BumBuna O’Brien and the Evolution Oven (End)

They brought the boat aground on the far side of the island where there was a small cove and a cold, soft beach. Pierre hoisted his supplies over his shoulder and BumBuna O’Brien carried the stone head of Saint Pedro. They made their way into the trees along a footpath worn down by Pierre over time as he came and went. BumBuna O’Brien looked up, and the tops of the trees seemed so very far away to him — the light of day could barely break in as the canopy was so thick.

“How far is it?” he asked Pierre.

“Not far. Is the head heavy? Do you need to rest?”

BumBuna O’Brien lied. “No. He’s just being restless in this bag.”

The path wound on and on, into the deepest parts of the island, and then the trees retreated a bit and the ground opened and that is where BumBuna O’Brien saw the crooked little and gray-washed island hovel, crooked and shiny like ice in the mist.

“I know it doesn’t look like much,” Pierre said as he set the sacks on the porch. “But it’s comfortable enough. Quiet and peaceful, too. That’s the way I like it.”

BumBuna O’Brien stepped onto the porch, but Pierre held him back with his large hand.

“I think you should leave the head outside. I don’t feel good about bringing that thing into my house. It might be bad luck.”

“I’m not bad luck,” Saint Pedro said. “But I would like to be out of this sack. It’s itchy.”

“Where should I put it?”

Pierre pointed to a stump at the edge of the clearing.

“Put him there. I suppose he won’t be able to run off.”

BumBuna O’Brien carried him to the stump, set him free from the sack and set him upon the flat surface.

“I don’t like it here,” Saint Pedro said. “Why can’t I come inside?”

“Not now,” BumBuna O’Brien said. “You heard Pierre. He doesn’t like you too much.”

“What about you? Do you like me?”

“I haven’t decided yet. I guess that’s up to you.”

“You know, I could send you to hell if I wanted to,” Saint Pedro said to him, seriously.

BumBuna O’Brien blinked at him, then his head dipped, and he thought about how derailed his life had become. Even in the midst of trying to be good and peaceful and not stir up trouble, trouble always seemed to find him, get attached to him, like glue or magnets.

“I’m already in hell,” he answered, and then he walked away and went into the house, and there he saw a cozy little place, a bit worn down, but Pierre had made it livable.

The man was busy in the kitchen area, filling cupboards with cans and boxes and little bags by the light of a lantern. There was no electricity, only candles and the lanterns, and there was a wood-burning stove that was already beginning to glow, and now the fire crackled, and the place was getting warmer.

“Do you want some coffee?” Pierre asked as he prepared the pot.

“Yes. And I’m hungry.”

“Well, then come in, sit down. Make yourself comfortable.”

BumBuna O’Brien sat down at a round table in the middle of the room.

“Do you have any carrot cake?” he asked.

“No. But I have something better. Just picked it up fresh today. How do you feel about liverwurst sandwiches?”

“What’s liverwurst?”

“It’s liver sausage. You spread it on bread. I like to refer to it as the poor man’s pate. Here, try it.”

Pierre set down two plates at the table. BumBuna O’Brien stared at the bread, then he peeled the sandwich open to peek inside.

“It looks disgusting,” he said. “Like someone had a nasty blowout in there.”

Pierre laughed out loud, took a big bite of his own sandwich and chewed. “Nonsense. It’s delicious.”

BumBuna O’Brien took a small bite. He nibbled carefully. The taste and texture did not sit with him very well. He set it back down on his plate.

“I can’t eat this. Don’t you have anything else?”

Pierre was somewhat offended. He got up to pour himself a cup of the coffee. “You’re welcome to hunt yourself a fish or a squirrel if you want. Otherwise, it’s liverwurst. I’m sorry, but I have limited options. It’s a peaceful life, but not always easy and convenient. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable back where you came from.”

BumBuna O’Brien sensed that he had hurt Pierre’s feelings and so he got up and walked outside. Saint Pedro whistled for him to come over.

“What do you want?” BumBuna O’Brien asked.

“I just wanted to talk. What’s wrong with you?”

“I’m afraid I offended our host by not eating his disgusting sandwich.”

“That wasn’t very nice of you.”

BumBuna O’Brien snapped. “What the hell do you know! You’re just a stone head.”

“I know enough that it’s rude to complain about the food when in someone else’s home. You should apologize.”

BumBuna O’Brien sighed. His stomach grumbled. “I’m just not myself when I’m hungry.”

“I don’t like it here,” Saint Pedro whispered. “I don’t trust him. I say we take his boat in the middle of the night and leave this place.”

“We can’t do that. He’d be marooned.”

“Would you really care? Face it, you’re not the nicest animal in the world.”

“Why did you call me an animal? Do I look like an animal to you?”

“Every man is an animal. You’re savages. Pigs. The world has fallen because of you — you human animals.”

“You used to be human,” BumBuna O’Brien pointed out.

“I rose above it,” Saint Pedro answered. “Wait. Be quiet now. He’s coming.”

They saw Pierre Moose moving toward them. He was walking softly and carrying a big spear.

“What’s going on out here?” he asked.

“We’re just talking,” BumBuna O’Brien said. “What’s the spear for?”

Pierre clicked his teeth and rubbed at his sandpaper face. 

“Self-preservation mostly,” Pierre answered. “But I feel bad about you going hungry — thought I’d try to bag you some fish for supper.”

“You don’t have to do that. I’ll eat the sandwich.”

“I already finished it for you. Besides, I feel like doing a little fishing. Why don’t you get the fire pit going while I’m gone?”

Pierre looked at him differently. His cold eyes were suspicious now.

“I won’t be too long,” Pierre said, and then he went off down the path and soon he vanished.

“I don’t like this,” Saint Pedro said. “I don’t like this at all. He’s up to no good. I can feel it. We need to get out of here.”

“That’s not an option right now. If we went off in the boat at night, who knows where we’d end up. We’d probably drown.”

“I think he’s crazy.”

“Why?”

“What sane man lives alone on an island in the middle of nowhere?”

“Maybe he’s sane and the rest of us are crazy.”

“He’s upset. A lone man who gets upset is never a good thing. You should have eaten that damn sandwich!”

“Pipe down, Pedro. I’m going to do what he says and build the fire.”

“Well, then at least set me over on that log so I can watch you and not have to be alone.”

“Fine,” BumBuna O’Brien said, and he took the stone head of Saint Pedro and set it on the log. “Now just stay here while I get some firewood.”


BumBuna O’Brien went into the trees and gathered sticks and logs and branches. He dragged it all back to the circular fire ring little by little until there was a substantial pile. He went to work breaking down branches and piling the sticks. He put together a bundle of kindling and put it at the base.

“I don’t have any matches,” he said to Saint Pedro.

“Look in the house. He’s got to have matches in there.”

“Right.”

He went into the house, dug around and found an old coffee can stuffed with matchbooks. Then he thought he heard a terrible scream. He ran outside but saw nothing. He lit the fire and soon it was roaring. The day was fading as Pierre emerged in the clearing. He was dragging something large along the ground behind him.

BumBuna O’Brien looked up at the man who had seemed to have grown larger and sterner.

“Come here and help me with this,” Pierre ordered.

BumBuna O’Brien went over, but when he saw what Pierre had, he jumped back.

“What the hell is that!”

“A trespasser,” Pierre grinned.

“You speared him? Why in the world would you do that?”

“I told you, he was a trespasser. This is private property. I have a right to defend my island.”

“So, you just killed a complete stranger? Why didn’t you just tell him to leave for crying out loud?”

“I don’t have to defend my actions to you. My God, I’ve done nothing but help you! I’ve welcomed you here, to my home, and all you ever do is complain. Now, are you going to help me with this or not!?”

“What are you planning on doing with him?”

“He’s going to eat him!” Saint Pedro cried out.

“I am not!” Pierre yelled. “I don’t ever eat them.”

“Them,” BumBuna O’Brien wondered.

There was silence. Pierre looked at them. His eyes were wide with madness. “I don’t ever eat them,” he repeated.

“Then what in the hell do you do?” BumBuna O’Brien demanded to know.

Pierre’s head drooped. “I collect them,” he answered.

“I told you he was crazy!” Pedro yelled out from the log.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Pierre said. “It’s like a hobby, really. I give dignity to them. I honor their memory by preserving their bodies.”

