VOX CANINA: the dog’s tale

dog's tale

VOX CANINA: the dog’s tale

        “Rrrr,” I am the Voice of Dog.

        My Master, Abbot Audenarde, becomes detached from the monastery and my life.  He digresses into death, vanishing, cut-off, concealed.  Dirt gulps him down.

        Abundant missing overflows.

        “Rrrr-Oooo,” to use abusive language and to inflame fierce bitterness.

        There follows a gloomy Mass to find pleasure in such a taking-away.

        Bearing affliction, discouraged, I adhere.  Adapt.

        “Rrrr-Oooo,” I accuse.

        At any time, please, someone else nourish, cherish me as did Master, Abbot Audenarde.  Commit to be near.  I would be indebted to receive a claim.

        The fawning young Monk Brabant is kindled to come and reach toward me.  He is ill with a constricted heart, scarcely brazen with favorable atmosphere.

        The summer tide of heat is without end.  Monk Brabant farms his acre field, a vineyard planted with trees.  He attacks knowledge with bitterness as we walk, “My father’s sister sent away the maidservant that I was fond of, that I cherished, that I loved.  It was not infatuation.  It was passion.

        Andegavense, my true angel: You have a niche in my constricted heart.  I could not turn the mind of my father’s sister.  She could not perceive the heart of you, my Andegavense, your vivacity, your spirit, your intellect.

        I was a goose.  A poor goose.  In place of you I had to put God.”

        Monk Brabant receives a notice sent by the Higher Tribunal.  He is summoned to approach the Altar.

        Monk Brabant is in the presence of the spider’s web behind the Altar.  Abbot Auxerre holds a money box, a coffin for silver.

        Abbot Auxerre asks Monk Brabant to fetch silver money to provide arms for the Crusade, instructing, “Plow skillfully the castle of Landlord Berlaimont.  He is rough and harsh to gaze at but take away with flattery silver or divert his avarice by removing gold.  Thus will you aid God.”

        Monk Brabant is like a pall-bearer with this burden of the money box.  Stammering, stuttering, fumbling he gives a dull kiss to the whiskers of the war-like Landlord Berlaimont.

        Monk Brabant then blesses with zeal Clois the daughter of Landlord Berlaimont.  Clois in silence listens.  Monk Brabant does not need to coax the alluring blandishments and charm from Clois.

        The beast Landlord Berlaimont quaffs twice a pail of strong drink.  He imbibes the flattery and accepts the fawning caresses of Monk Brabant.

        Like an ox the attention of Landlord Berlaimont is brief.  In brevity it plummets as Monk Brabant concludes, “God, Dweller in Heaven, looks down upon calamity, misfortune, and disaster.  The Crusade falters, trampled upon.  My Landlord, one as cunningly clever and subtly sly as yourself can hear the bell sing.  Seize the attack!  Comprehend the corruption and decay.”

        Landlord Berlaimont hearkens with a golden ear and says, “My great-great-great grandfather was dark with a cruelty that eroded his authority.  The privilege of benevolence I well better favor.  I kindly and generously will not allow Our Dweller in Heaven to topple and plummet from the sky.  If charity, a pebble of gold plucked or a stone of silver seized, happens to give ground to the Holy Attic, then swiftly I decide to separate from me a centum of gold and silver.  Clois?  See that this is so resolved.”

        Then Landlord Berlaimont falls headlong onto the table, assuredly to ruminate in the cloister beneath the hair of his head.

        Clois has been entrusted and she courteously escorts Monk Brabant hand to hand.

        Landlord Berlaimont abruptly sits up and drunkenly plucks his bow and sings himself a poem.

Dear beloved,

You are brought to naught,

Made void by fortune’s fetters

        Clois circumvents her father and chastely undertakes that which to herself is entrusted, to furnish opportunity and to serve God.

        Clois asserts, “I shall bestrew your purpose with silver and gold to restrain the ravishers and the corrupters,”

        Clois and Monk Brabant hold together and touch closely.  They continue uninterrupted, composed shaking and trembling.

        Clois leads Monk Brabant to her bed-chamber, saying, “I shall fill up your money box with silver and gold.  In this pact put together by my father, with what will God fill up my own capacity?”

        Monk Brabant stands firm.  Clois stitches their lips together

        I am left outside to protect and defend as Clois hurls closed the bedroom chamber door.

        They are taking an oath together.  I hear Monk Brabant praise God multiple times loudly.  I hear Clois sing an ascendant hymn.  They sow their obligations together copiously.

        Then I hear.

        Monk Brabant says, “To whom do you give it?”

        Clois says, “To he who is great.”

        Monk Brabant says, “Whose virtues are many?”

        Clois says, “To he who tends my chaste cradle.”

        Monk Brabant says, “A nest for young birds.”

       Clois says, “Oh, oh, place your eggs upon my nest.  We are morally bound…”

        Monk Brabant says, “To purge our souls…”

        And I hear Monk Brabant discharge his duty before he exclaims to God and declares his own death.

        I cannot endure another gloomy Mass to find pleasure in a taking-away.

        And so I am departing the castle of Landlord Berlaimont, I am abstaining the abbey of Monk Brabant, and thus I secede in a journey to find a life apart from nobles and monks.

        So, help me Dog.


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   kissing her kowbell 2



[Previously (click here)]

        When I got to my gate I saw Uncle Garrett standing on the porch like he was waiting for me.  I stopped with my hand on the gate.  I was breathing hard.

        Uncle Garret asked me, “You gonna grow old there?”

        Nothing was different but everything had changed.

        Uncle Garrett made a grab at some bug flying around his face and then he said, “I’m sorry, Buck.  I warned you:  affections are tricky varmints.  Do you understand? ”

        I said with a shaky lip, “Everything’s changed.”

        Uncle Garrett sounded hurt when he said, “I haven’t changed toward you, Buck.  You must know that.”

        I said thoughtlessly, “Grandma always said you were headed for trouble.”

        Uncle Garrett looked down and said, “I know.  And she was right,” and then he looked up at me again and he said, “But Grandma always comes through that gate there, Buck.  You, too, OK?  Please?”

        Then I felt like an ungrateful bastard.  I loved my Uncle Garrett.  What was wrong with me?  I hated myself.

        I hung my head and I started to cry

        Next thing I knew Uncle Garrett was opening the gate and he was crying, too.

        I threw myself at him and I buried my face in his chest.  He embraced me hard and we just stood there like that.

        I bawled, “I love you, Uncle Garrett.”

        He hugged me until I couldn’t breathe and he was whispering, “I love you, Buck.  I love you, too.”

        He released me and I stood back wiping my eyes and I asked, “Is Mr. Sayers going to be OK?”

        Uncle Garrett said, “Sure, OK as he can be.  He’s not…, he’s not coming back here to Chippewa.”

        I said sincerely, “I’m sorry, Uncle Garrett.”

        Uncle Garrett said, “I’m sorry you don’t have your literature class anymore, Buck.”

        I said, “That’s OK.  I can still read.”

        Uncle Garrett asked, now conversation-like, “So, then, how’s things with your Hayley?”

        I laughed once and I said, “She’s a tricky varmint,” and then I was crying again.

        Uncle Garrett put his arm around my shoulder and we went back into our home together.

        Eventually enough I mostly recovered what mattered, pretty quick.  Then I was looking forward again to Bull Riding School.  The Wisconsin High School Rodeo Association was hosting the class right in Chippewa.  Mr. Terry Don West himself was coming up from Oklahoma.

