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

30 March 2013


This is a time of bittersweet for me. Over the last ten years, Easter is often the first holiday after a death; my grandmother, my father's mother and Jibril-in the same year, one right after the other-and my mother. Sometimes, it's been somber, or the mere specter of the death hangs about like the metaphoric elephant in the room that everyone knows is there, but no one wants to talk about. Once, maybe twice, there's been unspoken acceptance at what's come to pass. There's always drinks, because that's just how we roll.

In the last three years, it's been the first holiday after a birth. My nephew, so shortly after my mother's passing was the first. Not so much being used as a balm, but it certainly helped make the occasion happier than I worried it would be. This year, as of just a few days back, my niece was born, because, despite the fact there are over seven billion of us little fucking miracles on the planet, my sister and Whitie decided one more wouldn't hurt, and, after all, their genetic material is that much more superior. My father is pleased, getting his mess of grandbabies. With there being three of them now, he jokes he can get rid of my brother, sister, and I.

Perhaps, with this motif of life and death that seems to have occurred over recent Easters, one of my friends, of whom recently became born again-the first time didn't work out, although, with some of the things he's presently going through, this second time around has been less than spectacular, but that's another story-would say this is a manifestation of the legends of death and resurrection, which was made popular with various Mediterranean deities, such as Osiris and Dionysus, and has been in fashion for the last two millennia via mythological carpenter's kid name Yeshua bin Joseph. I'd argue such a theory is just an example of the Confirmation Bias. Although, to be fair, I've had my own moments of seeing omens, when it was just that psychological phenomena made manifest, thus another reason I constantly question and seek objective reality.

Looking at what it is, we'll be coming down the hill to visit my father. He's making prime rib instead of lamb-what the fuck is wrong with that man?-this year. My brother will be there, and perhaps my daughter, if she can escape her mother's family for a bit. We just might see my sister and Whitie, with my nephew and niece in tow, but we don't bet on it. There will be blues and drinks, because that's just how we roll.

I'll of course think of the dead. That's just the way of it. Those conversations I'll never get to have. Stories and memories forever lost.

There is, however, the living. Words we can still share and memories to yet to be made. It is from them that the seeds of new stories are sown, and that sweetens any lingering bitterness.        

28 March 2013


Slowly, our tiny world, so vast and mystical, pulls itself from the embrace of winter. The ice upon the waterways thin and loosens. It's interesting to watch the water sculpting the frozen armor, which covered it for the last four months.

Although the snowpack is still below average, we've gone snowshoeing quite a bit this winter. Out there in the bush, I've taken silent note of the how the landscape is changed with its blanket of snow, the way the wind and sun manipulates it into its various forms. The Backcountry becomes a different place. Inviting and alien. Given the snow is always different from one year to the next-right down to how the drifts form-outback trails, no matter how familiar, will be made new once again. It's beautiful.

As mud, spring, the thaw, whatever Voodoo mask you put on it, progresses, I find myself strangely torn. We've renewed the community garden plot and I itch to ride my bicycle, grill, and wear shorts. Yet, there is something so very cool about coming into a bowl of krumholtz, in the view of great peaks, knowing you're the only thing that walks upon two legs to have been there in months by virtue of the tracks-if any-across the powder.

I guess I find it strange because I can still remember how desperately I'd wish for spring and summer during the winter. These days, when we hear it might snow, we start checking the maps for which trail we're going to explore, hoping said snow is deep enough that out poles aren't smacking against rocks.

Mei fie tsu. Memories of the past life, as opposed to the life we live now, I suppose. I had zen back then, just as I have it now. It's different, and I'm happy with that. I cast my lot to the winds of chaos once, and I ride that snake's tail for all it's worth.

The snow will be around a little longer, but the thaw is here. Winter works its way through mud to summer. Such is the way. Bicycling and hiking boots will replace Old Scratch and snowshoes. So it goes. I take the moments as they come, reveling in the uniqueness. The world changes because sameness and stagnation does not only lead to extinction, but it's really fucking boring.

I like to be entertained and I'd not have this any other way...

26 March 2013

Epilogue; Lost Redemption

When his body was found hanging from a tall tree along the Ninth Street Canal, blowflies had already laid eggs in his eyes. Shortly afterward, he was buried, and there was no funeral. Although, Maya wondered if there was anyone other than her who would have attended. There was a note found in his pocket, scrawled across the paper in a hurried hand;

I’m sorry, but I’m beyond redemption.

Even as time passed everyone moved on, to the point of all but forgetting names and events, she found herself still sometimes coming to his grave. To a degree, the act itself puzzled her; it wasn’t as though she had been in love with Erik, even as far back as what might have passed as a beginning for them. True, he sometimes could make her feel safe and pretty, but he could also make her feel cheap and used. She knew he had a chip on his shoulder after Caroline died, which probably dated back to when she was told she was terminally ill. Maya knew there was a special well of negative emotion within him that he blamed on Tyrus.

Standing at his grave, as cold rain came down and fog rose like restless ghosts all around her in the pre-evening gloom, she once again questioned why she there. Perhaps she thought standing there the lyrics of a new song come to her. Maybe she wanted answers; Erik disappeared when Raphael and Morgan died, only to be found hanging with a cryptic note so much later. Something didn’t fit. It could be she somehow wanted his phantasm to materialize before her and explain it all a way.

