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        I am Shelly.  It is December twenty-fifth, Christmas Day, and it is also will be the first night of Hanukkah, something which has only happened three other times in 100 years.

        My daughter Kaitlyn is driving.  I had asked her to roll down all the windows and turn up the floor heater.

        Kaitlyn protests, “Mom, its warm in the sun.”

        I say, “Yes, dear, but the air is chilly.”

        I love to take drives with the windows down and the floor heater on high.  I feel like I’m in a warm Jacuzzi yet the chill air is invigorating.  My purse and my coat are beside me with the thermos of hot cocoa just the way my father likes it, made with milk not water.

        Kaitlyn is driving me to Fullerton Gardens, an Alzheimer’s residential care facility, “Memory Care” they call it, where my father now lives.  Kaitlyn is driving what used to be my father’s car.

        As we turn into the driveway of Fullerton Gardens Kaitlyn asks again, “Mom, are you sure you want me to leave you here all day?”

        I reply, “Absolutely.  You can just let me out at the house entrance.  You don’t have to come in with me.  You saw Gran’pa yesterday for lunch and that was sweet of you.”

        Kaitlyn says, “OK, Mom.  Gran’pa was happy.”

        I agree, “Gran’pa is always happy now.”

        I was told that the big old house that is the face of Fullerton Gardens was originally the home of the late heiress Dorothy Odette.  The house and its two acres was sold to developers who then built-to-purpose the care facility extensions in the back which include the fragrant gardens and the long winding pathways.

        I pull on my coat.  I pick up my purse and I tuck the thermos of hot cocoa into my arm, like a football, I guess.  I wave good-bye to Kaitlyn.  I turn and I hear behind me all of her car’s power windows straining back up at the same time and then Kaitlyn whooshes away to her boyfriend.

        The street in front of Fullerton Gardens is silent.  The morning air is chill and sweet and the sunlight is warm.  I now hear the tee-hee-tee-ho of a little bird in the planter below this broad porch.

        When I was my daughter’s age and we were losing our home I went out into our backyard in tears and I asked God for a sign if losing our home was His plan.  It seemed like it was suddenly very quiet as I held my breath and I stopped crying and I waited.  And I heard then the clear sweet tee-hee-tee-ho and I grasped it as the sign.

        Now that song greets me here.  I push the buzzer to be admitted.  I hear the door click free and I push it open and I go inside.  This is one of five long high-ceiling residential hallways that converge into the high-ceiling dining and recreation center, the hub of the facility.  I guess it is nigh impossible for a resident to get lost.

        It is warm inside.  I can’t remove my coat easily without setting the thermos of hot cocoa down somewhere.  Fernando, “Andy”, a staff member who helps my father get up and get dressed in the morning, calls to me from up the hallway ahead, saying, “He’s here, Mrs. Jordan, almost ready.”

        My father’s room is the fourth door down on the right.  The door is open.  I enter.  My father says again as he lately has been saying to me, “Shelly, you look just like your great-grandmother Devorah.  You have her voice, her breath”.  Breath?  I think he must mean “spirit”.

        As I set the thermos of hot cocoa on his nightstand and I tug off my coat I say, “I am…I am glad, father.  You have told me many wonderful stories about her.”

        Devorah, my father’s grandmother died in a concentration camp.  We don’t know which one.  I have heard the list of concentration camps and I have tried to understand that there were over a thousand of them.  I like to think of my great-grandmother as a goddess defiant with her own faith, helping others in a way that gave meaning to their doom when God had deserted them.

        As a little girl I was taught to be grateful and to live the life that she carried for our family.

        I ask my father, “Are you ready for breakfast?”

        My father answers, “OK, sure, my dear, but first I need to pee”.

        My father goes into the bathroom but after a minute I hear him say, “Shelly.  I could use a little help.”

        I go into the bathroom and my father says, “I can’t undo these pants.  Can you help me?”

        I say, “Sure.”

        It is difficult to unhook his trousers and I say, “Dad, you need new pants.  You must be eating too well.”

        I finally squeeze his fly tightly enough to unhook his trousers.  I unzip his trousers and I peel the tape open on his adult diapers to free his penis.  I accidentally touch his penis and it feels like a wax fig.

        My father jokes, “Don’t let it hit the ground.”

        I laugh and say, “I wouldn’t let that happen.  I used to live there.”

        When My father is finished I seal him up again and I ask him, “Are you ready for breakfast now?”

        He jokes as usual, “Take my arm.  But not for breakfast!”

        We shuffle out and once inside the big dining room we sit down at a table.

        My father says, “Not everyone is up.”

        Andy is beside me saying, “Here is a cup for his cocoa, Mrs. Jordan,” and he puts a Styrofoam cup into my hand and I proceed to pour hot cocoa just the way my father likes it.

        Andy asks me, “Would you like some juice, Mrs. Jordan?”

        I nod appreciatively and reply, “Some cranberry juice if you have it.”

        Andy brings me a cup of very sweet cranberry juice.

        The nurse attendant named Sofia is saying, “Here we are, Naomi,” as she wheels Naomi up to our table.

