Sunday, December 23, 2012

End of the World Blues

     December 21 came and went, and nobody blew off the planet except the usual small statistical portion of humans who succumb to the inevitability of fate and chance... A solstice, and once more, the days grow longer, if not necessarily warmer, up here in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway.
     People who claim "to know" the workings of the Creator are always predicting The End Is Nigh one way or another, one day or another. They are like spectators at a roulette table who are always betting on "21 Red!" Eventually, perhaps, 21 Red WILL come up, but meanwhile, the little elf who resides inside the roulette wheel just ticks the wheel over one more click, and of course, the gamers all lose, again. It's probably the most predictable thing about the entire game, that it just doesn't end.
     Really now, we are on this little marble spinning round in the sky for a limited amount of time enough as it is. Why give oneself over to fear of the "End of the World" when the end of your LIFE will eventually arrive, sooner than any of us would like, most likely, but with a much greater probability than that of the end of the PLANET! So don't listen to all these people who want to blame everyone and everything and lay an enormous guilt trip on people who probably don't even deserve it, just to justify their own moral hangups and hypocrisies and judgments of others.
     Do your best to be happy and make do with what you've got, let the Creator take care of it all. Isn't there something in Catholic theology about a "world without end?" Even so, why should God and the Angels say anything to us about it? And even if you are atheist and don't believe in "any of that shit"- most people are doing their best. Some of course, persist on making this earth a painful and doom-wracked place, but, the hell with them. Fear is a joy killer and the disease. Strive to be happy. To be able to laugh, at the end of your days, is to win it all.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Not Looking for Cows in Pear Trees

     I've been around the block a few times. The music industry never appealed much to me- after a good look or two into it. Being a "rock star" never much appealed to me, either, past the age of 35... Being "popular" on those sort of terms has never been a big goal of mine either- waking up with the whole world looking up one's posterior and judging one's every move- meh. Who needs That?
     The last year, however, has been one of shifting values and priorities. Yes, music is still what drives my life, yes, I still love to play it, and no, I have done little with it this last year for a couple of reasons. The first, achingly, is that I managed to whack my index fretting finger dead-on with a hammer while constructing a raised bed for my garden. This itself was enough to set back any plans I had for grabbing the few local gigs I might. The process of regaining my dexterity is yet ongoing, although the immediate nerve pain has more or less receded. This is called, "Learning Who You Are All Over Again."
     Secondly it has come to me just as certainly as it gainsays "Mid-Life Crisis" that my former purist wish to remain outside the pale of the "Oil-Serf Culture" has been - better or worse- an unsubstantiated moral victory which is called "winning the war but losing the battles." Peer pressure from fellow musicians- some unstated, others grudgingly acknowledged- has set me to rethink the entire idea of "just how attractive" are these Iron Ponies. So I am willing to surrender on that level, apparently of necessity, though it could yet be a while before you hear me brag about how "I finally have a license" and longer before you hear me say "OOOh I love my new Car." Cars are a pain in the ass to maintain and upkeep, & that I have been able to forego those costs has afforded me that much more money in my pocket for things I really wanted to gain or to do. An while I have not held a license I am certainly not ignorant of their mechanics nor of the skills needed to navigate the roadways. Surviving the past three years as a Silicon Valley bike commuter could not have happened had I no such awareness.
     Though it does seem a Pyhrric victory, at least I am sure my own carbon footprint in the end will be much less that of the majority of my peers, my friends, or the Rest of You. There is only so far one might take life, living with a guitar strapped on one's back, navigating the channels of traffic on a bicycle, as for one- where do you stick the amp?
     So you see, it all catches up with one eventually. Someday -not so far off I suppose- I will be unable to run across a street in a hurry- and Then I really Will want an auto. I do hope to be riding my bike all the rest of my days, however, the loss of mobility, the ability to just say "oh- so and so is playing this week, I'll drive over and join them" is too attractive, the inability to do so perhaps has dented my credibility with many of my erstwhile and respected friends and peers, anyway. So be it. I am not in this life to live up to your expectations, nor you, to live up to mine, but if I can create a life where the twain shall meet more beneficially, why not.
     I have a ways to go with all that, but the intent is there, and lest you dare call me hypocrite and Oil Serf  just yet as well, consider that I resisted it all these years. And did rather well for myself, regardless. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Taming Kili

                     Proved to have been impossible. Kili will never be anyone's "indoor" cat. This picture shows Kili before his right tear duct was torn out and his ear torn (in two separate fights). We will miss the hell out of you big buddy. And keep you in our hearts forever.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Congratulations, You Own It

    I am sure that readers of this blog will be hoping for a heated, overwrought reaction from myself about the re-election of Hif Majeftie, Mr. Obama. They will be hoping for a ranting tantrum, full of “right-wing” bile and uxor. It is a disappointing state of affairs, but I fully expected it. I am absolutely undeluded by the right wing and their knee jerk mentality which so many celebrity cases have tweeted, twattled, and twittered. For one thing the majority of their impressions of Hif Majeftie are quite off base: that he is Kenyan, a Moslem, and a Socialist, bringing like AntiChrist a slavery of financial austerity.  Certainly we are muddling along, but that is less his own will than it is the unwillingness of industry to take risks in difficult times.

     Wrong they are as to his national origin (he is a native Hawai'ian) but resemblance to Hawai'ian culture ends with him, there. A real akamai Hawai'ian kamaaina might have offered the occasion for more public visits from state residents, in the White House. A real Hawai'ian might have a much more laid-back approach to policy- “Hey bra, what’s the prob?” The President’s personality is more befitting his latter life in the cold, grey windy bitter city of Chicago, where his politics actually took shape.

    That he is a Moslem is indeed another real misnomer. He has oft stated his Christian belief and attends a Christian church, when he goes. He would do well to read Tolstoy (and in that I mean, go deeper than War and Peace, and delve into his philosophical essays)- and get an idea what true Christian fellowship actually entails. It owes much less to Caesar than it does God, and less to any one nation than it does a planetary community.

     Finally, the idea he is a Socialist is wrong as well. He is less a Socialist than he is a Federalist. Federal authority has come under some strong constitutional scrutiny from folks such as myself in recent years and months but Obama sees himself more as the eye on the Pyramid than he does the shield on the Seal.

     It was obvious from the returns that third party candidates would not do well, seeing as “common wisdom” has of late been bent into a “lesser of two evil choices” practice. If all you saw was mainstream media in this election then this would be an easy assumption, but a wrong one. At least 1.6 % of the electorate made clear this year at least there is still truth in Lincoln’s dictum, “but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

      As I made clear in my “No Means No” post, I myself am a former supporter of Hif Majeftie, and folks who like to call themselves political “boffins” would do well to ask people like myself “why did YOU not vote to re-elect, if you had liked him to begin with.” Well, for one, I fell for the con. He talked a good talk. He was NOT George Bush. And he made many promises, which were, to me, a good sign for the positive direction he might take us. I have reneged on this offer of trust, because, frankly, he has earned my distrust. He said he would close Guantanamo- it still festers, like a scab on the Psyche and Goodwill of Columbia. He kept in place a great many of his predecessor’s odious policies and continues to to this day. He promised to lay off the medical marijuana community  and instead, sent his Atty. General out to harass and incarcerate them. He sent his armed thug and goon squads into the Gibson guitar company, to harrass them over an endangered exotic hardwood import restriction which the Indian government themselves had waived, just because the president of Gibson  contributed in a major way to his Republican opponent, before his first election. He –and this is the one thing which irked me most- lied about his intention on (not) signing NDAA 2012. When a man says he will not do something, and then he does, what else can you call him but a liar? When a man claims that some things are inimicable to our way of life, and yet, goes along with political pressures to presume them, what can that make him but a hypocrite?

