6 Months Left to Live

“Listen… I’ve only got 6 months left to live and I don’t want to read another book on cancer.”

“You might need a priest, instead. My clients work on past traumas rooted in their subconscious. You’re facing end of life decisions. May I ask why you came here?”

“I read your advertisement, ‘Take control of your life!’ I’ve never done that before.”

“Why start now? Most people near death just want to get comfortable. Maybe you should put your affairs in order.”

“That sounds tiresome; I’m looking for something else.”

“What can the world offer you?”

“Redemption.”

“From what?”

“From who I used to be.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere… maybe I can help.”

“I want to choose who I am at the end.”

“Are you worried about your legacy?”

“I’ll be dead; getting remembered is foolish.”

“Then what will you have?”

“Have you ever wondered if you could do something, but you never had the courage to do it?”

“Yes; I felt that way in medical school. I raced cars at night, illegally, but one day I got busted and I quit. I was terrified to keep doing something that could ruin my future.”

“I don’t have a future. What would your life be like if you never became an Analysist?”

“I wouldn’t be stuck in a room listening to you. After taxes, I live comfortably; everyday blends together into decades. I have to read my notes to remember my clients. Even their suicides go out the window. On the weekends, I play golf, but I never get any better.”

“How could your life be better?”

“I wouldn’t need to cling to my identity. When you do something illegal for a living, you can’t talk about it. Who you are changes from one day to the next. If you’ve ever tasted something that made you feel alive, everything else becomes bland.”

“Why continue in your job?”

“I have a wife and a family who depend on me.”

“I don’t. Do you feel shackled with responsibility?”

“Yes; but I know I am doing something worthwhile.”

“Now you need to help me do something worthwhile. I’ve decided to rob banks.”

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W to E

Wanderers wonder

what would be

if they turned their wishes

West

Away from

Eastern Eyes

and Ears

Everywhere

Eating their dreams

WAKE UP

Follow the weathervane

Where wind whispers

Welcoming your Words

Evade Exploitation

and Wade into wonderful waters

like a wholehearted wildcat

Exit the Easy Life

and Enter

Where the window of wisdom is waiting

Welcome

fiery skies

worshiping

Wonderland.

Autumn Dreams

Strive for purity

some form of perfection

You will be a ship that cannot sink

on stormy seas

No matter the wind and the waves

they will only take you higher

the world will emancipate

from you

like gravity

and every unforced step

will move your being

through fields of falling leaves

where the ambitious

or angry

dare not go

oh sunlight

oh peace

oh beautiful clouds

beyond four walls

oh sweet stillness

enter into me.

My Aunt’s Stories and Buried Bank Money

I was trying to make it as a writer, but sometimes the ideas just wouldn’t come.

“Why don’t you write your aunt a letter?” My mother suggested. “Or better yet, why don’t you go visit her? She likes men, you know. It’s just her sisters who visit now and when your dad shows up, she talks about things she never shares with me.”

I didn’t have anything better to do, so I decided to bicycle down the quiet streets to her assisted living apartment in the late morning.

“She likes Chinese food,” my mother suggested as I walked out the door. It was on the way, so I decided to stop. The lady who owns the restaurant is sweet and I ordered 2 chicken teriyakis.

“Thank you very much,” she said. My mother loves this lady and always says the exact same line back to her “Thank you very much,” in a thick Chinese accent.

“Somebody’s going to accuse you of being a racist,” I said.

“What?”

“Your accent is stronger than hers.”

When we leave the store, the lady always walks back into the kitchen and yells at her husband. I can’t understand Chinese, but I know who runs the restaurant.

The assisted living building is well-kept. It reminds me of a classy hotel. Orchids are arranged in the lobby and the young staff are dressed in red-fitted uniforms.

“Can I help you?” A girl asks.

“Yeah, I’m here to see my Aunt Jeanne.”

“Oh, Jeanne Scott; third floor, room 3.”

“Thanks.”

I walk out of the lobby and past the living room. There’s a couple of women arguing about the rules of Bridge and a World War 2 veteran hunched over in his wheelchair, snoring loudly. A young nurse walks over to him and adjusts his oxygen mask.

