Wednesday, November 30, 2016

that simple

ralph and pete were roommates.

they had some things in common, others not so much.

but they both paid their share of the rent on time , so they stayed together as the months and years went by.

ralph worked in a drugstore, pete in the bakery section of a supermarket.

at the end of the day, neither of them ever wanted to talk about their jobs.

neither of them had much interest in women, or fine cuisine, or even going to the movies.

ralph had no formal education, but he liked to go to the library and read books to try to educate himself.

he read books about astrology, and archaeology, and the history of the automobile, and arctic and antarctic exploration, and buddhism, and all sorts of things.

he read the bible and the quran, and books by plato and st augustine and schopenhauer and heidigger and sartre and derrida and ayn rand.

and biographies of cleopatra and mary queen of scots and stalin and hitler and winston churchill and j robert oppenheimer and so forth.

he developed his own theories about life and history and the universe, and he would sometimes try to share these with pete.

pete’s only interests were playing the lottery (on which all his dreams were centered) and betting on the races and on football.

when ralph started expounding his ideas about life and history, and especially when he tried to relate them to current events, pete would listen with one ear, and if he responded at all, it was usually by saying,

“it’s not that simple.”

pete would then return his attention to the racing form, or to considering whether he should bet on the green bay packers or the arizona cardinals in the monday night football game.

ralph was a little disappointed that pete did not take more interest in his theories, but on the other hand he did not lose any sleep about it.

the days went by.

one morning ralph got up and he noticed that pete must not have gotten up, because his coffee cup was not beside the sink.

pete always had a cup or two of coffee in the morning and then washed the cup and left it beside the sink to dry before he went to work at the supermarket.

after knocking, ralph went into pete’s room.

pete was lying on his back with his mouth open. he was dead. had died in the night, without ever winning the lottery.

ralph looked down at pete”s body.

“you’re dead. pete,” he said. “it’s that simple.”

Sunday, October 23, 2016

four for fun, part 2

illustrations by palomine studios

part two of two

for part one, click here

jerry woke up. he was lying in an alley.

bright daylight hit his eyes when he sat up.

when he opened his eyes again, he saw he was not alone.

two people were standing over him.

two uniformed police officers. a man and a woman, both young, both white.

jerry smiled up at them. “good morning.”

“good morning,” the male officer answered.

jerry held his hand up. “think you could give me a hand?”

the officer pulled jerry to his feet.

jerry felt in his pockets. whew! his wallet was there. and his keys. and his phone. he looked in the wallet and his cards were there, and a few bills.

jerry shook his head and showed the wallet and keys and phone to the cops and smiled at them again. “well, thank you very much, officers.” he looked down at the concrete of the alley and laughed. “i like to sleep till noon, but maybe not on that. bad for the bones.”

neither of the two officers smiled back at jerry. “mind telling us how you got here., sir?” the man asked.

“well, there isn’t much to tell. as you may have guessed, i had a little too much to drink.”

“where?” the male cop asked.

“where what?”

“where did you have this too much to drink?”

“oh - grady’s. grady’s, up on fourth street.”

“were you alone?”

“no, i was with some friends. we were having a bachelor party! “ jerry tried to laugh again. “i was getting totally hammered, and that’s the last thing i remember.”

“how many friends?” the female cop asked.

“how many? what difference does that make?”

“how many friends were with you?” she repeated.

“three. what has that got to do with anything?”

three? you were with three friends?”


the two cops looked at each other. the young woman took out a phone and moved out of the alley into the street and began talking into it.

“you are going to have to come with us, sir,” the male cop told jerry.


“you will find out. just come with us.”

“what … what… do i need a lawyer?’

“that is not for me to say, sir. you have a right to remain silent, as i am sure you know. just come along with us.”


at the police station, jerry found himself in a room with detectives baker and collins.

the room was pretty bare, but bigger and less intimidating than jerry would have thought from watching tv and the movies.

the detectives asked him to repeat what he had told the two uniformed officers.

“i don’t know what this is about,” said jerry. “but i think i want a lawyer.”

“you can have a lawyer if you want”, detective collins told him. “why don’t you tell us what you remember about last night, and then we will tell you what this is about, and then you can decide if you want a lawyer.”

jerry hesitated. “all right.” he repeated his story about drinking with his friends but not remembering anything after about twelve or thirteen drinks.

“and that is all you remember?”

“yes. so what is this about?”

