The Fly Away

It was difficult to tell if I was seeing things or if what I was seeing was real. He was a stalk of a man, thin in every respect of the word, and tall.

Around his middle was a large circular frame, draped in what appeared to be parachute silk. The frame was strapped to his meatless body with leather harnesses meant to keep the thing, whatever it was, from moving around.

After he finished buckling the harness in place, be proceeded across the parking lot. As he did, the Nevada winds, second only to Wyoming, picked up and began dragging him backwards, until he came off the ground.

I dialed 9-1-1 as he continued to scream and kick, flying away from the parking lot and over a nearby grocery store.

“Do you need fire, police or ambulance?”

“Ambulance, maybe fire,” I answered.

“Where is your emergency?”

“I’m not sure,” I answered, “He flew over a building and out of my line of sight.”

“Can you repeat that, please?”

As I did this, the operator responded, “Oh…never mind, we’re getting more calls about this, and here I thought you were pulling my leg.”

We both laughed as she disconnected our call.

Dumped

until today,
my summer coat
without buttons,
our burn barrel fires
and a few hand-outs
have been enough
to survive this
pandemic.

then
an essential government
garbage truck
dumped,
crushed,
hauled
away the non-essential
man
like so much refuse,
that now,
even little red riding hood
admits life is darkest
from inside the wolf.

we’ve been inoculated,
but never cured.

Martial

We had built up a sizable bond-fire.
Everyone was laughing, talking and drinking.
Then a light from high in the sky flashed on.
It exposes the revelers in its massive illumination.
All activities cease, as faces turned skyward towards the accompanying heavy thumping.
A helicopter and several M-RAPS, whose doors bang shut with echoes.
“You’re not supposed to be out of your houses!”
An authoritative voice booms across a public address system.
In terror and fear, my neighbors scatter, each running for the safety of home.
Left alone, I quickly find myself at gun point, face-down in my own backyard.

That Didn’t Go Well

New York Times best selling author: “People don’t start conversations using dirty words.”

Me: “Don’t know many Marines, do you?

Author: “No, I don’t. Do you want to offer an example?

Me: “The word ‘fuck,’ is an entire sentence if used properly.”

He immediately disconnected me from the online writing course that he is instructing.

A Time for Everything

Tippy wagged his tail as he zigged and zagged up the pathway. The black lab sniffed the ground and looked at the tall trees and short bushes as he made his way to the large and bright opening that promised a clearing ahead.

The pain in his hips was gone. And he could see clearly and hear all the forested sounds that came from around him.

Once he broke into the clearing he was surprised; dogs everywhere that he could see and they were all stopped, looking at him. Tippy was puzzled though, he’d been chased off and he’d been sniffed and he’d even been ignored, but now he found himself completely disregarded as each dog returned to whatever they had been doing before he arrived.

Slowly he made his way through the throng of mutts, well-breeded champions, house-pets and the abandoned. He could see straight ahead, an opening in a wall that led into a bright city, where the people were.

People, that’s what was missing: specifically his people. Where were they and exactly where was he. Tippy stood before the opening and looked in, where he could see both humans and dogs moving about.

Suddenly he was aware that he had company, a short and shaggy poodle that insisted on sniffing at his collar. She refused to leave him alone, even when he backed away from her.

“You belong to them,” the poodle said, “I can smell them.”

“Them?” Tippy questioned.

“Yes, my people,” she answered.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you don’t. Let me explain. But first, my name is Susy.”

“Tippy,” he returned.

“I used to live with the same people you lived with.”

“Huh, I don’t remember you.”

“No, you wouldn’t. I was before your time. They had to go away and couldn’t take me with them, so they gave me to the nice lady down stairs. She fed me hamburger and cheese.”

“So, I’m like a replacement?”

“No, nothing like that. Humans love us and they probably saw you and fell in love, like they did me.”

“Well, they gave me to the garbage man.”

“Did you have a good life?” Susy asked.

“He had two boys that took me hunting and fishing all the time, so yes.”

“See? So now you’re here and you, along with all of us, are waiting for which ever family or child we are supposed to spend eternity with to come up that trail, the same one you came up. Do you understand?”

