The Dead Jacket and the Magic Mushrooms

I wanted something I couldn’t find in the world, and perhaps that’s because I haven’t looked very far, but a man can spend his whole life looking, and the thought of doing that wasn’t so much depressing, as knowing how much wandering I would need to do, and the randomness, or luck, or divine will weren’t helping a lot of people, and I asked myself what made me special, and I couldn’t answer that, so I was lost in oblivion, not committed to hopelessness, and not committed to faith, just falling, and waiting for a thermal to carry me, or waiting for the ground, or pretty much just waiting. A lot of young people are caught up with life. I realize there’s a whole generation beneath me now, not that there wasn’t one there before, but that a decade and a half has passed since high school, and the routines are like the hands of a clock, going round and round, in the same way, day after day, not really getting anywhere. Mounting an assault or fighting against anything becomes predictable, and I have watched my parents taking in the news, at the end of their lives; they manage to survive, and they’re still asking for one more year. This story is about what happened, when I stopped thinking about myself. I decided to visit my grandmother who has outlived us all.

She does it, even with only one dvd to watch, with the ladies who can’t remember anything, and the staff who make minimum wage. If this is the end of the line, I don’t want to be here.

“How are you grandma?”

“I’m fine, Sonny.”

“Are they taking good care of you?”

“No; but I’ve been taking care of myself for 20 years. You have a girl yet?”

“No.”

“That’s too bad.”

“What’s for lunch today?”

“Mushrooms. I make my own soup with my hot plate.”

“Is that allowed?”

“No; so, don’t tell anybody.”

“Where do you get your mushrooms?”

“Out back.”

“You know a lot of mushrooms are dangerous to eat.”

“Yes; but when you get to the end, things grow on you like fungus, and a few mushrooms won’t hurt.”

She was doing better than the last time I visited two years ago. There was a blue sparkle in her eye.

“Why don’t you make us some soup then?”

“Way ahead of you, Sonny. The winter months are getting cold now. Don’t you have a coat?”

“I don’t need one.”

“You aren’t a teenager anymore. Why don’t you try-on your grandfather’s jacket?”

“Grandma, I mean no disrespect, but I don’t want to wear a dead coat.”

“It’s not dead; it’s alive. Just try it on and see.”

It was black, with green checkered flannel lining. When I put it on, I felt dead and alive at the same time. It’s like feeling bored or completely content, without the need to do anything. Maybe it’s how we’ll feel when we get to heaven. There’s nothing to strive for, and we have eternity to look forward to.

Grandma made the soup and I ate the shrooms. I felt ten years younger.

“Thanks for lunch, grandma.”

“Sure, Sonny. Come back anytime.”

I went out back. There was a graveyard there, and the mushrooms were growing on all the dead people. It was like they were living off the lives that had died. I picked some. Even with the dead jacket and the mushrooms, I felt like there had to be something more. Eternity is waiting, and I didn’t want to wait anymore. I wanted to die or I wanted to live, but waiting was for people who thought life was a contest, where the one who lived the longest won. In this case, I wanted to lose. I guess I wasn’t afraid of anything.

The Wishing Rains

The desert was dead, but when it’s your birthday, your close friends are willing to indulge your strange whims, unlike any other time of the year. I wanted this road trip. Maybe it was my need to believe in things—the birthday wish to make all wishes come true. Last Chance was something I had to find before I was a year older. It was impossible to locate on a map. It used to be the center of civilization, and now it was lost for good. Only the old-timers thought they knew where it was, but the sands kept shifting, and the town kept moving in the imagination, like a nomadic estate that never remains in the same place twice.

If you spend time in the desert, the sun drinks your skin, through your pours, and your blood starts to thicken. Pretty soon all you can think about is water, and finding a lost town is the last thing on your mind. We did find the gas station though.

“How do you pump with these analogues?” I asked.

“Hold it! I’ll do that.” The attendant wore a red trucking hat and bib-overalls. His skin was wrinkled by the sun and darker than the sand so that his teeth shined pearly white.

“Where are you boys from?” He asked.

“The peninsula.”

“Oh, long ways away. Typically, I only see truckers out here, trying to take the short-cut. Otherwise, the drive is unpleasant, and if you break-down, forget it. You’ll be dead within 24 hours. There’s no traffic and no reception—nobody to call for help. This isn’t a touristy spot, so why are you here?”

