Bottles, Bonfires, and the Beauty of Life

The celebrations of the New Years were drowned in glitter, glee, and gin. Twinkling lights from the ever-bright sign that rang in the year of 2016 was too bright for my drunken eyes to take. The gaggle of drunken heathens that I called my brethren sways by the winds of the winter wind. Biting and bitter, we felt only the sweet liquor course through our screaming veins as they cried for air. That was the catalyst of the year where the fall of our rum-infused Rome crumbled before our eyes.

Minutes melded into months while moments faded to nothing. Projections of aspiration fell to the wayside and, as the sober side of conscious pleaded for some sense of success, it was always mute to the gushing sounds of the ever-flowing music that was the emptying of various bottles. Dreams dabbled to nonexistence and I was headed there.

On the cusp of Southern summer sat a bonfire on the edge of society. Flames and embers danced in the pale moonlight around the people too drastically drunk to care. The sound of a wild night was the symphony that was heard through that abandoned field. It was the sound of a God that had looked down on the poor and the damned with contempt with a hint of forgiveness. It was only in the fading of the dark night did my mind become lost in the haze of honey whiskey and humbling silence.

The beeps of the machines woke me from my sweet, sorrowful sleep. Two parents, a doctor, and a room full of regret was the scene of my life that none should live yet too many do. Hot tears rolled down through my broken heart hoping only to have it healed by my pain. As I left through the doors my midnight misery, I vowed never to feel the kiss of the devil’s drink.

A clear, sober mind was meant to attend a wedding of a friend of four years. As she married the man under the ivy-strewn altar, my heart fluttered at the sight of a woman that woefully left my life long ago. Her smile sprang serene beginnings and, although we were both coy, the future of my life was never as fortunate.

Forging the family once falling to the edges of my mind by the lures of liquor, my family was a mighty as the day God made us. My heart has regained its purpose with the dreams that had been dreamed of so very long ago.

Three, two, one…Happy New Year! I glanced over at the woman across the cocktail table we sat at. Through all the nonsense of noise, we kissed in the strobe lights of a club that ceased to exist. It was the kiss that was meant for the wedding that seemed to happen so long ago. The year of 2017 was upon us. I have seen the door of death and I’ve chosen to step away from it. Family, friends, and her…my life is forever loving and forever free.

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Puffs from the incense fill the office lit by the rising sun. As it mixes with the steam from the coffee, I can hear the needle hit the vinyl before my speakers crackle to life.

It is a Monday. More importantly, it’s my Monday.

“How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” That first line from Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits album gets to me every time. Just enough to feel the hairs on your arm stand on end and make you wonder just what the hell you’re doing.

On an odd topic, would you mind if I tell you my dream? I feel as though I should ask before I just decide to drown you out with what I remember from last night.

I’ll admit that there are more times than not that I don’t dream anything at all. To think of it, it’s a such a pain not to see anything other than the back of my eyelids. However, when I do dream, I remember.

I could hear the hums of cars downtown in the city. A brisk wind hit my bare hands and the side of my face. Shoving my hands into the pockets of my peacoat, I walked down the street with nothing but time and a lack of sense. There was no place that I had to go right then.

Honestly, I should’ve known right then that it was a dream.

My headphones that I always keep on me weren’t in my pocket that day. I searched each one and came up with nothing. There was no sense of dread as to where I left them. I just remember hearing an old teacher commenting on my obsession.

“You know what I think about headphones?” I shook my head. “I say, if you’re gonna go through life, might as well go through it to your own soundtrack.”

Hell, as I write that, I smiled.

I could feel the feet of fall tracking on my heels as I walked alone on that sidewalk. Cracked and crackled, weeds popped from the openings. My brown boots clacked onto the noisy streets.

It was then that I could smell some of the best damn coffee I could ever remember. It was something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The steam was trailing from a little cafe on the corner. The glow of a pink neon sign looped into the letters that said:

THE LION’S DEN. ALL WELCOME, MOST LEAVE.

I’m not sure what compelled me but I had to enter.

Inside was my childhood fantasy and my heaven. There sat Hemingway with Salinger and T.S. Eliot. Tolkien with C.S. Lewis. Shelley with Wolfe. God damn there were so many that I admired.

Not a word was spoken. Not a peep, not a sound in the entire joint. Just the scribbling of their pens on the different pads of papers in front of them. I didn’t want to look like a damn fool so I sat down at the empty table by the door.

The wooden chair with the frayed green cloth creaked as I sat down. A cup of coffee was given to me by a young man no older than 17. There was something in his eyes that screamed for others to look at him in desperation.

It was a look all too familiar.

A pad of paper was in front of me with nothing written on it. I don’t know why but I’ve always had this compulsion to write anything I think of on anything blank. Anything blank for the creative is a crime.

I patted my pockets in search of a pen with no luck. The only things left on the table was a stack of paper, a coffee getting colder by the second,  and a small knife; a small knife with the edges worn down by being overused.

As much as I went to every table asking for a pen, they didn’t look up from their pad. Not a single one would acknowledge my damn existence. At this point, I was starting to get frustrated. Before I made it back to the table, I saw the waiter with his pen write down something on my paper. At the bottom edge, he wrote, “Write.”

I wanted to ask him for his pen but he was gone by the time I looked back up.

I must’ve sat there for sometime. As the day passed, the people in the cafe didn’t move from their chair. I kept milling around looking over their shoulders in admiration yet my pad remained empty.

Every idea that I came up with was just derived and had no soul to it.

I couldn’t take it anymore.

Grabbing the knife, I slit my wrist onto the table.

Watching the pool of blood coursing over the table, I wasn’t afraid. I dipped the edge of the knife into blood and began to write on the paper. There was no numbness. Only pain and honesty.

I wrote all that was born and all that was dead inside of me. I finally collapsed onto the table. The shuffling of chairs were heard throughout the cafe. They made their way to my table to read my work.

The last thing I remembered before blacking out and coming to was one of them saying, “It’s not good. Yet, it’s honest. That’s a good start.”

It broke my heart.

So I woke up today wondering what the hell that was for. Was there some truth in all of that? I’d like to think so.

As my mentor Professor Carter has repeatedly told me, “You don’t have the scars right now to write something heartbreaking.” He’s not wrong. The only thing I can ever hope for is to write the way that I feel.

And the way that I feel is that I have more to give to this world than I could ever dream of. It may be shit, it may be brilliant.

The more important thing will be that it’s mine.

Bob Dylan stopped singing long after I’m still writing this damn blog post. I cannot help but be curious as to what the future will hold for me. Will it be beautiful? Will it be beastly?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

Stupidity vs. Ignorance

Hello my friends! Welcome to another installment of Brandon King’s personal thoughts.

Today, I’d like to talk to you about something that I believe has plagued people since the dawn of man. No matter where you might run to, it’ll always be there. Much like the sand people of Star Wars, they’ll usually come back and in greater numbers.

Of course, I’m talking about ignorant people.

I can already hear people’s knuckles cracking as I’m writing this. You’re probably wondering if he’s going to call out specific people. You might even be lining up your defenses to say that every person has their dumb moments and we should be more accepting of that.

If you’re wondering either one of those ideas, let me stop you right now.

There is a difference between stupidity and ignorance. Stupidity is not knowing a subject matter but possessing the capacity to learn it in the future. For example, I could be considered stupid when it comes to car repair but that doesn’t mean that I’ll be stupid until my dying days. It just means that, as of that moment, I’m not as educated. In the end, it all comes down to the connotation behind the words we use.

Stupidity has its merits. Ignorance has none.

Ignorance is unwillingness to be educated in a subject and claim to be an expert. Ignorance is not allowing for other ideas to even come into the conversation; conversations that might change your entire perception of the world around you.

You can defend stupidity. You cannot defend ignorance.

I will be the first to admit that I have done and said more stupid things than intelligent things. In fact, if there was a chart to prove it, I would gladly put it in the link. That being said, I’m never going to claim myself to be the most intelligent man in the room at any given point. The ones who have to claim that and have to prove it are typically the ones that aren’t at all.

The blessing that stupidity has is that it can be forgiven. As we continue to grow, our stupidity over different subjects will grow smaller by the year. At least, I hope it does. Ignorance is something different entirely. It’s one of those things that acts more like a cancer more than anything.

Allow me to explain.

Do you have that radical family member that’s still claiming that President Obama is a Muslim who is working for ISIS? Is there someone in your life that thinks that ever single idea they have is pure gold and everyone else is dumb for not thinking of it first? Have you met someone who thinks their an expert on a subject because they read the Wikipedia page on it?

Exactly my point.

They’re the type of people that will make your eyes roll hard enough to give you whiplash. But let’s be clear on something: no one is always right and no one is always wrong. It’s one of those bastard blessings that life gave us from the beginning. Where my problem lies is when people claim to have all the answers and no one must question them.

Come to think of it, I’ve heard talks like that before. Hitler…Vlad the Impaler…King Henry VIII…Interesting.

Should we let people be ignorant in their own right if they are by themselves? Hell no. The funny thing about ignorance is that it’s as contagious as any virus could ever dream of. If I blindly said that Jesus should have had a gun on him because then he wouldn’t have died like that, there would be someone in the world that would be back me up.

Is that not terrifying to you?

How do we combat stupidity? By education.

How do we defeat ignorance? By shining a light on it and allowing the world to see it for what it is: unchecked, unfiltered stupidity backed by pseudo intelligence.

I’m not saying that anyone is purely stupid. What I will say is that you should live your life in pursuit to learn everything you can and take nothing for granted.

Until next time,

Brandon King

The Green Mug

I don’t know what broke first: The sunrise or I.

Light was poking through the dark bedroom that July morning. The thermostat already read 81 degrees and I was already exhausted. Strung across my bare chest was a woman’s warm. Her dark red curls were tucked underneath my right shoulder as I lie awake.

