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.

++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

Try it.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As always,

John.

 

 

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Chief Charles and the first Lesson Illegal.

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Van Halen's 1984

We grew up in a hushed little town with a speed trap running down the middle. Warped porches, sidewalks swallowed by grass, and boarded up stores lined the highway. Ghosts whispered of good old days no one remembered with integrity. We walked those streets hoping to see something, anything that might represent a change of pace. Early we learned carloads of pretty girls didn’t drive by in our bedrooms. There was little excitement in our Atari games passed level gazillion.
And no matter what we were told; nothing good came to those who waited.

Downtown was two blocks of not-so-much with Town Hall towards the east and a Funeral Parlor to the west. In one of the old buildings, a black man opened up an arcade filled with quarter games, pool tables, and a few of the town’s more flavorful street movers.

One of these street movers was Chief Charles. I never knew if it was his real name and never had the guts to ask. He looked to be Mexican with long straight black hair and bronze skin. His black shiny locks were tight against his head because of the red bandanna he always wore. He walked with a farm worker’s gait; a near limp from heavy lifting. His eyes, as brown as mud, centered a ring of constant redness. He smelled of sweat and smoke; store-bought & home-grown. Chief stood over six feet and probably hovered 165 on a scale. His smile came out rarely but crooked when Chief Charles bothered to take notice of us kids. Most of the time I saw him he was walking. Even as a kid I thought he looked like a man From a place but not going To a place.

At the arcade late one  summer afternoon, it was decided that we, two mid-teens with more gumption than intuition, wanted to get drunk. We walked down the alley towards 7-11 discussing our plans.
“Your mama home?”
“Naw,” I said. “She’s at a dance or something.”
“We can go there?”
“Sure. I got that Van Halen tape.” I said.
“Cool. What should we get? I hate wine coolers.”
“I don’t know. Beer is beer.”
“Right. How much money you got?”
I checked my pockets, using the sun’s fading light to count.
“About six.”
“I got ten. That’s enough.”
“Who we gonna get to buy it?”
“There’s Chief Charles over there.”

Chief was sitting behind the 7-11. His eyes were closing like dusk on a long day. My friend yelled.

Old Swill.

“Hey man! Yeah.” We approached the nodding Chief.
“It’s me. Timmy. What’s happening?”
Chief looked up.
“Hey.”
“Would you buy us some beer?”
“What you two gonna do with it?” Chief asked. His smile seemed friendly but I felt some irritation in his voice.
“Gonna get drunk over at Johnny’s house and listen to the new Van Halen tape.”
“Party animals. Big time.”
“Well,” Timmy said, “We might call some girls over…never know.” With this he tapped my shoulder. Maybe he never knew, but I did. It was gonna be us and Van Halen. All night. But the excitement was there. The boundless belief in the impossible so ingrained in youth floated around Timmy and I.
“Sure. I guess.”
“Cool. Look, we got 16 bucks.” Timmy handed over our money.
“What do you want?”
“A six-pack.” I said. Chief Charles cut his eyes at me.
“A six-pack?” Timmy said loudly. “I could drink a case or two by myself.”
Chief smiled wide.
“You two got enough for a 12 pack of something cheap. Then I get the change for whatever I want.”
Suddenly I wanted to run away. As if I smelled a firecracker that was about to go off.
“Good deal.” Timmy said. “We’re gonna walk over to Perk’s.  When you come out we’ll meet right here.”
Chief nodded his agreement.

We walked to the parking lot of the store next door. I had worked there before, bagging beer, scrubbing the floor, killing the minnows in the bait tank…the last bit taught me what ‘fired’ meant.

“Which album is it?” Timmy asked.
“You think we’re gonna get in trouble?” I said.
“For what? If somebody says something to us we’ll act like we don’t know Chief. Everything’s cool man.”

I was explaining why I liked the song “I’ll Wait” when we saw blue lights pull into the 7-11 parking lot. We ran behind the dumpster and peeked around the corner. Two cops went into the 7-11, leaving their car running and the lights advertising trouble for all to see. They came out minutes later with Chief Charles in tow. He glanced over at the dumpster behind Perk’s just in time to see the dust boiling up behind our sprinting feet.

