What I Found in the Woods

Clarity rarely enters a muddled mind, and when it does, it is often ignored. -Intellectual Shaman

I was playing golf with my cronies. I didn’t want to be like either one of them, but they were the guys who kept showing up in my life to hang out with me.

“You want some bud, Andy?”

“No, it’ll just be beer for me, this round,” I said.

“Ha, you think your better than us, but we know you. You’re the biggest poser there ever was.”

“We’ll see,” I said. And I crushed my ball off the number one tee.

Ryan slugged his second shot out of the rough while I hit my third into the woods. It was a slow walk up the hill and my beer belly wanted to rest on the soft grass. Then I dropped.

“You havin a heart attack?” Brad asked.

“No, just tired,” I said.

“Pace of play. Get yourself moving!” Ryan said.

I nodded and I got to my feet. If this round was like last week, I’d need something medicinal by hole number 3. I scrambled between the trees, looking for my ball and suddenly, I smelled the worst ganja. It was like dirty feet. A cloud of smoke billowed under some ferns confusing the insects, followed by coughing and choking.

“Who goes there?” A voice shouted.

I thought I might be hallucinating, but then I remembered… I’d only been drinking. “I’m just looking for my ball,” I said.

The underbrush parted and there was a little man with a rusty crown on his head, smoking a pipe.

“It’s been awhile since I talked to anybody,” he said.

“Why?”

“Maybe because I drink too much and I like to get high.”

Are you human?”

“Not exactly. My purpose, unfortunately, is to help people like you. I’m a leprechaun. I’ve lived for thousands of years and it’s the same tired monotony. Once I turned to drugs, I started attracting guys like you. I hate helping idiots, but it’s the only way I retain my magic. Once I lose that, I’m fair game for wild animals and circus spectators. Even with magic, maybe especially with magic, I exist in a prison of my own creation.”

“That’s very wise,” I said.

“Not really,” he offered. “When you’ve lived for thousands of years, you can’t stop thinking about life. In fact, you want to stop thinking about it.”

“I understand,” I said.

“Do you?”

“I think so. You can play games for only so long, and then you want something real, but life is a game and there isn’t a prize at the end.”

“God, I thought I was depressed,” he said. “How long have you been alive?”

“33 years.”

“Humans have no stamina. It took 150 years for me to get depressed.”

“Let’s not make this into a competition,” I said.

“Of course not. Now how can I help you?”

“I don’t know… I guess I need to stop my bad habits, find success, and marry a good girl.”

“God, you humans are so naive, but your wish is granted. Now I’ll get back to puffing the magic dragon, if you don’t mind?”

“No, go ahead,” I said. I found my ball and hit it onto the green.

“A miracle shot!” Brad shouted. “Who were you talking to back there? Are you sure you didn’t light a duby?

I smiled. I was high on life and who cared if it took 150 years for the effects to ware off. I’d be dead, long before then. So, I holed out and my life became a miracle after that moment. I don’t care what other people say, magic clears the mind, when nothing else will.

THE END

First comes love, then comes marriage, then…

We are haunted by what we can’t have, and when we get it, we become ghosts. -Intellectual Shaman

Jorge was driving a red roadster recklessly. He was standing at the wheel, like a ship’s captain, an enthusiast of the roadways, careening between summer leaves like a man on a mission. He was an artist, so perhaps society would give him leniency before they locked him up; now he was a successful artist. After years of dripping paint on canvas and living off cigarettes and cheap wine, Jorge made the big time.

“Come down from there Jorge; we’re not at the beach yet; sailing a car across asphalt isn’t a good idea.” Kate reclined on her leather seat cushions, staring up at him.

Jorge laughed; he looked down at her. She was wearing a white dress and red lipstick. They were married. He was out of control, and he held the wheel tighter. Jorge wasn’t changed by things, nothing could change him, not fame, success, or women, and Kate was with him even though cymbals were crashing in his head as he took the next corner at 90 miles per hour.

“Why are you taking off your clothes?” Jorge asked.

“For the ocean, silly.” Her skin was ivory white in the sunlight. Jorge kept staring.

“The road!” Kate shouted.

A semi-truck darted past. Jorge smiled, a sheepish smile.

“Keep your panties on.”

“They’re coming off. They cost me 29.95 and I don’t want them to shrink.”

“Whatever you say,” Jorge said.

