The Wanderer

Staring at the stars

with the whole universe outside

You are stronger than the moment

a searcher

in the dead of night

You give meaning to footsteps

on frozen ground

Where blades of grass

crack

crying out

to your wandering.

Blood is bought

when men claw

for enviable things

but these battles are invisible

to the wanderer

who knows his blood

and trusts his fight

walking

and searching

for special confidence

on a cold night.

Chapter 3 What He Thought About in the Dark

Gregson never let anyone drive his car; it was a classic 911 Porsche Turbo. Mechanical, none of this electric bullshit. But Liz was different. He gave her the keys; he was in no mind to fight traffic, let alone a woman.

Liz opened the car door and two golf balls fell out. Your balls are rolling away,” Liz said.

“Don’t I know it.”

Gregson thought about the gym. He thought about Liz. He thought about the shotgun in the duffel bag.

“You’re awfully quiet, Liz said. “You got a girl?”

“Uhhh,” Gregson mumbled. He was 50; he just didn’t have the time, energy, or money to keep pace with a younger woman, or any woman for that matter.

“We need to work on your communication skills,” Liz laughed.

Gregson smiled. He was looking forward to his warm bed, a glass of rum, his pipe, and one of those books, so boring he’d be asleep before the second chapter.

Liz parked and looked into his starry eyes. “You’re not a fighter, are you?” She said. “You’re a lover.” She kissed him. Gregson didn’t understand women. “Thanks for the ride,” he said. “This is for your taxi fare.” He gave her a couple bills.

“Aren’t you going to invite me up?”

“Maybe some other time; when my head doesn’t hurt,” Gregson said.

“Then take care of yourself old man.” Liz gave him a hug and flagged down an Uber. Gregson climbed the steps to his apartment, one at a time. Then he puffed his pipe in the dark. It wasn’t his fault that women found him more attractive the older he got, but his priorities had changed. It wasn’t women that he thought about all night; it was solving crime; the thought of it kept him warm under the covers.

Chapter 2 Muscles and Thongs

Every place has an energy; it comes from the way people talk and the dreams they still hold onto. Gregson walked through the glass doors of Muscles and Thongs. It was like entering a fishbowl and the fish were greedy. They wanted the gold in each other.

Gregson couldn’t understand why people at the peak of fitness still worked behind a counter. Many lives were lost, standing around, waiting for the shift to be over, dreaming of sex, and thinking about favorite TV shows.

“I’d like a membership,” Gregson said to an attractive brunette. She looked at him, like she knew more than he did. “I’m Liz. What are your fitness goals?” She asked.

“I want to become a lethal weapon,” Gregson said.

Liz giggled. “You’re cute. We do have a Jujitsu class, but you might need to shave a few pounds to improve your performance on the floor.”

“Performance has never been my problem,” Gregson said.

Liz blushed. “Do you have a personal trainer?”

No; how much do you charge?”

“Your first session is free with me; then we can talk about money.”

“I’ll get ready,” Gregson said. He went into the locker room. Men with enormous muscles were walking around in the nude. Gregson found a tiny corner and started to stretch his body into the singlet; it was like wrapping himself in a slingshot. Any action could cause his fat to fly off in all different directions, but when he was done, he looked 50 pounds lighter. His rolls molded into a barrel shape, giving him a power lifter look.

Liz was waiting for him on the mats. Her pink sports bra and yoga pants were pure sex. Gregson felt 20 years younger.

“We’ll start with the butterfly stretch and move into the downward dog,” Liz said. Gregson followed her every movement, trying to make his body do what hers could do. In 20 minutes, he felt like a rubber band, stretched to snap.

“Now I’ll turn you over to Jackson in the Jujitsu class,” Liz said. “Follow me.” Gregson followed her curly brown hair and curvy legs through sweat and iron and agony. Her smell kept him going, even though his joints jiggled.

“If you want a private tutor, here’s my card. I know a little Jujitsu. We can wrestle on the mat during my off hours.” Gregson took her card in disbelief and walked into hand-to-hand combat.

Jackson had muscles the size of tree trunks and he was throwing suburban moms across the room. They all had silly smiles on their faces when he wrestled them to the ground or pinned them in submission holds.

“You’re the new guy, huh?” Jackson said.

Gregson nodded.

“Well, we’ll pair you up with somebody who can teach you a few things.” Gregson followed him to an enormous mom who was meditating. “Karen, I have a new guy for you to break in.”

She opened her eyes and shook Gregson’s hand.

“Positions,” Jackson shouted.

“Wait, I’m not ready,” Gregson said.

“There’s no such thing as not ready! Show him the torpedo.”

Karen screamed in martial arts and dove toward him like a battering ram.

Gregson’s eyes got really big and then everything went blank.

When he woke up, the gym was empty. There was a hot compress on his forehead and a cup of tea next to his limp body.

“I’ll take you home,” Liz said. “You did good today.”

Gregson felt like squash. When he made it to the parking lot, Jackson was putting his duffel bag into his Challenger. Gregson noticed the outline of a shotgun inside. He had come to the right place.

