"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 August 2013

Tragedy at Milligan’s

It started with Byron Wolffe showing up at the café clearly intoxicated and being loud about it. His brothers, Christopher and Thomas, were already there. Ever since knowledge of the Wolffe boys' return to Levant County, and especially to Marrakech, many of the locals were on edge. It was only a matter of time before something happened.

When Ira Milligan calmly asked Byron to be a little quieter, he shot up from his seat, shouting cheap vodka obscenities, and smashed his coffee mug on the side of her head. That was when William Connelly, whom had been seated a few tables away, tried to interfere. He managed to subdue Byron without much effort, but failed to notice that Christopher had gotten the baseball bat Ira kept behind the counter.

The beating was merciless. Christopher didn’t stop until Connelly’s head split open. Both he and Thomas, who held Connelly down, were caked with blood and savage amusement. Once assured their prey was dead, they recovered Byron, and with a crack to Ira’s ribs, ran from the café.


Bast and Tarot were waiting when Lankin stalked in with a snarl on his face and murder on his mind. Ian was taking a statement from Ira as she was being loaded into the ambulance. Connelly’s shrouded body was being put into the county coroner’s truck. Lankin walked up to Ira and squeezed her hand.

“I will take care of this, I promise you.” He said, and then turned his attention to the EMT. “If she gets anything less than the best of treatment…”

“Say no more, Lazarus,” the EMT said.

“Lazarus, they took her,” Ira said.

“Took who?”

“Sydney! Just Sydney! Your Sydney!” She cried. “That’s why they hit me in the ribs, I tried to stop them.”

“I see,” Lankin muttered, his eyes narrowing and his face darkening.

“Don’t worry, Lazarus,” Ian said. “Word’s already out. They won’t get far.”

“How very reassuring, Deputy.”

He stepped back outside. There was a crowd. It was as if half the county had shown up. Lankin felt a growl boil in his throat as his fists clenched and unclenched.

“What now?” Tarot inquired, stepping into his field of vision. “I don’t think the Wolffes are going to let the sheriff get them after this.”

“They are going to make for the Dragon’s Teeth,” Lankin mused. “The terrain there is difficult and if they can get through it then it’s just a ridge away from Hell and Gone. If they can make Hell and Gone, they’re effectively out of the county.”

“And then who knows where,” Tarot finished, once more catching himself thinking that those who mapped Levant County and Gaia’s Backbone named many of the geographic features to try and frighten away the foolhardy. “Not good. I’ll go get my gear.”


“Because I know you want to go after them,” Tarot said. “And I want to help.”

“I don’t need your help,” Lankin growled. “You’d slow me down.”

“Dammit, Lankin! Sydney’s my friend too! And you and Bast are the closest thing I have to a family anymore.”

“I am not going to discuss this with you, Jimmy,” he shot back and then felt a strong hand seize his arm. Looking down, he saw Bast, pulling herself to a stand from her wheelchair with one arm.

“Then you will discuss it with me, Lazarus Amun Lankin!” She said, her own gray eyes narrowed in predatory challenge.

“Stay out of this, Bast!” He snapped.

“Little brother, you mean to go hunting monsters,” she started, her eyes never flinching. “And certainly you remember the saying about fighting monsters.”

“Do not become the monster in the process,” Lankin said. “Yes, I’ve read Nietzsche.”

“Jimmy goes with you,” Bast said. “And that is the last word on the matter.”

“Very well, elder sister,” Lankin muttered. Then, with a determination in his expression that made Tarot jump. “You; my house before the end of the hour, if not sooner. We go light and quick. After all, we have monsters to hunt.”

27 August 2013

Prologue; Lone Wolffe

The room was filled with the Celtic Nu-Grass sounds of Tin Thistles. As he worked his way closer to the stage, Tarot could not help but smile bittersweetly at the sound of Whisper taking lead vocals. It had been almost two years since they broke up, but he could still remember how desperately he wanted to be hand-fasted to her. It was his dad’s death, and the mourning of it, which reduced them to just two very close friends. Still, when she would sing a song of love and loss, Tarot sometimes caught himself wondering if she was singing about, or even to, him.

