Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

26 January, 2018

New Fiction: Thus the congregation says

Mick Parsons, fiction, Kentucky
I knew something was wrong when Twila gave me the stink eye outside the student union. Divorces are difficult enough. Being young – too young, I remember my grandmother saying – made it that much more difficult. Having a three-month-old daughter made it even more so. Getting divorced while being married with a three-month-old daughter on a small college campus in Eastern Kentucky pretty much guaranteed that only Sisyphus had a more difficult load to bear.

Perverting common wisdom, a divorce has more than two sides to the story. There’s the usual… what one partner says and what the other partner says. Then there’s what really happened, which tends to be somewhere in the middle. And then there’s what everyone else says. And depending on who it is, where their loyalties lie, what their predilections are, and what their own (inevitably skewed) views on marriage are, there are any number of stories, all of which sound true enough to pass the gossip test regardless of how close to the truth it happens to be.

The usual unofficial morning kaffeklatsch of what was then called the Non-traditional Student Union was congregated in it usual corner spot in the upstairs student cafeteria. Woody, Shyla, Tammy, Jack, Ernie, Barb, Babs, and Shane were all in their usual spots drinking their usual coffee and having the usual conversations – all of which can be boiled down to how most college students have it easy. Marie and I gained entry to this group not so much because of our age, as our ages fell within what is (still) considered the traditional age, but because of our marital and parental status. Young marriages were increasingly less common in the 90’s, even in Eastern Kentucky with its sometimes self-proclaimed penchant for the traditional and the morally unambiguous. Both Barb and Babs, both of whom were products of failed marriages forced by cultural shotgun, applauded our decision not to resort to sin by partaking of marital fruits outside the sanctity of the marriage bed. Tammy, Shyla, and Twila didn’t say that in so many words, but Twila – who was a grandmother with granddaughters who hadn’t headed the words of Jesus since being baptized Old Regular Baptist style in a coal sludge dirty creek at the age of seven – demonstrated her clear approval by speaking often about how she wished her Becky and Sue had inherited some stiffer moral fiber like me and Marie.

Ernie, Shane, and Jack had no opinions on the topic. Or at any rate they didn’t express any openly. Woody asked me once when none of the others were within earshot – with no small amount of incredulity, I might add – how I could saddle myself so young when there was a campus full of beautiful young girls to occupy my time. Jack kept his own counsel about anything that didn’t involve the NCAA and Ernie, who was trying to be a writer, mostly talked politics.

Shane never said anything at all. But since I knew he was the guy Marie was currently fucking, I felt like I knew what his opinion was on the subject of marriage.

The group fell silent when I approached. When I sat down everyone but Ernie and Jack moved their chairs back a little… not like they were making more room but like they were afraid that whatever was wrong with me might rub off.

Ernie eyeballed the women carefully before uttering a neutral welcome.

What’s going on, he asked.

Not a thing. Just waiting between class.

Barb made a harrumphing sound and Babs just shook her head. Jack nodded at me, the way men sometimes do to show solidarity right before the bombs fall and its every man for himself.

I tried making conversation, though I didn’t much feel like it. I wasn’t sleeping and even the copious amount of drinking I was doing wasn’t helping.  Going to class was more an exercise of habit than purpose at that point and my professors treated me with increasing levels of shock, annoyance, or unsympathetic pity. I wasn’t doing anything. But I still made it to class. I was still working, if for no other reason so I could give money to Marie for Rhea. After we split up she moved out of the trailer we shared and in with a friend to help defray expenses. I was staying with friends who would ensure that, if nothing else, there would be beer and tater tots to eat and who could give me a ride to campus.

Barb made another harrumphing sound. You don’t need to be here drinking coffee like you have friends here, she said. You need to go and take care of your daughter.

Babs, Tammy, and Shyla all nodded and vocalized their agreement with Barb. Ernie and Woody shrank back into their chairs. Jack shook his head and kept his eyes on his coffee. Shane sat there rubbernecking and waiting for the actual carnage. It didn’t take long.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Barb went on, thoroughly encouraged by the congregation present. Your wife and daughter are living up in some shack with no electricity because you threw them away. And here you sit like you deserve to be around civilized people.

That wasn’t what happened. I knew that. Marie knew that. I’m pretty sure Shane, as amused as he was with the show, knew, too. The only thing that was true was that I left. The arguments and accusations, the yelling and recriminations by both Marie and me weren’t anyone’s business. The misery we’d inflicted on another wasn’t anyone’s business. And it wasn’t anyone else’s business whether Marie or I were screwing anyone else. I wasn’t, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t change the fact that the marriage was over, that my daughter would grow up never knowing her parents as being a married couple. It didn’t matter that nothing in my experience had prepared me for that level of failure – not that anything does, really. But I didn’t even know any kids with divorced parents when I was a kid. My parents were happy. My friends’ parents seemed happy. That was what I expected when I got married, for all of the right reasons. And in spite of what Twila thought, it wasn’t to stave of immoral carnal lust. I was in love… or I thought I was, anyway.

But none of that mattered. Just like it didn’t matter that I had just seen Marie and given her money and asked if she needed anything. No, she said, like I insulted her dignity. We don’t need anything from you.

If there was any real justice in this evil world, Barb intoned, someone would take you out to a deserted holler and show you how we treat men that abandon their babies.

The congregation was silent. So was the entire cafeteria. Ernie and Woody refused to look at me. Jack met my eyes briefly and I knew he knew what was what. But he also knew, like I did, that no amount of words would change anything. Sometimes you take your beatings whether you think you deserve it or not.

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24 January, 2018

New Fiction: The Duke of Donuts

Mick Parsons, fiction
Drunks love chocolate. That’s one of the things they don’t tell you before you show up to a meeting. No one told me I should show up early if I wanted to get one of the limited number of chocolate donuts sitting next to the bottom burned coffee on a rickety folding table. Why it is that the people who run those meetings don’t just buy ALL chocolate donuts instead of that those boxes of a dozen mixed that’s always heavy on plain cake ones that taste like stale ass – or worse, the powdered donuts no eats because they don’t want to leave an AA meeting looking like a throwaway extra from an unaired episode of Miami Vice. Like those rolls of Lifesavers candies that are supposed to be a rainbow of flavors but always mysteriously end up being mostly yellow or green.

The first one to talk to me took the last chocolate donut. He also put enough sugar and non-dairy creamer in his coffee to cover any suggestion that it may have once been coffee at all. He smelled like menthol cigarettes and was wearing a hat that identified him as THE PUSSY PATROL. He told me his name was David W. Just like that. Not all of them talk like that. The drunks who have been in recovery for a long time – a decade or more – will just use their full name. It’s not that they’re bragging as much as they’ve been living in the world of recovery for so long that they don’t care who knows. David welcomed me and asked where I’d heard about the Sword of the Ever-Loving Spoonful of Soul AA group.

