The following passages are dedicated to Leopold, to the vernacular, to certain evil women (you know who you are), to certain wonderful people(they know who they are), to soft afternoons and quiet Sunday evenings, to Fall and seeing your breath for the first time since Spring, and to Isabelle Ya Feng ... a soul slipped by like two ships passing in the still, moonlit sea.
-- Abraham Ahmed, the Surfing Beatnik

The Washing People...

6:57pm, the outskirts of the gray indutrial sections of Pittsburgh, a small corner Laundromat.

A rich, humid, soap-laden air sweetened by warming dryer sheets and fabric softeners.

An ashtray. A single cigarette resting. A smoker, asleep against her hand in the third baby-blue plastic seat in a linked row of five set against the glass wall storefront. A flip-flop dangles and falls off of her foot perched upon her knee. It unsettled the layers of holy lint on the tarnished, dark blue vinyl tile floor.

Four ceiling fans hum; dryers harmonize; and, washers maintain their rhythm. A small a.m. radio on a high shelf struggles to receive Patsy Cline from a local station. The hand-written, cardboard sign with a smily face sticker in front of the radio asks patrons: "Please do not change stations."

A black grandmother dances with her grand daughter near the worn folding tables in the rear, each hand-in-hand, each rocking left-to-right, each with there faces to the lint-covered drop ceiling, each with their eyes closed, each thankful.

An elderly man sits in a wheelchair near a wall-mounted vending machine that sells colorful mini-boxes of detergents. He reads a well-thumbed magazine about hunting dogs and shotguns. He is lost in an article. He is envisioning streams and kaki vests and crisp early mornings.

The fluorescent lights from this shrine and haven beam brilliantly through the windows at the front of the building, illuminating the corner of this block 24 hours each day, including Christmas and even New Year.

Unmindful, Unmoved, and Measured...

No, of course I didn't have the heart to wake her! She was too stunning, too magnificent, an effigy almost, as if cut from stone by some chain-smoking Parisian sculptor! Sure, I was already in love with her, yet I never knew the measure of this love until this moment...

She lay there perfectly motionless, save for her chest rising and falling, a single finger flinching, and a few small curls of her light brown hair dancing near her left eye. Couples and children, swimmers, tourists, a man selling snow cones... all of them shifted and whirled around us in splotchy blurred dabs of paint, but she rested unmindful, frozen in the chaos of it.

I leaned in and smiled, reviewing the bridge of her nose and the shape of her eyebrows. She smelled of melting sun oil and shampoo. I wanted to kiss her neck, under her chin so very badly; I wanted to tell her how precisely my stomach sank so very heavily every time I thought of her; I wanted her to see herself how I saw her at that exact sliver in time.

These were seconds that solidified me as a human being, moments that made me understand what absolute, unrestricted affection truly was. Her - HER! - the carved statue deity with painted fingernails unmoved by the great rotations of the earth, unmoved by the sands below her, unaware of her flawlessness! So, while our shoulders and foreheads reddened and while the sun bleached our clothes, that afternoon I came to understand me in that time; I came to know absolute; I came to know the measure of my love for her.

To: Ms. S.C. Packard, Brighton, Mass. (2)

August 4th, 1926

Dearest Suze,
Forthwith, I should like to apologize for my lengthy delay in responding to your most gratefully received last correspondence. I will gladly offer my blameworthiness; though, it is, at times, quite the challenge to both receive and post letters as far out as we are now. I will echo, even so, that your writing does, quite undeniably, bring much cheer and warmth, and I thank you dearly for such correspondence.

The West is a breathtaking scape, with rivers moving sweet, ice-cold waters and porcelain-topped mountains cradling mammoth valleys that all seem to traverse into distances far from even imagined reaches. There is game a'plenty, and I even stood witness to my first ever viewing of a heard of buffalo! Why, there's even wild mustang spoken of, though these I have yet to observe.

In the eve, when tools are rested and all men are still, we sit 'round burning pine logs and eat sturdy meals and drink coffee. We're fed rather well; and after, we drink small rations of barrel whiskey like pioneers or dusty wild west cowboys!

A windless, late summer air has settled over our camp for the past many days, and the nights are thick and humid. I've forgone my shared tent and cot and have taken to fashioning a bedroll near one of the fires, along with several other fellows. We talk long into the darkness, staring into the stars, each sharing anecdotes or recollections of their homes and families.   

It is with shame, but I must admit: I feel as if I have near forgotten the shape of your face and hands; yet, the scent of your neck and hair remains sharp and brilliant! It is odd, no? How the mind retains these such remembrances?     

Oh, I do hope this letter will find you in good health and fanciful spirits. I pray that fortune finds you and your family and that all are in health and strong profession with the harvest seasons nearing and Fall forthcoming. I shall return in time to help with apples and fire wood, after the maples shake their leaves; and, my shadow shall fall upon your doorstep before the first snows.