The stage was by the pool tables and he found a familiar face to stand by that offered a good vantage point. Sydney smiled slightly toward Tarot, lifting her pint glass of stout in a wordless toast. It was a lively night at Magpie Jack’s, filled with good music and camaraderie. In that simple set of moments Tarot couldn’t be happier.

Seeing Sydney jump with a shocked expression changed everything. She yipped and spun around. It was obvious someone had touched her in a way she didn’t want to be touched.

“What the fuck?!?” She snapped. “Keep your hands off my ass!”

His dark-bordering upon obsidian-eyes held her. He didn’t so much smile at her as seem to snarl in a predatory fashion. There was no remorse in his expression as he took another step toward her, causing her to subconsciously step back. Tarot felt a knot form in his belly.

“Hey, hey,” he said quickly. “I’m pretty sure the lady’s already got a date.”

“Little Jimmy Tabor? Donnie Tabor’s boy?” The dark-eyed man’s gaze focused on Tarot. “Trying to act all grown up and gallant? How cute. Why don’t you go on now and play with your toys while we adults do our adult things.”

“Leave us alone,” Sydney said hoping the intimidation she was feeling didn’t catch in her voice. “I’d hate to tell Grizz that I had to glass some dickhead in his bar.”

“You’ve got spunk,” the dark-eyed man said, licking his lips. “How sweet.” He took another step forward. “I wager as sweet as candy.”

“Christopher Wolffe!” The voice behind him got the dark-eyed man to snarl in a more aggressive fashion as he turned around.

He stood casually. Dressed in hiking boots, a pair of camouflage cut-offs and a black t-shirt. In his left hand he held a pool cue, the heavier end pointed toward the floor. His gray eyes regarded the other man with feline detachment as he brought his right hand, holding a glass of red wine, to his lips.

“It’s been a bit,” he said, taking a sip.

“Yes, Lazarus,” Christopher muttered. “It’s been a bit. Still drinking Spanish reds?”

“Not exclusively, but I endeavor to avoid anything that comes out of a plastic jug,” Lankin replied making his way closer to Sydney and Tarot, his gaze never wavering. “I see your time away from Marrakech has done little to improve your manners.”

“Pretty little thing standing with a little boy in a mountain bar,” Christopher shrugged. “A man can get some ideas.”

“And young Master Tabor may have mentioned she was accompanied?”

“I don’t see anyone with her other than this pup who thinks he's a man now.”

With an annoyed sigh, Lankin stepped between Christopher and Sydney. His gray eyes narrowed and a growl resounded from deep within his wiry frame. The pool cue raised ever so slightly.

“I loath to be trite, Christopher, however, this young lady already has an escort,” Lankin said in slow even tones.

“Oh, I see.”

“I hope we are clear now.”

Christopher raised an eyebrow and smiled slightly, baring his teeth in a way that sent a chill down both Sydney and Tarot’s spines. Then he bowed his head, almost submissively as he stepped back a few paces. Slowly, he raised his eyes to meet the others’ gazes once more.

“I’ll see you later, Lazarus,” his voice just above a growl and it only softened slightly when he turned his attention toward Sydney. “And I’ll be seeing you again.”

Christopher melted into the crowd. Lankin’s gaze never flinched, even after the front door of Magpie Jack’s swung open and closed once more. He felt Sydney’s arms encircle his neck and her grateful kiss upon his cheek. Another growl resounded in his throat as he took a sip of wine.

“Not good,” Tarot mused. “If Christopher’s back in town than so are Thomas and Byron. Those Wolffes, they don’t go roaming around alone.”

“And I can barely contain my excitement,” Lankin muttered as he finished his wine in a single gulp.

22 August 2013

100 Words; Summer Thunder

The sky sounds angry. War drums of thunder echo across the peaks. The dragon clouds growling and roaring. Brief and shocking flashes give the illusion of bright daylight against the encroaching evening.

There's a sudden rattle outside that draws attention to the window. It's raining like Africa. The sky is blacker than moonless midnight. A front row seat to the 'pocalypse.

As soon as it starts, the anger abates. The early evening sky lightens a little, a patch of clear can be seen to the west. Seems the 'pocalypse's been canceled. There's nine bean soup and Americana on the radio.

