Thursday, January 31, 2008

Plumbing Is As Plumbing Does

Plumbing Is As Plumbing Does

I once knew a man who held a great love for the finer things in life. Such was his affection for art and literature that he often obsessed over works of prose and poetry. Not a day went by that he didn’t revisit his tomes of the great poets and revel in the wisdom, beauty and extravagant splendor of the written word.

Fortune smiled upon him in all ways. Born of wealth and excess, he lived in a villa on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, where he could watch the iron freighters and cast them in roles of importance during his daily one-act plays. The Pride of Chesterton became the blasphemous king and the Port Bainbridge sufficed as his indolent and reclusive queen. Together, they filled his hours with the industry and dignity of toil as he watched the longshoremen work their magic while he read them sonnets and quatrains from afar, all entirely relevant and with their behind-the-words meaning never in question.

One day, he decided to change his world. After all, what good was poetry if he kept it locked inside him? So, he decided to replace all his plumbing with the works of the great masters. At great expense, his water softener was transformed into Carl Sandburg and his kitchen sink became Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He now drew his water from The Iliad, complete with its tendency to taste like bitter Greek wine.

He took out all the pipes and replaced them with Gerard Manley Hopkins, while he transformed the water heater into Shakespeare. Needless to say, this greatly displeased all the other fixtures. Lying in a heap at the far end of the basement and out of the loop, they became greatly alarmed. What will become of us?

The man was greatly pleased, at first, content with his transformational powers and satisfied with the enhanced ambience about the house. But then, while trying to draw a glass of Leaves of Grass from the Sonnets From The Portuguese he noticed that the two forms tended to stick in his throat and muddy his palate; when he finally managed to get them down, he immediately experienced gastronomic distress from the powerful libations and ran headlong for the Ralph Waldo Emerson!

While feverishly attempting to pull down his pants and position himself, he suddenly realized that he could never relieve himself on Ode To Beauty!

Our story ends with his ringing the buzzer to his neighbor’s apartment, banging wildly on the door and in full voice demanding entrance, his pants still unbuckled. Unfortunately, his neighbor had recently replaced his plumbing, too. Upon feverishly pulling open the bathroom door, our hero was devoured by the Tiger, tiger, burning bright toilet replacement.

The moral to the story (if not already evident) is simple enough… if you simply must be eccentric, first get to know your neighbors.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Boy Who Wanted To Do Something Pretty Spectacular

Note** Some of you may have seen this before. I apologize for the redundancy.

The Boy Who Wanted To Do Something Pretty Spectacular

Author’s Note:

I’ve always wanted to sit down and write a story about a boy who either could do or wanted to do something pretty spectacular. I’m still a bit torn about which to write about, although I guess either one would do just fine, since it’s pretty likely that very few people will get to read the story in either case. Dad used to tell us stories at camp-outs when we were kids. I’m pretty sure he was making them up on the fly, because he seemed to get some of the details mixed up when he changed scenes. I do know for a fact that none of them were written down, so, apparently, strict adherence to the truth isn’t a concern for storytellers. Maybe it’s better if I told a story about a boy who wanted to do something pretty spectacular; that way I wouldn’t be bound to facts and I could just make it up as I go along. Of course, no one would believe it, but that’s okay, because as I already told you, in all likelihood, no one will ever read it anyhow.

Okay, so that brings me to the original stumbling block. I have to invent a kid. For the sake of argument, let’s just say that the kid was a white kid who lived in a medium-sized suburb of a large Mid-western city, maybe Kansas City or Oklahoma City, or even Denver. I’m making him white because I’m white and not nearly clever enough to conjure up a black, Mexican, Arab or Oriental kid, although I suppose I could pull it off if I made him a Pollock or an Italian, I grew up with a fair amount of both of those nationalities. My kid’s parents probably aren’t professionals, because those people tend to watch their kids pretty close, making them go to soccer camp and piano recitals and all that sort of shit, and since they live in walled communities, none of their kids will ever grow up stealing cherries off the trees of the cranky old lady who lives across the alley (the one who Mom says has a pacemaker and a colostomy bag). This kid’s dad doesn’t necessarily have to be a drunk, but if he is, so much the better, it adds to the texture of a boy who wants to do something pretty spectacular.

Let’s review… we’ve got a non-ethnic white boy living in a lower middle class Midwestern suburb who stems from non-professional parents and prefers to steal his fruits and vegetables from gardens throughout the neighborhood. Now we need to superimpose him upon a historical setting capable of providing him with stimuli that might allow him the possibility of doing something pretty spectacular. Upon reflection, I think such a boy might find the ability no matter when he was born, but for the sake of argument and because I’m too lazy to do a lot of research, I choose 1960—been there, done that. It was a time of burgeoning societal sensibilities, a time when geo-political influences were changing rapidly as the American landscape transformed from strictly structured post-war military/farm society to egalitarian melting pot, with all the confusion produced by the melding process.

We don’t know whether our boy is smart or stupid, ambitious or lazy, kind or cruel. Maybe we’ll let the story reveal these character traits. I’m told there are really only three or four stories ever written and all the rest are variations on a theme. If I were a philosopher perhaps I’d challenge the premise, but since I’ve already stated that I’m lazy, the point is moot and, ultimately, unimportant. This story is not about me, after all. I could never be confused with a boy who wanted to do something pretty spectacular.

Last, understand that I don’t sit down at my writing desk with pre-conceived notions about where the story will take our hero. I have no axe to grind other than the one I live with on a day-to-day basis, that indefinable nexus that makes every one of us unique, our amalgam of experience. Therefore, since I profess no particular political or societal preference, I am free to examine all with impunity. If I can stay neutral, our boy will show us his world picture exclusive of my interference upon the process.

Okay, that’s the strategy, such as it is. I’ve been taught that the world hates a vacuum, however, I have no choice but to take a minimalist stance. I’m aware that no publishing house would want to hear this, and that’s okay. Again, I’m writing this for me, it’s merely mental masturbation. It gives me great comfort to know that a lot of very rich people are missing out on my story. Perhaps they’d understand it, perhaps they wouldn’t, but by not giving them the opportunity to read it, I’m flexing my intellectual muscles a bit; extending the middle finger of my right hand proudly into the air, I proclaim my independence. My little story and I will languish in anonymity, not once giving a tinker’s damn about you, your welfare or your bankbook. Sit on it and spin, ‘Murika… sit on it and spin.


"Is not.”

“Is, too…”



“Prove it, Shit-For-Brains.” Jacob Claiborne (just ‘J.C.’, please) Peavey adopted much the same stance for the current challenge that he did for all challenges, namely calling his adversary’s bluff in all matters open to conjecture. J.C., slightly larger and more inclined towards physical manifestations of anger when confronted, seldom passed on any opportunity to intimidate a foe… or a friend.

“Make me…” Henry Blythe (Cushy) Danvers’ eyes got larger as he spoke, knowing full well that J.C. could beat the shit out of him any time he liked. He also knew that J.C. would not, not if he ever again wanted to fondle another pair of soiled panties belonging to Dana Danvers, Cushy’s fine-ass older sister. More negotiator than warrior, Cushy had been putting up with J.C.’s particular brand of crap since the 4th grade. Now that middle school burgeoned on the horizon, the two spent more time together than they did with their respective families.

“Know what, Cushy? One of these days you’re gonna give me some lip and I ain’t even gonna hesitate before I beat you to a pulp.” J.C.’s upper lip curled as he spoke, accentuating the cleft palate scar extending from his lip to his nose, the scar that caused him to lisp just a little on words like ‘these’ and ‘some’ making them sound like ‘theethe’ and ‘thumb’. Nobody made fun of him anymore, though, not if they didn’t want to fight.

“Oh, relax, J.C., you know I don’t mean anything by it. I just get tired of you trying to back me down about everything. Aren’t we friends? Don’t I always do just about everything you ask me to do? Lighten up, man, I ain’t your enemy.”

J.C. and Cushy sprawled out under Mrs. Dunleavy’s hollyhock bush, pulling off leaves and using them for makeshift whistles as they tried to stay cool in the oppressive heat offered by an August afternoon. Occasionally, a gust of breeze rustled the leaves and provided respite from the thermometer.

“Seriously, have you ever seen one up close?” J.C.’s query ignored the previous dialogue, concentrating instead on today’s topic of conversation, pussy, and everything associated with it.

“Sure, lots of times.” Cushy offered without hesitation.

“Other than your own, I mean.” J.C. corrected.

Cushy started to get upset, but hearing J.C. giggle, just wrinkled up his nose and gave J.C. the finger.

“Oh, so now you want to screw me, huh? Figures… I’ve been wondering how long it’d be before you got around to it, Queer-bate. But I warn you, you’ll never go back to hamsters, I’ll guarantee you that!”

“Hey! You two dirty-mouthed little bastards better shag your ass out from underneath that bush in a damn-sure hurry!!” Mrs. Dunleavy’s voice, both shrill and loud, caused both boys to wriggle their way to the backside of the bush, whereupon they crawled to an opening and started to run toward the alley, jumping Mrs. Dunleavy’s back fence before running in the opposite direction of home. With any luck at all, maybe she hadn’t gotten a good look at them, she was about half-blind.

