Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun rises on a burning forest, orange flames, a smoky sky, yellow light

The sad, the hopes, the fear that runs through the veins causing me to shake like a young leaf in Autumn. The rattle of the heart on the doorstep looking out at the falling sky; the heartbeat rose gallantly shattering like glass on stone. Ice storms in the furnace of the Empire of the Sun.

Skin shaking, bones growing, the call of the magnificent WILD… Wild and stern and crisp and calm yet full of tortures and blessings and deep blues and blazing oranges. I caught a glimpse of a young girl hunting romance in the hills, hunting passion as empty as a gaping cave and what do I know anyway … simplicity … fleeting dream and lonely tick of the clock from up there in my imaginary tower of wood and glass and sacred ass hung tightly like a cloak in a set of denim pants crisp with dirt and fresh with the fragrance of some innocent outpourings … WILD … tempting and behavior like honey and sand and the eyes of some god are upon us all as we sleep and weep and cry for kingdom come along the shaft of an arrow, along the sleeve of a bruised and oily shirt.

The mathematics of the cactus are all a conflagration, graduation to a higher pot and seed and someone please, shoot the editor inside of me … don’t look, don’t stop, don’t struggle in the web; let it simply fall away from you as you lie still and quiet in your unending struggle of life … the life, the strife, the compass and the mirror and the magnet call for you to jump out some thirty floor window and holler out loud as you plunge toward the earth helplessly and superbly to splash down like a watermelon SPLAT!

I am no clock, I am no oven, I am no star-spangled wannabe, I am simply suffering inside of me, quietly fading, baking, shaving, correlating every mystery that abounds behind my eyes and what lie am I when I cannot speak because I am all shuttered up inside like a tender doll house in the direct path of a hurricane and to create what vision for what reason and in what season; the blues come rolling in like hot waves of wonder and puzzling jaunts through another circus day of wandering and piracy and misdirected lust and the cucumber just lays there like a slaughtered calf and we are all so different yet so much alike; all of us just piece of matter and genetic code and surprise and secrets and lies and lovers in the night hollering emotions through a megaphone whilst some other hover lover peacefully sleeps like a dragon roll in some mountain of silver and put me in the coal cart, shove me off to the mine, watch me sail down the shoddy tracks, down deeper into the belly of mother earth and she swallows me whole like a banana on a wedding night belonging to some jeweled princess who believes in the makeshift power of love and a fast, expensive car and a heartbeat that blips softly and with eventual end.

Hurtling toward the poppy nose and the tender dip upon her cheek, the round room speaks volumes and tributes to the yachts skimming through the dry desert sand outside her window; the flags are rattling in the flatlands wind, the canyons calling, howling through their gated veins and open pores of rocks and shattered guts of steel and light, the green and tan skin of its narrow slit seething with a peace and tranquility and religion all about it; one could sit or kneel upon a mat or the dirt itself and go deep down inside one’s soul and for once – just LISTEN, to the nurtured call of baby’s soul wrapped around the banister of a steep stairwell to heave and all the baked canvas light eagerly bathing my eyes in a warm mallow ray calling out for one more piece of peace and in no pipe so strangely do I carve another chimney in China out of rock and red red blood and cement spit yellow golden ties of leaf and kief and the typewriter jet lands at another international airport where the well-dressed groovies count compass and watch and jet lag tear tears and the mice go scurrying about the kingdom of sweatsuits and pressed suits and shined shoes and a great burger with a slice of heavenly sweet tea to slooosh it all down with: SLOOOOSH, the juice runs through the body pipes, soaks bones and muscles and flesh and organs and settles in a pool in the belly stagnating and fornicating with the acid and the hoppers and the bunny men all boiled up in the bowels.

Cohesive paste not here, not this nochy, oh my brotha.

I spun the little silver wheel of yet another cheap cigarette lighter while looking out the window at laughter… What are you feeling anyways?

