Wednesday, October 30, 2013


…Hey you, Happy Halloween.  Time to get your sweet tooth on…

…Here are some random things I've learned of late:

-About 35 million pounds of candy corn are produced annually.

-Pumpkin curry is America's most popular pumpkin dish, 12 times more popular than pumpkin pie.

-The largest pumpkin ever grown was this year, weighing in at a whopping 1,985 pounds, just fifteen pounds shy of a ton.

-Scents that evoke the strongest sense of happiness:
Baking bread: 72%
Clean laundry: 70
Seashore: 66%

-Top-earning dead celebrities:
1. Michael Jackson $160 million
2. Elvis Presley $55 million
3. Charles Schulz $37 million
4. Elizabeth Taylor $25 million
5. Bob Marley $18 million

-About 6,700 fires have burned 1.3 million acres of federal land since January
Decades ago, about 20% of the forestry budget was devoted to fire.  Now that portion is more than half.

-Adults with a reading device say the read an average of 18 books a year; those without devices say they average 11 books.

-Reese's Peanut Butter Cups is the nation's best-selling candy bar.

-During the 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 3,000 service-members have committed suicide.

Monday, October 28, 2013


…How’s your week starting out?  I hope it’s incredible…

...Here's a story I wrote a while ago:

                                                             Written In Stone       

            From a distance the rocks looked blood-splattered.  I pictured an Old Testament stoning, an ambush or bludgeoning of some sort.
Justin wanted to race there.
“What’s the rush?”
“Do you always have to be a wimp?”
My brother threw a stick at me and ran.
My chest felt wrapped in barbwire.  A ripping sensation tore at my side, but I kept up a steady pace.
We ran through tall weed grass gone to straw.  We followed the outline of where the riverbed had once wended across this valley.  Mud flaps the size of waffles clattered or broke into smaller shingles as we sprinted over them. 
Along the way, a few random rocks lay like Easter Eggs.  We were running so fast I only caught random words—Rape—Grandma—Destroyed—Beautiful.
We arrived at the gulley gasping hard.  My heart was already speeding but when I saw them all piled up in a heap, I clutched myself so as not to collapse.
There were thousands of rocks with secrets written on them, each one someone’s shame or clandestine wish, written in felt pens, mostly red-inked. 
“This feels wrong, like reading someone’s diary.”
Justin picked one up.  “It’s not the same,” he said.  “No one’s attached their name.  We don’t know these people.”
My mother is the prettiest mom I know.  It makes me jealous.  Sometimes I wish she was dead.
“They’re anonymous, but so personal.”
When I went to borrow a shirt from his room, I found gay porn stashed in my brother’s dresser.
My Dad keeps vodka in his bathroom.  He says he has a bladder problem to cover up always sneaking off for a drink.  It makes me angry and ashamed.
“They’re heartbreaking.”
“You sound like some mamby pamby.”
I cut myself whenever I’m sad.  I’m sad all the time.  I’ve made up my own alphabet and I etch it into my skin.
I felt a pull against my heart.  I bit my lip until blood came so I wouldn’t cry.
“They won’t last long anyway.”
“Why?” I asked.
“In summer, the snow melt will come off the mountains and fill the stream and everyone’s secret will either get washed away or washed clean.”
I looked up at Stokley Hill, cone-shaped with a fat base breaking off into the valley where we were.  The top was a hundred feet away, flattened.  Sun glare lashed at my corneas, even as I shielded my eyes with a hand.
“They throw them from there?”
I catch bugs alive and put them in my mouth just to feel them struggling to escape.
I caught sight of someone arriving at the plateau.  She was thin, wearing a silver parka.  She started to wind up, but then saw us.  “Hey!” she yelled.  “You’re not supposed to be down there!”
“Free country!” Justin screamed.
“You suck!”
The girl paused, then disappeared over the side.
“That wasn’t cool,” I said.
“Since when do you know about cool?  Don’t they call you Barbie at school?” 
They did.  That, and other slurs.
“She was going to throw one, a secret.”
“It’s a stupid thing to do anyway.  Look at all this whiny crap.”  He picked one up.  I killed my neighbor’s cat and now I have nightmares.  “Bunch of babies.  If life’s so hard, why not go kill yourself.”
He spat.  A white trail of foam dangled off his chin, swinging in the breeze.  “Check it out,” he said, pointing to the spittle.
I imagined myself on the top of Stokley Hill, marker in hand, spelling out my shame.
Justin unzipped and peed.  The splatter sounded like wrapping paper igniting.  When he was done, he looked at me with a wide open grin, wagging his penis and giggling.  Justin’s eyes, the ones girls fawned over, had gone gray now, like the dull side of a stone.  I wanted to tell him he was ugly, that I hated him more than all those kids at school hated me.
Instead, I picked up a broken-off boulder the size of a pumpkin.  I hoisted it over my shoulders.  I was on a slope, maybe a foot taller than my brother for once.  He thought I was kidding.
I knew I could write my secrets down in diaries or on rocks.  I could throw them or burn them, but my brother would still know.  This was the one way to be sure, and so I brought the boulder down with everything I had left in me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


