Perspective

He’d been stranded on the deserted island for nearly a month and was quickly losing all hope of ever being rescued. Then slightly below the horizon, he saw a boat.

He’d been stranded in the middle of the ocean for nearly a month and was quickly losing all hope of ever being rescued. Then slightly below the horizon, he saw an island.

Each shouted with joy, “Thank goodness, salvation is at hand!”

Up Bound

The last six months, perhaps longer, I’ve lost track now, has been the most difficult time I’ve experienced with my manic-depression. I have known that something was off — way off — as I couldn’t pull myself out what I can best describe as a long depressed tail-spin.

I cannot help but think of these few months, and the hardships that came with them, as those 'ashes,' Isaiah speaks of in the bible.

Anyway, with a slight medication adjustment, I am back on track.  This disorder, disease, disability, or what have you, is not something that anyone who has it or may have, should take lightly.

Don’t be ashamed to look honestly at yourself, your behaviors, your attitudes and study your deeper recesses of thought and feeling.  And for goodness sake, if you think something is off, ask for help.

As for me, I am getting better and better and I know this because I am becoming more sociable, less withdrawn and more focused on living again and not merely getting through the day. That makes me believe that ‘up,’ (but not too ‘up,’) is better than ‘down,’ when it comes to the imbalance of my brains chemistry

Sadly, as is the case for me, I will never get better, but I can feel better and feeling better is a solid goal. So, once again, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Hot Air

The song of the dragon’s breath makes itself known from above. The long low huff, without the bellowing roar, assailing the chilled skies, under a newly rising sun, shadow casted downward, rounded and wingless.

The magic of the hot air balloon in flight to a child’s imagination.

Playing Chess

It was supposed to be a single simple game of chess, but it seemed to go on forever. Finally, after Martin had missed a number of family gatherings, some business meetings and a doctors appointment, his best friend decided he needed to check up on him.

After walking into Martin’s apartment and witnessing the strange scene, he finally asked, “So, how long have you been playing the guitar?”

Beyond the Walls of Berlin Canyon

“It flew with the claw-tipped wings of a pterodactyl, it swam in tepid seas with the vast, winding bulk of an ichthyosaurus, it bellowed uncouthly with the armored throat of some forgotten behemoth to the huge moon that burned through primordial mists.” – Ubbo-Sathla, Clark Ashton Smith, July, 1933.

Between Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and Richmond Hill in the Land of Nye is a rock strewn patch of sandy, dusty soil, that sees hardly a trace of man. This is the exact spot where Miriam Burke-Troyak, PhD was headed.

In her seventh year as a paleoanthropologist, she had become determined to decode, what she felt certain were riddles hidden within the lesser known writings and multitude of notes from both Fremont and Winnemucca, and others of that same time period. All she had to do was locate the place were the numerous manuscripts detailed the same landscaping.

And Miriam Burke-Troyak was certain that she had found that location and wanted now to prove it.

It began with the discovery of water-borne fossils of the late Triassic and early Jurassic. A state parks was built to protect these mineral-hardened bones, three years before Miriam was herself born.

Later as a young child, she learned of the Pa’oha’a, the Bannock Natives name for the mythical water-babies that are said to inhabit Pyramid Lake. The idea that the two might be connected, burned like a wild land fire in Miriam’s soul and drove her to earn her degree, setting her on this journey she was now undertaking into the extreme heat of the high desert.

There was a close connection between the water-babies and the Qu’ug-ol’ Ne’mc-go’lc, or so-called water-monsters of the same lake and her spirit told her so. Thus her drive to continue forward even in the face of the taunting imperiousness of her university colleagues. “I’ll prove it,” she told herself as she wheeled into the parking lot, “Then they won’t be laughing.”

She’d been told by tribal elders to remain away from the place she was now in search of. They told her that awakening such forbidden things could lead to her harm and possibly others, should it be loosed upon the land.

It wasn’t the first time she’d failed to heed the warnings given to her, either by others or through her own intuition. Had she listen in the first place she would have never married Bertram Troyak like she did.

The pair had met at the Cal-Neva in the heart of downtown Reno. He worked behind the bar and she ran keno tickets; it was love at first sight or so Miriam believed.

However, even though married now, Bertram couldn’t keep his eyes off or hands from other women. Eventually Miriam grew tired of his catting around and sent him packing; keeping only his last name which she concluded made her sound a little more elite than she really was.

That was five-and-a-half years ago and now she was on the verge of making, what perhaps, could be the greatest discovery of mankind. Miriam struggled to put the fits of giddiness she felt aside, focusing on the task that confronted presently her.

While she had no real idea what she was looking for, she was certain that it would reveal itself once she founded. “Not very scientific of me,” she chuckled at the idea.

After speaking with the ranger on duty and once the sun was fully risen, she donned her day pack and with cellphone holding the coordinates, began her trek out over the moonscape like surface of the Nevada desert before her. “No wonder the ancient peoples refused to live here,” she thought as she stumbled over loose stones and wind-rutted sands.