     Democrats, you elected him. You have had four + years to live with him and his “endless, global war”. You own his illegal Drone War as much as you own LBJ’s Vietnam and Harry Truman’s atomic bombs. (That your Party Chairwoman has no inkling such a thing as his terrorist “Kill List” exists is either a marvel of ignorance or a willful case of denial.) You own all his whining about "George did it first!" as well as his retaining all of George's war and police-state policies. For a candidate who  claimed to be our best hope for Peace, he has shown himself out as a man willing – in a most Machiavellian fashion- to do whatever it takes to win, even if that means the deaths of hundreds (or thousands) of innocent foreigners and even if that means that of US citizens. I am not sure any longer what exactly he is trying to win. This is one problem I have. If he intends to “rub out Al Qaeda”, then the cause is hopeless- they recruit more with every death-by-drone of an innocent bystander- someone’s relative,brother, mother, sister, father. (“But what the hell, they aren’t Americans, so, so what” -I hear the ignorant refrain.)

     War is terror. I believe there is a Latin saying “Dulce Bellum Inexperte”- roughly, “war always seems best to those who know nothing of it.” Hif Majeftie’s minions would like you to think, that because he has “read Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on the subject” that somehow he is a man acting from moral principle. But the works of both of those men dealing with a most un-Christian institution (war = state-sanctioned murder) were written (and are quoted) more to excuse the Crusades and Inquisition than they are valid philosophy for moral purists like myself. And I wonder, ‘has he read Macchiavelli?” because it really seems sometimes (esp, whereas, the Chicago school of politics he represents)- his speeches are full of the language of divisiveness. “ I will FIGHT; We will STRUGGLE; We will DEFEAT”; ”Voting is REVENGE”- the venom and bellicosity in his campaign rhetoric, I was struck by that. “That’s no laid back Honolulu kid talking, there.” That is the same old asshole crap.

     That the great majority of the Democratic Left swallowed their castor oil by voting for him-“I don’t like him, but Romney’s worse”- I think Romney was right to run against Obama’s record. He blew a few things, sure, and maybe he was not up to snuff, or miscalculated the blowback from his “47%  are leeches” comments. The Democrats campaigned more against the Boogieman of what Romney MIGHT have done, than against taking umbrage at what Obama has already been doing, giving this country even more of a black eye in the eyes of the world.

        Apparently also too few of them are aware of Project Censored’s “#1 uncovered story” about the rise of a Police State in the United States of America. This has been a trend, actually, since Bill Clinton was president, but Bush hit the accelerator, and Obama has put pedal to the metal. Internet privacy, Right of Peaceable Assembly to vocalize dissent, hi-tech “solutions” such as spy cameras and domestic drones- these are symptoms of a Federalist mentality which sees a “terrorist” under every bed and a “criminal” behind every joint.

     But I also noted with disgust the way some Democrats have reacted themselves, in their winning, as well. If some people- like Ted Nugent, for one- show little grace or sensibility in defeat, (the candidate possessed, admirably, a great deal more than his supporters) some Democrats show themselves as to possess little graciousness in victory, offering not a hand to grant the vanquished mercy, but tossing in a few more kicks for good measure as well. This approach does not bode well for America.

     And then, there are the political hack “journalist” operatives,  like Chris Matthews, who with great temerity call third party voters “idiots”- I wonder just who‘s the real idiot- the man who saw through both major party candidates, and gave his vote to someone he trusted more, or the man who made of himself  a "useful idiot" for the incumbent, and the Party Platform At All Costs- a vote, not a face, a statistic and demographic, not a person with intellect and judgement. Hail to the Idiocracy! Since the passage of NDAA 2012, we are looking at, not a presidency any longer, but an unprecedented potential military dictatorship. If the US Armed Forces now have a police role inside the USA it blows away 900 years of blood-won Western legal tradition in which (since the Magna Charta) the sovereign (i.e; Executive) was prevented from, and now has the right to: hold and detain anyone he suspects; search and seize anyone’s anything on whatever whim he pleases, KILL whomever he so chooses, anywhere on the face of our planetary home (the NSA will courteously offer up the letters of attainder) and habeus corpus may be placed in suspension in the matter of any possible individual case or national crisis situation, solely because- Hif Majeftie demands. And that is why I will continue to – name him by this sobriquet. Now I return to cultivate my garden, literature, music, friendships, and livelihood-and bid the world- do take a care for each other.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Now News for News

     Three sticks of jasmine incense stood in the brass burner on the short table near his bed. Light was dappled by the leaves of the aspen trees next door, breaking the eastern sunrise into slivers of dust motes. While News was cool with it, today would be a hard day to leave the morning bed.

     Downstairs, coffee was on in the kitchen, the strong aroma of a South American hillside translated through the roast beans in a way as clear as the blue glass that waited on the shelf for his morning orange juice.

     News lifted his eyes to the doorway, where an open window was cocked and set with a hook and eye latch, and along with the dappled light, the open air was cool and refreshing, and the outdoors mingled with the incense wafting through the room. His eyes roamed from the open window down the wall to the floor, where a rug made of hundreds of votive ribbons in a Bangladesh factory lay expectant of morning footpads.

     He would not be News if he did not listen and read the News every day. As News, he was always in the know, always on, always the one his friends knew would have the word on whatever it was they might need concern them on any given morning. Of course, it was not his choice to be called News, in fact, his name wasn’t even News, it was Peter, but he had been News to so many for so long now he might as well forget that Peter had ever been here, let alone, walked the streets with a newspaper beneath his arm. As the New News made his way, into a New Year, at the very least true to his new self, if not to Peter, he let the name stick to him, and could barely be bothered to wash it off, like an acquired layer of lacquer on his body armor.

     “News? I have the coffee ready”. That would be Martina Louise, his companion of the past two years,  a strawberryblonde brunette, who had her fair share of hard chances herself before they met. And that was for another tale. In this early morning light of aspen and jasmine, News was grateful he had her there, there had been so many years without her.

     Now she was calling him for coffee. He pulled aside his blanket, and grabbed for his robe which lie beside the bed on the floor. Shaking the dust from his head, he wrapped the robe close and began walking toward the door leading downstairs, and then the parrot went off.

   “Motorbay! Motorbaby! Yea Yea Yea Yea!” screamed the parrot. News resented the time he had taught the parrot the words to his least favorite of an old friend’s original compositions, but at the time, it had been fun. Years of “Motorbaby!” had led to endless explanations to guests, what the hell was that damn bird squawking about?

     This morning, the bird was just squawking to squawk, and soon shut up when Martina had fed him  chunks of canteloupe in a ceramic bowl. The bird then went about his day, generally perching on his hat rack (it had once been a hat rack, but now it was Comte De Flotte’s personal grooming and all purpose reconnaissance station)- and since a day when De Flotte was quiet was always a blessed one, this one would be about the same.

     News sat at the table now, running fingers through his uncombed hair. He could do with a shave but decided against it. The sound of eggshells cracking against the side of a hot skillet, and the smell of the eggs and of fresh bacon frying, snapped him out of it. He took a sip of the coffee Martina had called him for, and siad an inner prayer of thanks. All was well. Take stock of the situation.

     They had had a good year. Citations and returns had been numerous, and consultant fees and lecture honorariums collected. Articles published, and interviews granted. At times, he was lonely for the days when a bottle of wine was just a bottle of wine, and a moment with a reporter was a moment of intention. Now, all there was were press clippings, crumbled note pages, littered stock tickers. Everyday the red tape grew higher and higher around subjects and stories, until a wall of correcting tape could not break down the wiry bonds of nonsense and creation. He was glad for that!

      Martina now moved the eggs and bacon onto a large serving platter, and they picked their way through them until a glass of orange juice interposed itself like a comma upon the morning repast. When the meal was done, they had toasted each other for their many graces, they removed each other from sight and News went for a walk in the fresh wet dew, taking with him Gorby the dog.

     Gorby was bright but not always cooperative. If he had the mind to lie in a puddle, that he would do no matter what the cost in spattered clothing. He would race after squirrels in an eternally losing struggle. He would snap at blackbirds who approached him too closely while roped to a sidewalk cafĂ© table or chair. He was a good dog. Only his master could fathom his strange and devious side.

