Made Late

Been on a poetry jag the last few days. Jotted this down while aboard the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, going from Carson City to Virginia City. Was late, causing Engine No. 18 to miss its departure time.

The train was leaving a bit late
Not much, only minutes eight
If you must blame it on this reporter
Relief to leave the Eastgate station
Cross Carson Range and Paiute Nation
Evil-eyed by the steward and porter

Thirteen

13 doorbells rang today
thirteen flags to be folded
13 families altered

At least 13 U.S. service members have been killed, including 11 Marines, a Navy Corpsman, and a soldier, in the two suicide bombing attacks outside Kabul airport Thursday, according to U.S. officials. Eighteen others were injured and have been evacuated for treatment.

WWJD?

“You should be more like Jesus.”

“I do the best I can.”

“No, you don’t.”

“You mean drinking wine, calling people hypocrites, and upsetting the power-base isn’t enough?”

“I give up.”

The Gravity of Picture Taking

Coffee, three aspirins, a hot shower, and I’m still stoved up and one hurting unit. It is no surprise that I tumbled down a minor incline, bounced into a cement retaining wall, and came to rest against a steel pole cemented in place.

Initially, this knocked the wind out of me.  All I could really do was relax and go where gravity insisted. Such are the adventures of a newsman in the pursuit of that perfect picture for an upcoming article.

Here’s the funny thing, as in odd, I had made it forty feet up the embankment using the deer trails that crisscross the hillside. I sat in the limb of a thorn-bush tree for nearly three hours, and using the same path to go down, I found a patch of loose earth and rock that slipped right out from under me.

My left wrist and middle finger on that hand are strained and swollen. Both of my ankles feel as if twisted. Aside from minor scrapes, I have a bruise that aligns perfectly with my spine. It runs from the base of my neck to below my shoulder blade. And I know I hit the back of my head, but I cannot find a bump or sore spot, so go figure.

But, damn, I got the picture I needed.

Time to Zag instead of Zig

Aside from waiting for my very dead cellphone to resurrect, I have been doing laundry; white clothes, towels, and a shower mat. I’ve also been indulging myself with podcasts.

It started after I saw a social media post from my friend Lisa Jovicic about a podcast, where she talks about her photography business.

You can listen to the podcast here.

As I listened, I took in some of the things she suggested for “entrepreneurs.” I put that in quotes because I am by no means one of those, though I know many.

As I listened, I thought about this blog and how underutilized it is. Then it dawned on me that I should be doing “man-in-the-street” interviews, creating a short podcast of my own, which I can also supplement with my blog and more photographs directing people to the podcast.

Perhaps it is time to change direction. I’d like your ideas and thoughts on this idea.

Posted

For the past couple of weeks, I hadn’t seen my bartender friend. Her temporary replacement said she was on vacation, so I left it at that.

Finally, she returned.

“How was your vacation?” I asked.

“Wonderful,” she answered, adding, “Oh, I have something for you.”

“You shouldn’t have,” I said, secretly excited that she thought enough of me to get me a gift while on vacay.

“It isn’t much,” she replied. “But here.”

She handed me a postcard.

“Oh, cool,” I said. “How did you know I collect postcards.”

” I didn’t,” she smiled. “I jus’…”

I looked at it. The picture showed two giraffes on the Serengeti and Mt. Killmanjaro in the background, above the word “Tanzania.”

“You went to Tanzania for vacation?” I interrupted.

“No,” she smiled sheepishly, “California. Found it at the post office here.”

Shafted

Mark Twain is thought to have said, “A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar standing on top of it.”

That attribution is unconfirmed and possibly itself a fib.

Twain did say in “Roughing It,” based on his personal experience of silver mining in Virginia City, Nevada: “You could … get your stock printed, and with nothing whatever to prove that your mine was worth a straw, you could put your stock on the market and sell out for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. … If the rock was moderately promising, we followed the custom of the country, used strong adjectives, and frothed at the mouth as if a very marvel in silver discoveries had transpired.”

