Blood Sacrifice

mushrooms

Tommy lit a match and dabbed the end of the joint into the flames while he turned the joint between his fingers. He said, “Don’t want the flame to run. Paper burns faster than weed.” He took a couple of sharp puffs. The cherry burned bright. He inhaled deep this time. He passed the joint to his right. “Here take it.” A tiny ring of smoke escaped his mouth. It was lit up like a ghost in the porch light and rose up the center of his face. The ring was twined with strands of white. It disappeared when it left the cone of light.

Melvin took the joint, put it to his mouth, and inhaled. He held his breath and passed the joint to Stan. His lungs ached or worse they itched. He coughed. A huge cloud of smoke lit up the night.

“Don’t waste it.” Three puffs of smoke escaped Stan’s mouth.

Tommy said, “It’s cool man. Coughing helps you get high faster.”

The high rose up in him like a wave hitting him at the beach. Melvin was sure the weed hadn’t hit him this quick before. It was his turn again. He took a deeper hit and held it longer, but he didn’t cough this time. The wave hit him again. He, I… I was losing track of the conversation. But it was my turn again. The joint was very small this time. The heat burned my lips as I inhaled. It singed my fingers. I tried to pass the joint.

“It’s out, dog.” I think Tommy said that, but I’m not sure.

I looked straight at the brick wall that separated this world from the next. No, the wall separated Stan’s back yard from his neighbor’s or so I thought. I couldn’t be sure about the things that I knew anymore. Not when the apricot tree was reaching down its arms to embrace me.

The joint had not caused this. Couldn’t have. But memory was so faulty. Stan had called me. Me or Melvin? Stan had called Melvin. A pizza party. No I think he called Melvin about mushrooms. That was so long ago. The memory has faded so much. It was this a few hours ago. A lifetime ago. Another reality.

“Take off your shoes. The grass feels great on your feet.”

I turned in the direction of the sound. How could I have forgotten that there were other people in the yard with me? There was a figure in the dark. It took so long for my eyes to focus. That was Stan, but he looked Strange. “Stan, you look like a Muppet. The old man from the balcony.”

Stan touched his chin then his nose. He shrugged.

The night pushed me down. I had to struggle to stand. Or was it my balance? I had eaten that stuff. It tasted bad. I had? Melvin picked up the largest mushroom. It had a mottled color of tan and cream. The gills just under the cap were darker not quite brown. There was a hint of blue powder coating the stem just under the cap. Melvin said, “I always imagined that they would be fresh. These things are like wood.” Melvin picked off one of the black flecks. I think Tommy said the flecks were cow shit. But Melvin’s hands. The hairy arthritic knuckles and the wrinkles. They look like candle wax with blue veins submerged. When I see my hands I can’t help but see his.

“You’re right. This is awesome. I love it. This is the best high in the world.” Tommy spoke so loud. I wanted to wonder if the neighbors could hear what he what he had said, but I was not sure that anything existed beyond the brick wall.

Tommy wandered his way over to the fig tree in the corner. He looked like an evil little elf as he hunched under the tree. He squatted then plopped down on to his rump. Tommy was surrounded by vegetation. The low branches made a cave over his head.

Stan said, “Now you, Mel, take off your shoes and come over here. The trees make you happy. You have to try this out.”

I did not want to leave the protective grip of the apricot tree. It gave me a confidence that could not be had in the far reaches of the world where Stan was dwelling. The thirty feet between us was an insurmountable distance. “I’m not taking off my shoes. There are probably spiders in the grass.”

Tommy said, “Don’t talk about spiders, man. You are going to freak me out.”

I kept thinking about the spiders. The tree must have been full of them. They were probably riding their webs down from the branches above me. And what was I doing standing in the grass? The grass had to be full of them. I went as fast as I could to get on the patio. I kept envisioning them, red or orange stripes on black bodies.

Stan said, “Are you coming over here, Mel? Take off your shoes.”

I said, “Alright. I’m coming.” I stood under the porch light. I leaned against the wall. I felt the stucco against my back like biting animals. I felt my skin crawl and pop all over my body. I meant to put my shoes together and against the wall. But I had forgotten about my shoes as soon as I took them off. I walked off the sturdy base of the porch. The grass tickled between my toes. The grass was communicating something that I could not quite understand, but I did not like the feeling.

“Hurry up, Mel.”

Tommy said, “No, you gotta come over here. I can feel the trees growing.”

“Really. I want to see that.” Stan went over and crouched next to Tommy in the fig cave. “My body is going down through my feet. I feel roots. I know the trees.”

I was lost in the expanse of open yard and could not move. I was rooted down in spirit. I was connected. I too could feel the trees. How could I have never felt this connection? An over-soul.

 

My teeth were chattering. I don’t know how long I had been sitting under the fig tree. But Stan was now staring at the back entrance to the garage, and Tommy was nowhere to be seen. As soon as I realized that my body was reacting to the cold, I thought I could feel it. But I could not be sure.

Tommy destroyed the quiet. He should have been yelling with how bad his voice hurt my ears, but it might have been the constant loop that his words had around my head. An echo, but not. His words repeated in my thoughts.