Suddenly, the dogs stopped and looked down towards the opening in the woods and watched as a little child came up the trail and into the clearing. They waited in the quiet as what turned out to be a little girl made her way into the mass of dogs.

“Ah,” Susy said, “She never had a dog of her own and now we’ll get to see some real magic, because there are some dogs who never had a child of their own either. Watch, they’ll find each other in a minute or so.”

And like Susy said, a small tan and black mutt came bounding up to the child and as if they’d known one another for ever, they loved on each other; her petting and giggling, he licking and bouncing about her feet. Then they walked up the rest of the trail and entered the opening into the city.

“But how will I know which of me people to go with?” Tippy asked.

“Oh, you’ll know, it’s instinct, now come on, Tippy,” Susy said, “Let’s go find a place to lay down and rest.”

Together, and with each other to lean on, they found a quiet spot in the green grass, under a shade tree, then with muzzles between their paws, watched for their people to finally come home to them.

When and if I start writing for millennial’s only, instead of using ‘said’ or ‘asked,’ I’ll use ‘like’ or ‘all.’ And for ‘thank you,’ ‘no problem.’

Example:

“And Tom was all, ‘I don’t think so.’

And she was like, ‘What?'”

“It’s ‘thank you,'” Tom instructed, “Not ‘no problem.'”

Teddy

We couldn’t find my son’s Grandpa’s false teeth anywhere. I even went outside and looked in the dog house jus’ in case Nipper took them to chew on.

“Nope, not in there,” I called out as I stepped in the front door.

My son was having great fun, thinking it was some sort of a new winter-time game. He raced from room to room searching under beds, in closets, through the book shelves and drawers he could reach.

Suddenly, he came racing out of the back room, the one used for mostly storage, screaming, crying, nearly hyperventilating. He was so shaken that he was practically in consolable.

Heading to that room, I went in, looking to see what had left him so upset.

“Damn it, Dad,” I shouted, realizing we had become victims of another of his practical jokes, “Not funny, old man!”

His dentures were in the mouth of my son’s favorite teddy bear. And as I reached for the stuffed bear, it quickly moved out of range and growled.

Then I heard those porcelain teeth clack violently together.

The Invaders

He watched from the top of a tree in his backyard as the space craft landed. To his surprise, they were not the lizards, nor the grays he’d been taught to expect.

Quickly, he rushed inside and instructed his wife to get out the salt, “We have an alien invasion to fight off!”

Then he realized that even if he might kill every one of them, some people would probably welcome them with open arms. The though both disgusted and dismayed him.

“What’s wrong, hon,” she asked, seeing the dejected look on his face.

He sighed, “The French love escargot.”

The Deene Denouement

This recounting has been years — actually decades — in the making after struggling over how to tell it. The main problem has been that there was nothing to contrast it too – that is until now.

Long before the ‘Mandela Effect,’ or the theory that monsters can be realized simply by the fear they generate, as in the cases of the Rake or Slenderman, there was the ‘Deene Denouement.’

His 75-year-old body was racked with cancer when I met him. He was gaunt, pale and skin so fragile that the vasculature of his face and upper body looked like a fold-up Rand McNally’s road map, but his mind was sharp and he wanted, needed some company.

As an on-call nurse’s aide, assigned to his wing of the nursing home, I spent as much time with Nick Deene as possible, without neglecting my other patients. He sat in a chair rather than lay in bed and so I’d pulled up a stool and we chatted.

“So, you’re a radio-man, too?” he asked with a pleasant surprise in his voice.

“Yeah, but I’m between gigs right now,” I explained, ” So I’m doing this for the while.”

“Oh, I understand,” he offered.

“Figured you would,” I returned.

“I was a pretty well known radio show host back east in the late 30’s and early 40’s, New York to Miami,” he told me, “Had a pretty popular show called “So-Pure Soaps presents Dare Danger with Deene.”

“So, what happened – did you quit, get fired, find another career or something?”