On the website, I said. It lists all the groups in the city and this one was closest.

That wasn’t strictly true. I intentionally found a meeting on the opposite end of town from my neighborhood in case the language of recovery didn’t stick, and I ended up going to the bar after. At least, I hadn’t ruled it out as a possibility.

David W. talked a little about his sobriety.  75 days and counting, he said. 75 days THIS TIME, he added. Before that, he’d been on the wagon 9 months. No sponsor. No step work. Just white knuckling his way to sobriety until one day, for no particular reason, he just decided to go to his favorite watering hole. He was just going to pay off his tab, which was outstanding and which he decided was part of his recovery. Walk away clean with no debts or grudges, he said, hand to God, that was ALL I had in mind.

And then, he said, it happened. I ran into one of my old buddies and he bought me shot of Jack before I could say no.

I understood. It would have been rude to turn it down. Right?

David W. told me all of this while eating on the last chocolate donut to be had and drinking his over doctored coffee. Whenever I see another guy drinking coffee like that, I think about this old friend of mine from Phoenix who drank his coffee black because, according to whatever font of wisdom he bowed to, that was how John Wayne drank it. By his logic, if that was how John Wayne did it, then by God that was the only to do it. I remember asking him once if it was true that John Wayne died with 22 pounds of undigested steak in his colon. Do you suppose, I asked, if The Duke had been a vegetarian that he wouldn’t have died from not being able shit properly?

I was going to ask David W. about his hat, but they meeting was called to order and everyone took a seat. He hadn’t managed to finish the donut before it was time for the meeting, but rather than sit down and eat the rest of it, he tossed two bites worth in the trash before sitting down.

Somewhere in the literature of AA, it talks about how, when you go to a meeting, that you’ll inevitably hear your own story. I don’t know if that’s strictly true – it wasn’t in my case – but AA meetings, like Catholic Mass, run on a pretty strict time clock. An hour of testimonials and tribulations and out the door. Of course, if you’re new to the meeting they ask you to identify yourself so people can talk to you after the meeting and get to know you better. I identified myself anyway, though I didn’t plan on sticking around to talk to more people.

I spent half the meeting thinking about David W. and the unfinished chocolate donut in the garbage. And while his story seemed alright enough… it’s no new thing for a drunk to fall off the wagon… it didn’t seem right to me that he didn’t finish the damn donut.

The chocolate donut.

The LAST damn chocolate donut.

When the meeting was over and we all held hands and said the Our Father, David W. found me and asked what I thought.

I told him I wondered what The Duke would do. He told me that the Duke might have lived longer and made more movies if he’d found his sobriety.
That may be true, I said. But he would have never liked the coffee.

On my way out I ran into a guy that recognized me from the bar I used to go to. He called himself Larry G in the meeting, though I’d only ever heard him answer to Squiggy.

People were wondering where you’ve been, he said.

What people?

Oh you know. People. Jack and Tom and Sal and Big Sue. Katie thought for sure your old lady killed you.

Does she strike you as the homicidal type?

He laughed uncomfortably and said Well, you know. Not really to ME, exactly. But you know how people talk.

I told him I did.

How long have you been coming to these meetings, I asked.
Oh, about a month.

Does it work?

Larry G. shrugged. I dunno. It gives me stuff to think about.

Well there’s that.

Larry G who usually answered to Squiggy told me to find him at the bar sometime and he’d buy me a beer. Beer don’t count, he said. It’s like in that John Wayne movie. The one where Robert Mitchum played the town drunk. They gave him beer and it weren’t nothing.

Say, I said. Have you heard John Wayne died with 21 pounds of undigested steak in his colon?
Larry G blinked. Then he blinked twice. No, I never heard that. I never heard that at all.

After a few cursory words Larry G wandered off into the darkness. Then I left. On the way home I stopped off at Dunkin Donut and ordered a chocolate donut.

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27 November, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 8: Angel and the Not Really Bad Man

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5 was into their 5th set in two days.  Himself had not yet slept a wink and did not look the least bit wore out or like he was likely to quit soon. It was common knowledge that Ol' Bill hadn't picked up that red hot cherry in more years than an alligator has teeth. But once the word was out, it didn't take long for The Place to fill past capacity. 

Bop a Lena was slinging drinks faster than people could order them, and they ordered them pretty damn fast. I did my level best trying to keep up. She like to flew back and forth behind that bar, it didn't matter what kind of crazy drink anyone ordered. She made them all and slung them to me without a word or a smile.

Except for Julia Dream, she was the damnest woman I have ever seen.

Himself closed out the final set with a half-time rendition of Just Because. And when he finished he called out

We sure do thank ye for listenin. Be sure to be kind, rewind, and do what the good book says and tip your lovely bartender!
 
As the crowd was shuffling out, Himself called out and ordered an Amaretto Sour, which Lena had ready for him before the last syllable left his mouth. Tex the Younger, Rex, Dolly, and Sue all ordered shots of rye, neat. Mr. Rifraff growled that he needed three ice cold beers and a bowl of maraschino cherries. Lena had those orders out licketysplit and I carried it all over to the band. They was each sitting in a pool of their own sweat. Rex pulled his wig off and fanned himself with his long nails. Madame Bub ordered cold water with no ice and a neat shot of Kentucky Rye. Dolly and Sue howled that they were about to strip down and didn't care two shits whether anyone didn't want to see their whatfor. Tex the Younger told them it would be harder to find someone who hadn't seen their whatfors, given what they used 'em for. Rifraff ate his cherries and drank his beer. 
 
The only one who wasn't sweating sheets was Himself, and he just sat there, leaning back on two legs in a chair, his rhinestone Stetson tipped down over his eyes, a beatific smile on his lips. 

It took Bop a Lena a couple of hours to clean up behind the bar and around the floor. When we finished, Bill nodded in my direction. 

We're going to get some sleep here before we journey ahead, for I am tired and in need of rest in a nice soft bed. Madame Bub and I will retire anon. You have until then to sleep. Follow your better angel, Pilgrim George. She will never let down.
 
I felt a warm hand on my shoulder, and when I turned around, it was Lena. Bop a Lena smiled and leaned over and kissed my cheek. Then she took me by the hand and led me up the side stairs to her room.

Himself must have felt my hesitation because he chuckled at me from underneath his hat. Come, pluck up, heart; let's neither faint nor fear. Better, though difficult, the right way to go.

