A New Year

2016 was a strange year, for a multitude of reasons. Celebrity deaths by the dozens. And somehow, none of them were Kardashians. How the hell did that happen? Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States. How the…

I could go on, but…why?

While I can’t predict much of what’s going to happen next year, I’m absolutely sure more famous people will die in 2017. But it doesn’t take any special talent in prediction to be able to make a statement as bold as that.

None of us are getting out of this game alive.

2016 was an especially strange year for me and my lovely supermodel wife. At the beginning of the year, we were planning on remaining in the workforce for five more years, give or take. Then Lea’s employer decided to go through a major reorganization, and she was reorganized out of her job.

Our oldest daughter, the beautiful and talented Gwendolyn, is a Certified Financial Planner. I had given her the keys to my 401K many years ago, and also gave her a little motivational speech.

“If you make a lots of money for me, I won’t move in with you.” 

It would appear that Gwendolyn was very motivated by my speech, and she did quite well managing our retirement plans. When Lea found out she was going to be reorganized out of her job, the first person she called was her daughter/financial planner. Gwen crunched the numbers, and suggested we retire.

It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

Fast forward seven months, and we’re living in Mexico. If you had asked me five years ago where I’d be today, this place wouldn’t have even been on the list. Now, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

I’m clearly not a psychic. As my wife is fond of reminding me, I can’t read your mind! I’m not sure I can either. Hell, I don’t know what I’m thinking half of the time.

This is perhaps one of the reasons I have not yet become a prophet. My track record for predictions hasn’t been all that impressive, not that I’ve predicted a lots of things.

In fact, I can think of only one thing. I predicted the Green Bay Packers would beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl five years ago.

I was walking to my car after work on Super Bowl Sunday in 2011, when a voice in my head informed me the Packers would win. And I know that probably sounds a little weird, but I have no other term to describe it. I am not a Packer fan. I had not given any prior thought to the outcome of the game. And out of the blue, The Packers will win the game today.

My first response was, Seriously? Of all the things you could tell me, this is the best you could do? Then I called my buddy, Paul Anderson, because he’s a huge Packer fan, and told him his team would win. If you don’t believe me, you can ask him. Here’s his cellphone number: (715) 222-8120.

According to the Bible, it’s quite easy to determine if a prophet is a true prophet or a false prophet. If the event a prophet predicted happens, that’s a true prophet. If not…

It doesn’t get much easier than that.

That said, I’m not sure I qualify as a prophet of any significance. I’m sure there were a lots of people that predicted the Packers would win that game. But I’ll let you know if that voice in my head ever has anything else to say.

* * * *

The Lakeside area we retired to is pretty much heaven on earth. In fact, if I hadn’t had a spinal meltdown, I might think I had died and went to Heaven. Except I don’t believe we go to Heaven after we die.

So it’s probably a good thing I fucked up my back. I’m not sure I’d be able to reconcile my reality with my expectations.

Lea and I have been adjusting to our new lives. We’ve met a lots of really nice people that retired down here, so we decided to invite a few of them over tomorrow. We’re hosting a New Year’s party that my second retirement wife, Phyllis Gholson, is planning.

And yes, you read that correctly. Not only did I collect an harem of work wives back when I was gainfully employed, I’ve started collecting retirement wives now that I’m gainfully unemployed. I have no explanation for this phenomenon. Other than the fact that I’m irresistible to women.

One of my female bosses actually told me that during one of my performance reviews back when I worked at MVAMC.

Or, I’m the gender neutral, nonthreatenng big brother/spouse they never had or lack now.

Phyllis and Lea are best friends. They’re actually quite a bit alike. Their tastes and sensibilities are similar. They’re both very logical and analytical. So now I have two women telling me I can’t do something.

And if not for a series of events that revolved around Phyllis, we wouldn’t be here now, or probably ever. Nor would our transition to Mexico have gone anywhere near as smoothly as it has. Phyllis more or less found the house we’re living in for us. She introduced us to her friends, and they’re becoming our friends. As a result, I more or less adopted Phyllis as my second wife, and I’ve started introducing as such.

It’s good for a laugh.

I am a comedian at heart. I often thought of going to a comedy club and taking the stage, but I never got around to it when I lived in the States. There’s no such thing as a comedy club in the Lakeside area, so the likelihood of it happening has greatly decreased. Besides, my Spanish isn’t all that muy bien yet.

And everything is funnier in Spanish for some reason…

* * * *

May 2017 be kind to you, especially if you read my blog. I sometimes wonder if anyone reads what I write. I’ve received a few comments about some of my posts. One guy told me I didn’t have enough pictures, and my stories had, you know, too many words.

I replied that I wasn’t trying to entertain, you know, fifth graders. I haven’t heard back from him.

I hope the next year will be a good year, though I’m sure it will have its share of challenges, trials and sorrows.  They all do, don’t they? And if the worst befalls you, may you have the strength and support you need to see you through.

I hope 2017 will bring the fulfillment of some of your dreams, but not all of them. A life without dreams isn’t much of a life.

I hope you will have all the wealth you need next year. And that your health isn’t a major issue. Never take good health for granted. It is a gift beyond measure.

Find peace and beauty in the simple things, and you will find an endless supply of both. You will be happier and more content than you could believe possible.

Don’t forget to thank God for your blessings, and remember this: many blessings initially look like a crisis. Don’t panic. Take a couple deep breaths. Most of the things I thought were castastrophic when they happened turned out to be no big deal a few months later.

Never be afraid to learn something new, like, speaking Spanish.

You may unexpectedly find yourself in Mexico someday, too.

Feliz año nuevo, one and all.

One of the Girls

Nursing is a primarily female dominated profession. There are probably a few others, but I wouldn’t know much about them, except strippers. I dated a few fabric free shoe models, back before I got married. And I probably spent a few hundred bucks or more hanging out in stripper bars, back when I drank.

I have an immense amount of respect for strippers. And nurses. For completely different reasons. Though, there are a few nurses I worked with that I wouldn’t have minded seeing as strippers. And then I would have doubly respected them.

Nurses are a breed apart. Not just anyone can handle being a nurse. It’s a tough job, and even the strongest nurses will have days when all they can do is go home and cry.

As a result, you make strong attachments to anyone that will help you get through your shift in one piece. You develop a level of trust with those people that transcends almost any other relationship you’ll have.

And as a result of that trust, you will sometimes hear the strangest things as a nurse, from other nurses.

“Ooh! I like your shirt! The bra and panties I’m wearing today are the same color!”

“My pee smells like coffee.”

“I’m having an affair.”

“My vagina is hemorrhaging blood!”

“My daughter’s boyfriend beat me up and broke my arm.”

“I just found out my husband has been having sex with our daughter.”

“I have cancer…”

Or, my personal favorite, “I have multiple orgasms.”

I mean, how are you supposed to respond to that? Well, this is how I did: “Um, yeah, me too.”

It wasn’t always pretty, or funny. As a guy, I wasn’t completely comfortable hearing about all the bodily functions of my female co-workers, or what they were doing with their bodies.

“Mark! I was sooo sick last night! I was puking my guts out, and I had diarrhea, at the same time!”

Yeah, it was like that. Especially when Shark Week rolled around. Shark Week was nursing code for when someone was hemorrhaging blood out of their vagina. But many of my female co-workers seemingly couldn’t contain their excitement when they had news to tell me.

I asked one of my vaginally hemorrhaging co-workers why she seemed to take so much delight in telling me about the most personal details of her life.

“I’m a guy. I don’t want to hear about that stuff.”

“Oh. I kind of think of you as one of the girls.”

Yeah, every guy wants to hear those words. But I should note that one of the ward clerks I worked with once described me as ladylike.

I needed a deeper explanation of that, and this is what she said: You’re very polite, and considerate. You have very good manners.

I had a response for her: Yeah, there’s another term for that. It’s called being a gentleman.

I was seemingly the safe sounding board for my female co-workers to tell their problems to. Especially when it came to their relationships. Bad boyfriends. Abusive husbands. Problem children. Problem dogs. I heard about them all. In detail.

Most of my colleagues weren’t seeking advice or counsel. They just wanted someone to talk to, someone to listen. But there are always exceptions.

One of my fellow nurses, Ann, would corner me in the Med Room and tell me all about her toxic relationship with her boyfriend, and then she’d ask me what she should do.

“I’m not giving you anymore advice.”

“Why not? You’re a smart guy.”

“Yes. And you’re a smart girl. You already know what to do.”

“But, your opinion means a lot to me. You’re like the big brother I never had.”

“Look, you’ve asked me for my opinion before, right?”

“Yes…”

“And have you done anything I’ve suggested?”

“No…”

“Okay. There you go. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

And then we would go through the same thing the following day. By the way, my advice to Ann was to dump her loser boyfriend. I don’t know what she ended up doing. She resigned her position, and was replaced by the nurse who had multiple orgasms.

As much as I disliked Ann, I fucking hated her replacement, that little troll.

Nurses, as wonderful and brilliant as they are, tend to make terrible decisions regarding their personal lives. I don’t know why that is. Even the nurses that make the terrible decisions probably couldn’t tell you why they make the ridiculous choices they make. But the answer might be something as simple as desperation.

“I want to meet a nice guy, and get married. I want babies, I want a family! I want a normal life!”

Yes. A normal life. Because the life of a nurse is anything but normal. Nurses work long hours, and then pick up an extra shift. A quiet day at work? What is that? If you could really work your ass off, it’d be easy to pick a nurse out of a crowd.

Nurses answer endless questions, answer call lights, dress wounds, check blood sugars, administer meds, respond to codes, save lives, and shed a tear when a life ends.

Nurses are tough, and smart, and dedicated. You have to love your job to be a nurse, or the job will eat you alive. And that’s why nurses want nothing more than a normal personal life. You can take only so much insanity in one day.

I don’t miss the crazy nurse life. I did that for thirty years. I’m quite content to read about the wild stuff that happened on social media. And I really don’t miss Shark Week.

I do miss the people. I genuinely loved and respected most of the people I worked with at Aurora, my last employer. They were probably the best group of people I worked with in my career, and I’ve worked with some of the best.

There’s been a management change at Aurora, and while I respected the former DON there, I absolutely love the new DON. I wish all of the people at Aurora a blessed and successful 2017.

I’ll try to keep up with you on Facebook. When you come visit, we’ll have a Girls Night Out.

The Inconstant Gardener

I kind of grew up on a farm, my grandparents’ farm, just outside of Browerville, MN. It’s a small town on the prairie in Central Minnesota.

Tom Brady’s mother, Gaylynn Johnson, is from Browerville. My mom and Tom Brady’s mom were cousins. I think Tom Brady and I are also cousins, but we’ve never met.

Tom Brady’s grandfather, Gordon Johnson, used to be my dad’s barber. Yeah, it’s a small world.

Whenever we were living anywhere near Minnesota, my parents would drop me and some of my siblings off at our grandparents’ farm at the beginning of the summer, and pick us up when school started again. For the record, I have four brothers and three sisters. We were free labor in the fields for my grandparents.

Life on the farm was mostly carefree, I guess. There was a lots of stuff to do on the farm, and we were kids. We had a lots of unfocused energy. My grandfather supplied the focus we lacked. We did whatever he told us to do, for as long as he wanted us to do it.

Weed the garden. Pick raspberries. Pick pickles. Haul rocks. Pick more weeds. We worked from sunrise to sunset, then did it all again the next day.

The only real downside to life on the farm was my pedophile uncle. He liked young boys…

I stopped spending summers at the farm when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, but I would spend almost the rest of my life trying to make some sense out of what happened to me way back when, back when I was young.

* * * *

It would be many years before I attempted any gardening again, but I the year I worked as a surgical technician in Elbow Lake, I decided to plant some seeds.

Marijuana seeds.

I had saved the seeds from the best bags of weed I smoked for years, and I had collected a gallon sized zip lock bag of seeds. My brother and I raised homing pigeons back then, and homing pigeons do four things really well.

Fly, make babies, eat and poop. We would clean all the crap out of our loft about once a week and over the years we amassed a rather substantial pile of pigeon poop. It made great fertilizer.

In a flash of brilliance, I decided to throw a lots of my marijuana seeds onto the pile of pigeon poop, and in a matter of weeks, I was growing a crop of marijuana in my parents front yard.

I was living in Elbow Lake, right next to an abandoned chicken hatchery. Someone had planted a row of lilac bushes along the side of the hatchery, but there was about a three foot space between the building and the bushes. I tossed the rest of my marijuana seeds in that space, and started watering the lilacs.

In a matter of weeks, I had another garden.

My plants grew like weeds. They were six feet tall in no time. I trimmed and pruned them. I pulled all the male plants so the female plants would produce more resin and increase the potency of my pot crop.

It was really good, and I wouldn’t need to buy any weed for at least a year.

* * * *

I wouldn’t attempt any gardening again for several years, until I married my lovely supermodel wife. Lea loves flowers, but she doesn’t love gardening. And that’s how I became a gardener again.

I have trouble remembering how many gardens I created for Lea at our house in Minneapolis. Four? Five? Something like that. I didn’t know shit about flowers, but I would learn a lots. My teacher was our neighbor, Donna. She was a Master Gardener, and her yard looked like unto the Garden of Eden, only nicer.

Donna gave me a lots of advice. And plants. And more plants. My gardens could never match hers, but Lea loved them, and that was all that mattered.

I kind of miss the gardens sometimes, but not enough to want to go back to them. We have a garden here, too.

* * * *

We moved to Arizona in 2007. We bought our Dream House, and the interior was stunning. But the previous owners had spent next to nothing on the landscaping. It was as boring as a statistics class. I decided to surprise my lovely supermodel wife with new landscaping to give our Dream House a Dream Yard.

Now, this might give you some idea of how stupid I can be. I wanted a complete overhaul of my yard. And I was willing to shell out, say, about eight thousand dollars to accomplish it.

I think the landscape architect I contacted for an estimate is still laughing. We probably ended up spending three times that amount, but the end result was stunning.

Lea loved our backyard. So did I, for that matter. It became the serene retreat I had intended it to be, and it was one of the reasons we were able to sell our house as quickly as we did when we decided to retire to Mexico.

* * * *

Now that I’m a retired guy, I find I have a lots of time on my hands. I spend some of it writing this blog. And rewriting it. But that still leaves huge blocks of unscheduled time in which I have essentially nothing to do.

Our retirement home came equipped with a housekeeper and a couple of gardeners. I do get to spend a few hours a week staying out of their way so they can get their work done. Life probably couldn’t get much easier for me.

Until the day the War of the Marigolds started.

There are a lots of flowers down here in the Lakeside area. During one of our forays to the Lake Chapala Society, I collected about a dozen pods of marigold seeds. We have several potted plants on our backyard patio, and I thought a little splash of color would brighten things up a bit.

So I threw the marigold seeds in a few pots, and just like when I was a marijuana farmer, I had plants in about a week or so. And I was well pleased.

But then a strange thing happened. One of our gardeners, who, as near as I can tell, never bothers to actually pull any weeds in our gardens, decided to pull some of my marigold plants out of the pots on the patio.

I thought it was actually kind of funny because he didn’t pull any of the weeds growing in the pots, just my flowers. And he didn’t even pull all of my baby marigolds, only half of them. I mean, if he thought they were weeds, why not pull them all? So I talked to our jardinero, and asked him in my very bad Spanish to please not do that again.

He understood me, somehow, and I redispersed my baby plants, and all was good once more. However, we have two gardeners. A few days later, Jardinero Numero Dos, came through and for whatever reason decided to pull half my marigold plants, again. And he left all the weeds in the pots, too.

It wasn’t funny the second time.

So I met with the gal that runs our HOA, and this was the solution I came up with. I would assume complete and total responsibility for the plants on our patio and in the carport. And if our goddamn gardeners pulled one more of my marigolds, I would buy a shotgun and shoot them.

That is something my dad would’ve said, so life has come full circle for me. I have essentially become my father. I’m sure he’d get a kick out of that if he were still alive.

The marigolds are doing well now. Jardinero Numero Uno laughs and smiles and tries to teach me Spanish whenever I see him. He asks how we’re doing and takes care of the shrubs and the lawn.

Jardinero Numero Dos just about pisses his pants if he even sees me. I’m going to have to tell him I wasn’t really serious about shooting him.

Someday…

Diagram of a Defense System

Back when I was a psych nurse at the MVAMC, I worked with a lots of Vietnam vets. They were struggling to find their way through the morass of PTSD symptoms they were suffering from, mostly unsuccessfully.

PTSD is a complicated disease. It’s symptoms are legion, and stealthy. They’re like unto an army of ninjas, and just like ninjas, they attack without warning.

In an attempt to help my brother veterans gain some insight into what they were fighting, I came up with this presentation to help them see what they were up against.

Imagine your life as a game of chess. I actually used chess pieces in the group. I arranged them on a table and moved them around as I explained my idea.

Your opponent attacks. You go on the defensive to protect your position, and the pieces you employ are defense mechanisms. These are tools we use every day of our lives. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Defense mechanisms help us survive. But, do you have any idea what kind of weapons you’re using. Or why?

What I’m talking about is something I call a defense system. Anytime you have more than one component, you have a system. Think of it like unto an home theater stereo system. Multiple components working together to produce an integrated effect.

That’s what your defense system does. By utilizing a series of connected mechanisms, you create a buffer zone to keep you safe from the world around you. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of defense mechanisms, but let’s start with the basics. There are three fundamental building blocks that every defense system is built upon.

Repression. Suppression. And Denial. After that, the sky is pretty much the limit, but let’s start here.

Repression. If you’re confronted with a traumatic memory, your brain will automatically repress it. This reaction is hardwired into your brain. You don’t even have to think about it, it just happens.

Suppression. When repression doesn’t work, this kicks in. This takes some conscious effort, but these two mechanisms work together, and they’re pretty damn effective. But life can be complicated, and sometimes you need a lots of tools to get a job done, right?

Denial. When repression and suppression don’t work, you have to start bringing in the big guns. With denial, you can make stuff disappear. Denial is a total negation.

It did not happen.

Defense mechanisms are powerful weapons. And they are mobile! They can be deployed wherever they’re needed, and there are ga-zillion of them. You can lock and load and secure the perimeter, and blow shit up with a thousand different kinds of armament.

Minimization. Take a big problem, and make it small.

Maximization. Take a small problem, and make it big.

Rationalization. Logically analyze anything to pieces until it dies of boredom.

Intellectualization. Logically analyze something to pieces until it commits suicide to get away from you.

Shuffle the deck and play them when and where you need them. You can do this shit all day! And there’s a lots more where those came from. Deflection. Projection. Sublimation. Humor. Drug and alcohol use. Do a Google search. There’s a list of defense mechanisms a mile long.

But any effective system needs a fuel supply to keep it up and functioning. And we have that, too.

Anger!

Anger is almost always a secondary response. The precursor might be fear, or shame, or guilt–and it might only be present for the blink of an eye. None of us like feeling that way, but anger. Yeah, were good with that.

Anger, is a powerful fuel. And I’ve seen you guys. Anger is where all y’all have been living. Anger can also be a defense mechanism. No one wants to be around an angry person. Anger is like an electric fence. Only an idiot pisses on that, right?  Anger is like one of those multi-tools. It can do a lots of stuffs.

There’s one major downside to anger. It’s exhausting! I can stay angry for a couple weeks about something my wife or daughters do, and then I have to let it go. It wears me out. You guys have been pissed off for what–twenty or thirty years? How’s that going?

And what happens when you run out of fuel? Everything shuts down! The walls come crashing down, and then what?

Your defense is breached. You have to fall back. You bunker up. You run!

Yeah, you do all those things, but then you have to find a way to get your system back up and running, and that’s not easy to do when the enemy is looking over your shoulder watching you. That’s what brings you guys here. This is the place you come to when your defense system crashes, and you can’t do it on your own any more.

I mentioned drug and alcohol use earlier, but it’s such a pervasive problem I want to take a moment and talk about it. Eighty percent of the people that come here for treatment have a secondary diagnosis of drug or alcohol abuse.

Only eighty?

Well, it could be higher, but that’s the statistic the administration here likes to throw around. I know I’ve tried these methods myself, and while they might be effective in the short term, they are completely ineffective in the long term.

Alcohol is a depressant. If you’re not already depressed, you’ll end up that way if you abuse alcohol long enough. Also, mass consumption of alcohol tends to short circuit the wiring of your defense system.

Yeah. That’d be true for me. That’s why I quit drinking.

I had not quit drinking, so it’s more than a little ironic that I was telling someone else to take a look at their drinking habits when that’s what I needed to do myself.

Well, there you have it. I’m not telling you guys to quit drinking. I’m just throwing this out there to give you something to think about. But even if alcohol isn’t an issue, look at all this other stuff. We all have these invisible walls that protect us from stuff we don’t want bombarding us. But it probably works in reverse, too. We’re expending all this energy to keep stuff from getting to us. How easy is it to let our emotions out?

Is it easy for us to let someone know we love them? These walls we have constructed are well built, and they are strong! But in the end, we have essentially created a state of siege mentality–nothing gets in, nothing gets out, and we have stopped living, in exchange for simply…existing. And I know what you’re all thinking, What the fuck am I supposed to do?

I don’t have any answers for your questions. I don’t have any solutions to your problems. Hell, I don’t have any answers or solutions for mine. But we have to start somewhere if we’re ever going to get our lives back.

Awareness is the first step. Once you’re aware of a problem, you can start to do something about it. What you do, well, that’s up to you. You’re gonna have to figure this out for yourself.

I been watching you, Mark. I see you up at the nursing station. Sometimes you just sit there, and stare. You have PTSD, don’t you. You’re one of us, ain’t you.

That was a guy named George. He diagnosed me in that group. I have to admit, I was a little freaked out to hear that. But I couldn’t argue with what he said.

The Nam vets called it the Thousand Yard Stare. Someone could be standing right in front of you, and you’d never see them. You were seeing shit in your head ten thousand miles away.

But however freaked out I might have been, it was nothing compared to what the guys in my group were feeling. They came up and analyzed the chess pieces as if they were going back into combat.

When that guy tried flanking you here–it opened a breach when you redeployed there. Your back is to the river…  You have no drop back position, no place to regroup. You’re about to be overrun.

We all are!

The guys in my group practically ran out of the room.

* * * *

About ten years later, I presented this to concept to my AA group, Squad 46, the bestest squad in all the land. And when I finished, I was met with

Silence.

My group members finally came out from the tables they had been hiding under, and discussed my presentation. I’ve discussed bits and pieces of it with a lots of people over the years, but I’ve only presented it in its entirety twice. This makes three.

Sometimes I think it’s the most significant idea I’ve ever imagined, mostly based on the reactions of the people I presented it to, not because it’s actually been proven to be an effective therapy or educational tool.

Oh, and I do make the World’s Best Chili.

Most of the time I don’t think about my concept of an organized defense system at all. But I did this morning. Maybe someone will find it useful. And that’d be cool.

Ski Party

Back when I was in nursing school, we didn’t have a whole lots of social get-togethers as a class, until our senior year. And that was when someone came up with the bright idea that our class should go skiing.

There are some semi-decent skiing venues in Northern Minnesota, but not so much around St Cloud. There’s a place near Kimball called Powder Ridge. It’s a kind of big hill set out on the prairie with a few boring downhill runs, a mogul run and a log lodge. Experienced skiiers would probably find it laughable, but it had the two things my class was looking for. It was close, and relatively inexpensive. It would suffice for our purposes.

I’m pretty sure we went skiing during the Christmas break. I can’t remember how many of my classmates decided to go skiing, but I remember my good friend, Don Nelson, was one of them.

I’m unsure of the day, but Saturday or Sunday evening seems to ring a bell. Yeah, we went skiing in the dark. But unlike golf courses, ski runs have lighting, so skiing is an activity one can actually do in the absence of sunlight.

I don’t think it was particularly cold, like, below zero cold. So let’s say it was 20°, and go skiing.

Some of you reading this might have gone skiing before. Some of you might be very good skiers. I had been skiing once before, probably several years earlier. My idea of skiing was simple. Point your skis toward the bottom of the hill, and go as fast as you could in a more or less straight line until you fell over or got to the bottom of the hill, then repeat.

There were probably people in my class that were good skiers, and knew how to turn and stuff. I was impressed by that, but not impressed enough to take the time to learn how to do it. We were going to be skiing for a few hours, tops. Not a few days.

Don and I essentially raced each other down the hill for about an hour, like we were competing for the gold medal in the Olympics, and we were having a blast. The runs were fairly straight, and I could navigate the slopes well enough to totally kick Don’s ass. I was way ahead in the medal count.

We decided to take a break and warm up in the lodge, and drink a couple few pitchers of beer. We were joined by some of our ski bunny classmates, and I was feeling like Jean-Claude Killy.

“When we go back out, we have to try the moguls!” Don kept saying while we were warming up by drinking cold beer. And I kept replying, “No!”

I didn’t know much about skiing, but moguls looked like they required a skill set I did not possess–that whole being able to turn thing. And as near as I could tell, Don had no idea how to do that either.

One of our ski bunny classmates, who actually knew how to ski said it was easy, and explained how to turn while we drank beer. Don and I were quick learners, and Don was positive he had it all figured out when we hit the slopes again. We may have even made a couple practice runs on the outer slopes, trying to control our speed and intentionally turn left and right as we skied down the slopes.

“Okay!” Don said. “You ready to try the moguls now?”

Just so I don’t look like a complete idiot, I had some serious reservations about trying the moguls, which popped up out of slope on the middle of the hill like a bunch of frozen zits.

“Let’s get it over with because you’re not going to stop until we do.”

We rode the lift to the top of the hill. I studied the moguls, and especially the skiers that were freestyling their way down the hill. It didn’t look that difficult, the moves they were making. I don’t think I was as confident in my abilities as Don was in his, but I thought it looked doable.

Don and I approached the moguls. I probably would’ve been more nervous if I had the time to think about what I was doing, but I hadn’t mastered that whole stopping thing. Before I knew what I was doing, I was headed for the middle of mogul country.

I am going to take this opportunity to brag about what a great skiier I was through the first three moguls. I made actual, intentional cuts. I turned on a dime and made change, and then the course decided it was time to teach me some humility. I missed my cut on the fourth mogul, and when I hit the fifth mogul, I took off like a rocket.

The first thing I was aware of when I could think again was an immense, pounding sensation in my head. My vision was blurred, I wasn’t sure what had happened to my glasses. I raised a hand to my face, and found my glasses. In my mouth.

I was covered with snow. I had snow inside the sleeves of my coat. I think I had snow inside my sigmoid colon. I tried to get up, then laid back down on the snow. I couldn’t raise my head without a stabbing pain in my head that made me see stars.

And then this happened:

deer-valley-skiing

A good Samaritan on skis had seen me wipe out, and came over to see if I was still alive, throwing a foot of snow on top of me as he slid to a stop.

“Hey, man! Are you okay?”

“No.” my voice replied from under the snow.

“Do you need help getting up?”

“I’m not sure I can move yet.” My arms appeared out of the snow, and started clearing snow off my body. I tried lifting my head, but it still hurt like hell, so I laid on the snow, hoping I hadn’t broken something. Like my entire body.

“I was watching you. That was the best wipe out I’ve ever seen. You must’ve flown at least seventy-five feet through the air before you crashed! It was beautiful, man!”

“Thanks.” I said. Now I knew why I couldn’t move.

“Do you need any help?”

“You know, I think I’m just gonna lay here for a minute if you don’t mind.”

“Okay. But I gotta tell ya, that was a thing of beauty, man.”

And the Samaritan on skis left. I decided to get as much snow off my body as I could without lifting my head, and I had succeeded in getting most of it off of me when this happened:

deer-valley-skiing

This time it was my buddy, Don.

“Hey! Did you see me wipe out!” he shouted.

“Fuck you!” my voice replied from under another foot of snow. I wanted to hit Don with one of my skis, but for all I knew they were already at the bottom of the hill, waiting for me.

“That was so cool! You should have seen me!”