There was no more pain on her face. Not like night before had been anyways. The redness in her face had faded only to leave faint streaks where some tears had fallen. I couldn’t blame her yet neither could she with me.

I adjusted myself to the side of our cluttered bed. As I was placing my foot on the ground, I hesitated. Pictures were strung across the bedroom floor in cluttered packs. They were separated not by year but by sentimentality. It was sickening. It was sweet.

The house felt dead that morning, that’s for sure. If it weren’t for the breaths and hints of a snore or two, you’d think it was gone for the graveyard. I got up and put on my checkered pajama bottoms and jacket from my time in high school.

Truth be told, I hadn’t grown much since that time. Only my reasoning, some weight on the side and my budding taste for beer could tell me from the young. Grabbing my blinking phone, I slipped from the room.

The last things I saw was her beautiful body in my bed and the black pressed tux hanging by the closet doorknob. A thin, black tie draped over the front and a pair of polished shoes to match. It made me sicker than I had been in some time.

Sounds of my bare feet echoed through cluttered hallway. Toys were thrown from one side of the two-man hallway to the next. It was as though I was walking through a minefield. Not to mention the wood flooring, any clatter that I would’ve made might as well of sounded like a gunshot. Judging by my state over those past few days, they might have thought the same thing.

They’ll never understand it and I pray they never do for some time.

After I checked on the kids, I kept my head down towards my feet while I made my way out of the lone hallway. I couldn’t bare to look at the pictures and those damned still faces looking back at me. Their smiles said one thing yet it was what’s behind it all that kills me.

My wife was so wonderful to me. Even after all the chaos of the family getting together after the church, after my meltdown, she still took the time to clean the living room.

“We want it clean but we want it to look alive. It’s a living room for a reason, son.”

I shivered violently. You could hear him as clear as I hear him now.

The phone continued to blink a green light from the top right corner. Tossing it away on the couch, I walked into the kitchen. What I’m about to tell you might sound odd and downright insane but please, listen.

As I do every morning, I make a fresh pot of Colombian coffee every morning. I sleepily grabbed the handle expecting it to be empty. I damn near dropped the thing because of how full it was.

It was a pot that was almost full, minus a single cup.

Thinking back, I don’t remember making a pot nor do I remember making myself a cup of coffee. Not a smell, not a sound of it at all. Frankly, it hadn’t been the strangest thing that had happened all week so I numbly went along with it. I went to grab my green mug and noticed that it was gone as well. Reaching for the blue and grey one instead, I poured myself a dark brew.

Before I turned my back on the kitchen, I noticed a small wisp of smoke that came from the back porch. There was enough to make me take a second look but, like a dream, it was gone as soon as it came.

Uneasy, I stepped into the living room and picked up my phone. Seven voicemails and one missed call. It was a mere tossup as to who the other six might have been but I knew the one that was missing; the same one that’s missing even now. The phone slammed onto the table face down. My body tensed as I lost control. The last thing that I wanted to do was wake them before this god damn day decided to show itself.

On the coffee table were manuscripts and essays that had been heavily marked with red ink. All of them placed into a neat stack of paper next to her romance novel and a copy of the Holy Bible. Out of the three, I had only truly explored one. After that day, I’d explore the other.

My mind continued to roam across the vast room. Every piece of art, every single aspect of my life had been dictated by my words. It had built the very life that surrounded me. Yet I owed it all to the man that had been gone from my life. Not by his choice but through mine.

With each stroke of my pen, I felt the rock in my throat bob up and down. I shut my eyes and waited for the wave to pass.

That was when I heard him.

“What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?” Oh God, it was so clear, so perfect. My glossy eyes turned to the backdoor and saw the wisps of smoke rising. A shadow rested on the pavement and rocked back and forth.

I hadn’t been on the back porch with anyone since my early 20’s. It was a time that I wished that I could get back and that I had listened to him when he said not to grow so damn fast. God damn him for being right…

Staggering, I came to the door. My heart screamed an pain not felt since the week before. There, by the light of a rising morning sat a bald man with a clean old band t-shirt, a pair of pressed shorts and tanned slippers with white fur on the inside. His hand rested on the green mug as looked over the fence towards the horizon.

It wasn’t until he looked over his shoulder and smiled that I lost everything.

I burst through the door and fell to my knees. His eyes never left me.

“D-Dad? What-what are you-”

“Hey slick, good to see you again. Did you get your coffee?” He took a sip and pat my hand. I shook and cried harder than I ever had. It’s a shame. Even now, I remember hoping that no one else would show up. This was my Dad and it was our time together. I nodded like an idiot. Grabbing my cup, I sat down next to him.

Not a word was spoken for about five minutes or so. It was a moment in which all the words of all the worlds could’ve been said. Yet they weren’t. Dad was the first to speak.

“Do you know why I’m here and not there?” he said with all the peace in the world. I said nothing. “I figured. It’s okay, pal. That’s what I’m here for. I hope you don’t mind me snagging a cup from you. Green was always my favorite before you snagged that from me.” We both laughed. Mine was more fanatic than I care to admit.

“Son?”

“Y-yeah Dad?”

“Do you think you’re going crazy right now?” I nodded shamefully. “Who knows, you may be. But that’s not for me to say, really. All I know for sure is that you have a long day ahead of you today. Hell, I should know. I have a long life ahead of me and so do you. That’s something that we hold in common, you and I. The only difference is that I can’t change anything that’s in front of me. What’s done is done for good.”

“Dad, I’m..I’m just so sorry. For everything. I knew that it was only a matter of time but I couldn’t tear myself away. Things around here got so god damn busy that I couldn’t think about what I needed to do or who I needed to see. I don’t want you think-”

“I want you to stop right there. I want you to think back to what you just said. How many times did you just say “I” with anything?” This took me back for a second. “See, it’s easy to get caught up in “I’s” as opposed to “We’s” or “Us’s”. Much less, “Them”. But that’s not what I’m here for. I’m not here to make you feel like the worst piece of shit. That’s on you. I want you to do me a favor, son. Can you do that?” My tears were making it hard for me to focus on anything.

“I want you to live. Making the “right” decisions isn’t always the “right” move. Make mistakes and dare to dream for once. Making money is one thing but making a legacy of love and family is something that people can dream of. You can make money doing damn near anything but it’s family and love that come by only once in a while. Love as though your life depends on it and it just might. I’m here because of your love for me, right? I know I’m to be in the ground today but that doesn’t mean I’m dead. I’m not one to get religious on anyone but I do believe in the power of love. I’m not gone, son. I never will be. So long as love is in your heart for someone, they’ll never be dead. I love you bud. Always.”

He sat back and let go of my hand. With a hearty sip of coffee, he sat up. I was blown away. I could feel the heat of the morning fading into a blistering afternoon. My wife was walking down the hall trying to put her earrings.

“Honey? Where are you?” she appeared in the doorway with a black dress on. “Baby, you got to get up. What are you doing out here?” The green cup was empty except for a dirty brown ring that was dried at the bottom. The chair that Dad had been sitting in was empty. Not even an indention in the seat.

An hour long trip trying to get the family moving, I couldn’t help but feel the tension in the car. They were waiting for me to burst but they didn’t hear my conversation with Dad.

By the time we had made it to the church, I noticed among the black crows sat a white dove on the electric wire. It looked at me the whole way into the church filled with people donned in black. Funny, I still remember thinking how odd it was to be smiling throughout the entire service. I remember laughing by the time was diverting away from the service and moving into a church sermon. There was something I couldn’t help but think about and it rang in my Dad’s tone.

“Hell, it was more a sermon than a service. If I wanted a church service, I’d say we dump the poor bastard in the ground and get on to praising God like you obviously want to do.”

The wooden carriage was lowered into the ground and we listened to the open road on the way back. I had a vice-grip on my wife’s hand as tears silently went down my cheek. I wasn’t too sad though. We had made it back to the house but I shouted for the kids to meet me in the kitchen. I asked them to put their phone away and to sit with me on the back porch and talk. Obviously they were hesitant at first. Hell, I was too when Dad had said the same thing.

We talked onto the night before we made our way back into the house that day.

I just remember leaving the green mug on the end table and the chair facing the east open.

Coffee and Jazz on a Southern Summer Morning

Hello my friends, Brandon King here with another rambling session on this Monday morning.

So I’m attempting to perform an experiment and, as my friends, I’d like you to come with me. The experiment is simple as it is fascinating. Hell, if you’d like to join in the conversation, you’re more than welcome to. The more the merrier, as they say.

Every morning, I would like to sit at this laptop and write my thoughts for the day. Here’s the catch, I want them to be unfiltered and all too true.

This will be a challenge of some sorts because, as we can all admit, we edit what we say on a regular basis. For the most part, there aren’t too many people that simply vomit what they think anymore. Not saying that’s a good thing; it’s just a fact. The fact of the matter is that I don’t want to do that anymore.

There comes a point that something can become so edited in the world that it almost becomes unrecognizable from the original. Like a bad face lift or a back-handed compliment.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “Shouldn’t people be honest all the time?”

You’re absolutely right. This idea also belongs in the same reality that we all agree and racism has ended, sexism has been done for some time and Republicans and Democrats meet in the street to praise freedom from and by government.

See what I mean?

Truth be told, we all want to be truthful all  the time. But think about this: When was the last time you told a white lie to someone? How long has it been since you’ve lied to yourself about something you knew to be true all along?

Believe me, it happens more often than you’d care to mention.

Yet, here I stand. Well more like sit down at this desk and write. Hence the coffee and the 1930’s jazz playing in the background. These words, these thoughts are all the first things that come to mind and all I want is just to be as real as real can be.