     They walked across the field across the street from the little house on the corner he’d lived in for forty five years. They entered a small grove beneath an umbrella-like oak tree, where a creek trickled through, and where sunlight shafts spoke of fountains, a thousand  shades of green and a sky of cerulean blue- like the blue in a paintbox he was given one year… Vines trailed off from the upper limbs of the ancient oaks and the dog and he walked all the way around a small circular valley.

     When the sun was still at about eleven and the shadows of the cow pies on the far hillside had turned to the east,  he made his way into the living room, the dog lay down on an oriental rug, and there was a flurry from the parrot, who now wanted milk. “Milk Milk Milk! Milk milk milk!” He had to laugh. He sat down at a card table which had an enameled white top, inlaid into a table structure of yellow spruce, varnished to a bright yellow. Inside a drawer of the table he kept a small chess set. He set up the pieces and began to daydream.

     One of the rooks became a watchtower, then a knight took Queen’s pawn. The black bishop and the white King were at pains to avoid each other and danced a minuet counterpoint against one another in rococo double-time. Soon the blue jays that perched on the backyard wall would scream, and another noon would be announced, sunlit and shadow on the gnomon of the garden sundial.

     Then it was a salad, and a sandwich before him. He dipped into a plate of spinach and arugula leaves topped with tomatoes, pomegranate arils, diced pears and feta cheese, and chased it with the  sandwich, made of fried bread, mozzarella, tomato and basil. The afternoon also sat well with a glass of red wine, and he sat down to write. What more would do, for such a glorious day? Gratitude, again, of course.

     His companion wrapped an arm around him as he wrote, and she spoke to him of things she wanted for them to regard together. Like many of the people around him who wanted good for him, she had known the trials and the frustrations of being in situations where the will of others preceded his satisfactions. He was not going to let those things rewrite his drama for him. Life was too short for the editing to be left to others, who might not understand.

     And by the time he stopped typing, the blue sky with a little white puff of cloud wisping its way east. The dining room window sat on the east side of the house, with the piano (its keys had stuck fast from years of neglect) and the early morning garden, which opened with French jalousy doors right into the wall between the dining room and kitchen.

     White ceramic tiles broken by that same cerulean blue borders lined a U-shaped counter top, the middle panel which was set with a sink. And beneath the sink was an amazing jungle of pipes which led down down the dark ladders, into the snakelike and plutonian mystery of plumber’s nightmares. Such it was, usually, but only in the winter.

     The dining table had been set by Martina Louise- with blue glass goblets and brass candlesticks above a solid red tablecloth. Orange napkins rested beside placemats made of Sunset Magazines. “This is about as close as we will ever get to being in it” he liked to joke with her. But it was hard to argue, the magazines did sop up a good deal of spillage which might have been disaster for that solid red tablecloth. They sighed, and life went on.

     He stared at the white tile and remembered an afternoon as a twelve year old when Tapioca had gone to war with Bosco during a duel fought over a staggering peanut butter and banana sandwich. The Gravy Train had come and gone, leaving a stale taste of old Hamburger Helper behind. That was an old wrinkle. But again Martina Louise had saved the day, handing him a jelly doughnut full of dark red cherry fruit and syrup, she had baked a whole rack of them, and for this again he was grateful. She placed a teacup at his side, smiled, and lit her own cigarette, blowing the smoke somewhere off toward Fremont.

     Outside the garden door were cool brook stones creating a path through winding nasturtiums, sweet peas, and hydrangea. Bright scarlet flowers announced themselves with bright yellow stamens, purple pistils and even tiger striped petals. The parrot hopped onto the table and began dancing around a candlestick. He did this with a pure theatrical zeal, he had been encouraged at this and had taken it up as an afternoon’s pleasure, dancing around the tabletop for his human caretakers.

     News knew the dance, and he knew the whole neighborhood better than the back of his own hand. It was almost as though the map of the area were indelibly carved into some neurons up there, or something. But he watched the changes in season, the grass which yellowed in May and came back green in November, the wild geese that drew their v’s against the autumn sky and winged south along the ridges and valley that ran behind the foothills near his home, the way the rain always wet one wall of his house a certain way each year, and not even roofing renovations could change it…

     Each year the new green broke through the widening cracks in the asphalt of the driveway and the pines and oleanders grew taller and the eucalyptus left their red shreds of last season’s bark in long sheets that clogged the unpaved edges of the main street, running north-south, along the west side of the house.

     Looking out the dining room windows he had a far stretching view of the East Bay Hills and Regional Park District, and lights from SFO-bound airplanes lit up the dusky twilight each night with their steady oncoming progress… planes made their turn a bit further south over the foothills of Stanford University, headed north near the slat flats, the ever shrinking pile of Leslie’s table salt that sat at the base of the harbor – (San Francisco Peninsula’s one excuse for a harbor!) and brought their flaps down as they pulled over the rocks and trees of Coyote Point…

     Afternoon, and so, now was time for tea. While News forsook tea for the morning coffee, it was Martina Louise insisted on both his presence and his participation. She liked to make the tea in an informal way, not completely or severely Japanese, but casual, calm, collected, and if she could hazard it, as English as she might make it. She preferred Darjeeeling or Oolong, but had been recently converted by the green tea propagandists, so she felt if only News consumed a cup- of her green tea- per day, he was doing more for himself than a lot of his friends. But at this age he hardly cared. Some risks were more worth taking than others, and he certainly wasn’t sorry for many of the risks he’d taken on the way- he’d survived the rapids, and was ready now for some long, slow, stretches of lazy waters.

     He sat zazen on a cushioned mat for the next hour looking inside himself as well as the outside manifestation incorporating itself as sound  in the Now. This was thought thinking how not to think. Slowing down the train, stopping the river. Like one pebble in the stream.

     When he came down from his zen cloud he put Echoes by Pink Floyd on the stereo and allowed the limpet green submarine of BritPop to massage his jaded and Balkanized braincells. For twenty minutes more, loud and soft -both dynamics- rose and fell and reminded him: ever-present all is illusion even as it is manifesting as real I am here I am not here I am there I am nowhere.

     At the dinner hour when the clouds and geese had flown by and the sky was a purple folded orange sunset.The new bell ringing was the one hand clapping sought for amongst the folds of grey matter. No mind, no matter.

     She motioned to him that there was food again on the table. Dinner would be a pizza with smoked salmon and it was hot and it was good and it was right out in front of him a whole platter of steaming crust not too hard not too soft just exactly right of course there were vegetables- green peppers and mushrooms- and the wonder of pizza being a pizza is so much like life itself- all your main ingredients satisfying daily nutritional requirements a meal-in-one a score a real specimen of la dolce vita taken with a glass of red wine all the better to cheer the heart.

     That was a satisfying end to things and more gratitude of course for having had the chance to experience such a wonderful presence in Martina Louise, everpresent eversteady everkind. As evening came on the sound of crickets in the tall grass of the southern hillside rose from the dun-colored dried up straw and the air quivered in summer heat ever so slowly cooling as night broke. Some called this earthquake weather. It might as well be.

     She led him by the hand to their bed and the bedspread was of a Pondicherry print with borders of curling green bough branches and an inner repeated pattern of a tree, an elephant, and a tiger. She pulled her robe up over her shoulders and unfastened his shirt and they were again like a pair of seagoing fish swimming deeply in an embrace like a star cloud she enveloped him her inner expanses like a hot hydrogen star ignited by an inner passion. Gratitude such a goddess had passed this way…

     All consuming in the Now their orgasm the light in the southern sky the moonlight now falling in silver beams reflecting off the surface of the leaves remaining green on the aspens in the yard next door and the red blinking lights of a far off satellite tracing across the deep dark constellations of the night sky the leaves quaking and shivering like their sighs together a final surge of protoplasmic manifestation of desire and they collapse like spent otters remaining entwined as they drift off to sleep in the kelp beds of the cosmos.

     But that was only one moment not the end of evening there were still the nightly returns to the world to be got to- News answered all email at night and only when he felt like it- he also checked to see what had happened round the wide old world through the day. He lived for the ideal without going out of his door he could know all things on earth so being wired in was not to be disregarded no matter how set against nonorganic foundations he was expecting one day the world would get wise to itself once everyone was plugged in and turned on and that self expression would no longer be the privilege of those granted status as modern day princes but the property of one and all a means by which all voices could find a way to reach out and connect with strange Others.