“what this is about is a young woman reported being assaulted by four men in colby park last night. colby park is the park right across from grady’s bar and grill.”

“oh. we - my friends and i wouldn’t do something like that.”


“no, we all have girl friends of our own. and we’re white men.”

“you do not say so?”

for the first time it registered on jerry that detective collins was somewhat dark-complected.

“i think i want a lawyer.”


jerry and keith got their own lawyers, and lionel’s and dean’s families got lawyers for them.

after an investigation of six weeks, the district attorney's office decided it did not have sufficient physical evidence against any of the four friends.

there were no witnesses to the reported assault, except for the accuser herself.

who had prior convictions for shoplifting and soliciting.

no charges were filed.

but things were never the same for any of the four funlovers.

keith’s fiancee canceled the wedding, and then broke off the engagement.

the four drifted apart, with all except dean moving to other cities.

jerry, keith, and dean all abandoned their secret lives.

jerry and dean threw their secret notebooks in the trash and moved on.

keith took to heroin, and to violent pornography, and his wholesome sound of music fantasies were forgotten.

lionel found more solace in his secret life than ever, but kept it more of a secret than ever.

when the sun goes down, and the world is dark, he can be found somewhere in the city, sitting on his mat, seeking nirvana.

the end

Saturday, October 22, 2016

four for fun, part 1

illustrations by palomine studios

part one of two

jerry, lionel, keith , and dean were the four funlovers.

they would have been the four amigos but they thought that name was already taken.

they had some great times together.

you wouldn’t believe some of the shit they did.

but none of them really knew the others.

they all had secret lives. secret lives that they kept from each other, and from the world.

jerry was filled with futility and sorrow. he was secretly a liberal. his dream was to go on a peace demonstration or a peace march, maybe even to washington d c.

he filled up notebooks with a comic strip about a superhero named rainman who saved the world from global warming.

when he was with the guys, or at a company party, he laughed at jokes about hillary clinton and al gore along with everybody else.

keith dreamed of marrying a nice girl and living on a farm and having seven or eight daughters who would form a world famous singing group like the trapp sisters.

he, keith, would get old and fat and have a long white beard and everyone in the world would know who he was and call him “daddy keith”.

in real life he went to the gym with the guys and listened to rap music and to howard stern and talked about bitches and hos.

lionel was secretly a buddhist. when he was fourteen years old he had a secret friendship with a geeky kid named vince. lionel let vince hang out with him when none of his other friends were around.

vince had given lionel old paperback copies of “the dharma bums” and “zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance” and reading them had changed lionel forever.

but he never let anybody know. he only did his buddhist things after midnight, when the world was asleep.

dean had the most terrible secret of all, by a country mile.

he was a closet racist and homophobe.

like jerry, he drew comics in secret, but his were much more elaborate. he drew whole graphic novels about a group of superheroes called “the hunters”. each of the hunters was an outrageous and unconscionable stereotype - of a black, a jew, a muslim, a mexican, an asian, a gay man, and a lesbian. the villains and the secondary characters were stereotypes of other marginalized groups or just feminists. dean did nor know why he drew these comics, and he wanted to stop, but he just could not help himself.


their four lives went on, day by day.

keith got engaged to a girl named laurene.

the four funlovers had a bachelor party at grady’s, their favorite bar.

they got totally shitfaced, even more than usual.

jerry was the one most likely to get obnoxious when he got wasted, and to make unseemly remarks to women, and hostile ones to men.

true to form, when it was almost closing time, jerry kept staring at a young woman who was sitting at an adjoining table with a slightly older man, and loudly repeating, “oh yeah… oh yeah…”

the young woman was visibly annoyed, and the man turned to the funlovers’ table and said good-naturedly to keith, lionel and dean, “i think your friend needs some fresh air. it’s almost closing time, anyway.”

jerry’s predictable response was “fuck you,asshole! fuck you! don’t talk to my friends, say it to my face like a fucking man!” and he lurched toward the man, but could not get to his feet.

the other three got jerry outside, but they were all too far gone for the night air to do them much good.

jerry, calmed down a little bit, wanted to find another bar.

they had all come in dean’s car. jerry was the only one who thought he could drive, but dean would not give him the keys.

jerry staggered away down the street, mumbling, “faggots… bunch of faggots…”

it was a warm night. there was a park across from the bar, and lionel went over and passed out on the grass, between a park bench and some bushes.

dean and keith settled into the front and back seats of dean’s car and fell asleep.

on his own, jerry was lost. he was sure there was another bar around somewhere, but where was it?

as he stumbled along, he saw a figure approach.

a young woman. alone.

what a skank, thought jerry. he grabbed his crotch.

