The Hill House

The manservant took the cat, like he was stealing somebody’s virginity.

“You have to give us a ticket, with your information on it,” Morgan said.

“What for?”

“Immunization.”

“Not gonna happen… besides, the cat won’t be walking around for very long.”

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

“That’s my business—or should I say, my master’s business.”

The manservant left, getting into his Lincoln. It was a black sedan.

“Should we follow him?”

“Listen, Andy—we kill cats all day. Why are you concerned?”

“It’s a mystery.”

“That’s true, and we’ve gassed all of our cats for this evening.”

“Already?”

“Yeah—the fire department found two in a tree, and five in the city sewer. We’re low on gas—I need to order more poison.”

“We’d better follow that car.”

“No. Not a good idea. He’d spot us for sure. Let’s just drive-up to the hill house.”

“Can we get through the gate?”

“We’ll have to climb over the wall.”

The night hung around our headlights like black drapes. The stars were tiny pin-pricks, among a sea of rolling clouds. It felt like we were driving to our destiny. Up on the hill, the outline, of the Italian villa, was more like a castle than a home, with a wall, 12 feet tall, enclosing the property.

To be continued…

Cheering for the Human Race to End

I have always liked

half-mad people

(half-mad, because they can explain their madness—they can function—a drooling schizophrenic isn’t that interesting)

Who knows if

the mad response, is not the rational response—

most of society is repressed, anyway.

I write on an old typewriter to get the stories out

somehow

the sound

of click click… space bar…return

is music to my ears.

I love the smell of hot black ink.

When I write on this electric machine

from the 1970s

my emotions get out

of my body

and when I go to the grocery store to buy

fizzy water

I am completely vulnerable

paranoid—

at the roving mobs of male teenagers

at little girls in horse riding costumes with whips

at mothers who don’t want to be mothers, their jawlines set, like fighters

there isn’t much pride in the ring

just blood and sweat

and angry fans, chanting, “Give us a show!”

as I hold my breath, driving

out of the parking lot.

Yes, the question should be asked, am I crazy?

I don’t think so…

Most people are unwilling to examine

what they do

If they analyze that, and keep doing it

they’re crazy

Maybe, they’re just negligent.

Which is more frightening, a parent who leaves a baby in a hot car

with 10 things on their mind

or a parent who doesn’t want a child anymore

and aborts?

Both are horrifying

Yes, the human race

will be finished

one day,

and I will be on the side-lines

cheering.

The Stroke at Midnight

the clock

went tick tock

It was a lonely summer night

and the young man had all the time in the world

and no desire for company.

You see, he had quit his job at the company

so he could enjoy his own

no plans

and he started to notice

small details

like the switch, that turned-on the porch light.

He didn’t know what that switch was for

until tonight (He Rented an Apartment).

With nothing to do, details came into focus

at a much slower pace

like the passage of time

and the clock

going tick tock.

It was nearly midnight

and the young man hadn’t talked to anyone in several days.

He thought

in bed, but

nothing profound—

just the pleasure of being alone.

Then it happened…

a stroke

His muscles seized-up

and he couldn’t move

He tried to call for help

but no sound came-out

He lay there for hours

until the morning light filled his room

His eyes were wide with terror

He was thirsty

There was a knock at his door

the missionaries…?

but their footsteps walked away

unable to save him.

The young man was in heaven

when he had control of his mind

but when that was stolen from him

at midnight

the miracle would be his dehydration death.

He tried to think around the barriers keeping him paralyzed.

Perhaps, if he used the left side of his brain, or the right

he might be able to move?

Perhaps the lower, emotional brain

or the reptilian stem?

He thought in as many different ways

as he could, but nothing helped him.

He was trapped.

Until the present,

many things had been wrapping him up

tightly

and his thoughts

untied their beautiful bows.

A spider crawled the length of his arm

and bit him

He didn’t know if it was poisonous or not

It began to spin a web, around him

Two months later

his manager found him

“He was always a quiet customer,” she said. “He never bothered anybody.”

My Literary Rocky Balboa Alter Ego

He’s my age

married

been that way

since I got my first job

He’s an asshole

but I like him.

Immediately, he was recognized

for being cool.

I was recognized

for being smart.

“Why don’t you get up and give a talk?” He asked

He knew

I was uncomfortable

with that.

I took impractical routes

on roads not taken.

He was pragmatic (Although, he would never use that word)

He gave a talk, during my second year of labor

a big hit, describing his early life as a juvenile delinquent—

how his special education teacher whipped him into shape

“Now, I have a wife,” he said.

Everybody laughed.

She’s a special education teacher too.

At a summer conference, I asked him what he did with his vacation time

“I’m a ranger and I do helicopter rescue in the national parks.”