Doldrums and doll parts. Synergy and the cycloptic hard on. Cordial Campari and warm butterscotch on my acid-tainted tongue. Rubies. Opals. Black eyes and black pearls. Lust, fever, hate, greed, hidden tears and body parts. Blonde locks and warm thighs, soft skin and big sad eyes. Crying and crying like some whimsical robot on aspirin. Bullets and magnets. Pulling and pushing. Upside down and right-side up. Confusion. Malaise. Tender wishes and bitter dreams, Coal. Diamonds. Needs and wants. Religion and secular demands. I got it all wrapped up in a hard-boiled egg called brain and soul and the tortuous roll. Spider veins and spider monkeys on Judas Island down by the shore where fat men sail monkey boats and swallow big gulps of cheap American vodka. Swallow the burn, swallow the distaste, swallow the Valentine voodoo. Witchy haunts and goblin hills, fog rolling over the swamp and all is said and done good night to the knights and their knots and their restless, shivering sleeps upon the waves of cold wind Himalayan spot. Stop pressing the wrong buttons.

Refrigerated Dreams (Act 10)

A Conundrum on a Bridge

Adam Longo stood on the edge of a high railroad bridge that cut through the thick woods on the outer edge of Grainer Falls. He looked over the side and down into the deep cut of the rocky gorge, dense with gray trunks and limbs and the tethered leaflets sprouting bright colors. Water crawled along the bottom, briskly rushed over smooth stones on its journey to the horizon and beyond. Some of the stones had been spit out by the river and formed uneven, stumble-prone clusters along the shoreline on each side.

The boy wanted to end it all right then and there, he thought to himself. He wanted to fall away into the misty ether and be gone forever. The thoughts hurt his mind, his still pulse, his limbo soul. But then he thought, what good would it even do if he jumped? He would just float down like a blossomed parachute and slip into the cold, rushing water as if he were simply lying down to sleep. And even if he floated downstream and over the falls, the ones Grainer Falls is named for, he wouldn’t drown. He would still be alive because he was already dead. He could breathe through anything.

Adam Longo realized he was trapped in a life he didn’t want, and he didn’t think it was possible to go back to the life he once had. But why would he want that? What a conundrum. Conundrum. A new word he had just learned in his English class. It meant a confusing and difficult problem. That’s what his life was all the time now, so he believed.

He didn’t know what to do, and that made him angry. The anger grew and he wanted to be cruel to Rude Rudy like he had been cruel to him. He hated Rudy for pitting the entire school against him like he did in the lunchroom, for turning him into nothing but a target for everyone to pierce with their hate-minded arrows. He wanted to be cruel to all of them. He wanted to bring that school down and make them hurt for hurting him. And as his visions grew harder and deeper in scope, something soft came upon the air and touched him like maybe the tip of a wayward branch would during a walk in some far away forest. Like some tree gently reaching out and tapping you on the shoulder.

Then the sound came again, stronger along the span of the bridge, the air grabbing it and carrying it to him. A voice. “Adam!?”

He turned to look and there at the far end of the bridge stood the girl, his girl, at least the girl he hoped would be his. Veronica Genesis was there, his beacon in a glossy blue jacket over her clean school clothes, and she was waving an arm in the air and pulling the wind-tossed hair away from her face with the other hand. “Adam!” she called out again, and then she came running toward him.

She came upon him breathless and wet with the leafy autumn air full of tender chills and fire smoke spewing from leaning red brick chimneys poking out from the old homesteads nearby. Those rickety shacks in the hills were still clutching to life somehow, still sheltering another branch of a generational tree with deep roots knotted in the damp, wormy ground below. Self-appointed saviors preached away from the frames of crooked windows and the women cooked in fire-stained dented pots and the people who often had cold bellies were warmed for mere moments under the mystified gray light of day. And those people there sit upon faded and bowed porches rocking and talking and crying and deeply dreaming and even damning the whole of the world that swirled around them at times.

The girl reached out and gripped his arm from the veranda of it all. With his senses so heightened now, Veronica smelled like candied school to him. She smelled like the hallways, the wax on the floors, and the books and the paper and the glue and the paint they used in art class. She smelled like the chalk, the pencils, the erasers, the plastic lunch pails. She smelled like the bananas in the wicker basket on the cafeteria line, the cold rolls, the orange gelatin, the chocolate pudding, the green beans, the buttered corn, the mystery meat. She smelled like the whole of life and he wanted to wrap his damaged sooty wings around her and drop off the side of that bridge and together they would fall to wherever she wanted to go, and they wouldn’t crash, and they wouldn’t burn, and they wouldn’t break. Not ever.

She shook him out of the daze. “What are you doing here? What were you planning to do? Were you going to jump?”

