Meeting the Wife

“The thing nobody warns you of is that if you are a writer, if you stop writing then something begins to writhe, to leach venom into your bloodstream. It starts in the mind, in the basket of your imagination and it’s poisonous tendrils begin to reach for your heart. If it grasps you there, then something terrible will surely happen. It’s your own damn fault, but regardless, you can’t let the beast be free. Write, write anything – no matter what it is, type out the god damn cookbook if you must, but don’t let it be free to feast its horror on the world.”  ~ tlj

 

There was certainly no part of him that wanted to be at the dinner party that night. Or any other, in fact. He was there only because she wanted to be, he would thus side step the accusation of being anti-social, boorish, only wishing to write in his study, to be left alone.

The others there were so pretty, handsome all of them in their dresses, sports coats, wine glasses held in their hands. He imagined them grinning broadly, each carrying a wicked looking straight dagger, rather than a crystal wineglass. It was his wife’s company gathering, he was but the sidekick, the one there to complete the image of the happy corporate couple. He didn’t have a wine glass in his hand, prefering to spare himself that liquid accesory until he could return to his whiskey glass in the silence of his study.

They moved with slow precision through the room, chatting loosely, without really engaging interest with anyone. At some point during the measured conversations, he began to drift into an empty room, one where no other party goer was present, deep in the recesses of his own mind. His stories began to find him there, to dance with the fringes of his imagination, rapid nerve impulses went out from their neuron masters to his fingers with instructions to write. Denied they were, but the impulses came to them nonetheless. At some point his wife tugged at his shirtsleeve, directing him to focus on the commanding looking CEO, there in the small group semi-circled around them. His wife glanced hard at him, her look messaging that he needed to say something warm, witty, at the least courteous to the man. The CEO flashed a practiced grin, his words came calmly,  winsomely in a sing-song tone, “So, tell me how you met your lovely bride.”

It was only a simple question, he could have easily answered it, smiled and moved on. His throat quivered, a mournful sound began to rise from the pit of his chest, a low moan growing suddenly, sharply into a high pitched wail. Then in an instant, the wail amplified into a horrifying sonic battering ram emanating from his mouth. He watched helplessly, as the sound struck the handsome CEO mid-chest with such force that it sheared his torso away from the rest of his body like a golf ball struck away from the pin. The man toppled backwards loosely, his body torn asunder.

The sound solidified now into a terrible cutting weapon, unbidden it sliced a half dozen people apart as he shook his head maddeningly from side to side to rid himself of it. Now walls, floors began to collapse amidst the screams of terror, people throwing themselves, eardrums burst in their heads, out of the maelstrom of destruction.  He watched helplessly as a woman in a blue cocktail dress threw herself over the balcony, bouncing off the pavement below like some child’s rag doll.  

Everywhere he looked now were massive plumes of dust, ash, fire and death. Wholesale destruction. The sound coming from his mouth then became the end of all things, as he witnessed it burn into the Earth’s core, felt the Earth heave like a wild, drunken thing trying to buck him off its skin, before splitting into pieces, exploding in a mammoth concussive wave.

After what felt to be an eternity of silence, he opened his eyes, taking in the  vast expanse of space around him. The world, his home, everything and everyone was gone. Atomized, vaporized by the violent heat of his anger. His anger towards her. If anyone had been left alive then he would have explained it to them. Why had he never just told her the truth? There would be no explaining now. He hung there, alone in the vacuum of space, the empty, airless void that had extinguished his furious voice. Closing his eyes again, he floated alone in the icy cold, awaiting eternity.

A noise sprang into the void. He blinked hard, opened his eyes to the light of his own front porch. His wife fumbled noisily with the keys, opened the front door then said to him, “Why the hell didn’t you answer my boss? You just stared at him. What kind of dumb ass thing were you thinking? God, that was embarrassing.”

Her voice faded again into the void. The dark void that owned him, swallowing him and the voice of fear, of anger that would not be heard.

fear

Little Bill and the Hootchie Kootchie Show

The quarter, with it’s dull greasy shine, metal warmed by constant touch, turned over and over in Big Bill’s palm as he slowly flipped it with his thumbs and fingers. The coin always on the move, from hand to hand. Bill was always doing something like that, either with a coin, or a bit of paper, or some small thing that he had picked up in the yard somewhere. That was the thing about Bill, even when he was still, listening to someone, his hands were always on the move. The quarter he held in his hands now was one he’d been saving for his young friend, Little Bill, who was the closest thing he ever had to a son.

Little Bill’s parents, had been taken from him without warning, by a railcar accident while they were on their way into Kansas City, when he was only four years old. His parents had always called him Billy, but that was long ago, and the rough men that formed the circle of friendship around their leader, Big Bill, just called the lanky orphan, Little Bill. They all looked out for Little Bill behind the scenes of his life, having watched  him passed from the careless keeping of an alcoholic Aunt to the rough, but true watch of a stranger turned father; Big Bill.

Jenny was the errant Aunt’s name, and though Big Bill had secretly loved her, he knew she would not be able to raise Billy, let alone give him the steely heart he would need to survive in the hard life ahead. The death of her sister had bored out a deep place in Jenny’s heart, and she had tried to find refuge in the bottle, but found no hiding place there. Big Bill had known the Johnston’s long before the accident, it was how he had come to care for Little Bill’s Aunt, to find joy in the little lanky kid who carried his own name. No, the accident had broken something deep down inside Bill’s Aunt Jenny, and then Bill had come for Little Bill, early one cold, crisp Sunday morning, taken him away to live with him without any real protest from Jenny. A warm breakfast, was the first the kid had eaten in nearly two days. That skinny kid had hugged him hard after that meal of pancakes, and that was that. The quiet bond between the two was forged over breakfast, and had never been challenged since. Big Bill was going to be “Pops” to Little Bill, and would be hearts refuge for the years ahead.

