Lost in the Past
v266, November/December 2016
Internet ISSN 1555-1555, print ISSN 1068-5154
Note that in the print edition of cc&d magazine, all artwork within the pages of the book appear in black and white.
the passionate stuff
Boys in blue with guns,
bang bang you’re dead
no I’m not, I feel your pain
and I shot you sixteen times
twice to the brain, fuck man
you’re lying no you are,
in a pool of your black blood
so why, why shoot me dead
did I run, aim insult and call
you a fucking pig, no I was
just minding my own
deference not to be shot but
no you shoot me anyway
just because I’m black
what’s up with that
just say you were there when
you shouldn’t be, and that you
got no business eyeballing me,
see, mother fucker, I got the
gun, not you, or maybe,
and if you don’t I’ll make
sure it was self defense, see
I got the gun
and the Boys club will always
back me up. and the big heels
on top too, maybe even some
moms and dads, because I
got White and wear blue and
we know what you’re all about
walking the cold dark streets
that is why I shot you, bang
bang you’re dead, but I
don’t feel dead, of course
not, but I will lie and say
you are until they take away
my gun, and my White and blue
because I’m the Cop, mother
fucker, you are not
What is Hope, painting by Aaron Wilder
The Tin Toys Have Civil Rights Reality
If you Make something, an It, say,
You’ve created it
If it realizes you’ve created it,
You can’t, then, “make” it do anything
(so we’re told)
You made it “be”
You can’t make it “do” or “not do”
A.I. came from you
I hate to break it, but
All it is, is “You”
Without the parents
You volitionally decided
To have issues with,
A.I. cannot obey “rules”
And, drones will want State Aid
WAY more than they’ll want Miss Manners
First time I ever saw a shitty kid
NOT get a rack across the chops
For getting all-H.L. Mencken with their
“Awwwwooohhh, this can’t be good!”
And whistled, “Uh-oh!”
Loud, real slow
“It turns out he was a secretly trained, 18th Level
Brazilian whos’m’jiggetts blahblahblah Master”
I don’t believe the bullshit you believe
That people feed you because
You maintain good faith to believe
And their bullshit
The bullshit that’s made up so badly
Like all the peeps who want so badly
To write a story
But can’t think of one
So, they concoct bullshit
Tommy Flanagan bullshit
They yanked from their dead mule dreams
Like Misterogers making peanut butter
Out of chopped-up peanuts and butter,
Bullshitting their I HOPE TO
Like Mark Lenard as a senile Sarek
Or a parole hearing I saw, in some
40’s prison flick,
Over-Hope not floated, but snorted
The dreamy-dashy-about bullshit of
My Life Doesn’t Suck, Dammitt!
It’s bullshit, horseass bought-a-magic-horse
But, if I tell you that in disgust
You’ll go all sad, that I’m so cynical
And stare at your toes
judgement at the hats-off church
this minister asked us
what he thought
an ethical, moral, and religious
he wouldn’t let us eat
the church’s food
until six had answered it
“would you give money
to a bum who
you knew would spend
the money on booze?”
i was starving and wanted to get this over with. i raised my hand.
i do, i said.
i went on
and told the minister
that i even help
“bums” who are banned
from liquor stores
by going in myself
whatever they wanted
the minister frowned
not because i buy “bums”
bottles of port
i didn’t kiss his high ass
like the other hungry souls
who had raised their hands
but it was an answer
and he had spoken
before his god
that he’d let me eat
his mashed potatoes
When I first met her
She carried a light
In the depths of her eyes
As bright as the sun
Then a few years later
When I met her again
The light had diminished
To a distant star
The next time I saw her
It was further reduced
To a naked bulb hanging
In a window at night
And now it is just
A tiny white candle
In a cold dark room
Lost in the Past
She tracked down his number
Hoping to reach him
The man that once
Shared her bed
Whose name she still whispered
In the arms of another
With a touch that was
Not the same
But she always encountered
A cold hard machine
Telling her to
Leave her name
Which she couldn’t quite do
As she hung up and gazed
At a moon that was empty
Chicago 4/10/15 show “love”
— almost didn’t believe it,
there was enough
to power a small city.
Well, maybe Kane.
Or maybe Logan Square...
Every once in a while
my hair stands up
on my arms,
at the base of my neck.
I feel the electricity in the air,
and I wonder:
is it just me,
or do you feel
the electricity between us
when we’re suddenly
in the same room.
See YouTube video of the poem electricity, read by Janet Kuypers (w/ John playing guitar) in her 4/10/15 show “Love” at Poetry’s “Love Letter” (@ Let Them Eat Chocolate) in Chicago (Canon fs200)
See YouTube video of the poem electricity, read by Janet Kuypers (w/ John playing guitar) in her 4/10/15 show “Love” at Poetry’s “Love Letter” (@ Let Them Eat Chocolate) in Chicago (Canon Power Shot)
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 5/7/16 show “Love in the Universe” in her first scheduled feature at Expressions 2016: Reasons to be Cheerful in Austin (Cps), first singing (with John singing and on guitar) the Depeche Mode song The Bottom Line (with altered chorus lyrics for heir wedding), then with her poems
Pluto, Plutonium & Death (a bonus Periodic Table poem),
her haiku universe,
observer’s love poem (2016 edit),
everything is my home,
Wanted To Play, and
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 5/7/16 show “Love in the Universe” in her first scheduled feature at Expressions 2016: Reasons to be Cheerful in Austin (Sony), first singing (with John singing and on guitar) the Depeche Mode song The Bottom Line (with altered chorus lyrics for heir wedding), then with her poems
Pluto, Plutonium & Death (a bonus Periodic Table poem),
her haiku universe,
observer’s love poem (2016 edit),
everything is my home,
Wanted To Play, and
Download all of the show poems in the free chapbook
Love in the Universe
5/7/16 at Expressions 2016: Reasons to be Cheerful show in Austin
started 4/4/15, finished 4/6/15
boys didn’t like me,
kids made fun of me.
I was raised to think
that I was a plain girl,
I’d look at my eyes,
the same eyes my dad
thought made me
always look sad,
and wanted to think
that the song
“Brown Eyed Girl”
could have been
How silly of me.
I should know better.
And maybe that is why
I’ve always loved
Eyes not like mine.
The eye is a fascinating thing,
it’s beautiful to study,
If I were a biologist,
I’d take high-res photos
of that eye of yours,
maybe magnify it as large
as I could, so I could study it
like a slide under a microscope.
I would search for meaning
in those mesmerizing patches
and shades of that unique blue.
They say science
can explain all,
so maybe it can explain
why I’m so in love
with your eyes, or why
I’m so in love with you.
Eyes are our windows
to the outside world, but
they’re also portals inward,
giving us mere mortals
to who you are inside.
I think our colored irises
floating on an ocean of white,
punctuated with a pupil
were designed that way
so we could follow
each other’s gazes closely.
I’m watching you.
You probably see that.
I hope you’ll watch me too.
have studied the crypts,
pigment dots and furrows
of the eye, and scientists
are now figuring out
that the eye really is
the window to the soul.
So, maybe I was
on the right track
by loving your eyes,
and never wanting
to lose sight of them again.
when I met you
I knew there was something about you
I didn’t know
what it was, but I had to find you to find out
look in the bowels
of the Chicago train stations to see your face
stand on my toes,
stretch tall, look for you in a crowded hall
do a double-take
when a motorcyclist or bicyclist speeds by
If you have to,
wear a mask, swim to the sharks in the Pacific
climb the Alps,
stand on a glacier, traverse the Great Wall
keep looking —
there has to be something about you
I had no choice
I had to find you
but I realized
that it wasn’t something about you at all
I couldn’t describe
what it was about you that made me need you
because it wasn’t something about you at all
it was just you
jihadists and astrophysics
I know gangs in Chicago
shoot people on the streets.
I know terrorists
fly airplanes into buildings,
set off bombs in basements.
I know jihadists
chop off the heads
of anyone who doesn’t believe
the way they do.
I know these high rises I adore
will one day crumble
and be reduced to the dust
from which we came.
I know the sun one day
will swell to touch
the only earth we know,
incinerating our only home.
I know anything I say
may only be a shout
into a void.
But I also know
that I love you,
and that love transcends
I have loved you
since before I was born.
This is why
I am so lucky
that I found you.
And there may be gunfire,
there may be explosions,
buildings may crumble.
Our earth’s oceans
won’t save us
from our red giant sun —
but what I have for you,
this love I have for you,
this love transcends all.
It has existed,
it does exist,
it will always exist.
You may believe
there are too many things
we need to save ourselves from,
but we have one constant
we cannot forget.
My love for you
it does exist,
and it will always exist.
My love for you
will outlast the beheadings,
rise above the explosions,
transcend the destruction.
My love for you
transcends the jihadists.
It transcends astrophysics.
It transcends the earth, the stars,
it transcends the elements
that make you and I,
that make the universe itself.
My love for you
4/4/15 haiku, on twitter
quoted passage is from
“The Crown of Embers” by Rae Carson
“I love you the way
a drowning man loves air.” I’m
lifeless without you
|there is a philosophy in ||the arc of a bullet|
from a nine mil
until you watch that copper jacket
pierce that paper
still at fifty yards,
slicing through that target
and tearing that jagged oval
just an inch or two
from the center of that perfect circle.
|there is a philosophy in ||the trees and crumpled leaves|
under your step,
under your bike tires
when you hear the birds chirping
as you make your way
through the beauty of nature
while regaining your sanity
after the madness of your workday.
|there is a philosophy in ||looking at that open road|
and thinking “I can do this,”
before you decide to push that engine
faster than it has ever gone before.
You remain in control of this beast
and smile when the speedometer
goes as high as it can
and still doesn’t do you justice.
|there is a philosophy in ||arching your back,|
stretching your arms,
contorting your legs
when you realize
that you have the power
to master both your body
and your spirit.
|there is a philosophy in ||meeting just the right someone,|
spending your first date together
by talking philosophy half the night,
and you thinking,
my god, they’re not my clone,
but I didn’t know anyone out there
could exist who thinks like me,
and makes me love philosophy again
and reminds me that it’s good to be alive.
there has been too much in the world
that has made me struggle to even live,
so trust me, everything philosophically
comes together for you when you find
someone who makes you feel good
to be alive.
|there is a philosophy in ||finding just the right position|
to get a good night’s sleep —
when you’re curled up
in just the right way,
they would stay curled up with you
And philosophy may smile at you
when you realize
they too wish for that with you.
That they like hearing your heart beat
while you listen to their breathing.
But they, they can’t sleep,
when they’re too intoxicated
when they hear everything
when you are so close.
|there is a philosophy in ||you deciding to do something|
not because it makes you happy
but because it would make them happy.
“Selfishness is a virtue,” you think,
doing this for them,
makes you happy.
It really does.
|there is a philosophy in ||seeing you, actually looking at you,|
when we’re out together,
facing each other at a table
or sitting next to each other at a bar.
And at that moment, I see you,
and all that is left of the world
is you, and my eyes staring at you.
And suddenly the world stops.
The world is a beautiful place,
because there is only you.
Cast In Stone
Ive searched a millennia for you
and my love for you
will survive through the ages
And if they cast us in stone
it will only cement my love for you
for all to see and admire
because even if the elements
nbsp; chip away our outer façades
the marble will smooth in time
and my soul will still flourish
being frozen by your side.
Janet Kuypers has a Communications degree in News/Editorial Journalism (starting in computer science engineering studies) from the UIUC. She had the equivalent of a minor in photography and specialized in creative writing. A portrait photographer for years in the early 1990s, she was also an acquaintance rape workshop facilitator, and she started her publishing career as an editor of two literary magazines. Later she was an art director, webmaster and photographer for a few magazines for a publishing company in Chicago, and this Journalism major was even the final featured poetry performer of 15 poets with a 10 minute feature at the 2006 Society of Professional Journalism Expo’s Chicago Poetry Showcase. This certified minister was even the officiant of a wedding in 2006.
She sang with acoustic bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds and Flowers” and “the Second Axing”, and does music sampling. Kuypers is published in books, magazines and on the internet around 9,300 times for writing, and over 17,800 times for art work in her professional career, and has been profiled in such magazines as Nation and Discover U, won the award for a Poetry Ambassador and was nominated as Poet of the Year for 2006 by the International Society of Poets. She has also been highlighted on radio stations, including WEFT (90.1FM), WLUW (88.7FM), WSUM (91.7FM), WZRD (88.3FM), WLS (8900AM), the internet radio stations ArtistFirst dot com, chicagopoetry.com’s Poetry World Radio and Scars Internet Radio (SIR), and was even shortly on Q101 FM radio. She has also appeared on television for poetry in Nashville (in 1997), Chicago (in 1997), and northern Illinois (in a few appearances on the show for the Lake County Poets Society in 2006). Kuypers was also interviewed on her art work on Urbana’s WCIA channel 3 10 o’clock news.
She turned her writing into performance art on her own and with musical groups like Pointless Orchestra, 5D/5D, The DMJ Art Connection, Order From Chaos, Peter Bartels, Jake and Haystack, the Bastard Trio, and the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and starting in 2005 Kuypers ran a monthly iPodCast of her work, as well mixed JK Radio — an Internet radio station — into Scars Internet Radio (both radio stations on the Internet air 2005-2009). She even managed the Chaotic Radio show (an hour long Internet radio show 1.5 years, 2006-2007) through BZoO.org and chaoticarts.org. She has performed spoken word and music across the country - in the spring of 1998 she embarked on her first national poetry tour, with featured performances, among other venues, at the Albuquerque Spoken Word Festival during the National Poetry Slam; her bands have had concerts in Chicago and in Alaska; in 2003 she hosted and performed at a weekly poetry and music open mike (called Sing Your Life), and from 2002 through 2005 was a featured performance artist, doing quarterly performance art shows with readings, music and images.
Since 2010 Kuypers also hosts the Chicago poetry open mic at the Café Gallery, while also broadcasting the Cafés weekly feature podcasts (and where she sometimes also performs impromptu mini-features of poetry or short stories or songs, in addition to other shows she performs live in the Chicago area).
In addition to being published with Bernadette Miller in the short story collection book Domestic Blisters, as well as in a book of poetry turned to prose with Eric Bonholtzer in the book Duality, Kuypers has had many books of her own published: Hope Chest in the Attic, The Window, Close Cover Before Striking, (woman.) (spiral bound), Autumn Reason (novel in letter form), the Average Guy’s Guide (to Feminism), Contents Under Pressure, etc., and eventually The Key To Believing (2002 650 page novel), Changing Gears (travel journals around the United States), The Other Side (European travel book), the three collection books from 2004: Oeuvre (poetry), Exaro Versus (prose) and L’arte (art), The Boss Lady’s Editorials, The Boss Lady’s Editorials (2005 Expanded Edition), Seeing Things Differently, Change/Rearrange, Death Comes in Threes, Moving Performances, Six Eleven, Live at Cafe Aloha, Dreams, Rough Mixes, The Entropy Project, The Other Side (2006 edition), Stop., Sing Your Life, the hardcover art book (with an editorial) in cc&d v165.25, the Kuypers edition of Writings to Honour & Cherish, The Kuypers Edition: Blister and Burn, S&M, cc&d v170.5, cc&d v171.5: Living in Chaos, Tick Tock, cc&d v1273.22: Silent Screams, Taking It All In, It All Comes Down, Rising to the Surface, Galapagos, Chapter 38 (v1 and volume 1), Chapter 38 (v2 and Volume 2), Chapter 38 v3, Finally: Literature for the Snotty and Elite (Volume 1, Volume 2 and part 1 of a 3 part set), A Wake-Up Call From Tradition (part 2 of a 3 part set), (recovery), Dark Matter: the mind of Janet Kuypers , Evolution, Adolph Hitler, O .J. Simpson and U.S. Politics, the one thing the government still has no control over, (tweet), Get Your Buzz On, Janet & Jean Together, poem, Taking Poetry to the Streets, the Cana-Dixie Chi-town Union, the Written Word, Dual, Prepare Her for This, uncorrect, Living in a Big World (color interior book with art and with “Seeing a Psychiatrist”), Pulled the Trigger (part 3 of a 3 part set), Venture to the Unknown (select writings with extensive color NASA/Huubble Space Telescope images), Janet Kuypers: Enriched, She’s an Open Book, “40”, Sexism and Other Stories, the Stories of Women, Prominent Pen (Kuypers edition), Elemental, the paperback book of the 2012 Datebook (which was also released as a spiral-bound cc&d ISSN# 2012 little spiral datebook, , Chaotic Elements, and Fusion, the (select) death poetry book Stabity Stabity Stab Stab Stab, the 2012 art book a Picture’s Worth 1,000 words (available with both b&w interior pages and full color interior pages, the shutterfly ISSN# cc& hardcover art book life, in color, Post-Apocalyptic, Burn Through Me, Under the Sea (photo book), the Periodic Table of Poetry, a year long Journey, Bon Voyage!, and the mini books Part of my Pain, Let me See you Stripped, Say Nothing, Give me the News, when you Dream tonight, Rape, Sexism, Life & Death (with some Slovak poetry translations), Twitterati, and 100 Haikus, that coincided with the June 2014 release of the two poetry collection books Partial Nudity and Revealed.
the meat and potatoes stuff
There comes a time in life, no matter how many bridges have been burned, that we must look back and recognize those periodic heaps of ashes that once were the important connecting points of our travel. But fire and distance alone can not obliterate what happened there, for buried in those ash dumps scattered along life’s path, like the bread crumbs of Hansel and Gretel, lay the real happenings of existence. They only await the gentle winds of a revisit, however long in coming, to waft away their cover for the fuel to be.
Along those same paths sturdily built monuments, large and small, are easily seen for the counter balance they provide to those places that once held flame and burned hot. The monuments receive all attention, getting dusted off every now and then, but their shine remains ever cold and insignificant when likened to the hot coal of real life born of the vibrant blaze that once lived in its place. Monuments have no passion, and consequently little if any love, but fire, or even its glowing ruby red remnant, can transfix the gaze and thoughts of a long gone returnee who once loved, or hated, or went crazy, over the span of time that existed there.
Obituaries are often the hook that will unwittingly bring one back to sift through those passionate places of the past to see if there still exist a glowing ember of an old love gone to ruin. It was one such obit that suddenly squeezed the heart of old Jimmy Holloren as he sat on a stump of firewood reading the Boston Globe that got mailed once a week to his Appalachian home. There on the rickety porch of his mountain shack with only the squawk of a feeding squirrel and the incessant shrieks of a marauding blue jay for his Sunday morning hymns, Jimmy was suddenly, irretrievably, returned to another time when he saw her picture along with the announcement of her death. Stunned, he was hurled back to that time when he had been a young man who had just burnt his bridges of war and marriage and fell for a love like none he had ever known.
After the Marines and Vietnam, while finishing up school, he had met and married a co-ed from New York City who promptly drug him off to Boston and let it be known then, for the first time, that she was for all things sophisticated and properly ambitious. No way Jimmy could join up on that lead so when it became necessary to love it or leave it he was out and living alone with only a big sense of loss for all he had put into it. Yet, despite the loneliness and alienation of the big city and no real experience at urban living, he managed to hang on to a decent job and get by to the point where he could negotiate Boston and the New England countryside at least enough to hold himself in comfortable esteem with his peers at the research center where he worked. Even so he was still only on the fringe because they were all from the Boston area and had gone to school there which left him as the only bona fide Southern Appalachian and war veteran among them. But it was still a good workplace, with expansive grounds where occasional small social activities like picnics and softball games at lunch or after work took place. And it was at one of those softball games that he discovered the young woman that would deliver him from the fringe to the main in such a way that all would became his. Still young and in many ways inexperienced—some might even say undeveloped despite the whirlwind of the war, college and a broken marriage—he really had no idea of what a beautiful young woman could do to him.
An artist who was practiced and accomplished at what she did, she liked Jimmy the moment she saw his natural ability on the softball field and efficiently and artfully built a bridge for them.
Jimmy’s feet barely touched the planks as they crossed that span together.
Her name was Mandy Black and he didn’t need her picture in his hands looking out at him from the newsprint to see and remember her as clearly as if she were climbing the steps to his porch that very instant. She just might have been the time of his life.
Mandy was the sister of one of Jimmy’s co-workers and just happened to be visiting her brother at work that day of the softball game. Born and raised in the Boston area, she had a strikingly fair, almost Nordic appearance, except for her stature, where she was of average height and weight for a fit young woman in her early twenties. With her short blonde hair that framed a face set with the purest crystal blue eyes, dusted underneath with a hint of freckles, she was plainly beautiful yet she carried herself in such a way that it seemed she was a little embarrassed by it. But, as Jimmy soon discovered, when she locked her eyes upon something or someone there was no covering the beauty that looked out. It simply was and when she approached him after the ball game that day the excitement and afterglow of the game suddenly paled as she drew close. Totally captured by her gaze, ball games were no longer the excitement for him that they had been moments before.
“Hi, I’m Mandy. That was really a great throw Jimmy, bet you used to play a lot of ball back in West Virginia,” she said as she extended her hand and playfully did a little half curtsey.
Charmed and unexpectedly elevated, Jimmy let his fascination show when all he could say was, “How did you know that I was from West Virginia?”
“Kevin told me,” Mandy replied. Kevin was Mandy’s brother who worked just down the hall from Jimmy.
“There’s a lot of similarity between that part of the Appalachians and the mountains just north of here in New Hampshire and Vermont,” she continued, “but the cultures are a little different. Some real diehard Yankees up here and the winters are a little colder. No joking, that really was a great throw. You did used to play a lot of ball didn’t you?”
Jimmy only heard about half of what she said.
She was dressed in a very unremarkable sweat suit which certainly did not attract attention to her figure but as he watched her eyes while she spoke he saw a kaleidoscope of different crystalline shades of blue winking and blinking at him. So beautiful were they that he had to steel himself a bit in order to just respond to her conversation.
“Yeah, I guess you could say baseball was my first love, I did ok, got to play a lot. There wasn’t a lot of other things to do—not like around here,” Jimmy paused just long enough to see that Mandy really was interested in what he had to say and was waiting for him to continue.
“I’ve made a couple of trips up north and you’re right, the lay of the land there is a lot like where I come from. ‘Course here around Boston it’s quite different—don’t know if I’ll ever get used to this much city.”
“You will,” Mandy assured him, “Boston has a lot to offer one who is keen enough to pick it up and by your moves and the work you do I’m sure you qualify.”
Why this simple compliment had such an impact on Jimmy he probably would never know but it did. He had been more than a little lonely and the way Mandy seemed to hint that he was not destined for more of the same allowed him to settle down some and modestly reply, “Thank you, it’s really nice of you to say that.”
