Chapter 1 Painting in the Nude

Mixing oils, and trying to get her color just right. Pink. No—her arms were like the inside of a conch. Gregson looked her up and down with his artistic eye. He could spot crime from a mile away, but painting a nude, made him self-conscious. He had to get nude, himself, to feel normal—while he stroked the canvas.

“How’s my portrait coming?” She asked.

“I don’t know if I’ve done your breasts justice.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

“How’s my physique shaping up?” Gregson asked.

“I’ve painted you—the way I see you,” she giggled.

“How’s that?”

“You’ll see.”

Gregson met Madelynn wine tasting. After 3 glasses, one of them said… “Let’s get out of here.”

Gregson couldn’t remember who said it. He had a habit of painting to take his mind off oblivion, and when he looked at his work later—that’s when he saw it. Sometimes, it’s not what we finish that matters, but what we can forget.

“I can’t wait any longer,” Gregson said.

“I’m almost done. How am I looking?” Madelynn asked.

“Perfect.”

Madelynn huffed. “You big man—I want to see what you’ve painted.” She walked across the room like a cat, and felt the hair on his back with her middle finger. “My breasts aren’t that big!” She gasped.

“I know. Let me see my painting.” Gregson waddled over to his full portrait. “You’ve made me thinner.”

“That’s if you hit the gym 5 days a week and stop eating pizza.”

“But I love cheese. Life should be lived with love.”

Madelynn’s dark hair swayed behind the arch of her back. She was holding the brush to enunciate her words. It was better than sex—like smelling a peach before tasting it.

The art room was Gregson’s study—his leather chair, first edition books, note pad, and view of Chessfield Park. It was the place where thinking usually got done—now his head had been invaded by a woman. Gregson looked at her crimson lipstick, her wine glass. He was about to say something when his phone rang.

“Yes—this is Gregson.”

“It’s Murphy.”

“Jeezz—how long has it been?”

“Too long—what are you up to?”

“Painting nudes.”

“You dog—I have a case for you. There’s been a murder at a creative conference. Can you blend-in with artsy-fartsy-folks?”

“I can hold my own.”

“I’m going to text you the coordinates.”

Better send that via email.”

“You always were different, Gregson. Time to join the 21st Century.”

“I believe smart phones make people stupid.”

A Secret Bench on the Left-Side of the Mountain

Lonely places

belong to me—

a forgotten log bench

in the woods, on the left-side of a mountain

under turning red and yellow leaves.

I keep being reminded

of who I don’t want to be

the mountain is beautiful—it hides mysteries

We want our work to be recognized, like the mountain

but part of us

wants to keep our secrets

deep within.

It’s like the man you know

that only you know—or so you think

He keeps you alive

He is such a good thing

you want to share him

but to share him, is to adulterate his love for you

to share him, is to risk him being misunderstood

What is sacred, is so often only sacred to us

What has become sacred, carries no special significance to others

like a symbol of redemption

wore as jewelry.

Sometimes, I read sentences in a book

that are meant, only for me

but I know, they have been read, by thousands

if not millions.

There are the lines I write

for myself—

only a few lines, that speak to me

never to be shared.

People buy art, to show it off

I buy art

for me.

There is a world out there

that doesn’t want to understand

they think the ideas of the past belong to them.

7 billion on the planet

passing through

like ghosts

thinking, they’re special

I’ve been thinking… I don’t know anything.

Even in the height of my understanding

I can’t know people

because I don’t understand myself

the mountain is a mystery

it offends some, with its steepness, and briars, and rough rocks

and it waits for the man

to walk off the trail

to find

its hidden bench

on a popular hike.

Epilogue

There was complaining coming from the back-seat of Gregson’s BMW Z3, but when he turned-up the classical music, her cursing was lost between the notes. Gregson wondered about his destiny, and as he drove down the mountain, it felt like fate was falling on him like snowflakes. Then the milky-gray sky opened up, and they were falling. Life only lasts for a moment.

He drove to the sheriff’s office and unloaded the ski-lift babe.

“She’s the Snowman’s girlfriend,” Gregson said.

“Would you like some hot chocolate?” Detective Talbert asked her.

Why was it, that a woman can poison her father’s coffee, and the next man is going to offer her hot chocolate? Men don’t think straight around women, Gregson thought.