20 August 2013

Late Season

Study of the tundra as taken from the slope of Mount Bierstadt...

It's getting cooler at night. Sometimes, in the early mornings, as I'm running the hounds for the first time of the day, I catch the faint hint of woodsmoke on the wind. Up higher, upon the aspens and other deciduous, there are hints of gold and flame. Upon the upper tundra, the plants take on the first shades of rust. Sometimes, there has been that light dusting of snow upon the summits of the local fourteeners. Late August in our Sahel, in the High Country of Colorado, period. So it goes.

On some of those cooler nights, if being out and about, I've been given to wearing pants. Sabina has shot me forlorn and disapproving looks at this. Normally, the idea of her not wanting to see me in pants would be cause for excitement and high adventure, but it's not like that. For many years now, between late April to mid-May-depending on the weather-and late September to early mid-October, I live in shorts. Pants means the seasonal wheels are spinning. Autumn, nay, winter, is that much closer than not. So it goes.

Kids start school. Seniors go on vacation. Mosquitoes, like hummingbirds, are at their most ravenous just right before they disappear. Things slow down. Things speed up. The ebb and flow of seasonal tides in an area whose economy is based so heavily in tourism.

I catch myself looking forward to Labor Day. This year, it falls on my birthday-grillin' me some lobster tails muthafuckas!-but it's more than that, Labor Day is the diametrical opposite of Memorial Day; the end to one's beginning. Tourist season is done and over as of my birthday this year. Perhaps I should make a bigger deal of it, other than the mundanity of grilling lobster tails in north African chermoula butter.

It's more the day after, actually, that I'm excited about. What would've been my grandmother's birthday, but, in this context, a sainted Tuesday. No one will be on the trails at all. Not even the whore ones. And it'll be like that through a lot of the month, the exception being the few short weeks of aspen season. I find myself looking forward to September and October in a way that makes my teeth itch.

This time of year reminds me of the other three seasons. Summer's coming to its end, and it never seems long enough. Then again, it's the mountains; summer is short and sweet. That's what makes it so precious. These last few weeks of it, I'll ride the snake's tail for all its worth, yet looking forward to that bardo of early autumn before winter when the possibly of encountering another person during walkabout is between slim and none at all, and Slim has left town over the questionable homicide of a rabbit.

I'd say it's a wonderful time to be alive, but, then again, that's any time you ain't dead...

18 August 2013

Roughing It

The first time she told me she had been camping and rather enjoyed hiking must have been in a juke joint. At the time she was in full vampire drag; corset, big black boots, and shocking make up. We had most likely been drinking, which is what you do at places like that. I've heard.

"My entire sexy and grabbable ass!" I said. "You're too fucking prissy for something like that."

"My x and I used to go hiking and camping all the time," Sabina said calmly sipping her martini. "And even your closest friends say you have no ass."

"Your mother was grasping it quite tightly last night when I was fucking her, well, and she was screaming; 'give it up you anorexic stallion!'" I shot back, and Sabina, curiously enough, drained the rest of her martini rather quickly.


It would be sometime later, after the musician and us starting to consider getting involved, that, whilst helping her move into the flat she lived into before we bought the House of Owls and Bats, I would see her mountain bike and camping gear. She had been working to put the visages of the Vampire Queen behind her.

"I stand corrected," I said.

"I told you," she said. "I was the Vampire Queen."


We made some demon deals and left in the late afternoon for Grizzly Gulch. A mile and half up, in the shadows of Gray's and Torrey's, we pitched our tent. Funny that so many of my recent outback adventures have involved direct views of Torrey's Peak. When I mentioned this to Sabina asked if I was going to climb that mountain.

"I don't know that it's talking to me like that," I said, never mind the dubious proposition of a mountain talking, no matter how imposing.

We roasted hot dogs on a big fire under a big sky. The sound of rushing water off the gulch and the occasional high above jet engine were the only sounds we heard. Late at night, early in the morning, it was cool enough to see our breath.

It was only an overnight. Obligations with the town's one-hundred thirty-third birthday brought us back sooner. We smelled of campfire and were filled with the sense of accomplishment at having gone backpacking for the first time since the summer after my mother died.

