The Smiling Man

All I want

is a summer room filled with sunlight fire

To feel so good

like an aborigine

taking off all his clothes

walking back into the bush

prior

to climbing out of

city sewers.

It feels good

to stop looking at street signs

and read the signs.

Some crazy notion

in my head

tells me, it’s never going to be easy.

I have wanted my life to be

like the aborigine

To find something strange

rather,

than what’s ugly.

There are too many ugly faces

and not enough masks

or maybe, there are too many masks

that don’t smile the way they should.

Most people will make themselves anonymous

pursuing that fake smile

that is never happy.

The man who laughs

and does it

again, and again

has found joy, like the aborigine

in those nights that flame with fire.

I don’t want to be anything else.

A story-teller, yes

A lover of the impossible

and

those nights

that open me up

and smile.

I Can’t Stop Writing. My Psychiatrist Can’t Stop Giving Advice.

It wasn’t an ordinary doctor’s office.

There was a private gate, at the end of a forest drive.

The house was supported by Greek columns in the style of the Parthenon.

I got out of my Volvo, and walked up at least 100 steps to his front door.

I knocked.

Hopefully, he could help me.

The door opened a crack, and I looked into his sophisticated face.

He motioned me inside.

We walked down a dark hall to a well-lit room.

“Tell me your troubles,” he said.

“I go through my routines, but they don’t give me pleasure.”

“Have you thought about mixing it up a bit?”

“That’s the problem, doc. Anytime I think about doing something else, it seems boring. It’s like I’m going through the motions or something.”

“Maybe, you need more spontaneity?”

“That could be true, but bad things usually happen to me—and not the good.”

“Like what?”

“A flat tire, an unpaid credit bill, a pound of fat (from a good meal)—I rarely pick-up money off the freeway.”

“And this is causing you to feel desperate?”

“Yes. I tried to order my life, but it only became boring. I cleaned my apartment yesterday, and swept myself into a corner.”

“I see.”

“How do you do it, doc?”

“Do what?”

You won awards in psychiatry. You compose music. How many languages do you speak?”

“Five.”

“You see, I only speak one. I tried to learn two, but it was too much for me.”

“Maybe you are focusing on the wrong things…”

“That could be. I want to be a writer, but my routines are strangling me.”

“An artist depends on their schedule. There is no way around that. What I suggest you do is a bit unorthodox.”

“What doc? —I’ll do anything.”

“Stop writing.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Then, you know what you are, and that is more than most people know. If you can’t stop writing, there is no reason to worry. Fame, will be empty. Money, won’t give you what you want. Only the writing. Remember that.”

“Thanks doc. What can’t you stop?”

“Listening to people like yourself, and then giving them advice.”

Night of the Vampires

The neighborhood was like one of those dark streets, where kids don’t go—a haunted block—a terrible shadow, in the sunlight. The Amazon driver dropped his packages at the corner. They were gone, the next morning, as if, somebody stole them, but nobody saw who did it. The people there, were invisible, like ghosts, that didn’t want to be seen. It was a place filled with sex offenders, x-convicts, and prostitutes who still worked the phone lines, but were too old to turn a trick. They were like leppers, who hid from each other. Their character was written on their faces like bad essays. The neighborhood was a graveyard—unkept, with tilted houses, like crypts. The creatures there, were the living dead. Their souls were waiting to leave, and they kept telling their bodies, “Let me go,” but their bodies were too weak to give permission. It was a horrible spot, a stain—a back alley, where drunkards are afraid to piss, but they do, anyway, because the place deserves to get pissed on.

This was the neighborhood where I grew-up, the summer after sixth grade.

There wasn’t much to do there, during the heat-wave, but kick aluminum cans around.

I was hanging, with the only kids close to my age—their dads were in prison—and mine, left my mother years ago.

The strange events of that summer began when I started to spot lost pet signs stapled to telephone poles.

One or two missing cats, is normal, but it was like the city pet population vanished overnight—every pole within three blocks was covered with missing pet signs.

“Our cats are gone,” Maddie said.

“What do you think happened to them?” I asked.

“I don’t know—maybe they got hit by a car.”

“Both of them?”

“You know what it is…” Brad said. “Some psychopath preparing to kill us all. First, he tortures cats—then…” Brad was looking at Maddie.

“Stop trying to scare me,” Maddie said.

We were walking down the street, when I spotted a swarm of flies.

“Is that a dead body?” Brad asked.

“Smells like one.”

“Smells different than death—but not far off…”

“Smells like science class,” I said. “Fermali…”

“Formaldehyde,” Maddie corrected.