“How does a guy get to do that,” I asked.

“You have to know somebody,” he said with a smirk.

He has an emotional behavioral disability, but over the years, he’s learned to make it work

“What are you doing over your summer?” He asked.

“I’m trying to write.”

He smiled, a condescending smile (one of those bookworms—without a spine, he thought)

I won’t say, people have been underestimating me my whole life

because that’s not true.

People need evidence to believe in you

and I have won, several times, in my past.

Lately, victory has not sustained me—it’s my belief, in myself.

In elementary school

I was going to play pro basketball

In middle school

I was MVP

In high school

I was going to be a fighter

In college

I broke a kid’s nose

In graduate school

I was going to be a writer

At work, I became a psychologist

During my Doctorate Degree, I would be a leader

Finally, I became a writer.

No wife, but if I do a couple other things right

it might happen.

This guy, I admire

is the interim principal at my school

He has talked to the right people

and made himself useful

whereas, I am only useful to myself

“Stop being so selfish,” my dad says

but I see time

through my own eyes…

What I have created in secret

is worthwhile

What I have learned

on my own

matters

and not what somebody else

was able to teach me.

I read during my doldrums

am I wiser?

I think by the river

I play golf to kill time

Can I reformulate my mind

to become

what they want me to be?

I don’t know

In the words of a literary Rocky Balboa

“I’m a writer. We can’t change what we are.”

“You can change,” his wife says.

“All we can do is go with what we are.”

And I believe that.

A Discontented Fool is Dangerous

“We do have a cat that meets your description,” Morgan said.

“I thought so.”

“Does it belong to you?”

“It belongs to my master.”

“You know, when you say that, it makes you sound like a Sith apprentice.”

The manservants glanced at Morgan’s t-shirt. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

“You boys need to get out more.”

“Look who’s talking. Are you even from this century?”

“Oh—pardon my appearance. I worked at a funeral home before taking the job as manservant. Salem’s Rest, do you know it?”

“Uh—buddy, we kill cats, not human beings—and we definitely don’t bury our dead—we burn them.”

“So did Mister Salem.”

“Let me get you the cat. Is it a pet?”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t discuss Hubbard’s business.”

“Here it is,” Morgan said. The cat was asleep—no, that’s not the right word—the cat was blackout drunk on tranquilizer.

“Charlie sure does over-do-it with the knockout juice,” I said.

“That’s because he got bitten by a rabid dog last year. Charlie got two shots off, before the beast ripped his leg off. He had to have anti-rabies vaccine for five weeks, and that stuff makes you thirsty, but you don’t want to drink water. The surgeon sewed his leg back on and reset the bone. We saw chew-marks under the x-rays.”

I knew Morgan’s explanation was totally ignorant, but I didn’t correct him. He was content in his misunderstanding. A discontented fool is dangerous. Morgan still believed the weather causes earthquakes.

To be continued…

9 Lives

My work as an exterminator brought me into contact with death every day, or should I say, I was the one making it happen for 14.95 an hour—not bad pay. At first, I felt sorry for the gold patched cats with innocent eyes. The only reason they had to die was they didn’t have a home. I thought about adopting them, but I couldn’t save them all. It’s how Americans think of genocide in far-away countries—all that killing is impossible to prevent. One feels sorry for millions, but it’s difficult to feel sorry for a number.

I lost count of how many kitties I had killed.

My boss made 20 dollars an hour. He was fat and sat on his ass all day eating subway sandwiches.

“Why don’t people adopt these cats?” I asked.

“Nobody cares,” he said through a mouthful of candy-bar. I could see what he cared about, or didn’t care about. Fit people, beautiful people, have trouble relating to fat and ugly people. They don’t realize, most of us are satisfied by something, and if we don’t have the good life, we have something close to it, even if it disgusts them.

Weeks turned into months, until I felt like a cold-hearted Nazi bureaucrat. I pressed the red button, and the green gas smothered another cat. One of the guys we hired put two cats in the chamber at the same time and turned on the gas. They ripped each other apart before they expired. The guy got fired.

When girls asked me what I did for work, I told them, “I work with animals.”

“Oh—that’s so sweet,” they said. “You must have a kind heart—”

But this story isn’t about my depraved grind… It took-on stranger elements, when a man in a trench coat walked into our establishment. He was tall, as if the kindness in his face had been stretched like a rubber band, until it wouldn’t bounce back. I would have preferred evil, to his smile, that drooped.

“I’m looking for pussy,” he said.

“Are you sure you came to the right place?” My boss asked.

“What do you mean? You kill cats, don’t you?”

“Buddy—there’s a sheriff’s station a block away. Do I need to make a call?”

