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.

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

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

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.

The Beauty of the Bayside Brothel

Upon the shores of a forgotten world, there once was a house on the precipice of society. Quiet and quaint, it held all the secrets of the sheets that one could only wish to hear themselves. The tides of an uncomfortable sea rocked alongside the rocky shores which muffled the sounds of the incoming sirens. Woodlands of a northern shore whispered in the mourning of an early fall eve with the coos of the doves and the caws of the crows. The chills of a creeping winter could be felt on the residents of the Bayside Brothel as they all stood among the shadow of the manor. Manic and mysterious, it lurched on the hillside overlapping the rising sun of the watery horizon. Who could know what was held inside the skeleton of the desired and hidden by the truths of the secret sinners?

The crackles of the rubber tires could be heard coursing their way up the rounded driveway. One after the other, they surrounded the spouting fountain that held the stoned marble cupid. A caravan of cops gaggled together in their solemn embraces and marched towards the front of the manor. The fingers of the sun poked through the vail of the grey unknown and touched the face of an establishment hushed in a higher regard. It brushed against the polished white shutters that were closed. A stony face met the seen world with closed eyes as the wind tickled the wind chimes that hung from the great wooden doorway. Sounds of chimes, both high and low, trickled across the chaotic silence that haunted the world around them. I had been told that I would witness the worst of humanity as law enforcement and that had never been a lie. Even as I sit on the side of solace that once sat this beautiful brothel, I’ll never forget that day. The end of a life can always bring about the life of the words, the actions left undone.

“Man, who would’ve thought that we would get to raid a brothel, eh? First day on the job and you get this? You lucky som’ bitch.” A grizzled police officer that reeked of stale cigarettes and a musky aftershave grumbled on my shoulder. I had no words for the man. There was no reason for him to know…at least not then. I rubbed my left hand incessantly. It was more naked than the women back then.

“For Christ sakes, it’s a murder. Show some god damn respect,” stated a broad shouldered woman as she strutted forth into the open space between the two forces.

“Fuckin’ bitch, am I right?” he said to me without earshot of the senior officer. He finally looked down on my pale face and took the hint. There was no way for him to know what was cursing my life in every sense of the word. My soul screamed for me to run home to her. The other her, that is. To run through the woods with the ferocity that machines could not muster. The matters of the heart and the matters of the obedience of society always drew stronger on the minds of the dreamers. Calling myself a dreamer would always be easier than facing what I felt that I knew what I had to be. One by one, the field of blue dispersed into the gravel yard to do the deeds they were destined to do. A few went off for pictures, some went to talk with the victims by association, and I? I pushed forward with a troupe of men. It was what had to be done. Done by all means.

We formed ranks alongside one another and pushed through the gathered crowd of crying women. Gathered in silken tears and honest grief, they huddled together. Locks of burgundy brown and shades of ruby red tangled within each other as they were pushed against the wall. Golden badges flashed as they flipped open and the onslaught of questions began to fire away. The who’s and the what’s of it all began to riddle across my numbing mind. The further I stepped into the home, I dipped my broad cap. I caught the eyes of a few of the women as I saw them out of the sides of my vision. Some of them had had the dirt still under their manicured nails but the mixture of different lotions and perfumes was intoxicating to the men around me. It was haunting to me. It wasn’t hers though…thank god. The blue boys and I had made it through the oak threshold. I heard a few of them chuckle to themselves.

“What’s so funny now?” I said to no one in particular. I could feel the weight of the note in my heart against my heavy chest.

“Geez, noobie, what the hell’s gotten into you? It’s like you’ve had a ghost creep on you ever since I told you about this place today,” said a veteran cop who was beginning to ascend the grand staircase in the middle of the foyer. He wasn’t wrong in most of it. It was more like the ghost had stabbed me until I felt myself go as white as she probably had.

“I know what it probably is,” the grizzled man spoke once more. “He’s probably upset in the same way we are.” He looked around the empty marbled foyer. We all looked about each other but my eyes swayed across the room lazily as I took it all in. To the left of the stairs that led to the rooms was a small cocktail bar. Full throughout each polished glass shelf was an assortment of brown and clear liquors and barely a drop of water to drink. A few tables and love seats were spread across the living area while the other side of the stairs held the private office of the madam of the house. It was officially discreet and it looked as a business should: square, stiff, and unreal. “He’s just pissed because his watering hole is dried up. And I’m not talking just for your mouth.” The rest of the men stifled their giggles. Not an utterance of one came from me. “Don’t worry, scout, it’ll come back. This happens from time to time and it usually goes away in due time. After all, a whore house will always have scum bags to appeal to.”

