The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (Ep. 1)

The sound of the jet airplane’s engines had lulled him into a half sleep. He was drifting in and out of a panoramic dream — something about floating on clouds — and then when his head jerked hard enough to snap him back into wakefulness, he looked out the small window next to his seat and saw that his dream had come true.

At that very moment, he wanted to crawl through that impenetrable opening and just fall like an angel into those mushroomy blooming puffs cut now like vibrant jewel prisms by the perfectly angled falling light of the day. There was a ding sound in the cabin and then an indecipherable voice came over the sound system. He could feel the plane beginning to dip and soon they were swallowed whole by the very same clouds from his dream come true.  And when they finally emerged from the bottom, he could see the land below, wide western meadows and low rocky ridges and far off into the distance he saw the snowcapped peaks that Colorado was so famous for, and they sprang out and up from a mirky soup of yellow pollution hovering over a city called Denver.

He moved through a pulsing hot throng of people on his way to the mile-long escalators going down to where the train arrived that took travelers to the main terminal of DIA. Even though he had no particular place to be at any particular time, he walked fast, constantly adjusting the backpack he carried with him because it kept slipping. People zoomed by him in both directions. The voices all mingled into one loud hum in a hive.

He dashed into a crowded men’s room to relieve himself. He had to wait in a line to use a urinal. Once finished he washed his hands, splashed his face, tried to comb his hair into some semblance of order with his fingers. He studied himself in the mirror for just a moment because he thought it was overly vain to look at oneself for too long. And for some reason it made him uncomfortable to look at himself, as well, almost embarrassed. That’s why he always did it quick. He decided he looked very tired and moved on.

Once back into the rush of the main thoroughfare, he slipped out and took a seat in the mostly unoccupied waiting area of a darkened gate where a flight to Detroit wasn’t set to depart for another two hours. It was a quiet reprieve for the time being. He lifted his pack into the seat beside him and retrieved his cell phone. He squinted as he looked at the screen. He took it out of airplane mode and waited for the technological pipes to clear. No calls. No messages. Nothing erupted now that he was back on the ground. He was almost glad for the fact he wasn’t popular among any crowd but his own. He took a deep breath and tried to stretch his neck by bending it from side to side. He could almost hear the tendons strain and crackle.

He sat still there for a long time, his thoughts getting caught up in the traffic of human beings continually parading by like a perpetual mountain stream. Some moved fast, others dawdled. Some had a trainload of luggage behind them, others merely a single bag slung over a sore shoulder. He wondered about where they had come from and where they were going. Why were all these people moving so much? What was with all the here and there? What great grief or passion was calling to them? His life in comparison seemed so much slower and simpler. But was it? Not really, after all.

He glanced at his diamond digital watch from Hades, but then realized it didn’t really matter what time it was. He was at that place in life where time was something that only other people dealt with, not him.

Then for some strange reason his thoughts drifted to childhood in the lakeside burbs of upper middle crust Chicago and about the Christmas mustard his Aunt Sharlene used to proudly serve with her platefuls of fancy meats and breads and cheeses during the warm, crystalline holidays. Aunt Sharlene was always wearing a dress, he recalled. Even if she was cooking eggs and bacon at 6 a.m., she had on a dress. Back then he even thought that she most likely slept in a dress. Maybe she did. But the mustard, that Christmas mustard. It came in a fancy glass jar, and it had a fancy foreign label and lid and Aunt Sharlene boasted about how she got it from this peculiar owner of a deli in the brick and gold shopping plaza in the neighborhood because he thought she was something special and would know exactly how to use it as if it were fragile magic. His Uncle Drake always frowned when she brought that part up because she would always throw something in there about how this particular and peculiar deli owner was also tall, dark, and handsome. His Uncle Drake was none of those things.

But the mustard was something special in exchange for the pricks of jealousy, as well, he supposed. And his Uncle Drake would lovingly slather it all over his rye bread. It had a bite to it that was somehow extraterrestrial and made the person eating it feel like they had traveled somewhere very far away. The man’s imagination had always been bright, and he believed the Christmas mustard must have had come from Saudi Arabia or perhaps Yemen or even Tatooine. But why would he think something so foolish? He shook his head at his own youthful naivety, and then he was suddenly hungry for a sandwich even though he knew that no one would have any Christmas mustard in the airport.

He settled on a faux New York deli type of sandwich place that pretended it was authentic but really wasn’t — merely corporate fantasies for sale. It was crowded and hard to move around inside the little box in a long line of other boxes aglow with money suckers. His broken velvet eyes the color of underwater gold scanned the menu for something that wasn’t gross. He settled on a New York Clubber — roast beef, turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, spicy (not Christmas) mustard, black olives on a crusty crunchy dick-like stick of white bread cut and spread open like a lover’s legs.

