Archives for April 2015

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The Prisoner

Captured by Confederates

Gilbert Gaul


The Prisoner

On the second of March, 1864, General Kilpatrick hand-picked me as one of the four thousand men bound for a raid on Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States of America.

I’m sure one reason the general picked me is my size. At six feet three inches tall, I tower over most other soldiers, Union or Confederate. It certainly wasn’t for my fighting ability, as it is common knowledge throughout the ranks I don’t believe in killing, and will only do so to save myself. I had made this abundantly clear at the battle of Salem Church.

As much as I hate killing a fellow human, I must admit my instinct for self-preservation is stronger than any conscious belief I hold. I was responsible for three casualties during the battle of Salem Church. At various heated moments, I had at least a half dozen Rebs lined up in my rifle sights, but never pulled the trigger. That was my conscious choice. But when their division ripped out of the thick woods uttering that horrifying Rebel Yell and one Reb headed for me with his bayonet fixed at my midsection, I had no choice. I knocked his rifle aside and drove my bayonet into his gut, trying not to pay any mind to that dreadful tearing sound of steel penetrating flesh and the scream of the recipient. Even in my dreams, that combination of sounds is the most horrendous I’ll ever hear. It wasn’t until after I’d done the deed that I saw the face of a 14-year-old on the end of my rifle. My knees wobbled, realizing I had just killed a – boy.

All of a sudden there were three more Rebels running toward me. I yanked the bayonet free, shuddering at the sucking sound the blade made when exiting living flesh. I don’t remember how I did it, but I killed all three Rebs, one after another. Stretched out on the earth around me were four dead confederates.  I didn’t like my responsibility in the matter, but like I said, sometimes instinct dominates choice. Felt terrible about killing three men and a boy, especially when I witnessed the rags hanging from their bony bodies and imagined the hardship they must have endured.  I said a little prayer for them and hoped they found peace beyond the pearly gates, but I had promised my wife and son I would return to them, the one promise I intended to keep.

My comrades weren’t fond of the fact that I never fired a shot at the Rebs, but when I killed the four during the battle at Salem Church, it made up for my previous lack of enthusiasm. No one said squat about me neglecting my duty to kill as many enemy troops as I could. But no matter what anyone did or didn’t say, I still saw my duty differently. While I have my sympathies with Mr. Lincoln and don’t set any store by slavery, I believed us soldiers were pawns in a game played by rich men. The common soldier had little to gain from this war, or to correct myself, the Union soldiers had little to gain. As far as the Rebels go, they were defending their homeland and their way of life, however wrong, from the invaders. That the invaders represented the United States the Confederates once belonged to, was beside the point, and I couldn’t blame them for this. I’d do the same if someone invaded my home and told me what to do.

As the battle progressed, we surged forward by degrees and assaulted the Confederates, who retreated to the woods. Several times we pressed forward, and were repulsed each time. The rebels counterattacked in a grim push forward and gained ground in the morning. They viciously defended their homeland, and by nightfall, we withdrew, exhausted and beaten, across two pontoon bridges at Scott’s Dam under a harassing artillery fire. There were over five thousand casualties during this skirmish.

I asked myself, “Why?”

Ten months of quiet had passed while our army resupplied and got replacements for those killed and wounded. My nightmares of running my bayonet into that boy were getting less frequent. Chosen to go into battle again, I thought about deserting, but I just couldn’t dishonor my father’s name by doing that. I also thought of my son, and if he ever found out I had deserted, what would he think of me.

On February 28th, Kilpatrick led us towards Richmond along the Virginia Central Railroad, tearing up the tracks as we marched. We reached the outskirts of the city on March 1st and The Rebs fought so hard, we had to retreat.

Kilpatrick singled me out to carry a dispatch to the other force that was to attack Richmond from the rear. I headed for the woods to circle around the city and hoped to find the Union force in command of the backside of Richmond. When I got there, the Union army had already retreated. There was nothing for me to do now but try to return to Kilpatrick’s forces.

Walking through the woods I heard voices. I stealthily approached to see who it was. To my surprise, it was an old man with a woman who appeared to be his daughter, with two young boys around five and six years old. She was crying and telling her father they needed to find food soon, or her boys would die. They had a roaring fire going, and I envied them for that. She took the boys shirts off to dry them by the fire, and I saw how skinny they were; every rib showed.

