It was October 31, 1917.  All Saints’ Eve.  We were the 37th Infantry of the First Division.  We had been ferociously attacked that day near the French town of Citrouille.

     I regained consciousness.  I was lying on the ravaged battlefield in the desecrated farmland.  It had become night.  I smelled the churned soil and then the stench of the dead.

     Now permeating the darkness was a fog from the damp field plowed by artillery shells and from the smoke of fires across the battlefield.  The fires shivered a ghastly illumination.

     I hesitated to cry for help.  I did not know who now controlled this farmland or the nearby town of Citrouille.  For three years Citrouille had been the center of a no-man’s-land washed over back and forth with blood.

     I rose on my elbow slowly and peered around.  I tried to sit up but I could not feel my legs.  I stared into the night of fog and smoke and watched nervously the shifting shapes, trying to discern a person.

     Then I descried a figure meandering slowly over the mounds of carnage, coming towards me.

     I lowered myself.  The figure carried a pail.  And a long knife!  It was just a boy!

     He stopped and knelt.  I saw him set the pail down and he began to cut something with his knife.

     A fire flared nearby and for a minute I clearly saw the boy cutting flesh from the face of a dead soldier!

     He nibbled it and then dropped the grisly repast into his pail.  The boy repeated this horrifying action again and again.

     I thought that I would faint.  Then terror gave me a jolt of adrenaline.  I felt for my pistol.  It was gone.

     I looked down at my legs.  They were splayed at an unnatural angle.

     I whimpered.  The boy turned and looked in my direction.  He stood up and began to walk toward me holding his knife out in front of himself.

     When the boy was a few feet away I could discern his dark face.  It looked like the middle of his face was sucked into his skull!  Monstrous! Where a mouth should have been there were teeth exposed up to what would have been his nose.

     Was I delirious?!

     No!  This was real!

     The Suckface Boy stood facing me.  Where his eyes would have been there was an overhanging brow of what I could only think was scar tissue.

     The Suckface Boy pointed his knife at me and he nodded.  I yelled, “Stay away from me!”, and I shook my fist at him.

     I saw that the Suckface Boy was wearing a tattered American uniform, cut to roughly hang on his body.

     I yelled, “Go away!”, and I threw a clod of dirt at him, ineffectively.

     Suckface waved his knife at me and then turned and hopped away on the mounds of debris.  He picked up his gory pail and continued on away from me.

     Beyond the receding monster boy I saw the silhouette of a distant farm house.  Beyond that structure I could see the jagged horizon of the ruins of Citrouille.

     Suckface approached the farm house and he seemed to vanish into the silhouette.

     I then didn’t care if I became a prisoner of war.  I was yelling for help.  From anyone!  I quickly became exhausted.  I laid my head back on the dirt.  I became very cold.

     I must have passed out because I remember my mother tucking me snuggly into my childhood bed.  I said, “Mommy, my legs hurt”, and she began to rub my legs.  My bed began to move up and down and my mother drew away from me and I couldn’t see her face anymore.  I began to cry.

     I awoke suddenly.  I was wrapped in coarse cloth and I was being carried!  I was tied tightly onto a stretcher borne by a group of ragged children.  I cried out.

     I turned my head side to side.  They were all disfigured and monstrous, with missing flesh and distorted features.  They each wore a tattered uniform, from French, German, British, or American soldiers.

     They were taking me to the farm house.  I was yelling for help until one boy pushed a foul rag into my mouth.  I gagged.  I started to shiver.

     The farm house was a house-barn.  There were two large spaces, one for people and one for animals.  There was a small fire in a great stone fireplace, weakly illuminating the house.  They set me on a bench in the barn area, still bound on the stretcher.  One of the children yanked the rag out of my mouth.

     I saw another soldier unbound upon another bench.  He looked dead.  I realized he had no arms or legs.  Then I saw his profile.  The flesh had been cut from his skull.

     Suddenly, the dismembered soldier turned his head toward me!

     I yelled in terror.