As I wrote that, I couldn’t help but have my old professor’s voice in my head. “If I’ve taught you people nothing, it’s this: First drafts are crap.” Professor Lippert would stand with his hands on his hips and preach this on almost a bi-weekly basis. Listen, the guy has some merits to that phrase.

But here’s where I disagree.

I think there’s something to be said about a first draft. It’s an unfiltered, unrefined product of the human intellect. A product of willful creativity. There’s something innately beautiful about that.

Don’t get me wrong, we all want something to be perfect to the best that it can be. However, let me propose a different perspective. Think about it like this: all the greatest people understood the rules and broke them all.

William Shakespeare did it with almost all of his plays.

Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger did it with their writing styles.

Leonardo da Vinci did with his scientific and medical practices.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did it with technological advances.

So why can’t you? Why can’t we do the same by being different?

If you’ve read any book from the past 100 years, you’ll understand an old phrase that’s been said since you were young. You know, the one that a disgruntled employee along with a mother of 3 kids all say in unison.

“Just the same shit, different day.” This saying always gets me.

If you get the same shit, different day, I’d change something. Call me old fashioned, shit never had a good taste to it.

See? Society has been dealing with the same problems just in different variations since we evolved from apes. Truly, the epitome of the shit-to-day ratio.

There’s got to be something to life that we simply aren’t understanding. Does it have to do with the masses or the individual?

I think the thing that gets me about people as a whole is that we all will pit each other against one another about issues that can be solved by logic. And, in the next breath, we all unite under issues that don’t matter.

Let me provide an example of what’s going on right now.

You have a government fighting about health care and whether it should be under what Obama’s administration had created or should it be taken away for something else. When, in all reality, healthcare shouldn’t be an issue that is backed by money.

Healthcare isn’t a capitalist gain. Healthcare is a human rights issue.

The government is locked in disagreement because one is backed by a red R and the other is backed by a blue D.

While all this going on, last night, I received three texts over the separation of actor Chris Pratt and actress Anna Faris. Not to mention the news reports all across the media boards about it. The nation unified in this sense of mourning over this charismatic couple.

No, I’m not saying that the ending of the marriage isn’t sad. What I’m saying is that, no offense, there’s more pressing issues at hand.

I have a theory as to why we do this. Perhaps it has to deal with our willingness to deal with what’s in front of us. Thankfully, we’re all wired different from the get-go. Some of us want to tackle what’s in front of us head-on while some want to let it linger until the right time. Hell, there’s some people that won’t touch it at all.

Can we say, as a society, that we’re an evolving society if we’ve dealt with the same issues that we’ve always dealt with? I mean, we have made progress towards battling things like homophobia, racism and sexism but they aren’t gone entirely.

Will they ever? Who knows. I’ve said it before that it will never be eliminated but I think I’m wrong. Maybe it won’t be in your lifetime or mine but I have faith in people to see the absurdity in it all.

Have you ever thought of what the future might think of us in hindsight? Like when we laugh at people who thought that race-mixing was a sin against God? Or when we’re confused as to why a radical man in Germany could blame all the wrongs of the world on one race of people?

Who knows, maybe they’ll think of us a naive and narrow-minded too. Unless we further progress and further change.

Thank you for reading, my friends. See you tomorrow bright and early  in the morning.

Until next time,

Brandon King

Reality of the Abyss

I walked through the doorway of the church, the feeling of unwelcomed civility poured over me in an overwhelming downpour. People from my left and right shuffled their heavy feet past me to make their way into the main corridor. The sunlight from the east poured into the stained glass spraying dues of purple and gold across the carpeted floor of the church. It rang true and righteous against that peppered grey floor and the light wood of the pews that were as bare as the day they were made. The different shades of black wandered throughout the decreasing space of the octagonal church and were hugging and embracing the unfortunate few that were high above the rest. The cascading walls formed into a beige pyramid and highlighted the massive mahogany cross that sat at the end of the room. Below the cross was a shimmering laminated box covered in flowers and bright colors. Pictures of a past time were planted all around the casket that sat in the front of the room. I stood motionless in the doorway but no one seemed to mind my stalling nature. The lid of the casket revealed a white billowy cotton to comfort the shell of the person that lies there before us all. On the right side of the room sat an overwhelming organ with an impatient little woman at the helm of it all. Her anticipating foot tapped incessantly on the ground as she watched the waves upon waves of people clash against the front where the family resided. One horde after the other, each group of vultures hunched their shoulders further and further down to show their enthusiastic sympathy. It was disgusting, really? Perhaps I’m biased, seeing how it was family, after all.

A sudden nudge internally pushed me forward into the sea of sorrow that awaited us all. A cornucopia of black sundresses and grey dress suits lined the sides of church as they congregated with one another after consoling the forever sad family in their darkest times. No doubt to judge this ornate ordeal with the other services that they had been ethically obligated to attend. The peculiar thing that seemed to catch my eye were simply the faces that emerged from the crowd. One after the other, faces from my distant past and recent all the same appeared in the chaos of all the glum to show their support. Those that ignored the occasional greeting whenever it was possible…those that only claimed to know me from “That one time…” What a touch of nostalgia it was to see their face. A blend of happiness and resentment twisted and turned until it was something that I could recognize: nostalgia. We could have sat together and reminisce until we became another show-boating corpse in front of a room but, what would be the point? It would bring us right back to where we had originally started and intended to stop. I shook my head and pressed forward through the crowd. With each step I took, the people before me shifted their weight back and forth and I was able to pass through them with little resistance. Through all the turmoil, I found my crying mother and my red-faced father huddled together. Her beautiful blonde hair straightened and strained as she uselessly held back the tears that flowed seamlessly from her puffy eyes. Stoic and bitterly humble, my father’s face was shaggy with a stiff five o’clock shadow as he held my mother firmly in his strong arms. They reluctantly greeted the lines of sympathy-sucking parasites that formed on either side of our dying family. It was disgusting. It was beautiful. After a few moments of hearing the cliché ramblings of sympathies and lying regrets, I could not stomach it any longer.

“What on Earth could you be talking about? None of you…I’m sorry, maybe a solid quarter of you bothered enough to check on him while he was here with us!” I yelled as loud as I could but it made no matter, their faces remained the same solemn stone as before. I knew they could hear me though…perhaps it was my thoughts. I know they can be stronger than what I say for most of the time. I glanced quickly enough to see a man in a baggy suit standing close to the open casket while he had his had rested on the hand of the person that lie motionless in their eternal bed. My eyes could not take me to look at who might be lying there. Not yet…I glanced over to see who showed their sympathy and it was enough for me to question all of the reality that rested before my own soul. No…

The organ bellowed from the side of the room and the herds of people shuffled silently to their designated place. I remained motionless in stupor as all who I watched sit before me. Sobs and sniffles rang from time to time in open corridors of the house of the Lord. I went to sit next to my family and my brother but there was no seat left for me to sit down with them. Not a seat left in the place. A crowd of those faces both distant in my past and near, collaborated together to remember the shell that lies behind me. My head swiveled round once I heard the woman behind me clear her stuffy throat to speak to the masses. I stood stupefied.

She spun a poetic web of lies that se was told only days before about the life that was once lived by the plastic-like corpse in the room. I will admit that, though beautiful, it was all a myth of a life that was once wished to live. How unfortunate do the unfortunate do the unfortunate feel and the fortunate feel motivated thus. In her spurring on and on, a hand rose from the casket in a creaking motion. My eyes glued to the bony limb that was dressed as formally as one could be to an unexpected turn of events. I glanced back and forth but none seemed to mention nor notice the supernatural. It was I and I alone.

The body raised itself from the clutches of the polished cotton and silk of it’s’ bed. A widows peak touched the top of the head and those navy blue eyes glared into my soul making it scrunch in cowardice. The once prominent smile had faded into a malice that could only be foretold as the mark of the condemned. I knew that smirk all too well…The heavy ring around it’s’ neck pulsed heavily in the iridescent lighting of the church. Pulse after pulse, the throat gorged out and the finger of the body before me pushed me forward. I shook my head quickly in disbelief. I fell to my knees and the gravity of my heart fell heavily to the floor. The soullessness, the death in its eyes were that of innocent depression and disillusioned happiness. I knew it all too well. The glimmer in its eyes was gone entirely and it sucked me in unknowingly. As much as I fought, as much as I struggled, Death is such a convincing thief. It gripped me by the ankles and drug my into the coffin with it. My lungs hurt from all the hoarse screams that erupted from my lifeless body. Mortality, Death by short, caressed me in the darkness of the now closed coffin. The pulsing of its neck beat against the top of my head as I rested my head against his chest. He whispered my name and I knew in that instance.

All lost, all forgotten…it all belongs to him now. All of it wasted in the flickering wind of opportunity abandoned to eternal fate. What a reality of the abyss.

An Open Letter to President Trump

To President Trump,

 

My name is Brandon Tyler King and I’m a 23 year old college student that lives in Yukon, Oklahoma. I sit at my desk writing this letter battling every single urge to stop writing what I believe. Truth be told, I’ve written and rewritten this letter to you multiple times without the courage to back up the meanings behind it.

However, the time for doubt has passed.

So here I am on attempt five writing this letter in hopes that it reaches your desk and, in some capacity or another, you read and listen to what I have to say.

This all stemmed from your Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she decided to read a letter from a 9 year old child nicknamed Pickles to fill the time of the press meeting. I felt as though that it was pretty genius of an attempt to appeal to the children of the nation riding on the opinions of their parents. Truth be told, it might have worked better if your entire office wasn’t surrounded by scandals. But you inspired me, Mr. President. If Pickles might have some time for you, perhaps so can I.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, I am not here to tell you about all the things you’ve done wrong. I’m not here to ridicule, mock or shout in anger about the things that your administration has done.

That being said, I’m not here to congratulate and celebrate either.

