FIN.

Is it simply an ending?
Maybe it’s cautionary.
A beginning of something else.

Perhaps it’s a warning:
A great big sharp-toothed
Prehistoric fishy’s gonna fly
Out of the dark murky depths
And bite you in your arse.

No? What then?

Then que the suspense music!
Dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun,
Done, done, done, done, done…
May you have a Happy New Year!

The Disappearance of Bobby Davis

It was a thunder-clap from both outside and inside that left his ears ringing. He also felt the sting of the hot shell casing as it ejected into his left palm. He could see through his ever-dilating pupils, the large flakes of snow as they felt from the cloudy skies. And as the bullet passed through his brain, a final thought registered: “Died instantly – bullshit!”

Bobby Davis was nothing, if not meticulous when it came to planning and he’d been planning this final event since Spring of the following year. A man who enjoyed puzzles, when he set his mind to doing something, he didn’t hold back, even when it meant his own death.

Claiming to be rock-hunting, he’d found a secluded patch of earth that he began to work. He started by digging a small ditch, seven feet long and four-and-a-half feet wide. By the time he’d finished digging, he was down five feet deep.

Quietly, over many weeks and a few months, Bobby moved the necessary supplies to the site and began construction on what he knew to be a most elaborate puzzle known to man ‘since the Pyramid’s were built.’ This was going to be a monument to himself, created by himself.

After five-years of nothing, a lack of work, increasing bills and a shortened sense of self-worth and an inability to continue another year of the same, Bobby suddenly felt alive again. He had something worth doing, to working on, a schedule to maintain and it felt good to him.

Prior to his construction project, Bobby had concluded that perhaps there was something to the cheesy, tired old line: “I’m worth more dead, than alive.” Holding that in his mind, he had secretly taken out extra insurance on himself and though it was a struggle, managed to keep up the monthly payments and keep the fact that he’d done so from his wife.

“If I’m gonna do this, I wanna make sure she’s taken care of after I’m gone,” he told himself. Sure, it would take a few years before she could have him legally declared dead, but in the end the million-and-a-half dollar payout would make the hassle worth it.

It began with three 10-foot long four-by-four’s and a piece of six-by-four plywood. He nailed the plywood to the four-by-fours, so that four-and-a-half feet of each timber would fit properly in the hole he was digging. To that, Bobby pounded a foot wide piece of pine planking across the base and another to the ends of each post.

To protect the plywood, Bobby coated it with two layers of white paint, followed up by some black to highlight it. He then covered it with a plastic tarp to let it dry. All the while he continued to dig deeper and deeper into the ground.

Once his pit was deep enough, he moved an old log to the edge of the pit, then dragged his recently constructed contraption onto it. He spent most of the afternoon adjusting and readjusting the three four-by-fours and plywood so that the form was perfectly balanced on the log, which was now a fulcrum.

To fill some time as he waited for the paint to finish drying, he moved some of the stones he’d pulled from the pit and used them to line the hole. It didn’t take long for the summer sun to dry the paint he’d applied to the board, which meant he could begin moving the dirt he’d shoveled from the hole onto the board.

As he did this, he consulted the math he’d created to make certain everything fell into place as planned. An adjustment here and an adjustment there and soon he had the four-by-fours and plywood, covered in dirt and rocks, balanced so the slightest weight would set the entire thing falling into the hole.

Under the boards that extended out and over the hole, he’d slipped two solid tree branches to prevent the thing from being prematurely triggered. The entire set up was so precarious that Bobby felt certain that anything over 30-pounds coming in contact with the any of the three posts could set the whole thing off. He didn’t want to start over.

By the first days of winter, he had finished the majority his work on the project. He was at peace with himself and because he’d stayed busy for so long, he didn’t have time to grow anymore depressed than he had been before the start of the pit’s construction. Because of this, Bobby’s wife didn’t recognize the slight change in his demeanor as they turned in for the night.

As it began to snow heavily, Bobby went to the market for his wife, who wanted to bake a cake and needed some milk. He was gone longer than he should have been, claiming to have run into a former co-worker and having gotten lost in conversation. Though angry with him, she accepted his story as fact, when in reality, Bobby had spent the extra time drawing blood from himself and filling an empty ketchup bottle half-full.

He left the ketchup bottle in his truck and enjoyed a piece of German chocolate cake with a cup of coffee that evening ahead of bed. By the time the couple retired for the night, his wife was no longer angry and Bobby felt at peace with himself.

The following morning he awoke at four with his wife, as was their custom. He made coffee as she showered, dressed and got ready for work. He opened their garage door and started her car. Next he shoveled the thick layer of snow from the driveway, so it would be easier for his wife to back out and watched as she left.

Without showering, Bobby got dressed, grabbed his pistol and an unopened bottle of whiskey, shoving them in his jacket pocket, said a final goodbye to his dogs and headed outside to his snow-covered truck. He brushed away the snow that encased the windshield and doors, started the engine, turned on the headlights and the heater. He placed his wallet and cellphone inside the center console as he usually did, then retrieved the now frozen ketchup bottle of blood and tucked it in his jacket to thaw it out.

He knew that because the blood had frozen, investigators would soon figure out that the ‘crime scene’ was staged. He also knew that it would take some time for anyone to figure this out since it was snowing and much of the ‘evidence’ would be covered in snow by the time daylight arrived

Bobby did his best to make it look as if he’d been attacked in the driveway; a few drops of blood straight downward to simulate a nose-bleed, followed by a frenzied scattering of blood droplets in all directions, a bloody hand print on the steering wheel and on the inside of the driver’s door, ending in a single spray of blood aimed towards the passenger window, that also covered the seat and dashboard. Lastly, using a tissue, he removed a spent shell casing from his coat pocket and placed it under the gas pedal, then stuffed the tissue in his pants pocket.

Finished, Bobby flipped the hood up on his jacket and walk up the street and turned the corner without looking back. He quick stepped through the neighborhood, dropping the ketchup bottle in a random neighbor’s garbage can, that they’d left out on the street following that weeks trash pick up, and into the wilderness above the homes, marching the five miles to the site of his pit. He arrived jus’ as morning broke and a soft gray light filled the sky and then the valley.

He took his time removing the snow from the three four-by-fours as they hung over the pit. He was glad that he’d taken the time to cover and secure the dirt and rock, he’d piled up in the board. He carefully peeled the blue plastic back, folded it and dropped in the hole. Finally, he gently removed the two branches that kept the entire thing from falling into the hole before he was ready to make it fall.

As the snow continued dropping feather-like, Bobby opened the bottle of whiskey and drew a mouthful, swallowing the liquid in a single gulp, enjoying the burning-sensation in his throat and on his tongue that it left behind. After three more pulls from the bottle, it was empty and he slipped it back into his pocket.

From his other pocket, he withdrew his pistol. He pulled back the slider, charging the weapon, placing a single round in the chamber. With gun in hand he lowered his head and said a silent prayer, hoping for forgiveness for what he was about to do. Finally, he cocked his head back, forcing his face to the sky, and using his right hand, placed the firearm under his chin, opened his mouth slightly, placed his left hand over the ejector port and with his thumb inside the trigger guard, took a deep breath, letting it out before pushing down on the trigger.

Bobby knew that because he had his head positioned back, his body would fall in that direction. He toppled over onto the pine boards that secured the three four-by-four’s together. His weight unbalanced the set-up and as planned, it quickly dropped him into the pit, causing the board to stand upright, emptying the dirt and rock into the hole, covering Bobby’s dead body.

