"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

30 August 2011

A Welcome Phantasm

The fact it was an open coffin affair was an affront on more levels than any mere mortal should contemplate. Her hair was still matted and crusted with dried blood, the scent of which permeated the sanctuary like incense from one of the unwholesome and unholy ceremonies in Lovecraft stories. Her eyes were swollen shut, and the gauze was still in her nostrils as if to keep blood from seeping from her shattered nose.

No amount of postmortem makeup could cover those bruises and contusions, giving the illusion she was sleeping, as is fashion in the funerary business. No more than any makeup could've removed that waxy, slimy gray glaze my mother wore over her flesh in her last days. My fists clenched and unclenched as I looked at her. Though I knew, rationally, what I was looking at was only mutilated meat, I was deeply offended by the open box in front of me. I wanted to stab someone. Slowly, and several times.

"Dad, how could they do that to her?" My daughter asked me, mortified. I didn't have an answer. Sabina said nothing, just placing a comforting hand upon my shoulder, understanding my unspoken wish to step outside and collect myself.

"It's hard to see her like this, isn't it?" Her mother asked me as I walked out. The exact thing she said that first terrible night in the sickhouse. I shook my head, but said nothing this time.

It wasn't my first rodeo. Nor, I fear, will it be the last. Still, it is not easy to gaze upon the dead. Anyone who would tell you different is daft or trying to sell something.

The gypsy was outdoors smoking. She made no effort to remind me I had stopped the habit as I bummed one from her and lit up. The smoke clawing my asthmatic lungs was both comforting and disgusting. Her eyes were red-rimmed from sobbing. Perhaps she too was offended by that display in the open box. Neither of us spoke, instead gazing out at a rather impressive sunset over the necropolis.

A group of strangers, family perhaps, pulled up. I growled softly, though the gypsy heard it and shot me a glance. She finished her cigarette and went to greet them.

"I'll catch you inside," I said.

"I need you here," the gypsy said and I shook my head. Her voice became forceful; "Stay your ass right here!"

I growled again, louder this time. The smoke streaming from my nostrils and the corners of my mouth like a dragon. I was not about to be talked to that way by anyone, even one of my friends.

"Please," she said, switching her tactic and tone. "This isn't about me or you. It's for her."

And I tossed out my bummed cigarette. I clasped my hands tightly, but politely, behind my back. The snarl on my face faded into a mask of civility as the strangers approached.

"Fucking perfect," I muttered under my breath.


I'm awake. My eyes fly open to the darkness of the pulled-curtain bedroom. My left hand is hanging off the bed. I know this because Whistler's cold nose is nudging it, letting me know that he and the other two canids wouldn't mind breakfast and being let outdoors.

The shards of dream are like sharp glass, cutting my half-conscious psyche. I can still smell the blood and hear the gypsy's voice. Before taking a large gulp of water, I swear my mouth feels the same as it would after smoking a bummed cigarette.


I never made it to the bruja's funeral, just the public memorial. It wasn't because of not being invited, but it was short notice. I gave up the seats reserved for myself, my daughter, and Sabina for other family and/or friends, feeling it was the honorable thing to do. An alienist might say my dream reflects a certain sort of guilt over not going.

Of course, an alienist might say I secretly want to fuck my own mother...

The bruja has been an equation within the mathematics of my thoughts as of late. I have all sorts of suppositions as to why. The gypsy told a story of going with her daughter and Madam Lung to find the grave, but it didn't pan out. I mentioned a story or two about her recently. Songs I hear when listening to either the radio or the stereo. It could be argued all of these theories have their own validity.

I wonder what, if anything, she might say about the stories I've told lately. She seemed to think I was possessed of a certain type of magic, and would repeatedly tell me that, no matter how much I argued the point with her. My birthday is in two and a half days, and she would at least always phone me on it, if not magic up some ways and means to come and hang out. A year ago, I reconciled myself to the fact my mother wasn't going to be giving me a ring on that day, or any other one for that matter.

This year I do the same with the bruja. Soon, I'll be another year older, and she'll be thirty-seven forever. The very thought is devastating.

Earlier in the day, I caught myself remembering around my thirtieth birthday. I had just gotten involved with a vegan girl. Another of my friends was rather curious about this and mentioned his curiosity whilst hanging out with the bruja and I.

"You like to eat meat!" He said. "How does that work?"

"Let's just say I've developed a taste for vegetarian..." I paused long enough to lick my lips. "...cuisine."

A week after that birthday, the bruja showed up at my place for us to go to coffee. She brought my belated birthday gift, which was a book titled The Philosophy of Punk, but there was also a button for me to place on my satchel that read; Go Vegetarian! This, of course, had nothing to do with my dietary habits. We laughed about that for weeks after the fact.

There will be no more awesome subtle gifts like that. Not from her. No more bottles of fine Irish whiskey, some from the distillery itself. Not from her. No more books I just have to read. Not from her. This bothers me.

The gypsy relates in her story of trying to find the grave how they all thought they heard the bruja laughing. I can see that, because the idea of her being confined to anything, let alone a fucking grave, seems to be an affront on more levels than any mere mortal should contemplate. Part of me, willing to indulge in superstition, wonders if on my birthday I'll hear her voice;

"Happy birthday, Dirty Uncle Bob, you misanthropic bastard..."

Tell you the truth, that might be a phantasm I'd welcome... 

"How I wish
wish your were here,
We're just two lost souls
swimming in a fish bowl..."
-Pink Floyd

29 August 2011


Every so often, I end up doing something on a dare. That's how I ended up doing a guest-post for Starlight a little over a month ago. This time, I got asked-okay, I took it as a dare-by Mister London Street, who is a storyteller I happen to admire, to do the Seven Links thingy-which, ironically, Starlight did a few days back too.

Basically, here is where I answer inquiries, or try to, about seven of my stories. A couple of the ones I'll mention, you can see the links to under my Tales that Bear Retelling column over on the left. I can own up to being a little bit of a luddite when it comes to posting links. Supposedly, after the fact, I should double-dog dare five other storytellers of whom I admire to do the same thing.

1. Your most beautiful post

 This one is kind of a neck and neck presently. Apparently, Resonance was considered rather pretty and/or poetic. It was a one-shot about one man's recollection of what he considered to be a perfect day with an object of his desire.

Personally, though, I think my most beautiful would be Carol, which was about a childhood friend who had muscular dystrophy and walked on entirely too early in life. My father told me that one stirred up a lot of old memories for him and my friend, Jezebel, told me it just about brought her to tears.

As a bit of  trivia, I have been toying with the idea of submitting one my stories to Hippocampus Magazine. Worry of being called a talentless hack is one of the things staying my hand. Be that as it may, if I do go for it, Carol will be the one that's offered up like a sacrificial lamb.

2. Your most popular post

Obviously, Dinner with Dad. At least, that's what the stats tell me, and statistics never lie. The whole story revolves around one dinner I shared with my father before going to pick my daughter up for a visit. It was composed a little over a year after my mother's death, and her phantasm, how she still gets talked about, and the way we still miss her is touched on.   

3. Your most controversial post  

What an excellent inquiry, since I've never really received a you suck, you pigfucker comment. Yet.

This would be another neck and neck, I think. Either Tea Time with Demons, or Put Hands, from my Chronicles of Joshua Storm storyline. Both deal with violence in rather macabre ways.

4. Your most helpful post

I am not a saint or superhero, so the idea anything I've ever purged has helped seems almost laughable. Most recently, I was told Strength in the Weeds, lesson was one that one of my readers could bear to learn.

