Friday, April 28, 2006

Contest Over

The short story contest is closed and the results will be posted tomorrow at noon (if I read correctly). Winning or placing would be nice, but the contest already gave me a primer--a relit pilot light. I had another idea last night that I plan to work on. Part of my writer's block is an over exacting self editor--every idea had to be a gold mine. Basically I need to dare to suck. Besides, how many times have we all surprised ourselves with something wonderful out of nothing?

Before I forget, I have to tell you what my two-year-old did this morning. If you are a guy that gets squeamish over sentiment, then click away.

Emmett yelled this morning for his mother at 6:30, which in parent-time is the equivalent of teenage noon. I was greeted with bitter disappointment. "Noooo. I want mama!"

I approached him like a hunter to a felled beast, unsure of the mortality of the wound. He rolled away from me and attempted to shake loose from a blanket that had properly entwined his legs together. With his back to me he pointed to the tangle and demanded, "OFF!!"

I smiled and whisked the blanket away like a magician to a tablecloth. I bent over and kissed him of the soft velvety skin stretched between the neck and shoulders. He cocked his head to deny my access and giggled. When I pulled away he straightened out and said with a half laugh, "Again!" So I did, but this time he let me in, so I gave him a daddy zerbit.

When I was finished, I stood up and waited. Without turning around, he pointed to his ear and said, "Kiss my ear." And I did. That seemed to satisfy him.

That was a Hallmark moment people, the kind that memories are made of, a cinderblock in the foundation of parenthood. Take note all you dads that don't value time spent with your kids. These small little moments mean more than a brand new Porche for graduation, although some teenagers would disagree--as in all of them.

I'm volunteering at my older son's school today. I read a story and supervise a craft. The kids get in a circle afterwards, and the teacher directs a synchronized thank you, which is too cute for words.

Then I go to work and deal with the shithead. Such is life.

Have a good weekend my friends. Live long and prosper, be excellent to one another, and may the force be with you--and not necessarily in that order.

Peace out.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chip Off the Old Block

Marla knelt before him and looked up. Mascara rills meandered away from her red puffed eyes. "He's crazy I tell you. Your dad is crazy!"

Steven put his hands on the backs of her white-knuckled hands, which were gripping his knees as he sat on the edge of the chair by her makeup stand. He blinked back his own tears.

"I can't marry him--he's psychotic," she continued. "But you are so sweet, unspoiled. Stay with me."

"He's my dad Marla," Steven said in labored, broken pieces. "And he needs me."

"It's too late for him, but you... I'll be the kind of parent you deserve, send you to good schools--"

From the front door erupted a thunderous crash, as if the door would splinter. Then came a furious yell from without, "Where is my son!"

"Oh Jesus," Marla cried, "wait here." She ran to the front door and screamed, "Go away Jack, or I'll call the police."

"Not without my son! Steven, open this door."

Steven rounded the corner and faced Marla, with a bag hoisted on his shoulder. "I have to go. I'm sorry."

Marla sagged and tenderly wiped a tear from his eye with her thumb. "If you ever need me..."

Steven hugged her then opened the door, then hopped into the truck with his father.

His father said, "Did you get them?"

Steven unzipped the bag that rested between them. Inside were two ceramic lamps. "How much can we get for them?"

My Brother Walks

First, the very, very, very, very... You get the point...
Good News!!!

My brother was admitted to a rehab center for a period of sixty days. No jail time. There may just be a God after all. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. He'll keep his job and his house, and his daughters will have a father.

We are planning a trip to go see him in Texas when he gets out.

Thank you.

At the same time, my father and step-mother had her son Mike committed to rehab, the guy that was drinking rubbing alcohol--remember? Mike escaped and returned to the house and confronted my dad. Dad picked up the phone right in front of him, so Mike attacked him. Dad described what happened next like a scene from a Chuck Norris flick. He hit Mike with an open palm in the chest, which picked him off the ground and put him on his back, then jumped on top of him and said politely, "Don't move a fucking muscle--you're going back."

He confided that this was all he had in him, that his old body couldn't take much in the way of retaliation, but I don't believe that either. He's feeling his age, but he's one bad dude when he gets his Tempest swirling.

