"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

31 January 2013

The Wrath of the Sphinx

Deputy Ian McAlester never really cared for coming to Marrakech. The town had no formal law enforcement of its own, and the it was unspoken, but understood, the sheriff only came in if called, even then, being looked on with disdain by watching locals. That was not to say Marrakech was lawless. It was often said in semi-joking terms that the rule of law was not in the hands of the mayor and town board, but that of three individuals; Ira Milligan, Grizz, and Lazarus Lankin. The last person to try and tangle with that law was Franklin Davis, almost two years before, in connection with the murder of Donovan Tabor. Ian had been the one to come up and make the arrest.

There was a ball of anxiety in his gut as he pulled across the driving bridge to the last house on Lovecraft Lane. Two vehicles sat in the drive, notating someone was home. As he got out of his truck, Ian could hear the sound of wood being split out back. It reminded him that there was a storm forecasted to move in. There was even the suggestion that this could bring the first flakes of snow for the season above tree-line.

Following the sounds of chopping and splitting, Ian came upon Lankin, working in an almost effortless fashion on some logs just short of the cliff overlooking Marrakech Gulch. He was dressed in jeans and a pair of boots, his wiry muscles cording and snapping in an almost predatory rhythm. A woman with long, curly brown hair was gathering the split pieces and taking them to be stacked by the back door. She was the one who noticed Ian in his full Levant County Sheriff's uniform.

“You’ve got company, Lazarus,” she said.

He turned, ever so slightly in mid-swing, to regard Ian before splitting the log he was working on as though it was an afterthought. The girl was walking toward Lankin as he reached down to hand her the split pieces of wood with one hand, in the other, he kept holding his splitting maul. He gave her an off-handed smile as she took the wood.

“Why don’t you go brew us some tea,” he said softly.

“Don’t be too long,” she whispered, giving him a kiss on the cheek and going into the house.

“Your sister said you were seeing someone,” Ian said after she went inside. “She said it was sort of serious. Well, serious for you.”

“What do you want, Deputy?” Lankin inquired coldly, setting up another log to split.

Ian jerked back, as though he had been physically struck. It was obvious Lankin had no interest in small talk. Not with him. The only time Lankin went out of his way to deal with the sheriff's department was during a rescue. Even then, it was done so dismissively.

“You and Grizz spoke to my cousin, Trace, a week or two back,” Ian started. “Tried to warn him off Phantom Peak.”

“And?” The spitting maul slammed into wood with a thunderous crack.

“His girlfriend called me today,” Ian continued. “Apparently, Saturday, he came up here to try it anyway.”

“It’s Tuesday, Deputy,” Lankin observed, swinging again, not checking to see if he was heard over the impact of the maul into wood.

“Exactly!” Ian exclaimed. “He’s hasn’t come back yet! Which means he’s still up there.”

“Most likely.”

’Most likely’?!? Lazarus, he could be injured, or worse.”

“He could,” the log split and another was set in its place.

“And you’re just going to split wood?” Ian found himself starting to shake. “There’s suppose to be weather moving in!”

“Yes, weather is moving in, which is why I’m getting my firewood ready.”

“I can’t believe you!”

“Connelly is in charge of rescue operations in this county,” Lankin said casually, swinging down on the fresh log. “Have you even bothered to talk to him?”

“You’d be the first person he’d call, Lazarus,” Ian said. “Everyone knows you’re the go-to guy for the Backcountry. No one knows Gaia’s Backbone as well as you. Even Phantom Peak.”

“Call Connelly and tell him to have a body bag ready.”

“You’re not even going to try?!?” By this time, Ian was standing face to face with Lankin. “You bastard! You pussy! What? You afraid because Phantom Peak’s where your mommy and daddy disappeared?”

In a flash, Ian found himself hanging above Marrakech Gulch, Lankin’s left hand locked tightly around his throat, his splitting maul slightly raised. His gray eyes were narrowed with predatory intensity. Something that sounded like a growl resounded in the back of his throat.

“The sphinx used to ask travelers a riddle about a creature who walked on different numbers of legs at different times of the day,” Lankin hissed. "Although I always liked the version of the riddle my sister told me; ‘shall I kill you, traveler? Or shall I set you free? What walks on four legs? Then two? Then three?’

“Lazarus…”Ian wheezed.