     Most of what the world takes for news, News had decided, was always some result or other of the chaos of Evil breaching the general Goodness of All Things. Something goes sour here and there, and more because the forces which establish it are always seeking a disruption of the calm everpresent in the Now. Those forces are all about how Next, not what Now. It’s easy to tell the people who need them most, they have the most objections  to things just flowing along without interference. The more interference and static in the  line, the more stationary the obstinance becomes in resistance to the Flow that these people usually end up living a lot like rocks. News knew better than that.

     From their bedroom ceiling hung a lamp which had a blue and a red bulb on either side and this lamp was suspended with a retractable cord allowing its height to be raised or lowered. Sometimes he signaled a neighbor friend by flashing it against the windows. A small wooden nightstand held a small ceramic jar in which he kept those discreet herbal pleasures, and on the window ledge one night in a playful  mood he had scratched a line from a Bob Dylan song: Oh Mama can this really be the end to be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again. On the outer side of the window he had scraped into the woodwork “Come All You Roving Minstrels and Together We Will Try To Rouse The Spirit” giving the effect of engraved woodburning with only a penknife. That was in his adolescence though- these two legacies had long ago been  Still, he enjoyed the fact he’d been that taken by both songs at one point early, early in his time.

     In the Winter, when cabin fever would cover them like a thick bank of snow and the
seemingly unceasing rain dripped from the outer eaves and seeped its way into that one wall and the mornings always began with smoke-like steam rising from the beams atop the fence posts, they would sit on the back porch swing together and listen to Van Morrison and Sandy Denny records. The little house had been his shelter, cave, and retreat for the better part of his life- what more could he need?

     Down the road he heard a robin singing.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Season, Our Year

     We San Francisco Giants fans have reason to be proud. Halfway through the season, one of our stars (who shall remain nameless) made some bad decisions, in fact, had been making them most of the year... and got himself suspended, at the top of his zenith. Like Sisyphus, he would need to make the long, long, hard climb back... just to get a place at the table. The team were shocked- he had been a real sparkplug to them. But that did not shake them, break them, nor deter them. The Giants came back from the suspension with a determination and will that spread from the far reaches of the clubhouse to the nosebleed seats in the stands. The Giants came after the Dodgers, surpassed them, and left their wagons torn, shot through with arrows, and bleeding by the roadside.

And the Dodgers were only just the first of them. Cincinnati were next, and had them down two games to none, but they scratched back like alley cats with their back to a drainpipe and trounced them with a three game streak... Next were the Cardinals, who went with a simpering whimper, after holding the Giants down 3-1... lost three straight, to give San Francisco their second league championship in three years. So this should be a lesson to the entire east coast sportscaster and sportswriter establishment- Never underestimate a San Francisco baseball team, not EVER!

Now the Giants will face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, for the first time ever. Detroit have fearsome pitching, but every Achilles has a heel. The Giants will do all they can to find it, attack it, and bring  the pomp and edifice down around the Tigers' heads, like Samson in the temple. This is a Giant team which will be remembered long after this World Series, win or lose- this 2012 Giants team was the Team That Believed, and Achieved Because They Believed... 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bagel Eater, The Crow (Conclusion)

       Hairball soon sussed that the best time to make the hit on the little Crow family was in the morning when Bagel Eater brought back the bagels. Tomorrow morning would be… the last time he brought home the bacon…
     The night before the action, Some of the crows in The Murder got together and discussed bets on how Hairball would make out. Tokyo put 6-1 on Hairball getting only one of the three. If he could get all three, the crows would give him both hamsters. If he got less, he would only get one. Tokyo was going on at length, when the crows were surprised by Hairball, boldly strolling right into their circle, gathered in the veranda of the Del Orso City Hall. “I heard what the pay is. But what happens if I get hurt? What will you pay me then? I can’t just risk my fur for a phantom reward, especially if I fall out of that tree.
     “You’ll land on your feet!” squawked Upstart. Tokyo shot him a dark look, and spoke up.
     “Hairball, if you get hurt, I’ll leave Del Orso and fly back to my home across the ocean.”
     ”You don’t have the gas.” Hairball pulled on his paw with his teeth, and shot both of the leader crows a disgusted sneer.
     “That’s not how its done. I’ll stow away on a ship, and they will take me, and when I get there I will fly.”

     The Hamster Brothers escaped certain death, when Tokyo and Upstart came to see them later that evening, hiding in their grease trap. Bill ran out into the air vent and Mike ran up into the bakery kitchen. The plan had been to catch them and prepare them for their role as Hairball’s reward. But it was all premature.
      In the morning, Hairball looked up into the branches of the tree and could see Bagel Eater tearing up pieces of bagel for little Rebo to munch on. “Good!” he thought. “Right where I want them…

     Hairball climbed the tree, his claws raking the bark and alerting Bagel Eater that something was coming. He looked up from his breakfast and down the trunk of the tree. There was Hairball, mayhem in his eyes. He had just reached the fork of a very long branch leading up to the level Bagel Eater and Jam had used to build their nest. He was no more than five feet from the nest, when Bagel Eater suddenly sat on the edge of the nest, and flapped his wings furiously. The wind from his flapping wings blew straight into Hairball’s face, but he scrunched up his nose and pressed on ahead. Hairball was distinctly at the disadvantange, as he was standing nearly vertically as he climbed the trunk, pressing his fat belly against the oak for security.
     Bagel Eater took off and began to sound the alert.
    “Caw, Caw!”
      The noise woke Jam, who lifted her head just in time to see Hairball’s fat paw reach around the edge of the nest, and pulled it alongside him, as he simultaneously grabbed a sure hold on the tree, and with all the strength in his hind legs, pulled himself up into the fork where the nest was. He din’t have time for his next move- little Rebo, now awake himself, grabbed Hairball’s left paw with his beak and clamped down.
    “Rrrrowwwr!” screamed Hairball, and hissed, his fur ruffled and standing on end now. Jam began to go for his eyes, but Hairball ducked. Meanwhile, Bagel Eater flew up and took a flying dive from seven feet in the air and bashed the point of his beak against Hairball’s head, causing the cat to spin and swing wildly with his other paw. But the three-pronged counterattack was working. Hairball had to keep ducking, and watching for Bagel Eater’s dives, which continued, until finally, he was forced to scrabble back down the trunk of the tree and admit defeat.
     The Murder had turned up, at least a few of them, mostly Tokyo and Upstart and several of the younger crows, mainly to determine the outcome and split the betting pool. But the betting was lame. Hairball had accomplished absolutely nothing. Even little Rebo had been effective in defending their nest from the awkward kitty.  
    “Looks like you’d better make your reservation for the tramp steamer,” said Upstart.
    Tokyo, the hard talking yakuza from the Orient, admitted that his own word had to be upheld, and nodded affirmatively.
    “I will leave, and I will pack my bags and leave tonight. The Del Orso stay has been nice, and you of The Murder have been good to me, but I have not solved your problem. Short of committing suppuku, I must depart with my honor intact.”
   Upstart, too, took the ribbing of the younger crows. “What a stupid idea anyway, sending a cat to kill a crow! We crows are tough- TOUGH!” they cackled, and immediately they took off and surrounded the Bagel Eater nest. “Upstart, you must leave us! Be exiled and find another murder to swindle!”
     “Bagel Eater, we support you. You are the superior animal! You are the toughest crow in Del Orso! Long live Bagel Eater!” and they hoisted him up onto their shoulders and wings, and flew him around the bakery, although Bagel Eater flew off before they could leave him at the tree where the yakusa Tokyo and Upstart had held council and launched the plot to begin with. Jam and Rebo came flying out to greet Bagel Eater, who proudly perched at the ledge atop the bakery roof and rattled, long and loud. 
       After that, Bagel Eater never minded at all if Jam and Rebo and him ever got first crack at the free bagels out of the bakery. The younger crows were welcome to all they could desire. He went back to gleaning grain from the corn growing in backyards around town .
     The Hamster Brothers continued making their wine and living off the crumbs on the bakery floor. Hairball was picked up later in the day by the Animal Control officers who wondered how or why a cat would climb a tree so tall, how he had become so disoriented (walking around town with no discernible purpose or destination) and taken him someplace- exactly where,  nobody knew.
     Bagel Eater and Jam went on to have many more years of happiness in their little tree across from the Del Orso bakery. And nobody- nobody- bothered to bother them again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bagel Eater, The Crow (Part I)

       In a tree above the busy downtown, where the asphalt gave up more crumbs than corn, Bagel Eater the crow lived in his warm and full nest, with his wife Jam and his son Rebo.