The pace of the place was frantic, and the man’s nerves began to tick and twitch as the people pressed in on him, the mingling of sandwiches and skin like uneasy sex in a musty dark cellar, and he reached forward to pay at the counter quickly because the pressure was on him. People were watching and waiting and staring at the stranger from somewhere else. He felt like they all hated him.

He found a small table in the very center of the food court outside the deli joint and the roar of people eating and talking and slurping and bitching and babies wailing was all around him. He unzipped his backpack and reached in for an orange bottle of pills. He uncapped it, shook out two white bars with score marks and tossed them into his mouth. He washed them down with a bubbling iced Fresca.

He unwrapped his sandwich and laid the paper out flat. He opened a bag of salt and vinegar chips and poured them out onto the paper. He brought the sandwich up to his open mouth and bit into it. He chewed and as the flavors and textures mingled, he looked to his left where he saw a young girl in a periwinkle blue dress and her hair in pigtails sitting at a table all by herself. She looked very different from everyone else. She looked like she belonged to a strict old religious clan that rebutted the ways of modern, sinful life. She looked like she should have been in a barn, knee-high in hay, not inside one of the busiest airports in the world.

The girl was staring at him for a long time for some strange reason. Did he have something on his face? He instinctively reached for a napkin and wiped it across his mouth. He glanced over at her again. She had weird eyes and she looked unsettled. He put down his sandwich and sucked on the straw connected to his plastic cup of Fresca. A strange man and woman dressed similarly to the girl suddenly appeared at the table and they set down bags of food and cups of drink. She looked up at each of them in turn and smiled. Then she said something to them that he could not understand through the cacophony of humans communally filling their guts.

Then all three of them turned to look at him and their faces were dusted with disgust. He watched them watch him through the clouds of humanity. He couldn’t understand why they were looking at him that way. What did the girl say to them? And why? He had done nothing wrong. Was it because he was so different from them? Had she read the inner linings of his soul and discovered there was a reason why he was now drifting listlessly through time? Did she discover that he was merely a living ghost after all, and it upset her balance of beliefs and familial rituals set forth by her spinning God?

He quickly finished eating, gathered his trash and stood to carry it over to a receptacle to dispose of it. When he did, an eerie quiet fell upon the food court and seemingly the entirety of Denver International Airport. A billion heads turned to watch him with scathing glances. He moved slowly to the garbage bin and dropped in the remains of his meal into the wide hole. No one else moved or spoke. He hoisted his pack over his shoulder and gazed at all of them.

“What do you want!” he screamed out.

And when they just continued to stare and not say anything, he backed away from the coital mob and made his way back onto the main thoroughfare of the concourse and walked as fast as he could. The people there too now stared at him, watched him with sallow unfamiliar eyes like he was some murderer on the loose. He quickened his pace as the swarm thickened. He started bumping into bodies, pushing bodies, kicking at bodies. He pulled the pack off his shoulder and started swinging it at the people closing in. He hit a young woman in the face, and she fell. No one screamed but instead they just hummed like a hornet’s nest plump with menacing insects.

And then he ran. He ran as fast as he could and the tunnel like artificial air of the airport whooshed by him in an effort to keep pace with his speed. He glanced behind him, and the people were floating toward him effortlessly. He glanced in front of him, and there he saw that a thick wall built of human beings was erected to keep him from passing. He suddenly stopped and looked from side to side. He saw an emergency exit door and made for it. He pushed on the thick silver bar and an alarm immediately began to wail. He ran down the jetway that was untethered to any airplane. Once at the end he could taste the open air and he saw an attached metal ladder in which he could use to get to the ground, and he swung over and onto it and climbed down.

Once his shoes hit the pavement he ran and ran and ran until he was breathless and limping. A jet loudly swam above him and then he was suddenly surrounded by white cars with flashing blue lights on their rooftops and men in uniforms quickly jumped out and corralled him. They pushed him to the ground and made him lie on his stomach. They handcuffed him. They yanked him up and led him to one of the cars and shoved him into the backseat and slammed the door. He was in a cage now, and he was headed for another cage. He was sure of it.


Applesauce Cat

Warning: Mature Content

I was sitting in the din of another rum-soaked afternoon on High Street in some far away town. I was alone as usual. The clock was ticking behind my head like a reader counting down the days to my ultimate demise.

