23 March 2015

The Conclusion of Chapter 8.2

(from my forthcoming novel, Cinema! Cinema!)

“Well," said Jerry Grogan, "this one guy that I know, his dad was a sailor. I don't mean like a professional sailor all his life or anything. This guy wanted to be a professional athlete, actually. A baseball player, in fact. A pitcher to be exact. Do you know what baseball is?

“Sure,” said Rosalyn. “It's that earth sport that moves real slowly. I see it from time to time on inter-dimensional planetary television. It's the one with all of the beer ads.”

“Yeah, that's it. So anyhow, he wanted to be a baseball player, but as fate would have it, there was a war going on at the time. The guy doesn't want to get drafted into the army, so he joins the navy. Seems like a good idea at the time. In the long run, it sets into motion a whole turn of events that winds up with him retiring as a social worker rather than a baseball player, but such is life. You know how that goes?”

“Do I ever,” said Rosalyn. “I wanted to be a plumber, but I wound up as an art teacher. Some days what I wouldn't give to fix a leaking faucet or a toilet with a bad flapper valve.”

“You can do those things any time you want, baby-cakes. The next time my toilet overflows I'll give you a call.”


“Anyhow, the guy winds up floating around the ocean, running up and down steel ladders and scrubbing decks and saluting people and all the things that sailors commonly do. I don't think he had a parrot or anything. I think those are reserved for pirates, and these guys were legitimate sailors. Some of them had tattoos, though, I'm pretty sure of it."

"When the war ended," Grogan continued, "this guy's ship had the task of picking up a whole bunch of soldiers and marines who had been involved in more 'hands-on' sorts of war-making and ferrying them back home. This seemed like a pretty good deal, because the sailors were a lot less concerned about people trying to kill them or sink their ship or whatever, now that the war was done. Their thoughts had mostly turned to getting home and getting jobs or getting laid or getting really good and stinking drunk.”

“Everybody has their vices,” inserted Rosalyn.

“You can say that again, baby-cakes. So all of these sailors and soldiers and marines are on the ship together for a few weeks, and they end up getting to know each other a bit, and playing poker together and all the things you do when a war is over. And this one marine strikes up a conversation with my friend's dad, and eventually asks him if he wants to see what he was bringing home as a souvenir from the war. Well, this is too good for my friend's dad to pass up, seeing as how the guys on the ship never really had the chance to do any souvenir gathering during the war, and mostly were bringing home only tattoos or the clap.”

“I bet some of them picked up tiny things, too,” said Rosalyn, “just as a little gift for their moms or girlfriends.”

“Maybe. Here and there maybe a plastic snow-globe or something. I'll give you that. But whatever the case, my friend's dad apparently didn't want to miss seeing what a marine might be bringing back from some battle-torn island somewhere. Maybe a cool sword or a helmet or a flag or something. So he goes down to the hangar deck of their ship, where all of the marines are camped out on makeshift bunks, and the marine grabs his seabag and they go to a private little corner behind some crates and pipes and stuff. And the marine pulls a glass mason jar out of his seabag.”


“That's what my friend's dad thought at first, too. Or maybe some kind of special ethnic delicacy that he found in an enemy chow line. But the marine lifts it up in my friend's dad's face and lets him get a real close look at it. You know what it was?”


“Of course you don't. You couldn't believe it. You couldn't imagine it. You couldn't make this up.”

“What was it?” pressed Rosalyn.

“Ears,” said Grogan with a horrified look. “Ears.”


“Ears. Enemy ears. It turns out this marine was cutting off ears from dead bodies of the enemy soldiers that his unit killed. Whenever they overtook a position, or captured a bunker, after everything was quiet, this guy would go around with his knife and slice the ears off of dead soldiers, and then put them in a jar with vinegar or vodka or mineral spirits or something. He had it all wrapped up in a couple of towels, and he carried it with him everywhere. Apparently it was the second jar he had used, as the first one broke in his backpack or seabag or something, soaking everything with his field-expedient embalming fluid. He managed to save the ears, though, so it was okay.

“Lovely,” said Rosalyn, looking a little nauseated.

“Well, my friend's dad was speechless, I guess, but he never forgot the mason jar the ears were in. The marine had scratched the word 'ears' into the metal cap. Probably scratched it in with the same knife he used for removing the ears. Who knows? You don't forget a thing like that, though.”