“My fall from grace began in September 1940. I was 27 and we were doing a live broadcast in southern Connecticut when I was snatched up by something,” he said. “Woke up in a swamp and had to crawl to a nearby road to get help. That’s how I eventually lost my foot.”

Deene lifted his right leg to show where his foot was missing along with his ankle and about four inches of his lower calf, “Had a handcuff attached to it and it got tightened down to the point that it cut off the circulation, and along with being broken, had to be amputated.”

“By something?” I asked.

“Something,” he frowned, “To this day, I don’t really know what it was, but I have a theory.”

“I’d love to hear it,” I offered.

“I think that the fear created by my show caused the audience to generate enough energy to spontaneously create the monster I’d described during the broadcast,” he told me.

“That sounds frightening,” I responded, not buying a word of it.

“I also think that once the fear subsided,” he continued, “That energy subsided and the monster dissolved, evaporated, disappeared, whatever you want to call it, and left my laying in the swamp where it first originated.”

“That sound even more frightening,” I said.

“Gets worse,” he chuckled, “Tried to explain what happened and got myself locked up for nearly a year in the loony bin and then the war broke out. Ended up coming out here to Reno, Nevada to see if I could get a fresh start. Never happened. Ended up repairing radios and later televisions for a living.”

“So, did anyone ever believe you?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he answered, “One fella wrote about what happened to me, but he only went so far, and then the story was published in some pulp fiction magazine in June ‘41, which only made things worse. So once out of the hospital, I hightailed it west.”

“That’s some story,” I said, adding, “You ought to write all this down, get the truth out there.”

“Nope, done trying,” he stated, “I’ll leave it to someone else to do.”

Nick Deene passed away early the following morning. And that ‘someone’ he spoke of, turned out to be me, a believer.

Imaginary Nevada: March 25, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200325

From time to time, Brady turned back in his saddle to look. Every time, he’d see the coyote following at a distance.

He thought about shooting it as he dropped into one of the many low spots and it cresting the rise behind him. But he decided not too.

That evening, he saw the same coyote as it rested on its haunches watching him intently. By now he knew the animal was an omen, a visitor or perhaps both.

As he fell asleep, he once again heard the nearby singing. And though he recognized the soft, yet jagged melody, he could not distinguish a single word of that peculiar song.

That night, he slept soundly and once he’d risen the following morning, he check outside for his inquisitive visitor. It was gone and he set about fixing breakfast and getting set to go into Beowawe for supplies.

The sun was up less than an hour and a half when he headed towards the stable for his horse. Half way across the open yard, he saw a shadowy movement and in a diving motion, he drew his pistol and aimed.

She’d been dead several years by now. In fact, he’d not been walking long as a toddler, when she had died and the sight of her standing in the clearing between him and his house left him nearly speechless.

Finally, he asked, “Mother?”

Five Rolls of Film

It was a nondescript turn out along the highway in Eastern Nevada. I parked my car, put on my backpack and headed up the trail onto the hillside and into a copse of trees.

Four hours and a roll of film later, I dropped down into a beautiful little basin with one of the bluest lakes I’d ever seen in my life. After snapping a couple of frames of the sight, I tramps down to the waters edge and decided that this is where I’d establish my camp for the night.

While exploring the lake bank, I burned through another three rolls. By four in the afternoon, I figured it was a good idea to build myself a fire ring, collect as much dead-fall as possible, and to pitch my tent.

That evening I enjoyed a can of beans, mixed with a precooked sandwich bag-sized helping of white rice. I followed it up with a cup of hot coffee topped with a touch of one of those airplane-sized bottles of Jim Beams.

Sleep came quickly after I crawled into my sleeping bag and tucked my pack under my head as a pillow. However, I woke near sunrise, very cold, with my exhalations having become miniature icicles hanging from the top beam of my tent.

Opening my bivy, I saw that a layer of snow had fallen and even though I was chilled to the bone, I stayed in my tent and bag until the sun began to warm the eastern side of my shelter. Once outside, I quickly packed up my campsite, ate two or three handfuls of granola and started up and out of the valley.

