Moral Dilemma

The Policeman’s neck was straining as he struggled to keep his face out of the snow. He was lying on his left arm which was bent at an unnatural angle. I watched him rest his head for a second and lift again.

The trip started out quite normal, see some guys, drop off some information pamphlets, help some people feel better about themselves, and etc. I might have time for a few drinks and a movie at this rate. Whoa!!! A teenager opened his driver’s door and I about clipped it. That was close! I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw a patrol car coming up quick and turning on the lights as his bumper nearly touched mine. All I could see in my mirror was his front windshield and flashing lights.

$170.00 for failure to maintain lane. I wonder what the fine would have been to run the kid over….. I tried to explain the sudden door opening and I had done the right thing but he told me to calm down. Forty-five minutes later I had a ticket and Officer Dickhead sneered, “Tell it to the Judge if you find it worth your trouble to come back to our fine community. However, I don’t think ‘Doing the Right Thing’ includes swerving all over the road.”

I’d been hassled by criminal cops before. Cost of doing business I suppose. Fucking ASS-HOLE! Whatever. $170.00 down the drain.

A woman at the gas station suggested that I make an out-of-the-way loop to stay at a local treasure. The Old Rail Station had been converted into a bed and breakfast and it was 50 or so miles up a narrow highway.

The reader sign at a local bank said 14 degrees and a liquid wind made my jaw ache. The heater was offering hope as the frost fought a losing battle on the windshield. The same reader sign said 10:29 PM. Jesus-fuck it gets cold here, my body doing an after-thought shiver-spasm.

I didn’t really want to leave the main road on a night like this but the thought of a roaring fire in my guest suite at the B&B seemed worth the effort and an extra day so I swung North towards the Old Rail Inn. Along the valley, low clouds kept me moving slow as wind driven snow started pelting the windshield. Road ghosts drifted endlessly across the road and drifts were beginning to creep onto the roadway.

I slowed to 25 mph and strained to see. It was snowing harder now and the dash-board said 13 degrees.

Hey, another car! The weather had cleared just enough to catch a glimpse of headlights and a flashing blue light. The curves were keeping me on my toes as the car slid slightly rounding a corner. I slowed to around 18 mph and the car rocked with a gust of wind. The trip-o-meter said I had gone 11 miles in 30 minutes and thoughts of the Donner Party skitter through my thoughts. Fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck! I hate this shit. Next wide spot in the road and I’m a-gonna head back to the real world.

The snow plow came flashing into view, blue lights surreal in the whirling storm. God, this is beautiful. I wish Danny could see this. Danny is a high school chum that was with me during most of my youthful adventures. He’s old, fat, and his knees are shot but he’d have loved this! The plow came to a complete stop as I crept around him, feeling relief that at least the road would be clear for the next few miles. Ahh.. not so bad now! 11:17

Creeping along at 10 mph. Room for one car only now and hopefully no one else was coming my way unless they have four wheel drive. What!!?? What was that? I could have sworn I saw the reflective tape of a patrol car in the ditch. My dash clock said ll:32 and 12 degrees. There isn’t anyone there… Probably come out here with a tow truck tomorrow when the weather is safer… Better just keep going or someone will think I’m up to something.. Maybe I better check it out… I backed up, keeping in mind the consequences of getting stuck. There it is. Yup, it’s a patrol car… Looks like the door is open..

I made a quick phone call.

Boy Scouts was kicking in and I scurried to the trunk to grab a flashlight and long wool overcoat I kept there for emergencies. There in the flashlight beam I could see the fresh tracks of a sliding car and dirt still showed in the snow evidence of a rollover. Oh Jesus, this just happened. A man was tangled in his gear, partially in and mostly out of the car. He was bleeding and he was fighting to keep his face out of the snow. Somehow he had managed to get partially rolled over by the car and end up lying on his left arm. His forearm bent at an odd angle behind him. “Oh thank God! Help me!”

I fucking HATE broken bones. Juice leaking out of a person doesn’t bother me but I Fucking HATE broken bones. Why the fuck did you break your arm. I tried not to look at the odd rubbery-weird arm.

“You’re going to be OK. Give me a second to see what’s going on.” Panic-relief was setting in and he started babbling about a radio call bringing help and his wife being alone and he would have been home in an hour… “Sir, calm down.” I chuckled to myself. How ironic. Fuck it’s cold out here. I put on the long wool coat. That’s better, I wish I’d brought a hat.

Somehow his belt gear was hung up in the seat belt like he’d been dancing to the Sponge Bob theme song. I tugged on it but the fat fuck had it fully extended. “I gotta go get something to free this up.” While I had been tugging his wallet had fallen open in the snow, the bright gold of a badge on one side and a beautiful woman on the other. “Officer Bacon? Is that your name? Officer Steve Bacon?”

“Yes.”

“Is this woman your wife, Officer Bacon?” He strained to lift his head. “Yes. We’ve only been married a few months.” Wow! He bagged a FINE one!

“I’ll be right back.” I shined the light on his face. Son-of-a-BITCH!!! “Hey! Aren’t you the cop that gave me a ticket for failing to maintain my lane this morning?”

“Shit. I’m sorry about that, I’ll tear it up when we get back. I’ll tear it up tomorrow.”

“Ass-hole.” I took off the coat and covered him, putting a sleeve under his freezing face.

I jumped in the car and searched the glove compartment for a pocket knife I keep in there. Wait a minute… This lying bastard mocked me and wrote a bogus ticket saying that ‘Doing the Right Thing’ won’t hold up in his town. He is willing to change the record on a violation if I will do him a favor. I sat in the hot car for a few minutes checking for humanity. I fucking despise dirty cops.

The clock said 11:53 and 11 degrees. ARRGGG….. MORAL DILEMMAS!

