"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

26 March 2012

The Long Road

Six months later, you find yourself living on the edge of the desert. This is about as much civilization as you can stand. You can still disappear out into the wastes for your solitude if you so desire, but you’re closer in now. Despite being at the edge of the desert, deep down, you sincerely doubt you could return to the world again.

“You’re never going to completely get over this,” Shara told you the night after you scattered Wendy’s ashes. “I don’t say that to curse you or make you a martyr, but you are scarred; both figuratively and literally. They will be with you for the rest of your days.” She paused long enough to give you a gentle kiss upon your brow. “It’s how you cope with your scars that will tell you who you are.”

Six months later, you finally contact Martha and Lawrence MacAleister. They were elated to hear your voice. Five years can be a long time and there was a lot to discuss. The hardest part came when you said you had met someone new.

There was silence. Long and cold. The hatred and blame you had both expected and feared from them all these years seemed but a heartbeat away. You braced for the worst.

Wendy died, Geoffrey, not you,” Martha said finally, you could feel the smile in her voice. “Get out there and live.”

You find emerging from the desert, from the shadows between alive and dead is not always easy. The road is longer than any you’ve ever traversed and there are still miles to its unseen conclusion. An old song playing on the radio seems to sum it up best during those harder times;

“Spitting out pieces
of my broken heart…
I’m lying in the afterglow
how’d I get this far?”

It’s a question you ask yourself during meditation. You’ve yet to find an answer, but perhaps there isn’t one. Sometimes, the little mysteries are what make life worth living. The greatest mystery of all would maybe be wonder what the future holds, but you were told once there is no future, only possibilities.

A familiar voice humming some arcane tune in an esoteric accent pulls you from your musings. You look up across the front yard to the clothesline. There, silhouetted against the late afternoon sun is a familiar figure, putting out laundry to dry. With a smile, you pull yourself from the front porch chair and start toward her. There may be no future, but you’re quite content with that. Along this long road you’ve found yourself on, the possibilities are endless.

23 March 2012

Desert Wind Catharsis

“Are you safe in a place
that you don't know?
Are you still holding on?
Can't you just let go?”
-Jeff Martin


“You’ve perhaps heard of Pandora’s box?”

“She let loose all the misery in all the world,” you said. “Stupid bitch.”

Shara wrinkled her nose as she looked at you. She sat patiently with you as you recounted the story of the fire. She held you when you started to cry, and let you go when you started to pull away.

You told her how the first year after, you tried to move on. Lawrence and Martha still had you over for Sunday dinners. They gave you Wendy’s inheritance, so you could take as much time as you needed to recover. But, in the end, you found you could no longer be where you were. Everywhere you went; there were reminders of her. Of the life you had together, of the promise of what could have been, but never was to be.

It was why you came to the desert, not letting your mother and father in-law know where you went. For five years, you were able to lose yourself out in sand and scrub and rock. It had been a shock that they found you. Part of you considered them sadistic for sending you the black lacquer box.

“There was something else in the box, aside from all the evils of the world,” Shara said. “What was it?”

“How the hell should I know?” You snorted. “I’m just an ignorant Negro! It’s amazing I know how to read! You really expect me to know some old story?”

“I don’t believe that for a second, Geoffrey Ryddle,” Shara said firmly. “I neither share my company nor my bed with stupid men.”

“I suppose I should thank you then.”

“No. Just stop being ridiculous,” she corrected, her manner stern. “You blame yourself for that fire.”

“Did she tell you that?” You asked in a mocking tone.

“I do not speak for the dead, and anyone who says that they do is a pompous ass.”

“It was my fault…” you mutter. “There’s something I could have done.”

“It was an accident, Geoffrey,” Shara said softly, placing a hand on your scarred arm. “And accidents are called such because that’s what they are.”

You wanted to pull away from her. To tell her to leave and never come back. Instead, something inside you caused you grab onto her and pull her close. Her embrace was warm and giving. Her scent of cinnamon and places more far-flung than this was intoxicating. Despite your initial impulses, you wondered about the possibilities with her.

“What would you have me do?” You asked her.

She looked at you, her liquid mercury eyes shimmering with a strange intensity. A smile formed across her lips as she kissed your brow and pulled away. Slowly, but with great purpose, she walked to the mantle, her hands coming to rest upon the box.

“This thing has been slowly devouring you, leaving you little more than a ghost wrapped in a cloak of living flesh.” Shara began, not bothering to look to see if you were listening. “You need to face it beyond the context of the dreams that so haunt you.” It was then she turned, holding out the box for you to take. “You need to open this. You need to unleash what is within the box. All of it.”


You drive as deep into the desert as you can with enough gas to make it back. It is a moonless night, but the stars give the barren landscape a stark, yet subtle, glow. In the seat next to you, rides the box. Before you left, Shara Little Feather told you she might actually love you, but this was for you alone. You thanked her for that.

It’s cool out, which you welcome. Somehow, it seems fitting. You walk just a little way from the truck, where you can still hear its engine and make out its silhouette. The time has come; you open the box. Your eyes moisten, the tears already starting to well up as you look within.

“Hello, Wendy,” you whisper into the dark. “It’s been a long time, honey.”

Her ashes, and those of the seedling of the life germinating within her belly, do not answer you. You don’t expect them to. The tears start to stream down your face and your lips are quivering. You begin to shake open box, the ashes being caught on the desert winds.

