Non-believer

Heading north on Highway 101, and as we crossed the bridge spanning Big Lagoon in Humboldt County, I saw rather a large man in a ghillie suit standing chest deep in the water, partially obscured by reeds. When I saw him, I recalled how as a child, I’d seen an elk swimming, head and antlers above the lagoon’s surface.

I watched the large man for as long as I could.

Once I couldn’t see him anymore, I turned to my wife. She was already looking at me and asked, “What?”

“I’m afraid to say, you’ll laugh at me.”

“Bigfoot, huh?”

A non-believer. I said nothing more about it.

Two days later, heading southbound this time, I looked to the place where I’d seen him standing and there was no one there.

A Foodie’s Fantasy

“California’s idea of dining-in is eating outside,” I kept thinking each time seeing a restaurant serving guests in their table, chair and tent-covered parking lots. It was stated in jest and mostly in my head.

Having said it once to my wife was enough after she told me to ‘knock it off,’ which I did. We were traveling in the same car.

Later, as we sat at an eatery, enjoying an early evening dinner, I proceeded to see myself dining at a sidewalk cafe along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in gay Pair-ee. My wife refused to buy into my wanderings.

Four Passings in July

July 2020 has been a rough month, as a number of friends and acquaintances have died.

On July 3, Dorothy Chubbuck passed away in Roseburg, Oregon. She was what we kids called a ‘track mother.’ Her son, David and I ran track when we were in high school and this is how I came to know her. I also worked with her daughter Ann, when she was the receptionist at KPOD radio station. Mrs Chubbuck, as I always called her, was always full of the best encouragement and never had a cross word for anyone. She was born on August 22, 1931, in Randle, Washington. She was 88.

Cheryl Chapman passed away at age 59, in Seattle, Washington, on July 18, 2020. She was born November 12, 1960 on Oberlin, Ohio. Her family moved to Crescent City at some point in 1965. Cheryl and I  attended high school together. Described by some as hard working and a perfectionist, others called her a free spirit. Cheryl was both, with an infectious smile to boot.  She also lived in Reno, Nevada for a while, where we became reacquainted. If I recall correctly, she was married at one time to another classmate of ours, Scott Chapman.

On July 10, Sandra Nuss, 82, passed away in Crescent City, California. She was born on August 11, 1937 in Richmond. California. I knew Sandra, or Sandy as she preferred to be called, because of her daughter Lora, whom I live with briefly back in the very early 80’s. Sandy was a singer, (performing professionally with country music singer’song writer Chester Smith in the 50’s,) an artist, historian and an excellent genealogist. She attended Hollywood High with actor Marty Milner, of ‘Route 66’ and ‘Adam-12’ fame.  She would never tell you this though, because she was too modest.

Steve Redmond passed away July 24. Born in King City, California on January 17, 1963, Steve is another classmate from high school, though in my brother Adam’s class. The very first time I met him, we were seated next to one another on a pep-rally bus headed to Gold Beach, Oregon. We remained friends ever since. Recently, he and I had talked about how he is listed on-line in the ‘Humboldt-Del Norte Wrestling Champions and All County Wrestlers’ site for the year 1981, in the 167 pound weight class. A few years ago he contracted pancreatic cancer and like the fighter he was, he battled it right up to the end. He was 57.

Five Word Sentences

Five words at a time.
Pounded out in short sentences.
Staccato, pointed, sharp, and quick.
If you think it’s hard.
Then you think too hard.
It’s about language and control.

Hold back on the emotion. Grasp each word in perfection. Going home is not easy. Seeing home decaying is harder. It is time for goodbye. Seeing people drown in moisture. The wet, not jus’ natures. There is an endless crying. Tears filling litter-filled gutters.

A log truck rolls by. It has no real destination. Chip trucks absent from roadways. Fresh wood chip odor gone. Fishing vessels remain at dock. Men working their jobless decks. Weeds and brush remain uncropped. Signage covered by high grass. Dead-fall tucked in between trees. No hand allowed to touch.

So many bodies moving about. But no one really working. Shopping carts hold every possession. Gaunt, fatigued faces, broken spirits. Lost in a smoky haze. A sullen glance of eye. A furtive look turned away. No one wants to know. Nobody cares to see it. But it is there, seen.

Seeing five train engines rotting. This is the full story. Rot is everywhere you look. There are few memories remaining. Those that are only were. Society and communities in distress. This is what we saw. Witnessing the deterioration of neighborhoods. People sleeping, living in streets. Drugs are their dominate feature. Government more interested in politics.

Yeah, those five train engines. Each stacked end to end. Decrepit, graying, rusted, abandoned hulks. There is no future here. But people keep moving in. Burdening the system even further. A Shangri-la draped in cobwebs. Beneath that, a black mold. And a persistent aching sadness. It adds to the chill. The overcast skies and fog. It’s all a tragic lie.

A heavy sadness covers this.
To know people, those loved.
Unwilling to change their lives.
Refusing to understand this poison.
That death overtakes all things.
Five word sentences, all’s left.

Beautiful Defacement

It was as if I had ‘an itch that I couldn’t scratch.’ How many times have I heard that, said this, thinking I knew what it meant. Today I learned, as I scrambled out of the house, half-wild and needy, heading into the lower hills jus’ to the west of us for some quiet time and to perhaps hike some of the shorter game trails.

You can always tell that they are game trails. Rarely is there scat, the trail is clean of dead fall and scrub grasses and never goes over large rocks, always around. I love to explore these trails to see where they lead, up or down the hillside, often to water or a shade of tree, also a sign of water.

But this time I found a clearing off the side of this trail. I followed it in as it had none of the ear-marks of being made my coyotes, rabbits or deer. This one was all wrong and I figured it to be human made and I was right as it lead to the butte of a 20-foot slab of stone, a flat in the hillside where large chunks had fallen to the ground.

Oddly, I noted, someone had taken the time to clear the base of this small cliff of the majority of the bits and pieces of rock that had fallen, which once I was standing next to it I learned that it sloped forward slightly, protecting it from the rain, snow and tumbling stone. As I drew closer, I saw that their were words etched in the facing.

Amazing! I had to step back so I could read it, an untitled maverick poem I think, and though badly faded by age and environment this is what I think is scratched into this certain place:

The censorship is not tongued!
The censorship is exceptionally inarticulate.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the censorship,
Gently it goes, the walk-on, the inarticulate, the nonspeaking.
I saw the greed, my generation destroyed,
How I mourned the excess.
Does the excess make you shiver?
Does it?
When I think of the happiness, I feel alive.
Does the happiness make you shiver?
Does it?

– HS Smith Aug 1932 Tenn.

As I sit in my room, typing out the words I transcribed into my notebook, I can’t help think of another ‘HS.’ This one being Han-Shan or maybe Hanshan, and who lived during China’s Tang Dynasty, and who wrote his poems on rocks around the caves in which he lived.

Makes me wonder if Smith were a ‘student’ of this long-ago poet. I also must beware that it could be an absolute fraud, words carved more recently than the etchings claim. If it is genuine, it’s a year older than my dad would be if he were still living, and if truly genuine, I wish I could slip into Smith’s mind to fully understand what was happening in his world.

Anyway, I shall not divulge this spot, this sand stone marvel, real or fake. And since I did not have my camera on me, I did not get any photos of it. I have found a lot of things in the high desert, but this beats most of them and leaves me blown away.

Debating Ernie’s Sexual ID

In recent days, and every since the Internet decided to celebrate Ernest Hemingway’s birthday, I’ve seen several articles detailing how his suicide was the final outcome of a man dealing with a sexual identity crisis. A number of scholars are citing letter that he wrote over the years to his many wives.

