The Dog Walkers

Moonlight reveals the character within. -Intellectual Shaman

I was running in the early morning, but you could hardly call it morning, it was pitch black with the stars overhead. The country brushed up against the city, and I ran in the in-between place where the trail connected nature with the constructions of men. Even in my limited years, I’ve learned that the in-between places are full of sorcery and magic, but I wasn’t expecting to find that on the suburban trail.

There was the occasional elk or owl, and a bear prowling trash cans. I didn’t know what to do if I ran across something wild—probably just run away, I thought. It was a windy night, and a wild morning, when I went for my routine run. There were these lights on the trail, the most unusual lights you ever saw. They were like lighthouses, projecting into the night, and the other lights were green ropes floating in mid-air. It was like a cult of light. I soon realized they belonged to runners and their dogs; they always giggled when they passed.

It was difficult to see them, and then one ran under a lonely street light. She walked onto the trail with her golden retriever, then stopped and stared at me. She was perfect. I don’t mean the type of perfect that goes to the gym, although she was fit, but I mean her posture and face and body held a symmetry that is not found in nature. Her energy projected fierce independence, which I found attractive, like gold to a greedy man. I looked at her dog, expecting to see the same, but he looked defeated.

“Morning,” I said.

“Good morning.”

I didn’t know what to say next.

“You keep fit,” she said.

“Thanks, but the Thai food has different plans.”

She laughed, a high-pitched cruel laugh that was sexy.

It was below freezing, and I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes, but I just wanted to keep standing there anyway, staring into her green eyes. I was frozen, and might’ve actually froze if she hadn’t intervened.

“Here’s my number,” she said. “This little guy needs his exercise; I think he’s feeling down. Remember, call me.” And she disappeared into the night. Her dog ran behind her, attached to his green leash. He kept looking over his shoulder at me; it was a pleading look, but I didn’t give him much thought.

My dinner date that afternoon was with a normal woman. It was an online date, and when she sat down, I knew I was in trouble. Her picture was big, but she was even bigger, so much so that I worried I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for her food. Dessert rolled around and she wanted more.

I started drinking.

“You don’t get out much, do you?” She asked.

It was a fair guess; after all, it was an online date.

“Not much,” I said.

“It shows,” she criticized between mouthfuls of vanilla ice-cream.

I was starting to feel sick. I was a writer, and the conversations I had with myself always went better than this. I got the check; it was in the triple digits. She burped.

“So, your place?”

“I think I have some laundry to do,” I lied.

“Suit yourself, but you don’t know what you’re missing.”

I had an imagination, but I did everything to shut it down. Instead, it drifted to the girl I met on the trail, 777-5555. “Strange number,” I muttered.

“Yes.”

“Would you like to go for dessert?”

I was expecting her to say, “It’s short notice.”

But she said, “Yes!”

I picked her up in my truck. She smelled like strawberries, and she wore a green dress with red lipstick. The night was young, and I was feeling much older. She was having an effect on me, every time she spoke, which wasn’t very often.

I dropped her off and she asked me, “Would you like to come up, and have some tea?”

Sure, I wanted some tea.

“Let me go freshen up a bit,” she said.

I waited… I was going to get lucky, but I had no idea.

I looked down at her dog, to give it sympathy, and right when the moon reflected across its face, I saw a man tethered there, to her bed post.

My dinner jumped out of my mouth.

“I don’t know if you’re into dominance and submission, but I have a collar for you to wear,” she said.

I was gone.

I stopped running for a while and going on online dates. I ate Thai food for a month to calm down, but it didn’t work. I was done with witches and women for at least six months.

The End

Feel Everything

flattened by her voice

rolled over by her monotone

following her rules

until she changes them

not many men are free

they think they can become more

by working more hours

or following directions

but they should follow their own direction

before they forget how to

the money won’t be necessary,

although, I cringe when I say that

it’s about living with less

and caring more

some think you can be free if you don’t care

but they are usually aimless

their darkness leads them into more darkness

caring requires suffering

and the more that you can suffer

the more you can feel

don’t pray for reprieve

but for a gut-wrenching toughness

not a thick skin

but a thin one

that feels

everything.

