Tags: life and death, love, spirituality
Neela awoke with a start. She tried to gasp, but found she couldn’t. Neela rose up slightly and bumped her head. Looking around frantically for something familiar, she saw Hunter’s form next to her.
“Hunter! Hunter, wake up!” Her voice sounded odd and raspy. She found her throat with her hand, and felt something odd. A cut of some sort, maybe? It didn’t hurt, though. She shook Hunter again.
“Wake up. Where are we?”
Hunter opened his eyes as realization crept in. Wherever he was, he couldn’t recall exactly how they got there. He tried to sit up and bumped his head. “Ow! Da fuck?”
Hunter grunted at that. They both looked and felt around, and saw that a dim line of light was coming in behind them. Gradually as their eyes adjusted, they saw that it was barely illuminating the dumpster they were in.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Oh, for real.”
Hunter lifted the lid as Neela started to climb out. He pushed it all the way open and helped her, and she fell to the ground as Hunter started to climb out. “Careful,” he said.
On the ground, they were able to better survey their circumstances. It was night time in a parking lot behind a building. “Are you okay?” Neela asked.
“I guess so.” They looked each other over. “Doesn’t look like there’s any permanent damage.”
“But how did we–”
At the same time, they shouted, “Mexico!”
They were on a second honeymoon to a resort in Mexico. On the third day, they took a sightseeing tour. “Oh, shit!” Hunter said as he frantically searched his pockets. “Wallet’s gone. Where’s your purse?”
Neela looked down, saw that it wasn’t over her shoulder. “Gone, obviously.”
“Wanna look in the dumpster for it?”
“There’s probably a reason we woke up in a dumpster. My purse and your wallet are probably those reasons.”
“No.” Neela looked around. “Now what?”
Hunter shrugged. “We walk.”
“Where?” Their surroundings gave no indication of where they were. A lone building, an empty parking lot. A road coming from the left and going to the right, both directions cloaked in darkness.
“Dealer’s choice, hon. Pick a direction.”
“Eenie, meenie…” Her voice trailed off as she started walking, and Hunter followed.
There were no streetlights on the road, but the moon was bright. Surprisingly, so were the stars. They trudged on in mostly silence.
“Nice night for a walk.”
Occasionally they would talk, or chat about random things. Sometimes they held hands. They did not notice that they were not tired.
Day broke, and they continued to walk with no sign of man nor beast nor car. By mid-morning, they saw a child riding a bike in the dusty road. This was a hopeful sign.
“Do you speak English? Can you tell us where we are?”
The little boy stopped. “No. But Gramma can help you.” He pointed to the little shack.
The two looked at each other, and proceeded in that direction.
Before they got to the porch, a voice from inside said, “Stay off the porch, please.” The two stopped and looked around. Neela was a bit miffed.
The old woman came out and looked at them. “My, aren’t you two a horrible sight. Been walking all night, have ya?”
They both nodded slowly.
“Mugged, were ya? Jumped and robbed? Is that how you came to be here?”
Neela cocked an eyebrow at Hunter, and Hunter said, “Wait a minute-how do you know all this?” He was thinking that in this desolate area, everyone knew everyone, and maybe robbing vacationers was a family business.
It was the old woman’s turn to cock an eyebrow. “Oh, Christ, I bet you don’t know. Hold on. Don’t come on the porch.” She had been holding a small rag doll, which Neela just now noticed when the old woman set it on the rocking chair, facing it toward them.
The old woman went inside her shack and quickly returned holding a hand mirror. “You look normal to each other, but not to yourselves. It’s vexing.
In the mirror, Neela could see that her throat was slashed, and Hunter had a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. “What the fuck?”
“You kids are dead. Understand? This is El Camino de los Muertos, the road of the dead.”
“Take your time. You got nothing but, now.”
Neela looked at Hunter, a pleading in her eyes. But she still the undamaged version of Hunter. And what he saw of her was physical perfection.
Their minds raced with questions, but everything seemed so obvious–what was the point in asking?
He said, “Babe, I got nothing.”
Neela sighed. “Eh, me too.” She turned to the old woman. “Now what do we do now? Continue on this road, or what?”
“Well, yes, you continue on this road, and eventuall–wait, don’t you want to know about where your bodies are, is there a heaven or hell, or some other existential crap?”
Hunter said,”Not really.”
“Meaning of life, or anything?”
Hunter answered, “Forty-two.” Neela nudged him.
She said, “No. The only question we might have had seems to have been answered.” The two looked at each other. “It seems like we’ll be able to be together, hang out together. Is that right?”
The old woman shrugged. “Sure. No rules against it.”
“That’s all we need to know.”
Hunter said, “I have a question. How come you want us to stay off the porch? Is it some mystical energy portal or something?”
“No, I just swept it. You’re all dusty.”
“Oh. So, stay on this road, then?”
“Yeah, that’s it. It’ll take you–eh, you’ll find out.”
Neela squared her shoulders. “Ready, hon?”
“Whither thou goest, my love.”.”
Tags: flash fiction, life and death
This week’s challenge was to write about death. Any genre at all. I’m not a fan of death. My own, anyway. For other people my feelings range from genuine sorrow to ambivalent to downright giddy.
To read more of these stories, hitchhike with the Grim Reaper over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Death is on the Table
It was quite a while back–Or perhaps tomorrow
So we’ll see how well I remember…
This morning, on a visit
To the true living dead, the rolling lifeless
The eyes that are too old and tired
To show despair or acceptance
Of what this mortal state,
This dubious existence has left us.
