Sparky, Living and Dying 1


Sparky (Photo credit: alexanderino)

When I get her from the pound she is just hours away from a scheduled euthanasia.  As I leave with her in my arms a cold, soaking rain turns the world achromatic in shades of gray and white and black, a portrait of the face of winter.  The leaves are long gone and the frightened trees have retired into somnolence.  It’s Friday before the Halloween weekend and the day before a Witches’ Sabbath.

I put the cat in the passenger’s seat and drive slowly down the gravel to the road.  The cat climbs over the seat and putties her nose against the rear window and stares back at the gulag-er, I mean the pound.  She unleashes a torrent of cat talk whether cursing or forgiving I know not.

Dana had seen this cat’s picture in the paper.  The pound actually did try to find a home for this one.  Fortunately it succeeded.  The cat’s previous owner had dumped Sparky at the pound because she was “too friendly.”  Yes, that’s why.  Today I went to the pound, filled out a ton of paperwork, and Sparky was ours.

Dana has already named the cat Sparky.  Dana is at work when I get home.  I put out food and water and a catbox.  Sparky starts eating immediately, which is a great relief.  When her former owner dropped her off at the pound she went on a hunger strike and would not eat or drink.  That’s dangerous.  After a cat doesn’t eat for 48 hours it becomes a medical emergency.  You can starve a dog or a human, but not a cat.  It will eventually develop Feline Hepatic Lipidosis and die horribly.

But this cat is eating a lot.  I thought she would, since she didn’t seem sick.  I’m sure it was an emotional reaction to being in the pound and now that she is “at home,” whatever that means to a cat, she’s eating and drinking again.

When you start collecting strays you are doomed, but we already have several, so what’s one more?

I note that this cat has the greenest eyes that seem to have an Asian tilt.  And she is very vocal.  Some cats are really quiet, but this one will not shut up.  She’s very friendly and loves to climb across my shoulder and flop over on her back to have her belly rubbed.  And she follows me from room to room like a puppy.

By now it’s four thirty and Dana is just coming thru the sliding glass door as I sit watching ESPN with Sparky in my lap.  We live three hours away and go home to the farm on weekends and we decide that since Sparky is eating again that she’ll be okay if we leave her here with food and come back on Sunday.

It’s a very stupid mistake.

It’s rains all weekend and I curse a lot at the drivers on the three hour drive back to Newcastle.  When we get to the apartment we see that Sparky hasn’t eaten since we left two days ago.  I’d assumed the reason she stopped eating was because she was at the pound.  It wasn’t.  It was being abandoned that made her stop eating.

This one isn’t in trouble yet, and now that we’re at home again I assume she’ll start eating but I don’t want to wait.  I pick Sparky up and put her on my lap.  Dana asks me what to do.

Go to the deli and get a little of everything, I say.  Thin sliced chicken, ham, roast beef, whatever.  She’ll eat it.

While she’s gone I turn on the NFL and Sparky stares at me with those bright green eyes but doesn’t want to eat.  I open a can of cat food and she turns her nose up at it.  Either she is sulking or afraid of being abandoned again or both.

When Dana gets back I put a little of everything on a platter and give it to the cat.  That does it.  She eats like a hog at a trough.  She eats so much her belly is swollen for a couple of days.  Funny thing is, she never touches the ham.  In fact she will never eat pork for the rest of her life.  She’d get up on the table and stick her nose right in my plate but when I tried to give her a slice of pepperoni she wouldn’t touch it.  Cats are funny, like people.

I begin to see what was meant by her being too friendly.  She’s clingy and demanding but I don’t mind.  I go out in the morning and run a few miles and she’s right at the sliding glass door when I get home, bitching for attention.  After I do the housework there’s little else to be done so I watch TV and she sits in my lap.  Sparky needs a companion.

Dana calls me from a pet store and says they have this sweet, wretched little kitten and is it okay if she brings it home?

Go ahead, Dana, I say.  Why not?

Watch out for his tail, I hear her yell at somebody.

There’s a feline shriek.

They just shut the cage door on his tail, Dana says.

Can you bring him home now?

They want $5 and I don’t have it.

You don’t have any cash?

I just spent it on cat food.  I saw the kitten when I was leaving.

Dana, go to an ATM and get some money and bring the cat home before those fools kill it.

