Category Archives: Fiction

The Liquid Lust of an Ordinary Day (2)

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

Liquid Pablo Pablum worked in an insane asylum. He had his own office in the deepest part of the building where the deepest minds of darkness dwell. There was blue carpeting on the floor and walls. He had a mattress on the floor with a pillow and a thin blanket in case he wanted to sleep. There was a desk with a metal lamp sitting on it. Papers and files were sloppily strewn about. He had been staring at the ceiling light and eating Spree candy when the commotion broke out. It was a screaming and banging kind of commotion and it was coming from the female ward.

He ran out of his office and went to where there were two sets of heavy doors, each with a square window of thick glass. They had somehow gotten through the inner door and were pounding on the outer door. The woman whose face was closest to the glass was yelling that she wanted a knife so she could cut herself. Liquid Pablo Pablum looked at her neck and saw a series of thick, raised scars. Sirens started to wail. Lights began to flash. Deep echoing booms rolled like waves throughout the facility as the inmates pounded on their cages like animals…

Liquid Pablo Pablum suddenly woke to the sound of someone tapping on the driver-side window of his car. It was Rose the CVS clerk. He opened the door and got out. “Wow. Hi. Hey,” he said to her as he worked to pull himself together.

“Are you okay?” Rose asked.

“Yeah… I must have fallen asleep and was having the craziest dream.” He leaned in to kiss her.

“Wait,” she insisted. “How about some mouthwash first.”

“Right. Right. Well, just get in the car.”

A stockboy named Stockdale was in the process of dumping some trash when he noticed Rose climbing into a car that belonged to a man who wasn’t her husband. “Gosh darn it all, Rose,” he mumbled to himself. “Who the hell is that?”

The motor hummed and made Liquid Pablo Pablum’s testicles tingle. “So, what do you feel like doing?”

“I thought we were going to go make out.”

“Right. Do you want to go bowling?”

“Are you sure you’re, okay?”

“Yes, why do you keep asking?”

“You seem different.”

“I may be a bit nervous.”

“You weren’t nervous at all earlier in the day.”

“Look, when we get to the bowling alley let’s just have some mouthwash and make out for a while. I’m sure that will settle me right back down… You look hot, by the way.”

“Hot? I just finished an eight-hour shift and I’m wearing these stupid CVS clothes. I doubt I’m very hot.”

“Oh, you’re hot all right. Can’t wait to taste you.”

Rose was a bit shocked, a bit frightened. “I just realized that I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Pablo. Pablo Pablum.”

“I’ve never made out with a Pablo.”

“Have you made out with a lot of guys, Rose?” Pablo asked with a wondering grin.

She bowed her head and sighed. “Not really. Not for the last 20 years or so.”

Pablo cocked his head and gave her a shifty look. “Strange answer.”

“What’s so strange about it?”

“It’s like you want me to know something but you don’t want me to know something.” He then noticed the ring on her left hand. He waited for her to tell him.

“Maybe you should take me back to CVS.”


She gathered herself and turned to him. “I’m married, Pablo. M-A-R-R-I-E-D. I shouldn’t be doing this.”

Liquid Pablo Pablum put a hand on her leg and squeezed it through her polyester work pants. “You can’t be that married if you’re with me… On your way to make out in the bowling alley parking lot. Seems kind of sleazy don’t you think?”

“Sleazy!? You think I’m sleazy?”

“No. I don’t. I think you’re lonely, unappreciated, overlooked, undervalued. I think you’re not very happy… What’s his name?”

“Jim. He’s a cop.”

Pablo scoffed, then chuckled. “Great.”

“Don’t worry. He’s not a very good one. He’s a fat, lazy one.” She laughed out loud at last.

“Wow, Rose. Way to lighten up. Don’t worry about it, baby. We’re almost there and Pablo will make you feel good.”

Once in the parking lot of the bowling alley, Liquid Pablo Pablum reached behind his seat for the bottle of Close-Up cinnamon-flavored mouthwash. He screwed off the plastic lid and took a swish. Then he passed it to Rose. He opened his door and spit out the rinse. She did the same.

“Well,” Pablo said. “Come here and give me some Stevia.” He laughed because he thought it was funny that he said Stevia instead of sugar because Stevia is a sugar substitute, and he was sort of a substitute man for Rose. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Rose leaned closer to him, and they playfully rubbed the tips of their noses before their mouths parted and the kissing was on. The passion went from 0 to 176 in a few furious seconds. They clamped their hands to each other’s faces and kissed and sucked and slurped and licked and smooched and smacked like the end of the world was marching over the horizon. The hands slid from their faces and went to grope crotches and breasts and thighs and ass cheeks, and the windows of the car were steaming up as the kissing went on at a hot and ferocious pace.

Pablo began to undress, and he wanted her to do the same, but she just caught her breath and suddenly refused. “No… Not here. Not now. I’m not ready.”

Pablo panted. “What? Why?”

“I told you. I’m not ready. Just please respect how I feel.”

Pablo slumped back in his seat. “Geez, Rose. Sometimes you can be a real square.” He made an invisible square in the air with his pointer fingers.

“I’m sorry… No. I’m not sorry. It’s how I feel.”

“What if we were to go somewhere private?”

“No. I really all of a sudden want to go bowling. It’s been so damn long, and I used to love to go bowling. Why have I stopped going bowling?”