We ran back to Timmy’s house and realized we’d probably be fingered quick and that sitting there like dumb ducks was bad. We left out of the back of his house and looked around. What we expected to see, I’m not sure.

Ninjas have no boundaries.

Cops.
FBI Agents.
Ninjas.
Who knows?
We took off through the alley. We ran for two more blocks before stopping. The night was quiet except for our breathing and the sound of trains connecting in the distance.
“Shit” Timmy said.
“Double shit.” I said. “You think he’s gonna tell ’em our names?”
“He don’t know our names.”
“He knows yours and you said mine.”
“How many damn Johnnys you think there are in Crewe?”
“Like…two.”
“Shit”
“Double shit”

We walked towards my Grandma’s house. Not for any familiar protection but because she lived about as far from downtown as one could get. Plus, we both knew the woods around her house from our childhood war games. If we had to duck out in the woods, it’d be a while before anyone would find us.

We devised all sorts of lies in case the cops stopped us.
“He pulled a knife on us.”
“He said we had to give him money for beer or he’d kill our families.”
“I just wanted a comic book, officer.”
Timmy laughed.
“A comic book?”
“GI Combat.”
“Oh, that’s better. Dumbass.”
“This was your idea man.”

We argued a bit about whose idea was what and when. Then we moved on to something else. Just a rambling conversation as we walked through the humid night wondering what might happen. Somewhere we changed our minds about my Grandma’s neighborhood and headed back to downtown. On the way the same two cops passed us, honked and waved. Nothing.

The arcade was closing by the time we arrived.
Aubrey, the man who owned it smiled.
“You two give Chief money to buy beer?”
We froze.
“What?” Timmy said.
“Cops came by and said they picked up Chief up at 7-11 for a failure to appear. He was yelling about them using two kids to trap him. Said two white kids set him up to get arrested.”
I felt a swarm of bees in my stomach. Timmy laughed nervously.
“It won’t us.”
“Johnny, you still got that birthday money on you?” Aubrey asked.
“No.”
Aubrey smiled. “Chief will be out tomorrow probably. I’ll tell him you two were looking for your money back.”
“Don’t tell him that!” I blurted.
“Just let it go Aubrey.” Timmy said.
Aubrey laughed and then spoke.
“Never get a criminal to help you break the law.”

Everything I needed to know I learned from Dead Frogs.

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It was this time last year when I took account of my life and found some things lacking. About twenty years and 150 pounds ago, I had an inkling of how my life would go. I wanted to wake up in distant lands, see the known & hidden places of the world, and somehow make a mark that lasted more than my expected life cycle. Little did I realize that every 18 year-old full of piss & vinegar has such grandiose notions and few really make it. But off you go anyway…You see some sites, visit some places, meet some people, and then wake up on a 9-5 commute before you settle your hangover. As Frost said, way leads to way…

Back to last year.
I realized that of all the things I’d wanted to do, one was still with me after 20+ years like a rash without ointment. Writing. I sat down last year and wrote this sentence on my computer screen.

John Duffy, Writer.

Yeah, I was drunk…but I got the message buried in the bottle. If I was going to be a writer then it was time to make me a writer. You can’t make me one, neither can a publisher, agent, critic, reader, or a thousand plastic compliments. I have to make me one.

Over the past year I’ve picked up a few lessons that I thought worth sharing.

1.) Writing is tedious difficult work. Hemingway once quipped, “Write drunk; edit sober.” The former is easy, the latter…not so much. Taking a critical eye to your work is as important as letting your critical eye sleep while you bang out a rough draft.

2.) Writing is predominantly an inside job. The TV show “Castle” offers a glamorous spin on writing that gives a schmo the impression that a laptop and good hair a Writer do make. I tried what I call the “Latte Literati” gig of sitting in a coffee house and playing Writer for the world to see. Trouble was, I couldn’t see it, even if all the caffeine junkies could… Writing is tough enough for me without an audience. Hell, the reason I can fly through this blog most of the time is because I have trouble believing the “Ego Counter”.

3.) Inspiration can’t be found, it must arrive of its own accord. I go places and work hard at keeping my eyes & ears open. It’s tight to pay attention to the world around you when you sometimes feel the world inside you is a dumpster fire. But I try. Sometimes inspiration arrives. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve learned to have faith that it will always show up…when it wants to.