It was somewhere around the rise that I took the wrong trail, a small but easily corrected error, that lead me down into a wide meadow. However, I made a monumental mistake by becoming over-confident and headstrong by deciding not to check my bearings using the compass I had stowed in my pack.

About three-hours into my return trip, I realized I was very much off course. Rather than worrying about getting back to the trail-head, checking and double checking my surroundings, I had been too busy taking pictures.

It was nearly five in the evening and the sun was quickly sinking, taking the light with it, when another snow storm swooped in. The winds swirled the large flakes in every direction, leaving me dizzy as I tried to find a place to set up a camp.

Fortune was on my side though, as I saw in the distance what looked to be a small out-building. As I drew closer, I realized it was an abandoned, ‘Karro Kampos,’ or a Basque Sheep Wagon.

It had been modernized as seen by it’s flat and weathered rubber tires and rusting metal chassis. The wood tongue was broken in half and the steps were missing, but this didn’t matter as I scrabbled up onto the rear porch and scampered inside.

The potbelly stove and its pipe were missing, obviously salvaged or even scavenged, leaving a hole in the roof, that lead to the walls of that corner having come undone over the years of neglect the wagon had seen. I also had to struggle to get the door to close and remain close as darkness fell.

From that point on I would used my headlamp to see by, as I laid out my ground cover on the floor, to use as an extra layer of warmth, and unrolled my sleeping bag atop it. I ate my beans cold, and directly from the can, before I decided to finally get out my compass and then search my camera bag for the possibility of another roll of film.

There was no more to be had, so I repacked my bag, loaded it into my pack and turned in for the night. The following morning, the storm had broke and the snow was beginning to melt, when I finally pulled my compass from my jacket and learned that I was heading three or four degrees off course.

It took me less than two-and-a-half hours to find my way back to the trail and finally the trail-head and my car. That night, after a hot meal and a warm shower, I slept like a log in my comfortable bed and next to my wife.

The following day, I pulled my gear from the car and laid it out, drying, vacuuming and cleaning dirt and debris from the pack, the sleeping bag and my tent. Once finished, I hauled out my camera bag, unpacking everything, with the intent of giving my photo equipment a good overhaul.

That’s when I realized I was missing my 50mm lens and all the exposed film I had shot the previous two days. Maddeningly, I’ve never been able to find that ‘nondescript’ roadside turnout since that day and I continue to suppose that my film and lens are still there or have been scavenged by now.

Salt Lick

There were five or six of them in the pasture, square and pink, held to the ground with a metal stake.
If you grew up around cattle and horses, you probably already know what they are: salt blocks or licks.
As kids we would not, could not leave them well enough alone, and that’s why they were set to the ground like they were.
And as gross as it might sound, it began innocently enough as a dare: “Lick it.”
Who did it first, I cannot recall, but soon we would each hack small chips from the blocks and suck on them throughout the day.
Once our parents learned of this behavior, they’d tell us, “You’re gonna sick,” and such.

This is some 50 years in my past…

Looking to where I’m sitting now — 2020 — isolated from work, family, neighbors, waiting in line at the grocery stores, six feet apart, I’m struggling with a profound sadness that we’ve fallen into this ‘wont helplessness.’
There’s a deep longing in my soul, spirit, my heart, my head, for those days so long ago.
And would you like to know a funny fact?
Not one kid in my neighborhood ever got sick or died from licking a used salt block.

Letters

Wells
Orwell
Heinlein and
Rand

Of ‘old’ letters
Of ‘knew’ letters
Of ‘new’ letters
Of ‘current’ letters

Primer of the coming years
Lessons for days of apocalypse
Burning piles of dystopia
And ‘it can’t happen here’

Hope

in my anger
and frustration
i stood on the sidewalk
waiting my turn to enter
the grocery store
our new bread line
then i saw it
hope
in the form
of a small blade of grass
pushing its way up
through a crack in
the unyielding asphalt
i am renewed

Checkpoint Charlie 2.0

Where will the next Checkpoint Charlie be located?
Not the one we’ll stand on in order to peek over the wall,
The place where the federal elite will keep an eye on us,
The Checkpoint Charlie they’ll be able to shoot us from?
Yeah, some called for a wall to protect the American
From the foreigner, but it turns out we are the foreigner.
We are the foreign, we are not elite, we are expendable.