5. A post whose success surprised you

Sickhouse Waltz, which was done during the time my friend, the bruja of my acquaintance was being kept alive on machines after a horrific rollover accident. This particular installment was when there was a very small spark of hope, and I was hoping to be proven wrong of the sick feeling I had that she was already dead, but the friends and family were deluding themselves and keeping a hunk of meat alive on machinery.

She'll have been dead-dead and buried a year in three months, which speaks to how that played out...

This tale was my first 5-Star Friday award, which, whilst incredibly flattering, was a total shock.

6. A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

This is is a tough one. I don't get a huge amount of comments. Well, not in the context of some of the other storytellers I admire do, though I do have couple followers who say something to almost everything I put up, for which I am grateful. The bruja once told me she's read everything I've put out for public consumption, but shared a viewpoint similar to another of our mutual friends, Madam Lung;

"What can you say to that?"

"Well, either I'm that good or ya'll are that gullible," I snarked.

"You're that good and you know it," the bruja said.

I still think she was lying in the interest of sparing my feelings...

7. The post that you are most proud of

A sarcastic man would bring up that pride is a sin, but I am morally and psychologically incapable of sarcasm, cynicism, speaking with a sharp, biting wit, or any sense of irony. And stop fucking laughing. Besides, I do not believe in sin any more than I do salvation.

Presently, I'm feeling pretty good about The Chronicles of Joshua Storm storyline. I think it came together fairly well, and, whilst I worried the ending might be a little too syrupy, it was well received, and that's kind of neat.


So, who wants to play lemming with me? I will say I'd love to see Nessa Roo  and Light208's answers, but I get curious like that. Yes, I realize it's said curiosity kills cats, but given cats are said to have nine lives, why should a single death be so scary?

Anyone else who decides to play along, go for it. If anything, it grants one a moment of introspection. I'll leave that bit for a spot of free will. 

24 August 2011

Strength in the Weeds

When I was in university, I had a friend who loved dandelions. Those were her favorite flowers. Okay, technically they're weeds, but why split hairs?

See, she thought roses were overdone and fake. Getting one meant something plastic or a goodbye, and that's always too final. She distrusted anyone who gave them. Carnations were prom and wedding flowers, and everything else was just trite. The dandelion, that little weed, was for her.

She used to tell me dandelions were survivors. Poison them, pull them up by the roots, burn them, cut off their heads to feed to a compost heap, the little fuckers always come back. In that regard, they are relentless. Unbreakable.

It took me years to appreciate that little lesson over a weed. Sometimes, I would give her a dandelion. We would blow seeds to the wind, and I'd joke about wishing for a pony. She showed me a trick, where one puts a dandelion under the chin, and if it glows just right, it means that cat is in love. Folk magic and superstition, maybe, but it's one I sometimes fall for. I can be a sucker.

Back when I still lived in the historical district, within the shadows of the monoliths of downtown of the greater metroplex, at the place I called the Temple of the Jinn, I would have mourning cigarettes, to a cluster of three dandelions. Maiden, Mother, and Crone. One was always seeds, so I with her I made my wishes. That cluster had been there as long as I'd lived in that building. The landlord had tried everything, even napalm, and the little fuckers kept coming back. The observation always made me smile.

Thinking back, there's a lesson there...

23 August 2011


Back in antiquity, when the world was still flat and dragons waited along the edges for hapless travelers, explorers, from a continent now named Europe, came upon an vast island far removed from everything. It was there they beheld many magnificent beasts. Animals with pockets in their bellies, in which to carry their whelps. It was amazing sight to behold to these wide eyed travelers.

The most fantastic, was a creature that stood upright, like a man, but hopped about, like a rabbit. The explorers were fascinated by this beast. When they found the indigenous humans of the vast island, naked savages in their estimation, who needed to be saved from themselves-it was called the White Man's Burden in antiquity-they inquired about this animal that stood upright, like a man, but hopped about, like a rabbit.

The naked savages looked at these pale strangers for a bit. Finally, one of them, a leader perhaps, spoke but a single word;


The explorers found this really quaint what the naked savages called the fabulous beast. When they finally dominated and subjected the vast island, which came to be known as Australia, they named the animal, which stood upright, like a man, but hopped about, like a rabbit, the kangaroo. After all, that's what the naked savages called it.

Here's the irony, kangaroo is aboriginal for;

"I don't know what the fuck you're on about..."

22 August 2011

The Distance to the Mid-Twenties

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been accused of being either twenty-four or twenty-five. I can flippantly attribute this to clean living, mainlining age retardants, and perhaps selling the soul I doubt I have to the Devil I know only exists as myth and an archetype. As of the second day of the upcoming calendar month, I'll be marking either the fourteenth or fifteenth anniversary of those respective ages. Perhaps, after so much practice, I've gotten rather good at being in my mid-twenties.

Although, I wonder what age I'd have been accused of being if I didn't have my beard...

Anyone playing the home game has probably figured out my view of time is rather dubious. Sometimes, I question whether the concept exists beyond a monkey-made construct. Perhaps digging on tomes of Buddhist philosophy and quantum physics will do that. Maybe, as my father has said, I did inherit my mother's contrary nature, though I would argue the point.

In some ways, I do feel something in common with how I felt in my mid-twenties; not fresh out of adolescence, but not quite to stage of being a full-fledged grown-up yet. Of course, I've never liked grown-ups that much, so I can't rightly say becoming one has ever been an aspiration. I think part of that mindset of being older but not came from becoming a parent at the tender age of twenty-two.

I am not as full of spite and angst as I was back then, even if I do still like my moments of punk rock. There is the cobweb of gray that runs through the dysfunctional calico, which is my mane. I no longer smoke clove cigarettes, and it has been almost three years since I've officially abstained from tobacco. Every so often, with shock and awe, I remember it's been almost twenty-two years since I moved back from North Carolina and twenty years since I graduated high school.

Amusingly, as I near the impending anniversary of my thirty-ninth orbit around the sun, I do not focus on how much linear time has gone by since twenty-four or twenty-five, which I apparently look like, or what my actual age will be. Instead, I catch myself winded by the fact I am nearly forty. Four decades. Half of eighty. Eighty seems to be getting to be the average lifespan of hominids in this part of the world. I am a little closer to end than the beginning. The distance from my mid-twenties increases moment by moment, and is a little fuzzier in my mind's eye. But then again, these days, when I want to see far or in low-light, I require my spectacles.

"It's hell growing up," my mother would say, but I would always tease her about being well over four-thousand years old. 

Sabina and I have a running joke about how if someone asked us x-amount of years ago that we would be where we are now, how we might react. My response almost always telling this nameless, faceless someone they're smoking crack through a light bulb. After all, I do not believe in fate. If, during my mid-twenties, it was prophesied I'd be living in the high country of the Colorado Rockies after having published a book and have lived near the monoliths of downtown of the greater metroplex with a former vampire queen, I'd have laughed, and perhaps, because my father, daughter, friends, and Sabina have all baselessly accused me of being contrary at one time or another, I might've done everything in my power to disprove the oracle.

Mei fei tsu. In a little more than two weeks, I'll stop being thirty-eight in clumsy timekeeping of the half-bald monkeys that call themselves Man. Time was when I would party like a rucking fockstar for a week to deal with this shift in linear paradigm. There was a phase when I would count down the shopping days until anniversary of my birth. I went through a phase where I thought the Transformers and Kiss were pretty neat, and, these days, neither really impresses me to rocket science. And, whilst I am not overly sure what I might do for my birthday, other than a potential walkabout, I do catch myself wondering if ten years ahead, I'll be accused of looking as though I'm still in my mid-thirties.  