Like crumbs, like scraps,
Like a bowl of something left sitting
In the bottom near the back of the refrigerator
Behind the cheese whiz
Who knows what it is, exactly–who remembers?
But we’ve kept it long enough so it’s time to throw it out.
So we take it, through a feeding tube
For days on end…slowly
But life is not a metaphor, not simile
Not literary imagery, or hyperbole
Life is not poetic, so just–
The real nitty-gritty, the facts:
When we grow old and we are queued up to die
And our muscles don’t respond
And our noses can’t smell the urine
That our bodies can’t hold anymore
Our eyes don’t see the fetid organic filth
That we are now living in
Our ears won’t hear the workers
Talking, chatting, gossiping, cursing work
After they cart off another one
They clean up the room and spray it
And change the sheets
And welcome another resident
To life’s holding pattern
Sitting, staring nowhere, and doped for easier handling
Through blurry dull eyes we have a view of the cemetery.
We are carted from place to place,
Too weak and too tired to fight
No emotion left for the patronizing that we accept.
Is it a nice day? How do we feel?
Have your bowels moved? Are you drugged?
Great-grandfather, my ancestor, will I follow you?
Will I die horribly in my youth,
With unfulfilled potential and promise?
Or will my fate be the same as yours–and what is worse?
As you wander aimlessly these stained and dirty halls,
Drained of hope, drained of faculty
Drained of the last bit of hope
You ask everyone you see
Have you seen my beloved wife?
She was just here at my side…
Have you seen her?
Condescending murmurs are the answers that you get
They’ve never seen her,
Because she was lucky enough to die
Before this place could happen to her
Meanwhile, as the days flow like clumps of kitty litter
Through someone else’s fingers
And life goes on for everyone else but you,
Your foggy gray mind lets go of your cherished memories
Like leaves falling from a tree, or rats escaping a sinking ship
They are all that you have left but they betray you and escape,
One by one.
Please stop—please, make it stop.
There is a fog, it’s true, but sometimes
Clarity seeps through despite myself;
The only thing I’ve learned is that
Time is much less fluid than we are led to believe
In fact, it’s rather lumpy
And my personal identity is less than bound to me
Cataracts have let me see the world
Through a Salvador Dali-colored lens
Am I now my own great-grandfather
Whom I once came to see?
This small child ceremoniously presented
As my progeny
Slobbering and wetting himself–Is he me?
I don’t know what is going on now
But I remember that day so long ago
And I imagine it is the same.
Tags: 1990s, domino's pizza, life and death, management
And so, I left Steak n Shake, and came back to Domino’s Pizza again.
Except I never really left; I had continued my employment there as a part time driver for Romona in Hazelwood. It was easy for me to jump right in again as an assistant manager and pick up the hours I needed between two stores: Hazelwood and Cross Keys, the store I most recently managed before being sentenced to the fourth level of Hell that was Blackjack. (I don’t want to over-exaggerate; everyone always says “seventh level.” However, with the experiences I’ve had, I had some perspective.)
Bunny was managing Cross Keys and she was my friend. Romona was my friend also, and gave me more hours. I was in the middle of an estrogen duel, two women vying to have me all to themselves. I wanted to say, “Ladies, please! There’s enough of me to go around!”
But it wasn’t about me. It was about power. Bunny was an aggressive upstart, and Romona was a battle-weary warhorse. Who would win this battle of wills?
Ultimately Romona did; she was promoted to supervisor.
Now that she was the new North County supervisor, she had–
Well, it depends on how you look at it. If I were an optimist, I would say she had pull. If I were a pessimist, I would say she had problems.
Since I’m a realist, I have to say she had…problems.
One of those problems was Store #1539, Berkeley. It was a problem store in a problem area. It was ghetto. It was hood. It was bad. How bad?
Unless you know the St Louis area, it’s hard to summarize. Part of Berkeley was a small village called Kinloch. Kinloch doesn’t exist anymore because there was a buyout by the airport for a politically-motivated expansion that was never necessary but proceeded anyway, despite the fact that Lambert lost a couple of major hubs and air traffic decreased significantly and an airport was also built in the Metro-East that stands basically deserted.
Kinloch became a synonym for crime,
The major economic factor in Berkeley is drugs. The local government is part nightmare and part comedy. Businesses shut down left and right. McDonald’s a few other chains closed their doors and tucked their tails between their legs, cutting their losses.
Just look up the Wikipedia article for Kinloch, Missouri. Kinloch is attached to Berkeley like a tumor.
Domino’s was desperate to have success at 1539, although the definition of success varies. They made a deal with a manager: she would take over the store, be given free reign, “support” from marketing, and half the profit of the store, instead of the usual 15-20%.
Again, class: What is 50% of zero?
This project was touted as a bold initiative, a new direction to create a brighter future and be model for future–
Blah-blah-blah. She lasted less than two months.
It probably wasn’t fair to put a (more or less) innocent suburban white chick in a situation like that. Luckily she didn’t get killed or raped, she just locked the doors in the middle of the day and walked out.
I don’t know if I was necessarily in the right place at the right time, but here’s what happened:
Changes were made, as always. Note the passive voice, to release upper management of responsibility. Jay was the farm-boy supervisor for the area, living in Illinois. He was returned to the cornfields from whence he came.