A man checking the dust on the stone bust of the replica of the Statue of David perked up. “Oh don’t act like you’re innocent in any of this. I know I’ve seen you in here once or twice.”

“Or three times. But that’s only half of you, right?” They laughed in the face of silence. They laughed at it all. “See? Look, kid, a hooker is going to die every so often. Think of it sort of like….erm….well, like the circle of life.” I shoved past him and mounted the staircase. “Boys, take note, that’s a chord touched. Well, let’s follow the young blood. Wouldn’t want him fucking up the scene, am I right?”

They followed me with each creak in the wooden step. It echoed through the hollow skeleton of what it once was. I had made it to the top and I took a right down the arced corner where the wood stopped and the void black carpet began.

“Hey noobie, you know where you’re going? We need to scan the other rooms.” One of the officers shouted from two rooms behind me. My steps grew heavier on the plush of the carpet. The light from the portraits that hung from the blood red walls illuminated my watchful steps. Every pair of eyes glanced over me as I passed the portraits of the women in which the room belonged to them. All the different shades of regret, I wondered as I wonder now how often they had seen what was unspoken. How many times could they remain silent amongst it all? I finally made it to the second to last door on the left hand side of the hallway. It was only for a moment that I realized that I had begun to sprint down the hallways. Every door was closed yet I could hear the clinks of the whips and the smell of sweat and lavender from the crack under the door. The only door that was open belonged to the woman in the portrait.

With a green velvet background, she sat pronounced with her inviting chin held high in her own regard. The straying curls of her bound back black hair were brushing against her bare shoulders. She was fair in complexion, rare in the looks of her bright brown eyes, and the mystery of a closed door. Only the two thin straps of a lingerie top covered her perked, ample breasts. I made my way into my…her home. It was all still there. A photograph of a memory of that yesterday and it was perfect. The satin sheets were covered in her green comforter and a golden under sheets. It seemed to be hanging by the four oak bannister pieces covered in a shawl of white. The floor had been messy from bits and pieces of her clothing but the room was full of silence. With the exception of the small drips of the faucet coming from the bathroom. Two bay doors on the right side of the room were hanging open and there was just enough reflection to see the glimmer of water on the tile floor. The drips continued.

It wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be happening. Not to her. Not to me. I told myself this as I barged into the occupied room. A pool of water was overflowing from the porcelain tub while the empty bottle of extra-strength bleach sat turned over onto the sopping floor. A clammy hand was limp over the side and, shining dimly in the light of the bathroom next to the vomit filled toilet was a simple, gold ring. As I heard the horde of footsteps, I snagged the ring from the floor and stuffed it into my pocket. They clamored into the room and examined the shell of the woman they had never known as I had.

“Kid, did you see her?” they asked. I shook my head violently as I braced myself against the window sill of the bathroom. I stared at her scratched hand and that was all I could bear to see of her anymore. The tattooed cross that had once been pronounced on her was faded through the murky waters. They continued to gawk at her naked body as they called for backup downstairs. The forensics team was sure to come in at any moment. They’d snap their photos and make their speculations but who did they know? Who was the “poor whore” they so willingly beheld in disgrace? She was Murphy. She was mine.

The day of reckoning for Murphy and I was winding to a close that night. The cause of death was apparent and all too real. They had made their predictions and their convoluted theories as to why. Regardless, it was another dead whore to them. After making it back to the city station, I dwelled in my car and was homebound for the second time. This time, however, it was to my wife. All the meanwhile as I drove through the oncoming mist of the gloomy night, I thought of her face the last time I had seen her. Her waterproof mascara had failed her as I had. The flowing lace of her black dress clung to my neck as we danced in the moonlight of her vacant room. If only she hadn’t felt the ring in my bulging pant pocket…could I have spared her life? Perhaps if she had never met me…

She was brutally real when she was irate. We were beginning the second year of our life together though the terms of eternity never knew the bounds of time itself. She was I and I was her. At that moment, she was my demise. Well earned, mind you, but demise all the same. She had begun to throw things at me while calling me a bastard and a heartless heathen. She was right. She always had been with me. I…I retold her what she was in the end of all things. A whore. My whore. Nothing could stop what society had already begun. Damn what a fool I’ve been… I still don’t know how on Earth I had made it home that night. Before pulling into my driveway, I turned the lights off on my car and snuck into the drive. She didn’t need to know what I was doing and she couldn’t know. I was still clutching the note in my breast pocket. It was time for me to read it for what her haunting words might say to me.

