The Sunday Visitor

The misunderstood devil knocked on the back door around noon on a Sunday. Mae looked up from the stove where she had just set her drained pot of boiled potatoes to cool. She dried her cooking hands on a towel hung on a drawer handle and turned down the kitchen radio that was playing war time classics.

“Who is it?” she called out.

The knocking came harder, and she went closer to the door and stood against it.

“Who’s there?” she said again, her heart beginning to race.

Then there came a man’s voice from the other side. “I’m very sorry to bother you on the Lord’s Day, but I was wondering if I could use your telephone.”

Mae paused for a moment and then told the stranger something untrue.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t open the door to strangers. However, my husband will be home momentarily if you’d care to wait.”

She held her breath for an answer.

“It’s quite cold out, mam. I’m not a murderer. I swear it.”

“What do you need the telephone for?” she asked. “Perhaps I could dial the number for you.”

She could hear the crunch of snow beneath the man’s boots as he shifted. She imagined he was looking around, searching for another way into the house.

“All right then,” the man’s voice came again. “I’ll be frightfully honest with you. I have no money and I’m hungry. I was hoping you might have a bit of food to spare.”

Mae bit at her brightly colored bottom lip and thought about it. “What does the good book say about such a situation?” the voice inside herself asked. She quickly decided and opened the door.

A small man wearing a hat and jacket wet with snow stood there and attempted a smile. “Mam,” he said. “The name’s Ed Jallow. I sure do appreciate it.”

“Come in, Ed,” Mae said. “Please, have a seat at the table and I’ll get you a cup of coffee to help warm you up.”

“Thank you,” Ed said, and he pulled a chair out from a small table by a set of large windows that looked out upon a modest yard now caked in various layers of snow. He sat down. He pulled the hat from his head and stuffed it into a pocket of his coat. He sniffled and then coughed.

Mae turned from the kitchen to look at him. “Are you sick?”

“No. I don’t think. It’s just I’ve been breathing all that cold air.”

Mae carefully carried over a steaming cup of coffee atop a small plate. She set it down in front of him and studied for a moment the now revealed top of his balding head. “Here you are. It’s a good thing for you I keep a pot going most of the time. I’m an absolute fiend about it.”

He smiled at her and picked up the cup, blew across the top of it and then carefully took a sip. “Hmm. That’s a good cup of Joe,” he said.

“So,” Mae wanted to know. “Where are you from?”

Ed Jallow cleared his throat. “Detroit,” he said.

“Detroit? What brings you all the way up here?”

A cuckoo clock suddenly released its half-hour call from up above them on the wall. Ed became startled. His hands trembled slightly. “I’m a fugitive from love, I guess you could say.”

Mae was intrigued. “A fugitive from love?”

“Marriage trouble,” Ed confessed. “I’m afraid I didn’t plan well enough. Ran out of gas. And so here I came around to your abode, penniless and hungry.” He feigned a laugh, but she could sense the stress devouring him.

“You were in the neighborhood?”

“I suppose I got lost,” Ed said.

“Would a sandwich be, okay?” Mae asked, quickly changing the subject. “Ham on rye?”

“Great,” Ed answered. “And do you have any potato chips? I’ve got a thing about potato chips.”

“I’m sure I could dig some up,” she said, and she went into the kitchen to fix up his plate.

Ed craned his neck to get a good look at her tightly packed rear-end as she moved it around while she worked. “You said your husband would be home soon?” he said, wanting to clarify the situation.

Mae quickly looked in his direction. “That’s right.”

“Does he work on Sunday?”

“No. He’s down at the corner bar watching the big fight with the fellas.” She strutted back to the table carrying a plate with a sandwich and a small mound of potato chips on it. “I could call down there and have him come home. Wouldn’t take him but about five minutes or so to get here.”

Ed Jallow eyed the plate as she set it down in front of him. He quickly snatched the sandwich up and bit into it. Then he shoved a few of the chips into his mouth. The noises he made while eating bothered her and she walked toward the phone and picked it up.

“What are you doing?” Ed asked.

“I was going to call down to the bar and ask my husband to come home.”

Ed waved his hand against the air. “You don’t need to do that. Let the guy enjoy the fight.”

Mae hesitated for a moment and then hung the phone back up. “I suppose you’re right. No man likes to be nagged.”

“That’s for damn sure.”

Mae smiled. “As soon as you’re done eating, we can go to the garage. I’m sure my husband has a gas can out there somewhere.”

Ed looked at her with a puzzled expression. “A gas can?”

“Right. You said you ran out of gas.”

“Oh yeah. Of course. Gas. I could sure use some gas.”

Mae chuckled.

“What’s so funny?” Ed wondered.

“All this talk of gas.”

Ed pushed the plate away and wiped at his mouth with his hand. “How about we go check on that gas now?” he said with seriousness.

“Follow me, Mr.… Jallow, right?”

“That’s right. Like shallow but with a J.”


Once inside the garage, Ed followed her movements with his eyes as she searched for the gas can.

“Surely there’s some gas in here somewhere. I can smell it. Can’t you smell it?”

Ed got closer to her and looked at her face in the dim light. “All I can smell is you, and you’re in heat. Why are you in heat? For me?”

She looked at him as if offended. “Mr. Jallow?”

“What do you really want from life? You want me?”

“Mr. Jallow… I’m a married woman.”

He suddenly grabbed her left hand and held it up. “You’re not wearing any sort of wedding ring… And I didn’t see a single picture inside of you with some fella. What gives, lady? Why are you lying to me?”

Mae yanked her hand away from him. “Why are you lying to me? You’re not some poor fella from Detroit run off by his wife… You’re nowhere near out of gas and down on your luck, are you?”

He got close to her face. He squinted his eyes in defiance. “Looks like you got me pegged, lady.”

“What do you want from me?” Mae quivered.

He was breathing heavily. “I want you to take me to your bedroom and spread your legs for me. Is that bold enough for you?”

With her movements void of any hesitation, she led him back into the house, through the kitchen, and past the table where he sat to drink coffee and eat his sandwich and potato chips. He followed her down a dark hallway, past a bathroom with the door slightly ajar, and finally into her bedroom in the corner of the house. Ed gently closed the door behind them, shed his coat and threw it on a chair in the corner. He loosened the collar of the shirt he was wearing, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up the sleeves like he was about to fight someone.

“Get out of your dress,” he ordered her.

Mae slipped out of the dress like he asked.

“Now everything else,” Ed instructed.

She did as he said until she stood fully naked before him.

“Get on the bed.”

“How do you want me?” she asked.

“Like if you were sleeping, but relaxed, open, untethered,” he told her.

Mae got onto the bed and laid down on her back. She felt his eyes on her as she looked up at the white ceiling that resembled swirled cream.

