A shout out to everyone who can remember their childhood phone number — but not the computer password that they created yesterday.

Beneath


Inspired by Guy de Maupassant’s “Was it a Dream?”

Tired of the face mask, talk of plague, social distancing and the other various ways to avoid one’s neighbor, I drove to Virginia City with three one-fifth bottles of rot-gut, for I wished to become drunk and falling down. My destination being where all eventually fall, the cemetery at the end of town, before it reaches the city’s limits as coming from Reno.

It did not take long to park my vehicle, walk beyond the wooden sidewalks, past the sheriff’s station and fire department and up the slight rise leading to the resting place of those who’ve lived, worked and died in the historic town. And once there, I entered the gates of Silver Terrace.

Inside, I cracked the first bottle and sit on the ground near the 1886 grave of a baby marked three days old. By the time I’d finished, I was well on my way to blinding intoxication.

With the second of my fifths soon laid to waste, I was no longer able to safely walk, so I contented myself to sit on the hill and look into the darkness of Six-Mile Canyon and at the few lights showing life still clung to the ancient mining town. Finished with the third bottle, I passed out.

There I slept till three, when I became aware of movement. I opened my eyes and watched as several figures moved towards the entrance.

“Zombie apocalypses,” I though, still drunk.

I watched, listened and soon heard screams of terror, the crunch of loose gravel, a revving vehicle engine and the sound of it as it raced away.

The cemetery fell quite again, save for the dragging, and sliding of old creaking bones.  Fearful, I closed my eyes, then faded to sleep, only to wake from a solid thump to the bottom of my left boot.

“Were you here when the taggers struck?” asked the caretaker.

“Yes,” I answered.

“You must’ve frightened them away before they could do more damage.”

I said nothing, for aside from the vandals, only the bodies beneath know the truth.

Making a Nightmare


This day’s been face masks, wildfire smoke, boredom and isolation. Night time is arrived and a certain loneliness encases me beneath the covers.

My wife’s already sleeping. I cannot.

Quietly, gently, I climb from bed, dress, slip out the door, into my truck, pulling from our drive. To the Truckee River I head, to a place known to be very ancient.

A place I visit often, especially when seeking refuge from my mind. The Court of Antiquity.

East on Interstate 80, beyond Sparks, beyond city lights, hidden in plain sight of the freeway. I slow to the road side, back into the ramp, now gated, barring vehicles.

Around the gate, down the ramp, I walk. But I am halted in my steps as a shrill scream pierces my soul.

My blood runs cold, body grows chilled, sweat breaks over my skin. I watch into the darkness, right hand palming the butt of my pistol.

My legs refuse to move, feet struck to the ground. Only my right arm moves, guiding that hand to the pocket of my jeans, for truck keys.

Nothing more’s heard other than cars, trucks, and 18- wheeler after 18-wheeler speeding 15-feet above and to the right. Not one occupant knows the primal drama  playing out below.

“A cougar, perhaps a panther.”

My courage rebuilds and I begin forward, that scream echoes again. The moon suddenly breaks through it’s smoky portière.

A wisp of white, moving, floating, that I catch sight of. A translucent body.

Fear becomes blind panic. I run back to my truck.

I’ve forgotten the gate, hit it with such force that I flip head first over, landing on my left shoulder, banging my head on the metal bottom.

No time for pain, I scramble to my feet, open my truck’s door, get in and lock it, fumble with the ignition, and drive away. That scream, that ghostly figure will haunt my dreams if I’m able to sleep.

Holy Toledo


It’s a simple throw rug purchased on line. The thing that makes it so special is that it creates an optical illusion so strong, not even my dogs will go near it.

The illusion is that of a black hole with a series of white and black squares around the entrance. It has brought many laughs over the past few days as I’ve move it around and watched the dogs refuse to step on it.

Once, I placed it in front of the dog door from the front room to our garage and the younger of out two dogs jumped over it rather than risk walking on it. When I placed it in front of the hallway entrance our older dog jus’ stood there, whining, unable to bypass it.

Harmless fun for these times of pandemic lock down. But that was until yesterday, when a former neighbor paid a visit.

He saw the rug and without a seconds hesitation, jumped onto the center of the black hole. Perhaps, this should read ‘jumped into the center of the black hole,’ because with a terrified scream of shock, he disappeared through the carpet.