“That’s what it smells like. Smells like when we dissected cats.”

“Don’t tell me somebody is trying to preserve neighborhood pets for a profit, and sell them to high schools around the country.”

The cat corpse was nothing but skin, bones, and flies.

“What happened to the blood?” Maddie asked.

“It’s been drained.”

“There’s two puncture holes next to the neck. Do you see it? Just like a snake bite.”

“Hey! What are you kids doing over there!?” Mr. Lions asked. He walked like a man on stilts. He was tall and wiry, so that he looked like a vulture that hadn’t eaten in three weeks. When Mr. Lions looked at us, he was hungry—a landowner who hated kids because they couldn’t pay rent. Aside from collecting, he loved to weed-eat.

“Blow it out your ass, old man,” Brad said.

“In Korea—I killed a couple kids about your age. They could pick-up a gun, and they did, so I had to—and in my old age, I see things… Doctors calls them flashbacks—I might be in Korea.”

“If that’s your idea of a threat, no wonder you lost the War,” Brad said.

Mr. Lions looked ready to kill. He went inside. Then he came out with his rifle.

“Run!”

But my friends were already three steps ahead of me.

CRACK.

“That son-of-a-bitch fired at us!”

“Are you hit?”

“No.”

“What about you Maddie?”

She was lying on the ground with her eyes closed. “I’m okay,” she said.

We were in a grove of willow trees—it reminded me of what my mother tried to do last summer. She was going to church and insisted on taking me. The ladies were covering Proverbs—”Spare the rod and…” My mother took their advice, but instead of a stick, she used a willow branch. I figure it hurt twice as bad. I never liked Sunday school very much.

“You got a light?” Brad asked.

He pulled-out one of those coffin nails and put it between his teeth.

“Sorry bro—I quit.”

“What? Are you afraid of dying?”

“You could say that. What do you think is on the other side?”

“Nothing—absolutely nothing.”

“What do you think Maddie?”

“I don’t think about it. We’re not even in middle school yet.”

She looked at me, like I was a boy and she was a mature woman. Girls could be infuriating.

The sunlight was going down, and the woods were red, like blood, and I thought about that bloodless corpse we found in the ditch.

“We should go home, before it gets dark,” Brad suggested.

“Yeah,” Maddie agreed.

It wasn’t long, before we found the street again, and passed the haunted house. It was empty, ever since the murder-suicide, three summers ago.

Now—a light was on in the living room.

“There’s people in there,” Brad said.

“Are you sure? – they don’t look human.”

“Why do you say that?”

“The shadows on their skin.”

“They’re talking,” Maddie observed.

“Just because they talk, doesn’t make them human,” Brad said wisely. “Haven’t you ever been on the subway?”

“What do you mean?”

“Vampires.”

“They aren’t real.”

“You want to bet?”

“How can you be sure?” I asked.

“Do you remember when I dug two graves for Mr. Lions three weeks ago?”

“Yeah.”

“Well—he paid me two hundred dollars. It was a lot of work, for next to no money, so I got to thinking… What about those graves that have been in this village since the puritans?”

“You didn’t,” Maddie said in a hushed voice.

“I did. I was looking for treasure. I promised myself, I would rebury the body. I didn’t think I would find anything.”

“Well, did you?” Maddie asked.

“I found a skeleton lying on piles of gold—so much gold, it took five goes with the wheelbarrow to get the treasure home. I took all night, and finished, just before dawn. The skeleton had a stick in its sternum. I removed it. The stake was what killed him, I think. Anyway, when I went to return my last load, I came back—and the skeleton was missing. I thought Mr. Lions was playing a crazy joke on me, but my gut, told me otherwise. I threw up. I thought about that skeleton—its incisors were two inches long. Shortly, thereafter, people’s pets began to disappear. I didn’t want to say anything, because nobody would believe me, and if they did, I would have to return the gold.”

“Where is it now?” I asked.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“Brad—the gold might be cursed.”

“I never thought of that—okay, okay—it’s in my mother’s Junker.”

“Your mother’s, what?”

“In her GMC. It seemed like a safe place because there’s no engine in it. It hasn’t been on the road in 15 years.”

“And you’re saying that you awakened a Vampire who was—good and dead?” Maddie asked.

“Yeah. Dead, but not good.”

“Then why are there four of them in there?”

“When a vampire bites a human, it makes another.”

“Then, why haven’t they bitten more people?”

“Because they wizened up, I guess. A vampire doesn’t like to eat another vampire. They’re cannibalistic by nature, but they need living blood, to look like the living. They’re rationing themselves—because when they eat each other—they really look like hell—and if too many people become vampires, there’ll be nobody left to drink—and that’s why they’re eating cats.”

