Monday, October 31, 2016



                                                  The Luckiest Sonofabitch On Earth
                                                        Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


            Outside of Omaha, I stop at a bar and count how many women I’ve slept with since finding out about my wife’s affair.  I get to ten and a half, the half being a prostitute who was actually a very convincing cross-dresser.

            I think about the life I’ve left behind, the house on the lake, a home that always felt more like a prison or mausoleum.  I try to tell myself things could be worse, they can always be worse.  After all, it’s a grand adventure I’m on, traveling across the country without any idea where I’m heading, an unorthodox journey that just might be the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

            I drain my glass, relishing the burn, and order another scotch.  Even though we’re half way through a sunny May, it’s dark in the bar, quiet too, except for a garbled juke box that plays antique Buck Owens and The Buckeroos.

            The guy on my right keeps farting into his barstool while reading a tattoo magazine and the guy on my right is busy flexing and unflexing his prosthetic hand.  I try not to stare or make eye contact, but I can’t look away, and after a moment he says, “I’m still getting used to this thing,” adding that his name is Gary.

            Gary lost his limb in Kandahar when he was on patrol, saw a ten dollar bill sticking out from a clump of dirt in the road, and an IED exploded after he reached for it.  Gary chuckles.  “Moral of the story--greed’ll get you every time.”  He says he’s the luckiest sonofabitch on earth, says he could have easily had his head blown off, or any number of body parts.

            Hearing this should make me feel grateful for my life, but I’m still wallowing in self-pity and all that optimistic bullshit I’d been contemplating moments ago now feels like tripe.

            Gary asks me if I’m married.  Gary asks me where I’m from, asks me all kinds of questions before wondering if I’d like to go get high.

            Outside, back behind the bar, there are half a dozen garbage cans overloaded with beer and liquor bottles.  It smells briny.

            Before lighting up, I think of Lana and her boyfriend--the pair I’d met by chance at a convenience store--and what we’d smoked, so I say, “This isn’t laced with anything, is it?”

            Gary looks at me like I’ve just told him his kids are ugly.

            I take a long drag and hold it until I’m about to implode.  Gary smiles a big shit-eating, I-lived-through-hell-and-I’m-still-alive grin, and I think I really like Gary and maybe I should use his example to reset my own pessimism.

            Since we’re doobie brothers now, I take a good look at Gary’s hand.  The prosthetic is a strange one, like a robot’s, only with plastic where the metal should be, and see-through screws.  He catches me looking and says, “It’s the latest model.”

            “It’s fancy.”

            Eddy takes a long hit and tamps the lit end of the joint against his plastic hand where it leaves a gray smudge similar to a spider that’s been crushed.

            With his other hand, he pulls a pistol out of his jacket and says, “Get on your knees, Fuckhead.”

            I’m thinking I’m stoned already and that this is a hallucination, but then Gary swipes the air, his claw scraping a good section of my face.

            “What the hell?”

            “I’ve shot better than you, and I’m not the patient type.”

            I get on the ground.  It’s covered with broken glass and sharp rocks.  My knees sting.  I notice Gary’s wearing steel-tipped cowboy boots.

            “Hand over your wallet, then put your hands on the ground, ass up, doggy-style.”

            I don’t know whether to be more frightened about being robbed or the possibility of being buttfucked by some brute with a hook for a hand.

            He stuffs my cash into his pocket and tosses the wallet so that it slaps my face and a creased photo of my wife flips out.

            “You never asked where I’m from” Gary says.  “You never asked a damn thing about me.”

            He’s right, I hadn’t.

            “You’re a selfish prick.”

            He’s probably correct about that as well.

            “Now get face down on the ground and don’t get up until you’ve counted to five hundred.”

            “Hey, how about—“

            In one swift move, Gary rams his boot tip, hitting the bulls-eye between my buttocks. 

            “I told you I was impatient,” Gary says, spitting before walking away.

            My anus is enflamed.  It’s hard to concentrate.  I count to forty-five and stagger to my feet.  I go back in the bar and ask about Gary, but they say they don’t know any Gary.

            “Captain Hook,” I say, making my hand a claw.  “The bruiser that was sitting on the stool right there, next to me.”

            The bartender and fart guy look at me like I’m an idiot.

            I start to get angry and ask again.

            “You cause a fuss,” the bartender says, “I’ll call the sheriff.”

            “I’m just asking about Gary.”

            “And we just told you we don’t know any Gary.”

            I figure they’re probably all in cahoots, but what can I do.  “Fine, then give me another scotch.”

