What We Give and Can’t Give Away

listening to what others cannot live without

while realizing, I can’t live with what they have

and what I have to give is not something they want

it’s invisible…

what good can it be used for

what good are the thousands of conversations

the thousands of documents with misspelled words

“you made a mistake.”

but that mistake is filed away and forgotten

like the ocean’s waves that continue lapping, on the shore

the ocean is not its waves, but the ocean

and maybe what I have to offer, is not what I have to offer

instead…

it’s something I am

that I can’t give away, without giving of myself.

Garage Sale Magic

I was a nerd. At first, I didn’t think so, but when I tried to talk to a cute girl and help her with her homework, she said, “You’re a nerd.” It didn’t make me feel good and I felt even worse after I tried to ask her out on the phone and she ghosted me. So, what did I do? I went to the library for the answer. There were books that talked about holding the frame and being confident, but I quickly got the sense that only nerds looked at these books and it didn’t help their success much.

I was a senior, and the prospect of losing my virginity looked like one of those mathematical proofs that will never be solved. The problem was, total morons were getting laid and I wasn’t. They had a kinda genius that I was born without, perhaps I was missing the part of the brain that makes guys good with women. Anyway, all I knew was that I was walking home from school alone, again, and time was running out. I had said so many quiet prayers, immoral prayers, but the gods of pleasure or the rulers of the underworld didn’t seem to care about my problem.

I was passing the Victorian houses and one of them was having an estate sale.

“Yeah, the old lady croaked.”

“Is this her, my… she was a looker. They don’t make ’em that way anymore.”

“Did I tell you she was accused of being a witch in 1915?”

“How old was she?”

“Who can say—at least 115 years old, but judging by these photographs and collectibles, she might’ve been even older. I thought of giving the genus book of world records a call, but I have strict order from her lawyer to sell this stuff and burn a few items in the house.”

“Burn, you said?”

“Yeah, strange request, I know, but I was told they are potentially dangerous.”

to be the feast for flame

or the decaying flesh, passing through the worm

to be the voice other voices don’t hear

their tones, rattling through my bones

like chemo

radiating my marrow

to be the missing piece

that wins the game

fitting into

a perfect picture

all the fantasies and dreams

mean something

a purpose we heard from someone

who knew

before we knew ourselves.

Chapter 5 The Men in Red Pajamas

“If you follow a follower, does that make you a follower or something else?” Gregson asked.

“It makes you a fool,” Tony said.

“You know what, you’re getting smarter. Hang around me and you’ll be a genius before sunup.” 

All the figures wore red robes, crimson in the starlight, and in the open field, they began to walk in a circle.

“There have been mistakes!” It was not obvious where the voice was coming from, and then out of the earth emerged an enormous bull with black horns, and all the red robes bowed. Low humming blotted out the sound of crickets mating. “I demand sacrifices!”

“My Lord, who?”

“You! You were charmed by the woman. This organization needs to be kept secret from any business dealings, including pimping and racketeering. Our power comes from these silent circles.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“And they never are silent if you bring a woman into them. She worked for the Federal BI. That’s worse than a gossip.”

“This guy knows his stuff,” Gregson muttered.

“We stand on the outside of society, so that we may reform society. Your jobs and dealings are important, but our secrecy is essential. The water supply has been thoroughly saturated with Deep Blue. All the men of Chessfield are under the control of their women, and the city has told them they are the ones in control.”

“Finally, someone is saying what has been right in front of us all this time. Maybe I should join up,” Gregson said.

“You’re kidding, right?” The suit asked.

“In the next couple of days the entire city will be sterilized by Deep Blue. Take these Red Pills and the women of Chessfield will be submissive to you.”

“But I like being a bachelor!”

“Conrad, shut up! The purpose of our society is to remake society, not to give it over to morons who allow their women to make decisions for them.”

“But what about the larger world? Do you have enough Deep Red to saturate the oceans so that masculinity will rain?”

“Yes, but you must not falter in the tasks that have been given to you. Grow your beards. Retain your vital essence. And do not bend the knee!”

Chapter 4 The Vanishing Lights

The convertible hit one pothole and then another, as it careened between the trees. They were moving into isolation now, where a planet hides a star in the space of darkness.

“What are we doing out here?” The suit asked.

“Waiting,” Gregson said.

“For what?”

“We’ll know it when we see it.”