The Seeing

One must be this many years old before learning the viewfinder their Dad brought home long ago, warning us not to destroy, which we did, was never a viewfinder but a set of paper binoculars.

We tore them up trying to figure out how to fit two slides in it. And once we had forced the transparencies in it, they never matched up, like the rendering of the 3-D image that the classic plastic viewfinder created.

A friend whose father was a Northern Nevada alcohol distributor following World War II gave a 1948 set to me today, advertising Old Crow Whiskey.

‘Pataphysics

Instead of the “Mandela Effect,” it should be called “‘Pataphysics,” a  “branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions.”

Thoughts?

Adventure at the Hardware Mega-store

He saw the pair exit the dark-colored sedan as he walked across the parking lot. They separated, the smaller of the two heading for the far door of the hardware mega-store and the other following behind him.

He was there to buy a kit to fix a broken shower hand, chalk, and a new caulking gun. He saw the small man at the end of Aisle 14, where the plumbing supplies were.

Fortunately, an associate and a customer entered the aisle, and he was able to walk by him. Though he refused to look, he could feel the man’s eyes burning into him.

In paint supplies, on Aisle 43, he picked up a tube of caulk and the necessary gun. He also saw both men entering the far end of the aisle.

“Time to take it outside,” he thought as he wandered out into the gardening section.

Finally, he found an open space between the ornamental trees and the decorative stones. There was are enough to move, and it was relatively secluded.

The small man rushed him with a carpeting knife. He side-stepped to the left, crouched, and came up swinging the hardened plastic casing holding the shower parts.

The plastic edge caught the man in the neck, and blood began squirting. He’d cut open an artery.

The larger of the two men grabbed him as he turned to face him. The man slammed him into one of the legs holding pallets of decorative rock and stone.

Having already developed a plan, he’d used the new gun to snip the end off the tube of caulking. He had loaded the caulk into the gun and charged it as he’d walked to the far end of gardening.

As the man continued to beat him against the shelving, he lifted the gun overhead and rammed into the man’s back beneath the left shoulder blade. Squeezing the handle, he watched as the man grew weaker as his lung filled with the silicon.

Finally, gasping for air, the man dropped to his knees, releasing his grip.

Had he not been so involved in daydreaming, he might have avoided the palletized rocks as they fell on him.

Can You See Me Now?

The second-longest corridor in the VA hospital led to the mental health clinic. For Tom, it had always felt like a walk of shame.

This time he stopped dead in his tracks as he came around the corner. On his right was a long line of black and white photographs of happy, smiling female veterans. Tom read the words embossed on the first picture.

“I am not invisible,” the words read. They all read the same.

Tom stepped back from the wall and looked up and down the hall. There was no one was around.

Tom suddenly felt perfectly invisible.

On Assignment, a Haibun

A friend of mine, Valery Lyman, is on assignment and shared some prose that moved me to write a haiku and create this haibun.

the traveling nurse
must smoke, drink, tell bad jokes
no mask is required

this hotel is full of traveling nurses. they drink heavily at night and smoke cigarettes. ever so human in the morning. we’re all in a little lifeboat. such good company, i’ve never lived with so many hotel dwellers.

Stoned

The red sandstone rested nowhere near a hillside or rocks of the same material. Sam picked it up and looked it over.

The surface had a petroglyph of the humped back flute player, Kokopelli, in black and not the usual dark red pigment. Sam slipped it in his pack.

Once home, he placed it on his front porch. Shortly after midnight, Sam awoke to the sound of distant music.

He stepped out onto his front porch to listen. An unfamiliar blackness overcame him.

Once conscious, Sam found himself pressed into the stone and the flute player dancing around a fire.

My Cousin Elmo says, “Don’t let anyone take your temperature by pointing that thing at your forehead. It erases your memory. I went to the grocery store for beer and came home with tampons.”

Free Will

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia and Confession of Nat Turner.