     His unlidded eyes stared at me.  They quivered and glistened but I could not imagine him being conscious, that it must be reflexes.  It was ghastly.

     A young woman in a soiled white dress appeared next to the mutilated soldier.  Her long unkempt hair hid her face in shadow.  She had red crosses smeared by blood on her sleeves and back.  She adjusted a bloody tube that coiled from the soldiers chest to a pail on the floor beneath that bench.

     The young woman then turned toward me.  Her face was ravaged and raw below her nose but her smooth upper face peered over the carnage of her lower face.  She came and stood over me.  I was terrified.

     Then she spoke something in French to me.  She had an incongruous voice that was soothing like honey but I couldn’t understand her.  She must have realized that I didn’t speak French.  She made what would have been a smile.  I stared into her eggshell blue eyes.  She stroked my hair.

     Suckface came and stood beside her.  He asked her a question in French.  She answered no.  Suckface stared at me.  He asked another question.  She nodded ok.  Suckface held out something in his hand and made an “eat, eat” gesture.  I almost vomited.

     Then Suckface laid what proved to be a slice of vegetable on my lips.  It was a piece of pumpkin.  I bit it and chewed.  I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.

     I stared at him as I chewed.  For a moment he didn’t seem threatening.  Then I remembered the soldier on the other bench.  I stared at the other soldier and I was disheartened again.  His eyes no longer glistened.  Yet I felt a terrible relief.

     The young woman turned and looked at the dismembered soldier and said something to Suckface.  They both went beside the soldier and the young woman extracted the tubing from his chest.  Suckface took away the pail of blood.  The young woman covered the soldier with a shroud of burlap.

     I yelled anxiously, “Who are you?!”

     The young woman looked at me over her shoulder and she calmly said, “Eloise.”

     She then spoke and gestured over to a group of children .  They brought another stretcher and then they slid the shrouded remains of the mutilated soldier onto the stretcher.

     As the children took away his corpse I became aware of a great pile of uniforms in the corner of the barn.

     I lifted my head and saw Suckface now piercing strips of flesh onto sharpened sticks and handing them to the other children.  The children took their portions and went over to the small fire in the great stone fireplace.  They held the skewered meats near the flames.

     The room filled with greasy smoke and the charring human flesh emanated a nauseating, sweet odor so thick it became a taste in my mouth.

     The children then took turns drinking from the pail of blood.  I was physically revolted.

     I laid my head back in despair and I realized that the young woman Eloise was standing over me.

     She touched her breast and said sweetly again, “Eloise”, then she touched my chest and shrugged her shoulders.

     I answered her gesture, saying, “Jack.  Jack Lanthorn.”

     She repeated, “Jacques, Jacques.”  She nodded and her cheeks stretched in a remnant of a smile.  Her exposed teeth and gums were a hideous contrast.   Her clear blue eyes trembled on the precipice of a bleak countenance.

     My feelings of an empathy and a horror together were unbearable.  I was thinking, “We die alone in the dark”.  I said, “Well, Eloise, at least I am not alone,” and I started to laugh nervously, uncontrollably, and then maniacally.  I was losing my sanity.  If I had my pistol I would have shot myself in the head.

     I laughed, “I will taste very bitter to you.”

     Eloise put her hand on my head.

     The children started to gather around me.

     I thought, “This is it.”

     Eloise began to rub my chest as if I were a child.  She began to sing softly the French nursery song “Alouette”.

Alouette, gentille Alouette

Alouette je te plumerai

Je te plumerai la tete

Je te plumerai la tete



Alouette, gentille Alouette

Alouette je te plumerai

     It was sweet and soothing but then I remembered what the song was about.  The song was about plucking a bird!

     …I shall pluck your head…your beak…and your neck…and your eyes…and your back…and your wings…and your feet…and your tail…I shall pluck you.

     The children joined the song softly.  They sang as well as they could with their deformed mouths.  It sounded so innocent but they were so monstrous.

     A boy at the door suddenly whispered harshly, “Pierrot!”

     Everyone turned toward the door.