Your cries of lamentation echo eternally across the wasteland. Sobs wrack your body. There is pain, like that of the burns, the shards of glass, which tore your flesh six years before, those shards that were pulled from your body in the emergency room after the fire. As the last of the ashes disappear into the night, you feel your legs buckle. You collapse onto the sand and scrub and rock.

Eons seem to pass as you lay curled in a ball sobbing. Another sensation begins to well up inside you, one you’ve not known in a very long time; release. Slowly, your eyes open, and you see the empty box laying before you.

What’s in Pandora’s box?

Pain. Pestilence. Suffering. Death.

You stand up. The tears dry upon your face. You reach down, picking up the box. The lid snaps shut with loud click.

What was left Pandora’s box?


21 March 2012

What Could Never Be

You didn’t mean to be at work so late that night, but the overtime was nice. That was how you justified it; extra money to maybe buy a house someday instead of the rented falling-apart-at-the-seams-hovel. Extra money to save for the future; for the good life that was supposed to be coming.

The house was dark when you walked in. This worried you. For three years you dreaded she’d leave you. It took her father forever to accept that she fell in love with and married a black man. Her mother was always the more tolerant. Be that as it may, any time you walked into a quiet or dark house you anticipated seeing things gone and a Dear Geoffrey letter on the kitchen counter.

“Honey, I’m home!” You called out.

“The mating call of the fifties!” She answered back. “Get in here, you romantic fool!”

She was waiting in the small alcove you both jokingly called the dining room. Candles illuminated the small space. There was an open bottle of champagne and a sparkling glass by your place setting. A plate of shrimp scampi, your favorite, sat awaiting your consumption.

Wendy sat in her chair, regal and compassionate. Her severe blonde hair and striking blue eyes made her the most beautiful woman you’ve ever known. A slight smile played across her plump lips. You found yourself worried; your mind scrambling to remember what occasion warranted the elegant setting and candlelight.

“Sorry I’m late, hon,” you said. “Overtime.”

“It’s okay,” Wendy said, excitement catching in her throat. “I’m late too.”

At first, you couldn’t figure out what she meant. It was the way her slight smile became blinding across the table. Before the full implication hit you, you had scooped her up in your arms and smothered her in at least half a dozen kisses.


“Really,” she replied, returning every one of your kisses with equal, if not slightly more intensity. “I’m six to eight weeks along. You’re going to be a daddy.”


You were awaken by overpowering heat and a constant, but building, dull roar. What your eyes opened to was a scene straight out of Dante. Quickly, you reached over to wake up Wendy, but she wasn’t in bed with you. It seemed she might have already gotten out of the burning house.

Running through the burning house, you shouted for her, but you could only hear the blaze around you. There were pops! and the sound glass shattering in the heat. Part of you questioned whether or not you both remembered to put out all the candles before you settled into bed, or if some of the faulty wiring in the rented dump finally sparked. Both possibilities were increasingly irrelevant as the smoke began to choke you.

You reached the window. Wendy told you once that glass was actually, in fact, a liquid. It just moves very slowly. Imperceptibly. You jumped, hearing it shatter all around you, the shards tearing at your naked flesh. If glass was liquid, why does it rip and tear and cut when one dives into it?

Fire and Rescue was already there. Someone threw a blanket around you. It was only then you heard the screaming.

“Geoffrey! Where are you?”

She’s still in there!

“Wendy! Hold on, honey!”

You tried to run back, but someone was grabbing you. You struggled and fought, the whole time hearing Wendy screaming for you. A man in a uniform stepped in front of you.

“Sir! Please stop!”

“My wife’s in there!” You screamed, still pressing forward. “Get out of my way!”

“Sir! Stay here! We’ll get her out!”

“Get your fucking hands off me!” Your fist connected with a jaw, there was a sickening crunch and you saw teeth flying.

“Geoffrey! Please! Help me!”

The next thing you knew you were in handcuffs. All you could do was watch as the house went up in flames. It was as if the men in uniform were making you watch. Eventually, Wendy’s screams were drowned out by the roar of the fire. A horrific acrid scent filled your nose. Much later you would learn it was the smell of burning flesh.


Lawrence, a man who once resented you only because of the color of your skin, managed to get you uncuffed. Martha rocked you side to side while you wailed like newborn babe. You even felt Lawrence’s hand on your bare cut and burned shoulder. The three of you wailed together. They both promised over and over again that they didn’t blame you. This was an accident. It didn’t matter; you blamed yourself.

Eventually, a bag was brought out. Someone in a uniform said with as much detached compassion as afforded to people of that profession that there wasn’t much left. She was pretty well cremated.

“It’s not fair,” Lawrence muttered, touching the bag. “We lost our daughter and you lost your wife.”

You looked up at him, trying to be strong. Your own father all but beat into you that men do not cry. The fact you’d been sobbing uncontrollably since your in-laws had shown up made some part of you feel incredibly weak. Slowly, you reached out for the bag yourself, your voice cracked as you spoke;

“I was supposed to be a daddy…”

19 March 2012


You’re nervous. It’s been years since someone’s been to somewhere you lived, and never out here in the desert. Of course, it’s been years, eons, it seems, since you’ve found yourself in the situation that’s unfolding before you. You have a hard time remembering what you’re supposed to be feeling, but you’re fairly sure the pangs of terror you sometimes get, which run so counter to the euphoria, might be okay.