So my half-brother and my step brother are both on the road to recovery, at least I can only hope.

Today, I am beaming!

Mr. Schprock gave me an idea a while ago, having made a comment about a post I entered some time back, so I decided to submit another entry to the story contest, this time with a bit more levity, and more bend to the truth. I don't know yet if the host will allow a second entry, but I wrote it anyway.

I call it Chip Off the Old Block.

Update : See the previous post. I seperated the story into a seperate post.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hard Love

Rudy heaved himself onto the kitchen counter as quietly as he could, then crouched over the top of the refrigerator and lifted the lid from a ceramic, pale green cookie jar and took out a chocolate chip and a peanut butter with cross-hatches pressed with a dinner fork. Gingerly, with all the skill he could recall from playing Operation with his little brother, he set the lid back, but still did not avoid a hollow, tinkling report as it settled into place. Rudy cringed and hopped down to the floor and peered around the corner into the living room, where his step-mother lay on the couch, immersed in the world of the evening news.

He tried his best to walk casually, padding softly on the shag carpet, palming the cookies at his side as he passed in front of a stand upon which two floral lamps cast irregular light over a cherry wood mounted portrait, yet leaving it mostly in shadow.

"Hold it mister." Rudy recoiled and crashed into the stand, jarring the lights that rattled and fizzled out. The television flicked his step-mother's shadow at him like a dark tongue as she advanced, fists clenched, face dark, featureless. "Show me."

He raised a sweaty, trembling hand that gripped the remains of his ruined plunder; bits and crumbs fell away as a sob arose from his chest.

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to love you?"

"I'm s-s-sorry," Rudy began to wail.

"No, but you will be."

Story Contest

Eve posted a link to a contest that Jason is hosting, so I decided to give it a crack. The limit is 250 words, which is a surprisingly short amount of time to make a point. So here is my entry to the contest, which literally did not have the punch that I would have liked. I had a whole dialog planned where the kid gives the step-mother a whole lotta what for, but I ran out of words. Long time readers will recognize the theme. Here it is:

Update see previous post.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My Little Green Dragons

I am the assistant coach of my son's soccer team, and had to stand in as coach all of last week while the real coach was out of town. We had only had two games previous, and as of yet we hadn't scored a single goal. The kids are only in kindergarten, around six years old, and the coach doesn't believe in pushing them at all because he wants them to have fun. His own son is on the team and hangs on his leg like a remora to a shark.

Last Thursday was my first practice with the kids, and I had big plans to teach them to get between the goal and the ball. There are no goalies, and only four kids play on a team. The goal is small, so if the kids could just be a little obstructive, the other team would have a hard time scoring even once. It sounds simple, but we're talking about six year olds, who get distracted if a bee flies by.

Parents are funny. I was the official stand-in coach, but as soon as the other fathers got wind of the coach's absence, every one of them had to have a hand in it. It was chaos. I didn't assert my authority because frankly I felt foolish to be arguing over something so silly. But come game day, on Saturday this weekend, I was definitely the coach, as the other fathers stayed on the sidelines.

I've listened to the kids over the first two games, and watched the other team players walk by after scoring a goal and yelling, "What's the score now? Like eight to nothing!? Ha ha ha." Jackson noticed when the coaches allowed our team to keep five on the field to balance the scales. "Hey, we have five and they only have four." I could only tell him the truth that the other team was giving us a chance to catch up. He didn't say anything more, but I saw his eyes.

Our players just fiddle around, shadow boxing while the ball whizzes around the field. Even Jackson only jogs like he missed his breakfast. The kids have been nearly dead, no enthusiasm whatsoever, and the coach always smiles and says, "Well, at least the kids had a good time."

Well I say, bull-fucking-shit.

Saturday's game started out like all the rest. The kids were hard to keep focused, but I'm allowed to be on the field with them, to guide their actions. We went down a few goals early. They had a few players that were so focused, really good, that ran all over the field uncontested. My son played back on defense and I told him to shadow the ball from side to side, and when it came close to kick the skin off it. And miraculously, as I looked back, he was doing just that. I've never seen him so determined. The other kids started playing too. I got in their ears and pushed them to run, I was yelling across the field like a general, not caring what the parents thought. I was determined to get at least one goal today. Then the second miracle happened. Shawn, the most distractible of all the kids, came alive and dribbled through the whole crowd and planted one in the middle of the goal.

