Barbara of the Slabs

It wasn’t like I meant to pass through my estranged wife’s home town at the time, but it was the only way I knew of getting to Julian and to the eastern side of the Salton Sea. The beginning of July is nice in the higher elevations, but dropping down through Anza-Borrego, it became ungodly hot and nearly unbearable.

Traveling along the roadway through the forested areas could be pleasant. But once the trees fell away behind me, shade and ice-cold water running from a high mountain stream were about the only things I could think of — save for the sudden punctuation of the large rattlesnakes that enjoyed themselves by stretching out on the asphalt in the sun along my path.

“Keep your mind on what you’re doing, ya dumb-fuck,” I kept telling myself as I’d realize I’d slipped into a state of heat-induce insensibility.

Finally, I came to one of the lowest point in the valley near Niland, and following Beale Road I came to Salvation Mountain. I’ve never seen anything like it, with all of it’s colors and all the Bible verses pronouncing Jesus as the only way.

I was certain, after seeing this, I was on the right path as I’d been praying for direction for some time.

A place that seemed more myth than real, the Slabs is a harsh reality for the untrained leather-tramp. I was so surprised that it even existed, even after I got there and set up my camp site overlooking ‘O-My-God Springs,’ a nudist colony that seems separated from the rest of the area.

Having only heard it spoke of in passing, I had no history on the place. But soon I learned from a couple of old-timers that it used to be a U.S. Marine Camp Duncan, in used from 1942 to 1949.

The first night was the easiest evening I had when it came to sleep. The next six nights were harder than it was hot during the daytime.

After a couple of nights I realized that nighttime’s were purposely arranged to be filled with partying and noises beyond all compare. Not even a busy night in Los Angeles or San Francisco can compare to loudness committed by the dwellers of that fabled desert hide-a-way.

It’s also amazing how easily a person can adjust to the non-quiet, and at least in my case, it was far easier than the first time experiencing the complete silence of a high desert camp. Once adjusted, I visited ‘The Range,’ a makeshift bar and musical venue.

Its aged and weathered desert colors were home to a stage, a single microphone and a variety of broken and worn down chairs and couches and an old set of high school football spectators benches surrounding it. The best place to sit is on a blanket in the sand or in the sand, itself.

Barbara was a self-described, “old hippy-chick,” 14-years my senior. We bonded immediately after I learned she’d been raised in northern Humboldt County and was a member of the Hupa Tribe.

“I’m a member of one tribe, trying to belong to another tribe,” she informed me, “And I can see you’re in the same situation. Why?”

I had no answer for her — or me for that matter.

We ventured away with a couple of beers and a small bottle of tequila to find ourselves laying in the dunes facing west. At night, shortly before the sun sets, a breeze blows in from the southwest over the Salton Sea, bringing the wretch-worthy decaying odor of a body of water that’s dying.

She knew it; I didn’t. I gagged; she laughed. We drank; we fucked.

The next morning I found myself alone, laying in the sand looking up at the most beautiful blue skies I had ever experienced. But no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find Barbara.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion she was either a figment of my imagination or a spirit that seeks out souls, ones that need a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on and that perhaps I was that person needing her befriending. As I hiked north towards Indio, I came to imagine that perhaps I was the friend and she were the spirit needing somebody.

Later on, having found a book on names at a thrift store, I came to learn that her name, ‘Barbara,’ is from the Greek word ‘barbaros’ meaning ‘foreign or strange, traveler from a foreign land.’ I still get the chills thinking about this certain piece of trivia.

In any case, I heard her message: stop searching and return to ‘my tribe.’ I figured that after a couple more weeks, following Highway 10 to U.S. 95, I’d be back home where I could begin to rebuild my broken life and heal my wounded heart.

I was right.

Combine

My hobo-camp had been set-up in a cluster of trees and brush between the Interstate and the frontage road. I intended to stay put for couple of days to give my tired ‘dogs’ a chance to recuperate.

Comfortable and secluded, save for the sound of vehicles racing by, I spread out on my sleeping bag and fell asleep for the night. As a rule, I had become an early riser, going to bed before the sun had even set.

The following morning I awoke half-an-hour before my usual time, hearing a rumbling of at least two machines making sounds I was not familiar with. I slipped to the edge of the grove and peaked out towards the sounds direction and watched as two very large John Deere 9600 Combines drove in tandem from one end of the field across from me to a point that nearly placed them out of sight.

As the sun came up and I finished my bowl of rice and beans, I continued to watch the precision at which the two operators displayed as they chewed up what had been a golden field of wheat. I was as if I were watching a pair of male sage-grouse dance, performing for some yet-unseen female of the species.

Forgetting myself and entranced, I moved out of my position of concealment and crossed the frontage road to continue walking. Soon a truck came driving up, and I figured that by its speed of less than five miles an hour, I’d over stayed my ‘welcome.’

Instead, the man hollered, “You looking for work or simply gawking?”

“I’ll take some work,” I answered.

“Then come on.”

I jumped in the bed of the truck as he turned sharp off the frontage and down a gravel roadway towards two large grain silos and various other buildings including a farm-house. He pulled up in front of the largest building and got out, with me trailing behind.

“Dennis,” he directed to a guy standing by a desk, “Get this fella a respirator and some coveralls. I’m putting him to work.”

“Dennis will take care of you,” the man said. “I’ll be back in a few minute and then I’ll show you what needs doing.”

When the man, I later came to know as Mr. Riley, said work, I had no idea he meant hard-work. He had me in a large contraption which ‘strains’ the wheat grains and moves them to the silo, where the grain’s stored.

As I worked, I learned that the grain came with dust, lots of it. The dust is so fine that it permeated my clothing, thus the coveralls, which didn’t stop it from happening, but rather helped to cut down on amount that filled my pockets and every hook-and-cranny of my jeans, shirt, boots and under clothing and was a danger to a person’s lungs, therefore the need of a respirator.

Every grain is important, so Mr. Riley also had me inside the bed’s emptied columbines ‘vacuuming’ up any and all loose or errant grain. Later, I spent a couple of hours raking and packing down grain the silos

After two days, my body hurt all over. But he and Mrs. Riley fed me and gave place in the barn with a bed to sleep in while I was there. I stayed for the week, which is roughly how long it took to get the crop in from the field.

Near the end of the fourth work day, Mr. Riley offered me the chance to climb in the cab of one of the combines and learn how to drive the beast. In a nutshell — it’s how I’d imagine driving a Mars-rover across that most alien of sandscapes and for a few minutes, I forgot I was but an Earthling.

Having long retrieved my gear from the cluster of trees, I had everything packed up and ready to hit the road that Sunday morning as soon as the sun rose. Having said my goodbye’s the night before and finding a one-hundred dollar bill in my boot, I slurped down a warm cup off coffee, before setting-off across the now-bare fields towards my next destination – whatever and where ever that might be.

As I passed one of the combines, I noticed the sky to the east beginning to pink-up. Dropping my pack, I quickly climbed up the back of the vehicle and plopped my butt atop the cab, dangling my legs over the massive windshield.

From there I watched as the sun went from a sliver over the distant landscape to a full ball in the sky. As I watched, I couldn’t help but marvel at the idea that it was Sunday – a day I didn’t usually travel on – and that I’d jus’ watched a Kansas sunrise while sitting on top of a John Deere 9600 Combine.

“How may people can honestly say they’ve done this before?” I asked myself as felt the sun warming my tanned face.

Catching Up on Childhood

The trucker dropped me off someplace east of Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He was turning south and I was heading north towards Wyoming.

It had been only three days since I began ‘hoofing’ it from Muskogee across Indian Territory. I’d only managed the one ride that took me to the point at which I found myself.

The sky was clouded and darkness was quickly approaching and I knew I had to get my hobo-camp set up before the skies either opened up on me or it became to dark to see. I found an open field near a frontage road and pitched my two-person tent.

In the distance I could hear kids outside, playing and it was joyful sound. I decided to walk towards the sound and see if I could watch them play, as it always made me happy and reminded me of my childhood.

They weren’t all that far from my site and I sat down next to a tree at the side of a gravel roadway to watch. There eight kids sprinted around in a game of tag, seven White and one Black; a girl.

They ran and chased each other until the one street lamp in the area popped to life, then like I had to do as a child, they disappeared indoors. Except the Black girl, who seemed to have no place to go.

As I got up to head back to camp, I heard, “Hey, mister!”

I turned as the girl came jogging up to me. She was a good head shorter than me and was missing a front tooth.

“How long you been there?” she asked.

“About fifteen minutes?”

“I’ve never seen you around here before.”

“No, I’m passing through. Got a tent set up in the field over there.”

“You mean you’re sleeping outside?”

“Yup. Been doing that a lot the last two days.”

“Well, mister, if you ain’t no boogie man or something you can come crash on my couch, if you’d like. Even have some beer.”

Slightly taken back by the forwardness of this child, “What would your parents say about that, you offering me a place on the their couch and beer?”

“What in the hell you talking about, child?” she laughed, “I’m a full-grown woman and can make my own decisions. Shit!”

I looked at her closely, “I’m sorry, but you don’t look any older than 12.”

“Yeah – ‘cuz I’m short. What is it people got against us short folk anyway?”

“Obviously, a lot of incorrect assumptions,” I answered, adding, “And you know what they say when you make assumptions…”

“You make an ass out of you and an ass out of me,” she laughed. “Now go get your shit and I’ll meet you right here.”

A few minutes later, camp site cleared and my back pack hanging loosely from my right shoulder I met her right where she instructed. She introduced herself as Daphne and I told her my name.

We walked to a small house with a nice front porch and entered. In the light, I could suddenly see that she was older and far more physically mature than a 12-year-old.

As we ate meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots and drank her beer, I asked, “So why do you go out and play with the kids like you do?”

“So I can stay young,” she answered as she explained how she grew up as the caretaker of her alcoholic parents in Kansas City.

“Never had time to be a kid, till they went home to be with the Lord. So I’m making up for it and I’m staying so young that I even fooled you.”

She said it in such away that I couldn’t help but laugh. She gave me a toothless grin.