  I’ll Never Tell

            The house stayed dark but a looming moon helped me find my way past the rooms where things were happening. 
I could hear.  I could hear Holly, my older brother’s girlfriend, giggling and saying, “Not there, here.”  In the other room, my brother was convulsing while the hollow door rattled and bucked.
            I was supposed to be watching TV, but I had to pee.  I didn’t want to hear them.  This wasn’t my idea.  They could have left me home.  Eleven wasn’t that young.  I’d already seen my mother kill things—chickens and hogs.  I’d felt the burn of swinging leather on my ass. 
            When they came out, it was dawn.  My brothers looked drunk and disheveled, yet, shirtless, their bodies were corded with muscles that seemed even more engorged.  The girls had reapplied their make-up.  One of them smelled like molasses and brown sugar.
            “Hey, Sweetie,” Holly said to me.  “Wanna give me a massage?  I got a kink.”
            My brother sniggered.  “You got a kink all right.”
            “We’re going to do a breakfast run,” my other brother said.  “You want anything?”  He was asking Holly, not me.
            Holly had just lain down, smashing her face into the navy shag, so she grunted.
            “Suit yourself.”
            The screen door screeched before banging shut.  A whirl of chilled air tossed Holly’s hair, bringing up sheets of goose flesh on both our skins. 
            “Any day now,” she said.
            I put my palms together the way I did when I prayed.  I left an opening and blew hot air and rubbed so they wouldn’t be cold on Holly.
            She was soft bread dough.  She was bags of rice and my fingers trembled as they ran over the smooth grains.  “Uh uh uh,” she said, pushing my hands from where they’d slid.  “Just the back.”
            I worked the gaps that lattered down her spine.  I pinched and twisted and smoothed.  “I hear you’ve got another brother, in prison.”
            I said, “I guess so.”  I had never met him.  He was much older, and from another of my Mom’s husbands.
            “You sure are shy,” Holly said.  “Nothing like Eugene and Gary.”
            When I started in on her neck, fluttering my forefingers and tugging with my thumbs, she moaned.  The sound made me flinch.  My cottonmouth was so bad that my tongue had turned into a crusted sock.  I wondered if she could feel my pulse throbbing out of my knee.
“Tell me something,” Holly said.
            “A secret no one knows.  I’ll keep it.  I’ll never tell.”
            Movies flickered in front of my eyes: horror films, chase scenes and déjà vu dream sequences that were real. 
            “Come on,” Holly said.
            My hands were still on her neck.  It wouldn’t be so hard to envelop her throat, choke her to death, but I didn’t want to do that.  I’d rather have kissed Holly, right beneath the ear.  Then, if she persisted, I’d whisper every dark thing until she shivered and said, “Stop.  Enough.”
            “Waiting,” Holly sang.
            “Okay, but you might not like me after.”
            “I’m the forgiving type.”
            I thought: I’ll just start.  I’ll begin with bits and work my way up to the really bad stuff.
            “I have a journal.”
“Like a diary?”
“Yeah, and it’s filled with secrets.”
“Then tell me one already.”
I knew the one to share, the one that would shock her enough that she’d want the others.
            “All right, well, so, for example, two years ago I came home from school early.  I had a stomach ache.  No one had answered the phone when the school nurse called, so I assumed nobody was home but then when—“
The door swung open, one of my brothers out of breath.  “Dingleberry left his wallet at home.  Do you have any spare cash?”
            Holly sighed.  “Seriously?”
“Yeah, sorry.”
She pushed me off and arched her back.  Her stomach growled.  “You guys are a piece of work.”
            “You guys?”
            “Hold on,” she said.  “I’ll get my purse.  I’m starving.”
            When she came back, she said I could grab some juice from the fridge but the chocolate milk was hers and not to touch it.  She didn’t say goodbye.  She didn’t ask if I minded being left alone.  She just left.
            That night I finished chores back at our house.  A minute inside my room, I could tell someone had rifled through my things because the mattress was off kilter and I liked having my shirts and underthings folded a certain way and now they weren’t.
            The same thing happened the next night and almost anytime I was out of the house.
            Holly had lied to me and now my brothers were afraid.
I decided to let them read the journal and learn all of the secrets.  They knew most of them anyway, because they’d caused each one in some form another.  But I decided I’d parcel them out, in stories tricked-up by fictitious identities and jerry-rigged with different settings.  I’d write every last story, but make them have to do the work to figure out who they were, what they’d done, and why.