Three hours and she found her spot. To the south east stood the pinnacle of Richmond Hill. While not the tallest of mountains, it was a good sighting-point for the anyone traveling the harsh and unforgiving sweep that harbors mostly dried sage, rattlesnakes and coyotes.

Both quietly and slowly she began to survey the expanse before her. Not a single hint of a civilization stood out across the barren windswept patch of sand.

“It must be buried,” she groaned, realizing that she would have to dig much more than she desired. So off came her pack and out came the camp shovel.

It was less than nine inches of grit that had to be removed before she located a stone that should not be there. It was an antique, old with corners and edges worn down by wind and sand, until the surface formed a near perfect circular shape.

Miriam quickly uncovered the remainder of the stone, photographed and geomarked it with her cellphone. “This must have been the corner stone,” she thought.

With the one uncovered, she dug next to it, only to find nothing. Moving a few yards further, she dug at the soil again finding nothing.

As she stood up, she heard a rustling from beside. A dust devil had sprung up and was proceeding to recover the previously buried stone.

Miriam Burke-Troyak, PhD, thought nothing of the vortex as it faded out.

Returning to the now dirt and sand covered stone, she began the search from the next 90-degree angle from the stone. Again she found nothing next to the one, so she moved another 100-yards down and began chipping through the hard-pan with the pick from he folding shovel.

There she located another stone stone, of the same size and with the same wear marks as the first one. “These aren’t corner stones, they’re capstones,” she said with great excitement.

As she measured and marked its location, she couldn’t help but visualize how large the framework of the grain-hidden architecture must be. She decided to dig down further, to see if she might discover a full wall or perhaps a building.

An hour and a half later, sweating under the noonday sun, she halted, taking a seat on the most recently uncovered stone. Miriam was thankful for the slight breeze that picked up out of the east which served to cool her off.

Feeling slightly defeated, she stood up and began collecting her gear, when she noticed a trace of sand slipping downward into a crevasse near the stone. She dropped to he knees and gently scooped the sand away, revealing an opening large enough to allow her frame to fit through.

Using the flashlight of her cellphone, Miriam poked her arm and head into the darkness. She could not see very far into the masoned chasm, but her light was strong enough to show there was a carved floor less than four-feet from the opening.

Hurriedly, she gathered her pack and pulled it in behind her as she slipped through the hole. It was cold inside the hallow and smelled musty, like wet dirt and live snakes.

The idea that the secret hovel held a den of vipers had crossed her mind as she pushed her legs into the hole. However, she had seen none and had decided that it was worth the risk anyway.

While not a tall woman, Miriam was forced to bend low to navigate around the perimeter of the stacked-stone monolith. Along each wall, she located a single opening, each tracing ever deeper by slight degrees into the earthen-compact.

The floors and walls as were the corners were worn smooth as if something had been rubbing against them for thousands of millennia. She recalled her father’s saying, “When in doubt, go to the right,” which she did, deep and ever-deeper down the long, wide but extremely narrow tunnel. “Or is this a hallway?” she asked herself.

The gradient of the flooring shifted lower every 20 yards or so, until after a five-minute walk, it flattened out. Here, the roof opened into a slightly higher cavern and Miriam found herself able to stand up.

As she stood quietly looking around, amazed at her discovery, she heard what to her sounded like a dragging noise. It echo gently around the chamber and she scanned the place with her flashlight.

Ahead were three stone structures, each low to the floor and each worn inextricably to rounded surfaces. “Odd,” she thought, “Alters, perhaps?”

Then the noise returned, still gently echoing through the stones, though sounding further away. She did her best to locate the direction the noise had originated from, selecting yet another passage way, that again lead deeper downward and to an elongated chamber, worn away and polished smooth from both time and usage.

At the far side of the chamber shone a light. It was this that Miriam decided to investigate.

The dank odor of wet dirt and living snakes grew even greater as she cautiously tread across the semi-lustrous floor towards the brightness. It was a tunnel and it appeared very long, with an opening at the end from which the luminescence appeared to radiate.

Again she had to duck low to make it into the passage. She followed it until she came to its end.

Below her was a vast expanse of slow moving green water, above a split in the rocky ceiling, through which a fracture of yellow-orange sun poured. “An underground river?” she whispered into the her cellphone’s recorder as she attempted to geomark her amazing find, but she was too far under ground for the signal to reach civilization above.

Suddenly, she heard that peculiar dragging sound, sodden, slimy, and this time from behind her. Before she could scream, four moist and massive tendrils encased themselves around her body and dragged her deep into the cavern’s darkness.

In the distance, and as the corporeality dishonored and outraged her, Miriam’s cellphone recorded the hideous and continuous chanting of “Voquulo Zaa-q’ran,” by an untold number of leviathan grotesques writhing and contorting in macabre fashions. Meanwhile, above a dust-devil swirled, wiping away any outward trace of the antediluvian edifice.