The paper smelled of lilies even from afar. It was her through and through. Scribbled on the front was written: To my love: Read only when you miss me. I carefully opened the folded papers and closed my eyes before I heard her voice in my head once more. This is what she wrote:

To the sweetest man I’ll ever know,

Two years. It doesn’t feel like it when I think about it but I guess that’s what happens when love holds the key. I know what I am to you in reality. In all hopes, I hope that I am yours truly by now. There’s no mistaking that life would be different if either one of us hadn’t met one another but that’s not the point. The life that I am living was meant to meld with you. Somehow, someway, it was meant for fate to take hold. It gave me another purpose to throw sense into this damn tattoo I have. It was stupid then but, with you, now it makes sense. I know I can be a sappy crier when it comes to romance but I know you. You don’t mind.

The day I met you was like any other. We were called down the stairs to the main entryway because the appointments had shown up. Most of us were dressed in our pink nighties or tight panties just waiting on the next batch of bullshit morons to come stumbling in. They were being led by their downstairs dictator anyways. But then, you arrived. I laugh even as I’m writing this because I can still remember you shaking as you came through the door. You were a child as I was. It didn’t matter what the age was between you and I, you saw me and stared with intent at me. Truth be told, the girls still to this day make fun of us for how we had acted before. And even now. Lord knows how many times I would have some drunken slob come grope me and treat me like some slave. Ram after ram, he would pound into me without a single thought of my pain or pleasure. I would just grip the sheets like I gritted my teeth and just waited for the torture to be done. Sorry…but you, you were different. You came to me while passing the others and touched my hand like a child.

We didn’t even sleep with one another that night and I always found that interesting about you. Your charm was never in your moves; it was in your sincerity. Those baby blues always gave me the chills that made me feel squeamishly shy around you all over. But your hugs…you tender kisses on my lips…that’s what made life worthwhile. Before you, I had given away everything to be away from it all. Family, friends, rules of all kinds were gone because it all got too real. I was going from one pump to another just trying to survive. You make me want to live.

You weren’t the first to discover that I was a writer in secret but you were the first to give a damn about what I had to say in the pages unseen. You listened to every word as if it was the breaths you needed to survive. It always made me shy whenever I would read my pieces to you but your smile…God, that clever little smirk of yours always gets me. Lying there with your head in my lap as I read on and on, I could write something that the heavens themselves would be jealous of. Just for you. 

The first night we grew was…wow. I’ll never forget your rougher bites on my lower lip as you careened into the room at breakneck speed. You held me firmly in your grasp with one hand and laid me down on the floor with your other. I knew that you couldn’t handle the temptation any longer as I stripped the red laced lingerie off my body. I had always been insecure about my body. Was it too soft? Were they too puffy? Am I right for you? I always thought these things but your eyes said a whole other story. Tales of adventure and a thirst for ravaging flesh was fire in your wanting eyes. Every movement was a symphony that rang across my mind. I can think now and still get the chills of you. God…you’re my everything.

I know I’m rambling so I’ll try to wrap things up for you. I know who you are. People will always try to make you feel inferior to what you are but don’t let them. Never let them. You’re an amazing man with an even more amazing heart. One day, we’ll do what you promised and we’ll run away together. The sunrise will be our only direction and our hearts beating will be only fuel for what the future might hold for us. I don’t care what it is, so long as you’re there with me.

I love you sweetheart,

Murph.

 

The tears began to dribble onto the paper and I quickly wiped them away. I gathered my thoughts and my dying breaths. Escaping the car, I stuffed the note in my wallet and kept it in my back pocket. My home away from home was sitting in front of me and I could see my wife watching the news intently as she snacked away on a bowl of chips. I entered without a word while she greeted me with open arms in the doorway. I groped her sides and held her tightly. She was confused, I could tell, but I couldn’t care less. I peered over her shoulder and saw what she was watching. The tagline read: Death in Bayside Brothel.

“Honey,” I asked, “what are you watching?”

She turned to the TV and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know really. I think it was just about some hooker. Probably got killed or something.”

“Yeah…or something.” I grabbed my back pocket and sat reluctantly next to my sitting wife. She smiled at me and rested her unknowing head on my shoulder. I changed the channel quickly.