In the elevator, a late 40s man dressed in a suit accompanies his wife. “Do you think she’ll be awake this time?” He asks.

“Who knows? She can fall asleep at a moment’s notice. She was awake when I talked to her on the phone.”

I turned the door handle and walked into my aunt’s room. Her smell was there. It’s been the same in both houses she’s owned. I’ve never smelled anything like it before. It’s a combination of dust and old lady perfume.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Fine,” Aunt Jeanne said. She still had a strong Idaho accent.

“You in school?”

“Yeah. I’ll probably never get out. They have me writing papers.”

“That’s fine. When my late husband and I put together the dictionary, it took a lot of time. You just stick with it and you’ll get through.”

I liked talking to her and I started to think I might get some story ideas from our conversation.

” Jorge will be in here shortly to check-up on me. We have to keep our relationship secret.”

“Oh,” I said. Sure enough, a Hispanic gentleman entered the room and adjusted her oxygen tank.

“Will that be everything Miss Scott?”

“That’ll do, until later,” she said with a wink.

“It looks like they treat you well,” I said after Jorge left.

“The food isn’t bad, but I don’t like to talk to those ladies downstairs. It took 80 years of card games and bingo to turn them into empty heads filled with cotton and Vaseline coming out of their ears. There’s not a lot of people who hold a good conversation here. How’s your family?”

“Well, my mom’s doing fine.”

“I don’t mean your mom. What about your 5 kids?”

“Aunt Jeanne, I’m only 20 years old and unmarried.”

“What?” She paused for half a second and then kept going. “Do you attend church?”

“Yeah, but only when I feel like it. Is there a place that you go?”

“Satan and Jesus stop by here once-and-awhile, but they usually don’t have much to say to me. They get along too well and I can’t get a word in edgewise.”

I laughed inside when I thought about what my pastor would think.

“You know, there is someone I do like to talk to. Frank lives next door. He robbed banks for a living in the 40s. He’s over 100 years old. He can’t talk very good after his stroke, but he was able to draw me a map of where he buried the bank money.

Jeanne pulled a folded piece of paper out of her Western novel that marked her place. She handed it to me, and I opened it. It looked like a Kindergartener had drawn a map with crayons. I wasn’t going to take a second look, but then I noticed something familiar.

It was a lighthouse I knew, 12 miles away. It showed a gnarly tree with a red X drawn near the roots.

“Don’t you need money to get yourself through college?” My Aunt asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

She handed me the map. My Aunt asked about my father’s work as a bounty hunter in Europe and then I had to go. I was riding home and I got this crazy idea. What if my aunt wasn’t 100 percent delusional?

I turned a fork in the trail and rode south towards the lighthouse. It was twilight when I got there, and nobody was in sight. I didn’t have a shovel, but I looked around and found one, leaning up against a shed. I followed the drawing out back and looked for an oak tree resembling an old man.

Its branches were bent and twisted in several places, like it had arthritis and I started digging at the roots.

Pretty soon I struck wood and I pulled a chest out of the ground. I broke the rusted lock and opened the lid. There was enough cash in there to attend University for a lifetime.

The best parts of us…

The best parts of us…

are unseen

So, excavate yourself

without falling in

There’s a soldier

a sailor

or a salesman

waiting to be found

depending on the tools you use

So, dig carefully

to expose

who you want to be

Be mindful of what others will see

Your soil gets mixed with theirs

and they’ll cover you up

or lay you bare

Shifting sands

might get planted

with seeds

Or is it better

to lie in the sun

until your dried bones

no longer bleed

Trees will grow

if your soil is black

dropping their fruit

on rotten earth

until their roots

find your heart

nurturing

those

uncovered.

Family Conversations

“You know what I realized?” I said.

“What?” My brother-n-law asked.

“You can only grow when you push yourself past your self-imposed limitations.”

He was concentrating on his organic coffee while he half-listened to me. His free-range eggs were carefully organized on the counter while his bacon sizzled in the frying pan.

“You aren’t happy,” he said.