21 August 2011


They sat along the sidewalk tables of a cafe on the warm coast of France. It was the beginning of summer. Two young lovers, who, just the night before, met for the first time. They had known each other for centuries. Upon their first kiss, they had been together since the beginnings of time.

They ate steamed mussels and drank sweet tasting drinks. Told each other stories and spoke of silly things. Unspoken proclamations were carried on their gazes. When they looked at each other, their eyes wouldn't flinch. Her's moved from side to side, like reading a book. Reading him. His would lock on her's, unblinking. He was looking into her soul.

They walked and talked. Drank and kissed. Every moment spread into eternity. It was a perfect day.

Ask him about it, and he'll give a wry smile. He only pulls out that memory on certain days, inspecting it like an artifact from a forgotten time. That day can never be repeated. Perfect days aren't meant to be. There are only to be others. Better ones. That is the way of things.

He inspects that memory intensely on certain days, when the resonance is most clear. It makes him smile. Whether it's a bitter or sweet recollection is his secret. Maybe it's both. That's not for anyone else to say. He thinks back to that perfect day, seeing it clearly. Mental photographs in the scrapbook of his skull.

18 August 2011

Epilogue: Breakfast in Borneo

I awake to the sound of movement in the kitchen. At first, this startles me. I cook; both by trade and for personal enjoyment. The kitchen is my domain, and I can be rather possessive about it. Then, I remember who it is, and I relax, a smile forming across my face knowing the responsibility of breakfast has been taken from me.

It would be laziness to stay in bed, so I sit up, pushing the mosquito netting aside. I grab my glasses and a pair of shorts. It’s already hot, so I can’t fathom even pretending to look for a shirt or tank top. I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, and remember what I look like these days; I’ve cut my hair shorter, the humidity makes my blond curls that much more wild. A thin mustache and beard frames my face. I joke it makes me look older and smarter, but I’m the only one who laughs about it.

“Our wild man of Borneo,” Rio said teasingly when she first saw me with facial hair. “Somehow I never imagined a wild man of Borneo having blond hair, blue eyes, and a southern accent.”

“You know Stormy excels at contradiction,” Hobbs put in.

“I do not!” I protested. “Go drink some Molson, and put something else in your mouth besides words!”

“I think it suits him,” Kisshandra said with her serine smile as she stroked my bearded chin. I thanked her with a kiss.

Were I the type to be given to jealousy, I would’ve been quite upset that Kisshandra and Rio slept together that night, but it didn’t bother me. It’d been almost a year since we’d seen Rio, the Jazz-Cat, Johnny Hobbs, Carmen Jordan, Rollins, or Jules. We were all at Juke and Morgan Zayne was playing. Kisshandra and I got to dance to Rattlesnake Waltz and, on that night, that was good enough. After all, Kisshandra doesn’t belong to me. She never has and she never will, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I almost took her with me to Tammy’s wedding. After all, I’d asked Kisshandra to come with me to Borneo. We decided against it. Not because of Tucker’s family; after all, Tyrone Brinkley, his wife, two young daughters, and mother were there as friends of the groom. Kisshandra and I mutually decided a heavily tattooed Afro-Himalayan girl in a Pentecostal church in a small town in Alabama might cause a certain kind of trouble no one wanted to deal with.

“Tuck and I will come and meet her some day,” Tammy told me on her wedding day. “We promise. Paul promises.”

“Reckon that’s a good thing, Tam-Tam” I mused.

“Reckon so.”

 I step out onto the deck. The sky looks blue, but with the humidity, there is haze. Fog swirls around the highest points of canopy like serpents coiling across the treetops. I draw a sharp breath despite myself. It’s been two years, and sometimes it’s still surreal that I’m actually in Borneo.

The treehouse is at the edge of the resort. There’s only a handful of full-time residents. Mostly, it’s tourists. Some scrimp and save for years, and others pay the fee like it’s buying a quart of milk at the corner store. Regardless, they need to eat, and someone needs to cook those meals.

It was more by default than qualifications I became the head cook. I had enough left over from my inheritance and subsequent investments that working for money wasn’t a priority. One night, I was sharing cocktails and conversation with the resort’s restaurant manager. He was bemoaning the fact he’d just lost his head cook and the challenge of finding someone who’d be willing to work at a resort in the middle of a rainforest in Borneo.

“Y’know, I cooked at this place back in the States called Wildflowers for a few years,” I said.

“Do you need a job?”

“It’d be something to do,” I replied flippantly. It was a quickest interview I ever had. A year and a half in shows my employers are satisfied with my performance.

Coming back inside, I catch the scent of freshly ground coffee. Wonderful. On the entryway table, I my eye catches the postcard that showed up a week ago. It’s from Rio. She tells of Hobbs and Carmen getting engaged, which didn’t surprise anyone. Once they got involved, the chemistry they discovered between each other was positively magnetic. According to Rio’s postcard, they’ll be sending wedding announcements which, will hopefully coincide with what has become the once a year visit back to the States.

I come into the kitchen and see Kisshandra, her back turned to me as she starts to work over the stove. She’s wearing only a pair of cutoffs, which gives me an unobstructed view of one of my favorite tattoos of hers; in black and gray, a bat wing drapes down the left side of her back and there’s a dove wing on the right. A yin-yang sits perfectly between her shoulder blades. Twin aspects; her mixed heritage, my lover and dearest friend, something I think fits her perfectly.

The scent of breakfast fills my nose. Apparently, Kisshandra’s parents created it in the early days of their marriage, mixing both African and Asian spices. It’s one of my favorite dishes, and in the nine years we’ve now known each other, I’ve asked her countless times for the recipe.

“I’ll give it to you on our wedding day,” Kisshandra will always say with a sly smile.

I have no plans to propose to her, which works out, since she’d never say yes. I content myself with the mystery. Perhaps it’s those little mysteries that keep things interesting.

My mind flashes back to that morning, two years ago, right after I got back from Grandma’s funeral. I opened my eyes to see Kisshandra looking right at me. Her gaze was quite intense. I focused my attention on the tattoos along her collar bones and where everything met just under the neck, because I knew looking at her breasts at that time would’ve been impolite, to say the least.

“I’ve thought about it, you know,” she started. “I’ve agonized over it and slept on it and I’ve made up my mind.”

“And?” I think I was trying to be cool and cavalier, but, in fact, I was nervous and excited.   

“I refuse to lose you to Borneo, Joshua Storm,” Kisshandra said, stroking my cheek. I could say she was smiling, but beaming might be a better description.

The breakfast she was originally staying for ended up happening far later in the day. She would later tell me she almost said she might not belong to me, but maybe she belonged with me. Semantics. We both had a good laugh over it.

“I’d have called you such a girl if you did,” I teased.

“Fuck you!” She shot back, almost blushing.

“Maybe a little later, honeychild?”

It takes no time at all to close the distance between us. I wrap my arms around her waist and pull her close. She smiles serenely at me as her lips brush against mine and then my cheek.

“Good morning,” she whispers. Her breath is hot and seductive in my ear, as always.

“Hey, baby,” I say. “Thank you for staying for breakfast.”

16 August 2011

The Dream of the Terrible Secret

In the dream, she was still very much alive. She was doing so much better. Sure, she was having to excrete into a sandwich bag because of the colostomy, but these could not be helped.

