Luke the Drifter, a comeuppance and Tom Robbins calls it quits…

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Art is subjective and the first subject is the soul of the artist.

I recently watched I Saw The Light, a Hank Williams biopic starring Loki and the Red Witch.  Old Hank was a lyrical genius with more than his share of inspiration and damnation.  He put it out there and out there and still it wasn’t enough to allow him the thing all artists crave.

Connection.

Connection with others.  Connection with the world at large.  Connection with an understanding of their own psyche.  When filled with the emptiness of lonesome, any connection will do; alcohol, drugs, sex, food, money, power, fame, failure.  Connection.

I spent time in Alabama this week.  Hank’s home state.  I had connection on the brain when I pulled in Sunday night and kept it there all week.

He wrote from the heart.  Quickly, without much editing and without much regret.  His alter ego, Luke The Drifter, carried the weight of his more soul-searching work, but Hank was the canvas of Luke’s art.  He was a tormented soul yearning to break out and be free.

Let’s regroup….

I pulled into Alabama thinking of Hank and my writing and the unspoken reality that connecting with others has never been easy for me.  Does it look easy?  Sure.  I learned to use humor years ago to impress, deflect, entertain, flirt and distract as I saw fit.  A manipulative skill but one that leaves them laughing and wanting more…

My own art is suffering from a plague of mediocrity that only I will openly admit.  Others won’t for fear of hurting my feelings or disrupting a friendship etc.  Craig S. stands out on this topic for his brutal honesty.  But, as a Man dealing in reality, he is as honest with Me about Me as he is about Himself.  This makes his criticisms constructive, reasonable and easy to swallow.

I started this years ago because I had this Tom Robbins inspired notion of writing 500 words per day, no matter what.  Broadcasting to the world seemed to satisfy two criteria:  Engage an audience, receive feedback.

Both failed.

So now is the time to rethink this entire pile and focus on turning mediocrity into something that is not mediocrity.

I hit Alabama by reaching out to writer friends about editors/publishers and the writing community at large.  I never really considered myself a writing group type of guy.  I don’t even know what genre is fitting for my writing.  I just write the words in my head and let them go.  Full disclosure:  I’ve never edited any story on this page.  100% of what is presented was written directly into the blog and only after the fact was it saved.  Including the Romeos stories.

You deserve better.

I deserve better.

My characters deserve better.

My soul deserves better.

To that end, no more stories will appear here.  I’m engaging an editor and moving in the direction of publication and becoming a serious, if underrated, underpaid and unknown, writer.

My last story, Purpose, was written in the San Antonio airport after reading three pages of Notes from the Underground.  What if the people we think of as having Special Needs were able to think clearly, perhaps more clearly than us, and were using our ignorance and compassion to fulfill their goals.  Be they good, evil or indifferent.

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Back to ranting then.

I could rant for hours about a limitless number of topics.  The desire to express one’s self, so necessary for artist, makes me a boorish snob at dinner parties, a know-it-all ass successful in self-aggrandizement others can only envy.  I’m fun to drink with, tough to get close to and unforgettable for reasons I forget.  I admire Bukowski because he shuns admiration and love Kerouac because he needs it.  Palaniuk is my favorite modern writer.  His writing, satire, wit and intelligence is unrivaled in this Stephanie Myers world.

I often think I should disappear to a remote island.  Indulge in my alcoholic dreams, consume Rum and write a memoir no one will read.  But the truth is I would end up sunburned, arrested and my memoir would consist of two paragraphs about railroads, midgets and the smell of Schlitz.

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Trump and Hillary are symptoms of the same disease.  We’ve spent decades accepting the lesser of two evils.  Now we have nothing but evil to choose from and, ye gods, we double-down on this fact.