“Happiness is a fleeting emotion,” I replied. “The problem with society is that they live for pleasure.”

“I live for pleasure. You don’t have any satisfaction in your life.”

“If you are satisfied and content, you will never be hungry for things,” I said.

My mother walked downstairs. “Jon, will you be working today?”

“My uncle thinks he’s my boss. That was the last straw.”

“What happened?” My mother asked.

“Marilyn, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“My boss is a fair woman,” I said.

“Andy, you should never use the word ‘Boss’; you’re placing her above you.”

My mother started to read the newspaper. “You know, this says that white-supremacists are massing in Europe.”

“Marilyn, you can’t believe everything you read. The news is heavily slanted.”

“I thought it was objective.”

“Most everything you get from the media is a cover up; people still think we landed on the moon.”

“You don’t believe that?” My mother asked.

“The less you believe, the wiser you are,” my brother-n-law said.

Gym Philosophy

I chose my body when I was 20. It was a weightlifter’s gym. The kind that smells of chlorine and sweat. There were philosophers there; men who debated ideas and talked politics; and some who made their bodies their religion. They didn’t get along. I see them from time to time in the grocery store.

Back then, I thought I was staring at the women; but now I realize it was the men who left an impression on me. I rarely talked to them, but I always listened to their conversations.

“You really want the government to raise your taxes? Any authority who thinks they know what’s best for you or your money is a tyrant.”

“Health care is a right and communism would work if it was done correctly.”

If you don’t have a transactional economy, you’re dealing with philosopher kings who think only of themselves.”

“Will you guys shut up! This is a gym; let’s lift weights.”

Growth moves in cycles and I was starting to become a full-time bodybuilder. My boss told me he could get me steroids, but I was clean. I didn’t believe in drugs. Instead, I took supplements that weren’t regulated by the food and drug administration. I wondered why my hair was falling out.

I had 50-pound dumbbells in each hand during my bicep workout. My forehead was pulsating, and my teeth were clenched. My face was pure rage while I was going to war with my body.

A fat man sitting next to me was alternating reps with 10 pounds while he talked about the barbecue he was going to. He kept glancing at me in the mirror. “That guy’s on steroids for sure,” he said. I played his line over and over in my head during many workouts.

The guys at the gym taught me about women, marriage, and smart choices in life.

“In hindsight, I should’ve married this girl I knew in high school; she was homely, but sweeter than pie. Looks fade, you know.”

“Are you a traditionalist? I tried to wrap my mind around the bible, but I kept getting hung up on what God did to the people of Midian. A lot of Christians just don’t know their old testament or if they do, they ignore it. Some of their arguments are bazar.”

“Well, the answers in life are not simple. Religion makes them sound that way, but when you dig into the scriptures it raises questions that not even the pastor can answer.”

“Will you guys shut up! This is a gym; let’s lift weights.”

After living in the light for 80 years…

After living in the light for 80 years…

I’ll be ready to live in the dark

just turn up the classical music

and roast me quickly

I like to think of myself as rare

bloody on the inside

with delicious flavor

In our last years

We break down

forgetting the world

and the world forgets us

We’re moving to somewhere

Like my Aunt

living in assisted living

married to her Hispanic husband

who takes care of her

She thinks my dad is a sheriff

who arrests bootleggers in Europe

And I’m a father with 5 kids

Satan and Jesus visit her routinely

and she hides Jews under her wheelchair

The mind knows what it needs at the end

It knows what we need now

We should listen to it

more often

and trust in its goodness

In the dark

we can hear music

In our sleep

We dream

In our waking moments

we are not woke

WAKE UP

WAKE UP

WAKE UP

Near death

there is life

let it go

and you have it

It’s the moment

It’s now

NOW

Do it now!

Hell on Wheels

Summer is diet season. You’ll hear teachers discussing the South Beach Diet, Watermelon Diet, Paleo Diet, and assorted liquid diets in the last few days of school. Everybody weighs in, takes a number, and sets their weight-loss goals. It’s collaboration and not competition or at least that’s what teachers say.

