Category Archives: Imagined and Real


There stands a window of gray, impenetrable. Clocks sway like soldiers’ hooves. The popping of the bombs as they hit the ground wails on and on outside. A flagship mothership spins like a top in the sky. Beams of fire rain down. The extraterrestrials have finally decided enough was enough. Earth had to be eliminated. The humans were tainting the universe with their bric-a-brac ways.

Years before, inside an auto parts store in Morlockowoc, Wisconsin, a new employee named Finnian Lake stood behind the counter. He was so nervous he was shaking. He didn’t know anything about auto parts, yet there he was. How? Why? Societal pressure to earn money. Familial pushing. A jackass father-in-law who thought he was George Jones. He had entrenched in Finnian that it was in his best interest to get in on the ground floor of an up and coming auto parts chain store. The company eventually went under due to poor management.

“But I know nothing about auto parts,” Finnian tried to tell him.

The father-in-law looked at him with disgust. “Then learn.”

On his very first day, someone called the store wanting to know if they had a certain engine in stock. “An entire engine?” Finnian asked. “Don’t you maybe just need some windshield washer fluid?”

The tool on the other end of the line rattled off some numbers, some dimensions, some code. Finnian scrambled through a thick catalog to try and find what he was talking about. He waited a few minutes. “Nope. Sorry. We don’t have it.”  But maybe they did. Finnian had no clue. He didn’t ask anyone else. He just simply gave up because to him it was all utter bullshit.

Years later, it was a blustery Sunday in Morlockowoc, Wisconsin, and Finnian Lake was inside a Piplee’s fast-food restaurant eating a spicy chicken sandwich and fries with an orange soda. He was suddenly bamboozled by a loud commotion up at the front registers. A woman was arguing with one of the managers about how her order was all messed up. She was being real nasty about it, but the manager was being nasty back.

He was a big black guy who barely fit into his uniform and Finnian thought to himself how much he resembled a professional wrestler—The Fast-Food Force of Evil they would call him—and then the customer came on with a barrage of racial slurs and that’s when things really went up a notch or 13.

This was when Finnian retrieved his Canon EOS R10 mirrorless camera and began filming. He was shocked as the manager dragged the screaming woman outside to the parking lot. He smacked her around with his big hands a few times until she fell to the ground. He kicked her in the gut. He then picked her up, lifted her high over his head, and body slammed her onto the pavement. One could almost hear the crunching of bones. She barely moved after that.

Finnian went out to the parking lot and joined the gathering crowd looking down at her. He pushed in and stood right above her; the camera zoomed in on her aching emotions. She was all whacked up and battered and moaning like a bitch. “Seems like you got what you deserved, misses,” Finnian said to her, and he dropped his drained paper soft drink cup down on her. Some of the other people clapped and cheered and Finnian smiled to them before getting into his car and driving off.

When he got back to his small abode of yellow brick that rested in a nice neighborhood near the shore of one of the Great Lakes, he set up his Canon EOS R10 mirrorless camera and other vlogging equipment in the front room. His latest episode on Tik Tok would be about the woman being body slammed in a fast-food restaurant parking lot. Great stuff, he thought. Really great stuff. There’s nothing like witnessing the pain of others. Especially when it is perfect strangers in agony, he oddly thought.

He edited the footage he had shot earlier and then went to work recording his introduction. He took his stance and smiled at the camera. “Hi guys, welcome back, Fabulous Finnian here. I’ve got some crazy ass footage for you today. That’s right. Seems one of the manager’s down at Piplee’s doesn’t take too kindly to unruly customers who complain about chicken and berate him with bigoted slurs. Check this out… Whoa. Slam. Damn! But if you ask me, she had it coming to her. She was being a complete racist bitch! Just goes to show, it doesn’t pay to be a whiny asshole. Thanks again for watching, guys. Make sure to share, subscribe, and have a great day.”  

“Now this,” he said to himself proudly. “This is what I was meant to do… Not struggle to sell god damn auto parts!” he said that last part with gusto and then flipped up his middle finger in the direction of bad memories.

He packed up his video blogging gear and stowed it away in the proper places because he was an organized person. He sat down in a chair in the front room and looked out the window. It started to rain and so he decided to take a walk. He filled his backpack with imported IPAs and a ham sandwich.