James Froude, an English historian, and novelist gave a different twist: “Toleration is a good thing in its place, but you cannot tolerate what will not tolerate you and is trying to cut your throat.”

Either way, if you want to get the COVID-19 vaccine, that is your business. The same goes for masks.

Neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Space Sickness

Since I’ve no family on Mars, been unable to befriend anyone, and bored inside my isolation chamber, I have begun writing.

A week into isolation and a week to go. It solves two things, the return of “space sickness,” this time akin to getting one’s balance back after being at sea for too long. The other is to keep any bacteria or virus from spreading to the rest of the colony.

The word “colony” sounds so quaint and old-fashioned. But don’t be fooled — I am told this colony is anything but quaint. However, it is old-fashioned in the sense that it is like a roaring 1800s boomtown.

Before I forget, I am using paper created here, on Mars, from a ponic process that takes plant material and pulps and presses it to form. It is a grayish-brown, rougher, and slightly thicker than the 20lbs stock I have been used to writing on.

As for a writing instrument, it is a remarkable invention. It is solid like pencil lead but flows like ink and housed a synthetic composite material that is refillable.

It took me less than two hours to pack everything I owned and have it at the Express Depot for a flight that was leaving three days ahead of mine. I was able to watch as the rocket lifted into space and disappeared.

It did not enter my mind to be concerned for myself until I strapped into a hard-framed seat and the rumble of the engine beneath me. My stomach turned, and my vision blurred as the ship lifted away from the pad.

I thought that we were all going to die.

My journey was only beginning, but already I wished for the three months it would take to be over. I cannot imagine how anyone could keep from going mad when such travel took over 200 days to complete.

Fortunately, I had found an inexpensive way to travel, a working-class vessel. It was a frigate where I would earn my passage as assistant to the medical doctor.

Illness quickly gripped me. Called “space sickness,” it is a loss of gravity, motion sickness, and a lack of navigational bearing brought on by not seeing sky, land, or water.

A new medicine patch every day and constant hydration helped me battle through it. But it took near two weeks before I was over the symptoms enough to leave my berth.

Land of the Vaccinated

Four thousand people or more gathered for events in Nevada must prove they have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, to avoid mask mandates.

“This is cutting edge,” Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said. “There [are] no other venues in the country that are doing this. I think it is going to get people, more people, wanting to go to an event because they know that when they walk in that arena or that stadium, everybody is vaccinated.”

No, Mr. Governor, this is not cutting edge — it is still Communism as in, “Let me see your papers.” And it fails every time instituted.

Grokking My Way to Tanis

Robert Heinlein is one of the most controversial authors of hard science fiction. He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped raise the genre’s standards of literary quality. 

He was the first sci-fi writer to break into the mainstream, general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. Heinlein also spent time with Parsons and Hubbard at Parsons home. 

Later, he would write “Stranger in a Strange Land,” a book referenced by Charles Manson, who believed he was both “Valentine Michael Smith” and “Jubal Harshaw.”

Valentine Michael Smith is a human raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, water-sharing, and love.

According to Wikipedia: “Jubal E. Harshaw, LL.B., M.D., Sc.D., bon vivant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, neo-pessimist philosopher, devout agnostic, professional clown, amateur subversive, and parasite by choice.”

Neither character seems to mean anything to me, but the word “grokking” jumped out at me. It means to understand something intuitively or by empathy.

Time to return to the original story by Parsons.

Hello from Mars

Tired of waiting for something to happen on Earth, more directly in the U.S., to halt the ever-growing threat of runaway government, corporatization of liberties, and a frustrating lack of fundamental values like family, faith, and freedom, I left for Martian planet. It is here that I plan to kick-start my writing career.

Interestingly, letter writing is emerging as a popular method of correspondence on the Red Planet. Martians have adopted this for two primary reasons: embracing humanity’s written language tradition and establishing a “private life.”

Early Martians deemed that physical paper and writing instruments were a waste and used digital devices instead. However, the recent emergence of paper on Mars, made from hydroponic plant fiber, has allowed for letter writing to become a popular pastime.