The whole death thing never happened. A wacky mix-up at the sickhouse. That had been a mannequin my brother and I saw in the room.

My father, my siblings, my nephew, and my uncle were not to know. Just myself, Sabina, and my daughter. This was a terrible secret to keep, and gods, bodhisattvas, or whatever Voodoo mask you put over the Divine knows I've kept enough over the years. She kept telling me it was better this way, even though she would sob when she thought of my father and the rest of the family.

And there I was; fighting with my father and being vague about why he couldn't come to the House of Owls and Bats for a visit. Dealing with the tension from my brother and sister. Keeping this terrible secret, because when entrusted with one of those I keep it from then on out. Because she asked me to.

Walking brought an infusion of logic. The stench of disease and the sight of the body. To this day, I wish I had two coins to have put over her half-lidded eyes then. The way she looked those last seventeen days. Withered, beaten, her skin reflecting tones of nothing mammalian. Knowing she is dead. Her shell was burned to ashes, which sat in a jar in my father's closet for half a year. The same ashes we scattered in the outback of Waldorf pass on what would have been her birthday. I read the requiem of my own composition. My father wept quite openly, and he taught me boys don't cry.

I'll share my own secret here, whelps; there's quite a bit I would do to have her back, and in good health. Ain't that the way? Still, that dream, that nightmare, is what I wouldn't do.

15 August 2011

Revelations, Repercussions, and Other Aftershocks

Saying what happened over the next few weeks was like a dream would be cliché. I want to say it was more like a bad acid trip, but that also might just be a lie. My only experience with acid has only been from the over embellished stories of gutter punks at late-night coffee houses and after school specials.

Tammy and I went back to the home. There we cried and held each other over Grandma’s body. Tucker would later tell us Grandma was not the first victim of Joseph’s temper or the rest of the home’s staff denial, but she was the one that was easiest to confirm. There had been an ongoing investigation.

“It’s terrible that it took your grandma getting beat to shit and dying for something to finally get done,” he would say to me later. It was terrible, and nothing, not even justice being served, would bring Grandma back, but sometimes, something, like justice being served, is the best you can hope for.

Paul Tucker and I had a long talk about what’d happened with him over the last seven years. The best he could figure as to not being as much of a bigot was working with another former schoolmate named Tyrone Brinkley. Somehow, working together, Tucker began to understand not all dark-skinned people were ignorant criminals. They even hung out a few times, although Tucker kept that little fact from the rest of his family.

“I could never date or marry one of them,” he said. “But they ain’t all bad, I reckon.”

When I would later tell this story to my friends, it would be greeted with eye rolls, disgusted sighs, and the term redneck being used in a less than flattering manner. I understood why; where we lived, compared to where I came from, the only thing that really changed was Tucker wasn’t going to one day dress up in a bed sheet and burn a cross. Still, in a place like Blacksnake, maybe that was just the best you could hope for.

The incident at the home did make the news. The brutality of some of the staff, and the willingness of other staff members, including administration, to cover it up. There were additional resignations and arrests. Tucker said about half of which was done for show as damage control. Along with the rest of the force, he made sure the cameramen and pushy journalists didn’t bother us much as we put Grandma in the ground.

For spending ten years in a home, I was amazed to find out she had anything left over. Being sick in America is never cheap after all. From way back when Papa was still alive, she’d made investments. Those investments were for the grandbabies, no matter what. Tammy had been named the executer of the estate.

“Grandma told me the one of the last times you two spoke, you wanted to travel to Borneo,” she said after the funeral. “Reckon I’ll be getting you the ways and means.”

“Reckon so,” I was too amazed to say much else.

“But you gotta come back for my wedding, Joshie. I want you to be the one to give me away,” Tammy said and I gave her a shocked look. “You think even if my daddy wasn’t in jail he’d walk me down the aisle? You think I’d let him?”

I was staying in Blacksnake for a few more days after the funeral, to help get things sorted. Carmen called me one night, which was kind of nice since, like most my friends I told, she’d already expressed her condolences. Kisshandra sent a brief sorry text, but we’d not spoken since that day at my place when I offered to take her to Borneo. I meant to try and talk to her when I got back.

Carmen basically wanted us to stop trying to go on dates. Considering how our dynamic changed after the morning at Café Nairobi, I was neither terribly surprised or hurt. She still wanted to hang out and everything, mentioning how she did really like everyone I was friends with.

“I guess I’d like to discuss it more when you get back, if that’s okay,” she said.

“I don’t see why not,” I said. “I’m thinking about having everyone over for dinner. You can bring wine.”

Jazz-Cat Johnny Hobbs called a half hour later helped clarified things. One night, at Juke, he was talking with Carmen and histories got brought up; his with Kisshandra’s as well as mine. The question of whether either of us could or would belong to someone. There was what was described as my obsession with Borneo. Carmen and Hobbs started to notice a chemistry between them.

“Are you asking my permission, Jazz-Cat?” I was trying not to laugh.

“I knew Carmen wanted to tell you, Stormy,” he said. “And we’ve been friends for awhile now and I wanted you to know.”

“Hey, if she wants to sleep with someone who can’t even pronounce ‘out’ or ‘about’ instead of someone who sometimes says ‘ya’ll’ and ‘reckon’, that’s her thing,” I said. “I’m cool with it.”    

He laughed, and almost told me to go fuck myself over the out or about remark. We discussed the others and jazz records. I extended my budding dinner invitation, which he accepted graciously. He promised he’d get Kisshandra to show up, and told me not to worry too awful much about her not calling me lately.

Finally, I left Blacksnake. It’s been a few days and it feels good to be back at what I call home these days. Good to my word, I arrange a night to have everyone over for dinner. Between Hobbs and Carmen, drinks are covered. Rio had cleaned my place once when I was away, but gave it a polish the day after I got back. Rollins mentioned a few records he found out of Mozambique he thought might trip my trigger and Jules said something about bringing a cake.

I’m in the middle of prepping when I hear my door open. At first, I wonder if it’s the landlord, but then remember I’d loaned out my spare key. I needed someone to come by every so often to look after my bonsai trees. She’s standing in to doorway, almost nervously. It’s strange to see her looking so unsure. She’s never unsure.

“Hey, baby,” I say, looking up from what I’m doing.

“I saw your hometown finally made the news.”

“Ain’t nothing to be proud of,” I say. “I was getting worried. You weren’t calling. Figured you were gonna ditch my number and forget I ever existed.”

“That’s the second craziest thing you’ve ever said to me, Joshua.”

“And what was the first?” I already know the answer. Kisshandra sighs heavily and folds her arms across her chest, trying to regain some kind of composure.

“How serious were you?” Despite her stance, her voice seems so small. I want to ask her about what, but decide against it.

“Reckon it depends on your answer,” I say flippantly. “You tell me yes, and I’m as serious as a heart attack. Tell me no…” I shrug, going back to prepping. “…ain’t nothing to worry about, I was just picking with you.”

“Joshua Storm…”

“You still thinking about it?” I ask her, not even bothering to look up.

“You asked me to come with you to Borneo,” her voice cracks a little.

“Yes, I did,” I say. “It’s ain’t like I asked you to marry me and have my babies.”

“I guess I should thank god for that,” Kisshandra says with a weak giggle. She’s walking tentatively toward my kitchen area. “It’s just I never imagined you’d even think of asking me to go.”

“Fuck it, why not?” I shrug. “But I understand if you’re still making up your mind and all. I got some time before I have the ways and means to go.” I look up at her briefly and smile. “Maybe go ask Rio or the Jazz-Cat what they think if it’ll help you at all.”