I made another phone call and fiddled with the radio trying to decide.

Radio: That’s it for tonight Cotton Pickers. Make sure you tune in at 5:AM for morning gospel hour and at 6 O’clock for Breakfast on the Farm brought to you by our very own Willie Bacon and the First Presbyterian Church Quilters Guild. Now for the National Anthem. Good night Cotton Pickers and God Bless.

I cranked the volume all the way up and opened the passenger door.

The dirt was covered now with fresh snow as I slid back down to the patrol car with a quilt my wife made for me and always nagged me to keep for shit like this.

I knelt next to him and held his head as the Anthem played. How God-Damned ironic. I hate the NFL for kneeling for the Anthem but here I am doing the same fucking thing. About dirty cops too!!

My mind was suddenly made up.

“Sir, I don’t think you’re gonna make it. Now, I ain’t no preacher but I’m gonna say a prayer for your soul since it’s my Christian duty. And don’t you worry none about that pretty wife of yours. A woman that good looking ain’t gonna have any trouble getting along JUST FINE without you. Now Sir, CALM DOWN! I can’t cut you free cause you might have some injuries that your corrupt legal system might want to hang me for. If I leave you here at least I can’t get a ticket for ‘crossing some fucking line’.”

I held his head gently and dipped a finger in his blood, wetting it to draw a cross on his forehead. “There, now Jesus is gonna know you’re one of His so now all we gotta do is get you all confessed up.”

“I’ll stay with you ’till you fall asleep so you won’t have to die alone.” The snow had stopped falling and the clear wind felt colder. He was wrapped as well as I could do under the conditions. He kept screaming about his broken arm and crying about his radio. He deserves to die cold, alone, and in the dark. I used a folded suit coat to keep his face out of the snow.

“Anything you want to confess before you die, any messages for the Priest or your family? If it needs said, say it now before it’s to late.” He puffed and blustered. “Say it now pal, while you still can. This is your chance to get right with God.”

“Can’t you just cut me free and radio for help?” he whimpered.  “No. That would be the right thing and you made it clear that doing the ‘right thing’ doesn’t fair well in your fine community. You are going to hang right here until someone from your community stops and climbs down here and cuts you down even if that means you’re a chunk of human ice. Now, anything you want me to tell the Priest?”

“Promise you will only tell the Priest?” “I promise.” I slid my smart phone near his head and pressed record. I had to coach him for the good stuff and reminding him of Judgement Day for the un-confessed. His teeth were chattering hard now and he looked at peace. He smiled at me, his eyes remarkably clear. “I’m ready. I’m ready to die.”

Good thing too because I could hear sirens for a few minutes before the first responders pulled up behind my car. When Officer Bacon realize help had arrived he wept the pure and innocent tears of the sinless.

These responders were the real deal, letting him loose, securing him to a board and climbing the snow covered roadside. I climbed into the car and turned the radio static down from full volume. I watched the process from my car with the heater on. Dashboard clock says 12:24 and 10 degrees.

A paramedic tapped on the window. “Can you give me your contact information, the State Patrol is going to want a statement”

My hot fire at the Bed and Breakfast was gone. “Sure, might as well.”

“Sir, you saved a man’s life tonight with your directions and timeline. Dispatch coordinated with the snowplow driver for the time and place you passed him til the time you first called so we knew within a half mile or so where you most likely were. Also, thank God you called before cutting him loose. No doubt he has a broken back.”

“Hey, can I talk with him for a minute before you go?”

“Sure, it will be a few minutes before we go but be quick.”

Two young men working with focused precision allowed me access to the Officer. I leaned in close, turned the volume on my phone down low and held it next to his ear and pressed play on his confession. He had an oxygen mask on and his eyes popped open. His expression was PRICELESS.

I whispered into his other ear, “Officer, take care of that ticket, will ya?”

 

I don’t know if Good and Evil are real

or if the Masters are in fact watching and testing us

nor do I know if I passed.

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There Was a Time (But Not Anymore)

There was a time when….

I wanted to fight outlaws and Indians

To live for Jesus

To be loved and

To run away

I wanted to be forgiven

And to confess my sins and

to start over.

Well-meaning public shaming took that

Off my list.

 

There was a time when

I wanted to die

and lived my life accordingly.

And Death, my only real hope

rejected me.

Maybe not rejection so much..

As it calls me daily.

 

There was a time when I just wanted

to finish school

to run away.

To die in the Army

No luck.

Maybe I can die in a crash…

So many close calls.

Nope.

Death has other plans.

 

There was a time when I hoped

For an industrial accident..

with terrible injuries

But

No luck, no Death

 

There was a time when I had to live

Because my wife

and

My kids

Needed me….

Not anymore.

 

There was a time when

I wanted to join

The Foreign Legion..

Nope too old.

Now I drink more in a week than

I used to in a year.

I used to hate booze but

now it makes me feel.

 

There was a time when

I made vows and oaths

For life.

I wouldn’t have if

I’d had known…

How fucking long I would live.

 

There was a time when

I thought endlessly about

Leaping into the waiting arms

of Death.

But…

What if Death was looking the other way

And I missed my mark.

What if I failed.

 

There was a time when I could have lived

with the crushing dissappointment

of Death’s rejection.

But…

Not anymore.

 

There was a time when

I couldn’t wait to die.

Not anymore

 

 

Mrs Harris

“G’mornin’ Mrs Harris, are you ready for some noise?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be I guess! I did everything you told me. Here is the checklist.”

“Great! Any questions or are we good to go?”

She got quiet and stepped in close. “Mrs Saunders said I should talk to you. She said… Oh, I feel so silly…” Her hands were wringing. “Oh, I’ll just say it. Mrs Saunders said you helped her with her depression and you might be able to help me.” She looked awkward in her own home.

