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Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Perfect Stranger

I came home from a long day of work; I had been busy all day, moving materials, finding equipment, unloading, loading – but I felt as if I had accomplished very little. I left work with too many things unfinished. But it was good to be home. Home again, home again, fly away home. Once I stepped through that door I could relax in the comfortable and the familiar.

But as soon as I opened the door and stepped through into my apartment I was greeted by her voice. “Good. You’re home,” she said. “I’ve got something wonderful to show you.”

She led me back to the bedroom past the couch, which seemed longer than I remembered it being, and it was covered with several new throw pillows that I didn’t recognize. “Oh.” I said in the bedroom, “A new comforter. Nice.”

“No,” she pouted. “Not the comforter. The cat.”  And sure enough, my cat, Camus, was curled up in an orange furry ball in the center of the bed. She leaned over and whispered something to Camus and he woke up. He stretched a long cat-stretch, then flicked his tail twice before beginning to sing:

Standing tall, on the wings of my dream.
Rise and fall, on the wings of my dream.

The rain and thunder
The wind and haze
I'm bound for better days.

Once finished, Camus, flicked his tail again, curled back up into a ball and began purring as he drifted off to sleep.

“That’s amazing,” I said turning to the face the woman in my bedroom, “but who the hell are you, and how did you get into my apartment?”

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Distracting Myself for a Better Attitude

I had to work today - an extra overtime, Saturday shift.  It wasn't exactly how I wanted to spend my weekend, especially as it came after a long and exhausting week. But I suppose the overtime pay sorta' makes up for it. I suppose..

Anyway, as I was working - driving the forklift, emptying dumpsters, loading the factory assembly area with parts, and what not, I found myself absentmindedly going over a series of workplace grievances and irritations, nursing them, rehearsing them. And I was starting to get a little cranky.

Until my conscious, thinking self interrupted. "Stop," I said to myself. "Think about something else." This was the first thing that came to mind. It successfully distracted me for long enough to get a better attitude.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Shall We Gather at the River?

Shall we gather at the river? John the Baptizer is there, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Shall we gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river? Where crystal tides are forever flowing, where bright angels tread, along with the saints and all the population of Judea and Jerusalem?

Shall we gather at the river? And wear camel-hair and leather? Shall we confess our sins in the face of axes and fire? Shall we actually give away our possessions, and work for honest wages? Shall we give up the power of position? Shall we gather at the river, in the wilderness – underneath a sky that threatens to rip open at any moment and pour down on us the floodgates of heaven?

The river is beautiful, beautiful – but those banks are stormy.  Too idealistic. Not realistic. It’s dangerous out there, and that John is a radical. Shall we gather at the river? No. Perhaps not.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Drinking Absinthe of Malice

“Say, J., what is this we’re drinking?”

“Something Malice.”


“It’s imported.  Swiss. Or Persian… Greek. Or Egyptian.  I dunno...”

“But what is it?”

“Absinthe of Malice.”

“Seems about right, given the times as they are…”

Reports from the Off-White House of Homeland Insecurities. An impractical and unnecessary autopsy – performed three months or twenty years early. Petty officials with nothing but the ridiculous virtue of indignity. John Locke was right: Wormwood and sugarplums are not the same thing.

The hallucinogenic properties of la fée verte, absinthe, are largely and greatly exaggerated, but I did not hallucinate the events that occurred this afternoon.

The public library, downtown a block north of the courthouse, a block west of the Congregational Church, was guarded by a dragoon of black armored militarized police, each wearing an obscuring balaclava and carrying a semi-automatic riot cannon. The blue-red-blue-red flashing lights of their armored cars reflected in the glass doors of the People’s athenaeum as I approached carrying an armload of books.

“Your ID,” demanded one of the police officers as I stepped to the door.

“Excuse me?”

“Your ID,” he demanded again. His eyes narrowed beneath his face mask.

“Since when do we have to present ID to use the public library?” I asked. And before he could answer, I asked another: “How do I know you’re a law enforcement officer, anyway? With those masks you guys could be any number of lunatics with guns and a uniform fetish…”

One of the masked guards spoke into his shoulder mounted radio. “Commander Hoover. We’ve got another one here at the door.”

Commander Hoover, wasn’t long in responding to the call. “Let’s see those books you’re carrying.” He snatched them from me. “Karl Marx: Prophet of Revolution. Trotsky in New York 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution. The War Resisters League Organizer’s Manual.” He snorted. “Looks like we’ve got a leftist traitor. Or a spy.”

He shoved the books back into my hands. “First among the disloyal are always the Socialist,” Commander Hoover said. Then, “Sergeant Jones, send this terrorist on his way.”

Officer Jones sprung upon me; belting me in the face, dumping my books, and kicking me. “Go home.” He shouted. “You are the enemy.  Go home! Devil worshipper! Filth! Backstabbing your own country. Go home, scum!”

Jones struck me vigorously and repeatedly. His curses devolved into snorting and grunting noises which I drowned out by singing the Internationale.

Pour me another glass of that Absinthe of Malice, if you please. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Good News from My Publisher

Maybe you’d forgotten. Or perhaps you’d begun to think that I might have been fibbing when, way back in July of last year I announced that the good folks at Wipf and Stock had agreed to publish my collection of Biblical Limericks.