It makes me wonder what these same scholars would have to say about me and the fact that this morning, I had a dream in which I was young woman, size A cup titties and under my lacy panties a vagina and clit that I was unable to arouse. I don’t see how any of this has to do with one’s sexual identity.

It was a dream, admittedly a very strange dream, but I don’t think it’ll affect Taylor Swift or myself one bit. I would like to know if she had a strange dream wherein she became a pudgy, old man with a tiny and broken wee-wee.

If she did, I’m sure she’ll write a song about it and it’ll be another hit for her.

Personally, I think all of these screwball dreams are being caused by my working too hard on ‘stream of consciousness’ writing and that this is the result. And why couldn’t I dream I was an intelligent brunette, Megan Fox perhaps?

Injurious

“You are so accident prone,” my wife says.

“No, I’m not,” I reply, “I jus’ move so fast at times that I become clumsy.”

“If you say so,” she smiles sweetly, “But I’ve never seen you move fast once.”

“Pffts,” I press through my tightly pursed lips.

The injuries, though not severe, take a toll on the body. Aside from a broken back, done years ago, as I’ve aged I’ve found my skin turning thin, so thin in fact that at times I’ve had to stop and asked: “Now where in the fuck is that blood coming from?” A tear here, there. Never had to worry about this when I was twenty. What do you mean I ain’t twenty no more? Then there are the crumbly bones and the loss of muscle. I used to have nice legs, but being unable to jog or walk long distances anymore they’ve become…what? Stringy? Thin? Sticks? I like ‘what’ better.

There are also the other injuries that happen on the periphery, like the hard-charging, hard-playing boys of next door. The eldest broke his hand running through his house, hitting it on the door frame of his room. Boys (and girls, too,) break parts of their bodies constantly. The younger of the two brothers broke his leg while riding his bike, then three days before his case was to come off, fell off something in the school yard and broke it again. Then while playing around on a scooter two days ago, the eldest jumped it from our other neighbors driveway, which is higher than ours, landing on our drive and then wiping out in the roadway. Broke the same hand and this time the arm.

Both boys and some other neighbor kids are out there right now jumping bikes and scooters. I won’t even go into the greater injury, this one being the pocketbook of Mom and Dad.

Up the street, our street, a ‘way’ really, we had a drive-by shooting. No one was injured, but it left a lot of folks in this usually quiet neighborhood a little shaken. I heard the three gun shots, but thought it was two-in-the-morning, but didn’t go look to see what was happening or even check the time. People blow off steam with guns and fireworks all the time, thinking this area is still rural. It is, but the people ain’t. More suburbanites coming this way on a weekly basis.

Sheriff’s department is still out investigating. Whomever it was, they blasted three holes into a house, that I’ve had my suspicions about for at least five-years. I’m not the only one. Rumor, and it’s only a rumor, is that it’s a drug house. But thinking back on it, I’m sure that if it were, the law would have been all over the place and we’d have all heard about it one way or the other.

“Did you hear anything?” the young deputy asked me as I was sweeping up the crap spilled from our trash can, that the garbage man managed to leave behind because they insist on using those stupid pinchers that squeeze the shape out of the plastic bin, while shaking the innocent piece of green, half to death.

“Yeah,” I said, “Three shots around two in the morning.”

“Any idea whether that came from the east or the west of you?”

“Nope, no idea. Gunshots happen out here and I don’t really pay close attention to them unless I hear voices to go with them.”

I looked west as another deputy’s rig came to a stop, his bubble-gums popping on.

“Your partners lights,” I said.

“Roger,” the deputy replied, “And thanks. Have a great day.”

No matter what the people in that house have done, they deserve to be safe in their beds at night. I’d go up there a stand watch but neither the cops nor my wife would take it very well. So I won’t go, which I’m sure is a disappointment to my 30-30, Betsy-Boo. That’s what I call her. I have no idea what she calls herself. It could be Bob for all I care. It has sat in the corner, fully loaded, one in the chamber, and has never gone out and shot anyone willy-nilly, jus’ because. So for that, this particular 30-30 can call itself whatever the hell it wants.

Another point of injury, which turned out okay was with our elder dog, Yaeger biting off the cap to a tube of diaper rash cream and getting it stuck in his trachea. The old doggo loves fish oil pills and could smell the fishy odor of the cream and decided to help himself to some. Still don’t have any idea how he got his teeth on it. He came out of the back room, choking, drooling, wheezing and scaring the shit out of us.

Found out, post-haste, that Mary and me still work well together in emergencies. I handle the medical shit and she handles logistics. She grabbed the tube of crap he’d found, as I performed a modified Heimlich, the kind you do only for dogs, dislodging it, but not fully clearing the back of his throat. By the time I picked him up and hauled him to the back seat of the car, Mary had it covered, the air conditioner at full-tilt and was opening the garage door. I was dialing the vet hospital declaring an emergency.

“Is there a number on the tube to call in the event of accidental ingestion?” the woman on the phone asked.

“Looking,” I answer, “No. But poisoning will be secondary in this case. He’s choking.”

“Oh,” she said, “I see. Are you en route?”

“Yes,” I responded in my bestest and calmest paramedic’s voice, “About ten-mikes out.”

Obviously, she’d been here before and returned, “Roger, we’re prepared.”

“Hmm, two ‘rogers,’ one day,” I think as I push the end button on my cellphone.

Meanwhile, Mary was driving like a professional, zipping and gliding between vehicles, left to the right, and right to the left, and back again. I believe that had I the equipment and the need, I could have slipped a catheter in a subclavian vein, jus’ below the collarbone had she been the boxes’ driver. Certainly felt like the old days.

Yeggs was in a panic naturally and starting to loose steam. I decided I couldn’t wait anymore and risking a bite was not as bad as him dying right there in the car. “After all this time, Yaeger,” I said, as if he could understand me, “This ain’t the way to go!” I shoved my hand in his mouth and found the plastic cap stuck at the base of his tongue, fingered it until I could get a hold of it and removed the fucking thing. He immediately settled down and like the old Lab that he is, he acted as if nothing was wrong and was in fact enjoying the car ride. Talk about transitioning in the ‘now.’ Called the vet and canceled the emergency and returned home where everything was copacetic once again.

I only ended up with a couple of scratches and one real tooth mark in my left hand from the ordeal.

So what fresh dangers do we have before us today. Hell. Who knows. I am going to mow the back yard, so there is that. Nope. The finally injury is suddenly witnessing the fresh pot of coffee, still peculating, and for no reason, bubbling, spitting and running its hot content all over the kitchen counter. Wasting such good coffee hurts. That’s akin to, but not as bad as, spilling an alcoholic beverage, which is technically, alcohol abuse.

“Damn it!” my wife growls as we begin cleaning up the mess of brown liquid and bits of ground bean, “I can’t believe I forgot to put the basket in place again.”

“It happens,” I say as calmly as I can.

“Yeah, but…”

“Don’t worry. We’ll get it cleaned up and make some more. In fact, I’ll make it this time.”

“No. I’ll make it again,” she says, exasperated.

I know better than to argue with her at this moment and thus avoid any possible injury.

Fire Tower Talk

Early morning dialog.

“I have been off work because I won’t wear a mask, so I took a job as watchman for a logging outfit,” he said, “I am getting paid to camp out. You never know what life will bring. Good place and job to get my guns sighted in.”

“That is so cool,” I return, “Sounds like and adventure to me. Doing any writing?”

“Always gotta eff things up by bringing up writing, don’t you? Couldn’t leave it alone, could you?” I silently chastise myself. I shake my head at my reflection in the window, forlornly.