With the greatest of admiration,

--O. Talbot
Post Script: As always, do say hello and please past my regards to May-Cay.

Upon a Darkend Road Between Ipswich and Ansdover...

Awoken shapes like giant apes hang motionless in trees.
Darkened shadows, stirring sad woes, pressing passersby to flee.

The treetops rustle causing every muscle to tighten and to shake.
For, it is the unseen - the fiends of dreams - that stirs the mind awake!

Decisions fade at options weighed, and tingles attack the spine.
"Granted," says the man in hopes to understand, "perhaps it's only the wine!"

Though, the horse hoof pounds muffle the sounds, and all's though to be in the head,
Many'a'coach traversing similar such roads has often turned up dead.

ou see, the woods at night cause travelers' sights to create that which isn't there.
Yet, all too often, when caution's forgotten, these shapes shall attack like bears.

"...Leopold, Leopold, Leopold"  

At the Ledge of Love and Learning...

Upon deciding to jump,
commit expecting a safety net
held taunt by caring hands or
a sudden, most ghastly impact. 

The Race to the Far off Tree...


"Yes, barefoot, Kim. This is totally, totally going down!"

"You do realize that there's all sorts of bullshit bugs and thorns and ticks and probably sharp rocks in that field right? You know this right?"

The man sat sideways in the driver seat with his legs hanging out of the open car door. He untied his shoes and began pulling his sock from his feet, throwing the lot into the car's floorboard. He never shifted his eyes from the wide, brilliant green field splayed-out along the side of the country road where they sat with the motor off.

"There's no 'sharp rocks' out there, Kim! Jesus! ...Just dew, morning dew, and soft, tall field grass! It's gonna' be incredible, and Jake and I totally have to just run through it real quick!"

"You said we're going to 'frolic,' Daddy?"

"Oh, yeah, right! Well, you better believe we're gonna' frolic, buddy! You ready? 'Cause yo' mama is being a party-pooper!"

"I am NOT a 'party pooper!' I'm just saying that this..."

"I'm ready daddy!"

"Good man, pal! Us guys then! Boom!"

"Jacob, hunny, at least YOU wear YOUR shoes!"

"Kim, look, there comes a time in the life of NOT just a father and son but a WHOLE family where it is required that we act upon spontaneity and dive into THESE such moments of unruly behavior to take advanced of the greatness that life has!! Just look at that amazing field! It's a photo or a painting or, like, a scene from 'Dances with Wolves' or whatever that movie was where the couple frolicked through the field!"

"It totally was not 'Dances with Wolves'!"

"Okay, whatever, but Jacob and I are gonna attack that field out there and get all that beautiful, cool morning dew n'stuff all up over us!"

The man turned and quickly turned the key of the car's ignition on, and the ignition bell chimed repeatedly. He quickly leaned backwards and against his wife's shoulder and turned on the car's radio then tuned the radio to a local classic rock station and turned the volume up loudly.

"Ooooh! 'Boston!' ...PERFECT! 'It's more than a feeeeeelin' - MORE THAN A FEEEEELIN'....!' You ready, Jake?"


The man jumped up from the seat; the boy did the same; and, the two bolted down a short embankment on the side of the road, hand-in-hand, and started running into the damp, waist-high grass. It was soft and welcoming, and it bent over gently and padded each of their every footfalls. It felt like running on a mattress... a grass mattress.

"I'm gonna' getcha, pal!" The man said, running in the direction of his son. He tackled him gently, and the two fell laughing into the soft grass. But, as they got to their feet to set off again, a pony-tailed-barefooted blur in a pink fleece pull-over rocketed past them, slapping the husband in the butt.

"Last one to that far off tree has to unload the dishwasher when we get home!!!!"

Few motorists traveled along the country road that morning, but those who happened by all slowed and ALL smiled, taking in the same scene playing out before them:  An abandon new-model four-door with three of its doors wide open and its radio blaring, a woman's tennis shoes and socks flung onto the hood, and a family of three in the distant field, barefoot, running and leaping and laughing hysterically... despite any chance encounters with bugs or thorns or ticks or even sharp rocks.

The Oily Dirt Floor Cure for Mortality...

It's a smell from my childhood, from a cluttered dirt floor garage that belonged to my great grandfather. In it, and within the piles of rusty implements, faded fruit crates, and cobwebs, he parked a 1957 Pontiac Chiefton. The Pontiac shed its oil into (not onto) the dirt floor; the various implements sweat from their grease points; and, the stacks of cans and jars of various varnishes, lubricants, and crankcase fluids all released odors of their contents into the rafters of this time capsule of a place.