“My guess is Jim. Huh?”

Rose made a frowny smirk. “Jim. Talk about a square. He’s the king of squares.”

“All right,” Pablo said. “Let’s go bowling. I wanna see how you handle those big, heavy balls.”


Strawberry Safari

Photo by Pixabay on

The African safari was ridiculous. Hippos in high heels? They had them listening to Pearl Jam songs from the 90s. I just looked at the scenery, which was decent enough, as the savannah carriage bounced along the rough road.

I tapped the driver on the shoulder. “When do you take us back to the hotel?” I asked him.

He gave me a quick look of disbelief. “But we’ve only begun. You want to go back? I can’t go back. Not until the tour is done. The other people, they want to see the animals.”

“Can you stop and let me out then?”

The driver braked. “You going to walk back? I can’t let you do that. There are wild animals out there. This isn’t Disneyland my friend. No.”

“This won’t be on you. I’ll take full responsibility. I’ve already written my family a certified letter stating that I may do something crazy in Africa, but it’s no one’s fault but my own. You and your company are absolved. Bye now.” I jumped out of the vehicle, and he drove away slowly. The other tourists stared at me as I just smiled and waved goodbye.

I walked like a bruise through the sky. I walked liked a man with purpose who didn’t want to die. The sun bore down it’s yellow tentacles of high heat. I suddenly missed the relative comfort of the safari vehicle… That was now but a speck of whirling dust in the distance.

I came upon a herd of elephants at a watering hole. I watched them from the brush. Some were bathing, some were playing. Some were trumpeting their agonies over what vile man has done to the Earth. The pool of water grows ever smaller.

I came upon a pride of lions, and I was very careful because I did not want to get eaten. But I knew they smelled me; I could tell by the movement of their noses. I was a dead man for sure I thought, but then they caught wind of a herd of something else out on the hallucinatory flats and they went for that. I don’t even have a gun, so I have no idea how I’d even be able to defend myself. I suppose I would just let whatever beast it was that attacked me rip me to shreds. And that’s all I’d be in the end. Shreds. Like chicken meat for chicken enchiladas.

I kept on walking toward a sun mirage… I kept on thinking about why I was where I was. The money problems. The family problems. The job problems. The health problems. Too many problems all at once.

My friend Jim ‘Sanitizer’ Santiago went out to get drinks with me one night back home in the city, and lo and behold, both our wives strolled in with different men on their arms. Isn’t that just great?

“Looks like I’m no longer on the menu,” Jim said in his deep, monotone, straightforward way. “But what can I do, my hands are tied… Care for some hand sanitizer?” He retrieved a small bottle from his pocket and squirted a small glob in my waiting hand. He had a thing about hand sanitizer.

“Thanks,” I told him. I rubbed vigorously. “Can’t be too careful in places like these. But seriously, let’s get out of here. I don’t want to seem my wife rub her body all over him if they decide to dance.”

“I’m with you on that one,” he agreed.

Jim ‘Sanitizer’ Santiago was the best-groomed man I’ve ever known. His hair was as dark as an evil witch and sat in perfect form atop his head. He had the most perfectly sculpted goatee and always smelled like an expensive men’s clothing store in a nice mall. We worked together at the magazine publishing house. Only problem is, no one reads magazines anymore. “How long until we get the axe?” I asked him as we walked along a dirty sidewalk through a neon haze.

“I’ve already got my resume up to date and ready to go. It could be any time now,” he answered.

“I’m not going to bother,” I told him. “If they can me, I’m just going to go to Africa for a while. I’ve always wanted to go on safari.”

“Hmm, animals. Nothing wrong with animals. Are you going to be animalistic and mount prey?”

“I could never be as much as an animal as you are. And I’m afraid my mounting days are over.”

He smiled at me funny. “Why don’t we just go to my place. I’ve got some new cigars I been wanting to smoke.”

“Why the hell not,” I said.

He had the cleanest apartment I’ve ever seen. Nothing was out of place. There wasn’t a dirty dish or speck of dust anywhere. His bathroom was spotless and smelled of bleach. When I came out, he was on the balcony smoking his cigar. I joined him. We gazed at the lights and listened to traffic. He then asked me a very strange question. “Do you want to look at some dirty magazines?”


“I’ve got some dirty magazines. Do you want to look at them with me?”

I laughed because I thought he was joking. But when he squeezed at himself through his pants and said, “I might need to take care of this,” I knew he wasn’t joking.

“No. I don’t, Jim.”

“You won’t have to do anything. You can just watch.”

“I think I may just go. Seems like you might need some privacy.”

He clamped a hand on my shoulder as I turned to leave. “Please… Or we could watch a porno if that makes you feel more comfortable. I just want you to stay.”

“What kind of porno, Jim? If it’s guys with guys forget it… Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just not my thing.”

He stubbed out his cigar. “All right then. Maybe I do want to be alone. Sorry if I’m being a weirdo drag.”

But I understood in a way I suppose. “It’s okay, man. I’ll talk to you later.” Seeing his wife with another guy at a bar. We all deal with it in different ways.