The dunes were up ahead and Jorge downshifted into the turnoff. Some people create art and others live each day differently. The sea was endless and looked like it could swallow them whole. Kate ran for the big drink, wearing nothing but her red fedora.

Jorge smiled.

After a swim and the sun, and a bit of Kate’s complaining; something about her being his sex slave, he drew her portrait and she kissed him. Maybe it only took one skill to beat the system and they got into their red roadster, picking up speed along the canyon highway.

A male squirrel with big nuts ran out in front of them.

“Don’t hit him!” Kate screamed.

“Where?” Jorge shouted. He swerved off the road and they were thrown free. Their red roadster crashed into a tree.

“Something’s wrong with him. He doesn’t move. He must be very brave,” Kate said. She petted the squirrel’s head.

“You mean to say, we nearly died because of a squirrel? He had better be brave, if that’s what I swerved for.”

“Don’t be nasty,” Kate said.

“Hello Kate, do you think something’s wrong here? I mean, we’re walking around after being thrown from a car at 90 miles per hour.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right. We should have some bumps and bruises, at least.”

“Who are those two people lying on the ground over there. They look like us, don’t they?”

I don’t think so. Maybe the guy looks like you; his hair is messy, but I don’t have tan lines like that girl.”

“Kate, we’re dead.”

“What are you talking about, dead?”

“Maybe not completely dead, I think we’re ghosts.”

“Well, in that case, if we’re going to make this marriage work, I’ll need you to give me my space.”

“And I’ll need you to pick up after yourself.”

On second thought, the minister said ‘until death do us part.’ Technically, we could go our separate ways.”

“You’re never getting rid of me honey, not in this life or the next.”

THE END

The Kite Flyers

Storm clouds were building,

enormous towers of foreboding,

blocking direct sunlight, while the mist sparkled in the air.

Fields in Paradise Park were harsh green;

rays cutting through the vapor,

rainbows vanishing to reappear.

Kite flyers flew their colorful diamonds against the thunderous backdrop,

electricity in the air,

with their black trench coats billowing behind them.

Children ran through the fields with daisies in their hair,

as I walked into the tall grass and lay down.

I was invisible there, with a good book, staring into the afternoon sky that looked like it might suck me up into the churning storm.

My imagination poured across the pages,

as wolves chased cats in the clouds above.

I was awake and dreaming in the wild grass, blowing, like the sky didn’t know where it wanted to go.

That’s when I saw it, a flyer moving across the sky, like its kite was a balloon, taking it beyond the storm.

After it vanished

I stared at the other flyers

while one turned its head towards me.

“Excuse me, but did you see that flyer sucked into the atmosphere?” I asked.

Its face belonged to a bird, its hands were talons, clutching a spindle of string,

a lifeline that might pull it into another world.

“Fly a kite,” it said. “See where it takes you.”

It passed the string to me and in that moment, I allowed myself to be swept up by the wind,

waving goodbye, to my roots on the ground,

choosing the storm and sound,

adventures striking at random,

never hitting the same place twice.

The Prince of the City

When you aren’t doing what others are doing, you begin to feel like a stranger, and that’s when you can really begin to watch. The bus stop is between the city and suburbia. A collection of office workers, bums, and the disabled. I watched it from my two-story apartment window, wondering if it would inspire me to write the next line. It did. A young man, maybe 30, came limping up the street. He noticed me at the window and waved. I was between jobs at the moment, and when this happened, I always wrote more. It was the fantasy of doing what I loved for a living until my money ran out. The suits were ironed and stiff, staring at their smart phones, while the kid appeared to be looking for something. A limousine pealed around the corner and stopped.

“Hey Christopher, get in.”

“I love your car Joe, the black leather seats, the chrome, and the tinted windows. What kinda radio do you have?”

“I don’t know, but it plays all the channels. Where to?”

“The graveyard. I wanna visit my grandma.”

Some of the suits smiled at the kid. I know I did. And when he was gone, the hustle was as dull as a dying daisy. Several hours later of staring out the window into the sunshine, the limo pulled up again, and the kid got out. He was carrying a pizza and a bottle of soda.

He had a big smile on his face and he offered it to the bus stop, which promptly declined. Then he sat on a park bench and started to eat his pizza. A Jaguar rolled up to the restaurant and Christopher stopped chewing mid-bite. He left his pizza on the bench and walked over to the car.

“She’s a beauty sir,” he said.

“Thanks son,” the man smiled.

“How fast will it go?”