It was a month ago now, but is simultaneously feels like yesterday and longer ago than just a mere month; you woke up in a strange bed in strange house. Your clothing was carelessly discarded on the floor. By the way your body felt, you knew you had been doing something, but the likelihood of exactly what seemed more than a little absurd to you, as if it was just a very vivid dream.

So you got up and slipped into your jeans. There was the scent of something cooking and familiar voice humming some arcane tune in an esoteric accent. The strange place you found yourself in was not that large, so it didn’t take long to find the source of the scent and the humming.

Shara Little Feather stood over her stove, working on whatever concoction that was authoring the scent. You caught yourself being a little shocked, and perhaps embarrassed, because she wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing, and the circumstance didn’t seem to phase her in the slightest. Before you could do or say anything, she turned to look at you, a beaming smile spreading across her lips.

“Morning, did you sleep well?”

“Um, fine,” you replied, trying not to ogle and still trying to make sense of what was happening. “Am I overdressed?”

“You’re fine, Rydlle,” she said as she walked over to wrap her arms around you. “Relax.”

And so it began. You still stick to the certainty that Shara is just very observant. Although, sometimes, the way she looks at you or the something she might say, gets you to question if she really does have some strange gift. She doesn’t ask you about your past or secrets, or your dreams. Only once has she ever asked about your scars.

“Dove through a plate-glass window on a dare,” you replied curtly.

“The regret cuts deeper than the glass did,” she mused, but there were no further words on the subject after that.

Over the last month, you’ve been around more and people have noticed. Annabelle Leigh asked you if you were in love. You didn’t know how to answer. The emotions you’ve caught yourself feeling about spending time with Shara Little Feather are alien and frightening, but intoxicating.

A knock at the door brings you back. Company. A wave of nauseous anxiety passes through you as you open your door. Shara looks almost bashful, and it helps to relieve your own sense of dread that something will go wrong. She holds up a bottle of wine for your inspection and you invite her in.

There’s no turning back now…


Dinner was lovely. How she knew what wine went so well with the meal was a pleasant shock. A second bottle is opened and relaxing music is playing in the background. You lose yourself in the moment. This is perfection. Bliss, pure and simple.

“What’s this?” Shara inquires.

She’s standing by the mantle. Her fingers are running across a particular black lacquer box you hoped she wouldn’t see, despite it being in plain sight. Over the last month, you’ve almost been able to put its existence out of your mind, noticing it only on odd occasions, which gets you to question if the bliss you’re feeling with Shara is right or an outright betrayal.

“It’s nothing,” you say quickly. “Let’s go outside and look at the stars.”

’Nothing’ wouldn’t prompt that kind of reaction,” she says, her liquid mercury eyes intensifying. “There something attached to this. Something dark.”

You shudder. It was probably your reaction that lead to what you want to dismiss as lucky guess. Her fingers continue to move along the box, twin tarantulas hunting the same insects. It looks for a moment like she might even try to open it, which causes you to stiffen.

“Get away from it,” you growl. “I promise if you don’t I’m going to break every bone in your body.”

“Violence does not suit you,” Shara says reproachfully. “You know that. It has never worked for you.”

She’s right. You have never been a violent person. Somewhere in your past, you were lauded for being gentle. The one and only time you ever struck anyone, you were placed in chains and forced to listen to the soundtrack of immolation.

“Shara,” your voice is small and broken. “Please…”

She slowly walks over to you. Her arms reach out and draw you in. Despite her touching curiosity about the box, you find yourself accepting her embrace. There doesn’t seem to be any malice in it. Perhaps you can somehow to convince yourself to almost forget again. To get lost in another blissful moment with her.

“Do you want to talk about it?”


She looks into your eyes. Her shimmering liquid mercury eyes are full of compassion. She kisses you softly.

“Will you tell me about it anyway?”

17 March 2012


“I like bars. Bars are honest places…”-Spider Jerusalem


You read about the honesty of bars in a comic book, joking that if a comic book said it, then it must be true. Once, you were told alcohol was the ultimate truth-serum. Of course, you’ve been aware of many a lie told after the imbibement of a cocktail or two, and more than one falsehood told within the walls of a bar. Thus, it is shown that all statements of wisdom, from the trivial to the profound, have a loophole of imperfection.

Normally, after stocking up, you would disappear back into the desert for another few weeks. The years have taught you the virtue of solitude. You tried being around people afterward. Lawrence and Martha insisted it would help you heal. But, like the scars upon your flesh, some things remain long, long after the initial wounding. And some things never seem to go away.

So, with all the money you had, you shot yourself out as far as you could conceive without leaving the continent or planet, although, sometimes you wonder about the planet bit. You wanted to start again. You wanted to cease to exist. Be someone or something else, even if what you’ve become is just the wraith of a man named Geoffrey Ryddle.

The nightmares, the memories, that fucking box drive you back for a beer or three. The one thing you didn’t get when you stocked up was alcohol, but you’re not sure if that was on purpose. Perhaps drinking out there, all alone, in the desert, would be disastrous.

Maybe in some secret place within your psyche, you know it might not be wrong to go get a drink at the roadhouse, down by the general store. The company of people you see any time you come around, but rarely speak to, while anonymously sipping a few beers and making a half-assed attempt to keep to yourself.