I shouted for him, yelling his name until I was practically hoarse.

This morning at 5:30, my cellphone rang. It was my friend calling from a police station in Toledo, Ohio, where he came out into the living room of an elderly woman, with the same rug, and who called the cops, having him arrested.

The Egg


Deborah was a beautiful redhead and I wanted to sleep with her in the worst way, and I did. Later, I had to kill her to protect myself. Let me explain:

It began a week ago, jus’ before the full moon. I met her at a family gathering, she was the date of one of my cousin’s and she and I hit it off nearly right away.

Her perfume was enough to drive any man wild and I couldn’t get enough of it. There was also that something else, a scent not identified that I also felt animalistic over.

Two days later, I ran into her at the local grocery store. We ended up going to a nearby coffee shop for what became a long afternoon of conversation.

During our conversation she explained that she had a long scar that ran from the base of her skull, clear to her tail bone. She said she’d gotten it after a car accident as a child.

“I’d love to see it one day,” I said flirting with her, immediately wishing I hadn’t the second it passed my lips.

Debbie, as she liked to be called, smiled and winked, “How about now.”

My heart leaped for exited joy. I followed her in my truck to her apartment, where we spent the entire night lustfully engaged.

The next morning I was scheduled to go into the high-desert for a geological survey. This is where things took a turn for the worst.

Being by myself, in the company of only a full moon and the stars is nothing to me. I’ve been camping and hiking and working in the wilderness by myself since I was a teenager.

This night though, there were none of the customary sounds one might expect in the desert. And the lack of noise set my nerves on end.

Then came a terrifying and terrific howl from somewhere nearby my camp site. It was a cry that I had never heard before and not being as brave as I’d like to think of myself, I decided to beat feet the high ground of Egg Rock.

This rock is as exactly as its name purports it to be, a nearly perfect shape of an egg, smooth and oval. It is also considered to be one of the more difficult boulder climbs within the rock-climbing community.

Frightened by nothing more than my gut instinct, I raced for the rock. Once there I found only a small divot in the boulder’s face.

Frantically, I searched for a second one, wasting several minutes. Meanwhile, the howling had ceased and turned into a low menacing growl.

Whatever it was, it was tracking me and I was certain I would die unless I made it to the top of the Egg. Finally, I found a second hold, then a third and fourth and then I was on top of the stone, able to look down at my surroundings.

With only the full moon to see by, I watched. Suddenly and without much sound, came looming out of the nighttime, a large wolf-like animal. It’s yellow-eyes remained fixed on me as it circled and circled, seeking a way up the natural edifice.

This continued throughout the remainder of the night and the early morning hours. I watched as the beast made pass after pass, stood on it’s hind legs, leaning against the rock as if beckoning me to come down, only to return to the circular pacing.

As the night grayed and dawn showed, I noted three things about this creature: its reddish fur, a massive scar from its nap to where the tail should be. I say should be, because this thing lacked the tail of a canine.

I finally climbed down after it raced away, fully convinced that it was not a canine, but something else entirely.

Abandoning all my gear and the job at hand, I raced to my truck and sped home. Two nights later, I was standing at my bedroom window when I saw Debbie, as she came up the sidewalk to my front door.

She knocked and I opened.

“I was hoping I had the right place,” she smiled as she entered.

“How did you find me?” I blurted out, not thinking.

Her smile changed into a slight grin as she answered, “I was afraid you might wonder about that.”

Not waiting, I drew the hunting knife tucked in my waist band and jammed it into her. By then her transformation had already begun and I had to resort to removing her head.

While Debbie’s death was neither quick nor a clean, I’m now free to shape-shift, creating that unholy chaos I know that my traditional being is meant to cause. But for right now, I need to clean up this mess.

The Road to Segregation’s Return


As I walked by Mister Nate’s home, he called me up onto his porch. I could tell the nonagenarian had something on his mind.

I took the cushioned rocking chair next to his.

“Son,” he started, “I jus’ got back from visiting my kids in California.”

He paused. I didn’t interrupt.

“They’ve gotten stupid,” he started, “Not only my grown children, but everyone. Wanna know why?”

I nodded yes.