It was a brutal yet sweet, earthy smell. The smell of dead machinery wherein water intruded, mixed with the greasy components and rusted them to a bold red.
It was a place I often snuck into to find treasures, all against the warnings from my mother: "There's black windows galore in there, along with who-knows what else!" She'd claim.
It was the early 1980s, and the gray -board, metal roof garage, with rusted hinges and hasp at its entrance went untouched for over thirty years. All was just as he left it. A tomb.

Little is known about my great grandfather. I never met him, and the senior-most members of my family have all but erased any detailed memories to share.

I'm thirty-six now, and that ole' garage exists only in the pages of my past. But, the man who worked in it, the man who collected its innards, the man who drove that dusty Pontiac brand new off the lot in 1957... he still lives within those nostalgic smells that brush my nose every time that I, in my mid-30s, still sneak into old barns and dirt floor'd buildings and abandon structures, tombs, all of them, still in search of treasures, despite the black widows and who-knows what else.

'Pretty Boy Floyd'...

"Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home."
--Woody Guthrie

If I Never Bought a Tractor...

I made the small deck from rough-sawed lumber I sourced from the mill in town; I made the tabletop from a disc I cut from the base of a large oak; I made the chair, though no more than a melon crate with a back nailed to it, but I made it! Hell, I even churned the honey-butter that I spread on a beautiful, grainy breakfast bread I purchased from a farm's roadside stand a few miles up the road.

It's these uncomplicated bits of tangibility that I appreciate at the moment, along, indeed, with the manufactured: the knife on the edge of the plate, the collected works of Emerson next to it, and the blue tin coffee cup in my hands with its warm South American contents. Many live at-want for a simple meal.

...Ah, time-consuming introspection and reverie.

When, today, there is a pile of field waste to burn, a baler to repair, a few rows of potatoes to get tucked in, and a pump in the pump house to convince to start pumping again!

An old, half-blind cat glides his orange body against the leg of my blue jeans. He neither doubts nor protests, just chooses to tarry and accept the morning's humid sun through his closed eyelids.

Had I become a banker like her father, things would've been different. Had I bought a boat instead of a tractor, I'd still know the taste of her lips. Had I sacrificed the depths of who I am,  she never would've left me for the clean-cut boy back home.

Well, this ole' crate is comfortable, so why not have just one more cup of coffee; then, I'll start on that stubborn ole' pump!

"Finally Seeing..."

You'll find love a mere one of two ways:
By finding love and by losing it.
The latter is more distressing by comparison, sure,
But even a soldier will tell you that a rotten leg must
Sometimes be hacked off to save the rest of the body.

Life is but brief;
Youth is a fragment of it.
I am thankful for losing love in order to find it.
In the immortal lyrics of Ben Gibbard:
"And I am finally seeing why I was the one worth leaving"

Singing Survivors...

"...You are all I need," the man sang to his son as the two began their life together.

A Deserving Man...

He had known good love gone bad and bad love gone for good.
When the dust settled, as dust always does,
His heart was neither damaged nor afraid,
And love sprouted from the ruins and blossomed,
Made warmly available for her, the true woman he's always sought.

Despite its countless fatalities, even war creates survivors.  

Foregoing the Parching Winds...

It is still after the rainfall, a heavy one that stuck around throughout the early morning and well past noon. It left patterns in the grass and dirt, an exact footprint replication of the barn as sheets of sky-felled water cascaded down the troughs of its galvanized roof. A cold front lingers; the new, spring insects are motionless; and, snakes hide away dreaming of summer days forthcoming.

Oh, but for the redness of the Chinese maple tree! It's leaves are fiery and only amplified when tens of millions of droplets skate upon their waxy faces. Twelve hours of life-giving rainfall, yet fragments of earth remain untouched and dry, concealed by the maple's outstretched wings.

Footsteps are hushed in the wet leaves decaying. A break in the rain ceases all sound, save for the wooded acres, where the leaves of countless species continue to exchange droplets with their inferior. It is constant, unceasing, well after the rains become silent in the meadows, and it will continue until the dry winds from the south west parch them once again.

Nearest it all, with glossy pavements and wet fiery reds as the backdrop, she is there dancing. With hair down and feet bare, she is breathing words into the humid afternoon.

Bad love comes and goes; great love in guaranteed to all who understand that...

Some Only Fear Mere Wolves; Part II...

All hushed in silence in the dry hay field as the ignition rotated off, opening the tractor's circuit and pausing the groan of the rusty engine. The sun baked the father and son's shoulders as they dismounted the machine to inspect a chirping noise in the baler. A grease gun was needed from the barn.

The son sheltered his eyes from the brightness of the late morning and squinted up at his father. The man kindly nodded, turned, bent low, and allowed his most valued friend, his boy, to cling to his neck for the walk.  