Students as young a five are encouraged to write letters to each other in class, practicing penmanship, punctuation, and grammar. Because of this example, adults often write letters to their family, friends, and neighbors.

Martians have always held the “private life” as one of their guiding tenets. They define the “private life” as a life that cannot be observed or controlled by any form of a physical or digital entity.

The concept originated because of a lack of privacy on Earth, surveillance technologies, and digital systems/corporations that capture and use personal data. It has manifested into measures taken to safeguard peer-to-peer communications.

Although Martians have access to the Internet, email, and social media, many realize the importance of the written language and letter writing, opting to use letters as a more meaningful form of correspondence. As a result, Martians write one letter a week that will never find a digital platform.

Instead of a computer hard drive and monitor, I happily opted to ship reams of loose-leaf paper and thousands of pencils to myself.

Seventh Grade Reading Assignment

My brother and I transferred from public school to Catholic School. I quickly found myself in trouble daily for saying or doing this or that.

So the afternoon Sister Angela yelled my name, claiming I was not reading the book assignment in class as directed, I wasn’t surprised.

“Did anyone see Tommy reading like he is supposed to be doing?” she demanded.

Pam Kimble raised her hand and said she saw me. But because she was looking at me, she was sent to the office for not following the assignment as instructed.

“Anyone else?” Sister asked.

Silence followed as I looked around the room and watched my classmate’s eyes suddenly avert from mine. Anger overcame me as I was sent to the office for disobedience.

Minutes later, Sister joined Pam and me, telling us to return to class.

My jaw clenched, I glared hatefully at anyone who dared look at me. Pam was nearly in tears, mortified as she was never in trouble.

Sister soon came in and announced, “See how easy that was?”

Heads pivoted left and right because none of us had any idea about what she was speaking.

“Neither Pamela nor Tommy did anything wrong, but none of you wanted to say anything because you didn’t want to get in trouble,” she finished.

The reading assignment? The Diary of Anne Frank.

Purple Peanut Butter

A 13-year-old student was fatally shot by another 13-year-old at a middle school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had to look it up online after a 30-something guy got angry with me for promoting Virginia City, Nevada on my personal social media site.

“They are some of the vilest human beings in the world,” he wrote in a message to me. “And you are no better. On the same day as another mass shooting at a school, the asshats in Virginia City had no shame in walking up and down the street brandishing guns of all kinds. They even had a gunfight in the middle of the street. They have zero caring for the suffering of our children because of gun violence. I will never return to that pile-of-shit town.”

Before I corrected his spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I answered back, saying, “First, it was NOT a mass shooting, but a shooting. Anyway, I’m sorry that you feel this way. While learning that a child shot another child is indeed heartbreaking, realize Virginia City has not had a child-on-child murder in years, despite the vast number of guns in the town.”

“While you are upset and feel that the historic ghost town should have put away all firearms out of respect for this act of senseless violence, it is because of those firearms that Virginia City is free of violence most days. While a double-murder was committed last year inside the city limits, it had nothing to do with all the law-abiding individuals openly wearing or carrying a firearm.

Perhaps you’re better off going elsewhere for vacation, a place where sidearms and long guns are prohibited, a place where you would feel safer. Remember, criminals do not act on feelings other than greed and jealousy, so you need to avoid those people as well. Thank you for airing your concern with me, and I will let as many people know as I can about how you feel.”

He responded, saying, “Don’t use my name!”

“I won’t because I don’t want to give any further acknowledgment to a snowflake, like yourself,” I said.

Then I blocked him.

Where’s a Cop When You Need One?

“You’ve heard the old joke, where can you find a cop at two-in-the-morning?” Nus asked.

“Yeah,” Dunoc groaned, “At the donut shop.”

Silence filled their unit instead of laughter.

The pair sat back from the trajectory line, tucked in behind Star-932-Bravo, hidden from traffic. They were watching for speeding craft moving from one worm-hole to another.