That was the best $5 I ever spent.  Since Sparky is an adult cat, a little kitten isnt much of a threat.  Sparky goes bowbacked around the kitten and hisses and spits and bats at him and then goes off to sulk.  The kitten stood there passively thru all Sparky’s posturing and now looks up at me and jumps in my lap.  He purrs, nuzzles me, nips me on the chin, and goes to sleep.

What RU going to name this one, Dana says.

I think a moment.  The kitten is thin and scrawny.

His name is Nathaniel, I say.

Why Nathaniel?

Because before we got Sparky we had fifteen cats at home.  Sparky was the sixteenth, Nathaniel the seventeenth.  Seventeen, Seven, House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne, therefore Nathaniel.

Nathaniel is a mouthful to say, Erik.

Then we’ll call him Nat, I say.  In that is a certain elegance.

Nat the Cat?  She says.

Nat the cat, I say.

So, Nathaniel becomes Nat the cat.

After several displays of token hostility Nat and Sparky become constant companions, chasing each other across the apartment or curled up asleep together.

BTW the geniuses at the pet store were wrong.  The vet informs us that Nat is female.

We cant call her Nathaniel, Dana says.

Fine, I say.  She’s Natalie, which shortens to Nat.

Nat’s appearance is a stark contrast to Sparky’s.  Sparky has a round face and beautifully classic features.  Nat is dark gray and white and has a triangular face.  After she gains some weight she looks like a slightly stylized statue of an Egyptian cat.  Sparky is bossy and pushy.  Nat is sweet and docile.

During the time we live here, this apartment is their home.  It’s probably the happiest time of their lives.  In January I am taking a class an hour from there when I get caught in a storm on the way home.  I end up driving due west on the Interstate, right into the teeth of a blizzard.  I get behind some big trucks for the light and turn my wipers on high and get off a few miles from home.  Those last few miles in the dark are the hardest and I barely make it before the wind makes a complete whiteout.  I’m glad Dana is already home at the farm.

When I open the sliding glass door they are waiting for me.  Sparky cusses me out in cat talk and they both follow me to the bedroom while Sparky continues to verbally abuse me.  It occurs to me that Sparky is a natural Jewish mother.  IDK exactly what Nat is, yet.

It’s late when I turn off the lamp and get in bed.  Sparky gets on one side of me, Nat on the other.

It’s nice not to be alone.


The Crossing

English: Juliette Crossing, Salisbury Plain A ...

English: Juliette Crossing, Salisbury Plain A tank crossing checkpoint. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trained attack dog Samo leaps forward toward a...

Trained attack dog Samo leaps forward toward a decoy’s arm wrap as Tech. Sgt. David Adcox restrains him. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A woman wearing sunglasses, taken in a public ...

A woman wearing sunglasses, taken in a public walkway at Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bridge crossing

Bridge crossing (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Since I posted the ending of Tenement that I discarded, here’s the one I finally wound up with if anyone wants to read it.  It’s a lot happier, but only semi-happy; none of my characters gets off lightly.

We park by the on-ramp to the bridge.  By agreement she will make the crossing first.  When I look up at the checkpoints I see guard dogs. And military sentries with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders.

I say, I don’t much like what they’ve done with this place.

Her wraparound sunglasses make her face look vague.  The spiteful wind whips her hair across her face and she pushes it aside with annoyance.

Good God, Dana says.  When did this happen?  What are they looking for?

This doesn’t affect us, I say.

No but damn, Erik.  She squeezes my hand and says, This is the bridge to Canada, not East Berlin.  WTF kind of country is this?

Same kind as always.  A bully that relies on intimidation.  Achtung, baby.

I look at the sentries and the dogs and shake my head.  Above them the support towers of the bridge are lost in fog.

Give me…an hour?  Dana says.  When I call you, go across.  And don’t worry.  Don’t be afraid.

I put my arms around her waist and lock my fingers and do not let go.

What’s wrong, honey?  She says, looking worried.

I kiss her on the neck and face.  She kisses me back and says, Plenty of time for that later.  IG2G.

I don’t ever want to let you go, I say.

G2G, she says urgently.  In three hours traffic will be impossible.  Let me go.

I do not let her go.

You’re being a big baby cause you’re scared, she says, nuzzling me.  Don’t worry, Loveling.  Two hours and we’ll both be across.  I need to go or we’ll be stuck in traffic for hours.