Monday, October 21, 2013


…Hey Monday, you look fantastic.

…I found this article and thought it might be useful:

Rise and shine! Morning time just became your new best friend. Love it or hate it, utilizing the morning hours before work may be the key to a successful and healthy lifestyle. That’s right, early rising is a common trait found in many CEOs, government officials, and other influential people. Margaret Thatcher was up every day at 5 a.m.; Frank Lloyd Wright at 4 am and Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney wakes at 4:30am just to name a few. I know what you’re thinking - you do your best work at night. Not so fast. According to Inc. Magazine, morning people have been found to be more proactive and more productive. In addition, the health benefits for those with a life before work go on and on. Let’s explore 5 of the things successful people do before 8 am.
1. Exercise. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Most people that work out daily, work out in the morning. Whether it’s a morning yoga session or a trip to the gym, exercising before work gives you a boost of energy for the day and that deserved sense of accomplishment. Anyone can tackle a pile of paperwork after 200 ab reps! Morning workouts also eliminate the possibility of flaking out on your cardio after a long day at work. Even if you aren’t bright eyed and bushy tailed at the thought of a 5 am jog, try waking up 15 minutes early for a quick bedside set of pushups or stretching. It’ll help wake up your body, and prep you for your day.
2. Map Out Your Day. Maximize your potential by mapping out your schedule for the day, as well as your goals and to dos. The morning is a good time for this as it is often one of the only quiet times a person gets throughout the day. The early hours foster easier reflection that helps when prioritizing your activities. They also allow for uninterrupted problem solving when trying to fit everything into your timetable. While scheduling, don’t forget about your mental health. Plan a 10 minute break after that stressful meeting for a quick walk around the block or a moment of meditation at your desk. Trying to eat healthy? Schedule a small window in the evening to pack a few nutritious snacks to bring to work the next day.
3. Eat a Healthy Breakfast. We all know that rush out the door with a cup of coffee and an empty stomach feeling. You sit down at your desk, and you’re already wondering how early that taco truck sets up camp outside your office. No good. Take that extra time in the morning to fuel your body for the tasks ahead of it. It will help keep you mind on what’s at hand and not your growling stomach. Not only is breakfast good for your physical health, it is also a good time to connect socially. Even five minutes of talking with your kids or spouse while eating a quick bowl of oatmeal can boost your spirits before heading out the door.
4. Visualization. These days we talk about our physical health ad nauseam, but sometimes our mental health gets overlooked. The morning is the perfect time to spend some quiet time inside your mind meditating or visualizing. Take a moment to visualize your day ahead of you, focusing on the successes you will have. Even just a minute of visualization and positive thinking can help improve your mood and outlook on your work load for the day.

5. Make Your Day Top Heavy. We all have that one item on our to-do list that we dread. It looms over you all day (or week) until you finally suck it up and do it after much procrastination. Here’s an easy tip to save yourself the stress - do that least desirable task on your list first. Instead of anticipating the unpleasantness of it from first coffee through your lunch break, get it out of the way. The morning is the time when you are (generally) more well-rested and your energy level is up. Therefore, you are more-well equipped to handle more difficult projects. And look at it this way, your day will get progressively easier, not the other way around. By the time your work day is ending, you’re winding down with easier to dos and heading into your free time more relaxed. 