I took a deep breath. “OK Mrs Harris, you know I’m a house painter, right? Not a depressionist or whatever the hell those people are called.”

“I knew this was a bad idea. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Forget I said anything.”

“Have you been to a Dr. or Psychologist type person?”

“I’ve been to three.”

“There you go! All fixed up then! I’ll be right outside if you need anything.”

I turned to step outside. “Wait. Please, can we just talk for a minute?” Her eyes pleading.

I checked my watch. “I’ve got a few minutes. What’s on your mind?”

“I don’t know.. It’s just that I’m so depressed and I don’t want to live and I don’t…”

“How long have you felt this way?”

“About 15 years.”

“What did your Dr. say?”

“That it is my husband’s fault. He’s..”

“What did the other 2 say?”

“What? Oh.. They said the same thing.”

“All three??”

“Yes.”

“Did they interview your husband?”

“Yes. They said that if he was nicer to me, I would be happier and that in their professional opinion, I should consider leaving him.”

“So your happiness is dependent upon your husbands behavior. That’s pretty obvious actually. I’m surprised you didn’t come to that conclusion on your own…. but of course, you probably did come to that conclusion and just went to them to confirm what you already believed.”

I don’t know if she agreed or if she was just nodding indicating understanding.

“Um, Mrs Harris…. Did you tell your husband that they said your depression was all his fault?” She nodded. “And what did he say?”

“He says he loves me and will do what ever I need and that they are full of shit. Pardon my language. He says that he believes that I willingly and actively demonstrate disrespect for him and often with contempt. He says that if I could see things differently, maybe I’d be happier.”

“What do you think?”

“Well, they are Doctors… They know what they are talking about.”

“Do you treat him with contempt and disrespect?”

“Well, yes. I don’t respect him. He needs to change.”

“You’re right, you’re right. Doctors know. Well, glad we could have this talk. I’ll just get to it then.”

“But Mrs Saunders said… You might… you know… say something…”

“Sorry Mrs Harris. Doctors are never wrong. Nor are Psychologists. Probably best to call a divorce lawyer. Good luck.” I was just closing the door..  “Unless…” She leaped forward. “What?”

“Do you have ‘connect 4’ or ‘checkers’ or some simple type of table games that you and your husband like to play?”

“Yes.”

I’ll talk with you more tomorrow. I want you to play 8 games. Play against him for 4 games and record your wins. Then play for yourself 4 games and record your wins. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“But…” I left.

*Next day*

“Hi Mrs Harris.”

“Hi. I played the games!”

“Yeah, How’d it go?”

“Well, the first 4 games I did all I could to block him and figure out his strategy and I lost every game. He beat me so easily it was a bit humiliating! I fell into the dumbest mistakes. On the next 4 games I won 2 of them and the games that I lost used up most of the room the game offered.”

“Hmmm… Interesting. Anything else that you noticed?”

“Well, it was interesting, and my husband mentioned it as we went to bed… This was the first time in nearly 3 years that we did anything besides me using Facebook and him watching that horrible ‘Next News Network’. It was kind of nice having an evening of play.”

“Hmm.. I wonder.. What is missing from your life.. that if you had exactly what you wanted…? What do you wish could happen?”

“I.. I just wish my husband loved me. (starting to cry) He hates me… He doesn’t love me. I just want to feel secure in my marriage and I don’t even know why I stay and I am so mad at myself for staying and I can’t stand it and I want to love him but when I try I get so mad and I just…….” The crying was becoming semi hysterical.

“Start with ‘I want to love him.’ and go from there.”

“I want to love him but..” The hysteria started up again.

“STOP! Where are you feeling that in your body? There is a feeling that makes you want to cry. What is it? Where do you feel it in your body? Feel it NOW.”

“In my HEARRRRT.” she sobbed.

“Yeah. What is that feeling? What is it? What are you feeling? It’s in your heart area. Feel it. What is it?

“It HURRTS!”

“I bet it does. Do you recognize this feeling? Do you feel this when you are mad at your husband?

“Ye e e ss.”

“You said a bit ago that you want to love him. What would happen if you loved him?”

“I don’t want to love him… I HATE HIIMMMM!”

“What happens when you try to love him?”

“It HURRTS!”

“What are you thinking about that makes you hurt?”

“I just think about all the fun we used to have and the walks we used to go on and feeding him candy while he drove the motorcycle.”

“Where do you feel that in the body?”

“My chest.”

“What is the feeling?”

“Sadness.”

“So when you want to love your husband, you think of when you were in love and that makes you feel sad and it hurts and you have been hurting a long time and it pisses you off so you lash out at him and he treats you with anger and it causes you to hate him and feel contempt. Is that approximately right?”

“Yes, kinda.”

Remember when you loved him? Remember how you loved everything that he did? Remember how it didn’t matter what he did, you adored him didn’t you? Was it kind of like that? You know, new love, young love?” She nodded. “I know it isn’t possible, but, if you adored him now, if you loved him like that now, if you were thrilled with everything he did now, just like then; do you think it would change his response to you? You think he would act different?”

(Continuing).. “Let me say that differently. If he adored you.. If he loved everything you said and did and couldn’t wait to be home after work and to see you in the morning.. Would you feel different? Do you think it would be easier to respect him and respond to him in a more respectful way?” She was nodding. “Imagine that he treated you like he loved you in the way that you most long for… would that make it easier for you? Would that make it almost impossible for you to continue to be angry and disrespectful?”

“I don’t know if that could ever happen but that would be WONDERFUL! Can you make that happen?”

“Of course I can’t make that happen! I’m not married to him. I’m just a painter. But… think about this for a second. If he were to treat you like he loves you, because he does, and you had this experience of being loved, do you think you could love him easier and if you loved him it might make his life every bit as much easier as it would make your life easier if he did it for you; can you start letting go of depression now?”