Best Friends

I don’t know why some people get together; it might be cosmic coincidence. I was walking through the Bellevue College bookstore when I saw the kid I chased around church when I was younger. I locked him in the bathroom until he cried.

“Clayton, what are you up to?”

“Mathematics. What’s your major?”

“Psychology. I’m just fascinated by crazy people.”

Clayton grinned. Then I started talking to him about serial killers. He couldn’t get enough. “Ted Bundy gave advice to Quantico Virginia so Sheriff Rickert could paint a psychological portrait of the Green River Killer,” I said.

“How do you know that? You sound just like a textbook.”

“Deviance interests me.”

“If I was a girl right now; I would be scared out of my mind,” Clayton said.

“Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get dates lately. Oh, look at the time. I have to go take a final.”

“Good luck,” Clayton said.

Years passed. I finished undergrad and grad school. I became a psychologist. Then my parents went to a 50th wedding anniversary. Clayton was there.

“How’s Andy doing? Clayton asked. “Is he still interested in serial killers?”

“Yes; it’s been over a decade; he knows every serial murder that’s happened in the last hundred years,” my mom said.

“Wow, I knew he was interested, but I didn’t know his obsession went that far.”

“What are you up to? My mom asked.

“I’m getting a PhD. in Mathematics,” Clayton said. “I’m dating a lot, but I don’t want to give a woman half my stuff.”

My mom shook her head while she told me the conversation.

I decided to friend request him on Facebook. Soon we were climbing up a mountain together with his friend Jeff. Jeff was a data analyst, overweight, and a liberal.

“Trump will win,” I said. “He’s a narcissist and inarticulate, but the crowds love him. What an interesting, charismatic man.”

“God,” Jeff said.

Clayton laughed. “Andy likes people who are interesting. It doesn’t matter what they do; they could be serial killers and he would love them.”

“Clayton, you already know me,” I said.

And we are still best friends to this day.

Chapter 1 Bodybuilding Bank Robbers

Gregson still read the newspaper in the internet age. He looked for stories to divert his boredom because when he became really bored, he ate. One pleasure needed to balance out the other and when he found a promising article, he circled it in red pen. “Bodybuilders Carry-off Perfect Bank Robbery, interesting,” Gregson mused. He unconsciously reached for another blueberry muffin. The problem was that he also ate when he got really excited. “Maybe it’s time to get a gym membership,” he said out loud. “In downtown Chessfield.” He slurped his black coffee and kept reading with his thick spectacles.

“Says here, they operate as a tight-knit team, ummm. They use Brazilian Jujitsu on the guards. I’ll make a few phone calls.”

Gregson dialed. “Yes; do you have a Jujitsu club attached to your gym?”

“No. We cater to 50-year-old women.”

“Well, could you tell me where to find the gym I’m looking for?”

“You want Muscles and Thongs.”

“You’re kidding; sounds like a gentlemen’s club.”

“I don’t make the names mister.” CLICK.

“Well, he was an abrupt fellow. I’ll just finish off this muffin and then find my exercise clothes. Where did I put my shorts? That’s right; it’s been a few years since I wore them. Maybe the maid threw them out. I’ll stop on the way. The sports store was deserted and Gregson was mildly pleased.

“I may be taking martial arts and I need something that holds my weight well,” Gregson said to the high schooler behind the counter. “What do you have?”

“You could go with a singlet.”

“Ah, kinda like overalls; yeah, that’ll work.”

“We have one in your size, I think,” the kid said. He went into the back room and got Extra Extra Large.

“That looks kinda small.”

“It’s elastic; don’t worry.”

Gregson paid and then found Muscles and Thongs. Beautiful women were walking into the gym from the parking lot. He sucked in his belly and held his breath. “Maybe this is just what I need to get my blood pumping again.”

The Life of the Party

The life of the party

is not for me

it asks for things

I don’t want to be

I like walks with mom

visiting places

that visit me

conversations

with just the woods

and friends who allow me

to be

The party

wants me

to make noise

when I don’t want to

and go places

I’ve already been

I keep my words

inside

and let them out

where I find them

always waiting

just for me.

Epilogue

The swamp looked like a melted smore that caught fire. Syrupy sludge and white foam oozed out of the ground like life was still trying to evolve.

“I love the smell of Napalm in the evening,” Gregson said. “It smells like a weenie roast. I’m hungry.”

“We barbecued the monsters… why don’t we barbecue those cows out back. The meat hasn’t gone bad yet and if we don’t eat them, it’ll start to smell,” the barkeep said.

“Is that Kosher?” Murphy asked.

“Don’t worry,” I’ll say a prayer; I’m half Jewish.”

Cops juiced with adrenaline have bigger appetites than monsters and 13 head of cattle disappeared faster than you can say “moo”. When morning came, house wives warded off toads with brooms and kids collected snakes in terrariums. The monsters lived long enough to horrify teachers for show and tell.

Police were gutting McMasterson’s house when Gregson arrived. Scanners moved over every inch of the residence. “Maybe he kept his formula in his own head,” a rookie said.