“hey sweetie,” he addressed the young woman.

she swerved to walk around him.

jerry kept his hand on his crotch. “hey, sweetie, want to meet my friend henry? he’s a big boy. he knows how to have a good time.”

“yes, i’m sure you and henry have lots of fun together. just the two of you.”

part two

Monday, September 26, 2016

a news item

police chief cindy norris announced today that the police would not pursue an investigation into the killing of cathy marlowe.

the severely mutilated body of marlowe, 37, of 42 hayes road, was found behind the parking lot of randy’s drive-in restaurant early tuesday morning.

chief norris stated that there was no question ms marlowe had died at the hands of another person or persons but that “ we are committed to our new program of only expending our resources on the killing of people who were of value to the community or who will be missed by at least one other person. everyone we have spoken to, including her own family, agree that ms marlowe was a worthless piece of human garbage and that her death is a clear case of addition to the community by subtraction.”

district attorney jack phillips concurred. “trying her killer would have been a nightmare for the prosecution. we always like to appeal to the jury’s sympathies by having friends and family of the victim testify as to their loss, but this would not have been applicable in this case.”

interviews wth family and acquaintances of ms marlowe seemed to substantiate the statements of the chief and the district attorney.

“i hated her from the day she was born,” said her sister, dolly chamberlain, 42, of 55 davis street, “she was a disgusting little snotnose, always whining about something.”

“she definitely drove our poor mother to her grave,” agreed her brother, ray marlowe, 44, of 132 main street. “or at least to drink. and she was the biggest reason our father ran way. we all feel a huge sense of relief that she is gone now herself, and we will never have to listen to her bullshit any more.”

“i remember her from first grade, “ said marcia waters, a waitress at randy’s drive-in. “she bit me once, and other kids too, and she picked her nose like a zombie.”

“she was a pig,” a neighbor, paul rafferty, told this reporter. “i wouldn’t have fucked her with somebody else’s dick.”

“she ruined my life,” said dan johnson, another neighbor. “i fucked her once, when we were in high school, and nobody in town has let me forget it since.”

other people testified that ms marlowe was a racist and a pro-lifer, and expressed strong opposition to same-sex marriage.

edie farmer. a co-worker of ms marrlowe’s at 7-11, said “yes, she was always running on about killing little babies. i used to tell her she herself was the world’s greatest argument for abortion. she had no answer for that.”

another co-worker, phil abbott, was asked if he had any ideas as to who had killed marlowe. “who gives a shit?” was his reply. “whoever did it should get a medal.”

the only demur this reporter found was from the reverend bob barton, of the second church on mainwaring road. “i appreciate that the district attorney’s office has budget issues,” he said. “but i still think it sets a bad precedent. cathy was one of god’s children, and i hope she has found peace.”

(denise mallory and allie mcdonald contributed to the reporting of this piece)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

the can opener

joe and nell were the last two people left on earth.

joe was a human male and nell was a human female.

they had found a warehouse filled with bottled water and cans of food - enough to last the two of them for well over a hundred years.

nell always kept joe at a distance of at least twenty-five feet from her. she had a shotgun she used for this purpose.

joe did not have a weapon, and in any case always insisted that he was a peaceable sort and meant no harm, but his declarations were treated with scorn by nell.

there was a room in the warehouse that nell spent much of her time in. she kept it locked on the inside when she was in it. the room also had bars and heavy mesh on the windows so that joe, if he had been so inclined, could not go outside the warehouse and break into nell’s room in that way.

nell did most of the talking when they were together in the warehouse, or occasionally, when the radiation was not too bad, outdoors.

nell’s conversation consisted mostly of berating the otherwise defunct human race, especially the male portion of it.

in the early stages of their acquaintance, joe had attempted to win nell’s favor and convince her that he was not such a bad fellow, but he quickly realized the futility of this, and was content to let her run on, occasionally interjecting some placatory comment.

nell assured joe that the only reason she did not just blow him away once and for all was that she wanted someone, even a wretched human male, to talk to.

that might have been one reason but another, that joe did not suspect, was that nell did not actually have any shells for her shotgun.

the bottles of water were not a problem. but the cans of food did not have pop-tops and had to be opened with an old-fashioned can opener.