“I would like to leave,” BumBuna O’Brien requested. “Please take me back. I won’t ever say anything to anyone.”

Pierre slapped a hand to his forehead. “No! You can’t just leave. Not yet. Please. You must understand. It gets very lonely here. Let me just show you, both of you, and then you’ll get it, and then in the morning I’ll row you to wherever you’d like.”

“Don’t listen to him!” Pedro called out. “It’s a lie. He has no intention of ever letting us go.”

Pierre grew angry. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! You damn head!”

BumBuna O’Brien tried to soothe the tension. “All right, Pierre. Just settle down. You can show us. I understand.”

Pierre looked at him. “You do?”

“Of course. Loneliness is a terrible thing.”

“What are you doing?” Pedro demanded to know.

“Just give him a chance to show us,” BumBuna O’Brien snapped back. “If you don’t stop making things worse, you’ll go back in the sack.”

They followed him by torchlight as he dragged the body to an outbuilding behind the house. They heard the body hit the ground as he released his grip so he could fumble with the lock. They heard a chain rattle, then slide. A heavy door was moved to one side and the metal material made a loud clanging noise. Pierre disappeared into the darkness.

“Wait here,” he said.

Then one by one, lamps were lit, and an orange glow began to blossom forth from the blackness. And soon the reality of Pierre’s madness came to light as the bodies became visible. There was an entire group of them, nearly two dozen — men, women, children, even dogs — and they were stitched up neatly, clothed, with grotesque upturned smiles and shiny lake stones for eyes. Some were positioned in chairs, others left standing. Some were made to look as if they were engaged in conversation with each other. Some simply stared out into space.

Pierre came back to the entrance and pulled the body up and into the building. He let it drop to the floor near a large table.

“Come in,” he insisted. “Take a look around.”

BumBuna O’Brien stepped over the threshold with Pedro clutched tightly in his hands.

“Well,” Pierre wondered. “What do you think?”

“It’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Saint Pedro said, and BumBuna O’Brien quickly clamped a hand over his cold stone mouth.

“Go on,” Pierre encouraged. “Take a closer look.”

They moved forward, and then the metal door boomed closed behind them.

“I don’t want any wild animals getting in here and destroying my work,” Pierre said.

BumBuna O’Brien looked down at Saint Pedro. The stone head’s eyes were wide with fear. He kept his hand pressed hard over the mouth.

“That’s quite a collection of people you have there,” BumBuna O’Brien said.

“Thank you. Come here. Closer. I want you to meet my best friend in the world. He was the first.”

Pierre guided them to a tall man in the very front. He was dressed in fishing clothes and had a round hat atop his head. The face was full of fear despite the fact Pierre had stitched the corners of the mouth up.

“His name is Rick,” Pierre said proudly. “Go ahead, say hello. Don’t be rude.”

BumBuna O’Brien looked up at the frightening face and tried to smile. “Hello there, Rick. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

There was no reply.

“Ahh, he never says too much,” Pierre said. “He’s the quiet type. Actually, they’re all the quiet type.”

And then he came forth with an insane, seething snicker that sent shivers up and down BumBuna O’Brien’s entire being. Saint Pedro’s head slipped out of his hands and dropped to the floor with a thud.

“You fool!” the  head cried out. “You could have cracked me in half!”

Pierre suddenly reached down and scooped Pedro up. He held him before his face and studied him.

“Put me down you lunatic! Put me down!”

“You know,” Pierre began. “You really, really grind my gears. I don’t like that. You’re starting to upset my friends here as well, and I’m afraid I can’t allow that.”

Pierre quickly walked across the outbuilding to the door. He slid it open, tossed Pedro into the darkness, and slid the door shut again with a bang. Then BumBuna O’Brien thought he heard him pick something up. Then Pierre was walking toward him, slowly, calculating. BumBuna O’Brien was more afraid than he had ever been in his life.

And then it came, a searing pain right in his guts, the inability to breathe, and finally complete darkness.

Pierre sat in a chair in the outbuilding. He was eating a liverwurst sandwich and drinking a glass of milk as he admired the newest member of his clan. It was BumBuna O’Brien’s body, but in place of his own head was the stone head of Saint Pedro. The mouth was completely chiseled away now so that he didn’t have to listen to the incessant talking.

“Oh, my yes,” Pierre said. “You’re much more agreeable to my nerves when you don’t speak, my stone headed friend.”

The mouth didn’t move of course, but the eyes did, and they frantically darted from side to side as if Saint Pedro BumBuna O’Brien was screaming some never-ending scream.

END


The King of Genitalia Street (ONE)

The day after New Year’s I stepped onto a smelly bus with the kid in a pillowcase and slung over my shoulder like a hobo pack. I had carefully cut holes in the pillowcase so that the baby could breathe when I walked around with him. I found a spot near the back and set Maine down on the seat beside me. He started to cry and some blue-haired, old salty sea hag across the aisle gave me a dirty look.

“That’s no way to carry around a baby,” she scowled with a hoarse voice, her cigarette wrinkles squishing together as her jaw moved. “You should be arrested for that. Hell, if I was a cop, I’d smash you over the head with a club right now.”

I turned to look at her as I dug around in my backpack for a baby bottle full of root beer.

“If it’s all the same to you, mam, I’d appreciate it if you would just mind your own damn stinkin’ business!” I snapped, slightly rising up in my seat in a threatening way maybe like Adam Sandler would. “I’ve got enough problems dealing with this kid dumped on me by some orgy queen. I’m doing the best I can and plan to remedy the situation today. That’s for sure. So, if you don’t mind… I think he’s hungry now.”

I turned away and proceeded to stick the rubbery nipple of the baby bottle into Maine’s mouth. Even though it was bubbly root beer, he sucked at it eagerly like it was his own momma’s milky teat.

The old sea hag’s mouth dropped open and when I glanced back in her direction, I noticed she had dirty teeth and a cracked tongue the color of old, moldy bacon.

“What on earth are you feeding that poor child? Is that… It looks like soda pop!”

“Yes mam, it is soda pop. Root beer to be exact. I think it’s his favorite.”

“Are you stupid or something? Do you want his stomach to explode!?”

“Actually mam, I don’t think I’d mind too much if his stomach exploded right about now. I’m tired of this shit.”

The old sea hag leaned further across the aisle and her breath smelled like warm deli salami as she spoke in an aggravated tone.

“Young man,” she began. “I strongly suggest that once you get to wherever you’re going that you take this child to the nearest hospital before you end up killing him. You’re lucky I don’t go up there right now and have the driver report you.”

Too exhausted to fight, I pleaded with her.

“Please, mam, don’t do that. I’ve never spent much time around babies, and I don’t always know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m heading to my mom’s and dad’s right now and they’ll know. They’ll know what to do.”

The old hag sighed heavily, and her salami breath spewed out like dragon fire, and it nearly made me puke. She looked at me with lost, ebony eyes — shaking a crinkly, yellowed finger like a witch.

“All right. But you give your word that you give this child over to someone who can handle him properly, and if I find out you ain’t did it, well, I’m a witness and I’ll tell the police all about it when they show your picture in the newspaper or on the television. I’ll come forward for sure. Don’t you think I won’t.”

Maine began to choke a bit and I pulled the bottle from his little mouth with a nearly inaudible pop. I set him up on my shoulder and gently patted his back. When the baby belched, the old sea hag rolled her eyes and returned to the proper bus-riding position in her own seat.

“Soda pop for a baby,” she mumbled under her breath as she snapped open a glamour magazine. “Geez, now I’ve seen it all.”

I grew sleepy and my head bobbed as the bus rolled down some pastoral highway in the Upstate heading for a fancy little town called Burgundy Falls. I began to wonder what my old ma and pa would do when I showed up at the house carrying a bastard baby in a pillowcase. They would most likely have me committed. Why not? They had the money. Wouldn’t bother them a bit to lock me up and throw away the key. I figured that would be right satisfactory to them. They’d be happy if I rotted. The thought of it all ruined my appetite for sweet home cooking and made my stomach hurt. No, this burden in the bag had caused me nothing but trouble ever since ol’ promiscuous Helen Corvair had decided to run off for breakfast and not come back. My nervous and immune systems were shot. I had bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. I thought I might be coming down with a bad case of schizophrenia and possibly a cold. I even had to quit my job as a toy clerk at the five-story department store in the city because they wouldn’t let me bring the kid to work with me. They said my employee locker was no place to keep a baby while I performed my job duties. Pfffft to that. Damn you golden Helen Corvair. Damn you and all your gritty intoxication to hell. 