“It’s my birthday,” I said.

“And?”

“Well, I want to make a wish in Last Chance. I heard they come true, there.”

“Good luck finding the place.”

“Do you know where it is?”

“Heavens no. You boys be careful. You don’t want to break-down or get lost. Several idiots like yourselves have tried to find the lost town, and most of them stay lost. Too bad you can’t wait for the wishing rains.”

“What?”

“You mean to say you don’t know the legend of Last Chance?”

“No; just that wishes come true, there.”

“It’s not just the town, it’s the well. It dried up, along with the entire valley. It doesn’t rain anymore, but about every five years, and when it does, only for a moment. There ain’t a living soul that lives out here, but me, and a few sheep ranchers. If you make a wish in the rain, your wish will come true.”

“Does it work?” David asked.

“Sure, it works. That’s my Hummer parked out back.” He pointed to a bright yellow H2. “A guy just showed up and asked me to sign the papers. I always wanted one.”

“You didn’t ask for a million dollars?” Joel suggested.

“Strange thing about wishing; it has to be specific, and it has to be something you really want. Cash is difficult to visualize or understand. When you wish, you want to be sure you know what you’re wishing for; otherwise, it won’t show up.”

We thanked him for the gas and the story, and drove up the road. It twisted into a canyon and then opened out again.

“We don’t have much gas for looking around. If we do, we’re liable to run out.”

It was getting dark, and the stars popped out like diamonds against black velvet.

To be continued…

kind friends, and the other kind

I wish I could be the person

people were kind to

but the teacher pats the little boy’s head

giving him a snack

and then ruins a man’s life

I would be kind, but there is always a price

for treating others well

they take advantage,

or recognize

the obvious heart

kind people are not kings

they trade their power

to make others feel good

it’s a weak need

that the world needs

but it’s too hard

to accept

something

free

kindness might be saying to someone

“you’re not that great”

or

“you are great”

it’s helping people discover

who they might be

it’s caring to know

that deeply.

the ghosts of tomorrow…

the ghosts of tomorrow

are here and gone

like words that lose their meaning

undiscovered

then recovered

later, redefined

loss is when we learn what we have

and it’s never

what we were trying for

for to live

is loss

losing

is to live

the rains fall

then the snow

a paradise of storm

weighing heavily

destroying

all we know

allowing time

to enjoy

what we could never

know.

A Romantic Dream

I’m helping some students I used to have

with their reading

they have emotional disabilities

and get frustrated easily

the two boys are students of color

Jamal and Dondre

I inadvertently switch their names

they call me a racist

because I mixed up their names

Then I enter a conference

where my boss sits down

it comes-out in a crowd of social justice warriors

that I mixed up these students’ names

they ALL call me a racist

I justify how it happened

and they ALL call it implicit bias and they want to sue me

My boss tells me to shut up

as I dig my hole deeper

then I walk outside of the conference on a sunny day and sit down

A young school psychologist who is a single mother sits down at my table

She asks me about the conference and I don’t say much

She points to an opera sign on the building

“You should take me there,” (to a name I can’t pronounce).

Then she sits down next to me

and puts her arm around me

and asks me how we will get there and do I have Messenger on my phone

“Just texting,” I say

It doesn’t bother her, and she shows me her phone

with some opera information

then the sun goes into a shadow and she moves to a bench in the sun

a walk over to the bench and sit down

she puts her arm around me

and kisses my hands, a very wet kiss

Somehow, I know what is happening, but I can’t stop it

I suspect she is seducing me for the financial support

I look like an easy mark because I dress like I don’t have a clue

and I act in the same way

Then I start thinking… How can I let this girl down easily

so she won’t press charges

I might tell her that I stopped dating in 2018,

but no… she would think I was crazy

I could tell her I don’t date anyone at work

but she already put the moves on me

and it’s kinda like a date

I could tell her, “You’re a great girl and all, but I’m not interested.”