Something that I learned a while ago was that to love something, you should be able to criticize and question it. I’m here as a regular commoner to a notably accomplished man to express my regards to the country that I love so much.

THE STATE OF THE GOVERNMENT

Being 23 years old, I realize that my words might not be held with the same weight of a more experienced adult. That’s fine by me. In all honesty, it just means that every word, every sentence will have to mean something. No matter what happens when all is done, I will be heard.

I learned early in my childhood that the lessons of history are things that need to be learned. What’s the point in recreating the same mistakes that people before us did? One thing that only few leaders in our history have ever come to realize is that the government is only as strong as the people that it governs.

Living in this country my entire life, I have seen some of the brighter days and I have seen the faces of terror that makes Americans shiver even now. Never once have I been disappointed in my country until the beginnings of the campaign season in 2016. Now, allow me to express that the entire fault doesn’t fall on you. People on both sides of the aisle are to blame for it all. Let me explain that each of you on Capitol Hill have forgotten the people in which you represent.

During the campaign, I grew to be hateful of the choices that the American people to choose from. You, Clinton, Cruz, it didn’t matter. It was all different shades of shady connection. To your credit, I can understand why the American people elected you over your opponent. The citizens have become so desperate for change from the bureaucracy of government that they were willing to turn anywhere instead of the circle that we’d been driving in since memory could remember. You threw the people’s flag on your shoulders and claimed to be the straight-shooting, deal-making leader from the pack instead from the elite.

Perhaps you still think of yourself in this way. That’s the funny thing about looking at yourself in the mirror: we often see the person that we believe ourselves to be instead of what the truth is.

Over the 191 days that you’ve been in office, along with the campaign season, you’ve accomplished something that maybe you’ve always wanted. You have our attention but I’m not convinced that this is the best thing.

To start, let’s travel back to the campaign and go to now. Something that I’ve noticed is that you often revel in those days even as you’re in office. There’s no denying that you and your team have an uncanny ability to control the eyes of the media. It’s how you created this craze for yourself that worries me for this country.

We’ve been so dependent on drama. Without it, it fades into the back pages of anything newsworthy. It goes to an element of narcissism in government that any news must be good news. This mindset is paired with the idea that the will of the people only lives on one of the political aisle. Whether you sport a red R or a blue D, you must admit that this is cancerous.

One thing that the American people can rely on is the consistent media coverage of your administration. The dishonest media that you’ve decided to make the public enemy of the people is something that I don’t believe that the government has anticipated. If anyone on Capital Hill were to take a close look at the document that our entire civilization has held as gospel, perhaps they could learn something.

To quote Thomas Jefferson and our forefathers,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” -First Amendment 

To make an enemy of the media is to make an enemy of the people.

I can understand your frustrations of what people often refer to as the liberal media. It’s the same problem that many of us face on a regular basis. Who are we to trust with our news? Even then, will it be skewed in some way? I’ve taken the approach of reading and watching every news station to decipher what the real news might be. Inevitably, humans are biased and it often comes down to personal belief every now and then. But you refer to the media as fake news and dishonest media even during times of honest journalism.

I find it odd that only now is it called “fake news” when the spotlight is on you. Maybe you could have wished to have the same spotlight on President Obama’s birth certificate or Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

But I digress.

It’s as though each half of the government has a large paintbrush. While one side paints the canvas white, the other will color it black. Each side will claim to have the answer and argue when the other disagrees. What they cannot seem to understand that the answers lie in the drips of grey paint that drip to the floor of Congress. Life was never made by the blacks and whites but by the muddy, unclear aspects of grey.

The problems of the United States goes further than your office. It’s been an issue that’s been riding on the shoulders of those who live in this nation. Partisan politics will be the death of democracy. By the time we realize that all of our problems could have been solved by listening to the other side and finding a compromise, it might be too late.

Mr. Trump, you have the opportunity to start this change. Will you take the chance?

The State of President Trump

The American people elected an outsider to clean up the swamp of government and to right the wrongs done by previous administrations. There is no doubt that each presidency has had its faults. Then again, when has there ever been a flawless presidency? People strove for change and change is what they received.

It’s not until the times that we live in that I think people are beginning to see what we have done.

Allow me to explain, Mr. Trump.

Whenever I was a child, I constantly was bullied at school. Being called names and forced to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with was just part of my upbringing. My mouth shut remained shut through all of it, including to my parents, because I had felt that this was just how things were meant to be. It wouldn’t be until I grew out of my shell and educate myself that I realized that what was going on was wrong on all accounts.

This is no exception.

I think what was unsettling about watching your administration drive their way to victory through the elections was how eerily similar it was to my childhood. Calling your opponents childish games, saying radical things to gain attention and demoralizing anyone you disrespected…I knew that face all too well.

I’m not angry with you, Mr. Trump. How can I be angered by a man who is a product of the environment of the world that he grew up in? Born with a platinum spoon in your mouth a small inheritance of 14 million dollars, I understand where you were raised from. The needs of the every-man can seem foreign to you.

Something that I vowed to do is to speak the truth and I will when I tell you that there are plenty of members in my family that voted for you. No, I don’t think any less or more of them for it. However, either side has expressed that they aren’t being heard at all anyway. The only difference is that I’ve heard you loud and clear.

  • Calling Mexicans rapists and criminals
  • Making fun of a disabled reporter
  • Saying John McCain isn’t a war hero because he was a POW
  • Discrediting a Muslim American solider and his family
  • Calling on Russia to hack Hillary’s emails
  • Banning Muslims with a legalized travel ban
  • Criminalizing the press
  • Accusing Megyn Kelly of menstruating
  • Lying about crowd size of your inauguration.
  • Lying about meeting with Russians
  • Banning transsexual soldiers from serving in the military
  • Attempting to repeal the A.C.A without a reliable replacement

Does that sound about right?

I understand that I briefly went over some of the blemishes on your record but, don’t worry, it’s done now. I promised that earlier and I’m nothing but a man of my own word.

I could go into the logistics of your decisions and tell you how each of these moments during your presidential limelight were wrong. I could but what would be the point? Each media outlet, aside from what you subscribe to, has done this to death. What it comes down to is the American people and your willingness to look past yourself and realize that we ride on your decisions. Like it or not, you are the Commander-In-Chief. I respect only the office that you represent and that is far as my allegiance will go.

Society works by each member taking a step towards the future. Your administration, despite what the American people have protested, has taken steps back into the past. It’s not that I don’t understand why it’s happening. There’s not a doubt in my mind that you spent half your life doing what every single one of us have done and complain about the government and  talked about what we would do if we were in that position. The difference between you and I is that you went into the belly of the beast only to realize that you might be more destructive than the beast itself.

Mr. Trump, in the 1980’s and 90’s you were the undisputed king of New York and there wasn’t a person alive that didn’t respect you as a successful businessman. Your ego and your aspirations wouldn’t allow you to stop and you took a swing at the presidency. With the same tactics that you used to become successful in the first place, you made your way to the office.

Yet, you must be wondering why the people resent you so much.

Must it be the dishonest media? Could it be leakers that poke holes in your sinking ship? Possibly…but there is one person that you haven’t looked for: You.

And So We Rise 

You ran on the campaign promise to Make America Great Again and I believe, in some way, you will. However, I don’t think it will be with you at the helm.

The American people wanted someone who spoke their mind and I cannot say that I blame them. What they ended up electing was a man that was a product of a time long passed. To think, back in the 1950’s, you might have passed as a president to be looked back at with the fondness that only history can provide.

Unfortunately, we’re in the thick of it all. I can understand that you’re most likely feeling the pressures of the world that you didn’t quite understand surrounding you. In all fairness, most employees think about their current employer the same way. The way that says that, if only they could get there, they could do it better than he or she ever could.

Where it all comes down to is that the people of the government and you, Mr. President, have been out of touch with reality long enough that most motions in government lack any logical sense to the rest of us.

I won’t ask you to change who you are and I won’t plead with you to act more presidential. All I ask that you remind yourself that you represent the rest of us. Every time you do anything, ask yourself if this is the best interest of the people. If the answer is anything but an absolute yes, then reconsider.

The last thing I ask of you is to respect the people of the world. Just because it doesn’t align with everything you think, that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. Be open to criticism and be our leader for the people; not the leader for yourself.

By any chance that you decide to neglect what I have said or asked of you, I can understand. There are people that will never be okay with constructive criticism and that aligns with the tolerance that great people such Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abigail Adams have always held throughout history. If this is the case and we’ve hit that point then may I propose one more option.

Resign the office of Presidency and allow someone who will act on behalf of the American people in their best interest.

Understand, Mr. Trump, that this nation is one of the most resilient places on Earth. Since our founding, we have trudged through the thick of hell and come out to live on the other side. We have risen and moved forward with each step in history. This is a concept that I would hope that you and the rest of the people are wanting to go to. I understand that the future can be a terrifying thing to embrace but progress was never easy. Remember that the American people will always rise to the occasion when it comes to it.

We rose in the American Revolution.

We rose in building a nation from nothing.

We rose in the Civil War and defeated slavery.

We rose from multiple deaths in office.

We rose by the means of many Civil Rights Movements.

We rose through the corruption of President Nixon and Watergate.

We rose through each war we’ve ever fought.

Mr. Trump, so too shall we rise above this.

 

Thank you for your time and God bless the United States of America,

Brandon King

Lessons for an Unlearned Man

If you knew that you were about to experience something that would change your life, would you act any differently?

I’ve had this thought weighing in my mind all day and it’s one of those things that never leaves you until you deal with it. So here I am, at 9 p.m. with a fresh cup of coffee and the will to write.

It’s funny…even as I sit here thinking about what to write, I can hear my professor’s voice in my head. “Don’t try to impress people with how you think they’d want to hear it,” he said. “Quit sounding like you swallowed a dictionary and write how you speak. The rest will come to you. You have a voice, I promise.”