“The riddle!” He roared. “What is the fucking answer?”

“Man!” Ian screamed “Man! It’s Man! Okay!?!”

He found himself back on the ground, sputtering for breath. For a brief moment, he considered charging Lankin for assaulting him. The splitting maul coming down into the log, just inches from Ian’s face, shattering the log into two pieces, got him to reconsider.

“Don’t ever mention my parents again!” Lankin growled.

“Sonuvabitch!” Ian wheezed. “You do have a weakness after all.”

“Call Connelly and get a body bag, Deputy,” Lankin said. “Three days missing on Phantom Peak? It’s not going to be a happy ending.”

“He’s still alive!”

“Oh? And you know this?” Lankin mocked. “Are we psychic now, Deputy McAlester?”

“No, but some people think your sister is,” he retorted. “And she says Trace is still alive up there!”

Lankin froze in mid-swing on another log. Slowly, he lowered the splitting maul, his head cocking to the side inquisitively. Perhaps at some other time, Ian would’ve been amused to see Lankin looking almost shocked.

“Really, Lazarus,” Ian began, pulling himself off the ground. “Do you think I’d have come up here to ask you otherwise? The only reason I’m here is because Bast said there’s still a chance.”

“Go grab your gear and be back here in an hour.”

“Now?” It was Ian’s turn to be shocked. The sphinx-like smile returned to Lankin’s face as he once more raised the maul and split the log in one stroke.

“Yes, now,” he replied off-handedly. “Weather’s coming and we don’t want to prove my dear sister wrong, now do we?”

29 January 2013

Siren Song

There was something invigorating about the trail becoming less defined. Between what he was able to get out of Lankin and a topo map of Gaia’s Backbone, it was quite plain there was no real trail to reach Phantom Peak. Of course, the way both he and Grizz talked, it wasn’t like one would really want to go up there. Trace, however, was determined. After all, those were only stories and unfortunate accidents. The mountain wasn’t really cursed or haunted or both.

It was a steady uphill climb. Not a steep grade, but enough to remind him he was gaining elevation. On occasion, he thought back to that night at Magpie Jack’s and the stories he was told. Some smacked of not being prepared or just simple bad luck. There were a few other tales that were not so easy to dismiss logically; like those of hearing a voice or two almost out of range, or seeing something out of the peripheries that was gone in a blink, but left the uneasy feeling of being watched, if not followed. In an attempt to not spook himself, Trace chuckled, thinking of Grizz and Lankin as mountain yokels, backwoods hicks. It was a given they’d be superstitious.

Somewhere close to tree-line he began to get that feeling of being watched. It chilled him and he tried to tell himself he was letting his mind play tricks on him. There was nothing malign on Phantom Peak, despite what the locals might believe. Still, as he walked, the sensation stayed with him, nagging, causing him to subconsciously look over his shoulder once or twice. There would never be anything, which aggravated his self-annoyance. With a curse under his breath, he pushed on.

The summit was just above the krummholtz. Just a little over eleven-thousand feet. It was barren and rock-strewn. He could see the Death’s Head and Hell’s Watchtower in the distance. The sky was remarkably clear and the air was warm. The sensation of being watched slipped to the back of his mind as he took a moment to be satisfied with his accomplishment.

Removing his back, he leaned against a fairly large boulder and pulled out an energy bar. He figured he’d grab his camera and take some pictures to show those rednecks down in Marrakech that there was nothing to be frightened of. They could start telling a new story; the tale of the man who came up and down Phantom Peak one fine September day without the slightest bit of trouble or terror.

The sound of laughter made him jump. It was innocent, carefree, and decidedly feminine. Trace looked around and saw no one. He was about to dismiss it as the wind when it came again. Whoever it was seemed to be having a wonderful time. Stashing his pack in a cut in the boulder, he began to follow the sound.

Coming upon some loose scree, he caught sight of something below him, what looked like perhaps blond hair and pale skin moving in the early autumn breeze. Another giggle, slightly louder this time, echoed in his ears. With a smile, Trace picked his way along the scree to get a better look. At one point, he thought he heard a man’s voice as well. Just a little ways from the blond was some red and slightly darker color. Young lovers, perhaps, having a little tryst out in the backcountry.

