Friday, November 30, 2012


…I hope you’re having a great weekend.  A stellar weekend, in fact.  I know it’s been a hard week for you.

…I had my reading Friday night in Ballard.
The weather was a nightmare and traffic a real bitch, so I expected there to be about 10 people tops, especially since there were only four of us reading.  Yet there were probably upwards of 100 people there.
It was a very fun evening.  
I went third. 
The first two readers read stories that were jovial.  The first was hilarious.
Then came me with my dark, gut-punch stuff.  Looking out at the crowd, they seemed quite attentive, but the applause was somewhat stymied.
Still, it was my best reading ever.  I was hardly even nervous.

…Here’s one of the stories I read, that someone labeled (and rightly so) a “crippling piece”:


 We are three that are one that will always be linked: brothers--Ron, Rex and me.

Rex is home this week for saying to a junior, “Only fags wrestle,” and then dismantling the stunned guy after practice.  Rex is large and surly, and so the kid’s family is suing.

Ron is writing new songs and trying out the lyrics on his Taylor guitar.  When I press my ear to the wall that separates our bedrooms, the words from the other side lift and break apart and the cadence catches me off guard so that I have to put a hand over my mouth in order to hide my sobbing.

I keep the lights off in my room, let the lava lamp run while watching the glowing worms reshape and seek new identities. 

I was the first one of us out of the womb but I am third.  I am both the fag and the girlfriend in a song.  I am someone’s choke hold and a broken guitar string making the wrong music.

After tonight, though, I’ll be the first one gone from this world and I’ll leave it up to them to decide whether that makes them twins then.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


….I think Costco is kind of evil.
I went there yesterday to buy a new phone and ended up spending $600 that I hadn’t planned on.  There’s too much stuff piled high in all those rows that makes you want to check it out, even if a lot of it is tacky reindeer sweaters and hideous wool socks.  (Also, they had stack of men’s pants on pallets that were pleated, which should be illegal, because most men don’t follow fashion and they’ll just assume that pleats are in style.)  By the way, my new phone is a Samsung Galaxy and it’s pretty cool, better, I think, than the iPhone.

…Friday night I’m reading with three other writers at the Grand Opening of Tony’s Bar in Seattle.  I only know one of the writers, but it should be fun.

…I made some Cyber Monday purchases for the first time (“Homeland” for my brothers, “Breaking Bad” for my brother in-law.)  I really did save a lot of money.

…Speaking of money, The Powerball lottery (in which 42 states participate) could go as high as $1 billion.  Odds of winning are 1 in 175 million. 
You’re 33 times more likely to get attacked by killer bees than to win.  55 times more likely to get struck by lightning.

…Americans spent $59.1 billion on Black Friday weekend, up from $52.4 billion last year.  The average amount spent was $423 and 89 million shoppers braved the crowds.

…Speaking of money again, baseball player Evan Longoria signed a six year contract extension with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for an added $100 million. 

…That’s enough money talk.  I like these things:

“Everything can be taken from a man, but one thing: the least of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl

"The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time." W.J. Davison

“It takes so little to make people happy.  Just a touch, if know how to give it, just a word fitly spoken, a slight readjustment of some bolt or pin or bearing in the delicate machinery of a soul.” Frank Crane

“To be able to enjoy one’s past life is to live twice.” James Montgomery

“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.” O.W. Holmes

Monday, November 26, 2012


…I hope your weekend was fabulous.
Here are some things to get us kick-started for a new week:

“The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why.” Mark Twain

"The life of man is like a game with dice; if you don’t get the throw you want, you must show your skill in making the best of the throw you get." Terence

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming." Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

"Beauty, truth, friendship, love, creation – these are the great values of life. We can’t prove them, or explain them, yet they are the most stable things in our lives." Jesse Herman Holmes

"The secret of intelligence is asking questions." Ryan Meeks

"Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man." Nabokov

-"Silence gives you time to think."
-"Human beings have a tendency to be off-balance."
-"tantum quantum.  It stands for: So much, how much.  So much you need, that's how much you should get." Jerry Brown

-“Destiny is something we’ve invented because we can’t stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental.”
-“Above all, be the heroine in your life, not the victim.”
-“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” (‘When Harry Met Sally’)
-“Never marry a man you wouldn’t want a divorce from.” Nora Ephron