“Now what do you want me to do?”

“Nothing,” Ed Jallow said. “You don’t have to do anything. I just want to look at you.”

Mae propped herself up on her elbows and looked at him, confused. “You’re not going to have your way with me?”

He avoided her stare for just a moment. “No. I can’t. I’m not able to. I got an injury in the war. They told me I’m only half a man now.”

“Then why are you doing this?”

Ed walked to a window, parted a tender curtain with his hand and looked out. “I’ve been driving the last day and a half, and I just wanted to see something beautiful for a change. I’m plain sick of the way the world looks and acts out there. Plain sick of it. I never meant to scare you. You’ve been very kind. I should just go now,” he said, and he moved away from the window, reached for his coat and made his way toward the door.

“Wait,” Mae said to stop him.

He turned to look at her lying there naked on the bed.

“What’s up, lady?”

“Do you like fire?”

“What kind of fire?”

“Crackling, orange fire that gently licks at the brickwork,” she explained. “Would you like to sit in front of the fireplace with me in the other room? It’s supposed to snow more. And where else would you go?”

Ed Jallow scratched at his balding head. “And you won’t mind if I just get lost in the flames for a little while?”

She bowed her head for a moment to think, and then she looked back up at him. “Isn’t that what life’s all about?” she said, her tone thorough and full of conviction.

END


The Egg Girl of Earth

Morgan Jane Solvent was clad in all creamy, sparkling blue, like a cornflower in the hot rain, that day I stepped into the restaurant and ordered a big bushel of breakfast because it was time to do such a thing.

Morgan Jane Solvent was the egg girl. Her fame came in the form of eggs on plates, plates cradled in spindly arms, plates delivered to tables uneventful. Her dirty-blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail and it flopped around wildly, left to right, as she walked and bee-bopped about the place. Her face was small and cradled fractured features — evidence of meth abuse sprinkled about: darting brown eyes sparkling like dying stars; a pointed, English nose; lips the color of bruised blood; a broken porcelain chin of delicate doll stature; skin like whitewashed buttermilk.

She resembled a puppet — a devotchka Pinocchio subtly panting to be split in two — as I could tell, as she talked rapidly, nervously about her favorite sexual positions and needing snow tires for her groovy love van because she was planning a drive to Albuquerque for the luscious holidays — she was nervous about that, it weighed heavy on her mind — the great pass, the snow, the ice, the treacherous conditions that could send her reeling over a cliff to crash and burn.

Even so, Morgan Jane Solvent was always giddy — somewhat too giddy, like huffing gas giddy. She smelled of perfumed sweat and steamy eggiwegg breakfast because the Yokester Café of Elicott West was always booming and banging, and Morgan Jane Solvent was always moving; swinging and swaying she was, as I watched her all along as I ate a Belgium waffle and a cup of mixed fruit — mind remnants of the olden days Oasis gig in Atlanta and the long, hungover crawl home to Oceanside bungalow and deep, disturbing sleep.

Sweet n Sour Chicken Morgan Jane Solvent would always try to make tippy conversation as she poured more coffee and nervously smiled, those not so sparkling lady choppers gleaming with too much spit when she talked through all the brokenness.

That particular sunrise spreading, some grand duke of douche at another table grabbed her hand like in a dream and yanked the wee jewel she had there on her ring finger. He dropped it into a cup of coffee — kerplunk. She looked at him all wild-eyed with passionate mouth gaping wide with luscious glory and wonder.

“What the fuck, man!? That’s my wedding ring, asshole!” The restaurant went to dead silence for a moment. Even the coffee was stunned.

I never heard Morgan Jane Solvent curse before; she had always been so polite, like fine pie; nothing like the dirty mouth that now spewed horrific ash at the customer who went too far.

Then the man blatantly used the Q-Town love van mind trick on her small brain with a slight wave of his hand.

“You don’t need to be married anymore. He’s a bolshy bastard and a twit,” he sneered then laughed. He reminded me of Bluto from Popeye. He even dressed the same — a tight navy-blue T-shirt, a sailor’s cap atop his head — and his black beard was wild and scraggly just like the cold seas he sailed upon in his fat boat.

He slurped at his coffee like a dime store hooker and sucked the hard ring into his mouth, swirled it around a bit, chewed on it, like a piece of sexy hard candy. Then he spit it back out on the table, it spun across the faux Formica like a toy top, shooting off shards of shine into the eyes of all that wandered there in the den of eggs.

“What time do you get off work?” he boldly asked Morgan Jane Solvent.

“Umm, 2, no 2:30 … why? What are you doing to me?” she said, suddenly pressing a hand to her forehead and swirling around in a panic attack.

A sweaty fry cook back in the kitchen was madly pounding on one of those little silver bells with his greasy spatula because some other order was steaming away beneath the red, radiant glow of the heat lamps that sat atop a shelf there.

“Morgan! Pick up!” the obnoxious prick yelled from the hectic back of the house.

She rushed away from the Bluto redux, and I relaxed in my place at the booth. I looked at my favorite Christmas watch — it was 122 after 112 — and then looked out the big, big window at the town and the city, the steaming, vibrating wreck of it all with a few squirts here and there of some decent stuff, but mostly slutty strips of shops, the fast-paced flickering neon, glass, cement, brick, asphalt, autos, traffic lights, billboards — too much mad rushing and shoving of petty shit in the faces of all the peoples that live here with I and the Egg Girl and all the other inhabitants — her now buttering warm toast with a big, oily broom back in the back all laughing out loud and groveeting with her co-workers, touching everyone with her fingers and her face like some needy drug fiend, shoving her awkward, wooden ass into everyone’s crotch and blowing kisses like a real piece of work. She was a social butterfly when she wasn’t being insane, and every damp crotch was a gas lamp, every smile a torch, every warm hunk of human flesh a bonfire for her to swarm and spit and spread.

Some Fiona Apple song started blurping out of the speakers wired invisible inside the ceilings they had there. It was that familiar sound of soft anger. I bit into a mushy grape and then a piece of unsavory honeydew melon as I listened to Apple, me then grasping a pen in the free hand, holding it to my jugular real careful, like a tattooed Picasso all hopped down on the fringe of drink ready to fill the veins with octopus ink so that I could write a novel all mad with eight tentacles and suction cups to keep the pages in distinct order on the walls of my place uptown that was now burning to the ground. Ass and ash, such is life.

Morgan Jane Solvent snuck up on my daydream and smecked some question like “More coffee, more anything?” her breath radiating like a dragon, all boozy with the scent of grape bubblegum and powdery drugs, and she held the jostling coffee cup and poured, and she poured too much, and some was spilling over the rim and the pointy pen was uncontrollably doodling all over the skin of my neck.

