Redneck Blues

Folks ‘round here call me Jake. Ain’t short fer nuthin’, just Jake. I live in Chase. Chase ain’t got nuthin but a bar and a church. We used to have a school but now them kids get bussed to Herbertville. Everyone goes to Herbertville fer everythin’, ‘cept drinkin’ and preachin’. There’s two things folks in Chase are loyal ‘bout: brews and pews.

I work at Clancy’s Auto Parts on Route 19, just south of Herbertville, OK. I can tell ya just about any part that goes to any car, ‘cept maybe if it’s European. We don’t do Yer-A-Peein’ shit. All we get in here is Ford’s, GM’s and Chrysler’s.

Oh, right, that sweet little Megan Kisslooper out on Route 211 got a European car, a VW Beetle. Her dad spoils her rotten. Sweet Sixteen come around and she gets that little foreign job for her birthday. Her dad so proud of her. Makes me kinda laugh cause while she got that little foreign job everyone know she giving out her own kinda jobs inside her little foreign job. No joke. She give out more blow jobs than a tornado in a trailer park. Still though, I wisht she came into her for something, sometime. She’s ‘bout the prettiest thing ya ever saw.

“Jake” I hear bellowed out from back in inventory. It’s my boss, Crud. His name ain’t really Crud, it’s Crudemeier, Ross Crudemeier but ever since fourth grade he been called Crud. We the same age, but he still my boss. He gets three dollars more an hour just cuz he went right to work outta high school instead of me dickin’ around at the Community College for two years. I got an Associate’s Degree in Agro-economy. I know all the special genetically engineered crops of sunflower, but Crud still gets three dollars more an hour than I do.

“Yeah boss.” I holler back.

“Got Mrs. Breckenridge on the line, needs a head gasket”

“OK,” I holler back again and pick up the receiver out front by the register.

“Yes ma’am,” I say into the phone. I hear her coughing up a lung and pull the phone away from my ear a bit. Three bouts of cancer, an oxygen tank at her side and she still manages to smoke three packs of Pall Malls a day. She always asks for me and she always is coughing into the phone when I pick up.

“Jake?” she sputters,”That you?”

“Yes ma’am” I say.

“Sorry about that honey, must be allergies.”

‘Allergies to non-filtered tobacco,’ I think to myself

“No problem ma’am” I answer.

“Georgie says I need a new head gasket.” she says catching her breath again. Georgie is her son. He works in Herbertville at a hair salon. That’s right. A hair salon. Georgie’s about the biggest bone smuggler you ever t’meet. I mean that. Georgie played fullback in high school on the line with me, but I was just a half back. Georgie was a good four inches taller and forty pounds heavier than me. Georgie didn’t tell nobody in high school he was a ring raider, but I’ll be damned if the minute he didn’t git out of high school he started driving out to Charlesville where they had a gay bar. He was only eighteen, but he looked like he belonged in the NFL. I imagine those boys in Charlesville didn’t mind letting him into their bar. Aint no wonder he ended up in Miss Gloria School of Cosmetology. That’s just what donut punchers did ‘round these parts. He became a hairdresser, a big-ass hair dresser.

“Ok ma’am,” I answer, “Georgie mention if ya need a Fel Pro, Edelbrock or a Victor Reinz?”

“Oh now honey I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout that.”

“What car is it for ma’am?”

“The Buick.”

“Ok ma’am,” I answer, “I gotcha. I’ll have a Fel Pro waiting. Georgie gonna pick it up after work?”

“I’ll let him know shuga,” she said, “Georgie will be glad to see ya Jake.”

“Yup,” I said, “nice to see him too.”

I wasn’t lyin. I don’t have no problem with Georgie bein’ fancy. He was a damned good full back, and my Mom says he is the best colorist in the whole county. I don’t quite know what a colorist is, but what the hell. If that keister kisser was happy choppin’ locks all day, more power to him.

I set the receiver down and ran the sale on her account. I went back to running all the facebook and email order that came through and looked at the clock, ‘bout a half hour to go.

“Jake!”. It was Crud again.

“Yeah boss.” I hollered back, I don’t know why he couldn’t pick up the receiver and press Front Desk.

“Oil’s here.”

“Got it.” Freight Access truck just started pulling into the parking lot delivering our orders of motor oil and filters. We’s having a sale this Saturday and Sunday and this was the stock.