“I grew up in Tennessee, during Jim Crow,” he said, “Can recall being called ‘nigger,’ the back door to diners, separate toilets and fountains.”

His wife brought out some unsweetened sun tea.

“Never tried sitting at a segregated lunch counter,” he continued, “Instead, I joined the Navy in ’44, served 20-years.”

He paused as if thinking.

“Know why I’m telling you this?” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“Folks no longer going to the backdoor or the front door of restaurants. Instead they’re eating outside in the parking lot like hobos, bums and beggars. And they don’t even realize they’re willingly segregating themselves and not even putting up a fuss over it. Understand what I’m saying, son.”

“Yes, Master Chief,” I answered.

“I knew you would,” he said.

New Hours for Nevada’s DMV


Since March 20, 2020, I’ve been unemployed, because of the state shutting down for a two-week  period to ‘flatten the curve’ on COVID-19. That is 150 days ago.

During this time, the company I worked for permanently closed its facility, and I’ve been unable to collect any unemployment benefits because I can’t get through either the online system or by phone.  I’ve even emailed Senator’s Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, as well Congressman Mark Amodei’s offices for help with this, but they can’t be bothered to respond.

On August 6, I wrote a letter to the Department of Training, Education and Rehabilitation (DETR) and as of yet, have received no response. Then yesterday morning, it was announced that Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s is increasing their hours of operation Monday through Friday’s.

Here’s the final rub: when called, DETR’s automated telephone recording states that they can only help callers with claims on “Monday’s and Wednesday’s.” Furthermore, they state that the remaining workdays are dedicated to “providing ‘information.”


Fella said his wife was an Angel that fell from Heaven. Ruined it by reminding him that’s also the Devil’s backstory.

The Falling Off


It’s been one of those mornings. Up early to take care of some outside chores before the heat becomes intolerable, but that isn’t what’s made this morning so frustrating.

First, I got out my favorite coffee cup and poured some java in it. I picked it up and the handle simply fell off, splashing hot liquid all over my still-bare legs, the kitchen floor and a nearby cabinet, not to mention breaking the cup.

Then while I was raking up dog crap like a dutiful human (pun intended,) the wooden handle came off the fan. The funny thing is that when it happened, I was leaning forward, dragging the tines towards me, causing myself to lose my balance, stepping forward on the handle and snapping it in half.

Finally, as I finished putting away the lawn mower and dragged in the garbage can filled with poop, grass clippings and such, I turned to go inside the house from my garage and the god damned door knob, which I jus’ replaced a couple weeks ago, popped off in my hand. It took me about half-an-hour to figure out why this happened and fix it.

And now, I’m afraid to go pee.

A Reason to Write a Few Political Jokes


Now that Joe Biden’s picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, let the joke making begin. And I’ll start:

New campaign names:
Joe Kamaltoe 2020
Twit and Twat 2020
Creep and C*nt 2020
Sniff and Blow, 2020
Pee Pads and Knee Pads, 2020
Perv and Prost, 2020
Joe and Hoe, 2020

New campaign slogans:
“Together, We’ll Blow It.”
“Together, We’ll pass the sniff test.”
“Why One Knee When Two are Better.”
“Two Hands are Better Than One.”
“Jill Knows Best.”

New sponsors:
Nike knee pads
Depends

And finally, when asked about being selected, Harris answered like Biden, saying, “I’ve never kissed a toucan or parrot, but I have a cock-or-two.”

Remember, I’m a professional joke-writer, so please don’t attempt this at home, but feel free to share.

Mark


her doe eyes glisten
ruby red lips narrow
i get up from my seat
toss down three bucks for our coffees
i walk out of the diner never looking back
she did not say a thing
what could she say
she had done exactly what i expected her to do
it was a hustle after all

she stokes the top my hand
her perfectly manicured nails make me shutter
god i want to melt like butter
it would be so easy i think
i peer through her sheer blouse
i can see her black bra
each cup spilling over with tanned flesh

i tried to not notice the too tight skirt
the too short skirt split up the side
she is not wearing panties
no outline on that fine ass
my mind envisions me naked in her
pumping her pussy hard
my dick exploding or my heart
christ what am i doing i think

it is my birthday tomorrow she had said
she wants a gift since her parents had both died less than six months ago
she had no one to celebrate her twenty third birthday with
heartbreaking

