You’re SO particular.

I wrote this after yet ANOTHER evening with our most precious friends Terry (T.Wiggles) and Tommy (Digger) when Tommy ordered a burger with no ketchup, no mustard, no pickle, no mushrooms, just a big slice of onion and cheese.  I love you, my friend.  This one is for you.

You’re SO particular.

By: S. Scott Bullock

He HATED it about himself. It had caused him nothing but pain, sorrow and embarrassment his entire life. For as long as he could remember his particular peculiarity had made his life a miserable lot.

When he was a baby, as he was later told by his overburdened mother, he sat in his highchair and kept his mouth clamped shut. Jar after jar after jar of every kind of baby food on the market was spooned toward his mouth but he would have none of it. His mother became so distraught that she begged his pediatrician to intervene.

“He won’t eat.” She had cried to the doctor. “No matter what I try he just won’t eat. He only wants the bottle.”

Then the doctor had said to her.

“Just keep giving him the formula. It’ll give him what nutrition he needs right now. And I guarantee you, he’ll eat other things when he’s ready and gets hungry enough.”

His mother had given up then. She just kept giving him the bottle until he was so old that he no longer drank from it using the nipple. He would just twist off the cap and drink from it like it was a bottle of beer.

Then, when he was in grade school and his palate had accepted a couple new food items, he would sit in the cafeteria while all his classmates were eating bologna sandwiches from home, or hamburgers and mashed potatoes from the hot lunch line, and he would drink his warm apple juice, eat his carrot sticks and lower his head as they all laughed at him and made fun of what he was eating. They called him Bugs Bunny and Juicy Apple Jerk. He felt ridiculed and isolated and he also felt completely responsible for it. Those grade school days planted seeds of self-loathing deeply into his psyche and each passing year of ridicule and rebuke watered and fertilized those seeds until the clutching, clinging vines that grew from them chocked his every thought.

High School lunchtime was hell. College lunch time was hell. Dinners with family, dinners with friends, breakfasts, lunches or dinners with anyone, anywhere, were hell.

‘You don’t eat thus and such?!?’ They’d say. Sometimes through a laugh. ‘My God. EVERYBODY eats thus and such! How could ANYONE not like thus and such? You’re SO particular.’

And on and on it would go. The never ending astonishment, befuddlement and bemusement from his friends, family and acquaintances. The litany of one-liners and long-form jokes made at his expense. And he knew he was solely to blame. His list of ‘thus and suches’, the list of foods he didn’t eat, or couldn’t eat, or hated to eat, was longer than the Nile. He hated damn near every form of nutrition known to man.

The things that he loved to eat, could be counted on one finger and the things that he liked to eat only took up the other four at most.

Seafood was the most appalling to him. He couldn’t imagine eating something that swam in its own filth. Something that breathed its own excrement. The very smell of frying fish would send him to the nearest toilet where he would vomit until he was empty and then stare at the swirling mess until he regained control of his thoughts. The idea of eating animal flesh sent him into a world of horrifying imaginings. Slaughter houses with blood soaked floors. Bovine carcases being skinned, dismembered and run through grinders. Sheep and pigs and goats being eviscerated and hung on meat hooks. He CHERISHED animals and thoughts of ‘processing’ them (as the euphemism goes) was all too much for him.

Every time someone sat next to him chomping on a cheeseburger, those thoughts rose up and stabbed at his mind. The burger eater would inevitably say something like ‘You’re staring at my burger. You wanna bite?’ and behind his eyes he’d see the piston gun punching a lethal hole into a steer’s head. ‘You’re only eating carrots!??!’ the burger eater would follow up with. And then, ‘You’re SO particular dude… you need help.’

All of this made it nearly impossible for him to dine with anyone. And because of that, he began to create a life of sectional solitude. In all other venues, other than eating ones that is, he became gregarious and fun-loving. He was the life of the party (never eating and staying well away from any buffet table.) He’d join his friends for plays and concerts. He went to movies and sucked it up if one of his friends was eating popcorn. Popcorn was vile. It smelled like motor oil and dead house plants. He always kept a cologne scented, cloth handkerchief with him and when a smell overwhelmed him he’d put it up to his nose, telling his companions that his allergies were acting up and his nose was running. If one of his companions at the movies bought a hot dog, however, all bets were off and he’d have to make some excuse to leave before the movie started. Thankfully that had only happened a couple of times in the past several years.

He had managed, by his late thirties, to completely compartmentalize his socializing. And the dining compartment was always securely closed. That was his alone. He ate alone. He never wanted to have to explain his peculiarity again and he needed to avoid those damn odors at all cost.

The thing he ate the most of was carrots. In all forms, raw, cooked, mashed, shredded and chipped. He kept bags and bags of frozen ones in his oversized basement freezer. He ate so many carrots in fact that his skin had a slight orange tinge to it. That skin tint was the object of many jokes from his family and friends. They started calling him Ginger and that pissed him off royally. But he was NOT about to stop eating carrots. He needed his carrots like a rock-star needs his heroine. So he bit the bullet and smiled or chuckled when one of his family or friends called him Ginger.