 
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13 November, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 7: Bop A Lena and Madame Bub

  The road stretched and bucked for three full days of driving, and eventually unknotted itself outside of The Place. I knew we was there because of the giant neon sign that called it out for miles in every direction, even to the center of the dark universe: THE PLACE. The signage was so bright the shadow it cast underneath dropped over the building like a long, thick shroud.  The parking lot was empty except for a couple old trucks and broken down fire truck.

You're about to start your education, Pilgrim George. Keep your eyes open and go with the flow. And for fuck's sake kid... Himself stepped out of the car and stretched and I heard a series of pops that sounded like rapid gun fire... don't screw this up. You do this right and you'll have set your boot on the path towards gen-you-ine enlightenment.
 
I followed Bill through the dark shroud covering The Place. Once inside, I saw at once that Dolly, Sue, Tex the younger and Rex were indeed waiting for us. I almost didn't recognize Rex for the sequined dress slit way up to his waist. His handlebar mustache and shovel beard still a dead giveaway, but I had to confess I found it difficult to keep my eyes off the rest of him. I never knowed a man with an hourglass shape that would have shamed Marilyn Monroe.
You keep your eyes and your paws ta yourself, there, Georgie! Rex growled at me and downed her shot. Then she called over to the bar. Another Amaretto straight! Stat! Then she smiled at me. Call me Madame Bub, Darlin'.
 
I followed Madame Bub's painted finger nail to the back of the room, where the bar was. The bartender was a tattooed beauty.. tall dark hair tied back and up, big red lips, and eyes like violet spears that cut through the din and looked right at us. She did not jump to greet us. She smiled a wry smiled, set out 5 shot glasses, and poured 5 neat shots of Kentucky Rye. 

Himself smiled large and howled. Good Lord Lena. You know me and what I like. Then He pointed back at me. This here is my driver, Pilgrim George. He looked at me. You go help here with whatever she needs. Just mind yourself. She doesn't talk. Not a whit. Not a bit. So you stay vigilant and be watchful. This is no time to napping. Then he held up his right and and snapped his fingers. It sounded like two tree limbs snapping. At the sound, Madame Bub, Tex the Younger, simultaneously set into motion and started putting the stage together. Tex the Younger strode over to the soundboard and started his fingers dancing over the knobs and switches, adjusting the stage light and sound levels. Dolly and Sue cat off their coats to expose two slinky sequined dresses similar to Madame Bub's. Madame Bub pulled what looked like a guitar case up from under the table she was sitting at and unlocked it, releasing a sapphire blue electric bass. 
 
Where's Mr. RifRaff? Himself bellowed. Leave it to that squirrelly bastard to be late.
 
He'll be here, Bill,  said Tex the Younger, calling from the sound booth.  You know his clock runs sideways.
 
And backwards, Dolly and Sue said together. He's probably still in tomorrow. 
 
But he'll be here, Madame Bub said with conviction. He'd not miss it for something as silly as time.
 
As I watched the scene unfold, I felt Bop a Lena's violet eyes upon me and could not shake the feeling no matter how much I tried to keep my mind on Julia Dream. Bop a Lena was watching me, waiting. I didn't know what to say to this woman that did not speak, but I felt my feet taking back to the bar.
 
She pushed the first shot from the left at me when I approached the bar. I drank it down without even thinking. Then she turned her back to me, unbuttoned her shirt, and slid the collar down her back to expose lilly white shoulders. she slip it down to her waist to expose brightly colored angel wing tattoos that covered the whole of her back from her shoulder blades to her waist. 
 
I drank down the second shot and looked at her in the bar back mirror. She was watching me in the mirror, smiling a woman's smile. Then she shrugged and the wings jumped off her back and sprung forth like she'd been born part bird. 
 
It was then I thought of the first thing Julia Dream told me: 
 
Ye will meet angels, George. Be kind, but remember - every angel needs a bad man every once in a while.
 
Bop a Lena's wings wrapped around the front of her like cloak and she motioned for me to follow her to the back room. Behind me, Himself was yelling at Madame Bub to get in tune for shit's sake, they have work to do.  I looked back at the stage as I was following Bop a Lena. A giant man with a drum kit had, in the interim, appeared out of nowhere. This, I would later learn, was Mr. RifRaff the Time Jumping Drummer from Butte. Himself had strapped his cherry red Les Paul special on stood akimbo on the stage, eyes closed, waiting for the downbeat.

  

 
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06 November, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 6: The Pilgrim's Process

Stop fighting it, Pilgrim George, Himself. He pushed his keys into my hand. We got to be at The Place three days hence and we cannot linger long here at the foot of the tree.
I asked him what this place was and why we had to get there, and why, on top of that, did Rex and Tex the Younger have to meet us there instead of just going with us. He slapped on the back then reached up and tousled my hair.  Then he told me not to worry and that all my questions would be answered by and by.

 Now you be sure and take extra special care of this Caddy while you're drivin' it. I like you, Pilgrim George, and think you got it in you to become something spectacular. He stopped to finished lighting the cigarette he just rolled and stuck between his clenched teeth. But that don't mean I won't skin you alive. A man don't need skin to drive.
How a man could drive without skin I didn't know, but I had no intention of finding out. But it was all I could do to keep the Caddy on road. The steering wheel pulled against me and the car bucked and swerved... 'cept it didn't buck and swerve like some broken down jalopy. No, sir. That El Dorado bucked and swerved like a horse that couldn't wait to jump the fence and run. All 12 cylinders were working their best to tear me off that wheel. That didn't seem to bother Himself none, though. He just sat in the passenger seatI tried telling him I didn't know where to go. He grunted and pointed towards the horizon. We're goin' that way, Georgie. Don't go losin' you head.
It didn't take long for the Treetop Bar to disappear in the rear view mirror. I still didn't know exactly why I'd agreed to this or what I'd done to deserve being dragged off my chair, away from my beer. Sure, I said I thought I another Rockabilly Billy show would be an amazing thing. And it's entirely possible that I was talking big to impress the company present -- Dolly and Sue, Rex and Tex the Younger, and Julia Dream.

Julia Dream, my dream boat queen. It hard not to think about that kiss and about the three things she told me -- which, I will recount as present, for posterity, if for no other reason, even if it incurs a little of her wrath. I don't think it will, though. Any reason there was for secrecy has long since passed.

So there I was driving the Caddy and Bill Hisself was sitting in the passenger seat, staring out at the road ahead from under his rhinestone stetson. He never said stop nor go. He never told me to turn or that I ought to expect to turn. The road south just unspooled in front of us like an old cassette tape.