it was all a pattern
one i had seen all to often as a reporter
it was reporting on the death of the kids parents that i first met her
she was an immediate turn on
she was looking to replace her daddy
a man she obviously had daddy issue with
i was the mark

i am old enough to be your grandparent i told her
hell i got a kid older than you
she refused to listen
telling me how she could make me happy
that I could have her and keep my wife
that is nice of you I thought sarcastically

still I stayed the course wanting to be nice be honest be helpful be faithful
i tried but she asked for five hundred dollar immediately after I told her i do not have the money
i am only half a step from the poor house I added
i never said a thing as i pushed my way through the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk she never said a thing letting me go jus like that and that is because she knew she was was not worth my effort
she knew that i also knew it

i feel so fucking feel dirty
i need a cold shower

Dark Days


Since returning from Crescent City, California, I’ve found myself with a strange case of writers block. Strange, because I still keep my journal and I write lengthy notes, but I’m not writing words worth the sharing.

Meanwhile there’s a billion words swirling about my head like the multitudes of high-desert stars. And though they’re all there, I can’t seem to reach out and pick a single one from the hoard screaming left, right and up the center of my fevered brain.

Alpha and Omega.

Anyone looking at my journals, my notes, if ever they look, may well conclude that Covid-2020 was the year I slipped, drinking ‘Fireball’ and ‘Claw,’ taking long walks after dark, began loudly arguing with myself and visiting neighborhood dogs as a diversionary tactic. But I want it remembered: I’m built for this shit!

Others, maybe you, have it worse.

The Housewife’s Dream


The middle-aged woman wandered up and down the ragged beach, a place so forlorn and uninviting, that others, even locals, often refused to go there. Her bare feet pressed into the blackish sand as the waves crashed in to the rocky shoreline.

He had driven her there, and now he watched helplessly as she rushed about in her grand madness and hopeful giddiness. Some how she knew, she always knew and she had told him and this was the day.

“I’ll finally learn how to make perfect cucumber sandwiches, and wonderful teas, and flavorful biscuits,” she stated gleefully.

“You already know how to do that,” he pleaded, “You don’t have to do this.”

“Oh, but I do, its always been my dream,” she said.

Finally, she disrobed, dropping her dowdy house dress in the surf and stood quietly, head lifted to the overcast sky, arms away from her naked meaty sides and stout legs slightly apart. She was waiting.

Then it came, that eldritch thing with tentacles and wings and leathery skin and a multitude of eyes. It took her within a menacing claw and tenderly drew her to the churning, chilly Pacific.

“Wait for me,” she called back, a happiness in her voice.

“Okay,” he called back, less enthusiastic.

“Promise?” she asked.

“I promise,” he answered.

Then she was gone, taken beneath that those vulgar dark waves and from this upper world. He stood near where she last been, hands in his jacket pocket and head hanging down, chin on his chest.

He tried to cry, but found he couldn’t. Instead, he felt something akin to relief.

With a heavy sigh he turned, dragging his feet, glancing behind twice, making his way to his waiting car. Once there he looked out over the raging gray sea, mist rising and disappearing beyond the crags they tumbled on.

Then a thought struck him, “Perhaps, I shouldn’t have made that final promise.”

Taco Time


Officer James Herrod pulled into a parking spot about 30 feet from the food truck and picked up the microphone: “Robert One-18 to dispatch.”

“Dispatch,” a voice from the radio spoke, “Go Robert One-18.”

“Yes, dispatch I’ll be 10-7 at the corner of Main and Third.”

“10-4, Robert One-18, have a good lunch.”

“Roger and thanks.”


She had her ‘Seattle briefcase’ slung over her left shoulder as she walked from her car to double doors of the County Health Department building. For the last seven-years Janelle Stewart had been doing the same tedious job and once again was wishing she’d chosen another career path.

Janelle dropped the backpack at the side of her desk, picked up her coffee mug, one with a Batman emblem on it, and made her way down the corridor to the break room. She poured herself a cup of java and looked out the second story window with a sigh.

“Hey, young lady,” Stan, a bald-man in his early fifties said as he entered through the door. He looked at her and could tell something was wrong.

“What’s wrong? Anything I can help with?”