I looked out the balcony fortress at the world all messed up and angry with itself, and I saw a cat eating applesauce down on the sidewalk around the perimeters of chalk art and lonely hearts.

I was cut like dynamite all up in my guts… my face so fucking worn away from the droop of negative gladness that I felt like gravity sucking at a skull through a circus straw, clowns all mad and boisterous running around with shaving clippers to cut away the dirt of dope all muddied in my blood.

It’s the countdown to broken neck as end of summer lawns hiss as the sprinklers spit at the grass like riots, I am hungry and in pain deep down in the belly welly of life on bourbon street sans street, the plastic puppets of a childhood tossed in a bin scream redemption but the oily candles only bleed sin and throat blessings designed to curb the swearing are merely molestations of the skin.

So God, do you have a dick in which to fuck the universe and all its celestial holes?

Alcoholism and roughed up love meet in a bar down on Bleeker Street. It’s puke and madness and a dying heart just trying to reach out to another Rings of Saturn soul, blowholes and arrows, hard drinks and drugs and tattoo flu shots trembling at river’s edge, in upper north Wisconsin, where I want them to spread my ashes, like tumbler cheese on a cracker, and GODmother is dead because money is more important than any sensibility of love and honor… fuck you Chicago and all the piss you dump and pray for… my ass hurts, like a tiger biting into the bone, and I tremble Atlanta, my home, my five-fingered mannequin bone, restless and destructive like a coffee-scented angel on the 285, running circles round the metro like a honey-bee hive, all full of stings and poison and air machines for the lungs, my head, my life, so heavy and strung out like Christmas candles in a circus, a mall walker carrying a tombstone and a blowtorch, attacking the restless kiss as if in a never-ending dream.

The King of Genitalia Street (TWO)

My mother got up to answer the door, cradling Maine, and touched at her hair with one hand to set it in proper place before going out of the room. She always had to look proper, no matter what. It was the outside that mattered to her, rarely the inside of a person. I guess that’s why I failed her so much — I wasn’t proper on either side.

I stood back in the swallowing shadows of the big house biting my nails as my mother opened the door. Emily and Frost began to step in and then suddenly stopped when they saw her holding the baby.

“Mom?” Emily asked, her face scrunched in confusion. “Are you babysitting for someone? Whose kid?”

“We’ll talk about it, dear. Please come in. Hello there, Frost.”

Their voices were distant to me, like in a dream. I saw Frost lean in and give my mother a fake kiss on the cheek. Then their voices bloomed and became an uncomfortable gathering upon me.

“Oh, hello Everett,” Frost said when he noticed me lurking as he shed his fancy coat and placed it over one arm. “It’s a surprise seeing you here. We had no idea. Are you planning to stay for the weekend as well?”

“I don’t know,” I said, and I moved forward to shake his perfect hand. His grip was cold, crushing. His cold blue eyes drilled into me. He had a look of winter about him, and so his name fit him perfectly — Frost. Frost Bennington of the Benningtons. Prick.

Then I looked over at my sister, the dear Emily. My older sibling. Intelligent and oh so intelligently cool, cold, frosty like her lover. She acted uncomfortable and brushed wispy blonde hairs out of her face, her evergreen eyes avoiding me.

“Hello Emily,” I said, and I awkwardly hugged her. It was a short-lived embrace that she quickly pulled away from.

“Hello Everett,” she said, her words nervously stumbling out. “It is quite a surprise to see you here. If we knew you were coming… I suppose you could have ridden with us from the city, but I guess neither of us knew.”

“No. I hadn’t planned on it.”

“So,” Frost broke in, “Where’s Edward? I brought him a bottle of some fine brandy.” He held up a surely expensive bottle to show it off.

“I think he went off to his study,” my mother said. “Why don’t you go and say hello? I’d like to speak with Emily in private. Everett, go wash yourself up, you look like you could use a long, hot shower, and I think it would be best if you stayed the night. You can sleep in your old room. There are some clean linens in the closet upstairs. Well, you know where it all is. Go on now.”

Evelyn led Emily to the quiet of the obscene chef’s kitchen in the back of the house. She spoke to the house maiden who was busy polishing glasses with a white cloth. “Eliza, please take this baby into a quiet room and soothe him while we talk.”

The house maiden smiled. Her light brown skin brightened. “Oh, he’s something,” she said as she came closer. She took him into her arms and immediately fell in love.

“Yes, well, don’t get too attached, Eliza. He may not be with us long,” Evelyn said to her like a cold breeze.

“Yes, mam,” Eliza said, the brightness of her face turning to night again. “I will be in the sitting room.”