Writer’s Block: Chapter 2

Chp 2

There is something strange and recurring about life that’s irked me from the very beginning of this convoluted life that I’ve lived thus far. No one ever tells the youth to always be on their guard for the upcoming day that their life will change forever. It’s as though they feel that they were cursed with the randomness of free will. They’d simply hate to ruin the surprise for anyone. It’s a sick joke, really. And I’d love to be the free son of a bitch with a glimpse on the inside of this inside joke played by the ever-knowing universe. But aren’t we all masters of hindsight? Hell, if I would’ve known that on that sweltering Oklahoma morning that I would be where I am now, I’d scoff at best. But none of us have that luxury and perhaps we are the better for it. I’m going to try and remember to the best of my ability what all happened that day…in all sincere fairness, that day was an unveiling of the truth I had been avoiding and, believe me, it had enough of a glare that I know I missed something.

The future has a funny way of slapping those who aren’t prepared right in the teeth. Come to think of it, it kicks even those took their entire life to plan the unthinkable. Say what you will about life; at least it’s unbiased.

Sound of the raging alarm broke the monotony of the hum of the ceiling fan early in the morning. It made no bit of a difference. My thoughts and I had been up for quite some time like they had always been. They had been restless. They had been hungry for longer than I wanted and I was starved. I silenced my alarm and sat in the enveloping silence of my two bedroom apartment. The light from the phone showed six o’clock. The summer sun was just starting to poke its fingers through my westward window. The heat seeped into my tiny room and I knew that it was time to face the inevitable. In a way, it made the usual monotony seem to drift away. I crept out of bed and waltzed across all the scattered books that had been tossed and turned across the dirty tan carpet. “A brief history of analytical art” here, “intro to computer programming” there… it made no difference in the world. They all practically said the same thing about a different subject. To craft, to mold the minds of the unsuspecting to believe as they do. I tip toed over each book so not to disturb the downstairs neighbors again. God knows, that last night had been enough for even the most sane vacant. I can still hear their screams of confusion. It sounded all too much like my own. It was so eerily recognizable. I don’t know how they slept that night. I know I didn’t…

I placed my contacts clumsily into my eyes and I could feel the piercing stabs that caressed my eye. Blink after blink, I glared into the gilded golden mirror. I couldn’t recognize who was there staring back. Somehow I knew as I know now. My eyes grew more blood shot with each blink but I couldn’t stop staring. The water that was gushing from my eyes diluted the prominent shoulders that had never been. Proud and painful, I stood looking at the man in the mirror. I threw some warm water in my shivering face. I glared back at the mirror and the red stare met back at me. I wasn’t scared any more. No, that had all changed yesterday and, today, today would be the day we see the coattails of what had promised to be a well-earned show for all those avowed. I ripped the useless contacts from my eyes and searched for my thin glasses. I found them on the night stand, bent and bowed from all the times I had fallen asleep reading. Of course, you couldn’t tell that to any prospective lady. Nothing would make you feel more like a certified douche or an old man on the cusp of his Ben-Gay rub and nearing the doorstep of death than drifting to sleep while reading. To each their own when it comes to the ladies but still…          They fit over my warm face and I took a deep breath as I stepped into the threshold. I took a quick glance back over my hunched shoulder. That rickety black futon that was a sorry excuse of a couch that sat across from the now broken TV. I couldn’t help but remember the sounds of having my brother in that lonely two little bedroom apartment. The isolation didn’t mean that much back then. It was more of having an island conquered by the youth with all tact of reckless and all the ambition of the beautifully damned. It was…it was something else. But my island had become a quiet little hell of late. It was just a good thing that had thrown a ladder down that chasm sooner. I’d hate to rot in isolation.

I shut green door with the chipped bronze handle and looked over the cracked parking lot of the complex. A row of rusted cars and suitable hoopties lined the pinewood fence facing on the west side. The fresh rain perfume wafted into my nose and it took me to a happier place. Even as I stared above the water-stained fence at the brick behemoth that lay breathing restlessly. The crackling lights above the Emergency Entrance of CARES Hospital flickered in anticipation. I trudged down the staircase step by step feeling the weight of the world of shit come crashing down. And here I was without even a single umbrella. No matter, I walked down the narrow parking lot and I made my way to the front of my idle car. The dry spot underneath my car from the rain stuck out against the darkened grey of a forgotten concrete. Although the tears of a sorrowful God might have sweetly crushed into the Earth, the ground below my new car wouldn’t have felt a thing. She didn’t travel much anyhow. It was always a good thing that she didn’t have a mind of her own. She might have left me sooner than I would like to believably admit.