Rosie doesn’t ask you many questions; just what you’re drinking and if you’re paying as you go or running a tab. You notice how she sometimes eyes you suspiciously. Above the bar is a list of names under the No Drinks, No Tabs! list, many of which are native and Hispanic names. You’re neither, but your skin is much darker than most of people in the roadhouse, which gets you to consider Rosie doesn’t trust anyone who isn’t Caucasian.


You sip your beer and half read the local paper while half looking around the bar. A baseball game from back in the world plays on the television. Once, you really liked baseball. Once, you owned a television. Perhaps even more than one. That was all a very long time ago.

You attempt to watch the game and realize it holds no interest for you. There may have been a time when this would’ve concerned you; a fear of something having died inside. Now, you just shrug. You’ve changed. One of those changes is the fact you’ve gotten far closer to death than you ever meant to any time before you got old and gray. Nowadays, you feel that old and gray despite still being so many years away from that yet.

With your attention somewhat diverted, you almost don’t notice a hand grabbing your beer bottle. Your head whips around, face curled into a snarl; being covered in scars, big, and black, you know you can look scary sometimes. Especially, in a place where you’re the only one of your skin tone for millions of miles in every direction. Never mind the fact you’ve only hit one person in your entire life and it ended badly.

“I’ll have what he’s having!” Shara Little Feather calls over to Rosie. She’s smirking playfully at you, her liquid mercury eyes almost glowing in the low light of the roadhouse. “Nice to see you, Ryddle.”

It takes you a moment to recognize her. Instead of the gypsy drag you’re so used to seeing her in, she’s dressed in a flannel shirt, black tank-top, jeans, and sandals. It doesn’t make her any less alluring. Perhaps more attractive. You feel a particular stirring within you that you’re normally able to better restrain. It causes you to shift awkwardly within your seat.

“Nice to be seen,” you quip. “I guess I’ll be buying you that beer.”

“I guess,” she says. “And we can talk a little more. Have you eaten?”

“I wasn’t hungry,” it’s an obvious lie and it doesn’t take a mind-reader to figure that out.

“I’ll get us a pizza and you can have a slice when your appetite appears,” Shara teases.

“Some people don’t get food for those who aren’t hungry.” you say.

“Some people would dive into an inferno to get a better look at the flames,” she retorts.

A chill passes through you at that statement. You don’t really believe Shara Little Feather can read minds anymore than you believe she can see the future. She’s just rather observant. You go to her for the card readings that never come to fruition more for the company and conversation than any hope of mystical insight. The fact she’s willing to share a pizza with you shows she might like your company as well. At least that’s your observation.


Pizza and a few beers later and you two are standing out by your truck. The things you talked about had nothing to do with divulging your secrets, much to your relief. Instead, there’s tales of local gossip and stories of wandering out in the desert. Jokes and observations of the other roadhouse patrons. Over the course of the evening, you’ve noticed how close both of you have inched to one another. Her scent of cinnamon and places more far-flung than this is inviting. You could spend centuries in that scent.

“We must do this again, Ryddle,” she’s saying, leaning in close. “It’s just slightly more enjoyable than arguing with you when you try to get a reading.”

“I want to kiss you,” you didn’t mean to say that.

Upon the utterance of the words, you wish they’d crawl back in your mouth and die. It was improper. You feel like an ass. Shara looks at you with a seriousness that startles you.

“Okay then, get to it,” she says.

You wondered, and now you get to know, what her tongue tastes like. She makes no effort to stop you, drawing you in closer. When you do pull back, expression on her face is both inviting and reassuring.

“You’ve wanted to do that for awhile,” she says. “You don’t have to be a fortuneteller to know that.”

“I figured you’d tell me it wouldn’t be a good future,” you snort, an attempt to play off the awkwardness you catch yourself feeling.

“Silly!” Shara giggles. “There is no future! There are only possibilities. That’s what I do; I point out the possibilities I see with the factors at hand.”

“I think can live with that,” you say with a shrug as you lean into her receptive embrace to kiss her once more. There is a new possibility you find yourself wanting to explore.

15 March 2012

Self-Inflicted Wounds

A dull roar, threatening to turn to a scream, fills your ears. You can hear the occasional pop! or some cacophonic ring of something shattering. All around is a study of reds, yellows, oranges, and choking blacks and grays. The heat is unfathomable.

Escape. It’s the only option. An all-consuming goal.

Someone once told you glass was a liquid. It just moves very slowly. Imperceptibly. You jump, hearing it shatter all around you, the shards tearing at your naked flesh. If glass was liquid, why does it rip and tear and cut when one dives into it?

Before you realize you’re on the other side, someone is covering you with a blanket. Maybe it’s to retard the burning sensation you still feel. Perhaps it’s to conceal your nakedness. In the heat of the moment you scarcely realize what’s happening.

Then there’s the screams. Someone’s calling for help. Calling your name. You spring up, ready to dive back into the inferno.

“Sir! Stay here!” Someone in a uniform is shouting at you. “We’ll get her out!”

“Get your fucking hands off me!” Your fist connects with a jaw.

And you’re forced to the ground. Something cold and metal and biting is fastened to your wrists. Someone is holding you down. You can still hear the screams, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

“Geoffrey! Please! Help me!”


Your eyes open to pitch blackness. The desert night is frigid cold. Yet heat radiates from you. Your dark skin shines with sweat.