“I was busy!” I replied, and started clearing snow off my body again.

“Let’s do that again! C’mon!” Don exclaimed.

“Dude, I don’t think I can even stand. There’s no way I’m doing that again.”

“Here, let me help you.” Don said. He pulled me to my feet, then snapped my boots back into my skis. It took him about ten seconds to do it. It would’ve taken me an hour. My glasses were dotted with drops of water. I felt like I was looking through a field of stars. I looked around to get my bearings, and my heart sank. I was only halfway down the slope.

“Kowabunga!” Don screamed, and tore off down the slope. I saw his second wipe out. It was wicked.

“Ow! Ow-ow-ow-ow!” I whispered, as I slowly started down the slope. I thought my head might explode. I gathered speed as I went, then hit a bump, and wiped out a second time.  I slid the rest of the way down the slope, face-first. My skis sped by me, and were waiting for me at the bottom of the hill when I finally slid to a stop.

I was done skiing. For the rest of my life. I turned it my skis, bought a pitcher of beer, and took a couple Tylenol. My ski bunny classmates were convinced I had a concussion. I didn’t need any convincing. I don’t think I’ve ever had an headache like that in my life. It hurt to blink.

Don and I spent an hour arguing about whose first wipe out was more spectacular. But I didn’t see his, and he didn’t see mine. Our second wipe outs were equally wicked. But I had an abrasion on my right forearm from my wrist to my elbow, so I probably won at being the worst skier in our class.

* * * *

There are no ski resorts in the Lakeside area, and I’m okay with that. I’m sixty-one years old now, not sixteen. I don’t need to go out of my way to hurt myself anymore. Getting out of bed seems to do the trick most days anymore, thanks to all the mishaps and injuries I sustained back when I was young and bulletproof.

But if I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t change much. Except the moguls.

I wouldn’t do those again.

The Island of Misfit Toys

I’ve been doing some musing about Christmas lately. Back when I was a nurse, I worked almost every Christmas. In fact, this is only the third Christmas Lea and I have spent together without me working.

We still celebrated the holiday, but my schedule would almost always dictate the timing of anything we did.

I spent twenty-seven of the last twenty-nine Christmases hanging out with people in the hospital who had no place better to be, mostly because they were caught up in a cycle of gloom and doom, generally because of the choices they made. Like Jacob Marley, they were busy making the chains that bound them.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

I’m watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this Christmas morning. My favorite part of the show is The Island of Misfit Toys. It was where I worked. I thought it was an appropriate monicker, and certainly nicer than some of the other names given to psych units.

I didn’t look at myself as a misfit, even though I am perhaps the King of the Misfits. I’ve had trouble finding my place in the world most of my life. Feeling comfortable in my own skin was something I had never been able to do, until recently, and even that has been difficult of late given the problems I’ve had with my back and neck.

And I like Yukon Cornelius, too. It’s hard not to like him.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I have both been doing a lots of thinking about Christmases past this year. It’s our first Christmas in Mexico, the first Christmas of our retired lives. If we were isolated from our families when we lived in Arizona, well, this is taking that to a whole ‘nother level. If Christmas is meant to be spent with the people you love, then this Christmas has been bittersweet for both of us.

My family mostly lives in Minnesota. Both of our girls are up in the Great White North right now, spending Christmas with their Other Dad. Wait. Maybe that’s me. He’s their Real Dad. Either way, they’re about three thousand miles away.

And that’s probably been the toughest part of Christmas for us this year. I scroll through my Facebook page, and see all my friends’ posts with the tree and presents and family. And I am jealous.

You never miss something until its gone. I am relearning the truth of those words this year. And there are so many things, and so many people, that I am missing a lots this year.

When you’re young, you lack the capacity to see just how stupid you are. I took so many things for granted. When you’re young, you think nothing is ever going to change, and then life changes everything.

My mother died in 2007. Christmas was her favorite time of year. She decorated her house with enough lights and garland and trinkets to make Santa feel shamed. I used to look at spending the Christmas holiday with my parents as one of those odious and contemptible things I had to do. Like working for a living, and paying taxes.

I quit drinking the year before my mom died. I remember that first trip to my parents’ house to tell them. My dad offered me a beer when I walked in the house. I can still see the stunned look on his face when I told him I was an alcoholic, and I had quit drinking. Forever.

“I didn’t know you had a drinking problem!” he said.

My mother was sitting at the kitchen table next to my dad. She turned her eyes to the heavens and whispered, “Thank God!” She later told me it was the best Christmas present I could have ever gotten her.

Merry Christmas, Mom. It’s been ten years now. Sorry it took me so long to get my head out of my ass, and I’m really sorry for the shit I put you through.

* * * *

The Christmas holiday is celebrated very differently in Mexico than it is in the States. American Christmas has become a commercialized celebration of material excess. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday. None of these things existed in my youth, and they have become monsters.

American Christmas, sadly seems to have become more about the stuff than the substance. When saying, Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays is an issue, there’s a problem.

No one camps out in front of the Walmart down here. There’s no such thing as Black Friday in the Lakeside area. Mexican Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. Each neighborhood has a little posada. Two children are dressed up like Joseph and Mary, and they might be riding a burro. They go from house to house looking for a place to spend the night, and they’re turned away.

One house in the neighborhood is preselected as the party house. They welcome the weary travelers in, and it’s fiesta time! The parties last all night. There’s a lots of music, food and drink, and bonfires and fireworks.

Honestly, Lea and I wonder how any work ever gets done down here because there are something like seven hundred holidays in Mexico, and there are varying degrees of celebration that correspond with each of them.

But fireworks are seemingly mandatory for all of them.

Mexican fireworks aren’t the same as American fireworks, which are kind of pretty and spectacular. Mexicans are particularly fond of a kind of rocket called a cohetone. It’s essentially an half of stick of dynamite that shoots into the sky and explodes.

Loudly.

These incredibly loud fireworks are fired off almost every day of the year down here for seemingly any and every reason imaginable.

My first week in Mexico made me think I was back in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, and I have never been in Vietnam. I have kind of a bitch of a case of PTSD, and I am particularly sensitive to loud, unexpected noises. One of my neighbors is very fond of fireworks. I’ve been thinking about becoming an hitman again…

It was a very long night for the Mexican locals. The parties lasted all night. A veritable artillery explosion greeted the rising sun, and now it’s quiet. Christmas Day in Mexico is essentially a day of rest–all the Mexicans in this area have been celebrating their asses off for about the last two months–and eating leftovers. Small gifts are exchanged. It’s actually rather sweet and beautiful.

* * * *

As much as I miss my family, and especially my girls, I don’t want to give the impression Lea and I are sitting around the house contemplating suicide. Because we’re not.

We’ve made a few friends down here, thanks to Phyllis. Lea and Phyllis are best friends, and we retired in Ajijic because of her. I tell everyone we moved here to become Phyllistines, and it seems to be the truth.

Phyllis has been here several years. Actually, there’s a whole lots of Americans and Canadians living down here, and we’re getting to know some of them.

We went to Jim and Veronica’s house last night. They have an absolutely gorgeous home that should be declared a national treasure and an historical work of art. I almost feel like making the Sign of the Cross and genuflecting when I’m at their place.

They actually have an antique confessional in their living room. I thought about going in it once, but I haven’t been to confession in over forty years. I’m going to be in there for a long time. And it might burst into flames…

Today, we’re going to Casa del Castleman, the home of Al and Jane. They’re one of the couples we’ve met as Phyllistines. Jane and Lea seem to be cut from the same cloth, so Jane is an easy person for me to like.

Al seems to be kind of a character, so I’m sure I’ll like him a lots once we get to know each other better. Last night, Al probably had the quote of the evening.

“Grunge rock is the greatest music of all time.”

What do you expect? We’re old. And we mostly hate young people. I think the only grunge rock song I like is Come as You Are by Nivana.

I invited him to come over and listen to the Icelandic rap music my crazy neighbor plays. Al didn’t know that was a musical genre either.

“I think rap music is a bunch of people bitching about stuff.” Al said.

“Yeah, but when they do it in Icelandic, you’re not sure what they’re bitching about.” But it sounds kind of cool.

Well, it’s about time to go to today’s get-together. And I’ve been working on keeping my blogs short since I finished my Dallas series. More than anything else, I attribute that series to messing up my spine.

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

XOXO,

Mark

A Brief Treatise on God

I am aware I said I would brief. I’m not yet sure if that’s possible given the subject matter at hand.

A lots of stuff has been written and said about God. I tend to doubt I have any new insights to add about God, given everything that’s already been said, either by God Himself, or all the people that have theorized about Him. And while those things are good to know, it’s the things that aren’t said I find most interesting.

I’ve tried coming up with a personality profile of God. As the Fabulous Roya says, “I do not judge, I make assessments.” I can’t presume to judge God when I lack full knowledge of Him or his motives, but He’s pretty clear about what His primary objective is.

By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.

For my money, that statement is more telling about God’s purpose than anything else He’s ever said. God swore an oath upon Himself that He would accomplish this.

Humans blithely swear oaths all the time without thinking about what they’re saying. I’m telling you the truth, I swear to God! I couldn’t tell you how many lies I’ve heard that were supported by that line.

An oath used to be something sacred. And binding. If an oath was sworn, it had to be fulfilled or there were dire consequences.

I have no idea what sort of consequences God would face if he fails to fulfill his oath. He swore upon Himself as there is no one higher than He. God would essentially have to impose a punishment upon himself if he fails, and that’s not likely. As near as I can tell, God has never lost at anything.

But let’s suppose God fails to achieve His prime objective. After all, He is dealing with humans, and if there’s one variable that can screw up any plan, it’s humans. In which case, I conclude the punishment falls not on God, but on us.

When you take a long look at this, God isn’t asking for much from us. Obedience and worship. But those two things, well, they’re pretty much everything. And those two things are choices we have to make.

Free will. God can’t make us do anything. If He could, I’m sure this world would be a far better place than it is now. But if everyone on this planet could perfectly perform those two actions, all the stupid shit would vanish in one day.

God just might be a little crazy. This is my assessment, so you don’t have to agree with me. But from my point of view, God has to be crazy for thinking humans are the perfect vessel to achieve His goals. According to God, we are his masterpiece.

And while we are capable of some pretty amazing stuff, humans have also done some pretty dark and heartless shit. And sadly, that aspect of human behavior appears to be getting worse, not better.

If I were God, I would’ve stopped with ants, or maybe bees. Their societies are far more harmonious and efficient than ours will probably ever be. Plus, bees can fly. And they make honey.

I have to believe God knows what He’s doing, and that is about the extent of my faith. When it comes to God, I have far more questions than I do answers. If you’re looking for a man of little faith, look no further. You’ve found him.

God is perceived to be All-knowing and All-powerful. Like most guys, I can’t wrap my mind around this. And I have a vivid imagination. I have trouble remembering my Social Security number anymore, and I’ve had it memorized since I was in Basic Training.

As for All-powerful, you’re talking to the wrong guy. Our cat seemingly has more control of my life than I do. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. She appears to know what she’s doing.

From what I can tell, we view God in this manner because that’s how He described Himself, much like the Great and Powerful Oz, and we all know how that story turned out.

But, God can’t lie!

He can’t?

No! It’s a sin! It’s one of the Ten Commandments!!

Yeah. There’s no commandment that says you cannot lie. You can’t bear false witness against someone else, but you can make up all the crap you want about yourself. I like to think that the laws that apply to us, must in some way also apply to God. Those who uphold the Law cannot themselves rebel against it.

All of the main characters in the first books of the Bible lied about something. Abraham, lied. Isaac, lied. Rebekah, lied. Jacob, really lied. David, lied his ass off! David, the beloved of God. David, the man after God’s own heart.

It wasn’t until after David had schemed to have Bathsheba’s husband killed that God finally said, Now you’ve gone too far. And God’s punishment for David was severe.

My Christian friends say these examples of human frailty illustrate how God can work wonders with imperfect people, and they completely miss the point. God didn’t care that his chosen people lied because if He did, that’s not something He would’ve been able to ignore.

God never looks the other way. God never sweeps anything under the carpet. He doesn’t give you a mulligan. Every swing counts.

Look. God is our Heavenly Father, right? And parents lie to their children all the time. Remember a guy named Santa Claus? Why do parents perpetuate a story they know is false? Because the story is magical, and everyone should believe in something magical, at least once.

Name one thing more inherently magical than God. I’ll wait…

So, is God really All-knowing? Even if He isn’t, He knows far more than we’ll ever know. He knows enough, and then some.

Is God really All-powerful? He’s powerful enough to to kick all of our asses, with one hand tied behind His back. He’s more than powerful enough.

I seriously doubt that God is exactly what we think He is, but the reality of what He might be in no way diminishes the amount of respect and awe that I have for Him. And that’s the most compelling reason I have to want to be a prophet.

God is worthy.

But that creates somewhat of a dilemma for me. I’m not aware of any prophet that had to apply for the job. From what I can tell, God chose them, not the other way around.

My lovely supermodel wife thinks I am absolutely crazy for wanting to do this. If I could speak feline, I’d ask my cat for her opinion, but she would probably discourage this ambition of mine. Unless God agreed to lift her up on the couch whenever she wanted. And give her a lots of pizza.

Yeah, my cat loves pizza.

Well, I did imply I’d be brief, so I’ll stop here. But I have a lots more to say about God. So we’ll visit this neighborhood again.

Have a great day, and Merry Christmas.

And the Truth Shall Make You Free

I had my second Bowen Therapy session today with Diamond Dave. I really like and appreciate this guy. He kind of reminds me of me, and that’s not a bad thing.

He’s pleased with my progress, and he figures a couple more times of beating the hell out of me will probably do the trick. That’s seriously what some of the stuff he does feels like. But I’ve always felt energized after being therapeutically assaulted by Dave. In fact, I’m feeling so good I’m going to write something profound. Maybe…

It’s a combination of what he does, and says. Dave makes me think. He likes to theorize about how I may have injured my back and neck.

Pain is a strange thing. When you’re no longer in agony, the memory of it f-a-d-e-s. My first kidney stone felt like getting kicked in the back by an angry mule, like, a couple hundred times.

I thought I was going to die to death at the time. Now, I’m like, Yeah, that wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had. Even my more recent back and neck pain is fading from my memory quickly, and in some ways it was even more better worser than my kidney stone.

“These things don’t happen in a vacuum.” Diamond Dave said. There had to be a cause that produced the agony I was in.

In much the same fashion, there was a cause that made me start thinking I wanted to be a prophet, or in other terms, a man of God.

Then why don’t you become a pastor? Or a chaplain? Or a priest?

Yeah, that’s a reasonable question.

I hope this sounds like a reasonable response. Some of my friends in Arizona were pastors. All of them agreed that being a pastor was a calling. It’s not so much of a vocation as it is a compulsion.

Plus, it’s a huge pain in the ass. You actually meet fewer crazy people as a psych nurse. And psych nurses have powerful medications at their disposal. Pastors do not. I think I got the better end of that deal in terms of vocations.

I have never wanted to lead a church. I’m more interested in starting a new religion. I know that’s probably going to sound a little weird, but hear me out.

I was raised Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday. I was an altar boy. And I believed the things I did about God and the Trinity and everything else because that’s what I was taught to believe. If I had been raised in the Jewish or Muslim faith, I would’ve believed that dogma instead.

After I graduated from high school, I essentially dropped out of church, and abandoned all pretense of following any organized religion. I started exploring and researching everything I could about God and his many incarnations, and the many religions he spawned.

There’s essentially only one reason why anyone believes whatever it is they believe about God. They perceive it to be the truth. I mean, why would you believe something if you knew it was false? Even atheists, who don’t believe in God at all, do so because think they’re right, and all the fools that worship any God are wrong.

Jews worship the One, True God. His name is Yahweh. So do Christians, except their One, True God is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but still One God, somehow, and Jesus Christ is the King and Savior of the world. Muslims also worship the One, True God, but his name is Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.

Three different beliefs. All of them are the One Truth.

To break it down even further, there are different factions in all of the world’s three main religions, and they all believe a different version of the Truth.

Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and even Mormans are all Christians. Sunnis, Shiites and Sufis are all Muslims. There are Orthodox Jews, Hasidic Jews, Reformist Jews, Conservative Jews and even Messianic Jews.

These varied sects can’t even agree with each other about what the truth is in the larger scope of their unified religion. And I I haven’t even mentioned Hindus or Buddhists or Shintoists or any of the other thousands of religions floating around out there in the world.

Upon further review, I came to this ridiculous conclusion. Either all of them were the One, True Religion. Or none of them were.

I discussed this with Brian Leach, my friend and former lead pastor at Joe’s Church. He understood what I was trying to say.

“If anything can be the truth, nothing actually can be. There has to be a Ground Zero.”

Somewhere, out there, out where dreams come true…  There had to be One Original Truth. And that is what I have been seeking, like a dog chasing its tail.

* * * *

The real seeker of truth never seeks truth. On the contrary, he tries to clean himself of all that is untrue, inauthentic, insincere – and when his heart is ready, purified, the guest comes. You cannot find the guest, you cannot go after him. He comes to you; you just have to be prepared. You have to be in a right attitude.

* * * *

I’ve been seeking the Truth since I was in my early twenties. I’ve gone down every wrong road I could find, and every dead end. Twice. Just to make sure. The above paragraph probably sums up everything I’ve learned in roughly thirty years of being totally lost as well as anything I could say, but this is how I’d phrase it.

What is the truth? I can’t tell you what the truth is, but I can tell you what it isn’t.

Burnin’ Down the House

My family moved a lots when I was a kid. My dad worked for the Aerospace Program, and then for the ICBM Defense Program. He was the project manager in charge of building the silos that housed the missiles America had aimed at the USSR.

It takes about two years to build a silo, so that was the longest period of time we lived in one place. I think the shortest was around eight months.

By the time I started high school, I had lived in eight different states: Minnesota, Michigan, South Dakota and Arkansas. North Dakota, California, Missouri and Montana. I’m gonna take a wild guess and estimate I had lived in about sixteen different houses. We lived in multiple locations in some of those states. My parents were very good at moving.

Worst Case Scenario: When I was in the seventh grade, I started the school year in Minnesota, completed most of the year in Missouri, and finished the year in Montana.

Yeah, that was a lots of fun.

Just before the start of my senior year in high school, my family moved back to Minnesota. I would not accompany them. My sister, Colleen, graciously offered to let me live with her and her husband so I could complete my high school education in Montana.

My parents bought a beautiful home set on the banks of the Mississippi River outside of Little Falls, MN. It’s the boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh, perhaps the most famous aviator of the 20th Century.

I was never a big fan of Little Falls. I have no evidence to support this, but I don’t think Charles Lindbergh cared much for Little Falls either. After all, he flew all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to get out of town. And he did it when no one else had ever succeeded in the attempt.

Truly the act of a desperate man.

I would rejoin my family after I was discharged from the Army. I’d be willing to bet I was a fairly desperate man myself. I was running from a horde of demons, but there’s a funny thing about demons.

You can’t run from them. They live inside of you. Wherever you go, they go.

Fuckin’ demons!

Regardless of my feelings about Little Falls, I loved my parents house. It is my favorite house of all the places we lived. The only other place that comes close is our house in Missoula, MT. That was a cool place too.

I called the Little Falls house The Ranch. My brother, Bob, and I raised homing pigeons there, and Bob had a herd of chickens. And some pheasants. We had a lots of good times at The Ranch. My family lived in that house longer than we lived anywhere else.

It was nice to stay in one place for awhile. I honestly can’t remember how many times I moved in and out of that house. Despite the sound advice I received from Jerry and Shorty in Dallas, it would take me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and find myself.

I know I moved out of The Ranch for good when I started nursing school. I would meet Lea after I had been working as a nurse for about a year, and became an home owner when I married her. And because I was suddenly making more money in one month than I had in half a year at most of my previous dead end jobs, I bought myself a present.

A little red sportscar. A Toyota MR2.

379121-1000-0

It was my first car that wasn’t a piece of shit. I loved that car like I have never loved an automobile before, or since.

Because it was a sportscar, it wasn’t meant to be driven in a Minnesota winter. So I asked my parents if I could store it in their garage until Spring. They had a big garage, and I did not. I actually owned three cars at that point in my life. In terms of automobiles, I had arrived.

And then came the fateful morning in February when I received a call from my sister, Julie. It was Zero Dark Thirty in the morning. I may have just completed a stretch of nights, and I had the day off.

“I hope you had insurance on your car.” Julie’s voice said into my ear. I was half asleep when the phone rang, but I woke up in a hurry when I heard that.

“Yeah, good morning to you too, Sis. What the hell are you talking about?”

“Mom and dad’s house burned down this morning. They barely escaped with their lives, and they lost everything. Not that you care!”

There’s a reason I would feel so comfortable around crazy people when I was a nurse…

“Julie, I just woke up, so give me a break.” I laughed, and sat up in bed. “Okay, tell me what happened.”

As I struggled to clear the cobwebs out of my head, Julie related what she knew. The fire started in the garage. A couple of the neighbors saw the flames, and ran into the house, getting my parents out safely. They escaped with whatever clothes they were able to grab, and my dad was able to get his car out of the garage just before the flames spread to the house.

My baby car was consumed by the flames, and was a total loss.

* * * *

I called my brother, Tom. He was living in Monticello. It was on my route to Little Falls from Minneapolis, and I would pick him up on my way.

“I think I might have burned the house down.” he told me when I picked him up.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I put a heat lamp in the dog house this weekend, for Tabitha.”

Tabitha was the family dog. She was a black cocker spaniel, and she was about two hundred years old. Her dog house was in the garage, and my own bro thought he would do something nice for the dog because she was old, and it was winter. He put a heat lamp in the dog house to keep Tabitha warm at night.

“Maybe the lamp fell off the nail, and landed in the blankets. That would start a fire, right?”

Yes. Yes, it would. And the fire had started in the garage. Tabitha’s dog house was right next to where I had parked my car to keep it safe during the winter.

I seriously thought about pulling over on the highway and killing my own bro to death.

* * * *

I’m not sure if shock adequately described my feelings when I pulled into the driveway and saw what remained of my parents house. There were no fire hydrants anywhere near their house. The fire department went through the water in their tanker quickly, and there wasn’t much they could do to extinguish the flames after that. They had no way to refill their tanker. The fire fighters basically stood around and watched our house burn. When it burned itself out, they left.

The house, and almost everything in it, was a complete loss. And sitting in the burned out frame of the garage, was the scorched remains of my little red sportscar.

The two material things I had loved most were both gone forever.

* * * *

My parents had gone into town. One of their friends had welcomed them into their home so they could shower, and made them breakfast.

Tom and I cautiously entered the shell of our former home and looked around. The smell of smoke hung heavily in the air. The interior was dark, black and burnt. Most of the windows were gone. There had been a huge picture window that looked out toward the river. Now, it was just a massive hole in what remained of the wall. There was an equally huge hole in the living room floor where the couch had been. It had burned so hot the floor under it collapsed, and it ended up in the basement.

The basement was filled with about five feet of water. Various debris and flotsam and jetsam floated in the dark water. My bedroom had been in the basement, but given its state, exploring was out of the question. It was oddly bright in the basement. The huge hole in the ceiling of the basement/floor of the living room let a lots of light in.

My parents had done at least two major remodeling projects on their house, and the place had been gorgeous. Now it was garbage, damaged beyond any hope of repair.

The guys that had gotten my parents out of the house pulled in to the driveway. Their faces wore the same look of disbelief that my brother and I had on our faces. They filled in their part of the story.

They worked together in an office kind of kitty corner across the road from my parents’ house. As they were getting ready to start their day, they saw Tabitha shivering outside the door of their office.

“What’s Tabitha doing here?” one of them wondered. She was a very social dog, and all our neighbors knew her, but she didn’t usually visit that early in the morning. They looked over toward The Ranch, saw the garage on fire, and ran into the house to save my parents.

I shook their hands, and very sincerely thanked them. So did Tom. And we thanked Tabitha, too.

Then I went to say goodbye to my baby car.

“Sorry about your car, man.” Tom said.

“It’s just a car. It can be replaced.” I replied. And that’s when I remembered I still owed something like eight grand on it. But luckily, it was insured. And that was a very good thing.

* * * *

My parents and a handful of my siblings arrived. That particular look of disbelief was very popular that day. We carefully looked around what remained of our house. Somewhat amazingly, not everything was completely destroyed by the fire.

Some glassware and kitchenware survived. A box of family photos and a plush toy Santa Christmas decoration made it through the fire by hiding in a small closet in the hallway just outside the master bedroom.

The photos, and Santa, would smell like smoke for years to follow.

My mom was very quiet as she carefully explored what was left of her life. My dad, my siblings and I tried to keep up some sort of encouraging chatter, but we weren’t very successful. I mean, how do you pick up the pieces when there’s nothing to pick up?

And then my mom spoke.

“You know, I think I got rid of the mice this time.”

And that’s when we all knew everything was going to be all right.

* * * *

Life goes on. It always does, no matter what else happens. Our old house would be totally demolished. The new house my parents built was nicer than the old house would ever be, despite all the renovations and remodeling they had done. And the new furnishings were a major upgrade from the furniture we had grown up with.

But it wasn’t the same. I never formed an emotional attachment to that house, and when my parents decided to sell it and move into town, it was no great loss to me or anyone else in my family.

My insurance company mostly covered what I owed on my car. I think I had to come up with about eight hundred dollars to pay the bank.

My lovely supermodel wife would actually buy me another MR2 to replace my little red sportscar. My second MR2 was black, and a newer model than my first MR2. But just like the replacement house, my replacement car was nice, but it wasn’t the same. When I decided to sell it, I was done with sportscars for good.

In an odd twist of fate, my wife would fall in love with them, and all of the cars she bought after that would become increasingly sportier and fastier. Her last car was a Nissan 370 Z that could probably go 180 mph. I know for a fact it went 140 mph.

Lea loves to drive fast.

Horrible Bosses, Part II

I’m struggling to figure out how to start this installment of my blog. Maybe if I acknowledge that, I can get started.

My lovely supermodel wife was in the hospital recovering from her fourth, and most devastating surgery of the five surgeries she would have in that time period.

My mother-in-law had died on the table in the Operating Room. Lea’s dad and her sister, Leslie, were using my house as their headquarters to contact their family to inform everyone about Wanda’s passing, and plan her funeral.

I can’t remember exactly how I ended up being chosen to write her eulogy…  It might have been because of all the things I said about her when we went to see her body the night she died. Dave was touched, and may have asked me to say something at her memorial service. I would spend a few days camped in front of my computer monitor, writing and editing and rewriting what I wanted to say.

My boss and her boss, Marj and Mary, had done the unthinkable. They had questioned whether I really needed to take a week off after the sudden death of my mother-in-law.

And that’s how this story gets started.

* * * *

I wasn’t particularly close to anyone in Lea’s family at that time. Her parents lived almost two thousand miles away. I hadn’t actually seen them in person more than a handful of times. I liked Wanda, she was a sweet gal. Dave was a difficult guy to like. Even the people that knew him best agreed on that.

This was my first time meeting Lea’s sister and her husband. She didn’t come to our wedding, she didn’t approve of Lea marrying a man she had known less than six months. Leslie and Lea were as different as two sisters could be. I didn’t quite know what to think of her the first time we met. But I really liked her husband. Bill was a really sweet guy, and he had a great sense of humor. We became friends almost immediately.

The relatives started arriving. They dropped by the house to see Dave and Leslie and Bill.

Shirley, Dave’s sister. Pat, Wanda’s sister. Gene, Dave’s brother. And Joan, Gene’s wife. I met them all and listened to their stories about Wanda. And that’s how I learned about her life and what kind of woman she was. And those stories would become the eulogy I wrote.

I focused on that, but in the back of my mind I started writing another paper. One that would take my horrible boss and her even more horrible boss out at the knees.

I split time that week between my house and Fairview Medical Center. Lea’s fourth surgery had resulted in the removal of all of her colon, and about ten feet of her small bowel as well. And there was one more thing. She had an ileostomy with an external pouch.