Does that sound harsh? Jay was a good guy, a quiet, by-the-book, no-nonsense sort of bloke. Yeah, humorless as well–those types usually are. Here’s a story about him:
As a supervisor, he came by Berkeley during dinner rush to do whatever the Hell it is supervisors do. You know, watch other people work. Make suggestions based on hindsight, unrealistic expectations, and fairy tales.
It was dark, so the mag-lock was on. Don’t make explain a mag-lock again. Most stores didn’t turn it on until after 10pm. Berkeley did it as soon as it got dark. Drivers come up, we buzz them in. Customers of a superficially non-threatening nature would approach, and we would buzz them in.
So it’s about 6pm in the winter, and it’s dark. A Friday night, so there is some business going on. A customer approaches, and instinctively Jay reaches toward the button to buzz them in–
A driver slaps his hand away from the button.
The “customer” was a large black male with a ski mask over his face and a shotgun in his hand. He bounced off the door, shook the handle a few times, and disappeared.
It was for the best that Jay returned to the green, green grass of home.
Romona was made supervisor, and now it was her problem.
I can’t believe that I was actually allowed to interview for 1575. Hazelwood was a cherry, and everybody wanted it. I was the only MIT that interviewed; the others were seasoned managers. However, I was a seasoned manager also, who happened to be an assistant at the moment.
Well, of course I didn’t get Hazelwood. I forget which numbnut they gave it to, and it doesn’t matter. Fine, I’ll continue as an assistant–whatev.
Over the course of several days, Romona hounded me. Berkeley was still open, and she was getting desperate. The store needed a manager. Actually it needed a SWAT team. She made offers, she pleaded, she made promises–
I swear to God, if I had held out longer I would have gotten a blowjob. I still remember the day I walked in when she was a manager, and she was sitting at the desk taking a break. And eating a corn dog.
You don’t forget shit like that. She owes me.
However, it was my completely misguided sense of duty that won over, and I accepted the position. I would take Berkeley. I never did get that blowjob.
Tags: 2000s, assholes, employees, girlfriends, life and death, scooters, sexual harrassment
I don’t remember if I posted this or not. For continuity’s sake I will. This happened about May of 2008, right before Scooter’s closed.
Christ in a fucking sidecar. That’s the only way to start this. Let me tell you about my weekend.
I worked Friday night at the restaurant for Scott, the owner, and my usual Saturday night. He had to work his church’s (actually his wife’s church) parish picnic, working the grill for their food. The same amount of business that 5 people can’t handle without getting bogged down he or I can do easily–if they would just get the fuck out of the way.
So I agreed to work. Friday night is a bit much for the new young-fuck Matt to handle by himself. I get there, and Megan, a cute little 20 year old driver, is trying to convince me I should let her off that night, there is a concert she wanted to go to that she had asked Scott off for but he had never given her an answer.
I thought about it a bit. That would leave me with three drivers–kinda tight, but it should be manageable; the nice weather should make it a little slower.
I said, “Okay, sure…But I need you to wear those shorts the next time you work.”
She bubbled. “Okay. I can do that for you.” She smiled and sashayed off.
I love college-aged chicks. Firm, tight bodies, perfectly shaped asses. Perky tits. Naivete. And inexperience in realizing what, exactly, constitutes sexual harassment.
“That’s what I like about high school girls. I keep getting older, and they stay the same age. Oh yes, they do.”
Meanwhile, before I even get there, Matt is working, and he’s called me twice already wondering when I’ll be there. Fuck, shithead. I get off work at 4:00. The 24 miles in traffic takes close to an hour. I’m scheduled at five. I’ll be there at five. He wants to leave. He always has some lame kind of excuse, problems with the car, car got impounded, car on the side of the road, or he has to go do something for his mother.
I’m starting to realize, after these events transpired, that I’m probably being take for a ride; I think his actual excuse is the drugs that he needs to go take.
But when I get there, I don’t let him go. He wants to skate without doing the two most important and time-consuming pieces of prep: weighing out the tips, and pounding out the burgers. This may not mean anything to you, but what it means to me is that on a Friday night, the busiest night of the week, I was going to have to do this shit on the fly.
“Matt, you need to finish this shit.” He stays an extra hour, at the most, and gets it done while bitching. The place is still completely trashed, dishes piled high, prep tables piled and covered with crap, trash and boxes piled up, grinders and slicers filthy from use and chunks of meat and cheese and other foodstuffs scattered about wildly. But I can deal; we’ll have three drivers.
But my third driver, Jody, never shows up. Matt is a friend of hers, so he goes over to her house. She calls and says she’s on her way, then calls back about half hour later and says she’s not coming in.
Many of the details I’m a little sketchy on, and most of what I’ve heard I tend not to believe, because it comes from primary sources trying to paint themselves in the bestest light.
The long and short of it is this:
Matt goes over, says he tried to get her up, says she was wasted or hung over or both, and says Jody punched him repeatedly. He left.
My Friday night was one of the worst ever. Mota’s wife Becca was working and she was a hero, the champion, of keeping it together for me.
Saturday, Everyone comes in who is supposed to. Matt worked during the day, and left before Jody showed up. Then, after they are all working, Matt shows up–with Jody’s…girlfriend.
This has become the fucking OC, or some other retarded modern teen night time soap opera. Jody likes this girl, Janna. But she cheated on Janna–with Matt. To get back at her, Janna cheated on Jody. With Matt.