Maybe the animal isn’t always what it portrays itself to be…Until you find yourself in the middle of a safari wildland trying to get back to the posh hotel to live a life of luxury when you don’t even deserve luxury and can barely afford it anyway. I raped my credit cards for this trip, and I’ll be paying for it later. Literally. Why can’t anything enjoyable ever come easy. I curse the imbalance… Bad things happen so frequently and with such ease, but why is it such a battle in this life to get the good? I suppose like everything else; it all comes down to money. If you don’t have it, you suffer. If you have it, things are always easier. That’ sad, or maybe I just misunderstand everything.

I was back in my room, and I took a shower. My wife called and said she wanted a divorce because I was no longer the man she married and I just ‘didn’t do it’ for her anymore. I suppose I didn’t care, but then I did. I was suddenly all alone in the word, but then I have been for a very long time, so it sort of felt the same except that I was in this expensive hotel in Africa and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I decided to call Jim ‘Sanitizer’ Santiago.

“Well, look who the cat dragged in,” he said when he answered which I thought was strange because it was a phone call and not an in-person event. “How’s it going?”

“I’m in Africa and I’m bored. Can you believe that?”

“Maybe you need to go out and hook up with some jungle babes.”

“Nah… What are you doing?”

“Oh, I was just watching some pornography.”

“Anything good?”

“It’s called Mr. Clean the Sex Machine.”

“Oh, sounds interesting.”

“Why don’t you come by some time when you get back.”

“I don’t know if I’ll be back, Jim. I may go stick my head in a lion’s mouth.”

“That would be an awful way to go.”

“I suppose it would… I’m going to go now, Jim. Enjoy your porn. Bye.”

I ended the call and sat on the edge of the bed and looked through the big glass windows of the sliding veranda doors and the sky was strawberry red with clouds, a wound of humanity sopped up in gauze and bandaged with another wishful goodnight kiss.


The Moon Scars of Elysium (2)

Photo by Aaron Echoes August /

Algernon Wasp had been sitting in a Big Boy restaurant in Manistique, Michigan when the big blue bomb blew. He had been eating a hamburger and a house salad with Thousand Island dressing when the shaking began and there was the sound of a great howling wind and a deep rumbling thunder. People screamed when all the windows shattered. Algernon had ducked under the table as the debris rained down like real rain. When the dust finally settled, Algernon crawled out and wandered outside among the rubble and the moans and the cries.

A cluster of people, a church group he guessed, were on their knees in a semi-circle, and they had their folded hands thrust up toward the heavens. They were begging God for mercy. They were inviting the Son to finally come down and roam among them, to save them, to lift them up to the Promised Land. They called upon the Holy Spirit to cleanse the world of wickedness. But wickedness had already come and gone.

Algernon groaned in despair as he looked around at the state of the new world… And like Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes when he came upon the ruined Statue of Liberty, he too fell to his knees and he screamed out as he slammed his fist against the pavement, “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

He later wandered the few blocks back to his hotel, The Happy Hole Inn, and guests were gathered outside, and they were looking up at the sky and pointing and were amazed by how it had taken on such a bruise-blue hue. Like technological sheep, they all had their cell phones in salute position, and they were recording the end event to later post on their social media sites of choice. He scoffed at them. “What are you all looking at!? How many likes are you fools hoping to get!? You idiots! This all your fault…” And he went around pointing to each of them. “And yours, and yours, and yours. You’re all too stupid to live!”

He waved them away in disgust and went inside the hotel and to his room. The roof was gone and when he looked up, the sky was churning like sick guts. He gathered his things, checked out, and began walking to wherever his feet would take him.

And where his feet took him was an amber colored bar in downtown Manistique. It was quiet inside except for the television that blurped in and out with news of the end of days. Two other men sat at the bar and watched along with the bartender. He finally noticed Algernon and asked him, “What are you doing here, mister?”

“I need a drink,” Algernon answered. He tapped a finger against the bar top as he sat down. “Suds.”

The bartender poured him a beer and set it before him. “No charge, mister. It looks like we’re all in for a rough time.” He motioned with his thumb. “Listen to these two idiots.” He shook his head.

“This is all because of the god damn liberals,” one of the men at the bar grumbled.

The other man nodded in agreement. “That’s right. If it weren’t for all these sissies and all their gay stuff, we’d be eating apple pie and living our best lives right about now… Not watching the world come to an end on CNN.” He motioned abruptly with his hand. “Come on, Wilbur. Can you ate least put it on Fox News so we can get the truth.”

Algernon laughed out loud. He finished his beer and tapped his fingers on the bar to indicate his desire for another.

The two men turned to look at him. “You got a problem, mister?” one of them asked.

“I have all sorts of problems,” Algernon added. “Try not to be another.”

The man that lastly spoke to him got up off his bar stool and walked right on over to where Algernon was. He took his hand and slapped at Algernon’s beer mug and knocked it over. “You wanna fight me or something?” He was close to his face when he spoke and his breath was annoying.

Algernon sighed as the barkeep cleaned up the spill and gave Algernon a fresh beer. “You start something, Lloyd, and I’ll throw you out. Then you’ll have to go home to that ugly wife of yours.”

Algernon chuckled. “He’s lucky to get that.”

The man put a rough hand on Algernon’s shoulder and Algernon reacted immediately with a rigid brush of his arm to knock the man away. “Don’t touch me!”

