Category Archives: Fiction

The Machine Man in the Wheat

It was on a Tuesday when the sun became different.

I remember it clearly because Tuesdays I visit with the doctor because I have a hard time walking in a straight line.

“You’re difficult to conform,” he says.

He also thinks he is smarter than me, but I know better. The questions he asks don’t seem very bright to me. He lacks, say, electricity. So like I was saying, as far as the sun goes, I had come home and went to the back of the house and drew the long green drapes away from the large window there. I looked out and there was a bright spot on the fence where the sun was shining and it drew me in, the color of it, like golden metal pressed up tight. It was a cold color, flat, indecent yet proper. And so I looked up and even the whole sky itself looked different. There was a deeper blue confusion about it. The clouds seemed edgy. There was turmoil in the air amid the subtle change.

The house is hidden in the hills surrounding a city. It’s an urban estate of modern aesthetics – tall glass, sharp edges, white and clean as snow and just as cold and empty and lonely, especially in the shadows. The furniture sits rigid and straight. Everything is strictly kept in its place. My home looks as if it has never been lived in.

I have seven bedrooms and don’t sleep in any of them. I have four bathrooms and use only one. My kitchen is always clean. It hums in the dead of day, the big metal appliances stewing in their pipes and electrical cords. There is a window over the sink and I can look out into my yard – a trapezoidal patch of bright green grass surrounded by jungle. A small pool sits empty. There’s some lawn furniture but it’s all scattered about now because of the strong breezes we’ve had lately. The yard is as deserted as my home.

I sat a drink down on a glass end table and the subtle sound of it echoed through the room. Then the telephone rang. It was Fred. I knew this because he was the only one whoever called.


“I’m always amazed that the telephones still work.”

“I’m glad for it. At least I can call my doctor.”

“Not feeling very well? Is it the crooked walking again?” he asked.

“Yes. He doesn’t know what to do about it.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing. Would you like me to come by tonight?”

“No. I’m just going to stand here and not move for a while.”

I hung up. Fred hung up. I knew this because he was the only one whoever hung up on me. Fred used to be an accountant of some sort, maybe a lawyer too. But not anymore. I used to be a geology professor. But not anymore. There are many things that are no longer the same. I used to have a wife and twin daughters. But not anymore. I used to park a car in my garage. But not anymore. Walking is all we can do now. If I need something from the city, I have to walk. I walk to the doctor, the grocery, the bar. I even walk to the post office and occasionally send a letter to someone I don’t even know – but no one gets mail anymore.

Sometimes I walk to the city with Fred. I really don’t want to because I don’t like him that much even though we consider each other to be friends. I would even say he is kind of boring, but not boring in the way of going to sleep, rather, boring in a way that makes me want to avoid him at all costs because I have better things to do. And the things he talks about are so pointless. It almost makes my stomach hurt when he starts in on how poorly the sidewalks were made.

“Just look it all the cracks,” he always points out, his long arm nearly touching the ground.

“There have been a lot of earthquakes,” I tell him.

“Even so, they should make better sidewalks.”

“They did their best,” I remind him. “The world was a mess.”

Fred picked up a small stone and threw it. It hit a light post. The sound echoed down the street.

“It’s still a mess, Frank. C’mon, you’re hip to it. You know it will never get better than this.”

I stopped and looked at him. I blew into my hands to warm them.

“Damn it’s cold. I thought we lived in California.”

There weren’t too many people at the grocery store. There were never too many people anywhere. I liked it like that, even though the place reminded me of a morgue with sparse shelves.

Fred strolled off to the produce department, but there wasn’t much there. The stores are never stocked that well anymore. I followed him over and together we looked at a handful of oranges as if we were visiting a zoo for fruit.

“They don’t look very fresh, do they?” Fred said, cocking his head and studying the oranges with a bent eye.

“They never are,” I listlessly noted. “I’m going over to the pharmacy.”

“More pills?”

“Yes, more pills.”

“All right then, I’m going over to the meat department,” Fred said. “I want to look at a piece of chicken.”

I walked down the main aisle in the front toward the pharmacy. I knocked on the glass.

“Hey. I need to get my pills,” I said to someone, somewhere.

There was some sort of person fidgeting around in the darkened back. I had to wait. We still always have to wait.

“Your name?” he asked when he came to the window – a little man in a white lab coat all alone with the medicine and a broken heart.

“Frank Buck. Why do you always have to ask? You know who I am.”

He blinked his eyes and barely smiled.

“It’s just procedure sir. It’s company policy. It’s a corporate rule and I cannot break it under any circumstances.” He looked around to make sure there wasn’t anyone else nearby. “My life depends upon it.”

The corporations still have all the power.

“All right. I guess you can’t break the rules. I understand. You need this job. Not everyone has a job anymore.”

“Did you know that being a pharmacist is the best job a person can have these days?” he boasted.

“I believe it. You’ve got 14 bottles for me, right?”

“Yes. Any questions?”

“Do I ever have any questions? Does it even matter if I have any questions?”

“Sorry. I have to ask. They’re watching me. They’re listening to me, too.”

“Sounds like you’re trapped.”

“I am,” he tried to whisper through the glass, and I only turned once to look back at the poor old soul as I walked away. 

“Do you think we should buy that last piece of chicken?” Fred asked me in the Something Resembling Meat department. “We could have a fry out.”

I peered into the glass case at the lone piece of raw chicken breast sitting dead and gross in a bloody wet tray beneath a bluish-green light. I stepped behind the counter and slid a door open and flipped the piece of chicken over.

“It doesn’t look too pale,” I said.

Fred was hungry and wanted the chicken.

“Go ahead and wrap it up. I’ll pay for it.”

I wrapped up the hunk of chicken like I worked there or something and we made our way toward the front of the store and through the sliding doors. Something scanned us from above as we walked out.

“When they come for the money, we’ll tell them the chicken was mine,” Fred said to me.


The chicken sizzled on the charcoal grill I had out back. Fred and I went to the yard and plucked two toppled chairs out of the lawn. We set them up on the patio. We lit some torches. I poured Fred a strong drink. He watched me suspiciously as I withdrew a cigarette from my pack and stuck it in my mouth.

“I thought you quit those damn things.”

“I did, but why bother now?”

“I suppose you’re right. Not much to live for anymore is there?” Fred agreed.

“I don’t like to talk about it. Why is it we always end up talking about it such horrible things?”

“I don’t know,” Fred wondered. “What else is there to talk about?”

“Tell me about your dreams.”

Fred thought for a moment.

“I don’t dream anymore.”

“I know. I don’t either. Why is that?”

“I suppose it has something to do with that brain evolution stuff they’re all talking about. You know… What they say about us being able to survive when the others didn’t. They say we don’t need dreams anymore.”

“Leaves the night awfully blank though, doesn’t it?” I said with a downcast head, sad about it.