Now Matt apparently likes Janna (good head goes a long way), but is friends still (supposedly) with Jody. Matt continues to recount stories of how Jody–a little firecracker–keeps hitting him and inflicting other violence on him, for no reason. “Why does she keep hitting me, Bubba?”
I had enough of this. I had been close to boiling over all night, having this story inflicted on me. I had heard all sides of it, including the stuff that he didn’t think I knew.
“WHY? WHY IS SHE HITTING YOU? WHY? IT’S ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL, RETARD! IT’S ABOUT THE GODDAMN GIRL! ALL OF THIS IS ABOUT THE GIRL! YOU LIKE HER, SHE LIKES HER! IT’S FUCKING JEALOUSY! ARE YOU COMPLETELY FUCKING STUPID? IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL! CHRIST! MORON!”
The kid is completely irrational. First, he’s in denial about it being about this stupid love trapezoid, or triangle, or octagon. Pick your favorite polygonal icon.
Then he gets mad, and yells at me about how I don’t understand. Of course I don’t understand. I don’t understand how he can be this stupid. If it’s NOT about this, then what exactly is it about? Ask yourself that question, shithead. He had left, by the way, gotten drunk or high or something, and then came back up to the store. I had to keep the two separated. Meanwhile, the mousey little Janna acts like an innocent victim in all this. I’ve actually come to believe that she is a passive-aggressive manipulative cunt: She knows what is going on. She wants to have her dick and her pussy too.
I believe Matt may know as well, but if he acts like he doesn’t get it, he can get more sympathy, more ear time.
Lots of ridiculous things happen, and I don’t care to recount all of them. Matt leaves because I make him, but he takes the girl with him. He completely misunderstood. “You told me to get the girls out of here.”
“No, dipshit. I told YOU to leave. I will get the rest of them out of here.” He completely fails to realize that he is part of the problem as well. But then he comes back–again, like a fucking herpes flair up, and this time he is lamenting his sad life, and talks endlessly of driving his truck very fast into a wall.
At this point I’m willing to point one out for him. People who talk about suicide like this don’t mean it; it’s a cry for attention. “Woe is me; I’ve nailed two hot chicks but I can’t seem to get that elusive threesome lined up. Woe is me!” Hard for me to muster any sympathy.
Although, his mother kicked him out of the house (again), he gets in trouble with the law repeatedly, having his car impounded once or twice, tickets and so forth, and he needs to pay for a lawyer. His mother may be an alcoholic, I’m not sure. He’s 18, his life is in turmoil, he has no one, no place, nothing…
But, he’s fucking moron. He’s completely stupid. He’s made bad decisions, and he’s made them poorly, and executed them in the most ridiculous manner possible. I completely resent the fact that he is trying to cling to me like I am his father figure. I don’t need this. I have–
My own shit to deal with. In addition, I have an 18 year old son of my own that I hardly get to see. I don’t need this pathetic reject as a surrogate. My son is smart, drug-free, moral, and a good decision maker. Artistic and talented. He has a future. And he’s not a complete fucking drag to be around.
Plus all of this is happening late at night when I’m trying to get the place cleaned up and get out of there. Matt’s out of it, drunk and drugged up and binging on self-pity, so he has no recollection of time. He merely sees a group of people that he can suck the life force out of.
I had to go outside, and get between him and Jody. The girl in question merely stands by, no expression on her face, not understanding, like Matt, that this is all about her. Only Jody gets it, and that’s why she has become violent. I make Matt leave. I tell Jody to go check out, clock out, and leave.
Finally, it’s over. Or is it? After they have all left and we are doing the real closing work, trying to get done and get out, Matt comes back. He has no place to go, no place to sleep. He wants to sleep in the store. No, that will not happen.
Mota makes the mistake of offering him a place to sleep. Fine, you do that. Then Mota and his wife ask if we want to come over to their house, party a little–
Are you sure? We have a pool, and a firepit–
Not a chance.
Is it because Matt is going over?
Bingo. I’m done with the pity party. Any conversation is going to be monopolized by his constant woe-is-me desire for attention. He drains me. I just want to go home.
Detroit came up to work to see me that night, by the way, and I’m glad she did. For one, she may not have believed everything if she hadn’t witnessed it herself. For two, she thanked Megan for wearing the shorts that night–I needed that kind of thing (of course I told her. She knows me so well. “You are such a pervert,” she said. Hey, if they’re over 18, technically, I’m not a pervert.)
For three, she knew and understood exactly the stress that I had had inflicted on me that night, and said, “I will [take care of you] tonight when we get home.”
God, I love this woman.
Tags: family, funerals, life and death, time travel, weather
And several things may have contributed to why I haven’t written in a while. There, just that one sentence–and now I am off and running. I think.
So much has happened in the last three months, and yet there is so little to tell. In December my Aunt passed away, and right before Christmas Detroit fell on the ice and broke her hip. She has been laid up for the past three months, and is only recently able to start trying to put weight on it.
I…oh, hell–it doesn’t matter. I’m writing this crap for myself anyway. It was (and still is) a fucking lot to deal with. I have to do everything, including shit I’m not good at, like laundry and cleaning. I appreciate more and more what she has done now that I have to do it.
Of course I had a great line for it, because I needed one to get me through. People would ask how she’s doing, and I would explain the whole ordeal, and how the doctor told her not to put any weight on her hip. “And even though he didn’t tell me specifically,” I would add, “I’m sure I’m not supposed to put any weight on it either.” I pause innocently, waiting for my audience to catch on.
