet, but we’ll attach any added length you’d like for only $2.00 a foot. Where I come from, that’s a bargain.”

“How much for the birds?”

He hesitated for a minute, pausing to think. “Well,” he muttered, “I guess we could let ‘em go for say… oh, how about fifty cents apiece? I’ll throw in the trout at no extra expense if you don’t make me warranty the birds. I used to guarantee them until I took in some Chinese birds and ended up with the bird flu… since then I’ve sold them on an ‘as is’ basis.”

“Sounds reasonable…” I uttered stupidly, removing all doubt that I was a future customer, “what about width, how much for that? That stream looks pretty wide in spots.”

I swear I saw dollar signs in his corneas. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he replied enthusiastically, his confidence bolstered by my interest, “if you’ll take it off my hands today, I’ll throw in not only the width, but the depth as well. How does that sound? Do we have a deal?”

His hand reaching for my mine, I knew I was beaten. “Okay,” I whimpered, in a voice barely audible, “if you can deliver it to me free of charge, wrap up enough to fit on two acres and bring it out to me later this afternoon.”

While he pumped my hand with his own, he suddenly became the grand macaw, grinning and whistling, “No problem, we’ll cut it into sections and load it up on our flatbed, and I’ll check and see if we have any critters we can throw in… maybe a few deer and even a bear or two, just to make sure that you get full enjoyment out of your purchase. Would you care to look at a waterfall or box canyon while you’re here? Either one would sure dress up that stream…”

I allowed as how I was all stocked up on box canyons, but I’d take a look at a waterfall if it weren’t too expensive. We passed an enclosure filled with grizzly bears, pumas, skunks and various other large and small animals, but the smell alone discouraged me from looking closer. In a smaller container next to it was a cage marked INSECTS that I refused to enter.

So, I now have the only trout stream that I know of in Randolph County… and no mortgage to pay off, either. No, I don’t get to watch any patients out the back of my house, but my diet is now healthier, given the amount of omega-3 oil in the fresh trout that I eat.

Bob Church©6/4/07

Friday, June 01, 2007

Alpha, Omega and the Two-Rood Muse

I’ve been going through a rough stretch for a while, my mood pretty much matching the balance in my bank account. Not that being poor is a sin, but it does make it harder to adopt the rosy outlook I see plastered all over the faces of people I watch greeting each other on the street. ‘Course, none of it is meant for me, they don’t know me from Adam, and I guess I can’t blame anyone for being selective about when and where to spend their gestures of civility. Evidently, smiling at strangers, especially those who tend to lack the means for designer haircuts and/or clothes, is not a priority, and I’m cool with it… I understand, really I do. What if a friend were to happen by and catch you acknowledging the presence of a homeless man or nodding your head at a bum… I’m sure there’d be uncomfortable questions to answer at your Happy Hour gathering, and as I recall, there’s nothing tougher in life than listening to your pals make snide comments about your new ‘buddy’ and having to defend yourself or explain that it really wasn’t what it looked like, that all you were doing was trying to get him to leave you alone. Hell, if you weren’t careful, you might find yourself looking for a new foursome for Saturday morning’s Best-ball Scramble at the club or a new workout partner to spot you at the gym. So, I get it… don’t think a thing of it, I know you have more important matters to concern yourself with. If the Market doesn’t rebound soon, you stand to lose your Mercedes and I know how embarrassed you’d be if forced to drive a Beemer.

But enough… this story isn’t about them it’s about me. Forgive my self-indulgence if you can, but there’s very little point to the story if you don’t understand a little about my history. It’s of no importance where I come from, so I won’t bore you with details, but please understand that destinations planned early in life are seldom reached and never recognizable as originally conceived. For many years, I embraced the old adage, ‘fail to plan and plan to fail’. Like many young people, I set up a timetable of accomplishments to be achieved, and worked toward the satisfactory completion of each step, carefully assessing my progress and evaluating the next plane. And it all made sense. Maybe it worked a little too well, I can’t be sure, but at some point I felt the uncomfortable pangs of niggling doubt start to work their way into my psyche. The victories became muted and the ever-increasing setbacks proved difficult to dismiss. I found out that when one sets a goal, only three things can happen, and two of them are bad. One can fail, die before reaching the goal’s finish line or satisfactorily achieve the desired end point. Even if you make it, while temporarily basking in the euphoria of success, you face the realization that you now must set another goal, and the process repeats itself… again and again and again.