“You’re gay,” she would say

It’s a lose…lose…lose situation

and all I can think about is how to maintain my freedom

the only way to remain free, is to be away from other people

as soon as you start talking to the female, you have to adjust everything you say

so you aren’t offensive

and she can feel good about herself

then she wants you to dress differently

and do things differently

and pretty soon you are her hand puppet

I woke up with a cold sweat

and who can blame me for writing these words or having these ideas

they came from my subconscious

and I suspect there is wisdom there

I’m drinking coffee and writing this poem

feeling pretty good

Marveling at the romantic dream

I had

better than any movie

I’ve seen

in a long time.

Staying Afloat

the things that sink us

don’t have to

it’s our belief

that keeps us floating.

We can look into the well

and see the abyss

or

make a wish.

Every once in a while

if we are looking

something saves us

and being brought-out

from that hopeless situation

by these discoveries

is better than anything.

Recently,

I found-out my colleague and I share the same favorite book.

When I asked him about it, he said, “I read Walden on a camping trip once—some passages spoke to me.”

I have been reading Walden every night for the last year and a half

I’ve grown to depend on it

so I can sleep

so I can understand this time in my life

I say this, not to discount my colleague’s love

but to make a point—

not all love

loves the same

and the stronger we love

the more valuable it becomes, so much so, that wisdom becomes gold

and the philosophers are the richest amongst us

these words are not idle, but hard working

they’ve known meaning, and the satisfaction that accompanies it

if you are satisfied, you can float forever on your back, watching the clouds

go by

where you might rest

for eternity.

Dr. Strawberry and His Liquid Luck

The students and faculty at Woodburn High School could not stop talking about Dr. Strawberry. Prior to my senior year, nobody talked about him. He owned a couple of cats, loved playing with chemicals, and enjoyed making statements that he thought were profound.

“Let’s shed some light on the subject,” he said. Then he turned on the classroom lights.

About the only exciting thing he ever did was to ignite a bottle filled with methane gas. The explosion blew-out the ceiling tiles.

Apart from that, nobody liked him, but he didn’t seem to notice or care. He loved his subject more than people, and didn’t worry about the car he drove or the clothes he wore. He dressed in a cardigan and green cords every day. His leather shoes were at least five years old. The best way to describe him was absent minded and sleepy. He was approximately 45 years, unmarried, and balding, leaving a white shiny spot where his hair used to be. Maybe the chemicals disagreed with him. There was a hint of pipe tobacco that lingered wherever he went and the smell of alcohol on his breath.

I was interested in chemistry, but didn’t think I had the aptitude. I wasn’t the only one; the entire class failed the semester exam, so I was glad I had signed on to be his TA and not his student. It also gave me the chance to study Dr. Strawberry while I cleaned his test tubes and watched the students having headaches.

“It’s a physics problem,” Dr. Strawberry said. “How can you discover the mass of the object to determine how far it will roll?” The students wrote their hieroglyphics, and Dr. Strawberry paced his classroom saying the same thing over and over. “Wrong…wrong…wrong…wrong.” It would’ve broken my spirit, but his students were overachievers, mostly Asian, with the occasional White kid who wanted to be a dentist.

When they left, I spent the last period of the day doing homework.

“Drew, you really need to clean the test tubes more carefully. If the chemicals mix, anything might happen,” Dr. Strawberry said.

“Yes sir.”

I don’t know why, but I liked him. Maybe I felt sorry for him, but he was too strange to pity. He was like an alien, without a home planet.

I was the first to notice the changes.

“Here, grade these,” he said.

“But I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Use the master key. I’ve got an important experiment I’m working on, and I need my evenings free.”

“Oh, for what?” I asked. “Do you have a date?”

“I probably shouldn’t say, but seeing as you’re my TA, I guess I could let you in; you must promise not to tell anyone.”

“I promise,” I said. He excitedly handed me a book. It was in a different language.

“Latin,” Dr. Strawberry said. “I picked it up when I was in Rome last summer. Found it in the back of a bookshop. I’ve been teaching myself to read Latin and this one concerns the subject of Alchemy.”

“Isn’t that the discipline of turning worthless metals into gold?” I asked.

“You know something.” He said this like he was surprised. “I may have found a way to turn mercury into gold, but it’s proving devilishly tricky, and I might’ve poisoned myself last night.”

“Well, be careful,” I said. “You don’t want to become mad as a hatter.”

Dr. Strawberry stopped and stared at me. “You’re smarter than you look.”