Man Camp

All the so-called men were lining up for things I couldn’t understand. -Intellectual Shaman

I talked to my dad about it. “Why do men go to war?” I asked.

“Because they’re patriots; I wanted to be a marine, but I shot my leg off before I could get to Vietnam.”

“Why do guys want to kill each other? Isn’t there a mutual bond of brotherhood, or something?”

“Naw. When I was younger, I used to read Soldier of Fortune Magazine. It said there was no greater feeling than bleeding another man on your blade.”

I was horrified. “What should I do?”

“You should get a job,” my dad said. And I did. I worked for minimum wage, and didn’t get any respect.

I checked in with my dad, a couple years later. “What should I do now?”

“Well, you graduated high school, so you should go to college; study something useful, like engineering, that’s what I did.”

I tried to do what he did, but I couldn’t understand engineering. It all seemed like a big waste of time.

“Do you have a girlfriend yet?” My dad asked.

“No.”

“Well, it might be time for you to start thinking about getting one. You’ll want to be married soon.”

“Any time I thought about marriage or women or relationships, I felt heavy, like I was 300 pounds and I couldn’t take another step.

I was getting decent grades in community college, but my parents were really worried.

“Andy, there’s this camp I read about in the newspaper. “It’s a man camp where young men like yourself have a chance to make friends.” It was a horror story, and then my mother showed it to my dad.

“That’s it! That’s just what the boy needs!”

“But I’m a grown adult. I stopped going to camp in middle school!”

“You’re under my roof still, so you’re under my rules. You can live here as long as you want, but you must do what I say. If you don’t, you’re on your own.”

I didn’t want to become homeless, so I signed up for man camp.

To be continued…

“You’re so arrogant,” she said.

“You’re so arrogant,” she said.

“I just know what’s important.”

“I bet I know more than you.”

They don’t share my enthusiasm

although they pretend to, at first

at the end of the day, they say “goodbye”

and when I say “Hey, goodbye!” They’ve already lost interest

They notice things about me

and when I show them more

they disapprove

My confidence has been growing

like a robust weed

it doesn’t belong in their garden

with neat rows

of sickly tomatoes

waiting to be harvested

they’ve poisoned me with their sarcasm

and public humiliation

leaving me to die in the dirt

“you’re so bitter, you must hate women.”

“No.”

It’s true, and I marvel at myself

I’m sweet

despite being rooted in the same spot

for so long.

Where does my confidence come from?

It comes from becoming

who I want to be

dismissed and labeled

fenced off and forgotten

I’m okay with that

Most are stunted and half-dead

waiting to be harvested

I have no place

in their garden

and as I keep growing

they wonder what feeds me

it isn’t their opinions, good or bad

it isn’t success, in their eyes

but success, in my own

I don’t need their empowerment

I don’t need anything

and they hate me for that

“You’re so arrogant,” she said.

The Fishermen

There are many lives we might live, if our imagination permitted us, but the whole lot of our existence is determined by convention. -Intellectual Shaman

The sunrise was green, the eye of some wicked light, or a specter in the sky.

Jacob mended his nets. He could do it as quickly and as subconsciously as a woman knitting. The sea was empty, but it couldn’t be. There was a void under his boat, a vortex where no fish visited. He was drinking more, and Peter noticed, but didn’t say anything. The solution was to catch more fish, it was always to catch more fish—Broke up with your girlfriend? Catch fish. Can’t pay the rent? Catch fish. Worried about storms or monsters? Catch fish.

It’s the simple life that everybody wants, but few get to choose. Money and society get in the way. Everyone has to ask themselves what they are doing. You can’t go on pretending; time makes fools of pretenders. The milestones of life are like tombstones; if you miss one, it gets buried. Most regret what they didn’t do, but Jacob wasn’t that way, ten years a fisherman, one of the best, still an outsider in a small town, a pretender. He wasn’t going anywhere, even if the fish had.