Slowly, you sit up, rubbing your bare arms. The scars stand out in stark relief to the rest of your skin. Sometimes, you’re convinced they glow upon your flesh. Tattoos, neither requested or wanted.

You pull yourself from the bed and fetch a glass of water. It helps wash away the heat. Your body temperature matching that of the chill outside. The idea of trying to sleep again is terrifying. You sit down to meditate.

Focus...breathe in...breathe out…

Focus...remember that Emptiness is everything...all is Void…

The main point of such exercises is to still the mind. To focus single-pointed on one thing. Sometimes it’s nothing; just the sensation of breath. There are instants where it’s a single, simple moment. This time, it’s a kaleidoscope of memory.


“Why is he in cuffs?” Lawrence MacAleister’s voice is asking. The heat has been replaced by a cold that rivals the airless void between stars.

“For his protection; he tried to run back in,” someone answers. “He hit one of our officers.”

“You idiot!” Lawrence snorts. “Do you blame him? I’d have done the same thing. Take those things off him now!”

The cuffs are released, which allows you to relax your arms. Not that it matters. The one thing you would’ve focused your strength on lies in ruin before you. Nothing matters anymore.

“Geoffrey,” Martha’s voice speaks to you across a chasm of torpor. “Geoffrey, look at me.”

There she is; regal and compassionate. Her severe blonde hair and striking blue eyes make her the second most beautiful woman you’ve ever known. Despite the affection she’s lavished on you as one of the family, you’ve always felt unworthy to meet her gaze.

“Geoffrey, what happened?” She asks.

You want to tell her. You want to tell her how you tried to go back, but the men in uniform stopped you. All you can do is shudder and sob. If your own father was here, he’d beat the holy living out of you; men do not cry. For all the words you want to say, only two come out;

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry…”

Martha wraps her arms tightly around you. She rocks you back and forth, like a small child, encouraging your tears. Every so often, she coos in your ear;

“Shhhh…it’s not your fault.”


You open your eyes again. It’s gotten closer to dawn, but it’s still dark. Disgust pulses through your frame.  

Why do you do this to yourself? Do you think if you relive the nightmare enough times it will change? Would Martha and Lawrence blame and hate you, like you think they should? Would you have been able to go back in? Would it have ended up being you screaming through that dull roar?

Speculative questions and no answers. Only nightmares and constant reevaluations of something far beyond your power to change. You sicken yourself with the practice.

In front of you, on the mantle, is the black lacquer box you received. With a heavy sigh you stand up to inspect it. For the first time since receiving it, you open the lid. The contents of the box cause you to shudder.

What’s in Pandora’s box?

Obviously something you were never meant to have…

13 March 2012


The instance of IVS reminded me, that whilst he still acts so puppy-like, Whistler is, in fact, just over thirteen years old. The eldest of the three. It'll be two years, this coming autumn, Chevy retired from long walkabouts with me, the sentence of arthritis making walks around town and jaunts to the Lair of the Boogieman with my daughter the limit of what he can do. The Bull's Head was his last hoorah.

Whistler will recover. That's the way of it. Over the last few days since the initial incident, he's started to regain his balance and walk more normal. It's the odd stumble, which reminds me he's still a little off. Sabina postulates if this has happened once, it could happen again. It would be unfortunate to have it occur out in the bush.

The Bull's Head hardly qualifies as a walkabout. There's climbing about the rock formation and the ruins of the Diamond Mine. Some of the locals do the trail daily instead of jogging, since it can be completed in an hour,  at most, if one does not stop to take in the views or eat an apple. Be that as it may, that's where we're heading.

It's disheartening to contemplate this might be Whistler's last real walkabout with me. Our trip to another set of mine ruins, two days before the incident, was fraught with adventure. I consider just watching his recovery and hedging my bets. Be that as it may, here and now, I make sure there's plenty of treats in my pack for him. After all, up on the Bull's Head could be his retirement party.

12 March 2012


The mother and daughter were apparently from Boston. There, they had plenty of pairs of hikers, of which they could not be bothered to bring at least one pair to the High Country of Colorado's pointylands. Investing in a new pair, or even renting, seemed an imposition. These circumstances created a joke motif as the mother asked me where one could go for a walkabout in either running shoes or Uggs, and not encounter a lot of snow or mud. My finger pointed east.

"Down where it's flat," I said. "It's probably drier there. You've arrived just in time for mud season here."

The idiocy and outright hubris of travelers confounds, amuses, and frightens me. Miguel Loco and I still have a hearty laugh over the Newfoundlander who was convinced he could climb one of the nearby fourteeners in shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers. He planned to grab trees and use those on his ascent.

"But there are no trees up there!" Miguel Loco will chuckle.

"We should've let him go," I might add. "Alpine Rescue could've used his bones as a cautionary tale."

Though marshy, I am reminded once more there is grass around the House of Owls and Bats. For the first time in half a year, I fired up the grill for the night before's dinner. I kept hoping to hear a hummingbird on the breeze, but it's a little early for that yet.

My mudding boots have earned their moniker when I've headed out into the bush. The trails, the dirt roads, are all but glacially flowing rivers of soaked-to-the-point-of-squishy. My gators are worn to keep my pant legs clean and dry. The snow I've encountered is slushy and dirty looking. Although the resorts are starting to ketchup on their snow-packs skiers and boarders bitch about the texture.