“Brought a note pad,” he continues, “Hiking this morning, saw grouse, hearing cow elk talk.”

“Good, write it all down,” I said.

Opened the gate on it, might as well move the cow from the one pasture to the next. “I need to learn to think before I open god-damned mouth,” I think with a sigh.

“Sort of like Kerouac’s fire tower?” he said.

“Exactly!” I exclaim.

“Jus’ spooked a doe,” he continues, “Two of them.”

“To me, that’s adventure,” I tell him.

“Me, too. Good country, God’s country,” he adds.

“Yes!” I said, “And I’m a bit jealous, too.”

“I brought lots of reading too. I am happy,” he tells me.

“I am happy too,” I said, “And sometimes that is enough, ain’t it?”

“Yes,” my friend replied, adding, “Almost always.”


Sitting at my desk, in front of my computer screen, and something they call a terminal, another point of irony that perhaps I only see, I don’t want to write anything beyond this. Instead, I think I’ll sit out in the shade of my backyard, in the summers heat, under the building clouds meant for a late afternoon thunderstorm and dream of my own fire tower, where my heart’s full.

Drywall, Dirty Wookies and Electrical Storms

Work, work, work. Been out in the garage busting through drywall in order to put in a new electrical outlet. I don’t get to do the work as Mary has someone she’s had do work at her old job, coming out to install it. Ain’t gonna see me crying about not having to do extra construction.

She’s also lined up someone to insulate and hang drywall in the garage. No crying over that either. I am laughing though, as I wanted to do this shit back when we were younger and had the body for such work. Her reasons are different from mine. She’s wanting it done to keep her new freezer from getting warm.

Don’t see the irony in that? Hmm…

Gripped a slab of drywall and yanked on it and ended up breathing in a bunch of the dust and plaster. Choked off my airway. I finally laughed and when I did, I blew a big white puff of crap out my mouth. That made both my wife and our house guests laugh till they retired to house. So glad I could make their day.

Got up after both woman and when I came out to get a cup of coffee, first there was no more and I had to make some, and second my wife, while attempting to pay me a compliment, said, “You look like a young Ernest Hemingway.”

I smiled, responding, “So I look like death warmed over, huh?” making them both laugh.

Decided to take a quick shower while the coffee was running through it’s second brew. Got finished, dried and dressed, only to come back out and find all the coffee was gone. I must have had a confounded look of stupidity on my face, because no sooner did turn around and look at the two all-too innocent looking women at the dining table, they started busting a gut laughing.

“Good one,” I said as they showed me the extra large cup in which one of them pour the full pot of coffee into.

I did not share.

It’s not often that I get to use my sophomoric radio humor on someone other than Mary. In most cases she simply looks at me with that eye roll that says, “Oh, christ…” so it is nice to have a fresh audience, which is what Cathy makes.

Since we’re her way-station, she’s been busy with the process of packing away supplies for her trip to the cabin. To wit: Cathy filled two large plastic bottles of water and as she carried them to her room, where Mary’s new freezer is residing, I said in my best barroom voice, “Nice jugs.”

Without missing a beat, Cathy held both up and stated, “And they’re Diamonds.”

I looked at the blue printing and by god, she was right. They are diamonds and we both fell about the place, laughing. Mary admonished us in a half-assed and laughing way, “You two.”

Got laundry to wash, dry and fold before lunch. Perhaps there’s a cold Guinness in my future.

With the white clothes washed, dried and put away, the three of us went to lunch. Chili’s. I had the chili burger, fries and a beer. A Dirty Wookie. Never had one of those before and it was good, not a Guinness good, but good none-the-less. There was so much food in front of me, along with the chips and dip, and Mary’s corn on the cob, and my beer, that I had a lot to eat.

“You need to clean your plate, young man,” our waitress ordered. I was hoping that she was smiling when she said this.

“Aye-aye,” I grinned and proceeded to do exactly that. As a seated customer, I didn’t have my mask on.

It wasn’t until we were in another shopping center that I realized that I forgot to collect my gold star for being a good boy, by eating everything on my plate. Thank you, Cathy, for lunch. I enjoyed it. I’m beginning to feel popular again as this is the second time this week that I’ve been out to a sit-down restaurant.

I am still so full!

As I sat in the car waiting for Mary and Cathy to return from the candy store they shopping at, I was watching the parking lot. Lots of women with gorgeous bodies, too bad everyone of their face masks were up and I could seen nothing more than eyes and eyebrows. Too bad. Can’t help but think about the March 1979 Bellamy Brother’s song, “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me.” They said nothing, absolutely nothing, about faces and that works for me.

We are planning to barbecue some steaks this evening. It looks like I’ll be doing this under threatening skies, thunderclouds again and a flash flood warning. Don’t expect to see much flooding or that much rain for the matter. But that light show should be spectacular through the smoky grill’s chimney.

Lord, lord, lord, I am miserable as I ate far too much today. Lunch should have been my last full meal, but them Mary made and served her chicken enchilada’s and Spanish rice. I couldn’t refuse. Now I sitting around, and I do mean around, with my jeans undone and passing gas. Good thing I’m in the other room at the moment.

As we were cleaning up following dinner, my wife and her friend started talking about Cathy having to use an outside at this cabin. Listening to the conversation I think there is a homemade commode inside to use if needed.

“I don’t want to go out there after night because I don’t want to run into any wild animals,” Cathy said, “I mean a deer is fine but a bear or a cougar, no.”

Couldn’t help myself and responded, “Well, if it’s a cougar then — that would mean there are two cougars out there.”

Laughter all around.

The garage has two new electrical outlets. Cost 120-bucks. Not bad I guess. Another case of irony is the guy putting the electric works, did so during a lightning storm. Perhaps I’m the only one that see the humor in that, proving how odd my mind is.

As for that storm, it caused some problems for the folks on the east side of our valley, the Wingfield Springs area, by causing a pretty good sized wildfire. This is the second blaze they’ve had in the last couple of weeks.

Rushed down to the end of our road and did my best to video tape it with my cellphone, but while I could see the orange flames dancing jus’ over the top of some trees, they didn’t show up in the capture. All I really got was smoke. Smoke is never as exciting as the sizzle or the flame.

Seeing how this ‘stream of consciousness’ stuff’s being received in a lukewarm fashion tells me that I may have to change up what and how I write. I’m gonna give it another day as I brainstorm and sort things out.

Visitors, Mopping and Love

It’s been a strange day for sure. Sat out back for a couple of hours after my son brought over his wife’s childhood friend’s dog, Bailey, for us to sit while they went to Donner Lake for the day. Bailey has not been happy with the arrangement and has been laying at our front door, whining for his human. I think I’d be crying for mine too if I were left in a strange environment with no way of communicating my displeasure.

While playing with the dogs, trying to exhaust them so that they’d rest a little while in the late afternoon and before their doggy din-din, my dog, Buddy accidentally got a tooth caught in my shorts and ripped the ass out of them completely. He was going after the tennis ball I had in my hand and missed. It was a rather close shave for my left ass-cheek. He had a rather large target, one that’s hard to to miss.

Not only did the spring hinges prove difficult to adjust properly, the damn door leading from the front room to the garage refused to completely close. Discovered that one of the hinges was broken and that it refused to fold shut itself. So the job is only two-thirds finished when it come to this particular door.

I hope to get to the hardware store to replace and install it while the two women are off lunching tomorrow afternoon.

Mary has been busy cleaning the house as we’re expecting company for the next two days. Her childhood friend, Cathy will be using our home a way-stop for gathering supplies and such, before she takes her tuck and heads for the hills for a week. This is an annual thing now, Cathy having stopped over last year too.