She gently removes my hands, smiles, walks to her car, blows me a kiss, and drives onto the ramp and up to the bridge.  Sleet begins to pelt me and I retreat deep into the pea coat I borrowed from her.  Sleet turns to snow and is pulled up into vortices by gusts of icy winds that rattle the metal interstate signs

This gale will shriek out of the rust belt and into the northeast tomorrow, leaving snow and record cold behind.  The wind batters me but the pea coat is warm and her smell is all over it.  I see her get off the ramp and into one of the crossing lanes.  And I ache for her the way I always do when I am afraid and she is not here.  Finally the wind and the cold drive me into my car and I start it and turn the heater up.

Presently she calls.  By agreement we are brief.

I’m here, she says.

Received and understood, I say and break the connection.  I get out of the car and toss the phone into a trash can.

There’s no real trouble when I go across.  It’s just creepy and a pain in the ass.  I watch the dogs and machine guns with a kind of detachment.  I show them my papers and the sentry is about to let me through when a superior officer stops him and tells the sentry to inspect my car.

The sentry rolls his eyes and says, Sir, would you open the hood and trunk of your car, please?

The sentry’s superior brings a dog to sniff at the car and at me as I open the hood.  I have a very bad moment when I remember the police dog that mistakenly chewed off a little girl’s leg during the Dillsburg Fried Chicken Riot.

They ask me about something under the hood.  When I put it in I made sure it looked “automotive.”  Covered in grease and road filth and integrated into the guts of the car.  They cant understand what its function is.

When they ask me about it I shrug and say, Must be ‘mission control or sumpin.

Finally they let me thru.  Haha.

Dana is waiting at a mall parking lot inside her car.  I tell her to lock her keys in the car and leave it.

I open the hood of my car and remove the box that the guards were so interested in and open it and take out the baggie of Xanax that I can never be without.  I pocket the baggie and throw the box in the trash and lock the keys in my car.  We walk thru the mall and out the other side to the Camaro parked there, barely visible in the grayness.

I drive off with her and we stop and get two pizzas, then go to the safe house.  I have not seen this place before.  It used to be a duplex with an oil heater that has been replaced with a heat pump. Both units of the duplex are empty.  Dana holds the pizzas while I I hold her purse and try to unlock the front door with cold-numbed fingers.

Not bad, Erik, she says.  This’d be great for college kids.

Yes, I say, too tired to want to talk.

Neither of us feels like celebrating but that changes when we start eating.  Someone left a cold case of beer and as our blood sugar rises and alcohol flows we feel better.  The network news is on TV and the bobbleheads talking about the serious matters seem so absurd we start making rude noises and laughing like we are stoned.

By the time graygreen twilight falls we are giggling and dancing drunkenly across the little apartment until we fall together on the twin bed.  More laughter as my hand finds one of her nipples.

She says, I make you happy, don’t I, Daddy?

Always, I say.


Because i’m a slave to love.  Always.

The End on an October Day


Tenement (Photo credit: mercurialn)

   Sometimes when you write an end of a novel before the novel itself you have to discard that ending.  But it’s still good.  It’s just a different outcome to a different story.  This is the original ending of Tenement.  And it’s not a nice one.  I couldn’t have Erik killed off so I changed this ending.

They’re handing down my sentence now and I know what I must do

Another mile of silence while I’m coming back to you.

And on this fine October day i’ll join the chosen few

Who left their pride on the other side

Of coming back to you…from Leonard Cohen, Coming Back to You (Italics mine)

While Stacie is still asleep I leave a note for her that says I cant go on.  Forgive me.

Walking slowly on a bridge high over the leprous wastes of the White River in Indianapolis.   In my hand is the same cell phone that Stacie had found me with when I was at the tenement after she tracked me all over Fuckedupistan.

I will go to the airport and fly back there to Fuckedupistan, to the same beach house where I killed five guys that were trying to kill me just because I was there.  Someone will come along and kill me good and dead, which is as it should be.  Should have been.  I shouldve known I couldn’t live without Dana.

So of course I cant have this phone on me.  I have my arm raised to throw it into the water but I stop.  I just have realized if I want to be in a killing field there’s an appropriate one much closer.  The tenement.

I go home and let myself in quietly and get the .357 magnum.   Stacie is still asleep when I leave.  I drive to within a hundred yards of the overpass and park near the tracks.

