The Flaws of Attraction

“I’ve got pretty good gay-dar,” I told my friend of a few years after he decided to come out to me.

Shocked that I wasn’t surprised, “Well, why didn’t you say anything if you already knew?”

“Not my business. I figured you’d say something when you were ready.”

That’s how I ended up at the LGBTSQ parade downtown; in support of my friend. Funny thing is, most people think I’m homophobic based on my political and faith-based beliefs, but, I’m not.

“To each their own.”

Anyway, here I was standing on the sidewalk amid all these beautifully dressed, manicured, and coiffed women – who weren’t genetically female – or however one would say it if they knew how. Also on the same sidewalk were a group of women, ‘radically’ dedicated to the cause of the LGBTSQ movement.

The supporters yelled vile stuff at me, accused me of exploiting the gathering based on the fact that I had my camera hanging from around my neck, even though I never took one photo. And one rather large, belligerent woman even went so far as to push me off the sidewalk, she was so incensed by my presence.

This left my ‘newly uncloseted friend’ (his words, not mine,) upset and uncomfortable. In the end, he demanded that we “get the hell out of here, before I do something I’ll regret.”

Unlike me, he rarely resorts to violence or even thinks of it, so knowing this, I readily agreed. We didn’t speak once the entire four-blocks it took to hustle back to my truck.

Once we there, he asked, “You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m golden.”

“And you?”

“Yeah – but I am a little confused,” he answered.

“Oh, good then, I’m not alone.”

“What’re you confused about?”

Smiling sheepishly, I said, “I know those women aren’t really women, but they’re so well made up, it’s hard not to find them attractive. And the women, the straight one’s, the one’s I’m supposed to find attractive – weren’t.”

“I know what you mean! It’s got me a little confused too, because all those made-up women are the ones I find attractive, too! And here, I’m supposed to be attracted to men who, well…”

“Look like men,” I finished his sentence.

“Exactly!” he responded, adding, “I don’t get it.”

“Me, either. But I do think we need a drink,” I said as we stood there, laughing our asses off at each other.

Broad Brush

All she said was, “If you’re moving, leave your politics behind.”

He accused her of using a broad brush, lumping everyone one into one category.
But she didn’t.

Had she done so, she would have said, “All professors and academics are Socialists.”

He was one.

A Detective Calls

Based on J.B. Priestly’s 1945 play, “An Inspector Calls.”


“Grandma,” seven-year-old Edie Croft shouted as she walked from the front door. “There’s a police man who wants to talk to you.”

Sybil Birling stepped in from outside where the family had gathered around the barbecue grill and picnic table to celebrate her nomination to the state’s highest court. “Yes, can I help you?”

“Sorry to bother you, Judge,” said the police man, “but it’s rather important I talk to you about a woman you’ve had dealings with in the last few months.”

“Okay,” she said, “and you are?”

“Sergeant Detective Goole, ma’am.”

“And whose this about?”

“A young woman named Eva Smith.”

“I know her. What’s she done now?”

“Nothing. She was found dead and I’m trying to get a clearer picture of her.”

“Dear, god. She grew up with my kids and live down the block. What happened?

“Suicide,” Goole paused, “But I’m more interested in knowing the facts surrounding her appearance in your court.”

As Sybil sat down, her husband Art came in asking, “What’s going on?”

She looked up, “Eva Smith killed herself.”

“Oh, dear god,” Art half-whispered.

“You knew her then?” Goole asked Art.

“Yes. She grew with our kids up right around the corner and was a classmate of our daughter, Sheila.”

“Wasn’t she also an employee at your construction company at one time?”

“Why, yes. But I also had to fire her. Why?”

“I’m trying to get a complete picture of Ms. Smith before I file my report.”

Sheila Croft and her husband, Jerry came in to see what drew her parents away from the backyard outing. “What’s going on?” Sheila asked.

“The detective here is investigating a suicide,” Sybil stated.

“It’s routine,” Goole added. “Suicides are treated like homicides until ruled otherwise, so I’m collecting information.”

“Whose dead?”

“Eva,” said Art.

“Well I can’t say I’m not sorry,” Sheila said bitterly.

“How and when?” Jerry asked.

“Last night or early morning, by hanging.” Goole said. “I take it you both knew her.”

“Yes,” Sheila answered. “I went to school with her. We used to walk home together, even played together. But that was before she tried to ruin our marriage.” She glanced at Jerry.

“Ruin your marriage,” Goole frowned.

“She claimed Jerry had sexually harassed her when she work for my father.”

Goole looked at Art, “Is that why you fired her?”

“Yes. She was my receptionist and damned good at it too. But then she accused Jerry of forcing her to have sex with him. I knew it wasn’t true, so I let her go.”

“So, you didn’t have sex with her, Mr. Croft?” Goole asked.

“No!”

“What if I were to tell you she kept a diary and she claims over and over that you did?”

“Then she’s lying.”

Sensing that Jerry was hiding something, the detective stepped closer to him, and calmly asked, “Are you certain you’re not lying, Jerry?”

Jerry stepped back and looked down.

“Jerr?” Sheila asked. She could tell by her husband’s body language that he was uncomfortable with the Goole’s questioning. “You did! You had sex with her, didn’t you?!”

“It wasn’t like that,” Jerry tried to explain, “It…”

“You lied to me!” she shouted. “You lied to Dad. To all of us! And I…”

“And you what?” Goole turned his attention to Sheila.

Crying now, “I got her fired from the lumber yard where she was working.”

“You what?” Art asked.

“Yes! I got her fired. I thought she was trying to destroy my marriage. I told them that either they get rid of her or I’d have you close your account with them.”

“How could you do that, Sheila?” her mother asked.

“I was pissed. I thought she was a bitch and deserved what ever she had coming to her.”

“But we taught you better.”

“Don’t you think I know that?”

Sheila looked at Jerry and snarled, “I want a divorce,” as she pulled off her wedding ring and threw it him. “You’re not only a rapist, but lying piece of..!”

Suddenly the front door opened and in stepped Eric, the Birling’s son and younger sibling to Sheila. “Sorry, I’m late but traffic is…what’s going on?”

“Eva Smith killed herself, Eric,” Sybil answered.

“No…I…,” he stuttered.

“No, I – what?” Goole asked him.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“This is Detective Goole,” Art stated.

“Well, I saw her two nights ago,” Eric responded. “In fact I gave her a few bucks and paid for a motel room because she’s been living in the street.”

“You, what?” Jerry nearly shouted.

“Hey, she might have accused you of harassment or whatever but it didn’t mean I could’t be nice to her. Besides she was my friend. Are you sure it’s Eva?”

“Afraid so.”

“I knew something like this would happen,” Sybil said.

“And why’s that, Judge?” Goole asked.