     The Crow family were growing fast in the town, because conditions were becoming right for them, being scavengers, they could live anywhere on anything, but in the midst of human society with all its waste and excess, Life got to be pretty fat for most of the crows in Del Orso.

     Most days, Bagel Eater could depend on finding some morsel outside the bakeries that lined the street near his tree. One day he found a whole box of bagels, abandoned, which is how he got his name. The other crows who gathered in the eaves of the building to watch said that Bagel Eater surely was a good name for such a clever crow.

    One of the bakery workers noticed that Bagel Eater liked the bakery’s bagels, so he began leaving more of them out on purpose for Bagel Eater, or any other crows, to come eat them. Pretty soon, Bagel Eater came to rely on leftovers from the bakery. Jam would expect him to bring at least two bagels a day back to the nest for her and little Rebo. Sometimes he could, sometimes other crows would get to the bagels first and fight for them, and he could only bring back a little half a bagel someone had walked away from.

     When he was able to bering home enough bagels for Jam, Rebo and himself, he would sit on the edge of the nest and rattle his crop for hours, because it was always better to brag to the other crows when things were going good than to be silent and seen to be lacking.

     One day a whole murder came passing through, and almost every crow in Del Orso made it to the gathering. Only Bagel Eater, Jam, and Rebo stayed behind, at home, happy to be eating the fine bagels that the bakery man had left out that morning.

     What Bagel Eater did not know was that the reason for the big murder in the first place was that all the other crows in Del Orso were jealous, and wanted more from the bakery for themselves. They had to plot to find a way to make the bakery man leave more bagels out, or else, they would have to gang up on Bagel Eater , Jam and Rebo, and maybe even murder them. To get a fair cut of  the bakery man’s bagels.

     Because Bagel Eater’s tree was so close to the bakery, it was easy to confuse what the other crows thought was an unfair advantage with the simple fact Bagel Eater lived closer, and he knew the bakery man’s schedule, so, obviously, he got more of the bagels.

     Upstart, the leader of the massed murder, got up on top of a telephone pole and began to lecture the rest of the crow crowd. Nearly 100 crows were there, all preened and slick and ready to have themselves a great pecking party, if it came down to it. Half of them would respond with an approving rattle if Upstart said something good they liked, and the other half would caw if they heard something they did not like.

     “My fellow crows of Del Orso We are gathered to discuss the problem of the Del Orso bakery and the fact that one crow, one crow gets the best of the bagels off the bakery man. I want you to go out and find out more about how Bagel Eater gets more bagels! And when you do, I want you to discourage him from being a greedy glutton!”

     There was  a huge ratttle. “Greedy-glutton, greedy-glutton” rattled the rest of the crows.

     “Caw, Caw! The law, the law,” cawed the disapprovers. The majority, though,
 was with Upstart. Maybe Bagel Eater could be murdered in his sleep by a special team of assassin crows. Maybe Jam and Rebo could be crippled, or fed robin-berries so they crashed drunk into windows, or maybe a special “accident” could be arranged so that they, the entire Bagel Eater family, could be snuffed out in a quick minute.
“What we ought to do, said a new crow, named Tokyo, “is to get a third party to make them pay, and nab them in the middle of the night!”

     The crows who were for vengeance all rattled, and when their rattling had died down, Upstart spoke again.

      “A good idea, Tokyo. We will start by going to the Hamster Brothers who live beneath the bakery, and through them, we will pay the ferocious Hairball the Cat who lives at the yoga studio upstairs and Hairball will make mincemeat pies out of them”.

       More rattling. The anti-vengeance crows began to caw sad long caws, and gradually, began to melt away back into the tall pines and redwoods of the Del Orso neighborhood.

     “What shall we pay the cat?” asked one of the younger crows who had remained, polishing his beak on a small piece of porcelain tile that had caught his  eye one day,and  he used as his talisman.

     “We should pay the cat in bagels!” was one wag’s answer. 
 "Bagels? " asked Upstart. He gave the crow who’d bleated that silly response a tilt of the head and the full of his stank eye. “Don’t you know  a cat will only touch meat?”

    “I have a Better Idea” said Tokyo.” Let’s pay the Cat in Hamsters! We’ll get them out of the way as well, and kill two stones with one bird!"

     “Now you are talking, said Upstart, "With them out of the way, there will be even more bagels for everyone in our murder. Are y’all with me?"

Two dozen crops all rattled in unison. The next agenda would be to conjoin and cajole the Hamster Brothers into the plot.

     Bill and Mike Hamster were just average, ordinary guy Hamsters. They lived in a little comfy nest lined with old napkins and woven plastic forks as protection, underneath the grease trap at the bakery. They had known Hairball for years, and sometimes paid him protection money to allow them to continue living rent-free at the bakery. It would not be within or beyond their minds to have the thought occur that one day, Hairball might look them over for a midnight snack, too, someday, but for now, the Hamster Brothers could dawdle and run in their wheel and sneak out now and then to grab an old crust from off the bakery floor.

       Tokyo came to the bakery, and hopped around the back door, and knocked with his bill on the lid of the grease trap. “Why, it's one of the big black birds! How ya doin', Mr Bird? Y’wanna beer?”

      “Sure,” cracked Tokyo, "An' I'm Tokyo Crow, da meanest muddafugga in da Del Oso moider." He sat back as Mike brought a can of Pilsudski Trappist to Tokyo who sipped at the bubbles with his beak, and played with the pulltop ring while the conversation continued.

     “Us crows, we have a problem, Hamsters. We gots one of our own here lives up in dat tree back there. Actually, there is three of him. Him, a hen, and a little one. They have got us strangled for da bagels the deuceboy leaves out here in the mornings. We’re getting’ cut out of all of it. When we get here, he’s already jinxed the whole bag by grabbin’ the best. Sometimes we catch him in the act and we get more, but this can’t continue. Da moider can’t have dis kinda shit for long, not in dis crow’s Del Orso.”

     The Hamster Brothers looked to each other, then to Tokyo. “So what do you want us to do? He lives way way up in the tree.We can’t possibly get up there to do anything… whatever… to him…”

     “No here’s da deal. You know that cat lives up in the yoga studio, Hairball?”

     “Do we know…” They looked at Tokyo, and simultaneously gulped.

     “Mmm, yeah… we know him…” The Brothrs looked at one another with long faces, once again.

     ‘Da moider wanches you to go to Hairball and tell him to go for da crows live in dat tree. Anyt’ing goes, nothing is verboten. Got that? Da moider will pay him handsomely, he’ll see... We’ll be seein ya Hamstas’ You have three days to get da cat to do da job."
     A big yakuza like Tokyo would be feared wherever he lived, but here in Del Orso, he could be a big fish in a small pond. He spat the beercan ring into the gutter as he swaggered out of the greasetrap onto the parking lot tarmac, gave a loud flap, and flew off.

     The Hamster Brothers, milktoast meek as they were, had no desire to face the cat. Hairball was unpredictable by event, but predictable in habit. There was a chance they could talk to him through the wall where the vent opened, and that way they would not have to face him in the open where they could run away. It had to happen in the morning before the owners came and turned on the bakery lights, when Hairball would be out patrolling. With Hairball on his side of the vent and the Hamster Brothers on theirs, they could hold a parley with the cat and slide back to their nest in the grease trap without any fear of Hairball catching them.

