The Naked Truth

Based on a tale I heard as a child from my grandmother…

Truth and Lie meet at the local swimming hole, where Lie says, “It’s a great day.”

Suspicious, Truth looks at the sky before agreeing.

Lie says, “The water’s nice, let’s go for a swim”

Still suspicious, Truth checks the water before agreeing. They get undressed and start swimming.

Then without a word, Lie gets out of the water, puts on Truth’s clothes and runs away. With no other alternative, Truth chases after Lie to get her clothes back.

Since then, Lie, dressed as Truth, has been traveling the World spreading falsehoods because people don’t want to see the naked Truth.

Putting a Conclusion to Bed

“Be careful with it,” the archaeologist exclaimed, “It might have a metal frame, but it’s also made of glass and is very fragile!”

The six assistant’s continued moving the heavy artifact between the narrow walls of the old building and up the newly prepared dirt ramp. The structure had been part of an underground complex abandoned several thousand years before it’s rediscovery.

Once they made it to the surface, the same archaeologist that had warned them to be careful, squatted down next to the item to get a better look at it. He’d never seen an object like it and was certain it was a one of a kind.

He held his scanner against the object’s outside metal rim, while speaking into the scanner’s recorder, “Length, 2.1336 by 1.0668, height, 0.0009144 and weight, 680.3886.”

Gently, he dusted away some of the millennia-old build-up that had accumulated on the flat glass screen and peered inside the thing. “Long, cylindrical glass tubes, still intact, a slight bluish tint. Four total.”

That’s when he noticed the hinge work on the far side of the discovery. He looked up at the concave top with its curved glass and saw another set of four glass tubes and concluded that it must be designed to encase something.

“But what?”

Then he saw the cord and it’s heavy plug with it’s three prongs and recognized it as being ‘electrical.’  He quickly returned to where the object was and searching the wall, found what he believed to be where the artifact would’ve been attached to a power source.

Back outside, he walked all the way around the thing, scanning it in full. That’s when he found the faded graphics, that once translated, read something to the effect of ‘sun-cradle,’ or ‘solar-crib.’

“Quickly, bring me a genetic test kit!” he demanded.

Once in hand, he prepared a swab and drew it across the glass of the lower half of the bed, then scanned it. “Human genomes.”

After looking over the ‘bed’ one more time, he spoke reverently into his scanner, “It appears that this apparatus was used in an as-yet unknown religious ceremony, wherein they sacrificed the victim or possibly a willing volunteer by cooking them alive.”

Sacred Ground

The old mule saw the figure standing on the left side of the path, stone ax in hand; so it stopped. Impatient, Zeke struck the animal using the lead-rope, trying to make it move, but it refused.

“You ornery, stubb’rn idjit! Git movin’!”

Then the figure stood in the narrow between the walls of the canyon that formed the ancient Sioux foot trail. When the mule saw the figure again, it leaned against the wall to its right, trapping Zeke and out of anger, Zeke punched the animal.

“Come on, you ol’ fool! We ain’t got all day!”

Then the figure stood behind the pair. By this time the mule was so scared he refused to move either forward or back and with no way to turn right or left, it lay down, where Zeke kicked the mule..

Then the donkey asked Zeke, “What did I do to you, that makes you treat me like this?”

“Because you’re a stubborn beast!”

That’s’ when Zeke saw the figure, who had moved back to block their way forward. Frightened, Zeke quickly turned and yanked his double-barrel shotgun out from under the canvas covering his supplies tied to the donkey’s back, and held it up towards the figure.

Unfazed by the sight of the shotgun, the figure asked, “Why do you treat your mule like that? He’s only trying to save your life!”

“From what?”

“From what’s ahead.”

Zeke flipped back the canvas covering his supplies and returned the weapon to its hiding place.

“There ain’t nothing but trail ahead. Besides this here’s a mirage and I’m hallucinatin’ because of the sun again.”

“No. There is trouble ahead.”

“Outta my way! I wanna see for myself.”

Zeke moved quickly by the figure and deeper into the narrow canyon. As he did, several Lakota arrows found their mark in the center of his chest and he toppled over dead.

The figure looked at the mule, saying, “He should have listened. After all how often does one learn their mule can speak?”

The mule answered, “Because he was the one that was stubborn, that’s why he wouldn’t listen. In spite of that and the way he treated me, I’m going to miss his companionship.”

Headache

Day four and my head was still hurting. My wife suggested I go to the doctor, and much to her surprise, I agreed.

The doctor ran a battery of tests on me, checking my ears, eyes, throat, heart, blood pressure and even sent me for an MRI. After everything, nothing could be found that might be causing my headaches.

As we sat in the examination room, he asked, “So, do you drink coffee?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“How long you been drinking coffee?”

“Since I was nine or so.”

“How many cups a day?”

“Two to three.”

“How many have you had today?”

“None.”

“Wait here. I have an idea. I’ll be right back.”

Less than two minutes later he entered the room and handed me a paper cup with hot coffee in it. I was certainly puzzled as most doctors warn folks my age to cut back and her he was giving me coffee in his office.

“Lean back and relax,” he said, “I’ll be back in half and hour or so.”

As he left he switched off the overhead lights. I sat there and sipped my coffee, enjoying the nature light coming from the window.

As promised, the doctor returned, “So how are you feeling.”

“Much better! My headache’s gone. What did you put in my coffee?”