The nerves really began to jingle like sleigh bells, and it felt like reindeer were tugging on my balls when the bus pulled into the station at Burgundy Falls. I sat there for a long time watching the other passengers gather their things and get off. The old salty sea hag who bitched at me turned out to be quite stout and I watched as she struggled to get out of her seat. Once she was out and up, she bumped her fat rear right into me as she gathered her things. It was obnoxious and horrible, and I wanted to scream. She turned to me one last time and growled to me in a voice most likely being violently raped by throat cancer.

“Now don’t you forget what I said. You take care of that baby first thing, or I’ll be sure they hang you by the nuts.”

“Thanks. Have a fine day,” I called after her as she waddled down the aisle bumping her big rump against all the seats.

When I was the last one left, I remained in my seat, frightened and unsure, until the driver finally came down the aisle and looked at me like I was stupid.

“This is Burgundy Falls,” he said. “Isn’t this your stop, sir?”

I looked up at him and wanted to suddenly cry from all the pain of life that seemed to be eating me alive at that moment.

“I guess it is. Sorry.”

I gathered up Maine and my things and got off the bus. I ordered up a cab to take me to the house. When we got there, I ordered him to park a ways down the street because I was scared. I looked at the old place from a distance as the grimy cabbie reminded me the meter was still running.

“I don’t care,” I said. “Just a few minutes.”

It was a fine old house. Probably the best fine old house in the best neighborhood of Burgundy Falls. It was painted a cool baby blue color and had sparkling white trim all around. There was a big, wooden-planked porch that jutted out from a wide, white door like a pier, and it spread and wrapped around the whole of the front and side parts of the house. The long, wooden porch swing sat idle in the cold. My mother usually had hanging pots full of stinky red geraniums and multicolored marigolds all over the place, but they were now put away for the winter. The upper part of the house was supported by slick wooden columns that looked like uncurled elephant tusks and there were a lot of shiny windows, each with curtains perfectly parted at equal distance. Finely manicured shrubbery still strung with Christmas lights lined the front of the house, and there was a large yard all around dotted with beautiful tall trees and covered in a thin veil of undisturbed snow.

“Go on now cabbie,” I said. “You can pull up.”

As he steered the car into the circular drive, I saw my mother busily cleaning the inside of the big parlor window right there at the front. She energetically wiped in wide circles making sure there wasn’t a single streak or smudge anywhere. Then I noticed her motions slowed and then stopped completely when she was aware of the taxi being there. I watched with bubbling fear as she rubbed her hands on the cleaning cloth and looked out the obnoxiously clean window with curiosity. She suddenly turned away and I knew she was moving rapidly toward the front door.


“Everett? Everett? What are you doing here?” my mother said in a frantic panic after yanking the door wide open. “Everett, are you all right? What is it you have moving around in that pillowcase?”

“It’s a baby, mom.”

“A baby!?” she wailed, and she nearly fainted.

I held the pillowcase open, and she peered in. Her eyes grew wide, and her painted mouth popped open. I backed away in case she slapped me.

“My God, Everett! What on Earth are you doing with a baby!? Edward! Edward get out here! Your crazy son has a baby in a pillowcase! Give me that poor thing.”

She reached in, pulled out Maine and looked him over.

“Everett, this baby doesn’t look well. Come inside right now and explain yourself.”

It was then my father appeared in the doorway grumbling and growling and scratching at his balls.

“What the hell is all this yelling about!? Oh, hello Everett.”

“Come on, inside, both of you. I don’t want the neighbors to hear all this fuss,” my mother ordered.

“Where the hell did that baby come from?” my dad asked as he closed the door. “Did you knock some poor girl up, huh Everett?” and then he slapped at my head as we walked through the house.

“Would you both just settle down and let me explain!?” I pleaded. “Jesus H. Christ!”

“Oh, you’ve got some explaining to do that’s for damn sure,” my father said. “Now just what the hell is this all about?”

We went into the parlor and sat down on fine furniture around a fine coffee table, and I looked out a finely cleaned window wishing everything at that moment would just end up being a bad dream. But it wasn’t. It was real and it was horrible.

“Everett?” my mother asked with disturbed suspicion. “Did you kidnap this child?”

My dad snorted, “Well, that’s a fine thing to add to your already sparkling resume — kidnapper.”

Frustrated, I stood up and threw my hands in the air.

“I didn’t kidnap the kid! Some girl I met… She walked out and left him. She never came back. It’s her kid, not mine.”

“I knew you were running with a bad crowd. I think you should move out of the city and come back home for a while so I can keep an eye on you.”

“No mom …”

My father interrupted, “Hell son, why didn’t you just call the police? Any normal idiot would have done that.”

“I thought she would come back. I didn’t want to get her in trouble.”

“Trouble?” my mother said, shaking her head. “Everett, look at the trouble she’s caused you. Can’t you see how ridiculous all this is? You’re not fit to care for a child like this. Oh goodness.”

I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed.

“I didn’t know what else to do. That’s why I came here. I’m sorry. I was hoping you could help me.”

My ma and pa looked at each other with troubled faces and then glanced back at me. My father suddenly stood up and poured himself a Scotch. He looked inside the glass and swirled the liquid around slowly as he thought. He took a big gulp and smacked his mouth.

“Well, I’m going to call the sheriff’s office and see what they can do about this,” he said. “This is downright asinine, Everett. I just don’t understand what gets in your head sometimes. This no way to live your life. You’re reckless and ignorant and at times I’m downright embarrassed to have you as a son.”

“Edward, please. The boy has feelings you know,” my mother said in my defense.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about his feelings! It’s time he grows up, wise up, and make something of his life.”

He poured himself another drink and swallowed it hard. I noticed he was slightly shaking.

“Where did you meet this hussy anyways?” he asked me.

“Outside a coffee shop in the city. There was a fight on the sidewalk, and we just got to talking. Her name is Helen, and she looks like Simka Gravas.”

“Who?” my dad barked.

“Latka’s wife from that television show TAXI.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Everett! When are you going to start living in the real world!?”

My father slammed another two fingers of Scotch and went for the phone.

My mother stopped him, “Wait. Maybe Everett can track her down. Find her. I can watch the baby until then.”

“Oh, hell no!” my father bellowed as he turned. “I know what you’re up to lady. I know how you’re always nagging about having another baby, and then here comes Everett out of the clouds holding one and he plops it right into your lap. No mam, we’re not taking on someone else’s baby. No way. I won’t have it. Not in my house.”

“Edward, don’t you think we should at least try to help our son? This is too much for him to handle alone.”

My father looked at me like he wanted to drag me out back, kill me, and leave me to rot in the woods.

“I already tried to find her,” I said. “She just vanished. She could be in California for all I know.”

“Well, what about the dad? Where the hell is he in all this mess?” my father asked.

“There is no dad,” I replied.

“There’s always a dad,” my mother pointed out as she held the baby up and smiled. “Does the baby have a name?”

“Maine.”

“Like the state?”

“Yes.”

“That’s nice,” my mother said.

“She probably screwed a sailor before he went off to England,” my father groaned, and then he walked off to another part of the house.

The doorbell rang and I craned my neck to look out the window and I saw my someday brother-in-law’s BMW pull into the drive. He’s a pretentious asshole by the way.

“Oh sugar!” my mother said, “I forgot all about Emily and Frost coming for a visit. I swear, Everett, you have the worst timing when it comes to your problems.”

TO BE CONTINUED


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Wallflowers of Chemistry

You invented love
like dragons spit fire
the longing when you are gone,
is an immediate reaction
I’m drawn to your eyes
I’m drawn to the night
the full vibrato of darkness
the stars splashed so randomly across the universe
we can touch them if we try

Candles melt away so quickly here
this otherworld, this neverwhere
We are a collision of chemistry
wrapped in coils of electricity
The ache of our day
becomes the joy of our night
empty wine glasses and ghosts
the bluest tears,
the reddest blood

The valve has been wrestled loose
the drips drop incessantly throughout the house
Impenetrable venom
impenetrable malaise
Someone broke the switch on the furnace
and it’s coughing up hot laughing gas
and I choke on my own experiences
Am I sad?
Am I happy?
Am I a supernova,
Or just merely a simple star,
blinking randomly
from within this skull of space?