He went out the front door and across the street to the nearby park. The rain was overly wet and slightly cold. He went down a hill and across an open field of neatly cut grass. At the other end was a clump of forest. He wandered through the trees, paused beneath a wide bough to get out of the rain for a moment. He went down a steep hill and came out to the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes. The rain was filling the basin even higher. Waves wrapped around themselves, dropped, spilled their energy.

He found a large, white rock that resembled a table and sat down on it. He reached into his pack for a beer and cracked it open. He took one long drink until the can was completely drained. The rain lessened and felt warmer. The sun was trying to force its way through the gray clouds. Birds were chirping. Ambient cyberpunk meditation music dripped from the air. It reminded him of Blade Runner. He wondered if he was merely a Replicant.

“A replica of what?” he asked the gods of the mountain. He reached for another beer and drained that as well. He unwrapped his ham sandwich and ate it. Sea birds tried to make a dive for it. They were white angels with horizontal wings, squawking, demanding, chittering like loaded dice.

Someone suddenly appeared on the surface of the water. They were walking toward him. It was a large man with a scowl. He glowed. He stepped onto the shore. His feet were bare and wet. “You!” he said to Finnian, and he pointed. “You bamboozled me years ago when I was trying to find an engine for my truck. Why did you lie to me!?”

“What!? What!? What is this!?”

“You once worked in an auto parts store here, did you not?”

“I did, but only for four days.”

The engine ghost man laughed. “Figures! You sucked at it!”

“I’m sorry I deceived you… I was so far out of my element that I barely existed.”

The engine ghost man came over and sat upon the rock with him. He sighed, looked at the empty beer cans on the ground. “You litter, too?”

“I was going to pick them up and pack them out. I would never do such a thing to this glorious place.”

They both looked out at the churning, wet water. “Where did you come from? How did you do that… Walk on the water,” Finnian wanted to know.

“There’s no special trick to it. You’ll be able to do it once you’re dead.”

“You mean I can walk wherever I want, and I won’t drown?”

“As long as you don’t want to, you will not drown.” The engine ghost man looked at him. “You know that truck ended up rotting away in my driveway because of you.”

“I’m sorry. I really am,” Finnian said. “I was pushed into it by oppressive forces. I should have never been there. Believe me, I suffered greatly for it.”

“I’m sure you did. But none of that matters now… Hey, do you have any more beers?”

Finnian reached into his pack and pulled one out for him. “Here you go.”

The engine ghost man studied the shiny can. “Hmm, high gravity. Excellent.”

Finnian thought for a moment, and then asked him. “Do you want to come back to my house and watch a bitch get body slammed?”

The engine ghost man chuckled through a tilt of the beer. “You bet I do.”



Harpooned harlequins cascade like dominoes in the limelight trick of light down on the piccadilly row of southern Santa Monaco and the bow rips and the cow tips and the fringes of a mad mind unfold like warped bric-a-brac on a magic store shelf in Sicily comatose gold rope lassoed by Cowboy Bill and his mad life in the little trailer on the back lot where he does blow off a red wine clown’s nose down in Soho bungalow with the beat dime trap on the boulevard walk, full of chalk, yellow bordered hearts melting under a midday red hot sun eye …


Is there another day of fire in the head and a late night walk to cold bed, fissures in the heartbeat, sizzles in the car seat, dreams unfurled like muskrat love, calliope shit storms down in the Hollyblue burial bomb out shelters, the bookworm’s house in the woods, a tree within a tree, stairways and passageways, piano notes fall like rain and mediaeval Japanese ambient ethereal music plays among the boughs that astrophysical babies of earthquake origin break.

Tick-tock midnight train, blue coconut warbles in the brain, unchecked fantasies of the lame, Thanksgiving stuffing stuffed with ordinary grievances. Yellow pencils, plastic lunchboxes, glossy red jackets, blonde, flippant hair flipping in the wind. King Kong plays with himself at the Brooklyn Zoo. Housewives, hosewives, stovepipes, faint at the wonder of it all. Blouses stained, washed in rain…

A sonic boom in meticulous soul.

