Wednesday, June 28, 2006


We learned how bad it could get that fall in Maryland.
Sharpsburg, I know now. We knew it as hell.

The smell of blood and gunpowder stuck around another fifty years for those boys who lived. The rest of them - well, they're still there. There's north and south, there's dead and there's alive, but they're all jumbled and askew, can't much tell one from another.

Old men come. Young ones, too. They look agog, then they drive off. I guess they can say they've been to Antietam, where more died on one day than can be civil. But they can't really. We can.

They brought photographers by the wagonload just after. When they first arrived the scoundrels jockeyed for position to get the most dead in the lens, 'till they began to wander off and find plenty enough to go around.
It turned mighty quiet then.

How do you bury 23,000 in a day? Truth be known, you don't. You wait for the crows and buzzards and picture takers to get through.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

True Story 6: Bomb Shelter

We lived in Baltimore during the Cuban missile crisis., barely an A-bomb away from the nation's capital. Bomb shelters were all the rage. We had one in our cellar at the bottom of the stairs. It had a wooden door about six inches thick that locked from within. Concrete floor. Concrete walls. Concrete ceiling. It even had a concrete bench built into one wall where I suppose we were meant to sit and wait for the 'all clear.' Or else we were to wait until we just couldn't stand the sight of each other any longer and figured dying from radiation poisoning was preferable to one more day together in a concrete crypt. There was a raised area off to the side that was barely three feet from floor to ceiling. We understood this was where we would, you know... defecate. Oh, joy. I could hardly wait.

There was a metal shelf stocked with dusty cans of foodstuffs. There was nothing to cook any of it on. My mother hated the very idea of that room. It gave her the willies and willies are contagious.

After we finished imagining the torturous hell that would be our lives in the dreaded bomb shelter for weeks on endless weeks on end, we would imagine finally emerging. It would be difficult opening the door, what with the piled bodies of our neighbors who we would have denied admittance, but then we'd step over them and we'd find our house destroyed along with all the others in the neighborhood. Others who had emerged from bomb shelters would be cooking spoiled food under overpasses and they would not be happy to see us, nosir. Gradually, all our hair would fall out and we'd walk around in circles until we keeled over.

As we grew up, our parents wondered why we were always so cynical.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


A dolorous lull slowly engulfed the assembled throng. As a one, we all leaned akimbo into a new sound until we tired of the stance. Then each of us touched a finger to our chins, pensively contemplating geometric formulae while all the while keeping one eye on our muse, Polyhymnia. Should she shift her weight or the volume of her drone, we wanted to know it so that we could shift, too.

Steady on, the one-note drone took on two, three, many notes. The combined sound was our voice, the voice of Polyhymnia. It seemed the life breath of the galaxy. From within the auumm there arose whole symphonies, entire Sufi rituals, mudman chants. The muse and her psalter spoke to us, through us, and our prayers went forth, but not before ASCAP got a cut, DRM was installed and the copyright was locked in for an additional seventy five years.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hansel and Gretel

Once a widower sawyer wed a hag, his boy and girl her bane. The shrew made the father lead the children deep into the wood. Hansel scattered crumbs. They tired and lay down. When they awoke, they were alone. The crumbs had been eaten. Animals howled.

Hallucinating gingerbread, they started to eat a house, but it was the witch's. She led them in with more substantial fare. Hansel, in shackles was dungeoned. Gretel was made to fatten him for the kill. The oven was stoked, Gretel coaxed to adjust the flame from within, played dumb, requested a demonstation, was obliged.

Iron clanged and black witch smoke rose.

The children found the jewels all witches possess and make a beeline to... Hold on. Where? Home? You're kidding. First of all they're lost in a crumbless forest. Almost any direction would be wrong. And why why WHY would they want to return to the loving arms of their father, the man who LEDTHEMINTOTHEFUCKINGWOODSTODIE? Ninkumpoops.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dear Citizen,

Did you know there is an established order in place for this general locality? Perhaps you did not. Maybe you recently moved here from some other locality and things where you come from are done differently. This notice is to inform you of a specific breach of the social etiquette in which you recently engaged, possibly without noticing. While our local board of management understands that it takes time for citizens to learn new rules, we feel you have had sufficient time to acquaint yourself with them, and as such, find you in violation.

Rule number 401D of the Garbage and Recycled Products Collection Act 0f 2003 outlines the types of products accepted for deposit in residential recycling receptacles. No deviation from this list is allowed. It should be quite clear that nowhere on this list are items marked "small green army men, crouching with rifle." Yet, just such an item was found in a receptacle on the date of June 12, 2006 located in your driveway. Please be aware that we take such violations seriously. Alien objects can gum up the works here in our sorting plant, causing unnecessary delays in production. They also pose a threat to the safety of our workers.

This is a friendly warning that you cease and desist the activity described above and/or any other similarly unallowed activities. Any future violations will result in denial of services and possible prosecution. Thank you

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sleep Story 1

Doctor Bowles, Doctor Bowles! He's here someplace, maybe in another wing. I must locate a directory. I'll just limp behind these three nurses. Hmmmm, they sway nicely past the potted flowers of flame.