“Morgan Jane Solvent,” I politely, yet sternly, said. “You’re spilling coffee all over my new shirt and this pen is about to pierce my throat.”

She looked at me kind of funny.

“What’s the matter, you don’t like how I do my job?” she said with an innocent, smile and the fluttering of dumb midnight falsehood eyelashes.

“You’re doing your job just fine, but don’t you know that coffee burns. Coffee burns baby, coffee burns baby. You know, like that movie Rain Man.”

Some guy butted in, shaking his head at me like I was stupid. “No, no, no. You got it all wrong. It wasn’t coffee, it was hot water in the bathtub. He was burned by hot water because Tom Cruise was too busy thinking about chicks. He was being irresponsible.”

“Who in their right mind takes a bath?” I replied, turned away, not caring to hear his stupid answer.

“I love this song,” Morgan Jane Solvent said, looking up at the ceiling suddenly as if Fiona was right there singing from inside the light bulbs. “It makes me want to get in the back of my love van and do all sorts of dirty and animalistic things.”

“I’ll be on my way soon,” I warned. “Do you want to drop the eggs and go to the Green Head Storm with me and look out at the lonely sea?”

“I don’t know what that is. You make so little sense… But you don’t want to do dirty and animalistic things to me in the back of my love van?”

“We’ll find someone to pump you full of lead and then some later. You’re not my type. Besides, a zodiac-painted psychic told me that some beautiful angel with ocean water eyes will be crash landing into my life any day now, and I must put my faith in only that. Right now, I just want to get out of here, walk around a bit, get some fresh air for once. It’s all noisy and congested and hot in here. It’s bugging me, man, like that old guy Bono says. And I think you need to get away from this chaotic scene for a while.”


It was brisk outside and Morgan Jane Solvent clutched at herself tight inside her puffy pink jacket as we walked through a tempest of crinkled leaves and ice chips toward the Green Head Storm shore and the abandoned seaside piccadilly arcade there. It was one of my favorite places to just go and get lost for minutes or hours or days, the white brick tunnels cold and wet and hollow — the glass like broken mirrors, broken teeth, and beyond the cold sand leading up to the ferocious ocean with its lullaby churning making life lonely and sad or maybe even perfect for someone like me who longs to be alone in the mist, but then again, on this day down at Green Head Storm shore, a human calliope of piped espresso encased in uptight skin trailing behind in the blustery 100-acre wood wind and part of me just wanted to run, run, run mad like Tarzan swinging on the last thread of life and not really giving a damn about anything anymore in the boiling jungle down below.

Inside the old buildings that sat like the unworn clothes of a dead life, full of holes and hanging in a closet untouched for eons, with the cracking cement, the creaking floors and steps, and there were the musty smells of old wood and old time and old paper and old carnival food and the stale perfume of ghosts all mixed together in a burnt dead electric orgy of flashing memories inside someone’s fading mind and it made my bones and soul feel good and sick at the same time, made me feel like home where I didn’t live, made me feel like time standing still for once, the cuckoo all fluid nonsense in reverse now, not like all that constant rushing about in the hateful real world where sucking is success and slime ball stupidity gets you a ticket to a platform to rally the idiot masses, and for some reason not unlike fear I keep going just to get nowhere but the present-tense spinning and spilling in big, boring circles, merely catering to the flighty and ungrateful souls of chaos.

Once inside the lifeless caravan of once great architecture, Morgan Jane Solvent wandered about with wild-eyed wonder. She looked all strung-out and overdose blue and with a flair of elegant fail, all cracked bedazzled and full of dream flashbacks as her distorted face scanned the places we strolled along.

“Wow. I’ve never been to such a lonely and forgotten place such as this,” she said to me, spinning around slowly, and then nearly toppling over. “I don’t understand your attraction to this place… It’s so broken.”

“There is something great and peaceful about abandoned history,” I told her. “I know it sounds crazy, but what the hell, I’ve never been anything but crazy. It’s like a time machine for me. That’s my favorite movie by the way — The Time Machine — the one from 1960. It’s about a man who wants to escape his own time because the slice of it he has been forced to live in has gone completely awry.”

I looked over at her and she hadn’t been listening to me at all. There’s yet another reason for me to seek another time… No one ever listens to me. She was just taking it all in and I was invisible and then she cupped her small hands around her small mouth and shouted out “Hello! …” and her voice bounced and echoed throughout the place, for it was indeed empty, long abandoned like I had made clear earlier, dust covered and legitimately raped and ravaged by time. And I had the skeleton key that fit perfectly inside the hole buried inside my very own head.

Morgan Jane Solvent screamed loud like a lunatic and then laughed; then some great seashore bird flew from its perch somewhere in the shadowy ceiling like a molasses dappled spaceship, startled by her slaughtering, murderous voice, and out it went through a hole in a dome of broken glass above us, out to that aluminum sky rolled in bruise-colored sugar.

I leaned against a cold wall, and I was down, down, down, all of a sudden, like a light switch, like magic, like the snap of old, broken fingers.

Morgan Jane Solvent took notice of my despondence, and she then came closer to me and looked at me like was some freak in a human zoo surrounded by scarecrows with cabbages for brains.

“Why do you look so dark sky bleak all of a sudden?” she asked.

“Maybe I really do need a doctor to cut into me.”

“Why?”

“Something is not quite right.”

“What? What is it?”

I clasped my hands to my own swimming, tortured head. “This whole end of the world thing… I don’t think I can take it. It’s really gnawing on my root bitter nerves.”

“None of us can take it. It just is the way it is. But I do believe you are being a bit overdramatic. Time machines… What a silly notion. It doesn’t work,” she grudgingly scoffed.

I looked up at an old clock hanging down from an upside-down post. It probably stopped 43 years ago. “Tell that to time,” I said.

And a wave of something all broken then washed over me like the sea gurgling all bitter out there in the beyond of us and the old, ravaged arcade and its once bustling adjoining café and trinkets parade. I thought about all the ones I knew; the ones I loved, laughed with, held, kissed, wiped tears away from their faces, and I could taste the salt of their own broken hearts running down my soul and mingling with my own sovereign eternal ache and there was nothing left to do about it, but swallow and spit the blood. Love and joy all misguided. Love and peace a wayward missile. Love of life, a moment under street lamps at midnight, cigarette ash smiles caught in a wind tunnel, all that electricity will soon come to an end, like the last drop of water in the Dead Sea — and we just had to kill it all then, eh? — you baboons, you bastards and all your wayward ways — too hot to heal, too cold to kill, but kill it all you do, and now this, time takes its final breath in one cacophonous inhalation, like colored bulbs popping out one by one at a carnival, finally, the ride ends. No more puking, no more cheating, no more under-the-weather comas and promises coated in blood strawberry lies.

