Showing posts with label Novella. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Novella. Show all posts

28 January, 2011

The Beans, Bread, and Beer Fund: An Explanation

Making it as a writer is rough, no matter how you go about it. Mostly people get some kind of pointless day job, or they become college instructors. Either way, you're more or less screwed out of valuable work time. A tedious day job saps your strength, your soul, and your imagination. Teaching on the college level isn't much better, except that you're expected to jockey for position, scramble your way up the ladder by stepping on the backs of your friends and colleagues, chasing that mirage once called tenure.

The other option -- go at it alone, try to come up with some other equation. And unless you get "discovered" or picked up by some eye tooth licking salivating agent or a big house publisher that wants to own your work into the next century, you do, more or less, go it alone. That's just the way it is, and, like Bukowski wrote, "isolation is the gift."

But life, even an inexpensive one, isn't exactly cheap.

I've learned a lot over the last year about hawking my own stuff and hustling to get writing work as well as exposure. While that oft dreamed of dream of writers to get picked up, get a major contract, and skyrocket into literary fame still pecks at me, I have learned to stop hoping for it. I still have my need to write, though, and I am still dedicated to the Art and the Craft of it. I write, in some fashion, nearly everyday. And I will continue unabated.

The Beans, Bread, and Beer Fund was something I started and posted on my blog as a sort of joke. Okay, half a joke. If I can't get The New Yorker or Playboy to pay me, maybe I can find people who wander across my blog, like what they see, and are willing to help. It's the digital equivalent to singing on a street corner with my hat on the sidewalk. But I haven't pushed it or explained it.

Until now.

I can't tell you your contribution will be tax deductible. It won't. I'm not a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization. Whatever you contribute will go towards what the name suggests – food, shelter, and some beer (I'm just being honest.)

If I can get enough money in this fund, it's my intention to put that money toward a limited run of print chapbooks, in addition to my Dead Machine E/Ditions.

I have two chapbook length manuscripts of poems: Boomtown Holiday and Love and The Baboon that I intend to release as E/Ditions within the next six months or so. If you are so kind as to give, depending on how much you give, you could end up on the dedication page.

Here's how it works:

$1- $12.99: your name will appear on a dedication page in one of the upcoming E/Ditions, and you'll get a free copy of one.
$13 - $29.99: your name will appear on a dedication page in both the E/Dition and one of the limited edition print chapbook. If you leave me your address, I'll send you a signed copy of the chapbook of your choice.
$30 + : all of the above. Plus, I'll list your name on a permanent page on as a  motherfuckin' god send. Really.

The link on the right sidebar will take you to PayPal, where your personal information is secure. I will not have access to your card numbers, and you can use any credit or debit card, or your own PayPal account. The link below will also take to the same place.

Thanks in advance for your goodwill and your support. I won't forget it. Ever.

By the way:

I'm also thinking about putting together The Beans, Bread, and Beer Tour.

I'll come to your venue and read from any number of my works and teach workshops on fiction, poetry, and independent publishing. Base cost is the cost of a bus ticket to wherever you are, a cot or couch in a reasonably warm place, and a flat fee to be discussed, depending on whether you're looking for a reading, a workshop, or both. If you're interested email me at

03 June, 2010

The Cat Situation

The problems with the cats had been going on for a week and a half, and they were fighting more when no one was home; I’d leave and run errands (on the days I had the car) or to walk to the library or the Restaurant on Main Street to sit and drink coffee and read, and when I got back home the carpet was covered with tufts of long dark hair intermingled with short orange ones.

Muriel and I talked about it a little, but in our conversations it became clear that the cat problem was my problem; she didn’t have time, she said, to deal with One More Thing. The subtext of her statement was, I understood, that I had all the time in the world. Maybe she didn’t mean it that way, and maybe she wasn’t aware of the assumptions she was making; but it did seem like, from the beginning, because I was the one who accidentally stepped on Che, I was the one who would ultimately deal with it. Then again, there was some truth in her assumption – not that I had All This Time To Do Stuff (which I probably did, if only I had managed my time more efficiently), but that it was My Job to take care of the problem.