I took it as a complement. We went into the back room. Dr. Strawberry kept the mercury in what looked like an enormous thermometer. It was a giant beaker resting over a Bunsen burner.

“I haven’t been able to get the titration just right, but when I do, liquid gold should pour out of the other end. We can shape it into whatever we like and sell it to those places that buy back gold. This is pure gold, which means it should fetch the highest price. It hasn’t been diluted by governments; sometimes they mix a gold bar with ten percent nickel.”

“What are you going to do with your money?” I asked.

“Maybe I’ll buy the presidency,” Dr. Strawberry laughed.

Theoretically, it was possible. It was a limitless supply of precious metal in the hands of a man eccentric enough to believe he could win. Occasionally, the world is ruled by these types, and the outcome is always outrageous.

“Scientists have figured-out how to turn gold into mercury, but that’s kinda like blowing something up. Anyone can be a loser, but it takes a winner to put something back together.” Dr. Strawberry said this while checking a couple math problems in his lab book—it might as well have been in Greek.

Soon, the mercury was boiling and Dr. Strawberry handed me a gas mask. The mercury went through some green liquid and then into some blue liquid, and then it turned silver, melting into some purple liquid, and then excreted gold like a goose laying a golden egg. The mold looked like a pencil, a gold pencil.

“This should give Ticonderoga a run for their money,” Dr. Strawberry laughed.

The crazy SOB had done it.

“So, what are you really going to do with your money?” I asked.

“Well, I’ve always wanted a Porsche 911, but wealth is only the first step,” Dr. Strawberry said.

“Really? What else is there?” I asked.

“You can help me Monday after school. Until then, it must be a surprise,” Dr. Strawberry laughed. How could the students and staff not find him interesting? And then I started to realize what Dr. Strawberry had done. His boring demeanor and dry sense of humor were an act. Most people want to be liked, but Dr. Strawberry existed beyond the constraints of approval.

On Monday, he pulled up to Woodburn in a Porsche, but not just any Porsche; It was a 911 Carrera GT, priced at over 500,000 dollars. Dr. Strawberry entered the building with black shades and a white lab coat.

“Did you see what Kevin drove to work?” An English teacher asked. She had blonde hair and always wore red lipstick. She reminded me of a canary trapped in a cage. She was married and desperately wanted to escape.

I could hardly focus because I couldn’t wait to get to the end of the day so I could spend time with Dr. Strawberry. In English class, Mrs. Harrington entered and talked to Mrs. Swanson. I heard Dr. Strawberry’s name mentioned several times in whispers.

In Chemistry, he was more excited than yesterday.

“Boys and girls, if you don’t mind, I’d like to turn-on the football game. It’s Seattle versus the New England Patriots.”

“We didn’t know you watched sports, Dr. Strawberry?”

“Oh, well in this case, it’s more of an experiment than a love of pig skin,” Dr. Strawberry said.

His students rolled their eyes. As class progressed, he kept glancing at the screen.

“There’s not much to watch,” the aspiring dental student said. “New England wins this game out right.”

“My money is on Seattle,” Dr. Strawberry said with confidence.

“Your money? How much did you bet?”

“100,000 dollars; I would’ve bet more, but it was all I had in the bank.”

“The jaws of his students dropped. Now everyone was watching the game, while Dr. Strawberry lectured with his monotone. He was speaking to the chalkboard, like it might whisper back, and he didn’t want to miss anything.

“Seattle just scored a touchdown!” One of the Asian students said.

“Intercepted! They just scored again!”

“It’ll be Seattle in the over,” Dr. Strawberry said like he was god offering a perfect prophesy. And that’s what happened. All of his students left the class and the only thing on their minds was to tell as many people as possible. If there is an alchemy for envy, Dr. Strawberry discovered it. He won over a million dollars on that game, and the chatter of teachers could’ve killed, “Why does he still work here? He thinks he’s better than us.”

It was the last period, and I finally had the chance to talk to him. “How did you do it?” I asked.

“Liquid luck!” Dr. Strawberry said. It’s the next recipe. You’re taking your SATs soon, perhaps you’d like some?”

“Sure, I would!” I said.

“Well, too bad. SATs are about merit and academic achievement. There should be rules for when a person uses liquid luck.”

He was a turd, I thought, but I put that behind me because my curiosity wanted to know more. “How does one create luck?”