        Bless Uncle Garrett.  It was expensive.  I had to buy good gear.  The WHSRA didn’t recommend buying stuff on eBay; they said what some of what people were selling would mostly be crap.  I had to have a bull rope and rope pad, rosin, a cowbell and bell strap, bull riding spurs and spur straps, bull riding gloves, a helmet, a protective mouthpiece, and a protective vest.

        When the day of the class came I saw Hayley there but I didn’t say hello.  Then she saw me and she came over to me.

        Hayley said, “Hey, Buck,” and she touched my arm and she said, “I’m glad you’re here.  We’re all sorry about Mr. Sayers.”

        I tried to be bitter and I said, “They haven’t tried too hard to find who did it.”

        Hayley looked down and she said, “I know, it sucks,” but then she said again, “I’m glad you decided to be here.  I’d miss you.”

        I tried to say what I felt, “And I’ve missed… our literature class.  I don’t have anyone to talk to… about books.”

        Hayley teased me with that half-smile, “Yeah, I’ve missed your books, too.”

        Hayley was the only girl in the Bull Riding class but no one complained or made fun.  In fact, the instructor, Mr. Terry Don West himself, said, “I’m glad to see more women take an interest.”

        Mr. Terry Don West then told us all, “You’re gonna take away an attitude for life on what it takes to be a great bull rider and what it takes to be a great success in life.  It’s a life lesson: What do you want, how badly do you want it and what are you going to do about it?”

        I looked over at Hayley and she nodded and she mouthed to me, “That-kisses-my-Kowbell,” and I shook my head and grinned.

        It was a three day course if you can believe that.  Three whole days of exercises, lessons and riding to see if you can last more than eight seconds on the bull.  Eight seconds.

        They started with the rules.

        Rule One is “it’s not if you get hurt, it’s when and how bad.”

        Rule Two is “bull riders ride with one hand and cannot touch themselves or their bull with the free hand. Doing so results in a no score.”

        Rule Three is “scoring is the same as in the other roughstock events.  Two judges give one to twenty-five points for the cowboy’s performance and one to twenty-five points for the animal’s performance.  100 points being the maximum, and is considered a perfect ride.”

        I found out that they considered the bull to be like a rival athlete, with respect and admiration.  I liked that.

        To ride, bull riders use a bullrope and rosin.  The bullrope is a thickly braided rope with a cowbell attached.  The cowbell acts as a weight, allowing the rope to safely fall off the bull when the ride is over.  The rosin is a sticky substance that increases the grip on their ropes.  Bull riders wrap their bullrope around the bull and use the remainder to wrap around their hand tightly, trying to secure themselves to the bull.

        Cowboys can spur for extra points, but just staying on the bull for eight seconds is the main priority.  After the ride, bull riders are aided by “bullfighters” or rodeo clowns who distract the bull, allowing the cowboys to escape safely.  A good score in the bull riding is in the 90’s.

        There has been one perfect score of 100 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), a ride by Wade Leslie, October 26, 1991.

        Mr. Terry Don West told us all, “Bull Riding requires balance, flexibility, coordination, and courage.  Facing down a two-thousand pound bull takes as much mental preparation as it does physical ability.”

        The first day, we were reviewing videos of professional riders and practicing techniques on a stability ball and on a stationary bucking dummy.  They told us that we were developing “muscle memory” because there’d be no time to think on a bull.

        The second day we were practice bull riding on steers.

        Mexican bred cattle are not genetically bred to have unnatural athletic ability but they will jump and kick while moving forward. This forward movement along with lack of power from the steers gives the beginner and or youth whose physical stature has not yet developed a chance to experience the ride rather than the train wreck.

        I could keep pressure on from both legs all the way to my feet to hold me in front of the steer’s shoulders.  But I was a little worried.  My upper body wasn’t real strong.  I was a runner.

        Hayley made it look easy and she got a little impatient real quick.  She was glad when we started on the bulls in the afternoon.  Haley had really good upper body strength.  She was a swimmer.

        It was painfully obvious to all the hot shot guys that Haley was the best rider.  She even stopped wearing her helmet with the face-guard.

        Haley said, “It’s like wearing a diving mask while you’re swimming laps!”

        When it was my turn on my first bull my forehead started sweating.  I balanced myself on the chute and lowered myself slowly onto the bull.  The assistants guided me.  They were telling me how to position my legs and how to adjust the rope.

        All of a sudden the bull farted and crapped all over the chute.  That hot smell hit me just as they opened the chute.  I hung on and I twisted opposite when the bull turned into my rope hand and then turned away from my rope hand.  A glob of snot came out the bull’s nose and it hit me in the face.  I got fatigued in my gut fast from all the fast twisting.  He bucked me off.  Luckily I didn’t land hard on my back but I got up and ran back to the chute real fast.

        My friends Travis and Flip were there to watch me.  They were laughing and chanting, “Buck Buck, buck Buck, buck Buck,” like a chicken.

        They were no help.

        Hayley said, “Don’t you listen to them.”

        Mr. Terry Don West smiled and said, “At least you got speed, kid.”

        But Hayley got better and better right before our eyes.  There was a handful of us who you could just tell were going to be real good.

        I got worse and worse.  I got tired in my gut.

        Mr. Terry Don West saw I was feeling down about it all and he told me, “Kid, you got speed.  You can still participate in Bull Riding if you really want.  Ever think about being a Rodeo Clown?”

        I came along here to impress Hayley and now this?  Thank you, Jesus.  Thanks a lot.

        Mr. Terry Don West said, “I mean it, kid.  The Rodeo Clown is important out there.  He keeps the riders from getting hurt.”

        Hayley said, “Please.  It’ll be fun, Buck.  Don’t give up.  Don’t go.”

        I supposed then that since Hayley was the real reason I was there it didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to be a Bull Rider.  At least I’d be in the show with her.  It was all I had.

        The “show” was going to be the annual High School Rodeo.

        So Mr. Terry Don West had me work with one of his trainer assistants who was also a Rodeo Clown, name of Mr. Cody Petersen, Jr.

        Mr. Cody Petersen said to me, “Call me Cody, kid.  You keep makin’ me turn around to look for my father.”

        It may look like fun and games to the people in the stands, but this is serious business, and not just any clown can do it.  

        The real work – cowboy protection – begins the minute a Bull Rider enters the ring, hanging on for dear life.  And this part requires nerves of steel, lightning reflexes, and a selfless devotion to someone else’s well-being.  It falls to the Rodeo Clown to distract the angry bull from its toppled rider so the cowboy can get to his feet and make it to the safety of a fence.

        So me and Cody played Rodeo Clown for everyone else who was Bull Riding.  I hate to admit but it did suit me.  It was a lot of fast running to distract a bull.  Sometimes they came right at me and I had to push off on their heads to keep away, but speed was the key.  And I didn’t get tired.

        Cody was good at making fun of the Bull Riders and the audience and joking with them.  That talent I didn’t have so much.  I don’t say much, ever.  But I was fast and my legs did not get tired, even if I wasn’t getting the en-dolphins.  It was mainly cold adrenaline.

        Hayley’s father had donated a young bull for the annual High School Rodeo.  Sidewinder.  Sidewinder got his name because of the way he would jump and twist when he was a calf frisking.

        Sidewinder was yellow the color of gold.  And he had a golden blond tuft of hair on his head.  He was a handsome critter I’ll say.

        Hayley said, “My dad calls Sidewinder ‘the Golden Calf’ but my mom says that’s bad luck.  For everyone.”

        Turned out that Hayley had so impressed Mr. Terry Don West that she talked him into letting her ride Sidewinder the third afternoon of the class.  Everyone wanted to watch.  Even Gavin showed up.  I’m pretty sure he was enjoying me out in the ring as a Rodeo Clown dressed in the silly clothes that Cody gave me.