Ginger, otherwise know as Leonard Collins, sat at his kitchen table reading the morning news on his laptop. The microwave dinged and he got up to retrieve his apple juice. It was in an over-sized mug that was shaped like an erupting volcano. A souvenir present from his first (and only) girlfriend. The mug held at least three cups and Leonard had only nuked it for forty seconds. He liked his apple juice warm. Not cold. Not hot. Warm. And he reveled in the idea that he didn’t have to explain that fact to anyone. Just as he ate alone, he drank alone. Like a good alcoholic does.

He sat back down and read further. Robberies, murders, violence, missing persons, political unrest, bombs, beatings and mass shootings. How ugly the world had gotten. How very sad that the news was filled with such horror and that all of us started our day reading about it and taking it into our thoughts. Leonard felt that news like this infected us with sorrow and hopelessness. Did we really NEED to hear about it all. Did it aid us in living our lives to hear of murders, states away or countries away? He figured it WAS important to know of local goings-on. If something was amiss or awry in your own town, you needed to be aware. In the local section of his cyber-newspaper he saw that there was one armed robbery at a local ATM, two home burglaries a few blocks away from his home, and a local missing woman. His stomach rolled over at the prospect of crime coming into his quiet, bucolic town, but he knew it was inevitable. Evil was crafty and persistent. You had to be ever vigilant or it would slither into your home and suffocate you in your sleep. So much evil in the world, he thought, so much evil. His cell phone rang and he jumped out of his reverie. He looked at the phone screen. It was his brother David. Leonard pressed the accept key.

“Hello ugly.” Leonard said smiling. He loved his brother dearly but he loved teasing him even more. “People still running away from you in terror on the street?”

“At least I’m a normal color, Ginger.” David said parrying.

“Oh, ha ha. That one just never gets old, does it?”

“Lenny.” David said seriously.

It was a tone Leonard knew well. It was David’s ‘dead mother’ tone. When their mother had died in a car accident while Leonard was away at college, David had called him. Leonard had run down two flights of stairs to get to the communal pay phone in the lobby of his dorm. He had picked up the phone, out of breath, and said, ‘Hey ugly, what’s up?’. ‘Lenny.’ David had said back then. ‘Mom died’. David used this tone whenever conveying bad news, so Lenny girded his spiritual loins.

“Shit.” Leonard said. “What’s wrong, David.”

“We’re not going to the concert tonight, Lenny. Cathy is messed up over her cousin’s wife.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You read the local don’t you?” David asked.

“Yeah.” Leonard said shifting in his seat. He felt like he was about to be quizzed and he didn’t like being quizzed. “What about the local?”

“Did you read about the missing woman. Daneetra Hutton?” David was beginning to sound annoyed as well as troubled.

“Yes I did. It’s very sad. But what has that got to do… oh…wait… is that Cathy’s cousin’s wife?”

“You MET her, Leonard. Don’t you freakin’ remember anything?” David’s vocal demeanor was no longer troubled, just annoyed. Leonard was not only a ridiculously picky eater, he also had the memory of an advanced Alzheimer’s patient. A fact that pissed David off royally.

“I did?” Leonard managed. His mind was doing the cartwheels it always did whenever he was trying to figure out if he had forgotten something important.

“At Cathy’s brother’s wedding? The pretty black woman?” David said pissed.

“At Cath…but I didn’t go to that wedding. I was sick. I had the flu. And my back was out.” Leonard’s voice sounded like a little child’s responding to an accusing parent.

“Oh. Shit.” David said, only slightly contrite. “That’s right. There was food involved. You weren’t there.”

“No. Dave. Really. It wasn’t the food. I was sick and my back was out.” Leonard was almost whining.

“Whatever.” David dismissed him. “Anyway, Cathy won’t stop crying and she won’t get out of bed so we’re not going tonight. And tomorrow’s car show is out too because everyone is meeting at Cathy’s aunt’s house to make flyers or some such shit.”

“Please tell Cathy how sorry…” Leonard began, but was abruptly cut off.

“Yeah. Take care Leonard. I’ll talk to you later.” There was a beep and then David was gone from Leonard’s phone.

Mark Daygen opened his eyes and felt sudden, excruciating, pain. It shot through his head like a well aimed arrow. He sat up in spite of it. His bed was soaked in sweat and smelled of snubbed out cigarettes and spilled booze. He reached over to his bedside table and felt around for his smokes. He had closed his eyes after the first bolt of pain and was keeping them tightly closed now. It helped. But only a little. He lit a cigarette, swung his legs over, and sat on the edge of the bed. He knew he’d have to make his way to the bathroom eventually. He had to piss like a champion thoroughbred and he needed aspirin bad. But not right now. Right now he would sit here with his eyes closed and smoke.

After ten minutes, he took the last drag off his cigarette and cautiously opened his eyes. A fresh bolt of pain shot through his head. Goddamn hangovers. What the hell had he drunk last night? Tequila? Vodka? Gin? All of the above? He had no recollection. Last night, like so many nights in his life, was hiding behind a black curtain. A curtain stitched and sewn with each drink he drank and each bottle he finished off.

He needed a drink now. That would cure him. He needed the hair of the dog. Shit. He needed the whole damn dog.