-“And if you want a woman to love you, then you’re going to have to dance.  And if you don’t want to dance, then you’re going to have to work extra-hard to make a woman love you forever, and you will always run the risk that she will leave you at any second for a man who knows how to tango.”
-“It’s not oil that runs the world, it’s shame.”
-“Mothers are almost always better men than men are.”
-“I would always feel closest to the man who had disappointed me.” Sherman Alexie

Friday, November 23, 2012

…I hope you had a swell Thanksgiving.  This was the first time I didn’t overeat and I’m happy about that today.
…Watching “Homeland” has really made me aware of PTS Syndrome and I wrote this the other day:
            He frightened me now.
            Mother worked evenings and so it was just the two of us.  If I’d had friends or more activities I could have made an excuse to be away from him, but even so Dad always told me to sit and watch TV with him.
            Once in a while he might ask a question—“Did I have a boyfriend?”  “How did the little girl I remember ever turn sixteen?”—though usually we sat on opposites sides of the room, me leafing through magazines, him brooding, knocking back bottle after bottle of Schnapps.  After only an hour, he’d start to growl, the noise a wounded bear might make, something guttural and evil-sounding.  At first I thought he was complaining about the referee’s calls on Sports Center, but his eyes were always closed, or worse--fluttering half-open.
            And he sleep-walked.  One night I caught him rummaging through the cupboards in his underwear and black socks.  When he turned around, it was like seeing a blurry-eyed corpse, drool sliding down his mouth, his irises swirling and out of focus.
            I knew he had killed some men.  He just came out with it one night while we were ending pizza.  It was as if he was merely announcing that he’d washed the car or read the newspaper.
            I didn’t ask how.  I didn’t know what to say or do, and he seemed to want to let it die then and there.
            War changes a man, that’s pretty clear, but I didn’t know it could destroy him.
            He got creeper, started flailing at the air, pounding his fists into the sofa, beat his hands on the coffee table.  I figured it was just a matter of time before it was me he’d be bashing.
            One time I faked a movie night just to be away from Dad.  The film I saw was an inane comedy.  After it was over, I watched all the people trundle out.  I sat there in the dark for an hour.  I prayed God would forgive me for fearing my Dad.  I prayed God would change my Dad back to the way he was before he went over there.
            When I got home, Dad wasn’t in the living room.  I searched the house and found nothing.  The next morning I took my usual path through the backyard on the way to catch the school bus and that was when I saw his body hanging from the tree that used to have my swing.
            After the funeral, the world conspired to keep me in fear, keep me deflated and my heart shattered.  But I won’t let it.  I’ve learned guitar and most nights I play at the Veteran’s Meeting Hall.  I play all different kinds of songs, yet everyone carries a message of hope.  I’m not afraid to give the soldiers a hug or pat their hands.  There’s no bringing Dad back, but seeing those men smile, hearing them laugh, well, it seems to be worth it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


…Yesterday I got my novel rejected by an agent I really liked who I’d met at a writer’s Conference, and who seemed really interested in my manuscript.  It bummed me out, even though I get how rejection is part of the gig.

Here’s what she/they said:

Dear Len,

 Thank you so much for giving up the opportunity to read House of Rats. We read it with interest and admiration and believe that you possess a lot of talent. Unfortunately, we will not be offering you representation at this time.

 This was not an easy decision for us (which is why we took such a regretfully long time to respond to you). We believe that you have a very unique voice and, sometimes, it has the effect of overwhelming the rest of the work and acts as a distracting measure that made us feel keenly aware of every word on the page instead of being transported into the world you created. Of course, this is only one opinion and we wish it were otherwise.

…I wrote a story yesterday for the first time in a while.  I think I need to kick myself in the ass and get more productive.  Sometimes I wallow in self-pity, then I don’t like myself for wallowing and it becomes a vicious cycle.  (“vicious cycle” is cliché and I don’t want to become a cliché.)

…I hope your Thanksgiving is fantastic.  Mine will be interesting.  About 30 people will be here.  I like to be surrounded by family and kids on the holidays.