Am I a colored moon
peacefully napping
with a nightcap perched upon my point
Or am I a black hole,
sucking on everything that exists?
Or am I merely a chemical byproduct
that sits in an empty room,
waiting for night to pass
and day to begin,
when I can talk to you
and feel my heart thunder against the world

But sometimes,
I just want to be a rocking chair,
swaying gently
amidst the dust of a long-gone grandparent’s den,
listening to the easy tick of the clock on the mantle,
watching the footsteps fade deeper into the carpet,
waiting for the sounds and smells
of a childhood lost forever
lost in the woods of autumn,
across the icy bridge of winter,
into the wet grass of spring
and along the thick dreams of summer
on some Midwestern small-town porch

And so,
when do dreams end
and reality begin?
When is night’s finale
and day’s birth?
One fluid sweep of time
and the Earth still tilts
and I still stare at the ceiling,
catching glimpses of you
in my mind’s eye
the baby’s breath in my fist falls,
landing in a blanket of fresh snow,
you pull up into the white gravel
and I can see your smile through the windshield
my heart still rattles
as the sun breaks through the clouds, and your hand clutches me in dreams.

Reborn on the Fourth of the Flies

A companion piece to Born on the Fourth of the Flies.

Uncle Sam emerged from the hallway after using the bathroom. An all-American stench followed him as he wiped his hands on his patriotic suit coat.

“You don’t have any towels in your bathroom. How do you expect people to dry their hands?”

The man looked up at him. “Sorry about that.”

Uncle Sam took his seat in the chair beside the man, a table with an ugly lamp atop it between them. “And it’s terribly dirty in there. Don’t you ever clean?”

“I try. Doesn’t matter.”

Uncle Sam studied him for a moment with grave concern. “Why don’t you just leave? You shouldn’t have to live like this. She obviously doesn’t give a damn about you.”

“You’re right. She doesn’t.”

“I am right… By the way, what was your name again?”

“Never gave it.”

“Well, are you? Because you have to… “I’m Uncle Sam. It’s a federal regulation.”

“Kirby Hurricane.”

“Are you sure? That sounds completely made up. Are you trying to hide something from me?”

“It’s not made up. It’s my real name. Do you want to see my papers?”

“No. Damn. I should have known that. I think my mind is slipping.” Uncle Sam sighed. “I guess it’s expected when you get to be as old as I am.”

“Can you die?” Kirby bluntly asked with all seriousness.

Uncle Sam thought about it for a moment. “I’m not sure. I suppose eventually I will… Seeing how things are going lately. You know,” he gestured with a big thumb toward the door. “Out there.”

“And that’s the very reason I don’t leave, I suppose,” Kirby said, now sitting up straighter in his chair, more engaged. “There’s nowhere worth going to. The idiots are everywhere.”

“Indeed, they are. The best advice I can give you is… Live your life around them, not among them.”

“I don’t know if I understand what you mean,” Kirby said.

“Don’t expend so much energy concerned with what those ass hats are doing in the world. Live your own life. Be your own person. You can’t change them, so don’t bother trying.”

“It’s frustrating.”

“It is, but you’re not alone. Take some comfort in that.”

“Thanks, Uncle Sam. Do you want another beer?”

“I believe I do.”

Kirby got up and went to the kitchen. “There’s only a couple left,” he called out, invisible. “What do you say we get some more and take a run out to the desert.”

He came back into the room and handed Uncle Sam the cold can of beer. “What are we going to do in the desert?” the icon of American patriotism wanted to know.

“Enjoy the solitude and get loaded… Maybe we can try to kill you, too. You know, just to see if it works.”

“Hmm… Such lofty goals in life you have, but intriguing just the same. I’m in.”


Kirby looked at the van parked in his driveway and nearly had to shield his eyes because it was so blaring in color and flare. “My God,” Kirby said. “Are we going to go drink and try to kill you in this thing?”

“Whaaat?” Uncle Sam scoffed. “It’s my USA love van. You don’t like the sparkly star-spangled banner décor.” He went to pull open the back doors to show it off. “Just take a look inside.”

Kirby poked his head into the back of the van and looked around. “Jesus,” he said. “Looks like Captain America exploded in here.”

“Yes,” Uncle Sam agreed. “It is quite patriotic, isn’t it? Well, should we climb aboard and get going?”

“All right,” Kirby Hurricane agreed as he went to the passenger-side. “But drive very carefully.”


The two stopped at a dirty convenience store called Fresco and bought beer and snacks. Uncle Sam paid with his American Express card.

“Can I get one of those burritos?” Kirby asked him.

Uncle Same looked into the case where the burritos sat under a heat lamp. It looked like an open-air morgue to him.

“You want to eat one of those?”

“Yeah. They’re good. You should try one.”

“That’s not really American fare… But I suppose it won’t hurt having one just this once,” Uncle Sam said. He looked up at the clerk. “And two of those dead things you got in the case there.” The clerk nodded, reached in, and bagged two burritos seperately.

“Hot sauce?” the clerk wanted to know.

Uncle Same looked at Kirby. “Do we want hot sauce?”

“Yes. Extra hot sauce.”


The two sat inside the van in the parking lot at the Fresco convenience store. Kirby chomped on the burrito, squirting hot sauce on the end before each bite. Uncle Sam was more hesitant. He nimbly nibbled at the burrito to get a feel for it.

“What do you think?” Kirby wanted to know between bites.

“It’s uh… Different, I guess.”

“Oh, come on. Just go for it. You could die soon… And with never eating a Fresco burrito? That’s bad juju for the afterlife.”

Uncle Sam turned to look at him like he was crazy. “I seriously think there is worse juju for the afterlife than not eating one of these things.”

“Like what?”

“Huh?”

“What’s your biggest regret in life?” Kirby Hurricane wondered aloud.

Uncle Sam tore into the burrito with his teeth, chewed, thought about the question. He looked at the slop of food in his hand. “Eating this thing.” Then he rolled down the window and tossed it out into the parking lot. “It’s disgusting.”

“That’s littering.”

Uncle Sam looked about the world around him. It was dirty. Gross. A huge human stain. A spill of recklessness and uncaring. “I don’t think it really matters,” he said.

“What if everyone thought like that? We’d be under 20 miles of garbage by now. Suffocating.”

“We probably already are and then some… They just push it into big piles and holes and caves. They try to hide it, but it’s still there. We live in a huge garbage dump. One gross little burrito isn’t going to matter.”

Kirby sighed, took the last bite of his burrito, and looked out the window. “Let’s get going.”


Uncle Sam followed Kirby’s directions and soon they were out of the city and in the desolate desert. They took a turn off the main road, followed a gravel pathway, and parked near a clump of salt cedars by a slow-moving stream.

“We can walk from here,” Kirby said. Then he paused and looked at Uncle Sam who seemed to be worried about something. “Are you ready for this?”

The red, white, and blue gray man looked back at him and struggled to smile. “I guess.”

The two walked along a narrow trail single file. They didn’t say anything to each other at first. The hot sun was beating down. It was bright, too — forced the eyes to squint. Each one was tipping back a beer that was slowly warming.

Kirby drained his bottle quickly and tossed it off to his side. “No worries,” he said. “The world is already a junk heap, right?”

Uncle Sam scoffed. “You’re not ever going to get past that burrito incident, are you?”

“Probably not,” Kirby answered. “But we’ll need to drain these beers pretty quick before they lose their chill.”

They found a shaded patch beneath a leaning stand of salt cedars near the small river that trickled slowly like old man pee. They set down their things, stretched, yawned. Kirby plopped down into the dry sand and popped open another bottle of beer.

“Take a load off, old timer,” Kirby said to Uncle Sam, looking up at the tall lanky man of stars and stripes.

“I’ll try,” he said, and the old man worked to bend his old body and eased himself down to the ground with an audible creak. “Oh my,” Uncle Sam groaned. “I feel like I’m 246 years old.”

Kirby cracked open another beer for him and passed it over. “Drink up.”