        Naomi has an English accent.  She says, “Hello, Shelly.  Good morning, Phillip.”

        My father is Phillip Aschmann the writer.  He doesn’t remember that.  It makes me cry.  Whenever I have brought him a book that he had written and I have him read passages to me he will stop and say, “Really, Shelly?  I don’t remember this.  Are you teasing a poor old man?” and sometimes he slyly says, “You are getting even with me for all the tricks I pulled on you when you were little.”

        I have the Power of Attorney for my father’s estate.  That was a “trick” he pulled on my brother Jaden, the eldest.  My father did not become rich with his writing but we had a good family life and he was always proud of that.  Now his estate pays for his new “home” here at Fullerton Gardens.  For that my whole family is relieved.

        When my mother was dying she made me promise, “Take care of your father.  You know how impractical and forgetful he is.”

        The nurse attendant named Isabella is saying, “Here is your Shredded Wheat, Phillip.”

        I reach into my purse and withdraw a small plastic bag and I say to my father, “Here are Strawberries.  The market finally got in Strawberries again.”

        My father says, “Your mother always takes care of me.”

        Before my mother died she confessed to me that she still loved a boy from her youth.  She said to me, “My heart clenched around him and I cannot let go even now as I am dying.  Your father is a good man and I have felt terrible guilt our whole life together and I have done everything to make it up to him and he doesn’t know.  But my heart will not let go of that boy as hard as I have prayed and as hard as I have cursed myself.  I am sorry, Shelly.  I cannot leave this terrible thing with your father.  I want you to take this and find forgiveness for me,” and she cried and I cried with her and I said, “There is no need for forgiveness.  I love you.  We love you.”  I inherited tears from my mother.

        I think my father knew anyway.  And I think that somehow he tried to understand.  One of his stories was titled Mistress of Memories.

        After my father finishes his breakfast we have to wait until the nurse on duty gives my father his daily pills.  Eight of them.  For some reason my father had begun chewing his pills and because they were bitter he would spit them out.  I remind him, “Swallow you pills.  Don’t chew them,” and my father looks at me quizzically but he sips his paper cup of water and swallows all of the pills.

        We excuse ourselves from Naomi even though my father says, “I think she is asleep.”

        Andy says, “I’ll put the thermos back into his room for you, Mrs. Jordan.  Don’t forget it.”

        I say, “Thank you, Andy.  Last time I forgot it the milk residue was terribly stinky.”

        Andy says, “I’ll rinse out the thermos.”

        I take my father’s arm and we go out the hallway door into the patio.   We begin our stroll along the winding path through the rose garden.  When we come to my father’s favorite bench we sit down.

        I reach into my purse and I say, teasingly, “It’s a shame they don’t allow you to smoke here.  I just happen to have a favorite cigar of yours.”

        The staff kindly “looks the other way” when my father has an occasional cigar outside here, with me.

        My father lights his cigar and I let him savor it for several minutes.  We do not speak.

        I hear the clear sweet tee-hee-tee-ho from a nearby rosebush.

        From my purse I now withdraw a paperback copy of my father’s Mistress of Memories.  I hand it to him.

        I say, “Please read some passages to me.”

        After a few minutes my father says, “I like this book,” and he begins to read a passage.

        I burned your letters tonight.  The different hued papers and inks with which you would write to me made a colorful flame.

        I realize that my letters to you were disposed of long ago.

        There had been a cold rain so I made the little fire on a hill under the stars.  I thought I should immolate myself on that pyre.

        A billion billion fiery cataclysms led to us meeting.  I want to be grateful for that, not bitter.

        I have cursed and dishonored the very forces that created the two of us.

        I needed a ceremony.  It had to end in fire as it had all begun.

        Yes, I crippled myself loving you.

        No, I’m sorry, that is not true.  There is no one like you.  That’s all.

        I was lucky to know you.  And for too long I have needed my memory of you to be encased in perspective and placed in amber, a sacred relic, not blinding my eyes every day.

        When my father is finished with his cigar we arise from the bench and I take his arm.  We stroll along the entire garden path and find ourselves back at the patio door.

        Andy opens the door for us and says, “Perfect timing, Mrs. Jordan.  Everybody’s ready.”

        I go into the dining room and my father walks me to the upright piano.  I sit down and he kisses my forehead.

        My father says to the gathering of residents, “Now you are in for a real treat… the best thing going… the tops, my wife…

        I say quickly, “Daughter.  Your daughter,”  wondering if I should laugh or cry.

        My father continues, “My… daughter… the very beautiful Shelly.”

        I once thought that I would have a career as a pianist.  My parents were so proud of me.  But then I met Edward and I really wanted then only to have children with him and be a family.  Edward is a doctor at the Children’s Hospital.  Today he has arranged for a celebrity concert by all of the children’s favorite performers who could be there.  I have played piano for the hospital as well.  There is one little girl, Laney, who has leukemia.  Edward did not expect her to live to Christmas Day.  But she is there with her idol Phoebe Swift, the country singer.

        I enjoy playing for the Fullerton Garden residents my “classical” arrangements of songs like Roll Out The Barrel, Moon River, I Saw Three Ships, and my father’s favorite The Tennessee Waltz, and my current favorite pop song, Applause.