            “No way, Jose.”

            “Why not?”

            “We have the right to refuse service to whoever we want.”

            “This is fucked.”

            “Watch your pie hole.”

            I go over to an ATM that sits by a video poker machine featuring Kim Kardashian’s enormous ass and cleavage.  I withdraw a hundred, then take out the maximum it will allow in a day, leaving the bar with my middle finger upraised, my own ass smoldering, while I wonder how much a gun costs.

Friday, October 28, 2016

                                                            Country Stars
                                                Monday, April 14th, 2014

            I wake up in a wheat field, shivering, with something crawling across my face.  My first instinct is to flick it away, but I steady myself, as a spider steps over the bridge of my nose.

            “You’re awake,” Heather says.  Heather.  I picked her up at a cowboy bar back in Fargo and it was her idea to come here because she said the stars from this site were so big they looked like freight cars.

            Before the spider can scram, Heather crushes it between her fingers and says, “Your nose is ice cold.”

            Heather is the first redhead I’ve ever kissed, ever touched for that matter.  Her skin is so freckled it’s as if she’s been splashed with cinnamon.  But she’s a bit husky and so some of those freckles look about as big as buttons.

            “You hungry?” she asks.

            “Not really.”

            “I’m starving,” Heather says, dipping under the sleeping bag and rooting around for my penis.



            Afterward, we drive to her place, even though I have a bad feeling about it.   

            On the way, Heather nuzzles my neck and rubs my thigh and keeps going for my groin, which is more tender than when I was a kid and took a line drive to the crotch.  She’s leaning on me, making it difficult to drive.  “A little room here,” I say, but Heather just gets even closer, licking my right nostril. 

            She lives in a trailer park where the world’s skinniest cats slink around heaps of trash, rusted oil drums, abandoned refrigerators and water coolers.  Hers is a faded blue thing, shaped like a loaf of bread, near the rear.

            I kiss her at the door, feeling sheepish, not knowing how to say goodbye in a way that won’t make me seem sleazy.

            Heather grabs my wrist so sudden it startles me, and then she’s tugging me inside where an enormous woman sits around a table smoking, wearing a corduroy robe that looks to have been gnawed on by a legion of rats.

            The woman doesn’t bother getting up when I’m introduced, probably because the effort would require a crane. 

            Heather calls her “Momma.”  She tells Momma that I’m her boyfriend.  “We watched stars all night,” Heather says.  “Well, not all night,” Heather grins, winking.

            “Good…for…you…girl” Momma says, the words coming out slow, as if from a stroke victim.

            When I say, “We just met,” Momma says, “Yeah…shit,” and winks at me through a dragon of smoke.

            “Come on,” Heather says, yanking on my arm again.  “My room’s in the back.”

            Her room is only fifteen feet away because this is a very small trailer.  I can smell what Mamma had for dinner (liver and onions) and when she last used the toilet (very recently).  Everything mixes with the pungent odor of cat piss, Budweiser and wet dog.

            Heather locks the door behind me, pushing me on her bed so that a cloud of dust fills the air.  Her sweater comes off in a jiff before she goes for the zipper on my pants.

            “Hey,” I say, “what are you doing?”

            “If you thought you saw God last night, this morning the Holy Ghost is showing up.”

            “I can’t.”

            “You don’t have to do anything.  Just lay back and enjoy the rodeo.”

            “Really,” I say, “I can’t.”

            Heather keeps struggling for a grip.

            “I mean it.”

            Then she bites me on the arm.

            “What the hell?”

            “Let’s do it rough.”

            When I jump off the bed she lunges.  I try to shrug her off but she nips at my neck and claws my chin with jagged nails.  I hear Momma let out a trombone fart.

            “Heather wait, I’m married.”

            “So am I,” she says. 

            She won’t get off me. 

            “I have herpes,” I lie.

            “So do I!” she says.

            I’ve never hit a girl in my life, but I don’t see how I’m going to get her off me.

            “Okay,” I say.  “Okay, but can I use the bathroom first?  I have to pee so bad, I’ll never get an erection.”

            “You can give me a golden shower if you want.”

            “You’re kidding.”

            “Just don’t get any in my eyes.”

            “I think I’ll take a pass on that.”

            “Spoil sport.”

            She shows me to the bathroom.  It’s coat closet-small and reeks of feces.  There’s a window, but it’s tiny and closed and I’d never be able to fit through it, even as skinny as I am. 

            Heather’s shadow is under the door.   “Hurry up,” she says.  “Now I have to go, too.”