Lady in Red

He hung his head as hot tears streamed down his weathered face. He was holding the motionless hand of his dying wife. In the background played the song, “Lady in Red,” and it caused a well-burst in his heart, realizing that this was the last song he and his wife had danced to, some 50 years earlier.

Then he felt his Nell let go.

His Favorite

“May I have another cup of coffee?” I asked my ever-present waiter.

“Yes, sir,” the waiter answered, “Black, no cream, no sugar.”

“Correct,” the I answered.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” the waiter smiled.

Quietly, I got up from my place at the table and moved across the kitchen to the coffee pot and poured a cup. Once I set it in front of where I’d been sitting, I sat down myself.

Smiling up at the waiter, I said, “Thank you.”

Since then, I’ve noticed that he seems to hover very near where I’m seated. Perhaps, I’m his favorite.

Winning One for the Kip

A day before Kip Addotta passed away at 75, I was listening to his 1991 song “Wet Dream,” which I first heard on the Dr. Demento Show. It brought the memory of the late Spring day in seventh grade, when Sister Phyllis asked me to write something for submission to the school newspaper:

Starvation Diet

Now the world,
Being Hungary,
Plucked Turkey,
Boiled in Greece,
With bits of Wales
And a lot of Chile,
Served it on China
And everyone ate!

Because it was considered too non-nonsensical, it wasn’t used. It’s languished in my pile of papers for nearly 46 years, until now.

Pee Chee Blue

Knowing that graduating from high school would be a watershed moment in life, I squirreled away items certain I’d be able to look back on with a sense of nostalgia. Many of these hold major importance like track medals, athletic letters, annuals, my class ring, etc.

Others seem less significant, but are jus’ as important like a pencil sold by the cheer squad and a candy wrapper from a chocolate bar bought as a band fund raiser. I also put away some Pee Chee folders, not realizing that one day students would be unable to buy these at the local five-and-dime or even a Walmart.

Why I bring this up and in all honesty, I don’t recall any Pee Chee folder having blue in its design. And I’m certain I would remember this, as not only were my grade school’s colors blue and gold, so were my high school’s colors.

Am I living another Mandela Effect or am I remembering wrong?

 

Beckoning Hills

If it is true what the movie,
The Sound of Music,’
claims when the song sung says
the ‘hills are alive with music,’
then those crowning my Nevada
desert life hum with strains of
The Ride of the Valkyries,’
drawing me in, only to plead
their truest existence through the
acapellic mourning of ‘Cool Water.’

Law #50

Throughout this morning I’ve been trying to recall ‘Murphy’s Laws for the Hospital Corpsman,’ but it may have been to long ago or I have filled my brain cavity with too many other things. Besides, I got hung up on law #50: “The good doc considers the risk before running to a casualty. The great ones think of the danger after the casualty has been recovered and treated.”

That is the greatest law — you before me. I wonder often why and how I survived.

Feel my Fear

Beyond death itself, which I’ll have no earthly knowledge of entering into from this life, my greatest fear is being told, “Go away from me for I never knew you.” This comes from my ever-dominate feeling of being wholly unworthy of redemption and forgiveness.

Therein is where my horrors lay. It’s that vast, never ending, and endless void, that gulf in between man and God, a cosmic darkness, empty, save for what I cannot perceive in my egoed imaginations. Are there mindless and vile things that float about in that ethereal place between Heaven and Earth or perhaps below both, that those separated from God, will meet, either on accident or by purpose, which will consume what spirit is left of our once golden beings?

This is what resides in that darkness, the hidden, shrunken, tangled places of my mind and this Terra on which I wander, and that are relived in my science fiction and horror writing. As William Shakespeare posits in his play, ‘Hamlet,’ that, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” perhaps what’s not dreamed of in our modern philosophy might be the cause of our undoing and demise.

Essential Saltes

“…the daemon-sultan Azathoth gnaws hungrily in chaos amid pounding and piping and the hellish dancing of the Other Gods, blind, voiceless, tenebrous, and mindless…”  — The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, H. P. Lovecraft, January 1927

“Mind if I sit here?” the very old man asked as he pulled the chair out from the table. I was sitting at a table in the far corner of the Washoe County Public Library at 12th and Ardmore.

“Please,” I said, “Help yourself.” I returned to reading the book I had propped up in front of me.

“I see,” the recent joiner eventually said, “That you’re a fan of Harold Lovecraft.” I nodded ‘yes,’ as he continued, “I knew him when I was a kid,” and his New Englander accent suddenly pronounced.

I looked at him with some trepidation, studying his somewhat cloudy and watery-blue eyes, looking for some sort betrayal to what he was claiming, but could find none, so I set my book aside and waited to hear about the writer first hand.

“Even at nine, I knew he was a strange one, but I found him interesting. My mother, God rest her soul, forbid me and my older brother from visiting his home on Barnes Street,” he said, “unfortunately he was in the final years of his life.”

“So were you around when he died?” I asked.

