“Not a hatchet–an actual ax.”
“Oh. I had heard he used a hatchet. Picturing Mark swinging an ax is even more difficult.”
“Yeah, well he loved Rebecca.”
“Really? You’re saying it’s okay to do what he did because he loved her? I’m not saying the killer should be walking around, but there is a little thing called rule of law. He should’ve had his day in court.”
“Please. You know as well as I do that the system is broken, especially in this case. They gave up.”
“Fine. Either way, I can’t believe it.”
“I know. Apparently when the police told him the trail went cold, Mark just quit his job, sold a bunch of stuff, and secretly tracked down that mother fucker. Search and destroy.”
“I meant that I can’t believe he turned himself in.”
“Really. Now he’s probably going to prison. He had essentially gotten away with murder. And then he turns himself in. It doesn’t make sense.”
“No, it doesn’t. Have you talked to Rick much?”
“Yeah, me neither.”
“Mark called me that morning to ask if I’d help him.”
“I guess he learned pretty quickly who his real friend was.”
“I just have the wife and kids, you know? I can’t get involved in something like unearthing a dead body.”
“You’re right. You are right.”
“Everyone’s saying Rick is something special for risking everything to help Mark though.”
“I’ve heard the same talk.”
“Well, what can you do?”
“Not much anyone can do at this point.”
“Not at this point.”
“Are you sure you want to do this,” Rick began, anxiously. “No one even knows he’s gone.”
Mark just stood there, his hand outstretched and holding a shovel.
“Okay,” Rick said, taking the shovel. “Okay. I said I’d help. So I’m helping,” he said, still talking himself into his decision.
Mark reached into the trunk for a second shovel. He slammed the trunk shut and the men began to walk into the woods.
“How far is it?” asked Rick, turning back to see the car fade from view.
“At least I have my comfortable boots on,” Rick said, trying to make the best of it. “Aw shit,” he said, stepping calf deep into an unexpected puddle.
Mark just rolled his eyes.
Shaking his leg, Rick hurriedly returned to Mark’s side, more worried about the setting sun than a wet boot. He looked around them and noticed the trees were thinning out. About to comment on this, he bumped into Mark who had stopped.
Unaffected, Mark said, “It’s here.”
“Here? Right here? How do you know?”
“Whelp, I guess it’s time to dig,” Rick said as his shovel slid into the earth.
“I guess it is.”
Sweating and feeling like they were making no progress, Rick said, “Jesus, Mark. How deep did you bury him? Are you sure we’re in the right spot?”
Just then Mark struck an object.
“Finally,” said Rick. Without Mark’s cool exterior, Rick would have been terrified to be this deep into the woods at night. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” he asked.
It took everything the two men had to lift the box from the hole, but they did.
As Mark pulled up on his handle, Rick asked, “Aren’t we going to fill in the hole?”
“Nope. They’re going to want to see where he was for themselves.”
Mark began, “Rick-”
“Thanks again for doing this. All the others refused. You’re the only one who understood.”
“You’re welcome. But really, it’s nothing. Everyone can see that you’re a different man since Rebecca was-” Rick stopped himself.
“Sorry. I won’t. But yes, you’re welcome.”
Rick struggled to square the box alongside the car as Mark called the police.
Damyanti, Stephswint, iGamemom, Stuart M. Perkins, Frausto, E.I. Wong, Man of Many Thoughts, theryanlanz, RobertOkaji, Elan Mudrow, Dennis Cardiff, KidazzleInk, Dieter Rogiers, Christine Fichtner, Betsy, Karen, Daedalus, Ron, Drew, David, Joan, Vince, Alex, Joe, Eileen, Elliani, Susan, Greeny, Schoen, Tripp, Andy, Garrett, Shannon, Preston, Janet, Larry, Kate, Sam, (Mike?), Grandma, Grandpa, Noa, and K-: Thank you for reading. Some of you have read every single post, and it seems that the rest of you have read nearly every post. Thank you. You give me your time and that means the world to me. Thank you.
We’re all busy today, but in exchange for two minutes more, I’ll give you guys tomorrow off. Please keep reading.
I have quit every job I have had since leaving the Air Force. The other day I finally figured out why. The reason has to do with time and energy. I gave all my time and all my energy to my singular goal of becoming a hero pilot for the United States of America for over a decade. And now when I unintentionally find myself in front of a news source, I see stuff about ISIS. To be clear, I can’t shake the feeling that I wasted my time and energy. If I believe serving in the Air Force of a country whose way of life is worth defending to the death is a waste, you needn’t read my anti-carwash/anti-customer posts to empathize with how I might feel about working at a carwash. Simply put, I realized I’m once bitten, twice shy as they say.
But through it all it’s been seeing your gravatars at the bottom of the posts that keeps me writing. I don’t think it’s a waste of my time to improve my writing, because I think I have something to say. Whether I do have anything of value to contribute on a large-scale is yet to be seen. What I know is that you make me feel like I might. While this blog is primarily a sounding board, I spend hours making sure I don’t think I’m wasting your time. And I think my writing has improved. I’m especially proud of Piano Practice and there is no way I could’ve written that without two years of your encouragement. Again, thank you.
Next to H- and the Mark Twain Listening Club, this blog is the only other thing I give my full attention to. If your name is in the list above, whether you care or not, know that you are one of my top three reasons to try–to fight–in this life. But there is one name missing.
I met George two years ago. He is a constant source of inspiration. He is as principled a man as I have met, moreover he reads and responds sincerely to every post. I have moved away from nearly every friend I’ve ever had for one reason or another and will not hesitate to admit that I’m scared to ever lose George. Honestly, regarding my writing, his encouragement falls under the “dangerous” category.
To know that someone believes in you is probably the most empowering/powerful feeling we can experience as humans. Only I know how I’ve handled this life, and despite the tone that I’m sure comes through in my words, the great “I Am” knows that the truth is not pretty. But that’s the thing about believing in someone. It’s contagious. I know George believes in me. And that makes me believe in me. That makes me believe that no matter what mistakes–sometimes terrible mistakes–I’ve made, the fight is winnable and worth winning.
Thank you George.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
The only way to get there is together.
His hands never did grow back. Of all the possible reminders of this fact, from eating to drinking, to driving, to making love, the one that bothered him most was hitting the snooze button on his morning alarm. It had been three years since losing Tara and his hands and he figured he’d had to reset that damn clock four hundred times. And while he could still use his nubs to navigate a smart phone or tablet holding one was another issue. For Jim the little things always added up to big things.
The sound of tires rubbing against cement accompanied his turn out of the garage as he backed out onto the dimly lit street before sunrise. After six months the neighbors began to openly question why he visited her grave every day. Leaving before they woke up was his solution. But he knew that they knew he still went.
For a while he tried to explain why he went, but no one would listen. Most people claimed ignorance about such things. They didn’t want to hear words like guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are what drove him to the cemetery though. Guilt for knowing he could’ve saved her. Shame for not saving her because of office politics or some such shit.
They hadn’t any children, so daily visits were the only way he could think to pay his respects and atone for his weaknesses. And the visits worked for the first half of every day. Three minutes into every lunch break, as he finally folded back the flaps of his brown paper lunch sack, though, he could only feel an intense desire to trade places with her. Or join her.
“Speaking of people sounding black or white, I just watched this thing on back-up singers-,” the family matriarch began, steering the conversation in a new direction.
“Yeah, one of my friends mentioned that that is just a fantastic film,” the no-good smart-ass disrespectful-though-very-funny adult middle-child added.
“It really was!” she said earnestly, taking back the floor. “And the surprising part was that a lot of the singers were black and got their start in churches as little girls.”
“Ha. That’s exactly what my friend shared about the film. Funny.”
“Well, what I was going to say was that there was one scene where the girl said that she was singing back-up for Ray Charles. And she told a story about a time when Ray Charles stopped the concert and just played one note over and over again telling her that that was the note to sing. That note,” she said, repeatedly pressing her finger into the table with her eyes open wide in a reenactment of the scene. Laughing, she continued, “And the singer said that after that moment she never missed a note ever again. It was so embarrassing.”
“Crazy,” said the middle-child, voicing the sentiment he felt was expected.
“I mean just think of it. With all that noise and the sound of the crowd he was still able to pick out her voice,” she said, letting a natural pause emphasize her child-like wonder of the skill involved in such a feat.
He lived for moments like this one. Unable to withstand the opportunity, he timed the punchline perfectly as he inhaled with about-to-speak force and added with a tone of disbelief, “And he was deaf!”
“Blind!” the son-in-law corrected forcefully, coming to her defense.
“Blind!” the mother rejoined, happy to be defended but wishing she was faster to correct the constantly instigating know-it-all smart-alec.
Not only quicker on the draw, the son-in-law was also the first to shake his head and leave the table mad at himself for ever believing his brother-in-law had anything of value to say. Everyone else just laughed and laughed. The middle-child just smiled.
As for our storyteller? Her face red as a beet she laughed until she could not laugh anymore as she wondered what she ever did to be treated this way. She would have thrown something at him if everything in the room wasn’t so darn nice.
His name is Becky. I mean Becki.
“See how fast I did that, Peter?” was one of the first things he ever said to me. Then settling down to a serious mood, he continued, “You gotta be fast out here, Peter.”
I could see in his eyes that he cared. That he took extra time to teach me (he’d probably say being fast creates extra time) made me care. Effort is contagious.
“People are always watching out here, Peter. Anytime something needs to be done you gotta do it as fast as you can. I’m twenty-one and going to be a driller soon. It’s ’cause I’m so fast.” Then he would smile and say, “I just love saying your name, Peter.”
Becki should’ve been named a word that means “potential” or maybe “talent.” He was raw potential. His memory was uncanny; his attitude, without burden. He loved his mom and his daughter. And he could swing a sledge hammer as fast as any man. He was not a large man, which meant you had to look close to see that he was all heart.
One of this lightening bolt’s favorite jokes was: “After I’m done I always tell her, ‘I don’t know what the problem is. I mean we started at the same time’.” Like I said, he was fast.
A member of a generation struggling to find their purpose in life, Becki knows he was born for the oil fields. I don’t think Becki’s vocabulary bank accepted struggle currency. Carrying on the binary communication tradition began by previous roughnecks, Becki only recognized the concepts “done” and “one more second.”
In the end, a man like Becki hails from a long tradition of makers. Cormac McCarthy would say these men carry the fire. I say they are the ones who attract our attention, deserve our admiration, and win our affection. Becki just does it faster.
A lazy and depressing morning without H- resulted in a 1/16th mile walk to the local gym. While navigating bushes along the narrow sidewalk, which is dangerously close to a busy street, I saw a woman in fitness gear approaching. “Hmm…maybe she’s cute,” I thought. As the distance between us closed and I proceeded to verify my hope, I heard a car slow beside me. I turned. In the car was a sixty-ish year old woman with her window rolled down, also in fitness gear.
“Do you know where G- park is?” she asked.
“Yep, it’s right before the light that’s a half-mile behind you on the left.”
A confused look slowly began to subside, but not completely. “Where?” she asked again.
“Just make a U-turn here, and right before that stop light back there, take a left. It has a purple playground.”
“Oh. Thanks,” she said, still not confident that she has the skills necessary to make the half-mile journey.
“Actually, wait,” I said, “that’s not G- park. That’s P- park. My mistake.”
Losing color in the same pattern as a water ripple extending from a dropped stone, a new terror spread across her face.
“No worries. G- Park is just across the street from P- park. It’s through the stop light and on the right. It has a lake with geese. Just as easy to get to, though I’m not sure where you’re going to park. I always walk there since I live so close.”
The woman was in a state of despair usually reserved for cataclysmic events like city-wide black-outs, tsunamis, or terrorist attacks. She then asked, “Will you just get in and take me there?”
I think this means I’d make a good confidence man.
Tall. Dark. Handsome. Ken doll. Rico Suave. Fabio. No, I don’t have anything in common with any of those descriptors–especially not Fabio’s luscious locks.
When I write I want the word’s feeling to be the only thing that is measured. I don’t want to be stuck in the horrible situation where people only buy my books because they like the way my face looks. But some of you have been reading for a year now and I know the feeling of “I know it doesn’t matter, but I wouldn’t mind knowing what this person looks like.” So we’ll compromise.
Growing up around bodybuilding, the value of the mirror over the scale was ingrained in me. Rather than attempt to translate mirror-speak into English, however, I think it’ll prove more useful to share what others see. Have you ever noticed how some men just volunteer to the world what they see? Well, it happens to me frequently–especially on the rig. And as you’ll see, I think simply passing these descriptions on to you should give you what you want, while allowing me to retain a level of writing purity.
First up is, “Peter. You’re so innocent looking man.” That was my personal favorite until the more direct, “Peter, how’s it going tonight? Man, you just look like a virgin.” That guy even knew I had a child. Can you imagine how it feels to be complimented so highly, and yet not? Oh well, like I’ve always said, “Once a virgin, always a virgin.”
Still don’t have a clear picture? Try this one. Picture a small rectangular metal room with two doors, one on either end, that normally seal walk-in freezers. There is a loud air conditioner blasting a nearly cool, steady current of air from one end to the other. The four men standing in the room make it seem like adding one more would be impossible, yet it frequently houses a dozen or so. Next, you notice a sudden story-killing change to their mood. Faces start scrunching as searching eyes pull heads along a comprehensive scan pattern. Breaths are taken in through the nose in patterns that echo a hitman’s double-tap. Finally one of the men asks another, “Did you shit your pants?”
Shaking his head no, the accused man looks to the third man whose eyes are already wide as he, in turn, shakes he head in denial. They can’t even imagine I would do such a thing, so I don’t even get asked. That’s right. I have the face of a man who doesn’t fart. Now you know.
As most of you know I am divorced and don’t see my daughter for half of her life. The same goes for her mom. That can’t be changed. But expectations between her mom and I can be changed.
I bet you’d be surprised to learn that her mom reads these posts. I was. I think she hopes she’ll be able to use them against me someday in some melodramatic legal battle. It’s a great feeling, hammering in your own nails.
Most recently, we were in a mediation which had a moment where the mediator gave a look that was accompanied by a primal utterance that betrayed that he thought that paying her boyfriend’s mom $30 per day to watch H- was a deal in today’s “not my responsibility” childcare market. Here’s why it isn’t a deal.
I took H- camping last week and while we were in the bathroom she volunteered, “I saw a man lick a woman’s face on TV.” H- is four. I think at least a few of you can imagine the expression I nearly successfully held back upon hearing this.
I asked if this was at her mom’s house or “Grammy’s” house (not her grandparent on any level, to be clear). Another parenthetical–(now I know you’re not supposed to play detective as a co-parent, but I’m human.) She answered, “Grammy’s.”
“So you watch TV at Grammy’s house, eh?” I continued.
“Was it while she was flipping channels?”
Even at her tender age H- has a way of seeing through any attempt of mine to pretend that I’m really not interested in the answer, so she simply resorted to, “Nevermind!”
What the fuck? Television is a poison beyond measure. Does anyone doubt this? And yet a wonderful feature of my choice in ex-wives is that now my child is being raised by it when I’m not around. And I’m supposed to be happy about the financial savings. Whatever happened to the phrase, “There is more to life than money”?
What am I supposed to do? The other option is to track down some fantastical daycare which allows her to attend only half of every month. My experience in this realm is that this is not likely. And daycares that don’t cost a fortune usually are religiously affiliated. Keep in mind that as the father, I’m paying for childcare not for when I’m at work, but for when her mother’s at work. I’m paying other people than her mother to raise her. So my options are face licking or bible stories. At this point I think I’d take bible stories, but I have a difficult time understanding why a television is ever on. I know I’m not alone on this. I spoke with a stay-at-home dad (still married) a while ago, and he said he was at some function where they were discussing how many hours of television they let their kids watch a week. He said, “An hour.”
The others said, “Wow. An hour a day. That’s great.”
And he said, “No, an hour a week. Maybe.”
They said, “How do you fill the time?”
He said, “How do you have the time?”
How do you have the time to watch television with a kid? Why would you put a kid in front of the “boob tube?” Or the “brain drain?” I know why. You do it because you’re lazy. You do it because you rush to help people that behave in a way that seems like they need help when they are really just lazy. I’ve said it so many times I’m sick of hearing myself say it, but I’ll say it again. I grew up thinking the opposite of love was hate. Then I heard the notion that the opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness–and I preached that. These days, however, I’m with M. Scott Peck who wrote that the opposite of love is laziness.
Do you love your child? What’s it like finding out that she’ll admit these things to me?
It should be Miss P-, by the way. P- is not her grandmother. Words have meanings. Why your mom doesn’t care is beyond me.
Lance wore sunglasses inside. That was the first thing I noticed about him. Second, he had the ability to achieve perfect clarity in directions. He destroyed meetings. Management guru Peter Drucker would’ve been proud. Who hasn’t been in meetings whose end is marked by the sound of shuffling fabric accompanied by whispers containing sentiments like, “So, what are we doing now?” Lance was a meeting destroyer. It really was something to behold.
He was also a man who loved to laugh. I’m talking about joy here people! When the man wasn’t modeling the art of focusing a group of men on a singular action, behind those sunglasses Lance was just itching to break out in laughter. He embodied these qualities in a way that was generally reserved for the most likable characters in great novels.
Now, history is full of men who have tried to categorize men like Lance, their point being to take away or re-allocate the credit. Their efforts proceed to pigeonhole men like Lance into being nothing more than the result of their circumstances, but I refuse to believe it. There was only one source, one natural spring from whence flowed the strength and skill, the judgement and wisdom that Lance displayed day-in and day-out. That source, of course, was Lance. The casual observer had no claim on Lance. Lance was the one who had to wake up every morning. He was the one who sat for a moment on the edge of a bed and stared out at the same equal-parts-bleak-and-bright world as he pulled his pants on one leg at a time. He was the one who reached for his boots as he decided what kind of man he wanted to be; what kind of father, what kind of leader. He was the one who everyone looked to for direction during the meeting before work began, and rather than buckling under the pressure or taking the road more traveled, which is paved with pride and foolhardiness, he was the one who on cue said, “Guys, today we’re going to run waa’d effin’ op’n.” He was the one whose example ensured the work got done. He was Lance.