My lovely supermodel wife was devastated.

It was a difficult time for us. Lea was reluctant to tell me the result of her surgery. She was distant and distracted. I attributed her response to the death of her mother. I knew I would’ve been distraught if my mother had died. Her surgeon had informed me about the results of Surgery #4, so I wasn’t completely in the dark about what had got happened.

I spent hours at the hospital, saying nothing, watching my wife sleep. She slept more after that surgery than any of the others. I had many whispered conversations with her nurses and the visitors that dropped in to see her.

It was maybe toward the middle of the week that she told me she had an ileostomy. Tears rolled down her face like rain. I think I asked her what took her so long to tell me.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t think of me as a whole person anymore.”

“Honey, if wanted someone who was all there, I never would’ve married you.”

Sometimes, a guy just has to reassure his wife.

* * * *

Lea’s doctor had to write an order for a pass so Lea could go to her mother’s funeral service on Friday. I brought an outfit she requested to the hospital. It was probably the first time she’d worn something besides an hospital gown in a month.

Wanda’s service was held at a funeral home. Dave wasn’t a big believer in God. He never went to church, and he wasn’t about to start now.

Bill had also been selected to say a few words at Wanda’s service. The gist of his words was knowing when you’ve had enough and when to say when. And that was one of Wanda’s graces. She knew when she’d had enough.

And then I took the podium.

I first met David and Wanda the day before Lea and I got married in 1988. I got the impression on our wedding day that Wanda was quite a character, but it wasn’t until the first Saturday after we were married that I truly realized how much of a character Wanda was. And that was when the telephone rang at 6:00 AM.

Lea says she has been trying unsuccessfully for 22 years to get her mother to call her at a later hour. Lea’s sister, Leslie, had been lobbying for 30 years. It’s a certainty that what the two of them couldn’t achieve in a combined 52 years, I wasn’t going to change in the 6 years that I knew Wanda. Dave and I were talking the other day and he said, “The girls are really going to miss their mother calling them on Saturday morning.” I think I can speak for Leslie and Lea when I say, “Dave, if you want to call us at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning, please pick up the phone and give us a call.”

Speaking only for myself, I’d like to point out that 8:00 AM is a very fine hour. 9:00 AM is a good hour, also. Seriously Dave; anytime, any day, you want to call, call us. Any time.

I remember the trip Lea and I took to Harlingen, TX a couple years ago to see her parents. You can practically spit into Mexico from their mailbox, so of course we took a trip to one of the border towns nearby. Dave and I found we aren’t very good at haggling with the street vendors in Mexico. I’d see something I like and ask how much it cost and the vendor would say, “$50.00.” And I’d say, “Okay.” Wanda came to my rescue. And she was a tough negotiator, so Dave and I did the only sensible thing we could do under the circumstances. We left the shopping to Wanda and Lea, and we went to go have a few beers.

Another story I have of Wanda is one that Dave told me recently. When Dave and Wanda lived up here in Minnesota, they had season tickets to the Vikings games. Back then, the Vikings played football outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium. It was out in the elements, and football was football. The players got their uniforms dirty and everything. Also back then, the fans would have tailgate parties out at the Met, set up their barbecues an partied in the parking lot at Met Stadium–did all that stuff that no one can do now that the Metrodome is here. After one of the games Dave and Wanda and their group had their tailgate party going, and there was another group or two not far away. Back then, some of the Viking players would stop in and have a beer and a burger with the fans, and a former Vikings wide receiver named Gene Washington was doing that with a group not far from where Dave and Wanda were at.

A crowd of young boys had gathered around Mr. Washington, hoping to get his autograph, but Mr. Washington wasn’t in an autograph signing mood. He told the kids to leave him alone. When Wanda saw that she went over to Mr. Washington and told him, “Those boys idolize you, you’re their hero. All they want from you is an autograph–You should be ashamed of yourself!” And I can just see Wanda doing that.

I won’t repeat Mr. Washington’s reply to Wanda, but needless to say he wasn’t very polite, nor did he sign any autographs for those boys.

I was probably the same age as some of those boys were when that incident happened. When I was a young boy I worshipped the Vikings, I watched all their games, I idolized the players. They were my heroes. And Gene Washington was one of my heroes. But I have a different hero now.

There’s a saying that goes, “When you’re Irish, you know that sooner or later the world’s going to break your heart.” And it is true. It is so true.

If there’s any consolation for those of us gathered here to remember Wanda, it is this: Heroes, true heroes, never die. Their actions, their deeds and their legacies live forever. 

It would be the first of the four eulogies I’ve done in my life. It was the most difficult public speech I had ever attempted. Only my dad’s eulogy would surpass it terms of personal heartache for me.

Lea returned to the hospital almost immediately after the service. I didn’t take her back–I think Gwen drove her–but I remember walking into her room when I got to the hospital after the meal. There’s always food after a funeral in Minnesota. Lea’s clothes were strewn on the floor. Lea never did that. I knew her suffering vastly surpassed mine. I was afraid this blow might be too much for her to take. She was asleep in bed, again. I folded her clothes and hung them in her closet, then sat down and watched her sleep.

But in my mind, I was writing the paper I would send to my Director of Nursing at the MVAMC. A paper that would more than even the score against the heartless bitches that were making my life miserable at work, and get them off my back.

It would be the greatest thing I ever wrote.

* * * *

There’s only problem I have with my greatest work of prose now. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote anymore, and I didn’t save a copy of it.

I know I outlined the situation regarding my wife’s lengthy illness, and the life and death situation it had become. And I was especially clear about what Marj and Mary had said after my mother-in-law died, and how she had travelled up to Minnesota from the bottom of Texas to see her daughter one last time.

I know I talked about the qualities of caring and compassion that nurses are endowed with, except when regarding our colleagues. That’s really all I wanted. I wanted to be treated with a little compassion, and I wanted my goddamn bosses to stop hitting me with a guilt trip every time I needed to take time off because my wife was in the hospital fighting for her life.

I think my write up was about five pages long. I returned to work to another stretch of nights. I put my paper into an intraoffice mailing envelope, and addressed it to the DON. I would hear from my co-workers about its effect.

The DON at the MVAMC was a gal named Betty Theis. She was a no-nonsense, tough as nails administrator. Steel wished it was made of Betty, and when she got angry, grown men had been known to start crying under her unrelenting gaze.

I really wish I could have been present when Betty summoned Marj and Mary to her office. My co-workers told me Marj looked like she had seen two ghosts when she returned to the unit, and closed the door to her office. Her eyes were red from crying when she left.

Marj called me into her office when I returned to working days.

“I know you’ve gone through a lot lately, and I haven’t been as supportive as I could.” That would be the closest thing to an apology I would receive from Marj. Mary would only speak to me one more time while she worked at the MVAMC, and it would not be an apology.

But it was what Marj said next that truly surprised me.

“I think you’re depressed and suicidal, and I’m sending you see an EAP counselor.” I think I may have started laughing at her, and at the very least, I had to have flashed her a smile of amusement. Of all the things I anticipated she might say, this was one thing I most certainly hadn’t expected.

Nurses might have a lots of duties and responsibilities, but no part of a my job description, or Marj’s for that matter, had anything to do with diagnosing anyone. I probably could have gotten her dumb ass fired for that remark, but that had never been part of my agenda.

So I went to the EAP Office to meet with my counselor. He met me at the door. He was a nice guy that had trouble believing I was the suicidal guy he was supposed to save.

“You drove here yourself? No one accompanied you? I heard you were an imminent suicide risk!”

“Yeah, that’s what I heard, too.”

I told my counselor my story. By the time I finished, I think he wanted to kill Marj.

“I don’t think you’re depressed, or suicidal. I think you’ve been through a lot of stress, for an extended period of time, and I think both you and your wife need some time to just take everything in so you can put your lives back together.”

I was hoping his recommendation would be for me to take a month off.

“Look. You won the battle. Don’t lose the war. Go back to work. Keep your head down, and I’d look for a new position if I were you. Your boss,” he said. “Is nuts!”

That guy gave me some good advice when I needed it most. The more I thought about Marj’s response, the more I started thinking maybe I should make getting her dumb ass fired part of my agenda.

But the last thing I needed at that time was to fight a war on a second front. I took his advice. I went back to work and kept my head down. I tried not to turn my back on my horrible boss, just in cases she had a knife in her hand.

And I took the first opportunity I had to apply for another pysch position at the MVAMC,. A staff nurse position opened up on the other psych unit, and I interviewed with Kevin. It would end up being the smartest career move I made at the VA, and once free of Marj, I would start to become a great psych nurse.

And more importantly, my wife would finally start getting better, and our lives together would finally begin to achieve some measure of balance.

But that would be in the future, and there would be plenty of challenges waiting for us to face. And one in particular that almost destroyed our marriage.

Kit-tens

We have a cat. My lovely supermodel wife calls her a kit-ten, which I think is so darlingpreshadorbs I can hardly stand it. Especially since our kit-ten is eighteen years old, and is about as far from being a kitten as a cat can be.

Her name is Samantha Rachel Markes-Covington Rowen. Yeah, I adopted the cat as my own, much like I adopted her original owner, Abigail Marjorie Markes-Covington. Actually, three of the last four cats living in our household were Abi’s cats.

Abi moved in with us when she turned eighteen, much like her older sister had. Gwen had just moved out of our house, making room for Abi’s arrival. Abi had two Himalayan cats at the time, Boots and Sheila, and she asked if she could bring her cats with her when she moved in.

I wasn’t a cat fan, but once I fell in love with Lea’s daughters, I’ve discovered the hardest thing for me to do was say No to them. For almost any reason. I could tell stories about how those girls have me wrapped around their fingers, but I won’t. I have to try preserve what little dignity I have.

So, Abi and her cats moved in with one proviso–the cats had to stay in the basement. I even built a cat barrier to keep them contained to the nether regions of the house. But they were cats, they jumped over it, and laughed at me. I can’t remember how long my edict lasted, save that it didn’t last long.

The cats roamed wherever they pleased. I did my best to herd them back into the basement when I found them brazenly strolling around upstairs, and at least they slept in the basement with Abi. I had to content myself with that pyrric victory.

Then Sheila became ill, and had to be put down, and we were down to one cat.

“I don’t think we should leave Boots in the basement.” my wife said to me one day. “She’s all alone, and I’m sure she misses her daughter.”

Boots had been Sheila’s mom.

I had never been married prior to marrying Lea, but one of the first things I learned as a married guy was it was futile to argue with my wife about almost anything. I don’t think I’ve ever won an argument with her, even when I knew I was right. By the time she got to her closing rebuttal, I was dead in the water.

I still don’t understand how she does that. I only know she does it, all the time. So, when she said she didn’t want any lonely cats in our house, I knew the best outcome I could hope for was a delaying action until I was overrun.

Boots was given total access to any part of the house she wanted to be in, including our bed. And Lea was so thrilled the first time Boots jumped onto our bed to sleep with her! Then this happened:

“Honey, could you get out of bed?”

“Why?”

“I have to go to the bathroom, and I don’t want to disturb the cat.”

That actually happened.

I didn’t argue. I got out of bed, and waited for my wife to return before I got back into bed. And that’s when I realized who the Boss was in my house, and it wasn’t me. The person that wore the pants in my house wasn’t a person, nor did she even wear pants.

Lea started feeding Boots tuna because she thought Boots was too skinny, and Boots was a cat. She loved tuna! I was glad Boots didn’t like lobster, or Lea would’ve started feeding her that.

Boots was an elderly cat when she moved in with us, and her health wasn’t the best. She eventually also had to be put down. It was a sad day for the two women living in my house.

But life goes on. I was perfectly content living without a cat. And Lea seemed to be okay with that arrangement, too. Then one day about six months after Boots had passed, Lea looked at me with a certain look in her eyes, and said,

“I want a kit-ten.”

And then Abi looked at me, and said, “I want one, too!”

And I knew I was doomed. There would be kit-tens.

* * * *

Lea wanted an Himalayan. She found a breeder and made arrangements to pick up Alison Marie, Ali, for short. Lea wanted an Ali cat.

Abi went to the Humane Society. She perused the glass display case that contained a pile of kittens, like a million kittens. At the very bottom of the pile, a small gray and white feline face made eye contact with Abi, and said, “Mew!”

And Abi’s heart melted. She named her kit-ten Samantha Rachel because, “…she kind of looks like a Rachel, but not a Rachel Rachel…” Or something along that line of logic.

Like mother, like daughter.

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Samantha and Alison when they really were kit-tens

I have to admit, Ali and Sam were as cute as, well, kittens. They were fluff balls of manic energy, and their antics were hilarious. The kittens were best buds, and life was good.

And then they grew up and became cats, and everything seemed to change.

Alison was a purebred Himalayan, born to be a queen. It was no longer seemly for her to be seen with the mixed breed street urchin that had been her childhood best friend. Sam was part domestic tabby, part Maine Coon cat.

And Ali let Sam know it.

Their personalities went through a profound change. When the doorbell rang, Ali would answer the door because why else would anyone come to our door, if not to see her? Sam would run and hide.

Ali made friends with our neighbors, and would go next door to hang out with Donna while she worked in her gardens. Sam would hide in the hostas I planted for Lea because Lea wanted gardens, but she didn’t want to actually do any gardening. Sam became an expert at playing hide and seek.

As long as Sam was content to let Ali rule the roost, everything was fine. And Sam seemed to be content with that arrangement most of the time. However, Sam seemed to crave affection far more than Ali did. Ali seemed content to be worshipped from afar, unless Sam received more affection than she did.

Poor Sam. She couldn’t win when it came to her stepsister, and then karma stepped in and evened the score. Alison got sick, and then she got really sick, and just like that, she was gone.

That was a sad day, even for me. I told Lea she could never tell anyone, but I cried when Alison died.

And just like that, Samantha became the only cat in our house.

* * * *

I’m sure cats are capable of feeling grief and loss. I doubt Sam had much reason to grieve Ali’s passing, but every now and then she will let loose an yowl that sounds like a howl of mourning. It’s possible she’s still grieving the loss of her childhood companion…

But beyond that, Sam doesn’t appear to miss Alison at all. And I can’t blame her for that. Sam eventually realized she no longer had to play specond fiddle to anyone, and she has become without a doubt, the coolest cat I’ve ever known.

When Abi decided it was time for her to leave the nest and make it on her own, she had to make a hard decision. As much as Lea and I had grown attached to Samantha, Abi was Sam’s mom.

“I have a favor to ask you.” Abi said to me one day. She had made her hard decision. “I think Sam would do better if she stayed here with you. Would you adopt my cat and take care of her for me?”

Like I would’ve been able to say no to her.

As it turned out, Abi should have told Samantha I was going to be her dad because Sam had already decided whom she was going to devote her affection upon. And it wasn’t me.

One of the traits of Maine Coon cats is they adopt one person, and they are completely devoted to that person. In Sam’s case, she decided to adopt Lea, and there was no question about where her loyalties lay.

As in most cases with my lovely supermodel wife, I became the guy that everyone remembers in association with her. Sam never viewed me as her dad. I was guy with the Nice Lady. My purpose was to clean out her litter box. I’m sure she appreciates that in her way, but she lives for Lea.

Sam learned to accept me as a Lea substitute whenever Lea had to travel for work. But she forgot all about me the moment Lea returned home. Sam would run to her the moment she walked in the door, and meow and prance and purr, and follow Lea around like a puppy. It was actually very cute.

Business travel is a thing of the past for Lea nowadays, so Sam doesn’t have to miss her person for more than an hour or two at the most. Sam doesn’t follow her like a puppy anymore. She’s an old cat, and spends most of the day sleeping on the couch next to Lea.

20161216_132949

I think I can count the number of times I’ve sat on my couch in Mexico on one hand. I no longer question my position in the hierarchy of my household. In fact, when we decided to retire this year, Lea decided she would fly to Mexico with Sam, first class, to decrease the amount of travel stress Sam would have to endure.

I agreed without an argument. Lea’s love of her kit-ten has infiltrated my psyche. Whatever Lea wants, as far as Sam is concerned, is fine by me.

I have grown accustomed to having a cat tell me what to do. Like, when to get up in the morning to feed her. And when to let her outside so she can explore the backyard. Or when she wants to lifted onto the couch. She can jump on it any time she wants, but it’s better when I place her there. Or when she wants more food. She used to tell me when to go to bed, but since she’s retired, she tends to sleep on the couch longer before she comes to bed. I even bought a set of pet stairs for her so she can get on the bed. She can’t jump that high anymore.

It really is hell getting old.

I hope Sam’s health will allow her hang around and tell me what to do for a couple more years. I’m going to miss her when she’s gone. And Lea will be devastated.

But maybe six months down the road after Sam’s gone, it’ll be my turn. I’m going to give my wife a certain look and say,

“I want a kit-ten.”

What’s in a Name?

When my youngest daughter, Gail, was nineteen years old, she decided she wanted to change her name to Abigail. I’m not sure why she wanted to do it, but she had given it a lots of thought, and it was important to her.

My lovely supermodel wife wasn’t exactly pleased with her daughter’s decision. She had also given a lots of thought to the name she had christened her youngest daughter with, and she didn’t like the idea of this whole name change thing. In fact, Lea took four days to find the perfect name for her second daughter. Lea and Steve had planned on naming her Sara, but…

“She doesn’t look like a Sara…” Lea said. They went through a lots of names before they settled on Gail. And what sold Lea on the name was one simple thing. “Yes, it’s perfect! She looks like a Gail.”

And she thinks I’m crazy…

“At least she’s not changing her name to Unicorn.” I said. “Or Butterfly. Or Queen Elizabeth III. Or Zeke. It could be so much worse.”

“I still don’t have to like it.” was Lea’s response.

Regardless of what anyone thought, Gail had made up her mind. She filed all the appropriate documentation, and made an appointment for Name Change Court. In order to legally change her name, she needed two witnesses to testify on her behalf. She chose Lea and I to represent her. Despite her feelings, Lea agreed to do this for her daughter.

* * * *

Changing your name is a relatively simple process in Minnesota. You have to be at least eighteen years of age, a resident of the State of Minnesota for at least six months, and your application has to be filed in the county in which you reside. You have to appear in front of a judge, answer a few questions, pay the court fees, and you have a new name.

I loved Name Change Court. The referee hearing Gail’s application was a friendly looking guy that reminded me of Fred Rogers from Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood. I imagined he was wearing a sweater under his robe.

There were several other petitioners in court that day. All of them were from Africa. We would hear all of their petitions before Gail took the stand to become Abigail. One attorney represented all of the guys from Africa. Gail didn’t have an attorney.

“Do you need an attorney?” I asked Gail, like I had a lawyer in my back pocket, or something.

“Nope. I’m good.”

Each petitioners’ case was presented separately. A petitioner was sworn in, and took the stand, then endured a grueling interrogation by Mr Rogers.

“Please state your name for the court.”

“My name is Inigo Montoya.” the first petitioner said.

“Okay.” Mr Rogers said, smiling, and checked off a box on the paperwork in front of him.

“According to the visa you entered the country with Mr Montoya, your name is Abdallah Akoya.”

“Yes. Abdallah Akoya was my cousin. He applied for the visa to come to this country.”

“Okay.” another box was checked off. “And how did you end up with your cousin’s visa?”

“He was eaten by a lion.”

“Okay.” Mr Rogers checked off another box. “Are you applying for a name change to avoid paying debts, to avoid being sued, or to avoid being arrested or charged with a crime?” Mr Rogers asked in his singsong voice. He was freaking brutal. No wonder these guys had hired an attorney.

“No. I am an honest man.” Inigo replied. Mr Rogers smiled, and checked off another box.

“Have you ever had sex with a goat?”

“No! I have never had sex with a goat!” Inigo Montoya indignantly replied. He had not been expecting that question. Mr Rogers kept on smiling, and checked off another box.

“Did you bring any witnesses who can verify the truth of your testimony?”

“I am representing Mr Montoya, and I have filed all of the appropriate documentation with the court.” the attorney replied.

“Okay!” Mr Rogers said, and that was it. Inigo Montoya had survived his grueling interrogation, and could become Abdallah Akoya.

I can’t remember how many guys from Africa endured their grueling interrogations under the benignly smiling gaze of Mr Rogers, or how many cousins had been eaten by lions, but all of them would take the stand before Gail did. And when she did, she was ready.

“My name is Gail Marjorie Markes. I want to change my name to Abigail Marjorie Markes-Covington. I’m not applying for a name change to avoid paying debts, to avoid being sued, or to avoid being arrested or charged with a crime. And I’ve never had sex with a goat.” She looked at me, and smiled a contented smile. I was so proud of her!

“Okay!” Mr Rogers smiled, and took a moment to check off all the boxes on Gail’s paperwork. “Did you bring any witnesses to testify on your behalf?”

“Yes. I brought my parents.” soon-to-be Abigail replied, and pointed to us.

“Would you please rise, and state your names?”

“I’m Lea Covington Rowen. I’m Gail’s mother, and I can vouch for her testimony.”

“Okay.” Mr Rogers checked off another box. “And you?”

“I’m Mark Edward Rowen. I’m Gail’s stepfather, and I can also vouch for her testimony.”

“Okay.” Mr Rogers checked off another box.

“And, your Honor,”

“Yes?” Mr Rogers smiled, and looked up from his paperwork.

“I’ve never had sex with a goat, either.”

“Okay!”

* * * *

And that was it. Gail became Abigail. And then she became Abi. And then she got married, and ended up with a new name, again.

I’ve thought about changing my name, but I’ve been putting it off for a couple of reasons. One, I haven’t become a prophet yet, and I think I’d be more believable as a prophet if I had a name that sounded more, I don’t know, prophetic.

And two, the name I’ve been kicking around has already been taken by a prophet.

Elijah.

So? The guy’s been dead been dead for three thousand years!

Not so. Elijah is possibly the only man that ever lived that didn’t got dead. He was taken up to heaven on a chariot of fire. He may return again someday, and how would he feel meeting another prophet who had taken his name?

Elijah is described as being a big, hairy guy. He could probably kick my ass with two hairy fingers, so, I’ve been waiting.

The day may come when my foolish dream is realized. I certainly hope so, even if the life of a prophet is one of scorn and suffering…

My lovely supermodel wife has gotten used to my delusion. And if she hasn’t, she’s at least become less vocal in her opposition. And I, I have become less convinced it will ever become a reality.

Why do you want to be a prophet, Mark?

That’s a fair question, but the answer…

That’s another story.

Balancing Act

I’ve been retired for a little over two months now. I live a life of relaxed luxury in a beautiful villa on a hillside overlooking scenic Lake Chapala in Mexico. I honestly didn’t think my life could get any sweeter.

Everything happens for a reason. God, in his infinite wisdom, made straight our path to Mexico. But I never trusted the voices that said You guys have worked hard all your lives. God wants you relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. There’s only one problem with that line of thought.

It’s patently false.

Lea and I both believe there’s a deeper purpose at work here, but we haven’t discerned it yet. We aren’t driving the bus, but we do have to be able to recognize our stop. We’re keeping our eyes and minds open. And we totally enjoyed our first two months here.

And then I fucked up my back. A lots.

I didn’t do anything to injure my back. It was fine when I went to bed two weeks ago, but it felt… different…when I woke up. Two days later, I thought Freddy Kruger was massaging my neck. I was in agony.

When I was as a nurse, I was required to do a pain assessment on all of my patients. It’s a 0-10 scale, with 10 being the worst possible pain imaginable.

I know for a fact my pain hit 15 a couple of times. And I have an incredibly high pain tolerance. I mean, I’m the guy that once walked at least a mile on a fractured ankle.

Yeah, it actually did hurt like hell.

I’m a guy. Guys do not go see a doctor unless they’re dying. In truth, they will usually wait until after they’re dead before they’ll call to make an appointment. I’m also a nurse, and nurses dislike doctors even more than guys do. Dealing with the doctors is sometimes worse than dealing with the patients.

So, it may come as a surprise to hear that I went to see not one, but three healthcare providers in the last two weeks.

Doctor One was naturopathic practitioner. She didn’t do any sort of an exam, but based on my symptoms, she concluded I had an herniated disc. D1 gave me a cold laser treatment, an electrical muscle stimulation, and she gave me a prescription for some pain meds. Her treatment was… well, it wasn’t ineffective, but it wasn’t greatly effective either. Her bill was roughly 350 pesos, plus whatever the pain meds cost. My symptoms improved, but the pain persisted, and eventually got more better worser.

Doctor Two was a chiropractor. D2 palpated my cervical spine, and concluded my herniation was at C7. He had an impressive looking contraption for spinal decompression in his office. He told me the machine cost one hundred thousand dollars. And he has two of them. He did a minimal exam, then agreed with Doctor One’s assessment.  His idea of treatment was for me to use his contraption, and his bill was thirty seven thousand pesos.

In his defense, he does have two decompression machines to pay for.

Doctor Three does modified Bowen Therapy. Google it. That’s what I had to do. He did the most thorough medical history of this trio. He’s not merely a therapist of the physical realm, he’s a therapist of the soul.

“The right side of your face is really swollen. Have you had any dental work done lately?”

“My jaw was broken earlier this year.”

“Well, there you go.”

“But the fracture was on the left.”

“Yeah, that would explain it.”

Perhaps, but not to me.

He thought it was weird I had apparently herniated a disc in my sleep. It’s possible, I guess, but unlikely to occur that way. He asked a lots of questions about my life and stuff, and then he went to work. He’s probably had clients that were as messed up as I was, but I think it’s been awhile.

He thought discs C7 and T1 were locked together, then feared all seven of my cervical vertebrae were locked together. Getting all those little bones moving independently once more was a complicated process. When he wanted to loosen up a specific area of my body, like my neck, he started by focusing on an area nowhere near my neck, before he turned his attention and magic fingers on it. And before too long I could actually turn my head.

I felt like I had been hit by a truck by the time he finished. The session lasted two hours, and cost five hundred pesos. My still whole body aches this morning, but it’s not in agony anymore.

D3 talked about seemingly random stuff while he went through his progressions. He was just throwing ideas out there, food for thought. Like cosmic energy vortices and stuff. Some people are highly intuitive, and the energy vortices here are almost as intense as they are in Sedona, Arizona. That could be part of the problem.

“You worked in a high stress area. What are you doing now?”

“Dude, are you telling me I’m stressing out because I don’t have any stress in my life?”

I can honestly tell you I wasn’t too thrilled by that idea. I was a psych nurse. And now, I’m a…psych… patient? Seriously, I was having an existential spinal meltdown because I wasn’t hanging out with crazy people anymore.

I am shaking my head as write this, and it doesn’t hurt one bit.

This change has evidently been so stressful to me that the left side of my body is trying to pull my spine away from the center of my torso. My right shoulder is messed up, probably from the time I wiped out running across that old lava flow on the Big Island  of Hawaii. And I shanked up the left side of my rib cage, possibly when I jumped out of Raoul’s car after he turned into Satan when I was tripping on acid in Texas.

For whatever reason or reasons, my body has become profoundly unbalanced, and as a psych nurse and alcoholic, I understand the importance of balance.

The most depressing aspect of this circumstance is I thought I had a pretty good feel for the whole balance thing, and that illusion just got blown all to hell.

I know that I’ll never reach a point where I don’t need to work at improving myself, but I didn’t know I needed this much calibration. And yesterday was my 61st birthday. Not a present I would’ve chosen for myself, I can assure you.

So, what tools do you need to fix yourself?

Step 1. Awareness. If you’re not aware of the problem, you’re not going to do anything to fix it.

Step 2. Insight. How does it apply to me? Understanding cause and effect.

Step 3. Action. Come up with a plan and attack. If you’re not willing to make some changes, get comfortable where you’re at. You’re not going anywhere…

I need to exercise more–not this week, thank God, but soon. Drink more water. Even after three kidney stones, it’s still an issue. And I need to use better body mechanics.

That’s the structural stuff.

Emotionally and spiritually, I’m sure I couldn’t list all the stuff I need to do there, but off the top of my head, I’m sure stress management will rate pretty high on that list.

