First Date with Abby

Abby and I met at our office and had dinner at Papa Gjorgjo next door.

I invited her to see the house I am considering buying from Ann Kelley. When trying to get into my car, the door wouldn’t open – probably since it was very cold and I washed the car earlier in the day – so she climbed over the center console to get in.

We then drove to the house on 17th Street. We talked about fixing it up; she even pulled up a corner of carpet to see if it had wood floors. We held each other by the gas fireplace, mostly holding hands and talking.

Back at my apartment, we curled up on my futon, held each other close and talked more. She purred. I held her hands and touched her hair and nestled closer and closer. We traded back rubs. It turned into kissing, so much kissing.

We were happy to be together. She likes me. She likes my beard. She likes the way she feels when I hold her.

Now, I can still taste her goodnight kiss. We had a great time.

Abby Milligan
Abby Milligan

From the Beginning: Abby Shoffner Milligan Barron

This article is the culmination of a series called Lost and Found, which I wrote over an 18-month period, about my various relationships with women through my life. The other entries are password protected.

Abby Milligan poses for my camera in the first few weeks of our relationship, in the winter of 2003.
Abby Milligan poses for my camera in the first few weeks of our relationship, in the winter of 2003.

“You see, it’s all clear
You were meant to be here
From the beginning…”
~From the Beginning, Emerson, Lake and Palmer

From the day I met Abby Milligan, I liked her, and from the first date we had together, on January 17, 2003, I was comfortable with her and attracted to her, thought of her as rational, intelligent, and affectionate, and very soon felt very much in love with her.

Abby works at her desk in the advertising department of my newspaper in December 2002, just a few days before our first date. Abby left the paper a few months later to work for a fundraising company, and in December 2003, for Legal Shield. The department where she is seated in this image is now vacant.
Abby works at her desk in the advertising department of my newspaper in December 2002, just a few days before our first date. Abby left the paper a few months later to work for a fundraising company, and in December 2003, for Legal Shield. The department where she is seated in this image is now vacant.

Abby and I met in April 2002 when she asked me to photograph one of her clients, Fun Time Pools, when she was working as an advertising sales representative at my newspaper. We got along fine, but I spent my time and energies on other women during that era, especially Melissa. By the summer of 2002, I was feverishly pursuing Lisa. Both of those women were a complete waste of my time.

Abby Milligan smiles for my camera at my newspaper in 2002, about eight months before our first date. This is the first picture I ever took of her.
Abby Milligan smiles for my camera at my newspaper in 2002, about eight months before our first date. This is the first picture I ever took of her.

Abby asked me out in January 2003, since I hadn’t yet asked her. We had our first date January 17. We had dinner at Papa Gjorgjo downtown, follower by taking her to see the house on 17th Street I was thinking of buying from Ann Kelley.

Abby and I flirt like muskrats at our office in the early days of our relationship.
Abby and I flirt like muskrats at our office in the early days of our relationship.

Because I’d washed my car earlier in the day, the passenger side door mechanism was frozen, so she had to climb over the center console to get in my car.

Journal, January 18, 2003: Abby and I met last night and had dinner, then went to [Ann’s] house and talked about fixing it up, We held hands and held each other by the fireplace for a while. Back at my apartment, we curled up on my futon, held each other close and talked. She purred. I held her hands and touched her hair, and she nestled closer and closer. We traded back rubs. It turned into kissing, so much gentle kissing. We were so close, so warm, so happy to be together.

The next day on the phone, she said, “I think I woke up smiling.”

Later she told our coworkers that our date was “even better than she wanted it to be.”

Abby and I pose together in my apartment in February 2003, just a month after our first date. She is wearing my shirt.
Abby and I pose together in my apartment in February 2003, just a month after our first date. She is wearing my shirt.
Abby gives me a coy smile as she tapes up a baseboard as the two of us work to paint my apartment. Our relationship was just a few weeks old at the time.
Abby gives me a coy smile as she tapes up a baseboard as the two of us work to paint my apartment. Our relationship was just a few weeks old at the time.

Our relationship grew by leaps and bounds in the spring of 2003.

Abby and I pose in a mirror in downtown Ada. I gave her the pendant she's wearing for her birthday in 2003.
Abby and I pose in a mirror in downtown Ada. I gave her the pendant she’s wearing for her birthday in 2003.

In our first weeks together, she helped paint my apartment and add shelves above the living room. On nights we did this, we got a carafe of wine, and while tipsy one night, Abby called it a “giraffe.” After that, we referred to drinking wine together as “getting giraffed.”

Abby and I smile at a birthday party for her in Norman in 2003. It was the first birthday party anyone had thrown for her as an adult.
Abby and I smile at a birthday party for her in Norman in 2003. It was the first birthday party anyone had thrown for her as an adult.
Abby and I pose in her bathroom mirror just weeks into our relationship. One of the ways I knew I was "in" was that she bought me a tube of Close-Up toothpaste to keep at her house.
Abby and I pose in her bathroom mirror just weeks into our relationship. One of the ways I knew I was “in” was that she bought me a tube of Close-Up toothpaste to keep at her house.
Abby gives me a flirtatious look as she poses in Ada's Wintersmith Park in early spring 2003. Her phone fell out of her pocket here, and we walked the entire park calling it until we got back to this spot and heard it.
Abby gives me a flirtatious look as she poses in Ada’s Wintersmith Park in early spring 2003. Her phone fell out of her pocket here, and we walked the entire park calling it until we got back to this spot and heard it.

Several times in the spring of 2003, Abby and I drove to Shawnee, where I was renting airplanes at the time, and went flying a Cessna 152. We both had a terrific time, and I even let her fly the airplane a few times, which came very naturally to her.

Abby and I pose with a rented Cessna 152 in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I pose with a rented Cessna 152 in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I take to the skies over Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.
Abby and I take to the skies over Oklahoma in the spring of 2003.

In June, Abby and I flew to Florida to meet my parents and sister, and we all had a great time. My father seemed the happiest about this, both because Abby knew tools and how to use them, and because he had a bit of a crush on her.

Abby and I made enchiladas and guacamole for Mom and Dad when she and I flew to Florida in June 2003.
Abby and I made enchiladas and guacamole for Mom and Dad when she and I flew to Florida in June 2003.

From the start, our sex life was amazing. Abby is gentle, playful, kind, caring, creative and patient. She always smells great. We always hold each other close afterwards. Always.

Abby poses in the brilliant setting Santa Fe sun on our first vacation together, The High Road.
Abby poses in the brilliant setting Santa Fe sun on our first vacation together, The High Road.

In July 2003, Abby and I took our first road trip together, The High Road. It was an amazing time, hiking in the desert, which she had never visited, all day, followed by raucous motel sex in the evenings. It was a bellwether week for both of us, alone together intensely like a married couple, under stress and having fun at the same time, exploring our sexuality and the high desert. I had initially thought of the trip as being a northern New Mexico jaunt, but together we got more and more ambitious as the week went by, and made it as far as the Grand Canyon, which she’d never seen.

Abby poses for my 85mm in a yard in Norman, Oklahoma. I love this image and everything about it.
Abby poses for my 85mm in a yard in Norman, Oklahoma. I love this image and everything about it.

Prior to our wedding, I asked my parents to pay for us to have Abby’s teeth fixed, which they did, which was very generous.

Made in the summer before we got married, on the back porch of our house, this portrait of Abby takes my breath away. To me, she looks like sunshine itself.
Made in the summer before we got married, on the back porch of our house, this portrait of Abby takes my breath away. To me, she looks like sunshine itself.
Abby talks to Buxton the goat when he was still just a kid.
Abby talks to Buxton the goat when he was still just a kid.

The feel of her hands in mine, the light in her eyes, her smile, her laugh, the way she looks at me, the smell of her hair, and everything else about her says “home” to me in every way.

Abby made me into an animal lover and owner. Before we got married, Abby got two goats, Coal and Buxton, who were mostly my pets since I worked in the garden and the back yard. They have since died.

Made in July 2004, this is our official engagement photo.
Made in July 2004, this is our official engagement photo.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day.

We talked about marriage, and decided we were engaged, on the anniversary of our first date. I’ve always thought it was smart plan to be with someone for at least a year before getting married so you can experience each other through all the seasons, holidays, and anniversaries, good and bad.

Abby and I married on October 12, 2004, and have been happy, faithful, and in love to this day. On that sunny day in the adventure playground of southern Utah, neither of us felt “nervous” like you sometimes hear brides and grooms say… we were both 100% invested, confident and committed.

Abby and I wed on October 12, 2004 at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Abby and I wed on October 12, 2004 at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Abby smiles for a portrait with my long-ago-sold 105mm at dusk at her father's home in Ryan, Oklahoma, in December 2004, just a couple of months after we got married.
Abby smiles for a portrait with my long-ago-sold 105mm at dusk at her father’s home in Ryan, Oklahoma, in December 2004, just a couple of months after we got married.
Abby fit right into my family. In this image, she and I pose with with my extended family the week Dad died in February 2005, just a few months after Abby and I got married. Abby is always there for us.
Abby fit right into my family. In this image, she and I pose with with my extended family the week Dad died in February 2005, just a few months after Abby and I got married. Abby is always there for us.

My wife is among the most empathetic people I have ever known. In September 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, including my sister’s home in the Lower Ninth. For weeks afterwards, Abby couldn’t pick up a spoon or a bar of soap without thinking, “Nicole doesn’t even have this.” She ended up going to Wal Mart, buying a suit case on wheels, then buying enough clothing and housewares to fill it, which we then sent to my sister who was staying with Mom in Florida.

Abby flashes me her incredible smile as we travel in southern Colorado on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby flashes me her incredible smile as we travel in southern Colorado on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby smiles for me at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. This ranks as one my all-time favorite images.
Abby smiles for me at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. This ranks as one my all-time favorite images.

Right after we got married, we got our first dog together, Sierra Kayenta Avenue, a long coat Chihuahua, as a puppy. Sierra died in early 2018. In 2006, we got Maximum Speed Boulevard, a smooth coat Chihuahua, who died in May 2019. In 2017, we got an Irish Wolfhound, Hawken Rifle Trail, who I walk every day. After Sierra died, we adopted Summer Time Lane, a young female Chihuahua.

Abby and I pose for a self portrait on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on our first anniversary vacation, Mokee Mokee, in October 2005.
Abby smiles as we make pictures in the bamboo forest at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo is one of her favorite places.
Abby smiles as we make pictures in the bamboo forest at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo is one of her favorite places.
Abby looks at me with adoration in this summer 2006 portrait.
Abby looks at me with adoration in this summer 2006 portrait.

“Days go by, I catch myself smile
More than you’d ever expect
It’s been a long while
Since it’s been okay to feel this way…” ~Duncan Sheik, Days Go By

I had never been married before. Abby was married to Paul Milligan for 23 years until his death in 1992 from metastatic lung cancer. They have a daughter, Dawna Michele Milligan Reeves, who I adore. Dawna, who grew up known as Chele (which we call her) married Tom Reeves in 2009. They had a baby, our grandson, Paul Thomas, in 2011. They live in the Baltimore, Maryland suburb of Parkville, and we see them two or three times a year.

Abby and her daughter Dawna "Chele" Milligan pose together in 2006 in Dallas.
Abby and her daughter Dawna “Chele” Milligan pose together in 2006 in Dallas.
Mitchell, Abby and I pose for a Christmas card with our goats, Coal and Buxton, in December 2004.
Mitchell, Abby and I pose for a Christmas card with our goats, Coal and Buxton, in December 2004.

The thing we talk about the least is Abby’s nephew Mitchell, who we often referred to as “our son,” and of whom we were both guardians. He was a very troubled child. His mother, Abby’s sister Gwyn, died in his presence, unattended on her bathroom floor, in 2000 of meningitis when Mitchell was 8. She was 33.

Mitchell’s father was an abusive alcoholic and drug user, but was out of the picture by the time Gwyn died.

Mitchell was prone to fits of violence, crying, acting-out, and depression, and was completely selfish. He was so addicted to video games, despite our efforts to control it, that he was in danger on a number of occasions of flunking out of school. He would hurt any feelings or disobey anything we told him to play video games. In 2010, it came to a head, and we threw him out. We never regretted that, or any other actions we took with Mitchell. We offered him a home and a life, and he declined.

Mitchell and Abby pose with me for the July 4 holiday in 2006. Despite our efforts and Mitchell's potential, he was something of a lost cause.
Mitchell and Abby pose with me for the July 4 holiday in 2006. Despite our efforts and Mitchell’s potential, he was something of a lost cause.
The Shoffner sisters, Gail, Inez, and Abby, pose at Gail's home in Ryan, Oklahoma, at Thanksgiving 2005. Their youngest sister, Gwyn, died suddenly in 2000 when she was just 33. Inez died in August 2021.
The Shoffner sisters, Gail, Inez, and Abby, pose at Gail’s home in Ryan, Oklahoma, at Thanksgiving 2005. Their youngest sister, Gwyn, died suddenly in 2000 when she was just 33. Inez died in August 2021.

The rest of our families and we get along fine. Abby loves my family and I hers. My parents were delighted when we decided to get married: at Christmas 2003 in Florida, I asked Mom, Dad, and Nicole “what they thought” about me marrying Abby. They paused and looked at each other, then nodded in approval. When I got up to use the restroom, they all high-fived each other.

A huge difference between Abby and me is that I am something of a minimalist, while she is decidedly a collector. Though fundamentally at odds, it is something we simply accept about each other.

Abby and I pose for a Christmas portrait at my sister Nicole's house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2006, after my sister rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
Abby and I pose for a Christmas portrait at my sister Nicole’s house in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2006, after my sister rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina.
When testing her new label maker, the first thing Abby typed was this "I love you" label, which I still have.
When testing her new label maker, the first thing Abby typed was this “I love you” label, which I still have.
Abby poses with her Chihuahua Sierra at Christmas in 2007. No one I know, even children, love Christmas like she does.
Abby poses with her Chihuahua Sierra at Christmas in 2007. No one I know, even children, love Christmas like she does.
Abby smiles for my camera in July 2008, not long after her life-threatening bout with pneumonia.
Abby smiles for my camera in July 2008, not long after her life-threatening bout with pneumonia.
Abby and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial in October 2008.
Abby and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial in October 2008.
On this December 2009 day, Abby looked so pretty when she got home from work, I asked if I could photograph her.
On this December 2009 day, Abby looked so pretty when she got home from work, I asked if I could photograph her.
Abby and I pose for a photo at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico in 2010.
Abby and I pose for a photo at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico in 2010.

As nice as our daily lives are, Abby and I have the best times when we are on the road. We have been all over the country, from the woods in Maryland where The Blair Witch Project was made to the home of London Bridge, and dozens of locations in between. And it’s not just our destinations that we love, but the travel itself. We love opening the tailgate of her pickup and sitting on it to have lunch at a truck stop. We love the great big cups of black coffee in the center console. We love the wind in eastern New Mexico and the sunset in southern Utah and the giant twine ball in Kansas.

Abby and I pose at the end of the beautiful Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park in October 2010.
Abby and I pose at the end of the beautiful Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park in October 2010.
Abby makes pictures on The Strip in Las Vegas in 2011.
Abby makes pictures on The Strip in Las Vegas in 2011.
Abby leans out of the window of her truck to photograph a thunderstorm in the Texas panhandle on our June 2016 trip The Enchanted Circle.
Abby leans out of the window of her truck to photograph a thunderstorm in the Texas panhandle on our June 2016 trip The Enchanted Circle.

We haven’t quite figured out how to travel with the Wolfhound yet, and we may end up letting someone care for him as we hit the road.

Abby shows her playful side as we make our way down Main Street for dinner one evening.
Abby shows her playful side as we make our way down Main Street for dinner one evening.
Abby and I became grandparents in 2011. Our grandson is named Paul Thomas Reeves.
Abby and I became grandparents in 2011. Our grandson is named Paul Thomas Reeves.
Abby proudly shows off a picture of our grandson, Paul Thomas Reeves, in October 2011. Abby and I were in Flagstaff, Arizona at the time.
Abby proudly shows off a picture of our grandson, Paul Thomas Reeves, in October 2011. Abby and I were in Flagstaff, Arizona at the time.

Abby retired from Legal Shield when she turned 65.

Abby is loaded onto an air ambulance at a hospital in Ada after suffering a heart attack in 2011. She had a stent inserted and made a full recovery.
Abby is loaded onto an air ambulance at a hospital in Ada after suffering a heart attack in 2011. She had a stent inserted and made a full recovery.

Growing older has not been easy for Abby. Rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren syndrome have taken their toll. It is the one thing I would change about her if I could: her health. The failure of modern drugs like Rituximab and Humira mean that Abby and I manage her pain with opioid and conventional medications, and patience.

I’ve lost count of the number of her hospitalizations, ICU stays, and near-deaths. Some details…

  • In 2005, she was hospitalized for several days with her third bout of shingles.
  • In 2006, she was prescribed methotrexate, which eased the arthritis, but caused her hair to thin and fall out.
  • In 2007, her rheumatologist tried adalimumab (Humira), which also reduced her arthritis, but “felt like hot lava” when injecting, and gave her a serious rash that didn’t itch, but eventually covered her whole body, and took three months to resolve.
  • In spring 2008, our rheumatologist turned to rituximab, a very powerful chemotherapy drug, infused in doses so high that the nurses felt the need to call the pharmacy to recheck the dose. The drug worked, and she and her former mother-in-law flew to Baltimore and had a great time, with Abby’s arthritis in remission. However, the consequence of this powerful treatment was an extensive destruction of her immune system, and in May she developed pneumonia. On Saturday May 10, 2008, she was so weak that EMS had to transport her to the emergency room. She was admitted to ICU. Monday morning, we had to intubate her. The entire hospital stay lasted nearly six weeks. You can read a complete synopsis of the event here (link.)
  • In early December 2011, Abby had a heart attack, and flew to Oklahoma City to have a stent inserted.
  • On four occasions in 2012, Abby was hospitalized with serious infections, including a MRSA infection, and three kidney infections, which were the result of a very large kidney stone, which she had removed by lithotripsy in 2013.
  • In May 2015, Abby was hospitalized for eight days with a kidney infection so serious that at one point a nurse handed me a list of nursing homes.
  • In February 2021 Abby was hospitalized for several day for dehydration and high calcium levels, and because of the coronavirus epidemic, I was unable to be with her to advocate for her care, which was very difficult.
  • In August 2021, Abby was very sick with a urinary tract in infection that resulted in her falling on her left shoulder, breaking the head of her humerus, and leading to a long hospital stay.
  • On October 15, 2021, Abby was again admitted with weakness and confusion. At first it looked like another UTI, but a chest x-ray supported a diagnosis of pneumonia. By October 22, she was admitted to Coal County Memorial Hospital for continued care. On November 10, 2021, Abby was admitted to Ballard Nursing Center in Ada, Oklahoma.
Abby and I share a playful moment in the front yard in September 2011.
Abby and I share a playful moment in the front yard in September 2011.
Abby smiles as she and I make pictures for a client in 2010.
Abby smiles as she and I make pictures for a client in 2010.

I am 13 years younger than Abby, though almost on one believes that when I tell them.

Abby fits with a lot of my idea of an ideal woman: she’s sweet, she’s bright, she’s smart, she’s a little bit of a tomboy. She’s got a country-girl saltiness I find attractive but hard to describe.

Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, in Sedona, Arizona, in October 2011.
Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, in Sedona, Arizona, in October 2011.
This is Abby's senior portrait, made in 1968. As you can see, she has always been beautiful.
This is Abby’s senior portrait, made in 1968. As you can see, she has always been beautiful.

Some other things about Abby…

  • She loves Christmas more than anyone I know.
  • She loved her parents with all her heart; I know this sounds like a lot of people, but Abby took it to the next level. She still cries when she talks about them. Her mother died at age 60 in 1986, and her father died just before his 87th birthday in 2010.
  • Many things will make my wife cry, but none more than the death of a pet. On the several occasions when I was present when her dogs died, and Abby cried louder and more intensely than I have ever witnessed anyone cry.
  • Abby loves John Wayne and his movies. Part of this is that her father resembled Wayne in many ways, including his rugged attitude. Abby collects John Wayne memorabilia.
  • Abby collects playing cards.
  • Abby cheers out loud for good guys in movies. She laughs with all her might when things are funny.
  • Although she always goes through the motions of study like watching political debate, while I am much more left-wing dogmatic, she and I almost always land on the same side of the issue. Abby’s politics are always about compassion.
  • Abby is moved by the U.S. Flag and what it represents, but understands why it is sometimes necessary to protest symbols and institutions. She is an NRA member, but often questions their core policies.
  • Abby thinks tactical is cool.
  • Abby and I call each other the usual spousal nicknames like Honey or Sweetheart, but our unique nicknames for each other stem from our first vacation together, The High Road, when we drove up Cedar Mesa on a narrow, winding gravel road called the Mokee Dugway. To this day, we both answer to Mokee, and sometimes our conversations only consist of that word.

Our songs are Our Little World by Susan Ashton, Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, and Crystal Baller by Third Eye Blind…

“Can we try and take the high road
Though we don’t know where it ends
I want to be your Crystal Baller
I want to show you how it ends…”
~Crystal Baller, Third Eye Blind

“Come and hold me, hold me tight
I wanna love you with all of my might
‘Cause all is good and all is right
In our little world…”
~Our Little World, Susan Ashton

“I hear you singin’ in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line…”
~Wichita Lineman, Glen Campbell

Abby and I share a sweet moment at her family reunion in 2012.
Abby and I share a sweet moment at her family reunion in 2012.
Abby prowls the outdoor market on The Plaza at Santa Fe in 2014. Abby loves Santa Fe.
Abby prowls the outdoor market on The Plaza at Santa Fe in 2014. Abby loves Santa Fe.

Despite the fair amount of pain she deals with every day, she seldom takes it out on me, and when she does, I know it means I need to address her pain, not get angry at her.

She loves me every day, as I her, and we have never gone a day without “I love you.”

Abby smiles for me on a dinner date in early 2014.
Abby smiles for me on a dinner date in early 2014.
Abby poses for a portrait for me at Christmas time in 2016.
Abby poses for a portrait for me at Christmas time in 2016.
Abby and I pose at her family reunion in 2016.
Abby and I pose at her family reunion in 2016.
Abby and I rumble down a rough road in southern Utah on our 2016 vacation, The Endless Sky.
Abby and I rumble down a rough road in southern Utah on our 2016 vacation, The Endless Sky.
Abby and I smile in the October sunshine at her family reunion in 2017.
Abby and I smile in the October sunshine at her family reunion in 2017.
Richard R. Barron and Abby S. M. Barron, November 2018
Richard R. Barron and Abby S. M. Barron, November 2018
A young photojournalist friend of ours, Mackenzee E. Crosby, came to our home in early March 2020 to interview us for her writing class, and made some amazing pictures of us together.
A young photojournalist friend of ours, Mackenzee E. Crosby, came to our home in early March 2020 to interview us for her writing class, and made some amazing pictures of us together.
Abby S. M. Barron and Richard R. Barron, June 2019
Abby S. M. Barron and Richard R. Barron, June 2019

The Minimus 7 Letters, Part 4

By Minimus 7 / M7


Guitar-picking, sandal wearing hippie gets run over by tractor-trailer rig driven by reverse Okie (parents moved to CA during the dust bowl, he brought the family back to OK during the oil boom).

Gather the cadres, Che’ has escaped.

An unshaven Big Dick McGillicutty enters the disco.

Perspectives shift rapidly as Stacy pulls the first lever.

The audience went nuts.  No one had ever seen a head come apart like that before.

Just think, the same scene repeated millions of times all over the world.  Smoker takes first puff of the morning.  Immediately must run to the bathroom due to explosive diarrhea.  From then on, every slight inhalation of smoke causes severe runs.

Somehow, overnight, without anyone noticing, an unassailable 400-foot-tall obsidian phallus is installed on the North Oval.  No one knows how it got there, and despite all efforts, no one can remove it.

Even the prudishly Victorian attempt to place a canvas fig leaf over it with helicopters ended in disaster when the canvas fig leaf and the helicopters were mysteriously transformed into 60 tons of bologna salad.  Fertility religions begin popping up all over Norman.

Every new charismatic fertility religion leader claims to understand the true meaning of “the big black dick” as it is known.

nerdlinger wept,



> I believe we wrote “Wh**l*ck–what a hack.  -Karl Marx.”

> >What DID we put in that darned cat?

As always, your memory has proved superior.

I’m definitely off on Monday.

We’ll have to go over to Wh**l*ck’s and desecrate his cat again.


I am not a cougar.

Cook me.  Eat half of me tonight and take the rest of me home for lunch tomorrow.

Fill me with arm pus.

Intentionally left blank because Wh**l*ck is a pussy.

“Swallow my face, please.”–Jaques Derrida

what a fag,


possible titles for my first book:

  • The Cruciflex Home Exerciser:  A Manual.
  • Big ‘n Gay
  • The Jethrine Integument
  • Belch:  The Throat Fart
  • Enhugement of the Fisticons!!
  • Crabby Old Bastard Mock Fuck
  • The Future:  When Monsters Roam the Earth
  • My Ass Hurts



by DM

barb-ward rearing faces

fear our workaday integuments

and the great hoax mainlines the now

shoot him down!

he is but a clearer of weeds

he does not reveal

why I am me and not

someone else

head preserved for all to see,

Uncle Dreck became ossified

and he crumbled

in his pool of coffin

peeling ourselves away

from the



bucket seat of the real

Is this a failure?
Is this a failure?

no cage is strong enough

to hold our bliss

indulging in friendly clever extremes

my writhing cinnamon girl

displays her threat

to the farty old man

too loudly making

farty old man


we are surrounded by

the sound of cicadas cruising for chicks

and the banality of penile fakery

adding merit to madness

as we wreck the cherries

and dysfunct the projectiles

while my writhing cinnamon girl

takes my hand and Uncle Dreck

leads the way into our

unending wheel of joy

sane?  yes, please?!

my exclamation points wobble and

shimmer in the fractal heat

   each nodule glows fast

   to the floor of an arid

   brain pan

    suddenly, the smell of

     microwave puttered

     bop corn.

the hole of corn, erupting,

   the spiders pouring out,

   a furry horde.

     spilling over each other

       maize wave

           after wave

     spreading the seeds

       into the pan


     the heat….


   stench of rancid oil.




washed along my rancid distaste

   and flicked until numb

I sported my tendencies and

   waited for her to smile

feeling her ice, I opened

   my flagon

   and poured it into the sea


words hurt me

just like that

  wasp that buried himself

   ass-deep in my arm

    when I was at a

     scornful picnic

but what the sane man does is to recreate the same old universe every time.  for what could we do without our embedded challenges and our worthy enemies?  why–there would be nothing left to get upset about. how could we be righteous or hostile or submissive or human if we could really re-make the universe every moment?

  The upshot–and the dirty secret of modern life is that it is ALL MY FAULT.  I caused the Vietnam War.  I thought it up and did it.

I killed all of my dead relatives.

I refuse to bring them back to life because in every moment I remake

myself into yet another identical uncaring bastard.

I could fix all of the broken hearts.

I just choose not to.

All my fault.

  But everyone else can’t blame me because it’s all their fault.

There are no accidents.  There is no fate.  We do it to ourselves

every day.


The Plaid Café is not cuisine, the Plaid Café is the annihilation of culture. The middle class bourgeoisie can do naught but rejoice as they eat their americo/euro post-haute cuisine swill.  They celebrate that death of culture which must occur because of the assimilation of the EDGE’s most vital and salient nodes.  They celebrate because they cannot create.  If the bourgeoisie cannot create, then they will kill that which they can never understand.  The Plaid Cafe symbolically encloses the rapture felt at the moment of this culture murder. essense of mint,




Big, big, big as the foul sky and putrefaction drips onto the plain.

bison graze.

multiple guts rumble out a message in methane and the Pope makes his faggoty little curtsy before he slurps up the juices and such.

runes written in semen on a white bison’s back avatar of native hope

used like a Shake ‘n Bake bag about america,

ringed and tinged with fuckn pop

popn fuck

fun pop

I see a seamless now

where we all think the same

over here

and to get untogether with the crowd

means death

the very means to our greatness

(the one person)

covered in a mass of common thought

but first,

we flaunt our glimmer of god

glimmer god

flim flam

until every

iota is



not main


not main


simply sold

for pennies on the cheap

and we will finally understand

what Sam meant when he screamed

“Life fucks you even after you’re dead!”










and life will still be fucking us.

a scar is upon you and everything you stand for,



Prove to me that any positive action can be taken.  The mere attempt traps one within the sticky invisible web of “faith.”


The visual feast that scrolled up and down I-35 last weekend left me beflubbered. Starting slightly north of the Dallas metroplexus, there were an astonishing variety and amount of gorgeous wildflowers.  Bluebonnets and NDN paintbrushes were most prominent.  Of course, cruising along the interstate through the communities of Norman, Ardmore, Gainesville, and the d/fw extra-urban sprawl left me hearing the clear, deep, slow death knell for humanity…..

This was mostly because of the architecture.  Everyplace now looks the same.  It’s all SLASH AND BURN ARCHITECTURE.  Denny’s are the same everywhere.  The ugly over-arches all.  The only interesting man- made sites visible from the hi-way was an old courthouse in Gainesville and some quirky man-made domes south of Dallas on I-35E.

I found many of the old grain elevators and factories more interesting than the McArchitecture that makes up our commercial existence in this age.

On our way back, we took I-35W and we were slapped in the face with two gargantuan consolidations of asphalt and concrete–both devoted to our bloody-kneed worship of speedy transport (the god Mercury grows fat and happy with adulation in this age)– The Texas Motor Speedway and a starkly horrible commercial airport that I had never seen before.  The upper capsule of the airport’s control tower seemed to be suspended in mid-air by a neutral protuberance of concrete.

The architectural impossibility of this CONTROL tower echoed the utter impossibility of our continued survival within this slash and burn sprawl.

Again and again I had to remind myself to “look at the pretty flowers”  and “see the gathering clouds”…..

Perhaps we Texhomans are simply too backwards and trashy to deserve any edifices that beg to be savored. In an age such as this, has artistic endeavour ever been so important?

Christ, Bitch, don’t you ever wash that thing?!



“Give yourself the permission to be unconcerned, rather than let a lack of imagination leave you behaving like a small-minded self-defeating loser.” –Ralph Pettman

Lack of imagination. Perhaps our societies biggest challenge? We do not have to be actors on the stage. We could be the directors, or, best of all, the playwrights.



-by DM



has a big





are the innard


upon which society

is greased

The Minimus 7 Letters, Part 3

by Minimus 7 / M7


Should I send these in?

daft cooters

3.8 billion years of ennui

duck my sick

brutish odors

uncle clyde and the fluff girls

it’s the fart that counts

two dicks ferguson

lava twat chung

rectilinear smile

any excuse for trephination


unsolicited enemas

jactitations of the saints

circulator of funk

cluster fuck event horizon

Two that aren’t mine, but rule anyway:

“Negative vibe merchant.”–neil

“Enormous falsie basket.”–william s. burroughs


end of stick.



I like the word frozen in its standard sense and in the sense of frozen…a sort of neo-African Buddhist movement.

So how come A’s so damned funny lately?

On the interzone internet, I found a concordance for NAKED LUNCH.

Every word in the book was listed and the page numbers were referenced.  One could click on the page number and it would appear since the whole book is located in cyberspace now.  As you might guess, I found all of this very fucking admirable—thumbs up all around.

I also read an essay in which the author thought that those who don’t appreciate NAKED LUNCH simply aren’t able to get past all of the sex and drugs.  Personally, I think that many people simply are not able to understand a book with an absent plot line.  Of course, the upcoming generation will find NL perfectly readable as their minds will be wired in such a way as to make short unconnected bursts of information usable.  Essentially, NAKED LUNCH is a hypertext document.  The “links” exist in the psyche of the reader.

One thing that has always interested me is that the human brain hasn’t really changed in many thousands of years, but the human mind has gone through many large shifts.  For example, right now we are wired to thrive within a bludgeoning sphere of information while remaining steadfastly unaffected by nuance.  In large measure, we determine our own wiring.  It’s ironic, since so many people are so unhappy with their wiring–especially the addiction to drama.

This wind is so strong.  All of my cardboard caricatures are getting blown over.

Personally, I prefer the straw man fallacy to the ad hominem.  The beauty of straw man is that when you set up a fake argument (which is easy to knock over) as a person’s real argument, they are often so stupid as to think they are actually defeated when you haven’t engaged the real issue at all. (By the way, don’t try this with A.)

Then again, intellectually bruising the weak lost its charm long ago. And within each square on the grid, we’ll place a different form of cultural blindness.  We’ll concentrate the most virulent forms in the center and that’s where we’ll drop the bomb.

After considering it in my mind, I have decided that Spanish is my favorite language.  It is quite pretty when spoken or written well. It is more efficient than Germanic languages.  It is relatively easy to learn.  Even though I have studied East Asian languages, I do not like the “music” of them.  I do not find Japanese or Mandarin aesthetically pleasing and I find the difficulties in using the writing of these languages to be immodern and ridiculous in the extreme.  One symbol for every different word–as if!  I like the phonetic Korean symbology, as it seems to be an elegant solution.