Even in the most enlightened of marriages – which our certainly is – there’s always a certain amount of role playing and delineation of duties. Neither of us is particulalry organized, and neither one of us is especially Type-A enough to need that level of control in our relationship. But her level of organization, which was precise and exact in her work life, was the exact opposite in her private life. In some ways I’m probably opposite. My public life is a disorganized mess; I’m lousy at remembering peope’s names; I forget birthdays, important dates, less promininent holidays, and less than pleasant obligations I’d rather not deal with. In my private life I had managed, through repetition, to simplify my life and save myself certain troubles. I always put my glasses in the same place when I take them off at night, even when I’m drunk. I always put my red Bybee coffee cup in the same place. One of the first things I do whenever I move to a new place is establish a new routine. I know that’s supposed to be the hobgoblin of mediocre minds, but when I have some semblance of routine it allows me to save energy I’d waste in more pleasing ways. I don’t have to think about where my glasses are or where my coffee cup is or where I put my keys. My cigars are always in the same place, and so are my pens and paper. Most of the time, I put things back in the refrigerator where I found them so I don’t have to spend time scanning to find it again. I am horribly reliable in my routines; and when I am forced to break my routine, it pretty much fucks with my entire day.

This problem with the cats was one of those things that was screwing up my routine. I was constantly having to separate them, yell at them, shoo them back into hiding. They wouldn’t eat in the same room anymore, wouldn’t drink from the same water bowl, and if they happened to cross paths somewhere in the house – and since the house wasn’t very big, it happened often – they would immediately square off against one another.

The top of my right hand still bore the scars of my last attempt to pull them apart phyiscally, but they were healed more or less. Since then, though, I refused to pet them or pick them up or do anything other than feed them and clean their damned litter box; and I didn’t like doing those things. I would’ve put them both out and let them fend for themselves if it hadn’t been for Muriel’s insistence that it would be cruel.

“They’ve always been house cats,” she protested.

“They didn’t always use me for a fucking scratching post, either.”

She also tried to make me feel guilty for not making nice with Che. Sometimes he’d come out of hiding and want to get up in my lap and I wouldn’t let him.

“He’s trying to make up!”

“No. He’s trying to trick me so he can try and claw my nuts.”

“So you’re not going to forgive him?”

“Let him scratch you and see how forgiving you feel.”

“He’s just a CAT. It’s not like he really remembers it.”

“So why’s he trying to make up?”

Whenever we talked about The Cat Situation, I always ended up feeling like I was the one being unreasonable; but I refused to accept that as the correct response. I wasn’t the one who mauled them, after all. I was the one who got mauled. And more than that—I was also the one who fed them and who cleaned up their disgusting fucking litter box. I cleaned up after them because Muriel couldn’t deal with the smell. Whenever they decided to puke up a hair ball onto the carpet, I cleaned it up. Whenever they didn’t like the change in food and puked – always on the carpet – I cleaned it up. The time Che decided to sneak and eat beans off the stove and he got the running shits – again, all over the carpet – I was the one who cleaned it up. When his claws had to be clipped, I was the one who did that most of the time, because (at the time) I was the least likely to get scratched.

The solution had always been in front of us, but we usually didn’t have the money to get the cats declawed. They’d been destroying our furniture for years; but we resisted getting them declawed because, well, it seemed so MEAN. What if they got out accidentally and had to defend themselves? Not that either of them would ever wander further than two steps out the door before trying to get back inside; they were spoiled and on some level, I always suspected they knew it. Che especially. Nine could survive on his cat food box lable cuteness and whorish personality; Che had pretty much always been a little fucker to everyone except me and (most of the time) Muriel.

Well, since he felt like being a fucker to the one who actually took care of him, I told Muriel they HAD to get declawed.

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“I’m sure I don’t want to be a scratching post again.”

“What about the money?”

“Call the local vet and find out how much it’ll cost.”

“Why do I have to call?”

“Don’t you know somebody who knows somebody there?”

She hated when I used her ability to network against her. “Yes.”

“Then call and ask. You might get a special rate.”

“They’re not gonna give me a rate.”

“They might.”

She knew she couldn’t argue with me. She’d gotten every stick of furniture we owned because she people knew her from when she’d been at the theatre those summers working with props and scene design; and they all liked her. “Fine.”