It occurs to me that we all live in a tenement of some kind because we bargain with fate and end up in a purgatories of our own making.  My heart is a tenement.  Why not die in or near one?   I’ve heard this neighborhood has deteriorated even more since last Spring when I started living with Stacie.  I will walk the hundred yards to the overpass and see how far I can get before somebody kills me.  I’m sure I wont make it to the tenement itself.  But I’ll see.  I only have six rounds and I doubt that’ll be enough.

All I have to do is lock the car keys inside with the phone.  I toss them in the car and hesitate.  All the car doors are locked but the one I have open.  When I shut that door, it will lock and there’ll be no going back.

Will I see you soon now, Dana, my sweet, dead, impossible love?  I think I will. 

I trick my mind into going one way while my arm slams the door shut.  I am locked out and effectively fucked.  I look in the car mirror to see if I look as perfect as I should. I have on my best suit and every hair is in place.

I feel much better because there are no more decisions to make, since the last one has just been made.  A walk the length of a football field and it will be over.  A pleasant walk in the October sun.

I almost die without firing a shot.  A very silent mugger starts to swing a club at my head.  I feel the breeze from the club and shuffle step to get out of the way of the club.  He’s off balance because he swung too hard and I trip him and yank the club away.  I smash his head while he is down and make sure he’s dead.  It’s not a club, BTW.  Just a piece of pipe.  Hmmph.

Finally I reach the tunnel of the underpass.  Last winter a couple had moved a mattress in the shelter of the overhang.  I note with surprise they are still here.  A woman who looks retarded and a guy that looks like a wild man.  He always looked like that.

I wonder if I should kill him first.  He snarls and bares his teeth at me like an animal but does not move toward me.  I guess he’s just trying to protect the woman.  Since he is no real threat I leave him alone.

I’m kind of disappointed.  I had expected more company.  Maybe a small army.  But those who are here are fewer and sicker.  I don’t even have to kill one till I am halfway thru the tunnel.  BANG!

You got to walk that BANG! lonesome valley

You got to walk it by yourself

Oh, nobody else can walk it for you

You BANG! got to walk it by yourself BANG!

And I am thru and past the tunnel.  I made it .  The tenement is right here.

And what do you think of that?

I even have two rounds left.

The door to the hall of the tenement is wide open, as if they’re expecting me.  The hall is deserted.  Naturally I seek my old room.

The lock on the door is nothing.  I kick the door in and to my surprise someone is there in my old room.  I feel the slug from his gun go thru me before I hear the BANG!  But it doesn’t matter because I will bleed to death in a few minutes.  The young man who shot me is doomed, of course.  I shoot him and his head disintegrates.

I even have a round left.  Now that’s efficiency!  It’s getting noisy and crowded here; I hear a shitload of sirens and see so many flashers you’d think Lecter had escaped.  But the cops never come down here.  WTF?  Of course.  Stacie woke up and saw the note and…well.  I’ll bleed to death before they get here.  I hope.

Of course Dana is here, now.

Hey, Fancyboy, she says, flipping her hair.

I thought you’d never come, I say happily.

At the curb a copcar screeches to a stop and another behind it and four storm troopers in helmets get out and run this way.

RU ready, Freddie?  Dana says.  We’ll have lots of time, now.

I’ve been ready, I say.

I pick up the gun and blow my brains out.

Cats, Anniversaries, and Dentists

English: indirect blood pressure measurement i...

English: indirect blood pressure measurement in a cat, oscillometric. Deutsch: indirekte Blutdruckmessung bei einer Katze, oszillometrisches Messverfahren (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday was my 25th wedding anniversary.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today’s Friday.  Monday night something epochal happened.  I guess 25 years is an epoch to me.  Twenty five years ago I had upper bridgework permanently cemented in.  I was in a bad car accident and had a bunch of broken teeth.  The dentist did all this work for a mere $10,000 and I never had any trouble with the bridge.  Monday night I thought I had some food caught in my teeth and when my tongue found the food my bridge just dropped out.  Evidently the cement gradually cracked over the years and flecked away until the bridge was just hanging there.

So now I sound like a drunk with a speech impediment and look like an edentulous wino.  I have to have milkshakes or food I can gum, because my teeth were ground down to spikes to accommodate the bridgework and I don’t want to damage them.  The only people I can be around are total strangers that I will not see again or people who know me so well it doesn’t matter, and there aren’t many of those.  Tuesday I spent all day on the telephone trying to find a dentist that even did this kind of work.  All I wanted was the bridge glued back in.  A new one would be at least  $10,000 and we don’t have near that.  The few that would do this kind of work wouldn’t take our dental insurance.