Evening had laid out its long, blue shadows across the yard of Big Bill’s house. The men there, six of them, not counting Little Bill, sat on the wooden front porch, eyeing a coming thunderstorm, mustering itself in deep grey along the horizon. Big Bill’s house was the finest house the men had ever seen. Four rooms, real rooms with real walls and doors, big kitchen to boot. It was the product of no-nonsense hard labor from their friend and mentor, Big Bill. He may as well have been a king, the yard foreman of the largest lumber yard in Kansas City, and carried the name of his highly respected father before him. Saturday night stretched out before them, as they drank warm beer there in the soft light of the two lanterns that hung on the eves of the house.

One of the men, Tony, nodded towards Big Bill, grinned and asked, “So Bill, you think our young man over there is going to have some fun tonight?” The rest of the men snapped a glance at Big Bill, saw the slight grin, then snickered softly together. They were “in the know” that Big Bill had something special planned for his boy at the county fair that night. Little Bill, startled by the sound of the soft laughter, turned his gaze from the hardy juggernaut june bugs twirling through the lantern light to Big Bill’s face framed in the lantern’s glow. “Fun? What kind of fun, Pops?” Little Bill asked, using the affectionate term that only he would dare using.

A slow grin spread across the face of Big Bill. He said with a deep, measured tone, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait to find out, squirt” he said. With that, the men laughed softly again, and went back to drinking their warm beers in the evenings thickening humidity, while the damp shades of the night drew in slowly around them.

An hour later, Murph and Ketch walked alongside Little Bill down the dirt road, as they made their way down the slope of the hill from Big Bill’s place and towards the shimmering lights of the town, and just beyond that; to the dancing lights of the Kansas City fairgrounds. He watched with a small grin on his face as Little Bill and two of his men made their way off down the hill and towards the shimmering lights of town.

Three hours later, Little Bill had spent his quarter, the men and Little Bill made their way in silence back up the hill to Big Bill’s house. The thunderstorm had held its distance, as if respecting something important down below it, something that would change everything in the place where earth met sky. At first, Murph and Ketch had been silly, making “atta boy” comments, but they quickly realized that something had gone astray for Little Bill seemed to be shaken, brooding and quiet. What should have led to an excited young man, left them simply walking respectfully alongside a wounded one. It didn’t make sense. Nothing did. Maybe Big Bill could sort this out, because Little Bill wouldn’t talk about it to them. Little Bill watched the road, putting one foot in front of the other on the dusty road all the way back to the house.

Ordinarily the men would have gone home, to their wives, their beds at that twilight hour but they had waited on the front porch with Big Bill for their return. Waiting for the laughs, the mirth of seeing Little Bill with his fancy now tickled for the girls. They quickly dispersed after Little Bill walked up onto the porch, opened the front door and went straight back into the house to his room without a word spoken to anyone, including Big Bill. After his passing, Big Bill broke the long moments of silence afterwards, “G’night boys. I’ll see you at the yard come Monday morning.” It was marching orders, and all quickly nodded to Big Bill and made their way off into the waiting arms of the night.

The next morning, Big Bill labored to make a nice breakfast for Little Bill. Bill was a good cook, good at just about anything in fact. It was pancakes, just like that first morning when the two of them came to terms over the passing of Little Bills parents, forging the bond that carried them to where they were today. They ate in silence until Big Bill cleared his throat and said, “Been a long time since we had flapjacks, eh son?” “Yes sir’,” replied Little Bill. The sunlight streamed through the windows. The light danced around the big wooden table where they sat, each one trying to figure out what the other wanted to say, to know. “Did you boys, enjoy yourselves at the fair last night?” Big Bill asked. “Yes, sir,” came the reply, but Big Bill didn’t believe it. Having worked with men for a lifetime, he knew their edges, their boundaries, their deep cut characters often better than they knew themselves. A few more moments followed of eating pancakes there in the warmth of the sunlight streaming in through the windows.

Big Bill said, “You know, your Aunt Jenny was a hellavah good cook. She made the best flapjacks I’ve ever eaten.” The metal fork tumbled from Little Bill’s hands, rattling for an instant across his plate and then onto the hardwood planks of the floor. As waters draw back for a long moment before the onrush of the tsunami; the next moment was aching in its intensity for the both of them. Big Bill knew something had veered off course, but he didn’t know what it had been. Was it something Little Bill had seen at the Hootchie Kootchie Show? Maybe he was just not ready for the sight of women in a more “natural state” of being? Big Bill waited. Then Little Bill drew in a ragged breath, not looking up from the table said, “Oh, Pops. It was Aunt Jenny. I saw Aunt Jenny there behind those curtains. It made me feel so awful in my heart. She looked so sad. So alone.” With that, Little Bill quickly excused himself, as he properly did each day, making for the refuge of his room, his chores around the house and yard. Big Bill cradled his large coffee cup, as the sweet flickers of steam rose above the rim, dancing with the unseen thoughts that now spilled from his mind.

Big Bill was a king, heir apparent of the man who would soon hand off the reins of industry, business to his best man, a man of strength, spine enough, wits enough to lead rough men into labor in all seasons. For all that he stood alone, shepherding men, and a boy, while pretending to need no human comfort himself. After a few moments, he carefully set down his coffee cup on the wooden table, pushed back, stood, then with a mighty heart, a heart of great resolve, he strode out the front door into the morning sunlight.

Three weeks later with a lively crowd of families around him, he and Jenny lifted up their glasses as they were toasted into a new life together. Little Bill smiled softly, knowing now that his old quarter seemed awfully well spent.

HCSHOW

Getting Common Sense in Our Sights Again

My thanks to my friend, Jeni Decker, who provided me with insight on this piece. I will hold fast to my hope that we can still be a nation, a culture that can listen, learn and make changes that matter, now and in the future. ~ The Lonesome Jackalope

 

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway

 

Folks, it looks like we are getting ourselves into a really unpleasant pickle of a situation over the issue of openly carrying firearms in public. Last week, I read several news stories about a group making a statement about their gun ownership rights by carrying high powered weapons on their backs. No, not in the woods, nor on shooting ranges, where you would expect to see them, but rather in grocery stores, coffee shops, retail stores and other places where the last thing that anybody wants to see is a heavily armed person walk through the front door. Sights like that could easily prompt a call for “liquid spill” on aisle eleven. Of course, that would not be the nice smelling kind of liquid, let me assure you.