But that’s what I had to endure as well: No sex. It’s been very hard to go without. I have these symptoms:
*Cranky and irritable
*No desire to write or do creative work
*Did I mention cranky and irritable?
And I wasn’t sure if it was because of the lack of sex or because of the increase in dosage for my ADD medication. I seem to have leveled out on the crankiness–
Either that, or–like my new sexless life–I’ve come to accept it as part of my life now.
But I really didn’t want the medication to affect my creativity, because other than that this new dose is really working for me, I think. Maybe I was just too focused on all the other tasks at hand to write? I hope so. I never gave up the desire, it just always got pushed to the back burner. Plus, even though I wasn’t getting any, I sure was looking at a large amount of porn.
The specific porn in a guy’s collection sure does say something about his personality–
And let’s leave it at that.
The first weekend of January, our dog picked up a stray dog. Yeah, our dog had a dog. I didn’t have time and Detroit wasn’t able to look for the owners, so we kept her for about three days while it was really cold. Then her son saw a sign in the neighborhood, so we returned her. They were happy to have her back, but it did make us think that another dog is what our dog needs.
We were having a meeting in the living room, the whole house–the whole family. Detroit’s family. I guess they are mine, because they live in my house. But dammit, I don’t want to admit or have to accept the oldest son, The Troll.
I had planned this meeting after the new year to talk about new responsibilities and what I wanted out of the boys, and also some different ways to shop for groceries and plan meals. The meeting got interupted, so I didn’t get to finish and go off on them. Detroit’s mom got a call. Her sister in Michigan was very ill.
She went up to stay with her for several weeks–or stay with another sister and visit the sick one in the hospital. Then she came home, and then spent three or four days with Detroit’s sister while she recovered from lap-band surgery. That’s the thing where they squeeze off part of your stomach when you’re too much of a fat-ass and have no self-control and just keep shoveling food down your throat. They should have installed the lap band about a cubit higher, at her mouth. That would solve several problems: It would keep her from eating, and she wouldn’t be able to talk, either. Fuck, she is annoying.
Shortly after that–about a week ago–Bonnie’s (Detroit’s mom) sister passed away. Away we trek up to Michigan.
I had high hopes of using some of my time off that I tried to accumulate to get some things done around the house. Instead, the three days I built up were used on this, and I have nothing again, until next month. I accrue 11.25 hours per month, which comes to about 17 days per year, or three weeks. This doesn’t include all the holidays we are off and paid for. I have a pretty sweet gig.
We go to Michigan. They pack some bags, and I have to haul them. It’s Detroit, recovering from a broken hip, and using a walker. It’s her sister, recovering from her minor surgery and suffering from a severe personality disorder. And it’s their mother, a short, waddly old sedentary woman with diabetes and other problems. And me, driving the gimp-mobile.
It wasn’t a bad visit, as trips-for-funerals go–for me. Detroit got sick Thursday and couldn’t go to the funeral (she was there for the previous evening for the wake.) She was able to leverage her illness quite cunningly, I thought. Her mother had planned–without consulting us–for us to stay there through Sunday, and leave Sunday morning, driving the ten hours back. Detroit said she would rather be sick at home, and wanted to leave.
And that was fine with me, even though I was meeting more of her family and hopefully endearing myself to them…or at least not creeping them out too much. To be fair, they are her relatives, not mine, so it’s perfectly okay for me to flirt with her hot cousins.
But we didn’t leave Friday, we left Saturday morning instead. Friday I got to taste the star of local cuisine: a steak sammich at Tony’s. But it’s not a steak sammich. It’s a burger, or a hoagie. It’s a large oblong burger on toasted Italian bread with cheese and pizza sauce on it. It’s a pizza burger.
It was purty goddamn awesome.
I also got to see the sights of Saginaw, Michigan: Deteriorating slums, a vacant downtown, and roads that could use some putty, or crack-fill, or rock, or something. Fuck, fill the holes with spaghetti and meatballs for all I care. Just fill them.
Saturday morning we prepared to leave. Meaning, I packed our bags, Detroit’s mom and sister packed theirs, and they sat there and watched me while I loaded up the van in the falling snow. Then I herded their asses out to the van, got them in it, closed the doors, and we left. It snowed all through Michigan, and somewhere in northern Indiana it turned to rain. By Indy it had stopped.
I was glad to have Sunday off and at home; the road was not kind to my body, especially my knees. I did nada but lay on the couch, then nap, then eat, then lay on the couch some more. It was a busy day.
I feel a little out of practice at writing here, and I’m wondering how I’m supposed to make this interesting or funny. Fuck it. Live isn’t always interesting or funny. Sometimes it’s just life.
Tags: family, friends, funerals, life and death
In the middle of December, during one of Detroit’s hospital stays, my Aunt Gloria passed away.
I’m not sure how much I want to go into this. It’s more than just a backdrop to a story. Aunt Gloria is one of my dad’s sisters, and married to Uncle Joe, the coolest of uncles.
About fifteen years ago, Aunt Gloria had got sick, and she had a kidney transplant. Her brother Junior gave her a kidney. Junior is the youngest of the group. He passed away in 2005, due to a stroke or a heart attack. They think it might have been related to medication he was on, but I don’t know the whole story.