“Yes,” Fred moaned with a slight nod of his head. “I don’t sleep as much as I used to… Wait. I think the chicken is burning. Flip it over.”

I got up and flipped the meat and there were deep dark burn marks on the side already cooked.

“It might be a bit well done by the time I’m finished with it,” I said.

“That’s okay,” Fred said with a quick laugh. “Chicken is chicken and I’ll take it any way I can.”

The doorbell rang. I went through the house and opened the front door. Two officers from the Debt Police were standing there in a cloud of threatening menace. They had come to collect the money for the chicken and the pills.

“Wow,” I said. “It’s been only two hours or so and you’re already here. I swear, it seems you guys get here faster and faster every time.”

“Just give us the money, sir,” one of the officers said. “We don’t have time for idle chit chat.”

I stuck my hands in my pockets and dug around.

“Is there a problem, sir?” the other office asked as he stepped forward a bit. “Do you have the money? Yes or no?”

“I know I have it somewhere,” I said as I began to panic. “It’s in the house somewhere. But look here, that man outside, he has the money. The chicken was his idea. It was all his idea.”

The officers pushed beside me and well into the house. They went out onto the patio and Fred quickly stood up. I went to help him.

“This guy says the chicken was all your idea. Is it your chicken?” one of the officers wanted to know.

Fred shakily adjusted the eyeglasses on his face.

“Yes. I was the one who wanted the chicken. He just walked to the store with me to get his medicine. I told him I’d pay for the chicken.”

“Then give us the money,” the other officer demanded.

Fred nervously dug into his front pants pocket and pulled out some dirty cash. He flipped through the bills with his fingers.

“How much is it again?”

“Fifty-five dollars for the chicken and four-hundred and twelve for the pills,” one of the officers snapped.

Fred glanced over at me. “I’ll take care of it all,” he said, and handed them five 100-dollar bills.

“The rest is your tip,” Fred said.

One of the officers made a disappointed face. “Not much of a tip,” he said.

“But thanks,” said the other. “We’ll be going now. Make sure to lock all your doors and windows and load your guns. There are lots of creeps out there milling about in the night.”

We watched as the officers quickly moved back through the house and out the front door. I sank down in my patio chair, sighed and looked at Fred.

“Where do you get all that money?” I asked him. “You’re not a pharmacist or a cop.”

“I saved my money,” Fred said. “As I worked and lived my life I also saved money… For the times like these that I always knew were coming. I funded my survival.”

“Do you have a lot left?”

“No. The Men of the Wars took most of it.”

I glanced inside at the banner on the wall. It was the banner we all had now – and in big capital letters of red, white and blue, it read: True Freedom Has a Price Tag — and there was a big green Uncle Sam with devil eyes on the banner, and he had his big fists in the air, and he was clutching money in one and a pair of women’s high-heeled shoes in the other. And in smaller capital letters near the bottom, it read: In Greed We Trust and In God We Wonder.

I didn’t really like the banner, but we didn’t have a choice anymore.

After the chicken, some more drinks and a cold handshake, I said goodnight to Fred and closed the door behind him. I locked it just as the officers advised. It was a big cold deadbolt and it made me feel safer even though I knew deep down inside it didn’t really matter anymore.

I walked crooked through the rest of the house turning down lights and making sure the other doors and windows were all locked up tight. I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. I looked in the mirror and my face looked old. I ran some water in a glass and washed down a handful of pills. I flicked off the light and quietly closed the door. I turned on the ceiling fan that runs right over my bed and sat in a chair by the window. I knew I wouldn’t sleep. What good is sleep without dreams? I looked out the window but all I saw was dark punctured by a few painful points of light. It was my personal jungle surrounding me. I liked it like that. I didn’t want to know everything about the world on fire out there.

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Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (The Ending)

Author’s Note: This is the last installment in the Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse series. If you missed previous episodes or just want to revisit them, you can look here Word of warning: The following contains some mature elements that may not be suitable for all readers.

The next morning, I was sitting in the backseat of the car while Roy drove, and I didn’t feel right at all. I don’t know if I had been dreaming or what it was, but there were all kinds of crazy visions in my head relating to the night before.

Seems after our little pizza party, Roy got himself all worked up like he does and went out with Karl to a bar they found. They came stumbling back in the room full of liquor and madness and they had brought more bottles with them and started feeding me booze like a baby. And then all I remember was a lot of crazy talk and sexy dancing and then it was Roy on top of me in the bed slamming into me like he hadn’t gotten any in years. At one point I turned my head, like in a bad dream, and there was Karl sitting in a chair in the corner and he was watching us with a nasty grin on his face and his hand working like a piston in his lap.

And then, now there he was, creepy Karl in the passenger seat, and he kept turning to look back at me, and then he would lean a bit to his left to talk to Roy real softly.

My eyes hurt. My head felt heavy and fuzzy. It was as if I hadn’t slept for two or three days but I’m pretty sure I did. Maybe. My whole being felt as if I was trying to swim in a river of maple syrup.

“What the hell is going on, Roy?” I finally mumbled.

Roy glanced back at me in the rear-view mirror. His eyes looked worried. “Nothing is going on, Sally,” he said. “We’re going north now, honey. Just sit back, relax, and take in the view.”

I turned my head from side to side, but the view was all the same — dry and desolate and almost frightening. “Why is he along with us, Roy?” I asked. “I thought… I thought we were going to kill him.”

There was a silence in the car and then Karl reached out and switched on the radio and some weepy country song came softly dribbling out like an old man’s pee. Roy suddenly jerked the car to the right and pulled off onto the shoulder. He roughly pushed the shifter to P and turned back to scold me in a way he had never done before.

“Damn it all, Sally! Snap out of it! Don’t you remember Doctor Karl?”

“Doctor? What the hell are you talking about, Roy?”

“For fuck sake, Sally! It’s me. Royal… Roy. Your husband. We’re the same damn person!” He looked down and sadly sighed. “You’re having another one of your spells, Sally. You know, where you go off acting all crazy.”

“Well, you’re all acting just as crazy,” I snapped back, but then in a way I was scared that he might be right.

“We’re just trying to keep up with you, Mrs. Dibbs,” Doctor Karl said in a bedside-manner tone. “We’re just human beings, too. We have needs and desires like any animal, it’s just our windows to the world aren’t as broken as yours.”

“You mean, you didn’t kill anybody, Roy?”

“Did I ever say I did?” he answered, and then he tapped the point of a finger against his head. “It’s all in that messed up brain of yours.”

I moved my head from side to side as I looked at them both. “I don’t believe any of this shit,” I said. “You’re the messed-up ones. How could you do this to me, Roy? After all we’ve been through together. I thought you loved me.”

“I do love you, Sally. That’s why I’m trying to help you. That’s why I’ve got the damn doctor with us.”

“We’re just trying to save you from yourself,” Doctor Karl added. “We want to give you a new and better life — free of puzzling and possibly dangerous derailments.”

“Where are you taking me?”

