Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Close your eyes. It's not happening. Of course, you're not stupid. But you have learned to play the mind. There are tricks and hiding places. You know them well. So, close your eyes. Picture the color green. Make your entire mindscape green. And I mean the whole fucking thing. Like St. Patrick's Day exploded inside your head.

Ignore the sweat slick twitching and the pain. You own your brain, you own the pain. It belongs to you, and only you can control it. They say you can't. They say lots of things. You sit in hard wooden pews and listen to them and you think: "They can't possibly mean all this shit...I will never forgive."

You didn't realize at the time that other people lived different lives. That your friends went to bed smiling and happy while you climbed the walls and prayed that the hands on the clock would stop moving. Even as you watched them smiling, you hated them for 'pretending' at happiness.

Pull it over you, around your body like silk. Cool. Wrap it tight and nothing can touch you. It's got nothing to do with you and it's got nothing to do with them. That's the weirdest part. Because of something that happened to someone you never met and no one will ever talk about, you jump when a door closes. You flinch when someone puts a hand on your shoulder. But you are getting better at making yourself wooden. It just takes practice.

When sleep does come, it is so deep that waking is like climbing a sheer rock face blindfolded. You open your eyes and everything seems like a dream and you want to go back to sleep where at least there was peace, quiet, and hope. Where you were not afraid and you did not feel shame.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


You hide in bramble bushes and half-wit cynicism. You look at life through your own prism, but it's black and white and reeks of backhand terrorism. You start arguments you're afraid to fight. Which is weird, because you're always right. Right?

I am a vessel made of gloop and blood and bones. My brain is like a train crashing...one thousand saxophones. I am surrounded, so why do I feel so alone?

Her excuses wear on you like a Salvation Army suit. The smell of desperation and a cum stain to boot. You'll be fine. Just tap your feet and splint your spine.

Our whole collective dysfunction tastes of tart, lemon madness. You brace yourself and close your eyes against the sadness. Ignore the connectivity. Suspend all activity. Nothing ever ends up the way you want it to be.

Who am I and who is you and her and all the goddamn people? It doesn't matter. A change of perspective is in order, don't you think? Or maybe I should say: You think a change of perspective is in order. We do, too.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Inside Drake's Brain

Drake sat with his elbows on the bar and his mind thirty years back, picking at the scabs of memory. He took a sip from his beer and lit a cigarette. The cigarette made him cough, but he stopped, closed his eyes, willed calm into his lungs, and the next drag was deep and thick. The smoke trickled out of his nose for a moment until he blew it all out in one gigantic dragon-cloud.

Drake had been thinking and drinking for most of the afternoon. He had started with a few double bourbons. He was on his seventh beer. He had not eaten that day, and his stomach was a squalling child, grumbly and asking are we there yet? Drake downed the beer in front of him and his stomach quieted. A new beer appeared and Drake nodded his head. Almost there.

Drake had stopped writing when the newspaper folded. He had enough money. He was old. These days, he was content to spend his days in the bar, visiting with all the parts of his life he had not had time to really contemplate at the time.

Drake had never done anything note-worthy. He had been a husband. He was still sometimes a father, but his children were grown, and he didn't like the fact that the humble sportswriter was now nothing but a way to keep the dust off a bar stool. He thought of them.

He closed his eyes and pictured Hank when he was six years old. Blond hair and a missing tooth. It was a glitch in the timeline of his life and he thought about it often. Hank was six. He had broken a window playing catch with his friends. It was the first thing Hank heard when he got home from work. He had had a bad day. His editor was an asshole. His team was an embarrassment.

June had been very calm when she marched Hank in front of his father. Hank was a defiant child, but his heart was pure. In fact, the purity bred defiance. Drake knew this. Instead of admonishing the child, however, he had slapped him with the back of his hand. He had slapped him so hard his hand turned crimson. Hank was so surprised that he didn't even cry, but there was blood on his reddening cheek.

"Fucking go to your room, Hank."

Hank looked at his mother, then back at his father. There was pain in his eyes. He was confused.


"You heard me."

Hank's head fell to his chest and he slipped out of the room. Drake sat heavily in his chair. There was complete silence in the house for thirty seconds.

"Drake, would you like to explain what the fuck just happened? Are you out of your goddamn mind? You DO NOT hit my children!"

Drake wanted to say that he had never hit a child before. He wanted to assure his wife that it would never happen again. He wanted to hold his son and promise him that the window was bullshit and that the slap had been his fault, not Hank's. He wanted to think that Hank would forget about it quickly, that it wouldn't live in his mind, sneaking out at random times for the rest of his life. He didn't say any of those things. He glared at June.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm not as fucking perfect as you, OK? I'm sorry I can't be fucking Gandhi. Alright? You're fucking perfect. I'm a fucking asshole. Fuck this."