Halfway down the scree, the laughing and voices stopped. Something changed with figures Trace had been observing as he scrambled closer. They no longer bore even the slightest resemblance to people. They were trees. Two sets of aspens showing their fall colors in the golden afternoon light.

This was perplexing; Trace had better than twenty-twenty vision. He couldn’t imagine being fooled so easily. Although at first he was willing to think it might have been the wind, there were distinct voices. Human voices. It was all very strange. His mind struggled to make sense of it as he took his next step.

That’s when his foot slipped and all his questions became irrelevant. The world gave out from under him. He was falling, the sound of sliding scree replacing that of laughter in his ears.

26 January 2013

Prologue; Curiosity and the Cat

It was a quiet night at Magpie Jack’s. The type that would warrant an early close were it not for the scattered silent patrons about the bar. A lone television set showed some scarcely watched program. Someone had put on a few classic rock songs on the jukebox, but no one was really paying attention. The bartender was playing solitaire while Grizz read the paper.

A few stools over was Trace, a young man who had a cousin that lived over in Petra. He would come up to go hiking along Gaia’s Backbone, stopping in at Magpie Jack’s for a beer and the occasional snippet of gossip. In the few years since he moved to Colorado from upstate New York, he’d been able to get a few hiking tips and stories out of the locals of Levant County by virtue of his family ties. If Grzz was in when he came by for a beer, he’d remark that foreigner was in his bar again. Trace never took it as an insult, though sometimes he wondered if he should.

He sipped his beer silently, trying to decide how he was going to he was going to ask the question he had on his mind. Sometimes, people would roll their eyes at him. He figured it was because they were mountain locals and he was this guy who moved from New York to take a job in Denver and came up on the weekends. Sometimes, he wondered if the locals around the county just humored him, as though it didn’t matter that he had a cousin in Petra, he was still an outsider.

“Been sitting there all quiet for a bit,” Grizz said, not even looking up from his paper. “But I can feel your eyes on me.”

“Sorry,” Trace said, taking a swig of beer. “Wanted to ask you something.”


“Up along Gaia’s Backbone, looks to be south and west of Hell’s Watchtower, I swear there’s this other peak, but I never get a good look at it,” Trace said. “It’s either always hazy or there’s clouds around it. Am I seeing things?”

“No,” Grizz replied curtly.

“So there is a peak there!” Trace felt himself getting excited. “Does it have a name?”

“Phantom Peak.”

That sounds ominous,” Trace said with a bit of a forced laugh.

“’Cause it is,” Grizz snorted.

“Any trails?” Trace asked. “Is it really technical?”

“Got a death wish?” Grizz shot back.

That made Trace swallow a hard lump in his throat. Grizz was a gruff character to begin with, but this was different. There was almost hostility in his voice. Something about that mountain seemed anger him.

“How do you mean?” Trace started. “If you don’t mind my asking.”

“Don’t matter,” Grizz replied. “You got it in your head to check it out.” He then shot Trace a look out of the corner of his eye. “Not a lot of people go up there, and even less come back. Some people say it’s cursed.”


“Thirty years back, one of my sons climbed up there to commit suicide,” Grizz said softly, “It wasn’t until another rescue, a few years ago, that they even found his bones. Almost everyone around here has known someone who has either disappeared or outright died up there.”

“I’m sorry,” Trace wanted to reach out, but the look in Grizz’s eye told him he’d lose a hand doing it.

“You didn’t know.”

“So, I guess you’re the wrong person to ask about it,” Trace mused.

“You guessed right,” Grizz said, his gaze slowly shifting down the bar.

At the end was a man Trace would tell his Denver friends was the wine guy, because he always drank red wine. Although he’d never been formerly introduced, Trace knew the wine guy was someone a lot of people respected. Even as their eyes met, he could feel a strange, feline gaze boring into him. The wine guy’s finger was lazily circling the top of his glass. Without a word, he started over, his gray eyes fixed and intent, his movements, cat-like. Trace extended his hand.

“Trace McAlester,” he began. “Can I get you another glass of wine…?”

“Lazarus Lankin,” his grip was firm. He finished his wine in a single gulp. “If you are so inclined, I’d love another glass.”

“On me, Lazarus,” Grizz put in, which illicited an off-handed smile.

“I’m the one who found his son’s remains,” Lankin said casually. “Thus, he’ll sometimes get me a free glass as a sort of recompense.”