“Nothing,” he responded, “I had a hunch after our conversation that you might be suffering from caffeine withdrawal. You should go home and double-check the coffee can – I’m betting its ‘decaffeinated.’

My wife was already gone to work as I pulled in the driveway. I hurried inside to the kitchen and pulled the can of coffee from the shelf and looked it over.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” I mumbled as I saw the word in bright yellow lettering ‘decaffeinated.’

Das Bodybuilder

“Hey, Vic,” I said to the know-it-all scientist, turned doctor, “I had no idea you’re into body building.”

“Very much so,” he replied in his slight Easter European accent.

“Do you have a favorite?” I queried.

“My creation of course,” he answered.

“Really?” I questioned, knowing something was off about his presence.

“This is a body building contest, no?” he responded.

“Yes,” I smiled politely, “But I think you’ve misunderstood the premise.”

“No,” Victor said with great confidence, “I have built a body better than anyone here, you’ll see.”

I simply nodded and smiled, waiting for the competition to begin.

¿Quién es? (An Alternate History)

“Hola’,” the aging lawman said, touching the brim of his cowboy hat, as he drove by. He didn’t recognized the Mexican woman, nor should he have as the last time he’d seen her was nearly three-decades before in the dark of night and not in the bright of the day.

She slowly turned in her saddle, looking back at the single-horse surrey and the tall lanky man exiting the rig. She watched as he turned his back to her and began to urinate along the side of the cattle trail.

It would be his last act of life as two shots, rapidly fired in succession, echoed across the open expanse of New Mexican desert near the village of Las Cruces. Having seen the man topple face down into the puddle of his own piss, the Mexican woman turned back, spurring her horse on to a quicker pace, riding from sight.

By the time the general alarm sounded and a posse formed, the Mexican woman had found her way back into town and quietly sat in the rear passenger car of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad bound northeast towards home. It would be the last time she would visit Las Cruces.

Though Paulita Jaramillo didn’t follow the events as reported in the ‘Fort Sumner Review,’ she did hear from friends and relatives of how someone had murdered Pat Garrett in broad daylight. She listened with rapt attention to every detail, knowing that the Gringo lawmen were literally searching for the wrong man.

They’d forgotten the woman, once a 16-year-old girl with the last name of Maxwell, raised on a ranch in Mora, New Mexico and later the wife of a prosperous sheep rancher, who knew all to well how to shoot a Winchester, killing vermin that threatened the herd. She also swore revenge the morning after her brother Pedro’s ranch was used as a killing ground, the place where William Bonney lost his life.

“Dormir bien mi querido Billy,” Paulita often said while thinking back on her unknown deed and a promise kept.

For Culture’s Sake

My wife dragged me to the art gallery to view a traveling Reuben exhibit. I tried to avoid going, but no luck.

“We need some culture in our lives.”

However, she didn’t anticipate looking at painting after painting of curvaceous ladies in the buff. She complained, saying it was unfair that all the nude paintings depicted women.

So jokingly I pointed to an arrow on the wall that read, ‘Men.’ She smiled and hurried off in that direction.

“Honey!” I called out, but I was too slow. Seconds later she found herself standing before the door to the men’s room.

Pure Sex

Hawkins broke through the sliding glass door at the back of the old Shipley house, jimmying the plastic frame with a flat-bar and poured gasoline throughout all the rooms, including the garage. He lit a match, threw it and watched the flames flash-over in a single hungry gulp and with a thump that violently reverberated through his entire body.

It felt like ‘pure sex’ to him and it left Hawkins in a euphoric-state of arousal.

He’d been eyeing the place for nearly three-years. The Great Recession had stuck with a fierceness that left many homes vacant, unwanted and ripe for destruction including this one.

In the case of the Shipley house, it caught the ‘double-whammy.’ First the recession brought prices crashing, then Marilyn, already in bad health, died, leaving her home to her daughter, who could do very little with the place amid her own financial struggles.

As the giant dragon threatened to belch and take Hawkins with it, he turned to escape, only to notice a painting of a boy over the faux-mantel. From the boy’s cheerful grin, Hawkins saw that it was clear that the child, whoever he was, had been happy at one time.

The framed-figure reminded him of someone he knew but whom Hawkins could no longer remember. So with the flames building up ever greater behind him, consuming the walls, floors and ceiling, he yanked the boy from the wall and ran with him out the back door.

With the painting propped against the wall behind his front door, Hawkins watched from the safety of his front room’s window as the Shipley place burned to the ground. The torching was so complete, that not even the local fire department could save the structure and instead let it burn, opting to protect the neighboring homes from becoming ash-heaps like it.

And as the house fell in on itself, the painted boy whispered to his savior, “Thank you, I was so lonely.”

For his part, Hawkins smiled, he finally had somebody to talk to.

She was Right

She found me in the back alley, where I was drowning in affordable rot-gut. She was young, pretty and I tried to ignore her, until she sat down beside me.

“I can guess when you’re going to die,” she offered.

Too wasted to realize she was serious, I laughed at the thought and wondered what sort of scam she was running. Tipping the brown bag up, I took a long draw from the bottle inside.

There was no pain when she drew her knife’s blade across my bare throat. In fact, I didn’t feel a thing but my warm blood.

Auto Pilot

“Data suggests that it’s over a million years old and has no functional ability.”

“So shattered bits of red carbon-based material is simply floating through the cosmos for no reason?”

“It appears so, ma’am.”