Drake had turned to look at his wife before he slammed the door. She had the same face, same look. It was like he had slapped them both. He drove to a bar and got too drunk to walk and somehow woke up in his car.

They never spoke of it. And flashing back to the future, to the bar, to Drake's dew-dappled beer, he knew that had been what had broken it. They pretended it never happened. He and June had divorced soon after. It wasn't all because of the slap, but it had been the camel's straw. He saw the kids once a week after that. It was broken. He didn't try to fix it. That had been his final mistake.

Drake was drunk, and he thumbed his cell phone. He wanted to call Hank. But, as was always the case when he got drunk enough, he could not work the phone. He cursed it and took another pull off his beer. A man at the end of the bar smiled at him and Drake ignored it. Then the man stood up. Drake felt a warm hand on his shoulder.

"Hey bud...free country, but you're gonna be in a world of hurt if you don't quit now."

Drake smiled at the man and ordered a shot of bourbon and a beer.

"That's the fucking point, Ace."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thank You and Goodbye

He held the trout gently, hand under its soft belly, and he spoke to it in his heavy accent. Alright, fish. Let's make this good and easy. Good and easy. I do not want to eat trout tonight.

He was careful not to handle the fish roughly. The barbless fly dropped easily out of the fish's mouth, but it was tired. It had put up a good fight. A brook trout is a beautiful thing. Like the northern lights. Like a peacock. Mother nature likes to show off now and again, and she did a doozie on the brookie. Bright red and yellow dots lined its sides, flashing in the lazy sun.

The old man reached a weathered hand into the chilling water. He gently turned the fish in the current and helped it breathe again. It finned beside his boot briefly and then shot away, back to its home under the brittle roots of a stream-side tree.

The man smiled and chuckled in spite of himself. Good fight. Strong fish. By God, beautiful fish. God, thank you for these beautiful fish. You know what they have meant to me. 

Josef liked to talk to God, but it was really a way to speak to himself without feeling crazy. He'd lived alone since his wife had passed. The kids had tried to "rescue" him. They didn't understand and Josef had even yelled at his son. It was the first time he had ever yelled at one of his children.

"Fritz! You will not tell me how to live my life. There is not much of it left. What I do with the rest of my life is for me. Not for you!"

"Dad, you're being foolish..."

"How dare you speak to your father like this? How many times in your life have I called you foolish? How many times have I doubted you?"

"Dad, I'm sorry. We're just so scared. I think about you alone in this house. It makes me sad. And worried. You don't get around like you used to..."

"Good, you leave sad and worried to me. Let's fish."

"Dad, we talked about the fishing..."

"We talked? You talked. I know the streams. They know me. If they choose to take me, I will go with a smile on my face."

Frederick rubbed his temples and tried to think of an argument that made sense. He closed his eyes and lost himself in the neon crumbs of his mind.

"You promise not to go too close to the water?"


Frederick sighed, but inside of him there was a smile. Old Josef. That's what he had always been called. Even when he was young, before he was a father, they had called him 'Old Josef'.

Frederick grabbed onto his father's forearm and marveled again at the contrast - strong muscles covered in skin like rice paper. Josef pulled his arm away.

"I don't need help falling, Fritz."


"You hold me because you love me. I understand. But you must understand, too. A man has his pride."

Frederick looked down with shame in his heart. He knew he was right, not the old man, but the validation changed nothing.

"Dad...I'm sorry. Let's go fishing."


Frederick did not know that his father fished without him. He did not know that, most days, the man spent thirty minutes battling trembling fingers, trying to get his waders on, covered with sweat by the time he had finished. He did not know that he still tied his own flies, arthritic fingers aching with the pleasure. His flies were simpler now. Life was simpler now. His wife was gone, his heart was broken, and, whether he admitted it or not, Josef was done with life. Now it was just a matter of patience.

The brook trout had been the first fish of the morning. It was a perfect winter day. The sun was soft, and it made everything appear as if viewed through a cheese cloth. The sun was rising and his muscles felt good. He waded back out into the stream until he was over his knees. His gargoyle fingers pulled line from the reel and he cast lazily toward a large pool. He fished the pool for an hour before a strong brown trout nipped the fly from the surface. Josef raised the rod and kept tension on the line. The fish dove, and he coaxed it out. The fight lasted almost five minutes. When the fish was beside his boot, he slipped a hand down and knocked the hook out. The trout was gone is a flash of silt. Joseph smiled. You do not get so tired? Or are you just a fighter? Well, you are back with your friends now.