So here goes everything I have, sir.

There’s this need to want to start this out by saying that one of the things that I can’t stand at all is the unnecessary need for cliches. It’s as though we use them so that people can easier understand what we’re trying to say. That being said, I don’t think we need them.

Cliches are bullshit. Plain as vanilla.

No, I won’t go as far as to say that, “Oh, you learn something new every day, eh?” Hell, if you’ve chosen to read my work, I refuse to do that to you. It’s not right for either one of us, really.

However, I need to make something clear. Although this is going to sound selfish, I must say this so that we’re all on the same path.

I never write for anyone other than myself. I’ve had it in the past which someone asks me to write them a story of some sort and, in the end, it’s garbage. There is a difference being inspired and telling someone telling you what to do.

That’s what separates monkeys from magicians.

Back to the main point. If you knew that something was going to happen, would you change anything? Would you brace yourself for what was to come? Perhaps anxiety would kick in, making you feel as though dread were driving your thoughts all along?

Or would you let it be?

That’s something that always makes me smirk. “Well damn, if i would’ve known about that, I could’ve done something different.” Sound familiar? Don’t feel too much self-pity; we all  have said this every now and again. But why?

Why do we just assume that things would be better if we knew what the hell was coming down the pipe at all times? So we can counteract it with something we might think would be better off?

You see, for every tragedy we avoid, we possibly avoid a miracle.

That’s my motto.

There’s something about these life moments that define us all if we just take a second and let it soak in. The problem with age is that our minds get too full of wasteful nonsense that doesn’t matter.

Maybe the idea behind life is to take all that comes your way and decipher what is shit and what is sacred.

You might be wondering one of two things at this point: What’s up with the title of this piece? When are we going to get the message you’re trying to say?

If you’d be patient, I’ll promise you the moon and the man inside. The issue with people, most of the time, is that they’re too impatient to get what they came for. Not my own idea, just something I picked up along the way.

I’m 23 years old at the time of this post and I have much to learn. That sentence was probably the most burdening thing I’ve written all day; however, so, so true.

But why I’ve had this thought of change came about while I going through some old writing pieces of mine. I must admit, I sound like such a pretentious ass. Regardless, it brought me back to moments that I hadn’t thought of in years. Which, oddly enough, brought about an idea that I don’t think we understand until it’s too late.

The idea that everything I am, everything I’ve chosen to be, is because of these people. I cannot and will not list all the names who have had minor impacts. Frankly, I don’t have the time nor the patience for it all.

As you read this, I hope, my fellow reader, that maybe you will think of the people in your life. Have they helped you understand life more? Have they shown you something that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise? For your sake, I hope so.

Allow me, if you would.

Mom, Dad and my brother Austin: There isn’t enough data storage on this WordPress blog for me to fully show my appreciation for you all. It’s not often that a man can find himself in a home that, no matter what has happened, he feels welcome. From my time of being the definition of an introvert to the person who can’t keep his mouth shut, you’ve always been there. To teach me to be educated in anything I believe in, to show me that love in all people exist, to prove to me that you must stand for what you believe…all this and more than what time may tell, I thank you. There isn’t a day on Earth that I won’t think of you 3 and thank God that I have you all.

It would be easy to just amount all the efforts to luck or just experience but we all grew up together. Right or wrong, we dealt with what the world had as one. You showed me what courage was in the face of adversity. You pushed me to become the man that sits at this keyboard and types what lies behind his heart.

Without you all, I am nothing.

Haleigh: I know what you’re probably thinking by now. “I can’t believe he tagged me in this,” right? Well, get seated sunshine. This one’s for you. You’re my everything, through and through. From the moment we met to the minutes we are apart, you’ve taught me that there is no type of hope like the hope of someone you love to live for. Love is one of those sadistic, sweet things that one can only hope to experience in life. It will make you want to write something that Shakespeare would be impressed by while, in the very next moment, make you wonder if you’re no more than two steps to the psych ward. You’ve shown me what it’s like to love someone more than I ever could have loved myself. Truly babe, you’re what poets and playwrights prayed for.

All the times I spend day-dreaming, I think of you. You know as well as I that I dream far more than what a regular man should. There just hasn’t been a person who I am more open, more humble, and simply better because I’m around them. I try to avoid cliches while I’m with you but even as I type this, I can’t help but fall. I guess that’s due to the fact that love-lit writers like myself have gotten to it first. What they cannot take away is the way you make me live for just another day with you. For that, I love you always.

My family: This one is much like jamming your hand into a bag of trail mix. Most of it is tasty until you hit a cashew or two. You know what I mean, I hope. My family, all together, are the ones that make you believe in love and hate. They allow you to see the difference between acceptance and tolerance. I love them all for showing me that it’s natural to coexist with points that either make you think or make you think about throwing them out of a window. Either way, at least you learned. Or, at least, I hope you did.

Karen Workun: The summer of 2010 was one of the roughest periods my life has ever encountered. My Dad was thrown off a golf cart into a dry, concrete ravine 10 feet deep. He was in a come for a week and a half. The doctors had no hesitation in telling us that it would be unlikely that he would make it. Even if he did, there would be no telling that his brain functionality would be the same. Fast forward 7 years today and I wished him a happy 46th birthday over the phone. Going back to that time, I remember my Mom wrote on a letter to my teachers that I had experienced this so that I might be a bit spacious in class. What I didn’t have the courage to tell her was that my spacious nature had nothing to do with that summer. Either way, my junior year was the first time that a teacher changed my life.

First period AP English with Mrs. Workun.

Karen, I’ve expressed probably more than I should how much you’ve impacted my life but there is part of me that will never stop thanking you. Before that time, there was no sense of direction. Hell, the best thing I could have hoped for was to be a failed writer. Before that class, I tried not to show my writing with anyone other than those that I trusted would keep it a secret. You showed me that it was acceptable to be humble and that you should be proud to be intelligent. Regular documentary showings after school coupled by allowing people to form their own opinions of the world…it was inspiring. More to the point, you were the first teacher to tell me that my writing was worth something. You told me to keep writing and to never stop. In a way, I’ve held to that.

Mandee Chapman-Roach: Where would I be without the teachings of this wonderful woman? Probably off wondering a library somewhere hoping I had a sense of direction. Right after Mrs. Workun, I had the fortune to bounce to another great English teacher. In this AP class, I won’t lie, there were times that I wanted to rip my hair out and how it to the gods who clearly cursed me. Not for the sake of Mrs. Chapro, however. Mandee, you were one of the only teachers to challenge my ideas and show me that not all my ideas are golden. You trained all of us in my class that, to live in this world, we must think for ourselves. It’s only by the ways of groupthink that we find ourselves in trouble.

Moreover, you were always the one who wanted people who never spoke to be themselves. You taught us that the world should never be painted with such a broad brushstroke of black and white. It’s only in the grey of it all that we may find some answer. You treated our class on  college level and it made all the difference in the world. There was something about treating us like the adults that were to become that made us feel safe around you. In other words, you were more than a teacher. You were our shield against a world well-weathered. You showed us that it’s okay to go against the status-quo and to be yourself. Thank you from all of us, truly.

Professor Scott Carter: My last spot on this page belongs to my latest inspiration. I’ll never forget walking to the back room of OCCC and sitting in this new classroom full of Mac desktops. The class was called “Intro to Journalism” or something like that. I had been contemplating switching majors for my third time but, as it happens, I didn’t know where to turn to. I knew that one of the only talents I had was that I could write better than some and read more than most my age. It was in the back of the class that I saw a man walk to the front of the class in a button-down and slacks. He walked across the room like a king among subjects. The man owned the room and, by god, he knew it. It wasn’t even that he demanded it. He earned it with every word spoken. From the moment I walked in to the minute I left, I was inspired. It was after one of my projects for the class that I saw a red marked paper that said, “Come see me.” I gulped. That was never good.

Except for this one.

We talked for only a minute but he told me something so simple yet it was only by those that I care for that tell me. “I believe in you.” Those words carried me further than any could have hoped for. Since then, I’ve gladly worked for the Pioneer under his supervision. Scott, I can’t thank you enough for continuing to teach me things about myself that I never thought possible. For the first time in my life, you gave me a purpose to pursue an actual career that I wanted more than anything. You’ve taught me that, though I’m learning now, I suck at obscure history. Ladies and gents, that quote about swallowing a dictionary? Yep, you guessed where that came from. Moreover, you’re the first person to give my work some constructive criticism and allow me to improve upon it. You continue to inspire me and I hope that one day you can see my work and know that you had a hand and a half in doing what was made. For this and whatever is to come, thank you sir.

I guess that’s the issue with people: they expect a lesson to come with an announcement. Like there’s some PA system in the sky telling you to shut your mouth and to listen. Until God makes a better sound system, my suggestion would be to listen to everyone and speak less.

Everyone has a lesson to teach someone. It’s up to you whether or not you listen.

Until next time,

Brandon King

Fireside Introverts

The setting of the Southern sun smoothed the clutters of rocks on the lone dirt road. Surrounded by the passing of wild weeds, I could only imagine how easy the idea of getting lost might be. It always was for people like me. The countryside had relics of old brick and wooden homes that had been decimated by time.

I often wondered how long the shells of the lives once lived sat there undiscovered. If you weren’t looking closely, it might be hard to see the rust covered yellow sign. One way or another, it was their property now. They had the money…the power; the things that the people can never have. Not anymore, really.

The bottles clinked in my back seat.

I wanted to drown.

The haze of the red dirt was the shadow of my polished grey car. For a time, I was free. The fading sun and the country critters crept every which way that the eye never saw.

We were all free by it all.