I fondled my empty pockets searching for my weathered headphones but I left them in my room. It’s not like I could’ve snuck off into the linen closet today of all days. Also, who would deem it to be keen to face the music with an earbud of your own? I rounded the corner of the trailing fence and found the orange sunrise crawling out from behind the falling grey clouds. My thoughts were on a single track of motion or otherwise I would’ve sat there for all the time that I had left. For all the obligations that have barged into my life with a handful those sweet moments, I’d be a happy fool. I turned towards a single story building that rested on the dying grassy hill and started to slow my steps little by little. I could only imagine who was going to be in this meeting, but I knew of two, and those two were the two I couldn’t give enough to have not there. Even at that moment, I could hear their consistent questions that always inevitably asked the same question: why? Why would you do such a thing? Why didn’t you take into consideration all the consequences that would come from this? Why, why, and more whys. It was all for a diplomatic show in one form or the next and it was something that I had no desire to be a part of. Despite my rebellious efforts, I made my way to the door with the white etched letters on the front of the stained glass door. It read: Human Resources for CARES Hospital Incorporated. The remnants of old glued on letters were still smudged on the front though it was faint. The amount of times the public eyes of CARES had been changed, it could make a man wonder why they even bothered putting the damn names on the door in the first place. But it wasn’t my place then as it isn’t now. But, then again, when has that ever stopped anyone?

I made my way into the tiny lobby of the HR office where a dark brown desk was on my right. A robust woman with a low-cut dress sat in the front with her shoulders slouched as she was browsing the web. She quickly closed out the browsers that she was searching whenever she saw me and she stammered to get something out. A simple hello would have sufficed but not in this instance. Lord knows, I didn’t even know what to say at that time either.

“H-hello Charlie. Would you like to have a seat?” She pointed to the black polished chair that sat alone in the corner of the lobby. It was right next to the arranged posters of protective care and policies lined with procedures. Truly, it was a corporations right wing and my left hell. I took a seat without so much as a sigh in the wrong direction. It wasn’t necessarily the reason that I was most dreading; it was the wait. The anticipation of termination and the fear of staying in hostility that perplexed me the most. My feet tapped incessantly. Right and left, right and left while the receptionist turned slowly back to her work station. She picked up the phone and whispered slowly into the receiver. I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Even if I had tried to listen, the blood that crashed through my ears made enough sound for any and all to hear. The receptionist waited for a moment and clicked her way back to the video that she was watching. It was a home video of an elderly dog being taken back into the back office to be put to sleep. The anguish of the dog could be seen clear as the tear that tore from her eye. The chilled roar of the air conditioning rang through the tiny building. All seemed to stop whenever I heard the click of the door from down the narrow hallway that was to my left. An opaque light drifted across the tile floor and there emerged the shadows of a hefty man.

The hums of the air conditioning had stopped. The clicking of the keys cease to move. All the breath in the room became sucked in as every moving chest raised in suspense. The time of reckoning had come and all I had left in me was to reckon what might happen to my life after all. Lord if I only knew…

Writer’s Block: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

As a writer, would you like to see the most unsettling thing that creeps down to our very soul? That stupid fucking ink blotch on the page that seeped from the pen while you thought of some hap-hazard title. Would it be elegant? Would it mean something in the end? The better question is this: does it truly matter? We all want to sound like the smartest, the kindest, the most genuine person to walk the face of this rule-ridden world. The problem is that we end up breaking most of the damn rules by the time we stop the clock for good. It’s a matter of getting the words that are bouncing from side of side in your cluttered brain. As easy as that might sound to someone, it isn’t for me. I could be like every poser with a laptop and some form of an imagination and prop myself up somewhere public so, on the off chance that someone were to give a damn, someone might ask what I’m writing. The only hope for those people is that the “right” person asks them what they’re writing and it attracts them. Personally, I find that to be a little shallow. Who am I to judge though? For God sakes, as I’m writing this, I’m coming out of my own stupor haze and realizing the wake of emotional destruction that I have left for those to pick up the wreckage. I used to be like that person that I had just called shallow myself. Hey, if you’re reading this, you need to understand that I am possibly the farthest from being a hero or your definition of a perfect person might be. In a fucked up sort of way, that last line just made me smirk in the most bitter way.

Anyways, where are my manners? Just because I might have everything tossed in the wind, doesn’t mean that my manners need to go the grave as well, right? My name’s Charles Hugo and I’m on the edge of sanity looking ridge for nothing more than shits and giggles. The buddies that I used to have would call me Charlie for short so, for the time being, you can call me Charlie as well. Take your friends where you can get them, am I right? Currently, I’m looking out on the coast of Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in north Oklahoma and I haven’t felt this at peace with the world in so long that it’s hard to imagine another time quite like this. The fading sun is falling on the tops of the cedar trees in the distance and giving the lightly choppy water one last glimmer before falling asleep in the silent night.  I’m going to stop this right now and say a brief sorry. The unfortunate perks of being a writer is the unnecessary, yet beautiful way of wanting, desiring to describe things in the most poetic ways for those that couldn’t see it the way we wanted to. Fuck, I’d like to think that we all try to find meaning in the smaller things. Who knows if we all do?