All day Wednesday was spent driving to the other side of Louisville to take our sixteen year old cat long haired black cat Molly to see a veterinary ophthalmologist.  We’d taken Molly there two weeks before because the local vet wouldn’t touch the cat because he didn’t know what was wrong.  So we spent $500 to find out that the cat had high blood pressure and glaucoma.  The eye drops alone were $110.

You have doubtless gleaned we are animal lovers.  You’re right.  You may think we’re idiots.  That’s true.  You may have also surmised that we are rich and have all kinds of money to throw away.  We don’t.

But when we took her back on Wednesday we spent another $250 to find out that the cat’s blood pressure and intraocular pressure were back to normal and the hyphemia in her eye was nearly cleared up.  In another month we’ll have to spend another $250 to find out the cat is cured.  That’s a thousand dollars in six weeks on one old cat.  During that time we’ll have easily spent $1200 on cat food alone.  That’s nearly a quarter the cost of getting a new bridge.

I am a fool but it’s part of what I am and cant stop.  I don’t resent or begrudge Molly any of that money spent, or even getting clawed twice a day giving her a blood pressure pill, or getting bitten giving her fluids.  No more than if she were my human child.  As far as I’m concerned she is my child.

But I’m having arguments with the old lady about spending $10,000 for a new bridge.  That’s what I mean when I say that being an animal lover is an awful thing to be.

Yesterday we had to go to Indianapolis to do something important unrelated to cats or dentists.  In the late afternoon we stopped to eat.  When the waitress got to us she said, “What can I get for you ladies today?”

When that happens I usually get a big laugh out of it because it happens so often.  At restaurants, grocery stores, banks, gas stations, or anywhere else.  It’s just that my hair’s down to my collarbone and has been for years.  People don’t even look because life’s hard and they’re preoccupied.  I usually think it’s funny, but not yesterday.  See my post Ma’am? for more of these anecdotes.  I swear some day I’m going to spend all day in drag and see if it makes a difference.

Last night when we got home another of our cats, a seventeen year old one in that has been in perfect health, was acting pretty sick.  As I write this he’s at the vet right now, which will doubtless mean mo’ money.  All last night and this morning I’ve been getting dirty looks because the trip yesterday was primarily for me and that means it’s my fault we didn’t see sooner that the cat was sick, but WTF?  On a 25th you oughta be able to do something.

IDK why I even bother to write this.  All I’m doing is bitching, and I don’t go to WordPress  or Xanga to do that, even though it’s all some people ever do.  It’s just been a suck-ass week.

If you’ve had a 25th, or will have one, I hope it was or will be better than ours.

Good day.



Rain (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

English: Tenement buildings in the Lower East ...

English: Tenement buildings in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. Deutsch: Tenements in der Lower East Side von Manhattan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following is a brief excerpt from my novel, Tenement.

I wander thru the waste like a black dog in the dark among crumbling brick walls and fallen buildings.  I’ve grown fond of the night and drawn to the part of the city’s guts too desolate even for squatting.  Down coal black alleys and into a grassy barren overlooking the RR tracks.  In happier days I would sit on the bank at noon and wave at the engineer.

Down the escarpment to the edge of the tracks.  Now in icy dawn trucks and busses clatter and rumble along rough bricked streets I sit where’s last car clicks  the rails shine in the light of a high, bitter moon.  The tracks flee to some better world where strangers embrace without compunction.  As the train rattles down the track it leaves utter desolation behind that I sob with my face in my hands and a bitter, burning taste in my mouth.  My hands fall limp to my sides and my face becomes a rictus of the anger that is another name for sorrow.  The train clicks its last click and becomes silent.

Winter days go by like dreams.  Cold white glare of snowy mornings seeping around the curtain, driving me back to sleep.  Sleep till the midafternoon whisper and clang of the neighbors down the hall rouse me and I curse and try in vain to sleep again.  Clearing skies and bright bitter cold, wind singing in the eaves and soffits and bleeding around the duct tape that seals the window.

The weather moderates.  Waking in cold, bilious light.  Sitting at the window watching the curdled altocumulus sky for rain, drinking whiskey and eating jerky and Xanax.  It rains for days.  Drops seeping thru the fogged, cracked window.  Sparse city lights reflected in the flats of rainwater on the bricked street outside.  Rich odor of wet pavement.  Mud smeared on the sidewalk.  Rain finally turning to sleet.

