Tag Archives: Greed

The Moon Scars of Elysium (1)

Blue balloons bounce in a field of wheat. Church bells toll in the town beyond. The lone white church and its spearfish steeple is from where they clang melodiously, like a chant, a heavy metal chant…

The boy was grinding the tip of his blue ball-point pen into the white lined paper of a notebook. The sheet was ripping, splattering, tossing dust into the air. He was angry because he was tired of being locked up in his room on the second floor of the blue farmhouse on a hill overlooking a meadow and beyond the meadow the tips of the town. The dark rooftops, the verdant treetops, the spearfish steeple of a white church.

The boy went to the lone window of his room when he heard the bells toll. A sheet of blue balloons waltzed across the spring sky. Something was happening but he did not know if it was good or bad. Then down below he saw, running through the yard, his mother, his father, his younger sister. Where were they going in such a hurry? He tried to open the window, but it was nailed shut. He turned and took up his desk chair in his hands and smashed it into the glass. His mother turned to look when she heard it, but only once. She had a sheen of terror about her. She kept running.

The boy cried out, “What about me!?”

Then the bomb hit. A blooming blue wild mushroom leapt skyward on the horizon like in a nightmare. The sun turned purple. Trees bent. The house shook and the boy stumbled backward. He fell, hit his head, and went to sleep.

When the boy woke the world was silent except for a voice down in the front yard. He could hear it clearly through the broken window. Someone talking to the ground.

“There’s just such an abundance of things. There are just so many things. Why do we have so many things… but our hearts are empty.”

The boy got up off the floor and went to the broken window. He looked out onto a creation that was now winter, but the color of the snow wasn’t pure white like it used to be… Now there was a tinge of blue to it. All of it.

And there was a hunched man puttering about the yard and muttering at the ground. Something soft and disturbing.

“Are you lost?” the boy called out.

The man’s head snapped in various directions as he searched for the source of the voice.

“Up here,” the boy yelled.

The man finally locked onto him. “What are you doing in there, boy?”

“I live here. What are you doing in my yard?”

The man turned away and mumbled some more to himself before answering. “I’m digging for gold. Don’t you know everyone wants gold? Why just look around at the world now. Look what they’ve done to it. All they cared about was the gold. And they didn’t even know where it really came from.”

The boy hadn’t fully paid attention to him because his eyes had latched onto the vision before him. The full scope of the blue-tainted snow that covered most everything. The smoke drifting up from the town like ballet. The spearfish steeple of the church scorched and cracked. The bells were silent. The trees across the whole of the landscape now stripped bare of everything they once wore. From where he stood, it looked like an abstract forest of burnt bones.

“What happened?” the boy murmured to himself, and then louder to the man below him, “Have you seen my family?”

The man took a double-take. “Family? Boy, there aren’t any more families. The Greedsters took care of that. The war maniacs put an end to that. The bullet lovers decided that. Love turned upside down demolished all of that.”

“Who are you?” the boy wanted to know.

The man made a ‘hmmpfhhh’ sort of noise. “And what do you plan on doing with my good name and valuable identity?”

“Nothing. I just want to know what it is. Don’t you want to know what mine is?”

The man looked up at him, turned away, and then looked back up at him. “I don’t know that I want to know. Are you good or are you of the devilish persuasion.”

The boy frowned as he thought about it. “I don’t know if I am either one… Or maybe I’m both.”

“How old are you?” the man wanted to know.

“I’m 12. At least, I feel like I am. How old are you?”

“Doesn’t matter anymore. Age is just restlessness etched in the air. We just wait for the calendar to spin. We wait and do nothing. Lives once had meaning.”

“Well, then at least tell me what year you were born in?”

The man raised a hand and wagged a finger up at him. “Ahhh… I see your wayward divinity at play. You’re trying to trick me into telling you… My age. Let’s just say I’m old enough to always be smarter than you.” He laughed, then he clutched himself and shivered.