            “I might be a while.  I’ve got to do the other.”

            “Take a dump?”

            I’ve always hated when people say that, and now it makes me feel filthy.  “Yes.”

            “It doesn’t bother me.  When nature calls, what’re you gonna do?”

            “Well, I’m sort of shy about that kind of thing.”

            “You’re shy,” Heather chuckles.  “Yeah, right.”

            “A little privacy.  Please?  Constipated sex is no good.”

            She thinks this over.  “Well, okay, but squeeze that brick out fast as you can.  I’ll go pee outside.”

            “Thanks.  I’ll be done in less than five minutes.”

            “Better be,” she says.

            I wait thirty seconds, then fly out of the bathroom, but big Momma has somehow managed to get out of the chair and she’s blocking my way, intentionally or otherwise I can’t tell, so my only option is to tuck my head and ram her belly.  It’s like diving into a vat of hamburger.  I do it again, using my shoulders, but she only grunts.  Finally I grab one of her massive legs and when she falls backward the whole trailer rocks.

            Heather comes in buttoning her pants.  “What the hell happened?”

            “She fell,” I say.  “I think she might be having a stroke.”

            “Oh god!  Momma!”

            When Heather bends down to check on the huge woman, I jump over Momma and sprint out the front door.

            “Where are you going?” Heather calls.

            Two black Rottweilers come ripping down the road toward me.  I make it inside the car and start the motor before they leap against my window.  I back out, tires spitting dirt and pebbles.  I switch gears and gun the accelerator.  One dog flies off the hood, the other squeals.  In the rearview Heather is running after me, shouting and waving her arm, holding what looks to be a butcher’s knife.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016


…I’m back from NYC and it was everything I thought it would be.  Tons of laughter and friend time.  Both readings went exceptionally well and I even read better than normal.
The only hard part is missing everyone so much, plus feeling behind on everything.  But I’ll catch up.  Just wait and see.
…Thanks for coming back.
…Here’s the third chapter of MY LONG UNCERTAIN SEARCH FOR MYSELF:


                                                            Trail’s End

                                                  Friday, March 14, 2014

It’s noon on a Tuesday and already the liquor store is packed. 

            I ask a man wearing a hunter’s tartan shirt, “What’s the deal?  Why’s it so busy?”

            He looks at me, then walks away without a word, as if I’ve offended him, as if I’m foul-smelling.

            The clerk at the counter wears a turban.  He seems annoyed but has beautiful skin, shiny, too, the color of maple syrup.

            My cart is filled with five gallons of gin and loads of tonic.  When I ask if they sell limes, Turban Head flares his nostrils and says, “This isn’t a grocery store.”

            I feel like punching him.  I feel like strangling him with his turban and watching that pretty skin of his turn blue, then purple, but there’s a woman in line behind me whose Chihuahua keeps trying to hump my leg. 

            “Really, lady?  Can’t you get your damn dog fixed?”

            “Fix yourself,” she says, not doing anything about the filthy mongrel.

            When Turban Head flashes me a grin, I flip him off.


            My next stop is a convenience store where I buy cigarettes.  I haven’t smoked since high school.  I open the pack and light up as soon as I exit the place.  It’s the same as if I’ve shoved a blow torch down my throat and no matter how subtly I inhale, I end up hacking. 

            Around the corner, on the curb by a dumpster, two teenagers are singing a Dylan song, “Blowin’ In The Wind,” the guy strumming a guitar.

            They notice me but don’t say anything.  The girl is blonde and pale and her partner has dreadlocks coiled all over his head like hydras made out of yarn.

            When they’re finished, the girl asks if they can hitch a ride.  I tell them I’m not going their way.  They ask how I know.  I say because I don’t know where I’m going.  The guy says, “That’s cool.  We’re just floating, too.”

            “My car’s loaded with stuff.”

            The guy tugs at his shirt.  “Look at us, man, we’re skinny.”

            They are.  A pair of ragamuffins.

            “All right,” I say.  “If you can fit, you’re in.”

            I’ve got the gin on the front seat.  The trunk and back seat are loaded  with shit I don’t really remember buying, and I only took it because I’m never going back to the lake house again.


            “No sweat, man,” the guy says.  He lifts up the sacks of gin, sits down, pats his lap and has his girl sit on him.

            “I think that’s maybe illegal,” I say.

            “Lighten up,” the guy says.  “I’m Buddy.  This is Lana.”
            They keep singing in the car, going through Dylan’s early protest catalog.  I’ve been driving for half an hour when I remember the guy’s guitar.  “Where is it?” I ask.