        But I kept my eyes on Hayley as she settled onto Sidewinder in the chute.

        The chute opened.

        Sidewinder danced out in dust and glory.  It was an awesome sight to me, Haley with her cornflower hair and Sidewinder so gold and handsome.  Hayley had her free hand flung high as Sidewinder reared and then he turned to the left, again, again, but then he did what you don’t usually see: he reversed direction turning to the right, to the right, and then he jumped and twisted.  It was just beautiful, like a dance, and everyone Ooed and applauded.

        I was dancing side to side myself, close by, keeping in a position to help if I had to.  I really felt like part of the dance and then I got the en-dolphins.

        That was just when that wily Sidewinder lived up to his namesake.

        Sidewinder lowered his head and he bucked forward and he suddenly stopped.  Hayley slid forward, her head was down.  Sidewinder then snapped his head back and caught Hayley square in the face.

        Hayley was knocked out!

        Hayley tumbled off of Sidewinder but her hand caught in the loop of the grip.  She was flopping against his side like a rag doll.  Sidewinder danced and thrashed to throw her off, harder and harder because he couldn’t.  I heard people screaming.

        Sidewinder was going to tear her arm off!

        I hollered, “No!”

        I ran at Sidewinder and I jumped at Hayley.  I landed against her and I embraced her and I put both of my arms through the rope behind her against Sidewinder’s side.  I held myself tight against her.   I stopped her from flopping.  The both of us weighed Sidewinder down but Sidewinder just jumped and bucked more frantically.

        Then Sidewinder flung his hind legs in the air and I remember that I was looking at the sky and Sidewinder was almost standing on his head and then he must have twisted his head around and caught me in the back of my head.

        I saw galaxies and then I remember crying into the never-ending black, “Hayley, I love you!”

        I came to my senses in a hospital bed.  A doctor was there in my room typing something into a computer on a cart.  My head felt heavy.  I reached up slowly and touched my bandages.  It must have been my medication but I didn’t know why I was there and I wasn’t concerned.  Then I suddenly remembered that Haley had been in danger and I felt a cold shot of adrenaline.  I cried out, afraid, “Doctor!  Hayley?!”

        The doctor came over to my bedside.  I saw on his nametag that it was Dr. Hawke, Gavin’s father, and he said, “Take it easy, now.  Haley is going to be fine.”

        What seemed like just then, Haley entered the doorway.  Her right arm was bandaged.  Her eyes were sunken into a mask of black and blue.

        Haley asked, “Buck, what is it?”

        It must have been my medication because out of relief I joked, “You’re wearing way too much eye makeup, Haley.”

        Hayley started to laugh but then she winced and she said, “Ow,” and then she said gently, “Fuck you, Buck.”

        Dr. Hawke returned to his computer.

        Haley came to my side and she sat upon my bed.  I faced her and it must have been my medication because I just said, “I love you, Haley.”

        Hayley said, “I know,” then she put her good arm around me and she said softly, “I love you, too,” and then she leaned and kissed me on the lips.

        I said, “That sure kisses my Kowbell.”

        Haley grinned and she laid her head against mine but we both said, “Ow,” and we both suppressed a laugh.

        I noticed Dr. Hawke had stopped typing and he was looking at us.  But I didn’t care about anything.

        I should have died right then.

        Next thing I knew Gavin had walked in and come to a halt, taking us in.  He said finally to Hayley, “Your father is looking for you in your room.”

        Hayley got up and when she passed Gavin she took his hand and squeezed it and then she released it and she shuffled out into the hallway.

        Gavin stared at me a minute and then he said to me, sincerely, “Thank you, Buck,” and then he turned and followed Hayley out into the hallway.

        It must have been my medication because my vision became blurry and I could feel my cheeks becoming wet and hot.

        I heard Dr. Hawke ask me, “Buck, do you want more pain killer?”

        I heard myself whisper, “There isn’t enough.”



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 kissing her kowbell 1


        I met Hayley Kowbell when we were sixteen.  We both went to Chippewa High School.  Her father owned the Sweet Ridge Cattle Company.

        I had seen Hayley around but I first officially met her in Honors Literature.  I liked to read.  Louis L’Amour was my favorite author.  I loved frontier stories.  I don’t know why but when I saw Hayley sitting there in class I just sat down at the desk next to her.  It wasn’t like me at all.  I only nodded hello to her at first.

        I don’t say much, ever.

        When our teacher, Mr. Sayers, called roll on that first day he called out, “Buxton Carter?” and I raised my hand but I quickly turned to Hayley and I said, “They call me ‘Buck’.”

        Hayley had that half-smile and she just said, “OK.”

        Hayley was a surprise.  She looked like a Wisconsin cowgirl, her cornflower hair and freckles and the way she dressed in denim shirts and jeans.  But she was real smart and I couldn’t believe how much she read books.

        One day she just turned and asked me about our reading assignment, “How do you like A Farewell To Arms?”

        I said, “I like it.  The way Hemingway writes it’s like a clean-polished wood carving.”

        I guess that was the right thing to say.  She liked that.

        Hayley said to me, “Who’s your favorite author?”

        I told her, “Louis L’Amour.  I love frontier stories.”

        She gave me that half-smile and damn if I didn’t feel kind of embarrassed so I asked her, “Who’s your favorite author?”

        Hayley said, “Camus.”

        I heard “Kah-moo” and I thought she was teasing me.  I must have looked perplexed to her and so she asked of me, “Albert Camus?  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  He was born in French Algeria.”

        I said, “Oh, yeah.”

        But damn if I didn’t know anything about Camus.  And damn if I didn’t google him right after class.

        Hayley was an athlete like me.  She was on the swim team.  She was real popular.  Before I knew who she was I’d noticed her among all the girl swimmers.  She was strong and graceful.

        I was Cross-Country.  I liked being alone, challenging myself.  I would find my own harmony running and I would feel like I could run forever.  They say that it’s because of en-dolphins, I think.  I sure would feel like a dolphin.

        So Hayley and I had things to talk about.  Or more like as not she would talk and I would listen.  I listened to her like she was music.  Then I’d make a joke and she would laugh and I would feel funny like I wanted to kiss her face.

        Hayley had a funny saying.  Whenever she liked something she would say “That sure kisses my Kowbell”, and when she didn’t like something she’d say “That sure don’t kiss my Kowbell”.

        I was only sixteen but soon enough I found myself thinking that Hayley’d be a perfect wife and then I’d daydream about what it would be like to have kids.

        But she had a boyfriend.  Gavin Hawke.  Hawke the Jock.  He was a senior and he was the Quarterback Hero and the Senior Class President.  The real problem was: he was a nice guy.  Well, I didn’t really hate him.  I was jealous.

        I knew I was in love with Hayley.

        If Hayley suspected my feelings she sure didn’t let on.  She even thought that Gavin and I should be friends.  When we both shook hands at her say-so I could see the cold suspicion in Gavin’s eyes.  He knew what I was all about.  I couldn’t blame him.  I marveled at Hayley’s hold over both of us.  But Gavin would always find some excuse when Hayley would recommend that he and I hang out together some place.

        Anyway, Hayley got me a job working at the Sweet Ridge Cattle Company, her family’s business.  I was so lucky.  Most other kids worked at Wal-Mart.  Her family also bred horses and that’s where I worked: tending the horses.

        Hayley was a great rider.  I could tell that she was holding back when I went riding with her sometimes.  That didn’t help my case any.