They looked at each other, and then back to me. “Somewhere that will help you get better,” Doctor Karl said. “Somewhere more suited to treat your particular condition.”

None of that sat with me very well so I made for the door handle to try and get out of the car. It was locked and I couldn’t undo it. I started screaming and hitting the back of Roy’s seat, and that’s when Roy came around and wrestled me down and Doctor Karl came at me with some sort of injection. Soon after, the whole world went dark.

When my eyes finally popped open, I was inside a blue, dome-shaped tent. I could feel the heat of the day through the fabric. I sat up. My mouth was dry. I unzipped the opening and stuck my head out. The sun was bright, and it caused me to squint. After I crawled out, I stood up and looked around. I was surrounded by another world I had never been to. There were dry, rocky hills of yellow brown. There were salt-tainted flats. There were summer bugs in the hot air. There was turquoise water far out. I saw a couple of small boats — the sounds of their engines very soft and distant in the air. There was a narrow gravel road off behind me. I twisted my head in search of Roy and Karl. They weren’t there. The car was gone. They had abandoned me.

I started walking on the gravel road in a direction I thought might be west. A while later, a man in a pickup truck rolled up beside me and stopped. The window on the passenger side went down like magic and I saw a chubby and bearded face look out at me with a slight smile of curiosity. He seemed friendly enough.

“It’s an awful long walk if you’re wanting to get to… Well, anywhere,” he said, studying me. “Are you okay? Can I give you a ride?”

I hesitated at first but then I said, “I’m looking for my Truth or Consequences.”

He looked at me like I was strange for saying it like that, and then he said, “I can give you a lift to town if that’s what you mean.”

I tugged on the passenger-side door handle, and he unlocked it and I climbed up and in. “Thanks,” I said. “Do you have any water?”

“Um yeah, look behind my seat there. May not be the coldest, but it’s wet.”

“Perfect. I like it wet.”

He made a manly little grunt of dirty desire. “I bet you like it wet.”

I gave him a “don’t fuck with me” glance because I wasn’t in the mood. He quickly changed his tune.

“Is your car broken down?”


He motioned backward with a fat thumb. “Well, how did you… ?”

“Someone left me out there.”

“No shit?”

“No shit, mister.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “That’s pretty rough.”

I turned to look at him. “Yep. It’s a rough world and love never seems to make it any better. I guess I’m learning that the hard way.”

“Yeah. You’re right about that,” he agreed, but in a way that seemed like he didn’t truly understand what he was agreeing with.

We got quiet as he drove on. The road was winding and often rutted and bumpy causing my ass to slightly jump up and down on the seat. The sun was blaring. The A/C in the truck was blasting. It felt good. At a high point in the road, I could see down into a low valley and the clustered mass of short buildings, western houses, and a gridwork of streets that made up some sort of town there. It was surrounded by wrinkled brownish-green mountains and flats of desert floor that made me think of rough-grade sandpaper with flowers coming out of it. The I-25 dissected it all like an asphalt zipper on a pair of endless pants.

“Is that Truth or Consequences down there?” I asked the stranger.

“It sure is.”

“Do you live there?”

“Yes, I do. Been there most of my adult life. Grew up in Albuquerque though.”

“Do you have a house there?” I asked him, and then I could tell he was getting nervous.

“Yeah,” he answered with some hesitation.

“Is there a wife at your house?”


“What’s her name?”


“Do you love Stella?”

He snapped his head in my direction. “Why do you want to know all this?”

“Do you love her?” I repeated with greater purpose.

“Well, I guess. Yeah. I mean, we’ve had our share of problems like everyone else.”

“Pull over to the side of the road.”

“What? Why?”

“Just pull over.”

He pulled off and put the truck in park and looked over at me. “What are we going to do?” he asked, oddly nervous.

For some reason I suddenly came down with the haunting fever of wanting to taste another man, a stranger, and I reached over and cupped him through his jeans. “Get it out,” I said to him.

“Here?” He moved his head all around. “What if someone comes by and sees us?”

“You don’t want me to?”

“Well, hell yeah I want you to.”

But then I kind of got sick about it and I pulled my hand away and glared at him. “And just what the fuck would Stella think of that?” I scolded, and then I was suddenly down on myself. “Aw holy hell. What am I even doing?”

“Do you still want me to take it out?”

I scoffed and looked over at him and nearly laughed. “No. Just get me to town.”

The stranger in the pickup dropped me at an old-time café in the downtown area of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I went in and sat in a lonely booth by a window. People looked at me as if I were on fire or something. I ordered myself a hamburger, fries, a grape soda, and a wobbly piece of key lime pie for dessert.  

I enjoyed being alone as I sat there and ate, yet I still felt as if some part of me was missing or had always been missing — like when you drop something from your pocket, but you don’t realize it until later, but by then it’s too late to get whatever it was back. It was gone for good. And that’s kind of how I felt, sitting in that lonely café, a stranger to all and all a stranger to me, that there was some part of Sally Dibbs that was gone for good. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was, though. Not that day. Maybe it didn’t matter after all.

And when I had that last piece of key lime pie skewered on the tines of that silver fork and almost in my mouth, my eyes wandered up to the television they had there. I could barely believe it at first, but there it was, a special report about Roy being captured by the police in a place called Raton, New Mexico, up north, right there by the border of Colorado.

It showed him in handcuffs as they led him to a patrol car. I got up and walked closer to the television and then I asked the waitress if she could turn the volume up. The reporter talked about how Roy was alone when he was captured at a motel there. There was also talk about a female accomplice still on the run, but that Roy wasn’t being very cooperative with providing details about where she might be. They didn’t say anything about creepy Doctor Karl from Indiana. Maybe Roy killed him after all or maybe he didn’t even truly exist.

And then the cameras zoomed in close to Roy sitting in the back of the police car, you know how like they do, and I swear to the god of your choice, Roy looked up and out that window and straight into my eyes as I stood in that lonesome café.  And his truth suddenly came inside me like warm sex, and that truth was that he really did love me after all, no matter what else I believed any day of the week, past or present. I just had to trust in that with all my broken heart, and then go my own way.  


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In a Blue Park in London and the Night of a Different Sandwich

In a blue park in London

The windows have fires on the other side

Stars lie still in their pitchy silt and listlessly swim

The ground is crusted over in white

And the way the day death light falls

It looks like blue frosting on a Christmas cookie.

There was me sitting on a bench in this Christmas blue park in London and I was wearing red socks. I heard the ice skate blades grind against the glass pond they had there, and I watched small people glide awkwardly, trip, then fall. Their tears added to the slickness, and it was a comical chain of events — the ballerinas in plaid wool coats and the shining knights in silver boots skimmed across the pond on their bellies like a stone skipped over the ocean.