“Are you okay, Gregson?”

“I’m fine. I just have women on my mind.

“Oh–don’t think too hard about that. Women muddle the mind.”

“Don’t I know it. Their love is an ingredient for insanity.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far…”

“No, you wouldn’t. Give my regards to the Mrs.”

“Will do.”

And Gregson left.

Was it the elevation making his head swim? He felt sick—like he was the only one who saw reality for what it was, but this was only a fraction of life, and if some of it didn’t add up, it didn’t mean the rest couldn’t be solved. Gregson decided to find God, even if that God was inside himself.

The church service was dull. No wonder nobody attended, except married men, with their wives. It was a way they could keep their men in line.

Even in the valley, Gregson noticed the signs of snow in the air—that cool, wet, silent feeling—where nature covers its ugly self with a blanket of beauty.

Snowflakes started falling, and Gregson spotted Liz crossing the street. She was crying.

“Hey Liz,” Gregson waved.

She turned around in the middle of the road, when a semi barreled passed, honking. Gregson caught the white smile through the window. He was sure the white leather loafers were pressing against the gas.

“Liz!”

Then the scream.

“Oh, No! That’s the girl who broke up with Pastor Steve! I thought for sure they were going to be married. Well, Pastor Steve will need to find himself a new secretary. Maybe he’ll choose me.”

The End

The Power of the Body Changers

What is power? Most people view it as the means to get what they want. Their interest is not in the will to attain something, but in the having. Babies need milk, and they cry to get it. Is there a difference in the average man? -Intellectual Shaman

I was searching for power. As I discovered it, I wanted more of it. It was a limitless feeling. It was freedom to act in the world, any way that I wished.

Nobody I knew had power. Some thought they had it, but they were slaves. They managed other people, and felt big because of the numbers in their bank account, but if you asked them if they could leave it all behind, the answer was “No.”

“No.” Power is the ability to want what others don’t want.

I wanted to live, so that my experiences were my only wealth. The pursuit of things, made one predictable—controllable. I wanted to overcome myself.

My understanding of power came from the invisible world. I began to focus on what I couldn’t touch. I controlled my thoughts. I searched for what my imagination wanted, and that was for a higher being to open my perspective. Things started to happen, when I drove home from work.

There were these white signs along the road. Someone put them there, to encourage the average man, in his drudgery.

You got this!

Love yourself!

You Matter!

Usually, my cynical sarcasm laughed, but this time the signs said something different.

The end is near.

Was it a warning?

I was looking for answers and finding them. Was it confirmation bias, or something else? The signs kept speaking to me, and I kept paying attention.

To know yourself, you must inhabit other bodies.

Were the signs suggesting empathy?

As a man gets older, and remains by himself—he becomes increasingly weird, and I had always wondered about those weird lives, like the 45-year-old man shooting baskets at the gym with long hair and a beard, and a pot belly and hairy arms. There was no point. I wanted to know why he did it. When did he break from being normal? Most people are trying to climb an invisible stratum. Status is a social currency. It separates people, until their friends talk about what they talk about, and the strange ones become stranger. I wanted to know them. And I was looking for a way.

That’s when the signs spoke to me.

Turn here!

I didn’t even think. I turned. It was a regular day, with regular weather, but it was about to become irregular. Would I get arrested for trespassing?

I walked to the door and looked through the house. It was transparent glass, so that I could see into the backyard. Green grass flowed to a blue lake with a dock out back. There was a fire, and strange people sitting by it.

I walked around the estate, and spoke to them.

“Are you the ones who make the signs?”

“Yes,” they said.

“How can I get greater power?”

“Trade places with us.”

“How?”

“It’s not in the how, but in the what.”

“What?”

“You guessed it.” Then I saw myself sitting around the campfire, and I was the basketball man with the beard and the long hair, shooting hoops alone. His mind was a revelation. You can travel the world or you can get to know people. There are mini-malls and suburban wives, but there are also men with beards who live in the mountains where few people visit.

I recommend talking to the few.

The End

Chapter 9 The Snowman Melts

“Get off me!” Gregson said.

The girl sat-up and pouted.

Gregson picked up his .357 Magnum—it felt light, like all the bullets had been shot.

“Did you empty my rounds?” He asked.

“We did it three times.”

“No. My bullets?”