A sad and hollow time.  Bitterness and gothic despair, epic loneliness.  I moon over the picture of Dana in my wallet.  Dana’s brutal sexuality with the sweetest face.  Unspeakable loveliness gone forever.  It’s somewhere around a year since the day I lost her.  I only know the day from my digital watch, but I don’t bother to look.  What day it is is of no importance.  I hear a lot of people commit suicide on the first anniversary of their spouse’s death.

Mornings quiet but for an occaisional wino come into the hall to take a leak.  I would leave this place forever but there is nowhere I belong.  I have a cell phone but no one I want to talk to.  I have a hundred acre farm and on it a farmhouse wrapped in intolerable memories.

When I run out of jerky and hunger outdoes fear I get out the backpack and go to the store.  The only bank account I can access has $100,000 in it and I get cash out of the ATM when I have to.  I am terrified of being robbed so it’s good I cant get more than $200 out at a time.  I’m so out of shape from just lying in bed that the trip to and from the store almost kills me.


The hall of the tenement is little more than a deserted urinal.  At this hour the building and street are quiet because all the bad guys are asleep.  I push open the front door, a mere wood panel with no locks or pushbar.   The door is swollen from the dampness and it sticks and I throw my weight against it and it gives and I stumble and fall on my face in the grass.  I pick myself up and walk to the street.

Early spring.  Unpleasant time of overcast skies and wet grass and damp air.  Green shoots everywhere.  Grass and daffodils pushing up thru the cinderblocks and gravel and broken glass, rupturing winter’s protective seal.  Weeds and flowers and allergies and generalized malaise.  A front has passed and the clouds are parting and the wind is picking up and it’s going to get colder fast.

On the street a lunatic is raving about the end of the world, an old drinker of shaving lotion and sterno and cleaning fluid who has fits and visions and sees ha’nts.  I ignore him and walk toward the underpass a hundred yards away.  When I see it I get chillbumps and my flesh crawls.  There are no lights in that tunnel.  They were busted out ages ago.

There is no other way to go.  Everything is in that direction.  If I walk the other way from the tenement the street deadends into some woods a hundred feet away.  Beyond that barbed wire fencing guarding weedy lots full of rubble and wreckage.  There is one house on this street, just across from the tenement.  It was abandoned years ago and now houses drifters and psychotics and meth heads.

Two hundred feet of peril, very dark even on a bright day.  Ten feet inside the tunnel sidewalk lies a pair of men’s underwear and they don’t look like a wino’s.  The boxer briefs look right out of a plastic bag.  A red stain on them that is unmistakably blood.  Another that looks like semen.  Ten feet from the underwear lies a pair of jeans that look to have been ripped off somebody.  Who was he, I wonder, and WTF was he doing here?

Of course I could ask myself that question.

Two street guys that could’ve raped and killed the man, whoever he was, are sitting on the sidewalk ahead.  I mumble good morning and they nod at me laconically.  Broken glass crunches underfoot.  Just inside the other end of the  underpass a mattress has been dragged in.  Two squatters on it, a couple.  The man looks about himself and regards me viciously.  The woman is a gravid slattern that appears feebleminded.  I wouldn’t be surprised if one day I see a dead baby under here.  A train clatters overhead, one of dozens every day.

Achromatic shapes transpiring out of the mist.  What I thought to be a drifter is a newspaper winded up against a sapling.  Down the paved street and onto the dirt paths along the RR yard.  A yard bull watches me as I walk past and down concrete steps with PCV pipes for handrails.

Finally onto the street again and past a gas station without pumps to where a homeless family is packing select garbage into a shopping cart while their kids rummage thru a dumpster and make silhouettes against the urine colored sun.

On a viaduct over the fetid waters of the White River that snakes thru the leprous wastes of downtown Indianapolis. Crateboard and tarpaper shacks, hobo jungles and Hoovervilles, lazarets for the blighted.  To my right somewhere the barren where i’d nearly been murdered doing an errand for Dana.  The building where I ran errands for Dana to Mr. House.  Downtown rife with memories, all sad or satanic.  Ambience of danger and disease and filth.

It takes two hours until I am back at the underpass.  It’s deserted but for the couple.  The man is asleep and the woman sucks her thumb and looks at the world.