Evelyn nodded to her and she turned to look out the big windows into the large, perfectly kept yard bleached with winter.

“Mother?” Emily began. “What’s going on? Whose baby is that?”

“Oh, my dear daughter. We have trouble in this house today. I think your brother has totally gone mad. He just showed up with that baby in a pillowcase. He says it belongs to some tramp he met in the city and she up and left. Just took off is what he said and just left the child behind. I just don’t know what to do about Everett anymore. I’m just sick about it. But that child. That poor, innocent child stuck in the middle of all this.” Flustered, she stepped away from the window and frantically started going through cabinets. “And I don’t have anything for a baby to eat…”

“Mother,” Emily said, trying to slow her down and make her pay attention. “Stop and listen to me. I have great concern for Everett. I don’t think he’s well, I mean, mentally.”

A clock on the mantle above an unlit fireplace in another room chimed four times before Evelyn spoke again.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did something happen to him in the city?”

Emily shifted her eyes. “Everett came over to our place, it was back before Christmas. He said you had visited him that same day and he started talking very strangely to me about when we were young and living here in the house. He seemed very confused and troubled.”

“Yes. I did go see him. I had met some friends for brunch.” She sighed. “He was sitting there all alone in that awful apartment. It was so dark. Dirty. Sad really. Very sad. I thought maybe stopping by with a bag of leftovers might cheer him up. I gave him some money, too. But despite the typical grayness of his life when I saw him that day, he seemed fine. Is there something else I should know about?”

“Like I said, when he was at our place. Frost was off doing something important most likely and so we were alone, Everett and I, in the kitchen. Just trying to talk. You know how awkward that can be.”

“What are you trying to tell me?”

“He kissed me.”

Evelyn froze for a moment, and her eyes began to quake with nervous twitches behind her glamorous glasses. “What’s wrong with a brother kissing his own sister?”

“It wasn’t that kind of a kiss, mom,” Emily softly spoke. “He kissed me, you know, a real kiss… He forced himself on me.”

Evelyn stepped back, coughed, and adjusted the same glamorous glasses. “Oh please, Emily! Such talk. You must have completely misread his intentions.”

“No. I didn’t.”

“He must have been drinking then,” Evelyn strongly suggested.

“No, mother. He wasn’t drinking. He knew what he was doing… Or he didn’t. I don’t really know,” she said, hands in the air as she paced the polished floor.

“My God, Emily,” Evelyn moaned. “Why would he do that? What on earth would possess him to do that?” She scoffed in frustration and embarrassment almost. She waved a hand in the air. “I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe such a story.”

“I think he needs a doctor,” Emily stressed to her mother. “A good doctor. A psychiatrist. He may even need to go to a place that specializes in whatever is wrong with him. Frost and I know some people who may be able to help.”

Evelyn bit at her mouth with worry. “This is all too much,” she moaned. “But how are you? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“No. He didn’t hurt me at all. I was just shocked, and I pushed him off and told him to never do it again, that it was inappropriate… But then what about this baby now? This definitely proves there is something seriously wrong with him.”

“It’s very odd indeed. I think the child is sickly and I’m not surprised. That fool boy knows nothing about taking care of a baby. And that girl who dumped him, I can just imagine what a piece of work she is. I just don’t understand why Everett can’t find a nice girl. He’s not a bad looking young man, he’s just …”

Emily finished her mother’s sentence, “Incredibly strange.”

“Why don’t you help him out and introduce him to some of your friends? You know plenty of well-educated people. Good, decent people too. He needs to be kept away from common street trash — like that poor child’s mother.”

“I would, mother, but I don’t think Frost would have it. You know how particular he is about everything. And it’s no secret that he doesn’t like Everett.”

“Does he know what happened?”

“Yes. I told him, and he wasn’t happy about it at all. No surprise. He went ballistic. It took everything in me to calm him down enough to even come this weekend… And then pow, Everett is here, unbeknownst to us. I could almost hear Frost’s perfect teeth grinding to dust.”

“Yes, I suppose he would be upset. I can’t blame him. He’s a fine young man, very driven, bred from fine stock, and well positioned to take care of you financially. That’s very important. So even if things go sour between you two, always consider that. And another very important thing is the fact your father is more than fond of him.”

“I find it strange that daddy takes him on like that and then treats Everett like he’s not even his son.”

“Well, your father has always been drawn to highly successful people. I’m afraid Everett has greatly disappointed him.”

“That’s sad,” Emily said. “It shouldn’t be like that. You should love and support your kids no matter who they are and what they do. That’s the way I want to be.”