Then the other kids snapped out of their trances too, and two other players did the same. At half time, one of the parents ran out to the referee, standing right next to me, and asked what the score was. She looked at me and said dutifully, "not that it matters mind you."

"You're damn right it matters," I said back. She smiled as she found out we were playing a tied game.

But then there was James. James is a portly little guy who can barely move his big body, and he is all ours. Since he can't run much, I put him on defense and told him to watch the goal. They scored on him. He looked at me with eyes almost crying and said, "I never do anything! Not against the black team, not against the blue team. Not against anybody."

"That's because you don't run kid." He looked up at me, surprised. I continued, "All you need to do is get those wheels turning and give it everything you got. I promise you that you will make things happen." Within minutes, James was facing down the other team's soccer ace, who had managed to beat everyone and was racing towards the goal. James ran right at him and kicked the ball away from him and collided solidly, and both kids fell back stunned. James looked up at the sky and thought about crying, until my big mug filled his world. "Now that is defense my little friend." He smiled. "Now get up and do that again." The ball went down the field and we scored again, and the kids all flocked around me and we slapped the high fives. James said, "Hey, what about me?" I kneeled down and held out my palm, "I saved the best for last."

We won six to five, and it was the most fun those kids, and those kids' parents have had in three games. The parents looked at me different after the game, and a few mentioned that I should have my own team next year. I have to say, it was a thrill. Who'd have thunk that coaching little kids could be so satisfying?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fly Girl

A friend of mine sent me a photo of herself sitting in what appears to be the cockpit of a plane. We used to be neighbors in San Franciso an eon ago. She was a teenager then, bright eyed and innocent, still figuring out who she was going to be. Her email was short and sweet:

Probably wondering how I ended up here.

Come on make up a story. It'll be fun.

How are you?
So, without further ado, here was my response:


You were on a flight home from San Francisco. It was supposed to be a short hop, and the weather forecast called for a storm front moving in fast over the Hawaiian Islands. The captain made the call: we can make it. The crew had dinner the night before at PF Changs, and decided to order a batch of entrees and split between them. The Mongolian Beef, always a party favorite, was infected with the Mad Cow disease. The insidious virus wormed its way into their bowels, unnoticed--yet.

The flight started like any other, routine, dull, and boring. The take off was perfect. As the plane leveled itself at thirty thousand feet, the lead flight attendant picked up the mike and cleared her throat.

"The captain has turned off the no smoking sign. You can unfasten your seatbelts, but we suggest keeping them fastened when not..." A loud blast that would have made Dizzy Gillespie proud spouted from her clenched butt cheeks, amplified by her futile attempt to stop it. "Oh my! I'm so sorr..." Now a loud belch, followed by another report from the other end. She fell to the ground, writhing and shaking.

That's when the storm hit, rocking the plane with such violence that overhead bins popped open and vomited carry-on suit cases, laptops and purses onto the heads and laps of the passengers. Pandemonium broke out, especially when the captain stumbled out of the cockpit, shaking like a parody of Steve Martin's wild and crazy guy skit, "C-c-c-can a-a-any-bb-body f-f-fly th-this thing," then fell flat on his face and didn't move, except for a few twitches of his right foot.

Screams of panic blended into a perfect symphony that no football stadium could overtake. "We're all gonna die" and "This thing is going down," were common. You get the picture.

But then there she was, calm and beautiful, standing with on foot on the captains back, elbow resting on her knee, chin in hand, surveying the cacophony with a grin. One by one the passengers saw her, and one by one they fell silent, as if a volume knob were being turned slowly down. Then the only sound was the churning engines outside, and the raucous wind that savaged the plane.

"I'm a pilot," she said plainly (pun intended).

A murmur went through the crowd as they acknowledged their new deity, a new American Idol if you will forgive the blasphemy.

"Well," she continued, "at least I dated one once."