“Come back here!” she roared, waving her cane wildly and affecting their flight in no manner whatsoever. “I’m going to call the police if I catch you back here again!” Shaking her cane at them, she pulled a towel out of an apron pocket and dabbed at her brow as she started her trek back to the house. The colostomy bag in the other pocket began to warm even more as she felt her bowels evacuate. Judging from the added weight, it would soon be time to dump it. Insolent little bastards…


“You’re late, Jake, go upstairs and wash up before supper.”

“Don’t call me Jake, my name is J.C., and if I go upstairs to wash or do anything else, it’ll be because I decide to do it, not because you told me to do it.” J.C. Peavey seldom got along with his older sister and never obeyed any orders she gave him.

“Okay, make it easy on yourself. It’s your ass if you make Dad mad. I’m just trying to help you, little brother. Excuse me for living.” Ethel Marie (Spoonie) Peavey, nearly three years J.C.’s senior, enjoyed her self-appointed dominance over her younger brother, imposing her will upon him at every possible juncture.

“Well, first of all, there’s no excuse for you living. Why don’t you go shack up with that idiot boyfriend of yours and hatch a couple of moron kids? Then you’d have someone to boss around besides me.” BAM! Take that, Spoonie.

“Jake, one of these days you’re going to say something hateful like that to the wrong person and you’ll cease to be my problem. Until that happy day, you’ll do me a favor by staying as far away from me as humanly possible. I don’t want to talk to you, look at you… I don’t even want to know you’re even on the same block as me.”

“Oh, Jesus, Spoonie, don’t get your panties in an uproar, you know I didn’t mean it.”

“You never mean it, but it still hurts, and I’m sick of it… and you!”

The fast-striding specter of Spoonie Peavey leaving the room, accompanied by the slamming of doors and audible screams, became J.C.’s reality. Of course, he’d seen the performance before, so today’s matinee only served to strengthen his resolve and bolster his confidence. However, he’d have to do a little sucking up before Dad got home… Spoonie couldn’t ride J.C.’s train, but she could damned sure derail it.

J.C. jumped onto the kitchen counter, took the lid off the cookie jar and examined the contents. After extracting a particularly large chocolate chip version, he sniffed it just to make sure it hadn’t gone bad since last night when his mother had baked them, and took a large bite. They weren’t as good as they were right out of the oven, but the sweetness would help condition his mind for the thought process yet to come. Okay, Spoonie, how do I have to kiss your ass this time?


“Mom, what would you do if you wanted to do something pretty spectacular, but didn’t know how to go about it?”

Adele Peavey looked up from her copy of Women’s Day and stared at her son, her face a mask of bewilderment brought on by her son’s question. “What?”

J.C. picked up a piece of toast and bit into it. “You know… if you wanted to do something to impress people, something spectacular, what would you do?”

Setting the magazine down on the kitchen table, Adele Peavey paused before answering her son’s strange question, wondering where he was going with this. “Well, whatever I’d do probably wouldn’t be the same thing you’d do, Jake. We’re different people. Don’t you think you should decide something like that yourself?” Focused on her son now, she sipped her coffee to hide her uneasiness with the subject. Her relationship with her son up to this point in his life had been pretty typical of most mother-son interactions, she supposed, or, at least, so the quizzes in her magazines might have rated it.

Now J.C. set his left arm on the table and placed his head on his bicep as he peered out into the kitchen. Adele couldn’t see the boy’s expression, but she knew her son well enough to know the wheels were turning. “Yea, I suppose…” he said, his voice now soft and dreamy, “but I don’t know where to start.”

“Why don’t you start by looking up the word ‘spectacular’ in the dictionary? Maybe that’ll give you some ideas.”

His head didn’t move. “I guess I could…” he said, picking up the spoon sitting in his cereal bowl and absent-mindedly stirring his oatmeal, “but I think I already know what ‘spectacular’ means.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, then, what does it mean?”

Without hesitating, J.C. Peavey replied, “It means that you can do something so well that people think you’re really cool.”

“Then you don’t have to worry about it any more… I happen to think you’re very cool.”

Turning his head slightly toward his mother, the boy grinned. “I don’t think you count, Mom, you’re required to think I’m cool… I’m your kid. But maybe there’s more to being spectacular than being cool… strangers might think you’re cool without being spectacular.”

“Then, there must be more to it, huh?”

“Yea, I think so. I overheard Jimmy Wellborn talking to Ben Covington about his date with Spoonie last Friday night.”

Uh-oh. “Oh, really… well what, pray tell, did Jimmy have to say?”

“Ben asked him if he got lucky, and Jimmy laughed. Then, Ben asked him if she was good, and he said she was ‘spectacular’.” Adele Peavey grabbed her son by the cloth on both his shoulders and lifted him to his feet. “Okay… time for school,” she said, grabbing her son’s sack lunch and handing it to him as she shoved him out the back door, closing it behind him. Quickly, she walked to the staircase and hollered. “Ethel Marie… you get your fanny down here immediately!”

J.C. Peavey walked toward the front gate, paper sack in tote, irremovable smile revealing all his front teeth. Inside, Spoonie, even now, would be defining ‘spectacular’ for their mother. Sometimes, things just work out.

Bob Church ©8/20/07

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sweet Rogue Wind

Last summer, I collaborated with a colleague on a song called Sweet Rogue Wind. We had in mind a ballad maybe sung by a country singer just strumming a guitar, with no accompaniment, but with minor modifications it could just as easily work for a woman as well. Anyway, since I don't know any musicians, it never left my word processor, but here it is for your scrutiny:

Sweet Rogue Wind

Sweet rogue wind, won’t you sweep away my troubles,
take me way down yonder where the water lilies grow,
Love’s sweet twin, please hold me up, don’t let me wander,
carry me to goodness, it’s the only way to go.

Tenderest of mercies, won’t you lay down by my side,
snuggle up against me as you share my final ride;
sweet rogue wind, won’t you sweep away my troubles,
take me way down yonder where the water lilies grow.

Through the fog I travel, passion glowing in my eyes,
It lights my way past roads that fork, ‘midst dark and stormy skies;
Carry me to that water town and lay me on the bank,
then one last time, with words that rhyme, I’ll give that girl my thanks.

Tenderest of mercies, won’t you lay down by my side,
snuggle up against me as you share my final ride;
sweet rogue wind, won’t you sweep away my troubles,
take me way down yonder where the water lilies grow.

Sweet rogue wind, won’t you tell her that I love her,
that I’ll put no one above her no matter where she roams;
cover her with all your grace, now please don’t let me down,
slow or fast our passions last, wherever love is found.

Tenderest of mercies, won’t you lay down by my side,
snuggle up against me as you share my final ride;
sweet rogue wind, won’t you sweep away my troubles,
take me way down yonder where the water lilies grow.

Karen Heywood and Bob Church©7/30/07

Monday, January 28, 2008

Eighty and Eight, Pure and Straight

Eighty and Eight, Pure and Straight

How stark the black and white,
wrong or right, dark or light…

Is it just the keys,
playing what she sees,
pretty as you please…

or is every single note
that someone else has wrote
a message to connote?

Lingering concert scenes,
imparted messages
forgotten soon as seen,

black and white, so pristine…
is that all the music means?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All Is Well (Or A Deep Hole At The Very Least)

Thinking all was lost, I closed my eyes. Lost for days in a veritable plantation of ennui, the lush overgrowth of tedium threatening to choke me, with no breeze of inspiration to cool me, I made my peace with the Muses and prepared for the end. Unused thoughts, some even worthy of transcription, slowly inched through my mind and a ticker of similes and alliterative double-entendre beamed across the bottom of my screen, mocking me with their clarity. The intensity of their presence imperiled my near-dead corneas. Irony forced my lips into a grotesque sneer, stretching wide, encouraging clenched, near-gray enameled dentition to capture the rays one last time before forever accepting the inevitability of what might come after.

With my last reserves of inspiration depleted, the stirring nigglers of scampering brain farts popped their last pops and offered themselves as sacramental offerings, teetering on the precipice before falling into the void of eternal oblivion. I mentally Crossed myself while simultaneously cursing Melete, Mneme, Erato, Polyhymnia and the other goddesses whose names I couldn’t remember and possessed no resource to research.

Einstein’s quandary being what it is, I have no knowledge of specific timeframes, but at some point I felt cool zephyrs of metaphor across my face and heard the whirr-r-r of adjectival chopper blades break the silent doldrums. Then, I felt the touch of Roget’s Raiders as they lifted me onto a large conjugation and whisked me away. I would live to fight another day, maybe, hopefully, in another way. The daughters of Zeus never abandon their pups, even if they do understand the sweet ecstasy of privation.

Virtuata Pianissimo

Note: If you'd like to see this as a poem, go to The Ink Pot. I'd appreciate hearing from you about which you like better... thanks.

A tattered white windsock hangs in the branches of a barren tree beside our picnic table, its green and orange tentacles suspended by thin branchlets that form a trapping web, the last fading remnants of a bygone time, crepe arms spread at unnatural, grotesque angles. Upon first glance, with only a bit of reflection, I imagine an octopus grabbing onto narrow wisps of coral, stubbornly defying the current and all nature’s relentless attempts to pull it into deeper waters.