Tommy said, “You have to go inside. Each room of the house has its own mood.”

Inside. Stan’s home. Homes are full of love and warmth. Warm. Wasn’t I cold? How long ago was that? There might be a bed inside. I want to lie down. But I’m not tired.

The flowers were there. Roses. The roses shouldn’t be here. My mother’s. No, not hers. They belonged to Stan’s wife. Out of town for her birthday. Their son doesn’t keep in touch. This was the table in Stan’s dining room. The cream colored walls, the tile floors, and the gaudy chandelier. They wanted to raise the property value. A waste of time. Who wants to move at their age? Wouldn’t they want to die in the same house they raised their kids in? Stan knew better. The idea was hers.

His wife. The roses were hers. A mother’s. My mother’s. The roots grew out of the vase and planted themselves deep in the fresh topsoil of the table. She had loved those roses. For her, the roses were the children that she had never had. The water, the fertilizer, and the constant maintenance created the umbilical cord that breathed life into her lungs. I was an extra, a piece of luggage that she had forgotten in her closet. My brothers and I were kept out in the yard as ornaments, living decorations that brought life and joy to the neighborhood. On the hot days of summer, we were planted in the grass and watered with the sprinkler. When we were in need of a trimming, we were lined up along the edge of the driveway. Rooted safely in our chairs, she came at us with the garden sheers. Our branches were clipped and shaped. She said it kept us healthy and clean, but she must have wanted us to look good. We were an extension of herself. Beautiful flowers grafted to a hardier root.

The rose petals withered and fell to the table. The desiccated crumbs of lustrous red speckled the deep brown wood grain of the tabletop. I swept the crumbs away with my left hand. The bloody spray spattered the floor and the wall. The blood bounced and slid until it came to a rest. But it would not puddle. The roses continued to wither, crumble, and rain crispy crumbs of blood onto the table top. And I ground them in with my right hand and elbow. I only wished that I could cry out: Et tu, Brute? But when I opened my mouth words could not escape, or if they did I could not tell you what they meant.

Stan said, “You’re funny. Do that again.”

What? Where did he come from? I said, “This is magic.” I pulled a rose from the vase. “Watch this.” I shifted my attention. Stan vanished from my mind. I grabbed the rose by the bloom and squeezed. Devoid of petals and stem the rose had become a little green ball. Magic. I rolled the ball across the top of the table. With a wave of the hand, the ball would disappear. And reappear and disappear again. In fact, the ball had this power all on its own. I watched this ball with the enjoyment of child relearning the laws of physics as it blinked in and out of existence. I laid my head on the table an inch away from the ball. I wanted to catch this mechanism of disappearance with my own eyes.

Stan said, “You are boring. I am going somewhere else.”

I grabbed a handful of the crispy crumbles of petal blood as well as an empty bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos and threw them at him. The bag floated and buffeted its way slowly as the arterial spray skittered across the floor. Had I been eating these? No, Melvin had eaten these. Tommy had brought them over. Leave it to a kid to eat something that causes heartburn. Well he was in his 20s, but that is still a kid. Isn’t it? The Cheetos covered up the taste of the mushrooms. Cheetos and plenty of water. They were hard like eating a piece of wood but not as tasty. They still tasted like something he pulled from the couch cushions but the chips did improve the flavor, and the water was necessary to work the mushrooms into a reasonable consistency. Cheetos, Is that what I threw at Stan? Well he was halfway down the hall by now.

I saw myself from across the room. I was shorter than I remember and younger. I can’t believe it. I was wearing some inane t-shirt and faded dungarees. But somehow this childish attire did not bother me as bad as what I was doing. I was sitting with my knees up to my chest leaning my back against the wall. I had my cellphone in my hand and I was flipping it open and shut. I had just gotten the hang of caller I.D. What use did I have for a cellphone? As I looked down upon myself from my astral vantage point, I saw that I was staring at the phone that I would not stop fiddling with. I kept chanting the same five words: “Fuck. I’m late for work.” I hadn’t worked in years. I wish I could just reach down and slap the shit out of myself.

The ceramic floor tiles of the living room floor were not exactly the bed I was looking for, but they were cold against my face. The light from the dining room created a halo as it slowly filtered into the unlighted room. My essence was escaping into the floor. It was being pulled out along with my body heat. And I had become one with the floor. I had faded away except for the sucking of my breath in the puddle of drool on the floor. The brightness that had driven me out of the dining room was a warm and loving presence. I was standing just outside the gates of heaven and staring in on the opaque clarity of eternal bliss, but I was frozen in place and unable to enter. Of course I couldn’t go in. My wife was there. I did not deserve her. The things I had done after she passed on did not make me proud. Who could be expected to keep her grave up year after year? Here children wouldn’t show up after the first year or two. And I have even driven them away. The only one that even comes around anymore is the youngest and she is more interested in child care.