“Well, you look pretty gay to me. I figured you’d like it.” He laughed. His friend laughed and came over as well. “Kick his ass, Lloyd,” the friend said.

“You’re the one here with another man,” Algernon replied. “I’m flying Han Solo.”

The two men made faces of confusion and backed away. “Let’s just leave this one alone,” one of them said. “Han Solo my ass.”

After the two men settled back in their seats, the bartender brought Algernon a bowl of hot beef and noodle soup. “Here you go. I didn’t want it to go to waste and you look like you could use it.”

“Thanks,” Algernon said, and he smiled. “I appreciate it.”

“So, did you use the Jedi mind trick on those two buffoons?” He laughed.

Algernon chuckled. “You got to have a mind first.”


Just then the power went out and the only remaining light was the blue hue of the day coming in through the windows at the front of the bar.

“Sure as hell is eerie,” the bartender said. “What you plan on doing?”

“I don’t know. My wife recently passed, and I was on a sabbatical. I wanted to see all the places I’d never seen but wanted to… And now this happens. Nuclear war.”

“Where’s home?”

“Buena Vista, Colorado.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a wonderful place, mostly.”

“Well, I hope you can get back there.”

“Me, too.”


This Ludicrous Life

Photo by Edwin Soto on

The electric teeth motorcar humming on a vibe vine in West Hollywoodland and the nails of Dracula scratch at the sides of a red streetcar while people are trying to read, trying to sleep, trying to sip the atmosphere because sometimes things just don’t seem right… Like tonight. He watches the golden oil beads run down the angle of a taut line of plastic thread. A couple of circus freaks are humping beneath the gloss of a red tent. The moon keeps dripping. The humans keep dripping. The alligator boy is eating a sandwich at the pop-up lunch counter.

The oil bead watcher carries a mockup of the moon in his hand as he walks the dusty midway. The carnival has all but closed, a few green and gold lights flicker, a man dressed as a sad clown pushes a broom. The humpers bellow on the release. A short man comes tumbling out of the slit, struggling to pull up his pants, chomping a fat brown cigar. It’s all ludicrous. The world is set to ludicrous speed.

The oil bead watcher takes off down a lonely dirt road toward the town. He waves a hand over the mockup of the moon, and it starts to glow blue. The humping short man goes running past. He’s trying to attain ludicrous speed… But he’s just ludicrous.

The oil bead watcher’s name is Krumble Conway. He was brought forth by the loins of a carnie or two or three. No one really knows. He was raised by psychotic wolves. He doesn’t mind the name because it helps him remain authentic. He tried magic and trapeze tricks and juggling and clowning and mind reading… But he was never good at any of it. The only thing he was good at was operating the rides and communing with the moon. Some of the other carnies nicknamed him “Werewolf.” But he has little to no body hair, the hair on his head is short and knobby, he keeps his face clean shaven. His favorite soap is Irish Spring because it gives him a sense of clean escape.

 As he walks along the lonely dirt road toward the town of Apple City, he feels like swallowing a table saw. The humping short man comes running back toward him at full speed. As he swooshes by, he cries out, “I need more of that delicious woman!” He vanishes into the darkness, an invisible dust cloud heading toward a gallery of carnival lights strung out in the distance. Red, blue, yellow, purple, amethyst, emerald, diamond…

When Krumble Conway reaches a suburban neighborhood on the edge of Apple City, where all the houses look like apples, apples with windows and doors and yards and lights and cars in the driveway… He goes up to one of those apple houses and peers in the window like a creep. It looks like the family is all gathered around watching a movie with a big bowl of popcorn and a scattering of soda cans. It must be a comedy because they all burst out laughing at the same time. Same. They all look the same. Pale white skin. Blonde hair. Most likely they all have black eyes.

Krumble Conway decides he wants to play a trick on them because playing tricks is another thing he enjoys doing and is relatively good at. He sneaks toward the front door, lifts a fist, begins banging. He runs and scrambles into a nearby cluster of neatly trimmed bushes. He has a perfect view of the front door. It opens. A tall man in a bathrobe is looking for someone who’s not there. “Hello!” he calls out. “Is someone there!?”

He gives up. Goes back inside. Closes the door.

Krumble Conway the trickster goes back up to the house and once again pounds on the door. A porch light comes on and illuminates the yard. The door swings open again. “If you don’t stop, I’ll call the police!” the tall man in the bathrobe yells. He slams the door. The porch light stays on.

Krumble Conway waits a while. He lies down in someone else’s yard and looks up at the night sky. He wants to count the stars, but he knows he’ll be dead before he even gets close to counting them all. He thinks he just has a bunch of stupid ideas. He starts to realize he doesn’t know what to do with his life. He wishes a woman would sit on him. He doesn’t want to go back to the carnival but that’s where he lives, it’s all he knows. But then again… An idea.

He goes back to the house and climbs in through an unlocked window. A very small lamp casts a glow about the small room. There’s a bed. Someone is sleeping in it. He quietly moves closer and looks. It’s a scarecrow dressed in farm clothes and with yellow straw for hair and guts. It’s somehow breathing. It must be dreaming of rainbows and fire. The scarecrow’s eyes suddenly pop open. The mouth moves to form words. “What are you doing here?”

Krumble jumps back. “You’re alive!”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh… You’ll wake the people. They are very weird people.”

“They must be if they let a scarecrow sleep in their house.”