Screams, crying, hysteria!

"Joking. My god people, you need to loosen up, have some fun." She turned towards the cockpit that by now smelled like an outhouse. The copilot was slumped backwards over his seat; head tilted back and mouth open wide.

"Somebody get me a beer," she cried, "and get this stinking corpse out of here."

To make a long story short, because I have to get back to work, she landed the plane with practiced grace. As the plane came to rest on the tarmac, reporters swarmed to the cockpit to see who had saved the lives of four hundred passengers, and snapped the picture you sent, which is now on the cover of the Los Angeles Times.

Am I right?

By the way, I'm doing well!


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dad Calls

There isn't much I can do about it, that's true. Dad refuses to call his son, and I think I understand it now.

"Hey Son!" He always calls me son now. I saw an old skit on television, Joe Piscabo played an old man. You know he's getting old, the narrarator said, when he starts calling you son. I reserve judgement for the day when I do the same. Hell, I think I'm already guilty.

"Hey Dad."

"So what's the latest?"

Might as well get to the point. I couldn't have small-talked anyway with gravity heaving at my chest. "It finally happened Dad, like I said it would. John failed a drug test, and he is turning himself in tonight, possibly tomorrow."

"Aw hell!"

"So I'm just going to say this once Dad. Although there is a chance, and I don't want to be overly optimistic here, that John may get lucky and get rehab, this may be the last chance that you have to speak with your son for eight years at worst."

"Things here haven't been going so well either. Mike has been drinking Scope and rubbing alcohol, anything he can get his hands on. He's killing himself."

Mike is my step-brother by my dad's most recent marriage, one that has outlasted anybodies most optimistic estimate, and one that may just make it like it should. My step-mother has three sons, and each is a bookend on the unholy trinity, disgusting, disrespectful and woeful at best. I've come close to blows with all of them, and haven't seen or heard from any of them for nearly fifteen years. Except for Mike, who never liked me much. But in the month approaching my wedding, Mike answered the phone when I called for dad. I felt awkward because I didn't invite him or his brothers. My step-mother didn't come for maybe just that reason.

"Congratulations," he told me on the phone, "You deserve to be happy."

"Thanks Mike," I said with an offhanded tone, as if to say ok, now put dad on the phone.

"No, you're not hearing me," he said, "I mean it, you really deserve it."

I paused, and despite myself, I choked up just a little. "I hear you now Mike. Thank you." And he was gone.

In recent times he hit bottom, fathered a few children and ran from it all, drank himself into submission. I saw him at dads some months ago before Christmas, a broken tattered man, five o'clock shadow and bloated white face, long flannel sleeves pulled up over the elbows, greasy long black hair and near handle barred mustache. The life was gone from his eyes such that one had to look away for fear of falling in.

"I'm having him committed," my dad told me, "and it is going to rip his heart out."

"What can you do dad? Someday he'll thank you, but it will take time."

His words were terse, controlled. Was he starting to cry? "Listen, I'm going to hang up now and call my son."

"Ok dad, I'll call you tomorrow." I paused. "I love you dad."


Twenty minutes later the phone rang again.

"Well, I talked to him."

"You did?! Wow, that's great dad."

He words were spaced apart, as if he were in pain and every syllable might be his last. "I... couldn't... help... it..."

"Yeah," I said, softly, trying to encourage.

"I told him that when he was a boy..."

I waited.

"He was always so put together, so proper. His pants had an even crease and his shirts were ironed and perfect. Never a hair out of place. Don't go to court looking like a bum. Be the John that I know."

I was stunned. "Do you have any idea what that meant to him dad? You may not feel like you are worth it, but I guarantee that you gave him something to hold onto there. That blows away anything I had to say!"

John promised to call dad later that night. I hope he did.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Brother

The biggest personal tragedy in life is wasted potential. What holds people back? At the root of it all is self-doubt, insecurity, the belief that others can do it better. My brother has always had the heart of two men. He was a lot, and I mean a lot like Tanner of the Bad News Bears, full of sauce and a never-say-die attitude. When he was knee-high he took on kids twice his size—he was afraid of nobody. My dad once coached a Little League team while my brother and I helped. John was younger than the boys on the team, and eventually attracted the older boy’s attention, in a negative way, and before long he was picked on. John slugged the biggest of the bunch and ran away. My father and I watched as the entire team chased him from infield to out and back again. Dad laughed, and he was so proud. His boy was a scrapper. He had heart.