“You would think that just seeing a bunch of ears floating around in a jar would be enough of a reminder of what's in the jar, though,” Rosalyn pointed out.

“Yeah, but I guess he wanted to dedicate that jar for one use and one use only. He probably didn't want to use the jar for making a batch of pickled eggs after the war.”

“Good point. What if he got the lids switched with another jar, though?”

“I have no idea. Anyhow, years later, probably forty years after the war, my friend's dad is on vacation in a big city on the coast, and was at an antique store with his wife, and they're poking around, looking at stuff, and he spots an old mason jar with a metal cap sitting there on a shelf, and it looks familiar.”

“No way.”

“Way. He grabs it, and sure enough, there's the same word, 'ears', scratched into the lid. The very same jar. I guess he even opened it and took a sniff. Still kinda' smelled like vinegar or something, but no trace of ears. “

“He didn't...”

“He did. He bought the thing and took it home with him. He kept it on his desk at work, and put old fortunes from fortune cookies in it. Every time he ate at a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune cookie, he'd keep the fortune and take it with him to put in the jar. When he retired, the thing was over half full of old fortunes, and he took it home with him. After he died, my friend got the jar, and now he's doing the same thing with it. It's on his desk, and he's trying to fill it to the top with fortune cookie fortunes before he retires. Only one problem, though.”

“What's that?”

“He can't stand Chinese food.”

16 March 2015

From Age to Age, it Seems

(A little bit from "Ashes and Seed Corn", another novel underway...)

Might there be a thing called generational memory? Perhaps that is not the right word for it, of course. Perhaps there is a psychologist or a wise, learned man who studies such things that has a special name for such an occurrence, and he would tell you what it is called. It would be the sort of situation where one set of circumstances is passed on from generation to generation. I'm not talkin' here about the sort of thing where a family stays in poverty or where a family is made up mostly of folks who aren't all that bright, either. I'm talkin' about the sort of thing where by chance or by design or by the same kind of luck or fortune or whatever you might call it, things happen in the same sorts of ways. And folk do the same sorts of things. And make the same sorts of mistakes. This story I been tellin' has a lot of folk doin' the same sort of things that other folk done, and from age to age, it seems, some things just never change – as little as folk change.

So to put it all together, we 'been seein' things that look a lot like a story that someone made up and put onto a motion picture-show, but yet, you see, a lot of stuff ain't just made up – it's for real, and folk get hurt and stung because of it. Hurtin' and stingin' ain't so bad except for when it don't end, and it just goes on and on. Like from one generation to the next.

Just like I'm talkin' about.

So that rain goes fallin' on the just and the unjust, and it don't really matter which of them knows which is which. I mean, you never really know quite how just or unjust you are, do you? Do the evil know they are evil? Do the arrogant know themselves to be arrogant? Again, I ain't quite sure. It seems I remember Mr. MacBurney down the road sayin' one time “you can never say 'thank you, God, for makin' me humble.'” So when the rain falls on the unjust, I suppose they think they deserve it every bit as much as the just, whatever that all quite means.

I done told you some things about old Jefferson Morgan, but he had a brother – Miles Standish Morgan – who was not nearly as well known as he was. While Jefferson moved his whole livin' out to the area near Pole Creek, Miles Standish Morgan settled north of the the old Morgan homestead, in a spot just east of the bridge over the creek just outside of Blanchers. No one lives in Blanchers anymore, but you probably knew that.

The spot where his house stood is pretty near where that main road between Croydon and Cotton City runs – the same road that goes through Pole Creek, makes itself a dog leg there and by means of Rural Route 4 connects up Highway 26 in the north with Highway 32 in the south, and is the artery for all of Crawford County. The only folk who take Route 4 north of Haverland would be the Switchbacks and them that live north of their place.


Miles Standish Morgan lived in a crusty-dry little tar paper shack that was the biggest little tar paper shack you ever did see, as he began addin' on to it the day after he finished building it. It looked like something out of a dream, I'm told, with rooms and walls goin' everwhichways, and chickens and such runnin' loose all day long.

Right outside of that shack there was a little footpath that old Morgan used to walk down – just a few hundred yards away and to the south of his shack, and it led a man right this little draw. Actually, it was more than just a draw – more like a little valley or a hollow in the side of the rise heading back to Pole Creek, and some say that's where another creek used to run – one that emptied itself into Pole Creek along time ago. The valley is deep enough to warrant a little bridge all its own. A little wooden bridge that someone built a long time ago, and that only took a man by foot across the valley. It was too small for a horse, too small for much anything else. You could walk across it, though.