She looked confused. “I don’t get it.”

“OK. Here is what I think you are experiencing, some version of it anyway. Ready?

He says or does something and you feel a feeling and that feeling makes you mad.

You lash out and disrespect him.

He is rude to you because he is sick of being disrespected. (More likely because he has a horrible feeling of his own)

You feel that feeling from earlier and want to have the love back but…

You think about back when you were in love and it makes you feel sad instead of making you feel the love that you are trying to feel and it hurts.

You have been chronically hurting for 20 or 30 years and it makes you furious; it pisses you off!

That fury makes you demonstrate contempt and disrespect even more and…

The more you try to love him, the more you feel contempt until you hate him.

Does that sound right?”

She looked furious now. “I don’t think I like you very much. I’M LEAVING!”

“Well, this is your house. You can leave if you want. Sorry if that wasn’t helpful. I’ll be outside.”

I started to leave but came back. “Mrs Harris… before I go.. If you love him, the hurt goes away. When you love him, it doesn’t hurt. Love feels good. If you think about when you used to love him it, makes you furious. Do you see that?

Didn’t you used to run the cash register at the pharmacy? Remember the ticker tape on the machine, you know, you put the receipt roll in and when people buy something, the machine prints the item and price onto the ticker tape and then you tear off a receipt.

The ticker tape just goes through the machine and it is what it is; it never changes. The machine prints different things onto the receipt paper but the paper is just the paper.

I think you are moving through your life like that receipt tape, an angry receipt tape and the content of your life gets printed on it. It doesn’t matter what happens in your life anymore than it matters what a person buys. You are continuing through your life angry and it doesn’t matter what you or your husband do because it is written onto an angry ticker tape of life.

If you love him, the content will be printed onto a loving life. No matter what he does you will be thrilled because you love him.

If you WANT to love him (means that you aren’t loving him) and you think about when you loved him it spins you off into some crazy whirl of anger which will eventually lead you back to wanting to love him and the whole thing starts again.

I think you are simply caught in a silly trap. You want to love him but you don’t want to love him because you hate him because you have hurt for a long time and it keeps starting over because every time you want to love him you think about when you did love him in an attempt to bring back the loving feeling and (HERE’S THE GLITCH) instead of feeling the old loving feeling you feel sad instead and it hurts and you are sick and tired of feeling sad and it pissed you off and you lash out at him and he responds with anger of his own about how sick he is of your disrespect and which adds to how sick you are about his anger towards you and in an attempt to feel love you think about when ……. repeat for eternity, death, or divorce. See, just a simple glitch.

If you want to feel pain, continue to cycle.

If you want to feel love. Love him.

Wanting to love him causes pain. DECIDE to love him and the pain disappears.

Will you at least consider loving him instead of thinking about when you USED to? You know, just love him right now, without thinking about when you used to love him?”

“But what about him? Isn’t HE the one that is supposed to change? Isn’t HE supposed to be loving ME?”

“Remember ‘connect 4’ the game you were playing? If you wait to have him change and react to him, you will be playing against him and his actions. If you play ‘against’ him, you will lose.

Listen close. You losing will NOT cause him to win; just you lose. If you play your own game, just LOVING HIM, you will win about 50/50. 50/50 is more than enough to break the cycle. You winning does not make him lose, it causes you to BOTH WIN!

Now you are just playing. Think about it.

See what happens will ya?’ LOVE him for God’s sake!”

*A few weeks pass*

One of the middle managers of the Tire Store approached me. “This place looks great! You have a great crew. Crazy what a couple coats of paint will do to a place!”

“Thanks Harold, we do our best.”

“Hey, if you have minute, can we talk?”

“Yeah, What’s up?”

“I was talking to Mrs Harris and… um… Well, she said I should talk with you. She said you might be able to help me and my wife fall back in love.”

“Yeah Harold, I have a few minutes but you DO know I’m a commercial building painter and not a love-oligist or what ever the hell those love type people are called don’t you?’

 

A $500.00 Dollar Story

“Thank you! Thank you! Oh, thank you so much!” She hugged me again and pulled me in to kiss me on the cheek.

“OK. Bye-bye now.”

I turned to see my grand daughter smiling as she hurried towards me.

The flight was normal, boring actually. The lady sitting with me seemed distressed. I had just spent 3 days with a mentalist who offered me an experience, an experience I had spent $10,000 to have.

It failed.

“You’re the most dissociated son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met!” he exclaimed at my body. Hmm… I wondered, what the hell was that about?

The steep climb towards cruising altitude was over and my seatmate and I settled in for the long haul. “Travel much?” I asked.

She put on her ‘Big Person’ face and smiled. “No, not much. This is a special trip. Something just for me.” She quick-checked for approval which I timed perfectly.

Soon a fluid conversation flowed like life-long friends.

It is beautiful, I thought, how automatically our bodies twitch and move in a  perfect rhythm that maintained orbit. My mind moved into the stewardess and watched us from her perspective. In the background a disembodied hand in a white glove tracked the language patterns and worked out strategy on a dry-erase board in my mind.

I was occasionally distracted from my other thoughts by amiable sounds and movements my body made as the conversation continued. She chatted happily about raising kids, her job, her therapist.

That’s the third time she used the ‘I wish I had’ pattern, the subtle anger covered by a laugh. She is expressing grief but it’s carried by subtle self-hatred for missed opportunity.

But what kind of opportunity? She had more money than God so it wasn’t a financial opportunity.  I wasn’t really listening because I trust my mind to hear it for me. Why else would my body have ears, a mind, and a memory if it couldn’t use them.