The two relaxed in the shade near the small river in the desert that fed nearby shallow lakes. God breathed over them in the form of a hot wind. They watched a dust devil dance in the distance. Soon there was a small pile of empty beer bottles before them.

“How many have we had now?” Uncle Sam asked with slurred speech.

Kirby drunkenly tried to focus on the pile of bottles. “Looks like about 72.”

Uncle Sam flapped a lazy hand at him. “No way. That’s preposterous,” he said, and he sounded like Sylvester the Cat spitting out the Ps.

Kirby looked around for some more beer in a panic. “Oh shit. I think we’re finally out.”

Uncle Sam fell backward in the dirt and fell asleep. Kirby got up, took off all his clothes, and waded into the river.


It was dark out when Uncle Sam’s eyes popped open. His head ached and his mouth was dry. The universe was spread out above him, like star jam spread across a burnt piece of toast. The moon was round, bright and it lit up the desert enough that one didn’t need any kind of light to see. The old man was impressed by the wonder of it all. He rolled his head toward where Kirby was sleeping. He was still naked.

“Hey.” Uncle Sam snapped. “Hey! Kirby! Wake up and put some god damn clothes on. Your thingy is sticking up like a flagpole.”

Kirby stirred, flapped his tongue in his dry mouth and groaned. “Whaaat?”

“Get up and get some clothes on! This is very uncomfortable for me!”

“All right, all right, all right. Jeebus,” Kirby complained.

Uncle Sam got up slowly and turned away. “Let me know when you have your clothes back on, will ya.”

Kirby dressed in the ivory tainted darkness. He yawned, stretched. Coughed a bit. Spit into the night. “Are you ready to die?”

Uncle Sam slowly turned to look at him. “I guess we can try and see what happens. What’s your plan?”

“I thought we might try drowning?”

“Drowning? In the desert?”

“Yeah,” Kirby began to sluggishly explain. “There are these round pools of water out here rung by red sandstone. They’re deep, dark, impossible to get out of once you get in. They’re called ink pots. I figure I can push you into one of those and that should be it… I mean, you may struggle for a bit.”

Uncle Sam grimaced. “That sounds horrible. That even sounds like torture. I thought it would be something quick and easy. Not so… Dramatic.”

“Are you scared?”

“Yeah… I’m scared. Wouldn’t you be?”

“It does seem like a pretty heinous way to go.”

“Yes. It does. I don’t want to do it. I can’t believe you nearly talked me into it.”

“You can’t back out now.”

“Why not?”

“Because… You said you wanted to in the beginning.”

“That was before I knew you planned to torture me in an ink pot.”

Kirby got quiet. He looked up at space and then a thought hit him.

“Okay. How about I do it.”

“What? Why?”

Kirby looked down at the ground. “Oh, come on. We both know my life doesn’t matter.”

Uncle Sam was surprised by his friend’s comment. “What? Of course, it matters.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Yes. It does. Look at you. You’re young. You’re…”

“And what?”

“Oh, come on,” Uncle Sam said, playing him off. “You’re drunk. I’m drunk. We’re being stupid. Let’s just go home.”

“You can’t come up with one single thing that makes my life matter, can you?” Kirby beamed through the moonlight.

Uncle Sam sighed. “I cannot tell a lie. I’m afraid you don’t have much value in this world. I’m sorry to say it.”

“I though it was George Washington that never told a lie?”

“Really?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

“Well, there you go… See, you do have value. You’re smart. You remember facts.”

“What good has it done me? Smart doesn’t count in a world overflowing with stupid.”

“You’re being negative,” Uncle Sam scolded. “Think about the good things once in a while.”

They both looked at each other. Some desert bird made a noise in the night.

“Let’s go,” they said in unison.


Uncle Sam and Kirby Hurricane stood on the great salted rim of a large desert inkpot and looked down into it. It was blackness on blackness. They could hear a slight ripple in the water, the surface of which sat at least 10 feet below the top ring of rock.

“Do you think there are any wild animals in there?” Uncle Sam asked, concerned.

“Animals? Like what?”

“Carnivorous fish?”

“No. The water is very brackish.”

“Some fish like brackish water.”

Kirby rolled his eyes at him, shook his head.

“Who’s going to go first?” Uncle Sam impatiently wanted to know.

“We go at the same time,” Kirby demanded. “On three.”

“Wait. Wait. What’s the hurry?”

“Quit stalling Sam. We made a pact. An agreement. Let’s just get it done with.”

Uncle Sam sighed and looked down in the water again. It was now streaked with a sliver of moonlight.

“All right. I’ve lived long enough. I’m ready.”

“Let’s just close our eyes and step off the edge,” Kirby instructed.

“Got it,” Uncle Sam said.

“One, two… Three.”


There was a splash. Uncle Sam looked down and saw his friend struggling in the water.

“What are you doing!?” Kirby yelled out, angrily slapping the top of the water. “Jump!”

Uncle Sam cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled down at him. “I’m afraid I can’t do that after all. I’m a very important person who does very important work. My life must go on.”

“What!? Then help me out! Please,” Kirby begged, and then he swam to the side of the pool and tried to get out, but the angle of the rocks made it impossible. “Get me out of here!” He screamed up.

Uncle Sam stood erect, placed his hands on his hips, and just stayed there at the edge of the ink pot to listen. He heard splashing. He heard struggling. He heard gurgling and cursing. He heard a string of frantic cries: “Help! Help me!”

Uncle Sam waited until it all stopped before he finally walked away.


Uncle Sam was driving in his star-spangled love van on a desolate highway toward the bulbous glow of the city. He was listening to his favorite band: America. He mumbled along to the song A Horse with No Name.

When he reached the curving overpass, he took the exit ramp and turned left at the bottom onto the main road that dissected the town. The contrast from desert night to neon strip was rejuvenating for him. He moved with the thick traffic. Other drivers honked at him and gave him thumbs up in admiration of his Americanized van. He smiled proudly, waved at most of them. He sped up to make it through the next intersection before a red light.

Then the van violently shifted to the right when another vehicle rammed into him at high speed. The impact was devastating. His last memory was a menagerie of shattered glass, twisted metal, broken bones, blood spraying, exploding fireworks, pain, darkness. He felt his American soul drifting away to an otherworldly cloud.

A short while after Uncle Sam arrived to wherever he was, Kirby Hurricane came out of some heavenly mist and walked toward him. He stopped a few feet away from the tall man, now shined to perfection in the afterlife like Oz. Kirby was clutching something in his hand. It was a Fresco burrito, and he cocked his arm back and threw it up into Uncle Sam’s face as hard as he could. It made a sloppy smacking sound and he watched with pleasure as the beans and cheese and sauce dripped down Uncle Sam’s old face, into his scary beard, and onto his patriotic suit.

Sam stood there, shocked, trying to wipe away the mess. Kirby laughed out loud before he turned and walked away, saluting him with a stiff middle finger thrust straight up in the air.

END  


BumBuna O’Brien and the Evolution Oven (2)

The next morning, they docked at Rocky Point, and it was indeed a rocky point that jutted out into the sea like a stony gray elbow. There was a tall white lighthouse and a small harbor, and an odd quaint village that rested neatly at the crest of a steep hill.

“I’ll be at the general store gathering my sundries and such,” Pierre Moose said, and he pointed. “You should find the padre at the big red church. I’ll meet you back here when you’re ready. Good luck with figuring out who and what you are.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you later.”

BumBuna O’Brien made his way up the hill and into the town. He saw the steeple of the red church and it pierced the sky like a holy needle threading clouds. He went to the door and pulled but it was locked. There was an old woman nearby sweeping the walk. She was hunched over and dressed in a sweater and had a purple kerchief over her head. She stopped and looked at him.

“Church is only open on Sunday,” she said with a tired, gnarled voice.

“I need to see the preacher; Reverend Abrams I believe. It’s rather urgent. Do you know where I could find him?”

The old lady pointed with a crooked arm.

“Out back there at the house. That’s where he lives. Not sure if he’s awake yet though. He’s a nightcrawler. Takes to drinking, too. But I suppose he’s the best we can get around here.”

“Thanks. I’ll see if he’s in.”

BumBuna O’Brien made his way around to the rear of the church and there sat an old white house, crooked and quaint, with a nice yard and a little stone fountain with a statue of some bearded saint pouring the water from a jug. He went to the door and knocked. Someone stirred inside. He knocked again.