…Here are some things I like:
"Why are we telling this story?  What does the story mean?  When you can answer the big questions, then you are ready to write.  The idea is paramount." David Simon

"It is good to dream, but it is better to dream and work.  Faith is mighty, but action with faith is mightier." Thomas Robert Gaines

"Have the courage and the wisdom and the vision to raise a definite standard that will appeal to the best that is in man, and then strive mightily toward that goal." Harold E. Stassen

"I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections, and the truth of imagination." Keats

"No obstacles fell in his way that seemed to him insurmountable. He might be defeated, as he sometimes was, but he shrank from no hardship through impatience, he fled from no danger through cowardice." J. P. Morgan writing about Napoleon Bonaparte
"I am a Beginner. What the others are I don't really know. All I know is I am wiped out every six months or so. I die. I have died hundreds and hundreds of times. It is always the same death. I do not know what dies. Why must I always begin again and again – always the same high hopes, the identical death?" Lew Welch


Monday, November 19, 2012


…How was your weekend?  Mine was interesting.
…On the treadmill this morning I ran to Gavin DeGraw’s latest album.  It’s quite good.

…Hard rain is falling where I am.  I like it.

…Below is a piece I wrote a long time ago when I was at my desk and looking across the lake at a house with i’s lights winking back at me.
                                                                Center and Fringe

            I want you to lie to me. 

I want you to pull my hair and threaten to leave me again, tell me every soiled thing you loathe about me but, later, do a paint-by-numbers watercolor on my chest, inserting a subliminal message between the stripes of a rainbow.

            I want to cuddle with you on this bed of pine needles so scratchy we’d never be able to sleep, the frosty air cold enough to make our noses bleed, dribbling down our chins like scarlet fondue. 

I want the taillights glowing rat-eyed across the lake to be your eyes, fascinated by me on this winter’s night.  I want the cones of light reflected on the wafting water to be a cloud that morphs in undulation so that we can find new characters and objects in its wake, its center and fringes. 

I want you to see what I see, the people who own that light and the house where that light glows, the ones that have been together since before the war against Germany.  I saw them at Safeway yesterday.  She was testing a melon with her gnarled thumb while the brittle little guy manned the cart, hunched, grinning like a very happy gnome.

I want our skins to spot and sag together.  I want us to molt and refute what happened last weekend.  I want magical powers, the ability to make you stay put, to cause that car to miss you, take a different corner, let you live.     

I want to take it all back.                                          


Saturday, November 17, 2012


…So I had my reading Thursday night at The Hugo House, along with a lot of other fine writers.
I went first.  I did so because I still get a little more nervous that I’d like to be.  But it went well—probably my best reading yet.
It was a fun time, and always great to be around other writers and all things writerly.

…I haven’t been submitting much, but Thursday I sent in a story and got it accepted 50 minutes later.  That’s a record.
I’m closing in on 700 acceptances since May 19, 2009.

…I like these things for the weekend, and maybe you will, too:

-"There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up." John Andrew Holmes

 -“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.”  Barbara Kingsolver

-"I am convinced that the world is not a mere bog in which men and women trample themselves and die. Something magnificent is taking place here amidst the cruelties and tragedies, and the supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail." C.A. Beard

-"Fear not for the future, weep not for the past." Percy Bysshe Shelley

-“I’m glad we had the times together just to laugh and sing a song, seems like we just got started and then before you know it, the times we had together were gone.” Dr. Seuss

-"It's my conception that it would be a good thing if everybody wrote poetry, in the world, because it seems to me that it's a natural human activity. Just like singing is for the birds. Birds don't sing because they think they're Neil Young, you know; I mean, they sing because that's what birds do." Ted Berrigan

-"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." Kurt Vonnegut

-"I am convinced that the world is not a mere bog in which men and women trample themselves and die. Something magnificent is taking place here amidst the cruelties and tragedies, and the supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail." C.A. Beard

Thursday, November 15, 2012


 …Last week in Vegas I went to a show called Le Reve at The Wynn.  It’s similar in feel to Cirque Du Soleil, but it takes place in a 1 million water tank and acrobats dive from 50 in the air.  It was beautiful and bizarre, sort of “Alice In Wonderland” meets “The Little Mermaid” with a dash of “I Am Legend” thrown in.

…Last week in Vegas I swilled wine at a place that sold bottles costing $40,000, a place that had bottles of wine which were made in the 1850’s.  The manager said there was $5 million of wine stationed around the table where our small group sat.