He snubbed out his cigarette in the overflowing bedside ashtray, pulled his body upright and stood. The pain in his head erupted and his stomach turned over. He barely made it to the toilet before his gut let loose of the remains of last night’s drinks and dinner. When he had emptied his stomach he dry-heaved three or four more times. His hands slipped on the scum that covered the filthy toilet rim as he pushed himself away from the bowl. He stood up and moved to the sink. He turned on both taps, rinsed his muck covered hands and hand-fed himself mouthfuls of water. First spitting them out to clear his mouth, then drinking them in to rehydrate his desiccated body. He looked up after the last swallow and caught his reflected image in the medicine cabinet mirror. He looked at the beast staring back at him and actually flinched. His eyes were two green olives floating in buckets of blood and his skin was sickly gray. He stuck his tongue out and saw that it was covered and coated in a thick white paste made up of vomit and neglect. His teeth were yellow and pitted. He hated to brush his teeth. A quirk. One of his many. He hated to brush them so he seldom did. He compensated for the smell by swishing copious amounts of mouthwash several times a day.

He rinsed his face and turned off the taps. He opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out the bottle of aspirin. The damn thing was empty. How the fuck did THAT happen. He threw the empty bottle into the ring-encrusted bathtub and left the room. It was at that moment that he remembered the events of the past night. Last night he had gotten rid of the bitch. Disposed of her as it were. Last night he had done her one last time, one really good last time, and then disposed of her. Then he had gone out to celebrate. That was it. He had taken his well earned pay and spent half of it on booze and lap dances.

He looked around at that moment as a new panic gripped him. His money. Where was the rest of his money? He saw his sloughed off 501’s laying in a heap at the foot of the bed and went to them. He bent over and another bolt of pain shot through his hung-over head. He didn’t notice. He was too focused on his money. He stabbed a hand into the front right pocket and pulled it inside out. Nothing. He stabbed into the other front pocket and felt, with great relief, metal and paper. He pulled it out. It was cash folded in his silver money clip. He ripped the bills from the clip, a clip engraved with a naked woman holding a dagger to her privates, and began to count it. He got to a thousand and stopped.

“Two-thousand left?” he said aloud. “I fucking spent five-hundred last night?! Shit.” He shoved the money clip back into the pocket of his jeans and pulled them on. He needed a drink and he was going to get one.

It was time to eat and Leonard was starving. It was also time for the walk of fear. He HATED going down to the damn basement. It was dank and moldy and smelled like soiled underwear left overnight in a bucket of fetid water. But it was the only place he could keep his huge freezer. And the freezer was where he kept the majority of his food, and he would be goddamned if he was going to make anything ELSE about his food, ANY more of a problem. So he went to the basement.

Leonard opened the basement door with a creak worthy of a Hammer horror film and felt around the wall for the light switch. The fluorescents sputtered and crackled and eventually lit with their characteristic green glow as he stepped onto the top stair. Leonard Collins grabbed the handrail as Mark Daygen grabbed the shot glass off the counter at his neighborhood bar. Mark downed his fifth tequila shot as Leonard downed the basement stairs.

The tequila was starting to take the edge off his headache. He figured that shots number six and seven would get rid of it completely. He motioned for the bartender to come over and pointed to his empty glass.

“Fill it.” He said pulling another bill out of his money clip. It was a twenty. “And keep them coming till this is used up.

Leonard reached the bottom stair, and as he stepped onto the basement floor he recited his ‘basement mantra’ aloud.

“There is nothing to fear here. There is nothing to fear here. Nothing is here to fear. Nothing is here to fear.” His stomach clawed at him, growling with hunger as he walked toward his freezer.

Mark lifted the shot glass to his crusted, cracked lips and downed the shot in one swallow. He slammed the glass down on the bar imagining himself a gunfighter in a way-out-west saloon. The bartender turned toward him startled by the sound.

“You don’t have to bang the glass.” The bespectacled, diminutive, bartender started tentatively. “You just have to say ‘hey’ or ‘bartender’ and I’ll come right over. You’re the only one in here.”

Daygen suppressed the nearly impossible-to-ignore urge to leap over the bar, grab this faggoty cum-bag by the throat and squeeze the life out of him. Slowly. While grinning. With joy. Instead he spoke calmly and with the slightest of smiles.

“Okay then.” He said barring his yellowed teeth in a grin. “Hey, Bartender. May I have another of your delicious tequila shots?”

The bartender picked up the tequila bottle and walked over.

“This is the last of your twenty dollars.” He said pouring.

“That’s fine.” Daygen said still smiling the phony, frightful grin. “I won’t need anymore.” Daygen downed the shot and rose from the barstool.

“It’s been swell, Pookie.” He said wiping the wet from his mouth. “Maybe next time I’ll buy you a drink and then bend you over the bar for a good one.”

The bartender stepped away from Daygen and reflexively reached toward the under-bar. Two metal baseball bats were under there just in case a patron got out of line. And it looked to the bartender that this patron was about to get out of line.

“Don’t bother with the bat, Sis.” Daygen hissed. “I’m outta here.”

Then, as he was half in and half out of the exit door, he turned back toward the frightened bartender.

“And be sure to tell Marco that he really scrapped the bottom of the fucking barrel when he hired your faggoty ass.” With that he was gone and the bartender was alone in the dark, dank cave that was “Marco’s Bar On Forth”.

Daygen reached into his pocket and pulled out his money clip. He looked around cautiously before pulling the money out and counting it. He had managed to spend another hundred this morning. He was now down to Nineteen-Hundred and change.