We are uncommon breed but I think that is exactly why I reside with them as much as I do. Secluded, separated from sanity, and synonymous with wording that can make a blind man see…truly, it makes me smile to be different. Of course, I didn’t always feel like this. There’s those that’re born into this clinically insane world as a blazing butterfly that lights the way for those who are afraid to burst from the cocoon that holds them captive. To those, I envy…I hate…I love you all at once and all the same. Speaking for those that did not discover independence until much later or, better yet, for those who are still trapped, it’s a prison that you liberated bastards might never feel. Even if we might have escaped, those God forsaken numbers will always be printed in our brains. Grim reminders of what had happened. What could have remained.

Where was I? Oh yes, where I am. I’m sitting down on a secluded wooden bench on the west shore of the lake with my last notebook lying on my lap. It’s odd to think that this is the last one before it’s all done here. But that’ll be a later for story for a later writer. The best stories came after the music all stopped and the drinks only trickled instead of poured. The soft wind is blowing my loose fitted shirt back and forth as I blankly stare off onto the other side of what seems like an endless lake. The dim lights of the fireflies are illuminating the stage for the chirps of the emerging crickets cue up their orchestra shedding light to the tunes that formulate within my mind. Even in silence, there is always madness brewing and concocting in the mind of a true writer. Although the serenity of silence might be a viable option for anyone else, it’s a myth in my eyes. But would I want it any other way? Not even for a fucking second. I am happily tortured by my overactive imagination. Dreams, hopes, fears…they all mix and meld together into stories that form into some anthropomorphic blob that I have to mold into something; otherwise, it digs into my skull until that’s the only possible thing that can run through my head. Some might even call it “The love of writing”. If that is the case, then to be in love, one must be a sadist from time to time. Not to fault anyone in love; I think it’s truly a remarkable, beautiful, random thing that happens to the fortunate few in the chaotic universe that we inhabit. I tend to ramble; I’m going to apologize upfront.

The lush grass tickles my bare feet as I swing my right foot back and forth as I think of something that I might say. Even now, I’m thinking of a story but I guess I’ll have to put that to the wayside until I can finish this one. For the love of God and all that’s holy, I do need to finish at least one of these damn stories. Not saying that there are people that might want to read these damn things but it would be nice to be heard once in a great while. That’s most of what anyone wants in this world anyways…myself included. A big crash of a brash wave against the rocks just snapped me back to the matter at hand. Off in the distance, I can hear the faint sound of children firing tiny rockets into the air the heckling hiss of the sparklers as they ignite. The smells of different meats being deliciously grilled on some old grills on the porches of the gated community that I’m in are mixing together into some rhapsody of meaty goodness. Barbeque and low-grade beer: the motto of the southern, patriotic adult. Not to down-grade it by any means, I’ll gladly stake my unknown flag into that land with all the other proud claims. Being born and raised in Oklahoma, it’s more born into you than learned. Alas, I am sitting alone on this bench as the rest of the world moves around me. I’m scared to look up from time to time…I’m always afraid of what I might see or what might have changed. At least, in here, I am in control; I have the final proclamation in what happens. A luxury that shouldn’t be wasted or denied by any, if you ask me.

I just glanced behind me and looked at the third lake house in. The lump that resided in my throat enlarged too much but I couldn’t help myself but stare at what once was. Pine needles and fallen leaves had masked the once lively home. The brown hue of the chipping deck was fading with the blistering July sun. Filled with furniture, it felt so empty. No sandbox for the kids that once could play out their youth…it was bare to its truthful bones. Lord only knows what ghosts linger in that home behind the sliding glass doors…what memories that’ve blessed the house of a family dearly missed. I snapped my head back to the darkening water and glued my eyes to the crumpled papers before me. Optimism and deep-seeded regret seem to be the cocktails of choice nowadays and nothing in between. I was once told by my old man, “What’s the point in half-measures? Bullshit if you ask me.” I might have taken that a little too literally but, what’s the sense in stopping now? It looks like it’s going to be the latter tonight. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a mixture of the two but that would entitle me to be somewhat normal. I can’t have that…I have a reputation to uphold. I can give my old persona this, he knew how to rock that sane look to appease the crowd. A rock star amongst garage band chumps in the world of the mundane, if you ask me. I might be a tad bit biased though. After all, he was the bastard who created me in the first place. If you have anyone to blame, it really should be him.