“I’m a summer lodger. I work in the fields.”

“I work for the carnival. I’m a ride operator… Doesn’t that sound boring?”

“Not any more boring than being a field worker.”

“My name’s Krumble Conway, by the way.”

“Scott Scarecrow. Good to know you… But I think you should leave before they find out you broke in. Why did you break in?”

“I guess because I’m just full of mischief.”

“Don’t you know blind mischief can get you killed?”

Krumble shrugs. “I’m not sure I really even care about that.”

“Sounds like someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” Scott the Scarecrow says with a funny chuckle.

“It’s Friday, dumb ass.”

They then both hear the sounds of animalistic mating coming from another room.

“Oh boy.” Scott Scarecrow groans. “They’re at it again… Every single damn night they do this. I have to get up early for work. Just look at these dark circles under my eyes. These people are killing me with all their damn sex.”

Krumble snaps his fingers. “Hey, I got a great idea. Why don’t you come with me back to the carnival.”


“Yes, really. I’m sure I could get you a job…”

And the door bursts open and there stands a fat teen with bulbous hair and a shotgun in his hands, and he just starts blasting indiscriminately and he’s screaming, “This is for Waco!”

Krumble feels the slugs fill his guts and he senses himself sliding down, down, down, and soon his face is against the floor, and he looks up and sees tufts of straw floating through the air, and it isn’t long before Scott Scarecrow is lying on the floor beside him, the life draining out of his eyes.

Krumble coughs. There’ spittle and blood. He looks at his short-lived friend. “I’m sorry about this Scott. I’m afraid it’s all my fault.” He coughs and there’s more pink spittle. “Everything that goes wrong in the world seems to be my fault. I should have never come in here. Go to Oz and rest in peace.”

The next day Krumble Conway gets out of his silver drawer at the Apple City morgue and walks outside. The sun is shining, and the birds are singing, and he finds the lonely dirt road and walks back to the carnival just as they are loading up to move onto the next town. He thinks about the moon and smiles.


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 11

Photo by Pixabay on

The Gould house smelled like Sunday dinner and the trappings of commercialized religion. The house itself was one of the large old Victorians that rose like a classic architectural sentinel on the north side of town near the overlooking cliff rock and the only considerable clusters of trees in the whole of Berlin, Wyoming. It was often dubbed the “green side” of town because that’s where the main city park and the walking trails and the cemetery were, and where the little green men from space lived in their log cabin commune.

The homestead where Carrie Gould and her mother lived was a tall, gaudy pink and white haunted candy palace with a nice kept yard full of colorful flowers. The interior was tidy, but gaudy as well, flooded with knick-knacks and bric-a-brac and portraits of white Jesus in a doctor’s gown, and soft sheep, and framed cross-stitch Bible verses on the walls. But still, there was a flip chill in the air, an icy bastard lingering in the shadows.

Despite all the clutter, the house was warm and inviting. The furniture was soft and friendly. The windows were clean and clear. The intentions of the after Sunday service meal, however, were not.

Pastor Craig Stikk and Steel Brandenburg III sat in the front parlor part of the house sipping coffee in an uncomfortable silence as they waited for the meal to be served. There was a heart of cruel intent in the room and Steel put his hand to his chest to feel if it was his own. He wasn’t sure it was. Intent. Intentions.

Then the pastor asked. “So, Steel. What are your intentions with our lovely Miss Carrie?” He sipped at his coffee annoyingly, his black jellybean eyes searching above the tipped brim of the cup as he waited for an answer.

“I’m not sure, pastor. Our relationship has just begun. We’re exploring each other,” Streel said, and he smiled to himself deep inside.

But the pastor frowned at his remark, and then shifted. “And speaking of relationships… Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”

Steel laughed. “No. He never returned my calls, so I dropped him.”

A look of painful concern passed over Pastor Stikk’s perverted face. His pencil-thin moustache wriggled with distaste for the young man. “Steel. That’s not something to take so lightly. A personal relationship with your Lord and Savior is the most important thing in life. Do you not care to tend to your eternal soul?”

“Look, I’m not religious. I never had a taste for it, and I certainly don’t want my face pushed into it.”

“I’m not trying to push your face in it… I’m just saying that, well, Carrie is a very religious person, and don’t you think she should be with someone who shares in her beliefs? Don’t you believe she should be with someone who fosters and encourages her faith?”

Steel drained his coffee cup and set it down. He looked straight across at the pastor and grinned his cocky grin. “You mean someone like you?”

The pastor shifted in his seat and then leaned forward and whispered, “Frankly, yes. Life is too short not to be bold. I do indeed believe I would be a better mate to her, and I’m sorry if this offends you, but I don’t believe you’re good enough for her.”

Steel scoffed. “I don’t understand why everyone in this town thinks I’m such a horrible person.”

The pastor leaned away from him. “Well, maybe you are. Perhaps some deep personal soul searching is in order then, Steel. Other people obviously must see far deeper than you do. Personally, I’d be ashamed of myself.”

“I don’t need everyone shaming me and telling me how to live my life. People need to stop being so damn judgmental. That’s what I can’t stand about religion—the self-righteous attitude. Did your God make you and everyone else God? And this whole pointless conversation boils down to one thing: You want to get with my girl. Gross. Aren’t you like 20 years older than her?”