Dr. Bowles himself deposited me here yesterday, warning me to take it easy with that foot and I tried to. But why did he have to take such a hard bank in his flying machine when my leg was hanging outside? Whupped it but good against the stanchion. Not that it hurt. Not that I didn't trust him... I only wanted to verify it was the same man and, if possible, save the dollar ferry fare to one of the resort islands. Who knew which one?

Dr. Bowles, will you be there when I need you next time?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mole People

Dig deep enough in the temperate zone and you're bound to uncover evidence of one of many moleman societies. They're more ancient the deeper you go, so it's cheaper and ultimately more satisfying to stay close to the surface. Especially satisfying if you are searching for specimens of a more recent vintage, say, living mole people.

You scoff. Your anthropology texts make no mention of three foot tall, leathery, mud colored quadrupeds tunneling and burrowing beneath the surface. Your architectural tomes make no mention of the spectacular structures they build down there. Your geology books still attribute Carlsbad Caverns to natural causes.

I have seen the molemen, as this photo will attest. In fact, I am currently hot on the trail of a couple of the critters that have been digging in these parts. I plan to trap them and turn them over to the Department of Defense. They'll put 'em to good use.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

True Story 5 - Phenomena

Across the alley lived the Firebug. A nice enough man, I'm sure, but how were we to know? We weren't on speaking terms with him or anything. Criminey, we were just kids. All we knew was he was always out back of his house burning leaves and god knows what else. Naturally we assumed he was an arsonist. If any agent of the law were to ask any of us about his particulars, I'm sure we could have gladly filled them in.

Poltergeists were popular then and our neighborhood had a case study. Paranormal specialists were called in, priests, a film crew. All this I learned after the fact. We all did. It seems none of us actually saw the cars and trucks arrive, the cameras get unloaded. But we all seemed keenly aware of the unfolding chain of events, albeit after the fact. It climaxed with the two word explanation the occult scientists used to explain moving furniture, strange sounds and general mayhem: "Teenage Brainwaves." That was the conclusion. Teenage brainwaves at play. None of us being teens yet, it gave us something to look forward to.

But only one house was The Haunted House. Stuck up on the hill, it couldn't do anything but loom down on us. Someone produced binoculars and we shared the duty of keeping watch. Often a third floor light was the only light left on at night. We organized an expedition - in daylight, of course. We stealthily made our approach, hunkering low. Johnny P. and I, eyes to the ground, both spied at once a piece of treasure in the form of an old sardine can. We each went for it. We grabbed, we pulled; only Johnny grabbed the can and I grabbed the key. A ribbon of razor sharp metal sprung, and blood began gushing from my hand. I still have the scar, see? Anyway, that was proof positive, as far as any of us were concerned, that the place was haunted. Apparently cursed as well. At the sight of blood, we retreated that day, but a subsequent expedition ended with a group of us, noses pressed to door glass, witnessing a rather plain looking woman descending the stairs, moving toward us. We hightailed it on out of there and never came back. As disappointing as it was to find a living person residing in our haunted house, we at least were able to clothe her in white gauzy shroud and see her motion with hooked finger for us to enter.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Irena 2

The stories in Irena's head would come out from time to time, mostly when primed by good food, wine and friends. It was in this way that the stories of the animals became known and handed down.

When she was very, very old, Irena lost her hearing. No longer could she hear the tales the animals told. This upset her. So, one night, carrying only her cane, she entered both the wood and the food chain.

Irena 1

As a girl, Irena made sure every animal in her village had a name and a story. If they didn't tell her their name and story, she told them. Even birds, the gypsies of the animal kingdom, were identified. Irena kept a journal and carried it with her everywhere. Into it went all the animals' stories; their lineage, where they lived, who their mates were, who their enemies were. She sometimes made inferences she would later have cause to revise. Her handwriting was incredibly tiny.

One day when Irena was rowing in her father's skiff on the lake at the edge of the village, a sudden gust of wind blew the journal overboard and it sank to the bottom. Irena rowed to shore, crying all the way. That night it occurred to her that she had neglected to record the stories of the fish in the lake. They must have claimed her journal as an act of revenge. From then on, Irena kept all the stories in her head.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Kirby 2

Young Kirby emerged beyond his years, espousing stillness through tumult. He attained the ultimate stillness by taking his own life while imprisoned in the enemy's dungeon, thus depriving said enemy of his god-given right to keep prisoners in mystery and misery forever or until death, whichever came first. Kirby had no regard for human death.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Kirby 1

Boy Kirby's visage was chiseled in stone, blow by blow, as it had been by his father in life. Luckily for him, the form it took was that of the background, rendering him invisible as well as untouchable.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Absence of True Story 4

There are rooms I remember that never were. One was eight feet off the landing between our second and third floor. Clearly, a dream door. I never actually saw the room behind it because I didn't dream I could fly, nor did it come equipped with a ladder. But the door I remember clearly. more so than any other. I remember wondering why I had never seen it before. Then I realized I had. I had seen it in other dreams and I'd see it in more. A dream in a dream is like a mirror in a mirror; it goes on and on and little new is added.