“I’m looking for a black cat with green eyes,” the man said. “Did one get caught in the last day or so?”

“Let me check my files.” This was a bullshit statement because Morgan didn’t keep any files. He called himself a pirate who burned everything—including his paperwork. The cat incinerator was out-back. The whole town knew. If the government did an audit, Morgan would have me forge the documents.

“Andy, meet me in the back room. We need to check-on our latest inventory.”

I walked back there.

“Something doesn’t feel right, about this guy.”

“Is it the trench coat?” I asked.

“Yeah. Only perverts, school shooters, and detectives wear trench coats.”

“And don’t forget about the mafia.”

“And that too. My guess is that he’s a detective of some sort, sniffing around. Maybe he works for the government.”

“How do we get rid of him?”

“We don’t. Thing is, Charlie tranked-up a black cat yesterday. He shot it with his elephant gun—the cat hasn’t woken up since.”

“Well, why don’t we just give it to the guy?”

“Give it to the guy…trust the guy…don’t you think the guy is up to something? He doesn’t look like an animal lover to me.”

“Morgan—you’ve murdered thousands of cats. Do you really care about what a man in a trench coat might do to it?”

“Murder is a strong word, Andy.”

“Fine—I didn’t know you were sensitive.”

“I am—I read poetry on my lunch hour—didn’t you know?”

I gave up on a serious conversation with him. “Well—let’s just give him what he wants,” I said. “We can always ask him why he wants the cat.”

Morgan laughed. “Really? Do you think we’ll get an honest answer from a detective or a pervert?”

“There’s no harm in asking.”

“You’re right,” Morgan said. “Mr. I didn’t catch your name.”

“That’s because, you don’t look very athletic. I don’t just throw it around, to anybody. My master likes his privacy.”

“Master? You aren’t some sort of manservant, are you?”

“Yes. I work for the gentleman who lives on the hill.”

“No!? He never comes into town.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“And he’s been living there since I was a kid. He must be over 100 years old.”

“200,” the manservant corrected.

“That’s impossible!”

To be continued…

My Will is Unwilling

I watched a movie yesterday

where the terrorists were unmarried young men

between the ages of 20 and 35.

I’m 35, unmarried.

As you get older, you start to realize these things

especially when you don’t fit into age boxes.

Being out of the box, often means you are free

but it isn’t fun for most people

who prefer enclosed spaces.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of history

listening to lectures, from Hammurabi to 9/11

they all speak of a destiny

a string theory, that reverberates

throughout the ages, like a symphony, that nobody can predict.

Our destiny, is one, we are born with.

Sure, we have free will, but only in as much

as to fulfill

our destiny, or not.

I asked my dad about this, yesterday.

“Do all men have a destiny?”

“No,” he said.

His response would negate the idea

that all men are created equal.

“Negate”—a teacher at my work told me I like to use big words…

Truly, some men are destined to do great things

while others

scrub toilets

vote

go to board meetings

manage bureaucracies

and/or get married.

When we are young, we have unknowable potential

we might die of a disease, or live to be 100, without living

My mother asked me, who I was, yesterday

It’s strange, the people who know me the most, don’t know me.

“I haven’t done anything with my life,” I complained

“You’ve used your time well,” my mother said

I went home and watched my high school graduation video

it’s funny, destiny was written on their faces

Only two, popped out, among the children who spoke of trips, that changed their lives

One, was a kid I knew from elementary school. He works as a CEO.

The other, was me. It wasn’t my face, but my eyes and mouth

that betrayed me

the eyes were in pain, and determined

the mouth

had swallowed something bitter

I was 18.

At any moment, we can be wiped-out

like a stain

like a bug

scraped off a windshield.

Maybe, we are unknowable, to ourselves

until, we can look at our guts

under the microscope

and as the winds of time blow

we are uncovered

like a lost city

in the desert.

My plans, were written, on the wall

but somehow, my will, was unwilling

without the hand of God.

I am waiting

for my destiny to call me

Until then

my will is unwilling.

Better Left, Unsaid

Even at my weakest, even at my worst

I know what I am

and nobody’s opinion

is going to change that.

The golfers have picked-up on my attitude

the teachers, the checkers in supermarkets

They know when someone is defeated or when

said person

is simply resting up a bit.

It didn’t always used to be this way

I was a victim

of their moods,

their rainy days, their opinions like lightning bolts.

Many claim to hate me

they say, I have issues…

That is the understatement of the year

I look at something beautiful, and I know it can’t be had

a rose,

a 21-year-old woman with perfectly tanned tits, wearing nothing

on a summer day

totally unconscious, that her clothes are missing, and I am staring at her through the fence with binoculars…

Being in a car with her, going on vacation with her, living in a house with her

Being co-owners of our lives

is not as good as being a voyeur of her.