“You should come inside. Come inside and unlock my bedroom door and I’ll come out and build a fire and make you some tea. Do you like tea?”



“A boy of 12 who makes tea?”

“Yes. I’m different. That’s why they locked me up.”

Once freed from his room by the stranger, the boy went to work boiling water by means of magic thoughts. He willed his young muscles to load wood from the lean-to out back into the black iron stove and set it alight. The house soon warmed, and the tea soon steamed in two fragile cups. They sat across from each other at a table and sipped and stared.  

The man was run down, his floppy coat and underclothes were torn and dirty. The shoes on his feet had holes in them. His hair and face were unruly.

“How have you survived?” the boy wanted to know. “How have you lived through whatever happened out there?”

“Oh this?” he gestured toward his appearance. “This is the culmination of a very hard life, young man. A very bleak life. A life made more bleak by the ways of so many wicked, wicked men… And women… And even children.”

The boy smiled at him. The man was pitiful yet spirited. Almost comical in a sad clown sort of way. “I want to know who you are. I want to know your name and how you came about to being in my front yard yammering on like you were doing. I think I have a right to that. I want to know what’s going on. I was kept isolated for so long.”

The man stared at him grimly for a moment. “It’s the end of the world as we know it, boy. The end. I don’t know how I got here. I just ended up here. There’s nowhere else to go except wherever you can go.” His voice had a scratchy overtone to it. He raised himself up a bit and stretched a hand across the table. “The name’s Algernon Wasp. And before you doubt me… Don’t. It’s true. And I like it.”

The boy smiled again and took his hand and shook it. His skin was cold and rough. “I like it, too,” he said. “I’m Tacitus Cornwall, and this is my house.”

Algernon sat back and squinted at the boy as if to study him on a deeper level. “You’re not really 12, are you?”

“I was once,” Tacitus answered. “I’m just not sure if it was a day ago, or a thousand days ago.”


The Tire Shop Space Lord

I was feeling a bit shagged and soggy on a wet day in a long-ago February of the regular world. I was driving my beat-up Mazda race car down the busy anal canals of this city when there came a bump and a thump and a wiggy woggy of one of my tires. I thought maybe I had hit a skunk or one of the green children of Woolpit.

I pulled off to the side of the road in a den of somewhere somewhat safe and took a look. I don’t know anything about cars, well not much. I can pump gas and put in windshield washer fluid and that’s about it. A mechanic could tell me, “You need a new Johnson rod in here. Be about three grand.” I wouldn’t know if he was bullshitting me or not.

Anyways… I got the car over to one of the local tire shops and they told me they could get to it in about six or seven hours. I glanced through the back shop windows and all the mechanics were laughing and goofing off. “Okay,” I said, and I handed over my keys and went to the seating area with all the other idiots.

They had the TV tuned to one of those home improvement shows where rich people boast about how much house they can afford. A female customer started crying when the guy behind the counter told her it would be $2,100 to fix her car. “I can’t afford that!” she cried out through her wet face. “How do you sleep at night!? This is robbery!”

“I’m sorry, mam. The cost of everything has gone up. We’ve got no control,” the man behind the counter told her. As if that would do any good. (And then he turned and winked at the invisible camera that’s always there).

“How am I supposed to get to work to get paid to pay for car repairs to a car I can’t even use to get to work!” She screamed. The man behind the counter reached for the phone to probably call the police, or the psychic hotline he readily used. As if that would do any good.

I noticed an older gentleman in unfancy clothes and who somewhat resembled the late, great Wilford Brimley sitting across from me. I could tell he was listening in on what was happening just off behind us. I could tell he was thinking, maybe not just about oatmeal and being grumpy, but real human and important things.

The woman who had been crying at the counter came and sat in the waiting area with us. Her face was red. Her eyes were wet and puffy. She reached into the small purse she had and retrieved some facial tissue to absorb her tears.