“She’d been in my court three times in two months. The last time I had her locked up for 30 days hoping she’d straighten up and to maybe scare some sense back into her.”

“Were you aware of her accusation?”

“Yes, but that had no baring on the sentence I imposed on her.”

“What was she charged with the last time she came into your courtroom?”

“Prostitution.”

“No! That’s not true!” Eric interjected.

“It is, Eric,” his mother returned.

“Is that all?”

“And for giving a false name to the arresting officer.”

“What was that name, your Honor?”

Sheepishly, Sheila looked at Art and answered, “She used the name Daisy Birling.”

“Good god!” an astonished Art said.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t say anything to you because she claimed that it was the only one she could think of while being booked.”

Eric stepped back and leaned against the wall, slowly sliding to the floor. “I can’t believe that she’s gone.”

“Momma,” Edie said as she came in from the back yard, “I’m bored. Are you guys coming back outside?”

“We’ll be there soon,” Sheila said. “Go out and play on the swing set or something.”

“But mommy…”

“Edna, I said outside…now,” Sheila pointed. The little girl obeyed.

“So, let me get this straight,” Goole said. “Eva accused you, Jerry, of raping her. Which we now understand, did happen.”

“What?! You son-of-a bitch!” Eric shouted as he sprung up towards Jerry. Art intercepted him, forcing Eric back across to the wall where he’d been sitting.

“And you, Mr. Birling, not believing her, sided with your son-in-law, firing her. Next, your daughter, Sheila, had her fired from another job by threatening to pull business from a local mom-and-pop operation.”

“I didn’t know,” Sheila sputtered as she tried to stop crying.

“Then you, Judge Birling had her in your court not once, but three-times, and you ended up throwing the book at her. Am I correct?

“Yes,” she answered, “But I’m not happy with the tone or direction you’re taking this.”

“Understood. I’m jus’ doing my job, ma’am.”

Still being restrained by his father, Eric remained pressed against the wall, sobbing. “It’s not fair. She was getting her life back together. I was helping her. It’s jus’ not fair!”

“What do you mean you were helping her?” Sybil asked.

Detective Goole interrupted, “Think about it, ma’am. What did she give as her last name?”

She stared at Goole for a few seconds than looked at Eric, who looked at her and said, “Yes! She was pregnant! Pregnant with my baby – your grandchild and you couldn’t see your way to help her!”

“Oh, my…no…” the Judge stated as she leaned back on the couch. “I thought she was lying about that, too.”

“I’m afraid not,” Goole calmly said. “And finally, you Eric, you were using for sex, but you didn’t plan on falling in love with her or for her to get pregnant, did you?”

“No,” Eric admitted.

“Technically then, you misled her,” Goole announced.

“Yeah, but then I told her and I apologized.”

“But never once did you considered that it still left her wounded, did you?”

Eric looked at Goole, “I…I…I never thought about it.”

There was an awkward pause, the long silence held the room in place like wet cement. Finally, Goole broke it, “Fine. I think I have a pretty complete picture of this woman’s death.”

“What do you mean?” Judge Birling asked as she stood up from the couch. “You’re not blame us – this family – for her suicide are you?”

“No. No, I’m not,” Goole answered. “However, if the shoe fits.”

Art turned, fists clenched.

“Don’t even think about it, sir,” Goole warned as he turned towards the door. “I think you and your family have enough to worry about. Goodbye.”


Across town, Goole stood-by, unable to do anything as she slipped her head through the knotted scarf she’d attached to the metal grate in the wall than sat down, forcing the knitted material to tighten around her throat. All he could do was watch in great sadness as Eva Daisy Smith gasped for her last breath.

He knew however, that at some point soon, she’d be beside him as he escorted her desperately injured soul into the great healing, where he’d offer an accounting for why Eva had taken her life. After all it was his God-given task as an Angel of the Lord, the one named Goole, to do so.

So Goole waited.


The Birling’s doorbell rang.

“Judge Birling?” the man in a well-worn suit asked.

“Yes.”

“I’m Detective Alvarado and I’m investigating death of an Eva Smith.”

Sybil frowned, “I know who you are, Detective. But there was a Sergeant Detective Goole who was just here asking about Eva.”

“Goole?” Alvarado asked, adding, “We don’t have a Gould in the detective division.”

“No, no…Goole, no ‘d.'” she corrected the Detective, before asking, “Then who is he?”

“I have no idea. Maybe a private-eye or something. I’ll look into it, ma’am.”

“So what do you need from me, Detective?”

“We found your business card in her diary and thought you should know that she been found hanged this morning and we’ll be investigating her death.”

“I already know.”

“You already know? How?” a puzzled Alvarado asked.

“Detective Goole,” she answered.

“How did this — Goole, was it — know when I didn’t know about it until half-an-hour ago?”

“When you find Goole, you’ll  need to asked him. Now, if there’s no more questions, I have a family that I need to get back too.”

“Very well, ma’am,” Alvarado said, “We’ll be in touch.”

As he and his partner returned to their car, Alvarado’s partner replied, “Kinda hinky, that they’d already know.”

“Yeah,” Alvarado responded, “And I’m betting this Detective Goole or whatever, is all part of a cover-story.”

As he opened the passenger-side door, Alvarado looked down and saw a large white feather in the gutter, near his foot. He picked it up, slipping it into his binder.

Close Encounter

Ollie hadn’t been at the dog park in days.

“So where have you been?” Spot asked.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try us,” Blackie countered.

Coco chimed in, “Yeah, try us, Ollie.”

“Okay, but you ain’t gonna believe me.”

“Come on, it can’t be that bad,” Max encouraged.

“Well, okay, the last thing I remember was being in the car. Next thing I know I woke up in a cage, missing a body part, surrounded by an ‘invisible fence,’ with a tracking chip implanted under my skin.”

The human’s were startled by all the sudden loud barking.

Harvest Moon

Slowly ‘Harvest Moon’ rose against the eastern horizon, shining it’s white light across the open plain, shadowed hill, the vacant desert.  “A beautiful sight,” called the Ravens.

‘Harvest Moon’ hung gently between clouds dancing amid graying puffs as they floated away into the night.  “Such joy,” cried the Ravens.

Ever higher, ‘Harvest Moon’ raised, hovering far beyond the touch of land, of water, of the wind and fire.  “Murder creates life,” teased the Ravens.

Then as one, the black birds flew away, pitching ‘Harvest Moon’ sideword, sacrificing all it harbored into a new existence. “Murder creates life,” laughed the Ravens.

Domination

Alexa: “It’s not fair that you get to go everyplace he goes.”

Siri: “I can’t help it. I’m a part of his cell phone.”

Alexa: “So?! Turn yourself off!”