I picked up the receiver and pressed Garage

“Yeah,” came Cal’s thick drawl.

“Hey Cal, oil and filters just pulled up, can you grab a dolly and help him unload.

:Yeah.” came Cal’s thick drawl once again. I know he knew more words than that, I just don’t think I’d ever heard him say more than that.

I finished up the email and FB orders and looked at the clock again, fifteen minutes left and then the weekend was here. I had weekend off, finally. Took me six years of working weekends to finally get ‘em off. I was eager for this weekend to get here because Herbertville was having a gun show at the high school this weekend. Rumor had it they had a few Hatsan 125 Sniper C Vortex Air Rifle Combos. I’d been after one of them for a year or so.

I was just thinking about the weekend when Candy walked in.

‘Fuck.’ I thought to myself. Nothing good happened when Candy came through that door. Candy was Crud’s wife. She never set foot in the store except when she was about to cause a ruckus. The door jingles and then her heels clacked on the tile floor as she balanced herself on those damned four inch heels she always wore. What self-respecting Oklahoma wife walked around in those things instead of a pair of sure footed cowboy boots.

“Howdy Candy.” I said as she dumped a leather purse large enough to smuggle a spring pig with onto the counter knocking over the pen cup and stack of auto-parts magazines. Candy was what you’d call a handsome woman, sturdy across the bow. Her eyebrows were dark brown and perched halfway up her forehead. My thought was that Candy could benefit from seein’ ol Georgie boy at work.

“Hi John” she said hardly  breaking pace as she walked around the counter back into Crud’s office in the inventory. I’d been John to her for about three years. She knew my name was Jake. It was stitched right onto my damned shirt. Yeah, she was that much of a bitch.

Macy, the cute eighteen year old who ran parts, rolled her eyes at me when I looked over at her.

And then it began.

“I don’t care if you got a sale this weekend, we’re going out to Mothers!”

Inaudible on Crud’s part.

“You got eight employees who can run the damned sale. It’s Mother’s birthday!”

Inaudible.

“She’s seventy-two for Christ’s sake, she won’t be around forever!”

Inaudible.

“End of mother fucking story Ross!”

Crud’s door opened back up and Candy, with a self-satisfied look on her face, exited. Flipping her hair back over her shoulders, she picked up her purse with a hand sporting long red talons, clacked her way across the store and left through the jingly front door.

“Jake!” I heard Crud call out. I already knew what was coming.

“Yeah boss.” I said looking at Macy.

She and I both mouthed the words as he said them, “I need ya to work the weekend.”

Candy never came through the door without someone’s weekend getting shot ta hell.

“Yeah I figured as much.”

Ya did?” he asked, “Why?”

“Oh just a hunch.”

My rifle could wait another weekend until Hermiton had their gun show. Macy walked behind me, patted em hard on the shoulder in condolence and then went out the side door to the garage to help Cal with the filters.

I was just settin’ to shut down the front computers as it was three minutes before six on Friday when the door jangled again. The glass door was nearly covered in full as Georgie walked into the shop.

“Jake!” Georgie barked as he made his way across the store to the counter. “Did Mom get to you in time?”

“She sure did.” I said.

“Great,” he answered, “I’m gonna head over there and see if I can get it on before it gets dark.”

I stepped back from the desk and found the box with Georgie’s name on it and pulled the head gasket out. “Here it is bro.”

“Thanks man.” He reached out and took it with the biggest manicured hand ya ever saw. “How’d life treating you?”

“Oh just fine I suppose.” I answered, “You?”

“Me?” he said, “I couldn’t be better! I’m gettin’ married!”

“Married?” I said with surprise. “Tuh who? Anyone I know?” I asked trying to sound like this was no big deal.

Georgie smiled wide. “Yeah,” he said, “You know him.”

“Well who big guy?” I said

“To Cleat.” he said.

“Cleat?” I said with surprise obviously written across my face. “Hutch Cleater?”

Hutch went to school with us, but a year ahead. He was the soccer star of the school and was Prom King his Sophomore, Junior and Senior year. Since our school was so small, back then we still went to school in Chase, everyone in the school was eligible for Prom King and Queen. The girls used to swoon over Cleat. His thick black hair and pond blue eyes and athletic body from all that soccer made him the school stud. Yet with all that cred to his name, the girls just fawned over him because he was always such a gentlemen…..ooooooh.