"The only fear I retain," the man thought, "is the fear of losing my son, of losing the love of my son, of losing the life of my son. There cannot exist no greater love in the known world than the love a father keeps for his boy. My own Pa left me when I was young, when I needed him most, when the unthought-through decisions of humankind created distance. Still, I loved him, and my boy shall always love me. There is no greater love in the known world than that of a SON'S love for his father. This is an omnipotent love, despite the ill ways of others."

...Some only fear mere wolves.

Here, There is Greatness: The Fields of the Past....

 "There is a newness coming, a shift in the winds, mighty, and forceful. Love and all definitions of serenity rest just around the bend in that silvery river ahead. Allow the past to remain where it stands, in distant fields of sheer malice and hurtful untruths. At the soft banks, there will be a hand offered, one from she with chestnut eyes; take it; get in the boat; and, till the unplowable fields no longer."

The voice ceased, but the emerald tips of the treetops still slid softly across his chest and belly as he floated quietly overhead, each beating gently in rhythms all too familiar...  

Awoken by the passing railcars, Lawrence pulled his arm from the inside of his tightly-zipped sleeping bag to check the time: 3:15am. He still had three more hours, three more scrumptious hours, before the 6:15am passed with a legion of emptied coal cars in tow. His ticket to that bend in the silvery river. He rolled to his side and pulled his forearm tightly into his chest to rewarm it. Lawrence's body sank deep into the sleeping bag, sheltered from the elements and all ill ways of the past and the discarding therein.

The next three hours contained imagery and mental construction and narrative dissimilar from the previous. Still, a light of assurance shone, and the boat at the river's edge never left his mind even throughout his waking hours.

Your Very Being...

There is a  vast, thick bank of delusion between
the moments currently burning and the ages past.
Memories are fragmented and subjective,
and we all forget what we'd otherwise hope to be
capable of recollecting. Time, and the systems used
to quantify it, is a deception; you are always awake,
and you are always aware of your very being. 

Some Only Fear Mere Wolves...

The now extinct Dire Wolf lived a classic nuclear "family" existence with a single mate for life surrounded by offspring from the two. A conscientious beast, male Dire Wolf regarded its young as the most sacred of all life. The male endured extreme elements, tarpits, and the occasional Smilodon cat to provide for the dependents in its care. A prehistoric ancestor of the modern era's Gray Wolf, Dire's sole enemy was neither suburban sprawl nor trophy hunting nor mankind in any form. Rather, the male dog's worse fear was one of emotional despair in the form the female Dire Wolf, the gender occasionally known for breaking the "for-life" bond and slipping away in the darkness of night with her young in tow, lost to lands of the Rancholabrean age, never to be seen by the male again.  

Prefer et obdura: dolor hic tibi proderit olim

The Decay...

Red skies swell with painted clouds of purple and gray.
Her dress, white and fragile, brushes against the kitchen table leg.
The falling sun projects the window's outline onto the far wall.
I drink a coffee, and she reads aloud from a book about Yeats.

Life outside levels and settles, readied for dusk.
The table throbs in rhythm with her foot bouncing as she speaks.
Debussy plays; a page turns; a boy outside calls for his dad.
Fiery is the sky with its assurances that IT will exist long after the above has decayed.

THIS was Fritz & Ida...

Fritz was a ham, a real slapstick of a jokester with a headful of sidesplitting stories and a fast-talking voice that could deliver unexpected punchlines and countless "What'da-call-a..." jokes in manners that'd leave a guy or gal on the receiving end doubled over in pure bellyache laughter! He was a hoot, but he wasn't the kid folks grew annoyed with! Not at all! He was a powder-keg, a clown of a kid ready to blow-up ANY ole' social scene with laugher so intense, ladies' eyes would water and grown men would beg him to stop for fear that they'd not be able to catch their breath!

Fritz always went around with this gal named Ida. Ida was Fritz's hand-in-hand, partner in crime, "Bonnie Parker" to his "Clyde Barrow!" She had a personality that'd make the wildest of women blush, and she could carry the attention of an entire room full of people with her charisma and thirst for the humor in life alone!

The two would bust into a house party or explode onto a summer afternoon picnic and walk straight for the folks they never met before! If the host or hostess gave their guests no forewarning of the greatness about to ensue, Fritz would B-line straight at'em with big grin and hand offered for the shaking! Ida would be on his heels, staged and readied!

"Hiya, Pal!" He'd say, smiling from ear to ear, wildly shaking the guy or gal's hand with both of his, "Well, I'm ole' J. Fritz Hemmer! You can call me Fritz, just don't call me Kaiser Fritz or I-gotta-take-a-"Fritz!" And, this here's my ole' longtime gal-pal and never-to-be-without companion for life.....wait!" He'd pause and place both his hands on his hips and turn to study Ida. "Uh, now, what was your name again there, tootsie?" He'd ask Ida in jest.
She, in turn, would skip NO beat and in a forced and theatrical Southernly accent she'd play right along, complete with giggles and batting eyelashes...
"Why, Mister, you are a devilish one, but I do not believe I have quite had the pleasure to meet your acquaintance!"
Taking his hat off and bowing, Fritz would introduce himself to Ida using the exact same Kaiser Wilhelm and synonym for defecating references, then he'd toss his hat over his shoulder and embrace Ida, bending her backwards, and he'd kiss her lovingly in front of the very people with whom they just met!