        The staff applauds.  It is now nearing the end of this day.  I take my father’s arm and we walk slowly back to his room.  I am grateful that he does not need a wheel chair like so many here do.

        Back in my father’s room he says, “My granddaughter… Kaitlyn bought this for me yesterday.  It is an electrical Minorah.  They won’t let me have candles here.  Isn’t that sweet?  I am going to turn on the first candle.”

        My father sounds like he is praying but he is saying to me, “Sorrow is trying to possess that which you love.  Love is not possession.  Love is giving away.  Free yourself.  Give your love.  Share your sorrow.  But hate is fear.  Give your fear to God.”

        I say, “That is beautiful, father.”

        Then my father asks me, “Do you love your life, Shelly?”

        I start to cry, “Father, I love my life.”

        My father embraces me.  He leans back and takes my face in his two hands and says, “Shelly, your eyes could never see but you are not blind.”

        Then I hear behind me Kaitlyn saying, “Is everything alright, you guys?”

        I sniff, “Yes, dear.  Everything is fine.”

        Kaitlyn helps me to gather my coat and my purse and the thermos.

        Kaitlyn says, “Good night, Gran’pa.  See you tomorrow.”

        I take Kaitlyn’s arm and she leads me out of my father’s room and to his car and then home to the rest of my family.



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I know Myself now.

I am Bethel.

My time has begun.

I am written in the stars.

I shine this way alone yet my Father burns within me.

I am the light of many mansions.

They are scattered like seeds upon the fertile fields of vacuum.

I hear the cries of Darkness and I am coming to You.

Do You hear what I hear?

My time here ends yet now Yours shall go forth Forever.




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        My name tag is called Michelle Cook.  Friends who know me call me “Heidi” because I still hide the fact that I’m lesbian.

I’m here in Lhasa, China, for the annual World Unity Council (WUC) presentations.  I work for the Global Water And Power Administration (GWAPA).  We control the clean water and the fusion power distribution for the entire globe.  Well, almost.  I’m the Director of Consistency.  I’m supposed to present our annual proposals.

Lhasa was once thought to mean “place of the gods” but we now know it meant “goat’s place.”

I’m saying this to the girl next to me at the bar, “It is 2084.  Israel was destroyed over a half-century ago.  Jesus is still a no-show.  The Vatican abdicated to a monastery somewhere in the Himalayas.  And the world didn’t go to any Hell.  In fact it is better off.”

I down my Collade and beckon the bartender for another.

The WUC convenes here in Lhasa every December twenty-fifth in honor of the birthday of our true savior: Heo Seong, the North Korean who brokered the World Unity Revolution.

I am saying, “We are no longer driven by the old superstitions.  The world has evolved into the liberation of peace.  We are ruled by Peaceful Consensus.”

The red haired girl to whom I am talking is clearly Chinoise (she said her name was Bling), and she is saying back to me, “You memorized well in school.  But you all bow down to Death.”

Bling takes a contemptuous sip from her breast flask in a way that just fucking turns me on instantly.  Her kind refuse to drink the beverages sanctioned and distributed by the WUC Bureau of Nectars.

It was her leather jacket with the Pope Fuckers logo that attracted me to her in the first place.  She is a cultivated female companion of the Pope Fuckers.  The Pope Fuckers control a big region of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau.  They are the last to resist the World Unity Revolution.  The WUC has delayed the Illumination of the Pope Fuckers because they grow and distribute so efficiently the WUC raw materials for drug recreation.

Bling had said, “Yeah, they delay our ‘illumination’ because they can’t ‘illuminate’ us.”

I ask condescendingly, “Really?  Why not?”

Bling snaps, “Because we have the free-thinkers.  Our counter measures are always ahead of the dumb bureaucratic beast that paws at our freedom and our dignity.”

I roll my eyes, “The real world has moved beyond the illusions of freedom and dignity.  Didn’t you ever learn about the economic havoc and dislocation and suffering that was caused by the collective illusion of free choice?  Freedom?  Dignity?  As if humans were not social animals, as if everything they did, especially what they considered to be the freedom of will and the dignity of autonomous choice, was not predetermined by prior experiences, prior teaching, forgotten. and when rediscovered, arrogated as an individual achievement?  For Seong’s Sake, Bling, our very language and the way we conceive is learned collectively.”

Bling and I are interrupted by a gracious and beautiful WUC Social Servicing representative.  The Social Servicer says to me as she glances at Bling, “Just in case you need an ‘ice-breaker’ this evening, or if either of you should decide that your ‘goals’ are not the same, please accept my card.”

Her card calls her “Muo Dau”.  I smile.  That is Chinese for “silent prayer”.  And there is her number.

Was she just guessing that I was a lesbian?  Maybe it didn’t matter to a dedicated worker.  Well, bless the discretion of the WUC Social Servicers.  To think: that was illegal before the World Unity Revolution.  And who else would consider a three-wheeler an “ice breaker”?