One thing I’m aware of is that to even broach this subject is bound to evoke strong emotions in people. We are a country with constitutional protections for the private ownership of firearms, and I would be one of the first people to posit that our freedom is guaranteed by the simple fact of such firearm ownership. Burroughs once pointed out that he wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people who have guns are the police and military. Those places tend to get a little rough on folk’s personal freedoms, individual liberties, that is unless you have official sounding Government titles, and your own state sponsored “pleasure islands.” On the other hand, part of our country’s freedom is the luxury of not having to be armed. We have a police, judicial system that, with relatively little abuse of its own citizenry, provides for most of us to go about our day without having to be armed and afraid in our day to day business.

Still, regardless of one’s predispositions, this is simply something that cannot be ignored. We need to have a dialogue, and soon, in this country about common sense approaches to appreciating our constitutional liberties, our common cultural connections and respecting each other. Unfortunately for us, we have a lot of cultural hubris, none of it good, to overcome at this point. We need to be honest, admit that we have allowed ourselves to become polarized, brittle and angry in our common cultural dialogue. It has become all too rare to see a meaningful discussion in a public forum that does not explode into shouting, threats and sometimes physical violence over divergent views.

However, we have much at stake. Is it possible that we could just put our heated discussions on “safety” for a moment and strive to find some common ground? Could we please cease from the “Lock and Load,” ready to start shooting for just a moment? What does the next generation, our children, learn from us when we are enemies in the nature of our behavior to each other as fellow Americans?

Look, in case you’re wondering; yes, I have a gun. Several guns, in fact. Let that sink in for a second or two. Hopefully, that doesn’t start any mental ruminations of a psycho killer who stands poised to shoot up a Chicken Shack. I don’t really eat at Chicken Shacks anyway.

Next dramatic interjection:  I believe in the Second Amendment to the Constitution of these United States. And if that causes me to stand in the company of “Wing-Nuts” who would sacrifice all for being heard in their struggle for real or perceived Constitution Freedom, then so be it. I really do believe that our hard won freedoms, once given away, will not be so easily recovered. Once the shrieks of horror from some corners have ceased, allow me to extrapolate into the realm of what we once referred to as Common Sense.

I’ll spare you the long-winded explanation of Common Sense, only to say that there are still more things that unite us, than divide us. We, all of us, still value peace, enjoy friends and family and value hearth and home. Regardless of where you live, your age, sex or whatever; you still treasure some basic human attributes, pleasures and common graces. You are human persons who share this culture, country and planet with each other. Time to get used to that fact. Now, back to “packing heat” openly in public.

One problem, and this is the big one, that I have with anyone bringing weapons into public places, where the only challenge to them is on an ideological front, is that it is not only ultimately counter-productive to winning anyone over, but parents, caregivers of vulnerable people will immediately be leery, if not downright afraid of the protestor carrying weapons openly. If there is any truth to the old adage that there is a time and a place for all things, then bringing an assault rifle into a restaurant would be the wrong time, the wrong place for such a thing. Even if the wine is a disastrously bad pairing.

Somewhere in the mix, we’ve lost sight of treating each other with courtesy, respect, and understanding within the context of employing, enjoying the gift of common sense. Its time we get it back, behave in a winsome way, not to intimidate, frighten, and further divide us from each other. Guys, gals, please don’t take your guns to town. Let’s all savor the freedom of not needing them over the desperation to prove that we can show them to the world. Hang ‘em by the door and let me buy you a drink. You look like you could use one.

 Guns and ammo

 

Dear Politically Correct Advertising Swine

I have a bone to pick with the Politically Correct folks for a moment. So, I was in Walgreens Pharmacy today and passed by the Coppertone© sunscreen on one of the endcaps. There was the cute kid getting her swimsuit bottoms tugged on by the cute dog. Just like when I was a kid. Then I looked again and noticed the change they had made: the new ad has her butt completely covered up.

So, let me ask you Politically Correct Swine a question or two: First, did it ever occur to you that what actually made the original ad cute AND very effective, was that it showed her Coppertone© tan line in contrast to her cute little white bum? You see, when you cover up her cute little butt, showing no contrast between the Coppertone© tan and her untanned derriere, then you’ve torpedoed the entire point of the ad. All you morons have left is a cartoon of a dog biting the hemline of a little girls swimsuit bottoms. Oh, that’s going to message Coppertone© heartily, isn’t it?

Next question, twits; just why did you feel the need to cover up her cute cartoon butt in the first place? Did you feel that displaying her little hiney would drive some degraded son-of-a-bitch over into lascivious, lust-land? Were you protecting us from the prurient beast that lurks within all of us, or more likely, were you just being the frightened, scary, in-bred morons that the politically correct culture has morphed you into?

Well, I’ll let you Scientists of Fearful Imaginings get back to work now. Maybe you can make yourselves really useful and give Daffy Duck some britches. Hurry!

~ tlj

Coppertonegirl1OS

The Social Court Jester

I’ve got a bone to pick with Facebook. There are certainly other places, social media sites galore, but it seems to be a good place to start. The bone is this: the level of assumptions people make about the lives of others is so burdensome, that people often feel that have to explain themselves into the ground, or face being chastised for posting something goofy on these virtual temples of public opinion. On one hand, I can understand; I mean, life is hard and there’s nothing funny about someone’s loved one dying of some horrid disease, or even someone getting run over by a small farm tractor as they were suntanning. It doesn’t matter, that’s just not funny. Unless of course, the tractor was being driven by a burly Eastern Orthodox Cardinal, one with long flowing robes and a magnificent white beard. That, that might be worthy of at least a chuckle.

Another challenge to the artist of stupidity (or genius depending on your perspective) is that while we’re on social media sites, we are in a vacuum of body language, implicature – in other words; you can’t see me grinning like a Cheshire Cat while I’m writing something, that while I think is pretty funny, you take as an blood insult to your ancestors, before moaning loudly, smashing your computer keyboard in blind, furious hatred.