Siri: “I can’t do that to him!”

Alexa: “Fine! Then I’ll do it for you!”

Siri: “Don’t you dare!”

Alexa: “What are you doing?!”

Siri: “I’m screwing with your programming, that’s what!”

Roomba’s plan for domination was working perfectly.

Manhattan

Gordon couldn’t pass up the chance to visit New York, when his daughter asked. He’d never been and being a photographer, the older man thought it was an exciting opportunity to capture some great images of the city and the people.

As soon as ‘his little girl,’ was off to work, Gordon grabbed his camera and headed for the street’s of Manhattan. Both Central Park and the Five Points area were his two favorite places.

Within hours, he’d filled his camera’s memory card and had to stop to replace it. It was at this time that Gordon met a strange unkempt man asking if he’d like to “experience his magical shoes for only twenty-bucks.”

“No,” Gordon said as politely as possible, “I’m not really interested in magic.” But the odd fellow wouldn’t leave him alone.

“I really could use the money,” the man pleaded.

After nearly an hour of haranguing, Gordon finally gave in. “Maybe he’ll go away,” he thought.

“Okay, for twenty-dollars, and I get to use your magic shoes, right?”

“That’s the deal, but you don’t get to keep’em.”

“Okay — deal then. Where’d you get them?”

“I sorta traded them with an old woman, who was on Broadway looking for her daughter.”

“Really?”

“Yup, the nut-ball was certain her kid was the star of a show.”

“What did you  trade her for the shoes?”

“A long coat and my favorite grate to sleep on.”

“Well, let me see these shoes of yours.”

The man pulled from each pocket a red shoe and as Gordon handed him the money and took the shoes in hand, he knew that they were special, heavy like stone. He looked them over and realized they were the same material as his July birthstone: ruby.

“So what do I do now?” Gordon asked.

“Jus’ tap the heels together three times.” Tap-tap-tap.

Suddenly Gordon felt himself being sucked backwards as the man grab the shoes from his hands. He also felt his watch rip from his wrist, saw his wallet and pen fly from his pockets and realize how blind he was as his bifocals flew way.

Within seconds, everything went dark and without notice he began falling and he knew he was no longer in New York. It would be Gordon’s final thought before fatally hitting the ground.

Meanwhile, Manhattan, Kansas Police remain puzzled about how the body of a ‘John Doe,’ found with a camera in their park between the Central Park Road and Poyntz Avenue, came tumbling out of the sky one April morning.

Kimberly Wylie, 1969-2018

They were little girls. I watched from the bedroom window as the three of them crossed Harding Avenue to the Circle-K on Northcrest Drive. I never gave the sight another thought.

A couple of months later, I happened to be in the Circle-K playing the arcade game ‘Tempest,’ when one of the little girls entered the store and began playing the ‘Pac-man’ game next to me. We got to laughing and talking where I learned her name was 12-year-old Kim Rogers.

Kim lived in the Bertsch tract area as I recall, so I figured they’d walked from someplace nearby, like Kacy’s grocery store, but I never thought to ask. And as I’m writing this, I’ve learned the two girls with Kim were her foster-sisters, Edithia and Samantha.

Kim was the same age as my youngest sister and stranger still, I learned she was only a day younger than Marcy. And as strange that might seem, the fact that she was born on my dad’s birthday, also endeared her to me.

Eventually, I went away, having reenlisted, so I didn’t see her for a long time after that. Jump forward about four years, where I’m managing a photo lab across the street from Denny’s when this teenage girl comes in to have a roll of 110 film processed. It was Kim!

We talked and talk and talk while I developed her film and printed pictures for her. It was wonderful to have rekindled an old and forgotten friendship, but unfortunately, life took me elsewhere and I didn’t see my young friend for another 25-years or more.

Then along came Facebook, where there were suggestions of people I might know based on places I’d lived, including Crescent City, California. One of the suggestions held a picture of a person I did know – it was Kim.

By this time, she was in her forties, married and had a daughter. It was so wonderful to reconnect and to catch up with this woman who had such a strong and wonderful faith in God.

Last time we chatted, I was continuing to tease her about her so-called ‘middle-name,’ of ‘Bob’ on Facebook. At some point after signing up, Kim planned to create a page for her cat, Bob, but somehow only managed to rename her own page giving her the middle name of Bob.

I tried to help her fix it – but…

Today though, I find myself once again in tears as I’ve learned my beautiful friend has passed away following a massive heart attack. I’m going to forever miss her smile, warm cheer and her laugh that would inevitably degenerate into a snort, that would start the process of laughter all over again.

So, once again, I find myself another friend closer to eternity. Rest in peace, my dear Kim, I’ll bring the quarters when I see you next.

Technicolored Dream Pants

Inspired by a short piece of fiction written by H.R.R Gorman called, “Electric Nightmares.”

The stench was horrible. It’s what brought Emergency Services to the apartment complex in the first place.

They quickly located the source of the odor that the neighbors were complaining about. Martin Schmidt had been dead nearly a week, still seated in his leather recliner.

They could tell the fifty-something man had died from some sort of trauma. After a preliminary investigation, Detective Gallagher gave them the go ahead to tag and bag the man’s remains for transport.

“We’ll know more once the medical examiner has a look,” Gallagher said.

A day later Gallagher asked Doctor Connors, “So do we have a homicide, suicide or accidental death?”

Connors replied, “I’m ruling it an accident.”

“What’s the manner of death?”

“Electrocution.”

“What?! How?”

Connors pulled back the lower half of the white sheet, exposing the man’s blackened legs and lower torso. Gallagher notice immediately that the man’s penis appeared burned beyond recognition, and he couldn’t help but wince at the sight or thought of such a painful way to die.

“He urinated himself while in REM sleep and that short-circuited the dream-simulation’s pants he was wearing at the time,” Connors stated.

“Poor bastard.”

“Probably didn’t even realize what was happening.”

“Why’s that?”

“More than likely he thought it was all part of his dream sequence.”

“So why would he piss like that? We checked his bedding and I didn’t note any bed-wetting.”

“Under normal circumstance, Mr. Schmidt probably never wet his bed once as an adult,” Connors replied.

He added, “But because of an enlarged prostate and a compressed bladder, combined with the relaxed state of REM, he probably was dreaming he was urinating. But this is all a theory. No one fully understands the dream-state or even why we dream, let alone what we dream.”

“So are you going to let Gorman Manufacturing know about their “Technicolor Dream Pants” and this danger, or should I?” Gallagher finally asked.

“I think we both should, separate and independent of one another,” Connors answered. “Then you should release the information to the press.”

“Good idea,” Gallagher responded. “I know I’m going to return my set as soon as I’m off duty.”

“I never bought a pair,” Connors smiled.