…Last week in Vegas I watched the Veteran’s Day parade downtown with my brother, a Viet Nam vet, and my other brother, a Colonel, soon to become General.
There was a  good turnout for the parade and it was another reminder of the sacrifices military personnel make for all of us.

…Changing gears…

…The other day my story, “Poison River” was nominated for The Pushcart Prize by Downer Magazine.  It was a bit of a shocker.
That was my third nomination.

…Tonight I’m doing a reading at The Hugo House in Seattle and I’m going to get to meet some writers I only know virtually.
I’m very excited.
Here’s one of the pieces I’m going to read that was also one of my first published stories, having appeared in Juked:


                                                             The Launcher


That summer we were bored or stoned when we could afford to be.  It was Barry’s brilliant notion to build the thing but I didn’t have any ideas of my own so I went with his, which was the start of our trouble.

            It looked like a homemade bazooka, made of plastic and duct tape, because that’s what it was, more or less.

            “Do these things have a name?”

            “Hell if I know.  What’s it matter?”

            So we called it The Launcher and started off with spuds.  Barry’s mom had a twenty pound bag of them.  They looked like aborted infants, only solid and heavy.  They sailed into the sky, hung there for an astounding thirty seconds before landing in a violent splatter.  It felt like discounted murder without any of the consequences.

            When we ran out of potatoes we used every other vegetable we could find—tomatoes and squash, zucchini, cabbage.  We moved onto solids out of necessity.  First it was soda cans, then soda bottles.  The shattered glass sizzled, hissing at us like pissed off snakes.

            Looking back I suppose those potatoes were something of a gateway drug because we got over them real quick, yet their minor thrill left us wanting more, a different fix that might kick-start some sedentary neuron in our brains.

            We went to the pet store and bought two litters of mice.  I can still recall their furious scratching in the bag behind my car seat.  Their breathing was husky.  I found it fascinating that they never squeaked because in every mouse story I’d ever read there always seemed to be a lot of squeaking or squealing.

            Barry’s house was a dilapidated cabin that his grandfather had built a hundred years ago.  It leaned eastward, toward the rising sun, and from a certain angle you might have thought it had lost balance and was about to fall into the water.

            Chain Lake was no more than two blocks long and maybe one wide.  I never thought we’d hit the guy’s house.  If I’d believed we could, if Barry had, we would have tried first thing.

            As it happened, the third mouse landed on the old geezer’s roof.  It surprised me how dull and empty the resonance of death could be—nothing but a thud and short skid sound.  It depressed and disappointed me.  I thought of my parents and wondered if they had gasped or screamed before that car hit them.  

            We shot two mice at a time.  I don’t know what I expected.  Perhaps I thought of my cartoon watching days and that they’d clasp their furry paws like a varmint couple desperate to enter the afterlife conjoined.  But they just flew apart and landed apart, two separate thud-and-skid noises.

            Uncle Rory says things happen.  It can be fate or it can be God’s busy.  When I broke his windshield with a bat he didn’t seem such a believer in fate.  Or the time I lit the drapes on fire and almost burned the house down.  His notion of fate was dropping me off at juvie and letting some other sucker adopt me.  When they arrest you they put your wrists in handcuffs.  Feels like glass cutting into your skin.  Feels like chains and you feel like a slave or the very criminal you were meant to be.  Ha, so maybe that is fate.

            Across the lake, the old man came out of the house around the time we were nearly finished.  Barry took off, dust vapors rising up where he had been.

            I watched the guy sight me with his rifle, heard him yell, “One more time.  Go ahead.  I ain’t afraid to shoot.”

            It felt like someone had given me a belated birthday present.  I loaded the launcher, pulled the makeshift trigger, puffed out my chest and waited.

Monday, November 12, 2012



…I’m back from Vegas, not home yet, sitting in an airport.

Why is that people on cell phones are oblivious to everything and everyone around them?  Why do they practically shout into their phones, despite the fact that a person (you or me, maybe) is sitting less than two feet away?

 I am learning a bit more than I’d like about the lady next to me.  Her friend is having problems with her husband and this woman apparently is not a fan of her friend’s husband and she is telling her friend to tell her friend’s husband to “F$#% off, and say it REALLY LOUD.  Make him cry.”  (Nice advice.)