Interstellar cops.

They were not the only ones on the beat. Suddenly the two were joined by several pairs of Interstellar cops.

“What did I tell you, Dunoc,” Nus said. “We should have put mouth-cuffs on those scientists before they announced that the universe is a donut and stopped this from becoming a problem.”

“It’s only a case of miscommunication,” Dunoc replied. “They’ll quickly learn that the universe is donut-shaped, not a donut.”

“Yeah, but it’s also donut-filled, too,” Nus returned. “And I happen to like eating my donuts in peace.”

“Look, here comes speeder,” Donuc announced.

“Good,” Nus said, “Step on it, Doughboy.”

The pair laughed as they rocketed after the unaware speeder.

The Embassy House

For nearly two months now, I have searched for information on the historic home on the Comstock called “The Embassy House.” Among the many turn-of-the-century buildings in Virginia City, it appears to have never had a biography completed on it.

The homeowner grew up in the house, and she lives there with her husband. Purchased by her father shortly after World War II, the home came with a carved stone that read, “The Embassy,” with two crossed flags below the lettering.

The homeowner thinks that the stone is still on the Comstock, possibly in the Virginia City area. I want to recover it, then help her get her home listed on the National Registry of Historic Buildings like so many of her neighbors.

First things first, though.

Ghostlight

We used to play in the front and backyards, yelling, screaming, laughing, and chasing each other around. Alice, Johnny, and their mother Blaylock lived in the large home across the street and down the block from my family’s home.

We spent most days this way. When it rained, we raced from room to room, running up and down the stairs, or enjoying baked treats from Mrs. Blaylock’s baking.

The Blaylock children did not attend school with me as they were home-schooled. Nor did they attend church or other social functions as other families with children had a habit of doing.

None of this mattered to me, nor did it matter that that house was supposedly haunted.

“Is this home haunted?” I asked Mrs. Blaylock one afternoon before I had to be home myself.

“No, dear,” she smiled. “Not even the attic.”

I knew this was true, as we had often played in the attic on foul-weather days.

“You’re going to summer camp,” my parents announced before school let out for the summer of my twelfth year.

Though I said I didn’t want to go, they insisted, claiming that I needed to be around other kids my age. It would be three months before I saw home again.

As we passed the Blaylock House, I could see something was different about the place. Once home, I raced up the street to find the dwelling empty and quiet.

“What happened to the Blaylock’s, Alice, Johnny, and their mother?” I asked.

My parents acted as if they had no idea who I was speaking of and even told me that the house had been vacant for years. Though I argued that a family had lived there until I left for summer camp, my protestations fell on deaf ears.

By the time I was nineteen, my childhood memories of playing with the Blaylock children had faded. In college, I had come home on break.

It didn’t take long to learn that the local fire department would be using the now-dilapidated wood structure for practice. Sadly, I stood on the sidewalk across the street and witnessed the house set to blaze.

It was then that I noticed a little girl and her brother by one of the fire trucks looking my way. They smiled at me as a firefight passed between us. In the time it took for him to walk by, the pair vanished.

Seeing my two childhood friends stirred a long sleeping memory. It was then like, the 1940 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, I realized I had been ghostlighted.

Bachelorized

Shorty worked year-round to save all the money he could. He gathered wild cattle, broke the rough-stock, and mended miles of barbed wire and wood fences.

He was to marry the woman that worked behind the mercantile counter. Shorty planned to use his savings as a down payment on a piece of nearby land.

After drawing his final pay, he drove into town. There Shorty picked up a newspaper and saw the announcement saying she had married the local bank president.

He returned to the ranch the following day after tying-one-on and asked for his old job back. The ranch foreman was happy to have him back, sending him out to line-shack once again.

Hours later, he arrived at the shack and settled in for the night. He had a long day plan beginning the following morning.

With the buckboard and mules, Shorty set out to cut some firewood. Three loads later, he was ready to build a fire in the shack’s old pot-bellied stove.