        One day Hayley started talking about the Wisconsin High School Rodeo Association.  But she was talking about bull riding!  I didn’t get it at first but she was telling me that she wanted to learn how to Bull Ride.

        Hayley said to me, “The Wisconsin High School Rodeo Association is sponsoring a three day bull riding school by Terry Don West.  He’s one of the top five Bull Riders of all time.”

        I asked, “Why the hell do you want to be a Bull Rider?”

        Excited, Hayley replied, “I been reading about Maggie Parker and I found a interview with her on YouTube.  She started riding bulls when she was my age.  And she’s smaller than I am.  Maggie talks a lot in that interview about the adrenaline rush.  She says: ‘Bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports because you’re up against an animal and you don’t know what he is going to do or what he’s thinking.’  Maggie’s got no quit in her.  That sure kisses my Kowbell.”

        Hayley was out there like that in everything she did.  And it wasn’t just sports.  She won the Dolly Crockett Homemaker Award in her Home Economics class.

        I walked home after school that day with my friends Travis and Flip.  I put it out there: “How do you make a girl do what you want?”

        Travis thought a minute and then he said, “Chocolate condom.”

        Flip said, “What you want to ask is: how do you please a girl?

        Travis sneered, “Who cares?  They’re supposed to please you.”

        Flip eyed me and asked, “Growin’ antlers, Bucky-Boy?  Who you got in mind?”

        They were no help.

        I got home and my Uncle Garrett asked me, “Learn anything today?”

        I lived with my uncle.  My mom died when I was a child.  Head-on car crash.  My dad survived but he was so fucked-up he has to live in a hospice.  My uncle stepped-up to take care of me.  My grandma is still amazed.

        Grandma would tell me, “Your Uncle Garrett was always headed for trouble,” but she never told me what kind of trouble.  Uncle Garrett never had any women over to our house.  I figured he was being protective of me.

        I showed Uncle Garrett the picture of Hayley which was in the school newspaper story about the Dolly Crockett Homemaker Award and he said, “Oh, yeah, cute as a bug, Buck,” and then he asked me, “Why don’t you just ask her out somewhere?”

        I sighed, “She has a boyfriend.  Gavin Hawke, the football hero.”

        Uncle Garrett said, “I see.  Well, why don’t you find an excuse to study with her if she’s in your literature class?  Then you can take a break and go out to eat somewhere casual like.  Seems to me you gotta think like you’re the quarterback of the opposing team, get it?”

        I smile wryly and said, “That makes her the football.”

        Uncle Garrett corrected me, “That makes her the goal.”

        I clutched the hope and said, “Yeah.  The ‘opposing team’.  It’s a game, right?  Thanks, Uncle Garrett.  Thanks a lot.  How’d you get to know so much about girls?”

        Uncle Garrett said, “I don’t know about that.  Affections are tricky varmints, Buck.  You hunt varmints by their habits.”

        I smiled, “I don’t know what that means, but thanks.”

        My chance came when Mr. Sayers assigned us The Grapes of Wrath.  I asked Hayley real casual-like, “Can we discuss tonight’s essay assignment?”

        Hayley said, “Sure.”

        I asked her, “Can we meet at the public library?  It’s kind of distracting around school here.”

        Hayley replied, “Sure.  Meet you there after school.”

        I couldn’t tell you what I did the rest of that day at school.

        Later at the public library, after we were making fun of the way Mr. Sayers always dressed, with his bow tie and sweaters, Hayley got serious and asked me, “What do think those between-chapters are supposed to represent?”

        I said, “I think they were Steinbeck’s original notes about the novel, but he used them like clips from newspapers.”

        Hayley was engaging me, “But what did they do to move the story along?”

        I said, “They were like, like what you call…foreshadowing.  But Steinbeck used it to trick you sometimes and get you all worried about what was coming next for the family.  Like the story about the bad accident and the dead children.”

        Haley sat back and said, “Well, That sure kisses my Kowbell.  Mr. Sayers should like that.”

        I smiled.  Then I was real smooth when I said, “Reading about Ma Joad cooking has made me hungry for biscuits and gravy.”

        Hayley grinned and then she imitated Mr. Sayers, saying, “So you would say you were deeply moved by The Grapes of Wrath?”

        I ran with it quick and I said, “Hey, Hayley.  Why don’t we deeply move to Joey’s BBQ?  Aren’t you getting hungry, too?  I’ll buy.”

        Hayley looked at me funny and said, “You’re buyin’?  That sure kisses my Kowbell,” and she laughed and I wanted to kiss her face and then she said, “Sure.  Let’s go.”

        Joey’s BBQ was real informal and had great food.  They made their hamburgers out of steak trimmin’s.  And their salads had big slices of carrots, long-wise like bacon, and whole green onions and I always got extra pickled beets.

        I don’t talk much, ever.  But with Hayley all I had to do was strike a spark with most any question and she’d catch fire, she had something to say about everything.  But right then I really had to ask her, “So, are you still serious about learning Bull Riding?”

        Hayley answered while she grinned and exaggerated her cheek full of salad, “Hell, yeah!”

        Uncle Garrett had told me that instead of trying to hold Haley back, which he forced me to admit I would never, ever, be able to do anyway, he said I should support her and why didn’t I go along and take the Bull Riding class, too.

        Uncle Garrett had said, “How dangerous can a class be?  I’ll pay.  I can see what this girl means to you and I can be your ‘Offense Coach’, Buck,” then he had said, “Go long,” and he had laughed, motioning down an imaginary gridiron.

        So, after Hayley had said, “Hell, yeah!” and was daring me to say something, I’m sure, like girl’s shouldn’t Bull Ride, I surprised her and I said, “It sounds like a rush to me, too.  Thanks to you, I’m thinking about taking the Bull Riding class, too.”

        Hayley pretended to choke and cough and she laughed and said, “You?” but then she touched my arm and said, “I’m kidding.  I’ll be glad to have you there.  Gavin is no support.”

        And I thought to myself, “Yes!”

        But then, wouldn’t you know it, I saw a couple of the guys from the football team come in and sit at a table across the room.  One of them noticed us and said something to the others and then they all looked over at me and Hayley.  One of them got on his cellphone.  I could see the blitz formation.

        Hayley followed my gaze and she saw the guys and she waved at them innocently.

        I waved too.  They were smiling at Hayley and they frowned at me.

        Hayley turned back and she then was lost to me in thought and she said almost to herself, “Gavin is talking to some college recruiter tonight.  He might get a football scholarship.  His dad has connections.  He’s getting ready for pre-med, you know.”

        I said, reluctantly, “That’s great.”

        Gavin’s dad was a doctor.

        Hayley continued, “Gavin’s sweating every grade.”

        The only thing I was sweating was Hayley.  I suddenly felt like a bush league quarterback with fourth down and ten yards to go.

        I said, “Hey, want desert?  The Cowboy Cake will kiss your Kowbell.”

        Hayley looked at me with doubt.

        I enticed her, “It’s made with dark chocolate, coffee and cinnamon.”

        Hayley slowly smiled and said, “Buck, you are evil.  Sure, why not, but let’s split one, OK?”

        There was one piece left when Gavin showed up.

        Gavin startled us both when he appeared beside me and he said, “What’s this?” and he took the last piece of cake with his fingers and put it in his mouth and then he reached over and bent Hayley’s head back and kissed her.

        Hayley laughed, embarrassed, and she said, sing-song like, “Ga-vin!”

        Gavin was looking at me and he said, “Mmmm,” then he turned to Hayley and asked, “What’s going on?”