Finally, I asked him how in the hell I was supposed to know where someplace with a generic and uninspired name like The Place, was supposed to be. He chuckled a little and told me to keep driving. 

Are you even going to tell me when we're gonna get there?

Bill clicked his teeth. You got to relax some, Pilgrim George. That there is half your problem. 

My problem?

Even though I kept my eyes on the road and the quickly fading daylight, I felt him turn and stare me down. Yessir, Pilgrim George. You got to relax. 

Now I was tired from the drive and from fighting that Caddy to keep it on the road. And I was thirsty and I hadn't eat since that morning. He dragged me away from my beer, from the comfortable confines of the Treetop Bar, and he dragged me away from Julia Dream. It was with the fading taste of her kiss on my lips that  I lifted my foot off the gas and stomped the break pedal. It like to take all of my weight to make that beast dig in and stop in a giant cloud of dust and rock and road debris.

Goddammit Bill! Now I know you're Himself and all that but I really think you made a mistake in dragging me out like this. I know I talked big, and I'm really sorry, but...

I heard him click his teeth again. He pulled his tobacco pouch out of vest pocket and started to roll another cigarette with his long, strong fingers. Then he shook his head and spoke like he was quoting scripture:

"I have it in commission, to comfort the feeble-minded, and to support the weak. You must needs go along with us; we will wait for you, we will lend you our help, we will deny ourselves of some things, both opinionative and practical, for your sake; we will not enter into doubtful disputations before you, we will be made all things to you, rather than you shall be left behind."


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30 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 5: Hot Coffee, Sweet Tea

It's all settled then! Himself stood and crowed so loud it shook the whole bar. It damn near shook it out of the tree.

Now listen here, Bill,  I said.  I have just a few questions to ask before you drag me off from here on some hair-brained scheme.

He looked it me and his deep blue eyes -- eyes blue like winter wolf -- twinkled from underneath the wide brim of his bedecked shit-kicker hat. For a moment those trickster orbs looked ancient -- deep set and full of primordial cold fire. He looked at me and straight through me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up. And I think he knew it, too, because he smiled, his teeth like shiny razors gleaming under the light that shone in his eyes. 
This here ain't no 'hair-brained scheme' Young Pilgrim. This here is nothing less than a divine epic quest thou hast been plucked up and chosen for. Worry not. It shall not murder thee, but thou mayst die at least twice along the way.

As the words rolled off his tongue, he stepped back, crowed again and slapped me on the arm so hard it popped my shoulder out of joint, making me scream so loud that Dolly and Sue dropped their whiskey shots on the floor.
Sorry about that, Georgie, he said. Sometimes I don't know my own strength. He looked over at Tex the Younger. Take care of it, will ye Tex? I'm good at the breakin' but not at the fixin'.

Tex the Younger nodded like he was annoyed, stood up, and lumbered towards me. I thought for sure he was going to break me worse. When he got to me he reached out with one of his giant chicken killing meat hook hands and snapped my shoulder back into place. He grunted. You'll live,  he grunted. But you may feel it when the rain comes.

Himself snorted and nodded at me. Time to go, Young Pilgrim. He turned to Rex and Tex the Younger. You two meet us at The Place three days hence. And don't be late. And Rex darlin' ... he paused, smiled, and tipped his hat... don't forget your trunk.  Then he looked at Dolly and Sue. And you two know what to do, he growled. Don't make me tell you twice.

Come on ahead, Pilgrim George. Let's slide down the rope and get this thing going. Don't you worry about the tab. It'll keep until your return. If you return. He laughed like he'd just told the funniest joke of any joke ever told in the history of jokes.

Himself Rockabilly Billy pulled me towards the exit and it was all I could do to stay on my feet. As we exited the Treetop Bar, headed for parts unknown, I look back at Julie Dream. Her smile was sad as she raised a shot glass and emptied it in my honor.

That was the first and last time I ever saw Julia Dream take a drink of anything besides hot coffee or sweet tea.

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23 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 4: All deals are non-refundable

serial short fiction
Before I could say anything else, Julia Dream was standing next to the table. She smiled down at me, her full lips curled up in a funny little smirk. Here eyes shone like the deepest blue green Gulf waters, taking me in.

Come on with me, Georgie. You heard what The Man said.

I was helpless to resist and unable to find my voice. I wanted to try and explain that there was no need for what I thought was about to happen. I mean, it wasn't that I didn't WANT to. Of course I wanted to. But not like that, like it was some mile marker on The Road to Rhinestone Glory.

You go with her, Kid, He said. You go with her and then we'll hammer out the details.

I let her lead me back behind the bar to the little room where she lived. She opened the door and bid me to follow her in. Her room wasn't no bigger than a medium sized closet, but there was enough space for a narrow bed, a dressing table and mirror, some shelves, a few books, and an old steamer truck. It was the kind that opened up and was a mini chest of drawers, like people took on long boat voyages back when people still traveled by boat for more than just over-priced vacations to foreign port where everyone speaks English and there's a fast food joint on every corner. The trunk was in great shape, too. Like she took pains to keep it clean and in good working order.

She paused in front of the bed. I shuffled in and closed the door behind me. Then I waited.

Then she laughed. You're so funny, Georgie, she said.

How's that? I asked.

She wheeled around on her heels, her hands on her hips, to face me. You're shaking like a rabbit that's about to get jumped by a coyote. You don't need to. What you think is going to happen AIN'T going to happen here.

But I ...

Julia Dream placed her lovely red-tipped forefinger over my lips to silence me. Now Georgie, she chided me. Insulting a woman's intelligence is no way to get to her bed. It wasn't going to happen... not today, at any rate... but still. If you're gonna be traveling with Bill, you need to learn how to act in front of women. She smiled again, and without missing a beat she drew me to her and kissed me. All of her was pushed up against me. Her arms were around my neck. I put my hands on her hips and she swiveled them a little so I'd wrap my arms around her waist.

The kiss lasted for what seemed like hours. Her lips were soft and tasted like strawberry wine. When it finally ended it felt like I'd never breathe right again without her lips on mine.

Oh, Georgie, she said, shaking her head. Where you been hidin' THAT? If I'd a known you kissed like that, I might not have let you run off with Himself. She locked her eyes on me. I could screw you silly, Georgie Boy, she said. I could screw you like you'll never be screwed again.

Then she pulled away and sighed. But not today.