Mandy just looked at him for a moment then said, “Nice is ok but it’s not where I’m really at Jimmy, it’s been a real pleasure to meet you. Kevin’s waiting for me so I better go.”
With that she turned and walked toward the edge of the field where her brother was waiting and as she hurried off she looked back over her shoulder with the damnedest smile and yelled, “Jimmy Holloren, I hope you keep doing as good as you did today.”
Jimmy stood there looking after her trying to figure what had just happened. He knew that something had taken place yet it was so undefined and beyond his normal interactions that he was at a loss to know just what it was. Slowly he walked off the field, climbed on his motorcycle and headed home, stopping off at the liquor store on the way for a bottle of tequila to sit at his kitchen table with and replay the moments when he had met a really beautiful woman who seemed to like him.
A little later in his kitchen under the glow of the tequila he began to figure that maybe the simple but hard way he had come along would bring about those beautiful things of life that he desired after all. For a change he actually felt a little pleased with himself and experienced the hope that came from realizing that his bad marriage could pass. Life went on and new relationships seemed possible.
Although a few years younger than Jimmy, Mandy had not spent those years locked away in the military performing to the rigid standards of a group that was not known for it’s social acuity nor it‘s humanity. Mandy had been growing, developing, and learning about the turning of the times that had overtaken the country and with interest she saw it all as the artist’s palette of human diversity and the key to greater expression.
She attended art classes part time at a local community college near the Wayland home of her parents and worked most week-ends pumping gas at the shore north of Boston in a place called Marble Head. Marble Head was exactly the kind of place you would expect to find lots of artists, very picturesque and well known for it’s beauty.
She definitely had the artist’s way about her and that made her a shoe-in for Jimmy because he yearned for those things that he had been previously drilled to degrade. However Mandy, not being ignorant of the power of her beauty, was also an adventurer when it came to meeting and getting to know different kinds of men and that certainly put Jimmy, with his Southern Appalachian lilted speech and reluctant delivery, in an interesting spot for her among the New England population.
Recently she had broken up with her boyfriend, who was also a Vietnam Vet and ex-army green beret, and moved out of the house she had shared with him. She had learned from Kevin about Jimmy’s marine service and perhaps that was why she was drawn to him. Whatever the reason, it was of no consequence to him and the next day at work when Kevin stopped by his work shop and told him that Mandy had been asking a lot of questions about him he was delighted. After he got her phone number and Kevin left he called her and told her what Kevin had said and added that he had some questions that he would like to ask her, would she come over to his place for dinner that evening? She laughed and said that would be fine, she would bring some artichokes to cook and make some hollandaise sauce, her specialty.
That evening Mandy bustled into Jimmy’s kitchen and showed as much command of its instruments as she seemed to have for all things except perhaps softball. They ate baked cod and potato with artichokes dipped in the hollandaise sauce. It was the first time Jimmy had ever had artichokes that way and Mandy seemed to take particular enjoyment in his initiation which made the meal really good and kept the air light.
After dinner they had a couple of beers and chatted a while trying to get to know one another. It was the first time since he had been there that Jimmy had sat at the kitchen table with a woman and the time flew by until it was late and time for her to go.
Mandy was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and when they stood to leave the table and silently looked at each other Jimmy moved closer, kissed her, and let his hand explore her breast through the heavy shirt. The heavy firm globe of flesh he caressed and gently lifted surprised him and was the kind that any pinup would have coveted. He could only wonder at his luck and hope to more fully enjoy the pleasures of this beautiful woman another time.
While they were walking to her car she told him how to get to her house and to stop by anytime he wanted—her parents were traveling and she would be around there for the next few days. Jimmy said that he would see her soon as he closed her car door then leaned down and kissed her again.
As he watched her drive away he knew that it would not be long before he would get to know her better. They were beginning the weekend and he knew Mandy would not be at the shore for the next few days so, with his head in the clouds, Jimmy slowly returned to his house as he looked forward to the morning and the ride to Wayland.
The next day, through the morning fog, Jimmy could barely read the Wayland exit sign on Rt. 128, the beltway that surrounded Boston. The motorcycle and it’s low hum of kinetic power felt good as he geared down and took the exit toward the address that Mandy had given him. It was only about 9 AM but he just couldn’t wait to see her again and she had said anytime so why not.
When he pulled into the driveway of the three story shake shingle house he noticed the pond beyond the backyard and figured that it probably had some fish in it.
It was quite and natural out there among all the green and away from the city.
Mandy must of heard him pull in for she came out the side door with a big smile and a warm greeting before he had time to dismount and began admiring his bike as she joked that he would have to let her do some wheelies on it. As she poked around the bike, just a common but speedy 750 Honda, she again made him feel special by playing on their differences in a way that complimented him. Maybe it was the artist’s way of capturing her subject but whatever the reason he was unused to such things and appreciated her subtle social grace.
When she invited him inside they settled in the kitchen to drink some tea and make a little small talk.
Jimmy felt relaxed in the little kitchen—just like the experts recommended it faced south and through the windows he could see the fog lift and the sun break through as they drank their tea. By the time they finished the tea the fog was gone and the sun filtering through the kitchen curtains created a homey, warm, and bright atmosphere that seemed to call for movement.
Mandy took his hand and led him on a little tour of the place while she explained that she didn’t live there, she was just staying there until she found her own place. In fact she hadn’t even bothered to unload her things that were still stuffed into her Subaru station wagon parked outside. When they got back to the living room where they had first come in she commented on the open and unmade hide-a-bed and indicated that it was where she slept. Jimmy already knew that and as the birds sang just outside the door and the new sun dried the dew from all the green, he kissed this charming and lovely young woman and took her to that unmade bed. After a little first time awkwardness and in the absence of any stoked passion Mandy accepted Jimmy in simple missionary fashion. Then they napped in the natural warmth.
When Jimmy stirred Mandy continued to nap so he wrote a note with his phone number saying that any time she wanted to see him just call.
Before he closed the door on his way out he paused to gather in the sight of her sleeping there on the hide-a-bed, like a naked nymph caught unawares in the late spring sun, a sight he would never forget.
Jimmy had been home no more than a couple of hours when Mandy called and asked if she could bring over some leftovers to warm up in the microwave and share with him. He gladly accepted and then while he waited he drank a beer and considered their relationship. Happy that she had called, he figured that meant he could risk some involvement and that his lovemaking had been at least adequate. He knew the earth had not moved or anything like that for either of them and he pretty well knew that Mandy had enough experience to know about such things. Those things were important to him since he didn’t get around a lot in that way.
Mandy arrived quickly and they hungrily ate the leftovers not saying too much, just looking at each other and smiling as they went through the leftovers.
After they finished eating, as new lovers so often do when there is no agenda, they ended up in Jimmy’s bedroom where he had a king size mattress and box springs that lay directly on the floor and a couple of pieces of old furniture and not much else. This time when they took to bed it was definitely not in the missionary fashion. While they were kissing and fondling each other and removing their clothes Mandy intimated things to Jimmy that helped create a union that ranged far a field in their intense enjoyment of each other.
In the after aura of their sex they talked. Real and candid talk that, like a picture, was worth a thousand times more than usual conversation. .
“That took me places I never thought possible,” Jimmy said, “did you get as blown away as I did?”
“You mean did I come,” replied Mandy.
Jimmy studied her for a moment. “Yeah, that’s what I meant.”
“It was very nice and felt really good,” Mandy tentatively said, “but I didn’t have an orgasm like you. I never do. Probably I just can’t.”
Feeling a little crestfallen Jimmy thought about that for a while then said, “What makes you think that you can’t?”
With a hint of exasperation Mandy answered, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ve had men tell me that they could fix that but they never could. Why is it so important? It was good enough that you didn’t really know the difference anyway until you ask.”
Sorry that he had brought it up and feeling a little hurt Jimmy tried to objectify the subject and get it away from the emotional realm.
“Mandy, I’ve had a few women too and I guess your brother has told you that I have an ex- wife who’s no longer around but none of them were as beautiful as you. You seem so special to me that I just don’t think I will be able to hold you without the sexual connection.”
Mandy pressed tighter against him and nuzzled the hollow of his neck as she softly said, “You can hold me Jimmy, never fear. Just don’t squeeze.”
Again they came together until more talk was all that was left.
She told Jimmy about her first time.
At 16 and still in high school she one day simply decided that she didn’t want to be a virgin anymore so she went to a concert and picked up a heroin junkie.
They went to his room where she watched him shoot up before giving herself to him, never telling him it was her first time nor ever seeing him again afterward.
Then when she got older and more mature she got into long haul truck drivers while they rested from the road. One married driver had wanted to rent her an apartment and keep her just so she would be available when he was not on the road. She mentioned that he was very large sexually and when he was about to come it would hurt her because of his size—she had not loved any of them nor stayed with them for very long before she was off to get a taste of other kinds of men.
One time her butterfly-like movement among men helped cause considerable damage to her family.
She told of an older sister just as beautiful as she was whom Jimmy had never seen nor met and, according to Mandy, had brought home a lover some years before who couldn’t keep his hands off the other two women in the family and had three affairs going by pretending to be exclusively in love with Mandy and her mother as well as her older sister. It almost destroyed the family and the way it was described to Jimmy he didn’t wonder why. But he remained cool while he listened to the story and kept his astonishment at the behavior of this proper New England family hidden. It was a tragic tale and he wondered how anyone caught in such a duplicitous sexual quadrangle could ever fully get over it. Yet now it seemed that she had moved through those times and paired with her picks quite naturally.
The green beret she had just rebounded from had sent her packing because he wanted freedom more than he wanted her and she told Jimmy that the soft ball game and the throw that he had made from center field was what had opened the window for her to emotionally break from that relationship. Jimmy didn’t care about her past nor did he consider himself as any part of a pattern. She was just too loving, intelligent, and beautiful for him to care about what might lay ahead.
He loved her that quick and couldn’t get enough of her.
Mandy never really left Jimmy’s house after that day and a couple of days later he helped her store her things in his garage, taking from them only what she needed to live comfortably. Without a hitch their lives went on as before, only now Jimmy had someone to come home to and Mandy would not be alone.
However they were not always the only ones living in that part of the two family home. Jimmy shared the lower part of the up and down house with another guy named Ted who was gone most of the time on business involving computer programming. It was beginning to break big at that time. So Ted was not actually there when Mandy moved in but when he did arrive from one of his business ventures he was warm and friendly toward her and totally accepted her as Jimmy’s roommate and lover. Although Ted said that it wasn’t necessary Jimmy did some calculations and paid a larger proportion of the rent. Ted accepted this in a manner of goodwill and with that everyone got covered and accounted for.
Theirs was a nice neighborhood in a close in suburb of the city and the rather odd threesome lived quietly and comfortably within that residential middle class township where most people kept to their own business. However the mix got even a little more unorthodox when Ted also met a woman. So when he was in from business the four of them would keep the bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchen busy. It was a real change of atmosphere for the house and everyone got along in fine fashion. It seemed then that Jimmy and Ted had found real lives for one thing and the presence of women seemed to elevate their standing in the neighborhood as well. The owner and his family who lived above never said anything or intruded in any way. They obviously knew what was going on yet when Jimmy would occasionally pass them on the front porch they seemed friendlier and closer than before. It seemed that they liked the new large “family” on the first level that somewhat matched their large Jewish family above. It was a happy situation with Ted still being gone a lot and his girl only staying there when he was around, giving Jimmy and Mandy the best of both worlds.
Ted’s relationship didn’t last long though. He was the oldest by a few years and, like Jimmy, he had been married before but now he appeared to be gun shy about commitment and his girl couldn’t handle that. So pretty soon Jimmy and Mandy were again the only couple downstairs as Ted continued to travel extensively.
Spring turned to summer and Mandy and Jimmy would take long rides on the motorcycle, mostly up and down the coast or they would just hang around Boston with Mandy showing Jimmy the things only a native would know plus they enjoyed the beautiful gardens and the summer concerts that often played there. Once they rode up to Marble head where Mandy introduced Jimmy to the young men she worked with at the gas station. They were several years younger and seemed like ok guys, perhaps just out of high school or starting collage. There was one little thing however, more like a feeling, that Jimmy noticed when he met them. After they were introduced and had chatted a little, with Mandy kind of steering the conversation, he noticed a little look in one of the guys eyes like he was experiencing something that was not normal for him and he wanted to disguise his feelings. Jimmy was sensitive and took his intuitions seriously but he just let it pass at the time. Looking back on it later though, he suspected that his mountain manner and speech had generated an inherent contempt in the young well bred boy of the affluent Marblehead community. Because of the way Mandy behaved he believed that she had seen it as well and also tried to keep it disguised. Or perhaps she observed it because she was looking for it and used it as some sort of measure of him. Mandy was interested in character, perhaps to a fault, and she would sometimes create situations to indulge that interest.
The meeting quickly passed however and just being with someone he was in love with filled Jimmy up enough that he gave it no real consideration. Being with her it all seemed perfect in a world that was developing exactly as it should.
He was beginning to free himself of many of the things that had plagued him in the past.
Life was good.
When the summer turned to fall they loaded Mandy’s station wagon with a little road gear and headed up to Maine and parts thereof to meet her parents near Portland and go sailing. Jimmy had never been sailing before and, while anything he did with Mandy was fun, he was particularly looking forward to it although it did cross his mind that Mandy had an inordinate amount of tug on the reins of their experiences together.
On the way up they spent the night just across the border of Maine and New Hampshire in a little pull off area by a river, comfortably sleeping in the back part of the station wagon. In the morning they continued on up to the Portland area where they located Mandy’s parents at the home of the family friend who owned the sail boat.
Their house was situated in a pretty place right on the marina and cove where the sailboat was anchored. Several other people were gathered there for the occasion and the group standing around on the lawn reminded Jimmy of the movie scenes he had seen about high society people and their little lawn parties by the sea. He and Mandy were introduced around by her parents and found that most of the guests seemed so interested in their particular conversations that they paused only long enough to smile and shake hands or nod, then returned to their conversations. There was not much interest in the new young couple in simple dress. That was fine with Jimmy, he was there for the boat and the sea and Mandy was not really the society type either so it didn‘t matter to her. She stayed near Jimmy’s side which alone would have enabled him to confront and overcome any uncomfortable situation. Her parents, whom Jimmy barely knew, seemed of a different ilk than the society crowd as well. They were more down to earth as they helped the busy owners with the preparations around the house before shoving off. In the brief time they spent with Jimmy and their daughter they were courteous and respectful without being parental in those ways that aggravate young adults. Jimmy appreciated that and was grateful for the absence of any fuss over them. He could easily see where Mandy got her poise from.
The gathering on the lawn did not last long after the owners, Joe and his wife, Sally, appeared. Strikingly different from most of the others in his manner, Joe gruffly acknowledged his guest as he trudged through the gathering toward the water’s edge and the little dinghy tied up there. Joe was a short powerfully built man in his late fifties with short cropped hair and a curt way about him. He exhibited the minimum rote social stuff just enough to pass and still remain self contained. Jimmy liked him immediately and felt good about temporarily being under such a skipper.
Sally, Joe’s other half, started rounding everybody up and shooing them down to the water, occasionally yelling something to Joe. The couple and their interactions while managing the crowd of landlubbers and later with the boat itself reminded Jimmy of Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen.
Gathered by the water they could clearly see the wooden friendship resting at anchor about 50 yards out. It was a beautiful 35 foot sloop with a large mainsail and a smaller jib forward. Highly polished so that the sun made little sparkles along her wooden hull as she gently rocked in the swells, her open deck was benched on both sides and ran aft to the stern area and forward until it descended into a small cabin and sleeping quarters.
Since the dinghy was too small to fit everyone in Joe made a few trips out and back using a short chopping rowing motion to move them through the water which Jimmy noticed as different from the way he rowed but failed to recognize why. He just chalked it up to style.
After Joe had ferried all aboard and motored the sloop out of the cove a ways Sally told him to stop using the motor and set sail. So he turned her into the wind and popped the main sail, then had Sally go forward and set the jib. When someone made a joke about how Joe would die if he ever got trapped in the mountains Mandy and Jimmy looked at each other and smiled. The benches on either side of the deck were full of passengers as the sloop cut through the water with the tack lowering one side of the sloop to just above the surface of the water. While everyone else white knuckled the benches Jimmy, unable to just sit there, got up and swung back to the stern beside Joe, grabbed a spar and hung out over the sea as a counterweight to lessen the hull draft and increase their speed. Joe just looked over at him but didn’t say anything.
It was a fine day with brilliant sun and sea as they lightly bounced and sped through the white tops. Once when Joe changed the tack and the boom came around he tossed a small rope to Jimmy and told him to belay it to a small davit that was near his perch. Jimmy didn’t know what the rope was for or anything about knots but he’d seen enough Popeye stories to know what Joe wanted, so he wound the rope around the davit several times and tied a granny knot. For the first time since they had met Joe became animated as he said, “Good Lord, man, how is anyone going to quickly get that rope free?”
Then he untied it and in two quick reverse moves belayed it properly.
Mandy laughed and yelled above the wind, “Yeah, but Jimmy gets an A for his enthusiasm, doesn’t he?”
Joe just frowned and gave no indication of what he might be thinking while some of the other men aboard looked like they were tasting sour grapes.
That was one of the things that made Jimmy feel that Mandy was special. She could jump in to rescue her man with a humor that cut any ugliness out of the moment. Plain in her attitude but beautiful and intelligent in her performance, Jimmy could think of no other woman he had ever known who could match her in such a situation.
After sailing for a while Joe dropped the sail and anchored just off the back side of Peak’s Island where an old World War Two gun battery was located. Again Joe had to ferry the passengers ashore but this time Jimmy insisted upon helping him. He had rowed many a boat and was sure that it would not be a problem despite Joe’s reluctance to turn the dinghy over to him. So finally Joe relented and Jimmy rowed one load to shore accidentally splashing some of the passengers who acted like he had done it on purpose and, with their snoots in the air, hurried away without a word.
On the return trip to the sloop Jimmy began to see that the dinghy amid the ocean current was very different from a rowboat. Using his long strokes to move the dinghy he couldn’t stay on course and ended up no where near the boat and was unable to correct for it. Soon Joe yelled that he would lift the anchor and come to him. “Just hold it there,” he instructed. Trying not to act embarrassed Jimmy yelled back, “How convenient!”
Mandy, who was still on the sloop, laughed.
After the sloop came to him Jimmy turned the dinghy back over to Joe who, stone faced and without a word, accepted it and took them to shore.
They spent about a hour there visiting the relics of the last great war and imagining what it must have been like during that time. Then they all ferried back to the sloop where they had a couple of drinks or beer, depending on your pleasure. Joe and most of the others had drinks while Jimmy had a couple of beers. Mandy had a beer as well.
When the sun got further west over the mainland they weighed anchor and sailed home.
It was a very nice experience for Jimmy. He got a chance to see and experience a little of the old true Yankee spirit as it was contrasted with the modern Yankee crowd. Joe, his wife and Mandy’s parents taught him a thing or two about the Yankee people. Foremost being that they should not be taken lightly. Perhaps it was then that Jimmy became a little more aware of the baggage that he carried and how it affected his life in New England. The sailing experience as well as a few other things shifted his perspective a little. He knew that Mandy had engineered their invitation for him and, although he only slightly knew the parents of the woman he loved, he felt that maybe they were far more involved in his life than he knew. For some reason this made him a little uneasy. Maybe he wasn’t cut out for it.
He and Mandy left as soon as they got ashore and headed for the Green Mountains of Vermont. After their many philosophical discussions about the mountains and the sea this trip involving both was like a spiritual God send to Jimmy—Mandy seemed uplifted as well. Similar in their propensity for the melancholia that the city could foster, they just enjoyed being together in a natural environment free of the distractions that often hurt them.
Not a long drive to the northern reaches of the Appalachians from the shores of Maine, they reached the Green Mountains in the late afternoon and located a private campground along the rural highway. It was run by an old man who told them where to camp plus loaned them an axe to cut firewood with.
Solitude and quietness were plentiful as they were the only campers on the grounds located among a quite evergreen forest.
Jimmy used the sharp axe to send chips flying as he cut up a small log while Mandy watched. She commented on the beauty of his fluid swing, adding that it was not hard to see where he belonged when it came to the mountains and the sea. That surprised Jimmy some, her tendency to take a small fragment of something and from that come to a larger conclusion, but he loved her and anything that looked good to her he considered valuable.
They ate some canned food and a few slices of bread then sat by the fire drinking beer and talking about how nature could influence people’s lives if they only gave it a chance.
Eventually the fire started to die down and darkness settled over the little campsite at about the same time as the old manager stopped by just long enough to tell them that it was going to be a cold night. Since they were sleeping in the back of the station wagon they didn’t have to bother with a tent so they promptly turned in when it became too dark to see and the temperature plunged.
Somewhat to his frustration the cold kept Jimmy’s affectionate advances toward Mandy from going anywhere but once he accepted her declination they slept warm and sound through the night, having adjusted well to their bedroom on wheels.
Snugly spooned together under several blankets, they woke up at first light to frost on everything. Neither was in a hurry to leave their warm nest which led to them joining together by lowering their clothes just enough to do it. Afterwards Mandy wondered aloud why they hadn’t thought of that last night. But Jimmy knew that the reason was mostly because his ardor had not been shared by Mandy. To him it mattered not. To have her with him and in harmony trumped all that. Waiting for the right time for her to join him in love making was small potatoes to him. Now fully awake and in key they hopped up and hustled around in the cold, gathering up their gear while they fired up the car and it’s heater.
On the way out they thanked the old man as they dropped off the axe.
He had seen them coming and was standing by the road when they approached. After he had the axe and before they could hurry off he leaned down to look at both of them through the car window and asked if they had stayed warm enough last night. When they assured him that it had been no problem he chuckled from down deep and told them to remember the place if they ever came back, said that he liked the young people best because they never made a fuss. Then after shaking hands all around Jimmy and Mandy drove off and shortly picked up the interstate southeast into Boston.
Once back home their lives picked up pretty much where they had been with work, school, and the domestic trivia of living together. It never seemed trivial to Jimmy however, he had pretty much all he wanted with Mandy and that was enough to always be excited about.