Janelle turned and smiled, “Oh, no. Jus’ gonna be another long day.”

“Understood,” he said in his usual chipper voice.

She could never tell if he was really that happy or if he was simply faking it. Janelle could never fake it, knowing that she wore her moods in the open.

“Have a better day,” Stan smiled as he left the room, his coffee cup filled.

She turned and walked back to her desk and sat down. Janelle quickly thumbed through her appointment book, looking at the five restaurants she had scheduled for inspection and the one mobile food vehicle on her list.

The mobile food vehicle was the third visit listed.


James was hungry and had decided that tacos sounded like the perfect lunch for the hectic day he was experiencing. He was waiting in line, three customers behind a construction worker, who was paying for five tacos.

He watched as an attractive brunette slowly got out of her car and walked to the back of the food truck, entered and made her way to the front-end of the vehicle. Then he saw the sudden flash of flame as it flared up and enveloped the length of the open window.

The woman, who he believed to be the owner, dropped a metal lid over the blaze. As this happened, he felt an odd sense of dizziness rush over his person.

James chalked his dizziness up to the fact that he hadn’t eaten since leaving his house at around four that morning,  was tired and stressed from a job, that after seven-years, he no longer enjoyed.


With two inspections completed, at eleven that morning, Janelle wheeled into the parking lot of the shopping center where she knew the food truck, ‘Taco Time,’ with it’s oddball tag-line, ‘Where the food is magic,’ would be parked, selling its popular Tex-Mex cuisine. She could see Amy Michaels, the owner, and her assistant Jose’ Oliveria, in the vehicle’s long window, serving a line of at least six people.

Amy saw her as she approached the truck. Janelle could see that the woman had a forced-smile on her face.

“I promise to stay out of your hair and to be as quick as possible,” she stated as she stepped up and into the vehicle.

“Okay,” Amy said. She was busy putting the final touches on five tacos.

Janelle slipped by Jose’ who nodded, acknowledging her. As she turned to watch the two work, a low pan of grease burst into flames, causing her to turn her head to avoid being singed.


James grabbed his forehead with his right hand, his gun hand, and looked down. Much to his surprise, he was no longer wearing his service boots, but rather a pair of much-too small red Reebok tennis shoes.


Janelle looked at Amy, who was closest to her. Amy was staring hard at her, as was Jose’ and both had strange expressions on their faces.

“How in the hell did you get in here?” Amy barked in surprise.

“I…I…I,” Janelle stuttered, her voice deeper than usual.

In a panic, Janelle rushed to the back of the vehicle and down the stairs. She caught her scattered reflection in the diamond-patterned aluminum siding of the truck.

“What in the…” she said, in shock after seeing herself now clad in the dark-blue uniform of a police officer.

She quickly rushed over to the only police cruiser in the parking lot and leaned against the vehicle. Her mind reeled as she came to understand that she was no longer a health inspector, but now a male police officer.


Across the parking lot, a brunette woman, who was standing in line, suddenly fainted to the asphalt.

In a Flash


Monday comes and it is already Friday.
This month is over and the year is up.
Many years are gone, leaving nothing,
Where waiting for later is loss of time.
So take full advantage of what is left
It is already too late for the going back.

The Perfect Solution


The battleship gray door was locked, possibly barred from the inside. And since it was a metal door, listed as fire proof, it was going to be hard for Steve to breech it.

It wasn’t the sign on the thick thing that read, “Meet the person responsible for your life.” No, he believed that the room beyond held a possible treasure.

Hour after hour, Steve worked the door over. He used a sledgehammer on the frame, then broke off the knob while pounding on the massive slab of metal.

“Fucking thing,” he growled.

Finally, he went and got some of the dynamite he’d stolen from a mining shack a couple of weeks before. It would be the perfect solution to getting beyond the door.

“I knew it would come in handy,” stated as he balanced the quarter stick of explosive against the center of the door and lit the fuse.

The ensuing blast left his ears ringing. It took him nearly half-an-hour to recover his balance as finally approach the now destroyed door and to finally get a look inside.

On the wall over a large, face-high mirror were the words “Choices, Success, Words, Actions, Thoughts.”  That was it.

“I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch!” he screamed in anger.

The mirror was shattered and the irony missed.