In a fit of kiss-drunk foolishness I opened my mouth and told her everything I'd been carrying around in my heart. I told her I loved her, that all I thought about was her. I told her I'd stay there with her on her narrow bed or I'd sleep in the bar just to be around her. I told her I loved so much it burned me up thinking about what wasn't going happen... and that while I didn't exactly WANT it to happen, I didn't exactly want it NOT to happen either.


Julia Dream just shook her head and rubbed my cheek. You're already promised to Bill, she said. I can't come in between that. But if you go out with him and come back to me... and if you still want me...well, Georgie, I'll make sure you never forget it.

Before I answered she went on. I know what you're thinking. But I haven't had a man in my bed for many a moon. I don't take on lovers lightly, no matter what some of these old hound dogs around here think. 

I wanted to know who her last lover was and how whoever it was could have been so stupid as to leave her in lurch at the Treetop Bar. She shook her head.

Now listen, Georgie, and listen good. I got three things to tell you. They won't make any sense now, but they will. And these things I'm about to tell you are ONLY for you. You got to promise me you won't tell any of them what I'm about to tell you. Do you promise?

I promise.

Do you promise?

I promise.

Do you promise?

I swear, Julia. I won't say word. I promise!

She nodded and told me that I promised three times, which made it three times as sacred and three times as terrible if I was to ever break my promise. Then after she told the three things, she kissed me on the cheek -- there was still just a hint of strawberry wine -- turned me around on my heels and sent me out of her room.

I walked back out into the bar. Rex and Tex the Younger whooped and asked me if that meant I was man.  Dolly and Sue giggled and played with their cocktails. Sue told me I better not have laid the pipe down TOO good, because their drinks were about dry.

Himself told them to shush and he motioned for me to join him again at the table. He admonished me not to worry about them sorry onlookers. The last either Rex or Tex the Younger got it up they were toe up at a leather convention in Waukegan. And he told me not to worry none about Dolly or Sue, either. 'Cause the only reason they ain't screwed Rex and Tex is 'cause their old man taught 'em to sling it outside the family. He smiled at my dropped jaw. I'll tell you that story someday,  Himself said. When you're a little better seasoned.

He slid set of car keys across the table. They were attached to a key chain with two pendants: a crucifix and and a silver lightening bolt. Now before you take them keys, Himself intoned, there's just one thing you have to understand. 

Himself leaned forward and looked me right in the eye. His eyes were pitch black and his voice reverberated down my spine. You take them keys and that's the deal. There's no giving them up until the run is done, no quitting, no second guessing. You take them keys and the deal is made and you are bound by all holy writ and seals until the run is done.

Then he sat back and smiled. By then Julie Dream was back at the bar, only she wasn't looking at me or Bill or anyone else. She went around and refilled everyone's drinks and wiped off the tables. I looked at her, not looking at me, and thought about that kiss and what it felt like to have her body pushed up against mine.

But I could also feel Himself staring at me, waiting. I thought about what Julia said about coming back after and if I still wanted then, well then ok. I reached up for the keys with my right hand, and I asked Himself where we was going first.

If I didn't know better, I could swear I saw a tear trickle down Julia Dream's perfect face.


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16 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 3: The Road to Rhinestone Glory

 Well, I'm no musician, and I told him so. He didn't seem all that concerned about it.

We got all the musical talent we need. But what we lack is exactly the bill you'll fill, Georgie.

Julia Dream smiled and licked her ruby red lips. I was so shocked at Bill's invitation and his dauntless confidence that I had a role to play that I didn't notice that she was smiling at me in a totally different light. Rex and Tex the Younger and Dolly and Sue were up on their feet, up in arms about him inviting me along at all. I can't say I blamed them. After all, I was just some green kid who'd climbed up and wandered into the bar and gone ga-ga for the bartender. To be honest, the Treetop Bar was the farthest I'd ever traveled in my entire life.

When I asked Himself what it was he thought I could do, he told me he needed a driver. But, He said, it's more than just driving.

When you drive for a hard driving rockabilly band,  He said,  you're a driver. You're a roadie. You're security. Sometimes you're an entertainment wrangler. 

 Himself leaned forward and pointed his bottle of Sioux City Sarsaparilla. He smiled and his teeth shone like razors. I ain't gonna lie, Georgie. I won't ever lie and I'll never steer you wrong. There's all kinds of romantic bullshit out there about being on the road with a band. Some of it's true. Some of it's shine. But you'll figure that out for yourself. If you've got the balls to drive a 1959 Caddy Eldorado with more horses than Pancho Villa.

Everyone in the bar -- Rex and Tex the Younger, Dolly, Sue, and Julia Dream -- were all looking at me. Himself took a big swig and drained his sarsaparilla.  It was like he knew before I could chicken shit out and say no.

Get him ready, Julia. Times burning on both ends and the road to rhinestone glory waits for no one.




  

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09 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 2: Skinny Jim

 [If you missed the first part, read it here]


Everyone spent what seemed like forever giving me shit for blushing. Wasn't my fault, and like I said, Julia Dream knew the effect she had on me. I was just about to finish my beer and leave when the bell above the bar rang. The sound of it caused everyone to stop whatever they was doing.

Tex the Younger whistled long and low, and Rex had to pick his slack jaw off the floor twice. Dolly and Sue squealed and ran off to the restroom, squawking about putting their faces in the event that such an auspicious occasion might actually occur.

Julia Dream looked straight at me. Well now you gone and done it, Georgie. She smiled. You're something of a surprise, aren't you?

What exactly did I do?

She pointed to the old bell with one perfectly manicured finger. That bell there only rings when Himself is coming up. Julia turned around and looked at the bottles stocked on the back bar.  She put her hands on her hips like she was deep in thought. We're gonna run out. She sighed and turned back around towards me. I don't know that I got enough in the back, either. Dammit.

She smiled like she wasn't too worried about it though, so I repeated my question.


He musta heard ya, she said.

Who?

She giggled. You're a little thick, aren'tcha Georgie? Himself. Rockabilly Billy. That's his bell. He'll be up here anytime.


Tex the Younger finally found his ability to speak. You remember the LAST time he showed up here?

Rex nodded. Damn near toppled the tree. Took a week to clean the place proper AND I had to carry his boney ass back down, drive him home, and pour the bastard into bed. And you know what he said to me?

Julia Dream shook her head. What'd he say?

He said I was I was too ugly to be a woman but that he'd give it try if got a fifth of Johnny Walker Black and a paper bag.

Confused and wanting to distract the conversation from the impending doom everyone thought I brought down on the Treetop Bar, I inquired as to the purpose of the paper bag.


Julia Dream laughed out loud. For his head, most likely. When he's drunk enough Himself could screw a tree and leave it a pile a sawdust.