Poco y poco.

I’m not sure God has a sense of humor, but I like to think he does. It would explain a lot. God certainly has a finely tuned sense of irony because there are so many ironic moments in all of our lives. It would appear that God has an endless appetite for those types of scenarios.

What better tool to use to teach us awareness?

He’s got my attention.

Everyone thinks retirement means you can put your feet up and kick back. Your work is done. But that’s not how it’s looking to me right now.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like my work has just begun.

All My Darling Daughters

I know I said I was going to take some time off from writing. You know, get out of the house, go on a Mexican road trip. And then I screwed up my back. I can hardly make it to the kitchen to see if there’s anything in the refrigerator. Sitting in the car for a lengthy period of time would probably kill me to death, although my car has heated seats, and I love them almost as much as I love my daughters.

For those of you that have been reading my posts, you already know I was cursed by my mom when I was young.

Just wait until you grow up and have kids of your own! They’re going to be just like you!

I was a terrible human being in my youth, and my mother’s words scared me far more than any vague threats of spending an eternity in Hell ever did. For starters, you have to got dead to gain entry into Hell.

Like I was going to care about anything after I ceased living.

But children, children can make your life a living hell, and I knew all about that. After all, I done that to my parents.

So I purposed to not inflict that kind of suffering upon myself, and intentionally did not procreate. No birth control? Oh, look at the time! I forgot to feed my turtle today. Bye!

So, despite all of my precautions, I ended up with four darling daughters: Abigail and Gwendolyn, Nancy and Brea. I adopted the first two when I married my lovely supermodel wife. The last two adopted me when I worked with them at Aurora. And due to the fact that I’m not their biological father, they are four of the most darlingpreshadorbs women you could ever meet.

I also have two adopted work sons, Anthony and Luis. I may write about them someday. We’ll see.

When you marry a woman with children, you don’t marry her for her children. You marry her in spite of them.

I know when I fell in love with Lea. That was pretty much the moment I first saw her. It’s a guy thing. However, it would take a bit longer for me to fall in love with her girls. Abigail was twelve when I married her mom. Gwendolyn was fifteen. And they were Gail and Gwen back then. Gail legally changed her name to Abigail, and I will totally be writing about that someday. Gwen just started calling herself Gwendolyn.

I fell in love with Abigail first. She was a sweet kid, and could easily be described as a people pleaser. She just wanted everyone to be happy, and coming from a broken family only accentuated that need in her. Abigail actually reminds me of me. Sometimes I wonder how I couldn’t be her real dad. She’s more like me than she is either of her parents.

Gwendolyn was distant and aloof. She was kind of a moody little bitch when I first came into her life. She was probably pissed at her mom for divorcing her dad, and I was some guy that she’d have to talk during the holidays. Gwendolyn is so much like her mom it’s spooky. They even eerily resemble each other. Abigail looks like Lea too, but not as much as Gwendolyn does.

Gwen’s attitude would change when she turned eighteen. She would move in with us, and her emotional aloofness and distance toward us would thaw. That was also during the period of time that her mother became so deathly ill and was in and out of the hospital. Gwen and I would end up spending a lots of time together, and that’s when I fell in love with her. She is a big reason why I didn’t completely lose my mind during that period of time.

A lots of kids get into trouble with drugs or alcohol when they’re growing up. I have to give Lea and Steve a lots of credit because that wasn’t a major issue with her girls. They both would act out when they turned fourteen. I missed that stage with Gwen, but I would have my one and only father-daughter chat with Abigail when she hit that magic age.

She shaved the back of her head. I think she said she was bored or something. Her mom got really pissed or something, so I took Abi for a ride so we could be alone and chat.

“You know, when a kid gets into trouble these days, the parents look at each other and say, Where did we go wrong? But I’m from a different generation. When I did something stupid, my parents looked at me and said, What the hell is wrong with you! And if that wasn’t sufficient, they would spank my ass.

“You’re a good kid, and I’m only gonna tell you this once. Knock it off, or I will, I promise you, spank your ass until it glows like Rudolph’s nose. You got that?”

“Yep. Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Will you teach me how to drive?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Can we start now?”

And everyone says raising girls is tough…

I have grown to love my girls so much, and they are my girls. They both became awesome adults, and I am so proud of both of them. They have enriched my life, and they both taught me a lots.

Thank you, Abigail. Thank you Gwendolyn. I miss you both, and hope you both have a wonderful and blessed holiday season. I can’t wait for you to come visit. You’ll love it down here. Bring Reese’s minis when you come…

* * * *

Brea was the first of my work daughters. She was a new grad, but you’d never know that watching her in action. It took me years to become a great psych nurse. Brea had me beat in about five minutes. I thought I might be in the presence of greatness. She was an amazing nurse, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with her.

I think I tried telling her how to do something once when we first started working together.

“Don’t get all up in my grille, son.” was her response. And that’s when I fell in love with Brea. That’s also when I knew I was in the presence of greatness. Brea, was gangsta. I knew it was time for me to start thinking about retirement. The torch had been passed to a new generation.

I would quote all kinds of famous dead people to Brea, like John Kennedy.

“Yeah, I don’t know who that is.”

Oh well, she’s still an awesome nurse.

And then I met Nancy. She would become the best partner I ever worked with, for many reasons. Nancy was a also a new grad, but I think she had worked in home healthcare before coming to Aurora. She didn’t have the same presence of greatness that Brea possessed, but she had potential.

Nancy was heavily into CrossFit training when I first met her. In fact, that was her main focus.

“I’m an elite athlete.” she said. “I’m Nancy Carolina Rodriguez!”

“I’m an elite psych nurse.” I replied.”And that’s what you’re going to be when I’m through with you.”

Nancy kind of looks like an Hispanic Smurfette, and that was her first nickname. And that’s how I became Papa Smurf. We gave nicknames to everyone! And that’s when I fell in love with Nancy. People actually begged us for a nickname because if you didn’t have our brand, you weren’t shit.

I had more fun working with Nancy than I had with anyone. We got stuff done, but we laughed all day doing it. The nurses on the nearby units were jealous because they weren’t having anywhere near as much fun as us.

Nancy was a good student. She learned fast. It was Nancy who patented the Canyon Hammer. If you got out of line on our unit, you got the hammer.

But I knew my job was done the day she didn’t break out the hammer. One of her patients started amping up. She wanted pain pills, and she wasn’t going to stop until she got them.

“I’ve already given you everything I can. Oh, how about an Ensure®?”

Problem solved. Time for me to go.

Brea and Nancy have both applied to NP school. They’ll probably rewrite the history books of nursing. Who knows? They really might change the world.

Ah, my darling work daughters, I miss both of you, too. And your Mom. But not enough to come back to work.

There are many ways to measure a man. If I had anything to do with helping my darlingpreshadorbs daughters become the people they’ve become, I am content.

Abigail and Gwendolyn. Brea and Nancy. You are my legacy.

That’s how blessed I am.

Charades End

It’s 4:30 AM. I’ve been awake for about an hour. I screwed up my neck again, somehow, and the pain is considerable.

My neighbor is also awake. He’s a crazy guy from Iceland named Ludwig. I’m not sure he ever sleeps. He looks like he’s about eighty, and he listens to loud Icelandic rap music all day long.

Yeah, I didn’t know that existed either.

My wife has been reading my stories, so in about a week or so she’ll probably ask me to kill Ludwig, now that she knows I used to be a hitman…

I’ve decided I’m going to finish this story today, and then I’m retiring from writing.

Well, for awhile, anyway.

I need to get back to my life, and say goodbye to this chapter of my life. I’m not sure what inspired me to start writing this, but this thing has become like unto an infection inside me, and I have to get it out. I was reluctant to start this story. I knew it would be painful, but I had no idea how just much it would hurt.

To the Muse that has been compelling me, I say, Avaunt, and be gone. Leave me in peace. I have done your bidding. I can only hope there was a good reason for me to do this.

* * * *

One of the unique aspects of this story at the time was Shorty and I didn’t have the same experiences. I went to Oklahoma, he didn’t. Shorty didn’t miss any opportunities with Hillary, I evidently missed all of them. He ventured out into the thunderstorm from hell with Martha, and I didn’t. And I haven’t tried to cover what happened to him that night. That’s probably a whole story in and of itself.

But I’m finishing this today. I’ll be brief.

* * * *

Shorty and Martha left the party as the sky opened up and the rain poured down. They made a brief pitstop at Martha’s apartment, maybe she wanted him to see it–I can’t remember the reason–then Martha was going to show Shorty some of the wonders of the Dallas night scene.

Martha took Shorty to her favorite bar, and that’s where Shorty’s plan of being alone with Martha fell apart. Martha, it seemed, had a reputation. If you had’ludes, you could probably have Martha. And just about every guy in Dallas seemed to know that. Her favorite bar was filled with a dozen guys that had brought handfuls of her favorite drug, and they were lined up at the door waiting for her to arrive.

Most of them were polite enough to leave her alone when they saw her with Shorty, but there was this one guy, let’s call him Craig, and he did not.

Craig was more than just one of Martha’s Friday night guys. I think Shorty said they had had a serious relationship at one point in time, and most likely, he wanted that back.

Cutting to the chase, Craig more or less abducted Martha of Dallas. Neither Shorty nor I would play the role of Paris. She went willingly against her will. I think that’s how Shorty described it. The pretext for the abduction of Martha was the bar they were in was lame, and Craig knew of a place just down the road that was the new hotspot in town. Martha would ride with Craig, and Shorty would follow in Martha’s car.

It was still raining like hell outside. Craig took off like an Indy racer, and in his haste to catch up, Shorty misjudged a turn and hit the raised concrete median dividing the road. He blew a tire, and bent the hell out of one the rims on Martha’s car. I think she drove a little cream colored Volvo. And yes. It was darling.

Shorty might be a master mechanic, but he is not a pit crew. By the time he had gotten Martha’s car off of the median, over to the side of the road, and changed the tire in the pouring rain–Craig and Martha were long gone.

Any other guy probably would’ve called it a night and gone home. But Shorty started canvassing any place that looked like a bar. He’d buy a beer, ask if anyone had seen a hot little blonde accompanied by an asshole, and what’s the name of that new hotspot place?

And that’s how Shorty ended up being broke, again. When he ran out of cash, he went back to Martha’s apartment. After all, he had her car and keys, and he needed to be there to let her in when she returned. Martha’s fridge was well stocked with beer, so Shorty started drinking while he waited for Martha to return.

He would wait for a very, very long time. There wouldn’t be a drop of liquor left in Martha’s apartment by the time she returned. He drank everything, and that’s why he looked like hell when he finally stumbled through the door on Saturday afternoon.

And that’s what got happened to Shorty when he won the Martha Lottery and incurred the Wrath of God by being in the wrong place at the right time and beating me to get to Martha first.

Like I said, I ended up getting the better end of that deal by ending up with Randi. That might be the only time in history when the guy who came in second actually ended up winning, unless you count the Tour de France.

Martha would eventually come home, also looking like hell, which I still cannot believe. Craig wanted a little somethin’-somethin’ from Martha, and possibly for the first time in her life, Martha said no. Craig told Martha he’d take her home once he got what he wanted. According to Martha, he was still waiting when he finally decided to take her home. Then Martha gave Shorty a ride to Michael and Hillary’s place. You know what got happened after that.

* * * *

Well, I woke up Sunday mornin’ with no way to hold my soul that didn’t hurt…

I’m not sure I actually woke up that morning. I would had to have gone to sleep first, and there was just way too much crap bouncing around inside of my head to let me do that.  I know I offered up a lots of prayers that night. I was sorely in need of some guidance.

The thoughts in my head finally stopped moving at the speed of light, and I was able to get a little rest. I was brought out of my reverie by the sound of footsteps. I could make out Hillary’s form tiptoeing across the living room, into the kitchen, where she picked up her car keys and then tiptoed toward the door.

“Going somewhere?” I asked, putting on my glasses so I could see. The sound of my voice startled the hell out of her two times. Man, she screamed, and damn near jumped out of her clothes and her skin. That still makes me laugh, now that I think about it. That’s the last good memory I have of Hillary.

“Jesus Christ! You scared me! I-I was just going to the…store. I need to buy some… tampons. I’ll be right back.” I waved goodbye, and rolled over to look at my knife collection. Just about everything in the apartment with a sharp edge or a point was hidden under the couch.

Shorty came out of the bedroom, wearing a pair of jeans and an upper torso of muscles and scars. I’m not sure how many surgeries he’d had after his motorcycle accident. A lots.

“Hillary left.” I said.

“And you just let her go? What did you do? Pull her distributor cap?”

“How did you know that?”

“I figured you had to do something. You’ve been two steps ahead of everyone since this whole thing got started.” He yawned a big yawn, and stretched.

“What are you talking about? This was your idea!” I said. I got up off the floor and followed him into the kitchen. He started making a pot of coffee.

“Nope. All I said was we needed a plan. I knew you’d come up with the rest. Man, that flash thing, that was beautiful!” he laughed.

“No! I feel like I’ve been drowning in quicksand! You don’t know what I went through before you got here! Hillary had a gun!”

“And who had it when I got here?”

I opened my mouth, but no words came out.

“Look, I’m a smart guy, but you’re so far beyond me, I’d never catch you if I spent the rest of my life in college. That’s what you should do.”

“What?”

“Go back to college. Get a degree. Get a life. Find yourself!”

Do you see now why I love this guy! Sonuvabitch! I’m going to start to cry…

I was too stunned to do much of anything but stare at him at the time. It took me a moment, but that’s when I realized Shorty knew more about me than I did. I had no response to Shorty’s assertion, so I changed the subject.

“Well, what do we do next?”

“I’ve been thinking about that. It won’t be as good as anything you could come up with, but I have an idea.” And we wouldn’t have to wait long to find out if his idea would work. The door flew open and the malevolent spirit of Hillary confronted us from the doorway.

“What did you bastards do to my car! It won’t start!”

“Don’t look at me. Look at him.” Shorty said.

“That’s it? That’s your idea?”

“You fuckers didn’t kill George, did you?”

“Nope.” Shorty replied.

“Godfuckingdammit! I knew it! Jesus! Why did I ever invite you two losers down here!”

“Because, we’re your friends, Hillary. Now, calm down and let us help you.”

“Fuck you!” Hillary screamed. “I’ll kill both of you, and then I’ll go kill George myself!” She stormed past us, into the kitchen. “Where are my goddamn knives!”

“Two steps ahead.” Shorty said. We exchanged a high five.

“Get out of here! Get out of my house!” she screamed.

“No.” Shorty replied, calmly.

“Get out, or I’ll call the police!”

“That’s a great idea. Call the cops.” I said, but I was not calm. “I have a story I’m dying to tell them!”

It was almost sad to see the fire go out of Hillary’s eyes. But it was also an huge relief.

“You need help, Hillary.” Shorty said. He didn’t leave any loopholes.

“I know, but, I don’t…know…what to do.” She looked completely and utterly defeated.

“We’re your friends.” Shorty said, and he went to hug her. “That’s why we’re here. Let us take care of it.”

“What–what are you going to do?”

“First, I’m going to make breakfast. Then we’re going to clean this place up, and then, we’ll figure it out.”

“Okay…” Hillary said, taking comfort where she could find it. It was a good thing Shorty was there for her.

I still wanted to kill her.

* * * *

Well, that’s just about the end of the story about my vacation in Dallas with Shorty. I only have a couple few several loose ends to tie up.

Shorty threw a bunch of stuff together from the leftovers of our epic party, cracked open about six eggs, and heated the concoction up in a skillet. It wasn’t the tastiest meal I’ve ever eaten, but it was warm and filling.

Shorty and Hillary attacked the pile of dishes in the kitchen and cleaned out the refrigerator. I tried to stay as far away from Hillary as I could, and decided to clean up the spacious party room.

Believe it or not, there was still beer in the keg! I have known a lots of kegs in my lifetime, but that keg is the only one I ever gave a name. Old Faithful would go down in history. It supplied the fuel for two epic parties, and still had enough gas to get Shorty and I through our last night in Dallas.

I brought the keg up to the apartment after I finished cleaning the party room, and put it on the balcony. A little ice, and it would be waiting for us after we completed the Herculanean task of helping Hillary help herself.

We would finally finish that sucker off at around 3:00 AM on Monday morning. And when she gave up her last glass of beer, we put our hands over our hearts in a moment of silence, and drank a toast to Old Faithful, the best damn keg that ever lived.

I gave Hillary all of her knives back after Shorty made her promise to stop trying to kill anybody, particularly me. But he kept one of Michael’s knives, just in cases.

Hillary was a humble Bumble for the reminder of our time together in Dallas. She retired to the bedroom after the kitchen was reasonably clean, and she mostly stayed there. Shorty would check on her from time to time. Like he said, he was her friend.

* * * *

Shorty’s plan to help Hillary was simple. He pulled Jerry’s card out of his wallet and dialed Jerry’s home number. Even he had trouble getting his wallet out of his pocket. Jerry wasn’t overly surprised to hear that Hillary had gone off the deep end.

“See? What did I tell you!” he said. Shorty and I listened to Jerry simultaneously. Shorty held the phone at an angle between our ears, and thanks to the natural volume of his voice, it was almost like being on a speakerphone.

But surprised wouldn’t even come close to describing Jerry’s reaction when Shorty mentioned the gun.

“Gun?!? What gun!!!”

“It’s a snub nose.38.” I said. Shorty had no idea what kind of gun it was beyond one of those pistol looking things.

“WHAT! THAT’S MY GUN!! THAT FUCKING BITCH STOLE MY GUN!!! Do not go ANYWHERE! I’m on my way over there! Jesus FUCKING Christ!!”

“Now what?” I decided to ask. After all, this was Shorty’s plan. He shrugged.

“We wait.”

Shorty decided it was a good time to take a shower. I decided it was a good time to smoke a joint, but I had maybe just enough weed remaining for one last joint, if I was lucky. I’d save that for after later, when we finally killed off the keg.

I took one of Hillary’s cigarettes and walked down to the parking lot. Jerry would no doubt want his gun back, and I was the only one that knew where it was. I grabbed Hillary’s keys and headed for her car.

As I closed the trunk, a car came speeding into the parking lot. It wasn’t Jerry. It was Bernie. I handed Jerry’s gun and bullets to Bernie. He quickly threw everything in his trunk.

“Jerry kept his gun in his office.” Bernie said, clearly disgusted that one of Jerry’s employees would do something like this. “Now, tell me what the fuck has been going on here!”

Bernie smoked two cigarettes as he listened to my story. He listened intently, never interrupting, until I got to the part where Hillary pointed the gun at my head.

“You said that! Jesus! Are you nuts! Holy shit! Were we ever wrong about you guys! We thought you came down here to kill George, but you end up saving his fucking life! Jesus!!”

I started telling him what Shorty and I did next. I think the only word to describe the look on his face might be bewildered. Thankfully, Shorty appeared. He wondered where I had wandered off to, and he helped me finish the story. I think the only thing Bernie could do by the time we finished was shake his head.

“Why the fuck didn’t you call the cops?”

See? I told you.

“Holy Christ! Man! Jesus! Jerry and I owe you one for this!” And that made Shorty smile.

Bernie thanked us a couple hundred times. He was going to see Jerry and tell him our story.

“Tell Jerry to call me when you see him. I need to talk to him.”

“Yeah, sure…”

Shorty was looking pretty good. He was smiling. He had a spring in his step. He put his arm around my shoulders and we headed back to the apartment.

“You should take a shower. You look like shit.” he laughed. I laughed my first real laugh since… I was with Randi!

Wow! Has it been that long? I wondered. It seemed so long ago…

* * * *

We were waiting by the phone when Jerry called. I had showered, done my hair and given myself a pedicure while we waited. Shorty held the phone between us again. We had no problem hearing Jerry.

“I’m going to fire her! Do you hear me! Fire her!”

“You can’t do that.” Shorty said.

“The fuck I can’t! Watch me!!”

“You owe me.” Shorty said, and then I knew why Shorty had started smiling. He was going to call in all of his markers if it meant it would save his friend.

What a guy!

“You? I don’t owe you shit! If I owe anyone it’s your hippie buddy over there. He’s the fucking hero!”

Shorty nugged me in the ribs. He was calling in all of my markers, too.

“Hey, Jerry, this is Shorty’s hippie buddy. You owe me.”

“Yeah? And what do you want from me?”

“Whatever Shorty wants, so try to be, you know, fuckin’ gracious and shit.”

There was a long silence. I’m pretty sure Jerry and Bernie were consulting one another, and probably a team of lawyers. Jerry was The Man. He always got what he wanted.

“Okay, guys. I’m listening. Name your terms.”

* * * *

Shorty’s terms were simple. There would be no charges filed against Hillary for stealing Jerry’s gun so she could kill George. Despite the seriousness of her intent, no one actually got dead, and Hillary was in an unstable state of mind. She needed treatment, not incarceration.

And there would be no charges filed against us for breaking and entering into George’s apartment and pretending to kill him to death.

That wasn’t even an issue, Jerry assured us. He had talked to George already. He thought George wanted to marry us.

Hillary would keep her job, and Jerry would pay for any and all treatment she would need to recover from her illness. That was all Shorty wanted from Jerry.

“Well, shit. Isn’t this a damn mess! Now I really can’t wait for you guys to get the hell out of here. You’re starting to cost me money. I don’t think I can afford having friends like you! Okay. Tentatively, we have a deal. Just make sure Hillary agrees to this. And if she argues about anything we agreed to, or gives me any shit, the deal’s off the table. I press charges, and she goes to jail. Understand?”

You know what I think?

I think everyone needs a friend like Shorty.

* * * *

Monday morning finally rolled around. Our flight back to Minnesota didn’t depart until something like 5:00 PM. We had plenty of time to take care of the last few items on our To Do List.

Shorty replaced the distributor cap on Hillary’s car. It started right up.

Check.

Shorty had talked to Hillary after he had concluded his negotiations with Jerry. Hillary then called Jerry and agreed to all the terms and conditions of the negotiated agreement, without so much as one bit of sass or lip. It was a first for both of them. Jerry told her to take Monday off. He had a few details to work out at the office concerning her continued presence, especially since the guy she had wanted to kill to death worked there, too.

Well, that was Jerry’s problem, but we had no doubt he’d be able to figure it out. In Jerry’s world, he always got what he wanted.

Hillary gave Shorty a big hug when we left, and she thanked him for everything he had done on her behalf. Shorty gave Hillary the knife he had held on to, just in cases, and we left the apartment for good. I watched from the doorway, luggage in hand. I didn’t even say goodbye. I would never see Hillary again, but I didn’t count that as an huge loss.

We drove Michael’s van, dropped off the keg and tap, collected our deposit, then drove to the office. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing to greet us. They knew all about the events that had transpired over the weekend, and Shorty was hailed as the hero that he was. He had done the impossible. He made Jerry do something he didn’t want to do. And, somehow, he he had managed to save Hillary’s job in the process.

In spite of her insanity, it seemed a lot of people liked Hillary. I was seemingly the only person in the office that didn’t like her, besides George. But we had encountered her instability on a far more visceral level than the others. So, there was that.

George didn’t spend much time around the sales zombies, mostly because of Hillary. And even on that day, when Hillary wasn’t present, he still stood on the periphery. I joined him.

“Wow. I should hire you guys to be my agents.”

“No, you should hire Shorty.”

“He’s something else. He was the reason I decided to go along with you when you guys dropped in to visit the other night–his little speech.” George waved at Shorty when he looked in our direction. Shorty smiled, and waved back. “I wanted to fuckin’ kill you.” We both laughed at that.

“Yeah, there’s been a lot of that going around lately.”

“I still can’t believe you did that for me, especially when you didn’t have any reason to do it.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, George. I had every reason to do it. According to Shorty, that’s what friends do.”

“So are we friends now?”

“I don’t know what else you could call it.”

We gave each other a big hug, and then, there she was. Randi started walking in our direction, and she only had eyes for me.

“I’ve gotta go.”

“You’d be a fool if you didn’t, my friend.”

That was a nice touch.

* * * *

“Hi, girls!” I said to Randi’s tits as she wrapped her arms around me. “Did you miss me?”

“Stop that!” she blushed, and playfully punched me in the ribs.

Good thing she was just playing around. I thought she’d broken a couple of my ribs. That fuckin’ hurt!

She took me to the Supply Room and we kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed.

“You’re not coming back, are you.” It wasn’t really a question. She already knew the answer. I shook my head, then held her close.

“I will never forget you.” I promised.

“You better not!” She had tears in her eyes, and fought them back.

And we kissed some more. She was a good kisser.

Her memories are safely filed away, and I know where to find them. I can still see her, if I try. Some parts of her are easier to see than others. I never told her that I loved her, but I probably did, and in a way, I love her still. Jerry was right about Randi.

She was a good girl.

* * * *

The only person we didn’t see at the office was Martha, she wasn’t feeling good, so she took the day off. Shorty got her number from one of the sales zombies, and called her. We jumped in the van, stopping to buy a case of beer on the way to replace all of the beer Shorty had consumed waiting for her to return Friday night, and drove to her apartment.

Man, Friday seemed like it had happened a lifetime ago, and in a way, it had been.

Martha was wearing a gray sweatsuit. She apologized for looking like such a mess. To be honest, she was pale, and looked about as tired as I felt, but she was as beautiful as ever to my eyes. She really was stunning. And yes, her apartment was totally darling.

She gave me a tour while Shorty stocked her fridge. We held hands as she guided me from room to room. It wasn’t a big apartment, so it was a short tour, ending in her darlingpreshadorbs bedroom.

It was the most enjoyable home tour I’ve ever had, and the only thing I could think was, Damn, why don’t you live in Jerry’s house? I wanted her to never let go of my hand. She turned to look at me, and we gazed into each other’s eyes for a time.

“I’m really sorry about the way everything turned out. I thought we’d get a chance to spend more…time.. together. I really wanted that.” That looked like true regret in Martha’s eyes to me, and if it wasn’t, she deserves an Oscar, too.

“Martha, my dear, you have no idea how much those words mean to me.” I gave her a kiss I hoped she would never forget, and she gave me one I have never forgotten.

“Hey,” Shorty said from the doorway. “You ready?” We broke off our embrace, but stood there holding hands for a moment.

I love you, Martha. I said, silently. A tear welled in her eye, then slowly trickled down her cheek.

* * * *

“Thanks for doing that.” I said to Shorty as he drove Martha’s car, looking for a salvage yard where we could get a rim for Martha’s car.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” he said. “You know she’s in love with me, right?”

“We’re all in love with you, Shorty. We all are.”

That’s probably true, now that I think of it. I don’t know anyone who knows Shorty that doesn’t love him, including Hillary.

I gave Shorty every cent I had because he had none. He replaced the tire and bent rim. That was the real reason we went to see Martha. Shorty had damaged her car, and he had promised he would fix it before he left.

I never saw Martha again. I stayed outside when Shorty returned her car keys. I wanted to remember her with that tear running down her angelic face. That’s how I see her most of the time, when she drops in to visit. I tell her funny stories, and she smiles. But Shorty was probably right. She was in love with him.

After buying the beer, the new tire, and a replacement rim, we had eighty-eight cents left in our pockets when we left Dallas.

But we had checked off every item on our list. All we needed to do was catch our flight.

* * * *

We gave the keys to the van to Bernie. He shook our hands, and thanked us once again for everything we had done.

Jerry took us to lunch, his treat. It was the least he could do.

“So, are you staying? Are you leaving? You know what I think you should do?” Jerry talked rapid fire, like a machine gun.

“I’m not staying. I’m going home. I need a vacation.”

“Good. You don’t want to stay here. This place would eat you alive. So, did you enjoy your stay? Did you have a good time?”

I think all I could do was shrug in response. The last couple of days had cast a pretty dark pall over all the days of light and good cheer that had preceded them. I had been kicking around the idea of relocating to Dallas, and that would’ve changed the outcome of my life forever.