No wait. I can change. It’s too late two beings had me by the arms. I was lifted and dragged away. These demons were dragging me down the long hall to hell. The one on my right stoped to rest. The demon looked a lot like Stan. They leaned me face first against the wall. The texture was not all that different from the floor.

He said, “What are you doing with your lips, Mel. You must think you are Elvis.” The other demon looked like Tommy.

He said, “Let’s hurry up and get him into a bed.”

I was dragged a little further and tossed into my chamber of hell. The demons placed me on the rack where I would be tortured for eternity. It was soft and covered with pillows. As the demons shut and latched the door behind me, I overheard them talking about the sleeping arrangements. It turns out that my cell was the master bedroom and they were debating who would get the guest room and who would get the floor. But as innocuous as their conversation had sounded, I had been laid down face first with my arm pinned beneath me. I am not sure how but I was bound to the bed and could not move. That is my body could not move. My mind was free to visit all the punishments of hell.

The dark of the cell faded away. The walls and the ceiling were gone replaced by a bright blue sky with wispy clouds over an expanse of green. In the center of the field was a mass grave. I was lying in the middle of the decomposing bodies. I was dead, but I began to move. The other bodies began to move as well. I was one among hundreds of zombies scratching at the edges of the pit. I had no control, and I knew that at some point I would make it out of this pit. I knew that I would tear into the flesh of innocents. I could not bear the guilt of what I was going to do.

There was a jolt in my chest then another. Was this my heart? I was in a twilight world between the room and the pit of the dead. Again my chest heaved. Is this a heart attack? Was I dying? My hand pinned under my chest twitched in rhythm with the convulsions of my chest. God what Have I done to myself.

I am being pulled upwards. I see the plain recede into the forest. Each of the trees gathers into one mass. As I am pulled further, I see green mountains and rivers flowing through the valleys. They too recede. I watch the Earth recede before my eyes until it is a speck and then gone. I fly through the void of space faster and faster until I reach a place of utter void and darkness. I exist only as potential energy, consciousness only. This void is everything and nothing. This is the center of reality, the helm of creation. But I am not alone.

A voice speaks. “This world has come to its end. You will act as an instrument in my hand to recreate the world. Nothing will be left unchanged.”

I say, “Not me. Just let me die. I do not want this responsibility.” But it is of no use. The gears of destruction and creation have already gone into motion. The universe spins in a vortex around me. I am the center of a universal spiral. All matter begins to coalesce at the distant edges of the void. It is spinning in reds oranges and whites. Everything moves faster and faster as it converges on my center point. I know that I have a body once again because I can feel the tears streaming down my face. There is a tension in my chest again only this is the tightness of sorrow. I have lost everyone I know and love. Dead and remade. If I can even recognize them, they will never recognize me. The universe comes together all at once, and I open my eyes. I am lying face down in the bed with all the pillows and the sun is beginning to peek through the lace curtains.

I sit at the edge of the bed trying to make sense of what has just happened. Could those things be true? Has the world been remade? No. I remember I am the same old Melvin. I have the same old arthritic knuckles and wrinkled hands. I lift my hands to reaffirm my identity. I am shocked by what I see. My hands are covered in red all the way to my elbows. Is that blood? Are my friends dead? Was I unable to stop myself? There is a phone on the dresser. I am going to turn myself in. No. Wait. I think it’s Cheetos.

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What would you name the fourth installment in the Divergent series?

Detergent

We just received the Divergent boxed set from Amazon. The books are titled Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, and Four.

 

My ten year old daughter told me that they must have run out of ideas for a good title for the fourth book. So we ran through a few names that they could have used instead of four. We decided that the four books should be titled Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, and Detergent.

 

What do you think: what would be your favorite title for the fourth installment of the divergent series?

 

A Fish’s Tale

beer boat

Robs keys jingled as he fumbled his fingers over the keychain of his trusty bottle opener in the predawn chill. He was given the bottle opener in his mid-twenties. He was drinking a Rusty Nail at the Irish Pub (He thought Scotch and Drambuie on the rocks was the height of sophistication). While waiting his turn for karaoke, a girl in a two piece Miller Light bikini walked into the bar. She wasn’t the hottest girl he had seen there, but she was half naked. She stopped at his table and talked a little and handed out keychains to each of the guys before moving to the next table. The Miller Light lettering has long since worn off of the bottle opener, but when he heard the hiss of that morning’s first beer popping open he could smell the slight hint of perspiration over her cheap floral body spray. And for a second he forgot about the cold and the light spray of the mist blowing in off the lapping waves of lake water.

Since he had grown up and got a job and a family of his own, Rob had made a point of drinking a beer in the shower at least once a month. The ice cold beer contrasted against the near scalding heat of the shower was a mini vacation in the midst of settling into a new life, new wife, new kids, new job, and the new mortgage that precluded the ability to take a real extended vacation away from responsibilities. But he barely remembered his college days and the debauchery that everyone thought was adult life. But this cold beer in the cold morning out in the cold lake side of wild Southern California while he fished for his own dinner, this was it. No more remembering. He was fully reliving his glory days.