Also, in Spanish, much information can be conveyed very quickly once one of those hot chicas get going.

“Words are a virus.”–Burroughs

perhaps this end will never come,



no good food here joe

Cautiously pulling into Peenpeen after a long night of running from the law, Cappy Dick felt relatively sure that the revenuers would never look for him in this god-forsaken spot on Hwy. 39.

Peenpeen was the kind of town where all of the dogs were skinny and all of the women were fat.  But, it lacked streetlights and people knew how to keep their mouths shut.  It was a perfect hidey hole for Cappy Dick.

One could even get a decent meal in Peenpeen at the no good food here joe cafe.  In the phone book which Peenpeen shared with 5 other pissant little Oklahoma towns, the no good food here joe cafe is simply listed as “Cafe, Hwy. 39, Peenpeen.”  At one time, a Korean immigrant (illegal) had been the fry cook and proprietor of the cafe.

The place got it’s unusual moniker because when Kim saw a customer he didn’t like, he would grab him by the collar and shuffle him out of the restaurant while screaming “No good food here, Joe!” in his highly accented speech.  Kim called everyone, male or female, Joe.

In fact, the no good food here joe cafe had the best food in the whole state.  Kim grew all of his own produce and he even raised his own foul for his excellent fried chicken and his astonishingly good moo goo gai pan.  He had a wife who people rarely saw because she was always in the kitchen washing dishes.  One day, a roughneck who was seated at the counter eating the cafe’s incredible lamb and couscous referred to the Kims as “that little gook and his little gook wife.”  A huge metallic clatter emanated from the darkened recesses of the kitchen, as if a pot had hit the cement floor.  In a flash, the beaproned Mrs. Kim leapt over the lunch counter like an antelope.  As she hit the floor behind the hapless roughneck, she placed her menacingly sharp butcher knife against his right kidney.

As the point of the knife ushered him out of the front door, Mrs. Kim spat out “No good food here, Joe!”  Mr. Kim laughed and laughed and laughed.  (So hard that kimchee came out of his nose, actually)

These days, the Kims’ daughter runs the place with her arranged-marriage-fresh-off-the-plane hubby.  She speaks perfect English and calls everyone in town by their real names.  The food is still spectacular, but in these calmer times, post oil bust, it’s quite unusual to witness knifeplay in the no good food here joe cafe.

“Words are a virus.”–Burroughs

“…and the cure kills the patient, Joe.”–Martin



I may get to eliminate a yankee today.  All in all, people are good…but not him.

According to a web site I consulted, you are a swine if you believe the following:

-people suck

-nothing is forever

-there is no god

Being a swine is a good thing because at least you are not fooling yourself.  Also on this site are such articles as “Why Pornography is a Positive Influence on Society.”

Also seen: working with a computer is nothing more than sitting on you ass while watching TV and typing.  (

We should have a cooperative website.  We could have a story a day and a poem a day.  We could rag on everybody and piss people off.  We could be all cynical and wise about the state of our trashy old pop culture.  We could laud to high heaven those few things that we really do like.  We could perpetuate the tyranny of information.

More and more I realize that Burroughs was right–“Buddhism is not for America.”  We just want to tear things down too much.  We never want to leave things BE.

I recommend The bits about cults and their beliefs, celebrity memberships, etc. were especially good.  Also funny was their rating of the stupidity of talk show audiences (scientifically determined).  All talk show scripts examined were shown to have a language usage level no higher than 2nd grade.

anyway, bite,

big bad culture demons



non-adherent::noun–person who does not subscribe to any single doctrine, philosophy, or course of action.  Is able to manipulate disparate cultural elements at will.  Can reproduce in the normal mammalian fashion or can hijack the DNA of others towards the non- adherent’s own ends.  Each neuron in a non-adherent’s brain is a melding of the qualities of primate neurons and incurable retroviruses.  Non-adherents can only be distinguished from average humans by behavior, not by appearance.  Non-adherents are considered very dangerous and should be shunned at all costs.  In close proximity, they can control your mind.

Websters New Dictionary of Cryptotaxonomy, 2nd ed.

Like the dic says, these buggers can be distinguished by their behaviors, so we have collected poetry, essays, and piles of words that we suspect were created by non-adherents.  Though they may have no coherent shared philosophy or thrust, you may sense a certain thread in this work, as if these words are carried upon a wave or a tune which has been buried deep in the back of your head from the beginning.  Sources from which these works are taken include crappy little avant-garde newsletters, scribblings found in the back of Gideon Bibles, student poetry reviews from small private colleges, graffiti collected by our roving experts, poetry readings from coffee houses worldwide, mysterious mass mailings which seem to appear from nowhere with no discernable postmarks, dream journals obtained during burglaries of non-adherents’ lairs, and shopping lists found in grocery store parking lots.  When the authors are unknown we have given them appropriate non-adherent names.

–The Watchers  May, 1998


by Tycho Mondorzez

Grief is food.

We must thank the whites of this world for feeding us so much.


Close the kitchen now,

    or we’ll burn the fucker down.

Graffiti on a Prison Wall

by Tycho Mondorzez

I saw that crooked cross tattood on your arm so i had my posse hold you down face down now i found your ass how you gonna try ‘n keep me outta there TODAY?

(Tycho was executed by firing squad in 1986, but not before passing his lethal DNA collection onto some other twisted hate fucker.–ed.)

untitled shopping list

by Felice Porter

feral obnoxious hacksaw

tripwires of the obvious

ovoid hypocrisy

tepid meanderings thru many aisles (green or brown)

something to clean a butt with

tri-phased puke gun

fleshly dilemma

canister of hell

(found by a Watcher in a suburban grocery store parking lot, the above was written on hotel stationary from a very swank place in Copenhagen.– ed.)

The Phoney

by rectal infectant

floating along a fragrant river

on my palate of bouyant weeds

  i sense a shattering state of natural


navigating by hologram, i escape

the clutching tide

  to learn the fate of my

   ever excitable


i steered using the lowest volume

my paddling was quite direct

  yet, unhurried

   finally i came upon

    the scene

it was simply a goose

pursued by a sap with

  his pants around his ankles

   erection in tow

    bobbing head

nothing interesting

ever happens

  on this river

   i sighed as i casually

    directed the lens

     and pressed [RECORD]

“If you call my home again, you will learn by experience what the inside of your colon looks like.”–message left by rectal infectant on the answering machine of a large midwestern telemarketing firm

(The Watchers have never been able to positively identify rectal infectant, so this nom de plume is of our choosing.  We can identify his work by the common thematics and structures.  The only way rectal infectant’s poems have reached the public are through mass mailings.  Sometimes a thousand random people throughout the country will receive his “gift.”  Sometimes every household in a small town will get a sheaf of scribblings stuffed in the mailbox.  The Watchers are 92% sure that the telemarketing firm message was left by our people’s poet.)

One Last Score

by Sarah Looper

I saw you recoil in shock as I released the dull blade of my sigh.  I have you hanging on my every mood, don’t I?  You are always scared that I might disapprove or be unhappy or pay attention to some other poor loser.  Take heart!  For now I’ll continue to control you by gesture and innuendo.  As long as this game pushes away the dullness, then I’ll revel in your pathetic tantrums and your ridiculous demands.

But, don’t fool yourself.  I neither like you nor respect you in any way.

dream journal entry

by Sarah Looper

I saw my father waving to me from the deck of the ocean liner as it pulled out of the harbor and I just had to laugh because that big gay fucker stole my vibrator and now I’ll never get it back.

Sponges vs. Swordfish

by Sarah Looper


Take up

Your new head

Before someone else does

After you screw it on

Call me, I’ll have a look

I can’t wait to point and laugh

Yes, you’ll be angry at me

But I can’t help it

You are so stupid

Just your face

Makes me


Conversation with Cherry

by Sarah Looper

You’re new in town?

You don’t say!

Just moved out of your parent’s house?

Well I’ll be!

You’re originally from Peenpeen, Oklahoma?

Tell me all about it!

You’re a confused girl right now?

I’ve been there sister!

But you know you have a crush on Lisa Loeb?

Well who doesn’t!

You think I look like Lisa Loeb?

Wow! I’ve never heard that before!

You sorta have no place to stay?

Well, good luck with that!

You can’t wait for me to drag you home and cram my fist between your legs?


(So many of Sarah Looper’s works are included here because she is quite infamous in the Pocatello, ID lesbian grande artiste cafe’ poetry open mike scene.  She has extensive “contact” with the public and The Watchers are highly concerned that many innocent humans will become infected.–ed.)

Haiku #16

by Miminus 7

splendid! or did she…

i see, it wasn’t triumph

puke issues from you

Haiku #47

by Miminus 7

hello little girl!

you didn’t have to rack me!

I’m no pedophile!

Haiku #446

by Miminus 7

sitting here for days

i waited for you to look

my smile has melted

(Miminus 7 is the most well known of the non-adherents, even though the general public has no knowledge of the non-adherent “movement.” Miminus 7 can be seen weekly on the “Miminus 7 Happy Family Show” on Bravo.  Bafflingly, this hour of total boredom and stupidity is currently Bravo’s highest rated program.–ed.)

printed on the back of Nusrat CD:

For the martyrs of the daggers of submission the unseen brings new life every morning. by experimenting with Burroughs style cut up technique I derive: for the dagger of the life of submission the unseen brings new martyrs every morning for the dagger of the life of the unseen the martyrs bring new submission every morning for the morning of the life of the unseen the martyrs bring new daggers every morning for the unseen of the martyrs submission brings new life to every dagger for the life of the dagger of the unseen every morning brings new martyrs for the unseen morning of the dagger martyrs bring every life for the submission of martyrs unseen daggers bring new life every morning for the morning of the unseen daggers bring the submission of every martyr for the new to the unseen of life morning brings the dagger of martyr’s submission for the dagger of the martyrs every morning brings the submission of the unseen life

Conclusion:  The original sentence was specifically formulated by someone to be treated in this fashion.  This is a meta-statement containing dozens of interlocking layers of meaning and subtlety.

Once again, face value is only a small part of the story.

Homage to Miminus 7

by rectal infectant

Quit copying me, you dick!

(written in an unidentified substance on the side of Miminus 7’s house.–ed.)

Shimmer of Fate

by Calendria Dey

I was already stretched beyond all belief

but still, I kept getting tauter,

and wider

Feasting, filling, fueling, fisting,

I ascended the stairs of mourning and

tearfully proclaimed my nonchalance

Beasts of hope nipped at my heels

but I paid them no mind as I

continued climbing

Tearing at the sheets of water I stepped into a sort of darkness with

the roar of gravity in the background and I left it all behind all

the tortures all the boredom all of the death I had passed through

the baptismal curtain and, for that heated moment, I was clean

because I had been ripped free from the annulus of fate.

Then all of the memories came back

my chin fell against my chest

I tumbled over the rail

(Calendria Dey was one of the first artists to be identified by The Watchers as a part of the modern non-adherent movement (as opposed to the Renaissance Non-Adherent Movement.)–ed.)



by The Bind

    The other day a colleague of mine at the tofu factory asked me what I was always scribbling in my notebook.  So, I let him read my stuff for a while.  He looked through many of my poems, my essays, my sketches, my fragments.  Typically, he looked up from my journal eventually and said “I don’t get it.”  Of course, many writers have had the experience of opening their secret vaults to a confidante only to be slapped in the face by their blindnesses.

    I suppose that there are two sorts of writers.  There are those who write for some segment of the public and there are those that give nary a fuck what the minions of the human DNA overlords might think.  More clearly:  some write for no reason and some write because they are word whores.

    Word whores are those who sell their art to the public.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but one must understand the nature of this culture.  Our culture of late 20th century america is nothing but a complex of distinct yet interconnected viruses.  Any material or information that is injected into this culture is immediately taken up by the organism and incorporated within its bulk.  But, being viral in nature, this culture can only create by hijacking the mechanism of healthy creatures.  So, any words that are injected into the system are immediately taken apart, examined, interpreted, and USED by the elements of our viral culture.  Once your art is “out there” you will never get it back in the same form because those fuckers will rip it apart, steal anything that might be useful and heave it onto the trash heap where it will lie shivering and bleeding from the anus.

    So, I don’t publish.

    Then, why write?

    I write so that there will be a treasure trove of cultural genetic material in this world that has not been exploited by the virus.  I write to preserve a core of reality that does not conform to the smooth surface as dictated by the masses.  By creating a form of untainted genetic reality, perhaps we can one day restore to humanity a sense of dignity, self worth, and individual determination.

    All of this begs a question.

    Am I not a part of the virus too?




    One is part of the virus only by conscious choice, blissful ignorance, or blithe apathy.  Since none of those apply to me, I term myself a non-participant in this culture.  I do not adhere.  I do not steal cultural genetic material.

    I just write.

    (This could be considered the only description or critique of non-adherent thought actually written by a non-adherent.  Both The Bind and Calendria Dey were active in the late 1960’s and formed the core of early non-adherent thought.  Both used extensive viral imagery in their work and the only reason we get to read any of this is through sheer chance as neither author ever sought publication.  By 1975, some non-adherents were attempting to publish on a small scale.

Though they accepted The Bind’s assertions about the viral nature of our culture (even if they had never read any of his work), they chose to form “magic bullets” or “inoculations” from their art.  Rather than trying to create an untainted treasure trove as Calendria Dey and The Bind did, their goal was to inject their work into the public forum on a small scale, using the culture’s greed for fresh information to hasten its downfall.–ed.)

Nautica Palais

by Everett Kinski

I was out in the middle of the ocean anyway so I just dove in and swam strait down until I reached the bottom and My Dick was in the water, you know I mean all of me was in the water…way under the water, but anyway my dick was in the water too.

Then I just sucked up all of the water in the ocean with my dick I sucked it all up, all the briny water, the fish, the whales, the green sludge, the boats, the nets, the submarines, EVERYTHING But I didn’t get any bigger because I am some sort of hyperspace pelvic box and EVERYTHING will fit in there just fine.

Anyway, I had taken this big hit and I just sat there for a while with my dick dragging in the newly exposed salty mud with a few tiny shrimp shyly exploring my hairy nut sack with their delicate antenna.

After I supposed that the oceans of the world had circulated around in that endless place enough I opened the gate of my loins and just took the biggest piss ever and within a few minutes EVERYTHING was back to normal with little men on little boats and plankton and sharks and reefs and all that.

Floating, Aching…

by Everett Kinski

Covered in thick velvet ropes, I found you so inviting, yet, as I approached you stared me down and forced me to slowly back away.

Anchored, Resilient!

by Everett Kinski

Spent after the longest of nights when you found the ease to request all that you had been denied before.

(Everett Kinski could be considered the most mainstream of the non-adherent artists up until 1988.  He was an adjunct professor at a small private college in Oregon at a time when most non-adherents were dishwashers or pizza delivery drivers.  But, in June of 1988, Kinski abruptly quit his job, hitch-hiked to Seattle and set himself on fire at the grand opening of a brand new Starbuck’s.  All of his work except for the above was lost with him.–ed.)

Fear Ray

by Claudia Lee

Everybody in the bank grew silent as I walked in via the very tall doors. All of the business of the world came to a halt and all heads swiveled on their swivelnecks to catch me in the frame of vision.

At once, the patrons and the bankers started to shimmer, to shake imperceptibly and I heard many gasps and sobs.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said

“I forgot to turn off my Fear Ray.”

A simple click and all was forgotten as the hubbub resumed and I took my place in line.

Sammy the Idiot

by Claudia Lee

I often got frustrated with Sammy but I always convinced myself to forgive because Sammy was an idiot and it just wasn’t his fault by any meaning of that loaded term.

Exasperated at the

    broken dishes

    dashed hopes

    shattered promises

    emptied accounts

    inbred relatives

    professional wrestling

    low-rider trucks

    and inappropriate urination,

I started to get mean and I eventually tricked Sammy into killing himself but I convinced myself to forgive because I am a psychopath and it just wasn’t my fault by any meaning of that loaded term.

Yo Soy Gringa

by Claudia Lee

We were so terribly in love that it was painful in the belly when we were apart. I would cling to you like a bramble when you wanted to step away for a moment, but gradually we began to trust that our benign little universe would smash us together again after a short absence.

Even if you were only gone for a few minutes I started to fantasize about how I would greet you when you walked back through the door.

It was often fun….naughty.

One afternoon you begged me to go to the lake with your buddies so that we could all have a grand time cooking weenies and getting high.

When I expressed my disinterest in the plan, you called me a bitch and slammed the door on your way out.

The spell was broken.

Oh, I continued to play along like I still cared.  I accepted your tearful beer/pot apology when you finally got home that night.  We still did it.

Over the ensuing couple of weeks, you felt like everything was JUST FINE.

Then, late one night, while your chest was rising up and down so deeply, I leaned over you and (as I thought “Maybe I am a bitch but that doesn’t mean you have to say so”) smashed your angelic face with a dark red brick over and over and over until you didn’t look so lovely at all any more.

I hopped a plane and seamlessly blended in to the urban sprawl of La Paz for a few years.

My Spanish is now perfect.

(The above marked the end of a period of very “angry” poems by this author.  Although all of the events were fictional, one can easily see the underlying hate of this work.  Below, you will find the beginning of a body of transcendent musings which move beyond the dichotomies of love/hate, alive/dead, etc.  No one is sure what triggered the change in Claudia Lee’s work.–ed.)

the sky is so wide

by Claudia Lee

there was nothing better to do

(as if there ever IS)

so i ran along the earth

so that the world could get used

to my running

maybe even get

a little complacent

and then

rather than just running along the ground

i changed my angle a bit

so that

my feet started to clutch the air

(traction is so important)

and while the world was not looking

Tommy Tickledick sells his soul.
Tommy Tickledick sells his soul.

i started to dash into the air

and i ran around in the sky

and there was nothing that the

world could do about it


i knew how to make it happen now

and i was going to run straight up

into the sky

anytime i felt like it

and i felt like it all

of the


because i wanted to sniff

lightning ozone

and braid rainbows

and chase hawks

and get dizzy

from being so




by Claudia Lee

yes, i see your masque

of hate

but it doesn’t matter

because i know that

you are beautiful



so am i

even your violence,

your thrashing,

your pores clogged with filth,

your boils

will all fall away with a flicker

once you forget

to be angry



You must be empty to do the miraculous.

You must be miraculous to do the empty.

There is hope for the youth of this nation.

Last night I rode with Yvonne and Alison to OKC and back.  We also visited Yvonne’s brother David. In his room, he had Ayn Rand’s book about capitalism, the Tao Te Ching, and a Kafka collection.  I told Y and A about the insult intensifyers and they think that this is incredibly funny.  Now I can’t get them to stop doing it.  I also told them about the carrot coming out of the ground with “Mars, Bringer of War” as the soundtrack.  They thought that this was hilarious.  We had an impromptu haiku competition on I-35.

I told them that it would be fun to throw a hand grenade into the pickup bed of an asshole driver.  Yvonne said that that idea was demented.  I said, “No, demented would be forcing him off of the road so that he had a slight accident–maybe a bit of a concussion–then you drag his bloody but alive body out of his truck and……..”

They got the point.

We complained about the Baptists a lot, too. My throat is still a bit raw from laughing.

I told them to come to Sunday dinner some time.  I’m sure that they would enjoy reading the green book. There has been a lot of stuff on the aikido list lately about what to do about knife-weilding attackers or people who can punch and kick really well.  Your idea about just running like a sumbitch the moment trouble is apparent shows your correct assessment of the modern landscape and proper self-defense.  I hereby promote you to the rank of pussy willow!  Flee with honor!  (Or at least flee with your life).

These dingbats actually believe that they are going to face down a knife fighter or a karate champ.  If worse came to worse and my exit were blocked, I would try to make the bad guy stumble or trip and then I would flee like a squirrel.  I would like to know the statistics about how many people are cut or shot as they run away.



Countess Melanie certainly didn’t belong in Peenpeen, but there was nobody around to tell her to leave.

God, I would love to face down my moral dilemmas and kick them right in the nuts. I can well imagine their little yellow and grey bodies writhing on the turf as they claw at their throats to get to their testicles….cause I would kick HARD.

This morning, the alarm interrupted an incredibly droll dream I was having about stacking plastic food containers and putting them in the cabinet.

A2 is off to San Antonio.  She borrowed A’s boots and cowgirl hat because she’s going to a ho-down.  Remember what you said about A2’s facile willingness to accept “forced entertainment?”  If you were going to a business meeting in another town where you would hang out with a bunch of strangers, would you ever take boots and a hat so that you could fit right in at the HO DOWN?  Spot the looney.

I have noticed that middle aged female students here at OU are usually stressed out and bitchy.  Maybe it’s because nobody wants them.  Older university students usually think anyone without a PhD who isn’t currently in college is an idiot.  Academia….as if.

It would be so great to just quit when the baby comes.  Maybe we could make that work, I don’t know.

sparkling against the blackness of the evening my own star struggles through the gassy miasma of deep space



waxy buildup,

“And, alas, my dear Gustav, I lie here on my deathbed, coughing my freaking lungs out, and you have never even given me a proper blow job.”–Kafka’s last words.

“Emily Dickinson….what a hack!”–Jack Ruby’s last words.

“I want to take the wishes of all those hopeless morons out there and transform them into a mystical fantasy forest.  And I’ll have a little cottage in the middle of the forest, and that’s where our innocence will live.  And then I’ll walk through the forest with a flamethrower and I’ll burn every single wish to the ground.  And then I’ll burn the cottage of innocence, too.  THAT would be heaven to me.”–Mother Theresa’s last words.

ah aint reedin’

stubborn mildew.



Surrounded by petulant losers, Franz slowly stuffed his handkerchief back into his breast pocket. The deliberateness of the motion sent the room full of stale Victorian Euro-trash into a fit of desperation.

An imperceptible vibration roused the Mugwumps.

“Oh FUCK, not again!” thought Franz.

In one frenetic moment the room became un-together and the ripping and screaming began.

Gallows were erected in every corner.

Bayonets were fixed.

Franz wept.

The Mugwumps opened their cello cases and produced an array of 24th century weaponry designed to control the bodily functions of others at a range of up to three miles. They had the HeartSplode 2000. They had the Orgasmaflux. They had the Vomiculator. They had four types of hamstring pullers. Cruciflex Home Exercisers were liberally distributed. Franz erected a shield and serpentined into the drawing room. Mildly narcotic secretions dripped from the chandeliers. Forty Brownshirts, all decked out in pink peignoir and black strap-on regalia, emerged from the kitchen. The Stooges began throwing pies.

Disgusted by the spectacle, Franz released the dobermans.


The Minimus 7 Letters, Part 2

by Mimimus 7 / M7


“I offer nothing but confusion.”–throwing muses

“Spank me!”–kafka

time after time we face a certain esprit d’etat when it comes to our illustrious holidays.  this state of being includes generous quantities of mysticism and cynicism and schism.  never forget that the surface is all there is to it.

“This world never gave me a chance, so I have become a chancre on this sorry world’s wilted penis.”–sartre

Today is the big holiday celebration at Goddard.  We call it a winter party or something equally innocuous so as not to offend anyone (most especially The Witness, who thinks we’re all pagans (I’m proud to be one)).  I hope I don’t get a double enema.  I gave out little bottles of lotion as gifts.  We were at Wal-Mart last night and at least 6 different types of massager (vibrator) were displayed prominently throughout the store as gift ideas.  By our check out line was a display of wet/dry massagers.  Fun in the tub, ladies!  Merry


“Winter Wonderland” is playing in our office.  I insert my own lyrics, of course.






A and I were talking at lunch today about how T just doesn’t seem happy anymore.  I also asserted that Anne’s attempts to get attention simply drive her male friends farther away from her. We all emotionally screwed up joe. Wracked with guilt maybe joe? Lonely and afraid to admit joe? Merry Christmas joe? Dark cloud of dispair hang over group head joe? Maybe not happy till spring joe.

M+T situation explode soon joe.

None of us seem to have any major diseases.

We all have nice places to live.

We all have cars which are capable of taking us all over the Americas.

We are all well insured.

None of us have spouses that regularly send us to the ER.

None of us is likely to watch a child starve in front of us.

We can all read rather well.

We all have access to the miracles of technology.

We rarely seem to work more than forty hours per week.

I guess humans will just create anything to be unhappy about.  What a bunch of whining ingrates we seem to be.

More vapid entertainment so you can create new things to be un-happy about!

One of the main tenets of Western Zen practice is that one should assiduously eliminate all drama from one’s life.

I never wanted to live a thirtysomething episode.

nihlism is better than nothing, i guess,




Today at work we had the mr. sun coloring contest.  Mine is best, of course, even though I did not draw the bunny of death on the surface of the sun.  No Enterprise neither.

My phrase for the day:  Maximally insignificant.

me cold yesterday, bundle up too much today, get hot

Another good phrase:  Miraculously unworthy.

For sol’s sake, e-mail or call A about your new car!  She wonders aloud every day why you haven’t let us know anything yet. We got our new car stereo yesterday.  It seems like a good deal. Nice sound, good price, etc.

We had our mr. sun coloring contest “to encourage the sun to come out.”  This is the basis for all religion.  All else is elaboration atop this concept.

Just think, so many people get unhappy or dead because of this silliness. If we had our coloring contest 3 or 4 times this year and the sun really did come out every time, a mythology would arise–the power of superstition would appear.  If some bastard came along and led the masses of us at just the right time…..that’s how it all begins.

Later, when the coloring contest failed to work, it would be because “mr. sun is angry.” Those who color best and seem to consistantly bring the sun (though they are probably just good weather forecasters, sitting down to color just before the fog clears) would form the priesthood.

Those who refused to color would be the heretics.  All of the true believers would bitch and moan that if only everyone would color mr. sun like the SUNBOOK says, the world would be just fine and mr. fog would be vanquished once and for all, sundammit! put it in your sung,

count buttula.



This morning I rolled out of bed and said “buh” with such force that car alarms were set off four miles away.

“I will let you down”–sugar ray, from LE JOUVENCEL–the exploits of Jean de Bueil, comrade of Joan d’Arc:

“Those who are not noble by descent are noble by the profession of arms they follow, which is noble in itself.  I tell you that as soon as a man-at-arms has a helmet on his head, he is noble, noble enough to fight a king.  Arms ennoble a man, whoever he may be.”

This was all before guns, of course.

Are guns ennobling?

Is ANY weapon ennobling?

If so, then nobility is quite cheap nowadays.

In de Bueil’s time, a broadsword and helmet would cost the equivalent of $12,000 in today’s currency.  So, Billy Bob de Chacon wasn’t going to le Wal Mart and buying a weapon for the equivalent of a week’s pay, as he does today.

Broadswords don’t kill people, people kill people.

At least in that time, it wasn’t so easy.  First, you had to catch them, then you had to hack them down.  So maybe it was a bit ennobling.  Probably, to kill somebody with a broadsword you had to be relatively sober, unlike today where guns and booze/drugs are a very deadly combination.

When I was 12, I had loaded weapons pointed at me twice.  I was lucky to survive.  I didn’t see the wielder as noble. Peasant in shit fields looks up just in time to see member of the King’s Constabulary run his wife through with a hand and a half sword.  Peasant’s last thought as sword turns on him:  “How noble he is!”

I guess the perception on nobility has everything to do with which side of the blade you are facing.





File along the facade of the beach.  Propagate facile misunderstandings and hurtful dalliances.  Push it all down in some sort of horrid backhanded fashion.

Quickly now!  Bring this drama to its crashing end!

The accusations, the tears, the dust of the future swept outside.

Of course, it couldn’t end with a bang.  It only gets fretfully whittled away by whimper after whimper after whimper.  A house divided by whimpers and by grunts of stolen ecstasy cannot stand.

Another shard of hell on earth–when lovers decide to destroy each other.

Adultress and Cuckold sittin’ in a tree, H-I-S-S-I-N-G.

As I’ve said before, I never wanted to live an episode of thirtysomething….nor do I want to watch anyone else live that episode.





almost maroon, really….

Some days, I feel as if I might pass out from the sheer exuberance of our (b)anal celebrations, little celebrations each day poking up through the mesh our higher dream downtrodden, forbidden, taboo out of the mud, came a great shout it became louder as mire was cleared from the shouter’s mouth a sputter… then, clearly “Pick me up!”

I eagerly waded into the filth to rescue my forgotten hero.  Across the slog I flew. Soon, I came upon that familiar face his mailman’s uniform was barely recognizable under the mud but, yes, it was Charlie, my imaginary friend, who I had not seen for 25 years

“Get me outta here!” he cried.

I pulled his hollow body out of the sucking filth; he was lighter than ever…. I threw him over my shoulder and worked my way to the nearest dry patch

I murmured “my treasure” as I hosed him off. Soon, he was sparkling–as mud clings only loosely to imagination.

“Let’s get to work, kid!” he said as he donned his postman’s hat.

The above was Canto #53 from Miminus Seven’s masterwork,

"I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it (you can't have it)"
“I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it (you can’t have it)”


In M7’s poem, Charlie the imaginary friend simultaneously represents the inner child and the superego.  M7 finds both concepts to be savage and deplorable. How can one person have all of these complexes or personalities within them?  It smacks of demonic posession!  M7 lumps Freud and

Jung in with the “witch doctors” of Sierra Leone.  Both groups, psychoanalysts and witch doctors, have their useless talismans.

One gets the feeling that by rescuing the imaginary friend from the muck, one has actually disinterred Satan. SHARDS OF HELL has stylistic similarities to Tom Waits’ brilliant BONE MACHINE, which could easily be entitled SHARDS OF HELL itself.

Vignettes from BONE MACHINE include a man who everybody fears, a man who attempts suicide, the murderous cover-ups of a rural town, a parolee who drives out west to star in movies, a drunk who proclaims, “Jesus gonna be here soon”, a man who swears he’ll leave his hometown but he never does, and an affair with a wanton woman.

Thus, every track is about someone’s personal hell.

Satan… if.

Knowledge is a pitfall, bring your grappling hook.

hell, hell, i hate that smell, everyone there has something to sell

hell, hell, downward i fell, forevermore i have this story to tell

hell, hell, i can hear the bell…as i fall farther i begin to yell

Even the tiniest speck of dust can make a big man sneeze.

Someday, my words will get out into the world and trash the whole immune system.  When anyone asks “What is your writing style?”  I will say, “RETROVIRUS!”


“Satan always likes to have some turds laying around.”–bahthed




the naked butt of doctor 13 is broken     it has a crack in it

I would like to get a business license from the plutocratical bureaucracy and open a shoppe which is designed from the beginning to fail.  The store would be called  UNFILTERED MONKEY EXCREMENT and I would practice truth in advertising.

New grocery store product sticker:  NOW ASBESTOS FREE!! I also want to get stickers which say FAT FREE and put them exclusively on non-food items like bug spray and diapers.

“The contemporary economy must be stopped.  We must push this anti-christ into space before it devours every decent one of us.” -Trillian Drood, address to Rotarian Club of Overland Park, Kansas.

“Every product or service that is the result of your influence is a petal in the great sunflower of our eventual destruction.  Death, as it were, is created by each one of us, every day, by our busy little monkey hands and our busy little monkey minds.” -Trillian Drood,  ON THE CUSP OF DERANGEMENT, pg 842.

“The problem, you see, boils down to money.  Until you recognize that, you are all a bunch of fucking idiots.” -Trillian Drood, Letter to UN Security Council.

“I know of no scholar of religion that has made this point before, but have you ever considered that every major religious movement since the time of Rama has insisted that the adept remove himself or herself from the clutches of the local economy?  Buddhist monks still travel with no possessions nor pockets in which to store possessions. The Hindu devotee feels compelled to burn herself upon a pyre if she comes into physical contact with money.  When you hear the word “monk” does wealth come to mind?  The early Christians were encouraged to give all of their possessions to the poor.  They wanted to travel as lightly as possible so that their ascent would be all the more rapid.  Now, two thousand years later, money IS God.  We are all inexorably tied to the production of wealth and we are all committed to dragging the few innocents who are left down with us.” -Trillian Drood, PAINFUL SYMMETRY:  THE AGONY OF WEALTH, pg. 1207.

“In my previous work, I had decried the human qualities of greed, fear, and insecurity as they relate to our modern world economy.  I have blamed us for every heresy from the destruction of the rainforests to the inescapable ennui of modern urban existence.

These evils still exist, but I have now reformed my thinking.  The problem is not within humanity itself, but in the evil reality of money.  I have stumbled upon a truth that is so pervasive as to be transparent as air.  THE TRUTH:  Money itself is the evil and we are but its servants.  Humanity is but the vector for money/wealth/economy which is a SPECIES UNTO ITSELF.  Money is as alive as you or me.  Money is evil.  We are but its all-too-grateful pawns.  We have been duped and it is high time we rise up and slay the dragon.”–Trillian Drood, THE ELIMINATRIX, from the introduction.

“Junk meets trash in a chemical kiss, TV poison tastes like this.” -Jesus and Mary Chain.