I didn't want to know how Julia Dream knew that. It hurt my heart a little to think of her acting like some love starved groupie and I was starting to regret suggesting that a show was a good idea. Not that I thought Himself had actually heard me. But everyone else seemed to.


That was mean of him to say, Rex went on. Just damn cruel. That was back in my cabaret days. Rex's eyes went all dreamy for a second. I performed in drag under the name Priscilla Divina Moreau. I could wail through my rendition of "The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe".  And I was beautiful. Wasn't I beautiful. Tex?

Tex the Younger nodded. You sure was.

Damn right I was. I used to get plenty of phone numbers from people in the audience who couldn't tell. Men AND women. Ain't that right Tex?

Tex the Younger nodded again. Sure is. It fooled me.

Sue and Dolly rolled out of the Lady's Lounge dolled up like it was Saturday night. It's a good thing you put that bitch Priscilla to rest, Dolly cackled. She was making it hard for the real women around here to get any action.

Speak for yourself, said Julia Dream. She looked straight at me, licked her lips a little, and smiled. I get more offers than a respectable woman can take seriously. Hell, if I took up half of them, I'd spend all day and night on my back.

Then you're doing it wrong! Sue broke in and started laughing.

Just then the door swung up so hard that it shook the wall and Himself walked in. There ain't no such thing as doing wrong! Either you're doing it or you ain't. 

Julia Dream smiled wide and waved, jumped over the bar. She met him mid-floor and gave him a big hug.

How's tricks darlin? Damn, Honey. You still know how to show a man you care. You're gonna cave my chest in with those things.

She asked him what he was drinking and did he want his usual.

Not today. You got any Sioux City Sarsaparilla back there? 

The bar erupted into a shocked silence. Julia Dream smiled. I think I got some in the back. She turned towards me, smiled wide, and winked.

Dolly and Sue ran up and hugged him next. He kissed them both, squeezed them close and buried his nose in Sue cleavage. She squealed even louder and turned bright red.

Sorry, Darlin',  he said. I just wanted to make sure you still smelled like cotton candy.

He acknowledged Tex the Younger with a nod. How's the old man? Still kicking it with Redheaded Kate in Coalinga Junction? Tex the Younger nodded in return. Well you be sure and give them my regards. Especially Redheaded Kate. Then he looked over at Rex. Priscilla! You have an off day? Rex blushed and didn't say anything at all, but hid coquettish-like behind his beer.

Then he lumbered over and sat my table. Julia Dream brought him bottle of ice cold sarsaparilla.

You Georgie? 

I answered that I was.

You sure do take after your Granddaddy. 

What?

Sure! Didn't anyone ever tell you that before?

I answered that in fact, no one had ever said I vaguely resembled anyone in my family. As a matter of fact, it had long been a family joke that I didn't favor any of my relatives and so I must have been left on the step in an empty fried chicken bucket when I was a baby.

Well shit fire! Hell, son you're even named after him. Don't you know who he was?

I never met him, I said.

James George. His friends called him Georgie. Women called him Jimmy. Eddie Cochran wrote a song about him. You ever hear Skinny Jim?

Julia Dream cackled and smiled wide. Are you serious Bill? He's related to Skinny Jim?

A regular spittin' image! He looked over at Julia Dream. Probably in more ways than one, I'd bet. He looked at me. I can't believe nobody ever told you. You're practically Rockabilly aristocracy. Skinny Jim was the only guy who ever stole a girl from me. He smiled. It was alright though. She looked a lot like Priscilla back there.

That was first time I ever heard Julia Dream coo like she was melting from the inside out.

NOW YOU HOLD ON THERE BILL...

Rex was up on his feet and about to give Himself a piece of his mind. Bill smiled and motioned for Rex to sit back down. Relax, Priscilla. Don't tie your stage garter in a knot. 

Listen he said, turning back towards me. I need a driver kid. You game?

For what?

He smiled wide. For the last ride of Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5.


[Another installment will drop on Monday 10/16. Please feel free to subscribe to my email list to get this in your email box before it posts.]
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02 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas Five, part 1: chrome rockets and warm beer

 October 1st

We was at the Treetop Bar. The beer was warm as usual, but cooler than it was outside -- in spite of the altitude and preternatural humidity.

I was sitting there talking with Dolly and Sue, Rex, and Tex -- the younger one -- and Julia Dream. We talked about the heat, about the warm-but-still-cool beer, and the usual kind of things you might think to talk about sitting a top the tallest tree in three three counties and maybe in three states, planted near the Red River at the crossroads of Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Julia Dream could just about talk about anything and I'd listen. She knew it, too, and while she didn't take no pleasure in torturing me, she was, at least, aware of the impact she had on me.

Georgie, she'd say. You really need to go find you a nice girl. You tangle with me, you're likely to get spoiled for anyone else. And that would be a shame. You with those pretty blue eyes your momma gave you. You gotta pass them on to a daughter. It's just not proper for a boy like you to have eyes like that.

She worked the bar most days and played the piano and sang most night. The piano was old and out of tune -- no piano tuners would bother to come to The Treetop -- so Julia taught herself to play and taught herself to sing so it didn't sound out of tune.

So we were sitting there talking about whatever we was talking about then someone -- I do believe it was Tex the Younger -- started to complain about the egregious expense of the last music festival he went to.

I don't have no issue with paying musicians,  he said. They earn every penny they scrape together. But you know as well as I do that it's about the promoters. They charge high ticket prices, pay a mere pittance to the talent, and pocket the rest. It's an almighty god forsaken travesty!

 Rex blamed the times. He said it was just to damned difficult to find good music. It ain't like it used to be. Used to be, you could expect that if you showed up at the Treetop on any Saturday night, you'd find somebody playing their guitar or pounding on that piano. Saturdays, the very roots of this here tree used to shake! Now all we got is Julia Dream. And she don't even show her tits to make up for the lack.

The entire company laughed. Julia Dream laughed the loudest. Not in your wildest wet dreams, honey. Then she shook her round, gravity defying tits at the room. These beauties ain't for the likes of you ruffians. She nodded over at Sue, who knew how to carry a tune, and Dolly, who couldn't sing but would -- if pushed -- play a mean drum, and said Get one of them drunk enough and if you're extra specially polite they might just grace you with a little hint of nipple.

Both Dolly and Sue roundly rejected the idea, proclaiming to one and all that they were saving themselves for real men, not the ruffians who hung out at the Treetop.

Rex pointed at me and laughed. But Georgie ain't no ruffian. You all going to deny him?

Aw, Dolly said and walked over and tousled my hair. Georgie is a nice boy. He ain't nothing like you haughty reprobates.