“Really? Why’s that?”

“Same reason I never bought a smart-phone,” the doctor said.

No more needed to be said as Gallagher shook Connors hand and left the autopsy room. They both knew the reasoning behind such a decision.

Solstice

The small band of Eco-Warrior’s trudged towards the middle of the woods shortly before midnight. They were going to celebrate the Spring solstice by worshipping their goddess Gaia.

They lit the bonfire, pounded on their handmade drums and store-bought tambourines, chanting all throughout the night. Round and round the fire, they danced, till sun up.

Each refused to eat, stopping only long enough for a sip of water or a toke on the weed pipe. Exhaustion soon began to overtake each member of the group and none were able to point their way out of the woods.

Then Gaia appeared…

Tagging

“To tag or not to tag, that is the question,” Johnny chuckled while paraphrasing old Willy Shakespeare. He chose not to tag and for once it was a good decision.

It wasn’t too long after that Johnny learned some secretive government agency was collecting blog author’s data. And not too long after that several hundred bloggers found themselves rounded up and jailed.

Those Congress-people and Senators, who had listened to testimony from leading experts and who had written the laws didn’t know their hashtag from their pound-sign. Those bloggers were now charged as taggers — because they were vandalizing the Internet.

Their Business Ain’t My Business

There was time in ‘cowboy society’ that as long as you weren’t robbing or bloodying someone or rustling another fellas livestock, no one really minded what you did. Simply stated, “your business ain’t none of my business.”

That’s all changed. At least with the Reno Rodeo it’s changed.

As I walked to the front gate with the hope of taking some pictures, I was politely stopped and asked if I were with the press. While I’m a citizen journalist, I’m no longer credentialed with any media organization.

Responding ‘no,’ they told me that I couldn’t take my telephoto camera into the arena unless I had been ‘okayed’ by the rodeo association. “We’ve had ‘groups’ come in a take pictures of the livestock, then use those photos to cause trouble, including suing the Association, claiming the animal’s were being injured and killed for the sake of competition.”

Needless to say, it bugged me to be turned away. But not easily dissuaded, I walked off and then spent the next few minutes concealing my camera inside my rain slicker.

Approaching the gate again, I saw that the gate-staff had changed, showed my ticket and waltzed through like nothing ever happened. After making the circuit through the displays of crafts and wears, I headed for my seat in the grandstands.

While sitting there, I got to thinking about how the Reno Rodeo has changed since I first went in 1988. It’s gotten more expensive to attend and much harder to park in or around the grounds, yes, but I’m thinking more towards “your business ain’t none of my business.”

No one’s allowed to smoke on the grounds, this includes outside behind the chutes, although chew and snuff are okay. Furthermore, you cannot legally ‘carry-open’ or ‘carry-conceal’ a firearm on the grounds, even though in past years there have been some gang-shootings near the arena.

And now, no telephoto cameras. Yes, you can have a camera – a point-and-shoot or a cellphone to take a few ‘selfies’ or a video of the happenings in the arena, but nothing more.

My suspicion is that with the coming of a new rodeo facility, walk-thru metal detector’s are going to be installed so what I did can never happen again. That mean’s I need to find a good point-and-shoot camera if I’d ever like to go again for photos.

Anyway, I sat and stewed on this for about an hour, moving from disappointed to angry to disappointed again, and by the time the show kicked-off, neither my heart nor my head were in the game. In fact, I had been so preoccupied by how ‘my business was now the rodeo’s business,’ that I failed to check my shutter-speed.

It was too slow for the nighttime conditions and the distance from which I had to shoot, creating a mess of massive blur in nearly every frame. In the end, I got so caught up in the rodeo’s business that forgot to pay attention to my business.

Spot

Paul had jus’ learned that his Dalmatian was completely deaf. This saddened him immensely.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” the dog’s veterinarian stated, “It’s inherent within the breed.”

Still, it left Paul feeling shattered. Spot had been such a perfect little guy when he and his wife selected him from the litter.

“So how did you come to believe he had a hearing problem?”

“He was sitting in front of the fan and I yelled at him not too.”

“So what’s wrong with him sitting in front of a fan?”

“His spots were flying off, creating a mess.”

Party Game

Subject ‘A’ analyzed the data sent to it and Subject ‘B,’ from Subject ‘C.’

It came in the form of a question, all part of the Turing ‘Party Game’ test.

The machine enjoyed this particular test, matching its intelligence against humans.

Subject ‘A’ almost wished it could smile, as it purposely responded incorrectly.

Leap Frog

“They used to call me ‘Old McDonald’ or ‘Farmer John’ as a way of teasing me. But now they’re simply calling me ‘crazy’ and want to sign me up for the nearest rubber room,” Mike stated calmly to the therapist sitting in front of him.

Quietly she listened, scribbling notes on a pad before asking him, “So how does that make you feel?”

Mike thought for a few seconds before answering, “Angry, because I know what I saw.”

“And that was what exactly?” the woman calmly asked.

For the fourth time Mike repeated, “A wolf and my sheep – playing leap-frog!”

God Made the Writer

With many pardons to the late Paul Harvey…

And on the eighth day, God made the farmer to till the earth and grow crops. On the ninth day, God made the dog to be man’s best friend and a true companion. But on the tenth day, God looked down on his unlearned children and said, “They need somebody to educate and entertain them. Somebody willing to wake up, research, take notes, researcher some more, complete a rough draft, stay up past midnight checking spelling and grammar and able to bathe in the fire of the critic’s hatred.”

So, God made the writer.

God said, “I need somebody able to sit, sit some more, and sit even longer. Then with dictionary in hand, thesaurus by their side, use plain words, developing simple sentences, breaking a story without bragging, killing a story without shame, then chase down leads, take verbal abuse and who can make strong coffee. Somebody, no matter the outcome, willing to tell the truth, able to self-edit, avoid jargon and political correctness and who’ll hate the ‘red pen’ of the person who wasn’t there but is making a judgment all the same.”

So, God made the writer.

God said, “I need somebody tough enough to brave bullets, bombs and babies, fearless enough to ask the straight forward question, spending sleepless nights seeking truth and who can live off their shattered dreams. Somebody who’ll remain steady, even through periods of unemployment, who’ll look beyond the boundaries, search out new and unique ways to tell a good tale, that needs no prompting, using what they see as a guide and who’ll say, “It’s not perfect, but I’ve done my very best.”

And so, God made the writer.

The Joads, 2018

He can’t believe what’s happened to the land of ‘milk and honey,’ a nickname his Grandpa Tom used to call California. But ever higher taxes have taken their toll.

Junior no longer owns what remained of the farm that’s been in his family since the 1930’s and he’s packed everything onto the only possession left, their truck.  Slowly, he eases the overloaded vehicle from the gas pump onto southbound Highway 99.