Friday, October 18, 2013


…It’s Friday where I’m at.  How about you?

…A tissue used by Scarlett Johansson: Sold! for $5,300.

…The opportunity to name a Connecticut woman’s baby: Sold! for $15,000.

…An image of the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich: Sold! for $28,000.

…The world’s best single-malt whiskey no longer hails from Scotland. It’s distilled in an old welding shop beneath a bridge in Waco, Texas. Last year, Balcones Distillery beat storied Scottish spirits to become the first American whiskey to win Best in Glass, a blind taste competition judged by a panel of British experts.
…Until the late 19th century, people used a variety of unpleasant items to clean up in the loo, including leaves and corncobs. Then, in the late 1880s, New York inventor Seth Wheeler wrapped narrow perforated strips of paper around cardboard tubes. And a happy ending has been had by all.
…Teresa Richardson uploaded a single how-to-crochet video to YouTube on a whim. Now she earns a living from her tutorials, which have over 173,000 subscribers, many of whom also make money from their crafts.

…"I called a discount exterminator. A guy came by with a rolled-up magazine. "—Will Shriner

…"I spilled spot remover on my dog, and now he’s gone."—Steven Wright

…"I constantly walk into a room, and I don’t remember why. But for some reason, I think there’s going to be a clue in the fridge. "—Caroline Rhea

…"I was the best man at the wedding. If I’m the best man, why is she marrying him?"—Jerry Seinfeld

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


…Well, last night’s reading was a success on many levels.  It was brief.  The readers were great writers, and some friends, and it was relatively well-attended for an event such as that.
I read five very short pieces (If you’re from Seattle, or have been here, you may recognize some things.)
Here they are:


At first he saw clouds, pale blue blemishes, and then his sight left him completely. 
He phoned his daughter.  He thought he might die at any moment.  He was an old man, had lived a rugged but fair life.
She drove out that night.  He sat on the porch waiting, listening to the crickets bleating.  When his wife was alive, after a long day of hard work on the farm, they’d sit in the rocking swing, holding hands but staying quiet, surrounded by green silence.
His daughter said, “You’ll have to live with me now,” and the old man almost vomited because he knew she was right.
Her condo overlooked Elliot Bay.  “It smells like glass cleaner,” he said.  “And pigeon shit!”
He wanted to go back, die on the farm.  His daughter kept talking about new beginnings, second chances.  He thought she might be nuts.
She preferred windows open for fresh air and the street noise below made his ears bleed.
One Saturday she took him to Pike Place Market.  He smelled brine and lavender and berries.  He heard the fish hawkers and squealing children, birds cooing, a guitar.
His heart thrummed.  It felt like a bomb inside his chest, and he liked it.  He felt different, alive.
His daughter put his hand on what she said was a sculpture of a giant pig.  “For luck,” she said.
He laughed at that, the irony, how he had traded a live sow for a fake, how small the world really was.


On our descent to Seattle, the sound of screaming woke me.
Outside, the sky crackled with streaks of lava.  When I looked closer, I saw that it was actually jagged branches of lightning.
Then turbulence struck.  Like a bomb.
Our plane leapt and bounced and veered. 
Children squealed.  Someone yelled, “Terrorist!”  Latches ripped off their hinges and sundry kits flew down the aisles like missiles.
The woman next to me looked oddly unafraid.  I figured she’d gone into a form of shock, so I took her hand and shouted, “We’ll be all right!”
She pressed her other hand to her lips, peaceful, kissing the trinket from her necklace.
Then, just as sudden as the turbulence had hit, it ended.  We flattened out, the plane continuing its descent, finding the runway with little-to-no wheel skid.
It reeked of vomit.  I stank, as well, my shirt dripping sweat, pants soaked with urine.
I tried to cover myself with a napkin.
On a pad of paper the woman wrote, “Are you okay?”
When she tapped the paper, I realized she was deaf.
“I’m fine,” I said. 
She smiled, stood up, walked down the aisle and out.
A boyfriend met her at baggage.  They kissed, then signed.  She made bumping motions and laughed.  Across her neck, the silver cross jangled.
My heart felt small, but it beat hard, filled with so many questions I’d never ask: what it was like to be deaf, brave, to be so certain.