I decided to start biking the trail near my house that follows the old train tracks through the woods into Maple Valley. All the gears on my Cannondale are rusted so pedaling takes twice the effort. I can’t feel the wind the way I used to in high school and my muscles are in agony at mile 15. I stop on the train trestle and look into the river.

Moving to the other side, I follow a rabbit trail underneath an old pine and fertilize its roots. Handlebars are protruding from a blackberry bush and I grab hold of them. An old HUFFY is standing in front of me and the tires are full of air. It’s black frame glints in the sunlight.

I walk it up to the trail and get on. I feel fused to the seat, like we are one and any attachment I had to my old bicycle is gone. I start riding and the wind gushes through my hair for the first time in years. I can see my muscles straining, but I don’t feel the pain.

The bike goes faster as we ride up gravel hills and down forest paths. Being cautious is far from my mind as we jump logs and tear down hillsides. We spinoff to the lake and it releases me to enjoy the beach, but while I’m lying there, I can’t stop thinking about its beautiful black frame. It’s taking me places and doing things to me that I’ve never felt.

When I get home, I get on the scale and I’ve lost 5 pounds. Probably water weight, I think, but the next morning I’m 8 pounds lighter. All I can think about is the bike. It’s like a dog that wants to go on a run. I straddle the seat before breakfast and we’re off again. This time, we’re cruising through the city and we pass the mounted police giving out tickets to double-parked cars.

My HUFFY goes through a puddle and splashes them. They give chase and the race is on. I clamp the breaks, but they won’t work. My heart feels funny and my legs might break, but again, the black frame deadens the pain. I need calories, but it won’t stop at the hamburger joint and keeps going until we reach Seattle. I heave into a trash can next to a homeless man and he admires my bike.

“A guy could get places on that thing,” he says. I nod and wipe my face with my shirt sleeve.

“You mind if I take it for a spin?”

“That’s awfully forward,” I say.

“How about this?” He replies.

And I stare at a switchblade inches from my neck, but even then, I won’t let the bike go.

The whiskey-soaked man lunges, like he is reaching for a million dollars and the bike frame swings out and breaks his arm.

“I have to get rid of this thing,” I say out loud. But the bike controls my mind, like an addiction. There is no separation.

I bike to work every day now. And even when I am doing paperwork, the bicycle is in the back of my mind. I’ve lost 40 pounds and gained enormous muscles.

“How did you do it?” The teachers ask.

“I’m a slave to my bicycle; you got to help me.”

But they just laugh, giving me the weight-loss trophy.

Halloween Messiah

Jeremiah Jones slept too soundly for a man who was sentenced to be executed in 48 hours.

“What will you have for your last meal?” The guard interrupted.

“Bread and wine,” Jones yawned.

“That would not be my first choice,” The guard said.

Jones nodded and opened his bible.

“Do you want a priest?”

At first, Jones didn’t respond.

“Yes; I’ll talk to a priest.”

Shortly after, a holy man entered. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m preparing to rise from the dead and I need you to witness my plan. You’re a Catholic in good standing, so people will believe your account of my resurrection.”

“Do you regret what you did?”

Jones reflected on his murder. “I stopped him from killing millions.”

“But the president! You killed the president!”

Jones ignored the priest’s outrage. “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants. Now you must promise me that I won’t be buried for the next three days.”

“You are not Jesus Christ!”

“I know that. I am Jeremiah Jones.”

30 hours later, the priest watched electricity pulse through Jones. Nobody could stop the wrath of a nation. And as requested, Jones lay in a metal case for 72 hours while the priest became more curious by the day. Just to be sure, he walked down to the cold room and opened the coffin.

Jones’ lips were blue and his face was lifeless. To think all those women were fighting over his last few moments like he was a winning lottery ticket, the priest thought. And he breathed easier, knowing that miracles don’t happen.

He walked to the nearest hot dog stand and lathered on the relish.

“Are you prepared to share the good news?” The vendor asked.

And the priest stared into the dead face and had a heart attack. The vendor immediately pulled off his mask and administered CPR.

Hot dogs were on sale for Halloween.