“He worships god with acid.”–dad can dance {“Dead” Can Dance}

Many questions come to mind recently.

Can a technology or an idea be inherently evil?

        examples:  guns, communism, computers, TV

Are we being systematically numbed and dumbed by the extant media?

Are symbol and reality equivalent?

Are idea and execution equivalent?

What is the relevance of art?

Does the term “reality” have any inherent dialogical value?

Is anything not subjective?

Do the answers to questions matter more than the honest process of developing answers?

Is life bad for us? in the best tradition of a grandiose corpse,




There is no cause for a snit.

We were forewarned, but we simply don’t remember it once we are born.

Lately my life has been one depressing theater of mucous transport.

I’m thick…I mean sick.

“I wanna die just like JFK.  I wanna die on a sunny day.” -jesus/mary/chain

My coworker has been playing her radio lately.  I don’t know what station she plays, but that Bette Midler “Hero” song is on about once every two hours.  They have lots and lots of Chicago as well.  suck.

If only the drunk old hermit by the lake would remain a hermit, then everything would be OK.

It was a store much like any other.  Fritz was constantly glazing his donut in the back room.  The dinging often interrupted him.

Lately…many visions of pulling pins and casually tossing grenades through open car windows.

Shrapnel only hurts if you are convinced of your own concreteness.





Ingrates, one and all.  They tussle with the gristle.  While they chew away, they have their eyes closed so that they don’t get grease in the eye.  Because their eyes are closed, they are blind and stupid.  Because they have gristle clasped in their teeth, their words come out twisted and unintelligible.

They try me.

Never pontificate for real, OK?  It should always just be a big joke.

You know about photography, but I never hear you go on and on about it.  For the amateurish or the dilettante, they live to talk about a bunch of stuff that they have never REALLY experienced.  But, a guy like you, who has done it, who KNOWS the perfect shutter speed for shooting horrible accidents on an overcast January morning…you have done it, no need to ramble on.  As Lao Tsu  states again and again in Tao Te Ching, those who can’t DO, speak about it and those who DO keep their fucking mouths shut.

Chattering away like a squirrel monkey,




“Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, Vyv is now a video head and Neil’s wearing a dress because some really serious negative vibe merchant boarded up his bedroom.  Only pop music can save them now.” –The Young Ones

My, my, but every single episode of The Young Ones was totally brilliant.  Even just reading the scripts on the internet is a riot. I am constantly at war with non-team players.  Fuck them.  From an evolutionary standpoint, the non-team player gets run down by the pack of wolves.  The alpha male gets to do the non-team player up the ass as the alpha female rips the ntp’s throat out.

Wolves are just like that sometimes.

More bad music all day.  Much Kenny G.  Much Chicago.  Much Air Supply.  Every single fucking song off of Dirty Dancing.  Every day, the same 40 or 50 songs.  How can my cute little co-worker be so shallow?  Perhaps it’s time for Loudass Martin’s Memorial Nine Inch Nails Marathon Blow-Out.  My god, the music on this station is horrible.  How can such bad art propagate?  Shouldn’t the weak fall by the wayside?

The bad thing about money is that it allows the shallow and the weak to influence the course of evolution.  Wealth does not equal fitness!

I’ve been in a kick-ass mood lately.  I’ve just been hoping for some buttwipe to mouth off to me.  I want to throw consequences to the wind and cause some damage.

Many people think that the martial arts-especially aikido-foster a peaceful attitude.  It is true that good training will actually reduce the aggressiveness of most people.  This is simply because we recognize that the taunts of nebbishes are small kimchi and small kimchi is not worth sweating over (unless it has been buried in the back yard for too long).

But, few of us are pacifists.  I can’t imagine many of the high- ranking practitioners I know backing down from a fight.  They don’t pick fights, but when pushed, they will wreck the buttwipe and his ugly dog, too.

The REAL deal is that we learn to ethically maim and slaughter and then return to a semblance of normal life without any PTSD or Vietnam Vet syndrome, etc.

Did I tell you that my Dad got a DUI after pulling onto hwy. 99 even though another person’s vehicle was occupying the space he was trying to pull in to?  He might be jailed for a while.  What a hack.  Just like that fucking Möbius.

When I bitch and moan about drunks and alcoholism and driving, etc., if someone complains that I don’t understand, or that I should be more compassionate,…..well….fuck them too.

umpteen and broomshankar, comrade,

the damned.



Are our cycles not maddening?  Should our struggle be to escape these cycles, or to decorate them and shore them up as one would an old house? Is the function of art to pry us loose from the everydayness or to wallpaper over the rougher spots in our old drafty house?

Will people still buy blank paper journals 50 years from now? I think that much of art in the last few decades has been focused on prying humans loose from the everydayness….of expanding boundaries, etc.  Unfortunately, much of this has devolved into whining a la Andy Worhol, Robert Smith, Anne Rice, Trent Reznor.

I believe that we need to stop trying to find ourselves!  Here we are!  It doesn’t take decades to figure this out.  I am tired of art–pop or otherwise–which is nothing but a snapshot of the inside of the artist’s mind.  Of course I realize that it can be no other way.

All art must be subjective…the artist can only produce from his or her OWN viewpoint.

But, art has devolved to the point where the artist puts inner thoughts and feelings into the medium and then DARES the audience or the consumer to try and figure it out.  It seems that the modern artist is the equivalent of the teenager who sits sobbing in her room, crying “You just don’t understand me!”

Perhaps there are many who are expressive about a larger section of humanity or of the universe but these artists are simply not popular–not seen, not heard, not considered, dying unknown, only to be discovered a century later and declared a clarion call of the new order which will also eventually become twisted, stale, and annoying.

In modern architecture, edifices are built to be appreciated while driving on the freeway at 70 mph.  Of course, on a human scale, close up, these buildings are supremely ugly.  I contend that almost everything else in our society is built to be enjoyed in the car or from the car at 70 mph.

2 things:

“Specialization is for insects.”–Robert Heinlein (sp?)

I just read in the book you bought me about a gas station in Iowa that has a tiny corn patch between the gas pumps.  They grow corn there every year, on a space the size of an ironing board.  People come from miles around to see it.  A grillion acres of corn all around and people are attracted to this *representation* of an Iowa corn field in an odd location.  This is certainly high art.

I think that we have seriously underestimated the importance of lifeSTYLE.

“The more the technique of painting improves, the weaker our eyes get.  The instrument damages the organs.”–Kafka, by janouch





Found in a bog down by my new home

    a source

It may be slimy, but I think

    that the micronutrients make

    all of the

    retching worthwhile

Best of all,

    it’s Cruelty Free!

(Except for the consumer

who is treated

rather cruelly indeed)


“It wasn’t designed to cut human flesh.”–a thought I had about 10 minutes ago as I gazed at an X-acto knife in that art supply shop next to Misal of India.

Perhaps if we typed up all the junk that spews out of our heads and hands, photocopied it, and sent it to random addresses around the world, a greater good would be served.

The world is my scapegoat.  I shall not flaunt.

The problem is that most people want money for what they produce.

Whatever happened to creating for the greater glory of god\s?

A grand exposition of what the power of the ego is woefully incapable of accomplishing.  (my current definition of modern culture)

Grand ideas are rarely fueled by full stomachs.  This is why the most powerful and relevant work arises from the second and third world, or the backwaters and ghettos of the industrialized West.  Also, the immigrant/outsider living within the belly of a country like the US can do great things because he or she is hungry and at a skewed angle from the flow of the herd.

K. didn’t “belong” in Praha.

N. didn’t “belong” in Switzerland.

Adams didn’t “belong” in New Mexico.

Conrad didn’t “belong” in Africa or W. Europe.

London didn’t “belong” in Alaska.

Hemingway didn’t “belong” in Spain.

Burroughs didn’t “belong” in New York or Tangiers or….Interzone.

Jews will often become great because they don’t “belong” more often than any other people.

I have often found it strange that, as a whole, Vietnam vets didn’t fare better as artists, poets, philosophers, prognosticators, priests.  Perhaps we concentrated too much on the Americanization of Vietnam and too little on the Vietnamization of GI JOE.  Of course, the average vet probably saw no reason to learn a damn thing from the natives.  One would think that a significant number of them would have integrated some portion of the experience into a creative venue. But, they have been encouraged so much to forget.

A sparkle of faith. If one thinks that one’s output if bad because nobody seems to like it, then it is time to withdraw. If one does not care who likes, who hates it is time to forge ahead.

apply pressure,




…on the other hand, those arts which are indigenous or home grown are often considered as well.  Even though the “rooted” artist may not have travelled to exotic lands, this does not mean that the artist in his or her own gravity well is not a wanderer.  When we move beyond the level of clan culture (where everyone is an artist) to civilization (where artists are separated), we find that the artist undertakes certain vices or disciplines to enact a separation between the artist and the society at large.

Thus, we have the birth of subculture.  Artistic subculture feeds upon the energy, the funds, and the leftovers of the culture at large.  In the 19th and 20th centuries, artistic subcultures are aligned against, yet dependant upon, the bourgeoisie.

In the more “primitive” culture, the artist will undergo certain disciplines or rites which will allow him or her to enter the artistic mindset.  In the more “advanced” culture, within the bosom of modern civilization, the artist will undergo sexual practices and patterns of drug and alcohol use which will forever separate him or her from society at large.  All of this can be done without ever leaving home.


In fact, everything that we undertake is for the purpose of furthering our illusions.

So why DO anything?

I suppose that illusion is just our birthright.

Well, it’s Jesus Awareness Week, and boy are my arms tired!

it’s a free concert now

Perhaps TV is the equivalent of dropping one’s trousers, bending over at the waist, and spreading one’s cheeks apart.





frottage:  rubbing up against somebody (usually in a crowd) as a means of obtaining sexual pleasure.  A person displaying this sexual deviation is called a frotteur. proctalgia:  pain in the rectum or anus.  In proctalgia fugax severe pain suddenly affects the rectum and may last for minutes or hours; attacks may be days or months apart.  There is no structural disease and the pain is probably due to muscle spasm.  Relief is sometimes obtained from a bowel movement, inserting a finger into the rectum, or from a hot bath. logorrhea:  a rapid flow of voluble speech, often with incoherence, such as encountered in mania.

so much can go wrong,




A brand new DAWN….another spin on the axis.

Frozen Hippie Man slowly eases out of his Microbus.

I am infatuated by F.H.M. now.  I can’t stop thinking about him, picturing him, piercing the density of hash-addled consciousness, fingering his hemp sandals, tuning his guitar, combing his beard…..

Frozen Hippie Man has created a very tasty cannabis granola for breakfast.

Frozen Hippie Man owns a bong made from the hollowed-out skull of an 18th century Tibetan Lama.

Frozen Hippie Man owns an original script of THE TRIP signed by Peter Fonda.

Frozen Hippie Man calls everyone “man” whether they are male or female, human or not.

Frozen Hippie Man spent the Reagan years in Copenhagen.

“Jimi Hendrix pissed on that.”–Neil, The Young Ones

pootius rex.



Frozen Hippie Man wasn’t at Woodstock, but he thinks he was.

Frozen Hippie Man was in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention.  He doesn’t remember being clubbed in the head by a mounted policeman, but he does remember the exact taste and smell of the weed he scored off of a Black Panther trying to raise enough bread for bus fare back to Pittsburgh, MAN.

Frozen Hippie Man was a roadie for BTO.

When Frozen Hippie Man was a film student at Cal Berkeley, he did a paper on the differences in perception between watching THE BICYCLE THIEF while stoned on hash versus watching it while tripping on LSD.

Frozen Hippie Man tried cocaine, once.  He found it “way too, like, un-mellow, man.”

Frozen Hippie Man is this nation’s most important repository of cannabis brownie recipes.

Frozen Hippie Man remembers every detail of each of the 8,497 places he has ever stashed his weed.

Frozen Hippie Man is a lactose-intolerant vegetarian.

Frozen Hippie Man has gotten his ass kicked many times in his life, but he makes up for it by screwing a lot of skanks who would do nearly anything for a joint.

Frozen Hippie Man never wears a condom.

In a certain light, Frozen Hippie Man bears a striking resemblance to Jesus Christ.

Frozen Hippie Man was the lighting director for the 1977 production of HAIR staged in Bozeman, Montana.

—-You know, this is getting depressing.  I’m making up this character who is a complete loser but he’s had a more interesting life than I have!


The Minimus 7 Letters, Part 1

By Minimus 7 / M7


replicants all around me, where is Deckard when we need him?

tongue of silver, heart of pain

I have escaped my fear of MEANING.  It was about time.  It is so difficult to lose the fear of a thing which doesn’t even exist.

Existence implies effect….except when you watch TV…..then you leave nary a ripple……remote controlled nirvana……extinction with the stab of a {POWER} key.

Mercury may have been debunked as a cure for syphilis but one must admit that the mercury poisoning takes the mind off of the lesions.

I held the squirrel to my ear but I did not hear the ocean.

I am weary of serving this society.

Make new friends, but keep the old one is silver and the other gold; pile up friends around your feet because we can never have too many friends so don’t lose old friends, but seek new ones too!  we must be surrounded by as many people as possible until we have to take up the axe and just start swinging because too many friends just pisses a guy off, you know?!!!  the song implies NO limit to the number of friends!  what shallow cunt penned this idiocy?

i have to get out of here,

hugh japrick.



What the hell does cotton-eyed mean?  It sounds frankly disgusting. Perhaps cotton-eyed Joe is a hillbilly code word for the male pee hole (meatus).

the fiddle, the banjo, the washboard, the shotgun, glistening puddles of inbred gore

Lucky me, Nerdlinger has called me twice today.  He is just as charming on the phone as he is in person.

There are somewhere near 1 million aikido practitioners in the world. According to an article I read the other day, there are only about 15,000 jodo practitioners in the world.  I found this shocking as I thought that there were more.  Also, I’m sure that the great majority of these 15,000 actually have aikido, karate-do, or kendo as their main art.

The reason that this number disturbs me is that I instantly formulated the following list of categories which include more than 15,000 people in the US alone:

  • charismatic snake handlers
  • private owners of one or more grenade launchers
  • people who have had sex with an animal in the last week
  • people in jail for killing with their bare hands
  • doctors who specialize in cosmetic surgery
  • homeless bemedalled veterans

Now, I would love to take these homeless bemedalled vets and teach them jodo.  Maybe they won’t get roughed up in the parks and alleys of America if they can shove a four foot length of oak up some punk’s ass.  (Officer, it’s just my walking stick!)  As a colleague of Joan of Arc said, arms automatically ennoble a man to where they will fight even a king!

It’s OK to have a low number of people doing jo.  I don’t think it’s in any danger of fading away.  But, it sure doesn’t hold the average person’s interest as aikido does.  Aikido lends itself to fantasies of taking out five thugs in some parking lot.  Jodo is so close to real combat (psychologically) that no fantasies are necessary.  Old martial arts (koryu) did not necessarily develop training methods which were intended to expose the student to a wide range of battlefield scenarios.  They did, however, develop specific ways of psychologically preparing the warrior for close-quarters combat.  Let me tell you, having a big piece of wood hurtling at my face only to stop a centimeter from my eye provides a big pucker factor. Plus the times I have actually been hit have only been light accidental taps–and they hurt like hell!

So, this psychological factor of facing naked danger in every practice tends to discourage the faint of heart.  What a rush, though!

“Those guys are fags!”–Jeff Spicoli

In my case, I’m not sure which particular guys those may be, but generally, they are the ones who are always going on about combat reality and street fighting although they would wet their pants upon seeing a fist clenched in anger or a large man with a knife.  In other words, dilettantes, dabblers, and blowhards. The true way is the way which cannot be spoken.



As I was walking back from lunch, a big noise erupted out of the sky and lo and behold there was a B-1 bomber flying overhead.  It was travelling West–on it’s way to wipe Hawaii off of the map, I’m sure.

Yesterday I rode right past Nerdlinger as I biked home.  He was walking toward me, definitely saw me and did not say anything or make move one when I said hello.  He completely dissed me!  Then, about 40 minutes later, I was lying on my living room floor reading Pascal Krieger’s outstanding jodo book when the cordless next to me rang.  I picked it up and the voice said, “Hello David, it’s me.”  I expected him to tell me how he didn’t recognize me in my sunglasses or some such, but he didn’t mention snubbing me at all.

Instead, he said, “Are you busy?”  I said, “Yes, why?”  He said, “I just wanted to talk to somebody about my relationship with M, other than her, of course.”  I should have said “what relationship?” but instead I said, “Well, A and I are about to leave for OKC, so I won’t be able to talk with you.”

Of course, the above can’t convey the shakiness in his 8th grade demeanor or the long uncomfortable pauses he insists on inserting into phone conversations.  I’m getting very tired of him.  I’m beginning to entertain cruel fantasies.  I invite them into my hotel room and get them drunk so that they will reveal their terrible secrets.

He’s like a limping, confused baby antelope on the savannah.  He lies down and hangs his slobbering head.  I am a black fuzzy spider.  I climb to the top of a grass blade and leap two feet onto the antelope’s neck.  I sink my fangs in, injecting an unknown-to-science venom which combines the best attributes of Botulism, Rift Valley Fever, and Colon Blow Disease.  I do this not to feed upon him, for I prefer snails.  I do this as a part of the planetary immune system.

The foreign entity was spotted and I was sent by the grocer to deliver the bill.  The buzzards are circling.





“I’m going all the way down, I’m leaving today.”–nin

A called me Tuesday night, after her surgery.  She said it went well and the most uncomfortable part was the tickle as they would brush past her eyelashes.  I got a message from N last night that she had talked to A after the day-after check-up.  N said that A’s vision tests at 20/20 now!

This is going to be weird.  I’m expecting her to walk up to me in the airport, squint, and then say, “I thought you were better looking.”

I guess I have lost part of my relationship identity as “the good-sighted one.”  No more hilarious mistakes like “chicken bouquet.”

And, you are right, it is quite awesome when one considers that we can just “fix” a person’s vision now.  Later, I’m sure that the cost of the procedure will fall and many more people will take advantage of it.  A is going to bring us before and after topographical maps of her cornea.

I get the feeling that my subconscious is chewing on some sort of important information and that at some point a nugget of wisdom will shuffle out onto the dimly-lit stage of my consciousness without fanfare.  I have a recurring visual and somatic image of a whipping type of sword cut that begins behind the head combined with a simultaneous lowering of the body by bending the knees.  It just started up a couple of days ago, and I feel/see it several hundred times a day.  I have copied the action physically, but I haven’t gotten rid of the spectre.

It is interesting to note that most medieval schools of Japanese martial arts were started when the founder retired to a shinto temple until he had a vision or a revelation which showed him the central principle of the school. In some cases, warriors went up on a mountain and received instruction from Tengu, or mountain goblins. In the case of the old system that we are involved in, the Shinto Muso Ryu, the founder, Gonnosuke Muso, went up a mountain to a temple and ensconced himself there for 36 days.  He then had a vision where an angelic youth gave him a message about the end of a log, which he interpreted to be an instruction regarding the jo-a four foot staff.

The exact message is unclear and can be interpreted in several different ways.  In any case, this recurring feeling/vision which I have been having could be interpreted as a vision from beyond if I were in the medieval mindset.  The problem is, what the hell does it mean?  I think it has something to do with the hips and gravity.  The fun part is, after I start my own martial tradition, I get to travel around and prove its worth through training sessions and duels with warriors of other traditions–this is called MUSHA SHUGYO.

Though they rub their legs together, it is still called singing.




fallopian and wandering

a lusty finger

a flick of dried mucus

there stood the dream

outlined in purple

there was no escaping it

my viewpoints were a-titter

a chattering bird,

a pontificating monkey

and a moist beaver

walk into the bar

all heads smash to the floor

from the rapid decompression

caused by the complete evacuation

of any sanity from the room

a round of mescaline

on the house.

lapdog of proletariat,




gutless isotopes and wandering jews do not a subculture make

“Step inside.  Surprise!  Lies!”–nin

no surprise at all to me, Trent.  i guess it rhymes ok, though

Enormous dogs taking a dump with bright red erection, by anonymous. (The permanent collection)
Enormous dogs taking a dump with bright red erection, by anonymous. (The permanent collection)

Well, since so many have made such a tremendous pretense of knowing what they are talking about, now we can’t tell who the wise people are.  I think that they all got fed up and went back to Geidi Prime.


by Buttmaster Ingrid

I sing the body fantastic

    no room for error

    a delicate operation

There is no perversion

    all flesh is equal

    only the accelerated fist is rabid

There is no Law

    sentient rules are by nature shallow

    only the wind way abides

There is no disgust

    who can be embarassed once dead?

    the water mingles freely with the Earth and the Sky

There is no preference

    all orifices are equal

    all flesh may quiver

Multiple portals abound

    holes are meant to be filled

    the body is rife with protrusion

Of course, in the original dialect of the 38th Dynasty, it is quite a bit more beautiful and lyrical.

When we were driving home last night, we ran into many bugs.  A said, “all these bugs commiting suicide….country bugs will never make it to the city.”





“And I didn’t even need to stop.  I just kept on going.”–hendrix

Herbert had no preconceptions about the details of his demise. The only fact that he needed to entertain was that he was definitely going to die and that it was definitely going to be painful.

When he had awoken in his small pink cell on this ubiquitous spring morning, he had no idea whether this was, in fact, to be the day.  Prisoners never knew when their numbers were up.  They only realized that they were doomed.

Herbert had been dragged out of bed about three weeks before by the leather-clad JP–the Joy Police.  Some of their full-length leather jumpsuits were teal, some were canary, all were festive.  The member of the JP who stood over Herbert’s bed as he groggily sat up happened to be wearing a lime green jumpsuit with wide epaulets.

“Good Morning!” the cheery bastard lisped nellily.  Then Herbert had a large sack thrown over his head and he woke up in his brightly lit pink cell. Little had happened since then.

He got three meals a day, two showers a week, and all of the TV he wanted–in fact the huge screen in his cell could not be turned off or muted, though Herbert could switch the channels.  Herbert had not received a hearing or trial of any kind, though every citizen knew that the Joy Police never packed anyone off to detention unless ordered to do so by BS, Bliss Sentral.  Every citizen also knew that no one ever emerged from the huge detention block at the edge of the city complex.  Herbert knew that all of his friends and his coworkers would have simply written him off as a goner, though there was no stigma attached to being arrested, as it seemed to be an act of nature rather than a deterrent.

When Herbert saw the door to his cell swing open and a Member of the Sanctified Organ step in, he knew that this was to be the day. The Sanctified Organ was a state-controlled group which ground religion down to its essence.  There was only one ritual within the Sanctified Organ and this was simply known as “The Ritual.”  Nobody ever witnessed The Ritual outside of a state sponsored church other than those who were to be executed in the detention block.

The Ritual simply consisted of the Member raising her right arm to the sky, pointing her left arm to the ground, looking Herbert in the eye, and intoning in a freakish Southern drawl, “You are sinner.  You are forgiven.  Enjoy Paradise after death.”  Then two JP’s led Herbert down a long brightly-lit hall with inclined cement walls, so that Herbert felt like he was walking on the floor of a huge artificial valley.

Herbert and the guards reached the end of the valley where he was escorted into a tubular chamber.  There, he was stripped and strapped to a rack-like device, face down.  The steel rack had a slight tilt so that Herbert’s tush was a bit more elevated than his head.

A viewscreen descended from the ceiling until it stopped directly in Herbert’s line of vision.  When the screen popped to life, he could see the feed from a camera behind him as two JP’s attached a clamp device to Herbert’s buttocks that caused his cheeks to be widely spread.

Herbert shivered as the cold steel caressed his bottom.

When the clamps were firmly in place, the viewscreen showed that a large pair of laser crosshairs were being calibrated and targeted directly on the center of his anus.  Once they were aligned, the viewscreen showed an array of nine objects.

As all of the JP’s left the chamber and sealed the door behind them, Herbert heard a voice over the intercom which somehow seemed to boom and lilt at the same time.  The voice said, “The sacred number of the State is NINE!  NINE be BLESSED!  Our luxury is NINE!  Herbert, there are nine objects on the viewscreen.  Choose only one.  Indicate your choice through verbalization.  NINE!!”

After looking at rotating three-dimensional representations of the rocking chair, the baseball bat, the abacus, the wine bottle, the watermelon, the cat, the roll of barbed wire, the anchor, and the tractor tire for a few more moments, Herbert loudly announced “Watermelon!”

When the word “watermelon” escaped his mouth, Herbert saw a huge door slide away in front of him. By looking in the viewscreen, he saw that he was being provided a live feed of a similar door sliding away to his rear.  It now seemed to Herbert that the tubular chamber was actually only a small part of a giant tube which extended as far as he could see fore and aft.  He continued to watch the viewscreen as a series of images kept repeating themselves.  Herbert soon grew to understand that the “tube” he was in was actually a giant hollow ring far under the earth.  This donut under the ground seemed to be hundreds of miles in diameter.

Suddenly, 20 meters in front of the viewscreen, a large watermelon dropped into the tube and hung motionless in mid-air.  As Herbert watched the new images on the viewscreen, he began to piece it all together.  Finally he understood that he was inside a giant mass accelerator and that the mass of the chosen object would shoot around, accelerating until it reached fantastic speed until it encountered its target, which was currently pinioned under the ruby crossbeams of the targeting laser.

Herbert followed the now blank viewscreen with his eyes as it slowly ascended into the ceiling once again.  Amazingly quickly, the watermelon shot away and was out of sight.  Just as Herbert was about to scream “Why!?”, his query was silenced by the thunk of melon merging with its target.

blooded hands,




An ampule of vitriol fell off of the shelf.

The smell of wormwood filled the room.

Reeling with absinthe, I stumble into the rectory.

All of the doors are locked, but I just float on through.

Bloody Scythian poetry dribbles from my lips.

A Dybbuk is crouching in a dense corner.

I explained Nerdlinger’s particulars to Yvonne last night: never had a girlfriend, 29, lives in dorm, teaching asst., sample phone conversation, posture, corporeal proximics.

I never called him a name or presented any info that might sway her eventual independently-arrived-at conclusion that he is a complete loser.

Why don’t you describe his poetry to me?  Does it explain why he is so clinging and pushy about your opinion of it? This guy is like 20 times the deep social idiot that Nietzsche was.

mum in her couth,




the still air of an ancient cave is no place to make cabbage rolls

The Gay Junkie Fisting Scene of Santiago, Chile:

Raul had no morals, as he was raised by three old junkies gathered around the rotting corpse of latino fascism.  He had been hustling for food, for money, for attention since he before he could talk. Raul had entertained all of the scams, haunted all of the tourist vistas.  But, today, all of that would recede.

Chichi was her name, but not just because she had big tits.  She had long black curly locks and a rancorous demeanor.  She could cook dope in her sleep and she had never seen a fist she couldn’t swallow with any of three glorious holes.  Ironically, the oral one was the most dangerous.

Lindo always wore white.  His smoothly shaven face allowed full viewing of the numerous small scars on his face.  Feline cunnilingus is not without its dangers.

Esteban captured it all.  In the opinion of others, he was a poet, but to himself he was simply a biographer, a historian, a journalist. Others saw his work as poetry because his opiate-addled consciousness could not express itself in any straight manner.  The sinuous turns of phrase which he employed were quite bland to him, searingly beautiful to others.

Manuel Vega had made his way to junkyville from some Ecuadorian backwater.  As soon as he hit town, he set up a divided-tent glory hole on the edge of a shithole barrio.  He was excellent at his craft, and the pesos came rolling in, but his life never went anywhere because the algebra of need dictated that he invest every peseta he made in a complex and well-defined smack habit.  He wouldn’t even buy food for himself.  The doctors at the free clinic who examined Manuel once a month told him that he only survived because the massive quantities of semen he consumed were full of protein and vitamin C.

Mariela DeRosa had been a fine young woman until the first time her lover Gloria had tied rubber tubing around her arm.  After that, she lived for the fix.  She was usually too dry for her customers, so she could have been the poster girl for “el K-Y.”

floatation crevice,




“Covered in Coke and Vaseline, still cannot fix this broken machine.” -nin

There are advantages to being an incognate blunderfist.  For starters, one never need be bothered by the itching followed by the creasing followed by the oozing.

Fourth of all, there is no sex like the sex one has with Jesus.

We should calculate, in calories, the amount of mental energy each one of us spends sublimating, redirecting or simply holding back anger.

What kind of psychological damage has it done to me when I didn’t chase down that car that almost ran over me and rip the fenders off of it?  By how many years has my life been shortened because I didn’t swing a pickaxe through the heads of every one of those fucks who certainly deserved it?  I have sacrificed for this failed society and I am weary.

I tire of nebbishes slinging pebbles at me.

At one point I must shrug.

sparkle diligently,




A fine mist caresses the greater nuances of the edge-urban sprawl.  A body of geniuses unites and they decide on peppermint.  Tamarinds whorl with delight.





Instead of inflicting any more damage, Ronald decided to give up his thriving insect eradication business in order to concentrate on more sublime affairs–such as the one he was currently having with Nancy the Priestess.

It’s like a blade that simply cannot be dulled.  As for the wide open gashes, well, what can I say other than “apply pressure”?

Loping along merrily, Theodore saw only those colors which screamed the brightest.  He brought his huge hammer fist whistling through the air where it connected with absolutely nothing other than the ass end of his dulled perceptions.  Every day, he stalked around under the I-40 overpass looking for lost cultures in abandoned aluminum.  Once, he found a cracked Timex.  Theodore knew that it wasn’t working, but he took great pleasure in walking into various establishments within the rotted shell of DownTown, laying his gaze lovingly on the cracked face of his treasure, and loudly announcing that the time was “thirteen o’ fuckin’ clock.”  Lately, though, he had stayed out of the local businesses as his pants-dropping maneuver in the local Taco Hell had not gone over so well.  He had been warned.

Don’t worry.  It’ll all be OK.  I won’t make anyone read the crazy words if they don’t want to.  “You are free to do what we say.”  “Do not question.”  “Your excursions into unauthorized areas are not appreciated.”  “Please feel at liberty to peruse the offerings of the new Fall Season–there should be plenty there to keep you occupied.”

“Refrain from introspection, inspection, retrospection, or elocution on fringe subjects.”  “YOU ARE FREE TO DO WHAT WE SAY.”

this is the point,



st. regis of cunt lick county,

“I have no faith that keeps me from tasting the joys of the world.” -mary my hope

Driven to some sort of technocratic extreme, Impulse Sintral decided that all of the open land shall be sterilized and that all food shall henceforth be naturally hydroponic.

I told my office mates about the “now semen free” and the “microwavable!” food product decals.  They thought it was cool! I think another good decal would be to shrink the image you have pasted in the green notebook and have a motto under it which says “William S. Burroughs approved!”

How the FUCK are we gonna tear this sunbitch down?  Will decals and rude noises do the trick?  Mainstream water sports?  Massive crack habits fed by bestial fisting?  We need a reverse neutron weapon which destroys all the industry and structure but leaves the people standing.  On the other hand….. some dumbass’ll just build it all again.

some folks’ll,

st. lemuel of reacharoundshire.



michelle controls Sputnik

i am humbled

sky controller

is high priestess

one day, perhaps,

a failed Vulcan death grip

will force her to dangerously

re align orbital paths

space junk rains down

artificial nerves are rendered silent

what’s the weather gonna be like tomorrow?

“And I’m putting out fires with gasoline.”–bowie

one) pouncing trance object

two) jizzmonic fugue device

poopfrau) penile plot twistings

It didn’t seem to move too much, but it was ominously perched all the same.  We didn’t see it coming did we?  It eventually had a life all its own and our stupor was only multiplied.  We were fooling ourselves all along.  Clawless cats climb few trees.

Pulse one pulse two pulse three deeply breathe now.  Hot licks of the precious fluid splatter her backside as she moans in faux agony. After all, she had handled much larger than him.  But the need for drama dictated that she squirm like a pinioned worm about to be dissected. In fact, she barely felt the invasion, but the hypnotic pumping made for a good plot device.

One’s life only gets fatter and fatter as more pressure is applied. Soon enough, the tool is numb as it has been overused.  The thrusting continues, but the numbness makes it an exercise in futility.  No one is getting off this time.  Few ever realize that it is OK to pull out.

slickened walls,

protruding nubs,




“I killed about a million people and it took about half a day.”–cure

He had been drumming up business all day, but his special ampules just weren’t moving.

In NAKED LUNCH, Burroughs refers to doctors as “croakers.”

“Hand in hand is the only way to land and always the right way ’round.”–cure

I pulled an old box out of my closet and found an old cure tape.

Can’t you tell?  I also found many frat pix, some Cheryl pix, and a couple of letters from Joe Buckley that you simply must read.  These letters, dated before I knew any of you, will conclusively prove that I have long courted denizens of the intelligent/psychotic fringe.  I hope that none of my old surreal companions ever “grew up.”