Folk who used to live out near there said that old Miles Standish Morgan used to get in the habit of thinking it was his bridge – that it somehow belonged to him, seeing as how he lived the closest to it, and that he was the one who walked on it every day. A couple of times folks heard him hollerin' at some kids or others who walked across it when he was nearby. Folks said he only really got to hollerin' real loud when he had been hittin' the bottle . Sometimes I guess we're all kind of like that, though, aren't we?

About the hollerin', I mean – not necessarily about the bottle.

09 March 2015

For a Very Limited Time Only...

All of my paperbacks are priced at 50% off of list, and all of my e-books are FREE!  You should go and stock up!


A deal like this won't last for long!

Lake Harriet and the Trickey-Dickey Pills - Encore Performance!

 Here, for your reading pleasure, is the most-read piece on this blog, 
published in October of 2013...

David dipped his finger into the pool of clear, cold water that was just taking up space in his living room. The pool had been there for the past week and a half, and David had no idea how it got there.

The pool was six feet and seven inches in length and at its widest point about four feet and two inches in width. David knew this because on the second day of its existence he took out his fancy little tape measure and checked its dimensions. What else would you do with a pool that spontaneously appeared in your living room? He carefully noted the dimensions and wrote them down on a wrapper from a cheesesteak poorboy. He used a black magic marker, for although he originally tried writing with a blue ball point pen, some grease on the wrapper made that impossible.

The depth he had not been able to determine. That is often how it is with spontaneously-appearing living room pools.

David had been checking the dimensions daily, to see if they had changed, and he found no fluctuation in size. Now, after swallowing the oversized silver capsule of the trickey-dickey powder that he loved so much (and ingested twice daily) he was conducting another experiment. He had turned off the heat in his apartment and opened the windows. As it was in the depths of a Minnesota winter, he figured the water in the pool should freeze in no time. This had not yet happened, but the water seemed to be cooling down.

As he looked down into the water it seemed as though there was a face visible just a foot or so below the surface. It did not appear to be attached to a body, and it did not appear to be a severed head, as had been found in that one spontaneously-appearing living room pool that had cropped up in a subdivision in Dayton, Ohio back in 1997. This was just a face, or the form of a face. Perhaps that of a young woman. Or perhaps it was that of a not-as-young woman. It is hard to tell in situations like that.

As he watched the face, he expected to see its eyes open or its lips move, but neither happened. In a minute the face seemed to vanish. Immediately the pool began to shrink in size. Soon it was the size of a coffee table, then the size of a toaster oven, then the size of a napkin holder, then the size of a deck of cards.

David was left looking at a spot of dry carpeting in his very cold living room.

And with a face in his memory forever.

06 March 2015

A Bit of Clarity from Chapter 5 of "Cinema! Cinema!"


“That's one big-time icy doughnut, Baby-cakes,” said Grogan. He peeled the kumquat-flavored tissue off of his tongue and flicked it away. It fluttered off on a breeze that neither he nor Rosalyn could feel, but believe you me (as some would say), they knew it was there. People seem to be hyper-sensitive around the Waycheeda Glacier, and they sense everything's presence, even if there is no sensory data to tip them off.

A word about the Waycheeda Glacier before we go any further. The name is quite curious, and it shows up in print with different spellings and different forms. “Way-chee-dah” was apparently the name that the ancient inhabitants of Bezelda gave to themselves. It means something like “people in search of cocktails”. The ancient inhabitants resettled there by means of time and space travel – all of the prehistoric Bezeldans or “Way-chee-dah” came from Detroit.

Detroit, Michigan, that is. They were the smart ones who knew enough to get the hell out.

“Waycheeda Glacier” is the official spelling on government documents and on maps. Maps and newspapers up until the 1950's (in the earthling manner of marking years) most often hyphenated the name: “Way-cheeda”, and sometimes “glacier” was left uncapitalized. Bezeldans who live near the glacier sometimes just call it “the 'cheeda”, and the guides who take paid expeditions atop the glacier for backpacking, picnicking, and sex usually refer to it as “The Ol' Doughnut.”

Now that you know these details, we shall now attempt to refer to the glacier from this point on in the manner of the Bezeldan Tourism Council and the official government appellation: “Waycheeda Glacier.”