At some point, it ceased to make sense. I realized that I couldn’t eat more than one meal at a time, no matter how full my refrigerator might be. It became clear to me that I could erect tall walls of stone and post a guard at the gate, but I couldn’t keep the real enemies out, I could only keep myself in. My coffers overflowed but I was dead from the neck up. More and more often, when I was sober enough to realize it, another old adage swam effortlessly through my mind, ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Eventually, my ambition became my accuser, judge and jury, and I was convicted of fraud and sentenced to a refuge from reality that became my prison. One by one my friends and family came to visit less and less often, not that I could have acknowledged their presence in any event. I slid further and further down the slippery slope paved of drugs and alcohol, the mind-numbing pain-killers that facilitated my descent into oblivion.

Oblivion… almost sounds Biblical, even magical, doesn’t it? The Thessalonians shall smite the lawless and claim the land of Oblivion for the just. Amen. But I know better, because I’ve been there. It exists deep in the darkest jungles of despair; it is a quagmire of muck and filth more wretched than sin and denser than society’s impenetrable heart. My journey there took a path I could never have anticipated; after all, I was one of the chosen.

Who are the chosen, you might ask; why do they fall? We’re the pre-anointed, easily identified, can’t-miss effete. The almost brilliant, the nearly noteworthy, and the faux elite fill our legions. We’re smart enough to pass the entrance exams of nearly any university yet we have no idea what we’ll study once we get there. Have a test you want passed? Merely tell us where and when! We’ll parse your sentences, correct your arithmetic, and help you set your goals, even though we have none of our own beyond those we’re expected to achieve. While we’re at it, we’ll do your taxes, wash your car, clean your pool and figure out ways to help you stretch your entertainment dollar. Very little sneaks past us even if we’re slow to admit it. Oh, if only we’d found a star to which we could hitch our wagons.

But, we seldom do. Just when it appears that we might prevail, either circumstance or kismet taps us on the shoulder and reminds us that we needn’t trouble ourselves any further, that we just don’t have the right stuff. And off we go, dreams stashed neatly in one or another pouch of our backpacks, to chase yet another star, to inevitably choose the road to Oblivion regardless of our intentions. You see, we are what we are, the well-meaning odd-man-out with the capacity to accept many burdens and the ability to handle all but those conducive to our benefit. Then, mired in the confusion created by public labor and private torpor, we listlessly accept whatever scraps we’re thrown off the side of the chuck wagon as we pack up and head on down the road, grateful we’ve lost the gnaw of hunger but weary of the effort, desire having long since been swapped for temporary satiation. Even hormonal lust, at some point, accepts its muted ambivalence in some hidden cache whose flap button can be opened by neither sober fingers of intention nor clumsy whiskey-fueled digits of twisted revenge, becoming just another bullet to discharge just because we want to chase away the demons a little while longer.

But enough about oblivion—just understand that for those of us who through choice or chance find ourselves on the road, hope is a precious commodity. The concept itself carries a watered-down implication; a subdued resignation reaped from a raw sense of reality that most wouldn’t understand except as a theoretical exercise or experiment. Struggle is basic to life on this planet and acceptance of a certain amount is necessary for everyone, but when one is forced to struggle through every thought and every daily movement, at some point the reality of failure becomes the norm rather than the exception, making the merest victory over the elements stand out as treasures to be defended at all costs. When a man is willing to kill for a pair of cast-off sneakers rescued from a dumpster, the paradigm of hope becomes a hollow, meaningless phantom.

Now, phantoms, on the other hand, exist in my world as surely as night follows day, and they don’t always wait for darkness to make their appearance. The fact that they choose to interact with me exclusively makes them no less real. Just like you, my perceptions form my reality, and I make no apologies for them, although I do sometimes wish they’d go bother someone else. Coincidence that ‘phantom’ and ‘perception’ start with the same letter? I think not, but when push comes to shove, it matters little; in fact, I’m willing to wager that you’d never considered it yourself until just now. We all tend to think in terms of the literal rather than the abstract, don’t we? Besides, I have nothing to wager, unless it would be one perfectly good set of Reeboks (nobody ever throws away Nikes anymore unless the cat pisses on them and even I wouldn’t consider wearing them… that’s just disgusting) that I recently came upon. We’ll consider it a gentlemen’s bet and move on, the point is moot in any case.