"We got to go camping, dear," I said as we toasted for supper.

"Fucking finally," Sabina said with a relieved smile as we turned back to the fire.

13 August 2013

Lion's Share

Torrey's Peak as seen from the top of Watruos Gulch...

There have been rumors of mountain lions within our funky little township. Just a few days back, in the early morning hours, a narrow-gauge rail worker claimed to have seen one walking up Rue Woodward as pretty as you please. Perhaps it's true, though the cat who told me drinks. However, mountain lions, I once heard, can have territories of up to thirty square miles. Why couldn't that include the hamlets of our Sahel?

Of course, this story rattled some of the public. Never mind our proximity to National Forest and wilderness areas. Fucking humans. When the wildlife is fuzzy and cute, it's great to live here. When one is reminded not all of said wildlife is such, that some could hurt you, there is fear and loathing.

You just can't please some people...

Driving back from the radio station, about twelve miles from home, a lion bounded in the roadway in front of us. It was gone into the the trees before Sabina had a chance to get a good look, but I saw. It was amazing. My first time seeing one of those in its natural habitat, such as it was. Although, I confess, I was glad to be driving by instead of walking. It was nighttime. A mountain lion can see in the dark, I can't.

I've still yet to see a lynx or bobcat, but my patience is formidable...

When leaving for walkabout, Sabina wished me a good trek and told me to be careful. I couldn't help but wonder if part of that was concern over the recent feline sightings. One of our walkabout companions told us the most frightened he's ever been was coming across a mountain lion in the middle of it eating its dinner.

As I wandered further into the bush, I came to realize-nay, remember and reaffirm-that I am far more ill at ease in a room full of those half-bald monkeys who call themselves Man than being out in the wilderness alone with the one and million shot of encountering a single mountain lion. Aside from wildlife, the Backcountry has its host of dangers, certainly. I know this. However, Homo sapiens are just plumb unpredictable, never to be trusted alone, and most assuredly not in groups of two or more. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is daft or trying to sell you something. 

Walking the trail without another biped anywhere around me was sublime. When the recent mountain lion sightings entered into the mathematics of my thoughts, there was no fear, only a chuckle. As some of you may or may not know, I once came up with a character, fictional in his countenance, who has a sort of kinship with that species of cat. I know of a few-grown, rational, intelligent people-who have a dysfunctional crush upon my creation. Funny, there's no way I could be that good.

I walked through those pleasant five-minute summer drizzles and warm sunshine. Pikas and chicory squirrels were my only company. Their calls and the distant rumble of thunder, the only sound. On the way home, I saw a five-point buck grazing off to the side of the frontage road. Majestic, and far better food for any hungry predator than some skinny biped who might go hop-scotching into their neighborhood as to escape his own species.

11 August 2013

Under a Dragon-Clouded Sky

The sky of Chinese dragon clouds and turquoise created an interesting patchwork of light and shadow across the tundra. It caused the temperature to yo-yo, which is to be expected at twelve-thousand four-hundred. Upon Mount Bierstadt and the ominous Sawtooth, there was the thinnest layer of new snow. A given; it's been cooler at night down at ninety-one sixty, so, of course, at fourteen-thousand-sixty-five any precipitation that might fall would freeze.

There was concern we'd get rained out like the last time. Were I given to preying in any other context than the food chain, I might have asked the Long Wang, the Chinese Dragon Kings, the Lords of Rains and Funerals, to spare us the rains whilst we were up. I do not prey unless it's in the context of the food chain, and asking favors of dragons can be a deadly and dangerous proposition.

I've heard...

We re-explored the ruins and trekked to another set further up the bowl. Something to do. It really was a pleasant day up on the tundra. I gritted my teeth when the pristine Backcountry silence was broken by someone firing guns.

"Nice ordinance," I muttered. "Sorry about your dick."

Our first hour was exploring and chatting amongst ourselves. Watching a wolf-hybrid frolic amongst the willows, chasing marmots and chipmunks, but never having a chance of catching one. Then we heard the roars of distant engines across the tundra.

This time, there was thirty people altogether, one hail storm, and an otherwise fun time. We came back down feeling more accomplished than the last time. Due diligence.