The equinox may still be almost a week away, but it would seem mud season started a a week ago. A friend of mine spoke of seeing spring omens on a recent journey down below. Meteorological prophecy foretells of warm weather for at least the next five days. There is a certain excitement to this; the last vestiges of cabin fever being cast off like a snake shedding its skin.

My eyes track outside. Slight breezes tickle the trees. A warm suns shines from a immaculate turquoise sky. I have no pressing obligations for the next two days. The mud from my previous walkabout have dried upon my boots. I find I am possessed of the urge to alter that circumstance.

09 March 2012

Pandora's Box

It’s a hot day. The very air seems to be blown from either a blast furnace or the lungs of Hell itself, although, that may all be one and the same. Sweat beads upon the brow and driving with the windows down and no shirt does not help. Perhaps it’s time to invest in something with an air conditioner.

Looking out the windshield at the mirage-shimmering roadway, you remember how someone once said glass is, in fact, a liquid. It just moves very slowly. Imperceptibly. You always wondered, if that was true, then why did this liquid rip and tear and cut when one tried to dive into it?

You pull into the general store’s lot. The only sort of grocery for what seems like a thousand miles in any direction. Maybe, if the day was cooler, you might drive further, in search of somewhere else to stock up. Somewhere with a bit more civilization. The very thought gets you to laugh. You’ve not had much use for civilization for a very long time now. Coming down for supplies and whatever’s the PO box, to maybe grab a beer at the roadhouse, is about as close to civilization as you can stand.

As you get out and grab your shirt, you see the only package you received for the week at your PO box; a beautifully ornate black lacquer box. The box alone is enough to upset, stirring up things you try so very hard to forget and zen away with meditations out there in the desert. It’s the note that came with the box, which made you feel blindly angry;


It took quite some time to find you. We’d ask how you’ve been over the last five years, but maybe you’re not ready to talk to us again. That would be unfortunate. We did decide you needed to have this. Please, PLEASE, PLEASE, contact us soon. We miss you and worry about you. Five years is far too long. You’re in our prayers.

Love and health,

Martha and Lawrence MacAleister

The note is crumbled on the floorboards. You wanted to burn it. You wanted to punch the man who handed you the parcel, just because he was there. Rationally, you know neither of those actions would’ve helped. The package would’ve still been there. As you look at it, all you can think of is classic mythology.

What’s in Pandora’s box? 

Pain. Pestilence. Suffering. Death.

Annabelle Leigh Schultz is standing outside the general store watching you pull your shirt over your sweat-soaked trunk. She’s barely sixteen and fascinated by your build. By the scars that crisscross your arms, chest, and back. She once got bold enough to ask you how you got them, and you told her everything from a street fight to being attacked by a dragon to a scarification ritual you did to be accepted by the natives.

“They don’t do scarifications, Ryddle!” She exclaimed.

“How do you know?” You asked her.

“’Cause my family’s been here forever, and my grandma woulda told me,” she reasoned.

You let it drop. Annabelle Leigh likes to help you get your things. She likes to ask you questions. Sometimes, you might give you an answer, though it’s rarely a straight one.

“Shara Little Feather calls you a trickster, Ryddle,” Annabelle Leigh told you once. “She says you’re Anansi.”

That memory of that gets you to chuckle. Anansi; the spider-trickster of west-African folklore. It’s especially ironic, thinking about it, when you think of how Shara’s hands are so spider-like when she shuffles the cards in an attempt to tell the future.

“Anansi,” you chuckled when you were told. “must be a black thing.”

Annabelle Leigh laughed uncomfortably. Only because you did. She was afraid of being seen as a racist. Sometimes you almost tell her it’s okay, and not to be so high-strung around you.

“Hello, Miss Schultz,” you say as you approach the door. “You going to help me shop whether I want it or not?”

“You bet!” Annabelle Leigh shouts. She starts to reach out to touch your arm, but hesitates. The scars there seem to stand out because of the sheen of sweat.

You indulge her, because you want to forget about the package you received in the mail. More to the point, the note attached to it. Maybe, if you’re lucky enough, when you get done with the stocking up, you’ll find someone will have broken into your truck and taken the package.

When everything’s been bought and bagged and you start back out to the truck, you see that no such luck exists. At least not for you. Annabelle Leigh looks into the cab as you toss your shirt in. Her eyes light up with youthful curiosity at the sight of the box.

“That’s really pretty,” she says.

“You don’t want it,” you tell her.

“How do you know?”

“Because I know what’s in there,” you reply with a little more edge in your voice than you mean to. Annabelle Leigh shirks back a little, like she’s afraid you might strike her.

“What’s in there?” She asks in a small voice.

“Dead dreams and other nightmares,” you say, and then you hand her some money, so she can get herself ice cream as thanks for her company on a hot day. You smile as she skips away, almost forgetting about the package waiting in the truck for you.

06 March 2012

Musing the Oracle

“Soul searching breaks you down
you’ll never learn,
Annihilate yourself
all things must burn...”-The Tea Party


Focus...breathe in...breathe out…

Focus...remember that Emptiness is everything...all is Void…

The main point of such exercises is to still the mind. To focus single-pointed on one thing. Sometimes it’s nothing; just the sensation of breath. There are instants where it’s a single, simple moment. That lark of an oracle springs to mind, coming into sharp relief.