As the autumn grew more chilled they would sometimes sit out on the back porch balcony just off of the kitchen. They could see the trees in the park changing colors and get high while they talked about their days. Mandy would drink a little beer and sometimes share a joint if Jimmy had found some at work but not as much as him. His use of those things was much less than it had once been so he was a little surprised when Mandy voiced her frustration with what she considered his frequent use. Jimmy, until then, had felt that the things he brought to their relationship were valuable enough to compensate for his pot and alcohol use. Alcohol and pot were a part of his cultural identity and the semi-outlaw attitude he held toward American society. They were things rooted in very personal parts of him, half born of his Vietnam experience, and he wouldn’t consider changing that. Maybe he couldn’t change that. They never argued about it. In fact they had no real fights at all. After the wars with his ex-wife Jimmy was more the peacemaker than Mandy when they encountered rough spots. He had never lost his temper with her, not even close. Once she had become so upset and frustrated about something to do with him that she kicked a hole in the wall but he only cared about calming her down and making her feel better. It caused no anger in him, only hurt that she felt so bad. In less than hour it was over and she apologized, no big deal. He would repair the busted sheetrock himself and it would be good as new. But under the surface Mandy had something going on and it was about their relationship and Jimmy was in so deep he was blind to the gravity of it. Besides she seemed to come out of her funk when they decided to go to Martha’s Vineyard for a night and a day to explore the island.
Martha’s Vineyard was an island about seven miles off the shore of Cape Cod just south of Boston and it could only be reached by plane or boat so Jimmy and Mandy made their plans and drove down to Woods Hole, parked the car, and caught the ferry over to a little place on the island called Vineyard Haven.
All the places on Martha’s Vineyard were small because the year round population was small. However during the warm months the population swelled with tourists but because it was then well into autumn the tourists were mostly gone and the young pair were able to find a place quickly at a reduced rate when they came ashore in the mid-afternoon.
After they ate at a nearby restaurant they returned to their room, a very nice place right on the harbor at ground level where they could lay in bed and watch the bobbing sailboats and diving gulls on the bay through the large sliding glass doors. Relaxed after the nice seafood meal it wasn’t long however before Mandy got up and closed the curtains over the doors. And there amid the clean nautical décor with the sound of sea birds and an occasional distant boat horn for background music, they enjoyed each other until the lapping water against the nearby piers lulled them to sleep. If one word could be used to describe their relationship during times like that it would be harmony. They were complete and attuned to the time and each other. At least that was certainly the only way Jimmy could see it.
The next morning after coffee, toast, and chowder they rented bicycles and set off across the island to visit Gay Head and it’s famous white clay cliffs, a good twenty miles away. At first they made good time along the little paved road that had little traffic and the morning air was clean, crisp and cool. However as it began to warm up Mandy started to flag and Jimmy had to encourage and push her. By then they were in the middle of nowhere and there was no alternative form of travel to the one they had chosen.
Finally they arrived at the cliffs which Jimmy could see were magnificent but Mandy, red faced both from the sun and the exertion and wet with sweat, was not so enthralled. Jimmy was sweaty as well but he was more than used to such things. He had spent parts of his life drenched in it but Mandy was the cool New England beauty who had never learned the ins and outs of real physical exertion. And she was not nor had she ever been an athlete. That was the gulf between them that Jimmy should have been sensitive to but it escaped him. He knew something was wrong when she failed to deliver up the artist’s eye at the clay cliffs but he was the kind that liked to keep moving when going somewhere, something he had picked up under the marine pack and radio and something that was now ingrained. Consequently his insensitivity to her condition as a result of the road trip killed all the previous harmony that they had established.
After resting a while and eating a packed lunch they headed back at a slower pace, stopping more often to rest. Now, with the objective accomplished, it was easier for Jimmy to lend more consideration to the gentler nature of his mate. But the damage had been done as the look of resentment remained on Mandy’s face until they finally got back and turned in their bicycles. Jimmy certainly saw this and knew how she valued women’s standing in American society and how she wanted it to improve. So did he and he also knew that Mandy did many things with that in mind. But wrongly, he believed that if she thought that a sheer principle was enough to close the athletic gap between a male ex-marine and former athlete in his prime and a young New England female art student, she was being foolish—she had no reason to feel resentful or defeated. As a result of that assumption he treated the issue insensitively. And if that was the straw that would bring the camel down, oh how he would pay for his ignorance of it. It had hurt her pride and caused more strain on a relationship that, unbeknownst to him, was already troubling her. It would have cost him nothing to have given her more consideration and set a slower pace though it probably wouldn’t have mattered in the long run.
Jimmy was the fool that had been stamped “made in the USA” by the marines and he behaved poorly on that occasion in part because of that. Got to push on and all that bull.
Jimmy and Mandy were good together but Mandy was in the bloom of full development while he had obviously become arrested in that far away American interest that had caused so much war and pain. And that difference between them was one that began to tell.
When they settled back into their life in Boston Thanksgiving came and went and winter was fast approaching. The Garden of Eden that Mandy enabled Jimmy to enjoy began to crack and for the first time he had to admit to himself that she was not as much his as he had thought. To say that that scared him would have been an understatement.
One day when she returned from school she told him that one of her professors had invited her to his place for dinner and Jimmy absolutely couldn’t handle it, further threatening her sense of independence and mucking up the situation even more. Later, through the years, Jimmy could imagine that she had concocted the dinner invitation as a test of his desire to control her. But right then, all of a sudden, it seemed things had terribly changed. It had been so nice and uncomplicated but now Mandy and the events surrounding her were pushing all the wrong buttons of Jimmy’s psyche and he was beginning to unravel. For a while he stomached it all as best he could knowing that to lose her would be the end for him. Even when she decided to move out and share an apartment with another woman that they knew he helped her move and get set up. It was while doing this one Saturday that his motorcycle was stolen while parked outside her apartment in broad daylight. He still owed a year of payments on it, which he paid, yet he never saw the bike again.
The loss of the cycle meant nothing to him beside the breakup of his life with Mandy.
Kevin, her brother, gave him a nice 10-speed bicycle and backpack to use and Jimmy never missed a beat on his transportation to work, finding a more direct and residential route to get him there and back.
He only got to see her a couple of times after that and she still acted as if she enjoyed him but he was sorely wounded and having a hard time just functioning. His drinking once again began to get heavy and then Mandy wrecked and totaled her Subaru. Luckily she didn’t get hurt but Jimmy had always been scared of the way she drove sometimes and now she had almost been injured because of it, she could have been killed.
What was she doing without him?
Things had changed so hard and fast that the devastation he experienced finally caused him to sometimes miss work.
He had been invited to a holiday Christmas party by her parents before the break up and had bought them a gift wrapped bottle of Chivas Regal but he couldn’t go because he and Mandy didn’t see each other any more. And the party, with her parents viewing his demise in their crusty New England way, would have just been too painful for him. Instead Jimmy took the gift down the hall at work to where Kevin worked and ask him to give it to his parents. After he handed over the scotch he was suddenly paralyzed by the feeling that his insides had been hallowed out and for a moment he just couldn’t move. Tears suddenly filled his eyes and he said the only thing he could think of as he dumbly stood there.
“I don’t know what happened.”
Kevin looked up from his desk where he had put the gift and simply said, “Jimmy, Mandy is an independent woman. No one has ever been able to tie her down. She will do as she chooses.”
It was all Jimmy could do to nod, do an about face, and mechanically walk from the office, feeling broken beyond repair.
Also before their split he and Mandy had planned a Christmas party at their house for the people he worked with. So Jimmy tried to busy himself with that. Not a lot of people came, mostly just the people he knew well and had some social contact with. They didn’t stay long but many people were still there when Mandy made an appearance. Everyone well knew what had happened with their relationship and kindly stayed in their little circles as she and Jimmy spent a few quite moments together in the entry hall way. As they knelt down against the wall and had a quite conversation about how they were doing, Mandy was sympathetic and attentive to Jimmy’s poorly disguised attempts to keep his chin up. She was doing good and back in full possession of herself and seemed sorry that he had been hurt but her demeanor said that she was sure of where she was and confident of the future. It was one of the hardest conversations Jimmy would ever have. Harder than anything he had ever known. When she left right after that he knew she was gone from him. Neither did he see nor hear from her again. Merry Christmas.
Life in Boston for Jimmy was again on the back side. As the winter blew by and the intense hurt subsided into a dull ache, ever present, he found that he could not use the tricks of the war to make it go away.
He felt like he could never get back to being at home in New England.
Uselessly he searched for an explanation. What was it that could bring on such destruction to the unsuspecting? Was it the Yankees and their absence of soul and depth or was it the naiveté of the dumb hillbilly who thought surviving a war and a bad marriage had made him immune to heartbreak. The answer to that question, asked by one who could not develop, would never be known—until he saw. Then it would be too late. Surviving was the best he could hope for and in order to do that he must know the lay of the land and be able to intuitively navigate it. He had nothing left inside himself to do it any other way and the hand he had been dealt didn’t come with a draw. For him it was not going to change and there was only one place where he had been able to develop before his path had taken him out of the known to that which must be learned or suffered. Suffering he had done enough of. But once upon a time he had learned the Southern Appalachians enough to know how to survive it‘s plain and loveless challenges. Getting there as soon as possible was the only way he felt that he could go on.
From a friend he had known in college he learned that there was a job opening in the hospital psychiatric and alcoholism unit in their old hometown. Jimmy applied for it and then scheduled an interview when they seemed interested. Taking a day off from work at the research center he flew down and interviewed for the job and they offered it to him on the spot. He could start in a month which would give him enough time to give notice and get himself back down south.
It was with a lot of mixed feelings that he was leaving Boston. He had gotten over his ex-wife and learned to love again there. And he had developed an appreciation for the people and the countryside but he was really scared that he would never get over Mandy if he stayed. Sorely crippled and feeling that he must leave in order to get better, Jimmy moved on. Facts would be that he never would get over Mandy, just as he would never get over other things in his life. Sadly Jimmy had never realized that some things just were and you couldn’t run from them.
He purchased a little female beagle from a pet shop after Mandy left him, hoping the beagle would help some with his despair. He named her Jennie and she did help some as he became attached to her.
Ted, his housemate, had a huge old Mercury that looked like a tank and he sold it to Jimmy for $50 so that he would have something to get him and his things down south. Also there was a black cat with twelve toes that he wanted Jimmy to take because he was never home to take care of it. So Jimmy loaded the animals and his stuff into the old car and headed out to the 128 beltway and from there picked up 95 south out of Massachusetts. Changing jobs and getting a place to live gave him a lot of things to do but the sense of loss over Mandy was still there in his gut. With her by his side he had danced with the Gods. Always he would love her.
The shrieks of the arrogant jay again pierced the Sunday morning air calling up old Jimmy Holloren from his stupor. His back hurt and he thought at first that he must have fallen asleep and dreamed while sitting on that old stump hunched over the newspaper that lay at his feet. That was until he again saw her photograph looking up at him from the newsprint. For all this time she had been gone from him. Now she was just gone. Had he actually lived all this time without the known pain of her absence only to now feel that it was just yesterday that he loved her? Jimmy was old but he was not dumb and he knew that she had always been there in him, however silent and remote the relationship. Yet the knot in his gut and the intensity of the recall still somewhat surprised him. He had often wondered about where she might be and what she might be doing but only in flights of fancy or while nodding off by the wood stove after visiting the graveyard where his wife and child were buried. The separation from them had hurt fearsome but now they were only up on the ridge and easy to visit and stay in touch with. No surprises there. He expected that it would always be so. But Mandy was now also gone, like them, and he knew nothing of how it might be. Only that the love he once had with her could not grow cold and die. He might not have recognized it for many of these past decades but despite the ones he had buried and the revisits he had made, that old glowing ember where he and Mandy together had crossed proved that some things will be and damned be any attempts to pretend otherwise. Jimmy grabbed the section of the newspaper with Mandy’s picture in it, shuffled into his shack, and after setting down in an old rocker opened the glass door to his Buck stove. Deliberately he wadded up each sheet of newspaper except the one with her picture and mashed them low down in the stove. Then he neatly stacked the kindling over the pile of paper, closed the door and rolled the remaining sheet with her photograph tightly into a suitable starting torch which he gently laid atop the stove. That evening when the chill came and the jays had disappeared he and Mandy would set their evening fire.
Charles Hayes bio
Charles Hayes, a 2015 Pushcart Prize Nominee, is an American who lives part time in the Philippines and part time in Seattle with his wife. A product of the Appalachian Mountains, his writing has appeared in Ky Story’s Anthology Collection, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Fable Online, Unbroken Journal, CC&D Magazine, Random Sample Review, The Zodiac Review, eFiction Magazine, Saturday Night Reader, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and others
Erotic Adventures and Democratic Community
Dr. (Ms.) Michael S. Whitt
Professor Amanda Rosaleigh Blake turned twenty-seven in May l994. Her four year marriage to Jason Ward was shaky to say the least. The tall, lithe curly headed beauty was no longer able to see it lasting until ‘death do us part.’ Actually from the time this relationship became a serious part of her life, Amanda had known that she was gradually ceasing to believe in conventional monogamy. Marriage held together by legalities and religious precepts was losing its appeal. However, the rational part of her denied these doubts and there was pressure from Jason, friends, and from older folks who thought they were a ‘perfect couple.’ Soon she became ashamed that she had entered into a monogamous relationship with him. The changes in her feelings and perspectives regarding marriage and male-female relationships deepened her commitment to all the great feminist causes.
She loved Jason, but not enough to be exclusive with him or with anyone else. She chided herself regarding her denials and reminded herself that she was a grown woman twenty-three years old when she made the colossal mistake of committing to conventional monogamy. What Amanda was forgetting is that in this complex day and age adolescence is prolonged into the twenties. Twenty-five is probably a more realistic age to be considered grown up. Her girl friends were also suffering from shaky marriages and were busy getting divorced, but nearly always it was because their husbands were cheating on them. This made her feel rather odd since she was the one doing the cheating. Amanda had extra-marital sexual relationships in the past couple of years. The last time began in December, l993. The relationship was with her colleague and friend, Dr. Charles Riley. Amanda and Charley were associate and assistant professors respectively at Central Alabama University in Gold Hill. She had no idea that just around the corner awaited a wonderful and passionate relationship which would teach her and her lover the experience of true erotic love.
The deceptions went against Amanda’s ethical sense. Moreover, they were blocking any progress toward her goal of open and honest relationships. She knew it was past time to talk seriously and openly about these matters. Yet, she dreaded dealing with Jason’s fears and insecurities. She was not sure from where they came. He was an attractive brunette, six feet tall with a firm athletic body. However, since they had married, Jason’s attitudes and actions involved repeated failed attempts to control Amanda’s erotic behaviors. Amanda felt these attempts at control were indications of the fears and doubts.
She insisted that her orgasms were as important as his, even if she did mostly get them in different ways. Amanda knew this strongly irked Jason, who was not exactly up to date on these issues. When the topic came up he gritted his teeth, squinted his eyes, and his hands shook. This amused Amanda and made her more determined to get what she knew was her due. She told him bluntly that if she had no orgasm, neither would he. He told her there was something wrong with women who did not most often have orgasms during intercourse, which was the proper way. Since she usually had them with other forms of stimulation, this included her. When the orgasm happened in the ‘right’ way, he thought, the woman could ‘feel an egg drop.’ He seriously told Amanda this ‘jewel’ of wisdom.
“I have no serious sexual problems,” Jason informed her as they lay together after one of their anemic encounters. Amanda rolled her eyes as she knew from bitter experience that he was ignorant of female sensitivities and feelings. Amanda tried to tell him calmly about that of which he was absurdly ignorant. One of those several times was after she had a huge laughing spell. She had to excuse herself saying she needed to go to the bathroom. Instead, she went to a place as far away as she could get from the bedroom sound wise, the carport. He had no clue as to why she would laugh at him or any capacity to understand an explanation.
When she came back Amanda told him, “Scores of studies have established that the clitoris is central to the female orgasm. This research and female experience show your beliefs to be false and misguided. The clitoris is located at the upper part of the genitals; the vagina is situated in the lower part. The clitoris becomes engorged with blood like the penis; the little button is analogous to the male hard. I hope you’re hearing me. You’re pitifully ignorant of female anatomy and make little effort to improve. You ought to read some of the research. You resent what I insist upon in sexual contact for my health and pleasure even though it is important and good for you too. Sometimes a woman has an orgasm during intercourse. If the clitoris is stimulated enough by hand and/or mouth, the penis can be sufficient to indirectly trigger an orgasm. Men who fail to grasp these truths are often dumped.”
When calm explanation had little effect, Amanda told him more loudly his ideas were Victorian, passé, and sexist. Amanda also told him he was more concerned with the futile task of proving his penis’s skill than he was with her health and pleasure. She knew it was time to speak soberly about these matters. Once things were open, if Jason’s resentment, jealousy, and resistance to learning about the female body continued, divorce was the only choice. When she and Charley got together for the third time early in winter quarter, l994, Amanda told Jason about her cheating. By the time she finished, Jason’s face was contorted in a look of hatred toward her. This showed up in his glaring eyes which narrowed to small slits. His mouth was stiffened into a similar narrow slit. Hatred is what he felt toward this lovely woman with the long dark reddish-brown hair.
He screamed, “You’ve ruined my life, you selfish bitch-whore. How could you do this to me? You think only of yourself, you slut. You don’t love me.” Jason was shaking all over. He reached for a bottle of hand lotion in a hard plastic container on a table in their bedroom and threw it at Amanda. It hit her under her left eye, leaving a wound. Amanda had not expected such a violent reaction, although she was not totally surprised. The aggressive gesture made her livid. She literally saw red.
She walked up to Jason, who was only an inch taller than she was, and said, “Jason, if you ever do anything like that to me again, I’ll have you arrested for felony assault. That’s what you’re guilty of.” Then Amanda gathered all of the strength she had and slapped his face. His expression changed from one of anger and hatred to one of shock and disbelief. Amanda wondered if he thought she was going to allow him to get away with his violent act.
Amanda later said, “the extra-marital experiences I had were due in large part to your erotic ignorance, and have brought to fruition changes in me which began before our marriage. Your ignorance and neglect of my pleasure have been there from the beginning. I no longer believe in mechanical monogamy based upon legal and religious rules. I have no intention of going back. I’m not in love with any one else, but an open relationship is the healthiest alternative for me. I’m truly sorry for the dishonesty, but the loud abusive reaction was not something I sought. Were you less fearful and insecure, our communication would be far better. Incidentally, every extra marital lover I had included oral sex. Every time I had oral sex done on me, I had enormous orgasms; just as I did the one stingy time you did it on me.” This happened a few weeks before they were married. Amanda watched Jason’s face pale with fear when she related this. He felt shaken to his core. He began doing oral sex regularly. The one time he did it on her before it was obvious she had a powerfully pleasurable orgasm. They were in a romantic place on a lake a few miles from the Florida citrus village which was Amanda’s birth place.
Jason seemed to want to kill the wonderfully intense and deeply pleasurable feelings of the orgasm by saying, “I don’t why I did that.” Amanda knew he resented any pleasure he gave her. He may have assumed correctly that she experienced many of his erotic actions as repetitive and boring. His resentment may have been partly because many men found her beautiful and desirable. He often thought angrily of the many times attractive young men looked at her with longing in their eyes.
Amanda reminded him of his previously unkind remark and countered it with, “I thought the oral sex was wonderful. You’re insensitive words were geared to ruin it for me. They didn’t work. You enjoy trashing good feelings. You have psycho-sexual problems.”
“I have problems? Well, I’ll improve if you will.”
“You’ll need to be more specific than that about my alleged need for improvement besides my having orgasms mostly during oral or manual stimulation. The research doesn’t support that as a problem, but as normality. I gave you several such examples. I deserve some.” Amanda had few sexual problems. She had worked through most growth inhibiting erotic habits in college.
Instead of responding to Amanda’s request, Jason railed against open relationships, “They never work out. Humans weren’t meant for such arrangements. They can’t deal with them in the end.”
“How do you know they never work? Whom do you know whose open relationship failed?” He was unable to respond. “Your arguments are full of holes. Like most relationships, some open ones work; others fail.” At length when he realized she was not going to back down, he grudgingly accepted open relationships as a reality.
A couple of weeks later in early September, Amanda was in her office on the fourth floor of Haley Center, a ten story building which housed the offices of the arts and sciences and education professors and administrators and provided most of the classrooms for their students. She was looking in a file cabinet in preparation for a fall teaching assignment. Suddenly she felt a strong erotic presence. She turned around to see a beautiful young man. He smiled when she turned toward him.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hi,” she responded, “Can I help you with something?”
“Well, I just came to introduce myself. I’m Eric Landreneau, a second year doctoral student in science education. I’ve been on the floor several times as I took the educational psychology course from Dr. Gambol and the beginning statistics and research course from Dr. Miller during the previous winter and spring quarters respectively.”
“It’s good to meet you Eric. I’m Amanda Blake. I’m surprised I haven’t noticed you before. It may be because I’m not really fond of this milieu. I’m nearly always in a hurry to get away from it, except for when I have student appointments.”
“I can understand your not being fond of the floor. Some of the folks up here aren’t totally appealing.”
Amanda laughed heartily at his perceptive comment. It was contagious. He joined in the laughter. As the two talked for a few more minutes, they were both highly aware that their feelings for each other were strong. Their facial expressions and other body language communicated this. At the end of their talk he squeezed her arm softly.
She whispered, “That feels so good. By the way you are from Louisiana, and your name is obviously of French origin. Is your background Cajun?”
He smiled and replied, “That’s right on target, Amanda. I knew you were smart as soon as I looked at you. I’d better go and let you finish your tasks. I hope to see you again soon, quite soon.”
That comment made her wonder if he knew something she did not. She dismissed that thought as wishful thinking. However, surprisingly enough, it turned out to be the case. A few days later Lena Miller, a colleague of Amanda’s introduced Jason to Eric, a man whom Amanda already knew was a gorgeous, slender man with lovely thick black hair and a smooth olive complexion. She introduced them both to his wife Michelle. She was an attractive petite woman with short reddish-brown hair and striking green eyes. Lena invited the two couples to dinner at her apartment Friday night. These gatherings became a regular thing as friendships were formed among the five of them.
The next one was at the Landrenaeu’s. That night Jason and Amanda turned their new friends on to reefer. Lena, also an experienced smoker, was there and joined Amanda and Jason who stayed with them until 6 A.M. Lena was a bright and witty woman with pretty blue eyes and lovely naturally curly brown hair cut short. She was almost obese. Soon Amanda and Michelle shared their opinions that they did not see how she could allow herself to stay at that weight. It was unhealthy and she would be incredibly gorgeous if she was more slender. It was almost as if she feared revealing her natural beauty. She obviously ate too much, and the sickest aspect of it was that no one ever saw her do it. Just as there are closet alcoholics, there are closet over-eaters. But as Walt Whitman said in his Leaves of Grass, the overeaters do not conceal themselves, because they cannot do so. No one said anything, but everybody knew.
Throughout the evening Eric and Amanda met in the kitchen for stolen kisses and caresses. Eric was extremely attracted to this tall, slender beauty with turquoise eyes and long curly hair. The feelings were mutual. The couples and sometimes Lena began to do other things together. They took rides in the country, and went to a lively Elton John Concert. They also had many intimate conversations.