We have to take sides.  If you’re Liberal, you’re a Libtard.  If you’re Conservative, you’re a KKKonservative.  If you’re pro-Black, you’re anti-White.  If you’re pro-Cop, you’re anti-Black.  If you’re pro-White, you’re the KKK.  The Hispanics show up in here somewhere but seem to have the sense to recuse themselves for the most part.  You’re either pro-Gun or a Socialist.  You’re either a Socialist or bible thumping gay-hater stuck in an all-White past.  If you disagree with Me, you’re a Communist.  If I disagree with you, I’m a Fox News watching Zombie who should be mocked.  You’re either forever Rich or forever Poor.  Pick a side God-Damn you!  If you don’t repost that video about a Black kid getting killed, you’re a bigot and part of the problem.  If you don’t repost that video about a Cop being killed by a Black kid, then you’re not American.  You must fly Old Glory just above your Don’t Tread On Me Banner or you’re some sort of commie-fucker and probably love Obama.

We…that means YOU and I…encourage, support, promote, reblog, repost, share, LIKE, Retweet, Comment and otherwise ENDORSE the very DIVISION we lament…

We the people, have created a less perfect Union which divides us along superficial, political borders…

We ask our kids to pick sides and then wonder why our country is divided.  Being Conservative doesn’t make you anti-Gay anymore than being Liberal makes you anti-White.  Plug in any names/agendas/topics  you wish in that sentence and it makes just as little as sense as the original.

We’ve let our Politics decide our Principles instead of our Principles deciding our Politics.

I think most people view their own lives as a Conservative and the lives of their neighbors as a Liberal.  I know I do.  I don’t care what you do, at all.  Just don’t ask me to pay for it.  I’ll stay out of your bedroom and take my wallet when I leave.   The Ten Commandments at a courthouse don’t bother me because I don’t feel as if my government is forcing me into Christianity anymore than their Speed Limit sign tricks me into going 55…

I believe that most people are Libertarians.  They just don’t understand Libertarians-so they naturally are apprehensive-and the media/education system has convinced them it is some sort of no holds barred Anarchy.  The Sheep count themselves to sleep…

Think of it this way.  Fiscally conservative, socially liberal.  That sounds like most everyone I know…

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I’ve been reading Seneca, Letters from a Stoic.

Try it.

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As always,

John.

 

 

Half-drunks, Whole Peppers, and my cockeyed friend…

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Either by personal decree, divine intervention, or dumbass luck this has been an eventful year. Finished college, had a son, turned 40, starting writing seriously, starting living less seriously, and recently I began an enjoyable relationship with a certain radio program.

You can tune in on Saturday nights to The Gods of the Bobbleheads and hear Richmond’s newest music, interviews, in-studio performances, and assorted funny bits written by Daniel Anderson/John Massey and some guy called Baby Huey. When the Gods laugh loud enough, you can hear skits I’ve written as well.

Check them out here.

I also started this blog which has been a strange experience in itself. You never know WHO reads it or what they think. Often, when I move around Nottoway, I see people stop and stare at me. I don’t know if it’s the hole in my fishnet hose or the fact they’ve read this blog.
So be it.

Next year, I’m doing the Polar Plunge. If you look to the right of your screen you’ll see a link. I’m too damn lazy to keep putting links & pics on this page. Gets old, you know?

Well, here’s another pepper for the kabob of my life. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Here’s another damn link that will take you to NaNoWriMo’s site.

The idea is simple. You attempt to write 50,000 words during the 30 days of a specific month. I’ll be doing it during November. It doesn’t have to be a good, earth shattering novel. In fact, it seems you can write pretty much whatever you want provided it’s not filled with so much Sex that even the Catholic church would take notice. That part doesn’t bother me. I don’t write “Sex” stuff much. It always seems your mind would wonder when you do.
Makes me think that smut writers probably fall into to two categories: 1.) Bored with sexual thoughts. 2.) Carpal Tunnel

So, starting November 1 I will try to write 50,000 words based loosely on an idea I’ve smacked around my head for two years now.
Fire up the grill boys…Duffy’s ready for Kabobs…

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

If you tell someone you’re cutting back on Red Meat they’ll freak out about your “Protein!… Duffy, where you getting your protein eating that Baked Tater!?!” But when you order a Big Mac no one asks you about getting enough Vitamin C…?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

A friend recently cut his eyelid off with a box cutter. The doctors, in trying to find pliable skin, grafted a bit of his penis flesh to refashion an eyelid. Everyone keeps calling him Cockeyed…

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

We went to a bar recently in Blackstone. There was no DJ, no ongoing music. Just the rise and fall of half-drunks talking football, telling jokes, and remembering some forgotten tales. This old man at the far end starts to belt out Temptations tunes and Bob Seger hits. He kept his eyes closed. A smile would grace his wrinkles on certain verses.
I don’t want to be an old man before I’m that brave. Or crazy. Or funny. Or interesting.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Inspiration is where you look.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

-John.