“I’ll let you know when I get ready to mop,” my wife said.

“Okay,” I answered from the back room.

After a few minutes, “Hey, be careful, the floors wet where I mopped.”

“Okay,” I respond.

Later, she asked, “I thought you were gonna help me mop?”

“I was,” I answered, “But you told me to be careful of the wet floors, so figured you were done.”

“You could have come out and taken over for me.”

“Ah-ha!” I say to myself, adding, “Match, set, game. No l’oeuf there.”

She finally got me off the bench into the game this evening…

Before I could sit down and work on this, I had to do some touching up in the living room. Though Mary swept and mopped the floors earlier, all four doggos tracked in dirt, drooled water spots, and furred up the place. Kind of forgot how much work having four pooches roaming to-and-fro can be.

Then while getting ready to back out of the driveway, a streak of white thread zipped across the darkening skies to the east. A thunderstorm. My first thought is of Cathy who is flying in with that raging through the our air and next Mary, who is en route to pick her up from the airport. I don’t envy either woman.

As it is, I may have to turn this computer off to prevent a possible power surge. Admittedly, I am going to push my luck on this one because I want to get this journal finished. Like I stated at the beginning, “strange day.”

Anyway, I never got to take a shower, nor did I get to paint today. Best laid plan and all that. While it is top of mind, thank you for all the birthday wishes. Mary hid a birthday card in our refrigerator, leaving it for me to find when I went to get myself a snack late in the night.

Lastly, I had a very vivid dream that has stayed with me even after I had my coffee this morning. Sometimes dreams don’t stay for long. They’re like wisps of fine mist, not patches of heavy fog. I’ve had lots of fog the last few days. Anyway, in this dream a couple went to the beach, where she stripped down and was taken into the ocean by a Cthulhu-type creature, who was going to teacher her how to make desserts.

Honest, I haven’t had a drop in two-weeks.

At Chapter Twenty-five

I’m wanting to quit reading this book, ‘Big Sur.’ It’s hard to invite a man, syllable-by-syllable into your head, then read in his own words, how he is drinking himself into an early grave. Makes me want to break out into a high flying semper fidelity fit.

That sounds like a bunch of hypodermic needle hip-ship. But no drugs, nothing, all-natural, not even the drink to cause my thought process to unfold in such a psychedelic phase, jus’ this damned book!

This from a mind, my mind, that wants to say more, but has neither the intelligence to put into thought, nor the words. I’ve been caught, flat-footed, standing out on a barren landscape, scratching my ass from this one.

It’s a mind that doesn’t fully sleep even when it is sleeping. My dream-state remains plugged in and fully charged, tuned into the oldies on that made-up memory chart, the kind ever so rarely’s in tune musically with my circadian rhythm that a sleeper is supposed to have to successfully navigate through the nocturnal.

But I am an abnormal person. My body has been born in tune with night owl’s rum-dumb life under phony lights and lamps.

Furthermore, how can I set myself loosed when it’s God’s brain power that I operate on? No thought is mine alone, for He is the salesman, the One with all the stories. I am merely an instrument; one of a multitude and akin to all His stars in the universe.

Maybe it is laughter that I need. It is a sounds which comes, goes, arrives and fades like a wind from off the sea, over mountain top, through tree branches across the desert to me.

This is how I like my days, with coffee and imagination and sometimes a general dare to go beyond my emotional bounds, break my mental bonds, into that space only I can explore and describe, if I had a full grasp on those needed works to complete the work. So who needs drugs or drink to find that they are lost, alone and hurting? Not this old man for I’m fully equipped to find myself, rescue myself, fail myself.

In other words, and there are always other words, the medicine in that needle, that button of peyote, that final dribble at the bottom of that bottle are not the drug I need to aid me in telling my stories. My mind is my fix and it keeps me awake at night, deep into morning, brain click-clacking like an old manual typewriter, that rolls along in the misshapen form of a locomotive, emphasis on loco, heading over here, there, somewhere and nowhere all at once. There is no siding, no rest, only full-throttle fatigue where the head-on crash becomes imminent and impossible to avoid.

But it is a flat-afternoon now, dry, dead air and heat. I can tell that it is flat by the puffs of white cotton, gray, even bottoms, resolutely shapeless and altogether billowy at once. This too, will not last long as finally a leave overhead begins to shimmy a shadowed strip-tease, wolf-whistling in the fact that a breeze is picking up, moving west to east. The cloud, that puffy slacker, the one which builds up higher and higher, into a striking thunderhead will be well on its way from here to there within the hour and another tick upward of the red-glassed thermometer beneath the house’s eve.

I am no quitter. At least not yet, not till my death…

It may be difficult, but I shall finish what I’ve started, including this dusty, worn-out book, published the year I was born. I’ll read it cover to cover. I do, however, feel like the dog’s red water bucket, filled with floating mud water, mud clumps at the bottom.

“Dog germs!” Charlie’s friend, Lucy screams.

And soon I’ll decamp from this chair that I dragged into the under-shade of our aspen. And like that red bucket, I shall empty it and refill it. This is in my nature, and that bucket with the mud, and me, share a terrible inert languor: we each seek refilling after dirtying ourselves, whether by our own doing or another.

In the end, I only selected this spot to scribble because I wanted to exhaust the dogs in the heat while spilling a few words on to a spare sheet of paper. Notes actually, and all about this day or perhaps some other day.

There’s also a strange and gentle sameness to it all, as I absorb it, take in, find refill, so that I might spend it in awe, record my findings, then sending them out like a kindergartner on her first day away from mother, screaming.

That god-damned chapter won’t read itself.

Birthdays, Burgers and Strikers

Woke to hearing my wife say ‘Happy birthday.’ Made me smile until I remembered how horribly I treated her the day before, having gotten angry over something trivia; the removal and exchange of a blind from one bedroom to the next.

I can be a very thoughtless man at times.

Sadly, no birthday cards in the mail for me. I believe that time, the time of the personal touch that a card makes, is passed. Such is water under a bridge.

Not only is today my birthday, it is also the 25-year anniversary of my father’s passing. He had a stroke and was brain dead within minutes of the event.

My wife has been and remains busy. She got up at 0500 hours, took her usual walk, returned home, had breakfast, showered, re-dressed and is gone to the grocery store.

Got up less than ten minutes ago and have only gotten as far as a kitchen chair as I wait for the coffee to finish brewing. She set it up for me, so all I need do is toss the switch. Come on, Mr. Coffee!

Made the mistake of taking my cellphone to bed with me last night. I couldn’t sleep, so instead listened to a few podcasts, which somehow add themselves to my already strange battery of dreams and make for some cockeyed visions.

How it is that my subconscious mind can concoct a scenario whereas I am naked, running through a light drizzle, locked inside a cemetery and awaiting rescue by Robert Stack only to have Minnie Pearl find me, is beyond my ability to understand. I cannot think of one thing in this dream that isn’t somehow frightening – especially a pudgy, pale thing like me, nekked.

It is smoky once again this morning. It is from the Hog and Badger Fires, burning in Siskiyou and Lassen Counties, California with the smoke being blown in during the morning hours and clearing by noon or so.

My son jus’ called to wish me a happy birthday. My day is complete. He and his wife are on their way to Lake Tahoe, with her childhood girlfriend and the girlfriend’s two daughters.

All of the new locks are on, along with door handles and such. Still have some hinges to put on. Not looking forward to those damn spring hinges. Never seem to get them set properly and have to adjust them over-and-over till they are.