“I believe Carrie needs a mature man in her life,” the pastor said.

“And that’s where you fit in?”

“Steel, God spoke to me on this matter. The Lord Himself told me I should take Carrie as my own. Me. Not you. And I cannot disobey God. She will be mine, not yours.”

“Well, I’m not going to just turn her over to you. I haven’t even gotten any action from her yet.”

The pastor slapped a palm to his forehead in disbelief. “Good gravy, Steel. Must you speak of her in that way? It’s so disrespectful and Carrie doesn’t deserve it.”



“You said something about gravy… This is how this whole story started. Gravy.”

“You’re rambling incoherently, Steel. ‘Good gravy’… It’s a term used when someone is expressing befuddlement… And you are befuddling me.”

It was at that point that Mother Melba Gould came bouncing into the room. “Gentleman! I bring good news. Dinner is ready. Please come to the table.”

The great Sunday feast was spread out on the large dining room table atop a precious cloth. They all took a seat and Melba called upon Pastor Stikk to lead the prayer.

He stood, cleared his throat, and bowed his head. “Dear Lord, we ask that you look upon us with your everlasting grace and mercy as we prepare to enjoy this beautiful meal prepared by these two lovely women, your humble servants. We ask that we gain an understanding of and appreciation for your boundless gifts, such as these before us. Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day and the opportunity for myself, Steel, lovely Carrie and Melba to come together in this beautiful home to commune with each other among these overflowing dishes. May we find sustenance and joy, and may this togetherness not only satisfy the hunger of our bodies, but also the hunger of our faith. Amen.” He sat back down, unfurled a napkin, and tucked it into his shirt collar. “Well, let’s eat.”

Platters and bowls were soon being passed around as everyone filled their plates with tender pot roast and carrots, a green-bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, niblets of buttered corn, a chilled spiral macaroni salad, beef noodle soup, spring rolls, sweet potato casserole, cheese chunks and crackers, fun fruit-filled gelatin, pickled beets and black olives, tapioca pudding, cranberry sauce, buttered rolls, wild rice pilaf, and goblets of iced tea, lemonade, and cold milk. Knives and forks and spoons quickly began to work, and they clinked against the Gould’s finest dinnerware as they moved like robots and the eating began.

“Thank you, pastor,” Melba said with a smile. “That was a beautiful blessing over our table.”

“It was my pleasure, Melba,” the pastor replied. “As you and your lovely daughter are a great pleasure to me.” He moved his hand beneath the table and squeezed at her thigh. Melba blushed and went “Ooooh.”

Steel coughed and reached for a glass of moo juice and drank.

“Everything okay there, Steel?” The pastor asked. “You seem choked up by something.”  

“I’m fine. Thank you. Something just went down the wrong pipe.”

“Pipe. Right,” the pastor replied with a sneer. “Speaking of pipe… Carrie, I was hoping you and Steel would start up some counseling sessions with me.”

“Counseling?” Steel wondered aloud. “What for?”

“Well, Steel. I often counsel young couples on the ways of Christian-based male-female relationships. It’s spiritual guidance really as you two walk with God along the path of love and eventually marriage.”

“I’m not…” Steel began, but Carrie broke in after a quick, tight-lipped smile aimed at him.

“We would love to, pastor. I think your guidance would be priceless. Thank you for offering.”

“Not a problem. That’s part of what I do in my role as the lead shepherd for the congregation.” He chuckled oddly. “I must look over my flock.” He smiled big and then glanced over at Steel who was sitting across from him and next to Carrie. “I just want to be sure that God is always a part of your togetherness.”

“I thought I made it clear to you in the other room earlier that I’m not religious,” Steel broke in. “I don’t want or need counseling in spiritual matters… Especially when it comes to our relationship. That’s our business, not yours.”

Melba Gould’s mouth dropped open and some of the beef noodle soup dribbled out. “You’re not religious?”

“Not especially, mam.” Steel answered. “The mountains of my life have never been moved much by faith.”

 The room was silent for a moment.

“Well then, Steel,” the pastor said as he speared another slice of ham with his fork and put it on his plate. “Then you need it more than anyone.”

Carrie grasped his hand. “It’s important to me, Steel. I don’t think I can carry on in this relationship if you’re not a man of faith. You’ll be amazed by what God can do for you if you just let him in.”

Steel looked around the table. “You know, there’s such a thing as religious freedom. Meaning, I have just as much right not to be religious as you all have to be religious. And Carrie, baby, I just want you to accept me for who I am.”

“And she has…” the pastor began, but Steel put a finger up toward his face. “With all due respect, pastor, this is not for you to decide.”

“I beg to differ, young man,” the pastor snarled in return. “As a leader in the church, it’s my responsibility to watch over and guide her faith.” He slammed his fist down on the table. “It’s my God-given earthly task and I will not allow a non-believer to soil this beautiful young woman’s soul!”

Steel stood and barked, “All you truly care about is getting in her pants! And I’m not going to let that happen!” He looked around at the shocked faces. “My apologies Ms. Gould. I think I’ll step outside for some air.”