I unwrapped the white paper and rubbed my hands together in anticipation. Chucky’s Super Fresh Fish N Chips was the best damn chippy place I’ve found after coming over here. I was eating painfully delicious deep-fried cold-water haddock and thick cut potatoes with the traditional salt and vinegar. It was kind of cold outside. I took another bite of the fish and shoved in a chip after it. I washed it down with sweet, milky tea from an on-the-run cup.

I looked around at the beautiful, peaceful world, and I thought about life and was wondering what it really was all about, and wondering why we are here on Earth and… Just where the hell is Earth? Seriously. Have you ever really thought about it? Where is the Earth? Maybe that question is just too much for our primitive brains to comprehend, and we probably shouldn’t attempt to.

And so there I was, sitting on a bench in a park and eating fish n chips, oblivious to the ways of the universe. Then the joy of the glowing and ponderous day was suddenly shattered with screaming. A young girl had fallen through the ice.

I got up and ran over to look, leaving my food on the bench for the birds or a wanderer to eat. There was a thin man stretched out on the ice and he was thrusting his arm out in an effort to reach the girl who was bobbing and struggling in the water. I hurried to the edge of the pond and gathered there with the others, looking over at the struggling child.

“Has anyone called for an ambulance!?” I yelled, frantically searching for an answer from anyone.

One man put his phone in the air, pointed and looked over at me.

“Yes! I’m doing it now.”

“Tell them to hurry or she’ll be dead!” one woman cried out.

It seemed like forever before I heard the sirens and saw the flashing red and blues splashing against the bruised cotton candy sky. The emergency vehicles came to a screeching halt and the men jumped down and pushed through the crowd. They pulled the dad in quick to get him off the ice and out of the way; then they sent out the smallest rescuer with a rope tied around his waist and he snatched the girl out of the hole, and he passed her to another, and she was limp in his arms as they rushed her to the waiting ambulance. She was carried to a gurney near the ambulance and she was soon smothered with blankets while the mom and dad wept over her and kissed her on the head. The gurney went up and into the ambulance and the doors shut with a rude thud and the tires spun and they tore off toward the hospital.

I read about the girl being dead in the newspaper. It was that cold and creamy Sunday afternoon when everything was still and quiet except the floors creaking as I gently walked about the old flat in a t-shirt and boxer shorts and a pair of reading glasses slipping on my face. The fireplace crackled with fire. I sighed at the table. I sighed about the dead girl. I glanced out the window. Not much was moving. The mists of winter crawled up out of the streets, over brown rooftops, and floated into the forests like gray syrup. I tapped at my teacup and then got up to throw another log on the fire. Somewhere far off I could hear the ringing of a handbell. Then I heard the caroling. It was nearly Christmas.

I sat in the chair near the hearth and watched the orange tongues of the fire lap at the sooty brick. An ember popped. The old clock on the mantel struck seven and chimed. My wayward mind drifted and I wondered about the ghost of Santa Claus steering his sleigh through another dimension. The carolers drew closer to my building and so I went to the frosty window, rubbed on it, and looked down at the old street. I looked at the faces there — bright eyes lit up by candlelight, steaming mouths moving open and shut as they sang. I could smell the bones of autumn’s leaves through the glass. Then there was the clop clop of the horses as the old-time carriage rolled by all lathered in garland and bells and shiny glass balls of red. The people inside were laughing and waving and crying out — “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”

I drew the curtains, but the bells still rang, and the voices still floated upward. But soon they got quieter and quieter until drifting away completely. I sat back down in my chair near the hearth. I opened a book all about Christmas in the past and started reading it. The doorbell rang and then there was a knock. I had nearly forgotten.

The young man at the door wore a coat over his uniform and a wool cap on his head. His shoes were covered in slush. He handed me the white bag from Chucky’s Super Fresh Fish N Chips.

“I’m going to give you 12 quid tonight… Since you’re having to work so close to Christmas.”

He tipped his hat at me and smiled.

“Thank you, sir. Enjoy your fish n chips… oh, and Merry Christmas.”

I closed the door and it clicked. I turned a knob and the deadbolt snapped in place and kept me safe from the outside world. I dropped the white paper bag on the table and reached inside. It wasn’t the fish n chips I had ordered. But what I pulled out was magical and amazing nonetheless — a little stuffed black bear about the size of a half-loaf of bread with a rubber face and a red plastic collar around its neck and a silver chain leash.

“How did they know? … This has always been my favorite.”

I had gotten one as a child in the gift shop at the place where the high bridge gapped the canyon in some western American place under the sun. It was right after when a cable broke and the bridge went smashing down into the canyon and there was so much dust and screaming — and I had stayed behind so I could set my bear on a rock and just look at him in peace. None of my family — father, mother, brother, sister, grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, two cousins — came back through the dust. They all got smashed against rock and then were dropped nearly 1,000 feet, down into the raging Arkansas River at the bottom. I waited and waited and waited through the chaos until a policeman finally took me away in his patrol car, and then I had a long and challenging life.    

I sat the bear on the mantel over the fire and stood back and looked at him. I thought about the fact that Chucky’s Super Fresh Fish N Chips really knew how to deliver. The clock struck eight and chimed. I rummaged around in the refrigerator and made myself a different sandwich. I turned on some soft lights in the living room and plopped down on the couch and began to eat. The carolers were drifting by again. Santa’s magical dead sleigh swooped by on stardust, right near my window. I settled back, powered on the television, and watched all about the latest godless war for sale.

Bring Back the Ludovico Treatment

There was a beheading in Moore, Oklahoma. That’s all the message said. I questioned if this was becoming a common practice, for just the other night someone down the hall in my shoddy apartment complex was beheaded, and the night before that, right down on my shoddy street, a hot dog vendor was beheaded just as he was slathering someone’s steaming wiener with relish — I don’t like relish. Then there was that incident down at the public library just about a week ago when a circulation clerk was beheaded after telling a patron he owed $1.25 in overdue book fines.

Machetes and firearms line every rubber raincoat now — as does madness in the minds of men.

“Thank God someone had a gun.” Someone said, in the Land of Violence.

And violence stirs violence until the only solution is more violence — more guns, more bombs, more tanks, more jets, more ships, more drones, more senseless destruction.

And the money we spend to kill and maim and rape countless cultures, could cure illness and starvation and homelessness ten million times over and more. We could actually nurture humanity.

On my way back the other day from the ice cream shoppe, I saw a campaign sign for a death cult touting the joys of the Space Force. Why!? Why do we have to militarize space? And to think we would have any chance against them up there. Dimwitted buffoonery.  

And the Annunaki looked down from Orion and wondered what they had done.

Lord Femfatuntin turned to his lead galactic centurion and ordered, “Send down the chariots of fire, these idiots are destroying all my hard work… And Tome, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind bringing me back a box of Count Chocula? On second thought, you better make it two.”

Tome the galactic centurion bowed with respect. “As you wish, my lord.”

I was sitting alone in my shoddy apartment eating a bowl of cereal and watching COPS when there was a knock at the door. I stuck my eye in the peephole but all I saw was a thick neck, some broad shoulders and a name patch that read TOME across the breast portion of a shiny space uniform.