Anyone that knew Bobby, knew his ironic sense of humor, but since nobody had any idea what became of him, there was no one around to get his final joke. And after a few months, should anyone have happened upon the site, they’d have found nothing more than a dilapidated plywood sign, nailed to three four-by-four fence posts, reading: “Know Jesus, Know Peace. No Jesus, No Peace.”

Final Spatial Paradox

“The Human Race doesn’t appear to have been very advanced,” Cluphlon stated matter of factually as he and crew member Impan watched from the craft’s window.

“Why would we say such a thing after witnessing the death of so many helpless life forms?” Impan asked.

“Oh, we weren’t meaning to sound cruel,” Cluphlon relied. “It’s that they spoke such a monosyllabic language, communicating in grunts and not complete words or sentences. As the meteor struck the planet, some of their last words recorded were ‘OMG’ and ‘WTF.’”

“Odd for a species beginning to journey beyond their solar system,” Impan stated.

Between Two Shores

My spirit was telling me that I was nearing the end of my travels on the Colorado River. I couldn’t tell you then, nor can I tell you now, how it is that one can come to such a conclusion without empirical proof, but somehow I knew it. I felt stronger than I ever had that day, paddling and paddling. I did not take time to allow my body to rest or for the canoe to simply drift down river.

No, I paddled for much of my worth and I enjoyed the sensation it gave me.

There were signs as I continued towards my goal; a boundary mark here, a fence there, each telling me that Mexico lay jus’ beyond. Now my goal was not to enter that country, as I didn’t wish to deal with the Federales again, so I made certain I remained on the U.S. side of the line.

As evening set that day, I felt a sense of disappointment drop across my shoulders. I was so sure that my trip was to end before the sun fell in the West – but I still hadn’t found where the two nations met for that final time and as I put ashore, I found myself weeping uncontrollably, emotions I had not exercised in a long while. Once I got everything out of my system and my soul felt cleansed, I set myself to establishing a camp, a fire and made ready for a good nights’ sleep following dinner. As I fell asleep, I dared not allow myself to imagine that the next time the sun shone across the distant mountains in the east, it would be my last day upon this river.

As the morning broke, I was slow to put out. While my spirit was willing, my body felt numbed. I prepared a small bowl of beans and some coffee. And as I sat and ate, I looked up and down the river and wondered why I had even done any of this and I concluded that I had again made a rash and highly irrational decision.

Quietly, I cleaned out my bowl and cup, put them away, poured water on my fire, stirring it until it was cold to the touch. For some reason I felt let down and I had no idea what had caused it, perhaps it was having been around people and yet having had no contact. Maybe it was the general notion that some grand adventure was coming to a close. At that moment, I didn’t know and I really didn’t care as I put out once more.

My desire to continued paddling as I had the day before, ebbed. While my strength was there, the desire was lacking and I ended up drifting down river more than paddling. For a good length of time, the only reason my paddle touched the water’s surface was to maintain my position closest to the east side of the river. I didn’t want to stray into Mexico and find myself being detained.

It was jus’ afternoon when I saw a warning that told me I was more than close to the end point of this journey as I drift by an upright pole in the river, holding sign that warned that Immigration and Customs patrolled the area. Somewhere ahead was the border, and suddenly I felt invigorated as I stroked by that sign.

As I slipped around a slight bend that took me for right to left, I saw in the distance the looming features of a dam. I had no idea that there was a dam this far down on the Colorado, not once did I realize that this man-made structure would be the end of my river adventure as I paddle closer and closer to it. As I drew nearer, I continued to stay on the eastern side of the river, close to the Arizona side and not stray into Mexico’s water way.

There, up on a man-made dyke I could see the name, Morelos Dam. It was the end of the road for the time being as I drove the canoe into a marshy at the base of the structure. One more time, the final time, I dragged the stolen canoe up onto dry land where I shouldered my rucksack and climbed the dyke’s steep embankment.

For a couple of minutes I looked south and into Mexico, realizing what I’d done. A long ago memory suddenly popped into my head; a story read to my third grade class, “Paddle to the Sea,” about a hand-carved canoe toy that made it from Ontario to the Atlantic. I smiled, thinking how such a journey might be ‘impossible now days given all the  impediments’ that could be in the toy’s way.

My spirit soaring once more and my body with it, I turned east and walked from the dyke and then northwards on what the locals call ‘Cooper Lateral.’ Somewhere ahead was a crossing that would allow me access to California and the Salton Sea. Perhaps I might find some work to trade out for a resupply of rice and beans and a new disposable lighter. The thought of such small things gave me sense of joy and it was always the small things.

Mystery Shopper

As the sun was beginning to set, I walked back to the reservoir and then south of it. I needed to see if there were a landing or a piece of embankment I could use to put in again – because now I had a plan evolving.

After dark, I quietly picked my way back towards the eastbound road and relocated the shopping cart I’d seen tossed down the embankment. Should it have all its wheels, it would be perfect for loading the over-sized canoe into and moving everything, lock, stock and barrel to the south side of the dam.

With all the wheels intact, I started back the way I’d come. As I approached the corner to turn north, movement on the ground caught my eye – I damn near stepped on a rattle snake. With a large rock, I invited the dangerous reptile to dinner.

It took me another hour to wrestle the canoe up the rest of the embankment, then into the cart, balancing it on one shoulder so that it would not tip out, and to the other side of the reservoir. I had jus’ unloaded the canoe and slipped it over the embankment when I saw a set of headlight approaching from the east where I found the cart.

I dropped down the embankment and didn’t move until the vehicle drove north on the service road I’d been walking.

It took me a few extra minutes to find a place to build a small fire and begin the job of skinning my meal. I left the canoe further up the siding, upside down, jus’ in case it rained again and before the moon was fully overhead, I was roasting my find and preparing to eat.

In the distant western shies, I could see the clouds beginning to build. I knew a storm was on its way and that I had to eat fast and find my way to my shelter under the canoe. It was only minutes before I heard the first crack of thunder after a finger of lightning danced over the desert.

I fell asleep to the rhythmic beating of rain drops on the canoe bottom and I slept well.

Somewhere in the distance I heard the unmistakable yelps and whines of a pack of coyotes. Their calls woke me to the fact that it was nearly sunrise and that I needed to vacate the piece of real estate I’d encamped on. Within 20 minutes, I had completed my portage and had put out for whatever lay ahead on this ever narrowing river.

Through sunrise, morning and mid morning I continued to paddle then to drift with the river’s current. Come noon, afternoon and evening I had spent my day doing more of the same. I saw very little in the way of wildlife and even less of humans; not even the sound of civilization could be heard above the ever-present gurgling of the water and its lapping at the bow of the canoe. I felt as if I were the last man on earth for a while.

At certain points the river narrows, at others it widens. Some points the water flows quickly, still others, it stands still. These come and go, with no evidence which water course you might find. What is true is that civilization does exist along the river, and Fort Yuma is such a place.

After meandering through long lazy bends that end sharply, I heard more than saw the signs of a man-made life ahead of me. At last, I didn’t allow myself to worry about having come down the river permit-less, I was now in company of a town filled with people, possibly a good meal and an easy rest as they had to have grass some place that I could spread my tired body across.

And I was right. I had not known it at the time, but I had floated the length of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation and never saw a single person since I’d heard the and seen the vehicle approach the Imperial Reservoir. Now, I could hear vehicles and other sounds that I recognized as that of a small city.