Perhaps that octopus/windsock and I are brothers, each seeking refuge from the current—or maybe we merely exist as passersby in a previously charted course of neither design nor consequence. These days, it is difficult to discern.

Honestly, it no longer matters. For whatever reasons, we are here… and, at least for the time being, this is enough.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Okay, so it's not War and Peace...sue me!

Research indicates that my chances of getting you to visit me again (after your initial soiree into Bubbaland) are directly related to the entertainment value of my offerings.

With that in mind, and since I (temporarily, I hope) currently lack the intellectual wherewithal to adequately provide you with your daily allotment of literary haute cuisine, it is the least I can do (and trust me when I say least) to give you something by way of entertainment:

Monday, January 21, 2008


Pausing to admire the cloudless sky, the svelte young woman in the spotless white dress pulled open the squeaky-clean glass door and stepped into the department store from the street, holding the door open and smiling at the young mother with twin toddlers a-tote. The seventy-two degree environment inside the store exactly matched the outside temperature, and although it couldn’t be immediately assessed whether or not the humidity held the same degree of consistency, it was unimportant; no one in Perfect could remember ever seeing anyone sweat.

“Welcome to Smith’s, young woman, may I say you look very nice without giving you reason to speculate as to my intentions?” said the clean-shaven older man who still had all his hair and less than 2% body fat.

“Of course you can, Daddy, I owe my existence to you and live to make you proud.” Lightly rubbing one of the white silk hankies between her fingers, she looked down the immaculately cascaded rows of white and stopped at the Transaction Station manned by her father. “May I assume that you’ll be home at precisely 6:04 this evening? I wouldn’t want the duck to get rubbery.”

Both father and daughter put their fingers over their mouth in their attempt to stifle a giggle. Exactly three seconds later, all signs of amusement slid down from their eyes, collecting a turned-up mouth in the avalanche and departed through their chins in a universally practiced choreography. Bemusement offered no breach in protocol as long as it showed proper restraint and a modicum of dignity toward both parties to the mirth.

“Young lady, kindly select your linens and proceed to the Transaction Station, I wouldn’t want a dispassionate observer to question your unflagging allegiance to order.”

Glancing about, the teenager picked up four identical squares and neatly placed them atop one another. Stepping quickly back to the Transaction Station, she placed the hankies on the counter and leaned closer to the man, whispering “But Daddy you and I are alone.”

All the expression drained from Daddy’s face as he fought to keep his composure. “One of the lessons of maturity is recognition that no one is ever alone, dear child.” Placing the four now-folded squares in a neat box designed precisely for that particular handkerchief, he thrust it into her hands. “Go now. Your stay already threatens the two-minute limit. If you persist, we’ll both answer to Authority.”

Without hurrying, the girl whirled and walked toward the door. As her body crossed the door’s threshold, the first tones of an alarm started to sound before stopping as abruptly as it started.

“Don’t forget…” the man whispered to no one, “your Selection Ceremony is tonight.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

You Know Who You Are

Where, exactly, is Iceland, anyway?

I wish my surname were ‘Haggedorn’… if it were, perhaps my mom would have named me Thor or Gunter. Now, there is a writer’s name. Gunter Haggedorn… sorta has a ring to it, don’t you think?

I can see the dust cover on my first novel, Terror in Nordhurland. Then, underneath the title, James A. Michener would have written,
“One American’s epic struggles to overcome the indignity of life in a foreign land with neither money nor the ability to speak the language. Armed only with a can of Sterno and a rusty pair of vise-grip pliers, Haggedorn regains his dignity and creates a force for social change while living in the dumpster behind a downtown Reykjavík fishhouse/brothel.”

Yea… what could have been…

Oh, well, maybe in my next life.

It is my utmost desire to bring peace to the world, but first I must find the man who stole my vise-grips. I will hunt him down or my name is not Thor-Gunter Haggedorn. Not that you would care—you’ve always shown a depraved indifference toward all things mechanical—but, I assure you, there will come a day when your fortunes, too, will revolve around the huge, spinning wheel that is Thor-Gunter Haggedorn’s existence. Even as you now walk self-assuredly down the streets of downtown Reykjavík broadcasting your unenlightened, pusillanimous contempt for all creatures big and small, it shall come to pass that the high shall find their yins wrapped hopelessly around the yangs of the low, and only the virtuous shall continue to spin on the ether-wheel. If it is you who absconded with my vise-grips, I offer you the advise of the sages:
Righty-tighty, lefty-loosy.

I shall say no more, for to do so would risk abandoning my principles, usurping the education and enlightenment derived from onerous months of dumpster dwelling. Admittedly, it is tempting to lash out at humanity’s rejection of even its most basic tenets. However, to do so would approximate a posture taken by the pulpit’s best car salesmen.

For it is written that a can of sterno more easily passes through the gastrointestinal tract of a puppy (even a good-sized puppy, perhaps a boxer or Labrador retriever, and possibly even a St. Bernard, if it is less than six months old and has no glandular hyper-activity diagnosed) than a man who steals another’s vise-grips enters the kingdom of Thor-Gunter Haggedorn.


So, if it is you who removed them from my pocket while I endured the slumber only a man who has just imbibed four liters of Kleisthoffen Blanc can possibly understand, simply return them. I promise I shall be lenient if you show contrition, pay the fine, and swear under the penalty of eternal sobriety that you shall never again rummage through my domain. Remember, I am not a vengeful man.

In fact, not only am I not vengeful, I am outwardly placid. Had I chosen not to communicate with you, there is every probability that you wouldn’t know that I am an Ásatrún priest or Golthi. Chances are, you’ve no familiarity with my religion, but if I told you I were a Wiccan, Pagan, or Celtic Druid, your search compass set for intellectual enrichment would be headed in the right direction. I’m also called a Heathen, although I tend to shy from the description due to its less-than-noble connotations. The term implies non-enlightenment in its barest sense, and I assure you nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s see you go out and become a priest whilst domiciling in a dumpster in lower downtown Reykjavík. I’m one plenty-smart dude, so don’t try to put me down or I might have to go upside your head with my vise-grips. That is, if I can catch the son-of-a-bitch who stole them and bring him to justice. Thor-Gunter, get a grip! You’re a bigger man than this.

I apologize for that less-than-civil outburst. As I said, I am outwardly placid, even if my karmic placement is less than enviable. However, I’ve apologized, so I can live with my faux pas. My religion is as old and enduring as time itself. Once, it covered all of northern Europe. The Vikings worshiped Odin, Thor and Frey, our Deities of the Aesir. We are a polytheistic religion, encompassing three races of Deities; the Aesir, the Venir and the Jotnar (giants who are in a constant state of war with the Aesir). You might also like to know that we, not Christians, originally conceptualized Hell, although we know it as Hifhel. We also have two places of eternal rest called Valhalla (where warriors are carried to eternity by the Valkyries) and Hel (a place of calmness and peace much closer to the Christian view of Heaven than Hell), where the rest of us will go, should we lead exemplary lives.

And you, dear sir or madam (whichever the case may be), are bound straight for Hifhel lest you seek me out for purposes of returning my vice-grips and receiving my forgiveness and blessings. Valhalla would definitely not seem to be attainable for you and that is a shame, no?

You know who you are.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hello again, Murika...

Ever wish you was someone else? I do, I've always wanted to be a goober. You know who I’m talking about, don't you? I've always respected that guy you see at the Quik-Trip early in the morning. He's above average in height and always looks like he’s starving to death. You'll rarely see him without a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, unless he's drinking, of course, and then he'll have a spit-cup beside him to get rid of the effluent portion of his chew. That's why he stays outside a lot, because it's a big hassle, when you’re from Texas, to have to conform to the rules of society. He'd much sooner spit on the floor, but his momma quit doing it, so he figures that what's good enough for momma is good enough for him.

He drives the (mandatory) primer gray 1984 Ford F-150 pickup truck with the rusted-out fender wells and the retro-fit Hurst five-speed shifter, mounted on the floor (pretty much). Someday he’ll get around to filling in the hole in the floor caused by cutting the hole too big; all he had was a SawzAll and about a dozen metal-cutting blades, so the hole is not real neat. Besides, it matches the over-all flavor of the interior, because the hole he cut in the dashboard for the new stereo is a little too big, too. The face place almost covers, except for those two places where the blade got twisted and cut too far, but overall, it works just fine. He only has one tape left, because 8-tracks have a tendency to deteriorate over time. That’s okay, too, because he really likes Black Oak Arkansas. But, what the hell, it runs good when he can afford to keep gas in it. A country boy can survive…

The bed of the truck is pretty much empty, except for a few beer cans and Speedy's cage. Speedy ran off about two years ago, when he took him out to hunt. He figures he'll find him sooner or later, so he keeps Speedy's cage in the truck, just in case. He'd never admit that he misses that damn dog, but not a day goes by that he doesn't think about him... the stupid little shit don't have a lick of sense.

Oh, I forgot, he's also saving up to have glass packs put on his muffler, just to antagonize the cops. He likes to come roaring into town, revving up his engine at stoplights like the #8 car at Talladega Speedway. They hate that...

