Reborn on the Fourth of the Flies

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

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

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

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

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

“I try. Doesn’t matter.”

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

“You’re right. She doesn’t.”

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

“Never gave it.”

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

“Kirby Hurricane.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s frustrating.”

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

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

“I believe I do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You want to eat one of those?”

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

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

“Hot sauce?” the clerk wanted to know.

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

“Yes. Extra hot sauce.”

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

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

“It’s uh… Different, I guess.”

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

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

“Like what?”


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

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

“That’s littering.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I thought we might try drowning?”

“Drowning? In the desert?”

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

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

“Are you scared?”

“Yeah… I’m scared. Wouldn’t you be?”

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

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

“You can’t back out now.”

“Why not?”

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

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

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

“Okay. How about I do it.”

“What? Why?”

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

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

“No, it doesn’t.”

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

“And what?”

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

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

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

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


“I’m pretty sure.”

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

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

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

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

“Let’s go,” they said in unison.

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

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

“Animals? Like what?”

“Carnivorous fish?”

“No. The water is very brackish.”

“Some fish like brackish water.”

Kirby rolled his eyes at him, shook his head.

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

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

“Wait. Wait. What’s the hurry?”

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

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

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

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

“Got it,” Uncle Sam said.

“One, two… Three.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bowie’s Buddha Waffle

I was lying in my bed looking at the white ceiling and listening to the sounds coming from the box fans we have in our room. Neither myself nor my wife can sleep without the sound of the fans. It’s been like that for a very, very long time. Dead silence is the devil. I looked over at her asleep on her side. Her hair falling so perfectly across her back. I couldn’t believe she was my wife, in my life, but there she was. Still there beside me becoming more precious to my existence every single day…

Anyways, I had just come out of a crazy dream, and like I said, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking about a documentary I watched the night before on the television. It was a documentary about the last five years of David Bowie’s life, released in 2017. The name of it being David Bowie: The Last Five Years. Well, there you go.

Now, I’ve never been an overly huge David Bowie fan or even cared for some of his music so I’m not even sure why I queued the show up in my line of saves on HBO Max. I guess I was intrigued because it was about the last years of his life which may not be something everyone always considers when an artist such as himself has such a long and storied career. People tend to look back at the energetic youthful years, the bubbling to the top years — not the settling down into yourself years. Maybe I wanted to get a glimpse of what aging had been like for him and his artistic process. Maybe I wanted to watch it in an attempt to prepare me and teach me how to still be cool when you’re in your mid-60s. (Not there yet, by the way). And despite a cancer battle, Bowie was still actively creative to the end. I hope I can be actively creative to the end. I don’t want to wastefully linger.

One of the things that kind of stood out for me in the documentary was a song from 2013 called Valentine’s Day — a dark message about mass murder and the need for gun control. I found it to be emotional and moving and sadly appropriate nearly ten years later… Considering what happened at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas in May, and continues to happen in a country that values its guns more than its children, its very own future. It can be a harsh world and Bowie knew it, felt it, and often conveyed it through his music. You can watch the video HERE.

I have a Bowie greatest hits CD (a round, shiny disc about the size of a sandwich that contains digital pieces of music that you slide into a slot or plop onto a tray to initiate playback) somewhere, but after watching the documentary last night, I am really wanting to buy one of his later in life releases — The Next Day from 2013 or Blackstar, released three years later on his birthday, two days before he died on January 10th, 2016. Both albums were heavily featured in the documentary, and for me, contained some intriguing music that I’d like to delve deeper into.

Like I said, I was never a huge Bowie fan or an expert on his career, but the documentary reminded me that I had included something about him in a yet unreleased short story I had written a few years ago. I may need to dig it out, blow off the dust, and add some polish.

This is what I wrote in a story titled The Chinese Guy and the Angels of Uranus. I know, I write weird stuff, but Bowie liked weird.