02 March 2015

Nearly Assumption Day

I was walking downtown (fancy that) to meet my brother Pat at Limpy's Place one fine summer evening, just after the war. It was the cola war, in case you were wondering. Do you remember that? Some of the most viciously-fought advertising campaigns ever seen. It was brutal. I was able to serve as a mercenary for one of the minor combatants, “Okra-Kola”. Okra-Kola was a soft drink produced in Oklahoma City (where else?) that was designed to go perfectly with barbecue, and that was made with real okra – not artificial okra, the way that “Dr. Okra” from Tulsa was. I managed to free-lance a couple of slogans for the company before they folded:

“Okra-Kola: It's the Stringy Thing!”

“O-K! Seed-free Since '73!”

In retrospect, perhaps it wasn't my best work.

Anyhow, I was walking down to Limpy's Place and as I passed the Johnson & Weinberg Hernia Parlour, I happened to spy a most curious little box on the ground. Who can resist these things, right? It was blue and seemed to be lacquered. I stopped and looked both ways. Then I looked up and down. Then I lit a cigarette, just to make me appear more nonchalant. Putting the lit cigarette behind my ear, I stooped down, picked up the box, slipped it in my jacket pocket, and walked on.

A few steps down the sidewalk I turned into the alleyway just alongside the New-China Sauerbraten Buffet (which gave off a much more agreeable aroma than you might have guessed). Making sure that the coast was clear, I pulled the box out of my pocket and slowly opened it. Inside there was a lone slip of paper – bigger than you might find inside a fortune cookie, but smaller than a business card. That narrows it down, doesn't it?

I took the slip of paper and turned it over to find some words written in the finest blue script.

It was wisdom. Divine wisdom.

I read the words again.

I felt a warmth that I had never felt before. It was as if my entire intellectual and empirical faculties were beginning to glow as an ember. I was alive. Alive and on fire, as it were, with this new-found wisdom. I needed to share this with Pat.

I ran out of the alley and sprinted the block and a half to Limpy's Place. I burst in the door, nearly tripping over Filthy Milt Gozomski who was back in town and apparently on quite the bender, owing to his prone position on the floor. I leaped over whatever it was that he was lying in and stepped over to Pat, who was just finishing his first triple de-alcoholized scotch-and-tumbler.

“Tom, you look all out of breath. You okay?” he asked, licking the little bits of peat moss from his complimentary “scotchy-doodle” that Limpy gives to all of his hard-core de-alcoholized scotch drinkers.

“Patrick...it...it...it's wisdom...divine wisdom!” I said, handing him the little slip of paper. “I'm burning with the enlightenment of the ages!”

Pat glanced at the slip of paper, and then up at my head, and then back at the paper. “Inspected by #7” he read aloud, frowning and looking a little doubtful.

“Oh,” I said, “I must have read it upside down. I thought it was in Cyrillic.”

“Here's your martini, Tom,” he said, pulling out a barstool and handing me a wet rag. “Drink up and crush out that cigarette behind your ear. You do know that Brylcreem is flammable, don't you?”

(Almost a true story. The names, circumstances, locations, and dialogue have been changed to protect the innocent.)

16 February 2015

A Bit of Chapter 2

Dear and gentle readers, I offer to you a little portion of the second chapter of my next novel - this is number 6, for crying out loud.  It is not a "Michael Nitrous" novel, like novels number 2,3, and 4, although some of the same characters appear, and it is set largely on the extra-planetary orb of Bezelda.  Go figure. 


Allow me to reconnect a few things for you before I turn this over to the omnicscient-voiced narrator.  Yeah, the person who is writing this – you know how when you read something, there is often something called a “narrator” who tells the story in such a way that they seem almost god-like.  They know what's going on at all times, in all places, and inside the furry little melons of all the people in any given story.  It's crazy, but it sure is useful, because you don't have to worry about anything being entirely hidden – unless the narrator doesn't want you to know what's going on.  Kapiche?

Well, in just a little bit I'm going to turn this whole story over to some narrator's voice, and I'm going to slide into what a friend of mine would call another aspect of reality.  I won't really change, and I won't really be in a different place or time – just a different plane, as it were.  You'll see.  It's not all that weird, really. But in the mean time, let me reconnect a few things for you.

When you see lights in the sky, don't be so damned sure that they are normal.  Don't be so damned sure that they're abnormal, either.  They might be a bit of both.  This applies to about 80% of the people you meet on a daily basis, as well, so take everyone with a grain of freaking salt.  Especially if they're wearing roller skates.