Aunt Gloria had been fine for quite a while, but sometime in 2004 she had a stroke, a big one. Uncle Joe had–just recently, I think–retired from his construction job. And now he was on to another difficult job: taking care of his invalid wife.
Aunt Gloria had been a vibrant, active, cheerful and alive woman until this, smart and sarcastic and warm and funny. And now? Now she was a shadow of what she had been.
One whole side of her body did not cooperate well, including her brain. She hallucinated and had bizarre thoughts and speech. Sometimes I swear she was just fine, and acting crazy to fuck with people. I know I would. Hell, I intend to.
Something like this completely changes your life–hers and his. Joe never complained, that I saw. He was strong and…maybe detached. Maybe that helped him deal with getting her up, getting her dressed, getting her to the bathroom, getting her cleaned and fed, and keeping her cigarettes and coffee on her right side, where she could see them.
Maybe you don’t want your friends to see you like this, if it happens to you. But if you have a friend who has known you for over forty years, I don’t think it matters. Maybe a visit from your closest and dearest and bestest friend in the whole fucking world might be all the difference between just existing and having a bit hope left in your life.
So when I found out–and it was just hints and allusions that I had to piece together–that her friend Diane essentially abandoned my aunt, I was kinda fucking mad. For Diane’s purposes, Gloria ceased to exist. Ain’t that some shit?
I got out to see Aunt Gloria when I could, and it wasn’t much. When we lived down the street from them, we saw them fairly often. My daughter would go up to see her and spend time with her both before and after the stroke. My daughter is sweetheart, with a heart of gold. She really cares about people. I’m sure she didn’t get it from me.
Diane had some kids, and one of them was roughly my age, named Bobby. Bobby was friends with my cousins that were about my age, before I moved here. So much so that even though I was family, since I was new in town, I was the outsider, not him. His mom and Gloria were tight–she was like an aunt, and Bobby was like a cousin.
Years go by, and of course this happens. And then Aunt Gloria died. I managed to get both Mitchell and Miranda there to pay there respects. It was a rare thing, my family seeing my son, akin to a Bigfoot sighting and drawing the same gawking looks.
I was walking around, seeing family, and reintroducing my kids to them. Whaddaya know, Diane was there. And her son, Bobby.
Despite the years, he looked the same. Almost as tall as me, with a skinny build. The years had added little to his frame. Same dirty blond hair with a bowl cut.
I had nothing against him, so I engaged him in conversation. Everything he said just bothered me. Some of it made me outright cringe. Some of it made me want to punch the mother-fucker in the face.
“Bobby. What’s up, man?” We shook hands.
“Not much. Living and working.”
“Cool. Married? Kids? What’s the story?” I kids were right behind me.
“Divorced. Happily divorced.”
He didn’t ask about me or mine. This was going no where, then a thought occurred to me. “Hey, I know someone, this girl I work with you might know from back in the day–” I told him her name. It’s this girl Kim–yet another Kim in my life–that I’ve become friends with, and at that time was giving a ride to work until she could get a car.
“Oh, *her*?” He waved his hand dismissively. “What a bitch. She’s a whore.” Again, my kids were right behind me.
“Dude, she’s a friend of mine.”
I don’t remember the exact words or order that he said them. Essentially, his ex-wife is my friend Kim’s sister…so he knows her more than I thought. However, being divorced from her family I’m sure hasn’t tarnished his opinion. Not only that, but his “best friend” is Kim’s ex-husband.
He had heard, too about her different problems–from the prism of her ex-husband, she is obviously all to blame. And he had heard that her fiance John had killed himself in August.
Bobby said, “If I was going to end up marrying her, I’d shoot myself in the face, too.”
Seriously? Can you believe a mother-fucker would say something this callous? What if I knew him? What if, through her, I was acquainted with him? We were planning to get together…until that happened.
I was so mad, but I had to maintain a semblance of decorum. This is my aunt’s goddamn funeral, and here was this fucker, who–honestly, I was hardly more than a passing acquaintance with–was saying the worst kind of horrible shit about someone who is a friend of mine. What the fuck is his problem?
“Dude–look, she’s a friend of mine. I like her.”
He didn’t back off. “Well, you shouldn’t be. Everything she says is a fucking lie. She’s a whore.”
I honestly don’t know how I got out of that conversation. I think I just walked away.
Let’s dissect this a little, shall we? First of all, in a divorce situation, there are always two sides. I don’t know either one, actually. But what do YOU say to someone who happens to bring up in conversation someone that you don’t like?
Unless the person bringing it up is a close friend, I’m going to just casually dust over it with a “Yeah, I don’t really know them,” and change the subject. What I’m not going to do, because I HAVE FUCKING MANNERS, is trash talk someone right to the face of a friend of theirs. In addition to having manners, I’m also not stupid. What if the other person decides to take a swing at me because of it?
Because I almost did. If we weren’t at a funeral, for fuck’s sake, I would have.
Seriously, what does he expect? I’m friends with her and I work with her–hell, I give her a ride to work–and this is the first time I’ve seen his ridiculous ass in over 15 years. On his word I should shun all contact with her? And then what? Become his BFF?
Not bloody likely.
And my friend Kim does have a checkered past–she’s been around. She’s talked about it to me, and perhaps that’s something she shouldn’t do is be so open about her past with EVERYONE–but she is honest about it. And she is trying to change. She had changed, for her fiance, until his death put her life into the shitter. I felt that she needed a friend, and I even told her that: “You could use a friend that isn’t trying to get into your pants.”