When the Social Servicer strolls away Bling takes another suck on her breast flask and mutters, “Love of Stability is the root of your evil.  You want to crystallize evolution.  Stability.  It is your god.  And the most stable thing of all is Death.”

I respond, “We control evolution rationally.  Conservatively.  No one is left behind to fend for themselves.”

Bling says, “You think you were educated because you went to Yale.  Well, well, Michelle.  The Pope Fuckers accessed and downloaded the sealed archives at Yale.  Your ‘world unity’ economy is based on what were once the economies of criminals.”

I thought she was just trying to fuck my goat and I responded heatedly, “The old world economies were based on uncertainty, turmoil, and dislocation.  The real criminals were the business lords who fought one another with people as their arena.”

Probably because we are raising our voices an armed WUC Paxman approaches me and asks, “Everything OK?”

I answer casually, “No problem here.  Friendly debate.”

WUC Paxmen are the only ones who bear weapons.  It is a relief.  He says, “Easy on the Collade, ladies.”

Bling has contemptuously turned her back to the Paxman.  The Paxman takes a quick glance at her and moves along.  He almost seems apprehensive if not afraid.

Bling resumes her argument, saying, “The economy of your World Unity Revolution is alcohol, sex with strangers, recreational drugs, and games of chance.”

I respond, “Nectars, Servicing, Remedies, and Probability Management are all conducive to world stability.  Through the WUC everyone can afford what they desire.  There is no need for the chaos of material consumerism and the competition for things that are not necessary,” and I conclude with the powerful, “and everyone is happy.”

Bling responds, “You mean: no one resists.”

I have to laugh, “Bling, you are determined if nothing else.  Determined to feel alienated from humanity.”

Bling sneers, “I am what is left of humanity.”

Bling is adorable, dangerous.  I’m so wet I’m going to slide off of this bar stool.  She’s looking at me.  What is she thinking?  Is she thinking the same thing I’m thinking?

I say, “Do you… want to get out of here?”

Bling reaches her hand up my leg.  Oh, Seong.  Oh, Seong.  Her fingers negotiate my panties.  I start to lean forward to kiss her but I stop and I whisper, “Not here.  Come to my suite.”

As we discretely walk to the elevator I am amused that one of the proposals in my WUC presentation is to be the negotiation of rights for the Himalayan watershed.

Bling does not remove her Pope Fuckers jacket but she removes her leather trousers.  Her legs are white, smooth, cool and hard like marble.  I smoke her red fur.

Bling then laps me slowly, steadily like I’m the best ice-cream cone ever.  She puts her arms around my thighs.  I hear myself moaning.  Bling balances the tip of her tongue on my bean and rocks it like she’s trying to balance a button.  I am making sounds I have never made before.  She plunges her fingers into me and hooks my ledge while she continues to lap, lap, lap.  The electricity must go somewhere and I am screaming and I can’t shed the electricity fast enough and I am shuddering I am flailing I am going over the waterfall I die, again, again, again.


        I am weightless, gently drifting on the bed.  Bling has arisen and she is pulling on her leather trousers.  I gaze at her white legs at her sweet red fur.

        I ask Bling, “Will you be coming to the conferences?” I smiled and said, “I know I have.”

        Bling seems to think carefully and then she says, “That is why I’m here.”

        There are overtones of the intensity that Bling had applied to me.

        I say hesitantly, “Good.  Good.”

        Bling turns to me and I think we will kiss good-bye but she instead raises both hands over me and then she gestures a sign of a cross over her breasts.  And then she abruptly leaves.

        I call after her, “Will we… see each other again?”

        Bling says as she closes the door of the suite, “We’ll see.”

        After she is gone I luxuriate on the silk sheets.  I reach down to pleasure myself, thinking of the things Bling did for me.

        I reach under my ledge and suddenly I feel a warm gelatinous mass.  I try to rub it away but there is a stunning radiance of pleasure.  What did she put in me?  The mass is absorbing into me.  My waves of pleasure are increasing.  Oh, Seong, Oh, my Seong.  What did Bling do to me?  A parting gift?

        Now I am afraid as the waves of pleasure are coming faster, more and more intensely, so fast, Oh, Oh.  The waves of pleasure are becoming a tidal wave.  What is happening to me?!

        I am shuddering.  I am shaking.  As I am about to scream there is a jolt of intense release that paralyzes all of my muscles.

        My mouth is open like lock-jaw.  My chest suddenly feels as if it is exploding.


        The Director of Consistency, Michelle Cook, was found dead today in her hotel suite, the victim of a fatal orgasm.

        Authorities are seeking a red-haired woman wearing a ‘Pope Fuckers’ jacket who was seen leaving the hotel bar last night with Ms Cook.

        Pope Cinis Cineris III has issued condolences and prayers for Ms Cook’s family and for all, as he put it, “the lost sheep”.