“But why would you say it’s a religious relic?”

“We know sacrifice is a part of the early belief system. The sacrifice of beings in the name of religion happened for thousands of years. And because of this, a few have even argued that the mummified remains…”

“Major Tom, you mean?”

“Yes, ma’am, Major Tom is – or was – a sacrifice to a god named ‘T.’ This is known from the cross-like symbol on the what remains of the crafts forward compartment found amid the debris and this unusual vocalization. Let me play it for you.”

“…Ground Control to Major Tom, take your protein pills and put your helmet on…”

“Furthermore, we’ve learned their golden rule was ‘Don’t Panic.’”

“Then what is the ‘Foundation,’ and what or who is this Issac Asimov?”

“Current theory holds that Asimov is a Prophet and that his mathematically based writings are the underpinnings of this religion, thus ‘Foundation.’

“And so, is ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and Adam Douglas more teachings of yet another Prophet?

“We believe it maybe supplemental to the original teachings, ma’am, but we’re still analyzing it, and it’s going to take some time due to the fragile nature of the material it’s made from.”

“What about the plaque?”

“A very interesting artifact, indeed. It reads, “Made on Earth by humans.”

“So this space debris or whatever it was – or is – was made by us?”

“Yes, ma’am. And that leaves us with even bigger questions to answer.”

“Like?”

“What’s an Earth, can we find it and is ‘T’ still there?’”

Tunnel at the End of the Light

“So damn close to Crescent City, I can almost smell it,” I whined as I stood in the parking lot of the Collier Tunnel rest area. It had been a long journey to here, especially since I was using the least reliable method of transportation available – hitching.

The driver pulled off Highway 199 because I needed to take a crap. “I’ll be quick about it,” I said as I climbed from the passenger seat.

Once finished, I returned to where car I’d been riding in had parked, it was gone. He had left me.

“Asshole!” I screeched.

Stranded, I walked out to the highway and tossed out my thumb hoping to catch another ride. Hour one passed along with at least 200 vehicles — and soon I was nearing the end of hour two.

Looking south through the long tunnel, it did not seem inviting. I hated the idea of having to walk it’s length, but the desire to get home one more time was quickly overriding my sense of caution.

As I stood there contemplating the tunnels entrance, I heard a car’s horn from somewhere behind me. I turned and saw a large-finned 1959 candy-apple red Cadillac pull into the nearby parking lot and the driver’s side passenger door popped open.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” is blasting from the interior. Barely audible over the music, “Hurry! We don’t have all day – in fact we’re already late,” a voice called out to me, adding “Quick, get in!”

Touching the pistol I had secreted in my jacket pocket, I hopped the barrier from the roadway into the parking lot and ran to the car. The tinted windows were darker than what the law allowed so I couldn’t see who was in the front seat, but I could see the cute little blonde in a light blue dress and white pinafore in the backseat, patting it, will me to sit down next to her.

Once inside, the door slammed shut and the driver wheeled the beast of a car around and peeled rubber as he raced out of the parking lot. Gathering my balance, I was finally able to sit up and find the seat belt and as I looked around I couldn’t help but notice the passenger and his odd-looking top hat and severely over-sized bucked-teeth.

That’s when I looked at the driver, who was much too short to safely see over the dash of the vehicle, and saw only a pair of long ears. “Oh, my God,” I thought. “The energizer bunny is driving this thing.”

Yes, it was a rabbit, but instead of being pink, it was pure white, it’s also the moment I discovered that we had entered a rabbit hole. In the darkness of the hole and safety of back seat, the blonde slid close to me.

She took my hand in her hand and placed it gently on her left breast, whispering to me to feel her firmness and eventually her wetness. Instantly, I grew butterflies in my stomach and a hardness in my pants knowing that she wanted me to fuck her brains out.

“Oh, yes,” I smiled like a Cheshire as I penetrated her depth, “All mimsy were the borogoves!”

Payment, I suppose, because as I learned later, there was a Jabberwocky needing slain and I was to be her champion. For now, home would have to wait.

Evil is as Evil Does

It was an old wine box that I thought my wife would enjoy, but I was wrong. Too late we learned that it was a Dybbuk; able to haunt and even possess the living.

The antique box attacked us endlessly, doing and saying the most vile of things. Finally, last Christmas, without saying a word, I decided to get rid of it.

So, I packaged it up and had it delivered – to myself. My wife couldn’t see the beauty of my plan until the package was left by our front door and stolen by Porch Pirates.

No police report necessary.

The New Guy

Out of the blue, the Spirit introduced me to this new guy. Whenever I talk to Him, He gives me advice — a wisdom, unlike anything I’ve ever known.

He’s a fortress, a wall; a shield that protects from all weapons thrown by this cruel life. He has this promise, and I truly know that He’ll never break it.

We talk before bed. At sunrise. Sometimes throughout the day, too.

And every night I cry, He’s been there, hushing me, telling me that everything will be alright. The new guy even gave me the definition of love.

And I thank you.

Again

Six-thirty-six. Carole sighed as she turned from the clock, knowing the sun wasn’t up and she’d been robbed of 24-minutes more sleep.

It felt as if this had happened before, but she was too exhausted to hold onto the thought. Unwilling to surrender those few precious minutes of sleep, she willed herself to lay still, dozing until her bedside alarm sounded.

Carole’s body relaxed, floating as she slipped back into sleep. Suddenly, her body jerked and she was awake.