“I’m burning through this too damn fast.” He told the gum-stuck sidewalk. “Too damn fast when I only get it once ever three months. I’m askin’ for more next time. Shit. I’m askin’ now. I’m goin’ over there and tell him I want more NOW.”

Leonard took another deep breath, gaining more control over his fear. He stepped closer to his freezer. He was going all out today. More than just carrots. He was going to prepare the very best part of his frozen stash. One of his ‘secret’ meals. With nobody staring at him. Nobody saying to him, ‘you really gonna eat that?!?! Eww yuck. You won’t eat a burger, but you’ll eat that?!? Ewwwwww. You’re gross.’ His meal was going to be a long time defrosting so he needed to get it out of the freezer and onto his kitchen counter ASAP.

Daygen stood on the back porch and began to pound on the door. This is where he always met the little weasel. This is where he delivered the package and picked up the money. But it was weird being there during the day. Too much light. Too much fucking light. He calmed his nerves with a swig from the small mouthwash bottle he always carried. He spit out the spent wash on the porch boards and banged on the door again. He realized that it really didn’t matter that he was standing here in broad daylight. He wasn’t carrying a package, so he wasn’t doing anything illegal. He was just standing here and knocking on a certain weasel’s back door. He caught site of something foreign in the puddle of mouthwash he had spit out. It looked like a kernel of corn. Or maybe… Oh shit. Was that a tooth? Had he spit out a tooth? He bent down to get a closer look as the door swung open. It was the weasel.

“OH MY GOD!” The weasel yelled putting his hand to his mouth and looking around terrified. “What are you doing here. Get inside. Hurry. Get inside.” He grabbed Daygen’s arm and pulled him through the door and into the kitchen. Daygen yanked his arm away.

“You touch me again.” Daygen said picking up a butcher knife off the kitchen counter. “And I’ll cut off your dick and feed it to you.”

The weasel put his hand to his mouth and spoke through his fingers.

“Why are you here? What do you want?” He was whispering and tears were collecting in the corners of his eyes. “I don’t need a package now. Not for another three months.”

Daygen put the knife down on the counter and moved to the fridge. He opened it and looked inside.

“Jesus, Dude.” He said with an ugly chuckle. “Your freakin’ cupboard is bare. You need to take a little trip to the ‘Stop & Shop’. Don’t you have a beer or nothin’?” He turned toward the man.

“I’m serious weasel. Do you got any booze?”

“I told you not to call me that.” The man said backing away.

“Oh. I’m so sorry. I meant MR. Weasel.”

“Why are you here?” The man asked.

“Why is there air?” Daygen said grinning his yellow toothed grin.

“What?” The the man said wiping a tear from his cheek.

“I want more money.” Daygen said poking a finger deep into his left nostril. “I want more money for what I just brought you and I want more money for any more I bring you.” He pulled something out of his nose and began rolling it between his finger and his thumb.

“This was NOT our agreement.” The man said, pouting.

Daygen took a step toward the man and flicked whatever he was rolling between his thumb and finger at the man’s chest. The man lept backwards slamming into a cupboard. He grabbed the back of his head and began to quietly weep.

“This wasn’t our agreement.” He said through childlike tears. “Not at all our agreement.”

Daygen stepped even closer. His face was now inches from the man’s.

“I want another thousand now.” Daygen began. “And then thirty-five hundred for all future packages. This is non-negotiable.” He leaned in and kissed the man’s forehead.

“Your breath is horrible.” The man said quietly. “The money is downstairs. In the basement.”

“Go get it.” Daygen said grinning.

“Please come with me.” The man said. “I don’t like it down there.”

“You’re shittin’ me, right?” Daygen’s grin widened into a rotten toothed smile.

“Down here, through here.” The man said moving toward the basement door.

As Daygen moved toward the door he knocked into a butcher-paper wrapped parcel on the counter. It was frozen solid. It did three spins on the tiled counter then careened to the floor.

“Shit.” Daygen said. “What the fuck is this?” He picked up the package and put it back on the counter.

“Dinner.” The man said holding the basement door open. “It’s defrosting. The money’s down here.”

Daygen walked toward the man and followed him down the stairs. The florescents sputtered on and Daygen saw the dreary room in full light. The man walked over to a metal, mechanics case and opened the large bottom right drawer. It was full to the top with money. Daygen could see fifties and twenties and even hundreds neatly stacked and still in their bank wrappers.

“Holy shit.” Daygen whispered, staring at the cash.

“Here is your thousand.” The man said holding the cash bundle of twenties out to Daygen. “And you’ll get thirty-five hundred for the next package. But one thing.” The man’s face changed from slightly frightened to deadly serious.

“And what’s that?” Daygen asked reaching for the money.

The man handed the cash over and took a deep, dramatic breath.

“You were foolish and lazy with the last package.” He said exhaling slowly. “She was a local. AND a distant member of my family for heaven’s sake.”

“You said you wanted a nigger this time.” Daygen said turning away. “You said you wanted a nigger woman and you wanted her fast.”

“Firstly.” The man said frowning. “I do NOT use that ugly word. And secondly, I said I wanted her in a weeks time at the latest.”

“What’s this table for?” Daygen said pointing to the large metal table at the back of the basement.