“They sure do get us any way they can,” the Wilford Brimley look-alike said to her from across the way.

The woman looked up at him. She tried to smile, but she just couldn’t. “They sure do. And they sure don’t seem to mind about it one bit. They sit up there in their fantastical kingdoms in the clouds, stuffing their pockets and getting fat while I’m down here working my ass off for them. And what do I get? More problems. More worry. More suffering. I’m half-minded to go tell them to just keep the god damn car and shoot me in the head.”

The Wilford Brimley look-alike man cocked his head as he looked upon her with warm pity. “I’m sorry for your troubles, mam. But today might just be your lucky day.”

She looked at him and snorted, disbelieving. “My lucky day? How could this possibly be my lucky day?”

“That’s right,” he said, and he leaned forward in his chair. “Do you know that I’m the only one who doesn’t have a car here to service?”

“What? Why? Do you just like to hang out in waiting areas at tire shops? That’s weird.”

“It’s not weird for you.”

“And why is that?” she asked.

“Because I’m the Tire Shop Space Lord… And I’ve been waiting for you.”

All eyes in the tire shop lounge grew wide.

The woman laughed as best she could. “Oh, boy. Not what I need right now.”

The Tire Shop Space Lord looked around the waiting area while the sound of an air wrench whirred back off in the shop, a tight grip on the nuts. “What do you mean by that?”

The woman sighed, frustrated. “I don’t need some bullshit prankster getting me worked up. It’s not funny. This is my life. This is serious for me. My livelihood is on the line.”

“Mam, I’m well aware of that. I’m not here to prank you or set you up with some kind of false hope. I’m here to help you.”

“Help me? Unless you’re prepared to give me $2,100 there’s nothing you can do to help me.”

The Tire Shop Space Lord got up from his seat and walked closer to where she was sitting. He stuck a hand in his pants pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. He carefully flipped through the bills with his fingers, the bushy white moustache that took up most of his face twiddled like a summer caterpillar as he counted to himself. He handed her the money. “Here you go. That should cover it and a little bit more for some gas and groceries. You look hungry, too.”

She slowly reached out her hand toward the cash. Her eyes were wide, her mouth was wide. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, mam. I’m very serious. Now, you take this and go over there and tell that fella to get started on fixing your car.”

“I don’t even know what to say… My, God. Thank you. I just don’t believe it.”

“And that’s just why I’m doing it,” and he looked around at everyone there. “Because you all live in a world where something like a random act of kindness and unselfishness is so hard to believe. That’s a sad thing.”

“Can I get your name, your number? I feel like I need to pay you back somehow,” she said.

“No. There’s no need for any of that.” He smiled at her. “You take care now,” he said, and he moved toward the door and went out of the building and into the remains of a blustery day like a vibrantly psychedelic Saint Winnie-the-Pooh.

A young man bathed in second-hand grief and grubby foolishness sat up and nodded at her. He had been watching everything with great interest. “You better check to see if that’s real money,” he said to the woman. “He might just be some kind of cuckoo puff getting his kicks messing with young gals.”

She flipped through the bills, felt them, studied them. “It sure does seem like real money,” she said. She put the cash to her nose. “Smells like money.”

“Is that right?” the young man said. He adjusted his grimy ball cap. “I guess it is your lucky day… But I sure do hope he’s not some old perv waiting for you out in the parking lot. You know, expecting a favor in return. You might want to be worried about that. He might snatch you up and carry you away.”

The woman wondered about what the young man said. Maybe it was too good to be true. Maybe she was in some sort of danger. Nobody does things like this. Not in this world. Everything has a price.

She stuffed the cash into her purse, got up out of the chair and went outside. The Tire Shop Space Lord was not in the parking lot. She carefully made her way down a grassy slope toward the busy street. She looked left, then right. Then she saw him. He was sitting all alone on a bench at a nearby bus stop.