“You’re something else, hippie.” Jerry said. He was smiling. “I really gotta stop calling you that. How about, hero.”

“No. Call me hippie. I like that better.”

“That’s what you are, you know. A fuckin’ hero. Right, Girtz?” Shorty had half a sandwich in his mouth, so he simply nodded and kept on eating. I didn’t have as much of an appetite as Shorty. I think he ate half of my sandwich, too.

“Listen to me. Do something with your life! You’ve got too much talent to be a fuckin’ bum! Use it! Become a doctor. Become a lawyer. No, don’t do that, lawyers suck! Thanks to you guys, my lawyers are having a field day! I don’t even want to think about the bill they’re gonna send me! I should make you pay half of it, Girtz!”

“Fuck you.” Shorty laughed. And we all did.

“Listen, I know I’ve said this before, but I was wrong about you guys, and I’m never wrong! You guys–you guys are… I don’t know what you are. I want to thank you for everything you did. That, was incredible. I still can’t believe you did that.”

“You’re welcome, Jerry.” I said.

“There! You see how he does that! Beautiful! Listen to me, me and Girtz, we’re just working stiffs. You, you kid, you got a real chance to make a difference! You could change the world if you get your head out of your ass! You follow me?”

“I hear what you’re saying, Jerry. I heard something a lot like this the other day.” and looked at Shorty, then Jerry.

“We talked.” Jerry said.

“Okay, we’re good now? How’re you guys doing on cash? You need anything for your trip?” Shorty and I looked at each other for a moment.

“Nope, we’re good.”

“You both still have my card, right?” Jerry asked. We nodded. “Well, this is me being fuckin’gracious and shit, and I mean this. If either of you ever need anything, call me.” We thanked Jerry, and shook his hand. “You fucked up, Girtz, you should’ve asked me to make you my partner. I would’ve done it. I’d make you a rich man…”

“Yeah, I thought about it, but I’m not a big city kind of guy. There are some things money can’t buy.”

“You’re a smart man, Girtz. C’mon, I gotta get back to work. There are some things money can buy, and I gotta make sure I can pay the bill.”

Yeah, that was the last time I saw Jerry. I kept his card for many years, even though I knew I’d never use it to call in any additional markers. I probably bought a new wallet, and decided not to hang onto his card anymore. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Shorty still has his. And he probably has the same wallet he had back then, held together by duct tape…

* * * *

Jerry had his chauffeur drive us to the airport. We arrived in plenty of time to catch our flight. We walked past several restaurant/bars on the way to our gate.

“You know what I think?” Shorty said. “I think we should have hit up Jerry for enough cash to buy a couple beers!”

* * * *

And that, finally concludes my epic story of our trip to Dallas. I’ve been to Dallas several times since my vacation with Shorty, but I never tried to contact any of the people I met during that time. I was married when I returned, and I doubt my lovely wife would have appreciated me trying to hook up with Randi or Martha.

I have nothing but fond memories of Randi, and a whole lots of what ifs when it comes to Martha.

I hope they’re both happy.

Shorty would continue his telephone relationship with Hillary, I was at his station more than once when she called. He would ask if I wanted to talk to her.

“Tell Randi and Martha I said hi.” was my response.

Based on those conversations, I do know something about her life. Jerry kept his promise to Shorty. He paid for all of her treatment. She got more better gooder, and stopped trying to kill George. She married Michael, and they had a baby girl. And then Hillary stopped calling.

I finally decided to stop hating her when I decided to quit drinking. I hope she’s happy, too. And her family.

I don’t think I was ever the same after Dallas. I took the advice of Shorty and Jerry, and went back to school. I became a surgical technician, then a nurse, and though I didn’t change the world, I have helped a few people change the way they looked at their worlds, and I’m content with that.

I might have taken the same path without going to Dallas, but the feedback I received from Jerry and Shorty had more impact on me than it would have had if not for what I just had experienced.

Dallas would get me pointed in a direction that led down a path, and though I would stumble and stray from it, I would find my way back. I’m walking that path firmly, and I have no intention of losing my way again, ever.

I’m much older now, and hopefully, wiser. In retrospect, you can’t be found unless you’re lost. It took me awhile, but I found myself, and I mostly really like the person I’ve become.

There’s a saying in Mexico, poco y poco. Little by little, that’s how you do it. It might take longer, but the results are worth it. Be patient.

Thank you for that, Dallas. Y’all were pretty good to me, in that regard.

But there are times when the sky is cloudy, and a chill is in the air. And if the planets line up, just so, I can see inside the barrel of that .38 again. And I can hear George pleading for his life, and I can feel my soul screaming in pain and heartache, and those times are not so good.

There are other times I wonder if was real. How much of this story is true? Any of it? Or was it all just a dream?

I know I touched bases with some old friends, touched some other bases with new friends, lost at least one friend. I met a whole lots of great people. I wonder if any of them remember me, or am I the only one that remembers this time?

That thought… always makes me feel lonely, and alone.

I have not held a revolver since that trip. I’ve had several friends and relatives show me their handguns, and tried to hand them to me, but I can’t do it.

I cannot do it.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad. My lovely wife thinks it’s a good thing, but she has her own issues related to gun violence, and when I decide to write again, maybe I’ll write about that.

I love writing. I’m sure I’ll do it again someday. But not today. Of tomorrow. Nor the day after. I’m taking a vacation. I’m going on a Mexican road trip.

What’s the Spanish word for BUMP?

Kill the Wabbit

There’s one question that everyone that has heard even one-third of this story has always asked.

Why didn’t you guys call the cops?

I think Shorty and I actually looked at each other the first time anyone asked us that, and…we…had…no…answer…to that question.

In our defense, we were the guys that had been too stupid to ask Martha out, you know, on a date, so there’s that.

In my defense, I’m pretty sure it would’ve occurred to me to call the cops before we flew back to Minnesota. Probably.

I’m almost positive I would’ve called the police right after I had wrestled the gun away from Hillary, but then Shorty fell through the door and he decided we should kill George.

Once I bought into his plan…  Well, let’s just say I’m capable of a single-mindedness of purpose that is sort of spooky sometimes.

Shorty, it would turn out, had his own reasons for not wanting Hillary thrown in the slammer. He would eventually tell me he had been fucking Hillary’s brains out every chance he got, and he didn’t miss any opportunities.

I know, right!

Well, all I can say now is Hillary must’ve fucked like two minks. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been willing to commit murder for at least half of the women I slept with in my younger days.

Ah, Youth! You are so very brief, so fleeting!

And sooo incredibly stupid.

* * * *

Hillary drove Michael’s van to George’s apartment. Shorty rode shotgun. I sat on a roll of carpeting in the back of the van. George and Hillary didn’t live very far from each other, a mile or two at the most. The streets were virtually deserted. It seemed the weather was willing to be our ally. A light rain fell, necessitating the need to turn the wipers on to keep the windshield clear.

We parked across the street from George’s apartment. Actually, George’s apartment complex looked more like a bunch of brownstone flats than the complex Hillary lived in. A flight of stairs led to each front door. That actually played perfectly into our plan, too. The street was dark and deserted. Some of the entrances to the flats had the light over the front door on, but George’s stoop was dark.

Shorty and I were actually pretty calm. We had split a Quaalude that Hillary had given us before we left her apartment. She wanted us nice and relaxed when we killed George.

“What’s going on inside? Can you see anything?” I asked. I couldn’t see a thing. There were no windows in the back of the van. I tried squeezing into the front seat, but Shorty shoved me back.

“The lights are on in the living room.” Hillary said. “I don’t see anyone inside…  Wait! That’s George! He’s home! He’s home!!”

“Can you see anyone else? Is he alone?”

“I don’t see anyone else inside, do you?” Shorty asked Hillary.

“There’s no one else there. George doesn’t have any friends. No one likes that sonuvabitch!”

Shorty and I looked at each other. I’m pretty sure we were both having second thoughts about what we were doing. I know I was. My heart rate sped up a little, but not as much as it should have, considering what we were planning to do. Shorty would later say he also felt remarkably calm.

Maybe we should have been hitmen…

Hillary drove slowly to the end of the block, did a U turn, then parked the van in the parking lot. Shorty and I would walk to George’s apartment. When George answered the door, I would blind him with my flash, and we would force our way inside of his apartment, subdue him and kill him to death. Then we’d trash the place and make it look like a robbery gone wrong.

You can learn a lots about criminal behavior by watching cop shows on TV…  But the cops always get their man, unless he’s one of those spookysmart serial killer guys.

Have you ever spent, like, thirty nanoseconds planning the perfect scenario to seduce the woman of your dreams, and have it blow up in your face like an overinflated balloon? Then spend a couple of hours haphazardly throwing together the most ridiculous scheme you could concoct to murder someone and have it go off like clockwork?

Well, that’s what got happened. Hillary kept the van running. I left the panel door open when I got out. Shorty and I walked to George’s apartment. I hid to the left of the door. Shorty had his knife in his right hand, and knocked on the door with his left.

“What the fuck do you want?” George said when he saw Shorty standing outside his door. I stepped out from the shadows and *flash*

Bam! We were inside. Now all we had to do was get George to not call the police and go along with the rest of our incredibly ridiculous plan. It may not have occurred to us to call the police, but we had no reason to believe that George wouldn’t.

Yeah, go figure…

* * * *

To say that George was surprised by our flash attack would be an understatement. We just about scared the shit out of him. And when he saw the knife in Shorty’s hand, well, that’s all it took to subdue him.

“Don’t hurt me! Take whatever you want! Just don’t…hurt…me… please!”

George and Michael were similar in appearance. George had a slighter build, and straighter hair. It was probably George’s appearance, more than anything else, that made Shorty and I think we could pull our ridiculous plan off. But watching him beg for his life made me realize just how stupid our plan was. We almost came to our senses and walked out the door. But, we had come this far…

“We’re not here to hurt you. We’re trying to save your life.” I said.

“What? You could’ve fooled me! I thought you were here to kill me!”

“Listen, we don’t have a lot of time.” And I started to explain to George the series of events that had unfolded after Michael had been arrested. If George had been surprised before, there is no word to describe his state of mind by the time I finished. “We really don’t have much time. Hillary’s in the parking lot waiting for us. Sorry about being such a dick the other day…”

“You–you saved my life.” George said. He was starting to look a little better.

“Not yet.” Shorty said. “We still need Hillary to think you’re dead.”

“Well, fuck that!” George said. “I’m calling the cops!”

“No, you’re not. Then I probably will have to kill you.” Shorty said, knife in hand.

“Why are you guys doing this? Why are you trying to help her? That woman is a fucking bitch!”

“She’s my friend.” Shorty replied. Just. Like. That. There was something about the way he said those three words that made even George believe friendship was something Shorty took very seriously.

“George, Hillary doesn’t need to be in prison. She needs help. She needs to see, like, a really good doctor, or something. And she’s not going to get that in prison. Look, I know you hate Hillary now, but you must have loved her a lot at one time.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I did.” he finally agreed.

And let me say this. Crazy people have a way of contaminating the minds of the people that love them, and even though I was years away from becoming a psych nurse, I didn’t need a lots of training to know Hillary had totally fallen off of her rocker. And George’s mind probably wasn’t as pristine as it once had been pre-Hillary, much like the coffee table Hillary had marred after George had won his lawsuit.

“That’s what we need, George. We need your help to help the woman you once loved.”

George looked at us for the longest time, as if he had never seen anything like us in his life before. I knew Shorty’s threat to kill George was a bluff, but he probably didn’t. George took a deep breath.

“Okay. What do you need me to do?”

“This is probably gonna sound a little weird, but we need some of your blood.”

* * * *

George and Shorty went into the kitchen. George didn’t want to get blood all over his apartment. Well, it was a really nice place.

I turned off the lights in the living room, and joined Shorty and our murder victim in the kitchen.

“May I?” George asked, indicating he wanted Shorty’s knife. I shrugged, Your choice. Shorty handed the knife over. George stood over the sink as he tested the blade with his thumb, and accidentally cut himself.

“Ouch! Goddamn, that’s really sharp!”

George reflexively started to stick his thumb in his mouth, but Shorty stopped him. Taking the knife back from George, the two of them milked  George’s bleeding thumb, dripping blood on the blade of the knife and Shorty’s right hand. They really got caught up in the whole thing. George kept suggesting where the drops of his blood should go, and he thought there should be more. I was starting to like this guy.

I tried to pull Shorty’s wallet out of his back pocket. My plan was to pool our cash so I could show Hillary the money we had stolen from George, just in cases.

Yeah, I’m beginning to wonder which of us was crazier, too. Hillary, or me. Maybe that’s why I became such a good psych nurse…

“Hey! What’re you doing?” he asked. I quickly explained. Shorty’s wallet was crammed full of all kinds of stuff, and fat as a toad. It was essentially stuck in his pocket. “Don’t bother, I’m broke.”

I looked in my wallet. I had about one hundred twenty dollars.

“I was killed for a hundred and twenty bucks? That, is so sad.” George said. We all had a laugh about that. I was starting to love this guy.

Shorty’s hand was starting to look like an extra in a slasher movie. We hoped it would be enough to convince Hillary that not only was George really dead, he was really quite sincerely dead.

We thanked George for his blood and his cooperation. And we asked him once more not to call the police, or Jerry, and essentially play dead until Monday.  He shrugged, and agreed, sucking his thumb. I grabbed a handful of paper towels and used them to close the door behind me on the way out.

Our plan, it seemed, had worked perfectly.

* * * *

“I want to see the body.”

Well, there was that. Yeah, it’s always something, you know?

Shorty and I had run as fast as we could to the van. I had slid the panel door shut, but instead of driving off, Hillary wanted to see the evidence of our success. I suppose we’re lucky she didn’t ask us to bring back a body part…  She was impressed by the bloody knife and Shorty’s bloodied hand, but…  She got out of the van and headed for George’s apartment.

“Drive!” I said to Shorty. He jumped behind the wheel. I slid  open the panel door. We caught up with Hillary about halfway to George’s apartment. I reached out and grabbed her by her ponytail.

There’s a little known Law of Physics I like to call Mark’s Law of Hair. In essence, whichever direction your hair is pulled in, the rest of your body will follow. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime.

All of Hillary came flying into the van. And she was pissed!

I started explaining our plan all over again, and how it was imperative that she not be at the scene of the crime, but she wasn’t having any of it.

“Hillary, I just killed a man for you.” Shorty said. “I just killed George for you. You can either believe me, or not. And if you don’t believe me…”

There was so much pain and heartbreak in Shorty’s voice, I almost started crying. If this had been a movie, Shorty would’ve won an Oscar for that line. It was so perfect!

Hillary actually stopped acting like a psychobitch from hell and climbed into the front seat so she could smother Shorty with kisses.

Ain’t love grand?

* * * *

We returned to the apartment. Shorty washed George’s blood off of his hand and Michael’s knife.

“We have to get rid of this. And this.” I said, referring to Michael’s knife and the jacket Shorty had worn. “I’ll toss them somewhere.”

I hid the knife in the glove compartment of the van. I stashed the jacket behind the roll of carpeting. I figured Michael would find them again, someday. The steering wheel was sticky. Shorty had gotten George’s blood on it when he had to drive after Hillary, that fucking bitch! The wad of paper towels from George’s apartment was still in the van. I found a puddle of water and cleaned off the steering wheel.

It wasn’t until that precise moment that I seriously started questioning what we had done. And it was also at that moment I decided to blame the Quaaludes for messing up my mind.

Dallas, would cure me of my pill addiction.

One down, two to go…

* * * *

Shorty’s cousin and his buddies started showing up about 7:00 PM, and we launched an all-out offensive on the remaining beer in the keg. If nothing else died that day, that goddamn keg was going down. I. Was. Determined.

If I had to guess, and believe me, that’s all I can do at this point in time, I’d say there were anywhere from ten to fifteen people that showed up. The Epic Party at the End of the World, Part II, was kicked off.

Hillary was bubbly and bouncey, and half the time she was draped all over Shorty like a cape. The look on his face showed he was enjoying the hell out of that. If I hadn’t started hating Hillary’s guts, I probably would’ve been jealous. As it was, I figured it’d make her that much easier to keep track of. I didn’t trust her any farther than I could throw her apartment complex.

Our guests for Epic Party, Round Two were a bunch of guys. I almost wished I had paid more attention to where the bikini babes by the pool lived. I would’ve knocked on their doors and invited them. I really wished I had asked Randi for her phone number. I totally would’ve called her and invited her over. I could’ve asked Hillary for Randi’s number, but I didn’t feel like asking her for any favors.

I think the only person at that party who didn’t have a great time, was me. I was tired. I was tired of Dallas. I just wanted to go home. And that’s when I knew I would not be staying in Dallas, not even if Martha got down on her knees and begged me to stay.

Well, that might have changed my mind…

“Don’t let Hillary out of your sight for any reason.” I told Shorty. We were both watching her dance with one of Leroy’s buddies. She was the only woman at the party, and was clearly enjoying the attention.  She was no longer dressed like a ninja. She was wearing a loose fitting multicolored top and tight jeans. And that’s when Shorty told me how he had been spending his time with Hillary when neither Michael or I were around.

I’m pretty sure that just made me feel more depressed.

“So, any thoughts on the day’s events?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah.” Shorty sighed. “I think George is probably the only decent person out of the whole bunch of us.” That made me feel worse, as if that were possible.

“We can’t let Hillary go anywhere alone.” I said. I was earnestly whispering into Shorty’s ear. “The first thing she’ll do is run over to George’s apartment and make sure we really killed him.”

“Mark, my friend, y’all have gotta lighten up!” Leroy had me wrapped up in a bear hug and was shaking me like a ragdoll. It’s a good thing Hillary hadn’t wanted us to kill Leroy. Neither Shorty nor I would’ve gotten out of Dallas alive. He was a big, muscular guy. If George had had Leroy’s physique, there’s no way we would have decided to take him on. “Y’all look so serious! What’re y’all doin’? Planning a murder?”

“That was earlier today!” Shorty laughed. I found a smile, somewhere inside me, and the laugh I produced sounded almost genuine.

But I felt no joy. I was starting to feel incredibly shitty about what we had done, even if we hadn’t actually killed anyone. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have wrestled the gun away from Hillary.

I would’ve made her pull the trigger.

Nice Guys

In case you’re wondering, I am Ryan Gosling in that picture. Russell Crowe is Shorty. They would actually make pretty good choices to portray us in the movie about our trip to Dallas. But only if our vacation adventure had happened, you know, four weeks ago, not forty years ago. Believe it or not, Shorty and I were young once…

Back when I wanted to be a rich and famous author, and I attempted to write this story, my working title for it was Brothers and Cousins. In the novel, Shorty and I were real brothers. Shorty had a twin brother named Allen, who was killed in a motorcycle accident. And Shorty was responsible for him gotting dead. Allen’s ghost would drop in from time to time and visit me, and he accompanied us on our trip to Dallas.

At least we didn’t have to buy a plane ticket for him…

In real life, Shorty had almost been killed in a motorcycle accident. He had been broken into a hundred pieces, but refused to got dead. When the doctors decided Shorty was going to live, they  told him he’d probably be lucky if he ever walked again, but he would never use his left arm again.

He would walk again. And not only did he regain use of his left arm, he regained full use of it. He does walk with a slight limp, and he has scars on his scars, but he was simply a guy that refused to give up on his dream, no matter what anyone said.

I doubt I can put into words how much I admire him.

And I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for also not thinking of asking Martha out, you know, on a date, because he could have done that, too. But for whatever reason, it didn’t occur to him either, and as a result, we both ended up winning a trophy for the stupidest plan, ever, to get into angelic Martha’s heavenly panties.

What are the chances of that? Maybe we really are brothers…

Time, circumstance and distance have altered our relationship. I probably haven’t talked to him in two or three years, and when we do get together, our vacation in Dallas is the one thing neither of us will discuss. We’ll laugh, and say something like, Yeah, that was a wild time, for sure! if anyone brings it up, and move on to the next subject.

I think we tried to tell the story a couple of times when we first got back to Minnesota, but we both gave up. No one could believe what happened to us during that last weekend in Dallas. I can understand that. If I hadn’t been there, I doubt I’d believe this story either.

Full Disclosure Statement: What follows is a very condensed version of the actual events that occurred that afternoon. The real, actual, true story is simply just too incredible. Even if Hollywood tried to make this into a movie, people would walk out of the theater shaking their heads saying, There’s no way that’s a true story! You’re gonna have to trust me on this one. Remember, I’ve tried to tell this story before, and you haven’t. But all of the essential details will be included, and the net result will be the same.

I haven’t been very specific about the time of any of the events that day occurred, and that’s because I honestly have no idea. But just so we can add a little perspective, when you start reading the next paragraph, it’ll be 3:00 PM, Saturday afternoon.

* * * *

I was staring down the barrel of a gun. It was the second time in my life I was in a situation like that. The first time is yet another story I might have to get around to telling someday. It’s probably pretty long and complicated, too.

Hillary had assumed a two handed stance on the other end of the gun, just like in the movies. I didn’t have much time to come up with a plan to extricate myself from the situation I’d gotten myself into.

Summoning all of the self-defense techniques I had learned in the military delivering supplies and taking x-rays, I moved forward and disarmed Hillary. I grabbed the gun and twisted it sharply to the left. One second I was staring at a gun in my face, the next second, I was holding it. Without a single shot being fired.

Beat that, Steven Seagal!

That actually happened. If I had to attempt it again, I’d probably got dead. The only explanation I have is I live a blessed life.

Now, if this had been a movie, my next move would’ve been to punch Hillary in the face, and knock her unconscious. But what happened next was something that surprised me so much I forgot I was supposed to do that.

My best friend and brother, Shorty Girtz, stumbled through the door. And that, I think, is best term to describe his entrance. He looked like hell.

“Shorty!” Hillary and I both shouted.

“Hey.” he replied, and he collapsed on the floor, like he had been shot. For a moment, I thought the gun had gone off, and he had been hit. Hillary might have hated George enough that she wanted to kill him, but she loved Shorty enough to postpone her mad intent and knelt down to tend to her friend.

“Shorty! Get up and tell this motherfucker to give me back my gun!”

“What?” he replied. He looked up at me from the floor and said, “Give Hillary back her gun.” Then he looked at Hillary and said, “What the hell are going to do with a gun?”

“She wants to kill George.” I said.

“He had Michael arrested! Michael’s in jail, and it’s all George’s fault! He needs to die!”

“Michael’s in jail?” Shorty asked. His expression said that he thought his head was going to explode. I nodded. “Why?”

“He violated his restraining order. On Friday. When we were walking out of the office–”

“That’s right!” Shorty said. He started looking better. “George! Jesus. Jail?”

“He’ll be arraigned on Monday.”

“Shorty! I need my gun back! Get it from him!”

“No. I’m not going to let you ruin your life by doing something stupid.” He sat up and started looking more better gooder.

Hillary stood up and glared at me. I held the gun in my left hand. She took a step toward me. I curled my right hand into a fist.

“If you come near me, I promise you I’ll knock all of your teeth into the back of your throat.”

Hillary made a wide berth around me and went into the kitchen. She returned two seconds later holding a knife the size of a small machete. A very sharp knife. I knew that because one of the things I had done the week before when I was bored was sharpen all of the knives in the kitchen.

Machete in hand, Hillary moved in to attack. That’s when I pointed the gun at her.

“Hey! Hey! Hey!” Shorty yelled. He got off the floor and jumped between us. “What the hell is wrong with you two? We’re friends!”

“Remember when Jerry was asking us about guns that first day in the office? He thought Hillary brought us down here to kill George.”

“Is that true?” Shorty asked Hillary.

“Yes! But you’re not killers! You’re sissies!” I would have to become a psych nurse before I would see anyone replicate that level of hatred and venom glaring in Hillary’s eyes.

“Well, if that’s what you wanted us to do, why didn’t you say something?”

“You mean, you’ll kill George for me?” Hillary asked. I don’t think she was expecting Shorty to say that. I know I wasn’t. She changed the position of the knife in hand, taking it out of Attack mode.

“Sure,” he said, then turned and gave me a wink. “Why not? But first, we have to come up with a plan.”

I lowered the gun, and decided to follow Shorty’s lead. I wasn’t sure what he was thinking, but he at least seemed to be capable of thought, so he had me beat.

“I think you’re both nuts, but if you’re serious about killing George, we need a plan, and a diagram of his apartment.”

“Why don’t you just shoot him when he answers the door?”

“Could be witnesses on the street, and then we’d have to kill them, too.” I explained. “Better to do it inside. We could use a pillow as a silencer, or we could slice him up. But we have to know what we’re walking into.”

You want to kill George now?” Hillary asked. Her tone said she wasn’t buying it.

“I promised Michael I wouldn’t let you do anything… foolish. That’s why he wanted to talk to me. He made me promise to take care of you, and I keep my promises. Shorty loves you, and you already know I love you. If Shorty wants to kill George for you, that changes everything for me. He’s my brother. But if we’re gonna do this, I want to maximize our chances of success, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. We need the layout of George’s apartment.”

That was either the most convincing lie I have ever told, or Hillary was so unbalanced that she would need years of medication and therapy to repair the damage to her brain. Maybe it was a little of both, with the scale tipped to the unbalanced part. But Hillary sat down at the table in the kitchen and started drawing the layout of George’s apartment while she explained everything to Shorty.

I turned on the radio, and as quietly as possible took the bullets out of the gun. When it was unloaded, I pulled the trigger. If Hillary had done that when she had the gun pointed at me, the back of my head would’ve resembled President Kennedy’s after his tour of downtown Dallas.

I was shaken. My hands were shaking. It was a good thing the gun was no longer loaded. I probably would’ve shot Hillary, if I could’ve hit her at that point in time. I was shaking so bad I probably would’ve missed the floor if I had tried to shoot it. I put the bullets in my pocket, and hid the gun under a pile of pillows.

* * * *

We sat down to discuss the best way to kill George. Hillary had drawn a detailed sketch of his apartment, and had thoroughly explained the layout to Shorty.

“Tell me about your gun.” I said to Hillary. “Is it registered to you?”

“Not… exactly.”

“What does that mean?”

“Jerry gave it to me. As a present. For protection. But–”

“It’s still registered to Jerry.” Shorty said.

“Yeah.”

That settled that. We would not tie Jerry to our dirty little secret in any way, shape or form.

“We’ll have to use knives.” I said.

“Damn! I wish I had brought mine.” Shorty said.

* * * *

Okay, class. After motorcycles, what do bikers like most?

Beer?

Okay. After motorcycles and beer, what do bikers like most?

Weed!

Okay. After motorcycles, beer and weed, what do bikers like most?

Chicks!

Okay! After all of that, what do bikers like?

Maybe you should just tell us.

Bikers love knives!

Michael and Shorty were bikers. And Michael had a knife collection. Hillary brought them into the kitchen. Shorty and I each selected a knife. The blades were in good shape, but I sharpened the edges to the point where you could’ve shaved with them.

Now all we needed was an edge. The sun wouldn’t be in George’s eyes. In fact, we wanted it to be dark as possible. And that’s when I remembered I had brought most of my camera equipment.

I not only had a camera, I had a detachable flash. All I had to do was turn it on, let it charge, and hit this little button, and…a blinding flash of light erupted in Hillary’s face.

“Jesus! I can’t see a fucking thing!”

Exactly.

“Okay, let’s go kill George!”

“You’re not part of this. You can’t be.” I said. Because Hillary really would kill George. Neither Shorty nor I had any doubts about that.

“Look, when the police find George’s body, who do you think the first person is they’ll want to question?”

“Probably me. Or Michael…”

“Michael’s in jail. He couldn’t kill George.”

“But I’m not going to rat you guys out to the police!”

“They’re gonna try to the pin the murder on you. But this is your story. We talked about killing George, right?” I looked at Shorty.

“Yeah, we did that all right.”

“You were upset, right?” We had no problem agreeing about that. “And, yeah, you said some stupid stuff, but only because your boyfriend was arrested…” Shorty said.

“But you were joking!” I added, and winked at Hillary.