“Oh, no – by that time he was too sick for visitors, but I do recall his casket being carried from the house to an awaited hearse,” he answered, adding, “It was a sad day for me and my brother, though I don’t think very many people were concerned one way or another with his passing.”

“So how did you end up in Nevada?” I asked him.

“The Army sent me here during World War II, for training, to fight the Krauts in Africa. After the war, they assigned me to Camp Stead and when I mustered out of the service, I never left.”

After a few seconds of silence, “Besides, Rhode Island had nothing to offer a kid like me, whose only real job had been killing people.”

My raised eyebrows must have told him of my surprise as he clarified his comment, “I killed a lot of Krauts during my time in the Army. I needed a fresh start and Nevada was it.”

“I get that,” I said, “The horrors of war.”

The old man paused, looking off to the side and stared as if he were recalling the event. I sat quietly, intent on learning more.

“You know he was on to something with his character of Cthulhu?” he finally started, “and I’m not talking only about creation of the thing, but what it really represents.”

“Explain,” I stated as I shifted forward in my seat.

“I finally figured it out after the war when I realized that he was talking about a very old idea of a new world order. Once it hit me, I could see everything clearly – events detailed in his stories and such have a natural connection to events that happened in the real world. It is all truth, but highly fictionalized.”

“That’s crazy,” I smiled.

“You’d think,” he shot back, “But I’m telling you the facts. Pay attention to what is happening in the news, politics and such, you’ll see the connection my young friend. Also think about the character ‘Abdul Alhazed’ and his  book ‘Kitab al-Azif,’ or as it’s better known — the ‘Necronomicon.’

I shook my head, certain the old man was off his rocker. He knew what I was thinking, adding, “Maybe I am crazy, maybe I’m not. Woodrow Wilson, Fourteen Points, the League of Nations, the rise of Communism, the Nameless City, Arkham and so on. It’s all there, codified, but well hidden to the average Joe.”

“So where do you suggest I start?” I asked.

“First remember the name ‘Sr’yu’mg-em’,’ then Start with the 1991 news story about the Octopus,” he said, “followed by reading the novel, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,’ if you haven’t already.”

“Isn’t that one where the villain returns from the dead using something Lovecraft called, ‘essential saltes’ or something like that?’

The old man simply smiled, “You’ll figure it out.”

He struggled sightly to push back his chair and stand-up. I stood to offer him a hand, but being the typical New Englander, he refused my assistance.

“You know,” he said before shuffling away between the rows of library books, “It’s good to finally get it off my chest and to pass this information on. I know you don’t really believe me now, but long after I’m gone, you will. I promise, you will.”

Three weeks later that I saw that same man’s face once again. This time atop an obituary with the name ‘E. Brexley Grieves,’ and an accompanying article about an unknown elderly man being shot two times in a probable act of suicide.

Doug Ames, 1958-2019

Doug Ames, 61, was born on July 8, 1958 and unfortunately passed away on August 12, 2019 following a nearly four-year long battle with cancer. He grew up in Crescent City, California, but was living in Dolan Springs, Arizona.

A 1976 graduate of Del Norte High, he was in Reno, Nevada in March 2016. We were supposed to get together on the morning of the fifth, but he had to cancel.

I wish we could have met for that final time, but…

Tom Cassidy, 1961-2019

Tom Cassidy was born in Crescent City, California on April 9, 1961 and passed away from congestive heart failure on August 7, 2019 at the age of 58. He leaves behind his wife Michelle, whom he married on June 21, 1986.

We were teammates, both sprinters, running track and field at Del Norte High School, where Tom graduated in 1979. It leaves me very sad knowing that Tommy crossed the finish line ahead of me.

Rest in peace, Tom.

Up in Lights

“When I got here, I seen that marquee out there with my name in lights on it. My name’s never been up in lights before,” he said in his distinctive Southern-drawl, “But I’ll get over it and sing some for ya, which is why you’re all here tonight.” His enthusiasm was authentic, infectious and the gathered audience ate it up.

I couldn’t help but smile at this familiar act and that’s when I knew I’d been lucky to have seen him perform before fame failed.

Playground Idle

There once was a time when they all stopped, wanting to get closer to her magnificence, her beauty, her power. Today, she barely garners a second glance, charm less dazzling, yet with a more subtle type of lovely only to be noticed by those willing to take the time, to slow down, to really look.

As an aged steam engine, she can no longer makes those whistle stops.

Umbrella

“You better make sure you know where our umbrella’s located,” Mom says to me.

But I’m a big boy and she worries too much.

“I’m on an adventure,” I laugh as I make my way to the shores edge, intent on finding sea shells, chasing and being chased by the rolling waves.

Two minutes later: “Where’s our umbrella? Which one is ours. They all look the same.”

Starting to cry, Mom finds and brings me to our umbrella. Now she won’t let me out of her sight, where I must be contented digging holes and building castles in the sand.