Go now and greet Greedo. The credo. Greed is good. Wonder and splendor is bad like sticky rice. Ideas ache. Fleas bake. Cookies in a plastic oven. Love of a lifetime sells for a dime out there beneath the glow of another swamp gas local event. Nine chives and a quick goodbye. Words lack meaning now, like a time bomb ripping through space.

There’s an icy house upside down in winter terrain. The ice is so cold it’s green. The windows are frosted over like foam insulation, the people inside like tumbling dice in their died stance. Too late to save anyone now. What is this freezing ache inside? The fire in my brain at the mercy of a bellows, oxygen in, oxygen out, a fingernail scratch on the cortex in Cortez, Colorado, the western sky and a homemade pie, pine nuts in Paris, coffee huts in Belarus, breast plates for Zeus, juice, something’s loose, in my head.

Stormtroopers marching, rebels barking, a bottle of Jawa juice smashed against the hard edge of the third moon, a crescendo tone, a christening boom, the ship in my head pulls away from the shore and simply drifts on the waters of space.  

The Infinity of Gilligan, Godzilla, and Gruyere


One million beings ring the rings of Saturn while one million more stands in the stuffy queue for a chance to eat mediocre breakfast. And still one million trillion more stands in line with their exhaustible consumables, and I sense a vagina in the wind, an overly impatient man is holding a fuselage of Pick-Up-Sticks and chewing watermelon gum and one must wonder if he has a gun beneath that long rubber coat. On the other side of town, a beautiful woman fills her belly with a ham and gruyere omelet before breaking ferocious wind in a disheveled but crowded Target store. People run as if Godzilla were attacking. All is laughing gas madness as she denies it to the judge who deems it off-handed assault. She gets 43 years in the penitentiary and a lifetime supply of Ivory soap for her crack.

A man sits on an uncomfortable bench on Dillon Beach Road waiting for a bus that will never come. He reads a glossy Hollywood magazine. The pages flap in the sea-salt air. He’s wearing a Gilligan hat and suddenly becomes hungry for sausage and coconut. He wonders how the Professor gets so much action. Then he realizes it’s easy. The Professor is so much better because he himself is so much worse. No woman wants a Gilligan. He’ll never be able to compete in the game of love and therefore will die alone. They’ll roll him up in some sailing fabric and stick him in a cave. The Skipper stands in front of a mirror in his bamboo and grass hut and practices his imitation of Oliver Hardy. Then he starts to cry when he realizes his “little buddy” is gone forever. He can never be happy, not ever.

What else? What else?

The blades of a helicopter chop at the wind. Monster Magnet is playing the song Space Lord as they ride a green comet around the planet. It’s an unfruitful war and pirate eye patches and Wilford Brimley talking about oatmeal kind of day in the universe. Karl Childers from Sling Blade is now the man in the moon, and he keeps talking about biscuits and a book about Christmas… Mmmm hmmm. Nothing seems normal. There is no normal.

I know about the universe. But just exactly where is the universe? When I go outside to pee off the edge of the porch, I enjoy looking up at the sky, the stars, the planets, the satellites I think are UFOs. And yes, I always wonder, just where is the universe? What is outside the universe? It’s such an incomprehensible question. There is the unfathomable vastness of the universe, but then there must be more, and then even more… It’s infinity at its finest. It just goes on and on and on and on… And if there is infinity that carries on forever in front of us, then there must be anti-infinity that trails forever behind us. Do the two infinities ever meet up? And what if they did? Or what if they do? Maybe it’s all just an endless loop stuck on PLAY. But who pushed the button and now refuses to release it?

Tecumah (2.)

Taos for Tecumah.
Photo by Aaron A. Cinder

And she’s sleeping next to a guy she doesn’t even love… Why?

And I awoke abruptly in Tecumah’s earthen house, thinking of space angels and their precious and pounding red hearts. I hurt like a madman. I just wanted to hold the barrel of life again, feel the touch of its entirety in one big loving gulp, but then again, I was coming down from a mad dream and I ached all over and I thought I saw Tecumah boiling something in a pot.

“Come to the table, sit down. It’s breakfast time,” Tecumah said.