I was just a friend to her–am just a friend–someone she can vent to, cry on once in a while, and joke and share emails. And I try to guide her in the right direction, help her make better decisions. I’ve seen her work through some problems and slowly try to get her life in order. Just think of me as a freelance social worker.
Later at the funeral, after my kids and I had made the rounds and ended up in the basement where the food was, we began the process of saying our goodbyes and heading out. Bobby was still there, standing with some other people that I said goodbye to.
I tried to avoid him, but ended up halfheartedly shaking hands with him as he gave me a parting shot. Something about, “Next time bring some pizza for the rest of us; you seem to have had enough.”
Oh, so a jab at me about my career as well as a fat joke. You’re a fucking prize, asshole.
And I can’t help but wonder–what kind of mother raises an asshole like that? Oh, the same kind of mother that abandons her life-long best friend in her time of need. That’s what kind of mother raises an asshole like that.
Tags: blogs, computers, life and death, religion, spirituality
When you come across a website or a blog, or something on the internet–and you can just *tell*. It has that look. It could be an obvious sign, like a comment that says “Last updated April 17, 2006.” Or it could be really old HTML. Or references to President Bush in the present tense.
But whatever it is, it just makes me sad. Sometimes it’s eerie and a little creepy. What if…what if the blog you are looking at is no longer being updated because that person has died? It’s happened, you know. I have a few friends online–or had–and they disappeared. One came back after over a year, just to say she wouldn’t be back…
And another, my favorite, this sweet, young, but sophisticated and artistic Lithuanian girl named Aurora has disappeared forever. If I had a last name, or something–anything to go by, perhaps I could find her. I just want to know that she’s okay.
When you stumble upon a website that the owner is obviously deceased…it’s strange. Morbid. It’s almost like sneaking into the funeral home at night, popping open their casket before the funeral, and rummaging through their pockets. What are you going to do, leave a comment? What can you do? What are you supposed to do?
For some people–people that are afraid to die, or want to live forever or be remembered, or are just so egotistical that they want their memory to be enshrined (and, by the way, all of those statements do apply to me) forever–maybe the internet is a good thing. In virtual space, everyone lives forever. Of course, there are always the sites that are just abandoned because they are no longer hip and trendy. One of my favorites was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer site. Well, the show has been off the air for some years. How often do you think the site gets updated? 2003 was the last time.
So the Internet is an immortality, in a way. Unless the server crashes without a backup.
Tags: cars, family, finances, friends, funerals, holidays, life and death, money
2010 has a been a rough, rough year on us here at the homestead. I’m not complaining, I’m just going to enumerate them. I’m not blaming anyone–whose fault would it be? And I’m not looking for sympathy, either. Not for this devil, anyway.
We started off in January–New Year’s weekend, in fact. That was when our beloved dog Mac died. That was hard. The first dog I ever really liked, the one that showed me what it was to have a dog.
Shortly after that–and this ran all the way through the spring–Kim was having a problem with her shoulder. She went to physical therapy, which didn’t work. So she had shoulder surgery, and then more physical therapy after that.
I’d like to say it was an uneventful summer…oh, except I got my car repossessed.
One of my good friends had a death–her fiance committed suicide. Worse for her, I know. But it was a tragedy, and it continues to touch our lives, as I help her cope, give her a ride to work, and hear people talk behind her back about what a whore she is.
In the fall, we were going to go to a memorial service for one of her uncles up in Michigan. However, that was Kim’s first Crohn’s flare-up and her first time in the hospital.
A few weeks later, she was in the hospital again. This time it seemed worse, the flare-up. This was all September-October.
In November, Kim’s boss died in a car accident.
In December, the same night she went into the hospital again, my Aunt Gloria died.
And now this.
Kim fell on the ice yesterday and broker her hip. She had surgery, and she’ll be off her legs for 6-8 weeks.
Of course some little things–I started a part time job and quit, and started another one. Always a little stress there. My oldest granddaughter moved to Texas. At first she thought she was pregnant, but she’s not. She’s still getting married. My oldest grandson is in drug rehab. Another grandson broke his jaw in September.
My daughter was having anxiety problems, and chipped a couple of teeth–we just got those fixed at the dentist.
I have some financial problems and some tax problems–the usual– Hell, I had to make the decision to let the car get repo’d in order to keep the house. I’m trying to get some answers for my sister about a judgment against her and filing for bankruptcy. Et cetera, ad nauseaum, ad infinitum…
On the one hand, there’s not much else that can go wrong this year. On the other hand, there’s still time left…
Tags: 2010s, life and death, money
So many things going on, so much as happened. I’ve know that when you have time to write about it, there’s nothing happening. When there is shit going down, you’re too busy dealing with it to write and reflect and ponder and so forth.
To me, that’s why a journal style of personal record keeping is optimum. A daily diary can’t string together events over a period of time without appearing choppy. A journal-style (or at least, *my* journal style) lets me tell a story that may have happened over a period of weeks, or months, or years.
Or hours. Sometimes I get long-winded.
But not tonight, children. Gather around the radio with your hot chocolate and let me give you several brief synopses. Ah, where to start…?
The radio show seems to be going well, let’s start there. We had a rough month, though. Race was a big topic in the news, and we did a show about it. It was harsh, and ultimately unairable. Luckily for us, there were technical difficulties, and it didn’t record anyway. The following week, we did a better show, and still touched on the subject but in a different way. That show, too, disappeared into the ether. Not the ethernet.