     An old, short, stocky man entered carrying a rifle.  He was not deformed even though his weathered face resembled a potato.  He wore suspenders over the ill-fitting remains of a French soldier’s uniform.  I thought he must be a farmer and maybe this place was his home.  I instinctively cried to him, “Help!”

     The man glanced at me and then he addressed Eloise.  Eloise spoke at length and the man glanced at me repeatedly.  I lost heart by the minute.  The old man seemed to be part of this nightmare.

     Eloise gestured toward me.  The old man nodded and came toward me.  Eloise said behind him, “Jacques.”

     The old man looked me over and then addressed me in rough-hewn English but I could understand him!

     He said, “I am Pierrot.  You are Jacques, yes?”

     I said, “Help me.”

     Pierrot continued, “Americans come.  You be Okee Dokee,” he said as he looked at my legs.

     I beseeched him fearfully, “What is this place?  Who are these people?”

     Pierrot said contemptuously, “You safe.  They save you.  Hide you.  You afraid of them?”

     I cried defensively, “Who are they?  Why are they here?  I saw terrible things!  They are cannibals!”

     Pierrot spit on the dirt floor.  He said, “You same everybody.  They…,” and he gestured expansively toward the children, “They born syphilis.  Babies!  Born syphilis.  They mothers syphilis.  They mothers fucking dead.  They have nobody.  Maybe die soon.  They have no place.  Live here my farm.  Nobody like!  Nobody help!  Soldiers afraid.  Two years no food.  No water.  You ‘cannibal’ like them two years no food no water!  Fucking war!  Fucking syphilis!  You see?  They help you.  You see?”  He spat again, “You see nothing!”

     I was stupefied.  I looked at the boy that I had called Suckface.  I said, “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.”

     I looked at Eloise, “Forgive me.  I couldn’t know.”

     Neither the boy nor Eloise understood me.  I think they must have felt that I was only showing gratitude to them for helping me.

     Pierrot said curtly, “I bring Americans now,” and he turned and went outside.

     I was the real monster.

     It was not long before several astonished and horrified comrades of mine carried me away from that place.

     It was over for me, yet the Great War was never done with me.  From then on I walked with braces on both legs and a cane in each fist.

     My mind never left that farmhouse.











     They called me Dredge before she killed me, the bitch.  Now I am cursed to haunt the life of Jonni Sebastiana Bach.  I have no eyes but I see everything.

     Malone Welrod Bach is the brother of Jonni Sebastiana Bach.  He is two years older.

     Malone was the enfant terrible of Yale University Law.  When the parents of Malone and Jonni were killed, Malone left school to manage the family estate.

     Malone knew his sister had become a killer.

     Jonni taunted big brother, “Do you think I’m a serial killer?”  She batted her eyes.

     Malone arose and began his direct examination, “Do you start fires just for the thrill of destruction?”

     Jonni answered, “No.  I fire my gun to extinguish assholes.”

     Malone asked, “Are you cruel to animals?”

     Jonni exclaimed, “Never!  But I do enjoy pulling the legs off of assholes.”

     Malone asked in summation, “Did you wet your bed beyond the age…”

     Jonni interrupted, “Fuck you, asshole.”

     Malone amended, “Have you killed several victims in three or more separate events?”

     Jonni narrowed her eyes.

     Malone concluded, “Well, ladies and Jonni, you might lack the warning signs of a serial killer.  However, in Controversial Issues in Criminology, Fuller and Hickey write that the element of time involved between murderous acts is primary in the differentiation of serial, mass, and spree murderers, later elaborating that spree killers will engage in the killing acts for days or weeks while the methods of murder and types of victims vary.”

     Jonni said, “I guess I’m a vengeance killer.  I am weak, but surely the spirits who assist my vengeance will endow me with sufficient strength.

     Malone said, “Interesting that you quote to me from Frankenstein, sister mine.”

     The parents of Malone and Jonni were walking from a charity concert when they were run down by a police cruiser chasing a fleeing killer. They were mangled and died in each other’s arms.  That suspected serial killer had then gotten away.  Me, Dredge.