Waiting.

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Hank woke up when the tobacco juice swam down his throat. He coughed, jumped from the recliner, and wiped brown drool from his chin.
“Aw shit jesus.” he said.
He’s slept through the game but what did it matter.
Damn Skins suck, he thought. Probably lost anyway. Josie looked up at him and barked.
“Shut up, Josie” he said. “We’ll go out in a minute, promise.”
Josie twitched her tail as she ran into Elise’s old room.

It had been six months since the fight. But still, the room smelled of Elise’s perfume, her hair on the pillowcases.
Josie hopped on Elise’s bed, circled twice, and hunkered down next to the pillow. Hank spit his wad of Red Man in the overflowing trashcan. The black, wet leaves bounced off a whiskey bottle and fell to the floor.
“Shit Jesus” he said.

Rain clouds smothered the light, suffocating the room with a sudden darkness. Once, months before, Hank would’ve wondered about his Harley, or the windows of his truck. But now, he stared out the kitchen window hoping it would rain. And rain. And rain.

He felt his hand twitching as the first few drops hit the window. It was one of the replacement windows he’d bought, that she’d wanted… Whenever he looked out of them he saw her face. Her smile. Her tears. Her fears. After the fight, he’d seen her outlined by the new patio door. She was wearing a red sweater with tight jeans. Her hair was in a ponytail but covered with dirt and leaves.
“Turn off the light.” she said.
Hank had gotten up, spit tobacco on the floor, and turned off the light.
She was gone with the light.

The green leaves turned white in the wind as the rains picked up. He pulled back the patio curtains and watched the door. He could picture the river’s edge. The earth melting into the rushing water, twigs and leaves resisting, then giving in… Hank twisted the bottle open. He took a big pull from it and wondered how long it’s been since whiskey made him wince. His mind wandered back to the patio door.

Josie slept on the pillow until the crashing thunder pulled a yelp from her. She scurried down the hall, back into the living room. Hank was on his fifth pull by then. She sat next to Hank and watched the patio door.

Water pelted against the patio. It was the only sound in the room. Each heavy rain, Hank waited this way. Sitting. Drinking. Watching the patio door. One day, he knew, something would happen. The why of her leaving, the how of her leaving would all be discovered during a heavy rain. Until then, he waited.

He heard her voice.
“Don’t forget the cheese.”
The words of his memory never lined up. Never made sense. The fight was over a big thing. One of those big things that makes or breaks a couple. Something big that changes your life while your busy screaming, crying, and arguing. Hank couldn’t remember why they were fighting.
“Honey, open this jar for me, please.”

She had walked in and then it was raining.
“We should get new windows Hank.”
And something was on her face.
“Do you want burgers or steak?”
A mark.
“I called your Dad. He’s feeling better.”
She stood in the kitchen. Her voice echoing in the scarcely furnished home.
He stood up. He knew that. To the bathroom? Or the bedroom? He couldn’t remember. Even now. Six months of asking and not knowing.

Lightening cracked, knocking out the one working lightbulb. Hank and Josie sat in darkness. Josie began to bark.
“Shut up Josie.” Hank said. “We can’t go out now.”
Josie went to the kitchen and peed.

She was missing for a while. He knew that. People called and came by and offered help and prayed and… He remembers seeing her face on TV and the police asking him, “What did she have on last time you saw her Mr. Burke?” He thought it was funny. Them calling him Mr. Burke.

“Burgers” he said. “Burgers will be fine.”
“Cool” Elise said.
Was that it? He thought. Did we fight about fucking burgers?
“How did your job interview go?”
“I skipped it, wasn’t feeling good, you know.” Hank said.