“Peter, where’s my coffee?”

“Didn’t think you’d be in a hurry to drink this stuff.”

“Well, I’m not, but it gives me an excuse to drink the other stuff.” He poured whiskey, and sipped it in the morning light. Morning and night were his friends. The day belonged to someone else. Mr. Coleridge. The man was losing his patience. It was his boat. It was his money. The world turned for the owners, and the fishermen were stuck in the storm.

“You know, Peter… I’m getting tired of dropping the nets into the ocean and catching seaweed. We’re desperate men. What’s the pool on us, anyway?”

“We quit or get fired by Friday.”

“That sounds right. Desperate men do desperate things…”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Let’s pull into the harbor.”

“The bar’s not open until afternoon.”

“Trust me.”

It smelled like seawater and barbecued crab.

“Coleridge comes in here, boys. I wouldn’t let him catch you drinking.”

“Say Sam, you know the customers?”

“Yeah.”

“Where might we find some dynamite?”

“You need to stop drinking.”

“Seriously.”

“The farmer blows up an occasional tree stump.”

Jacob finished their beer for both of them.

Coleridge walked in. “You boys haven’t been drinking, have you?”

“No, just regrouping,” Peter covered.

“Catch some fish, or Thursday will be your last.”

“Ai, Captain.”

“You know better than to sass him. What’s going on with you?”

“Just drive.”

The dynamite was packed in wooden crates. “We’ll take two.”

“What are you going to use this for?”

“Fishing.”

“I hope it works.”

“Me too. The fish are staying home.”

“It’s a pandemic. The fish won’t be in school.”

Jacob smiled, a cool smile. A smile that flexed for pain, to set itself above the system.

Back in the harbor, they leaked exhaust, like smog foretelling a tragedy.

“Drop anchor!”

BOOM

“Anything? See anything?”

“Nothing.”

“Why don’t you take us out into the dark water?”

“Ai, Captain.”

“Drop the dynamite.”

BOOM

“That’s a big fish.”

“That’s not a fish. Get the gaff. Attach it to the stern. Start pulling.”

“The engine is coming apart!”

“Keep it going.”

“That’s a giant squid.”

“Call the bar. The town is going to have a barbecue.”

The soup never tasted better.

” I bet that’s why the fish are gone. The thing ate them.”

“Now we’re eating it. Circle of life.”

“You boys did good. Aren’t you going to taste your prize?” Mr. Coleridge asked.

“We don’t eat squid; we’re Jewish”

“Suit yourself,” Coleridge laughed. He served himself another bowl. The fishermen went back to their boat. The week was over.

“We’re still in business,” Peter said.

“That is, unless the creature ate all the fish.”

Sunday swam by and they pulled in tons of Abalone. When they got back to the town, it was deserted.

“What happened to everyone?” Peter asked.

“Let’s go have a drink.”

Muddy slithering was a signature on the floor. There were men swimming in the harbor, with tentacles and fins shooting out of their bodies.

“Monsters,” Jacob muttered. “We knew better than to eat the soup.”

The End

Deep Horizon

“Yes Bartholomew, we are unjustly imprisoned here, but freedom has nothing to do with justice. Often, injustice is the greatest teacher—it forces us to acknowledge that absurdity cannot be overcome with reason. So, if one cannot defeat absurdity and must endure it, what is the purpose of knowing the truth, when all we get is pain?” -Intellectual Shaman

The prison was modern. It was designed with right angles, lots of right angles. The color was washed out, giving it the appearance of a dental office or a realtor’s headquarters. In gothic tradition, it was erected on an island, far away from low security prisons. When it was built, inmates numbered in the thousands. Now, nobody questioned, and the ferry made her passage alone.

On a sparkling summer day, two men were arrested. They were brothers. One was a bum; the other believed in more than just the streets. Bob spent time thinking. He thought so much, he wasn’t aware of his own thoughts, and the types of actions he took were so different from his peers, that he stood out, as if everyone in society was lying down.