        Hayley said, matter-of-factly, “Taking a break from studying.”

        I said, “Hey, Gavin.  How’d it go with the recruiter?”

        Gavin said to me, curtly, “Good enough.”

        Then he bent down and kissed Hayley again and he said to her sweetly, “Really good,” and then he glanced back at me with a crocodile smile.

        I said, “That’s great.”

        Gavin asked Hayley, “Are you about done here?”

        Just then the check came and Gavin nabbed it and he paid.

        I had to say, “Thanks” to him and he knew I would have to.

        Hayley said as she kissed Gavin again, “Thanks, sweetie.  We’re done,” and then she said to me, “See you tomorrow, Buck,”

        Gavin wrapped his tentacles around her and pulled her away to his teammate’s table.

        I plugged my sick stomach with a painful grin and I said, “Yeah, see you.”

        Later, when I shuffled in the front door, Uncle Garrett asked me enthusiastically, “How’d your game go tonight?”

        I said, “I got blown out.”

        I told Uncle Garrett what happened.

        Uncle Garrett said, “One game does not a season make.  Sounds like you had a good game, though, Buck, until that final down.”

        I grumbled, “Final downer, you mean.  How many chances am I going to get?”

        Uncle Garrett reminded me, “There’s Bull Riding school.”

        I had to grin and say, “Yeah.  What could possibly go wrong with that?”

        We laughed and I went to my room.  Later, laying on the bed I finally realized that it was a pretty good night.

        The next day I told Travis and Flip about what had happened, expecting them to be impressed and to encourage me.

        Travis said, “Nice moves but, dude, you will never make this happen.  She’s a rich girl.  He’s the fucking Man at school.”

        Flip said, “You got balls, man, but you’re going lose them.”

        Travis added, “Although, you know, fucking Hayley Kowbell might be worth losing your balls for.  I know I’d consider it.”

        They were no help.

        Later that same week, Uncle Garrett had told me one morning that he was heading out that same evening for a while and that he wouldn’t be home when I got there after school.

        And so the house was indeed empty.  I put some tomato paste on a couple English Muffins and I added cheese and a few olives and I micro-waved what I called “mini-pizzas”.  I sat on the porch listening to tunes on my iPod.

        At sundown a full moon was rising and I felt agitated.  I decided to go for a run.  I put on a sweatshirt, my swimming trunks, and my running shoes.  I stretched and warmed up.  I never wore my iPod running.  I believed: when you listen to music, listen to music; when you run, run.

        I would become my own music.

        I took a breath and then I suddenly exhaled like a starting gun and I set out down the road.  I hit my harmony running and then I became pure motion and I was gliding up and down the waves of hills like a dolphin under the full moon.

        Over an hour later I was slowing down to a trot approaching my home and I could feel my body heat radiating from my face.  I felt purified.

        The lights were on in my house.  There was Uncle Garrett’s truck.  I figured that Uncle Garrett must be home early.  Whatever he went out to do must not have taken long.  I wished again that he felt like he could go out and have a good time more often and not worry about me.  I didn’t care if he brought a girl home.

        I walked up the porch steps and I could see through the screen door into the kitchen.

        I stopped.

        I could see my Uncle Garrett standing over Mr. Sayers who was sitting at the kitchen table bent over.

        They both looked at me when I entered.  I started to say, “Mr. Sayers?  What brings you here?” but I stopped when I saw Mr. Sayers’ bloody black and blue face and I realized his bow ties was gone and his sweater and shirt were torn.

        I opened my mouth and looked at my Uncle Garrett.  He was messed-up and bloody too!

        I cried, “What happened?!”

        Mr. Sayers looked up at my Uncle Garrett and then he looked back at me and said, “I got jumped and they were kicking the Jesus out of me.  Your uncle saved me.”

        Uncle Garrett was looking down at Mr. Sayers with his hand on Mr. Sawyer’s shoulder and his mouth pursed and his lip bleeding and his cheek torn and he glanced up at me and his eyes were glistening and they flashed.

        I yelled, “Who did this?!”

        Mr. Sayers stammered, “I, I’m not sure, but I think it, it was…”

        Uncle Garrett growled, “We’re sure!  It was fucking punks from your football team.”

        I yelled, “What?!  Why?!”

        Then I suddenly got the sickening thought that it must have had something to do with the other night at Joey’s BBQ.

        Mr. Sayers started to stand up and then he collapsed back into the chair with a yelp.

        Uncle Garrett said, “That’s it.  We’re going to the hospital.  Now!” and he lifted Mr. Sayers out of the chair so he could stand up and he supported him and he told me, “Get the door, Buck.”

        Uncle Garrett drove away with Mr. Sayers slumped in the truck.

        They very next day Honors Literature was cancelled.  The word was that Mr. Sayers had left suddenly to tend to his sick mother.

        I had no excuse to talk to Hayley anymore.

        I finally found Gavin and Hayley sitting together at a lunch table.  I marched up behind them and I yelled just as nasty as I could, “Hey!  Gavin!”

        Gavin turned around and Hayley said, “Buck!  What are you doing?”

        Gavin stood up and he loomed over me and he asked me coldly, “What the fuck is it?”

        I stuck my chin at him, “Mr. Sayers isn’t ‘visiting his sick mother’, is he?”

        Gavin asked me contemptuously, “What is wrong with you?”

        I was sure that Gavin was going to kill me but I was determined to hurt him.

        I growled past him to Hayley, saying, “Someone from the football team fucked up Mr. Sayers!”

        Hayley was aghast and she said, “What?!”

        The Gavin seemed like he had taken a blow.  He looked down and he turned to Hayley and he said quietly, “I know.  Hayley, I didn’t tell you.  I’m going to find out what the fuck…”

        I yelled, “You know?!  You know?!  And just how the fuck do you know, Gavin?!”

        Gavin turned to me and took a step toward me and Hayley called, “Gavin!  Don’t!” and Gavin snarled at me, “My father is a doctor at the fucking hospital, you moron turd!”  and then he said quietly, “Somebody beat-up your Mr. Sayers outside some gay hangout somewhere outside town.”

        I didn’t fully grasp what Gavin had just revealed and I didn’t know what to say so I just said with righteous anger, “They bloodied up my uncle, too!”

        Hayley asked, “Your Uncle Garrett?”

        I said, “Yeah!  My Uncle Garrett!”

        Then Gavin asked me, “Your Uncle Garrett?  What was he doing there?”

        I replied proudly, “Saving Mr. Sayers!”

        Both Gavin and Hayley just stared at me.

        Hayley suddenly looked down and then the realization hit me like a sock on the jaw.  My head jerked to the side and my eyes were wide open and I stared at nothing, stunned.  My wits came back and I turned again to Gavin and Hayley and the two of them together were looking at me with fucking pity.

        I yelled, “Fuck you both!” and I turned and I began to run and I ran and I ran and I ran back to my only home in the fucking world.


[Continued (click here)]


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 ALLEY CATS - 2- 8-alley-cats-dante-breakfast-in-bed-ornamental-table-top-figurine

 From the Alley Cats Collection Item #C5236 Designed by Artist Margaret Le Van Dominguez


        Morning twilight uncovers the hamlet of Selsbourg, France.  In an alleyway a white tomcat slinks up to a narrow window in a basement apartment.  A white dove alights beside him.  The tomcat and the dove both peer into the window.  There is light.  The faces of two elderly women appear from inside, animated with delight.  The narrow window is pushed open and the tomcat and the dove enter the basement apartment.