We also went to lunch at Red Robin. Had a free birthday burger. Got the Royal Robin, some fries and a Guinness.

“Living large in the land of the free and the home of the brave,” as my old friend Max Volume says.

While there, one of wait-staff and I were clowning around after I misheard what he asked. I thought he asked for a drink of my beer I said yes, trying to hand it to him.

“No, no, no,” he said, “I want you to take a sip of your beer and tell me if it tastes right.”

I did and it did.

“I had one the other night and it tasted like soy sauce to me,” he explained.

“Nope,” I said, “Tastes like beer to me.”

Told him how I misunderstood him and we laughed about the fact that I was willing to give him a drink. That’s the way I am, shirt off my back if need be.

After he left, another of the wait-staff, a woman came over and in hushed tones asked, “Did he take a drink of your beer?”

“No!” I said, “We were jus’ kidding around.”

Now we know who the brown-noser of the outfit is now. I pulled our male waiter aside and warned him that he needs watch out for her.

“She’s looking to make her stripes by being a tattle-tale, and she’s got you in her target,” I said.

Offering me a fist-bump, he let me know he appreciated this. Told you I could be an effing a-hole!

Had to go to Home Depot after lunch for some bondo and a door stopper. Would have gotten two strikers for the doors, but they’re are out of stock. Even with the air on in the building, my glasses remained fogged up and I was sucking hot wind back in from my face mask.

As we were walking up to the front doors, my wife asked, “Remember the good old days when there was a line?”

I answered, “I remember the good old days when we didn’t have to wear these fucking masks.”

Since all I could see of her face by this time were here eyes and eyebrows, I could tell she was serious when she told me not to ‘talk like that.’

“Or what, you’ll wash my mouth out with hand sanitizer?” I thought, but didn’t say.

Then I saw the bottles of sanitizer they had on a table in front of the door for the convenience of their customers. It was a close one.

As is my wife’s nature, she searched around until she found the strikers that she wanted. That means I had to drive back into town to pick them up. I think her drive to finish some projects is more of an overdrive and I end up looking like I’m utterly lazy because I don’t have that same drive.

But this is my problem as this is how I see me and not how she sees me.

Here’s one of the big differences between she and me: she wants activity, me wants adventure. It’s also one of the reasons that she doesn’t enjoy shopping with me.

I tend to find it.

Got to the store, stood in line to pick up the strikers and discovered the guy behind the customer service counter, like me could not hear or understand what I was saying to him, or visa-versa. Then we got to laughing so hard that neither one of us could speak and as we were each wearing glass, we began to steaming up our peepers. This made everything even more funny.

Finally, sides aching, I had to pull down my mask. He did the same.

“I swear the more I have to wear a mask, that harder it is for me to hear,” I said.

“Like turning down the radio in your car helps you read addresses better,” he returned.

Then we got to laughing again and both had to be reminded my the other service tech to pull our masks back up or risk his getting written up and me getting ‘86’d.’

And as I get ready to close out my day, I have plans to do some painting tomorrow. I did go to Walmart and buy a couple of inexpensive canvasses. What I’ll paint, I have no idea. And that’s exactly how I like it.

The Rebounding Photograph

True story…
“Look at what I found in my book,” Mary said.

Half asleep, I rolled over and looked. It was a photograph of our son Kyle, sitting next to Chuck E. Cheese.

“Cool,” I said, smiling, as I turned over with the idea of falling back asleep.

As I drifted off, my brain suddenly kicked into gear. I spiraled back and asked to see it again.

“Where did you find that?” I asked.

“In this book, a marker, I guess,” my wife answered.

“Isn’t that one the paperbacks we bought at the Sally-Anne?” I asked, referring to the Salvation Army.

“Yes.”

“And you found a picture of Kyle in it?”

“Yes.”

“Were you using the photo as a book mark or something?”

“No.”

“So how did it get into the book?”

“I don’t know.”

There was a length of silence between us before she offered, “I read this book a long time ago.”

“When was it published?”

“Nineteen-ninety-eight…you don’t think?” she asked.

“Yeah, I do think. I believe you bought the same book you read years ago and had at one time used that particular photo as a book mark,” I answered, “And you know how I don’t believe in coincidences.”

Evening Time Journaling

1843 hours — Soon the sunshine will be removed from the sky and replaced by a multifaceted star shine. That is how most days close when there are no clouds in the sky. And I was honored to sit, looking up, seeing the first twinkle from the vast and coming darkness, so my day is complete.

Never did get my planned shower in, instead spending my time writing. Besides, my wife likes it when I skip a shower because it saves a few cents. During the high heat of the summer months, watering the grass, along with doing the dishes and laundry really plays havoc on the financials.

And speaking of laundry, I must remember to spray my tee-shirt tonight before bed. As terrible as it may sound, I have not changed my clothes since the start of the weekend and it shows by the various stains of sloppy joe from Friday night, Saturday evening’s spaghetti meal and tonight’s chicken wings.

Another thing I will do prior to bedtime is check my various social media statuses. I always end the night as I begin my morning, checking Twitter, where I am participating in a year-long writing exercise. This is all that I use the platform for as it is filled with snatches of news and other snatches busy, trying to take down what’s left of my Americana.

Everything that I have written today, I have also posted. This comes after having been told a couple of days ago that I post too much and that this is the reason that people stop following me or simply disconnect from my social media. I find that a good thing to know, because they’d really be upset with me today.

Finally, my friend Rick McNamara sent me the Ernest Hemingway poem, ‘The Age Demanded.’ He said, and I must absolutely agree, that it describes the culture in 2020:

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.
The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.
The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.
And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.

I’ve taken the liberty to add my own verse:

The age demanded we go in silence
And with battle axes ready.

Noon Time Journaling

1233 hours — Sitting in direct sunshine, dry heat of middle day on my freckled back, I find myself quickly exhausted, a sign, perhaps from God Himself, telling me I’m getting old or am already there. I need to be moving, not seated, not at rest, if I’m to remain outside in this summer’s blast, but I also like to think of myself, bare foot in the freshly mown grass, recharging my astral batteries.

Hardly a sound can be heard, the buzzing bug, a singing bird, and even the raucous laughter of playing children are absent. Seems all have found a place to avoid this heat and the sun’s rays.

And now I return from my daydreaming, learning that I am not paying attention, as looking about, finding myself alone. Even my dogs are smarter than me, the superior being, having escaped to the air conditioned interior of our home, where I can picture each in my mind’s eye, them lay on the brown leather couch, tongues lolling limply from their toothy grins, panting, cooling.

But me, I’ll sit here until I begin to feel that subtle quake, the one that comes from somewhere deep inside me. I’ll pay attention to it, knowing it will grow into a stronger tremble that will tell me I need, that I must, go inside before I grow sick to my stomach and I begin to taste that bile-gas that slowly grows and rises in one’s throat, burning at my esophagus and touching my epiglottis without warning.

Maybe this is something peculiar only to my body, my non-astral body…

Such is a Sunday afternoon of sitting thinking, reciting unwritten prose to myself with the hope of remembering even a fragment of what is mentally stated later as I sit before my notebook. And there’s my quake.

Morning Time Journaling

0927 hours – Been up over an hour, drinking coffee, trying to clear my head of the ragged dreams from the dark. Listening to my wife’s music selection, from Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” to “Ventura,” by America, and then something by Dave Gates and Bread, followed up with a show tune from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ where the singer is defending Mary Mag’s virtue.

She’s busy painting the outside of the garage door leading from our front room and into the garage. Tried to help her, by removing the deadbolt from it. This thing is like no deadbolt I’ve ever seen before. Sucker is stuck in there, but good. She told me to forget it. She’ll paint around it.