It was dark, but Tony saw a smile on the PI’s face, and Gregson lit a cigarette.

“Do you see those lights?” Gregson asked.

“Yeah.”

“That’s what we’re looking for.”

Tony pulled plastic off some dark metal in the trunk. “Man, you’ve got a lot of guns…”

“It’s probably stemming from a masculine inferiority complex and my small Johnson, but I always get the job done.”

They each grabbed one and followed the vanishing lights.

Chapter 3 A Case of Identity

The eyes are the window to the soul and when someone has the evil eye, a seasoned investigator knows. Gregson saw guilt on the man’s face, like a lingering shadow.

“What’s your name?” Gregson asked.

“My name?”

It was clear the man didn’t know.

“Maybe coffee will help?” Tony said.

Gregson nodded and they hoisted the suit into the convertible.

Gregson aired out the man’s money on the back seat, so that it looked like his upholstery was dollar bills, instead of shammy leather.

“Do you have any identification? Wallet? ID? Clothing labels?” Gregson asked.

The man checked his suit, but they weren’t there. It was a puzzle that irritated Gregson like siriasis, and when he got the crime itch, he couldn’t stop scratching.

“Well… we should take you to the hospital to make sure you don’t have any hemorrhages.”

The suit piled into the backseat with his money. “Can I keep this stuff?” He asked.

“I don’t see why not?” Gregson said. “My contact in the FBI is running a trace on the bills now. Perhaps, he will tell us who you are.”

The suit was airing out, and his floppy hair blew in the wind, revealing a bald spot. He looked like an accountant who drank constantly and snorted cocaine. He glanced into Gregson’s rearview through bloodshot eyes. “I know that car,” he said in a terrified voice.

“They’ve been following us for three blocks,” Gregson said.

“Can you lose them?” Tony asked.

“Yes, but that’s not what I want to do.”

“Huh.”

“I want to bring them in closer. Murphy will run their make, model, and license plate.”

“Hold on, the window is rolling down. That’s an AR.”

Ringing…

“This is Gregson.”

“Murphy here; you know those bills you wanted me to trace…?”

“Yeah.”

“They belong to a church with ties to the mob. Maybe you cracked a money-laundering ring, and the guy you found… he’s either an accountant or a mule.”

“That makes sense, but there’s something else… a presence of evil I can’t put my finger on.”

“Call me if you need any help.”

“Will do; I got to let you go; I’m about to get shot at.

“What?”

CHUT, CHUT, CHUT… Bullets shattered the windshield. “We’re taking the side-road. Murphy just sent me coordinates.”

“But how do we lose ’em?” Tony asked.

“Let me pop the trunk. Now, go through the seat in the back and grab what you find.”

Tony squeezed through the hole and pulled out a tube. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Point it at the car and push the red button.”

Tony pulled the trigger and the car exploded. “Is it legal for you to have one of these?”

“That depends… the pen may be mightier than the sword, but it’s not better than a bazooka.”

Chapter 2 The river reveals the conscience of a city…

Gregson fished for that rainbow trout that can’t be caught. He stood in the stream, feeling the current tugging on his legs, glancing at Tony who awkwardly entered the river. “If you catch a fish before me, I’ll buy you breakfast,” Gregson said.

And Tony fumbled with his line, fixing a fly on the end, casting off. It skipped across the river, and a fat trout swallowed it.

“Beginner’s luck,” Gregson said. The PI cast his line like an artist, catching nothing. It’s the way of the world.

Twilight turned into day and the river got hot, as a grey suit swayed downstream like a shark, bumping into them.

Tony thought it was his headache at first, brought on by his hangover, but then the suit turned over and it was a man, bleeding from his head and gasping for air.

“A suicide?” Tony asked.

“Get ’em out of the water,” Gregson said.

The man lay sprawled-out in the mud on the riverbank.

“A stockbroker?”

“Close, he works with numbers, that’s for sure, but I don’t think he does it legally.”

The suit had wide-eyes, like cerebral edema.

“Stockbrokers don’t carry cash. This guy has a suit full of bills.”

Suddenly, the man choked up water. His black and white face tried to talk, but no words came out. He reminded Tony of a bloody sundae or a raspberry pancake. He was hungry. He had earned a breakfast and Gregson said he would pay for it.

“What this guy needs is a cup of coffee,” Gregson said.

“I could go for one of those, but shouldn’t we take him to the hospital?”