As the sun peeked over the sparsely wooded mountain tops that protect Lake Silverwood from the harsh landscapes of the high desert, the shadows retreated across the surface of the lake and a kaleidoscope of blinding light reflected off the choppy waters. A boat sat in a small cove. It was beached and leaning slightly to the left from the sand against the front of the hull. The shore was about five feet of sand before disappearing into brown brush that covered the hills that bordered the cove. The hills met at the center point of the cove in an ascending crevice that somehow avoided ruts from the rains that came few and far between. Rob and Graham, poker buddies, were drinking beer and fishing from the shore, and Graham’s dog sniffed through the bushes.

Rob yanked up hard on his pole and began to reel in fast.

Graham said, “Calm down. Don’t yank so hard. All you’ll have on the hook is a pair of lips.” Graham set down his pole and walked over. “You know, you spilled your beer.” Graham tilted the bottle up and pressed it into the sand.

Rob continued to pull and reel.

“Hey, how high do you have your drag set? You are going to snap your line.”

Rob turned the dial on the front of his open faced reel. The fish began to run pulling the line out with a long zip.

“Don’t make it too loose. He’ll pull out all your line. Let him run but make him work for it.” Graham took a pull from his beer then lit a cigarette.

“I’ve been fishing before, I swear.”

“Ok.” Graham walked toward his pole. “I’m gonna pull in my line. I don’t want them to get tangled.” Graham came back with a net and his needle nosed plyers that he had stored in his boat.

“Check out this fish.” Rob’s pole was bent and the line pulled tight, but he had worked the fish within five feet of the shore. The fish circled back and forth avoiding the shore, and Rob followed it with his pole.

“Pretty good size.” Graham scooped it up into the net.

“Too big for my skillet. I love me some fried catfish.”

“No, you’ll probably put this one on the grill.” Graham grabbed the fish placing his thumb in the side of its mouth. He let the net drop onto the shore and pulled out the hook with the plyers. “Would you look at that the poor sucker didn’t even get to eat the worm.”

“Today is my lucky day. I don’t have to impale another one of those worms. I hate the way they squirm away from the hook and ooze all that mucus when we didn’t bring anything to wash our hands.” Robed took the brand new lime green stringer out of his sweater pocket and ripped open the plastic. He threaded the looped end through the gill and out the mouth then ran the metal rod tip through the loop and pulled it tight. He threw the fish back in the water and pushed the metal rod into the sand so he couldn’t swim away.

Graham walked back to the boat and grabbed a beer for both of them. “First fish of the day. Seems you deserve another beer even if you spilled the last one.” Rob downed what was left in his previous and took the new one from Graham.

Graham said, “This seems to be your lucky spot I am going to try out the other side of the cove.” This was the extent of their conversations when they weren’t drunk enough or there wasn’t anything exciting going on. It reminded Rob of his trips with his father only with Graham Rob was the older by eight or ten years, but somehow he still was the one to receive all of the “helpful” advice.

Rob’s pole was the one his father had given him on his sixteenth birthday. They had gone fishing from time to time. His father had taught him how to gut his first fish. He had an extensive tackle box and seemed to know more about fishing than he ever let on. But fishing seemed a remnant of his past. Rob and his father fished from time to time because that is what father and son were supposed to do. Rob just enjoyed the time he got to spend with his dad. Even when he grew too old for those trips, he kept his pole, and the stringer was the first fishing implement Rob had bought in years.

Graham, on the other hand, had the boat and several poles. His garage was packed with dirt bikes and he just had a larger driveway poured so he could park the RV that he was planning to buy. They lived in the same neighborhood and worked roughly the same jobs, but somehow Graham had all these nice things and all the free time to make use them. Rob spent Saturdays drinking beer at Graham’s poker parties, and he thought that they were pretty good friends. But it wasn’t until Graham’s most recent back yard barbeque that they had made a point of going out to the lake together. Well, it was more of Suzy’s idea. She had overheard Graham talking about his next trip and all but forced Rob to ask if he could tag along.

Graham liked to beach the boat in a secluded cove where he could watch the other boaters zoom past the point pulling skiers. They sat on the pebbly sand and fished without being crowded out by the impatient kids and the disapproving looks of their parents.  Best of all, they drank without fear of being harassed by the lake police like they would if they were in the boat.

Rob and Graham were spread out along the short strip of beach, and the dog, Buck rummaged in the bushes. He found a dried up catfish tail with remnants of what looked like a spine still intact. Rob watched and laughed. Graham and his clownish figure ran after the dog and tried to get the piece of rot away from him. Eventually, Graham caught the dog and threw the rotten fish bones into the lake. Buck walked up to the edge of the water and drew back when the water lapped onto his front paws. He stared out at the bobbing fish carcass and whined until he lost interest.

The day was warming as the afternoon approached. Rob took off his sweater and lay it next to a piece of driftwood on the shore. He cast his line out toward the inlet of the cove and leaned the pole against the piece of driftwood. Rob decided to give Graham’s system a try. He attached a hook to a bobber and hung it from the line between the first two loops at the top of the pole. If the line just jiggled from the movement of the water the weight of the bobber would pull the line down keeping it taut. But the bobber would be pulled up parallel to the pole if a fish pulled on the line. Rob sat in the sand and sipped his beer waiting for the next bite. It wasn’t long before Graham was pulling in a small one across the water of the cove.