Had to rework my haiku poem from last night: “In Kerouac’s Fire.” It was part of one of my many weird dreams that included attending a British War Memorial, bagpipes and all. Frightening faces of dead soldiers pulling up in coal train carriages for the services is a tad bit disconcerting.

Haven’t even taken a shower yet and probably won’t till much later. My hair stands at attention, saluting in all sorts of directions. Funny actually. And I gotta find my glasses again.

A motorized para-sail is buzzing above our neighborhood and there is the smell of wildfire in the morning air. I’m thinking it is to the west of us, beyond Hungry Valley.

Gonna have another cup of coffee and enjoy, Michael Martin Murphy’s ‘Wildfire,’ a song I used to close out my nighttime broadcasts with back before the corporations took over programming all the damned radio stations in the universe.  People still debate the meaning behind the lyrics — I love that.

Diary of a Mad Writer

Been picking at the idea like one picks at a week old scab, that I should give up writing stories. I don’t drink enough to call myself an alcoholic, through you shake my family tree and several or more would fall out, never spilling a drop, nor am I an addict either to pill or to needle.

Therefore, I’ve come to realize that I will never be a giant in the field of writing, because I haven’t a truly singular voice. Nope, mine is a conglomeration of those who’ve written what I’ve read, my grand-folks, parents and the little kid next door.

Taking my rightful place at the back of the line, I should simply journal, make a record of my days, nights, things in between. After all, I’m not writing to live, rejection notices abound on this fact, but rather living to write, where the words are free and the view is stressless.

Besides, who needs another writer, we’re a dime a dozen and each of us has a tale to tell and oft times it is the same tale, only using different words. So, whadda ya say, shall I go forth with the Diary of a Mad Writer?

Hand-me-down

Left my computer for half-an-hour, the god-damned blinking cursor pounding in my eyes giving me a headache.
Sat outside for a quarter hour, until it got too hot for me; only 98 and not yet noon.
Wonder what it’ll be like by three or four, zenith of the sun and the heat.
Wife has me back inside, helping with the door locks and some painting.
She going to the store to buy new ones, get them keyed.
Why it made me think of this I don’t know: a 1968 Chrysler Newport I was given.
1979 and the guy was getting out of the service, heading home to Cleveland, Ohio.
Didn’t want the car, gave me the pink and keys.
I learned the damned thing didn’t run.
Chrysler keys are easy to spot, to feel, they have a hexagon shape.
I know this because I owned a Dodge Charger, a Chrysler product, while in high school.
Maybe it was the idea of keying the house that sent me down that rabbit hole.
I got that car up and running and drove it all over the place.
Gave it to a woman working at a hamburger joint.
I didn’t need the oil-burning son-of-a-bitch anymore.
In fact, she needed it more than I ever did.
She was from New York.
She got herself abandoned by a boyfriend, heading west.
She found work, but always wanted to return to ‘upstate,’ and home
A Rosalyn Russell-type, 5-11, chunky, dark hair piled high, 42-D, bright red lipstick and nails.
Italian.
One hell of a woman, indeed.
The thought of her makes me wonder whatever happened to her.
Did she make it ‘upstate?’
Did the Newport crap out on her as she made the New Jersey Turnpike?
Is she alive still and if so how’s she faring through the pandemic?
Fuck, who knows.
I’m doing pretty damned good.
Think I was built for this shit.
Re-read a couple of novels by Kerouac and Steinbeck.
Read my first novel by Stephen King.
Felt like I was popping my cherry all over again.
Can’t remember what the hell the title was or even what the story was about.
Never really like the man anyway – his politics pisses me off.
Popular writer, though, can’t fault him on that.
Don’t understand why millionaires become Socialists as they get richer and older.
I have no plans to get rich, so nobody has to worry about me switching ‘sides.’
I’m trying to finish ‘Fear and Loathing,’ by Hunter Thompson.
Whadda fucking weirdo, what a fucking writer.
Never been a real fan of disjointed prose, but in his case, an exception has been made.
All this reading makes me wanna write even more.
Authored two books, both qualified duds, the second a worse failure than the third.
Should I make it an even three?
Third times a charm right?
“Very Short Stories from a Pandemic.”
or
“Pandemic Tales from Nowhere, Nevada.”
Got artwork for that; a picture I took a year or so ago.
No artwork, then it never existed.
No proof, then it didn’t happen.
Nothing is happening for now, save the ‘big wait.’
Simply waiting for the other shoe, boot, sandal, slipper to drop.
When it does, it won’t be any surprise if it ends up shoved in our asses, somehow.
Things were simpler back in 1979, the year a guy, whose name I can’t recall gave me a car.
Long time ago and not so very long ago.
Christ, I miss that Chrysler.
I miss me.

Ronson

It’s been a generation, perhaps two ago, and while I didn’t make a lot of money, I had enough to treat me and Adam to few soda pops and comic books from the Woodland Villa. I was nine, maybe 10-years-old, when I decided to take Dad’s wooden Ronson Shoe Shine Kit down to the Klamath courthouse at the corner of Redwood Drive and Highway 101.

Such childhood faith.

For ten-cents a pair, I’d apply some black or brown Kiwi polish to the shoe/boot offered, buff it in and then with an appropriate rag (brown or black) I’d shine them up. It was a lot of fun and looking back I think it took a number of men back into their youth and it may have relieved some of their stress of having to face Judge Hopper.

Nowadays, the majority of shoes I see worn out and about are clothe, a tennis shoe or sandal. And kids no longer know or understand the art of the shoe shine or the shoe shine stand.

Then one day the county decided to shutter the auxiliary courthouse, Judge Hopper retired shortly thereafter and like that, that was the end of my professional shoe shining days.

Crying in my Sleep

My pillowcase was such a mess and my pillow beneath it so damp, that I had to tumble it in the dryer and wash my case. You see, I’d been crying off-and-on throughout the night and morning while having the same basic dream.

Checking all the doors and windows each night before bed, making certain they are secure is a habit. So is helping our elder dog on to our bed, where he sleeps with us. Last night Yaeger refused to move from his spot on the couch. Since he was comfortable, I left him and went to bed.

Then three-times, maybe four, I dreamed that he had passed away while asleep on the couch. While I was sad that he’d died, I was even more sad that he’d gone while laying alone and without comfort. I couldn’t stop crying and my pillowcase reflected this.

Even now, even after waking, finding him okay, and even after having had my coffee, I cannot wrap my head around why I would dream such a thing. Perhaps, along with getting soft in the noggin, I’m developing a soft ticker, too.

In the end, I’m jus’ glad the old boy is still with us.

Author and Perfecter

Awoke early this morning wondering:  “If God were to write the opening paragraph to my biography, what would He have to say?”

Fell back to sleep with this still on my mind. When I woke again, the thought remained.

It hung with me while mowing the lawn, then like a bolt outta the blue, this is what I heard: “I’ve known Tom all of his life,  even before he was born. And like so many before him, I created him in My image, gave him the mind of Christ and imbued him with free will.”

I’ve lost my freaking mind.

Two-twenty-three

For the second time in as many weeks, I woke up a 2:23 am, first on a Monday, then this morning, a Saturday. I could easily assign some strange interpretation to this because I was born at 2:23 am, three minutes after my twin, who did not survive entry. But I won’t. I’m jus’ letting you know it happened and it happened again.

We stood at the edge of today,
The beginning of tomorrow,
Looking back at yesterday,
Seeing clearly our old life.
We took a deep breath,
Whispered our goodbyes,
Knowing
We will never see us again.