The cards dance, appearing and reappearing in the manner of a stage magician or a street huckster. Her hands move with the speed and agility of two ravenous tarantulas chasing after the same frightened insect. Her eyes are closed as she shuffles, humming some arcane tune in an esoteric accent. Just watching her is an exercise in fascination.

Her short black hair is covered with a multi-colored scarf that doesn’t exactly go with, but does not necessarily clash, with her simple white tank-top and multi-colored skirt. For mockery, the raiment is referred to as gypsy drag. A gold and black scarf hangs from her neck and, when she shifts just right, it removes any mystery as to whether or not she’s wearing a bra. Sometimes, this arousing. Her scent is that of cinnamon and places more far-flung than this. Perhaps it’s her taste as well.

“Select a card,” she says in that esoteric accent of some forgotten place that never was.

The card is lucky number thirteen. A grinning skull, bedecked in blackened armor stands over a mound of corpses, its sword held high in one hand, and the standard of a white flower in the other. In the background is a ruined tower with a rising moon and sun. It almost looks like the cover of a fantasy novel. Perhaps one featuring Conan or a group of elves.

“Death,” she says stoically. “Traditionally, change. The ending or beginning of a cycle. Rebirth.”

“I had a Rider-Waite deck once, but who didn’t?”

She slams her hand down on the card, covering it. With a deft flick of the wrist, the card is back within the embrace of the deck. In another flash, the entire deck disappears altogether. Slight-of-hand, a neat trick. There are some who would say what she just did is the hallmark of a trickster, like Coyote.

“Why do even bother asking for a reading?” She inquires, her eyes narrowed.

“Why do you bother indulging me?”

Her nose, small and spriteish, crinkles. A smile, mysterious, frustrated, amused, and annoyed appears across her lips. Her eyes, intense and unflinching, shimmer, like pools of liquid mercury.

How many have gotten lost in those eyes, never to be seen again?

“You’ve come from far away,” she begins.

“Aside from the McDermontts, Schultzs, Santiagos, and the natives, who hasn’t around here?”

“You burned bridges and buried memories,” she continues, undeterred.

“I’ve told you too much about myself. You’ve probably figured out some by simple observation; reading your mark.”

“A skeptic to the bitter end,” she says teasingly, running her tongue across her teeth. She reaches out, her touch is warm and inviting. “Don’t worry, you’re not so easy to read.”

What does her tongue taste like?

“You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.”

“Then why are you here?” She asks again, her gaze intensifying.

“Why were you willing to indulge me?”

Back to the same set of questions. It’s like this whenever an oracle is requested; talking in circles. A mutual game, which is as amusing as it is frustrating.

“Always unable to give a straight answer,” she muses.

“Maybe straight answers also falsehoods.”

“There are those who believe the truth will set you free,” she says.

Truth is a point of view. Besides, that kind of freedom brings its own set of chains to enslave the uninitiated.”

She giggles, reaching out again. A warm hand against the cheek. She leans forward, lightly planting her lips upon the brow. The desire for more is almost overpowering, but, if she really could read minds, she’d know that. Maybe she does, but the future she sees taking that road is not so bright.

“You live up to your name, Ryddle,” she says.

“I don’t believe in the power of names.”

“The ancients did,” she says. “In Egypt, if your name was wiped out, so were you; you did not exist anymore.”

“I don’t want a name. I guess that makes me a ghost.”

“No, it makes you someone who wants to make their own way without the traditions that have existed since the first words were ever spoken,” she says. “That is why you came out here in the first place. It’s why your dreams sometimes bother you so.” She looks away for the slightest of moments. “But one day, you’ll learn.”

A shudder. What little gesture or bit of posture gave away the stench of nightmare? She couldn’t have guessed.

Learn what?

“I have to go.” Standing, walking to the door. Outside is hot and dry. Saliva evaporates in the mouth.

“I know you do,” she says. There is something, which might be sadness in her shimmering liquid mercury eyes. “But I’ll see you again soon.”

“Maybe. I’ll buy you a beer.”

“And maybe then you’ll be more willing to talk, Ryddle,” she says. “Willing to share your secrets.”

“They wouldn’t be secrets then, would they?” The door closes before she can say anything else.

04 March 2012

Small World

To the gregarious and those addicted to social media sites or going to their high school reunions, I realize my the way I sometimes react to my past might come across as more than a little queer. Basically, that past is past. A quirk of wiring leads me to believe that if I've lost touch with someone or something from back in the day there's probably some kind of reason. Namely, personal evolution; be it my own or someone else's. Despite interests in history and archeology, those are bones I'm not particularly anxious to excavate.

Given how I am about time, considering it a dubious abstract, I can see how one might perceive this peculiar. Perhaps even hypocritical. I have no problem admitting my hypocrisy knows no bounds. Maybe something some of those who know me; Sabina, my daughter, my father, Jezebel, would use as bases for their argument of me being plain contrary, if not just a little paradoxical, but I repeat myself.