“What about the fermi…”

“Formaldehyde,” Maddie corrected.

“The stuff in Science class?” I asked.

“I’ve been working on that…” Brad said. “Maybe, they want the town to believe cats and dogs are disappearing in the name of science.”

Then, those red eyes, looked out, into the night, and saw me, which made my heart stop beating. They weren’t laser eyes or drunk bloodshot eyes, but the eyes of hell—a close cousin of the demon, that latches onto you, and takes over your spirit. I was feeling light-headed, like I might pass-out, and then I realized, I was holding my breath.

“We should get out of here,” Brad suggested.

“I don’t know why we’re still hanging around,” Maddie said.

“Because, you and I both know, those vampires are going to kill everyone we love, unless we do something about it.”

“Well, what can we do?” Brad asked.

“Shove a stake through their hearts.”

“All of them?”

“All of them,” I said.

Brad began to break branches off the tree. I handed my pocketknife to him, and we began to sharpen spears.

Maddie just looked at us, like we were nuts.

“Those things saw us… Don’t you think we should get out of here?”

“We have to finish what I started,” Brad said.

“Hey, do you feel something funny?” Maddie asked.

“It just got colder—much colder,” I said.

“The moon disappeared. Where did it go? It was there.” Brad was pointing at empty space, when a white head bobbed back and forth across the field. It had teeth and a red mouth.

“Is that stick ready?” I asked.

Brad threw it at the vampire and stuck the thing in the chest. Immediately, its flesh sizzled and drizzled, into the field. It smelled like formaldehyde.

“There’s going to be more of them…” I said, and then, out of the woods, walked the vampires—more than four of them—dozens.

“What do we do?” Brad asked. “There’s nowhere to run.”

“The house,” I said.

“But it’s occupied.”

“Bring your sticks—it’s the only safe place.”

Brad knocked…

“Vampires don’t have manners—we’d better just enter,” Maddie suggested.

When we got inside, a vampire had a tall glass in one hand, and its fangs ready.

I gave it the spear, and it died.

The next swiped at me with its long fingernails—yellow, they were, as if they belonged to a smoker. She got her claws into me, when Maddie gave her the wooden spear, and the vampiress melted into the carpet, like a microwaved chimichanga.

The last one, had its back turned to us. It could’ve been meditating, but I knew it wasn’t, because vampires are the opposite of spiritual.

It turned around—all mouth and disgusting breath—jumping onto Brad, and sinking her teeth into his carotid artery, like an alcoholic at a Kegger party.

Maddie jammed her stick into the back of its head—and the creature went brain dead—it hissed, like air deflating from a flat tire.

Brad turned vampire. I had to kill him. It was the hardest thing to do—murdering my best friend, but his soul would be safe. I jammed my spear into his heart, and he expired.

I thought it was the end. The vampires were knocking on the sides of the house, when a searchlight lit-up the field and the voice of Mr. Lions came over the megaphone with a roar.

“This is my war, and I’m going to win!”

Mr. Lions turned-up the rock-n-roll, pulling a silver six-gun from his holster.

The lyrics, “I’m on a highway to hell,” Blared into the silence, like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard.

The vampires were dancing to the music like disco, while Lions shot them, as if they were fish in a barrel. The steam from their expiring bodies, was creating a mist in the air, as thick as fog. Suddenly, the lyrics transitioned into, “Breaking the Law…Breaking the Law.”

It was impossible to see or hear, anything, and the hands kept slapping the sides of the house.

Then flames shot into the field like a dragon.

“He’s got a flamethrower,” I said.

“Left over from the Korean War?” Maddie asked.

“No—I think it’s the one he uses to tar-proof his houses.”

There was cackling over the demonic screams. “It takes a meaner monster,” I said.

Then the flames dissipated and the slapping stopped.

“He must’ve killed them all.”

“Then, where is Mr. Lions?” Maddie asked.

In response, there was knocking at the door.

“Should I open it?”

“Vampires don’t knock,” Maddie said.

I opened it.

Lions stood there, in his full glory.

“Every last one of those beasts is dead,” he said triumphantly. “Be careful to venture into the mist—you don’t want to breath-in a vampire—it’s worse than smoking—it’ll steal your soul.”

“It smells like formaldehyde and you’ve been breathing-in that vampire air this whole time.”

“Sure,” Lions said. “But I’ve been wearing my Korean War gas mask. Strange, though—I think there might be a hole in it.”

At that moment, I noticed his eyes—the windows to his soul were full of hell.