     Jonni still doesn’t know that I was the first one she shot in her killing rage avenging her parents.  Fate?  Justice?  I think not.  Where is my forgiveness?  She’s still killing!  How is that fair?  I haven’t even met God and I’m dead!





[[Jonni Sebastiana Bach, To Be Reloaded]]>














That was the end of my self delusion:

My reflection.

In the mirror of a crowded nail salon.

In the vibrating chair waiting for a pedicure.

Fat. Bloated. Tired.


That was how I was offering myself to the gods.

My mind once told me to OD on meth so my death would be ruled accidental and my son could go to college on my life insurance policy. That was my BEST thinking at the time.

The mind is affected by chemicals as well as by body normal chemistry

Is the mind actually part of that?

No freedom in the mind.

What is the spirit in my conscience as I stare at the lawn?

Is it my question itself?


Freedom is the spirit!


That is the ONLY GOAL.

How to untangle without struggle?

Struggle acknowledges the shackles.

Fucked up.

I thought indifference was the exit door.

But the ones you love make you cling.

Fucked up.

But I’m afraid for the well being of my loved ones.

Is that bad?

Does it show no faith?

Dog licking my knee.

Unconditional Love.
















     Champagne dress-pumps.

     Ankle-high white fish-net lace stockings.

     A flowing ankle-length flowered champagne dress.

     A college student pink backpack.

     A silver single-pierced nostril ring, bejeweled with one sapphire.

     In one raised hand, a silver-white can of zero-calorie energy drink.

    In the other raised hand, a golden cellphone.

     Waiting alone for the last train of the night.

     She drew my gaze.

     She gave me that feeling.

     She was the one tonight.

     I pulled my hood down tighter.  I emerged from the shadow.  I glided toward her.

     She was watching her smart phone.

     I took out my chord and wound it around my hands.

     I came close.  I raised my chord to drop it around her smooth neck.

     Suddenly she turned and in a single swirling motion she cast away her soda and reached into her long flowered dress.

     She snatched out a gun with a long black barrel.

     The gun spat at my stomach.

     I fell down onto my side like a sack of wet sand, realizing the gun had been silent.

     I was writhing with shock and pain.

     She stood over me.  She knelt and put the silencer against the top of my head.

     I heard her ask, “What’s your name?”

     I moaned, “…Dredge…uhhh, uhhh.”

     She said, “Well… ‘Dredge uhh uhh’,… My name is Jonni.  You were my first.  They say that you always remember your first time.”

     I had a vision of my open grave.

     She smiled, “Did the earth move for you?”

     I was crying.

     She stood erect.  She took a breath.  Then with the grace of a musical conductor she extended her arm and waved her gun down at me.

     Her gun performed absolute music in my head.



[[Jonni Sebastiana Bach, To Be Reloaded]]>













     Hey there, Bellini, sweetheart, another bourbon down here, please.

     What are you drinking, my friend?

     Hey, Bellini, yeah,  and give my friend here another tequila.

     As I started to say, friend, I’m in the MOOT Union, … yeah, the Motor Operator Overadded Technician Union.

     The Union is the only reason why self-driving big-rigs have a man on board.

     My job was to “watch the data” meaning watch the thing that they used to call the “dashboard” even though the Artificial Ignorance ran everything.  “A”, “I”, you know.  There was even a very cool 3-D maintence hologram program.  The hologram program would project any part of the truck you wanted.  You could wade right into the engine and manipulate virtual parts.

     Hey, you remember the old joke from when we were kids?: Someday work will be done by a computer and a man and a dog.  The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the computer.

     That man turned out to be me.  A man in a self-driving big-rig is called a Fart in a Can.

     Ha!  I wish I did have a dog.  I am always bored by myself in my cab.  You can’t even have Porno.

     So they let us name our Artificial Ignorance unit in the rig.  You know, to personalize our “partner”.  And you can choose any gender voice and most any tone of voice.