After dinner, “The shower is there, if you’d like.”

“I’m gonna go change and then listen to the radio some and have another beer. You can join me after you get some of that road-smell off your skin.”

Somehow, without me hearing her, Daphne removed my dirty clothes from the bathroom and I soaped up and rinsed off. She replace my dirty rags with a pair of running shorts and a tee-shirt that was a size to small.

I put it on anyway, before I returned to the living room and the couch.

Daphne was dress much the same as me, a country-western radio station played low in the back ground and she had two beers setting on the floor amid a gathering of pillows. We spent the next couple of hours talking about our lives, dreams and our hopes for the future.

Once my clothes had dried, we retired for the evening; her, to her bedroom, me to the couch. Minutes later Daphne call out, “Please come here.”

Somewhere in the distance, a clap of thunder echoed as the heavy rain accompanying the lightning, fell rhythmically on roof.

Bull of the Tracks

It was about 9:30 at night, dark had jus’ fallen as I shouldered my backpack and dashed across the train yard in Sparks. I tossed my pack into the open box car, grabbed the iron ladder next to the opening and flung myself inside.

It was the first time I had ever hopped a train leaving for where ever it was bound. It would also be my last.

Both my grandfather and my father-in-law had told me stories of how they’d get rides in open box cars and how each had traveled through several states as young men. Being newly separated from my wife and still mourning the death of my mother, I found myself lost and looking for a way to find myself.

The hot valley air soon gave way to a cooler mountain feel as we climbed up in elevation. From the direction the train seemed to be heading I felt certain we were heading east across Nevada, toward Utah and that suited me fine.

Feeling secure as the box car clickety-clack through the darkness, I laid on the wood floor, my pack as a pillow and slipped in and out of sleep. Since I had no light, I couldn’t tell what time it was as we began climbing even higher and beyond West Wendover in the distance.

At first I thought we’d entered a long tunnel, however a quick peek out the door and up told me the train was passing through a rather narrow gorge. I marveled at the idea that man and machine had carved such a long and deep valley through the nearby stone.

Suddenly, red lights began flashing and the train began slowing, slowing and slowing till it came to a complete stop. The man-made canyon had fallen away to a declining grade that seemed to slip away into a valley.

There were no other lights to be seen, beyond the red flashing lights. Curious, I stuck my head out and looked back towards the long snaking body of box cars that trailed behind my place in the chain. Seeing nothing, I turned my head to look towards the front and possibly the double engines, when someone grabbed me by the head and yanked violently.

And as I dropped to the rough gravel siding, the first of several blows rained down on my shoulders, back and side. I did my best to cover my head but that proved to be futile as my eyes, nose and mouth met a steel-toed boot, that kicked, stomped and scraped into me over and over.

“You fucking prick,” a breathless male voice growled, “Think you can steal a ride from my train, do you?”

This followed by several more blows from what I believed to be a pipe or a metal baton. As the baton halted its harsh blows, in came more kicks from the boots of the man, who had pulled me unexpectedly from the box car.

Once the beating came to an end, a flashlight shined into my bloody and swollen face, “I’ve seen you and know what you look like and if I ever see you on one my trains again, I’ll beat you to death and drop you body in a gully so deep they’ll never find your body. You understand me, asshole!”

Unable to see well enough to do anything, I simply answered, “Yes, sir,” in hopes he wouldn’t strike me with the baton again. “Now get off my fucking siding you piece of shit,” he shout as he kicked my in the rib cage once again.

With the wind knocked from my lungs, I crawled as quickly as I could over the hard gravel covered ground and towards the downhill grade I’d seen before I being attacked. As I made the softer dirt and the first of the sage plants, my back pack came flying out of the darkness, slamming into my head and shoulders, knocking me to the ground, where I laid as if dead.

In the distance I could hear the man who beaten me talking into a radio or perhaps a cellphone, “Yeah, we’re all clear, here. Continue on.”

His boots crunched in the gravel and slowly faded away as the train lurched forward with it’s customary ‘thunking’ as each box car violently joined the railed convoy. To this was the added sound of a vehicle starting up and slowly driving away, it’s headlights dancing off the top of the sage above where I lay assessing my injuries without moving.

It took me sometime to finally gather the strength to push myself to my knees. I was still light-headed, so I remained on all fours, my head resting on my blooded hands and forearms.

Once I felt I could stand without toppling over, I did. It took me another couple of minutes to slip my back pack on, before heading towards the valley below.

The walk was more like a slog, a painful forced march with no idea where I could be headed. I stumbled several times, fell once, but made it down to a water flat that I would never have seen from above.

It was there that I did my best to clean the blood from my bruised face, my swollen nose, shredded lips and black-eyes. I lifted my now torn shirt and looked as best I could at the lines of bruising left by the baton and the frightening sight of boot laced both burned into and bruised on my rib cage.

For two days I leather-tramped along the valley floor, following the pathetic flow of water as it wound from one side of the gorge to the other. It was my life-line as I knew it would eventually lead me back to civilization and perhaps some margin of safety.

Finally, I came upon a road, where I sat down to rest. Minutes later a green and off-yellow truck came rattling down the rutted dirt track, the driver slowing to a stop where I sat.

“Son,” the old man behind the wheel called out,” You look like hell. You need a lift?”

“Yes, sir,” I grunted from pain as I hauled myself to my feet, “I certainly do. The nearest paved highway, if you please.”

“Ben,” he said, introducing himself.

“Where am I?” was my response.

Ben gave me a strange look, “About five miles this side of the Utah state line.”

“Thank you,” I responded, “Good to know.”

We traveled in silence for a few miles, but curiosity got the better of Ben, “So what the hell happened to you, son?”

I tried to smile, “I got my ass kicked,” wincing at the pain of my cheeks rising.

“Hopped the train?”

“Yes.”

“Seen it before,” he said. “Johnson is the Bull in these part. Heartless, mean son-of-a-bitch even when he ain’t on the job. One of the worst you could happen across.”

I didn’t reply, didn’t feel the need.

About five minutes later, as we rolled into a gas station, I finally said “I won’t be jumping on trains ever again.”

“Probably a smart move, son,” Ben smiled.

He came to a stop and I got out of the truck, “Thank you for stopping to see if I was alright and for the lift, Ben. Much appreciated.”

“You be careful,” he said as I yanked my pack from the bed of his truck, “And God speed, son.”

Thoroughly battered I entered the store of the station and asked, “Can I use your restroom to clean up a bit, if I promise to clean up after myself?”

The woman behind the counter, stared at me, eyes-wide as she nodded her head yes and handed me the key. As I walked to the back of the store, I caught my reflection in one the glass panes of a cooler.“

“Holy fuck!” I thought, “No wonder she looked at me like that.”

Twenty-minutes later, I had removed the majority of blood that had found it’s way into my hair and beard, wiped the dirt from my neck, picked the small bits of gravel from the palms of my hand, and wiped down the sink area before stepping out of the restroom.

Waiting for me were two Toole County Sheriff Deputies. The woman behind the counter called them after seeing my condition.

After checking my ID and calling my information in, the taller one asked, “So, what happened to you?”

Thinking fast, “I missed a step and fell down a steep and rocky embankment.”

“Really?” the short questioned before adding, “Looks like you’ve been assaulted.”

“Nope,” I claimed, “Jus’ clumsy is all.”

“Do wanna ride to the hospital?”

“No, thank you,” I said, “I’m fine – it jus’ looks worse than it is, deputies.”

“Okay,” the taller responded. “Can we give you a lift to the line. There’s a Greyhound station in town that’ll get you home to Reno.”

“That would be great,” I replied.

It was the taller deputy that drove me into Nevada, where he dropped me at a casino near the bus station.

Shaking his hand, I said, “Thank you and be safe.”

“You be safe, too, and you’re welcome.”

I never went to the bus station, Instead I asked a westbound trucker if I could hitch a ride and within minutes we were on our way.

Rock Candy

A couple of days after Halloween, my six-year-old neighbor came over and sat on the sidewalk beside me. He wanted to tell me all about his ‘big adventure’ on the night of the annual candy-grab.

The day of Halloween, he and his brother saw me as I was heading across the street to check the mail. They each wanted me to know what they were going as that evening.

As they were getting ready to head inside to get ready, the six-year-old ask, “So why do I have to say ‘Trick-or-Treat.'”

In as simple terms as possible, I explained that ‘Trick-or-Treat,’ should be asked like a question, that way the people whose house he was at, had a choice – either give him some candy or be tricked. I could tell immediately that the gears in his head were moving and steadily picking us steam.

“If they want me to ‘trick’ them, what do I do?” he asked.

“Well,” I instructed, “I used to put a couple of rocks in my pocket and if I had to trick someone, I’d hand them a rock and say, ‘Here’s some rock-candy.'”

The smile that came across the boy’s face was beyond exceptional – beaming from ear-to-ear. Last I saw of him that night, he was searching the gravel drive between our houses for those perfect stones.

And that brings us back to our sitting on the sidewalk, two days later chatting about his evening.

“Here’s 50-cents,” he said as he held out two quarters for me.

“What’s that for?” I asked, smiling but not wanting to take his money.

“You told me about the rocks and when I did it, the man laughed and gave me a dollar. That’s your half,” he explained.

“No,” I replied, “You did all the work. I jus’ gave you the idea, so you keep it.”

I could see his feelings were on the verge of being hurt, so I offered, “But since you got your candy bucket here, I would love to have a piece of candy,” as I pointed at a small chocolate bar.

“Here,” he said, as he happily handed me a fun-size Milky Way bar.

Vu~anpaiakirā

It had been a sleepless night for Toby as he wandered through his family’s home worried. Every few minutes he’s look out a window and confirm that the shadowy figure was still there, standing at the edge of his perfectly manicured lawn.

An hour before sunrise, he’d finally had enough. He went to his study and unlocked the wood frame case and withdrew the long sword with the name he could never correctly pronounce, and which his great-great grandfather had left his great-grandfather and so on.