“Quick Maddie, hand me the stake!”

“What are you doing?” Lions asked.

But before he could say another word, I jammed it into his heart, and he keeled over, sinking beneath the soil.

“Quick—close the door!” Maddie said. “We don’t want to breathe that stuff in.”

We waited, until daylight. I thought the dawn would never come—and with the sunrise, the fog burned away.

“It’s safe now,” I said.

“How are we going to explain this?” Maddie asked.

“We don’t.”

“What about the cursed gold?”

“We burry it.”

“But it’s gold!” Maddie said.

“I know it’s gold, but it will steal your soul.”

We walked to Brad’s house and buried him on top of his treasure.

Shortly thereafter, he went missing, just like the missing pets, and Maddie and I never talked about this again.

The End

Am I the Prick?

When I walked into the Pro Shop, there was a beautiful blond girl working behind the counter, and you know what?

She was nice, too.

You can always tell that about someone.

I enjoyed talking to her, what few words we said, but then I got to thinking…

All the other guys like me

think the same thing

about her.

There is nothing pure

in the world.

It’s competitive—

and difficult to keep score

when you’re measuring the feelings of love.

Women will deny

the pragmatic reasons for their attraction

because they are pragmatic.

Feelings change, like the wind—

they don’t need to be justified.

Needless to say, I enjoyed those words we said to each other

and went my own way.

On the golf course, I met a cool guy

but something was off about him.

He smokes cigars and plays in his bare feet

like a hobbit.

He’s friendly.

He talks to the prick in the Pro Shop, like they are best friends.

It made me wonder, if I am the prick.

The ability to make friends (Easily) to get a girlfriend (Easily) to have the life that you want (Effortlessly)

Does that make you a good man?

Sometimes, the evilest men under the sun are good with people

Just like the devil,

but this guy has treated me fair, thus far

and all I have

are my instincts to lean on.

Do we really know ourselves, or anybody?

Maybe, I’m a narcissistic baby

that complains when I don’t get what I want.

A Poet, was a Poet, Before He Wrote Anything Down

Maybe, greatness rising

is a terrible thing.

It can’t help, but climb

and the too terrified

stay on the ground

while courage

accepts the consequences.

A simple subtle life

without fluctuations

or a dangerous one?

A hero, can’t help themselves.

They are what they are

A poet, was a poet

long before

he wrote anything down.

There is nothing careful

about him.

They love him

or hate him.

Love is desirable.

Hate, a consequence of too much love.

Envy, is the enemy of fame.

Anybody who survives that emptiness

is full of their own faith.

Why would a man walk into the mountains?

Because it’s a lofty place.

The poet is looking for

what he can’t find

at lesser altitudes

Not advertised, or publicly know

It hits him

in a piece of music

and

vanishes,

suddenly.

He wants to create that

To live spontaneously

like the twilight

at the end

of a dull day

To stir

his true feelings

standing on the edge of death

while staring

into the horizon

like the last man

on earth.

Until the Seasons Change

all the hope this life offers

all the illusion it suggests

all the torment and struggle

conquered

For what?

At the end of life

we can be sure

that we will know

or we will be suffocated slowly

in a quiet room

where not even the walls

know are name

and that

might be preferrable

to the miseries

that befall the leaves—

At least, it’s a clean

well-lighted place

rather than

a dark dungeon.

So, when I walk above ground

in the fall light

suggesting death, that subtle breeze

but not quite

I ponder the dying leaves—

all those faces becoming cracked

their veins popping-out, breaking

brittle

Even the proudest leaf

will fall

striking the earth

raked

into the burn pile

to tinder a flame

littering hope, smoke

of ashen faces

that thought they would never fall.

What is friendship, but a red color

orange, in its fire?

Death, is always black.

What is hope, but a limitless sky

Rebirth, green—

meaningless, until the seasons change.

Chapter 13 “Let’s keep it interesting!”

There was a mini-helicopter on the tarmac.

“You fly with me,” Dubois said. He grabbed Tanya by the arm, and put a silver .38 to her temple.

“You don’t think I know you’re a cop. It’s written all over you, like spilled coffee and doughnuts.”

Gregson pulled his .44 Magnum and pointed it at the Frenchman.

“No. No. Or the game starts early,” he said.

They got into the chopper and achieved lift-off.

“You’re dead,” the motorcyclists said.

“Never gonna happen.” Brad slung his rocket launcher onto his back, and prepped his shotgun.

Gregson put the most powerful handgun in the world into his holster and slipped his K-Bar under his sock.

Then they marched off in different directions, following the homing beacon to their designated zones.