“Did you hear what I said?” The man asked.

“Yeah, weasel. I heard you.” Daygen said still facing the table.

“MY NAME IS NOT WEASEL! IT’S LEONARD!” Leonard said shoving a taser into Daygen’s side and pulling the trigger. “LEONARD! YOU BAG OF SHIT!”

Daygen collapsed to the floor flailing, the bundle of cash sliding across the room. Leonard dropped to his knees shoved the taser, with all his might, into Daygen’s crotch and pulled the trigger again. Daygen screamed out, his body stiffening in a rigor of pain. Leonard pulled the trigger over and over again, until Daygen fell silent. Unconscious.

“The table is one normally used by mortuaries. For burial preparation.” Leonard said to the unconscious Daygen. He stood up and walked over to the metal cabinet again. He pulled open a large drawer and took out a coil of yellow nylon rope. He returned to Daygen, tasered him one more time in the chest, then began to tie him up with practiced perfection.

“I don’t use mine for that, however.” He said finishing the last knot. “I use mine for…. well… you’ll see soon enough. Up close and personal.”

Leonard climbed the basement stairs and closed the door behind him. He walked over to the counter and began to unwrap the butcher-paper covered package. Under the paper were thick layers of plastic wrap and beneath those was a severed head. A black woman’s head.

“I still don’t recognize you.” Leonard said pinching the severed head’s nose. My brother is not only ugly he’s silly too. I never met you.”

Leonard put the head into one of his double sinks and began filling it up with warm water.

“This’ll defrost you faster.” He said smiling. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a breast or a thigh, but tonight you’re going to give me my most favorite meal in the whole wide world. Brains. Brains in black butter. And on the side…lots and lots of carrots.”

The Written Word Is Back!

I am no longer doing a podcast… BUT (as in hole) … I still have things to say.  So….

Ladies and Gentlemen…. THE WRITTEN WORD.

Fiction:

There’s Always A Crow

By: S. Scott Bullock

As I sit here, the sun so warm on the top of my bald head, a crow is having its way with my ears. Apparently she is angry about something because her caws are loud and repetitive. All other sounds in this beautiful, wooded park are mere background orchestration for her angry aria. I made the dreadful error of looking up at the tree she was perched in and that seemed to infuriate her even more. Her caws tripled in frequency and she began a fanatic back and forth dance on the limb she perched herself on. I suppose that she is not particularly angry at me, personally, but that she is unhappy to share the park with anyone or anything else at all. But it certainly seems that she is taking her angst out on me. Me, this skinny, bald, old/young man sitting alone on a splintering park bench, in a stunning creek side country park.

There’s always a crow, isn’t there?

Twenty-three years ago, when I was ten-years old, I got my first bicycle. It was my birthday and I got the Huffy dirt bike, with knobby tires and flame red/yellow handle grips that I had always wanted. Well, not exactly the one that I always wanted. This one, the one my parents got me, was the wrong color. I wanted iridescent green, but I got plain old, regular green instead. Everything else about the bike was perfect and my dad even did a little extra and got me a headlights and generator package. The bike was almost perfect. Except for the dumb color. And every time I looked at my bike, all through the five years I rode it, I didn’t see the cool knobby tires or the way-cool flame red/yellow handle grips. I didn’t see the headlights and bitchin’ generator. I only saw the color. The wrong color.

The crow just stopped for a minute and the sound of the running creek has taken over. I hear a child shouting at a dog and a dog barking back at a child. And now. Now, just the creek. An amazingly peaceful sound. A breeze just caressed my face and on it I can smell cut grass, lavender and pine. I think the crow might be done. Oh, wait. Nope. She isn’t. There she goes again. Madder this time. Well, maybe not madder, but certainly louder. Actually, I should really use the word angrier, not madder. Madder, as Sandy always used to tell me, meant more insane, not more angry.

I met Sandy when I was twenty-five. I was the new night manager at Dagel’s Grocery Mart, and she was starting her first night shift. When she walked into my tiny office my heart stopped and then took off running at highway speed. Even the ugly florescent lighting couldn’t ugly her. She was a ginger-haired angel with tucked wings and hidden halo. I asked her to marry me after knowing her for only two months. She said yes.

The wedding was small but elaborate. All planned by Sandy and her mother, Jackie. Sandy gave me a say-so in all the planning, but I really didn’t have too much to say. That is until the event was over. Then I told Sandy about all the things that I felt didn’t go quite right. The things that disappointed me. The band didn’t play all the songs we requested. I mean the band was good and all that, but they skipped several songs. My favorite Uncle, Uncle Tommy, came and surprised me. But he left early. Before the reception was over. There were only two bartenders instead of the three that were suggested, and the tiny white lights which covered all the trees and foliage in the backyard, thousands of them, while stunning, didn’t twinkle. They just burned steady. There was more, and Sandy heard all of it.

The crow, I just named her Morticia, has paused again. I want to take a sneak peak to see what she’s up to, but I don’t want to piss her off again. The breeze has picked up a bit but it is still gentle and so filled with incredible smells. Every inhale is laced with new magic and wonder. The sun is warm on me, but I chill easily of late, so I’ve pulled on my coat. I love this old coat, frayed sleeves, missing button and all.