    So they set up a picnic chair and a sun umbrella near the hole in the  vent and waited for Hairball to make his rounds. “Hey, Hairball, yelled Mike, as Hairball finally showed, his black and white mittens blocking the holes in the event as he bent closer sniffing their scent.

    “Hairball, we need to  tell you something. The big black birds what are they call The Murder want you to do a hit job on one of their friends. They say he lives in that tree back there in the parking lot. They say, do whatever you need to do, but they need your hired claw in there to do a good clean hit. They say they will pay you… “very handsomely. Ask for the one they call Tokyo.”
     Hairball, curious, sniffed them again and twitched his whiskers. “They want me to fight one of those big black birds all by myself?”
     ”If they did not trust you to do it, they would not have asked. They would not have asked us to be the ones to tell you, o great Hairball, for we are ever in your debt, o landlord.”
     Bill piped up and said “They say they will give you three days to do the job. I guess when you do it they will pay you.”
   “Well, that’s ONLY fair” said Hairball, “but if I get hurt doing the job because he is bigger than me, what do I get out of it then?”
  The brothers looked at each other. “We really have no idea, o great Hairball. We just passing the word on…” 
     In his hurried hamster fashion Mike began packing up the picnic chair and sun umbrella and began hauling them back down the air vent passage. Harball sat and listened to the footfalls of the hamsters scuttle on the aluminum vent until they reached the nest, and the scuttling stopped. 

Hairball began the work of casing out Bagel Eater’s tree, noting the habits of the three birds, who came and went quite freely, and thought of them in terms of their size and weight, and what it would take to fight one and win. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fun Credit Vendetta

      John of Stallville, a young man of just twenty four years of age. Grew up there, and by dint of that, he had had little but the typical Stallvillian outlook upon the world- basically, that beyond the county line was nothing but a vast sea of un-navigable waters the boundaries of which were marked only by the stars at the end of the very much flat earth.
     John was small. His feelings were to face the wall. Outside the city wall, where everything else including the city wall was tall, tall, tall, John of Stallville paid little heed to customs, trades, tarriffs, or journeymen. Stallville was, for once and for all, after all,
a place for men to turn and face the wall. And by the hour of their demise, perhaps  they’d have figured out their preciously short existence. Or perhaps not. But small little Stallville was , if nothing else, a place to stall.

    Within this small world that was Stallville, after all, there were many who lacked
 the suitable preferences in abstract discussions of things such as: the price of eggs,
the price of corn, how much it costs to feed a duck for six months, what you need to get for your get-up-and-go, and much more. They rarely asked John what it all meant to him. After all, for being small, there was not much fun to be had at all, no, not at all.

    And that was the way it was when John was awakened one morning by his ringing phone. Answering it, he heard a strange woman’s voice.

     “John? John of Stallville? This is Narleen Nidugudiddi with the National Department of Fun in Washington D.C. I am calling you to tell you that your supply of Fun Credits has expired, has been revoked, you know what I mean? You no longer have sufficient Fun Credits to maintain any more fun in your life at this time, until you re-earn them. I am sorry to have to notify you like this- nobody likes hearing they can’t have fun anymore- but fun has its limits and the US taxpayer can only afford so much fun to go around anymore, if you know what I mean?”

     She had barely allowed him to get a word in edgewise. What was this, that his fun credits- what the heck was a Fun Credit? He had not even heard the concept. Apparently after he was 18 he did not open his Fun Credit Account like a normal boy, and he had become, after five years by federal waiver, ineligible to collect any longer what most American kids had grown up to feel was their birthright- free Fun Credits when they achieved 18 years of age. The statute of limitations had expired, and now, John of Stallville would face a future that was no fun at all.

   The fun train had passed John of Stallville by in the night. With no means to make his way through the tall trees outside the tall wall and no means to move from Stallville to anywhere else out there, across the wide prairie and the ocean of unnavigable waters at the edge of the starlit sea, John of Stallville would now pretend that having any Fun Credits did not matter anyway, because he was going to invent new ways of making fun for himself, without anyone’s oversight or contribution.

     The other residents of Stallville who were John’s own age had held on to their frames of reference for social interaction, and had made exchange of Fun Credits a kind of fantasy reality game, where credits got exchanged for sex, for liquor, for cars,  amphetamines, chrome wheels, for satin gowns and Gucci purses, and worse. Among those were few who counted John as a friend. Why? Because perhaps, growing up in his own little universe, there was no need for John to know more than those who wanted to know him. He never bothered to ask if this was Antisocial or not, and nobody said he was, either. That was just how things had worked out.

     Needless to say, by allowing his Fun Credits to expire, John would have little chance to explore relationships with the opposite sex. Oh, there were one or two girls who liked him or called him cute among their friends, but they never  thought to get too close to get to know him, and usually, walked alone home from school with their schoolbooks tucked into their arms, silently humming songs from the Top-40, and dreaming of owning a house.

     The voice at the other end of the phone was now calling him back to reality.

    “Mr John? Yes. I am sorry that we had to call you to inform you of it, but, from now on, your life will be selectively monitored and you will be placed on a list of those who might need reevaluation of Life Patterns. We will be informing you when our examinations will take place. In the meantime, don’t you dare try and have ANY FUN! This is your government, speaking.”

   When the line went dead, John held the phone in his hands for several minutes and stared at the tall trees the tall wall, the un-navigable sea at the edge of the starlit ocean, the little stone saint that sat in his parent’s garden and looked heavenward, and he made a vow.

    Nobody else is gonna have any fun if I can’t have any, either. And it begins now.

   Starters, he set his phone to reject all calls, and  started his car. He didn’t think much about the gas money, he was happy just tooling around with no particular place to go. Other kids had plenty of everything (including fun) but since John’s fun had been quite minimal, even before the loss of his Fun Credits for good, John’s attitude now was- they think they’re all so high and fine. They’ll see.

    He took a high school yearbook from his senior year and leafed through it. He selected five people who he had felt were some of these up and uppers- the five most popular and not necessarily studious kids, one of whom had been a particular thorn in his side. He took a blue felt tipped pen and defaced their faces in the rows of pictures, with a smirk, he gave them devil mustaches and horns, goatees, crossed out their eyes, drew stitches on their foreheads and Frankenstein bolts in their neck, drew Hitler mustaches and swastikas on their lapels, Injun arrows through their heads, and other nefarious, if clichĂ©’d, vandalisms to their likenesses. This did not give any of his subjects any particular pain, but maybe the voodoo would help some.

     John not being naturally the bully sort, he went to the local neighborhood bar to take some advice from the bartender. “Yeh, my advice to you, kid, is just let it go, you know? If I had any Fun Credits myself (because now I am too old to apply anyway) I would probably just piss them away in a place like this. And how come you’re in here, anyway, at your age? This is an old-people dump. Most of the guys I see they’ve had years more of abuse than you, you’re just starting out, getting your feet wet. I can’t teach you how to become a bully, kid. It just… comes naturally to some people, that’s all.”

     John could see he was not quite the bullying kind, nor would his diminutive height give him any help there, either. But the five kids he picked from his yearbook lineup, at least one of them was the kind. And he didn’t really know how to become friends with that kid, after all, he’d been the one to point out he had a pimple on his forehead as big as a dime, in front of the entire health studies class in his sophomore year. Yeh, that kid.  The one with the bigass shoes and the cigarettes he stole off his mother and used to gain favors with the hall monitors.

    That kid’s name was Don Traxel. Traxel had a lot of moving around in his early life so when his parents got to Stallville and stayed stuck, he was not going to take their lives as an example. Once he got out of high school, he fled the Tall Wall and the Tall Trees and Stallville and struck out across the western prairies to the endless starlit sea and came to the end of the road, where he found a little town that welcomed him. They used him to paint the outside of the hardware store, the American Legion, and the two Banks. He had it good, still. A little apartment on the west end of Stallville, now, a couple of years back from his big wahoo out west, held Traxel’s car, its parts all decoupled and sitting in big glass jars all over the shelves. Meanwhile Don slept on the floor on a foam rubber pad.