Before she answered, the door burst open. A man covered in snow, walked in. His beard was white. His skin was albino. His eyes were black, like coals.

“Put some clothes on!”

The girl, smiled. She reached for her pink panties, and slipped on the shoestring. Gregson stood-up in the nude.

“My cheating girlfriend gets a thrill out of sleeping with the next person I kill.”

“What’s your name?” Gregson asked.

“You are different. Most guys caught with their pants down, plead for mercy.”

“Mercy from what?”

“A bullet to the head, what else?”

“Anybody can pull a trigger, and it doesn’t make you worthy.”

“Then what would?”

“Hand-to-hand.”

The Snowman pulled a hunting knife from his scabbard, and grinned. His black blade looked like death.

Gregson brought his hand into the light. His silver knife flashed in the sun. He extended, and their knives clicked. The Snowman struck from above, like a bolt of lightning, and Gregson grabbed his arm, throwing him into the wall.

The girl screamed.

Gregson shifted like a dancer, moving one step and then the second—the two-step dance of death—thrusting— impaling the Snowman through his heart.

“Why haven’t I heard of you?” He gasped.

“Because I don’t talk about myself.”

The snowman melted to the floor in his own steamy blood, and Gregson didn’t feel sorry for him. It felt good to kill—to feel the life leaving the body, and the power rushing into the room.

“Put these on! We never got to use them for sex.” Gregson threw the handcuffs in the girl’s direction. “I’ll drop you off with Detective Talbert. God knows, he needs some eye-candy.”

My Time

My motivation when writing about my work experiences

is the hope that the time wasn’t entirely wasted

that I’ll remember something

in those forgettable days

that is worth writing down

or that the time I spent

with the people at work

wasn’t interchangeable

or replaceable.

Basically, I’m looking for redemption

knowing, that I burned through too many days

I was asked once, “How long have you been with us?”

It had been three years, but my manager didn’t know

I stayed because everything became familiar

I stayed because I didn’t know where else to go or what else to do

I stayed

It always shocks me when the people I have gotten used to

take two steps back

when I’m talking to them

It’s an insult—even though nothing is said.

It’s a horror—to think I don’t know the people I spend most of my life with

Many of them—I don’t want to know

and they don’t want to know me.

There is a polite relationship, based-on superficial tasks

that always get done, despite difficulties

and most people want to be well-thought-of

in this system

but they don’t think of each other—

they don’t care

They just want to get by with a minimum of difficulty.

Why am I writing about my work experiences?

It’s the necessity of doing meaningless work that seems insane

I can’t buy anything—other than food and time

because working, costs too much.

the people who won’t let me sleep

I am convinced

that most people are trapped

and they make themselves comfortable

to feel like they’re not.

Their lives are so dull

that they need to manufacture drama

just to feel alive for two seconds

while they pull the strings

on other lives

just as trapped

just as dull

as they are.

If you say the truth enough times

you can’t go on,

but this is only if

you see the truth right in front of you.

A visionary sees the truth that isn’t there

and he lives it, like it is.

Style is important to stay alive

If you can out-last what doesn’t make sense

and do something

that does makes sense to you

You can survive.

We are caught out in the open

with few allies

and many enemies

Friends–might be too tired to help

People are too tired to stand up

too tired for the human touch

automated

burned out and burned up

or just burned

but sleep, will give you a fresh perspective.

Before you decide to

separate yourself

get three days of good sleep

and don’t talk to anybody

the world becomes an inviting place

if you don’t have to walk into it.

No situation is intolerable

with enough sleep,

and the people who won’t let you sleep

should be kept awake forever

I don’t understand people who want to live forever

Don’t they want to sleep and never wake-up?

Why do you think people commit suicide?

To escape from their problems, obviously.

I find that sleeping is a way to kill myself every day

and my resurrection is beautiful

because I don’t care, in the morning

and the people who do care

should sleep more.

I have looked for big ideas…

in small places

in dusty corners

where mice sleep.

Mice play, even if they don’t want to

timing their day

between halls

where they never get lost

running this way

not seeing

through the maze

of their own conditioning

Amazing places, lost

with real rhythms and sounds

The ocean, and the emptiness of space

the wilderness

where man is a stranger

in isolated plains

where the human will

doesn’t need to overcome

other human wills

spider hands

pulling

controlling.