Soon I passed beneath a bridge, which sign read ‘Penitentiary Avenue.’ This was quickly followed by a second overpass, much-larger than the last with the name ‘Kimeyaay Highway.’ Beyond that I found a patch of Eden on the eastern side of the river, aptly called, ‘Gateway Park.’ It was here that I put to shore, stowing the canoe in the rocks and bushes and shouldering my rucksack before heading back towards town.

Simply being in proximity to other people felt good. I hadn’t felt this joyful in a long time. I spent the evening, watching, smelling and listening. I even found an open area with live music being played. All to soon though, I had to head back to where I left the canoe and return to my journey’s end.

About 15 minutes down river, I put in again and established a small camp. There was no rain showers this night, so after a large bowl of beans and rice, I rolled out my sleeping bag and slipped into a dreamless state under the now comforting blanket of stars.

Life for town folk doesn’t always begin as early as it does for someone of the heel. But when it does begin, it is far more noisy than one realizes when they’ve been wild-bound for days on end. I think it was the sound of a garbage truck banging a large dumpster that brought me out of my sleep.

After a stretch and yawn, I took a short dip in the river to clean up. In the mean time I’d begun a small campfire and had some coffee brewing. By the time I finished rinsing the soap from my body, it was ready and I sat on the bank, both listening to the river and town, enjoying the coffee’s warmth.

Double-Rarity

By the mid-morning, with the help of the sun and the scorching asphalt, my sleeping bag had dried, which was my main concern as were what clothing I had with me – two pair of socks, a pair of underwear and a tee-shirt and sweat shirt.

“Did you get washed over it, last night?” called a voice behind me. I turned to find a man walking towards me from the dam.

“No,” I answered, “I was on this side, but I was down there when the rain began to fall.”

“Good. Glad to hear it,” he replied as he stopped beside me, looking over my belongings before adding, “Did you come down from Havasu?”

“Yes,” I answered with a certain amount of pride.

“You have a permit?” he asked.

I frowned, “A permit? No.”

“Amazing that you ain’t been caught,” he stated, “You’re supposed to have a permit to come down this far on the river. Most folks never get this far – so you’re a double-rarity. And don’t worry, I ain’t gonna turn you in.”

“Wow,” I answered, “I had no idea I was breaking the law being on the river without Uncle Sam’s permission.”

“Not only Uncle Sam’s, but that so-called Golden Bear,” he commented, “And they’re worse. Doubt anybody’s gonna bug you now that you made it this far. Jus’ you be safe. Can I help you down there.”

“Naw,” I smiled, “But thank you – and thank you for the info.”

Soon I was back on the river, which had picked up pace following the rainfall from the night before. Because I got such a late start, I didn’t go very far before evening appeared. And fearing another rainstorm, I set my camp up above the river bank. It was a good decision because it stormed a second night.

Hours intermittently paddling and drifting left me time to think. While my back hurt from the sunburn, my ribs were beginning to adjust to the activity of reaching, stretching and pulling the canoe along on the edge of a paddle.

My mind was in a state of revere as I slide under a bridge. The momentary shade felt good and I thought about returning to sit for a while in it’s shadow, but ahead was yet another bridge, so I figured I’d pull under it and enjoy some ‘cooling-off’ time.

As I approached the second bridge, my eye caught something bobbing in the water, next to a half-submerged tree. I directed the canoe towards the object, only to recognize my improvised flotation device that tied my boots to.

Quickly, I retrieved them from the water and made way for the embankment. I was happy to have them back as I dumped the muddy silt from them. After a few dips in the water, I had them rinsed out and placed on the seat ahead of me to dry out.

It was perhaps an hour later that it dawned on me that in my ecstasy over having found my boots, I forgotten about stopping to cool-off under the bridge. If anyone were nearby, they would have seen this fool, paddling down river, laughing his head off.

“Shit! Not again!” I growled as yet another dam came into sight. It meant another portage and another opportunity to get caught shooting the Colorado River with out a permit.

Hoping I hadn’t been seen, I rocketed the canoe to the bank on the Arizona side of the river. I had come to think that Arizona might be easier on me, a wayward journey’s, than California law enforcement.

Dragging the canoe up the embankment and hiding it in a cluster of scrub-brush, I picked up a length of stick, and proceeded to the dam. While I had heard of it, I’d come to believe it was further up the river and beyond Lake Mead. But here it was; the Imperial Valley Reservoir.

The second I saw it’s name, I kicked myself for being so ignorant, “Of course it’s this far south – Imperial Valley is in California.”

Now I had to figure out how to get around it without stirring up alarm. I walked across it, to the spillway and watched as the water churned over the cement coffers. Next, I walked back to the road I’d been on and then father down a road that dead-ended into the reservoir.

Dreams

Quick, lead me to your field of dreams,
And I’ll take you to the forest of my dream.
There, we’ll build a campfire, cook smore’s
And count the many stars above.

Then we’ll love, laugh and live with the moon,
Until it disappears far beyond our view.
Make haste, tarry not, for we’ve no time to hesitate,
Dreams they call, fading fast from memory.

The Three Wise Men, Reimagined

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this, it disturbed him and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

But before they could leaved, they had to buy gifts for baby Jesus. Melchior secured some gold, Balthazar bought Myrrh, but Gaspar had difficulty with his gift.

Upon seeing Gaspar’s gift, a panicked Balthazar asked, “What’s that thing?”

“It’s my gift,” a puzzled Gaspar answered.

“Frankincense! Not Frankenstein!” Melchior shook his head, “Now take him back from where you got him – and hurry, you’re gonna make us late!”

A Damned Dam!

The four of us sat and chatted for another hour, Mandi without her top, until the coffee was gone and our tongues tired. I excused myself after offering to help clean up and being refused, and returned to my little spot in the sand.

After dozing on and off for a couple of hours, I grabbed up my soap and waded into the lake to wash up. As I came back to camp, I noticed on one of the nearby bushes an orange life-preserver with a note duct-taped to it, reading: “You shouldn’t be on the water without one. Be safe. Beth and Neil.”

Had I missed it earlier or had they come back to leave this for me? Either way, I thought at the time that it was one of the sweetest things I ever been given – someone wanted me to live.

Hot dogs and hamburgers, that’s what Trig and Andi served for dinner that evening. Mandi came over and invited me. Surprisingly, she had a full tee-shirt and hiking shorts on.

It took me a bit, but I finally opened up about myself, telling the trio about my recent troubles, then making them laugh as I described my even more recent exploits. I also told them that I would probably be gone by the time the sun woke up. None of them seemed surprised at the announcement.

A couple of hours later, I retired to my sleeping bag and slept well on a full-stomach and a full-heart as I tucked my newly acquired life-preserver under my head and used it as a pillow. Unfortunately, morning came far too quickly and it was time after two days, to put out into the lake and head for the opening of the Colorado River.

If it hadn’t been for my debilitated straw hat, the merciless sun would have burned my brains from between my ears. I had pulled my tee-shirt off earlier in the day, keeping the preserver on, and because of this I’d developed a harsh burn on my back.

“That’s what the fuck you get for not thinking,” I chided, as I guided the canoe towards the embankment.

The sun was low in the sky to my right and I decided it was time to set up camp. I found a small alcove of sand and beached the canoe. I dragged it up behind a gathering of large rocks and set up a quick camp.

After a bowl of rice and beans, washed down with weak coffee, I headed up the rocky hillside to do some exploring. After a half-hour walk further down river, I found an obstacle that I had no idea existed; the Parker Dam. I had to decide at that moment whether I should attempt to portage the dam immediately or wait until morning.