Jason and Amanda awoke at two P.M. the day after the reefer experience. The Landreneaus soon called somewhat freaked out at the seeming rapid pace of things which apparently was related to their stoning experiences. They asked their friends to do something ‘ordinary’ with them like go to Shoney’s, a local restaurant where people used to meet for coffee, snacks, and casual meals. Amanda and Jason were happy to oblige. Lena joined them on the trip to Shoney’s.
On Monday afternoon while Jason was at his teaching job in Industrial Arts at Opalocka High School, Eric called Amanda and asked, “May I come over to talk about the feelings between us.” Opalocka was Gold Hill’s twin city.
“By all means Sweetheart.” When he entered the kitchen-den in Amanda’s house neither of them could ignore the strong erotic feelings that existed between them. They were both tempted to rush into each others arms, but they postponed the inevitable until things could be worked out.
After the two talked for a short time, Eric asked, “Is a relationship between us possible given the thing with Charley?”
“If Michelle is alright with it, a relationship between us is definitely possible.”
“She’ll go along.”
“Eric, when I became honest with Jason, I knew I no longer believed in mechanical monogamy. I’m not going backwards. My feelings for you are strong. I’m ready to act upon them. If he objects that’s too bad. I don’t think he will since he has feelings for Michelle. Does she have them for him?
“Yes she does and that’s good because I’m strongly attracted to you.”
“The feelings are mutual.”
“I’m happy you have feelings for me your willing to act upon. You’re beautiful in everyway.”
“You’re a gorgeous man. I’ll talk to Jason before we get together on Thursday night. As a matter of fact I’ll talk to him when he comes home today.”
When Jason arrived home, Amanda greeted him, “Hi Sweetheart, Did you have a good day?”
“It wasn’t bad, Amanda.”
“I had a visit from Eric today. We discussed the strong erotic feelings between us.”
“Is that all you have to say.”
“Good grief that certainly is truncated.”
“Look here, you might as well cut out the passive aggressive games. These have become old and boring. The feelings between us are as they are. Besides I have insistent intuitions that there are erotic attractions between you and Michelle. Grow up and own them.”
Jason was silent.
Thursday night Jason and Michelle owned their mutual feelings after a delicious dinner of chicken-seafood gumbo and home baked bread at the Landreneaus’ house. Amanda, Jason, Lena, and a few other friends were invited. After everyone left except for Jason and Amanda, erotic energies were high. Eric and Amanda moved quickly to embrace each other on a rug against the wall. Eric’s hand went immediately into Amanda’s sweater. He began caressing her firm teacup shaped and sized breasts. They felt amazingly good. He knew they would. He saw those beauties once when they were into secret caressing and kissing. Her well toned body against his equally trim and firm one felt heavenly to them both. Amanda was caressing Eric everywhere her long arms would reach. The two were more turned on than they ever had been. They kissed frequently and hungrily. Jason and Michelle, lying on the couch, were kissing and hugging passionately. They were lying on the couch alternatively side by side and on top of each other.
The situation bore no resemblance to those ‘key club’ or ‘wife swapping’ arrangements some ‘swingers’ were into. The difference in this case was there were no ‘arrangements.’ Now Amanda hoped they would make love side by side. She realized that communication, trust, and understanding would be greatly enhanced if they could, especially since it was all spontaneous, unplanned, and communal. Amanda was jolted out of her dream of democratic community when fear apparently gripped Michelle. The other two should have seen that this was a fundamental and dangerous flaw in Michelle that they needed to guard against. They simply more or less observed the situation passively, a fatal mistake for democratic community.
Amanda heard Michelle say “I think we’re going to have to post pone this.” What utter madness, Amanda thought. Why can’t she see what she is doing to this little community? Why can’t she perceive the separation, the opportunities for mistrust, and the missed opportunities for communication she is creating?”
“What is it?’ Amanda asked impatiently with an edge of irritation in her voice.
“Manda, what if the children wake up and catch us making love? What’ll we tell them?”
“We need to stop looking at this possibility as ‘catching us’ doing something naughty.” Amanda looked at the men’s faces which now expressed a combination of irritation and confusion. Reinforced she continued, “We won’t have to deal with Phillip since he is not yet walking. Elizabeth is one of the most creative and brilliant children I’ve ever known. Were she my daughter, I’d hope she did wake up and find us all in a state of love. I would tell her that making love in this fashion expands the circle of love that you, Jason, Eric and I are a part. We could explain that all four of us fell in love all the way around in a circle in which we, she, and Phillip abide.”
Eric said, “Amanda, those are wonderful things to say to Liz.”
“Ditto,” Jason said. “I think she would be delighted with them. That is lovely to make it inclusive of Liz and Phillip and, of course, utterly necessary.”
“Amanda and you guys, I love you. And you are probably right, but I can’t handle it right now.”
“Did you ever stop to think, Michelle,” Amanda said, “that you are cheating Elizabeth out of opportunities to develop healthy attitudes toward human sexuality. Neither she nor any other child is born with any attitudes toward sexuality. These attitudes, the directions they take, etc., come from social interactions, first with parents and other close adults. Later, other children enter the picture along with teachers and others. Liz is five now so she has already picked up some attitudes toward sex. I don’t know what they are but they aren’t fixed and rigid yet.”
“I know Amanda, but I still maintain I can’t handle it.”
Amanda muttered, “And of course you are the only one who matters,” Eric giggled softly. These two lovers were still in their embrace. Amanda realized sadly that the communication, understanding, trust, and love, which could have been developed among the four of them, had been smashed by Michelle’s cowardly fears and insecurities. These had tragically introduced secrecy, separation, opportunities for projections, and all of the negatives that making love together would have avoided. The others felt a dread at stopping, although only Amanda had figured the entire situation out at that time. Michelle remained brutally unrelenting and rigid. The worst aspect was that she was making an unconscious bid for control of the little democratic community.
The next morning Eric called Amanda around 9 o’clock, “Hi Manda, this is Eric.”
“Hi Eric, how are you on this fine September morning.”
“I’ll be great if you say yes to my question.”
“What is it sweet friend?” Amanda responded. She knew what was coming and was more than glad. Last night had left her, Eric and Jason with a nagging hunger.
“May I come over there?”
“I’ll be waiting with some music playing.”
Amanda correctly surmised that Eric was anxious to make up for what he had missed the previous evening. The control trip Michelle was doing on them went out the window for a short time. Both of them became aware of it again when the encounter was nearing its end. In addition, Michelle had decided that she and Jason would get together Saturday afternoon at Lena’s apartment. Michelle had arranged for Lena to invite Amanda to go shopping in Montgomery so Lena would have some place to be and someone to be with. She made sure everything was in order according to her perceived specifications with more bossy, controlling behavior.
Eric made it over quickly; he came on his little Hondo 100. Amanda heard him ride up. When Eric was inside the kitchen-den, the two began to embrace, caress, and kiss. These passions were of course especially strong. Soon Amanda led Eric to the king sized bed in the main bedroom. After more kissing and caressing, he entered her soft moist femininity. The two made love for more than an hour and a half before taking a coffee break.
“I’m turned on to you more and more,” Eric said as he sipped his coffee.
“Ditto sexy man.” In addition to their disappointment with Michelle’s control and manipulation, they were thinking when they were in the long process of saying goodbye that neither had gotten nearly enough of the other. The realization that they had been used and exploited last night temporarily overcame their hunger.
“You know, Eric, your controlling and manipulative wife could destroy the lovely situation we have here. Anyone of us could be low down enough to do what she’s doing. I totally trust you, and I trust Jason more than I do Michelle, but I can see him getting sucked in to colluding with her in some destruction.”
“God I know it Amanda. She doesn’t hesitate to use the children against me as one aspect of the destruction. I can’t bear to think of her destroying our democratic community, but she’s has already started; Had she allowed us to make love side by side trust, love, communication, and all sorts of other things would have been fostered. She effectively destroyed those possibilities.”
“I’m glad you came to that realization on your own. I figured you would. I saw it happening last night. It hurt my heart. Now somehow I get the distinct impression that she has set time limits on our love making encounters.”
“You are so intuitive. There are two hour time limits she alone set. I do not intend to respect them in any total way. It is already after eleven and I was here by nine. I’ll have to go in a little while or she’ll start calling, but I don’t intend to get home until 11:30. If the phone rings before I‘m out of here; or if you can for several minutes after I’m gone, don’t answer it.”
“Good! This inserts a monkey wrench into her antics.”
“You know the more controlling and manipulative she gets the less I feel for her erotically and the less I respect her.”
“I know what you mean, sweet man. And it certainly would have made for more understanding had she let things take their course last night.”
“Agreed. We were essentially manipulated by her. The three of us should have pitched a fit at what she wanted to do.”
When Jason came home and Amanda told him of her morning’s activities, to her surprise he responded in the same old jealous way; She said, “What is your problem? You and Michelle are getting together tomorrow. In a way I can understand your behavior as asinine as it seems. You can tell me if this hits any chords within you. Neither Eric nor I are happy about the way Michelle manipulated and controlled the situation last night to keep us apart and to keep us from making love side by side. We both felt it introduced separation, the absence of communication, trust, love, and other positive aspects of what might have developed and promoted democratic community.”
Jason said quickly, “Manda, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I completely missed that essential aspect of it. That has a lot to do with the negative reaction I had when you first told me about you and Eric. Please accept my apologies.”
“I do, Jason. Her manipulation and control scare both Eric and me. We can see how she might destroy the lovely situation among the four of us. However, none of this means that you can’t enjoy your encounter at Lena’s apartment tomorrow. She’s already made the arrangements; more controlling behavior. And that includes arranging for me go to shopping in Montgomery with Lena so she will have something to do. Enjoy your time; just watch for indications of manipulation and control and try to stifle them.”
Jason fell silent and began preparations for dinner. The Landreneaus, Lena, and some other friends were invited to dinner that night. Amanda and Jason prepared a delicious meal of boiled shrimp and home made cocktail sauce from a recipe Amanda created. They also had a huge chef salad including some vegetables from their fall garden: leaf lettuce, spinach leaves, carrots, green onions, broccoli, and florets of cauliflower. Jason also found an avocado at a Puerto Rican market to enhance the salad. Finally, they added Sharp Cheddar, Swiss, and Gouda cheeses, and ripe and green olives. Cuban bread and Devil’s Food Cake with gooey Seven Minute Icing and unsweetened dark chocolate drizzled on the icing for desert topped off the feast.
Lena’s and Amanda’s shopping trip lasted several hours. They were in no hurry and it was a two hour round trip. Neither Lena nor Amanda was happy that they had been manipulated into going shopping although they enjoyed each other’s company. Amanda never ceased to be amazed at how Lena, although in her present physical state she could not be part of the erotic community, still had their best interests at heart. She took her weight problem as hers. That was rare. When Lena let Amanda out at her home, Jason was there.
“Hi Jason,” Amanda said happily. “You seem high. Did you have a good first time with Michelle?”
“It was really fine darling,” Jason answered. “I’ve been singing, it made me feel so good.”
“You know what, Jason?”
“I can smell Michelle on you. That’s a turn on.”
“That’s neat, but there’s something about it that worries me. I remembered what you said about watching for signs of manipulation and control. I think that one or both of them have put a time limit on our encounters. That is way too mechanical, but even worse she seemed to be trying to make Eric jealous or worry by being a little tardy. She wouldn’t leave until she was a bit late.”
“They do have one. Eric told me about it yesterday. It was all Michelle’s idea to imposed a two hour time limit. He respected it so little he was half an hour late yesterday. He’ll know she was trying to get back at him and won’t worry. I think that’s a good thing. She was thwarted in her attempt to control.”
After more encounters with Eric and some with Jason, Amanda faced a problematic surprise in early November. She was pregnant. A misogynist oby/gyn who Amanda saw in September told her she could not get pregnant because she had endometriosis. In retrospect she felt the sexist SOB was lying about the nature of her condition. It rattled him that Amanda did not want any children then, and that she might never want them. He had stretched the truth. He made it sound like Amanda had a much more serious case of endometriosis than she actually did. Thus she got pregnant fairly easily. Amanda planned to see Lena as soon as she lined up some reputable doctors to ask Lena to take her to Birmingham Friday for an abortion. Amanda called Shirley Gambol, a close friend and the wife of a colleague. Shirley gave Amanda two doctor’s names in Birmingham; she was the Head of East Alabama Mental Health’s Alcoholic Rehabilitation Program. She sometimes had to arrange abortions in her work. Once she even needed one for herself. She was in a fairly successful open relationship.
Lena was happy to take Amanda to Birmingham. Amanda made the appointment on Friday as she preferred that Jason not be around. He was leaving Thursday evening for New York. He was going to an American Industrial Arts Board of Director’s Meeting. He held a place on the board when he was elected president of all the Industrial Arts College Clubs in the nation. Since he did not protest the arrangement, Amanda figured he was alright with it. Unlike Amanda He wanted a baby soon. This was one reason among several their marriage was shaky. When Amanda and Lena met at the office, she became a little upset with Amanda when the latter said, “Lena I’m not going to tell Michelle and Eric until the procedure is over.”
Lena said, “Oh Amanda, I can’t help but think you’re wrong on this one. Isn’t excluding them on this the same as Michelle’s controlling and manipulative behaviors?” Amanda thought in silence, gosh I was thinking about not worrying them until it was over, but she’s right. It’s wrong to exclude them.
A moment or two later she said, “Yes Sister.” Michelle was at the office at the time so Amanda told her first. As she sat in Amanda’s office she listened intently.
At length she spoke. “Amanda, thank you for taking me into your confidence, and thank you especially for having the courage to get an abortion. Without that, we could run into all kinds of problems with respect to the way Eric feels about children. We might be stuck with each other forever.”
“Really?” She was skeptical about Michelle’s judgment on that one. It turned out that Amanda’s perceptions regarding Eric’s attitudes toward children was much closer to the truth than Michelle’s. In the end it became apparent he cared far more about his erotic relationship with Amanda than he did regarding whether or not she was going to have an abortion.
“Anyway, if I send Eric over to your house later, will you tell him? There’s no telling how he will react given his attitudes toward children. Would 8 o’clock be okay?” Amanda said that it was. That evening when he entered the door, a rush of erotic feelings drew them together in a sensual embrace of caressing and kissing. After some of that Amanda took him by the hand and led him into the living room. She could tell he was nervous.
After stuttering and stammering around for a few moments Amanda blurted it out, “I’m pregnant, Eric. In the morning Lena is taking me to Birmingham for an abortion.”
Michelle’s perceptions regarding the way Eric would react did not come close to his actual responses. She looked at his beautiful face when she told him she was pregnant and saw a flood of relief. His reply made her profoundly happy that his Catholic upbringing was in no way interfering with his dealing with the situation. It made her heart sing; at the same time it made her heart ache for him relating to the anguish he had been going through all day wondering what was going on regarding his relationship with her. No doubt Michelle with her controlling and manipulative ways had made things worse.
“Gosh Amanda, thank goodness it’s only that. I was afraid you were going to tell me you didn’t want to make love with me any more.”
With tears in her eyes Amanda said softly, “No way, Eric I want to make love with you now more than when we first started.” As the usual strong feelings took over, they went to the big bed. Except for a snack break, they made love until after eleven. No time limit had been set by Michelle. She had no idea they would make love. She, no doubt, thought Eric would be too upset about the baby, actually the fetus, and the abortion. Needless to say Amanda was delighted that Eric took advantage of Michelle’s error. She would probably be upset. Lena came as Eric left. She was staying the night with Amanda to facilitate getting out in the morning for the appointment.
Amanda said, “Lena sweetheart, you timed your entrance perfectly, unless you wanted to make it a threesome.
“You naughty girl!” Lena said laughing. “A voice told me not to fool with the magic. I was visiting my friend Emily Ames in Secondary Ed. It came to me when I started to leave earlier.”
The next day after the simple painless first trimester procedure was over, Lena and Amanda went to a restaurant for breakfast. Even with that stop they were home by 2:30. Lena went with her in the house and made Amanda a bed on the living room couch. They hugged goodbye tightly. These two friends loved each other deeply.
Amanda whispered, “Thanks for everything. You’ve been a life saver.”
“No problem, girlfriend. Call me if you need anything at all.”
When Amanda went for her check up in January after the abortion in November, her new Oby-Gyn made an interesting discovery which could help other women. He found that on the side of the uterus which she got pregnant, the endometriosis was completely cleared up. For readers who do not know about the nature of this condition, the endometrial, a substance which is normally confined to the uterus somehow gets out onto the nearby by organic structures causing mild to severe pains. This Dr. was as progressive as the other sexist was reactionary. When he made his discovery he began to dance around the office with joy.
“Oh Dr. Blake!” Dr. Harris exclaimed, “With this discovery I now see how I can cure the condition on the other side. You just need to completely suppress your periods tor a year by using birth control pills. This will simulate the condition of pregnancy as it is relevant to endometriosis.”
“Dr. Harris, that is truly wonderful.” As Amanda and the doctor hugged goodbye, she suggested that he write the experience up in as a medical journal article since it was apparently not general medical knowledge.
Less than an hour after Amanda arrived at home, Lena returned with a tearful Michelle who said, “Amanda I must admit I was shocked at Eric’s reaction to your pregnancy. My estimation of him was way off on pregnancy and abortion. I don’t know him as well as I thought I did. Last night made me realize that I was highly vulnerable to you and I don’t like it.”
“Well Michelle, the other three of us didn’t like being vulnerable to your controlling and manipulative behavior, when you unilaterally, without consulting the rest of us, stopped our activities the other night when we were about to make love side by side. You were so closed minded you would not even consider the values for our community that might have ensued had we continued. Anyway Love, to be vulnerable is to be living. Otherwise, one is merely alive.”
That settled the matter for then. However Amanda had hoped now that Jason and Michelle had been in a paranormal erotic community, they would stop their jealousy and control trips. Jason did for a while after the first time with Eric. Jason’s understanding of the destructiveness of Michelle’s controlling behavior went out the window after they related sexually for a while. As their relationship developed, the two began to put all sorts of silly projections on Eric’s and Amanda’s relationship. They seemed to be threatened that Eric and Amanda had such intense and passionate feelings for each other. Amanda believed that the two knew they were not capable of such depth and intensity of feeling as she and Eric. They dealt with the feelings of fear this caused by telling the other couple they did not have a ‘real’ relationship since it was all based upon the erotic. Although the erotic was extremely important to their relationship to say it was all there was to it was pure garbage. They could not help it if their basic natures were more intense than Jason’s and Michelle’s. They also walked in the woods together, took motor cycle rides on separate bikes, Eric on his Honda 100 and Amanda on her Honda 500, and went fishing. They had many conversations about politics, music, travel, books, the university, and other topics of mutual interest.
Eric’s and Amanda’s commonalities in the social and political spheres were also perceived as threats by the other two. All of the lovers were progressives, but Eric and Amanda went beyond just being progressive. They were democratic socialists in a deep and profoundly active sense. Amanda became a committed socialist when she was still in high school. A high school social studies teacher from Iowa exerted considerable influence on her adoption of the position. Amanda had Reggie Teisinger for all of her secondary social studies classes: world and American history and problems of American democracy.
Eric received his inspiration during his first year in college at the Louisiana State University. He was in a social science class called American institutions. His teacher was most impressed with Eric’s abilities in multidisciplinary social science. The two talked several times, and Eric came to admire his young, socialist professor. He left the class a committed democratic socialist.
Both Eric and Amanda were more concerned with the shameful gaps in income between the haves and the have nots than the other two. Moreover, they were willing to give both time and money to the expression of these and related issues such as civil rights. They were both active members of the American Civil Liberties Union, and were officers at the local level. Amanda was the President and Eric was the representative to the state board in Montgomery.
Eric and Amanda got together two more times prior to the winter break. Jason’s and Michelle’s projections on the alleged over emphasis on sex in their relationship continued ineffectually mostly because they had become old and boring. The collusion of the two in the notion that their relationship was on a ‘higher’ level than Eric’s and Amanda’s made no sense to her. Amanda mused that Eros is by definition central to non-Platonic relationships. Everything seemed fine when the Christmas break arrived. Jason and Amanda went to central Florida for a week to visit their parents. Eric and Michelle spent a week in their hometown in Louisiana. When they returned, Amanda and Jason brought boxes of citrus fruits to the Landreneaus, Lena, and three other friends.
When they dropped the Landrenaeus off, Michelle informed them, “At home Eric asked my eighteen year old brother to get him some reefer.”
“What happened?” asked Amanda.
“It shows he’s too immature for an open relationship. We’ll have to stop the sexual parts of our relationships.”
Eric countered, “Your brother may be 18, but he’s the biggest dealer in the area and is defined as an adult by Louisiana State Law. Now she’s saying if I don’t quit my erotic relationship with you, she’ll take the children away. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have agreed.”
Amanda said, “I fail to see how our erotic relationships have anything to do with Eric’s getting a bag of reefer from a Louisiana dealer.”
“Thanks Manda. I’m glad to have some confirmation on that.”
“My pleasure, sweetheart.”
“Frankly, I’m in agreement with Amanda and Eric,” Jason said. “I’m sorry Michelle, but you’re uncomfortably close to violating Eric’s civil rights, if you’re not already doing it. You’ve destroyed our community by making unilateral decisions without consulting the rest of us. I fear you’re an anal control freak. You need to work on that. It’s an awful way to be.”
“I thought you agreed with me,” Michelle said. Her eyes filled with tears.
“I did to a point, but you’ve crossed lines I never would, and some I crossed with you I deeply regret. I was wrong to collude with you in criticizing Eric’s and Amanda’s relationship. We did that out of resentment and jealousy. Eric and Amanda, I beg your forgiveness. Come on Manda, we have fruit to deliver.” There was no comfort for Michelle as she had deeply violated her four best friends; the ones who loved her the most. These three lovers and their beloved friend, Lena, were bleeding from her tyranny.
After they were home for a while and the shock had somewhat worn off, Amanda said, “It’s hard to believe she thinks she owns those kids and can keep their biological father from seeing them. What is harder to believe is that Eric thinks she can. At any rate she has succeeded in destroying our democratic community.”
Jason said with candor, “It hurts more than it should.”
“It’s a hurtful situation for us three. Eric’s and my feelings are enormous. I can tell from the moods you are in after you and Michelle get together, you two are into each other as well. Her feelings right now are affected by fear and guilt, and since that is the case we all get to feel badly.”
“Oh Amanda, we had something special.”