4.) Reading is fundamental to Writing. I glance over my blog and other writings and notice a stagnation buried within. Thinking back to when I wrote whatever piece is stagnated I realize that at that time, I wasn’t reading much and I wasn’t “moving around” much. Reading is a simple way to see the world. If you can’t see the world, who cares what you have to say about it…?

5.) Thorns have their place. I appreciate the compliments people feed me, but after that, I enjoy a cup of strong critique to complete the meal. Only I can make me a Writer, but others can help make me a better writer.

6.) Grammar matters.

7.) Keep the story moving with action & words. Perhaps I feel that way because I’m too lazy to wrestle adjectives or hold down an adverb for three seconds. I don’t know. Show, don’t tell…

8.) I need to meet more Writers. Networking seems incredibly important. I need to work on my “networking” skills more.

9.) A Writer will write. Whether it’s a comedy skit, jokes, a restaurant review, or a newsletter for work; a Writer writes. If I’m not actively pursuing “Writing Gigs” then I’m not living a Writer’s life. For me, it is that simple.

10.) This may seem harsh, and contradictory to #8, but a Writer has to clear the clutter from their mind, their desk, and their life. That last one is the toughest.

11.) I’m not the Story. When I enlisted the assistance of a pro editor I was stoked. I felt as if I were doing the hard work…shelling out money, staying up late to do rewrites, discussing the why, when, & what of my work. Then I got my first edits back. Cut this, slash that, add here, delete this, rework this piece, why? Why? WHy? WHY?….I remember sitting in that office listening to my stories being dissected and feeling a sudden kinship with dead frogs found in the high schools of America. I had to remind myself, “I’m not the story, I’m not the story, I’m not the story…”

12.) Writing is tedious difficult work. I know I’m repeating #1…but if you knew how many times I rewrote #11, you’d understand.

13.) Biggest thing I learned this year: John Duffy, Writer. I like it.

-John.

Mirrors & Blankets.

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Frank threw the pizza dough into the air. As it swirled around his knuckle, he looked across the restaurant crowd. No one noticed. Once a while back, before Mahalia Pizza Palace started delivering, children would stare at his dough throwing with wonder. Now the seats were filled nightly with half-buzzed soldiers laughing at one another’s memories as Frank quietly filled the delivery line requests. He pulled another dough, mashed it round, slapped it on the make table, one or two runs through the roller and then, whoosh, back into the air. Flour drifted on to Frank’s shirt. A cup of sauce twirled, cheese, toppings, and the oven door slams behind another pie. Less than forty-five seconds from dough pan to oven…No one noticed.

“Mosby?” a soldier said. Frank looked up. A tall man, about 40, with his shirt tucked tight was standing at the counter. His short hair was turning gray. Though his voice sounded jovial, his eyes were dark and tired.
“Mosby? Frank Mosby? Right? We went to school together.”
“Oh yeah. Alan Shaw, right? The one in the paper last week.”
Alan Shaw looked away when Mosby mentioned the paper.
“Yeah. That’s me.”
“The man, the myth, the big hero.” Frank wiped his hand on his pants. When he extended for a friendly shake, Shaw looked away again.
“Yeah. A hero. So, what’s been going on? You own this place by now?”
Mosby dropped his hand.
“Naw. Still just a pizza maker. I hit twenty-one years last month.”
“Wow. Must be nice.”
“It’s a job. Can I get you something? We’ve got new Subs…the Roast Beef is my favorite.”
Alan Shaw picked up a menu. He looked over it but Mosby could tell the Hero’s mind was elsewhere.
“Not much has changed in Mahalia has it. But then, sometimes it seems completely different, ya’ know?” Shaw said.
“Just Mahalia. That’s all. Nothing happens. Nothing really changes. Is that your car out there. I read in the paper you got an Orange Corvette from the VFW in Davenport.”
“Yeah. That’s mine alright.”
“And they gave it to you free?”
“Free. Sure. No money at all. Just do the mission and presto, you get a car.”
Mosby looked at the car, not paying attention to Shaw.
“I’d love to have something like that.”
“You got everything you need Mosby.”
“What?”
“I’m not going to order. I’m just mostly riding around looking at Mahalia. Seeing what’s changed, what’s the same. I’m glad you’re still working here.”
“Ok.” Mosby’s face reddened.
“Naw, really. It’s nice to know some people figured it out early.”
Mosby pulled another dough from the pan.
Without being able to stop, he said,
“I can make a pizza in less than 45 seconds.”
“I murdered twelve people in less than thirty.”
“What? Oh, you mean over there? You didn’t murder anyone man. The paper said you saved six guys and kept a bomb from exploding at some school.”
Shaw’s face was tight. His blue eyes, that remained dark and tired, now seemed meaner.
Shaw suddenly spoke, a fake smile painted on his tanned face.
“I gotta go Mosby. It was great seeing you.”
“You don’t want the Roast Beef?”
Shaw laughed softly.
“Naw. I don’t want the Roast Beef. Take care Frank. Take care.”