I got up and wobbled over to the table and sat down. He placed a steaming cup of something in front of me along with a bowl of Easter eggs.

“Drink that and eat those,” he said. “It will make you feel better.”

“Easter eggs? But it’s almost Christmas.”

“So what? I like cooking and coloring Easter eggs. It’s my hobby. It calms my nerves.”

“That explains all the chickens running around in your yard then, eh?”

Tecumah looked out the window.

“Yes, I suppose it does.”

I sipped the hot drink and peeled some eggs and ate them with salt.

“Are we still going to drive your piece of shit car off a cliff today?” Tecumah asked in all seriousness.

“No, I better not. I have some things to do today.”

Tecumah huffed.

“That’s too bad, I was looking forward to sending that thing over the edge.”

“I have to drop my painting off at my friend’s gallery. He’ll be waiting for me.”

“All right then. I’ll ride you over to the motel and you can pick up your piece of shit car. But if you want to get wicked again before you leave town, just stop by. I’ll be ready to go.”

The little bell on the door of the gallery went dingy dingy when I went in.

“Welly, welly, welly well! Hooray, for he has finally arrived,” said my longtime friend and “A Clockwork Orange” fanatic Javlin Francis Fitch, jumping up from behind the counter and rushing over to give me a big, rumbling handshake.

“So, this is it then, eh?” he asked, his wide chocolate eyes dancing all over the parcel dangling from my sore fingers.

“Indeed, it is. Vagina Waterfall, as you requested.”

“Well, open it up then will you. I want to see it,” Javlin said impatiently.

I stripped the brown paper off the painting and held it up for him to see.

“Just as I remember!” Javlin said, all happy and insane, his bushy rusted curls bouncing around. “Seems like it was just yesterday I was sitting on your couch in your super hip Nob Hill pad looking up at the wall and admiring this painting while we got baked to oblivion. Those sure were some good times.”

“A lot of good times. So, how do you like Taos then?” I asked.

“It’s pretty hip and super fresh,” Javlin said, lifting the painting up and holding it against a piece of bare white wall. “I’ve made lots of friends. We should all get together before you leave town. I think tonight would be a fine and proper time. Perhaps a tea party. My dolls would just love that.”

“Are you sure you’re okay, Javlin? You seem a bit off.”

He turned quickly and glared at me.

“Off? What do you mean off? Are you saying I’m crazy or something?”

“No, I was just…”

“Because I’m not crazy Thom Hatt! You’re the one who is crazy.” He scoffed as he turned back to the picture. “Seriously. Painting a waterfall that looks like a vagina!?”

“I never intended it to be perceived as a vagina, it’s just a waterfall for Christ’s sake! You came up with the name! And what’s with the big pervert moustache? You’ve never had that before.”

“I’m a creative soul Thom and creative souls have big, bushy moustaches, and it’s not perverted, and if you don’t like it, well, then you can just zip it.”

Javlin went back to placing my painting on the wall and didn’t talk to me for 20 minutes. I strolled around the gallery looking at all the luscious landscape paintings of mountains and canyons and lovely juniper green Earth spirits prancing around in native garb.

“You have some very nice paintings here, Javlin.”

“Why don’t you buy something then?” he said to me in a very uncharacteristic sarcastic tone. “It would be nice if I could at least afford a pot pie to eat.”

“I’m a minimalist, I don’t need things.”

“These aren’t just things, Thom! This is art,” he said as he gestured with his hands and looked around the gallery. “You sure do have a screwed-up head. A minimalist, geez, whatever.”

“I think I’m going to go now. You can do whatever you want with the painting. I hope it sells and you make enough money to buy some pot pies.”

“Well, I hope you plan on staying in town long enough to enjoy them with me. Mmm, I can already smell them baking away in the oven. I’ve really come to love the golden flaky crust, the creamy gravy, the crisp garden-fresh vegetables.”

Warily, I asked. “You’re not involved with that cult again, are you?”

“Cult? What cult?”

“You know what I’m talking about… The Cult of Steamy Goodness. That whole ordeal in that other part of New Mexico. Don’t play dumb.”