I finally looked up at her concerned face — that raspberry mouth made raw by the kiss of a winter’s invisible bludgeon twisted in sheer puzzlement.

“Oh, by the way,” and I had nothing else to say but this, “There was a big hunk of shell in my plate of eggs this morning. I hate that.”

“Really? I’m so sorry,” Morgan Jane Solvent, the egg girl of Earth said with real concern. “Well, next time you…”

And she stopped in mid-sentence.

I looked at my beautiful Christmas watch. It snowed in seconds and minutes. “There will be no next time for me,” I said, and that’s when everything began to move and fall as the Earth suddenly decided to flip over on its side, it wigged out, and then like in an instant, there I was swimming through the stars with everyone else, like drunken angelfish dizzily soaring through the wet womb of endless space with swords clamped in our mouths; it was the transition from this world to the next. We were relocating, on our way to a new home, way out there, with new bodies and minds, with new reasons to live and without these bullet-holed hearts — all of us now, on our way to a place with peace and quiet and a better breakfast.

END


The Puppets of Kudzu (3)

Author’s Note: Mature Content. The following story contains language that some readers may find offensive. Skip this one if you don’t like that sort of thing.

“I don’t think I want to give you kudzu pie anymore. You’re horrible to people,” Franco angrily ranted.

“Oh, come on. You can’t come down on a guy for just doing his job. I don’t make up the rules. I got bills to pay just like everyone else,” the city man said.

Franco pondered that and then reconsidered. “Okay. I’m sorry. Would you like some lactose-free egg nog to go with that pie? There’s nothing more refreshing than a cold glass of lactose-free egg nog.”

“Sure. That would be great. Thanks for considering my dietary needs.”

“No problem. I’m magical like that.”

 “Say, do you mind if I smoke? I could really use one right about now.”

“Nah, go ahead and suck on your fag all you want,” Franco told him.

“What did you just say?”

“Suck on your fag…”

“I know, I know. That is so gay, mister.”

“Jiminy Effin Cricket! What is it with everyone!? A fag happens to be a colloquial British term for a cigarette!”

Franco plopped down an emerald-green ashtray in the middle of the table followed by a plate with a chilled and wobbly piece of green kudzu pie. He went and yanked a plastic jug of lactose-free egg nog from the refrigerator and filled a tall glass and sat that before the man as well.

“Would you like me to squirt some cream on it for you?” Franco asked him.

“Excuse me?”

“Whipped topping. On your pie.”

“Yes, some cream would be, um, very nice.”

“Here you go. Enjoy.”

“Thanks.”

Franco watched with bizarre fascination as the city official opened his mouth and filled it with a piece of the cream-covered kudzu pie. He chewed. Then he stopped chewing. His face morphed into a horrifying grimace and then a huge and sloppy spew of mashed kudzu pie and cream shot out of his face and splattered all over the table. He made a horrible gurgling, gasping, groaning, grunting noise and clamped both his hands around the glass of lactose-free egg nog and tipped it to his mouth and started to suck and gulp ferociously, wheezing and whining and spitting as he did so. He paused briefly and then suddenly the egg nog came shooting out of his mouth as well and he cried out, “Spoiled! It’s spoiled!” 

The official suddenly stood up, grasped his throat, and then just as suddenly, collapsed onto the floor.

“Holy shit!” Franco Dellaronti exclaimed. “I think I just killed him with kudzu pie and lactose-free egg nog!”

 Cheise Karn Mouise rushed into the kitchen. “What the hell is going on in here!? What’s all the noise? Just look at this disgusting mess! And who the hell is that?!”

Franco frowned. “It was a guy from the city. He gave me a 600-dollar ticket because I left my smashed-up kudzu pie stand in the yard. I’m considered a public nuisance now by the entire neighborhood.”

“That’s totally gay.”

“No, it’s not! I’m not happy at all. In fact, this is all really pissing me off! And just look at this mess and this body! What the hell am I supposed to do?”

Cheise Karn Mouise shuffled over to the coffee pot that sat on the counter and struggled to reach it. “I don’t know. Did you check to see if he’s dead?”

Franco turned to him. “You want me to touch his body? Gross.”

“Maybe you should give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I bet you’d like that.”

 “What the hell does that mean?”

“I thought you were gay,” the puppet said, still struggling for the coffee pot.

“I’m usually very gay, but not today! Aren’t you my friend? Don’t you care about me at all and my need for overflowing happiness?”

“Of course, I care. I’m just not really all that interested in feelings… It’s gay.”

“I think you fear giddiness,” Franco sternly pointed out. “You fear your own emotions.”

“What? I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“You’re afraid to be happy with who you truly are.”

“God! Quit talking so damn gay… And I know what I am. I’m a puppet who has been blessed with life.”

“Why are you afraid to express your true inner thoughts?” Franco said as he went to him and helped him with the coffee pot. He poured some into a cup and handed it down to him. Cheise Karn Mouise sipped at it, looked up, and tried to smile but couldn’t.

“Do you feel guilty about something? Do you experience inner turmoil?” Franco asked, trying to dig a little deeper into the soul of his friend.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It’s weird. Let me just drink my coffee and go back to my football in peace.”

“It’s not good to hold your feelings in,” Franco told him. “You may explode like an ice cream truck one day.”

Cheise Karn Mouise took another sip of his coffee. “Just drop it I said!”

“All right. All right. I just think it would be a benefit to you if occasionally you tried to get in touch with your feminine side.”

“That has to be the absolute gayest thing you have ever said to me,” Cheise Karn Mouise said.

Franco finally gave up. “Fine. Be unhappy for the rest of your life… So, I guess I am going shopping by myself after all?”

“I don’t feel like leaving the house. I told you that.”

“Are you sure? There’s a new frozen yogurt shop at the mall.”

“Yogurt is gay.”

“Well, I’d be gay too if I was full of fun and fruity flavors with a cornucopia of yummy toppings.”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his head at him. “Your psychiatrist really needs to get to work on you. Jesus.”

“I’m looking forward to it. Therapy is all about finding your happy place no matter how screwed up you are.”

Then there came a sludgy groaning from the floor as the man from the city stirred. “Oh god, I feel horrible. What happened?”

Cheise Karn Mouise threw his coffee cup in the sink before rushing over to check on the man from the city. He had an idea how to save his friend some cash. “You were choking on a delicious piece of kudzu pie and my friend here performed the Heimlich maneuver on you and saved your life. You should thank him, not give him an outrageous ticket for just trying to bring a little edible joy to the world.”

“He licked my hiney? That’s so gay,” the man from the city frightfully moaned.

