Chapter 3 Stranger on a Plane

Gregson breathed the recycled air and watched the ground get smaller. He was fasting the last 10 days. His goal was to starve the cancer so it couldn’t metabolize. Tumors love sugar and so did he, but he resisted his love to live a bit longer, that was… until he couldn’t.

“Stewardess, would you get me a beer?”

“We aren’t called stewardesses anymore.” Gregson looked at her.

“Oh, what do they call you then?” He asked.

“Flight attendant.” She said this with status. Gregson looked at her tall figure; she was a vase without any flowers. Her long legs flowed into her swollen head.

CRUSH. She popped the top of his beer.

“Too many sleeping pills,” he muttered.

“What?” She demanded.

“Did I say that out loud? I must be tired. I need to rest; I have cancer, after all.”

Her porcelain face broke into teddy bear sadness. “I hope it’s not serious,” She said.

“Stage 4. I’ve got six months left to live, if I’m lucky.”

Tears rolled into her eyes like waves. Why was it that women wanted him dead when he was alive, but when he was dying, they couldn’t bear the thought?

Solving their mystery was worthwhile; it was unfathomable, the type of hard case that confounds a detective until he realizes some mysteries are not meant to be solved.

Gregson sipped his beer and looked out the window at the blue Atlantic. It was always moving. His eyes were heavy. He slept for hours, passing over jungles, long-forgotten ruins, major cities, and the Brazil beach dancing with babes.

We will begin our descent in 20 minutes…

Gregson woke up and buckled his seat-belt. He felt oddly calm, it was his psychic sense reaching out into the world with an eye for things that can’t be seen and suddenly, he knew he was being watched. Somebody was on the plane with similar business; the red flower was many things to many different people; its fragrance was life and wealth and beauty.

Chapter 2 Last Minute Flight

Gregson was more himself, the closer he got to death, and maybe that’s why he chased things that could kill ‘im, but this time he didn’t have to chase anything. It was inside him. Hospital patients looked at Gregson like he was a god, or at least that’s what he thought. He was a spiritual being, closer to his true self than he had ever been before. Men kept staring at his manhood, so he chose to spare their esteem and put a robe on. It made him feel like Sherlock Holmes or a mall flasher; he couldn’t decide. Oh well, the quest for the orchid was dangerous, if not impossible, a fool’s errand. And Gregson was part fool. The foolish part of him relied on luck; when he didn’t know what to do, he trusted it to guide him.

“Sir, will you be checking out?”

“Yes; and I need you to chart me a flight to the Amazon.”

“Stop him. Don’t let him leave!” The nurses shouted.

The intern looked confused. “It’s only my first day. What do I do?”

“They want me to stay while I shrivel into an adult baby,” Gregson said. “Don’t listen to authority.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s saying. He’s got chemo brain.”

“My head has never been clearer. Call me a plane to take me out of here.”

The intern was being pulled in all different directions. She looked right and then left. It was the medical staff on the one hand, and then a man who spoke like a prophet with so much confidence he could have been running the hospital.

She faltered and then punched the red button. EMERGENCY sounds rang out. Gregson lunged for the sliding doors. If he had still been fat, he wouldn’t have made it, and there was a taxi.

“Take me to the airport.”

“Right away sir. You know, I have not been in your country very long, but you are unusually dressed.”

“Just drive buddy and the faster you go, the more I’ll pay you.”

Gregson wished he could take his words back when his driver hit 110 miles per hour, but then the airport was in sight.

“Amigo, wait a second while I check my lock box.” Gregson got his cash and passport. He left the silver six-shooter. “They’d frown if I took that onto the airplane.”

Gregson passed a large tip to the Indian driver.

“Two hundred dollars. I drive you next time.”

“You bet amigo.”

Airport security looked at Gregson suspiciously. “Do you have any items to declare?”

“Just my suit.”

“Where?”

“My birthday suit.”

“Oh, keep your robe on.”

Boarding in 5 minutes…

Gregson never felt more comfortable on a plane. He was 100 pounds lighter and wearing a bed sheet.

Chapter 1 Chemo and the Red Flower

Gregson looked at his I-V drip. One drop and then another drop. He was counting the drops. He had fun under the sun, and then he got cancer. He was sitting in his favorite chair, when it started poking him in the back. He didn’t feel a nail or anything sharp, but when he sat down, there it was again. It took him two weeks to figure out it was something inside him, and not the chair. Some detective.

Was this the end of the line? No more mysteries to solve; just the big one that waited for everyone when their lights went out. Gregson mused. What else could he do? Watch TV? Killing time was insane, now that time was all he had. The doctors said 6 months. But Gregson knew it was just a scare tactic to get him to do chemo. He didn’t know which was more frightening, having his own body eat itself or having a certified butcher cut him to pieces and then microwave his organs.