        Once inside the little apartment the tomcat stands on his hind legs and becomes six feet tall.  He now wears black satin pajama bottoms and a black satin pajama shirt that is unbuttoned rakishly.  The white dove perches on his shoulder.

        The two elderly women giggle like children.  They both wear fleece pajamas and sit down upon their bed, holding hands.  It becomes apparent that the two women are sisters.

        The first sister says, “We are always so glad to see you again, Dante.”

        The second sister says, “We are forever so glad to see you, Dante.”

        Dante smiles charmingly and purrs, “You can see me whenever you wish.  Now, what would you like for breakfast, Minette?  (Dante’s pet name for the first sister is Minette)  Minou?  (Dante’s pet name for the second sister is Minou)”

        Minette claps her hands under her chin and chimes, “Champagne!”

        Minou brushes her lips with her fingertips and says, “Strawberries!”

        Dante bows elegantly and says, “Your dreams, your wishes and your prayers.”

        As Dante bows the white dove flutters in place above and waits for Dante’s shoulder to return.  Upon completion of the bow Dante then turns toward the tiny kitchen area.  He walks past the old wood stove and past the stone sink and pauses at the kitchen counter.  He positions a cutting board and places upon it a bottle of water and a bowl of turnip greens.

        Minette and Minou bow their heads and say, “Blessed are You who creates the fruit of the earth and the fruit of the vine…

        When Dante turns around he is carrying a bed tray upon which is a bottle of champagne with two glasses and a bowl of strawberries and a ginger vase of wildflowers from the apple orchards of Normandy.

        Dante places the tray upon the bed between Minette and Minou.  Minette pours the champagne.  Minou then drops a strawberry into each glass of champagne and they both raise their glasses together and toast, “To Mother and Father.”

        Dante nods.

        Minette asks Dante, “Why don’t you sit down?”

        Dante raises one leg and then the other and smiles, saying, “How often do I get to stand?”

        Minou then asks of Dante, “Tell us about Mother and Father again, will you Dante?”

        Dante nods and closes his eyes and begins by saying, “Your father was a good man, a faithful man.  He grew apples and he tended sheep on your little farm that was not far from here.  Your mother was strong and she too was faithful and she sold the apples and the sheep’s wool here in Selsbourg.  Your mother and your father loved you both very much.  You were just little girls.  I was Dante, your beloved cat, always with you.  Your father called the three of us ‘Matou, Minette, Minou’ (Tomcat, pussycat, kitty).

        It was March 1944.  The Nazis had taken northern France in 1940 and made southern France a servant.  In March 1944 a man came to your farm to talk to your father.  The man called himself Jean DuPont.  He was a resistance fighter.

        Jean DuPont said that the Nazis were beginning a campaign of terror, taking reprisals upon civilians living where the resistance operated.  He said, ‘They will be coming to your farm, Joël.  You won’t have much time, maybe a day or so.’

        Chantal, your mother, was listening from the other room and then entered, asking, ‘Where can we go?  We have our young daughters.’

        Joël said, ‘She is right, Jean.  The two of us could live like animals in the woods, but not our young daughters.’

        Jean DuPont lowered his eyes and said, ‘Perhaps you will be spared.  Perhaps you can hide your daughters for a short time.’

        Chantal became like a stone and she said to Jean DuPont, ‘Promise us you will return here when the Nazis have gone.  If, if we are not here our daughters will be, hidden somewhere.’

        Jean DuPont put his arms on the shoulders of Joël and Chantal and said intently, ‘I swear I shall return.’

        Joël turned and went to your family’s prayer cabinet and from a false compartment removed a radio transmitter and gave it to Jean DuPont.  They embraced and Jean DuPont left, saying, ‘God will guide you, Joël.’

        When he had gone, Chantal turned to Joël and asked, ‘What can we do?  What can we do?’

        Joël replied, ‘Now is the time to pray.  God will guide us if we can listen.’

        Joël stood before the prayer cabinet.

        The prayer cabinet had been taken from the little Selsbourg synagogue when the Nazis first approached in 1940 and it had been entrusted to Joël and Chantal and kept at their farm outside of Selsbourg.  That farm was where you were born, Minette, Minou.”

        Minette says, “I have no memory of Monsieur DuPont.”

        Dante replies gently, “You and Minou were asleep.”

        Dante continues, “So your father, Joël, prayed in earnest, as you can imagine.  Then, after awhile of silence, Joël opened his eyes and said, ‘Oh, My Lord, no.’

        Chantal who had been holding her head in her hands looked up and asked, ‘My dear, what is it?”

        Joël swallowed hard and said, ‘I believe God has spoken to my mind.  I have seen clearly what must be done.’

        Joël related to Chantal the vision which he had experienced.  Chantal covered her mouth and with her eyes wide she whispered, ‘No.  No.’

        Joël embraced Chantal and said gently, ‘There is no other way.  It must be done on the night before Passover.  Praise God.’

        Chantal buried her face in Joël’s chest and she cried.

        They had two days.

        On the first day Joël began to dig a hole in the middle of the sheep enclosure.  The lambs born in late winter huddled with their mothers and they all watched this unusual behavior with agitation and with bleating.

        On the second day Joël removed the contents of the prayer cabinet, the Torah scrolls.  He wrapped the Torah scrolls in a sheepskin and tied it and placed them into the hidden compartment where the radio transmitter had been.

        Chantal helped Joël to carry the prayer cabinet out to the sheep enclosure.  Then Joël stood in the excavated hole to brace the prayer cabinet as Chantal tipped it slowly backwards.  They set the prayer cabinet carefully upon its back-side in the hole.

        Chantal and Joël went back into the house and called to you, saying, ‘Minette, Minou.  We eat supper now!’

        You girls were perplexed and you asked, ‘Why do we eat supper so early today?  Is it because of Passover tomorrow?’

        Your mother turned away while Joël smiled with glistening eyes and said, ‘Yes, my kittens.  And guess what?’

        Both of you got excited, saying together, ‘What, what, what?’

        Joël said with mock enthusiasm, ‘Tonight you shall have a special supper of cream and chocolate!’

        Dante says, “Then you girls became giddy with the thrill.”

        Minette says with awe, “I remember that supper.  I remember being so thrilled.  Chocolate!”

        Minou says softly, “I remember as well.  Mother and Father did not have to remind us to wash our hands.”

        Dante continues, “Chantal had prepared two big bowls of thick cream mixed with strong wine and she broke up into the two bowls a big bar of chocolate that she had hidden since the Nazi conquest.

        Before you girls ate, your father asked you to learn a new prayer.  Do you remember it?”

        Minette says, “Yes.  Yes.  I do remember.”

        Minou says, “I do remember.”

        Then Minette and Minou recite together: The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.  Of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.  For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall he hide me.  Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.  If to Him the darkness is as light, it is not to me; the darkness comes hard.  Yet I have loved darkness when it suited and rejoiced that darkness covered me.

        Dante continues, “You girls then ate your delightful repast with intent and precision but you girls did not look up to see your mother smothering her own mouth and your father steadying her shoulders and his eyes held closed tight in fervent prayer.

        You girls finished your bowls of cream mixed with wine and chocolate and then your eyelids drooped and you both laid your heads to rest upon your hands on the table.

        When you both were deeply asleep your father and your mother carried you out to the sheep enclosure.  They placed you into the prayer cabinet.  When Joël closed the doors of the prayer cabinet your mother was breathing so hard and fast that Joël thought she was going to faint.

        Joël pleaded, saying, ‘Darling, please, please be strong.  We must finish this as God commands us.  Then we will wait on God with all our heart, please, darling.’