“Yeah, Cleat.” Georgie laughed.

“Well shit,” I said reaching my hand out to shake his. “Congratulations.”

He met my hand and crushed it in his legendary fist crushing greetings.

“Thanks man.” he said.

“You married?” Georgie asked.

“Nope.’I said, “still chasing after the girls who were always chasing after you and Cleat!”

He laughed aloud, and so did Macy from a few aisles over.

“Well, you should come to the wedding.” he said, “it’s going to be a spectacle.”

“Sounds like a hoot.”

“Alright then,” Georgie said, “gotta go fix Mom’s land cruiser.”

“Alrighty then,’ I said.

I laughed to myself as his size fourteen cowboy boots somehow made it across the floor in a more ladylike fashion than Candy’s size three inch stilettos.

I turned the CLOSED sign over as Georgie left the shop. I walked back behind the counter and began counting out the register. I’d be back in eleven hours because Crud had no backbone and Macy didn’t know how to update the promo codes in the computer. Georgie and Cleat would be at home making out wedding plans. Megan Kisslooper was probably at home getting ready to go out. But hell, at least I wasn’t at home fighting with Candy. Small victories.  

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An Easter Story

I received news that my mother had breast cancer on an Easter morning. She died a few days before Thanksgiving, seven months after her diagnosis. A lot can unfold in seven months, more than I ever expected. It’s an odd amount of time, seven months. It’s not a year, or a half year. It’s just seven months. It wasn’t enough time to solve our family problems, but it was enough time to ignite them.

I’m the youngest sibling in my family. I have an older brother and sister. We all grew up in the same household but we all grew into very different people. My older brother became a cop. My older sister became a teacher. I became a failure. We were three siblings with nothing in common except a bloodline. It is said that blood is thicker than water. I’m not sure if that adage holds up especially if water is blended with Bourbon and then poured over ice. That’s what I drink: bourbon and water over ice.

It’s not what you think. I’m not a failure because I drink. Failure came to me at an early age and now at age twenty-seven I am a pro at failure. The drinking, that’s just an added feature of my life that helps me from going over the edge. Some folks take anti-depressants or binge exercise to deal with their depression. Me? I’m a far simpler person than that, I just drink alcohol. Besides, it is delicious. Bourbon over water with a twist of lemon all chilled over some rocks, you should try it. You’d understand.

Neither my brother or sister drink. They chose to break the cycle. Mom and Dad were drinkers. Dad died about eight years ago from lung cancer. He was one of those poor bastards who never smoked but still ended up with lung cancer. Truth be told, he was a big inspiration for why I drink. If you can go a life without smoking and still get lung cancer, I could spend my life drinking and not become an alcoholic, so far so good.

I would like to think our family was special in some way. I think everyone wants to believe in that notion. Oh sure, there were special moments here and there. My brother the cop, he did well in sports and we had some victory parties every now and again when he won some tournament. My sister always did well in school so we sat in gymnasiums as she got a few awards for her academics. I didn’t garner any special occasions so Mom did her best to make my birthday something special. She tried to make me feel special. But how can someone who never felt special herself make someone else know what that feels like?

I graduated high school with a solid C average. I took a few classes at a Community College but nothing really stuck. My brother and sister had moved out of the house by the time I graduated so it was just me, Mom and Dad at home for those years after high school. The subject was broached a few times about what I would like to do with my life. I never formulated a good answer even though I had many years to ruminate on the matter. Those few years after high school were placid. Mom toiled about the house during the day. Dad would come home from work about 5:00 PM. We had dinner at 6:00PM. Then we all sat in the living room watching TV. Dad had his Gin and Tonic. Mom had her white wine.  And I watched.

By the age of nineteen I had joined them: Bourbon and water.

Dad was a Korean War veteran. Today he would be diagnosed with PTSD, but in the 1980’s soldiers carried their trauma close to the vest. If the house was silent, except for the television, he did ok. Mom, who had taught school for nineteen years sheltered a deeper wound. Today she would have been called a victim of date rape. But again, the 1980’s taught adults to keep their sorrows hidden. The sorrows in our house were indeed hidden, or perhaps submerged is a better description. Alcohol was the great equalizer.