There were alternatives, but they seemed like false hopes. Gregson smiled. He always imagined that a worthy adversary would kill him in a creative way. Like maybe draining off each drop of his blood, until he was nothing but skin and bones; or perhaps, pushing him out of an airplane, seeing the ground grow larger and larger until impact. Having his own body turn on him, that was not something Gregson planned for. Of course, he should have, with his 3 cups of scotch a day and 5 cigars. Plus, he ate like it was his last meal at the all-you-can-eat buffets. That was the price of being a bachelor. No wife. No cook. Just freedom. But now he was facing the end and chemo made him feel inhuman. He didn’t appreciate the sun. He couldn’t taste his food. His manhood didn’t work.

All the things Gregson loved were being killed before he was actually dead. He was reading the national geographic. Flipping through the pages to see if he could spot nudes; it reminded him of being 14, but he couldn’t find any. Political correctness. You can’t read what you want to read or say what you want to say. You can’t even die the way you want to die, or can you? He stumbled upon a rather interesting article. It concerned a lost orchid that was discovered and reported-on by a biologist. Unfortunately, the natives got him before it could be extracted and reproduced. The chemical make-up might cure cancer.

“Nurse!” Gregson said. “I’m checking out.”

“Wait! You can’t!” She screamed.

But Gregson had already pinched the I-Vs from his veins and uncoupled his restraints. He flushed his meds down the toilet and grabbed the nurse’s keycard, opening the door.

“Sorry, but this case could be my greatest ever. It’s a race against time; it concerns life and death, my own. And if I live to see the day…” The nurse’s mouth was wide open. Gregson was missing his pants and giving a speech in the nude.

“Well, never mind. Speeches are overrated, anyway.” And with that, Gregson left for his greatest adventure, to find a rare orchid that could save his life and cure cancer.

Wavy Trees

Wavy Trees

Wave at Me

I sense their wisdom

Some

have been alive

longer than me

I look up

at their broken limbs

groaning

in nature’s mirth

Somehow

death and dying is okay

under falling leaves

and life is that much better

We break into pieces

just like trees

and fall to the ground

Nature accepts me

like family

under her mantel

and

I say goodbye

wavy trees.

The Master

Bartholomew rested his eyes under his white panama hat while his tanned workers glistened under the California sun. It was Monday; the beginning of a long week.

“Siesta, por favor?”

“Give it another hour, Jose. We will all drink cervezas like amigos in the shade of the palm tree.”

“Si, Senior, but I am muy cansado.”

“We’re all overworked Jose, but we must do our duty.” Bartholomew sipped his margarita and surveyed the jobs in the neighborhood. His clipboard would make him a wealthy man. Some men have executive positions in high-rise buildings; they dominate corporate meetings in business suits, but they’re all contained.

Bartholomew was different. He felt connected to the earth somehow and maybe that’s why he went into landscaping.

The door to the millionaire estate opened, and a skinny man in tennis shorts walked towards him. “You people are cutting my grass all wrong.”

Bartholomew sized him up. He was a software engineer, weak in his step and fastidious in his mannerisms. “How would you like your lawn manicured, sir?” Bartholomew asked.

“The lawn must be cut and recut in a cross-like pattern. Do it or you don’t get paid.”

“Well… I assure you that Bart’s Landscaping has the highest standards and successfully pleases every customer 100 percent of the time.”

“That’s impossible,” the man said. “Have it done when I get back.” He got into his Range Rover and drove out of the cul-de-sac.

“And good day to you sir,” Bartholomew said. He stood up from his lawn chair and his belly expanded in his Hula shirt, threatening to pop in the front.

” Vamanos, amigos.” Bartholomew’s workers dropped their shovels and ran for the company van. They pulled cutting torches and drills and metal detectors toward the mansion.

“40 minutes on the clock. If we can’t finish in time, we go home empty handed.”

If the neighbors were watching, they would have seen a southern gentleman in a white suit opening the front door like he belonged there. He detested the artwork on the walls, an insult to his taste. With the right price, anything could become art.

“It’s upstairs,” Bartholomew said.

In the Master Bedroom he pointed to the bookcase. “These software types don’t read, but they get it in their heads that money should be hidden behind books. It’ll be behind the thickest copy. Les Misérables. Redemption. Not for them, but for us.”

Jose grabbed it and the bookcase swung out, revealing a safe. “Drill it!” Metal shavings piled onto the floor like pasta. The heat was over 100 degrees. “We’re almost out of time.” Then the Range Rover pulled up.

“What do we do?” Jose asked.

“This is what you pay me for,” Bartholomew said. He snuck out of the kitchen window and ran to the corner of the house.

“My yard isn’t done yet. I’m planning to have a croquet match in one hour for my wife’s dinner party. She’ll be home any moment.”