I pressed my face to the door. “Who’s there? What do you want?”

“It’s Tome. I come to you from the planet Placitas.”

“I don’t know any Tomes and there’s no planet named Placitas. Away with you!”

“Please, Phil Paradise. It’s very important that I speak with you.”

“How did you know my name?”

“You are the spawn of my history — a child of Femfatuntin,” the stranger said.

I looked through the peephole again and shook my head.

“Look,” I said. “I think you may be on drugs, and I don’t want to talk to you. Please go away.”

“I can’t do that, Phil. The future of your very own existence and possibly that of the universe depends entirely on me speaking with you.”

“I don’t open the door to strangers.”

“I’m a lot bigger than you and I can break this door down,” Tome from Placitas threatened.

“Go away or I’ll call the police.”

The aliens in the hallway began to laugh among themselves.

“Oh no! Are they going to come arrest me for possessing a medicinal herb that comes from the ground?!” one of them said.

“They’ll arrest you for harassment and trespassing! That’s what they’ll do. You can count on it!” I called out.

“Your laws are pathetic and ludicrous,” Tome from Placitas said.

There was more laughter in the hallway and then the door opened, and they just walked in — Tome and his two alien sidekicks.

“How did you do that?”

“I’m an advanced being, Phil. It’s pretty easy.”

“You guys are very tall and shiny, but you look absolutely human,” I said in utter amazement as I looked them over.

“And you are very short and dull. We made you that way so you could never be a threat while you work, work, work.”

“I must be dreaming. Did I eat acid?” I wondered.

“Let’s sit down and talk,” Tome said.

“I thought you might smell bad, but you don’t,” I quickly pointed out.

Tome sighed an alien sigh. “Why is it that you Earth people always consider yourselves as the most superior creatures in the universe? You just assume that surely every other living thing out there must smell worse — I don’t understand where you get this false ego. I mean, you haven’t even mastered intergalactic space travel yet. The truth of the matter is… You’re just an animal who requires the use of hand sanitizer in a world that has gone horribly wrong.”

“Well, if I’m just a filthy animal why did you come to me?”

Tome quickly looked over his shoulder at his comrades and then back at me.

“You’re one of the few reasonable individuals we’ve been able to locate down here.” He put a large hand on my shoulder and awkwardly smiled. “Phil, we’re destroying the planet, and we want you to come back with us before we do.”

 “Why!?” I yelled in defiance. “There’s no need for that! You’re talking about billions of lives!”

“You mean billions of morons, Phil! Absolute dashboard bobbleheads on the road to self annihalation.”

“You can’t do this! I won’t let you!”

“There’s nothing you can do about it Phil Paradise. Nothing,” Tome said to me with authority.

I scratched at my head and looked about my shoddy apartment.

“What about my things?”

“You won’t need any of it.”

“But, I have asthma. What about my asthma medication?”

“You won’t have asthma anymore where we’re going, Phil. Just close the door and come along,” Tome ordered.

There were some nice people on the spaceship, and I was well fed at a mile-long buffet. When the total annihilation of Earth came it was quick and clean, like laser surgery. They let me join them to watch on a huge monitor as Earth was vaporized — one second it was there and then it was not. There was some low-key clapping and some cheers and whistles, and then we all ate some delicious cake and drank the best milk I ever had.

Awhile later, I was sitting on a spaceship bench and was looking out a window as the galaxy rushed by. Tome came over and stood tall beside me and we looked at space together.

“You’re doing pretty well for your first intergalactic flight,” he said.

“How fast are we going?”

“Faster than you can even comprehend.”

I looked up at him. “There are others like me — sensible like you say — what about them? Why did you leave them behind?”

“We didn’t. We already have them, Phil Paradise. We’ve been collecting them for a long time — babies to octogenarians and beyond. I’m sure you have heard of alien abduction?”

“Yes, absolutely. I’ve always enjoyed stuff about aliens and space. I used to be Catholic but once the priests started ass-grabbing kids, I kind of settled on the idea that organized religion was a bunch of bullshit. Now I subscribe to ancient alien theology.”

Tome nodded his head, seemingly satisfied with my personal confession. “That’s good, Phil, and just so you know, you won’t be alone on planet Placitas, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I was wondering what it will be like,” I said.

Then something shifted in him, and Tome suddenly clamped his big hands to his head and groaned with agitation and stomped a foot.

“Oh shit! I forgot my lord’s Count Chocula!”

“He likes Count Chocula? The cereal?”

“Yes! It’s his favorite thing for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. Damn it! And Earth is already destroyed. That’s just great! Bad shit like this always happens to me.”

“Calm down, Tome. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“Oh, but you don’t know Lord Femfatuntin. He has anger issues.”

“But, can’t you just make your own Count Chocula here on the spaceship?” I suggested.

“We’ve tried that, but it just came out tasting like generic Count Chocula and he knew right away it wasn’t the real deal. He’ll only eat real Count Chocula made on Earth.”

“I guess you’re screwed then, Tome.”

“Thanks, Phil.”

“When will I get to meet him?”

“Maybe in about 400 years.”

After that, I didn’t see Tome the Galactic Centurion for a very long time.

They gave me a very nice apartment overlooking a tranquil sea of clouds. Maybe I was dead and there really was a Heaven, but I didn’t know for sure.

I felt alive enough when I went to the market on Tuesdays, and they gave me food. For free. Everyone got as much food as they wanted any time they wanted it. No one on the entire planet ever went hungry.

I had no soul-sucking job in the sense of having a job. I was merely allowed to have a satisfying task of my choosing, and that task was to read to wayward dogs and cats at Space Kennel No. 99. They enjoyed it immensely, evidenced by the plethora of wagging tails and gentle purrs every time I cracked open a new book. Dr. Seuss was their absolute favorite. I asked the animal handler, the odd Susan O’Neil, about it one day.

“How did you get Dr. Seuss books?”

She looked at me and smiled a tight-lipped smile and adjusted her spectacles.

“He’s here.”

“He’s here? Dr. Seuss is here?”

“He prefers to be called Theodor.”

“Well, where is he? I’d like to meet him.”

“He’s incredibly reclusive, but I do think he plays squash at the Stellar Sports Open Air Plaza every other Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., but only if it’s cloudy outside and there’s a chance for rain.”

“He plays squash in the rain?”

“So the story goes.”

“I wonder if he really eats green eggs and ham.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“Hey Susan O’Neil, can I ask you a question?”

“Of course. You can ask me anything, former Earthling.”

“Does anyone ever get beheaded up here?”

“Beheaded? Do you mean like …” And she rolled her eyes and made a hand motion across her throat like it was getting sliced.

“Yes. Exactly.”