The suit’s eyes grew wider, and his mouth said, “No.”

Take Another Look

Outside

there is a need to change

as we sluff off

old bodies, old selves, old cells

and we walk between death and life

Inside

we look outside

at what we want, or maybe…

what others want

Some look inside and live inside

watching the changes there

where death and life

don’t care

that is something completely different

reactions trap us

like mirrors

we don’t want to see

and we can’t stop pondering

our own reflections there

when our insides match our outsides

we smile

at a mirror that smiles back

our power reflects our reflections there

honesty

from every angle

comes from what we have inside

and the truth shines back at us

if we can look at it

So, if your outsides

don’t reflect your insides

take another look.

What Do You Want?

Where do we go for more?

in a store

or on a lonely shore

the cold wind changes

how I feel

its crisp aliveness

makes me sense

the seasons.

the bitterness of nature

is a delicious drink

for without a coat, we can get one

and the warmth of our own bodies

is more satisfying than a temperature-controlled room

there is honesty out here

and maybe it hurts, but I feel the pain

and it makes me feel alive

for the hours lost and nothing gained

is a pain I cannot feel.

Some would say, “Life is a Game.”

“Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.”

But feeling alive, is the feeling I want

What do you want?

Chapter 1 Never Insult a Cop

It was raining…

and somehow the rain said more than the police commissioner.

“Sarah served her city. She was a fine officer. Nobody deserves to have their life cut short, especially someone who had so much love to give.”

Big droplets hit the crowd of black umbrellas in the police cemetery like a mournful applause, as Gregson stared-out from under one of them—a tear in his eye. He would drown his sadness in alcohol. It never fixed his problems, but it always deadened his pain.

The police bar had a heartbeat, it was the soul of the city and right now it was about to go into arrest. Gregson sipped his rum and coke, not wanting to talk to anybody, but knowing it was inevitable.

“I don’t care what they say, she was a two-bit-whore who didn’t put-out enough—that’s why she got it!”

Gregson looked at the kid. He’d had one too many, so it was the alcohol talking, but that didn’t mean he didn’t need to be taught a lesson.

“Boy, come over here,” Gregson said.

The young man stopped laughing, his sick insecurity noticed Gregson for the first time. “I’m not a boy. Why should I listen to you?”

“Sarah was my partner. I trained her.”

“You were her pimp?”

Gregson’s soul twisted. It was like he was given permission from the Devil. “Why don’t you step outside and prove that you’re not a boy,” Gregson said.

“With you? You look like you’re one step away from the grave.”

“Smart kid, huh? Can you back up your words with your fists?” The boy walked into the alley and Gregson sighed. He hadn’t done this for awhile…

When he exited the bar, he got punched in the face. It felt good—somehow the pain cut his sadness. “My partner worked undercover—you know. She put two mob bosses in the slammer. What’ve you ever done?”

There was more alcohol in the kid than water, but he moved with perfect coordination. His skinny frame and muscles looked like a drug addict.

Gregson’s belly bounced as he leaned 250 pounds into him. It only took one punch, then stars. Gregson vomited in the trash can. “I guess I still have it,” he said.

“My face…” the kid groaned.

“It’s an improvement. What’s your name?”

“Tony… Tony B.”

“Do you have a death wish Tony…? Never insult a cop in a police bar. I’m Gregson. Now I’ll buy you a drink and let’s go fishing.”

One drink turned into two…

and pretty soon Gregson and Tony were swimming in it.

“You can hold your liquor,” Gregson admired, “but can you hold a pole?” Tony looked at him through glassy eyes, like a dead fish.

“Why don’t I have a hangover?” He asked.

“Because you haven’t stopped drinking,” Gregson said. “A little secret of mine.” He lit a cigarette and sucked in the blue smoke. He’d been trying to kill himself for the last twenty years. Lung cancer hadn’t worked. Bad guys couldn’t do it. His ex-wife tried to do it. And despite these failures, Gregson knew he had a date with death. It would be a love affair, a romance, a mystery that he must solve.

 “I never thought I would live this long,” Gregson said. “My pecks are sagging, my ass is sagging, and the road never ends.”

“When are we going fishing?” Tony asked.

“Now.”

They staggered out of the bar, and Gregson grabbed his pole from his convertible and put on his waders and galoshes and swam into the river.

“It’s dangerous to fish while you’re drunk, but it’s an excellent way to get sober,” Gregson laughed.