“Oh my god!” Trace exclaimed. “So you know about Phantom Peak then?”

“Intimately,” Lankin said, taking his fresh glass of wine.

“What’s it like? What’s up top?” Trace couldn’t help himself; he was excited and intrigued. His curiosity was getting the better of him. This did not go unnoticed.

“You’d rather not,” Lankin said as he took a long sip of wine. “Phantom Peak is the kind of place your nightmares are scared to go. Trust me.”

23 January 2013

Terminator Waltz

Here we are, that time of year when we taste sunlight. That curtain of light draws further along the Bullshead, then along what was the cantina, the neighbor's house, across the river!, before it kisses the actual street!

Oh, fuck yes...

It was a warm day. After so many under the cloak of cold, Arctic-like, it was that giddy kind of respite. If my calculations are spot on; three days, the earliest, we get the direct light back.

After laundry, Sabina and I stood out on the porch with a bottle of rose-rage against the dying of the light!!!-and summer sausage. It was a day above freezing, and the world felt perfect. The Long Dark is about over and done with. As we sat outside I thought of the chorus of a Fury in the Slaughterhouse song;

"Here we go-
Dancing in the sunshine of the dark..."

That's how we roll on this side of the terminator...

15 January 2013

Memory Lane Mixes

Scratch, being an older vehicle, has a most peculiar way of play musics, aside from a standard AM/FM radio-with weather band capabilities, which intrigues a weather geek such as myself-and a CD player. This device is called a tape deck. Isn't that something? Have you, gentle readers, in this advanced and enlightened age of iPods and MP3 players, ever heard of such a thing? Dig it, back in antiquity, portable music was played via cassette tape, on something called a walkman.

Next, I'll be telling you of walking to school uphill-both ways!-in the snow, barefoot, and being grateful for it, because it made us tough! Unlike you candy-ass whipper-snappers of this here modern age. Ya'll are fucking soft.

I digress...

Back when I was young, and up through my roaring twenties, I made mixed-tapes. This would be the direct ancestor of mixed-CDs and the setlists my daughter sometimes compiles on her iPod. When Jezebel and I hung out all the time, the creation of a new tape was big doings; we'd jump in her auto and tool about the greater metroplex, burning fuel late into those neon-laced nights, grooving to our tapes, trying to see if the other could decipher the riddles, the jokes, the hidden cosmic truths contained therein. Aside from monkey watching, coffee, and playing rummy-sometimes done all in the same night-this was considered fun.

Recently, going to the library's book sale, I've acquired a few lightly used cassettes; Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, and a compilation of Cuban music that only pays correctly on one side-the other sounding like the Chipmunks on speed, if such a thing were possible-for only a few coins. How novel. The nice librarian felt bad for even charging me anything. Times change; I remember, back in antiquity, when it cost real money to get a cassette.

The last time I went out back to the barn, our ramshackle folly, which is testament to mountain ruin, I checked on my bicycle and rummaged through a few boxes we have stored out there. I found them; some of my mixed tapes, along with just a few others I've had for years and lifetimes. Just looking at the labels and titles I concocted took me back. I smiled bittersweetly and thought of those long drives with Jezebel back when we were young and told riddles, jokes, and hidden cosmic truths through the placement of songs on a cassette.

I do not know if any of them play, and, even then, how well. Be that as it may, I have a ways and means to find out. The CDs and radio can be played at home. Driving time might just find itself being reserved for the tape deck for a bit. 

12 January 2013


Depending upon how well you know me, saying stepping into a person in power's office has rarely gone well will hardly come as a surprise. I could say it was the bullying stories, and how the powers that be who played favorites-despite the lies that didn't-couldn't be bothered and the repercussions from the si lai nan jen for me were like abused children and battered women from film and story-tell 'em you fell down the stairs. Or perhaps it was my solitary/independent  streak a mile wide, despite the fact I am the thickness of wind myself, that might be most easily described as chaotic neutral-fuck you, I do what I do and go my own way, respect is earned not implied, fucking deal. Or, perhaps, when I finally was able to stand up for myself, and I might have gone up against those who would've brutalized a scrawny aberration in the past and won, but needed to understand my place-fuck you, my place is not beholden to you. Or perhaps when I was told I am not a team player-yeh? don't work and play well with others? see the afore mentioned solitary/independent streak. 