“No, you brute! The Heimlich maneuver,” Cheise Karn Mouise explained. “It’s a very helpful medically endorsed physical action used to dislodge food or foreign objects from a choking person’s airway. It saves lives. Just like it did here today in this very house, in this very room mind you. Are you dumb or what?”

The man struggled to get to his feet.

“Oh, good heavens, you’re gross,” Cheise Karn Mouise said with a scrunched puppet face of disgust. “Franco, fetch this poor fella a warm wet towel to clean himself with.”

“Of course, of course.”

“What’s your name friend?” Cheise Karn Mouise asked. “I don’t believe you supplied us with any official identification.”

“My name is… Karl, I think. Hey, wait, are you a fucking French puppet? Am I talking to a puppet? Whose hand you got up your ass?”

“I suppose you wish it was your hand up my ass, don’t you,” Cheise Karn Mouise teased. “And yes, Karl, you are talking to a French puppet. I am Cheise Karn Mouise of Lyon. And I am truly alive on my own. No hand up my ass required. This world of ours is a very strange and horrible place, isn’t it?”

“And yet so beautiful and delightful,” Franco sing-songed as he returned and handed Karl the warm, wet towel.

Karl wiped down his face and the front of his suit jacket and shirt. He looked at the huge mess splattered on the table. “Did I do that? Gosh, I’m so sorry.”

“Well Karl, why don’t you make it up to us. First, by cleaning up this nastiness, and second, by tearing up that ungodly citation,” Cheise Karn Mouise pleaded.

Karl flickered his eyes and said, “Yes, yes. Of course. I was never here. I saw nothing. Everything is in order.” He chuckled a bit. “Do you have any Bounty paper towels?”

“Oooooh,” Franco beamed. “The quicker picker upper. Right away, Karl.”

Karl leaned over and whispered to Cheise Karn Mouise. “Does he always act this gay?”

“Yes, he does. He’s a very happy and positive person and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Right, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just wondering.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Read the previous part of this story HERE.


The Puppets of Kudzu (2)

Franco Dellaronti was lying on his bed in a very dark space, and he was in a state of horrible depression and self-doubt because of his failure as a kudzu pie entrepreneur. He scrunched his eyes and wrapped his arms around his belly because he was in so much pain. The he heard the faint sound of someone slowly opening his bedroom door. He sat up on the edge of the bed while trying to settle his raging heart that was now pumping with fear. “Who’s there!?” he cried out. The door creaked open wider. Franco tore a drawer open in a nightstand near his bed and pulled out a gun. He shakily aimed the revolver toward the invisible menace hovering somewhere in the door frame. Whoever or whatever it was moved closer. He felt it.

“I’ll shoot! I swear I’ll shoot!” Franco yelled out.

“Don’t shoot! It’s me.”

“Cheise Karn Mouise?”

“Yes!” He reached up to a light switch and flipped it. The room became painfully illuminated. “What the hell are you doing? You could have killed me!”

“I’m sorry. I was half awake and very sad and my head wasn’t very clear. I thought you might be an intruder or a rapist.”

“I’m not an intruder or a rapist, but thanks for locking me out of the house you big goof. I think I got sunburned.” Cheise Karn Mouise walked across the floor and hopped up on the bed next to the man.

“I’m sorry about that, too. How did you get in?”

“I broke out a basement window… I didn’t know you were a gun owner.”

Franco was frustrated with himself. “Yes. I don’t know how to use it very well. It’s heavy and makes my wrist hurt.”

“You’re just being a pussy,” Cheise Karn Mouise bemused. “Are you sure you’re not a girl?”

“What? That’s a horrible thing to say. Of course, I’m not a girl… And why are you suddenly being so snotty?”

“I had a pretty rough day and I’m completely sunburned, and it hurts like hell,” the little puppet man complained.

Franco looked at him and felt bad for locking him out of the house. “Would you like me to rub some pain-relieving aloe vera gel all over your body?”

Cheise Karn Mouise was confused. “Um. What did you say? What do you want to rub all over my body?”

“It will help soothe your sunburn. I bought it at a Greenwalls pharmacy in Cortez, Colorado after I went on my hiking sabbatical in the high desert without the proper clothing and sunscreen. It really does help ease the pain, but you may smell like mouthwash for a while.”

“I think I’ll just deal with the pain,” Cheise Karn Mouise said, and he winced as he adjusted himself on the bed.

Franco tried to convince him. “Are you sure? I really want to rub this all over your body.”

“What the hell is wrong with you!?” Cheise Karn Mouise snapped.

“What? I’m just trying to help.”

“You’re acting very gay.”

“Gay?” And Franco thought, then said, “Even though I’m pretty upset about the whole kudzu pie fiasco, I am generally a very happy person.”

“Don’t you know what gay is?”

“Well sure. It’s like how it is when I’m so light on my feet that I could just jump over a rainbow. When I’m completely joyous about life. When I feel gay, gay, gay!”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his head, looked around the room, and then stared at the floor and mumbled. “Okay… You can rub it on me but do it quick.”


The morning was filled with the smell of coffee and bacon and gross wet eggs as the man and Cheise Karn Mouise sat at the kitchen table and awkwardly ate breakfast together. Franco looked over the rim of his cup at the puppet that had come to life by the power of kudzu pie. He loudly sipped to get his attention.

Cheise Karn Mouise set down his fork and looked at him. “Must you do that?”

“What?”

“Slurp at your coffee like a dime store hooker.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You sure are sorry a lot,” the puppet snapped. “You should probably do some research on that and figure out what is wrong with you.”

“I pay a shrink to do that.”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” Cheise Karn Mouise scoffed. “I’m afraid you’re wasting your money.

Franco was hurt by the comment and tried to turn the tides of the conversation. “How’s that burn feeling today?” he asked.

“I think it’s better. That stuff really does work.”

“Good. I really enjoyed rubbing it on you.”

“I um… Enjoyed it too. And you’re pretty good at rubbing.”

Franco was pleased with himself, but bashful enough to change the subject. “I thought today we’d go down to the puppet store and get you a new outfit. That one looks very dirty and gross. Then maybe we could pop over to the mall.”

“Today? Not today. I want to stay home and watch some football games I recorded. I haven’t gotten to yet.”

Franco fluffed his hand in the air. “Football all day? No. We’re going shopping.”

“Why are you being so gay again?”

“What? I’m not very gay at the moment. You’ve upset me. And I think organized sports is just a ginormous waste of time. It’s barbaric and merely weekend fodder for the brain-washed masses.”

Cheise Karn Mouise threw his napkin on the table and crawled down. “So is shopping,” he snipped, and he disappeared into another room.