“That’s right! I was joking!”  She actually laughed!

“If you’re at the scene of the crime, you’re not joking anymore. You’re an accomplice.”

“Right…  Well, what about you guys? What’s your story?”

“We didn’t kill George.”

“No way, we didn’t kill George. We don’t even know the guy!” Shorty added.

“We were having a big party.”

“We were?” Shorty asked.

“There’s a half a keg of beer downstairs.”

“What! How the hell did that happen?” Shorty didn’t believe me. We all went down to the party room.

“There’s a half a keg of beer in here!” he shouted. “How the fuck did that happen! Is it any good?”

I poured us all a glass. That was good beer. And it was ice cold.

“Now all we need is a bunch of people…” Hillary said.

“I could call my cousin…” Shorty suggested. And just like that, we had planned the perfect murder.

* * * *

While Shorty talked to Leroy on the phone, Hillary went into the bedroom to change. She insisted on coming with us, after all, she was the only one of us that knew where George lived, and she didn’t want us to kill an innocent person by mistake.

We would drive to George’s apartment in Michael’s van, and Hillary would wait outside as our getaway driver. She would keep the engine running, and the panel door would be open so Shorty and I could jump right in after we had killed George to death.

I grabbed Jerry’s gun and the bullets, and hid them in the trunk of Hillary’s car. I think it was around 5:00 PM. Dusk was approaching. Gray, ghostly clouds filled the sky. There was a threat of rain in the clouds. Maybe that would keep everyone in Dallas at home and off the streets. Shorty and I would need all of the planets to be in perfect alignment. And we needed all of the angels and saints to be in our back pockets.

For a reason I couldn’t explain, then or now, I disconnected the distributor cap on her engine. The engine would turn over, but it would never start. Shorty had explained that to me the day we did a tune up on her car. It just seemed to be the thing to do at the time.

* * * *

I’m not a biker guy. I have never been a biker guy, but I spent a lots of time hanging around them in my twenties because bikers really do love beer and weed. And chicks. Some of my best friends back then were bikers. So many of them got dead young.

One of the greatest things about bikers is they don’t need an actual reason to party. Shorty’s cousin was immediately on board when he heard there was an half a keg of beer left over from the party. And yeah, he had a few friends he knew that could rearrange their schedules to come over and help us kill off our keg.

Hillary had changed outfits. She was wearing all black, and had pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She sort of looked like a supermodel ninja. She gave Shorty and I a couple of Michael’s black T-shirts, and we put them on. We found some dark jackets, and put those on, too. And we were more or less ready to go kill George.

“Maybe we should call him. What if he’s not home…” I wasn’t planning on actually killing George, but this make-believe plan we had concocted was starting to feel just a little too real to me. I needed to stall for time, and I had already blown my chance to fuck Hillary’s brains out, so I couldn’t try that tactic again…  How the hell did I miss that?!? I wondered. I prayed no one would answer the phone. And I also hoped George wasn’t throwing a big, epic party.

Hillary dialed George’s number. A voice answered. She hung up immediately.

“That was George. He’s home! Let’s go do this!!”

I’m not sure if Shorty saw the look of…elation, perhaps, that lit up Hillary’s eyes as she said that. But I did.

It sends shivers down my spine even still.

Dallas, Part VI

I suppose it’s possible that someone reading this might not know that one of our Presidents was assassinated in Dallas. John F. Kennedy. Dealey Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald. Jack Ruby.

Ring any bells?

Well, all of those bells would toll for me that day.

Saturday, March 4, 1978.

* * * *

I asked the cops to wait, closed the door and left them outside the apartment, then knocked on the bedroom door where Michael and Hillary were resting.

“Yeah!” Michael’s voice responded.

“Michael, there’s a couple of guys here…” I didn’t know quite what to say. I opened the door. Michael and Hillary were laying on the bed.

“Are they cops?” he asked. I nodded. “Shit!” Michael and Hillary exchanged a glance that probably contained a thousand conversations. “Tell ’em I’ll be right out.” He got up and went to the bathroom.

“Michael, y’all need to come on out here!” Detective Riggs said from the doorway when I let them know what was going on. They had stepped inside once they knew they had their man.

“I have to take a piss!” Michael’s voice replied from the bathroom.

“Yeah, just don’t take too long now.” Detective Murtaugh replied. “If you shake it more than twice, yall’re playin’ with that thang.” His partner laughed. I might have even smiled. They seemed like nice guys, for cops.

Did I hide all my pot? I wondered. I hoped I had, or Michael might not be the only person in the apartment going to jail.

Hillary came out of the bedroom and started interrogating the cops, and they had to focus their attention on her. I know to God that I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. They answered her questions patiently and politely.

“I want to come along.” she said.

“Yes, ma’am. You can follow us if you want.”

“You motherfuckers wait for me!” Hillary shouted at the cops.

“Yes, ma’am.” they both replied.

Michael came out, and surrendered. Detective Riggs slapped a pair of cuff on Michael’s wrists, explaining his Miranda Rights as clicked the cuffs. Hillary grabbed her purse and we ran down the stairs.

Yeah, you read that correctly. We ran!

Hillary’s car tore out of the parking lot in hot pursuit of the police.

“I knew those fuckers wouldn’t wait!” she screamed, and gunned the engine. She flew through the intersections, regardless of red lights.

Little Known Fact About the Kennedy Assassination: When Kennedy’s body was being transported from Parkland Hospital to Love Field, the Secret Service didn’t stop at any red lights. They called them pink lights.

Hillary, it seemed, had become a Secret Service agent. She wasn’t wearing sunglasses, but she sure as hell wasn’t smiling.

I couldn’t tell you how many pink lights we encountered. A lots. The cops drove surface streets on their way to Dallas Police Headquarters. But thanks to Hillary’s complete and total disregard of traffic laws, we were right on the bumper of the unmarked police car carrying Michael.

Is that Dealey Plaza? I wondered. I think that’s the Texas School Book Depository! Holy shit! I thought. I could not believe it. I was traveling through Ground Zero, the place where President Kennedy had been assassinated. We continued tailing the cops until they turned into an underground parking garage at Dallas Police Headquarters.

Hillary stopped in the middle of the street, unsure about what to do.

“Can I park down there?”

“No sense in trying to play it safe now.” I said. “You didn’t let any red lights get in your way.”

“Good point.” she said, and roared into the garage. The cops were walking Michael into the building by the time we parked. Hillary shouted his name. He turned to look back toward us, but the cops kept him moving. We ran, trying to catch up.

Jesus! This is place Lee Harvey Oswald was jailed! And this is where Jack Ruby shot him! I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I had just stepped back in time.

For those of you that weren’t alive when Kennedy was killed, there’s no way to explain the significance of his assassination. It was the sentinel event of my generation, transcending all else, including 9-11.

And here I was. I had been given a backstage pass to an area I shouldn’t have had access to, all because Michael had decided to go where he had been forbidden to enter, and because George was big enough of a dick to make him pay for it.

Fuckin’ George!

“What are we doing here?” I decided to ask Hillary as we rode the elevator to the main floor. Oswald probably rode in this elevator! Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t help myself.

“We’re going to get Michael out.”

“Is that possible?”

“I don’t know. I’ll call Jerry.”

* * * *

And she did, but there was nothing he could do. And even if he could’ve done something, he wouldn’t have done it.

“Michael broke the fucking law! He violated his restraining order!”

That’s how Jerry explained it to me when Hillary put me on the phone to reason with Jerry. After all, he adored me!

“So, what happens next?”

“Michael stays in jail until his arraignment on Monday. End of story. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of everything. Go home. There’s nothing you can do. Go. Home!”

“Jerry said we should go home.” I informed Hillary. “He said there’s nothing he can do.”

“That’s bullshit.” Hillary replied.

“We should leave.”

“No. I want to see Michael before we go.”

Michael had to be booked and processed before Hillary could see him. We could wait over there, one of the cops informed us, and waved in the general direction of some benches. Hillary lit up a cigarette. I wandered around. We were at police headquarters for at least an hour before Hillary was allowed to speak to Michael.

“He wants to talk to you.” Hillary told me when she returned.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that either.

“How’s it going? Are you okay?” I asked when I saw Michael. We probably had to talk to each other via telephone, but I can’t remember for sure. I know we were separated by a thick plexiglass window, and the space was poorly lit.

“I’m good. I popped a couple ‘ludes while I was in the bathroom. I’ll probably sleep until tomorrow.” he laughed. “Listen, take care of Hillary while I’m in here. She’s a little…upset.”

“You got that right.” I agreed.

“I’ll get out of here Monday. I’ve already talked to Jerry. He’s gonna take care of everything. Don’t let her do anything… stupid. Okay?”

“I’ll take care of her. I promise.”

“Good luck.”

* * * *

I can’t remember if Hillary stopped for red lights on the way home or not. Probably not. I mean, why start now? The roads were mostly deserted anyway…  We drove past Dealey Plaza again. I imagined we were part of the motorcade on November 22, 1963. We drove under the triple underpass, and we were on the freeway. Parkland Hospital was… right there!

We didn’t say much on the way home. I did tell Hillary that Michael had talked to Jerry, and seemed sure that he’d be released on Monday. Hillary said nothing.

We returned to the apartment. I stopped off briefly at the party room, and added some ice to the keg. Other than that, the keg seemed to be doing fine, and the beer was still cold and carbonated.

I was more than a little surprised to find that Shorty still hadn’t returned when I reached the apartment. Where the fuck is he? I wondered, then totally forgot about Shorty when Hillary came out of the bedroom.

She had an handgun in her hands. In street slang, it was a Saturday Night Special. A snub nose .38 revolver.

“Where did you get that?” I asked, nonchalantly. I’m not sure how I sounded as calm as I did. “Can I see that?”

“No. I got it from Jerry. I borrowed it. He gave it to me. For protection. There’s a lot of crime around here.”

“I’m going to have a beer. Do you want anything?”

“Yes, a glass of white wine, please.”

I opened the refrigerator, pulled out a can of beer and a bottle of wine, then washed one of the wine glasses on the counter. I thought about spiking Hillary’s drink with a handful of Quaaludes, but I didn’t have any, and given the fact that Hillary popped them like peanuts, it’d probably take an entire bottle to knock her out. I handed her a wine glass that I had filled almost to the top. She popped a ‘lude in her mouth and chased it with wine. I prayed it would knock her out.

I walked over to the couch to sit down, but the coffee table was gone, and I had no place to set my beer. I sat down on the floor. Hillary joined me. She positioned herself between me and the door. I lit up a joint. There were actually a few left over from the party. Yeah, that was a nice surprise!

“What are you planning to do with that gun?” I decided to ask.

“I’m going to kill George.” Hillary replied, and smiled, taking a hit.

“Oh. Well, you’re going about this the right way. A little wine, a little weed, a Quaalude. You’ll be nice and relaxed when you go over to George’s place to shoot him.

“Good! I want to do this right.”

It was at that precise moment that all of Jerry’s warnings came flooding into my head. I finally understood what he had been trying to tell us. And this, this, was most definitely a minefield.

I have no idea what I said after that. I know Hillary explained her rationale for what she had decided to do, and I didn’t do anything to stop her from talking. I could only hope the holy trinity of wine, weed and methaqualone would kick in and knock her ass out before she could knock off George.

Hillary played with her gun while she talked. I hoped the safety was on, but I couldn’t tell–she flipped it around too quickly for me to tell for sure. I suppose I could’ve asked if she knew how to use it, but I didn’t really want to go there.

Please, be on! I prayed. And I knew one thing for sure. If it was on, I wasn’t going to tell her how to turn it off.

We sat on the floor, our drinks on the carpet nearby. I had the nicest conversation I would ever have with a homicidal maniac holding a loaded gun. We sipped our drinks, smoked more pot, and then it was time.

“Okay. I’m ready now. I’m going to go kill George.”

I tried to stall her. I said the first thing that popped into my mind.

“Hillary, I love you! I want to make love to you! I want to fuck your brains out!”

That actually stopped her in her tracks. She slowly turned around to look at me, and smiled.

“Of course you do. But, you had your chance.” She turned for the door.

“What? No, wait!” I was trying to figure out when my chance to fuck her brains out had actually happened because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have missed that opportunity. But Hillary had made up her mind, and she would no longer be delayed. She was walking for the door, and she did not stop.

And that’s when I did perhaps the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life, and that covers a whole lots of stupid.

I ran past her, getting to the door before she did by a step. I may have lost my race to that door to Shorty, but I beat homicidal Hillary.

“If you’re really serious about killing George, you’re going to have to kill me first.” I said, blocking the door.

Hillary tilted her head fractionally. I could tell by the look in her her eyes that she was actually thinking about how she was going to get past me. And then she found a solution.

She raised the gun, in a very relaxed manner, and calmly pointed it at my head.

The Epic Party at the End of the World

I have previously mentioned that I had an older brother named Allen, who unfortunately died from SIDS. He would’ve been two years older than me, if he hadn’t gotten dead.

In a strange twist of fate, my best friend, Shorty, was two years older than me, and he had been born in November, the same month as Allen.

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to believe I adopted Shorty as my older brother back then. Like Jerry, I had real brothers that I loved far less than I loved Shorty. Our relationship would be tested by this trip, but it would not be destroyed. And when we really needed each other, we would have one another’s back.

That’s what brothers do.

* * * *

The Big Epic Amazing Party continued despite the fact that one of its hosts and the central figure that inspired it were no longer in attendance. And it continued despite the Wrath of God thunderstorm raging outside that seemed intent on washing Dallas off the face of the earth.

It rained like a bastard. Rain came down in buckets. It rained cats and dogs. In buckets. But the epic party would not be denied. The only thing the rain did was keep everyone inside. No one in their right mind wanted to venture out in that downpour.

Why should they? It was warm and dry inside. There was food, and beer. Pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes, and beer. Whiskey, and beer. Vodka, and beer. Red wine, white wine, and beer. Quaaludes, and beer. And there was music!

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Thank you, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. That was very good advice, and I took it. I mostly forgot about Shorty and Martha, and focused my attention on Randi, and on having as much fun as I could before the flood waters reached the sixth floor.

It rained like hell for at least two hours, and then it just rained. When the rain lightened, some of our guests decided to hit the road. I have no clear memory of when Phase One of our epic party came to a close, but at the end only four people remained: Michael, Hillary, Randi and me.

We sort of cleaned up, you know, threw stuff in the refrigerator, picked up abandoned glasses and plates, random trash. I checked the keg. I was sure it would be empty.

I was wrong. There was a lots of beer left in that keg. I know, right! How the hell was that even possible? And yet, it was. I pumped the taper to keep the pressure up, I didn’t want the beer going flat, and threw a half ton of ice on the keg to keep it cold. Then I turned off the lights in the party room and locked the door. Randi and I helped each other make it up the stairs.

The door to Michael and Hillary’s bedroom was closed when we returned to the apartment, so we tried keep the noise down, like there’s such a thing as a quiet, stumbling drunk.

“Where do you guys sleep?” Randi whispered loudly. The pillows we used as mattresses were easy to find, but where the hell did the blankets go? Oh yeah! Hillary put them in the closet!

I have no doubt half the stuff stored in the small closet came falling out with a crash when I opened the door. Randi came over to help me, and we laughed, not quietly, and kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed. We eventually extracted the blankets from everything else and shoved it all back in the closet to get it out of the way.

“I gottagottagotta amember not to open that door again!” I burped loudly. Randi shrieked! Yeah, we were quiet, all right.

“Oh, this is so…open.” Randi said when she surveyed the landscape in the living room. She had a point. Luckily, there was no longer a coffee table cluttering the space, so I scooted the far end of the couch out away from the wall a few feet, creating a semi-secluded space. I tossed several pillows into the space, and just like that, I had created a love nest.

“That’ll work.” Randi announced.

Home run!

I might kiss and tell, but I do not write Letters to Penthouse. The most I’ll say about this was there was a point in time when I wished I had saved a few of the condoms Raoul had so thoughtfully provided for me in Fort Sill.

I never went past a certain point if birth control was an issue.

Never.

It was the only thing I’ve ever been totally committed to and responsible about in my life. Yep, the Mother’s Curse would modify my behavior far more than all of the sex education classes I took in high school ever would.

“It’s okay. I’m on the pill.” Randi whispered in my ear.

Green light!

“Here, try one of these.” Randi offered me a ‘lude. I declined. “Well, then take half!” I agreed to that.

It has been written that Quaaludes enhanced sexual intensity and performance. Yeah, I don’t know about that. It has also been written that lions copulate approximately one hundred times a day when they’re mating. I can honestly state that neither Randi nor myself were lions, but we did make excellent use of the impromptu love nest I had created in the living room. I was actually still a little sore from my erotic wrestling match with Shelly, but not that sore.

* * * *

I woke up looking at the back of the couch. I was laying on a pile of pillows on the floor, and I was naked. But I knew how all of those variables had occurred this time, and that made me smile. I rolled over and found myself

Alone.

There are times when the emptiness deep inside your soul cannot be filled, no matter what you do to satiate that cavernous void, and this, was one of those times for me.

I missed Randi. I missed Martha. I missed Shelly, but I especially missed Maureen. We had broken up in May of  1975. I hadn’t seen her almost three years, and I missed her more than I missed Randi, Martha and Shelly combined. At that time, I thought she was the reason my soul was so inconsolably miserable, but the depth of my emptiness would far surpass her absence. And even if she had been present, it would’ve surpassed her ability to fill.

I curled up in a ball of spiritual pain, and cried. I mourned my losses, grieved over my heartaches, until I cried myself to sleep.

* * * *

It’s a good thing I didn’t have to respond to any emergencies when I woke up, like, you know, an actual flood. It had stopped raining. It was gray, and cloudy–just like the inside of my head. Michael and Hillary were in no better shape than I was. We slowly took turns taking showers. We slowly cleaned the apartment some more. Even the conversations I had with Michael and Hillary were slow. I’m not sure I ever completed a sentence before I ran out of the necessary energy to finish what I was saying. And just about the only thing I could say was, “Man. Was that a great party, or what.”

We ate leftover whateverthisstuffis for breakfast. I can’t remember if any of us felt any better after eating or not.

Shorty had not returned. I was still pissed off at him, so even if I was concerned, I wasn’t about to admit it. He was a big boy, he could take care of himself, even if he was in the foreign country of Dallas.

Besides, all he had to do was open his damn mouth and half of Dallas would’ve welcomed him into their homes, and the other half of Dallas would fight to take him into theirs. Shorty was all right. I kept telling myself that.

I think we all took a vote and decided the apartment was clean enough…and quit cleaning. Michael and Hillary laid on the couch. I mustered enough energy to go check on the keg and make sure she was safe and the beer was cold. The keg was fine. I could relax. I returned to the apartment and laid down on a pile of pillows in the middle of the living room.

We watched a black and white movie from the 1930’s or 40’s. For all I know, it was the same movie I had kind of watched with Raoul my last night on Fort Sill.

One person could lay on the couch comfortably, but two people the size of Michael and Hillary could not. They tried changing positions, slowly, but they eventually gave up and retired to their bedroom because they could both lay down on the bed comfortably. And more than anything else in the world on that dreary day in Dallas, all three of us were sorely in need of comfort.

I had recovered from my attack of transient global heartbreak. There was a lingering sense of loneliness, or emptiness, somewhere deep inside my soul, but it was quiescent now. I was feeling more exhausted than anything, and it wasn’t long before I fell asleep. I was awakened by the sound of someone knocking on the door.

“Fuckin’ Shorty’s finally back.” I muttered to myself, and heaved myself off the floor. It seemed like it took me an hour to walk ten feet to the door. I opened the door to let Shorty in, and those two guys in suits… don’t… look… like… Shorty…

Actually, they looked like cops. I somehow mustered enough energy to be surprised.

“Hi, how’re y’all doin’? I’m Detective Murtaugh, and this is my partner, Detective Riggs. We’re here to serve a warrant on one Mr Michael Schrödinger. Is there any chance that Michael’s here today?”

“And if so, could y’all have him come to the door, please.” the other detective added. “We’re here to arrest him.”

A Dark and Stormy Night, Part II

I had a strange thought when I went to bed last night. Anyone reading my last few installments has to be thinking, Jaysus! Was this guy ever sober? I mean, the only thing he writes about is getting drunk!

Yeah, I did spend a fair amount of time drinking, but I did other stuff, too. Like, smoke pot. So, there!

And I remembered something I had failed to mention about Dallas. I brought my camera. I took a lots of pictures while we were on vacay in Big D. Hillary, Michael, Shorty. The sales zombies. Martha, Martha, Martha. Randi’s tits. Hillary even took a picture of me.

I lost them when I moved in with Cynthia ‘Fatass’ Jamieson. But Shorty has a set. If you want to see them, contact him. That picture of me with my afro looking like a dandelion that’s about to blow away, is so great. As much as I would I end up hating Hillary, I couldn’t fault her on that photo. It was quite possibly the best picture anyone has ever taken of me.

* * * *

The Big Epic Amazing Party that I had conceived on the spur of the moment while talking to the angelic Martha as a means to hook up with her was hitting its stride. It was about 9:00 PM. At least thirty people were present in either the apartment or the spacious party room four stories below.

Good old rock and roll was playing on stereos. Shorty had tuned in the same radio station he had found on the stereo in the party room to the boom box in the apartment. There was food galore, booze beyond galore, weed and cigarettes being smoked, Quaaludes being sectioned and popped openly. As far as all of those things went, they couldn’t be wenting any smoother.

Everyone was having a great time. I was having a blast. I had been having probably the best time I had ever had in my young life, and this party was just the icing on the cake. I was drinking a beer on the balcony of Hillary and Michael’s apartment. An extremely beautiful and talented young woman was at my side, and she only had eyes for me.

I’ll tell you what, life rarely gets much better than that. And in one tick of the clock, all that changed.

A choir of angels started singing. As the door of the apartment opened to admit the angelic being that had made all of this conceivable, an heavenly light radiated from the other side of door that slowly illuminated the entrance, blinding everyone with its brilliance.

And Martha stepped into the apartment.

Martha was always beautiful, even when she was a disheveled, crying sales zombie, but that night–OhmyGod! If Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships, Martha of Dallas could’ve launched two thousand.

And Helen could never have looked as good as Martha did wearing a cowboy hat. She was darlingpreshadorbs, squared.

Everyone in the room had turned their heads to watch Martha’s grand entrance. Everyone but Shorty. He was standing by the door, totally oblivious to what was happening behind him. He had somehow fucked up and was standing exactly where I was supposed to be standing.

This had been my idea! Spontaneously planned when I gazed into Martha’s wishing well eyes and my wish had been that on this night, she would be mine, and mine alone. I was supposed to be standing at the door, not Shorty!!

Even after all these years, and all things that transpired through the decades–after all this time, I still want to rip Shorty’s liver out of his body and eat it in front of him before he bled out.

My best friend stood where I should have been standing, grinning like two village idiots. He finally realized everyone was staring at the doorway. He turned to see what everyone else was looking at, and almost knocked my perfect little Martha off of her feet. He grabbed her reflexively, and pulled her into his uncouth arms, and then he gave her a big wet kiss on the cheek.

The room erupted in cheers, like Shorty had just won the fuckin’ Super Bowl or something.

Everyone cheered! Except me. And Randi. She didn’t cheer either. She hated Martha.

I have rarely felt that deflated in my life, and I have had plenty of reasons to feel deflated over the years. The world around me, which moments ago had been bright, shiny and euphoric, had become darkness, dust and ruin.

Just. Like. That.

There’s no way I could not have looked anything except devastated, but I found a bleak smile somewhere inside me, and feebly flashed it at Randi. I fashioned my arm as an escort, and extended it to her.

“Shall we?” I asked. She hooked her arm in mine, and smiled. I walked over to offer my congratulations to Shorty. To the victor go the spoils. The race had ended before I got out of the starting blocks, and Shorty had won.

* * * *

 For anyone reading this that feels sorry for me right now, all I can say is Thank you. For anyone that thinks I was a goddamn idiot, all I can say is, You are absolutely correct!

I mean, throwing a party that would end up lasting three days on the offhand chance that I’d end up with Martha was almost as stupid as Shorty buying drinks for everyone at the bar for exactly the same reason. And there was such a simple solution to this equation that it surprises me to this day that I didn’t think of it at the time.

Except I’ve never been very good at math…

What I should have done was ask Martha out, you know, on a date. Just the two of us. Yeah, we’ll get a bite to eat, take in a movie… Then we could go back to your place… I’ll bet it’s darling. Just as darling as you! And then, you know, you could fuck my brains out…  Well, that’s what Jerry says you want to do! Did I mention that I have a bionic dick?

I mean, what woman in her right mind could resist an offer like that?

* * * *

I wish I could say that I have total recall of everything that happened after I had lost what seemed to be at the time, the most important race of my life.

Alas, I have trouble remembering what happened last week, and I’ve been sober for almost ten years. Dallas Daze took place almost forty years ago, and I doubt I had ten consecutive days of sobriety back then.

Here goes nothing…

I like to think that Martha actually apologized to me for screwing up my grand design of screwing her silly by stupidly ending up with Shorty, not me.

And even if she didn’t come right out and say it, the look of almost sorrow in her eyes when I greeted her said as much. That actually did happen, and I would end up taking a ton of consolation from that.

Shorty couldn’t have been more elated. I’m surprised he didn’t jump on the railing of the balcony and crow like a rooster. He had won the Martha Lottery, and he wasn’t about to let anyone, specifically me, steal his winning ticket.

In a very short amount of time, he grabbed Martha by the arm and they vacated the premises. Yep, he left our epic party–abandoning me, leaving me all alone– with roughly thirty people, one of whom was head over heels in love with me–plus, there was a ton of food and more drugs and alcohol than all thirty of us could possibly handle.

I mean, seriously, what a jackass!

And at the precise moment he and Martha left, a huge flash of lightning lit up the night sky. A crack of thunder that sounded like a explosion ripped across the city. And it started raining like unto the time of Noah and the Great Flood.

That actually happened, too.

Shorty had clearly meddled with the primal forces of nature, and there was going to be hell to pay. And as ridiculous as that might sound, it would end up being the truth.

Every. Word.

Dallas, Part V

I have become somewhat obsessed with this story. I hadn’t thought about it much in the last couple of decades, but it’s pretty much consuming all of my waking moments of late.

I kind of need to get this sucker out of my system, though I couldn’t tell you why. My first attempt at being a rich and famous author was focused on telling this story. All of it. I’m not going into anywhere near that much detail with this telling, and it’s still taking forever.

I know I told my brother, Bruce, the whole story once. We drank an entire case of beer by the time I had finished. And Bruce probably slept through the last two hours of my narration. It has always been a long story, and I’m trying like hell to make this very long and convoluted story shorter. But the worst is yet to come…

* * * *

Michael and Hillary came home from work Monday afternoon. Shorty and I hailed them from the pool. They smiled and waved, and we decided that was as good a time as any to inform our hosts they were hosting our Big Epic Party on Friday, seeing how they were in a good mood.

Who were we inviting? Just the people from work. And maybe some of the bikini babes Shorty and I had met by the pool. And anyone they wanted to invite. I mean, it was their place…

Drinks? Um, we’re getting a keg of beer. Some sodas. Maybe a bottle of whiskey…  And we still had weed!

Food? Sure. We could get a party tray. Or something. Somewhere. Probably. And chips. We had to have chips, and dip, probably. And we still had weed!

And when Hillary was satisfied, everything was cool. 😎  We had Michael at party.

The apartment complex even had a spacious entertainment room more than ample enough to hold all the people were planning on inviting to our epic shindig. This just kept getting better and better, except the being broke part, and not having any idea how we were going to pay for it part.

Michael and Hillary were in better spirits than they had been when I returned from Fort Sill. But that didn’t mean all, or anything for that matter, had been forgiven.

George, evil George, mean and icky George had won custody of the glass topped coffee table with the black wrought iron frame, and Hillary’s improved mood vanished the moment she saw it.