Though a hand-me-down, it was still razor-sharp and he intended to test that sharpness if necessary by chasing off the demonic menace that was now haunting his front yard. The thing had been there since the night before and as Toby saw it, “That’s long enough.”

As Toby headed out the door, he grabbed his deceased father’s old walking stick. He’d use it as a cudgel before resorting to the sword, besides he simply wanted to get its attention.

“You need to leave, now,” Toby announced as he stepped towards the being. “You chased everyone away last night. I got a whole bunch of candy and none of it was given out because of you!”

The figure said nothing as it lifted a hand and pointed at Toby. The gesture, meant to stop the man from approaching, didn’t work.

“You forget,” Toby stated as he continued forward, “You said I was to stupid for words the last time we met. You spoke it into existence!”

With that Toby swung the walking stick at the things head. However, it deflected the blow with its arm, cracking the wooden shaft in half.

Without missing a step, Toby moved to the right as he drew the sword and flicked it through the midsection of the figure. It came in a single move and came so quickly that the shadowy man had no opportunity to react to it the blade’s bite.

Surprised, the mystery man grabbed at his side. But it was too late, as his upper torso separated from his hips and flopped on the ground.

Next, Toby dissected the beasts head and neck from it’s shoulders and then did the same with the legs, feet, arms and hands. Then, as he’d practiced for years, he sheathed the sword without looking.

Not a sound could be heard from the figures mouth as Toby picked up the remains of the cane, followed by the torso and head. Angry, Toby began monologuing as he dragged everything around the corner of the house and into the back yard.

“I told you and your kind to leave us alone, but no! You refused to listen and then you force me to do crap like this,” he complained as he plopped the torso on the ground.

He placed the thing’s head in the grass near the torso, continuing to talk all the while: “You scared off all the neighborhood kids, gave my wife and daughters nightmares – so this one’s on you Vlad – or whatever you’re calling yourself these days – I don’t care and in a few minutes it ain’t gonna matter anyway!”

As the torso lay at his feet, Toby drove the shattered end of his father’s cane through the center of the rib cage, where the heart should’ve been. And using a rock from his flower bed, he drove the piece of wood into the earth, making certain that it was deep and secure.

In the darker edges of the yard he saw other shadowy figures moving about, looking as if they wanted to attack him and rescue their master. But Toby had planned for this, timing his violent encounter with the rising of the sun.

He laughed, “Rising of the sun…that’s funny as hell. Tora, tora, tora! You’re gonna watch as your body goes up in smoke and ash, you dumb bastard!”

As he said this, Toby noticed how all the body parts he’d hacked away in the front yard, had managed to wriggle their way to the dismembered body. Again he laughed, “And right on time!”

As he said that, a sliver of the sun’s orange glow showed itself from between his home and the neighbors. Knowing that they were in danger themselves, the figures tucked within the yard’s shadows began to fade away to where ever they came.

“Let this be a lesson to all of you – and don’t come back!” he shouted as the torso and it’s limbs began to smolder, smoke and finally burst into a white-hot flame, only to disappear in a cloud of ash.

Toby turned and pointed at the head, as it sat in such a way that it would be last to go and was now beginning to show signs of combustion, “Go back to Hell and tell everyone to leave me alone or they’ll get some of the same!”

In an instant, the head exploded into to a ball of white-hot fire, followed by a cloud of ash. Toby looked around as the sun rose higher, then grabbed the garden hose to rinse away the residue of this epic battle.

Later that week, Tobiachi ‘Toby’ Edo received a letter from his homeowner’s association informing him that his Halloween display had earned first place in the ‘scariest’ category and that he should come to the office and collect his trophy.

Reno Woman Missing, May Be Endangered

UPDATE: Kelly has been found deceased. The Washoe County Search and Rescue unit located her remains near Double Diamond and Terabyte in south Reno on December 7, close to the area in which she disappeared. Foul-play is not suspected. Autopsy findings are pending.

Kelly Trethan, 36, left her apartment, off Double-R Blvd., in south Reno, Nevada, Saturday morning, November 17, around three and has not been seen since. She is possibly endangered as she takes medication for both mental and physical conditions.

She is five-foot, three-inches tall, about 140 pounds with light brown hair, green eyes and a large bird tattoo on her back. She was wearing a thin long-sleeved tee-shirt, yoga pants and was bare foot at the time she left home.

At the time of her disappearance, Kelly was incoherent, confused and may have accepted a ride from a stranger. If you see or know where Kelly is, you’re urged to call the Reno Police Department at (775) 334-2121 or Secret Witness at (775) 322-4900.

Boots!

She walked over to the popcorn maker in the waiting area and got herself a bag. She also poured herself a cup of coffee.

As she did this, I took the opportunity to check her out. I’d seen her sitting at one of the tables doing what I believe was some sort of school work.

From the front she was attractive and now I could honestly say she was attractive from the backside, too. Then I looked at her feet, where she had on a fancy pair of ostrich-skin cowboy boots.

As she stepped passed my seat, I said to her with a smile, “I love your boots.”

With a half-surprised, half-angry look on her face, she stopped and asked, “What did you say?!”

She said it with such authority that her question left me feeling unsure as I repeated, “I love your boots?”

The woman smiled warmly, “Wow, my mistake – I thought you said ‘boobs.’ Thank you for the compliment. My husband bought them for me, for my birthday last month.”

“Y-y-your w-w-welcome,” I stammered.

As she headed back to the table she occupied, and having come to within an inch of losing my life, I rapidly scanned the room for a hole to crawl into and hide.

Two-bit Boo-boo

So, I took my wife’s car in to have the tires rotated. It was a two-hour wait.

“No problem,” I said as I held up the book I had with me.

My plan was to sit quietly and read, but the kids in the waiting area had other plans. Instead, I walked across the parking lot to the second-hand store to have a look around.

After an hour or so of perusing the aisle, I discovered a torn and stained U.S. flag stuffed, unceremoniously in the back of a lower shelf. I pulled it out and took it to the front to tell them that a flag in such disrepair isn’t supposed to be resold, rather it should be properly disposed of through the VFW or American Legion.

The manager was polite, thanking me for bringing it to her attention and that she’d see it was properly taken care of personally. Happy with myself, I headed out the door, when I heard, “Sir! Sir!”

Turning back it was the store manager. She saw my book and told me that I had forgotten to pay for it.

“No,” I replied. “This is mine. I brought it in with me.”

“Really?” she snarked. “You’re gonna steal a 25-cent book after what you jus’ did?”

Ready to show her some attitude, I again said, “No. This book is mine. I’ve had it since before I could read.”

Then this large, obese guy walks up and asks her, “Is this dude giving you trouble?”

She turned back to me and asked, “Are you?”

Looking at the big guy, as he tried to intimidate me, all I could see (if he touched me) was the bloody mess he would leave after I sliced his fat gut open from side to side in one sweeping motion. I literally had to shake the image out of my head.

Instead, I drew a quarter from my pocket and flipped it in the air and walked out the door. I still can’t believe I had to pay for a book I already owned, but on the bright side, it was only a quarter’s worth of a mistake and not a drop of blood was lost.

The Cure for a Common Cough

A pharmacist employed at the corner drug store came to work only to find a guy leaning against a nearby wall. Curious, he asks the newly hired clerk, “So, what’s up with that guy?”

The new clerk responds, “Well, he came in this morning to get something for his cough, but I couldn’t find the cough syrup, so I gave him an entire bottle of laxative.”

In a panic, the pharmacist shouts at her, “You can’t treat a cough with a laxative!”

Unabashed, she calmly responds, “Yes, you can. Since I gave it to him, he’s been afraid to cough.”

The Problem with Today’s Youth

She knocked politely on the door and waited. Something move in the peripheral of her right eye, but when she turned her head to look, nothing was there.

“Hello,” the woman said as she opened the door, “You must be Amelia, here about the maid job.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Well, come on in. My name is Helen and my husband, whose up stairs, is Don. He’ll be joining us in a minute or so,” the woman stated.

Amelia followed her into the parlor and sat where Helen gestured  for her to sit. She didn’t expect the house to have so many rooms.

“Tea?” Helen offered.

Amelia smiled, “Yes, please.”

From above she heard footsteps move across the ceiling, creaking floorboards gave way to the softer patter of walking on carpet as Don moved towards the stairs. He seemed much, much to young for her, Amelia noticed.

After a few minutes of general conversation, the trio got down to business. Helen wanted to know about Amelia’s experience and references.

“Oh, don’t worry child,” Helen said. “There are 33 rooms to this old mansion and we use only four, so cleaning after us isn’t as daunting as you may think.”

By the end of the hour, the couple hired the young woman. Don helped her move her few things into the back bedroom, beyond the kitchen and dining room.

After they finished, he took her on a tour of the property, pointing out the family crypt and the old tobacco barn, now in severe disrepair. “Many a tale has come up through the generations about spirits and hoo-doo from that falling down building,” he offered.

Inside, it was Helen who offered the tour. She took Amelia to nearly every room in the home, save for one: “That one is off-limits. Not even Don or I go in there.”

Amelia looked at the door as they walked past it. Her curiosity was instantly piqued by the locked door.

For nearly three weeks, Amelia did her chores as scheduled. She dusted, swept, mopped, washed their clothes and folded the laundry as well as laundered the linen on a daily basis before remaking the beds.

“All in all,” she wrote in her diary, “This isn’t a bad job. The pay is good and I have the free range of the kitchen, so food isn’t a worry. However, I’m still wondering about what’s behind that door upstairs.”

It wasn’t but the following day that Helen and Don left the house for a trip into town, leaving Amelia alone for the first time. “We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

Amelia watched them drive away down the long gravel road that led out to the paved road. She set the broom aside that she’d been using to sweep the front porch.

Quickly, she moved upstairs to the room deemed off-limits. The knob moved easily as she turned it and pushed in the door.

The room was empty of furniture. In fact it was devoid of paint, wallpaper or carpet.

The walls and the floors were hard wood, rough grained, and darkened as if by age. Seeing that there was nothing to be seen, Amelia turned to leave, but found herself unable because of an unseen force preventing her from stepping through the doorway.