“Six-thirty-six,” Carole sighed. “Didn’t this happen before?” She still couldn’t awaken from the coma she’d been in for the past three-weeks.

“Mr. Muir, I suppose?”

“It never crossed my mind,” I said of the small aircraft that buzzed me earlier in the day. By then though, I was making the trek back to the highway in passenger seat of federal vehicle, though I really didn’t understand why.

It was slightly after sun-up when I pulled my truck onto the side of the road. I could see the rocky cliffs in the distance, those that I had plans to explored throughout the day, hoping to find something of interest to think about.

Dodging sage brush, creosote and the occasional rattlesnake or lizard makes for a pleasant hike into the high desert for this writer. If it isn’t something I have observed then it something I have thought about that generally gives me a subject to expound upon later at my computer.

Today, would prove to be exactly that kind of day.

More than two-hours after beginning, I found a shaded spot and set up my camp stool beneath a jagged rock face. I wanted to sit for a couple of minutes, rest, have some water and do some journaling in the notebook I had in my day-pack.

As I got comfortable, I heard a small aircraft’s engine echoing across the escarpment under which I sat. The next thing I knew, the aircraft a yellow and blue Piper J-3 Cub came in low and slow to the west of me.

He was so low and moving so slowly that I could have tossed a rock at him and struck the aircraft with no problem, something I’d never do unless threatened. I could even see the pilot, his large reflective glasses looking at me as he spoke into the headset wrapped from ear to ear and over his mouth.

Six-pages into thought, including being I buzzed by a plane out in the middle of nowhere, I heard the deep hum of an off-road vehicle. Since I was on public lands, I never gave it a second thought other than to know where my pistol was in the event they were a bunch of hooligans looking to have some ‘rowdy fun.’

It’s been known to happen.

Next thing I know, I have a ‘badged’ officer aiming a pistol at me, demanding I keep my hands in sight. As he walks closer, I realize the man is wearing a Bureau of Land Management uniform.

The agent made me get up and walk backwards to him, orders me to my knees and cuffs my hands behind my back. “What are you doing out here?”

“Jus’ exploring the desert and doing some writing.”

“You do know you’re not supposed to be in the area, right?”

“No, I had no idea.”

“Well, there’s a sign at the trail-head and a couple along the trail letting you know you’re trespassing.”

“I didn’t come in from the trail-head. I walk from the highway about four miles east of here.”

“So what did you say you were doing?”

“Exploring and writing. Will you take these damned handcuffs off me?”

“I don’t believe you. People don’t jus’ go for hikes to write. And no.”

“Well, can I sit on my ass, my knees are killing me. There’s water in the pack – have some — along with a snake pistol.”

“No thank you on the water, but I am gonna confiscate your pistol since you’re trespassing.”

Since he ignored my request to get off my knees and to sit like a normal human, I did so on my own. He never said a thing.

“Figured so. Am I walking back to the trail-head or are you transporting me?”

“Neither.”

Slowly, he collected my belongings and tagged them as I watched. Within half-an-hour I could hear the four-by-four truck as it bounced up the sandy path, stopping jus’ beyond my line-of-sight amid some sage brush.

This time a woman, in the same uniform came into the clearing and after some talk between the two officers, she came over and asked, “Do you need help up.”

Though my hands were still braced behind me, I rocked forward, rolling my knees under me and staggered to my feet. I stood and waited for her to take me by the arm to her vehicle.

“Trespassing, huh?” she asked her fellow officer.

“Yeah, there jus’ something weird about a guy wandering out here doing nothing but writing.”

“Okay,” she responded, You’ve got all the evidence loaded up, right?”

“Yup.”

“See you in town.”

As she slammed her door shut, I asked, “Does this mean we’re headed to the federal building?”

“Yes. I wanna see what the magistrate has to say about this.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, most likely like you’re thinking,” she responded, “I think this is a bunch of bullshit.”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t gonna belabor the point,” I smiled, “Besides I have a story to write now.”

“So you really are a writer?”

“Yup, I have lots of free time since I lost my paying job, so I fill it with writing, photography and a little painting.”

“You wanna be the new John Muir or something?”

“Or something,” I answered, “I’ll make up my mind once I decide to grow up and quit getting into trouble.”

After a short pause in our conversation, I asked, “If this stuff happened to John Muir when he was alive, do you think he’d have written any of his stories?”

“By stuff, you mean over-regulation and getting arrest for trespassing? Probably not.”

“I was thinking the same – but happily for me, I’m not Mr. Muir.”

She chuckled as I pointed at my truck as we drove by. Later, in the day she would return me to that same truck – without the ‘trespassing’ charges.

Classified Ad

As I’m searching the newspaper before I use it to light the wood stove, one classified advertisement diverts my attention. Call me. I need to hear from you.

There’s a number. I recognize the area code for eastern California; I’m across the border in Nevada, trying to keep warm in a tin-roofed cabin on some rancher’s north forty.

After I finish my coffee, I pick up the phone and dial.

“Hello?” It’s a woman’s voice.

“Howdy, I’m calling about your ad.”

“Hi. I’m lonely. I needed to hear another voice.”

“Cowboy. Me, too.”

It really wasn’t a very long conversation.

Batching It

‘Batching it,’ is not as fun as my other married friends claim it to be. I think they say this so it won’t be learned that they’re helplessly, madly in love with their wives and therefore thought uncool, as if they don’t have that same feeling they had the day they proposed.