Then she sighed and said all the real rock and roll cowboys was dead had their nuts cut off by commercialization.


All but Rockabilly Billy, Sue echoed.

Just then there was a thundering in the distance. Only it wasn't no thunder. It was the sound of a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible with rocket tail fins and a magic V12 with no top end. We all knew it was Himself, Rockabilly Billy, popping his clutch and digging into Oklahoma dirt.

The mad laughter was also a palpable sign.

Sue got all excited and said Billy was still on a tear and probably wouldn't be worth a damn on stage anyway. Himself had been on tear since Professor Longhair died. He hadn't picked up his guitar nor sang a note since 1980. He stopped in the middle of a show right, declared that Professor Longhair had died, and promptly drank every drop of liquor in the place. No one had heard him sing in recent memory, and the common talk was that he'd drank and drugged the song right out of him.  People lost count of the fans, groupies, and fellow musicians who came by the bar trying to pull Rockabilly Billy out of his tear and put him back on stage.  Like his last show of any memory in Apalachicola. It took two hookers and a considerable amount of effort just to prop him up on a stool with his washboard cherry red Les Paul.

Dolly smiled and laughed so hard her tits jiggled and knocked Sue's beer off the counter. That weren't no dodge, she said. Billy always did favor ladies of the night.

Well a show would be fun, I said. Could all my friends together. A show might coax Rockabilly Billy out of his desert patio home long enough to put on the hell of a show.

They all looked at me like I was crazy... or worse, a tourist.  The only one who didn't look at me that way was Julia Dream. She just smiled. Her eyes twinkled and leaned over to give me partial view of a heart tattoo over her left breast.

Why Georgie, she cooed. I didn't know you had it in you.

I blushed so hard my lips must have looked blue.

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27 June, 2017

Excerpt from current project: Have You Seen the Tattooed Pig?/The Dust Storm



The bus trip from Cincinnati to Phoenix took almost three days and I almost missed my job interview because of a delay in Chattanooga.  The thing most people don’t realize is that bus routes are more circuitous than direct. There are depots that operate like hubs. Sort of like airports. So even though you can look on a map see a direct route from, say Louisville to Denver, the fact is you never go the most direct route. You may transfer buses two or three times, which is pretty typical for cross country trips.
          
 So anyway, the route I was on took me through Laredo. It was night and the city was all lit up with neon, which stood in contrast to the darkness that sat like a wall across the bridge in Mexico. We rolled into the city and I at least three drug deals and one pimp hustling a john who refused to pay for services rendered. A lot of people were out. It was a maybe a Friday or a Saturday. As we got closer to the station, the bus driver told us that unless Laredo was our destination, we should not leave the station because we would not be let back in, even if we had a ticket. The station was buried under the bridge that goes across to Nuevo Laredo – this was before the travel advisory they released a few years back about Americans disappearing once they cross the border. I won’t like. I thought about checking it out; I’d never been to Mexico. But, I also didn’t have a passport, and the days of being able to your driver’s license to border hop were long gone. And, you know… the job interview.  So, when I got off the bus – I was waiting on a transfer bus west – I walked inside past a policeman wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with an AK. The station was empty except for one guy who was stretched out across a few chairs that he pulled together to avoid sleeping on the floor.
            
 My layover was a little over an hour. The bus station was old. After a certain point, most Greyhound stations look alike. Some have more bells and whistles than others, but there’s a lot of consistency in the colors and font styles… you know, that McDonald's kind of thing? At some point someone in their marketing department decided that stations built or renovated after a certain year needed to have a more consistent look. Maybe they were able to get that industrial gray and blue paint in bulk. The walls were a dingy brown that looked like it had been left standing after the Spanish-American War. The ticket window was closed and locked. There was a space against the far wall where pay lockers probably used to be. There was one payphone that probably worked because there was a sign over it advertising a special rate to call Mexico. All the windows had heavy metal grating over them, making it next to impossible to look outside. Not that there was much to see. The station was beneath the bridge that stretches over the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo and what few lights there were right outside the station did nothing to cut the darkness.
             
The ticket counter was closed, but the bathrooms weren’t. I went and splashed some water on my face. When I came back the man sleeping on the chairs had begun to snore. They were these deep, snorkeling, passed out drunk kind of snores. I sat down in another seat that wasn’t too close to him. I’d had longer layovers. I waited something like seven hours in Chicago for a transfer. Late night layovers are a little worse, though. You don’t really want to go to sleep in case you miss the call for your bus. And I wasn’t sure this was the place I wanted to miss my bus, anyway. Seeing it in the daylight was no incentive either.
             
And I know what you’re thinking. Why think about being stuck in Laredo when I have a job interview in Phoenix? It’s hard to explain. I always have this inclination to shoot myself in foot, I guess. To run contrary to what I probably ought to do for no other reason than it’s contrary. I’m working on it.
             
Anyway, so I’m sitting there, nodding off but trying not fall asleep. Then someone says Have you seen the tattooed pig?
           
 Well I open my eyes. The guy who was asleep is sitting up and looking at me.
            
 What?
             
Have you seen it yet?
            
 Seen what?
             
He was getting a little impatient. The tattooed pig. Have you seen the tattooed pig?
             
No. Can’t say I have.
             
The man sighed like he was annoyed or disappointed. His lips flapped when he sighed, like a drunk in a 1950’s sit com.
             
You will, he said. You will see the tattooed pig. It will all make sense then.
            
 Ok, then. Thanks.
            
 Did you know there are carnivorous pigs in southern Arizona?
            
 No. I didn’t.
            
 He shook his head a bit too vigorously. Yep. Be on the lookout.
           
 Sure thing. I’ll be on the lookout for a tattooed pig.
            
 The man frowned. No. That’s different. The tattooed pig doesn’t run with other pigs.
             
Ok, then. I was a little confused, a little jealous because I really wished I had some of what this guy was on.
           
 When you see it, it will make sense.
           
 I was about to inquire further about where one might find a tattooed pig…or for that matter, why anyone would tattoo pig. I was also a little curious about what it was that I didn’t understand that seeing an ink stuck pig would clear up for me. I was about to ask when the door opened the armed cop looked at me.
             
You waiting on a bus to Las Vegas?
            
 Yep.
           
 Well, it’s here. Get a move on.
           