Freedom, is an open field

an expanding universe

and one good idea.

Worn Sunrise

the morning is tired

with dark circles under its eyes

it creeps

into all of us

we don’t want the light

We are haggard

and hungry

for more—

more than the day can give us

and the worn sunrise

rises

like wrinkled hope

on the sheets, of a cloudy bed

Sleepy faces at the gym

are worn

like a bed slept on—too many times

like 10,000 sunrises

forced to rise.

The day

lays claim

to our lives.

The night

spirits us away.

We are sleeping sons and daughters

of death

ready

for our final rest

that will lay us under ground

Our eyes blinking

in the brightest sun

will close

and the red at the backs of our eyes

will be black, forever.

So many questions…

Answers?

None.

We won’t have to wake-up, anymore

Our day

will be done

and the night will take us

under its black beauty.

Joey—My Evil Twin Brother

If you share your brother’s emotions, it can be difficult to know if they belong to you or they belong to him. I was the good son—academically inclined, and more than willing to follow the rules. Joey did what he wanted to do. I could sense his choices before they happened. I could understand his thoughts. I learned algebra and calculus, while he learned how to calculate the spread. I looked a woman in her eyes, and Joey looked up her skirt. Women never understood my intentions, but Joey made them clear immediately.

“When you get off work, we should get off together.”

He was disgusting. I hated to call him my brother. I went to church on Sunday, and he went to the strip club. He told me that he admired beauty, and had more love inside him than 10 men, but it was more like a legion of demons that told him what to do. He listened to the spirits inside and ignored our parents. Middle School was bad, but when we got into High School, and I got my driver’s license, Joey wanted to drive.

“You don’t have a license,” I said.

“Come on, I look just like you. The cops ain’t going to know.”

He was right, and the thought scared me. I bought this red Firebird. Maybe it was my compensation for being too good. Joey was jealous. I could tell. I could feel his emotions. Half-of-the-time I felt possessed by lust, anger, and impulses that didn’t belong to me. Joey grabbed a girl, and felt her behind—and the adrenaline inside my heart made my toes feel like butterflies. I didn’t need to act out. Joey did it for me. And the impulses he had, I resisted. And the goodness in me, he resisted. We should have been one person—free to choose good and evil, but we were separated before birth—knit together in our mother’s womb by God. I don’t know why I am so good and Joey is so bad.

When I woke up, my car was missing. Then I got a phone call.

“Are you the owner of a 1992 Firebird?”

“Yes,” I said.

“It was involved in a hit and run. We found it wrapped around a telephone pole two miles from the accident. The driver wasn’t in the car, but we have video surveillance of the owner running from the scene.”

“Oh, that’s not me. It was my twin brother.”

“Yeah, right. Okay, we’ll have to send a squad car to your house and arrest you.”

“No, really, it wasn’t me.”

“That’s what they all say in prison. And if you ask me, that’s where you are headed, whether you cooperate or not.”

I looked outside the house. Joey was staggering up the driveway with blood dripping from his head, clutching his ribs. At least they can’t pin it on me, I thought.

“Hey man, give your brother some love,” Joey said.

“Did you hit a girl on the road?”

“Oh, I thought that was a deer. Is she alive?”

“Barely.”

“Well, I need you to vouch for me.”

“They have video footage Joey. You’re going to prison.”

“Like hell, I am.”

His booking was routine. I lost my high school car, and my brother was sentenced 10 years. I married a Fundamentalist woman who lives by the word of God. I feel Joey’s emotions in prison—his unreformed heart, but we still get along just fine.

“How’s the wife?” Joey asked.

“She’s on a real pure streak. I’ve had no sex for the last 6 months.”

“Man—I’m getting more sex in prison, than you out-of-prison. Life just ain’t fair, is it?” Joey smiled.

I shuddered to think what might happen when he got out. As the day drew nearer, I could feel the excitement in my bones, but it wasn’t my excitement. I had to go on a business trip and wouldn’t be able to pick-up my brother from prison. “Take an Uber,” I said.

Selling furniture in Nebraska was not exciting, but I started to feel excitement, and then I felt real dread. I drove home. It took two days, and when I got there, my conservative wife greeted me in her underwear.

“I want to thank you hubby—for bringing our marriage back to life.”

The End