“I have.”

“And what did they have to say?” I ask.

“Rio says I’d be a fool not to go with you,” Kisshandra replies. Despite all attempts, she’s trembling. “John says if either of us belong to anyone, it’s to one another.”

“My bonsais and music collection ‘belong’ to me, Kisshandra,” I say, looking her dead in the eyes. “You don’t and you never will. If you wanna come with me, then come along, but it’s your choice.”

She smiles and then reaches over to give me a hug and deep kiss. I enjoy the moment, but that’s about the length of it. I have dinner I have to get ready, after all.

“I missed you, Joshua,” she says.

“I missed you back, Kiss,” I say. “I’m happy to see you’re coming for dinner.”

“How could I not? Actually, I was hoping to stay for breakfast,” She winks at me and I smile right back at her.

“I think that could be arranged.” 

13 August 2011

That Kind of Night

It was just after midnight. A reptile eye witching moon glared down. The constabulary patrol chopper circled. A hungry vulture, its spotlight cutting the shadows in the same manner as well-honed blade. Its harshness leaving bare whatever nefarious deed its prey had committed.

A hot wind blew, rustling the leaves. A clicking sound of bone rattles. Skin walkers, Rawhead and Bloody Bones, and other less than pleasant beasties lurked about in the in the dark, hunting stray cats, and whatever else was foolish enough to be out. There were rumors of Jack the Ripper and Mack the Knife sipping cocktails in some nameless gin joint. Tying on a few before embarking upon an evening of A&B.

There was a bad scent in the air. The hair on the back of the neck began to rise. The fangs dropped and the talons extended. It became a very good idea to get indoors.

It was an evening to lock the doors and bar the windows. No evening strolls are star gazing. It wasn't that kind of night.

10 August 2011

Put Hands

The first time Tammy ever wore make up was in forth grade. Naturally, I was curious. When I asked her, she said she was trying something new. She wanted to look like a grown-up. I believed her. After all, I was trying to convince my parents to let me get contacts because I thought it would get me to look more adult.

After lunch and recess, I found out the real reason for the make up. It was Mister Jensen who discovered it; a bruise on the right side of her face being concealed by fading layers of base make up. Tammy looked ashamed when she was asked about it.

“I fell off the swing at home,” she said, and I knew it was a lie. There wasn’t a swing set at Tammy’s house.

First, I told my daddy. Then, I told Grandma. That was when I found out my Uncle Joseph might not be such a nice person. It was then I found out how he and my daddy, who always seemed to get along so well in front of me, in fact, often argued like Cain and Able. Grandma got after Joseph. Threatening to, and maybe actually, slapping Aunt Shelly around was one thing.

“But you do not put hands on your daughter like that,” she said. “You ever do that again, and I’ll give you a beating like back when you were a boy.”

And Joseph disappeared for a few years afterward. If the rest of the family knew where he went, they never told me or Tammy. Shelly certainly seemed happier. He didn’t come to my parents’ funeral, but Grandma said that was okay. She said he needed to be gone for a while.

When Shelly got cancer so bad the doctors had to cut her tits off, Joseph came back. He said he was changed man. But there was a rumor he beat the holy living out Shelly the night before she died. Tammy wanted the law to get involved, but that was when Paul Tucker first got on the force.

Back in school, Tucker ran with the supremacist boys. I got into more than one fight with him simply because I like the blues and that made me a race traitor in his eyes. When he first got on the force, if he couldn't find a way to put every crime in Blacksnake on those people than he wasn’t interested. If Joseph Storm was putting hands on his wife it wasn’t a big deal. At least he was white.

The door to Joseph’s house is wide open. It’s a hot day and there was never air conditioning there. Out of habit and courtesy, I knock on the doorframe as I let myself in.

He’s sitting on the couch in front of the television. There’s an open bottle of Jack Daniel’s on the coffee table that’s about half gone. I’ve never liked Jack Daniel’s. It makes me mean. Part of me wants to ask him if he just started that bottle today. I dismiss the question quickly, remembering the message I sent to Tammy as I left the home;

Your daddy and I are gonna have a come to Jesus…

“When did you get into town?” Joseph asks me. The slur in his voice lets me know he’s been drinking. His tone is dismissive. He’s never really liked me since I told my daddy and Grandma about the time Tammy had the bruise on her face.

“A few hours back,” I say. “Tam-Tam told me Grandma’s fading.”

“That old bat ain’t never gonna die,” Joseph says as he takes a drink of Jack straight from the bottle.

“She seemed pretty convinced of it at the home,” I say.

“She’s been ‘pretty convinced’ the last couple years,” Joseph snorts. He holds up the bottle. “Wanna drink?”

“I’ll think about it,” I say, taking the bottle. I’ve never liked Jack Daniel’s. It makes me mean. “Y’know, Grandma looked pretty…rough.”

Joseph is suddenly standing. He’s trying to tower over me, like he was able to when I was growing up. The thing is, I’m taller than him now. He’s swaying slightly. I can smell the whiskey on him.

“That old bitch shits herself and expects me to clean it up!” He snaps. “And she’s laughing at me! All telling me how she used to change my diapers and now we’re even…”

I take a good long pull from the bottle, as if to steel myself from what I’m hearing. It feels like I’m drinking kerosene. When I drink whiskey, it’s good scotch with Jazz-Cat Hobbs or fine Irish with Rollins, when he doesn’t want tequila. I’ve never liked Jack Daniel’s. It makes me mean.

“You gonna have another drink there, boy? Or are you gonna give me back the bottle?”

And I smash the bottle across his face. There’s the musical sound of breaking glass and the spray of sour mash whiskey and blood. I’d feel bad about the waste of liquor, but it’s only Jack Daniel’s. Joseph is screaming indecipherable obscenities as he falls backward. Before he can start to get back up, the toe of my right boot catches him in the ribs, sending him rolling across the floor.

“My daddy taught me you do not put hands on a woman!” I yell, kicking him again. “Especially not your own mother!”

He tries to get up, but my left fist slamming into his nose solves that problem. A rational man might feel bad for beating up his drunk uncle. Right now, I’m pretty far from rational. I find I’m almost enjoying myself.

“You better kill me, boy!” Joseph roars. “’Cause otherwise I’m gonna kill you!”

I kick him in the ribs again. There’s a wet snapping sound that tells me I’ve broken bones. I realize I still have the pointed remnants of the Jack Daniel’s bottle in my right hand. Something between a smile and a snarl forms on my face as I realize I’m not going to have a problem cutting his throat.

Someone’s grabbing my right wrist, forcing the jagged glass from my hand. I’m being pushed to the floor. My left arm is being grabbed too. There’s a metallic click as handcuffs are fastened behind my back. I look up to see Paul Tucker. There are other men in uniform with him; another Blacksnake pig and what looks like an EMT.

“You’re confused, Tucker,” I growl. “Ain’t no colored folk here to nightstick. Just a friendly family discussion.”

“Keep your mouth shut!” He orders and then turns his attention to the EMT. “Check him.”

The EMT goes over to help Joseph sit up. There are cuts and bruises. It looks like his nose is broken. I’m simultaneously impressed and sickened by what I’ve done to him.

“Looks like he’ll live,” the EMT says.

“Too bad,” Tucker mutters. He gestures to the other officer. “Cuff him and put him in the car.”

“What the hell?!?” Joseph exclaims. “I’m the one who got assaulted!”