“No time like the present,” I told myself as I located a place to put in once I made it around the dam.

It was well after dark when I finally finished my move. I rolled out my sleeping bag, laid down, falling asleep the moment my head ‘hit the pillow.’

It was long after the sun had set that I awakened to a heavy rainfall. Being along the river bank, I knew I could be in potential danger, so I grabbed everything and stuffed it in the canoe, and dragged the mass up the rocky hillside.

Once there, soaking wet and a somewhat perturbed at ‘Mother Nature,’ I climbed under the overturned canoe, which I had propped up against a wall of rocks meant as a boundary, and pulled my sleeping bag over me. I dosed on and off until the shower subsided, then I slept solidly for a couple of hours.

With my sunburned back, my rib-cage still sore from all the paddling, and everything I owned soaked, I concluded that my best bet was to let my gear dry out before putting back out into the river. It was while laying my stuff out to dry that I realized my boots were missing. All I had were a pair of ratted-out tennis shoes and a pair of shower sandals.

“Probably clear down Mexico way,” I moaned as I wandered up and down the river bank, hoping to see them. I thought that by tying the laces to an empty plastic jug I found, they’d remain afloat and easier to find if gone overboard. I was quick to surrender them to ‘the whatever’ that had them now.

Jailbait

Life was coming awake around the entire lake. My neighbors, on the other side from me where up and about; a young man, his girlfriend and her younger sister. It was the sister, Mandi who came splashing out to where I was treading water.

She swam a couple of circle’s around me, giggling like some school girl’s do, before swimming back and wading ashore naked. She turned and smiled at me as she grabbed a towel from the ground and headed out of sight.

“Nope,” I told myself, “Fifteen will get you life. Time to go.”

“Hey, mister,” I heard the young man call. My heart stopped for an instant as my guilty mind kicked in crying, “But, I didn’t do anything!”

Then he said, “My sis says you haven’t had breakfast. Come on over. Coffee’s on, too.”

As I walked up the bank, I debated whether to say ‘no’ or not, but my desire for food and coffee won out and I pulled on my tee-shirt and headed to their encampment.

“I’m Trig,” he said as he held out his hand. My immediate thought was, “Who the hell names their kid ‘Trig?” Later I found out that he was half-Eastern Indian on his mom’s side and his full first name was Trigya.

Trig’s girlfriend’s name was Andi. I couldn’t help but turn red when I shook her hand, knowing what her little sister had done a few minutes before. And I had to fight off a chuckle when told the younger one’s name.

“Andi and Mandi,” I thought as I shook my head, “Parents.”

Before I knew it, I had a plate full of scrambled eggs, country-style potatoes and five pieces of bacon, with a cup of hot coffee. Turns out that Trig was a culinary student in Riverside and was a semester away from graduating.

As I ate my breakfast and listened to the couple talking, I couldn’t help but notice Mandi. She was a real cock-tease, sitting slightly behind Andi and Trig and flashing her breasts at me. I did my best not to look, but I seemed to notice her every time she lifted her half-tee.

Andi was completing her first year of nursing school. “I find the Latin to be harder than the actual hands-on training,” she complained as she sipped her coffee. I told her how I’d worked in the medical field at one time and that I understood the frustration of memorizing Latin names of body parts, words you’ll only use once or twice in one’s career.

Finally, Mandi removed her top, saying, “It’s too warm to be wearing clothing.”

“Put you’re shirt back on or go get your bikini top,” Andi demanded.

“And if I don’t?” Mandi asked in defiance.

“Then I’ll tell Trig not to let you drive on the way home,” her sister answered.

Mandi stood, stretched then spun, displaying a black swimming thong that left her butt-cheeks bare, before proudly announced, “I got my driver’s license last week!”

“Good for you,” I responded, feeling a bit more at ease as I checked out her body. She smile blew me a kiss without using her hand and disappeared into the small trailer.

“You’ve got yourself a little nudist there,” I said.

“Yeah,” Andi added, “A horny little nudist that’s gonna end up preggers before she’s outta high school.”

“That’s a pretty sad statement coming from her sister,” I replied.

Feeling uneasy about the current subject, Trig changed the subject, asking, “How long are you going to be here?”

“I don’t know,” I heard myself answer.

Earlier, I had made up my mind to put out before noon-time. “Why the hell did I say that?” I heard my inner voice question.

University of Nevada-Reno Loses Division I Rifle Team

The anti-Second Amendment movement continues to go after guns, this time with the sanctioned the help of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, by targeting university and high school sport-shooting team competition. It also appears the movement has gone ‘anti-women,’ in its latest victory.

The NCAA is slowly ending all Division I rifle teams within the collegiate-system, including the University of Nevada-Reno. The Wolf Pack rifle team had been active since the early 1900’s and consisted mostly of females.

This decision comes as a surprise to many at the school, as UNR’s rifle program had won more NCAA championships than any other sport at the university. Further, the move comes on the heel’s of a recently announced plan by the school to build a new 33,000 square foot shooting range and training facility.

There are plans to develop a non-NCAA shooting team in the future at the university. In a message from Athletic Director Doug Knuth to the Alumni, he writes: “The university will start an ASUN (Associated Students of the University of Nevada) sponsored club rifle team to provide an opportunity for current and future students to participate in the sport.”

With the loss of the Wolfpack’s team, there are only 22 NCAA Division I rifle programs remaining in the U.S.  UNR plans to replace the shooting team with a cross-country in the Fall of 2019.

Havasu

At each bend in the river, I expected to find an amazing white-water rapid to do battle with, but at each bend there was nothing but disappointment. The hardest bit of work were the portage’s across riffles, dragging the canoe over the small rocky areas in an otherwise fairly deep stream.

By midday, I paddled my way into the opening of a large body of water. From where I entered, the shoreline on the other appeared to be nothing more than a pencil line in the horizon. I stayed close to shore because I didn’t have a life vest on and I was fearful of the speed craft, towing skiers, would inadvertently capsize my man-powered craft.

As I moved slowly along the western shoreline, my head was on a swivel. There were beautiful, bikini clad women in every direction I looked. There were fancy RV’s, nice boats, and the smell of the camp’s fire from one stroke to the next.

Finally, I slipped into an area between two large groups of people, dragging the canoe up onto the sandy bank. There I set myself to building a small fire and brewing some coffee.

A man, somewhat older than me, soon wandered over and we began to chat. Neil, I soon learned worked in the aerospace industry and was thinking about retiring. He planned to find a piece of acreage, build a house and spend the rest of his life on the river and lakes along the Colorado.

My story seemed less impressive, so I kept it to myself, other than to say something like, “I’m in between jobs and I figured that since I’m not getting any younger, I’d go explore and find some adventure while I could.” I found it pretty much satisfied his curiosity and he invited me to stop over at his set up later in the day, “if you’re still around.”

Late afternoon rolled in quicker than I thought it would, but then I’d been dozing on and off throughout much of the days heat. I could smell meat cooking and could see the barbecue smoking, so I grabbed my bar of Ivory soap and went for a quick dip in the lake.

“We’re heading up to Laughlin tomorrow morning,” Neil offered as his wife, Bess handed me a second beer. Bess laughed, “All this roughing it makes me long for civilization.”

She had been a looker at one time, this I could see. I imagined her having won “Miss Orange Grove 1968,” or something as a teen. Still she could sport a two-piece bathing suit with the best of them and I don’t think either Neil or Bess cared who was watching as they played ‘grab ass,’ with each other throughout the evening.