He left the door open so he could watch the flames burn up a set of initials bordered by a heart carved into the bark. It was the only way Shorty stayed warm that winter.

My Cousin Elmo says, “My friend said he wouldn’t eat the tongue my wife served for dinner because it came out of a cow’s mouth, so she gave him some eggs instead.”

A Day in the Life of JCH720

He rushed back to his unit as soon as work let out. JCH720 had a schedule to maintain.

He quickly got on his stationary bike and began pedaling. He had to turn the green light to red before he was finished.

As he pedaled, he thought about how he’d seen his reflection in a large pane of glass. The sight of his boniness caught him by surprise.

“It is unlawful to look at yourself in anything reflective,” a supervisor said over the address system. “Do you understand?”

JCH720 nodded his head sharply and returned to work.

As soon as the light changed color, he went directly to the shower to rinse his body off. JCH720 changed into clean clothes, got his food, and sat on the floor in front of the broadcast screen.

No sooner had he taken a bite than the screen whined to life, and the computer-generated individual began reading news briefs. This was the daily highlight for JCH720.

After swallowing his final bit of food and rinsing it down with water, the news-reader said, “And as a reminder, it is unlawful to view oneself in any reflective object. Violators will be severely punished.”

“Thank you for being a good citizen. Goodnight,” the reader said, and the screen went blank.

JCH720 scooted across the floor to his sleeping pad and laid on it. He had a little more than a minute to think about what sort of punishment he would receive in the morning.

He knew better than to say anything aloud as he was sure that “the walls have ears.” In the distance and growing closer, JCH720 could hear the soft thudding of the switches as power was cut to each unit in the complex.

Fatigue quickly caught up with JCH720, and soon he was fast asleep.

Those Little Shakers Add Up

Mag 0.9 earthquake, NW of Walker, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 12:47 am
Mag 1.2 earthquake, E of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 8:07 am
Mag 1.4 earthquake WSW of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 1:08 pm
Mag 0.9 earthquake, NW of Walker, California, Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 8:06 pm
Mag 1.4 earthquake WSW of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 1:08 pm
Mag 1.0 earthquake, SE of Coleville, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 9:24 pm
Mag 1.2 earthquake, ENE of Walker, Calif., Friday, 6 Aug 2021, 10:23 pm

Mag 0.7 earthquake, ESE of Walker, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 1:02 am
Mag 1.4 earthquake, SW of Dayton, Nev., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 2:15 am
Mag 0.8 earthquake, W of Walker, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 3:29 am
Mag 1.2 earthquake, W of Walker, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021 4:40 am
Mag 1.9 earthquake, SE of Markleeville, Calif., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 6:12 pm
Mag 1.2 earthquake, NW of Virginia City, Nev., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 7:43 pm
Mag 0.9 earthquake, SSW of Dayton, Nev., Saturday, 7 Aug 2021, 8:26 pm

Mag 2.6 earthquake, WNW of Ruth, Nev., Sunday, 8 Aug 2021, 12:01 am
Mag 1.6 earthquake, NE of Dardanelle, CA, Sunday, 8 Aug 2021, 11:19 am

In Between Star Runs

Have you heard the one where I went on a three-minute date with a time-traveling princess from the Old West?
Brittan makes for a good story.
She arrived forty years too early.
My coffee was still hot, as was she.
Her hand-carved ivory cameo brooch winked and whistled at me.
I was delighted.
This beauty, though, was less than thrilled.
She expected a much younger man.
I was already child-like with my gray hairs and white whiskers.
Our minds tried to meld, but my hands could not grasp the reality she was offering.
In the blink of an eye, she vanished, and I became older than my many years.
I wish she’d left my dog behind.
Loneliness does not suit me in any world, off-or-on.

Mystery of Saint Mary, Part 3 of 3

They were surprised to see me.

Between them sat a large, old-fashioned ribbon microphone. I could not see what it was connected to.

The duo opened their mouths, and as one, they spoke. A deep guttural voice came from their throats as spittle gathered at the corners of their mouths, “You have made it this far.”