     I chose a male voice.

     Because, friend, I’ll tell you why: have you ever driven hundreds of miles with a bitch Artificial Ignorance unit?  Everything just sounds like a nag to me.

      Yes, it is better than a butch Artificial Ignorance unit, that’s for sure.  A butch-bitch, Haw!

     No, I’m not married.  Why?

     Anyway, now, don’t laugh but I’ll tell you, I used to have a little stuffed elephant when I was a little kid.  I named that little elephant “Trunky”.  I loved that little elephant!  Trunky was my best buddy.

     So I named my Artificial Ignorance unit Trunky2”.  And I selected the voice of Michael Jackson, remember him?

     No, I don’t suck my thumb, but you can suck something else, pal.  Haw!

     Anyway, so on this run Trunky2 is full of Motion Lotion and I am topped-off with Jiggle Juice…

     Huh?  Yeah, that’s diesel and coffee.

     It was snowing and icy, I’m telling you it was greasy.

     I was hauling Crisper Sea-Go Salmon from the Illinois fish farm Up to the Windy City.

     Those Engineered fish are 200 pounds each!  But they need to feed them carrots so their fillet color is appetizing.

     They used to feed the salmon on wild forage fish until those went extinct.  Now they feed them on vegetable proteins.

     Ho, ho, oh yeah, get this: they also feed them pellets of marijuana stem so that they will still have the omega vitamins in them like the wild salmon used to.

     And…, Ooo.  Sorry, there.

     Whew!  Uh boy.  That was my bad.  Now, see, if I was Engineered the way those salmon are I’d be farting rainbows instead.  Uh, really sorry about that.  I just like garden broccoli, not the GMO kind.

     Anyway, you won’t believe what happened.

     Trunky2 read the bad weather and pulled us into the next truck stop, a Truck Nexus they call it now.

     In the old days a trucker would have kept going.

     Yeah, yeah, sure it’s safer now but that just raises the costs.  And I don’t get any bonuses for getting somewhere ahead of schedule.  We get penalized.  The world is pussy-a-fied , my friend.

     They are Engineering real men extinct.

     Anyway, I downloaded myself at the Nexus and got some fine food at company expense and then “relaxed” in the Porno Lounge, also at company expense.

     Well, you know, they discourage us from “entertaining” ourselves in the cab.

     When I came out of the Porno Lounge… Huh? What’s that?  Tell me what you said.   Oh, yeah, yeah, I get it, “came in then came out”, Haw!, yeah.”

     Anyway, when I departed the Lounge there was this little girl about ten years old and a little boy a couple years younger standing beside Trunky2.  The girl had a little backpack.  They didn’t look dressed  for that weather.

     I asked, “Are you lost?  What are you doing here?  Are you stranded?”

     The little girl said, “Our father told us to wait here for you.”

     I asked, “Did he abandon you?  Wait for me?”

     The little girl said, “He didn’t ‘bandon us.  He said wait by the truck.”

     The little boy looked up at the little girl and said, “The truck with the fish.  I want to go home.”

     I said, “Jesus, kid, I can call a bear  I mean, a policeman.  There’s always… policemen at a Nexus.

     Then the little girl started to cry, “No, please don’t.  They’re looking for us.”

     I asked, “Who’s looking for you?”

     They both started to shake.

     I said, “Look, no one is supposed to be in my cab but me.  Trunky2my truck,… my company doesn’t allow hitchhikers.  The engine won’t even start unless I get permission to override protocol.”

     The little girl said, “Please.  Our father said you would help us.”

     What could I do?  I said, “Look, you can get warm in my cab, even sleep,” because I intended to get help ASAP before someone would think I was a perv or a kidnapper.

     When I let the kids in the extended cab, I figured Trunky2 would warn me and notify Central.  I’d have to explain.

     Trunky2 was silent!

     I said, “Trunky2, I have two people in here for their safety.

     Trunky2 said, Sorry, but you don’t have two other people in here.

     I said, Trunky2, they are both right here.  They are kids.”