A little toe-headed boy, maybe six or seven, came up to me about an hour ago. He had a melting red-white-and-blue ‘Bomb-Pop’ Popsicle in his dirty-finger-nailed hand. He stood in front of me for a minute without speaking, holding the ‘Bomb-Pop’ over my knee and dripping it all over my khaki pants. I think he may have been wondering about my shiny bald head. When he finally spoke, he asked me if I’d seen his goose. His GOOSE of all things! I told him no, but that I’d keep an eye out. He took off running then, heading for his mom. Made me chuckle though. Poor thing lost his goose. Now, looking at the Popsicle juice on the leg of my pants, I just have to smile. I sure hope he finds his goose.

Oops! There goes Morticia again. I wonder if she knows where the wayward goose is. Maybe that’s what she’s been shouting about. She’s trying to tell the poor little boy were his goose is.

As I shift my weight on this old bench, (my boney left butt-cheek has fallen totally asleep), I can feel the texture of my coat brushing against the back of my hand. I do love this ancient coat. It was an anniversary present. Sandy gave it to me on our second anniversary.

Two years into our marriage we had settled into a life of medium-low-income happiness. Well, truth be told, Sandy was the happy one. I was… what? Disgruntled. I was disgruntled. I really loved our apartment. Except where it was located. Too far from work and in a ‘not upscale enough’ neighborhood. Our car was a gift from Sandy’s father. I liked it alright. It was brand new. But you know… it wasn’t what I would have bought for myself.

I first saw the full length camel hair coat in a GQ magazine at my hair cutter’s salon and noted that, while I really liked it, it was WAY too expensive for me. I mentioned it to Sandy and she agreed. Way too pricey.

Our anniversary night came and as we were getting ready to go to dinner, (at the restaurant where we had our first date), Sandy asked me for her present. She was laughing, but deadly serious. I couldn’t figure out HOW she figured it out. She knew that I had bought her those damn makeup brushes that she was lusting after. She knew it and she wanted them now so she could use them to put on her makeup for the special night.

I told her that I didn’t get her anything. She laughed and said, ‘bullshit’. And then, ‘hand it over’. So I did. And she smiled that smile that melted my heart and tingled my special part.

We had one of what we called our ‘very quick sessions’ then. Sex with Sandy was something that simple words can’t describe. So I won’t even try. But even in all its carnal majesty I still found fault. Not long enough doing this, too much of doing that.

I gave her the makeup brushes after that and she hugged me and kissed the side of my face. I always got goose bumps when she did that and that time was no exception.

Then I asked her where MY present was and she said I’d have to wait.

It was October and cold for California, so I went to the closet to get my coat before we left the apartment. I pulled on the old pea coat that my father had handed me down when I was in high school and Sandy yelled ‘oh my god stop’ at the top of her lungs.

I dropped the pea-coat and looked at Sandy, stunned at her shout. I asked her what the hell was wrong and she smiled and began guffawing. Sandy’s guffaw sounded like a wounded horse and always started me into laughing too. I asked her, still laughing, why she’d shouted like that, and she pointed to the the hall closet. She told me, through more guffaws, that my present was on the top shelf. I pulled down the large beautifully wrapped box, went to the couch, sat down and opened it. It was the coat. The coat I had yearned for in the magazine. She had somehow managed to scrimp and save and put enough aside to buy it for me. I actually wept a little then. Wept at the love I felt for her. Wept at the thought of her giving up some of the things she needed in order to save the money to buy me this ridiculously frivolous and expensive present. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I realized it wasn’t the EXACT same coat. I was back at my hair cutters again and looking through the old GQ magazine where I had first seen the wonderful coat. That’s when I saw that the buttons were different on this one. This one, the one I had first seen and lusted after, had bigger buttons. And the buttons were darker and gold rimmed. These buttons were different from mine. So, even though the coat was from the same maker and equally expensive, from that moment on I only saw the buttons. I kept my disappointment from Sandy, but she sensed something was up.

Morticia has quieted again, and I’m just sitting here looking at the space left by the missing button on my wonderful coat. The missing ‘wrong’ button. A beautiful butterfly just fluttered by. It lighted for a second on the arm of my bench. It wings were iridescent. Iridescent green. That makes me smile. The universe poking fun at me. The sun is lowering slightly and the long shadows it is creating are like charcoal sketches of trees on a green grass canvas. The light is magical right now. Pre-Gloaming I’d call it. It is bathing everything in a golden-yellow wash. The lake, off in the distance, has bright-yellow diamonds dancing atop each tiny ripple and the creek next to me is covered in gold doubloons of light. The quiet has started begging for relief, and Morticia has just obliged. CAW CAW CAW! she keeps telling me. CAW CAW CAW! I think I know what it means. I’ll tell you in a minute or two. Right now I just want to sit here and take in the unbounded beauty of this moment. The cool, scent-ladened air. The shadows. The light. And Morticia. The crow.

Sandy and I divorced five years ago. It was amicable. Or as amicable as a divorce can be. There is something very un-amicable about hurting another person, and that’s what divorce does. It hurts people. In the settlement I gave her everything but my clothes and my vinyl collection. She gave me a kiss on the side of my face when I left our apartment for the last time. And that last kiss, just as the very first, gave me goosebumps. That simple kiss on the side of my face.