Why Self-isolation Fails

I admit it…
I failed at self-isolation today
But I was not alone
I ran into a friend
A retired Marine
He jus’ returned from China
He was out and about, like me
He told me this tale

How he flew out of China
Without being checked for Wuhan Flu
COVID-19
Coronavirus
Landing in Taiwan and had his temperature taken
He passed
Flew into Sea-Tac and left the airport
Without being checked
Landing in Las Vegas
No one stopped him
No one questioned him
No one took his temperature
Nothing
And no symptoms after two-weeks

Me: You’re fucking kidding me
Him: No, I fucking kid you not

So, here he is walking about Reno
Failing at self-isolation, like me
Yet, I’m out of work
My wife is out of work
My son and daughter-in-law, out of work
Grocery store shelves empty
Businesses labeled non-essential
Businesses closed
Gas lines longer than usual
Neighbors unemployed
Governments enforcing restrictions
But only on us who are at home
Us, who are living with social distancing
Possible jail time and fines
No wonder I’m pissed off

We are being lied too
He agrees

Poem #50278

i’ve always been
alone, alone, alone
even as a child
no one felt like me
i felt like no one
no one listening
no one talking
only too myself
and
my feelings
and
as an old man
i’m alone
in thought
in feeling
in action
and
i’ll die alone
like the child
i’ve always been

Imaginary Nevada: March 18, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200318

With a stick of dynamite and a length of fuse tucked in his saddle bag, Brady rode out to the pilings, where he’d encountered what he now knew to be dinosaurs. He walked around the one pile, searching for a possible explanation as to what had happened that night, but he could find nothing.

He explored the other piling, the one closest to the rocky hillside, and again found nothing. As he roamed between the pilings, he surveyed the shale-like ground beneath his boots.

He noticed a shape hidden in the rocky sand, which he cleared away. It took him only a couple of minutes to chip a large, sharp and very pointed claw, that like an eagle’s talon, only several times larger, from the hardened earth.

Holding it in his hand, Brady shuddered, before slipping it into his saddle bag and withdrawing the dynamite and fuse. He gouged out a crack in the base of the piling furthest from the hillside and placed the explosive in it.

Having already inserted the fuse into the stick, he uncoiled it to it’s full length before striking a match to it. Brady raced as quickly as he could to where he had ground tethered his horse and waited.

It wasn’t long before the destructive explosion sent the piling to the ground. He wandered over to the a heap, feeling certain he’d broken the place’s spell.

As he mounted his horse, he made eye contact with a coyote which sat quietly watching him.

Imaginary Nevada: March 11, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200311

“So where in Hades have you been?” Nicholas Gorbet said, “Thought you was gonna help me with the calving?”

“What do you mean by that?” Brady returned, “I jus’ saw you a couple of days ago.”

“Must have hit your head if you think it’s been only two days. I last talked with you two weeks ago!”

Brady didn’t reply. He was too busy thinking.

“Maybe I did,” he finally said, “Hit my head – I mean.”

“Any way,” the old man continued, “You want to stay for supper? The missus’ll be happy to see you.”

“Yeah,” Brady answered, “Sure.”

“Say,” Gorbet stated, “You don’t look so well. You alright?”

“Nothing a good meal and fine company won’t cure,” Brady smiled.

After eating and helping with the dishes, Brady sat with Gorbet outside on the porch, watching the setting sun. Brady was quieter than usual.

“Think you ought to stay the night,” Gorbet suggested, “Get some sleep and another meal under your belt before you head back to Beowawe. ‘Sides, looks like you got something heavy on your mind and the rest’ll do you good.”

“I’ll take you up on your offer,” Brady replied, “Thanks, Nick.”

Later, as Brady lay in the loft of the barn, half-asleep, he heard that familiar voice — and this time it was softly singing his name.

It’s gonna be a weird week starting with a time change, followed by a full moon and ending with a Friday the 13th. And we’ll all be doing it without toilet paper and hand-sanitizer.  So may the force be with us.