“What many don’t realize is that philosophy and chemistry are intertwined. The Arabs were star gazers and invented the science of chemistry. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression ‘wish upon a star’? Well, based on this recipe, that’s exactly what you do.”

“Sounds more like magic than math,” I said.

“Precisely!” Dr. Strawberry shouted. If you get the ingredients right and you say the right words, the universe responds. It’s kinda like the big bang, when the universe was spoken into existence. ‘Let there be light.'”

“Well, what are the right words and the right chemicals?” I asked.

“That depends… What do you want to get lucky with?”

“Women,” I said.

“Oh, for sure; just any woman?”

“She needs to be hot.”

“Okay, I think we can do that.” Dr. Strawberry turned up the heat on his Bunsen burner, and the purple liquid turned bright red. He pulled some white feathers and chocolate out of his pockets and added the ingredients. The elixir secreted into a coffee cup, while Dr. Strawberry said some words; I couldn’t understand them because they were in Latin.

“Now drink it,” Dr. Strawberry said.

“You didn’t use the same beaker for mixing the mercury, did you?” I asked.

“Oh, yes; but you cleaned them.”

I was afraid I would go insane, but I really wanted to be lucky, even if it made me crazy, so, I drank the liquid luck.

The next day, the hot girls were attracted to me like a magnet; they just wouldn’t leave me alone, and I soon realized the benefits of being ignored. Perhaps, Dr. Strawberry was on to something. He had better things to do than be bombarded by hungry girls. It left me feeling like a piece of meat. On Tuesday, I couldn’t wait to talk to Dr. Strawberry. By this time, the faculty found out that he had placed a bet and won over a million dollars. They were trying to figure-out how to fire him. Gambling was against school policy, but he had done it off campus. However, he had been watching the football game during school hours which was a strike against him.

“Can you believe this?” Dr. Strawberry said. “I’ve been summoned to an administrative hearing; it’s a disciplinary tribunal to determine if I can keep my job.”

“Well, you don’t need a job,” I said.

“I’ve never needed one, but it gives me something to do.”

“What else is in your book?” I asked.

“Things I shouldn’t read,” Dr. Strawberry said. “Especially, in light of the current circumstances.”

“Such as…?”

“Well, the next chapter considers curses. When the black magicians were being burned at the stake, they had to enact revenge. There are three to choose from: Boils, Diarrhea, or untimely Death. It’s just too much power. I can’t play god; it’s too much responsibility; that’s why I didn’t get married.”

“They’re going to fire you; don’t you want some insurance? What about Boils?”

“What about them?”

“Most adolescents get acne; I don’t see the big deal.”

“Okay, I guess you’re right,” Dr. Strawberry said. “But first we need to make the curse, and it can be tricky and very disgusting.”

“How’s that?”

“I need you to find the kid in school with the worst pimples and swab it.” He held up a Q-tip. The next day, I waited for Ethan in the boy’s restroom. He was popping his zits on the mirror like infectious missiles. The yellow puss and white cores looked like a Jackson Pollock painting, some sick rendition of modern art. When he was gone, I swabbed the mirror.

In Chemistry class, one of the students spoke up. “Dr. Strawberry, we’ll put in a good word for you. We heard about the hearing, and we’re sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Dr. Strawberry said with good cheer. I’m sure the outcome will be favorable.”

I went to get a snack before the last period and when I returned, I heard laughing.

“Are you okay?” I asked Dr. Strawberry.

“I’m fine.”

“Let me guess… laughing gas?”

“No; it’s a sitcom. Laughter is more valuable than luck or gold, and anybody can do it!”

“What about the hearing?”

“It’s this evening. Did you get the swab swabbed?”

“Here it is.” I gave him the puss-covered Q-tip.”

“Excellent! Now let’s put that to good use.” He mixed it with the green liquid and it immediately turned brown. It passed through some tubes and ran-out into a cookie sheet. “Brownies!” Dr. Strawberry said. “Now we just pop it into the oven for 20 minutes and wha-lah!”

Dr. Strawberry knew what he was doing. Disciplinary tribunals loved brownies or anything with sugar in it. I made a mental note never to sneak donuts from the teacher’s lounge again.