Hank watched the rain twinkle against the black woods behind their house. The safety light made it seem as if the rain began at the top of the pole. He looked down into the woods and waited.
“She’ll come back.” he said.

Then his picture was on the TV set. No one would say for sure, but he knew it. They all thought he had killed her. He told them they had a fight but he couldn’t remember about what.
“Have you seen my car keys?”
A detective who squinted when he spoke visited.
“Mr. Burke. Tell me exactly what happened the day you say your wife disappeared.”
“She came home. We decided to have burgers. We got in a fight. Then she was gone. I haven’t seen her since.” Hank didn’t cry.
“What did you, better yet, how did you two fight?”
“Well.” Hank said.

They found a security video in Richmond that showed Elise at an ATM two hours after Hank said they fought. She was crying and withdrew two-hundred dollars. The cops laid off Hank but kept asking him where she might have gone.
“I can’t remember what we fought about.” he said. When the paper hit with a still frame of her at the ATM, everyone left Hank and Josie alone. The store let Hank have the video.
“We figured you might want it.” the young manager said.
He threw it in the trash.

Hank watched the rain and thought about that video.
“Honey, you want to rent a movie?”
Maybe it was the burgers. He didn’t know. Hank remembered the rain though. The windshield wipers thumped as he watched Elise take the two hundred dollars. He watched her jump back into her car. He knew he followed. He knew he was mad.
Why? He couldn’t remember. Something in her face? On her face?

Hank and Josie watched the night pass by. Hank waited for the earth to give way completely. One day she’ll be back.
“Why the hell did you follow me you nutcase?”
Somebody would notice her there, after the rain.
“Hank!”
Sometimes he could feel her wet face against his hard hand.
Something about burgers, maybe.
“Hank, stop! I’m sorry.”
He couldn’t remember what they fought about.
Hank pulled some tobacco out.
And waited.

Do you ever? Thought so…

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Do you ever sit there writing away, letting words and phrases loose in a random flight path, the seductive click-clack-tap of the finger/keyboard intercourse thumping in your ear, when the hairy beast of insecurity comes up to lick your brain and you try to fight it with reason but you fail cause you really know he’s right: You Suck. With every word you prove the beast right; but then it hits you that sitting there writing away, letting words do their dance around logic and insecurity–that the sitting and the writing is the proof that the beast is a bullshit artist in faux fur. And all the Dr. Phil’s, and encouraging strangers, and predictable friends who say, “You can do it!” pale in comparison to the feeling of ACTUALLY writing.

Then, it hits you that in that moment-words and flight paths be damned-you are the person you want to be, doing the thing you want to do, and doing it regardless of what anyone says (including your doubting, doppelgänger Thomas)….when you notice the beast is silent and the mistress is in front of you, letting you make love to the blank page with every sentence fragment and dangling participle you can find. The mistress doesn’t care. Only the beast gives a damn about your structure. Nothing matters because as the words appear in your mind and reappear on page you are alive and laughing.

Do you ever get that sense that there is no path and no destination?
No reason for such clichés anyway because clichés are words on flight paths leading nowhere worth landing and that every now and again, is really just every Now, repeated. Do you ever feel that when you do the BIG thing in your life; be it writing, drawing, gardening, bike racing or pizza baking, the every Now is what all that Again is for anyway?

Maybe it’s not alcoholism that is a coward’s suicide after all.
Maybe it’s letting the beast scare you into submission and spending one more moment avoiding the Big Thing out of deference for a little thing…alcohol, food, sex, drugs, TV, pop culture, and your latest tweet are just distractions to make sure you stop before the best part of you ends up on display.

Do you ever get that feeling?

Yeah, me neither…

Bukowski, PVSD treatment and the Burning Bucket…

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It is Charles Bukowski’s birthday. I recently started reading some of Bukowski’s stories. He’s known more as a poet but most poetry gives me the runs so I avoid it in general. What I pick up on while reading his stories about the underworld where he lived is that all of us are trapped. We’re conditioned to be this, to say that, to feel thus, to belief that away, and act this-a-way. All crap. Crap. The spiral really takes you when you understand that everyone is trapped by something. I once heard that there are only two “Free” people on Earth. A millionaire and a monk. I don’t know. I really don’t. Over the years, I’ve learned to squint my eye at anyone who claims to “Know” what it is to be “Free”.
I’m rambling because of my PVSD. So, I’ll get to the point.
Happy Birthday Bukowski. Thanks for writing. Thanks for drinking. Thanks for not giving a shit if anyone like me ever read the words you wrote. That makes them all the more enjoyable.