            “Left it,” Buddy says.

            “You left it back there?”

            “It wasn’t mine anyway, plus it’s a piece of crap.”

            Near Seattle, a torrent begins, but they don’t stop singing.  Now it’s “Hurricane.”

            I wonder how they know such old songs.   I wonder where their parents are and what the hell they’re doing, but I don’t ask because learning too much about people has only caused me trouble.  But it feels good to have company, even if they’re more strange than strangers.


            It’s night by the time I reach the Idaho border and I’m beat, so I pull over at Trail’s End Motor Lodge.

            Buddy says, “Hey, man, you mind if we crash with you?  Just for tonight.  We’ll sleep on the floor.”

            When I tell them that sounds like a bad idea, Buddy pulls out a blunt as large as a cigar.  “We could party,” he says.


            In the room, I go through half a gallon of gin like it’s a scorching day and I’m drinking lemonade.  Buddy and Lana are blitzed, sitting with their backs against the wall.  Buddy keeps tracing patterns on Lana’s face, then marveling over his designs, as if his fingertips are leaving paint, which has me thinking their pot must be laced with something.

            He tells her she’s beautiful.  He compares her to springtime, a wild fawn.  He goes on and on.  Lana stares back at him, her eyes wet.  She unbuttons his shirt, helps him off with his jeans.

            “Hey,” I say.  “No way.”

            Lana pulls her ratty sweater off.  She’s braless.  In the time it takes me to polish off my glass, she’s naked and they’re both entwined, rubbing as if trying to light a fire with their flesh.  I think about throwing a bottle against the wall to make them snap out of it.  I think about Virginia and how different it felt with her, me wanting nothing than to please her.

            I watch Buddy and Lana writhe and slide.  I listen to them whimper and whisper.  I tell myself this is just a movie I’m watching, that I’m merely a spectator, that all this is as right as rain.


Thursday, October 20, 2016


…I’m headed to the airport tomorrow, early, for a weekend in NYC, doing a couple of readings, one at the famed KGB Bar, and hanging with some of my favorite people on the planet.  It’s going to be epic, I’m sure.
I won’t be back on the blog until Tuesday at the earliest, so please come back then.


                                                                     The Thaw

                                                              February 14th, 2014

            On the second Tuesday in February, a raucous thaw begins.  Ruptures of ice, one after the other, crack like cannons, echoing in the snow-encrusted treetops.  The lake is no better than a defenseless animal under attack, as slabs explode and drop into her dark belly.

            Rosie ambles into the kitchen, nosing my hand to be petted, and behind her, Virginia, the woman whose home I’ve been staying at the last month.

            “Sounds like torpedoes,” she says.  “I’ll bet it’s something to see.”

            Virginia taps the edge of the counter, feeling her way toward the coffee pot, retrieving a cup from the cupboard, and filling it precisely to the brim.

            “What’s it look like out there?”

            “Destruction,” I say, “but kind of beautiful, in an angry sort of way.”

            “Beautiful and angry.  How wonderful.  More coffee?” she asks holding up the pot.

            “I’m good.”

            The night I arrived at Virginia’s house, after a five hour trek across the frozen lake, she answered her door and welcomed me in without any hesitation, as if I was a relative instead of a complete stranger.  Later I learned that she was widowed, childless and lonely.  I hadn’t expected to stay this long, but fell into a comfortable pattern of laziness.  Other than once on the phone with my wife, I haven’t spoken to anyone but Virginia and her Labrador, Rosie.

            “Now that the weather’s turning, I suppose you’ll be going soon,” Virginia says.  Her housecoat has flapped open and I can see the gleaming outline of one of her bare breasts.  She’s just past sixty, yet fit for her age, hardly wrinkled except for a smattering of crow’s feet.  Despite her being blind, I feel sleazy for staring and take Rosie’s snout in my hands.

            “Yeah.  Maybe this afternoon.”

            When I told my wife I wasn’t at our house, she said good, because she’d moved in with her boss.  She said I should be on the lookout for divorce papers in the mail.  She said marrying me was the worst thing that’s ever happened in her life, which is some kind of dagger considering she was sexually assaulted by her father for years as a child.

            As if channeling my thoughts, Virginia says, “So your marriage, it’s over then?”

            I remember the few nights we made love, when my wife’s fingernails pierced the skin of my neck, nothing kinky or erotic about it, just her distain of me being verified.

            “Over and done,” I say, realizing for once what a release it is to be finally free.