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December in the railroad woods the sun is bright and full of blue sky but warmth is a cold memory.
I root for myself on damp earth and I fill the barrel with water for horses.
I revolve on the damp earth that blushes with green new grass grateful for the plowing of horse hooves and the rich horse turds and the overflowing barrel of water, the hose making the same sound as a horse pissing.
I see therefore I exist among the Eucalyptus woods planted a century gone for the feeding of the iron horses, the steam railroad.
The clouds are hung over from a righteous night of  riotous rain.
I tap like rain against my iPhone.
Let this world inside outside.
My electrons howled in the Solstice of Winter, the longest night of the year, dwarfing the queen rat among the discarded couches and the soggy rugs and the exhausted tires and the baby shoes and the  lamb skulls.
A creek once scurried here but the loose silt now holds the earthy remains of my dog wagging with worms for the end of her drought.
The silt is damp now with redemption.
I raise up my cat to my shoulder.
My horse nudges me and nods.
The truck with alfalfa cometh.


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        You live because something else dies.

        I stood outside the Chapel Street Arco AM/PM Mini Market Gas Station funneling down my two-for-$1.69 hot dogs drenched in mustard and cloaked in green relish and capped with sliced jalapeño peppers.  A tear of relish fell upon my coat, “Dammit,” and I raised it up with my fingertip and I ate it.

        It would have gone good with sips of Napoleon Brandy on a cold night like that one.  I already felt like Napoleon marching back from Moscow in defeat.

        Hong “Buddy” Gildong was my companion that night.  Short, stout, Korean.  I called Buddy “Buddha” for a joke.  He was always smiling.  I think it was congenital.

        I asked Buddha, “Did you know that ‘brandy’ is from a Dutch name meaning ‘burnt wine’.”

        Buddha said, “That’s why I prefer burnt juniper berries.”

        I asked, “Gin, right?”

        Buddha asked, “Did you know that gin was originally an herbal medicine?”

        I concluded, of course, “Still is.”

        The Chapel Street AM/PM Market was right off of the 5-Freeway in that “economically challenged” neighborhood of Los Angeles.  It was the social hub of that neighborhood like a church would have been when times were decent.  Occasionally citizens of the middle-clash swirled off of the freeway, took one look, and then got back on the freeway unless they really needed gas desperately.  They continued their tightrope tip-toe at eighty miles-an-hour through the social clashes of America.

        From where Buddha and I loitered against the market building we watched the transient car owners at the pumps, the steady hegira of the economically persecuted from the surrounding neighborhood, the crack dealers in the shadows of the market, and the crack addicts with epic tales bumming change from all patrons.

        A thin haggard young woman with unruly hair and adorned in the latest Flotsam Jetsam attire and puffing her cigarette approached me and asked me, “Do you have 85 cents?  I need to buy gas to get back to my children.  They are home alone.  I was trying to get a job so I could buy them something for Christmas but I ran out of gas.”

        I gazed upon her.  I said, “Sure.”

        I gave her a dollar.  I proudly decimated that ten dollars which she was going to need for the rock of crack that night.  Was that wrong or was that compassionate?  She was someone’s daughter.

        The young woman’s left eye lit up.  Her right eye was cloudy.  She ensconced the dollar bill in her clamshell fist and she said, “Bless you, bless you.  Merry Christmas.”

        As she spoke her cigarette fell from her lips to the grimy asphalt.  She said, “Damn,” and she slowly bent down to retrieve it and she placed it back in her lips and slowly arose again.

        I couldn’t judge her.  You shouldn’t judge her.

        The desire for “happiness” is the crack cocaine of you and me.

        There was a time when eating was happiness, when sex was happiness, maybe a new baby was happiness.  But there are predators, fears, sorrows.  And so Happiness became elusive.

        A primitive tribe could be happy maybe.  A tribe is communist by definition.  Maybe that was the good old days, but I doubt it.

        We run in packs, ‘Right, Buddha-Dog?’ I grinned to myself.

        Any larger group of people gravitates into a feudal society around rich guys.  Any rich guy, good or bad, receiving the happiness wrought by others is surrounded by his army of employee soldiers sworn to fealty even if they secretly curse him.  And all the rich guys envy and distrust each other but they stand together to protect their harvest of happiness.

        Think about it.  Just think about the cost of happiness today.

        You and me can’t remember happiness.  This hotdog stops a pain.  Is that happiness?

        Buddha said to me, “Damon, you’re always sad ‘cause you hold on to everything.  Nothing sticks around.  It’s unnatural.  Let’s go back inside and talk to Bonnie.  That’s some kinda happiness.”

        Bonnie.  Sweet little Bonnie the night cashier.  She was a Sister to us.  She always smiled blamelessly at Buddha and me but she always seemed like she was waiting for something to fall on her.  It was in the way she held her head and in the way she seemed to be peering out at you.

        As Buddha and I went to the swinging glass doors of the entrance, a muscular cholo in a Baja Jacket was striding toward the door to exit.  He cradled his two six-packs of beer, one resting on each forearm and braced against each bulging bicep.  I opened one of the swinging glass doors for him and I nodded in respect.  His lip curled and he subtly acknowledged me as he strode past.

        Buddha and I went inside.  It was warm.  Bonnie smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Black and Mr. Gildong, long time no see.”

        Buddha smiled and said to me, “What’s it been, Damon?” and he looked at an imaginary wrist watch and said, “Ten minutes?”

        I picked up a shopping basket to look like a customer.