His eyes fluttered open, and they were a different color now, a crisp golden hue, like an apple that wasn’t fully red. He looked at her with those newly baptized eyes. “How did you find me?” he asked in nearly a whisper that could have been so easily lost in the place where they were, snatched up by a screaming cloud on its way to Heaven or space. “Why did you find me?” he asked with more punch.

Veronica looked around at the vapor, the yawning blue sky, those clouds slipping through the atmosphere, the trees with their leaves crayoned golden, green, orange, and red, on the precipice of shedding the season completely. “I followed you the whole way. I wanted to see if you were okay.”

He roughly pulled away from her and he didn’t know why. Everything in him, around him, was turning inside out. “You should just go back to school. I’m nothing but a freak. Why would you want to be around a freak?”

“You’re not a freak.”

“Yes, I am. The whole school thinks so. I’m never going back there ever again. No one can make me.”

“Then what are you going to do? You can’t just hide out in the woods for the rest of your life. Someone will notice. Someone will come find you, I’m afraid. Because of the boy in the old factory.”

“They’ll never know it was me. I leave no trace of myself… Anywhere, anymore. And nobody cares enough to find me.”

“That’s not true.”

He suddenly turned to her, his simmering anger starting to rattle the lid off the pot. “Why do you do that?”

Sensing his rage notching skyward, Veronica stepped back away from him. “Do what?” she struggled to say.

“You always have an answer for everything. I’m not this, I’m not that, that’s not going to happen… Why are you so damn sure about everything! You don’t get it at all. Not me, not my life. Why don’t you do both of us a favor and just leave me alone!”

Veronica wasn’t sure what to say. She just looked at him and he was changing before her very eyes somehow, not in any distinct way, but subtly, like a slow evolution. She bit into and swallowed that moment, like taking a photo, that burning look on his face, and she felt it crawl down her insides and into her warm guts and it scared her far too much. All she could do was turn and run away from him, even as hard as that was.


The October Oatmeal Project (A Halloween Story)

White salt flats surrounding a shallow pool of light blue water. There are brownish, jagged mountains in the background below a deep blue sky.

A Strange Dream

The ghost of Wilford Brimley rode upon an ocelot across the dry-skinned floor of the salt flats out beyond the perimeter of Brigham City, Utah where he lived in a holy water and whitewashed adobe abode. He was strung out on cinnamon-tainted oatmeal and lomticks of toast as he rattled along the parched earth singing opera like Oasis. The sun was creeping up like an erection and the morning was already hotter than Hades, even in October Halloween time. That’s just the way it is where he was.

The ghost of Wilford Brimley saw visions of blue-hatted Quakers churning butter and browning biscuits out ahead somewhere on the steaming deck of the desert and he clicked his teeth and tugged on the reins so the ocelot would get the message and turn and pick up the pace because he wanted to go there to get a closer look at how they lived.

He reached down and patted the wild cat because he felt somewhat sorry for him. “I know this isn’t the right kind of environment for a cat such as yourself, and I’m sure you don’t like it, but I sure do appreciate you giving me a ride across the salt flats. At least the few trees and the hills in the distance are dappled with the colors of October. Isn’t that just fine?”

The cat hissed in return. “I don’t care about the weather, but you’re too heavy and you’re going to bend my spine and then I won’t be able to run and hunt. That’s a pretty big deal to me. I’m not made for carrying around someone who eats too much oatmeal.”

The ocelot suddenly stopped, and the ghost of Wilford Brimley flew forward and off the cat and hit the crusted dirt like a tossed sack of potatoes. He groaned some and shook his head before trying to stand. “What the hell did you do that for!? You could have at least warned me you were going to stop so abruptly.”

“I told you. You’re too heavy. I can’t keep going with you crushing my back like that. I’m not an elephant, you big goof.” And then the ocelot ran off and the ghost of Wilford Brimley watched the animal go until it disappeared into the shimmer of an oven-baked and mirrored horizon.

Grape Jones clicked his eyes and suddenly yelled out in his bed and shot straight up, panting. “What a weird dream,” he groaned out loud. He clumsily reached for his cell phone that was sitting on the table beside his bed and called his latest girlfriend.

Her voice was fresh and sparkly like a grapefruit at a sunny breakfast. “Hey, what’s shaking baked potato?”

“Hey babe. I just woke up from another one of those weird dreams.”