He paused, looked at me and then waved a hand in my direction. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course, I’m not involved again. I just happen to enjoy a good pot pie occasionally. It’s not against the law. Gee whiz, Thom. Give a guy a break.”

“Sorry, Javlin. I didn’t mean to be such an A-Hole. I just know how you can take things to the extreme at times. I don’t want to see you get messed up like that again. It was troubling.”

“You don’t have to worry about me… Our spiritual leader ran off to Montana and got involved with a woman and fly fishing. Eww. Seems he’s just an ordinary fella after all.” And then Javlin suddenly rushed toward a window near the back of the gallery and lifted it open.

“You damn squirrels get the hell out of here!” he yelled. “You come around here again, and I’ll blast your nuts off!”

He slammed the window shut. “Sorry about that. It’s just those damn squirrels get me so upset!”

“Right. The issue with squirrels.”

“Yes, the issue with squirrels. Did you know he’s in jail now.”

“Bumble Bill is in jail?”

“Yes, and they should throw away the key. He was the absolute worst newspaper photographer I ever had the displeasure of working with. I’m so glad to be done with that whole racket.”

“Why is he in jail?”

Javlin laughed out loud. “His atrocious photos!… No. Seems he was kidnapping children and squirrels and forcing them to live together in his basement. He was taking pictures of them as they interacted. He claimed it to be scientific research but obviously no one bought that defense. They didn’t get him for the pictures, just the kidnapping. The children, of course. They didn’t care about the squirrels.”

“Wow. That’s crazy.”

“Crazy does what crazy is… Or something crazy like that,” Javlin said with an offbeat laugh. And then he started to grit his teeth real hard and pull at his long, wild Bob Dylan hair and his face started turning red like he was holding his breath or something and he was starting to sweat, and he was mumbling gibberish to himself. I thought he was having a stroke.

“Javlin! Javlin! Are you all right?”

He let go of his hair and released his breath and soon his face returned to its normal color of pale peach.

“Dude, what the hell? Are you okay?”

“Huh, oh, yeah, I’m fine. Flashbacks. A nervous reaction, I’m afraid. Squirrels. Damn squirrels. The past can be a very haunting thing. But how are you, Thom?”

“I was kind of worried about you there for a bit.”

“Don’t be Thom. I am hip to the extreme, I am as super fresh as can be. You will come back later for the tea party, right, Thom?”

“Yes, I suppose I will come, but maybe you should close up and lie down for a while, take a nap or something. Rest your mind for a bit.”

“That’s a good idea Thom. I think I’ll do that. Thanks for stopping by with the painting. I’m looking forward to visiting with you more.”

To Be Continued…

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The Chronicles of Anton Chico (American Soil)

Anton Chico in swirl of dark hallway.
Photo by Aidan Roof on

The Other Side of the Door

By mid-afternoon, the sun was flaring its nostrils and spitting fire and when I walked out of the rough cantina in Juarez, I had to shade my eyes because the light stung them like a burning wasp.

I stumbled into the tide of people and turned this way and that in a state of confusion trying to determine which way it was to the border. I saw the policeman, walking slowly against the flow of people, and I saw his eyes fix on me and Anton Chico panicked for a second, moved to the edge of the flustered queue and stood against the hot stucco of a building until the officer passed.

I knew it was time to get out of the country; the paranoia was creeping in again and I felt an attack coming on. I swiftly moved back into the flow of people and headed straight for the crossover. When I reached it, I deposited a quarter and pushed my way through the turnstile and sighed with relief when I saw the buildings of El Paso, cloaked in heavy and hot smog, just beyond the crest of the bridge.

I walked fast. The sweat was pouring out of me like someone had gently squeezed a sponge. I smelled like the remnants of a wild fiesta. That familiar ache in my head and the churning in my belly began to rise and I was dying for a drink of water. Agua.

I stopped outside the checkpoint building, where the Mexicans show their green cards, and smoked a cigarette watching the herd of people moving along like desperate and bewildered cattle. I crushed the smoke on the ground and joined them. I had no green card but showed the officer my American driver’s license.

“American citizen?” he asked with a stern look.


He moved me through, and on the other side of the doorway was America.