But, I guess everyone wishes he were something he's not. I'm going to have to learn to accept my lot in life.

Well, gotta go... Dick Cheney is having another one of his attacks and I may get to go into the Oval Office today. I can’t wait to sit in that big leather chair and spin around… maybe even make that Secret Service guy with no neck bring me some Ho-Hos.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Chatham's Ubiquitous Dream

Some of you may have seen a form of this before. I've made a few changes that, I hope, will give the voice a bit more clarity. Thanks...

Chatham's Ubiquitous Dream

Night had fallen... bereft of splendor, no hounds abay, lunar stillness abounding. Scant light crept over heather patches, revealing their multitudes as the close-cropped, gorse-thatched heads of homely children. Summer's breezes found wings, warming other climes; leaving in their absence only subtle, vague remembrances of sweltered August midnights. Reminders of winter’s proximity proved everywhere in evidence. Robert of Chatham reclined against his pack. Placed beneath shield and mace, it provided support for his weary back. Too long in saddle would do that to a man... any man, truly, but more so one of his advancing years. His fingertips positioned themselves against each other, hands supported his chin as he sat—motionless; an unconscious response to years of conditioning, countless hours of waiting for combat in service of a master he would never meet. One unaccustomed to his habits might have thought him in prayer; it would not have been unseemly to presume it. Not this night; all his thoughts flew to her.

Solitary concentration commanded his thoughts. If ambushers overtook him as he sat, so be it; tonight, he would not move to repel it. If wolves ripped out his throat, he would not take up sword against them, so long as her memory cast even faded recollections upon him. His eyes, yet closed, could see her as clearly as if she stood in elegance before him, calling to him. Her arms outstretched, clad in fine blue silk, her long gown shimmered even in lowlight moon. Loveliness, thy name is Arica... royal by nature if not by birth, virtuous beyond reach of all but him. Wretched fate put miles upon miles between them. Robert silently cursed all who kept them apart. Before his God he vowed to find the path to her. Steadfastly, he summoned all powers to act as guides.

Somewhere in the night, his vigilant guard breeched, Morpheus summoned him and the dreams began. She beckoned to him from some faraway place, a shadowy nether-land of dreamers and lovers. There, she gently took him by the hand and guided him deep within her soul, to a place where no one could ever threaten them. Renewal through her was his only wish. No thoughts exclusive of her could find haven in his mind, and sublime feelings of warmth overcame him as he slowly claimed her as his own. Their ritual dance of love swayed rhythmically to the beat of their hearts, ebbing and flowing as channeled energy gave rise to passions only they knew. Crescendo rose and fell, again and again, as Eros carried them deeper and deeper, oblivious to all but their ardor. Then, as he heard her cry out, his eyes opened to the dawn of a new day. Though his sleep had been fitful, he was nonetheless invigorated, and his journey could continue.

This morning, the dew lay heavy on the moors. Filtered rays of sunlight tried desperately to pierce the heavy fog, unsuccessfully. Robert prepared his tack, softly brushing the gathered debris from the back of his mount, Lucifer. The somber, dank atmosphere reeked with foul sentiment, and scarce breeze was present to blow it away. The horse whinnied as Robert stroked him, reminder that they must move on. He realized the animal could not think, in any human sense, but at times, Lucifer seemed to sense trouble. This was such a moment. Robert swung the saddle onto Lucifer's back, and he felt the animal stiffen a little, as if startled by some unseen presence. As he cinched the clasps under the horse's belly, he suddenly removed his broadsword from its sheath and whirled, parrying and hacking at the air, hoping that the unseen challenger would be fool enough to venture near.

Nothing. The knight chastised himself, comparing his actions to those of an overanxious page, a boy with nothing better to do than smite ethereal dragons that threatened his imagination. Perhaps it was time for him to consider Lord Pendragon's generous offer of land and alms. He couldn't fight forever, he knew that.... but every day he delayed lived through him yet another day of service to his King, and why else would God allow breath in his tired body? No matter... if he made it back, there would be time enough for such decisions.

Could he become a man of gentry? And what of Arica, would she be waiting for him? Robert shook his head to clear the disquieting, unwelcome thoughts; reality forced decisions he’d chosen to forestall. Only a fool stayed too long in battle, but a warrior's heart beat different from all others. His coursing blood remained there only to invigorate him, to remind him of his duties, to sustain him for what must ultimately lie ahead. If it spilled on some unseen countryside, mother Earth would accept it as payment for bounties provided, from the man who rode so brazenly across her breast.

The signs of time's scourges were ever-present these days. Every movement offered tribute to battles past, as he went about his routine. His once-magnificent body, now but a shell of its former self, relied on the remnants of past training. His mind, as well, depended on lessons well learned, or so he feared. He had been away too long this time. The aging knight sensed doom, an emotion never before allowed to surface from a primitive bastion deep within him. Robert breathed deeply through his nose to clear the cobwebs and pulled himself up onto Lucifer, as the elegant stallion weakly protested the intrusion. The tanned leather saddle, made for him by the finest leather smiths in Chatham, formed grooves where his legs and rear sat, and today, as he lowered himself onto it, the leather squealed in pain from the extra weight it was forced to endure.

Stop it!
Robert swore under his breath, chastising himself for the foolish indulgences presently consuming him. For God's sake, man, get hold of yourself! Are you a knight or some foolish woman who didn't get her morning cake? As clear as it was becoming that time was stalking him like a thief in the night, he mustn't allow it foothold during the day or it would mean his demise. He rode in silence, mind wandering. But now, it was filled with quiet thoughts, the expansive renderings of a palette too vivid for reality, too lush and promising. He dared not give them credence, for the mere thought of losing them to stark reality was not an option. These memories were too dear, as much a part of him as morning prayers offered to the Blessed Mother. In a way, they were no different, for Arica had taken on goddess-like presence to him. Robert was not delusional, but when he thought of her, his thoughts were of a goddess who had enchanted him throughout his life. Even if he never had the good fortune to hold her in his arms again, he would hold her in his heart. It was all he was allowed to dare ask for, and love cherished would never be allowed to fade.

Fortune masqueraded as the idle child of destiny this day. Even the wind bore inklings of danger. Robert silenced the progress of his mount, listening. All his senses were heightened. He trained his ears to the wind, but could hear nothing. As sure as Pentecost followed the Resurrection, something was awaiting him. He snapped down the visor of his faceplate and gripped the hilt of his broadsword. No man would take him this day for want of readiness. If a fight were to ensue, his foe would claim no victory from ill preparation. Every muscle in his body tightened, every sinew prepared for the impending ambush. It seemed queer to him, somehow. Midday held little hope for success of such a strategy, certainly not a scene that would favor an experienced sniper. Only a young or pitifully inexperienced fool would dare to attack him under such circumstances. He felt only insult as he swung his leg down off Lucifer. How dare some whelp try to gain a reputation at his expense? He gathered the reins in his hand, and as he walked, suddenly he stopped. The trees fell still, even the birds mocked him with their silence. A cold chill overtook him as he felt his body stiffen slightly. He shook violently for a few seconds as the sensation passed. What is happening? Sensing danger when none could possibly be present, incorrectly reading the signs of the wind and the forest... what could be next?

The path, well defined from years of foot traffic, lie bare with worn down grass and weeds. He saw no signs of spoor. A shadow flashed in his peripheral vision, and a faint rustle of twigs confirmed his suspicions. He was being watched. Finally, the first sign that he wasn't losing his mind! The realization buoyed him, steeled him for confrontation. Yet more rustling followed, this time from his right side and slightly behind. Robert tethered Lucifer to a low-hanging branch, watching the horse's reaction. Lucifer, too, though uneasy, turned his head from side to side, looking for an intruder. Slowly, Robert walked between Lucifer and the tree. The only possible avenues of attack were from above or the rear. His hand on Lucifer’s neck soothed the animal, willing him to be still. With the tree at his back and his equine sentinel at his side, Robert lifted his faceplate and stared out into the forest. Then, he heard the voice.

Trusting souls never need protection.

Was it really a voice? Surely not. It was distant, yet the words were clear, he was sure of it! A man's voice, certainly, yet not identifiable…his conscience chastising him, perhaps? Robert’s fear now eclipsed any he could remember. Maybe this is God's way of warning that he's about to die.

A glance at Lucifer revealed nothing. Quickly, he gathered the reins and stepped into the footholds of the saddle. Pressure applied to the reins turned his mount around and he planted both feet in the horse's flanks. Lucifer began to make his way through the trees, his rider ducking and dodging low-hanging branches. Robert felt a disquieting sense of despair. Running from a foe he couldn't see, brought about feelings of shame so strong, it sickened him. Once again, he felt his body start to shake involuntarily.

Without command, Lucifer stopped reeling and began to graze on succulent undergrowth. Bewildered by the action of his mount, Robert tried to utter a command, but issued only a grunt, and a blow striking within his chest surged pain through his arms and legs, causing him to lose equilibrium. Robert tasted the earth as he fell, and lay silent at Lucifer’s feet, unable to move.

The work of demons, surely. The pronouncement offered no pleasure, but knowledge became the servant of action. In the distance, he could vaguely make out a form of human proportion moving toward him. Did a nobleman’s cape ruffle with movement or was it a lady’s gown? Why couldn’t he move, nothing held him down. In the silence, his lips slowly mouthed his Act of Contrition as he prepared to die.