I have filled in the blanks so many times, it's the blanks I remember most. There was a giant caterpillar crossing a sidewalk. Not a large caterpillar, but a giant, a gargantuan caterpillar, a caterpillar the size of a very fat squirrel. I ran home in fear and hid. I was not Huck Finn. Now, I've run this scenario over and over in my mind for over four decades. And what I want to know is: did it happen? or was it a dream? My old brain tells me there are no such things as squirrel-sized caterpillars. And seeing them would not cause me - or so I'd like to think - to go wee wee wee all the way home. So I keep trying to convince myself that yes, it was a dream. And yet, for years after the fact there was no question whatsoever but it was real.

There was also the time, much later, when my father left. This was no trip. He up and split. He didn't leave for good, but he was gone for months, maybe a year. When he returned, we walked on eggshells so as not to send him off again. Now, for some reason unknown to me, the rest of my family does not remember this happening. One or more of us is suffering under a delusion. Sheer numbers would seem to overrule me. Another dream or collection of dreams, I suppose. And yet, I recall weeks and months going by with me trying to imagine his surroundings, his new life. More time than could fit in a few recurring dreams. Granted, time can be compressed in a dream, but can all that experience come to be imagined? Seems a stretch. And yet...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Ladies Auxiliary

Bingo's out down at the Ladies Auxiliary. They purchased a bank of computers and now it's all Google all the time. They're trolling the net for identities. They start with medical records, zero in on ladies their age, well off, near death, without families. Then they circle like vultures, waiting for them to cash in. Interference is run when they do. The body is disposed of and the lady bearing the closest resemblance is installed in her place.

The ladies now have in their employ a crack accountant and an excellent plastic surgeon. Ten percent of the estates go back to the auxiliary and another ten percent is donated to charitable causes. The club has won all manner of civic service awards and is a fine example of can-do entrepreneurship. The roster roles are burgeoning.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Call up the Guard, seal off the borders, put up a fence. Good answer. As long as you have one fence, add others to form pens, holding tanks. People the pens and tanks. May as well put families to work in the fields while they await return. Build stouter chambers for Suspected Terrorists. Rendition extraordinarily the baddest of the bad guys. You, in the back... The answer is eminent domain. The creation of a demilitarized zone. The Battleground Annexation Act of 2006. Yes, it was a rider in the defense budget. Yes, it received nearly unanimous approval. Remarkable inroads made by the prison industry. Major arms manufacturers drawn to the border area. The Rio Grande Military Canal and Irrigation Act of 2007. Mexico's Mandatory Workforce Act of 2008. It's all in the public record. Our entry points were vulnerable. We were in a constant state of war. The economy was in the tank. Cheap labor was needed. We had to do what we did.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ancient Midget Wrestling

In this corner, ladies and gentlemen, armed with Byzantine mace and spear and weighing in at one hundred and five pounds, fresh from bloody victories at Sevastapol and Constantinople, slayer of Brian the Moor, the Terror of Tinytown, Kid Pepito!

And in this corner, armed with pike and shortsword and weighing in at one hundred and eleven pounds, holder of the title of Macedonian Mêlée Master, slaughterer of Cyrus of Thebes, the Scourge of Littleville, Orrin the Slug.

Gentlemen, you know the rules. No bodyblows or chokeholds. No kicking or punching or grappling. There will be no bodily contact of any kind. Only weapons may be employed. At the sound of the bell, come out swinging. Or prodding. And may the best man live.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

True Story 3 - Small Spaces

I've always liked confined spaces. Maybe that's why I chose to live here.

I once ran away to live in a well. It was concrete with metal rungs, dry most of the time. The same well I'd crouch in waiting for some kid to toss a nickel in and say "I wish I had a million dollars" so I could cup my mouth and wail "Soooo doo I." They never did so I never did. As I say, I ran away to live in this well. I stayed until I got hungry and then went home.

I imagined my bedroom a travel trailer. I recorded my travels in blue pencil on the walls, the only detail of which I remember was a cowboy wearing a ten gallon hat. My parents were angry. As punishment I had to live with it. I guess my father figured I'd break under the pressure, but I liked my handiwork and continually added to it. I'd bounce on my bed on down the highway.

I built small forts with smaller secret rooms. I once built a seven room fort from pilfered lumber. The smallest room was a hole in the ground big enough for me to curl up in and drag a piece of plywood over the hole. Most of the other rooms had egress portals for the purpose of escape, one with a ladder down a rock wall leading into rhododendrons, oh the luxurious rhododendrons... But the hole was there for hiding when escape was impossible. Was I envisioning a grave? And who or what was invading, besides snakes?

Tables. Desks. Especially closets. The kindling room. All shelters.