He heard her sigh in frustration on the other end of wireless phone space. “Were you Wilford Brimley again?”

“Yeah… But this time I was his ghost.”

“Grape, you really need to get over this Wilford Brimley shit. I’m tired of you walking around and talking like him all the time, going on and on about die-a-beetus, and eating all that god damn oatmeal. It’s ridiculous. You’re a grown man. Snap out of it and live in the real world already.”

“I know, I know. I get it, but it’s almost Halloween and I was hoping you’d let me dress up as Wilford Brimley one last time. And then after that, I’m done with it. End of story. I promise.”

“I don’t know, Grape. It’s hard for me to believe that. You’ve said the exact thing multiple times before, and you never hold true to it… And anyways, I’ve decided to go out with friends for Halloween this year.”

“What!? What do you mean go out with friends!? We had plans! I thought you were coming over to binge watch Our House and pass out Halloween treats to all the little tricksters.”

“Yeah, um. Look, Grape. You’re a nice guy and everything, but none of that is really my idea of fun. At all. I mean, it’s Halloween. I want to party, not sit around and watch Our House all night. That show’s like from the 80s, and it’s so stupid.”

“It is not stupid. It showcases some of Brimley’s finest work as an actor.”

“He’s an asshole in it.”

“He’s not an asshole. He’s just stern and overprotective because he cares about his family. Give the guy a break, his character suffered a terrible loss on the show. And it’s got some pretty good life lessons in it which frankly you could use.”

“Yeah, whatever. Look. Don’t call me anymore… And by the way, your name is stupid, too!”

The line went blank, and Grape held the phone out in front of his face in disbelief. “Yeah, whatever, too, bitch. I don’t need a Wilford Brimley hater in my life.” He set his phone back on the table, snuzzled back down into the bed, covered his entire head with the sheet, and began sobbing uncontrollably.

A Hallowed Halloween Lesson

When Grape Jones pulled the front door open, there before him stood a small cluster of children in various Halloween costumes. He himself was now craftily disguised as the infamous peddler of oatmeal and sound advice – Wilford Brimley – his hair powdered white and a matching bushy moustache wriggling away above his mouth, round-rimmed wire reading glasses perched on his nose, a rumpled white shirt, suspenders holding up his baggy chinos.

Beyond his Halloween visitors, in the streetlight-lit pinkish dark, other children were running up and down the sidewalks on either side, laughing and chattering, ringing doorbells and crying out “Trick-or-Treat!” The group now before him did the same. “Trick-or-Treat!” their chorus rang.

Grape grinned and in his best Wilford Brimley voice said to them, “Well, my, my, aren’t you a scary lookin’ bunch. Let’s see,” and he pointed at them in turn. “Looks like we got a witch, a vampire, a princess…” And his eyes fell upon a boy wearing a moppish blonde wig, oversized reading glasses and he had what looked to be blood smeared all over his mouth. “Hmm, and who are you supposed to be? A flesh-eating zombie?”

“Not a flesh-eating zombie. I’m Jefferey Dahmer.”

“Oh, Jeffrey Dahmer. Now that is scary.”

Then Grape looked upon another boy who was wearing a sun hat, sunglasses, a button-up Hawaiian shirt that was too big for him, khaki shorts, and sandals. “You must be cold in that outfit,” Grape said to him.

“Nah, I’m fine.”

“Off to the beach are ya?”

“That’s right. I’m U.S. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas. As soon as I’m done trick-or-treating, I’m headed to sunny Cancun to selfishly escape my responsibilities to the people who voted me into power.”

Grape let out a grand grandpa-like guffaw. “Now that’s a good one, young fella. A very good one… All right then, let me get all of you your treats.”

Grape ducked inside to the table near the door and grasped in one arm the kettle of oatmeal he had prepared earlier while he dipped a silver-colored ladle into the warm cereal with the other hand. “All right now, hold out your bags,” he said to them when he returned to the opened front door.

The children did as they were asked, each gladly holding out their bags or orange plastic pumpkins that never let go that smell of Halloween candy from long ago. Grape raised the first ladleful over young Jeffrey Dahmer’s bag and poured in the gloopy oatmeal. The boy looked down in absolute shock.

Grape did the same to the next child, and the next and the next, each one of them making their own unique face of disgust. “Eww,” the princess said. “My candy!” and she began to cry. When Grape got to the kid dressed as Ted Cruz on his way to holiday in Mexico, he gave him an extra heavy helping of oatmeal and sloppily plopped it in.