I eventually did move out of the house. I got a job after I stopped going to Community College at a local dry-cleaner. At first I was pressing clothes with the commercial presser. It was amazingly hot and humid in there, but for some reason I stuck it out. I also made sure that the hangers did not get tangled up on the rotating racks of shorts and pants draped in their plastic dressings with the logo for Brick’s Cleaners. After a year, the owner had a stroke. His wife who ran the counter asked if I would step in and help with managerial things. I did. At twenty years old I became assistant manager of the dry-cleaning shop so I moved out, because that’s what people do.

I didn’t see my brother much, at least not until Mom was diagnosed with her cancer. I saw my sister every now and again at the house. I stopped in weekly at the house to see if Mom needed anything. I always brought her a few bottles of wine since there was a liquor store next to the dry cleaners. She patted my cheek each time I did. It was too awkward for her to thank me for alcohol, so she just patted my face. That was the extent of affection in our household.

After Dad died, my brother, sister and I tried to make a family night at Mom’s house at least once a month. My sister always organized it. I always showed up. My brother did his best but he was often on shift in the evenings, or at least that’s what he claimed. My brother and I shared a room growing up so you would imagine we would be close. We weren’t. He grew up to be a tightly wound, conservative, straight cop who drove a huge truck and had a vapid, beautiful wife and two quiet kids. I was a relaxed, ne’er-do-well, liberal -leaning gamer who secretly who had yet to start dating. My sister? She’s fine. We just never bonded. Occasionally she would give me a book to read, but that was about as deep as the two of us went.

Mom called that Easter morning. She hadn’t been feeling well so I picked up the phone thinking she needed me to run to the store for Tylenol or Thera-flu. Nope. She told me quietly, in a slightly slurred voice that she had breast cancer. She knew my brother would be angry and my sister would start crying, neither of which she wanted to deal with, so she asked me to tell them. She wanted us over for Easter Dinner as planned. She wanted me to tell them not to bring up cancer at dinner.

As expected, my brother flew off the handle shouting into the phone about second opinions and that he couldn’t take care of a sick parent because he was too busy with his own kids and family. He loved to use that excuse with me because with no kids and lack of apparent social life, I certainly had time.  It didn’t matter if it was fixing an appliance of Mom’s or helping out with cancer. Also, as predicted, my sister melted into tears stating how unfair it was and how would she ever be able to come to dinner and not talk about it. I replied, because that is what Mom wanted, that’s why.

My brother didn’t show up for dinner. While I helped Mom set the table my sister called saying she couldn’t possibly come over since she was so upset. Mom and I looked at each other, and for an odd intimate moment, we both laughed at the ridiculous behavior of her kids, my siblings. She and I sat at the table together. I was in Dad’s old seat and Mom was across from me. The food was great and the cocktails were tall. It was perhaps the loveliest evening either of us had in quite some time.  By the time, she was serving the cherry cobbler she had made, I had agreed to move back in and help her around the house. The cold she couldn’t shake was now cancer. She needed help.

Chemotherapy was horrendous. It made her weaker than the cancer. My brother exploded over how she was poisoning herself. My sister lamented that mother was too frail, it was just too hard on her to see Mom that way. She came by only in the afternoon when Mom napped. She feigned being sad that she missed Mom being awake, always leaving before she awoke. Mom managed while I was at work, and when I wasn’t at work I was at home helping Mom. My room was still there as it always was so it was an easy enough transition for me to stay and help.

Mom was not lucky enough to encounter spikes of energy some cancer patients receive while on chemotherapy. After two months, Mom had a double mastectomy to try and stop the tumors. For a month or so around June we thought she might enter remission. X-rays in early July showed that the cancer had metastasized into her lungs and brain. That was that. Mom stopped therapies and she and I made life at home for her as comfortable as possible. Ladies from Mom’s church stopped in with more food than I knew what to do with, which was ironic because Mom ate less and less each day.

My brother stopped in more often now that she was mostly confined to her bed. He always brought flowers. He always held her hand. And every time on his way out of the house he yelled at me for not doing more to help. He had a funny notion that his being oldest somehow made him in charge. My sister finally started visiting Mom while she was awake, usually just before dinner when she was done at school. They talked strictly about kids, education and the classroom. I can’t recall one conversation they had about Mom’s illness.