Driven


A Xerox copy of a handwritten letter sent anonymously and without a date, via the US postal service, to the newspaper I used to work for, but never taken seriously:

“All I did was step off trail long enough to empty my bladder and now, I’m lost. Where Andy and Ryan went, I don’t know and I never did catch up with them. Bilateral tinnitus is affecting me in the worse way. The hum, like the sound made by a tuning fork, is buzzing around in my head, a maddening cacophony of highs and lows. All of this is strange, and that’s why I’m taking time to write it down. And when I say strange, I mean it in the ‘paranormal’ sense, a word I wouldn’t normally use because I wouldn’t want to be thought of as nuts. But I think I’m gonna die and I don’t have time to worry about what anyone thinks. Four different times I saw would-be rescuers. The first two times, I turned in their direction and walked down a hill and into a small gorge only to come out on the other side, with no one around. The third was that damned helicopter. It buzzed over me twice, both times as I whipped my yellow safety vest over my head like a lasso. They never saw me, thought I clearly saw their faces inside the craft. That’s how low they were over me. It was seeing the house, across a creek, lights on in late afternoon, that I finally figured out that something beyond this worldly plain is going on. As I walked down into the flats towards this creek, because of the landscape, it dropped from sight for a couple minutes and when I came to where I am certain I should have seen it again, both the house and creek was gone. Confused, I looked back and saw the creek, saw the house, and found that I had somehow passed them. So, I turned and head back again, only to have them reappear behind me again. As I continue to trudge through these granite strewn mountains, I’ve also learned that the hum, the forks, grow louder or duller, depending on my direction. So whatever is happen, whatever is doing this, I am being driven in a singular direction. Though weak from continual walking and a lack of food, I am overheating. I took off my boots, socks and jacket, hoping to cool off, but must have forgotten them because they are no longer with me. This brings me to another thing, I have the sensation of being in bubble or maybe a four-sided triangle. When I walk, my feet don’t touch actually the ground. I can’t feel the shards of rock or the bushes as I plod along. However, when I stop, I can feel the earth beneath my feet. That is how I can sit here and write this. Soon I will find a large rock and with my vest as a marker, place the rock on top of it and my day-pack with the hope that it’ll be found one day. And I hope this note, letter, whatever you wanna call it, helps explain what happened, though I don’t know exactly what is happening to me now. My cellphone hasn’t worked in days, I’m out of food and water and I am still being driven forward. To where, I don’t know. All I can think is that after I mark this note with my vest and the rock, I will continue to wander until I’m dead. Finally — to my wife, son and daughters: I love you, take care of each other as best you can. Ryan and Andy: Me getting lost ain’t your fault. I go with God now. Goodbye, everyone.  — yours, Kris”


A single sperm supposedly has 37-and-a-half megabytes of DNA information in it, which means a normal ejaculation could represents a data transfer of around 1,587 gigabytes in about four seconds, and that’s a lot of information to swallow.

Metal Folding Chair


It was reassuring that the restroom was the same as it had been all those years ago when he was a student.

“Well, maybe the toilets have been changed out,” he smile, “but at least the water still rotates left-to-right when flushed.

It was one of only two restrooms – and still labeled ‘boys,’ the other ‘girls’ — in ‘A’ hall. Back in the day they were never open for general use during regular school days, but always open for a special event.

He washed his hands in the fountain-style sink, while looking up at himself in the mirror. He looked  tired, sallow and pale.

“Nerves,” he thought, as he took a deep breath to relieve the butterflies in his stomach and the tightness in his chest.

He reached inside his dress jacket and into the left-hand interior pocket for his speech. He’d written it before leaving his motel room.

They were only to be used if he were asked to say a few words, because tonight, he was being inducted into his Alma mater’s Hall of Fame. He slipped them back into his pocket, turned on the cold water, splashed his hot, sweaty face, pulled a couple of paper towels from the dispenser and dried himself.

“Ah, good, there you are,” said the youthful and current principal of the school.

He pointed down the end of ‘B’ hall and started walking that direction.  Dutifully, the former student followed.

He was surprised to see where the buses picked up and dropped off students had not changed. Nor had the small snack stand changed, the one that stood by the doors next to the weight room.

“Stand here,” the principle stated, “And when you here your name, walk through those doors into the gym. The stage will be on your left. And congratulations.”