        Bonnie said to me with soft sincerity, retrieving a recent conversation, “Damon.  I’m glad your daughter called you.  You should be there for her wedding.”

        I actually used to work for Arco when times were decent.  My wife Cindra and I got into cocaine indecently.  She finally left in fear with my daughter, Janine.  I lost my job.  For the longest time I didn’t care anymore.  I did odd jobs for coke money.  Buddha saved me.  I had lost touch with my wife and daughter.  For years they had not talked to me.  Somehow they found out I was trying to get my life back together.

        I said, “Yeah.  She’s sending me money for clothes and a train ticket.”

        Buddha said, “All he talks about now is his daughter.”

        The glass doors opened and in walked a big cop.  He walked slowly to the coffee counter, watching all the patrons watch him out of the corners of their eyes.  The cop came up to us at the checkout and Bonnie smiled a quick little smile and fluttered her hand at him.  The cop nodded and walked out with his free coffee.  I guess it was good business insurance for the place.

        As the cop opened the doors to leave we could hear Choir Boy singing.  He was some old white guy who must have wandered away from an Alzheimer’s home.  He was singing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing tonight.  Usually he would dramatically croon The Tennessee Waltz.  He had a beard like Moses and he looked like he had slept forty days and forty nights in an alleyway.  He would always say his name was Archangelo Caruso when people gave him spare change.

        I said to Bonnie, “Buddha and I have a room we’re staying at this week.  You’re welcome to come over for communion.”

        Bonnie replied, “Thanks, guys, but you know I’ve got a daughter at home.”

        Just then four members of the Almighty Vice Disciples entered swaying and strutting.  They split up like a formation of dark fighter jets in an air show.  One grabbed an armful of cheeseburgers from the warmer, one took a shopping basket and filled it with assorted beers, one took a basket and filled it with assorted wines, and one turned around to watch the front entrance after a fleeting sneer at Buddha and me.  Then, like that fighter jet air show, they reformed and went out the door without even a nod to Bonnie.  The Almighty Vice Disciples were the black angels under whose protection the Chapel AM/PM gas station operated.

        Outside, other members of the Almighty Vice Disciples were interrogating their dealers in the shadows.  I guess that was an example of Management By Walking Around.

        I looked over at the gas pumps and whispered, “Damn me, she was getting money for gas,” as I recognized that raggedy young woman wrestling with the pump hose next to her beat up old Toyota.

        I saw her cigarette drop from her lips.

        Suddenly the front of her clothes was on fire and the side of the Toyota was on fire.  She was screaming and slapping the flames and shaking her head as the heat hit her face.  Other customers yelled and ran.

        I was beside her.  I pushed her to the ground.  I rolled her and the flames went out.  She was alive and screaming.  I turned around.  The side of the car with the open gas tank was burning but with only barely visible blue flames.  The hose was on the ground and faint blue fire bled from the nozzle.  I yanked off my jacket to beat and smother the flames.

        Now the gas tank is exploding.

        I am shattering.

        I AM…


In pale appreciation of the works of Damon E Walters



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IMAGINARY LETTER no. 4 (12/8/13)

 kathy at castle



Dearest K,

        I burned your letters tonight.  The different hued papers and inks with which you would write to me made a colorful flame.

        I realize that my letters to you were disposed of long ago.

        There had been a cold rain so I made the little fire on a hill under the stars.  I thought I should immolate myself on that pyre

        You are a flame in my mind.  Since our time together I know I have spent my life with my head on backwards watching that distant flame as if you were still near.  In that manner I have bumped into other women and hurt them

        A billion billion fiery cataclysms led to us meeting.  I want to be grateful for that, not bitter

        I needed a ceremony.  It had to end in fire as it had all begun

        Yes, I crippled myself loving you.

        No, I’m sorry, that is not true.  There is no one like you.  That’s all

        I was lucky to know you.  And for too long I have needed my memory of you to be encased in perspective and placed in amber, a sacred relic, not blinding my eyes every day

        I have lived my whole life with a NONsense of destiny.  I have put myself against the Gates of Hell too many times with expectations.

        I have cursed and dishonored the very forces that created the two of us.

        No more.

        I shall be grateful for your daily breath.


Alan Grody


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 the big sticky POST


        It was three weeks before Christmas.  She was hugging me so tightly.  Oh, I felt good.  I said to her, “I have a sack of goodies for you and I’m coming down your chimney.  Right….NOW!”

        Mrs. Santina Klaus giggled and, Oh, I felt so good and then she gasped and then I awoke and my pajamas crotch was wet and sticky.  I was eight years old.  I was horrified.  I thought I had peed in my bed.

        With dutiful humiliation I got out of bed and I walked into my parents’ bedroom and confessed, “I peed in my bed.”

        My mom sat up on her arm and gestured for me to approach.  She examined my pajamas crotch and touched it.  She then turned to my dad and mumbled something.  I thought I heard my dad say something about ‘The Big Sticky’.  My mom slapped his arm.

        They both started laughing.

        I started to cry and my mom took my hand and said, “You did not pee.  This is something that happens to every little boy.”