As a twenty-one year old creator, I can only feel as though I’m an existentialist through and through. For a moment, if I were to stop, every single cell in my body would scream for me to do something productive with my damn life. Depending on how you look at me, that cellular rage was the catalyst for whom is talking to you now unfortunately or fortunately. It’s maddening and this, along with the vanity of wanting notoriety, are the cornerstones of what run through my mind at any given time. Off topic for a moment, out of the corner of my pacing eyes on this screen, I’m watching an older couple. In their forties or early fifties stroll hand in hand towards the rocky edge of the shore. Not a word’s been spoken between the two but the silent aura around them speaks sonnets of romance and eternity. Although the sun’s officially set, the glimmer in what I can see in their eyes, is not from the Sun. No, it’s from something more powerful than anything that the laws of science have to mandate. Beauty personified in front of me…I’m looking at the empty space beside me. Ah, and here comes the inherent sadness that society has so graciously pleaded with me to mask until my death. Not anymore though. To society, I send a whole-hearty “Fuck you” and “I will be who I have destined myself to be and the world will know me for who I have become.” But, before anyone can know what they will be, I have always found it best to retrace the steps taken before. To embrace the unknown of the future, it often helps to look over your shoulder to see the cleared field of what you have passed; only to remember not to focus on one too frequently.

Allow me to explain myself.

Vocal Mutes

It was there on the edge of an unknown ledge that I saw the face of a world yet to be seen. The sun bled blurs of burgundy red and orange across the purple Southern sky. I could hear the crashing of the waves under the cliff side when the summer wind brushed me from side to side.

I stood firmly. If not for myself, then for who?

All the happiness, all the anger in the world, the sad sweetness…I could feel it clawing at my throat. The day was going to leave me soon too and there I would be. Alone at last. As the last bits of the bay were swept by the darkness of the night, I felt myself break.

There was a scream like no other. No echos. No sound.

Just a silent roar. I grabbed my chest and neck trying to push out what wouldn’t come out. And it was there on the edge of a ledge unknown that sat a broken man.

I woke hanging halfway off the couch in my living room with the dawn of the day beginning to crack through my dusty shutters to the living room. The pitter-patter of the paws come down the tiled hallway. Three snouts brushed across my face and, by the time I looked up, they were making their way to the desert dry bowls that sat near the backdoor.

Getting up, I spent the next 10 minutes looking for the tangled mess of headphones that I always carry. Chances are, you might not catch me without them. Truthfully, I think it filters out the bullshit that gets slung into the fan on a day-by-day basis. Think about it, would you rather hear the riffs from a Jimi Hendrix song or listen to the incessant droning of a boss who could give a damn about you?

And if you say the latter because you need the cash; that’s what we call a sell-out. I might say something else but we can save that for another entry.

After some time of mumbling obscenities under my breath,  I continued on. It was there in the silence of a half-woke home that I came with the idea. Granted, this arose from a conversation that I had with someone that I deeply respect.

As he stood with a leather bag draped over his left shoulder on his way out the door, he looked at me with those eyes that could tell you your life story in a way unimaginable and said this:

“You have a voice, son. Don’t force it. You’ll get where you need to be in time. With some years under your belt and some influence here and there, you’ll do what you need to do.”

So, I’d like to thank the man who was the catalyst for possibly one of the strangest dreams in quite some time. Seriously, if I wanted to hallucinate and have an eye-opening experience, why not find some nice Native ‘Mericans and get some peyote. Regardless, it got me to thinking about something that I don’t think many people think about willingly. Let those therapists strike up their pens and the philosophers with half a joint left get situated. Here it is:

I believe that majority of the people live their lives as vocal mutes.

I must preface this post that no, I’m neither drunk nor high.

Just awake.

The thing of it is that I think people are afraid to let their voice be heard in such a polarizing state of the world. The problem with that is that I think this has been an ongoing situation.

Hell, when is the last time you heard the compliment for someone that went something like this: “Man, I just love that person. They’re just so honest and they speak their mind.”

That’s troubling to me. Honesty has become some sense of nobility and is a trademark for either a decent person or a great person. Shouldn’t that simply be a prerequisite. Call me old fashioned, I’d rather not be around a liar.

Yet, as vocal mutes, you’re entitled to the idea that it’s fine to agree with the general public while holding the notion that you have to be your own person. So, essentially, you’re supposed to be one of the flock of sheep but make your coat just a shade or two different. God forbid you be entirely ordinary.

Ordinary creates oddity. Oddity scares the status quo.