Ms. Grundy and the Bone Ghosts (4)

Allison Grundy stood in her front yard behind the safety of a white-picket fence and a grouchy demeanor. She had binoculars set against her sour face and she was watching the chorus of children playing out in the street and the neighboring yards. The song of stimulating play played up and down the roadway. “Damn, rotten kids,” she grumbled to herself. “So many damn kids. Who the hell is doing all this humping to make so many damn kids!?”

There was a man behind her, and he was busy fixing the broken window on the front of the house from when someone threw a rock through it. “What’s that, Ms. Grundy?”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Pascal,” she grunted without turning to look at him. She was too deeply focused in on the kids in the street.

“Oh, sorry. How’d this happen anyway?”

Ms. Grundy lowered the binoculars and turned around. “How’d it happen? See those damn kids clogging up the street?”

Pascal turned and craned his neck to look. “Yeah… It was them kids that did it?”

“That’s right,” she croaked. “One of them damn kids threw a rock and busted out that very window you’re fixing there. I could have been killed! Of course, none of the little shits came over to admit it or apologize or even offer to pay to fix it. They victimized me and now look at them… Playing around like little fantastical faeries.”

Pascal sighed. “Little bastards. You know what the problem with kids these days is, Ms. Grundy?”

“Oh, my. Please, Pascal, enlighten me with your what will surely be invaluable insight.”

“Hey… If you don’t want to talk, just say so.”

“No, no, no. I’m listening.”

Pascal scrunched his face. He removed his company ball cap and wiped the sweat from his head with his sleeve. “Geez. It sure is warm today. What do you say when I’m done here, we go inside. I could sure use a cold drink… And we can talk some more. I can lay out my philosophy. I’m not just some window man, you know. I’ve got a lot of good ideas.”

Ms. Grundy scowled. “That’s awful pushy of you, Pascal.”

“I have confidence in myself. Is that a problem for you?”

“No. Is my abrasiveness a problem for you?”

“Hell no. I deal with assholes all day. Not to say you’re an asshole, Ms. Grundy.”

“I appreciate that… All right, go on with your work and I’ll fix us a pitcher of my delicious lemonade.” She cackled to herself all the way into the house.

Pascal Bravo the window man noted to himself that the house smelled of bitter oldness. He waited politely in a small parlor room with antique furniture, pleasant bookshelves, and a large window that looked out onto the world of rambunctious youngsters playing in the neighborhood.

Ms. Grundy walked into the room carrying a trembling tray with a buxom pitcher of swirling lemonade with ice cubes and two inverted glasses. She set the tray onto a table and sat in the chair opposite him. She leaned forward, plucked up one of the glasses and poured. “I’ll let you do your own, Pascal. I’ll never be slave to a man.”

Pascal smiled, leaned forward, and poured his own glass. “Thanks very much. I really like this room. You must enjoy reading.”

“I do. When I have the peace and quiet. But again. Those damn kids. I was considering moving to a place of isolation on the outskirts of town… But I fear I’m beyond the ability to do so now. Too old. Too much work. I must come up with a better way to deal with all this commotion in the neighborhood… And violence! Like I told you, the rock.”

“Well,” Pascal began, beaming with self-importance. “Like I was saying in the yard. The whole problem with kids these days is they have no discipline. And without discipline there’s no respect for others and what belongs to others.”

“You speak the truth, Pascal. It’s the parents I blame, and the parents’ parents. They are far too busy with their own damn lives to care about what the children are up to. They just let them run wild like Indians.”

Pascal cleared his throat. “I believe the correct term is Native Americans.”

“Whooey!” snapped Ms. Grundy. “This is my house and I’ll use whatever god damn words I want to.”

Pascal took a big gulp of the lemonade. “Ahh, that is tart, Ms. Grundy. But cold and refreshing just the same… But like I was saying. Kids these days get to do whatever they want. They have little to no guidance. No rules. No consequences for their actions.”

“Right. No consequences,” Allison Grundy agreed. “And wouldn’t it be fun to give them some consequences? Hmmm, Pascal.”

“What? Me? You want me to do something to those kids? Because that’s sort of the vibe you’re putting off. I’m not dumb. I have a very keen intuition.”

“I’ll make it worth your while if you help me.”

“What do you mean? Just what is it you plan to do to these kids?”

“Your spine seems to be shrinking, Pascal. Tisk, tisk, tisk.” She wagged a finger at him while she took a gulp of the lemonade for herself.

“I won’t kill anybody,” Pascal stressed. “Not for all the money in the world.”

“I’m not talking about money or killing.”



“Then what are you talking about, Ms. Grundy?”

“Are you a married man, Pascal?”

“No, but I’ve dodged the bullet a couple of times. I’ve given up on that scenario. Now I just do my work and go home to be alone. And you know what? I prefer it that way.”

“You and I are very much alike then, Pascal. Very much alike… May I ask you something else?”


“When is the last time you’ve had any sexual relations?”

Pascal nearly emptied his mouth of the lemonade he had in it at that very moment. “What!?”

“The last time you’ve done the ol’ in-out, in-out.”

“Ms. Grundy… I think that’s a bit personal.”

“Spill the beans, Pascal. When was it?”

Pascal sighed. “If you must know. It’s been six years.”

Ms. Grundy laughed out loud. “Six years!?”

“Surely it must be something like 60 years for you!”

“Zip it, Pascal… The point is, I could do for you, and you could do for me. And when we’re not messing around, we can be messing with those little brats out wandering the neighborhood. We’ll be a team.”