After a thick steak and a ton of mashed potatoes with gravy and nearly a six-pack of beer in my belly, I bid them goodnight and a safe trip to Nevada. I wandered over to my little nest and flopped down on my sleeping bag to stare up into the bejeweled night sky that covered the lake from one point to another like a carpet.

The sky was graying in the east when I heard Neil and Bess pull out of their space and crunch their way from the gravel and sand to the pavement for their trip northward. I laid there for a few more minutes thinking about Bess’ titties before I decided to jump in the lake and cool off.

From a Stones Throw

To look at it on a map, it doesn’t seem all that long, but to actually put an oar in the river…well that became a whole other thing. Laughlin, Nevada is hot and larger than one might think and very few of her citizen’s are interested in helping anyone simply hiking through, which was the nature of my business as I told the two separate police pairs.

My main interest was to make it to Lake Havasu. The problem was – I really didn’t have any idea where that was. I jus’ knew that I was en route that way and that this was where my journey had taken me.

As I sat on the bank of the Colorado River, being unimpressed by its not-so-mighty power and flow, I managed to gather the ire of a drunk guy and his wife. He began throwing rocks at me and yelling that I was spying him and his wife.

Needless to say I vamoosed and made myself scarce. Unfortunately for me, I returned that evening and discovered he’d left his Coleman canoe on the river’s bank and I willfully stole the damn thing.

Why I initially did this – I cannot explain. But it lead me to an adventure that I never dreamed of doing – attempting to paddle down the Colorado River to the U.S./Mexico border. How hard could that be, right? Right.

I put in behind Harrah’s Casino about 100 feet from where the canoe had been left and paddled out towards the middle of the stream and discovered the current was much swifter than it looked. Before I knew it, I was splashing my way beneath Highway 40 as the sun began to come up.

The river offered me a freedom I hadn’t felt in sometime. I grew up near the banks of the Klamath River in northern California and had become land-locked, living in the high desert, so I’d forgotten the feel of the water as it lapped at the sides of the canoe.

All that day, I paddled and drifted intermittently, trying to get my muscles used to the effort. At first, I thought it would be my arms that would be the greatest problem, but it turns out my shoulders and eventually my rib-cage and stomach muscles bore the brunt of the effort.

After six or seven hour, I put ashore where I clumsily dragged my ill-gotten canoe into the brush, rolled out my sleeping bag and fell asleep without eating. It was still dark when I awoke the following morning and began to question my decision to try such a foolish thing.

“Do I or don’t I?” my inner voice argued, “No one will ever know that you didn’t make it. No shame in that.”

It was the words, ‘didn’t make it,’ that goaded me to my feet. Instantly, I knew I had to continue because I hadn’t really tried and all I knew was that aside from hurting like hell, trying and failing is a lot better than never giving the effort in the first place.

Quietly, I went to work building a small camp fire and boiling water for a mess of rice and beans. Coffee, I decided would have to wait until later as I didn’t want to waste a bunch of time in an area that I was totally unfamiliar with. No sense in attracting anymore attention than necessary, after all I was piloting a stolen canoe.

Arbored Revenge

“Wow! Great shot!” exclaimed Rob. “If that old tree were a bear, you’d have killed it deader than it already is.”

“Thanks,” Arnie smiled. “Enough of this target practicing though. I’m ready for the real deal.”

“Yeah, let’s go get ourselves a bear.”

The two men stood, slinging their rifles over their shoulders before starting to walk away.

“Did you hear that?”

“No. Hear what?”

“That wailing sound.”

“No.”

“There it is again.”

“Holy shit!”

“Run!”

But it was too late – the tree fell on them. The coroner would later list the two hunter’s cause of death as an ‘accident.’

Geronimo’s Bones

The truck pulled into the store’s parking lot and I hopped out of the bed. The couple waved as they returned to the highway and then made a sharp left off the pavement and onto a dirt road that disappeared somewhere in the radiating waves of heat.

With my rucksack on one shoulder, I adjusted my ratted-out cowboy hat and wandered over to the shade of the building. It was afternoon and more than hot, that much I could tell, but I wasn’t sure if I were in Arizona or New Mexico.

Off to one side of the store, which was a modern adobe style design, was a tee-pee and an open air-shack beyond it. The tee-pee looked terribly out-of-place as it was more appropriate for the plains-area than the desert, the woman inside the shack was cooking what smelled to be fry-bread.

Sitting inside the flapped doorway of the tee-pee was an older man. He was dark-skinned and his eye appeared to be dark and piercing, but not menacing.

He watched me as I watched him. Then he waved at me to come over and I did.

“Hello, have you traveled far?” he asked

I told him, “From Nevada.”

“Where are you headed?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“Daughter,” he called towards the back of the shelter, “Bring our guest some bread. He’s traveled a long way to see us.”

I looked down at the rug under our feet instead of saying what I thought: “Buddy, you got the wrong idea about me – I’m lost and have no idea where I’m going.”

With a smile the woman I’d seen in the shack appeared. She had two large pieces of fry-bread wrapped in paper towels. She gave one to the Elder and the other to me before she disappeared.

“You think I’m crazy, no?” he asked.

“Maybe,” I answered.

He laughed, “At least you’re honest. Most Anglo’s aren’t, afraid they’ll hurt my feelings.”

“Well, the tee-pee kinda has me puzzled,” I replied.

He chuckled, “Tourist see a tee-pee and they think authentic Indian.”

“Good point,” I nodded, “A wikiup doesn’t have the same appeal, I guess.”

We both laughed as we each ate our bread, chewing in silence.

“You are here to hear my story,” he stated, breaking my revery,  “You see, I’m the great-grandson of Geronimo and I’m selling authentic reproductions of his likeness to raise money to get him back to where he belongs – with his people, with his land, under our sky.”

I sat quietly, not asking any questions, knowing the custom of not speaking until the older man finished talking.

“First they took great-grand dad from this land, his land, in a long train to Florida. Then the Anglo soldiers moved him to Oklahoma where he died, never seeing his home again. It was while at Fort Sill, in what was then called the Indian Territory, that he had this photograph taken.”

He held up a 4-by-6 sepia-toned picture of the Apache war chief holding a cowboy revolver, before adding, “Geronimo sold these to supplement what rations the Army gave the prisoners. After his death, someone stole his bones and they are now being held hostage by Yale, you know, the university.”

He took another bite of his Indian Bread and looked far off into the distance. It was a silent signal that my time to speak had come.

“Honestly, I had no idea I was coming here to learn this,” I said. “I’m jus’ trying to find my sanity and I don’t even have a pot to piss in, let alone the money to buy a picture from you.”

The idea of being broke at that moment left me defeated. I didn’t like it.

“No,” he replied, “You aren’t here to buy – you came to listen. What you are searching for cannot be bought and it cannot be sold. You will know and it will know you when you meet – that’s how I knew you were here to hear me speak of my great-grandfather without condition.”

We sat in silence for the next few minutes, eating our bread, staring at some far distant and as of yet unseen spot on the horizon.

Tale of the Garden Spade

My wife says I’m a terrible person and who knows, she may be right. A friend came over for a visit and while we were sitting at our dining table, drinking coffee, he asked, “Do you have a bathroom?”

I smiled, got up and pulled a garden spade from the kitchen drawer where we keep some of our smaller household tools and handed it to him.

“What the hell’s this for?” he asked.

“It’s to dig a hole in the ditch in the back yard,” I answered, “where you can take a crap if that’s what you need to do.”