The Cats of Ck’u-my-u’us Ck’lot-c’

In the village of Ck’u-my-u’us Ck’lot-c’ there lived a quy’ug’ seh’, a witch, who enjoyed catching and killing cats as ritual sacrifices. The villagers feared this quy’ug’ seh’ and instead of complaining about his vicious activities, held their children close, thankful that it was not their child that had suffered such a heinous fate.

One early morning a caravan of many strangers came into the village, arriving ahead of their annual gathering on the nearby playa, for what outrage and rituals, few would ever know. Many wore, what villagers supposed to be costumes with heads of unearthly beasts that no good soul could or even wished to identify.

And with them came a singular, dark-eyed child, a girl, whose head was covered in reddish hair and whose skin glowed a green-tint in the luminous sunshine. Throughout the day, this stripling enjoyed the company of a certain black kitten.

That evening a cherubic wailing could be heard throughout Ck’u-my-u’us Ck’lot-c’ as the child searched for her now missing and beloved pet. Then as the gibbous moon fully inclined the star-filled sky, the strangers took to praying and singing and chanting in a frightful tongue that no human ear had ever before heard.

The following morning the strangers were gone, traveling northward, deep into the heat of the high desert. Also gone, the villagers quickly discovered, were their cats.

Had the strangers prayers mesmerized the furry beasts, bidding them to follow from the village? No one knew for certain and no one dared to make inquiries of those same strangers.

What was known is the tale told by two boys, who remained outside after darkness fell. In the shadows of the many alleys and various footpaths, they saw numerous cats, too many to count and of all description, gathering, before boldly approaching the quy’ug’ seh’s house, where they witnessed the felines parading in circular fashion around and around the unkempt and mysterious abode.

No one believed the boys, preferring to cling to the memory that the pair were known tricksters, and were obviously intent on playing a practical joke, if not a somewhat ill-timed, on the puzzled villagers. Three days passed, when as suddenly as they had disappeared, every cat of Ck’u-my-u’us Ck’lot-c’ returned in the night to where they truly belonged.

And for sometime after, these returned cats refused to eat, instead enjoying much time before the many homes heated hearths or lazing about in the sun, luxuriously and unceasingly grooming themselves. It left many of the villagers very curious and still others filled with a superstitious dread.

Another three days would pass before the pets, both indoor and outdoor, began to show appetites and to start again eating what their masters had to offer and soon this feline food-strike was forgotten. It appeared that a peacefulness had finally settled on Ck’u-my-u’us Ck’lot-c’ once more.

However, it was about this time that someone made note that the quy’ug’ seh’ had not been seen in many weeks and that no candlelight had appeared in his window, nor had curled wisps of evil smoke escaped the chimney of the dreaded house for many nights. Because of trepidation, nothing was done and the matter set aside, save for quiet whispers regarding the strangeness of the thing.

So months passed before villagers grew bold enough to approach the quietness of the shuttersome place, to check on the long absent quy’ug’ seh’. Once the door was splintered and entry made, his cleanly picked bones, scattered about the earthen floor, were found.

Faces

While trying to figure out how to better store all the stories I wrote as a kid, I ran across this one. I recall the night I did it. I was on an Edgar Allan Poe kick and had decided to use a bird feather quill and India ink to pen this one. Here’s the original paper…

Dusking Hour

“Go outside and play, but be home for supper,” Mom said as she dismissed us to go do what children do.

We went into the woods, played games we invented, climbed trees, enjoyed hide-and-seek and kick-the-can. We disputed, negotiated, settled.

Always, and way too soon, the street lights popped, buzzed and brightened that dreaded dusking hour. Then it was time to get home, wash up, eat, watch some TV, then to bed.

We hopped on our bikes, disbanding with the promise to be back in the tomorrow. Adulting would come too soon for us, who peddled away from the nighttime.

My wife is shopping. She sent me a picture of her in a pair of nice dress pants.

She asked if I thought they made her behind look big. I returned her message saying, “Noo!”

Autocorrect changed it to, “Moo!” Send help, quick!

Matthew 22:36-40, Reimagined

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they  gathered. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?”

Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Then another Pharisee asked, “Even if they have tattoos?”

“Even when they ask stupid questions,” Jesus smiled.

Adam’s Tree Fort

We were playing in the woods, where Adam claimed to have a tree fort. I wanted to see it, but he refused to show me.

So, once Adam left, I searched until I found his well-camouflaged platform. I finally found my way up and sat down.

When Adam returned, he cried, “Get out of my fort! There’s ain’t enough room for both of us!”

“Sure there is,” I smirked, sliding back, leaning against the OD green wool blanket that belonged to Dad, and which served as a wall.

Out I fell, slamming hard to the ground. It took a minute or so, but egged on by Adam’s unceasing and mocking laughter I got up, limped away and never returned to his tiny fort.

Honoring El Paso’s Dead

Less than four days following the attack on innocent lives and the murder of 22 people and the wounding of another 24, I found myself walking into our local Walmart before 5 am. On my hip, as usual, I sported my pistol.

Soon I was approached by a young man who asked me to please leave the store, because I had a pistol. He explained that in response to the deaths in El Paso, Texas, ‘they’ve’ decided to stop allowing open-carry in ‘their’ store.