        Chantal watched over her clasped hands as Joël shoveled the excavated dirt back into the hole to conceal the prayer cabinet.  There remained of the excavated hole over two feet left to fill.

        Joël said, ‘Chantal, be very strong, lean on God, lean on God,” and he went over to the cluster of lambs and sheep and he took hold of one sweet perfect lamb and he carried the lamb, who became suddenly very calm, over to the excavation.

        There, with his back to the other lambs and sheep, Joël slit the throat of the sweet lamb and let the blood fall over the site of the buried prayer cabinet which held you, Minette, Minou.”

        Minette announces, “I have had dreams about being inside a dome of blood, but I was not afraid!”

        Minou holds Minette’s hand.

        Dante continues, “Your father placed the bleeding lamb then upon the ground and he turned and rose from the excavation and returned to the cluster of lambs and sheep.  Then, one-by-one, your father took a lamb, carried the lamb into the excavation and, with his back to the rest of the lambs and sheep, he strangled the lamb in the crook of his strong arm.

        At sundown the excavation was a pit of dead lambs.

        Joël took his wife by the hand and walked slowly back to the farmhouse, restraining Chantal from turning and running back to the pit.

        But Joël had forgotten that one last instruction that he had received in his mind.

        That night the Nazis arrived at your farm.  They made your mother and father watch as they ransacked your house.

        Schutzstaffel (SS) Gruppenführer Hans Heinrich himself questioned your father, asking, ‘Where is the radio?  Do not lie to me.  Where is the radio?’

        Another SS officer came and whispered into the ear of Hans and then Hans turned to Chantal and asked, ‘Where are your daughters?’

        Chantal appeared to tremble with anger and replied, ‘We sent them away.  Days ago.’

        Hans leaned close to her face and asked, ‘Oh, really?  Days ago?  And where did you send them and with whom?’

        Joël interceded and said, ‘Please, sir, my wife is distraught enough about being separated from her children.  We were afraid.  We heard that civilians were being punished for the actions of the resistance.’

        Hans said again to Chantal, with menace, ‘Where did you send them and with whom?’

        Chantal cried, ‘They are only children!’

        Hans stood up and said, ‘Now they are only orphans,’ and he was about to make a pronouncement when another SS officer approached and said, ‘Sir, you should see this, outside.’

        Hans glared at your father and your mother and he said to his soldiers, ‘Bring them outside with us.’

        They all came before the sheep enclosure and they saw the sacrificial pit.  A soldier was standing among the lamb carcasses prodding them with his rifle.

        Hans asked suspiciously, ‘And what is this?’

        Your father said, ‘The late winter lambs showed signs of anthrax…,’ and when the soldier who was prodding the lamb carcasses heard that he stumbled and fell and then he thrashed in fear to stand up and jump out of the excavation.  Several soldiers laughed at him until Hans barked at them to be silent.

        Hans then turned to your father and your mother and he said, ‘I hope your daughters are not hidden in the walls of the house,’ and then he hollered to the soldiers, saying, ‘Burn it!’

        Your mother nearly fainted and your father held her.

        Hans said quietly and curtly, ‘Take them away.’

        You see, Minette, Minou, your father had forgotten to smear the lamb’s blood upon the farmhouse.”

        Minette and Minou hold each other’s hand tightly and they weep.

        Dante says, “Do you remember waking up in the darkness?”

        Minette sobs, “Yes.  Yes.  I felt my sister beside me.  I grabbed her hand,” and Minette held aloft Minou’s had, “I was in a box and I didn’t know what was happening.  I began to panic.  Then I heard my sister praying: If to Him the darkness is as light, it is not to me; the darkness comes hard.  Yet I have loved darkness when it suited and rejoiced that darkness covered me.

        Minou says, “I thought of you, Dante, and I remember crying out for you to save us, silly me.”

        Dante says, “Jean DuPont never returned.  But Faith never left you.  I became ‘Jean DuPont’ in answer to your prayers.  I dug you up, do you remember?  I carried you and the Torah scrolls to safety.”

        Minou says, “Yes.  Yes.  I remember watching you carry my sister.  I thought it was a dream.  But who was carrying me?”

        The white dove on Dante’s shoulder flutters her wings.


        In a field outside of Selsbourg are the vague remains of a ruined farmhouse and a sheep enclosure covered with wildflowers.  A white tomcat prowls through the wildflowers and a white dove flutters above.




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sexy trig kills


        I shouldn’t be telling you this but I have to tell someone.

        I’m sure you know, we as individuals are a continuous surface with a hole in the middle; a donut, or topologically speaking: a torus.  The north side of the hole is the mouth and the south side of the hole is the anus.  We spin around that axis.

        Our genitals cause that axis to move tangentially in a random migration.

        Of course, even so-called random events follow a rule, most often in our experience expressed graphically as the “bell curve”.

        I find all that elegant and reassuring.

        What I find disruptive in my little mathematical Garden of Eden are the devils and angels that enter when we take a bite of the knowledge of Death.

        Then my little mathematical Garden of Eden becomes a Mud Wrestling Ring where nothing is known until it is known and knowing changes what is known.

        Sorry.  My name is Wallace.  Wallace Cox.  I skipped my senior year of high school to be a freshman here.  I didn’t have to.  There was a girl I liked.  I thought she liked me.  I, I was wrong.  I hate being wrong.  But I think that there is no such thing as failure as long as we learn from it.  Don’t you?

        Sorry.  I’m a Math Major.  Yeah, in high school everyone called me “Quasar”.  No, unfortunately I’m not a robot, so I do have feelings.  It was a quantum barrier, as I’m sure you know what I mean, socially, that is, if you care.  I think that that girl I liked was afraid…, never mind.

        Anyway, I was glad to get out of that high school scene.  College for me was the City Upon The Hill.  Unfortunately, life is high school.

        Yes, the City Upon The Hill.  John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote that during a voyage to the New World in 1630.  You know.  It was part of a discourse called “A Model of Christian Charity”?  It doesn’t matter.

        But actually it is kind of to my point.  When I got here my mind was filled with remorse and, as Hunter S. Thompson put it so well, fear and loathing.  I found myself longing to return to star dust.  I scared myself!  Then in my fear I heard my mother’s voice saying to me “when you’re depressed go help someone less fortunate than yourself”.

        My mom is star dust now.  Maybe she is enjoying being star dust after raising me.  But I still hear her.

        Anyway, I volunteered to tutor fellow students having trouble with Trigonometry.  That’s when I met Charity.

        Dr. Wesley – he’s one of the coordinators of the tutor program, he’s from the Theology Department – anyway, Dr. Wesley thought that I would be perfect to tutor “this girl” whose boyfriend was in jail and who wanted to change her life and was trying to go back to school.

        That first evening when I knocked on the door of the address that Dr. Wesley gave me, a young woman opened the door cautiously and then narrowed her eyes and asked me, “Yeah?”

        Ì said, “Hello.  I’m Wallace Cox from the college tutor program.  Are you Charity?”

        The young woman then relaxed and grinned at me and I thought she shook her head and she hollered over her shoulder, “Charity, your tutor is here,”  then she said to me, “Come on in.  You’ll do just fine.”

        I asked her, “Excuse me?  What will I do just fine?”

        Down the stairs came another young woman.  She could have been my age.  She had long wavy sand-colored hair, her arms and legs were long and slender, she wore a white tank-top that bared her mid-riff, and cut-off jeans that exposed their white pockets against her tan skin.  I noticed the tattoo of a tiny pink rose on her inner thigh.

        And I saw the flash of disappointment in her eyes.  I am an instrument fine-tuned to that frequency.

        She said, “Hey.”