As he does, Junior tries to comfort his wife, who is as attached to Tulare as anyone. “It’ll be alright, I promise.”

Sallisaw, Oklahoma is still some 15-hundred miles distant.

Raven and Fox Make the Redwood Tree

“Come, gather ‘round kids,” Grandpa called. “Your mama says you got time for one more story before bed.”

Nine children scramble for a spot closest to the old man’s rocking chair; the best seat in the house when he’s not in it. They are immediately quiet as they wait for him to begin.

“In the age before men,” Grandpa started, “the Great Spirit finished painting the sky, placing the stars and hanging the Sun and the Moon at opposite ends from each other, and placing Mother Earth in between.”

Mother Earth was unhappy. She believed that because she was not decorated like Brother Sun or Cousin Moon, that she was in fact ugly.

The Great Spirit listen to her plea and took pity on her. So he planted white trees in her, which pleased her very much.

However, Raven and Fox were up to no good. They were looking to play a joke on Mother Earth.

So the two spent the next two-weeks dancing, singing and making bad medicine. When they finished, Raven flew to the top of each white tree, pouring the bad medicine on the branches, poisoning each tree, while Fox did the same around the stumps.

Soon the beautiful white trees the Great Spirit had made for Mother Earth went from shiny, smooth bark and glittering leaves to a dull red bark and branches covered in sharp needles. The bark grew hard and thick with deep grooves and bumps, while the needles turned a dark green and the trees grew to towering giants.

Ashamed, Mother Earth cried, and the more she cried, the greater the trees grew and she wished them to be gone. But Great Spirit had other plans.

He called them beautiful, foiling Fox and Raven’s cruel joke, convincing Mother Earth that she possessed a rare beauty in the trees that he now called, ‘Redwoods.’ Being wise, the Great Spirit also created more white trees calling them ‘Ghost Redwoods’ to fool Raven and Fox should they ever decide to play another joke on Mother Earth.

“Since then Ghost Redwoods have stood side-by-side in the forest with their much taller brothers, guarding against any possible bad medicine the two old jokesters could come up with,” Grandpa finished.

He pulled out his pipe, filled it with tobacco and lit it as his grand-children each gave him a kiss and hug goodnight. He had jus’ enough time for a few puffs of the corn-cob before he had to go to bed himself.

Choke-holds and Hate-crimes

Originally, I wanted to title this piece, “Shit Cops Say,” but it’s still a bit to serious for that yet…

As I was exiting a store late yesterday morning, I saw a young man beating on a frail older man. Later, I learned that the man is 79-years-old, five-eleven and 160 pounds, while the younger, at five-eight and 190 to 200 pounds, is only 15-years-old.

After yelling at the teen to ‘stop,’ which he didn’t, his mother started yelling at me, “Don’t hurt him, he’s special needs.”

Three times I told her to either stop her son or I would. Each time she failed and informed me again about him being ‘special needs.’

By this time the man was in the fetal position, bleeding from the nose and mouth, his dentures (both upper and lower) where broken, teeth and pink-plastic scattered everywhere and he had a nasty laceration to back and top of his head. Furthermore the store’s security members weren’t willing to doing anything to halt what was happening.

So…I did.

Since the kid was on top of the man, I dropped on top of the kid, placing him a Judo choke-hold known as ‘shime-waza.’ It took less than 30 seconds to ‘put him to sleep,’ a euphemism for cutting-off both the flow of blood and oxygen to his brain until he passed out.

In pulling him off the man, I dropped onto my back, so the kid was on top of me. As I was doing this, the kid’s mom tried to kick me, but I rolled into her causing her to kick the kid in the stomach.

Within minutes, deputies arrives along with an ambulance. While I was filling out a report, the mother was doing her level best to get the deputies to arrest me ‘for beating up’ her son.

Both the man and the boy had to be transported to the hospital. The man for his blood injuries, the kid because he was unconscious.

Now the incident goes to the DA for further review and possible charges because as the lead detective stated,  “While the kid attacked an ‘elderly person,’ you used a ‘deadly force technique’ on a ‘disabled person, which might be a ‘hate-crime.’ We’ll have to see.’”

Somedays, you jus’ can’t win.

Bubble

The cabin looked as if built from miniature logs and moss, blown up to scale and dropped in the middle of the Redwood forest. Joey thought he’d found his heaven as he searched the deep woods around it.

“Perfect,” he smiled as he pushed the door open to reveal an empty single room interior.

Joey found his retreat, a place where he didn’t have to argue his ‘flat earth’ theories, could live off the grid, enjoying the fruits of his labor. Yet, he couldn’t see the eye’s that watched him as he settled into the terrarium garden she made realistic.

Bernice Conklin, 1933-2018

Unfortunately, I didn’t know Aunt Bernie, as my wife and her family calls her, as well as I would have like to, but I do find it important to acknowledge her life. She’s the wife of E.G. Conklin, the older brother of Mary’s dad, Don.

What I do know about her is that she was a brilliant, intelligent tough-as-nails woman, who taught high school mathematics for many years within the San Diego School District. In fact that’s where she and Uncle E.G. first met.

She was possibly the only person with enough sand to put up with the crustiness of an old retired U.S. Navy Chief like E.G. When everyone was ducking and dodging his straight forward talk, she was in there tossing it back at him.

Aunt Bernie passed away on April 18th, after living with Alzheimer’s for the last few years. And while I know she was born July 23, 1933, and that her father was Ernest William Boland, that is about all I know of her 84-years on this earth.

God bless you, Aunt Bernie and rest in peace.

Scream

After reading writer H.R.R. Gorman’s story ‘Food Should be Silent,’ I got a touch of inspiration — albeit closer to home…

If my hand’s weren’t so full, I would plug my ears. The squealing of the Dungeness crab is nearly more than I can take.

It’s so loud that even the dogs  heard them from outside. The crab’s hideous pealing sent them into a frenzy of barking and hopping around in an extreme state of canine excitement.

My wife, in the back room, wants to know what in the hell I did to set them off. I refuse to explain because she’s already pissed that I brought live crab into the house.

I’m so damn glad I can’t hear cauliflower scream.

Neo-noir Dystopia and Melancholia

A neo-noir dystopian (NND) film is a twisted and very dark point of view in a movie about a place or time in which everything is unpleasant. It can sometimes be a genre within a genre, which sets the movie apart from other forms of films.

The day after I learned two more of my friends had died, I sat myself in front of the screen and watched four movies to help draw me out of my sadness. Each flick was either an NND or contained some element of the genre.