As a big brother, in the short time that my brother and I shared the same residence, I give myself a C. I never hit him, no matter how badly I wanted to sometimes. Whenever he got in trouble with the local neighborhood kids, I was there to break it up. But I picked on him mercilessly about girls. “Oooh, you like her don’t you?” Noooooooooooo! He would scream to my sheer delight—daily. I always stood above him, keeping him in place. I was always top dog, and he needed to know.

As we got older, I stopped growing and he didn’t. I enjoyed a five year head start on him, but around 21 or 22, the size difference erodes like the sandy shore. We stood upon a rooftop, both of us wearing tool belts atop a plywood sheeted roof. Block layers surrounded our building on scaffolding; their hard-helmeted heads floated around the building like beach balls. I was irritated with my brother for being lapsidaisical. I had learned to run, and he was slowing me down. I threatened him like I always did. He straightened both arms to his sides and balled his fists.

“I’m not back down to you any more.”

My heart rattled in my chest as I realized he was serious. I lashed out and slapped him across the face—not hard, just enough to show him I was boss, desperate to hang on to my status that was already denigrated. “Ok then, let’s see what you’ve got,” I taunted.

He just stared at me, unblinking, still as a cobra. He repeated, “I won’t back down any more.”

I hollered some ridiculous challenge, but he only stood there. I finally walked away. One of the brick layers chided me later for picking on the small guy. I could only say, “He’s my brother.”

It changed between us after that. I apologized to him that night, something to the effect of, “John, what happened out there… I was wrong.” And of course he agreed.

He beat me at arm wrestling five years later, and any illusions I had of being his big brother were gone, at least in any definition I had to that day understood. He was bigger and stronger, and I had nothing left.

We share the same father, John and I. John has our father’s name, but I always had my father. John had his mother, who divorced our father when we were kids, when she was pregnant with our sister. Dad never paid a penny of child support, often not having a penny to support himself—but that was his own damn fault. My brother and sister grew up without a father and got stuck with the controlling, fire and brimstone, God fearing mother, the one who beat me for the short time I lived with her. I was glad to be rid of her. But John never recovered from losing his father. To make things worse, Dad never called him and still never does to this day. Why? Because dad is fucked up, thinking that he needs to have something of value to say to his son, something to offer, placing no value on the sound of his voice or in his love.

Houston is the capital of drugs, the test market for the latest mind altering substances. Drugs and God are the culture. There are gangs and violence, and now the jails are overflowing with the poor and desperate refuges of Katrina. Houston’s murder rate has more than doubled since the hurricane, and the crime rate has spiked off the chart. My brother got caught holding an exorbitant amount of ecstasy, or X if you will, a few years ago, and barely avoided going to jail as a dealer, and has been on probation, reporting monthly to deposit a jar of piss. He has a daughter and an ex-wife, and just found out about another daughter that he supports but never sees.

My sister knows about the life my brother leads because he parties with my sister’s ex-husband, who she left because of his insufferable cocaine habit. It was just a matter of time before the piss test yielded a positive result.

I don’t know what is going to happen now. John has a lawyer that feels good about his chances to be allowed to undergo rehab. John is financially responsible, having just bought a house, and an employer who will pay for the rehab and hold his job for him. John is number one in his company for what he does, and that is no mean feat. John has always been the one with the heart to do it better than anybody else, and that isn’t just the intense love that I feel speaking. I’ve said that I don’t know how I feel about God, but he heard from me last night.

I said goodnight to my own son last night. When I look at him I see my brother as a little boy again, and I can’t help but wonder if someday Jackson will have the same problems. I kissed him on the forehead and asked him for a hug, which he was all too glad to grant. I can’t help my brother now, but I’ll be for goddamn sure that I can give to my boys what my brother so desperately needed. I held Jackson tight and told him, “I love you more than anything.” I felt unimaginative at that as I searched for something more prolific. He didn’t break away like he sometimes does, sensing something deeper than the usual good night routine. I turned away from him lest he see the tears forming in the wells of my eyes and managed feeble see-you-in-the-morning.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Life Taking A Turn

Come back tomorrow perhaps. I think it will be a long post. Maybe the saddest, maybe the most heartfelt. Certainly the most introspective.