So, imagine, gentle readers, how well I'd been coping with the last few days...

It was a combination of a research project, being a bundle of nerves, and getting ready to go toe to toe. I worried I was wasting not only my time, but the time of cats who had earned my respect. A million negative scenarios played in a cinematic magic venue, whilst the positive vignettes were so few and far between.

I had my mantras...

There was Frank Herbert;

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain..."

Sun Tzu;

"The key to victory in a military operation is deception. Though effective, appear ineffective. Though competent, appear incompetent..."

and Henry Rollins;

"Confrontation takes little thought...any one can confront. It's what you do afterward that tells you what you are..."

Horrific dark belligerent things, I confess...  

But as I walked up those stairs, some comforting words from Sabina in mind, there was but one mantra I had in mind, and it wasn't Buddhist;

Tally-ho and away I go...


The preservationist has the countenance of my grandmother. Perhaps therein lies reason and rational for not wanting to waste her time. She has power; unspoken, but understood. Here is someone who could make my existence exceedingly difficult if I gave her an offensive glance. And the rub is, I respect her, so why would I want to commit such an affront? I might bare my jugular to no one, but I do have a sense of decorum.

So, I showed up tentatively. Despite my bristling and mantras, I knew I was not going to war. I needed help. In the moment, I was student seeking instruction from a learned master.

"Go ahead and sit down," she said sweetly. We spent a few moments where she explained some ski techniques to me before saying; "So, let's see what you've got here."

"Please understand this is my first rodeo," I said softly. "I'm not completely sure what I'm doing."

I told her how the trouble started. I mentioned a silly, childish fantasy of either living in a museum or a nature preserve, and how, within the borders of our Sahel, here I was; my Kashmir. I spoke of not wanting any of it to be taken away, but for its magic to be more widely enjoyed. Perhaps I was being a little too child-like.

In the manner of a kindly grandparent, of the most encouraging of teachers, she indulged me. She asked questions and pointed out things I'd not thought of. It was encouraging to see that she was interested. Very much so, in fact. Although, I don't actively seek validation, it was cool to see my idea was not a waste of time.

There is now a file started in her office titled World Heritage. I was sent on my way with some homework to do; outstanding questions that require answers, people to talk to who might be of some help. We are to meet in a few weeks, the rational being if we put it off, it'll fall by the wayside.

So now I'm committed, or perhaps should be. This could take a few years to actually accomplish and I might have to learn how to play politics, as loathsome as that seems. The upshot is I know I have at least one ally in this zany quest of mine. As I left, my head swam with kaleidoscope of thoughts, but one thing stood out quite prevalently; that old cliché of the journey of a thousand miles, and that first step.

Well, tally-ho and away I go... 

08 January 2013

A Windmill Upon the Horizon

The trouble started somewhere between reading a book about the African bushmeat crisis and National Geographic a few years back. Ain't that always the way? It was from those places I first heard the term World Heritage.

This little bit of Byzantium, along the upper western edge of our Sahel, is designated as a National Landmark District. One of the first in the state, in fact. We're up there with a national park as far as titles go, though I often find labels to be oh so limiting. After doing a little looking into the whole World Heritage thing, I began to wonder if that wouldn't be another neat metaphoric feather in the metaphoric cap.

A couple of years before I ended up on the board of my local historical society, the president, my two doors down neighbor, and I were drinking lemonade and reading the bible-and by that I mean going through a few bottles of wine and starting into some blueberry vodka before our livers screamed out for mercy-and I mentioned my idea. I even listed off a few places as to be used as examples. We resolved to look into it further, but noting really came of it. So it goes.

Fast forward to a few weeks back...

This little seed of an idea regarding World Heritage would fester and grow around some of my thoughts in the manner of southern kudzu. Something filed away in the back of that maggot's nest I call my mind, but still always there. Although, in some ways, the very idea seemed like a bit of a fool's errand-my own bit of windmill titling, perhaps-I began giving it some more serious consideration.

I was at the narrow gage railroad's holiday party when I ran into one of the preservationists of my acquaintance. Being raised with manners, I did help her back up. It was then I mentioned after the holidays were done and over I wanted an audience with her. My reason; I wanted to see what could be done to make this slice of Byzantium into a World Heritage Site.