“Shut up, Joe!” Tucker snaps. “I done saw what you did to my fiancée’s grandma.”

’Fiancée’?!?” Things have now taken a turn for the surreal. “What’d you do, Tuck? Put a gun to her head and tell her she was gonna marry you?”

“Now ain’t the time to talk about this, Josh,” he says with remarkable clam. “And unless you wanna share a cell with your uncle you’re gonna stay quiet now.” 

I watch the other officer handcuff Joseph, whose glaring daggers at me. He’s getting his rights read as he’s ushered out the door. Tammy’s walking in, her eyes swollen and bloodshot from crying. Once the EMT walks out, Tucker unlocks the cuffs. Even as they’re removed, I can still feel the cold metal biting into me.

“This is a helluva way to find out you went Eva Bram, Tam,” I say, rubbing my wrists.

“Mind your mouth, Joshua!” She snaps. “Now ain’t the time.”

“That’s just what the Gestapo here was saying,” I shoot back. At any other time, I might’ve found it strange how Tucker visibly shudders at my remark.

“Joshua Allen!” She starts crying again. I expect her to lay into me for what I did to her daddy. But instead; “Grandma…she’s…gone..”

All fall down…   

08 August 2011

The Darkened Room

It smells like shit, literally. I want to light up a cigarette just to put some other smell in my nose. I want to smoke because I’m stressed and I can’t exactly go and get a drink.

The room is almost completely dark. The nurse, who stands watchfully at the open door, ready to spring like a cat on a mouse at any moment, told me Grandma gets agitated if there’s too much light in the room. I can somewhat make out her form on the bed by the tightly shut window blinds.

What I can make out only bares a passing resemblance to my grandmother. She’s skinnier, apparently from hardly eating anymore. They say her gray eyes are clouded over with cataracts now. Although she’s looking in my direction, it seems like she’s looking through me. Perhaps she’s not seeing me or the predatory-eyed nurse, or the darkened room she’s in at all.

“Grandma?” I start. “It’s me. It’s Joshua.”

“Joshie?” There’s genuine surprise in her gravely, thin voice. “Oh, Joshie!”

“Tammy told me to come see you,” I say.

“Such a sweet girl,” Grandma says. “I’d wondered about you.”

I can’t help but notice how lucid she sounds, despite the quality of her voice and the smell of the room. Almost as if her mind’s back in one piece. Perhaps the nurse realizes this.    

“She’s rallying. We see that in sometimes in patients right before the end.”

“Well, ain’t you about positive?” I mutter toward the nurse before shifting my attention once more. “How you been, Grandma?”

Then it gets quiet. Maybe she’s gotten lost again. I step a little closer, and notice how she starts, as though frightened. The nurse takes a tentative step after me, as if to stop me from reaching my own grandmother. The glare I shoot has a stopping affect.

“I’m gonna be going a long trip soon, Joshie,” Grandma says. “But it’s okay. I’m not scared.” I can see a frail hand reaching out to me. “I’m so glad you made it before I went away.”

“You’ve still got some life left in you,” I say, taking her hand. It looks discolored.

“I’m never gonna see the sun again,” the lucidity seems to be fading.

“Don’t be silly, Grandma,” I say and I reach over to open the blinds. The nurse is drawing a sharp breath, as though to tell me to stop.

Grandma is covered in bruises. Her right eye is swollen shut and there’s blood on her lips from where it looks like a few teeth were knocked out. The sheets on her bed are so terribly soiled that I almost vomit. 

Immediately, I turn toward the nurse. I’m across the room before there can be any reaction. My hand is around the nurse’s throat slamming her into the doorframe. I’m sure someone else is going to see and try to interfere, but in the heat of the moment such a reality hardly registers.

“Who in the fuck did this to her?!?” I’m snarling and my grip is tightening.

“Joshua Allen!” Grandma sounds coherent once more. “Let her go right now, boy!”


“She didn’t do it!” Grandma snaps. “And I said let her go right now!”

I do as I’m told. The nurse all but collapses to the floor coughing and sputtering. I might feel bad about it later, but right now I’m too angry to care.

“Who did this?” I ask as calmly as I can.

“I was bad, I messed myself,” Grandma says. “It’s funny, I used to change his diapers. I figured this made us even.” Then she stars to sob. “He said I used to beat him, so he was gonna do the same to me. I never hit any of my boys like this. Not once. Patrick…your daddy, he was always so even tempered. But Joseph, I don’t know why, but he always had that mean streak…”

I’m shaking. Part of it is from the chills running down my spine, but most of it is from building anger. My uncle, her son, a nurse at this facility, is the one who beat her so savagely. Everyone in the family has always known about Joseph’s temper and his willingness to solve problems with his fists, but it’s obviously been my delusion that Grandma was safe from it.

“Grandma, I’ll take care of it,” I say. “And then I’ll come back and see you.”

“What you wanna do ain’t gonna make these bruises go away,” she says. Sound advice, the type she’s given me before that got me out of more fights than I got into growing up. “They’ll never go away. Not as long as I’m alive…”

“Be that as it may, he needs to learn you can’t go ‘round brutalizing folks,” I say. “Especially you, Grandma.” I turn to leave. “I’ll come back.”

“I’m not gonna be here, Joshie,” she says. “Say your goodbyes now, because I’m gonna be gone soon.”

“Goodbye, Grandma,” I say, hoping she’s wrong. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Joshie,” she’s smiling. “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay. Tammy and I have seen to that.”

I turn to walk out. This might be the last time I ever see my grandmother. At least she was lucid for it, miracle that was. There are tears in my eyes. I cast a look at the nurse who is cowering at my feet.

“You better have the decency to clean her up. End of chat,” I say as I walk out of the room.

05 August 2011


They come from everywhere; travelers of all stripes. The rich and affluent, going to a second home or doing some tourist slumming, and migrants, looking for a better life. Seasonal nomads, following their migratory patterns, so ingrained the trip is no longer novel, and wild gypsy souls, forever on the road to their Kashmirs, but perhaps their place in the world is defined simply by the concept of constant motion. Young families, showing their offspring slices of the world beyond the confines of where and whatever home is, and the elders, who now that the children have grown up have decided to Jack Kerouac across what is still sometimes mournfully called This Great Land of Ours.

Here, the social strata, which defines class and caste is blurred by the scents of sweat, petroleum, and raw road dust. Upon the nameless roads between the nameless places, the rules of engagement change. A lesson I learned once, and I know it, better than most, but not as well as some.

They stop here to stretch their legs. Sometimes to switch drivers or use the water closet before being back on their way to wherever it is they're going. Occasionally, you can see them taking photographs of the geological curiosity of this place where the very earth has been twisted upon itself and folded and pushed up into towering walls of rock and pine and aspen.

Sometimes, they come a little further inside. Perhaps just to grab a complimentary cup of coffee or hot coca. Maybe it's to watch the traffic cams and check conditions or look at the propaganda touting our own bit of Byzantium, harkening back to halcyon days of the mining antiquity, in this in-between place, our Sahel. Sometimes, they allow themselves to be suckered by the various bobbles and gee-gaws and myriads of useless chachkies that sit in nervous anticipation upon many waiting shelves.

That's when they're mine...

From my vantage point, I sit and I watch. I like to watch. The half-bald monkeys that call themselves Man annoy, amuse, and terrify me, but I do so enjoy watching them. I imagine Jane Goodall gets a similar thrill. My skull is filled with countless observations of countless monkey watching expeditions. The comedy, tragedy, and irony of the human affliction is the greatest show on earth.   