In the next weeks I hardly go out at all, paralyzed by fear and weakness and hunger.  Rain falls mercilessly and the air is full of choking pollen and this old building’s glaucous mold flourishes and I get ill.   And then I get sick for real.  Feverish dreams of Dana.  I know she will not let me languish much longer in this world with its archives of bitterness.  I will join her soon.

Unpublished Writer

The househusband

The househusband (Photo credit: JoséMa Orsini)


xanga (Photo credit: shankargallery)

The day after Memorial Day was the first time I heard that Xanga was coming to an end.  Rumors like that have come and gone many times over the years and when the fund raising drive began I thought that this was just a money grab, a variant of a salesman’s closing by creating a sense of urgency.

The only thing that happened as far as I was concerned was that I never posted there again but for contact information for my friends to get in touch with me if they wanted.  I started writing at WordPress and the summer wore on.

At this time I was still content to write fiction fragments for my friends to read if they wished.

And then a sudden realization.  That despite my dozen or so novels they remain unpublished.  And then I thought about dying.

People are always finding ingenious ways to get killed.  Car accidents.  A plane could crash on the house.  The propane tank in the back yard could explode.  Or I could get mortally ill.

That’s when I decided to at least get copyrights on all of the stories.  Different parts of them are scattered all over, and I finally got all of Househusband, the first Dana story in one place.  I’ve been trying for weeks to get straight answers from the copyright office and to overcome my spasticity about computers.  By now I’m almost finished pulling Tenement together, the second Dana story.

After college I went the classical way of mailing off unsolicited manuscripts and collecting rejection letters, but now everybody has “written books.”  On Amazon, that is.  And if they can do it, why not me?  Even if no one buys anything I write, I’ll have the copyright to as many as I can get before I die.

And no matter what I will never sell a copyright.  Not one.


Tonsil Hemostat

Tonsil Hemostat (Photo credit: VCU Libraries)

I am four years old, slamming a toy rubber ballpeen hammer on the concrete of the back porch step.  It’s not even chilly so I guess it’s summer.

My grandmother leans out the back door and says, Honey, they’re going to take your tonsils out, okay?

Okay, grandmamma, I say.

Later Mom explained to me that they’d take a scissors and cut out those tonsils and I wouldn’t feel a thing.

No, sir.

I wont feel a thing, not when they cut them out.

They wheel me into an operating room with vomit green tile walls.  There’s lot of shiny medical equipment but I don’t know what any of it does.  I am bright and cheerful because I’d been told there was nothing to worry about.

After they lift me from the gurney onto the table a gowned and gloved Dr. Sanchez approaches me with six huge nurses.

With a tone somewhere between callousness and sadism he says, We’re gonna put you to sleep.

I almost say the childish equivalent of Like hell you are!  But the truth is dawning on me.  My adrenal glands rage briefly, preparing me for mortal conflict.

But they’re ready for that.

They grab me and slam me down brutally on my back and one of the devils slaps an ether mask over my face.  They’re trying to smother me!  My body convulses and in hot rage I come up off the table an inch but they are pouring poison gas into my lungs.  I try desperately to breathe, to cry out, but I am dying.  I endure what seems minutes of torment, of not being able to get a breath because fire is racing into my lungs.  There’s a humming in my head like a thousand wasps and streaks of lightning are racing in front of my eyes.  Finally, mercifully, I pass out.

I can still smell that unbearable ether stench when I come to and still see those wicked streaks of lightning.  I struggle up the rungs of the ladder out of hell and finally make it.

I am sitting up in bed in a hospital room.  Grandmama is sitting in a chair beside my bed and Mom is gazing out the window.  I try to speak but my throat is so raw I cant.  Grandmama gets a cup of ginger ale with a straw and gives it to me.

A lot changes in me after this happened but most of the changes are subterranean.

They hadn’t lied to me in the strictest sense of the word but conveniently neglected to tell me what it would be like.  They took the easy way out.  They set me up.

Oh, bullshit.  They lied to me.

I forgive them in my childish way but I know I will never trust them again.  But fear is my lifetime companion.

The anesthetic procedure they used was archaic even back then, but the rationalization was that with a child that young ether is safer.  If they had waited a few years all i’d have endured was a needle in the arm and that would have been that.

So if you are the parent of a child who lies to you a lot, ask yourself if you’ve ever lied to the child.

To this day I am suspicious and cannot form trusting relationships with people.  And it all started with this.