Surprised, I asked, “Really? I’ve been here lots of times while open carrying.”

“That maybe, but things have changed,” he answered, as two male employees walked up, joining him.

The four of us began heading towards the front of the store and the only door open at that time of the morning. As we approached the exit I asked: “Can you guarantee my safety if I come in here unarmed?”

“Yes, we can,” he smiled, “We have a uniformed officer at the front door.”

Looking to where he was pointing, I saw an older woman, sitting on a stool facing the interior of the store and completely unarmed. I had walk right by this person when I entered the store and she said nothing to me.

“What, her?!” I exclaimed, fully shocked, “Not only is she unarmed, she’s facing away from where the threat will come. Basically, she’s nothing more than live-bait for an armed predator and she’ll be the first person in this store who gets shot.”

“She’ll be able to call radio in any threat that comes her way, long before any ‘threat,’ steps inside the store,” the so-called ‘manager’ stated.

He made air-quotes when he said the word, ‘threat.’ I couldn’t tell if he actually believed what he was saying or if he was that well rehearsed at regurgitating a ‘company line.’

“Good to know,” I replied, while shaking my head and I left the store without offering further argument.

The Fall of Sy’u-gi of Lo’meh

Some three millennia before, rose along the Ly’u-bol Glas-p’oo,  the Sy’u-gi’ Ckulp’c in the R’um-ja’ of Mo’Bu-Ju’, with its odd gray and misshapen stones and its queer looking peoples. Translucent red, with loose and heavy skin, elongated noses, flabby lips and protuberant eyes, the peoples of Ckulp’c were considered a horror to behold.

However, their civilization had survived and adapted to the half-dead planet on which it was forced to reside. The peoples of  Ckulp’c found pleasure in dancing under the gibbous moon to their ill formed half-lizard, half-rat God, Zaa-q’ran and once they rediscovered fire, the celebration rose to nightly performances of hideous shapes casting shadows across the open expanse of the dust-fill vastness that lay all about them.

Then from the west came travelers, who upon discovering the Ly’u-bol Glas-p’oo decided to settle their remaining numbers along it’s tangled banks. And there they established, along the coming trade route, the Sy’u-gi’ of Lo’meh, a place that soon prospered.

The one-time travelers looked down of the people of Ckulp’c and their awful ceremonies, their ugly god and their unnatural forms and decided to make war on their peaceable neighbors. At once they set upon the older community and slaughtered the inhabitants, leaving none alive.

After they disposed of their enemies corporal fleshiness, having rolled the festering dead bodies into Ly’u-bol Glas-p’oo, they set about dismantling  Ckulp’c, destroying their center of worship and all carvings, drawings and likenesses of gods, including the one they hailed as Zaa-q’ran, shattering it before tossing the pieces into Ly’u-bol Glas-p’oo as well. Satisfied, they opened the razed buildings to the ever-expanding population of Lo’meh for resettlement.

Life was grand for the next one-thousand-years and it was during the kyr-annum celebration of that Great Conquest of Ckulp’c, that the people of  Lo’meh laughed, ate and danced with the knowledge that they had in one night and one day laid waste to a grotesque and evil society, once known as the Ckulp’c. And as the grand celebration drew nearer, Kings and vagabonds tossed up tents inside and out of the city’s high stone walls in anticipation.

Feasts, with great long tables were offered to visitors, noble and slave, and each were bid to take more than their share and enjoy. Among these wondrous foods, spices and drink was the prized G’lea’g, large and speckled in many colors that were drawn from Ly’u-bol Glas-p’oo by the bushel for those gathered to feast on.

Served on silver platters, bedecked with fiery opals, throughout the Palace and high in the Priest Towers, the official revelers made merry with delight in their feasting. It is said, too, that G’lea’g was served outside the walls to those lesser Priests and Princes as well, so that no man, woman or child was exonerated from the joyous occasion.

Not one votary noted the hellish red mist that fell from the gibbous essence cast by that nights moon glow onto the embankments of Ly’u-bol Glas-p’oo. Nor was attention paid when that same mistiness dipped beneath the waters surface only to reemerge moments later, rejoining with the gibbous face of the single sky being above.

Lost in their own reveling, celebrants failed to see the odd cast of shadows that fell against the walls, that moved along the floors of the many public buildings and crept deep into the darkened places, between the private dwellings and the visitant-laden streets of fated Lo’meh. It was slightly ahead of midnight, that the gold-plated gates burst open and all the half-million within those massive walls, poured forth in a blackened throng out onto the desolate plains of the R’um-ja’ of Mo’Bu-Ju’, in all directions.

Those that fled, not understanding why but with fear written in their faces and quickly convexing eyes, muttered strange and repelling words that none would understand. Mad men, crazed and ever-changing, cast bulging eyes back upon the Priests Towers and the open-framed windows of the Palace only to witness to their alarm the vision the hideous dancing of a people translucent red, loose and heavy skinned, elongated noses, flabby lips and protuberant eyes.