There are two types, one who is actively trying, and the other who doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. Bob’s older brother was the bum; he didn’t know and he didn’t care, and he admired something in the younger. Bartholomew said the right things, but his inaction betrayed him. He could not bring himself to do. Bob did, and his doing was his undoing.

They spotted him and had him arrested. Then they picked up the older brother, possibly because of the potential influence he had on the younger.

“Do you know what you’ve done?” Bartholomew asked.

“Listen big brother, if no one pushes the boundaries, they don’t even know they are in prison. They do what they are told and their lives are comfortable. They never try to break out.”

“You always speak with abstracts. Why?”

“Because it requires thought, and most are incapable of that. They get offended by what they don’t have to think about.”

“Well, I’m offended that I’m on this boat with you. I prefer the street, and watching the people. I can tell the one who follows, but isn’t a follower. Why do you have to lead?”

“Big brother, I’m the same as you. I spend my time in a dark room. I spend my days alone. But I can’t stop myself. I can’t look at life, and just keep looking like you. No, the people in charge are not leaders, and the people who want to be in charge are not leaders. This idea comes from a place nobody knows. It’s authentic fire from the gut. It’s electricity that shocks people, if they grab onto it. People need that. Everything else puts them to sleep. Many climb on top of others, who give into their weight. I want to throw them off.”

“Well, now look where you got us.”

The island was monstrous in its simplicity. There were no guards. There was no escape. As the brothers neared the island, the warden waited for them. She was squat and conservative in her dress and mannerisms, but she was a ravening wolf with modern ideas without having thought about them. She was intelligent, but a non-thinking person, the most dangerous kind.

“You two are difficult,” she said. “We have two cells for you, and we’re not barbarous here. Because you are brothers, you can room next to each other. You will each have a TV, and the opportunity to exercise when it is granted.”

“What about books?” Bob asked.

“What do you need with those? That’s what we have TV for. You know, I’m watching the most thought-provoking series on Netflix. It has to do with underprivileged children in remote communities. They are learning ideas over 100 years old, so out of date, so backwards. That’s when history was ‘his story’, now it belongs to everyone, the way it should be. You boys are going to learn that. In fact, don’t think of this place as confinement. I will be your teacher. This is a school. You are going to get rid of all the wrong ideas.”

Time reveals everything, so prison is the place of great revealing. Bob walked on the shore, watching the waves, reading a book, it was the only required reading. The title was plain. Rules. What happens to rule breakers? Bob never intended to be that. Society made him that way. He looked at the ocean, at the distant horizon, promising what four walls could never give. As the days wore on into years, the brothers changed. Bartholomew’s face became soft, like a baby, and the warden took care of him. She gave him comforting cards for his birthday with quotes that read, “You are enough.” She even went as far as to dress provocatively, to tempt him with lust, so he might feel like a man. Her lurid black nylons ran into her straight skirt two inches above fingertip length. I guess if you’re the warden, you can break the rules, to captivate the prisoners. It’s lonely being a warden, and it’s the type of loneliness that can never be accompanied. Bob looked at what was happening to his brother.

“You are giving yourself over to her.”

“But we need her. I still think you should watch the latest episode on Netflix. It shows how wrong we were about history—how backwards we were in our thinking.”

Bob’s face went stony, just like his cell. “Big brother, we don’t have to settle for this; we can escape.”

“Where would we go? All we have is the open ocean.”

“Exactly; tomorrow morning I’m going to swim for it.”

“With the warden watching?”

“She won’t get into the water. It’s full of sharks and storms, remember? And the ferry doesn’t come for another two weeks. If she contacts the authorities, they won’t come.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ll be dead when they get here. The horizon promises salvation, it always has and it always will. It’s a falling off of the edge, and the edge is where I need to be, even if just for a moment.