“You’ll be a fine mother some day,” Evelyn assured her daughter as she gently tapped the back of her hand. “As far as Maine is concerned, I’m going to convince your father to let me keep him here — just for a day or two until we can figure this all out,” she said. “In the meantime, I want us to have a nice family gathering this weekend. Cozy and warm and perfect. Will you help Eliza with dinner?”

“Of course,” Emily said.

“And do you think Frost would mind running Everett over to the store to get some things. For the baby. Diapers and such. I’ll make a list.”

Emily made a face. “Well, he may not like it, but he’ll do it for you.”

Evelyn smiled. “Good. I like it when he does things for me.”


The first part of this story can be read HERE.

The Escape Artist

Oxidized eyes and diamond fireflies doing the rotating Merry-Go-Roundabout above in the sky, under hot sun ozone hole as I’m mining in desert Minehead up the breach highway linear West near the Hondo – I’m hitting into dirt wall with pounds and pounds of frustration while the rattlesnakes and the antelope watch, cocking their different heads in wonder, sniffing the air with nose and tongue, searching for an unwound rag doll named Sheena in this desert Mars land of bar.

There’s a tattered zip line over a deep gulley to get across when the mad, mad water rushes in from the West – but this place be bone dry today and yesterday and probably has been for a long, long time by the looks of the bleached skeletons down in there playing bad hands of poker with weathered cards set to reel off at any second with the slightest breeze. This is Deadland and I am deep in it, shins and thighs scratched to hell by the muscled, thorny bitch plants that thrive here, the ones that dine on salt and spit and kick at you with tentacles of nails.

It’s Christmas day and it’s still too damn hot. I’m hiding from St. Nick because I know he’s going to beat me with a pillow sack full of fresh beehives. The family of strangers back in the village is all too damn hypnotic, admiring those dumb faces as they hold up the shiny new toaster as if it were a mirror – you’re burnt bread baby, I can smell it from here. How can you live in such a fucking catacomb Mrs. Nannette Hourglass? How can your soul stand to be so bound? I for one cannot take it and let out of there like a hurricane playing a harp, a roughshod whisper, phantom skin squeezing through the door, starting the car, driving away, away, away.

Sure, I think about my bad case of anti-social and radical behavior as I ride alone on the Rose Highway smoking sheepskin cigarettes and listening to defunct, angry music. Sure I feel the rocking horse guilt well up inside and think I might puke it all out over the steering wheel, but this mind muscle can be hallucinatory, can trick you into believing that what you are doing is right when in fact could be wrong, but most likely is correct anyways, baby – listen to your soul, not the fucking TV – for Christmas is meant to be spent alone, alone in the dry hot, hot whorehouse, alone to recall the dead ones that used to give you gifts; gifts now broken, now tattered, the ruined parts sent back to China or Bangladesh where they are piled in heaps right next to the used and worn bodies that made them in the first place – stockpiles of corporate shit and the starving enslaved with those melted, plastic fingers scratching at the emergency exit just to get out, out, out.  Smile and sell for hell.

The sausages are boiling in the pan over the small fire I have built here. The smell is fine. The stomach is growling. I look at my scratched pocket watch – they are all probably sitting down right now for the big feast and the blah, blah, blah, hah, hah, hah, chit chat shit of waggish talk whilst imaginary butcher knives twist in the spine of who sits across. It’s all pretend love and love until the polite goodbyes and then the door slams and the backstabbing blurp, blurp comes rolling off those twisted tongues. I wanted no part of that; I wanted crisp sausages, quiet, fire and Christmas cheer – toasting the rocks, the gravel, the wayward scorps – it was lonely as hell either way.

There is the aftertaste of chagrin in my mouth and guts – oh, how I long for guilt-free freedom, how I long to never return to the same space twice, how I long to taste every road, every directional arrow, every point on the map, every carriage, every castle, every loch, every green garden ever grown, every ocean, every river, every trickle of light in some small English cottage – but I am far linear west poking at ash with the metamorphic girl sitting across from me now dressed in lava rock – it is the shimmering sheen of some prehistoric volcanic sacrifice in hallucination – the wild makeup and hair; the savage, spitty pout; the long, velvet legs leading to Heaven’s flesh; the eyes bursting like honey bombs set ablaze by a sharp, silver Zippo.

Flick, burn, inhale –

“Merry Christmas,” I say to her anyway.

She fades away, but I can still smell her – like roses and spray paint.