And time rushed by quickly and the long, windowed silver minnow machine passed by her overhead and temporarily blotted out the sun. It paused at the stop where he was, and she watched the beam of light come down and touch him, and the ship drew him toward its lit belly and swallowed him like a reverse birth before shooting off to wherever they were from.


Have you heard of a line?

Have you heard of a line? People in white standing in a line holding signs that say: Same as you.
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

I don’t know what it is, but every time I go out in the world lately my patience with human beings is further tested and frazzled. It seems like decency, kindness, and just plain ol’ consideration for others has completely gone out of style. Rudeness and selfishness seem to be trending upward. To hate on others is the honorable thing to do these days, so it seems to me. It sickens and saddens me. I’m trying to find the light through the fog, but it’s really hard to see at times. Maybe I’m not looking in the right place??

The unfortunate inspiration for this post is the two recent trips I made to the infamous pharmacy in our town, the one that starts with a red W and rhymes with… Ruptured spleens. The pharmacy counter is always understaffed and there’s usually a line of customers all the way back to the pissers near the shampoo aisle on the other side of the store. It’s an agonizing experience, and one must be prepared to sacrifice a significant amount of time in their day just to pick up a few prescriptions.

On my first outing, I was waiting in line and was moving closer to the front every 17 minutes or so. When I was in about the second spot in the queue, a woman with two little kids – she was the grandma because one of the little girls, maybe about 5, was crying and pouting because grandma wouldn’t let her have something or another and the little girl kept saying “I’m going to tell my mom that you were mean to me.” The grandma just scoffed, said, “Go ahead and tell your momma I’m mean to you,” and then threatened to spank her.

Anyways, the mean grandma stepped in front of everybody and wriggled her big ass straight to the counter to fuss about her appointment for whatever kind of vaccination she was getting. I hope it was a vaccination against being an inconsiderate jackass. I made a what the hell gesture with my hands and turned to look at everyone behind me. All the faces there mirrored my frustration and anger.

Um, hello? There’s a line here, lady. Do you not see it or are you that much of an inconsiderate person, as well as being a mean grandma?

Not 5 minutes later, another woman comes up and goes straight to the counter in complete disregard for the ever-growing line of people that surely must have been visible to her. But she was blind to it, nonetheless. Ugh, I was so mad at that point I wanted to scream and throw diabetic supplies around. (That’s what was on the shelf beside me). And as I did just a minute ago, I wanted to yell out, “There’s a line here lady!” And the fact that the lone clerk at the counter said nothing to these people made it even worse. How about some “You’ll have to go to the back of the line, Karen.”

Why are you catering to these jerks!? I know it’s not the counter clerk’s fault for there not being enough help, I’m sure they’re just as frustrated, too. It’s the damn corporate gods who do everything in their power to get the most for the least. It’s called good business sense or something like that. It’s profit over people is what it is, and there’s nothing good about that.

And in my return trip today, it happened again. I was second in queue, (somehow, I am always second in queue when these things happen), and this woman comes sneaking in from the side. I watch her as she’s eyeing the line, then eyeing the counter. She’s going back and forth, back and forth, like Pong blips, measuring up the odds of whether or not she’ll get bawled out by anyone if she makes her move.

The guy in front of me, who resembled Frankenstein by the way, counter-blocked this woman and stepped forward. She was probably scared of him. I was next up to face the challenge, and when Frankenstein completed his transaction, I looked straight ahead and moved before the woman could sneak in. I could tell in my peripheral vision that she was looking at me with these sad, accusing eyes like that was going to make me just let her cut in. Because somehow, she was in the right. It’s like those idiot drivers who don’t know how to work a 4-way stop and start going out of turn. But despite her wondering scowl, I stayed strong and kept moving forward and when I got to the counter, I felt good for standing up for what was right.

My transaction was quick, and I was off straightaway. I didn’t make any eye contact with the sneaky lady, so I don’t know if she made her move after me. I just made for the store exit, got into my car and drove home.