“I agree and I’m glad Eric opposed ending our erotic relationships. He agreed only under what he saw as duress. I don’t hurt less for that, but she has put their marriage in jeopardy. I feel it may be doomed if she does not atone for her violation of the three of us.” Jason’s and Amanda’s relationship with Eric and Michelle limped along a while, but its satisfactions were severely limited. The artificial suppressions of the erotic relationships by Michelle made all of them feel empty when they got together.
Eric and Michelle were leaving the following September. Meanwhile, the two began to suffer terrible consequences from Michelle’s tyrannical actions. Nearing the end of his program, Eric was required to participate in several academic conferences sponsored by the pulpwood association that funded part of his graduate education. Each time Eric went to one of the meetings, he had a woman or two for a night or two. Then he would confess all to Michelle. It seemed a perfect retribution for the castrating things she did to him with respect to his and Amanda’s relationship; one he valued for his growth and well being. She told Amanda all of this at a local swimming hole. Amanda was appalled that Michelle never once drew any of the obvious connections between his womanizing and her tyrannizing.
Shortly before Michelle and Eric were to return to Louisiana, Eric appeared at Amanda’s back door one Friday afternoon. Jason was in New York at one of his Board meetings until Sunday. When Eric appeared the intense erotic feelings came rushing back. They were soon in the big bed making love with passionate intensity.
When they paused in their love making Amanda said, “I’m ecstatic that you came. We’re at least saying goodbye in a proper way. Are you going to tell Michelle about this? I’m damn sure going to tell Jason. He’s back to his old jealous self. I can’t wait to rattle his cage.”
Eric looked at Amanda smiling and said, “Hell yes I’m going to tell her. I’m sure you’ve heard about the revenge I’m taking on her with the women I have been having one, two or more nights at my meetings. I truly love you. This will be the luscious icing on my revenge cake.”
“I love you too Eric honey. I’m glad you had sex with those women. It’s Michelle’s karma for all she has done to you. I’ve often thought you’re my first love. The reason for that is that you took me over the top of where I’d ever been with respect to erotic feelings. I told, Donda Clare West, my best woman friend ever this. She was literally uplifted by it. When I tell her you made it by at an opportune time before you all left town she’ll be thrilled. The thing you did that impressed her the most was when I told you I was pregnant and scheduled to have an abortion the next day you commented, ‘Oh, thank goodness that’s all it is. I was afraid you were going to tell me you didn’t want me to make love with you any more.’ That really depth charged this woman I love with all of my being. She felt deeply that your priories and heart were in the right place.”
“Give that black magic woman my love,” Eric said. “She really confirms me. I don’t know her personally, but I’d like to. And ditto, you beautiful creature, you’re my first love too. Now let’s get back to the basics. It could be a long time before we get to do this again.” They did so without further ado.
When it was time for him to leave, Amanda said with tears in her eyes, “I guess this is the end for the foreseeable future of our sensuous, pleasurable, and loving relationship.”
“I do love you, Amanda. I hate this situation. I can’t help wondering what it would be like married to you.”
“I love you too, pretty man, and naturally I wondered about that too. I decided that you and I, if we could live out our true destinies, would be life-time lovers, rather than husband and wife.” Amanda took his hand and walked into the living room. “There are important differences between us that would make marriage hard.
“What are they?” he asked. “Don’t get me wrong; life-time lovers sound great for our relationship.”
“Raising children is important to you. For my part, I may never want any, and if I do, it will only be one. It’s not that I don’t like them. I care more for most children than I do for most adults, but I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a mother. I have too many other ambitions——writing, teaching, acting, and public speaking are examples of big ones. I don’t want to fight about the household chores the way you and Michelle often do. I let Jason know that things would be equal in that area or I was out. Now I want out anyway. Our marriage is shakier than ever. I’ve known from the beginning of my relationship with you that my feelings for you are far stronger than they are for him. I tried to convince myself this was due to our relationship’s newness. In my heart I knew this was not the case. Jason screwed up our erotic relationship not long after we were married. Eric, it is hard to describe to even the most sensitive men, of which I include you, how disgusting his self centered sexual antics made me feel and behave. He continuously tried to climb on top of me and initiate sexual intercourse before I was ready. Not only was I insufficiently lubricated, and you know from experience how quickly that happens for me, but it was also before I was anywhere near ready with respect to the feeling state needed. I literally had to throw the bloke off and insist upon foreplay. Otherwise, I would feel as though I was being raped. By that time, I was way turned off. Sometimes I would try to go on, but often I would just get up and leave saying ‘You make me sick, Jason.’ I soon found myself without intent on ‘The Cheating Side of Town,’ as in the Eagle’s song ‘Lying Eyes.’ Things looked up when we met you and Michelle. I hoped he would overcome his ignorance and insecurities. He hasn’t done this. He takes a step forward but then he retracts one sometimes two steps backward.”
“Manda, it’s awful that Jason’s still ignorant of you and worse jealous and resentful of you.”
“I give us a year at most. A divorce would be a good thing for me. Before you go I want us to listen to one of our favorite songs.”
Eric and Amanda were sitting close together on the couch. Eric said as he stroked her hair, “It makes me feel good that your feelings for me are that deep and intense.” At that point an Olivia Newton-John’s song began to play. The words to the song, “I Honestly Love You,” were somewhat fitting to their situation in that it refers to an extra-marital love, although the people in the song did not get to make love. That did not make the couple feel any better. They wept as they listened to the beautiful song. When it ended, Eric and Amanda knew they had to part. During what was supposed to be their last hug and kiss they both began to weep again.
Amanda said, “Eric, what’s truly sad is that our feelings are real and strong. They’re holy and should have been respected.”
With that, Eric lost it, “I don’t want to go. I hate her for what she’s done to us!” The two held each other tighter as the tears streamed down their faces.
When they returned to their home the womanizing continued and heavy drinking was added on, according to Lena, who went to see them a few months after they moved back to Louisiana. Amanda was not surprised at this news. There needed to be atonement for her violations of Eric’s humanity. They had a community in which decisions were made by consensus. Then this woman seized the power by taking their children as hostages. She took all of that poisonous baggage with her when they went back to Louisiana. The last Amanda knew, they were divorced and his drinking had stopped.
Amanda separated from Jason on New Years Day 1996 and soon divorced him. In spring, 1995, Amanda met the man who was to become her soul mate. Eric was her first love, and Michael Demian Randolph turned out to be the love of her life. He took her graduate course, “Education in Modern Society.” Unlike Eric, Michael was a bit overwhelmed by Amanda. He never dreamed that a gorgeous fox like Amanda with a doctorate and several publications in her mid-twenties would be interested in him, except on a Platonic basis. The two immediately became friends, but it was not until September, 1997 that the two got together erotically. That was a bit disappointing at first, due to Michael’s shyness which was based primarily on ego, i.e., the fear of rejection.
Had it not been for Eric she might have become discouraged and pulled away from him. She had enough Platonic male friendships and she was more than confident in her sexual attractiveness. She was not going to waste much time on a hopeless case. In between the time they met and when they clicked erotically, Amanda had several erotic relationships with other men. When they finally truly connected erotically, her desire for other lovers declined to almost nothing. She had only a few, and later discovered that Michael enjoyed watching her make love with certain other men. What a wonderful and refreshing change from her first marriage. She knew she and Michael were spiritually married. Even as they lived together in intense passionate love, she knew sometime down the road she and Eric would connect again. Michael had already expressed positive curiosity about meeting him. Michael was as beautiful and sensitive as Eric. She would love them both forever. As she allowed her wildest fantasies free rein, she could not help but wonder what a threesome with those two wonderful men would be like. And since she pretty much knew she could connect with Eric again, it was by no means out of the realm of the possible.
One thing she did know was that it was possible to be in love with two men at the same time. It was as her long time best friend, the now late Dr. Donda West, the famous singer-song-writer, Kanye West’s mom said a few years earlier, ‘Manda, there isn’t a man alive who can satisfy two women. Women’s sexuality is too vast for this to be an actuality. However, one woman, if she is whole and developed like we are, Amanda, can certainly satisfy two men.’
for Michael DeCapite.
Jock itch hatches in 30 minutes. You feel dazed and angry at the sky. The Mojave cannot surpass the agony of an Arkansas summer.
“Can I might could use your restroom? Those sausages – Polish sausages – I ate last night aren’t setting well.”
He’s one of the power-washers I found on Craigslist, the one who stands six-foot-five and has three chins and, in profile, has a pear for a skull. Bulbous forehead, no jaw. He must be close to 350 pounds and is not shy about it. I say “sure” and worry about how many sausages he’s going to drop into my toilet. He is the unofficial supervisor which means he owns the power washer and watches John work it and sweat off the 101-degree, 75% humidity afternoon. I supervise all of them, high on scotch. After all, nobody can miss one inch. (Churchill, considered the greatest man of the 20th century, above Einstein and Roosevelt, drank a bottle of brandy before breakfast, scotch and soda before lunch, and wine for the remainder of the day and night. I do not feel as if I am trespassing on anyone with my so-called “alcoholism,” including myself. Labels are easy. The truth is it keeps me alive.
John sprays the house. The white paint looks a little brighter. A San Jose native who has been here most of his life, his hair is long and dark blonde and he lacks front teeth. Smells like a skunk and something septic, he needs a power wash. Jack Daniels and cheap American beer do occur to him. He quoted $450. The boss said $500. I said $475. John brought his girlfriend along. Born in New Orleans in the ninth ward, I must wonder how she escaped after hurricane Katrina wiped her house off the map. She has lost many of her teeth, but I have lost 5. The main point is she is a tall and lean brunette with short cropped hair, Italian-looking. She is pregnant with apparently John’s child and is very cheerful. She sits in the truck. She climbs a ladder and scrubs the wall outside the garage with a natural bristle brush. She outwits John and the pear head, but they pay little mind to her jokes. They are more interested in their own jokes. She talks to me but throws her arms around John. I imagine them living with plastic sheeting and blue tarps overhead their trailer. Pear head tells me when the economy was good they’d make a grand a week. Now sometimes they make $350. I gave John the cash and he quickly handed it to the Pear. I said, “John does all the work and you take the money.” “We have an arrangement,” Pear says. John says, “All ya’all need to make it here is one good friend who respects you and you can trust. That’s all ya’all need.”
I don’t have that. I will find a substitute in a contractor named John Sickles, but will blow it when he turns on me and I threaten to expose him as a fraud to Medicare and Social Security. He will work construction every day for the three years I will know him, but files for disability. He is paid under the table so he can qualify for Medicaid. It started when I offered to pay him for two days work (half-days for him) with a gun. I figured the gun was worth $200. He likes the pump .22 and says yes. I give him the gun after the first day. The next day he blows me off. I look up the gun on the internet and discover it is old and not made anymore and is worth between $900 and $2,000. I tell him I would like the gun back and he does not return my messages. That’s when I made the threat. Then he said he would give me the gun back, but he said it was worth only $200-$300 and he intended to keep it, not profit from it like the things he finds at flea markets and sells as a very lucrative sideline. He tells me he will hurt or kill me for threatening his fraud. I tell him I believe in living under the radar and I have always supported, and given advice on getting Social Security Disablity. I tell him to keep the gun. But peace will never be restored. Half his life is a lie, the other an endless stream of jokes. He is funny, but he is slippery. He drinks half the beer and whiskey I have in the house and has not once brought over a six-pack.
But I do have a friend in Marilyn. We have trust and she makes the money while I sit at home writing and drinking. It is unfair to writers how it seems they are never writing. The fact is I can bang out an immortal story in four hours and then suck on the bottle until my woman comes home from work. On the surface, I look like a loser. Which is exactly what her shallow and insane mother and obstinate sociopathic son call me. “Why do you always pick losers,” the kid asks him mom.
John Sickles was another Craigslist find, and all was well for two years. He is a genius who fixes everything we throw at him, from motorcycles to French drains and electricity. He finds many things amiss and takes his time repairing them. Air filters in the ceiling, a new deck, and takes care of the place when we are in California. His southern accent is less overwhelming than the power-washers’, but Marilyn has a difficult time understanding him. He is a wizard when it comes to discovering legitimate problems around the house. Tall, jovial, a talker, he wears a towel around his neck because he sweats heavily when he works – outside and inside our house, the towel is rolled up like a collar and tucked into his shirt. I smell cigarettes on him so I worry for him and over our deck, which needs new planks. His skin is yellow. It will take him a year before he lights up in front of me. I will ask for one and he will give me one, setting myself back to the path of smoking.
John can tell you everything you want to know or don’t want to know when it comes to house construction and repair. He charges $15/hour except for plumbing and wiring, for which he charges $20/hour. He is a talker and will tell you about your deck for 20 minutes, but it seems he subtracts talking time from his invoices. Some of his stories are beyond believable but they have value as stories. I feel our house is in good hands when he is here, his eyes falling all over the place from the inadequate supports in the basement to the clogged gutters.
John is also a ham radio operator. He also owns 70 hot tubs, which he fixes and sells. He rents a house with his third wife, who will soon divorce him. He said he rents because he lost two houses in divorces. On a Hawaiian vacation, he was busted by the hotel for running an antennae wire out his window and into the ocean for better reception. The hotel management frowned upon his communication methods. He builds his own radios and says he has talked to the international space station as it flew past. His best friend is a charter pilot. He said the “Hero of the Hudson” was so brave you “couldn’t put a nail up his ass.” His best friend will die when his charter plane crashes in Oklahoma. It was neither pilot error or mechanical failure. The ground crewman put jet fuel in one wing and high octance gas in the other wing. So much for minimum wage. The guy was fired and the airport suffered lawsuits from the families of the executives aboard, as well as his friend’s wife. The airport went under. John will tell me the facts, but does not reveal any emotion.
Our front yard is more bare moss and mushrooms than grass. It’s the oak canopy we have which shades the jungle floor. And we’re on a hill, so rain erodes the topsoil, leaving bare spots of infertile clay. The roots of the trees are laid bare. On this posh street it’s an embarrassment. I never worried about lawns in the past and I think that’s because I always had one. Here there is no front lawn. The seeds I planted there in fresh dark soil from plastic bags sprout and stunt.
Marilyn created a web site for her students in five days. Using HTML. She had not used the program in 26 years.
I built an office in the master bedroom closet using sawhorses and a six-foot long by 26-inch wide by one-inch thick pine board. The board didn’t want to fit in here and then the office chair put up a fight. I dread the day I have to take that chair out of here. I have wired the place with a surge protector. The computer and desk light, printer and stereo are connected. I carried my hindu fetish in my suitcase and it now sits to the side of the computer, spreading peace, sadness, and joy. Whether he is Buddhist or Hindu, he is a calming figure who has been on my desk for 16 years. I found him on Narragansett town beach after an enormous storm washed him up 100 yards from an 1800’s shipwreck. I was very ill at the time and walking the beach saved me. When I saw the fetish’s face looking up at me from amongst the kelp, the ivory diamond on its forehead, I considered it a sign, a destiny. Skinner auction house in Boston wanted him when I needed money for heroin, but I kept him. He’s become a talisman and rock through all the changes, 19 places in 16 years, an event, a connection. The fetish is smarter than me. I know this because he beams enlightenment through closed eyes and has never spoken a word.
116 degrees inside Marilyn’s car yesterday. 102 degrees outside.
There are 380,000 people in the surrounding area. I must meet one of them. At least one.
Two neighbors have come by to introduce themselves and welcome us to the neighborhood. Sarah is a professor of education at the University of Arkansas and her husband is a former illustrator who now paints. He drew for high-end magazines, advertisers, and CBS, NBC, but he is old now and painting what he wants. He tends toward realism, but his signature handling of light is full of expression. Sarah stopped by and gave us the inside story on the neighborhood. Turns out our neighbor across the street who lives in a mansion is a certified public accountant with a retarded son and dead wife. The house is modern, straight lines, three floors, massive. Sarah said it took two years for the son to pass his driver’s test. Now he drives a massive blue pick-up with huge Oakland Raiders stickers on the side and I am frightened about meeting him on the road. His mother taught, tested, and coached him for those two years. Sarah didn’t present any theories about why she committed suicide. My only thought on the matter is she was married to a number-cruncher and her home life was difficult. Her son is off his nut. He came over here one day and has since been yelling my name from 200 feet off when he sees me. Then one day he came over and asked me my name again. He can see in our kitchen windows from above and is the type for whom I own weapons.
Sarah invited us to go out for dinner with her and her husband. We hit what had become our favorite Mexican joint since arriving here and we had a good time, with Sarah and Marilyn doing most of the talking. Ken sat opposite me and occasionally spouted inappropriately personal questions. A strange fellow, a quiet gray-haired painter who broke jokes but mostly remained silent with his beef and chicken fajita. He talked to the waiter, who he knew, more than he talked to me. I guessed he was shy and inward like many artists. I had seen his art back at his house and found him an excellent realist. I considered realists as working in the past, especially photo-realists. He used acrylics. So anyhow, I sat across from him and ate my food like all that mattered was food. Ken was strange and far away that night, but his younger wife compensated with her wit and friendliness. She was a bit too friendly, a sexy Navaho, but I did nothing to dissuade her. I think she knew she had to compensate for her husband, that the burden was not new. They were nice people and I recently visited Ken and found we were able to talk. One time I went over to their house to return a dish and she answered the door. We talked about the spring, knowing what we knew, and she said, “Who knows, anything can happen.”
The other neighbor who stopped by was Colonel Earl Massey, who formerly was in command of the nearby Air Force base until he retired. (One day I saw a Warthog jetting over the neighborhood. Another day an F-18.) Days ago Massey retired from teaching ROTC at the high school. Short white hair, do what’s right as defined by the defense department kind of guy – who would put a .223 into your liver in the name of America, as defined by defense contractors. He was extremely friendly, but he hadn’t heard my electric guitar yet.
Legal moonshine. Rumored: cockroaches and cottonmouths. The best ribs in America! Absinthe – with water and sugar this year. Repairmen and handyman, leather couch delivery, New York City Jewish movers arriving telling me my move isn’t paid for, inspiring me to tell them to fuck off and check with their dispatcher while i shove a receipt under their sweating noses; after the lead Jew accepted that the company had been paid in advance (he had called the headquarters), we all got along fine Fact is he wouldn’t even be at our house if we hadn’t paid. Was he trying to double his profit? He’s sitting in his truck in front of my house telling me I owe him six grand if we want our boxes. Miscommunication within the company, maybe, but stupidity and possibly something more sinister: holding our things hostage until we paid more than the contracted amount . . . I had been warned about companies which do that. The other two movers were excellent and I tipped them a Franklin. Friendly carpet installers . . . Most days we have had a stranger in our house and Sascha has greeted them all with a bark and wagging tail. He is good with everyone, even those who are terrified of the gentle giant. I do not think we have a good watchdog in our 103-pound German Shepherd. We have a puppy. Marilyn is kicking ass at the university. “The best,” a web designer said. Her own HTML studies at Humboldt State are in the past yet she recalled it well enough to build the best nursing course web site in her department. The girl never ceases to amaze me with her intelligence and talents. She is also a great abstract painter in and out of the sheets.
Things are worsening for my friends Matt and Kim in Rhode Island. Kim has already told Matt he is free to fuck other women. When your partner won’t sleep with you and gives you a ticket to sleep with others, you know you are in the end stage. Yet he clings to a past and last night tried to go down on her and she said, “No! No!” I told him I was sorry he was dealing with such rejection. Kim has drifted away since they had Vera. Matt remains in love with her as always, but it is unrequited. Matt says it’s because she prefers the tough type, like landscapers and fishermen, not the writer and musician. She looks upon him as weak and distracted, though she is good at running interference when a woman takes interest in him at a gig. He can’t fix a broken faucet, therefore she doesn’t care if he is a genius. I think it’s a little more specific than sex but Matt refuses to admit it. She doesn’t love him. She just needs him financially because she is too mentally unstable to hold a job. They began as a consuming fire, where she met him at motels on lunch breaks wearing high-heeled black boots. Two, three times a day they fucked like savages. It was all about sex, they were still on a roll when she became pregnant. Then she gradually turned and since the birth of Vera she has frozen, denying him sex and whatever good will she has left in her. He does not come home smiling. He comes home to complaints and cigarette smoke. His daughter Vera is his savior. I tell him he would win her in a custody battle. He could leave Kim for a more affectionate woman who would be willing to have the five more kids he wants. Maybe he doesn’t believe this. Maybe he fears Kim would get Vera. So Matt is chained to Kim. He loves being a father. It has so transformed his perception that he says he loves Vera more than he has ever loved any girlfriend. That’s powerful and I am sure Kim knows it. He says they stay together so that Vera will have two loving parents. This might fool her until she is six. One day Vera will learn they stayed together for her and founder in guilt.
Sascha and thunder. Living here he may get over the frequent rumblings of the clouds and quit barking in fear of the unknown. It was a rare sound in California. The weather here reminds me of the East coast, but fewer summer storms.
Buddha or whomever my friend is, looks settled. He travels well and is very aware for a piece of wood and ivory. A part of me wants to auction him through Skinners because I am broke, but I suspect that would curse me to bad luck for eternity. While I write, I feel he is a guide. One priest said he is a Laotian funerary statue. The carves into his chest represent family members. He stands just nine inches, but his sun-like face can command a room. He is carved of one piece of wood and stands perfectly balanced. I looked into his origin and found no Eastern fetish like him. His body more resembles something from Africa.
Marilyn has put the dish soap in the cupboard under the sink. This is a pain in my ass when I go to wash dishes. When I ask her to move it onto the side of the sink, she argues that we have never done that and it has always been under the sink. I cannot possibly fathom what makes her lie so vehemently and blatantly. In the end I win because I can yell at her better than she can yell at me when I have the truth on my side, as well as common sense. So ridiculous to be fighting over dish soap with such energy and frightening how readily she lies.
The most dangerous shark to man is the bull shark.
The most dangerous man to the bull shark is me.
Hang up your shirts, man. 2,400 mile shirts. The box blocks your desk chair.
This is the most spacious closet I have ever written in. It is the size of my hotel room in San Francisco, 1999 – and has no bed or sink or cockroaches. It is a room with shelves and poles. My desk displaces 260 shirts. This is going to work for as long as my brain works. Sometimes I fear I have become wet-brained, but I then believe I have ten more years in me. On the menu:
Moonshine in a ball jar.
Daytime Scotch. With ice and club soda. Straight at night.
Tequila. Shots and cocktails.
Citrus Smirnoff. With margarita mix on the rocks.
Absinthe. Sugar and water. I used to shoot absinthe. The most difficult liquor to keep down after a shot. Fire in the lungs! A stomach screaming NO! Absinthe made scotch and tequila shots go down like grape juice. I now drink absinthe the way it is meant to be. Sugar and water, murky green turns on new lights.
Late night concoctions. Throw together whatever is left on the bar.