Pascal stood up. “I’m not going to have sex with you. No way, no how.”

Allison Grundy snickered. “I can guarantee in due time you will change your mind.”

“I seriously doubt it.”

“Come over here.”

“What? Why?”

“Pascal… Breathe. Just go with it.”

Pascal stepped closer to her.

“Drop your pants,” she ordered.

He paused for a moment and then undid his belt buckle and let his Navy blue window man uniform pants fall to the floor. Allison Grundy looked him over and grinned. She poked at him with her finger. “Reminds me of a sea cucumber.” She looked up at him. “Let me see your cucumber.”

Pascal scoffed in frustration, pulled up his pants and turned away from her. “No. This is too gross and weird.”

“It’s okay, Pascal,” she said. “We’ve got plenty of time. But for now… Let’s figure out what we’re going to do about those rotten kids.”


The Cowmen (Two)

Arno and Hosea came to a desolate town of squat adobe structures the colors of the earth and the sun and those structures mingled with freshly hewn wooden buildings that rose above them like intimidators and boasted of great possibilities. The rise of a new civilization on top of an old one was at work again in the world. The natives were being slowly crushed out by another generation from another place, and they believed they had the better of ideas and ways of living.

The town’s name was Sudan and there was a smell of animal dung and sawdust and perfumed whores in the hot afternoon air. A wide dirt track went through the center of the town, and it and its immediate environs were lined on both sides and in the corners by the various modes of commerce and service: A bank, a jail, a general store, a hotel or two, saloons, a gunsmith, a livery stable, a butcher, a doctor, and a small train station with various people leaning or sitting as they waited upon their destinies to arrive on the rails.

Horses and wagons moved like a meandering stream up and down the main thoroughfare which was mashed by hoofs and wagon wheels. As Arno and Hosea made their way along, some of the people nodded, smiled, said “hello mister.” Ladies in blooming dresses called out to them from balconies. Other folks with roughshod faces and rubber necks watched them closely and scowled with sour intent. Some even yelled out from the wooden boardwalks where they sat on barrels to warn them that they should “watch yourselves,” merely because they were drifting strangers.

“I don’t understand why some folks need to be so hateful,” Hosea said as they worked the horses to a hitching post outside the Camaro Saloon. “I’m the nicest cowman in the world.”

“Would you stop saying that!” Arno snapped as he climbed off his horse. “It’s so damn embarrassing.”

“You’re always so worried about what other people think… I don’t care what other people think,” Hosea said. “I’m going to be who I am.”

Arno rolled his eyes. “That’s probably your problem. Let’s get a drink, or 72… And try not to say too much.”

Hosea waved his hand at the air. “Nah, you go ahead. I don’t feel much like drinkin’ and hollerin’ and carrying on right now. I think I just may go walk and stretch out these long legs of mine. I think that’s what I need.”

Arno scoffed at him. “All right then. Just don’t get yourself in trouble.”

“Look who’s talking.”

Where Hosea ended up on his wandering walkabout was into a fog thick as gauze outside of the main part of the town, and there the birds were winged phantoms of dark light and the trees were backlit spindly bodies that leaned and coughed or sat away from all the others. The air all around was a mist and there was a small flow of water that went through the middle of it all on its way to a greater fall and rush further down into the valley. Somehow, Hosea had opened a curtain and stepped inside to this lost place. He felt a warmness, but he also felt uncertainty. He also felt he wasn’t alone.

He stood on the bank of the stream and gazed into the veil of the whole western world. “I’ve been doing that a lot lately… Pulling aside curtains and stepping into lost places. There’s been a lot of thought in me about the other side. The other side of this, whatever this is,” and he looked up, raised his hands in the air. “The other side of Earth, the other side of the Milky Way and beyond. I may be a cowman, but I have a very deep river of thoughts.”

“Who are you talking to?” came a voice from somewhere behind him. “Are you praying?”

Hosea whipped around and there saw a woman… A cow woman. “No one, mam. Just myself. Not God neither.” His heart picked up speed. “What are you doing here?” he asked her as if he had a right to know.

“I gather the same reason as you. To get away from folks.” She moved closer to him. Hosea noted right away that she was pretty and that made him nervous. “Are you new to Sudan?” she asked.

“No, mam. Just passing through.” Hosea lifted the hat from his head and extended his hand. “Name’s Hosea, mam. I hope I wasn’t trespassing or something.”

She smiled at his lanky awkwardness. “I’m not a mam. I’m a Sadie.”


“That’s right. Don’t you like it?”

“It’s a fine name. Just never heard of it before.”

“Now you have.” She finally took his hand and squeezed it for a moment. “It’s nice to meet you. How long are you in town for?”

“Most likely just the night.”

“Well,” she began, and she turned and pointed. “I run that little place over there. The sea-foam green house with the little corral out on the side. It’s my peacock ranch.”

“You keep peacocks?”

“I raise ‘em and I sell ‘em. The farmers and the ranchers use them to keep down the snakes and the mice… And I just think they’re so pretty.”

“They are colorful birds,” Hose said. “Very colorful.”

“Would you like to come see them? I could fix you a lemonade or a sweet tea.”

Hosea scratched at his head as he thought about it. “I suppose that wouldn’t hurt nothin’.”