Frank pulled another dough as soldiers slurred flirtations at the waitresses. The waitresses played along; laughing, smiling but knowing that it was a zero sum game. Nothing would change. In Mahalia, there were no Officers or Gentlemen, just soldiers doing their two weeks a year and trying to live as if there were no wives & kids at home. Laughter competed with the juke box which was losing to even louder talk. Frank began the closing list. He turned off one of the back lights in an empty part of the restaurant. The last table of soldiers paid their bill, left a bigger than needed tip for the waitress and moved out. Frank locked the door behind them, doing his best to smile.

He thought about Alan Shaw as he scrubbed the cooling pizza oven. They graduated school together. Frank remembered the day clearly. It was the highlight of his life. For reasons he couldn’t understand, or refused to face, Frank had never moved from his house. Friends had gone to college, joined the military, or simply disappeared down 460, never to return. Frank kept making pizzas. Neither of his parents pushed him to move on. His teachers encouraged him to be happy. Pizza making made him happy. But still, on certain nights when the restaurant filled with soldiers, or worse, laughing happy families; Frank would watch and wonder. When he turned 40, the what ifs began to boil up more often, leaving him embarrassed and regretful.

Frank poured himself a to go cup of soda before leaving. The owner called to make sure Frank was making the deposit and to find out the amount. A few of the waitresses told Frank he should push for more money since he made deposits. Frank refused.
“What do I do if he fires me? If he just says, ‘Well, I don’t need you here at all!'”
The waitresses would tell him to not worry. It won’t happen, and if it did, he’d find another job, easy.
“Naw.” Frank would counter. “This is Mahalia. Not much changes.”

He drove through town. The town lights faded into black trees along the familiar road. Frank drove past the Country Club and passed the farmhouses whose distant lights seemed as stars twinkling in the forests. Frank often wondered what happened in those farmhouses with their private roads and signs. Why does someone name a piece of land? He thought. Frank turned on to Stingy Lane, a country road leading to his house. It was late, almost 11 pm on a Tuesday night. His headlights caught a flash of orange down a logging road.

Frank thought the orange car contained kids sneaking a beer or making out. In the time it took him to hit the high beams, he realized it was Alan Shaw’s vehicle. Why would a 40-year-old Hero park down a logging road? Surely, he had money for a motel or his date would have her own place? Frank slowed down as he deliberated the scenario. He pulled to the side of the road and began to work his car around in the middle of the deserted road. As he approached the logging road’s entrance, his mind raced with sudden fears.
The man just wants time alone.
Besides, it’s not like you two are really, good friends.
Who do you think you are Frank? You’re just a pizza maker.

Something Frank never knew came upon him as he pulled into the logging road. His heart stilled, his breathing relaxed. Alan’s car was about twenty-five feet down the road and around a slight corner. Frank saw no exhaust fumes. No lights were on. The car was silent and dark. He noticed the side view mirrors seemed smashed. When looking more intently at them, Frank decided they had exploded.
He cut his engine but left the lights on.

Exiting his car, Frank smelled something odd. Something he didn’t recognize. He watched his breath as it slipped into the cold air. He came upon Alan’s car and saw the side view mirror was dangling by a few wires. He looked into car window and saw the rear view mirror was also dangling. The front windshield was shattered like those Frank saw on cop shows. A bullet had come in through the window and shattered the glass. But Frank saw little glass on the bucket seats. Most of the glass was on the hood. As if the bullet came from within.