Complete, Fritz would upright Ida, and she'd stand back acting surprised and dazed, wiping her mouth, and she'd SLAP Fritz across his cheek! Now center of the entire party, Fritz would do his best to look startled, and he'd clasp his cheek and look at his new friends for solutions. This was Ida's cue to rush Fritz and embrace him, and bend him backwards, and give him one helluva long, Hollywoodized kiss that cause not a single soul within eye or earshot to be still! All party goers would break-loose and slap one another on the backs and fold over in the greatest, riotous laugher you ever did hear!

THIS was Fritz and Ida.

To Taste the Bitter Sweetness of the Great Inevitable...

From the blackness, a figure stepped into the triangular glow pouring from the floodlight at the peak of the gray, wooden barn. Spotlighted like the rag-wearing Shakespearian narrator in an opening scene, and all the house lights snuffed, he worked a section of twig - a makeshift toothpick of sorts - along his top row of teeth, and he spat that which he dug out.

He tossed the stick aside and fetched a pipe and a small pouch from his coat pocket. The sharp cold from the darkened hours caused him to wrench his hands before he open the pouch and removed a pinch of tobacco. He stuffed the wad into the pipe's bowl and stowed the pouch. He pressed the mouthpiece of the pipe into his lips and fished-out a small, wooden match from an opposite pocket. Without warning, a brush shifted in the distance; he paused and squinted into the tarish night with all its ghouls and spirits of old, and he made efforts to peer into the unseeable.

"Opossums." He though. Lifting his foot to his shin, he ran the tip of the match along his heel. A bright, orange and red firelight broke the yellow, flying bug-laced glow from the barn. Smoke bellowed and plumed into the cold air as he lit his pipe and snuffed his match. He leaned against the unbleached boards of the barns wall, and he smoked quietly and near motionlessly.

Another brush loosened and announced movement, and a branch snapped no doubt under the footfall of a nearby watcher.

A single gunshot shattered the night; the flying gnats in the floodlight's warmth dashed from sight; and, legions of birds asleep in trees above fled with great flight.

Oh, the last moments of a living soul? who unsuccessfully perished in the northern divide, one who once slipped unharmed from a poorly fell'd redwood, one who escaped scurvy and dysentery in the Great War. He dreamed of the boy on the mountaintop and of fire-lit evenings with warm foods steaming from cans opened next the endless railway lines that once nurtured his very existence.

As the Flying Bugs Dance upon the Still Water...

It was THAT hour… that hour when the daylight bent low and stretched through the windows of the old farmhouse. It was those few, drawn-out moments when white light tuned golden and the evening was on its heels. I often imaged castles of old, and I envisioned the very same long and sweet sixty minutes when the day shifted to night. I quite thought Dukes and grand ladies would stare at the falling shadows upon castle walls and attempt to take in THAT hour so unhurriedly.

Eleven hours on the back half of the property with the sun browning the backs of my hands and turning my hazel eyes blue caused me to wide-eye the dimming light of the kitchen with its cinnamon smell... THAT hour when the inside was still and warm from the dying sun but the yard and shade from the oak tree was cooled by an afternoon breeze.

It was THAT hour, but that hour was only in my mind.

“…Why do you whisper, green grass? Why tell the trees what ain't so?”

Kelly Bland and her Classmates...


Soldier's Paradise...

The waitress dropped off the third pitcher of Bloody Mary and four chilled, pre-salted glasses. Within seconds, all glasses were topped off, and I was holding yet another filled glass of red, bitter, vodka-laced greatness. My head started to swirl after the first round. By the time the second was downed, I was feeling quite unprofessional. When the third found its way into my hand, I was in love with this woman who was referred to by her friends simply as “Bloody.”

With the plastic, fake, and “more of a formality” contracts negotiations luncheon over, I stumbled out of the overly extravagant bistro and hit the D.C. sidewalks just as the 2:00pm sun was highest and was scorching the panhandling bums in the nearby busy intersections. I limped along the bustling walkways, swerving in-between suited and sweaty members of congress, civil rights protesters, and D.C hipsters enroute to their beloved underground gastropubs. I stopped at a branch of Chase Bank, and I leaned my shoulder against the rough cast concrete exterior of the mighty financial castle. From my jacket pocket I pulled a pack of Camels and I lit one appreciatively. I rolled and turned my shoulder blades to the bank’s wall, and I watched the movies reel playing out before me.