Amelia rushed at the door, only to bounce backwards and onto the floor. She tried opening the shuttered windows, but they refused to budge.

Then she heard her employers’ vehicle as it rattled and bumped it’s way up the long drive to the front porch. Her heart sunk and she instantly felt sick as she listened to the sound of their footsteps coming into the front hall and then up the stairs.

“Finally!” Helen said as she stood in front of the door to the forbidden room.

“What did I tell you, my dear,” Don added. “All we needed to do was leave for a bit and she’d trap herself.”

“Wait…what’s going on,” Amelia wanted to know, “How come I can’t get out of here.”

“You and I are going to transfer souls,” Helen stated with a smile.

“You’re crazy, old woman,” Amelia cried.

“Maybe,” Helen replied with a laugh. “But maybe you’re the one that’s crazy.”

“I don’t understand?” questioned a panicked Amelia.

Don stood in the doorway, “Do you think a young man with such a fine body as mine is going to find sexual pleasure with the old, worn out body that Helen is living in?”

“You’re both crazy!” Amelia shouted.

“No,” he answered, “I’m simply young again — and soon Helen will be, too – thanks to you. And I must say, your body is quite thrilling to look at – I can’t wait to make love to it.”

Amelia backed away from the door as she gagged and threw up. Feeling weak in the knees, she dropped to the floor and began sobbing breathlessly.

She cried so hard, that she failed to see the shadow as it crossed from one corner of the room to the other, then behind her. And as Amelia began to find it harder and harder to breathe, she heard Helen call out to Don, “That’s the problem with today’s youth.”

“What is, my dear?” Don asked.

“They don’t listen to their elders,” Helen chuckled.

Lori Ann Love, 1958-2018

Having lost my parents, my only brother and a sister, I tend to feel deeply for friends and family who suffer the passing of a family member. There is so much to do when a loved one dies, that the normal activities in life can feel overwhelming.  And since I’m unable to be present and act as a buffer between the family and those meaning well, I offered to help my friend, Frank and his family by doing the only thing I’m decent at, which is writing and I thank you for the honor…

Lori Ann Love was born July 15, 1958 in Crescent City, California to Doris and Darrell Love. She passed away at the age of 60, from heart failure in Eugene, Oregon.

Lori went to several elementary schools including one in Rio Vista, California, Gasquet Elementary and Lake Earl Elementary before attending Crescent Elk Middle School. She graduated from Del Norte High School in 1976 where she lettered in Varsity Basketball and excelled as a drummer in the school’s Marching Band.

Following graduation, Lori went to work for Kacy’s Market, learning to cut meat under journeyman butcher, Dean Hupp. She moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she worked for Smith’s Food and Drug Stores. Once back in Crescent City, she took a position with Shop Smart Food Warehouse and often helped her brother Frank at Crescent Meats and Pacific Market.

Lori leaves behind not only her parents, but brother’s Darrell Love, Jr., and Frank Love. She’s survived by many others including: Dan, Sara Bellinger, Megan Love Fears, Laural, Jackson, Elizabeth, Leya, Kyle, Tristan, Riley, Andrew, Emily, Taylor, May, Braedon, Julia, Max; Ann Cliff Cutter, Margie, Gordon, Jim, Marty, Maready, Kathy, Deborah, and Teresa.

Aside from always smiling and being the greatest daughter, sister and auntie ever, Lori would help whomever needed it. She loved her many friends including Jean Rupert, Sabrina Custer, Kelly Doan, Lori Wilma Wilson, Shelley and Ti Davis, and the late Jayson Cantrell.

And finally, a big thanks to Diane and Joe Stuart for tossing Lori a great 60th birthday party. The Love Family loves all of you that showed your support and generosity during our time of grief and we will forever be grateful for your prayers and condolences.

Like the Volcano

Charlie sat on the bench in the Walmart waiting to pick up his medication. Next to him sat an elderly lady, well older than Charlie, and she was a chatter-box.

He patiently listen as the woman talked about her life and all the exciting adventures she’d lived through. But what she mostly talked about was being one of the original Vegas showgirls, back in the day.

“Oh, that was a glamorous time,” she cooed. “And it was more than risqué as I dance the in midnight shows – you know – topless, letting the girls out to have a little fun on their own.”

Charlie smiled and without realizing it, glanced down at the woman’s breasts. He quickly looked up at the woman’s face, but by then he’d been caught and he knew it.

“I saw that,” she said with delight. “You men – gay, straight, or both ways – are all the same.”

“I’m sorry,” Charlie said, turning red from embarrassment.

“Don’t apologize. It’s only natural, especially when an old broad pushing 90 says something about her tits.”

“Ninety?” he questioned, realizing she must have had plastic surgery in order to appear so youthful.

“Damn near, honey. And I still got it.”

“Well, I would have never guessed.”

“The wonders of what a good plastic surgeon can do for a gal. By the way, my names Etna – like the volcano.”

She held out her hand.

Looking down, Etna offered, “Got the kittens a few years back. A girl’s gotta keep up if she’s gonna live the fun life.”

“You mean you have implants? Charlie asked.

“You betch’a!” Etna stated with a certain amount of pride. “And I’m proud of my girls, made me a lot of money in my day.”

“I can see that,” Charlie replied.

“I bet you wanna see them, don’t ya?” she laughed as she dug through her purse, pulling out a piece of an envelope and an ink pen.

She quickly wrote her telephone number on the paper and handed it to Charlie, “Here’s my number if you’d like to look’em over. I promise, I don’t bite, even though I have all my teeth. We can have a drink and some fun.”

The twice-divorced Charlie looked at the number, then back at Etna before lying, “I’m a married man.”

“I figgered so,” she returned. “All the good-looking, mature men seem to be taken and I certainly don’t want a twenty or even thirty-something boy-toy to run around with.”

Suddenly, the person behind the counter called her name. She stood up, revealing that at one point in her life Etna had been a real knock-out.

Another clerk called Charlie to the counter.  As he paid for the prescription, he thought, “There was a time it was me chasing the older women around; now the older women are chasing me. What a turn around.”

Etna stepped passed Charlie and loudly whispered before she disappeared around the corner towards the exit, “Keep the number – ‘cuz you never know, honey.”

Charlie stuffed the number in his shirt pocket as he left the store. Once at his truck, he withdrew it and balled it up, intending to toss it in the bed of the truck, but he hesitated, flattening it out instead.

“What could it hurt?” he thought as he picked up his cellphone, curiosity getting the better of him.

The Last Survivors

The dig was going along swimmingly for the old archaeologist. Soon, he’d have all the answers to the age-old question that science struggled with for eons: where did man come from?

Professor Horatio Goldfarb jus’ didn’t know it yet.

Evolution had long ago hypothesized that Homo Sapiens descended from monkeys or apes. ‘Old Farb,’ as he was known, had spent his entire career trying to disprove that theory which seemed so popular among his much-learned colleagues, as they continued to misinterpret Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species.’

“There has to be a master designer — nothing simply comes into being on its own,” he often said.

In his exploration of both ancient texts and even older sites, he tirelessly searched the globe for what had long eluded mankind. But now it was found, uncovered and ready to be examined completely.

He and his team had found the real ‘missing link’ in the middle of a Kansas wheatfield and he was certain it held all the clues as well as all the answers to his quest. Tucked beneath a cavernous tent, shielded from the broiling sun and the prying eyes of the curious, he slowly opened the thing.

His flashlight pierced the long dark interior and what he saw turned his world upside down. It was mostly empty, save for two hollow sarcophagi and endless engravings and inscriptions, along what he supposed, were the walls.

Among the multitude of diagrams, he recognized three basic languages: Classical Hebrew, Sumerian Cuneiform and Egyptian Hieroglyphic, though each had a slight variance to what the University’s and Colleges taught. And by using all three, he quickly deciphered the texts and came away with a possible answer for what he’d discovered.

Goldfarb scratched a few words in his journal before continuing to investigate his find, “It’s the story of Kal-El, come to life and he had a companion, a female!”

After stuffing his journal in his back pocket, the old archaeologist rubbed his hands together, hoping to learn why Mars had become extinct and how Adam and Eve came to be the planet’s last survivors.

Red Rain

He rolled over, stiff and cold from where he’d collapsed the night before. The abandoned house, trashed from its misuses by the other druggies, left a fowl stench in his nose, making him gag.

Sid Clayton slowly sat up, hurting and dope sick. He knew he needed to find another fix soon or he’d really be in pain.

Money though was a problem for the 19-year-old as it often was for those hooked on heroin. Being a drug-fiend was an expensive occupation for a young man barely out of high school.

Once outside, he looked up at the cloudy skies and complained, “Gotta get some cash.”

Sid knew exactly what he needed to do to score both the money and the drugs. He would find an unlocked door to a nearby home and ransack it.

He had done it before and it was becoming easier. Sid never took actual items as he’d seen too many others in his situation get caught with cameras, cellphones and laptops.

“Plus, the pond shop always wants a photo idea,” he recalled.

After slipping into two houses undetected and finding nothing more than a few coins, Sid slipped back into the wooded area behind the residential neighborhood. By this time he was really beginning to feel the effects of his dope-sickness and it spurred him on to finding that ‘bigger’ score for the day’s high.

After rummaging around in a third home on the backside of the tract of homes he’d been at, and again finding nothing more than a couple of dollars and a pistol, Sid decided he must up his game. Then he remembered that down the street was Miss Drew’s home.

At one time the 87-year-old woman had been his Sunday School teacher, but that was years ago. What Sid was actually fixated on was the fact that in the past she’d been known to help those who asked her.

“And, all I need is twenty-bucks.”

He walked to her house, wiped off his dirt-stained tee-shirt and jeans as best he could, then knocked on her door. Seconds later the woman, jus’ as he remembered her, opened the door.

“Why Sidney Clayton, as I live and breathe,” she smiled. “Wipe your feet and come in. I’ll pour some coffee.”

Her home was warm and smelled of both fresh-baked bread and coffee. Sid realized that it had been a length of time since he last ate anything.