It was then that the doorbell rang, and Franco Dellaronti huffed, “Oh good big balls who is that!?” He got up from the table and walked toward the door and yanked it open. There was a serious man standing there and he wore a navy-blue suit with a red tie and his hair was clipped short and neat and was the color of vanilla frosting and even had the swirls in it like you might see on cake. He was holding some kind of computerized tablet. “Are you,” he began, and he looked down at the tablet and squinted his eyes a bit. “Franco Dellaronti? And are you the owner of this property?”

“Yes, I am. And this is my house. Who the hell are you?”

“I’m from the city and I’ve come here to control your life. Is that your smashed up lemonade stand littering your front lawn?”

Franco peeked over the official’s shoulder. “Yes. It’s mine. But it’s not a lemonade stand — it was a kudzu pie stand.”

“What the hell is kudzu pie?” the city official wondered out loud.

“It’s a delicious pie made from a sprawling southern vine. Would you like to come in and try some? It would be no trouble at all to plate you a nice fat slice.”

The official hesitated and looked around and sniffed before stepping up and in. “It smells kind of weird in here, but I guess I can get past that for a piece of delicious pie.”

“Oh, that’s my roommate. He has a problem with personal hygiene. My apologies. But please, come sit down.”

Franco led his guest to the kitchen and offered him a seat at the table. “Would you like a big glass of milk to go with that delicious kudzu pie?”

“No. I can’t. I have that lactose intolerant thing. Do you have any beer?”

“Beer? They let you drink beer while you work?”

“Sure. Everyone drinks on the job at the city,” the official teased as he looked up at the man’s confused face. “I’m just kidding. I can’t drink on the job,” he said, and then he winked at Franco. “But I do it anyway.”

Franco fumbled around in the refrigerator. “I’m afraid I don’t have any beer, but would you like a frosty wine cooler?”

The official scrunched his face. “Hell no! I don’t want a wine cooler. That’s gay.”

Franco rolled his eyes and grumbled. “My smelly roommate has been saying that to me all day. I just don’t see what’s so wrong about being happy. Why is everyone so against being happy?”

“I don’t know, but I think you may be a little confused… Anyways, forget the drink and let’s get down to business. Now, the broken stand out in the yard is considered refuse and city code #32-HTBF-43C clearly states that any refuse on personal property must be stored in an approved refuse container which must in turn be stored in a garage or other location which renders it hidden from public sight. So, I’m afraid you are in violation, and I’ll have to fine you.”

“Fine me!? How much?”

“It’s 600 dollars.”

“That’s preposterous!”

“I’m afraid it’s the law.”

“Fine. Let me go get my purse,” Franco whined.

“What? Now that’s gay.”

“Seriously? Can I not be happy about one damn thing today!?”

“You really carry a purse?” the city official wanted to know.

“Yes. I carry a purse. So what!?”

“But you’re a man for crying out loud! Use a wallet like the rest of us.”

“Purses happen to fit my personal needs better than a wallet. I could wear a dress if I want to. It’s nobody’s choice but mine!” Franco exclaimed; his hands now high in the air.

“Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you wear a dress?”

“No, I don’t wear a dress! I just like purses. I have a lot of shit to haul around, and I need a purse. Now, can I just please pay the fine so I can get on with my life!”

The official sighed and printed a piece of paper out of the handheld machine, tore it off and gave it to Franco. “Sorry. I can’t take any payments. That would be too efficient. You must come down to city hall and pay in person, but you can only do it between 10:30 and 3:30 on Mondays and Thursdays, unless of course Monday falls on one of those fake holidays, then you’ll have to wait until Thursday. Also, the office is closed from noon until 2 to accommodate our staff’s completely impractical lunch period. And if you’re late on your payment for any reason, they’re going to tack on an exorbitant fee that no one is willing to explain to you and a warrant for your arrest will be issued. So, yeah. Sorry about that, but I’d suggest you get this taken care of as soon as possible.”

“That’s all so completely ludicrous. So, on Veterans’ Day for example, the government takes the day off to honor the same people they don’t give a shit about when they come home from one of your profit-making wars?”

“I work for the city mister, not the federal government. If you got a problem with war, take it up with President Orangutan Assface.” The official laughed and dragged his rough fingers across his scratchy beard. “Hey. What about that kudzu pie?”

TO BE CONTINUED

Read the previous part of this story HERE.


Hairy Pancakes and a Bad Honeymoon

It was a warm morning in late July when I woke up alone on the wrong side of the world. The bathroom mirror greeted me with a reflection of disorientation, mussed hair, and puffy eyes. I tried to shake myself awake, for this morning I was to meet my bride and have breakfast at the downtown café we frequent for our marriage meetings. I had my notes prepared. I was going to lay it on the line. Little did I know what was to come.

I rode the curving roadways for miles. The wind struck like a moist dryer drying towels. The engine hummed like a good motor should. I thought about Detroit. I thought about Japan. I pretty much decided in my own head that I was going to go for the pancakes. With sliced banana. With sweet maple syrup. And a good cup of coffee. My spirits were slightly elevated. I thought about my love. She was waiting there in her car, pulled up to the curb, diagonally. I forgot to bring the bandage like she had asked. My memory is slipping like an old lady on wet winter ice. Damn it. I should have written it down.

We met up. Did the ritualistic kiss thing. I may have palmed her butt a little. It’s okay. I’m allowed. We went in and ordered. I laid out my plan to the clerkie. She took it all down, I guess. We found ourselves a table. A tall college kid came in and said he knew us. He joined us at the table, and we all waited for food. The clerkie brought us silverware wrapped in napkins, but I was missing a fork. I cried out something like, “How am I supposed to eat pancakes without a fork!” The whole place got silent. People were stunned I suppose. My wife and the college kid were embarrassed. Reminded me of when I was in the Kroger the other day and some guy suddenly blurted out to his kids: “Stop fucking around!” And the whole world was in silence and shock because he really did say the F word really loud, right there in the meat department. I thought to myself: What an asshole. Yeah, that really happened.

Anyways… The pancakes came and I was eating them, and they weren’t as good as they usually were, and I was bummed about that and then I found a hair — cooked into the pancake. Yep. My wife was like “Eww.” She said I should take them back, but I was too embarrassed and figured if they were going to give me a fresh plate, they would probably stuff the pancakes down their pants and jiggle around a bit before slapping them on the plate. You know, like in that movie. I just took the loss because I have serious trust issues. My wife let me buy a cinnamon roll. My woman is good about that. Caring and such. She was very sorry that happened. Now we’re going to take a nap together and that’s pretty good stuff.

Earlier we had talked about the Memphis woman who was killed in Fiji on her honeymoon, allegedly by her husband. Um… On your honeymoon? You kill your wife on your honeymoon? Damn. Talk about a bad time. I guess getting a hair cooked into my pancakes isn’t so bad after all.   