I thought I saw that dude Arafat scrambling around in rocks and brush, but the longer I stare the more I realize that nothing is real. It’s all a memory bank baby. We were all here many moons ago, rag-tagged in the back of some trashed out Euro sedan, barfing out the remnants of mad ragers all over the freshly polished desert floor, the groaning, the twisting and uneasy sleep – everything always comes back around again no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Memories are deposited, the pains and joys withdrawn – it’s like black-and-white Poland to me, wandering in rags, sleeping in parks, losing muscle just to hustle.

888 West End posh and some baby hot, hot lady in bed-ready red is sipping my best brandy like it’s water as she sits on my couch looking at all the shit I have on the walls. Does she even know she’s just a mannequin who happens to know how to breathe?

“So, it’s New Year’s Eve, and here we are.”

That’s what I say to her.

Her glassy eyes look up at me as if I were some loon.   

“Do you like chainsaws?” she asks. “I’m afraid of chainsaws.”

She holds out her glass for more brandy.

“You know, this shit is pretty expensive.”

I pour her more of the brandy and walk out onto the veranda. She doesn’t get off the couch. She just sits there sipping my expensive brandy and staring off into space like some bucket of chicken in need of a warm towel. How can I tell her to get the hell out of here, but still be polite about it? Am I really that boring? Is it me? Has it always been me?

I turn just in time to see her putting on her coat and walking toward the door.

“Wait – it’s not midnight yet.”

She smiles, puts a chick cigarette between the frosted lips.

“So, what? “You are boring me; you always bore me.”

That’s what she said to me in that thick Euro accent.

“But wait, we could take a drive in my car. It’s fast. We can go wherever you want.”

She stopped at the door.

“All right, but you let me drive.”

She was a maniac behind the wheel, but I said nothing. I even removed my seat belt when she went faster, faster, faster.

“Are you afraid I will wreck your car, or worse, get you killed.”

I just let go and flew with her. She accelerated. Faster. Faster. She went faster still until we were out of the city and in the luscious throes of country dark.

“Are you afraid yet?”

She shut it down in some lonely void.

“It’s 12:01. I’m going home now.”

She got out of the car and walked away, disappeared into the dark woods, forever gone.

I poked at the ashes with a stick on Christmas day. The sun was still bright, and I was still alone. Would it ever be safe to go back? Why go back? Why keep going back? This life should not be a revolving door – push in once and go through, push in again and keep going through, push, push, push, until the end is beautiful enough to stay, the day she falls in with a first airport kiss that sends rockets to space.

Unintentional Evil

I can’t say anything anymore, it doesn’t fit through the walls — the sun paper is too thin over the windows, and no one knows I’m still alive inside. There is no fortune to be had behind these LA eyes of sparkling white and bright.

And I saw a window cleaner on a skyscraper fall off today. His body looked like a big X as it went end over end in the air. There was a big pile of mashed potato red in the street and then the coppers came and buzzed everyone away and roped off the scene. I managed to take a few pictures but burned them later because they were too gruesome — left a bad taste in my operation mouth.

There’s a big exclamation point in my head, my brain screaming for life relief as I sit on the bed in a darkened room looking out the big picture window at everyone’s Christmas lights. Christmas makes me sad like a snail and I have a bear trap set in the chimney. The news will say that Santa is dead, but then we’ve all known that for a long time – ho, ho, ho horror show aglow.

Alone at the holiday table with my three-pronged fork stuck in a big, green ham — looks like Martian flesh from Area 51 served up on a flying saucer platter of humming silver. And I feel a sliver in my soul — a chilled sliver that guts my soul like a fish.

Someone evil snickers in an empty room. My thoughts all Merry-Go-Round rainbows and black and white radiation eyes and slim summer thighs — flashes of fleshes so perfect and pure — next to the goat house, the monkey bungalow, the glass cases of human beings, like on trippy Planet of the Apes.

The grass in the wide park is full of picnics and pee — shiny happy people with tattoos and guns make gang threats next to orange dragsters and there is great conflagration in the congregation of murderous intent and sin.

Cigarette smoke stings scorpions’ eyes — zoo keep bum cheek baby drags a green hose, a snake, dribbling water and venom on the sidewalk, and everyone is evil at least one day out of their life’ despite any good gospel they claim is in their heart.

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The Naked People (Part One)

Publisher’s Note: Mature content warning. This is the first of two-parts.

Papa Wesley was out back in his workshop tinkering with an old radio beneath the glow of a soft lamp when the door slowly opened and the boy appeared, shivering.

He quickly turned to look at him, using only his eyes and not his head. “Close the door. It’s cold out there.”

The boy closed the door and moved in deeper, his bare skin slightly blue and pale.

“What do you want?” the man asked.

The boy hugged himself as he shook. “I was bored in the house. I just wanted to see what you were doing.”