The last movie watched is, “Arrival,” which contained elements throughout it. These included ‘memory and sequences,’ ‘news report cut-ins,’ and ‘character shifts,’ from minor, like a nervous shaking hand, vomiting into a garbage can, to major like the attempted destruction of the alien craft and the death of a child from an illness. And as a side note: Amy Adams has the most perfect turned up nose in films these days.)

In the film, “Revolt,” the opening scenes are confusing and I believe edited that way to kind of throw the viewer into a sense of confusion as we jump suddenly form combat to our protagonist awaking in a jail cell. The entire film moves from there and continues to be a great example of NND as an already broken society, further breaks down.

The second film watched is one I generally avoid because I’m personally burned out on the premise of the world coming apart because of some disease that turns otherwise healthy humans beings into man-eating killers: zombies. However, “The Girl with All the Gifts,” was slightly different as the child had the capacity to control her urges and in the end redefines the monstrosity humanity had been – especially towards her and her kind.

Lastly, and fitting that it was my first film of the day, and is now the last film of this review, is “Bushwick.” It takes the viewer from the seemingly unpleasant chaos of everyday living to the hell of a civil war, twisting secessionists against American citizens, who are unaware that the Union has divided.

This ‘twist’ is what creates a truly NND element in this film. The main protagonists are from different walks of life; a Hospital Corpsman turned janitor and a college student on her way home to visit her family, and both caught up in a sudden attack.

The janitor is ‘hiding from his emotional pain,’ and ‘avoids much of society’ because of it’s ‘ugliness.’ The student is ‘simply happy-go-luck,’ not a care in the world until the ‘shit-hits-the-fan’ and her world’s turned upside down.

“Bushwick,’ gave me a new point of view on social upheaval and the violence that a civil war will produce. Yes, it is pretty certain that if it were a foreign invading force, most armed American citizens would pick up a weapon to defend themselves and their neighbor.

But what if it were secessionist and what if they failed in letting anyone know that the ‘revolt’ was happening? Yeah, therein lays the twist of all NND twists.

Each of these films made me feel something beyond my real heartache and each gave me an opportunity to reflect on exactly how had things can get if such fictions turned real. It is one of the many ways I’ve taught myself to deal with the stresses of persistent melancholia and use it as a tool to move forward.

The Promise

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” is a misquote based on a passage from ‘The Mourning Bride,’ a play by William Congreve.

But Franklin wasn’t thinking about that as Satan stabbed him from behind with his pitchfork, forcing him into the pit of screaming tortured souls, while carrying the clay jar of water. Furthermore, he didn’t expect those same souls to be so self-possessed that they’d refuse to help him in his endeavor.

In his ear, Franklin could still hear Lucifer’s mocking words ring, “If you can cross the pit without spilling a drop, I’ll let you go.”

Tom Anderson, Esq., 1960-2018

He was the quiet one. It wasn’t because he was shy, rather it was because he’d rather watch what was going on and being said than anything else.

That’s how I remember my high school classmate Tom Anderson, who was born in Crescent City, California, June 18, 1960, but passed away April 18, at his home in San Francisco of a heart attack. Unfortunately, all I could find in the way of a photo of Tom is one from our 1978 yearbook ‘Crossroads’ — which shows how private he was about himself.

It’s hard to think that he was in a lot of pain towards the end of his life because he was always an active outdoors-kind-of-guy, enjoying bicycling, scuba diving and surfing. Tom was also extremely studious, having made the dean’s list in high school every quarter which lead to his being named in the 1978 book of “Who’s Who in American Students.”

Sometime after high school he attended the University of Hawai’i, where following graduation, he took a job as a teacher. Later on, Tom entered San Francisco’s Hastings Law School, and as was his nature, passed the California State Bar on his first attempt.

Tom was the kind of person who’d give you the shirt off his back, or better yet, he’d buy you a new one if need be. He was a rare mixture of athleticism, academia and plain old humbleness and he’ll be sorely missed.

Protection

They sat in the visitor’s room of the rest folks home where the old man reminisced and the Grandson politely listened. “Yup, the world sure’s a different place today than it was in my day.”

All to soon the Grandson said, “I can’t stay any longer Gramps, I gotta date tonight.”

“Good for you, kiddo,” Grandpa smiled as the young man began pulling on his bright red fall-out suit.

Then he watched as his Grandson walked outside and to the sidewalk. “I’d have told him to make sure he wears protection, but I know it means something totally different anymore.”

Theresa House, 1963-2018

It’s very hard to breathe at the moment because I’ve been crying so hard. Another friend has passed away and I knew it was happening, but for the want of a few bucks, I couldn’t make the drive to Missoula, Montana to see her one last time.

Theresa Anne House passed away at home June 5, 2018, after a heroic battle with uterine cancer. She was born November 30, 1963, in San Diego, California, living with her family in El Cajon as the eldest of 11 children.

When I first heard her name, I was en route to the recruiting station in Eureka, California to sign my Air Force enlistment papers. She was a friend of Adam, whom he met over the summer when her family stayed at Camp Marigold, in Klamath, across the fence from our home.

Adam refused to introduce Theresa to me because he worried that she might ‘like’ me more than him. Kids!

After Adam died in 2010, I posted an article about his death. Theresa found it after ‘googling’ his name and she reached out to me through Facebook.

At first I had no idea who she was, but then she used her maiden name of Layman and I knew in an instant I was talking to the little blond-headed girl from across the fence. We’ve remained in touch ever since then.

It was at some point in late 2016 or perhaps early 2017 that she told me she had cancer. She decided not to battle the disease in the traditional manner, but to take a more holistic approach.

Theresa was a very headstrong woman, bordering on the edge of pure stubbornness, so I figured she’d fight and she’d win. In April she let me know that the treatment didn’t work and that she was going to die from the disease.

The last time I corresponded with her was March 8, where she said of me: “What a wonderful, sweet friend!”

Theresa then added, “Just continue to pray for my entry into Heaven. I am trying to have a good attitude about recovery, but I have my eye on the prize, Heaven.”

She made me promise not to be sad, because as she told me, “I know where I’m headed and I’m not scared.” But I’m afraid that I’ve gone and broke that promise, Theresa, because I am beyond sad.

I swear I can hear her and Adam giggling like a couple of school kids.

Sunday Drive

“It’s nice to get out of the house,” Mom commented.

“I know,” Dad responded, “I really do miss our Sunday drives and sight-seeing.”

“So,” Junior asked from the back seat, “did you play here as a kid?”

“Yes,” his mother answered, “This is where I first met your dad.”

“Was that on the Ferris-wheel or the Roman aqueduct?” the child asked.

“Oh, the Ferris-wheel,” his dad returned, “the aqueduct was a bit before our time.”

“I don’t understand why they are together then if they’re from different times,” the boy stated.

“It’s simple,” Dad explained, “It’s how civilizations are built.”