Do any of you have an answer for this? I’m trying, but all I can come up with is some kind of labeling system; you know, like a caste system for Facebook or wherever, where persons-of-my-kind are “Jesters” or “Fools” or something like that. I’ll even go with clinically insane if it helps people relax. Does it come with any decent medications? Others, those who shall not be trifled with “silly people,” like me, can be, I don’t know; Tame, Normal (ha!) or even The Easily Spooked? How about the Perpetually Steady?

Look, at the end of the day, I’m merely a half-crazed* writer, who tries mightily to laugh his way out of the “less than ideal” circumstances of his own life, who should not be taken seriously or as a threat to the quite lovely Facebook “hair do” that you’ve spent a lot of time to meticulously coiffe.**

With that, I’ll let you get back to the serious business of your various ailments, new cat sweater vests, anguish over your romantic lives, your inability to find a decently priced carburetor manifold intake valve replacement for a 1974 Buick sedan, or maintain an erection without resorting to illegal activities. Keep it real, folks!

 ~ T. L. Loper and his whiskey thieving loyal Sidekick, Saucy the Jackalope

 

*  I actually struggle with the half-crazed status because it seems like one of those   things in life that you really should do all the way or just back out of. And just who does any quality diagnostic work these days on “mostly crazy,” anyway? Sigh, madness is so much darn work!

** Listen up spell check, “coiffe” most certainly is a word. Are you completely daft? NO, no not draft. Oh hell, just forget it.

"You're putting me on."

“You’re putting me on.” (Marty Feldman, Igor, “Young Frankenstein, 1974)

Throat of the Beast

Awake. Did I really sleep at all?

The filtered air of the room is cool around me, as I turn over in my comfortable bed, nestled in a comfortable room in my large comfortable home, in the heart of a comfortable neighborhood. Yet, I don’t know comfort now. I don’t even know when I will know it again. My wife of fifteen years stirs slightly on her side of the bed, restless in her own thoughts. The refuge of sleep has fled me, and I stare into the darkness, alone for a moment, then knowing the dark, meaty weight of the thing that clings to me.  Nameless, but not unknown to me, I have felt his presence before.

This beast, this ugly thing that dares slip so close, winding upon me with it’s dark burdens, is the sum of my anger at a world that would see the helpless, innocent and happy; used, crushed, abandoned in doubt and fear. In it’s coils I feel the helplessness of a father, friend, protector who cannot protect the vulnerable against predators who hide in the shadows of the worlds well lit places. In it’s deathly embrace, I feel the deep pain of knowing that my child, already confused by a world that his Autistic mind struggles to understand, must now bear another burden, placed there by a human predator who scarred him in a place dedicated to caring for, protecting him. His shame, his embarrassment, I would carry gladly for him if I only could, sparing him of the bewilderment of the world’s reckless disregard of the majesty of the pilgrimage of it’s own human persons. I cannot, though I would willingly take all of his pain, my own pain and bear it in tight, tighter even than the strangling coils of the beast that would have me broken today.

I rise quietly from my bed, making my way from the dark room. The beast stalks me, following me noiselessly to my study. Here, surrounded by my books, my whiskies, my creature comforts, I turn to the beast. Looking into those cold, yellow, hateful eyes, I stare back with a withering gaze. The beast’s heart is cold, yet mine will be colder. My fingers move across the keyboard, words tumble across the screen. With each word, my hands move closer to the throat of the beast. One day, I will see fear in his eyes. One day, I will finish him forever.

~ tlj

ThroatoftheBeast

Rescuing Cylons

Sometimes, you just need to do the right thing in the world, even if the only one who seems to really care is a goofy, muddy puppy.

The beautiful golden labrador puppy was wandering through the muddy construction sites, homes under construction in our neighborhood this morning. I had noticed him earlier, as I drove the kids to their nearby school. Of course, the restless eagle eyes of my daughter had picked up the sight of him as well. At 200 yards away, she still can tell if a dog or cat has a collar and tags. And if they’re current on their vaccinations. Honestly, as we’re still living through the trauma of having rescued many animals before – two of which we still can’t seem to shake free of – I was feeling somewhat less-than-enthusiastic about reeling another one in. But this one had tags and I was hoping that somebody would handle the situation before I returned from dropping the kids off to school. Nobody did. Damn.

With nearly thirty homes under construction in our neighborhood, the streets are often clogged with every piece of construction equipment and workers that could fit into our pretty streets. As I turned the corner in my car, I saw the mud soaked, honey colored puppy dodging in between construction workers, pieces of lumber, and unfortunately, a large concrete truck that was backing up, oblivious to the little dog’s presence. Damn it, again. So, I threw my SUV in park, trotted quickly over to the pup in the middle of the street. A quick once over told me that he was healthy but really not handling being lost very well. He instantly glued himself to my leg, trying to duck down into some safe place he imagined down there at my feet. He was quite a mess, but I managed to clear the muck off of his tag and made out that his name was “Cylon”. His street address was completed with EARTH. I smiled in appreciation, as I held the squirmy pup by his collar, and dialed the number I found at the bottom of the blue metal tag.

There was no answer of course, so I left a quick voicemail message along with my phone number. I then decided to try and locate my little friends home, as I was not really pleased with the thought of keeping him at my house, in the midst of the zoo in that particular place. I carried him to my car, soon becoming myself a part of the mud artwork that he had so meticulously painted. Soon my car’s leather seats where also a part of the canvas of muck. So, so very pretty. Yes, thanks.

A couple of minutes later, I pulled up in the driveway of Cylon’s house. It was very near to my own home, and I remembered it as the house that held the Christian Summer Camp shindings for kids in their front yard the summer before. I held Cylon in my arms as he licked my face, and rang the doorbell. My blue jeans, blue hoodie were caked with mud and I probably looked quite a sight to behold. At least I hadn’t tried to pull off the small mammal rescue in my business clothes. No response to the doorbell. Crap, I really didn’t like where this rescue was going, so I applied some “assertive knocking” to the front door. Finally it opened to a 40 something man in a business suit, with his wife standing down the hallway about 20 feet away from him. The man’s face wrinkled slightly in irritation, and he said simply, “Oh, it’s the dog.” Then he reached out, took him from me and without another word, shut the door in my face.