 So I grabbed my stuff and headed towards the door. The cop acted like I was interrupting his busy schedule of standing there looking bored and heavily armed. It was obvious the bus had pretty much stopped just to pick me up. I’ve noticed that bus drivers hate the one person pickups. They’re normally at out of the way or under used stations, and they almost always cut into the regular schedule. I boarded and found an empty couple of seats… meaning I would be able to stretch out and relax a little for the next leg. Before we pulled away from the station two cops came on board. The one in front had a drug sniffing dog. The other checked everyone’s ID against their bus ticket. After each of the 20 or so passengers were checked, they exited the bus and we started moving.
            
 The bus didn’t move more than maybe a thousand feet before it stopped again. We were still underneath web of concrete created by the interstate and the bridge. This time two different cops and a different drug sniffing dog got on and checked everyone’s ID against their tickets. Again. This time, the one checking tickets asked me where I was headed.
             
Vegas.
           
Is that your final destination?
             
Depends on how do at the blackjack tables.
             
Silence.
             
I’m on my way to Phoenix for a job interview.
             
He looked at my driver’s license again. Then he looked at my ticket, which he held in the same hand so he could keep his other hand free to sit on the butt of his gun.
            
 The cops left the bus, but then they opened the bottom of the bus and set the dog to sniffing all the checked luggage. After a minute or so, they pulled one of the bags out. The cop who didn’t have the dog boarded the bus and asked one of the other passengers, a dark complected man who was probably in his mid 30’s (around my age) to please disembark the bus and speak with him. The man obliged.
             
People are, for most part, looky-loos.  Generally, if there’s a wreck on the interstate it’s not the accident or accident clean up that’s causing the delay. It’s the damn rubberneckers slowing down to see there’s a dead body they can gossip to their friends and families about. We’re basically obsessed with what’s happening with other people, you know? I mean, we can’t help ourselves. Maybe it’s some latent ESP linked kind of empathy from when people were more connected. Maybe it’s schadenfreude. Maybe it’s a way to prove to ourselves that we’re still alive, like trying to catch a corpse breathing during a funeral.
            
 But this time, NOBODY looked. Nobody on the opposite side of the bus got out of their seats to look out the window. Most of the people who were sitting on the side of the bus that had a view weren’t looking, either. As it happened, I was sitting on that side of the bus, which was not the driver side. And, I didn’t have really turn my head and look like I was obviously gawking, so I was able to watch as the man spoke with officers. They directed him to his bag and most likely asked him to open it. The bag was a large duffel bag with a single zipper. The man shrugged and unzipped it. One of cops reached in and pulled out a bag of what looked like coffee beans. They talked some more and walked away from bus. In a few minutes the cop who was holding the coffee bag gave it back to the man. Neither cop had their hand on their gun. They laughed and the man even pet the drug sniffing dog. He put the bag of coffee back in the bag and zipped it up. The driver came back from around the front of the bus, where he was probably smoking a cigarette, and put the duffel bag back under the bus and closed up the compartment. The man re-boarded the bus and sat back in his seat, and the driver boarded right behind him. In a couple of minutes we were moving again.
             
We were not stopped again on our way out of the city. Rolling west, Laredo shone like neon pyrite against the cloud covered darkness. Across the Rio Grande, the absence of any lights at all stood out more than the lights of Laredo, spreading like giant black wings over the landscape.
             
I went to sleep thinking about tattooed pigs.

***

I was lying on the bed, trying to take a nap. It seemed odd to me that I was laying on our old bed in that white box condo in Tempe, since we hadn’t lived there in years and since Gayle and I hadn’t been together in a while, either. In the dream I was exhausted. I felt like I’d worked three days straight and I could barely keep my eyes open. I knew she was around somewhere. I could hear Gayle in background, talking on the phone. I thought that was weird too, since I wasn’t entirely sure what her voice sounded like anymore.

Part of me – the part of me that was awake, maybe – tried to tell the rest of me that it was only a dream. That Gayle and I weren’t together anymore. That we weren’t living in Tempe anymore. But in the dream it was like anything that happened outside the dream was actually the dream. We hadn’t left Arizona. She didn’t leave me for the neighbor woman. Like it was all some weird nightmare, or worse, some alternate reality I was switching back and for into and out of. Each switch meant I had to take time to remember… each reality had its own memories and its own time lines and I had to reboot… sort of.

I looked over and the screen doors to the patio were closed but the blinds were open. The balcony was gone, blown away by the dust. Then I realized the bed was in the living room and not the bedroom. Was that a detail from another timeline, another reality? I told myself to lay there and reboot. What was real (at the moment) would return to me shortly and the confusion would pass. So I turned my head to look out the window. The dust was blocking out the sun. It was then I started hearing the wind and the sound of rocks and palm tree parts hitting the building. There was a low level shaking to everything. Like an earthquake that wasn’t an earthquake.

Then I heard Gayle and could make out her words. She was in the backroom, talking on the phone. He won’t leave, she was saying. He won’t leave and we’re going to die here.

I started to get up, trying to call out that we could leave, that there was still a way. I tried calling out that I was sorry but that I had a plan. I knew how we could get out. I knew I didn’t have a plan, but I knew if I thought about it hard enough that I could pull an idea from the reality where we left and were safe from the relentless dust storm that was wiping everything around us off the face of the planet.

Is this what it was like in Ephesus? I wasn’t sure where that thought came from. Another me. Another timeline in another reality. Maybe the me that had been at Ephesus. Didn’t Ephesus sink into the river? I couldn’t remember. I wanted to ask a different me that had actually gone to seminary.

THERE’S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SINKING IN WATER AND SINKING IN SAND. IT ALL LOOKS THE SAME FROM PENTHOUSE OF HYATT IN DUBAI.

I didn’t know whose voice that was. For a second I thought it was my dad’s voice. But I couldn’t remember what his voice sounded like either and the memories of other time lines were starting to fade, blow away like the dust was taking them away, too.

I tried calling out again. Gayle was crying the way she cried whenever I was too drunk. I tried calling out, asking her who she was talking to. She wasn’t answering me.

It’s ok, I said. I’m back now. We can survive this. I tried sitting up again but something bit from bit my arm. It hurt all the way up into my shoulder. I looked over on Gayle’s side of the bed… the one nearest the sliding doors… a pig with giant tusks had bitten my wrist and was trying to drag me to the other side of the bed and onto the floor, out into the storm. It was an angry looking pig with tattoos all over its face. The skin was wrinkled and grayish black. I managed to shake my wrist loose, which caused it to throb and caused blood to get everywhere. I tried calling out for help. If she would get off the damn phone with her dad and get that fucking pig away from me, we could escape. I knew there had to be a way.

But the pig latched on again and I could not shake it loose. As it pulled me over onto the floor on the other side of the bed, the glass sliding doors shattered and everything was obliterated in fury of dust and stone and uprooted everything.

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