The TV will remain silent. How I’d love to see a first run of ‘Three’s Company,’ ‘The Carol Burnett Show,’ or even ‘The Glen Campbell Variety Hour,’ but alas they are simply one-off memories. Sure I could watch them and a myriad of other old shows through my computer, but that isn’t viscerally the same as knowing that at midnight will John Wayne remind us of how great the United State’s is, followed by a rendition of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ and those ever comforting words: “We now end this broadcast day…”

Today’s microchips and other do-dads don’t need cooling down or adjusting like the old tubes and diodes do. Sadly, this is a reminder that nothing takes much of a rest in these endless 24-hour cycles we’ve labeled ‘night and day.’

Anyway, to work my way through this period of separation, first I follow my ‘honey-do’ list. Once finished with that, I look for things to do or experience from my past days – mostly child and young adulthood.

The way fortune works in my life though , if I plan, they fall apart and I don’t have to look into the past. It certainly looked like that as I had one of our three dogs hurt themselves, so I figured I’d be babysitting an injured pup all the while my wife was out-of-town visiting family.

But the dog requires very little looking after which allows me the time to daydream of things past, as they were and never will be again – at least not in this lifetime. I always have to warn myself that visiting backwards can lead to a bit of melancholia and in my case, might end in depression.

The scratched 33 and a 1/3 record I’m playing keeps skipping. I need a nickel, maybe two to hold the needle down as it passes over the gouge. Works like a charm. Try that with a damaged CD and you won’t get much of a return for your money.

As I stand by the charcoal grill, I breathe in the aroma of roasting hot dogs as they sizzled over the bricks. This comes with the joyful sound of children playing, their happy voices yelling, squealing and laughter — much like it was in my childhood neighborhood.

“God,” I bemoan, “Was it really that long ago and if so, why do I feel it like it was jus’ yesterday?”

Then after consuming more than my fill of half-burnt red hots, I turn on one of my older AM/FM radios, and since it hasn’t the same stereo-effect newer models have, I hear broadcast after broadcast of song and commercial like it was ‘back in the day.’ I’m even thinking of making a cassette of music from what I’m hearing, but I lack the tape. My handy-dandy pencil sits at the ready, never needing use. No — writing is never going to be it’s workout this evening if I do find an old cassette tape.

Believe me when I say you are not really lost or out-of-step here. None of this has real meaning, nor does it lead anyplace, other than into the recesses of my ‘elder’ brain. In fact it is more of an exercise in sharing a memory, fresh off my emotional press, headliners be damned. And know that this hodge-podge of words is far better and gentler than any actual headline you’ll read this Patriot’s Day.

Poor Mr. Musa

‘Stella,’ I heard her name before I saw her and to do that I had to move to the front of the bunch. We’d been packed together like the proverbial ‘sardines.’

She was all that I had dreamed of, and when we made contact, we both knew it was our destiny to spend time together. Stella’s warm hand left me excited as she touched me.

As best I could, I beckoned her to take me home with her. With no hesitation, Stella did.

It was an evening of pleasure, of anticipation and of getting to know Stella. She was a complicated being and I wanted to study her, to know how best to please her every need.

The following morning, she grew serious as she peeled back my foreskin and teased me with her lips. The touch of Stella’s tongue left me harder than I ever remembered being before.

Stella gently nibbled at me until I could no longer stand it. She swallowed and swallowed all that I had to give her. It was magic, it was life and it was death as I lay emptied.

Oh, and I would spend a few further hours with my Stella, gleaning more out of the woman than perhaps anybody should. The things this ripe banana never knew, I now share with you, so be warned: Stella will chew you up, then crap you out.

Future Visit

Oh, warmth, where are you?
My skin itches for your scratch.
My joints scream in bony agony.
My fingers fumble, refusing to bend.
My feet are but blocks of ice, though they be rosy pink.
Not even in my clothing or under my blankets, can I find your friendship.
My hearth, though blazing, blows a chilled breeze.
There are no words to say how much I miss your sweet touch.
In fact, I cannot recall another lover I’ve desired so desperately.
Maybe your disappearance is a foretelling of things soon to be.
Perhaps death warms himself for a short visit?

Rat Line

There is a visceral difference in the sound between rain as it drops through a forest canopy and falls unencumbered in a city street. Neither are softer, nor gentler in the landing.

This afternoon, I squat in a back alley off the main drag of this city, covered with a water-logged piece of cardboard, writing this. Yes, I’m a journaling man – have been most of my life.

Tucked against the red bricks, a slight eve shelters me as I put a pencil stub to paper. Any paper will do and I am more than happy to have what yellow pencil in hand to squeeze between my fingers.

My muse is a tease, my slave driver, my lover, coming at all inappropriate and inopportune times. Still I welcome her, my only companion in otherwise difficult times.

However, no one wants soggy words from a vagabond, drifter, tramp, hobo, bum, drunk, homeless person or whatever the nom de jour is this hour. I call myself a writer, chronicling the sights, sounds, feelings of life around me, but then who am I, a nameless, faceless, worthless man.

A trio of rats have popped up out of the sewer; they scurry and scamper towards the street. Few will notices them, as they notice me, refusing to believe they exist in their fair city.

They’re heading north, towards the university. I am going that direction as well, my broken-down piece of cardboard discarded where I struggle with cold fingers to fold away my piece of prose until a better time.

Higher ground – the water is rising – the rats tell me so and all I can do is follow. Goodnight, my beloved muse, goodnight.