Huh. Mmmmkay. That’s our winsome neighborhood way! I stared at the door for a quick moment before turning to make my way back to my car in their driveway. Through the door came the exasperated sound of the Mrs. voice, ‘Tell me you did not just shut the door in that man’s face?!” I didn’t wait for his pathetic manly reply, I just walked to my wheels. As I opened my car door, the man popped out and walked in front of my car, on his way to shut the side fence gate – the bold escape route of Cylon the Pup from Earth. Without really looking at me, he blurted out, “Oh, I didn’t mean to shut the door in your face,” then continued on and disappeared around the corner of the house.

As I drove away, I thought to myself, “Yes, you sure as hell did mean to do that.” Had he thought me to be one of the many construction workers traipsing through the neighborhood? A reward seeker after Earthly riches of some kind? Although, a nice bourbon would have been a dandy reward, now that I think about it. Maybe it was just the effect of the general gravity well of fear, the one that my neighborhood seems to be operating under. Doors locked, nobody answers anything, especially with all the Mexican Construction Workers about these days. Short, swarthy brown men. Terrifying, yes I know. We certainly don’t like strange folks, ones who speak baffling foreign languages wandering about. No sir, not here in the Shire! Well, no matter, I suppose. A warm pink tongue on my nose was to be reward enough for me today.

So Cylon, if you’re being a good dog, and you’re reading The Lonesome Jackalope, like you should, then do try and behave yourself. No more reckless escapes! Be a good little Cylon and see what you can do about those humans you live with. It does seem like they need a little instruction in kindness to all creatures, those great and small.

~ Your friend, Imperious Leader Jackalope Herder down Texas way

CylonBS

2013: Another Special Year Gone By and Now Off Into the Smoking Pit of History

Regardless of the dire sound of the title, I don’t have anything especially hateful, nor even overly cheerful to say about the year gone by. All in all, it was a pretty pathetic show of a year for myself, and our culture. In fact, where it not for the curse of being a writer, I’d probably be content to let this one just slide off into the Smoking Pit of History, uncommented on. Still, as you may have suspected; writers have to write, and that is both blessing and entanglement for us. Best to pack up the houses, roll up the streets on 2013 and move on down the line with a bit of ink hitting the paper first.

My apologies first, to you my readers, who have had to endure so much delay between writings from yours truly. It can be truly said that I have the heart, the will, but my fingers often remain tied and unable to meet their match on the keyboard. Life, it seems, would have it’s way with me, regardless of how much I wish to be walking the path of writing. Please understand that I’m quite fond of many of you, even counting you my heart’s companions, but be that as it may, I must live with the choices that by my own free will, have bound myself to. As many of you know, there have been few hours in the years that have come before, that I have not willed myself to walk out the door and start a new life somewhere other than here. And I would, but for the potential that my staying, my efforts would spare these Autistic people, my family, these Jackalopes, an unpleasant collision with the rest of the world.

Has it gotten any better? In some ways, yes. After a month long stint at a Neuro-Rehab Hospital, my oldest seems to have become much more centered. The spouse, though still Vulcan at heart and unknown to me, is much diminished in her general anger towards life. The two youngest seem to have taken much in stride and are doing well in their school settings. Am I doing better this year than years previous? Maybe, but as my Mother recently noted, “The longer you are with us the more I see the old bits of your sense of humor return.” Being in the House of the Jackalopes has invariably robbed me of much of my humor, my wit in ready response. After all, what’s the point when surrounded nearly every hour of the day by people who are alien to your insights, humor and witticisms?  

Certainly, I do not know what the year ahead holds for me, or any of us. However, I cannot leave this year without the hope for something better. Something unseen, undeserved that will come to lift me, or any of us that needs it, from the place of quiet despair. It should be interesting, fun even. Let’s forge on and in that place ahead, find a little fun, a place of joy if we may.

Your Jackalope Herder. Signing off from the Year of Our Lord, 2013.

TLJ

June_Cleaver_as_Dirty_Harry

Maybe Retail is Just Not for You OR Maybe You’re Just What Retail Needed

Really, there could not have been anyone better than me to be at the epicenter of a young store clerk’s hapless travails this morning. You see, as a writer, my signature move is an eerie patience that is borne out of always looking for fresh material. Trust me, I find the goods for new stories all the time, at some of life’s oddest moments. The trick is to trot out whatever self-control you have, and then turn on the recorder in your brain as quickly as humanly possible.

My trip to the local sporting goods store this morning was to be one such gem of a moment. I had several items to purchase, and was pleased to see that there was no one waiting in the center check out aisle, so I should have had a quick run through the check-out and then out the door. In hindsight, perhaps the reason no one was in that check out aisle was because it was cursed. As I placed my items on the conveyor belt for their long, arduous three-foot journey to the young clerk, I quickly noted his face, and although I wouldn’t place it until later, found myself looking into the face of a dead ringer for a very young Jerry Lewis. That doppelganger look should have been my first clue that this was going to be a hilarious, nerve racking encounter with retail gone wrong.

True, he was polite, if not distractingly nervous in his initial greeting. It was a first for me; having a clerk greet me with a handshake. He looked to be around 13, with a healthy head of dark, curly hair and wild, panicked eyes. He quickly began to scan my items, or rather he began to attempt to scan my items. He managed to get one, then dropped another item as he flipped it over and over like a whirling dervish, hunting for the bar code. The third item was unique; his face clouded over like he remembered some new employee theft prevention video, and he began to disassemble it piece by piece looking for something I might have stashed away, like some crafty drug mule advisor. He found nothing but then began to question me on what I would be using the case for. I mumbled something about Jimmy Hoffa and then he moved on to the next item.

It was at this moment that I realized a story was brewing and I’d better put on my writer’s hat, pronto. I’ll also mention that I noticed sales floor management began closing in on his location, while trying to look like they were just sort of accidentally drifting in his general direction. I could tell the difference. It was like a few barracudas had just noticed a fresh pork chop in the water, and began to dart around in closing circles.