ESPECIALLY if they're wearing roller skates.

When someone gives you something to eat that looks like eyelids and tastes like fish, be careful.  You are going to find yourself visiting the commode before too long – I would almost put money on that.  We don't gamble too much on Bezelda, but we do have this one game of chance called “pin-flutchey”.  In pin-flutchey, several people all take two very sharp steak knives in each hand.  That's four steak knives (which we call “klolbs” on Bezelda) per person.  We all blindfold ourselves, and then stand in a circle.  Beginning with the person who is situated to the northern-most part of the circle and continuing clockwise, each player praises the person to their left, using either standard heroic couplet poetry or Bezeldan pep-mulls.  The pep-mulls are a lot more interesting.

When everyone has had the chance to speak, they each throw a certain amount of money into the circle – this amount being determined before organizing the game.  After each has thrown in the money, there is a countdown from seven, everyone cries out “pin-flutchey!” throws their steak knives into the air and either runs like hell or stands as still as a statue.  You have to do one or the other.  If anyone is struck by a knife, he or she gets the money in the pot.  If there are two people struck, they split the money, and if there are three or more, all cry out the word “plossit!” and return to the circle for another round.

You can probably figure out the great amount of skill and cunning required to play a game of chance like this.  It's not a game for the faint of heart, to be sure.

How did we get on pin-flutchey?  Oh yeah, I told you not to eat anything that looked like an eyelid and tasted like fish. 

I've never been very good at spontaneous pep-mull creation.  Not like some guys I know.  You probably know pep-mulls as those Bezeldan poems that are kind of like what on earth is called a limerick, except the rhyming scheme is different.  Hell, I guess it's safe to say that there is no rhyme scheme at all to a pep-mull.  I think the only really similarity, when you come right down to it, is the fact that both limericks and pep-mulls each have five lines.  Aside from that, the comparison kind of falls apart.  Here is one of my favorite pep-mulls, written by Cran Hylen.  You may have heard about him before, as he was the poet-laureate of Bezelda for some time (at least in one particular aspect of reality).  Here it is:

Blank? Or not with cheese
opulent stink of ice-time
wobble wobble,
wobble crashing parties.

That last word, “stijt,” has no real translation into English, but it is a really common word in the Bezeldan day-to-day vocabulary.  It means something like “wanting to go and get some toasted bread-product and prepare a sandwich of sorts as long as I have the time to do it without interrupting the rest of my regularly-scheduled daily activities.”

That actually comes up in conversation quite frequently on Bezelda, believe it or not.

Cran Hylen was an incredibly good poet.  He had lost all of the hair on the top of his head, and it regrew on his left forearm.  Usually he kept it fairly short and parted it with the addition of a little hair tonic.  Every now and again, for a season, he would let it grow long and then push it back with the aid of a nicely-scented pomade. 

You just never knew about Cran Hylen.

07 February 2015

The Conclusion of "Radio" - #3 in my "Michael Nitrous" Trilogy of Novels

Here you go, friends.  I just put the finishing touches on my newest novel, and chapter 19 nails the coffin shut, as it were.  This is the third "Michael Nitrous" novel, and I think it ties the others together.  Enjoy!


Salo is 100% woody. Salo is 100% filmy. That's right – it is both entirely woody and entirely filmy. It is the only substance on the face of the earth that has joined, in a hypostatic union of sorts, a perfect amount of woodiness and a perfect amount of filminess. Scientists using the most advanced quulmeters cannot figure it out. It is as though the woodiness and the filminess exist within and beside and around one another.

You might recall that Dr. Kichener-Mellon, the Bezeldan Metaphysicist who was so critical to an earlier part of this tale put it this way in his award-winning dissertation “Up My Big Fat Creek With Your Lumbering Sliderule”:

x = [(y – z) + p] + s

x is the separation of the layers, measured in sweat, and
y is one layer,
z is another layer,
p is the woody/filmy proportion, and
s is the salo-coefficient.

It came to be realized that salo was itself the one substance that not only perfectly matched the salo-coefficient (for obvious reasons), but also wreaked havoc on the rest of the equation due to the woody/filmy proportion being expressed as either 1 or 1/1. Salo became the philosopher's stone – the rosetta stone – the alchemic wonder of the ages. Salo was not only a tasty ethnic treat for Ukrainians around the world, but also a component in every research laboratory on Bezelda.