He gulped another breath and felt the pain in his chest slip away and his sickly stomach settle. He quickly adjusted his tie and brushed at his jacket and pant leg, sweeping away lint that really wasn’t there.

Then he heard some speaking and the gathered crowd begin clapping. At his name, he pushed on the handle and swung the door open, stepping into the basketball gym, turned auditorium for the evening.

Smiling and waving, he half-jogged, half-walked across the parquet flooring and up the two-steps to the raised platform. A quick glance showed a metal folding chair next to a wooden speakers stand.

While he noted these, he returned his focus to the crowd that cheered and clapped as he came on stage. All smiles, he waved and pointed at people, though he couldn’t really see their faces, before he sat down in the folding chair.

All too soon the crowd grew quiet. And since there was no speaker at the podium, he took the time to look around at the faces that sat, not only before him in individual seats, but also the couple of hundred that sat in the wooden bleachers on either side of the gym.

Over the heads of those that sat in the folding chairs, much like his, save for the slight padding they had and he didn’t, he noted the video camera. Its tiny red light flashed, indicating that it was recording the scene before it.

He felt a wave of panic engulf his being. He felt for the speech in his pocket and pulled out a piece of folded paper towel, the same kind he’d used a few minutes ago in the restroom.

“Did I put the towels in my pocket and wipe my hands on my speech?” he asked himself, wanting to chuckle, but couldn’t.

Then he began to study the people in the crowd. Much to his surprise, both of his parents sat directly in front of him, his step-dad, his mother’s second husband, to her left and a baby in her lap. He also saw his brother and sister.

Next to them were his grandparents, both sets and their second spouses. He was surprised to see his Aunts and Uncles as well as his in-laws. He looked beyond them; at the neighbors, teachers, employers, coworkers, friends and girlfriends.

And as he recognized each face, a brief video rapidly filled his head of interactions, good and bad, he’d had with that person. He tried to shake it off, but he knew they were almost all here, almost all the people he knew, almost all the people he’d been close to at one time. Missing were his wife, their son and his family and his sister and her family.

Then there came a faint sound. It was like that of a wind chime, the rustle of leaves on a tree as the wind pushed through them, the bark of a dog, the crunch of gravel under foot, the neigh and snicker of a horse, the squeal of a tire, the bray of a mule, the chug of a farm tractor, clucking chickens, a babbling stream, a baby crying, laughter, a long sigh, a cat meowing and purr, paper shuffling, rain on a roof, and distant thunder.

Much to his amazement, it all worked well together like a perfect melody.

It was quickly followed by the delightful odor of fresh baked bread, mowed grass, cinnamon, paint, chocolate chip cookies, an old dusty book, horse and cow manure, baled hay, new leather, gasoline, peppermint, his wife’s perfume, puppy-dog’s breathe, garlic, burnt toast, rain, brewing coffee, salt air, pine trees, apple pie, crazy glue, and wet-dog. Again, it all fit together; a wonderful brocade of aroma.

Then the auditorium echoed with the repetitive shuffle of seated people coming to their feet. He stood too, though he wasn’t sure why he was doing it, other than perhaps he believed it was expected.

And while everyone looked at the already open double-doors, waiting for someone or something to make a grand entrance, he looked back and down at the chair he’d been sitting in. Across the back of it, stenciled in red letters, he read, ‘Bema.’

Mobile App


As a semi-retired software engineer and an often hated critic of the many apps that come from overseas, especially from the Asian theater, I still receive my share of ‘try this and tell me what you think of it,’ requests.

Some are so stupid that I send a polite email to the developer saying ‘no thanks‘. Others, like the makers of the mobile app, ‘Yeshi,’ I promise a quick spin around the Superhighway.

Because I am into slang words, I know that ‘Yeshi’ is a phrase meaning that a dead person can’t until rest until the circumstances of their death changes. Call me intrigued as I install the app to my phone and touch start the moment it is uploaded.

Where I am from that moment on…well, let’s jus’ say that my last detailed memory is of sitting on my back porch, in my favorite, well-faded University of Nevada-Reno t-shirt, drinking a can of Hamm’s beer and smoking a Camel Gold. That’ll change, too.