“Do you wanna ride?” He asked.

“Haaa, haaa,” Christopher laughed with glee. The man smiled bigger, even though he was a suit. “Honey, I’m just going to take this kid around the block and I’ll be back before lunch.” She gave him some disapproval, but consented.

Christopher got in and put his hand on the roof. The engine roared, like it was seeking his approval, and they tore out of the parking lot like the Dukes of Hazzard. When they got back, Christopher was still laughing.

“You can make her go Tom. Thanks for the ride!”

“Anytime Chris,” he said.

The suit walked into the restaurant and Christopher walked back to his pizza. A bum snatched it before he got there. “Hey! That’s mine!” Christopher shouted.

“Shut up kid, or I’ll cut you!” The bum said. He drew a knife and Christopher started to cry. He backed away, like he was lost. Then he collapsed on the sidewalk.

A suit ran across the street from the bus stop. “Christopher, are you okay?”

“Ah, my heart…I can’t breathe.”

“Let me call 911.”

When the firefighters and medics got there, they checked Christopher’s blood pressure. Slowly, he began to talk to them and his smile returned. Soon, everybody was smiling.

“You just had a panic attack, that’s all. Come by the firehouse anytime and we’ll check your blood pressure.”

“Really?” Christopher asked.

“Sure. We’ll even let you pet the dalmatians.”

Maybe I was seeing something that wasn’t there, but oh well…I couldn’t stop writing. Christopher traded in the currency of joy and people gave to him because he noticed things nobody else did. He was the prince of the city; without title, without power, without a suit, without the things that make most men the same. He was an original, and the suits loved him for it.

THE END

The Transport to Planet X

I didn’t belong on planet earth, so I decided to make a life on Planet X. It was just a colony then and I figured I could escape the things that made me feel like an alien on my own planet. My profession was taken for granted; a career in maintenance is not anybody’s dream, but it had one benefit—people never wanted to see me and they left me alone.

So, I boarded the transport, filled with men who hung out in bars, who measured the meaning of their existence, like flies searching for the next piece of fruit. I didn’t hold it against them; I saw the world differently. I couldn’t talk to them with my own thoughts. Like most people, I had to adopt their speech, their way of being, and a sickness always set in when I listened too long.

Like most life-changing accidents, this one happened subtly.

“Maintenance requested in transport 14,” a voice on the loudspeaker said. It spoke like someone doing time in a prison of their own creation. Interplanetary space travel requires time. Even hyper-sleep won’t break the monotony. You don’t want to speak to the people you live with, and you hope they don’t speak to you. In a vacuum, nobody has anything to say.

We docked with transport 14 and I went to see about the problem. It was a teachers’ transport. Everybody inside was female and very smart. They never stopped talking.

“It’s the air conditioning. Can you fix it?” She asked. She was wearing sweats and she had a tense expression on her face. “I bet you can’t fix it,” she said. She wanted to be right, even though she wanted the air conditioning turned on. So, I tinkered with the dials. It was an electrician’s job, but I was used to solving other people’s problems.

After an hour, I realized I couldn’t fix it. “This is beyond me,” I said.

“You see, I told you, he screwed up.”

“Wait a second, I couldn’t fix it. I didn’t break it.”

She smirked, like she knew better than me. Then the transport shook like it was coming out of orbit. The group of teachers went into hysterics. They were crying. I felt bad for them, even though I knew it didn’t matter. We were all going to die. We were entering the atmosphere of Planet X like a meteor on fire. It was like being on a roller coaster to hell and then the fire extinguished and the smoke billowed out from the transport. Parachutes exploded into the air and we gently glided towards the surface.

When we landed, everyone looked at me. I was their leader, even though they would never admit it.

“Get the survival kits and the camping gear,” I said. “We’ve got at least 100 miles to cover before we reach the colony.”

“Why should we listen to you?” They asked.

“You can follow me or stay behind,” I said.

I walked in the direction of the colony, wondering if aliens on Planet X felt like I did. I wanted to escape my education. I wanted to escape those who knew better than me. I was content in my ignorance. If I made it to civilization, the wilderness would be my home forever.

THE END

A Creative Coyote

Nothing gets near

to this scavenger

it’s too hungry

eating trash

while it stares

at wild game

desiring a creative kill

green fields of sheep

ignored

barren deserts of death

calling

it howls

with its heart

for something

it hears

what’s inside

it wants

to be filled.