Within months, scientists had narrowed down (on paper, anyway) the formula for cold fusion using salo and the salo-coefficient, and it slowly dawned on them that the path of cold fusion was one they did not want to walk. The path of cold fusion would leave the salo depleted. Expended. Spent.

As it would leave the moral fabric of Bezelda.

Dig this, my friends – when the American scientists detonated the first atomic bomb way back in the 1940s, they did not know it, but at the time the detonation resulted in a 18% drop in woodiness on the planet earth. Earthly scientists had no idea what filminess and woodiness were, let alone how a proportion between the two could affect life on earth, so they went ahead and detonated several atomic weapons – resulting in woody levels to drop to dangerously low levels.

How could earthly scientists have known? They had no quulmeters.

The Bezeldan scientists figured out what the repurcussions of cold fusion would be well before they ever attempted it. Mock trials were set up in large salo-generating laboratories, and industrial-strength quulmeters were calibrated to insanely high levels of accuracy. In the end, the Bezeldan High Council of Common Sense ruled that cold fusion must not be undertaken for the good of future Bezeldan generations. The scientists boarded up the cold fusion laboratory, coated the salo in dark chocolate, and threw a gala shindig. The poet-laureate of Bezelda, Cran Hylen, wrote a sacred pep-mull to commemorate the event:

In the darkest of night-time science
O! With a quul-knowing of filmish-ness.
For young,
for old.
Adipose pork tissue without reproach; without guile!

All of Bezelda agreed that it was one of the finest pep-mulls ever written, and it was eventually engraved on a plaque that stands at the very spot where the cold-fusion laboratory used to be.

At the same time that the pep-mull was released into the eternal ether of all layers of existence, David Hall realized what the turntable looked like. In one place in time, anyway.

In another place in time, a black-bladed dagger appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and materialized in the unfortunate position of David's cranium. This was while he was standing between layers of existence very near NEK-CHEK enterprises. Soon the two entities (David hall and the dagger) were occupying the same space in the same aspect of existence, and one or the other had to give.

You can figure out how this fits together. Rab-klaat.

02 February 2015


The fourteen-pound whistler came lumbering through the almond section of the nut emporium – lumbering with a hoot and whirl. Whirling is no small order for a whistler of the fourteen-pound variety, mind you. The rest of the body was proportional to the whistling portion, and giving an honest “whirl” to that much flesh takes some energy.

We have all heard the stories of the folk with dense lips. In some parts of the world they comprise entire tribes or clans or ethnic groups. The lips are not large, mind you – only dense. Fourteen pounds of lip tissue compacted into the usual scant few inches of lip space makes for a very dense package. It is as though the lips were composed of lead, or at the very least pewter.

Soft, supple pewter, however.

So the fourteen-pound whistler, as it lumbered through the almond section of the nut emporium, attached as it was to the rest of the flesh (in varying densities) known as “Jerry Pizzle”, gained traction in the ether. The ether defies good purchase most times, and it is hard to build up speed. With a hoot and a whirl and the production of a merry tune, the whistler moved faster and faster. It whirled like a dervish. The owner of the whistler (Jerry Pizzle), thought himself to grow nauseated, but for only a moment. He stopped. He ceased all forward and whirling (in some regions known as cyclical or gyroscopic) motion.

From his pocket he pulled a test tube and forceps.

Jerry Pizzle thought to put down the whistler, but he could not. He bent over a bin of almonds, rather, and reached out carefully with the forceps. The shiny, stainless steel forceps were opened just the right amount to receive a beautiful roasted almond, and his hand quivered a bit with excitement and anticipation. His eye landed on a most delectable almond.

Only the finest almond would do, honey-child.

The forceps were poised but a hair from the surface of the fine and exquisite nut-meat, and the fourteen-pound whistler made its distinctive call. “Phweeeeeeeeeeeeee-ehwheeeeeee” went the fourteen-pound whistler. The forceps trembled. Jerry Pizzle drooled, but just a little.

Jerry Pizzle withdrew his hand, and with it, the forceps.

“Phweeeeeeeeeeeeee-ehwheeeeeee,” went the fourteen-pound whistler.

With a heel-turn executed flawlessly, Jerry Pizzle pulled the fourteen-pound whistler away from the almond bin, and with it, his hand. With his hand came the forceps. And with the forceps came any hope of plucking such a fine almond from the bin. And with that came any chance of the fourteen-pound whistler violating its dicipline.