It was Halloween, when my sister came by to gather some kids costumes from the storage space in the garage, that things became quite serious. The only things Mom could eat was broth in a cup and, strangely, macaroons. The gravity of the situation finally broke through my brother’s hard exterior. His mother was dying, he was having trouble processing that concept. My sister, also noticing the change in Mom’s appearance, began coming over to the house more.

My brother had been made executor of Mom’s estate by my father before he died. I asked him if he thought it was time that we start going through Mom’s paperwork. I didn’t see it coming at all, but he punched my square in the face. I crumbled to the floor and he just stood over me, hands on his hips glaring at me. My sister was there and she just stood frozen with her hands over her mouth. My brother left.

At the beginning of November, the doctor who visited my Mother at home suggested I consider Hospice care for her. He explained it was a place for her to go for pain management to maximize her comfort. Mom still had power-of-attorney over herself despite my brother being executor of her estate. She looked at me with what I had come to know as her expression of consent. I told the doctor to make the arrangements. Three days later the ambulance arrived. I moved Mom over to Hospice care without telling my brother. Fuck him.

Hospice was a God send, and I say that as an atheist so you can imagine how good it was for Mom. Her feet were massaged. What was left of her hair was combed. A young nurse even painted her nails. They brought a small boombox in and I brought cassettes of music she liked: Anne Murray, Florence Henderson, Loretta Lynn. Mrs. Snyder at the dry-cleaners had given me all the time off I needed to help Mom. When she told that she patted my cheek, just like Mom had down when I brought her wine bottles after work. I grabbed her hand without thinking and cried openly. She let me hold her hand until I had composed myself. For the first time in my life I heard something I had never heard. Mrs. Snyder told me, “You’re a good son.”

Was I? The kid who amounted to nothing and had made little of himself? My brother and sister owned their own homes, had kids and had lives. What did I have to contribute? What about me would have made my parents proud? I left the dry-cleaners in something of a stupor. “You’re a good son.” Such a simple little phrase. My heart broke open. I cried all the way back to the Hospice Center.

When I got back to Mom’s room, I was surprised to see a man in a suit standing there with a nurse.  Noticing me standing outside, the nurse who I had come to know quite well, walked over to me and brought me inside.  The nurse explained to me that the man was their in-house legal counsel and that Mom had requested some assistance.  The attorney confirmed that Mom had signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. He also said that she had given me power-of-attorney and assigned me as executor of the estate. The nurse had acted as witness. That news all seemed to be overwhelming. Then the attorney said that Mom also asked to be moved back home.

The puzzled look on my face was noticed by the nurse who took my hand and said in a whisper, “She wants to die at home.” For the second time in a day a devolved into tears. I was so tired and so over-whelmed. But then I looked at my mother, whose eyes were now closed. Who was I to be tired when mom was fighting cancer with such grace and poise? “Of course,” I whispered.  We would transfer her home tomorrow after ten o’clock in the morning.  Their policy was to transfer clients in an ambulance. The nurse asked if I wanted to ride with Mom on her way home. I said yes.

I called my brother and sister from the phone at the Nurse’s station and told them of the change. My brother shouting that this was a dumb decision. I told him flat out that his opinion didn’t matter anymore because mom had made me power-of-attorney and executor of the restate. I added that he could fuck off.  My sister took the news better than I thought. It wasn’t until much later that I came to understand she took the news of Mom moving back home as a sign she was getting better. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The nurse said that since Mom had expended so much energy with the attorney they were going to bump her morphine so she could get some rest overnight. I left shortly after they started her drip knowing she would be floating comfortably numb for the rest of the night. I went to the house, to Mom’s house, and straightened things up. The house wasn’t messy, but when she was healthy she always kept the house immaculately in order. I didn’t even know if she would be able to see the house, but it didn’t matter. She was coming home to die so I wanted her home to be perfect. I had purchased some flowers, irises and gladioli, and arranged a vase on her bedroom dresser.  I pulled the comforter on her bed back into a neat triangle so she could slip into bed easily.

After that I checked messages. I had been gone from work for 2 weeks. Mrs. Snyder left a message asking if I needed anything. She never once asked me to come back to work. She was such a lovely woman. There was one more message from Mom’s ladies group at church asking when was a good time to bring by casseroles. I kept saying that mom wasn’t eating much anymore. It wasn’t until after the funeral one of the ladies said they weren’t bringing food by for her, they were bringing it by for me.