No more do men regularly travel to that which was once Lo’meh, and those hearty beings that do, do so with only an idle curiosity. When they do, they find no splendor withing the remainder of a city, rather a slimy residue and creatures best described as half-rat and half-lizard over-populating the once vast dwellings and public sites that beheld the once victorious sy’u-gi’, Lo’meh.

So Much for Being Gone

Did you miss me? No? Hmm…

I missed you!

Well, so much for running away from problems and taking 30-days to travel about. Life on the road isn’t like it had been a few years ago, but I’ll bring you up to date when I post my journal entries for those days a little later today.

Lots of things have happened in these few ensuing days, including the death of one of my wife’s friends and the euthanization of one of our dogs, which actually precipitated my sudden departure. So, clearly there is a reason for the way events shook out this go-around.

Anyway, this is the story I had planned for my return September 1. It’s called ‘Thirty-days Later.’

“So, you say you entered Mexico without your passport, correct?” the state department clerk asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yes,” Tom answered.

“You do know they’ve been searching for you since you disappeared last month?”

“I figured people might look for me.”

“And now you’d like help securing a passport so you can get back home?”

“Yes, please.”

“How did you enter Mexico in the first place?”

“I came in with the Swedish Bikini Team.”

“The Swedish Bikini Team?” the clerk asked, a look of puzzlement washing over his face.

“Yes,” Tom answered.

“How did that happen? Were you kidnapped or something?”

“No. Not at all. I got in their raft willingly.”

“I see. Their raft.”

“Yeah, I was taking a picture of a flower when I heard a woman yell ‘Hey!” I looked up and all these beautiful bikini-clad women were floating by. One  asked if I wanted to join them and I said ‘Yes,’ hopping in their raft as they passed.”

“And you remained with them, even after the rafting trip was over.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“They had lots of beer, lots and lots of beer.”

“So where is this Swedish Bikini Team, now?”

“I don’t know.”

“What, did they abandon you?”

“No,” Tom said, “Quite the opposite!”

“I don’t understand.”

“I abandoned them.”

“Why?” he asked.

“They ran outta beer!”

Home Again

It took me a little more than half the day to finally get home, having hitched a ride from a fella named Jim, in the back of his pick-up truck. I showered, and dressed in clean clothing, ate a thick peanut butter and jelly sandwich and downed two cups of freshly brewed coffee.

My stomach was a bit queasy from nerves as I sat outside on the front porch step and waited for my wife to get home. Her beaming smile at the sight of me was wonderful to behold and worth the absence.

And while I expected her to chide me with some sort of ‘I told you so’ comment, none has come. Instead she gave me a strong hug and a gentle kiss as we went inside.

“It could have been worse,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said, “They could have slit my throat or something.”

She screwed up her face before turning to the stove, “Do you always have to go to the worse imaginable place?”

“No,” I answered, “But I gotta admit you were right about the dangers.”

Her back may have been to me at the time, but I felt her grin as she glowed at the idea that I admitted she had been correct.

After finishing telling her what had happened, she made a huge plate of scrambled eggs, fried potatoes with fresh salsa, some crisp bacon and sourdough toast for my dinner. Once I had eaten, I washed the pans and loaded the dishes as I’ve been doing for years now.

Since then, we watched a previously recorded TV show and now she’s gone to bed. I’m still up tidying up this last entry to my notebook and very happy to be back home.

Once finished here, I’m going to retire to the backyard patio with a small glass of whiskey, put my sore, swollen feet up and stare up at the twinkling stars, the glow of the moon, and enjoy my ‘isness.’

The Turning Event

Tired, sore, hungry and stupid. These have been my four companions all this day as I struggle to recover from the night before and this morning.

Allow me to preface this with a few extra facts that didn’t seem pertinent yesterday, but seem to play a solid roll in my life this day: Jake, Karen along with Sam lived out of an old beat up Pontiac, that they had draped with plastic tarps for a makeshift shelter.

That’s the first thing. The second is that cup of Earl Grey that I was offered and accepted.

It may have been doped as I awoke with a banging headache, and much later than usual, and no memory of the family packing up and driving off. Worst of all, they took everything I didn’t have on me or in my sleeping bag with me.

My rucksack, food, extra clothing – gone. I am finally done with this adventure and have been heading east along the back roads towards Reno.

“What’s wrong with you?” one of my former escorts from the day before said, with a knowing smile beaming across his face.

“They robbed me,” I admitted, while trying no to sound defeated.

“Should’ve kept going, huh?” the other one laughed.

“Yup,” I answered as I rolled up my bag and tied a length of twine I’d found nearby.

Without saying anything else and head held high, I trekked off towards the highway some mile-and-a-half away. With my ‘bedroll’ slung across my body, I couldn’t help but think of the 1970’s TV show, ‘Kung Fu,’ only I am not Kwai Chang Caine or David Carradine for that matter.