Speaking of surreal, Yvonne and Alison just came by asking for “Steven Martin.”  Oh well, they’ll get braver and cleverer later when they want to try and embarrass me.  Last night, A and I had to explain to them all about the movie phenomenon known as SHAFT.  All sorts of unintended double-entendres then occurred–i.e.  “We were sitting around talking the other night and SHAFT came up.”

the uninterrupted hooting of the gibbons

“Don’t worry, I don’t worship Satan or anything.”–what I said to a girl named Torrie.  She was in my frat room and she sort of looked askance at my Cult subway poster.  She really obviously wanted nothing to do with me.  I don’t think I ever apologized for my decor again.  After all, if apologizing didn’t get me any nookie, why repeat the performance?

Around that time I decided to try and treat women like friends rather than like an audience to be performed for.  “It does not matter if you are ladies, bitches, cunts, whores, nuns, wives or mothers!  You are all equally worthless in my eyes!”  I tend to enjoy the company of a woman who likes being treated like a generic human rather than insisting on being crowned as the carrier of the ova.  Older women tend to hold it against me when I don’t treat them as special because of their gender.  I suppose they would be happier if I were flip, charming, leering and chasing them around trying to pinch their asses.  But, no matter how much they may yearn for the old ways, I refuse to cheapen them.

sex machine to all the chicks,



white hunter,

“Knowing is a farce, gentlemen.  And this farce can do nothing but harm the integral freedom of men.  Therefore, let us create in this world a way in which knowing can never be accomplished.  Let us create an unholy diversion from which the seeking eyes of humanity can never be torn.  Let us engage the world of business and lead them into dire fantasies of efficiency and easy manipulation of symbols.

“To these ends, let us create and unleash the personal computer.” -Chairman Frank Codswiper of IBM, meeting of the Board of Directors, February 3rd, 1967.

“In our world, the absent referent reins supreme.  When our strongest device is something that doesn’t even exist, we have come no farther that the Crusaders or the makers of Ankor Wat.  We are enshrouded in the unreal.  The nexus of the past and the future is not the now, it is the void.” -Charles Kuralt, in TAO OF REVOLUTION

The lives our parents lead, those lives of grandiose assumption, the worship of that terrible god named “progress,” is a cluttered existence–this we cannot deny.  But, we must realize that focusing upon the faults of a nearly dead generation will get us no nearer to our goal.  So, in order to eliminate THE MAN, we must first destroy memory itself!  We must behave as if we are the first generation of humans to grace this planet.  In this way, we can totally forgo any phase of materialistic destruction that an armed revolution would entail.  By a simple change in the structure of our inner relationships, we can simply erase THE MAN from time itself.  If you meet THE MAN on the road, do not kill him!  Simply pretend he is not there. -THE BIND, writing in revolutionary pamphlet entitled “Time and THE MAN.”, distributed to coffeehouses in Berkley, Detroit, and Vancouver in July, 1969.

everything is wrong,

black heart.



“I’m afraid of Americans.”–david bowie

The history of one’s life is often seen as a journey.  From a certain perspective, my life can be seen as a slow walk away from America. Taking a ten year slice: 1986:  I drove a metallic baby blue 1968 Chevy Impala.  Each and every part was made in this country.  It had glasspax and it roared like a motherfucker.  It had never seen a catalytic converter or emission controls.  It was made of steel, rubber, vinyl.  Two bodies could be hidden in the trunk. I had three guns in my closet.  Double-barrel, rifle, pistol.  Lots of ammo. I wore a letter jacket and played football.

1996:  I drove a miniscule red Honda which I barely fit into. Hadn’t touched a gun in years. I wore a parka. I did Japanese stuff.

Of course, there are a lot of other details, but you get the gist. I’m starting to think that Americans would not be so charming if we didn’t drive every day or if everyone weren’t packin’ heat.  After all, danger molds us, does it not?  What danger does the average Brit see every day?  Perhaps some thug won’t let them pass on the sidewalk so that they have to step in the mud.  Maybe while walking to the green grocer, a dog will bark at them.

A Chinese person might step on a rock on the way to the rice paddy or maybe the neighbor will yell at them for playing their radio too loud.

In America, anyone who gets in a car cheats death with every mile.  A person can get shot for no reason, or for simply for making eye contact with the wrong character.  Often, people are shot IN their cars.

this makes us crazy

we make war on each other

death is all around us but we won’t acknowledge it

just because we are technologically advanced doesn’t mean

that we aren’t barbarians

face it, without our cars and our guns, we would be as boring as

Austrians or Paraguayans

we are so harsh

we shine beautifully in our simple, insane fashion

“God is an American.”–bowie


double action.



from the Chlorine Chemistry Council:  98% of all U.S. drinking water systems that disinfect rely on chlorine.  Chlorine use in water disinfection has played a major role in the 50% increase in U.S. life expectancy in this century. Yeah, I want to live in medieval times, sure. Yep, a lone cowpoke out on the range, wouldn’t that be wonderful? I want to be a gladiator! I must be strange, as my fantasy life seems to be stuck in the present.  I just don’t see the romanticism of widespread poverty, wildfire-like epidemics, trephination, illiteracy, etc.

In every era, man looks back over his shoulder, shakes his head, and mutters “I was just born {x} years too late.” This attitude will chase away bliss as surely as a barking dog will chase a rabbit away.

If we accept who we are, and love the times we are in, then the rabbit of happiness will curl up on our laps.

“The time is nigh!  Time to do or die.” -living color


Short Story: Love Letters

Love Letters

by Richard R. Barron

I stood in the same spot in the wind for what seemed like 30 minutes.

It was very cold.

Maybe it was the wind and the cold that kept me from moving. That was my excuse, anyway.

I had those six letters in my hand, six identical white envelopes, all with my name in her handwriting. They were held together by two old, cracked rubber bands. I thought they’d break any time. I pulled the first letter out and stuck the others under my arm.

Her picture was inside. I looked at it as it whipped in that wind. She looked great. It was like she was looking at me again with those eyes that seemed to see right through me.

I opened up the letter, written on pink lined notepaper. It was the first one she had sent me since she went away. She thanked me for the flowers.

“My letter may not be cheery,” she apologized. “The first day I got here I spent wondering how I got here and why I’m here.”

I folded it up carefully. How absurd. I put it back in the envelope.

The next letter, which she’d sent the next day, was on white filler paper, torn out of her notebook. I scanned down the paragraphs and felt an odd mixture of anger and disinterest. I shook my head. “What a bunch of crap,” I thought.

“I am trapped and I cannot escape,” she told me.

“Thank you again for the flowers, your love, your support,” she added. It seemed so hollow and pointless reading it in the wind, in the desert, on that bridge.

The Rio Grande flowed silently by 800 feet below.

“I look at sunsets here and I think, ‘Richard could make a good picture of that.’ ” she said. She couldn’t have known that I would return, summer and winter, to where she was, long after she was gone. She couldn’t have known I would be there now, on the Rio Grande gorge bridge at sunset in the cold wind reading her letters.

“I just re-read this and I know it makes no sense,” she explained at the end. It made sense then. And in some way it made sense when I stood there.

I folded it up carefully too. How ridiculous.

Her third letter was just business, urging me to book my hotel as soon as I could when I come to visit. But I kept it, and I folded it up and put it back in its envelope.

Letter number four read like a confession. “Confusion is giving way to intense pain,” she told me. Later she admitted, “I miss you and think of you often.”

I know it was pointless, but I was as careful to fold it and put it away as I was with the others.

Letter number five was newsy. She told me all about what was going on, and all about how she felt about it. She thanked me for the letters and cards.

I wondered as I folded this one up if she ever really thought of me as her lover. Were these even love letters?

Letter number five got to the meat of her feelings. She explained to me that, “anger and sorrow frighten me because I fear losing control and becoming a raging maniac.”

I had to take a deep breath to read that fifth letter. It was the last civil conversation between us in writing. It was last time she showed any real affection for me.

“Richard, you mean a great deal to me. I need you in my life and love you.”

I felt shaken after I read that. I felt that way every time I read it, from the day I got it in my mailbox, to the day I read it in the wind on that bridge. Maybe in the moment she wrote that, she really did love me. Maybe.

I took out that sixth letter and read the first few lines, and remembered how judgmental it was, and how angry I felt every time I read it. If she loved me in the fifth letter, it was all erased by the sixth. I couldn’t read any further. I couldn’t read it at all.

I bundled it up into its white envelope and slipped it under the rubber bands that held them all together. It was time. The sun was down. The cold was making me shake. I looked at the bundle of letters in my shaking hand against the darkening backdrop of that 800-foot gorge, leaned forward, and let them go.

Short Story: Wallpaper

by Richard R. Barron

“This wall is so plain,” she muttered to herself, staring at the blank, grey facade. “What can I do, what can I do?” she continued, trailing off to a whisper by the last word.

She felt a strange, urgent, crushing tension inside her, a need, an overwhelming desire. As quickly as it came to her, she bolted across the room and dived beneath her bed, emerging a few seconds later with a plastic mop bucket. In it were art supplies; paint brushes, sponges, plastic sculpting tools, and to her disappointment, only water colors and some modeling clay. “It’ll do, it’ll do,” she muttered again.

She went to the sink and prepared the paints. She rushed over to the wall again and froze in front of it. A moment of absolute silence passed. Suddenly she burst into action. Her brush was a blur of color as angry as a hornet buzzing around an intruder. She had made this kind of makeshift wallpaper in her last place, but this time there was a kind of insane, explosive urgency to her motions.

At the top, streaks of red and white. Towards the bottom, deeper greens and browns. It all make perfect sense in her head. “Yes!” she barked to the empty room as her brush found a perfect combination of blue and grey.

Soon the whole wall was covered by watercolors, an ocean of hue and inspiration. She stood back for another moment, wringing her hands, pushing the sleeves of her blue denim shirt further up her arms, staining them with paint. “More,” she decided out loud.

She tumbled over to the sink and searched. After scattering almost everything there into clutter on the floor, she found a felt-tip pen. “Okay!” she declared excitedly, and hurried back over to the wall.

She stood up close to her sea of imagery, and pressed the pen onto the nearly-dry watercolors. “When you were a child,” she wrote in meticulous little letters, “unhappiness took the place of dreams.”

“Mmm, yes, I know!” she declared to herself. She flipped her bucket upside down, dumping the remaining contents all around her, and stood on top of it. In larger letters at the very top of the wall she titled her piece “The Landmind.”

She simply let the pen fall from her hand, and heard it clatter to the floor. She absently backed off the bucket, then backed up across the room. She looked up and down at what she had created. Her mouth trembled; her eyes started to fill with tears. “It’s perfect…” she whispered. “Perfect.”

“Hey Picasso!” the huge male voice boomed abruptly, “the warden wants to see you.”

List: Funny Allegedly Real Names

Arizona Zipper
Anil G. Shitole
Dr. Beaver, Obstetrician
Betty Burp
The Boring School
Aurora Borealis Belsky
Pupo Shytti
Lotta Crap
Mole Funeral Home
Sir Edward Pinecoffin
Cheatham & Steele, Bankers
Buster Hymen
Cashmere Tango Obedience
Cardiac Arrest Silva
Cherri Pancake
Christ T. Seraphim
Golden Pancake
C. Matthews Dick
Comfort & Satisfy Bottom
Constant Agony
Bump & Twinkle Quick
C. Sharp Minor
Dr. & Dr. Doctor
Earless Romero
Easter & Halloween Buggage
Ecstacy Goon
Evan Keel
Fair Hooker
Marmalade P. Vestibule
Needa Climax
Never Fail
Noble Puffer
Noway Near White
Oofty Goofty Bowman
Vaseline Love
Oscar Asparagus
Pafia Pefia Pifia Pofia Pufia DeCosta
Pink Gash
Rasey & Dewey Butt
Steven Weewee
Dr. Safety First
Commander Sink, USN
General Error
Sue Yu
Spence Kidney
Booper Thompson
Shingle Honaker
Brackenridge Brandenburg
Drew Rutz
Erple J. Dinkins
Fickey Bluford
Johnnie Warrior
Vertis Castacka
Fanny Hunnybun
Female Jones
Legitimate Jones
Fortunate Tarte
Rev. Fountain Wetmore Rainwater
Dr. Gargle, Dentist
Garnish Lurch
Ginger Screws Casanova
Hedda Hare
Henry Ford Carr
Iona Ford
Henry Will Burst
Hilarius Fuchs
Hogjaw Twaddle
Honor Roll
Wong Bong Fong of Hong Kong
Barebones Immaculate Conception Finkelstein
I.M. Zamost
Ivan Odor
J. Fido Spot
Kuhl Brieze
LeGrunt E. Crapper
Loch Ness Hontas
Lo Fat
Memory Leake
Toppie Smellie
Urban Shocker
Urine McZeal
Ima Hogg
Bacon Chow
Father O’Pray
Professor Verbal Snook
Love Kisses Love
Void Null
Pearl Harbor
Radical Love
Philander Philpot Pettibone
Roosevelt Cabbagestalk
Sara Struggles Nicely
Serious Misconduct
Shlomo Turtlelove
T. Fud Pucker Tucker
Tvstvnekke Woodward
Pebble Brimley
Wandell “Firpo” Black
Esther Glover Peeler
David L. Surprise
Luster Sluss
Hildreth Overcash
Rev. Dick Virtue
Cedar Yandell
Ferris Wapp
Osie Tuggle
Hercomer McBoingboing
Noisy Quiett
Ron Muddlemog
Winnie Turnipseed
Joan Stone
Ura Fox
Rube Orphan
Clay Potter
Crickett Prickett
Hyman Glickman
Treasure Fincher
Storm Duty
Oldmouse Waltz
Eucalyptus Yoho
Odious Champagne
Fairy Clutter
Humperdink Fangboner
Katz Meow
E. Z. Filler, Dentist
Vernal Equinox Grossnickle
Human & Pitt Funeral Service
Clarence O. Bedience
Cistern Brothers
Knighton Day
Herman Sherman Berman
Ignatz Dangle
John Wellborn Wallop
John Hodge Opera House
Centennial Gargling
Oil Samuel J. Tilden
Ten Brook
Lee Bum Suck
Lobelia Rugtwit Hildebiddle
Cassandra Nookiesnach
Peter Beter
Roman Pretzel
Rose Rump
Solomon Gemorah
Vile Albert
Forest Woods
Orange Weldon
Runt Short
Larry Tefertiller
Harry Situations
Toby Clankenbeard
Jewel Glass
Rusty Nails
Forest Brooks
Velvette Biggerstaff
Topher Owens
Rhoda Dendron
Stormy Veal
Debbie Key, Music teacher
Narcissus Frett
Dr. Dick, Urologist
Adora Cox
Agonia Heimerdinger
Cupid Rash
Halibut Justa Fish
Dr. Toothaker, Dentist
Dr. Pull, Dentist
Dr. Bridges, Dentist
Heide Yum Yum Gluck
Hubert Boobert
Hilarious Conception
Vivian Vanevenhaven
Udo Pooch
J. C. Beaglehole
Judge Judge
Pepsi Cola Atom-Bomb Washington
Lavender Hankey
Lacey Pantti
Lovey Nookie Good
Mignon Hamburger
Birdie Peacock
Love Newlove
Barbara Fatt Heine
Tarantula Turner
Zilpher Spittle

List: Dog and Cat Names

Pinky Slim
Strontium 90
Petal Soft
Po ins

The Collected Poetry

Growing up in a literate environment, I was encouraged to write. In some ways I was expected to write, and in other I demanded it of myself. In either case, it turns out that I am a terrible poet.

These thoughts go as far back as high school, and are presented here non-chronologically.


25 months
and I can’t remember
our last kiss

Last Kiss

they kissed
and he drove away
to make a new life
(suddenly I don’t feel like telling you more
you know how it ends, anyway)


We walked
over frosted ground
in the dark
just the two of us

railroad tracks
pursued the night
forever and ever
away from us

“I guess”
he said
“I’ve always been

“always” he said
a long time
to listen to

at the place
where the tracks
met the road
we parted


Outside a breeze caressed the trees with its cool fingertips as the grey night drifted along in peace. Amber and silver shone on the clouds above, giving light and life to the street below. Branches cast shivering shadows on walls that held dull pain inside.

In one room, lit by one lamp, two people sat in subtle silence, their eyes staring into their own private distances.

“I’m lonely,” he said.

“I know,” she answered.

Hope Street

Hope Street
where hope
turns to home
where rain
turns to glass
where my future
meets my past

Hope Street
dimly lit
with dark promises

Nobody Home

ring ring
nobody home
I’ll just let it
ring ring
there’s gotta be
something better
than listening to that
ring ring
it’s gotta be
the loneliest sound
everybody busy
too busy to answer that
ring ring
come on
I’m hurting here
just say anything

I place the handset
on the hook click
and try my hardest
not to feel hurt
they didn’t know
it was me
did they?

17 Years after Rolling ‘Touch/Love’ in a High School Writing Class Exercise

The small and soft
Charming and disarming
Married friend of a coworker
With her ludicrously crooked smile
Padded over to me on her sexy brown bare feet

Holding myself close
Thinking no one else would
I looked at her glowing allure
As if I could make her an unmarried woman
Merely with the yearning in my eyes
And the desire in my heart

Her fourth beer in her left hand
She tilted her head
Said something I didn’t hear
Smiled a flirtation
Reached out her right hand
And brushed my hair out of my eyes


Excited like a kid
I had a crush
walked up to

sat down beside

she was warm
smelled so
brown eyes
couldn’t see me

“Am I” I am

“Being a pest?”
wanting her

“Yes,” she said


“Scalpel,” the doctor said calmly, and received the rusty saw. She carefully made her incision in my chest, top to bottom, so there was plenty of room.

I didn’t know if she was a good doctor or not. All I knew is that she was operating on me.

“Bone saw,” she requested, and began the real work of getting inside me. White spray flew and covered her glasses.

“Ah, there it is,” she said finally. “Rib spreader,” she demanded. She dug and poked for a few moments, cutting what needed to be cut.

At last, she lifted out my heart.

“I’ll take that,” she said, smiling.

“I’ll give it,” I said.

Her Hands

These pale ghosts
Meet me
With their little imaginations
On this night kissed
In the midst of this mist

I lean forward slightly, lightly
To taste their gracious insight
Through my tears
And to me they
Taste of the sea

With a deep and perfect breath
I borrow from their marrow
The end of tomorrow’s sorrow
These graceful, tasteful
Pillows of comfort

Wanting to find the soul
Of these fine willows of life
I look up to find
Your presence has not

If She Were Here

If she were here, I would wait patiently until every nuance of the moment breathed life into her eyes, until the shadows cast by the dim hallway light struck her face with the most subtle touch.

I would take her hands in mine, pulling her ever-so-slowly toward me. My eyes would see her thoughts and feelings.

My hand would move her hair as it tumbles playfully down her shoulder. My fingers would glide gently down the curve of her cheek as it glows softly in the dim cascade of incandescence.

I would wrap my arms around her, surround her. I would hold her close to my heart, feeling her heart beating, feeling her feel me.

I would whisper almost too quiet for her to hear, “I love you.”

If she were here.

Missing You

Missing you is
Closing my eyes
tender thoughts
that place
the sky at night
the moon alone
and waiting
need and want
quiet and sound
rusty nails
sea shells
hard and soft
hands and heart
stark and sad
far away
another day
a million miles
and home

Pictures of You

I look for your
elusive self
and I can’t see
my pictures of you

surrounded by this
dark tempest
of slate and auburn sky

It’s bigger than I am
bigger than we were
it’s funny that with this rage above
I stand beneath and think of you

I’ve trained my paradox
to protect me
and my delicate
dark illusions

Full of hurt
dazzling and fading
shaking my visions
and trying still to picture you

But for reasons I won’t admit
I can’t summon my
pictures of you
to save my life

It’s just me and the sky
and an empty space
but not your hazel eyes
in those pictures of you


I drift
with my God-given talent
in one hand
and my
hell-bent heart in the other

under the obviously arrogant assumption
that I have the right
to be here

the RIGHT!
have you ever heard such gall
in all your
miserable little
black-and-blue life?


Neon lights in the trees
Giant old brick church
Old chair for the trash
Power lines
Bold old tree
Yellow LTD
Windows windows windows
(every one is lit; somebody’s home)
White houses
Grey street
(a power line of its own)
Warm south wind
Faraway windows
Light in my own windows
(where you are welcome)
Wind chimes (in my wind chimes)
My front door (always open)
Stranger walking by
(he knocks, no answer)
Those same neon lights
(in those same trees)
Where did he go?
No answer
Passing cars
The night itself
And me


Man say
(and this is just “them” talking)
no, not sleep with me
in smoky bars
at one a.m.
to high heels
and leather skirts
and thick thick eyelashes
because she watched
too many commercials
men say it will snow tonight

Streetlight Life

Thinking about
those wild white horses
with the wind at my back
and your scent in my lungs

And you
at the threshold of
the depths of
my shallow existence

I feel myself tremble
rock back and forth
finding what I need
without you

It’s too cold in this place
and far warmer than I deserve
with the night wrapped around me
like a blanket

My hair combed
and my mind made up
and my life in order
and you far away

The streetlight life
flies like my nights
between this dull ache
and all that’s at stake


The Word of God

Who is this woman in blue
Who likes the sound of my voice
When I pray?

“Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

And here’s the part that kills me.
The people say, “Blessed is His kingdom,
Now and forever. Amen.”

How do you like that? Amen.
Like they understand it. like they mean it.
Like praying for it will make it happen.

And while they pray
She slides her slender brown
Soft hand in mine

How do you like that?
Like she understands it. Like she means it.
Like holding my hand will make it all better.

“We acknowledge and bewail our manifold
sins and wickedness…”
I always liked that part.

Yeah. This one, too…
“We are not worthy so much as to
Gather up the crumbs under Thy table.”

So I no longer look puzzled
When I think of her self-esteem
Instead, I get a laugh out of it.


then it didn’t ring again
must have been
that all-important wrong number
instead of a death in the family

“hello” she said
almost unintelligibly
“is Paul there?”
came the half-drunk voice
“you must have the wrong”
people get so mad when they’re wrong

then for no reason
I was driving north
and feeling lost
and alone
and wanting to be home


Don’t say
It’s unfair
Don’t say
It’s not right
Just say
It’s ten ’til ten

And time to say

Opium Blonde

She hears my steps from behind her
As she sorts the mail
She lifts her head slightly
Knowing what was next

The slight movement
Tells me that even though
I couldn’t see it
She was starting to smile

I reach her and reach out
She tilts her head
And knows who and what
I want

Arms around her in slow motion
My face in her hair
Mmm the sea of hair

I breathe in that sea
An ocean of intoxication
A world of pleasure
And peace

Short Story: Walking Away

Walking Away

by Richard R. Barron

Goodbye is a good cry.

There is something about the turn of autumn that hurts us inside. It’s an insane time, when anyone with any artistic or poetic heart feels a sense of loss, or remembrance, or hunger. The hunger is this: when the primary weave of our lives becomes the cold, we hunger for what warms us inside and out, the affections of another.

I spent the autumns and winters of my youth hungering for her, wanting to be in that place, the physical place of being wrapped around her, holding her, smelling her hair that is soft and cool in the evening air, touching her hands. And all the while the moments in that place are only made meaningful by her hunger to be in that place with me.

That night I felt it again. I was walking away. Just moments before, standing behind Michelle, I put my arms around her shoulders, around all of her. She raised her arms and put her soft, white hands in mine. I squeezed them a little, and at the same time laid my head on hers.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

I paused, and thought, “I love you.”

“I like this,” I said, and started to sway back and forth.

“I never liked being rocked as a baby,” she said, so I stopped rocking her.

Now I was fifteen steps out of her door, walking away from love, since, it occurred to me suddenly, it was walking away from me again. I resisted the urge to look in her window, but felt almost certain that she was looking at me, and as I felt watched and onstage, it seemed as if I had forgotten how to walk and was trying it for the first time.

I got to the street, looked both ways, and crossed, trying to look as casual as I could. Somehow I had to save the face of the embarrassment of failing again at love. I couldn’t let her see how much I wanted to run away from the pain swelling inside me. I took a deep, deep breath. Was I shaking?

It’s funny. Five years earlier, ten years earlier, fifteen years earlier, it was the same walk. It feels like my body isn’t even along with me. Everything seems completely different suddenly. Even if I was expecting it, even if I saw it coming, the reality of walking away was not of me, not of my routine.

On a summer evening five years before this night, saying goodbye to Pam, that moment came again. Full of hurt and hunger, in this moment I was about to go from the touch of her hands to the lonely warm air of another night. I stepped back and let her willowy arms slide out of my hands, then turned around and looked at the stairs to my apartment, no different than the first or last time I climbed them.

Two years before that found me outside a dorm room at a college not far from my home. Lisa was moving back to the east coast. I’d never even bothered to confess my feelings to her. I knew it wouldn’t have helped.

She stood before me in the parking lot at just after six o’clock. It was a still December night, and the early sunset was a cold blue. She wore a red cotton sweater that was mine until I decided it didn’t fit.

I don’t remember what we said. Goodbye, I guess. She didn’t like to be hugged, but I broke her of that just in time for her to leave. She hugged me, then I her, then I knew it was time to turn around and walk away. I’d gotten pretty good at walking backwards for a few steps, giving her the chance to turn around first, and this time it worked. I got to watch her walk awkwardly away before I turned around and walked awkwardly away in the opposite direction. It wasn’t a long walk, but it was long enough.

In 1994 it was another walk. She was there to stay; we had just buried Kathy after she shot herself to death. The walk away from the grave on that sunny winter day was different than the others, but it was still a walk away, still awkward, still taking me away from love.

I never thought of turning around, though.

She loved me.

When I was sixteen, I was visiting Melissa at her home in Missouri after her family moved her away a year earlier. She wasn’t my girlfriend, but I wanted her to be. I was feeling very sad that she and I were parting, and she was feeling very homesick.

“Can I go with you?” she half-joked, and the thought stirred her to tears.

“Sure,” I said, and held out my arms. The sensation of having her so close to me was as pure a feeling as I’d ever had, and in ten seconds it was over. Nothing was even remotely the same after that. My only thought was desire to be close to her again, to be in that moment of perfect peace and freedom, wordless and unlonely.

Yet there she was, walking away with tears in her eyes, and for me was only the task of getting in my car and driving away, which seemed to take forever and felt totally alien in every way.

When Tina and I said goodbye, I was nineteen. In her darkened room, we sat on the edge of her dormitory bed.

“What is it?” I asked her once, then again in the consuming quiet of her room.

She lowered her head, and tears spilled down her cheeks. “Here,” she whispered, “is your promise ring.”

“Why don’t you keep it,” I told her, followed by, “I’m going to go,” after another awkward silence. I turned and walked to her door, opened it with wooden gracelessness, and slipped into the even darker hallway and down the stairs. Finally at the bottom of the stairs appeared the night, and I let it swallow me up. Even under the cover of darkness, I felt certain her eyes were still on me somehow.

Last night it was the same, walking away in the occult gloom of night, and suddenly I knew, just as Michelle’s apartment slipped out of view, why this walk away from love surrendered all of it’s grace and left me so desperately, pathetically awkward: I was carrying the weight of the loss squarely on my back. It was a weight I wanted no one to see me carrying, a weight that held defeat at its core. At last she could no longer see me, and I slowed, no longer hurrying to disappear into the blackness. I breathed out, looked down. The weight was suddenly lifted, and replaced by a much more familiar emptiness.

I smiled.

Kathy’s Journal

In 1992, 1993 and 1994, I dated a woman named Kathy, who was a critical care nurse at an Oklahoma City hospital. Kathy suffered from various emotional difficulties, including depression.

In February 1994, she killed herself at her home in Norman, Oklahoma. After her death, her parents were kind enough to give me a copy of her short journal, which I only then learned was in the form of letters to me.


22 Nov 92 (in my journal)

Sometimes it scares me when I realize that I have allowed you to see how vulnerable I am. It is much safer to keep the strong, clinical mask on. I am frequently (heck, nearly always) more comfortable listening to the cares of others than I am admitting that I have needs. It is hard for me to remember that it is okay to be needy sometimes. You are impossible to be dishonest with. Is that an advantage or not? You are also fun. I am glad you are my friend. I care about you. K

8 Dec 92

Dear Richard – well, I have to address my thoughts to someone and I am definitely past the age when one invents imaginary playmates. So I write this as if it were a letter to you. You will probably never read it, but it helps to have a focus. So. Enough. This is Tues. night/Wed. morning. It is 0120 but I have not yet unwound enough to fall asleep.

Monday (7th Dec.) I went back to J. G. for a massage. He seems to also have a gift for T.A. type counseling, which is interesting. I told him to coddle me instead of using all deep [illegible] stuff & for once, he was happy to do that. He gave a very nice massage and asked some interesting questions.

“What makes you so angry and tense?” “Well, fear, of course.” “Fear of what?” And I said, “I’m afraid no one will ever love me again, and I will be alone all my life.” And I started to cry. Why was I talking about THAT in front of a relative stranger? I guess I am just desperate. I’ll give life one more year before I hang it up. (I say this every year.) I know no single men who want a relationship with me and too many married ones who do.

I am pushing 40 (God, is that scary.) I will probably never be able a child. Why? God made me pretty, really smart and reasonably talented. Should this not be passed on? (Who cares. I want a baby. That’s all.)

Why is it that those of us that long for death, and pray nightly for it, live so long? I don’t want to grow old alone.

Let me die, early morning
Oh bitter tears
Don’t believe any more
Don’t believe – no one hurries home
To call me baby – lonely woman
Everybody knows, everybody knows –
But no one knows.

I just can’t listen to Laura Nero [sic] any more. It hurts too much.

LET ME DIE. IN MY SLEEP IF POSSIBLE. THANK YOU. AMEN. (tomorrow would be okay.)

He never listens to me.

10 Dec 92

Dear Richard,

You called me earlier (well, actually, it was still 9th Dec when you called.) How nice of you. You are doubtless one of the nicer people I have ever known. I do object to the term “dour” though. Sad, depressed, unhappy, despairing all work, but dour indicates someone who is incapable of feeling or expressing affection and that is just not me. I played your tape today and it doesn’t suck. Thank you.

I will make a list now.

Attributes of a potential life partner. (These are not necessarily in order)

1. Ability to show affection
2. Good self esteem
3. Intelligent
4. Sense of humor
5. Not fat or impotent
6. Tolerance
7. Must think I’m beautiful (at least sometimes)
8. Must be beautiful to me ( at least sometimes )
9 . Honest re: feelings able to communicate same
10. Belief in God (not necessary for beliefs to coincide with mine exactly)
11. Taller than me (this one’s a cinch)
12. Has own teeth (absolute must)
13. Has hair on head (decided preference but perhaps negotiable if many other qualities present)
14. Must be cuddly
15. Not too squeamish
16. Not less than 10 years or more than 5 years of my age (I will live a long time)
17. Wants kids, but won’t hate me if I can’t produce same
18. No tobacco or drugs (mild ETOH on social level ok )
19. Must love me

Well, God, I think that’s about it. (Don’ t want too much, do I?)

Persons with some of these qualities: (also must be single now)
JM (not a candidate, but does fit on list) G’night.

14 Dec 92 (in my journal)

I slept better last night than I have all week, dreams notwithstanding. You are very comfortable to be with. I woke up hungry this morning. Is that of any significance? Jesus, those cookies look good. The last time I ate lunch at Misal I rode in the back of M.A.’s rental car, and, unbeknownst to M. A., someone had been sick on the floorboard of the car in back. It looked very like dal. I didn’t especially enjoy my lunch that day. KG.

25 Dec 92

1230 a.m. (or 0030)

Just home from work, have to get up at 0500. No family, no Christmas dinner, no church, no nuthin (sp on purpose.) Worst Christmas of my life but I am handling it better than last REALLY yucky Christmas. Still – sad, teary, guilty (after all, could be worse my unit is full examples.) No presents for me till later [illegible] gorgeous creche figure. One doctor asked me today are you always in charge. Smiled & said no, it only seems that way. More later.

31 Dec 92 (in my journal)

This new year will be much better than the one we are finishing up tonight. I am glad to think that, so I refuse to believe that it might not be. I wish I didn’t have to work tomorrow. K

7 Feb 93 (in my journal)

I had really hoped we could get together tonight. I have missed you. This new schedule is great in some ways, but I have become a real wimp for late night frolics. Even not-so-late night frolics. One of the reasons I agreed to work today was in hope of seeing you tonight. I am really glad you are here. K 1055 p.m.

P. S. You look very nice in that tawny gold plaid flannel shirt. And thank you for putting up with my early music. K

22 Sep 93 0200

Well, much later – hah. Hi, Richard – glad you got my card & like same. New house (since last entry) new job, same old angst. Oh, well. Pretty good day got new CABG/AUR & after a few bobbles (why don’ t they warm these guys more?) got him pretty well tuned by 2200. Good. I like it when my critical patients get better. Nice guy, too.

Hope my car is well by tomorrow. I feel like I’m driving a blue colored aluminum beer can – silly rental car with no solidity to it ugh. I am thinking of you, wishing you were here.

New list of potential life partners: (Can’t even think now of who some of these people were obviously they were merely flash-in-the-pan, unmemorable, etc.)