From the instant the lighter flashed a spark to the moment the paper tube of tobacco burned out and started to melt the fiberglass within the cigarette’s filter, there must’ve been a thousand characters that acted their way across my view. Some sped by with cell phones stitched to their ears; others gawked and pointed me out to their collogues as they drifted past my gaze; but, most almost slithered by, mindlessly, zombie-like, entrenched in their fields of day-to-day, their bodies surviving but their souls suffocating.

I lifted myself from the stench of the Chase branch, and I pointed my index finger to the four-lane intersection at my twelve o’clock. I marched towards the neatly choreographed automobiles and crosswalks, and I made my way to the painting-like scene. I used parking meters as crutches and city mailboxes and rest stops. I found the crosswalk button and employed it. Noting the indicator to “Walk,” I stepped into the pedestrian way, and I froze. The cars, heading perpendicular to me, revved and lurched and sped through the intersection and far off into the great expanses, well away from D.C. and all her man-made madness. I FROZE.

I remembered Amanda and the smell of her neck; I remembered the sweetness of the lake house and the crickets that sang into the dimming New England light; I remembered frailty, defenselessness, and imperfection; and, as I flung my loosened tie into the busy roadway, I remembered the great wild ferns of the fields of my youth.

aka Mrs. Bonnie Barrow...


The Dense, Concrete Thickets of L.A. in 24 hours...

--> …and here I was, stuck. Stuck in the middle of Los Angeles with nothing but a warm six pack of Coors original in one hand, a set of cars keys in the other hand, and a billfold in my pocket containing a measly eighteen bucks. The car? Gone. Obviously, stolen or towed. Kim? Gone too; though, there was no way she’d’of stole it or otherwise had it towed. Both efforts would require a brain and a purpose, and she had neither.

Stuck in Los Angeles! the goddamn Fashion District near San Pedro of all the places. Have you ever been to L.A.? No? It’s a difficult city. It’s a cluster-fuck of filth and fashion, failure and opportunity, gang bangers and hipsters, and methed-out blowjob queens lying in the gutters of the golden boulevards. Hopping on Santa Monica or jumping over to the 101 is no problem by car, within reason, but negotiating the fuckin’ place on foot is simply unimaginable.      
… and Kim? Kim was a crackhead, let’s face it. She was far from the cliché crackhead we’re used to seeing (the whore with bruised-up string legs, cigarette-yellow fingernails, and Corn Flake-like sores on her neck and face, those zombies lived in the sewers anyways). Just as bad, though, Kim was a trust fund baby, an inner city studio dweller, an artsy pants, lo-fi bitch who thought weed, pills, and Starbucks’ caramel macchiatos were trumped only by that certain lovely, glittery pile of shit that she kept in her Rodeo Drive purse and hid in the cap of a tube of lip gloss. Kim was crackhead, but Kim knew the city better than anyone.                                                                        
                                                                     * * *

After buying the warm sixer – warm because Coors original, unlike Pabst Blue Ribbon, never quite made the nostalgic comeback amid the city’s hipsters and teenagers and was therefore stacked on the non-air conditioned sales floor vice within the coolers – I stepped out into the sun and pulled my shades down from my hair and over my eyes. I instantly took note that Kim was no longer “tightrope walking” the curb while blabbering on her mobile to someone about the upcoming and apparent “biggest party in the valley.”  In fact, she was nowhere to be seen.

I cradled the Coors and dug for my mobile. I dialed her number. No answer – straight to voicemail. I texted her:  “k, got beer - meet me @ the car.” But, as I headed into the parking lot I noticed that the car, too, was gone. With this, I did what most do: I walked over to and stood in the stall where the car was; I put the sixpack on the hot asphalt; and, I lifted my arms out in question, and I spun a couple of times searching the parking lot. When I bent to grab the beer, I noticed Kim’s mobile and purse in one of the grassed islands in the parking lot near where she was earlier. I walked over to them, and I picked up the phone. It had apparently been dropped. The back and battery had separated. I stuck the pieces in her purse, threw it aside, and I sat on the curb.

Roughly fifteen minutes elapsed with still no sight of Kim. I grabbed the strap of her leather purse and drug it across the asphalt over to me again.  I shifted the contents and looked inside. Aside from the phone components, there was her trusty lipstick tube, a pack of Newports, a "The Cramps" cassette tape (yes, cassette), about five Bic lighters (I have no clue why), her wallet with credit cards, store cards, Starbucks cards, and $256 in cash, and a stupid and cheap flea market pocketknife. The bag, though, still felt bulky. I unzipped the side compartment. Inside there was a package wrapped in a plastic shopping bag and taped tight with tan masking tape. I picked at the corner of the bag, as the afternoon heat blanketed my back and arms. I couldn’t get at the contents, so being a nosey prick with time to apparently kill, I grabbed the little pocket knife, opened it, and poked the tip into the corner of the package, an inconspicuous spot that could easily be hidden should she come back.