Riming the volcano of garbage are vultures—fifty or more, their black plumage inky in the smoldering sun.  Big as toddlers, they cock their crocked necks as if they know my thoughts, but they do not, no one does.
Last week my son fought one of these evil birds.  Marco had discovered an uneaten sandwich in the heap when the creature swooped down.  Thank God Marco had the bent-up umbrella he always carries, sometimes using it as a bat (“Look, Papa, I’m A Rod!”), a dancing cane, (“I’m smooth like your favorite, Gene Kelly!”), a golf club (“Now I’m Chi Chi Rodriguez.  How do you like those apples, Papa?”)  I watched him beat the bird, heard their tangled screaming.  We were in the middle of sorting recyclables from other’s people’s discarded waste.  My wife implored me to intervene, but I knew that would only make Marco soft, and soft does not survive here.
We used to live inside the dump, among the maggots and rats, until the missionaries came.  Now we have rows of tin boxes to make our homes.  Still, a narrow, dirt road is all that separates our make-shift town from the dump.
Miles below sits Puerto Vallarta.  At night, she shimmers, a bejeweled gown.  A cruise ship glows with its windows white as American teeth.
When I was young like Marco, I often plotted an escape.  Now that I am wiser, I watch my family sleeping and feel embarrassed to be this rich.

Lips, Mouth, Heart

Instead of piano, my daughter takes lip-reading lessons.  She says that way she’ll know what the other kids are whispering about her. 
“That’s stupid,” her brother says. “They can just cover up their mouth with a book or their hand or something.”
My daughter screams, overturns her dinner plate, and runs off. 
“It’s okay,” my son says, “she never eats anyway.”
A week later, my daughter looks happy, determined.  She’s seated in a chair on the opposite side of the room with me on the couch. 
“Just say what you’d normally say, except don’t speak out loud.”
I cock my head, imitating, Sherman Alexie, our often befuddled Labrador.
“Just mouth the words,” she says.
So, I mouth, This is really weird.
She tells me to do it slower.
I mouth, I’m sick that your mother’s not here.
She crinkles her head and tells me she’s not anorexic, even though that’s not what I said, even though we both know that’s a lie.
I mouth, Your mother fell in love with my best friend, but at least she left me with you two.
My daughter says, “Not so many words at once.”
I mouth, It’s not even funny how much I love you.
She says, “I know just the trick,” goes to the kitchen and returns with Pepto-Bismol.  “This should help your stomach flu.”
I mouth, It’s not my stomach, it’s my heart.
She breaks out laughing, busting a gut.  She says, “Sometimes you really crack me up.”

Listening Device

She tells me I don’t know, I don’t know,
I never knew.
She claims I only see spots and scotomas,
that I miss the truth
hiding in the fringes,
out of breath but beautiful.

Another time she says she is a cut-out,
not flat,  
not like that,
but living pages and improper pictures.
“Here,” she says,
running my hand across her spine,
“maybe you can read me a story.”
The nurse pokes her head in, mouths, Everything okay?
the same way she does every day.
When she’s gone,
I turn back to the woman on the bed
whose eyes are a blind man’s milk-blue.
I hit Record on the device,
say, “Tell me again how you met Dad,”

and she begins to laugh.

Monday, October 14, 2013


I said I was going to have a blast this last weekend, but I wasn’t intending what happened yesterday morning.  At around 6:30 am, shrouded in incredibly dense fog, a coyote  ran across I – 5.  I was doing 70 miles per hour and had not opportunity to swerve, which is a good thing I guess, because if I’d had time I probably would have either rolled my car or fishtailed and been hit by the guy behind me.  As it was, I had to have my car towed 150 miles.  Oh, and the driver had his Pandora mix turned on Ke$ha, so there was that, too.  But hey, at least I didn’t get hurt.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

…Tonight I have my writing group, then Tuesday I’m doing a reading at The Hugo House with three guys from Monday’s writing group.  It should be a lot of fun, but I’m not sure how robust the turnout will be.