Gore Volcano and the Milkmen of Mars

The man’s name was Gore Volcano and he sat alone in a booth at a diner in a big city and he was shaking salt onto his hash browns. The booth had a large square window, and he could look out and see the bark of the bustle, feel the vibrations, hear the mixture of life in motion.

Peering out that big window as he ate his breakfast, Gore Volcano saw a sidewalk with people, a street with cars, a park with trees, tall buildings with glass, an ocean with water, an exosphere with stars stirred in darkness by a comet, Mars with its milkmen leaving glass bottles on celestial porches.

He forked some scrambled eggs into his mouth and chewed while he glanced at the front page of the newspaper bent at the fold in front of him. It was nothing but the same — another disease, another war, another asshole politician, another mass shooting at a playground. He opened the paper to the weather page and went for his coffee. He sipped and read with over-bulbous, tired eyes. It was nothing but the same — a murderous tornado, a worrisome hurricane, out of control wildfires, a deadly pileup due to fog. Gore Volcano shook his round, bald head and pushed the newspaper aside in disgust. He snapped his fat fingers at a whirling, hustling waiter. “More coffee,” he commanded.

The young, thin man nodded, and in barely any time at all returned with a pot and was pouring. “Looks like a cold rain is coming,” the waiter said, motioning with his head out the window and toward the sky, an oddly cheerful look on his face.

Gore Volcano turned his thick neck and looked up at him. “What we need is a monsoon… To wash all this filth away.”

The waiter looked back at the sour, round man wearing an opened rain coat the color of Egypt. “Can I get you anything else?”

“How about a ticket to Mars.”

“Sir?”

Gore Volcano waved him off with a scoff. “Just bring me my bill.”

Once on the street, Gore Volcano tightened the Egyptian-colored raincoat around him. It was a blustery day, and the sky was graying over. He stood still in front of the café, his back pressed against the wall of the building as all the people moved like frantic ants — this way and that way, legs chopping at the sidewalk, arms swinging, mouths stretching and screaming in muddied conversations. He forced himself forward and into the humming human flow and reluctantly moved with it.


When Gore Volcano got to his fancy building at Ambiance and 69th, he breathed a brief sigh of relief. He went in and walked toward the elevator. The lobby was strangely quiet, the only sound being his fancy shoes clapping against the polished tiled floor. He pressed a circular button, there was a gentle whirring sound, and then the doors slid open. He got in the empty elevator and pressed a glowing disc marked 27. He moved up toward the sky.

He opened the door to his voluptuous home and stopped at the small antique table to flip through yesterday’s mail pile. He grunted and unwrapped himself from the heavy Egyptian-colored raincoat and hung it on a fancy wooden rack. He walked toward the kitchen and then turned his head to the left. There were noises. He saw his wife doing it with the doorman on the grossly expensive living room couch. They were completely naked, and he was behind her, holding her by the hips and thrusting into her. He could hear flesh slapping against flesh. He could hear her breathy grunts. She looked at her husband across the ornate distance of the apartment. Her face was flushed like a hot day sunset, and it seemed like she was in pain, but Gore Volcano knew it wasn’t pain. He said nothing, turned away, and went into the vast and gleaming kitchen for a glass of perfect water poured by an unobtrusive butler who had just been reading a magazine and eating an organic apple while sitting on a stool.

A while later Gore Volcano was in his study with its dark wood and shelves of books and large desk topped with broken family photos in hobbled frames. Soft, classical music was leaking invisible from the walls. He was standing before a large window that looked out upon the famous park of New York. He sipped fancy liquor from an iced glass, the cubes clinking together when he raised it. There was a knock on the door, and he turned. “Come in,” he said with business-like authority. It was the doorman.

“Well, how was it this time?” Gore Volcano asked the young, disheveled man standing there as he moved to sit at his big, important desk.

“It was hot,” the doorman said, trying to fix the tuck of his shirt.

“Did you make her…?”

“Four times.”

“Did she like it?”

“Definitely seemed that way.”

“Did she call out my name?”

“Not once.”

“Did you spill your seed inside her?”

“Couldn’t help it.”

Gore Volcano nodded his head in understanding, opened a drawer, and pulled out a white envelope. He tossed it onto the top of the desk. It landed with a thud. The doorman quickly snatched it up and looked inside. He counted the money. “This is a lot more than usual,” he said, a big grin growing on his dumb, perfect, collegiate face.

“Because it’s the last time,” Gore Volcano said. “I’m taking her away. I don’t want you to ever see her again. What do you think of that?”

He shrugged. “Not a problem now,” the young doorman said, clutching the envelope even tighter. “I was planning on going to Colorado anyway… Smoke a little weed. Do some skiing.”

Gore Volcano looked at him and smiled a scornful and resentful smile. “Good luck to you. Don’t break your leg… Or do. I really don’t care.”


Mr. and Mrs. Gore Volcano sat in comfortable lounge chairs on a pristine beach of paradise on Earth. They were sipping on fruity drinks and listening to the waves gently curving and falling onto the shore. They were surrounded by white sand, palm trees, blue water, a clean sky full of fresh air. There were no other people besides the servants that took care of their every need.

Gore Volcano looked over at his wife in her bathing suit, her fake yet intelligent breasts punishing the fabric, her hair wild around her, a floppy faux cowboy hat atop her head, dark sunglasses strapped to her eyes, her speckled face glistening with tropical oil. She sensed he was staring at her and turned. “I can’t believe you bought an island, but I love it, and the house is fantastic. What a sweet surprise.”

He smiled at her. “Maybe later we can take the boat out for a sunset cruise.”

“That sounds lovely.”

“Joan?”

“Yes?”

He hesitated. “Never mind.”

She smiled, raised her eyebrows. “You know,” she began. “All those people that say ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’. Well, they’re just full of shit now aren’t they.” She laughed to herself. “It buys a lot of happiness.”

He nodded to her in agreement. “You know, darling. They only say that to make themselves feel better about not having any money and being stuck in pathetic lives. It’s all bullshit. Have you ever seen a big smile on the face of a dirty homeless person?”

They wildly laughed at that together. Then a thin servant in a white suit and with contrasting dark skin appeared. He was carrying a round tray with more drinks. He set them down on the table between them, smiled, bowed politely.

Joan Volcano smiled back at him. “Good job… But have you cleaned the master bathroom yet?” She glanced over to her husband and smirked. “I had a wicked blowout in there this morning.”

Her husband turned away with a sick look on his face. “Oh, Joan. Must you?”

“Must I what?”

“Be so… Gross.”

She scoffed at her husband’s remark and waved her hand at the servant. “Go on now. Shoo. Scrub. Scrub. Scrub.”