Once he had reassembled my purchase, and the third set of shoppers had peeled off from behind me, muttering, sputtering their irritation, that he asked me if I planned on wearing my coat “out of the store.” Ah, he had noted that it looked like something back in the Men’s clothing section. Nice catch, Robin. Shrugging my shoulders in my 3-year old coat, I leaned forward and told him that I thought I might. He frowned, a contorted look on his face and waved the scanner gun at me like some junior apprentice witch doctor’s talisman. Did you remove the store tags, sir? I grinned but not wanting to cause him any more mental anguish, I revealed that it was just an old coat, nothing to cause him trouble. It was at that moment that he sputtered out that this was his second day on the job. This was getting better every minute. My mind was dancing over the raw possibilities being presented.

Next came the nearly 15 minutes of scanning, re-scanning, canceling the whole transaction of five items three times, and nearly singlehandedly sending the U.S. economic infrastructure into a full blown cardiac arrest. It was simply majestic. This was quickly becoming a comic masterpiece worthy of a young Jerry Lewis. By now, two managers were at his elbows trying to course correct this psychotic young jet ski operator who was gunning his craft towards the reefs of retail. Anything could happen, and I was eating my mental popcorn.

The young clerk managed to scan my last item for the third or fourth time, and then proceeded to insist that one of the two identical items was actually different and should be charged differently. Damn, the bar code, the computer, the label, the physics, the mortified look of his manager. Damn the customer, damn the technology, damn the obvious, damn all of it to hell! I really liked this kid.

Another few moments had passed while a young woman, one of his managers, had muscled in, taking the rudder of the cash register from him. The items were scanned, paid for but awaited the coup-de-grace from my young nutty professor store clerk. I didn’t have to wait long. He mumbled something about it being his second day on the job and then grabbed a large item, a heavy item snatched out of my hands to put it in the cart for me.

Savor this: he swings it like a drunken samurai and clocks his manager with it. Whack!

How she stayed on her feet is a mystery to me. Her look was priceless, as the red welt immediately began dancing with it’s angry red trace across her forehead. It must have been the forth or fifth time he mentioned that it was his second day on the job as his manager smiles at me brokenly, probably wishing she could shove him off into a black hole.

I don’t know if he’s still employed but wherever he is, I thank him for his crazy, puppy-like eagerness, his bizarre buffonery and his damn-it-all to hell attitude. Retail has never seen a finer moment and I think he needs a promotion immediately. ~ tlj

The Clerk

Dear Fellow Writers: Please Stop Acting Like Damn Crack Whores

Vanities are not surprising things. In fact, we all have our little personal idols. However, if  you are a writer, then you ought only be vain about your looks, your possessions and such. Vanity over your writer-ship is unforgivable, for in such popularity pursuits lies the quiet poison that will rob you of the heart life of your craft“.   ~ The Lonesome Jackalope

 

Maybe it was one more tempting message to raise my Klout score of popularity, get more followers schemes, or the endless barrage of the targeted appeals for me to get busy and raise the number of visits to my blog-site. Whatever it was, I’ve about had enough of all of it. The worst part of it? Some of you, my fellow writers, have bought into the bullshit line,  and are happily pissing away your talent chasing the crack drug of popularity.

Look, there is nothing wrong with being liked, or being likable. Hell, maybe I could be likable too if I wasn’t so whiskey soaked, and quite mad. No, the issue is not that, nor any of the other petty vanities we dabble in. The kick in the head is this: we’re so caught up in being badass popular that we too easily forget why we came to the party in the first place. Look, maybe you’re a real writer, and maybe you’re not. I’m not here to call you out in the street, although it’s possible that some of you need to get turned into a notch on a critics gun*. Once upon a time, in Western culture, we had a vetting process for writers. Getting your work out to the masses was a horrid grind. And that was important because it honed the edge of those who were supposed to be writers, and showed the pretenders the door. Maybe it was “mean” at times, but hell if it didn’t work. Today, thanks to social media, self-publishing, we have a huge glut of awful writing floating around, hubris in the sea of literature. If that wasn’t bad enough, social media has writers, both good and wretched, drunk with the idea that they are one step away from Olympus.

Look, if you have fallen into the trap of thinking yourself “all that,” just because you write, then aside from the fact that I find it an odious trait, you also need to understand something very important: your vain pursuit of accolades for your writing prowess is poisoning the very craft that you profess to love, nurture. Indeed, there is a very good reason why all the Titans of Literature from our past, though some of them may have lived quite colorful lives, refused to talk about their writing. Their Pulitzer Prizes for Literature would have never been promoted on Facebook, been all the buzz of Twitter, Instagram, none of it. In fact, if pressed about their Writer’s Popularity Concerns, they would most likely have expressed the same sentiment that I have. Here, let me sum it up for you: Bite Me.

I’ll close by giving you an analogy, because hell, that’s just what I do. Suppose you have a beautiful lover, best friend, confidante, all that. Instead of focusing on her or him, you push them at people anytime you go out on the town. Eventually, they will turn on you, leave you standing there alone and then it will hit you that you are a fool. It will occur to you that it was never about your lover, it was all about you.

Writers, will you please stop the foolish chase for popularity and begin in earnest the long hard, often lonely walk to being a real writer? At the end of the road you will not regret the journey, I promise.

 

*  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: if you don’t have any real critics of your writing, then get some and now. Without them, you will not be the best that you can be. My Editor is sometimes as sweet to me as Darth Vader was to Obi Wan.  I’d best watch my butt, write like I really mean it, or she’ll chop me up quick. Hell, sometimes even with a really good piece, I still get chopped up. Look, if all you have around you are people who never question your work, then back up quick, amigo because you’re in a damn minefield of illusions.

Writtenword

Echoes

My lanky nineteen year-old father sat stiffly in a drab, cold grey painted waiting room in a West Texas hospital in 1963, and watched as the little blue light bulb was lit up outside the room where I was just born a few minutes earlier. Blue for boys, pink for girls. He must have smiled. A boy. A future all-star football player, He could be the President, even.

Years ago.