Swallowed by the Night

No soul to touch, no voice to caress, no hand to crush to dust. The little car hummed along the highway at dusk headed toward home. El Paso faded like a dream behind me. I was feeling a bit sad having to leave that place. As big and dirty and electrified as it was, I began to miss it; or in all actuality, miss the being away from the doldrums, getting more doldrum by the day, and the ache in my belly began to roar again as I thought about having to return to my shaved-face reality; my 4 p.m. check-in and well-behaved, well-dressed mannerisms.

It was all soaking fake and dull and leaving me shaking with a shame about my own false reality and pious lies and imperfections seething through the cracks in my well-oiled skin as I desperately tried so hard not to break down and scream and rant and rave and cry up a mad tempest all down my sweaty, shaking face as I smiled, feigned smiling, for the camera, the camera called the eyes and lies of every beating heart human that surrounded my very bland every day activities.

The blood in my veins boiled, the acid in my stomach fizzed, the marrow in my bones bubbled, the curvatures across my brain pulsed, rhythmic creation in an underskirt, my diary of madness scratched on the inside of my eyes in a calligrapher’s black ink.

It was dark as death as I pulled into my space at the complex and killed the engine. The moon was full and beaming down through the tall treetops like something out of a famous love story. I opened the car door and reluctantly trudged my pack with me up the short steps to the door. I fumbled with my key in the lock and pushed the door in. Black silence came over me. My fingers fumbled for the light switch and when thus the place became illuminated it was no brighter than when it was completely dark.

The place smelled as if it had been vacant for months; stale, dry rot, cumbersome, old, gray, nicotine smeared and cold. I set my things down and went to my favorite living room window, the tall and narrow one, pulled aside the curtains and opened it. The vacant lot outside was just as I had left it. A car rumbled down the road. I looked at the scattered remains of porch lights at this late hour. A dog barked. A bug of some sort slammed himself against the screen and then fluttered off dismayed. I sighed and went into the bathroom to shower.

The blaring sun woke me up. The curtains were thin and an ungodly melon color – bed sheets really – and I threw the blanket off me because I was already beginning to sweat. So some words about that unholy oppressive heat I had come to so despise during my desert life:

The heat was like an arrow of fire, like a spike dipped in burning coals thrust through the flesh at high speed, like hell, like an oven, like crisp and dead leaves beneath a Boy Scout’s microscope… The relentless ball of fire hung in the sky like the devil’s eye, unleashing its burn down upon the land, the desolate harrowing land of death and solidness, of pain and captivity, a burrowing fever that boiled the brain and cooked the buildings and the asphalt, a harrowing, searing blaze boiling all in its path, an unending glare, the fireball coated white hot and spitting its hot lust down upon the earth in every spot I stood; there was no relief, no shelter from the sun that never hid its face from view, always there, always hanging there like a hot jewel ripe to burn the skin right off your bones.

It made the town more depressing than it already was; at least the rain would of washed some of the sin away, but no, not here in this place, no rain, just wind and dust and hot, everything dry as dead bone, every drop of moisture sucked from the living; the river ran so slow and shallow and brown, the sun sipping every morsel of wet from the land’s soul and the skins of humans dry and cracking, wiped over with lotions and moisturizers every morning and then one would step outside and simply burn, burn, burn… The beads of sweat came forth suddenly and poured down one’s face; a sick, laborious heat that pushed the boundaries of human endurance far over the edge, where one would kill for a place in front of a breeze, one would kill for an ice cube or a fan or an Alaskan vacation.

I and others like me would sleep draped in our own sweat because even once the sun did fall for the night the temperature would remain high; the heat, absorbed by the buildings and the streets and the earth, would be belched back out to recycle its pain throughout the darkness, a warm velvet glove cupped over the city swatting away any attempt of coolness trying to come down and breathe upon us all; the heat, there was just no escape – the swamp coolers hummed and rumbled but not a dent would they manage to carve into the grip of suffocation.

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Shimmer Machine

Shimmering Lake Michigan – Wisconsin / A. Aldous Cinder

The shimmering quake of sky light pushes tender needles through the bones and stomach nerves on a sunny day in Central Time Land there by the small sea of bloodied turquoise — no sand, no pails, no twisted ankles, just twisted eyes with bottles of wine tears soaking the pockets of my outdated plaid, flannel shirt.