I do my best to be formless. Invisible. This is not as easy as it sounds. Were my spine straight, I'd be over seven feet tall, but as it stands, I'm only close to six and a half. My eyes are too big for the rest of my face and I am rather skinny. I'll jokingly say I'm lithe, but that's just a cute way of saying emaciated.

But I watch, almost always in silence. Extroversion has never been my cup of tea or glass of water. I'll nod in acknowledgment or a bare greeting may pass my thin lips. Otherwise, I just hang back at my vantage point, watching.


In front of my vantage point is a map. Laminated, though one can see by virtue of imperceptible senses the gazes of countless eyes and the marks of countless fingers across its hieroglyphs. This object is perhaps the most prized and sought after thing within the walls of this place.

When they walk toward the map, there might be the look of genuine wonder; holy fuck! We're in the mountains! This is soooooooooooo cool! Perhaps confusion, intermingled with just a little bit of fear; an unintentional game of Hansel and Gretel gone horrifically wrong. There's sometimes that arrogant look of cool confidence of I know exactly what I'm doing that dissolves into wonder or fear upon looking at the map. I chuckle at the looks on their faces. The cracks within the facades of their Voodoo masks.

It is as they approach that I take form, stop trying to another invisible shadow in the place. This tall, lanky thing with too-big eyes. Dysfunctional calico hair, pulled back respectively, a beard, a hoop in the nose, and a few in the ears. I might adjust my spectacles before clasping my hands tightly, yet politely, behind my back.

"Do you have an inquiry?"

Sometimes, my words are met with a blank stare. That slightly concussed look that all but screams; kangaroo? I bite back the growl over linguistic ignorance and rephrase.

"Do you have a question?"

Invariability, the answer is some mix of yes, and I don't mean the ancient prog-rock band. A smirk forms upon my thin lips. I bring my hands together in front of me, all but excitedly, the rings upon my fingers clanging together. I may get to give a story, or collect one.

Now, the fun begins...

"I'll be more than happy to tell you where to go," I say. "Perhaps I'll even be able to suggest what you can do when you get there."

Sometimes, they laugh, as if somehow I've made it all okay. Other times, they seem frightened, like I might not be joking and I'll lead them astray. It really doesn't matter. I get the ultimate joke of it; I get to watch the monkeys, snag an occasional story and I get paid to do it. The only price I pay for it is an occasional interaction over a map where I must stop being formless for a short while.      

04 August 2011

Broken Dragon

I was nineteen and in a metaphysical shoppe. The cat who was with me was neither remotely Pagan or a bruja by any means. I wouldn't have even gone as far as to call him by the titles adolescent males would sometimes go by when dabbling in non-Judeo-Christian esoterica such as warlock, wizard, or sorcerer. His father was into the whole New Age thing, so perhaps crystal waver or curio out for some metaphysical slumming might have been good descriptions. It's so long ago now, I can no longer tell.

Perhaps he was seeking answers and enlightenment in that shoppe that smelled of incense and sage, where multiple crystals reflected the warm summer sunlight in multiple ways. I think I came along out of something to do. It was quite by accident that the dragon ring caught my eye.

I tried it on my left ring finer, and it coiled along it quite nicely. Like it belonged there. It was reasonably priced, so I bought it without much thought.

"It likes you," the cat who was with me said, and I resisted the urge to slap him for that set of words.

"Maybe there's some power to it, neh?" I said as more of a joke than anything else.

There was a girl or two that tried to get the dragon ring from me, thinking it might look pleasing on their finger instead. This would get them an eloquent decline sponsored by the letter fuck. But, hypocritically, when I was twenty, I ended up giving the dragon ring to my x-wife, as more of a joke than anything.

Two years later, when we were splitting up, I asked for the dragon ring back. It seemed reasonable. She told she had lost it. I accepted this turn of how the story goes with a growl.

Two years after that, I was picking up my daughter for a visit at her other grandparent's house. My x-mother-in-law handed me the dragon ring, stating my x-wife knew I liked it and wanted it back. I was younger and full of hate at the time and contemplated throwing it away or at least burying it, as to get rid of any bad mojo. My daughter tugged at my arm as she saw me looking at it.

"I found that in the bushes behind the house and it made me think of you," she said, and that said it all.

So, I put the dragon ring back on, but on my right ring finger this time, and it coiled along it quite nicely. Like it belonged there. I joked to myself it was like I was a metaphysical widower, but I wasn't rightly widowed from anything other than an idea. From that point on, when someone would notice the dragon ring, I would tell the story with the point that my daughter gave me the ring back. I would say if one wanted to get it off of me, they would have to cut off my finger.

The jewel-eyed girl could never see past the aspect that my x-wife wore it. She would make sly suggestions of me removing it, and I would growl at her, bringing up the aspect she refused to see; my daughter. Looking back, it is not surprising we did not make it as a couple.

About two years ago, I was reclined on the couch, reading a book and enjoying a glass of wine as the evening wound down. We had enjoyed quite an adventurous walkabout that day, which included me doing a fair amount of scrabbling. Sabina was at the 'puter, seeking entertainments across the spider's web, occasionally reading me something or showing me an interesting or amusing image. At one point, I had occasion to look down at my right hand, at the dragon ring. There was a clean break along band. Strange luck and habit had kept it on my finger.

"Well, would you look at that," I said to her, showing her what happened. "A broken dragon."

"I know what it means to you. Maybe you can still wear it somehow," Sabina said, showing me one of her rings with a fracture along the band.

"No," I said, and pulled the dragon ring from finger, placing it on the altar. "It's time."

And that is where it now sits. My right ring finger feels no less naked because of it even though I wore it for seventeen years. Seventeen years to have a trinket is somewhat impressive, I suppose, and that one has borne witness to adventures, secrets and stories. I remember that joke I made in the metaphysical shoppe about the dragon ring at nineteen years old and realize the power it possesses is not just what it has witnessed whilst riding coiling upon my fingers, but the story behind it.

03 August 2011

Footbridge Seduction

They curled and coiled against each other in the shadow of the footbridge. He was pressed and immaculate, the facade of well-to-do. She was succubus-temptress Whore of Babylon. They stroked and caressed, whispering hollow promises and sweet little lies. Soft kisses, bumps and grindings in the summer grass. Animals in heat.

I looked away. It was possible they were going to fuck right there. My monkey watching, what a friend once called; life voyeurism, has its limits.

The shouted monkey howl threats of the boyfriend/husband/significant other caught my attention. She ran to this thick-necked working-joe male, trying to assuage his wraith, whilst her well-pressed lover looked on in wrinkled shock.

They argued, their voices echoing across the canal. I wondered why the girl thought it was right to seduce the well-pressed professional boy, who promptly evaporated into masturbation fantasy mist. He knew better than to stick around.

I wondered why the thick-necked male didn't want to beat her ass. Folk wisdom states it takes two to tango, and she was in no way forced into the situation. The social construct of reality, saying it's not right to hit a girl, hardly seemed relevant.

This little bit of dysfunctional romance love/hate was almost worthy of popcorn. A little comedy/drama/tragedy/irony of the human affliction. It's said all the world's a stage, and this was a quickie one-act improvisation late matinee for my savage amusement. An episode played before my waxmoon reptile eyes, showcasing another side of the cosmic coin of what love, or maybe just blind animal lust, really is all about.