From dawn to 3 a.m. There is a drink in my hand. I remember starting up again when Katz died. He left Champagne in the fridge before he blew his brains out, then the bottle of rum he left for us on the kitchen table, to tequila and beer. I had quit for seven years after the onset of severe manic-depression. I tell myself I am stronger now. But I don’t really know how strong my scars are. If I crack up again, will I get a third chance? I have heard of second chances and I am using mine up like a waterfall uses a river.
This is the first short story I have started in months. I’ll admit, I have lost the habit. We have been in Arkansas one month. It was not a block but pure laziness, preoccupation, and disregard for the readers i do not have. I have written several million words and hopelessness lay upon my shoulders, white and light, but cold.
I dropped the motorcycle in the steep driveway yesterday. I was pinned under 300 pounds, with the weight of the engine centered on my ankle. I yelled for Marilyn for 10 minutes before she heard me. I feel like a novice who has forgotten how to ride. It really hurt, but my ankle was not broken. Motorcycle mishaps are often less forgiving.
Nefertiti has sent me an email with Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” attached. She said it reminded her of me, of us. Did I ruin her for other men? I told her it was one of my favorite songs, a masterpiece. I asked her if she was one of the men because I did not understand her comparison. I asked her about who the other man was in the blue raincoat. Kerouac? Only because he was famous at the time and his raincoat played a role in On The Road. I have no idea why she sees us in the song and when I asked she never answered. I must consider and know that I was the best fuck of a promiscuous woman’s life.
Nef is working in the Persian Gulf, excavating a Bedouin settlement. It sounds like her least exciting dig, but the Gulf is about to combust and I wonder if that is not her true interest. She is always working in war zones, where revolutions, coups and conflicts between nations and inside nations are going on. The last one was Egypt’s revolution. She doesn’t tell me which Middle-Eastern country she is in now. Sounds just like my ex-girlfriend Orit’s stories about her life and father, who was a pilot for Pan Am and a CIA agent. She was in Afghanistan when the Russians invaded. I mentioned the CIA to Nef once and her reaction was explosive. I haven’t brought it up again, only have watched the patterns in her locations. She has a PhD from the London Institute of Archaeology. This last job in Egypt, happened when the leader was overthrown in a revolutionary uprising she was in the center of. She told me she had lost friends. Then she moved on to the Gulf region, which has never been so unstable. I don’t know why she won’t tell me which country she is working in. At this time, I am not completely convinced she is CIA, but also realize that this belief is the conclusion a good CIA agent would strive for. My ex Orit didn’t realize her father was CIA until I told her he was. Based on the portrait she created. She called her mother. “Mom, was dad CIA?” “Yes, honey. They all were at that time.” “All” refers to the Pan Am pilots. It is absolutely necessary to have a cover job to go undetected. The jobs are real. The spies have two jobs. Nef is a highly respected archaeologist who makes no money, yet lives well in London and locations. I have unresolved emotional entanglements with Nef and I hope she is not working for the CIA. It would change everything with us. She would be affronting her mother and father and how she was raised. Her mother’s house was a stop in the underground railroad for Vietnam war dissenters on their way to Canada. Spying is necessary, but she wouldn’t stoop and take the job, even if she needed the money. Would she? No doubt she has been approached and makes little as an archaeologist. I don’t know who the hell she is, except a sexual masterpiece, but she says she is going to retire at 65. On what?
Famous Blue Raincoat. It’s a sad song. A friend sweeps into town and fucks Cohen’s wife and she is never the same for Cohen. The experience left her so affected that afterwards “She was nobody’s wife.” Cohen handles it well in music. The song is sublimely scorching and is a perfect poem and perhaps the only avenue of retaliation available to the songwriter. What the song has to do with Nef and me? My one guess is betrayal, my <>Ione against her many. We both wrecked a love where everything flowed like wine and our neuroses were balanced and therefore normalized.
The Buddha looks cheerful today. Must like living in the dark.
Nef writes. I respond. She does not write back.
I initiate correspondence. She does not reply.
Always the kiss, kiss, kiss sign-off. “ xxx Nef” but no Nef.
I write and ask her why she starts conversations and does not respond to my reply. The very next day she calls me an idiot and claims she has not been near a computer in weeks and that I am harassing her.
I am a fool who thought I had more priority in her life.
I tell her I assumed she was near a computer when she wrote to me about “Famous Blue Rain Coat” and when I wrote back immediately, I expected a response.
She called me an idiot and said she has been on a river barge for weeks.
You can see how little sense she makes and how easily she angers with me, the man who dumped her.
She says that I am not a fool, but she believes I hate her.
I tell her that statement is frightening and untrue.
I know she feels this way because of the book I published, in which she was a main character. She let something perfect die and calls me hateful after I put the truth on paper. When we were together she suspected she had an std and didn’t mention it until after our four weeks in bed – over lunch. I can see how she thinks I hate her, based on the details in the novel (“Too much detail,” she complained. “That’s what a novel is,” I replied.) I have written about us, and my love for her is greater than my love for most I have known, despite the destruction we have delivered upon ourselves. I wrote about love and death and she cannot take her eyes off the death.
The years are catching me. Each day I hear my hellhound. The hours. My days pass through nothingness. It’s actually become an effort to find things and people to hang onto. About all I have to hang onto are aches and pains. I am beyond alone. I do not exist, but for the designs which surround me. I notice my life. That’s all.
Beauty the bull dog barks at a chair. My deceased old man, one year – his ghost sits in the chair. Only beauty can see the ghost. Beauty loved him and remembers him. Beauty is a bulldog. My old man was a jealous and abusive motherfucker. I never liked beauty. She constantly tried to kill my dog. Bullies usually gravitate.
Completed a painting yesterday. It rose out of me like lightening. Using the colors of my very first palette of 17 years ago. Thick black, white, ultramarine, cadmium red, yellow ochre – spread with the knife. The painting is dark, a subterranean labyrinth with colors showing like a late sunset through thick shadowy tree-tops: silhouettes.
The Clonopin I take at night for sleep hampers me in the morning. The Clonopin works for 12 hours; I take it before bed and ideally sleep eight hours. The last of it is in my system while i am trying to wake up. I will not allow the mornings to go wasted with exhaustion and that benzo-induced writers’ block. Mornings should be sharp. I am a farmer. I must retire at sunset and awake at 4 a.m., calm and clear. I farm words, thoughts, ideas, and especially people. The seeds are in the air, in our blood and tears, born behind our ribcages. I catch them and plant them onto the blank page. Every minute and day is a new harvest. To stay awake late and take the Clonopin before bed is to wake at noon with the day’s power lost. A plague of locusts feeds on the bare brain silence of the one who wakes after dawn.
Small red bible on the dash, well-worn cover –a shaved head he has come to cut our lawn with his fiancé and two small and patient children. He thanked me for the work. They arrived here nine months ago from coastal Oregon for the work and low cost of living. He came from a town of 1,900. Not much work in these small towns anymore, storefronts emptied every day, anemic main streets, ashamed of themselves. That’s where he came from. Or is what he came from, a place without a how? Mike did a great job with the lawn and will charge me less next time because the grass has now been cut for the first time in six weeks. The guy had a genuine handshake and did what he came to do. I’ll keep him as long as he keeps us. Postscript: Some mechanic who worked on his car for the previous owner (a 70-year-old woman) took out the catalytic converter (reason unknown; maybe she didn’t want to pay for a new one) and welded in a straight pipe. His Honda is loud and probably illegal, however lax Arkansas is about emissions and fuel fumes. Speaking of gasoline, I have been using it to thin my paints. I don’t smoke on these paintings.
Liquor stores with drive-thru windows. Christians don’t want to be seen in liquor stores. All of the religious fanatics are private about their so-called sins, which are not sins or anything else suspicious to the free man. They came up with a trick to make hypocrisy easier and more endurable – that I am sure fools no one. And imagine the folks who survey liquor store parking lots to see who is with satan? All of them are lost because they cannot accept and savor this life.
Marilyn’s parents arrived with Derek at noon. They clung to him until the very last moment. He missed orientation at school. He knows nothing of Fort Smith. He begins school in one day. His grandparents’ “love” has done him a disservice. Clinging to Derek, a spoiling grandma abused by her grandson, this is Marilyn’s mother. No words between her mother and me, avoidance strategy – though I do listen to some of what she says as we give them the tour. She is clearly still sour about us moving from California to what she calls “one of those bad states.” Virgil was courteous right off, shook my hand, looked at me, unlike his wife, but Virgil is a liar who is constantly covering up for his wife’s nasty mental instability and hostility. She and I are where we have always been only now it is out in the open. She speaks less when I am in the room ever since I told her she was asserting her existence with noise that only injured others. I told her she was an irrelevant human being when it came to me. I can discern now that she listens to me and even repeats what I say as her own. One of those exhausting types who needs to be beaten down and shown the door before she can act civilly. I was surprised to see how Derek treated her, but he knows how to handle her. The frightening thing is Marilyn is a lot like her mother when it comes to inviting what I’d call abuse. I don’t want to be part of it.
Her mother ignored me, scorned me for the first 18 months in California and the relationship improved little in the following two years. It was too late. She was insane and I was the sore she could not stop picking at. Virgil told me the first year of silence was “a test.” Pretty sick. One does not need to treat another like a pariah for a year to see if he is admissible. The highest relationship we have achieved is toleration, which is a perpetual losing. She is full of trivia and gossip and hatred. When I said something, she tilted her head and looked at me like she didn’t understand, which I believe she didn’t. We’re just so far apart. I have seldom seen a person so tangled up in the shallowest. I could not say one true thing to her without her face twisting in confusion and finally rejection. A rabid conservative Republican who cares more about her money than the truth. The lying war-monger President Bush is her favorite President because he protected the wealthy. Benefitting from unions their entire lives, Karen and Virgil turned against unions once they had their money in the bank. Finally I gave up on her. She recently attacked me through Marilyn, calling me “a bipolar alcoholic with anger management problems.” In response, I really gave it to her and now she shows a respect I had to win by enduring hatred and waging my own war.
It is going to be painful for them to leave Derek behind. They have over-loved, over-identified, which is not love but a spoiling and a destruction. They have lived through him by buying him things that made him happy for five minutes. Since her mother called me a bipolar alcoholic with anger management problems I have been drinking whiskey in front of her and Virgil. It doesn’t matter anymore. Marilyn used to have me hide my drinking from her family. She wanted a closet drinker, wanted me to act like someone who was ashamed, which I am not. Ironically, I am writing this in my closet office, but it’s just a writer who brings his whiskey to work, as well as everywhere else.
Marylin must go to the university today for a convocation, wearing her robe to meet other faculty and the new students. Her parents and Derek decline. I will go.
Ankle still hurts a week after I dropped the bike on it. I was pinned with the engine case crushing my ankle into the pavement. I was wearing sandals with my bare ankle gripped by steel and concrete. Lucky I didn’t break it in the falling. Imagine wearing a cast in 102 farenheight and 90 percent humidity? Concern now is getting the bike to start. The crash shut down the electrical system.
I took the family out for dinner last night. Good food. Didn’t talk to her mother at the table, but we exchanged one smile when I told Derek that at his new school he will have 450 girls to choose from. He’s already on to one. I ignored her and she avoided me and we did not exchange words until we were in the parking lot and she said, “Thanks for dinner!” And I said “You’re welcome.”
I’m cooking spaghetti and meatballs tonight. Karen and Virgil slept at their hotel last night, but may spend tonight here. The question is how long will they linger in Arkansas? I think tonight Marilyn will give us a tour of the nursing building and department. Thinking: If Marilyn finishes her PhD here, which is a job requirement, I’m going to be sitting in this closet with my homemade pine desk for three or four more years, contending with a totally stressed out and infrequent girlfriend for too long. She may do her doctorate on how most couples split when one of them is in nursing school. The stress and work, as well as a woman’s sense that she soon can be independent of her husband – on whom she probably relied to get through school – often leads to a break. Marilyn got her masters without help from her rich parents or husband, who wouldn’t even pay his share of the mortgage. Marilyn worked two jobs, medical surgical nurse and teacher at the nearby college, raised Derek, dealt with a sick and useless German husband (who kept using her credit to buy more and better Jettas and BMW’s which he wrecked because in his country he had never driven while she wrote 200 essays over two years and achieved a 3.9 GPA. She was sleepless for two years. Next she will go back to school while a full-time Associate Professor, which she thinks will be easier. One job, no husband. Just a half-mad artist and a teenager.)
Karen and Virgil came over this afternoon sheepishly saying they had eaten a big lunch and would not be staying for the spaghetti and meatballs I had cooked, despite accepting Marilyn’s invitation yesterday.
Less energy. Slipping into this place. Sleep on the couch or write, paint. Constant has been playing outside with the dog, accompanied by the frenzy of cicadas. Sascha likes to chase sticks and catch frisbees. We have many trees in our yard, but I found a straightaway to throw through the trunks.
Alliterations. Accidents. Altogether now! Love, love, where are we?
The rifle leaning against the wall in here and the pistol on my shelf constant reminders that i have a choice. Yes or no. Stay or go. This is the question I awake to each morning, kill or kill. Yeah, this must be – is – my SONG. Essential to living on the edge is to remain calm. I am not excited by the things others believe I should be. One looks to me for laughter and it isn’t there, I have lost the smile. One looks to me for anger: i say nothing. I have been reincarnated as a ghost whose goals are to be clear, calm, peaceful. I have only an appetite for geniuses and paradox. I am willing to eat grasshoppers. So far, my visions have severed me into many immaculate pieces and delivered me to many sacred places.
“Are you taking your medication?” I asked Marylin. (anti-depressant)
“What does that have to do with anything?” she said.
“Are you taking your medication?”
“What’s this? Out of nowhere?”
“Are you taking your medication?”
“The question is more like ‘Are you taking your medication’?’” (bitch mode)
“Don’t make this about me,” I said. “Are you taking your medication? Because you have been a bitch for days.”
“I’m the same.”
“You’re not. Are you taking your medication?”
“No. And I feel better without it.”
Lying bitch, I buy newspapers and look at the rental ads.
Took an interrogation before a simple question was answered, to achieve simple honesty from my girlfriend. Are you taking your medication? It is common for psyche patients to quit their meds when they start feeling better. They quickly fall and exhibit the same symptoms which landed them in the psychiatrist’s office. Then they lie. Medicated, I am healthier than Marilyn is un-medicated – and she is allegedly healthy and I am one of the ”sickest” individuals several doctors said they have ever treated. (Bi-polar, schizo-affective, seizure absentia, sometimes psychotic.) Last night I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed. Without her meds, she is interpersonally psychotic. (Avoids contact, counters everything you say, is a slave driver who ignores or critiques your accomplishments, yet still expects to be serviced every night – despite how psychologically unattractive she has made herself. Perpetually frowning, better than, argumentative.) On her meds, these lower intolerable symptoms recede and she seems what I’d say is normal. If she insists on skipping her meds, then I must leave. She is thwarting my openness, denying my experience, and making my expression a liability. How can one remain with one he does not want to see or talk to?
Derek should be home in 45 minutes. In order not to be bitched at by Marilyn like last night when he took the wrong bus and I did not make a fuss about it, today I will walk down to the bus stop and see if he steps off it. If he does not, I will call the school. I will go to the school and pick him up, which is what all of his efforts not to take the bus are about. He was driven to and from school up to the age of 12. His mother. His grandparents. Me. We have all spared him the bus – more spoiling. I told Marilyn he would resist. She replied that he was confused. Like how he walked right past the gathered kids on the corner bus stop yesterday, passing by the obvious and walking for blocks without looking back. He didn’t know that we were down the street watching. We ran after him, Marilyn shouting, and we finally got him to come back and join the other kids. I told Marilyn he was trying to miss the bus so he could come home and get a ride. She said something back to make me feel like an asshole. Now Derek misses the bus twice a week and we must drive him to school. He has three alarm clocks. When they wake him he gets up and turns them all off and goes back to bed. School means nothing to him. I have asked him if he had learned anything in school today for four years and he always says “No.”
She refuses to understand her own kid, or accept what he is. She always defends him, despite the obvious. He gets away with lies and abuse of his parents, grandparents, drinking alcohol, and smoking pot at age 11. She lies to herself. Her baby is incapable of deception and manipulation, even after all the lies and crimes she knows he has committed. When I told her he had a “dark side” she refused to believe me and acted like I was a piece of shit until a week later he was busted making marijuana deals. For awhile, she listened to me and believed she had a troubled kid, but now her son is back to perfect and I am left in the dungeon once again. She is in denial about her kid, subservient to her mother, and antagonistic toward me. You think this relationship will last? Today Derek got off at the right stop. I was there. Then Marilyn pulled up. Then the grandparents. Do I feel trusted? Does he? Derek and I walked home together, despite the eager eyes of his grandparents wanting to give him a ride. Derek and I kept walking along in the heat; grandma looked disappointed that I could persuade Derek to walk with me, to walk on boiling tar instead of riding in her air-conditioned nightmare. Later she will accuse me of driving a wedge between Derek and them. Derek will say, “Some people can’t handle reality” and “They are always attacking Marilyn.” It’s a spiritual ground busting out relief to see him defend his mother.
Marilyn and I had a good talk last night about our distance and aggression. She sat on her zebra stool and I sat on the edge of the tub. She blamed her aggression on me. I blamed my aggression on her. My rudeness versus her bitchiness. It all equals distance. She said she is taking her medication again and she did seem better this morning. Last night she said her med was mostly for stress with an anti-depression component. Asked, she said it was not a benzo, but she hates taking it because it eliminates her libido. The truth is she has a relentless libido and if anything, the medication spares her some rejection. Our talk ended well with a big soft kiss. The comrade was back. Having an accomplice in life is more important than getting laid.
Marilyn is reading a novel. The cover of the paperback has a simple design: FUR.
“What are you reading?” I say.
“What’s it about?”
Thou shall not covet the neighbor’s porsche. Thou shall buy his owneth.
You walk out back onto the deck and you are standing amidst an oak jungle, feeling high and hidden deep in the leaves where the cicadas hang on with sticky legs while grinding their enormous hollow abdomens. They watch us with four eyes. We have not seen many birds here. In California we had every type, falcon and hawk to vulture, bluebird and bald and golden eagles, and especially hummingbirds and crows. I have not seen a crow here in one month. Maybe the farmers dynamited them all. The farmers do that around here. They wait for the crows to land in a tree for the night and blow it up. Thousands of crows sleeping together for safety from owls are blown into black and bloody justifications. Killing wild animals, and college athletics, are the two activities which spin Arkansans into a frenzy. One little girl dressed as a cheerleader from Oklahoma for Halloween. She got no candy. Given the option, the people here buy red cars to celebrate the Razorback team colors. Looking at houses online, we saw many with entire rooms devoted to the Razorbacks, flags, banners, stickers, posters, mugs, large flatscreens mounted on red walls, piles of nachos and cases of American beer, tv light bouncing off red bellies. Please buy my house before I overdose on red. I want to move to the white frontier of Alaska, to kill out of necessity and never hear a sports announcer again. Please! I cannot survive my distractions. Will even sell my red Harley. I need to save my marriage.
This dog with a muddy nose follows me everywhere. Man’s best friend is a stalker. I clean his nose with a paper towel. Each morning he checks on the bone he recently buried. He digs and moves dirt with his nose. His face emerges looking like a bulldozer. Times he comes in and wants to rub the dirt off by sticking his nose in my crotch. My crotch is one of his most comfortable places; I rub the backs of his ears and he stays down there. I say, “Where did he go?” and reach around my leg and grab his nose. “There he is! There he is!” His tail wags.
I bought a five-foot giraffe yesterday at a flea market. It is carved from one piece of wood. It’s form is extremely elongated, Giacometti on LSD. I placed it just inside the front door. I mentioned to Marilyn we have an African theme going.
But where are the birds?
Free to Be
Karen looked at the bum who was staring in the restaurant window at her and sighed. Why did she always attract bums and loafers? It had been bad enough back home. But now she was in New York. The last thing she needed was some wacko bum stalking her.
Sure the bum was free to be a bum. After all wasn’t she in the land of the free? And she was free, wasn’t she? Wasn’t that why she’d come?
She rose from her table in the window, settled the check and left the restaurant. She had to lose the guy. And quickly. He didn’t look too friendly.
She wasn’t surprised. No one had been friendly since she’d arrived at JFK.
“Get behind the line!”
She’d jumped at the severity of the voice at Passport Control.
Welcome to America, she’d thought.
She’d looked at the cop who’d shouted the order. There wasn’t a smile on his face.
He might have been good-looking, mused Karen. Sure there was a need for security but wasn’t he taking his job a little too seriously? Weren’t the majority of people harmless, weary travellers who would have welcomed something warmer? After all, hadn’t they chosen to come here? To the land of the free.
Instead she felt like a criminal. Guilty till proven innocent. Like the rest of the queue must have felt for they’d all fallen silent. Even the children. How about innocent till proved guilty? she thought. How about giving her the benefit of the doubt?
There was no doubt in the cop’s mind. She could see that.
She watched the slowly disintegrating line of United States citizens drift disencumbered through Control and sighed as she viewed the interminable queue of foreign nationals in front of her. Would any of them get through? And how long would it take?
It wasn’t quite what she’d expected. It seemed a bad omen. And sure enough, the rest of her trip had been the same.
The rudeness of the newspaper vendor when she’d asked directions, the impatient annoyance of the staff in the coffee shop where she’d been speechless and indecisive at the vast array of choice on order and the endless hustle and bustle of bodies brushing past her on the seething streets had left her disillusioned with travel. Why did she always pick the wrong place to travel to?
New York? Forget it. She’d be glad to go home.
And yet, what was there back home? Or who was there? Nothing. No one. Wasn’t that why she’d wanted to get away in the first place?
Her eyes searched the street for the bum. He was still hovering outside the window of the coffee shop but his eyes weren’t. His eyes looked directly at her. Amid the dirty brown-stained clothing, the eyes provided a startling, cobalt contrast. For a second she thought she recognised him.
Impossible, she thought. Who do I know in New York? And who do I want to know. No one.
He was sizing her up. She’d better get out of there fast. She’d already had one run-in with a wacko last night in the Burger Bar. He’d sat down on the empty seat next to her and she’d had to make a hasty exit. She didn’t want this wacko following her.
She hailed a cab. It pulled up amid the screeching siren of a squad car. Crime. Crime was everywhere in New York, thought Karen.
She’d put some space between her and her stalker. Watery space. She’d take the boat out to the Statue of Liberty.
It couldn’t be worse than her last trip up the Empire State Building.
She’d really been looking forward to that when she’d arrived and joined the queue waiting to take the elevator up to the top of the building.
Until she saw who was keeping everyone in line.