Here’s the bit:

Janice Ho worked at a big commercial real estate office in the central district. I looked up at the tall building of blue glass. It seemed to go on forever. It was a giant with cold clouds for hands. I went in through the heavy doors and found the elevators. I went up — floor number 22 it was. It seemed like a long ride. There was a lady in there with me. She was all dressed up and she smelled good — like one of those uptight stores in the mall. I could tell I made her nervous. She wouldn’t look at me. She wouldn’t talk to me. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Did you hear that David Bowie died?” I finally said.

She turned to look at me. “Who died?”

“David Bowie.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know him.”

Her stupid cell phone rang, and she turned away to talk on it. Blah, blah, blah. The doors slid open at 22 and I stepped out.

Yeah, I know. Not a grand cameo, but still, he got a mention, and I’m glad I remembered it and was able to include it. I think he’d appreciate it, with a laugh, welcome it even, maybe. He had a disdain for fame. And here’s something that I just learned — so, it appears Bowie’s eyes are two different colors, but in fact, his pupils are two different sizes — a unique trait for a unique person. He was a complex, eccentric, and intriguing guy with a head full of all kinds of peculiar, strange, and brilliant thoughts and ideas. The world is a better place because of him and his mind and art.

And even though his influence will reverberate forever, that was then, and this is now, and I’m at my desk drinking coffee and madly typing, and Bowie’s in the afterlife, floating and dreaming on a Buddha waffle somewhere near the moon, and he’s looking down, and admiring all the good, weird things that he left behind.


Sun of Dirt

Why is this world so dirty?
why are the lumps playing King?
I look around, look around
can’t see anything
can’t avert my eyes
to all the splashes of filth
that survive

Dirty walls and dirty streets
a laundromat full of dirty sheets
stained with all those lovers’ dreams
helpless infants, toddlers too
drinking from dirty bottles
with their dirty little mouths
wet with the slobber
of an ineloquent tongue

The dirty gravel lots
lie like flattened skeletons on the grid
littered with glass eyes,
broken bottle-rocket lies
there is no festival here
this is the Kingdom of Broken Dreams
where failed, exhausted lives retire
and bed down in this filthy hole called:

The sky is gray but bruised with some blue
there’s a Latin girl walking
she’s overstuffed in a pair of dirty jeans
Does she see it too?
with those frightened eyes,
wayward and crooked eyes void of concern
does she see how dirty the world really is?
or will it all vanish
when she crumples up nice and tight
in front of her dirty TV screen
before goodnight

To my far left
a crumbling beauty shoppe
so, this is irony
a beauty shoppe
left half-eaten by a bulldozer
crumbling beneath this wide, empty sky
the shingles reaching out from the torn edges
like broken fingertips
the guts of beauty torn asunder
again, left to rot on a dirty lot

All these crumbling houses
shelters with fractures
pained monsters dwell within
clutching scepters of whiskey
and bashing out teeth

No scuba diving today
the water has all dried up
leaving us with ink spot scars
on the brown land
it’s all so BROWN here
where is my lovely GREEN?
luscious, wet green
Luscious wet BLUE
it’s just all brown and gray
like the trees themselves
spindly, gray skeletons
in their slow-motion seizures
prying the horizon open
with their brittle, wayward branches

The desolate ranches
plots of invisible earth
miles and miles out into the void
how do they live there?
how do they breathe there?
when the relentless summer sun
pounds at them with its golden fist.

Have you heard of not peddling religious texts in a public library?

So, yes, yet again, I was at the damn public library trying to get some writing done. If you are familiar with my other library rants — found under the, Have You Heard Of? menu tab at — you’ll know I always seem to run into some kind of trouble or annoying distraction at my local library.

Well today was no different as some miniature Ralph Malph mofo from the Happy Days universe in Milwaukee appears out of nowhere and starts talking to me. I’m sitting there all alone at a private booth with ear buds on, minding my own business, listening to music of high vibration and positive energy, and typing away at my laptop. I give him a perturbed look, remove my ear buds and say “What?”

He starts in on how’s he’s selling books to raise money for something or whatever, I really didn’t catch that part because he was talking so damn fast, and he starts showing them to me and they’re all books about God and living a godly life and going to church and having abundant joy and so on and so on… And then he had a book about Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., too, and I was like “You know he was all about civil rights and equality for all people and an admirer of Gandhi.” And the kid was like, “Yeah, of course I know that… He was also a Baptist minister and had a strong Christian faith so that kind of cancels out the other things.”