Just like that, no turning back...

The holidays are done and over and I have a date with a preservationist. I troll the spider's web of cyber for information, getting my facts in line, hoping this isn't just a fool's errand that I'll get a condescending pat on the head for before being sent upon my way. As with a few instances of me saying fuck it and going at it headlong, there's a part of me wondering just exactly what the fuck I've gotten myself into this time.

A grand adventure or a colossal failure? Something to do or a waste of time? In a few days, the cosmic coin will be flipped and fortune's wheel will have been spun. It is then I'll have my answer.


06 January 2013

Dragon Dreams

"I know why you have come to me
Prince Charming my assassin,
But I am not the damsel in distress
I am the fucking dragon..."-Space Team Electra

When you appear in my dreams, you change form, tripping the light fantastic of memory snapshots I have of you within the walls of my skull. I see my monkey watching partner from the vampire dens, my adopted grandmother, my friend and confidant during that time of transition when the games of Machiavelli were played right before our eyes. I see the form I saw but a few times, and rarely under pleasant auspice; the friend, a few years older, at the sickhouse after the bruja's rollover, the one dressed in mourning at the memorial, the one I had tea with that one time, who bummed me a cigarette, though I've not smoked for years now, and helped my daughter harass the gypsy about being Canadian.

The shape-shifting does not bother me in the slightest. I know it's you. Dragons are, by their very nature, magic. And moving from one form to the next is a part of that. Even so, I know things; and like the old story goes; Everyone Knows what a Dragon Looks Like.

In the dreams we meet at a juke joint. I am, understandably, not happy about this; I left that world many years and lifetimes ago. I live in the mountains now, and have very little interest in the greater metroplex. You all know that, though some have a harder time accepting this fact than others. When I see you, you are upset, choking back tears when you see me. In one dream, I asked you why.

"My owl doesn't come here anymore," you said.

Ah, the monikers. You were the only that called me your owl, although the bruja once or thrice called me Mister Owl. A matter of perceived mojo and those unnaturally large eyes of mine, see? The penance price to be paid for being an aberration.

I once told someone I do not find the names of characters-whether in tall tales or the pointless skull-story I call my life-the monikers find them. It is up to the individual to decide what that moniker means. I just get to feature those cats in the stories I tell. Nothing special.

Over the years and lifetimes, I have met legions of tossers who have claimed to have something to do with dragons. Ones who have claimed its mojo to one or two delusional souls who went as far as to say they actually were dragons wearing the flesh of a half-bald monkey as a topcoat. How special.

But you, Madam Lung-the Mandarin term for dragon-were the dragon lady, and anyone who would argue the point was either daft or trying to sell something. I always knew; sardonic smiles and a language of riddles spoken in the tongues of liquid silver. That look in the eye that if you were fucked with, not only would you immolate your prey, but use their bones for chopsticks, toothpicks, and a host of other decorations.

I only see you now in my dreams, and it pains me. In that silent lucidity, neither of us are happy about it; I am somewhere I do not want to be, and you know it, and no amount of attempting to make a go of it for a friend makes it better. It may all be true, even and especially the lies, but we've never tolerated deception between the two of us. After everything, despite the years and lifetimes that have elapsed since, that would be disrespectful.

Once, I was told, you did not do the mountains. Oh, did that hurt my feelings. Much like how I was told you reacted when I first moved away and spoke of my time in the city like a nightmare best to be forgotten. I'm sorry, and I wonder if you are. Perhaps, so much later, it doesn't matter anymore.

How I'd love to see you once more, mon ami. Of course, the pulling it off is the demonology in the details. Getting me within the borders of the greater metroplex is most often a blood obligation, which involves many libations and free food. Trying to convince you to try the mountains may be a Herculean feet I shouldn't contemplate because I'd be forcing that upon you, just like going into a juke joint these days would be forcing me.

I joke to myself we could do Mexican and margaritas in the shadow of Red Rocks. You could lie, and say you went to the mountains. I could lie, and say I did not leave them. It would all be true; even and especially the lies, right?

But then there's that matter of deception. That demonology in the details. Out of all of us, I seemed to know quite a bit about demons. Yet, there're some infernals gumming up the works. A riddle I intend to solve.

It's not like we could do the badlands of eastern Colorado for a meet. Fuck, I moved to the metroplex to leave that place. There has to be another way.