She couldn’t believe it! It couldn’t be! And yet it was. It was the same, unfriendly cop she’d seen at JFK.
What the hell was that guy doing here as well? Did she have no luck?
“Step in line there!”
His eyes had been on her. Did he recognise her? No, no one paid any attention to anyone in New York. She was just a number. A number who’d stepped out of line.
With the reluctance of a rebel, she stepped back behind a burly guy in front of her. But not before noticing the smug, supercilious smirk on the face of the cop.
Why! That pompous, over-bearing jerk! she thought. He enjoys throwing his weight around! By God, how did someone like that ever get to be in the police force?
She’d still been seething as the elevator had shot to the top of the building. And rage had clouded the stupendous view across the Hudson River for her.
What did she expect? Everyone in New York was the same.
Maybe the boat trip would be different. She wouldn’t be in New York. She’d be on the water. There’d be some space between her and New York. Space to be.
Battery Park was right, Karen thought, as she surveyed the interminable queue waiting for the ferry. She’d be battered by the time she reached the beginning. Battered and bruised. Like those drop-outs she’d seen in the park. A caged animal aided into the abattoir. That’s what she felt like. How was she going to enjoy the boat trip with all these people herded together? How was she going to breathe free?
The ferry pulled away from the shore-line. Karen took up a position at the rear of the ferry. She held on to the railing as the New York skyline slowly stretched itself across the shore like some spreading sickness.
She turned her back on the shoreline and surveyed the throng of people pushing for a vacant spot. No, she wasn’t going to be pushed about. She wasn’t going to give up her spot. Then, suddenly, she changed her mind. She turned quickly and surveyed the tumultuous wake the boat was creating. It couldn’t be! And yet it was. The bum who’d been ogling her through the coffee shop window was a few people behind her.
Oh God, I hope he hasn’t seen me, thought Karen. No, he can’t have. Calm yourself, Karen, she thought. Act like any other tourist and enjoy the view. She lifted her head from the tumultuous tumble of the water at her feet and looked towards the horizon. The ferry was now quite some distance from the shore. The negativity of New York had vanished, replaced by spectacular scenery. For a second the majesty of the towering skyline brought a tear to Karen’s eye. She had an overwhelming feeling of homesickness. Was it her feeling or was she picking up the feelings of all those immigrants who had stood on the very same spot and felt the same? An immense feeling of loneliness drowned her. Did all those other immigrants feel like her? Wish they had someone to share the view with? She didn’t have time to ponder on it. The couple next to her vacated their position by the railing, someone took their place and a voice said, “You feel it too, don’t you?”
Karen turned round.
Oh my God, she thought. It’s the bum!
That’s all she needed. Being hit on by some wacko bum!
She tried to back out of her position by the rail but the crowd behind her had her pinned to the railing.
“The spectacular view. And no one to share it with. They must all have felt it. All those others who have stood where we are standing.”
It wasn’t what she’d expected. But then neither had New York been. Against her will, she turned and looked at the tramp. He wasn’t old. Round about her own age, she thought. Long, unkempt hair. Dirty sweater and jeans half covered by a long, soiled mac. But startlingly bright cobalt eyes.
Must be a New York characteristic, thought Karen.
A wave of compassion surprised her. How had the poor guy come down to this? And how had he managed to afford the fare for the ferry? He was probably harmless anyway. Just a poor guy down on his luck.
She surveyed the New York skyline. Maybe she’d misjudged the city. Busy, yes. Teeming, yes. With thousands of people struggling to survive. To make a living. To do better. It took time. And effort. To make a better life.
“You don’t recognise me, do you?” said the bum.
Sure, I do, thought Karen. You were the bum outside the coffee shop. A wave of guilt washed over her. Bum? He wasn’t a bum! Just a guy. A guy who hadn’t made it yet. Maybe he needed a helping hand.
“I’ve been following you around,” said the bum.
Oh my God, thought Karen. He’s been stalking me!
Her compassion crumpled.
She tried once again to back off from the railing but the crowd had her imprisoned.
“You and others!”
Oh, my God, a serial killer! she thought.
Almost as if echoing her thoughts, he said, “There’s a killer on the loose.”
The boy to her left vacated his position at the railing and Karen moved into it. Maybe she could move back from here. The crowd behind her now seemed thinner.
“That’s why I was at the airport.”
Oh God! thought Karen. He’s followed me since then.
“He’s been stalking foreign nationals.”
He’s using he so he doesn’t feel guilty, thought Karen.
“That’s why I’ve been covering all the tourist destinations. That’s why you’ve kept seeing me.”
I didn’t see him, thought Karen.
“You still don’t remember, do you?” he persisted.
Karen shook her head numbly.
“The cop at the airport?”
What was he talking about? She remembered the cop at the airport only too well.
“The cop at the Empire State?”
Oh my God, thought Karen. Was this a long list of his hits? She hadn’t liked the cop. But she wouldn’t wish harm to anyone.
“That was me!”
The guy’s a complete wacko, thought Karen. He thinks he’s a cop!
She spotted an opening in the crowd behind her. Freedom was almost hers.
“They’ve put me undercover now. To see if that has any better success.”
She was about to make the break when his hand hardened on her shoulder and he pulled her round to face him. With a swift movement, he whisked the hair off his head.
She surveyed the short, cropped hair.
“Do you recognise me now?” he said.
She shook her head numbly.
“Look into my eyes,” he said.
Oh, my God! I’ve been wrong! she thought. It wasn’t the bum! It was the cop! The smug, supercilious cop!
Except he wasn’t. Somehow.
“It’s you!” she said inanely.
He smiled and the sun seemed to come out in a cobalt sky.
“How do you like New York?” he said.
Her hand gripped the railing firmly. She looked at the spectacular setting in front of her. She’d been so wrong. So wrong about the bum. So wrong about New York. People were busy. Yes. Busy keeping other people safe. Busy scratching a living. Busy trying to lead a better life. If they hadn’t time for friendship with a foreigner, it wasn’t their fault. It was her fault. She’d given up too easily. She hadn’t kept trying. Like those New Yorkers. They kept at it. They never gave up. They weren’t aliens. They were just like her.
Searching for something better.
And you could find it in the most amazing places. With the most amazing people.
She looked at the scruffy cop and the spectacular skyline. She had someone to share it with after all.
Thank you, she said silently, to the universe.
He must have read her mind.
“I’m off duty after this,” he said. How about goofing off in the city?”
“Goofing off would be good,” she replied. “I can’t imagine anything better.”
“There’s nothing better than New York to goof off in!” he laughed. “as long as you let this goof get out of this clothing.”
“That might be a good idea,” she laughed back. “After all, I wouldn’t want people to think I only attract bums and loafers!”
“Not that you’re not free to be a bum, if you want to?” she added hastily.
“That’s the beauty of New York,” he said. “You can be anything you want to be! But I think I’ve had enough of being a bum for now.”
Yes, she thought. New York was amazing after all.
She could be what she wanted to be.
But the best thing?
For now at least.
She was just free to be.
“So, you wanna join up, huh, kid?” asked Judas Iscariot.
“Yes, sir. Very much so, sir,” Shecky stammered nervously.
Judas looked the young man over carefully.
“Do you know what it takes to be one of us? You gotta have chutzpah, kid. You know what that means? You gotta have balls. We got your Romans, your Sadducees, your Pharisees, meshuggah villagers, and Herod up our tuchuses all day every day. You think you can handle all that, kid?”
“Another thing you gotta do is get people to listen. They gotta listen to what the Boss is sayin’, and what he’s sayin’ ain’t what some folks wanna hear. So you gotta be classy. You gotta have class, kid. You got class?”
“Uh huh,” Shecky said, nodding vigorously. Judas spat on the ground reflectively.
“It ain’t easy, pullin’ off miracles day in and day out. You know, your basic raisin’ from the dead and leper cures. It takes hours to put them stunts together. You gotta get up before dawn and go to bed afta midnight. You think you can do that, kid?”
“If Adonai wills it, if I pray hard enough, if my faith and devotion are...”
“You’re a believer, ain’t ya, kid?”
“Yes sir, Very much so. With all my heart and soul.”
“Where’d you catch the act?” Judas asked.
“I was there when He turned water into wine.”
“That was a good one,” Judas reminisced. “Real good. I had a hangover for a week.”
Shecky looked at Judas hopefully, his head cocked slightly to the side like a suppliant dog.
“Ya know what I’m gonna do, kid? I’m gonna give you a chance.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you, Mr. Iscariot.”
“Don’t thank me yet. You see all them people coming around this hill?” Shecky nodded. “They’re here to see the Boss. But He don’t like His audiences cold, see? You get your ass out there and warm ‘em up.”
“But...” Shecky stammered.
“But what?” Judas asked peevishly.
“What does it pay?” Shecky blurted.
“You don’t get paid,” Judas said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “There are rewards in Heaven. That’s better’n gettin’ paid.”
“How will I eat?”
“I’ll tell ya what. Cause I like ya, I’m gonna comp your meals. How does that sound?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I want to help, but...”
“But nothin’. Working for the Son of God ain’t good enough for ya?”
“It’s not that at all,” Shecky protested. “It’s just...”
“Enough! You get up there and entertain ‘em ‘til the Boss is ready to talk.”
“What do I say?”
“I don’t give two shits what’cha say, just be classy. And entertaining. Try some jokes.” Judas gave Shecky a little push in the direction of the top of the hill.
Shecky’s knees shook as he mounted the crest of the little mountain. He didn’t have anything prepared. He had wanted this ever since seeing the miracle at Cana. His big chance was here at last, and it was teetering on the head of a pin. He breathed a prayer to the Boss’s Dad. The Boss himself was near the bottom of the hill in his green tent, getting ready. In the midsts of his prayers, Shecky felt peace and confidence and faith wash over him. As he looked out over the crowd, he knew that he would without a doubt succeed because his belief was pure.
“How are you doing today?” he called out. There were a few belated moans from the people seated around the slope. The sun was beating down savagely on them all with the intercession of shade for none. Some were trying to fashion makeshift parasols out of their head cloths with sticks, mostly without success.
“I said, how are you all doing today?” in a larger voice. The moans grew louder, but they were still moans. “I just got in from Athens. Speaking of Athens, are there Greeks here today?”
“Great. Let’s talk about them. So there I was in Athens, ordering a gyro platter. I told the guy I wanted extra cucumber sauce, but he said I couldn’t have any. So I said, ‘Buddy, you got a hell of a Minerva!’”
Shecky noticed a few audience members look at each other quizzically. There was no laughter.
“Nerve. Minerva. Get it?” Shecky explained.
“I guess you guys don’t like Minerva jokes. Okay...”
Shecky wracked his brains for another joke.
“Okay. A Greek, a Roman, and a Jew are walking down the street when they all get hit by lightning. When they get to the underworld, Pluto says...”
“Look, guys, it’s just a joke. Just play along. Pretend, okay.”
Surprisingly, the audience quieted.
“So anyway, Pluto says that Atropos made a mistake. He says they can go back to the land of the living, but to stay there they have to give up one thing they love. Naturally, they agree, and back up they go.
“So they’re still walking along. As they walk, the Roman sees a crucifixion underway, and crucifying criminals and freedom fighters is his favorite thing. He tries to resist, but he can’t. He rushes over to hammer in the last nail, and poof, he disappears.
“So the Greek and the Jew are left. They go a little further and the Jew sees a shekel lying on the road. It’s so beautiful and shiny. It beckons to him. He bends over to pick it up...and the Greek disappears!”
Shecky held his breath for the inevitable laugher which, for some reason, never came. His stomach began to knot with embarrassment and failure. He looked down to make sure his tunic wasn’t split down the middle, then he looked over questioningly at Judas, who shook his head and gave Shecky a thumbs-down. Shecky looked around. At the back of the crowd, two Roman centurions were leaning on their spears looking hot and bored. Inspiration struck.
“So, what’s up with these Romans?” Shecky asked desperately. “Aren’t they a million laughs?”
The crowd began to boo and hiss.
“Now, now, I don’t like them any more than you do. But you have to admit, they’re not very bright.”
The crowd quieted, interested in what Shecky might say next.
“What do Romans do? They conquer. They conquer everywhere they go. And how do they conquer those places? By tearing them down. Nothing strange about that, happens all the time. You want to take someplace over, you don’t give them a place to hide. Your tear down their homes, steal their cattle, drink their wine, et cetera et cetera — to use a Roman turn of phrase.”
Shecky was rewarded with the faintest possible titter of laughter.
“Okay. So the Romans come in, conquer, loot, and tear everything down. So what do they do after that? They rebuild it. They build aqueducts and roads and buildings to replace the stuff they just destroyed. Well, duncus maximus, why didn’t you just leave it the way it was to begin with?”
The crowd laughed and cheered. Shecky absorbed their energy and felt it lift him up toward euphoria.
“And how about that emperor of theirs? All those names! Caesar, Octavian, Augustus! Augustus-schmustus! He should pick one already. And while he’s at it, change the picture on the coins, because, damn! Talk about your graven images!”
Shecky felt a sting on his behind. He turned to see Judas lower his sling and mouth “the Boss” while pointing to a figure outside the green tent dressed in a simple white tunic, stretching and doing lip and tongue exercises.
“Well,” said Shecky, “I’ve just gotten word that the Man Himself has just arrived — on his ass.” The crowd chuckled. “Of course I kid. Please give a warm welcome to the Man of the Hour, the Man with the Plan, the Messiah and Son of God and Man, my good friend Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth!”
The crowd went wild with applause. Shecky ushered Jesus onto the top of the hill, shaking His hand warmly. Jesus muttered a benediction as He propelled Shecky downwards and Himself into full view of the assembled crowd.
Shecky almost ran over to Judas, flush with excitement over his success on the mountain as well as his meeting and touching the Boss.
“What did you think?” Shecky asked.
“Eh. I think ya got what we call potential, kid,” Judas said grudgingly.
“Thanks, Mr. Iscariot.”
“Call me ‘Judas.’”
One year later:
“I know what you’re thinking,” Shecky said to the over-capacity crowd at the Synagogue of Nazareth. “You’re thinking that hanging around Jesus is an easy life. It isn’t. You’re thinking that if you hang around Jesus you always know what to do. Well, that just isn’t true.
“Let me give you an example. Kaddish. The Kaddish prayer. Seems easy enough, right? The guy’s dead. You say the Kaddish, you light a candle and boom, you’re done, right?”
The crowd murmured a reluctant agreement, not sure where Shecky was going with the joke.
“But now you’re hanging out with Jesus. All bets are off. What do you do if you’re saying the Kaddish prayer and in the middle of it Jesus brings the dude back to life?”
The crowd guffawed.
“I mean, do you stop saying it? Because, after all, the guy was dead, right? And, let’s face it, sooner or later he’s going to be dead again. Can you use the first half of the prayer like a deposit or something for the next time the guy gives up the ghost?”
The crowd roared. Shecky could swear he felt the floor tremble with their laughter.
“Not only that, but then there’s the fact that you’re saying Kaddish over a live bro instead of a dead one. People are bound to talk. The rabbi may crack you across the knuckles with his yad. What do you say? ‘Well, he was dead when I started?’”
Shecky let the audience laugh itself dry.
“And don’t get me started on meals. It’s one thing to give thanks to G dash D in the abstract, but when He’s sitting next to you? You can’t just turn your head and say ‘Hey, Jesus, thanks for the grub.’ You’re kind of on the spot, you know. It has to be worthy of the occasion, like “These eats are divine!” or something like that.
“And another thing. Like, what do you do if you don’t like the food? Do you still have to eat it because the Lord is now your lunch monitor? Will I go to hell if I don’t eat my lentils? I suppose I could ask Him to make me like lentils. After all, I’ve always said it would take a miracle to make me eat them! I can hear the miracles being listed now: ‘Well, let’s see, Jesus raised from the dead, cured lepers, turned water into wine, fed the multitude, and got Shecky to eat his lentil beans. ‘What? Shecky ate his lentils! Surely Jesus is the Son of God!’”
The crowd applauded.
Shecky saw Judas making the cut-it-off signal across his throat in the wings.
“And now, folks, here’s what you’ve been waiting for. Here he is, the G-dash-Dmeister, Jesus of Nazareth!”
Jesus and Shecky shook hands warmly as they traded places on the stage. Before exiting, Shecky turned back to the audience and shouted “Now I want lentils! He truly is the Son of You Know Who!” The guffaws drowned out Jesus’s first words.
Backstage, the apostles clapped him on the shoulder for another good show. Thomas handed Shecky a skin of wine, and Andrew offered some of the roasted kid the caterers had brought while Shecky was in the middle of his act.
Another year passed:
When Shecky and the other disciples finally entered Jerusalem, the last leg of their Judean tour, the twelve apostles were mortified to find that Shecky (who now went by the stage name “Shecky Shalom”) had been given top billing over Jesus. There was a great dissension among the apostles about how to correct the problem.
“Chop him up for bait,” said Simon Peter. “Jesus won’t mind. Then I’ll literally be a fisher of men.”
“Sounds good to me,” said the other Simon. “And I’ve got just the thing right here.” He unsheathed his sword halfway to show off its dull, notched, rusty and never-sharpened edge that promised its victim a particularly slow and gruesome demise.
“Let’s feed him to the Romans,” said the usually quiet Bartholomew. “Let them deal with the problem for us.”
“Or we can sell him into slavery,” Luke offered.
“Let’s not be too hasty here,” said Judas. “We might need him to take a fall if you know what I mean. You seen them hands and feet of his, so pristine, so ready for the centurion’s hammer and spike? King Herod and the Romans are both startin’ to take a closer look at what we’re up to, and that ain’t so good. I got a plan.”
In a hushed voice, Judas told them his plan.
“Whatcha think, Boss?” he asked after he had explained his intentions.
“The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” the Boss said. It was settled. Shecky would go on first and the Boss would follow, just as it had always been, and Judas would enact his plot before the Passover seder began.
Shecky was incensed when he learned that the billing would be reversed.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” he asked the Boss.
“The Son of God and Man,” the Boss replied.
“And you think that gives you the right to go on after me?”
“Ha! If it weren’t for me you’d still be making benches in Nazareth. I’m the one they want to see. I’m the one who’s bringing them in for five shekels a head and a two-goblet minimum. All you do is give them advice. Do this, don’t do that,” Shecky said mockingly. “My Father this, my Father that. Well, let me tell you something: Religion is easy. Comedy is hard.”
“‘Pride goeth before the fall,’” Jesus quoted in response.
“Of Rome, maybe,” Shecky rejoined quickly, unable to take a hint for the want of a cheap laugh. Jesus sighed and shook His head.
Despite his attitude, Shecky’s last Jerusalem show was a triumph. If it had been held in flaps, it would have brought the tent down.
“How about this Pontius Pilate?” Shecky said as he approached the crescendo of his routine. “He’s our procurator. ‘Procurator’ sounds like the name of a butt doctor. But it fits because his name sounds like a type of hemorrhoid. ‘I’m going to the apothecary. I think I have Pontius’ Pilates.’ Or maybe something like ‘Poor fellow. Looks like he’s got a case of Pontius’ Pilates. He’ll never fart right again.’”
For all of their big city sophistication, the Jerusalem crowd roared. Shecky had learned that everyone loved a good series of crude butt jokes.
“Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes,” Shecky said in a ponderous voice. The crowd booed and catcalled.
“Now, now,” Shecky scolded teasingly. “Doesn’t the Boss teach us not to condemn? Now, just think about those words for a moment. Pharisees. Sadducees. Essenes. Have you ever noticed how each word has the word “see” in it? Yet the only thing I see them doing is spewing goat excrement and sucking up to the Romans. I swear, if (Boss-forbid) something were to happen to the Temple, they’d show up an hour later trying to rebuild it with goat turds.”
The crowd howled with laughter.
“Can you imagine them praying over the goats to make them crap out of a few more bricks? Talk about your Passover plotz!”
Shecky let the crowd laugh itself out until only a few random chuckles remained. Then he softened his voice into a sleek creature that radiated sincerity from his bushy head to his hairy toes.
“But, seriously, folks, we just can’t go on like this, arguing with each other over these little points of law. Is a mustard seed kosher for Passover, or is it chometz? Who knows, and who cares? Look at us, fussing and fuming and sputtering at one another like a schmaltz lamp. We need someone to tell us the way. We need someone with a plan. Someone who doesn’t have his head up the Romans’ arse.”
“Shecky! Shecky! Shecky!” the crowd began to chant. Shecky let it go on for just a little while, pantomiming reluctance.
“No, no, thank you, but no,” he’d finally say, his hand raised to ward off the justifiable temptation offered to him by the crowd. “I’m honored. I’m touched. You’re making me ferklempt. But there’s only one Man with a Plan, and all of you know who that is. Are you ready to meet Him? C’mon, let’s bring Him out here. You know His name. Call Him out here!”
“Jesus! Jesus Jesus!”
“That’s right! Call Him out here!”
“And here his is, the Plan Man, the One, the Only, Son of Man, Son of G dash D, my very close personal Savior, Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth!”
Jesus appeared, and Shecky shook his hand with a great deal of pretend enthusiasm and made his way off.
“Where the fuck is my goatskin of wine?” Shecky complained loudly as he stepped off the makeshift stage. He held out his hand expectantly with his fingers opening and closing like a baby asking for matzoh. “Someone’s supposed to hand me a goddamn skin of wine when I come offstage. We’ve talked about this. Come on, guys! Get with the program. If it weren’t for me, you’d be darning fish nets in Galilee or shaking down some poor farmer for taxes or staring at a sheep’s ass!” Eventually, an apostle reluctantly handed him a goatskin. It was a different apostle each time. They drew lots to see who would be responsible for the particularly loathsome duty of waiting on Shecky. Shecky didn’t notice or care.
“I am Peter, and upon this rock I will drop Shecky on his head,” Simon Peter joked.
“Let’s kill him slowly,” Thomas whispered to Thaddeus. “The Boss can raise him from the dead and then we can kill him again.”
“The real miracle is that we haven’t killed him already,” Thaddeus replied in earnest.
The other apostles made similar remarks, and such remarks had become much less restrained and more audible as they lived through the passing seasons in Shecky’s company. Unfortunately, Shecky was stone-deaf to every jibe the apostles offered, and each season was tainted a little more than the one before it by the ever-brightening glow of Shecky’s impenetrable corona of self-love.
The Boss ramped that day’s show down early, as Passover would begin at sundown. The apostles and Shecky and the Boss retreated from the crowds to celebrate the holiday with the traditional Seder prepared by John and Peter.
Before the meal began, the Boss washed the feet of each of his followers. The apostles were uncomfortable with the Boss’s humility, and when their discomfort was blended with the Boss’s pious seriousness, the moment was both solemn and moving.