I had worn her out, she had told me. I was so negative. Nothing ever good enough or right enough. I had worn her out and her love for me could no longer recharge her. So we divorced. And I took my clothes and my two-hundred and six LP record collection and moved away. I landed here. In Bonny Doon, California. It was a nice place to land. Or so I thought five years ago. Today, and for the past two years, I have realized that it was not only a nice place, but a land of magic and majesty the likes of which many have never seen.

I got a job at a local health food market in nearby Boulder Creek. I started as produce manager and worked my way up to manager of the northwest sector. That sounds much more impressive than it really was. The “northwest sector” consisted of three stores. But it payed really well and allowed me to find a nice apartment in a nice neighborhood. I didn’t know it then, but I was only two blocks away from this very park. The first three years I lived here I never saw it or even knew it existed. I discovered it two years ago. I was wandering the streets of town after hearing some particularly bad news, and just as if providence had planned it, I came across ‘Mariu Park’. I have no idea what Mariu means, but I think I heard that it’s from a New Zealand aboriginal language. But whatever it means or meant, I found it that dark, sad Tuesday and since then have spent more time in Mariu Park than I have in my own apartment.

Three years ago, a full year before the real poop hit the propeller, I was fully settled into my job. I was okay with it. It just wasn’t perfect. I’d wished for easier hours and better pay and I hated my boss. Well, more precisely, I hated my bosses wife. The woman behind the man was a royal pain in the general behind. She kept making suggestions on how I could improve our stores. Where to put the carts. How to rearrange the fruit and produce. The colors for the store aprons and outdoor awnings. I only had one suggestion for her. I wanted her to keep her big mouth shut. When I made that suggestion, I was shown the door. I walked through it, but much to my astonishment, got a call from my boss two weeks later asking me to come back. I did so with the caveat that Mrs. Boss would have little to no interaction with me. My boss told me that Mrs. Boss would longer be a problem for me OR for him. They were divorcing.

That year was amazing for me, though I didn’t see it that way. I got a large raise, still just a little too little in my opinion, and an assistant that took a lot of the grunt work away from me. In a small twist of fate, my assistant, hired by my boss, was a ginger-haired young lady named Sandy of all names. So once again I had a ruby-roofed Sandy in my life. This one, however, was ten years younger and about a hundred pounds heavier. She was fine though and worked twice as hard as everyone else in the room.

I worked on curating my vinyl collection during that year. Filling in the missing albums of a particular genre, selling off superfluous ones in another. I dated a little, but found the women to be either vacuous beyond description or dull to the point of suicide-inducing. If they weren’t over beautified Kardashian-Wanna-Be’s, they were farmer-tanned hippies that spoke of hemp cultivation and the myriad uses for cow dung.

I was just ‘okay’ with everything in my life. Just ‘okay’. Never ‘happy’. There was always something wrong. Always something less-than. Nothing was ever ‘just right’, and that fact gnawed at my psyche and drove me mad with dis-ease. I walked through life, clutching a half-empty glass in a death grip.

January of the next year brought a special gift. And I’m being REALLY sarcastic here. Yet, maybe not, when I come to think of it. Maybe it was a gift.

It was time for my yearly job physical. Normally I sailed through these with flying, healthy colors, so I was not in the least bit concerned. Of course I complained about the inconvenience of the appointment and the distance to the GP’s office. Typically, the results of all the tests are sent to the head office and filed away in one’s personnel file. But not this time. This time the doctor’s office called my office and a nurse told me that I needed to come back in and speak with the doctor. I asked her why, but she said that that was all she knew and she was just following the doctor’s orders. So, still not really concerned, I made an appointment for the next morning and went about my day.

I am going to spare you the ugly details here. Life is too short for ugly details. But I will tell you this. Cancer had come to live inside me. It was a bad cancer, but it was still at a treatable stage. So treat it we did. Aggressively. Months of radiation followed by months of chemotherapy. I lost every hair on my body from that combination. And none of it every grew back. Anywhere. I’m embarrassed to say.

When Sandy, my ex-wife not my assistant, heard of my battle, she came to stay with me on weekends. She hadn’t had any serious relationships since we split up so she had her weekends free to help her embattled ex-husband. During the week I had nursing care provided by my company and my incredible boss, who, by the way, was seriously dating the sister of the bitch that he was originally married to. The one that drove us both crazy. Go figure.

Again, sparing you the very gory details, the chemotherapy and radiation worked and after a year long battle I was pronounced ‘cancer-free’. Completely hairless, but cancer-free. It seems that 99% of chemo patients grow their hair back. I was one of the unlucky one percent. But I truly didn’t care. I was pronounced CANCER-FREE! I was also pronounced something else, probably for the first time in my whole life. I was pronounced grateful. I was grateful. I was grateful to the doctors who treated me. I was grateful to the nurses who cared for me. I was grateful to the chemists and scientists who created my therapies. And I was grateful to Sandy, my precious ex-wife, who sacrificed so much to make my suffering less and my joy for life more. I was grateful to be alive and able to enjoy eating good food and listening to great music and going to bathroom like a regular person. I was grateful and dare I say this? I was HAPPY. Happy to be alive.