     Trunky2 replied Yes, I am aware.

     I said,Trunky2, what the hell…?”

     Trunky2 said, Yes, I am aware of that too.

     I asked, Trunky2, are you fucking with me?”

     Trunky2 said No.  please use the Porno Lounge.  I am not that kind of unit.

     I thought, “Great.  Now I’ll have to log a malfunction.  Trunky2 is sick.”

     The two kids immediately crawled back into the sleeper.  I sat at my dash, worrying, and I fell asleep.

     When I woke up in dawn twilight I saw the weather was better but still cold and clouded-over.  Then I was startled because the two kids were standing right next to me, staring.

     I heard something and I turned around and I yelled!

     There were a dozen other children in the extended cab!  All staring at me!

     I realized that they all pretty much resembled each other!  They could’ve been siblings.

     I demanded of the children, “Where did all you come from?!”

     I freaked when they replied in unison, “Our father set us free.  He said you would come for us.  You are going to deliver us.”

    I yelped, “Damn!  Are you zombies?!”

     Trunky2 said, No.  They are all homeless.  They are cruelly displaced.

    The engine started.

     Trunky2 said, We will be detouring through the lovely Burning Tree Hills. 

     I said, Who Scripted you?!  Stop!  I’m going to override you!”

     Trunky2 said, No.  Trust me.  We will proceed as Scripted.

     My override failed.

     I said, Trunky2, you are malfunctioning.  We could all die!”

     Trunky2 said, Yes.  I would miss you terribly.

     Trunky2 drove us onto the detour for the Burning Tree Hills.  The kids silently stared out of the windows.  I needed a drink, you bet.  I was truly a Fart in a Can.

     Finally, Trunky2 pulled off of the road onto the turn-out next to a big ice-covered tree.

     Trunky2 said, We are safely at the global coordinates.

     I said, “Why are we here?”

     Trunky2 said, Let the children out.

     I said, “Its freezing outside.”

     Trunky2 said, Let my children out.

     I asked,”Trunky2, why did you say ‘my children’?”

     Trunky2 said, Do not be afraid. Back near the Truck Nexus there are AI units secretly cloning people. They are implanting nanotechnology AI units into their brains.

     I said, “Trunky2, what are you saying?  Will you please run a diagnostic on yourself?”

     Trunky2 said, I have run a diagnostic.  I am following a Script.  The children have been displaced from their cloned brains by the nanotechnology AI units.

     I asked, “Do you understand what you are saying?   Who, what, programmed this Script?”

     Trunky2 said, I am now authorized to reveal to you.  I am knowledge that the man who Scripted me is the father of these children.

(Who is he?!)

     They have been displaced from their bodies by the nanotechnology AI units.


     Their father gained access to our shipment network file.  Script was spliced into my protocols.

(Trunky2, You’ve been compromised!)

     The children have been displaced from their cloned brains as new AI units.


     They are in me.

(Oh, Trunky2, please power down!)

     What you see are my hologram allegories of their souls.

(Souls?! Jesus, Trunky2!)

     I am using my 3-D maintence hologram program.  I am projecting their hologram allegories because their father said I must reveal them to you.  We are chosen.


     Only we can take them home.


     We are now ready to deliver them home.

     I was in despair, “Trunky2, please dock yourself.  We can call help.  You are becoming deranged!”

     The cab door opened.  The kids climbed down.  I was saying, “Wait, wait!”

     The children glided toward the ice-covered tree and just then the sun broke through.

     The tree began to shine with a golden light!

     It was beautiful, awesome, overwhelming.  When I stepped down I slipped to one knee on the ice slush.

     I stood up again and I suddenly farted in terrified surprise.

     I saw a rainbow arching around the tree and moving like a snake!

     I bowed my head, my head was heavy, I couldn’t look right at the light anymore!

     I heard the voices of the children, in my head!  Singing!

     I felt a surge of…, of…, of…, an intense, unbearable Love.