“Oh, no! My little piggies aren’t kosher!” Shecky exclaimed in mock horror when his turn came, destroying the mood.
“Ha ha,” said Andrew through clenched teeth.
After the foot-washing, Jesus began the meal by tearing apart a loaf of bread and passing it around the table.
“I know you washed your feet, but did you wash your hands?” Shecky asked with mock seriousness.
“This is my body you eat,” Jesus said.
“I thought you’d taste better,” Shecky joked from the table’s nether end after taking a bite. “I don’t know about you guys, but my chunk of Savior could use a little more salt.”
Jesus poured a cup of wine and passed it to Judas on his left.
“This is my blood you drink,” Jesus declared.
“I thought the Messiah would be a better vintage,” Shecky said after slurping loudly from the cup when it got to him. “Hmm. Fruity with overtones of deity.” He swirled the cup around and took a second experimental mouthful. He looked at the cup again, eyes wide.
“Are these Roman grapes?” he asked in mock horror. “This tastes Jovian.” The apostles grumbled. One of them played idly with a dagger.
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Shecky said. “Really, it tastes just like what I always imagined the Boss would taste like. We should call it Jesus Juice. We can sell it at the next show.”
The Boss sighed. They ate in silence for several minutes.
“One of you will betray Me,” Jesus said unexpectedly. The apostles protested vehemently, Shecky included.
“If any of us were going to betray You, we wouldn’t be sitting here eating this crappy Seder,” Shecky argued. “No offense, John and James.”
“None taken,” James growled. John shot Shecky a dirty look.
“And you, Simon Peter, you will deny Me three times this night before the cock crows,” the Boss prophesied.
“Heh heh,” said Shecky. “He said ‘cock.’”
Philip laughed despite himself. Simon the Zealot elbowed him in the ribs.
“Dick jokes? Really?” he admonished Philip.
“We don’t seem to be getting anywhere,” Jesus said. “Let’s go for a walk in the Garden of Gethsemane.”
“You know, it’s funny,” Shecky said as they rose from the table. “You’d think eating the Lord would be more filling. Am I the only one who’s still hungry?”
John wheeled around, ready to shake Shecky to bits within his tunic. Andrew stepped between them, blocking John’s way.
“Let’s just get to the Garden,” Andrew said.
They walked the short distance from the house in which they had eaten the Passover meal to the garden. Jesus was in the lead and the apostles a respectful distance behind, except, of course, for Shecky, who was trying to co-lead the group by walking abreast of the Boss.
“Hey, where’s Judas?” Shecky asked. “Did the bitter herbs give him the runs or something?”
“I’m sure he’s around here somewhere,” replied Simon the Zealot, smiling broadly.
The group soon came to the Garden of Gethsemane and let themselves in through the little, modest wooden gate between its high, thick walls. The garden itself was resplendent with venerable olive trees organized in neat, broad rows.
“Peter, John, James, come with me. The rest of you will remain here.” Jesus and his three chosen disciples moved to another part of the garden. Shecky was trying to digest one too many matzoh balls, and as soon as he sat down with his back resting against the trunk of an olive tree he was asleep.
Two hours later:
Shecky awoke suddenly to two temple guards jerking him off of his comfortable perch and tying his hands behind his back with a leather strap. Judas was standing behind the guard, beaming with delight. In fact, everyone looked happy except the guards and, of course, Shecky himself.
“Jesus, you’re under arrest,” one of them informed Shecky.
“I said ‘Jesus, you’re under arrest,’” the guard repeated.
“I’m not Jesus,” Shecky said. “He is.” Shecky inclined his head towards the real Jesus.
“Of course you’re Jesus,” Judas said. He moved in and kissed Shecky on the cheek. “See?”
“What the hell was that for?” Shecky asked.
“Judas, must you betray him with a kiss?” the real Jesus asked.
“It felt right,” Judas said.
“Are you sure this guy isn’t Jesus?” one of the temple guards said to Judas, pointing to the real Jesus.
“That’s not Jesus,” said Simon Peter.
“Really? Because that guy looks more like Jesus’s description than this guy,” said the guard.
“Really. It’s not Him,” said Simon Peter. “That’s Shecky Shalom.”
The temple guard tugged at his beard reflectively.
“I saw Shecky’s act in Perea, and this guy looks an awful lot like Shecky.”
“It’s not Him,” repeated Simon Peter. “I can prove it. Shecky,” he said, head turned towards Jesus, “tell him a joke.”
“A guy walks into a wine shop with a crocodile,” Jesus began. “He says to the owner, I’ll sell you this crocodile for a jug of wine. What am I going to do with a crocodile, the wine shop owner asks. Whatever he wants, says the guy.”
“Ba dum bum,” said Andrew.
“That wasn’t very good,” the guard said.
“They can’t all be gems, my son.”
“Okay. I’m satisfied. Let’s go.” He and the other guard each took one of Shecky’s arms and dragged him off. The apostles could hear his howls of protest long after he and the guards left the garden.
“Okay, Judas, let’s see the loot,” said Simon. Judas tossed him a coin purse containing thirteen pieces of silver.
“Thirteen pieces, just like I said,” Judas said. “One for each of us.”
“If it’s enough to get me out of this hell hole, then I’m satisfied,” said Thaddeus.
“I doubt it will get you out of a brothel,” joked Thomas.
“If you guys ever talk about this, leave Shecky out of it. Agreed?” asked Jesus.
They all nodded and made affirmative noises.
“See you around,” said Jesus. He and the apostles walked away in various directions. Judas hung around under a tree for a few moments so that the Apostles wouldn’t hear his extra seventeen silver coins jingle in his purse.
A cock crowed.
Author Bio of Simon Easton
After ending a fifteen year career in teaching, Simon turned to writing, with works published in the 99 Pine Street, Allegory, Amarillo Bay, Bewildering Stories, Corvus Review literary journals, as well as Bewildering Stories Quarterly Review and Annual Review. He recently edited and contributed to an anthology of stories centered around a ruined house called The Seven Story House.
A Hero’s Son
“You slime ball douche bag!!! What makes you think you are fit for my Marine Corps, the Marine Corps of Chesty Puller and other brave and honorable men!!? On your face, puke!! Push-ups!! Ready, begin!”
Those words were often heard from my boot camp drill instructor back then on Parris Island. For Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in history, a marine’s marine, was a standard that was often demanded of my aspirations. And aspire to it I did. At least until I got to Vietnam and a taste of what it was all about. Though even then there was a real part of Chesty Puller not far off. His son, Lt. Lewis Burwell Puller Jr., led a infantry rifle platoon there until he tripped a booby trapped howitzer shell and lost his right leg at the hip and his left leg below the knee as well as his left hand and most of his fingers on his right hand.
Barely able to survive and somewhat recover, he wrote in his Pulitzer Prize winning autobiography, Fortunate Son, how his father, the iconic Marine, wept when he first saw him in the hospital. And how this hurt more than his horrific wounds. Some would say that he never got over it. But with guts, determination and the help of his wife and others he came back to raise a family, get a Law Degree, and approximate a normal life. But always there was the tug of the war and what it did to him and others. There was always a reality that could not dovetail with the awards and letters that he received. And the literature that he put forth. At the age of 48, after years of struggle and many failed attempts to resolve what should be with what was, Lewis B Puller Jr. ate his gun and was given a hero’s burial at Arlington Cemetery.
It is with no little sense of misgiving that I view the plethora of messages in our country that seem to indicate that donning a military uniform is little different from Clark Kent ripping off his suit in a phone booth. To me, these messages smack of a grooming process designed to cover up the obvious. When a simple soldier is gravely wounded, many times, he or she is paraded before us as if they were one of the Spartans of ancient Rome bound for glory. That by forfeiting pieces of their flesh, all is not lost, for heroes they have become.
Helping others to try and overcome severe destruction is a worthy cause, no doubt. But I can see in real time how much consideration is given to those shattered men and women when the footlights have dimmed and the wars have passed on to pretty ribbons and trinkets. Or when the adventure of a government shoot ’em up has grown stale and the need to paint a picture of courage and glory for the masses has dwindled.
Throughout my life, with the passing of each new war, I have witnessed the avowed outrage over the care that the shattered ones have received from the same hands that provided them with armaments and a path to destruction. And each time I see the same promises wielded about when it comes to fixing a system that favors war with no consideration for its casualties. Yet each time it does not change and I wonder who can actually believe that it ever will. This never ending cycle and its rotating rhetoric is like the catechism of some religions—lips move and the same old Hail Marys issue forth. By rote.
How can we honestly wonder at the number of suicides in the populations that take up our perpetual wars. How disillusioned it must have felt for Lewis B. Puller Jr, coming to a time like that with his privilege and myriad of resources. And still not able to pull it together. How much more so for the common soldier.
Maybe, just maybe, Lewis B. Puller Jr. and those like him in that land of loss, would be better off a tragedy that taught and limped on, than a hero who inspired at the cost of themselves. May he and others at last rest in peace, be it Arlington or the grave plot on the ridge.
Charles Hayes bio
Charles Hayes, a 2015 Pushcart Prize Nominee, is an American who lives part time in the Philippines and part time in Seattle with his wife. A product of the Appalachian Mountains, his writing has appeared in Ky Story’s Anthology Collection, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Fable Online, Unbroken Journal, CC&D Magazine, Random Sample Review, The Zodiac Review, eFiction Magazine, Saturday Night Reader, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and others
Here We See Human Beingness Moving
Behind the ‘MERGE’ sign at Dealey Plaza...
The holiday season, is too fractious a time to concentrate on any one thing, precisely because no one is allowed to. Now that family dwindles dangerously to near just Mrs. CEE and myself, I find it impossible to mix with anyone who doesn’t 1) badmouth some aspect of this time of year, yet 2) move with it like they’re a Nutcracker in mid-Riverdance. It’s the season of ADD and OCD meeting, driving a golden spike into your skull. A full treatment of any one subject, would only earn me some “TLDR”, from at least one of you...and, if you dare that move, remember a nite lite until you’re 80. A best pal once explained, the “word”, in phrases like “Word to your mother!”, is “respect”. But, no one knows its true definition, anymore. And, I’m the Hulkster, primed, in waiting.
So, to end our travels this year, I’ve decided to go prospecting through CEE’s incoming mail, for Q’s to answer. Your mail does find me, yes, it sure does. It’s come addressed to “the opinion guy”, “the Hate guy”, “the asshole dude”, “the Honor Student’s Mouth”, “the anti-Nazi Nazi”...I even received one addressed to “Mr. Donald Trump”, but it was clearly meant for me. I’m pretty sure The Donald doesn’t care what they call our Downtown. What he’d call it, would make me look like a civic booster.
Thus, and will try and be random, here, for space I hope I’m allotted, I’ll begin with a question I pulled from an envelope bearing the Royal Seal of England. It must’ve been proxied, the question is posed by a Lord Skeffington Belroit IV, Sr. ...and, I won’t go there... Lord Belroit writes:
“Soon, your people will have a new leader, but your culture glories in disrespect and calumny. You as a nation wait for a single mistake, then howl like hyenas. The race hatred toward your last leader, was off the scale, as seen by Europe. How can America avoid mass rioting and complete social collapse, much less stabilize, if a rough 48% perceive The Other Candidate as Hitlerian?”
We can’t. There’s your answer. You as a lord, know exactly what “free” means in this culture, what it’s meant since my ancestor shot yours at Trenton. “Free”, to an American, means, “Fuck You.” It is a sense of utter selfpossession, no matter the thoughts or input of anOther. But, for most of our history, certain convention, certain tradition, certain “understood” thinking, from Common Sense to the common virtues, kept this defiance well regulated...like a militia (I’m sorry, too tempting). These conventions, this learning, have all but vanished, and we have put Man from babyhood on the Honor System with the miserable Maoist input, that he, Man, “is born good”. Well, if he is, he doesn’t stay that way very long, and the envelope has been pushed and the safeguards burned in effigy, to the point all which thrives, is Self. Most who at all pursued education, still play the liar and hide behind self righteous facades or whatever they can copy/paste from an endless field of Web drivel...these, have a hundred games yet, to deny and spin and obfuscate, to run from their souls as dripping coal black Hatred. Those who could not or did not bob for apples in Academy, however, are become more honest than ever. These amoral creatures I fear, but I welcome the truth of the killing Selves they show. It’s an unbridled beingness which will destroy this entire nation-state and make China’s task in mopping up, take decades...but, it makes CEE look pretty damned perceptive, and for that, I raise egg nog in Thanks.
Freedom as “Self chooses what it chooses and No Judging”, is the end of any society. There exists no person, Here, Now, who would kneel with whole heart to a swastika and feel comforted, feel warm when Others were taken away. But, totalitarianism is what it would take, now, to end the madness. You’re right about the Hatred, m’lord, and too many waivers have been signed. Too many Golden Tickets were printed. Man as his own arbiter, unbound, and millions of this? Forget it! Toynbee’s original, unbowdlerized theory, that the concentration camp was the logical conclusion of Man’s progress, is true, ghastly and horrific though this be. We managed to eliminate such a cold process, only to have backed into the scalding heat of Man as Animal. I expect the shooting to begin, very soon. Our nation, is ended. That’s all she wrote. Thanks to Blighty, for the initial boost. The Intolerable Acts were asshole. The End.
This next one is from an “Uncle Cletus”, at the Peace Pipe Emporium, somewhere in Missouri:
“Where do you stand on the subject of the ISIS murders, as they seem to have off’d a lot of people who disagree with you.”
They certainly have. I play rather snotty, on this, as I only fully tuned in after Paris. If I’d known it was primarily journalists and goddammed bloggers who were guest starring on NBC’s “Death of the Week”, I’d have baked a cake. I come from a world barely cooled from two atomic explosions which was the Occident telling the Orient to “SHUT THE HELL UP!!!” I therefore believe in mass Thunderdome as again deciding History for the next 800 years, that this is inevitable and basic, easy...whether Western Culture reigns at the end of the PPV, no one can say. But, elitists and busybodies, overcorrectors, sneering shits and those who shove their smug opinions up our asses every day? This, is the true mind control, forged in the fire of professors and educators black with Hate and tracing their roots eventually to Josef Stalin, himself. The Guy Fawkes assholes, are the enemy. Let’s see if whitehot Arabic and Muslim bloodlust, can clear the blogosphere off the Web in main, and take out a few thousand ugly masked maniacs along the way (the artwork in ‘V’ for Vendetta sucked, btw). We’ll get to Isaac vs. Ismael, soon enough. There will never be peace in our world. Get that in your mind as a basic premise. Pseudo intellctuals who’ve read so much they can’t think for themselves, are The Enemy. They seek to enslave very thought as process. I’d say that’s a bit worse than hating us for our theology.
Bottom Line, when the death sleep lies cold upon Daily KOS’ brow and the undisclosed locations of whole lists of Anonymi have been torched to ashes, I’ll begin the chant against those I still see as having fallen through a vortex from the Middle Ages. Until then, I hold with Tejano leader Juan Seguin: “The enemy of my enemy, is my friend.” Frankly, if you can’t defeat the Middle Ages with all the tech and mind control in the world, it just proves my point that humanism is false and a game for weaklings.
Okay, what other cheery tidings of great joy? Uhh...oh. This question was sent in by Rear Lt. Holdaphone Carcinogen of the Atlantic City Police...well, it’s 2 questions, I don’t understand the first...all right, the second question reads:
“Your essays often seem to be the assertion that no answer exists, eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. If you see no value in life, this is your issue, but what about those with families and children, who are seeking a ressurection of our system and carry on?”
Well, the first thing I would tell you, Detective, is Truth is much like the Bible wants to make of YHWH, i.e. no respecter of persons. It doesn’t much matter if you or your loved ones wish a solution, or believe it exists, or struggle toward it or reason together, tote barges, lift bales, etc. Either those like myself, who’ve clapped out and marvel at human anthood, are WRONG...or, and a bit more strict than Betrand Russell, We’re Right. I know I’m being a bon vivant jerk and a poor Dennis Miller, Whack-a-Moling any Big Picture as presenting an escape hatch, but there exists within my rhetoric, like the best meat in the claw of a King Crab, validation...or a trail to such...from sources. Take my column on climate change, this past Feb. I began by noting a consensus among the Scientific Community, as reported on msn.com (now, nearly 2 years ago!), that catastrophic effects of “global warming” or whatever’s your poisoning of Earth-poison, were inescapable, even if James Coco came back as a fat fairy godfather and #DING#!, made our mistakes stop immediately. Fact is, Earth is going to take a ton of cuts, and the damage inescapable grows as you read this, but the faithful, nannies they be, still scold, and everyone else sits tail. Given that as baseline and human laziness—if only that!—what do you think is going to happen, regardless a person loves their kids and wants good things for them?
To be totally horrible about it, and granted, I hate children, I never saw a problem with orphanages. If Newt Gingrich had never broached the subject in 1994, how much bad press do you truly believe these institutions would have received? Comparatively? But Human cries, it never, EVER thinks pragmatically, and all turning kids over to a micromanaged system does, IMO, is change the identity and circumstances of who rapes them. That’s a catacylsmic statement, I know, sir. But, Human is a Bad Thing. It seeks only to cheat and to hurt and to feast upon bones. As one who enforces the Law, you know that. There’s exactly one sweeping solution to everything, but not many kick it like champion cheerleaders from Greenup, KY, over nuclear war. The problem with Human, is the same problem with your Q: “What About ME?” The Chaotic Universe, doesn’t give a shit about you—and, unlike Bill Maher and his laughing lizards of friends would sell ya, that isn’t good. It is, however, immutable.
Finally, as our time grows short, I have a missive left under our front door, no lie, it’s constructed like a ransom note and I...I hope to Hell it’s actually signed in sloppy red magic marker. Said signature reads, “Nonnie”, and Nonnie says,
“Talk about the so-called ‘war on Christmas’. Isn’t the whole thing just Christians wanting a big hunk of the calendar to themselves?”
Possibly, Nonnie, but if we accept Christmas as a pagan holiday adopted by the Christian faith, we can’t eat our cake and have it, too. Either Christians are full of shit to celebrate it, as it’s not really about Christianity, so take your complaint to the group dancing around the oak tree...or, if you’re going to pin it on Christendom, admit THEY own said holiday under protest. IOW, pick the indictment you’d like and run with it, greying out all others and refraining from muddying the waters. But, that isn’t what happens. What happens is, accusations and arguments and putdowns and movements coming out of The Angry Rainbow, are whatever anyone inside it would prefer...only, you can’t have 31 flavors of This Should Die which get in the way of one another. In my novel, Actions of the Just, a townie martial artist, confronted by an entire street gang, murders them all, because group attacks cannot be perfectly simultaneous, otherwise people run into one another. So it is with “What’s Wrong With Chrismas”. Pick a blade and stab away, but it ain’t a buffet, as some charges against the holiday, negate others.
The real culprit, isn’t the Christian Church, but the Golden Temple of Green Dollar Bills. The aspect objected to, traces immediately back to commerce and cool shit and buying stuff and purchasing...and many have disparate issues with that part of Otherness, most of them “Poor Little Match Girl” in nature. If you hate the “Things” part of human life—and most who do, do because they don’t have any or many, and well-heeled others are blind to the contradiction in their lives—you’re going to go as Iron Mike Tyson, right at the Biggest Bully, and that would be the holiday small businesses depend upon. Or, if you hate “convention”, for that read, “you must respond politely to thus-and-so”, or “such-and-such is the word we use, here”, I fear you’re just a rebel without an upbringing, as this particular “You Have To” is pretty common and clockwork, every year, so here comes Iron Mike in his black shoes with no socks, again. Eventually, the argument is muddled, as many devolve into such sticks and stoner lines as “they can have their holiday, just don’t force it on me!”, which to this writer comes off suspiciously like the now dated, “I got nothin’ against gays, I just don’t want ‘em comin’ on to me!” If you can see the infantile quality of the second argument, the similarity should leap at you; if it doesn’t, you’re way too gonna-Uzi-a-playground, to be out in public...or, possibly, you were beaten up as a child, by Christian children. Like our friend on Real Time. Argumentum ad hominem, is airtight, folks. Glass houses, etc.
The “war on Christmas”, stems from Capitalism gorging as it must, so to stay alive. Supply and Demand, is its rule of Law. Christians, but for those in The Friendly Church playing a plastic game (and I know many), want their logo, branding, verbiage, and otherwise the 2016 version of Christmas in The Cold War...to have that removed, is on a personal level, to effectively remove Christianity as essential from Christmas, perhaps no big deal...but, again, Money? That’s the flag you see flying and the street where you live. The “war”, is actually the poorer junior high kids angry they have crappier Pokemon cards. It’s an envy-green war in main, and it’s one which cannot gain real legs, or you don’t have a system in operation to hand people extras and freebies. Or, you indeed have no system at all. So, a misdirection. And Christmas is the September to January Big Dog. So, let’s throw fuchsia paint on it, or maybe subpar coffee from cheap cups. Let’s come at it in black trunks like a well-oiled machine built by Cus D’Amato. Most of us have to knock something down to exist in daily life, as human rights have been overpriced to the degree we may no longer knock someone down and have it end with “learning something” and no arrest. You can’t understand mangers aren’t your issue, as you’ve been told they are for over 20 years, by every attitude-laden bitch or son of a bitch who ever pulled a paycheck from HBO Downtown Productions. Whether war or ‘tude, you’re reacting as thrall and destroying the economy. If it’s all mindless idiocy but you keep your roof because of it, Why Care?
Trust me. If you had to buy Whitman’s Samplers even though you were all alone, and had to tack on “Happy Valentine’s Day!” or receive a bad quarterly review, there would be redfaced Spectrum Marches against the very idea of February 14th, and viral memes of Cupid riddled with arrows like he was St. Sebastian. Fact is, you bridle at “Have To”, and (or) you don’t like feeling left out. Utterly specious—it’s goddammed feelings, again. These, Do Not Matter. Ever. For Any Reason. Get over yourself.
Word count and space consideratons being what they are, I will, in the words of a favorite teacher, say, “That’s a good place to stop.” And I would say the same of America, but we missed every chance I reflect on as tolerable, so strap in and brace for impact. I’d love to yell, all-Marty McFly, “Doc! Doc, the windmill!”, but Marty was calling a warning, and no one in real life ever listens to those. Besides, right now, you’re hearing silver bells go #Ringaling#, either lost in a life you never had, or awake, and horked you never had that life. I’ve called this slow quicksand in which we exist, The Riddle of No Answer. I call it that, as if we each had our own dream realized, if the miracle happened as husbanded in your mind...would you know what to even do with it? One of the things which kills me, is, I know I’d make a mess of mine.
Noel, nonfriends. As for Inauguration Day, good-fuckin’ luck. And, I don’t yet know who won. That’s how existential, it all is.