That evening, I accompanied Dr. Strawberry to the Central Office to testify of his impeccable character and hidden genius. The council was made-up of neurotic obese women between the ages of 50 and 60. They all looked like toads waiting to swallow a particularly juicy fly. Their three chins and toad-like mouths were hungry for revenge. Besides, they thought themselves the queens of education, which meant that anyone who beat the system, needed to be buried under the system.

“Dr. Strawberry, what do you have to say for yourself?”

“Only that I brought these brownies for you to enjoy.” He revealed the cookie trays filled with brownies. “Would you like some?”

“Pass the trays around,” the heaviest woman said. “It will not get you into our good graces though!”

“Of course not…of course not,” Dr. Strawberry said.

“To the issue of gambling; it’s strictly against school policy,” the superintendent said through brownie covered lips.

“May I call my expert witness?” Dr. Strawberry asked.

“Go ahead and call him,” the board said in unison.

I took the stand. “I was an underachiever, until Dr. Strawberry took me under his wing. He showed me the value of chemistry, and I plan on making it a life-long ambition.”

“Do you now?” They asked.

“Yes; you must let this brilliant man keep his position! Otherwise, young minds will suffer in the Humanities.”

“I majored in the Humanities, young man!”

“And look where it got you!” Playing to their vanity was my strategy, even if I injected sarcasm.

Their smiles showed their toady teeth. “Young man, we will give you a pass because you are young. Dr. Strawberry on the other hand must face the consequences. You are terminated at the end of the quarter. That gives you 90 days.”

“I’m sorry it didn’t go well,” I told Dr. Strawberry afterward.

“Nonsense dear boy! Each one of them should have acne vulgaris by the end of the week, untreatable by a dermatologist; I alone have the cure! They call that leverage!”

The End

Epilogue

When choosing sides, a weasel will usually do it to save their own hide, or like in most bureaucracies, people politically maneuver to get on top; impressed with their own importance, they don’t realize honor has been replaced by cowardice, and rather than meeting someone on the field of battle, they use poison, not to kill but to defame. Poison is the feminine method, and it’s seldom wrapped in a glass bottle; it’s arsenic on the tongue or cyanide in the mouth.

Gregson lost all respect for Dr. Swanson. Like most men raised by women, they have been trained to act like them. Their method to save the world is to poison everyone in it. If they kill-off those who disagree, there can be no argument; and men like Dr. Swanson can’t stand a world where they are not in control. They have to rig the game before they play; and after years of cheating, they believe it’s the only way to win.

“Contain the virus!” Dr. Swanson shouted. His artery was protruding from his neck like a boa constrictor squeezing the blood into his brain.

“What about your scientists?” Gregson asked.

“They love to do experiments; it’s too bad they were the first one.”

It wasn’t often that Gregson met someone dangerous, someone toxic. He had all the signs of megalomania—perhaps the most telling, was his robot army of women. It was a good choice, but they were created for the wrong reasons.

“Would you fancy a drive in the country?” Gregson asked. “It might clear your head.”

At this point, Dr. Swanson’s brain looked like it was about to pop; it had swelled to enormous size. When a man tries to be god, his ego is stretched so far that his humanity becomes distorted.

“That might be good for me. Say, would you like to make a wager.”

“What kind?” Gregson asked.

“It’s the kind you can’t walk away from.”

“Death?”

“No, Bitcoin. 10 Bitcoins says that I beat you to the bottom.”

“Oh, that’s my retirement.”

“With Bitcoin, you can live in style.”

“I guess you’re right, but that’s not why I’ll race.”

“Then why?”

“Someone needs to teach you how to drive.”

The look of anger was the look of envy on Satan’s face when he realized he wasn’t god; he wasn’t god because he was looking at Gregson.

The garage was cut into the mountain, and full of exotics. Gregson sat down in a candy-red Ferrari and scratched his balding head. Maybe he experienced this feeling for the first time, when he started to lose his hair. It was the sense that nothing lasts, not youth, not beauty, not money or fame; the slow approach to death is always happening, or one could drive as fast as possible. Each time Gregson raced to his own death, he was younger. His belly and his balding head were reminders that he had to beat death in life. He had to cross the finish line before his engine died. The worst feeling, Gregson mused, was driving a racecar during rush-hour traffic.