I had a good supply of provisions with me and wanted to share with these poor starving folks. If I showed my face they would raise an alarm, and I’d get captured. Capture was a death sentence because they put you in a prison and forgot to feed you. I guess they couldn’t be blamed for that. Their own soldiers were starving, so how can you take food from them to feed POW’s?

The boys were crying, “Mommy I’m hungry.” I thought of my son going hungry, and if it were someone else in my position I’d want him to give whatever help he could.

That made up my mind, I shouted to them, “Hello.” The old man picked up his rifle and wanted to know, “who’s there?” I told him I had food to share, but he needed to put his rifle down. He looked at the two starving boys and made his decision. He laid his rifle on the ground. I approached; handed the woman my backpack with the provisions in it. There were hardtack and biscuits, a feast for all of them. They ate like starving animals.

I sat by the fire while they ate. Soon the woman came to thank me for being so generous. I told her about my son, and how if the situation were reversed I’d hope that a Reb. would feed my son. Being a mother she understood this. She offered to have me spend the night by their fire. I accepted and was soon sleeping.  When I awoke I heard her arguing with her father, but tired, I soon slept again.

In the morning as I drank a cup of hot water the old man burst into the clearing with two Rebel soldiers. He had gone to fetch them last night, and that was what the argument was all about. I was caught flatfooted and couldn’t resist. They searched me looking for weapons and found the dispatches.

The woman tried her best to get them to release me, but once they read the dispatches, release was out of the question. Papers I carried ordered the burning of Richmond, and the assassination of President Davis and his cabinet. Southerners claimed that the North was initiating a war of extermination. From Lincoln on down everybody denied having any knowledge of these papers. When I said, I didn’t know what was in them. No one believed me.

Sent to a prisoner of war camp, I couldn’t believe what went on. There were thousands upon thousands of men living in a compound surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers with sharpshooters in each tower. Upon entering the camp, I was attacked by a crowd of desperate starving men. Lucky for me, I still had my strength and could fight them off.  These men who attacked me were union soldiers like me.

There were gangs of prisoners who would rob and beat other prisoners, taking any food they might have, and anything else of value. Why they’d even yank a gold tooth out of a living prisoner if they saw one. Desperate men do desperate things I knew, but this savagery was unbelievable. Even the water flowing through the camp had to be purchased from the gangs.

They surrounded the water, and wouldn’t let anybody approach without paying a bribe.

There was a line drawn around the perimeter of the camp – five feet inside the barbed wire. Anyone who crossed this line would be shot dead by the sharpshooters in the towers. Many of the prisoners, when they could take no more abuse, would purposely step over that line. The shooters always obliged them.

The weeks and months went by; I was too weak to defend myself from the gangs by now. They had taken all my belongings, even the picture of my wife and son. I started to think the time for me to cross that line was near.

Unknown to me, the woman and children I had given my food to in the woods that day were relatives of General Lee, and he had given her the authority to have me exchanged to the North. She came to the prison camp the next day looking for me. If only I had known.

The next morning I went and stood by the line as I had been doing every day for a week now, trying to get the courage to just step across it. I watched as men would cross and be instantly shot in the head. It was quick, and I believed a quick, painless death was preferable to slow demeaning starvation. I was standing there trying to decide when I heard a woman shout, “there he is, bring him here.” I stumbled as I turned to see her and fell across the line. The last thing I saw was the face of the woman from the woods. (End)



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Cryonic Man

Cryonic Man, A Paranormal Affair

A Paranormal affair

#129 Save The Bear.


My nose is running like a raging river, my eyes burn like they’re on fire, my body aches and I can hardly walk. All because I was stupid enough to come to Chicago where it’s so cold, the zoo had to take its Polar Bear inside so it wouldn’t freeze.

Like a fool, I thought I was immune and wanted to show I was tougher than that wimpy bear. Now I’m paying for my mistake by hosting a viral disease called a cold and wishing I’d of been as smart as that Polar Bear. But when I struck a match and the blue and orange flames dance at the end of my fingers, I forget about the cold.

I lose myself and feel free at the sight of flames, be they roaring fires, or a match flame makes no difference. When I see the colors and smell the fire scent, I get a tingling between my legs that feels so darn good, I can never replicate it. Firebug, pyromaniac, is what I’ve been called by those who don’t understand how good it feels when I light a fire. In the past, I had no control and started fires whenever the urge hit me. As I got older, I used my talent for financial gain.