As the day got hotter, Graham pulled in another fish, a catfish that rivalled the size of Rob’s. But that was the last of their luck for a while so Graham found a sturdy little limb that branched on one end so he could leave his pole unattended. Graham rummaged around in the boat until he pulled out a pair of swim trunks. He changed behind the boat and waded out into the water.

Rob called out. “I didn’t know you could swim in this lake.”

“Why the hell not?”

“I don’t know. Some of these lakes are reservoirs for drinking water.”

“They add chlorine. I know you’re hot over there. You should take a swim.”

“I didn’t bring any shorts.”

“You are wearing underwear aren’t you?  Just wear them. There isn’t anyone out here to see you.”

“You’re probably right.” Rob took off his shirt and pants and laid them in a pile atop his sweater. He waded out into the cove until he was deep enough to swim. He wasn’t a great swimmer, but he stayed near the land and swan out toward the rest of the lake. When he got out near the inlet, Graham called out.

“Don’t go out there. You’ll get hit by a boat. And I can’t save your ass if you drown.”

Rob took this as a challenge and swam toward the opposite side of the cove. It didn’t seem that far until he got about half way across. Tired and breathing heavy, Rob began to tread water. He knew from his days in high school swimming class that it didn’t take much energy to keep his head above water, and he could take some time to catch his breath. The water was warm enough around his arms and chest but his legs seemed to be drifting through a cold spot. He felt something touch one of his feet. He straightened up and pointed his toes. He wanted to sink a little so he could tell how deep the water was. He couldn’t find the reassuring warmth of the sun soaked gravel bottom or even the toe sinking slime of mossy silt. California doesn’t have any poisonous water snakes, no alligators, no snapping turtles. At least there aren’t any native to the state. But there is a thriving exotic animal trade and there was no telling what might have been dumped in the lake when it got too big for its owner. Rob hadn’t completely caught his breath, he began to beat his arms and legs wildly to swim toward the shore. But he held his head above the water and took a deep breath and forced himself to regain composure. He had to be brave with someone else watching. He remembered one of the few things his dad had taken the time to teach him. Take deep slow breaths, stop moving, put your arms out to the sides, tilt your head back, let your feet float up, and arch your back so that your belly button comes out of the water. Rob heard his father’s voice while he floated on his back with his ears bobbing in and out of the water. He made leisurely strokes until he reached the shallows of the other side. He was worn out so he walked along the shore until he made it back to his pole. He lay there next to the pile of his clothes to take in the sun, and catch his breath while he pretended to be drying off. The water lapped the shore from a boat zooming past.

Rob reached over to the bottle of beer that was smashed down into the sand. The sunlight shined through the warm brown glass, and Rob took the last swallow before throwing it into the pile of empties they had sitting near the boat. It bounced off the sand and rolled into another bottle with a loud clink.

Graham yelled out. “Hey asshole, don’t break those we’re taking them back with us. I don’t want to get cut.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Rob had stood up and wiped the sand off the back of his shorts. He grabbed his pants and stepped into them. He started to walk toward the boat, but he saw the bobber slowly rising up. He ran over to the pole, slowed way down and bent over gingerly. He lifted up the rod careful not to spook the fish and have it to spit out the hook. Then he yanked back to set the hook. The bobber went flying off into the bushes behind him, but it didn’t feel much like he had a fish on the line.

Graham came running over followed closely by buck. “Did you catch something?”

Rob was reeling easy. “Nah, not this time. I hooked a loose weed or something. It’s not fighting.”

Graham kept watching the line in the water. “No, not a weed. You can see it in the water, now. It’s a fish but I think it’s fucked up.”

Rob began to reel faster. “You know you’re right. It is a fish.” It was a catfish small, bent nearly in half, tail flapping slowly causing it to turn circles around the hook. “It must have gotten hit with a boat or something and broke its spine. I can’t believe it survived.”

“I believe it. Nothing kills a catfish.”

Rob pulled it up out of the water. It was half the size of the other catfish they had caught but it didn’t look very young. It was shaking as best it could and it had its gill fins sticking straight out at the sides. “He’s still got some fight left in him.”

“You gonna eat it?”

“No, he survived this long. I’m not going to be the one to kill him. Besides, Suzy has a thing for small helpless animals. If I kill it, she will give me grief. If I throw it back, I may just be able to get some by buttering her up with a cute little anecdote about the amazing life of Corky the retarded catfish.”

“Corky had Down’s Syndrome.”

“Don’t over think it. It’s just a joke.” Rob walked his catch over to the boat to remove the hook. Just as they made it to the boat, Graham took off sprinting.

“Shit, I got a bite.” Graham’s pole had come off the stick it had had been propped up with and was inching towards the water.

“Hurry, don’t lose your pole! Lucky fucker, got another big one.”