…………

I’ve read a dozen or so blogs on which the blogger apologizes for being absent, and not posting, and makes some pie-crust promise about being a better steward of your time by posting more often… Sounds like a spit-take. A spit take is a comic gag in which a person spits when hearing the punchline or surprising news. I’m not apologizing for having a life that doesn’t involve blogging.
AND YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER…..

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Post-Vacation Stress Disorder (PVSD) is a certified psychological condition found in adults during the business hours following vacation.
A twice-daily dose of Fukitol is recommended. Fukitol may lead to unexplained joy, laughter, increased sex drive, decreased binge eating, and sudden outbursts of unrepentant anger toward co-workers. Women who are nursing, or nursing students, should not take Fukitol as it may lead to an ill-timed shotgun blast during clinicals. Fukitol is recommended only for adults who have no history of liver disease, can’t drink alcohol at work, and have recently lost their weed connection. Trouble urinating may occur. Fukitol is not FDA approved, although use of the drug can be found in the halls of Congress on any given day.

……

So, I was on vacation. We put in an offer on a house, had our Fourth Baby (First Boy), and I met with my editor. Critical Mass is my life’s current philosophy. We prefer as many things happening as possible. Maybe we feel more alive. Maybe it alleviates the feeling that we aren’t really alive at all. Who knows? It might be the realization that my bucket list is burning up in a trash can while I watch another predictable ass Sitcom or some variation of Cops & Robber TV.

……

When I go on vacation I absent myself from as much of the world as possible. I don’t watch/listen/read the news. I really don’t listen to music unless I’m playing it. Most of my time is spent with family, friends, books, words, and alcohol. That last bit makes me sound like a drunk and implies that I may need some 12-step meeting program full of other drunks to make me feel all normal and sane inside.

…….

I’ve been to those meetings and not once did I feel normal and sane inside. But I did learn how to make homemade wine, the best breath mints to cover up the smell of PBR, and which bars enforced the two drink minimum. Problem I had, I guess, was that I really wasn’t an alcoholic at all. The Army made me go because I got busted doing “A controlled substance” overseas. Since I was drunk when I snorted Coke, the Federal Government via the US Army, figured I was a drunk. Pretty dumb looking back at it. The cocaine, the AA… all of it. But I did learn that I wasn’t a drunk at all. I just liked to have a few drinks.

………..

With the added family member coming home on Monday last week, I didn’t have much time to write. But I’m good with that. I believe Living gives breath to our words. (Holy God that sounds like some Creative Writing spinster talk. I sicken myself at times.)
Sitting there in front of your computer typing away all the time is bad on your eyes, horrible for your writing, and makes you smell like shit most of the time. Take a bath, hippy.

I did think of several story lines while cleaning up after Number One Son. I’ll get to them later. Words float, land, and germinate in my head. Similar to dung beetles on parade.

…….

The heavy references to fecal matter in this message is my sorry attempt to pay tribute to Charles Bukowski’s writing. He’s the first writer I’ve met who broke a story’s scene with the following:
“Her words gave me the piles so I went to find a shitter.”

…….

That self-pitying sensation you have sometimes is really just the smell of your bucket list burning up. Remember Smokey’s words: Only YOU can prevent bucket list fires.

……..

Sheik Joey Kahleeb’s Revival.

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It’s probably because I’m fat.
Yeah, I’ve got broad shoulders and enough suppressed anger towards life that my face can contort into a “Piss Off!” billboard in a flash, but truthfully…I think it’s because I’m fat.

My company sends me out to collect bad checks, in person, because they know I cast a wide shadow through any door and that may cause the rubber check crowd to second-guess giving me an excuse. My boss did once admit to such thinking, albeit vaguely.
“Well, Duffy, you do have a way of letting people know you don’t give a shit, much…”

I said, “Thanks, make sure that’s on my quarterly evaluation eh?”

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I’m sitting outside the store reading a Raymond Carver story, listening to The Beatles and hoping Bubba the Wonder Bum doesn’t hit me up for a dollar. I’ve been there about ten minutes waiting for the owner, Joey, to show up. When I’d first gone in two Middle Eastern guys were yelling back and forth. The little bell rang as I entered.
They stopped yelling. One sat down on a stool covered in lottery stickers and opened a book from the wrong end.
The other guy looked at me,
“How you doing buddy?”
“Are you the owner or manager?”
He shook his head no and looked down.
“I’m John from Golden Teat Dairy. I need to talk to the owner.”
“He’s not here now. Is it about a check coming back or something like that?” The guy looked over at the reader.
They both looked disgusted and embarrassed.
“Yeah. We gotta check back.”

He picked up the phone and dialed some numbers. I looked around at the Malt Liquor posters, lottery ads, and the limitless varieties of flavored, but cheap, cigars. The place was long with two large plate-glass show windows on either side of the door. At one time, it was probably a shoe store, or dress shop. Back when this part of Richmond was booming and thriving. Now it was run-down and smelled of incense and cooked grease.
The guy was talking on the phone, swinging his hands at Allah knows what, when he suddenly slammed it down. He pointed at the reader guy, spoke and then pointed at me.

“Joey will be here in ten minutes.” he told me. “You can wait outside.”
“I was going to get a drink…”
He nodded no.
“Joey said to wait outside.”

A red minivan pulled up and a chubby little Arab cat gets out. I turn my car off, put the book down, and get out.
Chubby gets in the store before I do. When I walk in, all three of them are yelling back and forth swinging their hands around and rolling their eyes. It’s like a pentecostal revival starring Muslim convenience store clerks. I think for a second someone’s gonna start fanning themselves or roll around on the floor hollering, “Wildfire! Wildfire! Wildfire!”

Chubby walks around the counter and then spots me.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m John from Golden Teat Dairy. I need to speak–”
“Me! You need to speak to me. I’m Kahleeb, but everyone calls me Joey.”
I stick out my hand. He looks at it with disdain.
“I’ll have you money next week. You need to come by on Thursday at 1 pm to get your money. I’ll have it then.”
“Sir, we’ve tried to collect this check for two weeks now. Each time I call no one knows where you are. We’ve had the driver stop by three times and each time he’s told to come back later…I need to pick up that money today.”
“What will you do? Burn down my store like your KKK?”
I laughed.
“No, sir. I’m just trying to collect the money owed my company.”
“You have no company. You are just a manager. No owner. No owner of nothing. I come here two years ago and make more money than you Americans friends.”
“But, you can’t get a check to clear, or pay me the money owed today?”
“What?” He face bloated up.
“I asked if you are so much richer than me and everyone else why can’t you pay me now, or better yet, not have your checks bouncing everywhere?”
“Get out of my store. You. YOU! You are the terrorists, not me!”
“Next time someone asks about this check, it’ll be the Richmond City Police Mr. Kahleeb.”
“You call me Joey. You don’t call me by my real name!”
“No problem.”
I walked out as the three of them resumed shouting.

I got to the car when the Reader comes out. He’s running at me.
“Mr. Golden Teat Dairy! Mr. Golden Teat Dairy!”
I stopped.
He came up next to my car and reached in his pocket.
I thought he was pulling a knife. I opened the car door.
He reaches me in time to grab the door.
He speaks, “I’m sorry sir. My boss, Kahleeb. His business is failing quickly. These people in this neighborhood, they have no money for nothing but beer and lottery and drugs. I’m sorry sir.”
“It’s not you buddy. Your boss is–” I said.
“Look” he said. “Here’s some money. How much is the check?”

I looked down. In his hands was a wad of hundreds and fifties.
He flipped off several hundreds.
“The check is $351.15 with the fee.”
He hands me the money, pulling some change and a One out of another pocket.
“Buddy, I have to ask. Why do you have all that money when you work for a broke man?”
“Where do you think they get the drugs?”
He smiles and walks away. He waved at a congregation of people on the opposite corner.
None of them waved back.
When I got back to the office I pulled up the account and closed it.

Jimmy Collins.

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They’re as old as herpes and cockroaches.
If whoring is the oldest profession then gossiping is the oldest internship.
Everyone does it for free. If you expect a check you best line up with a tabloid. Then again, you might become the deacon of a good old church in some good old town full of good old people. That seems to work too.

They were the ones who told me all about Jimmy Collins. They told me about his drinking skills and how, one time, this guy called him a “Fag” in public. The next night that guy’s trailer burned to the ground and they found his dog in a well, along with fifty pounds of salt and kerosene. Everyone knew Jimmy did it.

After that one of them said, “We should call ole’ Collins-Collie-you know after the dog.” A few drinks into a Tuesday afternoon and that sounded like a good idea. But none of them had the stones to call Jimmy Collins, Collie. They used to say that you shouldn’t even call him “Sir” unless you wanted to bring up memories of his old man.

I was getting back from where I’d been back then. Not too much to talk about really. A few thumbed rides, some truck stops. Apple pies with Ice Cream, waiting for something to give way. Anything would’ve been fine. But nothing happened. So I came back. That’s when they told me about Jimmy Collins.

They gathered around a table of scattered coffee mugs and plates of cold eggs with toast. I could see scratch marks on the table’s edge. Someone had carved their initials in the settled grease finish. Years of minimum wage cleaning, I guess. They all were smoking unfiltered cigarettes. I stood nearby, waiting for my to-go plate and wishing for a clean bathroom.

Jimmy took a job up in Richmond, working in construction.
“No, he was working at a window company.” one of them said.
Ok, it was a window company. Jimmy stopped off on the way home, got himself a six-pack or two.
“I thought he only drank liquor?”
Ok, it was liquor, maybe. Anyway. He was coming down and around that big curve up on 360. You know, the one near that old country store?
“I used to go there as a kid. Dad said they had the cheapest gas. It was about four cents a gallon then.” one of them said. He looked at me hard when he spoke.

Ok, so you know that spot right? Anyway, Jimmy comes down and around that curve and he spots a deer. A big ten pointer just standing there like Moses waiting on Number 11. The deer don’t move see, so Jimmy swerved.
“I heard he hit it.” one of them said.
Ok, he swerved, then hit it. Anyway. His pick up truck flipped over about ten times. I gotta buddy who was there and he said Jimmy’s Ford was about two-hundred feet from the road when it stopped flipping.
“That’s when he got out.” one said. He took a sip of coffee.
Yeah, he got out. The cops said he was standing next to the truck. It was on fire.
“I heard the fire was out by the time they got there?”
Ok, anyway. He was standing there without a scratch. Not one mark on his head. Nothing. A cop come up and said,
“Jimmy, you OK?”
Jimmy sort of smiled funny and said,
“I saw an Angel. He come in my truck and wrapped his arms around me.”
The cop says,
“You hit your head Jimmy?”
“Nope.” Jimmy said. “An angel wrapped his arm around me and kept me safe. It was God’s will.”

The table was quiet for a second. One of them exhaled smoke. Another one cleared his throat.
“Then what happened?” the one who cleared his throat said.

Then the cop turned around to see where the ambulance was and when he turned back around Jimmy was gone.
“Gone?”
Yep. Gone. The cop called out for him but never heard Jimmy call back. He walked around the truck a few times, looked for blood tracks and stuff you know.
“So where did he go then?” one of them blurted.
Nobody really knows. That was four years ago this week. They ain’t never found Jimmy Collins, or his body, or nothing since. It’s like the man vanished.
“I don’t believe it.” one of them said.
Well, you think the damn Redskins is gonna win the Superbowl every year so what the hell do you know?
They all laughed.
The waitress brought out more coffee then went back into the kitchen.

I nibbled on my to-go plate as I drove to work.
I went up 360 and when I got to that big curve near the old country store, I glanced over into the woods.
Just for a second.
Most times, they will lie to you.
But sometimes, well, you never know…

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