The morning rose soft upon her, bathing her in tones of muted gold and beige. The chantilly-draped windows allowed only the entrance of shimmering sunspots falling upon her supine body, signaling the onset of day and revealing the midriff and shoulders of a lady in repose. Her bedclothes askew and the goose-down covers heaped around her, she looked ever so much a mountain of fluff deposited as the long, continuing night brought her dreams of him. Her eyes still shut tightly, hazy thoughts emerged only half-aware of any distinction between dreams and reality. He was there and he was gone, yet she could feel his breath on her face. But when she tried to reach out for him, she grabbed only the pillow so firmly locked between her thighs. Even so, it could not stop the ecstasy stirring deep within her. Soft purring soon gave way to loud moans emanating from her throat, as her body thrashed against the pillow. A frenzied rage overtook her as she bucked harder and harder against him. Sweet release gripped her, freezing her in suspended animation as her energy burst forth in the fever of white-hot fulfillment.

Was it but a memory... nothing more than the vivid recollections of a foolish girl with nothing else to hold onto than memories of the man who had made her life complete? Reality came calling. Robert would not fail to return, were he able; without him there could be no life in her heart. Fulfilled, she ceded her will to God and closed her eyes. In a trice, she walked in a verdant glade, a place more beautiful than any she could recall. Arica saw him lying in the meadow and offered her hand. No longer would time and space impede their devotion, no longer could the whimsies of purpose keep them apart. Together they walked into the light.

Bob Church © 2001 (Revised 2007)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday with Richard

“He’s waking up, roll him over so we can shoot him in the hip,” I heard the voice say through the befuddled fog. I tried to pull the tube out of my mouth so I could tell them to stop, but the anesthetic prevented my arms from moving. It could not, however, prevent me from screaming as the bullet ripped through my flesh before exiting.


Where did we put yesterday? I could swear I had it right over here… I recall it vividly, and at the time I thought I would have no problem remembering where I put it. Honestly, I thought you’d help me recall, but I see you’re already busying yourself with today, so what am I to do?
One of my potions died last night in the pot. It looked a little like shards of mizzenmast scraped into a clabbered pool of something I can only describe as ectoblastic reticule. Had it not been for the odor, I’m not certain that I’d ever have noticed.
I’d laid the seeds on my counter, although the stupid thing never counted them. So, in total frustration, I decided to plant them as I’d seen gardeners plant seeds in the past—in the shallow part of the stream where the water more sat than flowed. Thinking back on it, it may not have been a stream at all… it actually may have been the shallow end of my neighbor’s swimming pool. Sure, I had to remove a couple of tiles, but I figure that there, at least, the tigers wouldn’t get at them and the chloroplasts could enjoy their endosymbiotic processes in peace.
Even though I lift the toilet seat as though it were a nest of baby birds, I cannot guarantee that one of them might not encounter the slightest touch of icteric rain that might, perchance, leap from the pool.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Okay, listen up... this piece is liable to upset some (all?) of you. It contains a fair amount of rough language and a racial epithet or two. I used them for shock value, because it's language that I've actually heard used and, I'm ashamed to say, used myself. My intent is not to offend, but to illustrate some of the bigotry that falls between the cracks, even in private conversations between spouses. If this sort of subject matter offends you, I respectfully suggest that you read no further.


“Jack, are you happy?”

The zebra-striped referee blew his whistle and a commercial flashed onto the TV screen. Calmly, Jack Grizzard pointed the controller at the screen and pushed the MUTE button. Turning his attention to his wife of twenty-two years, his face betrayed the perplexed emotion he currently experienced. “You want to run that by me again, Martha Jean, I’m not sure I heard you correctly. For a second there, I thought you just asked me if I was happy.”

Martha Jean Grizzard had long gone by the name Mazie, so hearing her husband use her Christian name gave her pause, but she’d come this far and didn’t intend to get short-circuited by his attempt to make light of her question. “I did ask if you’re happy, Jack. Is that such a ridiculous question?”

The Giants and the Seahawks were tied 17-17 with the Seahawks driving for the winning score with less than two minutes remaining in the game, and Jack didn’t want to get cornered into a philosophical discussion that could and most likely would end up in an argument. “Of course I’m happy, girlfriend, who wouldn’t be, living with a gorgeous, smart, sexy little number like you?”

“I mean it, Jack, I need to know, and I need to know now. I’m sick and tired of you coming home, bitching about my cooking, grabbing a six-pack of Bud and heading for the den. Something has to change and pretty damned quick or you’ll be watching football all by yourself!” Surprised by the intensity of her voice, Mazie Grizzard turned away from her husband. Don’t you dare cry, damn it!

A quick lunge with the remote brought the voice of Bill Maas back into their den, giving a voice-over account of how the Seahawks quarterback had just been intercepted and the ball returned for a touchdown by the Giants cornerback. Jack watched for a few seconds and once again pushed a button. This time, the TV went dark and Jack tossed the remote onto the coffee table. “This isn’t really about me, is it? I should be asking you that question, if anyone should. But I don’t need to ask, Sweetie, because you just gave me the answer. I think the proper question is, ‘What do we do about it?’— I’ll let you speak first.”

Jack’s remark left Mazie unprepared to answer. She’d expected a little resistance, at least, and probably a lot more than that. What was he up to? “Oh, I don’t know…” she blurted out, throwing her arms up in the air in exasperation, then folding them across her chest and crossing her legs. Don’t you dare cry she reminded herself, grabbing for the pack of cigarettes on the coffee table. She removed one and almost got it to her lips before remembering that she’d given up smoking nearly six months previous. Throwing it down, she got up and gestured to her husband, “See? See what you make me do?”

Quickly, Jack stood and moved to his wife’s side, trying to embrace her. Opening his arms for her to fall into, he cooed, “It’s okay… what can I do to make it better?”

The words found some hidden place in Mazie’s emotional make-up that triggered her fight-or-flight response. “You want to make it better? You really want to make it better? Well, then, why don’t you just take me in your big, strong arms, pat me on the head, drag me into the bedroom and let me suck your cock before you fall asleep? What sane woman could possibly fail to feel better after that sort of royal treatment? But just in case that doesn’t work, why don’t you have your girlfriend, Charlene, call me a couple more times, ask for you and then hang up after she hears an angry female voice demanding to know who the hell is calling? That’d perk me right the fuck up!”

Hot, blazing eyes now trained their beams on Jack Grizzard as he meekly dropped his butt onto the couch. Arms folded against her breasts, Mazie towered over him, daring him to open his mouth.

“Mazie, I…” Jack stopped in mid-thought, unsure as how to proceed. Certainly, any combative response at this point would only make things worse. “I’m sorry, I guess…”

“You guess? You freaking GUESS!? Twenty-two years worth of shitty diapers, hospital waiting rooms, two-minute quickies with a partner barely sober enough to who or what he’s humping, unappreciated Ground Chuck Surprise instead of the sirloin I’d like to fix if my husband’s salary provided for such extravagances and evenings too numerous to mention watching brain-numbing sit-coms while I wait for my husband to drag his sorry ass home from the gym, club, golf course or tittie bar, and you fucking guess that you’re sorry?”

The ferocity of the words caused a rush of endorphins into her bloodstream, giving Mazie a feeling of euphoric well being not dissimilar, she supposed, to an orgasm, not that she'd ever actually had one. In fairness, thinking back on it, she further supposed that she probably bore some culpability in her repeated failures, but he certainly had never gone out of his way to exercise extraordinary measures in this regard. It suddenly occurred to her that this, too, would need to be addressed before their current conversation ended.

Her immediate anger quenched, Mazie softened, although she refused to remove her stare from the emasculated blob of protoplasm currently oozing across their leather sofa in his attempt to prove that sometimes it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. They’d danced this little waltz on a few occasions in the past, each trip across the floor resulting in her giving in after he refused to reward her anger. Well, not this time, buster, the next one to speak loses.

Seventeen eternities passed as Mazie sat motionlessly, thoughts cascading through her mind as she attempted to think about anything other than her present situation. Nary a movement betrayed either’s position. Both combatants understood the rules of engagement well enough to wage war while waiting. General Mazie sent embattled troops supplies of resolve to her command center in hopes that the icy barrages of dismissal could be absorbed without penetration of her battle lines. Attack, at this point, was ill advised if not inconceivable without exposing her lack of true firepower. He’d have to get up to piss soon enough given the amount of Budweiser imbibed in the last two hours, and while he’s in the bathroom (assuming that he actually opted to use the facilities rather than just take a whiz off the back porch balcony), she’d figure out her next move. Damn!

Noticing that her husband wasn’t scratching any of his naughty parts, Mazie found her mood buoyed by his reluctance and she felt a strange, otherworldly ‘glow’ pass over them, as though the experience was carrying her to a new level of existence. Suddenly, she felt her anger start to dissipate, replaced by some sort of emotion that could only be described as confidence, so she shifted her tactical strategy.

“I want to fuck your friend, Trevor.”