Coming home, we laughed at the eastbound tourist traffic. I didn't laugh as hard, because, whatever my feelings toward that ilk, they do put food in my belly. The penance of living where others come to vacation.

It was observed the slate and black over the ridge line of where we had been. Chances were, the dragons came and sky opened up. I would joke that my prayers were answered, but I only prey in the context of the food chain.

Besides, who would want to answer the joked prayers of a heretical Tibetan Buddhist who drinks beer, chugs wine, and swills whiskey anyway?    

06 August 2013

Dysfunctional Portrait of Father and Daughter

The first time it really happened was when she was five. We were in line at a souk, getting what, I hardly remember. Probably things for dinner, and, back then-unfortunately-cigarettes. There was a positively ancient woman in front of us who turned to look at me. That day, a chilly one in late February, I was wearing a wool/cashmere overcoat, an army-issue button-up over one of my ragwool gray I-Don't-Feel-Pretty sweaters, combat boots, and jeans. My hair was down, and, back then, dyed burgundy-hey, I got my first gray hairs at twenty-five, and, unlike my father, did not want ice-white by thirty.

"You look like someone out of those movies they play at the Mayan or the Esquire," she said, citing two of the art-house cinemas. This was not the first time something like this had happened; because of the length of my hair or something I'd been wearing, I'd been accused of being a musician, a thespian, artist, or someone famous. It was what she said next that gobsmacked me; "Well, at least the little girl with you is halfway normal."

"What the fuck?!?" The moneychanger at the head of the line snapped at the woman before I had time to open my mouth. "That's an evil thing to say! Even in front of his daughter!"

The woman stormed out in huff. The moneychanger got verbally disciplined in front of everyone for being unprofessional, despite me trying to talk to her overseer. On the way home, my daughter placed a warm hand on my arm.

"I think that lady just wishes she had a dragon for a pet like me." I had gotten her a bearded dragon that previous Christmas. Fucking what? She asked me for it.


For her sixth birthday, she wanted a tarantula. I got her one without hesitation. Her mother, of course, was mortified. Tried to tell me it was a big mistake. When I showed my daughter on her next visitation, she asked if she could keep it at my place and name it Zoe.

"Of course, sweetheart," I said. "You think I'd trust your mother to care for one of these? I used to be the one who watered the plants."

My daughter gave me a hug and told me she loved me. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised; my x-wife was rebelling when she met me. She figured when our daughter was born we'd get lobotomies, real jobs, and move to the suburbs.

Comic book mantra;

"Suburbia is failure. Accepting suburbia means accepting less. It's a tiny slice of comfort. A rose from Lucifer, meant to buy you off. Rome is burning, and true comfort lies beyond the flames..."

Is it any wonder we split up? I mean other than I'm a heretical Tibetan Buddhist who goes his own way and she was a rebelling Catholic girl who suddenly found god-didn't know it'd gotten lost-upon having offspring? Opposites can attract, certainly, but they will also repel with a ferocity rarely spoken of in anything other than hushed tones. I know this quite vividly.   


Two years after that, the 'merican Empire was up in the environs of Babylon doing some shoot-'em-up cowboy diplomacy that really had nothing to do with the parties who brought down the two towers other than the color of their skin or how they addressed their deity. I was a professional propagandist and spin-doctor for a particular telecorp I'd rather forget about. It was the day most major media outlets were placing the bloodied and ashen corpse images of Saddam Hussein's boys on the television screens to prove we got the bastards.

That day, this one woman I knew, who was into autopsy shows, was going on about how glad she was to see those two dead and on display. She'd have loved to watch their autopsy, although, the cause of death would've been academic.

I was, a few desks away, telling someone how my daughter and I liked to watch nature documentaries. We'd root for the predators-hey, even a crocodile's got to eat. I mentioned our excitement watching a moment of hunter and hunted coming to fruition.

"Excuse me," the autopsy woman broke in. "Do you really think your eight-year old daughter needs to be seeing that? Is that appropriate? Just what kind of a father are you?"

One who grew up on a farm and first began to understand the natures of life and death at age six, though I was not nearly that articulate. After all, she made me angry. Anger can cause one to say harsh things.