     The difference to Don’s new life in Stallville after fleeing and returning, a few  hundred dollars richer in painter’s fees, and John’s, who had barely had the energy to punt, let alone paint, and whose little car meant a lot less than Don’s did but at least was in running condition, was not in wheels, but in women.

     Don Traxel had a harem of girls who all dreamed of one day buying a house with him.
The plan for John would be to mess up Don’s Fun Credits so that the girls not only would refuse to ride in his car (once he rebuilt it) but mess with their dreams of owning a mortgage with Don, when the storied fabled day of Princess Happiness fell upon them, as it should, for  all Good Girls.

    Where to start! Well, John knew that Don liked the minor league baseball team of Stallville, the Stallville Stallions, so much that he was now working as a bat boy and groundskeeper over at the Stallville Stadium. And if Don had Fun Credits, he would most likely spend them more often than not attending the Stallions games. When the out-of-town team buses pulled in, Don would have already spent the morning getting the outfield grass cut and the infield dirt watered down, and the lines re-chalked. His Fun Credits bought him seats at the ballpark- for his harem. Hell, his own seat was free, he worked for the team.

     John’s detective work- which consisted of going to two weeks worth of Stallions games, paid for with His Own Money, and finding out where Don’s harem was most likely to sit. He discovered there was a block of seats near first base that Don liked to reserve for them. If he could break the streak, by buying up all those tickets for a couple weeks, the girls would get tired of going to the games and getting turned away, because the seats belonged to John. And once Don saw those seats empty ten days in a row – he might find other ways to waste his Fun Credits.

    It was easy getting the seats, really. It turned out that the guy in the Stallions ticket office who was Don’s connection really despised Don, and in fact, had been angling to have him dismissed for a few weeks now. Only a decision by the Vice President however, stood in the way. The Vice President had gone off on a trip to the Baseball Association offices in Buffalo, New York, however, and was not available to hire fire, request,or recommend.

     And so it was an easy thing for John to buy the whole block of seats, usually five in one row, the front row at first base, for a full ten days. John didn’t even blink about the dint on his own pocketbook, since his rent was paid, and his Mom supplied a lot of the food he ended up eating, anyway.

   And so, the experiment began. John himself bought his own single seat a few rows back beneath the overhanging upper deck, near the tall steel strut support that reinforced that upper deck, to the left of the empty girl’s seats.

   The first night, he watched John when he came out to drag the infield with the grounds crew. The usual flip and wave of the backwards-brimmed ball cap John gave his chicky-wickies was missing. In fact, by the time the work was done, he noticed that John had a very red face and was a lot sweatier than the rest of the fellows hauling the drag maul. He was probably wondering what to say when he would get on the phone after the game and call one- or all- his girls and find out why they didn’t come. Didn’t they know that this weeks series with the Portsmouth Ploughs was going to make or break the Stallions season?

    John was pretty happy knowing he’d begun making someone else uncomfortable. Soon it would get to be a habit.

     After getting Don Traxel into a funk, and actually, Don Traxel did soon lose his job- John moved on to the others on his list. Amelia Dalton, the most popular girl in school, who had done some rather hideous things to John in the fifth grade, would be the next pick for payback. Amelia had long brown hair she liked to dye the top white and walk around two-toned. Some years she would dye a white stripe in the middle of the brown, but she preferred looking like a paintbrush mostly. She had a nice father and mother, who were embarrassed when they learned the hideous thing Amelia had done to John, right there in the hallway at lunchtime. At least John felt they were good enough to spare.

    Amelia’s popularity stemmed from her knowing many of the rock and roll stars who came to play at the Stallville Theater, the only game in town, actually, for any distance between Stallville and Colackima, the only nearest other town. Colackima was a little smaller and the trains never stopped there anymore, the town was too few in petticoats, and the little engines didn’t like the water tower. Only wild goats and stolen cars came to Colackima, and in Colackima, the grade school crossing guard was the entire police force.  Amelia liked to meet with them take their pictures, interview them for the high school paper, and once she was out of high school, she had talked the man who ran the newspaper into giving her a job writing a column about the rock stars who stopped in Stallville to play the Stallville Theater.

     It just so happened that Amelia’s dreams of one day driving in her car all the way to the edge of the flat earth to the shining city by the edge of the sunset, starlit sea, and maybe leaving all memory of Stallville behind- would be  the usual rite of passage for the typical Stallville youth. Once their Fun Credits kicked in, and they’d found some suitable college to hide out in for a few more years, it was Off to LA, Off to Cancun, Off to Dubai, Prague, Paris, wherever their Stallville-stunted minds could- grabbed hold of by wild, searing, youthful exuberant imagination. When it could reach out, break free and find expression for itself. For few they were, those who dared fly. Most only dreamed of flying.

    She wanted to be an actress. She had been drama queen of the Drama Club, and that was where John encountered her, when he got to high school, a year behind her. Remembering the hideous act, and feeling full of himself, he had managed a bad practical joke at her expense. In her mind, they must have been even, but for John , now the fun was only beginning.

     He knew that she liked a certain guy in a certain band and that the certain band was certain to be playing the Stallville Theater soon… He had a friend *”who shall not be named”* living in Colackima, and that friend knew the certain guy in the certain band.
In fact he was a roadie with the certain band. The certain band that was certain to be playing the Stallville Theater soon was certainly talented, but John thought that his friend, actually, was more talented than anyone in the band.  He gave the friend a call. Sure. That could be very easily done.

    What it was that John wanted done was for the certain guy from the certain band, when they played the Stallville Theater, to do a real put on for Amelia. Lead her in and on and to the very verge if need be, only to – leave her wanting for more at the end. John called Amelia and offered her backstage passes (with comp tickets, if there was any trouble with the Theater)- and soon, Amelia was standing at the stage door, gathering her wits for the moment she could be in the presence of… a certain guy in a certain band who was playing at the Stallville Theater that very night.
     It was now time to put Amelia through the test. John went to the Stallville Theater with his picture phone. He ended up hanging out backstage, too, part of the time next to Amelia, and later, after the show, he snapped a picture of her leaving with the certain rock star and- would post it to his Antisocial Network.
     It was all over for Amelia the next morning, though, by mid afternoon she had recovered, and written a scathing review of a certain band that had passed through town the night before and a certain lead singer who was a creep and a douchebagsexistpig and a male chauvinist to boot, and there were better bands out there than that certain band that had passed through the Stallville Theater the night before.
    As a byproduct of helping to crush Amelia’s crush on the certain lead singer, John watched as the effect of Amelia’s column and scathing review of a certain band sent their fortunes downhill on a very certain curve.

     It was coming clear to John that. with all this blood of other people’s fun on his hands, could be leading him toward a guilty conscience. He needed to confess- and there was only one church in town, the spiritual last resort of all Stalvillians,- the New Secular Church of the Flat Earth, Life Force Lottery and Bingo.
     He was sure he would find more than a couple of his next victims there. Because Betsy Bolonski and Rachel Radozicz were both members.

     They grew up in the shadow of the old oak tree outside the church, on Sundays they had held hands on the swings, and been taught their Sunday Lessons by a tall grey woman, whose name was Mrs. Trotz. Mrs. Trotz’s Sunday School class usually revolved about lessons on the Flat Earth which we all share, and all the sea serpents that live on the far side of the infinite starlit sea. These mysteries, and more, were the founding tenets.

     And, John believed in a great deal of it, himself.
     On the Sunday morning John showed up at the New Secular Church of the Flat Earth, Life Force Lottery and Bingo, it was a sunshiney day. Birds were singing outside in the tall trees. The whole congregation looked to the apse, where the minister stoked the fire dedicated to the God of War and asked for God to Bless the Government in its war on Everything Bad for Everyone...

    So that John knew, even, that he too knew not everything could be 100 % Good and nothing could be 100 % bad, there is always a little bit of yin in the yang an a little yang in the yin. Such was not, however, the opinion of the minister.
    The two girls, old high school friends, every Sunday could be seen flogging their children and husbands to the Church, where their families shared a row in the pews, the Bolonskis on one side of the aisle, the Radoziczs on the other. Keeping an eye on everyone else in the church, too, for they guarded the Holy Lottery Ball from thieves and idolaters, and Betsy actually was the church treasurer.
     In this case, John thought, maybe no fun for these two means no Bingo tomorrow night!