Night seemed to fall too quickly and I have set up a cold camp, if I can call having only a sleeping bag, notebook and pencil, a camp. I shall have no fire this night as I’ve nothing to start one with and nothing to eat.

As I try to fall asleep, I can hear my wife: “See? I told you so!”

Tom Joad, That Ain’t You?

Late in afternoon I tripped upon a homeless encampment. There were some fifty people here, from children to slightly older than me and it has me unsettled.

When I first realized I was nearby this tucked out of the way place, I was confronted by a pair of men who wanted to know what I was up to.

“I’m traveling through,” I said.

“What does that mean?” one asked.

“It means I’m simply going to keep on going, not stopping.” I answered.

“Good,” stated the other one.

As they escorted me from one side of the encampment to the other, people said ‘hello,’ and one young man asked if I’d like to sit and have a bite to eat and visit with his wife and little boy. I looked at my escort and they turned away.

It was obvious I was out of my depth. I studied the guy that asked me to stay, he looked like he’d been living rough for a long while and that some of that time had or was still spent on a meth addiction.

Tired and hungry, I failed to heed my voice of intuition that whispered harshly at me to be careful. I sat down anyway and allowed myself to relax.

“Don’t mind them,” Jake said, “They’re assholes and think they’re protecting us. But guaranteed, if the law showed up they’d disappear as fast as a jack rabbit.”

“Well, thanks for rescuing me from them,” I said.

“My wife, Karen and this is Sam,” Jake said.

I stood and shook Karen’s hand, then smiled at their baby. Cute kid.

We talked about life, travels, shared a few stories and laughed. This greatly lifted my spirits from the day before.

We had hot dogs, beans and a salad, made mostly of wild gatherings including dandelions and dandelion leaves. I offered some of my beans and rice, which they refused to take.

To drink they offered me a warm cup of Earl Grey tea, a treat, I told them. And as I readied to toss-off for the night, I felt better about the aspects of travel come the morning.

This date would have been my younger brother, Adam’s 56th birthday. I remembered to wish him a ‘Happy Heavenly Birthday,’ as I said my prayers that evening.

There’s this Change

“You Can’t Go Home Again,” is a novel by Thomas Wolfe published posthumously in 1940. I cannot help but think of that title and apply it to my situation now.

Only the third day out and I have realized that the life of a vagabond, bum, or what have you – isn’t as it was nearly two-decades ago. I am older and the world is much harder, and because of this I am unable to enjoy myself.

My friend wandered off after breakfast this morning and I’ve not seen her since. Women! Perhaps, this is one of the reasons that this evening as I establish my camp, I am unhappy and in puzzlement.

Whatever the reason, I’m certain that it comes down to this fact: both the times and I have changed. I am thinking that I ought to return home and enjoy the goodness I have there.

Tonight, I’m having beans for dinner and since I’ve found a small creek, I shall eat and soak my aching feet in its icy waters. This will make up for the lack of adventure I’ve experienced, after all, how many people can claim to be doing what I’m doing under these blanketing stars?

Answer: not very many!

Behind Eppies

It’s a slight hole-in-the-wall diner, standing alone in a partially graveled and partially asphalted driveway and parking lot. My wife and I have eaten there on occasion while visiting Sacramento.

Good food as I recall. And I’m certain my memory is correct as the delicious odor of cooking wafts through the air.

It was behind this building that I found a small depression in the earth on which to pitch my sleeping bag and build a very small campfire for cooking. It felt glorious to sit down as my feet are swollen and legs are cramping.

A stray has befriended me, a little black, wiry-haired mutt with a goofy set lower jaw. I figure she’s been hit by a vehicle or something — but she ain’t talking.

“Hello,” I said as the tiny thing wagged her tail and danced around my feet.

Once, I tried to pick her up, but she made it known she’d prefer to remain independent. I understood her completely.

So, we shared a meal of rice and water and afterwords she curled up and fell asleep on my ruck sack and I, in my sleeping bag. It’s nice to have some company.

Goodbye, Kerouac

The smell of burnt diesel, trapped under the overhang of the bus station and caught in the chilled night air stung my nostrils. We few passenger’s stood ready to board the Greyhound, with fewer loved ones to offer goodbyes, towards the Bay Area.

The plan, which I held loosely in my head, was to travel in a clockwise direction: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and back to Nevada. And I was going to do most of it on foot.

My wife said, “It’s too dangerous. It’s not like it used to be, Tom!”

I said, holding up my weathered paperback copy of ‘On the Road,’ “I know, but I gotta get a little adventure in before it’s too late…you know like…”

She said, “Bullshit!”

She was right, as in less than an hour on the highway, I opened my window and tossed the book, pages scattering out onto the road behind us, prompting a warning from the driver.

“Sorry,” I said, “Won’t happen again. I never like that stupid book anyway.”

That simple truth left me feeling lighter.

The woman seated across the aisle from me snickered. Once the bus crested the Sierra Nevada mountain range, I called for the driver to pull-over, grabbed my rucksack, got off, turned north and walked.