“Of course not. We’re not bloody asinine savages like they were!” she wickedly asserted, shakily pointing the tip of her finger toward that spot in the universe where Earth used to be. “This is Shangri-La compared to your own little version of a spinning blue hell. How on — what used to be Earth — could a species allow its own offspring to be cut down by a gutless murder machine, and accept it repeatedly?” She shook her bookish head in disgust. I must admit that Susan O’Neil was quite attractive for a Placitan. That’s what the originals were called — Placitans. And I suddenly was taken over by the desire to ask her out on a date.

But just as I was about to speak, we heard the haunting sound of the great gongs of Placitas reverberate all around us followed by the heavy march of the centurions and their steeds. I rushed out into the path lined by rubber trees and there I saw Tome the galactic centurion leading his troops to whatever trouble there was. I ran beside him as hard and as fast as I could.

“Tome! What on Placitas is happening!?”

He reached his arm down, snatched me up and threw me behind him on the horse.

“I couldn’t hear a word you were saying!”

“I wanted to know what the situation is. What’s with all the menacing war stuff?”

“They’ve come. We didn’t think their ship could make such a long journey. Somehow, they escaped before the annihilation, and now they’ve finally arrived, and we must stop them.”

“Is it something terrible? I don’t want it to be something terrible,” I cried out.

“Of course it’s terrible. Why else would we be going to war?” Tome answered.

“But you hate war. You’ve learned to put it away and live in peace.”

“Some things are worth fighting for when the enemy decides to impose its beliefs. Hold on Phil Paradise.”

“What is it!?”

“They’re trying to open a WalMart here!”

And that’s when the dusts of war raged, and Tome lit a fire beneath his troops, and I could barely hold on.

“But… Tome… Wait!”

“What is it, Phil!? I’m trying to lead the charge.”

“Wouldn’t the WalMart have Count Chocula?”


Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 7)

Author’s Note: You can read the previous episodes of this story by going to the Serials on Cereal tab in the menu bar at

I would have never believed it myself had I not witnessed it in the realm of real life, but there he was.

“Karl! What the fuck are you doing here!?” Roy blurted out loud enough for the whole world of the underground dead to hear.

Creepy Karl from Indiana held up a dirty, empty plastic milk carton. “I tried to stop you, but you just tore off. You all forgot your milk jug back in California. I thought I’d bring it to you.”

“I swear Karl, you’re cuckooier than a bowl of Cocoa Puffs,” Roy said, exhausted in spirit.

“No, no. I’m just trying to be a decent citizen of the world.”

“What kind of shit is this, Karl?!” Roy demanded to know. “You’ve been following us, and not because of some god damn empty milk jug. You’ve got some serious explaining to do or you’re liable to lose even more teeth. You’ll be swallowing them right down with a warm blood chaser after I punch you in the face.”

“No, now, Roy. There’s no need for physical violence here,” Karl said, and he craned his wrinkled neck to get a peek at me in the bed over Roy’s shoulder. “Oh. Looks like I might have interrupted a hot love session.”

“Roy! Get him the hell out of here. Right now!” I screamed out.

“You heard the lady, get the hell out of here before…”

“Before what?” Karl sneered. “Before you call the cops?” He moved up and down on the balls of his feet, snickering. “Now, that might not be in your best interest, Roy. You know, considering everything that’s transpired among you two and the outside world.”

I got up out of the bed, a sheet wrapped tightly around my body, and I went to stand by Roy and looked that son of a bitch Karl right in the face and pointed my pissed off finger at him. “You don’t know shit about us, so quit playing like you do,” I said to him.

“Well, on the contrary young lady, I do know a few things. Things like how you’ve been fornicating with an outlaw.”

“That’s none of your god damn business,” I seethed.

“But it is my business. And it most certainly is the business of those that I represent. It’s a sin. They know it. I know it. Seems like you’re the only one who doesn’t know it, or maybe you just don’t care.”

“I have no god damn idea what you are talking about, mister, and I don’t really care to,” I said to him. “Now, I’m going to go take a shower and when I get out, you better be on the other side of the Rio Grande, Karl.”

As I walked off to the bathroom, Karl called out something that stopped me dead in my tracks. He said: “Royal is wondering why you ran off with this here killer.”

I turned to look back at him. He was smiling some victorious smile like he had beaten me, beaten Roy, too. We were caught in some sort of web I didn’t fully understand yet. “What do you have to do with my husband?”

And just as he was about to speak, a beat-up car came pulling up to the motel with a bad-news rattle. There was a little lighted sign strapped to the roof and it read: Jim’s Clean Pizza. Roy glanced at me and said, “Finally. I’m so damn hungry.”

Roy went out and paid the kid and then came back inside with a plastic 2-liter of lemon-lime soda pop and a big cardboard box, and the room started to smell so good. It was that smell that told you that you were about to indulge in some delicious goodness sliding down your throat and into your hollow belly. Kind of like when Roy lets loose when he’s in my mouth.

I’ll tell you what, though. That damn Karl watched Roy all the way as he carried that box over to a little table and set it down, and I could tell he was going to ask for some damn pizza. Aw, holly hell. I’ve seen this fool drink milk and I sure as shit wasn’t looking forward to seeing him eat pizza. But Roy invited him to stay so we could talk about things. But the weird thing is, he didn’t ask me what I thought about it at all. I think it was a strategy to keep our enemy close as we worked stuff out. But I was already fast-forwarding in my mind to killing this lump of trouble and dumping him deep in the desert so the buzzards could carry him off to the afterlife in pieces.

Roy sat down, rubbed his hands together in anticipation, and opened the lid of the pizza box. “Hell yeah!” he said. “Meatballs, pepperoni, and black olives. Damn that looks good. Well come on you two, pull up your asses and grab a slice before I eat it all myself.”

“Those sure are small meatballs,” Karl said as he curiously peered into the box.

Roy chuckled through a mouthful. “I’m sure you know plenty about small balls, don’t you Karl?”

Karl gave him a stern look of disapproval, reached a spindly hand into the box, and retrieved a piece of pizza. “My balls are big enough, Roy.” Then he slurped the pointy end of his slice into his mouth.

“Well, I sure as hell hope I never find out, Karl,” Roy said to him with another laugh.

“Would you all mind not talking about your balls while I’m trying to eat,” I said to them, and then I filled some motel cups with that lemon-lime soda pop and passed them around.

“Sorry, Sally,” Roy said. Then he cleared his throat and looked around at our humble gathering. “This sure is weird as hell,” he pointed out.

“So, Karl,” I began. “What was this talk about my husband?”

He was tipping his cup back as I said this, and when he got it all down, he smacked his rutted lips and looked at me with a strange grin. Then he turned to Roy and said in an uncharacteristic tone and even with a different voice, “I think it’s time we tell her.”