Well, I didn’t forget. And I wasn’t fibbing. Not even a little. Though it has taken a few months, I am pleased to say that I received an email informing me that my book is with the typesetter, and that I should have a pdf copy sometime next week to review. Once any corrections have been made (and, honestly, how many could there be…?) the work will be forwarded to Production. Then, providing that the cover is also completed, the book will be ready to print.    

So, please (please, please, please) be ready to order seven or eight copies of There Once Was a Prophet from Judah… Biblical Limericks for Fun and Prophet in the very near future. And encourage your friends, and family, and neighbors, and your enemies even, to order a copy.  Thanks.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I Took Myself to the Bodyshop

Since yesterday was the beginning of a new year, a time for taking stock and making repairs, and since it had been some time since I had made a deep and probing examination of myself, I took myself to the bodyshop and asked the technicians to give me a full inspection.

After about an hour the lead mechanic came back to me and said that it looks like I am going to need: 

- a new ancient serpent belt,
-a flitter filter
-a tensioner
-a biting fly-wheel
-2 new shock distributors
-a new manifesto manifold
-a new grudge pin
-a new alienator

“All told,” he said, “it’s going to cost you about $3,500 for the job.  But I can’t do the work here…”

Monday, January 1, 2018

Let’s Dig Up the Skull of Geronimo

We was sittin’ in a booth at Denny’s on account of David George getting us kicked out of Lindsey’s Tavern. Lindsey didn’t think that David George was funny anymore; he’d covered the toilets (in both the men’s and the ladies’ restrooms) with clear plastic-wrap and waited for the splashing and the screaming.

“It was a joke!” David George pleaded.

“How old are you? 13?” Lindsey asked before he kicked us out. We used to go to Lindsey’s after our shift at Alvin’s Speedy Lube and Parts, but we didn’t work there anymore either.

“You know what we should do?” David George asked me.

“What?” I asked around a mouthful of hash-browns and scrambled eggs.

“Somethin’ big. Somethin’….” He trailed off, his eyes far away, looking at something a hundred miles away at the back of his imagination. I knew that look. He got that look whenever he had an idea. And he always had an idea.

“I dunno’, David George. Maybe we should go back to the Lube and Parts. Maybe we could get our jobs back.”

But David George had an idea. A big one. “We should find Geronimo’s head,” he declared abruptly. Loudly. I spit coffee across the table. Other folks in the restaurant turned to stare at us.

“No, David George. You remember what happened when we tried to dig up the body of President Lincoln…” That was an adventure I wished David George hadn’t gotten us into. “No. We can’t be doin’ these kind of things. Grave-robbing’s nasty work. Let’s go back to the Lube and Parts. Or to Lindsey’s. Maybe he’ll let us in if you…”

“No. This is different,” he said. “I recognize that our attempt to disinter the body of the 16th president of the United States was misguided, but this isn’t grave robbing. It’s… it’s… it’s historical preservation is what it is. It’s cultural restoration. It’s important. And besides, Geronimo’s skull has already been dug up and stolen. We’d just be finding it and returning it. And if it should bring us some cash in the process, well, that’s good too.”

David George told me how he heard the story when he was a boy at summer camp in Enid, Oklahoma, how the famed Indian warrior had died at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and was buried there in an unmarked grave. Then during World War I, as the rest of the world was being buried in blood and bullets and mud and muck, six members of the Yale secret society – the Skull and Bones were at Fort Sill as U.S. Army volunteers. These Bonesmen - including Prescott Bush, future father of President George H. W. Bush, and grandfather of President George W. Bush – dug up the corpse of the famous Apache and stole the skull, along with some of his other bones.

“The Skull and bones took it, right! The freakin’ Skull and Bones, dude. Prescott and his pals found the unmarked grave and dug it up in the middle of the night.”

“Then what?”

“Well, presumably Prescott Bush held the relics for the group and passed them, along with their totemic power, to his son and grandson.”

“You’re serious?” I asked as I stabbed what remained of my eggs. I’d lost my appetite.

“How else would you explain the election of W. in 2,000?”

I put down my fork and picked up the ceramic coffee mug that held the cold remains of my coffee; it’d had been a long time since our waitress had come by. “This sounds dangerous, David George. Won’t you wake up a poltergeist or some other trope?”

“No. no.” he laughed. “In fact this is the reverse of the movie. The Skull and Bones left the cemetery and took the headstone… Well… the head, anyway.

I put the coffee cup down; it was empty anyway. “I still say it’s a bad idea, David George.  I mean it’s not like you could fence the skull. What are we going to do with it afterwards?  We’d be stuck with it. It’d be like stealing the Mona Lisa.”

“That’s not a bad idea, Holt. But it’s already been done.”

I yawned. Like Geronimo, I yawned. The famed Apache hero could, it was said, anticipate future events. He went to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, sold picture postcards and rode the Ferris wheel and repented that he’d ever surrendered. He should have fought until he was the last man alive. I yawned, but I couldn’t feel my teeth. Whether the future would be better or worse, I don’t know. David George is not able tell me. And I wouldn’t trust him if he did.

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