The words sucked all remaining oxygen from the room, forcing a crimson-faced Jack to retreat to the bathroom and slam the door shut. For her part, Mazie merely sat without breathing, the words echoing over and over in her mind. Silently, she waited for the firestorm yet to come, scenes of their life together flickering like a silent movie through her mind. Highlights of the vacation at Carmel, Emily’s first precarious toddler steps, the ridiculous Daisy Mae Halloween costume that foreshadowed her nickname… one after another the snippets lingered then passed, only to be replaced by others, the same innocuous memories she’d been unable to recall a few seconds earlier. The sound of the flushing toilet brought them to an end, forcing her back into the here and now. Soon, he’d walk back into the room and the battle would resume, but this time she’d refuse to accept an inferior position, this time if she had to go down, she’d go down with ‘guns ‘ablazin’, a phrase that she recalled Lee Marvin or John Wayne or Glenn Ford or some other cowboy use in one of the many shoot-em-up westerns she’d endured during the last twenty-two years while trying to spend some ‘quality time’ with her hubby.

But wait… was that water she heard running? Was he actually washing his hands after using the facilities? Surely not… her mind must be playing tricks. However, the door wasn’t opening, and there’d be no reason for him to waste any more time in the bathroom unless he were drying his hands, so it must be true. He was doing something that he knew would astonish and please her, in hopes of softening her position. Good God! Am I winning?

All of Jack’s attention focused on Mazie as he walked back across the room and settled back down on the couch, his eyes projecting a mixture of venom and concern, with a hint of shock and bewilderment thrown in for good measure. He said nothing at first, surveying her like a pitcher looking for the exact right spot to throw his nasty curveball past the league’s best hitter. Then, the words emerged, calmly and resolutely, as if their delivery had been rehearsed, test-marketed and perfected for maximum impact.

“Why Trevor?”

“Thank you.” Mazie’s words lingered, flat as a pancake. Emotionless.


“Well, you washed your hands before leaving the bathroom. I’d given up hope.”

Obviously confounded, Jack looked away, then paused to take another sip of his beer, this time not making eye contact.

“Okay, I’ll play your silly-ass little games, Mazie.” Jack angrily slammed the bottle down onto the coffee table surface. “Why Trevor, I asked you!”

“Yes, you did, Jack.” Mazie responded, once again crossing her legs defiantly. “But the more important question might become, ‘Why not Trevor?’ He’s sweet, good-looking, well-built…”

“…and black!” Jack roared, “Isn’t that really what this is all about? You think you’d like to experiment with some hot black meat injections and find out if all the stereotypes are true?”

Not to be bullied, Mazie offered, “Sure… that’s probably part of it. If I’m going to finally get the opportunity to make a fantasy come true, why should I settle for ground chuck when T-bone is on the menu? Actually, of all your friends, I think Trevor is the perfect choice.”

Again, her husband sat silent… stunned… as much by her willingness to discuss forbidden topics as by her less-than-ladylike language and combativeness, or so she hoped.

“Where’s this all coming from, Mazie? Why do this on a Sunday afternoon?”

“Oh, that’s right, I forgot… I’m not supposed to bother you while football is on.”

“Come on, Mazie, you know that’s not what I mean. You have to admit, you’ve never said anything like this before. It just… it just caught me unaware, I guess.”

No eye contact muddied their waters as Jack spoke. Instead, he picked at the label of his beer bottle—and Mazie recalled the innumerable occasions that she’d heard Jack belittle one of his friends for doing the same thing, stating that anyone who unconsciously picked at his label suffered from the fear of sexual inadequacy.

“Yea, well, honestly, that’s not hard to do, Jack. You’ve been unaware about everything not involving your own orgasms for a long time. You think I don’t have fantasies, too? Just because I don’t spend time with my friends scoping out peter packages at the Hunk-O-Mania Revue, doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it. Don’t try to tell me that you aren’t mind-fucking just about every woman you meet, see or in any way come into contact, either, because I know you better than that! If you intend to keep living with me, your high-and-mighty double standard ends today. I’m forty-two years old, Jack Grizzard, and I aim to find out how much lovin’ there is locked inside this package before it’s too late!”

Jack Grizzard sighed audibly and scratched his head, as though he didn’t totally understand the honesty. “I guess I didn’t realize what an asshole I am.”

Mazie covered her mouth with her hand, stifling the laugh that tried to emerge. “Sorry…” she apologized, “this must be terribly threatening to your manhood. Leave it to me to forget how sensitive you are. I hope I haven’t short-circuited any of your precious sperm production.”

“Are you doing this because you mistakenly heard me yell out ‘Mollie’ last night when I blew my load?”

“Actually, I didn’t hear you yell out anything, Jack; I was too busy blocking out the entire episode from my mind, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since you were kind enough to bring up the subject.”

“So, you’d fuck a nigger.”

“So it's come to this? After twenty-two years, you're supposed to shock me with a racial slur? 'Fuck a nigger?' Is that the best you can come up with, Jack? You sound like a pathetic thirteen-year-old trying to convince one of his buddies that he’s cool.”

Emboldened with a sense of self-righteousness she’d always been afraid to express, Mazie leaned forward and attacked.

“Why not? You pretend he’s your friend so that he’ll take it easy on you and not beat your balls off when you play hoops with him… I figure any respect I could give him by letting him fuck me might be good for your relationship with him. Think of it as my humble attempt to improve the fiber of your regard for each other. Also, please note my disappointment upon finding out how quickly your friend becomes a ‘nigger’ when he’s not actually standing in the same room. Shame on you, Jack, I thought you were bigger than that. Just so you’ll know, it’s a little disquieting to realize that I’ve been sleeping with a closet racist all these years. No wonder you watch sports so much, you suffer from race envy. You wish your cock was as big as his, don’t you?”

“How would you know how big his cock is?”

“Actually, I don’t. But you do, after taking showers with him at the YMCA all these years. That’s why you’re resorting to any tactic to dissuade me. You're intimidated by him, aren't you? Come on, Jack, give me a little credit for not being a total idiot.”

For reasons known only to him, this caused Jack to laugh, starting slowly and silently before erupting into a full-blown, body-shaking horselaugh. Mazie waited silently for his manic behavior to subside. At some point, his face flip-flopping between smirks and pained expressions of displeasure, the laughter faded into small salvos of watered-down grins, finally disappearing completely.

“I’m sorry, Mazie… for a lot of things, actually, not the least of which being that we didn’t had this conversation about ten years ago.”

Not to be dissuaded, Mazie trudged onward. “I’m sure you are, Honeybun, but it’s a little late for soft soap, in case that’s your strategy at this point. It’s going to be pretty difficult to put the toothpaste back into the tube.”

A quiet mood of non-proliferation filled the room for the next few minutes as both Jack and Mazie allowed the heat of the moment to cool in the frosty vacuum of their den, the combatants retreating to bivouac positions where a new offensive could be planned and contemplated before once again resuming hostilities.

Finally, Jack stepped out onto the ice, picking up the TV remote and waving it. “Are we about finished here?”

Without pausing to think, Mazie parried with, “Apparently so”, and walked out of the room.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is anyone listening?

Okay, so the message is vague... not to mention almost a year old... but we'd be well served to take it to heart, I think. Call me crazy, but no matter who you may happen to call 'God', you have to be a little nervous when you consider what's happening globally. As the only species with serious brain convolutions, we're entrusted with stewardship of the planet, and we're failing miserably. No measure of sophistication, no amount of wealth, no carefully-considered scheme to fill the coffers can ever overcome one simple truth:

Everything is finite, including the unique combination of gases we call 'air'.

And, as it gradually disappears, all of it will become increasingly dear. Remember that the next time you pull a voting lever.

That's all... let the tomfoolery resume!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Office Interlude

Okay, sports fans, I need your opinion. I started this story a couple of years ago and I've opened it up about a dozen times, each time staring at it with a stupid look on my face and closing it back up. I don't know what to do with it, or even if it's worth doing anything with. If you see any opportunities for this, please let me know. If not, I'd like to know that, as well. Thanks...

Tidy… not anal-retentively or scrupulously-scrubbed… just tidy. Tina Grier felt no compelling need to spend hours in the bathroom applying this soft-scrub cleanser to her tile or that non-oxidizing, pH-safe skin cleaner to her hands and face. Plain ol’ soap and water would suffice for both, and if people didn’t like it, they could kiss her ass at high noon on Main Street.

Tina’s personal affairs took on much the same philosophy. Never belle of the ball, neither was she apt to sit home on Friday nights waiting for Mr. Right to take pity on her by inviting her to partake of cheap wine as a prelude for hot, sweaty sex. There would be plentiful chances for hooking up at Bibo’s, should she feel the inclination to walk on the wild side. After all, she could clean her own bathroom. Why should she allow a man to assume a non-proportional aliquot of her time… or her heart? Men… you can’t live with ‘em and there’s no bounty on ‘em, so what’s the sense? You want to get close to me with that magic wand of yours, pal, you better show up with trinkets. No, relationships served no purpose except to further muddy the waters of an all-too-shallow stream. Years ago, her brother unwittingly taught her all she needed to know about dealing with the opposite sex when she overheard him explain the Four F’s to Jimmy Gallagher-- find ‘em, feel ‘em, fuck ‘em, and forget ‘em. Life was complicated enough without cleaning up after some drunk Neanderthal who considers farting an art form.