For the Asking

The old carnival fortune-telling machine sat quietly in the corner of the antique store collecting dust. Tiny couldn’t help himself as he walked over to it to get a better look.

He was wasting some time before dinner and found the store the perfect place to help him. The old thing reminded him of the one from the movie, ‘Big,’ a childhood favorite of his.

Now Tiny, whose real name was Theodore, was anything but tiny. That was jus’ his nickname from the neighborhood.

He had always been big. In fact, he held a certain amount of pride in the fact that at one time he had been the largest baby ever born in San Diego County.

That prideful fact became shattered one day in middle-school when he asked Betty Jo Johnson to go to the Winter Ball with him. She turned him down flat, calling him fat in the process.

It had never occurred to Tiny that he was fat, so he decided then and there to use his ungainly size to his advantage. He played center all four-years on the varsity football squad, took home trophies and metals in wrestling, and couldn’t be moved once he set himself over home plate in baseball.

And though he never asked another girl out to a dance, he made certain he attended every one. Furthermore, he made certain that all the ‘wallflowers’ hugging the walls had at least one dance throughout the night.

But now, Tiny was approaching 29-years-old and his mind moved from the things that had been to the things he needed to fulfill his life. He had even begun casually dating a young woman from his work place and he hoped the relationship might blossom into something greater.

They were planning to go dancing Tuesday night. It was something he was really looking forwards to doing with Patricia as he had something special in mind.

He fished a nickel from his pant pocket and slipped in the slot. Instantly, the machine banged to life, the puppet head moving back and forth, lights flashing from one side of the glass both to the other, before a voice spoke, “Make a wish, but don’t be frivolous, don’t stammer like a fish, make it marvelous.”

Chuckling at the bad rhyme, Tiny knew in an instant what he would wish for, silly or not, “I wish to weigh-less.”

The wooden frame trembled and vibrated, the puppet’s head turned to-and-fro and the lights flashed in rapid succession before the voice rumble out: Your wish is my command, but be where you stay, because like the sand, you might blow away.”

The machine dinged loudly and small orange card drop from a slot below where Tiny had fed his nickel. On it were the same words, that as Tiny read them, felt that oddly, they were some sort of warning.

He slipped the card in his back pocket, looked at his watch and headed out the door. He stopped at Wendy’s, where he purchased a Triple, with everything, a baked potato – again with everything, two large fries, an extra-large coke and an extra-large Frost, all to go.

Since he didn’t live very far away, Tiny began working on the Frosty, finishing it before he pulled into his parking spot at his apartment complex. Feeling famished, he hurried up the walkway and in his residence.

Three bites of the burger later he felt as if he were too full to take another bite. “Must have been that Frosty that done it,” he said as he put his dinner in the refrigerator anticipating eating it for breakfast.

Being an early riser, Tiny turned in after a few minutes of the national news and slightly before night set in. As usual, he was sound asleep with in minutes of his head hitting his pillow.

“What a wild dream that was,” Tiny smiled as he rolled over to turn off his bedside alarm. That’s when he discovered what he thought to be a dream, was actually a waking nightmare.

He screamed involuntarily as he floated along his ceiling, far above the bed. His mind raced in horrified panic, trying to comprehend what was happening.

It took him a few minutes to calm down and begin to reason out his situation. He saw the orange card on his nightstand and understood instantly that the old machine misunderstood his wish to weigh less as a request to be weightless.

Though the situation remained irrational, he knew he had to find away to get to his cell phone, also on the nightstand. He also knew that there was but one person in the world he could depend on to help him in any situation – Bugg.

It took several attempts, that included putting foot through the drywall, but Tiny managed to force his body to aim in a downward trajectory, where he was able to grab his device, before he quickly shot back up towards the ceiling.

Tiny hit his speed dial and waited for his grade school friend to answer. “Hey, Bugg,” he said trying not to sound to panicked, “I’m in a real situation here at my apartment. No, no, nothing like that. But I do need your help.”

He had no place to put his phone on his person as he’d gone to bed naked. Now he had to figure out how to get some clothes on before Bugg arrived.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that if he were careful and moved with deliberate slowness, he could walk on the ceiling almost as if he were walking on his carpet. This made life a little easier as he was able to reach his dresser and pull on a pair of pajama bottoms.

He learned that he could easily reach the shelf in front of his kitchen sink and that this would be a good place to set his cell phone or anything else he might need while he free floated about his apartment. He thought about the rest of the burger and the cold fries in the fridge and concluded he wasn’t hungry at the moment.

“Later,” he promised himself.

Soon a rapping sound came from his front door. He peeked through the peep-hole, happy to see Bugg’s eye looking back at him through the hole, so he opened the door.

Tiny drifted away from the door as Bugg stood there, mouth agape, speechless. Suddenly the lanky and skinny Bugg shook his head and screeched, “What the…”

“I’ll explain,” Tiny interrupted, “but for now we need to find a way for me to get my feet on the ground.”

“How can I help with that – I don’t know anything about stuff like this,” Bugg complained.

“Neither do I, but I’m learning as I go,” Tiny countered.

It didn’t take very long for the pair to devise a plan, wherein Bugg would pull the lighter-than-air Tiny down to the floor, maneuver his bulk to his recliner, then tying him down. It was only a temporary fix, but it would do for the while.