“Are we going to do this, or not?” Dr. Swanson asked. He was driving an Aston Martin Vanquish. The guy thought he was James Bond, but if you take away the style of Bond, all you get is a boring guy in an expensive car.

Gregson revved the engine of the Italian V14, in response.

Girls were everywhere.

It was impossible to know who was real and who was fake. It might be like boobs— if you can’t tell, it doesn’t matter. A girl was wearing a yellow bikini, and it was 25 degrees outside. She was a robot, Gregson thought. She flashed the checkered flag, and the supercars took-off down the mountain.

Gregson past Swanson, and shifted into 4th. In some sections, it was a one-and-a-half lane road, cobbled with stones. In other parts, it opened up, like a woman’s mouth whistling and then yawning. Swanson past Gregson, but before he could re-adjust to the whistle, his car blew through the wall like a butterfly dying in the sun, its wings burned away, falling like a misguided missile.

“The mountains don’t move, even for god,” Gregson said. He drove back to the hanger where the women waited. If anyone noticed the Ferrari, they would’ve thought an old man was driving it. Gregson didn’t need to go fast. How many times had he beaten death in life? He had lost count. When he got there, the women were waiting.

“What’s the Bitcoin password?” Gregson asked.

“Women…women…women…”

“I got it; I got it; he had women on the brain. I guess it repeats 16 times.”

Gregson sent Madelyn 500,000 dollars in Bitcoin. “That should keep her at bay for a couple of weeks,” he said.

“Now, who here know how to get to Planet Swanson? I’m in the mood to sip margaritas on an endless shore.”

The girl in the yellow bikini stepped forward. “It’s not hard,” she said.

“At least not yet,” Gregson smiled.

“It’ll take four months to get there,” she said.

“Four months…” Gregson mused. “What will we do with all the time?”

The End

The Quiet Cabin in the Busy City

Decisions

are for those

willing to cut off

possibilities.

It is tempting

not to make them

because of the illusion of choice—

all those choices

one could choose.

It’s like the summer after high school graduation

there is fear

of walking down, the wrong road

but reassurance

that you can walk back

and try another path.

It’s so tempting

to contemplate the way

and never make your own way in the world.

Eventually, we have no choice

if we never make a choice

and our decisions get compared

to the decisions of others.

We can quickly lose our way

trying to get more

or to out-do

someone else

or we might just be trying to survive.

The quiet cabin in the busy city

is where we need to be honest with ourselves

amongst the chaos, the competition, and the envious eyes.

Ambition will take you places you don’t want to go

and equally dangerous

are the constricting lies we tell ourselves.

We need to know what we can live without

as time runs out

as our opportunities shrink.

We can make friends with lots of people

be a player

in this mad game of life

with our hands and feet in many honey-pots

getting stung

from all sides

being the biggest bear

in the forest

or we might plod-along

down a solitary path

overgrown

without promise, of a destination.

It takes love

to honor

yourself.

It takes faith

to keep walking.

It takes desire

and willingness

to ignore the desires of others.

Your eyes focused on the way

there can be no return

because it’s the last trail.

You can’t listen to anyone’s advice

but your own.

You must walk this path

alone.

I Am Those Things

For years

now

I’ve been searching for who to be

it’s not uncommon

among adolescent boys

they go through a dream phase

when they hang their idols

on the walls

big men, larger than life

and they reach their peak

of fantasy

but then the bills

come

and the girls turn into women

with needs

and the rules

say “No”

and the adults say “Yes”

“You’re one of us.”

“Buy a house. Do the responsible thing. Care about politics.”

and the young men

become old

and worn out

trading their years

in decades

like inflation

burning their time

away

they might have company

at the end

but no one told them

they would have to take those last steps

alone

and that’s what I am right now

I find, my adolescent dreams

have matured

and I no longer have to watch the movies

in fact, I can’t stand them

although, the symbols

they left behind

have become an amalgam

of my most cherished possessions

Hemmingway, holding a glass and staring into the crowd

or Bukowski declaring himself a genius

when no one else knew

he was alive

Style comes from living

through thoughts that subtly speak

a stride

that carries itself

and knows it

despite the lock-step

of successful soldiers

No more do I need

to join the insane laughter

or agree

death will shudder to take me

I’ll walk that path

alone

It’ll be a long walk

through darkness

where I face my demons

until I see the light

where there are only angels.