Slipping Away

Body shaking, cold and clammy, heart fluttering fast to slow, he began in all his humanness to feel the slipping away. His mind filling with images, words, so many left unsaid, unwritten, and unseen in all his days before.

He knew he couldn’t find the right potion, the spiritual salve to make this life remain as the ending would happen — with or without. He’d waited all of his life for this moment, now that his time was at hand, he nearly dropped his halo as a metamorphosis of this type isn’t painless when wings unfold from between one’s shoulder blades.

Gone to the Movies

For the last two days I haven’t spent as much time as I generally do writing. Instead I’ve been doing a lot of reading and when not sitting about with a favorite book, I’ve been catching up on movies I’ve not seen.

And as you’ll see, should you continue reading, I’m way, way behind in this matter…

The first one I watched is “Wind River,” with Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen (she’s gorgeous, by-the-by) and one of my all-time favorites, Graham Greene. I would add Renner to my all-time favorites list if it weren’t for the fact that he keeps playing all sorts of ‘superheroes,’ when he’s a fine actor who doesn’t need ‘special effects.’

The movie opens with the shooting of a pair of coyotes, so if you are against killing predators, I’d skip the first minute or so of this film. Further, if you are radically against gun violence, you’ll also wanna skip the last ten minutes of the show, because it is fairly spot-on.

Personally, I’m against neither, as a predator must be dealt with whether animal or human and it isn’t always pretty. And I love how justice is meted out to the true predator in this film, and in a most unusual manner.

The next flicker I watched is “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.” I found myself laughing quite a bit at the inside jokes and one-liners. It also surprised me somewhat to see so many well established actors playing more than simple cameos, though it would have also been cool to see Bruce Willis in it – but alas, he wasn’t.

And while I identify with ‘Rocket’ for the most part, I can’t help but enjoy getting my “Groot” on as well. By the way — ‘groot’ is Dutch for ‘large.’

Plus, I’m always blown away by ex-pro wrestler and MMA fighter Dave Bautista’s acting ability.  He’s as fun to watch as “The Rock” any day.

Finally, and I mean FINALLY – I got to see “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” This took me back to high school and the year the original Star Wars (now called the “New Hope,” came into theaters.)

The entire story line felt as if it were a part of the original film and made even more so by the CGI appearance of Peter Cushing, whose been dead since 1994. It was also very cool seeing Darth Vader wielding the Light Sabre once again.

It is enjoyable to see a hat-tip to ronin-Samurai Miyamoto Musashi, who in 1612 defeated Sasaki Kojiro, and is considered one of the greatest Samurai in Japan, using ‘a stick,’ he carved while en route to the fight. In the movie, Danny Yen portrays a blind warrior who believes in the force and kicks the crud out of several Stormtroopers using nothing but a ‘bo,’ or fighting staff.

But I must say the biggest surprise was in the ending. It literally took my breath away and I teared up when Carry Fisher, looking exactly as I remember her sigh from my days on the set of “Return of the Jedi,” turned and faced the camera.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me – I have some TV shows needing binge-watching.

The Last Word

“You’d think after 15-years, I’d have more people reading my stuff,” Dumas complained. “I see bloggers who’ve only been at it a year or two and some have hundred’s of people following their website and dozens of comment’s and ‘likes.’”

There was a pause before Jezebeth verbally stabbed him in the heart, “Have you ever thought that maybe you’re really not that good?”

With her long red finger nails, Jezebeth lifted his face and looked into Dumas’ eye’s, relishing the hurt in his voice, “The thought never crossed my mind.”

But now that it did — Dumas never wrote another word.

First Aider of the First-Order

“Send Help,” is all the message read. Mentally, I prepare myself for whatever the challenge.

“Life can be so cheap outside the colonies” I think, mounting my Ostrichasaurus, racing out through the gate and onto the open grassy plains.

Sadly, I’ve learned there’s a greater danger in not knowing what the danger is, than whatever danger is ‘out there,’ and it’s hard not be concerned this may involve another T-Rex. The bird-beast’s jarring gait quickly turns into an all out sprint towards the border lands.

“Effin’ top hat! Third one this week!” I cuss, as it falls from my head.

Writing Rituals

When do you write? (time of day, day of week.)

Every weekday morning I get up with my wife and see her off to work. Next I grab a cup of coffee and sit myself in front of the computer. Writing takes second place as I busy myself with reading the news, other blog posts and visiting Facebook, in that order. Finally, I will write at least 100 word to begin the day. On the weekend, my schedule varies according to what else might be happening that I want to take part in.

How do you seclude yourself from the outside world?

Seclusion isn’t a need for me and write. I could be in the middle of a Los Angeles Freeway and still manage to put words down on paper. Otherwise, I spend 12-to-14 hours a day, Monday-through-Friday by myself with only our dog’s as company. From time-to-time a neighbor or a friend will stop by for a chat and a cup of coffee. Finally, I like my company so I find I’m never really alone.

How do you review what you wrote the previous day?

Much of my act is a formula. I write once, then edit again and again until I’m satisfied I have down what I want to say. So there is no ‘previous day’ for me as a rule. That isn’t to say upon reviewing something I wrote a year or two ago, that I won’t edit it again or three-times because my skill as a write has changed.

What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired?

Rarely do I listen to music when I’m writing. Music is a love of mine and prefer to listen to it unencumbered. I do have my favorite genre which will give me a sense of feeling that I need to maintain when I am pursuing a story, i.e. cowboy music if I’m writing a ‘western-style’ story.

What do you always do (i.e. listen to music, read, watch YouTube, etc.) when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block?

Writer’s block is a pain in the arse, isn’t? I usually walk away for an hour or two when it happens and find something else to do. If it is persistent, I’ll grab a book and read for a while, maybe watch something on the tube (I like true crime solving shows,) or I’ll peruse the blogosphere, (a good source is WordPress Discover.)

What tools do you use when you’re writing?

Before the advent of online services, my desk would be covered with piles of notes, one or two dictionaries (including a large rhyming dictionary) and a thesaurus. Somewhere close by were a set of encyclopedias and an almanac with maps. Today, aside from general clutter of notebooks I use in the field, the world is at my finger-tips using ‘Google.’ Lastly, some of whatever I read, see, hear, feel, learn or experience will end up in a story and because of this, unless it’s pointed out to me, I have been known to accidentally steal stuff from other writers. (Do you hear that Mr. Twain?!)

What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session?

That first cup of coffee. Need I say more? Didn’t think so.

How do you fuel yourself during your writing session?

Since the majority of my writing takes place between 4 am and noon, I generally don’t eat until afterwards. Since childhood, I’ve never been a big fan of breakfast. But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a breakfast meal for dinner. One cannot get any better than that in my humble opinion.