Papa Wesley set down the small tools and removed his glasses. His blonde hair was parted in the middle and fell against each side of his face like a woman’s; he used his fingers to stroke it back. “It’s just a hobby to keep my mind occupied. I’ll probably never get it to work again, but a man needs a hobby nonetheless.” He rubbed his tired eyes and smiled at the boy. “So, young David. Have you thought about what you want for Christmas?”

The boy looked up at him, shining blue eyes sparkling forth from an innocent yet troubled face. He was indeed a very childlike version of the man. “Yes.”

“Well, tell me all about it.”

“I want some clothes.”

Papa Wesley sighed, and his face turned troubled.

“Now son,” he began. “We’ve talked about this a million times. We don’t wear clothes in this family. Clothes are unnatural. Do you so quickly forget how you came into this world?”

The boy thought about it for a moment before answering. “Naked and afraid?”

“Yes. That’s exactly right. That’s how the good Lord intended us to be, and we will not stray from that path.”

“But when we do have to go out into the evil world, we are chastised and chased away because of our nakedness. Why does God allow this if this is how we are meant to be?” the curious young boy asked.

“My boy, as I have explained to you before, the world is a fallen, sinful place, and the sinners must cover themselves in clothes because they are dirty and evil. Their bodies and hearts are unclean. They are not like us. They do not understand our ways and so tease and taunt us, threaten us with confinement.” The man slowly shook his head in distrust for the ordinary world and then looked up. “But the good Lord is on our side. He favors our nakedness, young David. He will protect us from those clothes-wearing pagans. Do not be afraid or ashamed. Remember, our ways are rooted in the time before the apple.”

“Yes, father. Thank you, father. I appreciate the lesson.”

Now, is there anything else you want for Christmas?” Papa Wesley asked the boy.

The boy stared up at the rafters and thought. “Yes. I want to go to a real school. I want to be around other children. There’s no one to play with around here.”

Papa Wesley became stern and raised a hard finger toward him. “Absolutely not. You will be brought up in our ways and nothing else. I forbid you to speak about it again.”

“But it’s what I want,” the boy pleaded.

“You will not have it! Why can’t you ask for something sensible, like a shovel?”

The boy became mute and stared at the floor. Then there was a knock at the door and a young girl poked her face inside.

“What is it, Camille?” the father snapped.

“Mama said to come fetch you for the evening meal.” She licked at her shivering lips and tried to decipher his temperament, brushing back the same blonde hair her father had. “It’s meatloaf and potatoes, and I prepared a rhubarb pie for dessert.”

“Very well, we’ll be there shortly.”

The girl closed the door and disappeared, and Papa Wesley grasped young David by the chin and pulled his lost gaze upward. “Are we settled then? No more talk about clothes and school. Is that understood?”

The boy blinked slowly up at him. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir. A shovel for Christmas would be fine, sir.”

The farmhouse was old, white, plain, simple; nestled comfortably in a patchwork of meadows, low hills and fields now harvested and frosted. The cold moon and clouds barked quietly high above as the two walked toward the rear porch and its yellow light in the shivering silence of early night. Young David’s bare feet burned from the cold ground. An animal made a frightening noise in the forest. He looked back at his father and saw that his body was covered in a downy fur of soft human hair, and he thought he looked like an ape man on a hunt. “Keep going,” the man ordered. “I don’t want you to get frostbite again.”

They entered the house and Papa Wesley went immediately to Mother Ruth in the scented kitchen and kissed at her glowing and flawless cheek. One of his hands fell to an ample bare breast, and he playfully squeezed it as his other hand smacked her buttocks. “Smells wonderful,” he said.

Mother Ruth giggled and kissed him back. “Me or the meatloaf?” She called out to their daughter, Camille. “And don’t forget the fresh milk, darling,” she said. “Bring the entire pitcher to the table.”

Mouths were in motion and silverware clinked against plates as they ate in the simple dining room. Papa Wesley finally looked over at his daughter and admired her as if she was a hardy stock animal, and he smiled with pride. “I see you really have begun to develop nicely, Camille. That’s wonderful, and what a fine tribute to our heavenly father.”

The girl looked down and became somewhat shy. “Yes father. I’m very excited about it.”

Mother Ruth cleared her throat and smiled; full earthy lips pressed tightly together before she spoke. “I have some wonderful news. She’s begun her woman time, Papa.”

Papa Wesley set down his silverware and diligently wiped at his mouth with a handmade napkin. “That’s a fine thing, Camille. Very fine. I’m happy for you.”