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Mental Mushroom Murder Day

Sam stood on a big rock in the viridescent forest and aimed his arrow at the sky. He longed to taste real blood as he lined up the tip of it with an invisible target. He pretended to fire and made sounds like any young man would – shwoosh shwoosh shwap – and he didn’t even know anything about real life and pointless killing. Sam didn’t know much about most things in the world. His headful of thoughts was always dreamy and swimming backward in another colorful dimension. That’s why Sam wasn’t allowed into the king’s army. Even though he had come of age and was required to sign up, the powerful ones told him he was too crazy and therefore unfit for battle.

“Hogwash!” he cried out, suddenly looking down at the ground and seeing the smiling face of a mushroom with an orange cap and a thick ivory stalk.

And the mushroom opened its eyes and seemed concern. “What’s the problem, Sam? Are you having difficulties adjusting to the norms of society again?”

“You got that right, Mr. Mushroom. I just want to fight like all the others. It’s my duty and yet they won’t let me – they call me Stupid Sam.”

The mushroom worked two small, odd hands attached to thin, frail arms and lit a cigarette. He began to smoke it as he tried to give Sam some advice. “Maybe you are destined for greater things than just killing innocent others by order of some bozo who thinks he’s God. Did you ever think about that?”

“If I can’t fight then I am nothing,” Sam explained, frustrated. “Do you expect me to tend sheep in a golden field for the whole of my life? No fair maiden would want someone as wishy-washy as that.”

“Personally, I think that sounds kind of nice,” the mushroom told him. “I would like that a whole lot better than getting axed or shot with an arrow or slit with a sword because of someone else’s frivolous dispute.”

Sam got agitated. “Have you ever heard of bravery or honor!? Have you ever heard of taking a stand and fighting for your kingdom?”

“Have you ever heard of kindness and love? Have you ever heard of living together in peace and harmony? Have you ever heard of being decent to your fellow man?” Mr. Mushroom shot back.

Sam scoffed. “Oh, what the hell do you know? Look at you. You’re just a bleeding-heart sissy-pants mushroom living in the forest. You don’t even have legs! You have a single stalk. What a loser. I bet you’ve never gotten any action in your whole life.”

“Oh yes I have! I’ve spilled my spores countless times. And I’m not a sissy! And I happen to like living in the forest. All my friends are here, I’m popular, it’s generally quiet, and I don’t even mind the rain.”

“Oh, stop talking like a little girl!”

“Maybe you just need to settle down a little bit. I don’t like your attitude, Sam, and you’re scaring me.”

“Well, I’m not surprised you’re frightened… I can be quite fierce if I need to be.” Sam turned around and watched the clouds race by. “I’m sure I can enlist in an army somewhere else. Nobody has to know. I can take on a new identity.”

“You would misrepresent yourself and fight for the enemy?”

Sam whipped his head around toward the mushroom. “Don’t you get it? We are the enemy. We’re no different than any other enemy in the world. We’re all enemies! What difference does it make who I fight for!? Everyone loses in the end.”

“But that’s treason… They’ll cut your head off for sure.”

Sam chuckled. “I don’t care Mr. Mushroom. People are stupid and I’ll get away with it. I was bred to fight and fight I will — no matter what side I’m on. I’m a natural born killer.”

Sam slung the bow around to rest on his back and drew the sword sheathed at his side. He studied the blade against the sky. The mushroom grew ever more nervous. “What are you going to do with that?” he squeaked.

Sam quickly turned, jumped off the rock, and drew closer to the mushroom. “Maybe I’ll undo your cap for you. Would you like that? Or maybe I’ll slice your stalk and leave you crippled.”

The mushroom tried to pull himself from the ground and run — but of course he couldn’t. “Oh… Come on Sam. What an awful thing to even think. I didn’t do anything. I’m just a mushroom. Please don’t hurt me. Why do you have this thirst for destroying life merely because it exists unparallel to your own? What hypocrisies and atrocities have they filled your mind with?”

“What are you talking about?” Sam wanted to know.

The mushroom stammered. “Have you ever considered the thought that maybe it’s not you that is crazy? Have you ever considered the thought that it is they, your heartless, morally blind, asinine, and ignorant leaders, who are the crazy ones? Hmmm?”

“You’re trying to trick me, Mr. Mushroom, aren’t you? Is this some sort of brainwashing technique you’re trying to use on me? Are you utilizing your psychedelic properties to sway me toward wrongdoing?”

“No Sam! I’m trying to save your soul. You’re becoming one of the very sheep you do not desire to tend.”

Sam touched his chin and walked in slow circles. He looked down at the mushroom and pointed with the tip of his sword. “You know… Maybe you can help me out.”

“What is it, Sam? I’ll do anything. Just don’t hurt me. I want to live. I just want to live as I am without judgment or scorn!”

“Suppose I cut you from the ground and returned to the village hoisting my prize high. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Then they would all see what a great warrior I truly am. Then they would have to let me join the king’s army. They would probably make me an officer.”

“Are you off your meds? You’re filling your head with false and grandiose ideas, Sam. And on top of that, you would be hurting me. I was hoping we were becoming friends.”

“Oh shut up, mushroom! I’m trying to think. And I don’t need any friends.”

“Please, Sam. Consider this. I don’t think the village idiots would be all that impressed by a mere mushroom.”

“Of course they would. You’re poisonous aren’t you?”

“Not really. Unless you ingest too much of me, which is highly unlikely since my psychotropic compounds would render the consumer unable to do so because, well, frankly, they would be trippin’ balls.”

“Well, then surely you are an extremely rare mushroom?”

“No. There are entire colonies of mushrooms just like me.”

Frustrated, Sam shook a fist out in front of himself. “Damn it! Do you at least go well with a fine meat and two vegetables stew?”

“Actually, I’ve been told I have very little desirable flavor. The truth is, I’m quite bitter.”

“Wait a minute… This is all another one of your mind games. You’re trying to convince me that you’re not a grand prize, when in fact, you are.” Sam held his sword high and was set to cut the mushroom down when an arrow suddenly pierced his throat. He fell to the ground, gurgling, and soon after died.

After a few moments passed, the mushroom, shocked and now spattered with Sam’s blood, called out in quaking fear. “Who did that!? Are you still there?” A figure wobbled between some distant trees. The mushroom strained his voice to make it louder. “Please! I want to talk to you! Help!” And suddenly there was someone standing over him. He was portly, nearly blocking out the entirety of the sun with his grotesque body.

“A mushroom that talks,” the stranger said in a nasally and somewhat whiny voice. “Now that is a grand prize — but killing you would make your talent useless. And I don’t like things that are useless. Only losers are useless.”

“Who the hell are you?” the mushroom asked.

“How could you not know who I am? I am Gordon the Great. I am the king of this entire realm. I’m a very important king — very popular with the people. Just ask anyone. People love me. And these are very fine people that say this. They say it all the time. You’ll hear it. Wherever you go.”

The mushroom looked him up and down with great suspicion and disbelief. “You don’t look much like a king to me,” he said. “Frankly, you kind of sound and look like an asshole.”