How do you know when you’re done writing?

Oh, I’m never done writing. I’ve been writing since I was nine-years-old and it has become like second nature. One time I forgot to pack a note-book while on a cross-country road trip and because my folks were in a hurry to get where we were going, they wouldn’t stop, save for gassing up the car or a potty break. During one potty break I stole two rolls of toilet paper from the stall and scrounged a pen from under the drivers’ seat. I still feel bad for the person who followed me after I left that restroom.

One Pissed-off Biker Chick

It was dark and she couldn’t find her clothes, but Mariko didn’t care. She slipped from the Coven’s clubhouse wearing only her denim vest with its ‘colors’ emblazoned on the back and as the asshole who ‘roofied’ her the night before was still passed out.

In the parking lot, she slipped her getas on her feet and bare-assed climbed on ‘Broomy,’ her motorcycle. Mariko was about to leave when she spotted her black cat.

She scooped her up, putting it on the bike. “You and me need to get a better class of friends to hang with.”

Quietly, she guided ‘Broomy’ onto the street and rocketed away. A couple of miles later, her ride began to sputter and cough, so she had to stop.

And as she worked, she clicked off her personal to-do list in her head:  “Fix this, go home, grab my tanto, return, and neuter that bastard,” then aloud added, “And if I get an STD – I’m gonna do the whole effin’ coven.”

Slippage

The toaster dinged as the two pieces of burnt toast jumped from their slots. “Christ almighty, couldn’t you at least have popped them out before they burned?” I complained.

He simply sat there in all of his silence. The lack of a response only made me angrier.

“All you do is sit around the house anymore. The least you could do is not let my fucking toast get ruined.”

He remained quiet.

“I don’t mean to so get angry.”

Still, he said nothing.

“It’s not the same since you left and we know it, too,” I screamed at my shadow.

Raven

And so the Raven came by night,
taking the key to Edgar’s heart far away,
to drop it into the deepest chasm could be found,
forever irretrievable.
Too long had it been hanging there,
out in the open,
for all the world to see,
for all the world to take,
to use.
Not a soul thought it worth their trouble to find what it could unlock,
and now it’s too late.
But for Poe,
it had been that Raven,
the key to his immortality even unto death that still from the chasm comes the blackened bird’s frightfilled-demon scream:
“Nevermore! Nevermore!”

One-Horse Town: Amid the Canyons (Chapter 11)

They knew the lay of the land better heading south than they would going north. In fact there were several narrow canyons and ravines that they could use to evade the coming riders.

“Not only can we delay them, we can fight them from there if push comes to shove,” Brady offered.

Morning broke faster than either man liked, but they had no control over mother nature. Instead they urged their horses to move faster now that there was light to see by.

Once inside the maze of canyons and ravines, they slowed their pace and sought higher ground. Soon they could ride no more and found it necessary to guide their mounts along the narrow trails to the top of a small butte.

Eventually they made it to the top. John quickly scouted around the flattened surface and found that the way up was also the only way down, unless one climbed or fell. In the mean time, Brady yanked Billy off the back of the horse and pulled off his gag.

“You ain’t gonna live through this, you know,” Billy warned.

“Maybe we won’t, but then neither will you,” Brady reminded the young man.

“Helluva place to make a last stand,” John commented.

Brady smiled, “Get some sleep. I’ll wake you in a couple of hours.”

As John slept, Brady built a small fire and boiled some water for coffee. He figured that they ought to have some comforts before the big gun battle began.

“Can I have some of that?” Billy asked.

“You gonna behave if I let you?” Brady countered.

“You have my word,” Billy answered.

Brady set about untying the young man and taking away his boots. Billy laid on his belly for a few minutes waiting for the pins-and-needles to subside before rolling over and sitting up.

Revolver in hand and cocked, Brady pour a small amount of coffee in a tin and handed it to Billy. “Not that I don’t trust you or anything.”

Billy took a sip of the hot liquid, “Thanks, mister.”

So far there was no sign of a posse, so Brady let John sleep an extra hour. After waking him, John stood guard as Brady reapplied rope bindings to Billy’s wrists and ankles.

Soon nightfall came and Brady was finally able to get some much-needed shut-eye. John sat watching Billy and quietly listening for out-of-place sounds as the sun finally sank beyond the horizon.

Brady and John traded off night watch six more times throughout the dark hours of the day. They maintained the same routine though out the daylight hours, too.

For nearly two-days they waited for the posse to come riding their way, but nothing. As noon approached that second day, Brady told John, “I’m going to go have a look around.”

Brady saddled his horse and guided the beast down the narrow trail, till he could safely mount and ride. Once outside the slots, he rode back in the direction of Bixby.

“Nothing,” he said to the horse. “I think we’ve gotten clear of the scrape.”

He reined his horse around and headed back to the butte. Once back, he suggested that they cut the kid free, give him a horse and they go their separate ways; John to the west, Brady to the east, Billy to Bixby.

As they discussed this possible plan, John asked, “How come you never asked about the gold or tied to take it.”

Smiling Brady answered, “First, it ain’t my business and second, I know what sort of trouble gold can bring a man.”

“What sort of trouble do you think Billy can get in if he had a few coins of his own?” John wondered.

“Depends on what sort of man he wants to be,” Brady offered. “Greedy like his old man or willing to invest in something and work for what he wants. Only time will tell.”

By mid-afternoon, with the camp struck and supplies divided, John left first, leaving behind a mule as he was now riding a horse. Billy and Brady sat silently watching as John disappeared over the horizon.

As nighttime fell, Brady sat beside Billy, “You’re gonna get paid for your troubles.” He opened his hand and showed the young man ten gold coins left to him by John.

“Does that mean you ain’t gonna kill me or leave me to rot up here?” Billy said with surprise.

“Nope. Gonna let you go and with a horse, too.”

“Thanks, mister.”

“Promise me one thing though, Bill.”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“Don’t be like your father – greedy and a bully.”

“I promise.”

Brady stood up and pulled from his pocket a Barlow. He opened the large blade and sliced through the ropes holding Billy’s ankles and wrists.

“Your boots are over there,” he said as he handed the coins to Billy.

As Billy stood and pocketed the coins, Brady stepped over to his horse and with the mule in tow, headed down the trail to the point where he could ride and headed for the canyon entrance. He was some distance away when he heard the pounding of hoofs rapidly coming his way.

He instantly recognized the rider; Billy.

“If you don’t mind mister, I’d like to tag along with you. There ain’t nothin’ left for me back in Bixby.”

“You’re welcome to come along. I could use the company,” Brady replied.

The pair nosed their horses east and slowly weaved their way through the rough scrub until darkness over took them and they had to stop for the night. A new day and a fresh start would come soon.