“What gives, mister!?” the Cruz kid snapped. “You just ruined all our treats with this damn oatmeal!”

“Now, now, kids. Calm down. I’m doing you all a favor.” And in a stern, lecturing tone he said to them, “Don’t you know what’s going to happen if you eat all that candy?”

“Yeah. I’m going to enjoy it,” the boy dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer smarmily replied. “At least I was.”

“Well, now that may be true,” Grape continued. “But in reality, what may seem enjoyable to you all right now, could very well be bad for you later on in life. You see young people, it’s important to always weigh the consequences of your actions.”

The small cluster of kids looked up at him, disgruntled and confused and Grape sensed it. “I’m talking about die-a-beetus, kids. Die-a-beetus.”

“What’s die-a-beetus?” the girl made up as a green witch with a black pointed hat asked.

“It’s a disease you get from eating too much candy, and it can kill you!” The young girl dressed as the princess wailed even louder now. “That’s right, you should be crying about it,” Grape stressed, beaming at them like a grumpy old man. “This is very serious. All that candy is going to be the end of you. I’m just being the fella who’s trying to save all your young lives from irreparable harm. I’m trying to do good by you. That’s why I gave you oatmeal. It’s healthy for you. It’s got fiber and it doesn’t rot your teeth out.”

Now the young princess screamed, dropped her candy bag, and ran off. Her older brother, that being the Jeffrey Dahmer boy, chased after her. All the others followed as well, except the boy dressed as Cancun Cruz and now he scowled up at Grape and it was nearly frightening.

“Thanks for ruining our Halloween, gramps. I’m going to go tell my dad, and he’s going to come back here and beat your ass!” And with that, the Ted Cruz boy ran off into the night.

Grape stood there for a moment listening to the sounds of Halloween flow up and down the cozy street of a Brigham City in October night like an unsettled river of glowing orange and flashlight beams dancing. He sighed and shook his head. “Kids these days,” he said aloud to himself. “They just don’t know how to listen.”

Before turning and going back inside, Grape eyed the young girl’s bag of candy crumpled up there on the walkway in front of his house. He bent down to pick it up and carefully brought it inside. He locked the front door and turned off the porch lights.

He took the girl’s bag of candy into the kitchen and dumped the contents into the stainless-steel sink. He picked through the oatmeal-splattered treats as best he could, and the pieces he saved he set aside in a glass bowl. The rest he threw out.

He took the bowl of candy into the living room and settled into the old couch he had there. He reached for a remote control and clicked the television on. He used another remote to power up the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder). The screen flickered for a moment and then the tape whirred to life and Grape Jones slowly ate all the candy while he watched episode after episode of Our House before cascading off into another wonderous Wilford Brimley dreamland.


The Misty-Eyed Stormtrooper (Episode I)

Stormtrooper action figure looking out at the ocean.

A Longing for More

On the planet Placitas in the far away galaxy of Fresh, a young stormtrooper bemoaned his place in the endless universe from the comforts of his bunk in the barracks at Outpost 9.

His incessant sighs and puzzling mumbling caught the attention of his bunkmate who was just below him casually flipping through a dirty intergalactic magazine and saying “Oh, yeah,” with a boyish delight.

He looked up at the bottom of a mattress, which was his ceiling in sleep, and yelled out, “Can’t you ever be happy!? Your misery is making the rest of us miserable.”

The young stormtrooper looked over the side of his bunk. “Sorry, Toby. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“You didn’t disturb me. I just hate to hear you being so bummed about life. Why don’t you come down here and look at these pictures of great space tits. That’s sure to cheer you up.”


“What’s the matter? You don’t like space tits?”

“You don’t need to be so… So gross about it. Don’t you know anything about women? They don’t want to be treated like objects and spread open like a roasting chicken in a glossy magazine for your salacious appetites.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Toby climbed out of his bunk and stood so that he could see the weird young guy he was talking to. “What the hell is wrong with you?”


“You don’t go for chicks anymore?… Because if you don’t, I’m going to request a bunk transfer.”

“I like chicks just fine. But I want a real relationship with a real woman, not some picture in a magazine.”