Redcoats at Dawn

I poured beer onto my Lucky Charms while my old man looked at me with disgust.

“Well, sometimes you need a drink to take the edge off,” I said.

“‘Edge off!’ You just woke up! It’s a miracle too, being that you usually stay in bed until noon.”

“I never went to sleep. I’m going huntin with the boys.”

“‘Boys,’ that’s exactly what you are, kids who get high and can’t find their zippers to take a piss. You should’ve joined the military before you grew a belly. Maybe they could’ve taught you some discipline that I was never able to beat inside your head.”

“Pops, you’re in a wheel chair; don’t be too hard on yourself; I don’t think you have it in you.”

“I should slap you silly, right now, boy! 30 years old. No job. No wife. No kids. Not even respect for your elders. You didn’t have a war; that’s what went wrong with you. I had Vietnam and my father had Korea. His father before him had WWI. I guess we missed WWII, crying shame though.”

“You talk about war like it’s a good thing.”

“Ain’t nothin more natural than killin a man.”

“Pops, I got to go.”

“Son, when are you going to get some real friends? They aren’t warriors; they’re cowards.”

“I’ll see you pops.”

The pickup was red and the 4 AM air stunk of pot and pine needles.

“What yah packin?” Brad asked.

“.306 and colt .45. What do you got?”

“12 gage and AR-15. My scope needs to be re-sighted though.”

Clayton was in the driver’s seat, cutting off the circulation to his arm with surgical tubing. “Shoot me up!” Brad gave him the needle and the drugs dilated his eyes into black holes.

“I can drive,” I said.

“Me too,” Clayton laughed and he punched the gas, spitting gravel like bullets.

“Have a beer and a smoke.” I lit up and instantly felt smooth. I knew we weren’t going to kill anything. Brad would talk, while Clayton passed out. It was always the same. The only way we were going to bag a deer was if one ran through our camp.

The campsite was filled with fog and Brad started walking around like he had an itch in his pants. “So, what’s our field of fire?”

“Just calm down and have a smoke,” I said. We sat there in silence and created smog. Clayton passed out and Brad got depressed. “Girls won’t even look at me. I don’t have a job. Life can’t get much worse.”

Then out of the quite camp I heard drumming, far off drumming, and the whistling of flutes, in the peak of wartime.

“Is that the British Grenadiers?” I asked.

“The British what?”

A tree on the perimeter of our camp exploded and a cannon ball roll into our fire.

“Jump!”

BOOM

The air was awash with yelling and confusion.

Grab your guns!” Brad said. “We’re under attack!”

Clayton came out of his drug induced stupor. ‘What’s goin on?”

“Shoot first and ask questions later,” I said.

Still, there was no enemy. It was oddly quiet and then a shadow appeared out of the fog, followed by a long bayonet. It sliced into Brad like butter.

I drew my Colt .45 and pulled the trigger. A British Cornel, in full battle fatigues, died with an expressionless face.

“Get me a gun,” Clayton yelled. Drool was coming out of the sides of his mouth as he staggered into our camp fire.

“Here, take the 12 Gage. Even if you see triple, just aim for the asshole in the middle.” We waited, and then a column of militia walked into our camp.

“Run!” A volley of gunfire chopped the woods behind us and a lead ball grazed my ear. I picked up a camp ax and hurled it at one of the soldiers. He went down.

“Viva la revolution!” I yelled. Soldiers kept coming. We ducked behind the red pickup truck as lead balls pierced its body.

“We’ll be surrounded,” I said. And then the dawn broke, frying their bodies like napalm.

“Quick, give me your syringe!”

“What for?” Clayton asked.

“I want to take a sample.” I injected one of the fallen soldiers. His blood oozed purple and red inside the needle.

“Now we’ve been in a war,” Clayton said.

“We lost a man. He was a good golfer.”

“That was a nice eulogy.”

“Thanks, I thought so. Now let’s go tell my father we fought in the Revolutionary War.”

“You did what?” My father yelled. “You must’ve killed some actors, putting on a reenactment.”

“Then how do you explain the bodies catching fire in the sun and the fact that they bayonetted our friend?”

“You’ve been taking drugs; perhaps you were hallucinating. You said you took a sample?”

“We’ve got it right here.”

“Careful, don’t let it catch the light.” My father injected it into his arm.

“What did you do that for?”

“The blood of ghosts may stir my limbs,” he said. He struggled to his feet. “Now show me the battlefield.”