        I wiped my eyes and asked skeptically, “Really?”

        My mom answered, “Yes, really.  It means you are growing up normally.  Your dad will talk to you in the morning, OK, sweetie?  There is nothing wrong.  I mean it.”

        In the morning my dad came into my room and told me, “Pip,” he always called me Pip because that was some boy in a book that he liked, called Great Expectorations I thought.  It was weird but he said the word with such affection that it was OK with me when he said, “Pip, as a boy is becoming a man he changes.  Remember how you were afraid when you started to get your hair…down there?”

        I grinned sheepishly and said, “I tried to cut them off.”

        My dad said wryly, “Yes, with my nail scissors.”

        I said, “You told me you used them to trim your nose hairs.”

        We both laughed.

        My dad thought a moment and then he asked me, “Do you remember what you were dreaming about when this happened?”

        I said matter-of-factly, “Mrs. Santina Klaus.”

        My dad nodded and I thought I heard him say, “I’ve had that dream, too,” but when I asked him what he had said he told me, “Nothing, nothing.  Anyway, when a boy is becoming a man,” and then I could tell he was reciting, “God has a great plan for mommies and daddies to make babies. He designed them differently so they fit together like a puzzle. The sperm comes out of a daddy’s penis and swims inside the mommy’s body till it reaches the egg.”

        I must have looked puzzled because my dad then said, “When a boy is growing up sometimes the sperm comes out too soon, at night, when you are dreaming.”

        I asked, “Did your sperms ever come out too soon?”

        My dad laughed, “Oh, yeah.  And mommies are not too happy about that, either.”

        I asked, “But you said it was alright…”

        My dad realized the repercussions of his little private joke and he amended quickly, “Everything is OK.  Don’t you worry about anything.  This will be our own family business, OK, Pip?”

        I wasn’t sure what I was agreeing to but at least I wasn’t in trouble.


        The beautiful Mrs. Santina Klaus was one of our neighbors.  She was the mom of my friend Guy and his sister Karol. And also she was the Den Mother of our neighborhood Cub Scout Den of six boys.

        Mrs. Santina Klaus’s husband was at home bedridden with cancer.  At the time I only knew what my mom had told me: Mr. Klaus was ill.  One time I went to the bathroom at her house and I passed the bedroom where Mr. Klaus was lying in his bed.  His eyes were closed.  He looked like the molded effigy that was lying on the tomb of the Black Prince in Canterbury Cathedral that I saw on the History Channel.

        I remember one day my mom was fuming over an article in the local paper that showed Mrs. Santina Klaus swinging a bat at a little league game and my mom was reading out loud about what a good mom Mrs. Santina Klaus was.  My mom thought it was scandalous because Mrs. Santina Klaus’s two children, Guy and his sister Karol, often came over to my house and asked me to invite them for lunch because their mom was not at home.  My mom was certain that Mrs. Santina Klaus was having an affair with the fellow who wrote the newspaper article.


        Our Cub Scout Den met on weekends at either the United Methodist Church (my dad was raised Methodist, or at least sat in a Methodist church) or the Christian Science Church (my mom was raised Christian Scientist, a feminist take on Christianity ahead of its time) or at Mrs. Santina Klaus’s home in the evening.  We all preferred Mrs. Santina Klaus’s house because she made real Italian spaghetti for all of us.

        Mrs. Santina Klaus would wink at us and say, “I make it with wine.”

        It was three weeks before Christmas and our Cub Scout Den which we called The Spirit Bears was supposed to come up with some charity event of our Den’s own choosing.

        Standing before us in her dining room as we slurped the last of our spaghetti, Mrs. Santina Klaus held up the Merit Badge Series booklet and she was saying with enthusiasm, “Here is the Cub Scout Citizenship in the Community merit badge that you all will be eligible for.”

        The merit badge was a round stitch-work patch that depicted a squat silver building with a black door between two black windows and with a tall pointy roof and that made it all look to me like a cartoon clown-face with hat but it was supposed to be a church.

        Guy snickered behind me, “It looks like a boner.”

        The church was between two square buildings with black doors and no windows and red roofs.

        And there was no cross on the pointy building that was supposed to be a church.

        Mrs. Santina Klaus asked of us, “Boys, gentlemen.  As we talked about last week, our Cub Scout Pack 0555 is going to hold a charity event at the Mall.  All Dens will participate.  What ideas did you all think of to help a charity?”

        Phil said, “We can collect cans of kosher food for poor Jews.”

        Travis tisked, “Phil, there aren’t any poor Jews, you yutz!  Mrs. Klaus, how about selling wrought-iron Christmas lamps?  My dad can get them really cheap in Tijuana.  We could put those colored Catholic candles in them.”

        Michael said confidently, “My band could play and attract donations.”

        Guy said, “Yeah.  Someone could donate some talent to your band.”

        Ricky, who was the singer in Michael’s band, was also the Den diplomat and he interceded saying, “Spirit Bears!  Let everyone have their ideas without criticizing.  Maybe we can do more than one person’s idea for the event.”

        Mrs. Santina Klaus said, “That’s all…good.  But what else?  What can we do to make people say ‘Those Spirit Bears really shine!’?”