But that didn’t solve the immediate problem of what to do with them. The problem was usually two-fold. For one thing, we rarely had the pool of expendable cash; even when we were both working, we never managed to do better than living paycheck to pay check; and we were both college educated and prepared for our inevitable entrance into the middle class. But that entrance never happened. We both made the mistake of following our passions rather than Being Smart. The guidance counselors tried with me, as I’m sure they tried with her, as I saw in my students when they sat in my classes as college freshman. The advice is almost always the same and it hasn’t really changed: study something Smart. Something that will help you Get A Job and Live The Way You Want To Live. Have a passion? Leave it as a hobby; live a Good Life and once you retire, THEN you have your passion to keep you company in your decrepitude. Even as a kid it didn’t make sense to me that the whole goal of it all – college, marriage, life – was to Live For Later. As a result, I have tended to make decisions and live in ways that Weren’t So Smart. It was only on small ocassions that it came back to bite me in the ass. When the car needed repair. Whenever I talked to my extended family. When I quit a job because my dignity is more important to me than a paycheck. When I dared to presume I had a right to a fair shake from the administrative zombies who run colleges and universities.

The Cat Situation was another one of those times when my lack of disposable income came back to bite me in the ass.

The other problem was that Che, since he was more than 5 years old, cost more to declaw than Nine. There was a greater risk that something might happen – i.e., when they anesthetized him he might not wake up – so naturally they charged more. It was a goddamn racket; veterinarians hadn’t yet organized themselves into Animal HMO’s, but it’s only a matter of time. The last one we went to in Arizona told us it would cost a $1000 to declaw Che. And that didn’t include the medicine and post-operative check up. Nine was younger, so he would cost around $600. And even when I was working at ASU and Muriel was working overtime, that was more money than we could afford.

I expected the vet in Mount Arliss to be considerably cheaper; but a dollar for a cup of coffee is still too much when you don’t have a dollar to spare.

When she came home later that evening, she told me she’d called the vet in town.

“How much?”

“Not as much as I thought.”

“That sounds promising.”

She told me it would cost $250 dollars a piece to get them declawed.

“It doesn’t matter that Che is older?”



“I set up an appointment for next week, on Monday. I can drop them off on my way to work; but you’ll have to pick them up after.”


Che must have heard us talking, because he came out of hiding. He rubbed up on my leg and tried to get in my lap, and a shooed him off.

“He just wants in your lap!”

“Maybe after he gets declawed.”

“You’re just being stubbom. Are you sure you want to do this? We can call and cancel.”

Che hissed and arched his back because Nine came out of his hiding place and into the living room. Nine started yowling and crouched, ready to attack. They hissed at one another and yowled and I shooed them both back into their respective hiding places. Then I looked at Muriel. “Monday was the soonest?”

She sighed. The decision, although necessary, wasn’t sitting well with her. That she is soft-hearted is one of the things I love most about her; she helps remind me not to give up on humanity, in spite of however much I want to. She doesn’t try to see the best in all things; it’s something she just does. And no matter how many times she gets disappointed by the general mediocrity of everyone around her – sometimes including me – she never gives up. But she knew we didn’t have a choice this time.

“Yes. It was the soonest.”

27 May, 2010

Smart Young Fella

When I didn’t feel like staying home, I wandered up to the bar to hang out and attempt to forget my petty frustrations. It never works – not really. But just because it never works doesn’t mean that it will never work; besides, there was little else to do. I’d already gone through all the books in the small and underappreciated public library that were worth reading. Muriel usually had the car, which put me on foot, and the walk to the bar was a reasonable one that also presented an excuse for exercise. The place was usually deserted – at least it was during the winter when everyone was busy hibernating and shoveling snow. As long as the wind chill wasn’t too low and there wasn’t too much ice on the streets – Mt. Arliss actually did a pretty good job of keeping the streets clear in town – I’d hoof it up to the bar for a few cocktails and to watch the television.

I hadn’t managed to pick up much in the way of work yet, though, so I had to limit my trips much more than I would normally. There is apparently not much call for a freelance writer and ex-college instructor; but I had hope that something would happen with the Spring thaw that seemed imminent. Muriel continued to hope that I’d wander back into teaching – something online so that I could stay home and do something useful while still being able to not wear pants – but I resisted. Not that there were a lot of options in education, anyway. Although my resume looks decently impressive, I was sure I’d managed to burn every bridge I had. Getting let go from ASU in the name of budget cuts was only an excuse; the Department Chair had been looking for a way to get rid of trouble makers – he referred to us as “boat rockers.” And my problems there were not new ones; I’d had the same problems almost everyplace else I ever worked.

I’m lousy at office politics. I don’t have the taste for them, nor do I have any interest in developing a taste. All I wanted to do was teach and be left alone; but then there’s my OTHER problem. I can’t keep my mouth shut. People who survive the institutional politics of higher education do so because they either learn to exploit the system or they keep their heads down to avoid having it cut off. I made the mistake of getting involved with some other instructors who wanted to start a union and improve our contracts. We weren’t asking for a lot; we weren’t even asking for a raise as much as we were asking for job security. But there were more peons and lackeys than there were people who understood the meaning of solidarity; so when the part-timers got axed – in the name of budget cuts -- and our course loads and class sizes went up, they put their heads down and took it like a barely legal virgin in an underfunded porno. And when the Powers That Be started cutting instructor positions, they started with us. Our ability and evaluations meant nothing; the Department Chair and his Dominatrix the College Dean wanted pack mules, not thoroughbreds.

When I went to the bar, it was to have someplace else to go; but in Mount Arliss, my options for distraction were extraordinarily limited. So mostly I kept to myself and only talked when there wasn’t anyone there but the bartender or when I had something to say. I listened a lot, though, and figured out pretty quickly that it was better to say very little. Mount. Arliss, like most small towns, can be charming, friendly, and endearing – especially if you’re the nostalgic sort trying to convince yourself there’s still something pristine and untouched and pure on the Earth … that somewhere, away from the crowded cities, there’s some idyllic Eden that harkens back to those television reruns of Andy Griffith and Leave it Beaver. But small towns can also be breeding grounds for xenophobia and misdirected anger. And in a place like this one, where the average age is 50 and diversity is defined as owning a Craftsman lawnmower instead of a John Deere, where the economy has been in a perpetual downturn since the 1970’s, somebody has to shoulder the blame. And generally, the blame is shifted to Blacks, Mexicans, Arabs, and liberals. Usually in that order.

Every bar has a group of dedicated regulars, and the Moose Head was no exception. Bill Watson was one of them, of course. He always had something to say about anything that was going on and he did his level best to leak the news before it came out in the paper just to annoy his older brother Bob, who owned the local newspaper. Bill and I had talked before, but rarely over anything more exciting than whatever was on the TV in the bar; mostly he gossiped about local people I didn’t know and drank his four or five beers and went home. Retired from one of the companies that pulled out and closed the plant several years before, he was a regular at the bar and was there most weekday afternoons.

That particular day was no exception; Muriel was working late again and I didn’t feel like sitting at home. The weather was decent – partly cloudy and in the mid 40’s – and the drinks were always cheap. When I got there, Bill was already there, along with the other members of what I would later be told was the Mount Arliss Round Table. The five old men named themselves the Round Table as a kind of joke that was never really funny to begin with. They got the name, not from Arthurian Legend – which they only became familiar with AFTER the name had settled in – but because they often came in for lunch and sat around a large round table near the center of the bar; the table was built around a structure supporting post that ran ceiling to floor and could seat up to eight.

“So where you from, young fella?” The unofficial leader, a guy named Don, asked me. I turned around on my stool at the bar to face him and told him we’d moved there recently.

“From where?”

“This time it was Phoenix.”

So we talked about Arizona… the weather, mostly, and life there after the real estate bubble finally burst. While we were talking, another member walked in. This one was another crusty old fucker named Jed. He was short, with cloud white hair that was mostly gone at the top, with a big bushy mustache and a thick pair of tri-focal glasses. When he sat down, Madge the owner, who was working the bar, got his usual beer for him without his having to ask. We were introduced and the conversation moved on to immigration.

“So what do you think about all a them pouring over the border and ruining the state?” Don asked.

“All of WHO?”

“Them MEXICANS,” Bill cut in.

“God damn illegal aliens,” Don said.

“Should fuckin’ kill ‘em all,” Jed said.

“I don’t know that I’d use that word,” I answered.

“What word?” Don asked.

“Ruin,” I answered. “I don’t know that it’s fair to say they’re ruining the state.”

“They’re taking OUR jobs,” Jed defended.

“They’re mostly CRIMINALS,” Bill added.

“And they’re coming over here, stealing and killing and raping women,” Don finished.

The three of them sat there looking at me, waiting for my response. From the expressions on their faces, I thought they were expecting me to recant.

“I’m not saying,” I chose my words carefully, “that something doesn’t need to be DONE about border policy…”

Bill cut me off. “Damn right!”

“… but it needs to make sense. And so far, it doesn’t.”

Now the expressions on their faces were a mixture of confusion and contempt. “And just how,” Don finally asked “how should it make sense?”

The bar was quieter than usual – which is saying something considering it’s deserted most of the time – and I again chose my words very carefully. I talked about Arizona Red State politics and how it’s extreme pro-corporate stance means that the tax base is mostly made up of the dwindling middle-class and the working poor; I talked about how construction companies during the real estate boom used undocumented workers because they could pay them a fraction of what an American worker would accept and far less than anybody can actually live on; I talked about Sheriff Arpiao and his random racial profiling raids; then I told them that border policy will never really change because that would eliminate a large and inexpensive work force that the pro-corporate structure needs to do the grunt work. When I was finished I noticed the tone of my voice from the last word that hung on the air in uncomfortable silence. Muriel hated it when I used that tone with her. She called it my teacher tone.

Don, Bill, and Jed stared at me a while longer. “You seem like a smart young fella,” Don said.

“I have my moments.”

“Then you’ve read the CONSTITUTION, I presume?”

“Yeah. The Bill of Rights, too.”

He ignored the last part of my comment, but I thought I saw Jed roll his doughy eyes. “And what does the Constitution say about the role of government?”

I knew where this was going. I can tolerate most idiots, but an unoriginal idiot is intolerable. “To protect and defend,” I said.

“EXACTLY!” Don sat back in his chair with a triumphant expression on his face.

“We need to NAIL DOWN that fuckin’ border,” Bill proclaimed.

“What about Canada?” I asked.

“What about it?”

“Well,” I said. “It’s a much bigger border. If a drug mule or a terrorist is gonna get through, they’ll have a much better chance of coming in through Canada. Or are you saying there aren’t any white drug dealers?”

“Now I wasn’t saying that AT ALL,” Don protested.

“Or what about port security?” I went on.

Bill started to look confused. “Huh?”

“Most cargo containers go through unchecked,” I said. “We don’t have any idea what’s in most of them. If all you’re worried about are criminals and terrorists, why don’t we do a better job with our ports.”

“You have a point,” Don said.

“And did you know that most of our ports aren’t even owned by US companies?” I asked.

“Huh?” That was Jed.

“It’s true,” I said. “Look it up.”

“But that’s not what we’re talkin’ about,” Don said.

“We just need to shoot all those fuckers,” Jed added.

“I know I’d like to be down on the border checkin’ green cards,” Don said. “No green card…” he held the thumb and forefinger of his right hand like a gun. “ ..BOOM!”

The three of them laughed.

“You don’t have a problem with guns, do you?” Don asked me.

“Guns? No. Idiots with guns? Yeah.”

“That’s alright, then,” Don said. “For a while there you were sounding a little liberal.”

And you were sounding a little retarded. “I use my brain,” I said.

“You’re a smart young fella,” Don repeated. I didn’t know whether he was paying me compliment or not; from his tone I suspected maybe he wasn’t. I knew better than to think that I’d change their minds, and that wasn’t really the point. No one changed their mind about anything. Not really. I looked at my empty scotch glass; I’d drank four or five in the midst of my exchange with three of the five and spent more than I had planned to. I didn’t feel drunk, but the conversation had ruined the relatively peaceful mood I’d been in. Sure, I was a little bored; but not bored enough to walk into a fight. I drained the last bit of scotch and tried to erase the homicidal fantasies that were fomenting in my mind.

I used to be able to tolerate dumbasses. Someone had told me once – my dad maybe – that people mellow as they age. And while I was certainly not old, I knew that I certainly wasn’t getting more mellow as time marched on and my hair turned grayer. It was the exact opposite; with each passing day I was less and less patient with the misguided, the confused, and the ignorant. No wonder I needed to get out of teaching. At least I was still sure it had nothing to do with the students.

I turned around and looked at Madge; she was trying not to look at me. I left a few dollars for a tip and left.

When I got home, the cats were hiding from one another: Che was under our bed and Nine was hiding under a pile of Muriel’s clothes in the unused bedroom. The sound of the door opening and closing drew each of them out into the open. Che took one look at me and growled. Nine started growling because Che growled, and then the eyeballed one another and prepared to pounce.

“Get!” I yelled. “I don’t feel like dealing with your bullshit today!”

Che snarled, but he turned tail and retreated back under the bed. Nine, with his usual punch drunk thickness, prepared to follow Che and finish the confrontation. I yelled at him again and he turned tail and scampered back under the pile of clothes.

“Too much disharmony,” I said aloud. Sometimes it was just too difficult; dealing with people, dealing with the cats, dealing with Muriel’s absence. That, at least, was better; used to be she’d come for the entire summer. Last summer I was left on my own and it was miserable. At least now I saw her every morning before she left and every night when she came home. At least I could feel her next to me in the bed at night. It was unfair; so unfair that hers was the only company I could handle for any length of time. So unfair for her.

I drank some water and then poured myself a scotch from the half bottle under the kitchen sink. It was almost five in the afternoon. Muriel wouldn’t be home for a few more hours, and I wasn’t hungry. So I turned on the radio, found the classical station, and sat back in my rocking chair – listening and drinking myself back into the harmonious and peaceful center found only in the absence of others.

18 March, 2010

Plan Ahead Next Time: Part 1

Every woman in my life, except my ex-wife, has told me I’m nothing but a big softie. That underneath my growling and grumbling and howling against the universe, I’m just a sweet and sensitive guy. This has always been my undoing; and now I’m beginning to suspect they’re right.

I woke up that morning to Muriel’s loud pouting whine: “There’s no coffee!”

This was my problem for a couple of reasons. For one, she didn’t drink coffee before she married me. Didn’t even like the taste or smell of the stuff. She could manage one of those coffee drinks like you buy at Starbucks – all cream and sugar and flavor and next to no coffee – but beyond that, she didn’t like it. And at first, she didn’t like that I liked it. Scratch that. I don’t like coffee so much as I need coffee to keep at bay the OTHER aspect of my personality that gets me into trouble: the snarling, anti-social rube that, if the sweet bean nectar was withheld long enough, would melt into a puddle like that cackling green bitch in The Wizard of Oz. It didn’t take her long to see this, and, from early in our relationship when one of us spent the night in other’s college dorm room (which including the compensatory Walk of Shame the following morning; an interesting name since I never felt ashamed of getting laid) we developed an understanding: don’t talk to me before I’ve had a little coffee. That I am walking and maybe talking to myself doesn’t mean I’m fit for human company, including human company I desire above and beyond all others.

But marriage changes all of those early equations and accommodations, especially since the morning may be the only time when you are able to talk about all those annoying domestic issues: money, bills, buying cat food, taking out the garbage, what to eat for dinner that evening. (If you’re even eating together, that is.) And in this case, there was another reason why I needed to interrupt my not so deep sleep and listen to her: that there wasn’t any coffee was also my fault.

I’d known the day before that there wouldn’t be enough coffee, but I forgot to go and buy some. Now that she’s the bread winner and I’m her “cute unemployed writer” I also fill the role of June Cleaver. (Sans the string of pearls, heels, and anti-depressant painted smile. What would the neighbors think then?) She works outside the home. I work – theoretically – inside the home. We tell ourselves that we’re modern and that the old gender rules don’t apply; after all, television has been trying to convince us for years that a cock and balls is just a cunt twisted out and shaped like a small sausage and couple of rotten potatoes. Her forebears, the ancestors of all women who fought for equal rights and the option to wear pants, would all be cheering from heaven if, in fact, there was a heaven to cheer from. Mine, on the other hand, would be shaking their heads in disappointment and dismay and the decay of manhood in the 21st century; I see it in the faces of retired old men when I’m out during the day when most men my age are slaving away at some job for which they receive next to no money, no respect at all, and are compensated, if at all, with lousy health insurance benefits and a death benefit that wouldn’t pay for a pine box, a few nails, and shovel.

I’m grateful every day that they’re all dead and can’t see me. The old men on Main Street are bad enough.

But since I didn’t buy the coffee the day before, I knew I should get up and buy it. I would need it; but it was possible for me to dress, drive to the store, buy a can of coffee – being reduced to the cheap and functional in our one income household— and come home without talking to a soul – the advantage of having few friends and no one other than Muriel and the cats who cares for my daily existence. Granted, there shouldn’t have been any reason to rush, since it was Saturday; but since starting her new job, Muriel had taken to waking up early during the weekend. Her theory, as she explained it to me, was that if she woke up earlier that the day would last longer; and she hated how quickly the weekends flew by.