“Why don’t you get us some coffee and donuts as long as you’re thinking, Sherlock.”

Gregson chuckled; it was only yesterday when he was a rookie.

“Who invited you?” A fat lieutenant asked.

“Don’t you know who he is?” The rookie said.

“Go get the coffee,” the officers chimed. Gregson had come home and suddenly, a volume on the shelf caught his attention.

“The Purloined Letter… don’t you know… the best way to keep something hidden is to put it in plain sight,” Gregson said. He pulled the volume off the shelf and opened it. Two sheets of formulas floated to the floor.

“I think this is what you’re after.”

“Who are you?” The lieutenant asked.

“I’m Gregson.”

Chapter 8 An Experiment that Went Bad

Eternity is tempting for those who love life and an obsession for those who fear death. -Intellectual Shaman

McMasterson pulled a stick of dynamite from his jacket. “Hey, can I get a light?”

Standish extended his torch.

“Don’t, you fool,” Gregson whispered. “He’s still on the drug. Sometimes monsters are made and sometimes they make monsters. McMasterson has always been and will always be. Grab him.”

Standish grabbed at McMasterson, but the old man was too fast. He scurried into his cabin and locked the door. Screaming and thrashing followed. Wallboards flew into the swamp, disturbing the water.

Gregson pulled his six-shooter from his pocket and gave the first tentacles lead poisoning.

Darla jettisoned from above like a bird of prey and Standish leaped into the swamp. Retreat was their only option, but they couldn’t turn their backs on the beasts.

Murphy was firing at anything that moved, but now the swamp was crawling. A tentacle grabbed him by the leg and pulled him halfway in. Gregson couldn’t see where to shoot as the mist was getting thicker and thicker, but through the fog emerged a hound, grabbing Murphy by the collar and pulling him to safety.

“That’s my suspect,” Murphy laughed. He got licked twice in the ear. “Knock that off.” It was all they could do to outrace the creatures and pretty soon they were back at the bar.

“Where’s the barkeep?” Gregson barked. In response, a Gatling gun sounded-off from the roof. Sirens wailed as squad cars bounded up the lane. Tentacles and human flying monsters, and poisonous toads, and enormous snakes were trying to crawl out of the bush, but got mowed down. The police took cover and began to lay on the lead.

“This is Detective Murphy; yes, I need a helicopter near Chessfield. Napalm… lots and lots of napalm. In a matter of minutes, helicopter blades chopped the air and the fireball that erupted was so large God could have roasted a hot dog from outer space. Everything burned; the creatures, the water, the bush, and an experiment that went bad.

Chapter 7 Into the Primordial Swamp

Gregson trusted his revolver, petting its trigger like a rattlesnake in his pocket. Even the police, with their automatic weapons, were no match for a well-placed shot. Shrieking labor pains cut the cold air with palpable terror.

“It’ll be every man for himself,” Bob said. “I’ve got Billy-Boy here to save my bacon.” The squat balding man clenched a double barrel shotgun.

“That’s only got two shots; this here’s what I carry,” bragged the fat man. “My grandpa gave it to me— left over from World War II. He held up a BAR that hadn’t been oiled in 50 years.

“That barrel is rusted up, certain sure. When the Misses has one of her tentacles up your pant leg and you’re defending your manhood, you’ll want one of these.” Standish buried a bowie knife into the wooded table. He looked like a monster at 6′ 4″.

“Gentlemen, wait for the police. Otherwise, you’re liable to kill the neighbor’s dog,” Murphy said.

“What do you know, city man?” Standish yelled. “It sounds like the monsters out there are multiplying. We’ve got to hunt this thing in the swamp before it decides to knock on the front door.”

Bob looked at the floor. The fat man cringed. Gregson was amused. The barkeep wanted to sell everybody one last drink before his customers got eaten.

“Alright, I’ll follow,” Murphy said. “Anybody with a gun is welcome. Let’s go kill this thing.”

Standish took the lead with his knife in his fighting hand and a torch in the other. Everybody walked where he walked; the swamp was more dangerous than the creatures in it. One false step and it would suck you in like an oatmeal raisin pudding. The water was like black volcanic glass, glinting in the moonlight with razor sharpness ready to emerge. A shadow past and then another. The horrific bird song was silent; only the wind or the creatures in the wind could be heard.

Up ahead, a lonely cabin was propped out of the water between two trees. What looked like glowing blood dripped into the swamp.

“Chemicals. That loon, McMasterson has been experimenting again; gone and woke the hounds from hell and a few other creatures. What was he trying to do?” Standish asked.

“What any man wants who hasn’t lived his life long enough,” a voice rang out. “Eternal Life.” A canoe cut through the water and McMasterson stepped onto the dock.

Obvious and Invisible

Invisible

convulsions

entering

emotions

like pollution

through the nose of wisdom.

We discuss

what people

try

to keep hidden.

Hiding

is obvious,

being obvious

is hiding.

Lives

outside,

Worlds

unknown.

Monstrous phantasms

or pleasant illusions

craving,

wanting

to be known.