As soon as he went on talking, I put up a hand and said, “I’m really not interested.” He gave me a butt hurt look and immediately walked away mumbling something about me being a “Jerk who lacks true faith.”

I had initially heard the boy, who sounded like a girl, talking to someone else in the booth behind me and I seriously thought he was giving an oral book report to a teacher or something but then he just kept dropping the word God and so I thought maybe he was a student at a religious school. Nope. He was trying to sell religious books to people in the public library. Has the whole separation of church and state thing just gone completely out the window?

How the fuck is this allowed? I guarantee if some kid was running around the public library trying to sell Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim texts, people would lose their minds — kind of like how Al Pacino does when he sees a cantaloupe.

Now, the kid can sell religious books out his ass if he wants, I have no problem with that, but at least do it in the proper forum. And I guess I can’t completely blame the kid because there is probably some oblivious nut-job adult behind the whole scheme. Yeah! Sure! It’s a library. The library has books. What a perfect place to try and sell books! I don’t know. Maybe during a book sale? Outside? I surely don’t appreciate someone coming up to me while I am trying to get some work done for my heartfelt, yet edgy and subversive literary website, and push religious books on me. I don’t go to his church on Sundays and try to drum up followers for Are you kidding? They’d have me sent directly to hell without passing GO. And all without reading one word of my work. Kind of like passing judgment without reading the Bible. That’s called a zinger.

Now, you’ll have to forgive me if I am coming off as a bit harsh today, but it’s not been the best day. I have chemical imbalance issues that no one has really figured out the proper remedy for and so I have days where I lose my shit, get dark and withdrawn, and am generally not very pleasant to be around. I’m also upset about not being very successful. That’s really been buggin’ me lately. I may end up working in the sporting goods section at WalMart next week. No offense if you work in the sporting goods section at a WalMart. It was the first thing that came to me.

Anyways, I’m all about equal rights and religious liberty and all that jazz. If that’s what you believe and the way you want to live, fine, have at it, but don’t try to push it off on me, especially when I’m writing bitchy op-ed pieces at the public library. So, there you go mini Ralph Malph, go be giddy about God and sell your books until you’re heavenly blue in the face, just do it somewhere else.   

And even though I shot him down like an autumn mallard dancing in a blue sky, at least the kid probably has a bright future in missionary work… come to think of it, so do I.

Born on the Fourth of the Flies

In a pink and salty green desert town in one of the new states, adobe Spanish churches thrust their steeples heavenward, the tips vaporously scraping against the cold blue veil and its cotton-ball clouds glued there like a childhood art project about life.

Down one of the hot, dry, and murderous streets named Olive, a man sits in a flat white house with a carport watching a movie about the Vietnam War. The police are across the way in the gutter drawing a chalk outline around a bent and defeated body.

A woman suddenly steps out of the shadows and into the room where the man is watching the movie and rudely wants to know, “What are we going to have for supper then…? Since you’re being so moody and antisocial.”

He pauses the war movie, sighs, and says to her without looking at her, “It’s called dinner.”

“Not where I come from.”

“Then go back to where you came from,” he snaps, and starts the movie again.

“I think we should go to the family cookout. It’s the 4th of July. Don’t you want to celebrate our wonderful country?”

Annoyed, he thrusts a thumb into the pause button on the remote. “It’s called a fry out.”

“What?” she mockingly laughs. “A fry out? You’re not frying anything. That’s just stupid.” She waits for a reaction.

“What the hell are you going to celebrate?” he wants to know.

“Um, America… The greatest country on the planet – our freedom, our liberty, our justice for all, our way of life that God has blessed us with.”

He scoffs, laughs for a moment. “I don’t want to be around people,” he says. “Especially those people.”

“My family!?”

“Yes. They’re annoying and fake.” He restarts the movie, and a jungle is carpet bombed in a blaze of orange overflowing balls of burning fire and light.