That table became the object of her hatred for George. That table had to die. And if it couldn’t be killed, it had to be severely damaged at the very least. Hillary changed clothes. We smoked a joint, and gathered around the table with dark intent, armed with one instrument of mass destruction.

A ridiculously small hammer.

We all took turns trying to break the glass top, but that plane of glass was almost an half an inch thick, and it was able to withstand our initial half-hearted blows. Neither Shorty nor I held any animosity toward the table, and we felt more foolish than anything when we took our turns smacking the table top with the hammer. Even Michael’s attempts at breaking the table top were pretty lame, and he certainly didn’t like George.

We tried breaking the glass table for at least half an hour without success. We were all giggling like schoolgirls. Michael, Shorty and I were ready to call it quits. We had hit it with our best shots, but the table took them all and laughed at us. That, was an insult Hillary could not ignore.

We had all been sitting on the floor around the table as we enacted our dark ritual, but then Hillary rose to her feet. She uttered a string of curses that would’ve rivalled anything Rose could have come up with, and smote the the table with the hammer full force, and a small section of the corner of the glass top flew free.

We were all surprised, even Hillary. She might have been more than surprised, but whatever it was she started feeling, she converted it back into anger. And satisfaction.

George might be getting the table back, but it wasn’t going to be pristine.

* * * *

We all got up early on Tuesday. We were all going to work. Shorty and I had flipped a coin. He would go with Michael. I would go with Hillary. And we would trade off the next day. Neither of us really wanted to work with Michael, and not because we didn’t like him. We did. But Michael didn’t work with Martha, and Martha made the world go ’round.

Shorty and Michael went to Bernie’s House of Carpets. Hillary and I went to Jerry’s Emporium of Telemarketing and Stuff. We were making the big bucks in Big D.

My life as Jerry’s bitch was okay, I guess. I’ve certainly had worse jobs. The sales team didn’t drop everything to talk to me. They waved and said hi, and kept on working. I invited everyone to our party, and everyone said they would be there. But that’s about as far as our interactions went.

It clearly wasn’t me that disrupted productivity at the office, so it had to be Shorty. That was my take. I think it was the way he talked. That Minnesota accent was as foreign as a British accent in Texas, and people couldn’t get enough of it. And, he could spin a fairly funny tale. We both had a lots of funny stories about our lives and the characters we knew.

However, I did have one work related perk that Shorty wouldn’t have that day. I got to see 💕Martha. 💕 Angelic Martha. 😇 Beautiful Martha. 😍 I love you, Martha!❣And she looked marvelous!

We exchanged greetings, and I especially made sure she was still coming to our Big Epic Amazing Party. On Friday. At Michael and Hillary’s.

Yes! She was!!

However, we both had jobs to do, and that was just about the extent of our interactions. Martha had to sell stuff, and she had been in a slump. She was fueled up on caffeine and Quaaludes, and she was hitting it hard. She just needed some good leads.

I had been tasked with mastering the Supply Room. It was a big closet at the end of the hallway past Jerry’s office, ten by twenty, maybe. It was full of boxes, bags, stuff and junk. It looked like a bomb had gone off it in. A big bomb.

I took everything out of the room, and swept and mopped the floor. I found some pallets in the underground parking garage, and put them on the floor, then organized the hell out of everything I put back in supply room.

I was done by eleven o’clock. Jerry just about had an heart attack.

“What do you mean, you’re done already!” Jerry shouted as he walked over to the Supply Room to appraise my work. “I told you to–”

Jerry was speechless. I smiled a very satisfied smile.

“Je-sus Christ! I can’t believe this! This. Is. Beautiful!”

“Thanks. Anything else you want me to do?”

“Yeah…” Jerry’s voice trailed off. He looked at me in an entirely different way. He rattled off a list of things, then started pulling random people over to look at the Supply Room. “Do you see this? Do you see this! This, is a goddamn masterpiece, that’s what it is! I will fire the first person that fucks this up! Do you hear me! Fire!!”

I spent the rest of the day impressing the hell out of Jerry. And Jerry spent the rest of the day annoying the hell out of everyone by telling them how fucking awesome I was. By the time the day ended, I was sure no one was coming to our party. Not even me.

Shorty had a good day with Michael. There was a building boom in Dallas, and Bernie had a lots of carpeting that needed to be installed. Michael was happy to have the help, and the company. He usually worked alone.

Our first work day in Dallas had been a success. We had made forty bucks, and we didn’t spend it on beer. It couldn’t have gone much better.

“I think Jerry’s gonna ask you to marry him!” Hillary teased me when we were all together at the apartment. Except for that part. Her teasing was good-natured, thankfully. But Hillary’s good mood would vanish quickly. George was coming over to pick up his furniture.

* * * *

I have to confess, I was a complete dick to George when he showed up. I taunted him like I was one of the Brownies in Willow. I taunted him like I was a French soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

To his credit, George kept his head down, and did not respond to me. He was a much better man than I. He picked up his stuff, he had gained custody of more than just the maimed coffee table, but I couldn’t tell you what. George said something about the broken glass top of the coffee table, but he was in enemy territory and he had no back up. He collected his stuff as quickly as he could, and got the hell out of Dodge.

* * * *

I called my mom on Wednesday on my lunch break. Michael and I had flown through our first job, then drove back to the office to meet Hillary, Randi and Shorty outside her office. I had laid carpet for a couple months during the summer when I was in high school, so I knew what Michael needed without being told. We made a good team.

I went inside the office while everyone else waited outside, and used Hillary’s phone to call Mom so I didn’t have to call her collect. I think that probably surprised her.

Apparently, a wire money transfer wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but Mom came through. She told me which bank to go. One hundred dollars was waiting there for me. Michael knew where the bank was, we went there after lunch. I gave fifty bucks to Shorty. We were in this together.

💖 Thanks, Mom. You were the best. 💖

The rest of the week was uneventful. Shorty and I were working stiffs. I think the only problem was I had been so efficient as Jerry’s bitch on Tuesday that Shorty didn’t have much of anything to do at the office on Wednesday. So Jerry spent half the day showing Shorty all the stuff I had done.

“Do you see that?” Jerry showed Shorty the Supply Room. “That, is a goddamn masterpiece! A masterpiece! I should have taken before and after pictures! No one fucks this up, and lives!”

Shorty spent the rest of the day disrupting the productivity of the sales zombies in the bullpen. They had a great day. They didn’t sell much, but they had the best day, ever. Hillary said her sides hurt from laughing so much.

The only person happy to see me in the office on Thursday was Jerry. I think I actually begged him to stop shouting my praises. Not even my parents loved me as loudly as Jerry did.

I didn’t ask if he had anything for me to do, I just did stuff. I cleaned the windows. Almost everyone in the office smoked, and there were no prohibitions against smoking indoors back then. When I finished, sunlight flooded the bullpen. Some of the sales zombies actually donned sunglasses.

Jerry simply nodded this time. I was sooo thankful.

I was able to spend some quality time with Martha on Thursday. Her sales slump had become a drought, and she was freaking out. She was crying and disheveled once more. Hillary and Randi tried to stop me as I headed for Martha’s desk, but I was immune to their black magicks that day.

I took Martha outside, and smoked a cigarette with her. I told her jokes and funny stories, and got her laughing. I gave her a little pep talk to get her focused. She even found the strength to flash a look of determination.

“You can do this. You’ve done it a thousand times. I believe in you. Now, get in there and make a sale!” And I gave her a little pat on the ass, for good luck.

I stood there alone in the underground garage, watching her cute little butt as she strode back inside. And I promised myself I would never wash that hand again.

Half an hour later, a shriek of exuberance reverberated out of the bullpen. Martha had made a sale! Her fellow sales zombies swarmed her to congratulate her. I stood just outside the bullpen, watching, and I made no movement to join them. Through the crowd of people that surrounded her, I could see Martha’s elated face. She had her eyes locked on me. Through the tears of joy that rolled down her angel face, she silently said, Thank you!

That memory is also filed in my Happy Box. I haven’t accessed that file in at least twenty years, probably longer. Good to know it’s still there.

* * * *

By Thursday afternoon, Shorty and I had almost two hundred seventy-fifty dollars between us. We could throw a big, epic, amazing party with that kind of coin. And we had almost an ounce of pot, too! We decided we’d work only half a day on Friday, if that was okay with our new employers and co-workers. We had a party to plan.

Yeah, that’s fine. We completely understand, our bosses said when we asked them on Friday morning. I invited Jerry and Bernie to the party. They said they’d think about it.

Michael and I were the A Team once more, and we finished the first job in record time. It was Friday. Shorty and I would be gone on Monday. Michael decided we deserved a treat. We went to a bar and had a couple of beers.

I didn’t spend as much time talking to Michael as Shorty did. They were both motorcycle guys, so they could talk for hours about bikes. I was not a bike guy. I knew they were the things with two wheels, right? And that was about the extent of my knowledge.

“Hey, it’s been surprisingly great having you and Shorty here. I wasn’t too wild about it at first, but you guys have been a real pleasure to have around.”

“I know what you mean. I had some serious doubts about this too, but hanging out with you and Hillary has been pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had. In fact, I’m not sure I want to go back to Minnesota.”

“No shit! Wow, it’d be cool if you stayed. Not with us…” Michael laughed. “No offense.”

“None taken.” We clinked beer bottles. I was going to miss this place, if I left. I had a pretty big decision to make, but first, I had an epic party to prepare.

Michael and I drove to Hillary’s office. We were meeting Shorty, Hillary and Randi for lunch. We walked to a nearby deli. I think we ate there frequently that week. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but when we returned to the office, Michael walked in with us.

Hillary’s office had the atmosphere of a carnival that day. Shorty had been in his glory, and no one did a fucking thing that morning. Not even Jerry, and he didn’t seem to care that no one in his office was doing what they were getting paid to do. He had been laughing his ass off. Shorty picked up where he left off when we returned.

Now, I’m a comedian. Okay, I’ve always wanted to be a comedian, much like I’ve almost always wanted to be a prophet. It was one of the things I wanted back in my Dallas Daze. And I’m sure I was more than a little jealous of Shorty, who was killing it at the office.

“Oh, God! Stop it, Girtz! You’re killing me, man!” Jerry said. He had rejoined the audience after lunch, and was laughing so hard he actually had tears running down his cheeks. “Oh, hey, Marco! Come with me. I want to talk to you.” He clapped me on the shoulder, pushing me toward his office, and closed the door once we were inside. He offered me a glass of bourbon. I actually declined.

Jerry couldn’t believe it either.

“Man, I am gonna be so glad when you guys leave. I can start making some money again!”

“I might stay in Dallas.”

“What?!?”

“I’m seriously considering staying here.” I repeated.

“No kidding? What are your plans?”

“There’s a lot of stuff up in the air. I need a job, and a place to live. I can’t stay with Michael and Hillary.”

“You–you’re serious! What happened? Did you fall in love or something?” Jerry chuckled at the thought, then he became serious. “Martha! You fell in love with Martha, didn’t you!”

Was it that obvious?

“No! Nonononono! Not Martha! You need a good girl, like Randi. Fall in love with Randi, she’s fucking crazy about you!”

“What?!?” It was my turn to be confused.

“What? You didn’t know that? What are you, blind?”

I didn’t know what to say. I had no idea. Maybe I was so infatuated with Martha that I couldn’t see anything else. Plus, there was Shelly. I had been thinking about her a lots, even if it was because I was trying to put together the pieces of what really happened between us that night. Maybe she felt something similar to what I did, a sort of sacredness…  I like to think of Shelly as a virgin, and in a way, she was. Or maybe we actually had thrown water condoms at the Marines…

“I…don’t know what to say.” I finally said, for many reasons.

“Never mind. That’s not why I called you in here. I don’t care who you fall in love with. I called you in here because–because I wanted to thank you– to thank you for what you did, you cleaned up that closet, my supply…room…”

You know, I don’t think Jerry spent a lots of time thanking anyone for anything. This was the worst thank you speech I had ever heard, and Jerry looked so uncomfortable…

“Hey, Jerry. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not! Sheila tells me I’ve gotta work at this, goddammit! Can you believe this shit? I’m a grown man! I’m successful, right? And I can’t even tell someone thank you without fucking it up!”

If there was something I could’ve said then, I had no idea what it was. I said nothing, and even now, I think that was the best answer.

“Look, the work you did around here, it was great. You need a job, you got one. And that’s a promise! But that other thing you did, that thing you did with Martha the other day. That, was beautiful. I was wrong about you, hippie. I thought you were a killer when I met you. But you’re no killer. You’re a good man, and I…I just wanted you to know that.”

Years later, when I had become a legendary psych nurse, I would understand the therapeutic value of silence. Back then, standing in Jerry’s office, I had no idea what I was doing, but I sensed what I wasn’t saying was my best course of action. And then I knew what to say.

“Thank you.”

“There! You see that! How do you do that!” Jerry was practically screaming! “I should hire you to teach me how to be, you know, fuckin’ gracious and shit! You want to be my teacher, hippie? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t call you that! Whaddya think? You wanna work for me?” Jerry was on a roll. “Listen! The other reason I called you in here for was this.” Jerry reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. He flipped through them until he found a Benjamin. “I wanted you to have this, too. You earned it, and I know you could use it. Go ahead, take it. But don’t tell Girtz I did this! Hell, I should make him pay me for fucking up my office! Naw, I’m just kidding. But you listen to me. Find yourself a good girl. You’ll save yourself a fortune…”

I took the C-note and silently put it in my wallet. Jerry was quite a guy. I liked him a lot, and I can tell you this in all seriousness. That guy didn’t miss a trick. He saw everything, and everything he told me was true.

Every word.

* * * *

By the time I left Jerry’s office, I wasn’t sure my hearing would ever be the same, but I was positive of one thing. My powers of observation were nowhere near as acute as I thought they were.

I took a long, hard look at Randi, and my eyes locked onto her tits. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t noticed the whole her being head over heels in love with me thing. Well, at least that explanation made sense to me. I got Shorty away from his crowd of admirers so we could get moving on setting up Party Central. I think the sales zombies were actually cheering us onward. I made sure to make eye contact with Martha.

Promise me you’ll come. I said, silently

I promise! she replied

And Randi saw that. I know she did.

It would have to do. The only way I could insure that Martha would actually show up was to kidnap her…  I’m kidding. No, I’m not. I totally would have kidnapped her if that’s what I had to do.

Shorty and I headed for the garage and Hillary’s car. We were going shopping for the epic party! Michael was still in the office, and he disengaged himself from the crowd to join us. As we started walking down the hallway, I vaguely saw a human form walking up the hallway toward us. And then I saw who that someone was.

It was George.

* * * *

Shorty and I said goodbye to Michael in the garage. If he was bothered by the fact that he had just violated the restraining order George had filed against him, he hid it well.

He was a little bummed out that he wouldn’t have a partner for the afternoon, but other than that…

Neither Shorty nor I gave the seemingly innocuous event that had just happened so much as a second thought. I mean, George didn’t even acknowledge our existence. Nor did he even speak to Michael, so even if we had thought about it, we wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal.

We were focused on the party. Well, okay. I did have a few other random thoughts bouncing around in my head, but all I wanted them to do was stop!

A shopping we did go. First stop, a liquor store, for a keg. We had to have a whole bunch of beer. Everything else was optional. We got a thirty gallon keg. And a couple sleeves of plastic cups. And then some sodas. And a bottle of whiskey. Or vodka. Or something like unto that.

Then we stopped at a grocery store, probably, and bought chips and dips and snacks and stuff. And napkins. And whatever else struck our fancy as something we could afford. Money was no longer our overriding concern.

All I know for sure about our out of pocket expenses for the party was both Shorty and I still had money in our pockets when we were through. And I still had Benjamin safely tucked away in my wallet. Just in cases…

Hillary had procured the key to the entertainment suite at the apartment, and I had it in my pocket. The liquor store had given us an enormous plastic container to put the keg in. We set the keg up in the party room. There was an ice machine in the party room, so we wouldn’t need to buy any ice to keep the keg cold, or for drinks.

We tossed anything that needed to be refrigerated in the fridge in the party room, and we were pretty much set. We showered and changed clothes. All we had to do after that was wait for Martha, I mean, our guests to arrive.

Michael and Hillary came home. They were quieter than usual, maybe, but I only say this in retrospect. I’m sure I didn’t give much thought to how Michael and Hillary were acting at the time. Shorty and I spent the majority of our time tending to the keg, getting it to produce a stream of beer at the perfect rate of flow.

There was even a stereo system in the party room. Shorty dialed through the stations, looking for one that played good old rock and roll while I rolled a bunch of joints. Shorty was a gifted mechanic, but there were two things he couldn’t do with his hands. He couldn’t snap his fingers, and he couldn’t roll a joint to save his life. This was something only I could do.

* * * *

Our guests started arriving around 7:00 PM. The guys in the sales force were the first ones to show up. Free booze. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Shorty’s cousin, Leroy, came. I have purposely kept him out of this story up to this point, or I’d be on Part X right now. Leroy was also an interesting guy. He had been in Texas for so long his Minnesota accent had been replaced by a smooth Texas drawl. He was a true urban cowboy.

Leroy was married to a cute Texas blonde. She was six months pregnant or so, and she didn’t come to the party. I know Leroy and she had visited Hillary’s office at least once and everyone at the office knew them, and all of them had fallen in love with her.

A couple of the bikini babes we had met at the pool dropped in, but they weren’t wearing bikinis, which was disappointing.

The redheaded hippie chick and her hippie dude boyfriend came. They looked like the King and Queen of all the Hippies. They thought the party was groovy. They were totally grooving to the music. And they loved the fact that I had pre-rolled a bunch of joints.

Bernie actually came to the party, but he took Michael into the bedroom and they stayed there for a long time. They eventually rejoined the party, but Michael pulled Hillary into the bedroom and then they stayed there for a long time. I figured they were having sex, and left it at that.

Bernie was tense, a little too agitated, maybe. I’d be able to pick up on little things like that that once I became a psych nurse, but at that time I didn’t think much about it. Bernie relaxed after drinking a couple beers. He even told a couple jokes. I have them filed in my Joke Box, but that’s so cluttered it’d take me the rest of my life if I ever tried to reorganize it, so…

Bernie didn’t stay long. He left before the party really got started

A bunch of people I had never met walked in. They were Hillary’s friends from Detroit. She never told us she had invited anyone. But they were probably the people I enjoyed meeting the most at our epic party. I can’t remember any of their names, but they were a blast!

I lit up a few joints when they arrived and passed them around. This party was starting to become a party!

There were maybe thirty people at the party by this time. Almost everyone brought something to eat. Before long, we had a smorgasbord. And everyone brought more booze, and Quaaludes.

We wandered back and forth from the party room to the apartment and back to the party room. My memory of this isn’t completely clear, but I think the party room was on the second floor, so you had to be prepared to handle at least four flights of stairs.

That in and of itself limited the migration for most of our guests, but Shorty and I probably ran into ourselves coming and going. We were here, then there, shuttling pitchers of beer, snacks and ice from Point A to Point B.

This was our party, and we made sure there was plenty of everything available for our guests, no matter which room they were in. I probably needed to take another shower by 8:30, which happened to be when Randi arrived.

“Hi.” a voice whispered in my ear. My heart skipped a beat. Her voice sounded exactly like Shelly’s. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed that sooner. Maybe it was the whisper…  If Randi had been able to mimic Shelly’s cute little giggle, I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted. I turned to the sound of the voice and saw…tits.

Well, they were wearing a tight red blouse, but I knew those tits, and thanks to Jerry’s repeated warnings, I knew they were in love with me.

“Hi there! I replied, seeing Randi, maybe for the first time. She. Looked. Radiant!

Randi was seriously smoking hot that night. I poured her a beer. I asked if she needed anything. She said she wanted some fresh air, and asked if I would join her on the balcony. Why certainly! I’d love to! And I meant it. I asked her about her day, her son, her parents. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, and that is a testament to just how gorgeous she looked.

As busy as I had been busing beer and food and ice. As much as I had been enjoying meeting all of Hillary’s friends from Detroit, there was something always in the back of mind, something that made my head reflexively turn every time I heard someone enter the party room, or the apartment.

That something was a someone, and that someone was Martha. 

As keyed up as I was about this, as much as I had been anticipating this, and let me tell you something, I didn’t look forward to Santa with as much anticipation as I did to Martha’s arrival. I had even tried to position myself to be near the door at all times to give myself an edge over Shorty. I was not going to let him beat me to the finish line this time. Despite all that, I was totally caught off guard when I heard a chorus of angels burst into song, and that could mean only one thing.

💕Martha💕 had arrived!

And that’s when I realized where I was, and a crowd of about fifteen people were standing between me and the door where the angelic object of my desire was about to make her grand entrance.

And standing right there, mere feet from the doorway–just stupidly standing there like a goddamn idiot, was Shorty.

Dallas, Part IV

I’m the oldest son in my family. I had an older brother, Allen, but he got dead when he was very young.

Despite what you may have heard, there are only two causes of death. SIDS and GIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Gradual Infant Death Syndrome.

SIDS is the unexplained death of a child less than one year of age. It claims about 2500 lives in the United States each year. GIDS is the Number One cause of death of everyone else, every year.

My brother got dead from SIDS. I’m going to got dead from GIDS, someday. Hopefully, not today. I have stuff to do.

* * * *

I certainly had stuff to do when Shorty and I were vacationing in Dallas. We were as good as broke, and our flight home wasn’t for another week. We were fucked, so to speak. Two men in their early twenties could burn through eighty bucks in a New York minute, whatever that translates into in Dallas time. Hell, Shorty had burned through one hundred fifty bucks in about four hours.

On Monday morning, I did what any broke twenty-three year old man on vacation in a foreign land would do.

I called my mom. Collect.

I didn’t tell Mom I had smuggled an half pound of weed into Texas, nor that Shorty had sold most of it, then blew the profits buying drinks for everyone so he could get into Martha’s pants. I can’t remember what I told her exactly, but I’m sure I lied, a lots.

I’ve stated before that I am apparently a very convincing liar. Well, my mom had learned if my lips were moving, I was probably lying. And she wasn’t dramatically moved by my tale of woe. I needed one hundred dollars immediately, or I was probably going to got dead from starvation. She could wire the money to a bank in Dallas, it’d be easy!

“Let me think about it.” was her noncommittal response.

“What does that mean?”

“Call me in two days.” and she hung up the phone.

“What did she say?” Shorty asked. He had been standing next to me while I talked to Mom.

“Well, she didn’t say no.”

“Man, we’ve got to make some money, brother.”

There was a novel idea. Why don’t we get, you know, jobs! We jumped in the car and drove to Hillary’s office, and asked Jerry if we could talk to him. He waved us into his office.

“We’ve run into a cash flow problem.” I said.

“Welcome to the club.” he replied. “What do you want, a loan?”

“No. We want jobs.” Shorty answered.

“What?!?”

I don’t think Jerry was expecting that. I explained we didn’t want to be on the payroll, but we’d be willing to do odd jobs around the office. Or we could help Michael install carpeting. We had already done that! But now we needed to be paid for our services. We’d work cheap, for say, twenty bucks a day.

“You guys are serious!” Jerry said. I’m not sure I can describe the look on his face. We nodded. “Well, ain’t this a bitch.” We looked at each other, then nodded at Jerry again.

“Let me think about it.” he said. “Wait out there, but stay out of the bullpen. No one does a fucking thing around here once you two yahoos show up!”

“He didn’t say no…” Shorty whispered. No, he hadn’t, but he hadn’t said yes either. We just might find a way to survive in the Big City…  We tried to stay away from the bullpen, but someone spotted us, and pretty soon no one was doing a fucking thing. I had never noticed that before. I wanted to disappear because we really needed to stay on Jerry’s good side for one week, but I forgot all about that when Martha smiled at me, and I beat Shorty, getting to her before he did, for the first, and last, time.

Success! I was enthralled being in Martha’s angelic presence. I’m pretty sure heavenly light radiated from her. I would’ve crawled fifteen miles through broken glass, with two broken ankles, just to let her pee on my toothbrush. That’s how much I was in love with Martha.

I don’t remember much of our conversation, except the part where I invited her to the Big Party at Michael and Hillary’s apartment on Friday. Yeah, Shorty and I have had such a great time, and we’ve met so many wonderful people, like you, Martha. Oh, you’re just about the most amazing person I’ve ever met. Sure, you are! Anyway, big party. You have to be there. You will! That’s great!

Yep. I had totally lost my mind. And I couldn’t have cared less. I would’ve robbed a bank to pull this off, if I had to.

“Hey! I thought I told you two to stay out of the bullpen!” Jerry shouted over the chatter in his sales office. “Zombies! Back to work! You two, my office!”

Maybe Jerry knew more than I thought. Everyone jumped. Hillary and the rest of the sales force went back to work. Shorty and I followed Jerry.

“You see my dilemma, right?” Jerry said to me. “Seriously, I don’t think I can afford to have either one of you around here. All of my girls want to to fuck your brains out, which I can’t understand for the life of me.”

I missed the import of that statement at the time.

Shorty and I shrugged our shoulders. It wasn’t our fault we were irresistible to women.

“But I like you guys. I talked to Bernie. He’s okay with one of you guys working with Michael. You can lay padding and clean up, stuff like that, okay?” We nodded. “Twenty bucks a day, just like you asked, all right?”

“Yeah, that’s cool.” we agreed.

“And I can probably find something for the other one. I’ve got a few odd jobs around here I haven’t been able to get anyone to do, but I don’t think I have enough work to last the week..”

“Jerry, anything you can do for us will help a lot.” I said.

“Okay. Show up tomorrow morning. Now get out of here before I change my mind.”

Shorty and I went back to the apartment to enjoy the last day of our vacation. We were sipping beer poolside and soaking up the sun. I thought about telling Shorty about my trip to Fort Sill, and Shelly, and the booze cruise on the range roads, but all I said about it was it was good to see my Army buddies again, and left it at that.

And this might sound a little weird, but my time with Shelly had become almost…sacred…to me. I didn’t want to demean it. And the rest of it was too complicated to explain. Kind of like this story…

So I told Shorty about the Big Party we were having on Friday instead.

“What? Are you nuts? We don’t have any money! How the hell are we going to pay for it?”

I could’ve been a dick. We could’ve had a ton of money, if someone hadn’t blown it all! But I didn’t go there. It would all work out, I had no doubt. And it was going to be totally worth it. Martha was coming to the Big Party.

And I am totally spending the night with her, we both thought. It. Was. On. We clinked our beer cans together, and smiled.

The Big Party! Friday night!! Martha!!!

It was going to be epic!

Back in the USSR

I departed from Dallas with Raoul on a Friday afternoon, heading for Oklahoma and Fort Sill, a place I was sure I’d never return to once I left. And yet, there I was…  The trip was uneventful. It was about a three hour drive from Dallas to Lawton. I talked a lots; about my life since leaving the Army, and how I was seriously thinking about staying in Dallas and not returning to Minnesota, ever. Raoul drove and listened.

Raoul could not get over my appearance. I did look a lots different–long haired afro and a beard. He couldn’t wait to show me off to the few people on base that still knew me. There weren’t many left.

Fort Sill didn’t look any different to me. The buildings were still familiar to my memory, and somehow foreign at the same time. It was an odd sensation. The Dental barracks wasn’t any different. It was a bland two story wooden building, ten rooms on each floor.

It was a full house of twenty guys when I lived there back in 1975. There were maybe an half a dozen guys living there in 1978. Raoul’s room was at the far end of hallway from the main entrance on the first floor. He was the sole occupant on that end of the building. Everyone else was living in the rooms nearest the main entrance on either the first or second floor.

There were a couple guys I knew living in the barracks, but I can’t remember their names. They were FNG’s about the time I left, and I didn’t spend much time getting to know them, but they welcomed me back as if we had been friends forever. They couldn’t get over my appearance either.