Until then, dragon lady, I have the dreams, whereupon you shape-shift the light fantastic of the memory snapshots along the walls of my skull. Despite it all, I cherish those dreams, because I get to see such a dear friend once more. Though, I confess, I wish for a dream that I was not uncomfortable and you were not upset about it. I wish to see you again within the realms of the flesh.

Someday, mon ami, I'll figure it out. You can bet on it...  

03 January 2013

Fallen Agnels Amid the Distractions

"Mother is the name for god in the lips and hearts of little children..."-William Makepeace Thackeray

For the first time in three years, I had obligations on the date. When I first noticed this circumstance, I was a little tepid; did I really need to be around other half-bald monkeys on this particular date? I'd not slept well and was therefore tired, emotional, and not above stabbing someone in the gall bladder just to watch their expression. The last few years, after listening to Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain, I'd disappear out into the bush. Walkabouts are good for sanity and the soul I'm not even sure I have. Obligations on the date was alien, and, a little macabre, given the context.

Like the first anniversary of my grandmother's death I had professional obligations, I up and did it, tug of melancholy in the gut and all. What else was I supposed to do? I swallowed a bag of broken glass and plowed on, rationalizing I should be grateful for the distraction. Even if Miles Davis still played within the walls of my skull the same way it did that one early, early morning three years ago with my father and brother.

I made a good show of it, thinking of the old Chinese phrase; hou lian ei tsin-thick face, black heart-a variation of Sun Tzu's battle stratagem of employing deception. I traded a jibe or two with sempi, and told a few travelers where to go and even suggested what to do when they got there. Only on occasion did the melancholy tug at my innards in a way that made me want to simper like a bitch.

It was getting toward the edge of the afternoon. I was looking forward to getting home to make tinga and listening to Miles Davis. A friend of mine's radio show would be on later. Perhaps a glass of wine or a tumbler of spiced rum. Maybe both, although, not in concert, lest there be conflict. Certainly, the quadrupeds would be thrilled to see me. I like to anthropomorphically imagine that Chevy and Whistler lend me special comfort on this date because it helps them mourn.

The woman was three years older than me, but already a grandmother. A circumstance I've yet to fully comprehend, despite the fact I have a girl-child who is now an adult. She told me of her grandbabies and her travels back to Montrose. She apologized for being scatter-brained. Just recently, she'd put someone close to her in the ground.

"My sympathies," I said. Even though I danced with the dead for money, I was never good at dealing with the next of kin. As a stranger-and they don't get much stranger than me-it seemed fake to express feigned empathy to someone who just lost a loved one.

"Thank you," the woman said, somehow thinking I was compassionate, something she'd accuse me of toward the end of our interaction. "It was my mom. She died on Christmas day."

Well, fucking perfect...

"It's three years to the day my mother died," I said, swallowing back that bag of broken glass again. I could feel threating moisture along the surface of my eyes. "All I can say is I know it hurts."

"She had dementia and cancer, but she didn't really suffer at the end. Just went in her sleep."

"Mine had cancer too," I said, inclining my head and biting my tongue from going into detail how my mother was moaning in pain at the end because there wasn't enough morphine in all the world to numb her ravaged shell.

The woman smiled weakly and talked about her mother, most of the time on the edge of tears. I just stood there, hands clasped behind my back, inclining my head on occasion, just listening. What else was there to do? It didn't take a hoodoo-voodoo bruja with a pack of tarots, a bag of ruins, or fresh chicken entrails to divine she needed a catharsis.

Finally, she finished, smiling weakly one more. She reached out her hand for mine. I politely accepted her offer. She brought my hand to her lips.

"I want to thank you," she said. "I can tell you're uncomfortable, but I appreciate it. It's been a pleasure to meet you today. You're a little angel along my way."

I inclined my head and smiled slightly. What else was there to do? Speaking would've been an insult.

"God bless you," she said as she turned to leave. "I don't know if you believe in god, but I think we all have our own religion. Thank you again."

I inclined my head once more. The slight smile on my face hid the lump, which threatened to explode in my throat. Maybe I did something that could be construed as good by letting her talk for a bit about her recently departed mother. Be that as it may, I could not help but think I'd deceived her.

After all, there's not one fucking thing angelic about me, unless it's of the fallen variety...