When we got there, my father walked into the trees. In the distance, the stars and stripes were flying, and an old patriotism called him home.

THE END

My Gypsy Haircut

I don’t recall the events of the gypsy fair in perfect detail; just that my life was changed forever. Some parts of the story are improbable, others, downright impossible, but what happened afterwards is undeniable.

A virus was visiting people like a silent stalker. Shops were closed and people were keeping their distance. Before the outbreak, I was juggling my problems like a circus freak and didn’t have time for dentist appointments, haircuts, or friends. I was living with my parents and to make matters worse, my hair was growing past my shoulders.

My dad wasn’t very comforting when he suggested… “I could cut your hair with a pocket knife.”

Luckily, my best friend called. “Hey Andy, some gypsies are caravanning into town. They do everything from reading fortunes, to cutting hair; are you interested?”

“Well, I do need a haircut.”

“Awesome dude. I’ll pick you up in 20.”

Two hours later, Clayton pulled up. “Man, you really do need a haircut,” he said.

When we got to the fair, there were magicians, harlots, fortune tellers, and even horses.

I walked straight to the haircutter. “6 inches off the top and number 3 on the sides,” I said.

“I do fortunes too, if you want?”

“Sure, but don’t tell me if I die.”

“Oh, that won’t happen,” she laughed. “I can see it in your eyes; you have a long life ahead of you.” She pulled golden scissors out of her pocket and began to snip.

Her bosoms navigated my face as she trimmed hair with her sensual touch. I had forgotten that feeling; it felt good to be taken care of by a woman.

She started to talk to me in a sing-song voice, as her strawberry blonde hair curled past my face. She put my hair into a boiling caldron and gazed at the sparkling steam like she could see my future.

“You have been journeying through a desert alone, but you are soon to discover an oasis of love. Women will cling to you like sticky honey, drinking the nectar of your masculinity.”

“That sounds borderline pornographic,” I said. “But I like it.”

“Sure thing,” she laughed.

“Now, what do I owe you?”

“It’s on the house, until next time. Just ask for Marla.”

Being treated so well by a woman felt unnatural.

“Hey Andy, have some fire whiskey,” Clayton laughed. “I won this creepy doll. It looks like something that might murder me in my sleep.”

I took a swig of fire whisky and instantly felt my problems disappearing. We watched a magician turn an onlooker into a rabbit who ran away with terrified eyes. A golden retriever looked up at me and said, “You’re in big trouble.”

“I’m tripping dude. We got to get out of here.”

“But we just got here,” Clayton complained.

“Things are getting really weird. I’ll drive.”

I had to work the next day and the special education teachers were staring at me in the meeting.

“I don’t want this to come across as sexual harassment,” one said. “But you’re looking very handsome.”

I got the feeling my coworkers were undressing me with their eyes. Soon, they were sticking to me like honey and the attention was maddening.

When I looked into the mirror, my hair was shiny. My whole aura had changed. “That fortune teller bitch changed me into a sex magnet. What am I to do?”

Then I knew… “This is going to be the most expensive haircut I’ve ever paid for in my entire life.” I withdrew my bank account and prepared to pay the gypsy woman to remove the curse. When I got to the fair, I saw her with new eyes. In the daylight, I could see the evil under her beauty where the darkness had covered it up. It was like makeup had been removed, revealing a shadow that couldn’t be seen at night.

“5,000 dollars,” she said. I paid without a second thought. When I turned to go, she called after me… “And a coffin for your friend.”

My blood ran cold. “What?” I asked.

“He took a doll home last night, didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“It was a murder doll. Nothing can bring him back to life.”

THE END

No Doubt, In the Darkness

Boxes

holding us

while we ask

for answers

in silent rooms

Traces

left there

not scattered

Following the followers

in the circle of life

leads

nowhere

As we search for something

we can’t see

Standing on the outside

to make the acquaintance

of who we were

when we were young

A journey

away from the crowd

A sunset

where we saw the sun

Lives lived

and no doubt

in the darkness.

Beyond the Storm

Rain falls

pounding

the roof

pink clouds

in the distance

swallowed by

a smokey monster

lightning and a sonic boom

pure chaos

in this tiny room

while I look at a dogwood tree

perfect in its beauty

the gutters flood

an SUV drives by

I’m just staring out the window

into the storm

peaceful skies

interrupted

by merging thunder

a mile away

lights flash

the rain stops

lives lost

beyond the storm.