Somewhere in the Land of Nye

“The vast sage desert undulates with almost imperceptible tides like the oceans,” wrote Native American author Frank Waters in 1999. Unfortunately, Nelson Franks had no mind for such quotes, had he even the slightest idea who Waters was.

It was a town that didn’t appear on his electronic device, but that didn’t matter to Nelson. He was on the road seeking an escape and an unlisted spot along side the highway was exactly what he was looking for as he dropped the kick-stand on his motorbike.

Though he looked more like a lawyer or perhaps an accountant, once his helmet was off, Nelson was in fact a wanted man. He’d been dodging the law and much of civilization for nearly two months by staying to the back roads and the backwater towns, including this one, someplace in Nye County, Nevada.

To shake the road dust from himself, he entered the diner down the corner from where he’d parked. He made eye-contact with the comely blond-haired, green-eyed waitress and his world fell to complete black.

When he woke up, Nelson was bouncing around the wooden floor of a fast-moving box. Though confused, he pulled himself up right only to realize he was inside an old-fashioned stage-coach, the kind he’s seen in TV westerns.

He crawled up into a seat and peered out the window. The horizon had a strange orange-red glow and the road the stage traveled over was a golden-brown sand.

He leaned out the window, where he saw the driver hunched over the reins and snapping a rawhide whip at the six bay horses beyond. Above him he noted the words painted above the door and windows: ‘Ferryman Stage.’

As Nelson did his best to make head-or-tails of the situation a Raven flew in through one of the coaches windows. It lit gently on the seat beside him, and though the stage was running rough-shod over the road, the bird seemed unfazed.

Feeling every bump, jolt and toss, Nelson struggled to maintain his balance as the bird spoke, “I don’t suppose you know what a psychopomp is, would you?”

Nelson didn’t answer. He simply sat and stared at the coal-black, talking bird.

“No matter,” he continued, “Where you’re heading you won’t need to know the meaning of such words.”

The carriage swayed hard to the left and then to the right as it struck a large rock with its steel-bound wheels. The metal on rock created a shower of sparks which rained onto the pair through the windows.

“I must remember to talk to Mr. Charon about his need for excessive speed and to remind him that he doesn’t need to hit everything he see’s with his stage,” the Raven stated, adding, “You do speak english, don’t you?”

Nelson violently shook his head as if trying to dislodge the vision of a talking bird from his mind, before he slowly nodded in the affirmative.

“So that you know,” the psychopomp continued, “There are many ways to cross the River Styx. You’re experiencing one of them now. The desert sand is like a sea, an ocean, a dry river bed and you, my dear friend, you’re on your way to Hell.”

Nelson scrambled from the floor and into the seat furthest from the bird. His eyes were wide as sweat rolled from his forehead down his cheeks.

He glanced out the stage window, hoping this was all a dream, but he knew it wasn’t. When he looked back towards the bird, it was gone — and in its place were two shiny gold coins, the exact toll needed for the Ferryman Stage.

The Strange Tale of Big Red

UPDATE: Big Red has been recovered. The GoFundMe account is disabled. Thank you for all of your help.

About 15-years ago, my 1957 Chevy Apache (which I lovingly named ‘Big Red,’) was stolen. After all that time had lapsed with no word, I never thought I’d see the truck again.

Then suddenly I get a certified letter out of the blue saying it’s impounded in Wells, Nevada, some 400 miles to the east of us, and that it’s to be auctioned off December 25 at 9 am. The catch is that to recover the truck I have to pay the impound lot nearly $2,000.

My son, Kyle set up a GoFundMe page to help raise the money. So if you can help us get ‘Big Red’ back it would be wonderful.

And thank you in advance.

Blue Moon

Night had already closed in on me as I walked through the once bustling silver-mine boom town of Goldfield. The sidewalks had long since been rolled up and I was but a lone stranger to its streets, and so I stayed to the highway which lead me passed the old, shuttered Goldfield Hotel.

Curiosity had always been a card I didn’t read well when I’ve held it in my hand, and this dark-time was no different as I did my best to peer inside the old building, through dust-laden front windows. There was very little and nothing to see, so I continued on by.

As I reached the end of the building, I suddenly found myself confronted with an open space and for the first time in a long period, I felt fatigued. Because of this feeling, I decided to hunker down with my rucksack as a pillow and sleeping bag as my blanket, near the north corner of the hotel and sleep till dawn.

With very little traffic, save for the occasional long-haul truck, it was quiet and I soon found myself asleep. However, it wasn’t too long after that I heard the familiar sound of coins dropping in the pan of a one-armed bandit and boisterous laughter.

Someplace, nearby I heard thick beer mugs clink and I could smell the sulfur odor of a freshly burnt match and the aroma of a foul lit cigar. Amid these things came the tin-penny melody of a piano and the deep, raspy but very sultry voice of a woman belting out, “You saw me standing alone without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own…”

Without realizing it, I was tapping my right foot to the mysterious songstress’ vocalizations. “So there is some life left in this old town after all,” I thought as I continued to drift in and out of a gentle slumber.

And as the party grew in its intensity, I noticed more life along the main roadway, people walking back and forth and long cars with large tail-fins and rounded hoods. They appeared as shadows  and I came to think of them as all part of a wonderful dream that left me thinking of my childhood.

It was shortly before sunrise, when I got up to relieve myself in the vacant lot next to the hotel, that I saw lights from the hotel’s front windows, dancing on the sidewalk, reaching into the street, where I was certain there should be none. Finished with my business, I turned to go have a look – but tripped in a random hole in the field – and as I scrambled to my feet, the lights, the sounds, the smells – they were all gone.

Suddenly, I felt terribly alone as I made my way back to the spot against the wall near which I’d been sleeping. Gone was the joyful nightlife I’d been witnessing and returned was the dull little spot in the roadway which glowed only slightly in the dim light of a gas station on the opposite side of the asphalt.

Sleep never returned to me as I sat against the vacant building’s wall, watching the sun highlight the long expanse of desert that lay before me and that I’d soon be traveling.

‘Fake News’ Begins with the Headline

The headline reads: “7-Year-Old Immigrant Girl Dies After Border Patrol Arrest.” This is such a disingenuous header. A more truthful and neutral headline might have read: “7-Year-Old Girl Dies After Desert Border Crossing.

The child was severely dehydrated after eight days in the desert. She was also malnourished, making it extremely difficult for her to keep both food or fluids down. By the time she and her father were found, she was in coma.

Even with immediate intravenous rehydration, her chances of survival were minimal. While children tend to compensate better than adults in such situation, once decompensation begins, it’s nearly impossible to halt the downward process.

While I am terribly sad for this little girl, her pain, her suffering, the near-torturous existence she endured in this desert crossing, to present a news article with such a headline is more akin to propaganda than the truth and this is why we have the term ‘fake news.’

Finally, local news agencies – local newspapers, TV and radio stations can change the headlines to ‘national stories,’ which was not done in at least three places within the Reno and Sparks, Nevada area. Furthermore, this deep-seeded ‘hate Trump movement’ is going to destroy what is left of your career, locally, regionally and nationally.

It’s time to quit treating the reader, the viewer and the listener as ignorant and it’s time to provide a proper middle ground with language that resonates truth and not exaggerates the horrors that happen on a daily basis around this globe, by using it to divide.

Black Oak

Mick loved walking through the deepest part of the woods. His family thought it was too dangerous to be in that area alone, but he’d always felt a sense of peace and calm when on trail.