…Here are some things I like at the start of a new week:

"What is life about?  It's about working hard and loving someone. Oh, and having fun. And, if you're lucky, you keep your health and someone will love you back." Katherine Hepburn

“And I knew that it was better to live out one's absurdity than to die for that of others.” Ralph Ellison

"It is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Jim Collins

"We will all experience disappointments and crushing events somewhere along the way, setbacks for which there is no "reason"; no one to blame. It might be a disease; it might be injury; it might be an accident; it might be losing a loved one; it might be getting swept away in a political shake up; it might be getting shot down over Vietnam and thrown into a POW camp for 8 years. What separates people, James Stockdale taught me, is not the presence or absence of difficulties, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life." Jim Collins

"We have failed to recognize our one great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something quite amazing." Friedrich Schiller

"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." Picasso

Friday, October 11, 2013


…I’m going to have a blast this weekend and I hope you do, too.

…Here are some funnies from Facebook friends in the last few days:

-While looking for books at the library, my daughter found a copy of "The Stupids Die." We didn't get it. It looked stupid.

-Yesterday my little brother became a dad. I got a Jiffy Lube coupon in the mail. We're all winners!!

-Chris: That guy in the movie totally looks like...
Me: A huge dweeb?
Chris: I was going to say me, in college.
Me: Oh, yeah! He totally does!

-I should have called-in “old” today.

-Just realized the person who emailed me this morning and queried, "Sex?" was not asking IF I WAS HAVING IT.

-will slash your boss's tires for a buck.

-I am still having a hard time believing that there is a new show called Vanilla Ice Goes Amish.

-Sometimes the Universe makes decisions for us and I'm okay with that. Less to think about.

…Here’s a story I had published in Burrow Press Review a while ago that I forgot about until I saw it yesterday:


            My brother is home now, and I’m a little more than nervous.
            Because Mom and Dad are at an awards dinner, it’s just Jess and me sitting in the dim basement with the TV turned down so low I have to read the actors’ lips to know what’s happening.
            Jess cradles a bottle of Scotch in his lap, taking swigs every minute or so.  I wonder how long it will take him to polish the whole thing off, and, when he does, if he’ll start another.  Jess wobbles the bottle at me, topaz liquid sloshing out, streaking down his tattooed forearms.  After I tell him I don’t want any, he calls me “Pussy,” not even feigning a grin.
            Jess’s haircut is so short it’s just bristles.  Before he left, it was long and wavy and he looked like a gangly surfer.  Now he’s hard in every place, especially his eyes.
            I want to ask if he killed anyone over there or, if not, did he see anyone killed, but Jess has come back a new fuse, irritable and angry, so I say as little as possible. 
            Two weeks before he left, Jess killed the neighbor’s dog with my dad’s car, claiming it was an accident, though I knew how much he hated the animal.  A month before that, after his girlfriend dumped him, Jess rammed a railroad tie through her windshield in the middle of the night, but no one could prove it.  There were other collisions and incidents, all collateral damage from our older brother’s death in a boating accident.  As far as I know, Benny had been Jess’s only friend and ally.  Me, I was the young one, separated from my siblings by years and character differences, things I counted as good luck. 
            I keep counting minutes, thinking I’ll go to my room after an hour’s through.  My parents parting words were, “You two can spend the night catching up,” as if that was actually something either of us wanted to do.  Dad arranged Scotch bottles on the kitchen counter, aligned like bowling pins, and said, “For the hero,” patting my brother’s shoulder cautiously, as if it might be electrified.
            I don’t know how he’s done it, but after half an hour, the bottle’s empty.  He tosses it at me without warning.  “Suck on that.”  When he laughs, I can see his three broken teeth, his purple tongue, a black pool of saliva.
            After he opens the next bottle, Jess lights up a cigarette, taking a long drag.
            I say, “You can’t smoke in the house.”
            He stares at me so hard my eyes water and I look down at the shag carpet.  He lights a match and flicks it at me.  He keeps doing that, little torches scorching my arms.

            I know what he wants, but I’m not going to give it to him.  In the past I always fought back.  Now I’ll let someone else be his next collision.