        I said, “Miss Charity?  I’m Wallace Cox.”

        Charity smiled and asked, “Really?  Well, Mr. Cox, I am not Miss Charity.  Just call me Charity.”

        The young woman who had opened the door was suddenly bustling out the door and called back to Charity, “Have fun.  I’m heading out.”

        Charity replied, “Fun, fun, fun,” then she muttered, “Don’t hurry back,” and then she said to me, as if in confidence, “That’s my boyfriend’s sister, the Iron Maiden.  This is her house.”

        I was drawn down the path of her easy intimacy and I said, “Are you staying here while your boyfriend is… away?”

        Charity replied wryly, “My boyfriend is in jail, and you can say it.  He’s a jealous moron.  He almost killed a guy who was just talking to me in a bar,” and Charity started up the stairs, saying to me, “Up here.”

        I couldn’t help watch Charity sway slowly up the stairs ahead of me while she continued her revelations and she said, “He’s going to be away now for five years.  It’s already been two years.  And his jealousy is worse than ever!  He insisted that I live here with the Iron Maiden so she can keep an eye on me and report to him.  Do you believe that shit?”

        I replied to the back of those long legs, “I see.  I mean, that is most unfair.  Trust is the basis of everything.  Even science.  We trust that there are discernable rules for our existence.”

        Charity turned to look back at me as I quickly deflected my eyes up to hers and she laughed, “It’s no wonder the Iron Maiden thought she could leave,” and then she turned again and I swear she wagged her derriere at me in an exaggerated manner.  I noticed the tattooed flames emerging upon the exposed small of her back.

        Great.  So I was “safe”.  No need for a girl to be on-guard around me.  Wallace the eunuch.  So, who, again, was the “less fortunate one” here?

        Then I noticed the tattooed pink angel wings on her shoulders, protruding above her tank top.

        She led me into her bedroom.

        Before she switched the light on, her window was embracing the full moon.  Her room was being lapped by the photons rebounding off of that full moon from the sun below the opposite horizon.

        Charity hopped onto her bed and sat cross-legged and picked up the textbook that was lying there and she said with a smile, “OK, so make Trigonometry sexy.”

        After the oscillations of her bounce upon the bed subsided I looked out the window at the full moon and I was suddenly inspired, pointing and saying, “The full moon was probably the natural circle that first got mankind thinking about the nature of circles, and angles, and triangles.  That’s what Trigonometry means: the measurement of three sides.  Those three sides of any triangle are like the Holy Trinity, if you will, because you can calculate just about everything from their unchanging relation.  Like the area of a circle.  How do you approximate that?  Well, you mathematically cut the pie into wedges, smaller and smaller triangles and then use the unchanging relations of triangles.  Trigonometry!”

        Charity raised her arms in mock triumph and cried, “Tah-dah!  Cut the pie!”

        My pride then turned me into a disciplinarian and I admonished Charity, saying, “Do you want to learn this or not?”

        Charity sat back and laughed, saying, “Take it easy, Mr. Cox.  I was just joking.  I want to learn,” and then she muttered, “I don’t want to be a cocktail waitress forever.”

        I said, “Sorry.  People are always making fun.  They don’t know how important this all is.”

        Charity said, “Go on.  Seriously.”

        I felt badly that I had admonished her and I said, “What I just told you about – using smaller and smaller triangles to measure the area of a circle – that was called the method of exhaustion,” and I joked lamely, “So don’t be surprised if Trigonometry can seem hard.  At first.”

        Charity actually laughed and said, “No wonder I get a headache from math.”

        I added as encouragement, “Look, Charity, the ancient Greeks figured out Trigonometry over two thousand years ago and people today still struggle to work with it.  Do not put yourself down.  It always is difficult until you see the beauty of it.”

        And then our eyes locked.

        Charity broke our gaze and looked down at her Trig textbook and said, “Maybe you can help me with some of my problems,” and then she blushed and said quickly, “Trigonometry problems.”

        I boldly sat beside her on her bed and I said, “Sure.  Let’s start…, solving your problems.  The problems,” and then I just took her textbook from her and buried my face between the crisp, unsoiled pages.

        I finally said, “OK, this first problem,” and I looked up at her.

        She was leaning toward me and I could see down her tank top.  There was no bra, no bra.

        Charity asked, “Yes?  The first problem?”

        I turned back to the page and I focused and I placed my open hand upon the page and I read, “Problem 1, The Angle of Subduction:  Subducting oceanic slabs can plunge steeply or shallowly underneath the overriding plate. In modern subduction zones the location of earthquakes can show how steeply the subducting slab is plunging into the mantle…

        Charity placed her fingers upon my hand upon the book and I looked at her and she stared back at me and she said, “I know the answer to this one.”

        Charity leaned toward my face with her mouth open and she closed her eyes.  My eyes opened wide and I fell toward her face with my mouth open.  I felt like the space shuttle docking with the space station.  Too fast, too hard.  But she seemed to like it.  She ejected her tongue into my mouth and that was when I realized what a kiss was supposed to be.

        We traded tongues.  We scoured each other’s mouth.

        Then Charity suddenly gasped, “Wait!” and she bounded off of the bed and turned off the bedroom light.  In the rebounding moonlight she pulled her tank top off.  Her breasts were like celestial objects to me.  She unbuttoned her cut-off jeans and when she bent over to pull them over her feet she displayed those pink angel wings on her back.  Then she stood and looked at me.

        Charity said to me, “Your turn.”

        I sprained myself yanking my clothes off.  Charity laughed.

        Charity stared at me and said, “I like your angle, Mr. Cox.”

        Then she leapt at me and with a full body tackle we fell onto her bed.  I turned her from on top of me.  She raised her knees and she rolled laughing.  I noticed again the tattoo of the tiny pink rose on her inner thigh.  I kissed it.  I lingered.  I began to suck upon that rose, unafraid of the thorns in the back of my mind.

        We integrated and derivated and subtended and cofunctioned and plotted harmonic motions until we heard the front door downstairs slam and the Iron Maiden calling out, “Charity?  Are you awake?  Why is that guy’s car still outside.  Shit!  Charity!”

        I don’t know what was louder, the pounding of the Iron Maiden’s footfalls upon the stairs or the pounding of my panicked heart.  I subsided as blood withdrew for fight or flight.

        Charity had less clothing to recover.  She then grabbed my underwear and socks and threw them under the bed, motioning for me to pull on my shirt and pants.  I almost zippered my scrotum.  I shoved my bare feet into my shoes just as the Iron Maiden entered the moonlit bedroom.

        The Iron Maiden could see and smell in the moonlight and she howled, “Jesus fuck, Charity!  Jesus fuck!  You’re going to get us both killed!”

        Charity howled back, “You don’t have to say anything!”

        Something possessed me and I yelled, “Who would believe you?”

        Charity and the Iron Maiden both stopped and looked at me like I was a burning bush.

        The Iron Maiden then said finally, “Jesus fuck, Charity,” and she stomped out of the bedroom.

        After the stomping subsided Charity said to me, “Gee.  I was hoping that she was going to stay.”

        That thought in my shattered brain caused a distal reaction and Charity noticed my recovery.  She performed a few calculations by hand and she soon found my solution.

        Yes, I’m still her tutor.  She’s getting straight A’s.  I’m still getting Big O’s.

        Oh, him.

        I’ve still got about three years since he can’t get time-off for good behavior.

        Yes, very funny.  A twisted triangle, ha, ha.

        I just have to make sure I graduate before three years.  I have calculated all the angles to this “twisted triangle” a dozen times, trust me.


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