Curious now. The dry-erase hand drew a curved line with an arrow and made a crazy repeated circle around the word ‘revenge!’ That doesn’t make sense. She has a wonderful life…. No, too wonderful…. Revenge? Hmm.. revenge. Huh? Oh, REVENGE!!!!

WAIT! Somethings not right. Suddenly I started listening to the recording in super speed. She’s not 48. She is in her mid 50’s. Her grief and anguish are real but misapplied.

There is a guy…. no, several. The numbers 5 and 7 flashed quickly. A perfect husband. She isn’t married. Must be a past husband. She married the perfect husband. What went wrong?

The Hand. It keeps drawing my Grand Daughter and writing $500.00. What the hell?

I was aware of my body’s posture shifting…. a little more… don’t over do it. There, like a preacher.. no, to creepy. Like a father. Yes, better. I love my body; very efficient.

“Um.. I wonder….” I interrupted her.

“What?”

“How long have you been divorced?”

“6 years.”

“Who initiated it?”

“He did.” Her face clouded and tears started. “And I’m still devastated! It’s all I can think about. It is ruining my life!” Other passengers were turning to look.

“How long were you planning to leave him before he finally left you?”

She looked stunned. “How DARE….” she slumped. “Nine years!” Now the REAL tears started. “I hated him! I hated him. He was too perfect and I should have felt lucky and everyone always told me how much they respected him. I did so many horrible things to him and he always forgave me. I wanted to leave him but he never gave me a reason.”

She went on for awhile but I was hypnotized at how different her body language is when she is honest. Honesty is so rare.

The Hand is trying to get my attention. $500.00!!! We are descending.

“So you aren’t grieving because you are divorced; you are grieving because he left you instead of you leaving him. Is that right?”

“Yes but, how did..”

The plane is landing and the Hand keeps writing $500.00.

“Who are the 7 men of which 2 are different than the rest?” She gasped. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“You had 7 affairs. What was different about the other two. Its OK. It was a long time ago.” I coached.

I was running out of time and I needed $500.00.

“I fell in love with one and got caught with the other.” Amazing how different she is when she is honest! Twice in 3 and 1/2 hours! Might be a new record.

“Listen, I don’t have a lot of time and the plane is about to land and my grand daughter is needing money and I think I know something that will make you feel a lot better.  Do you have $500.00?”

“What??” “DO.. YOU.. HAVE.. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?”

“Yes but..” “Give me five hundred dollars and I will tell you something that will change your life.”

I watched her body move hesitantly and with confused uncertainty as she counted out 5 crisp one hundred dollar bills. The Hand just gave a thumbs up. OH! I just felt something! What was that? I think it is… Hmm.. I lost it! That mentalist was right. It is possible to feel emotions if I really concentrate on it.

“Well??” she demanded. “What are you going to tell me?” I must have drifted off. My grand daughter had just arrived at the airport.

“Your husband. He got religion. When did he get religion? I’m guessing about 10-15 months before he filed for divorce,” She did some calculating. “Yes!! About a year!”

“Get a private detective and check out the preacher.”

“OH MY GOD!! Him and the preacher???”

“Shut up and listen!” Passengers are starting to stand for unloading. “Your husband is a good strong man but not the kind to leave his wife. Even a horrible woman like you. Someone had to put him up to it and YOU are going to take that someone DOWN!”

Another mind changing gears! Humans!

“There is a woman involved, kind of a self-righteous bitch, probably plays the organ, and a young man.”

“Oh my God! Are they involved in something?”

“Shut up! And NO. They are good, kind, caring people who DON’T deserve the hell you are going to dish out. YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE THEM FEEL….. THEY WILL FEEL.. EVERY HORRIBLE FEELING.. EVERY HORRIBLE FEELING YOU WISH UPON THEM. UNTIL YOUR VENGEANCE IS SATISFIED. YOU WILL…. FEEL SATISFIED!!”

Something of me entered a vacant spot in her psyche. I waited smiling…. Ah! She accepted….

“What will happen to them?” She looked small and fearful.

“That is up to you,.. you poor, scorned, grieving, sad woman. May your God bless you always and may YOUR WILL BE DONE.”

My body was up to something… More light pouring in… Must be my pupils. She stared with a horrified look into my eyes as my throat formed a metered whisper: I HOPE YOU ARE NEVER COLD…… OR WET…. OR HUNGRY…. My body felt all three simultaneously.

I stumbled slightly and my body felt slightly sick. I hate it when I re-enter the body. I have just pulled 15 years of pain from her life.

She looked 10 years younger, refreshed, confused, hopeful….. and a bit feral. “Thank you so much.” She kissed me and I walked towards my grand daughter.

“Who is that Grandpa?”

“Just some lady on the plane. Good to see you!”

“I love you Grandpa!”

After greetings we headed towards baggage claim. “Here you go Sweetheart.” I handed her the envelope with $500.00.

She gasped. “Grandpa! How did you know? My husband just called on the way here and said that the sofa we wanted was $500.00 more than we could afford!”

“Well, I guess it is your lucky day Sweetheart.”

3 perfectly good lives ruined trying to be someone else’s moral compass!! Sucks to be them.

 

 

 

Ricky (The Runner)

Uggh! My elbow found a sticky spot at the counter in Denny’s Cafe where I sat with a quiet man.

I hadn’t meant to befriend him, it happened naturally. He is young, maybe mid 40’s and barely has spark left in his eyes. Something is so familiar….. Where have I met him before?

An attractive woman walked past. She is slightly overweight, still in pajamas and horribly messy hair. Part of me wanted to judge. His eyes slid over her and slight sadness, was that sadness? yes, sadness… I think I saw sadness. And something familiar… “What do you think of that?” I asked. His eyes glanced for another instant. “Wadda you want to hear?”