“So what brings you by?” Miss Drew asked.

Sid found it odd that she didn’t appear to notice his filthy, unkempt appearance or care for that matter that he still managed to track mud in across her living room carpet and into the kitchen, where she beckoned him to have a seat at her dining table. He suddenly found himself back in time, the seven-year-old in her class, as she placed a mug of coffee and two slices of bread, butter and jam on the side, in front of him.

“It’s so wonderful to see you, Sid,” she added.

He didn’t answer as he had a mouthful of food, and despite his drug habit, he still had some manners about him. As soon as he swallowed, he spoke, “Thank you, ma’am. I hadn’t eaten in a day or so.”

“Well, you eat up, there’s more where that came from.”

“Actually, Miss Drew, I need to borrow some money.”

“For more drugs, honey?”

She knew! Sid’s heart felt like it was going to explode from shame and he couldn’t look the old woman in the eye as he answered, “Yes. Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m sorry, Sid, but I don’t have but a couple of dollars and besides I wouldn’t give it to you so you can jus’ go off and fill your veins with more poison.”

She said it with such kindness, that Sid nearly got sick. He felt embarrassed and it angered him as he stood up and yanked the pistol from behind his back, aiming it at the woman.

“I need money. I’m sick and I’m getting sicker by the minute. Twenty-dollars is all I want.”

It were as if a there were a switch thrown in his brain, as the old lady was suddenly ramrod straight and appeared taller than he ever known her to be. As he watched her grow, be felt as if he were shrinking.

“You need to go, now, before you force me to call the sheriff,” she said sternly, as she lifted the telephone receiver from the wall.

“Twenty-bucks! That’s all I’m asking,” Sid pleaded loudly.

Miss Drew began to dial the phone and as she did Sid closed his eye’s tight, trying to rid himself of this self-imposed nightmare. He heard the roar of a thunder-clap as it ripped through his psyche and when he finally opened his eyes, to his horror, Miss Drew lay on her kitchen floor, still gripping the receiver, a red spot growing between her breasts.

Panicked, Sid quickly dumped the content of her purse out only to discover she had not been lying. She had only three one-dollar bills and a few pennies, nickles and dimes.

After going through her bedroom drawers, searching under her mattress and pilfering her desk, Sid walked out the front door and down the street. He quickly slipped between two houses and back into the woods where he’d come from.

As he hid behind a stand of trees, Sid felt a heavy drop of fluid land on his forehead. He reached up and wiped it away, looking at his hand in the process – it was blood-red.

Soon more and more bloody drops of rain struck him. He couldn’t help himself as he screamed and wiped the gooey residue off his skin.

Then he looked up to the sky and cried, “I’m sorry, God. Please make it stop!”

Sid bowed his head and cried until his sides ached. Still the bloody-rain continued to fall.

“What do you want me to do?!” he screamed.

By this time his tee-shirt, though dirty, had become stained a dark pink. He looked around and saw puddles filling with blood, thick and sickly looking.

Quietly, he dropped to his knees, removed the pistol from his waistband, and with tears streaming down his face, begged forgiveness as he place the barrel of the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Sid fell onto his right side, dead.

The following day, Ed Johnson and his dog, Buddy were walking through the woods, when the dog darted off the trail and into the deeper bushes. After calling for Buddy to return, Mr. Johnson decided to go retrieve the animal.

“Probably found another possum, damned dog, anyways,” he complained.

However, what the dog found was the body of Sid Clayton. Quickly, Mr. Johnson put the leash he had with him on Buddy and dragged the animal home so a call to the Sheriff’s Office could be made.

Within minutes, a deputy sheriff met the shaken man near where the body lay. The pair carefully entered the brush together.

The cruiser’s AM radio played in the background, “Authorities say that yesterday’s rare red-colored rain is actually the spores of a green algae that’s become airborne. Official’s say this algae isn’t dangerous to humans or animals. They do, however, recommend washing any produce before eating it…”

Outing

My dog and I walk lazily along the lake’s sandy shoreline.
Screaming her warning, the crow flies in circles below the tree branches.
Looking closely, her fledgling chick’s on the ground, a snake gliding towards it.
A couple walk to a park bench overlooking the water.
They sit so uncomfortably close.
Then the young man kneels purposefully before the girl.
Tale is that the spirit of a drown man’s spending eternity at waters-edge making gentle surface ripples.
And while I cannot feel his ghostly presence yet, I listen.
My dog stops, barks abruptly at him, before returning to my side.

The Earring and the Rat

A rat swallowed his wife’s diamond earring. Upset, the husband hired a man to find and recover the jewel.

When the man arrived, he found there were more than one-hundred rats trapped in the cellar. He also saw one rat sitting alone and not interacting with the rest of the mischief.

He quickly captured it and returned the diamond to the man. Amazed, the husband asked, “How’d you know it was that rat and not any of the others?”

“Easy,” he answered, “when an idiot gets rich, he looks down on others and doesn’t mix because he thinks he’s better.”

Blood on the Scarecrow

The morning air was brisk as he sat in the old rocker on his porch, rifle on his knees and a tin cup filled with warmed coffee. It wasn’t unlike the countless mornings Seamus Dolan had seen in the many years he lived in the cabin on the edge of the redwood forest overlooking the Klamath River.

This morning, the scenery had changed somewhat – a scarecrow now stood in the vacant field, half-a-mile or so away. He thought it strange only because all that ever grew on that piece of land were blackberries, skunk weed and rocks.

He also took notice of it because it was a good place to find a rabbit or two for the dinner pot. And if he were fortunate enough, he’d get a couple more to trade for salmon steaks with his Yurok neighbors.

In the distance was the ever-increasing rumble of cars, truck and motorcycles as they raced along U.S. 101 from one end of the county to the other. Seamus didn’t own a vehicle, relying on his feet and legs to get him from place-to-place.

Two months earlier, Sheriff Deputy Andrew McAllister discovered an expensive car crashed in one of the deeper ditches along the highway. The driver, a doctor from Stanford University was the owner, but had turned out missing.

Why he was in Del Norte County, no one seemed to know and even less could be learned about why he would have samples of water labeled ‘Klamath,’ in a case in the trunk of his car. And now, another person had gone missing, vanishing from her home sometime in the dark hours.

Questioned extensively by law enforcement to the point that he began to believe he was a suspect, Seamus decided he would get ahead of the investigation by offering his services as a tracker. With that thought in mind, he drained his tin and slung his rifle over his shoulder for the trek into the local township.

Two hours later, he entered the small office that held the local constabulary. Behind the desk was Dianne, she looked up and smiled, “Hey, Seamus, what brings you here today?”

Unaccustomed to conversation and slightly taken aback by Dianne’s friendly greeting, Seamus stuttered a bit as he said, “I..I…I’m here to offer my help findin’ that missin’ woman.”

The smile slipped from her face, “Sorry, but she already been found.”

“Oh. She okay?”

“’Fraid not. Overheard she’d been shot in the head and tossed in the river. Scared off the killer before they could catch’em.”

“Damned shame – wonder if we got us a…” He paused, searching for the word.

“Serial killer?”

“Yeah.”

“Could be. Crap happenin’ in Humboldt could be movin’ our direction.”

“True,” he paused, “Well, okay then, they know where I am if they wanna talk to me again.” He made quotation marks in the air.

Dianne chuckled, “Okay, I’ll let someone know you dropped by. Be careful, Seamus Connor Dolan.”

He smile broadly. It had been sometime since he’d heard his proper name used, especially by a woman,

By ten that morning, Seamus walked up the steps of his cabin and found he had company. It was Deputy Andrew McAlister, whom he’d gone to school with.

“What’s up, Drew?

“Come to check on you? Why don’t you walk along the highway, be’d quicker than skirtin’ around like you do.”

“And get my dumb ass run over? No thanks. Coffee?”

“Naw, but thanks anyway,” he answered. “I hear you offered to help us look for our murdered woman?”

“Yeah,” Seamus responded.

“Can I ask why?”

“’Cause I figgered helping like that is better than gettin’ grilled over and over like the last time you guys hauled me into Crescent City.”

“Okay. Jus’ seemed kinda weird is all.”

“You suddenly tryin’ to claim you and everyone else don’t think I’m weird, living alone, off-the-grid and all that?”

“Well, now that you mention it…” the deputy smiled. “Okay then, you hear anything let us know.”

“Will do – but remember, if I feel threatened, even if you’re the serial killer, I’ll shoot first and ask questions later.”

“I know, I know,” the deputy said as he climbed in his cruiser and drove away.

That night Seamus couldn’t sleep. So he sat out on his porch in the darkness, watching the headlights on 101 passing, enjoying a roll-yer-own and a jar of home-made sour mash whiskey, a skill picked up from his grandpa years ago.

As he readied to turn in for the night and try to salvage some sort of sleep from the early morning, a noise captured his attention. It was a heavier noise, clumsy, unlike a bear or a mountain lion, and he quickly retrieved his rifle as it rested nearby.

He slipped from his rocker and kneeled on the wood of the porch, listening. There it was again, this time he was certain it was human.

Knowing that whoever was out beyond his field of vision, could see him as he remained on the porch, he swiftly ran towards the woods to the right of his cabin. He disappeared into the darkness and continued on until he had fully circled his place.

Seamus wanted to discover the person before they realized he was behind them. He squatted down and scanned the area towards the cabin, searching for the faintest of movement.

Living off the grid, with limited lighting or candles and a fire in the pot-belly stove gave him the advantage over most folks who lived on-the-grid. His keen eye-sight had found him a deer or two on a number of moonless evenings.

Again, the same noise came to his ear. And it was behind him.

Startled at the realization, Seamus began to drop and roll, certain that he was in the cross-hairs of somebody’s rifle sight. He was too late as a single shot rang out and Seamus fell to the ground, dead.

He never heard the shot of course, as Deputy Andrew McAlister stood up, the smoking rifle still trained on the now-cooling body, he flipped his night vision goggles up, “If only you hadn’t implied I might be the killer, Seamus. You were weird, but you were also too damned smart for your own good.”