“Stipe, Blick and Rush”. How many times had she repeated that phrase into her headphone as she waited to push the appropriate button on her console? Thousands, certainly, maybe even hundreds of thousands. Nearly as often, she repeated in her mind, Wipe Quick and Flush. It kept her sane wondering when the phrase would sneak out and cost her dearly. Maybe she’d have everyone in the office throw in a few bucks and start a lottery—pick the date and win the money. What the hell, I was looking for a job when I found this one.

“Good morning, Mr. Rush, I’ll connect you.” Yea, like you aren’t already connected. Tina postulated various scenarios involving the partners in this firm. One day, she’d be convinced that Lawrence Rush was a front-man for the mob, the next she couldn’t conceive of him being smart enough to represent a jay-walker. Gallagher was right… working around lawyers closely resembles life in a bowl of granola… what isn’t fruits or nuts is flakes. The thought that one day someone from this motley consortium of misfits might actually wield a gavel or run for political office— well, simply put, terrified her. Briefly, Tina considered the plight of some of the firm’s junior members. How many judges and politicians had climbed the ladder of success on the backs of unfortunate clerks, non-partners and other myriad stooges who were either unable or unwilling to merely refuse to carry the burden? Did any of them even realize they were being played?

The answers would have to wait. If she didn’t get to the break room before the rush, she’d be forced to deal with The Associates, the love-starved bevy of junior barristers who seemed to hover there, never further than a spoon-toss from the coffee pot. No matter what time she took her break, Tina seemed doomed to suffer the indignities of whichever Lothario might choose to exercise his libidinous urges upon her posterior while she poured her coffee... not to mention the new female temp from Three who couldn’t speak without touching her in some way. Why can’t that dike keep her hands to herself, Gawd… Tina wouldn’t put up with it if a man did it, but some women seemed to consider it a form of bonding. If she pitched a bitch, she’d be the office carpetmuncher before lunch.

Long hairy fingers overlapped her own as Tina opened the release, allowing the coffee to pour into her mug. A quick glance over her right shoulder confirmed her worst fears. Seth Wineberg.

“I swear to God, Seth, if you grab my ass today I throw this coffee in your face, job or no job.”

“Well, so much for foreplay...”

“I got your foreplay right here, Smegma-man.” She offered, the third finger of her right hand pointing skyward, unaccompanied by its mates. “This is for you…” Tina added, then pointing the finger towards him, she jabbed at him repeatedly, “and this is for the horse you rode in on!”

Seth Wineberg set his cup down on the counter and grabbed his heart, ala-Fred Sanford. “Are you never going to let me up? Jesus, Tina, I can’t help it that my parents didn’t deign to have their son ceremonially mutilated shortly after birth by way of tribute to some antiquated, and may I add, totally unnecessary religious ritual?”

“Yea, are those the same parents who evidently also felt it unnecessary to teach you any of the finer points of hygiene, choosing, instead, to merely assess your potential and opt to leave you in the forest during your formative years to be raised by wolves? You may be the only male Jew in New York City over the age of six months who considers dick-cheese to be a fashion statement.” Tina daintily blended the creamer into her morning dose of caffeine, rather pleased with her little rant. A self-assured smirk crossed her lips as she stirred. Take that, Counselor.

“Oh, really? You didn’t seem to mind it Friday night when you were giving me he—... Oh, never mind. What’s the point? Have it your way, Tina, you’re a goddess and I’m the frog who didn’t turn into Prince Charming. Better luck on your next trip to the pond.” The young lawyer glared at Tina and turned to depart.

For an instant, she watched him walk away. “You could have called, you know…” Seth kept walking without regard, except to raise his right hand and wave bye-bye to her as he disappeared around the corner.

Tina gulped her coffee quickly and rinsed her cup in the sink before placing it back on its hook. Head down to avoid any eye contact, she marched back to her desk. If the bastard didn’t have such a cute butt, there’d be a bounty on his kind.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Wrong Songs and Left Turns

Evvie Clayton stood on the side of the road, looking directly into the orange fireball on the horizon. She snickered, contemplating the value of the five-dollar sunglasses she’d stolen from the truck stop outside of Winslow. Even with them on, looking directly into the sun caused the rods and cones in her eyeballs to flash and send little light impulses to jump around in the darkness whenever she blinked, accompanied by the tiny round after-image implanted upon her corneas. Certainly this couldn’t be good for her, but the surreal effect brought a little joy, even if only temporary. Maybe going blind wouldn’t be so bad, and even if it were, she might have some company in this or that publicly supported welfare institution provided for the unfortunates stupid enough to have their vision permanently and irreversibly ruined by staring at the sun. Again, she grinned at nothing in particular.

The hard-packed soil beneath her feet offered scant relief but the asphalt would be twice as hot, making the decision to walk in the dirt a no-brainer. Reaching down, she removed her canvas sneakers and poked her toes into an ant pile, digging her feet into the softness of the mound. Of course, the comfort of the soil would quickly be disrupted by the onslaught of soldiers dispatched to defend the castle. Well, she figured, at least it’ll give them something to do tonight. She didn’t really mind the desert except for the disparity in temperature from day to night. Soon, her polyester tee shirt would offer little by way of warmth as the sun yielded its power to the darkness of the Arizona night. In retrospect, she now wished she’d stolen a jacket as well as the glasses. Come on, fellas… surely there’s one horny trucker going to Ajo tonight.

Walking the barrow pit adjoining the pavement, she allowed her mind to stray back to Daddy and the bitch that called her the oldest baby in the world. Fucking cunt…she ought to know about babies, she had three living with strangers throughout the Midwest. I hope he’s getting his money’s worth. But, things are as they are. Daddy made his choice and she’d made hers. He couldn’t be bothered with her, considering all that new pussy being shoved in his face. Well, she isn’t the only pussy in the whole world and Evvie knew all too well the value her own womanhood held, at least in terms of survival. The more subtle aspects of love and family would have to wait. Now, she needed to get to Mexico by whatever means available, and if it meant using the tools God gave her, so be it.
What I never knew, I never will forget. It’s a big old goofy world, and I mean to get me some.


By now, the exercise of peeing outside was no problem, especially when enough light remained to survey the area underneath her before she squatted. Now, with the sun having gone down and no leaves available to facilitate cleanliness, Evvie started to button the fly of her jeans. Better a little moist than snake bit. As she fumbled, she heard the sound of an engine approaching. A glance northward rewarded her with the sight of two headlights speeding toward her. Grabbing the Adidas gym bag that held her belongings, Evvie ran to a spot in the middle of the road, waving her arms and screaming for the truck to stop.

The sound of hydraulic brakes filled the air as a semi with a lighted cross on the hood slowed and stopped in the middle of the road, dwarfing the form of the petite girl now striding towards the cab.

Eternity passed as Evvie looked up at the driver’s window, waiting for a response from inside. The door of the tractor-trailer, immense and imposing, was painted with various numbers and symbols which she supposed to be some sort of code known only to drivers and police officers. Come on, dude, open the window, I won’t bite you.

Finally, the window lowered, offering her the first glimpse of the driver. Outside of the dirty ball cap and scruffy beard, the man’s face offered few clues as to his demeanor. He merely stared at the girl through expressionless eyes.

“You alone, Sweetie?”

Evvie dropped her bag on the pavement and folded her arms in front of her, all the while staring at the dumbest man in the entire world. “Well, I sent my limo driver back to Winslow for some cocktail weenies. I’m sure you’d agree that a martini isn’t much without hors d’oeuvres. I’m expecting him back at any moment and in the hope you might be him, I thought I’d stand out in the middle of the road just so he wouldn’t miss me and drive on by. But since you don’t appear to be a limo driver, I guess I’d have to confirm your suspicions… yes, I’m alone. Any chance whatsoever of hitchin’ a ride?”

”You got kind of a smart mouth, don’t ya’, Missy?” Still no expression, but a puff of smoke revealed his habit.

“It’s Evvie.”

“Oh, its Evvie… is that supposed to impress me?”

Evvie picked the bag up and jumped up on the running board, her arm hooked around the mirror support. “Look, I’m sorry. I just need a ride. If you want, you can just start up and I’ll hold on here. If I fall off, I fall off… its no skin off your nose, either way. I apologize for getting smart. I’ll be good, I promise.”

“You know, I ain’t supposed to pick up hitchhikers…”

“Yea, and I ain’t supposed to be walking across the fucking desert by myself, either, but here we are. Let your conscience be your guide, ‘cause I ain’t gonna beg ya’.”

Now he grinned. “You’re a snotty little fart, ain’t ya’? Do you eat with that mouth?” Motioning with his thumb, he pointed back over his shoulder. “But, I like my women a little ballsy. Get in.”

Evvie climbed up on the passenger’s side and pressed the button to open the door. Even in the near darkness inside the cabin, Evvie’s first glance around left a deep impression. There were so many lights on the dashboard console that she imagined a pull on one of the many levers might reveal a spinning dial stopping on two lemons and a cherry. My luck never changes. Certainly he doesn’t use them all… how hard could it be to drive one of these things? You turn the key, put it in gear and go. Now, stopping it might require a bit more strategy with this big sumbitch, but if this bozo can do it, how difficult could it be?