Imaginary Nevada: March 4, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200304

After finding a low mesa on which to get a better view of the land, Brady unsaddled his exhausted mount and wiped him down. In the distance he could see the movement of more large beasts, while overhead giant winged creatures that resembled disjointed bats, glided along, casting shadows across the desert-scape.

Brady could see his horses’ tracks from the mad scramble made from the night before. He also saw the chewed up dirt that accompanied the smaller hoof prints.

Soon the sun was fully up in the morning skies and by this time he had devised a plan; back track to the point where his trail began and the beasts had initiated their chase. He hoped that by doing this, he’d find an answer or two about what had happened to cause the shift in time.

Brady knelt at the edge of the mesa and watched as giant lizard-like creatures moved from north to south. None of them had the shape of the things that nearly ran him and his horse to the ground though.

By noon, Brady lead his now-saddled horse from the mesa and onto the lower surface of sand and rock. After double checking the cinch, he mounted and began riding slowly back along his previous trail.

He found where he and his mount fell, and where the beasts had uprooted several small trees and bushes in their attempt to catch them. Finally he saw two pilings that seemed familiar.

Staying to the shadows of a nearby hill and using trees for cover, Brady skirted the area until he felt it was safe enough to move out into the open and investigate the large rock formations. It was here that his tracks ended – or perhaps began.

At first the horse refused to move forward, which made Brady believe that the unknown beasts which attacked them the night before were nearby. However, he soon discovered the problem; at a certain angle, the space between the rocks shimmered as if it were a body of water.

Still his horse would not budge, so he dismounted and holding tight to the animal’s reins, he led it towards the shimmering. As he started to reach his hand through, a large crashing sound came thundering from behind and his horse, in a panic, bolted forward and through the glistening space.

Brady had but a second to see the three brutes, who had been stalking the pair, as they raced over the open ground towards them. But they suddenly disappeared as his horse dragged him through the portal.

The pair came to a crashing stop as the horse tripped violently over a stony outcropping of rock with Brady being dragged over the same. It would take a few minutes for both to recover and for Brady to realize the outcropping was the fossilized remains of whatever had nearly killed them.

Fly

Suddenly, there were lights flashing in my rear view mirror and soon a female state trooper walked up to my window, demanding, “License, insurance and registration, please.”

I handed them to her before she asked, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“No idea, ma’am,” I answered.

“Distracted driving – using your cellphone while operating a motor vehicle.”

“I wasn’t using my cellphone.”

“I saw you.”

“No you didn’t, ma’am.”

“I saw you look down, twice.”

“Yeah – yeah you did.”

“Where’s your phone?

“Zipped up in the chest pocket of my bib-overalls, ma’am.”

“Really?”

“Really – and as you can see my sweatshirt is zipped up over it. Wanna look, ma’am?”

“No. If you weren’t looking at your cellphone, what were you looking at then?”

“My fly is unzipped. You wanna look, ma’am?”

“No, thank you,” she grinned before returning to her cruiser, adding, “Have a good morning, sir.”

I leaned my seat back, zipped myself up, returned to the upright position, and then waited for her to pull away before I continued on my way to work.

Out-of-Order

He sat at his desk the morning following a nights-long bender, looking upset.

“What’s the matter,” his wife asked, “Hungover?

“Not at all,” he answered, “I wrote an entire novella last night.”

“But you looking like someone died – I’d think you’d be happy?”

“You’d think.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I wrote it all over my desk.”

“Well, then transcribe it.”

“I would – but I don’t know what order the words go in!”

Coming Up to Speed

Things have change yet again for me, as I slip from unemployment to working day-shift, making writing for eight-hours a day nearly unattainable. With that being said, I have struggled over the last week to bring daily stories to this blog.

My intention is to at least get a couple hours in everyday after work, but there may come a time where I won’t be able to get a story together, write and edited, in that constraint. So please bear with me as I reeducated my routine and develop new ways of getting the job done.

In other words, stick with me, because although I might be delayed from post-to-post, I’m not going anywhere. And thank you for all your support.