Seemed final. I chewed on a bit of cranberry cooked in pancake batter. “What do you see?” He asked. I turned, looking into eyes that had died again. “I’m not sure, several things I think.” She was across and to my left, very pretty and a mess.

“I feel flannel sheets, it’s cool in the room and warm in bed. Nuzzling a warm neck and the light scent that is specifically female, warm and accepted.” I felt a little smug in my poetry. He’s not dead. I saw pain.

“Alright.” he said pushing his plate away and reaching for coffee. “I’ll play your fucking game.” An uneasy feeling slid up my spine and an unsettled tingle in my stomach. Ricky popped into my mind. This guy isn’t that young, I thought. I added 25 or 30 years. That’s better. I hadn’t paid so close attention but now I see his hair is stained. His face is young but his hands, mannerisms, and way of speaking are old.

His voice sounded dead now… “I see all the people who never lived, loved… Their parents died young, before they conceived.” I waited, sipping coffee. That was it.  Jesus. So much for poetry!

I spaced off for a few seconds while he spoke the words of prophets and I missed one of the best monologues the Gods ever delivered.

Ricky…

I met Ricky decades earlier… He was pale, gaunt.. He was a tiny man about 4’10”, had strait, long brown hair with self-cut bangs strait across the forehead. He was in a cot across from me and slept. Barely ate, barely drank, slept. Scratching and stretching, sweating… Teeth grinding. I wondered why he wasn’t in a hospital. Exactly one week. Then he gradually came to life.

Turns out this guy was a runner.

Remember that commercial that shows a young man running in slow motion, you know, like a track star or something, and the announcer is talking about youthful dreams and potential? In the end, a policeman catches and tackles the young man and the announcer says ‘No one dreams of being a criminal’.

Ricky was that kind of runner.

There is a difference though. The cops couldn’t catch Ricky. This guy was FAST. He’d run right between two cops and down the street. He was like a ’74 Pontiac out running the family dog. The cop that could catch Ricky on foot hasn’t been invented yet.

We played chess together and sort of became friends. He’d been out of the Pen for 8 months and was being charged with 96 burglaries. “Didja do it?” I asked. “No.” he said and slid his Bishop and took my Knight. Ahh…. Ahhh….*BULLSHIT* a guy sneezed. Ricky smashed that guy in the nose so fast and hard that none of us saw it coming.

A skinny black guy said “You better clean that shit up before someone thinks you been fightin’.” The guy went off and started cleaning the red that was all down his chin and shirt. “Buncha fuckin’ bullshit!” the guy whined.

“So….. How’d they finally catch you?” He sat staring at the chess board and the room was dead quiet. A guy next to me eating chips stopped chewing and let the chip soften in his mouth. The reader with the intense eyes stared at his book, waiting. Finally Ricky moved his Knight into position. “I was hiding in my mom’s house in her bedroom closet.” Quiet, level eyes casually locked on mine. I stared back for maybe 5 seconds and nodded.

Made sense. Donut men would have never caught him on the run.

“How’d they catch you?” “I was on the way to the fair and they set up a rolling blockade.” He nodded.

The man at Denny’s was waiting. “Well?” “I was just thinking that you reminded me of a guy I used to know as Ricky the Runner.” I told him. He stiffened. “I know the guy. What do you wanna do?” It wasn’t Ricky, it was a friend of his. I knew he looked familiar. A guy we called The Wrench.

“I don’t want nothing. Just a coincidence I guess. I gotta go.”

Suddenly the rod slid out of his spine and he shrank, instantly looking his full age and more. “I’m sick of hiding.” he said. “Let’s just get this over with.”

Oh fuck! I’d been here before, once in Montana. That time he guy had thought I was a hit man. This time, well, who the hell knows what this guy’s thinking. I’d nailed it and wish I hadn’t.

I signaled the waitress. “Can I get you some more coffee sweetie?” “No thanks. I want to pay for mine and my friend here.” I slid her a $50. “Keep the change.” “Thank you Sweetie and you boys have a good day.” She wiggled off with purpose.

He stared at me expectantly. “If I ever see you again I WILL NOT RECOGNIZE YOU.” I said quietly. “And I would appreciate the same courtesy.” He sagged again, even more; not weak, just tired. “OK.” was all he said. I headed for the door.

“WAIT!” I turned watching him walk towards me. My pulse quickened.

“How do you do it man, all the shit we did? How do you live with it?”

I was trying to formulate the right answer when a life of distrust, close calls, nightmares, violent encounters, and dark offerings flashed through my mind replaced by relief and gratitude.

Slowly I realized… Maybe for the first time in my whole life I really realized…… “Because………. Because…. Because I didn’t do it. That’s how I live with it. I didn’t do it.”

I didn’t leave immediately. I slipped around the corner and back into Denny’s through the entrance to the lounge. I watched The Wrench sip his coffee, and waited while he finished in the bathroom. He drove away in a blue sedan and I drove the opposite direction and watched my tail carefully.

I left New Mexico, crossed the mountains, and drove long hours. In little towns I circled the block and watched for familiar cars like a paranoid freak. 2 days later I was home.

I’ll admit being a bit paranoid for a few weeks and life went back to normal.

So The Wrench lived long enough to regret the lives never lived, the un-conceived, and his part in it.

I wonder what ever happened to Ricky the Runner.

Pondering Older Men (warning, dark and a bit disturbing)

Please don’t read this post. It is going into the Tales of Darkness series. It came to me out of the blue. I clicked the ‘write’ button and this story developed itself and after reading it a couple times I didn’t see any glaring errors so I hit ‘publish’ and it was off.

The thing is though, as the evening wore on I was drawn back to re-read it. Suddenly I realized; I am feeling a bit disturbed. It’s really quite an ugly story. I dunno, maybe you’ll like it. Whatever, You’ve been warned.