The seat proved to be soft and luxuriant, the cool leather conforming to her form like a down-filled sleeping bag. Evvie didn’t want to get too comfy, though, God only knows what this guy had in mind for the evening.

“Name’s Handy… Wallace Handy… but everybody calls me Flip.” Extending from his cowboy shirt with the sleeves rolled up, the man’s hand shot out in front of her, his head staring at the driver’s side mirror.

After pulling out onto the road and noticing that she hadn’t responded to his gesture of friendship, he looked at over at her and pulled his arm back. “Okay, if that’s the way it is, so be it. Let’s have a look in that bag of yours, sis.” Before Evvie could move, he’d grabbed the bag and sat it on his lap.

“Hey, goddamn it, get your dick-skinners off my stuff!” Evvie’s attempt to pull the bag from him gained her a meaty forearm across the side of her face, not so much a smack as a deterrent. Once again she started to lunge for the bag, but he held up one finger of his right hand, his glare switching from her to the road, back to her again.

“You’re in my truck now. I aim to find out if you’re packin’. You wouldn’t be the first one who took advantage of the kindness of a stranger.”

“Oh, yea, I’m going to pull out a gun and force you over to the side of the road. Then, I’m going to rape you and steal the seventy-five dollars you keep in that secret pouch right next to your nuts before I drive off in a rig I don’t know how to start, leaving you to die in the desert. Does that about sum it up, big fella’?”

Apparently satisfied that she didn’t have any weapons, he tossed the bag back at her. “If you could find it in your heart to keep your mouth shut for five minutes or so, I’d appreciate it. You’re giving me a migraine.”

The push of a button caused John Prine to start strumming the lead-in chords to “In Spite of Ourselves” and four duets had passed before Evvie moved. Reaching over with her left arm, she touched his forearm and uttered a soft “I’m sorry.”

Wallace “Flip” Handy offered a glance and a small grin of his own. “What for? A person has a right to sound off a little if she thinks her honor is being questioned. Hell, I do it most every day at one point or another… sometimes pretty often.” He pointed to a compartment above her head. “If you’re hungry, you might find something up there.”

In one motion approaching the speed of light, Evvie had both knees up on the seat and the lift-up door open. Reaching in the dimly lit compartment, she put her hands on several small boxes and pulled them out. Junior Mints. Putting them back, she pulled out several more. Yet more Junior Mints.

“Is there, like, any chance at all I’m going to find anything besides Junior Mints?”

A pause preceded a snicker in the dark. “Well… I suppose anything is possible. If it was me, though, I wouldn’t be putting any odds on the likelihood of that happening.”

Grabbing a box, Evvie sat back down and tossed one of the morsels in her mouth. “Why do I feel like I’m in a Seinfeld episode? I half-expect to look over at you and see Kramer dropping a Junior Mint into a patient.”

“Does that make you Elaine or the friend who wore her bra on the outside?”

“Leave me out of this, unless I, like, get the royalties.”

Again he glanced her way. “Oh, so you know about royalties. What else do you get paid for?”

Evvie didn’t look at him. “I won’t even dignify that with a response, other than to tell you that if you try to find out, I’ll do everything within my power as a human being to put every last one of those Junior Mints where the sun don’t shine.”

“Easy, Missy… Not only do you jump to conclusions, you have a dirty mind for someone so young. How old are you, anyway?”

Glints of fire flew from her eyes as she stared at him. “Like you really give a shit…”

“Okay… you got me there. So, Evvie, tell me, who are you running from?”

“I’ll be twenty-four in December.”

“Well, assuming you’re telling me the truth, at least now I know I’m not looking at life in the joint for being a pedophile if I get caught with you in the truck. But, that was a two-part question… come on, fess up… who or what brings you out this way?”

“If I tell you, will that make us, like, engaged or something?”

“Possibly… but only if you’re willing to sign a pre-nup.”

“A what?”

“Never mind, our attorneys will work it out. Have you registered us at Bloomingdales yet?”

“Yea… and the invitations are in the mail. I’m expecting, like, four thousand people. Can you afford Junior Mints for that many?”

“Hell, I figured your daddy would be springing for the wedding. Can I count on him for at least half?”

“I’ll get back to you on that… I’ll have to check with his new bit— er, bride.” Despite her every effort devoted to stifling it, a smile emerged on Evvie’s face.

“Ain’t you a little old to be running away from home?”

“Is that a question? It sounded more like a character assassination from where I sit.”

“Question… accusation… you pick. What do you care, Sweetie? I’m just a trucker with a soft heart trying to make conversation.”

“Well, my beloved, since you put it that way… the likelihood of a question being answered far outweighs that of an accusation. A smart fella’ like you should know that.”

“Okay, Lovie, since we’re so deeply in love and all, I’ll give you the right to assume it was a question.”

“I see. Well then, husband-in-training, ask your question again, but this time, make me believe you really care about an answer you might receive, should I choose to bless you with one.”

Yet another pause ended with his expulsion of air through pursed lips. “Snookums, you’re wearing me out, here. Are we going to do this little dance every time I open my mouth?”

Reaching up to softly touch his cheek, she replied, “Only until you find something other than Junior Mints to put in my mouth, Darlin’.” Then, realizing her faux pas, Evvie quickly added, “Don’t bother reaching for that zipper, either… there probably ain’t enough nutrition in there to keep a bird alive.”

The next several miles passed quickly as two giggling strangers laughed out loud and slapped each other on the arm. In the background, John Prine proved the moment.

In spite of ourselves, we’ll end up swinging on a rainbow…
Against all odds, honey, you’re the big door prize.
We’re gonna spite our noses right off of our faces…
There won’t be nothin’ but big ol’ hearts dancin’ in our eyes.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

A short jaunt I hope you'll take

Those of you who know me understand that I often tend to regress to my time-honored tendency towards excess in all things written and/or oral. Be that as it may, I also take great pleasure in the sharing of information I consider either profound or useful. Below, with the permission of the author, Poetman, I offer information that contains elements of both.

Many of you who visit my site are poets, and, as such, I'm convinced that you'll appreciate a few maxims of wisdom from a poet whose work I must insist that you read. For some time I've linked him, but I highly recommend that you visit his site, if for no other reason, just to read some work that shows a certain virtuosity of voice that I find scintillating. Also, the art work there is spectacular. Without further ado, I give you:

10 things contemporary poets should know about writing poetry

1. Poems are not purely narrative; stories are! If you want to write a story “by god” write a story, but don’t call it a poem. I speculate that most narrative poems are short-short versions of stories written by writers - who don’t have the skill, patience or time to write a whole short story.

2. Free verse does not mean that you should completely ignore rhythms and line breaks. Help your readers – one long ass, run on sentence, without punctuation; that takes up a whole page, is not innovative (it’s already been done). It disrespects your reader’s intelligence, shows the world that you are only merely cleaver, and is pabulum masquerading as a poem.

3. Don’t put two contrasting metaphors in one verse or sentence – it just won’t hold together for your readers. Here is an example: “I was hearing a picture of you standing in a well of feeling looking for water”. That’s a line that truly crashes, as the mind of your reader tries to make sense of the way your use of “metaphors” and “predicates” collides and shatters into each other.

4. If you write a poetry blog as a daily confession about how “no one listens to you” and then choose fonts and contrasting background colors that make it difficult for your viewers to read your pearls of wisdom - then guess what – not only will you not have people listening to you , you won’t have people able to read you either.

5. Consider that applying terms like “Postmodernism” and “Post-Postmodernism” to your poetry is you engaging in an intellectual mind fuck. Good poetry first lands in the heart long before it wends its way to the head (this will always be true, except for those poets and readers who are members of the “I am smarter than you” cabal - hell bent on living their lives in the mind, rather than remembering that just below their noses is this incredible thing called “the body”).

6. If your poem does not shout from the page then no amount of voice or invective will carry it to a listener’s ear when you shout it from a stage.

7. Dear Slam Poet: Isn’t nice that you have found a way to get along with big brother – that you have found a way to be like a corporate cohort smothering the competition - that you have found a way to weed out the weak poets amongst you and in a Darwinian manner leave them bleeding on the stage. Well done O’ ye gladiators of truth justice and the “I am hipper then you way”.

8. Please consider editing. I know that an angel or a devil personally whispered an opus in your ear – and that all of your words are holy, and that you once read Ginsberg stating that the first time is the best time – but that just does not stand up to the test of reading. It’s true that your first draft is a large part of why you write (your reporting the words of a muse, etc.) but remember, writing is a craft, and as craft, your poems should go through several iterations before finding themselves on your blog or printed on a page. And by the way you will be doing all of us a big favor in the process.

9. Read the masters, if for no other reason then to critique them. Study the evolution of poetry in a non-academic manner – who were these poets writing for, how were they received in their own times, what do you love about their poems, and what do you hate about them?

10. Poetry is about resonance; it’s the use of language in a manner consistent with and contemporaneous with its time. Remember the vernacular of the sub-culture of you audience – appeal to them by glorifying their understandings about “place”, “time”, and “dignity”