Rob took the needle nose out of the top level of Graham’s tackle box and grabbed the hook in the fish’s mouth and shook a few times before the fish fell free into the water. The fish swam serpentine into the shimmering shadows of the lake while Graham fought his fish back and forth trying not to let it break his six pound test. Rob pulled another beer from the cooler and took a swig before baiting another worm on his hook.

They fished another hour without any more luck. Graham reeled in his line and whipped his pole several times. The hook and weight slammed into the water splashing with each strike. He was trying to remove the bait without touching it. Rob took this as his cue and started reeling in his line too. He shouted across the water, “Ready to leave?”

“I gotta get home and get a shower before Linda gets home.” Graham broke down his pole and pulled his stringer out of the water. It had two good sized catfish that shook against the day glow yellow twine that went through one gill and out the mouth, and one small stiff trout that only moved because of the thrashing of the other two. Buck ran in circles around Graham, and nipped at the fish. He was forced to hold the fish high so the dog wouldn’t ruin the meat. “Buck, you asshole. Get in the fucking boat.” The dog dashed off and leapt into the boat without breaking stride.

Rob broke down his pole and finished his beer before he pulled in his stringer with the one keeper that he had caught earlier that day. Graham rolled up his pant legs and waded into the water to clean his catch on the step at the back of the boat. Graham filleted the trout and tossed the carcass into the water. Then he slid his knife into the underside of the first catfish and slit it from groin to gill. He ripped all of the organs out of the cavity and tossed them into the lake. Dipping the whole fish into the water, he rinsed the rest of the goo out of the cavity and off his fingers. The fish was sluggish and stunned but it still tried to swim away.

Rob said, “Those things really don’t die, do they?  Trout die from the shock of being caught, but catfish don’t even need their hearts.”

Graham threw the fish into the cooler. It swayed gently, jostling the few remaining beers floating in among the melting ice. “They’re usually dead before I get home with them.” Graham cleaned his other catfish.

“You seem to be pretty good at this. Why don’t you clean mine for me?”

“I’ll take it home and eat it too.” Graham handed over the fishing knife. He had not yet rinsed his hands, and he pressed the handle of the knife into Rob’s palm with one hand and closed his other hand around the back of Rob’s making sure to smear in as much fish smut as possible. Graham affected a fatherly tone. “You are not a man if you can’t clean your own fish.”

“Thanks.” Rob held his hand out just a little too far from his clean pants. He rolled his pant legs one handed and waded out to the step to clean his fish.

Rob slid the knife up through the under flesh of the fish. Then, he turned the knife across the fish and followed the gills up until he hit the spine. He pushed down on the knife until the fish jerked and went limp. He didn’t want to put the fish through agonizing death that Graham’s catch would experience. The head of the fish sat atop the step as Rob removed the guts and rinsed the fish. The fish’s mouth continued to open and close trying to push water across the gills so it could breathe. The red inside of the gills stood open and the gill fins were thrust outward in a defensive posture. After Rob tossed the decapitated fish in the cooler, he lifted the head of the fish in both hands, palms extended to the sky. He was astonished and anguished that the fish was still clinging on to life, but he could not let those feelings show. “You’ll be OK buddy. It’s just a flesh wound. Swim it off.” He lowered his hands into the water and let the head float out.

“Ha! Swim it off.”

They pulled the boat from the bank and climbed in. Rob took another beer from the cooler and reached over the edge of the boat to rinse the bottle in the water. Graham started the boat and drove out toward open water. “Don’t let anyone see you drinking that.”

Back in the protected cove, the head drifted serpentine into the shadows of the lake.

A Slightly Less Dangerous Game

the kid

“Are you sure your parents won’t mind?” Timmy fidgeted with the six pack of beer that was warming up in his hands.

The kid said, “Those dicks don’t care what I do.”

“Fine then, I don’t care what they think either.” Timmy thrust out his chest and walked through the front door. He kicked through the clutter and adjusted his weight to crush the few things he did step on.

The kid said, “Hey don’t step on that.” He grabbed the old bag of tobacco off the floor. Off to the right was the old couch, he grabbed a Low-Rider magazine from between the couch cushions and took a seat. He spread out a long line of dry shake, removed two papers and began to roll. The kid said, “Come on give me one of those. And pop one for yourself. Don’t just stand there like a pussy.”

Timmy removed one beer from the plastic ring. He threw the other five on the couch. “I ain’t no pussy.” He popped the top on the beer. He tried to drain the beer in one go, but he choked down two bitter swallows before the bubbles burned his throat. “This is good.”

“Here take this.” The kid held out a lit rollie in one hand while he held the other between his lips. He took a good drag then took a sip from his beer.

“There ain’t much better than a smoke and a beer. I tell you what.” Timmy took a drag. The slightly stale smoke seemed to bring sweet relief to the burning in his throat. “You sure can roll one hell of a smoke.” The odd rollies that his friends had given him and the occasional joint were oblong, uneven doglegs. The thing was pristine like it came straight from the factory, but the kid was a master.