They reclined there in silence for a while, a Milky Way star bathing them in warm life, the sound of the waves a dreamy lullaby. It was clean peace and the universe in perfect order.

“You know, Joan,” Gore Volcano began, breaking the pace of the quiet run between them. “I don’t love you… Not at all.”

She removed her sunglasses and looked at him intently for a moment, a sincere smile formed upon her manufactured lips of earthy clay. “It’s okay… I don’t love you either.”

END


The Salsa Cowboy

Here I sit at the keyboard with my coffee cup filled with some Costa Rican brew and my head like IHOP scrambled eggs, wet and unnaturally yellow on a warm white plate that smells like bleach. And my thoughts struggle with one another, colliding planets not knowing which way to spin. Ugh. I hate it when I don’t flow. Too much on the mind and it doesn’t matter, I know. Calm down. Baby. A laundry list of tasks to get done that knocks me down and so I don’t even want to get up. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmation. Life too much. Presses down too hard. I can’t breathe.

Now catching my breath in a booth by the window at some adobe café in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Slow peace and more coffee, cigarette smoke swirls dissected by wobbling ceiling fan blades in the dry heat. Blue ghosts, brown rocks, straw needles on the horizon. I can feel the dirt of the desert in my teeth, the grit, the small pebbles, the heat of it, the gold hidden in there. Taking off stratospheric. Sitting there in this quiet booth with the big window looking out at past lives rumbling through DeadLand holy Hollywood miles down gone. Mind revving now.

I turn the other way, and there’s that woman doing crossword puzzles in the booth on the other side of the tiled floor the color of a mass shooting circus. She stares intently through her glasses, moves her hand slowly as she carefully fills in the squares with letters. She shifts her lips as she thinks. Moves her nose as if something stinks. An answer suddenly comes to her mind, and she begins to scribble: DOGMA. I think her name begins with a J or something like that. She’s hotter than Georgia asphalt in July. But she doesn’t think she is. Man, too beautiful for words. I wonder if she might want to run out to the little white wedding chapel in the desert I know, hook up. Like, forever hook up. The waitress brings her breakfast plate and I call over.

“Hey honey. What you got there to eat for your breakfast?”

She looks over me like I super disturbed her.

“Eggs in a basket,” she says. “With country fried potatoes… And a London fog to sip on.”

“Whooo eee,” I say like a hip cowboy in Kerouac brown chinos. “You from down over?”

“Down over where?”

“Down over there in the South… The other side of the country, baby.”

“I’m from Tennessee.”

“Tennessee!? They got salsa in Tennessee?”

“Yeah. We have salsa. Now if…”

“Don’t mind if I do,” I said, and I was already walking over to her all cool in my crisp white T-shirt and bronze muscles and those brown chinos and eel skin cowboy boots the color of dead blue. I slid into the other side of the booth and just looked into her Sonic Ocean Water blue eyes, and I said, “Is your name Salsa?”

“No.”

“Well, it should be.”

“Really? And why’s that?”

I leaned across the table and looked at her like I was a man dream and I said, “Because you are hot and spicy.”

She motorboated her lips, a scoffing scoff, a laugh. It was a put down. A rejection. I guess she didn’t dig my line.

“If you don’t mind, my breakfast is getting cold.”

“All right, all right,” I said, and I slid out of the booth and stood tall on the floor trying to flex some pecs even though I was a bit soft, and I have small areolas. “You have yourself a nice day, darling.” And I pulled my personal business card out of my wallet, and I handed it to her. “I’m a traveling salesman by day, but an expert on the ways of the female body by night. I’m staying at the Atomic Oasis Motor Lodge if you’re interested.”

She looked the card over as she chewed her food. “You’re a Bible salesman?”

“That’s right.”

“And you’re trying to pick me up with horribly offensive, demeaning, and lame conversation?”

“Right again. I’ve got no shame. I’m just out here on the great American road trying to make a living… And living to the fullest. I figure, why the hell not? Life is too short. Isn’t that what they say?”

“I’m not interested,” she said, and she handed the card back, pushed her plate away, and got up and started walking toward the cashier counter.


“Hold on little lady from Tennessee,” I called after her, fishing some cash out of my wallet. “Let me get that for you as a way to make up for my… Uncouth behavior, I guess you could say.”

“Be my guest,” she eagerly answered, and she opened a pathway to the counter.

I paid her tab and then looked at her looking at me.

“Good luck with selling your Bibles,” she said with a forced smile. “And thanks for the breakfast.”

She walked out the door, that great Tennessee ass all packed tight in those zodiac leggings she was wearing. I wanted to crack her open right down the middle like a juicy Georgia peach.

“Mmm, mmm, mmm. That’s downright sinful there,” I said to myself, aloud to the world though, and the cashier lady heard me.

“Why don’t you leave all these poor women alone,” she said. “It’s harassment.”

I leaned on the glass counter case that sadly displayed cheap Native American souvenirs probably put together in China, and we’re still standing on the throats of the Originals, and I just looked at her there in her pink uniform with the white collar and cuffs and she looked as if she could be a picture on a poster of an old-time diner waitress holding one of those bulbous coffee jugs that sits on a hot plate when she isn’t carrying it around pouring the coffee into chipped white cups.

“You’re just jealous,” I said. “Because I don’t do it with you.”

She scoffed. “Because I’m old, right?”

“And ugly.”

She winced with emotional hurt at that remark. “Did God teach you them manners?”

“No, mam. I learned them all on my own.”

“Why are you selling Bibles of all things? Makes no sense with the way you carry on.”

I kind of retreated within myself and couldn’t really come up with a good answer except, “I’m really off the rails, mam. I lack direction, purpose, procedure. I lack love in my life.”

“It’s no wonder with the way you carry on with all these poor girls. Like I said before.”

I straightened myself right and I asked her to pull the little Native American drum out of the display case because I wanted to buy it and go beat at it in the desert and think about the world and my bent place in it. She set it up on the counter and I looked at it. It was a little drum, real colorful and with feathers stuck to it, maybe about the size of a cat sitting upright on its hind legs, and it had a round, white rubber skin stretched across the top of it, the part you beat on, and then there was this little red mallet that came with it that you used to do the beating. I looked on the underside of it and sure enough, it said: MADE IN CHINA.

“This world don’t make no sense,” I said to her, and I asked for my bill, and I paid it and walked outside into the blinding forest of sun upon sun, so it seemed because it was so god damn bright and hot like Heaven itself. I started walking toward a big purple mountain in the smoky distance, my eel skin cowboy boots the color of dead blue kicking up the dust of the desert like magical golden mist, and I just kept on walking until I melted into one of those vibrating heat mirages you might see flowing off hot asphalt in another dream and time and I was dead gone.