Ever resourceful, Mick wanted to be ready, so he always carried his camera, knowing something new might catch his eye. Besides, it was his journal of sorts, a quick recording of his surroundings, his singular observations.

In the distance a large Black Oak moved, as if walking and Mick zoomed in on it. Police found his camera — but the blurred image told them nothing.

It was Christmas and the judge was in a merry mood as he asked the prisoner, “Do you know what are you charged with?”

“Doing my Christmas shopping early,” replied the defendant.

“That’s no offense,” said the judge. “How early were you doing this shopping?”

Before the store opened,” countered the prisoner.

A little boy was sitting on Santa’s lap when the Jolly Old Elf asked him, “What do you want for Christmas?”

Without hesitating the boy answered, “A train set!”

“You know your dad will want to play with it too,” Santa told the child before asking, “Is there anything else you want for Christmas?”

The little boy thought for a few seconds before announcing, “Another train set.”

Tongue Sandwich

Famished from my lengthy hike across the Moorlands, I was happy to stumble upon the small inn and stop an hour for a bite to eat and a pint of ale. It was my first time backpacking the length of Great Britain and I was eager to enjoy every experience the country had to offer.

After studying the menu board above the bar, I asked the pretty, little waitress for a tongue sandwich and a Guinness. She smiled without showing her teeth, nodded and disappeared through the side-doors into the kitchen area.

The barkeeper, a hard-looking older gent with a scruffy white beard, brought me my drink without a word. Shortly afterwards the same petite waitress returned with my order, placing it in front of me.

Thanking her, I took a bite of my sandwich and decided that aside from it’s unappealing name, a tongue sandwich and a Guinness were a good epicurean match. Then I thought, “Folks sure don’t talk much in these parts.”

After the Apple’s Blossom

“Look,” Terrence said to his mother, “A story in grandpa’s handwriting!”

“Oh, my!” she responded as Terrence sat down at the nearby desk and started reading, while his mother continued to organize boxes filled with her dead father’s things.

It was a story about a husband murdering his wife because she was too nice, then burying her in their garden beneath the apple tree. He loved to give apples from the tree to his grandson, enjoying the thought that the child was eating his grandmother.

Terrence looked out the window at the tree full of apples and suddenly felt ill.

Place Holder

The sign next to the lamp read: “DO NOT TOUCH.” That made it all the more tempting to Simon, as he tried lifting the lid, but found it wouldn’t budge.

Instead, he blew away the excess dust before wiping it off with his hand. Suddenly, a stream of smoke roiled from the spout and from that, the form of a man took shape.

“What year is this?” he asked.

Simon answered.

“Amazing! Nearly 100-years. Thanks for releasing me.”

“So, do I get my three wishes?” Simon asked.

“Don’t be silly, man,” the fellow answered, “You get to take my place.”

Falling Star

We kids called her Grandma because none of us knew her real name. On most summer days she’d spread a colorful blanket out on the grass in the shade of a redwood tree and weave her baskets as well as her tales.

As children, we dared not join her on her blanket, because to do so would’ve been rude, so we each took a seat on the hard ground around her. One story we liked was also the one she told often — about how the first falling star came into being in the Universe. 

Great Mother had learned that one of her youngsters, a young star, had lain with New Moon. Called before the entire constellation, the young star found herself being questioned.

Great Mother asked Star if she had gone with New Moon willingly? Star nodded, “Yes, Mother.”

“Surely, you know the punishment for such an offense?” Great Mother asked Star.

Star answered, “Yes, I do, Mother.”

With a heaviness in her heart, Great Mother opened a hole the night and as Star readied herself to jump through it, she proclaimed, “I will aways love New Moon with all of my heart.”

Star, then disappeared through the hole her Great Mother had made, being banned from the sky forever. Meanwhile, far below, a little girl watching with delight, made a wish as she spotted the falling Star.

Endangered Teen Runaway Sought

UPDATE: Samantha has been found safe and is back with her family.

Sparks, Nevada Police need help finding an endangered runaway teenager, who could be considering heading out-of-state. Thirteen-year-old Samantha Jones was last seen at her home on Noreen Drive on Wednesday, December 5th.

“There’s no concern at this time that she was abducted or that she is with anyone involuntarily,” Sparks Police Lt. Tara Bell, told the Reno Gazette Journal, “We just want to see her come home safely.”

Her mother, Coleen Jones echoed the same sentiment in a Facebook posting, “She’s a tiny thing and we simply want her back home.”

If you can help, you’re asked to call the Sparks Police at (775) 353-2231 or Secret Witness at (775) 322-4900.

How to Eff-up a Job Interview in Three Easy Steps

There are specific ways to fuck-up a job interview without putting much effort into it and after five-years of fruitless effort at trying to find work, I’m well on my way to mastering each. For this lesson, let’s go down the line in numerical order:

  1. Argue with the security guard at the main gate because he refuses to let you onto the job-site, even though all of your paperwork is in order (including a document that states you are a ‘guest,’ that you have an interview at a set time, a confirmation number, a bar-code and a QR code.)
  2. Ask what would happen if you decided to proceed without his permission. (They enjoy this question, because they get to explain how they’ll detain you and have you arrested for unlawfully trespassing.)
  3. Once you’ve been cleared to enter the job-site, you should find yourself being interviewed for the position by someone other than a human resources employee. (In this case — it should be the Chief-of-Security — because the gate-guard flagged your name.)

It’s as simple as — well, you get the gist.

Birthday

“Happy birthday!”

“Thank you. One more till 60! How’d that happen?

“It doesn’t seem real, does it? Weren’t we jus’ 12 and 13 last year?”

“I know huh? Swatting down termites under the street lights.”

“Then ducking from the bats.”

“Those were the best of times.”

Lengthy silence…

“Well, happy birthday. Have a wonderful day.”

“Thanks. You, too.”

Cold Pizza

We locked eyes as she drove through the intersection on her way home. The sight of my wife startled me as I sat watching cars roll under the overpass, its shadow I was using a shade.

It had been a least two weeks, possibly three, since I’d last bathed. The jeans I’d been wearing when I left were no more, the knees, inseam and the left cheek area where a pocket had once been, was holey and left my skin exposed.

For days, because of my deteriorating mental health due a near starvation diet of whatever I could find in the trash bin, I refused to sit down, fearing I’d make the tear in the back of my pants worse or I’d cut myself and become sick from the onset of an infection. When I finally gave up the jeans, which were by then held up by a broken pair of suspenders, tied to a belt loop, I had lost more than 40 pounds.

The bib overalls, given to me out of pity were not much better, but at least gave my suffering brain a respite from excessive worry. And they fit well with my worn out sneakers and a found straw cowboy hat that was more straw than cowboy, but covered my unkempt hair and the sores that had developed from my poor hygienic practices.

Never wishing her to see me in the ‘state of perpetual decay’ I told myself I was in, I quickly shouldered my rucksack and dodged moving vehicles to get to the other side of the roadway.

Thinking I was well off her beaten path should she manage to turn around, I slowed my pace after a hurried two-block trot. However, she was ahead of me, slowly pulling up beside me an asking me to get in the car with her.

“Let me take you out to the house, so you can get a shower, eat and some fresh clothes,” she offered.

I looked at her with hope, “Does this mean you want me to come home to stay?”

She didn’t answer.

Taking my cue from her silence, “No. If I can’t stay forever, I don’t wanna be reminded of all that I’ve lost.”

We sat quietly before she spoke up, “Then let’s get a room, where you can get cleaned up and some sleep. I’ll go get some clothes from the house and then I’ll pick up a pizza. Is that okay?”