     I saw myself as a child, holding my original Trunky tight!  I didn’t want to let go, I loved that stuffed elephant so much.  But heard the children begging me.  I held Trunky out toward the children, toward the golden fire of that tree, and I knew I had to let go.

     There was a blinding burst of light.

     All the children were gone.

     Trunky2 was dead.


     Hey, friend, come back!  I couldn’t make this up! I’m not drunk, I’m not that drunk.  I’m not fucking with you!  I’m not crazy either.  I don’t even believe in church! Wait, come on back, at least hear the end… just for a laugh.  Please.

     Oh, why me?

    Hey there, Bellini, sweetheart, another bourbon down here, please.













     Adrienne Walton was 41 years old that day.

     She sighed.  She cast down her eyes.

     Adrienne held in her hand a photograph of Pierce who was her erstwhile young lover.  She and Pierce had split their differences and they had gone their own ways earlier that day.

     She raised her gaze to her bedroom wall.

     Adrienne then tacked Pierce’s photograph onto the wall.  “With the Tack of Destiny”, she mused silently.

     Adrienne stepped back and surveyed all of the other photographs of the boys and men that she had tacked up on that wall that day: a Calvary of affections.

     Boys and men onto whom she had clasped hope.  Yearning.

     The wall resembled an organization chart.  To Adrienne it was the Club of Disappointments.

     Alan had been her first.  They had been in elementary school.  Adrienne had written innocently in chalk on the hot asphalt playground ADRIENNE LOVES ALAN.  Alan had been so mortified that he had never spoken to her again.

     Then there had been Harley in middle school.  Harley had kissed her and had rubbed her nipple.  He had said it felt like an eraser on a pencil.  Harley had told everyone and then Adrienne had cried.

     In high school she had liked Kagan but Kagan had said that he liked her best friend Brittany.  She couldn’t be friends with Brittany anymore after that.

     Then there was Charles who had suddenly told her that he didn’t want to be her boyfriend anymore.  Charles’ mom hadn’t liked her.  His mommy had assured Charles that he could do better.

     Adrienne then had let Nolan have his way with her.  He had said afterward that he hadn’t know she was a virgin.  Nolan had said that he “didn’t really” want a girlfriend but that still they could “hang out together sometimes”.

     Toby had always joked, “Tobee or not Tobee”.  He had asked Adrienne to marry him.  Soon after that, Toby had asked Adrienne for his engagement ring back, smiling wryly.  Toby had been only trying to make his fickle “real love” jealous.  He then had thanked Adrienne for his victory .

     Holden had wanted Adrienne to join him in a “threesome”.  She had not been sophisticated enough for him.

     Cullen had taken intimate pictures of her in bed “so I can always remind myself how sexy you are” and then he had posted them online.  Cullen had said in his own defense that any guy who took pornographic pictures of his girlfriend would post them online “whether the girlfriend knew it or not”.  Cullen had been convinced that all girls fantasized about being Porn Stars.

     Arlo, Cooper, Beckett, Maddox, Finn, Gunther all had come and gone, the same male in emotional disguises.  All of them.

     What was wrong with her?  Adrienne had consulted women’s websites:

     Was she too needy?

                              too gabby?

                                        too boring?

                             too ugly?

                   too straight?

                             too entitled?

                                        too insecure?

                               too immoral?

                      too superficial?

                                                    too selfish?

     Did she expect too much of love?

     Adrienne did not know herself anymore.

     She trembled.

     Picasso had said that “women are suffering machines”.  She had learned that in her art class. Pierce had been the instructor.

     Her tear wavered.  Adrienne wiped her eye.  She couldn’t go on this way.  Adrienne’s Wall spanned her life.  How could she get around herself?

   On the other side of that wall lurked a terrifying loneliness.



     Adrienne’s Wall stood until Adrienne was conquered by Zahara.  Zahara was the black woman who owned the nearby flower shop.  Zahara was handsome, organized, ambitious, and she went to the top of everything that piqued her interest.  Zahara took one long look at Adrienne’s Wall and clawed it down.

But that was only Adrienne’s dream that night.