Timmy had seen the kid around before, but until today, he would have nothing to do with him. The kid looked dirty, and his hair was shaggy. He was stupid and he never bathed. But the kid didn’t smell bad. His clothes were faded hand me downs, but they were clean. He lived further back in the woods, but the trailer wasn’t as bad as everyone thought. The kid was cool.

The kid said, “I got an idea.” He walked down the narrow hall and disappeared into his room for a second. He came out with an air rifle and tube full of pellets.

They went onto the makeshift porch and shoot at empty bottles that lay along the tree line. One would drink while the other took aim at the rusty old car half covered in brush or the random small animal unlucky enough to be caught in range. The kid took a beer for himself and handed the last one to Timmy. “I bet I could finish mine before you finish yours.”

“Hell no you can’t.” Timmy was far beyond such concerns as bad taste or esophageal irritation. Timmy and the kid popped open their beers and smashed them together.

“Cheers,” they both said.

Timmy got about half of his beer down before he had to stop to take a breath. But the kid was still working on his. After catching his breath, Timmy began to guzzle with increased intensity. He let some of the beer spill out of the corners of his mouth and drip off his chin.

“I won,” Timmy said.

The kid said, “You cheated you got half of it on your shirt.” But by the time they had both finished their beers, Timmy no longer cared who won the race.

They stumbled around stupidly through the brush to the back of the trailer. Timmy leveled the air rifle as best he could and shot a hole through the bedroom window.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You little asshole, my uncle is going to kill me.”

Timmy pushed the kid away by the top of his head. “Now, look whose being a pussy. Where is all the big talk now?”

“No, no, I ain’t no pussy.” The Kid picked up a rock and threw. Timmy flinched and stuttered out a word or two in self-defense. But the rock went whizzing passed his head and shattered the glass behind him. Timmy let the air rifle slip from his fingers. The kid pitched another rock then another. He did not stop until all of the windows were smashed out.

In the time it took him to walk back around from the front of the trailer something about him had changed. He walked with a measured even pace. He seemed contented, even at peace. He was holding something in his hand. “Look. I found a paint ball mask. Have you ever played this game?” He tossed the mask to Timmy.

The old mask had been faded from the weather, but Timmy saw the face that someone had taken the time to hand paint on the black mask. It was the shape of a skull but it seemed to resemble a retarded ape. But it was an ape with five long sharp fangs and no bottom jaw. Timmy tried to fit the mask over his head. The mask was set too small to fit over his head, so he began to worry at the straps. “Yeah. You got a couple of paintball guns? Let’s play.”

“Then run.”

“What?” Timmy looked up to see the kid pointing the pellet rifle at his chest. The kid pulled the trigger. “Ouch.” Timmy threw the paintball mask at the kid. The kid shot again. “You asshole, that hurt.” The kid raised the pellet rifle and stared down the sights.

“Run, or I will shoot out your eye.”

Timmy made his best menacing grunt and reached out to snatch the rifle barrel. The kid fired. Timmy felt a singing sting of pain in his cheek and a tickling trickle on his ear. He turned to run.

The kid said, “Stand still you asshole.” He fired another shot. This time Timmy was running full bore, and he barely felt the sting in the small of his back. Timmy was running wildly in the direction that he thought was the road. And the kid was trailing behind shooting and laughing.

What is the Goal of Your Blog?

Is a blog supposed to have a goal?

When I first decided to blog, I read up on how to write a successful blog. You should know what your goal is. you should have a focus for your blog and that focus should be as precise as possible. And you should stick strictly to this vision.

So I began to blog with these ideas in mind only to realize that all these guidelines are bullshit. For one, I had no idea what it was I was getting into. How are you supposed to stick to a goal that you came up with before you even understood what was possible?

After blogging for the better part of a year, I look back at my first blog post only to realize how far off the mark I was. And if you ask me, I still don’t know what my blog is about and where it is going. The only blogging commitment that I still keep that I decided from the beginning is to have a new blog out every Wednesday at least and more if I get around to it (Some times I even cheat at this: “Oh shit, its Wednesday. Here is something that I wrote for home work years ago. I hope no one notices”).

but you tell me: should a blog have a goal?

WHY BOTHER TO WRITE?

Writing is a habit that most people don’t truly understand. Their experience of writing is being forced to write a short essay in high school English class. They think that writing is as boring and as easy as that. they don’t know what it is like to fidget with a sentence to get just the rite words in just the rite order. They have never pondered over a paragraph trying to get the most vivid scene possible. And they have sure never paused in the middle of a sentence to ponder whether or not they actually knew what the hell they were talking about.

They think that a novel takes just a few hours of work scribbling into a notebook and that a “good Idea” is all that it takes to write well. In fact, they think that all they have to do is spend the couple of hours to scribble and they would be the next New York Times Best seller. And they show this ignorance when they assume that the drive to write has anything to do with desire for money.

Money is great: Money is good. And if I could earn a buck selling my stories I would not turn it away. But there is something much more satisfying about writing than just earning a buck.

rixlibris

It was a simple question, asked by a co-worker:  “How are the book sales coming?”  I replied that based on royalties I wouldn’t be giving notice any time soon and then he asked, “why do you even bother to write?”  I blew him off with something about how typing keeps my fingers flexible and changed the subject.