Unless someone is seriously fucking with my head, even I have to assume that the 1900-pound concrete statue of Jesus Christ of Nazareth standing in the Silver Creek Memorial Garden is pretty much just an abstraction, a religious symbol meant to bolster Christian mourners’ congregation with the Almighty as they either plant a loved one or spend a little time in meditation with a grave stone (which, by the way, no one would consider odd in the least, even though many say God actually talks to them). Further, my observation that the statue weighs 1900 pounds is merely an educated guess, although common sense and a better-than-average understanding of physical laws came to bear before I hazarded an estimate given the statue’s height, girth and materials of construction. For those scientists among you, I’m sure it’s conceivable that the damn thing could weigh as much as 20% more or less, and I hope it makes you feel better to question my math, I know how important it is for you to always be right. Consider the source, I’m a contemptible drunk and an anchor tied to society’s hind end. I get it, trust me…

So when this 10-foot off-white monolith with two iris-less chicken eggs for eyes started following me as I moved about the headstones, it startled me at first. His long white hippie-hair didn’t move, his robe didn’t bustle at all, even with the 10 mile-per-hour breezes blowing from left to right as I looked at him, but those damn eyes followed me ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly except to the trained eye. His out-stretched arms moved, too, following me so that they were squared up in front of me, even when I moved behind him. Please notice that I didn’t capitalize ‘him’ at the end of the last sentence; I don’t need to pretend that it was actually Jesus Himself, I’ll leave that to all of you Christians in the audience. I’m not trying to pick a fight, I’m just trying to explain my feelings at the time—and don’t send me letters, either, I promise you I won’t answer them. (Note: That was a joke… I couldn’t possibly answer them seeing as how I don’t have a mailing address or post office box. But I’ll bet that you knew that, didn’t you? Okay, let’s move along, it’s getting pretty close to suppertime and I’m thirsty… er, hungry. Yea, I meant hungry.)

After a few minutes, I might have forgotten all about it if the thing hadn’t winked at me. Honestly… it closed one eye and wiggled his left index finger a little. Who knew Concrete Jesus was left-handed? I guess it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, but since Catholics are supposed to make the Sign of the Cross with their right hand unless amputation or stroke or some other affliction affecting their right arm prevents it, I guess I’d always assumed that Jesus was right-handed. Go figure… who knew?

Anyway, now Left-Handed Concrete Jesus is winking at me and beckoning me to come closer. I have to be honest, at this point— considering the behavior of a fair number of Catholic priests— I began to question the entire concept of religion as it relates to celibacy. Was it merely a front for a multitude of salacious sex fiends preying upon the weak, the very young— the most naive members of the flock? Have the wolves really infiltrated the ranks of the shepherds? I have to admit, that might explain chastity… Don’t give it up here on earth, ladies, I likes Me some virgin pussy!

Sorry… that was uncalled-for. I’ll try to keep it clean. I know how easily your sensibilities become upset and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for any late-night gastric distress. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea ultima culpa. (Don’t you just love Latin? Sometimes I just about get a nut just thinking back on all the Latin phrases I learned as a kid. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. And who can possibly forget Dominus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo?) Ah, yes… makes me think back on all the time I spent on my knees at St. Dominic’s, getting the crap beat out of the back of my head with a ruler by one of Christ’s Black-and-White’s who evidently seemed to regard my predisposition for slumber as a sign of disrespect for the Lord. I’m sure the Lord demands that one or more of His confederates walks point on little boys in church while they’re supposed to be praying, so I forgive them—I’m sure they were only doing what they were told and their corporal propensities had nothing whatever to do with the sexual frustration they had to be experiencing given their eschewal of all things carnal.

Now, I admit that I may have enjoyed four or three smallish carafes of Ripple’s finest port that morning/afternoon, and that I could see a little better if I closed one eye, but nothing could have prepared me for being hit upon by Suggestively-Lewd Left-Handed Concrete Jesus. Even for a tipsy homeless man, this can be disconcerting.