Minutes later, Bugg offered up the idea of buying a weighed-vest from the local sporting good store. Tiny agreed and asked that he also purchase several ankle weights and a pair of weighted shoes, size eight-and-a-half.

As soon as Bugg left, Tiny, who had Bugg retrieve his phone from the sink shelf tapped the speed dial button for work. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m not doing good this morning so I’m not coming into work today.”

With that out-of-the-way, Tiny had the rest of the day to figure out how to resolve his weightlessness. As he sat, tied to his chair, he grew more and more nervous the longer Bugg was gone.

In less than two-hours, Bugg returned, carrying several heavy boxes. The first thing Tiny wanted to try were the weighted-shoes.

As soon as they were on, he untied the rope holding him to the chair. Much to his surprise, while he floated to an erect position, he didn’t lose contact with the floor and bounce into the ceiling.

That happened as he took his first step in his new shoes. He slammed into the ceiling so hard that he put his head completely through the drywall material.

It was obvious that he would need a bit more weight to maintain his ability to walk across the room. “Let me put a couple of those ankle weights on.”

Tiny’s stability increased and for the first time since waking in this peculiar predicament, he took a step without leaving the floor. He stood there for several seconds unable to decided if he wanted to shout for joy or cry out of happiness.

He spent the rest of the day working on actions that he usually took for granted, using the toilet, bathing and even getting dressed. While the weighted shoes and ankle weights worked to hold him down, they didn’t necessarily make easy getting rudimentary activities completed.

After struggling all day Monday with his weightlessness, he decided to brave it and go to work. Besides, it was Tuesday and he had date with Patricia.

All day long Tiny carried on as if things were normal with him. He did everything he could to maintain his routine and since he felt lighter-than-air he discovered he had gotten more work done than ever before.

Patricia and he sat outside at a nearby picnic table and ate lunch together, talking and laughing. “I haven’t been dancing in a long time,” she told him.

After work, Tiny raced home to begin the process of getting ready for that night’s date. Though somewhat nervous, he managed to get washed and dressed in record time and even had time to relax for an hour before he was to pick up Patricia.

It was a wonderful evening. Tiny had danced better than he’d ever danced in his life, with the evening being made better by the fact he was doing so with the woman he loved.

All to soon the night ended, and at midnight he pulled his car to the side of the curb in front of her home. And like a gentleman he walked her to the door to see her in safely.

However this time he had a surprise as they stood facing one another on her porch steps. He reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a small box, before getting down on one knee.

Patricia immediately began crying. At first Tiny thought they were tears of happiness, but soon he realized they were tears of anguish.

Though he’d not asked her to marry him yet, Patricia said, “You’re a sweet guy and all that, but I’m jus’ not ready to be married to one man for the rest of my life.”

“Oh,” Tiny said, trying to sound brave, “I understand.” He really didn’t understand and his bravery only extended so far.

He kissed her gently on the cheek and stood by as she walked through her front door. With a sigh, he placed the small box on the ‘Welcome’ mat for her to find in the morning.

After all it held an item that he didn’t really have any use for and besides Tiny concluded, “I bought it for her.”

Hands stuffed in his pants pockets, Tiny wandered down the narrow walk way to his car. By then tears had begun slipping down his cheeks and he found himself desiring to be alone in an isolated place.

Tiny drove to the edge of town, to an open field where he could look up at the millions of stars and dream. But this early morning he didn’t want to dream, he wanted to fix his shattered heart.

Unable to sit or to lie down, Tiny stood motionless, staring up at the Milky Way, hot tears rolling down his face. He looked down at the toes of his weighted shoes as they protruded from under his pant cuffs.

He knelt and undid the ankle weights, followed by the shoes, and slipped them off. Quietly and quickly Tiny rose from the ground, disappearing into the vastness of the darkened sky.

Monsters

The noise came from beneath her bed. Fearing a monster, Alice grabs her teddy bear, willing it to keep her safe.

“Mommy! ” Alice cries, but her mother doesn’t respond. She squeezes the teddy bear tighter.

Then Alice hears footsteps coming to her door. The noises from under the bed suddenly grow quiet as her mother’s drunk boyfriend enters the room.

As he approaches Alice, two large hairy hands with ragged claws, reach out, grabbing him by the ankles. Screaming, the boyfriend’s dragged beneath the bed.

Soon, from under Alice’s bed, a soft voice whispers, “You’re safe from the monster, now.”

Where is Mary Sargent?

“Are you crazy?” Mary Sargent’s daughter pleaded, “Don’t get in the car with him!”

That was February 12, 1987 – the last time anyone would see her again. Within hours she’d be reported missing as the man driving the car, with whom Mary had an abusive relationship, would return to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) alone.

This same man would reportedly borrow a garden hose from his neighbor and as that neighbor watched, he would rinse out the interior of his car. Information like this led nowhere and eventually the same man would be shot to death by a RSIC police officer after he violently attacked the officer.

Mary Sargent’s story though isn’t a singular one.

In 2016, North Dakota alone had 125 cases of missing women reported to the National Crime Information Center. This statistic and others like it are known to be under-reported and may range into the many thousands.

Of these 125 reported cases, most can be connected to the oil fields. These same U.S. oil fields are generally protected by private security firms, who operate under the watchful eye of the Department of Homeland Security.