“Could you at least turn that crap off while I’m trying to talk to you!” she yells, hands on hips. There’s gunfire spewing from a dark green helicopter. Then the screen suddenly goes dark. “Thank you,” she says. “And my family is wonderful. They’re wonderful people.”

“They hate me.”

“Of course, they do. You’re a loser, and they don’t like losers.”

The man gets up out of his chair, goes to the large picture window, and pulls the curtain aside. “Did you see that someone else has been killed?”

She goes to the dining room table and rummages through her overstuffed purse looking for her car keys. “It’s no wonder, considering the neighborhood you force us to live in because of your inability to succeed in this world. When are you going to get a real job so that we can live somewhere better? That house next to my parents is still for sale. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we could buy it?”

“There’s a dead guy lying in the street,” the man reminds her.

She scoffs. “I don’t care. It’s probably just another one of those damn immigrants that come here to strain the system, commit crimes, and steal our jobs… A job you should have!” She makes her way to the door. “This is America, not Mexico.”

“You’re leaving?” he asks her.

“I’m going to my parents’ house. We’ll celebrate our freedom without you.”

When the movie is over, the man removes the videotape from the VCR and replaces it in its box. He walks out of the house and locks the door. Across the street, a black body bag is being loaded into a white van. A cop turns to look at him. The man turns away and starts to walk. It’s late afternoon.

As he makes his way through the neighborhood of sad houses and old trees, people are in the street cheerfully hopping around exploding firecrackers, waving sparklers in the air, and sending bottle rockets into the sky. Someone has a round grill set out in their driveway. A man wearing a tee-shirt with the words BBQ, Beer, and Freedom emblazoned on the front is flipping burgers in a cloud of smoke. “Hey mister, you want a burger?” he asks the man clutching the videotape box.

“No thank you. I have to get to the video store.”

“Well, surely you have time for some delicious Freedom fries?”

“No thanks. I must be on my way.”

The man flipping the burgers is immediately offended. “Seriously? Don’t you want to celebrate America?”

“Not really.”

“Huh? Are you some kind of socialist asshole?”

“I think you mean communist.”

“What? It’s the same damn thing.”

“Actually… Never mind. I need to get to the video store before they close.”

“Do whatever the hell you want, traitor. I’m going to have myself a delicious burger and enjoy my freedom! Whoooo yeah! America!”

The man stood in line at Silver Screen video. The place was annoyingly crowded. When it finally came to his turn at the counter, the man set the videotape down and looked at the clerk. “I would like to return this video, and… Would you have any movies about the French Revolution?”

The clerk looked at him, puzzled and smacking gum. “The French Revolution?”


The clerk scratched at his head and looked around the busy store. “Uh. I don’t think so… But hey, what about Days of Thunder? We just got it in.”

“Days of Thunder?”

“Hell yeah,” the clerk said. “It’s got Tom Cruise in it and there’s race cars and hot chicks and all kinds of cool shit. It’s really good, and a true celebration of the American spirit.”

“I don’t think so,” the man said.

“Why not?” the clerk wanted to know, hurt and suspicious. “You don’t believe in the spirit of America?”

“Not really.”

“Then get the hell out of my store and don’t come back!” the clerk yelled, and he pointed his big finger toward the door.

“What? Why?”

“Because you don’t believe in the spirit of America and that’s bullshit, man! Only true Americans are allowed to rent videos here. Now get out!”

When the man got back home, he walked across the street and looked at the asphalt. The chalk outline of the body was still fresh. There were splotches of blood within the lines. The cops were all gone. Everyone was gone. The street was hot and empty. He glanced across the way at the crappy house he lived in.

He unlocked the front door and went inside. It smelled musty. An air conditioner achingly whirred. He walked around the dark house, went into all the rooms. The place was a mess. Unopened boxes and piles of clothes and paper littered nearly every horizontal space. He went to the kitchen and began to work on cleaning up the mound of stinky, dirty dishes in the sink. Halfway through he stopped. He suddenly became seriously depressed about the state of his life and the world he lived in. It came on like a bolt of lightning and froze his bones and mind.