R. Barron
S. Blasengame
S. Nickel (sp?)
R. Rogers (sort of)

OnIy singles I can think of that I’d consider.

Now how about what I have to offer

nice looking
great (at least real good) body
easy to be with
terrific cook
good in a crisis
good listener
accepting of other POV than my own

Gee, I sound like a real find. Notice I ignored all my character deficits.

We’ll get to the deficit side later.

Who do I love:

My family (all 15 or 20 of ’em)
Michael & Thea
Michael & Mary
Mike B, Kim & offspring /oh, yeah! Joe G.

Too late to write, too early to sleep. Will try anyway. Kiss yourself & know it’s from me.

18 oct 93 0200

I am just not a good journal keeper. Life is rather difficult for me now, Richard. Food is difficult, sleep is very difficult, energy low, no hope for future. (this, of course probable cause for above problems – the no hope thing.) If I live to be forty and am still alone, I think I will interfere with my destiny. That’ s a nice way to put it, isn’ t it? [Editor’s note: she was 43 when she wrote this.]

“Let me die, early mornin’ – oh, bitter tears.”

9 Nov 93

OK! All you supercilious, condescending, holier-than-thou, se€lf-helpers, you speakers of platitudes (“Get a life, get a grip, don’t let yourself be affected by externals, let go and let God, find a direction,” etc etc etc.) You have no idea of my life. You know NOT ONE IOTA of the pain I live with daily. You are NOT forced to live my life. So LAY OFF. If God wants me to be alone and miserable the rest of my life, so be it. Duration is one variable I can control, if I choose.

Short Story: Bolt


by Richard R. Barron

I sat on a folding chair on my balcony, waiting. The black sky all around me was momentarily quiet. A few seconds before, a flash of lightning hit the ground to the south, tripping the breaker on my air conditioner, silencing it as well.

I relaxed in the momentary lull. My camera pointed to the sky southeast of town, where there had been a heavy concentration of thunderstorms. I looked at it, then decided it was time to reset the shutter. I reached up to the cable release and closed the shutter, then wound the film and opened the shutter again.

Trying to photograph lightning is a waiting game. It requires patience and voluminous amounts of film. The camera and I stared at the sky. Occasionally we would see a dim flash that would brighten the clouds for a moment. Then as I watched, there was a blinding crack in the heavens right in front of the lens. Quickly, I closed the shutter, and knew I had the picture I wanted.

A few seconds later came the report of the miracle of heat and light, high pitched at first, then rumbling lower and deeper. I paused for a breath of the rainy air and to admire the depth of this sound. It was then that seeming all around there was a flood of blinding white light, and at the same time a punishing explosion of thunder, deeper and broader and harder than any before. The sound rattled the balcony, the chair, my heart, my world.

Though startled, I immediately closed my eyes and felt the energy pound through me like the rewards or punishments from God. I listened to the echoes strike the city’s buildings around me.

I listened to the voice of the storm speak directly to me. It said, “You are alive.”

Short Story: Sangre de Christo

Sangre de Christo

by Richard R. Barron


As usual, her hands smelled like gasoline. It was unavoidable. To her, though, it was a good smell. It meant that soon she’d be flying again.

Standing before her bright white and blue Cessna Skyhawk 172, she pulled on the center of the propeller and the airplane rolled slowly into the October sun. The sky was deep blue. She looked up into the morning sun, thinking how perfect the day was for flying.

The preflight walkaround complete, she got in, and adjusted her seat. She looked at the silent interior of her beloved airplane for a moment. She’d spent so many hours having so much fun in this airplane, just her and the machine and the sky.

The sky was her favorite place.

Now, though, she paused. She was going on a trip she didn’t want to take.

She thought again about the preflight. Did she check everything? It was going to be a long ride, nearly five hours, and she wanted everything to be perfect. Yes, she thought, I’m ready. She smelled the avgas on her hand again. Checking the fuel for contamination always got it on her hands. The smell was comforting.

“Clear!” she yelled, knowing no one was around, but keeping the practice anyway. She turned the key and the prop turned, groaned, caught, stalled, and finally the engine roared to life. A quick look at the engine gauges, and she started to taxi the eager airplane toward the runway.

Roses. She thought, suddenly, about the roses she sent him only a week before. Sadly. A lot had gone wrong all at once, and now those roses seemed wrong somehow.

Flying, she reminded herself. Think about flying the airplane. Usually when she flew, flying was all she took into the sky with her. But he was intruding, and she felt angry. She pushed a little more right rudder to center the plane on the taxiway, and thought about the letter…mmm…she gritted her teeth. That damned letter. And he had some nerve calling her answering machine and reading it to her while he knew she was away.

At the end of the taxiway, she swung the plane hard around into the wind and stopped. She was so mad at him. Madder, she though, than she’d ever been at anyone.

Throttle to 1700 RPM, gauges good, carb heat OK, mags check, flight controls check. Time to fly. She pushed the button on the control yoke and spoke into the black microphone suspended from her headset. “Hays traffic, Skyhawk 1270 Lima is departing one-seven, Hays.”

She taxied onto the runway, and felt the sensation of flight start to come over her. She pushed the throttle to the firewall, and in a great burst of rushing air, Cessna N1270L was about to fly. 50 knots, 60 knots. She pulled back on the yoke and the ground drifted away beneath her. She was flying again.

She smiled, felt relieved, free, relaxed. She was in her sky again, where she belonged. And Eric never came with her.

But as the ground fell away, 2000 feet, 3000 feet, 4000 feet below, thoughts of Eric began to intrude on the serenity of the cloudless sky. Angry thoughts, alone thoughts, sad thoughts.

Four months earlier, Kristi and Eric met, her persistent smile and a bottle of Perrier charming her way in the door. Before long that night flew by, and she drove home thinking of nothing but him. She thought of his dark hair that tumbled down his shoulders.

The night before that, Kristi and Eric had gathered at the house of a friend, Hank. Along with Hank’s wife Sara, the four of them formed a kind of club. Every other Friday, they met to trade short stories, poems, and artistic ramblings.

Kristi looked behind her over the empennage. Twenty miles back and a mile below she saw her home, Hays, Kansas. In that little town she fell in love with him, easily, deeply, fearlessly. In the short time they were together, the intimacy they found was intoxicating.

The little town now twenty-five miles away, she thought about how far away he was.

Spring Glen, Utah lay 546 nautical miles in the distance. Somehow it seemed further. He’d been there for three weeks, isolated from the rest of the world, isolated from her. Just outside the dusty mining town was the Castle Gate Treatment Center.

Eric was an alcoholic.

One Friday night, Hank and Sara, each through a six pack of imported beer, started arguing about Hank’s story. Sara thought the plot, about a man committing a series of gruesome murders, was absurd. As they shouted across the table at each other, Kristi and Eric looked at each other and smiled.

During a momentary lull in the argument, Kristi held up Eric’s latest literary attempt and caught his eye in an uncomfortably intimate moment for him.

“You. You’re the one who has something to say in this group.”

The story in her hand was about a small boy being beaten by his alcoholic father.

Alcoholic. She thought about the word for a moment as she scanned the sky. She tossed it around in her head. The word was completely alien to her. No one in her family, none of her friends were alcoholics. Kristi never even drank.

Something was wrong, somehow, suddenly with the idea that she was so in love with someone with so much of a problem.

She tensed for a long moment, then let out a long breath. It was time to conduct more of the business of flying. She reached up to her comm 1 radio, dialed in 122.3. Squeezing the microphone button, she spoke calmly, professionally, “Wichita Radio, Skyhawk 1270 Lima on 122.3.”

“November 1270-Lima, Wichita Radio.”

“Good morning, sir,” she cheerfully said. His voice was just a bit familiar. Maybe she had talked to him before. “1270 Lima would like to open my VFR flight plan at this time.”

“Roger 70-Lima, flight plan activated at 1330 Zulu.”

She smiled. Her talents were many, not the least of which was her radio voice. It was strong and commanding, yet still human and engaging. It was too bad for the man in the darkened room at the Wichita Flight Service Station that he could only hear her voice. Kristi was a strikingly, powerfully beautiful woman.

Her smooth, tanned face and soft sandy hair bracketed her giant, shining blue eyes. Tall and slender, she carried herself with grace and confidence. And her perfect smile was always the brightest light in any room.

At 8500 feet, she leveled off, but didn’t have much reason to smile. She thought of his face, his eyes. She missed him. And at the same time she didn’t really want to see him. For a long moment she pictured herself slowly turning the airplane around, landing on the broad 6300-foot runway at the Hays airport, parking the plane, driving horne. It was Sunday, and there was still time to have lunch with her mom.

Instead, she reached up to the Nav 2 radio and twisted the black knob to 112.2. She turned the volume up and listened. Through static she could hear the familiar, “Dot dot dot dot, dash dash dot, dash dash dash.” H-G-O. The Hugo VOR was 175 miles away.

She turned the Omni Bearing Selector to center the VOR needle.

She was on her way.

Five days earlier, she sat in the small, bright office of her counselor, one she saw exclusively to help her deal with Eric, with fists clenched in rage at the message from Eric.

“Instead of calling me, he called my answering machine,” she explained, almost in tears. She unfolded a piece on paper on which she’d written the words he’d read over the phone to the machine, and read.

“I need you to look at your own issues of codependency and control and work on your own pain. This gives me the chance to work on mine. I am not willing to remain in a codependent relationship at all. I know you talk to my friends. I also think you should listen to what they say, too, because I know they have brought up the codependency subject, and you have not accepted its presence in our relationship. One of my boundaries is now that I will not be with anyone who isn’t committed to a serious program of recovery. The longer you concentrate on me and my pain, the less time you have to look at your own. You cannot protect me or care for me enough to keep me out of pain I have denied for 20 years. I am in a place to take care of me, and while I am here, I need the space to do that.”

What a bunch of crap, she thought. She looked up at her counselor. “Paul, I think this is a bunch of crap,” she said angrily. “His ‘friends’ are a bunch of alcoholics just like he is. Why should I listen to them? And why should I be in a recovery program? I’m not an alcoholic at all.”

“But you’re in a relationship with someone who is,” he answered.

Kristi paused for a moment. “For now. We’ll see.”

“One thing you might keep in mind, Kristi. A truly codependent person would have fought tooth and nail to keep him from going to the treatment center in the first place.”

Kristi liked herself. She liked her work, and she liked her life. She liked the way she expressed herself. And she loved to fly.

Once when Kristi was brushing her hair in the bathroom, Eric sneaked up behind her and hugged her. Instantly they were transfixed on the reflections of each other. A moment passed, and he looked away.

“Kristi, when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you like what you see?”

Without a pause, she said, “Yes, I do.”

He frowned silently for a long moment, as though he was surprised by her answer. “Sometimes,” he said shyly, “I feel like I don’t deserve to be loved.”

The sky was deep blue at 9500 feet.

Why should I be in a recovery program indeed, she thought. It’s not for my problems. He wants me to be in the same kind of program as he is because he feels so bad about himself. He needs me to be as sick as he is.

The tiny indicator on the VOR lazily started to rotate from the “TO” indication, first to “OFF”, then to “FROM”, telling her she had passed over the Hugo VOR, and that she was more than a third of the way there. The idea of being closer to him made her heart jump a little, made her tense.

At the start, going to Castle Gate seemed like a good idea to Kristi. Eric would check in to a 30-day treatment program, and she would, at his invitation, join him in the third week of his treatment. The center held a “Family Program” for spouses, family, and friends. Exactly as he promised, a few days after he disappeared into seclusion deep in the mountains, she received the notice of when to be where.

Comm radio to 124.0. “Colorado Springs approach, Skyhawk 1270-Lima. 20 east, 10,500 climbing. VFR Direct Blue Mesa VOR.”

“Roger 70-Lima. Squawk 5204 and ident.”

“5204 and ident. 70-Lima,” she answered.

She turned the knobs on the transponder from 1200, the normal VFR code, to 5204, and pushed the lighted blue ident button. A moment later, the controller, a non-pilot sitting in a dark room 5000 feet below, spoke again. “Skyhawk 70-Lima, radar contact 19 east. Traffic at your two o’clock, four miles. Boeing 727 descending out of niner thousand.”

Kristi looked off her right wing and below, and saw the shimmering wings of the jet. “70-Lima has the traffic,” she answered.

Almost at 11,000 feet, she set the mixture nearly as lean as it would go, attempting to get another 2000 feet out of the already hypoxic airplane. The Skyhawk lumbered in the climb.

Kristi’s father had taught her to fly, and how to fly in the mountains. At 12,500 feet, the airplane could climb no more, so she leveled off again, and looked at the majesty that lay before her. Below her, Colorado Springs. Ahead and to the right, Pike’s Peak. Beyond that, more huge, imposing towers of rock and snow and pines.

In the week since receiving his letter, she felt so angry and betrayed. It seemed almost like there was no reason even to be with him.

There was always doubt. That uncertainty had grown when, early in their relationship, Eric revealed that he was an alcoholic.

“Part of the reason I’m going to Castle Gate is so I can be in this relationship with you,” he told her once.

“I want to fall in love with you,” he explained. She believed he meant it, too. She wouldn’t marry a man with that kind of problem, though. They both hoped the treatment center would help him, and they could be together.

“70-Lima,” came the controller’s voice, “radar service terminated one zero west of Colorado Springs. Squawk VFR. Good day.”

“Good day,” she responded, and set the transponder back to 1200.

Alone again. The mountains now firmly below and around her, she began the complicated task of real mountain flying. Although flight service hadn’t issued any flight precautions, she respected mountain flying.

Nav radio to 114.9. Direct Blue Mesa VOR, then direct Grand Junction VOR, then direct Carbon VOR, her destination. Her Skyhawk had extended range fuel tanks, so this long mountain flight was possible without stopping.

Some of the times they had together were magnificent, she thought, relaxing a bit. She remembered some of the good times.

Once, during a quiet moment as they sat together on the couch in his apartment, he took her hand and drew her close, quietly, gently folding his arms around her. They held each other close for a few incredibly peaceful moments, feeling each other’s warmth, and then looked up into each other’s eyes.

“Thank you for letting me hold you,” Kristi said.

“We held each other,” he added, smiling.

She thought of another time when they each dressed to the nines and drove over 70 miles to Salina just to have dinner. When she opened her door to greet him, there he stood, the perfect gentleman in his black tuxedo. And she was radiant in her black taffeta dress. The evening was as a dream for both of them, completely romantic, completely wonderful.

Kristi wondered if they would ever share another night like that again. She looked all around at the spectacular mountains which surrounded her. Far off to her right, The Mount of the Holy Cross and Mount Elbert, parts of the Sawatch Range. Below her, Cottonwood Pass and Tincup Pass. To her left, the La Garita mountains, and beyond that, the Sangre De Christo mountains of her youth. For a long moment she scanned her old haunt 100 miles to the south, dim and soft in the light haze. She imagined herself pointing the Skyhawk south for another hour and landing in Taos, New Mexico. She could visit her best friend again, climb the Rio Grande gorge like they did when she was seventeen.

The Sange de Christo – Blood of Christ – mountains, her home, her favorite place on earth, were only an hour away. Somehow, though, the airplane stayed unwavering at 280°.

My pain dims in comparison to his, she thought. His father beat him up until he was sixteen. By the time he was eighteen, he had a six pack in him by noon every day, and had attempted suicide four times.

Only two days before reading the letter over the phone, Eric had composed a much kinder note. But since he mailed it, Kristi actually recieved it after the message on her machine.

“As far as my pain goes, you are doing what I need you to do. You validate my feelings. You offer me comfort and positive strokes. You share my sorrow. You are willing to walk my journey with me. Last night we had a relationship seminar. You and I are on target with the way we have conducted our relationship.

“We are building something very solid. Kristi, you mean a great deal to me. I need you in my life and I love you.”

Kristi thought of the two letters and felt mystified. How could he go from such an extreme to another in such a short time? Even more mystifying for her was why she loved him in the first place. They were two very different people, and Kristi often didn’t understand, and in some cases didn’t even respect, Eric’s views. He believed in God; she was an athiest. He smoked; she was a vegetarian non-smoker. He loved television; she thought it was puerile. He believed in astrology, which she…well, she thought it was complete crap. Eric also based most of his beliefs on a psychology-as-truth genre, which Kristi was coming to doubt most of all. The more she contemplated the concepts of the “inner child” and the 12-step idea, the more she began to understand that she and Eric were in different worlds.

She thought of this as she crossed the last range of mountains that stood between them. In the hazy valley fifteen miles ahead, she spotted the Carbon County airport. Seeing the town sent a shot of adrenaline through her, making her heart race. She felt dangerously near him, and near his problems.

She took a deep breath. Time to land the airplane, she thought. She pulled the throttle back to 2000 RPM, and the bright white craft started to descend into the valley.

Why indeed had she fallen in love with him? She thought of his face for a moment, narrowed her eyes. There he stood before her, smiling sweetly. It dawned on her in that instant why she loved him. His face. He was a strikingly handsome man. It was the only reason that came to her mind. For the same reason she loved the mountains, for the same reason she loved her photography, for the same reason she loved flying itself, she loved him. They were all things beautiful to her eyes.

Now these beautiful, sharp blue eyes began setting up the landing approach. The checklist was simple in the Skyhawk: turn on the landing light. Five miles out, she pushed the button on the yoke and spoke.

“Carbon County traffic, Skyhawk 1270-Lima is five east, inbound, full stop, runway one eight.”.

When the aircraft had settled to 7000 feet, about 1000 feet above the ground, she applied full power to stop the descent. At a mile and a half, she turned parallel to the main runway and spoke again into the microphone on her headset. “Carbon County traffic, 70-Lima is left downwind for one eight, full stop.”

The airport clearly visible below her left wing, she searched every inch of ground and sky, remembering what her father taught her from her first flying lesson when she was fourteen: “Cover your butt.” The airport, like most she used, was uncontrolled, so there was no control tower, and no radio requirement. Kristi self-announced her intentions for her own protection; there was no guarantee other pilots would.

At the approach end of the runway, she pulled the power back to 1500 RPM, and she and the Skyhawk sank toward the ground.

“Carbon County, 70-Lima is turning left base.” She put down ten degrees of flaps, and the plane slowed to 80 knots.

“Carbon County, 70-Lima is turning half-mile final for one eight, full stop.” Twenty degrees of flap, throttle off, she centered on the runway. A bit of left rudder compensated for a slight right crosswind. Ten feet off the runway, she rounded out her descent, and two feet above, she flared the nose high, and heard the familiar barking sound as the wheels touched the pavement.

She had arrived.


Dark clouds hung low over the tops of the mountains to the east. Patchy fog dipped in and out of the valley, in and around the Carbon County airport. She sat under the left wing of her beautiful airplane in the soft grass next to the tiny red brick terminal building.

She looked at the turbulent sky. To her shining blue eyes, it was a blur. She was crying.

His words rang in her head over and over. “I just don’t think I can love you the way you love me.”

And that damned sky wouldn’t let her leave, wouldn’t let her go home. The Cedar City Flight Service Station was calling for, “Low clouds and fog in mountain areas until 1800 Zulu, VFR not recommended until then.” Kristi looked at her watch. 11:15 a.m., 1715 Zulu. She would have at least 45 more minutes to sit and think about the last four days.

The moment she arrived at the treatment center, her anger with Eric melted away. She was so glad to see him, she actually ran to him, melting into his arms and holding him tight for a long, long time. The rest of the visit the first day went much the same way. They sat in the sun under a tall grove of aspens on the grounds of the center, quietly making eyes at each other and discussing the turmoil of the previous three and a half weeks.

It was obvious to her that he was still in a lot of pain, despite all the treatment he’d been given.

“Kristi,” he said in a whisper barely louder than the wind rushing through the trees, “what do we have?” The wind rose a bit and caught the leaves in the tops of the trees. The aspens gently sang their songs of sweet seclusion as they cast spots of sun and shadow on the quiet couple.

“We have mutual respect. We have physical affection. We’re both intelligent. We love each other. We listen to each other. We have fun together.”

“Do we have intimacy?” he asked, shrinking from her as though the answer would hurt him.

“Yes,” she reassured, “we have intimacy.”

Intimacy. She thought about the word as the first spot of sunlight pierced the rolling grey and shone on the north end of the 7300-foot long runway. Didn’t he understand…love, respect, affection, fun… that was all intimacy?

She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and stood. She stepped over to the pay phone and dialed 1-800-WX-BRIEF to get another weather briefing from Cedar City. One ring, and a professional voice clicked on. “Pre-flight,” he announced.

Immediately, she felt better. Instead of talking to the tormented families of chemical dependants, she was suddenly in contact with someone like herself, someone who knew about flying, someone who, to her, made sense.

“This is Skyhawk 1270-Lima. Cessna Skyhawk, private pilot. Papa Uniform Charlie VFR to Hotel Yankee Sierra. Departing within the hour. I’d like a standard briefing please.”

She smiled suddenly. It felt so good to speak the language of a pilot again, instead of the words of someone whose “significant other” was on the edge of self-destruction.

She thought of the people with whom she spent the last four days. Dianne, who was sexually abused for four years as a young teenager, had come to support the recovery efforts of her husband, who three months earlier drank himself into a coma.

Edward, a chronic chain-smoker, came to see his chronic chain-smoking wife, who also drank to excess. Sondra was visiting her fiance, whose drinking had cost him his job and his driver’s license. Guido, the gangster, attended on behalf of his sister, a problem drinker since she was 14.

None of these people were anything like Kristi, and Kristi never faced their kinds of problems, in her childhood, or in her adult life. As the week progressed and they all attended workshops and group therapy meetings, it became clearer and clearer to her that the “swirling toilet of despair”, as one family member put it, was not for her.

The briefing complete, and filled with good news about the weather, she hung up the phone, and walked back to her airplane. Removing the fuel tester from its holder in the cockpit, she began the pre-flight. Left wing tank first, she drained several ounces of 100-octane low-lead aviation fuel. At the bottom of the tester was nearly two ounces of water, probably formed in the tanks when they got cold at night over the last four days.

She drained again, until the tester came up with nothing but fuel.

Around to the tail section, she checked as she went. Then to the right wing tank, she followed the same proceedure. She carefully inspected every inch of her craft.

It came as no surprise to her when, on Wednesday morning at the “one-on-one” meeting with Eric, he announced that their relationship would be ending.

What surprised her was how much both of them cried. For 45 minutes, gathered in a small upstairs room, Eric explained why he couldn’t love her. The reasons he gave to her seemed to be unconnected, thinly-contrived excuses, she thought, for him simply being too afraid to be with her. He said he needed her to be in “recovery” too, but never told her from what he wanted her to recover.

When the one-on-one meeting was finished and the counselors had left the room, Kristi and Eric held each other and cried and cried.

It had become very clear in the sessions that she attended in the two days before that she was an emotionally healthy person. Every time a counselor would ask for a show of hands, or ask Kristi directly, she could only shrug and feel more and more like she was in the wrong place.

On the last day, Wednesday, the family members sat in the circle that had become a familiar home for their pain, their tears.

One by one, each told the group of their feelings, and what they thought would happen next. Finally, when everyone else had spoken, Joan, the group therapist and alcoholic herself, looked over at Kristi, who had remained silent throughout.

“Kristi, we haven’t heard from you yet.”

She paused, looking at everyone looking at her. In four days she came to know these people as friends, despite their desparation and sorrow. In the circle of couches and chairs in the small white clapboard building in the high mountain air of eastern Utah, they had all opened their hearts to each other as they never had before. They arrived as strangers from Maine and Wisconsin and Georgia and Kansas, and departed as friends who had all cried together in a small mining town far away from everything.

Now, at the end, it was finally Kristi’s turn to cry with them.

“I feel left out. Everyone here is going home to be with their partners. It’ll be hard, but you will be with them…” she looked down and closed her eyes tightly, but was unable to keep the tears from spilling down her cheeks. “…I have to let Eric go.”

After another long silence, Joan spoke. “Kristi, what are you going to do to take care of yourself?”

“I’m going home,” she answered, “to my friends, to my family. I love them. I love my job. I like the way I live. I love my life. I like myself. And I’m going to keep flying.”

“That sounds very healthy,” Joan added.

Far to the south, a thunderhead had been growing for an hour, and it finally opened in a great grey cloudburst. She watched it, but saw that it was moving west, away from her intended route of flight. She thought about the rain so far away, how it was so much like the tears she was crying.

Nothing can grow without rain, she thought.

At ten after twelve, she decided she had waited long enough. It was time to fly. She dried her eyes for the last time and climbed into the silent bird. With checklist in hand, she quickly completed the start-up. A rush from the propeller dragged the Cessna from its grassy parking place onto the taxiway toward the waiting runway. At the end of the runway, she turned into the wind and followed the run-up procedure as she had hundreds of times before.

She looked around at the airport, the valley, the mountains, the town in the distance, the treatment center beyond that. It was all about to be a part of her past, below her, shrinking and far away.

A rush of engine noise and she was on the runway, then full power. 40 knots, 50 knots, 60 knots, and she pulled the nose of the airplane off the tarmac.

As the runway fell below her, she smiled brightly, and tears filled her eyes again. Now, they were tears of joy. The treatment center, the family members, the dusty town, Eric … none of that mattered any more.

She was flying again.

Short Story: Shamrock


by Richard R. Barron

“Life is like a really expensive cut of beef that you’ve just overcooked.”

At 9:30 p.m. Greg was just finishing his shift, and Shelly was about to start hers. He removed his grubby red polyester smock and tossed it in a ball on the floor under the cash register. As it was most nights, it was spattered with grease from the fried chicken bin. Greg hated that smell, and its ugly polyesterness made it that much worse, so he almost never wore his smock home.

“When you use profanity, you are being something rather than saying something.”

Shelly looked at him enviously. Eight hours of uninspired boredom lay ahead for her. She buttoned her own red uniform shirt. Over the pocket it read “Shelly” in script letters, the stitching a reward for six whole months of faithful service to Texaco and Big Bad Bob’s Quick Country Mart.

“Church keeps God and man from ever meeting.”

No one named Bob had ever owned, or had anything to do with, Big Bad Bob’s, but the name seemed to fit, so no one changed it.

“The most real feelings are hate, fear, and nausea.”

It was cold out. Shelley found it refreshing, in the same way one might find narrowly escaping the swing of a wrecking ball refreshing.

“Cold world. Bundle up.”

“We’re outta premium unleaded,” Greg said, leaning on the door on his way out. Removing the tattered red work shirt now revealed a tattered green camouflaged “Nugent Rules” T-shirt. “Truck’ll be here in the morning.”

“Don’t resist change. It’s the only thing you’ll always have.”

With the quiet hissing of the hydraulic arm of the door closing, he was gone.

“Food is the opiate of American simpletonhood.”

Shelly took a deep breath. How she ever ended up in this dumpy convenience store baffled her. And she was stuck on the night shift. Six a.m. seemed an eternity away, and not just tonight, but every night.

“Some things you never get over, and love takes even longer than that.”

She looked around the store. Spread before her was the peeling dirty white countertop, worn from years of service and lack of maintenance. It formed a ring around her seat, with the cash register at one end and the beef jerky rack at the other. It was a barrier, her protection, she imagined, from would-be bad guys. Under the counter near where Greg had tossed his shirt was a .41 Magnum that belonged to the owner. It too, she imagined, was her protection.

“Inspiration never really comes to you. You must come to it.”

Outside her little haven stood the usual convenience store shelves filled with Mars bars, liquid smoke, Vienna sausage, and motor oil, all of which was priced about three times higher than anywhere else in town.

“Happen to life. Don’t let it happen to you.”

Shamrock, Texas, wasn’t that big a town, but it did have a grocery store and a Wal-Mart. Most of Shamrock’s existence centered around its proximity to Interstate 40, just half a block from Big Bad Bob’s, and from Shelly.

“Overpowering fear overpowers overpowering rage.”

With no customers currently in the store, she pulled out her ragged paperback, The Complete Philosophy of Hampton Simple, and continued reading…

“Is the inherent knowing of knowledge the result of the seeking of that knowledge, or the result of the pre-knowing of the known, of knowing to know, or otherwise having known, or to know, or having to known the known knowledge?”

Shelley squirmed a moment in her seat. It seemed that when she read this book, given to her by her half-sister Regina at a Christmas party, the lines got smaller and began dancing around on the page until nothing made sense.

“An army is basically a tool designed to target the flow of adolescent anxieties, passions and unconscious homosexual desires into a killing juggernaut.”

Unknown to Shelley, the book was a gag gift. But when no one laughed, Regina decided to keep the gag to herself. Shelley had drawn the name of her ex-boyfriend Steve. It was the seventh Steve she’d known romantically, and the only one with whom she remained friends. Shelley gave Steve a hand-bound volume of her own poetry written under the pen-name S. S. Minnow. Shelley thought that was really hilarious.

“Giving love to another person is like giving lettuce to a cat.”

Shelley wished, passingly, that Hampton Simple would explain his thoughts just a bit more.

“Blood is thicker than water, but less useful around the house on a day-to-day basis.”

Moments later, the heavy glass front door opened and in strode her least-liked beast-like best friend Lilac. Lilac seemed to be hanging her head a bit. And, Shelley noticed, she wasn’t wearing her favorite tattered sweatshirt. Unknown to Shelley, Lilac had given it to her mother to try to get some of the lint balls out of it.

“Hi, Lie. Where’s your old faithful sweatshirt?”

“I gave it up for lint,” Lilac answered, a sheepish grin of someone trying to be clever growing on her round face.


“Oh, you’re right,” Lilac answered, “I lent it up for lint.”

“No. ‘I gave it up for lent.'”

“Did you really?”

Shelley suddenly remembered why Lilac was her least-liked beast-liked best friend.

“HEY!” came an angry voice from outside, “turn on the damn gas pump!”

In her effort to ignore Lilac, Shelley also ignored the beeping of pump number one. She looked up abruptly, wondering for an instant where she was, what she was doing, what year it was.

It was still 1984. “Sorry!” she said. All the man outside saw was her mouth move and her hands frantically scramble to turn on the pump.

“Lilac, I’m busy. Can we do this later?”

“Do what later, Shel?”

“Um, uh… this. You know.”

“Yeah,” Lilac said and headed for the door, “I know.”

FFFFMMMMOOOOSSSHHH… the door closed. Shelley picked up her book and again tried to read.

“Essentially, all solid matter is nothing more than empty space and magnetic fields. The actual material that makes up our reality isn’t really real in it’s reality.”

Really? she wondered.

The man who had yelled at Shelley opened the door, catching the sleeve of his maroon letter jacket on the metal handle.

“Son of a bitch!”

“It is only in utter, abject ignorance that we can believe we have any grasp of reality.”

Shelley could see that it was Bobby Thomas, a senior football player at Shamrock High School. “Hey, babe, why don’t you get that thing fixed?” Bobby paid for his fuel, and left, vanishing into the quiet night.

“If your life is threatened, you’ll take steps beyond your imagination to preserve it. Your instinct for self-preservation is the ultimate driving force in your being. Forget love. Forget the soul. Forget belief. When it all comes down, all you are is the instinct to survive.”

Bobby Thomas was not just an offensive lineman. He was an extremely offensive lineman. At 314 pounds, he was almost exactly three times heavier than Shelley. In fact, no woman in Shamrock weighed more than 110 pounds.

“When teenagers complain, it’s ‘growing pains.’ When adults complain, it’s complaining.”

Shelley had never seen a picture of Jesus laughing.

“Just getting through alive doesn’t count for much. Almost everybody can do that. There’s got to be more.”

That’s when I came in, I guess. She had dark hair and blue eyes, and sat behind a pile of books. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus by Carl Jaspers. The Koran.

She hid behind them.

“And isn’t it ironic that the only true driving force in your being is the one that will most certainly be taken from you one day?”

And of course there was The Complete Philosophy of Hampton Simple.

“What you are thinking is what you are becoming.”

I on the other hand was in no mood to wax metaphysic. I was five hours out of Albuquerque, where I’d spent four days in Motel 6 trying to console my girlfriend, whose elevator, it turned out, didn’t go all the way to the top. She was so moved by my kindness and compassion that she dumped me on the spot.

“The beauty of egg nog: You take the last drink and set it down, but five minutes later you have more egg nog because it slowly drains from the sides of the glass.”

I was still trying to pick up the pieces of a broken heart. They were so squishy.

“Time goes on, unaware it swallows you like some beast.”

I had spent the last hour and a half or so listening to the National League Championship Series on the radio, but if Shelley had asked me who was winning, or even who was playing, I couldn’t have told her.

“When you kill time, all you end up with is dead time.”

Dairy cow. That would be the life, she thought. You get to sit around and moo, eat grass, and wear a cool polka-dotted jacket. Every morning you get your breasts sucked by a machine. Yea, she thought, I want to be a dairy cow.

Really, though, this isn’t my story. But I’m in it, since there I stood with a bag of chips and some chocolate milk in one hand and my wallet in the other. Shelley peered out from behind Hampton Simple.

“99% of failure is fear.”

She rang up the stuff… I always got the same thing on the road…and sighed. “One eighty one sir.”