The king sneered and pouted his overly ripe face. “I don’t like mushrooms that don’t like me. That’s just sad. You’re a very sad mushroom. I can have you beheaded for talking to me that way… And many people, all over the whole kingdom, they will like that. They really will. They will be huge fans of it. Huge.”

The king finally turned his attention to Sam’s lifeless body on the ground. “Who is this I killed?”

“He was a great warrior.”

The king knelt down beside the body and turned the face toward him. He studied it. “It seems I have slayed Stupid Sam,” he said. “How unfortunate. I don’t like people who get slayed.”

“He wasn’t stupid,” the mushroom asserted. “He had a bright future and you destroyed it because all you care about is killing and destruction and polluting the forests and the valleys and the seas, and all because of your damn money.”

Gordon the Great rose and rolled his eyes and chuckled. “You only say that because you’re poor.” Then he made a goofy face and twiddled his fingers in the air, mocking the mushroom. He stepped forward and raised his kingly boot above the trembling fungi in an action of impending stomping.

But then the king suddenly stopped and turned his head. “Do you hear that?”

“What is it?” the frightened mushroom wanted to know.

“It sounds like the kingdom is being attacked,” Gordon the Great answered. “I must run and hide!”

But before he ran off, the cowardly king brought the bottom of his boot down upon the helpless mushroom, seething with ugliness and all the hatefulness he had inside him, and smashed it into an unrecognizable mush.


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Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 6)

Author’s Note: You can find the previous episodes of this story under the Serials on Cereal menu tab above.

“I live to pluck the tomatoes from your pre-made salad.”

Roy Essence and I sat in a roadside diner somewhere in hot as hell Arizona. We were hunched in a booth by a window, our alterations in appearance fully intact, our voices low.

Roy forcefully tapped at the road atlas he had with the tip of his finger and said, “That’s it. That’s where we’re going.”

I glanced out the window at the brutal desert. “Where’s that, Roy?”

“Truth or Consequences. Now, doesn’t that just sound perfect for us?”

I turned away from the window and looked at him. “That sounds made up, Roy. Where the hell is that?”

“New Mexico.”

“I thought you wanted to go to regular Mexico.”

“No. No. I changed my mind. Too obvious of a choice. We’d get caught up in a tangle for sure. But here,” he said, tapping on the road atlas again, “Here, we’d blend right in. We’d make out as just a couple of weary travelers. Smooth as pie.”

“But we’re not just a couple of weary travelers.” I looked around at all the other drifters on the great American road. No one seemed to pay us any attention at all. They were too lost in their own troubles, just as we were. “We’re in deep shit, Roy.”

He leaned back in the booth and glared at me. “Are you having second thoughts about all this?” he asked me. Then he leaned forward and clutched my hands in his and looked me dead in the eyes. “Because if you are, we’re going to have to end this. End this right now.”

A weary, beaten-to-hell looking waitress came by the table and set down a couple of Cokes, fizzing in glasses of slowly shifting ice. “Ready to order?” she asked, disenchanted.

“Can I get the chef’s salad without tomatoes?” Roy asked, looking away from me and up at her. “I hate them damn things.”

“Sure,” the waitress answered. “Nothing I love more than plucking tomatoes from a salad. A pre-made salad, mind you. But what the hell.”

Roy looked a bit uneasy, almost guilty. “And a fish sandwich. Crispy. Easy on the mayo. That okay?”

“Whatever you want. That’s what I live for.” The waitress nodded her head toward me. “How about you sweetheart?”

“Do you hate your job, miss?” I asked her instead of ordering.

“No. I love putting up with ass-grabbing knuckleheads all day. It’s what gets me up in the morning. Now, I’m here to get your order, not talk about my life. So, what will it be?”

I skimmed the menu quickly because I hadn’t completely decided. “I guess I’ll have the same, but I don’t mind the tomatoes.”

She wrote some things down on her little waitress pad, turned, and walked off.

“I don’t know how you can eat those damn things,” Roy said, shaking his head. “I’d rather eat tree bark.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

“Yes, I would. And don’t string out conversation with people. We don’t need that kind of attention, Sally.”

I put my head down, hurt that Roy was upset with me. “I was just talking. She just seemed sad.”

“So. Isn’t any of our god damn business if she’s sad,” Roy scolded. “We need to look out for ourselves, not anybody else.”

I stared out the window in silence while Roy flipped through more of the atlas. When the food came, we ate without talking. Roy seemed to be far off in the land of a thinking man, and I was worried he was all alone in that place, meaning without me. Then I got to thinking that maybe I was starting to feel some regret about all this after all. But my future didn’t look bright any way I tried to picture it – either I was going to end up in some prison forever or I was going to have to spend the rest of my life running from myself and all the wrongs I created. I’d never be able to just breathe. Holy hell, Sally Dibbs. I felt sick to my stomach and excused myself to go use the restroom.

We gassed up and got back on the I-10. Roy slept as I drove. It was a long, hot rest of the day and we didn’t talk much. Roy cried out a couple of times in his sleep, like he was scared of something bad.

I got us through Phoenix, down through Tucson, and just over the New Mexico border when I tired out and wanted to stop. We found a little roadside motel and got us a cheap room for the night. Roy was dark and moody. He didn’t say much to me except, “Why don’t you order a pizza.”

I flipped through the little binder that the motel had there that showed all the restaurants and things to do. There wasn’t much, but I did find a pizza place called Jim’s Clean Pizza and I called them up and made an order.

“What the hell is a clean pizza?” Roy wanted to know.

I shrugged my shoulders at him. “I think it’s one of those places that only uses organic things in their food. You know, real natural ingredients.”

Roy scoffed and shook his head. “Organic. Out here? In this shit town in the middle of the god damn desert?”

“It was the only place they had listed, Roy. I don’t know what else you want me to do.”

He plopped down in the bed and turned on the television with the remote. “Whatever. I just want something to eat.”

I wanted to take a quick shower before the pizza man showed up, so I got undressed right there in front of Roy because even though he was being a grouch, I was hoping to stimulate him into giving me a good poking. I stood at the edge of the bed, right in front of him in all my womanly glory and he paid me hardly any attention.

All he said was, “Get the hell out of the way, Sally. You’re blocking the TV.”

“Why don’t you desire me anymore?” I asked him.

“You want desire?” he replied.

“Some sort of desire,” I answered.

He powered off the TV and came to me. He wildly pawed at my body as he kissed me. I was melting from the inside out and ready to go at it. He forced me down on the bed and pushed my legs open, and just as he was about to take on my taste, there was a frantic knock on the door.

“Aw, holy hell,” I said.

“Stay here and cover up. I’ll have you for dessert,” Roy said in a playful way, and then he went to the door.

But when he pulled it open, it wasn’t the pizza delivery guy. It was someone else, and it wasn’t good. 

It’s still not over, but we’re getting closer. Check back soon for the next episode. Better yet, follow Cereal After Sex and receive notifications of new posts.