Toby scoffed at his remark. “Good luck with that around here, space boy. Not much to choose from.” He waved the magazine in the air to show it off. “Sometimes you gotta take what you can get.”

The young stormtrooper rose and sat up on the edge of his bunk. “That’s just it. I want more than just what I can get. Can I tell you something in confidence?”

“Yeah, buddy. Sure.”

“I don’t want to be a stormtrooper anymore.”


“Would you be quiet.”

“What the hell do you mean you don’t want to be a stormtrooper anymore?”

“I’m sick of blasting shit. All we do is blast shit. And if we’re not blasting shit, we’re just standing around waiting to blast shit.”

That’s the life we chose, Karl. That’s what we do. You made an oath to the Evil Empire.”

“I know, I know. But I’m really struggling with this as a career choice. I can’t believe I made such a stupid mistake. I don’t want to be on the side of evil.”

Toby threw down his dirty intergalactic magazine on his bunk and put his hands on his hips. “I don’t know what to tell you, Karl. You’ll just have to wait until your service time is up.”

“But I can’t. I can’t wait 15 years. That’s like a prison sentence.”

“You have to. Otherwise, it’s considered desertion. Do you know what they do to deserters?”

“Put you in a cage with a hungry Wookie and no way to get out.”

“That’s right, Karl. Do you want to get your head ripped off by a Wookie?”

“Of course I don’t want to get my head ripped off by a Wookie. I’m not stupid.”

“Then you better watch yourself. Do your job and keep these wayward ideas to yourself. What the hell would you do anyways?”

The young stormtrooper named Karl, serial No. 14788, looked around the barracks to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “If I tell you, promise you won’t make fun of me?”

“All right.”

“Do you ever watch the Great Intergalactic Baking Show?”


“Oh man. It’s great. I stream it on SpaceFlix.”

“What the hell is it?”

“It’s this amateur baking competition but they take it very seriously. There’s like 12 contestants from all over the universe and they bake all kinds of different delicious things, and they get judged on it by this stodgy bastard and this old chick and the ones who do well move on to the next round and the ones who do bad get kicked off. Then at the end they announce the winner, the champion baker.”

Toby shrugged and made a silly, mocking noise. “A baking competition? You watch people bake? It sounds stupid to me.”

“It’s not stupid, it’s awesome. It’s relaxing and helps me take my mind off having to blast shit all the time. In fact, the show has totally inspired me to do greater things in my life.”

“What greater things has it inspired you to do?”

“I want to go to Earth and open my own patisserie.”

“Earth!? Earth sucks. Why on earth would you want to go to… Earth.”

“Keep your voice down. Yeah, I know Earth sucks…”

“That place is populated by a bunch of idiots. All they do is kill each other and destroy their environment.”

“Yes, yes. I’ve heard how ridiculous Earthlings can be, but they have the best pastry schools in the universe. I want to go to Paris, that’s a magnificent city in a place called France, and learn about something more than just how to use a blaster. It’s my dream, Toby. I have to follow my dream. I need more out of life.”

Toby scoffed and shook his head at the young stormtrooper. “Wowza. I don’t know man. Earth is pretty far away. And you have to have a lot of space bucks to travel, let alone go to school and open your own patisserie.”

“I’ve been saving up for a long time. I’m sure I could find a good pilot with a fast ship at a reasonable price. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and planning. But I need you to promise me that when it all goes down that you won’t rat me out.”

“Nah. I wouldn’t rat you out. But at least let me know when you’re about to fly the coop. You better not leave without saying goodbye.”

“I will… And I won’t.”

The barracks suddenly illuminated with a flashing red alert light and an alarm started yawning in and out. “Great. Another drill,” Toby said, looking around. “Looks like it’s time to suit up and get to work. And don’t forget your blaster this time.”

Keep an eye out for Episode II

The Laguna Bungle (Session 3)

sophisticated woman talking to a man inside an office
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

An Unfortunate Meeting

My head was just totally empty for a moment while I stood there by that front door in this void of time stands still, Time Stand Still, (no S) that Rush song from eons ago playing in my head, and the sound of Jennifer Dillinger’s voice caa-kawing like an aggravated crow every time I played one of their CDs in my car. She was a girlfriend. An ex-girlfriend. She was a fox but hated Rush. I think she fell off a cliff and died. Somewhere in Mexico. I sort of remember hearing something about that, but I was usually high back in those days and so I had the attention span of a Tasmanian devil. I suppose it’s somewhere there in my memory banks all lost in the dust. All I know is she never got back to me… About anything. So, I moved on.