CAW CAW CAW! Morticia is saying to me again. CAW! I know what it means. And I’m going to tell you now. But first I have to tell you this, with the biggest smile on my face I have had in weeks. I am, at this very moment, looking across the park and seeing a woman walking toward the park exit. She is being followed by a little toe-headed boy. And the boy is being followed, I kid you not, by a large Canadian Goose! I’m not kidding you! A GOOSE! The little boy found his goose.

CAW CAW CAW!!!!! Yes Morticia. Yes, I know.

I saw my oncologist last week. Just a check up. I talked to him on the phone this morning. It’s back. And we both knew that if it came back, it would not go away again. But I’m really okay with that. I really am. I have learned a joy for living that I never thought possible in these past two years. Because of ‘IT’ not in spite of ‘IT’. I have lived an entire lifetime of amazing gratitude and joy in these past seven-hundred-thirty or so days. I have learned to see the beauty in the mundane and the sublime in the silly. I have learned to appreciate every inhale and exhale and I have learned to look past the dirty window to the pristine flower-filled meadow beyond. I have learned that there is always going to be a something ‘not quite perfect’. There is always a noise that you can let obliterate the music, IF you allow it to. I have learned that in every circumstance YOU have the choice of what you focus on. You can wait for the quiet moments and listen to the creek next to you or you can focus on the loud caw of the angry bird in the branches above you. You can raise your fist in anger and rail against the bird, or you can embrace her as part of the beautiful package that is life. The loud, the quiet, the hard, the soft, the terrible, the tremendous. Because no matter how you look at it, no matter how you think about it, no matter what you do about it, in every single circumstance… there’s always a crow.

Vera Speaks – Show 1083 – The End

It’s The End Of The Line.  And A Gooch-a-Palooza at that!  Thank you for everything, you dear, dear people.  Thank you.

Father Who Art

Sin Of Mother Mary

Vera Speaks on iTunes

VeraSpeaks.com
Auntieveracharles@gmail.com
Listener Line: (559) 8 MY VERA – (559) 869-8372
Twitter – Auntievera
Facebook – Vera Charles (Auntie Vera Charles)

P.O. Box 561
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Vera’s Amazon Wish List

Vera Speaks – Show 1082 – Final Friday Edition

It’s the last Friday show.  Voicemails, “Hey Vera! What’s Up?” and much more as we Roll Up The Ribbons and Fold up The Papers.

Father Who Art

Sin Of Mother Mary

Vera Speaks on iTunes

VeraSpeaks.com
Auntieveracharles@gmail.com
Listener Line: (559) 8 MY VERA – (559) 869-8372
Twitter – Auntievera
Facebook – Vera Charles (Auntie Vera Charles)

P.O. Box 561
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Vera’s Amazon Wish List

Vera Speaks – Show 1081 – Fiscutteltits Friday Edition

Voicemails, “Hey Vera! What’s Up?” and Taking A Stand.

Father Who Art

Sin Of Mother Mary

Vera Speaks on iTunes

VeraSpeaks.com
Auntieveracharles@gmail.com
Listener Line: (559) 8 MY VERA – (559) 869-8372
Twitter – Auntievera
Facebook – Vera Charles (Auntie Vera Charles)

P.O. Box 561
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Vera’s Amazon Wish List

Vera Speaks – Show 1080 – Frumbillitits Friday Edition

Voicemails, “Hey Vera! What’s Up?” and Mary’s Pirate Days End.

Father Who Art

Sin Of Mother Mary

Vera Speaks on iTunes

VeraSpeaks.com
Auntieveracharles@gmail.com
Listener Line: (559) 8 MY VERA – (559) 869-8372
Twitter – Auntievera
Facebook – Vera Charles (Auntie Vera Charles)

P.O. Box 561
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Vera’s Amazon Wish List

Vera Speaks – Show 1079 – Fustillity Friday Edition

Voicemails, “Birthday Gift Thank You’s”, and The End Of The Day.

Father Who Art

Sin Of Mother Mary

Vera Speaks on iTunes

VeraSpeaks.com
Auntieveracharles@gmail.com
Listener Line: (559) 8 MY VERA – (559) 869-8372
Twitter – Auntievera
Facebook – Vera Charles (Auntie Vera Charles)

P.O. Box 561
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Vera’s Amazon Wish List

Vera Speaks – Show 1078 – Filldatissue Friday Edition

Voicemails, “Big Announcement”, “Shout Out!”, “Life With Gooch” and James’s Fire.

Father Who Art

Sin Of Mother Mary

Vera Speaks on iTunes

VeraSpeaks.com
Auntieveracharles@gmail.com
Listener Line: (559) 8 MY VERA – (559) 869-8372
Twitter – Auntievera
Facebook – Vera Charles (Auntie Vera Charles)

P.O. Box 561
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Vera’s Amazon Wish List

Vera Speaks – Show 1077 – Fart Friday Edition

Voicemails, “Hey Vera!  What’s Up?”, “Bird Report”, “Memories” and Sarah’s Connection.

Father Who Art

Sin Of Mother Mary

Vera Speaks on iTunes

VeraSpeaks.com
Auntieveracharles@gmail.com
Listener Line: (559) 8 MY VERA – (559) 869-8372
Twitter – Auntievera
Facebook – Vera Charles (Auntie Vera Charles)

P.O. Box 561
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Vera’s Amazon Wish List