And I sit and lay still for peace by the shore, then looking behind and up at the small rowboats stacked like bodies at the rim of the bend in the earth. No sailors to sail, no fisherman to fish, no princely addicts to drown in the sun-bleached water so cold and choking… But it’s real peace on a Sunday afternoon of solitude on planet Broke Down Burial Ground, the brown-skinned mummies stirring in the dirt below bellowing about their wild days long ago under the same sun, a hot, yellow white puncture wound throbbing in the mad, blissful sky.

I exhale the soul and shivers down deep inside, think about the miles I climbed, rattling guns shouting from the treetops some place far away. It’s all about diligence and smacking down the suffering on Sea Street by the sea, hopped up on lamp post light, back propped against, head bowed, dark raincoat swatting back the wet chill of England as a precarious carriage rolls by… Where did I leave that damn time machine?

Wander to the Public House for some light of day and wicked sips and ash flicks and bawdy talk with raucous strangers from another planet who keep flipping out about my modern-day garb and the necklaces of Atlantic shells strung about my thick neck and they keep asking me over and over and over again… “Where do you come from? Why, I’ve never heard of that place.”

It’s the tick tock time and time again and I am back on the shore by the Wooldridge Sea throwing bricks at invisible people who keep trampling across my checkered picnic blanket and knocking over my tea and rum and gun. The ribs ache and I do not want the day to end despite the fact the mummies have me in the sights of their bows — high up in the canopy of green doily — a 1952 living room chair made of trees — “Do not get dark, please,” is something like what I say, digging into some pharmaceutical picnic basket, biting in, swallowing down, feeling something illegal scraping at my ribcage, the alarm clock goes wild and I smash it with a hammer then feel bad as I look at the mangled face and I just let the thing die right there in the grass, right in front of me and time stops simply because I was a brute. Standing, thinking, looking out at the shimmer of the sea, thinking and thinking some more, this mind always running so mechanical… “What about this? What about that?

It’s a long way back to the machine, I tenderly bemoan the hike, but what better way to be on a Sunday in the English countryside of American voodoo land? Gather some things, but I do not want to look away from the sedative sky and its hammock light. Sigh, then step, then step again, and then I am away, yet turning to look back, turning for another dose of real heart, real place, feeling the guts turn tidal wave as I reluctantly walk back to the lands of the unreal reality. I do not like it, as I turn the key, and these chains do not do me justice, this being tethered does not suit me, I want to be away, always, shimmering on some lonesome road, all destinations unknown, all destinations surprise and magic.  

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The Last Cutting of the Season

A house on Oakley Street burned to the ground early this morning. They say no one was inside the home at the time of the fire – 1 a.m.

“Well, that’s kind of suspicious,” I thought aloud to myself while crawling by in my car.

The house was bursting with blackness. The garage door was melted and curled. Black and sooty streaks lurched out of broken window openings and sang mad songs to the sun-drenched day. The place was surrounded by yellow caution tape. A big ol’ fire truck idled with a rabid purr in the street and men in uniforms sternly addressed the scene.

They said the blaze began in the garage… How? What was the point of ignition and who pulled the trigger?

1 a.m. and no one was home.

Sounds a bit fishy to me.

Maybe I should watch the news because there was a cameraman and a reporter on scene giving us all the ugly details… With a laugh, a glossy smile, a pocketful of poison for the mind.

Could it have been a case of someone out to get some insurance money? Maybe someone lost a job and the bills started piling up. And there it goes – worry turns to frustration and frustration turns to a desperate act.

It’s even more suspicious to me because the house is fairly new. Probably not more than three years old and so I think to myself, logically, that a new house like that shouldn’t have any bad wiring or an old furnace set to blow its guts. No… Everything should be just right, like peach pie… But yet, a fire.

And so it goes, and I don’t know the whole story yet because obviously not enough time has flown by. But as I sit here kind of thinking about it and worrying about the safety of my home, I wonder about their lives now. Did they go and lodge in a hotel? Do they have any fun family to stay with and hang out with and have a good time with? Are they together? Are they crying? Are they a huddled and shivering mash of ash-covered lumpkins weeping beneath the boughs of some old stone bridge?