No almond meats for the fourteen-pound whistler until the Feast of Lemonsuck.

If ever.


26 January 2015

Quirk (just for you)

So you had a friend who you thought was a friend, but turned out to be something substantially more than a friend. On the other hand, there was that person you thought was a friend and turned out to be quite less.

This is the way we used to think. Doo dah. Doo dah.

There were people living in a settlement very many miles away from the rest of us, and we were forced to view them with a great deal of mistrust. They had skin that was a slightly different shade than ours, and they pronounced the letter “a” differently. We had to think of them as “outsiders,” and we threw rotten vegetables into their backyards when they were not looking.

These were the things we used to do. Doo dah. Doo dah.

We knew better. We all knew better. You think you knew the most? You are wrong. We knew more. When the buzzer sounds and the game is over, the judges are going to look at us and say “you are the winners! Huzzah! Hale fellow, well met! Gatchooba!”

That was the way it was. Doo dah. Doo dah.

You used to buy paperback novels and read all about who killed who and who slept with who and who was stealing from who and how it is that authors never know how to use “who” and “whom” correctly, but you never paid any attention to that because you were focused on the killing and the sleeping and the stealing.

Not any more.

Now you kill and sleep and steal and you check your grammar and your spelling and your syntax and you mind your pease and queues. And no one ever mentions a thing about how you used to have this friend who you thought was a friend but turned out to be something substantially more than a friend.

Doo dah.

19 January 2015


Did you ever meet that kid that we called “Camphor”? He was a quiet kid. Short and quiet, as I recall. I have no idea how he got the name “Camphor,” but that's what we called him. I never asked, and now I kind of wish I had.

Camphor used to walk up and down the main street of town, stopping and looking into the shop windows. He would spend the longest time looking into windows that you just wouldn't think could hold the attention of a thirteen year-old boy, but there you have it. He would stop in front of the hardware store, and look at a window display of chicken wire and galvanized washtubs – all the while moving his thin little lips with no sound coming out. I've seen lots of folks do that, of course, but never in the places that little Camphor would do it.

This was Dubuque, mind you. Dubuque in the hey-day. Or do you call it “hayday”? I was never sure if it was one word, two words, or a hyphenated word. Anyhow, it was Dubuque when Dubuque was more than just a place on the river. Camphor would sometimes stop outside the big hotel (you know the one I'm talking about – if you know Dubuque, that is) and wait for someone to come out. It looked as though he was expecting a celebrity to come strolling out of the lobby, and I think one time I even saw him holding a pad of paper and a chewed-off pencil, looking for all the world like he was going to ask someone for an autograph. This might have been, as you know Dubuque was a hopping place for all sorts of big-city performers who might have driven up from Davenport or over from Chicago just to do a show or maybe to get away from the big city.

I don't think he ever got any autographs, as best as I can figure.

Camphor, he came down with a disease when he was just what nowadays they call middle school age. It was some kind of odd disease where he started hearing loud explosions all the time. It started with him sitting bolt upright in the middle of class, and clapping his hands to his ears. At first the teachers thought he was being disruptive, but after the doctors in Iowa City told his mom and dad what was going on, folks got used to it. The loud noises started keeping him up at night, though, and by the time he was fifteen he was missing from school almost every day. Sometimes we'd see him around town, small and quiet, and looking a little flinchy and sad.

You would be too, I suppose.

Camphor's dad died out on the river the next year, and his mom went away. No one asked where. Camphor went to go live in what I suppose today you would call a “group home,” but then was just some kind of a place for unfortunate folks to live. It was run by the Church, I think. Who knows? I once saw what I thought was a nun there, so I'm just taking a guess. Anyhow, that's where Camphor went. We saw less and less of him, and eventually he just seemed to disappear. I only hope the same could be said for the explosions in his head.

I'd like to be able to say that I saw him years later, but I never did. No one ever did, as far as I can tell. He just became one of those people you only think about when you see something that you haven't seen for a long time – or when you hear an explosion in your head that no one else can hear.

And God forbid you end up hearing the explosions that no one else can hear.