I rang the doorbell again, but was I really expecting a dead woman to answer? My thoughts had gotten ahead of me once again because the door slowly opened and in the cracked opening to this other dimension, I saw half an underbaked woman’s face look out at me. “Yes. What is it you want?” she said.

“I’m very sorry to bother you, mam. But I believe I saw someone being strangled out on the veranda and I was just checking to see if everything was all right in there.”

She opened the door wider. She was wearing the pink bathrobe and clutched it closed with a hand. She was the one for sure. But she seemed very much alive to me. There weren’t even any marks around her throat. “I’m afraid I don’t understand. Are you a police officer?”

I retrieved my identification. “I’m a private detective.”

She looked at the ID and then back up at me. “John Smoke? What kind of name is John Smoke? That seems made up.”

“It’s not made up,” I told her.

“But I still don’t understand. I haven’t called for any private detective… And as far as someone being strangled. I’m entirely baffled. No one was being strangled… Not for real, I assure you.”

“Not for real?”

“My husband and I are in show business, and we were merely rehearsing a scene from a movie we’re trying to get off the ground. That must have been what you saw. But why were you looking in the first place?”

“I like birds. I’m a bird watcher. The sights of my binoculars fell upon your veranda while I was doing some of my watching. I saw someone being strangled. I wanted to investigate.”

I’m a very convincing liar.

She looked me up and down like I was crazy. She was a middle-aged woman obviously carved up and pieced back together by an expensive plastic surgeon. She was tying to turn back time, but she should know that’s a losing battle… For anyone. I tried to build a time machine once but failed miserably. I never even knew where to start. And I don’t understand why people get plastic surgery in the first place. It makes them look worse. Fake. Manufactured. Desperate. How do they not see how unattractive they are? The woman before me was a poorly sculpted trainwreck, puffy and taut. She paid good money to look like this, I had to wonder.

“I’m not sure I believe you,” she said. “You don’t look like the birdwatching type.”

“But I am.”

“Really?” She looked past me and out to the yard. “Then what kind of bird is that sitting atop that bush over there?”

I turned to look. “That’s an oak titmouse.”

“Are you making that up as well?”

“No. I take birds very seriously.”

Her stance relaxed and she smiled as best she could with that jacked up face. “Well, all right then,” she said. “Would you like to come in? I may have need of your professional services after all. That is, if you truly are a real detective.”

“You mean a case?”

“Possibly. But we need to talk before my husband returns. This concerns him.”

The house was just as I expected. Large, showy, a blend of light and dark, modern yet strangely cozy. There were lots of big windows with views of the ocean. There was a lot of fancy furniture neatly aligned and looking as if it had never been touched by human hands or asses. She briskly strolled ahead of me across shiny marble floors toward an open kitchen with a long island and a row of perfectly placed stools. She was dwarfed by the sheer expanse of it.

“Please have a seat wherever you like. I’ll bring us some drinks. Do you drink, Mr. Smoke?”

I took a seat in a wide, comfortable chair and glanced out the cathedral wall of windows. “I’ll drink anything,” I answered her. I could hear ice being dropped in glasses and the sound of two rough pours. “You have an amazing view here.”

She came to where I was sitting and handed me a heavy glass of rusted amber liquid. “It’s a very pleasant view,” she agreed. “It’s a big part of the reason we bought this particular property. I hope you like Scotch. It was very expensive. All the way from Scotland that bottle came.” She held up her glass in a gesture of cheers and smiled before taking a seat in a long leather couch across from me. A meticulously kept glass table with a bright green plant in the middle of it sat between us.

“Would you drink poison?” she asked after squirming her ass into a comfortable position.


“You had said you’d drink anything.”

“I meant anything that doesn’t kill you.”

She laughed at that. “Wouldn’t you consider what’s in your glass right now to be poison? What is it Jack Torrance says… White man’s burden.”

I looked at the Scotch and then took a big gulp. “Depends on how much you let it get to you.” I polished off my drink and set the empty glass down on the table. “I like that you have an appreciation for good movies.”

“I’ve always found The Shining to be one of the most spinetingling cinematic escapades of all time.”

“Right. Now, what about this case?”