02 August 2011

The Road to Blacksnake

Bright, bright, almost emerald green, underscored by the sprawling tendrils of relentless kudzu and the sensation of perpetual rot. Humidity, the kind that gives the air weight, the type, which would make you suggest it lay off the late-night Twinkies. Even on a clear day, the sky seems murky. The brilliant blue I got used to where I’ve been living the last seven years seems like a myth here, where a thin cobweb of mist seems to cover everything always.

These are the things the road to Blacksnake are made of. I try to reconcile the change in climate from where I’m coming from to where I’m going as a reminder of what I lived with until I moved away, right after my twenty-fourth birthday and this being training wheels for when I finally make it to Borneo. These reconciliations are probably nothing more than lies. Rationalizations to keep me from turning around and heading back to what I’ve been calling home. Back to my life as a cook and used bookstore clerk and my friends and all those other things I do that have made my memories of Blacksnake into my Boogieman that hides in my closet and jumps out of shadows late at night to scare the ever living shit out of me.

I remember once Rio, when more than a little intoxicated, tried to explain to me how she saw time as river, full of strange currents and eddies and branching off streams and springs. It kind of made sense, but I’d been drinking a little too. It was after midnight, after all. However, I’ve often found music to much more river-like. This flowing thing carving out pathways through my thoughts and moods, often affecting my understanding of time. The Paul Simon song playing takes me back to driving away seven years ago;

“I am following the river
down the highway,
Through the cradle of the civil war…”

The river that occasionally appears near the road I follow is not the mighty Mississippi, nor am I going anywhere near Graceland, but I know the Blue and the Gray had at least a skirmish or two along the road to Blacksnake. At least that’s what the old-timers would have you believe, and they all still thought Jefferson Davis was the President. As old as they were, you could almost forgive them for the delusion.

A bittersweet smile crosses my face as near the railroad tracks. Along the roadside is the memorial to accident that killed my parents. Ironically, as the Paul Simon song ends, the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour starts up. How fitting. The god I stopped believing in a long time ago must be laughing his sick ass off. I catch myself chuckling softly to unintentional joke as light up a hand-rolled. I’ve been smoking far more than usual since I hit the road, but I’m only scarcely aware of it or willing to make any effort to curtail it.

My memory’s still back at Café Nairobi, that day Tammy woke me up. Kisshandra was good to her word in showing up within a half hour of me getting hold of her. What shocked me was how within a half hour of her appearance Rio and Jazz-Cat Johnny Hobbs showed up. Neither of them is given to being up so early unless they’ve not gone to sleep yet. Apparently, Kisshandra texted the both of them to let them know something was up.

“You might be a Lynyrd Skynyrd redneck, Stormy, but you’re our friend,” Hobbs quipped when I expressed amazement that he could be bothered to roll out of bed so early to be at Café Nairobi.

“I reckon I didn’t expect you to take time out of masturbating to Rush to come down,” I shot back.

“After that remark, I’m beginning to reconsider, you know, eh?”

And we had a nice time over large mugs of coffee. Well, the best time we could have given how early it was and the circumstances that had brought us all together. Carmen, who I’d left sleeping at my place with a quickly scribbled note, showed up a little later. Although her presence added to the nice time we were having, the walk back to my place was a little tense.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” She asked.

“It wasn’t even six yet and we were up rather late,” I said. “I didn’t wanna be rude.”

“But it was perfectly okay to ring up Kisshandra?” There was an edge in her voice I hadn’t heard before. It got me to shoot her a glare.

“Yes, it was, honeychild,” I snarled. “There are only two other people who know me as well as Kisshandra Norbu. One I barely talk to, except for maybe Christmas, and her calling me got us all up so fucking early, and the other’s brain is so like wormwood she can barely remember her own name, let alone what year it is, or who anyone around her is.”

“It just seems kind of unfair,” Carmen protested.

“Look! You keep this up about who and why I contact first when I have a family crisis I’m gonna forget what my daddy used to say about hitting girls,” I snapped. She started to say something. “Just close your mouth and save your teeth.”

The look I was given straddled the line between fear and resentment. Maybe we were having our first fight, but I didn’t really care. Any more than I really cared whether she was right or if I was. Nobody, especially not some splittail, was going to get after me about Kisshandra. Period.

It was within a few days I was able to get everything in line to leave for Blacksnake. Maybe I thought the sooner I left, the better. I hoped not to be gone long. Carmen and I managed to regain a modicum of civility toward each other, although there was this new sense of tension that had not been there before. Apparently, it was obvious to everyone.

“I just hope you guys can work past it,” Kisshandra said on the day I left. I was having her look after my bonsai trees. “I like her hanging around with us. It would be a shame if she disappeared.”

“I reckon we’ll see,” I said. “I just didn’t like the way she suddenly got about you.”

“At least it’s about me and not about Borneo,” Kisshandra mused. She got that sad look in her eyes again. It was the first time Borneo between us had been brought up since that night at Juke.

“What if I asked you to come with me?”

“Down south?” Kisshandra seemed confused. “I thought you told me with my Afro-Himalayan heritage it would be a bad idea.”

“I mean to Borneo,” I said.

“Joshua…?” It wasn’t surprising to see her looking gobsmacked.

“I’d take you in a cold minute, Kiss,” I said. “Swear on a stack of Bibles.”

And she just stared at me. I guess I couldn’t blame her. What I was asking her was pretty serious. Although she once told me the thought was heartbreaking, it seemed a given that figured we’d be done and over forever, amen, once I finally achieved my goal of Borneo.

“Tell you what,” I said with a wink. “You think about it and let me know.”

It’s almost a full day I’ve been on the road to Blacksnake, and I haven’t heard a peep for her. This is unusual. Most often we call or text something at least once. Her answer will dictate how serious my question was. I think it’s the best thing I can do. As I think about Kisshandra and Carmen and all that, another musical irony occurs; Sex and Violence from the Exploited.

And then I come upon the sign;

Welcome to Blacksnake, Alabama, Pop 668

I’ve been alive for thirty-one years and that sign’s never, ever changed. In high school, some of the metal kids I hung out with, the ones who said they worshiped Satan to frighten and anger their families, would joke we were the neighbors of the Beast, two doors down. We all knew there had been births and deaths, but that population number remained static. God and Pastor Abraham Toft and the elders of the Pentecostal church that pretty well runs town, forbid the population number on the town sign gets anywhere closer to triple six. That would be sinful.

Driving through town is simultaneously a trip down memory lane and a nightmare. Rebel flags still hang proudly outside same old houses. I imagine, if all those old-timers who thought Jefferson Davis was still the President and that the Stars and Bars would ultimately triumph were finally dead, they indoctrinated their kin with the same mindset. My daddy would say that was as sure as the day was long.

I pick up a bomber of beer and pull off at the field by the water tower, on the other end of town, just a half-mile from the home. I already sent a message to Tammy telling me where I was and what I was about to do. She told me we’d catch up tonight. I can’t really say I’m looking forward to any of this.

As I drink my beer and smoke a hand-rolled, my eyes follow the layers of generational graffiti along the water tower. I never put anything up there myself, but I knew some who did. The song Gnawba Blues from Hoba Hoba Spirit is playing, something I got into once I moved away. Three miles away is the state line. Back when I was younger, we used to say the state line was the end of the world.

And here I am, back in Blacksnake after seven years in outer space. Back to see a dying woman who probably won’t even know who I am. I finish my hand-rolled and get ready to drive the final half-mile to finish this, but not before I hold up my last swig of beer in a one-man toast.

“To my grandma,” I whisper. “And to getting to Borneo once she’s gone.”