Short stories.

Is Reality Real?

I asked my wife if she thought our world was as it seems.

“What do you mean?” she asked as she flipped the eggs she was cooking for my breakfast.

“I wonder if I’m deceiving myself by believing the world is mine to control, or is the incredible things I say or do imposed by someone projecting their insanity onto me?” She scorched the eggs once again. I wondered why she always did that.

“You’re confusing me with your crazy thoughts,” she complained.

“Come on. Didn’t you ever think we are only props in a game?” I shoveled burnt eggs into my mouth and washed them down with coffee before I gagged.

“Who’d create a game like that?” She took my empty plate to the sink. Her smug smile revealed that she burnt my eggs on purpose.

“Someone we may have locked in an asylum for the insane if we knew how they thought?” I said, and wondered if what I saw was really there, or was it all a delusion coming from another’s awareness,or was my wife in my dream ,or was I in hers? Maybe we were both in somebody else’s dream?

“People don’t get locked up for what they think, only for what they do,” she said as she poured me coffee that looked like mud and tasted worse.

“That’s not true, ” I said, “Because it’s difficult to know what’s real and what’s imagined.”

“There you go again with your abstractions. Exactly what do you mean?”

“Matter is nothing but waves washing through a universe that may only exist in someone’s imagination. Maybe all we see is nothing but an apparition, or worse, our world is a drug-inspired hallucination.”

“You’re saying that the eggs, toast and coffee you just ate weren’t really there?” She waved the dirty frying pan in front of my face.

“Well, it’s like when I think of sex. Is it all in the mind? Do I even need you to enjoy it when all I need is the waves of pleasure provided by my mind?” I took the pan from her hand and carried it to the sink. The weight of it convinced me it was really there.

“I don’t understand your ideas of how scientists explain that I’m not really here, but as long as you don’t need me, I’m outta here.” She slammed the door on the way out.

Did I want her to go? Is that why she left, or did she want to go? Am I an avatar in someone’s game? Was she ever really here? Was I happy she had left? I looked in the closet and her clothing had disappeared. In the sink, the frying pan was clean, and the coffee pot held aromatic coffee fit for a king. Good riddance to her, I thought. I heard a knock on the door.

A woman, or rather girl of eighteen or so, stood there with a pile of luggage. “What’s this?” I asked.

“Mostly negligees,” she said and held up a transparent one for me to see.

“Do you know how to cook?”

“Like a gourmet.”

“Come on in.” I showed her the closet and watched her unpack 27 negligees, two dresses and other clothing she put away.

She put on a dress and went to the kitchen where she began to cook a meal.

“Let’s have sex before we eat.” I took her by the arm and led her to the bed. She knew things I never imagined, and I had the greatest experience of my life.

“Do you want me to serve you dinner in bed, or will you come to the dining room?” she asked as she kissed me on the forehead.

Her cooking wasn’t gourmet, and she misunderstood everything I said. My life became a bore, so I sent her back out the door and dreamed of the best companion a man could have, a dog. One that could cook, make a good cup of Joe, and converse in a language we’d both understand. We’d be buddies and have no need for women or sex.

My doorbell rang and there stood a male mutt with a bowl between his paws. He was a brown German Sheppard mixed with retriever, the best of all possible mixes.

“I understand you’re looking for someone like me?” the mutt said, with his mouth open in a doggy smile.

“Only if you cook and can make good coffee,” I opened the door for him to come in. He went right to the sink and washed his paws, then put on coffee and cooked a T-bone steak for dinner.

We talked, and he understood everything I said and added a few anecdotes of his own. He got me a beer and asked if I needed anything else. Then he cleaned the house. When he finished, he lay at my feet, waiting to fill any wish or command.

I taught him poker and chess, and he always let me win. When we went for a walk, I always led. He even learned to use the toilet I built for him next to mine. I called him Jeeves because he was like an old English manservant who only lived to fill my every need and I knew this world was indeed one I had created.

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I read that men who wear kilts have a higher sperm count than those who wear pants.

In this year, 2048, men with any sperm count at all are considered too masculine to leave the house alone. They must be
accompanied by a female household member to assure they don’t waste their sperm on some undeserving woman. They aren’t permitted to drive as it would give them too much independence.
***
I wanted more out of life than being a sex toy for my four wives, so I applied to the sperm control office for a work permit. There wasn’t one man out of the hundreds of employees there. I knew it would be an uphill battle, but I have more to offer the world than baking cookies.
The stern looking woman who called my name after a four hour wait wore a navy blue pantsuit. “I don’t understand why you’d want to work. We give you practically anything you want and we don’t want you tiring out so you can’t do your husbandly duties. A man’s place is at home where he’ll be safe.” She glanced down to see if I wore my kilt as the law commanded every male to do ever since our sperm count fell so low a doctor pronounced that the human race would expire if men’s sperm reached a point where they could no longer reproduce.
The doctor must have been a transvestite! Because of him, every man alive must wear a traditional kilt to keep their testicles cool. At least they don’t make us wear dresses. I personally don’t give a damn about how many sperm I have. I never once counted them. I don’t want to have a son who’ll have to grow up in a world dominate by women who will subjugate him to their whims and desires.
“You femdommes are all alike,” I shot back. “You treat any man with a sperm count as if all he’s good for is having sex. We have minds you know.”
“Calm down. If you’re going to be so persistent, maybe we can find you a nice safe job close to home.”
“That’s just it; I don’t want a safe job. I want excitement and danger in my life.”
She patted my hand. “Calm down, don’t want to affect your sperm count you know.”
“Sperm, that’s the only thing on your mind. I have dreams and ambitions, so it’s not fair to keep me cooped up and uneducated.”
“Men don’t need to be educated. Women will supply everything you’ll ever need.”
“I’m telling you that I want to earn my own living.” She looked at me as though I were insane.
“Tell you what Mister . . . Which of your wives name do you use?”
“I want to use my own name.”
“Okay then Mister, Christian. You can come to work here at the Sperm Control Center. We’re being forced to show that we’re not biased, so we have to have at least one male on the staff. Be here ready for work on Monday.”
Not one of my wives was happy to hear that I’d be going to work. All four of them wanted me at home so they’d be able to track me with the surveillance cameras set up throughout our house.
“How do you plan on getting to work?” Lisa, wife number one asked.
“I’ll ride my bicycle.”
“No!” shouted Pricilla, wife number two. “I don’t want your sperm count to drop and you know that’s why we don’t allow you to ride often.”
“Then, Judy can drop me off on the way to her job. It’s right around the corner from where she works.”
“How embarrassing,” Judy said. “My coworkers will think my husband has to work because I’m not taking care of him.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll wear a disguise and cover my face so no one will recognize me.”
Monday came and Judy dropped me off at work. I felt her watching me until I entered the building. I went to the sixth floor to report for work and was assigned to the communications room. Probably so I’d be out of sight, but once I started work, I discovered my job was to archive all e-mails and correspondence between departments.
A month passed and I did a good job, I thought, but I couldn’t read any classified documents without knowing the password. One night I made love to Julia, wife number three and got her to tell me the secret password. The next day at work I opened a file marked classified and got the shock of my life when I read the title.
Male Eradication Program. Looking through the folder I saw that scientist had manipulated chromosomes in a way to make each individual fetus possess both the male XY and female XX chromosome creating a hermaphrodite. Hermaphroditism is a condition, enabling a form of sexual reproduction in which both partners can act as the female or male.
Holy shit, just like in The Left Hand of Darkness, they’re going to make it so women can reproduce themselves and will have no use for men in the near future. What could I do to stop this from happening?
I wasn’t sure what to do, but I had to alert all men what they were up to. I programmed a message into a robotic e-mail program and hit send. The second I hit the button, all screens went blank, lights flashed, bells rang and four women cops barged into the communications room with clubs in hand.
I awoke in a hospital bed, try to speak, but have no tongue. I look for a call button, see one and reach for it. It’s then that I notice I have no hands. Just then my boss from The Sperm Control Center enters my room with a smile on her face.
“Now you see why we don’t want men in the workforce?’
“You fucking bitch,” I wanted to yell, but could only grunt.
She put a hand on my leg. “Don’t worry big guy, we left the best part of you intact.”
My eyes followed hers and landed on my erection.