I wonder if this idiosyncrasy of mine is nature or nurture. Being bullied a lot growing up and learning to mistrust the half-bald primates who called themselves Man, even going as far as to have once said I gave up on the species when I was eight, the idea of putting temporal distance between myself and those who hurt me seems quite sane. Putting myself anywhere near their company, even as a where-are-they-now-did-they-get-their-comeuppance? does not. There's also the fact I am rather solitary, even though I do so enjoy watching those half-bald primates, but I like to watch. The one paradox I'll not only own up to, but brag about, is that of my misanthropy. I once told someone my daughter and Sabina were the only two hominids I could be around constantly and not entertain murder thoughts at one point.

Once, a week before the ten year reunion, I told someone I graduated with that I left high school with express purpose of never, ever, setting foot there again. Someone I went to school with was certain they recognized me, but, sociopathic as it was, I really had no problem telling him he was mistaken, never mind what his sister and I did on his bed. Those were my last encounters from the high school phantasms, and I cannot be convinced to feel bad about it. 

This has made occasions I perceive as going back rather awkward for me. I become uncomfortable in my own skin, getting agitated, and perhaps a little too willing over-imbibe in something intoxicating. I seek escape routes and the excuses to leave come quickly. Past is past, after all.

In our Sahel the unwritten and dubious rule seems to be that you and yours have lived here since the halcyon antiquity of the mining days or you're a drop-out from the world, coming to this pocket of nowhere to forge a life in the in-between. Whilst I've yet to run into a direct ghost of my past, I've recently had a few moments that remind me just how small a world it is in which we all live.

The first time involved a retired magistrate of my acquaintance. Somehow, my maternal grandparents, and the fact they were county commissioners of some note, came up in conversation. It was quite the surprise when, upon mentioning their names, he told me how he knew and respected them. I wonder how that affected his perception of me; this tall, lanky thing with big eyes and long hair being related to someone with a park posthumously named for him.

But then it happened twice in one day...

It started in an artifacts boutique, after discussing the selling and purchasing of artifacts, conversation and ketchup ensued. The proprietress mentioned a particular name, the same as that of our family's vet before we moved from Colorado to North Carolina. Sure enough, it was that cat. In fact, the proprietress, probably ten years older than me, at most, grew up only a few miles of where I lived from ages four to thirteen. The names she mentioned were ones I was familiar with, if only by overheard conversations of my parents and grandmother.

Not but a bit later, I was visiting with Miguel Loco. Seeing as he and the proprietress of the artifacts boutique are rather good friends, I was asked to deliver hellos, and mentioned how I discovered what a small world it was when it came to her. When I asked why, I mentioned how we apparently grew up practically next door to one another.

"Where did you grow up?" Miguel Loco inquired and I told him. His dark eyes widened. "Holy shit!"

That's when I found out Miguel Loco, someone else ten years my senior, grew up maybe a mile from that place I lived from four until thirteen. We apparently went to the same elementary school, and I did my seventh grade year at the junior high he finished out at.

"My brother from another mother!" Miguel Loco proclaimed, giving me a high-five.

"Holy shit," I whispered to myself, perversely fascinated, but also a little rattled.

A few years back, I might have been inclined to go in the general direction of away from these individuals under that rationalization of past is past. But I see no reason to do that now. Perhaps that means something I've yet to fully realize. Although, none of them phantasms from my past lives. It could be the moments of small world and past is past are horses of different colors. Be that as it may, it does get me to wonder what I might do were I run into one of my ghost here and now. Would I stay or would I go? I can own up I am in no hurry to answer that question.      

01 March 2012

The Postcard

For all its ups, downs, side-to-sides, and French-film-complications; ours has always been acquaintance of words. Poems, stories, quotes, and the occasional song lyric. Secrets, conversations, whispers, proclamations, and cocktail-laced rants. Obvious and subtle messages, some real, some imagined, embedded in our manipulations of language.

I always saw how you spoke in the non-liner tongue of Burroughs, whilst I would try and speak in the riddle tongue of dragons. Somehow, we didn't require translators. Although, there were moments of mutual kangaroo? in what we did with the words.

You always sent the postcards. Notes of your travels along the jetstream and temporal dreamtime nexuses between worlds. Suppositions of what could come to pass. Mournful tones of what would never be. Chronicles of a life, perhaps one of the most interesting stories of all, and I am a sucker for a good story. Even a bad one, if it grabs my attention.

I've read and re-read them all, as I've done with any of your words I've had access to. Those postcards always get a reaction from me. Joyful smirks at hearing from you. Hopeful smiles and fearful thoughts. Anger and sadness toward the perceived forlorn. Comfort as your life moves apace, and, no matter the distance, you still include me in it.

Snake chases its tail, and things come full circle. I receive a postcard from you and the excitement wells up at hearing from you; reading where you are these days. Your messages, no matter how brief, have always illicited a reaction from me. After all, the nature of our acquaintance has always been the nature of words, and there's just no escaping that.

You speak of jumping off the ends of your world to come visit in the spring. You mention your daughter, and I find myself floored at how quickly she's grown, struggling to remember how long it's been that I've been where I'm at these days. It was lifetimes ago when we'd exchange words face to face over coffees or whiskeys.

And, yet, it was yesterday. Ain't that the way? I always do go on about time being an abstract, and I did fuck off for a place where time is even more of a dubious proposition, where the fantastic is said by some to dance upon earthly feet.

Be that as it may, I've read and re-read your latest postcard, as I am always wont to do. Your wish of spring has illicited a reaction of excitement. We'll get to see one another soon, get to exchange words in the realms of the flesh. Sooner than we think, though perhaps a little later than we hope.