Unfortunately, few have been fully investigated with reason’s being ‘lack of funding,’ ‘under-staffing,’ ‘no evidence of foul-play,’ or ‘no body, no crime.’ The majority of women who vanish and whose remains are found, are so highly desiccated and victims of deprivation, that no identifications can be made of the person and they are then buried as ‘Jane Doe’ followed by a serial number.

In Canada, the problem is far worse, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to nearly 4,000 Indigenous women having gone missing or murdered. And again, the numbers are very low due to under-reported cases as Canada does not maintain a database for missing people, which makes it difficult to figure out the rate at which Indigenous women go missing and found murdered, or to even compare information between populations.

Although Indigenous women and girls make up only four-percent of the female population in Canada, they represented 16-percent of all female homicides in Canada between 1980 and 2012. A 2007 study by the province of Saskatchewan – the only one to have systematically reviewed its missing persons files for cases involving Indigenous women – these women were found to make up six-percent of the population, but 60-percent of their missing and murdered women cases.

As for Mary – few to no records exist, as her disappearance was and continues to be considered a ‘very low priority.’ According to Mary’s family, Bureau of Indian Affairs investigators told them two things at the time: ‘she’s an adult and because of her life-style she can disappear if she wants,’ and ‘she’s one less Indian we have to worry about.’

The last time anybody saw Mary, she was wearing a white cotton blouse with ruffles on the shoulders, Levi 501 blue jeans and a pair of light blue and white Reebok tennis shoes. Sadly, that’s pretty much all the information the one official report holds; not her height, weight, age, distinguishing features or even a photograph.

Lastly, where ever she lays, for over three-decades, Mary has had no one to sing her funeral song. It’s time to change this.

The Tale of Two Politicians

It was a conversation I wasn’t supposed to overhear, but the man doing the talking and laughing was loud and not paying very much attention to his surroundings as he spoke to the few camp-followers he had in tow. It happened during the invocation on Sunday, the final day of the Numaga 2018 Pow Wow.

We were seated in the media-only section and had I been working as a reporter, I would quizzed Nevada Gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak on some of his platform positions. But I was there as a guest of the Hungry Valley Indian Reservation as an event photographer – meaning the Pow Wow participants were my main focus.

“Yeah, of course he wouldn’t be here,” Sisolak scoffed, “he only hangs out with the rich.”

He laughed, as did his four-person entourage. He was talking about his primary competitor, Adam Laxalt.

This happened during the invocation, where much of the crowd was silent and reverent. Furthermore, someone said this is a long prayer, to which Sisolak stated, “She’s long winded when she’s invited to speak at the legislature, too.”

Unable to hear the because of the ongoing interruption, he had to be ‘shushed’ twice, including once by me. Very little was said after that and the candidate and his group left the event shortly afterwards.

A few minutes later, I was introduced to Wes Duncan, who is running for Attorney General of Nevada. He was talking with a small group of people and we were discussing his opponents recent bad press.

Aaron Ford was arrested four times in Texas in the 1990s for public intoxication, stealing tires and twice for failing to appear in court. He also fell behind or ignored paying over $185-thousand dollar to the IRS between 2010 and 2014.

“I don’t hold what happened in the 90’s against him, but the unpaid taxes…” Duncan derided Ford.

“Personally, what happened in the 90’s goes towards character — which is important,” I interrupted, “but I can forgive the guy about not paying his taxes on time – after all, taxation’s theft since they’re not using that money the way the U.S. Constitution says it should be used.”

“Well,” changing the subject ever so slightly, Duncan replied, “taxes pay for services and salaries.”

Though he didn’t know it, he made my point for me about the unconstitutional misuse of our taxes, so nothing more could be said. Eventually, he and his aide-de-camp left the Pow Wow, for parts unknown.

Kitty Cat Nature

At first, the sudden appearance of the goddess Bastet frightened the retired Professor of Egyptology. Her lithe body and cat-like head were beyond anything he’d seen in the natural world.

The old man knew Bastet to be a guide and helper to the dead, therefore he was certain that death was upon him. So he quietly set aside his tea and book, closed his eyes and announced, “I’m ready.”

However, nothing happened. After waiting a few seconds more, he opened his eyes and saw that the goddess had become distracted, having curled herself into an open and empty cardboard box.

Frankensnot

We were practically side-by-side all the way into town on Pyramid Highway. The newer Subaru was slightly ahead and that’s how I came to seeing the nine-year-old boy in the back seat on the passenger side of the car.

Try as I might, I did my best not to look over at him, because every time he did, he’d stick his tongue out at me or mouth what appeared to be an obscenity. Fortunately, his mother, the car’s driver, was aware that her child was misbehaving as every time she spoke his head and eyes would snap forward.

Each time he suddenly grew ‘innocent’ was but a temporary respite as his mother’s attention would eventually return to the road and away from him. Then it got worse — he rolled down his window.

As we began to slow for the red-light at Disc Drive, the child stuck his right pointer finger up his left nostril and withdrew a long, yellow-green booger. He then flicked it out the window and onto my truck.

His mother, ever observant of his poor behavior, turned and began thrashing the boy with what looked to be a lone beach sandal. I could hear her screaming at him and he crying as the light turned green and I continued with the flow of traffic.

Looking back in my rearview mirror, I saw, some ten or eleven car lengths behind, that the kid was still catching hell from mom, who, sick of his bad behavior, was still stopped at the light, blocking traffic. I know it’s bad form, but I laughed maniacally at the sight of his being beaten, while I drove to the nearby car wash on McCarran Blvd. to clean his nastiness from my truck.