The light is filtered through dirty glass about 15 feet away, on the other side of the steel bars of my cage. There’s nothing to see but I climb as high as I can anyway. There is a small fenced courtyard with a basketball hoop. The buildings are placed as to offer no view.

A few days before, the keys clanged and the door opened, “OK, listen up. Grab your blanket, pillow, and mattress and follow me.” Six of us from maximum security shuffled down a bright hallway to a part of the facility I’d never seen. We passed a threshold with double fire doors and time went backwards 50 years. Gone were the bright yellows and oranges replaced with clear coated concrete and light or dark grey institution paint. One person per cage, 24-7 lock down with one hour exercise per day starting after 3 days. I found out it is what they all called the ‘Old Jail’.

I glanced at my good friend Gary who is an aging criminal defense attorney from California way. We are having coffee and donuts in the office common area. He was just telling me that if 10 people are randomly pulled from the street and accused of murder, 8 will go to prison for the murder. “Don’t they get pissed going to prison for something they didn’t do?” I asked, curious where this was going. He looked at me like I was stupid. “You gotta get over it. It’s better to go to prison for something you didn’t do than for something you did do. At least that way you’re innocent.”

It didn’t sit well but I could relate.

My mind went back to the good old days. 18 years old, mid summer was in full swing, and the fair was opening tonight! I got all dressed up and was wheeling past the Tastee Freeze toward the country music concert at the fair when my way was suddenly blocked by two Sheriff cars and another came up from behind. The terrified policeman went through his routine and I found myself in a detective’s car headed for the city. These two clowns were high fiving each other for solving the crime. “What crime Goddammit!?” The driver sneered and told me I’d find out when we got to the station.

There’s no way to express all the crazy shit that goes on in your head for the first six weeks or so. Every form of fear, overwhelming self pity, crying while visiting with the folks on the other side of security glass and wiping dry before returning to the cage.

The thing is, there’s nothing you can do. If you yell at the guards they smile while they beat you and keep asking if there is anything else you wanted to say. The other prisoners don’t want to hear it on account of their own problems. You get a few friends that visit then disappear. Then is the day when the guards laugh hysterically as they read out loud the ‘Dear John’ letter and then stuff it back in the envelope and push it through the bars. “You really fucked up getting the Sheriff’s daughter pregnant!” We had dated but hadn’t done it!

Lots of photos and interviews, visits with the public defender, and a criminal psychologist that keeps touching my leg and asking if I like older men.

“So what do these guys do?” I asked Gary. ‘Plead guilty” he said. “They will get 20 years if they lose in the trial or 2 years if they plead guilty”. “Happens all the time.” he said. “Some guys take their chances in court and sometimes they win. The trial will likely take longer than the 2 years of prison so it’s usually worth it. The system is criminal.”

I knew what he was talking about but I listened, acting amazed and horrified that such a thing could possibly be true here in the good ole USA.

I made the decision in a dinky attorney/prisoner room with a flickering florescent. I didn’t trust the dainty man who had been assigned to be my defense but I had no known options. “If we fight it we will most likely lose and you are looking at 14 years in State Prison. If you plead guilty, I think we can get you out of here in 3 months.” “Is there any guarantee? I mean what if they give me 14 years anyway?” “Well kid, sometime you gotta take your chances.”

A few more weeks went by……. I anguished. I didn’t do it… More self pity.. I was circling the drain. I finally made up my mind and called the public defender.

“OK. Lets do it.” My heart was pounding. I’d been in a cage for over 6 months now. I wanted this shit over. “You sure? Once we do this there isn’t any turning back.” “Yeah, let’s do it.” I took several deep breaths. I hoped to GOD that this defense attorney could make this happen. “Oh, just one more thing……” “What?” He fidgeted a bit. “We are going to need an excellent evaluation from the criminal psychologist. He wants to see you three times.” His eyes bored into me. “What?” I was trying to understand his sudden change in mannerism. “You are going to need an excellent evaluation.” He continued to look directly into my eyes. “Do…. you….. un-der-stand?”            He wasn’t blinking.

Oh shit, this can’t be real! Yes, it was starting to sink in.

“Yes. Yes, I understand.”

Make sure you do. He is a powerful man and you don’t want to mess this up.”

“Will anyone know?” I couldn’t swallow right. My throat was lumping. He looked at me directly for a few more seconds and then looked down. “I sorry.”

He shuffled some papers and pressed a buzzer button and his slight form was replaced by a guard.

Desperate days….  He needed and had 5 meetings rather than 3.

Some weeks after the guilty plea I waited for sentencing and no one would tell me anything. The judge asked questions of all involved and lectured me of the severity of the crime how irregular it is that such a minor sentence was requested. He locked eyes with the psychologist and continued.

“TIME SERVED PLUS 45 DAYS!” He banged his gavel.

The psychologist glanced my way and winked. I looked back at the judge and he spoke directly into my soul. “YOUNG MAN, I DON’T EVER WANT TO SEE YOU IN MY COURTROOM AGAIN!” I disappeared for 45 days.

A few months later I was visiting with an old girlfriend. She was caring for her new baby. It was a baby boy with a flat, broad nose that was a remarkable match to the man sitting next to her. We had both been dating her. He was a proud daddy!

The future shortened and the past grew and ancient men enjoy coffee and donuts.

As Gary talked, I remembered back to the day when I had used micro-phish to look up old news articles and had read in the court and legal section the day after sentencing. There was my mug-shot and a quarter page rant about an armed robber getting 45 days county jail and how unfair it was that I had gotten off so lightly.

So Gary headed off to do a plea bargain in court and I walked in the smokey sunshine back to my office. Though I will never know the experience of robbing someone at gunpoint, maybe Gary is right. Maybe it is better to be in jail for something you didn’t do than to be in jail for something you did. But….. There might be a third option…..