Inside the package was not exactly what I though would be in it. My instincts and street knowledge gained from Scorsese films and stupid gangster rap lyrics lead me to think it’d be coke, but I was off. When I pulled the knife from the small incision, the chrome blade was frosted with asymmetrical, salt like crystals. Great, fuckin’ meth… a lot of meth. Probably a goddamn pound of it too. I wiped the blade on my shirt and pinched the corner closed. I stuck the knife and the package back into her purse.   

Meth is big in California right now, and a pound of meth was worth quite a bit, especially if cut into quarters or halfs and sold to the hookers and tweakers. I knew this not from the Scorsese films or rap songs but from a roommate I had when I stayed in Oakland for a few months last fall. (He was a waiter by day and a professional tweaker by night. He never slept, had few teeth remaining, and survived off a diet of Mountain Dew and Vienna Sausages. The roommate relationship, it goes without saying, didn’t last long). From him, I understood that a quarter, or 1/4 gram, can be had for $20 or even $40; whereas, a “teenager,” or 1/16 gram can fetch $120. An ounce alone? An ounce, something this ex-roommate never saw compiled at one time, would bring in about $1,200. As there’s 16 ounces in a pound and as the package in Kim’s purse is at least a pound, we’re talking about $19,000 – $19,200, maybe even $20,000 of crystal meth sitting right next to me. This made my throat tight and my testicles tighter.

I now slid the purse under my legs, and I opened and slammed one of the warm Coors. As the afternoon dimmed, I crossed my arms over my knees, and I waited in the parking lot for Kim, and hopefully Kim with the car, to reappear.

...To be Continued

"When all else fails, we can whip the horse's eyes..."

As the Stiltwalker Moves to the next Lamp...

My Dearest Maribeth,

'Tis the golden hour in the Eastern shore... the sun is nestling between that difficult gap to the right of the the great clock face and to the left of the sickly pine that juts from the bend at the top of the hill. The laborers are skipping their way to the pubs, avoiding their places of home and turning, rather, to a pint for comfort in place of their respective hearths. The air is sour with the smells of the city decaying into the night, as the newly turned-out pails and muck buckets refuse to evaporate.

I am certain God is here, somewhere within the face of the bricks, somewhere within the eyes of the street whores and pickpockets, somewhere within the hearts of the horses that kick and huff at the cobble beneath their hooves. I am certain God is here, but He and I have yet to exchange words, real words, and I am lost in foretelling just where God is.

I long to be within the cut grasses of estate, where stiltwalkers light no street lamps at dusk. I feel the tilled soil underneath my leather soles as we walk the lanes of turned rows in the upper Caldwells...even as I scribe these very words.

'Tis the golden hour in the Eastern shore... but I am discovering no solace in the daylight's settling. I am forlorn, longing for Hensington and the sweet brooks and crickets and cows and sweeping farmlands of my youth.

Within the Confides,

Marcel F. A. Pennington

Four Arms to keep us Warm...

Marsha held me by both of my shoulders. She stood over me and shook me awake, saying we needed to get dressed and leave before the "men" came. This was quite typical; her mind was going; but, I knew to entertain her for fear of her becoming enraged. Before I could collect our shoes, she dragged me by my hand down the stairs and outside through the backdoor. She pulled me aggressively through the yard and into the side field, the late spring frost crunching beneath our bare feet.

When we crested a high spot in our hay field, I jerked my hand loose and started to reassure her of actual conditions. Though, when I turned to make reference back to our farmhouse I spotted the lone van in the drive, its lights off.

We ran into the woodline, far into the hills, and kept running within the concealment of the early morning's damp darkness. We never went back; we never spoke of the house and the life we had there.

"And His Find..."

Flowers, to Soften the Blow...

In late summer 1981 I was terminated from my position as a loan agent at a local credit union in Vallejo, California. The cause: I allegedly promised a qualified lender a specific, lower interest rate on her flexible-line loan, a rate lower than our lowest offered rate at the time. She reported me as a “manipulative and untrustworthy sort, not fit to be a financial representative,” and my supervisor – a gentleman with whom maintained zero tolerance for individuals who upset borrowers of large – discharged me the following business day.

“Hector, I’ve been an innovative leader in this industry a good long while, and I’ve seen your type: you sell clients on bullshit APR’s and false promises then you sign the package with the actuals! It’s an old design, and frankly, I loathe such practice.”

“Mr. Mitchel, I’m sorry, sir, but there’s a mistake here. The client misunderstood my accent, and I certainly didn’t… ”

“Hector, consider yourself my example to the remaining junior members of staff. I expect you to clear your things by 8:00am.”