The following morning, though no one was there to see it at sunrise, a second scarecrow appeared in the vacant field across from where the now cold and empty cabin stands. And like the Stanford doctor, Seamus Dolan remains missing.

Minutes

Nine in the morning and the manager twists the knob on the door, officially opening the bank for that day’s business. James Atherton stands patiently waiting and is the first through the door once it’s unlocked.

“Hi,” the pregnant teller smiles as he approaches the counter, “How can I help you?”

“I need the services of a notary public,” he says.

“I can help you with that,” she replies.

Three minutes in and two more people, both women, enter the bank. They are immediately greeted and helped. Meanwhile the woman assisting James quietly and methodically looks through the papers he’s handed her.

“So when are you due?” he asks, breaking the quietude.

She looks up, “In about four-weeks.”

“Wonderful,” James replies, “And congratulations.”

“Thank you,” she responds. “There you are.”

James hands her a twenty-dollar bill for her services. She moves over to her window to put the cash away.

Six minutes in and three more people enter the building. These three have AK-47’s and one of them shouts, “This is a robbery!”

Across the parking lot, a large man is plodding heavily on the treadmill. He’s silently complaining to himself for having gain the excess weight as he watches the green four-door vehicle come to a stop and three men get out.

Seeing the weapons, he grabs his cellphone and dials 9-1-1. “Hey, this is Officer Larry Andrews, Badge Number 14-98 – and there’s a bank robbery in progress.”

He retreats to the locker room and pulls on his sweat pants before retrieving his service pistol, I.D. and badge. Without a word he exits the gym and casually walks across the parking lot towards the green car.

The driver never see’s him as he walks up beside the vehicle and places his pistol against the left side of the driver’s head, “Don’t try anything stupid. Turn off the car.”

The startled driver moves his head slightly towards the gun barrel and see’s gold-colored badge. Without argument, he reaches up and turns the keys in the ignition switch to the off position.

Officer Andrews, believing he has the situation under control, steps back and directs the driver to get out of the car. Without warning the driver lifts his right hand, in it is a handgun, which he points at the unsuspecting officer and fires.

Andrews also fires. Both are mortally wounded; the driver slumped sideways, part of his forehead gone and Andrews, a pointer-finger sized hole in his chest over his heart.

Eleven minutes in and several police and sheriff vehicles surround the bank. Other law enforcement personnel begin the task of clearing nearby businesses of by-standers and lookie-loos.

Inside the bank, the gun fire hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Shit, Black, there’s cops everywhere.”

The robber, known as Black is standing to the right of the bank door as one would enter. He’s directed the manager to lock the door as his two accomplices move both employees and customers into a back room.

James is sitting on the floor next to the teller that had jus’ finished notarizing his paperwork. He looks at her name tag which reads ‘Jennifer.’

A telephone rings. It’s the police and they want to talk to whomever is in charge.

Black takes the receiver from the manager, “Yeah?”

As soon as he hangs up the phone, Black calls out, “Mr. Red move to that room and keep an eye on the door from that direction. We don’t wanna have’em sneaking up on us.”

“But, what about the hostages?” he complains.

“Mr. White has’em – you jus’ do as I say goddamn it!” Black growls.

Mr. Red does as he’s told without another word. Meanwhile, Mr. White stands nervously over the seven people he’s got seated on the floor against the far wall.

James thinks to himself, “I’ve seen this movie before – “Reservoir Dogs” – everyone’s named after a color.”

He watches Mr. White as the young man paces back and forth, mumbling to himself. Twice, Mr. White stops and peeks around the door jamb toward the front door as if he’s wondering what Mr. Black plans to do.

As he sits, James quietly looks about the room. He realizes that Jennifer, out of habit, grabbed her purse and brought it with her and he smiles.

She frowns at James as he reaches into her bag when Mr. White’s back’s turned and looking towards the front door. When he removes his hand, he’s holding a small bottle of water.

Jennifer continues to frown at him as he twists it open. James winks and sets the bottle down when Mr. White turns back to look at them.

As Mr. White turns back to the door, James pours the content out of the bottle between Jennifer’s legs and under her floral skirt, then slips the bottle back into the puzzled woman’s purse.

“Hey, I think her water jus’ broke – she’s gonna have a baby,” James calmly states.

“Ah, christ, Mr. Black – there’s a chick here gettin’ ready to have a kid,” Mr. White screeches.

“Yeah,” Mr. Black answers, “That’s her problem…jus’ keep her quiet.”

Jennifer has begun to moan as if she were in pain.

“You know anything about babies bein’ born?” Mr. White asks.

James answers, “I do.”

“Then help her,” the half-frightened Mr. White directs.

“Are you comfortable in that position?” he asks the woman, whose now playing along, uncertain what James plan is, but willing to go along to get free of the robbers’ hold.

She half-mumbled, half-groaned, “Mmhhmmm. Ohhhh!”

Ninety-one minutes in and by then Mr. White is no longer paying close attention to the hostages. He is more interested in how the trio are going to escape the situation, and upset that ‘this isn’t how things were supposed to go down.’

Between caring for Jennifer and her faked birthing, James studies Mr. White’s behavior. He notices that the man rarely places his finger inside the trigger guard and using this information along with the knowledge that there’s a fifty-fifty chance that there isn’t a round in the chamber, he plots his next move.

With a quick wink to Jennifer, James withdraws a lock-blade knife from the right hand pocket of his jeans and quietly opens it. Without warning, he stand, steps behind Mr. White, and grabs him by the chin with his left hand and with the knife in his right, draws it aggressively across Mr. White’s throat.

As slight gagging noise comes from the wounded and soon to be dead man’s throat as a spray of blood washes over the door and wall. Deftly, James grabs the AK-47 and rips it from the dying man’s hands.

Quietly, he moved to the corner, away from the door and pulls the magazine from the receiver. Seeing that it does have bullets, he replaces it and by drawing back on charging handle, moves a bullet into the chamber.

Stepping over the cooling body of Mr. White, James waves Jennifer and the other hostages to lay on the floor. Next, he sneaks a peek out and towards what is soon to be his shooting gallery, and having calculated which robber is the greater threat as he stepped out, he empties his lungs of air and moves onto the bank’s open floor.

Mr. Red doesn’t have a chance as James squeezes off two rounds in rapid succession. Fatally wounded and spilling blood from both a wound to the left side of his chest and face, the would-be gunman drops straight to the floor, outside the door way from which he’s positioned himself.

In shock at the sound of gunfire, Mr. Black stands up and begins to swing his rifle into position. However, James has already fired into the man’s upper body and he keeps firing as long as the man remains standing and holding his weapon in a threatening manner.

Ninety-three minutes in and James lays the AK-47 on the floor along with his knife. The phone rings and without prompting, the manager swiftly answers.

She explains why the gunfire, hangs up the phone and races to the door, unlocking it. James stays with the bank manager, who is second to last to leave the building.

Despite her point-by-point explanation and praise, James’ is arrested and whisked off to the county jail where he faces charges of ‘open murder.’ During his initial interview he’s confronted by two detectives.

“What in the hell were you thinking? You could’ve gotten everybody killed!” the older one chides.

“But I didn’t, did I?” returns James.

The younger detective snorts, “Thinks he’s goddamned ‘Batman.'”

“No,” James responds, “Batman would have never killed anyone.”

“You mean murder…” the elder cop said.

“No — kill,” replies James. “I never murdered anyone.”

“What about the guy whose throat you cut?”

“That wasn’t murder, that was self-defense.”

“His back was to you!”

“That was his second mistake.”

“What do you mean?”

“His first was pointing his weapon at me.”

“Think yer smart, huh?”

“Smart enough to end this by saying ‘I want my lawyer,'” James smiled.

He spends the next four days in lock-up before the District Attorney drop all charges against him ‘with prejudice.’ Five-thousand, seven-hundred and sixty minutes in and James Atherton exits the jail, a free man, where he’s met by his wife and Jennifer, who invites them to be on hand at her child’s birth, a girl she names Jamie.

Lest We Forget

The Great War, better known today as World War I, came to an end 100-years-ago today at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the 11th month. The latest figures, which are still being debated show that 116,708 U.S. soldiers died with another 205,690 having been wounded.

My Grandpa Bill Shaw, having enlisted while still living in Ohio, was one of those wounded, having been gassed by the German’s near the end of the fighting. It left him with scars to his lungs, a difficulty breathing, a nasty greenish sputum, debilitating emphysema — and tales of memories he would very rarely talk about, even when asked.

As a kid he gave me the badge to his campaign hat and the wood buttons from his  woolen tunic, which he tossed away after finding it riddled with moth holes from years of being stored in an old suitcase in a shed. Unfortunately, I lost all the buttons over the years, but I still have his hat badge. He passed in 1973 at the age of 74.

Sleep Comes Not Easily

My friend, Stella Bailey, who writes free verse poetry at ‘Simply Stella,’ wrote “Masterpiece of Emotion.” It really spoke to me and I envisioned this response:

When sleep comes not easily,
Scotch poured and at Baldwin,
My fingers lightly on the keys,
Playing a concert for none.

Perhaps…

Another one listens at this hour, too.
Her nakedness outshines a Texas moon,
As she writhes in her singular agony,
Grass-bound beyond neighborly fence.

Do I stroke her most tender keys
Till she’s a brilliant concert of one?

Perhaps.

Finished, I’ll politely bow, knowing
Her climax is my standing ovation.
She is the masterpiece I now play
When sleep comes not so easily.

Shift

Some how I became turned around; not lost, but extremely confused. I sat down in the shade of a rock overhang and sipped from my canteen, waiting for the feeling to leave, but it refused.

Above me, circled a murder of crows, crying and calling to each other, also in confusion. Suddenly, they went silent and I looked up to see they’d disappeared.

Seconds after, I heard their resumed cry — only this time they were half a mile north of where they had been. I pulled myself to my feet and began walking in that direction.

It were as if a siren-song called me to move towards the latest position in which the murder circled. I soon forgot about my confusion, instead focusing on the fact that the birds had simply vanished from one point in the sky and reappeared in another.