            “Relationships are quite a challenge.”

            “But you were married for thirty years.”

            “Yes, and most of the time I was miserable.  If David hadn’t died, I think I would have ended up killing him.”

            “Why stay then, in a bad marriage?”

            Virginia points to her eyes, wide as they always are.  “I’m pretty independent, but being blind is a tricky thing to negotiate all alone.”

            I stayed in my marriage because my identity was all wrapped up in being Jess’s husband, her a successful bond broker, me a failed alcoholic.

            “Would you happen to have a drink handy?” I ask.


            “Something harder.”

            Virginia’s eyebrows arch.  She likes the idea.  “Well, why not, it’s noon somewhere.  There are a few bottles in the shelf above the fridge.

            I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in five years, not since the car accident, then losing my job and not having the confidence or wherewithal to get a new one.  I thought that being sober would center me, that I’d discover my true, authentic self as they say in AA, but I only felt more lost, empty and soulless.

            I make us screwdrivers, mine mostly vodka.  The first taste is like seeing old yearbook photos.  I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying the missile of heat that slakes along my nerves, making my senses electric.  I have another and another.  As if I’m leafing through a magazine, I start to count my past mishaps and failures, picturing them in my mind, bloody and glossy.

            I don’t even realize that Virginia has gotten up and is standing behind me until I feel her hands on my shoulders.  “You’ve gotten quiet all of a sudden.”

            When she leans forward, her breasts are squeezed over my head like earmuffs, warm and plush.

            She whispers in my ear, “Before you go, do you think you could do me a favor?”

            Rosie’s asleep on her mat.  My glass is empty.  Outside the ice sounds like steel beams breaking.

             “It’s been a very, very long time for me,” Virginia says, kissing my head.  “And after all, it is Valentine’s Day.”

            I put my hands over hers, ready to push them off.  Instead I grip Virginia’s fingers, stand and walk with her toward the bedroom.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016



...A couple of years back I was asked to join a writing project whereby 30 writers were each given a specific day of the year and then we were supposed to write 12 linked stories completing a year.  My date was the 14th and this was the first piece.


                                                                Storm Lake

                                                    Tuesday, January 14th 2014


The storm hits without warning, and by Tuesday, snowdrifts as tall as four feet have already blocked the front door.

            I try to call my wife but there’s no cell service.  Today’s our anniversary: seven years.  She’s in Baltimore for a convention.  When she returns we’re supposed to make a decision about whether we’re too broken to mend, her having had an affair with her boss, me being too scared to leave her.

            Snow continues to drop, thick as mud, plates of the stuff.  Outside tree branches break every half hour or so, the wreckage sounding like thunder and gunfire.

            The power’s been out since evening.  Rotten food odors fill the kitchen.  The refrigerator leaks dirty water.   The silence in the house is so still it’s unnerving, and now I can see my breath.

            The dog stares at me, her head cocked, as if she senses doom.  When I let her piss in the house, then mop up the floor, she scampers to a corner and begins mewling.

            Outside, the lake is a white shelf, an ivory island.  Ducks--looking more like decoys than the real things--cluster in the northeastern corner.  Part of me wishes I owned a gun.

            Our house in the woods is set a mile back from any road, and I know no one will be coming soon.  Power outages in these parts can take days to be repaired.

            The dog starts to moan, as if it’s sick or injured or possessed.  When I toss a sock at her, she shreds the thing in an instant.

            The marriage counselor my wife and I tried always seemed to take my wife’s side.  He said my wife’s motivations for the affair could be numerous.  He suggested I was, in many ways, more than responsible.  He said men who ignore their spouses are asking for trouble.

            When I look over at the dog, she’s chewing the leg of a stuffed chair and staring at me, growling as she rips off splinters.  “Have at it,” I say.

            I ball up old newspapers and my wife’s Vogue magazines and start a fire in the sink.  I go to the bedroom and rummage through her dresser drawers, returning with lacy bras and thongs, most with the price tags still on.  They’re slow to catch flame, smoldering a ghostlike smoke.

            When I was a kid, my brother and I used to walk across the lake when it froze over.  He’d go out the farthest, mocking my cowardice.  I told him I’d heard another boy had fallen through the ice, but that only caused my brother to titter and call me chicken shit.

            The homes across the shore all have their lights on.  It’s a half mile trek.  I get my coat and hat and boots.  I walk through mattresses of snow, down a slope to the frozen waterfront.  I look back at the house, hooded with drifts of gleaming white.  I tell it goodbye and I think I mean it.