I could tell she hated her job. I could tell she thought she deserved better. I could tell she had a heart and a brain and hunger for more in her heart. I could tell not from her voice or her manner or her eyes. I could tell from the way our hands touched when she handed me the nineteen cents.

That was it for me. I pushed the heavy glass door open and stepped into the night. I was gone.

“Everyone gets what he deserves, but no one thinks they deserve it.”

She fancied herself to be the philosopher as well. She pulled one of her own stories from under the cabinet…

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Tissue by S.S. Minnow”]

The smartly-dressed man stood in the center of a large room, surrounded on all sides by beds containing dying people. He’d come to visit one of them, and he was summoning his courage.

He thought for a moment about his own son. Would this happen to him? How could he stop it?

Nervously adjusting his silk necktie, he stepped to the bed where his friend lay dying.

“Sebastian? How are you?”

“Worse.” There was a awkward pause. “Um, worse.”

The smartly-dressed man shifted stiffly and tried to think of something to say. He loved his friend, but now this disease had turned him into a monster. If only he could help Sebastian; if only he could donate something, some blood, an organ, some tissue from his body.

“Listen, I gotta go,” he blurted, “I just came by to say hello, to see how you were.”

“And how am I?”

The smartly dressed man smiled and looked at his friend with tears welling in his eyes. Then he abruptly bolted from the large room. He found his way to an elevator.

As he rode alone, he faced the back of the elevator and pulled a tissue from his overcoat.


It was her favorite story.

Trust: The five-letter four-letter word.

Sometimes she felt like a swimmer. Her life was a pool, shimmering below her, waiting for her. Then she would dive in, and instead of being beautiful and peaceful, it consumed her, surrounded her, devoured her.

“Get your mind on the present. Eventually your heart will follow.”

…she was feeling the way a kid feels about numbers before a math test…


L 0 N E L Y

A L 0 N E

0 N E

“Nobody falls in love on purpose. It just happens to you, like an industrial accident.”

On the drive to work just hours before, she held her hand out the window and thought that the wind felt the same on the hand of the driver in front of her, but everything else was different. She imagined not being blown by the wind, but being the wind itself, moving in swirls above the trees.

“What is loss? Loss is not getting your way.”

She believed she was not the body she saw in the mirror, nor the soul the church said was inside her. She was all the things she said, and all the things she failed to say.

“Let go of boredom. It’s not really necessary in order to accomplish things you might otherwise find boring.”

She wanted to be loved, but knew that being loved wasn’t about who she was, but about who she wanted others to be.

“The basic emotion of the public is fear.”

Pain, she thought, is the perfect pet. You never need to feed it, because no matter how much you give it, it will still be hungry.

“The future is exactly like the past was before it happened.”

She could hear God say, “One, two, three,” and blow into Life’s microphone.

“Blankets are cold. You are the warmth.”

She had truly twisted dreams, or so she believed. Once she dreamed of some men playing football on the edge of the world above an eternal abyss. One of them went out for a long pass and fell off, but they kept playing until two plays later, when the ball fell off.

“Sympathy is not understanding. Perception is not imagination.”

Shelley considered herself to be both an optimist and a pessimist. An optimist says a glass is half full. A pessimist says the glass is half empty. Shelley says it’s both, and yes, thank you, she will have a drink.

“The biggest lie you’ll ever tell yourself is that other people are judging you as harshly as you are judging yourself.”

Shelley and her next-best friend Herman, a 350-pound man with the world’s largest collection of meat loaf recipes, were confident of the notion that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Universe.

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”S.S. Minnow’s Flawed Universe”]

  1. McCarthyism.
  2. Water pistols shaped like AK-47 assault rifles.
  3. Pine-scented insecticide.
  4. The French.
  5. Rubber dogshit (specius canis fecum).


Special emphasis should be placed on the last of these, as when it is seen in a socio-industrial dynamic, the nature of things just sort of falls apart.

Life is a story problem.

Beep beep. Midnight. Two hours had passed. She straightened her neck, stretched a bit. It was going to be another long night.

Short Story: Wild Horses

Wild Horses

by Richard R. Barron

My tears fall in her hair. She says she’s 5’4″ tall, but in my arms, she felt smaller.

We pull away from each other and look at each other through our tears. I smile, and more tears come. This is goodbye.

I thought about those tears as I made the eight-hour drive home that night. As I thought, I listened to Major League Baseball playoffs on the radio. But she was so in my mind that if you had asked me right then who was playing, I couldn’t have told you.

Back to goodbye.

Her beautiful charcoal-black eyes that seemed to see right through me, her perfect heart-shaped face that lit up when she sang the theme from thirtysomething to me, her small hands that held the night… it all started to convince me that she could stay by my side and be my beautiful…

It all stopped right there. This was goodbye, and it would have been harder if I hadn’t flown away.


The stall horn on a Cessna 150 is about the same size and shape as a kid’s kazoo. It’s connected to a stall vane on the leading edge of the wing, so that when the angle of attack becomes critical, air flows through the kazoo and makes noise.

My flight instructor, a country boy named Phil, said, “Now try it again.”

I pull the throttle to idle and hold the nose of the plane above the horizon, and wait. The wind noise over the aircraft gets quieter, and we start to hear the stall horn.

“AaaeeeeaeaeaeaeeAEAEAEAEAEAEEEEEEEEE!” it screams. It’s not my first stall. In fact, I’m getting pretty good at them. With the stall horn continuing to yell at us, the wing wallows in the air, but I keep the wing level with aggressive rudder inputs.

This is fun. This has purpose. This is challenging.

I am growing.


I never forgot the beautiful girl with eyes like a stormy night. As breathtaking as she was to look at, she was worth remembering because she was so interesting. I was never bored. There was always a tempest of complex thought, and pain, in her eyes and in her heart. It was like a morning thunderstorm inside her, like the crashing of the sea on a rocky coast, like the thunderous roar of wild horses in a canyon.

Now, though, she was gone. The night gets late, but I continue to listen to the drone of baseball on AM radio, and hear the sounds of the road. I shake back tears. I try not to think about her tears. I think about my tears landing in her hair as I held her and said goodbye.

From the Writing Club of 1992: Two Short Stories

In 1992, some co-worker friends and I created my second iteration of a writing club, a template I used again and again to try, often without success, to get creative minds together. In 1992, the group consisted of Pam Young (later Hudspeth), Frank Rodriguez, Melissa Price (later Davis) and me.

I still have contact with these people, and feel that I was right to include them in my intimately creative circle, and I still have admiration for them all to this day.

For this occasion, co-worker/reporter Melissa Price and I agreed, mostly at my urging, to write about a shared experience, the time she and I went to Roff, Oklahoma, to investigate the cause of the town’s mysterious garden damage.

Here are the two stories we wrote based on that day.


Several Times

by Richard R. Barron

“This is different,” she blurted. It was the first words either of us had spoken in five minutes.

“Thank you,” I answered, smiling. I wanted her to like it, and therefore like me. But “different” would have to do.

My car bounced hard on the rock-and-gravel road, so I held the steering wheel tightly. Rough travel and I were well acquainted, as I was often sent on assignments in remote locations such as this one.

Melissa and I, as reporter and photographer respectively, were on our way to find a story in Roff, Oklahoma.

Her honey hair danced delicately on her soft shoulders as she stared vacantly forward at the road. The music I so wanted her to like, music I found very beautifuI and evocative, continued to fill my car.

“…how many ways can you say-ee-yay goodbye…?” it sang.

Being with Melissa was rapidly becoming a double-edged sword. Part of me was starting to like her, starting to be charmed by her gentle movement and calm smiles.

Another part of me saw her as a constant reminder of everything that seemed to be missing from my life. She was beautiful and bright and creative. But like everyone else I met, she was from another world. Married since she was 20, she had two adorable
blonde-haired children.

I, on the other hand, had none of that. No wedding ring, no prom photos on the wall, no baby bouncing on my knee. No one waited for me when I got home.

The music continued to play as we rolled up the ranch road that lead to an agri-business headquarters, the second stop in our quest for our story.

“This is called ‘Baby Ray Baby,'” I explained.

“It sounds like a baby,” she answered, frowning slightly. I could tell she didn’t like it.

An hour earlier, she and I sat in the home of two dreadfully poor residents of the tiny town in the middle of nowhere. They were irate, and talked on and on, their serpentine conversation smacking of their small-town manner. They claimed that the local ranch had carelessly sprayed their town with herbicide, killing all the plants, including their formerly prize-winning okra and tomatoes.

"They claimed that the local ranch had carelessly sprayed their town with herbicide, killing all the plants, including their formerly prize-winning okra and tomatoes."
“They claimed that the local ranch had carelessly sprayed their town with herbicide, killing all the plants, including their formerly prize-winning okra and tomatoes.”

I sat quietly on the tattered sofa while Melissa made notes, talked to them, tried to feel their anguish and rage.

I looked around at their modest home. Pale armchairs bracketed peeling end tables, on top of which stood faded snapshots in faded frames, pictures of grandchildren from years and years before.

Directly in front of me in their den was a window that had been covered with a bright red gel filter. Through it I saw the neighborhood; the children playing in the warm spring sun, the men mowing the tall, green grass, the teen-agers driving their hot-rods down the crooked blacktop street.

Everything I saw was red, deep red, like blood.

A red filter meant something to me. As a photographer, I knew how to use gel filters. Red was for more contrast, darker skies, brooding clouds. A red filter produced an extreme effect, and an extreme mood.

Why was it on their window?

The conversation droned. Melissa wrote as they chatted, and I could hear the sound of her pen on the paper. Watching her hand, I noticed she was left-handed, and I smiled, since I was also. Her hands weren’t feminine or pretty, yet something about them was intoxicating.

The house was musty and drearily silent. She and I were the only life in it. As I sat, I got sleepy, and my thoughts began to stumble around here and there, remembering other houses, other places, other moments.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

“Hmm? Oh, sure, I guess.”

We were led out to the back yard to get some proof of the terrible tragedy that was rapidly becoming the talk of all of southeastern Oklahoma.

As Melissa and I walked around the back yard, looking at damaged trees and turnips, I watched her. I thought about her name, a name I’d been saying and writing for years before I ever met her.

Another Melissa…with whom I shared a tender moment one delicate autumn afternoon long before. I took her in my arms and held her close, feeling her warmth, her soft hair brush my face.

Now, suddenly, I thought about how much I’d like to share a similar moment with this Melissa.

“So what do you think, Melissa?”

“I think the rancher was right,” she explained, “I don’t see how the pesticide got into town.”

An hour earlier, she was equally convinced that the rancher was the Devil Himself. Now we were on our way into town again where she would be swayed once more by moist eyed townspeople and their drooping peach trees.

Visiting several more homes and meeting many people, we stayed longer than we intended. The last stop was a large back yard with a host of dead or dying plants. A woman escorted us at first, but almost immediately we were greeted by a much more interesting member of her family. He was hairy and huge, at least 400 pounds, wearing overalls. He was strikingly ugly, from his giant yellow banana-like fingernails, to his giant misshapen earlobes, which resembled leather bags filled with cottage cheese. To accent his charms, he constantly expectorated and muttered about how the doctor couldn’t do anything to relieve the swollen, pus-filled boil on his leg.

He was repulsive. And he was as different from Melissa as anyone could possibly be. I looked back and forth between them. She was so small and soft and pretty, all the things he wasn’t.

Then, as if in some kind of slow motion, she looked at me looking at her. I had no idea what she must have seen in my eyes, but as if I was drawn into her stare, I knew she knew what I was feeling. It wasn’t love or lust, it was a feeling about who she was, and everything she was to me.

As clearly as if I had stopped everything and said it out loud in the awkward silence of the warm May afternoon, she knew how much I was longing. Longing.

We looked at each other for another moment, and then it was time to go. An hour later, the car door slammed as I let her out in the parking lot at the office. She was gone. I looked away, feeling empty.

I started to drive home, and remembered the music still in my car’s stereo. This Mortal Coil. She didn’t like it. I put in the tape, turned it up. A sweet voice filled my car…

“Several times I looked
in your eyes
Several times I saw you
wishing to stop this…’

I drove home thinking of her.


In Between Black and White

by Melissa Davis

The first thing I thought as I climbed into Richard’s red sports car was I wouldn’t like his music. He’d told me, in earlier conversations, that he listened to groups named “The Cocktail Weinees” and “That Mortal Coil.” I knew nothing of those bands and didn’t care to.

I listened to real music, like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Later, I’d find out, he did, too. But that day, we listened to the The Cocktail Weinees, and I didn’t like them. Ironically, that first day alone together, I would judge him on that.

We arrived in Roff, a miniature community just south of Ada, with much ado. You see, we’d called earlier —- or, more accurately, I had —- and they knew we were coming. It’s not often newspaper deadlines, in a city 10 times its size, had been set aside for Roff. But the town’s gardens were dying, and on a slow news day in Ada, this was considered worthy.

I asked Richard: “So which approach shall we take? I, personally, think the rancher is guilty. He sprayed pesticide all over their gardens —— though, possibly, he meant no harm — and, really, he should pay. Let’s nail him.”

Understand this, I’m a misplaced leftover from my dad’s generation. He grew up in the Sixties, and I’ve always envied him that. What must have it been like to puff pot openly, to say, “screw you” to your parents, to simply not care about the consequences? It made yelling for the underdog so much easier — a requirement, almost — and I could, at least, do that now.

I did it with gusto. Richard did not. It made me like him less.

“I am here to take pictures,” he said. “You came to write the facts. Someone else will interpret them — and interpret them fairly — if we do our jobs right.”

The fact was, I didn’t know that. Oh, deep down, I knew that was what we were supposed to do. But I had long ago discarded accepted requirements as mundane and senseless. I was not about to change that attitude now.

I pulled out my spiral notebook just as we slid into the driveway of a gardener I’d spoken with briefly on the telephone. Richard gathered his gear as well.

The home was an older one, as most are in Roff, and until three years ago, owned by somebody else. The current residents were an elderly couple who’d chosen to spend retirement watching their grandson play baseball. That, and plant a garden.

“See the leaves,” the old man said, leading us outside and tenderly fingering the wilted branches of a peach tree. “Used to be healthy. All but dead now. we’re still getting fruit, but I wouldn’t eat it. Unsafe. Richardson, across the way, said he ate some okra from his garden and didn’t get sick.”

He shook his head, before continuing, “That’s for him to decide. I know a bad piece of fruit when I see one.”

Seemingly untouched by the pain in the man’s voice —— his name, by the way, was Art —— Richard methodically snapped photographs. I knew already how I would color my story. I wondered if Richard, with his black and white film, would realize the value of doing the same.

“You ready?” he asked, packing up his camera, answering my question. “I’ve got what I need.”

No, I thought, you don’t. But, instead, I nodded quickly, pumped Art’s hand and promised him a good story. Richard never promised someone a good photograph. He just automatically assumed they would assume he would deliver one. He was, after all, the Oklahoma Press Association’s choice for photographer of the year. He didn’t earn that title through mediocre work.

“Where now?” he asked. He clicked his seatbelt together and demanded that I do the same. He always did that, and I hated it.

Once, I contemplated stealing off in his car, driving with reckless abandon down Mississippi Avenue, blaring the radio on Rock 100 The Katt and doing it all without the safety of a restrictive seatbelt.

"Once, I contemplated stealing off in his car, driving with reckless abandon down Mississippi Avenue."
“Once, I contemplated stealing off in his car, driving with reckless abandon down Mississippi Avenue.”

I figured I could get away with all but the last part. And the rest of it wasn’t worth the risk.

“To the rancher’s house,” I said. “We need to get his side of the story. Then we’ll go back and look at some more gardens.”

Richard didn’t even nod. He just drove, content behind the wheel of his beloved car, the binding strap of material that kept him there. The cocktail weinees droned out another irritating tune from his tape deck.

“You like me, don’t you?” I said simply.

No, I didn’t say that; I thought that. It struck me as I turned to Richard in an attempt to persuade him to change the music. I could tell, suddenly, that he knew I didn’t like this group and was disappointed because of it. I could tell that he cared about what I thought. And for the first time in the year that I’d vaguely known him, that made him human.

Richard was not simply an odd, difficult, self-centered, vegetarian, prize-winning photographer. He was all of that with veins.

Smiling, I gave the Cocktail Weinees another chance. I didn’t like them any better.

Richard looked at me quizically. “Why are you smiling?” he asked.

Why, indeed. I had not, I reminded myself, made this newfound discovery known. I had no explanation for my grin. But I quickly made one up, mumbling something about the senseless lyrics that were intruding on my thoughts.

And my thoughts were this: I savored the idea that Richard liked me. That he liked me, as a matter of fact, in a way he should perhaps not like a woman so visibly married. Craig and I had been together eight years by then, half of them in so-called wedded bliss. I had two small children and waved their names constantly in my conversations with Richard.

I did so again.

“Did you know,” I pondered, tossing Richard my most charming smile, “that Heather could very well be the smartest person in her daycare? She’s only 2, but already, she can say her alphabet, correctly identify all her colors and count to 10. I think that’s amazing.”

I spread my left hand out, staring in admiration at the gold wedding band on my fourth finger. It caught the sun, twinkled, caused Richard to squint. I waited for him to comment, either on my daughter or my ring, both harsh reminders of my unavailability.

“You bite your nails,” he said instead, turning into the long, gravel driveway leading up to the rancher’s house. “You must be a nervous person.”

Was I, indeed, a nervous person? Perhaps a little. But I afforded the comment little thought  and no response, before again reaching out for my notebook, the second time this trip.

The rancher’s story was completely opposite that of the gardener. He complained of undue blame, pointed out his hefty contribution to Roff’s economy and sent us on our way. I disliked him immediately. Richard, on the other hand, treated him exactly as he had the gardener. With distance. Each time I leaned closer to the rancher, scribbling furiously on my pad, Richard seemed to take a step backwards. He used his zoom lens, pointing the camera in our general direction but remaining distant enough to silence its click.

Hours later, I would learn he spent two rolls of film at the rancher’s place alone.

“So what do you think?” I asked, tucking myself obediently, grudgingly behind my seatbelt. “Some smooth talker, huh?”

Richard raised an eyebrow and popped Pink Floyd into the tape deck. The first soft strums of Wish You Were Here filled the car, and that surprised me, pleasantly so. His reply did as well.

“He’s convincing,” Richard agreed, “but I think I believe the gardener -— Art, was it? -— I think I believe him more. He was genuine, real. That last guy’s lost touch.”

Then why, I wanted to ask, did you offer them the same aloof treatment? Did you not feel, as I did, the need to throw a comforting arm about Art’s shoulder? Didn’t you want to share in the sentimental stories about peanut butter sandwiches lathered thick with peach jam? You’re a vegetarian. What about compassionate mention of green beans, tomatoes, corn? You could have at least admitted, “Man, that must be a drag,” for Christ’s sakes!

I said none of this, of course. But it struck me that every “real” thought I’d entertained all day had not been spoken aloud. Did I not share them because I considered Richard an unworthy audience? Or wasn’t it more true, I scolded myself, that I shared them with no one?

I bit down on a fingernail and hummed vacantly to Pink Floyd.

The rest of Roff’s gardens proved very similar to the first. There would be no canned tomatoes, no pickled cucumbers, no frozen okra or tangy peach preserves in this older community that so depended on such leftovers in the winter. Theirs was a summer crop completely lost. And inside, I angrily mourned this devastation.

On the way back to Ada, I plucked a cassette from my purse and asked Richard if we could listen to it. It was a well-used tape, made by myself years before but only rediscovered that very morning. Heather had come racing into the kitchen, proudly clutching the TDK in her small, pudgy hand.

I took it gratefully and, of course, did not scold her for having it in the first place. I seldom did, scold her, that is. I loved her unconditionally and wanted her to feel the same. Only for Logan, my recently born son, could I feel anything as pure.

The Eagles’ Peaceful, Easy Feeling poured into the car, and I was immediately transported back to a long—ago afternoon, well before Logan, Heather, even my marriage to Craig.

It was my nineteenth summer, and I had stolen away for a walk with Craig’s best friend, Jay. Days earlier, I’d learned that Jay was in love with me, from Jay’s own mouth; it proved an awkward outing, with music filling the air where our attempts at nervous conversation failed.

That was the first time and completely innocent. I had not lured Jay into loving me, was, in fact, shocked at his confession and disappointed with how it unraveled our friendship. But in later meetings, I would not forget what he said. How he obviously still felt. And I would play it to my advantage.

I wondered, sitting in Richard’s car and again flashing my ring, if that had started it all. I admitted that it had, but not alone. The reason behind Jay’s honesty and, consequently, betrayal of Craig was Craig himself. Craig had cheated on me, and Jay had told, thinking he could do better.

How many men had there been since then? Three? Four? Fourteen? Any that, to at least some extent, was willing to fall for me? Yes, to some extent.

But there was, of course, nothing tangible between any of us. I would never compromise my unwavering fidelity for them, no matter what their feelings were. Some of them thought like I did; others did not. It mattered little to me.

Ironic, that I would pride myself on being so like my father’s generation but, in many ways, avoid what they stood for. Free love, for example.

“Richard?” I asked, shattering the song’s power. “If you thought the gardeners were right, why didn’t you say so? They probably think you’re on the rancher’s side, the way you were acting. They knew I was with them.”

“You approach things differently,” he said simply. “When it’s all said and done, when the paper goes down, we’ll tell the same story.”

By the time we returned to the newsroom, everyone else was gone. It was a Friday afternoon, and reporters, burdened with overtime hours by early week, clear out quickly for the weekend. Since Richard and I had Sunday’s top story in our bags, we stayed.

I wrote two stories. One of them was a hard news account of what was going on in Roff; quick, to-the-point, fair. The other, I labored with for two hours. It was Art’s tale, told with eloquence in the same slow, pained speech pattern of the gardener himself.

A prize-winner, maybe. I clicked my computer off and went to check on Richard in the darkroom.

Funny, I thought as I walked from the room, I felt I knew Art. He was honest, caring, probably true to his wife. And he’d been destroyed by some rancher — deceptively charming and easy to look at — as though he didn’t matter.

I would never hurt a man like Art. Would I?

I made the mistake of not knocking. Richard had a sign on his darkroom door that said, “Always Knock Before Entering,” in order to prevent fatal interruptions in the film developing process. We’d arrived three hours earlier, so I knew he’d already souped the film. I figured I was safe.

And in that sense, I was. Richard had the light on, making prints. Of me. Prize-winners.

Me, talking to Art, smiling with understanding. Me, again, a pained expression on my face as I turned away from the face, also pained, of an elderly woman. Her arthritic hands clutched a shriveled peach.

There were several of local gardeners and the confident rancher, none of which featured me. These were the ones we would use in the paper, because I, of course, could not be the news.

And then there was one without any of them. Its impact nearly knocked me over.  I remembered, precisely, the moment it was taken, though at the time, I was unaware Richard had snapped it. I had looked toward his car, where he’d stood, restless and finished with his work, waiting for me. I’d been angry, I remembered, at Richard’s apparent lack of compassion toward the gardeners.

Yet, I’d seen him, and I’d smiled. A surface smile, anyway, and Richard, the Oklahoma Press Association’s choice for best photographer of the year, had captured everything beneath that superficial grin.

The exasperation. The impatience. The haughtiness. Me.

“You’re supposed to knock,” he snapped, not looking up from his work.

“Oh…” I stood there, mesmerized, staring at myself, the self I’d glimpsed intermittently, in private moments of reflection, all day. The self I only scarcely acknowledged, and never in public.

Me .

“Uh, I’ve got to go,” I blurted and swung out the door before he could stop me.

I punched down on the accelerator of my Dodge and jerked out of the parking lot. The radio blared out the one Led Zeppelin tune I’d never liked. I turned it down.

In the silence, Richard’s comment from earlier haunted me. “I am here to take pictures … Someone else will interpret them — and interpret them fairly —- if we do our jobs right.”

And then, ironically, my internal response. “I knew already how I would color my story. I wondered if Richard, with his black and white film, would realize the value of doing the same.”

The Zeppelin song, though quiet, still irritated me. I snapped it off. And I thought, fleetingly, of my life since 19. I’d wronged Craig and everybody else, save Heather and Logan. I promised myself to do it no more.

Smiling, I clicked my seatbelt together. With a tentative voice, I tried out a few vaguely remembered lyrics from the cocktail weeniees.

I shut up immediately. God, I hated that song.

Short Story: Acme Road Bridge


As of the initial publication of this story on October 24, 2013, I have been in Ada, Oklahoma, working at The Ada News, for 25 years. In some ways, this short story, Acme Road Bridge, is the story of how I landed here.

This turned into one of the hardest short stories I’ve even written. Equally, it is one of my worst. I don’t recommend reading it, but here it is if you must. 90 revisions. It’s full of lies.

I realized as I wrote this what completely eluded me at the time: I was a bastard of a boyfriend. I talked about other women too much. I talked about “freedom” too much. I talked about kissing her instead of just kissing her. I talked too much.

Alternate title: Ridiculous Counter-accusations.

Alternate title: Being in Love Makes You Look Like a Pussy

Alternate title: Adjectives Like “Soft” and “Gentle” Make You Look Like a Pussy

Alternate title: “All we really have is ourselves.” ~Her

Alternate title: Dreams Make Promises They Can’t Keep

Alternate title: Typical Break-up Crap

Alternate title: Self Indulgent Narcissistic Mental Masturbation

I can’t believe I even typed up this shit.

It’s not an exposé. I’m not divulging her secrets. But it’s the fuckin’ truth. Names and places have been changed, of course.

She wrote in her journal and talked a lot about her emotional walls and her fear of intimacy, which was all bullshit, really. Fear of intimacy? Grow up.

The story starts at the Rainbow Grill. Last year it closed.

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Journal 1987″]Someday we’ll be a thousand miles away, and I’ll miss her so much.[/stextbox]


  • Lovers in the Wind by Roger Hodgson
  • Only Because of You by Roger Hodgson
  • Let’s Go Forward with Our Love by Terrance Trent D’Arby (She sent this to me on cassette the week before we broke up)
  • Not Yet Remembered by Brian Eno
  • Old Land by Cluster and Brian Eno
  • Late October by Brian Eno and Harold Budd
  • Still Return by Brian Eno and Harold Budd
  • From the Same Hill by Brian Eno
  • Julie With by Brian Eno (weird, unsubstantiated jealousy on her part about the lyrics to to this song)
  • By this River by Brian Eno (after break-up)
  • Every Little Kiss by Bruce Hornsby and the Range (after moving away but before breaking up)
  • With or Without You by U2
  • October by U2 (the first U2 song she played for me)
  • A Sort of Homecoming by U2 (quote on her journal cover: “Face to Face in a Dry and Waterless Place”)
  • Two of Us by Supertramp
  • A Soapbox Opera by Supertramp
  • Red Rain by Peter Gabriel
  • Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel
  • In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
  • Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel


Acme Road Bridge

by Richard R. Barron

The Rainbow Grill

Tuesday, June 10, 1986

“Where do you want to eat?” I asked.

She smiled. “How about the Rainbow Grill? Now there’s a greasy spoon with character.”

I agreed, and she drove us there in her rust-colored Pontiac. She liked her car better, she said, because it had a higher “comfort factor” than my Volkswagen Beetle.

Inside, we sat in the far corner, as far as we could get from the smokers, and looked around as we waited for our waitress. Painted a dingy white and garishly lit by banks of bright fluorescent overhead lights, the walls were covered with paintings of unicorns jumping through rainbows.

The waitress brought menus, which contained the usual assortment of midnight coffee-house food: steak and eggs, pancakes and waffles, chicken fried steak and okra, etc.

“Ah,” she smiled, “I know what I’m going to have.”

The waitress asked us for our orders.

“I’Il have the cinnamon French toast, fluffy with cinnamon,” Susan said. She held up the menu to show me it actually did offer cinnamon with cinnamon.

The waitress smiled, “Would you like cinnamon with those?”

I interrupted. “I’ll have an order of saute’d mushrooms, and could you ask the cook to sauté them?”

The waitress laughed, then left us alone, and Susan began to tell me about her latest adventure as a news reporter at the police station. The detectives, apparently trying to test her mettle, had shown her dozens of pictures of people who’d been brutally murdered. And she had looked at them without flinching.

I like her.


The Bridge

Friday, June 20, 1986

She said this about me: “Friendships like this are what life is all about.”

We lay on our backs on the hood of her 1982 Pontiac Phoenix, staring straight up at a billion bright stars. Around us, around the bridge, was the night. The bridge led Acme Road north from this paradise of ours in Ottawa, Kansas, into the country over Interstate 35.

It was past one in the morning, but the traffic on the highway below us continued.

We were talking about school and work and love and our lives. Gradually, almost motionlessly, I reached over to her side of the hood and began running my fingers through her almost-black hair. Little by little, touching her beautiful raven hair more, I invited her into my tactile world.

After ten or fifteen minutes, she took my hand and held it. For another hour we touched in this shy way, wanting more, but remaining desperately cautious, feeling that any more would certainly frighten the other away.

Mostly quiet as we felt each other’s hand, the conversation turned to the stars, the sky.

“I’d like to photograph the night sky like it is tonight,” I said.

“Okay, but you can’t have your hand back,” she said.

Her words were the first verbal acknowledgment that we had even been touching. I looked at her shyly, and we smiled at each other with great relief.

Another hour came and went, and neither of us seemed the least bit tired of each other’s company. The bright, nearly full moon had risen from yellow haze, and now was poised directly above us.

“Come here,” I said.

She stood awkwardly next to me on the dirt-and-gravel road, and I put my arms slowly around her waist, then around all of her. She did the same, and as we held each other tightly in the still night, I thought how bright and beautiful the moon was above us.

We released each other and smiled.

“That was nice,” she whispered.

“Yes, it was,” I answered.

I got back up on the hood of her car, lying on my stomach, facing away from her. A moment passed in silence, then another.

“What are you thinking now?” Susan asked.

“Nothing I want to talk about, ” I told her.

There was another long silence as I felt a dark sadness work its way through my thoughts.

“Okay. I was thinking that someday we’II have to say goodbye, you and me.”

She is starting to mean a lot to me.

Sunday, June 29, 1986

Susan just calls her journals “books.” All together she has five volumes. I’ve got three of them here on my desk. She has the current one at home, and her first one needs to be rescued from her ex-boyfriend, Larry.

It’s been difficult to find time to read them, since Susan and I have been spending all our free time together at the Bridge or talking or listening to music.

I like reading her journals because we care a lot about the same things. Sometimes I stumble across things about Larry that seem incredibly familiar, like those romantic things I wrote all those years ago about Melissa.

I wish there were more of her “books” to read. But if we’re friends the way we’d both like to be, there will be more.

Tuesday, July 1, 1986

Today I turned 23 years old, and to make the day the way I wanted it, I laid on the hood of a copper Pontiac Phoenix under the shining clear stars and watched the night grow old in the eyes of Susan.

I hope she can understand me. A lot of the time when I try to tell someone how I feel, words get in the way. I’ve always wanted to say how f feel, but there’s seldom been anyone to listen.

Okay, here’s how I feel. Susan and I have something very something I really like and really want to keep. I’m sad scared that it’ s going to end.

She has sweet green eyes. She claims they’re hazel, but look green to me. They smile.


The Journal Rescue

Friday, July 4, 1986

“Hi. I’m Richard. Is Larry here? Susan asked me to come by and pick up a … ah … a spiral notebook that had some journal entries in it.”

“He’s not quite ready,” explained the smiling woman, who motioned to her living room. “Come in and sit down.”

I carefully but purposefully sat on the expensive suburban furnishings. Looking around the room my eye settled on a family portrait, and I instantly picked him out of the crowd.

“Larry looks like Sting,” Susan had told me.

“You must be Susan’s friend,” a voice said from the top of the stairs.

“You’re Larry? Susan asked me to come by and pick up a spiral with some journal entries in it.”

He looked at the floor, at his girlfriend, and at his hands, but would not look at me.

“Well, I’m kind of in the process of moving right now. Could you come back in an hour or so?”

I glanced around again briefly and found nothing that indicated moving; no boxes or out-of-place furnishings of any kind.

“Okay,” I said, and left.

I went by the house of my friend Chris to confirm our plans for fireworks at dark. An hour passed and I returned to Larry’s home, which was not at all far from where I grew up.

The smiling woman sat me in the same spot, and I waited again. Larry appeared without words and stood right in front of me. He smiled.

“Well,” he said, then took a deep breath. “Here it is. Thank you.”

He handed me a thin blue college-ruled notebook. His hand was shaking.

“She’ll be glad to get it back,” I added.

“Thank you,” he said again.

I spent the evening with Chris and his family as planned, then hit the road. About halfway home from Emporia, at the wide spot in the Interstate 35, I stopped for a soda and to read this mysterious notebook of hers that was so difficult for him to release.

The cover was adorned with her handwriting, obviously some important platitudes:

“Life sucks and blows.”
“Utility-tempered vengeance.”
“Alleged-reality alert. ”

The title, at the top of the book, said, “Cool Left-wing Juggling Nihilists for Social Revolution. ”

I read the contents for a while and discovered the real reason Larry wanted to hang on to this prize: their love was immense in these pages filled with her handwriting. And the pain of their separation was obvious from the last entry, which ended with, “Larry, I never thought it could hurt this much.”