Thrice we tried. This show was better. It was good. But–what happened? The following week, we received word from the studio (in other words, Lou) that due to technical issues, there would be no show. That was a week ago. Lou assured us that by the following week, we would be good to go. I certainly hoped so–
So much had happened in the news, I was chomping at the bit to get my opinion out there, like it matters. But it was frustrating. Finally, Saturday, we show up–
And all appears well. I say “appears” because, although we did record and it did seem to go well, until it’s posted in a couple of days, I’m not taking anything for granted. But Bill’s show just got posted, so here’s hoping the technical issues are over for now. This week, Lou should post our last show, and then the most recent one. He thinks he can recover a majority of the last show we did before the gremlins overtook the machines.
That’s all I have on that, except this: The show is taking up alot of my creative energy. I do have some to spare, but not much. But this is unique for me in many ways. It’s a collaborative effort (with partner Suzan) and I’m working on something tangible that other people can experience, thanks to Lou and his network. It gives me drive and focus and a reasonable desire to succeed. We may never have an audience to speak of–
–and I swear to God, all I want is someone–anyone–to tell me that they’ve listened to the fucking show! Just tell me that someone is out, there for Chrissake! Fuck.
Things at Pizzarama are going well. I work about 3 or 4 nights per week, anywhere from 12 to 15 hours a week. Just enough to piss me off and not enough to solve my financial problems. It’s a precarious balance. I’ll write more about that when I feel like it.
The first week of August, I took a vacation. Kind of had to–financial industry requirements. However, I still had to work the night job, and I also worked the Tuesday as an election judge. Basically, I had a shitty vacation full of unfinished projects and unfulfilled dreams.
I have several friends named Kim. Of course, there is the one I sleep with, Detroit. Then there is my life-long friend Bunny. At the bank I have a new one, whom I shall call…Kimmie. Nice woman in a trashy kind of way. The previous week, I was on vacation, and I also had no cell phone, because that’s what happens when you don’t pay the bill. She wasn’t able to get in touch with me.
Her boyfriend committed suicide.
Christ, I can’t imagine. But it must be hard. I feel shitty for not being there that week. Dammit. I’m trying to be there for her now.
Speaking of being there, I got cash problems. I made a decision a few weeks ago, and slowly it solidified for me, and I realize that I have to do it. But now, I’m okay with it.
I’m going to have to let the Mercedes get repossessed.
No matter what I do, every month I’m in the hole about the amount of that payment. They charged me too much for it, and then they screwed me on the financing. If the payment was half of what it is, I would try to manage it. Hell, it’s been a problem since I got it, which you would know if you were a regular reader of my column here.
I have my truck in the garage, which hasn’t run in about a year and a half. For less than one payment, I can get Fred running again. Hell, I should have done that instead of buying the car in the first place. I think we might have had other plans at the time, but I’m not sure. Hell.
The plates are up on the Mercedes, and it needs a tune up. The plates being up means inspections and it also means I need to pay the personal property tax I haven’t paid that was due December 31. But I’m going to have to pay that to get the truck on the road as well.
The difference is that monthly payment. That will make me or break me. As it has already shown, it’s breaking me. It’s going to fuck my credit, I know. But I have the house. I have two houses, actually, and me paying the mortgage affects both of them. It’s more important to keep the house than it is to keep the car.
This is me, chewing off my arm to get out of this.
Tags: aging, life and death, poetry
But I don’t like the coffee
Where Suits and Hippies mingle.
A student writes a paper
And an artist sits and broods–
Because that’s what they do.
A young black businesswoman
And a gay Asian preppie are
Served by the perky goth chick
Who doesn’t get irony.
Stereotypes have run amok here,
At this intersection of life and caffeine–
And it lends to my feeling of hipness.
I feel very cool sitting here;
The atmosphere is electric,
Even with the old people
Who read the obits like racing forms.
What eluded me as a young man
I have finally achieved
And it’s bittersweet:
Middle-aged, fat, and cranky,
I’m cooler than I ever was when I was
Fresh-faced, wide-eyed, innocent and clumsy.
Now grizzled and wary on the outside,
Bitter and jaded on the inside–
I’ve developed layers.
I feel like a swollen Kurt Vonnegut,
Thinking deep thoughts of civil unrest
And a bagel thick with cream cheese.
The detached and disaffected youth
Think they are cool because
They are jaded and disgusted with society,
But they got nothing on the adults.
Listen, punks: if you think you are jaded now,
Let’s see how you feel after you
Helplessly pay taxes that you can’t afford
To a government you don’t trust
To pay for shit you don’t believe in
And your hopes and dreams fade away
Like your energy and good looks.
Your life and your youth will slip easily
From your fingers and be replaced with
Poor vision and knees that hurt all the time.
For over twenty years I’ve been an adult.
Or at least for the last two or three…
I don’t know if I’m more angry about
what is happening or that I can’t do
Anything about it.
Sitting here in shorts and black dress socks
And a shirt that doesn’t quite fit–
I am a rebel and an anarchist.
I feel very cool.
If only I could get the goth chick’s attention;
I need more coffee, but she thinks
I’m a creep because I stare at her cleavage.
I’m not really a pervert. Well, maybe.
It just reminds me of the promise of youth–
Christ, I need some decaf.
You can all snap your fingers now.