they each had a metal spoon and nell also had a metal fork, they only had one can opener between them, which was thus their most important possession.

the can opener was the very old-fashioned kind, with a single sharp prong which was used to puncture a can, and then saw the top off in a circular motion.

nell kept the can opener in her possession but would toss it to joe when he needed it.

their great fear was that the prong would grow dull or even break off, leaving them to find or figure out other ways to open the cans.

in their early days in the warehouse they thought they might find rats or other small animals they could catch and eat but none ever materialized.

sometimes nell would let joe go outside to try to find a rock or other object on which to sharpen the can opener’s prong.

things went on in this way until one day an asteroid struck the earth about two hundred miles away from the warehouse.

this caused a fresh wave of increased radiation to spread in a three hundred mile radius and this increase was too much for the already overburdened systems of joe and nell and they both died.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

roger and his name.

roger parker’s name was roger parker.

he liked people to use it when addressing him.

he did not like being addressed, even by people he “knew”, let alone by complete strangers, by such appellations as “bro” or “dude” or “my man”, or older variations thereof, like “pal” or “buddy” or “slick” or “ace” or “old boy”.

he paid some of his hard earned money to have some t-shirts and sweat shirts printed up that were emblazoned in large, bright, legible print -

my name is roger parker. please address me as such.

roger wore these shirts at all times out of doors. (he happened to live in a climate that never experienced extreme cold.)

roger lived alone and worked out of his apartment, so he did not interact with other people much to begin with.

after he began wearing his printed shirts, nobody ever spoke to him at all, not even in stores.

he increasingly bought everything he needed, even soap and toothpaste and toilet paper, from amazon and other delivery sites.

he found he no longer needed to wear the printed shirts, but continued to wear them until they wore out and had holes in them.

Sunday, July 10, 2016



my name is p.

i am a person.

a person just like you.

or maybe not.

i mean - i am a person. although at this point you just have to take my word for it.

but you might not be.

in fact, now that i think about it, if you are reading this, it is much more likely that you are not a person, but a bot, trying to determine - something… what i can be sold, or whatever …

anyway, if you are indeed a person and are reading this, i have a message for you.

i would like to trade places with you.

i should say, i might like to trade places with you. that is to trade my brain - or “soul” or “personality” or whatever - for yours. so that “i” would be in “your” old body, and vice versa.

don’t worry, the technology is coming. it must be, i read it on line.

and even if it really isn’t, i am sure a couple of 21st century personages like me and you can work something out.

before we go further, i have to say there are three exceptions i can think of to my offer to trade bodies with “anybody”.

first - if you expect to be dead within the next six months. i am sorry, i have to give myself at least that much to enjoy my new “self”.

second - if you are in constant physical pain. sorry to be such a coward and sissy, but there it is.

and third, if you are so physically repulsive that people openly recoil from you. the only thing i can think of that would qualify in this regard is to have terrible odor. no matter how ugly or deformed you might be, after the first shock people will just space by it, but if you stink, really stink - again, sorry, but i am too weak for that.

otherwise - it’s all good, good buddy. old, ugly, deformed, stupid, any race or breed or creed i don’t care. or young! if you can’t wait to grow up and get away from mom and dad, that’s cool too.

and if you are rich or famous or a movie or tv star, and your fans and the intrusive media and paparazzi are driving you crazy, i think i can handle that also.

but - i can see you asking, what is in this swap for you?

i can only say - i am me.

and i am just about the most ordinary, boring person in the world. which is basically why i would like to be anybody - almost anybody - else.

you want a few more particulars?

i am between twenty and forty years old. i do not have a college degree but i am not completely unemployable.

i even have a job - sort of - right now!

i am an american. i am not sure what it means to be an american in the 21st century. i watch the same tv shows and listen to the same music and watch the same news as everybody else.

i guess being an american just means i can’t speak any language except english. i can’t speak any language except english. (american english).

i am white.

i was brought up by a white american mom in the “american heartland”.

i don’’t have any religion.

i am not sure what religion is, really. i keep meaning to look it up on wikipedia, but i never get around to it.

i keep my weight down, more or less.

my favorite tv shows are “law and order” and the various “csi”s.

my favorite writers are agatha christie and james patterson.

i play lotteries every chance i get.

my income - unless i win the lottery - is below “poverty” level, but if i wanted, i could eat more than nero or henry viii ever dreamed of. like i say, i’m an american.

so, how about it? would you like to be me?

if you are interested, i m me, or call the number listed above.