At sunrise, the exercise hour came. And Bob walked to the beach with his brother. The warden was gazing at her progress through golden binoculars she took to the opera. She had succeeded as a teacher. Her two failing students were getting straight A’s. Then Bob jumped into the water.

“Wait; it isn’t safe!” She screamed.

Bob bobbed, and smiled, and waved. The horizon was waiting. The depths of freedom were there, the fathoms of the deep offered so much more than four walls. Wardens will never understand that.

The End

Chapter 4 Instinct in the Sky

Gregson felt the instinct in his gut, like Thai food he had not properly digested. Food fed his instinct, and without it, there was an emptiness plaguing him like all great enthusiasts waiting for joy— connoisseurs without wine, lovers without sex, artists without creation.

Tommy grabbed his stick, shifting down, and to the left. “We’re going weightless.”

It was an odd sensation for Gregson.

Mountains of ice described the war in the sky, as Tommy grabbed his shaft, and pulled up; it throbbed, shaking in his hands. They passed by a waterfall, flowing into the ocean, and the zero struck the river like a missile.

“They don’t build ’em the way they do now,” Tommy said. “This bird is a deep roller, but It’ll never hit the ground.”

Gregson held onto his lunch, like a child whose mother packed him something special. He didn’t want to give it up, despite gravity tossing his stomach.

“There’s the clinic,” Tommy said. “I wouldn’t stay there for all the drug money in Florida.”

“Why not?” Gregson asked.

“The feminine makes a man soft, and that island has a reputation.”

Gregson’s bounty had escaped an ex-wife to fall into the clutches of a cult of women? Gregson mentally prepare himself, focusing on his masculinity. Hemmingway came to mind.

Tommy eased up on his shaft, and the canary bird made her landing.

Father Frankenstein

following in the footsteps of my father

the ground is soft and weak

following in the footsteps of my father

sinking into despair

following in the footsteps of my father

my feet are larger than his

feats of feet

walking where they shouldn’t go

“You’ll sink!”

“The ground is firmer over here.”

following a father of fear

and turning away

from all I know

linear lines

led him here

into a sinking swamp

He created me

and he is my creation

put together from dead things

and brought to life

by belief.

The Computer Soup Between Your Ears

Suffering

is not the presence of pain

but the absence

of it

wanting complete control

we strangle our creativity

I have laid in bed for hours

thinking up ideas

On those days

I wonder…

what a waste

what did I accomplish

for all the hours

but the days when I “accomplish”

for someone else

are the days

I’ve lost

because

they don’t belong to me

it’s like my mind is inhabited by a computer

with a job description

and when lunch time rolls around

it eats

and when 3:30 arrives

it leaves

just a blankness

a white screen

lost creativity

when your soup

is watered down

by “important” thoughts

and responsibilities

the memory-wipe

is gradual

and after a few days

you know what you want

not praise

not a job well done

but a seasoned story

well told.

Deconstructing Disbelieving Stones

Let us say that you come into an immeasurable fortune

not of material gain

but of amped up energy, more energy than you know what to do with

you discover this

by practicing hidden knowledge

now, you don’t know what to do with it

You try to attract people, but your energy pushes them away

if you don’t try, they are drawn to you

like a pre-school drawing, that doesn’t understand the larger picture

all of your insecurities, are magnified

even though, you know, they will diminish, if you don’t engage

striking a balance, with this excessive energy

is like trying to modulate sound waves on a spectrum of infinity

I have not changed myself, I have only increased my energy

but this is not to say, I have not developed from within

according to the unique intelligences that are my own

I have more potency, to go farther, into my inner journey

but, if I decide to extend that outward, it doesn’t work

if I don’t try, it does

trying, always gets in the way

so, I have to go on

not wanting

not caring

which is easy, even though it doesn’t seem wise

in fact,

not wanting

and not caring

is how I acquired this energy in the first place

What I didn’t pursue, came to me

like faith

letting go of desire,

then desire blew up in my face

I keep reaching for it

because it seems natural

practical,

but it always

runs away.