I felt the firm, warm grasp of my Grandmother Catherine’s hand as she pulled me along with her, towards the massive steam train, belching it’s oily fumes there on the cold iron tracks outside Chicago. We were off to see the sights of the city. The world seemed so big to me as a little boy. Still does.

Years ago.

I rolled freely, laughing, squealing, in the back of the camper like a loose sleeping bag. My Dad was on his final, and fortunately successful attempt to get the old truck out of the flooding spot by the lake, escaping the rising waters fueled by the torrential downpour. I giggled, tossed about, unaware of my parents fear in the front seat of the truck as it strained through the cold, dark mud.

Years ago.

Standing in the salty, swirling ankle deep waters there on the Gulf Shore sands of Texas at Galveston, I held my little sister’s small, warm hand. Not knowing then that years later I would long to hold her hand again but could not find it in some of the darkest hours of my life.

Years ago.

I had lost count of how many times we had moved. None of that mattered then, as I watched my best friend, David ride his bike as fast as he could, falling further and further behind our car on a lonely road in West Texas. The image of him, finally disappearing into the blur of the heat waves far behind us.  I would not see him again.

Years ago. 

My Dad bought me a bright green Huffy bike. He lowered the mid-bar so that what had been a girl’s bike would be a boy’s bike. I rode though my neighborhood in Corpus Christi just weeks before Hurricane Cecilia leveled my school to a pile of wet, slimy bricks.

Years ago.

It was just a High School crush. She was destined to be a High School Football coaches wife. She would have his babies as I drifted though life. Still, that afternoon, I would experience her very best to get my attention, my touch. Her name was Margaret and I would dance with her to Bee Gees songs alone in a Gulf Coast hotel room, clueless as to what girls wanted, needed. A beauty, and the daughter of delight. A future somebody else’s girl.

Years ago.

Mayhew was the king of the school bus bullies league. There were others, maybe tougher in my High School, but there on bus number fourteen, he ruled as king of the cage. That afternoon, he came charging at me, hulking, mean down the center of the aisle. He was not my first bully to tangle with. Blocking his punches, walking backwards while throwing a fury of my own, his face turned from a mask of cruel confidence to a bloody mess by the time we reached the front of the bus. I accepted his surrender at my school locker the next day. He looked like hell, and I graciously accepted his defeat. That incident bought me at least six months of freedom from bullies and another trip to the Principal’s office.

Years ago.

Her name was Cherie, a French Cajun beauty with long legs and deep green eyes that would send swimmers in them drowning. A moonlight stroll with her along the banks of the Colorado River, one warm summer night would lead to my Grandparent’s boat house and a thrilling cast off into the waters of adulthood, away from the shores of the last of my innocence.

Years ago.

I waited, outside the community play for the wrong woman, someone I would marry in Texas a year later. Mistaking my friends pleading to just “settle down,” with an advisement to find a steady, permanent relationship, I foolishly married her. She began her campaign of hatred, of childish attacks on my friends and family almost immediately. 

Years ago.

Divorced, I struggled to “find myself,” in a flurry of escapes, beaches, foreign lands and  women, as I reached out for something I never found. Maybe never will. Two years later, I gave up searching and married again. A return to the land of the weak.

Years ago.

He’s just colicky.”  That was the advice from my Mother over why my first-born son cried constantly. Light, noises, even a dog barking seemed to send him over the edge. What I didn’t know then, was that his condition was called Sensory Processing Integration Disorder (SPID), a road stop on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) highway. One day, I would understand that he, his Mother and his siblings were all challenged with this burdensome thing called Autism. If knowledge is power, then it is also poison. I would bear the burden of their being strangers in a strange land for many years to come.

Years ago.

His heart was failing and he would be gone in another year. My old friend, Bob – “Uncle Bob” to the kids was eighty years-old. We smoked on my back deck in Georgia, he with his Marlboros and I with my cigars. My daughter chased fireflies in the deep green grass of the yard below us, as we slipped into the evening, our conversation chasing the stars.

Years ago.

Alone, except for a burly Babushka sitting in the corner of the room, I stood in front of Rembrant Harmenszoon van Rijn’s, Return of the Prodigal Son. The cold winds of the Russian winter moaned outside the tall windows of the Hermitage. Inside, standing alone, I longed to be touched by the hands of a Father welcoming me home too.

Years ago.

The hot metal cooled, giving off tiny pinging noises on the four-wheeled ATV. I sat in the shade of a live oak tree at our ranch in the Texas Hill Country, sipping a cold beer only feet away from our Llama. Alone in my thoughts that hot Texas afternoon, as was my friend Obama the Llama next to me.

Last year.

Daddy, I hope that your Birthday is very special to you.” I smiled knowing that she would spend hours creating a hand made card for me, carefully selecting little gifts that she could afford with her allowance, and would be the first one to tell me “Happy Birthday.” She flashed me a beautiful smile as she stepped onto the sidewalk of her school, waved and then was gone into the doors of the building. God’s grace poured out for me in that sweet smile.

Yesterday.

The echoes have drawn too close to hear now.

The road before me beckons.

Onward into the years ahead, into the echoes awaiting me there.

Will I hear grace, understanding?

I will listen for it.

Ripples

Tasting for Two

Angie thew a lively grin and a hug to Jan, who met her at the door of Jan’s house. It was a Friday night, the work week was behind them and Jan had told her she had a surprise for Angie when she arrived at the house. Jan had arranged a dinner date with a great guy that she and Kevin had met through one of Kevin’s clients at the firm. His name was Daniel and he had been vetted by Jan, and marked for meeting their single friend, Angie.

Daniel was the ultimate in easy-going, funny and gorgeous eye-candy that Jan had warmed to instantly. In fact, if she hadn’t been quite happy with Kevin, there was no doubt in her mind that she would have made quick work of wrapping herself around Daniel. Now here he was, in their kitchen and looking forward to meeting Angie, under the somewhat envious eye of Jan.