I think the opposite. On the surface, her logic makes sense. However, I had long begun to suspect that time worked more like quantum physics than straight mathematics. While it was true that being awake for more hours might equal a longer day, the quality of those waking hours made a huge difference. I could wake up before the sun if I HAD to and which I did when I was playing Ward instead of June Cleaver; but those hours were not quality hours; the days dragged on and I was simply subjected to more noise, stupidity, and the crowded thrall of humanity. Moreover, I was less able to cope because I lacked the minimum required hours of sleep – which for me aren’t even all that excessive. All I need are a solid six hours. Anything less, and the first few hours of my waking day are wasted.

What makes her approach so interesting and gives credence to her theory is that on days like that – Saturdays, holidays, or on those rare days she allows her workaholic soul a vacation— she will bound out of bed excited, energetic, and ready for the day. And that’s without the benefit of her cup of coffee – which is still more cream than coffee—or even a can of pop, which she will have right after finishing her coffee. Another compounding issue was that the previous night, like every night for more than two months, I woke up every night during the witching hours (between two and four) and could not sleep. That meant I usually got up and watched a movie or read or wrote in my journal until I felt sleep returning. And when I was awakened by the sound of sweet Muriel’s proclamation, it was 6:30. That meant I’d only been back asleep for two and half hours.

But I knew the coffee wouldn’t wait. My only hope was that she’d run out of steam in the mid-afternoon and I’d be able to take a nap in my chair.

“I’ll go get a can of coffee!”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I’ll go.”

She was relieved and my feet were on the floor. I pulled on the clothes from the previous day, put on my boots, and wandered out of the bedroom into the kitchen and the nauseatingly bright overhead light. Muriel had gotten herself a can of pop and planted herself in front of the laptop in the living room to check her email and play those odd online games where nothing gets blown up and nobody dies – which, as far as I’m concerned, makes them pointless video games.

At that point, the coffee was more for me than for her; shed never drank more than one cup, and she rarely finished that. Since she had a can of pop, she would have the caffeine she needed.

I would’ve gone back to bed if I thought it would do any good. But all I’d do is lay there with my eyes closed pretending to sleep and hoping to fall back into the dream I’d been having.

“Coffee,” I muttered.



“Why don’t you pick up something for breakfast while you’re out?”

“Breakfast or something sweet?”

“Something sweet.”

Like one more thing mattered. “Okay.”

“Love you,” she said, not looking away from her game.

And that was when it happened. I was in the process of responding in kind and before I could finish saying the word “too” my boot ran into one of the cats. He screeched and hissed and tried to move. I tried to move and get him out from under foot, but that only resulted in me stepping on him again. He howled even louder and retreated under out bed, snarling like a corned raccoon.

It was the long hair black one, Che. The one a vet had once told us was “nuts.” Generally, the cat didn’t like people; he and I had this in common. Our mutual misanthropy bound us together so much that Muriel, who wanted a lap cat, eventually brought home the other cat, a short haired orange tabby we named Nine, in honor of the 9th Ward in New Orleans where it had been rescued from. Nine was an unrepentant whore that would love on anybody who fed it or reached out a friendly hand.

Che got under my feet a lot. Cats do that when they’re hungry or wanting attention or just wanting to trip you up for shits and giggles. Cats are rascals. They’re worse imps than young children when there’s no adult around to behave for. And, they’re egocentric little fuckers, too. They expect to be fed the same time everyday, in the same way, with the same food – which they will remind you of by yowling, scratching the furniture and, if that doesn’t work, by simply staring at you until you wake up. If they’re box trained, they expect the litter to be clean or they’ll remind you by taking a shit on your pillow or in your favorite chair.


“What’s wrong?”

“I stepped on the fucking cat!”

“Which one?”

“Which one do you think? Which one likes to get under my feet?”

“Why don’t you pay more attention? You know he does that.”

This was an old conversation, and I wasn’t awake enough to have it again. Regardless of how those little sons of bitches behaved, when something happened, it was my fault. Inevitably. Always.

“Fine,” I said, digging the car key out Muriel’s purse. It was a small red purse, her latest favorite among many; but it wasn’t small enough that shit didn’t get lost in it. Cigarette lighters, the car key, her wallet. The keys were nowhere to be found. I emptied the contents of the purse onto the corner chair.

“What are you doing?” She looked up, annoyed.

“Looking for the car key.”

She sighed and shook her head. “It’s on the bookshelf by the door.”

Fuck me. “Oh.”

“Why don’t you pay more attention?”

Why don’t you put things where somebody can find them? “Sorry.”

“Just go and get you some coffee, please? I hate it when you’re like this.”