“But I’ll have to go no farther,” I returned.

“I’ll burn this house down to kill you!” they screamed.

“No you won’t,” I said. “Besides, we’re not finished with you yet.”

“We?” they demanded.

Picking up and speaking into the microphone, I answered, “Patience.”

“You can’t tell us to be patient!” they shouted.

I ignored them, pushing the heavy red velvet curtain aside, revealing a spiral staircase that I followed upward to a small, unadorned door at a recessed landing.

When I opened the door, I stepped into the parking lot. And as I walked up the hill, I heard their screams and Patience’s laughter as she set about her chores.

“Now, to figure out what to do about this head,” I said, though there was no one I was talking to.

Later, I would realize that I had forgotten to take even one photograph or a single note.

Mystery of Saint Mary, Part 2 of 3

The head was on the third step down from the landing leading to the basement museum.

The plaster dust and wreckage in the narrow stairwell were undisturbed. There was no blood or gore around the severed head and no sign of a body.

Still, I stepped toward it with caution. The stairs quivered slightly beneath my foot.

When I reached the head, I lifted my foot to step over it, and a dry chuckle caused me to pause.

“Turn me over,” came a muffled command.

With the toe of my boot, I did so. I found myself looking into a desiccated, older version of myself.

“How do I look?” the head asked me.

“Dead,” I told him.

The head coughed and laughed at the same time, “Did you think you could ever end up like this?”

“You’re not me,” I replied

“But I am,” the head grinned. “Will you take me with you?”

“Nope,” I answered.

The head glared at me, “Why not?”

Without a word, I stepped over him, as the head swore at me in a cheerful tone, and continued to do so for as long as I could hear him.

Mystery of Saint Mary, Part 1 of 3

He stopped me along Six-mile Canyon to pass on a bit of news.

Bill had been born and raised in Virginia City and, when he was old enough, he had joined the Navy and left town about as quick as he could. When he was thirteen, he had the misfortune of watching a drunken miner kill his saloon-keeping father.

Eventually, Bill returned, and he settled down, but not in VC. He had taken up residence in Dayton, but he did find occasion to come into VC now and again.

I was looking for a news story when Bill pulled up beside me, his wife and their children with him.

“Jus’ the man I want to see,” he said.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“Passed by St. Mary a few minutes ago,” Bill said. “The doors are open, and it looks like they’ve been open all night.”

“The priest?” I asked.

“No sign of him,” Bill said. “I took a quick look inside, and the place is pretty busted up.”

“Thanks for letting me know,” I said.

Bill tipped his hat and drove off.

I capped my camera lens, felt for my pen and pad before driving towards the historic old church.

Painful Waxing

Her mother drowned in the lake while saving her. For that, the six-year-old suffered both verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her father.

Daily, he shouted and cursed her, calling her a witch. In the evening, while drinking, he beat her with his hairbrush.

By the time she was ten, Sally believed that she deserved the beatings because she was a witch. Soon she began to dabble in the black arts, trying to learn any spell that might keep her from being harmed any further.

Time and time again, she tried one curse or another. Nothing seemed to stop her father from abusing her.

One morning, as Sally lit the candles she’d place on the points of the upside-down star, hidden beneath her bedroom rug, she hit on an idea. She could reuse the melted wax to create a doll of her father.

Throughout the day, she collected, heated, and molded the wax into the shape of a man. Then she found his hairbrush and pulled as many hairs from it as she could.

That evening she cut and sewed scraps of his old clothing into pants and a shirt. Once dressed and with hair in place, Sally knew she had the perfect doll for the next step in her plan.

The following day her father, hungover from the previous night, came down the hall to see her curled on the couch in front of the fireplace, holding the newly created doll. At the sight of this, he grabbed the figurine and dashed it into the flames.

She laughed wildly at his screams of pain, and his body both burned and began to melt.

“And you did it to yourself,” Sally smiled as the blaze became an inferno.