And, ladies and gents of history, what has the human race done with anything that we didn’t quite understand? The answer in the back was correct! We either kill it or stay afraid of it. Well, until it becomes too much of an obstacle and we find a way to accept it into our culture.

I know. Shocking in a snarky sort of way, right?

But to the point of it all: Why?

Of course, we want to tell people that you need to be your own person but it sure as hell doesn’t happen overnight and, much like a good BM, you can’t force it. I think the important idea to come out of today is nothing new that you couldn’t learn from some rebel, a poet, or a day-dreamer dreaming of tomorrow.

Be yourself at all costs and have a voice in anything.

To hell with the people that say it’s wrong to have an opinion on everything. You SHOULD have a say so on everything that comes your way.

To be indifferent to a matter is to be indifferent in a matter of life.

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’re willing to go a little further. I propose a challenge for any and all. I challenge you, for the first ten minutes of your day, to be silent.

Do nothing to distract yourself. Just be yourself in the void of noise and see what you think of. Only in silence is the truth forever spoken.

Until next time,

Brandon King

This side of sanity.

My name is Brandon King and I’m a writer.

When you read that, what first came to mind?

Was it some hunched over figure in the darkness writing by a fading desk lamp? Maybe some young kid with a brand-new laptop at a coffee shop hoping for someone to ask? Perhaps even some socialite with a way with witty words to woo men and women by the charm alone to write at any whim?

That’s the fault of mankind: conceptions that are immediately attempted to associate something to someone in order to understand whats in front of us. No idea, no notion to better understand the truer meaning of a true person. Don’t worry, this is not a fault of just you. It’s been a common ailment of all of mankind.

Don’t mistake me as some pompous preacher with a hand on righteousness and another on the podium to stabilize my vigor. If we’re going to continue this relationship between writer and reader, we need to keep the lines of honesty as pure as possible. I never claimed to be perfect. I never claimed to be some icon.

I will just claim to be.

Back to the matter at hand. Back to the matter that you decided that you would take time out of your schedule to listen to the ramblings of someone who cannot seem to keep his mouth shut and his thoughts from running amok. Believe me, I beg only the batty bastards of the world to try to understand what goes on in my restless head.

Take all the conceptions of what you believe to be are the characteristics of a writer. Can you see them? Good. Now burn them in front of you and watch as the licks of the embers touch all the lies you’ve been led to believe. One would hate to be the harbor of hated news but that’s the unfortunate part of lies: they always seemed sweeter to the taste than the bitterness of a harsh truth.

Coming from a writer who has just recently began to consider myself an actual writer, I have to admit something to you all. Something that, if you’ve been paying attention, maybe you caught on to a little while ago.

Writers are all wildly insane.

Bold, I know. Hear me out.

Something that I’ve always found intriguing about the average life is that, whether or not we can agree with it, it’s all planned from the initial start.

You’re born, you go to school, do what you’re told, find time to explore your own ideas, hold them tight and tell no one unless you trust them, confide in almost no one, get a stable job, go to school, get a home, start your own family and begin the process for someone else, grow older, see the mortality of it all, relive and avoid regret, and then pass with the most peace you can muster.

Sound about right?

The issue with this entire idea is that people such as I don’t view the world in this cookie-cutter fashion. A black and white canvas where the good belong on one side and the bad belongs on the other. Where what is not known could be figured out by the people next in line. A land that values what’s traditional and discourages new ideas until it becomes too massed to mistakenly ignore.

Truth be told, I had figured that, in some sense or another, I was a freak for believing the way that I do. To be some damn existentialist at the ripe age of 23 with a smirk that could cause even the most mischievous to grin with passion and a sense of life like a living will looking towards the grave. It’s not to say that I’m searching for Death.

I’m searching for a life that is deserved to be lived.

Perhaps I’m wrong so I’ll try to speak for myself. I write for the sake of my soul. I write in hopes that, one day, some kid who wonders if he thinks and feels in a way that is different from everyone else that he or she isn’t alone.

Alone…

There is something that I never anticipated with a job. I would have never guessed how lonesomely lovely this job can be. Honestly, I don’t consider it a job. It’s my life.

Guaranteed, you’ve never once had a job that you were able to rip your chest open and show the rest of the world your beating, barbaric heart for what it is. If you have, perhaps you should see a doctor. Good luck, by the way.

So, for all those who feel mad…for those without a voice, and for those who have read this far, heed my words.

We, as writers, are some of the most passionate, the vigorously loving, the mopiest mumblers, and possibly the craziest bastards this side of sanity.

Never be afraid of your own voice. It’s all you have to combat this mad, glad, and indifferent world.