I could see no point in trying to explain the drive, the need to release the characters and scenarios that clutter up the brain, all screaming for attention until set down on paper.

A writer writes because he or she has no choice in the matter.  Some people satisfy this need by keeping journals or diaries.  Short snippets committed to the written form are all that they need to silence the voices.  Others among us find that the characters, the scenes and plot devices only grow more complex as we give vent to…

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Relationship Insights

cheap

Late Nights

Cheap whisky and a bottle of Seven-Up. A table full of unfolded laundry, grocery items still in the bag, socks, underwear, and a half used loaf of bread. A spot has been cleared, or rather, the mess has been pushed aside. Just enough room for a laptop and a tall drink. She bid me come to bed. We did not sleep.

Sleepless Mornings

When he did not come home last night, I scrubbed the thing until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. When he clambered his way into bed reeking of booze and other things, I mumbled something and turned over pretending I hadn’t woken. I listened to his drunken snore for at least an hour before I gave up on getting back to sleep.

I spent the better part of the morning staring at the stove. There was a smudge on the otherwise white enamel. I wanted to play the wife to cook him the meal that would keep him at home. But I couldn’t. I just stared at the smudge. When he woke, he decided that we’d go out.

I sat staring at him through the raising steam of our coffees. I was held at bay by the outline of a single red lip on the inside of my cup and the overworked stare of our waitress. My husband was trying to talk some sense into her. She didn’t want to give me a clean cup and claimed that I left the print. I hadn’t even the time to take a sip, and it wasn’t even my shade.

The Hangover

I woke up to take a piss. My head was pounding from the better part of a fifth, and there she was with her accusative stare. She, who couldn’t be bothered to attend to her wifely duties. She, who couldn’t even be bothered to cook breakfast, let alone brew a pot of coffee. She would dare to accuse me. If we are having this argument, I am at least going to get fed first.

Beer: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

beer bread

For most college students, money is in short supply and a proper diet is often of little concern. Alcohol, the liquid bread, is the solution, but it is mired in controversy even though the its health promoting properties have been known for centuries.

Alcohol gets a bum rap in today’s society; it is blamed for poor self-control, and poor hygiene. Alcoholics, cirrhosis patients, and criminals, will all claim that alcohol is the source of their problems, but alcohol abuse is caused by poor self-control not the alcohol itself. Next, some feel that alcohol is unsanitary. When interviewed Carollyn said she does not drink because fermentation is the same as rot. However, alcohol is widely used in hospitals to kill germs and to disinfect wounds. Degenerates cause their own problems and alcohol is a disinfectant; maybe it is not as bad as people think.

In fact, the responsible and moderate consumption of alcohol is completely healthy. According to Consumer Reports, alcohol, taken in moderation, can boost HDL, the good cholesterol …, Moderate drinkers have a lower risk of isometric stroke …, and benefits appear to be strongest for people at risk of heart disease.” Additionally, moderate use of alcohol creates euphoria letting you know that life is good, providing a benefit to your mental health as well.  However, if you need that extra spiritual push there is Chimay Ale.

Chimay Ale is a Trapist brew made by Monks in a Belgian monastery. While behind the monastery walls, the brew goes through what is known as Immaculate Fermentation and its alcohol content is miracled into existence. According to the Beverages and More website, “[Chimay Ale has a] Beautiful coppery color and a creamy thick head; [the] aroma [is] reminiscent of ripe apricots; [it has a] silky mouthfeel with a pleasant touch of astringent bitterness in the finish.” Imagine the satisfying hiss as you pop the top on a cool Chimay Ale. Breathe in the pleasing aroma as you pour it into your favorite beer mug. Once you achieve the perfect beer to foam ratio, feel free to leisurely sip this wonderful elixir. A bottle of Chimay Ale is truly a spiritual experience.

Chimay Ale is available for purchase from reputable online retailers.  You can buy your way into heaven at only six dollars a bottle, so buy two bottles of Chimay Ale; Drink one yourself and donate the other to a starving college student of legal drinking age.

Morning Drive Time

wheel

The van is silver, a Town and Country. The windows tinted keeping out the stares of others. Inside the seats are soft plush but somewhat faded by the sun. The back seats are cluttered, a car seat behind the driver’s. The floor, scattered with cookie crumbles, and an orange sippy cup.

I sit behind the wheel. The seat is hard but comfortably fitted to my rear. The steering wheel is rubbed smooth where my thumbs rest. The new key takes a few jiggles to turn in the ignition. But the engine starts strong. I let off the break, and the tires crunch against the pavement. The air-conditioned, stuck on full blast, blows musty and humid. I open the windows.

The odometer nears 200,000 miles, but the out of date safety sticker, from the previous owner, still sticks to the window. The power steering hums, and I pull out of the parking spot. There is the slightest squeak from the axels while things warm up. The smell clears, and I roll up the windows. But it sure drives well.