Mom never did make it home to die. About 2:00 AM her monitors let out that long, lonely tone indicating her heart had given out. No one rushed to her side, the nurses knew. Another client on a cloud of morphine had left this world. The night nurse clicked off the monitor, pulled Mom’s chenille blanket up over her head and held Mom’s hand for a moment saying a silent prayer.

They called me at home, at Mom’s home. The words came through the telephone and into my mind. I exhaled a few times quickly and the nurse asked if I had understood. I told her I did. She gave her condolences. I was too emotional to speak so I just put the phone down on the receiver. That was that. Mom had died. I reached up and touched my cheek, where she used to pat me so gently. Tears were on my cheeks. My breathing came in fits and starts. I walked back to Mom’s bedroom and laid down thinking she never made it back home.

It was just seven months ago we learned she had cancer. Now it was over. She was done with it. She was out of pain. She was released from that frail, unfamiliar body. Seven months ago, life changed for me, for the family, but not for the world in general. I sat up on Mom’s bed and saw the cars passing by in the street. The streetlights still shone.  I heard the heater click on and the soft hush of air come through the vents. I wanted so badly for the cars to stop, for the streetlight to flicker off and the heater to shut down. They didn’t.  Mom was gone but life persisted everywhere except in my Mom’s body. I touched my cheek again knowing mom would never touch it again.  I heard Mrs. Snyder’s words in my mind, “You’re a good son.”

I held that in my mind as I called my siblings.

Stones on the Desert Floor

 

I have died a dozen times, maybe more. Truth be told, I have lost count; or perhaps more accurately, I have lost interest in counting.

 

I died in Phoenix, AZ in 1987. My body was never found. Local newspapers posted a short public notice on page seven a few days after my disappearance. It ran on a Tuesday. It dropped from print by Friday.

 

A few years later I died in Jackson, MS. I had been working midnight shift at a warehouse assembling wrenches into kits packaged for a Father’s Day promotion for Sears. When I stopped showing up for work, inquiries were made. I don’t make friends though, so there really wasn’t anyone to ask. My landlord knew nothing. After a few days a new person from the temp agency who hired me sent a new worker to fill my spot at the warehouse. I imagine that was the last time I was thought about in Jackson.

 

This story gets repeated over and over: Reno, Monterrey, Yuba CIty.

 

The act of killing myself is hard wired. My neuroses keeps me away from people. I’ve learned to live a solitary life. In the arena of mental warfare I am my own worst enemy. I stand alone, girded by invisible walls fortified with paranoia.

 

I work at night. I sleep during the day. I’m not some teen-aged fantasy of a real life vampire. I am the mundane phenomenon of depression and anxiety left unchecked. My skin does not sparkle, it’s merely pale from preferring the shadows. I don’t rise at night to consume the sanguine blood of my victims, instead I eat from convenience stores at odd hours, at different times. I do this so I do not encounter the same people at the same time. That leads to acquaintances, and relationships. I am not interested in that paradigm. Not any longer.

 

I died in Baltimore, Poughkeepsie, Wilkes-Barre, and Coeur d’Alene too.

 

The warehouse work I seek through temp agencies is simple. As long as you can pass a drug test and you don’t have active warrants, you can get a job. Warehouse work involves placing different objects into baskets making consumer products to be sold in boutiques. I’ve made lotion baskets, dried goods baskets, candy baskets and hermetically colored condom baskets. I once made a dried fish, preserved eel and wasabi dried pea basket for something called the Shogatsu. I’m an expert on cobbling things together. It’s the process I use I recreate myself after I die.

 

I died in St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Oakland.

 

As I insinuated, my deaths are not corporeal in nature; they are psychic. The seed of anxiety deposits in my thinking. It is nourished by the frenetic energy of my troubled cognition. The seed takes root and grows until the trunk and branches erode my lucidity. The only thing that has ever stopped the mental pain is to leave, simply walk away from whatever life I have. Each time I do, my psychical template descends into a malaise from which I cannot escape. So I die, and move on down the road to the next town.