I let it be known in the right circles that if a business was failing or being investigated by the IRS, that a fire started by me for a fee could solve most problems like this. Soon I became teeming with jobs and had to raise my fire price. I’ve done well and no longer need to work, but continue for fun.

This job would be pro-bono because I wanted to see if I could accomplish what no other arsonist in history has done, set the Chicago River on fire. There was no insurance on the river, but there is a large wager that said it couldn’t be done. So instead of a fee, I bet a large sum it could.

Used as a dumping ground by all the manufacturing plants lining the river, it has been declared a fire hazard because of the large accumulation of magnesium, sodium, and calcium phosphide. I studied the composition of Greek fire and knew many of the ingredients were distributed throughout the river. All I need is a way to ignite the river, and I’d win the bet.

Fire needs three things to burn: Fuel, heat, and oxygen. I mixed my chemicals, some sodium, and hydrogen peroxide together. The water would provide the oxygen when I dumped it into the river, and it would burst into flame and ignite the entire 156 mile river.

At midnight, I parked my rented truck on the Lake Street Bridge and dumped the load of chemicals into the river. Flames sprouted from the water almost touching the bridge. I wondered if the immense heat could melt the bridge. I scurried to the river bank where I had a safer view of the flames licking at the night sky.

It instantly warmed the air and for the first time in weeks, Chicago’s temperature rose above zero degrees. When I watched the flames rush up and down the river, I felt the tingling between my legs like I never felt it before. Emergency vehicles soon lined the banks of the river. The more water they sprayed on the fire, the higher the flames rose.

The sight caused me to convulse with delight. A fire inspector familiar with the reactions of pyromaniacs observed me and had me arrested for arson. All I’d say is I want a lawyer. Eventually, one came to see me and for a substantial amount promised to get me set free. I agreed. We went before a judge in the morning, and charges against me setting the river on fire were read.

My lawyer jumped to his feet. “Your honor, under the constitution my client as a citizen has the right to light a fire to get warm.”

“Not a 156 mile long fire,” the prosecutor interjected.

“Look at the good the fire has done,” my lawyer said. “It has burned many of the pollutants in our water and has raised the temperature throughout the city. Why even the polar bear has left the inside and is now back outdoors at the zoo. So you see judge, my client should be commended instead of condemned by this tribunal.”

“If the bear is outside, I agree,” the judge said. “Your client should be set free and given a reward for what he has done.”

Released, treated as a hero, and given a key to the city, I went to visit the polar bear. It swam in ice cold water. What would happen to it if I dumped a bag of sodium and hydrogen peroxide into the water? I imagined the yellow flames and the white bear swimming in them. The tingling between my legs started and I couldn’t stop myself. I had to see the white bear swimming in a sea of orange flames. I made a list of chemicals I’d need and I’d return at night when the white fur against blue and orange flames would be most beautiful.


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#128 Lost My Muse

#128 Lost My Muse


Van Gogh cut off his ear to give to his muse. What was I to do? I had lost mine and as an artist my career was over unless I could get her to return. Last summer I rented a cottage on a lake surrounded by trees much older than I, hoping to find her in that place where a saw mill stood. With the singing saw slicing through newly downed trees, I hoped a recently released forest nymph may find a home with me.

I brought canvases and paint in the hope I’d create, but though I prayed, everything remained blank. One midnight when the moon was almost full; I took a stroll and found myself deep in the woods. Though the moonlight lit the trail, I soon got lost, and fear crept up my back.

The saw sang throughout the night, I heard a wolf howling at the moon. That brought back memories of childhood fear, and I began to shake. Then I saw her lithely bounding through the woods. The nymph I’d been searching for. I ran after her, and when she stopped, I timidly approached. She sniffed the air and didn’t run.

I softly touched her exquisite skin. She kissed my hand and then ran her tongue over my salty ,sweat stained face. I massaged her temples and then her chest with both hands. It came to me then; creative juices ran through me. I’d found my muse.

I led her to where my empty canvases stood and filled them with colorful shapes I’d never seen or imagined before. Daybreak sent heavenly rays through the dreary night sky with incredible light surrounding my freshly painted canvases showing visions of loveliness I painted during the night.