But I wasn’t a junior member; I was a seasoned loan officer. I just moved to the area, and I was trying my best to assimilate. The gentleman who fired me did so coldly and hurriedly. In hindsight, I’m certain he just didn’t like me, my accent, or the fact that I only had four dress shirts to wear to work and one pair of brown leather shoes, specific signs pointing to the financial status of my family and I at the time.  While I did my job and did it well – I even ironed the hell out of my four shirts, and my shoes never showed a scuff – the confusion about the interest rate was simply his instrument for removal.
After a long two years of processing taxes for middle-class families in San Mateo, my wife, Felise, and my small son and I fell on hard times and decided to move north, to Vallejo. We moved in with my wife’s elderly mother until I could get us back on our feet. Having very little things and only a handful of dollars for gasoline for our decaying gold Maverick, we packed up and left San Mateo behind. Within three days in Vallejo, I had secured the position in the credit union. It seemed like a wonderful start, but it only takes a single drop of poison to destroy a whole vat of wine.
On the way home, I contemplated the exchange of so few words with my supervisor; I contemplated the smoky Maverick on the 80; and, I contemplated just how I was to explain to Felise our new set of circumstances.
I have struggled greatly in these recent years. In fact, it seems that just when a man marries, just when he and his bride have children, just when he considers himself fortunate, things go awry. I’m a Mexicano and my wife is a Mexicana, so this, by default, fails to aid our endeavors in classic white California. In San Mateo, Felise worked as a cleaner in large office buildings – the very buildings that I worked my ass off in night school to work in myself one day. While going to school, I worked with an irrigation company, and I installed irrigation in both residential and commercial landscapes. Upon getting my Associates, I told Felise that she would clean restrooms in office buildings no longer. She argued, but upon getting to Vallejo, I insisted she stay home and care for our son and for her mother. Now look.
I stopped the Maverick just outside the short chainlink gate to the house. The car sputtered quiet before I even touched the ignition off. On the way home, I bought 13 white carnations with red and pink tips: 6 for Felise, 6 for my mother-in-law, and one for my son. I picked them up; the crackling of the cellophane broke the silence in the Maverick. I placed them back upon the seat; I covered my face with my hands; and, I wept.

The Hickory Tree, 1951...

And They Call Me Unto Them Each Night...

It is not within the shelves of bright unobtainable "things" in the department stores; it is not within the rows upon rows of identical, suburbian homes that litter the outskirts of cities; it is not within the confides of acoustic false walls and smells from recycled air and printer inks; it is not within the congestion, negativity, and false hope that we call traffic; it is not within; it is not within the churches where old women sing hymns to the exposed rafters and depictions of a false god and his son within the stained glass; and, it is not within saturated corn syrups, adolescent bimbos, or television sitcoms with cliché principles.

Mine is where the beggar sits Indian style and collects his whereabouts in the hot morning sun; mine is where children fantasize about sailing ships upon the seas of grass in parks on weekday afternoons; mine is where the tattered prostitute leans against a light post and cleans underneath her fingernails with a jack knife; mine is where the flop hat farmer digs his spade into the untilled soil and releases the organic smells of earth; mine is where smoke rises to the tops of dark backrooms and stings the eyes of shiny-haired card players; and, mine is where cats tiptoe through damp flowers, where long legged girls rest against red velvet wallpapered foyers, where music is, and where a potbelly stove is the focal point.

Love Hath no Concern for Gender....

As a Father, So Shall a Son....

My father is a bit of an accidental hero. I say accidental because, given the choice, my father would choose to be a hero to no man. Still, he is a hero to the likes of me.

My father can bend a two inch by two inch straight length of square steel tubing into a neat U-shape; he can chop down the largest of all oaks with just a few dozen swings of a carefully aimed double-bit axe; he can mow an entire acre of hay by-hand with a scythe before the morning’s dew evaporates; he can wipe a man clean from his place in a barroom with a single backhand, never spilling a droplet of froth from the top of his mug; he can woo a train car full of giddy school girls enroute for college simply by twisting the corners of his mustache while winking from afar; within the woods, he can bring a large black bear to fits of shame by no other means that eyeing the beast down and whistling “Swanee River;” he and his gal can clear a dance hall when my father takes-the-lead and swings the poor girl until all the remaining ladies become green with envy; he can read but a few mere pages of Shakespeare before he is able to recite “Much Ado About Nothing” without nary an error; he can fix absolutely anything that falls to disrepair; he can win any gentlemanly dispute simply by coercing his opponent to see the ills of his ways without ever knowing; he can relocate a mountain; and, he is nine feet, seven inches in height.

Of course all of the aforementioned is sheer fable, but what is any man unless he considers his own father within the same affection and regard.