Gregson was in the swamp.

“I could go for that bug-repellant right now,” he said.

There was nobody around, and if it wasn’t for the island being infested with killers, it might’ve been a peaceful spot.

“I need to get to the high ground,” Gregson said.

But there was somebody already up there. “Brad—he’s the only one smart enough to go up hill.”

When Gregson got to the beach, he spied the feminists, wiping each other down with sunscreen.

They reached for their little guns.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the PI said. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to kill you. Hands behind your backs.”

Gregson zip-tied them, and moved on.

When he reached the heart of the island, he found a bunker. It housed a nuclear reactor.

“This island is one big bomb.”

“Turn around slowly,” a voice said. Gregson saw the shotgun, and flipped his K-Bar into the man. It went off, and blew the other biker’s leg off.

“Put a torniquet around that,” Gregson ordered.

“I don’t have one!” The biker screamed.

“Your belt, stupid! Give me your hands!”

Gregson zip-tied them.

The chopper was right above him. “You’re supposed to kill, if you want the hundred mill!” Dubois shouted.

Gregson ignored him. When he left cover, the Frenchman took a pot-shot. “I’m just trying to keep it interesting!”

Chapter 12 Champaign at 40,000 Feet

“Sandy will serve champaign at 40,000 feet. We will toast your death,” Dubois said.

Bikers with Harley-Davidson bandanas were checking their iron. There were a couple feminists squinting down the peep-holes of their derringers. Gregson didn’t like how they were eyeing him, as if he was bad for the environment.

The lawyer was making a list of her inventory: Grenades, AR-50, Scope, Bug-Repellent.

“What does a guy have to do to get sued by you?” A soldier of fortune asked her.

“Just keep asking questions,” she said.

“Okay. I will.”

She put a diver’s knife to his throat. “No, you won’t.”

There were beta monkeys in white-collared shirts, looking down the barrels of their submachine-guns.

“Where do the bullets go?” They asked.

“You should’ve stuck with the model and make I gave you,” Dubois said.

“No offense sir, but a crossbow won’t do us much good against that.”

Gregson looked where they were pointing.

Brad was fumbling with his missile launcher.

Sandy came out wearing a school girl skirt and offered them champaign.

“Drink up—this will be your last,” Dubois said. “When we land, you will go to your zone. When inside your circle, the game begins.”

He handed them GPS markers.

There was chit-chat, like gladiators getting ready for the ring. Gregson slept. He dreamt of slave girls being sacrificed to lions.

Then, he woke up. The plane had landed.

The Prick in the Pro Shop Stays the Same

Things at the golf course have changed. It’s fall, after all.

The young men in the Pro Shop respect me like God. It’s the way things are supposed to be.

But the prick in the Pro Shop remains the same. He doesn’t change with the seasons.

His beard reminds me of pubic hair. He stands erect, staring at his computer screen.

I enter his domain. He barely notices me. Although, everybody in the Pro Shop says my name

“Andrew!”

They’re all happy to see me, with glowing faces. The fat owner is jolly.

I am like a sunshine, coming into that dark place.

“You should’ve scheduled a tee-time, Andrew,” the prick says. “It’s busy today.”

Now, I know definitively, he’s full of shit. There are only eight cars in the parking lot.

I don’t say anything.

Eventually, satisfied, due to his omnipotence, he lets me play. “Okay. You can go out.”

I walk-out onto the tee-box and drive 300 yards. My game is magic.

Even the prick, shrinks away. Then, I see my friend Frank, on the next hole.

He looks tired, like the prick got to him.

“You want to play together?”

“Sure,” I said.

Frank has blotchy brown skin on his neck. One eyelid droops, so that I can see his mucous membrane.

We play together, but we don’t say anything.

“I played 27 holes, earlier,” Frank said, “And I’m 81. I’m tired.”

“That’s why you missed that putt,” I said. “I don’t think I could walk, after 27 holes.”

He laughed. I did too. It was a good time.

Not being understood, when you bare your soul

is like speaking peace

to your enemy.

I get dead-pan stares.

It’s like I’ve stumbled into nowhere.

Sometimes, I wonder if they are pretending

not to know

what I’m saying.

It’s a way they can make me feel strange

They have the desire to be superior

and so do I

but we get there different ways.

All the evidence around you, won’t help you

to feel great inside.

The invisible things matter.

And the more power you pull out of thin air, the stronger you will be

All of the visible things we see,

are meant to achieve that feeling,

but they don’t

unless

you can give those things up

freely.

To devote yourself to something people laugh at

takes courage

To strive for what

they can’t see

When you achieve that

you will live forever.