As I moved closer to the bird’s location, I stopped to look back, a habit I had formed over the years of hiking through the desert, and found myself astonished at the sight of paired Suns. “It’s gotta be an atmospheric phenomenon,” I tried to convince myself.

Turning back to the trail ahead, I realized the crows had again disappeared. This time as I searched the sky above me to the northern horizon, I actually saw them materialize.

At first, I was unable to process what I’d seen, thinking I may have fallen for a trick-of-the-eye due to the distance, but then I heard their terrified shrieking and therefore knew something strange had occurred. I had the overwhelming sense it was something I was not supposed to have seen, mixed with the same overwhelming sense that I needed to pursue the birds and their shifting as I’d come to call it.

With renewed vigor, I scrambled over and between rocks, creating a trail of my own. I needed, as if driven by an unseen force, to see what lay beyond the next set of outcroppings before me.

Fifteen minutes later, provided my pocket watch was still maintaining proper time, I arrived at the top of a craggy precipice overlooking a camping site. The birds, still flying overhead, screamed and shrieked, as every few seconds they seemingly disappeared and returned.

Watching the birds, I looked at my hands, wanting to know if I too were disappearing and returning as they were; I wasn’t. Then I took note of the camping site, the large off-white canvas tent that stood in the near-center, also appearing to flicker from sight and back again.

From it came the crying of a man, suffering greatly, not only in physical pain, but emotional pain. I slowly descended from my rock-bound perch, towards the tent and the excruciating sounds emanating from within the clothe confines.

Surrounding the site were various petroglyphs, Paiute in origin, many looking remarkably ageless and others looking as ancient as others I had seen among the rocks of the high desert. Quietly and carefully, I walked around the back of the tent, where I noticed how old the design appeared.

“Mid-to-late 1800’s?” I questioned my judgment.

Still the awful sound that echoed from the interior urged me to hasten my pace towards the opened flaps of the tent. Much to my surprise, I found a seated man, who repeatedly jumped to his feet and rushed towards the opening, only to snap back into his original position in the rear of the tent.

Over and over, I watched this scene play out – this bearded man, dressed in a dirty-white, shin-length night-shirt, – returning to sitting, to rising, to rushing, screaming all the while. The tent’s interior looked remarkably clean and comfortable, with a carpet covering the sandy ground, a wood framed cot, blankets and a small writing desk with chair.

After observing his agony for about a minute, I realized that he was not of my century, nor did he initially see me standing in front of his open tent. His pained screams caused me to want to reach out to him, to help him, so I drew closer.

That’s when he saw me. His terror-filled eyes blazed into me, as he jumped to his feet and raced towards me, only to disappear and then reappear within the flicker of my eyelid’s movement.

Two more times, this man moved through his personal Hell, before he changed from screaming in eternal agony to broken English. His eye’s darted back and forth as he spoke, “Getz avay…”

He flashed from sight, popping back into view at the back of the tent, “Before it…”

Again, gone, again returned, “…traps you…”

Repeating the same bodily movement, he screamed in German, “…lauf! Jetzt!”

This time, unlike his earlier movements, the man seemed to will himself towards the tent’s opening much more forcefully than he had before. The exaggerated motion caused me to jump backward and tumble-down the embankment.

“Lauf! Gottverdammt…” he shout as I came to rest on my back, spread out like a hawk in flight. I looked up, watching as the murder of crows vanished, still shrieking in terror.

Quickly, I rolled over, scrambled to my feet and up the embankment. The tent, the man, everything had disappeared – not even an imprint the tent remained in the sandy loam of the desert floor.

Heeding his warning, I ran into the crags, from which I first came. My head, though feeling light, refused to allow my legs to stop for even an instant as I raced over rocks, outcroppings and sandy patches of ground towards my truck.

Once at my truck, I climbed behind the steering wheel and fumbling with my keys, finally getting the vehicle started. I sped away and drove to the parking lot of a roadside restaurant, where I finally broke down and cried.

Not only did the stress of the weirdness overpower my emotional sensibilities, but I cried a violent stream of tears for a man, who, trapped in an endless loop of time, had the forethought amid his nightmare, to warn me off his path.

Oopsie! I Did It Again

Can you say, “Jus’ like Jim Acosta?” I knew you could!

It’s a rather common occurrence for me — getting placed in ‘FB jail’ from time to time. That’s where I am after opining that CNN’s Jim Acosta physically battered the woman trying to take the White House Press Corps’ microphone away from him upon the direction of President Trump.

In what my wife calls a ‘heated exchange,’ someone demanded in so many words, that I ‘sit down and be quiet,’ that I was being ‘abusive’ towards the woman whose opinion I challenged. My retort was that this is the same thing Trump did to Acosta and yet what they are calling  ‘ a wrong,’ in this case, is like “the pot calling the kettle — and all that.”

Mind you, some of these same people are ones who believed, and possibly still do, that Judge Brett Kavanagh sexually assaulted a number of women even though there was never any corroborating evidence to these claims, and two, maybe three of his accusers have since withdrawn their accusations. The same people who ‘got up in my face’ on FB are also some of the same who are quick to defend Acosta, denying his ‘manhandling of a woman,’ though it can clearly be seen, and is fully documented on video.

Personally, I think these people defending the CNN reporter, see Acosta as being on ‘their side,’ because he too displays an open contempt — if not an outright hatred of President Trump. What an error in judgment on their part, because the only side Acosta is on, is ‘his own.’

Soon after, and I’m only guessing here, I discovered myself blocked from further use of FB because the same person claiming I was ‘abusive,’ reported me, and FB being the politically correct organization that they are, has temporarily banned me from enjoining any further discussions. And no, I’m not angry about this happening as all it comes with the territory.

Like him, hate him…this isn’t about Trump. This is about the overtly hostile media that has plagued him since before he became President and od which costa is a fine example.

Being a member of the WH Press Corps is a privilege and not a right. Acosta has no rights when it comes to being there and that’s all being ‘banned’ means. His right to free speech and free press has not been violated and neither has ours, as there are many more reporters in that pool who will file ‘slanted stories, filled with dark-color’ for the mainstream media to rewrite and take to their readers, listeners and viewers.

Acosta was the instigator, as is his habit. He doesn’t ask questions — he makes accusations and argues. Almost daily, he does it with the press secretary; Wednesday, he did it with the President.

“I want to challenge you,” Acosta began, which is not how you ask a question, after Trump called on him. Trump gave the man an opportunity to act with professional decorum, but instantly knew that wasn’t going to happen, murmuring, “Here we go.”

Of course, the ever combative Acosta didn’t disappoint. He refused to give up the Press Corps’ microphone and kept talking over Trump, who finally pointed at him and said, “That’s enough, that’s enough. Put down the mic.”

When the woman, tasked with taking the mic and handing it to the next reporter Trump called upon, Acosta, using his forearm pushed her forearm downward with enough force as to make her bend forward and let go of the mic she’d been trying to wrestle from his grip. That is not ‘reporting the story, that is becoming the story.’

Personally, I thought when Trump stepped away from the podium, he was going to step down and personally take the mic from Acosta. I think the erstwhile CNN reporter realized this, and flopped his ass right down in his chair, finally surrendering the mic to the intern.

As for his unlawfully touching the WH intern: battery is any unlawful offensive physical contact with another person. That is what Acosta did and I’ll stand by that claim as I watched it several times and from differing angles.

If I were a law enforcement officer, I’d have him in handcuff and sitting in the back of a cruiser already. But he’s part of the ‘Washingtonian elitist establishment,’ and is apparently ‘untouchable,’ (pun intended.)

As for me, I will return to FB soon enough. And soon enough, I’ll find myself booted off again when it comes to sharing my opinion — which I also believe is the truth.

Keep on keeping on — because the good-fight is never lost.

Thoughts on Nevada’s Midterm Election

Here’s a compilation of all my thoughts as posted on Facebook throughout the night of the 2018 mid-term elections:

“We need less democracy and more Republic.”

“This nation has slipped so far from the Constitution that it shows on election night.”

“That supposed ‘Red Wave’ has left Nevada drowning in a sea of ‘Blue.’”

“Bread and circuses…so when in Nevada do as California does.”

“Not once has anyone said ‘most qualified’ or ‘Constitutional…'”

“Tomorrow is new day in political gridlock — the likes unseen.”

“The Wednesday after Election Tuesday adds new meaning to ‘Hump Day.’”

“Fifteen of 17 counties in NV, Red. Washoe and Clark, Blue. Rurals have no voice.”

“No cry-ins, no safe spaces, no naked protests, not screaming at the sky…”

“And then suddenly — no more news on the caravans moving north.”

“If you like your Socialism, you can keep your Socialism.”

“Identity politics: ‘youngest,’ ‘gay,’ ‘Black,’ ‘Native American,’ ‘woman,’ ‘first.’”

“Nevada voters elected a state’s Attorney General with a criminal record.”

“On the upside — ‘Judges.'”

“Entire West Coast swept away by a ‘Blue tsunami.’ No life vests available.’

“Nevada elects the dead – both body and soul. Dennis Hof and every Dem.”

“Geography Lesson #1: Nevada is now East Kalifornia.”

“Geography Lesson #2: Oregon is now North Kalifornia.”

“Geography Lesson #3: California is now North Mexico.”

“I can hardly wait for Nevada taxes to increase even more in the next four years.”

“So much for that tsunami.”

And finally, “Facebook wants me to ‘meet’ my newly elected ‘reps.’ Salt in wound.”

Round-To-It

My wife is fond of saying, “When you get around to it” or “When I get around to it,” so I made her a ‘Round To-It’ stone.

She placed it in her curio cabinet, which I find both cute and precious at the same time. It’s so outta place amid the cut crystal, fine china figurines and wood music boxes.

A Distressing Conversation

A few years back, I took a good friend of mine to the local mall, south of town. She told me that she had to return a pair of jeans because she found them torn and faded.

After she showed me, I tried explaining, “They’re distressed jeans, they’re meant to be like that. Didn’t you look at them before buying them?”