The First “I Love You”

Sunday, July 6, 1986

After we’d been together for a while tonight, driving to Kansas City to find something to eat, I finally told her I loved her. Twenty minutes after that, on a dark stretch of the interstate, she spoke. “Richard. I love you too.”

Friday, July 11, 1986

My life rises from the heat like a mirage.

Last night we lay in the night silence under the stars. It feels so good to be near her, I thought. I want to stay with her for a while.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“I love you.”

I worry sometimes that saying that too much can get old in a hurry, and become hollow.

“Give me your hand,” she said. A long silence passed as we held hands.

“How about midnight?” she asked on the phone eighteen hours later.


I’m very glad she’s coming over. The knock on the door will feel good. I was so lonely for so long, and now I’m just not any more. I’m just blown away that she loves me.

“I don’t know,” she wrote in her journal the other day, “it all happened so fast, and now, there he is. I love him so much.”

Sunday, July 20, 1986

“Have a good night,” Susan told me.

“I already did,” I said.

“I feel so close to you,” I said.

“I know. It’s a strange feeling.”

Reading her journal tonight I was able to establish that she is afraid, but unable to pin down exactly why.

Tuesday, July 22, 1986

We sat together at my apartment for just a little while after work. We held hands, and when I looked into her eyes I was filled with the feeling: I need her.

It was a little more than a little scary, but there it was. We’ve passed the point of no return.

Thursday, July 24, 1986

“What?” she asked.

“I can’t remember ever feeling this much love.”

Leaving her is a moment that’s difficult to describe. After goodbye, walking away in abject silence, knowing that the best feeling I’ll ever have has just become the memory of the best feeling I’ll ever have. . .


Driving in the Country

Wednesday, July 30, 1986

We’ve only known each other for only a couple of months, but we’ve quickly found that there isn’t much to do after midnight in Ottawa. So we went for a drive in the country. Her sister was out of town, and we had the use of her white Jaguar.

For the first part of the drive we listened to Pink Floyd’s Meddle as we talked and watched the road. With the sunroof open and the cool night air of July wrapping around us, filling the car with the fresh scent of Kansas farmland, we felt relaxed, at ease. When the moment lulled her into sleepiness, we decided to try the new Peter Gabriel album, So. The tape was cued up to track 6, Mercy Street, a hypnotic song. Our mood shifted. We were quiet for a long time. Turning south on State Highway 31, we rolled smoothly into the country. The rolling hills of this impoverished county took on a new beauty in the moonlight.

A few more miles and minutes passed, the moonlit grassland sweeping past us in the ghostly white sports car. Soon we both noticed a cluster of bright lights ahead of us to the right.

An hour later were were home. Susan and I stayed outside, not wanting to wake her sister, who sleeps normal hours. We stood around at the side of the house. The house is a huge two-story place with several fireplaces. As we talked and sat on a swing set in the side yard, a thunderstorm approached from the west. It was a summer storm, full of lightning and a cool rush of wind. But the rain edged just north of us, barely sprinkling the trees that swayed in the breeze above us.

“I don’t know how to tell you how much I love You,” she said.

As I drove home, it rained in earnest. I was very happy to come home and sit inside, thinking of her as the rain splashed outside my window.

Friday, August 8, 1986

I wonder if she’s awake right now, if she’s thinking a little about me. I miss her, wish she were here. I like the way I can slide my arm around her, and she does the same and smiles. These days it’s difficult to let go to say good night. Her smell lingers in my head; the warmth of being in her arms fades, a memory. I don’t want to lose it.


Be with Me

Thursday, August 28, 1986

Susan and I laugh a lot together. We hold and touch each other a lot too. At the Bridge we are very intimate. I feel magnificently close to her, and it is accented by our physical closeness under the stars at I-35 and Acme Road. I like laughing with her. It seems at times like these that I can’t remember feeling this much before. Time at the Bridge with Susan is like a dream coming true.

The Bridge was suffocated in fog tonight, a drenching, blinding soup that made the entire scene a semi-dream, semi-nightmare from the darkest heart in an asylum.

“Someone with a real heart is holding me,” I told her.

“Will you be with me when I leave?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered, “every time you leave.”

We were sad for a while after that, thinking about the day when we aren’t together any longer.

“That isn’t today,” I said.

True love.

“Ask me what I’m thinking,” she said last night.

“What are you thinking?”

“I love you,” she answered, “boy, do I love you.”

Saturday, September 6, 1986

There was something especially real about the half-conscious state she and I shared tonight. It was a long, long moment, silent and steady, with only the wind for conversation.

Earlier tonight she had reported on a murder case, and she had murder suspects on her mind, which led her to be afraid of being blown away herself. I held her close, but it only helped a little. She’s quite attached to her fears, and she went home still a little afraid of the night.


From Inside

Wednesday, September 24, 1986

Try to see things from all angles, or better yet, from no angle at all, but from inside.

3:30 a. m. Susan just called, her voice filled with the giddy rapture of a person who had just helped deliver her best friend’s new baby daughter. She sounded so happy on the phone. How will this birth feel inside her? I hope it leaves laughter in her eyes.

4:30 a. m. Susan finally arrived, and is sitting in my big brown chair, rocking gently. I wonder what circles of thought are spinning in her head. The crease of a frown fell across her brow just now, behind her glasses, as though she might be worried or anxious or angry. She stopped rocking, too. Maybe she’s remembering being in the delivery room.

I want to ask her what’s on her mind, but she looks as if she is enjoying contact with her thoughts.

“I love you,” I said.

I never thought I’d say that again, but you always never think you’ll say that again.


Five Hundred More Times

Saturday, October 4, 1986

Together under an open window we held each other, so close we could hear each other’s hearts beating. It was a time almost magic in its subtlety.

“Can we do this about five hundred more times?” she asked.


–  Not a Kiss

Monday, October 6, 1986

“I want to kiss you,” I told her. It seemed obvious enough that nature would eventually take its course, since we hold each other close, hold hands, lie on the couch together, etc. All I said was that I wanted to kiss her. End of the world, right?

To witness her reaction one might have thought so. She sat bolt upright on the couch, and without saying a word started to leave. What did I do?

She ended up leaving without saying much more.

Wednesday, October 8, 1986

Okay, it’s irrational fear time. I’m feeling very anxious that she won’t call me tonight. I realize it’s only 12:20 and she always calls after 12:30, but I ‘m feeling it nevertheless. Call me, Susan, call me.

It’s 4:30 now and she just left. We talked about things all evening, and seemed to get some of them ironed out.

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Note from Susan”]

“I got hurt Monday night because all this time that I’ve been close to you I’ve been working with the assumption that there was no romantic type of situation going on.

“Sometimes it hurts a lot that no one has ever had those feelings about me. And then, sometimes it doesn’t. Those times when it does hurt, the feeling of being last-chosen, never-chosen … those feelings are on top of everything else. This feeling is probably the most acutely painful feeling I have regularly, and one I rarely discuss.

“What I spent the whole day trying, and failing, to understand is why it hurt so much when what happened Monday happened. I’m referring to your puzzling statement about wanting to kiss me. From my somewhat stunned point of view, I didn’t know exactly what you meant. I got scared, confused, baffled, confused, and confused. I think I suffered a minor stroke.

“The problem stemmed from your … well, the lapse of time between the original statement and my eventual grasp of your meaning is what got me. If you’d started out saying … I’m getting confusing. Sorry.

“My problem is just that, my problem. My past is not your fault; you did nothing wrong. The events just added fuel to my present case of “never-chos€en,” see? I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to figure out why mental and emotional affection … why does absence of physical desire jab me so badly? I don’t know! And I’m afraid that this will sound like I feel spurned by you. The deal is that I didn’t expect it from you, and for a second, I thought I was suddenly, and with no warning, getting it from you, and I guess it freaked me out.

“The facts: I love you; I don’t pine for you; I’m trying to figure myself out. ”


Regrettably, this note doesn’t really clear up anything.

Saturday, October 11 , 1986

I somehow ended up feeling closer to Susan tonight than ever before, maybe closer than I’ve ever felt to anyone. I kissed her, once or twice, for the first time tonight. Thinking back to it, I wish she were still here so I could kiss her again.

I’m happy. I hope it lasts.

Monday, October 13, 1986

She said that she was better now, that she just freaked out for no reason, that I just got in the way. But everything she wrote about me in her journal is so bitter and ugly and true. When she wrote all that, she really hated me. She wrote that I was “blind” to her feelings, and that things about me sicken her. She wrote that she wasn’t even sure she loved me.

Through the whole thing, I kept saying that I loved her, that I’d stand by her. I didn’t realize she was thinking she was alone, that I had betrayed her, until I read her journal yesterday. I think there’s pain in her I just can’t know. Of course, the same is undoubtedly true of myself.

It feels good to be calmed now, thought, not hurting, back into the rhythm of our love.


Running to Stand Still

Tuesday, October 21, 1986

I stand still and time passes through me.

It’s been raining since before sunset, a steady stream of medium wet, making the day seem sad. But I was very happy with Susan as she looked at me through her odd lopsided prescription glasses.

“What?” I asked.

“I was thinking I don’t know how to tell you how much I love you,” she answered.

Later, saying good night, I saw our shadows together on the breezeway wall, and I just couldn’t believe it.


“Never Leave My Life”

Monday, October 27, 1986

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Note from Susan”]

“Hey, Richard. Thank you.

“Thank you for being corny, and making me feel special, and for being silly and making me laugh, and for being born and ending up in Ottawa in 1986, and thank you for being human, and thank you for holding me and wanting me to hang around. You are kind, gentle, sweet, smart, funny, obnoxious of course, you have a cute face, you’re too ticklish, you have a warm heart and a great laugh, and I love you very, very, very much.

“You know, sitting here writing this while you make one of your tapes over there, I try to imagine what’ll happen in my life when you leave it. I think I’ll have a great emptiness to fill. But I know the things I write down will bring back this incredible love I feel for you; and then again, I won’t need the writings. I’ll never forget you.

“I hope you never leave my life, now that you’re here.

“Love, Susan.”


Thursday, November 13, 1986

Life flows in circles and circles flow in spheres. Here I am, time and time again where I began, moving on and on. This moment passes around me,€ passes through me.

Susan is sick. I wish we were together. A few minutes ago I picked up her five journals, thinking of her and how much I love her. I feel lost without her.


The Christmas Tree

Wednesday, November 26, 1986

I bought an artificial tree and about a ton of lights and ornaments, and set it up. I’ve always had a knack for holiday decorating.

When Susan arrived just before midnight, it was ready. I beamed proudly as she looked at it and smiled.

“It’s beautiful,” she told me.

On the stereo we listened to Brian Eno’s The Pearl, a mystical miasma of music all around us. We wrapped up in a blanket on the couch and watched the tree shine all night long. Half-asleep and warm, we held each other as close as any two could, the graceful arc of her raven hair wrapping around her face and tumbling down to my own.

Sunday, December 7, 1986

Tonight Susan was a little distant, and for this she gave no measure of explanation. Despite this I held her close, standing in the parking lot, facing the cold north wind, bitter with the trace of icy rain, thinking how lucky I was to have her. I wonder if she is thinking about me now.

Looking over at my Christmas tree, I am astounded at how good it looks. Best damned tree on the lot.

Sunday, December 14, 1986

I like the way the word “hate” has the sign of the cross in it.

I went down to the Pottawatomie river this afternoon, in the slight mist of grey not-autumn, not-winter weather. I found a spot near a dried-out log jam and built a large bonfire, which I kept going for several hours. The day around me was quite ethereal.

Susan sent roses, which arrived yesterday. “Plant these beautiful things in your heart, Richard, and take care of them. And name them after yourself.”

It was a good, easy day, with no demands.

Wednesday, December 17, 1986

Maybe it was Susan who liked the sound of this date. She likes the word “seventeen.” She’s not here tonight, but she’ll be back, or I’ll be there, tomorrow. Time away from her always reminds me of how much I like time with her.

Thursday, December 25, 1986

Susan called. She sounded like a hundred bucks over the phone. She got a giant inflatable Gumby for Christmas. It’s really too bad she couldn’ t get enough time off that she could come skiing with us. She could ski down the hill with Gumby on her back.


Year in Review

Wednesday, December 31, 1986

I’d like to write the basic “Year in Review, ” but since I was there and wrote the whole thing down, it seems kind of pointless. Another January is here for our enjoyment. I always feel fresh in January. I don’t have any regrets for 1986. Many of my years I would have changed if could, but in 1986 I did pretty well. Susan was the best thing to happen to me in 1986 . Sometimes I think she was the best thing to happen to me ever.

Monday, January 12, 1987

Respect, attention, affection, patience: the four basic food groups of love. Love is complex and disorganized. It reminds me of sign-in tables at large meetings.

Wednesday, January 14, 1987

I left Susan this evening with the odd, terrible feeling that I was disappointing her. She said I seemed “far away,” but I didn’t feel distant. Her face seemed to want to tell me something. I’ve gotten the same feeling all week. Every night she’s told me I’ve been distant.

Sunday, January 18, 1987

An ice storm swallowed the city today, so instead of driving, I walked to return the movies we had rented. I walked through the frozen grass and over the frozen road. I looked at the frozen trees and bushes, under a sky of fading ancient grey.

In the darkness of a blackout after we ate, Susan and I lay in her bed and talked about the deaths of two children who were close to her. She said it made her want to cry, which she may be doing right now.


– The Man from Minnesota –

Wednesday, January 21, 1987

The couch pillow is still warm from where our heads were. Something about that is very romantic.

Today I met a man whose son killed himself when he was sixteen.

Later Susan and I went to a fatality accident, one of my least-liked duties as a news photographer. A 58-year-old man from Minnesota, traveling with his wife, walked across the interstate to help a stranded motorist and was struck by a highway-speed car. His leg was severed. I wonder what the last thing they said might have been. I wonder what his last thought was.

Thursday, February 12, 1987

I just took a walk to my mailbox. The night air is warm and the sky is clear. There is a ring around the moon tonight. Maybe it will rain tomorrow, but it’s so nice tonight. Maybe if it stays this way Susan and I can visit the Bridge. It’s been a long time, huh Bridge? When summer comes, we’ll be there.


Dream Programming

Thursday, February 19, 1987

I told susan to meet me tonight in a field of wildflowers, in the middle of an empty plain, with a distant thunderstorm blotting the setting sun into glowing streaks.

The last thing I told her was, “I’ll be waiting.” I hope she remembers to be there and remember the dream.

With her sweet voice an inch away from my ear, “I love you, too,” I was so glad she was there with me.

Wednesday, March 4, 1987

“When you’re dead, you’re dead,” I told her.

“That’s where we disagree,” she explained.

Tonight I was thinking that Susan was less secure than I am regarding her and me. She writes a lot about how temporary we are. I, on the other hand, take a largely more, “It happens when it happens, ” attitude. I don’t know. Maybe she’s playing it smarter. I didn’t see her today, but I thought about her.

Wednesday, March 11, 1987

Susan went home earlier than her usual early tonight, sleepy and a little more than a tittle distracted. As we held each other under the street light, our warm bodies wrapped in my tiger blanket, patrol person Jennifer rolled by in her copmobiIe presumably eyeing our affection. Then I turned my attention back to Susan, and all the rapture I felt as I held her beneath my bengal blanket.


Utterly Misunderstood

Monday, March 16, 1987

I feel utterly misunderstood tonight , tragically unable to communicate , a helpless verbal prisoner in my mind.

“Sometimes I just don’t know what you want, Richard,” she said. Everyone always says that to me and it always means something different. I have no idea how to answer its implied question.

Thursday, March 19, 1987

“I hope we never fade,” Susan said to me after a moment of protracted, awkward silence. Yeah, I too hope we never fade. She and I are sure to wax and wane, as every pair of close people do. But with a little patience, and a little strength (most of the time those two are the same anyway) the lines of our lives won’t drift past the point of no return.

She and I only spent a few minutes together tonight. I know she’s been feeliirq troubled lately, but we didn’t have much time to talk. I told her I was proud she was losing weight, which is obviously important to her, and I told her I thought she was strong and beautiful, and that I loved her very much.

“It’s almost as if you read my journal already,” she told me. I hope she understands that I feel these things because they are obvious and true, and more than just compliments.

Tuesday, March 22, 1987

When I was very young, I sang from the back seat of the car as we drove from FIat River back to Saint Louis. I watched as we passed the rock that had been cut to make room for the highway, and the day, always cloudy, set into night. I sang tunes and made up words as I went along. They were always about love and peace . When you’re a kid, they teach you that love and peace run the world. Mom and Dad were always silent. I always felt alone in the back seat, but now I realize that they were probably listening, enjoying me and my song.


Somewhere Else –

Thursday, April 9, 1987

She cried last night. Where was I? I wish l could take the sting of it all away. But I can’t always be there. Heck, I can’t always be here.

I ordered some flowers to be sent to her for her birthday tomorrow. Roses. The card says, “Wed woses. How romantic.”

Tonight she seemed amazingly unhappy about turning 24 – I didn’t know what to say, nor was I sure anything needed to be said, so I just let her plow through whatever was in her. I hope she ends up feeling good about it. She’s a good person. Rare. Maybe one-of-a-kind.

She and I are counting the hours until we fly off on vacation, in the words of her journal, “SOMEWHERE ELSE!”

Our journals are … I love them. No closer embrace, no kiss as sweet as the intricate, euphoric, complex rapture of words on paper.

Sunday, April 12, 1987

Music is poetry with legs.

“What’s the score with you and Susan?” someone asked me today.

“We’re lovers and best friends.”

Wednesday, April 22, 1987

She was distant.

Friday, April 24, 1987

Susan looked sad, acted sad, all day at work. I can’t really understand, and she can’t really explain. Maybe she’s homesick, or maybe she’s feeling lost in what she’s doing. Maybe our relationship isn’t satisfying enough, or maybe she’s clinically depressed. I don’t know. There’s not all that much I can do for her. Tonight she wanted to be left alone, so I left her alone. I feel afraid she might decide to move home to Chicago. She changes the whole landscape of my life. If she left, it would change again. I’d be lonely. I don’t want her to go.


Job Opportunity

Sunday, April 26, 1987

Then she said, “They need someone in a month.”

I felt my heart jump, but remained silent. A newspaper near Chicago is interested in her.

I taste tears, or maybe they taste me before they devour me.

I can still clearly remember what she wrote in her journal about us last summer: “Richard and I are blooming like a flower.

“It felt so good to hold him tonight; I wanted to crawl inside his skin and ride around all night, inside Richard, safe and warm, always something to do. Inside Richard’s blue eyes, looking out.

“I love him so much.”

Monday, April 27, 1987

I held Susan tight, close to me all night. I feel and fear that these might be our last days together. A part of her wants to run far from this place, this place that has me. But I can’t run with her. If she goes, all I can do is watch.

“I won’t stop loving you just because we live in different places,” she says. Susan, you just don’t get it. You can’t have love by remote control. Letters and visits and phone calls are only echoes of love that separation removes.

I hope she doesn’t get hired, but I get the feeling that if she does, she’ll go. I’m not enough to keep her here.

Tuesday, April 28, 1987

“I am a man whose dreams have all deserted…”

I feel better today, but not really good. Everyone says, “don’t worry until it happens.”

It always hurts to think about being apart from Susan, and this makes it real instead of theoretical. I don’t want her to leave.

My life would change, but I could live if she went away.

“Someday you and I will have to say goodbye.”

Monday, May 4, 1987

Over the past week or so, Susan and I have been watching Shoah, a lengthy documentary about the population in Poland who witnessed the killing of the Jews during the war, and about the killing itself. It seems to touch Susan much more, or in a different way than it does me. She’s been very moody, depressed, agitated, frightened, angry … maybe she needs to feel this way for a while, to make the experience more real.

“I can’t believe that it really happened,” she said as we took a break from one of the most intense parts of the program.

I can. I have a lot of faith in human cruelty. Somehow none of the incredible cruelty we’re seeing comes as any surprise.

Thursday, May 7, 1987

Susan and I had a confusing, though ultimately rewarding, conversation about making love. Actually, it became complicated, but we decided some things. Sort of. It’s actually quite complex. I’d like to write more about it later. It’s important, but unresolved.


Kiss Kiss Kiss

Saturday, May 16, 1987

Hi, Susan. “Hi, Richard…sweetie…(Kiss kiss kiss).”

How are you?

“I’m sleepy and I’m cheerful and I’m good,” she answered. She’s going to spend the night. A moment ago she began to get frisky and I turned into a puddle. Mmmmmm. Actually, we’re going to camp out here on the living room floor. We have blankets and pillows and we’re ready for “roughing it.”

“It’s been so long since I’ve written in my own lonely and neglected journal that this feels pretty good.”

Thanks, Susan. That was downright inspirational. Now I want to roll up with Susan and spend a nice cozy night on the floor. Sounds nice.

Sunday, May 17, 1987

As Susan was leaving, she said that there were thunderstorms in the forecast, so I went back to sleep and immediately dreamed about thunderstorms in Chicago. She and I had a very physically satisfying night. We had a lot of fun, but I got so hot.

Thursday, June 11, 1987

“…dreaming of mercy…”

Soon Susan and I are going to start visiting the Bridge again.

I miss the stars and the sky. I look at them now and think of Susan. I’ll never look at the sky the same way again. Together we wait for the cool winds of autumn. Patiently we wait. There’s no other choice, really. We’ll watch a few shooting stars, I guess.


Fly Away Home

Tuesday, June 23, 1987

Susan is on her way to the airport. She’s going to interview for the job in the Chicago area. She stayed up all night last night, and I helped. Staying up like that is easier for me, of course, as I’m going to be asleep in about ten minutes, whereas her plane doesn’t land back here until 10:30 tomorrow night.

I hope she gets what she really wants.

Thursday, June 25, 1987

Susan and I were both totally beat, so we took off our clothes and lay around together, in her bed, just enjoying being bored and naked and in the dark. Sometimes I picture paradise as bored and naked and in the dark.

After talking and then eating, it was time for what seemed like a long, tough goodbye. We held each other tight and wouldn’t let go for so long.

Monday, June 29, 1987

She can’t decide.

“No matter what, I’ll disappoint someone,” she told me.

They’ll disappoint themselves, Susan. And you’ll be disappointed because you’ll believe it when they tell you that you’ve disappointed them.


(I say that because I think she probably went home, went through all kinds of agonizing yes-nos, then yelled those words to herself inside her confused, aching head.)

Thursday, July 9, 1987

Mind-numbing, how it’s all the way it is, isn’t it? I feel relieved that Susan turned down the job, but at the same time I’m sad for her. She wanted to be close to her family, but she also wanted to be close to me. No matter what she decided, she was making a sacrifice.

I had a magnificent night with Susan. We laughed and laughed and mmmm she looked so beautiful. She looks best when she’s laughing, I think. She probably feels best that way, too. Susan laughing…I hope I remember that until I die.



Wednesday, July 15, 1987

The Ides. R. E. drove from Topeka to visit, and he and Susan and I went to the Bridge together tonight and had a well-tap of a time. On my suggestion we all dug up some moments and told each other about them. Some of the moments were intimately personal, and it was good that we shared them. Susan’s parents divorcing; R. E. saying goodbye to Lisa; my own parting from Tina in eleventh grade…

I love moments.

Saturday, July 18, 1987

Lately she’s been worried, dissatisfied with it all. Sometimes it feels like she’s unhappy with me, but then we hold each other and I remember how much more than me is her life, and how bad feelings come out all over those closest to you. I know I can love and support her, and I know she can do the same. We’ll make it through the rough places.


A Thousand Miles

Sunday, July 19, 1987

A year has gone tumbling past. On the phone tonight I said over and over, “I love you.” It felt so good to say that to her, and so good to hear her say it to me.

A year. Hmm. Now we’re intertwined.

Someday we’ll be a thousand miles away, and I’ll miss her so much.

Tuesday, July 28, 1987

Susan and I are moving her across town to her own apartment. It’s making her sad and lost, moving out of her sister’s place. She’ll feel better when we’re done and she has her own home.

Several times during this move Susan has alluded to the notion of the two of us becoming permanent in each other’s lives. That’s an interesting, and not unpleasant, idea. But the future is always in motion. Sometimes the concept of marriage seems like an incredibly ordinary thing to do, and something that’s expected of me. I’d have to consider it very carefully.

Wednesday, July 29, 1987

Easily the best thing about today was taking a long whirlpool bath with Susan at her sister’s house. Though Susan was in a disassociated emotional condition, largely from moving, she and I relaxed well and were sluggishly happy all night. I love her in all her moods. Some just take a little more work.

She wonders why we haven’t had many “deep” times lately. Perhaps the dog days just aren’t my deep days. I’m just sort of waiting for a change.

Tuesday, August 4, 1987

I don’t want to write.
I don’t want to itch.
I don’t want to feel useless.
I don’t want to seem like a burden.
I don’t want my eyes to itch.
I don’t want to make anyone hurt.
I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to lose myself.
I don’t want to throw up.
I don’t want to burn up.
I don’t want to grow up.
I don’t want to break a leg.
I don’t want arthritis.
I don’t want to bite my tongue.
I don’t want to shake.
I don’t want to be forgotten.
I don’t want to ache.
I don’t want disease.
I don’t want to be hungry.
I don’t want to be mentally ill.
I don’t want to be in an asylum.
I don’t want to cough.
I don’t want to be an asshole.
I don’t want to seem insensitive.
I don’t want to lose touch.
I don’t want to lose face.
And I don’t want to lose you.

Sunday, August 23, 1987

Somewhere there’s a 16-year-old right now who’s writing in his journal about how he dreads going back to school in six days. Or was I the only one?

I’m tired and so lonely tonight. I want to reach for the phone and call for help, but there’s no one who’s willing to be uncomplicated with me. I just want to smile for a while. I’m not disappointed by or forsaken by Susan, but she has something on her mind that won’t leave, something she says is due to me in her life. Nothing really changed between us, but I end up being not enough, or too much.


Other Lovers

Monday, August 24, 1987

A complicated, emotional day has drifted into a resolved, relieved night. After Susan and I had talked once, over dinner, and I was on assignment, I felt like driving on and never corning back. But I knew I wouldn’t; making a big mess bigger doesn’t help anything.

“I want you to promise you won’t have any other lovers,” she told me. In a way it was flattering that she thought I would be able to get other lovers, and in a way it was insulting that she thought I would have other lovers. Somehow that all got incredibly complicated.

The end result was not really a promise, but more of a clarification. I told her that I understood that she could never accept my having another lover.

Tuesday, August 25, 1987

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Note from Susan”]”I hope that his sweet head sleeps well tonight. If I could leave my body, I’d blow into his warm room as a soothing caress of a breeze, which would smooth the creases from his forehead and unknot the knots in his back. And I would brush his fingertips so he would know that something was with him; and in his sleep, maybe he would believe it, and at least the shackles of sleep would keep him from moving away. For Richard, I love you so.”[/stextbox]


Some Way to Win

Sunday, August 30, 1987

Life isn’t a game. If it was, there would be some way to win.

After seeing Melissa in Saint Louis, I enjoyed the drive home … the road, the speed, the motion, the yellow line…

Arriving at Susan’s and not finding her there, I left her a note saying I loved her, and I went home. I called Robert, who was in town looking for me. I got a bite to eat, and Susan called. Come on over, she said. It was nice to hear her voice. I missed her all weekend. I hoped that now that I’m back from Saint Louis and my visit to Melissa, her mind would be at ease.

We had fun, right at first. I gave her the gifts I bought her in Saint Louis … the big wall watch, the wristwatch, a ridiculous bowtie, an aloe plant from my grandmother, and three kinds of preserves.

Before long, though, it was clear that something was bothering her. I thought, as I asked and asked, that she was worried that I had been unfaithful to her with Melissa, which I had not. I kept prodding and prodding until finally it came flooding out. She saw us as fundamentally different. She said she was tired of hurting. She was giving up on us. She told me she didn’t want to be lovers any more. She’d had enough.

Why don’t I let her give up on us? Maybe I will, I don’t know. But that feels like such an amazing step backward. I want to be lovers. I told her to wait and we’ll work on it. Maybe it’ll give us a chance to ruminate, or maybe I’m just stalling. I told her that we can work it out, that we can make anything work.

Monday, August 31, 1987

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”From Susan’s Journal”]

“Richard, trying to make a list is difficult. What causes the problem is an attitude I perceive, more than actions. I’ll drop my defenses and tell you what hurts.

“Yes, knowing that you still have feelings for Melissa in a romantic way, it hurts. You choose to keep that fantasy private now, but before we were lovers, you told me all about her. I can’t conveniently forget it. I know it, and it’s your emotion and your desire. Asking you to change would be wrong, and impossible. So this is something that will have to stand.

“It bothers me because I wish I filled the need that keeps you wanting her in your life. I love you very much, and I have opened my heart to you; you know my strong and weak spots. One of my weak spots is my physical self image. But between your love, working out, and dieting, that’s improving.

“I love and trust you enough that you are my lover; I’ve never had a real, physical lover before, because it’s a great commitment for me; it’s a leap of faith, a leap to you.

“I know you wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. Still, these differences make me wonder; your attitude has seemed so much more casual in regard to this that I’ve wondered how much of it is vital to me and minor to you. So I wondered if being lovers on such uneven ground was good for us. My pain causes you pain.

“But the bottom line is our friendship. If sexual intimacy is going to cause constant pain and eventual resentment, how can I let it go on? If that’s the price of an orgasm with you, the price is just too high. Your friendship means more.”


Wednesday, September 2, 1987

She asked me, “What is your deepest, darkest fear.”

Tough question. Good question. I was just quiet for a while. Deepest, darkest fear. I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it for a while. I must have one. Deepest, darkest, coldest, secret fear. I’ll get back to you.

Tuesday, September 15, 1987

Susan and I hated the world together tonight. It didn’t really provide much comfort. Hate is hate. The only real comfort comes from loving each other. In the end we hugged and kissed and it was okay.

The sky is the limit to my limitless dreams.

“Can you believe it’s already September?” she asked tonight. I just shrugged and picked an enormous mushroom that was growing in the grass.


The Rabbit Dies

Tuesday, September 22, 1987

Susan bought me a stuffed bear and hid it in the darkroom under a towel. In its arms she put a sign that said, “hug me.”

To usher in the first night of autumn, Susan and I went to the Bridge and breathed clouds of steam into the night. The dark air held September in its pinpoint stars. We were cold there, but I think that with a blanket and each other, we can have wonderful times watching the night sky turn to snow.

A telling event happened on our way back from the Bridge. As we drove south on Acme road, we spotted a jackrabbit, but it wasn’t running away from us. We stopped and got out of the car to find it had been seriously injured, its legs crushed, probably by another car.

“I can’t believe someone would hurt it and then just leave. Is there anything we can do for it? It’s getting so cold out here.” She was almost in tears.

“We could kill it,” I added.

“How?” she asked, looking at me like I was some inhuman monster.

“Run over it with your car. It’ll be quick and painless.”

She relaxed a little. “I guess you’re right. It just seems so cruel to kill it without trying to help it.”

Finally she and I get back in the car, and after taking a deep breath, she drove quickly forward and finished it off. On the way to the Rainbow, she had a great deal of difficulty calming down.

“Why don’t you eat something. It might help you relax.”

She glanced at the menu, then looked at our waitress.

“It’s been a hard night,” Susan told her, “so I’ll have the veal Parmesan.”

Thursday, October 1, 1987

It’s October, yes, and I feel a little lonely because Susan isn’t around.

I called her twice tonight to tell her how much I love her. She’ll be at work tomorrow. I’ll smile when I see her.

Monday, October 5, 1987

Susan and I were back at the Bridge tonight. We laid on the hood of her car, just like always, this time under a ragged blanket, staring at the moon. It was a fine and gentle time. I hope we keep doing it.

Sometimes I feel like a bottle of wine. I sit in the cold and dark, waiting in tender isolation, free to look out at nothing. Then one day, someone tastes my soul, and it’s bitter, sweet, and dry.

I can hardly believe it’s already now. Time flies, far above, silently, casting no shadow. One day it’s gone.

Friday, October 16, 1987

Tonight as we were parting, I didn’t want to let Susan go, so I just kept talking. It was so nice to have her there under the clearing sky, hearing her voice and watching her watching me. So I just kept her there for a while. I’m certain she didn’t mind.


A Magic Night

Saturday, October 24, 1987

Susan and I had dinner and a little wine, and now we’re going to have a magic night, assuming Susan wants to have a magic night.

“Define ‘magic night.'”

“We dash our glasses in the fireplace,” I explained, “and waves are crashing on the shore.”

“Is the fireplace on the shore? The waves are going to put out the fire. That’s not very good planning, Rich.”

Magic night.

Saturday, November 14, 1987

I spent the night with Susan last night. It was nice, really nice, but I don’t get enough good sleep with her. I’m always waking up, smiling, touching her. As a result, I’m tired.

She’s on the phone with me now. “What are you writing about?”

“You,” I answered.