“That is tough business, trying to please your wife. I know wives are particular about such things… Here’s what I can do. Like I said, we don’t get customer complaints often. Here’s my card. Good for three seasonal jobs.” Bartholomew grinned, showing his gold tooth. His crew snuck over the back fence with the loot.

“I guess you’re not so bad,” the engineer said. He shook Bartholomew’s hand.

“It’s always grand to do business with a fine gentleman like yourself. I’d like to finish your yard, perhaps next week. I may be out of town, but if I am in the neighborhood, I won’t hesitate to call.”

And with that, the fine Southern Gentleman strolled off the lawn to take care of more millionaire homes.

THE END

We are born to be geniuses, but…

Things don’t go the way I want them to go

It’s like I’m listening to someone

who puts me on hold

and

inconveniences pile up

like mail

sent to the wrong address.

I want the open road

but the negators keep saying

“stay in your office.”

Attitude is all we have

sometimes

but if we keep adjusting it

to deal with reality

it pushes us

farther from our sanity

until we laugh

when we should cry

and we find meaning

in meaningless things.

Teens watch us

wondering…

And I don’t blame them

because we are born to be geniuses

but we waste our time.

Pass It On

The old man lounged on the sofa. His eyes were glazed over from the sleep that hadn’t left them and momentarily blinded by the sun coming in through the window. His hair wasn’t combed and his belly stood out from his jean shirt.

“What would you wish for, grandpa, if you could wish for anything?” His grandson asked.

“I don’t think like that anymore,” he said.

“Would you wish for a million dollars or a special gift?”

There was a pause. It was unclear whether the old man was annoyed or he was just being thoughtful.

“I’ll tell you what I’d wish for,” he said. “I’d wish I had someone to pass my guns on to.”

“Won’t you pass them on to dad?”

“Well, some people appreciate things and some just want things. I’ve been making these guns for some time. I put my love and life into them. I just can’t give them up to anybody.”

Andy thought about that and wondered what kind of person would appreciate grandpa’s guns. His friend would be over soon.

“Hey Andy,” Joel said.

“I’m over here.”

“Do you want to build our underground fort on the other side of the river?”

“Sure.”

Andy walked into the garage and collected 3 tins of gun powder.

“We might have to blast if we find rocks in the way. Do you have the top ramen?”

“Right here,” Joel said.

‘We’ll build a camp fire.”

They worked all day, chiseling out their hole, eating top ramen, and hoping to find a rock big enough to blow up.

“There it is; now pack it tight, remember.”

“Leave a trail of powder to the payload. Okay, light it.”

BOOOOM!

“That was awesome!”

“Let’s go get more.”

They walked back into the garage and the old man was standing there. “You are just like your father; no respect for another man’s things.”

“Do you want to go play video games?” Joel asked.

“Sure,” Andy said. They left the old man and killed each other several times, but it just wasn’t exciting enough. “Let’s go squirrel hunting.”

“But your grandpa already caught us stealing his gunpowder. What would he do if we stole his guns?”

“I wouldn’t worry about that. He has short-term memory loss.”

THE END

Under the Wide-Open Blue Sky

Change

like

a fall fire

burning brown leaves into smoke

or a lake in winter

frozen cold

Get away

to be taught

by something else

Destinations

that cannot be impressed

Valleys cut by power

or hills hiding mysteries

Melt depression

with sun

beautiful flower

Speak to the rain

and

stand tall

in empty fields

under the wide-open blue sky.

The Great Migration

The barber shop was the heartbeat of the town, but the town was changing and Harry was too old to play catch-up.

“They got some condos going up on the east side and apartment buildings to the west,” Cornel said. This place will be a regular city before too long. The bank owns half the property here, including yours, am I right?”

“You’re right,” Harry said.

“Well, this place is changing. You can’t fight change.”

Harry cut Cornel’s hair extra fast. 30 years in the trade gave his fingers brains of their own. They usually did the work while he talked to customers, but today, Harry didn’t want to talk to anybody.

His clientele was changing. Now construction workers and land developers and bankers needed haircuts. New people brought new shops and a new economy.

“The old must make way for the new,” Harry said in a trance.

“You’re right about that. Ouch!”

Harry nipped Cornel with his scissors.

“Sorry about that; the haircut is on the house.”

“You really need to retire,” Cornel said and he left.

Harry stared out his window at the sun, wishing it would set in the East and reverse time. He swept up Cornel’s hair into a bag and took it home. It was a small house with a large acreage, perfect for apartment dwellings. The deer were always trying to eat his lawn, but he had a solution for that. He scattered human hair around the perimeter and it scared them off. There was an eviction notice tacked to his door.