It must have been about ten minutes after pulling off the service road that led home when I realized I was driving for the shaded woods. We were all supposed to meet there where it all happens. While everyone preferred to travel in packs and be absorbed in whatever conversation seemed right at the time, I had widdled my faction down to one. At the time, it was just a hassle. God forbid, we fall for the sickness of affection. It can be as contagious as that damned cancer and just as terminal as a goodbye. What a fool I’ve been…what a wise fool, indeed.

On the cusp of the town that time seemed to forget was a bonfire.

I pulled my humming car into the grass of the open field and next to a few of the other cars left abandoned. I swear to you, you’d think that, next to that Confederate flag and a can of dip, the pick-up truck would be the calling card of the white southerner. The South was always a breeding ground of teen angst that never died. I stepped out of the car while cradling my babies. Sweet and swishing, I could hear the radio over the crackles of the barely tamed fire. I would have turned away for good if it weren’t for a sweet voice that danced on the night air.

“Hey! Yeah, you with the box of booze. Where ya goin’?” My still feet were sinking into the mud. I could feel the grass tickle my bare feet through the black, raggedy flip flops I had on. A shorter, young woman with the curls of dirt blonde hair stood perplexed and alone. It was hard to tell if she was dumbfounded or just downright thirsty. But for what? I must have looked so damn foolish standing in the field with nothing but a few bottles of sweet mistakes. “Hello? You okay?” Her high voice sang through the discomfort.

As if a switch clicked on, I twisted on my heel and smiled in a wide grin. “Only as okay as my insanity will allow me! So I’m assuming this is where this shin-dig is, right?”

Without so much as a smirk, she said, “No, we just like to light the woods on fire from time to time. Gives the town something to talk about instead of their typical crap.”

I couldn’t help it, I laughed. She finally smiled which only made me laugh more. It was a crooked smile but an honest one. “Well, you came to the right place. Everyone’s pretty much here and you’re the last one, I guess. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting you to be here. I know we invite you and stuff, but don’t you always turn us down?”

“Who’s everyone?” She was walking over to give me a hand with the box. I swept it away from her grasp. There was that odd look again from those light hazel eyes of hers. “Oh, don’t worry, I can take the drinks. No need for you to take ‘em or anything like that.”

“What? Because I’m a girl? I’mma big girl, I think I can handle this on my own.” She grabbed two bottles from the front of the box. She had a handle on some cheap, discount vodka and some of my favorite southern whiskey. “I have to say, it’s definitely a sight to see you without your makeup on. This’s gotta be one of the first times, right?

“Yeah, that’s right. And who might you be?”

“I’m the new trapeze artist. I was hired to spice up the life of the show just in case you guys get to be a little too dull for the crowd.”

“Man…really love to hear the confidence in the product.”

There was no comment. “Well…come on in. All the crew is here for the night. You know, until the show starts again.”

“Same time, same station like always.”

“Eh, it’s what pays the bills and keeps me moving. Can’t complain.” Like none of us have heard that before…

She shifted her head towards the bonfire. A lock of hair brushed past her perky, maroon tainted lips as she made her way by the fading light of the day.

I followed.

There, in an opening of patch of a dry brush, sat a cracked porcelain tub filled with rotting firewood. Eight or nine people stood about in two sections of people. They talked lively over whatever spewed from their minds. It took only a second for me to sit the drinks down before I heard the announcement.

“Well, well, well…look who actually showed up to the party? I thought for sure you were gonna ditch out again.” A stocky black man with a wide toothed grin stepped from the crowd that was cluttered next to the log that sat four separate coolers full of liquor and beer alike. Standing a foot taller than I, he wrapped his arms around me and I briefly hugged him back. The rest of the gang was watching me intently. As I felt the pressure, I reared my smile back and let the rest of the world see me for the man that they’d like to see. Him and only him, really. They all smiled back while a few raised their drinks.

“At this point, big boy, if I missed out on any more of these parties, the chemistry of this whole thing would be off. Our shows would turn to shit, we would have to go living off the streets like your mother. I don’t think I could do that anymore.” We shared a laugh and a half together as he patted my steady back.

“Besides that, go grab yourself a drink and make yourself useful.” Now that was something I could obey without an inkling of doubt. I made myself the drink that never seemed to end. Hell, would I want it to? We all shuffled together and let the night rage on. Sip after sip, drink after drink, I could feel the weight of my soul sink to the bottom of the shallow wading pool of whiskey and piss poor beer. It would just be low enough for me to make a mistake or two.

Just enough for me to not give a damn.

Crates of circus equipment were being rifled through as the night went on. The jugglers juggled the women they were deciding on who to take back to their tents. Sounds of crackling country music made the drunk waltz like happy people back in town.

We were drunk but from what first, we were unsure. What’s to be said for sure is that we were free.

The hours passed on and so did we. One by one, the crew found a sleeping bag they had brought with them. Some were in pairs and some crept closer to the edges of the light. I hadn’t bothered in bringing a bag of my own. I wanted to go home at some point. My goodnights were said. I was making my way towards the opening of the woods when I heard the cracks of twigs. By the light of the night stood the trapeze girl.

She was wearing the same white and tan jacket that she had earlier in the night, yet she shivered. She looked up at the star glazed sky and began to whisper. That wasn’t something that I hadn’t seen since…since it had all been so different. I found myself walking towards her and I stopped when I was standing next to her and I looked up at the sky with her. What she was looking at, I’m still not entirely sure. Whatever it must have been, I bet it must have been one hell of a listener. My god did she flinch when she finally realized I was there.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you if I did.” I cleared my throat and tried to remember who I was to her. “But do you always flinch at the clowns? And here I thought you were some big girl or somethin’.” She fell for it.

“No, I just wasn’t expecting you or anyone else to be out here this late. Why-why are you out here?”

“I…umm…I was just about to leave actually.”

“Really? Why?”

“Well…my bed is only about a few miles away from here. Plus, everyone else is already in bed so I’m ready to get the hell outta here. But…why are you up this late?”

“Oh, I can’t sleep. Especially when I’m out here in the woods like this. I don’t know…there’s just something about being out here that makes you feel…”

“Free.” I said about as abruptly as her head swiveling towards me.

“Yeah, free. That’s it.” She looked at me as though for the first time. I grabbed another beer and I sat down with her in the dirt. It was warm from the fire that never seemed to quit.

“Wanna another beer?”

“No, I think I’m good. But…uh, I’ve seen you pack away a few tonight. Do you typically do that or is this some special occasion.”

“Would you like the truth or just a lie?”

She perked her heads towards the fire as she said, “I would take a harsh truth over a sweet lie every single day of my life.”

So, being a gentleman, I gave her both. “Yeah, I’ll drink like this only if I’m out with people I like. But not all the time, you know? It’s usually just to get a laugh or two from people if nothing else.”

She didn’t laugh. Hell, she didn’t even smile. “Why do you do that to yourself?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, why-why do you degrade yourself and constantly be sarcastic around everyone? Don’t you ever get tired of the same old thing over and over again?”

I giggled for a second. “Look, you have no idea how true that it is. Over and over again…that’s my damn life. You wouldn’t get it even if I told you the whole story.”

“I don’t need to know your whole story, clown. I just need to know who you are. No giggles, no gimmicks; just you.”

“Why? Why now? This seems very out of left field if you ask me.”

“Because, in my mind, people don’t speak their mind the way that they need to. They put on some show and some mask to please people because they’re too afraid to show who they are. They’re terrified that it’ll be against everything everyone believes in and no one would understand so why the hell bother in the first place. Is that right or am I wrong on that too?”

“Fuck…” I took a swig of my beer. I had to leave the conversation in the dead ground where it rightfully belonged. “What were you whispering to yourself? Before I showed back up, you were whispering something. What was it?”

“Have you never prayed before?” It was such a thing to say. But she was right. Had I actually prayed before or had I just thought really hard about something I wanted.

“I think so,” I said.

“Well…I was praying for the people I care for and for me to find some semblance of a purpose in this life.”

“My god, aren’t you some sort of a philosopher.” This made her laugh enough that she had to stifle it quickly.

“No…I just think. Something I don’t think happens quite enough anymore.”

“If you ask me, I don’t think people aspire to do anything anymore. You know? Just from one thing to the next without a direction of a higher goal. Or maybe I’m just conceited after all.”

“Hey clown,”

“Please don’t call me that…” This took her by surprise.

“What do you want to be called? As far as I know, that’s all I’ve ever heard you be called.”

“Heard…I-I just want to be heard. And free.”

“Why don’t you be that then?”

“Eh…It’s always easier said than done, isn’t it? It’s easy to say that you want things to change and that they will but you have to put in the work to do it and what if it doesn’t work?”

“Pessimism was always easier than being an optimist, just know that. It’s more about what price do you need to pay to get it. Is it worth it to you?”

I left her and everyone that night in the hands of the jungle woods. It was the next morning that I woke with the shouts of a new day.

As I made my way to the carnival, I looked at the inside of the tent on the hill. There she hung by the trapeze of the business she became famous for. Would it be a matter of time before I hung by just being content? I put my makeup on the tear stained mirror of my dressing room and plastered that fucking smile like a professional.

 

Writer’s Block: Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Walking along the ferns that sat on the wayside of the lonely asphalt road waltzed a chipper man in the prime of his life. His swayed hair had a sheen to it but nothing that could compare to the teeth-filled grin that rose like the sun with each step. The sun was poking through tiny spots that the surrounding elms would allow. If it wasn’t the sounds of the robins chirping in the bird houses, it was the sounds of boat crashing through the tides that called my name with each swish of the wind. It was heaven on Earth. To hell with Eden, this was mine. Say what you will, at least mine didn’t have some fruit that no one was supposed to go near.