"And excuse the fuck out of me, but you are about masturbating to those corpses on that television screen there, and you're into autopsy porn, but I'm the bad guy for educating my child in the ways of the food chain?!? Maggots eat your eyes!"

"But..." she started.

"But nothing!" I snapped. "Save some oxygen and don't talk to me!"


"As in close your mouth and save your teeth! End of chat."

And that was when I first heard the term hostile work environment. Although, it was merely a verbal warning. To this day, I don't feel bad about it. I was being fucked with about my daughter and how I was in my parenting. I make no apologies for taking umbrage.


When I was dancing with the dead for money and had just published my book I was at a piano recital for my daughter. She was so excited to see me, which made me smile. I was surprised when she drug me to meet a couple of her friends and their parents', all suburban and clean-cut looking.

"This is my dad!" My daughter said excitedly. "He just published a book about angels and demons and he works in transplant, so he deals with death for eight hours a day!"

What do you say after that? Hi seems kind of hallow.


I have questioned my bearing as a father. My daughter has never had an ill thing to say of me, but, still, I wonder. At almost forty-one I have long, thick, wavy hair-with a kind of cool/interesting white blaze snaking down the right side-tattoos, and a nose ring. I've been friends with pagans, punks, a tattoo artist, an x-constable, not to mention the colorful characters here in our Sahel. I listen to punk rock, blues, Americana, and African-although, that's all punk rock if you think about it.

By the social construct of reality, a man my age should be settled down somewhere, perhaps a little less fantastical. I should be stable and established. Not misanthropic.

I suck at the social construct of reality, and yet cannot be convinced to feel bad about it...


It was the last day of my daughter's latest visit up. She had to leave by early afternoon because of piano lessons and other obligations. We wanted to do something.

Torrey's and Grizzly Peaks as seen from the summit of Mount Sniktau...

So we climbed a thirteen-thousand foot mountain. It was something to do. The whole time, I could not help but think of how our daddy/daughter adventures have rarely been what the social construct of reality would term normal.

Of Course she had to snap this shot whilst I was fishing a rock from one my shoes. Cantankerous child...

We came up via the summit of Loveland Pass, pretty well twelve-thousand feet-eleven-thousand nine-hundred ninety-two, to be exact, but close enough for rock and/or roll. Upon the summit, we encountered a group of three who were mid to late sixties. Their decent was straight down, into Loveland Valley-around eleven-fiveish-though, they'd done the usual way before.

"Gods and bodhisattvas," I muttered as I watched them clamber down. "I am such a pussy."

A lithe arm wrapped around my waste. I felt a familiar head upon my shoulder. I turned down to kiss her crown through a tangle or brunette waves and curls-yes I know where she got those from.

"Don't worry about it, Dad," she said. "That'll be you in a few years."

And we had a good chuckle. I might question how good a father I've been in the social construct of reality-though I do suck at such wackiness-but it was agreed I might one day be perched at the end of a trail with a bomber of dark beer, getting ready to take a road less traveled, chiding those who come up.

"Oh, you went that way? That's for amateurs! It's okay, you're still young, you'll figure it out. Bet you pay full price for your gear too."

Laugh if you you will, but it's possible. And, I'm willing to bet there'll be this girl, twenty-two years younger than me, but bearing a little bit of a resemblance, along for the ride. I've always thought she was fucking magic, and, sometimes, listening to her, it would seem she thinks the same of me.

02 August 2013

Cat's Away

Maybe not her favorite song from this band, but I dig it for the ska/regae undertones.

Sabina's favorite band has come around. Some obscure Canadian act who made their name off a Mark Twain reference. Perhaps you've herd of them.

She goes to see them and I stay home to make especially spicy vindalho. Sometimes, I'll watch one of our DVDs of the band in effigy. Although, this time, I'm digging the righteous blues and Beatles on the local radio station. If that doesn't work, I might jam out with my favorite rock/roll band, Faith No More, or just groove on my collection of African. So it goes.

Here and now, my house smells of Bombay and something with slide guitars that sounds a little dirty, yet deliciously fun, plays from the radio. I have my favorite Sri Lankan stout beer to drink and spiced potatoes to make with my vindalho.

The cat's away...