The man in the cubicle to my right is lying to someone (that could be a good first line in a story), his girlfriend or wife, I’m assuming, though he wears no ring.  He’s saying he’s in Colorado and that it’s snowing, though this is northeast of there and the clouds are only gray and brooding.

A child, maybe four years old or so, is shrieking on a bench while her mother holds her wrist, manacling it, while she checks her Facebook page.

Nobody looks very happy even though everyone here has someplace to go, someone they’re seeing.
Why is that?

I’ll admit it, I like to eavesdrop.  I like to hear how other people live, to learn how we are all different and in some ways precisely the same.

In Vegas you see all types of people.  It’s easy to be critical because you can eventually find something or someone to pick on, but you realize after a while that we all wear costumes.  Some are “Pants-on-the-ground” with boxers showing.  Some are mullets.  Some are beer bellies.  Others are shark skin suits.

I had a fun trip in Nevada.  I laughed.  I drank and ate a lot.  I got fat.  I also came up with a couple of story ideas.
But I don’t want to go back for a while, a long while.  That place is a killer.

...Here are some things I like:

"When I have an idea, I turn down the flame as if it were a little alcohol stove, as low as it will go.  Then it explodes, and that is my idea." Hemingway

"Take time to laugh - it is the music of the soul." From an old English prayer.

"What is happy?  It's a moment before you need more happiness." Don Draper

"Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky." Rainer Maria Rilke

"No obstacles fell in his way that seemed to him insurmountable. He might be defeated, as he sometimes was, but he shrank from no hardship through impatience, he fled from no danger through cowardice." J. P. Morgan writing about Napoleon Bonaparte

 "I am a Beginner. What the others are I don't really know. All I know is I am wiped out every six months or so. I die. I have died hundreds and hundreds of times. It is always the same death. I do not know what dies. Why must I always begin again and again – always the same high hopes, the identical death?" Lew Welch

Friday, November 9, 2012


 …In an hour, I’m heading to Vegas for the weekend.  I hope yours is fabulous.

...The Stranger is an alternative newspaper here in Seattle.  They’re having a short story contest, so I wrote “The Other Kids” for it.  The story probably isn’t alternative enough for them, but I sort of adore Ruby and her brother:

                                                The Other Kids

            People stare at us.  They always do. 
            When I lurch at a gawking granny near Ivar’s, she shrieks, then calls Ruby and me animals.
            It’s raining big, fat-assed drops the size of coins.  Just started pouring.  I didn’t bring a hat for Ruby, so I take my jacket and stuff it around her crooked neck and head.  She flaps an arm at me, maybe protesting, but I say, “I’m fine.  I’m part-fish, part-salmon.”
            Business is worse when it rains, but if you only go out on nice days, you’d starve. 
            Ruby’s wheelchair has a wobble to it.  Last week something got busted when we had to take a curb.
            I pull the sign out, the Folgers Coffee can and set them at Ruby’s feet.  It rains harder.  Might be a short day.
            Our spot is off the pier by The Ferris Wheel.  A better place would be uptown, around Nordstrom, but it’s a bitch—nearly impossible—wheeling Ruby up and down those hills.
            The accident that killed our parents and damaged Ruby happened a long time ago.  Afterward, I was sent to a Foster Home and Ruby to a place that cares for the brain-dead.  When I got old enough, I fled, found Ruby and got her the hell away.  Even though things are hard, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
            Here comes Isaac a few blocks away.  I can tell from the way he walks--with a side-to-side sash shay—that he’s packing.
            Ruby and I beg, but we soon learned we needed something to sell, so now it’s drugs, mostly pills and pot that Isaac brings us.  I never ask where he gets the stuff and he never says.
            Isaac’s coiled hair is rust-colored but brighter, the shade of Doritos.  “Where’s your jacket?”
            I point to Ruby.  She’s crumpled in her chair, neck invisible, her head a contorted skull wearing skin. 
            I remember when my twin was young, how she liked to put Mom’s makeup on dolls, set up parties where the dolls traded secrets.
            “Man, you’re a piece of work,” Isaac says.  He always tells me this, like I’m a fuck-up or a genius, I can never tell which.
            He takes off the enormous puffy jacket he’s wearing--there’s a smaller one underneath--and gives it to me. 
            “You sure?”
            “Yeah.  Pockets are full.”
            When I put it on, I feel the baggies in each pocket—one stuffed with pills, the other a wad of dope.
            “You really gonna hang out here,” Isaac asks, “getting pissed on all day?”
            “A man’s gotta make a living.”
            He looks at Ruby, just for a split second, then back at me.  There’s something in his face that I can’t get a hold on.  He won’t stop staring, so I look away.  “A piece of work,” he says, “that’s what you are.”
            I watch Isaac disappear down the street, swallowed up by a swath of fog coming off Elliot Bay and burying Cutters.
            “Hey, Rube,” I say, squatting down beside my sis, “know what today is?”
            Her eyes slide and roll, but that could be anything.
            “It’s our birthday.  We’re seventeen.”  I finally get a cigarette lit and the burn is the best feeling.  If Ruby were right, she’d never let me smoke.  She’d be the boss.  We’d both be in school, but she’d be the one getting the good grades.
            “I thought we’d celebrate tonight.  You know, get dinner at someplace nice.”
            In my mind I hear her say, “But not too expensive.  We have to start saving for college.”  In my mind, Ruby’s five foot eight, an athlete, a gymnast maybe.   
            I hear Ruby say, “Maybe we should stop selling drugs, get a real job.”
            “How’s that going to work?”
            “A real job.  That’s what people do--people who aren’t criminals.”
            “What place is going to let me bring you along?”
            “Then a work-from-home job.”
            “We don’t even own a computer.”
            “Stop being such a downer.”
            I don’t really remember our parents. I think Mom might have been pretty or a little plump.  Dad could have been smoke.  I have no idea where I was that day, why I wasn’t in the car with them all.
            I’ve blocked out a lot of things, but before the accident, back when I still went to school, a counselor came in one week and tried to teach us about depression because the older sister of our classmate had killed herself.  The counselor said we shouldn’t feel guilty, which confused me and made me feel guilty.  She said there are symptoms, but people work overtime to hide any clues.  I didn’t know the kid, but I did find out about him later.  Levon Merrick.  Died on June 26th.  He was fourteen years two months and six days old.  His parents owned a plumbing business.  People interviewed said Levon was nice enough.  In the newspaper photo, Levon looked humdrum, nothing tortured, nothing special.
            What would it take to make a kid kill himself?  I wonder that every day.  If anyone should want to die, it’s Ruby, but then she probably doesn’t even know she wants to die.
            I wiggle her chin.  “You’re a cutie patootie,” I say.
            My first customer of the day is a jackass.  He haggles over the price and for some reason I come down.  “Pussy,” he says, waddling away.
            The rain lets up, and a screen of sun fights its way through cloud cover and sure enough there it is, a double-rainbow over the bay, or at least a broken-off arc of one.  The colors remind me of candy, jelly beans and LifeSavers.  I wonder where the rainbow starts and where it ends, the exact spots.  I wonder who else is noticing.
            I swivel Ruby around so she can see.  “Check it out.  That’s actually a double-rainbow, parts of one.  You don’t see that every day.”
            The next customer comes up on me so fast I can only feel the wind of his movements and I think, This is it, I’m going to get mugged, first time for everything. 
            Only he’s just jumpy, amped up.  He’s got a rash running down his face and his teeth are tea-colored.  He asks what I’ve got.  I say, “What’d you need?”
            I have it.  I give him a price.  He pays.  And that’s when the handcuffs come out, like a steel whip, and my arms are lashed together behind my back and I’m shackled.
            “You’re a fucking cop?”
            When he smacks my head, I hear bees in a jar.
            He leads me away, starts reading me my rights.  Ruby’s watching or she isn’t.  I don’t hear her say, “Told you so.”
            “But that’s my sister.  I take care of her.”
            “Not anymore you don’t.”
            Sirens and squad cars show up, a van with a hydraulic shelf to lift Ruby.  They’ve been casing us for a while now.
            “There’s certain things she needs,” I plead, but no one’s listening. 
            I scream Ruby’s name.
            As the police car pulls away, I crane my neck.  The rainbow’s still there, all of it now.  It’s beaten the clouds, it’s won, and maybe it’s wrong to believe it, but I think I can, too.