Nothing happened. Nothing ever did. With a shrug, Maya turned away, thinking of a warm cup of chai to ward off the chill of the rain.

Tyrus was standing behind her, causing her to jump and stifle a scream. His gaze seemed to go straight through her, to the point she wondered if he really even saw her, making it that much harder to regain her composure. He had not been out at all lately. In fact, the last time she could remember seeing him was that night they all had dinner at his house.

“You startled me,” she said, taking a small, tentative step forward. “But it’s good to finally see you.”

“Perhaps it was inevitable,” Tyrus mused.

“What do you mean…?” Maya started to ask, but then noticed how his gaze was looking beyond her, to the very headstone she’d been standing at. “Oh.”

“I suppose it’s too bad,” it was as if he was speaking to himself, or perhaps the occupant of the grave. “Caroline would probably have not have been surprised, but it’s still disappointing.”

“He really resented you because of her,” Maya said. “Because of me too, I think.”

“I know.”

“You have always seemed to know a lot of things, Tyrus,” Maya began as she closed the distance between them. She placed a hand on his arm, but he didn’t react. “I guess it’s one of the reasons I’ve…admired you.”

“I am nothing to be admired.”

“I disagree. Say, do you want to go get coffee and we could talk?” Maya felt simultaneously courageous and terrified as the words left her mouth. “I think there’s quite a bit for us to discuss.”

“No, there’s not,” Tyrus said, pulling away and disappearing back into the rain.

22 March 2013


After the great towers fell and a Mad King declared war upon fear, which was, in fact a thinly veiled bloodfeud against an enemy of his father with the side benefits of oil and the expansion of Empire. The day it happened, I too, watched in shock and awe, quoting the opening lines to Sunday, Bloody Sunday, wishing, hoping the attackers were home-grown. Another Timmy McViegh. See, recently, I'd seen a film called The Siege, in which followers of the Prophet unleashed terror campaigns in New York City-New York City! Git a rope!-and it showed the xenophobic reaction of 'Mericans to those oh, so alien. When I found out the group claiming responsibility for dropping the Two Towers were not home-grown fanatics, but in cahoots with those who blew up the idolatrous Buddhas in Afghanistan, my heart sank; I knew that film I'd recently watched was not mere entertainment, but prophecy made manifest.

I was on the bus one night, off to get coffee. There was a man in a turban with a long beard. Another man, dressed in old mil-tech drag, and rather intoxicated, came up to him, spitting hate. See, he'd been in 'Nam, fighting for god and country-but not western, queerly enough-and he'd dealt with the treacherous ways of the brown and the yellow men. If he had his way all the fucking ragheads would be exterminated, starting with this turbaned man with a long beard. A hate crime waiting to happen.

Then came the aberration, who is too tall, too skinny, with eyes too big for the rest of his face, bedecked in his graveyard jacket from the back of the bus...

"Pardon me, Sir, but are you a Sikh?" I inquired. 

"Why yes," the turbaned man replied.

"Cool!" I said, clapping my hands together like a delighted child on Christmas day. "I happen to be Buddhist myself. Tibetan, in fact, but I'm just fascinated by religion, what with being a former philosophy and theology student."

And so we started talking.  The cat dressed in old mil-tech drag was not amused at all. Even and especially given we completely ignored him from that point until he pulled the cord for the bus. As he exited, oh, but he had some...colorful...words for me. As far as he was concerned, I was traitor to god and country-but not western, queerly enough-all consorting with the enemy.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize; for the mentality of some here in this nation-state, for my ethnic background, and, whilst I'm at it, for the whole species of half-bald apes in general," I said after he exited the bus.

"It is okay," the Sikh said, touching my arm kindly. "He is still but learning."


I'd noticed the man in the taqiyah wandering about before disappearing for a bit. There were other things to do, but I was aware of his presence, although I was unsure of his location. Eventually, he sought me out. See, he had inquires; he wanted to know about places to go skiing and scenic views, and I am, after all, paid to tell people where to go and make suggestions of what they do when they get there.

"You're in the mountains of Colorado," I said, a well-worn response to inquiries of scenic places. "You ain't going to get a bad view."

He smiled and thanked me for my assistance. I made note of his cap, so similar to any one of my African kufis, and his Pakistani accent. Back a few lifetimes, when I danced with the dead for money, I knew a neat, neat, girl from Pakistan who was possessed of cutting wit and grand compassion.

Much later, I was getting ready to get back up the hill to home when I saw him again. I smiled and bowed and asked him how his day was. He told me he did a bit of driving, looking for good views.

"I do not mean to hold you up, but where can I pray?"

"Come with me," I said, unlocking a door. "I know this is important and private."

"Thank you," he said. "I will ask god to reward you for helping me."

Before you ask, yes, I know I took a serious tactical risk; here was a stranger asking me for a favor and I let him into a darkened room. Sure, he was shorter than me, but he was stockier, and I did not know whether or not he carried any sort of weaponry. From a paranoids' point of view, what I did was tantamount with suicide.

And yet, the whisper in my ghost, my spider sense, intuition, whatever Voodoo mask you put on it, did not warn me of being in a bad situation. In the moment, it hardly mattered that I did not share his deity or his philosophy; here was someone who just wanted-needed-to groove, to commune, with the Divine. I do not believe in good or evil, and right and wrong are social constructs humans invented to maintain the pack order. Be that as it may, I felt it was the correct thing to do.