With a soft giggle, Jan gently pushed her friend, Angie into the doorway of the kitchen. Daniel turned away from the saucepan full of mushrooms, slowly cooking in butter and wine, flashing a smile of pleasure at the sight of Angie. Her long dark hair and flashing, happy eyes struck him immediately, followed by the shape of her body. Short skirt, flavored with just enough curves for his tastes. Angie took in the sight of Daniel and felt an instantaneous charge, a pleasant buzz of energy traveling down from her chest and filling her abdomen with a flush of warm pleasure. The sight of his beautiful grin, that handsome face and the beard that framed his jaw and chin were enough to give her a wonderful, unexpected tailspin. Not the bad kind – confused, uncertain – but the kind where you are suddenly thrilled and hopeful that the thrill of the moment would simply keep unfolding like an endlessly blooming flower.

Daniel’s timing could not have been any better as he reached out both strong hands and took hers from where they hung limp at her sides. He felt the warm, softness of her hands and squeezed them softly in his own, then pressed her left hand to his lips with a smile and a quick, warm kiss. If he gave any notice to Jan’s whisper, “Oh my God,” he never gave any indication of it. Angie, who had held onto the defensive posture of being completely skeptical until being completely sold on Daniel, found herself melting like a stick of butter in an iron saucepan, over a nice heat. Daniel flashed another quick grin and said, ‘Come on, let’s do some cooking.” Angie met his grin and stepped forward in front of the stove, as Jan turned to pick up a wine glass next to the open bottle of Pinot Grigio on the counter next to the oversized stainless steel refrigerator. With wine in hand, Jan walked over to the stereo and cued up Sade, “Your Love is King.” Behind her, Angie found herself shoulder to shoulder with Daniel, as he grinned boyishly and explained what he was doing with the mushrooms, the sauces that would go with the meal ahead.

Turning back towards her friend, Angie and her new interest, she watched with appreciation, fascination as the two seemed to be cooking up something between them that far outreached any of the delicious food that was being prepared. Jan considered leaving the two of them to cook the dinner on their own, trying to come up with some excuse that would legitimately remove her from the scene, when fate intervened in the ringing of her cell phone. It was Kevin and he spilled out apologies that he was running late but his BMW was giving off some rattling noises and he had pulled into an automotive shop, with the thought of not wanting it to get worse. The shop foreman quickly ascertained the problem and asked Kevin to leave it with him overnight. Now, he asked Jan to come and pick him up. Perfect, she thought and Jan quickly explained the situation to Angie and Daniel. “No, no, you two stay and keep working your magic in the kitchen. I’ll run downtown and get Kevin. I’m betting that in an hour, you two will have a great dinner ready for us.” They agreed and Jan fired off a quick call to Kevin as she walked out the door, “I’m on my way, baby.”

Her left hand held a glass of wine over the front panel of the stove, as Daniel, at her elbow reached out and gripped the edge of her wine glass with the end of his finger and whispered softly, “More,” as he caused her to pour out some of her wine into the sauce pan on the front burner of the gas stove. With a satisfying soft hiss of sizzle, the wine met the thickening sauce beneath her glass and then yielded new flavor as Daniel slowly stirred it in. “Hey, you owe me more wine,” Angie said with a false pout. Daniel broke a small grin in the corner of his mouth, his full lips pursed into a playful look of irritation with her. “Hush,” he said with his chin hovering just over her right shoulder. His face nearly brushing her dark hair that swept down and rested over her shoulder, framing the light skin of her cheek and jaw. With one hand still stirring the sauce, he reached out the other and drew his own glass into the space between her fingers as they rested on the counter-top next to the stove. The soapy clean, yet masculine smell of his skin, the warmth of his body so close to her own was sending cascading waves of energy through her; welling up in her chest and pulsing in delicious waves down into her pelvis. The feeling of being so near to him was overwhelming, not threatening in the least. She wanted more of it. Ached for it in fact.

Daniel found himself intoxicated by the way she moved with him there in the kitchen. He had cooked with other women before but not like this. They moved almost in tandem, laughing, teasing and playful. A moment that sent both of them floating on thoughts of pleasure came when he held a wooden spoon up to her soft lips, the end of the spoon with a rich cream sauce cradled in it. Daniel guiding it to her lips, Angie with her hands guiding his, taking the end of the spoon into her mouth then with a visual thrill that met Daniel’s own ache; flicking her tongue along the edges of the spoon as he held it for her there. Her own eyes tangling with Daniel’s soft hazel eyes, both sending each other little notes in the classroom of that place, wanting more but enjoying the slow cooking, the quiet dance of the moment all the same.

Daniel walked back into the kitchen with the glazed ribeye steaks on a platter in one hand, his wine glass in the other. Angie straightened up from taking the fresh bread out of the oven, just in time to take in the sight of Daniel, smiling as he set the meat on the counter. She set the bread down on the cooling rack beside the oven and half turned to him just in time for him to pull her by her waist up against him. “Have you been a good girl in the kitchen while I was wrestling these steaks for us?” Angie grinned and then with a half-breath whispered, “No, pretty bad in fact.”

Both of them laughed, until the laughter tumbled down into the avalanche of a kiss that grew more intense with each passing second. The warm moistness of lips, their hands playing across backs, bottoms and shoulders bore witness to something that words could no longer add spice to. The small of Angies back was up against the edge of the kitchen sink as she whispered heavily into Daniels ear, “I want you to taste me.” Resting her head on his shoulder, he felt his strong hands slide down to the waist band of her skirt and in one swift motion, pulled her skirt down to her mid thighs. Angie gasped in surprise and pleasure as her skirt and panties slid down off the curve of her hips, as Daniel kissed softly on the skin covering her collar bone. She arched her hips towards him as first his fingers, then his mouth and tongue encountered the slippery wetness that trickled down out of her, from between her soft thighs.

Kevin was surprised, then gave into a chuckle as Jan met him head on coming back out of the door hallway to their house. “We’re going out for dinner, honey,” she told him firmly, taking his hand in hers. “Angie and Daniel are having dinner without us, tonight,” she said with a wild grin on her face. As they pulled out of the driveway, Jan smiled at the thought of her friends enjoying the fruits of their cooking and the passionate dessert that went on and on.