Do you like older men?

 

Answers to (Some of) the Interesting Questions

I don’t know why people ask me these questions and assume they ask other people the same questions. Either way, I decided to answer some of the interesting ones here.

Kids DO say the darnedest things but it’s usually in answer to questions that adults ask. All questioners will be considered anonymous. All answers are to considered entertainment unless life experience dictates otherwise. But then, if life dictates, you already knew the answer, didn’t you.

Q: What should I do with my life.

A: How the hell should I know. It’s hard enough living my own. Do you really not know? Let’s assume you are serious. Here is my answer. If you want to kill people: Join the military. If you don’t want to kill people: Join the Mormons. Either will tell you what to do with your life for four or more years until you have the clarity to run your own life.

Q: I’m thinking about killing myself. What should I do? 

A: This is a tough one based on inexperience. So here goes.

You want to be careful in life-or-death actions. This long answer will assume Space Aliens do not exist. It also assumes that you don’t want to fuck up a perfectly well-intended suicide. Oh, And it assumes reincarnation.

Find at least 3 people who have successfully done it. All else is theory. Life-and-death, including suicide is NOT a time for trial and error unless you have VERY WELL-FOUNDED research by experts who have your best interest at heart as well as the best interest of a dream bigger than themselves, such as Deep Space and Deep Water.

The practical application of theory is mostly for the nonsense you experience in college, especially as you approach your P.H.D. Not for the beginning Self Killer.

So…. Find at least 3 people who have successfully committed suicide in a fully satisfying way and interview them. Put together a comprehensive plan. 

Wait, wait. Don’t ask someone who TRIED and failed. What do they know. No one wants to deal with the humiliation of failure in this endeavor so get your shit together.

Now, you might have to wait until you die to meet people who have succeeded in killing themselves and then in your next life, assuming you still want to die, you can execute your well planned objective.

 

Q: If you are religious, what religion do you prefer?

A: Ooooh.. This is a hard one. I love the Catholics because they are so devout. They have the answer to everything and are well established. Too much guilt for me though.

The Jews have the best stories. I love the way a Rabbi can answer ANY question with a story. Again, too much guilt for me.

The Adventist are very reverent. I like that. They need to stop lying about money, stop their compulsive gambling with the money people give them and REALLY need to clean out the pedophile population in their organization. Also, too much guilt for me.

Jehovah Witness are probably OK. I know a few and they are really nice. I don’t care for the quality of their pamphlets. Kinda grainy.

Hindu and Buddhist are GREAT! Too complicated though. Plus, who wants to glue a red button to their forehead every morning?

Mormon. I think I would be Mormon because they will help you move. Plus they have  this thing about forgiving people. I can piss them off and they have to forgive me.

****I grouped these. *****

Q: Are you psychic? Do you believe in psychics? Why does it seem like you can read my mind? How do you always seem to know what I’m about to do? How come when I ask you a question, you answer a different one and it makes me mad until a few weeks later I realize what you had said was what I was trying to learn; how do you do that?

A: First, get a hold of Scott. He will get you started.

Here is the thing though. You are not your mind or body. Nor are you your personality. So considering that we speak the same language, go to the same schools, drive on the same side of the street, and on and on, we have very similar patterns of life. Cause and effect is predictable in much of life.

Add to the above that if I listen to you, I will hear you. The phrase “Pat is pregnant” tells me a LOT about Pat.

For instance: Pat is a female, is of age, active, starting to look like she ate a baby, seeing the doctor regularly,  she will fart every time she stands up starting about 7 months, she rubs her tummy, starts obsessing about baby names, and on and on.

So if that simple phrase tells me that much, how much will I hear if you tell me about your new kitten.

So no. I’m not psychic. I just pay attention.

Also, I spent about 6 years watching as much Netflix type movie channels to learn about other ways of life, expression, and opinions to fill in the blanks from not having enough lifetimes to live it myself.

At some point it all boils down to life patterns. If Pat is pregnant then these other patterns will likely follow. So if you do or tell me something, then you are also telling me your life patterns as well and confirming my own. If you lie or try to evade, you will likely do it the same way everyone else does so it will expose even more truth and at much deeper levels. So frankly, the more dishonest you are the better I will understand you.

The only tricky part about humanity is honesty. It is so rare and unexpected that it is hard to isolate and study. Even the best documentaries about truth spend the whole time discussing dishonesty. So like that saying goes: If you want to deceive someone, Tell the truth.

Q:I’ve seen photos or heard of you being in the oddest places. What’s that about?

A:It’s a Forrest Gump thing. I just kind of end up places and meeting people and doing things. It just happens.

If you have read about the eneagram, not sure I spelled that right, you might remember reading about the personality that is referred to as a 3. That is a clear examination of my basic uncontrolled personality. Those not a 3 tend to consciously despise the 3 but when not thinking about it will tend to love the 3.

Think about magical shape-shifters. That is my natural, unmodified personality, warts and all. It raises the chances that I will be in expected and unexpected places and situations. 

 

Q: I’m always so sure I have to suffer to get results in my life until you make me laugh about it and then it just starts happening without the pain. How does that keep happening?

A: Pain is more of a fetish than a problem. People will get a boo boo and bitch for 3 weeks about it but will pay $1000 extra for pain when they hire an escort. I don’t get it.

Life will consistently deliver small doses of discomfort to assure that even the most comfortable have something to complain about. We don’t need to plan that into out schedule.

Plan a life of pleasure and Pay Extra for Pain.

 

Q: I saw a picture of someone who looks like you driving a politician some years back. He was a young guy. Was that you?

A: Very possible. Forrest Gump thing.

 

I have 62 more on the list but I have company coming.