First thing I think of when I wake from a sound sleep, long before I should, is ‘Why in the hell am I awake?’ While I don’t know this for a fact, I am under the impression that most everyone else has much the same thought as I do. So it’s nothing special.

As a general rule, my second thought is a trade-off between, “I forgot something” and “I need to write.” One appears for ‘normal’ than the other, seeing as how forgetful I’ve become in the last few months. Which reminds me, and speaking of writing…

While it hasn’t happened in a very long time, I accidentally published the story, “Born Again,” last night before finishing it.  &*^$?@%#>!  So you may want to go back and reread it as I have pushed myself to finish it.

This leads me to this final thought for now – perhaps I woke up because my unconscious mind realized the mistake my conscious mind made. It’s like medieval torture, only without the Rack or the Iron Maiden.

Okay.
That’s enough.
Time for some coffee.

Born Again

The trip to the north coast of California is a long one, at least eight-hours, if you stay within the speed limit. Ham Piper knew this, but after several cups of coffee and getting stuck behind a slow moving log truck and two RV  ‘wienie-wagons,’ he found he had to stop for a pee.

He’d already passed Hat Creek Station, where he also got his most recent cup of coffee, so he knew the place to ‘rest’ would be further up the road at the Mt. Lassen overlook.

“Nice, clean restrooms,” he told himself.

But as he pulled in the vacant parking lot, he discovered a sign that read, “Due to COVID-19, these facilities are closed. Sorry for any inconvenience,” and instead, three large blue plastic outhouses stood sentinel over the landscape. Ham didn’t care as raced to the first one and stepped inside and began relieving himself.

“What in the…” he shouted.

As he did the ground shook violently under him and he found himself holding on the sides of the porta-john, trying to maintain his balance. It didn’t help and the outhouse dumped over.

With no time to react, Ham fell with it. As he collapsed against the wall and slid to the floor, he watched in horror as the white lid popped open and the foulest of man came pouring out.

He joined the liquefaction as he vomited again and again, while attempting to avoid the large turds and strands of used toilet paper from engulfing him. Worse yet for Ham, was the discovery that the over-sized unit had tipped onto the door.

“Effing great! An earthquake and I’ll bet Highway 299 is gonna be closed down now,” he muttered.

Try as he might, he could not roll the thing onto another side and he concluded that the outhouse must have dropped into a newly formed crack in the asphalt. Again he found himself puking and he continued until he had little more than air in his stomach.

Though his throat was sore from the acid of the vomit, he yelled for help. Ham yelled until he could no more and he became hoarse.

“Whadda time to leave my fucking cellphone in the truck,” he chided himself.

After an hour, much of the liquid that had rushed over him in the fall, had found its way through the small openings meant to be air vents. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much he could do about the larger and grosser items that could not find their way out through the same vents.

Not wishing to side down in the filth, though already covered in it, Ham squatted against the ceiling of the building and listened for any sound that might come into the parking lot. Amid several violent tremors, not even a vehicle was heard to pass by on the highway which was only 300-yards away from where he was trapped.

“Please, Lord, help me get out of here,” he heard himself pray.

Soon his legs were aching from his squatting and he finally sat down. It was also around this time that he realized the sun was beginning to fade and that if he couldn’t escape soon, he’d be spending the night in this ‘shit prison.’

The tremors and after-shocks began to lessen, until they disappeared altogether. By this time, Ham was exhausted from trying to tip the sani-hut over so that the door was no longer trapped beneath him.

“God! Where are you?” he cried, “Get me out of here and I’ll help out at the soup kitchen this Thanksgiving and Christmas!”

He closed his eyes, intending to rest for only a few minutes, but when he opened them next, he found the sun was gone and he was beginning to get violently cold. He pulled his knees up as close to his chest as possible and tucked his hands under his armpits and rested his head against his soiled knees.

He work up several time throughout the night, his teeth chattering and body shivering so hard he couldn’t control his muscles. After fighting sleep for fear of hypothermia, Ham slipped off into an uncomfortable hour or two, waking when he felt the warmth of the morning sun radiating of his tomb.

“Oh, please Jesus, don’t let me die like this,” he begged in a weak voice. It was the first time he truly felt helpless and he felt tears filling his eyes.

As he sat with his back against the ceiling, he wondered if anyone missed him yet. “My wife has got to be worrying,” he thought, as he was supposed to call her when he arrived in Eureka.

In the distance he heard a fast-moving siren. Ham began pounding, yelling and trying to rock the outhouse from side to side hoping the movement might be seen by the speeding emergency vehicle.

The wailing siren screamed passed and he sat back in his spot feeling defeated. That’s when he saw a seam of light glowing from somewhere deep with the holding tank.

“A weak spot!” he shouted.

Looking at it, he suddenly realized what it would mean to access it. He’d have to crawl into the soupy remains of human excrement that hadn’t found its way out of the tank, onto him and the interior.

The thought made his stomach turn and he retched up a green-yellow glob of bile. The sight made his midsection clench and loosen several more times before he got it under control.

He stood up as high as possible and placed his face, nose first against the cleanest of the dirty air vents and sucked in as my fresh air as possible, then knelt down and forced his right arm and head through the hole and into the tank. He put his hand down, squishing something horrible into his palm and between his fingers.

He managed to check himself as he felt the nearly overpowering urge to dry-heave. Slowly he twisted his right shoulder down and then forward until his left shoulder was beyond the opening.

The smell was beyond anything he’s ever experienced in his life and he thought seriously of retreating back to the safety of the corner he had spent the night in. Instead, Ham forced his left arm through the gap between his body and the toilet’s opening and pressed forward.

“Gak!” he burped, stomach roiling.

He struggled to shift his middle-aged paunch around so that it would passed through the hole and then his smaller hips, until he found himself fully inside the basin of the shitter. He ran a finger down the crease, and knew it was thinner than the heavier black plastic that had at one time held untold gallons of marinating crap, piss and disintegrating toilet paper.

Ham took a pen-knife his father had given him years ago and opened the largest blade. He stabbed it into the crease.

With his hands, wet and covered in crap, he fumbled the knife, cutting his thumb and dropping the instrument into at least six-inches of raw, smelly sewage. Ham spent the next couple of minutes in a panic as he searched for the tool he he thought of as his salvation.

After finding it, he wiped his right hand off on his shirt, getting it as dry as possible, then inserted the blade into the hole he’s already started. Though difficult, Ham drew the blade down slowly, until he had opened the bladder from top to bottom.

He poked his head out and drew in the first crisp, fresh breath of air he’d had since the ordeal began. Refreshed, he twisted and turned until his shoulders cleared the plastic tank, then dragged the remainder of his body out of the thing.

He laid on the warming asphalt for a number of minutes, before sitting up. He felt light-headed and decided to stay seated for a while longer.

Finally, standing up right for the first time in hours, Ham stretched and looked around. The parking lot was as empty like it had been when he pulled into it the day before.

As he approached his truck, he could see his reflection in the side window. He cringed, looking like he was covered in meconium and afterbirth.

Ham Piper looked back at the now useless outhouse with its slashed bladder, noting it resembled a raw oyster on the half-shell or perhaps a woman’s swollen labia and thought, “That’s a new spin on being born again.”

He unlocked his truck, got in, fired it up and turned it back the way he’d came, heading for Hat Creek, where he planned to find a shallow spot in the stream, rinsing himself as best he could. Then maybe, he’d get another cup of coffee from the nearby gas station – he could do with some food; a hot-dog perhaps.

En route, he called his wife.

Set-Backs

This is day 115 of social distancing, face-masks and self-quarantining and a lengthy week of minor set-backs.