I could hear the patter of his bare feet as he avoided the shreds of pine cones that had been scattered across the street. A small curse could be heard whenever his foot finally found one near the gate. We had made consistent eye contact the whole time. But I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that it was almost out of disbelief of the things that he had seen. In all fairness to the man, I hadn’t seen him, or anyone come to think of it, for a little over a year and a half. A half-assed excuse here and a pure ignoring there, time passed as it passes all: faster as the ages go by. The iron-gate creaked open and the man in the thin blue and black t-shirt and wrinkled cargo shorts stopped in the tracks of my car. “Get in you crazy son of a bitch! Don’t think I won’t run you over!” I yelled at him. He hobbled to the passenger door and opened it. I had just enough time to realize what he was about to find. There was nothing I could do. To my surprise, he smirked at this.

“So…are these for the rest of the class?”

“Yeah man, of course. What? You think I could drink all of that on my own? My skinny ass would be drowning before I could hit the thought of alcohol poisoning.” I laughed nervously. He didn’t seem to catch it as he passed into his lap as he plopped into the seat. He looked around at the interior of the car as I pulled forward before the gate could close.

“Well, well, well,” he said surprised. “Looks like little Charlie’s doin’ alright for himself. Last time I saw you, you were driving that red…um. You know what I’m talking about.”

“The red Ford Taurus with the broken AC and the hanging right side mirror. Oh yeah, I remember her.”

He belted an excited laugh. “My God, how long did it take you by the time I left before you finally put her down like the Old Yeller she was?” He had left in the summer of ’14. It was one of the hardest moments of my life to see him leave but there was not a chance in hell that I would, or could, ever let him see the cracks in my gilded smile. This time, however, it was realer than ever. He pointed to the left of the rose covered island that sat a weeping willow in full bloom. Bees tickled across the pedals and shot through the sky towards the rocky shore. I could hear the soft waves caress the rocks below just fifty feet away from me.

“I think it must’ve been about the second promotion whenever I finally gave her up for this young lady.” I stroked the wheel and pulled into the two car driveway of the third house on the right in the cul-de-sac that overlooked the eastern side of the lake. “But hey, not all of us could be big shot chefs. Tell you what, you only cooked if I ever asked you to cook anything. I almost feel cheated.” He looked at the solitary bag and then looked back at me.

“How long are you planning on staying? This doesn’t look like too much. Did you not pack enough?”

“Nah, I packed just the right amount. I’m staying as long as you and Mom and Dad are staying with Elie and Steve.”

“Geez, man, you’ve never been good at planning. We just made it a few days ago and we’ll be here til the end of the weekend. You can borrow one of my shirts but it might be bit big for you. It’ll be alright though, right?” I nodded. “Good. And hey, they’re all really looking forward to seeing you. I’ll try to protect you as much as I can from the bloodhounds while I cook for ya. Yeah, don’t give me that look. The minute they heard you were coming by, they sorta broke their promise to not have me cook and made me cook your favorite.”

“You’re kidding? Well, in that case, I’d like some mac n cheese with those ribs, please.” I smirked at him and we both snickered.

“Don’t push your luck, jackass. Just do me a favor, would ya?”

“Anything, pal.”

There was a still moment in the car between him and I. These moments were so real, so rare that I wanted to have each moment pass by like a page of a novel. “Don’t…don’t let it be another year or so until we see you again. I don’t say it a lot but…but I miss ya. They’re killing me with details about you. If I’d talked with you or any shit like that. And I know you’re working on your book and busy with work but c’mon, we’ll always be there for you. Promise?”

How could I have said no to that? I would have eventually but not now. Not here. “I promise. You ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” He grabbed the bottles of booze in each hand and I threw the duffel over my right shoulder and made my way to the screen door. A Margaritaville decoration of a drunken parrot hung on the doorway and it shook as we opened the door. The cool rush of the AC hit me as soon as I made my way through the threshold of my home away of home. It didn’t hit me as nearly as abruptly as the rushed embrace of two strong arms wrapping themselves around me with little hesitation. Before I knew it, my back was thrust to the edge of the narrow white entryway as my sweet Mother tightened her grip with boa strength. It made me laugh as I wretched my arms just enough out her grasp to hug her back.

The streams of tears were trickling down her reddening, tanned face. I kissed her on the cheek and hugged her again. There was no amount of clichéd sayings and small talk that could describe the love. She finally let go and gazed into my glossing eyes. “I’m so happy you’re here, honey…I couldn’t have prayed for a better thing to happen.” Her smile turned into a devilish grin as she smacked me in the arm. “And that’s for making me wait all this time to simply see my son! My own son!”

“Well, it’s good to know that the Jewish mother routine hasn’t flown out the window quite yet. I’m actually more shocked that you can carry that waxed cross of yours inside this house. Truly, it’s astounding.” Both laughing, we walked through the home. Everything was the same. The one man hallway to the left of the entryway that led to two bedrooms and the master bedroom. And to the right opened a living room, kitchen, and dining room set all to the colors of crème and baby blue. Antique oars hung across the bows of the door and the scent of sandalwood permeated throughout the home. The sliding glass door to the wooden patio was wide open so that the breeze came swimming to greet us. I didn’t know how I deserved such a beauty, but I must have died right then.

Mom hadn’t changed in the slightest. Well, aside from being a little more neurotic but I think that comes from years of dealing with a family such as ours. You know, the loud, way-too-opinionated sort? My type of people, nevertheless. She had a mad little giggle about her. It was giddy and her shoulders shrugged as she smiled unabashedly. She had been stern, but she was one of the kindest people I had ever come to know. You could tell by just looking at her smile. She just gave you that sense that the world could never give truthfully: that everything was going to be alright in the end.

“Oh Charlie, there’s so much to tell. Shit, I don’t even know where to begin on any of it. Um…” My mom had always been one of those people that her mind was so sharp that it was easy for the stream of consciousness to drip off the edge so that she wouldn’t remember where she was going with it.

“I usually like to start at the beginning. But, hey, I’m old fashioned like that.” Like I said, I really can’t help myself when it comes to being a natural born smart-ass.

“It’s good to see that you haven’t changed.” Her hair was still damp from the lake. You could smell the lake that clung to her. “I’m just happy that you were able to make it to the lake. Teddy told us that you weren’t going to be able to because of work. I thought it was a little ridiculous, what with it being Labor Day and all.” Here’s where I need to come clean. In the history of mankind and all of its’ infinite stories to tell, I cannot tell a wrong one. I am, by far, the world’s worst at lying to anyone. I can’t tell if it’s the blood that rushes to my ears and cheeks or the rapid breaths that pump my chest like an old steam engine but they always tell the truth I wish wouldn’t be.

“Yeah, they were being the worst but I was able to…to pull a few strings. I got it taken care of.” I was glancing around the room the entire time I was spouting every speck of bullshit. She was a bloodhound and, now, she was catching a whiff.

“Well, that’s good, right? And what about school, huh? How’s school going?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her at the moment that I had absolutely begun to loathe my classes. They all had to do with computer programming and I was playing the war of attrition with the subject in hopes that I would learn to like it and make money in the process. That’s the name of the game in society, isn’t it? To get paid while slaving away in some sense of the word? I’ll admit, that was a touch of pure cynicism but I won’t take it back. It wasn’t that I was a technological caveman banging away at a keyboard senselessly; I was adequate but it was arbitrary. There was no way to properly answer her without sounding like a complete sellout and phony. I’m just thankful that I didn’t have to say a word. The loud crash of plates that hit the stainless steel gave Mom just enough time to jump in shock and curse at Teddy who had made it back from the car.

“Sorry, that really wasn’t my intention,” said Teddy. “But, hey, I always did like a good entrance. Ta-da?” He half-heartedly flung his hands out in a week jazz-hand maneuver. He had just grabbed an icy beer from the beat up blue cooler and was about to pop the top whenever Mom quickly snatched it out of his hand. There was a look of astonishment that came across his face but not as much whenever she popped it herself and began to drink. “Mom, what the hell? Get your own!” he said laughing.

“Hey, I gave birth to you. The least you can do is give me a drink. Plus, you’ve been drinking all day with Dad.”

“That’s exactly right, I have. And I fully plan to drink with Charlie. That’s called pacing. And no one likes a counter of beer. Don’t be a nark.” I snuck behind Mom and snatched the beer from her nimble fingers. I hopped over the leather sofa as she attempted to try and catch me. I remember, even then, I was impressed that there wasn’t a drip of a spill that came from that beer.

From the open patio door, I looked out and saw a trail of plastic shovels and kid’s books strewn together to lead out to the back porch. Laughter and the faint smell of discharged firecrackers in the late afternoon radiated into the inside. “Charlie, come on out here and see us! Lynn, quit hogging the boy! He’s mine too!” I could hear my Dad yell from the back. His voice had grown calmer over the years but it still had a commanding presence. It was something to admire. It was just something else to love about him. Mom made her way through the open doorway telling him how she had just wanted to be the first to see me. It always made me smile to see them happy like that. A sort of bliss that can only be found through the fortunes of a chanced fate. Teddy put his freezing hand on my shoulder and stood beside me as I stood still in the middle of the living room floor.

“Hey, thanks for that back there. I needed that.” I told him earnestly.

He took a sip of his new beer and exhaled deeply. “No sweat. You were dying out there. The least I could do was put you out of your misery.” We clinked cans and moved out into the sunlight with a chuckle on our breath and a longing for adventure yet to be tamed.

Writer’s Block: Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Every bump and every hum of the engine…I could feel everything. I was alive. The world was breathing into my undying nostrils and I felt it all. All the love, all the pain…it was surreal. It wasn’t to say that everything was fading into nothing; it was more of a shadow. I had been looking south when I needed to be facing north. It’s where it belonged, after all. But it’ll always hang behind me. Silent and lingering, it’ll forever be. What lesson to learn.