In an altered, but very familiar reality, I’ve returned to my childhood home, a home that hasn’t been a part of my life since I was 20. I’m parked across the street, the nose of my truck pointed in the wrong direction as I sit, observing the old place.

In the drive is my old man’s 1964 Chevy pickup. There’s also the gold-colored Opel station wagon, that I still think of it as an embarrassing piece of shit. In front of the house, by the sidewalk is my 1968 Dodge Charger, one very cool car and chick-magnet.

“Odd,” I think, “This is exactly how it looked when I last saw the place.”

By now I’m out of my truck and walking across the street and somehow I already know what I will find beyond that unlocked door.

The first time, if that really is the case, I joined four faceless, shapeless figures around our old oak table, the same table we had all through my childhood. At least three of the people stood on one side of the table, with a fourth standing at what I concluded to be the head of the table.

On the table is a standard sized cake, like the one my mother used to bake for each of our birthdays, with white moldy frosting and several candles, too many for me to count. Looking the cake, candles unlit, it begins to heave up, and then it erupts with maggots.

These maggots crawl over the table in every direction and quickly turn into flies and soon the entire house is clouded by the black, buzzing and biting pests and I’m forced to wake up. By this time, I’m sweaty, chilled and panting like I jus’ ran the 100-yard-dash and I’m on my bed now , with no recollection of how I got here.

But this most recent slip into this alternate reality comes with out my having to use YeshiApp. It also comes with three new features.

The first is the sight as seen through the sliding glass door of the old rusty green and red swing set which is standing idle in the backyard. The other thing, the more profound thing, the thing that takes my breath away are the people, dead members of my family.

“Hi,” my brother says to me. I know it’s him because he’s the one with the severe damage to his head, from where he blow the back of his skull out with a shotgun. I find him the most difficult to look at, as he’s missing a part of his tongue, several teeth and his eyes are crossed, but outward, as if he were trying to look at his ears, which one hangs loosely from his scalp.

Mom is rail thin, a near-skeleton, like she was when the cancer took her life. I was with her the early morning she stopped breathing and I had to wrestle dad to prevent him from doing CPR on her, which would have been against her wishes.

“I’m doing fine,” she says taking my left hand in hers. It’s the same words she used to say as she lay in bed and in pain, after the hospice gal told us her ending was near. What remains of her lips are a waxy-yellow and tattered.

My father is there as well. He smells of Vitalis hair tonic, automobile grease and burnt tobacco, but seems genuinely happy to see me as he grabs my left shoulder, giving it a squeeze like he used to, before his third and final heart attack.

“Let’s go work on your car,” he wheezes breathlessly, “When we’re done here.” His broken nose, from his semi-pro boxing career, has fallen off, leaving a triangular cavity between and below his still, blue eyes.

“Sorry, I wasn’t here to…” I start.

“No worries,” he interrupts.

Then there’s Sissy, who is standing between them, smiling like Alice’s Cheshire Cat, but not disappearing. I hadn’t seen her with both of her legs and absent her wheelchair since I was in my early 20’s.

“Told you I almost as tall as you,” she giggles. I can see the veins in her neck where they collapsed and have left deep inverted lines in her skin. Her heart had failed after so many years of unhealthy living.

My eldest sister isn’t here. She’s still alive.

That’s the third thing — and it hits me hard, like a punch in the gut: “Does this mean I’m not?”

Then it also occurs to me that the kitchen window is open. Has it always been open?

No. The flies would have found their way outside, had it been.

I think about jumping out of it.

Not a far jump, we’re on the ground floor of a single floor house. As I make up my mind to do this – a raven lights on the sill and begins pacing back and forth.

Then they join each other in singing to the tune of ‘Happy birthday to you…,’ “The show must go on, the show must go on…” and as if on cue, maggots burp up like a water fountain in an Esther Williams movie, from the rotted cake and begin to turn into flies.

The raven is enjoying the feast of a lifetime as it squawks, “Ye-Shi,” between beak fulls.

As I look around in terror once again, I see that I’m clutching my cellphone in my right hand, the speaker is on and I can hear what sounds like Asian coming from it. One male voice says, “Ye,” the other, a woman says, “Shi.”

Yes-yes,” I understand, one says in Korean, the other Chinese. I’m awake, but can’t close the app.