It happened so quickly that Josef couldn't process it. The water was frigid and his legs were almost numb, even with the waders. He turned to head upstream and his right leg found the 'Y' of an old tree branch. He heard a sound. A snapping noise that played throughout his body. He sat down hard in the water, dumfounded. He thought of the slingshot he could make with the limb and chuckled at the absurdity of the idea. He tried to stand and, though there was no pain, his leg would not support him and he fell face-forward into the icy water. The shock of the cold water was abrupt and exhilarating. It cleared his mind. He was, at most, a mile from his house. It had been a mild winter, but the temperature was still in the thirties. Josef. You cannot make it home. But. Get up, old man. Get up. 

Josef was soaking wet, and his waders felt filled with cement. His whole body was growing numb. With a terrible slowness, he dragged himself toward the deep hole. He took an old Barlow knife from his pocket. It was wet and his fingers were numb. His hands bled as he cut into the cork of the old fly rod. Three words: I love you.

Fritz would find it. And he would know. With the last of his strength, Josef launched the rod onto the bank. It caught in a some brambles by the creel looped over a low-hanging limb. Hell of a shot, Josef. Once in a lifetime shot, old man. He smiled. He looked at the blue sky. He thought of his wife. Of Fritz. Of Helen and his grandchildren. A tear escaped his eye. But he was not sad.

He stepped off the ledge and sunk into the deep hole, pulled down by the weight of his waders. The water had already numbed him. He opened his eyes and, in the clear water, he was almost sure he could see the big, brown trout. He sank further and further, until he touched the bottom. He had always known that the hole was deeper than it looked. He closed his eyes and felt the stab of death in himself. He smiled again. This is a good thing, Josef. The fishes were good. Beautiful day. Goodbye fishes. Thank you and goodbye.

Josef was dead long before the sun set. Long before the the stream was bathed in the light of a Cheshire moon. Long before the nighthawks cried. Long before Frederick sat in his chair and knew, inexplicably but with certainty, that his father was gone.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Greening

It is in the greening of new things. Soft down and the smell of hay. It is in the shaft of light that comes through that barn high window. The air tastes of warm earth, life. Every story begins this way. It was never truly about the 'dark and stormy night'. It was about the clear, blue morning and the poppies reaching toward a star miles and miles away. It was about newness. Something unquantifiable.

You can look into tear-filled eyes and not cry. You're proud of that? Me, I'd be ashamed. But I'm still pretty green.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

12:53 AM

I'm so sick and tired of the same old thing. And yet I crave routine's complicity. I live in the dark, but it's a murky kind of dark...like wearing your sunglasses into a bar. Everything is smeared in Vaseline. Time drips from the ceiling like blood onto a clean linoleum floor. There's some citrus scent you can never quite place and the air moves weird. I wonder if I'll ever get over the feeling that my mom's just worried about me getting blood on the rug. I wonder why I cared then, and I wonder even more why I give a shit now. But I do.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lost at sea...

The man sat on the rock, motionless. It was as if he was part of the rock, but every few minutes he would shift, resettle. The gulls around him would pretend at flying before settling. It gave a very distinct and disconcerting impression of anthropomorphism. My eyes blurred with tears and the rock just looked like a large animal, hunched over, breathing.

The man was staring out to sea. I was staring at him because I could not look inward. The gremlins. Usually, my mind was filled with frivolous notions and bits of prose. Not old voices. Not the smell of vanilla in a warm kitchen when I was so small the world seemed destined to eat me up. Or to go on forever. In those days of homemade bread and sanguine meanderings, well, I never saw the truth coming until it hit me right in the face.

The truth was that I was failing. Instead of one notable success, I had collection of soft, mauve, failures. Bland shortcomings. My mouth tasted of tooth decay. I tried to smile at women and frightened them. Or I spoke and couldn't even compose words. People talked to me and I said things like, "yurp erm." And they never looked surprised. They weren't listening.

The sky was a raincloud grey mass. Like the sky was falling slowly. Or the ocean was making an ascent into the heavens. Or like the world were one great bowl of porridge. No cream. No sugar. No raisins. Just a bowl of sludge that will, at most, keep you alive and wanting more. Even though it will always taste the same. A warm, cardboard dryness. A paste.

The man stood up and the gulls scattered and then returned, like they were pulled on elastic strings. He began to walk towards me. An old man, he was. Grey of hair and beard. He had a queer smile on his face. A smirk. It was not until he was almost on top of me, frozen in place, that I saw the resemblance. The same eyes. He smiled again, and I understood.