But there I was, nevertheless. Suddenly, I felt the need for speed, but my legs didn’t want to cooperate. If you’ve ever experienced the fight-or-flight syndrome, I’m sure you can understand how a dedicated pacifist might opt for the latter. Now, I could see a bulge under his robe in the area of his crotch. Yes, it was an act of cowardly desperation, but I had no desire whatsoever to become the love slave of a Suggestively-Lewd Apparently Homosexual Left-Handed Concrete Jesus With a Dick the Size of a Louisville Slugger, so I began whimpering like a naughty puppy whose owner just caught him pissing on the living room rug. In fact, when he started to bend down toward me, I was pissing, only it was just in my pants, an eventuality for which I hold no pride, I assure you. Now, wet pants chafing at my legs, I began to run like I’d never run before, my stride suddenly rivaling that of an Olympic sprinter, my heartbeat surging in my ears with each footstep. On occasion, I looked back to see my nemesis closing on my position, although he certainly couldn’t approach my deer-like pace. Apparently, he experienced no fear of discovery, that someone might witness his reprehensible behavior and turn him in to the Cemetery Elders and risk banishment or at least some form of retribution for his hideous felonies upon me.

I raced toward an open gravesite, hoping that someone might be there to help me. Typically, as my luck would have it, the workers had gone home for the day, leaving behind a makeshift fence, a crude rope spread between four posts, evidently meant to sequester the site from the curious. Quickly, I stopped and pulled the rope from its stanchions, coiling it as best I could, although I could have done much better had I a bit more time and a bit less buzz. It would have to do, and since I saw no judges, I renewed my now-somewhat-less-than-gazelle-like gait as best I could, trying to decide exactly what the hell I could do with this damn rope. I couldn’t shoot it, it wasn’t worth a damn as a cudgel, and I wasn’t at all sure that you could hang a Possibly Murderous Suggestively-Lewd Apparently Homosexual Left-Handed Concrete Jesus With a Dick the Size of a Louisville Slugger.

But, it was all I had, and I had to formulate a plan, so I adjusted my beer goggles and settled into full cogitation. Almost instantaneously, I decided to climb a tree and find a limb that would support me, somewhere out of his reach, hoping that he couldn’t jump or climb, although certainly in my world almost anything was possible. I slung the rope over my shoulder, allowing myself a moment to wonder if I looked anything at all like one of those Con-Ed pole climbers with the spikes on his boots, and began my ascent of a huge old oak tree that decorated the property’s outer fence. The going was tough at first, my tree-climbing skills severely tested by the rough exterior bark that both aided and impeded my progress. Once I reached the first branch, I used them as steps to gain enough height to discourage the most outrageous of Saviors. Reaching a large horizontal limb, I sat down and began to tie the rope to the branch, making sure to secure it with my best approximation of the double half-hitch knot I learned while a Boy Scout, another societal attempt to make me neurotic before I celebrated my thirteenth birthday. The rabbit comes out of his hole and goes around the tree and over the hill, then crosses the stream and goes around the tree again before he goes back in his hole. Honestly, that may be totally wrong, I tended to let my mind wander a good bit during those days and I never claimed total recall. Suffice to say, the knot appeared to hold, so I wrapped the rope around my chest and made a noose. If any manifestations of non-secular abomination tried to pull me out of the tree, perhaps the rope would prevent it.

Unfortunately for me, he found me. Now, he reached upward, his prodigious hard-on now growing at an exponential rate as it progressed through the branches in search of its quarry, the penultimate nexus of my virginity, my poopchute. I realized that if he ‘sniffed’ me out, I was a goner, so I tried to hide behind the trunk. I elected not to move a muscle as the now-giant dildo reached my branch and craned its ‘neck’, one large eye looking directly at me.

Now with no further options available to me, I steeled myself (so to speak) and tightened the noose, only this time I moved it up to my neck. If he wanted me, I couldn’t stop him, but he wouldn’t get me while my heart still beat in my chest. The fall would snap my neck and I wouldn’t suffer. A serene ambience fell over me as I looked down at my size 12, slightly dirty Reeboks for the last time and for the first time bemoaned the fact that my feet are size 10. As I tried to step off the branch, the extra toe length built into my sneakers caused me to hurdle ass over applecart, hitting every branch before striking my head on the trunk of the tree and knocking me cold as a beached mackerel.

Worse, when I woke up, the cops were pulling me down from the outstretched arms of a certain 10-foot tall 1900-pound concrete statue of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Well…

I used my jail time well, I think. It provided me the opportunity to assess that afternoon in greater depth and search for a conclusion that would explain the events that either did or did not transpire, depending upon your point of view. However, two facts were now inextricably cemented upon my psyche; I had one very sore bunghole and more importantly, a new appreciation for the concept of irony.