12 January 2015

"19a" - 1980? You Like? A Chapter From "Yerba Mate"

Roller skates are another invention that was given to the inhabitants of the earth by ancient astronauts from an alien civilization. Space travelers from the planet Gecko-13 were zipping through the interstellar expanses over 4,000 years ago (in earth years), listening to eight-track tapes of whale music (produced by whales on another planet – a third planet, neither Gecko-13 nor our own “earth”) and looking for a good place to sell their load of sushi-stone. Sushi-stone, for the uninformed, is not what the name sounds as though it might imply – it is simply a carbon-based fuel source; an edible carbon- based fuel source mined from the depths of the Geckian oceans. Check it out the next time you are on Gecko-13.


The sushi-stone vendors from Gecko-13 were traveling through this neck of the interstellar woods when they happened upon our planet. They set down for a short visit, and aside from being mistaken for minor deities by a tribe in the Amazon basin, had little to no contact with any earthlings. They just made a quick pit-stop, as it were, to empty their sanitary holding tanks and get a little exercise. The most beloved exercise of the people of Gecko-13, of course, is what we on earth think of as “roller skating” but which they call “bletching” (it still is, in fact – bletch sales on Gecko-13 have gone through the roof in recent years, in fact). From high up in the earth's atmosphere the travelers from Gecko-13 saw the plazas standing outside of some awesome Mayan ziggurats, and decided that they would be the perfect place for a little midnight bletching. They settled their sushi-stone powered spacecraft into a soft landing in the middle of the jungles of modern-day Mexico and laced up their bletchers.
Speeding out of their spacecraft in a frantic round of “snap the whip,” a line of seven Geckian astronauts whizzed past a native named Earl who was wandering amidst the ziggurats while dealing with his insomnia. The poor fellow looked up to see seven wheeled god-like creatures, laughing and shouting as they bletched, and the sight scared him almost half to death. He ducked behind the stones of the temple, trembling and shaking his head in disbelief.

On an ironic note, this poor, frightened tribesman happened to be a distant but direct ancestor of the owner and proprietor of “El Taco Muchacho,” where Michael Nitrous and Jerry Grogan enjoyed their fine plates of tacos and nopalitos tiernos. That's just how these things work out some times.

The astronauts from Gecko-13 skated (or bletched, if you prefer) for a good fifteen minutes or so, and then headed back to the ship. Just as they were getting ready to leave, one of the Geckian travelers decided to dispose of a small stone that he had found in his roller skate (or bletch, if you prefer). He stood in a cargo door and turned his bletch upside down to shake the little pebble out. Just as he had done this the pilot hit the accelerator, throwing the astronaut violently to one side. His bletch was knocked out of his hand as he collided with a bulkhead (that is astronaut-speak for 'wall'). The Geckian roller skate dropped to the ground as the spaceship sped away and out of sight. When Earl had regained his composure he walked over to pick up the bletch. He kept the bletch with him all the rest of his days, but could never really bring himself to explain to his friends and family exactly how it was that he came to be in possession of such a strange, futuristic object. The Mayan priests put the bletch into the grave with poor Earl's body when he died, and there it rested for several thousand years, until an archaeologist came across it in the mid-nineteenth century while hunting for Mayan pottery and other exciting relics. The archaeologist had no idea what it was that he had found, but brought it back home to merry old England with him as a curiosity, where he gave it to his brother as a birthday present (he was a notorious cheapskate – no pun intended). His brother happened to be a sporting goods wholesaler (you didn't know that they had those in merry old England in the middle of the nineteenth century, did you?) who spent his free hours as a collector of South American sporting antiquities – an unusual combination, but not altogether unlikely, now is it?

The situation presented by this unlikely array of events, objects, and interests is just one more example of how it is that deep connectivity works. You might think that it is all just coincidence, but it is actually a lot less dramatic than that. It is just another load of bogus storytelling, used to make the author's point.

(Roller skates were actually first patented in the late eighteenth century and then made popular about a hundred years later. There were likely no aliens involved whatsoever. Take it for what it is worth.)

Rollerskating, however, can be a rather spiritual exercise, if you believe in that sort of thing. It provides ample opportunity for glope-steps, even though one does not always take “steps” in the traditional sense of the word. There is something about the spinning of the roller skate wheels that sets up a static field, thereby influencing the kinetic dingeddy-dangle...blah blah blah...you get the idea.

Suffice to say that roller skating gives the opportunity to experience deep connectivity in a way that most people do not realize. Just being around people who are roller skating can have a profound effect on a person. This may account for the harmonic convergence that was beginning in the United States of America in the 1980s and which came to a screeching halt with the close of that decade, just as roller skating rinks were closing in droves.