She didn’t answer me about ‘looking before buying.’ Instead, she focused on a single word.

They’re distressed?” she squeaked. “What about me?”

I tried not to chuckle as I quipped, “You’ve gotta be mortified.”

“Mortified? I’m distressed, not dead!”

Brother for Bid

When I was 10-years-old, Grandpa Bill took me to my first cattle auction in Ferndale at the Humboldt County Fair Grounds. Shortly afterwards, I gathered a passel of kids from around my grandparent’s neighborhood and held an auction of my own.

“So, who’ll give me fifty cents – fifty-pennies, ten-dimes or two-quarters for Adam?” I cried out.

Nothing but blank stares and crickets. Finally, I pointed at one of the taller boys, “You – do your parents give you an allowance?”

“Yeah,” he answered, “A dollar a week.”

“Great, we have an opening bid of one dollar. Do I hear a buck-twenty-five?” I stuttered, in a poor attempt at imitating the fast-talking auctioneer I’d heard.

By the time I finished, I’d sold my brother for five-dollars and seventy-five cents to the kid’s who lived right across Rohnerville Road from my grandparents. Adam, then went home to collect his few clothes and toys before heading off to his ‘new family,’ and that’s how Grandma found out what I’d done.

“If you’re willing to sell your brother, then you’ll eventually want to sell the rest of us,” Grandpa warned me as he tanned my backside with the tree branch he had me fetch.

He would’ve probably whipped even more, but as he explained to Grandma, “Damn kid said he had no idea he’d get that much money for Adam.”

That evening, they ate at the dining table while I sat in the hallway closet with a TV tray, eating alone. That wasn’t half as hard as having to return the money, the next day, even though I’d warned the crowd several times that ‘all sales were final.’

ID-Ten-T Computer Problem

While still employed at the radio station I had a serious problem with our computers in the newsroom. For some reason, they’d all frozen and no amount of ‘rebooting’ worked to solved the situation.

At 1:36 in the morning, I called our corporate ‘IT Specialist.’

It was obvious he was not happy about having to drag himself from his warm bed and into a heavy snowfall to fix the malfunctioning system. It took him less than 15 minutes to get everything online and operating again.

I thanked him and asked, “So, what was the problem?”

As he pulled his coat on he answered, “It was an ID-ten-T problem.”

“Okay,” I said. “Thanks again, for fixing it.”

Later, as I wrote an email to the Program and News Directors, letting each know about the problem, I came to realize why I disliked him so much: there, in Ariel font at 12 pica was the word: “ID10T.”

Las Vegas Shooting: Metro PD Officer Brady Cook

From my notes:  “One day after and during a candle-light vigil, a Las Vegas Metro Police Officer scolded a man suspected of dealing drugs: “Can’t you take one day off?””

It was only day two on the job for Las Vegas Metro Police Officer Brady Cook, “I never imagined the second night would end this way. It all just happened so fast.”

Cook doesn’t know when he was shot.

The rookie officer sustained a four-in-one wound as a bullet ripped through his right arm, into the right side of his chest, grazing his rib cage, before ripping through his skin again. That’s when Cook and his training officer dashed for cover.

“The gunfire, it felt like it was coming from everywhere. It was coming from above, left, right, even from the bottom up. As we’re running, all we see is bullets chasing us, just bouncing off the ground.”

The pair found protection behind a squad car, “[My training officer] was thinking to do a tourniquet on me if I was hit in the arm, but [then] he saw I had a chest wound. He knew he had to get me to the hospital. We ended up stealing this patrol car [and we get in.]

This could happen on day one, or it can happen in your 30th year. It just happened for me on day two. You’re there to do a job, so when stuff hits the fan, you go and you do your job.

This is what I signed up for. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”

Las Vegas Shooting: Brenna and Malinda Baldridge

From my notes:  “In August the Las Vegas mass murder booked a room at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago overlooking the park where the Lollapalooza music festival was being held that weekend.”

The Las Vegas country music festival was supposed to be an annual mother-daughter trip for Malinda Baldridge and her daughter Brenna, “Staying at the Mandalay Bay. You know we did the pool, we did the concert, just kind of relaxed and hung out. We ran into two girls that we were with the night before and, like ‘Oh hi, how are you?’ So we stood with them, up against a barricade like we did before.”

And like many others, she thought fire crackers were going off during Jason Aldean’s performance, “Great somebody brought firecrackers, who does that?”

But soon she realized it was gun shots,“And the girl in front of my daughter fell down to the ground. And there was blood everywhere. You know my daughter was rendering aid to this girl and so was I. And at that point I started hearing more, [gun shots] then I got on [top of] my daughter and that’s when I was shot [in the thigh.]”

“I was just thinking I need to stay calm for my daughter, cause we hadn’t been separated, we were together. We will get through this. I was put into a pickup truck, taken to the emergency room where someone else rendered aid.

For right now, for me, I just feel lucky to be here, and I feel terrible for the people that didn’t survive. I feel for their families.”

Las Vegas Shooting: Cab Driver Cori Langdon

From my notes:  “Two sisters of Marilou Danley say that the Las Vegas murderer sent her away so that he could plan the shooting “without interruptions.””

A Las Vegas taxi driver who drove five passengers to safety the night of the mass shooting is tired of being called a hero. Cori Langdon in line a the Mandalay Bay, waiting to pick up passengers when she heard gunfire.

“There were so many other people who put themselves in harm’s way,” Cori Langdon said. “I just stumbled upon it. I heard what sounded like two pops. I think that’s when he was blowing out the window, but I don’t know. Then it continued and that’s when I turned on the video camera.

I wasn’t thinking I could warn anybody or anything; it just wasn’t in my mind. I just didn’t even fathom that it could be anything like that. If I had to choose one word to say how I felt for a few minutes while it was happening, I was just clueless, dumbfounded and in disbelief. Three words. I wanted people who weren’t there to see what was going through other people’s minds, the people who did experience the horror and saw things that nobody else will ever see.”

She refused to go towards the Strip once she got away from it even though she was offered $100 to do so, “They were kind of mean, to be honest with you, but I have to give them a pass because they had just experienced the most horrific thing they’d ever seen. Honestly, I wouldn’t have gone back anyway, so that shows I’m not really a hero.

I’ve heard everything from ‘You’re an angel’ and ‘You’re a hero’ to telling me what a terrible person I was because I asked them for $11 that was on the meter. But if they don’t pay it I have to pay it, and I don’t have a lot of money these days.”

She keeps finding people, especially Las Vegans, who are still fearful, “But I told them, ‘You can’t be afraid to do things, If you’re afraid to do things, then the terrorists or these crazy people, the dude up on the 32nd floor, then he wins. And you can’t let those people win. You gotta live your life. You have to keep on going.’”

John ‘The Duke’ Wayne Atyeo, 1961-2018

Somedays I don’t think this old heart can take anymore pain and crying really screws with a guy’s masculinity. I say this after learning that yet another friend of mine has passed away.

John Wayne Atyeo and I met while he was still operating the recycled waste route in our neighborhood.  After ‘single-stream’ recycling began in the Eagle Canyon area, Waste Management transferred him elsewhere.

Off and on, depending how busy he was that Thursday (our recycle day) we’d stop and visit for a few minutes, exchanging stories and laughter. From those relatively short chats, I learned that he had wrestled for and graduated in 1979 from Hug High, in Reno, Nevada; joined the U.S.  Marine Corps shortly after high school; and named after his father’s favorite actor, ‘John Wayne,’ “while being conceived in Hawai’i while my dad was on leave from ‘Nam and mom was there visiting him.”

An avid bodybuilder, ‘The Duke’ could hardly contain himself as he told me about how he’d place second in the ‘Master Men 50,’ and sixth in the ‘Men’s Middleweight’ classes of the Nevada State Bodybuilding, Figure & Bikini Championships in 2012, while three-years later he placed 11th in the ‘Men’s Middleweight’ and seventh in the ‘Masters over 50’ catagories. The last time I talked to him was in early November 2016, shortly after he took down an alleged gunman at a Trump rally being held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

I remember how excited he was – and John was not the excitable-type – as he told me, “Someone yelled ‘He has a gun!’ I looked behind me and I saw this guy running through the crowd, so I tackled the guy to the ground.”

“I mean it was instinct or training, I don’t know, but I do know I couldn’t wait for him to take a shot at Trump,” he added.

“I tackled him from behind,” John explained . “He didn’t know I was coming, and I tackled him  hard and I threw him on the ground. I restrained his legs so he couldn’t move them. I also had his left arm, and at the same time I was trying to search him and get a hold of the gun. As I was doing this, he kept trying to get his arms free from my grip which made me think he really did have a weapon.”

John was pretty happy with himself and as we talked I looked the story up on the Internet, telling him he’d made the New York Times. “I hate that rag – but now I have to go find where I can get one,” he laughed.

“Yeah, Anita (his wife) is kind of miffed at me,” he chuckled, “But I also think she’s secretly proud of me, too.”

John passed away from a massive heart attack while working on October 29, 2018 in Reno, Nevada. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee on February 8, 1961. He was only 57-years-old.

But tonight, I’m hoisting a double whiskey, high in John’s honor, while shedding tears for everyone’s loss.

Las Vegas Shooting: Mark Gay and Fred Rowbotham

From my notes:  “Several witnesses, survivors, bystanders and law enforcement officers are still saying there were multiple shooters at the Las Vegas concert.”

As bullets ripped into country music fans, over 300 people ran a mile to the Las Vegas airport. In doing so they kicked down chain-link fences, climbed through razor wire and were briefly mistaken for attackers.

“I’m thinking to myself, I don’t know if the airport police know what’s going on yet,” says Mark Gay of Anahiem, California, “We were running, running out of the dark. If the cops were on that side, they don’t know who we are. So it was: ‘Put your arms out when you’re coming in.’”

“We were making the decision — we’re headed to the airport. The airport seems like the most secure, safe place,” says Fred Rowbotham, an off-duty police officer from the San Diego area.

As for Gay, “We’re still trying to remember how many fences we actually knocked down.”