It started last Friday with my son and daughter-in-law’s vehicle breaking down jus’ over the Nevada-California stateline as they were heading for a visit to her family in the So-Cal area. Two motor belts and a radiator later, at a cost of over $2,600, (not to mention rental cars) they are on their way back home.

Also last week, we decided to change our television delivery system from AT&T to Spectrum. I pulled everything apart and boxed up the AT&T components, only to learn that Spectrum forgot to tell us that our Internet had to be turned on at the junction box on the outside of the house.

Since it was the Fourth of July (can’t bring myself to call it Independence Day jus’ now) Spectrum was unable to get a technician out to the house until Sunday morning. Whatcha gonna do?

So from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon of last week; no Internet, no TV and no cell service. It wasn’t all that bad as I did finally sit down and read a couple of books I’ve been putting off for the last few months.

Then beginning at a minute before midnight tonight, the State of Nevada slips back in Phase I of the COVID-19 crisis. This means bars that serve food can still provide curbside and delivery service, but may not allow patrons on the premises and restaurants with bars must close the bar areas, regardless of if they have gaming machines installed.

So far no word on how other so-called ‘hot-spots,’ like casinos and hotels, are going to be affected by all of this. Meanwhile, Walmart, Home Depot and other large box stores are still open and though visited by hundreds of people daily, remain COVID-free.

Further, I still can’t get through to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (the unemployment office,) which means still no benefits. Also my wife has no idea when she’ll be returning to work as the school district is still trying to figure out when or even if students will be returning to class following summer.

Like Steve McCroskey (played by Lloyd Bridges) says in ‘Airplane:’Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.”

Last night our neighbor came home drunk. He stood at his door banging on it for over five-minutes. Problem is that he lives alone. So I finally went over and told him he wasn’t home. He left.

Think it’s About Race?

This is convicted terrorist Susan Rosenburg.  She sits on the Board of Directors for the fundraising arm of Black Lives Matter.

She was convicted for the 1983 bombing of the United States Capitol Building, the U.S. Naval War College and the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.  She was released from prison after serving 16 years of her 58-year prison sentence when Bill Clinton commuted her sentence on his last day in office.

This ain’t about race folks, it’s about the continued bringing down of a nation.

West of West

A friend came to me and asked, “What do you think of Kanye West for President?”

“Not on your life!” I answer.

She frowns at me as if I said something wrong, “What does that mean?”

“It means,” I say, a bit too defensively, “Did you see what he and Kim were wearing in that recent photo shoot from their ranch in Montana?”

“Yeah,” she responds, “So?”

“It’s a working ranch,” I return, “And those clothes are not good for working in and shows a lack of common sense. I don’t want a President, or First Lady for that matter, who have no common sense when it comes to working cows or a ranch.”

“Oh,” she says completely without resolve.

“What? Did you think I’d object to him because of his skin-color?” I smile, already certain of the answer.

“Well…” she starts her thought.

“Thought that’s what you thought,” I interrupt.

“Guess that makes me look like the one whose…” she begins.

“Prejudice?” I cut her off, a little harsher than I meant.

“Yeah,” she says, sounding ashamed of herself.

She’s left of center, I’m right of center and we’re still learning how to remain civil about politics and society.

Worthless Words

‘Laziness,’ that’s what I call my current affliction, it the only way I can describe my activity this morning. Nine-twenty and I’m jus’ rolling myself over to get outta bed.

Of course, I turned off my alarm before it went off at 8:00 and even before then, I reset it from 7:00. By the time me feet hit the deck and I even think about beginning my day, I learn from my wife, whose prepping for a shower, that she’s been up since 6:00.

In that three-hour-plus time period she’s gone for her three-mile walk, mowed the front yard and edged it, mowed the backyard and has unloaded and put away everything in the dishwasher. She is not lazy and further, doesn’t like to waste time lounging around.

Her next household chore: painting the coat closet door in the front room which she’s already got taped up. It’s a job she’s been working at since early last month, having already whitewashed the bathroom doors, the bedroom doors and the two hallway closet doors.

There’s coffee in the pot and a some in my cup and I’m supposed to be writing, but all I can find to put down into words is this crap.

BBQ and Boogie Rock

A short tale about today’s society…

Cain thought God was a fruitarian, offering Him what he had grown.

“I made you in My image and like you, I eat meat.”

Cain was butt-hurt. Then his brother, Abel appeared with his meat offerings.

Digging the smoky aroma and that tangy sauce, God blessed Abel while pigging out on barbecue.  This really pissed Cain off, and to make a point, he rocked Abel’s world.

“You want rump-roast, tenderloin, perhaps ribs with a side of slaw or beans?”

“Take a hike!”

Cain slipped on his boogie-shoes, beat it to the Land of Nod, then tripped-out on a world tour.

Joozers

Bib-over-all’s have been a staple in my life for as long as I can recall.  As the name implies, they’re designed to be worn over top of regular cloths to protect them from getting dirty and torn.

It’s rare now, to find someone wearing them as an ‘over-all,’ in a work environment. I certain don’t wear pants under my bibs anymore.

Back in the day however, and not all that long ago, they were worn like a daily work uniform and you could get them in any color you wanted, as long as it was blue. Meanwhile, the jeans that one wore under the over-all’s were called ‘Joozers.’

The memory of this probably would’ve never come to me if I hadn’t been reading Stephen King’s, ‘My Pretty Pony,’ last night. In this story about the measurement of time, he writes, “Grandpa was wearing the inevitable pair of blue-jeans beneath his overalls. ‘Jew-pants,’ he called them matter-of-factly — a term that all the farmers of Banning used. ‘”

As a kid, it never once occurred to me to think about where the word came from. But then, as an adult, I know that a German-Jew named Levi Strauss created a riveted work pant…

Simply and Wonderfully

As I sat on my side of the bed this morning, pulling on my bib-over-all’s, I had a sudden flash back to a day, shortly before Grandpa Bill passed away. It was the end of summer, my brother and I were playing in the field next to the house.

He was sitting in the shade of the one car garage, rocking back and forth, watching us. I can still hear that one wooden slat under his chair, squeak each time the heel of his rocker moved over it.

Grandpa was physically ugly, mauled by age, cigarettes and booze, health failing, but I didn’t know that until he died later in the year. But in my minds-eye, I can still see him that sunny day and recall how he was beautiful, simply and wonderfully beautiful.

It’s a description I still find very difficult to use for a man, even a truly beautiful man.

As I let this tiny memory tumble through my brain and tremble my heart, I issued a small prayer to be allowed more of these recollections. They’re like three-cent postcards, picture on the front and a couple of words on the back.

I want a shoe-box full of’em.

Keepin’ it Real

It’s official – I’ve entered my sixtieth July. Don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

Gonna take my time writing for the next thirty-one days. And I plan to stick to subjects that are not of the ‘supernatural/horror’ realm.

Rather, I wanna touch on things that are of this world, true life, or as the title of this post suggests, real. What those subjects are, I don’t know yet as this will be a day-to-day kind of take on life in the moment.

I know, you’re saying, “Dear God, I hope it ain’t politics.”

Honestly, I’ll do my best to stay clear of that one, however I will not avoid giving you my opinion on ‘society’ and all that crap. And no, society in this case does not mean the Hollywood types, rather those people insisting on destroying everything around them, because they are offended.

There are also a number of memories from childhood, I’d like to share. There is a whole frame of work in my brain, lodged under ‘recollections,’ that are vastly different in my America, an elder America, than the one the media, politicos and their ilk are providing nowadays.

So here is to July 2020 – let’er rip!