#163 Art

#163Art

Being alone breeds discontent. If only I could find the right one, my life would be filled with joy. Love has eluded me and slipped away so many times before. Hope had disappeared because I was never smart enough to detect what was required to remain a duo.

I always felt I needed more, more of what I never knew. Then one day while surfing the Internet, Tethy’s helmet came into view. A metal sculpture created by my classmate, Laurie. Its brilliancy filled me with unfamiliar passion. The creator of this piece must have a zeal surpassing even mine, a better mind by many degrees and the ability to create beauty I only daydreamed of.

If I could only be with a genius such as this my need would be filled, and I could love the conceptions inside her head. They’d fulfill my dreams of loving splendor that never aged and never died.

After this, I saw Laurie in a different way. Her soft skin and her eyes, a brilliant blue, sucked me in. She had moist and yummy lips, shapely legs, and a gorgeous body I couldn’t live without. Before I met her, no one woman was ever enough for me to be dedicated to.

But an artist like her had beauty bursting through, and my desire was aroused like never before. I thought we would have been the perfect pair. She’d be my muse and I hers. I wanted to work with her and imagined what we’d create with my industrious work and her creative mind. I visualized statues reaching to the sky, armies of knights wearing helmets like Tethy’s, and of course I’d sculpt her in many forms, so her beauty could be shared with the entire world.

She thought differently than me and didn’t want me in her life. A travesty I thought. All the works building in my mind came crashing down. Rejected and dejected I built a goddess to adore. She stands in front of my house holding a spear and a snake to let everyone know a broken hearted artist lives here.

If Laurie ever drove by and saw the things I had built out of love for her, I wonder if her cold, cold heart would melt and invite me in. Or was she in love with Art and no one else? Would she think me a fool for loving what she can do without knowing who she is? Did it really matter that I had seen so many more years than her?

I dreamed one night that my goddess Boadicea came to life and her heart beat beneath her breasts of stone. Her emotions rose with each beat and her love for, me, her creator grew and grew, until that heart of stone was ready to burst.

When I awoke, I knew I was no longer alone and had found that special one. But a problem arose when I wanted her to come to bed. It was then I knew I could only worship her in my psyche and had to be content with her standing there guarding my front lawn.

Was it weird to adore a woman made of cement, I wondered; until I remembered all those I saw on their knees praying to a stone statue of some long dead saint. My Boadicea was alive in my mind and heart, so if I wanted, I could get on my knees and ask her to be mine. And I did.

Now I wait for night to come when Boadicea joins me in my dreams.

 

#163 Art

#139 Gold

#139 Gold

#139 Gold

Four men wearing straw hats, boots, and nothing else sat in the Honeyhive sipping clear volcano juice flown in daily from Jupiter’s moon, Lo. Others miners who worked the volcanic terrain dressed like those in the Honeyhive. There were over 400 active volcanoes on Lo, spewing liquid gold into the air that puddled on the ground after cooling in the turbulent atmosphere. The clearer the juice, the more it weighed, and that meant a higher price.

The juice stimulated new skin growth and accelerated bodily processes. If a man worked as a juicer for five Earth years, he’d age 50. The juice enhanced the nervous and respiratory systems, sped up brain function to a level where those who drank it became superior. With their accelerated thinking, miners were always one step ahead of the law that forbade them from importing the juice. It wasn’t always illegal, that happened when the extremist took over the world government. Those hypocritical bastards claimed their prophet preached that any that drank volcanic juice violated the covenant between man and the overlord. Yet, the biggest customers for the juice were the ruling clerics.

Any miner worth his salt knew they drank it to keep their minds above the populace. If everyone drank the clear stuff, they’d see the fallacy of all the doctrine preached at them. But any bootleg juice sold to the public was watered down enough to only increase the average IQ twenty to thirty points. Undiluted, the juice increased the average intelligence at least100%.

Try as they would, the clerics couldn’t stop the importation, because the miners had access to as much juice as they wanted and even the top cleric couldn’t afford more than a small daily dose. The four men in the Honeyhive discussed ways of supplying the populace with all the juice they wanted.

Tom pulled his boot off and shook out one of the crawling rocks that had crept into his boot. He picked it up and watched its undulating movements. “See this here?” he said loudly. “It used to be a dumb rock until a pool of clear covered it. Less than a week after that, it became alive. What used to be a dumb rock is now a living thinking thing.” He held it over the table and Bruce, Jim, and Joe watched as the smart rock twisted free and rolled across the table, fell to the floor, rolled out the door and disappeared into the rocky landscape.

“What I want to know is, how come the juice can give a rock brains, but dissolves the brains of the clerics who drink it?” Joe asked. He drained his glass and his eyes lit up. The juice had fired up his neurons. “You know that law they passed last month that everybody has to wear something to cover their body?’ They passed that to punish us for raising the price of the juice.”

“Yeah, once they did that, I pissed into every quart of juice I sold them,” Bruce laughed.

“That’s good, but I one upped you, I gather up all the dog shit I can find and put it in an extractor with juice, make a slurry out of it and sell it to them.” Jim smiled

“That’s why they’re as smart as dog shit,” Joe laughed out loud and the others joined in. “But listen up, I’ve got an idea.”

“Thought I smelled volcano smoke,” Jim said.

“Seriously, that stupid law the council passed that says no juice can be brought to Earth.”

“Yeah, what about it?,” Bruce pointed his finger at Joe.

“Home brew, we produce the juice right here on Earth,” Joe smiled and waited to hear what they had to say about his idea.

“Been tried a hundred times before,” Bruce scratched his head. “No one ever has been able to brew the juice here.”

“I drank two entire quarts last night and after . . .”

“Two quarts? I don’t believe it. How come you’re still alive?” Tom said. “Everyone knows your brain burns out after one quart.”

“Do I look brain burnt?” Joe asked. “I melded minds with my dog and he helped absorb the neuronal bursts of the second quart. We thought together, and he told me about a formula to seed volcanoes here. Once we pump a million gallons or so into an active volcano, it’ll spit out liquid gold all day.”

“Your dog?” Bruce looked befuddled. “Your dog told you about a secret formula?”

            “You heard right. Let’s do it and show those clerics we’re smarter than them.  We’ll pool our resources and seed three big ones, and when they blow, Earth will be covered with liquid gold. That’ll fix those controlling clerics.”

The others followed Joe to his depot where he had already manufactured millions of gallons of his secret formula. They loaded the four ships and two went to Mount Aso and the others to Mount Aetna and Mount Bromo. They dropped the formula through the top and within an hour, all three spewed the banned substance.

The clerics tried to stop people from drinking the clear, but couldn’t because it was ubiquitous. Erupting volcanoes spit so much liquid gold into the atmosphere that cooled it and sent it hurtling to the ground where puddles formed in every area of the world. The entire population drank their fill of clear volcano juice, they thought!

Not long after the human population had gorged itself on clear volcano juice, canines around the world became revered. Pampered by humans to such an extreme, it became obvious that dogs ruled. People fed them, picked up their shit and never expected them to do anything but lie around and be friendly.

After Joe took one drink, he knew he had been outsmarted by his dog, because the formula turned out to be a dog love potion. The knowledge couldn’t overcome his urge to bow down and worship every dog he came upon.

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The complete Molly Story

#135 Another Molly Story 

Raphael finished his shift at the foundry, hot and thirsty; he sauntered into Hungarian Joes as a tear jerker country and western song played on the old Wurlitzer Jukebox. He tore the electric cord from the wall. The music whined to a halt as he strode to the bar where Hank sat at the end.

“That was my favorite Charlie Pride song you pulled the plug on. What’s eating you, acting like that?” Jay the bartender asked.

“Nothing, I told you before-I ain’t listening to that shit kicking music Jay. Now give me a beer and one for Hank there too.”

“Thanks,” Hank said and raised his glass in salute from the end of the bar.

“You know I don’t butt into nobody’s business, but looks like you’ve got a hair across your ass.” Jay said, as he opened two bottles of beer and served them. He stopped in front of Raphael. “Hank said the next one’s on him. So tell me, what’s going on? How come you storm in here bitching about some harmless song?”

“I thought they trained bartenders to mind their own business.” Raphael drained his beer.

“Don’t mean to pry-just when someone looks as downhearted as you do, it’s usually woman trouble.”

“Trouble, my woman was never trouble, she died three months ago, second wife who up and died on me.”

“I remember Helen, good woman, helluva loss, but we didn’t get to see much of you other than on Saturdays while she was alive.” Hank said.

“Couldn’t stop for a beer after work when I knew she’d be home waiting for me. After all that time of her being there, I still expect her to see her waiting for me every time I open the door. After a half dozen beers, it’s not so bad when I open the door and she’s not standing there.” Raphael sniffled as a tear ran down his nose.

“Goddamn Raphael, you’re getting all teary eyed on me. Suck it up, people die, but we go on drinking beer until our time comes.”

“You can be such an asshole Hank; it’s my allergies that make my eyes run. Jay, give me a couple of napkins to wipe my nose with will you.” Raphael held out his hand for the napkins Jay handed him and wiped his eyes and then blew his nose.

“Don’t let him get to you, after my wife died, every time someone mentioned her name I could barely hold the tears back. Some jerks think men don’t cry, but they do,” Jay said. “Believe me, I could name a hundred guys that sat on that side of the bar and cried into their beer.”

“I’m not crying into my beer, it’s just that I’m lonely as hell, but after two died, I don’t believe I can marry a third time.”

“Third time’s the charm.” Jay said.

“Hell, I’ve been married three times and the third one was the worst ever,” Hank said. “The hell with this woman talk, turn on the TV and observe what’s going on in the world.”

Jay turned on the big screen TV  behind the bar, all three sat watching TV in silence, and after a short time, a program came on about hunting dogs, and how smart and loyal they were.

“If I ever got married again, I’d marry a dog,” Hank said, “and I don’t mean no ugly woman either, I mean a real four legged dog. Dog’s got qualities none of my wives ever had. If one of them had been as smart or as loyal as one of those there dogs on TV, I’d still be married.”

“Got something there, ain’t no woman as loyal as a dog, or nearly as smart. I’m turning the sound up so we can hear what they’re saying.” Jay said.

“Goddamn, I’ve seen this commercial at least a hundred times, so turn the damn station to a ball game or something, will you.” Hank told Jay and Raphael. “They’re announcing a special this week at the downtown animal shelter. For a total of fifty bucks a guy can have any dog in the place, shots included.”

“The dogs seem to be happy, running around and playing with one another.” Raphael pointed to the screen that showed several dogs rolling around and playing.

“Happy? My ass,” Hank said. “In a couple of days they’ll all be dead.  Ain’t none of them dogs suffering enough to justify killing them.”

“What else are they going to do with them?” Jay asked.

“Dunno, but it ain’t right, killing them and making cosmetics, and other shit out of them.”

“Ever dream that pretty soon they’re going to round up homeless humans and treat them  the same way?” Jay asked

“I don’t assume they’ll be doing that anytime soon. Let’s drink to that they never do.” Raphael raised his glass in a toast. Hank and Jay raised theirs and all three drained their glasses.

“Maybe having a dog waiting for me to come home is a good idea-at least someone will be waiting for me after work.” Raphael said. Think I’ll run over to the shelter and get myself a dog.

“Hold on, you don’t know nuthin about dogs. I’ll come with you to be sure you get a good one that ain’t goin to give you a lot of trouble,” Hank said.

“Okay, we’ll take my truck.”

After a short drive they walk through the glass entrance door at the animal shelter, “Man, what’s that stink?” Raphael said.

“Help you boys?” An old feeble security guard asked them.”

“Lookin for a dog.”

“Special on this week.”

“Yeah, we know.”

“Go on in and look around.” The security guard directed them to a door that led to the kennels.

“God, don’t they ever clean this place?” Raphael said.

“Used to, but cut-backs, ya know. I’m the only one works here now.” The Guard said. “Couple a volunteers, but they don’t like to clean much. Ya’all want to do some cleaning, go right ahead.”

Hank opened the door leading to the kennels. Behind the door where the dogs are kept they found over a hundred dogs crowded into twenty cages built to hold two or three dogs each.

“Damn I had no idea they kept these dogs locked up in cubbyholes that ain’t big enough for a cat. And the stink, I may puke it’s so bad.” Raphael put his hand over his mouth and nose to block some of the stench and in the dim light there’s a cacophony of barking and yelping. Dogs were jumping up and down, trying to get their attention.  “I can’t believe they’d kill all these dogs just because they’re homeless.”
“You better believe they will.”

“Can’t we just open the cages and let them run free?”  Raphael said.
“We’d get thrown in jail.”

“Wonder if they know the executioner’s waiting for them?” Raphael said. “Look in that cage. A poodle just had her litter, boy are they cute.”

“Poodles are ankle biters,” Hank said. “You want to get a real dog, not some toy.”

“I don’t want to see those little puppies killed.”
“Don’t be such a woose, the puppies will get adopted. Everyone wants babies, cats, dogs, humans. It don’t matter cause they’re all cute, it’s when they get older that the problems begin.” Hank said.

“Look at that one.” Raphael pointed to a little skinny wisp of a dog in the next cage so thin it could be a greyhound. “Wait Hank, that dog, see her soft brown eyes? They kinda remind me of Helen’s.
“Helen didn’t have dog eyes, you’re imagining things. Sign here says this dog’s name is Molly, and she’s three months old”.

“Helen died just three months ago,” Raphael said. “Do you think there’s any connection?”

“Sure, if you want to believe in that reincarnation bull-shit,” Hank said, “but if you do, I’ll think you’re kinda weird.”

“That’s the one I want.” Raphael stared at the skinny dog.

“Okay then.”

I can’t believe the way they treat these unfortunate dogs,” Raphael said.

“You didn’t know how strays got treated?”

“No.”

Need to open your eyes Raphael, lot’s of shit going on all around us that we don’t see unless we look for it.”

“I want that dog,” Raphael pointed to his chosen dog, and the security guard reached into the cage and picked up the trembling pup. Raphael wrapped the puppy in a blanket and cuddled her like a newborn baby. He knew the puppy must be a her with a name like Molly. He paid the security guard who was also the night manager and carried Molly to his truck and laid her gently on the front seat.

*

Puppy Love

The next day Raphael walked into Hungarian Joes, strode to the jukebox, ripped the electric cord from the electrical socket, the music whined to a halt. He sat beside Hank at the bar.

“Goddamn it that was my favorite Patsy Cline song. Gonna start charging you for every song you interrupt from now on.”

“Here’s the money for your song,” Raphael threw a dollar bill on the bar, “Two beers for me, and one for Hank. Don’t you get any business in here, Jay? This is the second day in a row Hank has been your only customer.”

“Nighttime, business picks up.”

“Thanks.” Hank said as he drained his beer.

“Couldn’t sleep, Molly whined all night.”

“Why?”

“How n the hell would I know.”

“Didja feed her?”

“Gave her a piece of steak, didn’t eat it though.”

“She’s just a pup.” Hank said. “She needs special food.”

“I’m going to the pet store. Come with me. You know what a dog needs.”

“You’re cutting into my drinking time.” Hank said.

“If you’re my friend, you’ll help me. You know I don’t know anything about raising a dog.”

“Pull that friendship shit to get what you want, and before you know it, you won’t have any friends.” Hank turned his back to Raphael.

“Don’t do it for me, do it for the dog. If you don’t help me, I may choose the wrong kind of food, and she may die of starvation.”

A look of exasperation crossed Hanks face. He spun around, faced Raphael and got up from the barstool.

“All right, let’s git it over with.”

They went to a pet-smart store. Hank grabs a shopping cart and starts throwing many objects into the cart.

“Hold on, what’s all this stuff for?”

Shit you’re going to need and books that tell you how to potty train her and the others tell how to raise a healthy pup.

“You don’t know nuthin about raisin a dog, so I’m getting everything you’ll need to learn how to potty train her.”

“Potty train?”

“Yeah, what do ya think, a dog’s born knowing she ain’t spossed to shit in the house?”

“Never thought about it.” Raphael picked up the book and glanced at the introduction. I’ll train her, and I’ll be the best master a pet ever had.

“Master, you think you’re going to be her master? You really don’t know nuthin bout dogs. They’re so smart they let you think you’re in charge, but you end up doing what they want. Same as a woman does to a man.”

“Can’t argue Hank, never had a dog, so I don’t know.”

“Ya know you need to get up at six in the morning and take her running don’tcha.”

“Maybe I should have gotten a wife instead.”

A week went by and Raphael hadn’t been to the bar, but on Saturday morning he strolled through the door smiling. Walked to the bar and handed Jay five dollars. “Go’n play some of those tearjerkers you like so much.”

“Whatcha do, get lucky last night?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m just happy with Molly.”

Hank walked in while they were talking and said, “Knew you’d like having a dog once you got one. He walked to the bar and stood beside Raphael. You can buy me a beer if you want.”

“Yeah sure, can’t believe I’ve never owned a dog in my entire life. Must be because my mother said she was allergic to animals.”

“Been running her?”

“Who, my mother, or Molly?”

“The dog dummy.”

“Every morning at six sharp, and she’s gained five pounds in one week, no matter how far I run her she gains weight and I lose it. She’s getting me in shape.”

“Be a real dog before you know it.” Hank grabbed the beer Jay put on the bar and took a long swallow. “Dogs’ have been known to do that.”

“This may sound weird, but when I’m sitting home and get bored I gaze into the painting hung over my fireplace.  Helen and I spent many hours just looking at that painting and imagining we were in it. Now Molly studies the painting as intently as I do.”

“You’re bullshitting, right? Dogs don’t care nuthin about pictures.”

“Molly does, come over and see for yourself, and while you’re there, you being an artist and all, maybe you can tell me if the painting’s an original or not.”

“You know I quit painting years ago and swore off it once those critics tore into my work. I’ve deprived them of ever seeing any of my paintings again.”

Raphael remembered the exhibition. He and Helen had attended it and both thought his work outstanding. The day after, Hank got a stream of bad revues from the critics who attended. He carried all his paintings close to the river the next day, piled them one atop the other, poured gasoline over them and lit a match. “Want to see some hot paintings?” he asked no one in particular as he set them on fire.

“You okay? Gazing at a painting with your dog instead of drinking beer ain’t normal,” Hank said.

“Hell yeah, Molly’s there every day waiting for me to come home, just like Helen used too.”

Hank gave Raphael a funny look as though there was something wrong with him for equating his dog with his dead wife. “Maybe I’ll stop by later tonight, take a look at that painting for you.”

“Yeah, okay, anytime. Molly will be happy to see you.”

Hank went to Raphael’s house that night. They sat by the fire in the living room, drinking beer. “See how she just gazes into the painting and has her doggie dreams?”

“What makes you think she’s dreaming and not just lying here soaking up the heat?”

“She loves to swim in the river, and I think she’s looking at the vast expanse of ocean, wishing she could swim in it.”

“Got bad news for ya, that ocean she’s looking at is a copy of one of Monet’s, and the original was painted in Europe.”

*

Two years passed since Molly was adopted. She’s now an eighty pound Retriever. Raphael allowed her to run without a leash in their small community, and no one cared because Molly was friendly to everyone. One day a five-years-old boy wandered away from his mother who was distracted while buying an antique painting. He was about to run into heavy traffic. Molly saw what he was about to do. She nuzzled him backwards onto the sidewalk. The boy tripped on the curb and scraped his hands when he hit the cement. He started to cry. Raphael saw what Molly did and figured she deserved a reward for saving the boy’s life. The boy’s mother heard him cry rushed out of the store followed by the shopkeeper.

“My god, did you see that dog attack my son?”

“Did he bite you sonny?” The shopkeeper asked.

“He’s bleeding.” The boy’s mother said. “Call an ambulance.”

Darting in and out of traffic Raphael ran across the street. He avoided getting run over and arrived on the scene breathless.

“There’s a leash law in this town ya know,” the shopkeeper said.

“Lady, Molly just saved that boy’s life. If she was leashed it wouldn’t have happened.”

“Of course you’d say something like that. You’re liable for injuring my son. My lawyer will be talking to you.”

A police car arrived at the scene. An officer got out to investigate. “Is the boy all right?” He asked.

“I want that vicious animal locked up.” The mother pointed at Molly.

“Raphael always ignores the leash law and lets that dog run loose,” the shopkeeper said.

“Is anybody hurt, did the dog bite the boy?” The cop grabbed Molly by the collar, she didn’t resist, not a growl or a bark came from her as her big brown eyes were set on the boy as he cried.

“That dog attacked my boy for no reason.”

“She was inside while the boy was about to step into the street.” Raphael pointed at the boy’s mother. “Molly saved his life by knocking him back onto the sidewalk.”

“Is that what happened?” The cop asked the boy.

“He was only a few steps in front of me when that dog came out of nowhere and attacked him. I want that vicious beast locked up,” his mother said.

“You know that’s not true.” Raphael said.

“You calling me a liar?” She asked.

“Please tell the truth, I can’t have Molly locked up. She means as much to me as your son does to you.”

“Then why don’t you obey the law and keep her on a leash?” The shopkeeper asked.

“Same reason she doesn’t have her boy on a leash.” Raphael said.

“Sorry, got to get animal control to impound the dog for five days,” the cop said, and opened the door of his squad car to put Molly in the back.

“But she saved a life, and you’re going to lock her up?” Raphael said.

“Got to follow the law,” the cop said. “A Potentially Dangerous Dog is one that bites, scratches or bruises any person.”

Raphael reached through the car’s window and patted Molly, “Everything will be all right. I’ll come and visit every day until you get out.”

**

Raphael, Hank, and Jay stood at one end of the crowded bar at Hungarian Joe’s discussing the day’s events. “Dogs are required by this city to be kept on a leash and under control of their owner. Says so right here in the city code.” Jay pointed to a section of the handbook he read from.

“Ain’t right, that bitch having Molly arrested.”

“She’s not arrested, just put in the pound for a few days to be sure she doesn’t have rabies,” Jay said

“Probably going to sue Raphael for damages.” Hank pointed at Raphael who had his head down and looked like he was about to cry. “That’s why she insisted on Molly going to the pound.”

“Could be, I read where half of all homeowner insurance claims are for dog bites,” Jay said

“But she didn’t bite anyone,” Hank said.

“The cop didn’t have any choice once Molly was accused of attacking the boy,” Jay said

Raphael sat up straight and said to no one in particular. “That’s it; I’m breaking her out, tonight.”

“You’re asking for trouble.” Jay said.

“You sure that’s what you want to do?” Hank asked. “Where will you take her?”

“Never been surer about anything. There’s a spot out in California I know that looks a lot like the painting Molly likes so much. I’ll take her there for a while and I’m sure these assholes will forget all about her after a few weeks.” Raphael said.

“Okay, if that’s what you want to do,” Hank said. “let’s go get Molly.”

“You don’t have to help.”

“I know, but I’m hankering to go to California and see that spot you say looks like the one in the painting,” Hank said.

Raphael and Hank went to the pound where Molly was being held. The cages the dogs were kept in are made from chicken wire. They brought wire cutters, located Molly, and when they did, she jumped for joy at the sight of them. Hank was about to cut a hole in her cage. Raphael grabbed him by the arm. “Hold on for a minute. If we cut a hole in the wire they’ll know we broke her out.”

“The hell with what they know, we’ll be in California before they can do anything,” Hank said as he cut a hole big enough for Molly to squeeze through. Unseen by anybody they got in Raphael’s truck and headed for California.

Molly was so happy, she wouldn’t stop licking Raphael. “It’s okay, calm down, nothing to worry about now,” he said, as he rubbed her back and patted her head.

“Think she understands? ” Hank asked.

“Sure she does.”

“Hope no one saw us,” Hank said.

“Do you think they’d charge me with a crime for releasing my own dog?”

“Stupid question, of course they will.”

“She didn’t belong in there anyways. Damn people always blame dogs for their fuck ups.”

“What do ya mean, what fuck ups?” Hank asked.

“That woman who accused Molly of attacking her boy, she was just passing the blame on to Molly.”

“Blame, for what?”

“For not watching her kid like she should have been instead of getting all googly eyed over some antique.”

“I thought she smelled a good lawsuit when she said her lawyer would be talking to you. Not that she felt she had fucked up,” Hank said.

“Maybe it’s both. She fucks up, but thinks she can make some money from it.”

“Crazy world,” Hank replied.

They drove up route 101 in CA and came to the spot Raphael said looked a lot like the scenery in the painting. There was a redwood forest on the east side of the road densely populated with trees and shrubbery.  Molly saw the ocean from the parking lot and got impatient to be let out. As soon as Raphael opened the door she ran down the path leading to the ocean and jumped in and swam for a long time.

“You weren’t lying. This looks identical to the painting,” Hank said. “Let’s gather some wood for a campfire – Molly’s going to be cold when she gets out of that cold ocean water.”

“Are you kidding? She jumps into the Mississippi river in the middle of winter and her fur is coated with ice by the time we get home. Cold don’t bother her none.”

“Hell of a dog.”

“She sure is. Other than you Hank, she’s my best friend. Don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happens to her.”

A man, woman, and several kids were camped on the beach. Molly ran over to them and the kids started playing with her by throwing a stick into the water and Molly swam out to retrieve it.

“Howdy boys. Nice dog.” the man of the family said as they approached the family gathered to watch Molly retrieves the sticks.

“Yeah, that’s my dog, Molly. Best dog ever.” Raphael said, his face beaming with pride. Two boys rushed into the campsite. Raphael had seen them coming from the woods across the road.

“Eddie’s lost.”

“You kidding?” The father asked

“He was right behind us, and suddenly he wasn’t there anymore. We looked all over for him, then figured we better tell you,” one of the boys said.

“We better go look for him,” the woman said. “Right now,”

“Where do we start looking,” Hank asked.

“They followed that trail.” The man pointed to a trail across the road leading into the dense woods.

“How old is Eddie?” Raphael asked.

“Five,” the woman said.

“Boy that small could get eaten . . .”

“Quiet Hank.” Raphael gave him a soft punch on the arm to let him know he shouldn’t be saying what he was about to say to the boy’s mother. She had enough to worry about without thinking her son may be eaten by wild animals.

“Better call 911 and get some help. Them woods’re full of wild animals.”

The mother broke out in tears at the mention of wild animals. The boys all huddled around her with a look of fear on their faces. The father gathered up flashlights and said, “Everyone grab a light and lets go. Stay within shouting distance of me, so we don’t have anyone else lost.”

Hank reached into his pocket for his cell phone and called 911 and attempted to hand the phone to the father. “You tell them where we are,” the father said. “I’m going to start looking right now,”

“Yeah, operator, we have a five year old lost in the woods. Yeah we need help to find him. Can you get some help out here? We’re at highway marker 249 on 101. There’s a trail right by the marker leading into the woods. Yeah, that’s where he was last seen. We’ll all be in the woods looking for him. I’ll call again if we find him. Goodbye.” Hank folded his phone and put it in his jacket pocket. “They’re sending search and rescue right out, should be here within the hour. Said the temperature would go down to freezing tonight, let’s go find that boy.”

Hank, Raphael, and Molly came across police cars with flashing lights and a dozen men in a circle on Highway 101. The family’s flashlights can be seen glowing in the dusk as they searched through the nearby trees. Fog rolled in from the ocean. Visibility was down to about ten feet.

“You the one that called bout a missing five year old?” The Search and rescue commander asked.

“Yeah, that’d be me,” Hank said.

“We better find him fast, lots of mountain lions round here,” the commander said. “and the temperature’s dropping fast,”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Raphael asked.

“Dogs, won’t find anybody in the dark without dogs.”

“Use Molly,” Raphael said.

“She trained?”

“Never took her hunting, don’t know how good a tracker she is,” Raphael said.

The boy’s father came out of the woods to talk to the rescuers. “Found his jacket, poor kid must be freezing.”

“Give me that.” The commander grabbed the jacket from his arms, bent over and held it in front of Molly. She sniffed it a few times and took off up the trail with Raphael, Hank, the father, and members of the rescue team following.  After a few minutes Molly whined, barked and ran off the trail into the heavily wooded area of the woods  Molly led them to Eddie sitting under a tree, cold wet, and hungry.

The boy’s father ran to him and picked him up, wrapped his arms around him, “How many times have I told you not to be running off on your own?” he asked as tears of relief flowed from his eyes.

A newspaper reporter arrived on the scene and took a picture of Molly and the boy. “Picture will be in the Examiner tomorrow. Want to give me the dog’s history?”

“No,” Raphael said. “And don’t you publish her picture either,”

“Why not?”

“It’s a long story.” Raphael told the reporter what happened and why he didn’t want the picture published.

The next morning Molly was licking Eddies face and Eddie hugged Molly. Eddies family treated Molly like the heroine she was. “She deserves a medal for what she did.”The boy’s mother said and looked at molly with adoration in her eyes.

“Glad you appreciate her.” Raphael said.

The boy she rescued opened a package of hamburger meat and lays it in front of Molly, and she wolves it down in three big gulps. The boy puts his arms around Molly’s neck in a gesture of love.

“Least he appreciates what she did. Not like that bitch back in Galena,” Hank said.

“Damn, I wish you wouldn’t have reminded me.” Raphael said.

“Sorry. Can’t get those scumbags out of my mind.”

“Molly’s loves it here. From now on when she looks into that painting, she’ll remember this place.” Raphael said. “I’m thinking it’s safe to go back now. Been long enough for them to forget about a little dog incident.”

“I guess,” Hank said, but his face showed he didn’t think they’d forget so easily.

Raphael, Hank, and Molly drove straight through to Galena, and the first place they stopped was Hungarian Joes.

As soon as they walked in Jay said, “Cop’s been in here looking for you guys.”

“What for?” Raphael asked.

Jay pulled the Examiner newspaper from under the bar and showed them the picture of Molly displayed on the front page and a story telling how Molly had been locked up when she saved a boy’s life in Galena Illinois, and how she found a lost boy in the woods in California. “If Molly would have been held in detention in Illinois, this little boy would probably not be with us today,” the reporter had said in the story.

“The cop showed me this picture, and said, ‘They’re making us look like idiots. I’m going to lock that damn dog up as soon as I see her.’”

“Damn, we told that reporter not to publish her picture,” Hank said.

“Don’t know if telling someone like that not to do something, only makes them want to do it all the more,” Jay said.

“You’d think the cop would want to thank her, not lock her up,” Raphael said.

“Think the cop’s related to that bitch who’s suing. Probably needs Molly as evidence to sue Raphael’s ass for letting her run loose.”

“I ain’t going to let them lock her up again. Hell, she saved a life in California, don’t that make a difference?”

“Think anyone here gives a shit?” Hank asked.

The next day, Raphael, Hank, and Molly were in Hungarian Joes when the cop who had been looking for Molly walked through the door.

”Knew you’d come back sooner or later. Your dog needs to be impounded.” The cop reached for Molly’s collar.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about. Just got this dog in California,” Raphael said.

“Nice try. We chip every dog that comes to the pound. Think when I scan her, I’ll see that I have the right dog.”

Okay, I lied. I just can’t have my dog locked up. You know what she did in California don’t you?

“Don’t make no difference here. Law says she needs to be locked up.”

“Told ya,” Hank said.

The cop had Molly by the collar, but Raphael yelled, “Run, Molly run.”

Molly broke free and took off through the door with the policeman in hot pursuit. He couldn’t keep up with her and returned to the bar.

“You know I can jail you for interfering with a police officer?”

“Go ahead.” Raphael said.

“One more stunt like that and I will.”

Raphael went to the lawyer’s office across the street. He told his story to a sharply dressed man showed him the newspaper with Molly’s picture in it and the story about how she had saved a boy’s life.

“Dogs don’t have any legal rights, but you do. I can file a counter suit. I’ll accuse them of conspiracy to defraud your insurance company by misrepresenting the facts,”

“Do that then.”

“I’ll get an injunction too, so they can’t take Molly to the pound. I’ll need a $2,000 retainer before I can start the paperwork.”

“Today is Friday, I’ll have to wait until Monday to get the money from the credit union.”

“Okay, I’ll file the injunction Monday morning, as soon as you pay.”

Raphael left the office, and went home, changed into running clothes, and took Molly for her daily run alongside the river that was fast flowing from recent rainstorms. As they ran along the river bank they saw a crowd gathered. A woman screamed that her son was drowning. Raphael saw a boy in the water being swept down river by the fast moving current, too fast for any of the men who ran along the bank trying to catch up to him. Molly ran along the river’s edge passing up the men trying to catch up to the drowning boy. She got ahead of the boy and jumped into the water and swam to the center of the river where he was being dragged along in the swift current. Molly got her teeth into the boy’s shirt collar and swam to shore. She was dragging him up the river bank when the men who had been chasing the boy arrived and took over. They all patted Molly.

“That dog should get a medal for what she did,” one of the men said.

“Yeah, and a life-time supply of steaks,” another man said.

Raphael and the crowd of people who watched the rescue arrived at the scene. Raphael hugged and patted Molly. He became aware that the boy she saved was the same one Molly had prevented from wandering into the traffic. Raphael recognized the boy’s mother who held the boy and cried in relief.

“Spose you’re going to accuse my dog of trying to drown your boy.” Raphael said.

“I’m so sorry. Your dog is a real heroine. Thank you, thank you.”

“She saved the same life twice. Bet that belongs in the Guinness world’s record book.” A bystander said.

“What can I do to thank Molly?” the mother asked.

“Drop the lawsuit for number one.”

“Done, what else can I do?”

“Maybe let your son walk Molly now and then.”

The police officer who had been looking for Molly arrived on the scene and saw Molly. He tried to catch her, but Molly took off running with him right behind her. Raphael and several other people chased after him.

“Wait, she just saved another life.” Raphael shouted, but the cop ignored him and all the shouts. He was intent on catching Molly. She ran across the main street trying to get away from him. Tires screeched as drivers slammed on their brakes. Molly was narrowly missed by two cars, she turned around to run the other way, but a truck hit her and threw her to the center of the road. She struggled to get up when a driver who didn’t see Molly, ran her over. Raphael ran to where she lay, picked her up in his arms. Tears flowed from his eyes. He looked at the cop who chased her into the street, and sayid “Fucking murderer.”

The crowd that had followed the chase started berating the cop, “Killer, Pig, Asshole, Should’ve been you that got run over.”

Tears flowed down Raphael’s face as he dug a hole in his yard to bury Molly. Later, Raphael sat in front of the fire, drinking beer and staring at the painting he and Molly used to look at and daydream. He fell to sleep in the chair.

The next day Raphael walked in to Hungarian Joes, yanked the jukebox cord and Elvis’s heartbreak Hotel whined to a stop.

“Anybody don’t like what I just did, say so.” Raphael appeared angry and was looking for a fight.

“Have a drink on me.” Jay said, attempting to calm him down.

“We’re all with you, no need to be upset with us,” Hank said.

“Can’t believe she’s gone. Jay give me a shot of Irish Rose and leave the bottle.”

Raphael quickly downed three shots of whiskey. Everyone avoided him because of his belligerent attitude.

“Stupid cop. All his fault for chasing her into the street,” Raphael mumbled.

All the patrons at the bar look at the intoxicated Raphael with sorrowful looks. Not a one disagreed with whose fault it was that Molly died.

Next Morning, Raphael woke up in the chair in front of the fireplace, rubbed his eyes and looked twice at the painting. He washed his face and looked at it again. He couldn’t believe what he saw. He wrapped the painting with left over Christmas paper and carried it to Hungarian Joes. He walked through the door, and Jay rushed to the jukebox and yanked the cord from the receptacle. Elvis’s “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog” whined to a halt. Raphael gave Jay a grateful look and carefully set the painting on the floor in front of his usual bar stool.

“Give everybody a drink on me.” Raphael said.

“Feeling better?” Jay asked.

“Don’t know, depends.”

“What dya mean? Depends on what?” Hank asked.

“If I’m seeing things or not. Any of you believe in God?”

“I do.” Jay said.

“Sometimes when I’m in a jam, I’ll pray. Why you want to know?” Hank asked.

“Seeing you believe Jay, I’ll ask you.”

“Ask away.”

“Do dogs go to heaven?”

“Don’t know, but if they do, Molly sure as hell is there.”

“What makes you ask something like that?” Hank asked.

“First tell me if you see what I see in this here painting.”Raphael picked up the painting and walked behind the bar, set it on the back bar against the mirror and ripped the Christmas wrap from it. Jay and Hank stared at the painting. An image of Molly, soaking wet from swimming lied on the hillside with a happy look on her face.

“You had an artist paint her picture on the painting?” Jay asked.

“Nope, her picture just appeared out of nowhere.”

“Must be her way of letting you know she’s happy in doggie heaven.” Hank said as he put his hands in his pocket so Raphael wouldn’t see the dried paint on them.

 

 

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molly upright

#122 The Card Game

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# 115 Chicago

# 115 Chicago

Joe looked at the dark and misty sky through the picture window in the bar. “Look at it,” he shouted. “It shrouds the city for days at a time.”

“Think warm,” Kathy said, “Picture in your mind what we left behind.”

Joe closed his eyes and visions of ocean waves breaking on the, palm trees swaying in the wind, Bougainvillea covering walls, and imagined the bikini clad girls walking on the beach. Opening his eyes, he saw the swirling snow growing into monstrous piles of mush fit only for a sleigh or sled.

“I try, but when I close my eyes, it’s all right, but when they’re open, reality crashes down all around and I see that I’ll never enjoy this Arctic-like place, which La Salle probably should have passed on by.”

“It’s not so bad up above. “Kathy said. “Imagine your spirit flying above the clouds.”

Joe closed his eyes again and soared above the dark blanketing clouds. He found himself in rarified illuminating air with sunshine there.  If only when he was down below he could’ve know that the sun rays were mightily trying to burn through winter’s cold that destroyed roads, and any dreams of spring, summer or even thirty-two degrees?

“You’re right, Kathy, it’s not so bad up there.”

“If you like it there, you’ll love it where I come from. It’s always warm, and there are plenty of others like you there. Women walk around naked all day and to tell the truth no one wears any clothes.”

“Where do you come from?” He never asked her, but now she had him wondering. Joe met Kathy in Florida, and now she followed him wherever he went.

“I’m not allowed to say, but if you do all the right things, I can take you there.” Kathy gave Joe a handful of pills, “Start by taking these.”

Joe washed them down with beer. He closed his eyes and imagined the world Kathy had described. He saw naked women frolicking on a sandy beach under a warm sun. When he wanted to eat, food came on a silver tray delivered by women who wore aprons but nothing else.

There were dogs running down the beach. Trucks loaded with beer lined the road, and movies played in the sky if he wanted to see them. Music was all around if he desired to listen. All he had to do was think of anything, and it was his. Money wasn’t needed, and he didn’t see any who were sick in any way.

He opened his eyes to the dark, and couldn’t see a thing. He didn’t remember going anywhere. Kathy no longer sat beside him. Lightning flashed, and he saw he was no longer in the bar. He started to sweat from the heat. Better than the Chicago cold he thought, until it got so hot it burned his skin. “Turn down the goddamn heat,” he shouted to whom, he didn’t know.

It got hotter and brighter. He began to see, and happiness filled his heart when he saw a naked woman carrying a tray across sand toward him. When she got close, he saw she had no head. She carried it on the tray. So much heat made his mouth cry out for a drink of something cold. As though answering his thought, a woman who had a head appeared with a glass full of ice water. Joe grabbed it and took a drink. The water turned to sand as it passed his lips. He gagged, choked and screamed, “Is that supposed to be a joke?”

The woman who had given him the water said, “That’s the way it is here.”

Before he could ask where here was, a dog knocked her to the ground and in an instant other dogs jumped in and devoured her. He didn’t want to be here and tried to imagine being in another place, but couldn’t.

He ran to where the sand met the water. Hot and thirsty he ran into the water with his mouth open. It turned to flames, and he became a fire eater. He swam through the flames and came to an island where people were being turned on spits above roaring flames.

They were alive, and Joe tried to save one by taking him off the fire.

“Don’t do that. I was given a choice to freeze or cook, and I hate the cold, so I chose this.”

Joe couldn’t understand where he was or why the people here were so strange. He went to a hill and found n entrance to a cave. Inside it got cooler, and he was relieved until he saw the insects feasting on people who came there to beat the heat. He ran screaming from the cave thinking he’d rather be dead than endure living like this.

“You would have been dead, but you did the right thing and swallowed the pills I gave you,” Kathy came into view, “so I could bring you to where I come from. This is my home.”

Joe wished he was back in Chicago’s cold. He’d never complain about the snow or anything else if only he didn’t have to stay in this place Kathy called home.

When his eyes opened, he saw he was back in the bar, Kathy was gone. He ripped off his coat and ran outside and put a handful of snow into his mouth. It tasted so much better than sand. He looked to the Gray sky and saw Kathy up there.

“Think warm,” she said and disappeared.

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51UwrXgG3WL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_ (1)

#114 Imagination

#114 Imagination

“Hello, reality. Are you there?” I shouted into empty space.

“What do you think?” I heard inside my head.

“I’ve been told you’re really not real,” I said

“Quantum ideas about me being imaginary abound,” Reality said, “but you’re real to me. Why do you think I don’t exist?”

“Physicists say you may exist only in my mind,” I shouted in Reality’s face if it was there; that is.

“If I’m not real, how do you explain the things you see and touch?”

I scratched my head. It was there all right. “How am I to know if it’s me creating these things? It could be another’s mind creating me.”

“So you don’t think you exist?” Reality asked.

I pinched myself, and it hurt.

“How can you feel if you’re not here?”

“I may feel because I’m the one who is dreaming, and I may be dancing in another’s mind and only take the steps I’m instructed to?” I took a few rumba steps to demonstrate to Reality that I could dance.

“You think your dreamer made you take those steps?”

“I used to believe that the dance I did was the one I chose, but the physicists have gotten me confused. Tell me, Reality, can it be that I’m not alone and that you are there with billions of minds connected by a gently flowing stream of consciousness benevolent to all with every part having a mind of its own?”

“Is that what you believe?”

Damn, Reality is answering my questions with questions.

“I believe this consciousness flows like a raging river filled with turbulence and rapids, rolling everyone’s thoughts that can never unify and meld into one.”

“Why would you think that?” it asked.

There it goes again, question after question. I can’t get angry though because Reality wants to know my thoughts. By answering the questions, I help myself to understand it.

“I think you’re nothing but a whirlpool of thought thrown against the rocks that I see as life, and I’ll forever remain fragmented and unknown to any others afloat on this tributary of consciousness that flows throughout space.” How is he going to answer that with a question?

“So you think that all the loathsome events facing you and what you perceive as the human race is nothing but quantum images, and not authentic at all?”

Damn, he did it again. “How do I know whose world I’m in? Is my life the topic of someone’s imaginary world, or another’s dream and once they awake, will I face what I see as death?”

“Maybe a lifetime to your dream person is only one night’s sleep to you.”

Hah, finally a straight statement from my Reality.

“Is that how my life is measured in reality? Are my years numbered by a sleeping giant? When I dream, do I create another life like mine and during the time I’m asleep allow it to live out its time. When I have sex, is my partner there, or is that part of the dream? When I think I’m awake and have control of what I do, am I experiencing this life as real or is it only a dream?”

“So many questions.  To find out, record your dreams to discover that if when you sleep in this life, you travel to another existence in another place.” Finally, some positive input from reality.

I did as told and discovered that reality is where my mind is. Here or there, it doesn’t matter if I’m not awake. I like this life and want to stay awake, so I don’t go into a dream state and live in that other place. I take drugs to keep me awake for days, and when I finally sleep, I learn my other self has transformed from a being into a star. That’s where people go after they die in my other place. I wonder if that’s why I think of hell as fire and brimstone now that I know in my next life, I’ll be a burning star.

“Is that true?” Reality asks.

“Get real, Reality, I can be anything I want and you can’t stop me because you and everything else is in the part of my mind that is called imagination.”

Doctor Jones, my psychiatrist, who had patiently listened to my entire conversation said, “What does your reality look like?”

“I just explained it to him; do I have to repeat myself?”

“No, no, I meant, the Reality you were speaking to, what does he look like?”

“Like one mean son-of-a-bitch.”

“You’ve got that right,” Doctor Jones said as he signed my release papers.

For more stories, poems, & other stuff. http://joedibuduo.com/ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=joe+DiBuduo

My newest novel “Cryonic Man,”is available at http://www.amazon.com/Cryonic-Man-Paranormal-Joe-DiBuduo/dp/0692381287/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425870872&sr=8-1&keywords=Cryonic+Man

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#113 Dueling Options

# 113 Dueling Options

One gloomy day on my way to the Park Street Subway station, I walked through Boston Commons and felt a tug on my arm. I turned to see a gypsy girl. She motioned for me to follow her. For some strange reason I felt I didn’t have a choice but to do as she commanded. She sat on a bench concealed on three sides by the shrubbery that grew in the Commons.

“You think your life has been a great journey, but I’m here to show you how wrong you are,” she said in a voice that somehow hypnotized me. I couldn’t move, nor think of anything but what she said. Entranced, I sat there staring at her two shining gold teeth.

“Wrong?” I said.

“You’ve experienced a terrible passage here on this terrible world called Earth.  A worse experience I can’t imagine. A better life here can be had if you make use of my magic mirror. It’s not usually needed, but to change the direction of this life, you must make use of one.”

My brain began to function, and I wondered what the hell she was talking about. “Who are you, and what is this ‘magic mirror’ you’re talking about?”

“Follow me,” she said.

Just like a puppy dog, I did. I knew if I had a tail, it would wag because I felt so happy to trail along behind her. What kind of hold did this woman have over me?

She walked into Murray’s, the largest antique store in Boston and went directly to the third floor, filled with every type of mirror imaginable. She stopped in front of one that was six feet in length with a gilded frame and a stand to keep it erect placed.  When I gazed at the reflective surface, I looked into space.

“This is the one you need. Buy it and pay to have it delivered today,” the gypsy said as she walked into the mirror.

What the heck? Was she a shill for the store? I mean did she just use some illusionist magic trick to make me think she went into the mirror? Regardless of what I thought, I was compelled to purchase the mirror. When delivered later that day, I had it carried up to my bedroom and set up at the foot of my bed.

I lay in bed that night and peered into that so-called magic-mirror, wondering if the gold-toothed woman I had met actually went into it. Impossible! I knew better than to believe in magic until I saw her in the mirror at a distance walking towards me. The closer she came, the bigger she became.

I went close to the mirror to watch her approach. Where my image should have been reflecting back at me, she soon stood full-size, opposite me. Light glinted off her shiny teeth when she smiled. Without a word, her hand came from the mirror, took me by the arm, and yanked so hard that I fell head- first toward the mirror. I braced for the crash I was sure to experience, but when my face and head contacted the mirror, I sank into the vast space I saw inside the mirror like a marshmallow sinking into a cup of hot chocolate.

“The life you’ve been living is a life endured, and I’m not thrilled with the way you’ve lived. I’m thankful now for this chance to show you what you can have if you only imagine it,” the gypsy said.

I imagined a new car, and one appeared, but it was black, not my favorite color. “Make it  red,” I said, and it changed to a candy apple red. “Make it a convertible,” I said, and the top rolled down. Wow, this is great. I imagined a woman, and one appeared. “Bigger breasts,” I said, and her chest expanded until I said, “stop.”

She didn’t look right until I said, “Smaller waist.” Her waist shrank until she looked like Pamela Anderson. That satisfied me. “A million $100 bills,” I said, and stacks of bills appeared around my feet. Life would get better now, I thought. I put the girl, the money, and myself in the car. Wanting to drive out of the mirror, I wasn’t sure how to accomplish that. Revved the engine, put the gas to the floor, took my foot off the brake, and sped toward the glass.

I hadn’t thought ahead. My bedroom was on the second floor. Heard the smashing sound as we crashed through my bedroom wall, and the car flew down the stairs landing on the living room floor. The girl died from a broken neck. The car and money caught on fire. I panicked and ran upstairs intending to save the mirror so I could imagine another girl and car, but it wasn’t there. The gypsy was though, and through her glittering teeth she said in a sneering voice, “I fulfilled your dreams, and you abandoned me.”

“Please, give me one more chance?” I pled as flames licked at my pant legs.

“Maybe I will if you can love me for who I am. Look at me!” She demanded.

I watched her jowls grow and sag as her face turned into that of a pig.

“Okay,” I screamed. I knew if I could imagine her to be beautiful, I could love her, but I didn’t know I had already used up all the imagining I was allowed, and I’d be stuck with a pig for eternity.

 

 

For more stories, poems, & other stuff. http://joedibuduo.com/ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=joe+DiBuduo

My newest novel “Cryonic Man,”is available at http://www.amazon.com/Cryonic-Man-Paranormal-Joe-DiBuduo/dp/0692381287/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425870872&sr=8-1&keywords=Cryonic+Man

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downtown-boston

#112 Wings

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# 112  Wings

 

A couple got out of an expensive looking car to exam my artistic creations. Desperate to make a sale, I acted nice to this couple from who the hell knows where.

“Nice stuff you got here, Sonny,” the man said, pointing at my newest kinetic sculpture, a piece that looked like the Mona Lisa waving hello and goodbye.

I watched his eyes travel over the piece. “Are you interested in buying a piece of fine art for your home?”

“As a matter of fact, I am.” He picked up a heavy piece I had made from a bowling ball. “This is all right, but I’m looking for something exquisite. Something that looks so real, no one can tell if it is or isn’t.”

“I have just the thing, but I have to warn you, it’s not cheap.”

He looked around at my collection I had set in front of my 1976 Airstream trailer. The sandy ground made a good base for my sculptures, but it lacked something. I guess what it was lacking is called class. So, I’m sure he thought the price of my art would be low. I showed him a moving sculpture; birds strung on a pole endlessly flying in circular dizzying spheres with kinetic angel wings.

“Nice, but not what I had in mind.” The man turned and walked away.

His wife grabbed him by the arm, “I like it, Harold. Ask him how much.”

Harold looked at me, and I saw the look in his eye and knew he wouldn’t buy it at any price.

“If you like that, I have some much nicer pieces in my studio.” I pointed to the walled-in enclosure that was my open-air workspace behind my house trailer.

Harold looked at his watch. “I think we should get going. We’ve got to log some miles today.”

Oh well, there goes my sale, I thought until my heavenly dog ran by.

“Oh my God,” Mrs. Harold said, “Did you see that?” she pointed to the simple beast, with spikes for teeth, stone for feet, and wings that gave him the appearance of Pegasus.

“That is but one example of the sculptures I have in my yard. Are you sure you don’t want to take a look?” I stared into Harold’s eyes and saw him calculating how much he could resell my dog for before he made an offer. “Before you say a word, I strongly urge you to at least look at what I have for sale in the rear.”

“Yes, Harold, let’s go look,” the Mrs. urged.

“Just a dog blamed minute. How, what is that creature?”

“Borage, that’s what I call him, results from an artistic process that I acquired during my travels in the underworld.”

“You mean you learned how to create things like that from criminals?” Mr. Harold asked.

“Underworld in this instance means underground, and I have connections there. When I was in Greece years ago, I went to what remained after an enormous volcanic explosion that created a caldera surrounded by high, steep cliffs on three sides. Santorini slopes downward to the Aegean Sea. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia.

“On the smaller island, I observed steam rising from an opening in a hillside. It turned out to be the entrance to a cave, and I followed a well-worn path downward. It became oppressively hot, so I stripped off my clothes and proceeded down wearing only my shoes and a pair of underpants when I came upon her.” I halted my story here in the hopes they’d now be interested enough to take a look inside my studio.

“Don’t stop there. Tell us what happened. Who’d you meet?” the Mrs. asked.

“Step into my studio, and I’ll continue the tale,” I opened the gate and indicated that they should enter.

Mrs. Harold immediately stepped into my yard and froze at the sight of my lifelike art objects. Mr. Harold followed somewhat reluctant. “Okay, we’re in . . .” He shut his mouth when he saw all the beautiful pieces. After a minute of silence he opened his mouth, “By God, you do excellent work. How do you create objects from stone that move as though they’re alive?”

He watched my statues slowly pacing in a circle around my yard. “As I was saying, deep in the bowels of the Earth I ran into Euryale. A beautiful Greek goddess who wore less than I did. We stared into each other’s eyes and fell in love.”

“Hold on Boy, I know Greek mythology. Euryale was sister to Medusa, the snake lady.”

“You’re 100% right, Harold.”

“So you’re telling us a tall tale then?”

“No, I’m not. I’ll prove I’m telling the truth.” I yelled for my wife. She didn’t respond. “Honey, will you please come out here?” I yelled as loud as I could.

“Be right there sweetheart,” came a sweet feminine voice from inside the trailer.

“That dog of yours. Did you make it, or are you going to tell us it sprang from your wife’s sister’s head?”

“How astute of you to realize she could produce more than a horse after losing her head,” I said and watched the lady’s face become wary.

“This is getting weird honey. Let’s get out of here,” Mrs. Harold said and turned toward the gate just as the rear door to my trailer opened. Both Mr. and Mrs. Harold fixed their eyes on Euryale as she entered the yard. She was nude as usual and when she held her sister’s head up for them to see, both turned into animated stone. They joined the others in my yard walking in a circle.

“You’ve done it again. Now I have to go drive their car into a canyon so no one will know they’re here,” I kissed her on her cheek so she’d know I wasn’t angry.

 

For more stories, poems, & other stuff. http://joedibuduo.com/ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=joe+DiBuduo

My newest novel “Cryonic Man,”is available at http://www.amazon.com/Cryonic-Man-Paranormal-Joe-DiBuduo/dp/0692381287/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425870872&sr=8-1&keywords=Cryonic+Man

PLEASE SUBSCRIBE FOR$1. A MONTH TO ENABLE ME TO CONTINUE WRITING A STORY A DAY. IF I CONTINUE FOR A YEAR, I WILL WRITE 365 STORIES. You’ll receive them all for $1. A month. https://www.patreon.com/creation?hid=1772333&u=423048&alert=3