Semantics, perhaps...

I was thanked, and he was sent on his way, along with directions to a local coffeeshoppe. As a matter of respect, I offered a Salaam, although, perhaps I should have just done a Namaste. But, perhaps, it doesn't matter. I helped someone on a cosmic level and got blessing because of it.

Not bad for someone who was once called a traitor by some intoxicated cat in mil-tech drag or even a jinn by a Moroccan cabie...

19 March 2013


If there was any doubt to shortage of the by-the-week rathole hotels he could stay at, this was his last one. Afterward, his options were hiding out on the streets, going to forth to face the music he could feel was singing his tune, or more running, further afield. The fact he had even stayed in town showed him a sense of daring idiocy he’d not though himself capable of. Perhaps the fact of running further was more frightening, because he knew such an act would mean there really was no redemption. He already knew that, but he wanted desperately to believe there was another way. An escape, which he could return to his life, no harm, no foul.

The manager of this particular hotel gave him the creeps; a short older man with a thick Mexican accent and three terrariums behind his desk with three different types of spider. Erik had known one person with a fondness for spiders and other things with cold blood, becoming acquainted out of necessity with another made him feel uneasy. He wanted to find another place, but after three days, he realized the futility of it, and set back to contemplating his options.

It was just getting to be dark out and he contemplated going outside. Perhaps the fresh air would do him some good. Maybe out there in the open he’d find another option that hadn’t presented itself in the endless string of rented rooms he had found himself in the last two months.

A knock on the door got him to sit bolt upright. The constant fear there was someone on the other side of the door with a badge and a gun gnawed at him. He hoped it was just the short hotel manager come to ask him to hold one of those spiders. Slowly, he got up from the bed and opened the door, his eyes going wide at who was waiting outside.

“Hello, Erik,” Tyrus’s large hand caught him square in the chest, sending him toppling backward. “We must speak.”

“What?!? How?!? How did you…?”

“In Mister Sanchez’s possession is a Goliath birdeater,” Tyrus began, shutting the door firmly behind him. “It’s the second largest species of spider in the world with a legspan of up to a foot.” Erik tried to get up and found himself shoved over the bed. “He also has a baboon spider, a burrowing ground-dweller out of Africa that can be a little belligerent, and, finally, a cobalt blue tarantula, a beautiful species out of Thailand.” Even as Erik tried to get up, he found himself being pushed down again. “Now, where do you suppose Mister Sanchez might have acquired such lovely specimens?”

Erik tried to make a break for it, diving over the bed. In mid leap, he was seized by both his ponytail and the collar of his shirt. Before he could even consciously register what was happening, he found himself pushed into the chair near the room’s television set, Tyrus looming over him.

“And stay seated,” he hissed.

“Tyrus, please!” Erik didn’t really even know what to say, but he felt he should say something.

“There are several people with bruises and a few with broken bones because of you,” Tyrus said coldly. “And then there’s the whole matter of two very special and beautiful people who are now dead.”

“It was a mistake!” Erik snapped. “I didn’t mean to kill them! I meant…”

“You wanted to kill me.”

Erik was airborne again. This time, he felt himself slam into a wall. There was a loud crunch of impact, which drove the air from his lungs. Tyrus’s forearm was pressed against his throat, his eyes narrowed.


’Why?’” Erik spat. “Why? After Caroline died you just fucked off for your little snakehouse like none of us really existed anymore! Because my own sister loved you more than me! Because everyone still loved you and it was always such a big deal when you came out! Because Maya would be with you in a second if you asked her! Because…” it was then his voice, like his spirit, broke. “Because I could never be you…”

Once more, he was flying. He slammed into another wall, harder this time. It was hard to tell if the crunching, buckling sounds were that of the drywall or the bones in his back. Slowly, he looked up to meet Tyrus’s cold gaze, which cut through him like a scalpel.

“What a petty, small, hateful thing you are.”

“I suppose you’re going to kill me now,” Erik sputtered. The fact Tyrus chuckled sent a chill down his spine.

“Why? Violence only begets violence, and that solves nothing,” he said. “I could butcher you and it would not fix anything. Morgan and Raphael are still dead.”

“Then what do I do?” Erik cried desperately. “Tell me! What do I do to make it all right again?”

Tyrus turned away. His steps were slow and deliberate as he walked to the door. He turned briefly to look down at Erik once more before he walked out.

“What indeed?”

16 March 2013

Whiskey and Revelation

Natasha was inconsolable and Malak was said to be despondent. Tyrus made appearances at the respective funerals for Morgan and Raphael, as well as a benefit wake in their honor. Afterward, he was gone, disappearing into his life apart from the scene. A world of his lizards and spiders at a faraway house only a handful people knew the location to. Maya missed him, even if the last time she saw him he only civilly lifted his whiskey glass in her direction before melting away into the crowds.

As was the way with any death, it seemed everyone was tighter was for a short while after; promises of strengthening bonds and closer comrade. It was fleeting. Within a few weeks of accident, everyone had drifted away into familiar patterns, and those proclamations so boldly spoken might only resurface in a night of drinking when some unknown thing triggered a flood of memories.

Maya’s heart leap when, two months later, Malak and Natasha invited her out to dinner. Not so much because the prospect of eating with them, but because dinner was at Tyrus’s. She bought a bottle of the expensive whiskey he liked just for the occasion, partially hoping it would serve as a peace offering, but also to perhaps get him to open up.

Malak let them into the house with a spare key when they arrived, whereupon, they were promptly greeted by Cerebus and Tiamat. He reached into a bag he was carrying and threw some raw meat to the two monitors, both of whom scurried away with their treats like excited children with new toys from a favored relative. Classical music was playing at a loud, but comfortable, level throughout the house. The three of them found a tray of cheeses, an open bottle of wine, and three glasses waiting for them in the great room. Maya filled her glass, grabbed a tumbler from the liquor cabinet, and made for the kitchen with the whiskey bottle under her arm.

Tyrus was busy working on dinner, his dark hair tied back, but still cascading down his back like vines of shadow. If he noticed the intrusion into his kitchen he made no indication. Maya sat down the glass and filled it with whiskey before clearing her throat.

“A cook as well?” She started playfully. “You’re a very talented man, Tyrus. Is there anything you can’t do?”

“Yodel,” his voice was colder than the airless void between the stars.

“I…um…brought you whiskey,” Maya said, feeling her brave approach had been verbally disemboweled.

“I suppose I should thank you,” Tyrus said, his attention still focused on the meal he was making. “Which one of them decided to bring you along?”

“Malak invited me, and Natasha thought it would be nice too.”

“Malak?” Tyrus snorted. “I’m sure Erik was thrilled about that.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Maya said softly, her eyes shifting to the kitchen windows.

“Didn’t mention it to him?”

“I haven’t seen him since the night Morgan and Raphael died,” she replied.

Tryrus froze. He slowly turned toward Maya, his gaze seeming to flay her on the spot. Briefly, he looked back at the meal he was working on before stalking to the counter where the tumbler of whiskey was waiting for him. The sip he took drained half of the glass. He held it in his mouth for a moment, his normally stoic countenance replaced by a look of deep concentration.

“I see,” he said after swallowing and taking another small sip.

Maya felt herself going cold. The investigation had said some ugly things; the word sabotage being used. Supposedly, some people were questioned, and one of the owners of the venue spent a few nights in jail, but nothing else. It was as if the cause was buried with Morgan and Raphael.

“Tyrus…?” Maya’s voice felt as though it was coming across a great void.

“Go help Natasha set the table,” he said, swallowing his whiskey and finishing the rest in a single gulp. “And ask Malak to rustle up Cerebus and Tiamat. It would be bad form to have the children interrupting our dinner, which I’ll have out for us shortly.”

“Tyrus…what I said…what are you thinking?”

Slowly, in a frighteningly calculated fashion, he turned to look at her. For all his cold distance, there was a furnace-like heat to his gaze. He poured himself another tumbler of whiskey, and brought it to his lips. When he finally spoke, the words came out more as an order than a statement;

“Nothing of which to concern yourself with.”

14 March 2013

Day of Fail/niW fo yaD

We were supposed to go snowshoeing, but a late start made one potential trail a no-go, and we spent two hours digging out Old Scratch-using my snowshoes!-when it got high-centered on the way to another trailhead. We did spy another potential trail, and we later enjoyed seafood chowder, grilled cheese sandwiches, expressoes, and cheap Jamaican beer.

There was the matter of the Pan-STARRS comet, being oh, so, visible in the western sky. We drove up to the top of Loveland Pass to watch the sun set at nearly twelve-thousand vertical. Try as we might, no dice, but the stars glow atop the Roof of the World-and how I got a girl! up there to look! with me-were just striking.

Resolving ourselves to a fate I do not believe in, we came home to nachos with a spicy salsa and Janis Joplin preying for and upon a Mercedes Benz. We drank imperial stouts and were grateful for the circumstance. The day did not come out the way we schemed, but we still had a myriad of adventures, and that's just how we roll.

So it goes...

12 March 2013

Interlude; Hungry Dragons

Metal groaned and buckled before the platform collapsed into a cacophony of crashing and screams. In that instant, everything changed. The event had art, bands, plenty to eat and drink, and an atmosphere of a bohemian paradise. Then there was chaos and blood and broken bodies.

Maya had lost track of how many official looking people she described her recollection of events to. Natasha had pushed her away from the platform when they realized it was coming down. Some of the others were not so lucky. Raphael was killed instantly. Morgan hung on for another hour before she finally crashed, and the paramedics and trauma staff still worked her for an hour hoping to prove death wrong. Erik was missing, although Maya wondered if he’d not left in a huff, given his reaction when he was told Tyrus might make an appearance at Raphael’s behest.

She was in a daze, knowing two people she was acquainted with were dead, but not sure who else might be injured or worse. Questions kept being asked to the point she began to wonder if her recollections were correct. There was the tug in her belly and the lump in her throat, but, no matter how hard she tried, the tears would not come. A cigarette and a drink-a lot of drinks-held both appeal disgust to her.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Malak standing by a bench. Another familiar face, although she didn’t remembered seeing him at earlier. It occurred to her he may have been working. Slowly, with unsteady feet, she made her was toward him. If he saw her, he made no indication, his dark eyes moist as he was trying restrain tears, and staring into space.

Seated on the bench was Natasha, sobbing uncontrollably. Her head rested on Tyrus’s broad shoulder. Maya realized Malak probably was off getting Tryrus when this all happened. She came around to face him, noticing his face was buried in his hands. Other than that, he was completely still. It was questionable as to whether or not he was even breathing. Popping out from the left collar of his leather jacket was the head of one of his monitor lizards, although she couldn’t tell which one it was. Slowly, Maya placed a hand on his knee and leaned forward.


He snapped up with a ferocity that got her to jump back. Crawling out from under his jacket folds on the right side was the other lizard, its tongue flicking out in an almost defensive manner. Maya swallowed hard as she looked up into his intense green eyes. What she saw frightened her. For once, he seemed to be showing emotion; a mix of utter devastation and slowly boiling rage.

“There is an old story about twin dragons. Black and white. Love and hate.” Tyrus whispered into the empty air around him. Absently, he stroked the chin of the lizard peeking out of his collar. “My dragons are hungry.”

09 March 2013

Bad Blood

After taking a big gulp of water, Maya lazily plucked a few strings on her bass. The band’s new album was being showcased. It had been a good crowd and a good show. Afterward, she was sure she might be asked to sign an autograph or two.

“Thank you,” she said into the mic. “And now, one last song. It’s not ours, but this is for Tyrus for showing me kimchi jjigae might just be one of the best hangover foods ever.”

She began strumming away on the bass. The other band members joined in, guitars, keyboards, drums, all familiar with the song. She smiled toward the rhythm guitar player as she stepped back up to the mic.

“Well I live with snakes and lizards
and other things that go bump in the night,
'Cuz to me everyday is Halloween
I have given up hiding and started to fight…”

The crowd began to cheer. Maya spied a familiar figure raising a glass in salute. It was Raphael. The first time he’d been out in weeks. Another smile crossed her face. The night had just gotten that much better.


“It’s so fortuitous you mentioned Tyrus, my lovely!” Raphael exclaimed to her later as he placed a friendly kiss on her cheek. “Look there.”

She followed his finger to a table toward the back of the venue. First, she saw the cab driver, Malak, then Tyrus. Both men were leaning over a candle illuminated table in a scene of intense study. It took Maya a few moments to realize they were in the middle of a game of chess. Morgan and Natasha stood on either side of Tyrus like valkyrie bodyguards.

“It’s really not surprising to see him playing chess in a place like this,” Raphael observed. “It is surprising to see him giving Malak so many opportunities to challenge him.”

With the crowds, it took a little bit to reach the table. Someone had to tell Maya how much they loved the show. Raphael was stopped by an old boyfriend, whom was promptly dismissed. It was Morgan and Natasha saw and acknowledged the two of them as they approached.

“Ladies!” Raphael began with dramatic flourish. “Such a pleasure to see you both out. And may I also compliment your taste in company.”

“Well you know this one,” Morgan said, gesturing to Tyrus. “He gets to playing a chess and the building could catch fire and he wouldn't do anything until he finished his move.”

“Of course. Of course. Tyrus, my lovely, when you break from your meditation, I’ve brought someone by to say hello.”

His green eyes shifted only slightly, a bare acknowledgment he heard the words spoken to him. Slowly, he moved his rook, taking Malak’s knight without much effort, but an obvious surprise by the gasp that echoed across the table. Then, Tyrus reached for his glass, taking a cordial sip of whiskey the color liquid bronze that both smelled and tasted of spun gold and the lazy sunlight of warm autumn afternoons.

“Raphael, my dear, how nice to see you again,” he said. “I’d heard you’d been staying in a little more lately.”

“Just for a few projects, but I couldn’t miss this show,” there was a nod in Maya’s direction.

“A place like this requires glamour,” Tyrus said. “And you have always been the glamour in this scene, no matter what anyone else says.”

“You’ve always been such a dear,” Raphael chuckled.

“Hello, Tyrus,” Maya said suddenly. Although she might be interrupting, she at least wanted to get her greetings in.

“That was a good cover,” he returned, taking another sip of whiskey, before shifting his attention back to the game, making a move with one of his knights. “Check. Malak, really, you need to practice more.”

“Don’t be so harsh now,” Natasha scolded. “He’s trying.”

“Your lessons are rudimentary, at best. Or he’s a poor study.”

“A little of both,” Malak said, shooting Natasha a wink and smile. “If you don’t insult me when we play, I worry you’re angry with me.”

“I do not get angry.”

“Can I buy you another drink, Tyrus?” Maya asked. She didn’t like feeling like she was being snubbed.

“An attempt to get into my good graces after the pop-by the other night.” It wasn’t a question.


“Now, Tyrus,” Raphael put in. “I know you’re in the middle of making Malak look like a sub-standard chess players in front of these lovely ladies. However, a little civility is in order.”

“I’ll let you know when I’m not being civil,” his gaze shifted toward Maya. “If you must, get me another drink, but it’s not required.”

“I’ll go with you,” Morgan said. “It looks as though everyone could use a round.”

“I better help too,” Malak offered, standing. “Thank you for the game, Tyrus. I’ll try paying more attention to Natasha when she’s teaching me.”

“See to it.”

The three of them headed to the bar. Behind her, she could hear Morgan and Malak talking about some event in the next few days. It was one Erik was helping to set up and Maya’s band might be playing. She could hardly think about that. Her thoughts focused on Tyrus. After her breakfast of kimchi jjigae, Malak showed up to spirit her back home without much conversation or even a chance to say farewell Cerberus and Tiamat. It bothered her, and she wondered, wanting to ask Tyrus, if his quick dismissal, his attitude toward her now, was some sort of passive-aggressive retribution of her mistreatment of him a year ago or something else. Something deeper and darker.

“I’m buying,” Morgan said as they reached the bar. “Maya, what would you like?”

“I think I’ll join Tyrus in a whiskey,” she replied.

“I had money,” Morgan sighed. Her smirk and wink dismissed any notion of there being an offence.

“Well, I see Dolittle’s decided to make an appearance,” Despite herself Erik’s voice got Maya to jump.

His thinning hair was pulled into a viciously tight ponytail, which seemed to stretch the skin of his face with a cruel thinness across his skull. He was dressed in a back tank top, as to reveal his muscular arms, cream colored skin, and the few tattoos he liked to sport, as well as black pants with combat boots. His eyes and smile sometimes reminded Maya of a feral dog that had just cornered either a kitten or a small child. Those times, her attraction to him was replaced by fear. This was one of those times.

“I didn’t think you were coming,” she said. She wanted to ask him about the redhead, those few nights ago, but the words died in her throat.

“I decided to surprise you,” Erik replied. By his tone it was easy to tell he had been drinking and was clearly upset. “And I was surprised to see you in the court of the Lizard King.”

“Erik Prescott!” Morgan snapped, her eyes narrowing. “You mind your manners!”

“Hey, I’m not the freak with a house, that hardly anyone knows where it is, full of creepy-crawlies,” he shot back.

“Probably to avoid the judgements of pricks like yourself,” Malak said, edging close to Maya and Morgan, forming a wall of flesh.

“This is not your battle, Children,” Tryrus’s cold voice seemed to come from every direction and nowhere all at once.

He was walking up with a purposeful stride, Raphael and Natasha behind him. Erik half sneered, knowing he was outnumbered, but not willing to back down. He straightened himself mentally calculating his next move.

“I’m certain being the jealous kind is charming to some, but it loses its effectiveness when you’re having dalliances with any girl who will fall for your attempts at seduction,” Tyrus said. Slowly, he finished his whiskey, his eyes narrowing. “How was Beatrice anyway?”

“Fuck you, Dolittle!” Erik sneered.

“Awfully defensive. Is that guilt I smell?”

“What about you and Maya?”

“What about her?” Tryurs inquired. “Malak thought it was okay to drop her at my house and I sobered her up with tea and kimchi jjigae while she bitched about how you were less than subtle about your efforts to all but fuck Beatrice in front of her, which shows a sense of class I am absolutely in awe of.” In a single stride he closed the distance to the bar, looking down at Erik. “Whatever would your sister say?”

That drew a collective sharp breath from those gathered around. Caroline was twenty-two when she was sentenced to death by leukemia. It was sometime within the last eleven months of her life that she went to dinner with Tyrus. The half-joke from Raphael was they shared dinner, dessert, and almost three-hundred breakfasts afterward. In those last eleven months, Tyrus never left her side. He was the one who managed her affairs when the disease finished its execution. Erik, on the other hand, had gone on more than one prolonged bender to deal with it, and couldn’t even be bothered to show up for the funeral.

Twelve years later, the slightest mention of Caroline was enough to cause bristling and posturing. Erik’s fists clenched and he worked his jaw. The last time she was mentioned, he actually took a swing at Tyrus and somehow found himself laying on the floor in a daze. Raphael would later remark Erik was lucky he didn’t end up as food for Tyrus’s lizards.

“You mind your mouth about my sister,” Erik growled. Something that sounded like a chuckle came the back of Tryus’s throat.

“I will share my company with whomever I please,” he said. “And I will go as far as to say the same for any of my acquaintances, such as Maya.” He leaned even closer, his large form almost causing Erik to fall backward. “If we have to have this conversation again I may become…cross. Understand?”


“Good boy,” Tyrus said, spinning on his heel and disappearing into the crowds. “So pleasing you can be taught.”

07 March 2013

Prologue; A Night at the Reptile House

It took Maya a few moments to register her surroundings when she opened her eyes. Pieces of memory from the night before slowly fell into fuzzy place. She had been drunk. Very drunk. She was at the gallery opening with Erik and he started hitting on the scandalous redhead with the whistle between her legs. This, of course, upset Maya, and she made a little more than a scene about it, which culminated with her storming out of the gallery while calling for a cab.


The driver was a swarthy man who called himself Malak. She had seen him around. All she needed to do was mention a single name to get Malak to smile a wide shockingly white-tooth grin. He told her to sit back and relax and he’d get her where she needed to go before she realized it. When she arrived, he told her not to bother with tip, just to get him a drink the next time they were out somewhere.

Where she was dropped off was quite different than the district where the gallery was. The stars were more visible and the lights of houses were further apart. A cool breeze stirred her dark hair as she approached the stone structure that was surrounded by red rock and looked to have stood for thousands of years. It was only when she started to knock on the massive wood door that she questioned her resolve. She was drunk and angry at Erik. As her knuckles rapped against the dark wood she found herself desperately wanting a cigarette, if not another drink.

“What are you doing here?” The voice was a cold whisper out of the darkness. Maya felt her breath catch in her throat. It was more out of fear, not unlike that of a child with a hand in the cookie jar, than any sense of anticipation.

Tyrus didn’t so much walk out of the shadows as he just materialized. His soft voice, which simultaneously carried a strange accent and an almost coldness belied his size. Maya often felt he was the type who would check other when filling out demographics on a government form, because the way he was put together seemed to defy description. The only word that seemed to fit him when she thought about it was otherworldly, and she’d gone as far as using that as a metaphor in a song she wrote, the whole time wondering if he caught the reference. He had long, dark, wavy hair, which ended near the small of his back and intense green eyes that were often remarked to be similar to the little girl in the iconic National Geographic photograph. His unblemished copper-colored skin almost seemed to blend in with the rocks around him. He didn’t smile, which was not surprising. His face rarely showed any expression, unless it was a sort of savage curiosity, as though he was scrutinizing his surroundings in a state of constant study.

A year before, they ended up in bed. It had been at her place after one of his rare nights out. Morgan and Natasha said once upon a time Tyrus had been out on the scene with more frequency, but those days had faded into the apocrypha of back in the day stories. Two days later, at a show, Maya was throwing things at him in front of Erik, screaming he didn’t understand something, which made so little sense to her. The fact Tyrus even feigned civility toward her afterward surprised her. Natasha advised Maya to be exceedingly grateful. When he was scorned, people simply ceased to exist to him; they could be in the same room, looking right at one another, and yet, Tyrus would look right through them.

“I…I had to see you,” Maya stammered. “Do you have a cigarette?”

“You know I don’t smoke.”

“A drink?”

“I don’t drink at home unless I am expecting guests,” he said with a bit of an edge that got Maya to blush. “How did you get here?”

“Malak brought me,” she replied, knowing there was only a handful of people who knew where he lived.

“I see,” Tyrus mused, almost distractedly. “It would seem the two of us will have to have a conversation.”

“I could leave,” she offered.

“You could,” he agreed. “And where would you end up? An after party? Some late night coffee joint? Erik’s bed or Raphael’s parlor?”

Maya felt heat rising in her cheeks. She wished Raphael had been out. She’d have just hung closer to him once Erik started talking to the redhead. Unfortunately, Raphael was also entering a more reclusive lifestyle.

Back when Rafael first introduced her to Tyrus, she tried to invite him to Burning Man. She was going with Raphael and Morgan. He scoffed and told her in dismissive tones he had his own desert festival he was going to. That was the year he went to Mali, and spoke of seeing Tinariwen, Lo' Jo, Kwal, Blackfire and Robert Plant. Raphael told her then Tyrus was one who went his own way, and it was better to just ride the currents of his acquaintance than attempt to steer him one way or another.

“Although you might use the night sky as a lyrical device in one of your songs, I do not think you’d be interested in watching the stars with me,” Tyrus said, placing a tentative arm around her shoulder, it was then she realized she was a little chilled. “Come inside, I’ll brew us some tea. Do you like assam?”

“That would be lovely.”

As they walked inside, Maya was startled by two reptiles, both almost two feet long, running from the door. It was then she remembered how Erik, somewhat derisively, nicknamed Tryus Dolittle for his monitor lizards and tarantulas. Tyrus cooed after the lizards almost playfully.

“Cerberus! Tiamat! Now be good for our guest, Children,” he said over his shoulder. “Come now, I’ll fetch you both a treat.”

“Erik once wondered why you couldn’t have a kitten like a normal person,” Maya mused a little too loud.

“I did once, but it didn’t work out,” Tryus said, as he walked into his kitchen and opened the refrigerator.

“Really? What happened?”

“Tiamat got hungry,” Tyrus replied as he threw a few small pieces of raw meat to the two monitors, who stood upon their back legs for the morsels they were offered. For a brief moment, it almost looked like he smiled. “There you go. Such lovely children. Go on, now, find a warm place to curl up.”

Despite herself, Maya giggled at Tyrus’s remark. That nonchalant tone to his voice. The strange affection he showed to these reptiles that ran across his kitchen floor like eager puppies. Part of her wondered if, come sobriety, this would all be half as funny. Part of her wondered if in the moment if any of it mattered.

“What happened to your shirt?”

His inquiry caught her off-guard. Down the front of her shirt was stain. Whether it was vomit or a spilled drink, she could not recall. Even before she could try to answer, he was pulling off his sweater and handing it to her.

“Here, take that off and put this on. That is unsightly.”

Seeing Tyrus without his sweater, she was reminded of that one night they had together and the fact he was covered almost completely in tattoos, like some fabled Yakuza lord. A breath caught in her throat and he looked at her oddly, as though he didn’t understand her fascination. She stepped forward, placing a hand across his broad chest.

“Tyrus…that night…and everything…” she began.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, pulling back, with an edge even colder than his usual vocal tones. “Go into the other room. I’ll have our tea ready directly.”


After that, her memories fell into shadow and fog. As she pulled herself up from the strange bed she found herself in, she realized she was still wearing the same black sweater that smelled of Tyrus, of a year ago. One of the lizards was watching her as she leaned forward. The name on the collar identified it as Cerberus. Her nostrils were flooded with the scent of coffee, fermented cabbage, and spices.

She stumbled into the kitchen to find Tyrus standing over the stove. He turned at the sound of her entrance. It was impossible to tell whether he happy or annoyed to see she was still there.

“I was hoping my racket woke you,” he said. “I’m making kimchi jjigae for you. Given last night, the spiciness shall be helpful.”

05 March 2013


There were times I would refer to this as the Season of Storms or the Days of Lions and Lambs. I was younger then, full of silly poetic attempts. It's most likely I was far too impressed with my own intelligence and the tongues of metaphor. So it goes.

It is March. The third page, the third chapter in the calendar's novel. Stories branded upon the synaptic pages of memory. Here is the bardo between cold and warmth. The official validation of spring from winter. A time of transition.

March is when the ice races end. This when the waterways begin to thaw and the ice-fishers migrate away. Spring break and the Cabin Fever Dance. Bulbs begin to push their way out of the cold earth. The snows really begin to melt in March.

March is death. My divorce happened upon the fabled ides so many years ago now. My father's mother succumbed to her illness. Jibril...sweet, intelligent, mutherfuckin' amazing Jibril, had his heart give out. Any attempt beyond friendship between the gypsy and I-her curb-kicking, and me saying done and over-happened in March.

March is rebirth. Sabina made good on her break from the musician, and from the immolated ashes of a vampire queen came to rise the phoenix I have had the pleasure of always knowing beneath the Voodoo mask. There was that day, after I'd buried my father's mother, after Jibril's death, she grasped my hand, fed me kisses and Japanese food, and helped me get South African wine, a minor curiosity and a major paradox-though there are those who would call me, baselessly!, contrary and laugh! when I argue the point-that such a tragic time would hold one of my happiest memories. For the sake of records, spring really springs! in March.

March is bittersweet. Love and hate. One cycle is ending and another begins. So it goes. My mother was first told she was sick, but vowed to fight it, and it's just unfortunate about the outcome those eighteen months later. Three years later, I still mourn. Whilst out on walkabout, I found myself thinking how I might actually miss the snow, how it makes the landscapes so alien. I think back to all those memories, good and bad, which may, or may not, have happened in March.

March is the moment. The eye for the main chance. Sabina and I fought our final battles for the House of Owls and Bats, made deals with demons and forced them to our whims. That blood money monkey's paws from my father's mother helped. It is that time between the death-sleep of winter and the waking of spring. March is magic and mystery and Koo-coo-kachoo.

March is get back up and we can do it all over again. Chevy's arthritis isn't as bad. Whistler defies his fourteen years, imploring us for the shorter walkabouts and Milarepa restates her puppy-like youth. The cold doesn't fuck with my own twisted skeleton quite as bad. Movement is easier come March.

March is the launchpad. Time to fully break out of the cold and gray apathy between December and February. The days lengthen to that halcyon of the summer solstice. This is the prelude. And, as I think back to those silly metaphors of years gone by, one really one fits for March; here is the omen, here is forever after, here is the moment...ready, set, go!

03 March 2013

Farm Fresh

It was a matter of roll the bones chaos that Sabina acquired some farm-fresh-as in just barely out of a local chicken-eggs. She marveled at them as we cracked a few open to make breakfast. The yokes were the color of spun gold and summer sunshine. I too found a smirk crossing my face, bittersweet in its countenance, but perhaps there's a story or two with that.

We had our first chickens on the farm in my early adolescence. They served a dual purpose; fresh eggs and garbage disposal. Economics, in a sense. Kitchen scraps-except for meat and eggs shells-became part of the chicken feed. Sometimes we had more eggs than we knew what to do with.

A few months before we left North Carolina, Hurricane Hugo struck. Back then, that was considered a pretty vicious storm and the damage lingered for the months leading to our move, but that's another story. During the maelstrom, my mother and I ventured out to check on the kennel dogs and the chickens. My mother would fondly retell the story of how we found them on a fence rail, swaying in the wind, dejectedly clucking. Certainly, they were not thrilled at the meteorological circumstance, but we couldn't get them to move either. Their lot was cast, and the accepted this fate against the lashing winds and rain and falling debris.

Farm-fresh eggs was one of the reasons to visit my parents out in the badlands of eastern Colorado. I'd come home with at least a box full on a bad day. The sizes and colors of the shells was always interesting. The color of the yoke and the overall taste was that of divinity and the simple happy memories of growing up on a farm in those rural in-between places.

Every so often, I think about getting chickens again. It wouldn't be my first rodeo. There was always fear of them freezing in the winter, no matter how well protected they were from the elements, or predation, but that's just the circle of life there, Simba. I throw kitchen scraps out back by the berm as an offering to the birds and deer and other bits of herbivorous wildlife we share our Sahel with. Moving a hen for her eggs is something I've known how to do for almost twenty-six years.

Perhaps it's the fact I've already done the farmboy shtick, and, since that's in my past, to do it again would feel like stepping backward. Maybe it's the sloth of not wanting to deal with that kind of maintenance. Getting up early to let the hounds out is one thing-if my schedule and sleep patterns allow, I have the option of going back to bed for a bit-but being up early every day to feed is a pain in the ass. I know this. Besides, having livestock could potentially interfere with my walkabouts and that just will not do. Priorities and all.

But my hypocrisy knows no bounds and I do enjoy me some farm-fresh eggs. Sabina waxes poetic about how they are how eggs are suppose to taste. I find myself filled with some bittersweet memories of those badland farmstead days and of my mother. Such a strange thing, perhaps, but, like the hounds, something as novel as eggs fresh from a chicken are a way I find my mother is not really so far away after all.