Cars and trucks stood still as I brushed past them. I’d stopped looking at the speedometer well before I had reached seventy-five. Fields of green with the sprouting trees of flowing leaves covered in the webs of the webworms blended together. With all four windows rolled down, I felt the rushing air pummel into my rising chest. The effort to catch my breath and take it all in was great at first. The thrill to revolutionize the mundane was something only I had dreamt of in passing. I could’ve been like my brother, Teddy, and stuck by my dreams. I could’ve trudged through all crashing waves of bullshit but that never appealed to me. Call it what you will, I’ll forever consider a lack of balls. Dreamers and homeless vagabonds alike share my quality. The difference between the two? The will to press on when all is lost.

It occurred to me to look down after a few moments just to see how fast I was going. A whopping ninety-six miles an hour. It was about time to set cruise control then. Stretching my legs, I looked out each opening to take it all in. Every time that I used to travel, it was always with a group of people or, hell, with my family for the most part. This…this was the catalyst to traveling alone. I could smell the sap of the elms in the distance and fumes of diesel from the caravan of trucking rigs ahead of me. Each car next to me all shared the same sort of people: people on a mission. There were those who had packed their car to the brim with all the things that they could carry. And there were those on the road to do a job that simply paid what bills they had. All mindless to the beauty before them. But who was I to judge? They had a purpose to be out there, regardless of the righteousness or fault in it all. Right then, the only goals I had was to hug my mom, talk with my dad, and laugh with my brother. Nothing else mattered in this whole god damn world. They were my world…they’ll always be.

I’d read novels all my life about people escaping the social norms of society to give a giant middle finger to the man. I was so excited to salute the one finger flag. I loved Kerouac and idolized Salinger for all they had done. However, I was going to take them up on their offer they had set so many years ago. The flatlands of Oklahoma sure knew how to set the pace of life. But I wanted to go places that every corner, every cranny was an unknown. It wasn’t for a while until I had gotten out of the city limits that the lands grew into rolling hills; polluted by navy blue signs trying to entice me to turn into them. “Come into Sapulpa!” one said. “Join us in Perry!” another had begged. I wish that just a few of them would just be real and say, “Welcome to Po-dunk, America. Offering you the same chained ideas and garbage food you’ve been roped into. Creativity is cremated on sight. Good luck to the rest and God bless.” Man that would have been something to see.

I was about forty miles out from Grand Lake whenever my car began to sputter. I pushed her a little forward into the gas station inside the dip of the ones of thousands of Oklahoman foothills. All the pumps were full of people shrugging around trying to get along their moseying way. I waited as my car slowly died behind this family of five to fill their dirty silver minivan. It was packed to the brim with assorted luggage and coolers. If you looked close enough, you could see a sack of fur moving back and forth frantically. An older bald man with a goatee was propped next to the gas station pump that had been filling the camel of a car since I had pulled in. I could barely hear the soft, yet firmness in his voice over the classic country that was statically playing over the overhead speakers.

“You’ve…too gone for…long. It’s too late…turn…now” It was some old Randy Travis song I hadn’t heard since Dad and I went down to a family country home. I began to hum along but not too loud.

He was chatting with the blonde-haired woman in the passenger seat that had her hair pulled into a tight ponytail that rested on her bare shoulders. She was wearing a thick tank top that said “Vacation = wine – job” and it matched the crudeness of the man’s shirt that had a bare-breasted woman with beer in each hand. That still makes me smile.

They were smiling between each saying, completely unaware of the world around them. Only interrupted by the three children as they came running from the gas station to the van. Each of them held a frozen smoothie and some sort of chips for the ride to wherever they were going. My phone buzzed for the first time since I had left the city and it was a picture from my Dad. All I saw a yacht of beautiful women clad in nothing but a stringy set of excuses for bikinis. Almost nothing left for the imagination to muster. The caption read, “Don’t tell your mother. But damn!” I had been staring at the picture long enough with a stupid smirk across my face that the car behind me honked its big truck horn. Instinctively, I glared back in disgust but realized that I was in the wrong. I pulled forward and started to fill my car. I wasn’t going to even begin making eye contact with the ones of million redneck jackasses with a jacked-up truck so I looked over at the minivan that had just pulled into one of the parking spots ahead.

They had all gotten out of the car and were playing in the small green area to the left of the gas station. The smells of overflowing trash in the heat of an unmoving summer and a still air could not keep their happiness from drowning. It only made me more excited to see everyone who was waiting on me up there. Out of the kids were two rambunctious boys and a quiet little girl that sat alone on the extended step of the van. The two boys, who looked identical at times whenever they tossed each other like rag dolls, were playing with the family dog. A beagle of white and brown spots ran between the boys. Back and forth, back and forth it ran with a gleaming yellow smile across its’ loving face. Those parents that rested their tired asses on the hood couldn’t be prouder and, oddly enough, neither could I. That was the wholesomeness that I could live for. A future worth holding onto with all that I could. That’s when it all turned.

The pump had stopped pouring gas long before the redneck in the too tight denim pants came rushing towards me. His sausage finger jabbed into my shoulder and it jolted me.

“Hey asshole, ya about done yet?  Got places to be, ya know?” I didn’t say a word for a minute. What was there to say besides “My bad”? I pulled the pump as quickly as I could but it didn’t seem to be fast enough for the denim man. It didn’t help that his old lady who was sitting in the cab kept bouncing up and down and shouting at her man to do something for once. His snarl was something that seemed all too familiar. I was trying to brush past him without so much as an eye twitch in his direction. “Thank you!” He spouted out sarcastically while throwing his hands in the air. He was turning back to his car whenever he spotted the bottles in my passenger side. “You’re just fuckin’ lucky I don’t call the cops on you! I bet you’re damn drunk right now, aren’t ya? Look, the world has enough problems without drunk guys like you.” I didn’t say a word as I made my way to the driver side door. “Hey, you retarded or just deaf?” I hadn’t bothered looking up until that moment. And that, kids, is how drama can be brought outside high school and out into the real world.

This is where the regret begins to set in. I hadn’t noticed the bald man approach my left side and put his hand on my shoulder. My whole arm tensed into a tight fist and he whispered, “Easy son, I got you.” It sounded so much like my father… I eased up and saw his calm features harden before the man in the truck. They spoke at one another which gave me some time to throw a shirt from my duffle bag over the bottles in the front seat. Whenever I popped back out of the car, the two men were in each other’s face yelling at each other. This random man…God, I’d love to meet him again. He was a champion of the misfortunate and I bet he barely even knew it. It’s instinct for people like that. I could only hope then that I’d have the same in it for me if the occasion ever came up.

“He’s a drunk! I know it! See, that’s how my daughter died was because of dickheads like you!” He was pointing to the white decal on the back of his truck. It was hard to read from the angle I was at but I had no doubt.

The bald man put his hand out and tried to calm the man down. If it wasn’t before, it was at this point that people were stopping and watching. A hiss, a word, and a flicker of violent disposition was all that it took. He was turning around until the haggardly woman in the cab yelled, “Harry, you hit him now!” Jesus…she had to egg him on, didn’t she? He turned on his heel and popped the man with a left hook across his chin. The man stumbled back for a moment and a gasp came across the parking lot. I braced myself against the side of my car and stood still. I could hear the claps of the flip flops of the wife go across the parking lot as she went towards her husband but it wasn’t necessary. Like the wrath of hell, the shine off the bald man’s head whipped close to the redneck and pinned him against the bug graveyard of a grill on the man’s truck. The yells muffled more and more with each knuckle that drove into the man’s face. I ran towards the man in full swing. Wrapping my scrawny arms against his heaving swing didn’t do much. It temporarily stopped him and he looked back at me with a grin. The shrieks of the woman in the cab didn’t seem to matter to him, nor anyone else. What the hell was she to the world? For that matter, what was I to him? I thanked him tirelessly as his wife had kissed him again and again, trying to drag him away.

“You’re fine. Now, what the hell was he talking about with the booze?” He was bounding around to the passenger side whenever I blocked him. He was just about to question me again when a child yelled from across the parking lot. Off with a dash, the family beagle was making its way across the parking lot and into the racing streets. The man, with a curse under his breath, took off in a hurry alongside his wife. The two boys tried to keep up but their tiny legs couldn’t muster the strength to push through the already gushing tears. The beagle had safely made its way across the street and was making its’ way through the overgrown brush of the overpass. The ruby red shine of the collar that hung from its’ neck was the last any of us saw of the runaway. While they were all distracted, I knew that I had to leave before the questions began to riddle my already shaking ship. I jumped into the car and launched myself to the back exit of the gas station. I can still hear the shouts from the shop keeper and the family whenever I think of it… I couldn’t bear it anymore.

The road for the next forty miles was a blur. Glazed over and over-bared, I pressed on and attempted, with almost certain fault, to rid them from my pulsing mind. By the time I was passing the quartz ridge over the west, I could smell the wafts of the lake water. On the cusp of the hill, the shimmers of the icy blue water were the heavenly fields of tomorrow and I was racing for time. I got off cruise control and raced down the country roads as I passed the sign that read, “Welcome to Monkey Island” going nearly one-hundred. I had almost forgotten to call Teddy before I had reached the gate. I was lucky that I had remembered because I was still halfway dressed for my old job. I pulled over and got into my bag and pulled out the first shirt that I saw. A faded Batman shirt with some well-fitted blue Levis and a pair of colored converse was the first thing they were going to see me as. It was the first; it was the only fashion I could see. It’s who I am even now. I checked my matted hair as I threw on an old newsboy cap and I called Teddy. After a few jokes here and there, I pulled my car around to the iron clad gate. I could see the single asphalt road that led to a multitude of identical lake houses and, above the gate was in bright white letters.

Shangri-La: Welcome Home.