God… It must be stressful. Yes, the world has unsheathed its sword of stress once again and wielded it against some fine family of pure innocence. But how pure? How innocent, really?

I guess I can’t really say. I suppose I will have to wait for the dumbheads on the TV news to lie about it.

But then again, I never watch the news. I can’t stomach it anymore. And the presentation is just so horrible. A suit and tie are just a suit and tie. Hair grease must make the man. Her face drips with Crayola makeup. Those anchors look so polished and honest and perfectly flawless, so people believe them like they were heavenly News God and follow along with the flock all the way to the edge and off the White Cliffs of Common Sense Grounded in True Morality.

I’ll stick with what I know — getting my info from the dynamic duo at Neighborhood Watch News, right next door. To protect their identity, I’ll call them Hansel and Gretel. Just imagine Hansel and Gretel as ancient beings: Gray, slightly bent, meddlesome, snoopish, nosy, opinionated, and not so full of youthful vinegar anymore.

I was out in my front yard executing the last cutting of the season when Gretel strolled over holding a steaming cup of Sanka and that’s when she dropped the scoop on the house fire.

“I came outside at 1 a.m. and the whole sky was just full of smoke,” she reported. “You should go by and take a look at it. Yeah, it’s pretty bad.”

“I already was.”

“You were there?” she asked with a hint of suspicion.

“I was. And what were you doing up at 1 a.m.?” I questioned her with the same measure of suspicion.

She looked at me and scoffed. “I’m an old woman. I had to use the bathroom… And then I smelled something funny.”

“I bet you did.”

Just then, Hansel yelled out from the front porch.

“Do we still have any of those fresh strawberries in the refrigerator!?”

Gretel sighed and snapped her head in his direction.

“Well, why don’t you go look for yourself then!? You do know where the refrigerator is? Don’t ya?”

She turned back to me with an exasperated look on her face.

“I swear… That man! Sometimes I could just slit his throat!”

I agreed with her of course because, frankly, Hansel can sometimes be a pain in the ass.

“Maybe you should,” I said to her.

There was a brief silence and then we both suddenly laughed.

“I suppose after 48 years of marriage I can put up with his old ass for a while longer,” Gretel said, feigning joy.

I stared at the grass because I was beginning to get bored. It was a shiny green color on the verge of going dull.

“I never see your wife. Why?” Gretel asked.

My eyes knocked back and forth in my head and then slowed upon the red tips of her wooden shoes. I was really high in Colorado. I looked up at her and sort of smiled.

“Because I don’t have one. I’ve already been married — five times. I guess it’s not for me.”

“Five times!? That’s terrible. How can you treat the sanctity of marriage with such a throw-away attitude?” she steamed.

“A few minutes ago, you were ready to slit your husband’s throat,” I replied.

“Well… I would never really do it. I just like to think about it,” she said, closing her eyes and pretending to pray.

“Neither one of us is a saint, Gretel. I don’t bathe in holy water and neither do you,” I said.

She looked up at the periwinkle sky — the clouds collapsed there like sleepy children, or in America, like children gunned down at school — right before summer break. How cowardly you truly are, man with gun. Burn in everlasting hell and then some.

“It’s supposed to rain some more,” she said, and she walked off without saying goodbye and disappeared beyond her front door.

I went back to clipping the edges of my small lawn. It was warm, but I could feel the breath of impending autumn on the back of my neck. The street was fairly quiet save for a few trailing screams of fun and joy bursting forth from the mouths of neighborhood kids down the way. They were wearing candied bullet-proof vests while riding their bikes. A big airplane moaned as it crawled across the sky above me. I watched it until it disappeared. I looked at the clock strapped to my wrist.

“Must be the 11:30 from Denver,” I said aloud to myself.

And where was I?

I was alone, on my knees in the lawn, and everything felt the same except that everything in the entire world was vastly different. When I finished my work, I cleaned up my tools and put them in the garage. I pushed a white plastic button and watched as the automatic door slowly went down and sealed me off from the madness of the world. I went inside the quiet house, locked all the doors, and boiled some corn to have with my lunch alone.