Everyone wanted to know what it was like being a civilian. It’s weird how the military brainwashes you into thinking you won’t survive once you get out. I assured them I had readjusted to civilian life, and they would, too. We sat in the dayroom, drinking beer, reminiscing about the past, waxing philosophic about the future. Every guy in that room looking at me had one similar thought: I am totally doing that when I get out of the fuckin’ Army!

After about an hour of talking to the guys, Raoul announced we had stuff to do. We headed down the hall to his room. He made a couple quick phone calls, and we waited for his mystery guests to arrive. He wouldn’t tell me whom he had called, but whomever he had called were on the way over. While we waited, he showed me the room he had set up for me.

The rooms in the barracks were identical, but you could decorate your room any way you chose, within reason. I had to change my design at least once because the Army didn’t approve. I recognized the carpeting in Raoul’s room. It had once been mine. Some of the posters in his room had also once been mine. I didn’t take much with me when I was discharged. Raoul had a couple of lounge chairs and lamps, and a pretty big console TV in his living area. A bookcase was centered in the passage between the living room and the bedroom. It was very cozy.

Each room had a living area and a sleeping area separated by a partition wall. There was a single bed and a sink in the sleeping area, and a shared bathroom between the the adjoining rooms. The bathroom had a toilet and a shower. My room was on the other side of Raoul’s bathroom. The only thing in it was a bed, and a side table, but the bed was made.

“Thanks for going all out for me.” I said.

“You’re not moving in! You’re only going to sleep here, if you get any sleep this weekend!”

“But I like what you did with my stuff.”

“We raped your room ten seconds after you left. I had to pull rank on the FNG’s to get the stuff I have. Part of you is in every occupied room in the barracks.”

I did have a pretty cool room, back in the day. I can’t remember if we went to look at it or not. We might have. Raoul had keys to all the rooms. I know my room was unoccupied, it was the third room from the stairway on the right on the second floor. Only the first two rooms on either side of the hallway were occupied on the second floor.

He opened the drawer of the bedside table in the room he had set up for me. There were six condoms inside.

“You never know when those will come in handy.”

I can’t remember if Raoul had been a Boy Scout or not, but he had been in the Army for a very long time. He was prepared for anything. If the Russians had ever attacked Fort Sill, Raoul would’ve been ready. He probably had a tank hidden under his bed.

We heard loud footsteps, and laughing and shrieking in hallway. Raoul smiled.

“Amigo, the putas are here!”

Puta is Spanish slang for slut, or whore. The putas Raoul was referring to were three WAC’s from my Army days. They were possibly the only three WAC’s left on base that knew me. And they had primed themselves for my party by drinking a lots of beers before they arrived.

Gloria, LaVerne and Shelly.

Gloria was recently divorced. She had been unhappily married when I knew her, and she generally looked miserable. She didn’t look miserable anymore! She had long, light brown hair, pale blue eyes framed by oval wire rimmed glasses, and she had lost at least fifty pounds. She was short and sleek. She looked great!

“Marky! Is that you?!? OhmyGod!” She ran to hug me.

“Oh. My. God.” LaVerne said from the doorway. She was a light skinned African American. We had the same hair. She broke into a grin and pushed Gloria out of my arms.

“Jesus Christ, Rowen. Is that you?!?!” Shelly said as she walked in. “I didn’t think you could get any uglier…  Actually, all that hair hides your ugliness.”

“Good to see you, too, Shelly.”

Shelly was a lesbian. She was my height, short, dark brown hair and eyes. She was an hot little package, and I had had the hots for her back when I was in the Army, but I didn’t have a vagina, so…  I was surprised to see her. She was pretty much the last person I expected to see. Back when we had our Get to Know You party at the barracks that the FNG’s had organized to meet the WAC’s, Shelly didn’t come. I would learn she had recently broken up with her girlfriend, so she had nothing better to do. She looked great, too.

“Man, I can’t get over the new you!” Shelly said, running her fingers over my afro, then all the girls were touching my hair and my beard.

“Hey, what about me?” Raoul said.

Gloria and LaVerne giggled and started messing up his hair. But Shelly stared at me is if I were a creature she had never seen before. And then she kissed me. And I kissed her back.

* * * *

I woke up the next morning looking at the bottom of the bedframe to my left. I was laying on a mattress on the floor. The mattress that had been on the bed was missing. It was probably the mattress I had been sleeping on, but I couldn’t figure out why I had taken it off the bed. Or why I was naked.

I rolled to my right, and rolled into Shelly. We were laying on two mattresses on the floor that had been placed next to each other to make one larger bed. And I wasn’t the only person that was naked. Shelly opened her eyes and giggled softly.

“Hi.” she whispered.

“Hi!” I replied, surprised. “Excuse me, but I have to pee.”

“Warm up the seat for me, please?”

“What?”

“Sit down, and warm up the seat for me, okay?” She smiled and kissed the tip of my nose.

“Oh, okay.”I said, once I understood what she wanted. I found my glasses and stumbled to the bathroom. Shelly giggled softly again. She had a really cute…giggle. I had gotten a glimpse of her body under the blankets when I got up. Shelly was cute all over.

I sat down–the toilet seat was cold, and peed. And I tried to put the pieces of the previous night together. I flushed the toilet and peered into Raoul’s room. Mattresses covered his floor too, and sprawled across the mattresses were Gloria, Raoul and LaVerne, in that order. They were sleeping in a heap. Clothing was strewn everywhere. And I think Raoul had a pair of panties on his head. Probably Gloria’s.

Shelly rushed into the bathroom, wrapped in a sheet. She lifted it above her waist as she sat down. I left so she could have some privacy, still trying to remember what got happened. I couldn’t remember much.

We had been drinking beer and smoking joints and cigarettes in Raoul’s room, listening to music, dancing, laughing. And kissing. There was a lots of hugging and kissing going on. I think I even kissed Raoul…  I sort of remembered that.

“Hi!” Shelly whispered, rushing back to bed and diving under the blankets. “I’m freezing!”

I was sitting on the edge of the box spring, staring at the sink.

“You look surprised.” Shelly said. I nodded, distractedly. “Actually, so am I. You’re first man I’ve ever slept with. Aren’t you cold?” I guessed I probably was, even though the radiator was emanating a fair amount of heat, and climbed under the blankets with Shelly. She snuggled close to warm up. She felt very warm to me.

“I was your first?” I asked, trying to take that in.

“Uh-huh. I’ve always liked girls.”

“Yeah, me too. Does that make me a lesbian too?” Shelly laughed, her dark eyes twinkled brightly.

“I don’t know, but if you didn’t have that beard you could probably convince a lot of girls you were one.”

“This is probably gonna sound a little weird, but how was it, your first time with a guy?”

“This is probably gonna sound a little weird, but it was amazing!”

I had to smile to myself when I heard that. And then I had to make sure it would be an experience I’d remember.

* * * *

I had a lots of Saturday mornings like that, not the making love to a lesbian part. I’m pretty sure that only happened once. The trying to remember what happened the night before, and putting together the pieces of my life as they drifted into my consciousness part. I had way more of those experiences than one person should have had.

There’s probably more of my life that I have little or vague recollection of than I have total recall of. That was perhaps the most disconcerting part of the early stages of my sobriety. I started remembering stuff–random images popped into my head when I least needed them–but all I got was pieces, never the complete picture. I had no idea where that piece fit into the puzzle of my life; what came before, what followed. I was like unto an amnesia victim, maybe…

Raoul and his girls eventually woke up. Shelly and I listened to them moaning and groaning and laughing as they untangled themselves from the blankets and made their way to the bathroom.

I was feeling pretty damn good about myself. Shelly was so content she was absolutely glowing. That memory of her is forever filed in my Happy Box, and I know where to find it.

Raoul and I walked the girls out to their car. Gloria and LaVerne looked bleary-eyed and pale. But Shelly smiled and glowed, and blew me a kiss as they drove off.  It was the last time I ever saw her.

* * * *

Raoul and I decided to take a booze cruise after cleaning up ourselves and Raoul’s room. Well, we didn’t do a lots of cleaning. We emptied the ashtrays, and policed empty beer cans. We left the mattresses on the floor, just in cases.

Raoul said the mattresses were my idea. It wasn’t safe for the girls to drive, as drunk as they were. There were a lots of empty rooms and available mattresses…  And the girls were drunk enough to agree. Even Shelly.

We went to a little diner just off base for breakfast, bought a twelve pack at the store next to the diner for the road, and headed out to the range roads on base.

The range roads led out to the firing ranges on Fort Sill. There was a lots of artillery training at Fort Sill, and the ranges were where all the training took place. Artillery fire is incredibly loud, so the ranges were placed as far from civilization as possible by design. There was probably five thousand miles of paved roads crisscrossing the outlying areas around the base, leading out to the ranges.

I liked the range roads. They weren’t greatly travelled, and once you learned your way around, you could get almost anywhere quicker on them than driving the main surface streets. There were even unmanned gates you could use to get into Lawton.

I’m sure those are long gone…

There wasn’t much to see on the range roads. There are some very scenic places in Oklahoma, but not so much out on the ranges. The terrain was hilly, covered in scrub brush, weeds and wild flowers. The vegetation was mostly brown and dead that February, awaiting Spring, and rebirth.

I was feeling reborn that morning, and couldn’t stop smiling, no matter how much I tried. I was driving, Raoul wanted to kick back and relax. Also, my new appearance was incredibly distracting to him, and he glanced at me frequently, as if he was trying to figure out who I was.

We were driving on a road neither of us had ever been on before, and we had put a lots of miles on our cars traveling the range roads.

“You look real happy, amigo.” he said.

“I am.”

“No, I mean, really happy! What happened with you and the lesbiana last night.”

Some guys don’t kiss and tell. I’m not one of them, obviously. The only real problem was I had no clear memory of what actually happened the previous night.

“I looked in the drawer, amigo. Four condoms were missing. Four!” Raoul said.

“Yeah, well. I think we filled a couple of them with water and threw them at the Marines.”

“Yeah, right! You fucked that little girl four times! In one night! You’re a fucking machine!! You must have one of them bionic dicks or something, amigo!”

Yeah, I’m still not sure about that, but I had noticed something while I was taking a shower. My groin was sore, and tender. And my penis was bruised. It was actually black and blue! I did tell Raoul about that. I may have even showed him my battered penis later…

I think Shelly had tried to kill me. That last erotic wrestling match in the morning was almost more pain than pleasure.

Almost.

“Me? What about you! You banged two girls! You, are the true fucking machine!” I countered.

We laughed a lots, and drank a toast to our penises, those brave little soldiers. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign that said, BUMP. I looked down the road, but couldn’t see anything that looked like a bump. And then the road… disappeared.

Seriously, it just vanished. The car fell into a pit about ten feet deep. The sides had a slight slope, and possibly looked something like unto this:

\___/

We flew through the air like stuntmen in a movie. We might have even been screaming. The car ricocheted heavily off the bottom of the pit, then bounced up the other side, and we were back on the road again. I hit the brakes and swiftly came to a stop.

“Whatever you do, don’t turn off the car!” Raoul’s voice said. I couldn’t see him. He was sprawled upside down on the floor. In the backseat. Spilled beer drenched the interior of the car. Raoul and I were soaked in beer.

“What the fuck was that?!?” we both shouted, and got out of the car to check it out.

I tried to find a dry spot on my shirt to clear the beer off my lenses so I could see again. The “bump” we had hit was a trench roughly ten feet deep, and maybe twenty feet wide. Raoul figured it was used to teach guys how to drive tanks.

I marvel about that event to this day because we probably should’ve gotten dead that day. And if we hadn’t been so incredibly lucky, we would have been. If we had been moving any slower, we would’ve fallen into the trench with no hope of ever getting out because we weren’t driving a tank. We would’ve been stuck there until someone came along. For all I know, we could be there still. If we had been moving any faster, we would’ve crashed headfirst into the far side of the trench and that would have killed us to death instantly. But we were moving at the perfect speed to bounce in and out of that deep sonuvabitchin’ crevasse without gotting dead.

We were stunned.

“My car!” Raoul said, and ran to look it over, swearing feverishly in Spanish as he ran. Another miracle! The car had sustained no external damage. We couldn’t even find any damage to the undercarriage!

We were so surprised and happy, there was only one thing to do. We popped open a couple of beers and drank another toast. While we were standing around in awe and wonder at our incredible good fortune, it started raining. We didn’t even care.

We laughed, and asked each other repeatedly, Are you okay? Did you get hurt? and laughed harder. Neither of us had so much as a scratch. We stood in the rain, letting it rinse the beer out of our hair and dilute the smell of beer in our clothes. When we were suitably wet, we climbed back into the car and turned the heat up.

Raoul drove. I don’t think he wanted me hitting any more bumps. And fortunately, there were no more bumps to hit. We found a gate, and headed for the nearest liquor store. What else do you do when you don’t got dead? We kept the car running until we got back to the barracks, just in cases. It started right up again. Yep, that was a miracle for sure.

We changed into dry clothes. I did some laundry, there was a washer and dryer at the barracks. We drank beer and smoked until we fell asleep watching TV, some black and white movie from the 1930’s or 40’s. Then eventually crawled to the mattresses on the floor and slept until Sunday morning.

* * * *

Well I woke up Sunday mornin’, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more, for dessert
Then I fumbled through my closet, for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
And I shaved my face and combed my hair and, stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

Thank you, Kris Kristofferson.

That’s how I felt that Sunday morning, February 25, 1979. I’m not sure you could call this blessed, but I rarely had serious hangovers back during my drinking days. I might have an headache, but I rarely vomited.

I think I did have a beer for breakfast that day. And another for dessert. By the time Raoul woke up, I was half drunk already. I was heading back to Dallas that day, and Raoul would be driving, so…

We moved all the excess mattresses into my room, then went to the little diner again, then headed for Dallas. I have no recollection of this trip. But Raoul safely delivered me to Dallas and Michael and Hillary’s apartment.

Raoul didn’t want to come up to the apartment. He just wanted to get back to the base and sleep.

“It’s been great, man.” I said, hugging him. He was one of the best, truest friends I’ve ever had.

“If you stay in Dallas, let me know, amigo. Maybe Shelly and I will come visit you.”

It was the last time I ever saw him.

* * * *

The mood in the apartment was noticeably different when I walked in. Hillary’s ex-boyfriend, George, had won his lawsuit against Hillary for their disputed possessions. Did I know about the lawsuit? I wondered. If I did, I hadn’t given it much thought.

Michael was sullen and aloof, and numbed out by ‘ludes. Hillary was livid! She was pissed beyond reasoning, and she was just getting started.

And to top it off, most of the pot I had smuggled into Texas was gone!

“Oh, I sold some of it while you were gone.” Shorty explained. “You brought so much of it, and I was running low on cash.”

I was initially irritated, but I got over it quickly. There was no way I was going to try to smuggle any dope back to Minnesota, so Shorty had actually done me a favor, and we still had enough weed to keep us high for the reminder of the week. I was running low on cash too, so I asked Shorty for half the cash he made selling my pot. He got a kind of sheepish look on his face, and handed me a twenty dollar bill.

“Where’s the rest of it?”

“I kinda spent the rest…  We went out, and I started buying drinks…” I would later find out Martha was one of the people in the group Shorty went out with, and he wanted to greatly impress her.

Shorty had sold about five ounces of weed while I was gone. He had to have made at least two hundred bucks from his transactions, and he gave me twenty bucks. I shook my head, wondering if I should kill him now, or wait and make it look like an accident. I had about fifty bucks in my wallet. Shorty had less than me. And we weren’t leaving until the following Monday.

Eight more days, not much more than eighty bucks between us. It was going to be a long week.

Why Management Tends to Suck and the General Relativity Theory of Guys

Back when I was contemplating getting my Master’s degree, I was going to do my thesis on Guys.

That’s so much crap even I can’t believe I wrote that.

I have never contemplated getting my Master’s. I’m pretty sure I’d rather got dead than go back to school. Hell, I’d probably rather write another book than go back to school. School was one of the reasons I decided to flee BannerHealth. One of the requirements of being a manager was having a degree, and I didn’t have any. Zero. Zip. Nada. None.

I graduated from a Diploma Nursing Program. I don’t even have an Associate’s degree.

And after my darling boss, Jane Stevenson, was eviscerated and terminated, I was pretty sure I was next in line, so that was a strong motivating factor as well. I think one of the reasons BannerHealth wanted me to disappear as a manager was because I was a guy.

Disclaimer: I am not a classic, stereotypical guy. I’m an atypical guy. I might be the only complex guy on the planet. My lovely supermodel wife says I’m way more complicated than she is, and I’m not sure that’s even remotely possible. However, neither am I sure a complex guy can exist outside of an Hollywood movie. For example, probably any movie starring Nicolas Cage.

Guys generally make lousy managers, in my opinion. Men, on the other hand, make much better managers. Believe it or not, there’s a big difference between Guys and Men.

The latest election is a perfect example. Donald Trump is a Guy. Barack Obama, and probably Hillary Clinton, are Men.

Guys tend to be the opposite of circumspect. When it comes to sharing their point of view, guys tend to shoot first and make friends later. Tact isn’t a tool most guys use a lots, if ever. Guys tend to react to any given situation, not respond. And there’s a huge difference between those two actions.

Shortly after I accepted the clinical manager position at Del E Webb, I told Jane that I was a lousy manager. I actually told her that more than once. I clarified my statements by adding I was an effective leader, but that didn’t make me a good manager.

This is how I believe leadership works: Good leaders lead by example, and I spent a lots of time modelling the behavior I wanted my staff to emulate. They knew all the medical stuff far better than I ever would. They didn’t need me to manage those situations, but they weren’t psych nurses. They had no idea how to manage crazy people.

I did.

Another thing a good leader does is support his/her people. Never make them work short, if you can avoid it. Help out where help is needed. I passed meds. I helped old ladies to the bathroom and back to bed. Serve and support, that was my focus. As a very last resort, I told them what to do.

I was a good leader.

Management is all about meetings and reports and paperwork, and I hated each of those things. In my humble opinion, they were an immense waste of time. As near as I could tell, if you ever wanted to make sure nothing ever got done, all you had to do was schedule a committee meeting to discuss changing something.

I was probably the worst manager in the hospital.

Case in point, the Falls Committee. As a manager, I was required to attend these things at least once a month. I had to explain to the Big Administration Bosses and Directors why any of the patients on the SAGE Units fell, and what I was going to do to prevent future falls. It was a torturous experience.

One disastrous month, we had twelve falls. Even I had to admit that was a lots of falls for one month. However…

“That’s an anomaly. We’ll go three or four months now without a fall and it’ll all balance out by the end of the year.” I said. Hard to believe as that might be, that’s a true statement.

“How do you account for this anomaly?”

“All of our patients are elderly. They’re sometimes confused. They think they can make it to the bathroom by themselves, and they slip on the floor and fall.”

“Your staff needs to be more attentive to the the needs of their patients.”

“My staff is incredibly attentive to the needs of our patients. That’s not the problem.”

“Then what is the problem?”

“The problem? My staff hasn’t figured out how to be in three places at once. Look, these are old people, with small bladders. If one of them says they have to go to the bathroom, all of them magically have to go to the bathroom at the same time.”

Seriously. When an old person tells you they have to pee, urine is already running down their legs. They’re like toddlers, only worse. A toddler doesn’t know any better.

“Maybe they could wait and take turns.”

“Yeah, that’d be nice, but it doesn’t work that way in reality. When they want to do something, they want to do it now. They’re old, and depressed, and cranky. And when they have to go to the bathroom, it’s a damn emergency. That’s another part of the problem, they all think they’re going to pee their pants, so they move too fast on those slippery floors. And they don’t want anyone telling them what to do. They’re seventy, going on three. And if you try to do that, they’ll barbecue you on the Satisfaction Survey. Look, SAGE was one of the pilot units for the latest fall prevention protocols. We’re already following the most current interventions in the hospital! My staff is doing everything they possibly can to keep all of our patients safe. This stuff just happens from time to time, trust me, it’ll all balance out.”

“Well, what would you suggest to ensure these falls don’t continue?”

“Beyond what we’re already doing?”

“Yes.”

“You could give me more CNA’s, and we could put everyone on 1:1 observation.”

Are you… serious?”

“Do you see me laughing?”

“Do you have any other ideas?”

“I suppose we could close the unit down for a couple months. We wouldn’t have any falls then…”

“Do you have anything…else…you’d like to add?”

Did I ever, but I doubted telling them what a bunch of stupid bitches I thought they were would accomplish anything.

“No. I think that’s sufficient.”

“Well, I think you’re being rude and sarcastic.”

* * * *

My first ex-work wife, Deb Goral, would’ve appreciated my candor, and she would’ve understood my rationale. That’s why she was such a great supervisor to work for. She looked out for her people.

Now that I ponder this deeper, Deb would’ve made a great guy.

As sad a truth as this is going to sound, Big Administrative Bosses and Directors in healthcare could care less about the well-being of their employees most of the time. They don’t exist to make anyone’s life easier. They’re far more interested in their next promotion and making money for themselves and their facilities.

It was after that committee meeting that I finally realized I needed to find another job.

* * * *

Back to my theory…  Bikers are guys. Mechanics are guys. The more blue collar the job, the greater likelihood of it being filled by a guy. Your plumber, the guy that exposes the crack of his ass every time he squats or bends over, is definitely a guy.

Guys are good with their hands. They’re not really deep thinkers, in fact, most guy brains aren’t properly wired for deep thought. There are always exceptions to this rule. I’m a guy, and I have gone deeper into the abyss of thought than I should have. I should’ve remembered my own rule about diving too deep.

After all, I don’t know how to swim.

Ever see a person of the masculine gender appear to be deep in thought, and then you asked what he was thinking about?

“Oh, nothing.”

That, is a guy response.

Guys, and men for that matter, have a Nothing Box inside their heads, and can spend seemingly vast amounts of time thinking about absolutely nothing.

And to clarify that a bit. We’re not thinking about nothing, exactly. Just nothing important.

Man, those ribs I ate last night were really good! I wish I had a truck like that…  Am I going bald? Whoa! Nice tits. Yep, I am totally going bald…

Seriously. We can think about tits for hours on end and nothing else. Unless those ribs were really, really good.

Guys are simple creatures; amoebas are probably more complex than the average guy. For example, most guys can’t correctly spell amoeba.

Men are a bit more complex than guys, if there’s such a thing as a complex man. I’m still not sure about this. I think men are far more confused than complex, but they say they’re complex because they think it makes them appear mysterious.

Men tend to become professors, doctors, layers and politicians. You know what? Men appear to be the root of all evil…  Bastards!

Men have aspirations, and plans, and they don’t let much of anything stand in their way. Guys have dreams, and they’re by and large content to dream. However, do not, under any circumstances try to destroy a guy’s dream. He will fuckin’ kill you.

That’s pretty much it. If you made it this far, I commend you. Thanks for hanging in there.

Okay, Mr Noble. I’m ready for my prize.

Work Related Polygamy

Trepaliare is a Latin word that the Spanish word for work, trabajo, is derived from. It means to torture, or inflict suffering or agony.

Ironic that I’m writing about my many work wives, isn’t it?

I had never had a work wife until I moved to Arizona, and then I had so many of them if I had to pay them alimony, I couldn’t quit working until twenty years after I got dead.

Debra Goral was my first work wife. It was her idea to be my work wife. I was incredibly flattered. No one had ever wanted to be my work wife before. I’m not sure my lovely real wife wants to be my wife most of the time.

Deb is in my Top Five Greatest Nurses, ever. She knows her stuff and she gets stuff done. She’s better at following rules than I am, but Hannibal Lector is probably better at following the rules than I am.

We worked together on AP 5 at St Luke’s, or as we liked to think of it, Hell on Earth. When Deb and I started working the evening shift together, it was the worst shift–in terms of personnel–in the entire building.

We had one objective, fix that. And we did. We fashioned together a team of awesomeness. I told all the BHT’s they had been chosen to work with us because they were the best BHT’s in the building, and they performed like they were. I started calling them the A Team, and that’s what they became. I loved them all. I eventually left St Luke’s because that team dissolved.

Here’s how totally fucking awesome those guys were. We had eleven open beds at the beginning of our shift one evening. When the shift ended, there was one. We did ten admissions on top of all the other stuff we always did, in eight hours. When the night shift came in, the eleventh admit was searched and his belongings were inventoried.

Those guys were really good.

I’m from Minnesota. Deb is from Wisconsin. I’m a Vikings fan. Deb loves the Packers. So, it was a mixed marriage. Despite our inherent differences, we made a strong team.

There are a lots of things I love about Deb, but what I loved most about her was her candor. She has no deceit in her. She doesn’t beat around the bush. She just tells you how it is, and you better be grown up enough to handle it. It was so refreshing!

All good things must end. Deb decided to transfer to the day shift.

Enter Rhonda Dolatshahi.

I’m not sure Rhonda ever formally became my work wife, but she brought me coffee every time we worked together, and if that doesn’t say work wife, I don’t know what does.

Rhonda is also in my Top Five Greatest Nurses, ever. She’s the Original Rockstar Nurse. Rhonda’s from Pennsylvania, and she’s a Steelers fan, so another mixed marriage.

Rhonda and I had worked together at Del Webb. I was one of her managers. I loved Rhonda because she was so easy to work with. She showed up when she was scheduled. She picked up extra shifts all the time, and she didn’t bitch about stupid stuff. Working the floor with her was a breeze. She also knew her stuff and knew how to get ‘er done.

And then she left. And then I did. It’s the people you work with that make the suffering and agony of employment bearable, and I could not work with the crazy bitches that replaced my first two work wives.

On to Aurora. Enter Tara Grant Molden.

Tara was my one and only Wonder Twin, ever. She was also my first work wife at Aurora, so technically, I married my twin sister. See? I told you my relationships were complicated. Well, if it was good enough for Mausolus and Artemisia, who am I to disagree?

Tara was a Broncos fan, so, yet another mixed marriage. She once confessed to me that she would totally suck Peyton Manning’s cock. I spent the rest of the day saying, “Omaha! Omaha!” But I couldn’t convince her I was Peyton Manning.

Tara was a relatively new nurse. She hadn’t reached the plateau of greatness my previous work wives had, but you could tell she was going to be great someday, and she was easily the most fun to work with–not that Deb and Rhonda weren’t. They were. Maybe it was because it wasn’t AP 5, which was not a fun place…

My buddy at the MVAMC, Paul Anderson, made me laugh a lots, but I know he wouldn’t want to be considered as one of my work wives. Tara was a blast.

She also had a totally hot bod. I called her Tits McGee. You talk about cups running over…

My time with Tara was brief, maybe a couple months. She transferred to the second floor, then transferred one of the Banner hospitals to hone her Med/Surg skills. Now she’s a Travel Nurse, no doubt breaking hearts all across the country.

Enter Adina Boros.

Adina was from Romania. She was my Melania Trump. She could care less about football. I once asked her which she would rather have: brains, or big tits?

“Brains. Then I could make enough money to buy big tits.”

Smart, and pretty. That was Adina. I think she’s an NP now. And I know what she’s buying herself for Christmas.

My time with Adina was also short. You know what? I must’ve been hell to work with!

Enter Alison Aveson.

Ali looked like Dora the Explorer–if Dora were pregnant–because Alison was totally knocked up when we started working together. I don’t think Alison cared much about football either. Another really good nurse. Another heart wrenching break up for me, although that whole taking time off to be with Baby Nimrod was a pretty compelling excuse.

I was reunited with my first work wife, Deb Goral, after Alison. Deb came to Aurora as a House Supervisor. We didn’t technically work together, but it was great to have her back, my first ex-work wife.

Enter Michelle Warren.

Two L Michelle would be the last of my work wives. Yet another really awesome nurse to work with; knew her stuff, got it done, didn’t put up with any bullshit.

Michelle was also a lots of fun to work with. I have been blessed beyond anything I ever deserved to work with those women, those incredibly talented rockstar nurses/work wives.

Thank you Deb and Rhonda. Thank you Tara and Adina. Thank you Alison and Michelle. It was mostly sweet, and y’all were really sweet to work with. I miss you all, and hope all is well.

The guest room is ready whenever you are.