Sorry I haven't been around.

Friday, April 14, 2006

This Weekend

I appreciate the advice on how to handle my officemate, and the offer of cheap counsel. The hug thing is a little beyond my means, but I kept my cool yesterday. He came in with a more subdued attitude, shook my hand and assured me that he has total respect--for himself. Ball buster.

I gave him something a little harder to do. As part of the design process, I like to implement some of the more complex portions to make sure I didn't miss something. It's a very dumb version without any safety checking or any bell or whistle, but it's enough to prove that I'm not dreaming. He was quite impressed with what I did get working, and it may have mellowed him slightly. Then I gave him something to do that he couldn't quite get his head around--and voila! A slice of humble pie.

An office mate that starts as early as I do, but is a full-timer, overheard management talking about my refusal to go full-time. The tone was respectful, but my salary requirement was too rich for them--as I said up front it would be--that it would blow the whole salary scheme for other employees. There is something to that. Knowing your value and demanding it. With it comes a certain respect, even if it isn't deserved. I feel deserving, don't get me wrong, but just by holding out or saying no creates the effect.

On the parenting side of things, last night was the third night in a row that our youngin slept through the night--no cry outs, no nothing, just blissful, uninterrupted sleep.


We're headed out to Newport Rhode Island this weekend for a family getaway. I've never been there, but I hear it's nice. We wrapped a bunch of easter gifts for the boys--a couple Air Hogs fliers, plastic barn animals, some candy and money in easter eggs, and got them ready for the trip. The easter bunny will find us no matter where we are.

Happy Easter to all. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I've been a bit sparse lately, and there is a reason. Work is heating up, and I'll tell you why. I am a contractor, which carries a higher monetary reward, but the moniker carries with it a certain notoriety, a stigma if you will--people look at you different, regard you in silent judgement. I was asked to go permanent last week and I respectfully declined.

I am designing a software solution that is going along very well, but the company knows that I may leave, are afraid that I will leave before the work is complete, at least this is what I surmise. They hired a knuckle-headed, know-it-all to eventually take my place, who constantly harangues me about the decisions I've made, quibbling over every small detail, while working on pieces that I've assigned him and doing sloppy work that side steps in some cases the design I've set forth. He's been thrust upon me before I was ready to assign work, so he's programming on the edge of what I've thought out.

So, tonight I'm writing design documentation in a desperate attempt to stay ahead, and preparing to present my completed design by early next week. I fully expect to be sabotaged by the new guy, who is the type that takes great pleasure in being contrary for the very sake of it.

In short, I'm ready to rub his fat face into the carpet. I've already told him to back off, not to interrupt me when I'm speaking, that sort of thing. I'm losing my cool.

Luckily I have a few people on my side, and others in the office have stated plainly that they couldn't work with him. He buys candy and puts it in a bowl, then posts a sign outside. Everyone stops in and gabs now, mostly the marketing and support people. The developers are too busy working. He barks out to join conversations three and four cubicles away, and almost always unnoticed by anyone but myself.

I just need to get this done and implemented, put that feather in my cap and move on. Meanwhile, God give me patience and protect me from frustration. What was the old definition of frustration? The feeling you get when you want to kick the shit out of someone who desperately deserves it. Close. And accurate.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Check Please

My friend Danny dropped me off on a Friday night and told me he was beat and had to go get some rest. Tomorrow was a big day. I lived in a trailer park in age gone by, where units sat side by side and abutted end to end, seperated by uneven, cracked paved roads only wide enough for two small cars or one big ass pick up truck, where water collected in lakes after a good storm.

I didn't call him a pussy that night because I was glad to be rid of him. The night was boring and we'd cruised the local hangouts, but nothing was going on. There was probably a great party going on somewhere, and everyone knew about but us.