     Monday Night Bingo at the New Secular Church of the Flat Earth, Life Force Lottery and Bingo really brought ‘em in. They came from miles around, even Colackima, and on two wheels, four wheels, eight, ten, twelve, and eighteen wheels.  
     Stallvillehad a way to bring the Interstate Commerce its way after all, its just that… Once a trucker to Stallville did stroll, troll, or crawl, he’d soon find that in Stallville it was all stall after stall.

    When it’d get going again, of course, as after the Monday Night Bingo, and the Monday night load out and return of the Holy Lottery Ball to its Holy Sepulchre Repository in the back room of the Church Office, by Betsy and Rachel. John realized that it was the Sacred Lottery Ball that he had to apprehend. Once the Monday Night Bingo was over…

On Monday night he came, bought a ticket to a Bingo Card, came close once or twice, but didn’t get a big payout, since one of the Girls (Betsy, actually) called “Bingo!” at the same time he did, and in a tie like that, the payout was shared. He only won 40 Food Credits. He didn’t need Food Credits. But once the girls had rolled away the Holy and Sacred Lottery Ball (he had been hiding behind a curtain and a potted plant) he snuck into the office, grabbed the Sacred, Holy Lottery Ball, and hid it, in his parent’s garage, inside of a box of Christmas ornaments.
     Of course, nobody would miss the Sacred Lottery Ball until next Sunday, and with that Sunday, Betsy and Rachel’s fun was quite derailed, as well.

     So the score was now John 4, Them 1. He needed one more cranky-pants prank to be- in some satisfactorily existential way- even with the Others, the ones he couldn’t leave, because he never manufactured enough inner imagination within himself to either Leave or Be Satisfied, living as a Stallvillian, on the edge of the wide plain  just over the mountains from the endless starlit sea and  the end of the Flat Earth.
      The last victim, most especially, was perhaps the least deserving of any of small John of Stallville’s Fun Credit Vendetta.

     That would be Thorney Henderson, a little guy who, despite his nickname “Thorney” was one of the kindest, meekest, and guiltless young men one could meet. If John had been a model student, Thorney had been even more a winner.
     Thorney knew the Encyclopedia Britannica backwards, forwards, side to side, and inside out. With that command of the knowledge pool of Earthling Concerns, he managed to do very well at Jeopardy, at age twenty, and come home with –not only 2,000 more Fun Credits,
than he had when he left Stallville in his small coupe- but Thorney Henderson was about to get a very thick thorn in his side.
     That would be John, who, while small, was still hoping to make his presence known as tall, to all.

     John made a promise he would get one half of those Fun Credits, somehow, by hook or crook, crook, mostly. He decided he would get Thorney reported to the Cullers.
     The Cullers could come for anyone, at any time, but usually only for those who had maxed out their Food Credits five straight times. The Government had decided that three chances was too few, and that five chances was more fair to the financially challenged, of whom there were millions, living on the land of the great prairie over the mountain from the ever-evening starlit sea, by the tall wall, and the tall trees.

     When the Cullers came a’Culling, a woe-cry would go up, the women would set to wailing, even the wolves wailed with the babies and the hideous sounds filled the Stallvillian night and echoed out across the tall dark trees at the woods on the other side of the Tall Wall.

   The Cullers took the marked-for-processing away, in thickly armored and well guarded old panel trucks with a Government seal on the side. The Culled would be granted a last two wishes, then the Government would politely, kindly, and gently, remove their life force with an electronic probe, and send it into the Great Circuits that lived inside the Tall Wall whose force-field kept Stallville- and the Whole USA!- free from invaders.

     John would get Thorney culled.

He watched Thorney for a week or more as he went grocery shopping or spent his Fun Credits at McDonald’s or the movies. He started going through the trash outside Thorney’s house, knowing that sometimes the Littlest Clue could help someone get a real bead on someone else…

    He discovered the Trojan Horse and the Achilles Heel to Thorney. Thorney, despite his youth, his intelligence, and his luck at quiz shows,  was a blooming alcoholic. His garbage would be filled each morning with a quart bottle of Tequila, and Thorney was apparently indulging in quantities that staggered the mind. He was never seen raging, or staggering shirtless down the sidewalk, but Thorney loved the stuff, he ate maguey worms like they were gummi worms, and with relish. John decided the best way to get Thorney’s Fun Credits was to get him to swap for a carfull of cases of tequila. The price was high- fully half of the 2000 Fun Credits that Thorney had won on Jeopardy, and that would leave Thorney with not a lot beyond, because, he had been spending  Fun Credits since he won the game show at a furious rate as well.
     Because the balance on his Fun Credits dropped at such a rapid rate, the watchers in the Government Bureau of Fun put a little red tick on Thorney’s Lifestyle ReEvaluation score sheet. The little red tick was noted in the office of the Department of Cullers, and one night, the little black trucks showed up in front of Thorney’s home, and Thorney disappeared into the night and fog, and the Great Circuits in the Tall Wall along the edge of the town of Stallville by the tall trees near the great lain leading to the mountains beyond which stood the shiny city and the endless starlit sea.
     John finally had enough Fun Credits, but how could he spend them? Since there was no record of him having his own Fun Credit Account, and Thorney’s account had already been vaporized, John was left holding a cat without its skin, a fish without its spine. The entire episode in his life- this had all taken only a matter of weeks, after all, from his day at the Stallions Stadium to the evening of the Cullers coming for Thorney. He decided to exchange the 1000 Fun Credits to his friend in the certain band in exchange for the right to travel on the road with them. It did not matter that the certain band was a failure. John knew he was a failure, now, too, because there is no winning for losing, when you set out to send real people down the tubes. Facing the wall, small John of Stallville knew his life was very small. Someday, he might even fall, after all.
      And that fall was not long in coming. Tormented, eventually, by the knowledge that Thorney’s culling had been a permanent removal of a very valuable (in the big picture) element of future Stallville culture- the boy who now would never complete graduate studies, receive a teaching credential, and come back to mold small minds in the Stallville Unified School District- John’s guilt began to take manifest form. He slunk away from others, hid more often behind his own small walls and even refused to walk to the corner bar after sundown for a nightcap, lest he show his face, and lest his angst be writ in scarlet letters across his forehead.
    He needed to confess. Wasn’t that what he was about to do, when he got distracted by the thought of the Sacred Lottery Ball ? And there it was, after all, anyway, up in the attic storage, under a wad of tinsel in the Christmas ornament box his parents would always turn to around the last week of November… 
    He knew what needed to be done. He tossed the Holy Lottery Ball into the backseat of his coupe and drove to the New Secular Church of the Flat Earth, Life Force Lottery and Bingo, in high gear, and when he got to the edge of the parking lot, wouldn’t you know it, but, the car seemed to take on a life of its own, as it bucked through the juniper bushes outside and crushed down the hollow plywood front doors, and landed- smack dab- in the midst of the Bingo crowd, improvising with a shoebox for the Bingo buttons.

    The impact with the final row of pews was fatal. Just as Betsy Bolonski yelled “Bingo!” the car had come breaking through the wall like Moby Dick on a steroid rampage, its antenna whipping about like an abandoned harpoon, a pair of folding chairs and a card table scrunched up into the windshield had pounded right through and taken John’s head off, in just a short second. There had been no time at all to contemplate one’s purpose…
     All the Bingo players stood up, yelling, screaming, panicked, At least half the older women were. The other half, strong, calm, quiet, manly men, rose as one and with a great deal of force and pressure, they managed to maneuver the car back out of the building, and dragged it to the front lawn, where they laid John out spreadeagled, and the minister said a few final words of Last Rite, and John’s soul crossed the tall wall and the tall trees, soared out over the wide prairie, over the mountains, and off across the starlit sea to the land that Lies Beyond Us.

Read this story and more in As I Was Telling You While Sleeping, a collection of short stories available at