Then I realized she was no longer there. My creativity dried up at the thought of her not watching over me. Instinct told me she was a creature of the night, and I’d have to paint by moonlight for her to guide me.

I prepared for a painting frenzy and could hardly wait until night to bring out the momentous talent she granted me. Imagining her running through the woods, I wanted to tell her in the name of love I worshiped her and dwelled on our future possibilities.

I waited without a trace of her and prayed that I’d see her face so I could be an artist again. Promising the powers above that I’d be faithful, and my heart belonged to only her. I began to paint with my blood. She stood before me, the woman of my nightmares whom I’ve always dreaded, with my heart in hater hand. She’d eat me alive if given the chance.

I reached for my heart. She cut off my hands with a glance and placed my still beating heart in her mouth, swallowing it with a gulp.  She smiled at me with blood stained lips.

Since that night, my heart isn’t in painting, and I can no longer hold a brush with stumps. I’m now an empty, heartless shell of an artist who lost not only my heart and hands, but my mind while searching for a muse who turned out to be Freddy Krueger’s sister.



Louise, Louise


#127 Louise, Louise.


Louise wasn’t much to look at when I first met her. But she grew to be beautiful, and her reddish blond hair was so soft to the touch I could hardly keep my hands off. We grew close. Very close, until one day we were at the beach, and she played with another and ran off through eddies and monstrous waves without fear in any way. I couldn’t believe she’d be so fickle.

I cried out, “Please, please, Louise, don’t leave me alone. This isn’t one of the games we played during sunny days when we frolicked outside. Those days are permanently cemented into my brain. Your love of birds showed me your natural side. When you swam with graceful strokes, my heart almost broke though I never spoke while I watched you frolic in the bay.

“You know Louise that when I see one reminding me of you, my heart may cease to beat if you’re not here by my side. Louise, Louise, please don’t leave or ever die. Loving you is the only reason I’ve got to stay alive.

“When I gaze into your soft brown eyes, I can’t forget the good times we’ve had. If you get taken away by a giant wave or another man, and leave me alone, I’ll be brought to my knees and never survive without your warm body next to mine. I’ll never love another brown eyed girl like you.

“Louise, Louise, please stay? My love for you is stronger than my love of life, and I want you to know, if you drown and go on down to Davy Joneses Locker, or find another, I’ll probably die. Some say because you’re a mutt, I could easily get another, but you’ve captured my heart, and I’ll never give it to another. You’re the only dog I’ll ever love.”



War. What is it good for?

Q: War. What is it good for?

Ethics War & Conflict History

War as Creative Destruction Editors’ pick

54dc1c1ea73e36808001608e113cbb17 normalPeter Turchinscientist and author, Connecticut Science




From the heart of all matter
Comes the anguished cry –
‘Wake, wake, great Shiva,
Our body grows weary
Of its law-fixed path,
Give us new form.
Sing our destruction,
That we gain new life . . .’

—Rabindranath Tagore

Shiva, the god of destruction and war, is one of the most important deities in Hinduism. Why did people belonging to many (perhaps even most) world civilizations worship war gods? Because war, horrible as it is, can be creative.

In some Hindu traditions, Shiva is purely a god of war and destruction—Shiva the Destroyer as opposed to Brahma the Creator and Vishnu the Preserver. But in others, he is both the destroyer and the creator. The creative aspect of Shiva was explained by the Swiss historian Jacob Burhardt in this way:

Not without cause do the Indians worship Shiva, the God of destruction. Filled with the joy of destruction, wars clear the air like thunderstorms, they steel the nerves and restore the heroic virtues, upon which states were originally founded, in place of indolence, double-dealing and cowardice.

This may sound like so much mystical claptrap. Death and destruction are all-too-real results of war; how can war be creative?

But think of complex human societies, with elaborate governance structures and large differentials in wealth and power. The ruling elites of these states, both ancient and modern, concentrate a lot of power in their hands. What’s to prevent them from using this power for their own benefit, rather than the benefit of the society as a whole? The surprising answer is, war.

There is a principle in Sociology known as the Iron Law of Oligarchy, first proposed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in 1911. It says that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic their origins, will inevitably develop into oligarchies. Michels studied the inner workings of socialist parties and labor movements, in which both the leaders and the rank-and-file professed a strong belief in equality and democracy. In practice, however, as the leaders accumulated power, they began subverting democratic procedures. Power corrupts.

Over the last three or four decades, the gulf between the wealthy one percent and the other 99 percent has been deepening, even (and particularly) in Western democracies. And, as many social commentators have pointed out, this trend resulted in our societies becoming less democratic, less responsive to the wishes of the 99 percent.

The tendency of large-scale, complex societies to inevitably become more unequal and despotic with time, however, couldn’t have run uninterrupted for the last 5,000 years, when such societies first appeared. If it did, by now the inequality would have reached its logical limit: one Supreme Leader owning everything and the rest of us owning nothing. Something prevents the Iron Law of Oligarchy from running to this extreme.

That something is war. War can take different forms. Internal war, such as a peasant uprising, may temporarily reverse the inexorable trend to greater inequality if old elites are overthrown. The new elites, for a while, may be less grasping and more likely to pursue popular policies. But most peasant uprisings fail because the established elites are too powerful to be displaced easily.

External wars—that is, conflicts between sovereign states—are another matter. Inequality destroys cooperation, and despotic states lose the capacity to mobilize their populations in life-and-death struggle against external rivals. The relative advantage, enjoyed by more egalitarian and more internally cooperative states, is how democracy spreads. In Ancient Greece, for example, democratic poleis mobilized large armies of citizen-soldiers and defeated oligarchic city-states.

Following the French Revolution, a more recent wave of democratization occurred as competition and rivalry between European states increased; these states found they could only survive by raising massive citizen armies. Because such armies require cooperation from the throngs of non-elites, rulers were forced to introduce democratic forms of governance and extend voting rights to an ever-increasing proportion of the population. It is not a coincidence that all extensions of franchise in the United States, for example, were introduced during or immediately after major wars.

In a recent best-seller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Tomas Piketty argues that capital (and inequality) should always become more concentrated. But, as he acknowledges, there was one period when the reverse was true, between 1914 and 1945. This period saw two hugely destructive World Wars in addition to major revolutions in Turkey, Russia, and China.

So perhaps Shiva-worshippers got it right. War is one form of creative destruction. Just as competition in the marketplace weeds out the inefficient firms, competition in the international arena weeds out dysfunctional states—those too unequal and despotic to sustain the basic cooperation needed to survive.

This is not to argue that wars are good. I hope that the humanity will eventually evolve to the point where we can abolish wars and all the misery they cause. But when we do it, we will still need an engine of creative destruction to prevent runaway accumulation of power and wealth by the few, and to weed out dysfunctional societies that lost their ability to cooperate.

#126 Species War


#126 Species War

I felt it crawling over my face. Its antennae tickled my right eye. Opening my left eye, I saw a giant roach with a sack of eggs as big as she sitting on the bridge of my nose. I didn’t move because I didn’t want to frighten her and cause her to drop the sack with her babies in it. Slowly I raised my upper body and leaned over so she could abandon my nose for the pillow I held up to my face. She jumped and scurried across the white linen. I saw how beautiful a pregnant roach could be.

Unlike others on the lowest rung of the pay scale, I enjoyed getting up at the crack of dawn or before to create a story or a poem that paid less than minimum wage. When I saw what I wrote grew and grew. I believed I had a muse, putting words into my brain, and my computer screen became full and said things I’d never heard before. The resurrected words I used are from the graveyard where unused words got sent when they were no longer in any contemporary use among humans. I say that, because a thought flashed through my mind that insects continued to use the abandoned words. I didn’t know they used words at all.

My apartment was a no kill zone for insects of any kind, and I believed they knew it. That’s why we co-existed without harming one another. When I caught a newcomer, I’d draw a letter with glow in the dark paint on it, to save it from getting squashed when I walked the floors during the dark nights. In a dream I learned to do this, but sometimes I think it was telepathy from the insect world?

An intuitive feeling told me in order to make my words come to life; I should shut out the lights, align my painted friends in rows and film them moving about with their glowing letters. Doing this I discovered that they create words I never saw before. In a year roaches and spiders were communicating with letters written on their backs and spelled in a language they fashioned. Insects learned where I kept my fluorescent paints and emptied the cans by writing many words. They soon learned how to make their colors, and every bug carried a letter on its back, so there was always more than enough of the alphabet when they lined up to spell out a word.  Learning their language, I discovered how to communicate with all bugs and told everyone I knew.

Disbelief met my claim. To prove I was right, I wrote signs in the language of the bugs asking them to show up at the town square at noon. I put the signs all over town. At noon, the ground, trees, and sky fill with insects answering my plea. Now I’d be believed I thought, until I saw the exterminating trucks arriving.

“Go home, go home,” I shouted to the bugs. They dispersed but were overcome by chemical sprays. “Stop, stop spraying,” I shouted, but was ignored as thousands upon thousands of my friends were murdered before my eyes. I lost control. I attacked and killed one man spraying poison on the bugs.

“Attack,” I told the bugs. The flying hornets swarmed in and disrupted the spraying. Those crawling on the ground hurried to cover the men from head to toe. It was war, bugs vs. man. The numbers showed only ten men dead vs. thousands of bugs dead. The nation was horrified that insects attacked and killed 10 Americans. The President without thinking it through declared “War on Bugs.”

“That was a mistake,” his Secretary of State said. “The insect populations are enormous, and they occupy virtually every ecological niche of land on earth. For every person there are 200 million insects, and they can lift things hundreds of times their weight.”

The sky filled with giant hornets, bees and winged insects I never saw before. As far as the eye could see, columns of ants approached the city and from the walls of buildings, roaches, spiders, and others bugs joined in the assault. Human resistors were overwhelmed by so many bugs landing and crawling on them. Insects would win the war because they’d co-ordinate their attacks and overwhelm humans. Because I taught them how to use words, the old saying, “The word is mightier than the sword” would be proven true.








#125 A Doggy Kiss Creates Oxytocin


#125 A Doggy Kiss creates Oxytocin

I went into a local store to buy supplies for a hike in the woods. When I told the shopkeeper where I was going, he warned, “There are man-eating animals in those woods, and they’re not the kind you’d expect.”

“I have no fear of wild animals because I’ve got a gun and will kill any that attacks me.”

I left the store, my purchase of trail food and ammo complete. When I stopped in the woods, the sun hid, the wind blew, tree branches waved beckoning me to come on into the foreboding darkness surrounding trees. For the first time I felt a cold ball of fear in my belly.

My first uncertain step sent fire shooting up my legs. Never felt that before. My feet were mashed like the yolks of eggs under my 200 pounds of pounding weight. Must be the fear, or could it be that my brain hadn’t received its hormonal feast and was in dire need to achieve uplifting endorphins known as oxytocin?

I trudged on regardless of the burn and despair because I learned to survive when married before. I heard noise off in the dark woods, I checked that there were bullets in my rifle.

Out of nowhere came a ball of brown fur with a deep-throated growl, causing the hairs on my arms and legs to rise defensively as it surged toward me. I stopped, braced for the attack, and got ready to drop the fur-ball that rushed at me in the first round with a bullet to the brain.

Not understanding why the universe sent an animal to get me, like some branch of a star it wanted retrieved. In these haunted woods where there were supposedly so many vicious beasts,  I stood ready and yelled, “Come on, swine, I’ll send you to an early grave.”

Was the animal stalking me a supernatural beast sent to haunt the forest as the storekeeper warned? Could it be a werewolf I’ve heard so much about?

I began to sweat and my rifle shook as I took aim at the ball of fur charging toward me. Aimed my gun, squeezed the trigger, when to my surprise, I saw the ferocious animal I was about to kill was only an overgrown pup. So I set my gun down. The dog leaped at me and kissed me right on my lips.

To my surprise, my oxytocin flowed from down below. The sun came out, the wind ceased to blow, and the burning fear in my stomach vanished like yesterday’s sun because I was loved by an unknown dog that merely wanted to play with me. This was a gift sent from somewhere, and I say, “Thank you for the taste of joy and for letting a dog kiss me with only love in its heart.”

I went back to the store to show the man there was nothing to fear because the animal running in the woods was just a loving dog. When we walked in the door, the storekeeper’s face contorted in terror. He pulled a rifle from under the counter and pointed it at me.

“Calm down,” I said. “I simply wanted to show you what’s in the woods.”

“Why’d you bring the monster here?” he said.

I saw he was about to pull the trigger, so I shot first and blew a hole in his face before he fell to the floor. I turned to calm the dog. It had grown bigger than a polar bear with teeth longer and sharper than my Bowie knife.

“You deceived me,” I said, “and because of you, I’ve killed a man.”

The giant dog changed into a woman that suited me and she put her arms out, waiting for an embrace, but I knew better because I’ve been married twice.

“It was self-defense,” she said. “He was about to shoot you and me.” She took my hand, and the oxytocin flowed again. I dropped my gun and put my arms around her, put my lips to her face. She nibbled on my neck. Her teeth sank into it, the storekeepers words, “There are man-eating animals in those woods,” sunk in as deep as her teeth, all the while my brain on oxytocin said, “She only wants to smooch,and then she took a big bite.

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#124 It’s in the Contract


#124 It’s in the Contract

I knew I’d hit bottom as my face scraped across the cement, and my guitar ricocheted off my back when the bouncer tossed me and it out the back door.

The muscular guy wearing a black tee-shirt said, “Don’t even think about coming back.”

“Damn, you’ve ruined my Gucci Shirt,” I said as blood dripped from my damaged face to the shirt I bought at the thrift Store yesterday. “Don’t you know my brain is in pain from pharmaceuticals I take to add meaning to life?”

“That my friend is your problem,” the bouncer said.

“But after I swallow a few pretty pink pills, I’m not myself. Like a lycanthrope changing when the moon is full, I turn into a monster that nobody likes or wants to be around.”

“You’ve got that right, Asshole. Nobody wants you around here.” He pulled the door shut.

Alone in a dark alley my mind wandered, and I wondered if I’d rather die than go through life with a mind that’s not really mine? I sensed movement in the dark, picked up my guitar and held it in a batting stance ready to hit whatever was moving through the dark towards me.

“Did I hear you say, ‘lycanthrope?’” A sweet feminine voice asked.

“Who’s there?” Her voice sounded safe, but I would not put my guitar down until I was sure.

“I can dispel your curse if that’s your problem.”

She came close, and I saw her glowing golden eyes set in a nicely formed face.

“That’s not it. Like a slug in a whiskey jug, I don’t remember much.”

“I can help you with that,” she said and her eyes seemed to brighten the closer she got.

Set my guitar by my side and buried my face in my hands. “No one can understand what I’m going through. I can’t remember when I’ve had my last meal, my last piece, or even my last love. I’m unsure where my memory of past delights during the silent nights has gone. I’ve forgotten how to wonder where I’ve been or where I’m going.”

She took my hand in hers. I felt her knife like fingernails dig into my flesh.

“I remember when in November,” she said. “You had a rock and roll record on top of the charts.”

“I did, but it took a precarious drop and now I’ve forgotten that time when people desired me, and I became tired of the acclaim and told security to keep my admirers away.”

“Fame is an illusion. If you love your music and play what you want is what’ll make your life worth living.”

“Of all the tunes I loved, Cocaine was the one I always sang and while I rocked and rolled, cocaine took a heavy toll on my soul. Now with a face that’s out of place wherever I go, it shows how I’ve lived my life. Though I’m never quite sure, I figure I’m only forty-four, yet when my image reflects in a window or mirror, I think I look like I’m a hundred and four.”

“I can change that, for a price.”

When she uttered those words, a burst of bright light surrounded her, and the alley became illuminated. I raised my guitar in a defensive stance when I saw her minions standing on two feet like humans. Covered with brown fur, they had long sharp looking teeth that snapped together like wild animals’ fangs.

“I don’t really mind looking 104. Nice meeting you.” I attempted to run, but hairy arms wrapped around me and lifted me from the ground.

“I need you to sign on the dotted line. Then I’ll fix everything.”

“I’m not signing anything,” I said and struggled to free myself from the vise-like arms that held me.

She came close, put her hand to her lips and blew softly. Powdered cocaine floated from her hand to my nose and mouth. I tried to resist, but out of long habit, I couldn’t and sucked it in. A kaleidoscope of colors filled the alley. I floated on a cloud.

A sunbeam shining in my eyes awoke me. I had my arm around my guitar, and it took a while before I remembered being thrown out of the bar. Then I remembered the woman. That must have been a dream. I banged on the door I had been thrown out of. The owner opened it.

“Wha . . .” he stared hard at me.

“I just want to wash the blood off of my face,” I said.

He stared, intently.

“Come on; let me clean up a bit?”

He held the door open for me without saying a word.

I went into the John and washed my face. While drying it, I looked into the mirror and dropped the paper towel. Staring at my reflection I couldn’t believe I was looking at a young Jimmy Hendricks. I grabbed my guitar and played, “Hey Joe.” My fingers flew over the strings, and I sounded better than Jimmy ever did.

“I heard you play in there and it sounded great. Will you play here tonight?” The owner asked.

I hesitated because my head was in a whirl. How did this happen? The woman in the alley said she’d fix my face so I wouldn’t look 104. She never said anything about changing my color or giving me a musical gift. The owner took my silence to mean I wanted more than he usually paid.

“Okay.” “I’ll give you a hundred bucks to play for three hours tonight.”

This from the guy who had me bounced last night. “No,” I said.

“Make it $200 then.” He pulled two bills from his pocket.

I reached for them because to me; that was a lot of money. Turns out $200 was chicken-feed because after playing at that dive for a few nights word got around that a Jimmy look alike sang there and played as good as Jimmy ever did. A few nights later I recorded an album that shot to the top in a week. Rolling in money, I bought plenty of cocaine and brought home different girls every night.

One night I played in the club where I started as a Jimmy lookalike, I floated through misty air from snorting coke, and I saw her, the lady from the alley. Was I imagining her again? She held a paper in her hand that she shoved in front of my face.

“Contract,” it said in large print. The rest was too small to read. “I need your signature.”


She laughed. I felt a hairy arm around my neck, and my face scraped the ground as I was thrown out the back door into the dark alley again. “You can’t do this, I’m famous now,” I shouted.

“You now look 144.” She held up a mirror and light emanated from her so I could see.

I peered into the mirror and saw a bald head with a dried, wrinkled face so ugly I cried.

“I can fix that for a price,” she said. “All you need to do is sign on the dotted line.”

“I’m not signing anything,” I said.

“You’re a slow learner,” she blew cocaine in my direction.

Unable to resist I sucked it in and reality became unreal. I floated through space and came to a place where a raucous chorus filled the sky with voices and instruments that clashed like a pink and purple suit.

She was there holding the contract for me to sign and beside her stood Dinah Washington, who sang, All because of You.

I’ve always loved Dinah, so I put an arm around her and sang, “Black and Blue is how I feel.”

“Sign here so you can have Secobarbital and amobarbital to share with Dinah,” the alley lady said and shoved the contract toward me.

“I told you, I’m not signing anything.” She looked at me with disbelief written all over her face. Then I saw Rudy from the Drifters. “Hey man, how’s it going?” I said.

“You holding?” he asked.

“Sign here, sign here,” she said. “If you do it’ll rain heroin for you and Rudy.” She put a pen in my hand. Rudy nodded his head, and he salivated like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

 Before I made a move, a song broke out behind me, Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Frankie Lymon sang and looked to the sky to see if it rained heroin yet. Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison looked to the sky too and then looked at me as though asking why I didn’t sign to start the rain.

“Sorry guys,” I said. “Cocaine’s my bag.”

“Right on,” Ike Turner said and put his arm around my shoulders. “Sign the damn thing and make it rain cocaine.”

“My Man.” I high-fived Ike. He gazed at the contract, the pen in my hand and turned his blazing eyes on me.

“Whatcha waiting for? Make it rain cocaine.”

“But you’re all dead,” I said. “I’m not ready for that yet. I want a wife and kids before I go.”

Trumpets blew, and laughter filled the air as I fell through space and once again woke up in the alley behind the bar. How old was I now? Would I ever have a wife and kids? What was in the contract that woman wanted me to sign? Laughter filled the alley, and her glowing persona floated down from above.

“Sign here and you can have a wife and kids,” she said.

“That’s what I want more than living in the heaven of fame with musicians like me who loved their drugs until they died.” I signed the contract. She laughed and laughed. “What’s so funny?” I asked.

“I offered you fame and fortune, but you just sold your soul for something any man can have.” She settled on the ground took my arm to help me stand. “I’ll be your wife and they’ll,” she pointed to her hairy minions, “will be your kids.”

I wasn’t to upset until her metamorphism showed me she had long teeth, was hairy, and now I knew why her eyes were yellow and glowed in the dark like a wolf’s. Her hairy minions were really her pups. The full moon lit the alley and at that instant I howled with her and our cubs because it was in the contract.






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