Inside I could hear dad snoring from his bedroom, so I shut his bedroom door to take the edge off. I flicked on the Atari and stretched the control to the couch and scootched the dog over with my rump and started into level one of Space Invaders.

Then an explosion rocked the trailer and the windows rattled to the point of breaking. I ran outside and saw though a smoking fiery hole in the trailer perpendicular to ours, the one whose end was no more than twenty feet from ours.

And Danny ran out it's side door.

It turns out that he was a little bored himself, and went there straight away--obviously. He and his buddy there were banging rocks on gun powder from an emptied 30-30 shell near a propane tank whose valve was open a peep. The powder smoked and they leapt to the floor when the whole place went up. Nobody was injured.

When Danny got married several years later, when it was my turn to tell a funny story, one that captured the essence of our mutual friend, this is the one I told.

Blank faces, crickets chirped.

Check please.

Monday, April 10, 2006

They Call Me The Fireman

Thanks for the title George.

Good weekend. The wife and I went out on a date for the first time in a three years. We met with friends for Thai food and Singha. Our neighbors watched the kids. They have a nine-year-old daughter who loves little Emmett, and the feeling is mutual. Her name is Ashley, but in Emmett-speak she is just Ashy, and he does whatever she says. She is an up and coming gymnast and does back arches while he crawls under her like a car through a tunnel.

On Sunday I almost blew myself up starting a fire in the burn barrell. I started with a pile of dried out leaves, added a little gas, then newspaper, and a little gas, then a tee-pee of dried sticks, and a little gas. Before lighting it I thought to add just a little more gas. I lit a bit of news paper and held it at arms-length and held it to the top most tier--the WHOOF! It was like the world shifted one space to the left in an instant without me. I stood there like Wile E Coyote, my eyebrows singed and the fuzz along the arm of my sweatshirt brailled into black plastic balls.

Luckily I made the kids stand way back. I said, "Whoa," and looked at Jackson. He said, "That was cool!"

My wife felt it inside the house and ran outside. "What the hell is going on out there!?"

Thursday, April 06, 2006


It all begins, like it always begins, at a funeral.


“Hi Aunt Sandie,” I said. She held the hug longer than I did. Her face was gaunt and her eyes were slightly puffed and red; and I could tell she had been crying.

She held my face between her hands. “Do you need a drink, a beer, vodka?”

“No thanks.”

“I have anti-depressants,” she offered.

“I’m ok, really.”

“Don’t hold it in Scotty. You’re going to need something. Are you sure you don’t want a beer? It will take the edge off.”

“Everything I need is right in here,” I said, pointing to my heart.


We sat in the waiting room—waiting. My aunt and uncle doubtless wishing they could have a smoke. But the god damn liberals had taken over the world. My cousins Tracy and Trisha were there too, looking about them like snared hares, wild eyed, fidgeting—nervous.

The doctor was East Indian, stoic and cock-sure. He pronounced, “Your mother’s cancer has spread from her lungs through the esophagus and into the brain, and down into the pancreas and liver. She will not wake up again.”

Tracy and Trisha burst into tears while I stared at the doctor. The news was expected, as my mother was in ICU with a tube through her mouth and into her lungs, artificially injecting air that she was no longer capable of processing without it. The doctor was numb to the histrionics.

I met his unaffected gaze with one of my own. “She was a three-pack-a-day smoker.”

Tracy stopped crying as if a switch had flipped. “My mom and dad both smoke. Could they get cancer too?”

The doctor replied, “Yes, of course.”

“But, but, but w-what if they quit now?” Tracy asked, looking at her mother now.

“It might already be too late.”


“Have you accepted Jeezezzuh as your personal savior,” Chaz asked, as if Jesus was Texan.

Not a hair was out of place. He was blonde and of medium build, and quite handsome in that Houstonian way. I wasn’t ready to lay it all on him right now. “My faith is a personal matter that I do not wish to share.”

His eyes seemed to become perfectly round as they misted over, as ice will do on the first day of warm weather. “I know that it’s hard for you to understand right now, but God has a plan for your mother, just like he has a plan for all of us. She is with Him now, and she couldn’t be in better hands.” He glowed like Captain Kirk in a love scene.