“What are you doing?” Alan asked from the dark tree line.
“Shit. You scared me… I saw your car and thought maybe I broke down, I mean, you broke down or something…”
“A brand new fucking car. Break down? What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know.” Frank said.
“You need to leave.” Frank could see Alan as he walked towards the cars. His clothes were disheveled and his eyes were red.
“What happened to your mirrors?
“Leave.”
“What happened to your mirrors?
“I shot ’em out.”
“What?”
“Just leave Mosby. Take your goddamn pizza making self back home and just leave.”
Mosby turned towards his car. Then stopped.
“Why?” Frank said without turning around.
Alan screamed.
“I said leave goddamnit!”
The stillness Mosby felt when pulling in came upon him again. It was unnamed but the pizza maker sensed that it was how courage felt. Maybe.
“Because you don’t wanna look at yourself anymore?”
Alan Shaw sat down.
“Just leave the Hero and his stupid fuckin’ car.”

Mosby turned and walked towards Alan. In the light of his car, Frank saw Alan’s driver’s license and Marine I.D. on the ground.
The face cut out of both.
“You wanna kill yourself.” Frank said. The calmness of his voice made Frank feel as if he were listening to someone speak, instead of speaking.
“Just leave Frank.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why can’t you?”
“I don’t know.”
Alan looked up at him.
“But I just can’t.” Frank said. He sat down next to Alan.
Alan jumped up. He pointed his pistol at Frank.
“I said to leave!”
Frank sat still. He looked at the gun’s barrel.
“Go ahead.” He said.
“What?”
“Go ahead. Pull the trigger. You call yourself a murderer, right? That’s why you can’t stand to see you…because you call yourself a murderer. Go ahead then. Murder.”
“Get your crazy shit out of here Frank! Swear to God, get out of here.”
“Murder me.” Frank said. The words as foreign to him as sex.
Alan jerked the pistol and shot the Corvette’s front tire.
Frank shuttered but remained seated.
“So you can shoot. Good. Now, if you’re such a murderer, just murder me and everything will be back to normal. I got nothing to live for, and neither do you. Kill me, then blow you’re own sorry fuckin’ head off and everything will be normal.”
“You’re crazy Frank.”
“I’m not waving a gun around shooting a free Corvette.”
Alan flashed a smile despite himself.
“Leave Frank. I know what you’re trying to do. Just leave. I killed those people. Reasons don’t matter. I can’t face the things I did anymore.”
“And I can’t face the things I never did. In a way, we’re even. Murder me so there are no more questions.”
Alan pointed the pistol at Frank.
“I’m telling you Mosby…get the hell out of here.”
“How could you murder me if I left?”
Frank looked down at the moist cold ground. He picked up a leaf and twirled it with two fingers.
“You don’t understand, Frank. No one does.”
“You’re right. I don’t understand. No one does. No one understands any of us. Why don’t we all just become killers and shot up everyone we see? They don’t understand us anyway.”
“See. You just don’t fuckin’ understand shit Frank. You don’t understand what’s it like to kill another person. Another living, breathing person.”
“You’re right. And you no longer understand what it’s like to have not killed another person. Somebody could probably help you remember though.”
“All they see is a Hero. A jar head who did his job.”
“All you see is a Murderer. So go ahead. Murder.”
Alan dropped down under a weight he couldn’t see.
Frank continued to twirl the leaf. Part of him didn’t believe any of this was happening. It seemed a bad dream. Perhaps he’d wrecked on the way home and all this was an illusion?

Alan put the pistol on the ground, facing Frank.
The two men looked at one another in the light of Frank’s car.
Alan’s face was streaked red. His lips quivered in the frigid breeze.
“You got a blanket in your free car?” Frank asked.
Alan smiled.
“No. I don’t think they come with blankets.”
Frank stood.
“I think I got two. Mother uses them at the football games.”
“I don’t need a blanket.” Alan said.
“I’ll get them both. In case it’s a long night.”
“Leave pizza maker.” Alan said as Frank walked by.
“I can’t do that.” said Frank.

Frank popped the trunk as the gunshot echoed through the woods.
He slammed it closed and saw Alan standing next to the corvette, a hole in the driver’s door.
“You only got one bullet left now.” Frank said as he handed Alan a blanket.
“I know.”
Frank shivered and pulled the blanket around his shoulder.
He knew it was going to be a long night.