She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and sighed. “I believe my husband is having an affair behind my back. I need to find out for sure. Is that something you do?”

“Sure,” I answered with confidence. “Simple surveillance is definitely in my wheelhouse.”

“Good,” she answered. “It’s not that I really care if he’s screwing someone else, I just don’t want to be made to look like a fool. And I want the end result to be a clean divorce that favors me. I’m the victim of bad love here, and he should pay for that. Does that make sense?”


“When can you start, Mr. Smoke?”

“I usually don’t start until I secure a retainer fee. A thousand up front… And I’ll need any pertinent info you can give me.”

“I’ll pay you whatever you want as long as I get results.”

“You’ll get results. Any suspects?”

“That floozy assistant of his at the production company he runs… Misty something or another. But my husband runs around with his pants down around his ankles half the time, so, I’m sure there are more.” She got up and went to stand against the high windows looking out onto the ocean. She spoke with her back to me, but I could tell she was pressing her intelligent breasts against the glass. “And if he happens to die during your investigation, Mr. Smoke. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit.”


Santa Maria’s Mouthwash Hat

A Listerine green sky and the rear view of a silhouette man in window
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

From out of the depths of a Listerine green sky came the breath of light, the breath of great Bog, all the breath of all the planets and galaxies and exploding stars.

From out of the creaking silver windmills of the West, the hawks flew, and the crows murdered, and foxes screamed like victims deep in the forest of night.

From out of the smiling faces of an east end sidewalk café, came the talk and the laughter, and the words that would mend, and the words that would break a heart in two or three or one million pieces at a breathless pace.

From out of the canals of Bourbon River came the drive to row a boat of red straight out to the sea just to be alone and bobble like a cork in champagne solitude, to put a face straight toward the sun, to close the eyes, to feel the heat and burn of being alive but alone, but dead, but buried, but carrying burdens unmatched…

Like bags out of a mop-white grocery store that smells of disinfectant and chicken frying in an oil bath, mums a bloom, the colors of a crisp October day streaked with caramel apple suns and bruised clouds stretched and kneaded like Heaven’s own bread.

What a place it could be for us, for us all, just subtract the greed and the hate and the longstanding feuds. Erase borders with the pink end of a big pencil. Send the war machines to Earth’s core to become nothing but lava batter. Millions of fools live in Opposite World.

From the beach comes forth the one dressed in black, a head on fire, those Sonic Ocean Water blue waves behind him curling and crashing like band cymbals in bathwater.

Someone sits at a desk in a cold room sipping hot coffee and thinking about and wondering what the new day will bring. And he wonders about it with a degree of hope, a degree of worry, a degree of panic…

The varying degrees of life, of love, of willful disobedience or chagrin or fame or lying on the ground with a body full of broken bones. What will it be this day of the drawing?

In peace in the dirt and looking up, it all makes the sky look more wonderous and broad, fuller of the belly-side of Heaven or the escape hatch of hell.

The man in the umber brown suit sits on a fire escape in a big city tossing smoked cigarettes down into the alley, he can hear the girl on the other side of the glass yelling at the walls, now she’s fixing a meal full of poison. The last cigarette falls through the sky and lands on the faded roof of a green car, the motor sputtering, the exhaust blooming a cloud in the cold, she drops a pan in the kitchen, she bellows madness to the broom closet. She’s become unhinged, he climbs down the fire escape, drops down into that cold gray alleyway, turns left, walks, disappears into a smoky, noisy pool hall for relief as if he just got out of jail. He sits on a stool, orders a beer, lights a long-awaited for cigarette like Mr. Kool. The bastards never let him drink or have a smoke in his cage because he was merely an animal. They beat him for his suffering. He gently taps the tip of the menthol into an orange plastic ashtray, smudged like a liturgical forehead on Ash Wednesday by a dirty priest. Billiard balls smack together behind him. A gathering of nobodies emits a cloudburst of laughter. He in turn releases the biggest sigh of his life and phones the aliens to pick him up out back where the landing field is. For him, happiness is just another planet.

The Colors of October

Autumn this year has been a particularly bright and beautiful one. For my wife and I, this our favorite season by far. Last night, the skies in our area were exceptionally spectacular and we both captured the fleeting moments with our cell phone cameras. She got hers in the parking lot at her work, and I got mine at our homestead. Thought I would share some of the photos. Enjoy!