A little ball of hot butter rolled in my chest, and my teeth clamped together. “Frankly, it’s of no comfort to me that God has a plan for my mother or not, because I think it stinks. My mother is dead, so she is no longer involved in my plans, or those of her grandchild’s. My personal salvation is not the issue, and I’ll thank you to keep your focus on my mother’s eulogy. No disrespect intended.”

“I understand,” he said with a kind smile, but I could hear the disappointment in his voice, and the resolve.


“Hi Scotty, its Trisha!”

Her husband’s name I saw on caller id, but I acted surprised as I always do when someone calls. “Trish!”

“Wow,” she said, “how long has it been?”

“I know. Hey, I heard about your dad. I’m sorry.”

She didn’t say anything, so I continued. “I talked to Tracy, and she said that he has lung cancer.”

“When did you talk to her last?”

“It seems like a month ago.”


“How long does he have?”

“The doctors give him one year, two at the most.”

“How did he take the news?”

“He was very upset, and was crying all the time. But now he feels a lot better because he found God.”

Internal groan. “I’ll bet he did.” There are no atheists in a fox hole I thought to myself. “I have to say Trish that you and Tracy seem to be taking this very well.”

“Well, I know this is going to sound funny…”


“Tracy has been sending dad some tapes, and he came out here and met with Chaz. Chaz put his hands on his chest and felt the cancer inside. I know how it sounds Scotty, but Chaz healed him.”

“As in your dad doesn’t have cancer anymore?”

“I know what you’re thinking, and I would think the same thing, but yes, I truly believe it. When my dad goes to the doctor, the doctor is going to tell him that the cancer is gone.”

“That does sound a bit far fetched, but I hope you are right Trish.”

“I know it won’t prove anything to anyone, as the assumption will be that he was misdiagnosed, but I already believe.”

Maybe Chaz can bring my mother back to life.


Any plans of moving to Houston have been cancelled. I love my family, and there is nothing wrong with faith in a deity, but God rests within me, and he is me, and he is my children and my wife and my friends, and sometimes the man who isn’t lying when he says he needs money for a beer. He was my coach the congratulated me for scoring my only touchdown, the one who laughingly told me to jog as I almost tripped over second base in my haste when I hit one into the weeds. He’s every bit of joy and sorrow in my life. He is me, and he will die someday too.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I had a big blog planned for today, but it will have to wait for tomorrow. My wife and I are new addicts to Soduku, a game created by one Count Dooku a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. It really is an evil game, and a huge waste of time. The wife has decided that her mind is going to turn to jelly if she doesn’t start using it soon, and this is definitely a way to keep the mind tiles moving about.

Come back tomorrow. Let’s just say that, just when you think you heard it all, somebody comes along and proves you wrong. I think there is something to the claim that America is being conservatized by the radical right.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Wrong Decisions

I feel like my life is built on wrong decisions, a string of left turns when I should have turned right. It's not enough to say that I came by in honestly, that my father didn't teach me right. I'm in my forties now.

I'm trying to remember what it is I did, or didn't do, that makes me feel this way, but I can't remember. But it's there, making my heart feel sick.

Ah, here's an example. As some of you know, my mother died of lung cancer, caused by a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. One of our last conversations, in full view of the end, she asked me to do her one favor.

"Sue those bastards."

"Who?" I said.

"The tobacco industry, all of them! They did this to me."

I didn't even pause to think about it. "Mom, when I was old enough to buy your cigarettes for you, I asked you who the Surgeon General was that so clearly warned that smoking caused cancer. How old was I then?"

She didn't smile, nor did she look hurt, but she didn't reply.

"Eight maybe? That was thirty years ago, and you've been smoking several packs a day ever since. What possible grounds do I have to sue the tobacco companies on? I love you Mom, but there is nobody to blame here but yourself."

I let the doctors take her lungs out for research, because I thought maybe she would have wanted to help find a cure for the disease. But I was only guessing. All I can think about, when I allow myself, is her chest open like the kitchen cabinet, and the doctors carving her out--and how vain she was about her appearance.

We can't be children forever.