“Hello?” he called through the door. “I need to speak with a minister.”

The door suddenly jerked open and there stood a pot-bellied man; unshaven, unruly, droopy in the eyes and jowls.

“Yes? Who are you?”

“My name is BumBuna O’Brien. Pierre Moose said you may be able to help me.”

“Pierre Moose? I don’t know anyone named Pierre Moose. It sounds made up. What did you need?”

“I need to speak to you about a spiritual matter, I think. It’s quite important to me.”

“All right, hold on. Let me at least put some clothes on,” the preacher grumbled.

He closed the door and BumBuna O’Brien sat down on the stoop and waited. He listened as the holy statue dribbled the water into the small pool. The sound made him suddenly realize he had to relieve himself. The door finally opened, and the preacher, now properly dressed in black with white collar, invited him in.

“Could I use your bathroom?” BumBuna O’Brien immediately asked.

“Well, I suppose. It’s down the hall there, on the left. Please excuse the mess. My cleaning woman has gotten lazy in her old age.”

BumBuna O’Brien relieved himself in a dirty toilet, flushed, and then came back out. The preacher was sitting at the kitchen table eating toast and sipping coffee.

“I hope you don’t mind if I eat my breakfast while we talk. Would you like some coffee?”

“No. Thank you. Do you have any carrot juice?”

The preacher eyed him strangely. “No. I’m afraid I don’t, but why don’t you tell me what you’re so concerned about.”

“Well, I fear I’m severely delusional. That’s what Pierre says. But I think he may be right. I’m afraid I just don’t know who I really am.”

“That’s not so unusual. Many people are unsure of who they really are.”

“But tell me. When you look at me, what do you see?”

The preacher sipped at his coffee and glared at BumBuna O’Brien over the rim of his cup.

“I see someone I’ve never met before. I see a stranger in my house.”

“I mean physically. What do you see?”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

“Am I a man?”

The preacher hesitated and looked at him strangely.

“Of course, you’re a man. Some sort of man. I don’t really see what you’re getting at.”

“I’ve lived my entire life thinking I was a rabbit.”

“A rabbit? If this is some sort of joke, well, then I’d rather not be a part of it.”

“So, I don’t look like a rabbit to you?”

“No. Of course not. That’s preposterous.”

“I really thought I was a rabbit.”

“Son, perhaps you should be seeking counsel from a psychiatrist, not a preacher.”

“You think I’m crazy?”

“No. But perhaps your friend was correct in his diagnosis of severely delusional.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do to help me?”

“What do you expect me to do?”

“Make me feel better about it. Can’t you heal me or work a miracle or at least pray for me?”

The preacher took one last crunch of toast and final gulp of coffee, and then looked at him square in the eye.

“A man is born. A man lives life. Then a man dies. You are a flesh and blood man. Don’t doubt that. I will pray for you, but I encourage you to seek the advice of a medical doctor. There are many medications available to those with such afflictions of the mind that you seem to be in possession of.”

“Pills? You want me to take pills? I came here for cleansing of the heart and spirit. I came here for a sense of peace and understanding, and this is what you give me? That I should take pills?”

“Please understand. I have limitations in what I can do. I’m not God himself. You came to me for advice and that is my advice. You need to be under a doctor’s care. Now, if you don’t mind, I have some things I must get done today. I wish you well.”


The preacher stood and went to the door and held it open. BumBuna O’Brien got up and walked out. The door closed behind him with a slam. He heard the lock slide into its casing. He went to the holy man statue and ran his hand over the stone. It was cool to the touch. He pushed on it. It wobbled. He pushed again, harder, and the statue fell. The bearded saint broke at the neck. His head rolled, then stopped. The holy face looked directly up at BumBuna O’Brien, gently smiling. Then the stone lips began to move.

“Aren’t you going to put me back together?”

BumBuna O’Brien froze. His heart started pounding hard within his chest.

“Don’t just stand there. Help me!” it said.

BumBuna O’Brien carefully leaned over the stone head and looked at it. The face was alive and human to him. He rubbed at his eyes and slapped himself.

“I must be going fucking insane!” he yelled out.

It was then that the boozy padre opened the door and stuck his head out.

“Hey!” he yelled. “What are you doing out there? Get out of here!”

Reverend Abrams stepped out from the house completely and that’s when he saw that the beloved statue was broken.

“Why did you do that!?”

BumBuna O’Brien looked back at him. “It was an accident. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t lie to me, brother. I was watching you from the window. You deliberately knocked it over. That’s vandalism and I’m calling the constable.”

The reverend hurried inside to ring the law and BumBuna O’Brien panicked.

“Shit! Shit! Shit! What do I do?”

“Run you fool,” the stone head said. “But wait! Take me with you.”

BumBuna O’Brien snatched the head up in his hands and it looked even creepier close up.

“What about your body?”

“There’s no time, and it would be much too heavy. I’d rather just be a head than lying dead somewhere in a pile of stones. Now let’s go!”

BumBuna O’Brien ran and ran and ran until he could run no more. When he was near the dock, he saw Pierre Moose there loading sacks into the little boat. He rushed to meet him.

“Come on! We need to get out of here,” BumBuna O’Brien yelled.

Pierre looked up, confused. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ll explain it later, but right now we need to go.”

“All right then. Well, get in, and what the hell is that?”

“It’s a head. Come on! Row!”

Pierre took his place and stroked the oars as hard as he could. “There’s a storm coming in. Things might get a bit rough out here. But don’t worry. I’ve done this countless times.”

The water was choppy, and the bobbing motion of the small boat was churning BumBuna O’Brien’s stomach like an old timer humping butter. He put his head over the side and spewed into the sea. Pierre rowed like a madman and there was no sign of the law at the shore and BumBuna O’Brien felt better about that. He set the stone head down on the bottom of the boat and held his head in his hands. Pierre thought he was crying.

“What’s wrong with you?”

BumBuna O’Brien looked up and tears were flying out of his face like Niagara Falls.

“I don’t know. I just got really scared back there. That preacher was no help at all. He was actually kind of mean.”

“Well, then I’m sorry I suggested him. I was just trying to help.”

“It’s not your fault. I’m just fucking deranged.”

“It’s all right now. We’ll be to the island soon and you can rest. You just need to calm down.”

“I’m not good at calming down. My nerves are on fire.”

“Are you going to tell me about the head?”

BumBuna O’Brien looked down at it as it gently rolled about at the bottom of the boat. The eyes were closed. The face was still, like stone should be.

“It spoke to me.”

“The head?”

“Yes.”

“That’s impossible. It’s made of stone. If it’s true, make it talk now.”

BumBuna O’Brien picked it up and stared straight into the face. There was nothing. It was just stone as it always had been.

“Hello? Where did you go. It’s okay, this is my friend.”

The eyes suddenly became human again and opened. The jaw twitched. The lips fumbled to speak.

“Where are we?” it said.

“We’re on a little boat heading to an island in the middle of nowhere. This is Pierre.”

The face stretched to look at the lean, gray man rowing the boat.

“Hello. Thank you for letting me ride along.”

“That’s incredible,” Pierre said. “How can it be? Stone does not speak.”

“He’s a holy stone,” BumBuna O’Brien said.

“I am Saint Pedro, the patron saint of migrant workers and loose Latino women. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“I never heard of a Saint Pedro,” Pierre said. “I think he’s bluffing. This is some kind of evil spell or curse. I think you should throw it over the side.”

“No!” the head of Saint Pedro protested. “Please don’t do that. I’m not a bad saint. I just do bad things.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Pierre.

“I mean, I am the imperfect saint. I am the sinful saint. I’m the most human of all saints. You’ll be able to relate to me.”

“Will you be mean to us?” BumBuna O’Brien asked.

“Of course not. Not on purpose anyways.”

“That’s not very reassuring,” Pierre said. “I think we should restrain him until we can be sure he’s not going to do us in.”

“How?” BumBuna O’Brien wondered.

“Put him in that burlap sack there and tie it tight.”

“That seems a bit drastic,” BumBuna O’Brien said. “He hasn’t done anything so far.”

“Just the same, I’d rather be safe than sorry. Here, look. You can see the island now.”

BumBuna O’Brien put the head into the bag and synched it tight. Then he looked out at the horizon and there he saw a mammoth island of dark stone and deep green trees blooming in a rolling mist. The cold waves slapped against the cliffs. The sky above hovered like a bruised womb of fog and cloud. It was menacing to him, yet it breathed sanctuary.

TO BE CONTINUED. THIS WAS THE SECOND OF THREE PARTS.


Hairy Pancakes and a Bad Honeymoon

It was a warm morning in late July when I woke up alone on the wrong side of the world. The bathroom mirror greeted me with a reflection of disorientation, mussed hair, and puffy eyes. I tried to shake myself awake, for this morning I was to meet my bride and have breakfast at the downtown café we frequent for our marriage meetings. I had my notes prepared. I was going to lay it on the line. Little did I know what was to come.

I rode the curving roadways for miles. The wind struck like a moist dryer drying towels. The engine hummed like a good motor should. I thought about Detroit. I thought about Japan. I pretty much decided in my own head that I was going to go for the pancakes. With sliced banana. With sweet maple syrup. And a good cup of coffee. My spirits were slightly elevated. I thought about my love. She was waiting there in her car, pulled up to the curb, diagonally. I forgot to bring the bandage like she had asked. My memory is slipping like an old lady on wet winter ice. Damn it. I should have written it down.

We met up. Did the ritualistic kiss thing. I may have palmed her butt a little. It’s okay. I’m allowed. We went in and ordered. I laid out my plan to the clerkie. She took it all down, I guess. We found ourselves a table. A tall college kid came in and said he knew us. He joined us at the table, and we all waited for food. The clerkie brought us silverware wrapped in napkins, but I was missing a fork. I cried out something like, “How am I supposed to eat pancakes without a fork!” The whole place got silent. People were stunned I suppose. My wife and the college kid were embarrassed. Reminded me of when I was in the Kroger the other day and some guy suddenly blurted out to his kids: “Stop fucking around!” And the whole world was in silence and shock because he really did say the F word really loud, right there in the meat department. I thought to myself: What an asshole. Yeah, that really happened.

Anyways… The pancakes came and I was eating them, and they weren’t as good as they usually were, and I was bummed about that and then I found a hair — cooked into the pancake. Yep. My wife was like “Eww.” She said I should take them back, but I was too embarrassed and figured if they were going to give me a fresh plate, they would probably stuff the pancakes down their pants and jiggle around a bit before slapping them on the plate. You know, like in that movie. I just took the loss because I have serious trust issues. My wife let me buy a cinnamon roll. My woman is good about that. Caring and such. She was very sorry that happened. Now we’re going to take a nap together and that’s pretty good stuff.

Earlier we had talked about the Memphis woman who was killed in Fiji on her honeymoon, allegedly by her husband. Um… On your honeymoon? You kill your wife on your honeymoon? Damn. Talk about a bad time. I guess getting a hair cooked into my pancakes isn’t so bad after all.   


BumBuna O’Brien and the Evolution Oven (1)

It was morning and the sun was creeping through the blinds like a ghostly brushstroke of boiled lemon-yellow light. BumBuna O’Brien sat up in bed, put on his glam glasses, and looked at his collection of Easter eggs from outer space. They were arranged neatly on tiny individual egg easels inside a glass cabinet hewn from a dark wood. He appreciated their outlandish colors and designs, and for the fact their origins were completely extraterrestrial.

BumBuna O’Brien often dreamt of living somewhere else, out in space, on some different planet that wasn’t so sore and ravaged by hate and greed. He sighed and crawled out of bed. He walked down the narrow hall to the kitchen. He tugged on a string to open the blinds covering the window above the sink. Carrot shavings lay there, now drying and sticking to the stainless steel. He turned on the water and flushed them down the drain. He put on a kettle of water for some hot tea and looked out the window. Bag worms hung heavy and grotesque in some of the tree limbs, and the heat bugs were already shimmering and screeching. He watched ruby red cardinals fly through the leaves. The kettle began to whistle. He carefully poured the hot water over the tea bag in a cup and watched it steam. He carefully carried it to his table and sat down. He sipped too soon, and it burnt his bunny beard.

“Damn it all to hell!” he screamed, and then with one swift swipe of his paw, the cup of hot tea flew across the room and crashed onto the floor.

“Can’t I even allow myself one cup of tea without being all wumbly bumbly about it!?”

He slammed his head against the top of the table repeatedly until it really hurt — then the old green phone on a table began to ring. Once, twice, three times, four.

“Hello.”

“What’s wrong? You sound grumpy.”

“Caroline?”

“Yes. It’s me. Who would you think it was?”

“Where in the hell have you been? I haven’t heard from you in three days.”

“I’ve been away.”

“What’s going on with you? You sound strange, Caroline.”

She paused for a long time. “I’ve been thinking.”

“Well?”

 “I’ve been thinking that maybe we should start seeing other rabbits.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means exactly what it sounds like, exactly what I said.”

“No. It means you want to start seeing other rabbits.”

“Yes. We’re getting stale.”

Sarcastically he breathed, “Are we bread?”

“Of course, we’re not bread, you dumb bunny! But I think it’s time to explore other meadows.”

BumBuna O’Brien could feel the venom boiling in his guts and it was crawling up and stinging his throat like acid.

“So, what you’re really saying is that you’ve already started seeing another rabbit.”

There was some silence and maybe even a little whimper on the other end of the line.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re not!”

“Things happen. Rabbits change. You’ve changed. You’re not the same silly little bunny I used to know.”

“Who is he?”

He could hear her swallow.

“Carlos.”

“Carlos!? Carlos is a douchebag! And he’s Cuban.”

“You’re a douchebag! And a racist pig! I hate you!”

“Fuck you, Caroline! Just fuck off!… And I’m a rabbit, not a pig.”

“Don’t talk to me that way! Don’t ever talk to me that way again! Maybe if you weren’t such a bum and maybe if you knew how to satisfy me — then maybe I’d still love you.”

“I’ve satisfied you plenty of times, Caroline — don’t lie to yourself for the sake of that over the ocean Caribbean hack.”

“You’ve never satisfied me the way Carlos satisfies me. I don’t have to fake it with him. You’re not even a real rabbit.”

“I never thought I’d say this, Caroline. But I really hate you right now. I hate you to the end of the universe and then some! Don’t ever talk to me again. Enjoy your future life running to the sun in your silver rum truck!”

BumBuna O’Brien slammed the phone down on the table repeatedly until it was in pieces and then ripped its wire completely out of the wall. He screamed out a whole belly full of bunny pain. He was dripping and panting, and his heart was racing with fury. His head drooped and he began to weep softly in the sparkling sun fuzz of a new day, a day which he already hated.


BumBuna O’Brien stretched out on his bed, smoked some high-grade grass, and stared at the ceiling. He felt really goopy inside. He felt used up and spit out. He felt like that old bottle of ketchup that was almost empty, inverted in the refrigerator, the cap all sticky and crusted up. His stomach could barely take what his mind was feeding it.

“I’ll never fall in love with another rabbit ever again. Yarbles to you, Caroline. Big bolshy yarbles to you!” as Alex DeLarge would surely say.

He laid on his bed for a very long time and then he fell asleep, roughly, and he dreamed brutal dreams of betrayal.

It was a while later, perhaps a different day, when BumBuna O’Brien’s eyes flickered open as he awoke to the sound of someone furiously pounding on his front door.

“Hold on a minute! Jesus effin’ Christ! Who’s there?”

“It’s Caroline.”

“Caroline?” he wondered, and he pressed his face against the door. “What the hell do you want?”

“I’ve left some things here and I would like to pick them up.”

“Tough shit! I’m busy right now. I’ll set them outside for you later.”

“I have a right to get my things. I can call the Rabbit Patrol and then you’ll have to let me in.”

“You’re being a real pain in the ass, Caroline. A real pain in the ass!”

BumBuna O’Brien reluctantly unlocked the door and slowly pulled it open. He peered out at her. He could smell her recent sex with Carlos. It drove him mad.

“Come in but make it quick. I’d rather not look at you more than I have to.”

“I won’t be long. Just a few things in the bathroom — and my records. Where are my records?”

BumBuna O’Brien pointed to the cabinet where the stereo sat.

“Right there. Where else would they be?”

“You don’t have to be snotty.”

“Excuse me. I suppose I should just hop up and down with joyful glee. Perhaps if I were sunbathing nude on a Cuban beach and sipping carrot juice with my lover, maybe then I’d be a bit more cheerful.”

“Grow up.”

“Shut up.”

“Fuck you!”

“Fuck you, too!”

Caroline Bunny quickly gathered the rest of her things and made toward the door.

BumBuna O’Brien stopped her. “Hey wait. That one’s mine.”

“What?”

“INXS — Greatest Hits. That’s my record.”

Caroline was flustered. “Here. It’s a lousy record anyways. I always hated it when you played it.”

“I thought you liked it.”

“I lied.”

“Good grief, Caroline. You’re a real piece of work.”

“He killed himself.”

“Who did?”

“The singer of that crappy band you like.”

“Yeah. Everyone knows that.”

“Well, maybe you should do the world a favor and do the same thing.”

“You have a hunk of dirty coal for a heart. Do you know that Caroline?”

Her tearing eyes darted away.

“Goodbye forever,” she whimpered.

“Adios, trampola,” BumBuna O’Brien said, and he slammed the door so hard that the entire house rattled.

BumBuna O’Brien suddenly felt all alone in the world. He even felt bad about the way he spoke to Caroline. He took a framed photograph of them together at the Deer Park Carrot Farm and dropped it into the trash can. Then he stomped it down. The glass cracked. He poured the trash can onto the living room carpet and kicked at the pieces madly. He didn’t care. It was over. It was over forever, and his stomach suddenly pained him. He lit a scented candle and sat on the couch. He wanted to call a friend, but his phone was all smashed up and its connection to the world dismantled. He smoked some more of that high-grade grass and disappeared into another dimension.

This time it was an empty, cold beach, not a tropical one. The water was gray and smashing hard against the shore. The cloud ceiling was thick and hung low. The horn of some invisible lighthouse groaned in the distance. He thought he saw someone rowing a boat in the water. He moved closer to the water’s edge and realized it was someone rowing a boat in the water.

“Hey there!” someone called out. “Can you help me pull it ashore?”

“All right!” BumBuna O’Brien called out. “Where did you come from?”

“Hold on. That’s right. Reel me in like a big fat fish.”

The boat hit the shore, the stranger jumped off, and together the two pulled it in until it fit snugly in the growling sand.

“Thanks,” the stranger said. “Who are you?”

“My name is BumBuna O’Brien. I’m a rabbit. Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Pierre Moose. It’s very nice to know you.”

“So, where did you come from? All I see is water.”

“All in good time, my strange little friend. Why don’t we build a little fire? I’m quite cold from being out there so long. Then we can talk.”

“I don’t have any matches.”

“I do. A good seaman always has matches.”

“Why?”

“Well, for situations just like this.”


Pierre Moose was a tall, lean man with a face chiseled by the salty air. His hair was long and gray and now soaked by the sea spray. The hair matched the color of his speckled beard that was kept cropped close to the skin of his face — it surely felt like sandpaper. His eyes, stone gray and constantly scanning the horizon, looked weary and full of ghost stories. He wore a black raincoat, unbuttoned, and beneath it a heavy cable-knit sweater with a turtle-neck collar. His dark pants were puffy and dirty, and he wore rubber boots that went up to just below his knees.

“Have you been fishing?” BumBuna O’Brien wondered aloud.

“Fishing? Oh no. I’m not a fisherman. I am an adventurer.”

“What kind of adventures?”

“Ah, too many to mention. Why don’t you gather some wood before I freeze to death,” he instructed.

BumBuna O’Brien went off toward a cluster of trees and brambles that grew away from the shore. He turned to look back at the man, now kneeling in the sand, and he was rubbing his hands together in the cold and making colors float off from the tips of his fingers, like an emergency flare or maybe birthday candle sparkles for a circus clown. It was strange, really kind of eerie and hallucinatory, BumBuna O’Brien thought, and he wondered if he had stumbled upon some sort of magician or old sea warlock.

“What the hell does he need matches for if he can do that?” BumBuna O’Brien asked himself. “And I wonder if he knows anything about sailing to Cuba — I’d sure like to kill that Carlos bastard.”

BumBuna O’Brien gathered what wood he could and returned toward the spot on the beach where Pierre had decided to build the fire. He was staring off into the waters, smoking an old pipe, and thinking deeply so it seemed. BumBuna O’Brien dropped the paltry amount of wood onto the ground and the man looked at it and then up at him.

“I suppose I should have gathered the wood. I didn’t consider your small arms.”

“I can get more.”

“It’s enough for now.”

Pierre Moose arranged the sticks like an inverted cone and stuffed kindling at the bottom. He fumbled in his pockets for a box of matches and pulled one out and struck it against the side.

“They’re a little damp,” he said, continuing to strike until it lit. He cupped the flame with his bony hand and set it to the kindling. It took right away and soon the flames rose and the sticks took to it and there was fire.

BumBuna O’Brien felt the heat wash over him and it gave him some peace in the growing darkness.

The man stood up tall and he was somewhat menacing in the light of the fire.

“Stay here. I’m going to gather more wood.”

BumBuna O’Brien watched the lanky stranger stroll off in the direction of the wooded area. He seemed like some lost soul or phantom searching for good in a world with so little. He watched the fire and listened to the waves crash. He felt alone, wayward, and unsettled. He missed Caroline. Yes, she was unsavory and cruel, he thought, but the good memories soiled the bad ones. The thought of her with Carlos made his guts hurt. He saw some blinking lights in the distance. A ship was passing. Then Pierre appeared without warning and dropped a pile of sticks at his side. It startled him.

“You can start feeding the fire,” Pierre told him.

BumBuna O’Brien added the sticks, and the flames grew. Then he set on a larger log. Then another. It was roaring and warm and Pierre settled into the sand and lit up his pipe again.

“You’re welcome to stay on the beach with me tonight if you like. Then in the morning I can take you to my island.”

“An island? Is that where you live?”

“I suppose you could say that. It’s not much living really. But it’s peaceful. No one bothers me out there.”

“Do you like being alone?”

“Yes. People have it all wrong nowadays. They’re all screwed up. I don’t want to be a part of that. And you? What brings you wandering to this place?”

“I’m not really sure. I got a little high.”

“You don’t know how you got here?”

“Or isn’t this just a dream?”

“Not to me.”

“I thought I was dreaming.”

“You also seem to think you’re a rabbit.”

“But I am a rabbit.”

“No. You’re just a man who thinks he’s a rabbit.”

“Why would any man want to think he was a rabbit?”

“I haven’t figured that out about you yet.”

“But just look at me. Don’t I look like a rabbit?”

Pierre Moose studied him as if he were a fine piece of art.

“Well, it is true that you’re small and you have larger than normal ears and an unruly beard. So, yes, I suppose it is possible one could mistake you for an animal, and yes, possibly a rabbit. But I assure you, friend, you are a man.”

“How can that be?” BumBuna O’Brien wondered aloud. “How can that possibly be? How have I managed to live within such a charade?”

Pierre pointed his pipe and with straightforward honesty said, “You must be severely delusional.” 

“So, then Caroline must be a real woman?”

“Caroline?”

“My girlfriend. I mean my ex-girlfriend.”

“Well, she must be a real woman. I seriously doubt any sane dame in the world would date a rabbit.”

BumBuna O’Brien dipped his head and thought about it. His mind was a gigantic jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing.

“Don’t worry about it so much,” Pierre Moose reassured him. “Tomorrow, I will take you to my island and you can be a man and even live there if you want. There’s plenty of room.”

“I’m not really sure what’s going on, Pierre. I think I need to speak to a priest.”

“A priest?”

“Yes. Do you know any?”

“Well, I think there’s an old minister who lives out on Rocky Point. A Reverend Abrams, I believe. It’s on the way. Maybe he can help you readjust your marbles. I have to stop for supplies anyway.”

“I would like to do that. Thank you.”

Pierre tapped his pipe out on the bottom of his sea boot, set more large logs on the fire, and then laid out flat on his back and folded his arms.

“I’m going to try to meditate for a while before going to sleep,” he said. “Stay close to the fire. It’s going to be cold.”

TO BE CONTINUED. FIRST OF THREE PARTS.