She got us a room on the 22nd floor, in one of the nearby hotels, then went to do as she said. Meanwhile, I took a long, hot shower, shaved my face and head, then laid on the bed, promptly falling asleep.

Worn out, both physically and emotionally, I slept so hard that I didn’t hear her come in. She ate a couple of slices of pizza before crawling into the accompanying bed.

At some point I woke up and needed some fresh air, so I slipped out the sliding glass door and onto the narrow veranda. My mind was still racing as I looked down and into the crystal blue of the hotel’s swimming pool.

“I bet I could jump from here and make it,” I told myself, as looked to gain a foothold to climb up on the thick railing.

“What are you doing?” my wife said with concern.

I smiled, “I dared myself to jump from here into the pool below.”

“No – your not going to do that!”

“But I really do think I can make it.”

“And if you don’t?”

“Then no one has to worry or wonder about me – at best, I’ll be dead or a veg at worst.”

“Well, I’m not ready to be a widow jus’ yet, so get your ass inside and back to bed now.”

I slipped passed her and eyeing the now-cold pizza, “But I’m hungry. I’ll go back to bed after I have something to eat.”

That night, after I returned to bed, she didn’t sleep so she could keep me from doing something stupid. I woke up refreshed and without the slightest memory of the high-jinx I’d planned to do that early morning.

We parted ways with a lengthy hug; she to work and me to wherever the day led.

The following night I laid out my sleeping bag in the cheat grass and waited out the dark hours through morning. Above me were those unforgettable stars, the milky way spreading from one end of time to the other.

These are the same constellations that had watched peacefully over all travelers of the high desert of Northern Nevada, who had for centuries slept fitfully under their distant canopy. They had seen the first peoples, the Native who wandered the banks of the great basin, the White explorer followed by the settler and so on.

And as I lay there, I marveled at the intimate knowledge that those same Heavenly bodies had seen them all; and they saw me. From hunter gatherer to industrialized man, they had been there, witnessing, and I knew I was in good company.

I also knew I had to quit running from myself.

Escape

Cast in a shadow, some 20-feet above was an alcove of sorts. I bagged my gear, swung it over my good shoulder and proceeded to haul myself up along the nearly smooth canyon walls.

The alcove was not much more than a flat surface with enough room for shelter once I pulled my knees to my chest. I made immediate use of the flat space by laying on my stomach with my rucksack’s straps wrapped around my wrist.

Whether disjointed or not, I figured that I could use the weight of my pack to bring my shoulder back into place and to catch some much-needed rest while I waited for the joint to reduce. It wasn’t long before a searing pain awakened me when my shoulder returned to its natural position with a dull-pop.

Able to look up with a fair amount of comfort, I couldn’t tell how far I had fallen. The best I could do was guess that the plunge was between 80 and 100 feet.

It was closing in on nighttime, so I decided to use the last few minutes of light to stretch my legs and to look for an exit to the slot. Not to far from the alcove I heard the first, faint sounds of impending danger – water dripping more and more rapidly.

By the time I realized how much danger I was in, the water was rushing around my ankles, pulling at my boots. I raced back towards the alcove, climbing out of torrent of water that grabbed violently at my thighs and threatened to complete the job that the fall hadn’t.

Without much light I was unable to see the water as it edged closer and closer to precarious rock perch. All I could do was listen to its thunderous roar and pray that it would stop before reaching me as I had no place else to go.

But like all gully washers that occur somewhere higher in the rocky formations, the rain didn’t last and soon the roar dropped away to a slight dripping. By that time though, my ears rang violently, as if I’d stood next to a fighter jet preparing to take off.

I let the ringing and whooshing in my already aching head lull me into a sleep.

The following morning, a brightness shined directly on my spot in the wall. Below me, I saw no sign of water, let alone a flash flood – the sand and the rocks had drunk their fill and all was dry again.

Hungry, I pulled some food from my pack and ate before climbing down. I was terribly sore throughout my body following the events from the day before – but I knew I had to find a way out of the canyon before the sun reached its skyward zenith.

The sand showed signs of downward movement, marking the way to go to find a way to the outside. The slot was long, perhaps a mile, maybe less and it emptied through a very narrow opening, which made sense about how quickly the water had risen the night before.

The gap between the sandy ground and the rocky ceiling of the opening was so small that I had to dig down to make enough room for my body to slide through. Once I figured I had enough room to squirm through the hole, I wrapped my rucksack around my left ankle and slipped into the waiting sunshine.

Clear of the canyon and clear of the hole, I had one more danger to contend with and that was the troublemakers with their buggies. I sat quietly for half-an-hour listening for the sound of an engine and enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Soon it was clear that I was alone and that I was free to move swiftly to the nearest roadway. Still, I remained on alert for the sight or the sound of a dune buggy as I made my way across the warming desert floor.

Chased

When I finally woke from unconsciousness, there was confusion in what I saw. Before me was an endless bed of yellow-brown sand, punctuated with particulates of white and larger bits of black.

As I lay there, I slowly came to my sense, realizing I was face-down in the half-light of a deep crevasse of Utah earth. It slowly came back to me about how I ended up in this position.

It had begun about a mile north and east, further up the mountain, where I happened to come across two dune-buggies, each carrying two men. Immediately, I knew I was in trouble as they began to race in circles around me and eventually started chasing me from one out-cropping to another.

Slowly, I wiggled my toes, flexed my ankles, knees and hips as I pushed myself onto my knees. Still severely dizzy I decided I should roll onto my butt and not attempt to stand jus’ yet.

Something was wrong with my right-eye; I could not see from it. Furthermore, it felt as if glued shut.

They were practically on top of me when I found myself teetering on the edge of a slot-canyon, whose bottom I couldn’t see. I tried desperately to stop, then to leap the distance, but instead, I fell downward into the blackness of the abyss.

God had smiled on me. I recalled nothing of the fall and as far as I could tell I had only some abrasions and a bunch of bruises – save for the inability to open my eye.

Touching the cheekbone beneath the shuttered eye, I felt the roughness of sand and other debris sticking to my skin. There was also a sticky substance around the area which led me to feel the top right part of my head – a deep gash had bled down over my eye and with the drying aid of the fine desert silt, had pasted my eyelid closed.

It took me a few minutes to work the sandy loam from my eyelid and to begin blinking again. That’s when I felt the pain from the cut on my head and decided it needed further investigation.

Fearful of what I might find, I gently pushed down around the wound. I was happy to learn that the bone below the wound was not spongy or sharp – therefore my skull wasn’t fractured.

Slowly, using the nearby cavernous wall, I dragged myself to my feet. I tried to look up towards the opening, from where I dropped, but a sharp pain in my left shoulder prevented me from raising my head.

Running my right hand over my shoulder, I couldn’t detect an injury. I had dislocated my shoulder some years before, so I knew what I should be feeling – but nothing.

As I tried to raise my left arm, a shooting pain nearly drove me to the ground. And as I fought off the desire to pass out, I saw my little finger on my left hand twisted and sticking out at an odd angle.

Regaining my composure, I looked for a place where the light from above shined on the sandy bottom and moved to that spot. Once there, I pulled my rucksack from my shoulders and removed my first aid kit.

It took me all of two minutes to shift my broken pinky back into a somewhat normal position, and to tape it in place using my ring finger. It also took all of my strength not to scream out in pain; I didn’t know if the buggies were still nearby and I didn’t want to alert them to my survival.