The girl glanced at him, somewhat embarrassed. “Yes father. I feel as if I’m in bloom, like a glorious flower in a heavenly garden and all the fine saints and angels are watering me.”

“Wonderous. Now, I trust you will keep yourself clean in those times of need?” he asked of her, shifting his faint eyebrows, and lifting a mug of milk to his mouth.

“Of course, father. Mama showed me how.”

“Good,” he said, and he reached for a large bowl of mashed potatoes and spooned some onto his plate. “Young David and I were just discussing Christmas gifts out in the shop. Perhaps you could enlighten us to a wish of yours, dear daughter?”

Camille took a long sip of fresh milk herself and looked back and forth at her parents. “Well, I’ve had my eye on a nice pair of hedge clippers I discovered in the hardware catalog. They’re very shiny and seem sturdy and trustworthy. I thought I could use them to trim back the rose bushes, among other things of course.”

Wesley and Ruth looked at each other across the table and in their minds proudly smiled and agreed. “That sounds like a very practical gift, Camille. I’m proud of you,” Papa Wesley said.

Young David emitted a stressful sigh as he stared at his plate and played with his food with the tip of his fork.

“Is there something wrong, son?” Papa Wesley asked the boy when he noticed his lack of interest in the meatloaf.

“No sir. I guess I’m just not that hungry.”

“If you’re troubled by something, please feel free to speak about it,” Papa Wesley suggested.

“It’s nothing, sir.”

Mother Ruth reached over and placed the back of her hand against his forehead. “Are you not feeling well?”

“I feel fine, but may I go up to my room now?”

Mother Ruth frowned with a hint of worry. “But what about dessert? Your sister made the most wonderful rhubarb pie.”

“I’m sure it will be delightful and delicious, but not right now,” the boy said.

Mother Ruth brushed the hair out of his eyes and gently nipped at his cheek with her fingertips. “All right then, I suppose you can go up to your room, but I want you to be still and get some rest, you have schooling in the morning, and I want you to be refreshed and ready to learn.”

“Yes mam,” David said, and he rose from the table and kissed her on the cheek, and then he went to his father and then his sister and uncomfortably hugged at their nakedness before disappearing up the stairs and into his bedroom.

David sat at a small desk and drew pictures of people wearing clothes in a secret notebook as he did every night. He suddenly got bored, closed it, and tucked it deep in a drawer. He glanced toward his unshaded window and the world looked long and lonely to him. He got up and went to the sill and pushed his face against the glass and looked out. He knew it would be a long way. He knew it would be cold. But the overwhelming need he had to possess the one desire most recently overflowing in his mind could not be tamed. He was nervous and edgy and could not make the thought go away. He stretched out on his cold bed and stared at the ceiling as he waited for everyone else to go to sleep, some twangs of madness stirring in his mind.

He waited and waited and when the time came, and the house was still, he quietly crept out of bed and wrapped his feet in pillowcases and threw a heavy blanket around his body. He went to the window that led out to the roof of the front porch and carefully slid it upward. The wind whipped at him as he carefully put his legs out and felt for the shingles with the bottom of his feet. It was further than he expected, and he nearly slid and slipped as his toes tried to grip a safe place to step. When he was completely out, he closed the window and made his way down the slight slope to the edge where he shimmied down a support post and dropped to the ground with a hard thud, the wind trying to rip the blanket from his clutches.

He carried with him a small flashlight and when he was far enough away from the house, he clicked it on and directed the beam onto the dirt road in front of him. His plan was to stick to the road until he came to the main highway that led into the town; then he would slink among the high grasses and trees of the shoulder so no one would see him in case a car, or more likely a truck, came rumbling by in the dead of night.

The pebbles of the road poked through the thin pillowcases on his feet, and it wasn’t long before the fabric was torn, and the stones were working directly into his skin. It hurt him, and along with the chilly wind, it was a miserable journey and several times he stopped to look back and wondered if he should just give up. But the desire of his heart and soul were too much and he plodded along as best he could. When the cold became too much he would step off into the forest and take shelter against a thick tree just so he could rest a bit. He would immerse himself fully in the blanket and shiver in the darkness as cold owls gathered and wondered in the night trees around him.

He went like that for a long while, on and off the gravel road, until he reached the two-lane highway, number 17, the main way in and out of the small and dusty rural town of Octerville. He looked both ways and it was silent and still and cold. His breath shot out of him like a vaporizer, and he glanced down at the illuminated boy watch on his wrist — just after midnight. He coughed and walked on and on and on until the glow of the main drag of the small city began to grow in front of him.

The second part of this story can be found HERE.


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.