In fact, we cannot appreciate what we hold onto

until we lose it,

which begs the question…

Why do we try to hold onto anything?

We are like sand in the desert

mixing

confused by time

“Do you want me to move my cart? Am I in your way?”

“I hope not,” I said. The guy was parked near the water hazard.

“I like your spirit—positive thinking…” And I nailed my drive, strait down the fairway

He doesn’t know

that I am almost dead, but I can enjoy the day, anyway—

and my bad golf game too.

The guy in my group screams, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuckin Shit!”

He throws his golf club

after 3 failed attempts to get out of the sand

He spent lots of time there today

2 holes later, he couldn’t find his ball in the middle of the fairway

or in his case, the fuckin fairway

I thought he was going to call his psychiatrist…

but it was only his mother, living in a nursing home.

At my worst, the world keeps turning

At my best, it does the same

All my beliefs about myself

that matter

are the ones that nobody knows about, but me.

They’re the ones that say, “You know what? You’re hot shit. It doesn’t matter what happens. It doesn’t matter what you do. You could break the course record today, but it wouldn’t change you.”

And that’s true.

All I want to do is go home and write the story brewing in my mind.

I look at the guys I’m playing with

they look at me

“This was fun,” I said. “I got to go.”

“So soon?”

I barely said two words to them, in my weakened state, but they already miss me

Who knows why?

Probably, because I didn’t talk about sports.

My latest boss

tried to do that, by making idle chit-chat, to gain rapport with me

because I’m a guy—talk about sexist (Not all men like sports—well, I like to watch golf)

“Nope, I didn’t see the game,” I said. She didn’t have a clue.

Now, if she had said something about literature, I would’ve been hers in a heartbeat.

It’s strange, the things people say

to pass the time.

Most of it, would be better left

unsaid.

Spoiled Tuna in the Can

Basic emotions

make us believe

most things

because, not to believe

when we feel so strongly so

is to be mad

in the head

to walk into oncoming traffic, like you are strolling in the park

to think of your death, as going to sleep

I love to sleep

So, why don’t I love death?

I shook several hands today that were dead

They were rehearsing sleep

before falling

into

dreams

Hence, only a madman can be free

of his emotions

that tell him to be

something, he is not.

The Good Catholic needs the Church

The Protestant rejects the Catholic

The Atheist rejects Meaning

and

The Agnostic won’t accept Anything

The cats in the neighborhood

don’t worry about death—

because

they have 9 lives…

When one dies, they live on

People are afraid of losing things

their keys

their insurance

their job

their investments

their family

and their life.

They seldom worry about losing their faith

occasionally, their wife

If they lose one, usually, it’s replaced by another

The man who isn’t worried about losing anything

is very rich

He has no need for religion or reputation

There is no fear

in him

and Nothing can be taken away

from him

because

he plays with his life

like a gambler, like it doesn’t belong to him

spinning the roulette wheel

and hoping

to land on black.

The cats

eat the spoiled tuna in the can

and the man

does the same thing

He believes

what he is fed

even when it goes bad

because

He doesn’t want to hunt for answers.

Characters, who Play with Fire

The pirate jumped-off the bookcase

and swung his sword in the air, like a veteran corsair.

The morning light, was hours away.

He knew to stay away

from the astrology section

because the witches, would be out

and about

and they didn’t play with swords—

They put men to work with broomsticks

sweeping the floors.

Charles was a poet, forced into piracy

because of his creator’s boredom

Perhaps, God created

when he had nothing better to do—

The writer played by his own rules

the way Charles was supposed to—

He left his cover,

out, in the open

like a bad character, caught in the act.

Charles was going to throttle

Luke Skywalker—that 70s punk, who stole Cinderella

on a whim—

Skywalker, was a chronic womanizer

that boy, who kissed his sister

Charles was going to do something about it

because

Character is Destiny

There was the fire extinguisher

and the box of matches, from the owner/operator

who smoked

two packs a day.

The pirate picked-out a torch

and scratched it, like a syphilitic itch

until it caught fire.

He lit the cover of Star Wars

until the book was burning bright.

“No more, Skywalker,” Charles muttered. He pulled the pin on the extinguisher, like a grenade

and punched down on the trigger

but

it didn’t fire.

“Not up to code.”

More books burned, like a Nazi funeral pyre

as the characters screamed

off the pages

and the pirate laughed

at his revenge.

It’s true

what the Chinese say,

“Before vengeance, dig two graves.”

Now, the New York book exchange

was ablaze

because the characters

went unread.

So, go to your neighborhood bookstore

and liberate the pirates, witches, and bitches

inside,

before they play with fire.

They might just

change your character

before burning

your house down.