“Will you still love me when you get back from visiting your friends in the Kansas City tomorrow?” she asked.

“Yes, of course I will.”

Sometimes she’s a stranded calf.

Friday, November 20, 1987

Susan and I are sitting together on the her blue love seat, listening to Claire de Lune. Soon we’re qoing to bed, to sleep together for a while. I can feel her head on my shoulder as she listens with her eyes closed, and her heart open to the music.

“Susan,” I said, then waited for a long time. I smiled weakly at her. She knew I didn’t want anything but a moment of her attention.

“Nothing,” I added, and she smiled.


Invading My Journal

Friday, November 27, 1987

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Note from Susan in My Journal”]

“You’re sleeping in my bed now, all naked and soft and warm and good-smelling. You just called me in to remind me to say goodbye, but I could never forget.

“I’m privately invading your journal to tell you, Richard, how sweet it always is to sleep with you. To feel your hands and arms and legs slowly creep around me, become entangled with me; to feel loved, surrounded by your love.

“I just wanted to record these feelings in a place you’ll never lose them. I love you, and I love being with you. I’ll treasure this time, not knowing how much we’ll have. I’ll treasure you.”


Saturday, November 28, 1987

I just got Susan’s message in my journal yesterday and it really made me smile. Now she sits next to me, watching her favorite music videos and falling asleep on my arm. I really enjoy the nights I spend here in her apartment. Tonight we set up the Christmas tree at my house. We looked at it and listened to music for a while, then ate and came over here to spend the night. It’s very cold out tonight, and she’s going to be very warm.

Saturday, December 12, 1987

Susan is feeling very far away from me. I wish she’d come back. You know, I feel so good and happy with her. Things are easy and fun and it all feels good. That’s why I don’t understand when suddenly things aren’t so good between us. Susan, you make me want to cry.

I’m in love. It feels really wonderful to be in love still, after a year and a half. A year and a half ago, I had no idea I’d be here, and I have no idea where I’ll be in a year and a half.


Walls and Walls and Walls

Wednesday, December 23, 1987

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Letter from Susan”]


“I was lying in bed, doing my yearly analysis, and your name and your face kept coming up over and over. So let me tell you now, on the eve of Christmas Eve, what you’ve done for me in the 18 months since we started ‘killing time,’ and in the eight or so months since we became lovers…

“There are walls and walls and walls in me. Many of those I unknowingly erect around my heart to protect me from the pain of total love. Since you first spent the night with me in my brother’s bed in Chicago – awkward as we were – you’ve been pounding on my walls: insistent, patient, impatient, lonely, angry, but always loving.

“It was only the knowledge that you waited outside my walls with open arms that gave me a reason to keep chiseling until I reached you. I was lonely too: angry, patient, impatient. And I wanted so much to love you.

“There are so many things in you that I love. It seems that every day you tell a ridiculous joke that I hadn’t heard; reveal more knowledge that I didn’t know you had; express your love in another gentle, passionate way; or wear that white sweater…

“A new year is coming, and I can look forward to brighter days – somehow brightened by the decreasing fog of my fears and reflex inhibitions. Days filled with brilliant light of a stronger love than I’ve ever experienced – an intimate love that gets deeper, wider, stronger, taller every single day. I have us to look forward to in January, on Christmas Eve, tomorrow, and forever in my heart.

“Merry Christmas, Sweetness. I love you.



Thursday, December 31, 1987

All night long I’ve felt a little strange, sort of lost between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Here it is, though, New Year’s Eve, and Susan and I kissed and drank a toast. It was very romantic. We had pizza and wine, and apple pie a la’ mode. It was a nice evening, quiet and safe, and in love.

“I love him.”

1987 was full of Susan’s love. ’88 needs improvement over ’87, but Susan’s love was right on the money.


Falling in Love with Ourselves

Monday, January 4, 1988

It occurs to me on this very cold, cloudy night somewhere in the middle of my life that recently I haven’t been writing nearly enough about Susan. Maybe I feel as though there’s nothing remaining to say about her, as she’s firmly entrenched in my side as my significant other, living with me most of the time. We grow, though, together every day, and we are very happy together, loving each other, touching each other’s lives in ways neither of us has known before.

It’s sweet. I look in her eyes and see love, admiration, affection, sympathy, support … everything I need from her. Without her my life would be profoundly different now, and I don’t think it would be as good.

Susan says that we really just fall in love with ourselves, loving the things in others that reflect the things in ourselves we already love. I disagree. I think we fall in love with the way we blend with each other.

Tuesday, January 19, 1988

Days go by quickly, unique and so strange. Some are full of laughter and some are laced with pain. Most are a mix of love and hate, boredom and freedom, pain and decision.

Today I felt mostly loved and in love. Susan and I are feeling closer and more loving than ever before, touching and holding more, laughing and saying nice things more than ever. It’s like a miracle, a blessing. I can’t explain. Our eyes meet, our souls touch…

I wonder if she’s thinking or dreaming about me now.

Friday, January 22, 1988

Susan and I are having a fine evening together.

We made a videotape letter to a friend of hers. We toured Susan’s apartment, then went to the police station and filmed, then to the office where we both work. Later we came home and made a tape of both of us for my mom and dad.

These days we’re sharing each other better than ever before.

Thursday, January 28, 1988

Susan and I just finished watching Shoah again. As long and lackluster as the film was, we were interested all the way through. I think Susan and I must enjoy being patient, careful observers of history. There aren’t all that many people I know who are willing to sit through nine hours of Polish-French-English subtitled dialog about what it was like to watch Germans gas and burn Jews.

I’m tired now, but at least my insides are full of good food, my bed is warm and dry, my girlfriend loves me very much, and no one is trying to kill me.


The Shallow Grave

Friday, January 29, 1988

At about 8:45 tonight, we heard a call on Susan’s police scanner from the Sheriff’s Office. They found the remains of a body buried in a shallow grave northwest of town.

We arrived at the scene in a little over twenty minutes. It was a small abandoned farmhouse that stood at the top of a hill. With no electric power, there were no lights. There was no moon, either. Above us was a murky black and grey nothingness. Even the lights on the police cars were inexplicably off. Only the dim illumination of our flashlights allowed us to see at all.

Susan talked to the officers for a few moments, then returned to me at the car. We waited. The night should have been colder, but somehow held a warmth in its hands. A gusty south wind was eager to hold us.

It would be a while before they let us actually do our jobs, so our attention turned to each other. Holding hands, facing each other, her almost-black hair tossed on her shoulders by that warm-cool wind, her trusting green eyes looking at me in the near total darkness… she seemed to me to be the most beautiful, most perfect woman I’d ever known.

“I love you,” I whispered, and the sound of my voice carried to her like an echo on the wind.

“I love you, too.”


Snow on Our Shoulders

Thursday, February 4, 1988

We walked down the stairs to her parking lot in silence, surrounded by the sweet quiet of muted traffic in the softly falling snow. At my car, I turned and leaned on it, and she quite naturally wrapped her arms around me and leaned on me.

She was the perfect picture, her dark hair tumbling over her knit white scarf. I held her very close and watched her eyes as she told me things about her day. As she talked, snow fell on her glasses and melted, fell on the shoulders of her navy pea coat, fell on my hair and my suede jacket.

We both just kept on talking as the snow quietly fell on and around us. An hour in the cold night passed, and we both realized that this wonderful moment was ending.

She leaned forward and kissed me gently. It wasn’t passionate, so much as it was so very loving. I kissed her back, and from our breath rose a wispy pall of steam. In a moment we separated, and she looked at me.

“Do you know where I am?” she asked.

“Where?” I answered.

She lifted her finger gently to my lips and touched them.

“I’m right there.”

Friday, February 19, 1988

“‘Healthy’ is someone else’s definition of what I should be.”

Susan is writing in her journal on my knee, and even though I’m heavily medicated for a severe case of sniffles, she still looks tremendously cute.

“What do you think of all my poetry?” I asked her. “What does it all mean to you?”

“I think you’re trying to figure out something. You don’t understand why things have to be the way they are.”

Tonight, like most nights for a while now, ended as I drove back home to my own apartment, and as I turned the corner to head east, I looked back over to my left and saw her leaning way over the edge of her balcony, waving. I honked the horn, and then as quickly as I saw, she was out of sight. She and I do this every night.

Sunday, February 21, 1988

I watched Reds all night at Susan’s place, then took her fish over to my place so I can feed it while she’s in Chicago for the week. I miss her already. When she left this morning (when I was very little, I thought that was just one word … “thesmorning”), I was sleepy in her bed, but I think she understood that I was going to miss her.

She was crying when she called me tonight. She had no idea why. She’s been crying a lot lately, and she doesn’t understand it.


An Envelope with Nothing In It

Thursday, March 10, 1988

“Are you asleep,” I asked on the phone a little while ago.

“Mmm hmmm,” came the answer.

“I just wanted you to know,” I whispered, “that I love you and I hope you dream about me.”

I wonder if I … no. I wonder if Susan is dreaming about me now. Is she happy? Is she in love? Am I what she wants?

Tuesday, March 15, 1988

Strangely I called Melissa today because she sent me an envelope with nothing in it. We talked for a long time about how she doesn’t want to work or have a career, but wants a rich husband and lots of time to herself.

Susan felt bad, as she always does whenever she hears the name Melissa. Insecure, jealous, threatened, etc. She can’t understand that her presence in my life drives out the desire for women like Melissa, and that I find Melissa kind of immature and shallow.

I’m not ready to say goodbye to Susan. I want to stay with her some more. I don’t want us to end.

Sunday, April 3, 1988

The long, lonesome road was broken by Susan’s loving embrace. The moon rising along the endless, empty highway tonight reminded me of the summer of 1986, meeting Susan, watching the moon rise from The Bridge with her. Those weren’t easy or even especially happy days, but they were special. They changed my life.

Susan, anticipating lots of pounding on her roof and walls from construction has gone to sleep in my bed. I don’t know if there will be room for us both, but we’ll try.

I also sensed a sort of desperate need to be with me tonight. Recently she’s desperate and clingy a lot of the time. I hope she can learn to be happy with herself. She and I have hit some potholes in the road of our relationship.

If you don’t understand freedom, you don’t need it.


The Inadequacy of Blueberry Pie

Sunday, April 10, 1988

For her birthday I brought her a blueberry pie with five candles, one for every five years. At first she was kind of angry, presumably because I didn’t bring her diamonds and gold. Later though, it became apparent that she was feeling old, in the sense that she had some unfulfilled expectation about who and where she would be by now.

Her heart is thirsty.

Friday, April 15, 1988

Here are some of the things we said tonight …

“Janitor Nancy!”
“The muscles in my chest are so hard you probably got a concussion.”
“How many times did I shove you off of it?”
“It’s just like playing a French horn, only much softer.”
“A score in time saves lives.”
“It’s a little phrase. It goes together.”
“Your hand sure is curved around.”
“Don’t put your pen in my ear! Can’t you keep your writing utensils out of other peoples’ orifices?”
“The dreaded noselock!”
“Yes it is. I’ve been taking hormones.”
“Keep your pen out of my mouth now!”
“What next, ektoplasm?”
“Right the way you’re doing it is supreme ticklishness.”
“You give me a funny feeling in my groinal area.”

Monday, April 18, 1988

Susan says that in some ways, there’s no point in being my lover. I wonder, then, for what is our love, or any love? Is it only useful if it leads to some greater reward, like childbearing? I find love to be its own reward, satisfyingly so. I find that having love is enough, and that its other rewards are illusory, and hungering for them is only an effort to avoid dealing with ourselves and our inadequacies.

I have love in my life simply because I like it.



Tuesday, April 19, 1988

They told me today that a bunch of us are being laid off from work on May 4. That in itself didn’t upset me too much. I’m not that attached to the job. My concern is that the day she and I never hoped would come may be close at hand.

Maybe Susan and I could be together for a lifetime. Something to think about, isn’t it?

Saturday, April 23, 1988

I feel sad now, but not because I had a really good time with my friends today. Anna, David, Michael, Ben, Kevan and I went to the Glacier Rocks and climbed our hearts out, then ate at Big Bubba’s, then came home and played Risk until midnight.

No, it was because when I called Susan, she said she had a cold and that I shouldn’t come over. Now, though, I think I should have, just because lovers ignore each other’s illnesses and such and make the necessary sacrifices. Mostly, though, I wanted to be with her. I’ll be moving in with her soon (although we spend so many nights together now it won’t be a big transition), and I hope it draws us in closer than ever. Susan’s been far away the last few days, having a tough time sorting through what lies ahead.


The Cat and the Cardinals

Thursday, May 5, 1988

Susan’s mom has decided that Fred the Cat is too much trouble. His aging cat body is no longer keeping itself clean in typical cat fashion, and Fred’s continual incontinence is driving the family up the wall.

“Come and get your cat or we’ll have to destroy it,” is the word from her mom.

As we drove today and the hours started to roll by, we talked about everything and nothing, a wonderfully serpentine conversation that led us from past to future, near and far.

For an hour or more we played name-that-tune with the radio. We set it to scan, so it changed the music every three seconds automatically, leaving both of us just enough time to try to come up with the artist and song title before it scanned again.

The game started and ended in uproarious laughter from both of us. When there had been a few minutes of road-noise silence, she smiled at me and took my hand.

“Put on the ‘Driving Music,’ ” she told me. I knew which music she meant. It was a Brian Eno’s Old Land, and it seemed to fit our day together perfectly. We listened to it into the night, very pleased to be with each other, and then we were here in Illinois.

Friday, May 6, 1988

Up at the crack of noon, we packed ourselves and Fred the Cat into the Escort and headed west. An hour out of Chicago, she sighed.

“What is it, honey?” I asked.

“Mmm. Richard, remember what we talked about last night, about what we want?”

“Yea,” I answered, “I remember you said you didn’t know what you wanted from your life.”

“It’s just that every time I come home to Illinois, I miss my family that much more. I want to be with them.”

“I know,” I told her, remembering when we departed Chicago on United Airlines last year. She cried and cried. I also remembered when she was offered that job at the newspaper near Chicago last year, and after all that agonizing decided to stay with me.

“It’s ironic,” I continued, “that you want to be with your family so much, when just last week you told me that … ”

“Yea, that all we really have is ourselves.”

In Saint Louis, we saw that the Cardinals were playing, so we tuned to the game on the radio. Dash board light. The chatter of the game. The dark night.

Tuesday, May 10, 1988

Fred the Cat seems at home with us now. He has fun with us, he’s comfortable with us, he likes us. I say “us.” That’s because I’m in the process of moving in, and we are more of an “us” now than ever before. We’re inseparable, Susan and I. I’m in her bed now, watching her flip pages and read.

Wednesday, May 11, 1988

Since I have little to do in the day, I’m writing about the firsts … the first time Susan and I slept together, the first time we held each other, the first time we went to The Bridge, the first time we said hello. I miss her now. I’m in her home, waiting for her to come home, missing her, hoping our time together isn’t disappearing before our eyes.

“Do we love to live together?” I asked tonight.

“Yea, I think so,” she answered.


Ham and Cheese Loaf

Sunday, May 15, 1988

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Note from Susan”]”Richard, remember the cherries and the ham and cheese loaf in the drawer, and please pull the knob on the dishwasher before you leave. And remember all day that my love surrounds you with bright, white, healing light.”[/stextbox]

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be surrounded with bright, white, healing light.


How Not to Open Biscuits

Sunday, May 22, 1988

Susan offered to make biscuits for brunch, so while she began that, I stepped into the shower.

Just as I was fully soaped, I heard, “Honey?”

I opened the shower curtain to see her holding her left hand above her head, a trail of bright blood steaming down her arm.

“What happened?” I asked, alarmed.

“I opened the biscuits with a butcher knife.”

So I took her to the clinic for stitches, then made the ill-fated biscuits, and finally took her to see a minor-league baseball game. It was all excellent fun, except for her accident, and one time at the game when she observed me glancing at another woman. Her insecurities are intense sometimes.

Monday, May 23, 1988

“Go to sleep, honey. I’ll be along in a moment,” I told her.

She looks sweet now, trying to sleep.

“I wish I could open my heart to you,” she said.

Now she’s talking about things, yawning sometimes, looking at me, then becoming quiet and trying to sleep again. I touch her hair and she smiles gently and scratches her nose.

Now almost asleep, she’s talking and laughing and mumbling things that don’t make sense, like, “did you wash your illegal alien today?”


“I Should Do Something Else”

Sunday, May 29, 1988

I know I need to be able to be alone.

Susan and I had a day that was really good, then really tough. She’s sitting on the love seat quietly thinking about the things we said today. Another baseball game, this time with fireworks, was great. Susan was at my side in the midst of the crowd, the sun was down behind the seats in left field, the home team was winning, and we were sharing a hot dog.

But tough times came to us as we got home. A hurtful discussion from last night bled into tonight, and we struggled with it for a while. Love and praise are no match for her insecurities.

“I just don’t think we want the same things,” she told me at one point last night, “so maybe you should go to the ball game tomorrow and I should do something else.”

Now, though, it seems like we’re settled. It’s late, and we’ll be sleeping together.

Friday, June 3, 1988

The editor of a newspaper from Illinois called today to say he was very interested in the portfolio I sent. We set up an interview for Tuesday at two. This news is both exciting and saddening to both of us. An interview isn’t a job, and a job isn’t the end of us, since it’s geographically close to her family. You’d think from the expression on her face, though, that she’d just come back from a funeral. Or a marriage. Ha, ha.

Tonight I just can’t make her smile. I asked her to label some cassettes for me and she became downright hostile.


Five Different Things –

Monday, June 6, 1988

Here I am in Lombard, Illinois, and while I know it’s where I need to be professionally, my heart is begging me back to Ottawa. The closer I got to Chicago, the more I wanted to turn around and come home to her apartment, with Fred the Cat and balloons on the ceiling, and Susan.

As she cried in the parking lot, I told her, “I’ll be back soon.” I don’t want to live up here without her. I don’t want to live anywhere without her. She says she’s going to find a job up here and join me. There are a lot of questions in our lives now. We don’t really know what to do. I feel young and inexperienced.

Monday, June 13, 1988

A kind of subtle tension has settled on the Richard-Susan household, as tomorrow is when the editor is supposed to call from Illinois to offer me the job. We’re both hoping that he’ll call, and we’re both hoping he won’t. She’s in the bedroom now, in the dark, sulking, mortified at what the future might hold. I can’t say I blame her.

Sunday, June 19, 1988

“What?” I asked.

“I don’t know, honey,” she whispered, “I just feel like crying out to you about five different things.”

A little while passed, then the cat made some noise in the living room. I thought that things that are gone are gone.

“Are you asleep?” I asked.

We talked, and minutes passed. I thought of the week waiting to hear from Illinois. No call, no job. Just an unemployment check.

She is lying next to me, sighing. She feels very sick, and probably won’t go to work tomorrow. She stares at the wall,. Her gaze doesn’t move, gathers no information. She’s lost in a pool of thought, about me, about us, about the future.


“We’ll Make It, Honey”

Monday, June 20, 1988

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Note from Susan”]

“Dear, darling Richard,

“I’m lucky to be the lover of a tender-hearted soul like you. I know a lot of people, and you are one of the gentlest, kindest, sweetest people I know – I love you so much. And that’s why I can’t seem to stop going haywire about your temporary absence. Do you know what it’s like to leave your arms, your eyes, your hands behind and be expected to go on about your daily mundane business? Yes, I believe you do. Well, you’re moving away from me, my love, and however temporary, it won’t be easy.

“We’re strong and we try to be there for each other. Sometimes we fail, but we admit it and say we’re sorry and mean it. That’s why I know that you and I will still be in love when the world has tired of tearing at our hearts.

“I am sorry that I’m hurting you. Please don’t hide from my sadness. Let me help you. Let me hold you up like you’ve done for me so many times. I want to be your lover, a good one. But more than that, I want to be the best friend you’ll ever have. Because that’s how much I love you.

“We will make it, honey. And no matter how far apart we are, I will always carry your heart in my heart, cradling it, embracing it, letting no harm come to it.”


Friday, June 24, 1988

It seemed like it was going to be such a good day, when suddenly it fell through. I got my apartment in Chicago, and Robert and I had a pretty good time. Then the truck overheated and Robert and I got into a serious disagreement. Then calling Susan the spit really hit the fan. Her doctor says she has mono and will probably need as much as six weeks of bed rest. Life is certainly taking a gigantic wet dump on us all of the sudden. No matter what I said on the phone to her tonight she just cried and cried.

She seems saddened by my moving away as though she were never corning with me.


Long Distance

Sunday, July 3, 1988

She stood wrapped in nothing but a blanket, looking at me, tears pouring down her face. She held me for a long time, staining my shirt sleeve with tears.

“It’s okay, Honey. We’ll be together again soon, I promise,” I told her. She just cried. I kissed her a final time, then walked out the door. As I drove away, I saw a last glimpse of her face through the window as she waved a sad goodbye. I looked away.

Now suddenly my home is far, far away, in this strange town and this strange land. How long will it be before she can join me? Will she? Without her, I guess I’d go back home. Echoes of my love for her ring through this empty apartment as I sit here, starkly alone.

“Honey?” I asked her from the pay-phone tonight, “will you come to live with me in Chicago?” I guess I just needed to hear her reassure me. I’ve never felt this kind of need before.

“Yes,” she answered.

What am I doing here?

Wednesday, July 6, 1988

I talked to my friend Ayn for about 45 minutes. She was encouraging, but had no idea whether or not I was making a mistake. In 1986 she moved up here too, to be with her boyfriend, but only stayed three days and moved back. She said they just weren’t meant to be.

Susan got a call from another paper, one just sixteen miles from my front door. They wanted to see her work. It would be really great … paradise … for her to work and live right here.

I lie in bed, exhausted and unhappy, ready to be rudely awakened in six and a half short hours to go back to work.

Sunday, July 17, 1988

Have I ever been this alone in my life? When I was fifteen? Yesterday? Ever? I’m feeling acute dread about facing the week alone, no friends, no rewards, no company, no love…

[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”Letter from Susan”]


“It started out as a note, and ended up as one of the few ‘poems’ I’ve written. It’s for you. Hey honey, we’ll be us again soon. I love your guts completely.

“I miss you at bedtime
whenever I go away and come back
I miss me home to return to
I miss you at lunchtime
I miss you when the sun beats me to bed
I miss you in Movieland
And all these moments
break up the long, long hours
during which I miss you most of…


Monday, July 25, 1988

I wonder if I’m too passionately in love with the good life that I had back home with all my friends and with Susan. Oddly, now mostly what I hear from home is that I should make new friends. I don’t want to be unhappy (by definition), but I do feel very sad when I think of them. I can remember times in my life of great elation, and other times, like now, of great loneliness. If I’d gotten this job in Illinois and moved here in 1985, before I met Susan, it would have been much easier. But now it’s now, and I have to deal with the way I feel today.

I talked to Susan on the phone a lot today. She feels like she’s being buried alive. I wish I could talk to her face to face, to let her know that we’re still us. She’s so uncertain about the future. She doesn’t even know for sure that I’m the one for her future, or if instead she should just simply be alone.

I’m alone now, and feeling it rather acutely. I might have to be alone from now on. I think sometimes that being alone is the way to which it must always return.


I Sit in the Dark

Friday, July 29, 1988

I realize with my heart crushed to the ground how incredibly alone I am. Susan, once my best friend and lover, is tonight an agonized and horrible stranger. She no longer wants to be my lover.

My head is spinning, reeling, aching. I find myself a thousand miles from home, and my whole reason for being here, Susan, is evaporating before my eyes. She was my home.

I sit in the dark now, thunder dying in the distance, thinking and wishing my life had a meaning and a place and something to make me smile.

Wednesday, August 3, 1988

For a moment I was one step beyond desperate to get back to that wonderful, confused, falling in-love summer of 1986, to be by her side, hurting to even touch her hand, but too scared to try.

Then as I looked around on this hot Illinois evening, I found myself thousands of miles from that irreplaceable beauty. We lay on the hood of her car and stared at the stars, talking and talking, telling each other our whole lives. Our lonely hearts reached out for the rare treat of a friend, and found a lover.

It hurts too much to live, to breathe, to believe.

Out of my control and destroying my hopes and dreams, she’s gone. No mutual decision, no real discussion. It’s just over.

Dreams make promises they can’t keep.


The Ground Will Always Hold Me Up

Monday, August 15, 1988

I just got off the phone with Ayn. “Hey,” she said in the end, “this will all be over soon.”

I know she’s right. Still, now I must feel this way. Before that I called Susan, and told her I wanted to talk seriously about another chance.

“My heart is open to you, Richard, but not to that.”

I’m never comfortable any more. My heart races, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I pace, I’m too hot, I’m too cold. All I allow myself to think about is all the wasted chances, all the selfish, lazy excuses, all the blindness and insensitivity.  I stare at the ground, never smile…

But what’s done is done, and while facing that is painful, I will. Actually, I don’t think I’ll call Susan again. That sort of conversation only results in abject humiliation. Now I am alone, and in some strange, familiar way, I am starting to remember what it was like to be alone. The ground always holds me up when nothing else will.

Wednesday, September 7, 1988

Days go by and nothing much changes.

Here’s the thought that gave me strength today: I made it through junior high. I can make it through anything.

Now I’m back in my lonely bed. Hmmm. The word “lonely.” I think about it and use it a lot. Ever since I was 15, it seems like that word and I have been close. And still, after all this time, it has just as much punch, as much ice and hurt, as much black and grey, as always. What a word.

“I think about the stupidest thing I would do,” I told Ayn, “would be to pack up all my stuff and come home.”

I feel like Susan was never really in love with me, or that she is really unfeeling and uncaring. Was I really that wrong about her? She says she cares about me and still loves me, but her actions (speaking louder than words) seem to say that my friendship isn’t anything special, that she is moving away from me. Is she really as selfish as my admittedly biased perspective tells me?

Isn’t everyone? She’s selfish because she comes from a culture of selfish people. Does anyone love, or do we just take what we want? She couldn’t get what she wanted from me, so I wasn’t of any use to her any more?? Man, listen to me. Every evil, game-playing voice in my head is speaking tonight.

Sunday, September 18, 1988

A girl named Brenda and I spent some of the evening together, sharing our complaints about life. We sat by a pond in a suburban Chicago park in the cool autumn wind after it stopped raining. I told her about myself. It was nice at the end of the night to be held for once in a long time. It was nice to feel wanted.


Message in the Bottle

Monday, September 19, 1988

One of Susan’s favorite things to do for me was leave notes. Most of the time, they were funny, playful thoughts intended to amuse me. And sometimes they were genuine love notes.

“I’ll carry you with me everywhere, Honey. I love you, I love you, I love you!!!”

“I’ll be thinking about you wherever I am.”

“You look so cute when you just wake up.”

“These vitamins are waiting to be absorbed by your handsomeness.”

She was also fond of making up new and increasingly absurd nicknames for me.

“Care for yourself while I’m gone, my little lemon sugar-heart-cow-ice-fork.”

That particular pet name originated during a game of charades while waiting for our dinner to arrive in Mama Louise restaurant the night in snowed last January. I had run out of clue ideas and had started picking up various items on the table, mooing like a cow, etc. She thought it was hilarious, and I wore that nickname for a while.

She also called me her Darling Honey Lamb, her Little Blueberry Muffin Cup, Honey Sweetness ‘Ness, Sweetness Face, Smoky Links, Sweetheart Face, and Puddin’ Pie.

Sometimes she’d draw pictograms, the usual translation to which was, “I love you.”

“I wanted to write you a note, but I don’t know what to say,” she explained once.

“How about, ‘Dear Richard: I love you. Susan.'”

A moment later she handed me a piece of pink note paper with the words, “Richard, I love you. Susan,” written on it.

“No matter what, I will never desert you.”

I tell you that to tell you this.

I got up and got in the shower, turning the water on almost as hot as it would get on this cold, dark morning. As steam filled this tiny apartment, I thought of all the times she and I sat in her bathroom, steaming away our head colds and hay fever.

I dressed slowly, almost painfully, like an arthritic old man, and picked up my grey jacket, for the first time this season. I pulled it on, then reached into the pocket for my gloves. Inside, on top of the right glove, I felt a small piece of paper. I pulled it out and read:

“It’s cold outside, but my love will keep you warm.”

Sunday, September 25, 1988

Right now the hurt is so bad that there’s no way any of it could have been worth it. It just hurts too much, too much to smile, too much to look at the night sky, too much to wish or remember or even breath.

Susan says she’ll always be my friend. Will she? Is she now? At some point she must have stopped being my friend and started simply cushioning my fall. Why? Maybe she just felt guilty about leaving me.

Tuesday, September 27, 1988

I got a call from back home today. They offered me a job, wanting me to start on October 24. Can you believe that? At exactly the same time, ironically enough, Susan got a job up here and will be moving up the same weekend I’m moving down. Our ships will pass in the night.

“You can never be friends again,” someone told me this weekend, “you can only be ex-lovers.”

I knew that day would come when we’d have to say goodbye. I sat in stunned silence tonight, unable to respond, when she said to me, “It never worked.” How could she begin to say that after all the feelings we shared?

“The day will come,” I told her two years ago, unaware that she had a crush on me, unaware of the emotions and players in the mix, unaware of the way we were destined to tear each other asunder, unaware of many things, “when we’ll have to say goodbye.”

Goodbye, goodbye. Our love was so good. I’m sorry it had to end this way. I’m sorry it had to end. Something inside me is dying.


Still Return

Monday, June 19, 1989

I write in my journal by the light of the summer moon as I have returned to the Acme Road Bridge three years after it all happened.

It is exactly as I remember, as though I were here yesterday. But tonight, no one is falling in love. The trucks on the interstate pass under the Bridge, the moon rises slowly to the southeast, the lights from the factories and colleges shine in rows in the distance. The gravel road and the dirt turnout where we parked are exactly the same.

I feel lost in time and space, as though it were 1986 again, and I had closed my eyes for a moment. I almost expect her voice to ask me what I’m thinking, to shatter this dark dream.

Tonight, though, it is my own car sitting by this dusty, dimly lit side road. There is no voice teasing and exploring and inviting me to fall in love. There are no green eyes watching for feelings hidden inside.

I never thought it could hurt this much.

Short Story: Ice


by Richard R. Barron

Also see: The Rain Comes Down

Long underwear, hiking boots, a wool sweater, a big coat, a yellow rain jacket, and a black ball cap gave me the look of an all weather photographer. I toted a duck-taped, garbage-bag-wrapped 600mm lens as well.

Feeling like the emblem of a working professional photographer, I stepped onto the rapidly icing football field and glanced around. The rain was still coming down and freezing as it hit the artificial turf.

I scanned the field for something to watch, something to keep my mind off the numbing cold all around. A cheerleader or a mascot would do. I didn’t want to feel like I was alone on this frigid night.

Looking toward the west end zone, I saw her. Dressed in black, with no gloves, she looked cold.

I halfway turned to another photographer and muttered, “I’m going to go see a girl.”

He didn’t hear, and I didn’t care.

I hoisted the enormous lens to my shoulder and made my way across the end zone in the ever-deepening slush.

She faced away from me now. I wondered if it really was her. If it was her, would she be glad to see me? Please, I thought, let her be glad to see me.

I tapped her shoulder with my gloved left hand, and she spun around to see me, a genuine look of surprise on her otherwise beautiful face. Obviously she didn’t recognize me dressed as a waterproof lemon, so I smiled and said, “Hi! How are you?”

“Hi. It’s you!” She glanced at my face, at my bushy red beard. Oh, yea. She’s never seen my beard before. “You’ve changed!” she chimed.

I didn’t say anything really, at least not that I remember. I do remember her face. It was soft and round, smiling sweetly, bracketed by her softly waving auburn curls. Looking at her, I wanted to be alone with her, to hold her hand and have her laugh at my jokes and listen to my stories.

But we were two perfect strangers in the freezing rain in a crowd in the end zone of a football field. And I was the only one who wanted the quiet and the warmth.

“I didn’t answer your letter,” she said, obviously trying to make me believe that she felt guilty about it. She didn’t, I knew. She and I had been through years of my letters and her absent responses. But in the latest round, in my usual overly dramatic style, I had finally confessed my love for her.

I narrowed my eyes and leaned back a little. “Answer it,” I said flatly.

When other close friends see each other, they hug and smile and laugh and say things like “I missed you so much.”

But I missed her more than she could understand, and she missed me less than I wanted to know.

Her eyes were so bright and beautiful.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m sitting with the band,” she told me. When she went to this college, she was in the band.

“Are you busy at halftime?” I asked.

“I’m going to watch the band play. I’m going to try to take pictures. I have a camera.” She laughed, holding up her Instamatic, obviously embarrassed that her camera was so tiny compared to the huge 600mm on my shoulder.

“Okay,” I said, trying unsuccessfully to hide the disappointment in my voice, “maybe I’ll see you around.”

I turned around and started to walk back to the sideline through the ice that coated the ground, my camera, my clothes, my soul.

Already I missed her. I wanted to turn around and go to her, be with her, see her for just another minute or two. But I didn’t. I just walked away.