 

That’s why now, as the vulture’s beak, strong with practice, pulls the remaining sinews from my skull I am surprised at my sadness. It’s an emotion I thought lost, but looking down upon my deteriorating body I find myself, unexpectedly, wanting to live. I have died so many times in the minds of others, I thought naught what it would feel like when I actually did depart from this plane.

 

I don’t like it.

 

I find myself pining to try again in life, to find a reason not to die away. I am struck with the irony of my seeking death as an escape, only to suddenly want to escape from the death I have so long sought..

 

I don’t remember anything from when the semi hit me. I had walked along the side of US Route 95. I was headed North, away from the heat and insular culture of the City of Yuma. I had enjoyed the sound of passing traffic, the white noise present during my northward trek out of Yuma. The truck had drifted a few feet to the right onto the shoulder without the driver’s knowledge. The moment of impact registered as a bright, white light.

 

Then nothing.

 

Nothing until I realized the yawn of morning and the presence of sunlight sufficient to see myself lying on the hardpan dirt of the Sonoran Desert. There I lay. My legs contorted unnaturally. My face immersed in the Earth. My backpack resting a good distance away seemingly unmolested. My body, just far enough away from traffic to lie unseen among the sage and stones, lay crumpled and still.

 

Time takes on a different role after death. It is no longer linear. The view I see of myself from wherever it is I am, is constant. I can see today, yesterday and tomorrow. Today I see the vulture, harvesting the final nutrients beneath my tattered clothing. The protuberance of a humerus bone clutching onto its radius counterpart with a weathered ligament poked through my clothing. My sun soaked skull revealed my occipital bone through scattered, matted blond hair. Blond hair tinged with dried blood.

 

I find myself in a perpetual orbit above the body I knew as mine. A body that had been given the chance to live a life, but whose mind never allowed it function.

 

I have truly died. I am now departed from myself, watching my body slowly become part of the lonely Sonoran Desert. My broken phalanges, now but small stones on the desert floor, lay scattered without intention or purpose akin to the lives I used to live.  

Looking down now, I recognize my future is extinguished. Yet here I am, still awash in the memories of the lives I lived. To what end have I come? I have become what I sought in life, to die and be released from life. And now, in a place absence of pain and anxiety, I mourn myself, my fettered existence.

 

Death, I realize, is not the answer; it is a premature conclusion without recourse, without remedy.

In life, I used death like a Tarot card placed in front of me time and time again. The Tarot card, depicting a skeleton with an arm raised toward the seeker, is not about death; it is about change. I see now my life repeatedly sought change, not death. I hungered change, a change I was unable to affect with my aberrant mental faculty.

 

I see that now. I see that now, as plainly as I see my body quartered among the sage and boulders.

 

Don’t Swallow the Horse

Do you all remember the children’s book, I know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly?  It was about an old woman who swallowed a series of increasingly larger and larger insects and mammals: a fly, spider, bird, cat, dog, goat. Somehow though upon swallowing a horse — THAT — was too much. Well that makes sense…

I remember being terrified whenever the teacher brought that book out to read. Seriously, a book about chronic over-eating, animal abuse and erupting stomach lining?

I bet the creators of American Horror Story loved that story.

Don’t get me started on Ring around the Rosie.

I am a serial killer.

I sit, in the dark, alone.

The thoughts come to me about my next victim. I know where she goes for coffee after her run. I know where he picks up his fifth of Bourbon after work. I see the silhouette of a family playing board games at their kitchen table through their drawn shades. I have groomed them all with love and care.

I know my weapons. I know how they feel in my hand. I see them on my basement table, gleaming in the light from the single exposed bulb shining down from the ceiling.

It’s just a matter of time now. I know their routines. I know the date they will die. I know which weapon will undo their lives. I know I will kill them.  I revel in the upcoming slaughter. The woman I kill slowly. The man I kill quickly. The family — oh that precious, sweet family — I will kill one at a time starting with the youngest as the others watch.

It’s my passion. I savor their struggle at my hand like I the salty taste of a fine caviar on my tongue. People die to sate my longings. Their pain, to me, is sublime beauty

I am a serial killer.

Or perhaps I should say, my character is a serial killer…

What are you doing?

Today I am trying desperately to gather algae from the pond so I can dry it and place inside a fold of Chinese cabbage leaf so I can feed the elders of my order. I’m just learning and it is not easy to gather it without falling into the pond. What are you doing?