I don’t know why, but I actually started feeling a little bit bad about not letting the woman cut in front of me. But then I was telling myself, “No. Why should I feel bad?” I’m done with people preying on my weaknesses and taking advantage of me. I’m done with being too soft. It was unfair for her to try and slip in before me and everyone else. I didn’t play the nice guy for once. I stood up for my place in line. I stood up against injustice, just like one of the Super Friends. So, yeah, there’s no reason I should feel bad. None at all. If anything, she should feel bad. But I’m sure she doesn’t because if she were that kind of person, she would have gone to the back of the line in the first place.

But I just don’t understand what gives these people the idea that it is perfectly okay to do this? As the title of this article states: Have you not heard of a line? I just don’t get why some people think they are so much more important than others, why their time is more valuable. How can you be so selfish and oblivious? How can you settle into your bed and soul at night without choking on your own awfulness??

I just don’t get it. I don’t. My brain isn’t wired to be like that. I can’t compute what makes these people comfortable with being crappy. And when I was driving home, I was really overcome with this feeling of not belonging in this world or even wanting to belong in this world. We seem to be drifting toward this communal mindset that is so off base, so twisted around, so humanly wrong. This tragic communal mindset is breeding all these false beliefs to the point that up is down, and right is wrong, and evil is good. I see people worshipping sinners while stepping on saints. Hate is good. Greed is good. Being a racist is good. Stealing is good. Cheating is good. Lying is good. Treason is good, etc… Where’s it going to end?

It’s going to end with the end of us all. That’s where.

For more of my ranting on the human condition, check out the latest episode of my The Laguna Bungle sessions. It’s a fictional story about an emotional private detective that stumbles upon a new case involving an unfaithful husband and more.

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The Machine Man in the Wheat

It was on a Tuesday when the sun became different.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Even so, they should make better sidewalks.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“More pills?”

“Yes, more pills.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He blinked his eyes and barely smiled.

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

The corporations still have all the power.

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

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

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

“Yes. Any questions?”

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

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

“Sounds like you’re trapped.”

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

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

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

“It doesn’t look too pale,” I said.

Fred was hungry and wanted the chicken.

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

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

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


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

“I thought you quit those damn things.”

“I did, but why bother now?”

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

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

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

“Tell me about your dreams.”

Fred thought for a moment.

“I don’t dream anymore.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stuck my hands in my pockets and dug around.

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

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

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

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

Fred shakily adjusted the eyeglasses on his face.

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

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

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

“How much is it again?”

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

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

“The rest is your tip,” Fred said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you have a lot left?”

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

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

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

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

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

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Pink Shirts in Cuckoo Land

it’s laughing about a pink shirt that matters

Pink shirt hanging on a rack in hot land Nashland 

the mannequins greet with greater smiles than the real ones 

corporate propaganda BS blurbs hanging, dangling all around the world 

to coax the penniless to remain penniless, enslaved, inflamed, amazed by the threads sewn by the dead in third-world jungle towns of lumber and dirty sandwiches 

tussled jungle juice at the straw hut bar 

afro shot glasses watching scrambled CNN

machine gun toddies burning flags, slathering the bed bugs with flames

the world all-around a crooked mess

the hate, the slain, the empty and ignorant souls making godless claims of god

it’s all the same

from end to end of Amorika

this global force for greed

brown sewing fingertips

pin-pricked like diabetic blood

so the PR smiles drip on

the glossy lives of commercialized bliss drip on

my wife’s beautiful Sonic Ocean Water eyes drip on

and she is my sanctuary

love is thy sanctuary

family is thy sanctuary

for the world has offered so little

but yet into the world she fell like an angel

all the rest is glittery ash

it’s this bond of love that matters

it’s laughing about a pink shirt that matters

it’s collapsing all the doubts and false dreams like a circus tent, kick out the poles, let the world blow

to give of myself is all I have left

to wrap myself in and all around her 

to furiously love like fire

despite the chill of the Earth