He made his way to the living room chair he called home within his home. He sat down in the silence and pointed the remote at the boxy TV. The screen filled with a snowy static. He tried to change the channel but every single one, all 57 of them, were the same – snowy static, and that low fuzzy buzz that went with it.

The man just sat there for a long time, falling into a catatonic daze, broken only by a sudden and frantic knock. His heart was pounding when he jumped up and went to the door. He pulled it open and there was a tall man with white hair dressed in a suit and a top hat, all resembling the American flag.

“Yes. Can I help you?”

The tall man with the white hair and dressed like the American flag spread his arms out in front of him in an imitation of fanfare, a gesture of ta-da. “It’s me!” the patriotic man exclaimed. “I’m Sam. Uncle Sam!”

“I thought you were just a made-up creature,” the man straightforwardly said. “Like Christopher Columbus.”

“Well, that’s just foolish,” Uncle Sam said. “I’m real!”

“What do you want?”

“Well, a little birdy told me you were being pretty glum about the 4th of July. I’ve come to cheer you up and help you realize what a wonderful day it is.”

“Don’t waste your time. It’s my least favorite holiday.”

Uncle Sam sighed in quick defeat, and then stepped inside the house without an invite. He took off his hat and held it in a headlock as he slowly studied the messy home. “You need a housekeeper,” he said. He moved closer to the man, looked around to make sure they were definitely alone, and then spoke to him in a secret whisper. “I’ve got a gal I can recommend. Don’t say anything to anybody… She’s kind of under the radar if you get my drift. See, she’s from Guatemala, but does a hell of a job for me. A hell of a job. And she’s cheap. Do you mind if I sit down?”

“No. You can take my wife’s chair. She probably won’t be back… Ever.”

The two sat there, quiet, and just thinking about life, dust dancing in the toasted beams of end-of-day light now fingering its way in through a slit in the curtains. They could hear fireworks popping outside in the neighborhood. Dogs were barking. Children were screaming with joy. Police sirens wailed in the distance.

 The man glanced over at Uncle Sam. “I think your beard is scary,” he said.

Uncle Sam returned the glance and humbly smiled and nodded his head. “I know. I was made to be scary.”


The End of a New Season

British Library image

The soft hand of a baby’s breath
clutches snow for the very last time
for the fires are illuminating the sky
our white-haired fathers are sending missiles
to obliterate philosophies and the hungry
and our children’s children ask why
why are all the forests gone
why are all the rivers running dry
why is there a big hole punctured in the sky?

And the snow in the soft hand of a baby’s breath
melts away with the regrets so wet
and the baby cries as he says goodbye

Human hearts are flecked with the need to destroy
yet the need to feel something down deeper more
than black scratches on walls of brick splashed neon
there are severed heads among the rubble
everyone lives in a bubble
encased in an impenetrable casing of greed
and even when we penetrate the bodies of others
are we merely manipulating our own seed?

The baby’s breath lays there blue and wheezing
in a north London street
his heart has nearly stopped beating
for the madmen have pulled the trigger
whatever the trigger of the day may be
and there is no justice
when rapists of foreign lands
are pardoned by their own cogs
the evil empire is set to implode
on the dawn of revolutionary resolution

So we must hang on tightly
to the ones we live for and trust
for that new Italian Ferrari in the garage
will melt in the turbulent hell of it all
and would you rather die in the cradle of plush interior
or in the arms of your everlasting love?

Orange Plush Peru

It’s such a bigger world than we realize
we tend to ignore the full scope
of all that is alive…
while we’re busy shopping
someone else is starving,
while we are walking down the aisle
someone else is in need of love,
and when we are crying
surely, someone else is crying harder.

while we drive our cars
someone is walking barefoot,
while we watch our TV screens
someone is looking out a window at the rain,
while we adorn our hands with jewelry
someone else is scratching at the disease,
and while we relax in our comfortable homes with the AC blasting away and our sedated carcasses lumped down in the cushions stuffing our faces with fattening snack foods talking about others behind their backs and laughing at all those who are less fortunate because they are ugly or poor or homeless or uneducated… We should be looking at ourselves from the inside out.

And before we get too comfortable tonight — think of those on the other side of the world.