Be Out in 48 Hours or Be Forcibly Removed

The road would have to be his address until he reached his final destination. A camper was attached to the bed of his old pickup truck. It’s funny how people are always trying to stay in one place, when the in-between places offer so much more freedom, Harry thought.

The next day, he got his cup of coffee and looked out onto the field. Deer were everywhere, eating the grass and poisoning the soil with their droppings. Wind had blown the hair into the trees. It looked like tinsel.

Then he noticed something that made his heart stop; a tree was not where it was supposed to be. He listened to the woods and they sounded like so many conversations he had heard in the barber shop. They were migrating towards the town. Moving slow enough not to be noticed, like shadows shifting at different times of day. They did not want to be developed or changed.

THE END

The Cucumbers Out Back

I was living with my parents and finishing my education. No matter what I did, it always seemed like gravity was pulling me backwards. I needed a better job, I needed to lose weight, I needed my own place, but time, money, and energy got sucked into a black hole I couldn’t understand. Women were running my life and I needed to escape into a den of masculinity, so I looked at the real estate adds. I found a house with some acreage and called on the place.

“Yeah, we have a vacancy,” the voice said over the phone. “You can check out the place today if you want to.”

“I’ll be right over,” I said.

“Andy, where are you going? You need to do your laundry and clean up the kitchen.”

“I’m going out mom.” I held my breath when I left. This was my last chance.

I found the place, easy enough. It was at the end of a long drive. Muscle cars and motorcycles were parked out front. My pickup truck had previously belonged to my 80-year-old aunt and didn’t fit in.

“You called about the rental?” A bald man asked.

“Yeah.”

My name’s Richard.” He shook my hand and crushed it. It was like he could tell how desperate I was. I walked inside. There were half-empty beer bottles lying everywhere. A poker game was going-on in the corner and it looked like the players were trying to stay awake.

“More coffee,” a guy shouted. A kid that looked like me brought a tray of steaming espresso shots to the group. Most of the furniture was adjustable weight equipment and the testosterone in the air was palpable.

“How much is the rent?” I asked.

“400.”

I looked at the room. There was a boxing bag in the corner and an army cot next to it.

“I’ll take it,” I said.

“It’ll cost you 50 bucks to use the weight equipment.”

“Sounds fair.”

With that, I moved in.

I noticed the guys were eating bachelor food every day, but they never gained any weight. There were pizza boxes and Chinese food containers stuffed to the brim in the trash cans out back. Being around so much fast food added another inch to my waistline.

“Richard, why do these guys stay so muscular and cut?” I asked.

“Well, we don’t normally tell new residents. It’s a big secret and to tell you the truth, not fully understood. The guys here all eat the cucumbers out back. They were here when we got here. There’s something unnatural about them. They suppress the appetite and cause us to put on muscle. They may even make you smarter.”

I thought he was pulling my leg, but he was too serious about it. When I went into the garden, it was full of cucumbers. They grew everywhere. They even grew outside of the garden. It was like a testosterone cucumber paradise.

As the days wore on, the guys let me try one of the cucumbers and sure enough, my body started to morph. I got muscles and lost all of my fat. My last college classes were easy. Everything in my life began to change. I met a great girl and she wanted us to get a place together.

So, I told Richard about it and he said, “Okay.”

I packed my stuff and picked a cucumber.

“I’m afraid you can’t take that with you,” Richard said.

“Why?” I asked.

“This place is special and it continues to be special because the cucumbers grow here and only here. If they get out into the larger world, what we have here is just a bunch of bachelors who can’t move on with their lives.”

“I understand,” I said. I got my duffel together and said goodbye to the guys. They looked at me like I was a traitor, but I felt like I escaped another trap.

“Once you leave, you can’t come back,” Richard said. I shook his hand and crushed it.

I moved in with my girlfriend who looked at me like she had pinned down a Greek god. I looked like one, but I knew it wouldn’t last very long. So, in the dead of night, I went back to the bachelor pad. I snuck over the fence into the garden and cut myself a cucumber.

One of the strong men walked amongst the vegetables to take a leak and I wondered if there was some kind of masculine symbiotic relationship between the guys and the cucumbers.

“Stop, cucumber thief!” He shouted. But I was gone. I potted my cucumber in my apartment and it quickly grew into more.

My girlfriend wondered why I had such an obsession growing cucumbers. “They smell funny,” she said.

The next evening, I noticed my potted plant was missing. “What happened to it?” I demanded.

“Threw ’em in the yard waste.”

I ran to the trash bins.

“It’s too late,” she said. “The guy came by and picked ’em up this morning.”

I couldn’t go back to the bachelor pad; security was too tight. Masculinity had slipped through my fingers once again.

“Andy, can you take your laundry out and clean the kitchen?” My girlfriend asked.

“Yesss,” I said. I had traded one mother for another and I longed for the world between worlds where I felt like a man.

THE END