        My friend Guy nudged me and said to everyone, “Poop has a great idea (he called me Poop for a while after he heard my dad call me Pip).”

        Mrs. Santina Klaus said firmly with a disapproving scowl, “Guy Gianni Klaus, not nice.  I’ve told you.”

        I hissed, “Knock it off!”

        Guy continued, saying, “Poop told me that we could charge admission to his Rocket Ship.”


        My Rocket Ship.

        My Uncle Donald had been a fighter pilot.  After his war he became an aerospace engineer (there is no such thing as a “rocket scientist”).  He stayed with us while he was in college.  He used to tease my mom and ask her to cook his two eggs in two separate pans.

        For fun he built me this cool Rocket Ship in our backyard out of plywood and scrap boards.  It was a big cylinder on its side that you could enter into and stand up if you hunched over a little bit and it had wooden “seats” for six passengers (you sat on your butt on the floor with a wooden backrest and your legs outstretched).  But there was also a bulkhead divider and a pointed cockpit nosecone for two people.  There was a curvy door that opened and closed in the side so you could get in but the only window was cut out on the “pilot’s” side.  Inside it could get really dark and my uncle built a holder in the cockpit for a disc player and it played a disc that he recorded that played jet engine sounds and electronic noises.  It was really cool.  We played in it a lot, all of us.  It was my ticket to friendship in the neighborhood.

        I protested, saying, “There is no way we can get my Rocket Ship to the Mall.”

        Mrs. Santina Klaus was like Superwoman.  She could get anything done that she wanted to get done.  She always found some man who was willing to help her.

        My dad agreed with the plan, reminding my mom that it was Christmas and that it was for the Cub Scouts and that it was for charity.

        My Rocket Ship got raised and carried on a flat-bed by a tow-truck driver who was a friend of Mrs. Santina Klaus.  They placed my Rocket Ship in the big Mall center, conspicuously in the middle of the big hub where the different Mall hallways met.

        Mike said, “What a great place to get our band noticed.”

        Mrs. Santina Klaus would only allow Ricky and Mike to perform as a duo (since they were the only members of their band The Fedz in who were in the Cub Scouts) and they could only perform with acoustic guitars.

        Mrs. Santina Klaus had given Mike and Ricky a final admonishment, “Sing only Christmas Carols or songs of the Spirit Bears.  Do not sing any of your, your… songs I’ve overheard like Shit Pâté.”

        Guy laughed and said to Mike and Ricky, “What are you going to call yourselves now?  You can’t still call yourselves The FedzThe Fedz is a rap-rock band.”

        Travis sneered, “You can call yourselves The Bear Asses.”

        Phil laughed, “No.  The Two Bear Ass Cheeks.”

        Mrs. Santina Klaus clapped her hand and announced, “You are all going to recite The Scout Promise!” and Mrs. Santina Klaus lead us all fervently:

On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

        Then Mrs. Santina Klaus called out, “What is the Scout Law?” and she prompted us saying, “We are all…”

Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

        And while we were all reciting, Guy was murmuring alongside me so I could hear him as he tried to make me crack up:

Lazy, Horny, Noisy, Rude, Greedy, Smelly…

        My Rocket Ship was a big hit at the charity event.  All the kids oohed-and-ahhed.  We charged 50 cents per “ride”.

        There was a rival Den of Cub Scouts led by Mr. Kooty.  Mr. Kooty was a parole officer and he had formed a Den with troubled kids.  The Den called themselves The Chupacabras.  We all were afraid of The Chupacabras.  Because we all were afraid of them we all hated them.  We secretly called them The Kooties.  But no one made fun of Mr. Kooty’s name where he could hear of it.

        Toward the end of the day The Chupacabras came over to my Rocket Ship.

        One of the The Chupacabras said to us, “You turkeys did OK.  Can we check out your Rocket Ship?”

        We couldn’t refuse and anyway they were just pushing past us already to go inside.

        After their “ride” they said, “Thanks, turkeys,” and they hustled away smirking and laughing to themselves.

        When I looked inside my Rocket Ship I saw that two of the seats had been broken flat and there was a gash kicked into one side of the fuselage.

        My eyes filled with tears and I turned around and there was Mrs. Santina Klaus.

        I started to bawl intensely, “Those fuckers wrecked my Rocket Ship!”

        Mrs. Santina Klaus glanced inside the Rocket Ship and then as I cried shamelessly she said to me, “Oh, no.  Don’t cry.  I’m going to take this to Mr. Kooty.  Those brats are toast.  Don’t cry.”

        Then Mrs. Santina Kurtz was hugging me tightly.  My face was between her breasts.  She was so soft.  She smelled so good.  She felt so firm against my crotch.  Oh, I felt so good.

        Oh, no, NO!

        Mrs. Santina Kurtz suddenly held me at arm’s length away by my shoulders .  She looked down quickly at my crotch.

        Then Mrs. Santina Kurtz covered her mouth to keep herself from laughing out loud.


In memory of Mrs. Gina Beck.

Thanks for EVERYTHING.






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But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS